Two years ago, the FBI loosened its internal guidelines to allow agents to launch surveillance operations without evidence of a crime and to open inquiries based in part on the ethnicity of the subject. That made some people nervous, considering the bureau's extensive history of abusing its investigative powers. And the FBI sought to allay those fears the way any government bureaucracy does: It promised to administer a test.
And sure enough, the Bureau required its agents to pass a 51-question test to demonstrate their knowledge of civil liberties and what is and isn't kosher when it comes to surveillance. And they all passed! Because many of them cheated.
According to the Associated Press, the Department of Justice's inspector general is investigating "hundreds" of agents for possibly cheating on the surveillance test by taking it in groups and printing it out in advance to use as a study guide. Several agents completed the test "unusually quickly," the AP says, and the head of FBI Agents Association complained in a letter to the Bureau obtained by the AP that "pervasive confusion and miscommunication" about the rules governing the test led to violations at almost every field office.
The investigation began last year after the head of the Washington field office took the test--which must be taken alone, according to the rules--"alongside two of his most senior managers and one of the bureau attorneys in charge of making sure the exam was administered properly." He has since retired, and the two agents who took it with him have been detailed to headquarters while the investigation continues, the AP says.
The exam's last question asked whether the agent taking it had received any assistance.