New doubts on killer anthrax?

The anthrax case is closed. Or is it?
Last summer, NOVA scienceNOW outlined the microbial detective work that led investigators to a single flask in Bruce Ivins' laboratory at Fort Detrick. As the Justice Department was preparing to indict Ivins, Ivins committed suicide, and the Justice Department declared the case closed.

Now, a former colleague is speaking out in Dr. Ivins' defense. Speaking before a National Academy of Sciences panel, Henry Heine argued that Ivins could not have produced the deadly spores without drawing attention from his lab technicians and without accidentally contaminating other lab spaces. Dr. Heine doesn't dispute that the killer spores were a genetic match with the spores in Ivins' lab, but he points out that Ivins was not the only scientist who had access to samples from that flask.

Would an innocent man have committed suicide upon learning that he was about to be indicted? Ask Steven Hatfill, who was also suspected--but later cleared--in the anthrax case. In the Atlantic this month, Hatfill describes the ordeal:

"It's like death by a thousand cuts," Hatfill, who is now 56, says today. "There's a sheer feeling of hopelessness. You can't fight back. You have to just sit there and take it, day after day, the constant drip-drip-drip of innuendo, a punching bag for the government and the press."

Science got investigators pretty far: It led them to one flask, in one lab, led by one scientist. But it didn't erase doubts from those who think that the Justice Department never really got their man.

Publicist Note: The fifth season of "NOVA scienceNOW" hosted by renowned astrophysicist, author, and Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, Neil deGrasse Tyson premieres in 2011. NOVA scienceNOW covers four timely science and technology stories per one-hour episode. The new season, each episode tackles one BIG question such as Where did I come from? How does the brain work? and What's the next big thing?

User Comments:

it always struck me as a bit shady that all the victims of anthrax letters leaned a bit to the left. now who might benefit from such an obvious ploy at the time? luckily most of these "letter bombs" werent fatal. although sad for those that were.

So, anthrax has been around for so many years this story probably doesn't even touch who died from something like this and how many thousands of years poison killings have been going on. My first thought was how can these killers go to the stores and nobody sees demons sticking to them? That being true, someone who works for the dark forces knows how easy it is go about undetected. Those with degrees have much great expectations to find a job that's going to pay very much and they take these jobs with these killer organizations that have spies coming in with conspiracies and plots and plans to corrupt them after they are educated...It seems to me that taking religion out of schools, takes out the stability that those rules give to people. They seem to have only one rule at these degree jobs. 'Honor the boss' because of the paycheck. So, who owns the company? With the scientists in question dead...does this release responsibility of the corporation that hired those that work with this substance?

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