FBI requests extension of National Academy of Sciences report on its anthrax methodology

Posted in Bioterrorism at 9:24 am by George Smith

From the New York Times:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has requested a last-minute delay in the release of a report on the bureau’s anthrax investigation by the National Academy of Sciences, prompting a congressman to say that the bureau “may be seeking to try to steer or otherwise pressure??? the academy’s scientific panel “to reach a conclusion desired by the bureau.???

That Congressman would be Rush Holt of New Jersey, who along with Roscoe Bartlett, is a core anthrax-denier in Congress.

The uptick here is that NAS will be critical of the FBI’s science. And the bureau must obviously know it. But the NAS will also not exonerate Bruce Ivins.

Since the FBI’s conclusions were built on circumstantial evidence, not all of which involved the hard science used in analysis of the mailed anthrax it … will probably leave things as they are now.

Although the analysis of the FBI’s scientific rigor won’t be pretty, knowing the way science operates, the NAS report will most probably conservatively stop short of condemning it.

Suspicion of the bureau will remain strong. A good deal of news will be generated. All the critics of the anthrax investigation will get their say once again. There will be more talk about silicon. And there will be more cries to clear Ivins. The FBI will hold its position and the investigation will remain closed. The cycle will continue.

These things were all already baked into the cake when the NAS was commissioned to do its report.

More from the NY Times:

Dr. Ivins killed himself in 2008 and was never criminally charged. Some of his colleagues at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases say they do not believe he was guilty. The F.B.I. had already paid another former Army scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, a settlement worth $4.6 million to drop a lawsuit saying the bureau had falsely accused him of being the anthrax mailer.

E. William Colglazier, the academy’s executive officer, said the F.B.I.’s request was a surprise and came after the bureau saw the panel’s peer-reviewed final report, which was scheduled for release in November. He said that the committee’s 15 members, top scientists who serve as volunteers, were “exhausted,??? but that the panel had agreed to extend the study and consider revising the report in return for an additional fee, probably about $50,000, beyond the $879,550 the F.B.I. has already paid for the study.

Dr. Colglazier declined to say if the report was critical of the F.B.I.’s work but said it was “very direct.??? The report sticks to science and does not offer an opinion on whether Dr. Ivins carried out the anthrax attacks, he said.

In September, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, agreed to conduct its own review of the F.B.I.’s anthrax investigation, with a broader approach that also covers security measures at biolabs.

The Times story is here.

1 Comment

  1. Jason said,

    December 14, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Caught my eye, too. I’m wondering what the NAS report will say. “Flawed science procedures but correct outcome?”

    Scientists. Bah. Live in their own unique world.