The bureau's latest embarrassment involves Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused murderer of 13 soldiers at Fort Hood.
The gunman's extremism was so obvious that the FBI had identified e-mails between Hasan and Anwar al-Aulaqi, a radical Muslim cleric with apparent ties to Osama bin Laden -- yet decided against a full investigation.
While Army intelligence also didn't follow up, the FBI's the one with the track record of missteps going back years, including:
* Misidentifying scientist Stephen Hatfill as the culprit behind the October 2001 anthrax attacks, then public harassing him -- resulting in the US paying Hatfill $5.8 million in damages.
This occurred even though new measures were supposedly put in place after the Bureau:
* Misidentified Richard Jewell in 1996 as the person responsible for the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.
* And mistakenly accused scientist Wen Ho Lee of selling classified technology to China.
That list omits more recent FBI embarrassments, like this year's shutdown of its New York office because of a snowstorm and its computer system being crippled for nine days by a cyber-virus.
And so, news that the bureau has launched an internal investigation into its handling of Hasan prior to the shooting is hardly reassuring.
The Obama administration announced a separate review to see what warning signs might have been missed.
That's good, as far as it goes.
But, going back to the mid '90s, three consecutive presidents have had to contend with the consequences of "missed signals," bungled investigations and other such errors. What reason is there to believe that this "review" will produce positive results?
If President Obama can surpass his predecessors in clearing up a clearly dysfunctional agency, more power to him.
Alas, we aren't optimistic.