According to the New York Times:
"A former microbiologist who worked for years with Bruce E. Ivins, whom the F.B.I. has blamed for the anthrax letter attacks that killed five people in 2001, told a National Academy of Sciences panel on Thursday that he believed it was impossible that the deadly spores had been produced undetected in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory, as the F.B.I. asserts.
Asked by reporters after his testimony whether he
believed that there was any chance that Dr. Ivins, who committed suicide in
2008, had carried out the attacks, the microbiologist, Henry S. Heine, replied,
“Absolutely not.” At the Army’s bio-defense
Dr. Heine told the 16-member panel, which is reviewing the F.B.I.’s scientific work on the investigation, that producing the quantity of spores in the letters would have taken at least a year of intensive work using the equipment at the army lab. Such an effort would not have escaped colleagues’ notice, he added later, and lab technicians who worked closely with Dr. Ivins have told him they saw no such work.
He told the panel that biological containment measures where Dr. Ivins worked were inadequate to prevent the spores from floating out of the laboratory into animal cages and offices. “You’d have had dead animals or dead people,” he said.
The public remarks from Dr. Heine, two months after the Justice Department officially closed the case, represent a major public challenge to its conclusion in one of the largest, most politically delicate and scientifically complex cases in F.B.I. history.
The F.B.I. declined to comment on Dr. Heine’s remarks on Thursday. In its written summation of the case in February, the bureau said Dr. Ivins’s lab technicians grew anthrax spores that the technicians incorrectly believed were added to Dr. Ivins’s main supply flask. But the summary said the spores were never added to the flask, suggesting that surplus spores might have been diverted by Dr. Ivins for the letters.
Some scientists and members of Congress protested in February when the
Justice Department closed the case, saying it should have waited for the
academy panel’s conclusions. The F.B.I. asked the panel last year to review the
bureau’s scientific work on the case, though not its conclusion on the
perpetrator’s identity. Members of the panel, whose chairwoman is Alice P. Gast, a chemical engineer
and president of
Since shortly after Dr. Ivins took a lethal dose of Tylenol in July 2008 and the
Justice Department first named him as the anthrax mailer, some former
colleagues have rejected the F.B.I.’s conclusion and said they thought he was
innocent. They have acknowledged, as Dr. Heine did on Thursday, that they
wanted to clear the name of their friend and defend their laboratory, the United States Army
Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Dr. Heine said he had been
treated as a suspect himself at one point and understood the pressure Dr. Ivins
was under. Asked why he was speaking out now, Dr. Heine noted that Army officials had
prohibited comment on the case, silencing him until he left the government
laboratory in late February. He now works for Ordway Research Institute in
“Whoever did this is still running around out there,” Dr. Heine said. “I truly believe that.”