Home News Stories 2004 March Conversion Lab Digitizes FBI Case Files

Conversion Lab Digitizes FBI Case Files

The Document Conversion Lab
Digitizing FBI Major Case Files...by the Warehouse Full


Last winter, FBI headquarters got a call from a field case agent who said he'd seized a warehouse with thousands of boxes of financial records related to a criminal investigation. He said, "We need to analyze the material for prosecution, but it will take years to go through it all. Any ideas how to speed up the process?"

Absolutely! This is a job for the FBI's Document Conversion Lab, or DocLab, stood up in May 2002 as part of our new Records Management Division.

What's DocLab? A team of FBI technicians, based in Washington, who scan and digitize hard copy files and photographs using state-of-the-art technology. So far, DocLab has scanned more than 9.5 million images (single pieces of paper), formatting many of those images into readable text and uploading them into an FBI electronic application. Once digitized, the information is easily and rapidly exchanged between Bureau field offices, joint task forces, and FBI Headquarters.

Is that really such a big deal? Yes, more than you might think. Because it:

  • Saves incredible amounts of time and space. In the above case, our agents walked away with a warehouse full of records...on seven CDs.
  • Increases search capabilities exponentially. Those millions of pieces of paper can now be searched electronically in seconds, drawing connections between people, places, and events--within and across cases--in new and important ways.
  • Enables information-sharing far and wide. The CDs from the warehouse of financial records, for example, were copied and shared with the FBI case agent on the spot. And once uploaded into the electronic application, the files are instantaneously key word searchable throughout the FBI.

So why wasn't this done before? We've been digitizing records for years, but investigative priorities in a post 9/11 world of complex, voluminous, and international evidence calls for focus and absolute efficiency. DocLab dedicates trained professionals, working around the clock, who can respond quickly to urgent needs and major cases around the world.

Here are just a few examples of what DocLab has done:

  • Traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq to help scan critical counterterrorism documents;
  • Digitized more than 20,000 pages of records from the D.C. sniper case, enabling investigators to farm out leads quickly and prepare for the massive court cases;
  • Took more than three million paper records in poor condition and quickly scanned them for a significant counterintelligence case; and
  • Helped Indianapolis prosecutors meet an urgent court deadline in a major health care fraud investigation.

It's yet another example of how the FBI is using cutting-edge technology to bring terrorists and criminals to justice.