WASHINGTON – The Drug Enforcement Administration is losing more guns but fewer laptops than it was about five years ago, the Justice Department's inspector general said Friday.
The follow-up report found that some of the same problems cited in a 2002 audit remain: Policies for storing weapons and laptops are not always followed and, when they are lost, officials don't regularly report them.
The report credited the DEA with a 50 percent reduction in the frequency with which laptops are lost and stolen. But the inspector general said officials often have no idea what information was on the computers when they were stolen.
Officials are required to document whether sensitive material was on a lost or stolen computer. But of the 231 laptops lost in the 5 1/2 years covered by the report, such documents were filed only five times.
"We asked DEA senior managers what the DEA did to determine the contents of the remaining 226 lost or stolen laptop computers. The DEA was unable to provide information regarding what was on the laptops," the report said. "We believe the DEA's inability to determine what was on the many stolen or missing laptops was a significant failure."
Auditors said the DEA lost 22 firearms and had an additional 69 stolen over the 5 1/2-year period. The stolen weapons included pistols, rifles, shotguns, and a submachine gun.
The majority of stolen guns had been left in an official's car, despite a policy prohibiting leaving a weapon unattended in a vehicle. The report cited examples of guns stolen from cars parked outside restaurants, hotels, schools and gyms. Some agents had their guns taken from their cars while they were shopping or getting coffee. One firearm was stolen while the car was at the body shop.
The DEA, in a written response attached to the report, said it agreed with many of the recommendations and had already taken several steps to improve its reporting process. All laptops containing sensitive information are now encrypted, the agency said, and all lost or stolen firearms are routinely reported.
"The DEA has made significant improvements in its rate of loss for laptops," agency spokesman Garrison Courtney said. "In those instances where weapons were lost or stolen, appropriate disciplinary actions were taken by DEA."