NYT Calls for New Anthrax Investigation

October 18, 2011

Evidence that Dr. Bruce Ivins is the anthrax killer is looking “increasingly shaky” says a New York Times editorial published today:

The government’s scientific case has been weakening for months. In February, the National Academy of Sciences warned that the genetic analysis “did not definitively demonstrate” that the mailed anthrax was derived from spores grown in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory. Last week, The Times reported that one of the leading anthrax authorities and two colleagues believe that distinctive chemicals in the mailed anthrax suggest it was produced by sophisticated manufacturing, which the scientists deemed far beyond Dr. Ivins’s capabilities. Although some experts think the chemicals might be meaningless contaminants, the chief of the academy panel and the leader of a pending Government Accountability Office review think the group’s assertions in a future paper need to be addressed.

As for the circumstantial evidence, an investigation by FRONTLINE, assisted by ProPublica and the McClatchy newspapers, cast doubt on two elements that prosecutors had declared important. A contention that Dr. Ivins worked extraordinarily long hours alone at night in his laboratory just before the mailings looked less suspicious after the journalists found that he regularly worked late hours in other labs and offices. And a contention that Dr. Ivins tried to mislead investigators by submitting an anthrax sample free of genetic markers looked questionable after the journalists found that he had submitted other samples that contained the markers.

The Times editorial suggests a forthcoming Government Accountability Office investigation “needs to dig deeply into classified materials” to assess the strength of the government’s case against Ivins. “Otherwise, Congress ought to commission an independent assessment to be sure there are no culprits still at large,” it concludes.

Read the editorial here. And if you missed The Anthrax Files, our investigation with ProPublica and McClatchy into the country’s most notorious act of bioterrorism, watch it here.

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