FBI says Ivins case still strong

The FBI recently took issue with an editorial in the New York Times that claimed the government’s case against Bruce Ivins, the U.S. Army researcher implicated in the 2001 anthrax attacks, has been weakening steadily.

Michael P. Kortan, the assistant director of public affairs for the FBI, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times defending the bureau’s assertion that Ivins was the lone perpetrator of the attacks and, particularly, that the anthrax used came from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Kortan wrote that the National Academy of Sciences backed the FBI’s assertion that the anthrax used in the mailings was consistent with the anthrax produced in Ivins’s suite. The NAS report also stated that it was impossible to determine the origins of the anthrax based on science alone.

“But investigators and prosecutors have long maintained that while science played a significant role, it was the totality of the investigative process that ultimately determined the outcome of the anthrax case,” Kortan wrote, the New York Times reports.

The assistant director also took issue with the assertion that the additional chemicals found in the anthrax used in the attacks points to a more complex manufacturing process than Ivins was capable of. Kortan said that scientists from both inside and outside the FBI disagree with this conclusion and that Ivins had the ability to weaponize the spores.

The FBI further said that it is directly relevant that Ivins spent long hours alone in the lab’s hot suites, where the anthrax genetically linked to the attacks was produced and handled.

“[Ivins] had not done that before the mailings, nor did he ever do it again,” Kortan wrote, the New York Times reports.

Kortan also accused Ivins of providing a misleading anthrax sample in April 2002, one that was free of the genetic markers that might have pointed towards his guilt. The FBI, Kortan claims, received spore samples with incriminating genetic markers from Ivins before he apparently realized that they could be used against him or after the FBI seized them directly.