Making a Difference: Case Examples
The capabilities of the FBI’s Science and Technology Branch cover a wide spectrum, from biometrics collection and information-sharing technologies to crime scene examinations and surveillance tools. Nothing demonstrates these capabilities more clearly, though, than the investigations in which they have been successfully used. Here are some examples:
Russian Spies: After spying for Russia for more than a decade, 10 individuals were arrested in the U.S. and deported. FBI officials lawfully intercepted messages asking the Russians living in America to spread out and gather information on nuclear weapons, U.S. arms control, policy positions, Iran, White House rumors, the presidential election, Congress, and U.S. political parties. More
International Child Pornography Ring: The group, which used powerful encryption tools and a multi-layered system, was dismantled with the arrest of 22 people in five countries. FBI investigators analyzed more than 400,000 images and thousands of messages to track down the mostly prepubescent exploited children and those running the pornography ring. More
New York Subway Terrorist Plot: Al Qaeda-trained Najibullah Zazi planned to detonate homemade bombs in the subway. A search of Zazi’s laptop yielded bomb-making instructions and Internet searches for hydrochloric acid. FBI surveillance showed Zazi purchasing unusually large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and acetone products. In addition, agents intercepted Zazi’s e-mail and cell phone messages seeking information about bomb-making ingredients. After the plot was disrupted, FBI scientists scrutinized the explosives and examined material for latent prints, DNA, and trace evidence. More
Identification of Victims in Mexican Mass Graves: Mass gravesites discovered in April 2011 just south of the Mexico-Texas border contained more than 285 unidentified victims. To help determine identities, Mexican authorities—through the FBI’s legal attaché office in Mexico City—provided our Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division with CDs containing cadaver fingerprints. CJIS fingerprint technicians and analysts helped identify 15 of the victims.
Oklahoma City Federal Building Bombing: After determining that Timothy McVeigh rented the truck used in the bombing, a search of the FBI’s National Crime Information Center transaction log showed the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol made an inquiry on McVeigh 90 minutes after the bombing. FBI investigators learned that McVeigh was sitting in a nearby jail cell on unrelated weapons charges. FBI staff examined evidence for latent prints, DNA, and trace evidence, and performed explosives examinations. More
Underwear Bomber: On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab—flying from Amsterdam to Detroit—attempted to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear. FBI scientists performed chemistry and explosives examinations and analyzed material for latent fingerprints, DNA, and trace evidence. Abdulmutallab subsequently pled guilty to conspiracy charges related to an attempted terrorist act. More