Case against Ivins inconclusive, scientific review says

A scientific review on the 2001 case of deadly anthrax mailings found there was insufficient evidence to support the original conclusion that the strains had been created in the lab of scientist Bruce Ivins.

Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008, was believed to have been responsible by the FBI for sending anthrax to politicians and journalists in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, AFP reports.

“It is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the B. anthracis in the mailings based on scientific evidence alone,” the National Academy of Sciences report said, according to AFP.

The FBI attempted to narrow down the source of the anthrax by creating a repository of potential samples by labs that maintain anthrax in its original investigation, but the repository was incomplete and the FBI requested scientists provide their own samples.

“Standards of custody evidence would dictate that agents of the FBI should have obtains the samples,” the report continued, according to AFP. “The sender could have been the instigator and may not have complied with instructions, as the FBI alleges with respect to Dr. Ivins.”

The report also found that multiple growth steps would have been required in between the strain found in Ivins lab and the strains in New York and Washington. It is also believed the strains sent to different cities came from separate batches.

The NAS reviewers pointed out that they only used biological, physical and chemical sciences and did not use traditional forensic science methods.

“The FBI has long maintained that while science played a significant role, it was the totality of the investigative process that determined the outcome of the anthrax case,” the FBI said in a statement, AFP reports.