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'US scientist' is suspect in anthrax investigation'
Oliver Burkeman in New York
Wednesday February 20, 2002
The FBI has a suspect for last year's anthrax attacks, but is "dragging its heels" because he is a former government scientist familiar with secret state-sponsored research, a leading American expert on biological warfare said yesterday.
The man also sent a hoax letter to the US Senate from Britain and may once have worked in the laboratory to which his letters were sent for testing, said Barbara Rosenberg, director of the Federation of American Scientists' chemical and biological weapons working group. Quoted in the Trenton Times of New Jersey - based in the town to which most of the genuine anthrax mailings have been traced - Professor Rosenberg said that investigators had interrogated the suspect twice since October.
"There are a number of insiders - government insiders - who know people in the anthrax field who have a common suspect," she said in a speech at Princeton University. "The FBI has questioned that person more than once _ so it looks as though the FBI is taking that person very seriously." She referred several times to a potential perpetrator as "he".
Anthrax attacks 14/3/02
A Newsnight investigation raised the possibility that there was a secret CIA project to investigate methods of sending anthrax through the mail which went madly out of control.
The shocking assertion is that a key member of the covert operation may have removed, refined and eventually posted weapons-grade anthrax which killed five people.
In the wake of Sept 11th, the anthrax attacks caused panic throughout the States and around the world. But has the FBI found the whole case too hot to handle?
The DNA sequence of the anthrax sent through the US mail in 2001 has been revealed and confirms suspicions that the bacteria originally came from a US military laboratory.
The data released uses codenames for the reference strains against which the attack strain was compared. But New Scientist can reveal that the two reference strains that appear identical to the attack strain most likely originated at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick (USAMRIID), Maryland.
The new work also shows that substantial genetic differences can emerge in two samples of an anthrax culture separated for only three years. This means the attacker's anthrax was not separated from its ancestors at USAMRIID for many generations.
And in yet another strange twist, on March 14, a bomb and two smaller explosive devices were found at the Shelby County Regional Forensic Center, which houses the morgue and Medical Examiner's Office that conducted Wiley's autopsy. Dr. O.C, Smith, the medical examiner, told Memphis' Commercial Appeal, "We have done several high-profile cases from Dr. Wiley to Katherine Smith (a Department of Motor Vehicles employee mysteriously found burned to death in her car after being charged in a federal probe with conspiracy to obtain fraudulent drivers' licenses for men of Middle East origin) but there has been no indication that we offended anyone . . . we just don't know if we were the attended target or not."
Knowledgeable U.S. and foreign intelligence sources have revealed that Wiley may have been silenced as a result of his discovery of U.S. government work on biological warfare agents long after the U.S., along with the Soviet Union and Britain, signed the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.
charged in a federal probe with conspiracy to obtain fraudulent drivers' licenses for men of Middle East origin)
Originally posted by ferretman2
Precausions have been placed throughout the US postal service. Mail now passes through machines where the mail is bombarded with ultraviolet light (I think it's ultra violet) that will kill any anthrax spores. These machines have been in place for a couple of years now.
So it is a moot point until it happens again. Though I would still not play with any powder that shows up in the mail.
Five years after the anthrax attacks that killed five people, the FBI is now convinced that the lethal powder sent to the Senate was far less sophisticated than originally believed, widening the pool of possible suspects in a frustratingly slow investigation.
The finding, which resulted from countless scientific tests at numerous laboratories, appears to undermine the widely held belief that the attack was carried out by a government scientist or someone with access to a U.S. biodefense lab.
In addition, the strain of anthrax used in the attacks has turned out to be more common than was initially believed, the officials said.
As a result, after a very public focus on government scientists as the likely source of the attacks, the FBI is today casting a far wider net, as investigators face the daunting prospect of an almost endless list of possible suspects in scores of countries around the globe.
"There is no significant signature in the powder that points to a domestic source," said one scientist who has extensively studied the tan, talc-like material that paralyzed much of Washington in the deadliest bioterrorism attack in U.S. history.
... and other unnamed scientists are brought in to comment.
The FBI would not allow Beecher to be interviewed about his article.