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Background Attack Aftermath Evidence Misinformation Analysis Memorial

Anthrax Attacks

The Post-9/11/01 Anthrax Attacks

The anthrax-containing letter envelope mailed to Senator Tom Daschile

On October 9, 2001, letters containing anthrax were sent to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. 1   Both senators had been attempting to slow the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act. Just seven days before the incident, Leahy accused the Bush administration of reneging on an agreement on the bill. 2  

Also targeted by the anthrax mailings were recipients of an earlier batch of anthrax letters postmarked September 18: ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, the New York Post, and American Media Inc. (AMI), publisher of the National Enquirer. Although some of the letters were addressed to prominent news anchors, the victims of the attack were confined to AMI workers, postal workers, and capital building workers, and a hospital worker. A total of five people were killed by becoming infected with anthrax, and seventeen were sickened.

The anthrax used in the attack was weaponized -- milled finely so that it can remain airborne and be inhaled. Weaponization of anthrax is a difficult technical feat that only the US and Russian militaries have achieved. 3   Investigators believe that the anthrax used in the attack most likely came from the US military laboratory at Fort Detrick. 4  

In the wake of the anthrax mailings, thousands of postal workers took ciprofloxacin (Cipro) on the recommendation of federal health officials. The scare induced hundreds of thousands more to buy and take the drug. Bayer Corporation, which enjoyed a patent-based monopoly on Cipro, was granted an extension of its monopoly by Congress in late 2001. 5  

The Bentonite Hoax

As early as October there were indications that the anthrax attacks would be used as a pretext for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On an October 18 appearance on the David Letterman Show, Senator John McCain stated: "There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may -- and I emphasize may -- have come from Iraq." Then-ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross began circulating a story linking the anthrax to Iraq through the alleged additive bentonite, stating on October 26:

sources tell ABCNEWS the anthrax in the tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was laced with bentonite. The potent additive is known to have been used by only one country in producing biochemical weapons — Iraq.... it is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program... The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere," 6  

In fact, that the compound bentonite was not found in the anthrax samples was admitted by ABC News in 2007. 7   Yet ABC News has failed to disclose the "well placed sources" on which the bentonite claim was based -- sources who used the network to promote a highly consequential deception.

The FBI's Protracted Investigation

As of 2008, no one has been charged in the attack. In June of 2008, Steven Hatfill, a former Army scientist, named a "person of interest" by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002, won a settlement of $5.82 million in a civil action charging that the Justice Department and the FBI invaded his privacy and destroyed his career. 8  

Just one month after Hatfill was exonerated, the FBI threatened to charge Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, a US government microbiologist and vaccinologist for 36 years and senior biodefense researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, with involvement in the anthrax attacks. The FBI had been investigating Ivins since late 2006, and according to his lawyer he had been cooperating. Ivans reportedly committed suicide by taking an overdose of acetominophen and codeine. On August 6, 2008, the FBI and the Justice Department declared that the case had been solved. 9  


1. FBI tests Leahy anthrax letter, CNN, 11/18/01 [cached]
2. Senate Democrats, White House Reach a Deal on Anti-Terror Bill, Washington Post, 10/4/01 [cached]
3. Anthrax As Disinformation, nov55.com, [cached]
4. 'US scientist' is suspect in anthrax investigation, Guardian.co.uk, 2/20/02 [cached]
5. Patently Offensive: Congress Set to Extend Monopoly Patents for Cipro and Other Drugs, Public Citizen,
6. Troubling Anthrax Additive Found, ABC.com,
7. Response from ABC News re: the Saddam-anthrax reports, Salon.com,
8. U.S. settles with anthrax mailings subject Steven Hatfill for $5.82 million, Los Angeles Times, 6/28/08 [cached]
9. Scientist in Anthrax Case Said to Have Killed Himself, Bloomberg.com,

page last modified: 2015-04-19