Watch CBS News

Report: FBI Investigation Into Anthrax Attack Was Flawed

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- We're finding out new details about the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, which killed five people and sickened 17 more.

Rick Ritter has details on the just-released report.

The new report says the science the FBI used in the investigation was flawed, identifying major gaps in genetic evidence that linked the germs to the man many thought was responsible for the attacks.

Flawed and inaccurate. That's what a 77-page report from the government calls the FBI's research to investigate a series of anthrax attacks.

The laced letters killed five people, sickened 17 more and wreaked havoc on the postal service just after the 2001 terror attacks.

"It was a time of great chaos and concern," said University of Maryland law professor Michael Greenberger.

Years into the investigation, the FBI honed in on Army biodefense expert Bruce Ivins. Colleagues at the University of Maryland traced the anthrax spores used in the letters back to a flask---one Ivins had primary access to.

The FBI used what scientists found at the University of Maryland to seal their cases against him, but in 2008---just days before he was going to be indicted---the Fort Detrick scientist killed himself.

Now, new research states there's no firm link between the mailed anthrax spores and a sample taken from Ivins' lab in Maryland.

"From day one when they announced it and the way they announced it, I did not believe they had the right person," said Greenberger. "You could not conclude from the scientific evidence that Ivins was really the person who perpetrated the anthrax attacks."

Friends and family of Ivins claimed he was innocent for years and the investigation drove him over the edge.

"Oh my God, the dam was breaking and all this pressure on him," said one friend.

What's next for the FBI with investigating the historical attacks remains to be seen.

'It seems to me trying to prove this through scientific evidence---this is not going to happen," Greenberger said.

The GOA says the FBI's research did not provide evidence of the methods and conditions used to differentiate between samples of anthrax bacteria and they say that is a key scientific gap.

Other Local News:

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.