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Hair Doesn't Match Anthrax Suspect, Fuels Speculation

POSTED: 10:59 AM ET, 08/14/2008 by Derek Kravitz

A hair sample taken from a Princeton, N.J., mailbox linked to the 2001 anthrax attacks does not match that of Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins, leading to speculation about whether the federal government identified the right suspect.

The Post's Carrie Johnson reports today that FBI agents and U.S. Postal Service inspectors analyzed the data in an effort to place Ivins at the mailbox from which bacteria-laden letters were sent to Senate offices and media organizations, unidentified sources said.

Investigators have been insistent that the evidence in the Amerithrax investigation shows Ivins used the Princeton mailbox. At a news conference last week, U.S. Attorney Jeff Taylor said there is "ample evidence" pointing to Ivins being the suspect who drove to Princeton to mail the letters.

"He had the hours in the hot seat during the relevant times. We looked at the records when he was at work and when he would have had time to drive to Princeton, N.J," Taylor said at the news conference, according to a transcript. "And it's clear from those records that he had time on the relevant occasions to drive to Princeton, mail the envelopes, and come back. There's also evidence I'll refer you to in the affidavits concerning where that mailbox was located in Princeton, N.J., in relation to some obsessive conduct on his part with regard to a sorority. Again, it's a chain. It's a chain of evidentiary items that, assembled together, leads to one reasonable conclusion, and that is Dr. Ivins mailed that anthrax in those envelopes from that mailbox in Princeton."

But conspiracy theorists and skeptics within the scientific community have publicly questioned the government's case against Ivins, The Associated Press' Matt Apuzzo reports, specifically asking about the use of DNA analysis to identify the "lone anthrax mailer."

"I think it's going to be one of the great conspiracy theories, like whether we landed on the moon or whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone" in assassinating President Kennedy, said Edward Lake, a retired Wisconsin computer specialist whose Web site has for years been one of the most comprehensive repositories for analysis on the anthrax case.

By Derek Kravitz |  August 14, 2008; 10:59 AM ET
Previous: D.C. Can't Account for Repair Dollars | Next: Journalists Soul Searching Over Edwards Scoop


Please email us to report offensive comments.

How's about trying something novel by taking a look at the other side of the case instead of the FBI's frame up:

Here is an interview with Paul Kemp dispelling the "facts" of the FBI case:

Anyone for science instead of gossip? Try following Dr. Meryl Nass who has daily updates:

The scientists who worked side by side with Bruce for years believe in his innocence but they are under a gag order. How curious that the "stalkees" are able to babble on and on as long as they are on the FBI side.

Posted by: Ellen Byrne | August 14, 2008 12:42 PM

The crime can't be solved because it was never a crime. Anthrax attacks remain one of several ways to get the news agenda moving when things bog down, as they did after the 9/11 attacks. It was 24/7 uninterrupted coverage from Ground Zero, as everyone remembers, until the anthrax attacks began.

Our hero of 9/11, Dr. Hatfill, fulfilled his patriotic duty and under orders from the President when he prepared and mailed the letters. The President personally authorized the operation at a meeting held in Hagerstown, MD, as the President was returning from Ground Zero. He had just given his famous bullhorn address that day.

There was no certainty that any specific individual would be killed as a result of mailing the letters. As we all know, some specific Americans were first onto the beach at Normandy in June 1944. There was no certainty that any of those individuals would be killed also. However, the loss of life in furtherance of foriegn policy objectives is always a risk.

An Executive Order that prohibits any information from being used in prosecution of Dr. Hatfill was eventually signed by the President. This order was so conservative and judicious in its wording that it mistakenly did not prohibit the use of information in an indictment of other scientists who worked nearby to Dr. Hatfill.

Attempting to respond to the public pressure to solve the anthrax attacks while being constrained from indicting Dr. Hatfill is how the FBI came up with the focus on Dr. Ivins.

Dr. Ivins wasn't the perfect patsy, but he did have two things that the FBI desperately needed to win its case: any character flaw (the sorority thing); and an inability to defend himself in the media.

Posted by: Kacoo | August 14, 2008 3:14 PM

It's concerns me when the FBI announces that the Anthrax attack suspect has been proven to be the guilty one before all the facts are ubderstood. This is another example of shoddy investigation amd a rush to be able to close the case without caring for the truth.
The FBI, CIA, and all the other government departments who were designed to protect us, are nothing but total corruption not unlike our current administration.
Who can really believe anything we are told anymore in this land of the free. haha...

Posted by: kerry | August 14, 2008 3:21 PM

This case has huge holes, mostly relating to the forensics and the genetic evidence. Given that the only direct evidence recovered was the letters and their contents, the forensics takes center stage in any effort to find the perpetrator.

This is because it is easy to use circumstantial evidence any number of storylines - Hatfill, Stevens, etc.

The genetic forensics are flawed, as reported. First of all, the Ames strain is used as the challege strain for vaccine manufacturers, meaning it is fairly common. The FBI has a claim that it has a rapid specific test that can distinguish between Ames strains? That's unlikely.

The only plausible way to do that is by whole-genome sequencing - sequencing the entire 5 million base pairs from the strain and comparing it to the strain in the letters. If this wasn't done, then the forensic identification wouldn't stand up in court.

Even if it is a match, there are numerous contamination and chain-of-custody issues. What other samples were tested? Dugway? West Jefferson? The FBI won't say.

The physical forensics is just nonexistant. The FBI released no forensic data on the spores, their preparation, presence of silica and other additives, or their unprecedented purity. We don't even know if it was the same preparation in the 9/18 letters as it was in the 10/9 letters, which contaminated the mail routes as well.

All in all, the case seems to be right back where it was in Dec 2001.

Posted by: Ike Solem | August 14, 2008 8:45 PM

Do a (Google) search on "Philip M. Zackerie" and have someone credible do DNA
analysis of him...if ya' can find him.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2008 9:14 PM

"There's also evidence I'll refer you to in the affidavits concerning where that mailbox was located in Princeton, N.J., in relation to some obsessive conduct on his part with regard to a sorority."

This demonstrates either shameful ignorance of the facts or a deliberate attempt to mislead.

It has already been clarified that this location near the mailbox was merely a storage site used for some sorority items, not an office that would be of actual relevance to the case as is being implied here.

Posted by: melior | August 14, 2008 11:39 PM

I'm not one to follow conspiracy ideas of any nature but, When the good Dr. killed himself, this was the first thing that ran throught my mind. I wondered about the psychiatrist and what the government could do to coherce her to implicating Dr. there were few red flags seen by his friends...etc.

I no longer trust THIS government and wonder what "surprises" we will find as time goes on.

Posted by: Keith | August 15, 2008 12:02 AM

Any time a person kills himself in an institution, and the government or a powerful corporation stands to benefit and immediately starts laying out the story, I am suspicious. Remember the Enron exec from Sweetwater, Texas? Like that.

I'm not a theorist, just don't believe much of what any government says these days.

Posted by: spot | August 15, 2008 12:31 AM

I am satisfied with the evidence against Dr. Ivins that places the murder weapon in his hand. But did he have an accomplice? Dr. Ivins' father got a degree in pharmacology from Princeton. It would take a pharmacist to finish weaponizing any product produced by Ivins' lab, perhaps somebody spacializing in allergy medication. The FBI has not released any information about weaponization of the anthrax.

Posted by: Michael C. Emmert | August 15, 2008 1:22 AM

Let me get this straight, a hair taken from a mailbox that is used by perhaps thousands of people is found not to match Ivins' hair, and there are people who perceive that as exonerating evidence? Are those people on crack? WTF?

Posted by: Mud | August 15, 2008 2:38 AM

Matt Apuzzo has a mote and beam problem. He was one of the reporters at the AP who reported, for example, Jean Duley's wild accusations without a shred of skepticism and without checking her credentials.

Posted by: Elzabeth Ferrari | August 15, 2008 6:12 AM

1. Why did ABC news immediately run a story that the Anthrax came from Iraq quoting "high level" sources within the administration?

2. Why is a reporter still suffering the legal consequences of not outing her source as to hatfill, while ABC has never addressed their issue? Under the law a "source" enters into a contract with the journalist and if it is found that source intentionally misled, misinformed, or outright lied they are no longer entitled to protection.

3. Why did the White House repeatedly try to obstruct the investigation?

4. Why did the White House repeatedly try to force the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, to say the attacks originated in Iraq?

5. Why does the media refuse to acknowledge the politically motivated connections between the targets?

a. Dachle and Delay, two powerful legislators who sought to stand in the way of the Patriot Act, and high visibility members of the opposition party.

b. NBC news who was continuing to air opposition to the neo-con agenda calling for cool and even headed deliberation in the drum beat for war and questioning the draconian laws that were eventually rammed down the throats of the American people.

6. Why had everyone inside this administration already started on courses of anti-biotics in the weeks leading up to the attacks?

7. How is it, that the company responsible for the "approved vaccine" that had been on the verge of bankruptcy and ended up with record profits just happened to be partially owned by Donald Rumsfeld?

8. If this Ivins character was so completely angry and hell bent on destruction, why would he go through the trouble of making the attacks look as if they had came from islamic jihadists and not simply take credit for it himself? Why would a man being labeled as so megalomaniacal not seek credit for himself so far as the skill that it would have taken to produce such hi-grade weaponized anthrax? Why would he not have killed himself and taken credit 7 years ago?

9. If you take the "conspiracy theorists" point of view that this was intended as a false flag to initiate a war with Iraq that fell apart, don't allot of dots start to connect? Why did the administration end up making such blatantly obvious maneuvers in going to war with Iraq that we are now able to see the deception that took place? Can anybody say oopps?

10. Why are the assertions that were testified to before congress and in the FBI's own investigation that it would have been IMPOSSIBLE for a single individual to carry out these attacks, that it would have taken the effort of an entire facility, an entire team to produce this Anthrax now being completely dismissed?

surely this could go on and on and on, but at some point the obvious needs to be pointed out. This country was overthrown by a criminal organization that now poses as a government. An election was stolen and a Caesar installed in the form of a court appointed tyrant. This entire administration and the ideals that led to it are a stain on this nations history and may yet serve as our undoing as a culture.

Posted by: Average joe | August 15, 2008 11:50 PM

'Whether we landed on the Moon' is not 'one of the great conspiracy theories.' The Apollo hoax theory is based on ignorance of science and history and the conspiracy theorists' claims have been thoroughly discredited. See

Posted by: Laurel | August 16, 2008 10:40 AM

I think more info on mail is needed. what were the collection times on the alleged mailbox and how does it square with the postmark date? In 2001 was Princeton a hub that collected mail from all of NJ? All the Ohio mail now goes to columbus to be processed by high speed machinery, so a crosstown lettter in Athens is driven to Columbus before coming back (this is USPS idea of efficiency and damn the fuel costs). Where did mail from mailbox go in 2001 in Princeton NJ. why exactly is the after work theory more credible than personal day? if he pulled a all weekend /all nighter , he probably crashed on monday. I wan all ivins' time logs for entire three weeks after 9/11 to see what his sleep work patterns were

Posted by: djw3505 | August 16, 2008 11:08 AM

Would this paper PLEASE follow up on a more important aspect: ABC News claimed at the time of the anthrax letters that 4 "separate, highly placed government sources" confirmed to it that the anthrax was accompanied by bentonite which was a sure sign that it came from Iraq. This was denied by the White House itself. But the public has a right to know who were the liars and fabricators who told this to ABC and helped steer us to war with Iraq. Liars and fabricators don't deserve confidentiality!

Posted by: Robert Cogan | August 17, 2008 12:53 PM

It is good to see that coverage of this story continues, when it is clear, the FBI timed their "Case Closed" report
just in time to be overshadowed by the 2008 Olympics and the elections.

I agree that there is way more to this story and it needs to be exposed.

Posted by: OgreDaddy | August 17, 2008 7:13 PM

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