Published Date: 2010-09-21 18:00:09
Subject: PRO/AH> Anthrax, human, 2001 - USA (06)
Archive Number: 20100921.3407
ANTHRAX, HUMAN, 2001 - USA (06)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 20 Sep 2010
Source: SecurityInfoWatch.com/The Frederick News-Post, Maryland [edited]
GAO to review FBI's Ivins investigation
Investigation will seek to resolve unanswered questions surrounding
the 2001 anthrax attacks. The Government Accountability Office [GAO]
has launched an investigation into the scientific methods used by the
FBI to determine that Fort Detrick researcher Bruce Ivins was the
sole perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks.
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, who represents the New Jersey district from
which the letters were mailed, requested GAO's involvement as early
as 2007, but renewed his efforts after the FBI announced it had
closed its Amerithrax investigation last February . Holt and 4
other lawmakers originally proposed a list of 10 questions for GAO to
help answer, including how the anthrax spores used in the attacks
compared to anthrax produced in this country and in locations around
the world, what amount of time and material would go into creating
the quantity of anthrax spores used in the attacks, and why the FBI
had not yet been able to close the case.
The FBI questioned Ivins, a researcher at the U.S. Army Medical
Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, throughout the entire
investigation, but named him as the suspect only after he committed
suicide in July 2008.
Many of Ivins' former co-workers and several lawmakers -- including
Sen. Chuck Grassley, one of the 4 who helped Holt pursue the GAO
investigation and who has been a vocal critic of the FBI's work on
the case -- are still not convinced the FBI adequately proved Ivins'
guilt. "The American people need credible answers to many questions
raised by the original attacks and the subsequent FBI handling of the
case," Holt said in a news release. "I'm pleased the GAO has
responded to our request and will look into the scientific methods
used by the FBI."
Specifically, the GAO investigation will seek to answer 3 main questions:
- What forensic methods did the FBI use to conclude Ivins was the
sole perpetrator, and how reliable are those methods?
- What scientific concerns and uncertainties still remain regarding
the FBI's conclusion?
- What agencies monitor foreign containment labs, and how do they
monitor those labs?
Holt had also requested that several House of Representatives
committees question the FBI's methods and results, and he has called
for a commission similar to the one that looked into the government's
response to the 11 Sep 2001 attacks. Neither effort has made much
progress thus far. "It's still a priority for him," said Holt
spokesman Zach Goldberg. "He continues to get supporters for it, but
it hasn't gotten traction in the larger Congress, which is certainly
disappointing. He still feels that this is something that needs to be
looked at for a variety of reasons -- that the families deserve
answers to a myriad of questions."
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who represents Western Maryland, was not part
of the group that signed the letter to GAO but has been working to
get more answers since the FBI closed the Amerithrax case. "I welcome
the forthcoming investigation by the Congress' General Accounting
Office of a series of important unanswered questions about the FBI's
investigation," Bartlett said. "These questions have undermined the
credibility of the FBI's conclusions."
The GAO investigation will be the 1st congressionally directed review
of the FBI's case; another review, done by the National Academy of
Sciences, was requested by the FBI itself 2 years ago.
The NAS investigation is scheduled to wrap up by the end of [this]
year. In GAO's letter to Holt confirming it would look into the FBI
investigation, Ralph Dawn Jr., GAO managing director of congressional
relations, wrote that to avoid any overlap between the 2 groups'
investigations, they would 1st review the NAS study before
determining the scope of the GAO one. Goldberg said the GAO would
start its investigation soon, if it hadn't begun already. He said the
GAO hadn't announced a timeline for its investigation but said that
Holt wasn't worried about rushing things along. "Of course (Holt)
wants it to be comprehensive and not rushed in any way," Goldberg
said. "The important thing is that the questions get addressed."
[Byline: Megan Eckstein, The Frederick News-Post, Maryland)
[The NAS committee has maintained an admirable silence and without
leaks. The release date for their report is not known but expected to
be sometime in the Fall and before Christmas. I suspect that this
efficiency is partly to blame for US Representative Holt's move to
get the GAO involved. We will not know the thoroughness of the NAS
investigation until its report is out. - Mod.MHJ]