This video report looks at the story of Bruce Ivins, an Army microbiologist who committed suicide just as federal prosecutors were preparing to file criminal charges against him in connection with the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.
You can choose to watch the 3 minute background report about the attacks, or the entire video, which runs 14 minutes and includes a discussion with Ari Shapiro, who covered the story for National Public Radio, and Leonard Cole, a professor who wrote a book about the investigation called "The Anthrax Letters: A Medical Detective Story."
Anthrax, a bacteria that can kill people who inhale certain forms of it, was mailed from a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., just weeks after the attacks of September 11th, with the nation on edge about terrorism. Letters, some containing the phrase "Death to America," arrived at the Sun Newspaper, a Florida-based tabloid, as well as the offices of then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy in the Hart Senate Office Building, which was closed for months before it was deemed safe.
CBS, ABC and NBC News, also received letters and assistants to then-anchormen Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather contracted the less serious, skin-based form of the infection, called cutaneous anthrax.
The video reminds us of a period of time when Americans were scared of their mail and feared attacks of all kinds. The case remained unsolved for seven years.
"Our biggest problem is fear. And we understand, and have talked about among ourselves, that those who are most afraid are in the most danger." - Dan Rather, Former Host, CBS Evening News
"To be able to work with anthrax, you should not have a history of homicidal threats and actions. And so one big question that we're looking at now and going forward is, how did the system fail to catch this?" - Ari Shapiro, NPR News
"The FBI always gets their man. It may take them seven years, he may be dead, and they may get the wrong man first, but eventually they get their man." - Ari Shapiro, NPR News
1. What is bioterrorism? Has there ever been a bioterrorism attack in the United States?
2. Who is in charge of protecting the United States against terrorist attacks? How do they do that?
1. Would it be more or less disturbing to you if the anthrax attack was organized by al-Qaida or other terrorist group, instead of one U.S. man bent on causing panic?
2. Why do you think it took so long for the FBI to arrest Bruce Ivins?
3. What can the government do to prevent such attacks?
Transcript of this report:
Lesson Plan: Anthrax in History: