The NRC was asked by the FBI to conduct an independent review of the scientific approaches used during the investigation. The official charge to the committee stated:
An ad hoc committee with relevant expertise will evaluate the scientific foundation for the specific techniques used by the FBI to determine whether these techniques met appropriate standards for scientific reliability and for use in forensic validation, and whether the FBI reached appropriate scientific conclusions from its use of these techniques. In instances where novel scientific methods were developed for purposes of the FBI investigation itself, the committee will pay particular attention to whether these methods were appropriately validated. The committee will review and assess scientific evidence (studies, results, analyses, reports) considered in connection with the 2001 Bacillus anthracis mailings. In assessing this body of information, the committee will limit its inquiry to the scientific approaches, methodologies, and analytical techniques used during the investigation of the 2001 B. anthracis mailings.
The areas of scientific evidence to be studied by the committee include, but may not be limited to:
The committee will necessarily consider the facts and data surrounding the investigation of the 2001 Bacillus anthracis mailings, the reliability of the principles and methods used by the FBI, and whether the principles and methods were applied appropriately to the facts. The committee will not, however, undertake an assessment of the probative value of the scientific evidence in any specific component of the investigation, prosecution, or civil litigation and will offer no view on the guilt or innocence of any person(s) in connection with the 2001 B. anthracis mailings, or any other B. anthracis incidents.