William Broad and Scott Shane write in the NYT (10/9/11) …
- biologists and chemists still disagree on whether federal investigators got the right man and whether the FBI’s long inquiry brushed aside important clues.
- three scientists argue that distinctive chemicals found in the dried anthrax spores — including the unexpected presence of tin — point to a high degree of manufacturing skill, contrary to federal reassurances that the attack germs were unsophisticated. The scientists make their case in a coming issue of the Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense.
Both the chairwoman of a National Academy of Science (NAS) 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 (GAO)
said the paper raised important questions that should be addressed.
- Alice P. Gast, president of Lehigh University and the head of the academy panel, said that the paper “points out connections that deserve further consideration.”
Dr. Gast, a chemical engineer, said the “chemical signatures”
in the mailed anthrax and their potential value to the criminal investigation
had not been fully explored.
She also noted that the academy panel suggested a full review
of classified government research on anthrax,
which her panel never saw.
- In interviews, the three authors said their analysis suggested that the F.B.I. might have pursued the wrong suspect and that the case should be reopened.
- Their position may embolden calls for a national commission to investigate the first major bioterrorist attack in American history.
- Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said the paper provided “no evidence whatsoever that the spores used in the mailings were produced” at a location other than Fort Detrick. He said investigators believe Dr. Ivins grew and dried the anthrax spores himself. “We stand by our conclusion.”
- In addition to Dr. Hugh-Jones, the authors of the new paper are Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a biologist, and Stuart Jacobsen, a chemist; both have speculated publicly about the case and criticized the F.B.I. for years.
- In 2008, days after Dr. Ivins’s suicide, the bureau made public a sweeping but circumstantial case against him. Last year, the bureau formally closed the case, acknowledging that some scientific questions were unanswered but asserting that the evidence against Dr. Ivins was overwhelming.
Yet no evidence directly tied Dr. Ivins to the crime.
- Some of the scientist’s former colleagues have argued that he could not have made the anthrax and that investigators hounded a troubled man to death.
- In its report last February, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel sharply criticized some of the F.B.I.’s scientific work, saying the genetic link between the attack anthrax and a supply in Dr. Ivins’s lab was “not as conclusive” as the bureau asserted.
- If the authors of the new paper are correct about the silicon-tin coating, it appears likely that Dr. Ivins could not have made the anthrax powder alone with the equipment he possessed, as the F.B.I. maintains.
That would mean either that he got the powder from elsewhere
or that he was not the perpetrator.
- If Dr. Ivins did not make the powder, one conceivable source might be classified government research on anthrax, carried out for years by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency. Dr. Ivins had ties to several researchers who did such secret work.
- The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is conducting its own review (still ongoing) of the anthrax evidence. Nancy Kingsbury, the official overseeing the project, said the agency had spoken with the paper’s authors and judged that “their questions are reasonable.”
- Several anthrax scientists who reviewed the new paper at the request of The Times said they believed it neglected the possibility that the tin and silicon were meaningless contaminants rather than sophisticated additives.
- Dr. Gast, the head of the National Academy of Sciences panel, noted that her group strongly recommended that future investigations of the attacks examine the government’s classified work on anthrax.
- She called access to secret records “an important aspect of providing more clarity on what we know and what we don’t know.”
read the entire article at … http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/science/10anthrax.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss
LMW COMMENT …
I have long held that the FBI’s publicly presented case against Dr. Ivins is clearly bogus: no evidence, no witnesses, an impossible timeline, science that proves innocence instead of guilt. So what really happened? And why doesn’t the FBI offer America a credible story?
As regular readers of this blog well know, I can imagine only 3 possible “actual” scenarios …
- The FBI has more evidence against Dr. Ivins but is, for some undisclosed reason, withholding that evidence … POSSIBLE BUT NOT SO LIKELY
- The FBI, despite the most expensive and extensive investigation in its history, has not solved the case and has no idea who prepared and mailed the anthrax letters that killed 5 Americans in 2001 … EVEN LESS LIKELY
- The FBI knows who did it (not Dr. Ivins) but is covering up the actual perpetrators, for undisclosed reasons …THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO