- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2008

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told lawmakers Tuesday that an independent panel will review the science that the bureau relied on to conclude a troubled Army microbiologist carried out the 2001 anthrax attacks.

“We’re in discussions with and are going to request the National Academy of Sciences review the work that was done in the course of this investigation,” Mr. Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee. “But as I say, the national academy is an independent entity and will be conducting a review.”

The FBI has identified Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins, 62, of Frederick, Md., as the sole culprit in the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five people and sickened 17 others. Mr. Ivins committed suicide in July as authorities prepared to charge him.

In the wake of Mr. Ivins’ death, the FBI, citing overwhelming public interest, took the unusual step of releasing information and documents related to the case. The bureau said the newly developed science allowed investigators to match the anthrax spores used in the attacks to spores in a flask that Mr. Ivins controlled.

Questions about Mr. Ivins’ guilt remain.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, noted that the FBI concluded silicon found in the anthrax used in the attacks occurred naturally. But Mr. Nadler said he wanted to know what percentage of the poisonous mixture was silicon.

It’s an important point, Mr. Nadler said, because a person likely added the silicon if it makes up more than 0.5 percent of the mixture. He said Mr. Ivins’ colleagues have said Mr. Ivins did not have the expertise to make such a mixture.

Mr. Nadler also asked how the FBI determined the anthrax used in the attacks came from Mr. Ivins’ lab at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., and not from one of the other laboratories that work with the deadly bacteria.

Mr. Mueller said he did not immediately have the answers to those questions, but that he would find out.

“I hope you will get back to us relatively quickly with the percentage of the silica and why the facilities were ruled out” Mr. Nadler said.

“We’ll do so, sir,” Mr. Mueller responded.

Mr. Mueller is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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