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Panel: FBI Overstated Science Behind Anthrax Probe

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(Credit: AP)

(Credit: AP)

Mike Hellgren 370x278 Mike Hellgren
WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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WASHINGTON (WJZ) — The 2001 anthrax attack left five people dead.  An accused Fort Detrick researcher eventually took his own life, but a panel of scientists is raising doubts about the case against him.

Mike Hellgren has an in-depth look at their findings.

This report is extremely detailed: almost 200 pages.  What it boils down to is that there are no absolutes.  The scientists could not determine 100 percent whether Bruce Ivins was behind the mailings that terrified the nation.

A panel of respected scientists could not conclusively determine whether Ivins, a microbiologist at Fort Detrick in Frederick, singlehandedly carried out anthrax attacks, lacing letters that killed five people, sickened 17 more and wreaked havoc on the Postal Service just after the 2001 terror attacks.

Their report reveals that there are genetic similarities in the strains of anthrax but scientific evidence is not conclusive and the government overstated the evidence against Ivins.

“We believe we’re helpful here in pointing out the uncertainties,” said Alice Gast, National Research Council.

The FBI’s massive investigation spanned the globe and federal investigations still believe Ivins was behind the anthrax attacks, saying, “The FBI has long maintained that while science played a significant role, it was the totality of the investigative process that determined the outcome of the anthrax case.”

Ivins, who killed himself two years ago, lived across the street from Fort Detrick.  His daughter said the family is still so upset by what happened that they have no further comment.

Other supporters say he was an innocent man and the government investigation drove him over the edge.

“My God, the dam was breaking and all this pressure on him…” said his brother, Tom Ivins.

The FBI commissioned this report to eliminate doubt, but the scientists failed to do that.  They criticized the feds’ collection of samples and say the government failed to explore all links.

“We’re not asked to and will not offer any view on the guilt or innocence of any person or persons,” Gast said.

Ivins’ daughter says the family is fed up with all the media attention this story has gotten.  Ivins died of an overdose of Tylenol and Valium.

As far as the government is concerned, this case is closed.

The report cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

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