1997 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

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 possible.

I welcome each of the witnesses here today and look forward to receiving their testimony.