On this first anniversary of the anthrax attacks, a number of conclusions can be drawn even without an arrest by the FBI. First, the strain and properties of the weaponized anthrax found in the letters show that it originated within the U.S. biodefense program, where the necessary expertise and access are found. Government officials recognized that the anthrax source was domestic less than two weeks after they learned of the letters, and nothing in their investigation has led them to say otherwise since.
The anthrax probe has disclosed an astounding degree of irresponsibility and lack of security at Ft. Detrick, Md., home to the nation's premier existing biodefense laboratory. The problems stretch back for decades and extend beyond the anthrax attacks. In spite of a security crackdown there following the attacks, two incidents have occurred this year at Ft. Detrick in which spores escaped from a high-containment laboratory and were found in hallways, offices and locker rooms. One case was recognized only when an unauthorized employee took swabs outside the laboratory to check for anthrax contamination--something no one had thought of doing there before.
Even more serious concerns have been raised by the discovery of secret biodefense projects that push against the limits of international prohibitions. It was recently revealed that an Army laboratory in Utah has been secretly making weaponized anthrax for some years. Another secret project involved the construction of bomblets designed for dispersion of biological agents, although the Biological Weapons Convention explicitly prohibits developing, producing or possessing "means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes." Such projects have raised suspicions abroad that the U.S. continues to develop biological weapons--suspicions that, even if not true, are likely to spur a new biological arms race.