The FBI’s Anthrax Case

The scientist–Dr. Bruce Ivins, an Army biodefense expert–killed himself in 2008 as the investigation moved ever closer to an indictment. That means the evidence and the FBI’s conclusion that he was the culprit and acted alone will never be tested in court.

At least five letters containing powdered anthrax were addressed to two United States senators and to news organizations in New York and Florida. Their deadly spores killed five people, sickened 17 others and forced the temporary closure of Congressional offices, the Supreme Court, postal facilities and private offices.

The FBI’s conclusion rests in large part on pioneering laboratory techniques that matched genetic mutations in the anthrax that was mailed with identical mutations in a batch of anthrax created and maintained by Dr. Ivins. The National Academy of Sciences will complete a review of that lab work in coming months. But the techniques were devised with the aid of some of the country’s most sophisticated scientists, so they are presumably reliable.

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