The FBI has belatedly provided an expert panel with new information that will delay a long-awaited report on the scientific merits of the government's investigation into the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings.
In September 2008, the FBI asked  the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review the science behind the case against U.S. Army researcher Bruce Ivins. Ivins committed suicide as agents were about to wrap up the investigation, and some of his colleagues believe that he was an innocent man who had been hounded to his death. The FBI announced  that it had used genetic fingerprinting to trace the anthrax in the letters to a flask in Ivins's lab. Five people were killed and 17 injured in the string of letter attacks in the fall of 2001.
In the absence of a trial, the NAS review was seen as an important step toward understanding what the government had done--even though its focus was entirely on the science. But the FBI officially closed the case in February 2010, giving the appearance of finality and certainty to what the investigation had concluded.
The academy panel submitted the report to the FBI on 27 October. On 3 December, FBI officials provided new material and asked for an opportunity to make a presentation before the committee.
The FBI's last-minute submission of new material has drawn fire from Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), who calls it an attempt "to contest and challenge the independent NAS panel's draft findings." Holt, who has been a persistent critic of how the FBI has handled the case, sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller on Thursday demanding that Mueller meet with him to explain the "document dump" made by the agency weeks after receiving the draft report. Last night, NAS Executive Officer E. William Colglazier said  that the report, which was due out this fall, would be delayed until February 2011 to give the study panel time to review the new information. "We have determined that some of this material is the type of information previously requested by the committee during the course of its review and that some of this information is relevant to the committee's report," Colglazier noted.
Vahid Majidi, head of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, would not comment on Holt's letter to the FBI director. But asked why new material was submitted so late in the process, he e-mailed ScienceInsider: "Recall that the study had started before the case was formally closed; after the case closure we were able to provide additional support material."