CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

Archive for March 5th, 2012

* In Have We “Met the Enemy”?, Science 3 February 2012: Vol. 335 no. 6068 pp. 540-541, Dr. David Relman, who had been vice-chairman of the NAS Committee, explains:

Posted by DXer on March 5, 2012

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David Relman

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“By 2010, when the Amerithrax investigation was closed by the U.S. Department
of Justice, there were two components of the case: the possible linkage
between the material in the letters and a flask of B. anthracis spores at the
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in
Fort Detrick, Maryland, and the assessment about who might have used the
contents of the flask to prepare and send the letters. Had the case gone to
trial, the strengths of the two components would have been weighed and
integrated by the prosecution and then challenged by the defense. But
because the lead suspect, Bruce Ivins (a microbiologist at USAMRIID),
committed suicide, we do not have the benefit of court proceedings. Without
such, we must refrain from trying this man in the courtroom of public
opinion.

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In early 2011, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released the results of
a 20-month review of the science used to build the first component of the
case along with nearly 10,000 pages of supporting documents previously held
by the Department of Justice (1). The National Research Council (NRC)
committee found that it is impossible to arrive at a definitive conclusion
about the origin of the letter spores based on the available scientific
evidence alone. The scientific data generated by and on behalf of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) provided leads as to a possible source
(flask RMR-1029) but did not rule out other sources. In contrast, the
Department of Justice’s Amerithrax Investigative Summary states conclusively
that the flask was the source of the spores in the letters.  …

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There were problems with the representativeness
of the FBI repository of B. anthracis samples against which the letter
material was compared. The FBI failed to aggressively pursue an alternative
explanation: that some of the mutations in the letters might have arisen by
parallel evolution rather than by derivation from the flask. Similar kinds
of mutations are known to occur with large-scale production of anthrax
spores using bulk serial passaging (1). Guillemin also ignores other NRC
criticisms, including questions about the reliability of the genetic assays
used to look in the repository for the mutations found in the letters. In
addition, she describes some of the details of the science-based
investigation incorrectly, such as the number of positive samples from a
clandestine effort to assess a possible overseas source of the spores and
the number of collection missions that yielded positive samples. Although
seemingly minor, these incorrect descriptions of the scientific findings may
lend credence to the Department of Justice’s overstated conclusions …”

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* “Security” (2010) ; Most book authors in their summary of Amerithrax agree with Dr. David Relman’s approach in the piece this past month in “Science” and urge that critical thinking is required.

Posted by DXer on March 5, 2012

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* The Encyclopedia Of Unsolved Crimes (2d ed. 2009); What Warranted The Classification And Withholding Of Materials From The NAS in 2010? Overclassification Serves Merely To Obscure.

Posted by DXer on March 5, 2012

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