... More problematic is the investigative work that led the F.B.I. to conclude
that only Dr. Ivins, among perhaps 100 scientists who had access to the same
flask, could have sent the letters.
The case has always been hobbled by a lack of direct evidence tying Dr. Ivins to the letters. No witnesses who saw him prepare the powdered anthrax or mail the letters. No anthrax spores in his house or car. No incriminating fingerprints, fibers or DNA. No confession to a colleague or in a suicide note, just opaque ramblings in e-mail that the F.B.I. interprets as evidence of guilt.
The agency’s 92-page report sets forth a
mass of circumstantial evidence that points to Dr. Ivins. He worked alone in the
laboratory at night and on weekends just before the mailings, outside his usual
pattern. He often made long drives to mail letters from distant post offices
Although he was a vaccine expert, not a weapons expert, he apparently had the skill and equipment to produce the highly purified spores used in the letters. That conclusion in particular ought to be validated by independent analysis.
The cumulative weight of the evidence seems persuasive. But the F.B.I. has a troubling history of building a circumstantial case against suspects who are later exonerated. We are inclined to agree with Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, who is calling for an independent assessment to validate the findings. Americans need to be sure that the real culprit or possible accomplices are not still at large, waiting to do damage again. And we need to head off conspiracy theories that are apt to be fostered if the only judgment available comes from an agency eager to clear its books.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
From the February 27 NY Times
Posted by Meryl Nass, M.D. at 10:14 AM