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DHS Prepares Scientists to Testify in Nuclear Smuggling Court Cases

Last month, the DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) participated in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) workshop, “Presenting Nuclear Forensic Findings in Court,” in Karlsruhe, Germany. DHS was part of a U.S. delegation of federal partners from the Department of State, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Sixteen GICNT partner nations and three observing international organizations also participated in this workshop.

DNDO delivered a presentation on our planning for a national educational awareness program to prepare U.S. scientists to serve as effective expert witnesses in nuclear smuggling cases, which DHS is developing in coordination with DOE and the FBI. Successful prosecution of nuclear smuggling often hinges on technical nuclear forensic evidence and the ability of expert witnesses to convey the credibility of the scientific evidence in court. The program will help U.S. law enforcement agencies and international partners to ensure that nuclear smugglers are prosecuted and punished.

Through DHS’s educational awareness program, scientist participants will have the opportunity to practice their skills using a fictional set of nuclear forensic case materials. The program will cover every step a scientist would take in preparation for an actual court appearance and will conclude in a mock trial. Expert feedback and lessons learned will provide participants with a set of technical and communication skills that will be invaluable should they serve as nuclear forensic witnesses in a real court setting.

Although this program is designed for cases within the U.S. legal system, DHS plans to work with partner nations to modify the modules for expert witness testimony in their legal systems. Preventing and deterring nuclear smuggling helps keep illicit materials out of terrorist hands and protects our nation and our international partners. The GICNT is a key forum to collaborate with partner nations to further global nuclear security.

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