FBI, Justice security is called lax in report Documents could not be tracked

September 17, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Document security within the Justice Department and FBI is so lax that congressional investigators were unable to track classified papers moving between the two agencies, according to a report by the General Accounting Office.

The study also found that the FBI failed to take disciplinary action for many of the 4,400 violations that its own security patrols uncovered at FBI headquarters over a three-year period.

The GAO report, done for the House Government Operations subcommittee on information, justice, transportation and agriculture, noted that safeguarding classified and sensitive information is an absolute necessity in the law enforcement area.

"With the increasing strength and boldness of drug trafficking cartels, organized crime families and terrorist groups, it is vital that the [Justice] Department adequately protect its operations to insure that it does not itself compromise its law enforcement activities," according to Rep. Gary A. Condit, D-Cal., the subcommittee chairman.

Mr. Condit, in letters to Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, said that the security shortcomings "must be corrected."

He wrote that while procedures have been established to control and track classified documents, "compliance with the procedures is in some cases so inadequate that the GAO was unable to track documents to insure that they had reached their intended recipients . . . A classified document could be lost, stolen or simply vanish into thin air leaving the department unable to identify and hold accountable those responsible for the lapse."

John Russell, a Justice Department spokesman, acknowledged the security problems and said that the department's inspector general also is looking into the violations.

Mr. Russell said that document security is particularly vital for "protection of informants and third-party intelligence units" that deal with the Justice Department and the FBI, such as the Central Intelligence Agency.

Charles Mandigo, an FBI spokesman, emphasized that the bureau's headquarters is a secure facility that requires anyone with less than a top secret clearance to be escorted while in the building. All personnel, including cleaning crews, have such clearances, he added. The FBI will respond to Mr. Condit's letter next week.

The GAO report said that 68 percent of the 4,400 security violations reported at FBI headquarters from 1990 through 1992 involved classified materials being left unsecured in offices.

The remaining violations, also uncovered by FBI security patrols between the hours of 6 p.m. and 5 a.m., involved files and other sensitive documents left unsecured; cabinets, safes and offices left unlocked; keys to offices and cabinets left out; and secure telephones, badges and credentials left unsecured within the building.

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