FBI agents cheated on computerized exam, IG says

FBI Director Robert Mueller said disciplinary action is in the works

FBI Director Robert Mueller said today the bureau may discipline at least 22 FBI agents who were found to have cheated on a computerized “Virtual Academy” exam in an investigation by the FBI's Office of Inspector General.

The IG reviewed actions by FBI agents and supervisors in four field offices and determined that a significant number of the employees used answer sheets, consulted with others, exploited a software programming flaw, or engaged in other actions that compromised the integrity of the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) test, the IG said in a report.

“A significant number of the FBI employees we interviewed cheated on the test and did not comply with the test conditions,” the report  said.


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Mueller said in a statement the bureau will take further action.

“An uncompromising commitment to integrity remains the backbone of the FBI workforce,” Mueller said. “When allegations of misconduct relating to the DIOG testing first came to our attention, we moved quickly to investigate, bringing in the Office of Inspector General. 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 IG has found for disciplinary action, as appropriate, as well as any other allegations of misconduct.”

At the same time, Mueller and the IG acknowledged some mitigating factors to the alleged misconduct, noting the exam in question was the first time in a FBI Virtual Academy test that agents were barred from consulting with others during the exam.

Although all FBI Virtual Academy tests are conducted as “open book,” meaning that agents are allowed to consult their textbooks and notes, the IG found that agents taking the tests also used answer sheets that had been filled out by other agents, which violates a rule against “consulting with others.” Some FBI agents disputed that description and said the answer sheets were “notes” and should have been allowed.

The FBI implemented the new guide in December 2008 as a basic reference manual for domestic investigations. Training on the manual was provided to approximately 20,000 FBI agents, who took the test between May 2009 and January 2010.

Many of the FBI employees interviewed by the IG said the exam was substantively more difficult than most FBI training exams, its administration was different from previous exams and some of the questions were poorly phrased. But the IG said although those things may be true, that doesn't excuse the improper conduct.

“While these issues explain some of the OIG’s findings, they do not excuse the conduct of employees who did not comply with clear instructions,” Mueller said.

 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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