Bill would step up FBI scrutiny

Legislation includes provision to create a Justice Department deputy inspector general for the FBI

The 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, H.R. 2215

The FBI could come under new scrutiny courtesy of a bill approved by the House Judiciary Committee this week.

The committee approved by a voice vote the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.). The act includes a provision to create a Justice Department deputy inspector general for the FBI.

"This legislation signifies a major step forward in our effort to improve the operations of the FBI," Sensenbrenner said.

The bill (H.R. 2215) also proposes a $10 million increase — to $55 million — in the Bush administration's fiscal 2002 budget request for the Justice Department's IG. The bill next goes to the full House for consideration.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee June 20, Justice IG Glenn Fine and former Justice IG Michael Bromwich both said that the IG's office has been hindered by lack of funding.

"The resources provided to us have not kept pace" with the IG's expanded responsibility or the Justice Department's explosive growth, Fine testified. The number of Justice employees has grown by 30 percent in the past eight years, he said, but the IG's office has lost more than 15 percent of its staff.

"Oversight requires resources — both the right people and sufficient funding," Bromwich said.

The FBI has been under increasing scrutiny because of problems in recent years, including the failure to turn over thousands of documents in connection with the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The delay in handing over those documents has been blamed in part on the FBI's inadequate computers.

Four reviews of the FBI are ongoing. One is an internal review that Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered this week. For the other, more focused, reviews:

* The Justice IG's office is investigating the loss of the McVeigh documents and also the issues surrounding the arrest of Robert Hanssen, a longtime FBI counterintelligence agent who is accused of spying for the Russians for 15 years.

*A group led by former FBI and CIA director William Webster plans to make recommendations for improving the bureau's national security measures. The review was launched following Hanssen's arrest and is focusing on the FBI's IT security procedures, Webster said.

Ashcroft announced today that FBI deputy director Tom Pickard will serve as the acting director for the FBI beginning June 23, stepping in for Louis Freeh, who retired this week.

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