source: Raw Story
A microbiologist who supervised the work of accused anthrax killer Bruce E. Ivins explained to a National Academy of Sciences panel Thursday why the arithmetic of growing anthrax didn’t add up to Ivins’ mailing deadly spores in fall 2001.
“Impossible,” said Dr. Henry S. Heine of a scenario in which Ivins, another civilian microbiologist working for the Army, allegedly prepared the anthrax spores at an Army lab at Fort Detrick. Heine told the 16-member panel that Ivins would have had to grow as many as 10 trillion spores, an astronomical amount that couldn’t have gone unnoticed by his colleagues.
According to FBI calculations, Ivins accomplished this working after-hours in a special suite for handling lethal agents designated B3, for Biohazard Level 3. A bar chart released by the bureau (PDF) when it closed its nearly 9-year-old Amerithrax case in February showed that in August and September 2001, the months immediately before the first anthrax letters were mailed, Ivins logged 34 more hours in the B3 suite than his combined total for the previous seven months.
“That’s more than 8,000 hours (close to a year) short of what he would have needed to grow the anthrax,” Heine told ProPublica in an interview after his NAS presentation.
Heine, one of the few scientists at the Army lab with the skills to grow large batches of anthrax, told ProPublica it would have taken around “100 liters of liquid anthrax culture,” or more than 26 gallons, to grow all the dried spores that killed five Americans and infected 17 others.
“He couldn’t have done that without us knowing it,” said Heine.