FBI, DOJ Stonewalled Bullet-Lead Record Requests for Years
Washington, D.C. November 18, 2007 -- The convictions of hundreds of defendants have come into question because a bullet-lead analysis used for 40 years has been discredited and that the FBI and Justice Department has failed for more than 2 years to properly notify those convicted about these problems.
This revelation results from years of work done by the National Whistleblower Center and its Forensic Justice Project, which is a special project of the Center.
Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, Executive Director of the Forensic Justice Project, has for years cited the need for outside oversight of the FBI Laboratory. "In 1997 the FJP was formed with the motto, ‘Stop It, Fix It, and Find Out Who Was Harmed,’" Dr. Whitehurst said.
Dr. Whitehurst and the FJP have worked extensively with scientists, defense lawyers, the news media and members of Congress to force the FBI to address the serious problems and misconduct in the FBI’s misuse of bullet-lead analysis in criminal cases.
However, for several years, "the FBI and Justice Department have strongly resisted efforts by the FJP to determine the names of those defendants who were treated unfairly as a result of bad forensic science" said Dr. Whitehurst.
In 2004, the FJP was forced to go to court to obtain records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) related to the bullet-lead cases handled by certain FBI Lab examiners. In response to that suit the FBI agreed to produce some records from some bullet-lead cases in order to enable the FJP to conduct searches of public databases on the bullet-lead cases.
In 2006, the FJP and Dr. Whitehurst filed another FOIA suit because the FBI and Justice Department refused to process the FJP’s FOIA request submitted in September 2005 seeking release of all bullet-lead case files from the FBI Lab. The FJP and Dr. Whitehurst requested these files so the FBI’s bullet-lead cases can be independently reviewed by scientists and attorneys. The FBI has identified 250,000 pages of records related to FBI Lab work in 2,500 bullet-lead cases, but the FBI has for years refused the FJP’s requests to publicly release those records. In response to the FJP ‘s September 2005 FOIA request the FBI has demanded that the FJP pay $70,000 before the FBI will process or release these bullet-lead Lab records.
All of the FBI’s bullet-lead information should have been disclosed to the courts as well as criminal defendants and their attorneys years ago" said David Colapinto, General Counsel of the National Whistleblower Center.
Instead, the FBI and Justice Department deliberately chose to operate in the dark, out of public view, and conceal the evidence that is scientifically flawed but which was still used in criminal cases" Colapinto said. "This has severely prejudiced people who have been hurt by the FBI Lab’s misconduct" he added.
"The last thing the Justice Department should do is what has been done, to aggressively stop parties from discovery of those citizens harmed" Dr. Whitehurst said.
You can visit the Whistleblower Protection Blog, at www.whistleblowersblog.org for further information on the bullet-lead issue. We will have original documents from the FOIA lawsuit, as well as blog posts from former FBI Crime Lab whistleblower (and Executive Director of the Forensic Justice Project) Dr. Frederic Whitehurst and the General Counsel for the National Whistleblower Center, David Colapinto.
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- National Whistleblower Center
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