Anthrax Letters of 2001
In the weeks following the terror of 9/11, reports that anthrax-laced letters had been sent to five media outlets and two U.S. Senators sent shockwaves through the nation. By the end of the year, 22 people had been infected with anthrax, five people had died of the inhaled form of the disease, and hundreds of millions more were struck by anxiety of the unknown. The message in the letters to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy hinted at further attacks: "You can not stop us. We have this anthrax."
Yet in the months and years that followed, there were no subsequent attacks. And the FBI's resolution of the case in 2008 suggests that the anthrax letters were intended more to prompt fear about biological weapons than to kill. The FBI's forensic investigation, which relied heavily on comparative genomics, pinpointed the source of the anthrax—a flask in the lab of U.S. Army scientist Bruce Ivins, a senior biodefense researcher.
Whether or not Ivins himself was the culprit remains uncertain, but whoever sent the anthrax letters was likely an insider at the Army lab, someone with a vested interest in raising concern about biological weapons. It is telling that the letters were taped shut, perhaps a failed attempt to keep the spores from infecting postal workers, and that the messages within the letters clearly identified the anthrax and urged whoever opened the letters to "Take penacilin [sic] now." (The note about penicillin appeared in the first batch of letters sent, not in the letter to Senator Leahy shown above.)