News & AnalysisAnthrax Investigation

Army Missed Warning Signs About Alleged Anthrax Mailer

Science  01 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6025, pp. 27
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6025.27

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Summary

A new report detailing the mental health problems of U.S. Army researcher Bruce Ivins, the alleged perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks, blames the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) for not scrutinizing Ivins's background adequately before hiring him and providing him with the security clearances that allowed him to work with anthrax. The report says that if USAMRIID managers had looked at Ivins's psychiatric records, which they had the authority to access, they would have spotted behavioral red flags that would have automatically disqualified him from working in a biocontainment suite. The report's findings have rekindled a debate over how funding agencies, institutions, and labs should screen and monitor researchers with access to dangerous pathogens.