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

* Hartford Courant: Anthrax Attacks Still A Mystery After 10 Years … LMW: is it possible FBI Director Mueller, an intelligent man for sure, doesn’t know the FBI has failed to make a convincing evidence-based case against Dr. Ivins? … and what does it mean if he does know but won’t admit it?

Posted by DXer on October 4, 2011


Mueller & Ivins


Hartford Courant editorial (10/5/11) …

  • After the World Trade Center was destroyed 10 years ago, death arrived once again — in the mail. Anthrax, a terrifying and deadly bacterium that multiplies rapidly when inhaled, began to appear in letters sent to a variety of places.
  • Among these were the New York Post, the offices of two U.S. senators, the office of NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and, bizarrely, the home of 94-year-old Ottilie Lundgren of Oxford.
  • Mrs. Lundgren and four others died; 17 were injured. Thousands were exposed and had to take powerful antibiotics. The government seemed paralyzed.
  • The FBI investigators careened from one false lead to another.

After 10 years, 9,000 interviews and 6,000 subpoenas,

the anthrax attacks are still unsolved

  • For years, the FBI harassed scientist Steven Hatfill as the only suspect in the case until the agency was forced to apologize and award him $5.8 million for slandering him and destroying his career.
  • After Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins committed suicide in 2008, the FBI announced that he was the likely source of the anthrax attacks. 

*** LMW … what the FBI said was that Dr. Ivins

was the sole perpetrator … when the evidence they presented

did not even prove he was involved in any way

  • But the agency’s case is circumstantial and important questions remain unsolved:
    • The anthrax spores were “weaponized” with a high percentage of silicon, making the bacteria even more lethal. Yet there’s no evidence that Dr. Ivins either had the equipment or was capable of the elaborate process necessary to add the silicon.
  • One of the 9/11 hijackers, Ahmed Alhaznawi, reported to a Florida hospital with a dark wound that the attending physician told the FBI was consistent with cutaneous anthrax, which causes skin lesions.
  • The cave at Tora Bora where Osama bin Laden hid for a time twice tested positively for the same strain of anthrax found in the letters, according to Pulitzer-prize winning author Laurie Garrett, author of “I Heard the Sirens Scream: How Americans Responded to the 9/11 and Anthrax Attacks.”
  • The Government Accountability Office is currently examining the FBI’s botched investigation.
  • U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, from whose New Jersey district the perpetrator mailed the anthrax-laced letters, has for years proposed congressional hearings into the anthrax attacks. So far, nobody’s listened.
  • Such hearings are the least that should occur. A decade without clear answers is infuriating — and unacceptable.,0,982875.story


10 Responses to “* Hartford Courant: Anthrax Attacks Still A Mystery After 10 Years … LMW: is it possible FBI Director Mueller, an intelligent man for sure, doesn’t know the FBI has failed to make a convincing evidence-based case against Dr. Ivins? … and what does it mean if he does know but won’t admit it?”

  1. DXer said

    In the end, the agents promoting the controversial Ivins Theory were upset that FBI Director Mueller never congratulated them for closing the case upon Ivins’ suicide. Is it true he was fixated on Hatfill? Or is that it the compartmented investigation, those agents working on Ivins only were cleared to learn of an interest in Hatfill. They were walled off from the focus on Al Qaeda’s anthrax program — and the science too.

    Anthrax, Al Qaeda and Ayman Zawahiri: The Infiltration of US Biodefense

  2. DXer said

    Multigeneration Cross-Contamination of Mail with Bacillus anthracis Spores

    Jason Edmonds ,
    H. D. Alan Lindquist,
    Jonathan Sabol,
    Kenneth Martinez,
    Sean Shadomy,
    Tyler Cymet,
    Peter Emanuel
    Published: April 28, 2016

    Subsequent to this bioterrorist attack, now known as the Amerithrax event, 22 individuals, including postal workers, persons who received or handled the contaminated letters, and persons exposed to environments contaminated by the letters, developed either inhalation or cutaneous anthrax; five of these individuals died from inhalation anthrax [2–7]. An additional 43 individuals tested positive for exposure to Ba spores by nasal swab culture as part of the public health response to the attacks, including 38 individuals working at the Hart Senate Office Building and 5 individuals working at the America Media Inc. building in Boca Raton, Florida. These persons were provided oral post-exposure antimicrobial prophylaxis, with or without anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA), and did not develop anthrax [2, 8]. Subsequent studies have further investigated the relationships between infection or evidence of exposure and physical presence in areas where contamination was known to be present, or where other known exposures occurred [8–10]. These additional studies suggest that additional persons may have been exposed beyond those identified during the Amerithrax event and response and the anxiety created by uncertainty increased the effect of these attacks [11–12].

    With an uncertain and unpredictable pattern of the spread of contamination, developing a system to identify potentially affected buildings and surrounding areas in order to provide postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) to populations in those areas and conduct decontamination is difficult [13]. Even in light of recent investigations into this phenomenon, the mechanics of the transmission of anthrax spores and resulting exposure and infection are poorly understood and likely a complex process. This is best exemplified by the cases of two individuals who developed inhalational anthrax during the 2001 Amerithrax event, an elderly woman in Connecticut and a hospital supply worker in New York City, where subsequent investigations failed to detect Ba spores on their mail, or in their homes, vehicles, or locations they frequently visited [6–7, 14–15]. However, positive samples were found in a mail office a mile from the home of the Connecticut woman [6, 16–17].

    Without evidence of the presence of Ba spores in locations frequented by the inhalation anthrax cases from Connecticut and New York City it is impossible to demonstrate the source of their infections. Hypothetically their infections may have resulted from exposure to mail contaminated by passing through the same sorting equipment around the same time as recovered spore-containing letters that were sent to Senators Leahy and Daschle or others were processed, or cross-contaminated by such envelopes [18]. Due to the lack of additional documented cases in these areas or supporting environmental sampling data, there is no way to confirm this as a potential route of exposure. A previous hypothesis suggested that these individuals may have become infected through inhalation exposure to spores released from spore-containing envelopes that they, or someone in proximity to them, tore open and then discarded [19]. The delay between exposure and disease may have led to the contaminated mail being discarded. In this instance, the possibility of the fomite responsible for transmission having been discarded and removed, combined with the incomplete data on the limits of detection for environmental sampling or a low concentration of spores remaining on environmental surfaces, may have contributed to the source of exposure remaining undetected [20–21].

    The exposure of these two inhalation anthrax cases may also have resulted from handling secondary- or tertiary-contaminated mail. A previous study investigating the reaerosolization of spores from contaminated mail demonstrated that a significant number of spores can become airborne through the process of opening cross-contaminated mail [19]. This is of particular concern because it demonstrates the potential for exposure without a requirement to come into physical contact with contaminated surfaces.


    There have been questions regarding the full extent of the spread of contamination during the 2001 Amerithrax event, which has in part been due to an incomplete understanding of how Ba spore contamination transferred during interactions between pieces of mail and with the environment, and the extent to which human exposures occurred resulting from these interactions. The two inhalation anthrax cases for which no positive environmental samples were discovered within the homes or workplaces of those individuals makes it conceivable, although speculative, that other individuals along the East Coast could have been exposed but not infected, or infected and not accurately diagnosed. However, enhanced public health case finding and surveillance activities did not identify any additional cases [6, 10], and rates and causes of death among workers at one of the USPS facilities impacted by the Amerithrax event during the year following the event were found to not differ significantly from rates for the previous 5 years [25]. However, it is important to include a broad scope of possible exposure locations and scenarios in a thorough evaluation and risk assessment of any bioterrorism event involving Ba, based on solid scientific understanding of the possible fate and transport of spores in such an event.

  3. DXer said

    Anthrax claims life of former congressman, Oct. 8, 1921
    By Andrew Glass
    10/08/15 12:00 AM EDT

    Read more:

    Two days earlier, Farley, a stalwart in New York’s Tammany Hall political machine, had shaved with an imported brush contaminated with the anthrax bacillus. What at first appeared to be a pimple on his chin, spread to his neck and face, which became swollen and painful. He received anti-anthrax serum, but the treatment proved unsuccessful.

  4. DXer said

    The current FBI Director Comey is Director Mueller’s friend and former understudy. Mr. Comey, moreover, was Dr. Majidi’s supervisor — and Dr. Majidi in his e-book (advertised to their linked-in friends) says he is confident that Director Comey “has his back.” Dr. Majidi was the head of the FBI’s WMD division.

    But FBI DIrector Comey can best “protect” the legacy of his friends by seeing things through to a successful solve of Amerithrax — notwithstanding what has gone on before.

    It’s never too late to be right — until it is. Cases often have to be re-opened and re-assessed. As Bob Graham has said, this pot is going to boil over.

    Given that we are talking about Al Qaeda’s head of external operations for North America, El-Shukrijumah, I would hope that Director Comey is directing some independent thought to the issues raised. NYT, Wash Po, and numerous heavy-hitters have thrown up a big big flag on the closure of Amerithrax.

    FBI director visits Albany

  5. DXer said

    Vahid Majidi:

    The reporters at these newspapers have followed Amerithrax longer than you ever did. Even they knew that the anthrax wasn’t dated to September/October 2001 as you claim in your book — and that the dating analysis only narrowed the growth of the anthrax to the last two years.

  6. richard rowley said

    Not that I want to defend in particular Bob Mueller or anyone else who buys the FINAL REPORT (or pretends to), but I have the following thoughts:

    1) even if/when the FBI director has a great background in either law enforcement or the law, the job itself is largely one of administration: administering a huge bureaucracy/organization.

    2) Mueller, I read in some book or other, was asked repeatedly (somewhat sarcastically/ribbingly) by President Bush about how the investigation was ‘going’. For years Mueller had to make some feeble reply. So he must have been relieved that the task force finally said that they had figured it out. And since Ivins was dead at that point, it’s not like you were pinning it on a LIVING innocent victim.

    3) the fact that they had ‘run out’ of suspects meant that from a policy/administrative point of view, there wasn’t much of an alternative (save to keep the case open indefinitely……but this would have been against the wishes/recommendations of the leadership of the task force/prosecutors).

    4) if it wasn’t Ivins then Ivins’ death was a true ‘wrongful death’ and a wrongful death at the hands of the task force. Public relations disaster.

  7. anonymous said

    Is Joe Volz any relation to Ed Lake?
    Telling conclusions in book on anthrax mailings

    A new book by a Pulitzer Prize winner, David Willman, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, should put to rest any doubt about Bruce Ivins’ involvement in the five anthrax murders a decade ago.

    Willman spent years researching the case, and concluded that “there is a chain of evidence — pieces that, considered as a whole, reveal Ivins to be the perpetrator.” There is no confession; the Fort Detrick scientist killed himself three years ago.

    Willman’s account, stitched together from government documents, Ivins’ own emails to friends and colleagues, and hundreds of interviews, is the most compelling account so far.

    It comes five months after a blue-ribbon independent panel concluded that if Ivins had not been committed involuntarily to the hospital for a mental evaluation after displaying bizarre behavior, he could have killed more people.

    Willman writes that Ivins, who said he was “not a killer at heart,” also told his psychiatric group that he was angry at FBI investigators. He planned revenge. He had a bulletproof vest and guns. He told the group members, “I’m not going go down for five capital murders. … I am going to get them all,” according to an FBI report.

    Yet, many of his friends and colleagues continue to remember Ivins as a harmless eccentric who worked solitary, long, night-time hours but was incapable of killing anyone. He was just Bruce being Bruce.

    This book should disabuse them of such a naïve notion.

    Ivins’ supporters contend that he didn’t have the opportunity or the capability to put together the powdered, highly lethal anthrax mailed to reporters, including NBC’s Tom Brokaw and two Democratic senators, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Tom Daschle of South Dakota. They were not harmed, but several mail clerks in a Washington sorting facility and a tabloid photo editor in Florida died.

    Willman reports that Ivins not only wanted to show that an improved anthrax vaccine he co-invented was needed to deal with the post-9/11 threat, but he also had a list of personal enemies he wanted to punish. He was angry at a sorority, for example, because a sorority woman had rebuffed him on a date decades ago.

    And he had a fascination with a couple of young female scientists at Detrick, constantly emailing them while, at one point, planning to poison one of them, according to the FBI’s files.

    Ivins, who aimed suspicion at several of his Fort Detrick colleagues, regularly went in and out of the “hot suites” at Detrick at night alone and had plenty of time to drive to Princeton, N.J., where the anthrax letters were mailed from. The mailbox was also a few doors away from one of the sorority’s houses.

    Willman also goes into great detail on the exhaustive nationwide scientific sleuthing to link the killer anthrax with a supply found in Ivins’ work space.

    “Given all the circumstances pointing to him, it is reasonable to conclude that Ivins did it for reasons unique to both his psychosis and his professional self-interest,” concludes Willman’s well-researched book.

    American officials, who for years had resisted pouring big money into Ivins’ advanced anthrax vaccine — in fact, the program’s research was about to be scuttled — committed hundreds of millions after the letters started their deadly rampage.

    One telling fact: There have been no anthrax murders since Ivins died.

    Joe Volz is a Pulitzer Prize finalist who has covered every aspect of government from the White House to the Frederick County school board. You can reach him at To submit a letter to the editor in response to this column, email

  8. DXer said

    What has Attorney General Eric Holder said or written about AMERITHRAX?

    What briefings did he receive and who gave them?,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=5d79cbb0d347e1aa&biw=1837&bih=1080

  9. anonymous said

    Great stuff – written by Dr Larry Bush – the guy who diagnosed anthrax in Bob Stevens.

    It came as a surprise to us, particularly in the wake of the September 11 attacks, that the initial opinion of federal officials was that the exposure was an isolated case, not likely related to bioterrorism, and that because anthrax was not a person-to-person contagion (4), the public should not be alarmed. The surprise results from the fact that, just weeks before and immediately on the heels of September 11, the then U.S. secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services gathered government officials, along with a former co-founder of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, for a series of urgent meetings to discuss the possibilities of a terrorism sequel. The collective sentiment of the group was that a bioterrorism event could occur and that the country was grossly unprepared for such an attack (5).

    Contrary to the opinion that Mr. Stevens’ case was isolated, over the next 7 weeks 21 additional confirmed or suspected cases were found to have resulted from the deliberate use of the U.S. postal service to deliver anthrax spores as agents of biologic terrorism. The inhalational cases numbered 11, of which 5 persons—including Mr. Stevens—died; the cutaneous diagnoses consisted of 7 confirmed and 4 suspected cases. Four states (Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), and Washington, D.C., had confirmed anthrax cases, attesting to the surprisingly effective method of anthrax spore dispersion.

    More than 8 years later, on 19 February 2010, the 92-page “Amerithrax Investigative Summary,” based on some 2700 pages of documents, was finally published. It officially closed the FBI’s investigation. It concluded that Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist and leading research scientist studying vaccines and cures for exposure to anthrax at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), was the sole perpetrator, acting alone in planning and executing these acts of terrorism. The Bureau reported that the anthrax spores in the letters were genetically connected to unique anthrax spores that Ivins had developed and maintained in his laboratory at USAMRIID. Although the FBI has stated that its investigation went beyond scientific evidence and included interviews and other information as part of what it considers a firm case incriminating Ivins, on 15 February 2011 a panel of scientific experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences, at the request of the FBI, independently evaluated the Bureau’s genetic analysis of the anthrax spores. In doing so, this group of highly trained personnel advised that the scientific evidence put forth by the FBI was not sufficient to prove that Ivins was the culprit. Furthermore, recently filed official papers have acknowledged that the “hot suite” sealed area in Ivins’ laboratory did not contain the equipment needed to turn liquid anthrax into the refined anthrax powder that was present in the letters, and that the laboratory lacked the facilities in 2001 to manufacture the kind of spores found in the letters (10, 11). Bruce Ivins’ suicide in 2008 precluded a legal resolution of his guilt or innocence.

  10. DXer said

    Is the Flight 93 Hijacker discussed in the NAS report the same fellow who had the leg lesion Homeland Security biosecurity head Tara O’Toole thought consistent with anthrax?
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on F

    * NAS: FBI believes positive finding in hijacker remains from Flight 93 was due to laboratory contamination

    DXer … questions about 911 hijacker’s anthrax leg lesion

    Marwan Hadid al-Suri, who was assisting Yazid Sufaat at Omar Hospital in May 2001 and then helped set up the anthrax lab in Kandahar later that month, was killed in 2006 in northwestern Pakistan. Marwan al-Suri, 38, was said to be a close aide of al-Qaida No. 2 Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. But where is Yazid Sufaat now?

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