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Context of 'April 2005-July 10, 2008: Anthax Attacks Suspects Keeps USAMRIID Lab Access despite FBI Suspicions'

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Scientist Steven Hatfill, a future suspect in the October 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), loses his high-level Department of Defense security clearance. He had apparently misrepresented some things on his resume. He is working at a private company at this time (see 2000-2002), but no explanation is given to his employers. He is allegedly visibly angry over this. Some colleagues will later report suspicions about him to the FBI, thinking that his anger might have led him to send off the anthrax-laced letters. [Baltimore Sun, 7/18/2002; ABC News, 8/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Department of National Defense, Steven Hatfill, US Department of Defense

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

The FBI closes some high-security laboratory suites at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The FBI apparently is searching for evidence related to the anthrax attacks investigation, although what the target of their search is remains unclear. For several days, investigators shut off access to bacteriology labs in two USAMRIID buildings where anthrax research is done or has been done. Numerous employees at USAMRIID were questioned by the FBI in the first months after the anthrax attacks, but then investigative activity targeting USAMRIID died down. In recent months, the FBI has seized medical records and computer hard drives there. Several days after the search, authorities say it failed to lead to any important breakthrough. The Baltimore Sun notes that USAMRIID’s labs were used extensively after the attacks to study the letters, so if trace amounts of anthrax are found it would very hard to prove if they came from the attacks or the subsequent investigation of the attacks. [Baltimore Sun, 7/21/2004] It will later emerge that the raid takes place at least in part to seize anthrax samples from scientist Bruce Ivins. In April 2002, Ivins had given investigators a sample of anthrax known as RMR-1029 (see April 2002). In early 2004, investigators determined that the sample did not match the anthrax used in the attacks, but other samples of RMR-1029 did (see Early 2004). So Ivins’s flasks of RMR-1029 are seized in the raid. These do show a match with the anthrax used in the attacks, raising questions why the sample Ivins had submitted in 2002 did not. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/1/2008] However, it appears the FBI will not begin to seriously focus on Ivins as a suspect until after the head of the FBI’s investigation is replaced in late 2006 (see Autumn 2006).

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

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

The FBI questions scientist Bruce Ivins about a marked increase in his after hours laboratory work from mid-August through October 2001 (see Mid-August-October 2001). Ivins tells investigators that he was working late at the time to escape troubles at home. The FBI is unable to find evidence of legitimate work Ivins performed during those visits. He is also asked to explain the differences in anthrax samples he submitted to the FBI in 2002 (see April 2002) and those seized in 2004 (see July 16, 2004). [Washington Post, 8/7/2008; Associated Press, 8/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Bruce Ivins, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

An aerial view of USAMRIID in 2005.An aerial view of USAMRIID in 2005. [Source: Sam Yu / Frederick News-Post]By the end of March 2005, the FBI clearly suspects Bruce Ivins for the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). Ivins works at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory, and his lab was raided by the FBI to find Ivins’ anthrax samples (see July 16, 2004). He has been questioned about suspicious behavior around the time of the attacks and since (see March 31, 2005). Yet Ivins is still allowed to work with anthrax and other deadly germs at USAMRIID. McClatchy Newspapers will report in August 2008, “[A] mystery is why Ivins wasn’t escorted from [USAMRIID] until last month when the FBI had discovered by 2005 that he’d failed to turn over samples of all the anthrax in his lab, as agents had requested three years earlier.” In 2003, USAMRIID implemented a biosurety program that required all scientists working there to undergo regular intrusive background checks, which includes disclosure of mental health issues. They also have to undergo periodic FBI background checks to retain their security clearances. Jeffrey Adamovicz, head of USAMRIID’s bacteriology division in 2003 and 2004, will later say that USAMRIID officials knew at least by late 2006 that Ivins was a suspect, yet he maintained his lab access and security clearances until July 10, 2008, shortly before his suicide later that month (see July 10, 2008 and July 29, 2008). Adamovicz will say, “It’s hard to understand if there was all this negative information out there on Bruce, why wasn’t it picked up in the biosurety program or by law enforcement.” [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/7/2008] By contrast, anthrax attacks suspect Steven Hatfill lost his security clearance in 2001 after it was discovered he had misrepresented some items on his resume (see August 23, 2001).

Entity Tags: Steven Hatfill, Jeffrey Adamovicz, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Bruce Ivins

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

On July 29, 2008, anthrax attacks suspect Bruce Ivins and his attorney Paul Kemp are scheduled to have a meeting with FBI investigators. However, Ivins overdosed on pills two days earlier and dies two hours before the meeting is to take place (see July 29, 2008). In initial press reports, it is claimed that investigators had scheduled the meeting to discuss a plea bargain that would send Ivins to prison for life, but spare him a death sentence. [Washington Post, 8/2/2008] But these reports appear to be incorrect. Time magazine soon claims, “Contrary to previous media reports, Kemp says his client had not been negotiating a plea agreement at the time of his death. Indeed, contrary to some suggestions in initial reports, the grand jury investigating the case was at least a few weeks from handing down any kind of indictment.” Kemp further claims that he and Ivins had met with the FBI about four or five times since the FBI told Ivins he could be a suspect the year before, and this is just another in that series of meetings. Kemp says he did attend the meeting, not knowing Ivins was already dead. [Time, 8/5/2008] Tom DeGonia, who is co-counsel with Kemp, says that he attended the meeting with Kemp. He says that investigators gave a reverse proffer, which basically means they were revealing their intention to eventually indict him. DeGonia claims that while Ivins was alive, “We were never informed or advised that an indictment was imminent of him,” and while Ivins had been informed that he was a suspect, he had never been informed that he was the prime suspect. [WTOP Radio 103.5 (Washington), 8/8/2008] Jeffrey Taylor, the US Attorney in Washington, DC, also says that the meeting was to present “a reverse proffer, where we were going to sit down with him and lay our cards on the table: Here’s what we have. Here’s where this investigation is going.” [US Department of Justice, 8/6/2008]

Entity Tags: Tom DeGonia, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bruce Ivins, Jeffrey A. Taylor, Paul Kemp

Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks

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