Justice Dept. watchdog: FBI seriously mishandled Nassar case

Posted at 3:51 PM, Jul 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 05:27:19-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI made numerous serious errors in investigating allegations against former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar and didn’t treat the case with the “utmost seriousness."

That's according to a Justice Department’s inspector general released Wednesday.

The long-awaited watchdog report raises serious questions about how the Justice Department and the FBI handled the case. It highlights serious missteps at the FBI between the time the allegations were first reported until Nassar’s arrest.

USA Gymnastics contacted the FBI about the allegations in July 2015, but it took months before the agency opened a formal investigation.

FBI Statement:

“As the Inspector General made clear in today’s report, this should not have happened. The FBI will never lose sight of the harm that Nassar’s abuse caused. The actions and inactions of certain FBI employees described in the Report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization.

The FBI has taken affirmative steps to ensure and has confirmed that those responsible for the misconduct and breach of trust no longer work FBI matters.

Prior to today, the FBI initiated improvements to make sure that serious allegations, such as these, are promptly shared with our law enforcement partners and within the FBI. As a continuation of these efforts, the FBI is fully committed to implementing all of the recommendations made by the Inspector General.

We will take all necessary steps to ensure that the failures of the employees outlined in the Report do not happen again.”

Additional background information from the FBI regarding the investigation:

· The OIG Report reviews the actions and failures of a handful of current and former FBI personnel between 2015-2016 who did not treat the allegations with the utmost seriousness and care.
o The failures of these individuals are alarming and do not represent the FBI.
o We want to make clear that the mishandling of the initial complaint in 2015 and 2016 described in the Inspector General’s report is absolutely inexcusable.
o The agents who, as the Inspector General found, failed to treat serious allegations of sexual abuse with the utmost urgency did not to live up to their obligation to protect the American public and violated the FBI’s core values.

· The former SAC and former SSA violated multiple policies that existed at the time of the initial complaint in 2015 and are completely unacceptable.
o The FBI took immediate action against the former SSA upon learning of the OIG’s findings that he failed to properly document complaints involving sexual abuse, mishandled evidence, and failed to report allegations of abuse.
§ This individual is no longer a supervisor and is not working on any more FBI matters until the administrative investigation is completed by OIG and can be adjudicated by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
o The former SAC’s behavior is appalling as he violated the FBI’s longstanding code of conduct and ethical obligations for FBI employees, especially considering his senior official position.
§ We are further disappointed to learn that the OIG identified he made false statements in his interviews.
§ Additionally, the FBI has strict rules for seeking employment and, it appears based on the OIG’s findings, that the former SAC did not follow them.

· Law enforcement’s job is to investigate all allegations of crimes against children thoroughly and rapidly.
o The FBI does incredible work every day, and our most precious responsibility is the protection of the American people.
o What happened with the handling of this investigation should not have happened.
o We will put all necessary steps in place to make sure there is no chance it happens again.

· In addition to dealing with individual employees who failed to carry out their duties, and prior to receiving the OIG Report, Director Wray commenced a review of applicable policies, procedures, training, and programs to strengthen the FBI’s response and handling of allegations such as those involved in the OIG’s Report.
Handling of the Complaint and Cases Involving Crimes Against Children

· As mentioned in the Report, the individuals from the Indianapolis Field Office (IP) failed to properly document and handle the initial complaint of sexual abuse allegations and the related evidence. These failures violated existing policy at the time of the initial 2015 complaint.
o Allegations of child abuse, child exploitation, or child neglect must be thoroughly and immediately investigated.
o There are no exceptions to prompt reporting requirements when children are at risk.

· To enhance accountability and ensure that this is further clarified in policy, we will incorporate new language and documentation requirements into the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) for allegations of crimes against children to ensure that such complaints are handled expediently.
o Recognizing that law enforcement partnerships are essential, these improvements will focus on information dissemination practices to our partners.
o We will implement improvements related transferring complaints and investigations between field offices when they involve allegations of crimes against children and human trafficking.
o The DIOG will also be updated to ensure that telephonic interviews of minor victims are only permitted in limited, exigent circumstances.

· The FBI will implement improvements to the handling of all complaints. The relevant section of the DIOG will be updated
o 1) to clarify the documentation and retention requirements for information received, prior to the opening of an investigation or the determination that further investigative activity is warranted;
o 2) to mandate a 30-day recurrent review period for any information held in “pre-assessment” or evaluation period for more than 30 days; and
o 3) to include additional policy language to emphasize that supervisors may not approve documentation that they drafted themselves.

· We have also updated annual training to ensure that all FBI personnel are aware of their obligation to report child abuse and is developing new mandatory supervisor training for all Headquarters and field supervisors who manage investigations related to the above.

· In addition to these changes, we will evaluate the FBI’s technical infrastructure to evaluate to identify improvements to enhance oversight capabilities that improve the visibility of information handling prior to the opening of an investigation.
Victim Services

· The FBI’s Victim Services Division has thoroughly reviewed the Report to ensure that our support of victims will be robust and reflective of the critical obligation to care for individuals who have been traumatized, abused, and victimized.

· The FBI recently issued an updated policy guide specific to the handling of matters related to victims, to include child victims or individuals who were minors at the time of the alleged criminal activity