FRONTLINE Investigation Shows Inconsistencies in Anthrax Case

BY Lauren Knapp  July 20, 2011 at 3:10 PM EDT

An ongoing investigation by FRONTLINE, ProPublica and McClatchy Newspapers has brought to light inconsistencies in the government’s position on the 2001 case of anthrax-filled letters that killed five people.


This interview was conducted on July 19. The Justice Department has since submitted a list of corrections to the July 15 filing.

The Justice Department contradicted previous government arguments that former Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins had created the white powder while working late nights at a bio-weapons lab. The new evidence was filed late last week as part of a Florida civil suit against the government brought by the family of the first anthrax victim, Robert Stevens.

A recent article by the investigatory partnership, laid out the contradiction:

The department’s legal dance stems from its two seemingly conflicting roles: backing up the FBI’s finding that Ivins, who committed suicide in July 2008, was the killer and defending an Army bio-weapons lab at Fort Detrick, Md., against allegations of negligence.

In an interview with Hari Sreenivasan, FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk explained that there’s an internal struggle at the Justice Department. “If they change what they said it may make them vulnerable in the civil suit for lots of money. If they stay where they are, it makes the criminal division feel more vulnerable,” Kirk said.

FRONTLINE, ProPublica, and McClatchy are continuing to follow the story and will produce a special documentary this fall.

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