Saturday, December 11, 2010

FBI interferes with release of NAS report on the scientific aspects of the Amerithrax case

As I told the audience at the Anthrax Letters Seminar on November 29,
Please remember that the FBI “owns” the narrative of this case.  It has released piecemeal findings, contradictory facts, and withheld a large amount of information from the public record... 
Most important, the facts of this case (as opposed to what the FBI has released in a controlled fashion) have never been contested and established in a court of law.
 FBI's newest gambit is intended to reshape the (FBI-purchased) National Academy of Sciences study of FBI's science (FBI clearly wasn't happy with the almost-published report it was given to review), as FBI tries to retain control of the anthrax letters narrative.

According to Yudhijit Bhattacharjee at Science magazine,
The FBI has belatedly provided an expert panel with new information that will delay a long-awaited report on the scientific merits of the government's investigation into the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings...  The academy panel submitted the report to the FBI on 27 October. On 3 December, FBI officials provided new material and asked for an opportunity to make a presentation before the committee.
According to Greg Gordon at McClatchy,
A New Jersey congressman has called the request "disturbing" and asked the FBI for an explanation. 
In a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller Thursday, Democratic Rep. Rush Holt said that it appears that the FBI "may be seeking to try to steer or otherwise pressure the NAS panel to reach a conclusion desired by the bureau." 
Holt, a scientist and the chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, said the academy recently shared with the bureau its draft report on the "Amerithrax" investigation, a narrow scientific review that the FBI requested in 2008 in an effort to quell controversy over its findings that a disgruntled government scientist was behind the attacks. 
"This week I was informed by the NAS that the FBI would be releasing an additional 500 pages of previously undisclosed investigative material from the Amerithrax investigation to the NAS," he wrote. Holt said he understands that the "document dump . . . is intended to contest and challenge the independent NAS panel's draft findings."
"If these new documents were relevant to the NAS' review, why were they previously undisclosed and withheld?" Holt wrote. He requested a meeting with the FBI director...
 According to Megan Eckstein at the Frederick NewsPost,
The FBI's move came as a surprise to the academy. Spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh said on Nov. 30 the committee was finalizing its report for the upcoming release, and in a Dec. 10 e-mail she wrote "at that time we didn't know we would receive any relevant information.
"We were surprised given our prior request for all relevant information," she said. "Some, but not all, of what the FBI has now turned over is relevant to the committee's charge, and they are the type of materials we requested previously. However, I can't characterize what types of materials they are."
Information on Congressman Holt's response to the latest FBI trick and his letter to FBI Director Mueller can be found here.

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