The 2001 anthrax attacks, also known as Amerithrax from its FBI case name, occurred within the United States over the course of several weeks beginning on September 18, 2001, one week after the September 11 attacks. Letters were mailed containing anthrax spores to several news media offices and to Democratic Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, killing 5 people and infecting 17 others. A copycat hoax letter containing harmless white powder was opened by reporter Judith Miller in The New York Times newsroom. According to the FBI, the ensuing investigation became "one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement".
A major focus in the early years of the investigation was a bioweapons expert named Steven Hatfill who was eventually exonerated. Another suspect was Bruce Edwards Ivins who became a focus of investigation around April 4, 2005. Ivins was a scientist who worked at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. On April 11, 2007, Ivins was put under periodic surveillance and an FBI document stated that "Bruce Edwards Ivins is an extremely sensitive suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks." On July 29, 2008, Ivins committed suicide with an overdose of acetaminophen.
Federal prosecutors declared Ivins to be the sole culprit of the crime on August 6, 2008, based on DNA evidence leading to an anthrax vial in his lab. Two days later, Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative Rush D. Holt, Jr. called for hearings into the Department of Justice and FBI's handling of the investigation. On February 19, 2010, the FBI formally closed its investigation.
In 2008, the FBI requested a review of the scientific methods used in their investigation from the National Academy of Sciences, which released their findings in the 2011 report Review of the Scientific Approaches Used During the FBI's Investigation of the 2001 Anthrax Letters. The report cast doubt on the government's conclusion that Ivins was the perpetrator, finding that the type of anthrax used in the letters was correctly identified as the Ames strain of the bacterium, but that there was insufficient scientific evidence for the FBI's assertion that it originated from Ivins's laboratory. The FBI responded by pointing out that the review panel asserted that it would not be possible to reach a definite conclusion based on science alone, and said that a combination of factors led the FBI to conclude that Ivins had been the perpetrator. Some information is still sealed concerning the case and Ivins's mental problems. The government settled lawsuits that were filed by the widow of the first anthrax victim Bob Stevens for $2.5 million with no admission of liability. The settlement was reached solely for the purpose of "avoiding the expenses and risks of further litigations", according to a statement in the agreement.
|2001 anthrax attacks|
|Date||September 18, 2001 – October 12, 2001|
|Target||U.S. senators, media figures|
|Weapons||military grade anthrax bacteria|
|Victims||Sen. Tom Daschle, |
Sen. Patrick Leahy,
Judith Miller (hoaxed),
Bob Stevens (killed), etc.
|Bruce Edwards Ivins (suicide)|
Steven Hatfill (exonerated)
Ayaad Assaad (exonerated)
|Motive||According to the FBI: saving the anthrax vaccine program.|
"The anthrax vaccine program to which [Dr. Ivins] had devoted his entire career of more than 20 years was failing. [...] Following the anthrax attacks, however, his program was suddenly rejuvenated" [and] "a possible motive was his concern about the end of the vaccination program[...], and one theory is that by launching these attacks, he creates a situation, a scenario, where people all of a sudden realize the need to have this vaccine."
The attacks followed a week after the September 11 attacks which had caused the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, damage to The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and the crash of an airliner in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The anthrax attacks came in two waves. The first set of anthrax letters had a Trenton, New Jersey postmark dated September 18, 2001. Five letters are believed to have been mailed at this time to: ABC News, CBS News, NBC News and the New York Post, all located in New York City and to the National Enquirer at American Media, Inc. (AMI) in Boca Raton, Florida. Robert Stevens, the first person who died from the mailings, worked at the Sun tabloid, also published by AMI, died on October 5, 2001, four days after entering a Florida hospital with an undiagnosed illness that caused him to vomit and be short of breath. Only the New York Post and NBC News letters were found; the existence of the other three letters is inferred because individuals at ABC, CBS and AMI became infected with anthrax. Scientists examining the anthrax from the New York Post letter said it appeared as a clumped coarse brown granular material looking like dog food.
Two more anthrax letters, bearing the same Trenton postmark, were dated October 9, three weeks after the first mailing. The letters were addressed to two Democratic Senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont. At the time, Daschle was the Senate Majority leader and Leahy was head of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Daschle letter was opened by an aide, Grant Leslie, on October 15, and the government mail service was shut down. The unopened Leahy letter was discovered in an impounded mailbag on November 16. The Leahy letter had been misdirected to the State Department mail annex in Sterling, Virginia, because a ZIP code was misread; a postal worker there, David Hose, contracted inhalational anthrax.
More potent than the first anthrax letters, the material in the Senate letters was a highly refined dry powder consisting of about one gram of nearly pure spores. A series of conflicting news reports appeared, some claiming the powders had been "weaponized" with silica. Bioweapons experts who later viewed images of the attack anthrax saw no indication of "weaponization". Tests by Sandia National Laboratories in early 2002 confirmed that the attack powders were not weaponized.
At least 22 people developed anthrax infections; 11 of which contracted the especially life-threatening inhalational variety. Five died of inhalational anthrax: Stevens; two employees of the Brentwood mail facility in Washington, D.C. (Thomas Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen) and two whose source of exposure to the bacteria is still unknown: Kathy Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant resident in the borough of the Bronx who worked in New York City, and the last known victim Ottilie Lundgren, a 94-year-old widow of a prominent judge from Oxford, Connecticut.
Authorities believe that the anthrax letters were mailed from Princeton, New Jersey. Investigators found anthrax spores in a city street mailbox located at 10 Nassau Street near the Princeton University campus. About 600 mailboxes were tested for anthrax which could have been used to mail the letters, and the Nassau Street box was the only one to test positive.
The New York Post and NBC News letters contained the following note:
THIS IS NEXT
TAKE PENACILIN [sic] NOW
DEATH TO AMERICA
DEATH TO ISRAEL
ALLAH IS GREAT
YOU CAN NOT STOP US.
WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX.
YOU DIE NOW.
ARE YOU AFRAID?
DEATH TO AMERICA.
DEATH TO ISRAEL.
ALLAH IS GREAT.
All the letters were copies made by a copy machine, and the originals were never found. Each letter was trimmed to a slightly different size. The senate letter uses punctuation, while the media letter does not. The handwriting on the media letter and envelopes is roughly twice the size of the handwriting on the senate letter and envelopes. The envelopes addressed to Senators Daschle and Leahy had a fictitious return address:
Franklin Park NJ 08852
Franklin Park, New Jersey exists, but the ZIP code 08852 is for nearby Monmouth Junction, New Jersey. There is no Greendale School in Franklin Park or Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, though there is a Greenbrook Elementary School in adjacent South Brunswick Township, New Jersey.
The Amerithrax investigation involved many leads which took time to evaluate and resolve. Among them were numerous letters which initially appeared to be related to the anthrax attacks but were never directly linked.
For example, before the New York letters were found, hoax letters mailed from St. Petersburg, Florida were thought to be the anthrax letters or related to them. A letter received at the Microsoft offices in Reno, Nevada, after the discovery of the Daschle letters gave a false positive in a test for anthrax. Later, because the letter had been sent from Malaysia, Marilyn Thompson of The Washington Post connected the letter to Steven Hatfill, whose girlfriend was from Malaysia. The letter merely contained a check and some pornography, and was neither a threat nor a hoax.
Also unconnected to the anthrax attacks was a large envelope received at American Media, Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida (which was among the victims of the attacks) in September 2001. It was addressed "Please forward to Jennifer Lopez c/o The Sun", containing a metal cigar tube with a cheap cigar inside, an empty can of chewing tobacco, a small detergent carton, pink powder, a Star of David pendant, and "a handwritten letter to Jennifer Lopez. The writer said how much he loved her and asked her to marry him." Another letter, which mimicked the original anthrax letter to Senator Daschle, was mailed to Daschle from London in November 2001, at a time when Hatfill was in England, not far from London. Shortly before the discovery of the anthrax letters, someone sent a letter to authorities stating, "Dr. Assaad is a potential biological terrorist." No connection to the anthrax letters was ever found. 
During the first years of the FBI's investigation, Don Foster, a professor of English at Vassar College, attempted to connect the anthrax letters and various hoax letters from the same period to Steven Hatfill. Foster's beliefs were published in Vanity Fair and Readers' Digest. Hatfill sued and was later exonerated. The lawsuit was settled out of court.
The letters sent to the media contained a coarse brown material, while the letters sent to the two U.S. Senators contained a fine powder. The brown granular anthrax mostly caused skin infections, cutaneous anthrax (9 out of 12 cases), although Kathy Nguyen's case of inhalation anthrax occurred at the same time and in the same general area as two cutaneous cases and several other exposures. The AMI letter which caused inhalation cases in Florida appears to have been mailed at the same time as the other media letters. The fine powder anthrax sent to the senators mostly caused the more dangerous form of infection known as inhalational anthrax (8 out of 10 cases). Postal worker Patrick O'Donnell and accountant Linda Burch contracted cutaneous anthrax from the Senate letters.
All of the material was derived from the same bacterial strain known as the Ames strain. The Ames strain was a common strain isolated from a cow in Texas in 1981. The name "Ames" refers to the town of Ames, Iowa, but was mistakenly attached to this isolate in 1981 because of a mixup about the mailing label on a package First researched at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Fort Detrick, Maryland, the Ames strain was then distributed to sixteen bio-research labs within the U.S. and three other locations (Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom).
DNA sequencing of the anthrax taken from Robert Stevens (the first victim) was conducted at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) beginning in December 2001. Sequencing was finished within a month and the analysis was published in the journal Science in early 2002.
Early in 2002, it was noted that there were variants or mutations in the anthrax cultures that were grown from powder found in the letters. Scientists at TIGR sequenced the complete genomes from many of these isolates during the period from 2002 to 2004. This sequencing identified three relatively large changes in some of the isolates, each comprising a region of DNA that had been duplicated or triplicated. The size of these regions ranged from 823 bp to 2607 bp, and all occurred near the same genes. Details of these mutations were published in 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These changes became the basis of PCR assays used to test other samples to find any that contained the same mutations. The assays were validated over the many years of the investigation, and the repository of Ames samples was also being built. From roughly 2003 to 2006 the repository and the screening of the 1,070 Ames samples in that repository were completed.
Based on the testing, the FBI concluded that flask RMR-1029 was the parent material of the anthrax spore powder. Ivins had sole control over that flask.:28–29
On October 24, 2001, USAMRIID scientist Peter Jahrling was summoned to the White House after he reported signs that silicon had been added to anthrax recovered from the letter addressed to Daschle. Silicon would make the anthrax more capable of penetrating the lungs. Seven years later, Jahrling told the Los Angeles Times on September 17, 2008, "I believe I made an honest mistake", adding that he had been "overly impressed" by what he thought he saw under the microscope.
Richard Preston's book provides details of conversations and events at USAMRIID during the period from October 16, 2001, to October 25, 2001. Key scientists described to Preston what they were thinking during that period. When the Daschle spores first arrived at USAMRIID, the key concern was that smallpox viruses might be mixed with the spores. "Jahrling met [John] Ezzell in a hallway and said, in a loud voice, 'Goddamn it, John, we need to know if the powder is laced with smallpox.'" Thus, the initial search was for signs of smallpox viruses. On October 16, USAMRIID scientists began by examining spores that had been "in a milky white liquid" from "a field test done by the FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit". Liquid chemicals were then used to deactivate the spores. When scientists turned up the power on the electron beam of the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM), "The spores began to ooze." According to Preston,
"Whoa," Jahrling muttered, hunched over the eyepieces. Something was boiling off the spores. "This is clearly bad stuff," he said. This was not your mother's anthrax. The spores had something in them, an additive, perhaps. Could this material have come from a national bioweapons program? From Iraq? Did al-Qaeda have anthrax capability that was this good?
On October 25, 2001, the day after senior officials at the White House were informed that "additives" had been found in the anthrax, USAMRIID scientist Tom Geisbert took a different, irradiated sample of the Daschle anthrax to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) to "find out if the powder contained any metals or elements". AFIP's energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer reportedly indicated "that there were two extra elements in the spores: silicon and oxygen. Silicon dioxide is glass. The anthrax terrorist or terrorists had put powdered glass, or silica, into the anthrax. The silica was powdered so finely that under Geisbert's electron microscope it had looked like fried-egg gunk dripping off the spores."
The "goop" Peter Jahrling had seen oozing from the spores was not seen when AFIP examined different spores killed with radiation.
The controversy began the day after the White House meeting. The New York Times reported, "Contradicting Some U.S. Officials, 3 Scientists Call Anthrax Powder High-Grade – Two Experts say the anthrax was altered to produce a more deadly weapon", and The Washington Post reported, "Additive Made Spores Deadlier". Countless news stories discussed the "additives" for the next eight years, continuing into 2010.
Later, the FBI claimed a "lone individual" could have created the anthrax spores for as little as $2,500, using readily available laboratory equipment.
A number of press reports appeared suggesting the Senate anthrax had coatings and additives. Newsweek reported the anthrax sent to Senator Leahy had been coated with a chemical compound previously unknown to bioweapons experts. On October 28, 2002, The Washington Post reported, "FBI's Theory on Anthrax is Doubted" suggesting that the senate spores were coated with fumed silica. Two bioweapons experts utilized as consultants by the FBI, Kenneth Alibek and Matthew Meselson, were shown electron micrographs of the anthrax from the Daschle letter. In a November 5, 2002 letter to the editors of The Washington Post, they stated that they saw no evidence the anthrax spores had been coated with fumed silica.
A November 28, 2003 article in Science magazine suggests that the senate anthrax "was a diabolical advance in biological weapons technology". The article describes "a technique used to anchor silica nanoparticles to the surface of spores" using "polymerized glass". According to Stuart Jacobsen, "polymerized glass" is "a silane or siloxane compound that's been dissolved in an alcohol-based solvent like ethanol". It leaves a thin glassy coating that helps bind the silica to particle surfaces.
An August 2006 article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, written by Douglas Beecher of the FBI labs in Quantico, Virginia, states "Individuals familiar with the compositions of the powders in the letters have indicated that they were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents." The article also specifically criticizes "a widely circulated misconception" "that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production". The harm done by this misconception is described this way: "This idea is usually the basis for implying that the powders were inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone. The persistent credence given to this impression fosters erroneous preconceptions, which may misguide research and preparedness efforts and generally detract from the magnitude of hazards posed by simple spore preparations." Critics of the article complained that it did not provide supporting references.
In late October 2001, ABC chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross linked the anthrax sample to Saddam Hussein because of its purportedly containing the unusual additive bentonite. On October 26, Ross said, "sources tell ABCNEWS the anthrax in the tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was laced with bentonite. The potent additive is known to have been used by only one country in producing biochemical weapons—Iraq. ... [I]t is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program ... The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere." On October 28, Ross said that "despite continued White House denials, four well-placed and separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the anthrax by the U.S. Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have detected trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica", a charge that was repeated several times on October 28 and 29.
On October 29, 2001, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel "disputed reports that the anthrax sent to the Senate contained bentonite, an additive that ha[d] been used in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program". Stanzel said, "Based on the test results we have, no bentonite has been found". The same day, Major General John Parker at a White House briefing stated, "We do know that we found silica in the samples. Now, we don't know what that motive would be, or why it would be there, or anything. But there is silica in the samples. And that led us to be absolutely sure that there was no aluminum in the sample, because the combination of a silicate, plus aluminum, is sort of the major ingredients of bentonite." Just over a week later, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge in a White House press conference on November 7, 2001, stated, "The ingredient that we talked about before was silicon." Neither Ross at ABC nor anyone else publicly pursued any further claims about bentonite, despite Ross's original claim that "four well-placed and separate sources" had confirmed its detection.
Some of the anthrax spores (65–75%) in the anthrax attack letters contained silicon inside their spore coats. Silicon was even reportedly found inside the natural spore coat of a spore that was still inside the "mother germ", which was asserted to confirm that the element was not added after the spores were formed and purified, i.e., the spores were not "weaponized".
In 2010, a Japanese study reported, "silicon (Si) is considered to be a "quasiessential" element for most living organisms. However, silicate uptake in bacteria and its physiological functions have remained obscure." The study showed that spores from some species can contain as much as 6.3% dry weight of silicates. "For more than 20 years, significant levels of silicon had been reported in spores of at least some Bacillus species, including those of Bacillus cereus, a close relative of B. anthracis." According to spore expert Peter Setlow, "Since silicate accumulation in other organisms can impart structural rigidity, perhaps silicate plays such a role for spores as well."
The FBI lab concluded that 1.4% of the powder in the Leahy letter was silicon. Stuart Jacobson, a small-particle chemistry expert stated that:
This is a shockingly high proportion [of silicon]. It is a number one would expect from the deliberate weaponization of anthrax, but not from any conceivable accidental contamination.
Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs conducted experiments in an attempt to determine if the amount of silicon in the growth medium was the controlling factor which caused silicon to accumulate inside a spore's natural coat. The Livermore scientists tried 56 different experiments, adding increasingly high amounts of silicon to the media. All of their results were far below the 1.4% level of the attack anthrax, some as low as .001%. The conclusion was that something other than the level of silicon controlled how much silicon was absorbed by the spores.
Richard O. Spertzel, a microbiologist who led the United Nations' biological weapons inspections of Iraq, wrote that the anthrax used could not have come from the lab where Ivins worked. Spertzel said he remained skeptical of the Bureau's argument despite the new evidence presented on August 18, 2008, in an unusual FBI briefing for reporters. He questioned the FBI's claim that the powder was less than military grade, in part because of the presence of high levels of silica. The FBI had been unable to reproduce the attack spores with the high levels of silica. The FBI attributed the presence of high silica levels to "natural variability". This conclusion of the FBI contradicted its statements at an earlier point in the investigation, when the FBI had stated, based on the silicon content, that the anthrax was "weaponized", a step that made the powder more airy and required special scientific know-how.
"If there is that much silicon, it had to have been added," stated Jeffrey Adamovicz, who supervised Ivins's work at Fort Detrick. Adamovicz explained that the silicon in the anthrax attack could have been added via a large fermentor, which Battelle and some other facilities use" but "we did not use a fermentor to grow anthrax at USAMRIID ... [and] We did not have the capability to add silicon compounds to anthrax spores." Ivins had neither the skills nor the means to attach silicon to anthrax spores. Richard Spertzel explained that the Fort Detrick facility did not handle anthrax in powdered form. "I don't think there's anyone there who would have the foggiest idea how to do it."
Authorities traveled to six continents, interviewed over 9,000 people, conducted 67 searches and issued over 6,000 subpoenas. "Hundreds of FBI personnel worked the case at the outset, struggling to discern whether the Sept. 11 al-Qaeda attacks and the anthrax murders were connected before eventually concluding that they were not." In September 2006, there were still 17 FBI agents and 10 postal inspectors assigned to the case, including FBI Special Agent C. Frank Figliuzzi who was the on-scene commander of the evidence recovery efforts.
The FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both gave permission for Iowa State University to destroy the Iowa anthrax archive, and the archive was destroyed on October 10 and 11, 2001.
The FBI and CDC investigation has been hampered by the destruction of a large collection of anthrax spores collected over more than seven decades and kept in more than 100 vials at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Many scientists claim that the quick destruction of the anthrax spores collection in Iowa eliminated crucial evidence useful for the investigation. A precise match between the strain of anthrax used in the attacks and a strain in the collection would have offered hints as to when bacteria had been isolated and, perhaps, as to how widely it had been distributed to researchers. Such genetic clues could have given investigators the evidence necessary to identify the perpetrators.
Immediately after the anthrax attacks, White House officials repeatedly pressured FBI Director Robert Mueller to prove that they were a second-wave assault by al-Qaeda following the September 11 attacks. During the president's morning intelligence briefings, Mueller was "beaten up" for not producing proof that the killer spores were the handiwork of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, according to a former aide. "They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East," the retired senior FBI official stated. The FBI knew early on that the anthrax used was of a consistency requiring sophisticated equipment and was unlikely to have been produced in some "cave". At the same time, both President Bush and Vice President Cheney in public statements speculated about the possibility of a link between the anthrax attacks and Al Qaeda. The Guardian reported in early October that American scientists had implicated Iraq as the source of the anthrax, and the next day the Wall St. Journal editorialized that Al Qaeda perpetrated the mailings, with Iraq the source of the anthrax. A few days later, John McCain suggested on the Late Show with David Letterman that the anthrax may have come from Iraq, and the next week ABC News did a series of reports stating that three or four (depending on the report) sources had identified bentonite as an ingredient in the anthrax preparations, implicating Iraq.
Statements by the White House and public officials quickly proved that there was no bentonite in the attack anthrax. "No tests ever found or even suggested the presence of bentonite. The claim was just concocted from the start. It just never happened." Nonetheless, a few conservative journalists repeated ABC's bentonite report for several years, even after the invasion of Iraq, as evidence that Saddam not only possessed "weapons of mass destruction", but had used them in attacks on the United States.
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg is an anti-nuclear, anti-biological warfare activist. She and others began claiming that the attack might be the work of a "rogue CIA agent" in October 2001, as soon as it became known that the Ames strain of anthrax had been used in the attacks, and she told the FBI the name of the "most likely" person. On November 21, 2001, she made similar statements to the Biological and Toxic Weapons convention in Geneva. In December 2001, she published "A Compilation of Evidence and Comments on the Source of the Mailed Anthrax" via the web site of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) claiming that the attacks were "perpetrated with the unwitting assistance of a sophisticated government program". She discussed the case with reporters from The New York Times. On January 4, 2002, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times published a column titled "Profile of a Killer" stating "I think I know who sent out the anthrax last fall." For months, Rosenberg gave speeches and stated her beliefs to many reporters from around the world. She posted "Analysis of the Anthrax Attacks" to the FAS web site on January 17, 2002. On February 5, 2002, she published "Is the FBI Dragging Its Feet?" In response, the FBI stated, "There is no prime suspect in this case at this time". The Washington Post reported, "FBI officials over the last week have flatly discounted Dr. Rosenberg's claims". On June 13, 2002, Rosenberg posted "The Anthrax Case: What the FBI Knows" to the FAS site. On June 18, 2002, she presented her theories to senate staffers working for Senators Daschle and Leahy. On June 25, the FBI publicly searched Hatfill's apartment, and he became a household name. "The FBI also pointed out that Hatfill had agreed to the search and is not considered a suspect." American Prospect and Salon.com reported, "Hatfill is not a suspect in the anthrax case, the FBI says." On August 3, 2002, Rosenberg told the media that the FBI asked her if "a team of government scientists could be trying to frame Steven J. Hatfill". In August 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft labeled Steven Hatfill a "person of interest" in a press conference, though no charges were brought against him. Hatfill is a virologist, and he vehemently denied that he had anything to do with the anthrax mailings and sued the FBI, the Justice Department, Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, and others for violating his constitutional rights and for violating the Privacy Act. On June 27, 2008, the Department of Justice announced that it would settle Hatfill's case for $5.8 million.
Hatfill has also sued The New York Times and its columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, as well as Donald Foster, Vanity Fair, Reader's Digest, and Vassar College for defamation. The case against The New York Times was initially dismissed, but it was reinstated on appeal. The dismissal was upheld by the appeals court on July 14, 2008, on the basis that Hatfill was a public figure and malice had not been proven. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal on December 15, 2008. Hatfill's lawsuits against Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest were settled out of court in February 2007, but no details were made public. The statement released by Hatfill's lawyers said, "Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit has now been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all the parties".
Bruce E. Ivins had worked for 18 years at the government's bio defense labs at Fort Detrick and was a top biodefense researcher. The Associated Press reported on August 1, 2008 that he had apparently committed suicide at the age of 62. It was widely reported that the FBI was about to press charges against him, but the evidence was largely circumstantial and the grand jury in Washington reported that it was not ready to issue an indictment. Rush D. Holt, Jr. represented the district where the anthrax letters were mailed, and he said that circumstantial evidence was not enough and asked FBI director Robert S. Mueller to appear before Congress to provide an account of the investigation. Ivins's death left two unanswered questions. Scientists familiar with germ warfare said that there was no evidence that he had the skills to turn anthrax into an inhalable powder. Alan Zelicoff aided the FBI investigation, and he stated: "I don't think a vaccine specialist could do it…. This is aerosol physics, not biology".
W. Russell Byrne worked in the bacteriology division of the Fort Detrick research facility. He said that Ivins was "hounded" by FBI agents who raided his home twice, and he was hospitalized for depression during that time. According to Byrne and local police, Ivins was removed from his workplace out of fears that he might harm himself or others. "I think he was just psychologically exhausted by the whole process," Byrne said. "There are people who you just know are ticking bombs. He was not one of them."
On August 6, 2008, federal prosecutors declared Ivins to be the sole perpetrator of the crime when US Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor laid out the case to the public. "The genetically unique parent material of the anthrax spores... was created and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins." But other experts disagreed, including biological warfare and anthrax expert Meryl Nass, who stated: "Let me reiterate: No matter how good the microbial forensics may be, they can only, at best, link the anthrax to a particular strain and lab. They cannot link it to any individual." At least 10 scientists had regular access to the laboratory and its anthrax stock, and possibly quite a few more, counting visitors from other institutions and workers at laboratories in Ohio and New Mexico that had received anthrax samples from the flask. The FBI later claimed to have identified 419 people at Fort Detrick and other locations who had access to the lab where flask RMR-1029 was stored, or who had received samples from flask RMR-1029.
Ivins told a mental health counselor more than a year before the anthrax attacks that he was interested in a young woman who lived out of town and that he had "mixed poison" which he took with him when he went to watch her play in a soccer match. "If she lost, he was going to poison her," said the counselor, who treated Ivins at a Frederick clinic four or five times in mid-2000. She said that Ivins emphasized that he was a skillful scientist who "knew how to do things without people finding out". The counselor was so alarmed by his emotionless description of a specific, homicidal plan that she immediately alerted the head of her clinic and a psychiatrist who had treated Ivins, as well as the Frederick Police Department. She said that the police told her that nothing could be done because she did not have the woman's address or last name.
In 2008, Ivins told a different therapist that he planned to kill his co-workers and "go out in a blaze of glory". That therapist stated in an application for a restraining order that Ivins had a "history dating to his graduate days of homicidal threats, actions, plans, threats and actions towards therapist. Dr. David Irwin, his psychiatrist called him homicidal, sociopathic with clear intentions."
According to the report on the Amerithrax investigation published by the Department of Justice, Ivins engaged in actions and made statements that indicated a consciousness of guilt. He took environmental samples in his laboratory without authorization and decontaminated areas in which he had worked without reporting his activities. He also threw away a book about secret codes, which described methods similar to those used in the anthrax letters. Ivins threatened other scientists, made equivocal statements about his possible involvement in a conversation with an acquaintance, and put together outlandish theories in an effort to shift the blame for the anthrax mailings to people close to him.:9
The FBI said that Ivins's justifications for his actions after the environmental sampling, as well as his explanations for a subsequent sampling, contradicted his explanation for the motives for the sampling.
In 2002, researchers did not believe it was possible to distinguish between anthrax variants. In January 2002, Ivins suggested that DNA sequencing should show differences in the genetics of anthrax mutations which would allow the source to be identified. Despite researchers advising the FBI that this may not have been possible, Ivins tutored agents on how to recognise them. Considered cutting edge at the time, this technique is now commonplace. In February 2002, Ivins volunteered to provide samples from several variants of the Ames strain in order to compare their morphs. He submitted two test tube "slants" each from four samples of the Ames strain in his collection. Two of the slants were from flask RMR-1029. Although the slants from flask RMR-1029 were later reported to be a positive match, all eight slants were reportedly in the wrong type of test tube and would therefore not be usable as evidence in court. On March 29, 2002, Ivins's boss instructed Ivins and others in suites B3 and B4 on how to properly prepare slants for the FBI Repository. The subpoena also included instructions on the proper way to prepare slants. When Ivins was told that his February samples did not meet FBIR requirements, he prepared eight new slants. The two new slants prepared from flask RMR-1029 submitted in April by Ivins did not contain the mutations that were later determined to be in flask RMR-1029.
It was reported that in April 2004, Henry Heine found a test tube in the lab containing anthrax and contacted Ivins. In an email sent in reply, Ivins reportedly told him it was probably RMR-1029 and for Heine to forward a sample to the FBI. Doubts regarding the reliability of the FBI tests were later raised when the FBI tested Heine's sample and a further one from Heine's test tube: one tested negative and one positive.
A DOJ summary report of February 19, 2010, said that "the evidence suggested that Dr. Ivins obstructed the investigation either by providing a submission which was not in compliance with the subpoena, or worse, that he deliberately submitted a false sample.":79 Records released under the Freedom of Information Act in 2011 show that Ivins provided four sets of samples from 2002 to 2004, twice the number the FBI reported. Three of the four sets tested positive for the morphs.
The FBI said that "At a group therapy session on July 9, 2008, Dr. Ivins was particularly upset. He revealed to the counselor and psychologist leading the group, and other members of the group, that he was a suspect in the anthrax investigation and that he was angry at the investigators, the government, and the system in general. He said he was not going to face the death penalty, but instead had a plan to 'take out' co-workers and other individuals who had wronged him. He noted that it was possible, with a plan, to commit murder and not make a mess. He stated that he had a bullet-proof vest, and a list of co-workers who had wronged him, and said that he was going to obtain a Glock firearm from his son within the next day, because federal agents were watching him and he could not obtain a weapon on his own. He added that he was going to 'go out in a blaze of glory.'":50
While in a mental hospital, Ivins made menacing phone calls to his social worker Jean Duley on July 11 and 12.
In the letters sent to the media, the characters 'A' and 'T' were sometimes bolded or highlighted by tracing over, according to the FBI suggesting that the letters contained a hidden code.:58
According to the FBI, Summary Report issued on February 19, 2010, following the search of Ivins's home, cars, and office on November 1, 2007, investigators began examining his trash.:64 A week later, just after 1:00 a.m. on the morning of November 8, the FBI stated that Ivins was observed throwing away "a copy of a book entitled Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, published by Douglas Hofstadter in 1979" and "a 1992 issue of American Scientist Journal which contained an article entitled 'The Linguistics of DNA,' and discussed, among other things, codons and hidden messages".:61
The book Gödel, Escher, Bach contains a lengthy description of the encoding/decoding procedures, including an illustration of hiding a message within a message by bolding certain characters. According to the FBI Summary Report, "[w]hen they lifted out just the bolded letters, investigators got TTT AAT TAT – an apparent hidden message". The 3-letter groups are codons, "meaning that each sequence of three nucleic acids will code for a specific amino acid".:59
The FBI Summary Report proceeds to say: "From this analysis, two possible hidden meanings emerged: (1) 'FNY' – a verbal assault on New York, and (2) PAT – the nickname of [Dr. Ivins's] Former Colleague #2." Ivins was known to have a dislike for New York City, and four of the media letters had been sent to New York.:60 The report states that it "was obviously impossible for the Task Force to determine with certainty that either of these two translations was correct", however, "the key point to the investigative analysis is that there is a hidden message, not so much what that message is".:60 According to the FBI, Ivins showed a fascination with codes and also had an interest in secrets and hidden messages,:60 ff and was familiar with biochemical codons.:59 ff
"The letters accompanying the anthrax read like the work of a jihadist, suggesting that their author was an Arab extremist—or someone masquerading as one—yet also advised recipients to take antibiotics, implying that whoever had mailed them never really intended to harm anyone." Experts have suggested that the anthrax mailings included a number of indications that the mailer was trying to avoid harming anyone with his warning letters.
In June 2008, Ivins was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. The FBI stated that during a June 5 group therapy session there, Ivins had a conversation with an unnamed witness, during which he made a series of statements about the anthrax mailings that the FBI said could best be characterized as "non-denial denials".:70–71 When asked about the anthrax attacks and whether he could have had anything to do with them, the FBI said that Ivins admitted he suffered from loss of memory, stating that he would wake up dressed and wonder if he had gone out during the night. Some of his responses allegedly included the following selected quotes:
In an interview with a Confidential Human Resource (CHR) which took place on January 8, 2008, the FBI said that the CHR told FBI agents that since Ivins's last interview with the FBI (on November 1, 2007), Ivins has "on occasion spontaneously declared at work, 'I could never intentionally kill or hurt someone'".
After the FBI announced that Ivins acted alone, many people with a broad range of political views, some of whom were colleagues of Ivins, expressed doubts. Reasons cited for these doubts include that Ivins was only one of 100 people who could have worked with the vial used in the attacks and that the FBI couldn't place him near the New Jersey mailbox from which the anthrax was mailed. The FBI's own genetic consultant, Claire Fraser-Ligget stated that the failure to find any anthrax spores in Ivins's house, vehicle or on any of his belongings seriously undermined the case. Noting unanswered questions about the FBI's scientific tests and lack of peer review, Jeffrey Adamovicz, one of Ivins's supervisors in USAMRIID's bacteriology division, stated, "I'd say the vast majority of people [at Fort Detrick] think he had nothing to do with it." More than 200 colleagues attended his memorial service following his death.
Alternative theories proposed include FBI incompetence, that Syria or Iraq directed the attacks, or that similar to some 9/11 conspiracy theories the US government knew in advance that the attacks would occur. Senator Patrick Leahy who is Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and who had received an anthrax-tainted letter, said the FBI has not produced convincing evidence in the case. The Washington Post called for an independent investigation in the case saying that reporters and scientists were poking holes in the case. Had both attacks on the senators succeeded in killing their targets, the result would have been a Republican majority in the Senate, in the immediate future because of the loss of two Democrats, and in the long term, as the governors of the targets' states would have been likely to name Republican replacements. This suggests that right-wing extremists had an incentive to carry out the attacks.
On September 17, 2008, Senator Patrick Leahy told FBI Director Robert Mueller during testimony before the Judiciary Committee which Leahy chairs, that he did not believe Army scientist Bruce Ivins acted alone in the 2001 anthrax attacks, stating:
I believe there are others involved, either as accessories before or accessories after the fact. I believe that there are others out there. I believe there are others who could be charged with murder.
Tom Daschle, the other Democratic senator targeted, believes Ivins was the sole culprit. Though the motive according to the FBI's final Amerithrax report related to Ivins's goal to save the failing anthrax vaccine program, the FBI omitted any reference in the report about Sen. Daschle questioning the vaccine. Considering Sen. Daschle was the only targeted entity who had questioned the anthrax vaccine, which tied directly to the stated motive, it remains uncertain as to why the FBI did not report to the American people the fact that Sen. Daschle co-signed a letter on 21 June 2001 with Rep. Gephardt to SecDef Rumsfeld questioning the vaccine and the punishments of U.S. troops for refusing to be inoculated. Instead, the FBI implied witnesses had no "inkling" as to why the Senator was attacked, and that there was no "ostensible" connection to the motive.
Although the FBI matched the genetic origin of the attack spores to the spores in Ivins's flask RMR-1029, the spores within flask RMR-1029 did not have the same silicon chemical "fingerprint" as the spores in the attack letters. The implication is that spores taken out of flask RMR-1029 had been used to grow new spores for the mailings.
On April 22, 2010, the U.S. National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, convened a review committee that heard testimony from Henry Heine, a microbiologist who was formerly employed at the Army's biodefense laboratory in Maryland where Ivins had worked. Heine told the panel that it was impossible that the deadly spores had been produced undetected in Ivins's laboratory, as maintained by the FBI. He testified that using the equipment at the army lab, at least a year of intensive work would have been required to produce the quantity of spores contained in the letters, and that such an intensive effort could not have escaped the attention of colleagues. Heine also told the panel that lab technicians who worked closely with Ivins have told him they saw no such work. He stated further that where Ivins worked biological containment measures were inadequate to prevent the Anthrax spores from floating out of the laboratory into animal cages and offices. "You'd have had dead animals or dead people," Heine said. According to Science Magazine, "Heine caveated his remarks by saying that he himself had no experience making anthrax stocks." Science magazine provides additional comments by Adam Driks of Loyola who stated that the amount of anthrax in the letters could be made in "a number of days". Emails by Ivins state, "We can presently make 1 X 10^12 [one trillion] spores per week." And The New York Times reported on May 7, 2002, that the Leahy letter contained .871 grams of anthrax powder [equivalent to 871 billion spores]
In a technical article to be published in the Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense in 2011, three scientists argued that the preparation of the spores did require a high level of sophistication, contrary to the position taken by federal authorities that the material would have been unsophisticated. The paper is largely based on the high level of tin detected in tests of the mailed anthrax, and the tin may have been used to encapsulate the spores, which required processing not possible in laboratories to which Ivins had access. According to the scientific article, this raises the possibility that Ivins was not the perpetrator or did not act alone. Earlier in the investigation, the FBI had named tin as a substance "of interest" but the final report makes no mention of it and fails to address the high tin content. The chairwoman of the National Academy of Science panel that reviewed the FBI's scientific work and the director of a separate review by the Government Accountability Office said that the issues raised by the paper should be addressed. Other scientists, such as Johnathan L. Kiel, a retired Air Force scientist who worked on anthrax for many years, did not agree with the authors' assessments — saying that the tin might be a random contaminant rather than a clue to complex processing. Kiel said that tin might simply be picked up by the spores as a result of the use of metal lab containers, although he had not tested that idea.
In 2011, the chief of the Bacteriology Division at the Army laboratory, Patricia Worsham, said it lacked the facilities in 2001 to make the kind of spores in the letters. In 2011, the government conceded that the equipment required was not available in the lab calling into question a key pillar of the FBI's case, that Ivins had produced the anthrax in his lab. According to Worsham, the lab's equipment for drying spores, a machine the size of a refrigerator, was not in containment so that it would be expected that non-immunized personnel in that area would have become ill. Colleagues of Ivins at the lab have asserted that he couldn't have grown the quantity of anthrax used in the letters without their noticing it.
A spokesman for the Justice Department said that the investigators continue to believe that Ivins acted alone.
Experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies (CCBS) concluded that one of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, Ahmed al-Haznawi, had likely been exposed to anthrax. al-Haznawi and another man arrived in the emergency room of a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, hospital presenting an ugly, dark lesion on his leg that he said he developed after bumping into a suitcase two months earlier. Dr. Christos Tsonas thought the injury was curious, cleaned it and prescribed an antibiotic. After September 11, federal investigators found the medicine prescribed by Tsonas among the possessions of al-Haznawi.
Tsonas came to believe that al-Haznawi's lesion "was consistent with cutaneous anthrax", a disease that causes skin lesions. The experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies interviewed Tsonas and prepared a memorandum that was circulated among top government officials. The memorandum said that the diagnosis of cutaneous anthrax was "the most probable and coherent interpretation of the data available" and that "such a conclusion of course raises the possibility that the hijackers were handling anthrax and were the perpetrators of the anthrax letter attacks".
Several 9/11 hijackers, including al-Haznawi, lived in Boca Raton, Florida, near American Media Inc. workplace of the first victim of the anthrax attacks. They also attended flight school there. Some of the hijackers rented apartments from a real estate agent who was the wife of an editor of The Sun, a publication of American Media. Further, a pharmacist in Delray Beach, Florida, stated he had told the FBI that two of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, entered the pharmacy seeking medicine to treat irritations on Atta's hands.
If the 9/11 hijackers were involved in the anthrax attacks they would probably have needed an accomplice to mail the tainted letters since the four recovered anthrax letters were postmarked on September 18 and October 9.
Congressman Rush Holt, whose district in New Jersey includes a mailbox from which anthrax letters are believed to have been mailed, called for an investigation of the anthrax attacks by Congress or by an independent commission he proposed in a bill entitled the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act (H.R. 1248) Other members of Congress have also called for an independent investigation.
An official of the U.S. administration said in March 2010 that President Barack Obama probably would veto legislation authorizing the next budget for U.S. intelligence agencies if it called for a new investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, as such an investigation "would undermine public confidence" in an FBI probe. In a letter to congressional leaders, Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget at the time, wrote that an investigation would be "duplicative", and expressed concern about the appearance and precedent involved when Congress commissions an agency Inspector General to replicate a criminal investigation, but did not list the anthrax investigation as an issue that was serious enough to advise the President to veto the entire bill.
In what appears to have been a response to lingering skepticism, on September 16, 2008, the FBI asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to conduct an independent review of the scientific evidence that led the agency to implicate U.S. Army researcher Bruce Ivins in the anthrax letter attacks of 2001. However, despite taking this action, Director Mueller said that the scientific methods applied in the investigation had already been vetted by the research community through the involvement of several dozen nonagency scientists.
The NAS review officially got underway on April 24, 2009. While the scope of the project included the consideration of facts and data surrounding the investigation of the 2001 Bacillus anthracis mailings, as well as a review of the principles and methods used by the FBI, the NAS committee was not given the task to "undertake an assessment of the probative value of the scientific evidence in any specific component of the investigation, prosecution, or civil litigation", nor to offer any view on the guilt or innocence of any of the involved people.
In mid-2009, the NAS committee held public sessions, in which presentations were made by scientists, including scientists from the FBI laboratories. In September 2009, scientists, including Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University, Joseph Michael of Sandia National Laboratory and Peter Weber of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, presented their findings. In one of the presentations, scientists reported that they did not find any silica particles on the outside of the spores (i.e., there was no "weaponization"), and that only some of the spores in the anthrax letters contained silicon inside their spore coats. One of the spores was still inside the "mother germ", yet it already had silicon inside its spore coat.
In October 2010, the FBI submitted materials to NAS that it had not previously provided. Included in the new materials were results of analyses performed on environmental samples collected from an overseas site. Those analyses yielded evidence of the Ames strain in some samples. NAS recommended a review of those investigations.
The NAS committee released its report on February 15, 2011, concluding that it was "impossible to reach any definitive conclusion about the origins of the anthrax in the letters, based solely on the available scientific evidence". The report also challenged the FBI and U.S. Justice Department's conclusion that a single-spore batch of anthrax maintained by Ivins at his laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland was the parent material for the spores in the anthrax letters.
Dozens of buildings were contaminated with anthrax as a result of the mailings. The companies in charge of the clean up and decontaminating of buildings in New York City, including ABC Headquarters and a midtown Manhattan building that was part of the Rockefeller Center and was home to the New York Post and Fox News, were Bio Recovery Corporation of Woodside, New York and Bio-Recovery Services of America, based in Ohio. Bio Recovery provided the labor and equipment, such as HEPA filtered negative pressure air scrubbers, HEPA vacuums, respirators, cyclone foggers, and decontamination foam licensed by the Sandia National Laboratories. Ninety-three bags of anthrax-contaminated mail were removed from the New York Post alone.
The decontamination of the Brentwood postal facility took 26 months and cost $130 million. The Hamilton, New Jersey postal facility remained closed until March 2005; its cleanup cost $65 million.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency led the collaborative effort to clean up the Hart Senate Office Building, where Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office was located, as well as the Ford Office Building and several other locations around the capitol. It used $27 million of its funds for its Superfund program on the Capitol Hill anthrax cleanup. One FBI document said the total damage exceeded $1 billion.
The anthrax attacks, as well as the September 11, 2001 attacks, have spurred significant increases in U.S. government funding for biological warfare research and preparedness. For example, biowarfare-related funding at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) increased by $1.5 billion in 2003. In 2004, Congress passed the Project Bioshield Act, which provides $5.6 billion over ten years for the purchase of new vaccines and drugs. These vaccines included the monoclonal antibody Raxibacumab, which treats anthrax as well as an Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed, both of which are stockpiled by the US government.
A theory that Iraq was behind the attacks, based upon the evidence that the powder was weaponized and some reports of alleged meetings between 9/11 conspirators and Iraqi officials, may have contributed to the momentum which ultimately led to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.
The attack lead to the widespread confiscation and curtailment of US Mail, especially to US media companies: "checks, bills, letters, and packages simply stopped arriving. For many people and businesses that had resisted the cultural shift to e-mail, this was the moment that pushed them online."
After the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax mailings, lawmakers were pressed for legislation to combat further terrorist acts. Under heavy pressure from then Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, a bipartisan compromise in the House Judiciary Committee allowed legislation for the Patriot Act to move forward for full consideration later that month.
Years after the attack, several anthrax victims reported lingering health problems including fatigue, shortness of breath and memory loss.
A 2004 study proposed that the total number of people harmed by the anthrax attacks of 2001 should be raised to 68.
A postal inspector, William Paliscak, became severely ill and disabled after removing an anthrax-contaminated air filter from the Brentwood mail facility on October 19, 2001. Although his doctors, Tyler Cymet and Gary Kerkvliet, believe that the illness was caused by anthrax exposure, blood tests did not find anthrax bacteria or antibodies, and therefore the CDC does not recognize it as a case of inhalational anthrax.
The case has been referenced seven times on the police procedure crime drama Criminal Minds.
The Ames strain is one of 89 known strains of the anthrax bacterium (Bacillus anthracis). It was isolated from a diseased 14-month-old Beefmaster heifer that died in Sarita, Texas in 1981. The strain was isolated at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory and a sample was sent to the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). Researchers at USAMRIID mistakenly believed the strain came from Ames, Iowa because the return address on the package was the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames and mislabeled the specimen.The Ames strain came to wide public attention in association with the 2001 anthrax attacks. Seven letters mailed to media outlets and US Senators on September 18, 2001 and October 9, 2001 contained anthrax bacteria of this particular strain. This strain is a monomorphic disease, mutating slowly if at all.
Because of its virulence, the Ames strain is used by the United States as somewhat of a gold standard for development of vaccines and testing their effectiveness, starting in the 1980s, after work on weaponizing the Vollum 1B strain ended and all weaponized stocks were destroyed after the end of the U.S. biological warfare program in 1969.Anthrax War
Anthrax War is a 2009 documentary film about the 2001 anthrax attacks and the rise of today's biomilitary industrial complex that was co-produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and ARTE-France. Broadcast internationally, it was nominated for the 2009 Prix Europa for Outstanding Current Affairs Broadcast. It also screened at the Frontline Club in London, the IDFA Fest in Amsterdam, the Tri-Continental Film Fest in Johannesburg, and the 9/11 Film Festival in Oakland, California, among other venues.
Filmmakers Bob Coen and Eric Nadler also wrote the accompanying book Dead Silence that discusses, in greater detail, the investigation that the documentary examines.
Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, anthrax-laced letters were mailed to offices of media outlets in New York City and Florida, and to the U. S. Senate in Washington DC, creating an atmosphere of fear across the United States and beyond. The filmmakers question the official story surrounding the FBI investigation of this instance of biological terrorism.Anthrax hoaxes
Anthrax hoaxes involving the use of white powder or labels to falsely suggest the use of anthrax are frequently reported in the United States and globally. Hoaxes have increased following the 2001 anthrax attacks, after which no genuine anthrax attacks have occurred. The FBI and U.S. postal inspectors have responded to thousands of "white powder events" and targets have included government offices, US embassies, banks and news organizations.BioWatch
BioWatch is a United States federal government program to detect the release of pathogens into the air as part of a terrorist attack on major American cities. Reportedly operating in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, DC, San Diego, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, St. Louis, Houston, Los Angeles and 21 other cities, the BioWatch program was created in 2001 in response to the increased threat of bioterrorism sparked by the 2001 anthrax attacks, and was announced in President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address of 2003.The program, described as "the nation's first early warning network of sensors to detect biological attack" operates via a system of filters located within existing Environmental Protection Agency air filters that monitor air quality. Results from these filters are analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who pass any significant results to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.As of mid-2012, the system had generated a large number of false alarms, with more than 50 such cases documented between 2003 and 2008. State and local health officials have never ordered evacuations or distributed emergency medicines in response to a positive reading from the system.Bruce Edwards Ivins
Bruce Edwards Ivins (; April 22, 1946 – July 29, 2008) was an American microbiologist, vaccinologist, senior biodefense researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Fort Detrick, Maryland, and the key suspected perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks.On July 29, 2008, he died of an overdose of Tylenol with codeine in an apparent suicide after learning that criminal charges were likely to be filed against him by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for an alleged criminal connection to the 2001 anthrax attacks. No formal charges were ever actually filed against him for the crime, and no direct evidence of his involvement has been uncovered.At a news conference at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) on August 6, 2008, FBI and DOJ officials formally announced that the Government had concluded that Ivins was likely solely responsible for "the deaths of five persons, and the injury of dozens of others, resulting from the mailings of several anonymous letters to members of Congress and members of the media in September and October 2001, which letters contained Bacillus anthracis, commonly referred to as anthrax." On February 19, 2010, the FBI released a 92-page summary of evidence against Ivins and announced that it had concluded its investigation. The FBI conclusions have been contested by many, including senior microbiologists, the widow of one of the victims, and several prominent American politicians. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who was among the targets in the attack, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), former Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) all argued that Ivins was not solely responsible for the attacks.
The FBI subsequently requested a panel from the National Academy of Sciences to review its scientific work on the case. On May 15, 2011, the panel released its findings, which "conclude[d] that the bureau overstated the strength of genetic analysis linking the mailed anthrax to a supply kept by Bruce E. Ivins." The committee stated that its primary finding was that "it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the B. anthracis in the mailings based on the available scientific evidence alone."Death of Robert Stevens
Robert K. "Bob" Stevens (June 20, 1938 – October 5, 2001) was a British-born American photojournalist for the Sun, a subsidiary of American Media, located in Boca Raton, Florida, United States. He was the first journalist killed in the 2001 anthrax attacks when letters containing anthrax were mailed to multiple media outlets in the United States. The anthrax attacks also killed four others in the United States and sickened seventeen others.Frank Figliuzzi
Cesare Frank Figliuzzi is the former Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Figliuzzi was previously the Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cleveland Division which includes all of northern Ohio, and the major cities of Cleveland, Toledo, Youngstown, Akron, and Canton. Following his FBI service, Figliuzzi joined General Electric and served for five years as Assistant Chief Security Officer for investigations, insider threat, workplace violence prevention, and special event security for GE's 300,000 employees in 180 countries. He is currently the Chief Operating Officer of ETS Risk Management, Inc., and a National Security Contributor for NBC News.Gregory J. Martin
Captain Gregory J. Martin, M.D., is an American medical doctor and captain in the United States Navy. Martin is a recognized expert in the fields of infectious diseases and bioterrorism.Irradiated mail
Irradiated mail is mail that has been deliberately exposed to radiation, typically in an effort to disinfect it. The most notable instance of mail irradiation occurred in response to the 2001 anthrax attacks; the level of radiation chosen to kill anthrax spores was so high that it often changed the physical appearance of the mail.The United States Postal Service began to irradiate mail in November 2001, in response to the discovery of large-scale contamination at several of its facilities that handled the letters that were sent in the attacks.
A facility in Bridgeport, New Jersey, operated by Sterigenics International, uses a Rhodotron continuous wave electron beam accelerator built by IBA Industrial, to irradiate the mail. A few facilities were planning to use cobalt-60 sources, though it is unclear whether this was ever done.Jean Malecki
Dr. Jean Marie Malecki is an American public health official who was among the first physicians to deal with a bioterrorism attack in the United States. Dr. Malecki has been the Director of the Palm Beach County Health Department since 1991 and is the Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine.During her tenure as the Palm Beach County Health Director, Malecki played a key role in responding to bioterrorism risks during the 2001 anthrax attacks at American Media in Boca Raton, Florida. On October 2, 2001, Robert Stephens, photo editor for the supermarket tabloid publishing company, was admitted to JFK Medical Center, where an initial diagnosis of possible anthrax was made by Dr. Larry Bush, his attending physician. Multiple tests were rapidly conducted by county and state labs, and ultimately by the CDC in Atlanta; meanwhile, Mr. Stevens's condition worsened, and he died October 5. On October 7, Dr. Malecki quarantined the company's building following this suspicious death, citing anthrax as the cause even though some federal and state officials disagreed. Malecki helped start a Healthy Care program, where nurses provide in-home counseling to pregnant women and continued health guidance after the birth. She also helped create a Comprehensive AIDS Program, which provides clinical care, dental care and housing assistance to people with HIV/AIDS.Malecki has received numerous awards in recognition of her contributions to the fields of public health and preventive medicine. In 2004, Malecki was recognized as Changing the Face of Medicine and honored as a Local Legend by the National Library of Medicine, American Medical Women's Association and United States Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL). The National Library of Medicine added Malecki to its Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America's Women Physicians exhibit at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland.
The American Public Health Association also honored Malecki in 2004 by profiling her in "The Faces of Public Health," a book published by Pfizer celebrating 25 individuals in the public health field from across the United States.In 2002, the National Association of County and City Health Officials honored Dr. Malecki with the J. Howard Beard Award. And in 2000, the University of South Florida honored Malecki as an Outstanding Woman in Public Health.John Francis Eisold
John Francis Eisold was the attending physician of the United States Capitol from 1994 to 2009. Eisold holds the rank of rear admiral in the United States Navy.
He graduated from Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and did his postgraduate training at the National Naval Medical Center Program specializing in general internal medicine and geriatric medicine.Admiral Eisold and the Attending Physician's office played a central role in the 2001 anthrax attacks on Senator Tom Daschle's U.S. Senate office, taking nasal swabs from the nearly 6,000 staff, employees, and visitors that were potentially exposed to the harmful bacteria. Admiral Eisold and his staff also provided initial treatment to Senator Tim Johnson when he suffered from an intracerebral bleed caused by a cerebral arteriovenous malformation, prior to Johnson's admission to George Washington University Hospital.Ken Alibek
Colonel Kanatzhan "Kanat" Alibekov (Kazakh: Қанатжан Әлібеков, Qanatzhan Älibekov; Russian: Канатжан Алибеков, Kanatzhan Alibekov; born 1950) – known as Kenneth "Ken" Alibek since 1992 – is a former Soviet physician, microbiologist, and biological warfare (BW) expert. He rose rapidly in the ranks of the Soviet Army to become the First Deputy Director of Biopreparat, where he oversaw a vast program of BW facilities.
During his heyday as a Soviet bio-weapons designer, in the late 1970s and 1980s, Alibekov oversaw projects that included weaponizing glanders and Marburg hemorrhagic fever, and created Russia's first tularemia bomb. Perhaps his signal accomplishment was the creation of a new "battle strain" of anthrax, known as "Strain 836", later hailed by the Los Angeles Times as "the most virulent and vicious strain of anthrax known to man".In 1992, he defected to the United States; he has since become an American citizen and made his living as a biodefense consultant, speaker, and entrepreneur. He had actively participated in the development of biodefense strategy for the U.S. government, and between 1998 and 2005 he testified several times before the U.S. Congress and other governments on biotechnology issues. In the lead up to the war between the US and Iraq, he testified before Congress, without direct knowledge or evidence, that "attempts to wipe out Iraq's bioweapons capability were probably not successful." In the ensuing years of war, no evidence has been found in Iraq to back up his claims.
Alibek currently works as a professor and Vice-Dean of Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. He remains a citizen of the United States.Mail Isolation Control and Tracking
Mail Isolation Control and Tracking (MICT) is an imaging system employed by the United States Postal Service (USPS) that takes photographs of the exterior of every piece of mail that is processed in the United States. The Postmaster General has stated that the system is primarily used for mail sorting, though it also enables the USPS to retroactively track mail correspondence at the request of law enforcement. It was created in the aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people, including two postal workers. The automated mail tracking program was created so that the Postal Service could more easily track hazardous substances and keep people safe, according to U.S. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe.The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed MICT on June 7, 2013, when discussing the Bureau's investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to U.S. President Barack Obama and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. The FBI stated in a criminal complaint that the program was used to narrow its investigation to Shannon Richardson. U.S. Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe confirmed in an interview with the Associated Press the existence of this program on August 2, 2013.In confirming the existence of MICT, Donahoe told the Associated Press that the USPS does not maintain a massive centralized database of the letter images. He said that the images are taken at more than 200 mail processing centers around the country, and that each scanning machine at the processing centers only keeps images of the letters it scans. He also stated the images are retained for a week to 30 days and then destroyed.Computer security and information privacy expert Bruce Schneier compared MICT to the mass surveillance of the National Security Agency (NSA), revealed in June 2013 by Edward Snowden. Schneier said, "Basically, [the USPS is] doing the same thing as the [NSA] programs, collecting the information on the outside of your mail, the metadata, if you will, of names, addresses, return addresses and postmark locations, which gives the government a pretty good map of your contacts, even if they aren't reading the contents."James J. Wedick, a former FBI agent, said of MICT, "It's a treasure trove of information. Looking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with — all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena." He also said the program "can be easily abused because it's so easy to use, and you don't have to go through a judge to get the information. You just fill out a form."National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center
The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) is a government biodefense research laboratory created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and located at the sprawling biodefense campus at Fort Detrick in Frederick, MD, USA. The NBACC (pronounced EN-back) is the principal U.S. biodefense research institution engaged in laboratory-based threat assessment and bioforensics. NBACC is an important part of the National Interagency Biodefense Campus (NIBC) also located at Fort Detrick for the US Army, National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Agriculture.Person of interest
"Person of interest" is a term used by U.S. law enforcement when identifying someone involved in a criminal investigation who has not been arrested or formally accused of a crime. It has no legal meaning, but refers to someone in whom the police are "interested," either because the person is cooperating with the investigation, may have information that would assist the investigation, or possesses certain characteristics that merit further attention.
While terms such as suspect, target, and material witness have clear and sometimes formal definitions, person of interest remains undefined by the U.S. Department of Justice. Unsub is a similar term which is short for "unknown subject" (used often, for example, in the TV show Criminal Minds). Person of interest is sometimes used as a euphemism for suspect, and its careless use may encourage trials by media.
With respect to terrorism investigations, Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times: "Law enforcement officials say that the term simply reflects the new tactics required to fight terrorism. But some legal scholars say officials are trying to create a more benign public image, even as their power expands."Richard O. Spertzel
Richard Oscar Spertzel (9 February 1933 – 24 March 2016) was a veterinarian, microbiologist and expert in the area of biological warfare. He participated in germ warfare research at U.S. Army Medical Unit (USAMU), Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland. (USAMU is now known as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID). Spertzel held several positions USAMRIID including Deputy for Research, Deputy Commander, and Chief of the Animal Assessment Division. From 1994 to 1998 Spertzel served as the Senior Biologist for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq. His Congressional testimonial about the WMD capabilities of Iraq helped to justify the subsequent US invasion of Iraq. After the invasion, Spertzel was a member of the Iraq Survey Group, which found that Iraq was not producing nor planning to produce WMD at the time of the invasion.The Demon in the Freezer
The Demon in the Freezer is a 2002 non-fiction book (ISBN 0345466632) on the biological weapon agents smallpox and anthrax and how the American government develops defensive measures against them. It was written by journalist Richard Preston, also author of the best-selling book The Hot Zone (1994), about outbreaks of Ebola virus in Africa and Reston, Virginia and the U.S. government's response to them.
The book is primarily an account of the Smallpox Eradication Program (1967–1980), the ongoing perception by the U.S. government that smallpox is still a potential bioterrorism agent, and the controversy over whether or not the remaining samples of smallpox virus in Atlanta and Moscow (the "demon" in the freezer) should be finally destroyed. However, the writer was overtaken by events—the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax letter incidents (called "Amerithrax"), both in 2001—and so much of the book interweaves the anthrax investigation with the smallpox material in a manner some critics have said is "awkward" and somewhat "disjointed".United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
The United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID; pronounced: you-SAM-rid) is the U.S Army's main institution and facility for defensive research into countermeasures against biological warfare. It is located on Fort Detrick, Maryland and is a subordinate lab of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC), headquartered on the same installation.
USAMRIID is the only U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) laboratory equipped to study highly hazardous viruses at Biosafety Level 4 within positive pressure personnel suits.
USAMRIID employs both military and civilian scientists as well as highly specialized support personnel, in all about 800 people. In the 1950s and '60s, USAMRIID and its predecessor unit pioneered unique, state-of-the-art biocontainment facilities which it continues to maintain and upgrade. Investigators at its facilities frequently collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and major biomedical and academic centers worldwide.
USAMRIID was the first bio-facility of its type to research the Ames strain of anthrax, determined through genetic analysis to be the bacterium used in the 2001 anthrax attacks.William C. Patrick III
William C. Patrick III (July 24, 1926 – October 1, 2010) was an influential microbiologist and bioweaponeer for the U.S. Army during the Cold War.
Patrick headed the American offensive biological warfare (BW) program at Fort Detrick, MD beginning in 1951. After biological weapons development was discontinued by President Richard Nixon in 1969, and the bioweapons were decommissioned in 1971-72, he continued to work at Fort Detrick on biowarfare defense projects until 1986.
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