Anthrax Source Probably Domestic
The Baltimore Sun
Saturday 12 April 2003
U.S. Army scientists have reproduced the anthrax powder used in the 2001 mail attacks and concluded that it was made using simple methods, inexpensive equipment and limited expertise, according to government sources familiar with the work.
The findings reinforce a theory that has guided the FBI's 18-month-old investigation -- that the mailed anthrax was probably produced by renegade scientists, not a military program such as Iraq's.
"It tends to support the idea that the anthrax came from a domestic source and probably not a state program," said David Siegrist, a bioterrorism expert at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. "It shows you can have a fairly sophisticated product with fairly rudimentary methods."
The new research, carried out at the Army's biodefense center at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, raises the disquieting possibility that al-Qaida and other terrorist groups could create lethal bioweapons without scientific or financial help from a state. The Bush administration had cited the possibility that Iraq might supply weapons to al-Qaida as a key reason for overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
"It would be better for our country if they'd concluded that [the mailed anthrax] had to have been made in a big facility with a lot of biowarfare experts," said David Franz, a former Army biodefense official and consultant on bioterrorism.
But Richard Spertzel, a biowarfare expert and former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, said he has heard that the Dugway research failed to match exactly the purity and small particle size of the mailed anthrax. Though he has no involvement in the case, he believes the FBI would be wrong to rule out Iraq or other states as the source of the deadly powder.
Van Harp, assistant FBI director in charge of the Washington field office, who oversees the anthrax investigation, declined to comment on what he called "uninformed speculation" about the anthrax research.
But Harp said 50 investigators are still working on what the bureau calls the Amerithrax case, backed by "a huge scientific effort."
The anthrax-laced letters were mailed on Sept. 18 and Oct. 9, 2001. The attack killed five people and sickened at least 17 others, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to clean up government offices and postal facilities.
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