Expert warns about anthrax record keeping, security

In an editorial for, Paul Gordon, a historian and former mayor of Frederick, Md., said he was concerned about the lack of adequate record keeping and security related to anthrax in the U.S.
The editorial is in response to the government's fight against a lawsuit filed by the estate of Robert Stevens in December 3, 2003. Stevens was a photo editor working for American Media, Inc., in Florida who was exposed to anthrax and died during the postal service attacks in 2001, reports.
"The government has fought the suit in Florida courts, claiming it could not be liable for third-party criminal activity since it had no duty to protect a stranger nor a duty or ability to control a third party responsible for the anthrax mailing," Stevens said, according to "The court held that case law required a duty to protect all others exposed to any 'reasonable risk of harm' from their activities. In other words, Mr. Stevens was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. The government had the responsibility to protect innocent parties."
Stevens said the government's 25 pages of facts to support the dismissal of the suit lists rules and regulations that were in place before the anthrax attacks. Those regulations did not require mandatory searches of all personnel, more guards, video in the lab rooms or the inspection of people coming into and leaving the facility. The July 15 statement by the government also claimed that the Army separated its inventory of hazardous substances into reference stocks and working stocks. Because working stock requirements were left to the discretion of the commander and anthrax used in the 2001 mailings was from the working stock, the government claimed the weaponized bacteria was not its responsibility to regulate.
Stevens said the filing also defends the government's security practices by declaring high costs for video monitors in every lab, which prevented them from putting the cameras in place. In addition, the filing said having someone or something looking over the shoulders of the scientists was a detriment to research and showed a lack of trust in their integrity.
"As a neighbor of Fort Detrick and (the) United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, I find the filing disturbing," Stevens said, according to "USAMRIID’s spokeswoman, Caree Vander-Linden, said, 'The safety of the USAMRIID staff and the security of the biological agents on which it works have always been top priority, even before the events of 2001.' The government’s filing hardly supports that position."