In fact, the official foot-dragging continues, in a manner of speaking. Thorough as far as it went, the Justice Department report went only so far: It pursued only the specific allegations that Whitehurst made, and focused only on three of the 23 units that comprise the FBI lab.
It was "not a criminal investigation," Inspector General Michael R. Bromwich emphasized. And although investigators heard of problems in other lab units, particularly the polygraph unit, none was addressed in the report.
What happens next? Much of that is in the hands of Reno, who has said that 55 cases were identified as potential problems for the government so far.
Should she fail to pursue those strenuously, such critics as Sen. Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has been escalating his attacks on the FBI, is likely to pick up the slack.
But Reno's number may only represent the tip of the iceberg. Every case the FBI bomb lab has handled may well be challenged.
As anchorman Charlie Gibson asked a legal expert on "Good Morning America" on Wednesday, "What about the other cases going back to the '80s, '70s and '60s? Are all those cases going to be called into doubt?"
One thing for sure: Just like the Navy when Tailhook exploded, the FBI lab is in for a long, rough voyage. And like the Navy, it will survive - much changed.
Jeff Stein is a former deputy foreign news editor for UPI. He wrote about the FBI lab in the April issue of Playboy.
Pub Date: 4/20/97