FBI JETS: Holder, Mueller, Mukasey used FBI’s Gulfstream jets for business, personal travel even though Congress approved them for counterterrorism. FBI director and attorney general — in two administrations — used more expensive government jets to take personal and business trips, rather than flying on smaller or slower aircraft that could have saved the taxpayer money. Two corporate-style jets that the FBI persuaded Congress to lease for fighting global terrorism have instead been used the majority of the time to ferry Attorney General Eric Holder, his predecessor in the Bush administration and FBI Director Robert Mueller on business and personal trips at an expense of millions of dollars to taxpayers, an investigation has found. The bureau’s state-the-art, sleek Gulfstream V jets logged 60 percent of their hours between 2007 and 2011 on “non-mission flights” that cost taxpayers $11.4 million, according to an investigation by the Government Accountability Office. 88 personal trips for Holder and former Republican Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who stepped down in 2009, and 10 for Mueller, the review found. Taxpayers were reimbursed only pennies on the dollar for those personal trips under the current rules, the audit found. On at least one occasion a trip by Holder in 2011 left the FBI without access to a Gulfstream during a counterterrorism operation, forcing agents to scramble to charter a private plane, according to documents reviewed by the Washington Guardian. For many years, the White House has required attorney generals to use government aircraft for all business and personal travel for security reasons. And in 2011, Mueller was added to the list of officials who was required to fly on government planes fulltime. The FBI, however, had a smaller Citation jet,.
Those are much cheaper to operate. But since 2007, those smaller aircraft were used only about a third of the time for Mueller, Holder and Mukasey, as the bureau opted for the larger, more luxurious Gulfstream, adding the trips complied with the White House rules and simply made use of idle time when the aircraft weren’t needed for terrorism work. First priority for all FBI aircraft,” the bureau said Wednesday night in a joint statement with the Justice Department. “As the GAO confirmed, the Department of Justice always adheres to these priorities in scheduling use of its aircraft. bureau security experts believe the Gulfstream’s special, encrypted communication systems are also important for ensuring traveling officials have secure communication, — the travel of the top executives only accounted for about a third of the jets’ travel, the letter argued, while investigative work accounted for about 60 percent of the flights. The GAO, however, used the percentage of total hours to reflect the amount of time the corporate jets weren’t available for counterterrorism work if needed. The jets are housed in a secret Washington area location, and were needed to whisk FBI counterterrorism agents on a moment’s notice to global hotspots for investigations, transporting terrorists, dispatching equipment and returning evidence to Washington for testing.
the GAO review found the jets were used only used about 40 percent of the time for counterterrorism since 2007, with their primary function becoming executive travel. “From fiscal years 2007 through 2011, 60 percent (2,206 of 3,657) of all flight hours for the FBI’s two Gulfstream V aircraft were associated with non-mission flights to transport the Attorneys General, FBI Director, and other DOJ executives,” the GAO found. The smaller aircraft were used only about a third of the time for the executive travel.
The GAO report follows other recent controversies in which top government and political leaders have created perks or conveniences for themselves that are unavailable for average Americans and cost taxpayers money. Over the last few years, lawmakers who have used military aircraft for travel or White House officials who used government cars as limousine service have stirred their own controversies.
When Holder, Mueller or Mukasey took personal trips, they reimbursed taxpayers at a rate equivalent to coach air fare on commercial flights, but that amount hardly covers the true cost of the flights. In fact, the 88 trips by Holder and Mukasey for personal reasons cost about $1.6 million, yet the taxpayers were reimbursed only $46,982, or about 2.9 percent of the actual tab.
The report cited one specific example by Holder, who took a personal trip in November 2010 using the FBI’s Gulfstream V. The flight “had an estimated flight cost of $15,894, but the reimbursement at the equivalent commercial fare was $420.80,” the report noted. Mueller used the aircraft far less often for personal trips, making just 10 trips and reimbursing the government a total of $4,556.
The FBI jets are kept at a secret location outside Washington and must be flown each time to Reagan National Airport to pick up Mueller and Holder. The cost of those brief transitional flights was $1.5 million between 2007 and 2011 — roughly 10 percent of the total cost of all their flights.
Source—washington gurardian, john solomon