Tag Archives | antrax investigation

Scientists Challenge Antrax Investigation – Again!

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.

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Antrax Investigation Again Doubted

The government’s statements deepen the questions about the case against Ivins, who killed himself before he was charged with a crime. Searches of his car and home in 2007 found no anthrax spores, and the FBI’s eight-year, $100 million investigation never proved he mailed the letters or identified another location where he might have secretly dried the anthrax into an easily inhaled powder. . . . – Glen Greenwald, Salon

As incredible as it sounds, major doubts are surfacing about the FBI’ s case against Bruce Irvin, who committed suicide four years ago rather than be accused of the crime.

This entire case has been bizarre.  First, the Feds were sure that Dr. Stephen Hatfill was responsible for the deaths of five people in 2001.  He was hounded mercilessly for years by FBI agents as well as the media.  The NYT virtually tried and convicted him on its front page.

Then, suddenly, the FBI said it was wrong: the real culprit was Ivins.  Although admitting their case against Ivins was circumstantial, the FBI insisted it was slam-dunk.  Now, however, the Justice Department admits that Dr. Ivins’ laboratory, when seized by the FBI, did not have the equipment necessary to weaponize the anthrax strain he studied professionally.  Scientists who worked with him insist he could not have ‘grown’ the amount of anthrax spores associate with the attack without his colleagues knowing about it.  Other microbiologists are demanding that the FBI investigators release more information on the scientific method that led them to their conclusions.

In excerpts from one of more than a dozen depositions made public in the case last week, the current chief of of the Bacteriology Division at the Army laboratory, Patricia Worsham, said it lacked the facilities in 2001 to make the kind of spores in the letters.

At issue is 1) the FBI’s competency to protect against domestic terrorism; and 2) whether the FBI gave sufficient attention to the possibility of a foreign agent sending the lethal spores through the US Post Office to select Congressional office and media.

Greenwald’s piece provides extensive links to scientific journals, mainstream media and individual scientists who are skeptical of the FBI investigations.




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