The National Academy of Sciences quietly delayed releasing its evaluation of the science used to link Fort Detrick scientist Bruce Ivins to the anthrax attacks of 2001, a move that escaped notice of many, but drew criticism from one congressman.
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat who represents the central New Jersey district from where the anthrax letters were mailed, said the NAS delayed releasing its report because the FBI asked the panel members to review 500 more pages of classified documents before reaching a final conclusion.
The report, initially expected to be released in October, was supposed to analyze the scientific methods used by the FBI and "determine whether these techniques met appropriate standards for scientific reliability and for use in forensic validation, and whether the FBI reached appropriate scientific conclusions from its use of these techniques."
The report was not to judge Ivins' guilt or innocence.
The NAS website states the report will be released in February, though it provides no explanation for the delay.
In a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, Holt wrote that the NAS officials informed him they recently released a draft copy of the report to the FBI and that, consequently, the FBI gave the panel "an additional 500 pages of previously undisclosed investigative material from the Amerithrax investigation.
"My understanding is that this document dump, taking place after the FBI's review of the NAS draft report, is intended to contest and challenge the independent NAS panel's draft findings," Holt wrote. "If these new documents were relevant to the NAS's review, why were they previously undisclosed and withheld? Despite the FBI's original charge to the NAS to examine only the scientific data and conclusions in the case, it now appears that the FBI -- which has consistently botched and bungled this case from the beginning -- may be seeking to try to steer or otherwise pressure the NAS panel to reach a conclusion desired by the Bureau."
Holt has long challenged the FBI's investigation, as well as its decision to close the investigation in February by releasing a 92-page case summary that left many of his constituents' questions unanswered.