DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ISSUES GUIDANCE FOR THE USE OF DNA IDENTIFICATION IN MASS DISASTERS
Work of 9/11 Panel Provides Valuable Lessons
WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice today issued the report, Lessons Learned from 9/11: DNA Identification in Mass Fatality Incidents. The report is the result of the Kinship Data Analysis Panel (KADAP), which the Department convened immediately after the terrorist attacks in 2001 to help the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) in New York identify victims' remains so they could be returned to their families. The panel was assembled by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development and evaluation arm of the Justice Department. The number of victims from the World Trade Center attacks, the condition of their remains, and the duration of the recovery effort made the identification the most difficult ever undertaken by the forensic science community.Lessons Learned from 9/11: DNA Identification in Mass Fatality Incidents offers guidance on the myriad issues the forensic community must face in a mass disaster to ensure that all victims can be accounted for, and identified.
"Valuable lessons have come out of the tragedy of 9/11 that will serve as an important guide in other mass disasters,” said Assistant Attorney General Regina B. Schofield of the Office of Justice Programs. “Victim assistance is a high priority for the Department of Justice and after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, we assembled the best minds to help identify victims' remains. The lessons learned contained in this report will provide invaluable advice to those involved in mass fatality identification efforts in the future, to be prepared and ready to handle similar situations."
The identification process following the attacks of September 11 was the largest effort of its kind in the United States to date and this report, published as part of The President's DNA Initiative, will serve as a valuable guide for localities that may be involved in similar identifications in the future. Drafts of the report have been requested and already sent to officials who responded to Hurricane Katrina and the southeast Asian tsunami.
Throughout the entire World Trade Center identification process, the KADAP identified, analyzed, and created new approaches in the collection and organization of victim and reference samples and DNA analysis software to assist the OCME. The result of that effort is the report, which contains policy recommendations to public officials to prepare for such disasters, guides for laboratory officials for collection and analysis of DNA, sample laboratory worksheets and other reference guides.
Some of the KADAP's recommendations will have a profound impact on human identification testing far into the future. Due to the degraded nature of some of the remains, the typical DNA identification methods were not sufficient in identifying many of the remains and other methods allowed identifications to be made on some very compromised samples that would have been impossible to identify otherwise.
NIJ assembled the KADAP from federal and state government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology DNA Identification Laboratory, and the New York State Department of Health; the private sector, including the Brigham & Women's Hospital and Myriad Genetics Laboratories; and from some of the nation's most respected universities, including Johns Hopkins University, the University of Central Florida, Carleton University, Yale University School of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, University of California at Berkeley, the University of Albany, and the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
The report is posted on the Web site of The President's DNA Initiative, www.dna.gov and at www.massfatality.dna.gov. The President's DNA Initiative is a five year more than $1 billion effort to eliminate casework and convicted offender backlogs; to improve crime lab capacity; to provide training for all stakeholders in the criminal justice system; and to conduct testing to identify missing persons. Hard copies and compact discs of the report can be ordered from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service by visiting their Web site: www.ncjrs.gov.
The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and an office: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy and OJP's American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Desk. More information can be found at www.ojp.usdoj.gov.