The true story of the worst biological attack in the US

Just one week after the catastrophic terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States was under siege again. This time, however, it was through biological warfare.

Five people died and at least 17 more became ill from exposure to anthrax-lined letters through the mail over the course of several weeks, beginning on September 17. After initially suspecting that it might be the work of Al-Qaeda or other terrorists, the FBI finally turned its attention much closer to home.

Now, 21 years after the tragedy, a new Netflix movie, Anthrax attacks re-examine history. Directed by Oscar-nominated director Dan Krauss, it interviews survivors and investigators, dramatizes key moments from the investigation and, according to the synopsis, “an incredible scientific tale of deadly poison, obsession and paranoia, all told against the backdrop of the the war on terror unfolds.”

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What happened in the anthrax attacks?

With the country on high alert after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on September 11, a series of letters with anthrax are sent in a first wave a week later. They had a Trenton, New Jersey postmark and were sent to publications like ABC News, the new york post, nbc news Y CBS News. The first to receive one was Bob Stevens of American Media, Florida, publisher of the Nnational investigator – on October 4 and died a day later. Three days later, traces of anthrax were found in Steven’s office and it was closed.

anthrax attacks true story

Netflix

The next wave of letters in October appeared to be directed at politicians and was sent to two Democratic senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, however Leahy’s letter was misdirected in the mail. Four other people died from inhalation anthrax: Thomas Morris Jr., Joseph Curseen, Kathy Nguyen and Ottilie Lundgren, and 17 people became ill from inhaling the spores, the active bacteria of the disease, 11 of whom had a fatal case of the disease. illness. illness.

The anthrax on the letters came in the form of a granular, sand-like substance. According to the New York Post, was “lumpy and rough”. Tom Daschle’s anthrax was reportedly “fine and buoyant,” a more dangerous grade, according to Maj. Gen. Jon Parker. A New York Post the investigator compared it to “Purina Dog Chow” and another victim compared it to “baby powder.”

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The lyrics had something written on them, the first wave said: “THIS IS NEXT, TAKE PENACILIN [sic] NOW, DEATH TO AMERICA, DEATH TO ISRAEL, ALLAH IS GREAT.” The second batch of letters read: “YOU CAN’T STOP US. WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX. DIE NOW. ARE YOU AFRAID? DEATH TO AMERICA. DEATH TO ISRAEL. ALLAH IS GREAT.”

As reported by the Smithsonian Magazine, the White House at the time pressed FBI chief Robert Mueller to “publicly blame Osama bin Laden,” however that would not work, the president’s staff were told, since “weaponized anthrax capable of cause infections through the lungs a sophisticated substance that requires advanced laboratories and highly specialized scientific skills. It couldn’t have been done in a cave in Afghanistan.”

anthrax attacks true story

Netflix

In an investigation that spanned more than seven years, and included multiple reported hoaxes and false cases, authorities traveled to six continents, interviewed more than 9,000 people, conducted 67 raids, and issued more than 6,000 summonses. According to the Houston Chronicle: “Hundreds of FBI personnel worked on the case from the beginning, struggling to discern whether the 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks and the anthrax killings were connected before finally concluding that they were not.”

It seemed more and more like this was an inside job, and when the anthrax was found to come from the Ames strain, the FBI narrowed it down to a certain lab, and even a certain scientific flask.

The first suspect was Steven Hatfill, a medical doctor and biological weapons expert, and in August 2002 he was named a “person of interest”, but no charges were ever filed against him. He sued the FBI and others for violating his constitutional rights and violating the Privacy Act. In 2008, the Justice Department paid $5.8 million to settle the case, and he was exonerated.

according to ABC Newsapparently Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, a microbiologist at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, was a suspect as early as 2002 while a focus of six years was at Hatfill, but it wasn’t until late 2006 that Ivins became the main focus of the investigation.

In 2008, Irvins checked himself into a psychiatric hospital, and while there, the FBI said he had a series of conversations about the anthrax attacks in which he made statements that were deemed “denials without denials.”

In July 2008, Irvins was told that he could face prosecution and the death penalty if convicted. However, the full truth will most likely never be revealed. Irvins committed suicide on July 29.

On August 6, US Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor stated that Ivins was “solely to blame” for the attacks, explaining that he had “submitted false anthrax evidence to throw investigators off his trail, and failed to adequately explain his schedule.” lab worker tried to frame co-workers at time of attacks, immunized against anthrax in early September 2001, was one of over 100 people with access to the same strain of anthrax used in the murders and used similar language in an email to one of the anthrax shipments,” according to the Washington Post.

An FBI report stated that one possible motive was: “The anthrax vaccine program to which he had devoted his entire career of more than 20 years was failing. However, after the anthrax attacks, his program was suddenly rejuvenated.” Another theory was that, “by launching these attacks, it creates a situation, a scenario, where people suddenly realize the need to have this vaccine.”

However, no formal charges were ever filed against Ivins for the crime, and no direct evidence of his involvement was discovered, as rounded off in 2016. Living room research. As the journalist points out, “a review of scientific work by the Federal Bureau of Investigation concludes that the bureau overstated the strength of the genetic analysis linking mail-order anthrax to a supply kept by Bruce E. Ivins,” concluding that there are still much “lingering doubt” in this case, calling for an independent investigation of the truth.

The Anthrax Attacks airs on Netflix on September 8.

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