EXPOSURE LETTERS

FOUR LETTERS FOUND

Four letters laden with Anthrax spores were discovered, all dated by an unknown author as "09-11-01," and all sent from Trenton, New Jersey.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believes all four of the anthrax letters came from a single individual (i.e., Dr. Bruce Ivins -- see "Perpetrator" in left column) and were of the "Ames" strain. Two of the letters were postmarked September 18, 2001 in Trenton, one of which was sent to the New York Post (shown below) where it was handled by several staff members, and the other to Tom Brokaw of NBC, opened September 19-25 but not found until October 12, 2001 in case 2's file drawer (shown below). The New York Post letter, handled but not opened, was found on October 19, 2001.  It was dampened before being discovered, turning the spore contents into a granular or clumped state.    

The second two letters were postmarked on October 9, 2001 and mailed to the Washington DC offices of Senator Tom Daschle of North Carolina, Majority Leader (route shown at left, letter shown below) and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Chair of the Judiciary Committee (shown below, envelope only).  Both letters went though Washington DC's Brentwood mail processing facility, which handles all incoming federal government mail (see map, 2). Both letters contained the same anthrax strain and were of the same potency.

The Daschle letter was opened in the sixth floor office at 9:45 am by an aide in the Senator's Hart Senate Office Building suite on October 15, 2001.  It was believed to contain about 2 grams of powder comprised of 200 billion to 2 trillion spores. Based on nasal swabs, all 18 persons who were in the area of Daschle's sixth floor office tested positive for anthrax exposure, as did 7 of 25 (i.e, 28%) in the area of the Senator's fifth floor office (an open staircase connected the two offices). 

The Leahy letter never arrived at his office. Instead an optical reader misread the hand-written 20510 ZIP code for the Capitol as 20520, which serves the State Department.  As a result, the letter was routed to the State Department, where it arrived on October 15, infecting a State Department postal worker (case 20).  Shortly thereafter, all mail was isolated and sealed in plastic bags for a latter search. 

On November 16, 2001, the Leahy letter was found, then after special preparation, was opened on December 6 in a laboratory setting  (see photo). It contained about about one gram of anthrax, made fresh no more than two years before it was sent. The contents of the enclosed letter were identical to the wording of the Daschle letter. The anthrax spores in the Daschle and Leahy envelopes were uniformly between 1 and 3 microns in size. More investigation is underway.

Also processed at the Trenton, New Jersey postal facility was a small number of letters sent to the Southern Connecticut Processing and Distribution Center in Wallingford, Connecticut (see map).  Here letters arrived on October 11 that had been cross-contaminated with anthrax spores from the October 9 Daschle or Leahy envelops. Anthrax spores were found on mail-sorting equipment (see photo) in Wallingford. One letter that went through the Wallingford distribution center was found in Seymour (see map), nearby to Oxford (see map) where case 23 resided. Likely case 23 was infected via a similar cross-contaminated letter that came in contact with mail in the distribution center in Wallingford (not discovered).

Most uncertain is the origin of case 22, although there is a connection between case 22's neighborhood and the Trenton, N.J. post office.  A printout from the post office showed that an unrelated letter went to a shop around the corner from case 22's home.  This unrelated letter was processed two minutes after the Leahy letter and 18 minutes before the Daschle letter. Thus the mail sent to case 22 might also have been cross-contaminated with spores from the Leahy or Daschle  envelops.  Alternatively, case 22 might have had contact with one or more of the unrecovered September 18th letters following their disposal in Manhattan, similar to case 19 and case 21.  Click here for a graph of possible exposure sources for case 22.

Many months later on March 1, 2002, a final case of cutaneous anthrax arose in Texas in one of several private laboratories contracted by CDC to analyzed the multitude of environmental samples that emanated from the contaminated letters (addenda).  The lab worker cut himself while shaving, the next day handled an anthrax specimen without gloves, and touched the anthrax spores to his chin.  

SEVEN LETTERS SENT

The person (likely Dr. Bruce Ivins) who caused the outbreak probably mailed seven letters containing anthrax spores and similar written messages from Trenton, New Jersey.  Five of the letters were sent on September 18 (postal facilities, cases 3, 4 [probable cross-contamination]), one going to American Media in Boca Raton, Florida (cases 5 and 7) (not recovered); a second to the New York Post (cases 1, 19, 21) (recovered); a third to Tom Brokaw of NBC News (cases 2, 6) (recovered); a fourth to ABC News (case 8) (not recovered); and a fifth to Dan Rather of CBS News (case 9) (not recovered).  On October 9, two more letters were sent from Trenton, N.J. (cases 10, 11, 12, 13, 18 [probably cross-contamination]) via Brentwood mail processing facility (cases 14, 15, 16, 17), one to Senator Tom Daschle (recovered) and the other to Senator Patrick Leahy (case 20) (recovered).  Letter(s) cross-contaminated with the Daschle and Leahy letters were sent from Trenton, N.J. to Wallingford, CT, with at least one letter probably going to Oxford, CT (case 23).  The final anthrax case in the outbreak remains a mystery, but possibly arose from contact with the September 18 letters or cross-contamination with the October 9 Leahy letter in Trenton, New Jersey. To do so, spores from the Leahy letter would need to have adhered to an envelop of another letter destined for the Bronx, New York City (case 22). 

In summary, the 22 cases (one was removed by CDC) that comprised the American Anthrax Outbreak of 2001 likely had contact with one or more of seven spore-laden envelopes.  A final case, bringing the total to 23 but not considered by Professor Frerichs to be part of the initial outbreak (see addenda), occurred months later in a Texas laboratory worker following direct contact with a vial of anthrax spores. 

Click for news account of New York Post anthrax letter (10/21/01)

Click for news account of Ames strain in letters (10/26/01)

Click for description of Ames strain and weaponizing procedure (11/12/02)

Click for news account of problems with envelope content analysis (11/29/01)

Click for speculation on spore seepage through envelops (11/30/01)

Click for news account of cross-contaminated mail in Connecticut (12/1/01)

Click for news account of fumigation done in Daschle's office (12/2/01)

Click for news account of cross-contamination in Wallingford, Conn. (12/2/01)

Click for news account of cross-contamination in Bronx, New York City (12/3/01)

Click for news account of new thoughts about anthrax exposure (12/3/01)

Click for news account of letter connections in the Bronx (12/4/01)

Click for news account of opening of Leahy letter (12/7/01)

Click for news account of letter-tracking process (12/7/01)

Click for MMWR account of Brentwood postal facility anthrax testing (12/21/01)

Click for news account of difficulties with anthrax spore investigation (12/27/01)

Click for news account of over-looked studies on cross-contamination  (2/11/02)

Click for news account of planned Brentwood postal facility cleanup (3/26/02)

Click for follow-up of Texas laboratory worker (4/4/02)

Click for FBI characterization of anthrax in Leahy letter (4/8/02)

Click for news of unusual coating of anthrax in Leahy letter (4/11/02)

Click for or news account of planned Hamilton postal facility cleanup (4/12/02)

Click for news account of likely Wallingford, Conn. cross-contamination (5/1/01)

Click for news account of laboratory analysis of letters (5/7/01)

Click for theory on role of mail sorting equipment (5/9/02)

Click for theory on few spores needed for cross-contamination (5/14/02)

Click for brief FBI update on content of anthrax letters (5/18/02)

Click for CDC case designation of Texas laboratory worker (6/7/02)

Click for news account of planned Hamilton postal facility cleanup (6/10/02)

Click for news account of Brentwood postal facility cleanup (6/14/02)

Click for news account of people in Hamilton Township, NJ postal area (6/23/02)

Click for news of possible health effects of irradiating mail (7/2/02)

Click for news account of irradiating mail sent to Washington DC (7/29/02)

Click for news account of past developments (9/02/02)

Click for news account of past developments (9/18/02)

Click for one-year follow-up of anthrax outbreak - part one (10/7/02)

Click for one-year follow-up of anthrax outbreak - part two (10/8/02)

Click for news of coating of anthrax spores (10/28/02)

Click for news account of FBI's use of "reverse engineering" of anthrax (11/2/02)

Click for news account of immune response to anthrax in Daschle letter (11/12/02)

Click for news account of vaporizing quality of anthrax spores in office environment (12/10/02)

Click for dramatic account of early cases and 16 month follow-up (3/03)

Click for news account of cleanup of Brentwood postal facility (5/18/03)

Click for two-year follow-up of anthrax survivors (9/18/03)

Click for new information on two distinct varieties of anthrax in mailed letters (7/4/04)

Click for reopening of NJ postal building after three and a half years (3/14/05)

Click for anthrax-free declaration of AMI building in Florida after five years (2/8/07)

Click for follow-up of various cases nearly seven years later -1 (8/2/08)

Click for follow-up of various cases nearly seven years later -2 (8/2/08)

Click for follow-up of various cases nearly seven years later -3 (8/7/08)

Click for follow-up of various cases nearly seven years later -4 (8/7/08)

Click for follow-up of various cases nearly seven years later -5 (8/7/08)

Click for follow-up of various cases nearly seven years later -6 (8/7/08)

Details on exposure to the letters is included with information on each case.

PERPETRATOR WHO SENT ENVELOPES

While CDC epidemiologists have been able to solve the biological aspects of the detective drama, the person who mailed the anthrax-containing envelopes remained free until July 29, 2008 when Dr. Bruce Ivins, the likely perpetrator, committed suicide . The FBI and detective colleagues published description information and theories over time, and gradually closed in on the guilty party, nearly seven years after the letters were mailed.

Click for FBI assessment of person(s) who wrote anthrax letters (11/9/01)

Click for news account of FBI letter-writer theory (11/10/01)

Click for news account of FBI's search for the anthrax-spreading criminal (12/2/01)

Click for news account of other theories of anthrax-spreading criminal (12/2/01)

Click for news account of Anthrax linked to type made by U.S. (12/03/01)

Click for compilation of evidence and prediction of perpetrator(s) (12/10/01)

Click for news account of on-going CDC and FBI investigations (12/11/01)

Click for news account of Anthrax link to U.S. Army (USAMRIID) (12/16/01)

Click for news account of FBI focus on labs (12/19/01)

Click for news account of FBI focus on motives (12/21/01)

Click for news account of FBI focus on domestic connection (12/22/01)

Click for news account of speculation on perpetrator (12/23/01)

Click for op-ed speculation on identity of perpetrator (1/4/02)

Click for news account of various theories on perpetrator (1/6/02)

Click for news account of FBI photocopy investigation (1/15/02)

Click for news account of staffers of labs investigation (1/18/02)

Click for FBI view of central New Jersey connection (1/23/02)

Click for FBI contact of scientists for clues (1/29/02)

Click for FBI strategy in lab component of investigation (2/7/02)

Click for FBI suspicion of military labs  (2/12/02)

Click for use of Anthrax markers to identify lab (2/13/02)

Click for news account of on-going FBI investigation (2/22/02)

Click for news account of FBI suspect (2/25/02)

Click for FBI denial of rumored suspect (2/25/02)

Click for news account of continuing FBI investigation (2/26/02)

Click for news account of FBI lab subpoenas (2/27/02)

Click for FBI director's comments on pace of investigation (3/2/02)

Click for news account of FBI progress (3/3/02)

Click for perpetrator theories summarized by Newsnight, BBC (3/14/02)

Click for possible Anthrax link with September 11 hijackers (3/23/02)

Click for FBI review of path to evidence (3/25/02)

Click for FBI discussion of investigation with general public (3/26/02)

Click for news account of frustrations with unsolved anthrax mystery (4/15/02) 

Click for scientists' deductions on Anthrax killer (4/21/02)

Click for review and critique of Anthrax investigation so far (4/29/02)

Click for FBI plans to polygraph government workers (5/21/02)

Click for FBI investigation of Ft. Detrick involvement (6/13/02)

Click for problems with anthrax genetic analysis (6/19/02)

Click for FBI assessment that Anthrax was newly made (6/23/02)

Click for news media summary of FBI anthrax investigation (7/10/02)

Click for news media account of CDC and FBI anthrax investigation (7/23/02)

Click for FBI investigation of potential suspect (8/2/02)

Click for review of FBI investigation of potential suspect (8/10/02)

Click for response of potential suspect to FBI investigation (8/11/02)

Click for follow-up and frustrations of FBI investigation (10/1/02)

Click for summary of theories and on-going outbreak investigation (11/17/02)

Click for thoughts about perpetrator(s) of CDC director (12/9/02)

Click for news of FBI investigation of "person of interest" (12/23/02)

Click for news of on-going FBI investigation pointing to domestic source (4/11/03)

Click for article that questions if FBI rushed to judgment (4/15/03)

Click for news of FBI pond finds and water lab theory (5/11/03)

Click for two-year update of FBI investigation (9/14/03)

Click for 2.75-year update of FBI investigation (5/16/04)

Click for three year update on the anthrax investigation (11/21/04)

Click for four year update on FBI anthrax investigation (9/16/05)

Click for five year update on the FBI anthrax investigation (11/3/06)

Click for law suit declaring innocence of FBI "person of interest" (1/12/08)

Click for US government settlement with FBI's "person of interest" (6/28/08)

Click for summary of troubled FBI investigation of "person of interest" (6/29/08)

Click for opinion of how the FBI "botched" the anthrax investigation (6/30/08)

Click for opinion of how the FBI "botched" the anthrax investigation (6/30/08)

Click for apparent suicide of anthrax suspect (8/1/08)

Click for potential motive of anthrax suspect (8/2/08)

Click for personal profile of family and friends of Bruce Ivins (8/2/08)

Click for FBI trail that led to Bruce E. Ivins (8/4/08)

Click for Ft. Detrick security clearance of Bruce Ivins (8/4/08)

Click for pressure on FBI to produce anthrax evidence (8/5/08)

Click for reported mental status of Bruce Ivins (8/6/08)

Click for additional details on anthrax suspect given by FBI (8/7/08)

Click for FBI information that Ivins acted alone (8/7/08)

Click for revelations on mental status of Ivins (8/7/08)

Click for summary of FBI evidence against Bruce Ivins (8/7/08)

Click for personal views of Ivins given at funeral service (8/10/08)

Click for review of how Ivins historically slipped under FBI radar (8/15/08)

Click for FBI press conference on evidence against Bruce Ivins (8/19/08)

Click for link of anthrax spores to source flask RMR-1029 held by Ivins (8/21/08)

Click for FBI roundtable discussion with reporters of Ivins evidence (8/24/08)

New York City Letters

Postmarked Sept. 18, 2001

Washington DC Letters

Postmarked Oct. 9, 2001

Enlarged New York Post envelop

Very enlarged text of New York Post envelop

Enlarged New York Post letter

Very enlarged text of New York Post letter

Enlarged Tom Brokaw envelop

Very enlarged text of Tom Brokaw envelop

Enlarged Tom Brokaw letter

Very enlarged text of Tom Brokaw letter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enlarged Senator Daschle envelop

Very enlarged text of Senator Daschle envelop

Enlarged Senator Daschle letter

Very enlarged text of Senator Daschle letter

Enlarged Senator Leahy envelop

Enlarged Senator Leahy letter