By Kevin Deutsch
The FBI says a software update to its national DNA database caused incorrect genetic information to display at a handful of local crime labs, but that no offenders were misidentified as a result.
Three crime labs in the United States told the FBI they were impacted by the CODIS software glitch, which caused the incorrect information to be displayed, officials said.
The errors were the result of a “data synchronization issue,” according to the FBI.
It was not immediately clear which DNA labs received the incorrect information. The CODIS database contains the DNA profiles of more than 13.6 million Americans.
Bronx Justice News on Monday broke the story of the glitch, which was discovered by New York’s state’s DNA lab after technicians noticed results being displayed for a CODIS offender “hit” were inaccurate. Later, a second instance of incorrect information being displayed was discovered.
The problem is impacting local CODIS-accredited labs nationwide. The FBI says it provided the labs with “guidance to assist in locating incorrectly displayed data as well as steps labs could take to correct the issue in advance of the software update.”
There are eight CODIS-approved labs in New York, including the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s lab as well as labs in Westchester and Nassau Counties.
Dwight Adams, chairman of the state’s DNA Subcommittee and a former director of the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, disclosed the glitch during a Feb. 1 subcommittee meeting of New York state’s DNA Subcommittee.
“We determined that the offender profile that was involved in that match as it was displayed down at the local lab was a different profile that what should have been for that offender,” Adams told subcommittee members.
“It is something that was under the radar,” Adams said of the problem. “The local labs didn’t know that this was taking place.”
Adams said the FBI was working on a utility to solve the issue and believed it would be ready four to six weeks from the Feb. 1 meeting. The system repair will be able to identify any other instances in which incorrect offender profile information was displayed, Adams said.
The state DNA subcommittee is part of New York’s Office of Forensic Services, which administers the state’s DNA Databank and sets state policy and rules for the gathering and testing of DNA.
On Friday, Bronx Justice News reported that the subcommittee will permit qualifying law enforcement agencies to use Rapid DNA—a controversial technology that provides near-instantaneous test results on human genetic samples without the need for scientific supervision.