2001 anthrax attacks: Wikis


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2001 anthrax attacks

A letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle containing anthrax powder killed two postal workers
Location New York City, New York
Boca Raton, Florida
Washington, D.C.
Date Letters postmarked September 18, 2001 and October 9, 2001; some were opened at a later date
Target ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, New York Post, National Enquirer, Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy
Attack type Bioterrorism
Weapon(s) Anthrax
Death(s) 5
Injured 17 infected
Suspected perpetrator(s) Bruce Edwards Ivins

The 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, also known as Amerithrax from its Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) case name, occurred over the course of several weeks beginning on September 18, 2001, only a few days after the September 11 attacks. Letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others. (A 2004 study however, has shown that the total number of harmed people should be raised to 68 [1].) The primary suspect was not publicly identified until 2008.

In mid-2008, the FBI narrowed its focus to Bruce Edwards Ivins, a scientist who worked at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. Ivins was told of the impending prosecution and on July 27 committed suicide, by an overdose of acetaminophen.[2]

On August 6, 2008, federal prosecutors declared Ivins to be the sole culprit of the crime.[3] Two days later, Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Rush Holt called for hearings into the DOJ and FBI's handling of the investigation.[4][5]

On September 15, 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice responded in writing to questions from Sen. Charles Grassley posed 7 months earlier [6]. FBI Director Robert Mueller wrote "“There is also ongoing criminal and civil litigation concerning the Amerithrax investigation and information derived therefrom, and an independent review of the FBI’s “detective work” at this time could adversely affect those proceedings.”

On February 19, 2010, the FBI formally closed its investigation.[7]



Seven letters are believed to have been mailed in the US, resulting in 22 infections; five people died.

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.[8] Robert Stevens, the first person who died from the mailings, worked at a tabloid called Sun, also published by AMI. Only the New York Post and NBC News letters were actually found;[9] 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 coarse brown granular material looking like Purina Dog Chow.[10]

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 on October 15, and the government mail service was shut down. The unopened Leahy letter was discovered in an impounded mail bag on November 16. The Leahy letter had been misdirected to the State Department mail annex in Sterling, Virginia, due to a misread ZIP code; 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. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a molecular biologist and research professor at the State University of New York at Purchase, described the material as "weaponized" or "weapons grade" anthrax during a 2002 interview for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.[11] However, the Washington Post later reported in 2006 that the FBI no longer believes the anthrax was weaponized.

At least 22 people developed anthrax infections, with 11 of 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 Ottilie Lundgren, a 94-year old widow of a prominent judge from Oxford, Connecticut, who was the last known victim.

The 2001 anthrax attacks have been compared to the Unabomber attacks which took place from 1978 to 1995.[12]

The letters

The anthrax letters are believed to have been mailed from Princeton, New Jersey.[11] In August 2002, investigators found anthrax spores in a city street mailbox located at 10 Nassau Street near the Princeton University campus. About 600 mailboxes that could have been used to mail the letters were tested for anthrax. The box on Nassau Street was the only one to test positive.

The notes

The New York Post and NBC News letters contained the following note:

The second anthrax note

The second note that was addressed to Senators Daschle and Leahy read:


The return address

The letters addressed to Senators Daschle and Leahy have the return address:

4th Grade
Greendale School
Franklin Park NJ 08852

The address is fictitious. 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, of which Monmouth Junction is a part.

Letter to Chile

A letter containing anthrax was also mailed to Dr. Antonio Banfi, a pediatrician in Santiago, Chile. Although the return address was Orlando, Florida, the postmark was Zurich, Switzerland. The letter was sent via DHL, which used a Swiss bulk mail shipper in New York and a Swiss postmark. Unlike the anthrax letters with U.S. addressees, the letter to Chile was mailed in a business envelope and had a type-written return address, a business in Florida. Dr. Banfi received the letter, but found it suspicious and gave it to the Chilean authorities. No one is known to have been infected with anthrax from it. The letter baffled American and Chilean officials because, they say, "as they dig deeper, nothing quite adds up." [13]

The anthrax material

The letters contained at least two grades of anthrax material; the coarse brown material sent in the media letters and the fine powder sent to the two U.S. Senators. In addition, it has been suggested the anthrax material sent to an old Post Office Box address of the National Enquirer and then forwarded to AMI may have been an intermediate grade similar to the anthrax sent to the Senate.[14] The brown granular anthrax sent to media outlets in New York City caused only skin infections, cutaneous anthrax. The anthrax sent to the Senators caused the more dangerous form of infection known as inhalational anthrax, as did the anthrax sent to AMI in Florida.

Although the anthrax preparations were of different grades, all of the material was derived from the same bacterial strain. Known as the Ames strain, it was first researched at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Fort Detrick, Maryland. The Ames strain was then distributed to at least fifteen bio-research labs within the U.S. and six locations overseas.

DNA sequencing of the anthrax taken from Robert Stevens (the first victim) was conducted at The Institute for Genomic Research beginning in December 2001. Sequencing was finished within a month and the analysis was published in the journal Science in early 2002.[15]

Radiocarbon dating conducted by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in June 2002 established that the anthrax was cultured no more than two years before the mailings. In October 2006 it was reported that water used to process the anthrax spores came from a source in the northeastern United States.[16] Erroneous press reports in 2003 indicated the FBI failed to reverse engineer the type of anthrax found in the letters.[17][18] According to Chemical & Engineering News, December 4, 2006,[16] there was never any attempt to "reverse engineer" the attack anthrax. Instead, the Dugway Proving Grounds "used the Leahy powder as the culture starter to 'produce several different preparations using different media, and different ways of drying and milling the preparation' that the FBI could use for comparison purposes." They "never analyzed the Leahy powder and did no comparative analyses between the preparations made and the Leahy powder."

Controversy over coatings and additives

Early reports suggested the anthrax sent to the Senate had been "weaponized." On October 29, 2001, Major General John Parker at a White House briefing said that silica had been found in the Daschle anthrax sample. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge in a White House press conference on November 7, 2001, told reporters that tests indicated silica, not bentonite, had been used as a binding agent in making the anthrax.[19] Later, the FBI claimed a "lone individual" could have weaponized anthrax spores for as little as $2,500, using a makeshift basement laboratory.[20]

In late October, 2001, ABC chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross several times linked the anthrax sample to Saddam Hussein; on October 26, "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.... it 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," [21] on October 28, stating that "despite continued White House denials, four well-placed and separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the anthrax by the US Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have detected trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica" [22] and several times on October 28 and 29.[23]

A number of press reports appeared suggesting the Senate anthrax had coatings and additives.[24][25][26] Newsweek reported the anthrax sent to Senator Leahy had been coated with a chemical compound previously unknown to bioweapons experts.[27] Two experts on the Soviet anthrax program, Kenneth Alibek and Matthew Meselson, were consultants with the Justice Department and were shown electron micrographs of the anthrax from the Daschle letter. They replied to the Washington Post article "FBI's Theory on Anthrax Is Doubted" (October 28, 2002), reporting that they saw no evidence the anthrax spores had been coated and that more careful investigation of the specimens is necessary.[28]

A week after Meselson and Alibek had their letter published in the Washington Post, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), one of the military labs that analyzed the Daschle anthrax, published an official newsletter stating that silica was a key aerosol enabling component of the Daschle anthrax.[29] The AFIP lab deputy director, Florabel Mullick, said "This [silica] was a key component. Silica prevents the anthrax from aggregating, making it easier to aerosolize. Significantly, we noted the absence of aluminum with the silica. This combination had previously been found in anthrax produced by Iraq." Unlike naturally occurring anthrax the coated spores were able to reaerosolize. A study published in JAMA on December 11, 2002 showed simulated office activities conducted in the Daschle suite more than three weeks after the initial incident resulted in up to a 65 fold increase in airborne spores over samples collected at the same locations during a semiquiescent state.[30] The spectrum AFIP based their conclusions on actually showed a peak for the element Silicon, an element sometimes naturally occurring in anthrax[citation needed] and not silica (Silicon dioxide) used to weaponise it. A former top military scientist who saw the AFIP scanning electron micrographs of the powder stated; "If the spores had been coated with silica, they would have looked like doughnuts with large sugar particles on them," instead, "the Daschle spores were clean doughnut holes with no sugars."[31]

In February 2005, Stephan P. Velsko of Lawrence Livermore National Labs published a paper titled "Physical and Chemical Analytical Analysis: A key component of Bioforensics".[32] In this paper, Velsko illustrated that different silica coating processes gave rise to weaponized anthrax simulants that look completely different from one another. He suggested that the difference in the look of products could provide evidence of what method the lab that manufactured the 2001 anthrax used, and thus provide clues to the ultimate origin of the material.

In May 2005, Academic Press published the volume "Microbial Forensics" edited by Roger Breeze, Bruce Budowle and Steven Schutzer.[33] Bruce Budowle is with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Forensic Science Laboratory. Although the volume does not directly discuss the silica coatings found in the Senate anthrax of 2001, the contributors to the chapters discuss in detail the forensics of silica coated weaponized bacterial spores. Pictures are shown of silica weaponized bacillus spores that are both mixed with silica and fully coated with silica. Pictures of weaponized Clostridium spores coated with Colloidal, spherical silica are also shown. Again, the aim of these studies is to define the forensic fingerprints of silica weaponization processes.

In July 2005, Dr Michael V Callahan (who is presently with DOD's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)) gave a briefing before the Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack.[34] Dr Callahan stated "First, the attack illustrated that advanced expertise had readily been exploited by a bioterrorist; the preparation in the Daschle letter contained extraordinarily high concentrations of purified endospores. Second, the spore preparation was coated with an excipient which helped retard electrostatic attraction, thus increasing aerosolization of the agent."

The August 2006 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology contained an article written by Dr. Douglas Beecher of the FBI labs in Quantico, VA.[35] The article, titled "Forensic Application of Microbiological Culture Analysis to Identify Mail Intentionally Contaminated with Bacillus anthracis spores ," 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." However, after this article had appeared the editor of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, L. Nicholas Ornston, stated that he was uncomfortable with Beecher's statement in the article since it had no evidence to back it up and contained no citation.[36]

In April 2007 an analysis of the spore preparation was published in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.[37] This analysis by Dr. Dany Shoham and Dr. Stuart Jacobsen pointed out that the sophisticated additives and processing used to create the weapon likely could be used to trace the origin.

In August 2007 Dr. Kay Mereish, UN Chief, Biological Planning and Operations, published a letter in Applied and Environmental Microbiology titled "Unsupported Conclusions on the Bacillus anthracis Spores".[38] This letter, published in the same journal as FBI scientist Douglas Beecher (see paragraph above), points out that the statements made by Dr. Beecher in his article on the lack of additives were not backed up with any data. She suggested that Dr. Beecher publish a paper with analytical data showing the absence of silica or other additives. Such data would include SEM images of the pure spores as well as EDX spectra and EDX images showing the absence of any foreign additives such as silica or the elements silicon and oxygen. Dr. Mereish referenced a 2006 CBRN, Counter-Proliferation and Response meeting in Paris where a presenter announced that an additive was present in the attack anthrax that affected the spore's electrical charges.

Fox News reported in March 2008 that an email written by a scientist at Fort Detrick revealed details of the powder preparation;[39] these details appear to be consistent with a highly specialized powder. The Fox News report said "But in an e-mail obtained by Fox News, scientists at Fort Detrick openly discussed how the anthrax powder they were asked to analyze after the attacks was nearly identical to that made by one of their colleagues. "Then he said he had to look at a lot of samples that the FBI had prepared ... to duplicate the letter material," the e-mail reads. "Then the bombshell. He said that the best duplication of the material was the stuff made by [name redacted]. He said that it was almost exactly the same … his knees got shaky and he sputtered, 'But I told the General we didn't make spore powder!'" The Fox News report added that around 4 persons, all with connections to Fort Detrick, were being looked at as suspects by the FBI.


A reward for information totalling $2.5 million is being offered by the FBI, U.S. Postal Service and ADVO, Inc.

Authorities traveled to six different continents, interviewed over nine thousand people, conducted 67 searches and issued over 6,000 subpoenas. Seventeen FBI agents and ten postal inspectors were assigned to the case, including FBI Special Agent C. Frank Figliuzzi who was the on-scene commander of the evidence recovery efforts. [40]


Al Qaeda and Iraq blamed for attacks

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 former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney in public statements speculated about the possibility of a link between the anthrax attacks and Al Qaeda.[41] The Guardian reported in early October that American scientists have implicated Iraq as the source of the anthrax,[42] and the next day the Wall St. Journal editorialized that Al Qaeda perpetrated the mailings, with Iraq the source of the anthrax.[43] A few days later, John McCain suggested on the David Letterman Show that the anthrax may have come from Iraq,[44] 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.[21][22][23]

Though the sources claiming the supposed inclusion of bentonite were not named, these reports were cited in the press, starting almost immediately,[45][46] and for several years following, even after the invasion of Iraq,[47][48][49] as evidence that Saddam not only possessed "weapons of mass destruction", but had actually used them in attacks on the United States. Tom Ridge's dismissal of bentonite on November 7, 2001 went ignored by most media.

Anthrax attack bug "identical" to Army strain report

On May 9, 2002, New Scientist published an article that reported:

'The DNA sequence of the anthrax sent through the US mail in 2001 has been revealed and confirms suspicions that the bacteria originally came from a US military laboratory. The data released uses codenames for the reference strains against which the attack strain was compared. The two reference strains that appear identical to the attack strain most likely originated at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick (USAMRIID), Maryland. The new work also shows that substantial genetic differences can emerge in two samples of an anthrax culture separated for only three years. This means the attacker's anthrax was not separated from its ancestors at USAMRIID for many generations.' [50]

Suspects and "persons of interest"

Dr. Steven Hatfill

Before Dr. Ivins' suicide, the Justice Department had named no suspects in the anthrax case. In the months following the attacks Attorney General John Ashcroft labeled Dr. Steven Hatfill a "person of interest" in a press conference, no charges were brought against him. Hatfill, a virologist, vehemently denied he had anything to do with the anthrax (bacteria) mailings and sued the FBI, the Justice Department, John 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 it would settle Hatfill's case for $5.8 million.[51]

He has also sued The New York Times and its columnist Nicholas D. Kristof and, separately, Donald Foster, Vanity Fair, Reader's Digest, and Vassar College, for defamation. The case against The New York Times was initially dismissed,[52] but was reinstated on appeal. Nicholas Kristof has been dropped from the suit. Hatfill's lawyers believe the Privacy Act was violated and continue to question journalists who have reported on their client.[53]

Dr. Philip Zack

Others have claimed Dr. Philip Zack, who worked at Ft. Detrick also qualifies as a person of interest.[54] Dr. Philip Zack exhibited hostile behaviours towards Dr. Ayaad Assaad, his colleague, and was caught on a security video two months after being fired entering without authorization a lab where anthrax samples went missing. The FBI knew of Zack and his unauthorized access to the lab, and Assaad had been questioned by the FBI in connection with the attacks.[55][56][57]

Dr. Bruce Ivins

On August 1, 2008 the Associated Press reported that Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, had apparently committed suicide. Ivins was a top U.S. biodefense researcher who worked at Ft. Detrick. It was widely reported the FBI was about to lay charges on him, however the evidence is largely circumstantial and the grand jury in Washington reported it was not ready to issue an indictment.[58][59][60] Rep. Rush Holt, who represents the district where the anthrax letters were mailed, said circumstantial evidence was not enough and asked FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to appear before Congress to provide an account of the investigation.[61] Ivins's death leaves unanswered two puzzles. Scientists familiar with germ warfare said there was no evidence that Dr. Ivins had the skills to turn anthrax into an inhalable powder. According to Dr. Alan Zelicoff who aided the F.B.I. investigation "I don’t think a vaccine specialist could do it...This is aerosol physics, not biology". The other problem is the lack of a motive.[62]

Dr. W. Russell Byrne, a colleague who worked in the bacteriology division of the Fort Detrick research facility, said Ivins was "hounded" by FBI agents who raided his home twice, and he was hospitalized for depression earlier this month. 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," Byrne said. "He was not one of them."[63]

On August 6, 2008, federal prosecutors declared Ivins to be the sole culprit of the crime when Jeffrey Taylor, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia laid out the case against Ivins to the public. The main evidence is already in dispute. Taylor stated "The genetically unique parent material of the anthrax spores ... was created and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins." But other experts disagree, including biological warfare and anthrax expert, Dr. 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.[64]

Doubts about FBI conclusions

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 their doubts.[65] 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,[65] and that the FBI was unable either to find any anthrax spores at Ivins' house or on his other belongings nor place him near the New Jersey mailbox from which the anthrax was mailed.[66]

Alternative theories proposed include FBI incompetence, that Syria or Iraq directed the attacks, or that similar to some 9/11 conspiracy theories the U.S. government knew in advance that the attacks would occur.[65] 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.[67] The Washington Post called for an independent investigation in the case saying that reporters and scientists were poking holes in the case.[68]

On September 17, 2008, Sen. Patrick Leahy told FBI Director Robert Mueller during testimony before his the Judiciary Committee 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.[69]"

To the contrary, Tom Daschle, the other democratic senator targeted, believes Ivins was the sole culprit.[70]

Although the FBI matched the genetic origin of the spores to the RMR-1029 culture in Ivins' flask, scientists say the spores have a chemical "fingerprint" that did not match the strain from the flask. The implication is that the spores had been taken out of the flask and grown somewhere else after the culture was created in 1997.[71]

Silicon content too high

The anthrax used in the attacks had silicon, according to the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The presence of the silicon is the reason why, when the letters to Senators Leahy and Daschle were opened, the anthrax vaporized into an aerosol.[72]

Dr. 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.[73] 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."[74] However, 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.[75]

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." [76]

The FBI attempted to defend its conclusion and contracted scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs to conduct experiments in which anthrax is accidently absorbed from a media heavily laced with silicon. The Livermore scientists tried 56 times to replicate the high silicon content, adding increasingly high amounts of silicon to the media. They were unable even to approach the 1.4% level of the actual attack anthrax, with most results an order of magnitude lower and some as low as .001%.[77]

"If there is that much silicon, it had to have been added," stated Jeffrey Adamovicz, who supervised Ivins's work at Fort Detrick.[78] Adamovicz explained that the silicon in the attack anthrax could have been added via a large fermentor, which Battelle and some other failities 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." Dr. 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."[79]

Congressional oversight

In late 2002 Senators Daschle and Leahy called in the FBI to explain the Washington Post story "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted", Washington Post, October 28, 2002. This was later on reported in "Anthrax Powder — State of the Art?".[80] The latter article described how Dwight Adams, chief FBI scientist, told Senators Daschle and Leahy that there were no special additives in the senate anthrax and that the silica was "naturally occurring". However, Adams admitted that there was scientific information concerning the nature of the anthrax organism that was deemed by his superiors too sensitive to share with Senators Daschle and Leahy:

Connolly: Earlier you testified that regarding the scientific aspect of the investigation there was information that was simply in your view too sensitive to share to the public about the particular characteristics of the organism sent in the mail. Is that correct?
Adams: In so many words, yes, sir.
Connolly: I don't want to mischaracterize it. If you think I've mischaracterized it in any way then, please, put your own words on it.
Adams: No, that's fine.
Connolly: Did you feel like you had the same restrictions in informing the senate, congress, or their staff in terms of what it is you would reveal to them about the particular characteristics of the organism that was sent?
Adams: As I've already stated there was specific information that I did not feel appropriate to share with either the media or to the Hill because it was too sensitive of the information to do so.[81]

On October 23, 2006 Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa sent a six-page letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting a briefing on the anthrax investigation. By December 2006, a total of 33 members of Congress have demanded that the Attorney General update them on the investigation.[82]

The FBI's Assistant Director for Congressional Affairs said, "After sensitive information about the investigation citing congressional sources was reported in the media, the Department of Justice and the FBI agreed that no additional briefings to Congress would be provided." [83]

President opposes new independent investigation

Congressman Rush Holt, whose district in NJ includes a mailbox from which anthrax letters are believed to have been mailed, was troubled by a number of important questions about the anthrax attacks and the FBI's investigation of it that remain unanswered, and has 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)[84] Other members of Congress have also called for an independent investigation.[85]

The president however opposes such investigations and such legislation on the ground that they may "undermine public confidence" in the FBI probe and would probably veto a bill that contained an investigation provision.[86]


Contaminated mail flow

Contamination and cleanup

Dozens of buildings were contaminated with anthrax as a result of the mailings. AMI moved to a different building. The decontamination of the Brentwood postal facility took 26 months and cost US$130 million. The Hamilton, New Jersey postal facility remained closed until March 2005; its cleanup cost $65 million. The United States Environmental Protection Agency spent $41.7 million to clean up government buildings in Washington, D.C. One FBI document said the total damage exceeded $1 billion.[87]

The principal means of decontamination is fumigation with chlorine dioxide gas.

Private consultants

Blasland, Bouck, & Lee (now Arcadis-BBL) was contracted by both CBS and NBC to manage their Anthrax situations. Jay D. Keough CIH, Greg Ertel MS, CIH, CSP, and Jim Poesl MS, CIE were the site personnel.

Political effects

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.[88]

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 war.[89]

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.[90][91]


Years after the attack, several anthrax victims reported lingering health problems including fatigue, shortness of breath and memory loss. The cause of the reported symptoms is unknown.[92]

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.[93]


Several noted journalists have published major articles about the anthrax case.

Dave Altimari and Jack Dolan have written many of the articles on the anthrax case that have appeared in The Hartford Courant. In their reporting they found incidents of mismanagement, racism, and missing pathogens at the Army's biodefense lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland.[94]

William J. Broad, a writer for the New York Times, has written a number of articles about the case.[95]

Gary Matsumoto, an investigative reporter and television producer for Bloomberg News who specializes in business, science and military affairs, wrote, "Anthrax Powder - State of the Art?"[80] He also co-wrote, "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted"[96] with Washington Post science writer, Guy Gugliotta. Matsumoto discusses the advanced properties of the anthrax found in the Senate letters. In his Science article, Matsumoto reports that the powder in the Senate letters most closely resembled the advanced aerosols now being made in U.S. biodefense labs. On August 6, 2008, the FBI and U.S. Post Service released affidavits suggesting that Freedom of Information Act Requests submitted by Matsumoto in 2000-2001 to the Department of Defense (regarding Dr. Bruce Ivins' work on a second generation anthrax vaccine) helped provoke Ivins into mailing the anthrax letters.[97]

Scott Shane writing for the Baltimore Sun and New York Times has written several articles on the anthrax case.[98][99][100]

David Tell, a writer for the The Weekly Standard, wrote two articles critical of the FBI's profile of a lone domestic terrorist being involved in the anthrax case.[101]

Amateur investigators

A number of people outside government have taken an interest in the anthrax case, analyzing clues and developing theories.[102]

Kenneth J. Dillon is the author of the article "Was Abderraouf Jdey the Anthrax Mailer?"[103] He is an historian who served as a foreign service officer and U.S. Department of State intelligence analyst.

Donald Foster is the author of the article, "The Message in the Anthrax".[104] Unlike other amateur investigators, Foster was an insider in the case and has helped the FBI in the past as a forensic linguistic analyst. Foster believes a series of bioterrorist hoaxes trails his prime suspect, Dr. Steven Hatfill.

According to Hatfill's defamation lawsuit against Foster, Foster had previously argued based on the writing and language of the letters that the perpetrator could be a foreigner who spoke Arabic or Urdu. The lawsuit cited an October 23, 2001 appearance by Foster on ABC’s Good Morning America; an article that quoted him in the November 5, 2001 issue of TIME; and a December 26, 2001 The Times article that quoted him.

Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit was settled on or around February 23, 2007. The statement issued by Dr. Hatfill's lawyers said that it was "resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties."[105] Professor Foster, Readers' Digest and the owners of Vanity Fair magazine all retracted any implication that Dr. Hatfill was the anthrax mailer.

Ed Lake operates the web site anthraxinvestigation.com,[106] which contains links to the published information relating to the case. Lake claimed Dr. Steven Hatfill was innocent and now maintains Dr. Bruce Ivins was responsible for the attacks. Lake has self-published a book, Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks,[107] detailing his findings in the anthrax case. Chapter 15 of his book is titled "To Err Is Human"[108] and explains in detail how all the incorrect information about coatings and additives in the attack anthrax got started.

Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg has been a major figure outside the official investigation. A few months after the anthrax attack, Rosenberg started a campaign to get the FBI to investigate Dr. Steven Hatfill. She gave talks and interviews suggesting the government knew who was responsible for the anthrax attacks, but did not want to charge the individual with the crime. She believed the person responsible was a contractor for the CIA and an expert in bio-warfare. She created a profile of the anthrax attacker that fit Dr. Hatfill. Rosenberg spoke before a committee of Senate staffers suggesting Hatfill was responsible, but did not explicitly provide his name. The highly publicized FBI scrutiny of Dr. Hatfill began shortly thereafter.

Richard M. Smith is a computer expert who publishes on his web site computerbytesman.com.[109] His site was the first to keep track of the anthrax case and was started in 2001. He has many articles about the anthrax case. Smith suggested that if the perpetrator looked up information such as addresses on the Internet, web server logs may contain valuable evidence.

Comments from bio-weapons experts

Kenneth Alibek

"I would say preliminarily that they [anthrax terrorists] are not very highly trained professionals." "It could be homegrown or foreign. I cannot answer this question."

"It was a primitive process, but it was a workable process."[110]

Leonard A. Cole

"According to a report by a lead FBI microbiologist, the mailed spores were not produced with additives or sophisticated engineering, which contradicts a supposition by some observers." [111]

William C. Patrick III

"It’s high-grade."

"It’s free flowing. It’s electrostatic free. And it’s in high concentration."

"It appears to have an additive that keeps the spores from clumping."

"The only difference between this and weapons grades is the size of the production. You can produce a very good grade of anthrax in the lab. The issue is whether those efforts can be expanded in scale, so you can make large quantities."[112]

"The fact that they have selected the Ames strain, a hot strain of anthrax, indicates to me that they know what the hell they are doing."

"Sometimes, I feel that a disgruntled professor who didn't get tenure is working at night in his little laboratory and producing this crud." "But I can't discount the possibility that it could be coming in by diplomatic pouch from a large supply. I can't answer it. I can't make up my mind. I really don't know."[113]

Richard O. Spertzel

"In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them." "And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good."[114]

"I do not believe science will identify the laboratory or country from which the present anthrax spores are derived. The quality of the product contained in the letter to Senator Daschle was better than that found in the Soviet, U.S. or Iraqi program, certainly in terms of the purity and concentration of spore particles."

"I have maintained from the first descriptions of the material contained in the Daschle letter that the quality appeared to be such that it could be produced only by some group that was involved with a current or former state program in recent years. The level of knowledge, expertise, and experience required and the types of special equipment required to make such quality product takes time and experimentation to develop. Further, the nature of the finished dried product is such that safety equipment and facilities must be used to protect the individuals involved and to shield their clandestine activity from discovery."[115]

I have believed all along that Iraqi intelligence had their dirty hands on this event. Based on ISG findings that Iraq had apparently decided in 1994 to not attempt production, but rather only research to enhance "break-out" capability and that the Iraqi and Syrian intelligence services had formed an alliance to develop the field "in chemical and biological of mutual interest," I now suspect that Syria made the anthrax product with Iraqi Intelligence assistance. The cooperation included Iraqi scientists assisting the Syrians.[116]

"Let's start with the anthrax in the letters to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. The spores could not have been produced at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, where Ivins worked, without many other people being aware of it. Furthermore, the equipment to make such a product does not exist at the institute. [...] From what we know so far, Bruce Ivins, although potentially a brilliant scientist, was not that man [who could make such a sophisticated product]. The multiple disciplines and technologies required to make the anthrax in this case do not exist at Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Inhalation studies are conducted at the institute, but they are done using liquid preparations, not powdered products."[117]

Byron Weeks

"Yes, of course it was weaponized anthrax. There's no question," [118]

Comments from government officials

Director of the CIA George Tenet

The director of the CIA under the Bush administration until 2006 said in his book At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA “The most startling revelation from this intelligence success story was that the anthrax program had been developed in parallel to 9/11 planning. As best as we could determine, al-Zawahiri’s project had been wrapped up in the summer of 2001, when the al-Qaida deputy, along with Hambali, were briefed over a week by Sufaat on the progress he had made to isolate anthrax. The entire operation had been managed at the top of al-Qai’da with strict compartmentalization. Having completed this phase of his work, Sufaat fled Afghanistan in December 2001 and was captured by authorities trying to sneak back into Malaysia. Rauf Ahmad was detained by Pakistani authorities in December 2001. Our hope was that these and our many other actions had neutralized the anthrax threat, at least temporarily.”

Tom Carey

Tom Carey was inspector in charge of the FBI Amerithrax investigation from October 2001 to April 2002.

On the mailings of the letters,

"What we do have and what we do know is that the anthrax was mailed here in the United States; we know it was mailed from 10 Nassau Street, Princeton, New Jersey, from a mailbox. We know the flow of the mail flow, we know the dates that the letters were sent, and it would appear to many of us that have worked this investigation, that it’s much more consistent with someone being an American-born, and having some level of familiarity with the Princeton-Clinton New Jersey area versus a foreign operative coming into the U.S. and being able to successfully conduct such an attack."

On an Iraqi connection,

"What I would say is the information that came out there that led weapons inspectors and others to suspect the Iraq connection was wrong information. Now it doesn’t say we still wouldn’t look for any potential connection to Iraq, or rather any other States sponsored terrorist, but what they specifically referred to didn’t exist, and it was misinformation."[119]

James Fitzgerald

FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit

"We don't have any evidence at this point linking this to any more than one person." "We're not ruling anything out." "But we're looking in the direction of that being domestic." "He is an opportunist and took advantage of this as a veil of secrecy."[120]

Ari Fleischer

White House Press Secretary

"The quality anthrax sent to Senator Daschle's office could be produced by a Ph.D. microbiologist and a sophisticated laboratory."[121]

Van A. Harp

Van A. Harp was Assistant Director in charge of the Washington Field Office of the FBI.

"The person knew what they were doing. Contrary to what was initially out there at the beginning of the investigation, this anthrax, we do not believe, was made up in a garage or a bathtub. There are only so many people, so many places that this can be done."[122]

"Regarding the hijacker who some believe may have had anthrax, exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been."[123]


NBC's Tom Brokaw was one of the targets in the first mailing.

Pre-2001: Related events

  • 1972: The Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center begins operating under the auspices of the National Cancer Institute at Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland. Scientists at the National Cancer Institute building would additionally research other deadly diseases such AIDS, anthrax and other ailments that could afflict U.S troops either through chemical or biological weapons.
  • April 7, 1997: It is announced that Fort Detrick is one of the candidates for the site of a "multimillion-dollar vaccine storage and production center" that would protect U.S. troops against biological agents, including vaccines against bubonic plague, ebola and anthrax. The project would be a 10-year contract estimated at $500 to $700 million, and would include construction of a 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) building for about $10 million.
  • April 12, 1997: Dr. Bruce E. Ivins writes in "The News Post" of Frederick, Maryland, that "I personally welcome the proposed vaccine facility" at Fort Detrick. "What is being proposed is a vaccine production facility, not a lethal biological agent production facility. The only way I can think of being seriously injured by anthrax or plague vaccine is to get plunked on the head by a vial of the stuff," he wrote. He described himself as "a reasonably scientifically literate private citizen living right across the street from Fort Detrick."
  • November 7, 1997: The Army awards a $322 million contract to DynPort Vaccine Company, LLC, a joint venture formed specifically between Reston-based DynCorp and British-based Porton International, to develop and store a warehouse of vaccines to protect soldiers from biological warfare. About 45 percent of the 10-year contract is to be conducted at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland.[124]

2001: The attacks

  • Early September: "Some White House personnel" are given ciprofloxacin, the antibiotic of choice for anthrax, for undisclosed reasons.[125]
  • September 18: A White House alarm system detected dangerous levels of radioactive, chemical or biological agents, indicating exposure to Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the White House situation room. The alarm was the result of a malfunction; nevertheless the Vice President begins taking precautions against this type of attack.[127]
  • September 19: A letter addressed to Jennifer Lopez containing a Star of David and a bluish powder arrived in the Sun's mailroom in the American Media headquarters. Several people handled the letter, and Stevens sniffed some of the powder.
  • September 22–October 1: Nine people contract anthrax, but are not correctly diagnosed.
  • September 30: Robert Stevens, 63, photo editor at the supermarket tabloid The Sun, began feeling ill on the last day of a five-day vacation at his daughter's home in North Carolina
  • October 2: Early in the morning, Robert Stevens is admitted to the JFK Medical Center emergency room in Atlantis, Florida presenting disorientation, a high fever, vomiting and inability to speak. Later that morning a spinal tap is conducted, and based upon the box-shaped bacillus present in Mr. Stevens's spinal fluid, Dr. Larry Bush, chief of infectious diseases and his attending physician, makes an initial diagnosis of anthrax. Larry Bush contacts Dr. Jean Malecki, Director of the Palm Beach County Health Department. Over the next two days, multiple tests are conducted by labs at the local hospital, the state, and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, all confirming Stevens is dying from anthrax.
  • October 2: Egyptian-born Environmental Protection Agency scientist and former Ft. Detrick biowarfare researcher Ayaad Assaad is requested to appear before the FBI to discuss an anonymous letter from someone claiming to be a former coworker, accusing him of being "a potential biological terrorist" with "a vendetta against the U.S. government, and that if anything happens to him, he told his sons to carry on." The letter describes Assaad's personal and professional background in detail. After meeting the next day, the FBI dismisses all allegations.[128]
  • October 4: Robert Stevens is publicly confirmed to have inhalational anthrax. It is the first known case of inhalational anthrax in the U.S. since 1976. United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson downplays terrorism as a possible cause, suggesting Stevens may have contracted anthrax by drinking water from a stream. Officials emphasize that since anthrax is not contagious, there is no reason for public concern.
  • October 5: Robert Stevens, 63, dies, the first fatality in the anthrax attacks.
  • October 6–October 9: Attack #2 — Some time within this range, two more anthrax letters are mailed (Trenton, New Jersey postmark dated October 9), targeting Senators Daschle and Leahy. (Monday, October 8, was Columbus Day, hence no mail pickup).
  • October 7: Anthrax spores are found on Robert Stevens's computer keyboard. Dr. Malecki of the Palm Beach County Health Department orders the American Media building to be closed and quarantined. Workers are tested for exposure.
  • October 10: Officials announced that a third American Media employee tested positive for exposure to anthrax.
  • October 12: The (already opened) anthrax letter to NBC News is found and turned over to the FBI. Only a trace amount of anthrax remains in the letter.
  • October 13: The NBC News letter tests positive for anthrax.
  • October 14: The Guardian reports that "American investigators probing anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York believe they have all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack - and have named Iraq as prime suspect as the source of the deadly spores. Their inquiries are adding to what US hawks say is a growing mass of evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved, possibly indirectly, with the September 11 hijackers. If investigators' fears are confirmed - and sceptics fear American hawks could be publicising the claim to press their case for strikes against Iraq - the pressure now building among senior Pentagon and White House officials in Washington for an attack may become irresistible."[42]
  • October 15: In a "featured article", the Wall Street Journal states of the anthrax mailings, "Several circumstantial links to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network are already known" and that "Bin Laden couldn't be doing all this in Afghan caves. The leading supplier suspect has to be Iraq."[43]
  • October 15: The letter to Senator Daschle is opened. The anthrax in the letter was described as a "fine, light tan powder" which easily flew into the air.
  • October 15: Ernesto Blanco was diagnosed with pulmonary anthrax, and moved to the intensive care unit. The Florida Department of Health announced that a minuscule amount of spores were found in the Boca Raton post office. They were found in a small mail sorting area where mail for American Media is handled, specifically in the throwback slot of the letter case for the American Media route. The room was sealed and cleaned.
  • October 17: 31 Capitol workers (five Capitol police officers, three Russ Feingold staffers, 23 Tom Daschle staffers), test positive for the presence of anthrax (presumably via nasal swabs, etc.). Feingold's office is behind Daschle's in the Hart Senate Building. Anthrax spores are found in a Senate mailroom located in an office building near the Capitol. There are rumors that anthrax was found in the ventilation system of the Capitol building itself. The House of Representatives announces it will adjourn in response to the threat.
  • October 18: Senator John McCain states, on the David Letterman Show, that "There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may -- and I emphasize may -- have come from Iraq."[44]
  • October 19: The unopened New York Post anthrax letter is found.
  • October 19: Tom Ridge, Director of Homeland Security, briefs the media on "potential anthrax threats." Ridge reports the tests conducted on the anthrax found as spores at the AMI building in Florida, the material from the NBC News letter and the anthrax from the Daschle letter are all "indistinguishable," meaning they are from the same strain. Also Governor Ridge reveals the FBI has found the site (mailbox) where the letters were first placed. (This initial report may have been in error.)[131]
  • October 21, 2001: Senator Joe Lieberman, on Meet the Press, states "The stuff that is being sent out, most of it, including the stuff that went to Tom Daschle's office, is significantly refined anthrax... So it says to me that there's either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program."[132]
  • October 22: Ridge reports at a White House press conference on the two new deaths of postal workers possibly from anthrax exposure.[133]
  • October 23: It is confirmed that the two postal handlers died of inhalational anthrax.
  • October 25: David Hose, who works at the State Department mail annex in Sterling, Virginia, is hospitalized with inhalational anthrax. The source is the Leahy anthrax letter (yet undiscovered), which was routed to the State Department mail facility in error.
  • October 25: Ridge gives an update on the scientific analysis of the anthrax samples. The anthrax from the Daschle letter is described as "highly concentrated" and "pure." The material is also a "very, very fine powder" similar to talcum powder. The spore clusters are smaller when compared to the anthrax found in the New York Post sample. The opinion is the anthrax from the Daschle sample is deadlier. The New York Post sample is coarser and less concentrated than the Daschle anthrax. It is described as "clumpy and rugged" while the Daschle anthrax is "fine and floaty." Although they differ radically, Ridge emphasizes both anthrax samples are from the same Ames strain.[134]
  • October 26 - October 29: ABC News reports several times that several high-placed sources at Fort Detrick and elsewhere have told them that the anthrax samples contained bentonite, thereby implicating Saddam Hussein's biological warfare program, and explicitly contradicting official White House reports.
  • October 29: Kathy Nguyen, a New York City hospital worker, is hospitalized with inhalational anthrax. The source of the anthrax is unknown.
  • October 29: Major General John Parker at a White House briefing says silica was found in the Daschle anthrax sample. Also General Parker emphases the anthrax spore concentration in the Daschle letter was 10 times that of the New York Post letter.[135]
  • October 31: Kathy Nguyen, 61, dies.
  • October 31: Major General John S. Parker testifies before the Senate Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Service concerning the anthrax found in the Daschle letter.[136]
  • November 7: President Bush describes the attacks as "a second wave of terrorist attacks upon our country." [137]
  • November 7: Ridge in a press briefing dismisses bentonite as a binding agent for the anthrax in the Daschle letter. He says the ingredient is silicon[sic].[138]
  • November 16: The Leahy anthrax letter is found in the impounded mail at the State Department mail facility in Sterling, Virginia.
  • November 20: Ottilie Lundgren, of Connecticut, is diagnosed with inhalational anthrax. The source was most likely contaminated mail, although no anthrax was detected in her home.
  • November 21: Ottilie Lundgren, 94, dies, the fifth and final person to die as a result of the mailings. This sparked major fear in the small affluent community of Oxford, Connecticut.
  • December 16: DNA testing of the anthrax in the Leahy letter matches the Ames strain.


2002: Related events

  • April 15, 2002: U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins tests more than 50 samples from the men's change room, the area outside the passbox, and his own office, at Fort Detrick. All three locations test positive for Ames-strain anthrax, with heavy growth on the rubber molding surrounding the noncontainment side of a passbox. The passbox uses UV radiation to allow personnel to safely transfer materials from labs to outside areas such as hallways.[141]
  • April 16, 2002: Dr. Bruce E. Ivins notifies the USAMRIID Bacteriology Division chief of the preliminary results from his April 15 sampling. USAMRHD confirms the contamination April 16.
  • April 18, 2002: Official testing finds anthrax spores in areas outside containment at Fort Detrick, including Dr. Bruce E. Ivins's office and near a passbox. A sample taken near the passbox tests positive for more than 200 spores of Ames-strain anthrax. The testing also reveals spores in a men's change room.
  • May 9, 2002: A team of investigators led by Timothy Read at The Institute for Genomic Research publishes their findings on the DNA sequence of the anthrax spores used in the attacks. The report, which appears in the journal Science,[142] finds that there are no differences between the attack strain and the original "Ames" anthrax strain from Ft. Detrick, Maryland.
  • June 18, 2002: Barbara Hatch Rosenberg meets with Senate staffers and FBI officials.[143]
  • June 25, 2002: The FBI conducts a consensual search of Steven Hatfill's home.
  • July 2, 2002: New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes "Anthrax? The F.B.I. Yawns." Kristof talks about a "Mr. Z" (later identified as Steven Hatfill) in his column as being someone who the FBI has interviewed and who members of the biodefense community suggest may have been involved in the attacks.[144]
  • July 12, 2002: Columnist Nicholas Kristof writes "The Anthrax Files" suggesting his "Mr. Z" may have been part of several anthrax hoaxes in the past.[145]
  • December 14, 2002: The U.S. Postal Service begins to decontaminate the Brentwood mail facility 14 months after it was closed.

2003-2004: The investigation continues

  • May 11, 2003: Ponds on the north side of Catoctin Mountain, near Gambrill Park Road and Tower Road in Frederick, Maryland, are under investigation by the FBI, in connection with the 2001 anthrax attacks. Divers reportedly retrieved a "clear box" with holes that could accommodate protective biological safety gloves, as well as vials wrapped in plastic from a pond in the Frederick Municipal Forest. A new theory has been developed suggesting how a criminal could have packed anthrax spores into envelopes without harming himself.
  • June 28, 2003: The FBI finishes its investigation of the pond in Frederick, Maryland. Evidence found in the pond includes a bicycle, some logs, a street sign, coins, fishing lures and a handgun. The FBI takes soil samples from the bottom of the pond for testing. No anthrax is found.
  • October 21, 2003: It is announced that decontamination of the Hamilton, NJ post office should begin this week.
  • December 22, 2003: The Brentwood post office reopens, 26 months after the anthrax attacks.
  • July 11, 2004: Almost three years after the attack, decontamination begins on the former American Media headquarters building. The decontamination began with filling the building with chlorine dioxide for 12 hours.
  • November 9, 2004: Ivins's letter to the Fredrick News-Post: "First, it's clear that views like hers would put Jesus on that cross again. Second, thy loom and churn best be still, come the Sabbath. Third, you can get on board or get left behind, because that Christian Nation Express is pulling out of the station!"[5]


  • March 14, 2005: The Hamilton, NJ post office reopens, 41 months after the anthrax attacks.
  • August 24, 2006: Ivins's letter to the Fredrick News-Post: "Rabbi Morris Kosman is entirely correct in summarily rejecting the demands of the Frederick Imam for a 'dialogue.' By blood and faith, Jews are God's chosen, and have no need for "dialogue" with any gentile. End of 'dialogue'."[146]
  • September 25, 2006: Five years after the attacks unnamed officials and unnamed experts speaking to the BBC claimed that the anthrax was not 'military grade'. There was no specific mention or particular denial of the use of the Ames strain.[147]


  • September 4, 2007: Senator Patrick Leahy states in an interview with Vermont blog Vermont Daily Briefing that he is unsatisfied with the progress of the investigation and that he believes that some government officials may know more about the source of the anthrax than has been disclosed. "I think there are people within our government — certainly from the source of it — who know where it came from."[148]
  • March 28, 2008 - Fox News released details of an email exchange between scientists at Fort Detrick.[39] According to Fox News, the scientists "openly discussed how the anthrax powder they were asked to analyze after the attacks was nearly identical to that made by one of their colleagues."
  • June 27, 2008 - The Department of Justice agrees to pay Dr. Steven Hatfill $5.8 million in damages and announces that he is no longer a "person of interest" in the anthrax case.[149]
  • Late July 2008 - The FBI informs Dr. Bruce E. Ivins that they are about to press charges against him in the anthrax case.
  • July 27, 2008 - Dr. Ivins takes an overdose of acetaminophen;[2] Ivins' wife finds him unconscious several hours later and calls the police.[150]
  • August 3, 2008 - DNA evidence links the anthrax strain used by Ivins in his Fort Detrick laboratory to the strain used in the attacks.[151][152]
  • August 6, 2008 - The FBI concludes that Ivins was solely responsible for the attacks and suggested that Ivins wanted to bolster support for a vaccine he helped create and that he targeted two lawmakers because they were Catholics who held pro choice views.[153]
  • August 8, 2008 - Federal prosecutors exclude Steven Hatfill from suspicion of involvement in case.[154]


  • February 19, 2010 - The FBI formally closed its investigation.[7]

See also


  1. ^ What is the True Number of Victims of the Postal Anthrax Attack of 2001? by T. C. Cymet and G. J. Kerkvliet, published in Journal of the American Osteopathic Association - Vol 104, No 11 - Nov 2004
  2. ^ a b "Ivins case reignites debate on anthrax". LA Times. 2008-08-03. http://www.latimes.com/bal-te.anthrax03aug03,0,3970920.story. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  3. ^ "U.S. officials declare researcher is anthrax killer". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/08/06/anthrax.case/index.html?eref=rss_topstories. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  4. ^ "Anthrax investigation should be investigated, congressmen say". Associated Press. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/middleeast/la-na-anthrax8-2008aug08,0,2258246.story. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  5. ^ Cole, Leonard A. (2009). The Anthrax Letters: A Bioterrorism Expert Investigates the Attacks That Shocked America--Case Closed?. SkyhorsePublishing. http://leonardcole.com. 
  6. ^ |url=http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2009_hr/fbi-qfr.pdf |
  7. ^ a b Scott Shane (2010-02-19). "F.B.I., Laying Out Evidence, Closes Anthrax Letters Case". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/20/us/20anthrax.html. Retrieved 2010-02-19. 
  8. ^ "Anthrax Pervades Florida Site, and Experts See Likeness to That Sent to Senators". New York Times. http://www.anthraxinvestigation.com/nyt.html. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  9. ^ "My anthrax survivor's story - NBC News employee speaks out for the first time on her ordeal". MSNBC. http://msnbc.msn.com/id/14785359/. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  10. ^ "Anthrax in America: Brentwood Post Office Facility in Washington Major Focal Point". CNN. http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0110/26/ltm.08.html. Retrieved 2008-08-07. 
  11. ^ a b "Anthrax: a Political Whodunit". abc.net.au. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/stories/s726834.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  12. ^ "Little Progress In FBI Probe of Anthrax Attacks". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/15/AR2005091502456.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  13. ^ New York Times, November 29, 2001, "A NATION CHALLENGED: OVERSEAS PUZZLE; U.S. Confirms Anthrax in Chilean Letter" http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F00E2DE143DF93AA15752C1A9679C8B63
  14. ^ "The Anthrax Letters". monitor.net. http://www.monitor.net/monitor/0208a/anthrax.html. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  15. ^ "Comparative Genome Sequencing for Discovery of Novel Polymorphisms in Bacillus anthracis". sciencemag.org. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/296/5575/2028. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  16. ^ a b "Anthrax Sleuthing - Science aids a nettlesome FBI criminal probe". Chemical & Engineering News. http://pubs.acs.org/cen/government/84/8449gov1.html. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  17. ^ "FBI fails to re-create anthrax production". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-09-29-anthrax_x.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  18. ^ "FBI science experiment could help anthrax investigation". govexec.com. http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/1102/111102gsn1.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  19. ^ "Press Briefing by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge". whitehouse.gov. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/11/20011107-1.html#Anthrax-Daschle-binding-agent. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  20. ^ "Loner Likely Sent Anthrax, FBI Says". Los Angeles Times. http://www.ph.ucla.edu/EPI/bioter/lonerlikelyanthrax.html. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  21. ^ a b "Troubling Anthrax Additive Found ", Brian Ross, Christopher Isham, Chris Vlasto and Gary Matsumoto, ABC.com, October 26, 2001
  22. ^ a b "Anthrax Investigation / Bentonite / Cases", Vanderbilt Television News Archive, October 28, 2001. Accessed 2009-05-30. Archived 2009-06-01.
  23. ^ a b "Response from ABC News re: the Saddam-anthrax reports", Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, april 11, 2007
  24. ^ "Official: Unusual coating in anthrax mailings". CNN. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/04/10/inv.anthrax.investigation/. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  25. ^ "Anthrax Sent Through Mail Gained Potency by the Letter". New York Times. http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/anthraxpotencyletter.html. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
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  27. ^ "A Sophisticated Strain of Anthrax". Newsweek. http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/sophisticatedstrainanthrax.html. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
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Further reading


  • Bob Coen & Eric Nadler, Dead Silence - Fear and Terror on the Anthrax Trail (Counterpoint Press, 2009) ISBN 158243509X
  • Leonard A. Cole, The Anthrax Letters, A Medical Detective Story (Joseph Henry Press, 2003) ISBN 0-309-08881-X [6]
  • Leonard A. Cole, The Anthrax Letters, A Bioterrorism Expert Investigates the Attacks That Shocked America--Case Closed? (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009) ISBN 10: 1602397155 [7]
  • Kenneth J. Dillon, Intriguing Anomalies: An Introduction to Scientific Detective Work (Scientia Press, 2008) ISBN 0-964-29768-X
  • Robert Graysmith, AMERITHRAX: The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer (Berkley Books,2003) ISBN 0-425-19190-7
  • Ed Lake, Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks - The First 3 Years (Ed Lake, 2005) ISBN 0976616300
  • Philipp Sarasin, Anthrax: Bioterror as Fact and Fantasy (Harvard University Press 2006) ISBN 0674023463 [8]
  • Marilyn W. Thompson, The Killer Strain, Anthrax and a Government Exposed (HarperCollins,2003) ISBN 0-06-052278-X

Analysis and theories


Recent articles

Simple English

Anthrax was spread through the mail. The anthrax spores were put in envelopes and sent to several news media offices and two U.S. senates.[1]

22 were infected and five died. It was believed that the person who was responsible for this was Dr. Bruce Ivins, a senior biodefense researcher, who was actually employed by the U.S. government.



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