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By ERIC LICHTBLAU and DAVID JOHNSTON
The New York Times
Published: August 15, 2008
WASHINGTON — Growing doubts from scientists about the strength of the government’s case against the late Bruce E. Ivins, the military researcher named as the anthrax killer, are forcing the Justice Department to begin disclosing more fully the scientific evidence it used to implicate him.
In the face of the questions, Federal Bureau of Investigation officials have decided to make their first detailed public presentation next week on the forensic science used to trace the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks to a flask kept in a refrigerator in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory at Fort Detrick, in Maryland. Many scientists are awaiting those details because so far, they say, the F.B.I. has failed to make a conclusive case.
“That is going to be critically important, because right now there is really no data to make a scientific judgment one way or the other,” Brad Smith, a molecular biologist at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “The information that has been put out, there is really very little scientific information in there.”
F.B.I officials say they are confident that their scientific evidence against Dr. Ivins, who killed himself last month as the Justice Department was preparing an indictment against him, will withstand scrutiny, and they plan to present their findings for review by leading scientists. But the scrutiny may only raise fresh questions.
The bureau presented forensics information to Congressional and government officials this week in a closed-door briefing, but a number of listeners said the briefing left them less convinced that the F.B.I. had the right man, and they said some of the government’s public statements appeared incomplete or misleading.