Problems with forensics at the FBI crime lab continue, 25 years after a whistleblower flagged the agency for sloppy science, according to a story from independent news source ProPublica.

FBI photo: Trace evidence unit
FBI photo of trace evidence unit

The story reports on the lack of scientific evidence supporting the work of FBI technicians who specialize in facial identification and “visual evidence.”  The unit analyzes and sharpens crime scene photos and videos. From the story:

The FBI’s endorsement of the unit’s findings as trial evidence troubles many experts and raises a new question about the role of the FBI Laboratory as a standard-setter in forensic science.”  

Add that to the questions that have lingered since crime lab problems were revealed by insider Frederic Whitehurst in 1994. The chemist’s information about faulty evidence and worse have emerged via three inspector general reports and a National Academy of Sciences study. The ProPublica piece is the latest in two decades of investigative news stories about faulty FBI forensics and its consequences.

Whitehurst is now the director of the National Whistleblower Center’s Forensic Justice Project.

Continue Reading An FBI whistleblower flagged problems with forensics 25 years ago. A new report finds they persist, this time with video analysis.

William Barr Attorney General nominee William Barr this morning committed to “diligently uphold” the False Claims Act during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination.

Under questioning from Sen. Chuck Grassley, Barr said the constitutionality of the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Grassley asked: “If confirmed do you commit to not take action to undermine the False Claims Act? Further if confirmed will you continue Justice department staff and funding levels to to properly pursue and and prosecute cases under the FCA?”

Barr: “Yes, I will diligently enforce the False Claims Act.”

Continue Reading Attorney General nominee Barr commits to “diligently uphold” the False Claims Act

While serving as Assistant Attorney General under the first President Bush, William Barr took aim at the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.

Whistleblower Lawyer Stephen M. Kohn
      Stephen Kohn

Now President Donald Trump’s Attorney General nominee, Barr stood alone among top Justice Department officials in vehemently opposing” the provisions,  Stephen M. Kohn, a partner in the firm Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto writes in the January 13 issue of The Hill.

“Although his arguments against the False Claims Act have long been discredited, his underlying reasoning reveal a deep-seated animus against whistleblowers,” Kohn writes.

The National Whistleblower Center has issued an “Action Alert,” calling on supporters to contact members of the Senate and urge them to Question Barr on his prior anti-whistleblower positions :

Continue Reading The Hill: AG nominee must clarify past comments on False Claims Act whistleblower provisions

Laws on the books designed to protect wildlife whistleblowers have been underutilized, according to a spring report from the Government Accounting Office.  Now, two groups devoted to wildlife protection have joined with the National Whistleblower Center to help ensure that U.S. agencies use the tools they have to protect animals and fisheries and prevent trafficking.

Thinking Animals United is an advocacy group that works “to galvanize worldwide support for the care, protection, and conservation of animals and other species.”  It has signed an agreement with the NWC to “develop joint endeavors, and exchange information with regards to addressing the relationship between environmental crime, economic growth, and national security,” according to a statement from the two groups. Continue Reading Wildlife whistleblowers and advocates collaborate to “strengthen capacity to implement and enforce environmental requirements.”

Is the False Claims Act an “abomination”? Are whistleblowers “bounty hunters”? That’s what Attorney General nominee William Barr said during in a 2001 interview conducted at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Now, a group of advocates, academics and attorneys has asked U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to find out if Barr still feels that way after 18 years.

Committee hearings on Barr’s nomination begin on January 15. Continue Reading Does Attorney General nominee William Barr still think the False Claims Act is unconstitutional? Sen. Grassley needs to find out.

Tinker Ready, a journalist who has worked with whistleblowers throughout her career as a writer and investigative reporter, is the new editor of the Whistleblower Protection Blog.

With the help of whistleblowers, Ready has written important stories about medical conflicts of interest, poor conditions in nursing homes, and disease in an industrial slaughterhouse. Find her coverage of health, science and general news in NEO.LIFEThe Boston GlobeUndarkNature BostonFast CompanyThe Washington PostThe News & Observer, and Health Leaders Media.

In addition, she has taught journalism and writing at the Northeastern University and Boston University.

 

 

Despite Slowdown in Prosecution, Whistleblowers Continue to Play the Critical Role in Detecting Fraud. In statistics published this week by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. government’s recoveries under the False Claims Act (“FCA”) hit their lowest mark since 2008, the last year of President Bush’s administration.   Continue Reading DOJ False Claims Act Recoveries Hit Ten Year Low

Frederic-Whistehurst-FBI-whistleblowerIn a new Trailblazers podcast episode titled Forensics: Who’s on the case, Walter Isaacson delves deep into the history of forensic fraud cases. The show details three stories of victims wrongly accused by criminal investigators and faulty forensic practices. What does history teach us about the validity of forensic technology?

Continue Reading Finding Fault In Forensic Fraud Cases

SEC Whistleblower RewardsOn Wednesday, December 12, 2018, National Whistleblower Center (NWC) Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn made a formal presentation to representatives from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) opposing the proposed SEC rule  limiting awards in major fraud cases.  Kohn was joined by NWC Policy Counsel Maya Efrati and NWC Legal Fellow Sarah Khan. The packed room included SEC leadership from the Office of General Counsel, the SEC Whistleblower Office and the Office of the Chairman of the Commission. The meeting lasted for over one hour. Continue Reading NWC Meets with SEC to Strongly Oppose “Caps” on SEC Whistleblower Rewards