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Posted at 1:40 PM ET, 09/27/2010

FBI cheating confirmed by Justice Department

By Jeff Stein

The Justice Department said Monday it found "a significant number of FBI employees engaged in some form of improper conduct or cheating" on an exam and suggested the scandal may eventually spread far beyond the four field offices it investigated.

"We believe the extent of the cheating related to this test was greater than the cases we detailed in this report, which is based on our limited investigation in only four FBI field offices, one resident agency, and two Headquarters components," the report from Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said.

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

"Of the FBI employees that we interviewed about their conduct in taking the DIOG exam, 22 cheated or acted improperly in some manner related to the exam," the OIG said. "We recognize that the amount of cheating that we identified in our limited interviews cannot be extrapolated to the entire population of FBI test-takers."

On the other hand, it said, "we believe there was more cheating and improper conduct than we identified through our limited interviews and investigation" and urged the FBI to determine "whether other FBI employees cheated on or engaged in inappropriate conduct."

Although the IG report conceded that the tests were unusually difficult and time-consuming, the questions sometimes "poorly worded" and the rules for giving the examinations not always clear, it said that was no excuse.

The IG seemed especially upset that a number of FBI agents had certified that they had not consulted with others before or during the test when they clearly had.

"As described in this report, in our limited investigation at several FBI offices, we found that many FBI employees violated various FBI rules in connection with the exam by consulting with others, falsely certifying that they had consulted with no one, using answer sheets or study guides that provided the questions and answers on the exam, or exploiting flawed computer programming to reveal the answers on the test."

"Several supervisors" were involved in cheating, the IG 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 on Question 51 (the final question of the exam) that they had not consulted with others."

The report did not identified them by name, but at least one official, Joseph Persichini Jr., the number two official in the FBI's Washington Field Office, retired last December because of his involvement in the afffair, according to reports.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told Congress in July he did not know how deep the cheating went.

"I've got a general idea, but I do not know how many," Mueller testified. "And I am not certain the IG knows how many either."

On Monday Mueller said he was "disappointed with the misconduct described in the report" and 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."

“The vast majority of FBI employees successfully completed the DIOG training and the open-book examination that followed, in accordance with the test-taking instructions," Mueller added in a statement posted on the FBI's Web site.

"While the Office of Inspector General has identified a number of factors that contributed to problems with the test-taking, nothing excuses the conduct of those who chose not to comply when instructions were clear.”

Konrad Motyka, President of the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), pointed out that "there were systemic problems related to the training and instructions connected to the DIOG exam. Specifically the report notes that there was a 'lack of official policy" and that instructions and guidance for the exam varied widely."

Motyka added, "All parties have learned from this experience -- from the Bureau to the DIOG examinees. We look forward to working with the Bureau to develop better procedures to ensure that future exams are conducted in a uniform manner with clear and consistent instruction in all locations."

By Jeff Stein  | September 27, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Justice/FBI  | Tags:  Robert S. Mueller III  
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Who will watch the watchers?

Posted by: jckdoors | September 27, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Investigation report must affirm that the cheaters knew their actions fell outside the bounds of what was permitted.

It's kind of like Sarah Palin's writing on her hand. There was nothing wrong with it all. Public speakers use note cards all the time. On an exam though, the use of notes on her hand would be cheating.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 27, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

The FBI needs an honor code. Terminate any and all cheaters. We have a right to expect better from the premier (?) law enforcement agency. Without a zero tolerance policy how will anyone be able to believe sworn testimony by an agent?

Posted by: ndgold | September 27, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

This is why they should not get even more authority to engage in surveillance. Quite simply, they can not be trusted with it. Their behavior with these tests, and with their abuse of National Security Letters is a documented fact. They already suffer no real accountability to anyone, and they want more power. Giving it to them would be a horrible error.

What they want is -bad- too, they're asking for things that will create far worse problems than it will solve. From a very fundamental technical perspective, they're making big mistakes with that.

Posted by: Nymous | September 28, 2010 3:23 AM | Report abuse

Who will watch the watchers? We need to organize a civilian security council who will police the govt. Anyone in the govt will submit to their lines being tapped and their every move being on camera until they leave office.

Posted by: ManTheCannons | September 28, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

What constitutes a study guide?

Part of what is claimed is that they used a study guide. I recall working briefly for Kaplan a Washington Post company now its core revenue and earnings generator, in the autumn of 1988. At that time Kaplan produced study guides for university entrance examinations to professional and other schools which were generated from those who had already taken the test phoning in the questions they could remember.

It was on a Saturday morning while I was at Kaplan's New York offices working on another project that a whole group of people came in to handle the phones after the dental entrance examination test had been given nationally by the Princeton based testing group. Kaplan sought as many people as it could by telephone immediately after they completed the exam to provide them with as many questions as they could remember.

Kaplan then compiled and incorporated them into their next published edition of the study guide for the dental school entrance examination. Kaplan did this in every such instance where these exams were given for all levels of university entrance I believe. I had no part in it. I was just present working on a physics book project for them.

Are study guides using the questions from old tests to be considered cheating? It never was in my day.

How much of the "study guide" that the FBI test takers used was based upon such earlier information, if any?

There seems to be other outright indications of cheating and collusion here, but at what point is the line to be drawn with respect to such collusion and passing along information about former tests?

Should the Washington Post's Kaplan be somehow held responsible for fostering a standard of cheating by its behaviour which has made a significant contribution to revenues and earnings for the Washington Post corporation?

Posted by: garydchance | September 28, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

The test was open book? Jesus.

Posted by: johnharris1 | September 28, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

No surprise to anyone familiar with previous discoveries that both the FBI crime lab and individual investigators have falsified or concealed evidence in criminal cases... even in capital cases... on numerous occasions.

Cops (at all levels) lie far more frequently on the stand than most Americans would ever guess. Cops cheating on an internal exam? Small potatoes, compared to what many of them do under oath, when someone's life or liberty are at stake.

Posted by: Iconoblaster | September 28, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

will they treat these FBI agents as harshly as baseball players who lie about steroids?

Posted by: hithere2 | September 28, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

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