Pentagon may have received shipment of live anthrax
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is now investigating whether live anthrax was brought into the Pentagon building itself, CNN has learned exclusively.
The Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the Pentagon’s police force, is one of the agencies that received questionable U.S. Army shipments of anthrax. That shipment now must be tested to see if its live rather than dead pathogen.
The Pentagon police received a shipment of what was supposed to be dead anthrax agent from one of three original lots, all of which are now shown to contain live, rather than dead anthrax.
The Pentagon has not disclosed if any of that anthrax was ever brought into the Pentagon building or the areas directly outside the Pentagon. The anthrax was to be used to help calibrate sensors at the Pentagon used to detect chemical or biological agents, two defense officials told CNN.
The anthrax would first have gone to some Pentagon police force laboratories in Virginia, defense officials told CNN, but they must also determine if the anthrax was then ever brought to the Pentagon to calibrate sensors on the Pentagon site.
While investigators won’t know for sure until their investigation is complete, a defense official says they do not believe any of the questionable anthrax made it to the Pentagon grounds.
Days after the first disclosures were made that three batches of anthrax at Dugway Proving Ground had been shown to inadvertently contain live anthrax, the Pentagon still has yet to fully determine and announce to the public the full scope of the problem.
Officials say they do not known the full scope and are not going to announce details until they are fully certain.
While only one lab in Maryland has reported actually receiving live anthrax, the Pentagon and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are trying to determine if live anthrax shipments were made to facilities in as many as 12 states, as well as Canada, South Korea and Australia. More than 30 shipments already shipped to these locations must be tested.
CNN has been exclusively shown a document detailing the location of the anthrax shipments that came from three lots at Dugway dating back to 2007. At Dugway, in recent days, those three lots tested positive, but there may be as many as 100 lots there still to be tested, according to one defense official.
The Defense Department simply does not known the scope of the problem, the official said. If any of those 100 lots show live anthrax, then officials have to determine where every shipment from those lots may have gone in the world.
But at the same time, officials insist there is no threat to public health because all the anthrax shipments were shipped and handled under controlled circumstances. Those conditions, however, are less stringent than a live shipment would have been since they were presumed to be dead anthrax.
The shipments were made to both private labs and government.
According to the document CNN reviewed, facilities in Maryland, including private labs and government agencies, received ten shipments dating back to 2009.
It was one of those labs, which has not been identified, that originally notified the CDC last week its shipment was actually live anthrax. The Naval Medical Research Center in Maryland also is identified on the document as having received questionable anthrax.
Under the three lots already tested, Australia and Canada have been notified they may have received live anthrax. Last week, South Korea was notified a shipment that went to the U.S. airbase at Osan was destroyed after concerns it also came from a lot of live agent at Dugway.
A comprehensive investigation into the matter is ongoing.
By Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent