FBI Accountability for Drugs Used in Special Operations:

Deficiencies Identified and Actions Taken

AIMD-00-34R: Published: Dec 2, 1999. Publicly Released: Dec 2, 1999.

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Gary T. Engel
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the weaknesses in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) controls over seized drugs that are used in reverse undercover operations (RUO) by the Miami Field Office.

GAO noted that: (1) the Miami Field Office did not have: (a) specific written procedures for a special operations account used to track drugs reserved for RUOs; (b) adequate information on related chain of custody records to document the activity of specific drug items reserved or used for RUOs; and (c) a list or log of drug items in the special operations account to facilitate identifying the type and amount of drugs available for use in RUOs; (2) for example, entries on the written chain of custody related either to initial transfers of drugs into special operations accounts or transfers back into the account following unsuccessful undercover operations did not list the quantity of drugs accepted for storage, the barcode number assigned to the drug item, or the case file number from which the drugs were acquired; (3) in addition, Miami Field Office officials stated that the documentation for cases from which drugs were reserved for use in RUOs, including chain of custody records, did not annotate the fact that all or part of the drugs were moved to the special operations account established for the reserved drugs; (4) rather, the original case file documentation for drugs transferred to the special account erroneously indicated that the drugs had been destroyed; (5) these weaknesses increase the potential for theft, misuse, and loss of drugs used in RUOs; and (6) however, during GAO's review, Miami Field Office officials addressed these control deficiencies immediately by developing specific written procedures for tracking the drugs reserved for RUOs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An audit of the reverse undercover operations (RUO) account was conducted during the October 2000 Inspection of the FBI's Miami Field Office. The audit resulted in two recommendations: (1)the Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Miami, consider ensuring that procedures and policies are specifically delineated and documented for the maintenance and use of "show drugs" in RUOs, and (2) the SAC, Miami, consider potential liability issues in continuing the policy of maintaining and disbursing "show drugs" for use in RUOs. A November 2000 Response to Inspection Findings states that the SAC, Miami, considered the recommendations and believes that current procedures for the RUO account are adequate, specifically delineated, and documented. Further, in January 2001, the RUO account procedures were distributed to all FBI Field Offices to provide guidance for maintaining a reserve of drugs for use in RUOs. To address the second recommendation concerning potential liability issues, the SAC, Miami, established a policy, which was distributed to Miami Field Office personnel in November 2000, that Miami will not provide "show drugs" to any outside agencies for use in RUOs or other investigative operations.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director, FBI, to perform appropriate oversight to review and test the procedures recently established by the Miami Field Office to account for drugs used in RUOs to determine if the procedures are operating as intended.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice


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