03-06-21 08:21:00, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing May 26, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)
One of the most significant events of the last two decades has been largely memory-holed: the October, 2001 anthrax attacks in the U.S. Beginning just one week after 9/11 and extending for another three weeks, a highly weaponized and sophisticated strain of anthrax had been sent around the country through the U.S. Postal Service addressed to some of the country’s most prominent political and media figures. As Americans were still reeling from the devastation of 9/11, the anthrax killed five Americans and sickened another seventeen.
As part of the extensive reporting I did on the subsequent FBI investigation to find the perpetrator(s), I documented how significant these attacks were in the public consciousness. ABC News, led by investigative reporter Brian Ross, spent a full week claiming that unnamed government sources told them that government tests demonstrated a high likelihood that the anthrax came from Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons program. The Washington Post, in November, 2001, also raised “the possibility that [this weaponized strain of anthrax] may have slipped through an informal network of scientists to Iraq.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) appeared on The David Letterman Show on October 18, 2001, and said: “There is some indication, and I don’t have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq.” Three days later, McCain appeared on Meet the Press with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and said of the anthrax perpetrators: “perhaps this is an international organization and not one within the United States of America,” while Lieberman said the anthrax was so finely weaponized that “there’s either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program” (Lieberman added: “Dr. Fauci can tell you more detail on that”).
In many ways, the prospect of a lethal, engineered biological agent randomly showing up in one’s mailbox or contaminating local communities was more terrifying than the extraordinary 9/11 attack itself. All sorts of oddities shrouded the anthrax mailings,