NET NEWS: Sites for Sleuths

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Science  17 May 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5571, pp. 1207
DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5571.1207e

Who did it? And did he or she act alone? Those and other questions are still unanswered by the federal investigation into the 7-month-old anthrax outbreak. But on the Web, sleuthing and speculation are rife.

The most talked-about site is maintained by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, who heads the Federation of American Scientists' Chemical and Biological Arms Control Program. The FBI is dragging its feet, Rosenberg concludes in her elaborate analysis, perhaps because the perpetrator is a government insider who knows too much. Making sense of hundreds of disparate clues is also why Ed Lake, a retired computer systems analyst in Racine, Wisconsin, decided to start an anthrax Web site. Lake speculates that there were two perpetrators, a “supplier” and a “refiner/mailer,” and offers his psychological profiles of each.

What may appear to be photocopy stains on copies of the anthrax letters are, after some digital processing, actually images (“Two skull caricatures with shared eye”) that could offer valuable clues, according to another, apparently serious site. Meanwhile, under the flag-draped logo of the FBI's own site, wannabe sleuths will find a profile of the criminal and interviews with FBI officials. Perhaps tellingly, the last update here is 4 months old.

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