Created: Wednesday, 23 January 2002 Written by Max
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Max Gross comments: We're all still wondering who REALLY mailed out those envelopes sprinkled with anthrax. As far as I know, Mr bin Laden never enlisted in the US Army!

This article courtesy of THE MIAMI HERALD, published Monday January 21 2002

Anthrax, Ebola listed as missing from lab in '90s.
Documents say unauthorized research also was conducted.

HARTFORD, Conn. -- (AP) -- Specimens of anthrax, the Ebola virus and other pathogens were listed as missing after an audit of the Army's biological warfare research center in the early 1990s, according to a published report.
Documents from a 1992 Army inquiry also suggest that someone was entering a lab at Fort Detrick, Md., late at night to conduct unauthorized research, according to a story Sunday in The Hartford Courant. A counter on a piece of equipment was rolled back, and someone had spelled anthrax as ``antrax'' when creating a label and had left it in the machine's electronic memory, according to documents obtained by the paper.

Fort Detrick officials did not return phone messages Saturday or Sunday.


One of the 27 sets of missing specimens later was found in the lab, the newspaper said. Portions of others also were located, but a spokeswoman, Caree Vander-Linden, said she could not provide details because of incomplete records, The Courant said.

The fate of the rest remains unclear, she said.

Experts disagreed on any potential danger.

Vander-Linden said the samples would have been killed in preparation for study. Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a molecular biologist at the State University of New York, said she would not rule out the possibility that anthrax in spore form could survive the chemical treatment.

But she said that obtaining live spores would be extremely difficult and ``an unnecessarily difficult task.''

``Anybody who had access to those labs could probably get something more useful,'' she said.


The specimens were reported missing in February 1992 after Lt. Col. Michael Langford took command of the pathology lab. Langford, who no longer is stationed at Fort Detrick, said he ordered an inventory after he recognized that there was ``little or no organization'' and ``little or no accountability'' in the lab.

Investigators also found evidence of what they called ``surreptitious'' work in the pathology lab during late nights and weekends, The Courant reported. Dr. Mary Beth Downs told investigators that in 1992 she found that the automatic counter on the electron microscope's camera had been rolled back. She also was surprised to find that a previous user apparently had forgotten to reset a feature that imprints each photo with a label. The label ``antrax 005'' appeared on some of her own photos.

She wrote a memo to Langford, noting that whoever was using the microscope was ``either in a big hurry or didn't know what they were doing.''

Some lab officials say they believe the concerns were overblown.

``If you had security clearance, the guard isn't going to ask you if you are qualified to use the equipment,'' said Charles Brown, a former technician. ``I'm sure people used it often without our knowledge.''