By Allan Lengel
A U.S. Army scientist stands near the letters used in the 2001 anthrax attacks (Photo courtesy of FBI and ProPublica)
An investigative report published by ProPublica points to some flaws in the FBI’s conclusion that Ft. Detrick, Md. scientist Bruce Ivins was the culprit who mailed the deadly anthrax in 2001.
The investigation, conducted by ProPublica, PBS and McClatchy Newspapers, attempts to undercut a key theory that Ivins tried to deceive the FBI. The report points to samples Ivins provided from a flask in 2002 to the FBI. The FBI said tests failed to match the anthrax sent through the mail.
Later, the news report said, the FBI took its own samples from the flask and found matches to the deadly anthrax letters.
Authorities pointed to that as a key piece of evidence against Ivins, saying he was intentionally being deceptive to hide his guilt. Ivins committed suicide in July 2008, just before he was about to be charged.
Rachel Lieber, the lead prosecutor in a case that will never go to trial, thinks that Ivins manipulated his sample to cover his tracks, the news report said.
“If you send something that is supposed to be from the murder weapon, but you send something that doesn’t match, that’s the ultimate act of deception,” the lead prosecutor Rachel Lieber said in the report. “That’s why it’s so important.”
But the news agencies report that they “turned up new evidence that challenges the FBI’s narrative of Ivins as a man with a guilty conscience who was desperately trying to avoid being discovered.”
“Records recently released under the Freedom of Information Act show that Ivins made available a total of four sets of samples from 2002 to 2004, double the number the FBI has disclosed,” the news report said. “And in subsequent FBI tests, three of the four sets ultimately tested positive for the” anthrax.’
The report suggested that the positive samples turned over to the FBI was proof that Ivins was not trying to deceive the FBI.
Paul Kemp, Ivins’ lawyer, said the existence of Ivins’ additional submissions discredits a key aspect of the FBI case, the report said.
“I wish I’d known that at the time,’’ he said.
The Justice Department has repeatedly dismissed any reports challenging its conclusion that Ivins was the culprit. The agency has said that the conclusion was based on multiple factors.
Read full report.