Periscope

Last fall FBI profilers announced that the person who sent deadly anthrax-laced letters to news organizations and Capitol Hill was probably a grudge-bearing, sociopathic male laboratory nerd with knowledge of the geography of Trenton, N.J. But a new scientific analysis sent to top government officials suggests the anthrax attacker may be a scientific whiz so smart that he succeeded in making a "weaponized" form of the bacterium more sophisticated than any previously known.

Government sources tell NEWSWEEK that the secret new analysis shows anthrax found in a letter addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy was ground to a microscopic fineness not achieved by U.S. biological-weapons experts. The Leahy anthrax--mailed in an envelope that was recovered unopened from a Washington post office last November-- also was coated with a chemical compound unknown to experts who have worked in the field for years; the coating matches no known anthrax samples ever recovered from biological-weapons producers anywhere in the world, including Iraq and the former Soviet Union. The combination of the intense milling of the bacteria and the unusual coating produced an anthrax powder so fine and fluffy that individually coated anthrax spores were found in the Leahy envelope, something that U.S. bioweapons experts had never seen.

Hopes that the anthrax genetic code would point to its lab of origin are fading. Insiders now say that the Leahy strain traces back to an anthrax epidemic in Texas cattle in the 1970s, samples from which were very widely distributed. The new chemical findings are so puzzling that sources now fear the FBI's already slow-moving investigation could be set back still further. Using psychological profiles and earlier scientific analyses, the FBI had begun to focus on the possibility that the anthrax letters might have been sent out by a disgruntled scientist or technician who once worked on a U.S. government biological-weapons program. Court records indicate that over the last several years, budget cuts and layoffs at Fort Detrick, the Frederick, Md., Army base which houses the U.S. government's main germ-weapons lab, produced a platoon of disgruntled former employees with microbiological expertise and possible grievances against the government. But investigators question whether any laid-off U.S. government scientist is able enough--and has access to the right equipment--to produce the unusual substance found in the Leahy letter.

One alternative to the theory that the anthrax was produced by a brilliant loner is that it came from a team of scientists with access to sophisticated labs--the kind of team and labs that could be assembled only by a government. U.S. investigators can't rule out the possibility that a foreign government, perhaps Iraq but more likely the former U.S.S.R., could have put together such a team. They have no leads on its possible existence, however. Another possibility is that an American scientific psycho bought the anthrax from a foreign government team. But there is no evidence to back this theory, either.

FIGHT

Who Will Run Intelligence?

In theory, the CIA chief runs U.S. intelligence. In reality, the Pentagon controls 80 percent of the intel budget, and the Defense secretary runs the three key intelligence-gathering agencies: the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. Scowcroft's panel concluded that a string of intelligence failures, culminating in 9-11, was due in part to this CIA-DOD imbalance. It said the CIA chief needs power over the DOD agencies. Rumsfeld's reply: give him an under secretary to run the agencies. Reformers scoff at making an under secretary so powerful. But Rumsfeld is riding high after Afghan-istan; the White House may not want to take him on. Scowcroft, the CIA and the White House declined to comment; the Pentagon did not return three calls seeking comment.

EXCLUSIVE

The Insider

COUP

AN OLD FOE RETURNS

Less clear is what else Hekmatyar may have planned. Fundamentalist and virulently anti-Western, he has been dealt out of the political process that will produce a new Afghan government this summer. Proteges of his former arch- enemy, Ahmed Shah Massoud, dominate Karzai's cabinet. As with other sidelined warriors, including former Northern Alliance chieftain Burhanuddin Rabbani and Pashtun warlord Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaf, his options are dwindling. Violence remains his most viable option. One Afghan intelligence official says the warlord has tapped former allies in Pakistan to help recruit troops and stockpile weapons near Khowst. Others claim he has met with former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and residual forces of Al Qaeda near the Pakistani border to plot a guerrilla campaign for this spring. Clearly, the Kabul plot will not be his last.

MEDICINE

A New Near-Death Experience

The technique could revolutionize medicine because it would enable doctors to buy time for patients who arrive at the ER near death requiring time-consuming surgery.

"His results are real," says Dr. Tom Scalea, the chief trauma surgeon at the University of Maryland's trauma center in Baltimore. "There is not a question in my mind that this can happen. We could be testing within five years in ERs."

Safar admits that it will be challenging to find patients to experiment on, since people "aren't going to be in the shape to give consent." Choosing subjects will be made even tougher because liability-conscious hospitals will need to use all conventional lifesaving tactics before turning to the new science. And doctors say it will be critical to test the technique on some patients who aren't too far gone if the team wants to publish promising results.

Despite these hurdles, Safar predicts that human trials in emergency rooms will be underway in less than five years, perhaps within as little as two. And Scalea says only some "technical kinks" need to be resolved before the technique hits an ER near you.

DATA

Let's Havarti!

EXTREME SPORTS

Snowballed

SCIENCE

Food for All

DESIGN

Dig It: Tools Of the Trade

oomph

MUSIC

Brand New

No one is finding the experience more sobering than Busta, who isn't collecting so much as a complimentary miniature bottle of Courvoisier for singing the brand's praises. That's not surprising, however. Busta neglected to strike an endorsement deal with Courvoisier in advance because the song wasn't initially intended as a concoction of art and commerce. As Busta and Puffy were sipping Courvoisier in the recording studio, their creative juices spontaneously moved them to write the ode. "It was nothing planned," Busta says. "Usually, that's how the best songs come about." With little bargaining power now, the rap star's managers are trying to negotiate a marketing deal with Courvoisier. If they fail, Busta can always drown his sorrows gulping Mountain Dew, for which he is a paid pitchman.

FOOD

What Nigella Wants

During a New York City shopping expedition at Williams-Sonoma, she's surrounded by top-of-the-line luxury. But asked to pick the most important tools for any chef, she bypasses the KitchenAids in favor of a $10 whisk (a larger version of the flat one she always carries in her purse) and a $16 microplane grater. "Anything else, I can make do without," Lawson insists. Then she asks if the store will ship a new powder blue five-quart mixer over to London. Like a second piece of pie, just because you can live without it doesn't mean you should.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

Helplessly Hopeless Edition

                         C.W.
Bush              =      Enough is enough. It's about time you
                         stopped disengagement with a strong speech.

Powell            =      Welcome to the Middle East, which makes 
                         the gulf war look like playing jacks.

Arafat            =      Sets new world standard for playing the
                         victim--even as he kills innocents.

Sharon            =      Sets new speed record for turning Passover
                         sympathy into worldwide condemnation.

Gumbel            -      Leaves failing "Early Show." Who'd have
                         thought Greg would be the star of the family?

Oprah             -      Stops book club, claiming can't find one new
                         good read a month. Know any librarians?