Since the founding of the FBI in 1908, the Department of Justice has refused to audiotape or videotape interviews with criminal suspects. Federal agencies gave a variety of reasons for refusing to do so. For example, an internal FBI memo argued that jurors would be offended if they saw the psychological tricks agents used to get information. Generally, FBI interviews would have one agent conducting the interview while a second wrote notes.
On May 12th, the DOJ changed this century-old policy. Now, interrogations of suspects in custody are presumptively required to be audiotaped, and preferably videotaped. The departments covered by this change include the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS).
This change was long overdue according to many commentators. Defense lawyers have long been able to cast doubt on legitimate testimony, and in many cases suspects allege that federal agents have lied about what the suspects told them. Additionally, evidence has been lost and jurors now expect this kind of evidence during trials. If they wanted to, it was possible for either side to mischaracterize the evidence and potentially get a jury to believe something other than the truth. Thanks to this new policy change, these concerns should hopefully be eliminated.