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. 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.