Amid new globalterrorist threats, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has completed an extensive renovation project of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) laboratory in Tysons Corner, Virginia. The lab is used to assist in criminal investigations including document fraud, drug and weapons trafficking, cybercrimes and human smuggling.
The renovations were unveiled July 20 by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, US ICE Deputy Director Dan Ragsdale and Virginia Congressman Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The renovation project began in 2012.
“In Fiscal Year 2015, the lab processed over 35,000 pieces of evidence and its staff provided fraudulent document detection training to over 2,500 personnel from U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies,” said Johnson. “The renovation and expansion of this lab will help ensure that our forensic scientists have the right tools to accomplish their mission.”
Renovations included adding an extensive research library of over 300,000 travel and identity documents and reference materials; printing equipment to help identify fingerprints from weapons, computers, currency and other materials; and a digital media evidence laboratory for processing digital media files from surveillance footage and wiretaps. The lab was also expanded by 10,000 square feet, and is now 40,0000 square feet in size.
The lab was created in 1978 as the “Forensic Document Laboratory” under the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which became a part of DHS on March 1, 2003 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Forensic examiners working at the lab typically help investigations by providing analysis in support of criminal investigations and training in fraudulent document detection. The lab provides advanced intelligence, forensic and investigative support to DHS, HSI and other US and foreign law enforcement agencies.
In 2015, the lab assisted HSI in a joint investigation with the Department of State that resulted in 15 Chinese nationals being federally indicted on charges of conspiracy, counterfeiting foreign passports, mail fraud and wire fraud. The conspirators were using counterfeit passports to take college and graduate school entry exams, scientists at the forensics lab evaluated passports to confirm they were fraudulent.
The lab also assisted in a 2015 investigation that led to the arrest of a Hartford, Connecticut man who attempted to send extensive data to Iran containing sensitive material relating to US military jet engines. A fingerprint specialist from the Forensic Lab was able to identify latent fingerprints, which was a key step in proving the suspect was the individual attempting to ship the controlled items.
“The men and women who work at this state-of-the art forensic laboratory are performing critical support on a wide variety of criminal investigations,” Johnson said.
The lab has been accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) since 2001.