- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Authorities investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks begin meeting with victims’ families Wednesday to discuss the case, family members said, an indication that some lingering questions in the investigation may soon be answered.

The government is expected to declare the case solved but will keep it open for now, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. Several legal and investigatory matters must be wrapped up before the case can officially be closed, they said.

Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins committed suicide last week as prosecutors prepared to charge him with carrying out the deadly attacks. In the past week, haunting details about Mr. Ivins’ mental health have emerged.

But several holes in the case remain.

Some questions may be answered when documents related to the case are released, as soon as Wednesday. For others, the answers may be incomplete, even bizarre. Some may simply never be answered.

Some friends and former co-workers have expressed doubt that Mr. Ivins would have unleashed the deadly toxin. They questioned whether he could have converted the bacteria into a fine powder without anyone at the Fort Detrick biological warfare laboratory noticing.

The FBI is expected to lay out much of its case for family members beginning Wednesday. About that time, authorities are expected to ask a federal judge to unseal documents revealing how the FBI closed in on Mr. Ivins.

“We’ve been suffering for seven years,” Patrick Hogan, son-in-law of anthrax victim Robert Stevens, said in a phone interview from his home in Palm Springs, Fla. “I’m just glad they finally found somebody.”

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, at a Boston news conference on identity theft, declined to discuss details in the case.

The Justice Department “has a legal and moral obligation to make official statements first to the victims and their families, then the public,” Mr. Mukasey said. “And that’s the order in which we’re going to do it.”

Whether the documents will prove that they found the right person remains unclear.

The key to the investigation was an advanced DNA analysis that matched the anthrax that killed five people to a specific batch controlled by Mr. Ivins. It is not clear, however, how the FBI eliminated as suspects others in the lab who had access to the anthrax.

And then there’s the question of motive. Authorities think the attacks may have been a twisted effort to test a cure for the toxin. Mr. Ivins complained of the limitations of animal testing and shared in a patent for an anthrax vaccine. But for now, it’s not clear what, if any, evidence bolsters that theory.

Investigators also can’t place Mr. Ivins in Princeton, N.J., when the letters were mailed from a mailbox there. And the only explanation for why the married father of two might have made the seven-hour round trip is bizarre.

Authorities said Mr. Ivins was obsessed with the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma and had secretly visited sorority buildings on several campuses. The Princeton mailbox was not far from the sorority office there.

In a statement Tuesday, the sorority confirmed it had been helping the FBI in tracking down contacts Mr. Ivins had with some Kappa chapters and members going back more than 30 years. The sorority said it had been assured that none of its chapters or members were ever exposed to biological threats or any other harms associated with the case.

Richard Schuler, attorney for anthrax victim Robert Stevens’ widow, Maureen Stevens, said his client will attend Wednesday’s FBI briefing with a list of questions.

“Number one is, ‘Did Bruce Ivins mail the anthrax that killed Robert Stevens?’ ” Mr. Schuler said. “I’ve got healthy skepticism. It’s good to be the skeptic. The bottom line is, we want to see this perpetrator brought to justice.”

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