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FBI Laboratory seal

FBI Laboratory heading

Graphic for Major Cases (1999)

The services of the FBI Laboratory have proven to be crucial to law enforcement agencies. Throughout 1999, the FBI Laboratory provided forensic analysis, technical expertise, tactical communications, and operational support for investigative and intelligence activities as well as effective communications and surveillance capabilities to support essential FBI national and international responsibilities. In addition, trained and equipped laboratory and field evidence response, crisis response, hazardous materials, communications, and bomb technician personnel were deployed to remote locations throughout the United States and around the world in response to emerging crisis situations.

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Kosovo War Crimes


The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) requested FBI forensic assistance in direct support of the six-count international indictment of Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic and four Serbian leaders. Director Louis J. Freeh approved the deployment of a 65-person FBI forensic team to Kosovo, a small province between Macedonia and the Adriatic Sea. The mission of this team of expert investigators and forensic specialists was to document and photograph crime scenes; locate, collect, and preserve evidence at the massacre sites; and perform forensic examinations of the deceased victims to determine identity, sex, approximate age, and cause of death.

Kosovo Recovery Efforts

News accounts and preoperational briefings provided advance warning of the horrors committed by Serbian nationals. However, nothing prepared investigators and examiners for the devastation present at what Director Freeh called "the largest crime scene in history."

The FBI forensic team processed seven sites in Gjakove, Kosovo, and two sites in the town of Peje from June 20, 1999 through July 3, 1999. The majority of these sites were burned houses in which Serbian forces had allegedly murdered more than 75 individuals. The FBI forensic team recovered seven bodies, the remains of numerous others, jacketed rifle bullets, cartridge cases, hand grenade fragments, and evidence for positive presumptive blood test. Field autopsies conducted on the seven bodies determined the cause of death to be multiple gunshots to the head for all seven victims.

A second forensic team was deployed in response to a United Nations request for the provision of continued crime scene assistance to the ICTY. This team processed 21 crime scene sites from August 28, 1999 through September 8, 1999. The majority of these multiple gravesites were located near the town of Glogavac in the Vrbovac Valley, an area approximately 15 km by 6 km in size. Serbian forces allegedly occupied the main road surrounding this area and began an offensive during March and April of 1999, during which Albanian villagers hiding in the woods were captured, tortured, and killed. Those killed were buried in remote graves by local villagers under the cover of darkness. More than 250 Albanians are estimated to have been killed in the Vrbovac area.


Graphic showing a crime scene in Kosovo

A crime scene

Graphic showing the exhumation of a grave

The exhumation of a grave

Graphic showing FBI forensic recovery efforts

FBI forensic recovery efforts

The FBI forensic team exhumed the bodies of 124 victims from 15 sites and processed six "killing" areas. Field autopsies determined the cause of death to be multiple gunshots for the majority of the victims, although some, including a four year-old girl, died from blunt-force trauma. Victims ranged from a two-year-old boy to a 94-year-old female.

For more information about the FBI Laboratory's role in the Kosovo investigation, see the Kosovo section of the FBI Web site.

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Egypt Air Flight 990

  Essential forensic and operational support was provided by the FBI Laboratory in the recovery efforts of Egypt Air Flight 990, which crashed off the Massachussetts coast on October 31, 1999. Onsite support was provided by examiners from the DNA, Chemistry, Explosives, and Latent Print Units of the Laboratory and by Special Agents, Evidence Response Team members, and electronics technicians, who assisted in the collection and separation of human remains, personal effects, and aircraft parts. Evidence Response Teams from Boston, Little Rock, New York, and Newark responded to the initial crash investigation and additional teams from Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Baltimore provided assistance with the salvage operation at sea.

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Columbine High School Shootings

The FBI Laboratory's Investigative and Prosecutive Graphic Unit served as the lead for the collection and documentation of the crime scene survey data during the Columbine High School shooting investigation, which followed the April 20, 1999 incident in Littleton, Colorado. This Unit, in combination with the Laboratory's Structural Design Unit, created scaled crime scene reconstructions of each segment of the incident.

Graphic showing Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado

Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado

These reconstructions depicted the locations of victims, evidence, and explosive devices; diagramed bullet trajectories; and exhibited the movement of specific individuals as well as the sequence of events that took place.

The Laboratory's Forensic Audio, Video and Image Analysis Unit duplicated, enhanced, and conducted imaging work on a series of tapes of the cafeteria area at Columbine, and the Computer Analysis and Response Team analyzed and restored data to assist in the investigation. Additional crime scene processing support was provided by the Denver Evidence Response Team.

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Hacker Ring Pleads Guilty


As the daily frequency of communication through computer networks increases, criminal use of computer technology is becoming common. Evidence of this prevalence of computers as tools in crime is apparent in the case of the Phonemasters, an international ring of hackers who were able to gain access to major telephone networks, portions of the national power grid, air traffic control systems, and numerous databases. This hacker ring provided calling card numbers, credit reports, criminal records, and other data to individuals in Canada, the United States, Switzerland, and Italy who willing to pay for the information. The investigation of this case required the capture of Phonemasters' data communications under a Title III order and was successfully accomplished by collecting and analyzing the analog modem signals from the target phone lines. Phonemasters suspects Calvin Cantrell and Cory Lindsay were convicted in September, 1999, for theft and possession of unauthorized access devices and unauthorized access to a federal interest computer. Cantrell was sentenced to two years in prison while Lindsay received a sentence of 41 months.

To support future cases of this nature, the FBI Laboratory is working to develop network intercept techniques and to produce software tools that view and analyze captured data. The intercept of data communications is becoming more common, and some of the intercepts are achieved by capturing modem signals, as in this case. However, many intercepts are now capturing the target's data transmissions at the target's Internet service provider, where analog modem signals are converted to digital signals. Intercepting data at this point is usually more reliable and cost effective.


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Information revised October 2000