Justice notebook PCs on the lam

Justice notebook PCs on the lam

Justice Department agencies have lost more than 400 notebook computers over the past two years, according to an audit by the department's inspector general.

The audit report, released yesterday, said the lost, stolen or missing computers may have contained national security or sensitive law enforcement data 'that, if divulged, could harm the public.'

The IG's office said its auditors could not determine the types of information stowed on the computers because Justice agencies generally did not record the sensitivity of the information used on them, although some of the systems were for classified use.

The Bureau of Prisons lost track of 27 notebooks between October 1999 and August 2001. The Marshals Service reported 56 notebooks lost, missing or stolen over the same period. The FBI reported 317 notebooks lost, missing or stolen between October 1999 and January 2002. The bureau has more than 15,000 notebook computers, and the Marshals Service about 1,450.

The Drug Enforcement Administration did not have reliable records of its notebooks, and the IG did not check the status of Immigration and Naturalization Service notebooks.

The auditors also discovered that hundreds of weapons were missing. 'In our judgement, the loss of 775 weapons and 400 laptop computers indicates a lack of accountability for sensitive department property,' the report said.

The auditors noted that equipment inventory tasks had been assigned a low priority by Justice agencies.

In response to the report, the FBI released a statement saying it would tighten its inventory control to account for sensitive property, including notebook PCs, and establish personal accountability for their loss. The bureau said its new Security Division would help foster awareness, training, policies and procedures to stem equipment and data loss.

The bureau said it would increase the frequency of inventories of sensitive property and improve the documentation of excess computer and hard-drive destruction.

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