FBI Audit - Inefficient Dark-Net Operations


For years, different law enforcement agencies around the world have been targeting the dark-net. One such agency is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first attack on the dark-net from the FBI happened in 2013, when the silk road market was taken down. Since then the agency has kept targeting different parts of the dark-net.

The Audit

Despite all the developments in tracking technology, the FBI is not performing its best. Being a government agency, it's not hard to become inefficient. For this reason the U.S. Department of Justice conducted an audit on the FBI. The audit uncovered many inefficiencies and created a list of improvements that have to be made.

An Agency wide Framework

The first inefficiency to be uncovered by the DoJ is both the most obvious and serious one. It was found that the FBI did not have an agency wide dark-net policy. The agency had 4 dark-net divisions. Each one worked independently from one another and did not sure much if any data between them. This creates an environment in which every team has to waste resources to gather information that the other team potentially has.

doj inspector general logo

The Department of Justice found that despite new technology, over time the FBIs performance got worse. Initially one of the team was designated to work on different tools. Due to reduced funding, each team now seeks tools independently. Establishing an agency-wide framework for the dark-net could drastically improve performance. Establishing communication between the different teams is very important. Better communication will reduce duplicate work and would allow the teams to work on different projects.

Team Conflict

The audit also discovered that the FBI had two separate teams that work on virtual currencies. Both have been found to assist with dark-net investigations. The funding for both teams comes from the DoJ’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. A portion of the Assets Forfeiture Fund comes from the seizure of assets tied to criminals. Most felt that the two teams were conducting work that overlapped. Rising costs and unchanged funding from the Assets Forfeiture Fund resulted in disagreements between the two teams.

Restructuring Recommendations

The Department of Justice gave the FBI as list of suggested changes to improve performance. The first recommendation made was to start weighting risks. A system to prioritize threats needs to be created. This can allow agents to focus on more important problems like Opioids. Once resources are available, less important targets can be treated.

The DoJ stressed the importance of developing an agency wide approach to the dark-net. A framework that clarifies all of the responsibilities has to be developed. This include data collection, investigative tool development and constant training. The agency should also make sure that all units coordinate on different procedures. Sharing data and resources between teams is a very important task that improves efficiency. The FBI was also recommended to develop timelines for strategy development and feedback.


The FBI agreed with most points made by the Department of Justice. The agencies response regarding virtual currencies hints that new cryptocurrency guidelines are coming. The audit conducted by the DoJ uncovered many inefficiencies that are surprising to many and could have easily been avoided. It is still unclear if many other changes will be made in order to improve workflow.




Jan. 9, 2021

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Dec. 21, 2020