Bruce Ivins Maybe Didn't Send the Anthrax, Government Admits in Court Papers

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Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008, was officially labeled the Anthrax killer posthumously, accused of killing five people with contaminated letters and spooking all of the post-9/11 United States. Though much of the U.S. press, including the Washington Post and CNN, initially accepted Ivins's guilt as fact, certain media critics like Salon's Glenn Greenwald have long questioned the FBI's version of events. (The Post, along with the New York Times, would later call for further investigation on their opinion pages.) "[O]ne of the most glaring of the many deficiencies in the FBI's case is the complete lack of evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, placing Ivins at the New Jersey mailboxes (the proverbial 'scene of the crime') on either of the two dates on which the anthrax letters were sent," Greenwald wrote in the summer of 2008. Lo and behold, in February, the Times and others relayed the findings of a new report which concluded that "the bureau overstated the strength of genetic analysis linking the mailed anthrax to a supply kept by Bruce E. Ivins." This month, a closer look casts even more doubts.

PBS Frontline reports, "On July 15 ... Justice Department lawyers acknowledged in court papers that the sealed area in Ivins' lab -- the so-called hot suite -- did not contain the equipment needed to turn liquid anthrax into the refined powder that floated through congressional buildings and post offices in the fall of 2001."

Ivins is "more likely than not" the Anthrax killer, the government maintains. But! "Searches of his car and home in 2007 found no anthrax spores, and the FBI's eight-year, $100 million investigation never proved he mailed the letters or identified another location where he might have secretly dried the anthrax into an easily inhaled powder."

A PBS documentary on the case, in association with McClatchy Newspapers and ProPublica, is currently in the works.

[jcoscarelli@villagevoice.com / @joecoscarelli]


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