Just days after bio-defense researcher Bruce Ivins died from an overdose of Tylenol in July 2008, the FBI declared that he was the sole perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.
Ivins, who was developing vaccines against anthrax at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., had a flask of anthrax that closely matched the anthrax used in the attacks on several media outlets and the offices of two senators.
But there is one problem with the FBI’s conclusion: silicon.
Silicon was used in the 1960s to weaponize anthrax, turning it into a lethal aerosol, according to author Edward Jay Epstein, who offered a fresh look at the anthrax attacks in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. The anthrax used in the attacks contained silicon, while Ivins’ flask contained none.
Moreover, Epstein found that Ivins did not have the means to attach silicon to anthrax spores, which requires highly specialized equipment not present at the Fort Detrick facility.
“So while Ivins’ death provided a convenient fall guy, the silicon content still needed to be explained,” Epstein wrote.
The FBI asserted that the silicon could have been accidentally absorbed by the anthrax spores from the water and nutrients in which they were grown.
But in April 2009, an FBI lab disclosed that 1.4 percent of the powder in the anthrax-laden letter sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy was silicon — a “shockingly high proportion,” chemist Stuart Jacobson told Epstein.
Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs in California conducted experiments in September to learn how much silicon could be absorbed by anthrax spores from a medium heavily laced with silicon. The tests fell far short of 1.4 percent and “effectively blew the FBI’s theory out of the water,” Epstein observed.
The experiments showed that the silicon had to have been deliberately added to the anthrax spores, and since Ivins did not have the means to do that, someone else must have done it, Epstein wrote. He concluded:
“So even though the public may be under the impression that the anthrax case had been closed in 2008, the FBI investigation is still open — and unless it can refute the Livermore findings on the silicon, it is back to square one.”
Epstein is currently writing a book about the 9/11 Commission. He notes on his Web site that the Commission’s report did not deal with “possible evidence linking at least one 9/11 hijacker to anthrax in Florida.”
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