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Polygraphs Planned In Anthrax Probe

Even as the Justice Department prepared to give lie detectors tests to hundreds of federal workers at two facilities where anthrax is kept, a possible new incident was reported.

There is still no suspect in the contamination of mail last fall that killed five people, including two postal workers.

The government will administer the polygraph tests to workers at Fort Detrick, Md., and Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, it was reported, beginning in June.

Investigators will focus on workers who had expertise in preparing anthrax for use as a weapon and those who may have had access to it, the official said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that some of its mail tested positive for anthrax but stressed the result was not conclusive and that further tests are being carried out.

The IMF said that the mail concerned initially tested negative in an offsite facility but that it was retested at IMF headquarters after preliminary tests at the World Bank on Monday detected possible anthrax contamination on the bank's mail.

"There was an initial positive test but it's not a conclusive one and as a precaution the mail room was sealed," said IMF spokesman Francisco Baker. "The health experts here don't believe this would post a threat."

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve found traces of anthrax in its mail in an outside facility but its tests were also preliminary and a Fed spokesman said on Tuesday that follow-up testing is still under way.

The move to administer lie detector tests underscores the government's growing suspicion that the anthrax attacks were conducted by someone with legitimate access to the deadly bacteria.

It's reported some former employees of both facilities may be given polygraph tests as well.

Dr. Frederick Southwick, chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida, who has written extensively on anthrax, cautions that the person who spread the spores is not necessarily a scientist.

"Anybody who knows somebody who created these particles could use them," he told CBS Radio News, "so it doesn't require that the individual who delivered them be an expert."

The investigation into who sent several anthrax-laced letters last year has produced few leads and investigators acknowledge the trail is growing cold. The government has begun a strategy of focusing on possible sources of anthrax and casting a wide net, rather than identifying suspects from the few clues gained from the letters.

Southwick said he suspects a connection to the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The first attack occurred in south Florida, one mile from one of the terrorists' house," he said, referring to Mohammed Atta. "It seems an incredible coincidence that a federal worker in Fort Detrick, or in Utah would have picked that as the first target site."

Army scientists in Utah have been developing a powdered form of anthrax for use in testing biological defense systems, military officials have said.

The Army said in a recent statement that small quantities of anthrax have routinely been produced at Dugway, and then shipped to the Army's biodefense center at Fort Detrick.

Fort Detrick, which also is home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, has anthrax samples from other sources as well.

Investigators began interviewing employees at Fort Detrick after anthrax-laced letters were sent to members of Congress in Washington and to television network offices in New York last year. Along the way, anthrax spores leaking from the letters contaminated post office buildings in Washington and New Jersey.

Two Washington postal workers died of inhaled anthrax, as did two women thought to have been infected from the mail. At least 13 people developed either skin or respiratory anthrax, but recovered.

The strain of anthrax found in letters mailed to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy is called Ames. Scientists at Detrick obtained a sample of the Ames strain from the Agriculture Department in the early 1980s for vaccine testing, and in turn gave samples to at least five other labs.

Since the attacks, security at Fort Detrick has come under fire.

One former researcher at the infectious-disease center there said recently that nothing would have prevented workers from removing deadly germs from the labs.

Fort Detrick spokesman Charles Dasey declined to comment on the allegations of lax security.

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