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Context of 'Autumn 2007-July 29, 2008: FBI Agents Openly Follow Anthrax Attacks Suspect Ivins'

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Bruce Ivins teaching a child how to juggle in 1983.Bruce Ivins teaching a child how to juggle in 1983. [Source: Sam Yu / Frederick News-Post]Future anthrax attacks suspect Bruce Ivins begins working at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory. He will continue working there until a few weeks before his suicide in July 2008 (see July 29, 2008). He has master’s and doctoral degrees in microbiology. His work at USAMRIID will generally focus on developing anthrax vaccines. He frequent conducts experiments on animals to test vaccines for various types of anthrax exposure. His experiments use only wet anthrax, not the dry powdered anthrax that will be used in the 2001 anthrax attacks. Ivins has a stable decades-long marriage, several children, and is popular with colleagues and friends. One coworker will later say: “a lot of people cared about him.… He is not Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). He’s not the Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). [Los Angeles Times, 8/1/2008; Washington Post, 8/2/2008]

Entity Tags: Bruce Ivins

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

The five fatal victims of the anthrax attacks, from to right: Josep Curseen Jr., Thomas Morris, Ottilie Lundgren, Robert Stevens, and Kathy Nguyen. The five fatal victims of the anthrax attacks, from to right: Josep Curseen Jr., Thomas Morris, Ottilie Lundgren, Robert Stevens, and Kathy Nguyen. [Source: Reuters and Associated Press] (click image to enlarge)Two waves of letters containing anthrax are received by media outlets including NBC and the New York Post (see September 17-18, 2001), and Democratic senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy (see October 6-9, 2001). The letters sent to the senators both contain the words “Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is Great.” Five people die:
bullet October 5: Robert Stevens, 63, an employee at the Sun, a tabloid based in Florida.
bullet October 21: Thomas Morris Jr., 55, a postal worker in Washington, DC.
bullet October 22: Joseph Curseen Jr., 47, a postal worker in Washington, DC.
bullet October 31: Kathy Nguyen, 61, a hospital employee in New York City.
bullet November 21: Ottilie Lundgren, 94, of Oxford, Connecticut.
At least 22 more people get sick but survive. Thirty-one others test positive for exposure. As a result of these deaths and injuries, panic sweeps the nation. On October 16, the Senate office buildings are shut down, followed by the House of Representatives, after 28 congressional staffers test positive for exposure to anthrax (see October 16-17, 2001). A number of hoax letters containing harmless powder turn up, spreading the panic further. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/8/2001; Associated Press, 8/7/2008] Initially it is suspected that either al-Qaeda or Iraq are behind the anthrax letters (see October 14, 2001, October 15, 2001, October 17, 2001, and October 18, 2001). [Observer, 10/14/2001; BBC, 10/16/2001] However, by November, further investigation leads the US government to conclude that, “everything seems to lean toward a domestic source.… Nothing seems to fit with an overseas terrorist type operation (see November 10, 2001).” [Washington Post, 10/27/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 11/10/2001]

Entity Tags: Iraq, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Patrick J. Leahy, Tom Daschle, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2001 Anthrax Attacks, US Domestic Terrorism

An FBI agent checking a dumpster near Steven Hatfill’s apartment.An FBI agent checking a dumpster near Steven Hatfill’s apartment. [Source: WUSA]In July 2002, anthrax attacks suspect Steven Hatfill is put under 24-hour surveillance. The surveillance comes after bloodhounds allegedly link Hatfill to the anthrax letters at some point in July. (This bloodhound evidence will be quickly debunked by the media, but apparently this does not dissuade the FBI (see August 4, 2002)). [Vanity Fair, 9/15/2003] The surveillance is quite open and obvious at times. In December 2002, Hatfill alleges that a virtual caravan of unmarked vans and cars are keeping him under constant surveillance, following him on errands and to restaurants, and driving past his house with a video camera pointed out the window. He also believes that his telephone is being wiretapped. [United Press International, 12/23/2002] In May 2003, Hatfill walks up to one of the agents following him attempts to videotape him. The agent drives into Hatfill and runs over his foot. Remarkably, the driver is not punished but Hatfill gets a five-dollar ticket for “walking to create a hazard.” Mike Hayes, a retired 20-year FBI agent specializing in surveillance, says to a reporter regarding the FBI’s behavior with Hatfill, “What you’re describing—really obvious surveillance—doesn’t make a lot of sense.” [Baltimore Sun, 5/20/2003] Shortly after the incident, USA Today reports, “FBI officials believe they can’t risk the embarrassment of losing track of Hatfill, even for a few hours, and then being confronted with more anthrax attacks.” Privately, Hatfill’s lawyer suggests that Hatfill could be outfitted with a satellite-guided tracking device and allow an FBI agent to stay with him at all times, but the FBI rejects the offer. [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008] The surveillance continues until late 2003 and is very intermittent after that. [Baltimore Sun, 7/21/2004] The FBI will later admit that this type of open surveillance of a suspect is against FBI guidelines. However, when the FBI’s focus turns to Bruce Ivins in 2007, they will use the same technique on him (see Autumn 2007-July 29, 2008).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Steven Hatfill, Mike Hayes

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Roscoe Howard Jr.Roscoe Howard Jr. [Source: Associated Press]Newsweek reports that bloodhounds have recently been used in the search for the killer in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). Supposedly, the dogs were presented with “scent packs” lifted from anthrax-tainted letters mailed the year before, even though the letters had long since been decontaminated. The dogs reportedly showed no reaction wherever they were sent, except when taken to the apartment of anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill, where the dogs reportedly become agitated and go “crazy.” It is said they showed similar reactions at the apartment of Hatfill’s girlfriend and a Denny’s restaurant in Louisiana where Hatfill had eaten the day before. [Newsweek, 8/4/2002] However, three days later, the Baltimore Sun reports that managers at all 12 of the Denny’s in Louisiana say they have not been visited by federal agents with bloodhounds. Furthermore, three veteran bloodhound handlers are interviewed and say they are skeptical that any useful scent could have remained on the letters after so much time, as well as after the decontamination. Former officer and bloodhound handler Weldon Wood says, “Anything is possible. But is it feasible, after this length of time and what the letters have been through? I would doubt it.” The Sun suggests, “the possibility exists that the story was a leak calculated to put pressure on Hatfill.” [Baltimore Sun, 8/8/2002] Investigators will later conclude that the dogs’ excitement is useless as evidence. Van Harp, the FBI official in charge of the anthrax investigation, and Roscoe Howard Jr., the US attorney for Washington, DC, will later admit they leaked the bloodhound story to Newsweek. [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008]

Entity Tags: Van Harp, Steven Hatfill, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Roscoe Howard Jr.

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

In 2002, microbiologist Perry Mikesell came under suspicion as the anthrax attacker. Mikesell is an anthrax specialist who worked with Bruce Ivins and others at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory, in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, he had worked at the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private contractor in Ohio working on classified government bioweapons programs. According to family members, he begins drinking heavily after the FBI starts suspecting him, consuming up to a fifth of hard liquor a day. One relative will later say, “It was a shock that all of a sudden he’s a raging alcoholic.” He dies in late October 2002. The relative will say, “He drank himself to death.” His connection to the anthrax investigation will not be revealed until 2008, and it still is completely unknown why the FBI was focusing on him. Two weeks before his suicide (see July 29, 2008), Ivins will liken the pressure he is facing from the FBI to the pressure that had been put on Mikesell. He will reportedly tell a colleague, “Perry [Mikesell] drank himself to death.” [New York Times, 8/9/2008]

Entity Tags: United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Battelle Memorial Institute, Bruce Ivins, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Perry Mikesell

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Bruce Ivins working as a Red Cross volunteer in 2003.Bruce Ivins working as a Red Cross volunteer in 2003. [Source: Associated Press]During a several day search of a pond near Frederick, Maryland, by FBI investigators for clues to the anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), Scientist Bruce Ivins is there with the investigators, working as a Red Cross volunteer. Ivins will commit suicide in 2008 after coming under scrutiny as the FBI’s main suspect in the anthrax attacks (see July 29, 2008). The pond search is highly publicized at the time, and is an unsuccessful effort to find evidence connecting the attacks to Steven Hatfill, the FBI’s main suspect at the time (see December 12-17, 2002). The pond is near USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory where Ivins works and Hatfill used to work. As a Red Cross volunteer, Ivins serves coffee, donuts, and snacks to FBI agents and other investigators in a military tent. He is eventually removed after officials realize he is an anthrax researcher who could compromise the investigation. Apparently, Ivins is a regular Red Cross volunteer at the time. Miriam Fleming, another Red Cross volunteer working at the pond search, will later recall that Ivins “was kind of goofy, but he was always in a good mood. He seemed so normal.” [New York Times, 8/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Miriam Fleming, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bruce Ivins, Steven Hatfill

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Scientist Steven Hatfill files a lawsuit against Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Justice Department, and FBI, saying his constitutional rights have been violated. Hatfill has been named by the FBI as a “person of interest” in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), but has not been charged or officially declared a suspect. His attorneys claim the FBI deliberately tipped off the media to searches of his house to hide the fact that the anthrax investigation was making little progress. They say 24-hour surveillance and wiretaps violated his privacy (see July 2002-Late 2003). [CNN, 8/26/2003] In 2008, Hatfill will settle out of court and receive nearly $6 million in compensation from the government (see June 27, 2008).

Entity Tags: Steven Hatfill, John Ashcroft, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Scientist Bruce Ivins begins to believe that the FBI anthrax attacks investigation is turning its focus towards him. He is correct, but it is unclear how he knows this (the FBI begins openly monitoring him at some point in 2007 (see Autumn 2007-July 29, 2008)). At USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory, he tells colleagues that the FBI might be trying to set him up to take the fall for the attacks. His former boss Jeffrey Adamovicz will later recall that Ivins begins to poke holes in the FBI’s efforts. For instance, Ivins says a positive DNA match between the anthrax in the letters and anthrax at USAMRIID would mean little, “because those labs are shared.” [Wall Street Journal, 8/7/2008] It is unclear why the FBI is suspecting Ivins already, because a match between the anthrax used in the attacks and anthrax held by him will not be made until early 2007 (see Early 2007).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Bruce Ivins, Jeffrey Adamovicz

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Paul Keim.Paul Keim. [Source: Public domain]The FBI matches an anthrax sample submitted by suspect Bruce Ivins with the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks. The sample, of anthrax used by Ivins in his work, was submitted to the FBI in February 2002, but the FBI then destroyed it since it had not been prepared using a strict protocol needed for it to be used as evidence in a trial (see February 22-27, 2002). By late 2006, the FBI suspects Ivins sent the 2001 anthrax letters (see Late 2006). Also in 2006, scientists have discovered unique genetic markers in the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks and they are comparing them to other anthrax samples they have collected. A sample Ivins gave to the FBI in April 2002 does not match the anthrax in the letters. However, Paul Keim, a biologist at Northern Arizona University and an expert at distinguishing various strains of anthrax, has kept duplicates of all the anthrax samples sent to the FBI. In early 2007, Keim discovers that he still has a copy of Ivin’s February 2002 sample, known as RMR-1029, and it matches the anthrax used in the attacks. However, at least 100 scientists had access to this sample (see Late 2005-2006), if not 200 to 300 scientists (see 1997). [Frederick News-Post, 8/19/2008; New York Times, 8/20/2008]

Entity Tags: Paul Keim, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bruce Ivins

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

The FBI’s letter to Bruce Ivins.The FBI’s letter to Bruce Ivins. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)Bruce Ivins is sent a formal letter by prosecutors saying that he is “not a target” of the FBI’s anthrax attacks investigation. In fact, samples of the anthrax used in the attacks have been shown to match anthrax once controlled by Ivins (see Early 2007) and Ivins has already been questioned about late-night work he had conducted in the USAMRIID laboratory shortly before the anthrax letters were mailed (see March 31, 2005). [New York Times, 9/6/2008] Since late 2006, Ivins has correctly been under the impression that he is a target of the investigation (see Late 2006).

Entity Tags: Bruce Ivins, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

For about a year until his death in July 2008 (see July 29, 2008), anthrax attacks suspect Bruce Ivins is openly followed by FBI agents in surveillance vehicles. When this begins exactly is not known, but his house is searched by the FBI on November 1, 2007 (see November 1, 2007), so presumably he is followed at least after that date. [New York Times, 8/4/2008] This tactic used on Ivins had already been controversially used on the previous primary anthrax attacks suspect, Steven Hatfill, in 2002 and 2003. One of the heads of the FBI’s anthrax investigation, Robert Roth, later admitted in court that this tactic of openly following Hatfill was against FBI guidelines. “Generally, it’s supposed to be covert,” Roth said. [Associated Press, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bruce Ivins, Robert Roth

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

The house of Bruce Ivins.The house of Bruce Ivins. [Source: Rob Carr / Associated Press]The FBI suspects that Bruce Ivins, a scientist working at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top biological laboratory, was behind the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). His home is searched by the FBI, but no report of this makes the newspapers. On the same day, USAMRIID cuts off his access to the laboratories where biological agents and toxins are used and stored. However, he continues to work at USAMRIID without such access until July 2008, when he will be completely banned from the lab (see July 10, 2008). [Herald-Mail, 8/8/2008] According to McClatchy Newspapers, his lab access is apparently reinstated some time after this date. [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bruce Ivins, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

In December 2007, scientist Bruce Ivins is privately told by the FBI that he could be a suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). This is according to Ivins’s attorney Paul Kemp, who also says that he and Ivins have a meeting with the FBI that same month in response. Ivins’s house had been searched by the FBI the month before, which presumably made the FBI’s interest in Ivins obvious (see November 1, 2007). Kemp will later claim that he and Ivins will meet with the FBI about four or five times between this time and Ivins’s death in July 2008 (see July 29, 2008). Additionally, Kemp will claim that Ivins had been interviewed by the FBI about 20 to 25 times before he was told he could be a suspect, yet Ivins regularly had his security clearances renewed. [Time, 8/5/2008]

Entity Tags: Paul Kemp, Bruce Ivins, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Police at Frederick City, Maryland, enter Fort Detrick to execute an Emergency Medical Evaluation Petition. The petition is for Bruce Ivins, a scientist working at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top biological laboratory, located inside Fort Detrick. The police are escorted to Ivins and take him out of the military base. He is informed that he will not be allowed back into the laboratory or the base again. Ivins is placed in a local hospital the same day. [Herald-Mail, 8/8/2008] Apparently he is hospitalized because he had been acting strangely in recent weeks and associates concluded he could be a danger to himself and others. Jean Duley, a social worker who had treated him in group therapy, sought a restraining order against him the day before (see July 9, 2008). She claims he had been making threats, but she does not claim he confessed to any role in the anthrax attacks. He remains hospitalized until July 23. [New York Times, 8/4/2008]

Entity Tags: Jean Duley, Bruce Ivins, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

FBI agents search anthrax attacks suspect Bruce Ivins’s house, office, and cars for a second time. The first search was in November 2007 (see November 1, 2007). This search comes two days after Ivins was removed from his workplace by police and put in a hospital (see July 10, 2008). The FBI will later claim they seize a bulletproof vest, ammunition, and homemade body armor. [Bloomberg, 8/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bruce Ivins

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

About a week before Bruce Ivins dies (see July 29, 2008), FBI agents take a mouth swab to collect a DNA sample from him. It is unclear why investigators waited so long, since he had been an a suspect since 2006 (see Late 2006). [New York Times, 9/6/2008]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bruce Ivins

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

In an interview with CNN, FBI Director Robert Mueller gives an upbeat assessment of the FBI’s investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), despite the exoneration of Steven Hatfill, the only publicly named suspect, the month before (see June 27, 2008). Mueller says: “I’m confident in the course of the investigation.… And I’m confident that it will be resolved.… I tell you, we’ve made great progress in the investigation. It’s in no way dormant. It’s active.… In some sense there have been breakthroughs, yes.” [CNN, 7/24/2008] Just days after these comments, Bruce Ivins, the FBI’s top unpublicized suspect at the time, will die of an apparent suicide (see July 29, 2008).

Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Steven Hatfill, Bruce Ivins

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Bruce Ivins in 2003. Bruce Ivins in 2003. [Source: Agence France-Presse / Getty Images]US government microbiologist Bruce Ivins dies of an apparent suicide. The Los Angeles Times is the first media outlet to report on his death three days later. The Times claims that Ivins died “just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him” for the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). For the last 18 years, Ivins had worked at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the US government’s top biological research laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. His name had not been made public as a suspect in the case prior to his death. He dies at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine. Apparently there is no suicide note or any other known final message from Ivins. [Los Angeles Times, 8/1/2008] According to the Washington Post, Ivins had ingested the pills two or three days before he actually died. He was admitted to Frederick Memorial Hospital two days before his death. Investigators had scheduled a meeting with Ivins’s attorneys to discuss the evidence against him. However, Ivins dies two hours before the meeting is to take place (see July 29, 2008). [Washington Post, 8/2/2008] Apparently, no autopsy is performed on Ivins’s body. A Frederick Police Department lieutenant says that based on laboratory test results of blood taken from the body, the state medical examiner “determined that an autopsy wouldn’t be necessary” to confirm he died of a suicide. [Bloomberg, 8/1/2008]

Entity Tags: Bruce Ivins, US Department of Justice, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

On July 29, 2008, when anthrax attacks suspect Bruce Ivins commits suicide (see July 29, 2008), the FBI still has not completed its case against him. Several days later, the New York Times reports that a grand jury in Washington had been planning to hear several more weeks of testimony before deciding to issue an indictment or not. Additionally, just days before his death, FBI agents seize two public computers from the downtown public library in Frederick, the Maryland town where Ivins lives. The Times will call this “an indication that investigators were still trying to strengthen their case…” [New York Times, 8/4/2008]

Entity Tags: Bruce Ivins, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) sends a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey and FBI Director Robert Mueller with a list of 18 questions about the FBI’s anthrax attacks investigation. He gives them two weeks to respond. The Los Angeles Times says the questions raise “concerns about virtually every aspect of the probe.” Grassley’s questions include how the government focused on suspect Bruce Ivins (who apparently committed suicide about a week earlier July 29, 2008), what was known about his deteriorating mental condition, whether he had taken a lie-detector test, and why investigators are sure that no one else helped him. “The FBI has a lot of explaining to do,” Grassley says. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) also says in an interview that he is in discussions with other Congresspeople to arrange a Congressional inquiry that would combine the efforts of several Congressional oversight committees. Referring to President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination, Holt says, “We don’t want this to be another Lee Harvey Oswald case where the public says it is never solved to their satisfaction. Somebody needs to finish the job that would have been finished in a court of law.” Other than Congress, “I’m not sure where else to do it.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/8/2008]

Entity Tags: Michael Mukasey, Bruce Ivins, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, Rush Holt, Charles Grassley

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

In his first public comments since the identification of recently deceased Bruce Ivins as the FBI’s prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001 and July 29, 2008), FBI Director Robert Muller tells reporters, “I do not apologize for any aspect of the investigation.” It is erroneous “to say there were mistakes.” [New York Times, 8/9/2008] Ten days later, FBI scientist Dr. Vahid Majidi, leading an FBI press briefing about the anthrax investigation (see August 18, 2008), will say, “Obviously, looking at it in hindsight, we would do things differently today.… And the amazing thing about this case that I would like to additionally point out is the amount of lessons learned. Were we perfect? Absolutely not. We’ve had missteps and those are the lessons learned…” [US Department of Justice, 8/18/2008]

Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Vahid Majidi

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

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