House member questions anthrax letter information

A senior member of the House of Representatives has asked the FBI to explain why he was allegedly sent “incomplete and misleading” information concealing a lab test connected to the 2001 anthrax attack.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York demanded an explanation in a letter Wednesday to FBI Director Robert Mueller. A lab test showed a soaring level of silicon in one of the anthrax-laden letters that led to the deaths of five people during the 2001 attacks, the Miami Herald reports.  

The request by Nadler comes on the heels of a McClathy Newspapers story that reported FBI lab data suggested that a silicon-based chemical may have been added to the anthrax powder to heighten its potency.

Some scientists have said that concocting such a chemical formula may have been beyond the expertise of the late Bruce Ivins, the anthrax researchers who committed suicide in July 2008 after finding out he’d been accused of the attacks.

"Were additional samples tested to determine the extent to which the ones examined were representative of the New York Post letter material?" Nadler wrote, according to the Miami Herald.

During a Judiciary Committee hearing following Ivins’ death, Nadler asked Mueller how much silicon was found in the anthrax-filled letters sent to the newspaper and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Mueller asked whether he could respond later in writing. Seven months later, the Justice Department replied the letter to Leahy contained 1.4 percent silicon by mass, but that the limited amount of material prevented a reliable quantitative assessment. A second sample found that the Leahy powder contained 1.8 percent silicon.

The bureau advised the academy panel that an FBI lab test found that another sample had 10.8 percent silicon by mass in the Post letter. Nadler wrote that the response in April 2009 from the acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs, “appears to have been incomplete and misleading,” according to the Miami Herald.