FBI Opens New Digital Forensics Lab

The FBI officially opened its new digital crime lab today. The facility will help the Houston area's law enforcement process electronic evidence, such as computers and cell phones. Bill Stamps has more.

Whether it's: the Mayor of Detroit caught sending sexy text messages to a staff member, the Harris County D.A. caught sending  explicit emails on his work computer, or a drug dealer setting up a deal on his cell phone -- law enforcement agents say they are dealing with more and more cases that involve electronic evidence.

In order to process that evidence the FBI has opened a new state of the art digital forensics lab in Houston.  Special Agent Andrew Bland says Enron is a prime example of why the new facility was needed.

"The largest corporate fraud case in United States history. The reason the convictions were ultimately obtained by the United States Attorney's office was because of the evidence that was examined by the Houston lab. They went through thousands and thousands of documents with full text searches. They did imaging and reviewed thousands of computers that were owned by Enron employees."

The new lab is more than double the size of the old one, and will serve more than 700 area law enforcement agencies in the region.

But even as technology gets faster, Agent Ryan Dusek says processing the evidence still takes time.

"As the capacity to store digital evidence gets larger, the speeds of the computers get faster, but the transfer rate of that doesn't at this time so the amount of evidence that has to to be reviewed by the examiner culminates in a large amount of time."

Electronic evidence is a prosecutors  best friend -- that's because it's hard for a defendant to convince a jury that someone else was using your blackberry, or someone else stored porn on your personal hard drive.

"It's irrefutable. It's on that thing, on that equipment,  and we will testify in court to that."

Bill Stamps Houston Public Radio News.