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Hair and Fiber analysis lacks "grounding in solid research"


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This new article is relevant to the JFK assassination in that the techniques used as post-humous evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald are said to be essentially unscientific, even decades after the fact.

Hair and Fiber analysis is crap, and the worst part is that the FBI knew it and did nothing about it.

Washington Post (7-11-2012):

The Post reported in April that hair and fiber analysis was subjective and lacked grounding in solid research and that the FBI lab lacked protocols to ensure that agent testimony was scientifically accurate. But bureau managers kept their reviews limited to one agent, even as they learned that many examiners’ “matches” were often wrong and that numerous examiners overstated the significance of matches, using bogus statistics or exaggerated claims.

I highlisted the bolded portion because it reads like a definition of Paul Stombaugh's work (he's the guy who pretended that the fibers (allegedly) found in the rifle matched the shirt that Oswald (allegedly) wore on 11/22/63.

One thing I don't understand is why the FBI and Justice Department are reviewing their own work. Some things don't change. The article is worth reading. Check it out:

http://www.washingto...ry.html?hpid=z1

Edited by Andric Perez
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This new article is relevant to the JFK assassination in that the techniques used as post-humous evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald are said to be essentially unscientific, even decades after the fact.

Hair and Fiber analysis is crap, and the worst part is that the FBI knew it and did nothing about it.

Washington Post (7-11-2012):

The Post reported in April that hair and fiber analysis was subjective and lacked grounding in solid research and that the FBI lab lacked protocols to ensure that agent testimony was scientifically accurate. But bureau managers kept their reviews limited to one agent, even as they learned that many examiners’ “matches” were often wrong and that numerous examiners overstated the significance of matches, using bogus statistics or exaggerated claims.

I highlisted the bolded portion because it reads like a definition of Paul Stombaugh's work (he's the guy who pretended that the fibers (allegedly) found in the rifle matched the shirt that Oswald (allegedly) wore on 11/22/63.

One thing I don't understand is why the FBI and Justice Department are reviewing their own work. Some things don't change. The article is worth reading. Check it out:

http://www.washingto...ry.html?hpid=z1

This is all goes back to the work of two FBI whistle-blowers, Frederic Whitehurst and William Tobin, two men who made a difference. In the 1990's, at great risk to their reputations, they separately but similarly began complaining about the techniques used in the FBI crime lab. Whitehurst knew that crime lab employees and prosecutors were exaggerating the value of hair and fiber analysis, and that wrongful convictions had been obtained. Tobin knew that bullet lead analysis was based upon a series of flawed premises, and that the likelihood of two specimens randomly matching had never been determined.

These complaints led the Inspector General of the Justice Dept. (Bromwitch, mentioned in the article) to review their claims, and largely concur with their conclusions. (There is a fine book on this entitled Tainting Evidence).

In any event, while it's doubtful this will re-open an investigation of the FBI's work on the Kennedy case, it does set the table for such a thing occurring, should we EVER get an Attorney General of FBI Director with an interest in the case.

P.S. Stombaugh's work on the Kennedy case, while quite possibly flawed, was not the lynchpin incriminating Oswald. If you read his testimony, he was actually pretty careful not to say that fibers came from Oswald's shirt, or blanket. Unfortunately, the media, in its zeal to convict Oswald in the public eye, oversold the importance of his conclusions.

Stombaugh's work on the Jeffrey MacDonald case is much more suspect.

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I agree, an outside organization should be doing the review.

Because that is how the NAA was exposed.

The National Academy of Science Review of bullet lead analysis was performed at the FBI's request, after some of the problems associated with it were exposed by William Tobin, an FBI crime lab employee. While it's true Tobin had been complaining about these things for years, and it took a long time for the FBI to come around, the seemingly logical assumption that OUTSIDE forces (the dozens of civilian "experts" in this country as familiar as Tobin with these issues) led to this inspection just isn't true.

This is, for me, one of the saddest aspects of the assassination...that civilian scientists and doctors not employed by the government or military have shown that they are just if not more likely to lie or push nonsense as those in the government's employ.

I mean, I have some personal experience in this regard. My video, in which I prove Baden testified with an autopsy photo upside down, has received a hundred thousand views or more, a number of them by scientists. Some of these scientists have even contacted me to tell me they agree with much of my research. But will they allow me to quote them by name, and build a data base of scientists calling for a re-inspection of the medical evidence by people who (unlike Baden) have a CLUE what they're talking about? Sadly, no...

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There are a host of problems with all sorts of forensic techniques, not the least of which is confirmation bias, which potentially undermines all of them. That is to say, if an analyst is given any clue as to a desired outcome, it can often, even subconsciously, skew their conclusions. Even forensic sciences with firmer grounding than CABL, such as fingerprints, can suffer from the implications of confirmation bias.

http://www.psmag.com/legal-affairs/bias-and-the-big-fingerprint-dust-up-3629/

I would argue that Ken Rahn is an example of confirmation bias writ large, or perhaps becoming the mother of one's own theory. Before it was over, he was a self-parody of the very tenets of empirical reasoning he taught to students. In so doing he also exposed a basic problem with his generalizations about the conspiracy community vs. the lone nut community. Rahn would always claim that the lone nuts were data-driven and the conspiracists were faith-based, ideologues. Yet it was the lone nut community that gave Rahn safe haven, circling the wagons and giving him a pass even as the entire analytical field was falling underneath his feet. In contrast, we are more than happy to go after a Judyth ad nauseum. As it stood, Ken didn't face critical reception (from WC believers) even as he dug further and further into a losing cause. I used to spend a lot of time on the alt.assassination forum and still have respect for people there, including lone nuts. But I lost a lot of confidence in that endeavour (trying to learn from others and have them sway you in return) when virtually no one called Ken on his crap.

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