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Government Details How Anthrax Investigation Led to Army Scientist

The government released documents Wednesday pertaining to the 2001 anthrax attacks, saying that deceased Army scientist Bruce Ivins was solely responsible for the deadly mailings. A reporter details the day's findings.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    On the day a memorial service was held for Bruce Ivins, the Department of Justice unveiled evidence that it said made him the lone suspect in the anthrax attacks of 2001.

    Ivins killed himself last week. He had known for some time that he was the target of the probe. His attorney maintains his late client's innocence.

    Ivins worked for years at Fort Detrick, Maryland, where much of the military's research into infectious pathogens and biological weapons occurs.

    The mailings in the fall of 2001 rattled the nation just weeks after September 11th. The anthrax attacks killed five people and sickened 17 others.

    Today, families of the anthrax victims arrived at the FBI for a briefing by Director Robert Mueller that detailed the evidence collected during the nearly seven-year probe. This afternoon, government officials spoke to the press.

    Jeffrey Taylor, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, outlined several key factors in the case that led investigators to focus on Ivins, beginning early in 2007, more than five years after the attacks.

    JEFFREY TAYLOR, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia: We were able to identify in early 2005 the genetically unique parent material of the anthrax spores used in the mailings.

    As the court documents allege, the parent material of the anthrax spores used in the attacks was a single flask of spores known as RMR-1029 that was created and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins.

    This means that the spores used in the attacks were taken from that specific flask, re-grown, purified, dried, and loaded into the letters. No one received material from that flask without going through Dr. Ivins.

    Leading up to each of the mailings, the documents make clear that Dr. Ivins was working inordinate hours alone at night and on the weekend in the lab where the flask of spores and production equipment were stored.

    A review of his access records reveal that Dr. Ivins had not spent this many off-hours in the lab at any time before or after this period. When questioned about why he was in the lab during those off-hours prior to each of the mailings, Dr. Ivins was unable to offer any satisfactory explanation.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Taylor also said Ivins had a history of mental health problems, including paranoid delusions.

    He also had a history of writing letters to Congress and the media. Anthrax letters were sent to both.

    Taylor conceded some evidence was circumstantial, but said the government had hard evidence, as well.

  • JEFFREY TAYLOR:

    We have a flask that's effectively the murder weapon from which those spores were taken that was controlled by Dr. Ivins. The anthrax in that flask was created by Dr. Ivins.

    Circumstantial evidence, sure, some of it is, but it's compelling evidence and, in our view, is — we are confident it would have helped us prove this case against Dr. Ivins beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    As the motive, Taylor said one theory was that Ivins was concerned that his work on an anthrax vaccine might be discontinued and that may have led him to send the letters.

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