What happened to Dr. Bruce Ivins? Netflix’s ‘Anthrax Attacks’ Documentary Revisits Anthrax Letters Case

A week after the 9/11 attacks, the already distraught American public was rocked by a terrifying new threat: people were being killed by mail. Now, a new Netflix documentary, Anthrax attacksTake a closer look at the 2001 anthrax attacks, which came in the form of threatening letters containing deadly anthrax spores.

Over the course of several weeks in September and October 2001, threatening letters referencing 9/11 and containing deadly anthrax spores were sent to the media and the offices of US senators. At least 22 people developed anthrax infections and five people died from anthrax inhalations, including two employees at the Brentwood Mail Facility in Washington, D.C.

Although initially believed to be a foreign terrorist attack related to the al-Qaeda attacks on 9/11, authorities determined that the sophisticated equipment required for the strain of anthrax used meant the perpetrator was likely an American scientist. The FBI investigation that followed dragged on for nearly a decade. Ultimately, one man was named responsible: Dr. Bruce Ivins, who is played by Clark Gregg in the Netflix documentary, in re-enactments using statements from Ivins’ actual emails and FBI interviews.

Who is Netflix’s Bruce Ivins? The anthrax attacks?

Dr. Bruce Ivins is the suspected perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks, which killed at least five people. Ivins was a senior biodefense investigator at the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Maryland.

Portrayed by Marvel alum Clark Gregg in anthrax attacks documentary, Ivins was not initially a serious suspect in the FBI’s investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks. During the early years of the investigation, he collaborated with FBI agents, helping them identify the specific strain of anthrax powder detected. in the envelopes sent. He also, along with his colleagues, worked to identify real anthrax threats in the face of a series of hoaxes that were sent out after the initial attacks. And beyond that, he began researching a new anthrax vaccine, with less serious side effects.

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For years, the FBI’s prime suspect was bioweapons expert Steven Hatfill. Despite his claims of innocence and the lack of concrete evidence for him, Hatfill was placed under extreme surveillance by the FBI and was harassed and harassed by the media. (After Hatfill was exonerated, he sued the office for violating his constitutional rights and violating the Privacy Act. The case settled in 2008 with the Justice Department paying Hatfill $5.8 million.) It wasn’t until a new lead investigator, Vince Lisi, was assigned to the case in 2006 that the FBI made Ivins their prime suspect.

According to the Netflix documentary, Ivins had initially been cleared of suspicion years earlier when he, along with all of his colleagues, submitted an anthrax sample for analysis, and it did not match the strain of anthrax used in the attack. However, also according to the documentary, Ivins sent two samples because he used the wrong test tube for his first performance. When the first shipment was rechecked, it appeared to match.

More than that, using now more advanced technology, the researchers concluded that the anthrax spores used in the attacks were created in a vial that Bruce Ivins had used for his experiments. Ivins became the prime suspect and his home was searched under an FBI warrant. Agent Lisi says in the documentary that while they didn’t find the evidence they expected to find in this search, another FBI agent later found a book about encrypted messages in Ivins’ trash, linking it to the encrypted messages found in the letters.

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The FBI also uncovered more dirt on Ivins, including his unhealthy preoccupation with his alma mater’s sorority, troubling emails he sent to a colleague, and his tendency to hack into his friends’ emails to read messages about him. They also got him to admit to a friend that he was secretly using a wire, that he had bouts of depression and rage, in which he had no recollection of what he had done. When she asked him if he sent the anthrax letters, he replied, “I don’t remember doing anything like that.”

Anthrax attacks.  Clark Gregg as Dr. Bruce Ivins in The Anthrax Attacks.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Where is Bruce Ivins now?

Ivins died on July 29, 2008 of an overdose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) combined with alcohol. His death was ruled a suicide. A week after his death, the Justice Department announced at a press conference that Ivins was likely the sole perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks. The investigation was officially closed in February 2010.

However, although Ivins is the official suspect in the attack, the FBI did not need to provide direct evidence of his guilt now that he is dead. Many of his former colleagues, including Henry S. Heine, maintain that it would be impossible for Ivins to have created the anthrax spores used in the attacks undetected, pointing to the fact that many people had access to the vial that was genetically linked. . attack

The FBI maintains that “science alone rarely solves an investigation.” Some still doubt that Ivins was the right suspect and have called on the FBI to reopen the case. But after more than a decade, and without repeated attacks, that doesn’t seem very likely. For now, the case is closed.

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