FBI officials said Tuesday that 184 laptop computers — at least one containing classified material — are missing from the agency, along with 449 weapons, in the latest of a series of embarrassments to the bureau in recent years.
The missing laptops include 13 that are thought to have been stolen. One of the missing computers is known to contain classified material and three others might have classified material, said officials from the Justice Department and FBI, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
They said 184 weapons were stolen and 265 were lost; one was used in a homicide. The weapons mostly are sidearms, but some submachine guns are also missing.
The disclosure came on the eve of Wednesday's FBI oversight hearing on Capitol Hill at which bureau whistleblowers were scheduled to testify. The FBI has been under fire for a series of missteps going back years, including the failure to provide thousands of documents to Timothy McVeigh's lawyers, the Robert Hanssen spy case, the Branch Davidian and Ruby Ridge standoffs and the botched investigation of former nuclear scientists Wen Ho Lee.
In the latest incident, Attorney General John Ashcroft has asked the Justice Department's inspector general to do a department-wide review of inventory controls over guns and other law enforcement equipment.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opened oversight hearings on the FBI earlier this year. Wednesday's hearing, with FBI agents including Assistant Director Robert Dies and Deputy Assistant Director Kenneth Senser scheduled to testify, was to focus on the FBI's management but now will likely be dominated by questions about the missing guns and computers.
"To have laptops missing that could have national security information on them would be atrocious," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a longtime FBI critic. "For the FBI to have lost firearms and failed to account for them is inexcusable."