After seven years, it appears that the mystery surrounding the 2001 Anthrax Attacks is finally beginning to unravel. Those attacks, in which weaponized anthrax was sent to various political and media offices, killed five and infected at least 17 others in September and October of 2001. Coming shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many initially feared that the anthrax attacks were the beginning of a campaign of foreign biological terrorism. Over time, it became more and more clear that the strain of anthrax involved originated from U.S. labs and the attack was likely an act of domestic terrorism.
While Department of Justice officials had once named Dr. Stephen Hatfill, a researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland, as a ‘person of interest’ in the case. No charges had ever been filed. Hatfill sued the DoJ and various government officials for violation of his Constitutional rights and the Privacy Act, which the government settled out-of-court last month for $5.8 million.
It is now clear that the settlement with Hatfill was made to clear the way for the government to indict Dr. Bruce Ivins, another anthrax researcher who had worked at USAMRIID. Ivins committed suicide by overdosing on prescription Tylenol and Codeine on Friday. In the days since his death, information has been slowly released tying Ivins to the 2001 attacks, which were committed perhaps in a misguided effort to receive approval for human trials of an anthrax vaccine. Ivins has apparently had a history of mental illness and sociopathic behavior, and was scheduled to be indicted in the coming weeks in connection with the attacks.
There are still many unanswered questions, but the recent revelations have been a major break in a case that has, from the public’s perspective, been ‘cold’ for many years.