Justice review details string of human errors in FBI's belated discovery of McVeigh documents - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

Justice review details string of human errors in FBI's belated discovery of McVeigh documents

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Justice Department internal review has concluded two FBI supervisors knew as early as January 2001 that documents had not been turned over to Timothy McVeigh's defense, but they waited five months to alert the proper authorities, people familiar with the findings said Monday.

The Justice Department inspector general identified a string of human errors that resulted in the belated discovery of the documents and a stunning one-month delay in McVeigh's execution last spring. But the probe concluded there was no intentional effort to conceal materials and that none of the papers disproved McVeigh's guilt, according to the sources.

``Ultimately, the IG concluded the documents would not have changed the outcome,'' one person said, speaking only on condition of anonymity. The inspector general, however, recommends the two FBI supervisors be disciplined, the sources said.

FBI Assistant Director John Collingwood said late Monday the FBI has been implementing numerous changes since last year to ensure mishaps like this one don't occur again.

``We have brought in new records management experts, consolidated our records functions in one office and retrained our employees _ all intended to enhance operations and increase accountability,'' he said.

``More importantly, with funding from Congress, we are rebuilding our computerized information infrastructure in ways that will not permit many of the things that happened here while increasing security at the same time,'' he said.

Collingwood said a key phase will occur next spring with the unveiling of a new computer system that will not allow FBI agents to create documents unless they are attached to the master case file so that the lead investigative office knows about every piece of evidence.

He added another key is the re-education of agents that record keeping is essential.

``Overlaying all that has to be the creation of a culture within the agency that understands records management is critical _ although quite mundane compared to the spectacular other things we often do _ and is just as important in protecting rights and supporting strong investigations and prosecutions,'' he said.

Justice officials briefed key lawmakers' staffs on Monday and prepared to release the report as early as this week. Congressional staff and Justice officials involved in the briefings declined comment Monday or did not return calls seeking reaction.

After the belated discovery of 4,500 pages of FBI documents abruptly postponed McVeigh's execution last spring, there was an immediate outcry and questions about the FBI's performance. At the time, FBI officials blamed a computer glitch for the failure to discover the documents.

But people familiar with the inspector general's findings, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the internal review identified several human errors involved in the FBI identification, production and preservation of documents that should have been turned over to McVeigh's defense.

Among them, according to the sources, were:

_At least two FBI offices began destroying documents in the McVeigh case before such permission was granted by records archive officials in late 2000.

_The FBI's Oklahoma City bombing task force lost some documents and evidence during the five years of investigation, trials and appeals.

_Nine FBI field offices destroyed documents that either should have gone to the defense or which they could not rule out should have gone to McVeigh's legal team.

_There was confusion and differing interpretations inside the bureau about what types of documents needed to be produced to defense lawyers.

The inspector general concluded two FBI supervisors should be disciplined for their role in the mishap, the people familiar with the findings said. The sources did not identify the officials, but said they knew as early as January 2001 that relevant documents had not been produced to McVeigh's team.

Collingwood declined to discuss any possible discipline, saying ``issues involving individual conduct will be considered separately for whatever action is appropriate under the circumstances.''

The internal probe found that the supervisors belatedly alerted officials just days before McVeigh's scheduled execution in May. Even then, it took FBI officials and prosecutors two more days to alert the court and defense lawyers of the development, the sources said.

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