Opening Statement of Chairman Bill McCollum
Before the Subcommittee on Crime
Oversight Hearing on the Federal Bureau of Investigation
May 13, 1997
Today the Subcommittee holds the first in a series of oversight hearings concerning the
Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is the responsibility of Congress to determine whether
the laws passed by the Legislative Branch are properly and faithfully executed, and that
the monies authorized and appropriated by Congress are being expended as Congress
intended. As the largest federal law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation is deserving of special attention in relation to the oversight duties of the
Subcommittee on Crime. Accordingly, the Subcommittee's hearings will examine a
number of important issues facing the Bureau today.
Over the last few years, troubling allegations have been raised concerning the Laboratory
Division of the FBI. These allegations have been raised, principally, by Dr. Frederic
Whitehurst, a Supervisory Special Agent who works in the FBI lab. The numerous
allegations that Dr. Whitehurst raised eventually resulted in an investigation by the
Department of Justice Inspector General. The results of that investigation, released just
last month in a 500-page report, is the subject of today's hearing.
For years, the FBI lab has been considered among the best forensic laboratories in the world. Each year scientific analysis in connection with thousands of cases is conducted at the FBI lab, both in federal investigations and in state and local criminal investigations. The results of those analyses often form the basis of criminal prosecutions. The accuracy of those investigations can
determine the guilt or innocence of an accused. For that reason alone, the work of the lab
cannot be too carefully scrutinized.
Today we consider whether the findings of the Inspector General, which sustain a
significant number of Dr. Whitehurst's allegations and point out other instances of
inappropriate conduct, evidence systemic problems within the FBI lab which undermine its
credibility as an objective and impartial finder of scientific fact. We will consider ways in
which the FBI laboratory can be improved and when those reforms may be implemented.
And we will consider Dr. Whitehurst's disturbing allegations that the FBI has retaliated
against him because of the allegations he has made concerning the lab.
The FBI laboratory is an integral part of the role the FBI plays in our criminal justice
system. Congress must ensure that the investigations in the lab are performed in an
impartial manner, that the best qualified people work there, and that the highest scientific
standards are required of them at all times. This oversight is essential to helping to restore
the public's confidence that our criminal justice system is as fair and just as is humanly
I welcome each of the witnesses here today and look forward to receiving their testimony.