Dereliction of Duty: Examining the Inspector General’s Report on the FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar Investigation
Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the committee.
On behalf of the entire FBI, I want to begin by saying to the brave women who testified here this morning—Ms. Biles, Ms. Maroney, Ms. Nichols, and Ms. Raisman—and I gather there were some others here today who were among the many who Nasser hurt, I’m deeply and profoundly sorry to each and every one of you. I’m sorry for what you and your families have been through. I’m sorry that so many different people let you down, over and over again. And I’m especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in in 2015 and failed.
And that’s inexcusable. It never should have happened. And we’re doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.
Now before I became FBI Director, I was generally familiar with the Nassar story, shortly after his arrest in 2016. And I remember even then being appalled that there were so many people who had failed to do their jobs and keep these young women safe from that predator. But after I became FBI Director, when I learned that there were people at the FBI who had also failed these women, I was heartsick and furious. I immediately ordered a special review by our Inspection Division to try to get to the bottom of it. That review led in part to the Inspector General’s own review, and I’m grateful to Inspector General Horowitz for his team’s extensive and independent work.
I want to be crystal clear: The actions—and inaction—of the FBI employees detailed in this report are totally unacceptable. These individuals betrayed the core duty that they have of protecting people. They failed to protect young women and girls from abuse.
The work we do, certainly, is often complicated and uncertain. And we’re never going to be perfect. But the kinds of fundamental errors that were made in this case in 2015 and 2016 should never have happened. Period. And as long as I’m FBI Director, I’m committed to doing everything in my power to make sure they never happen again.
The FBI cannot carry out its vital mission of protecting the American people without trust. And in this case, FBI agents, certain FBI agents, broke that trust—repeatedly and inexcusably. And to pretend otherwise would be yet one more insult to the survivors.
Failures like the ones that happened in this case threaten the very confidence we rely on every day to keep people safe. So, I want to make sure the public knows that the reprehensible conduct reflected in this report is not representative of the work that I see from our 37,000 folks every day. The actions instead of the agents described in this report are a discredit to all those men and women who do the job the right way, with uncompromising integrity—the way the American people rightly expect and deserve.
Throughout my career as a prosecutor and now at the Bureau, I have found that the agents and officers who investigate crimes against children and sex crimes are among the most compassionate and fiercely dedicated out there. And I suspect a number of you on the committee have had the same experience on your end. And I’m grateful to the women who came forward today so that I can say to everyone: There is no more important work in law enforcement than helping victims of abuse. It’s work that’s got to get done right, every single time.
It is essential that we do everything we can to ensure that victims continue to come forward with confidence that their reports are going to be thoroughly and aggressively investigated. A big part of that is accountability and holding our folks to the highest standard our work requires.
When I received the Inspector General’s report and saw that the supervisory special agent in Indianapolis had failed to carry out even the most basic parts of the job, I immediately made sure he was no longer performing the functions of an agent. And I can now tell you, that individual no longer works for the FBI—in any capacity.
As for the former Indianapolis special agent in charge, the descriptions of his behavior also reflect violations of the FBI’s longstanding code of conduct and the ethical obligations for all FBI employees—especially senior officials. Now that individual has been gone from the Bureau for about three and a half years, having retired in January 2018, before any review launched. And I will say it’s extremely frustrating that we’re left with little disciplinary recourse when people retire before their cases can be adjudicated. But let me be clear, people who engage in that kind of gross misconduct have no place in the FBI.
I can also assure you the FBI’s response is not limited to dealing with those who failed so profoundly back in 2015.
To make sure that something like this never happens again, we’ve already begun fully implementing all of the Inspector General’s recommendations. That includes strengthening our policies and procedures, strengthening our training to firmly underscore the critical importance of thoroughly and expeditiously responding to all allegations of sexual assault or abuse—because, as I said a moment ago, the American people are counting on us to get this done right, every time.
And, finally, I’d like to make a promise to the women who appeared here today and to all victims of abuse: I’m not interested in simply addressing this wrong and moving on. It’s my commitment to you that I and my entire senior leadership team are going to make damn sure everybody at the FBI remembers what happened here—in heartbreaking detail. We need to remember the pain that occurred when our folks failed to do their jobs. We need to study it. We need to learn from it. That’s the best way I know to make sure this devastating tragedy is never repeated.
So thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the committee, for the opportunity to testify today. I look forward to your questions.
Good morning, Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the committee.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear today to discuss the Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) report of its Investigation and Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Handling of Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Former USA Gymnastic Physician Lawrence Gerard Nassar. I want to make clear at the outset that the actions and inaction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employees in 2015 and 2016 described in the report are inexcusable and a discredit to this organization and the values we hold dear. I want to offer my apologies, sympathy, and support to the survivors and their families.
The FBI fully accepts the OIG’s recommendations and has already begun implementing corrective actions in response to them, to ensure the failures described in the report never happen again. Our Office of Professional Responsibility is reviewing the OIG’s findings to adjudicate appropriate discipline for any current FBI employees who engaged in misconduct.
We are enhancing our policies, procedures, and training to ensure that serious allegations of abuse are treated with the utmost urgency and care.
First, the FBI is changing policy and practice related to the handling of reports of sexual abuse and sexual assault. The FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) is being updated to clarify the documentation and retention requirements for information regarding sexual abuse and sexual assault received prior to the opening of an investigation or prior to a determination that further investigative activity is warranted. The relevant section of the DIOG is being modified to mandate a 30-day recurrent review period for this type of information. Finally, we are adding policy language to emphasize that supervisors may not approve documentation that they drafted themselves.
Second, to enhance accountability, we are incorporating new language and documentation requirements into the DIOG for allegations of crimes against children to ensure that such complaints are handled expediently. Recognizing that coordination among law enforcement agencies is essential, these improvements will strengthen information dissemination practices to our partners. We are also implementing improvements related to transferring complaints and investigations between field offices when they involve allegations of crimes against children, to ensure that allegations like the ones against Nassar are not mishandled in the future.
Third, the FBI’s Victim Services Division has thoroughly reviewed the report and is taking steps to ensure that our support of victims and survivors is robust and reflective of the critical obligation to care for individuals who have been traumatized, abused, and victimized. The FBI is updating the DIOG to permit telephonic interviews of minor victims only in limited, exigent circumstances. The FBI has already issued an updated policy guide for handling matters related to victims, including child victims or individuals who were minors at the time of the alleged criminal activity.
With respect to training, the FBI has updated its mandatory annual training to remind all FBI personnel of their obligation to report child abuse. In addition, the FBI developed new mandatory supervisor training for all Headquarters and field supervisors who manage investigations related to crimes against children, and is also creating new training for investigative personnel specific to this type of crime that focuses on, among other topics, thoroughness and urgency.
In implementing these improvements, I want to emphasize that we will not forget the victims who suffered abuse and mistreatment because of missed opportunities to disrupt Nassar’s criminal behavior before his November 2016 arrest. Protecting the American people is the FBI’s highest priority. We will continue to make improvements and take steps to make sure that we are fulfilling that critical mission.
Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I am happy to answer any questions you might have.