Ten years after anthrax mailings killed five people and terrorized the nation, an examination of the case against the late Bruce Ivins by PBS’ “Frontline,” McClatchy Newspapers, and ProPublica raises fresh doubts about the government’s evidence and questions whether, despite a $100 million investigation, the real anthrax killer remains on the loose.
As federal investigators prepared to charge him with the same crimes he had offered to help solve, Ivins committed suicide at age 62. Prosecutors voiced confidence that he would have been found guilty, announcing that years of cutting-edge DNA analysis proved that his spores were “effectively the murder weapon.” To many of Ivins’ former colleagues at the U.S. Army germ research center in Fort Detrick, Md., his invitation to test anthrax in his own inventory is among many indications the FBI got the wrong man. What kind of murderer, they wonder, would in effect ask the cops to test his own gun for ballistics? While not exonerating Ivins, newly uncovered documents and accounts of the case are at odds with some of the science and circumstantial evidence that the government said would have convicted Ivins for capital crimes.