IT problems blamed in McVeigh case

Antiquated FBI computer systems likely caused the bureau to lose thousands of documents about the Oklahoma City bombing that the government failed to turn over to Timothy McVeigh's attorneys.

News of the mistake came just days after the FBI reported that it had selected DynCorp to spearhead its Trilogy program, a three-year plan to upgrade its information technology infrastructure.

The Justice Department notified McVeigh's attorneys of the documents on May 10, acknowledging that they should have been made available during the discovery phase of the bombing trial, according to a Justice statement.

The documents include investigation reports, interview notes and physical evidence such as photographs, correspondence and tapes, Justice officials said.

FBI archivists in Oklahoma City found the 3,135 documents as they made a final search for records related to the bombing at the agency's 56 field offices. Neither FBI nor Justice officials would comment on the specific systems that the bureau uses to track such documents.

Attorney General John Ashcroft postponed McVeigh's scheduled execution until June 11 to give his lawyers and the government an opportunity to review the material.

The document mix-up follows the FBI's award of the first contract under its Trilogy program. The contract will provide for the upgrade of the FBI's worldwide IT networks, computer systems and selected software applications, officials said.

The contract has a value of more than $51 million in the first year, FBI officials said. About $100 million has been collected for the program from previous funding approvals.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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