|House Slaps FBI with Special Oversight|
Reacting to a string of high-profile security breaches and questionable operations, the House of Representatives has passed a bill establishing special oversight of the FBI.
Included as part of the Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act for FY 2002, the measure creates a deputy inspector general assigned specifically to oversee programs and operations of the FBI through September 2004. The provision is supported by the Senate, where little opposition is expected.
Within 30 days of final passage, the bill assigns the deputy inspector general to present to Congress a detailed plan for ongoing oversight of FBI operations including the following:
- Financial Systems - Auditing the financial systems, information technology systems, and computer security systems of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- Programs and Processes - Auditing and evaluating programs and processes of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to identify systemic weaknesses or implementation failures and to recommend corrective action.
- Internal Affairs Offices - Reviewing the activities of internal affairs offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including the Inspections Division and the Office of Professional Responsibility.
- Personnel - Investigating allegations of serious misconduct by personnel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Other Programs and Operations - Reviewing matters relating to any other
program or and operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the
Inspector General determines requires review.
[Source: H.R. 2215 - Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act for FY 2002]
The bill, including the FBI oversight provision, was approved by the House in a voice vote. The Senate is not expected to oppose the measure.
Congress is taking this action after a series of security lapses and operational gaffes on part of the FBI dating back to 1992 began to degrade the public's confidence in America's primary federal law enforcement agency.
Incidents contributing to the special FBI oversight action being taken by Congress include:
1992: A botched FBI arrest operation at the home of Randy Weaver in Ruby Ridge, Idaho resulted in the shooting deaths of Weaver's wife, his 14 year-old son and an FBI agent. At trial, Weaver was acquitted of all charges related to the raid. He later filed a civil suit against the government and was awarded $3.1 million in an out-of-court settlement.
1993: A controversial standoff and raid against the Branch Davidian religious sect near Waco, Texas ended in a firestorm that killed cult leader David Koresh and 80 of his followers. After issuing repeated claims to the contrary, the FBI suddenly disclosed in 1999 that "a very limited number'' of incendiary tear gas grenades were fired into the Davidian compound prior to the deadly fire. While the extent to which the grenades actually contributed to the fire was never established, the delayed disclosure first made the FBI the object of increased congressional scrutiny.
2000: FBI Agent Robert Hannsen was arrested and confessed to spending years spying for the former Soviet Union while employed by the FBI.
2000: Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwan-born nuclear scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, was accused by the FBI of feeding U.S. nuclear weapons secrets to Communist China. Lee was arrested and spent nine months in solitary. After the FBI's case fell apart, all but one of 59 charges against Lee were dropped and he was released.
May, 2001: As Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh neared his June 6 execution date, the FBI discovered over 4,000 documents related to the investigation of the crime that had never been made available to McViegh's defense lawyers. Attorney General John Ashcroft was outraged and delayed the execution to give McVeigh's lawyers time to examine the missing FBI documents. After all appeals filed based on the documents were denied, McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11. While information from the missing documents in no way exonerated McVeigh, the incident spurred new doubts about the quality of the FBI's investigation into possible additional conspirators involved in the bombing.
July 17, 2001: The Justice Department released a report showing that nearly 450 guns and 184 computers were missing from the FBI. The Bureau has confirmed that one of the guns had been used in a murder since going missing and at least one of the missing computers held classified information.
The special FBI oversight provisions in the 2002 Justice Department spending bill were added after hearings and reports of special panels in both the House and Senate created to investigate deficiencies in the Bureau.