about Epidemiology & the department

Epidemiology academic information

Epidemiology faculty

Epidemilogy resources

sites of interest to Epidemiology professionals

Last Updated

10 Dec 2002

Source: Reuters, February 25, 2002.

FBI Not Close to Identifying Anthrax Probe Suspect

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Despite a vigorous investigation into the mailing of anthrax-laced letters that killed five people in the United States last year, the FBI was not close to identifying a suspect, the White House said on Monday.

Federal law enforcement officials denied a newspaper report that the FBI had a identified a scientist who once worked in a U.S. government laboratory as a chief suspect.

"I wish it was that easy and that simple right now, but unfortunately, there still are several suspects," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters. "The FBI has not narrowed it down to just one. They are continuing their investigation."

The Washington Times on Monday quoted unidentified law enforcement authorities and biochemical experts as saying a suspect identified by the FBI was believed to have worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, and had twice been fired from government jobs.

It said the scientist, who was not identified, was now employed as a contractor in the Washington, D.C., area. The scientist reportedly made a threat to use anthrax after the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks, the paper said.

It quoted sources as saying the scientist has been interviewed by FBI agents on several occasions and his house has been searched.

"That story, I think, was a little overreaching in saying there's just one," Fleischer said. He added all indications were that the source of the anthrax was domestic, but declined to be more specific.

An FBI spokesman said the FBI was "vigorously investigating" the mailings of anthrax-containing letters. "In our investigation, we have interviewed hundreds of persons, in some instances more than once," he said.

"It is not accurate, however, that the FBI has identified a prime suspect in this case," the spokesman said.

Anthrax-tainted letters were sent to two U.S. senators and to media outlets after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Five people have died from anthrax since early October, and 13 others have been infected.