Scientists contend that Ivins could not have manufactured anthrax

Three experts contend that the U.S. Army microbiologist accused of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, Bruce Ivins, did not have the technical skill to produce the spores that were used to kill five people and injure 17.

The researchers, anthrax expert Martin Hugh-Jones, molecular biologist Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and chemist Stuart Jacobson, plan to publish their findings in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Bioterrorism & BIodefense, according to

The team argues that particles of tin and silicone found in the spores were not random contaminants, but indicators of the presence of a complex coating used for the mass production of pharmaceuticals.

Ivins, they say, lacked the technical expertise to use the method and neither he, nor the Fort Detrick, Maryland, lab in which he worked, possessed the equipment required for the process.

The Department of Justice, which closed the investigation last year, has disputed the scientists’ findings.

“Speculation regarding certain characteristics of the spores is just that — speculation,” DOJ spokesman Dean Boyd said, reports. “We stand by our conclusion.”

Hugh-Jones challenged the DOJ to test the team’s hypothesis.

“The DOJ forgets that we are scientists and all ‘speculation’ are hypotheses which are subject to testing to see if they have any basis in hard fact,” Hugh-Jones said, reports. “I hope [the findings] will add to the pressure that the investigation be actively reopened.