09/27/2010

Report: FBI agents cheated on exam

Agents allegedly took an open-book test together or had access to an answer sheet

By Mark Sherman
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A Justice Department investigation has found that FBI agents, including several supervisors, cheated on an important test covering the bureau's policies for conducting surveillance on Americans.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine said Monday that his limited review of allegations that agents improperly took the open-book test together or had access to an answer sheet has turned up "significant abuses and cheating."

Fine called on the bureau to discipline the agents, throw out the results and come up with a new test to see if FBI agents understand new rules allowing them to conduct surveillance and open files on Americans without evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

The troubling review of the exam on surveillance rules follows Fine's report last week on the FBI's scrutiny of domestic activist groups. That investigation found that the FBI gave inaccurate information to Congress and the public when it claimed a possible terrorism link to justify monitoring an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh in 2002. That IG report also criticized the factual basis for opening or continuing FBI domestic terrorism investigations of some other nonviolent left-leaning groups.

In the inquiry into the exam, the inspector general looked at only at four FBI field offices and found enough troubling information to warrant a comprehensive review by the FBI.

In one FBI field office, four agents exploited a computer software flaw "to reveal the answers to the questions as they were taking the exam," Fine said.

Other test-takers used or circulated materials that essentially provided the test answers, he said.

Fine said that almost all of those who cheated "falsely certified" that they did the work themselves, without the help of others.

Last year, Assistant Director Joseph Persichini, the head of the FBI's Washington field office that investigates congressional wrongdoing and other crime in the nation's capital, retired amid a review of test-taking in his office.

Persichini took the test alongside two of his most senior managers and one of the bureau attorneys in charge of making sure the exam was administered properly, current and former officials said. The two agents who took the test with him have been moved to headquarters while the investigation continues.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press

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