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August 25, 2008
Volume 86, Number 34
p. 6

Validation

FBI's Anthrax Analysis

Experts discuss experimental techniques used to identify suspect Ivins

Rochelle Bohaty

FBI OFFICIALS and scientific experts revealed more information about the scientific experiments used to study anthrax spores disseminated in 2001 mailings at a briefing held on Aug 18. The briefing aimed to ease speculation about the bureau's conclusions.

Randy Montoya
Sandia scientists (from left) Michael, Paul G. Kotula, and Ray Goehner, gather TEM images of B. anthracis spores.

"After nearly seven years of investigation, we have developed a body of powerful evidence that allows us to conclude that we have identified the origin and the perpetrator of the 2001 Bacillus anthracis mailings," said Vahid Majidi of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate.

Last month, FBI officials identified Bruce E. Ivins, a longtime anthrax investigator at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), based in Fort Detrick, Md., as the primary suspect in the case. Ivins' death on July 29 from an apparent suicide spurred controversy and speculation about the FBI investigation. Although the FBI does not typically disclose evidence against suspects who have not been officially charged, the circumstances surrounding this case drove the bureau to do so.

At the briefing and in a subsequent interview with C&EN, FBI officials note that in addition to tests used to differentiate strains of anthrax, analytical techniques—such as scanning and transm