Officials: Anthrax case solved, but still open
By LARA JAKES JORDAN and MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writers
Wed Aug 6, 4:07 AM ET
WASHINGTON - The case of the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people in 2001 and alarmed a nation already traumatized by the Sept. 11 terror attacks has been solved — but will remain open for now to wrap up legal and investigative loose ends, U.S. officials said.
The government were to begin briefing victims and their survivors at FBI headquarters Wednesday — eight days after the top suspect, Army biowarfare scientist Bruce Ivins, killed himself as prosecutors prepared to charge him with murder.
Ivins' lawyer maintains the brilliant but troubled scientist would have been proven innocent had he lived. And some of Ivins' friends and former co-workers at the Fort Detrick biological warfare lab in Frederick, Md., say they doubt he could or would have unleashed the deadly toxin.
But after nearly seven years — much of which was spent pointing the finger at the wrong suspect — the FBI is ready to end the "Amerithrax" investigation by outlining its evidence against Ivins, according to two U.S. officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
The Justice Department "has a legal and moral obligation to make official statements first to the victims and their families, then the public," Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Tuesday. "And that's the order in which we're going to do it."
Officially, the case will stay open for an undetermined but short period of time. That will allow the government to complete several legal and investigatory matters that need to be wrapped up before it can be closed, the officials said.
Families of victims were to get the first glimpse inside the case at the morning FBI briefing. The Justice Department, meanwhile, was expected to ask a federal judge to unseal documents revealing how the FBI closed in on Ivins.
That evidence should answer many questions in the bizarre investigation. Still, skeptics may never be satisfied if the documents fail to show conclusively that Ivins was solely responsible for mailing the anthrax letters that killed five and sickened 17 in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
The case may turn on a couple of key points, including:
_An advanced DNA analysis that matched the anthrax used in the attacks to a specific batch controlled by Ivins. It is unclear, however, how the FBI eliminated as suspects others in the lab who had access to it.
_Ivins' purported motive of sending the anthrax in a twisted effort to test a cure for it, according to authorities. Ivins complained of the limitations of animal testing and shared in a patent for an anthrax vaccine. No evidence has been revealed so far to bolster that theory.
_Why Ivins would have mailed the deadly letters from Princeton, N.J., a seven-hour round trip from his home. In perhaps the strangest explanation to emerge in the case so far, authorities said Ivins had been obsessed with the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma for more than 30 years. The letters were sent from a mailbox down the street from the sorority's offices at Princeton University.
Investigators can't place Ivins in Princeton but say the evidence will show he had disturbing attitudes toward women. Other haunting details about Ivins' mental health have emerged, and his therapist described him as having a history of homicidal and sociopathic thoughts.