Case Closed? Does Anthrax Suspect's Suicide Mean the Investigation Into 2001 Attacks Is Over?

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," August 1, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

HEATHER NAUERT, HOST: There is more breaking news today: The pieces of the nearly seven-year-old puzzle may be coming together. The 2001 anthrax attacks, the mystery may have been solved after all this time.

Today, we learned that a top Army microbiologist was the same scientist who is developing a vaccine against anthrax -- well, he, apparently killed himself just as prosecutors were getting ready to indict him for the worst bio-terror attack in United States history. The 2005 strike killed five people and sickened more than a dozen others. It crippled the U.S. postal system for weeks and weeks and sent an already-shaken America deeper into fear just after the 9/11 attacks.

Now, this guy's name was Bruce Ivins, he was 62 years old. And we're taking a picture -- a look at a picture of him right now. He once examined anthrax-laced letter that was sent to Senator Patrick Leahy years ago.

Watch Heather's interview

But we're going to kick off with a live report from our very own reporter, Catherine Herridge. She is the one who broke the news that scientists at Fort Detrick, were under suspicion in this case, months -- well, actually years ago.

Catherine, this has been a busy day for you. What all unfolded today?

CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are several important developments really, Heather.

First of all, in March of this year, we were the first to report that the FBI had, in fact, narrowed their pool of suspects to four and we were able to confirm that all of them were tied to Fort Detrick, this is the Army's bioweapons research facility in Maryland and among that group was an Army scientist we now know that was Bruce Ivins.

The information about Ivins is very significant because independently, we were able to obtain an e-mail forwarded by Ivins in 2005 and that e-mail claims that the powder in the anthrax letter was virtually identical to powder that was being made at Fort Detrick.

Now, today, friends of Bruce Ivins told me that they believe Ivins was an honorable man and that he was one of the first people to draw attention to the Army base in Maryland as a likely source of the powder, also as the likely source of the base, if you will, for the person who sent those letters.

Others would say that all of Ivins' efforts were really an effort to deflect the suspicion away from him.

There are other developments today. We were able to obtain court documents from the state court in Maryland. These documents suggest that the last weeks of Bruce Ivins' life were very tumultuous and very tortured.

A restraining order was taken out against him by an individual we believe was his therapist. And in those court documents, it says that the therapist believes Ivins had homicidal tendencies, could be violent, and that he was under investigation by the FBI and would be charged with five capital murder offenses at some point this year. That's significant, because five Americans were killed in the anthrax attacks in 2001.

I think that the bottom line for people is that everything over the last seven years and now, especially in the last 24 hours, and in the last few months that we've been really honing in on this case, it shows that it was not some foreign extremist who launched the worst bioterror attack on U.S. soil, in fact, it now appears that it was an Army insider.


HERRIDGE: An Army insider who was responsible for this attack.

NAUERT: And, Catherine, I think, a lot of folks would agree that that's the most troubling thing of all. Catherine Herridge, thank you so much for bringing that to us.

HERRIDGE: You're welcome.

NAUERT: So, the question is now -- was Ivins the perpetrator that the feds have been looking for all this time?

With us now is Greg Esslinger. He's a former FBI special agent in counterterrorism.

Greg, thanks for joining us. Let me start by asking you.


NAUERT: You know, the Army said that this guy exhibited very unusual behavior after the attacks. Of course, this was quite some time ago. So, why -- and he apparently was also testing some of these anthrax outside of what they considered the "safety zone" to be. So, why are we only hearing about this now? Why really only zeroing in on him and getting -- indict him at this point?

ESSLINGER: Well, you know, understand that these investigations can take a long time, even if there are some relative suspicions that the Bureau can follow up on, there's still a need to build enough evidence to the level where the prosecutors can actually file an indictment. So, a suspicion or suspicious activity or somebody doing something that looks unusual is only the first step in an investigation and to actually build a full case against someone, often takes more than a year or even years.

NAUERT: And it's hard for a lot of folks to imagine that this could potentially be an American who is responsible for this, let alone someone who pledged to protect his country in working for the United States Army. Any chance of this could all be a big mistake?

ESSLINGER: Well, I think, you know, with the person no longer alive to truly question and determine what the involvement was, it is going to be a question that may remain out there and whether or not this person did it by themselves, I think, is part of the biggest question in my mind or whether he was complicit, if he is guilty, with others. So, unless there's other evidence that can point in that direction, it may be really hard to solve this case.

NAUERT: And just quickly, what happens to the investigation now? He's gone. They're going to continue to talk to other people, I imagine, but are they going to want to pin this on him to just try to have this sewed up?

ESSLINGER: Well, I think they definitely want to close the investigation. I think it's been a very difficult investigation for the FBI. Obviously, a number of people were killed. So, this really -- it's a capital murder crime and the Bureau is very keen on getting some closure to it as anyone would be and all of America is.

So, they will continue to investigate so they can try to get some closure, but that closure, obviously, could be quite difficult now, given the fact that a prime suspect is no longer with us.

NAUERT: All right. Greg Esslinger, thank you so much for joining us.


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