A joint investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” has found that hundreds of defendants sitting in prisons nationwide were convicted with the help of an FBI forensic tool that was discarded more than two years ago, but the FBI lab hasn’t taken any steps to alert affected defendants or courts, even while the window for appealing convictions is closing.
Comparative bullet-lead analysis was first used after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 (which probably should have been a clue as to how effective it was). The scientific technique used chemistry to link crime-scene bullets to ones possessed by suspects, based on the theory that each batch of lead had a unique elemental makeup.
In 2004 the nation’s most prestigious scientific body concluded that variations in the manufacturing process rendered the FBI’s testimony about the science “unreliable and potentially misleading.”
The National Academy of Sciences determined that decades of FBI statements to jurors linking a particular bullet to those found in a suspect’s gun or cartridge box were so overstated that such testimony should be considered “misleading under federal rules of evidence.” One year later the bureau abandoned the analysis.
False Matches Based On Faulty Analysis
The FBI lab has never gone back to determine how many times its scientists misled jurors. Internal memos show that the bureau’s managers were aware by 2004 that testimony had been overstated in a large number of trials. Documents show that the experts had made false matches based on a faulty statistical analysis of the elements contained in different lead samples in a smaller number of cases.
A memo written by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III in late summer 2005 outlining why the bureau was abandoning the science said “we cannot afford to be misleading the jury. We plan to discourage prosecutors from using our previous results in future prosecutions.”
The bureau told defense lawyers in a general letter that although it was ending the technique, it still “firmly supports the scientific foundation of bullet lead analysis.” In at least two cases the bureau has tried to help state prosecutors defend past convictions by using court filings deemed as still misleading by experts.
The government has fought releasing the list of the estimated 2,500 cases that were affected by the analysis over three decades. For the majority of affected prisoners, the typical two-to-four year windows to appeal their convictions based on new scientific evidence is closing.
Now retired FBI lab director Dwight E. Adams who ended the technique said the government has an obligation to release all the case files, to independently review the expert testimony and to alert courts to any errors that may have affected a conviction.
Innocent People May Have Been Imprisoned
The investigation by The Washington Post and “60 minutes” identified at least 250 cases nationwide where bullet-lead analysis was introduced, including more than a dozen in which courts either reversed convictions or now face questions about whether innocent people were sent to prison.
Documents obtained in the investigation show that the FBI’s concerns about the science dated to 1991 and came to light only because a former FBI lab scientist began challenging it.
In response to the information uncovered by the investigation the FBI said it would initiate corrective actions including a nationwide review of all bullet-lead testimonies and notification to prosecutors so that the courts and defendants can be alerted. The FBI lab is also planning to create a system to monitor the accuracy of its scientific testimony.
The article from the Washington Post does an excellent job detailing the history and questionable use of the comparative bullet-lead analysis as well as the usual previous attempts to cover it up by the FBI and how a former FBI lab metallurgist challenged key assumptions made by the FBI about bullet lead. This from the agency that wants Congress to leave it alone, saying they can monitor themselves. Time to rethink that strategy.
Links to More Information
The link to the article mentioned above and links to all kinds of other interesting information can be found below:
FBI’s Forensic Test Full of Holes article from the Washington Post
Talking Points Memo – Fox News Alert article from TPMmuckraker:
Another example of the stupidity and lack of ethics of Fox News, trying to blame gas prices going up on Nancy Pelosi.
Indicted! Barry Bonds Is a Perfect Distraction from Real Events article from AlterNet
Bill Moyers wants you to weigh in on media consolidation article and video from Raw Story:
An excellent example of how corrupt the FCC Chairman is.
A broken vow, a soldier’s torment article from The News & Observer
The Fourth Amendment: Not Such a Bad Idea article from Daily Kos:
“Missing from the debate over expanding NSA authority in the war on terror is the simple question, beyond our reflexive desire for privacy: why is expanding it such a bad idea? We know the Feds do nasty, un-American things like spy on political activists like Martin Luther King and Fresno Peaceworks, but eventually it comes out in the wash, doesn’t it? Did our far-seeing Founders, who took pains to enshrine freedom from “unreasonable search and seizure,” without “probable cause,” understand what the Stasi, Hitler, and the KGB all understood? That knowledge is power, and absolute knowledge of peoples’ lives becomes absolute power?
The Stasi Patriot Act was written long before 9/11. As Congressman Jim McDermott said, “they had all this on the shelf somewhere, ideas of things they would like to do and they got 9/11 and they said “its our chance, go for it!”
For those of us not used to thinking like a Machiavelli, try using a little imagination. Come up up with a list of fun things to do if you were in charge, had no respect for anyone or anything, and had a search and eavesdropping power free of judicial oversight, meaning, basically, no one looking over your shoulder to see what you were looking at, or why, which is what a warrant means. Let’s keep this fun list going, until people realize that the controversy over the NSA is not just pie-in-the-sky liberals squawking over their precious rights in the “new world” in which terrorist are trying to kill us. Let’s get this out of the realm of ideas and push it down to action on the ground.”
What’s Worse? Fox News’ Bias or CNN’s Irrelevance? article from AlterNet:
“Two days ago at a barbershop– which has since changed its TV viewing policy– I experienced the extreme right wing propaganda of Fox News for the first time. I couldn’t believe what they get away with.
Last night I switched on CNN to watch the debate and although it wasn’t pornographic the way Fox is, it wasn’t exactly fit for a mass audience. I mean where do they find such low-grade anchors and questioners? It must be difficult. I was relieved when they decided to have audience members ask the questions. And then I turned off the TV when one of the first questions was directed towards Hillary– who is running for president (of the United States). “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?” This is CNN, which is desperately trying to catch up to Fox in the ratings by appealing to people as stupid as Fox’s audience. Like I said, I turned off the TV and went back to writing about the Republican hypocrisy of Bob Allen, Mitch McConnell, David Dreier, Larry Craig and the regular closet queen crew. It was almost refreshing.
But then a strange thing happened this morning. Maria Luisa, the UNLV student who asked the idiotic question wrote about the whole episode on her My Space page– and she was as aghast as the rest of us were. She wanted to ask a pre-approved question about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and CNN made her ask the idiotic diamonds or pearls question. Mark Ambinder at The Atlantic has the whole sad story. Thank God for Keith Olbermann!”
Crisis in the U.S.: ‘Plan B’? article from The Peoples Voice:
“President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff had been hinting that another 9/11 could be coming.
Figures from the U.S. military had also projected a 9/11-type event. On April 23, 2006, for instance, the Washington Post published a statement by an unnamed Pentagon source that, “Another attack could create both a justification and an opportunity that is lacking today to retaliate against some known targets.”
9/11 was a turning point in history, and not just because it provided a pretext for the Bush administration to use off-the-shelf plans to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. The 9/11 Commission criticized the government for failing to do enough to act on danger signs that attacks may have been afoot. But a movement has formed which argues that the reality was worse—that 9/11 was an inside job staged to further the geopolitical ambitions of an elite seeking to use U.S. military power to advance its own imperialistic agenda.
What is indisputable is that from the 2000 presidential election through the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath, what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman termed a “revolutionary power” took control of the U.S. government.
Krugman’s statement, contained in the introduction to his 2005 book The Great Unraveling, has not been taken seriously enough. George W. Bush had lost the popular vote to Al Gore but was named to office by a Supreme Court that rubber-stamped what Greg Palast and others have proven was an extended process of electoral fraud in Florida. The subsequent actions and policies of the Bush/Cheney administration have been in accord with its dubious beginnings.”
Oil leaders’ private debate televised by mistake article from The Guardian Unlimited UK:
“‘Kill the cable, kill the cable,’ shouted the security guard as he burst through the double doors into the media room at the Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh, followed by Saudi police. It was too late.
A private meeting of Opec leaders, gathered this weekend in Riyadh for the cartel’s third meeting in its 47-year history, had just been broadcast to the world’s media for more than half an hour after a technician had mistakenly plugged the TV feed into the wrong socket. The facade of unity that the cartel so carefully cultivates to a world spooked by soaring oil prices was shattered.
On Friday night, during what the participants thought were private talks, Venezuela’s oil minister Venezuela Rafael Ramirez and his Iranian counterpart Gholamhossein Nozari, argued that pricing – and selling – oil using the crippled dollar was damaging the cartel.
They said Opec should formally express its concern about the weakness of the dollar when the cartel makes its official declaration at the close of the summit today. But the Saudis, the world’s largest oil producers and de facto head of Opec, vetoed the proposal. Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, warned that even the mere mention to journalists of the fact that leaders were discussing the weak dollar would cause the US currency to plummet.
Unfortunately his words and those of everyone at the meeting were being broadcast via a live television feed to a group of astonished reporters. ‘I couldn’t believe it,’ said one who was there. ‘When I realised they didn’t know they were being broadcast live, I frantically started taking notes.'”
A putrid stench article from Daily Kos:
“At this point in the rule of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, I thought I had reached shock fatigue. We’ve seen illegal invasions, torture, unprecedented levels of corruption, a warrantless wiretapping on a nationwide scale, and an erosion of national credibility on everything from the environment to the rule of law.
The article is in Vanity Fair’s November edition, The People vs. the Profiteers. (If this was diaried earlier this month, my apologies. I did a search on several key words and did not see it. Vanity Fair is a very thick magazine and I read it from front to back so I usually read it spaced out over the entire month).
In it, the writer, David Rose, covers how an attorney, Alan Grayson, has led a campaign against government corruption. He’s done so for 16 years. In the past the Department of Justice often allied with him to root out corrupt officials. But when it has come to the Iraq war, the DOJ has thrown up roadblock after roadblock.”
The readers will have the final word article from Online Journalism Review:
“Two examples today further drive home the lesson that the journalism media no longer provides the final word on the day’s news, thanks to the Internet.
Steve Pokin of the St. Charles Journal broke the story of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old who had some trouble (like many teens) but was reportedly turning her life around, in part due to the friendship of a boy she’d met on MySpace. But when the buy turned on her, insulting her, Megan was devastated, then took her life, Pokin wrote.
The twist? The boy didn’t exist. ‘He’ was the creation of the mother of one of the girl’s former friends. But the Journal didn’t name the woman, citing concerns for *her* teen daughter.
Jezebel and other bloggers went nuts, and soon, they’d uncovered the woman’s name, her address, phone number and business registration records and plastered them all over the Web.
The lessons for journalists? First, we can’t restrict access to information anymore. The crowd will work together to find whatever we withhold.”
9/11 Group Tries to Punch Holes in Giuliani’s Image article from News and Policy
For all the ‘security’, we are actually no safer article from The Telegraph UK:
“I don’t know precisely what variety of persuasive tactics our Government is considering using on captured terrorist suspects, but they certainly seem to work on its ministers. At 8.13 last Wednesday morning Lord West, the Security Minister, firmly told the Today programme that he needed “absolute evidence” before he could be convinced that it was necessary to detain terrorist suspects for more than 28 days.
By 9.15, after a “security meeting” at Number 10, Lord West’s opinions had been substantially refreshed. His strong feeling was that “Yes, we will need more than 28 days.” By 9.49, he was positively bullish, pressing for urgent legislation “so that we have the necessary powers when we need them”. Heaven knows what he might have endorsed by mid-day, if the microphones had still been plugged in.
It is difficult not to feel some sympathy with Lord West, who seems a thoughtful man suddenly placed in a political pressure-cooker. But the rolling revision of his views, in time with news bulletins, acts as a metaphor for our Government’s response to terrorism: it is policy on the run.”
CNN, Et tu, Brute? Glenn Beck, Debate Me If You Dare! article from OpEdNews:
“Today, unfortunately, CNN joined ranks with Fox News, known to freethinking individuals as “Faux News“, or my favorite, “The Republican Learning Channel.” If you want to hear political spin and propaganda, then keep your TV tuned to Fox, and now, it appears that CNN is joining their ranks, leaving citizens who seek truth and facts with very few alternatives other than turning off their TV’s and reading the alternative news on the Internet.
Rather than rewriting a story that has already been excellently documented, I’ll quote a few paragraphs of importance and allow the readers to see the actual video, a partial transcript of the Glenn (Neo-Conservative) Beck segment when he teams-up with ex-Marxist David Horowitz. I am choosing a few choice excerpts, but this is a site you will want to visit to get the whole story, not my interpretation thereof:”
The Heroic Image of Giuliani is Not Giuliani article from News and Policy
Marine Lt. Col. Shelton Lankford Protests “Truth = Terror” Smear article from TruthNews.us
“I am writing to protest the testimony and Powerpoint presentation by Mr. Mark Weitzman before the committee in which he conflated the presence of sites on the internet that question the U. S. Government-provided explanations for 9/11 with those you identify as associated with terrorism and Islamic extremism.
You very pointedly reference the site established by architects and engineers as an exemplar of such a site. In doing so, you have tarred with a very broad brush thousands of patriotic American citizens who have legitimate questions that have gone unanswered about events of that day and the Official Conspiracy Theory of the 19 alleged hijackers used to explain them.
The American government has yet to offer, as they promised, credible evidence of the guilt of the 19 individuals who were very conveniently identified with the crime, and to this date,
Osama Bin Laden has not been accused of masterminding the attack, according to the FBI and his wanted poster, even though this country has gone to war twice and threatens a third for reasons traceable to the events of that day.”
‘Soft’ Dictatorships & the Misrule of Law article from OpEdNews
Bush nominates judges who donated to his campaign article from Think Progress
U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms article from Prison Planet
The Real Criminals Are Not Barry Bonds or Britney Spears article from TruthNews.us:
“Barry Bonds indicted for lying to a grand jury. Britney Spears’ kids taken away from her. That guy from the TV show “24” doing time for driving while intoxicated. What is this world coming to? I mean when your celebrities act like humans? What’s up with that?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent…men and women make up lies to send your children off to kill and die. Your money follows them as far as the warmakers bank account. Yet no one makes a cry. After all, it’s national defense. That’s what the vice president says…and who am I to question their wisdom. Even though that wisdom is the wisdom of fools that speak only in terms of cash.
The fury gathers because Barry Bonds might have destroyed the integrity of a game, yet George Bush’s use of the political equivalent of steroids in 2000—steroids that gave him a grand slam in a contest in which he was certainly defeated except for the favorable decision of the judges—there is no fury at all. More people are angry at Barry Bonds because they think he stole a sports record of questionable value than are angry because George Bush and his cabal stole their nation from them.
And we haven’t even begun to talk about the wars Mr. Bush has got us in. Based on lies much greater than those Mr. Bonds is accused of and with consequences of death and destruction beyond most human comprehension, the wars of Mr. Bush and his administration are treated as mere footnotes in the US media compared to the tale of Barry Bonds. A visitor from outer space might easily conclude that being accused of putting chemicals into one’s own body is a crime much worse than killing thousands of one’s fellow human beings for reasons of power and profit. Come to think of it, that conclusion may very well be correct, given our history full of bloodshed and destruction.”
$288 billion farm bill lies fallow after Senate vote article from The San Francisco Chronicle
Talking Points Memo – Mistakes made in New Orleans flood maps; Some neighborhoods Thought Safe Might Be at Risk article from TPMmuckraker
Gonzales Hypocritically Tells Mukasey to Always Do the Right Thing, Follow the Law article from AlterNet:
“Yesterday, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke at the Corpus Christi Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, giving his views on “immigration, education and public service.” The event drew approximately 1,000 attendees, as well as a few protestors who greeted Gonzales outside the venue.
He dodged questions about waterboarding by local station KIII-TV, but did give some words of advice for his successor, Michael Mukasey:
To do the right thing. And I have every confidence that Mike Mukasey will do the right thing. Always do the right thing. Follow the law. That was always my lodestar, my guiding principle, and I’m sure that will guide General Mukasey.”
15,000 feared dead in cyclone article from The Metro UK:
“Up to 15,000 people are feared dead and tens of thousands homeless after Cyclone Sidr devastated Bangladesh.”
Powell: Iran is a long way from having nuclear weapon article from AOL News:
“KUWAIT CITY (AP) – Iran is a long way from acquiring a nuclear weapon and is “foolish” for not investing its resources in its people instead of a nuclear program, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.
“I think Iran is a long way from having anything that could be anything like a nuclear weapon,” Powell told a gathering of bankers, businessmen and diplomats.
Tehran rejects claims by the United States and some European Union countries that its nuclear program is aimed at secretly producing weapons and insists it is for peaceful purposes only.”
A myth in the unmaking article from The Guardian Unlimited UK:
Even over seas they’re seeing how much of a joke Fox News really is:
“Britons may be familiar with Rupert Murdoch, but I don’t think the UK has a beast quite like the American Fox News Channel. Celebrating its 11th year on the air, Fox is a breathtaking institution. It is a lock, stock and barrel servant of the Republican party, devoted first and foremost to electing Republicans and defeating Democrats; it’s even run by a man, Roger Ailes, who helped elect Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior to the presidency. And yet, because it minimally adheres to certain superficial conventions, it can masquerade as a “news” outfit and enjoy all the rights that accrue to that.”
Pentagon Cover Up: 15,000 or more US casualties in Iraq War article from The Smirking Chimp:
“The Pentagon has been concealing the true number of American casualties in the Iraq War. The real number exceeds 15,000 and CBS News can prove it.
CBS’s Investigative Unit wanted to do a report on the number of suicides in the military and “submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense”. After 4 months they received a document which showed–that between 1995 and 2007–there were 2,200 suicides among “active duty” soldiers.
The Pentagon was covering up the real magnitude of the “suicide epidemic”. Following an exhaustive investigation of veterans’ suicide data collected from 45 states; CBS discovered that in 2005 alone “THERE WERE AT LEAST 6,256 AMONG THOSE WHO SERVED IN THE ARMED FORCES. THAT’S 120 EACH AND EVERY WEEK IN JUST ONE YEAR.”
Bad Intelligence: America’s History of Bungled Spying article from AlterNet:
“Fog Facts special: The spectacular intelligence failures of Bush’s Iraq invasion and 9/11 are only the most recent installments in the United States’ appalling history of spycraft.”
Lobby to Hide Cancer Dangers Has Government’s Helping Hand article from AlterNet:
“Industry special interests are burying information on cancer-causing chemicals and, according to watchdog groups, the government is helping them do it.”
Talking Points Memo – Rudy and Bernie, the Biz Years article from TPMmuckraker
CA Electoral College Initiative Fraud article from Daily Kos