Grassley Opening Remarks of Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Committee Meeting Before we turn to the agenda,I want to say a few words about the hearing on forensics and a letter I sent to the Attorney General on Tuesday.We heard from experts about the current state of forensics.
Before we turn to the agenda, I want to say a few words about the hearing on forensics and a letter I sent to the Attorney General on Tuesday. We heard from experts about the current state of forensic science in the courts. One of the topics of discussion was the recent reports by The Washington Post regarding “sloppy” and “unreliable” work at the FBI crime lab that may have led to innocent people being convicted.
The Post also detailed a 2004 review conducted by the Justice Department to identify cases where flawed work by the FBI crime lab may have been involved. By all accounts, that review was poorly done and it appears that defense attorneys may not have been notified about cases where problems existed.
These are stunning developments given my work with Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, a former FBI Agent who blew the whistle on problems with the FBI Crime lab in the 1990s. Dr. Whitehurst’s disclosures came at a great cost to him personally as he faced retaliation from the FBI. However, his disclosures led to an Inspector General report that led to many reforms that have strengthened the FBI crime lab.
Given the recent reports by The Washington Post, Chairman Leahy and I sent a letter on May 21 seeking information from the FBI Director. Unfortunately, that letter has gone unanswered for over 60 days.
So, on Tuesday, prior to the hearing, I sent a new letter to the Attorney General seeking information about the 2004 review and problems with notifying defendants. Hopefully, the Attorney General will respond to this letter faster than the FBI has to the letter the Chairman and I sent back in May.
Given this committee’s past work with whistleblowers like Dr. Whitehurst and the discussion on improving forensic science, the Justice Department and FBI should provide us answers immediately.
Turning to the Committee’s agenda, on S.285, the private relief bill sponsored by Senator Levin, I will offer an amendment. If that amendment is adopted, our side would be willing to voice vote the bill and report it out.
With regard to S.3276, the FAA Sunsets Extension Act, we’re prepared to vote on a straight extension of the law today. This is an important bill that reauthorizes the FISA Amendments Act, a program vital to our national security.
This bill was reported out of the Intelligence Committee without amendment extending the program through 2017. The House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee have both reported a similar bill without amendment.
The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence have written to us stating that this reauthorization is “the highest legislative priority for the Intelligence Community” this congress.
Further, they added, “Our first priority, however, is reauthorization of these authorities in their current form. We look forward to working with you to ensure the speedy enactment of legislation reauthorizing Title VII, without amendment, to avoid any interruption in our use of these