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Tag: Bruce Ivins

Justice Dept. Takes on Itself in Anthrax Attacks

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Jerry Markon
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Since it began a decade ago, the federal government’s massive investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks has been plagued by missteps and complications.

Investigators initially focused on the wrong man, then had to pay him a nearly $6 million settlement. In 2008, they accused another man, Bruce E. Ivins, who killed himself before he could go to trial. Now, in the latest twist, the government has argued against itself.

In documents deep in the files of a recently settled Florida lawsuit, Justice Department civil attorneys contradicted their own department’s conclusion that Ivins was unquestionably the anthrax killer. The lawyers said the type of anthrax in Ivins’s lab was “radically different” from the deadly anthrax. They cited several witnesses who said Ivins was innocent, and they suggested that a private laboratory in Ohio could have been involved in the attacks.

To read the full story click here.

Feds to Pay Widow of Anthrax Victim $2.5 Million

One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The feds are getting out the check book to cover an anthrax lawsuit filed by the wife whose husband — a Florida tabloid photo editor — was killed in 2001 by an anthrax letter.

The Associated Press reports that the U.S. government has agreed to pay widow Maureen Stevens $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit she filed.

The suit claimed the government failed to set in place security measures to assure that no one at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. got a hold of a the deadly anthrax strain  that was used to kill her husband and four others.

As part of the agreement, the wife has agreed to drop all other claims relating to the death of her husband Robert Stevens.

For years, some at the FBI were convinced that Ft. Detrick scientist Steven Hatfill was the culprit. But eventually investigators turned their attention toward Bruce Ivins, a scientist in the lab who committed suicide in July 2008, shortly before the feds planned to charge him in the deadly mailings that killed 5 and sickened 17 others.

 

The Anthrax Investigation: The View From the FBI

Michael P. Kortan is the assistant director of Public Affairs for the FBI at headquarters in Washington.

Michael Kortan (left) talking to ex-FBI Dir. Louis Freeh /fbi file photo

By Michael Kortan
N.Y. Times Letter to the Editor

WASHINGTON — I take issue with several points in your Oct. 18 editorial “Who Mailed the Anthrax Letters?”

First, the National Academy of Sciences report concluded that the anthrax in the mailings was consistent with the anthrax produced in Dr. Bruce Ivins’s suite. The report stated, at the same time, that it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the samples based on science alone. But investigators and prosecutors have long maintained that while science played a significant role, it was the totality of the investigative process that ultimately determined the outcome of the anthrax case.

Further, scientists directly involved in the lengthy investigation into the anthrax mailings — both from within the F.B.I. and outside experts — disagree with the notion that the chemicals in the mailed anthrax suggest more sophisticated manufacturing.

To read the rest click here.

Widow of Anthrax Victim Settles Lawsuit Against Feds

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Maureen Stevens’ legal battle with the feds over the anthrax death of her husband seems to be over.

Reuters reports that the widow of the deceased Florida tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens — one of five people killed in the 2001 anthrax attacks in the U.S. — has reached a settlement with the government in her wrongful death suit. She had asked for $50 million in damages, but the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

“The parties have reached a tentative settlement subject to required approval by officials in the Department of Justice,” said a Oct. 27 document filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach, according to Reuters.

Maureen Stevens had filed the suit in 2003, saying the government was negligent by failing to secure the anthrax used in the attacks.

The government eventually concluded that government scientist Bruce Ivins had sent the deadly anthrax. Ivins committed suicide in July 2008, just before the feds planned to charge him in the case.

Some scientists and Congressional members have questioned whether Ivins was really the culprit, but the Justice Department and the FBI have insisted the evidence as whole is overwhelming.

Sen. Grassley Says FBI/Justice Dept.’s Resistance Likely to Stifle Re-examination of Deadly Anthrax Case

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

You needn’t go to the oddsmakers in Vegas to predict whether the anthrax case will be reopened for a fresh examination.

Just ask Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.).

Grassley, one of several politicians who have been skeptical of the FBI findings that government scientist Bruce Ivins sent the letters, said it would take a powerful grassroots movement or startling new evidence to reopen the probe, according to an article authored by Greg Gordon of McClatchy Newspapers, Stephen Engelberg of ProPublica and Mike Wiser of PBS’ Frontline.

The FBI and the Justice Department have insisted that Ivins was the culprit, citing a collection of facts and circumstances. Ivins committed suicide in July 2008, shortly before the feds planned to charge him in the 2001 mailings that killed five and sickened 17 others.

Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee,  said in the article that adamant opposition from the FBI and Justice Department is likely to block further inquiry

Even if he were the committee chairman, Grassley said,  according to the article:  ”I would question my capability of raising enough heat (to reopen the case) when you’re up against the FBI. And I’ve been up against the FBI.”

His comments came after  PBS’ Frontline, McClatchy and ProPublica, in a joint investigation, cited evidence in a lengthy article that challenged some of the government’s scientific and circumstantial evidence.

To read more click here.

Upcoming Article Raises More Questions About Anthrax Attack

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By WILLIAM J. BROAD and SCOTT SHANE
New York Times

A decade after wisps of anthrax sent through the mail killed 5 people, sickened 17 others and terrorized the nation, biologists and chemists still disagree on whether federal investigators got the right man and whether the F.B.I.’s long inquiry brushed aside important clues.

Now, three scientists argue that distinctive chemicals found in the dried anthrax spores — including the unexpected presence of tin — point to a high degree of manufacturing skill, contrary to federal reassurances that the attack germs were unsophisticated. The scientists make their case in a coming issue of the Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense.

F.B.I. documents reviewed by The New York Times show that bureau scientists focused on tin early in their eight-year investigation, calling it an “element of interest” and a potentially critical clue to the criminal case. They later dropped their lengthy inquiry, never mentioned tin publicly and never offered any detailed account of how they thought the powder had been made.

To read the full story click there.

Judge Lets Justice Correct Anthrax Filing that Created PR Mess

One of the real anthrax letters in 2001/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A federal judge has allowed the Justice Department to correct a court filing that created an embarrassment and public relations goof for the agency in the anthrax case.

ProPublica reported Friday that U.S. District Judge David Hurley of West Palm Beach, Fla., gave the ok to the government to withdraw a court filing that mistakenly said that the late scientist Bruce Ivins did not have access to “specialized equipment” to make the deadly anthrax, when in fact he did.

The revised filing says Ivins had access to a refrigerator-sized machine known as a lyophilizer, which can be used to dry solutions such as anthrax, ProPublica reported.

The filings were in response to a lawsuit filed by the wife of National Enquirer photo editor Robert Stevens, who died as a result of an anthrax mailing. She contends the government did not do enough to protect the anthrax supplies from being used against citizens.

The erroneous filing created a stir in the media, which printed stories saying the Justice Department had undermined its own claim that Ivins was to blame for the attacks. Ivins committed suicide in July 2008 before authorities could file criminal charges against him.

The erroneous filing provided more fodder for critics who are skeptical that Ivins was in fact the one who mailed the letters.

Judge Blocks Justice Dept. From Correcting Statement About Anthrax Suspect

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A federal judge temporarily blocked the Justice Department from correcting a court filing that undercut the FBI’s conclusion that Army researcher Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax letter attacks in 2001, PBS Frontline, McClatchy and ProPublica reported in a joint story.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley of West Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday issued a written order saying the government must “show good cause” before allowing Justice to amend the court filing.

The filing was part of a lawsuit filed by the wife of a National Enquirer photo editor Robert Stevens, claiming the government failed to do enough to protect people from an anthrax attack.

Monday’s court order  appeared more procedural than substantive.

The government in the original filing said that Ivins did not have access in the lab to the special equipment needed to make the deadly powder, the publications reported.

The Justice Department wants to correct that to say Ivin did in fact have access to the equipment at U.S. Army bio-weapons facility in Frederick, Md., where he worked.

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