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NAS to review anthrax evidence

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) yesterday (September 16) announced it will turn over scientific evidence against their chief suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks, a US army microbiologist who linkurl:committed suicide;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54907/ in July, to scientists at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for independent review. Bruce Ivins, a researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Institute for Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Md, conducted studies on anthrax

By | September 17, 2008

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) yesterday (September 16) announced it will turn over scientific evidence against their chief suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks, a US army microbiologist who linkurl:committed suicide;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54907/ in July, to scientists at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for independent review. Bruce Ivins, a researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Institute for Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Md, conducted studies on anthrax vaccines and was involved in analyzing samples for the FBI in its investigation of the attacks, which killed five people, sickened 17, and created chaos around the country. He committed suicide on July 29, as FBI officials prepared to indict him as the sole culprit in the attacks. In the weeks that followed, FBI officials released evidence showing how scientists working on the investigation had used DNA fingerprinting to trace the anthrax spores to a flask in Ivins' laboratory. However, some scientists, lawmakers, and members of the public have expressed skepticism, calling on the agency to be more transparent with the details of the investigation, noting the circumstantial nature of the evidence against Ivins, and suggesting that he had been scapegoated by the agency. The FBI and the NAS had been discussing the possibility of an NAS review for the past few weeks, and FBI Director Robert Mueller said yesterday in a House Judiciary Committee hearing that the agency would ask NAS to review the evidence. He said that with more than 60 non-FBI scientists having participated in the investigation, the scientific evidence had been vetted by researchers, but that the review would resolve some lingering scientific questions, linkurl:according to ScienceNOW.;http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2008/916/1 Vahid Majidi, the head of FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction directorate, told ScienceNOW that the agency is putting together a document outlining the scope of the NAS review, and said that the agency intends "to share all of our scientific evidence with the reviewers." NAS reviews generally take about six to 18 months to complete, NAS spokesperson Bill Kearney linkurl:told the AP,;http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gBlAAdzjtMryYGvNIIVF1k02ZFMwD93835P80 and a study of the type required in this case could cost anywhere from several hundred thousand dollars to $1 million of federal funds.
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