WASHINGTON – After nearly seven years of investigating, FBI officials plan to present evidence today to the surviving victims of the 2001 anthrax attacks that they believe proves that a Maryland scientist launched the deadly mailings that gripped the nation following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The details of the FBI’s scientific research and accomplishments will validate the government’s decision regarding the origin of the anthrax mailings,” said one federal law enforcement official familiar with the evidence.
It is to be presented this morning to the families of the five victims and nearly two dozen survivors, who have been brought to Washington for a closed-door briefing at FBI headquarters. Later key members of Congress and reporters will also be briefed.
“The unsealed documents should answer the outstanding questions regarding the findings in this case,” the official said.
An FBI agent’s nearly 100-page affidavit seeking a search warrant of the scientist’s personal property and summarizing much of the information that the bureau had gathered against Bruce E. Ivins, the man accused of the mailings, for more than a year is expected to be released.
But some surviving victims, relatives of those who died and lawyers representing Ivins say they have a slew of questions that require answers.
Among them: Why did the FBI focus for years on another scientist, Steven Hatfill, before shifting gears and fingering Ivins, of Frederick, Md.? And if the FBI and the Justice Department had the evidence to prove that Ivins did it, why didn’t they charge him before he apparently killed himself last week?
“What troubles me is that Mr. Ivins wasn’t indicted, and if he wasn’t indicted, how confident are they that they had the evidence and the information that they needed?” asked former Sen. Tom Daschle, whose office received one of the letters containing the deadly spores when he was Senate Democratic leader. “The only thing that has changed is that he has committed suicide.”
Even as the FBI lays out its case against Ivins, family and colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick will be gathering for a morning memorial service at the research facility where Ivins worked for 28 years.
One of the nation’s leading military anthrax researchers, Ivins, 62, died July 29 after overdosing on over-the-counter medication. He had been told by authorities that they were preparing to seek an indictment charging him with capital murder charges that, if convicted, could result in the death penalty.