On July 22, 2014, Cynthia Schnedar, Deputy Inspector General at the Justice Department, was interviewed by Federal News Radio about the DOJ OIG’s recent bombshell report documenting how DOJ failed to properly review criminal convictions that were impacted by the FBI Lab scandal in the 1990s.
Notably, the OIG report found that 16 people were executed and 8 prisoners died before there was a complete review of the scientific flaws in the evidence used to obtain those convictions. The OIG report lists 402 cases that the earlier DOJ review found were impacted by the FBI Lab scandal.
However, Deputy Inspector General Schnedar conceded in her radio interview that the number of cases actually impacted by the FBI Lab scandal “is really unknown” twenty years after the Justice Department started looking at problems in the FBI crime lab.
She also stated that many other defendants “may have died” or been deported before there was a review, and the DOJ’s earlier review improperly narrowed the scope leaving doubt as to whether innocent people were convicted with evidence from the FBI Lab.
Deputy IG Schnedar also stated in passing that the DOJ’s earlier review grew out of allegations raised by a FBI whistleblower.
For more details on the extraordinary efforts of FBI whistleblower Dr. Frederic Whitehurst to disclose these problems in the FBI Lab during his employment, and his continued efforts after his employment from 1998 through the present, please read our earlier posts here.
Dr. Whitehurst not only sacrificed his own career when he reported these serious problems at the FBI Lab, it was his continued efforts in demanding to know who got hurt by the FBI Lab scandal after he left the FBI that has resulted in continued oversight of this problem.
When the earlier DOJ task force review secretly shut down without issuing a final report Dr. Whitehurst requested the DOJ’s task force files be made public to find out what it actually did to review these matters. The release of task force files to Dr. Whitehurst under the Freedom of Information Act between 2006-2011, together with other investigative work, led to a series of front-page articles in the Washington Post raising serious concerns about the DOJ Task Force.
Based on our review of the DOJ Task Force files and Dr. Whitehurst’s whistleblower allegations, the number of cases impacted by the FBI Lab scandal has been continually minimized and understated by the Justice Department and OIG.
Stronger oversight and more urgency are needed if this problem is ever going to be effectively addressed.