A National Research Council committee asked to examine the scientific approaches used and conclusions reached by the Federal Bureau of Investigation during its investigation of the 2001 Bacillus anthracis mailings has determined that it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the anthrax in letters mailed to New York City and Washington, D.C., based solely on the available scientific evidence.
Browse By Region
Browse By Type
Browse By Date Range
Review of the Scientific Approaches Used During the FBI’s Investigation of the Anthrax Letters, a Summary
- February 18, 2011
On December 20, 2010, CBS News reported that the Department of Homeland Security had uncovered a credible threat of attacks using poisons, such as ricin, in salad bars and buffets. Ricin, a deadly toxin derived from castor beans, has been identified as a potential bioweapon. Ricin is extremely toxic by ingestion, inhalation, and injection. No treatment or prophylaxis currently exists, though research into new therapies and vaccines against ricin exposure continues. Additionally, research to improve ricin detection is ongoing. Although ricin’s potential use as a military weapon was investigated, its predominant use has been in small quantities against specific individuals. Most experts believe that ricin would be difficult to use as a weapon of mass destruction, but do not discount its potential as a weapon of terror. Ricin is on the Select Agent list, and its possession, transfer, or use is regulated under domestic and international law. This report will not be updated.
- April 7, 2011
“In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) completed its first Bioterrorism Risk Assessment (BTRA), intended to be the foundation for DHS’s subsequent biennial risk assessments mandated by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 10 (HSPD-10). At the request of DHS, the National Research Council established the Committee on Methodological Improvements to the Department of Homeland Security’s Biological Agent Risk Analysis to provide an independent, scientific peer review of the BTRA. The Committee found a number of shortcomings in the BTRA, including a failure to consider terrorists as intelligent adversaries in their models, unnecessary complexity in threat and consequence modeling and simulations, and a lack of focus on risk management.”
- June 21, 2011
Released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), this report provides the recommended framework for the screening of orders to ensure manufacture compliance with current regulations and reduce the risk of supplying products to individuals that may exploit this dual-use technology for malicious intent. The primary goal of the Screening Framework Guidance for Providers of Synthetic Double-Stranded DNA is to minimize the risk that unauthorized individuals or individuals with malicious intent will obtain “toxins and agents of concern” through the use of nucleic acid synthesis technologies, and to simultaneously minimize any negative impacts on the conduct of research and business operations. The Guidance was developed, in light of providers’ existing protocols, to be implemented without unnecessary cost and to be globally extensible, both for U.S.-based providers operating abroad and for international providers.
- October 13, 2010
by Chris Royse & Barbara Johnson
In recent years, increasing questions have arisen regarding the adequacy of and need for the implementation of a security program in biomedical institutes and facilities working with and storing pathogens. Most of the concern has been focused on facilities working with and storing select agents and BSL-4 pathogens. In some instances, increased security, protective measures, and regulations have been promulgated and implemented as a result of 1) criminal activity by animal rights activists, 2) the necessity to protect intellectual rights/information, patent material/processes and business sensitive information, and 3) recognition of the potential for individuals or organized groups to obtain biological pathogens for criminal/terrorist use…
- April 18, 2011