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Guidelines for the Identification of Unknown Samples for Laboratories Performing Forensic Analyses for Chemical Terrorism


  • This document is based on publication number 09-22 of the Laboratory Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This is an internal number, and the information in this document has not been publically presented or published. Names of commercial manufacturers are provided for identification purposes only, and inclusion does not imply endorsement by the FBI. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the FBI, the US Government, or the views of their agency or affiliation.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Matthew L. Magnuson, Ph.D.
US Environmental Protection Agency
National Homeland Security Research Center
26 West Martin Luther King Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45268


Abstract:  Since the early 1990s, the FBI Laboratory has sponsored Scientific Working Groups to improve discipline practices and build consensus among the forensic community. The Scientific Working Group on the Forensic Analysis of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism developed guidance, contained in this document, on issues forensic laboratories encounter when accepting and analyzing unknown samples associated with chemical terrorism, including laboratory capabilities and analytical testing plans. In the context of forensic analysis of chemical terrorism, this guidance defines an unknown sample and addresses what constitutes definitive and tentative identification. Laboratory safety, reporting issues, and postreporting considerations are also discussed. Utilization of these guidelines, as part of planning for forensic analysis related to a chemical terrorism incident, may help avoid unfortunate consequences not only to the public but also to the laboratory personnel.