FBI giving polygraph tests in anthrax probe

>>Original sur CNN

CNN April 5, 2002 Posted: 9:24 PM EST (0224 GMT)
-- The FBI is asking key scientists involved in the anthrax investigation to take polygraph tests, federal officials said Friday.

The voluntary exams, which gauge the subject's truthfulness, mark authorities latest attempt to find out who mailed anthrax-laced letters to journalists and politicians last fall.

"We haven't ruled anyone out as a suspect," an FBI official said Friday.
As part of its investigation, the FBI is looking into the possibility that the person behind the anthrax attacks may have ties to a government lab.

Authorities have narrowed the number of facilities believed to be capable of making the deadly spores to about 24 labs. But no charges have been filed against anyone thought to be involved in the anthrax mailings, which killed five people and infected 13 others.

Maj. Gen. John Parker, who retired last month as the commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, said the polygraph tests are a routine precaution and began six weeks ago.

"[The FBI] wanted to be reasonably sure as possible that the people who deal with evidence are not part of the problem," Parker said.

Parker said the FBI sought polygraphs only from those scientists and lab technicians who deal directly with anthrax samples and results. He said he did not know how many scientists at Fort Detrick have been asked to take a polygraph or if anyone has refused.

"I think this is a good thing," said Parker.
The Maryland lab is one of the labs capable of producing anthrax spores, and it has shared its anthrax with other labs for research purposes over the years.

Dr. John Ezzell, the scientist who opened the anthrax-laced letter addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, confirmed that he had taken a polygraph test.

"It's a standard procedure for anyone handling evidence," he said.
While polygraphs are often used in criminal investigations, some scientists have questioned their accuracy and dependability

12 février 2002 Le Wall Street Journal cite divers officiels affirmant que le FBI a orienté son enquête de façon décisive vers des laboratoires de l'U.S. Army. Publié le 12 février 2002.

- FBI Makes Military Labs Key Focus in Hunt for Source of Anthrax

Tuesday, February 12, 2002 12:24 AM ET
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is making U.S. military laboratories the primary focus of its anthrax investigation, Tuesday's Wall Street Journal reported, citing senior law-enforcement officials close to the case.

While it has been reported that the FBI plans to use genetic fingerprinting and other scientific analyses to narrow down the labs most likely to have been the source of the anthrax bacterium used in the terror attacks, it has become clear that investigators are looking first at military labs, at least for now.

While investigators haven't ruled out anybody, university-based laboratories that study the biology of the bacterium have emerged as a lower priority. Officials at several schools said FBI agents hadn't been pursuing investigations or interviews on campus this year.

People inside the FBI have confirmed that the agency is taking a tiered approach toward U.S. laboratories believed to possess the know-how to produce anthrax, especially weapons-grade anthrax. The highest priority laboratories include military facilities where anthrax was both stored and processed into more deadly forms.

While many expert observers already believed that military laboratories and contractors were the focal points of the probe, FBI officials previously have been extremely tight-lipped about this aspect of the case.

FBI officials confirmed that under the tiered approach, investigators would be focusing first on security plans, staff and former staff members at military facilities known to handle anthrax, including the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Md., and the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

It is already known that Dugway scientists had produced anthrax in its most deadly powdered form. Similar technology was likely used to produce the spore- laden letters sent to Capitol Hill. Experts have termed the anthrax contained in those letters, sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy,as "weapons grade."

The FBI is collecting anthrax samples from labs to compare them against the anthrax sent in the terror mailings last fall. The Ames strain was the type of anthrax mailed to Sens. Daschle and Leahy, as well as New York and Florida media organizations, killing five people and sickening more than a dozen.

Dugway officials declined to comment on the investigation, referring questions to the Pentagon. A Department of the Army spokeswoman said that Dugway and other military facilities were cooperating with law-enforcement authorities and had addressed all of the FBI's requests. A spokeswoman for Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, Ohio, a private military contractor, which used anthrax as part of its development of a vaccine and detection devices, also declined to say it if had been asked to provide a sample. 

Copyright 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.