Journalism in the Public Interest

Science Review Casts Doubt on Some Evidence in FBI’s Anthrax Investigation

A National Academy of Sciences report says scientific evidence in the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, did not definitively show that spores originated in a flask controlled by Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins, whom the FBI identified as the perpetrator after his suicide in 2008.


A hazardous material expert enters the Hart Building on Nov. 7, 2001. The Hart Building was closed after an anthrax-laced letter was found in the office of then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. (Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images)

The National Academy of Sciences is just out with a 190-page review of the forensic science behind the FBI's investigation of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. The takeaway: Some of the evidence cited to identify Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins as the perpetrator isn't as conclusive as the FBI has claimed.

In particular, the panel of experts said it "did not definitively demonstrate" that the source of the anthrax was spores taken from a flask controlled by Ivins, a microbiologist who did vaccine research at the U.S. Army Institute for Medical Research of Infection Diseases in Maryland. Nor did scientific data generated for the FBI "rule out other sources" for the anthrax, the panel's report says.

The report says there is "no scientific basis" to estimate how long it may have taken the perpetrator to produce the anthrax in the letters, which were sent the New York Post and other media outlets, and to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and then-Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. The time necessary to prepare the spores could have ranged from two or three days to several months, the panel said.

We previously posted a copy of the report in our document viewer, but are now linking to it on the National Academy of Sciences website for copyright reasons.

The FBI has said Ivins could have produced the spores working evenings at his Fort Detrick lab, but some of Ivins' colleagues have disputed that it was feasible. Ivins committed suicide in 2008 as the FBI investigation was closing around him.

The FBI issued a response stating that while science played a significant role in the agency's conclusion that Ivins was behind the letters, "it was the totality of the investigative process that determined the outcome of the anthrax case."

Rachel Dykoski

Feb. 15, 2011, 4:57 p.m.

I think it’s short-sightedness by the academy to make people pay to read their report. They could garner more interest by lending access to the public via cost-free information releases.

Has anyone ever considered the idea that the F.B.I. was led around by the nose, that they were directed to Dr. Ivins, who was then hounded to such a mental state of depression, he purportedly took his own life? If I recall, there were a couple of other sites that had the same spores, but, those were destroyed shortly after the initial incident. Poof, goes the evidence. Of course, there is also the idea that because the F.B.I. needed a scapegoat, that they or someone close to, helped Dr. Ivins commit suicide. Far fetched? From what we are learning about different things taking place in this country, well!

Norman said in his comment what I was thinking. It’s looking very suspicious, and it’s extremely hard to get the whole truth out of certain parts of the federal government. WikiLeaks is very much needed.


Feb. 15, 2011, 8:12 p.m.

Is it possible the man was set up and taken down by the government to make a scenerio of events
and have Mr. Ivens look like the bad guy when he wasn’t.
Can an enormous event be choreographed???

“We previously posted a copy of the report in our document viewer, but are now linking to it [1] on the National Academy of Sciences website for copyright reasons.”

I don’t understand. The Academy is supported with taxpayer dollars. Why do we have to pay $45 to see a PDF file?

That is the real crime here.

A short review:

The ‘anthrax attacks’ occurred right after 911, causing 5 deaths and serious injury to 17. Anyone convicted of that would surely face the death penalty.

In October, 2001, Brian Ross, chief investigative reporter for ABC News, reported that “4 independent sources” from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infections Disease (USAMRIID) at Ft. Detrick, MD had leaked to him that all of the anthrax samples from the attacks had tested positive for bentonite.

At the time, bentonite was considered to be a clear marker for Saddam as the source since it was the bentonite laced anthrax that Rummy and Reagan had given to Saddam (to use in the Iran-Iraq war 1980-88) and that Saddam had used to wipe out his rebellious Kurdish cities.

This fueled the fever for war against Saddam and the MSM picked up the story and dutifully fanned the flames. We invaded Iraq very soon thereafter.

In July of 2002, the FBI began investigating Steven Hatfill as the main ‘person of interest’ in the anthrax attacks. The unquestioning MSM followed right along. The FBI searched his apartment twice, hauled him in for questioning, harassed his family, his co-workers and bosses until he lost his career and his family. Hatfill persevered and finally won a $5.8Million judgement against the FBI.

In 2007, ABC News - with very little fanfare and no MSM response - had to admit that there was no bentonite in those samples. So if Ross was truthful and was actually duped by 4 “independent sources” then that raises some interesting possibilities. One has to assume that these 4 sources collaborated to feed Ross the same lie, to point the finger elsewhere and thus had to be hiding something.

ABC claimed ‘protection of sources’ in refusing to name them even though that principle does not hold when the sources are obviously collaborating to hide the truth. In fact in such cases, the reporter is generally required to reveal the sources since they are apparently involved in a criminal coverup. However as far as we know, the FBI never pursued this angle. They never even asked Ross to divulge his “sources.” Is it possible they knew the identities already? Is it possible that the sources … were them? Very odd.

The FBI then immediately decided that Bruce Ivins was their man. They gave him the same exact treatment that they had Hatfill. Ivins, being not so sturdy an individual as Hatfill, eventually committed suicide. As soon as that occurred, the FBI issued a report, tied a nice little bow around the package, gave it to the MSM and they ate it up again with great fanfare and no questions.

It has been quite apparent all along that the FBI’s case against Ivins would never hold up in court. Now the case seems to be unravelling even further.

But one has to wonder. If the FBI has been so anxious to point the finger at any scapegoat they can find, is it possible that the finger may be pointing in the wrong direction?

Nicely laid out, Claude.  The way the govt is hyper sensitive to leaks, you would have expected an investigation into ABC’s “independent sources”.  But then examine how cherry-picked intell got into the office at the NY Times during the run up to the Iraq invasion.  There is no doubt that info is leaked to manipulate the media and the public.  This has been documented.  I certainly understand conspiracy theorists.  There is plenty of fodder out there that points to rampant and illegal manipulation of the public.

This is such a farce, I reported to the FBI in 2001 of an individual that threatened to send anthrax to Senator Daschle and Senator Leahey. He describe the process clearly, I thought he was a raving lunatic, he was Alqaeda, at that time no one knew who the organization was, it was not a household name and I brushed him off as a scatter brain, when the attacks came, I reported this information and no one from the FBI followed up on the information. Again in 2007 after Hatfield was exonerated, it took me over 15 attempts to contact the FBI concerning the know perpetrator. These agents are a bunch of keystone cops, joy riding around the world on the taxpayer nickel. They all need to be fired, and put in jail for their acts against the United States.

Bradford Hutchingson

Feb. 16, 2011, 11:14 p.m.

FBI? Yeah, .right. “F’d Up B eyond I magination?...Seriously, the FBI has NO credibility with me, or with most folks I know. From a paranoid, closeted homosexual collecting dirt on the rich & powerful, (that’s J. Edgar Hoover…), to WACO, & Ruby Ridge…Sorry, FBI, I don’t believe anything you say. Nothing. Nada. Zip. The FBI should have been disbanded years ago. I’m sorry ProPublica believes *anything* the FBI says…Sad. And, yes, the “official” 9/11 report is a 100% *WHITEWASH*&*COVER.UP*...Hey, I’m not even a paranoid conspiracy freak. I sometimes don’t know what to think, but I always know who not to believe. Maybe I’m a F ull B looded I ndian!...

I think there was also a discrepancy in the mailed letters, the timing of which required Ivins to be in two places at once, to mail two different letters..
This and the War in Iraq will cost you only a couple of trillion..and right-wingers forever..

This is a good example why the FBI & CIA should be disbanded.

guenstig flug reisen

Feb. 21, 2011, 12:52 p.m.

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