The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating the FBI lab unit that analyzes DNA in hundreds of cases a year after a technician was caught failing to follow proper procedure, the Associated Press reports. The inquiry, expected to last several months, already has led to changes inside the lab’s DNA unit in response to advice from outside scientists.
The inspector general is trying to identify any vulnerabilities in the lab after an FBI technician went undetected for two years as she failed to follow procedure in analyzing DNA evidence, said govenrment officials.
The AP says that the probe, along with revelations of DNA irregularities in local crime labs that work with the FBI, could affect Attorney General John Ashcroft’s project to create a national DNA database to help law enforcers identify crime suspects through genetic fingerprints.
“All of us are depending on DNA as a gold standard in forensics work – innocence projects, prosecutors and defense lawyers. And now we don’t have a gold standard. The gold has been tarnished,” said Frederic Whitehurst, a former FBI lab employee whose whistle-blower allegations led to major changes in the lab in the mid-1990s.