Not long after the national ultra-shock of September 11, 2001, and the demolished Twin Towers in New York, another terrorist scare transfixed the nation. First one person, and then finally five persons, almost many more, died from inhaling spores of the deadly bacteria Anthrax, dispersed deliberately through the U.S. mail system (in separate mailings in late September, and early October) to select Congressional and media addresses. As the envelopes were opened, white powder poured out, and panic set in.
An enclosed note staged a fundamentalist Islamic connection, echoing the jihad that had rocked the nation and its sense of security weeks earlier. A number of government officials assumed a foreign origin, perhaps a rogue middle-Eastern nation, such as Iraq. Indeed, evidence leading back to the Persian Gulf was welcome, support for the policy of war in the region.
But the professionals at the FBI held firm, and worked from evidence, and profiling. Early on a psychological sketch of a “lone wolf,” perhaps disgruntled with his or her government employment as a bioscientist or with some huge axe to grind, emerged. The person was not likely to be openly confrontational, the profile speculated, but more the type to harbor a grudge for years, and strike back anonymously, when they chose.
The hunt for “the anthrax killer” was on, becoming one of the largest, most complex investigations ever conducted by law enforcement, anywhere in the world, in history. A search for a modern Jack the Ripper who used, not a dagger, but a bacteria much to small to see with the naked eye. Just as Jack the Ripper is no doubt dead, by now, the ultimate anthrax suspect died, of suicide, in 2008. We’ll never know for sure who the legendary London killer was.
Was the anthrax killer Dr. Bruce Ivins? Government prosecutors had prepared an elaborate case against him, though the highest levels at Justice would need to sign off on it to trigger the arrest and indictment. Before that could happen, he swallowed a brutal overdose of Tylenol, and died within a couple of days.
The crime, it’s tragic consequences, and the ensuing investigation stand as one of the most fascinating investigations in recent memory, with backstories wrapped within layers of other stories, with mysteries piled atop one another.
We offer links to a myriad of books, articles, and sites which illuminate what came to be called Amerithrax, and also our own tentative conclusions. (Rest assured when we offer even provisional conclusions, these are brief “executive summaries” based on more reading, research, and reflection than can be relayed without boring the reader, but we do cite numerous sources and avenues for data and perspective.)
As always, we remain open at MindOverMystery to adjusting our views, based on new evidence and perspectives.