2 dozen FBI agents cheated on counterterrorism test, Justice Dept. finds

By Jeff Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 27, 2010; 10:19 PM

The Justice Department said Monday that it found almost two dozen FBI agents, including supervisors, had cheated on an exam to test their knowledge of new counterterrorism procedures. It suggested that the scandal might eventually spread far beyond the few offices it investigated.

"We believe the extent of the cheating related to this test was greater than the cases we detailed in this report," Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine reported.

The open-book test was administered to about 20,000 employees to make sure they understood the 2008 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, promulgated as a result of new rules implemented after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Twenty-two agents "cheated or acted improperly in some manner related to the exam," Fine's office said after an investigation of four field offices, one resident agency and two headquarters components.

He added that "the amount of cheating that we identified in our limited interviews cannot be extrapolated to the entire population of FBI test-takers," but he urged the FBI to investigate further.

The probe began last September when the bureau heard that three top managers from its Washington Field Office took the exam together and that field-office lawyers were present during the test-taking. Other allegations of misconduct and irregularities, Fine said, began to turn up.

Joseph Persichini Jr., who headed the field office, retired in December because of his involvement in the affair, the inspector general said. Two others were reassigned to headquarters.

The inspector general seemed especially upset that a number of FBI agents certified that they had not consulted with others before or during the test when they clearly had. The report added that one unidentified "legal advisor" had "facilitated the cheating" while another tried to "impede the OIG investigation."

"Several supervisors" were involved in cheating, the inspector general said, "including two ASACs [assistant special agents in charge], two SSAs [supervisory special agents] and a legal advisor. . . . Almost all of those who cheated falsely certified . . . that they had not consulted with others."

The report did not identify them by name.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said Monday that he was "disappointed with the misconduct described in the report," and he pledged to "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."

Jeff Stein writes the SpyTalk blog at www.washingtonpost.com/spytalk.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company