A significant number of scientists and biological warfare experts are expressing skepticism about the FBI's view that a single disgruntled American scientist prepared the spores and mailed the deadly anthrax letters that killed five people last year.
These sources say that making a weaponized aerosol of such sophistication and virulence would require scientific knowledge, technical competence, access to expensive equipment and safety know-how that are probably beyond the capabilities of a lone individual.
As a result, a consensus has emerged in recent months among experts familiar with the technology needed to turn anthrax spores into the deadly aerosol that was sent to Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., that some of the fundamental assumptions driving the FBI's investigation might be flawed.
"In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them," said Richard Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission between 1994 and 1998. "And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good."
Instead, suggested Spertzel and more than a dozen experts interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks, investigators might want to reexamine the possibility of state-sponsored terrorism, or try to determine whether weaponized spores might have been stolen by the attacker from an existing, but secret, biodefense program, or perhaps given to the attacker by an accomplice.
The Defense Department and FBI refused repeated requests from The Post to discuss recent developments in the anthrax investigation. But in some important respects, the official version of events -- developed in part during the early, frantic days of the probe -- is at odds with the available evidence, the experts say.
A profile of the attacker issued by the FBI last November described an angry, "lone individual" with "some" science background who could weaponize the anthrax in a basement laboratory for as little as $2,500.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.