Just a few days before the 21st anniversary September 11th 11 terror attacks, Netflix launched a brand new documentary on the aftermath of the attacks, including the horrific 2001 anthrax attacks, which occurred one week following the 9/11 attacks.
Anthrax attacks were created as part of the Netflix cooperation with BBC and are available for streaming on the streaming service.
The anthrax outbreak of 2001, also known as “Amerithrax,” was an incident in which various media outlets and Democratic senators received letters containing the deadly anthrax spores. Five people were killed in all, and at most 17 were infected. Perhaps more.
One of the fascinating aspects of the investigation is that nobody was ever prosecuted, even though the FBI did identify one man as the sole suspect. The man died before he could be tried, and the case was concluded.
The Anthrax Attacks Who was the perpetrator of the attacks in 2001?
There were three main culprits for the 2001 anthrax attack: Al-Qaeda, Steven Hatfill, and Bruce Edwards Ivins. The attacks occurred just a few days after 9/11, and the messages contained words such as “death to America” and “death to Islam,”.
The American government believed that using anthrax spores on the letters was yet another terrorist attack which was biological and likely connected to the hijacking of the plane on 9/11.
However, the FBI quickly concluded that the spores were of The Ames strain, an anthrax strain developed on American soil and found in a minimum of 15 laboratories.
Bruce Ivins was the leading anthrax scientist within the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and was a prime suspect.
The FBI initially cleared Ivins of suspicion and believed that he was an asset to their investigation because he helped them provide information on other researchers who were privy to the stress. The FBI began to focus their efforts on former Army research scientist Steven Hatfill, who had been dismissed for violating rules and was fired from a second job in addition to losing his security clearance.
Even though they didn’t have evidence, FBI agents who were investigating concentrated their efforts exclusively on Hatfill until Hatfill filed an action against the Justice Department for leaking information to the media and violating the Privacy Act. The plaintiff received $5.8 million in the settlement.
In the end, the search returned to Ivins. In late 2006, the field of science was advancing enough that the FBI could employ an amalgamation of DNA sequencing and genomes to generate a DNA fingerprint that corresponded to the one on a particular flask of anthrax spores, labelled RMR-1029. This was a flask that Ivins created as part of his research.
Further investigations revealed that Ivins was spending more time in “hot suites” (labs designed to be closed off to the world outside, so germs aren’t able to escape) in the weeks before the letters were delivered. These findings, in addition to the allegations that Ivins had a mental illness of various kinds, caused him to be the main suspect.
Because Ivins was co-inventor on two patents related to anthrax vaccine technology, his motives could be related to his desire to have his vaccine accepted. The subsequent attacks aided in gaining recognition for his work due to the media attention, and the public’s fear of being a target caused an increase in the interest in vaccines.
Two of his colleagues received the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service by the USAMRIID due to their help in resolving technical issues relating to the manufacture of the anthrax vaccine.
The Anthrax Attacks Bruce Ivins: Where is he today?
Bruce Ivins died on July 29th, 2008. He seemed suicidal through overdoses on Acetaminophen (Tylenol) following the news that the FBI was planning to file the charges due to his supposed connection to anthrax attacks.
However, the FBI believed that Ivins was their person. In the Anthrax Attacks documentary, there are a variety of opinions about the issue of whether Ivins was the culprit or not. The FBI ended the case and destroyed all evidence, meaning it could not be revisited and investigated. In the end, Bruce Ivins is believed to be the principal suspect in the attack; however, it was never established in a court of justice.
The Anthrax Attacks is playing through Netflix.