FBI facing probe over McVeigh files

Text of the Justice Department letter sent to McVeigh's attorneys

Attorney General John Ashcroft today asked the Justice Department's inspector general to conduct an investigation into how the FBI failed to turn over thousands of documents related to the Oklahoma City bombing trial.

"I have asked the inspector general of the Justice Department to investigate fully the FBI's belated delivery of documents and other evidence created during this investigation," Ashcroft said at a press conference today.

The attorney general did not confirm widespread reports that the FBI's outdated computer systems are to blame for misplacing 3,135 documents related to the trial of Timothy McVeigh.

When pressed by reporters to offer some kind of insight, Ashcroft said that it was important to get the correct information. "This study will be the basis of understanding," he said.

As a result of the unearthed documents, Ashcroft said he has delayed McVeigh's schedule execution until June 11.

Justice notified McVeigh's attorneys of the documents on Thursday. Department officials acknowledged that they should have been made available during the discovery phase of the 1997 trial.

The documents include investigation reports, interview notes and physical evidence, such as photographs, written correspondence and tapes, Justice officials said.

The documents were found by FBI archivists in Oklahoma City as they combed the agency's 56 field offices in a final search for records related to the bombing. The documents came from 45 FBI offices in the United States and one in Paris.

Neither FBI nor Justice officials would comment on the specific systems that the FBI uses to track such documents.

An official knowledgeable about the information technology systems at the FBI, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the loss of the McVeigh documents is an example of the pervasive problems with the bureau's IT.

The McVeigh development comes just days after the FBI awarded the first contract under its Trilogy program. The three-year program will provide for the upgrade of the FBI's worldwide IT networks, computer systems and selected software applications, officials said. The upgraded technology will make use of commercial equipment and a new enterprise management system.

"FBI special agents and support personnel in field offices will be the first to receive installation of the new technology," FBI Director Louis Freeh said in a statement. "The FBI will continue to place program emphasis on delivery of the equipment to the field as soon as possible."

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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