Questions raised as to guilt of Bruce Ivins in 2001 anthrax attacks

In an article written by Edward Epstein in the Wall Street Journal's Opinion section, Epstein has claimed that Bruce Ivins, long thought to be the source of the 2001 American anthrax attacks, was not guilty.

Epstein notes that the anthrax used in the attacks had silicon in it, which was used in the 1960s to weaponize anthrax. Siliconized anthrax vaporizes into the air, which is what happened when letters sent to Sens. Leahy and Dashcle were opened.

This means, Epstein posits, that the anthrax sent to the senators had silicon added to it. This was a common practice to weaponize silicon in the 1960, wherein anthrax spores were coated with silicon. After international treaties banned the weaponization of anthrax, research anthrax was no longer coated.

Ivins, Epstein says, would not have had the skills or the means to siliconize anthrax spores, a process he says would have required highly specialized equipment that was not available in Ivins' Fort Detrick lab or anywhere on the facility.

“I don’t think there’s anyone there who would have the foggiest idea how to do it," Richard Spertzel, a former biodefense scientist working with Ivins, said in a private briefing, Epstein says.

The FBI said that traces of silicon in the 2001 attacks could have been absorbed naturally from water and nutrients in which they were grown, though no such nutrients were found in Ivins' lab.

An FBI lab report from April 17 reported that 1.4 percent of the anthrax in the Leahy letter was silicon - a number that is common when anthrax is weaponized but not from accidental contamination.

Fifty-six subsequent tests to prove that anthrax could accidentally absorb silicon performed by scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs in California were performed without success. Their results for accidental exposure were as low as .001 percent.

The FBI's investigation into the attacks remains open, though it will not comment on specifics.