WASHINGTON (Reuters) - FBI agents and several supervisors cheated on an exam about new rules for terrorism and criminal investigations and for collecting foreign intelligence, according to a U.S. Justice Department report released on Monday.
The report by inspector general Glenn Fine found that some FBI employees improperly consulted with others while taking the exam, and others used or distributed answer sheets or study guides that essentially provided the answers to the test.
A few FBI employees, including several supervisors and a legal adviser, exploited a programing flaw to reveal the answers on their computers, according to the investigation into four FBI offices around the country and several individuals.
The report found significant abuses and cheating involving at least 22 employees.
It marked the latest critical report of the federal law enforcement agency by the inspector general’s office, which has questioned in the past whether the FBI has violated civil liberties as part of its terrorism investigations.
On September 20, the inspector general said the FBI improperly launched investigations of U.S. activists after the September 11 attacks, miscast peaceful protests as acts of terrorism and in one case prompted FBI Director Robert Mueller to provide inaccurate testimony to Congress.
Mueller and the FBI reacted to the latest report by saying they were disappointed by the misconduct, acknowledging some responsibility and saying nothing excused the conduct of those who cheated.
“In cases where misconduct has been determined, personnel actions were taken, and that process continues. We will follow-up in each of the 22 cases the (inspector general) has found for disciplinary action, as appropriate, as well as any other allegations of misconduct,” Mueller said in a statement.
The exam involved guidelines adopted in December 2008 for domestic FBI investigations and operations, rules that have been criticized by civil liberties groups.
The FBI adopted classroom training on the rules and required that employees pass a computerized 51-question exam.
Employees could use notes and the guidelines, but were barred from consulting with others. The exam’s last question required all employees to certify that they did not consult anyone while taking the test.
The report said almost all those who cheated had falsely certified that they had not consulted with anyone else.
The inspector general recommended that the FBI take action against those who cheated, consider other appropriate steps to determine whether others cheated and conduct a new exam.
At least one of the senior supervisors in the Washington, D.C., field office who was alleged to have cheated has left the FBI.
There have been other recent instances of alleged FBI misconduct. Earlier this month, three FBI special agents and one FBI intelligence analyst were charged with lying about their use of performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids and human growth hormones.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham