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John DeMaggio discusses forensics and intelligence

On Wednesday, March 16th, John M. DeMaggio, Special Agent in Charge (ret)/ Captain USN (ret), discussed “Application of Forensic Science to Intelligence Analysis.”

He began by describing a scenario in which forensic science was used on a tactical level – a case in which eyewitnesses had a very different story than that of the forensic evidence. Seven people ended up being tried for perjury as a result. Capt. DeMaggio then outlined several characteristics and advantages of forensics on this tactical level – for instance, it is objective, it can be done without the consent of the people involved, it is admissible in court, and it can shed light on what further needs there are for collection requirements.

He moved on to describe the use of forensics for intelligence purposes, and that the advantages of forensics for these types of uses are similar to the advantages of forensics on the tactical level. When the Soviets exploded an atomic bomb in 1949, forensics allowed the US to collect evidence by flying planes nearby and picking up particles from the air, as opposed to sending someone into the Soviet laboratories. It also allowed the US to identify exactly what type of bomb it was without any help from the Soviets, and this knowledge drove future intelligence-gathering efforts for the United States.

Capt. DeMaggio also reviewed other incidents – from the cracking of the code of the Enigma machine to the more recent poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko- to illustrate various advantages the field of forensics provides.

Questions included inquiries about how tactical Army missions can most effectively utilize forensics, the ability of other countries to conduct forensics analysis, and whether both people in the counterintelligence and forensics field are aware of the possibility of strategic deception through forensics.