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FBI Whistleblower Says Crime Lab Suffers From a Few ‘Loose Cannons’

September 15, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ FBI agent Frederic Whitehurst accuses his employer of evidence tampering and scientific fraud but staunchly defends his colleagues, insisting that only a few ``loose cannons″ have messed up in its crime lab.

Despite a demotion _ from top explosives-residue analyst to ``trainee″ in paint-chip analysis _ and what he called ``vicious, vulgar slander″ against him at the FBI, Whitehurst has persisted in his allegations for nine years.

But he appears uncomfortable in the role of whistleblower.

``I dislike being called a whistleblower. I’m a law enforcement officer. If I see violations of the law, abuses of authority, corruption, whatever, I’m required to report those,″ the chemist said Thursday on CNN’s ``Larry King Live.″

Whitehurst’s accusations did not begin to leak out to the public until last month. He testified at the terrorism trial of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine other Muslims accused of plotting to bomb the United Nations building and other New York City landmarks that he was pressured to distort findings about the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to favor prosecutors.

Now facing the ordeal of a Justice Department probe into his allegations and an order to testify in the O.J. Simpson trial, Whitehurst said he would have preferred that the bureau settle his allegations internally.

``I think it’s a sad day for the FBI that we have to get to this point,″ he said.

Whitehurst’s allegations came to wider public attention because Simpson’s defense attorneys want to call him to the stand to undermine damaging testimony by another FBI analyst, Roger Martz. Whitehurst has accused Martz of slanting lab findings in other cases.

Judge Lance Ito, who is presiding over the Simpson trial, granted a defense motion late Thursday declaring Whitehurst a material witness and ordering him to be at the Los Angeles courthouse next Tuesday with his notes and records.

Simpson attorneys Carl Douglas and Robert Blasier filed sworn affidavits saying Whitehurst would accuse Martz of ``misconduct and improprieties in the execution of Martz’s professional duties in connection with the matter now before this court.″

Ito did not rule whether he would admit any testimony that Whitehurst might have.

A 1994 audit of the FBI laboratory’s forensic services by the Justice Department inspector general discovered some sloppy tracking of evidence records, unclear documentation requirements and not enough proficiency training or supervision of reports. But most of the problems were fixed, according to an FBI response and a second analysis by the inspector general.

The only unresolved issue was the tracking of requests and specimens. But the FBI said it has an internal tracking system and is ``confident that no specimens have ever been lost.″

Whitehurst, 47, has been with the FBI since 1982. His wife, Cheryl, also works there.

As a young man, Whitehurst joined the Army and served three combat tours in Vietnam, earning four Bronze Stars.

After the Army, Whitehurst got married, finished his undergraduate work at East Carolina University in his hometown of Greenville, N.C., and earned his doctorate from Duke University.

Two fingers on his left hand and another two on his right are badly mutilated, but they are not the markings of a grenade, or even laboratory explosives.

``I was making a music box for my wife, and I stuck my hands in the machine,″ he said with a shrug.

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