FBI: FEELING THE HEAT
APRIL 15, 1997
A Justice Dept. report concludes the FBI's crime lab provided flawed evidence in the Oklahoma City bombing and other cases, and endorsed an effort to get an outside review of the lab. A background report is followed by a panel discussion with Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.)
MARGARET WARNER: We begin with the FBI lab story. At a press conference of the Justice Department today inspector general Michael Bromwich reported the results of an 18-month investigation into allegations of improper procedures and misconduct at the FBI crime laboratories.
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April 15, 1997:
Two Senators discuss the Justice Dept. report critical of the FBI crime lab.
December 18, 1996:
A veteran FBI agent has been charged with spying on the U.S. for Russia.
June 26, 1996:
The investigation into the White House's handling of confidential FBI files
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MICHAEL BROMWICH, Inspector General, Department of Justice: The allegations were first brought to our attention by a scientist employed by the laboratory, Dr. Frederick Whitehurst. Whitehurst has asserted that significant problems existed in the way the laboratory handles certain cases. Those allegations strike at the heart of the way the laboratory examiners carry out their mission of analyzing evidence and testifying about their conclusions. He has attacked the professional integrity of his colleagues and complained that the laboratory management has ignored or even covered up problems within the lab.
The allegations relate to some of the most significant prosecutions in the recent history of the Department of Justice, including the World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City bombing, the mail bomb assassination of U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Vance, and the bombing aboard an Avianca Airlines jet. Our principal findings were as follows: Although Whitehurst raised some valid concerns, we did not substantiate the majority of his allegations, including his most inflammatory charges of perjury and fabrication of evidence.
Our investigation found deficient work in some high profile cases and also identified policies and practices in need of substantial change. Examples of the types of deficiencies we found include the following: scientifically flawed testimony, inaccurate testimony, testimony beyond the laboratory examiner's expertise, improper preparation of laboratory reports, insufficient documentation of test results, scientifically flawed reports. Inadequate record management and retention and instances in which laboratory managers failed to adequately address and resolve a range of issues.
These are serious and significant deficiencies. Let me be clear--the problems and deficiencies that Whitehurst brought to our attention are extremely serious, but they are a far cry from the types of rampant and intentional wrongdoing alleged by Dr. Whitehurst. Whitehurst alleged that many employees within the lab repeatedly committed perjury, fabricated evidence, obstructed justice, and suppressed exculpatory evidence. Our careful and lengthy review failed to substantiate those charges.