CIA SAYS CAPITAL HILL ANTHRAX NOT FROM CIA LAB 



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Last Updated

06 Dec 2002

Source: Reuters News Service, December 16, 2001.

Capitol Hill Anthrax Not From CIA Lab - CIA

By JoAnne Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CIA laboratories were not the source of the deadly anthrax bacteria mailed to Capitol Hill, a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency spokesman said on Sunday.

"The anthrax contained in the letters under investigation absolutely did not come from CIA labs," the spokesman, Mark Mansfield, said in response to a report that investigators were focusing on whether spores used in the anthrax attacks may have come from a domestic bioweapons research program, including one conducted by the CIA.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that genetic tests of the spores in the anthrax-laced letters mailed to Capitol Hill were identical to stocks maintained by a U.S. Army research program at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

The report said only five other laboratories have spores with genetic matches to the Ames strain of anthrax discovered in letters mailed to the Senate and that all of those labs can trace their samples to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) at Ft. Detrick.

Ft. Detrick spokesman Chuck Dasey told Reuters that USAMRIID uses Ames strain anthrax, obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1980, in its medical research program and confirmed that samples were shared with up to five research laboratories.

He said that the institute was cooperating with the FBI in its probe of the anthrax letters sent to Capitol Hill, but added that it does not produce powered anthrax.

"USAMRIID does not have the technology and its personnel do not have the skills required to make a dry powered form of anthrax such as was included in the letters," Dasey said.

Anthrax-contaminated letters, postmarked from Trenton, New Jersey on Oct. 9 were mailed to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and to Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. Anthrax letters also were sent to three media outlets following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Five people have died and 13 have been infected with anthrax since the beginning of October.

FOCUS ON BIOWEAPONS RESEARCH

The Washington Post said the FBI investigation into the anthrax attacks was increasingly focusing on whether U.S. government bioweapons research programs may have been the source of the deadly bacteria. The report quoted one source as saying the FBI was focusing on a contractor that worked for the CIA.

While the agency has had small amounts of the Ames strain bacteria in the laboratory "to compare and contrast with other strains," CIA spokesman Mansfield said, "we did not grow, create, or produce the Ames strain of the anthrax virus."

"One of our missions is to learn about potential biological warfare threats and our work in this regard is entirely defensive in nature and consistent with U.S. treaty obligations," he said.

Meantime, the Environmental Protection Agency on Sunday evening began fumigating the Senate Hart Office Building, which has been closed since shortly after an anthrax-contaminated letter was opened in the Senate Majority Leader's office on Oct. 15.

The cleanup procedure at the office building, a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol, had been scheduled for Friday but was delayed by a technical glitch, officials said.