FBI: Agents may have cheated on test

in­quiry de­ter­min­ing whether hun­dreds broke rules in 2009

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

WASHINGTON — The Jus­tice Depart­ment is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether hun­dreds of FBI agents vi­o­lated rules in tak­ing a 2009 exam meant to en­sure that they could fol­low ag­gres­sive new guide­lines for ter­ror­ism in­ves­ti­ga­tions with­out in­trud­ing on Amer­i­cans’ pri­vacy, FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller ac­knowl­edged Wed­nes­day.

Glenn Fine, the depart­ment’s in­spec­tor gen­eral, is look­ing into whether agents across the coun­try im­prop­erly took the train­ing test in groups, shared an­swers or com­pleted it in un­usu­ally short pe­ri­ods.

Ap­pear­ing be­fore the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, Mueller said he had a “gen­eral idea” how many agents are un­der scru­tiny but not an ex­act num­ber. He said the vi­o­la­tions “may be at­trib­ut­able to a lack of un­der­stand­ing and con­fu­sion about the pro­ce­dures.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tions into the al­leged cheat­ing sur­faced pub­licly in the bureau’s Washington Field Of­fice, where it was linked to the re­tire­ment of one of the FBI’s most-se­nior man­agers. Joseph Per­si­chini stepped down as head of the Washington of­fice in De­cem­ber af­ter he came un­der scru­tiny for al­legedly com­plet­ing the open-book exam in less than 20 min­utes; some test­tak­ers re­quired more than two hours.

The As­so­ci­ated Press first re­ported the wider in­spec­tor gen­eral’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In a let­ter to Fine in May, the FBI Agents As­so­ci­a­tion ac­knowl­edged that rules had been vi­o­lated but blamed “un­even and un­clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion” by se­nior lead­ers about how to ad­min­is­ter the test. Agents were un­aware that they were re­quired to take the exam alone, with­out dis­cus­sion, for a for­mal grade, wrote Kon­rad Mo­tyka, pres­i­dent of the as­so­ci­a­tion.

Dis­clo­sure of the re­view swiftly re­vived ques­tions about the FBI’s abil­ity to ap­ply guide­lines, adopted in 2008, that for the first time al­lowed agents to con­duct sur­veil­lance and coun­tert­er­ror­ism and es­pi­onage in­ves­ti­ga­tions within the U.S. with­out ev­i­dence that a tar­get has ties to a ter­ror­ist group.

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