Anthrax Evidence Getting Mixed Reaction
A day after federal authorities opened some of their files in the anthrax investigation, scores of colleagues, friends, family and observers continue to weigh in on the credibility of the government's evidence and the guilt, or lack thereof, of Bruce E. Ivins, the Fort Detrick, Md., scientist accused of carrying out the worst domestic bioterrorist attack in the nation's history.
Families of the victims of the attack say they are satisfied with the results, with one widow contending that the new revelations bolster her lawsuit against the government. And some of the people who were investigated by federal agents early in the case expressed relief that the case appeared near to being closed.
A roundup of developments:
-- The Post interviewed a onetime counselor of Ivins, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. She said she was so alarmed by Ivins's emotionless description of a plan to kill a young woman that she immediately alerted the head of her clinic and a psychiatrist who had treated Ivins, as well as the Frederick Police Department.
Another woman, Nancy L. Haigwood, who was studying microbiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the mid-1970s, said Ivins took an obsessive interest in her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. She said Ivins's "intrusive" questions made her uncomfortable; that he was suspected of spray-painting her boyfriend's car and on a fence behind their house; and that she contacted the FBI in 2002 regarding Ivins's bizarre behavior.
Some Congressional critics told The Post that they wondered whether one man could really have carried out the elaborate attacks.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) called for a "full-blown accounting" of the $15 million investigation, which took nearly seven years and included multiple wrong turns, The Post's Carrie Johnson, Del Quentin Wilber and Dan Eggen report. Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), from whose district the letters were mailed, called for hearings to address questions such as "why investigators are so certain that Ivins acted alone."
-- Some independent scientists, friends and colleagues of Ivins told the New York Times they remained skeptical, noting that officials admitted that more than 100 people had access to the supply of anthrax that matched the powder in the letters.
Two bioterrorism experts who reviewed the evidence at the request of The Times said the bureau would have to release "far more scientific evidence" to convince specialists.
Dr. Thomas V. Inglesby, deputy director of the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said the search warrant affidavits offered only incomplete data on how the letter anthrax was linked genetically to Ivins's lab to the letters and almost nothing on the preparation of the powder.
Jonathan B. Tucker, a biological warfare expert on the staff of a federal commission for the prevention of terrorism with unconventional weapons, said the documents contained "a number of gaps and inferences."
-- On the other hand, some scientists familiar with the FBI's work told The Wall Street Journal that they found the evidence convincing. George Weinstock, an expert in microbial genetics at Washington University at St. Louis who was not involved in the investigation, reviewed the affidavit and said he believes the evidence is "pretty strong."
-- Martin E. Hugh-Jones, an anthrax expert and longtime colleague of Ivins, told The Los Angeles Times that the FBI's scientific evidence seemed thin, arguing that the bureau did not apply the rigorous tests employed by scientists checking their own hypotheses for weaknesses.
By Derek Kravitz |
August 7, 2008; 4:09 PM ET
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