Naval Criminal Investigative Service:

Fraud Interview Policies Similar to Other Federal Law Enforcement Agencies

NSIAD-97-117: Published: Apr 7, 1997. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 1997.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Naval Criminal and Investigative Service's (NCIS) policies and practices regarding agent interviews of suspects and witnesses during procurement fraud investigations, focusing on: (1) NCIS's policies on interviewing, including agent conduct and demeanor and the carrying and display of weapons; (2) controls to deter inappropriate conduct by agents; and (3) the desirability and feasibility of audio- or videotaping interviews and making the recording or transcription available to the person interviewed.

GAO noted that: (1) according to federal law enforcement experts, NCIS interview policies are in accordance with generally accepted federal law enforcement standards and applicable laws; (2) specifically, NCIS interview policies prohibit the indiscriminate display of weapons or the use of threats, promises, inducements, or physical or mental abuse by agents attempting to influence an individual during interviews; (3) NCIS has established controls to deter, detect, and deal with agent misconduct; (4) NCIS agents are trained in interview policies at their initial training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and through in-house and contractor training; (5) other controls include periodic inspections of NCIS field offices, internal investigations of alleged agent misconduct, oversight of cases and allegations of agent misconduct by the Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General, and the involvement of the U.S. Attorney's offices in grand jury investigations and prosecutions; (6) furthermore, judicial review of evidence presented also acts as a deterrent to inappropriate agent conduct since inappropriate or illegal behavior may result in the evidence obtained not being admissible in court; (7) the DOD Inspector General and NCIS could identify only six cases since January 1989 in which misconduct was substantiated, and none of those cases involved procurement fraud investigations; (8) NCIS policies do not prohibit audio- or videotaping of interviews or distributing the written or taped results to the interviewee; (9) the NCIS does not routinely tape interviews; (10) officials from NCIS, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and selected Assistant U.S. Attorneys did not support the idea of routinely taping interviews; (11) NCIS considers routine taping of interviews to be unjustified, given the equipment and transcription costs and the large volume of interviews associated with procurement fraud investigations; (12) DOD and Department of Justice officials noted that routine audio- or videotaping would not improve the quality of the investigation or court proceedings; and (13) the DOD advisory board agreed that the routine taping of interviews was unnecessary, given the lack of evidence supporting a widespread abuse of subjects' rights by agents from military criminal investigative organizations.

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