FBI Moves Lab Officials

An FBI scientist-agent has been suspended after sparking an inspector general investigation of the agency's crime laboratory, where he worked. And three other lab employees have been transferred out of positions in the lab.

The actions came after the Justice Department's inspector general turned in a report to FBI Director Louis J. Freeh that apparently raised questions about the lab's work in a number of criminal investigations.

Frederic Whitehurst, a 13-year crime lab veteran, was suspended "pending our review of information in the possession of the Department of Justice," said acting lab director Donald W. Thompson. The transferred employees were: David Williams, a supervisor agent; Tom Thurman, unit chief of the explosives division; and Roger Martz, chief of the chemistry and toxicology division.

Whitehurst allegedly talked with a writer for Playboy magazine about mishandling of evidence in the crime lab. He charged that lax forensic work has compromised evidence in several cases.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary subcommitee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, sent a letter to Freeh demanding an explanation for Whitehurst's suspension, characterizing him as a whistleblower.

"Recently, a Department of Justice official knowledgeable about the IG's investigation told me privately that Dr. Whitehurst had done a service for his country in bringing forth this information," Grassley wrote. "The action taken by the FBI implies that he is being punished for 'committing truth.' It appears to be a reprisal for his disclosures."

The IG's report is still being reviewed by the FBI. Its findings could affect several highly-publicized cases, including the Oklahoma City bombing trial. The lawyer for Timothy McVeigh, who is charged in that case, has indicated he may call Whitehurst as a witness to challenge the integrity of FBI evidence against his client.

Whitehurst has criticized FBI lab work since 1989, when he was a lab supervisor.

Sen. Grassley warned FBI officials that "the public will not tolerate the persecution of a bearer of truth by a government agency seeking to shoot the messenger instead of fixing the problem."

The FBI is investigating whether Whitehurst's alleged communications with the writer for Playboy violated rules of the Privacy Act.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.