The FBI has lost 160 laptop computers in less than four years, the inspector general for the US Department of Justice has revealed.
Corporate America has been rocked over the past year by the repeated loss or theft or laptops containing personal data, which makes the FBI’s losses particularly embarrassing.
In many cases, the FBI did not know what data was on the missing computers.
An audit by the inspector general concluded that the FBI was doing a better job of hanging on to its laptops than it had in the past - during an earlier review period, losses averaged more than 11 a month, far higher than the new figure of nearly four a month.
But the [audit report] criticised the agency for not enforcing its own rules on reporting lost or stolen hardware and for its inability to detail the contents of the laptops.
Ten of the computers had confidential or sensitive data on their hard drives, with one stolen laptop containing software for creating FBI identification badges, the audit report said.
Another 51 systems may also have contained secrets, of which six had been assigned to the FBI's counterintelligence division and one had been with the agency's counterterrorism division.
"The FBI did not know the content of these computers or whether they contained sensitive or classified information," the report said. "Without knowing the contents of these lost and stolen laptop computers, it is impossible for the FBI to know the extent of the damage these losses might have had on its operations or on national security."
The same audit also uncovered the loss of 160 FBI weapons, including 10 shotguns, six submachine guns and eight rifles, during the 44-month period.
FBI assistant director John Miller acknowledged that "more needs to be done to ensure the proper handling of the loss and theft of weapons and laptops, and the information maintained on them".