USDOJ, 2010, pp. 75-79, for a description of the circumstances surrounding the disputed sample). The chapter ends with the committee’s major findings regarding the genetic evidence relevant to the source of the B. anthracis spores used in the letter attacks.
At the time of the anthrax mailings, the federal government had not systematically collected information on which laboratories possessed anthrax. Although the “Select Agents” program was created in 1996 by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (Public Law 104-132), this statute governed primarily the transfer of biological agents between research laboratories. The Act directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue regulations governing the transport of biological agents with the potential to pose severe threats to public health and safety through their use in bioterrorism, the so-called “select agents” (NRC, 2009). The authority to regulate select agents was delegated by the HHS Secretary to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To ensure that these agents were transferred only between responsible parties, CDC required that any laboratories that might transfer select agents be registered and that transfers be reported to CDC and conducted under a permitting system. As long as the select agents were not transferred, specific information about the facilities that possessed these agents did not have to be reported (NRC, 2009b).
The determination that the Ames strain of B. anthracis was used in the attacks led to a process by which the FBI searched for and acquired samples of known and accessible derivative stocks of that strain for comparison. As noted in Chapter 2, the Ames strain had been widely distributed among laboratories around the world for research and vaccine trials, so the FBI first had to identify all laboratories that maintained stocks of the strain. Next, the Bureau had to obtain samples of these Ames strain derivatives, which would constitute the FBIR and be screened for the presence of the mutant genotypes found in the letters (see Chapter 5). To this end, the FBI prepared and issued a subpoena that included a protocol for the collection and submission of Ames strain samples (Box 6-1). This subpoena was sent in February 2002 to 16 laboratories or facilities in the United States that had been identified as possessing stocks of the Ames strain. (It was subsequently determined that one of these domestic laboratories did not possess the Ames strain1.) In addition to the subpoenas,
1 According to the FBI (discussion with committee, December 11, 2009), 16 U.S. laboratories were originally identified as candidates for having the Ames strain. According to the DOJ case closing summary, however, only 15 domestic laboratories were confirmed as repositories of the Ames strain (USDOJ, 2010, p. 17). CDC provided a listing of all laboratories registered to work with B. anthracis, and FBI investigators created their own list based on CDC select agent transfer records documenting every transfer of anthrax between 1997 and 2001 as well as anthrax inventory records