The government watchdog of the Department of Justice released a report Tuesday that found “numerous issues” with the FBI’s handling of confidential sources.
The 63-page report covers 2012 to 2019, which includes the time-frame of the 2016 presidential election and former FBI Director James Comey’s entire tenure at the law enforcement agency. It indicted the FBI’s management of secret sources as noncompliant with attorney general guidelines.
“Ineffective management and oversight of confidential sources can result in jeopardizing FBI operations and placing FBI agents, sources, subjects of investigation, and the public in harms way,” said DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz in a two-minute video announcing the findings of the report.
The inspector general’s report said that FBI headquarters lacked adequate staff and oversight and provided unclear guidance to conduct its operations involving confidential human sources.
The confidential human source program is important to the FBI’s efforts to carry out its mission, the report says, and such sources are hired for a wide range of objectives in addition to counterintelligence.
The FBI used confidential human sources in its 2016 investigation of the Trump campaign to determine whether campaign staff were colluding with the Russian government. Yet the allegations of Russian collusion turned up to be a hoax following a two-year investigation with unlimited resources by a congressionally appointed special counsel.
The inspector general’s report determined that the FBI lacked the proper processes to maintain the necessary levels of oversight among such long-term sources, allowing some to continue operating when they should not have.
“We found that the FBI lacked an automated process to analyze the threat areas in which is has CHS coverage and relied on an ineffective process that could result in outdated information,” the report said. “Without clear guidance, we believe there is increased operational security risk that could result in agents and (sources) being put in harm’s way.”
The report also found faults in the FBI vetting of confidential sources that did not comply with Justice Department rules, and noted that the FBI has problems aligning the right sources with the appropriate threat priorities.
The Justice Department’s office of inspector general has offered the FBI 16 recommendations to fix the program and until then, has ordered the agency to place tighter restrictions on information related to the program to personnel with a need to know.