In addition to civilian law enforcement agencies, various branches of the military conduct forensic investigations into accidents and deaths. One of these branches is the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). NCIS is responsible for providing law enforcement on behalf of United States Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families. Originally part of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), the organization was staffed primarily by military personnel, whereas today it is largely staffed with civilians. NCIS has been involved in murder investigations and drug sweeps, and since September 11, 2001, it has also taken on a homeland security role. All these activities can involve forensic analyses.
NCIS began as part of ONI, which was deployed during World War II to detect potential spies and saboteurs on the domestic front. Through the end of World War II, the investigative branch of ONI was composed mainly of military personnel. In the postwar era, however, the Secretary of the Navy developed a coterie of civilian agents responsible for conducting criminal investigations, counterintelligence, and security background investigations on naval and marine personnel and civilians associated with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
Only on February 4, 1966, did the Naval Investigative Service (NIS), as NCIS's predecessor was called, gain an identity separate from that of ONI. Nonetheless, it remained a part of the naval intelligence office. In 1972, the newly formed Defense Investigative Service took over responsibility for background checks, leaving NIS free to concentrate on counterintelligence and criminal investigations. During the 1980s, the organization went through a number of name changes until, in December 1992, it gained its present identity.
NCIS has received numerous accolades for its efficiency, not least for the work of its "cold-case squad," which attempts to solve old, previously unsolved crimes. The latter has reopened scores of previously unsolved homicide cases, and successfully solved dozens. This work is not possible without the application of modern forensic science techniques.
Working with the cold-case squad of the Fairfax County, Virginia, law-enforcement authorities, for instance, NCIS helped solve a homicide case that was extremely "cold"o much so that the accused had finished high school, had a full career in the Navy, and retiredll in the quarter-century between the murder and his arrest.
The case involved Paul S. Sorensen, who was 16 years old in 1975, when he allegedly stabbed to death a convenience store clerk while robbing a 7-Eleven. Sorensen entered the Navy after graduating high school in 1976, and in 1999, having attained the rank of chief petty officer, retired to Corpus Christi, Texas. Three years later, and five years after NCIS and Fairfax County reopened the cold case, Sorensennowing that he would soon be arrested anywayurned himself in to authorities.
Another example of NCIS at work was the drug sweep that in July 2002 netted 84 marines and sailors at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Code-named Operation Xterminator, the sweep took two years and yielded $1.4 million in narcotics.
SEE ALSO Careers in forensic science; Cold case; Military police, United States; United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).