U.S. News

Audit shows many missing weapons at U.S. agency

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had 76 weapons and 418 laptop computers lost, stolen or go missing in a five-year period through 2007, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report by the department’s inspector general said the bureau, known as the ATF, had serious weaknesses in its controls over weapons, laptops and ammunition, with much of the problems due to employee carelessness and failure to follow policy.

It said the rate for lost, stolen, or missing weapons at the ATF was nearly double those of other Justice Department law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The audit found the ATF staff did not report many of the lost, stolen, or missing weapons and laptop computers to the agency’s Internal Affairs Division, as required by policy.

The ATF’s responsibilities include investigating and preventing federal offenses involving the unlawful use, manufacture, and possession of firearms and explosives, acts of arson and bombings, and illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products.

“Our audit found that the ATF’s controls over its weapons and laptop computers were inadequate, which resulted in significant rates of losses,” Inspector General Glenn Fine said. “ATF did not even know whether most of its lost, stolen, or missing laptop computers contained sensitive or classified information.”

The report said the rate of loss for weapons and laptops was far worse than what had been found in the last audit in 2002.

Reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Bill Trott