On Tuesday, 6 July 2004, a Washington judge will receive a secret report from the FBI concerning advances made in the 2001 Anthrax investigation.
Various sources are revealing, that a year ago, it was discovered that the Anthrax used in the 2001 attacks has a distinctive signature that may help
in the hunt for the perpetrator of these attacks.
Distinct signature found in ’01 anthrax
Discovery raises hope that source can be traced
By Scott Shane
Sun National Staff
Originally published July 4, 2004
In a possible break for the FBI's investigation of the anthrax letters of 2001, scientists have discovered that the mailed anthrax was a mix of two
slightly different samples, giving the bacteria a distinct signature that might make it easier to match with a source, according to two non-government
experts who have been told of the finding.
The discovery that bacteria taken from the letters all grew in the double pattern was made at least a year ago, and it is not known whether the FBI's
hunt for a matching sample has succeeded. The bureau and its scientific consultants are screening dozens of anthrax samples collected all over the
United States and in some foreign countries, seeking the closest match to the spores used in the attack, according to a scientist who advises the FBI.
The revelation of the double pattern of the mailed anthrax comes as the FBI is due Tuesday to give a Washington judge a secret progress report on the
investigation the bureau calls Amerithrax, which is well into its third year without visible results.
The finding that the attack anthrax came from a combination of two distinct samples is one small step in that new science. Like other bacteria,
anthrax grown in the laboratory forms tiny colonies of bacteria that can have particular physical characteristics. Colonies from different strains or
samples can be larger or smaller, have more or less uneven edges or form distinctive shapes.
While all the anthrax used in the attacks is a variant of the Ames strain, scientists found that the spores recovered from the envelopes grew into two
slightly different kinds of colonies.
That might mean part of the original sample was removed from a freezer and grown for a period of days, allowing very slight genetic mutations, and
then recombined with the original sample, according to the two outside experts familiar with the tests. The perpetrator might then have taken a sample
from the mixed batch and used it to grow the bacteria used in the attack. The double pattern gives the mailed anthrax one more distinctive
characteristic to be compared with possible sources.
"Potentially, that could be very useful," one scientist said.
Whether the secret FBI report will ever be published remains unclear. The FBI will certainly want to prevent information in the secret report from
prejudicing any future trial.
[edit on 4-7-2004 by zero lift]