Anthrax Assault
Newly Released Files Cloud FBI's Anthrax Finding‎



 
Anthrax Assault
Newly Released Files Cloud FBI's Anthrax Finding‎

 
Anthrax spores can be produced in vitro and used as a biological weapon. Anthrax does not spread directly from one infected animal or person to another; it is spread by spores.

These spores can be transported by clothing or shoes. The body of an animal that had active anthrax at the time of death can also be a source of anthrax spores.

There are 89 different kinds (strains) of anthrax. One of them, the Ames strain, was used against the United States in 2001 as a biological weapon.



PBS' Frontline, McClatchy Newspapers and ProPublica have re-opened the FBI's case against prime suspect, Dr Bruce Ivins, conducting dozens of interviews and reviewing thousands of pages of FBI files.

They discovered that previously unavailable documents and the accounts of Ivins' former colleagues shed fresh light on the evidence and, while they don't exonerate Ivins, are at odds with some of the science and circumstantial evidence that the government said would have convicted him of capital crimes (had he not committed suicide).

While prosecutors continue to vehemently defend their case, even some of the government's science consultants wonder whether a killer (or group of killers) is still at large.

Much of the case remains unchallenged, notably the finding that the anthrax letters were mailed from Princeton, N.J., just steps from an office of the college sorority that Ivins was obsessed with for much of his adult life.

Bruce Edwards Ivins was an American microbiologist, vaccinologist, senior biodefense researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland and the key suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

He died of an overdose of Tylenol 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 to have been 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. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who was among the targets in the attack, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), former Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) all argued that Ivins was not solely responsible for the attacks.

While not outright rejecting the theory of Ivins' involvement, Leahy has asserted that "If he is the one who sent the letter, I do not believe in any way, shape or manner that he is the only person involved in this attack on Congress and the American people. I do not believe that at all."

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 "concluded 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."