CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

* The Atlantic’s May 2010 article “WRONG MAN” is mostly about the FBI’s persecution and later exoneration of Steven Hatfill, for which they paid $5.8 million; here are the excerpts from that article regarding the FBI and Dr. Bruce Ivins

Posted by DXer on April 16, 2010


The FBI’s case against Dr. Ivins is bogus: no evidence, no witnesses, an impossible timeline, science that proves innocence instead of guilt. So what really happened? And why? The “fictional” scenario in my novel CASE CLOSED has been judged by many readers, including a highly respected official in the U.S. Intelligence Community, as “quite plausible.”

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *



From The Atlantic … WRONG MAN … May 2010 …

Dr. Bruce Ivins

By early 2007, after fresh investigators were brought in to reexamine evidence collected in the anthrax case, the FBI came to believe what Hatfill had been saying all along: he’d never had access to the anthrax at USAMRIID; he was a virus guy. The FBI, meanwhile, began to focus on someone who had enjoyed complete access: senior microbiologist Bruce Edward Ivins.

Ivins had spent most of his career at USAMRIID, working with anthrax. Agents had even sought his advice and scientific expertise early in their investigation of Hatfill.

  • Now they subjected Ivins to the same harsh treatment they’d given Hatfill,
    • placing Ivins under 24-hour surveillance,
    • digging into his past,
    • and telling him he was a murder suspect.
    • Soon Ivins was banned from the labs where he had labored for 28 years.

In July 2008, following a voluntary two-week stay in a psychiatric clinic for treatment of depression and anxiety, Ivins went home and downed a fatal dose of Tylenol. He was 62.

Less than two weeks later, the Justice Department officially exonerated Steven Hatfill. Six years had passed since he was first named a person of interest.

As it had done with Hatfill, the press dissected the pathology of Ivins’s life, linking him, however speculatively, to the murders. Ivins was a devout Catholic, which could’ve explained why anthrax was sent to two pro-choice senators, Daschle and Leahy. Reports said that Ivins harbored homicidal urges, especially toward women. He had purportedly been obsessed with a particular sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, ever since being rebuffed by one of its members while attending the University of Cincinnati, which could’ve explained why the anthrax letters were mailed from a box near a storage facility used by the sorority’s Princeton chapter. Ivins, of course, was no longer alive to defend himself. But in him, the FBI had found a suspect against whom tangible evidence existed.

Ivins had been the sole custodian of a large flask of highly purified anthrax spores genetically linked to those found in the letters. He had allegedly submitted purposely misleading lab data to the FBI in an attempt to hide the fact that the strain of anthrax used in the attacks was a genetic match with the anthrax in his possession. He had been unable to provide a good explanation for the many late nights he’d put in at the lab, working alone, just before the attacks. Agents found that he had been under intense pressure at USAMRIID to produce an anthrax vaccine for U.S. troops. A few days after the anthrax letters were postmarked, Ivins, according to the FBI, had sent an e-mail to a former colleague, who has never been publicly identified, warning: “Bin Laden terrorists for sure have anthrax and sarin gas,” and have “just decreed death to all Jews and all Americans.” The language was similar to the anthrax letters that warned, “We have this anthrax … Death to America … Death to Israel.”

Following his suicide, some of Ivins’s friends insisted that the FBI had pressured him into doing what Hatfill would not. Ivins’s own attorney, Paul F. Kemp, disagrees. “Dr. Ivins had a host of psychological problems that he was grappling with, that existed long before the anthrax letters were mailed, and long after,” Kemp told me.

Though Hatfill’s apartment in Frederick was less than a quarter mile from Ivins’s modest home on Military Road, and both men worked at Fort Detrick at the same time, Hatfill says the two never met. Hatfill was surprised when the FBI ultimately pinned the anthrax murders on a fellow American scientist.

“I thought it would eventually be proven that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks,” he says.

to read the entire article, click …

16 Responses to “* The Atlantic’s May 2010 article “WRONG MAN” is mostly about the FBI’s persecution and later exoneration of Steven Hatfill, for which they paid $5.8 million; here are the excerpts from that article regarding the FBI and Dr. Bruce Ivins”

  1. DXer said

    “I know that we will be judged in history by not only how we disrupt terrorism but how we protect the civil liberties and constitutional rights of all Americans, even Americans who don’t wish us well. We must do all these things exceptionally well.” — Robert Mueller

  2. DXer said

    Dr. Hatfill’s appearance at the National Press Club will not go forward in May as planned.

  3. Ike Solem said

    See the full transcript of the MSNBC interview, with commentary and a personal note, here:

    I think this is the only statement Hatfill has given on the Ivins issue:

    MATT LAUER: Given what you’ve told me, Steven, about your now complete lack of confidence in the Justice Department and the investigation they conducted surrounding you – do you think they got it right now?

    STEVEN HATFILL: I have no way – I haven’t seen the data, obviously the FBI haven’t felt it necessary to share anything with me. I have talked to some senior scientists that I trust and respect, I have to take their opinion that, uh, yeah. Other than that I, I can’t say.


    “Steve Kurtz is a professor of art at the SUNY Buffalo, former professor of art history at Carnegie Mellon University and a founding member of the performance art group, Critical Art Ensemble. He is known for his work in BioArt, and Electronic Civil Disobedience, and because of his arrest by the FBI in May 2004.”

    “In July 2004 a grand jury refused to bring any “bioterrorism” charges, but did indict Kurtz on federal criminal mail fraud and wire fraud charges. Also indicted was Dr. Robert Ferrell, Professor of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, who served as a scientific consultant on Critical Art Ensemble’s projects. The charges concern the way Kurtz and Ferrell allegedly ordered and mailed the non-pathogenic bacteria used in several museum installations. Under the USA PATRIOT Act the maximum possible sentence for these charges has increased from five to twenty years in prison.[10] The charges related to how Ferrell allegedly helped Kurtz obtain $256 worth of harmless bacteria. “This the first time in the history of the federal courts that the U.S. Department of Justice is intervening in the alleged breach of a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) of nonhazardous materials in order to redefine it as a criminal offense.”[11]”

    “In October 2007, Ferrell pleaded “guilty” to misdemeanor charges. Ferrell’s wife and daughter subsequently issued public statements saying the plea deal was due to the stress of the case and severe illness (Ferrell is a 27 year survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and suffered a series of strokes following his indictment in 2004).[12] Ferrell was later sentenced to a year of unsupervised release and fined $500″

    “On April 21, 2008, the indictment for mail and wire fraud was ruled “insufficient on its face” by the presiding Judge Richard Arcara. ”

    This case got heavy publicity and Krugman’s column in NYT also had some reference to it.

    These people did nothing. Notice how the US DOJ filed bioterrorism charges in this case, but eventually the judge ruled there could be no crime on lesser charges even if all the facts were true.

    The NAS is afraid. The professor types in the Kurtz Ferrell case are them.

    The CAE defense fund site has more on this case.


      The Krugman column is in the list above, although its mainly focused on other aspects of terrorism.

      The Kurtz Ferrell case sent a real message to academia and to the biotech community. The government has been sending that message in a variety of cases. Hatfill is the rare exception of being paid a settlement. Most people’s settlement was like Ferrell’s.

  5. Ike Solem said

    The NAS Committee is looking more farcical every day. Their next meeting is April 21-22 in Washington – closed to the public, no access allowed.

    I’ve transcribed a bit more of the Sept 24 -25 meeting – in this case, the opening statements of Alice P. Gast, the Chair of the Committee. Since then, every single meeting has been closed, and no list of witnesses has been released. Take a look for yourself:

    “The National Research Council is committed to an open scientific process” she says…

    For the Hatfill interview:

    It’s no accident that the FBI went after people at the one biological warfare-related facility that didn’t do any of the biological threat assessment work…

    • DXer said

      “The NAS Committee is looking more farcical every day. Their next meeting is April 21-22 in Washington – closed to the public, no access allowed.”

      The NAS website instructs that to register to attend the open session of this meeting, go to

      Open Session

      Thursday, April 22, 2010
      2:20-3:45 pm

      The FBI also “went after” people at the biodefense facilities doing biological threat assessment work, as is public record.

      • Ike Solem said

        DXer, are you really defending the National Academy on this?

        You left out some information, I’m afraid…

        The next meeting of the committee will be April 22-23, 2010 at The National Academies’ Keck Center in Washington, DC.

        Register to Attend Meeting Open Sessions

        Open Session
        Thursday, April 22, 2010
        2:20-3:45 pm

        This open sessionis only 1 hour and 15 minutes! What’s that going to be – another NAS stooge telling us how the FBI was “open and honest” with us?

        Not only that, they haven’t even published their list of witnesses. Clearly, they don’t want the public to hear any of the testimony from the people involved – or even to know who those people are!

        This is indeed looking ever more farcical.

        As far as the other meetings in this “open scientific process”?

        February 1-2, 2010
        Irvine, CA

        Meeting closed in its entirety

        December 10-11, 2009
        Washington, DC

        Meeting closed in its entirety

        September 24-25, 2009
        Washington, DC

        NOTE: The data-gathering sessions of the meeting held on September 24, 2009 from 10:00 AM–1:00 PM and on September 25, 2009 from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM were not open to the public under Subsection 15(b)(3) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, 5 U.S.C. App., as amended by the Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 1997, PL 105-153, December 17, 1997, 111 STAT. 2689. The Academy has determined that to open these sessions to the public would disclose information described in 5 U.S.C. 552(b).

        What is that section of the FOIA act?

        (b) This section does not apply to matters that are–

        (1)(A) specifically authorized under criteria established by an Executive order to be kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy and (B) are in fact properly classified pursuant to such Executive order;

        (2) related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency;

        (3) specifically exempted from disclosure by statute (other than section 552b of this title), provided that such statute (A) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue, or (B) establishes particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld;

        (4) trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential;

        (5) inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency;

        (6) personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;

        (7) records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual;

        (8) contained in or related to examination, operating, or condition reports prepared by, on behalf of, or for the use of an agency responsible for the regulation or supervision of financial institutions; or

        (9) geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.

        Not very specific about this, are they?

        The FBI corralled some sheep at the NAS and are using them for PR purposes, is all.

        • DXer said

          “Ike Solem said

          April 18, 2010 at 5:22 pm
          DXer, are you really defending the National Academy on this?”

          You said all the proceedings were closed. In encouraging people to attend the portion that is open, I linked the registration website. I don’t think of that as “defending the NAS” . I think of it as encouraging people to attend the open portion.

          I had made a nice BATMAN graphic for Lew that he didn’t post (perhaps he was travelling) announcing the time of that portion of the meeting and where to register to attend. If Lew posts that, perhaps we can encourage people to attend.

        • DXer said

          Correction: It hadn’t announced the time of the open portion of the meeting which the NAS later clarified.

        • DXer said

          For example, I emailed Fran Sharples and recommended that Dr. Bartick of the FBI and present on his wonderful work on the photocopier examiner — which shows that the copier that the AUSA alleges in the Investigative Summary was used was NOT used. Now if presented, should that be closed? Would it reveal the methods of the FBI used in catching other criminals who used photocopied materials? I wouldn’t think so. He would be presenting on the science in a closed case. It would be no different than publishing the science in the dozen or so articles promised at the August 2008 conference that never appeared. Or testifying in court.

          I also recommended that Dr. Rex Stockham on his measured study of using bloodhounds to detect trace evidence. One study showed that the dogs were not thrown off by the irradiation of the paper (an issue I had raised with some vigor in 2002). But certainly there is no reason to close the meeting as to such testimony about how a perp wearing gloves would have left human scent evidence. That was part of the science (loosely speaking) they were relying upon for years. I personally think the bloodhounds were smelling the olive oil and would want to hear Dr. Stockham address that suggestion. If it is not open, the suggestion does not get made or addressed, and the NAS’s scientific review comes to be as superficial as it has proved irrelevant. Mind you, the FBI does not rely on any science (all the strains were in the buildings). And so who cares what the NAS does? All the proceeding has accomplished was to delay the production of documents that prove Dr. Ivins is not responsible for 2 years. The NAS has been used — and the NAS allowed itself to be used in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act — to prevent key documents from being disclosed.

          But none of these finer considerations excuse your mistaken claim that the proceedings were all closed when it has already been posted that some was open and the link for registration provided.

          Or your baseless claim that the FBI did not investigate people at what you call biothreat assessment facilities.

        • DXer said

          There is a value in them being able to meet in deliberative sessions without political activists haranguing them.

  6. The case against Hatfill was so bad, that it worked against Ivins. The FBI was coming up from a non-case and so any improvement looked good. Assuming a lone white guy mailer, which they did, they compared Ivins to Hatfill and for them it was a trade up.

    Since Ivins had killed himself, they could simply point to that as guilt.

    If the FBI had started in the lab with learning the production of subtilis including spending lab time being taught to make subtilis powder in the quantity of 5 grams, then Hatfill and Ivins would never have been considered.

    The FBI scientists themselves should do that now. They should record the time it takes and all the steps. Videotape would be best. Maybe they have. For those who FOIA, think about FOIAing their lab records on this type of work.

  7. DXer said

    Ayman Zawahiri: Infiltration of US Biodefense

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