DNA data errors have been recently detected in the FBI national database. Crime labs using the bureau’s DNA software known as “Pop stats” are warned some of the data contains flaws.
According to a report by the Washington Post, the FBI said they found the errors after they commissioned a study to retest DNA samples from previous work. The bureau adds they suspect the DNA data errors date as far back as 1999.
The FBI sent a bulletin to crime labs across the United States stating the DNA data errors are probably due to “clerical mistakes in transcriptions of the genotypes and to limitations of the old technology and software.”
The Washington Post said they obtained a copy of the May 11 bulletin sent to DNA crime labs from an unidentified person.
A brief excerpt taken from the FBI bulletin reads as follows.
“We are of the view that these discrepancies are unlikely to materially affect any assessment of evidential value. However, given that statistics based on these data have been included in thousands of lab reports and in testimonies, we believe the discrepancies require acknowledgment.”
Late Friday, the FBI issued a public statement saying they found errors in 33 of 1,100 profiles.
The national law enforcement agency announced their intentions to correct the DNA data errors and provided their stance on being transparent.
“Though these discrepancies are within the internationally accepted range, the FBI is committed to correcting the inaccurate values in a transparent manner.”
The National District Attorneys Association commended the FBI, claiming the “transparent and responsible manner in which the FBI has disclosed this internal finding” and the “notification to all interested parties is an excellent first step in addressing this issue.”
Dr. Daniel R. Krane, professor of Biology at Wright State University, finds the FBI’s disclosure appalling. Ten years ago, Dr. Krane identified errors in the DNA profiles used by the FBI to create population statistics data. Dr. Krane claims, for the past 15 years, the DNA data was used in close to hundreds of thousands of cases around the world.
Dr. Krane said he reported flaws in the FBI DNA data 10 years ago, adding the agency downplayed his findings.
Professor Krane offered a comment about DNA testing and the recent FBI admission.
“The public puts so much faith in DNA testing that it makes it especially important to make those the best estimates possible. There is no excuse for a systematic error to many thousands of calculations in such a context.”
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