2001 anthrax attacks remain unsolved
He is out there, somewhere.
For the past five years he has eluded the United States government.
His trail has apparently gone cold, although efforts to bring him to justice have continued in earnest.
He is wanted for killing Americans as part of an act of terror and there is a multi-million dollar price on his head.
All indications are he has dropped off the face of the earth, but he may have had help in his escape.
Wherever he is, he might well be planning more death, more terror.
Osama bin Laden? No, although this fugitive is almost as sought after as the fugitive al-Qaida leader.
No, this criminal is the one who killed five Americans by sending deadly anthrax through the United States mail.
Like bin Laden, whoever committed these crimes is still at large, still on the run.
The first letters were sent Sept. 18, 2001. Other letters were sent Oct. 9 of that year, with the last going out in November.
In all, more than 20 people were stricken with anthrax, and five eventually died.
Coming in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the anthrax-infused letters added to the nation’s sense of unease, bordering on panic.
In the five years since, the FBI and agents from the U.S. Postal Service have interviewed more than 9,000 people, issued more than 6,000 subpoenas and executed 67 search warrants. But to date no arrests have been made.
There currently are 17 FBI agents and 10 postal inspectors working on the investigation, and two more FBI agents are set to join the team this month.
The first anthrax death came Oct. 5, 2001. The victim was Robert Stevens, photo editor of a Florida-based tabloid newspaper. The other victims were Kathy Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant who worked in New York City, Ottilie Lundgren, a 94-year-old widow from Connecticut and two Washington, D.C., post office employees, Thomas Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen.
These five people are as much victims of the war on terror as those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and aboard Flight 93. There is no monument to these victims, but there should be.
There could be one suspect in the anthrax attacks, there could be many.
The FBI is fairly certain the first three letters were sent by the same person. FBI profilers believe the suspect to be male, with a scientific background and working in a laboratory, although with little or no contact with the public. This man, the FBI says, was a non-confrontational loner with familiarity with the Trenton, N.J., area (since that’s where the letters were believed to have originated), who did not select his victims randomly.
The anthrax, at first believed to be weaponized, or specially treated to make it more deadly, was, the FBI now says, very ordinary.
For months after the attacks, businesses carefully screened mail and packages, looking for anything suspicious, but those precautions likely have lapsed in the past five years.
We still are hunting for Osama bin Laden, as well as other international terrorists. But somewhere the killer or killers of five innocent Americans sits and waits, untouched, perhaps plotting to strike again.
The crudely printed letters carried a chillingly simple message. Notes sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy and then-Sen. Tom Daschle said “You can not stop us. We have this anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid? Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great.”
Whoever wrote these words, believes these words, carries enough hatred to kill, is still out there, somewhere.
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