FBI agents in every region have mishandled, mislabeled and lost evidence, according to a highly critical internal investigation that discovered errors with nearly half the pieces of evidence it reviewed, the New York Times reports. The evidence collection and retention system is the backbone of the FBI investigative process, and the report said it is beset by problems. It also found that the FBI was storing more weapons, less money and valuables, and two tons more drugs than its records had indicated.
The report's findings, based on a review of more than 41,000 pieces of evidence in FBI officers around the U.S., could have consequences for criminal investigations and prosecutions. Lawyers can use even minor record-keeping discrepancies to get evidence thrown out of court, and the FBI has alerted prosecutors that they may need to disclose the errors to defendants. Many problems cited in the report appear to be hiccups in the FBI’s transition to a computer system known as Sentinel, which went online in 2012 and was intended to move the bureau away from a case-management system based on paper files.