By Jerry Seper
The Washington Times
March 29, 2008
More than 90 weapons and 230 laptop computers belonging to the Drug
Enforcement Administration have turned up missing over the past five
years and, despite efforts by the agency to address weaknesses in
tracking the items, "significant deficiencies" remain, a report said
The lost and stolen weapons include pistols, rifles, shotguns and a
submachine gun, said a 105-page report by the Justice Department's
Office of Inspector General, which also noted that DEA officials could
not say how 198 of the 231 laptop computers came to be missing.
Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said the DEA was unable to provide
assurance that 226 of the 231 lost or stolen laptop computers did not
contain "sensitive or personally identifiable" information, adding that
few of the missing laptops were protected by encryption software.
"The DEA has made improvements to its internal controls over weapons and
laptop computers since our 2002 audit, such as conducting physical
inventories and reconciling these inventories to its financial system
records," Mr. Fine said. "However, we concluded that the DEA still
requires significant improvement in its overall controls on weapons and
DEA spokesman Garrison K. Courtney said yesterday the agency has made
significant improvements in its rate of loss for laptops, adding that in
instances when weapons were lost or stolen, "appropriate disciplinary
actions" were taken. He noted that the IG's report said the DEA was
following the appropriate methodology in regard to the inventory of
weapons and laptops.
"DEA has recently implemented new interim policy regarding the detailed
reporting of lost, stolen and missing laptop computers by all DEA
personnel, as well as reporting potential losses of sensitive
information ... that may have been contained on lost and stolen
laptops," Mr. Courtney said.
Mr. Fine blamed "carelessness" by DEA agents as resulting in many of the
instances of lost or stolen weapons, saying some agents had failed to
follow policy regarding not leaving their weapons unattended or
temporarily stored. He said 64 percent of the stolen weapons were taken
from official government or privately owned vehicles.
According to the report, one weapon was stolen after the agent left it
on a boat loading dock, walked away and came back later to discover it
was gone; three weapons were stolen from the DEA's traveling road
museum; two others were taken by unknown moving company employees; one
was lost when an agent left it on the top of his car and drove off; and
another was lost after an agent said it might have "fallen into trash
basket at work."
Mr. Fine also said that while the DEA could not provide the
circumstances under which the vast majority of laptop computers turned
up missing, many of the documented computer losses could have been
avoided if employees were more careful and complied with DEA policies.
He said one laptop was left in a taxi and another was stolen from
In its written response to the IG's report, the DEA disagreed with a
recommendation that all its laptop computers be encrypted, saying that
as of December 2007, DEA laptops that process sensitive information
already have full disk encryption but others . including those used to
support electronic surveillance, computer forensics, polygraph
examinations and other digital monitoring functions . are exempt from
the security requirements.
The DEA said the exemption was required because of problems discovered
during attempts to load mission-support applications on laptops
installed with encryption software. The agency said the software caused
video surveillance and control capabilities to be slowed down to a point
"The majority of DEA's laptops are used as stand-alone computing
devices," Mr. Courtney said. "DEA's policy, prior to 2007, did not allow
sensitive data or classified information to be processed on stand-alone
In his report, Mr. Fine said DEA employees were not internally reporting
lost or stolen weapons and laptops in a timely manner and the agency was
not informing the Justice Department of weapon and laptop losses. He
said the DEA was not ensuring that relevant information about the lost
weapons and laptops was being entered in the National Crime Information
Center (NCIC) database,.
"The DEA's failure to report losses and enter relevant information in
the NCIC database also reduces the DEA's chances of recovering this lost
property," he said.
Mr. Courtney said that in April 2007, the DEA implemented a new policy
regarding the loss or theft of firearms and that all reported incidents
are now being "reported accurately and entered into NCIC."
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