The Department of Justice says it may close
its investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks -- and possibly release previously sealed court records -- as early as today.
The move comes as questions and criticisms of the FBI's handling of the case grow more intense and also less than a week after the suicide
of the alleged key suspect in the case, government scientist Bruce Ivins.
Closing the investigation would send a signal that Ivins was guilty and acted alone. But last week's suicide has thrust the anthrax investigation back into the spotlight and prompted new questions about the unsolved case as well as public statements and press reports surrounding the attacks in the fall of 2001.
The AP reports
Among the unanswered questions in the investigation is how Ivins could have created the fine anthrax powder that, distributed in the mail, killed five people and terrorized the nation. Ivins' lab didn't deal with powdered anthrax and there is disagreement over whether he could have created it -- and if he did, how he kept it a secret.
The New York Times reports
that investigators lack some key evidence against Ivins, such as anything linking the scientist to the central New Jersey town where the anthrax letters were mailed. An unnamed source calls the case against Ivins "circumstantial" and said at least 10 other people from the lab at Fort Detrick, MD, had access to the same flask containing that anthrax, the Times
In an article on Sunday, The Washington Post wrote
that federal prosecutors may disband the grand jury that was hearing evidence against Ivins, adding that no other criminal charges are expected in the case.
A lawyer for Ivins, Paul F. Kemp, has consistently maintained his client's innocence.
Glenn Greenwald at Salon
has been working overtime on this story for the past few days and lays out a reconsideration
of the anthrax investigation, its press reports and its time line. He bring attention to the mounting pressure on ABC News
to disclose the confidential sources behind its report in 2001, which stated that federal agents had evidence that the anthrax came from Iraq.
Greenwald also raises questions
about Ivins' therapist, who came forward several days ago describing Ivins's homicidal
In a statement today, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), who was a target in the attacks, criticized
the FBI and said he has little faith in its investigation.
Finally, as we noted
earlier today, evidence is emerging that White House officials may have pressured the FBI to tag Al Qaeda as a suspect during the initial weeks of the probe. Late Update
: After reports that federal investigators couldn't place Ivins at the New Jersey mailbox where the anthrax letters were dropped, sources at DOJ leaked the AP
a new story this afternoon
. Their best guess is that Ivins made the seven-hour round trip up to the Princeton area after work one night, possibly because he had a weird obsession with the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, which has a chapter up there.
That might have been enough to secure a grand jury indictment, but that sounds like a stretch for the jury to buy. We'll never know.