Find Post Investigations On:
Facebook Scribd Twitter
Friendfeed RSS Google Reader
» About This Blog | Meet the Investigative Team | Subscribe
Ongoing Investigation

Top Secret America

The Post explores the top secret world the government created in response to the attacks of Sept. 11.

Ongoing Investigation

The Hidden Life of Guns

How guns move through American society, from store counter to crime scene.

Have a Tip?

Talk to Us

If you have solid tips, news or documents on potential ethical violations or abuses of power, we want to know. Send us your suggestions.
• E-mail Us


Post Investigations
In-depth investigative news
and multimedia from The Washington Post.
• Special Reports
• The Blog

Reporters' Notebook
An insider's guide to investigative news: reporters offer insights on their stories.

The Daily Read
A daily look at investigative news of note across the Web.

Top Picks
A weekly review of the best
in-depth and investigative reports from across the nation.

Hot Documents
Court filings, letters, audits and other documents of interest.

D.C. Region
Post coverage of investigative news in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

Washington Watchdogs
A periodic look into official government investigations.

Help! What Is RSS?
Find out how to follow Post Investigations in your favorite RSS reader.

Hot Comments

Unfortunately I believe that we are limited in what we can focus on. I think that if we proceed with the partisan sideshow of prosecuting Bush admin. officials, healthcare will get lost in the brouhaha.
— Posted by denamom, Obama's Quandary...

Recent Posts
Bob Woodward

The Washington Post's permanent investigative unit was set up in 1982 under Bob Woodward.

See what you missed, find what you're looking for.
Blog Archive »
Investigations Archive »

Have a Tip?
Send us information on ethics violations or abuses of power.
E-Mail Us »

Notable investigative projects from other news outlets.
On the Web »
Top Picks »

Work Suspended at Ivins' Anthrax Lab

POSTED: 11:49 AM ET, 02/10/2009 by Derek Kravitz

The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick is the Army's chief facility for infectious disease research.

Research at the Maryland laboratory where Bruce E. Ivins allegedly developed a deadly strain of anthrax that killed five people in 2001 has been suspended after a spot check found samples of a dangerous pathogen that were not properly listed in its inventory.

Work was stopped at the laboratory last week after inspectors found four extra samples of Venezuelan equine encephalitis, The Washington Post's Nelson Hernandez reports. They discovered 20 samples of the pathogen in a box of vials instead of the 16 that had been listed in the institute's database, officials said.

In a memo obtained by the blog ScienceInsider, which first reported the breach in record-keeping, Col. John P. Skvorak attributed the undocumented pathogens to accounting errors, transcription errors or materials left behind by former employees (the latter of which was reiterated by unnamed sources to both The Post and The New York Times).

When such inventory problems occurred in the past "we either added it to the database or documented destruction, but overages now require submission of a Serious Incident Report, which goes to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army," Skvorak wrote Feb. 4. "I believe that the probability that there are additional vials of BSAT not captured in our AIMS database is high," using the acronym for Biological Select Agents and Toxins.

Venezuelan equine encephalitis is a mosquito-borne pathogen that affects all types of equine animals, such as horses and donkeys, resulting in central nervous system disorders or death.

The disease can affect humans, resulting in flulike symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Those with weakened immune systems, such as the very young or the elderly, can become "severely ill or die from this disease."

A full-blown outbreak of VEE has not been seen in the United States since 1971 but surveillance activities of the disease has been stepped up ever since an outbreak was reported in 1993 in Chiapas, Mexico.

A "labor intensive" inventory of all of the lab's many thousands of research vials and specimens is expected to take months. The Fort Detrick lab conducts research on the world's deadliest pathogens, including the Ebola virus.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department and the Army institute at Fort Detrick are set to go to court with the widow of one of the anthrax victims, Florida tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens who was the first to die in 2001 when anthrax-laced letters were mailed anonymously to politicians and news media organizations.

His widow, Maureen Stevens, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, alleging that the government failed to make sure that anthrax spores at the Fort Detrick lab were properly secured.

By Derek Kravitz |  February 10, 2009; 11:49 AM ET
Previous: DOJ Backs 'State Secrets', California Prison Crowding, Obama Recruits' Golden Parachutes | Next: The Big Names in Baseball's Steroids Scandal


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining


© 2010 The Washington Post Company