FBI Test Scandal Explodes: Investigation Finds Widespread Cheating On Domestic Spying Exam

CHEATERS! FBI Test Scandal Explodes

The FBI's Inspector General has found evidence of widespread cheating on an exam intended to test agents on Bush-era domestic intelligence-gathering guidelines.

Although the new guidelines were ostensibly intended simply to consolidate existing rules, the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) that took effect in December 2008 has been criticized by civil libertarians as being too expansive.

Many FBI agents -- including high-level supervisors -- apparently mounted their own kind of internal protest, balking at the required 16-hour classroom training and in particular a 51-question multiple-choice open-book exam that by all accounts was poorly worded and difficult to understand.

The test's rules specifically called for agents not to collaborate with each other. But instead, according to the IG report, "a significant number of the FBI employees we interviewed cheated on the test."

Investigators "found test-taking conduct that constituted cheating and abuse, such as the use of answer sheets when taking the exam; the use of study guides that in effect gave the questions on the exam with the answers; consultation with others during the exam; false certifications in response to Question 51 [which required all employees to 'certify that I only consulted the DIOG, notes, or training aids but no other person while taking this exam']; and, even the use of a computer programming flaw to reveal the correct answers to the exam."

The report recommends that the FBI "take appropriate disciplinary action against those employees identified by the OIG who cheated or engaged in inappropriate conduct related to the DIOG exam" and "should consider taking appropriate steps to determine whether other FBI employees cheated or engaged in inappropriate conduct related to the DIOG exam, and, if so, take appropriate action."

The exam scandal, news of which has been dribbling out for months, has already resulted in at least one casualty: Joseph Persichini Jr., the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office, retired last December amid rumors of his involvement.

The IG report now makes it official that Persichini retired after learning that the FBI proposed to discipline him. According to the report, he was present in a room when two Special Agents in Charge cheated on the test by taking it together and discussing it with a legal advisor who was also in the room.

The report says Perschini "argued that he had not cheated because the answers he wrote down for his later use constituted 'notes,' which he argued were permissible under the open-book procedures of the exam."

The department's Office of Professional Responsibility rejected his claim, finding among other things that he had committed misconduct when he certified on Question 51 that he had "consulted" with no other person while taking the exam.

The SACs were ordered demoted and suspended without pay for 20 days, but those actions have been stayed pending appeal. The legal advisor faces a 10-day suspension without pay, which is also stayed pending appeal.


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