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Keeping track of your stuff



Published: Mon, July 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Thank goodness the FBI doesn't issue sunglasses or key chains. Can you imagine how many of those might have been lost?

A report issued last week revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agency that inspired books, movies and a TV series with its ability to track down desperadoes, can't seem to keep track of its own stuff.

And when we talk about "stuff" here, we're not talking about pens or paper clips. We're talking about bigger stuff, important stuff, like, for instance, laptop computers and guns.

What's missing: The bureau has lost track of 449 firearms, ranging from service revolvers to submachine guns, and 184 laptops. Granted that the FBI has 13,000 laptops, and its seepage rate may be better than many large companies, but the FBI laptops are kind of special. Many contain classified information, and at least one of those is missing.

As for guns, no matter how many of those the FBI has, losing track of even one is unacceptable. Twenty-five years ago the lax handling of departmental firearms brought down a Trumbull County sheriff. He should have known better, and certainly the FBI should know better.

Deadly weapons -- whether they've been assigned to agents for decades or are evidence in a closed case or have become obsolete -- must be strictly accounted for.

The bigger question facing Attorney General John Ashcroft and the incoming director of the FBI is whether this breakdown in inventory control is an isolated problem or just one aspect of institutional dysfunction. And what are they going to do about it?




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