Since its creation as the Forensic Document Laboratory in 1978, the ICE Homeland Security Investigations Forensic Laboratory has been the only U.S. crime laboratory specializing in the scientific authentication and research of travel and identity documents and related issues.
Ten years later, in 1988, the laboratory moved to its current location. On July 20, 2016, senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security joined their ICE counterparts for an official, public unveiling that showcased the improvements made over the course of a four-year, multi-phase renovation project that increased the laboratory’s operating space by nearly 10,000 square feet to a total of nearly 40,000 square feet.
Begun in 2012, the recently completed renovation project also reflects the increasing diversity of laboratory services needed to support the mission of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Today, the laboratory supports every type of case that ICE and its law enforcement partners investigate – including document fraud, gang-related activity, drug trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, human smuggling, child exploitation, cybercrime, and terrorism. The HSI Polygraph Program, a part of the HSI Forensic Laboratory, conducts polygraph examinations in support of a wide variety of HSI investigations. The renovation also allowed the laboratory to enhance a number of other capabilities, including work with digital media evidence and chemistry as well as research and development efforts.
HSI Forensic Laboratory personnel are often asked to provide essential analysis in ongoing criminal investigations. For example, in 2015, a former Navy Top Gun instructor pilot living in Norfolk, Virginia, was found guilty of producing child pornography and sexually extorting his victims. A forensic scientist from the laboratory was consulted for handwriting analysis and positively identified the suspect as the author of a letter addressed to the Chinese Embassy offering to trade his military information for help in breaking out of jail.
Initially serving to verify the authenticity of travel and identity documents, the ICE HSI Forensic Laboratory now provides advanced forensic, intelligence and investigative training and support to a broad range of federal law enforcement agencies, as well as partner agencies throughout the global law enforcement community. It is worth noting that the ICE HSI Forensic Laboratory has been accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board since 2001 for the capabilities of its Questioned Document and Latent Print sections.
The forensic document examiners working here specialize in travel and identity document evidence which typically includes passports, visas, driver's licenses, identification cards, and vital records such as birth, death, or marriage certificates. Forensic document examiners also provide expert witness testimony in both administrative and criminal proceedings.