Anthrax attacks remain unsolved

By Katie Clark
October 20, 2006

Shane Evans

There is still no arrest for the anthrax attacks, five years later. This has become one of the biggest crime mysteries of the 21st century. Weeks after the 9/11 attacks, anthrax hit America. This started a massive search of who is responsible for these cases of suspected terrorism. This search has been slowly fading away, for no evidence has yet to show up of who can be held responsible.

The anthrax attacks started on Sept. 18, 2001. A letter, which was laced with anthrax, was sent to the New York Post and NBC News. Two more letters were recorded on Oct. 9, 2001. These letters were sent to Mr. Tom Daschle and Mr. Pat Leahy with more refined anthrax. The letter to Leahy read just this, “You cannot stop us. We have the anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid? Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great,” according to the Hearst Newspapers.

What is exactly is anthrax? Anthrax is a naturally occurring bacterium, which only rarely ever infects humans. However in the attacks, the anthrax was finely prepared to make it easier to inhale. If these bacteria infect someone and are not treated rapidly by an antibiotic, it can produce a deadly infection. Some symptoms of this infection are swelling body parts and flooding of the lungs.

As a result to a total of 22 people being infected and five of them dying, the government and postal services took immediate actions. The government shut down some congressional offices and Supreme Court building. These buildings were closed for months to allow professional cleaning. Then many postal services throughout the United States were put on high alert for the anthrax in the mail. There are many new safety procedures for handling mail. Many employees were wearing latex gloves and masks. Some still do.

At first, many, including the FBI agents, jumped to the conclusion that the al Qaeda attacks from 9/11 were connected to these anthrax attacks. This conclusion was ruled out later on. This then lead FBI agents to ask for help from 29 government, commercial and university laboratories to try to develop a profile of the anthrax used. These laboratories were doing tests looking for a microbial fingerprint based upon theories from different scientists with different production techniques. “I have done many projects on the anthrax attacks, and I know the government is doing all it can. This is not an easy case to be solved. The test being done are difficult tests to perform and even more difficult to get results,” said junior chemistry major Stef Jablanofsky, from Arcadia University.

The FBI and United States postal have conducted many leads and interviews of scientists who work with this type of bacteria, but there is still no evidence that leads us to who is responsible.

So what is being done today? Have investigators given up? Even though it may have seem like anthrax is done and over with, the FBI currently has 17 agents and 10 postal inspectors still working on this case. Also two more agents have been added to the crime just recently. “I think there should be many more agents on the job. The government needs to crack down and find these suspects. It’s ridiculous; it has been five years now,” sophomore graphic design major Nikki Tarshis said.

Many precautions are still being done today to prevent any more anthrax infections. For example the mail sent to the government offices in Washington is irradiated to destroy any dangerous bacteria. Another precaution is the postal services, itself are handling the mail much more carefully now.

In the past five years, the FBI and Postal services have conducted 9,142 interviews, issued more than 6,000 subpoenas and performed 67 searches in the investigation of the anthrax attacks.

Loquitur welcomes your comments and questions on this story. Please send your comments to: The editors will review your comments each week and make corrections if warranted.

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Katie Clark

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