The FBI Laboratory: An Investigation into Laboratory Practices and
Alleged Misconduct in Explosives-Related and Other Cases
Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice

U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation

For Immediate Release Washington DC
April 15, 1997 FBI National Press Office
Statement of FBI Deputy Director Bill Esposito
FBI Laboratory Press Release Charts
FBI Laboratory History

The FBI today received the final report from the Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) concluding an 18-month review focused on three units of the FBI Laboratory. The FBI has adopted the OIG's 40 major recommendations to improve Laboratory policies and procedures and has independently made other substantial improvements in the Laboratory.

FBI Deputy Director William J. Esposito stated, "We welcome these recommendations. Implemented in conjunction with the FBI's own improvements, our Laboratory procedures and practices will be substantially better. We intend for our Lab to be fully accredited so that we can best serve the constantly expanding needs of state and local law enforcement for state-of-the-art forensic work."

The FBI notes that the Justice Department OIG found no instances of evidence tampering, perjury or systemic contamination of evidence.

Esposito stated, "While the problems in the Lab are serious and should not have occurred, the FBI has no reason to believe that any pending or future cases have been compromised. For the last year the FBI has worked with the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice to review the allegations and to assess the information being developed by the Inspector General to determine what actions would be appropriate. Now that the report has been finalized, the FBI plans to continue to review the past cases of individuals who were criticized, to ensure as complete and thorough a review as possible."

Esposito noted, "The FBI and the Justice Department have teamed together, setting up procedures to ensure no one's right to a fair trial was jeopardized by a problem in the Lab. We are being extremely cautious and erring on the side of full disclosure to prosecutors."

"We are using this occasion to announce that the FBI will conduct a search to find the best qualified scientist from outside the FBI to run the Laboratory. Both the OIG and the FBI agree that the Lab needs more and better credentialed scientists. We intend to begin with the person with overall responsibility for the Lab. Additional scientists will also be hired," Esposito said.

The FBI cooperated fully with the OIG review, which would not have been possible without extensive assistance from the FBI. The FBI appreciates the opportunity to work with the OIG and the renowned scientists whose substantial expertise was brought in to assist the Inspector General in conducting this investigation.

The Justice Department has provided information resulting from this review to prosecutors in approximately 55 criminal cases. In 25 of those cases, prosecutors have disclosed information to criminal defense counsel. To date, 13 of those cases have been presented to a judge or jury and the results have all been favorable to the government.

Over three years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began a large number of initiatives to improve the quality and timeliness of examinations performed by the FBI Laboratory. These initiatives include seeking independent accreditation of the Laboratory, obtaining funding for the construction of a new state-of-the-art laboratory facility, and bringing in more scientific expertise.

These priority efforts are part of the FBI's constant work to re-evaluate and improve both the scientific processes and the equipment of the Laboratory, which conducts more than 600,000 scientific examinations and two to three million latent fingerprint examinations every year for local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies.

Many of these initiatives, including planning for the new FBI Laboratory at the FBI's Training Academy at Quantico, Virginia, began before the current inquiry into aspects of Laboratory operations by the Department of Justice Inspector General.

A sampling of other initiatives undertaken by the FBI include:

The FBI Laboratory was established in 1932 and moved into its present facility in 1975. In 1981, the FBI's Forensic Science Research and Training Center was opened to provide forensic science training to state and local crime laboratory personnel and to conduct forensic research.

The Laboratory currently consists of 35 separate units organized into five functional sections. There are currently 626 employees in the Laboratory. In 1996, the Laboratory conducted 696,543 forensic examinations of evidence and 2,184,998 latent fingerprint comparisons.

"We are extremely proud of the FBI Laboratory and the dedicated men and women who serve in it. They do a great service for law enforcement officers all over the country. Their skills and work product stand up to the daily challenges of cross examination in courts of law. They are true public servants, dedicated to training and learning from their state and local counterparts and faithfully serving the criminal justice system," Esposito concluded.

Statement of FBI Deputy Director Bill Esposito