• The development and validation of the variant morphotype mutation assays took a long time and slowed the investigation. The committee recognizes that the genomic science used to analyze the forensic markers identified in the colony morphotypes was a large-scale endeavor and required the application of emerging science and technology. Although the committee lauds and supports the effort dedicated to the development of well-validated assays and procedures, looking toward the future, these processes need to be more efficient. (Finding 5.6)

• A distinct Bacillus species, B. subtilis, was a minor constituent of the New York Post and Brokaw (New York) letters, and the strain found in these two letters was probably the same. B. subtilis was not present in the Daschle and Leahy letters. The FBI investigated this constituent of the New York letters and concluded, and the committee concurs, that the B. subtilis contaminant did not provide useful forensic information. While this contaminant did not provide useful forensic information in this case, the committee recognizes that such biological contaminants could prove to be of forensic value in future cases and should be investigated to their fullest. (Finding 5.3)

S.3 The FBI created a repository of Ames strain B. anthracis samples and performed experiments to determine relationships among the letter materials and the repository samples. The scientific link between the letter material and flask number RMR-1029 is not as conclusive as stated in the DOJ Investigative Summary.

• The FBI appropriately decided to establish a repository of samples of the Ames strain of B. anthracis then held in various laboratories around the world. The repository samples would be compared with the material found in the letters to determine whether they might be the source of the letter materials. However, for a variety of reasons, the repository was not optimal. For example, the instructions provided in the subpoena issued to laboratories for preparing samples (i.e., the “subpoena protocol”) were not precise enough to ensure that the laboratories would follow a consistent procedure for producing samples that would be most suitable for later comparisons. Such problems with the repository required additional investigation and limit the strength of the conclusions that can be drawn from comparisons of these samples and the letter material. (Finding 6.1)

• The FBI faced a difficult challenge in assembling and annotating the repository of B. anthracis Ames samples collected for genetic analysis. (Finding 6.9)

• The results of the genetic analyses of the repository samples were consistent with the finding that the spores in the attack letters were derived from RMR-1029, but the analyses did not definitively demonstrate such a relationship. (Finding 6.2)

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement