August 29 2022 — Last week, FBI Las Vegas tweeted a picture of a special agent fingerprinting child actress Margaret O’Brien during her visit to the FBI in January 1946. This tweet brought back quite some memories… Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
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The fingerprints of Margaret O’Brien brought the total number on file to 100,000,000. Since 1924, the FBI has been the single U.S. repository for fingerprints. Computers were first installed to search these files in 1980.
Since 1999, the FBI has stored and accessed its fingerprint database via the digital IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System), which currently holds the fingerprints and criminal records of over 51 million criminal record subjects and over 1.5 million civil (non-criminal) fingerprint records. US Visit currently holds a repository of the fingerprints of over 50 million non-US citizens. [Vintage photographs show the massive FBI’s fingerprint files, 1944]
Perhaps, you believe that ‘fingerprint evidence’ is rock solid evidence. Allow me to quote a very important analysis [Tainting Evidence — Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab] :
Occasionally, proficiency testing in one specialist area of forensic science exposes widespread incompetence. In 1995, Collaborative Testing Services tested 156 U.S. fingerprint examiners — the cornerstone of forensic science — in a proficiency test sponsored by their professional body, the International Association for Identification. Only 44 percent (68) of those tested identified all seven latent fingerprints correctly. Some 56 percent (88) got at least one wrong, 4 percent (6) of these failing to identify any. In all, incorrect identifications made up 22 percent of the total attempted.
In other words, in more than one in five instances “damning evidence would have been presented against the wrong person,” noted David Grieve, editor of the fingerprinters’ magazine, the Journal of Forensic Identification. Worse still, examiners knew they were being tested and were thus presumably more careful and freer from law enforcement pressures. Calling for immediate action, Grieve concluded: “If one in five latent fingerprint examiners truly possesses knowledge, skill or ability at a level below an acceptable and understood baseline, then the entire profession is in jeopardy.” The same must be true of every suspect in the country, the vast majority of whom never get a fingerprint expert onto their defense team or any chance of a reexamination. Many crime laboratories routinely destroy fingerprint evidence.
It is clear that forensic science is massively error-ridden, while the flaws in the sole laboratory accreditation program designed to improve performance are obvious. ASCLD/LAB has no powers to regulate or inspect a crime lab or to stop a lab that has failed inspection from doing examinations in criminal justice cases.
Many U.S. crime labs have never even risked inspection and the possibility of failing, most notable among them the one that bills itself the premier forensic science laboratory in the world — the FBI lab in Washington.
Sadly, widespread incompetence is just one side of the problem. There is worse, much worse…
Did you know? FBI agents intervened in the Shirley McKie case — a former detective wrongly accused of leaving her fingerprint at a murder scene — to urge a cover-up amid fears it could scupper the trial of the Lockerbie bombers.
David Grieve, the senior fingerprint expert at Illinois State Police who helped clear Ms McKie in 1999, said FBI agents had asked him to keep silent before the Lockerbie trial began in the Hague in February 2000.
Mr Grieve said : “I was asked not to mention anything about the case and not to publicise it because we had to think about the higher goal, which was Lockerbie.”
Meanwhile, Allan Bayle, a fingerprint expert formerly of the Metropolitan Police, has said it was his “firm belief” the SCRO’s evidence was “far more likely to be fabrication rather than gross incompetence”.
And now, allow me go back to the Lockerbie Case. Let us discuss the so-called evidence of SEMTEX!
To be continued.
Forensic Science: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
Tainting Evidence — Inside the Scandals at the FBI Crime Lab
Lockerbie FBI team urged a cover-up on McKie — The Herald, Feb. 2006
FBI Forensic Science : Incompetence or Malice?