Printer Friendly

Operational support branch.

The units assigned to the Laboratory's Operational Support Branch (OSB) conduct a wide range of activities that directly support the FBI's mission and the core functions of collection, information dissemination and integration, analysis, and action. Operational Response Section units--including the Chemical-Biological Sciences Unit, the Evidence Response Team Unit, the Hazardous Materials Response Team Unit, and the Photographic Operations and Imaging Services Unit--must be ready at a moment's notice to respond to crimes, mass disasters, special events, and other incidents anywhere in the world. They bring critical federal resources and coordinate the response of FBI field office teams to work with local officials on the scene.

The Forensic Science Support Section provides mission-critical services in support of all FBI Laboratory units. The Planning and Budget unit manages the Laboratory's budget and equipment, and the Administrative Unit provides administrative and human resource support. Research and development efforts generate from the Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit. The IT Coordination Group helps to improve Laboratory processes with its innovative program, INNOVARi. Special Projects Unit personnel conduct a range of activities, including creating physical and virtual models for forensic investigations and prosecutions, documenting crime scenes and special-event venues, creating forensic facial images and composite drawings, and designing Laboratory publications. The Security Team maintains the safety and security of the Laboratory's premises, personnel, and information.

Security Team

The Security Team has a significant role in maintaining the security of the Laboratory's premises, personnel, and information. These duties encompass all security-related issues, such as facilitating access to Laboratory and sensitive compartmented information and facilities; conducting personnel security briefings, debriefings, interviews, and five-year reinvestigations; and ensuring compliance with security policies and procedures.

In 2007 the Security Team oversaw the installation of a new access-control system to enhance security at the Laboratory's front door and eliminate the need for an extra badge that all Laboratory employees had formerly been issued. Security personnel also assisted in the accreditation of three new facilities for specialized work being conducted by the Hazardous Materials Response Unit, the Evidence Response Team Unit, and the Chemical-Biological Sciences Unit. Finally, the Security Team rewrote the standard of operation for FBI police officers at the Laboratory to incorporate changes to the Laboratory's security policy.

Administrative Unit

The mission of the Administrative Unit (AU) is to provide administrative and human resource services to the Laboratory by coordinating, directing, and facilitating various programs and initiatives in the areas of personnel, staffing matters, and mail services to ensure Division-wide compliance with FBI policies, procedures, and guidelines. The unit also researches, plans, and implements various initiatives as assigned by Division executive management to support not only the Laboratory's mission but also the FBI's overall mission. The AU had several major accomplishments in 2007.

The Laboratory could not support the FBI's mission without a qualified staff, and the AU plays an important role in maintaining that staff. AU staff members represent an integral link between the Laboratory and the FBI's Human Resources Division and Resource Planning Office for all staffing matters. Through this working relationship, the AU facilitated numerous job-posting requests during the year. In addition, the AU was instrumental in recommending and receiving approval from the Resource Management and Allocation Committee to implement new procedures to streamline the promotion process for examiners in several Laboratory units. These new procedures allow qualified examiners to be promoted without using the posting process, which enhances the Laboratory's ability to fill these specialized positions more effectively.


The AU also oversees several additional programs to help recruit qualified candidates. The Cooperative (Co-Op) Education Program was created to develop long-term, proactive relationships with colleges and universities to attract and recruit highly qualified candidates to assist and support the Laboratory in specific disciplines or skill-set areas. The Co-Op program provides students with meaningful work while creating a diverse pool of qualified applicants who require less training and have higher retention rates than other new hires. The student receives competitive compensation while applying classroom knowledge and refining career goals. At the same time, the university enhances its relationship with the FBI while providing students with a well-rounded educational experience. In 2007 the Laboratory coordinated with the FBI's Operational Technology Division (OTD) to transfer a Co-Op chemist from the OTD to the Laboratory's Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit (CFSRU).

In addition, AU personnel coordinated with the FBI's Human Resource Division to place 26 interns participating in the FBI's Honors Internship Program (HIP) and 2 interns for the Volunteer Internship Program (VIP). The HIP is a summer program that offers interns a 10-week view of FBI operations and provides them an opportunity to explore the many career opportunities within the organization. The interns work on important research projects to help the Laboratory and the FBI achieve their missions. VIP participants are not considered FBI employees but rather serve as volunteers, participating in the program during the school year, summer break, or school vacation periods. VIP interns support the office without counting against funding staffing levels.

AU staff also respond to numerous work-life issues, such as leave without pay, maternity leave, compensatory time, work-at-home options, and alternate work schedules. In 2007, at the direction of Laboratory executive management, the AU created a new work-life policy, which recognizes the changing demographics of the workforce. Through the flexible work options set out in the new policy, the Division strives to balance the personal needs of its employees with the requirements of the Laboratory's mission.

For nearly 100 years, FBI employees have recorded their time and attendance on paper. Different types of leave were recorded using different colored pencils. In 2007, the FBI reached a milestone when it instituted the Web-Based Time and Attendance (WebTA) system. Through this easy-to-use, intranet-based system, employees enter their own time and attendance, eliminating the need for paper records, repetitive data entry, and signing in and out every day. AU staff members coordinated this initative and serve as points of contact for the Division.


The AU also manages many Division programs that contribute to the overall mission of the Laboratory. These programs include equal employment opportunity, employee assistance, upward mobility, ethics, fleet management, and employee suggestions. The Mail Services Group is an integral part of the unit, providing full-service, in-house mail and shipping services for the entire Division and handling more than 80,000 incoming and outgoing shipments of mail, supplies, equipment, and other deliveries in 2007.

Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit


The Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit (CFSRU) provides the FBI Laboratory's foundation for innovative scientific research and development designed to support FBI operations. To maximize resources and capabilities, the CFSRU teams with academia and other government agencies for a synergistic approach to a common mission: to advance forensic science and combat terrorism. Collaborative efforts with other government agencies enable CFSRU personnel to successfully research, develop, and deliver new technologies and methodologies to operational units within the FBI Laboratory.

The research program within the CFSRU is guided by the Laboratory's newly established Research Council (RC), which provides oversight and monitors the performance of the Laboratory's research and development efforts. Chartered in October 2006, the RC consists of Laboratory executive management and senior scientists as voting members. The RC evaluates, selects, prioritizes, and recommends research projects to include in the Laboratory's research portfolio and ensures that research investments are aligned with the Laboratory's strategic goals and objectives. During its first year, the RC focused on improving the alignment of existing resources with active research that meets the needs of the Laboratory. Projects that had advanced beyond the stage of novel research were transferred from the CFSRU to operational units for validation prior to implementation. This enabled the CFSRU to reduce the number of active projects and focus on technical research to meet the continually advancing needs of the Laboratory.

In 2007, CFSRU personnel, together with participants in the Visiting Scientist Program, executed more than 100 research and development projects, presented findings at numerous national and international technical conferences, and submitted eight manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. CFSRU scientists are the leading experts in their respective fields and provide valuable advice and guidance to both the FBI and other law enforcement agencies as requested. In addition to its role in research and development, the CFSRU provides advanced scientific training to Laboratory personnel and scientists from other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Specialized forensic classes range from one-day workshops to weeklong classes with both interactive lectures and hands-on laboratory exercises. In 2007, the CFSRU provided specialized training in such subjects as glass analysis, handwriting examination, human identification through DNA analysis, infrared spectrometry, mass spectrometry, and introduction to instrumental analysis.


FLASH ID: Evaluating the Individuality of Handwriting

Forensic document examiners routinely perform handwriting comparisons to identify the writer. The underlying premise for such identifications is that each person incorporates distinguishing individual features into his or her handwriting. During Daubert admissibility hearings (in which the court determines whether specific expert scientific testimony is admissible), the validity of this foundation of individuality has been challenged. The CFSRU led the Laboratory's participation in a collaborative research effort addressing this challenge, which has resulted in the development of a Forensic Language-Independent Automated System for Handwriting Identification, "FLASH ID." FLASH ID uses an innovative quantification of handwritten text and computationally intense statistical methods to discriminate among writers in a database. This multiorganizational collaborative research project involving developers, statisticians, forensic document examiners, and research scientists consists of three core areas: (1) development and functionality of the FLASH ID system, (2) statistical methods for biometric identification with handwriting, and (3) empirical testing and statistical concepts to assess handwriting individuality and how it relates to Daubert.


FLASH ID is a fully automated software system that allows the use of handwriting as a biometric identifier. Individual features, available and quantifiable within a person's writing, can be empirically captured into a "lossless" data structure that preserves the topology and geometry of the original writing. Statistical algorithms are created to reduce the very large number of feature measurements down to a very few, called a writer's "biometric kernel," that capture those elements that link the writing to its writer. Once the biometric kernel is established, FLASH ID can act on any unknown sample of handwriting and will return the nearest value in its handwriting reference database that provides the closest match to the questioned writing sample. The technology underlying FLASH ID is language-independent, functioning in different languages with completely different scripts. In this way, FLASH ID will extend document forensics across language barriers--something that is not commonly practiced today.

FLASH ID represents a completely automated process for extracting graphical data from handwritten documents, analyzing this data using robust statistical methods, and matching documents based on the similarity of the captured writing. FLASH ID offers a new approach that uses handwriting as a biometric identifier but does not attempt to replicate the actions of a forensic document examiner. Rather, it brings to bear the power of what computers do very well--rapidly capturing and processing large quantities of data--into the hands of forensic experts.

Forensic Examination of Radioactively Contaminated Evidence

Performing traditional forensic examinations on evidence known to be contaminated by radioactive materials poses distinct challenges. For safety reasons, either the radioactive materials must be removed from the evidence prior to examination in the usual manner or the evidence must be examined in containment. Since 2004, CFSRU and other Laboratory personnel have worked in cooperation with the Department of Energy's National Laboratories at Savannah River (SRNL) and Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) to modify existing protocols for the forensic examination of radioactively contaminated evidence. These studies provided an assessment of which decontamination procedures can be used without compromising the forensic value of the evidence. Some decontamination procedures destroy fragile forms of evidence, such as latent prints. In these cases, where evidence cannot be decontaminated without compromising evidentiary value, the examination must take place without decontamination.

Collaboration with the SRNL has resulted in the design and construction of bench-top containment units that allow safe handling of radioactively contaminated evidence and permit performing several traditional forensic examinations while the evidence is safely contained. Methods also have been developed for handling evidence with high levels of radioactivity that cannot be safely processed in the bench-top containment units. Cell liners equipped with robotic manipulators have been designed and constructed for use in the SRNL's high-level radiation cells. Test equipment--such as hot plates, microscopes, and cameras--can be loaded into a cell liner before the liner is placed into the hot cell. The contaminated evidence then can be loaded into the cell liner, and the robotic manipulators can be used to handle the evidence and perform initial forensic examinations. The design of the liner permits examination of evidence while minimizing contamination of either the evidence by the prior contents of the cell or contamination of the cell by the evidence. After the examinations are complete, the evidence can be removed and the cell liner and test equipment can be collapsed and removed for appropriate disposal as contaminated waste.

Automated Short Tandem Repeat Analysis

The CFSRU provided technical oversight and managed the externally contracted research that produced a microfluidic system, developed at Arizona State University, to integrate and automate forensic short tandem repeat analysis for DNA identification. DNA typing ("fingerprinting") is a method of identifying individuals to a desired statistical certainty. The technique relies on measuring the number of repeating DNA base-pair units at specific locations along a person's DNA strands. The repeating sections are known as short tandem repeats (STRs), and the DNA regions where they occur are called loci. The tandem repeats may occur 9, 11, or n times, thus resulting in a difference between individuals. The degree of difference (i.e., specificity) for a particular individual depends on the number of loci that are measured. The FBI measures repeat differences in the STRs at 13 different loci. The analysis results in a statistical certainty that is better than 1 in more than the number of people that populate the earth.

DNA typing requires several processes following collection of the sample. These processes include DNA extraction, amplification of the STR loci and the gender locus (via the polymerase chain reaction [PCR] with a commercial kit), separation of PCR products, analysis, interpretation of the results, and provision of data in a format compatible with the national database, CODIS. The newly developed microfluidic system uses a disposable plastic cartridge, with built-in pumps and valves, that performs the differential extraction of a sexual assault sample and delivers the extracted and purified DNA for STR amplification within 2.5 hours. Manually transferring a sample through all of the steps to this point takes about 5 hours of labor by a scientist in the laboratory. The microfluidic system automates the process and cuts the processing time in half.


Creation of an Automotive Carpet Fiber Database


A fully validated Automotive Carpet Fiber Database was created and delivered to the Trace Evidence Unit in the fall of 2007. The database currently contains 766 searchable files, and each file consists of several main searchable parameters. The searchable parameters depend on the characteristics of each fiber: color, cross-sectional shape, diameter, polymer class, presence or absence of delustrant, color distribution, presence or absence of striations, illuminate values, and visible spectral peaks. As a result, questioned fibers recovered in casework may be searched by microscopic characteristics, fiber types, and/or color information to determine if a particular category of vehicle was involved in a crime. Additionally, the database can be searched by vehicle make, model, year, and/or color to determine the carpet samples that are available for comparison.

Six validation studies of the database were conducted by several different individuals to ensure the consistency of match percentages. For each validation study, 50 samples were randomly selected from the collection and subsequently mounted and analyzed. Validation studies revealed that the database produces both reliable and selective results. Results of the validation studies were presented at the 2007 National Institute of Justice/FBI Trace Evidence Symposium, held in Clearwater, Florida. A laboratory dedicated specifically for the analysis of automotive carpet fibers has now been established within the Trace Evidence Unit. To ensure continued population of the database, arrangements have been made with several automobile manufacturers to update the sample collection every year.


Visiting Scientist Program

The Visiting Scientist Program provides a direct connection between the FBI Laboratory and academia. The program enhances the research and development capabilities of the CFSRU by providing highly qualified scientists from outside institutions to complement staff scientists and assist in performing duties consistent with the mission and needs of the unit. At the same time, university students, postgraduates, and faculty enhance their education and work experience by participating in forensic research initiatives in the CFSRU laboratories using state-of-the-art equipment.

Experienced staff scientists guide the Visiting Scientists' research by serving as mentors. Each Visiting Scientist is assigned one or two projects focused on meeting the needs of the Laboratory's operational units. Program participants spend three months to three years working in the CFSRU laboratories in Quantico, Virginia. During their tenure, they conduct customer-driven research, prepare and present research findings at scientific conferences, and author manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

In 2007, program funding allowed the FBI to offer this opportunity to 43 Visiting Scientists representing 32 academic institutions. Additional information on the Visiting Scientist Program is located at http://

The Dwight E. Adams Forensic Science Research Award recognizes the outstanding performance of a Visiting Scientist. It was established in 2006 to honor the commitment of Dr. Dwight E. Adams, former Director of the FBI Laboratory, to forensic science research and, in particular, to the training and development of future forensic scientists. In 2007 the award was presented to Corrie Brown, whose research efforts on the spectrochemical analysis of children's fingerprints contributed significantly to the development of a new protocol for recovering children's fingerprints. She also participated in the validation and expansion of the Automotive Carpet Fiber Database.


INNOVARi: Improving Laboratory Efficiency

In 2007 the FBI Laboratory continued its business process management (BPM) design and development activities to create a work-flow and information management system called INNOVARi. The purpose of INNOVARi is to manage the data collection, archiving, reporting, and performance management responsibilities of the FBI Laboratory. Through the principles of BPM, the INNOVARi program allows the Laboratory to identify and eliminate bottlenecks and objectively analyze its processes to increase efficiency and provide better service to its customers. Using a process similar to those used by FedEx and UPS to track deliveries, the FBI Laboratory uses INNOVARi to track and manage evidence as it moves through the forensic examination process.

INNOVARi uses a commercial, off-the-shelf product called BizFlow, a BPM software application that contains work-flow tools, event triggers, business logic, and process automation to analyze Laboratory processes and identify specific areas of improvement while concurrently assisting personnel in maintaining quality. INNOVARi also uses Value Stream Management, a BPM methodology that identifies the flow of activities and business units that produce value for the customer, and the "lean" concept, which focuses on identifying areas of waste in order to eliminate them.

Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) functionality is a dashboard that allows for the real-time reporting of the FBI Laboratory's key performance indicators. Like the dashboard of a car, BAM provides instant feedback that allows the user to quickly implement the appropriate solution. Using BAM, the FBI Laboratory also will be able to track its turnaround times (both collective and individual) and caseload statistics in real time.

In 2007, five forensic examination units completed the first phase of a three-phase implementation process. An additional five to six examination units are expected to complete the second phase in 2008, with full implementation slated for late 2009.

Planning and Budget Unit

FBI Laboratory employees depend on the Planning and Budget Unit to ensure that they have the resources they need to achieve their missions. Managing resources for the Laboratory requires balancing the needs of the Division with the budgetary constraints imposed by the federal government. In 2007 this meant managing expenditures totaling nearly $89 million.

BlackBerry Initiative

In June 2007 the FBI awarded a new contract for BlackBerry equipment and telecommunications services. The new contract provided upgraded equipment and services to existing users, while allowing the Laboratory to expand its existing BlackBerry program to include additional personnel, including unit chiefs and forensic examiners. The Laboratory and other FBI Headquarters divisions located at Quantico (the Critical Incident Response Group, the Operational Technology Division, and the Training Division) were scheduled to receive the new BlackBerry devices during the week of November 26, 2007. The BlackBerry Deployment Team, which included FBI Headquarters employees and contract personnel, asked the Laboratory to provide space and to help coordinate delivery of the new devices.

A total of 791 BlackBerry devices, of which 298 were assigned to Laboratory employees, were shipped to the Laboratory and prepared for distribution by the Deployment Team and members of the Planning and Budget Unit. The process, which took several hours for each device, included programming the new equipment and transferring data between the old and new devices. At the same time, recipients received training on the features of their new equipment.

Equipped with their new BlackBerry devices, Laboratory personnel will be better and more efficient communicators and provide better service to their customers.

Special Projects Unit

The Special Projects Unit (SPU) supports FBI operations by providing accurate and timely technical, forensic, and structural services for counterterrorism, counterintelligence, criminal investigative, and forensic investigations and prosecutions. Services provided by the SPU include three-dimensional (3-D) digital survey and scanning of event venues and crime scenes; shooting-scene and bullet trajectory documentation and reconstruction; GIS (geographic information system) mapping; photographic image manipulation and retouches; facial imaging to include composite drawings, facial reconstructions from human remains, and age progression of photographs; visual-aid materials; creation of 2-and 3-D models; computer-based animation; digitally interactive demonstrative evidence; and expert consultations regarding available unit technical assistance. As illustrated by the following cases, technology has a central role in every aspect of the SPU's work.

Crime Scene Survey, Documentation, and Reconstruction

During the year, SPU personnel prepared numerous scene reconstructions in both two and three dimensions. In order to prepare many of these scene reconstructions, SPU personnel traveled to the site of the incident and physically surveyed and documented the scene. This documentation was gathered using a wide array of equipment and methodologies that ranged from a conventional tape measure, to handheld laser range finders, to digital Total Stations, to state-of-the-art 3-D laser scanners. The data collected during these surveys was used by unit personnel to produce scaled reconstructed images of the scenes.


SPU personnel work closely with the operational entities within the Laboratory and with field response personnel. The collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, serves as a prime example of the teamwork between the SPU and the field. On August 1, 2007, this heavily traveled, eight-lane bridge that crosses the Mississippi River collapsed during rush hour. Local authorities contacted the FBI and requested assistance in the investigation and documentation of the collapse.


Three field Evidence Response Teams (ERTs) equipped with Total Stations responded, as did two supervisory special agents from the Laboratory's Evidence Response Team Unit (ERTU), an ERT dive team, and three SPU personnel. Two of the SPU personnel used a 3-D laser scanner to document the area of the collapse and surrounding areas. The other SPU employee worked as the central point of contact (POC) for the ERTs. The POC reviewed and began the process of combining the data collected by each of the ERTs, the Minnesota State Police, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. A 3-D digital reconstruction of the bridge is being prepared from this data.

Area Familiarization and Special-Event Support


SPU provides operational, command, on-scene, and tactical personnel with a comprehensive overview of a specific venue, route of travel, and other important related information. The support provided by the SPU comes in the form of 3-D laser scanning and lidar (light detection and ranging), 360-degree spherical video capture, panoramic photography, GIS mapping, and digitally interactive presentations.


In coordination with the Special Events Management Unit of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), field office special-event agents, and other Laboratory entities, SPU personnel travel to the site of an event and conduct a digital survey of the requested area(s). The imagery captured and compiled through these efforts is processed, put into a final operational format, and sent to the requester. In 2007, the SPU supported many events, including the Bowl Championship Series in Phoenix, Arizona; the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in San Francisco, California; the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania; and the NCAA World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

Demonstrative Evidence

Most of the SPU's services directly support FBI investigations and prosecutions. Many of the items prepared as investigative support are used later as demonstrative evidence in court proceedings. Historically, these items would be created either by hand or by computer and produced as enlarged hard-copy charts, maps, diagrams, and other items. However, the courts are becoming more acclimated to the use of digital demonstrative evidence. Accordingly, the SPU employs new processes to provide the courts with the most relevant and accurate data available. Such was the case in the slaying of Pennsylvania State Police corporal Joseph Pokorny.


In the early morning hours of December 12, 2005, Corporal Pokorny was attacked by the subject(s) of a car he had stopped. One of the occupants of this vehicle, Leslie Denier Mollet, used Corporal Pokorny's weapon to fire three fatal shots into him. The FBI's Pittsburgh Field Office asked the SPU to prepare virtual visual aids of the scene and the shooting. These aids digitally incorporated a diagram, map, crime scene photographs, and data collected by the Pittsburgh ERT using a Total Station. This information was compiled into one presentation that depicted the location of the vehicles and the location and placement of pertinent evidence and data, as well as the events of the shooting, including the bullet trajectories.

Using the relevant information, the SPU created a digitally interactive presentation. The user could click on a "hot spot" within the scene diagram or map, and a photograph or image relevant to that particular location would appear. This feature was used to provide the court with a realistic overview of the scene.


However, the most dramatic piece of demonstrative evidence was a 3-D reconstruction of the actual shooting. This reconstruction was developed using the photographs of the scene and the victim, the physical evidence, and the information provided by the medical examiner. From this information, SPU personnel were able to reconstruct, in 3-D, the virtual shooting of Corporal Pokorny. This 3-D imagery was used during the trial by the prosecution--in particular, by an internationally known forensic pathologist--to explain the events of the shooting.


Using new, recently acquired technology, the SPU has the ability to produce high-quality and extremely accurate 3-D physical models of crime scenes or objects. Three laser cutting systems, a router table cutting system, a 3-D printer, and a Stereo Lithography-Rapid Prototyping System all have a computer interface that allows unit personnel to send any type or complexity-level 2-D or 3-D file to them. Once received, the file is transformed from its digital format to a physical object. At that point, the object may be complete or it may be incorporated into another larger object, such as a model of a building or vehicle.

With this technology, the SPU can design or replicate almost any type of object, including explosive devices. Laboratory explosives experts have used these models to testify in court and to train explosives technicians and investigators.


Forensic Facial Imaging

The war on terrorism has brought about a marked increase in the number of requests for high-resolution facial imagery and digital image manipulation, including the preparation of artist composite drawings, facial age progressions, 2-D and 3-D facial reconstructions from skeletal remains, and photographic retouches. The SPU has been providing this type of support for more than 60 years; however, because of automation and technology, many areas of facial imaging have undergone dramatic changes.

For example, the advent of the Video Teleconferencing Center (VTC) has enabled SPU visual information specialists (VISs) to conduct witness and victim interviews almost anywhere in the world without leaving the unit. For example, investigators and military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan need to readily identify terrorist suspects. Often, a trained VIS can interview witnesses and create composite drawings of these individuals. However face-to-face meetings may not be practical. If the witness can be brought to a safe facility with a compatible VTC, the VIS can conduct a remote interview. This process has been used with great success and has resulted in both the identification and capture of al-Qaeda terrorists and other wanted suspects.

Digital photographic retouching also has proved beneficial in identifying terrorist suspects. As military personnel search various locations in Afghanistan and Iraq, they find numerous photographs of known and suspected terrorists. It is suspected that many of the individuals depicted in the photographs alter their appearance to better blend in with the general population. To enable the investigators and soldiers to better identify these individuals, suspect images are sent to the SPU. Visual information specialists digitally alter the photographs based on the information provided by the field. These alterations include removing such items as tribal clothing, headwear, and facial hair; altering hairstyles; and adding Westernized clothing and hairstyles. With these altered images taped to the dashboards of their "Humvees," the troops have been able to identify, capture, and neutralize many al-Qaeda suspects and other known terrorists.

Human skeletal remains can be the basis for the identification of an unknown subject or victim. Working with the Laboratory's Trace Evidence Unit, SPU personnel have been able to put faces on human skulls and subsequently develop 2-D and/or 3-D facial reconstructions of unknown individuals. These reconstructions have resulted in the identification of individuals who otherwise would have remained unidentified.

Chemical-Biological Sciences Unit

The Chemical-Biological Sciences Unit (CBSU) was created in 2002 to support the FBI's number-one priority, protection of the United States from a terrorist attack. The CBSU is charged with developing and enhancing the ability of the FBI to conduct forensic examinations of evidence collected from a terrorist act involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This mission continues to bring new capabilities to the Laboratory.

Because WMD material cannot be examined on-site at the FBI Laboratory, the CBSU has developed partnerships with a broad network of government agencies, private industry, and academic laboratories, each with a wide range of analytical capabilities. The CBSU works with partner laboratories to develop analytical plans for examining evidence. These plans incorporate validated methods to meet admissibility standards in the U.S. legal system and any other jurisdictions that rely on the Laboratory's results. The CBSU, on behalf of the FBI Laboratory, has fostered partnerships with such entities and agencies as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's National Bioforensic Analysis Center; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The ability to conduct traditional forensic examinations on evidence contaminated with chemical, biological, and radiological material is critical for FBI investigations. Evidence collected following a terrorist event may contain latent fingerprints, trace materials, residual DNA, or distinctive paints or dyes associated with items used in the preparation of a weapon. Examination of contaminated evidence is performed by the members of the Hazardous Evidence Analysis Team (HEAT), a program administered by the CBSU. With 62 representatives from every caseworking unit at the FBI Laboratory, the HEAT comprises examiners, scientists, and other professional staff members who have been trained to safely work in the specialized partner laboratories. The team can deploy on short notice to examine evidence contaminated with chemical, biological, or radiological materials. The CBSU coordinates training and equipment for HEAT members, and in 2007, four HEAT training sessions were held at three partner laboratories.

To support HEAT evidence examinations, the CBSU has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to construct the Sample Receipt Facility (SRF) in Edgewood, Maryland. The SRF is a unique facility that combines the expertise of the U. S. Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, the FBI Laboratory, and the Department of Homeland Security's Chemical Security Analysis Center to provide multiagency cooperation in the prevention and investigation of chemical and biological terrorism. To protect the United States and its allies from WMD-related terrorism, the SRF will provide a single facility capable of receiving, assessing, and examining highly hazardous items that may contain chemical and/or biological agents. The large forensic laboratory suite will allow forensic analysis of evidence collected in WMD terrorism cases. The analytical space will permit full characterization of specific chemical and biological material. The secure administrative space will house several database resources with information on chemical weapons production, formulation, and synthetic pathways.


A "topping off" ceremony held in October 2007 was attended by Senators Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, Congressional Representatives Wayne Gilchrest and "Dutch" Ruppersberger, and representatives from the FBI, Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense. Senator Cardin's remarks accurately captured the significance of the SRF:

 The Sample Receipt Facility is a great example of government
 cooperation and cost-savings. Instead of building separate
 facilities to support similar missions, three government agencies
 are pooling their resources and creating an even better facility
 that will serve a unique national need. This will be the only place
 in the United States where a sample about which nothing is known
 can be received and triaged.

Case support represented an important element of the activities of the CBSU in 2007. Biologists coordinated the analysis of evidence collected from WMD cases involving biological threat agents and toxins. In a case from Nashville, Tennessee, local and federal law enforcement were alerted to the possibility that William Matthews, a former law enforcement officer from Davidson County, was producing ricin and pipe bombs. Homemade explosive devices, firearms, and silencers were seized along with a container of ricin. Matthews was charged and eventually pleaded guilty to the possession of ricin, firearm silencers, and explosives.

The Nuclear Program of the CBSU provided assistance in several cases involving radiological or nuclear materials and has continued in its efforts to establish and strengthen associations with other government agencies in order to assist FBI investigations involving radiological materials.

The CBSU participated in several national, multiagency training exercises designed to assess the ability of the U.S. Government to respond to a national emergency involving WMD materials. The largest exercise with CBSU involvement was TOPOFF 4. TOPOFF stands for "Top Officials," and this fourth exercise in the series was constructed to be a test of the national response plan. The scenario for TOPOFF 4 involved approximately 15,000 participants from international, federal, state, local, and territorial entities, and the scenario venues ranged from Arizona to Oregon to Guam. A CBSU staff member was part of the Domestic Event Support Team in Portland, Oregon.

An Agroterrorism Comprehensive Integrated Training Exercise was held in Seattle, Washington, in September 2007. CBSU staff gave presentations on the analysis of evidence contaminated with a foreign animal disease. The overall goal of the exercise was to test the response activities to a terrorist attack upon the agriculture sector and to engage FBI field agents, veterinarians, public health officials, and local law enforcement in responding to an actual event.


The Chemistry Program of the CBSU continued to develop and expand its contacts with other government agencies and thereby increase the capabilities of the FBI Laboratory to analyze chemical weapons or chemical threat agents. The CBSU Chemistry Program has been involved with chemists at the CDC concerning the mission and activities of the Chemical Laboratory Response Network and Environmental Laboratory Response Network, a network of laboratories equipped to rapidly respond to acts of terrorism and other public health threats and emergencies involving chemical, biological, radiological, and other hazardous materials. The Chemistry Program also supported CBSU casework involving biological toxins.

CBSU personnel have been active as advocates and instructors in the field of WMD forensics. CBSU personnel have participated in meetings hosted by the CDC, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the American Society for Microbiology. CBSU personnel also participated in an international meeting hosted by the Swedish Defence Research Agency on the forensic analysis of evidence contaminated with chemical, biological, or radiological threat materials and attended the annual meeting of the International Society for Forensic Genetics in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Evidence Response Team Unit

For more than 15 years, the Evidence Response Team Unit (ERTU) has supported the operations of the Evidence Response Teams in all 56 FBI field offices. These teams have grown in size over the years and currently consist of 1168 primary team members. The ERTU uses science and technology to provide training, crime scene equipment and supplies, and on-scene support and forensic science expertise to the ERTs. In this way, the ERTU prepares and enables the ERTs to collect intelligence in a professional, competent, and systematic manner during evidence-recovery operations that support FBI priority investigations. The ERT Program performed nearly 2700 responses and operations during 2007. The unit also provides specialized forensic science training to the FBI, law enforcement, and evidence-collection specialists from other domestic and international law enforcement agencies, supporting the investigative priorities of the FBI and the law enforcement community.


The ERT Program represents a critical element in the FBI's core function of collection. When terrorists and other criminals plan or conduct illegal acts, they leave behind vital intelligence. This particular type of intelligence cannot be fully exploited and analyzed unless it is collected correctly, often using sophisticated technology. Specialized experience and advanced training and technology make ERTs the ideal resource for intelligence collection.


In addition to their evidence-collection capabilities, ERTs often are called upon for humanitarian missions, such as the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster in 2003 and the Southeast Asian tsunami in 2004/2005. The most recent example saw field and Headquarters ERT personnel deploy to Minneapolis following the tragic bridge collapse in 2007. ERT personnel provided a variety of services, to include scene mapping and victim recovery.


In addition to supporting the intelligence-collection efforts of FBI field office ERTs, the ERTU has developed a program whereby other intelligence collectors, for example, specialized FBI tactical units and Department of Defense entities, are trained using some of the same collection skills and technology. This initiative is an example of how the ERTU supports the FBI core functions of information dissemination and integration. The program includes training and consultation to help others establish protocols for processing crime scenes and conducting Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE) operations. Although specific SSEs cannot be disclosed for security reasons, SSEs have been conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan at known terrorist locations to gather physical evidence related to the terrorist's identity and activities.

ERTU Specialized Response Capabilities

In some cases, evidence and intelligence are hidden underwater. The FBI's Underwater Search and Evidence Response Teams (USERTs) are the resource with the technological equipment and expertise to locate that intelligence and bring it to the surface. In 2007, ERTU's USERT Program supported approximately 30 underwater evidence operations in FBI, state, and local investigations. These missions also included humanitarian operations such as the recovery of bodies following the Minneapolis bridge collapse.



The Forensic Canine Program (FCP) includes the Victim Recovery Team (VRT) and the Human Scent Evidence Team (HSET). This newly established canine program will develop the most proficient canine resources available in law enforcement by conducting scientific research and providing field-based training and continuing education to further the intelligence-collection capabilities of the field ERTs and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This program also involves the Scientific Working Group on Dogs and Orthogonal Detection Guidelines (SWGDOG), which is developing a compliance certification standard to identify capable teams for use by the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The Human Scent Evidence Team uses specially trained canines that can detect human scent on items thought to be associated with subjects or victims and then use this scent to identify subjects and, if possible, eliminate them as suspects. Properly employed, the HSET is a great asset that can minimize unnecessary investigative efforts and significantly reduce the number of work hours required to complete certain investigative steps.

The Victim Recovery Team uses specially trained canines to detect and recover victims of criminal activity. The VRT also works closely with SWGDOG.

The ERTU has coordinated the joint deployment of ERT, USERT, and forensic canine resources to various locations. ERTU personnel also provided on-scene support during search operations. Whether working at the site of a hazardous crime scene, mass disaster, or missing-person case or training others to do the same, ERTU personnel have the knowledge, experience, and resources to support the FBI's mission in an ever-evolving environment.



Hazardous Materials Response Unit

The Hazardous Materials Response Unit (HMRU) provides scientific, technical, and investigative support in response to crimes and suspicious activities involving WMD-related materials. Established in 1996, the HMRU has a staff of 42, including scientists with doctoral and other advanced degrees in biology, chemistry, and nuclear materials; paramedics; specialists in hazardous materials operations; and supervisory special agents. In 2007 the HMRU deployed on 51 missions, completed 109 scientific assessments, and provided operational advice via 186 conference calls. The HMRU provides operational support in every phase of a WMD terrorism investigation, including scientific assessments for the investigation, support to FBI tactical and render-safe teams, crime scene processing, hazardous evidence transportation, and support to other FBI Laboratory units for material attribution.

The HMRU established a national program of training, equipping, certifying, and sustaining Hazardous Materials Response Teams (HMRTs) within the FBI. Members are drawn from FBI field offices and include special agents, FBI professional support staff, and state and local law enforcement personnel serving with the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) of the local field offices. Presently, there are HMRTs in 27 of the FBI's 56 field offices, plus an added three satellite HMRTs in the Anchorage, Honolulu, and San Juan Field Offices.

The HMRU provides various specialized training for FBI personnel and other law enforcement officials. This includes assisting the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in conducting WMD counterproliferation training for law enforcement personnel in the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European nations.

For Better or Worse

In the summer of 2006 the HMRU and the New Orleans Field Office HMRT responded to support the FBI's Jackson Field Office during the investigation of a married couple suspected of manufacturing the toxin ricin. In cooperation with and supported by Jackson police, fire, and emergency medical service personnel, as well as Mississippi WMD Civil Support Teams, HMRU personnel entered the couple's apartment to recover potential evidence.


The health and safety of all personnel on the site was a priority for the HMRU--not only because of the potential exposure to ricin but also because of the extreme heat conditions present for personnel working in protective clothing. Temperatures reached 95 degrees with a relative humidity of 87 percent, for a calculated heat index of 143 degrees. All personnel completed the mission safely, and in December 2007, the suspects pleaded guilty under the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act for attempting to produce ricin.

Photographic Operations and Imaging Services Unit


The photographic services provided by the Photographic Operations and Imaging Services Unit (POISU) represent an important component of the FBI's and the Laboratory's missions. The unit's three separate programs--Operations and Training, Photographic Equipment and Support, and Photographic Services--offer a variety of services, including operational, investigative, and forensic photography; technical assistance; equipment procurement and repair; and forensic image training. The unit also supports local, state, federal, and international law enforcement investigations by providing investigative and forensic photography, imaging, and photographic processing.

The Operations and Training Program serves the Laboratory, FBI Headquarters divisions, and all FBI field offices. Scientific and technical photographers assigned to this program deploy to major crime scenes, agent-involved shootings, and other operational or investigative events, often providing photographic services at crime scenes involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive devices. A large percentage of the FBI's photographic training is provided by personnel in the Operations and Training Program.

Personnel assigned to the Photographic Equipment and Support Program design and install photographic camera concealments; procure, disseminate, and repair photographic equipment; manage equipment upgrades in the FBI's 56 field offices; and oversee all photographic production, which includes more than 1.5 million images in both hard-copy and digital form. Three regional photographic minilabs--in Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco--are managed through the Photographic Equipment and Support Program. Additionally, personnel photograph special events, provide official photographs of FBI executives, and commemorate anniversaries and retirements for FBI personnel.

The Photographic Services Program encompasses the Tactical Site Survey Program, the Aerial Photography Program, and the Technical Imaging Group (TIG). Personnel assigned to the Tactical Site Survey Mission help the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, Special Weapons and Tactic Teams, and other government agencies plan for events and emergencies by creating virtual walk-throughs. To support investigative and tactical planning, aerial photographs can be geo-referenced, embedded with geographic information system data, and overlaid with an alphanumeric grid. Photographers in the TIG support the Latent Print Operations Unit, capturing, processing, and printing high-quality images of latent fingerprints. Technical Imaging Group photographers also capture a high volume of latent impressions for the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Federal Bureau of Investigation at
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:FBI Laboratory Annual Report
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Previous Article:Forensic analysis branch.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters