Head of D.C. FBI Joseph Persichini Jr. Leaving Under Cloud Involving Test Scandal; 2 Other Top Officials Also Face Scrutiny

Joseph Persichini Jr./fbi photo
Joseph Persichini Jr./fbi photo
By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — Joseph Persichini Jr., the head of the Washington field office, is retiring this month under a cloud of allegations that he  violated agency rules when taking an open book exam.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the Office of Professional Responsibility, which conducts ethics investigations, had recommended disciplinary action, but “the appeals process had not run its course by the time Persichini announced his retirement last month.” He is scheduled to step down on Dec. 25.

Andrew Castor/fbi photo
Andrew Castor/fbi photo

The investigation into violation of the test rules also centers around two other high ranking officials in the D.C. FBI office — Keith Bryars, special agent in charge of administration, and Andrew Castor, special agent in charge of the criminal division.

Keith Bryars/fbi photo
Keith Bryars/fbi photo

The story about the scandal was first reported last month by ticklethewire.com.  The names of the agents were not published at the time, but it was reported that three high ranking agents may have received help on the exam from an FBI lawyer, and may have worked together, a clear violation of agency rules.

Persichini last month declined to comment on the scandal, as did Bryars when contacted by ticklethewire.com.  Castor did not return a phone call last month for comment. The Post reported that Persichini, 55,  attended his retirement party on Tuesday, and did not respond to requests for comment.

Calls to Persichini on Wednesday were transferred to Kate Schweit, the FBI spokeswoman, who said “we will be making no comment.” Bryars, when contacted Wednesday, took a number and indicated he would call back. Castor did not  return a phone call for comment.

At the center of the controversy is a test on the bureau’s guidelines for conducting investigations called the Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide (DIOG).

FBI agents and some support staff take a 16-hour training course, then take an open book exam on a computer. They are allowed to use reference materials, but must take the test on their own. The FBI Director Robert Mueller III is even required to take the test.

Ticklethewire.com reported last month that the three agents may have gotten assistance from an FBI lawyer, who has also come under scrutiny in the scandal, according to sources.

Sources say the three completed the exam far quicker than other agents, who often take at least two hours, if not more. The Post reported that Persichini completed the test in under 20 minute, which caught management’s attention.

The Post reported that Persichini took the test ” in a room by himself” but did not mention whether he collaborated with others or got help from an FBI lawyer. It said the other two agents were under internal investigation in a separate incident involving the test.

Persichini was special agent in charge of the administrative division at the Washington field office before he rose in 2006 to the top post in the office.

He began his FBI career in 1976 as an accountant at FBI headquarters in the Budget and Accounting Section and became a special agent in 1980, according to the FBI.

He recently told the Washington Post that he was leaving the bureau on Dec. 25 as a “Christmas gift for my wife.”

Persichini had been planning to retire soon anyways to look for a job in the private sector. But sources says he may have moved up his departure date as a result  of the test scandal.

His replacement has not yet been named.

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