The antrax drama continues. Three leading antrax scientists, long critical of the FBI investigation into who made and mailed deadly antrax spores in 2001, have written a new paper that calls for reopening the case.
Both the chairwoman of a National Academy of Science panel that spent a year and a half reviewing the F.B.I.’s scientific work and the director of a new review by the Government Accountability Office said the paper raised important questions that should be addressed.
Other antrax scientists disputed the new claims. Yet it remains unclear why the FBI dropped any reference to tin after calling it ‘an element of interest’ early on in investigation. The question is whether the tin was used as part of the antrax production, meaning the process was too sophisticated to be carried out by suspect Bruce Ivins alone or was an incidental contaminant from another source.
Scientists have criticized the FBI since day one of the antrax scare. In its most high-profile misstep, the FBI hounded former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, for years seeking to bring a case against him as the murderer. When Bruce Ivins was named the perpetrator shortly after committing suicide in anticipation of being accused, Dr. Hatfill was exonerated and paid $4.5. million in compensation.
This is the first bioterrorism case pursued by the FBI in the United States. The continuing dispute over the science and methods used in the investigation reflects its importance as a prototype of bioterrorism forensic work.