Through the Mail: Protecting the Postal Workers and the Public
John S. Parker
Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Research
and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick
Submitted to the
Committee on Governmental Affairs and the Subcommittee on
International Security, Proliferation and Federal Service
October 31, 2001
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and other distinguished members of this
committee and subcommittee. Thank
you for the invitation to testify before you today.
My name is Major General John S. Parker and I represent the
outstanding scientists and professionals of the U.S. Army Medical
Research and Materiel Command and my biocontainment laboratory,
the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases,
also known as USAMRIID. USAMRIID’s
mission is to develop the medical products, strategies,
procedures, information, and training for medical defense of our
service members against biological warfare and endemic infectious
diseases that require biocontainment.
In recent years this mission has expanded to include
helping defend our nation against biological terrorism.
Since September 11th, USAMRIID has been fully engaged
in supporting DOD, FBI, HHS, Congress, and the interagency
community with round-the-clock, cutting-edge reference diagnostic
capabilities. A large number of samples have been processed requiring
over 31,750 laboratory assays.
The results of these tests are reported to our customers
upon full confirmation of the laboratory findings.
I am here today to discuss USAMRIID’s support to the FBI in
analyzing the powdery material contained in the letter sent to
Senator Daschle. I
present the following timeline to document the chronology of our
On the afternoon of 15 October, USAMRIID received samples from the
FBI and the Capitol Police, which included letters addressed to
Senator Daschle. The
initial observation of the material in one of the letters,
performed under biosafety level 3 containment conditions, revealed
a fine, light tan powder that was easily dispersed into the air.
Preliminary laboratory results including polymerase chain
reaction and fluorescent antibody stain indicated Bacillus
anthracis spores. USAMRIID
reported to the FBI on the afternoon of the 15th the
preliminary results indicating that the material was anthrax
spores. Further, one
of our technicians/scientists made a statement that this material
grossly had some attributes consistent with “weaponized”
anthrax. On the evening of 15 October, USAMRIID completed the initial
battery of confirmatory tests verifying positive results for
additional information was relayed to the FBI that evening and was
subsequently re-iterated to the FBI and others in an interagency
conference call the morning of 16 October.
At that time, USAMRIID revisited the term “weaponized”
and decided the terms “professionally done” and
“energetic” as more appropriate descriptions in lieu of any
real familiarity with weaponized materials.
On 16 October, USAMRIID began to examine the samples further via
transmission electron microscopy (TEM).
Initial TEM analysis was performed on hydrated powder.
This study revealed that the material was comprised solely
of a high concentration of spores without debris or vegetative
forms, suggesting this material was refined or processed.
USAMRIID participated in an interagency conference call on the
morning of 17 October, updating participants on the results of the
antibiotic susceptibility profile.
Statistical analyses for the spore dimensions from the TEM
micrographs were begun on the 17th.
On the same day, USAMRIID provided the FBI samples of the
powder from the Daschle letter to send to another laboratory for
analysis of the material. The
results from TEM of the hydrated powder were reported to the
interagency phone conference by the 18th.
On 17 October, I briefed the full Senate Caucus, Senator
Daschle’s staff and the assembled Senate staff, in addition to
participating in a news conference with Senators Daschle and Lott,
on preliminary characterization of the sample.
USAMRIID next began investigating the dry powder on 18 October by
scanning electron microscopy (SEM).
This method revealed particle aggregates of varying sizes
comprised solely of spores without a visible binding matrix.
The material seen under SEM ranged in size from single
spores to aggregates of spores up to 100 microns or more.
The spores within the aggregate were uniform in appearance.
The aggregates had a propensity to pulverize. We first relayed these observations to our customer, the FBI,
on the evening of 19 October.
A written progress report was hand-carried to the FBI on 22
October for a discussion of USAMRIID data in comparison with that
of other laboratories contributing to the ongoing analysis and
data were briefed to the Secretary, HHS, on 23 October, at his
USAMRIID continues to support the FBI in the ongoing investigation
and any related analysis we can perform with our biocontainment
capability and scientific expertise.
We are proud to be an integral component in our Nation’s
defense and response to this tragic situation and I am especially
grateful for the opportunity to address this august body today.
I will now entertain your questions.