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After 5 years, FBI still flailing

FBI inspector general Glenn Fine has released a discouraging audit of the agency's ineptitude at updating its antiquated case-management system. Cost overruns and poor oversight threaten the latest effort to computerize FBI files so that agents can manage and share information from their desks. Charged by Congress to modernize its record-keeping after 9/11, the FBI isn't much closer to accomplishing the task.

Fine noted that the Bush administration's budget request of $100-million for the project is $57-million short of what the FBI says it needs. Taxpayers might stomach the increased cost if it weren't for the fact that the FBI has already wasted $170-million on a botched first effort to computerize. Fine says the latest plan isn't guaranteed to work, either, though the agency has apparently done better this time.

With the terrorism threat only increasing over the past five years, the FBI's failure to modernize cannot be tolerated. Yet Congress has little choice but to fully fund the needed technology. Otherwise, the FBI would take the money out of its operations, which could further weaken intelligence activities.

This latest failure would be a worthy subject of investigation by the new Democratic-led Congress. Heartbreaking revelations that the FBI failed to recognize and pass on useful intelligence before the 2001 attack cannot be ignored. Clearly, the FBI bureaucracy is broken and needs to be fixed along with its computer system.

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