2001 Anthrax Attacks
A week after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, letters laced with anthrax began appearing in the U.S. mail, killing five people and sickening 22 others. 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. Robert Stevens, the first person who died from the mailings, worked at a tabloid called Sun, died on October 5, 2001. Only the New York Post and NBC News letters were found; the existence of the other three letters is inferred because individuals at ABC, CBS and AMI became infected with anthrax.
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. The Daschle letter was opened by an aide and the 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 contracted inhalational anthrax.
The anthrax letters are believed to have been mailed from Princeton, New Jersey. In the letters sent to the media, the characters ‘A’ and ‘T’ were sometimes highlighted, suggesting that the letters contained a hidden code.
Bruce Edwards Ivins, became a focus of investigation around April 4, 2005. Ivins was a scientist who worked at the government’s biodefense labs. One year after being put under periodic surveillanc,July 27, 2008, Ivins took an intentional overdose of acetaminophen and died two days later in a hospital. Although the type of anthrax used in the letters was correctly identified as the Ames strain(one of 89 known strains of the anthrax bacterium) of the bacterium, there was insufficient scientific evidence for the FBI’s assertion that it originated from Ivins’ laboratory. The FBI responded by pointing out that the review panel asserted that it would not be possible to reach a definite conclusion based on science alone, and said that a combination of factors led the FBI to conclude that Ivins had been the perpetrator. Due the lack of evidence, the case remains unsolved for many people.