I chose the following short AP report from the WaPo because it gets right to the point:
NATIONWIDE (AP) – The Government Accountability Office says the science the Federal Bureau of Investigations used to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks was flawed.
The GAO released a report Friday on its findings. The agency didn’t take a position on the FBI’s conclusion that Army biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins acted alone in making and sending the powdered spores that killed five people and sickened 17 others.
The report adds fuel to the debate among experts, including many of Ivins’ co-workers at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, over whether Ivins could have made and mailed the anthrax-filled envelopes.
The GAO said the FBI’s research did not provide a full understanding of the methods and conditions that give rise to genetic mutations used to differentiate between samples of anthrax bacteria. The report calls this a “key scientific gap.”
This is the crux of the matter. Yet FBI has said it stands by its case.
UPDATE: “A spokesman for the FBI said the agency does not intend to reopen the case.”
Why would FBI say anything else? They have no need to provide any arguments or evidence, having successfully hounded one of their (several) suspect scientists until he committed suicide. Recall that FBI floated many different theories of the case before settling on Ivins as the perpetrator, a full 6-7 years after beginning its investigation.
Once the NAS report came out, FBI sang a different tune. It wasn’t the science that was definitive; rather, it was the totality of the forensic evidence.
Except: what evidence was FBI referring to? There was no direct evidence linking Ivins to the crime, nor evidence it was even possible to manufacture a sufficient quantity of spores in the Army facility where he worked.
“…New scientific methods were developed that ultimately led to the break in the case—methods that could have a far-reaching impact on future investigations.
Today, retiring Congressmember and physicist Rush Holt (who requested the GAO study and will lead the AAAS in February) said the report:
“confirms what I have often said — that the F.B.I.’s definitive conclusions about the accuracy of their scientific findings in the Amerithrax case are not, in fact, definitive. The United States needs a comprehensive, independent review of the Amerithrax investigation to ensure we have learned the lessons from this bio attack.”