The National Whistleblower Center released a new video featuring four prominent whistleblowers who share their personal stories of blowing the whistle and the backlash they faced for doing the right thing. “Whistleblowers Change the World,“ highlights the crucial role whistleblowers serve in exposing corruption at all levels of society and why we need a sustained grassroots movement to ensure the legal protections they require are upheld.
When Dr. Frederic Whitehurst initially blew the whistle on the systemic forensic fraud in the FBI crime lab, he could never have known it was the start of a lifelong fight for government accountability.
Additional Reviews of FBI Lab Scandal Still Needed 20 Years Later
On July 21, 2014, more than twenty years after a FBI whistleblower came forward to report serious problems at the FBI Lab that could impact thousands of cases, another FBI Lab scandal victim was found innocent and freed by the D.C. Superior Court.
Kevin Martin, age 50, spent 26 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. He pleaded guilty to rape and murder under an Alford Plea (pleading guilty acknowledging the government has evidence of guilt but maintaining one’s innocence). He did so only after his attorney was shown hair evidence that the FBI Lab had examined and claimed Martin’s hair matched a hair from the crime scene. DNA testing has now proven the FBI’s claim to be false, resulting in Mr. Martin’s release and exoneration.
And Fox5 News: Man officially exonerated in 1982 DC rape and murder
Significantly, Mr. Martin has maintained his innocence for more than 30 years, even after he accepted the Alford plea. But nobody believed Mr. Martin until yesterday. Continue Reading Another FBI Lab Victim Is Found Innocent and Freed
Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, who blew the whistle on misconduct in the FBI Crime Lab, is featured in a short video by the Moral Courage Project.
Dr. Whitehurst was the first successful FBI whistleblower. His case exposed forensic fraud in the FBI crime lab and subjected it to outside oversight for the first time. Click this link to learn more about Dr. Whitehurst’s work with the Forensic Justice Project.
“Crime fighter’s deliemma: my counrty or my family?”
Yesterday, the Department of Justice held a listening session with representatives of the National Whistleblowers Center, American Civil Liberties Union, Government Accountability Project and Project on Government Oversight to discuss needed improvements in the DOJ regulations that implement the Whistleblower Protection Act for FBI employees. The meeting was called as a result of a directive issued by President Obama ordering the Attorney General, in consultation with the Office of Special Counsel and FBI employees, to make recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the DOJ whistleblower program for FBI employees.
Steve Kohn and I attended the meeting on behalf of NWC and provided our insights on the weaknesses in the current FBI whistleblower program after representing several FBI employees who faced whistleblower retaliation over the past 20 years.
Dr. Frederic Whitehurst took on the FBI because he knew that defendants had been wrongly convicted on the basis of seriously flawed testimony by the FBI crime lab. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the D.C. Superior Court overturned the conviction of a man who wrongly served 28 years in prison for killing a taxi driver. It is amazing to see the positive result of Dr. Whitehurst’s hard work. One person really can make a difference.
Sadly, Mr. Tribble was not the only victim of the misconduct by the FBI crime lab. After Dr. Whitehurst’s original whistleblower disclosures, the Justice Department formed a Task Force to review thousands of cases impacted by his allegations and to determine if any individuals were wrongly convicted. Although the Justice Department and FBI pledged to correct their mistakes, documents obtained by the NWC through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show they failed.
Last month, the Washington Post published a series of articles about the failures in the Task Force’s “investigation,” including that they never issued a final report and did not inform defendants about the misconduct in their cases. Once again, this only came to light because Dr. Whitehurst followed through on his personal vow to find out who was harmed. He was the one who lead the NWC Forensic Justice Project’s FOIA fight to release the documents about the Task Force.
Washington Post readers found out this morning that the Justice Department has been withholding information for years about hundreds or even thousands of cases that were tainted by faulty forensic work in the FBI Crime Lab. The front-page feature was based in large part on the work of Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, an NWC Board Member who was one of the FBI’s top scientists during the period of misconduct.
For those of you just now learning about Dr. Whitehurst, I highly recommend the following clip from CBS News, recorded in 1998:
CBS News recorded this piece just after the Justice Department Inspector General validated Dr. Whitehurst’s concerns of Crime Lab misconduct. The Inspector General report could have settled the issue, but the problems that Dr. Whitehurst reported, starting with his first whistleblower disclosures over 20 years ago, unfolded into the deep, drawn-out tragedy described in today’s Washington Post.
Read the rest of this post for more details about Dr. Whitehurst’s story and to discover more media coverage from his decades-long attempt to protect American citizens from their government.
Back in 1993, world renowned FBI scientist Dr. Frederic Whitehurst (pictured right) brought to light astonishing deficiencies and scientific fraud at the FBI Crime Lab. These allegations would lead to a massive reform of forensic science at the FBI. The FBI labs were just the beginning, and since that time, Dr. Whitehurst, as director of the National Whistleblowers Center’s Forensic Justice Project, has been a vocal advocate for reforms nationwide. In 2007, his work was highlighted in a 60 Minutes/Washington Post Special Investigation, and Congress took action to force the review of the cases of thousands of criminal defendants who had been convicted on potentially tainted bullet-lead evidence.
A new study by the National Academy of Sciences has put forensic science and crime laboratories back in the news, and not in a good way. The two-year congressionally funded report, issued February 18th, details the need for reform in our nation’s forensic science programs. Specifically, it calls for an independent oversight organization called the National Institute of Forensic Science. Among other deficiencies, the report finds:
- hundreds of thousands of backlogged an delayed requests for analysis
- understaffing at 80% of the nation’s crime labs.
- a lack of certification and accreditation standards leading to inconsistencies between federal, state, local governments.
- hundreds of convictions have been based on flawed science
These findings are extremely troubling, and we are happy that Congress took the initiative to fund this study. Now the New York Times is reporting that the Senate Judiciary Committee is planning to hold hearings on this report, and we believe that there would be no one better to testify on these issues than Dr. Whitehurst.
Today’s Washington Post has an update on the FBI Bullet-Lead debacle. Lee Wayne Hunt , a North Carolina man who has maintained his innocence since being convicted of murder in 1986, is appealing his case to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
This is not Mr. Hunt’s first appeal, but this time he is doing so with the help of information obtained by the National Whistleblower Center’s Forensic Justice Project. The FJP’s lawsuits against the FBI produced a wealth of documents detailing how thousands of cases, including Mr. Hunt’s, were prosecuted on the basis of a faulty forensic science known as bullet-lead analysis.
Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, a former FBI Special Agent and forensic expert, is the Executive Director of the FJP.
- Click here to see the website devoted to the Washington Post / 60 Minutes investigation on Bullet-Lead.
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On November 18, 2007, the results of an investigation into the operations of the FBI crime lab were printed in the Washington Post and broadcast on CBS News 60 Minutes. The Forensic Justice Project (“FJP”), a project of the National Whistleblower Center, in Washington, D.C., and FJP Executive Director Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, cooperated with the joint Post-60 Minutes investigation by providing records released by the FBI to FJP and Dr. Whitehurst under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). These FBI FOIA records document the serious misconduct and other problems reported in the joint Post-60 Minutes investigation.
By way of background, since 1996 it has taken no fewer than three separate lawsuits filed on behalf of either Dr. Frederic Whitehurst or the Forensic Justice Project (or both) under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain records regarding FBI Laboratory scandals. In each and every case, the FBI has delayed and stonewalled the release of records documenting misconduct in the FBI Lab, including the problems identified in the Washington Post-60 Minutes investigation.
The FOIA cases are:
1. Whitehurst v. FBI, Civil Action No. 96-572 (GK) (D.D.C.):
This was the original case filed on behalf of Dr. Whitehurst and it alleged that the FBI was refusing to process FOIA requests made on Dr. Whitehurst’s behalf in 1993 and 1995. These requests sought access to records about Dr. Whitehurst’s whistleblower allegations about serious problems in the FBI Lab, which also became the subject of a U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) review of the FBI Lab. Dr. Whitehurst’s lawsuit also alleged that records about Whitehurst and his allegations that were responsive to the FOIA requests were being selectively released by the FBI to criminal defendants, the courts, members of Congress, but were being denied to Dr. Whitehurst.
On February 5, 1997, Judge Gladys Kessler ordered the FBI to release all records responsive to these requests. See the order here
This lawsuit was later expanded to include Dr. Whitehurst’s FOIA requests for copies of the Justice Department’s OIG report and work product.
Ultimately, this lawsuit was settled and part of the settlement covered granting Dr. Whitehurst a fee waiver and access to thousands of pages of records on his whistleblower allegations and the FBI Lab scandal.
2. Forensic Justice Project v. FBI, Civil Action No. 04-1415 (PLF) (D.D.C.):
This FOIA case against the FBI was filed on behalf of the FJP in 2004 and requested access to records of various FBI Lab examiners who had testified in criminal cases regarding bullet lead. The case against the FBI was settled in March 2006, with the FBI agreeing to grant a fee waiver and provide the FJP with the names of defendants and case numbers of cases in which these examiners testified.
This FOIA case also was filed by the FJP against the DOJ for the records of DOJ Criminal Division Brady Task Force review of the FBI Lab scandal and Dr. Whitehurst’s whistleblower allegations. The FOIA case against DOJ on the Brady Task Force records was settled on December 9, 2005, with the DOJ agreeing to grant a fee waiver to FJP and produce on a rolling basis records from the Brady Task Force review.
The FJP provided all of these records to the Washington Post and these FBI records on bullet lead provided important leads for the Washington Post-60 Minutes investigation.
3. Forensic Justice Project and Whitehurst v. FBI and DOJ, Civil Action No. 06-1001 (RWR) (D.D.C.):
This FOIA action was filed in 2006 and is currently pending. See the Complaint
The FOIA request was filed with the FBI in September 2005 seeking copies of all records related to the comparative bullet lead cases and records related to the decision to stop using comparative bullet lead analysis that were referred to in a September 2, 2005 FBI press release. See the Original FOIA Request With FBI Press Release Attached
The FBI has refused to grant a fee waiver forcing the FJP and Dr. Whitehurst to appeal and then go to court. Reporter John Solomon of the Washington Post also wrote a letter informing the FBI and DOJ that he was interested in reviewing the records requested by FJP and Whitehurst. In February 2007 the FBI acknowledged that there exist approximately 250,000 records responsive to this request but the FBI demands that Dr. Whitehurst and the FJP pay approximately $70,000 to process this FOIA request.
The records responsive to this request are the actual case file records for all of the comparative bullet lead cases handled by the FBI Lab based on flawed science prior to the FBI’s decision to stop using comparative bullet lead analysis in criminal cases. In its September 2, 2005 Press Release, the FBI itself identified more than 500 cases where convictions were obtained using the scientifically flawed comparative bullet lead analysis. In addition, the FBI identified thousands of other criminal cases where comparative bullet lead analysis had been used prior to its discontinuance.