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Paris Hilton Strikes Back; Anthrax Attacks Probe Press Conference; Feds Bust Up Hack Attack
Aired August 6, 2008 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR: The case may be over, but years worth of legwork, lab work and sometimes guesswork in the anthrax investigation hasn't gone away.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Not even close.
Today, those long secret government files are public information. And CNN has got it all for you this hour.
Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live here at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
KAYE: I'm Randi Kaye, in for Kyra Phillips. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
LEMON: Our developing news here today in the CNN NEWSROOM, no smoking guns, but genetic mutations and frightening e-mails and erratic, suspicious behavior all leading the feds to Bruce Ivins. He is the government researcher whose suicide made him known worldwide as the number-one suspect in the anthrax attacks back in 2001. Almost seven years' worth of search warrants, affidavits and other official documents were posted online last hour.
And CNN's homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, joins us from Washington now with the latest on this developing story.
Jeanne, what have you uncovered?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Don, we're still going through this, but, as of now, we haven't found hard evidence, a smoking gun.
What we have got is a lot of circumstantial evidence, some of it presented in affidavits for search warrants. Let me give you the overview from one of those affidavits.
It says that Dr. Ivins, at the time of the attacks, was the custodian of a lack flask of highly purified anthrax spores that possess certain genetic mutations identical to the anthrax used in the attacks. It says that Ivins was unable to give investigators adequate explanation for his late-night laboratory work hours around the time of both anthrax mailings, that Ivins has claimed he was suffering serious mental health issues in the months preceding the attack, that Ivins is believed to have submitted false samples of anthrax from his lab to the FBI for forensic analysis. And at the time of the attack, he was under pressure at work to assist a private company that was manufacturing vaccine for the U.S. Army. He was afraid, if they lost that contract, that his work at Fort Detrick would dry up, according to this affidavit.
And it also quotes an e-mail that he sent prior to the attack, warning that bin Laden terrorists had anthrax and had decreed death to all Jews and all Americans. That is language similar to the language in some of the anthrax letters.
There is a lot of other information in this paperwork. Some of it spells out why Senators Leahy and Daschle might have been targeted in his attacks. It identifies Dr. Ivins as being pro-life and says that both Leahy and Daschle were Catholic members of Congress who tended to take a pro-abortion stand. And that might have been one reason for his targeting them with anthrax mailings.
It also goes into envelopes, where envelopes might have been purchased that were used in the attack, that the only lab with anthrax near that was Fort Detrick, his fascination with Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, but, again, all of this is circumstantial evidence that we have been able to read about so far -- back to you.
LEMON: All right, thank you very much for that, Jeanne Meserve.
Again, we're expecting a joint news conference from the Justice Department, the FBI, and Postal Service this hour on the anthrax case. As a matter of fact, you're looking at live pictures there. And we will bring that to you just as soon as it happens -- Randi.
KAYE: Yesterday, in the Pentagon's eyes, Salim Hamdan was an enemy combatant. Today, the former driver of a Osama bin Laden is a war criminal. His status changed when a military jury at Guantanamo Bay convicted him of supporting al Qaeda in the run-up to 9/11. The same jury cleared him of conspiracy.
Hamdan's trial was the first by a so-called military commission at Gitmo. And the White House insists it was fair and appropriate. Not all observers agree.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAROL CHODROFF, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: ... I think was in, in this case long before the jury went out to deliberate. And that is that the military commission system at Guantanamo Bay is deeply flawed, that Mr. Hamdan could not and did not receive a fair trial in a system that is tainted by coercion, abuse, secrecy, hearsay rules that permit evidence to come in. It's deeply flawed, should be inadmissible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Hamdan has been held in Gitmo since 2002. He now faces life in prison, but it's not clear exactly where.
New U.N. sanctions may be on the way against Iran. U.S. officials say the United States and five other countries have agreed to push for another round of U.N. sanctions aimed at the Iranian nuclear program. They want Iran to stop enriching uranium. The other nations that have agreed to push more sanctions are Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany.
LEMON: Unlike the United States, Iraq is sitting on a big budget surplus. A U.S. government report says Iraq could finish the year with nearly $80 billion in the bank. Much of it comes from oil profits. Another part is earmarked for the reconstruction of Iraq, but never spent.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin says it's inexcusable to make U.S. taxpayers fund projects in Iraq when the Iraqi government is sitting on so much cash.
President Bush is in Thailand this hour, but his thoughts are on China. That's the next stop on his last presidential visit to Asia. Tomorrow, before he leaves Bangkok, he will give a speech attacking Beijing for smother dissent and rounding up dissenters ahead of the Summer Games. And he also plans some choice words for the military junta in Myanmar.
In China, Mr. Bush will be the first sitting U.S. president to attend Olympic ceremonies overseas.
After a long and sometimes troubled trip from Greece, the Olympic torch has finally arrived in Beijing. It was greeted with drummers and dancers and at the Temple of Heaven and by cheering crowds lining the relay route. Now, runners will carry the torch through the Chinese capital until Friday, when it arrives at the opening ceremony for the Summer Games.
The torch relay has sparked some protests around the world. And Beijing is not exception to that. Activists climbed two utility poles. There you see it there. And they put up banners calling for the independence of Tibet.
Live pictures now coming to us from Beijing. You can see what they call the Bird's Nest. It is the main Olympic stadium. They are exactly 12 hours ahead of us. So, it's 3:07 a.m. there, a beautiful site, the Olympic Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing.
KAYE: Checking issue number one, the nation's economy and your money, and the tough times continue for mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
Second-quarter results are out today. And the company's losses were way more than analysts had expected. A big factor, spiking delinquencies and foreclosures in mortgage Freddie Mac owns and guarantees. Freddie's stocks took a big hit in the morning trading.
The feds have busted an alleged hacking and identity theft ring, but not before big damage was done.
CNN's Alina Cho has more on how authorities sniffed out their suspects.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MICHAEL MUKASEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL: They caused widespread losses by banks, retailers and customers.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How much? The Feds say it may be too hard to add it all up. Maybe tens of millions of dollars from people who shopped at places like Office Max, DSW, Barnes Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21, even Boston Market. All they do is sit outside with a laptop, wait for customers to make a purchase, then use a so-called sniffer program to get into a store's wireless network.
MICHAEL SULLIVAN, U.S. ATTORNEY: This allowed the defendants to remotely capture sensitive information such as the card numbers, passwords and account information. CHO: The hackers allegedly stole that personal information or used it themselves. Some numbers were stored on magnetic strips of blank cards and used to draw tens of thousands of dollars from ATMs.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is a sampling of what I guess you would describe as a white collar crime probably the biggest challenges we face in the 21st century. Huge amounts of money moved over the Internet.
CHO: Many people whose numbers were stolen may not realize they're victims yet. But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says they're working with stores to close the cyber-hold.
CHERTOFF: The international system is safe, but I have to tell you the bad guys are smart, too.
CHO (on camera): This is believed to be the largest hacking and identity theft case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. The investigation took three years and the scheme allegedly stretched over five years in several states with the ripped off money spent all over the world. And authorities say the key suspect was actually double dealing, giving the Secret Service tips, ripping off the public at the same time.
Alina Cho, CNN, New York.
KAYE: Clearly, there are lots of crooks out there. Coming up, some tips on how to keep them away from your identity and your information.
Meantime, a lot of you are telling us how you would solve America's energy crisis. Just minutes from now in the NEWSROOM, we will read your e-mails.
LEMON: "Do you know where my mommy is?" Those are the words said to be said by a little girl said to be sighted at a store in the Netherlands. Was she Madeleine McCann, the British girl who vanished during a family vacation in Portugal last year? Well, new police files have been released. And they're raising some question about the investigation. CNN's Phil Black reports from London.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are among the images the parents of Madeleine McCann say they did not see while Portuguese police were still searching for their daughter, CCTV pictures of girls said to resemble Madeleine taken in Portugal in the days after her disappearance last year.
They make up some of the almost 30,000 pages of the police case file that has now been made public. The file also contains these images compiled from witness descriptions of men said to be acting suspiciously around the place and time of Madeleine's disappearance. They were never released publicly.
Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, never saw them.
CLARENCE MITCHELL, MCCANN FAMILY SPOKESMAN: One of the great frustrations throughout all of this was, the Portuguese police hardly told them anything.
ANA STAM, DUTCH SHOPKEEPER: She said, they are -- or she is not my mommy.
BLACK: The McCanns had also never heard of this woman before the file was released. Ana Stam last year told Dutch police she had a conversation in an Amsterdam shop with a girl who she says looked like Madeleine and who told her her name was Maddie.
STAM: I start to ask where her mommy was. And she couldn't tell me that. And I wanted to give her a balloon, but she didn't want that. She only wants her mommy, she says. And she said that these people took her from her mommy.
BLACK: The girl had dark hair. And Madeleine's parents say their daughter never referred to herself as Maddie. The McCanns don't know the Portuguese police eliminated this political sighting. It's one more lead their private investigators must now follow up.
MITCHELL: Well, here we are, what, 15, 16 months off. It's frankly a disgrace that we should have to be doing this, the investigators should have to be doing, this far down the line.
BLACK: Madeleine McCann was 3 years old when she went missing in May last year while on holiday with her family in the Portuguese town of Praia da Luz. From the beginning, the police have received strong criticism for their handling of the investigation, which at one time named Kate and Gerry as suspects. They have since been cleared.
Last month, the case was closed without ever forming a strong theory on what happened to Madeleine.
(on camera): The police includes a report from Portugal's prosecutors giving their assessment of the police investigation. It says the police worked with an enormous margin of error and achieved very little in terms of conclusive results. The McCanns' spokesman says it's refreshing to finally hear common sense from the Portuguese authorities.
Phil Black, CNN, London.
KAYE: The nation's energy crunch. Who will make sure the country takes the right direction in the future, John McCain or Barack Obama? Later this hour, we will hear from both candidates in their own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARIS HILTON, SOCIALITE: That wrinkly, white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I'm running for president. So thanks for the endorsement, white-haired dude.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: You've got to laugh.
LEMON: I know you have got to laugh at that. John McCain fires first. Paris Hilton, well, she fires right back, getting even more for an ad that took her by surprise.
KAYE: And a reminder, we are awaiting a joint news conference from the Justice Department, FBI, the Postal Service on the anthrax case. You are looking there at the podium where that news conference will take place, a live picture. It is set to begin at the bottom of the hour. Count on CNN for live coverage.
LEMON: OK. All right, you're in the NEWSROOM. I'm Don Lemon.
A tale of 10 cities on the decline. Did your home town make the "Forbes" list of places that are dying economically?
LEMON: Well, Paris Hilton isn't happy that she was in a John McCain ad that pokes fun at Barack Obama's celebrity status. So, she is firing back. The actress and socialite is out with an ad of her own which mocks the McCain ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILTON: Hey, America. I'm Paris Hilton, and I'm a celebrity, too, only, I'm not from the olden days, and I'm not promising change, like that other guy. I'm just hot.
But then that wrinkly, white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I'm running for president. So thanks for the endorsement white-haired dude. And I want America to know that I'm, like, totally ready to lead.
OK. So, here's my energy policy. Barack wants to focus on new technologies to cut foreign oil dependency. And McCain wants offshore drilling. Well, why don't we do a hybrid of both candidates' ideas? We can do a limited offshore drilling, with strict environmental oversight, while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have to got pick out a vice president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: The olden days? All right.
Well, A McCain spokesman says Hilton obviously has a better energy plan than Obama.
KAYE: John McCain and Barack Obama have some definite ideas about solving the nation's energy crunch. And so do you, apparently, our viewers.
Joining us with some of your e-mails, CNN's Josh Levs.
I can only imagine. Any suggesting Paris for president, maybe?
JOSH LEVS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I haven't seen that one yet.
KAYE: Not yet?
LEVS: But I'm betting that, based on that, some people will write her in, in the fall. What do you think?
KAYE: I think so.
LEMON: She said to do that, I think, in her ad.
LEVS: Well, maybe we can have a write-in competition between her and Lindsay Lohan, see who gets the most...
LEMON: Rihanna, her vice president.
LEVS: Oh, Rihanna. Oh, well, actually, that's a pretty cool one.
OK. All right. All right. E-mails. They are telling me, let's get going.
So, we asked you for your ideas about how to solve the energy crisis.
And you all had some idea. Let's go to our first e-mail here Maury, who tells us this: "President Bush should ask Congress for incentives to convert all existing internal combustion powered vehicles to run on natural gas, with new drilling to run our huge existing natural gas reserves."
I love this, very specific, great idea.
OK, Robert: "Every investment dollar needs to go into technologies such as wind, solar and hydrogen."
Now to Jyoti: "Cities need to be restructured, so that public transportation becomes dominant. Stop the wasteful attitude. Every little thing adds up."
Julius now: "We need rationing. We need to tell people that every week you're only going to get a certain amount of gas."
I don't know if that would catch on, but it's in interesting idea.
Stephen now: "If President Bush gave a speech during prime time about simple ways to reduce our consumption of energy, gas prices would drop overnight."
And the last one here, a little bit of tongue in cheek, I am assuming: "Let's light candles and have the government buy bikes for Americans. That will save the economy and health costs."
So, thank you, Tyrone, for your probably not a real suggestion. But you did e-mail us that. And it was remotely interesting, so we put it on.
You can still weigh in on this, firstname.lastname@example.org.
KAYE: He might have been serious.
KAYE: You never know.
LEVS: Bikes and candles, there's always that possibility.
KAYE: Did any of these folks include picture of themselves in a leopard print bathing suit sitting on a lounge chair...
LEVS: How about this? I'm now afraid to look at I-Reports, because I know...
KAYE: You don't want that. You never know.
LEVS: I guarantee you we will get some look-alikes.
LEMON: Candles and bicycles, that's just like the olden days.
KAYE: Who does that remind you of?
All right. Thanks, Josh.
LEMON: All right.
We digress. All right, we will move on.
We have been telling you about the feds busting up that big hack attack, more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers stolen from shoppers like you. Now, this isn't the first big I.D. theft ring. And it surely probably won't be the last one as well.
Our Veronica De La Cruz has some tips for us on how to keep your identity safe, as well as some I-Reports to tell us about it.
We were just kind of joking, but it was serious. I just got an e-mail from someone saying, we need this information, so we can give you some prize that you won, and blah, blah, blah. And you get those e-mails all the time.
VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You do.
LEMON: I'm sure some people fall for them, Veronica.
DE LA CRUZ: Yes. You hear the horror stories.
And we have been asking viewers to share their horror stories when it comes to I.D. theft, Don.
Brenda Clark of Illinois, she recent had a total of $50 000, Don, charged to family credit cards. And what's worse is she was traveling when it happened. She says she was checking into a hotel and tried all of her cards. One after another, they were declined. She ended up having to pay for that stop on her trip cash.
So, her advice, pay cash as much as possible. She goes on to say, "My guess is that, given the banks' desperate financial positions, this will get worse before it gets better."
And then Heather Gessino Kraft in Ohio recently had someone charge hundreds of dollars on her debit card, even though she never lost it. She still had it in her purse. She asked a rep at her local bank if they security on the cards would ever change. And what they said to her shocked her.
They said fraud is big business. It keeps a lot of people employed, the investigators, the insurance companies, even the retailers, who benefit for the illegal purchases.
Heather writes to us saying: "While it might be slightly inconvenient to use my debit card less, it can't be any more inconvenient than having my identity stolen. While my experience was rather mild in comparison to the horror many people go through, it is not anything I wish to repeat."
So, a couple of people there sharing their horror stories, Don.
LEMON: Yes, I'm sure there aren't any foolproof ways of stopping identity theft, but probably some really, really good things that will help prevent it.
DE LA CRUZ: Yes. We were looking at the FTC.gov Web site, and a couple of useful tips. Don't carry around your Social Security card unless you have to. I have done this before. Make sure you put it in a safe place. Be careful on throwing out your mail. Use that shredder. Don't let it sit in the corner and collect dust.
Use only your own computer for transactions. Verify the Web sites, Don, when you're shopping online. Make sure they're secure. Look for that little lock in the corner. Also, clean out your wallet. Women, clean out your purses. Don't carry around any additional credit cards that you don't need to carry, so really, really simple tips, but stuff that can help you along the way.
So, we're going to continue to look at those I-Reports. Share your horror stories by logging on to ireport.gov -- or .com.
LEMON: Yes. There are certain things that you apply for and they ask you for their Social Security number. And now I will say, do you absolutely need my Social Security number? Because sometimes they don't. I don't know why they have it, why they choose to ask you for it.
DE LA CRUZ: I know.
LEMON: OK, Veronica, good advice. Thank you.
KAYE: A government researcher killed himself over information coming to light this hour. We will have more from the case files of the federal anthrax task force and a news conference from the Justice Department scheduled for the half-hour.
LEMON: We have been telling you a lot here on CNN times are tough all over. But "Forbes" magazine says 10 urban areas have it particularly bad. It's released a list of the fastest dying cities based on unemployment, economic woes, and fleeing populations.
Now, these are shown in alphabetical order, by the way, just in no particular order, accept for alphabetical order, starting with Buffalo, New York. Canton is one of four Ohio cities on the list. We have also got Charleston, West Virginia, plus Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio. Detroit and Flint, Michigan, are singled out, as are Scranton, Pennsylvania, Springfield, Massachusetts. And there's that fourth Ohio entry, Youngstown.
LEMON: Well, a suspect is dead. The evidence lives on. We're waiting to hear any minute now from the Justice Department on the newly unsealed case files from the anthrax attacks of 2001.
KAYE: Welcome back. I'm Randi Kaye at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. You're in THE CNN NEWSROOM.
It's time to tell you some of stories we're working on for you today in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Just released court documents -- court records -- spell out the government's case against Bruce Ivins, a prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks. The Army research scientist committed suicide last week and prosecutors say he had access to anthrax spores, he tried to mislead investigators and couldn't explain his late night lab hours.
You're looking at live pictures now because a news conference is expected to begin at any moment. And CNN will bring that to you live.
A split decision -- a U.S. military jury has cleared a former driver of Osama bin Laden of conspiracy, but it convicted him of providing material support to a terror organization. Salim Hamdan faces a possible life sentence.
And is this a picture of Madeleine McCann?
Newly released police files are raising questions about the investigation into the British girl's disappearance during a family vacation in Portugal.
KAYE: In defiance of an international court, the State of Texas has executed a Mexican-born killer. Moments before his death sentence was carried out, Jose Medellin apologized for his role in the gang rape and murders of two teenagers back in 1993. This case grabbed world headlines because of allegations he was denied access to the Mexican consulate until after his conviction. The International Court of Justice had ordered Texas not to execute Medellin until a new hearing could be held.
A memorial service in Utah today marking one of this country's most devastating mine disasters. It was exactly one year ago that a huge section of the Crandall Canyon Mine collapsed, trapping six miners inside. Attempts to reach them failed. Their bodies were never recovered. The effort was called off after a violent cave-in 10 days later killed three rescuers. The mine is no longer in operation.
LEMON: The economy -- it is still the top of the issue list for the campaign trail. In a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, nearly half of registered voters say it is the most important issue for them. Far down the list -- Iraq, health care, terrorism and then there's immigration, as well. When asked who would handle the economy better, 54 percent of the respondents said Barack Obama; 43 percent said John McCain.
Let's talk now about hip-hop. It gets a bad rap for explicit lyrics and degradation of women. But one of the first hip-hoppers ever, well, he's trying to change that.
Run of Run DMC is Reverend Run and he is raising a family of six children all in front of television cameras. It may sound like a recipe for a reality show disaster, but it's not. Rev. "Run" Simmons, the founder of hip-hop -- the group called Run DMC, and his wife, Justine, dish out the discipline and lots of love on their MTV reality show, "Run's House." And now they've written a book, "Take Back Your Family: A Challenge to America's Parents."
I recently spoke with them about that book and about their decision to adopt a family -- a baby, I should say.
LEMON: You're also a big proponent of adoption.
REVEREND RUN SIMMONS, AUTHOR, "TAKE BACK YOUR FAMILY": Yes.
LEMON: I saw this month or this week's "Jet" magazine, where you talk about adopting.
Why are you guys such...
JUSTINE SIMMONS, AUTHOR, "TAKE BACK YOUR FAMILY": (INAUDIBLE).
LEMON: Why do you believe in adoption so much?
J. SIMMONS: Amazing.
REV. SIMMONS: Well, my wife -- we tried to have a baby, but she wanted to adopt at first. And she lost a baby. And right away she was saying let's adopt. And I got with her and I found out that you end up loving this baby just like it's your own. So, it's an amazing feeling.
J. SIMMONS: Yes.
REV. SIMMONS: And I'm just happy that my wife kind of steered me into it. Now it's the biggest gift God has given me.
J. SIMMONS: Yes. And I do also want a lot of women to know out there, who keep trying to have babies that -- and can't and keep miscarrying, don't think that it's not going to feel like yours. We forget. You know, even the boys, you know, Daniel and Russell, were very skeptical and scared that she wouldn't know who they were or they would feel funny. And I never forget, Daniel said, "Mom, she's just like ours." Even JoJo was like, "It's like you had her, mom." So, the boys feel...
LEMON: Russy and Diggy, do you feel that way?
DANIEL "DIGGY" SIMMONS, SON OF REV. RUN: I definitely feel that way.
RUSSY SIMMONS, SON OF REV. RUN: Yes.
D. SIMMONS: Like, I know, you know, we adopted her, but it feels like, you know...
RUSSY SIMMONS: Like (INAUDIBLE).
D. SIMMONS: She's really a part of us, you know?
J. SIMMONS: Russell (INAUDIBLE).
D. SIMMONS: She's like our little sister. Yes, this kid, you know, if she's crying, he'll come in her at room at 3:00 in the morning and wake up and try to take care of her and things like that.
RUSSY SIMMONS: She's hot.
D. SIMMONS: I love Miley oh so much, you know? She's great.
LEMON: The book is called "Take Back Your Family" -- Rev --
J. SIMMONS: And it's an amazing book.
J. SIMMONS: It's our life. It's great.
LEMON: Rev. Justine, Diggy, Russy, thank you, guys.
D. SIMMONS: Thank you.
J. SIMMONS: Thank you.
RUSSY SIMMONS: Thank you.
J. SIMMONS: Thank you for having us.
REV. SIMMONS: Peace.
KAYE: So cute.
A government researcher killed himself over information coming to light this hour. We'll have more from the case files of the federal anthrax task force and a news conference from the Justice Department. You're looking there at a live picture. That is scheduled for this half hour.
Bless you, Don.
KAYE: Happening now, we are watching the live press conference which is just about to start here related to the anthrax case. This will be a joint press conference between the FBI, the Justice Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Hundreds of documents released last hour related to the anthrax investigation and the key suspect, who took his life last week, scientist Bruce Ivins.
Our Homeland Security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is standing by with some of the details of what was in the documents -- Jeanne.
MESERVE: And, Randi, we can't wait to hear what these officials have to say about this case, because the paperwork that was released this afternoon -- the documentation contains a lot of circumstantial evidence. But at this point, in our reading of these documents, we have not found anything indicating that Bruce Ivins -- that there's any witness that places him at manufacturing or mailing the anthrax letters.
It looks like the press conference is just about to get underway.
JEFFREY TAYLOR, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: I'm Jeff Taylor, the United States attorney for the District of Colombia.
I'm joined here today by Joseph
Persichini, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, Chief Postal Inspector Alexander Lazaroff and the lead prosecutor on the case Ken Kohl.
As the department indicated last week and has been widely reported, substantial progress has been made in the anthrax investigation in recent years. As you know, this investigation into the worst act of violent terrorism in U.S. history has been one of the largest and most complex ever conducted by the FBI.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has also made an extraordinary contribution to this investigation.
Over the past seven years, hundreds of thousands of agent hours have been dedicated to solving this crime, as well as, I might add, hundreds of hours of prosecutor time.
Ordinarily, we do not publicly disclose evidence against a suspect who has not been charged, in part because of the presumption of innocence. But because of the extraordinary and justified public interest in this investigation, as well as the significant public attention resulting from the death of Dr. Bruce Edward Ivins last week, today we are compelled to take the extraordinary step of providing first, the victims and their families, as well as Congress and the American public, with an overview of some recent developments, as well as some of our conclusions.
Earlier today, several search warrant affidavits were unsealed in federal court in the District of Colombia. Among other things, these search warrants confirm that the government was investigating Dr. Ivins in connection with the attacks, which killed five individuals and injured 17 others in 2001.
Dr. Ivins was a resident of Frederick, Maryland and a long-time anthrax researcher, who worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, known as USAMRIID.
Dr. Ivins died of an overdose on July 29th, 2008 and at the time of his death, was the sole suspect in the case. Our investigation had begun to shift to a particular laboratory at USAMRIID in 2005 and began to focus on Dr. Ivins as a suspect in 2007.
In the weeks prior to his death, we had been in conversations with his attorneys regarding the direction of the investigation, because we believed that, based on the evidence we had collected, we could prove his guilt to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
Based upon the totality of the evidence we had gathered against him, we are confident that Dr. Ivins was the only person responsible for these attacks.
We are now beginning the process of concluding this investigation. Once this process is complete, we will formally close the case. Had Dr. Ivins been indicted, he would have been presumed innocent until proven guilty, as is the case with any other criminal defendant.
We regret that we will not have the opportunity to present the evidence to a jury to determine whether the evidence establishes Dr. Ivins' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
We have provided you copies of the court documents which give details about our evidence. I encourage you to read through them carefully.
I will summarize from these documents and then I will turn the podium over the FBI to go into greater detail. I will also note that, for a variety of reasons, there may be some questions and details we simply may not be able to discuss publicly today. I hope you respect these boundaries, given the extraordinary steps we're taking with this disclosure today.
Now, turning to the evidence.
First, we were able to identify in early 2005 the genetically unique parent of the anthrax spores used in the mailings. As the court documents allege, the parent material of the anthrax spores used in the attacks was a single flask of spores known as RMR-1029 that was created and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins at USAMRIID. This means that the spores used in the attacks were taken from that specific flask, regrown, purified, dried and loaded into the letters. No one received material from that flask without going through Dr. Ivins.
We thoroughly investigated every other person who could have had access to the flask and we were able to rule out all but Dr. Ivins.
Second, as a renowned expert in the production and purification of anthrax spores, Dr. Ivins was one of a handful of scientists with the capability to create spores of the concentration and purity used in the attacks. The affidavits allege that not only did Dr. Ivins create and maintain the spore batch used in the mailings, but he also had access to and experience using a lyophilizer. A lyophilizer is a sophisticated machine that is used to dry pathogens and can be used to dry anthrax. We know others in Dr. Ivins' lab consulted him when they needed to use this machine.
Third, in the days leading up to each of the mailings, the documents make clear that Dr. Ivins was working inordinate hours alone at night and on the weekend in the lab where the flask of spores and production equipment were stored. A review of his access records revealed that Dr. Ivins had not spent this many off hours in the lab at any time before or after this period. When questioned about why he was in the lab during those off hours prior to each of the mailings, Dr. Ivins was unable to offer any satisfactory explanation.
Fourth, the affidavits indicate Dr. Ivins had engaged in behavior and made a number of statements that suggest consciousness of guilt. For example, one night shortly after a search warrant was executed on his house, Dr. Ivins took highly unusual steps to discard a book and article on DNA coding while under 24/7 surveillance.
In addition, he had submitted a questionable sample of anthrax from his flask of parent stores to the FBI, presumably to mislead investigators.
He had also made far-reaching efforts to blame others and divert attention away from himself and had made threatening e-mail statements to a friend regarding the case. Recently, he had detailed threats in his group therapy session to kill people who had wronged him after learning he might be indicted.
Fifth, as reflected in the court documents, Dr. Ivins had a history of mental health problems and was facing a difficult time professionally in the summer and fall of 2001 because an anthrax vaccine he was working on was failing.
The affidavits describe one e-mail to a co-worker in which Dr. Ivins stated that he had "incredible paranoid delusional thoughts at times" and feared he might not be able to control his behavior.
Sixth, throughout his adult life, Dr. Ivins had frequently driven to other locations to send packages in the mail under assumed names to disguise his identity as the sender. He had also admitted to using false names and aliases in writings. In addition, he was a prolific writer to Congress and the media -- the targeted victims in the anthrax attacks. Law enforcement recovered 68 letters to such entities from his house in the November 1, 2007 search.
I'll conclude with one more point. The envelopes used in the attacks were all pre-franked (ph) envelopes sold only at U.S. post offices during a nine month window in 2001. Analysis of the envelopes revealed several print defects in the ink on the pre-printed portions of the envelopes.
Based on the analysis, we were able to conclude that the envelopes used in the mailings were very likely sold at a post office in the Frederick, Maryland area in 2001.
Dr. Ivins maintained a post office box at the post office in Frederick from which these pre-franked envelopes with print defects were sold.
During the course of the seven year investigation, Dr. Ivins was interviewed by federal authorities several times -- three times in 2008 alone. His statements were inconsistent over time and failed to explain the evidence against him.
The points I've just gone over are only a summary of the court documents we've provided you. There are additional details in the documents, which, again, we encourage you to read thoroughly. All the information contained in this statement is now public information.
We're able to give you this information because the United States followed proper procedures and formally requested that a federal court unseal several search warrants in this investigation. And that court approved the request.
In addition, we consulted and received express permission of the Justice Department to do so.
I'd now like to introduce Mr. Persichini, to provide you with some greater detail on the evidence and how the investigation was conducted.
JOSEPH PERSICHINI, JR. ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN CHARGE, FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: Thanks, Jeff.
Chief Inspector Lazaroff.
As assistant director in charge of the Washington field office of the FBI, I was able to be with Director Mueller this morning as he met with the families of those who died and many of the surviving victims of these attacks. I was able to once again offer my sincere and heartfelt condolences and provide them some of the answers they have waited for with such patience and understanding for seven years. As U.S. Attorney Taylor pointed out, over the past seven years, the members of AMERITHRAX Task Force, comprised of FBI agents and U.S. Postal Service inspectors, put forth a Herculean effort to identify the origin of the anthrax spores contained in the mailings and together with career prosecutors from the Department of Justice prepare to bring the person responsible for these crimes to justice.
The AMERITHRAX Task Force members worked tirelessly on a case that quickly became a global investigation spanning six continents and required that new scientific techniques be created.
Postal inspectors, FBI agents, analysts and scientists worked this investigation 24/7 with unwavering dedication and perseverance. For example, at the time of the anthrax attacks, the protocols for genetic tests to determine the DNA fingerprint of individual batches of anthrax had not been developed. The FBI sought out the best experts in the scientific community and, over time, four highly sensitive and specific tests were developed that were capable of detecting the unique qualities of the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks.
That is to say, this investigation took our agents and scientists to new territory. An extraordinary amount of research and testing needed to achieve these ground-breaking accomplishments required months and years of trial and error analysis and review. We were then able to trace that to an individual lab, a single flask and one individual who controlled it.
Further, painstaking investigation led us to the conclusion that Dr. Bruce E. Ivins was responsible for the death, sickness and fear brought to our country by the 2001 anthrax mailing and that it appears, based on the evidence, that he was acting alone.
In closing, I sincerely hope that the documents we have released today provide an overview of our investigation of the 2001 anthrax mailings, our scientific accomplishments and the conclusion made regarding Dr. Ivins.
TAYLOR: We're happy to take some questions.
QUESTION: Could you tell us, please, why you would tell a target or someone who -- that you believe that he is a killer who had a weapon of mass destruction and then allow that person continued access to a lab where he would still have (INAUDIBLE) access to similar kinds of substances?
TAYLOR: With respect to the access he actually had, I'll refer to the Department of Defense.
However, when the investigation began to focus on Dr. Ivins, the lab was notified of our concerns about him.
With respect to what was done after that, I'll refer you to the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: A question for Mr. Persichini.
Do you feel -- this is, obviously, at this point, a circumstantial case. And you feel it's a strong circumstantial case.
What direct evidence do you have?
For instance, do you have any tape that was used on the envelope that was recovered from his home?
Do you have any other -- any other evidence that clearly would link him?
For instance, in the affidavit, it mentions that people of this sort often keep souvenirs.
Did you find anything like that at his home?
TAYLOR: Well, first, I'm going to refer back to the documents, because that's the purpose of our press conference today, to provide you the documents and the information pertaining to the documents.
As it relates to admitting evidence into it, I'm going to refer back to Jeff. But, again, we're looking at the document itself and the purpose of our release and providing this information to the families. That's first and foremost for us. So I won't discuss the actuality of evidence then.
PERSICHINI: Let me talk for a minute about the circumstantial evidence notion directives.
As just laid out, there's plenty of evidence in this case of all types. We have a flask that's effectively the murder weapon from which those spores were taken that was controlled by Dr. Ivins. Anthrax in that flask was created by Dr. Ivins. We have the suspicious behavior that he had undertaken over the years. We have, in addition, the mail envelopes with the tool stamp defects I had mentioned.
But, again, back to circumstantial evidence. Thousands of prosecutors in thousands of courthouses across this country every day prove cases beyond a reasonable doubt using circumstantial evidence. In fact, the standard jury instruction given by judges across the country is that the jury can consider circumstantial evidence and direct evidence and they both can be given equal weight depending on the jury's view.
So, again, circumstantial evidence -- sure, some of it is, but it's compelling evidence and, in our view, we are confident it would have helped us prove this case against Dr. Ivins beyond a reasonable doubt.
When did you guys get back around to him?
Now, reading the documents, it says June 17th, 2004 the FBI discovered that strange mesh flask. Then we got back to him about nine months later and had told him that if he lied and said that an FBI agent had told him that later.
So, clearly, by then it sounded like he was actually trying to put you guys astray. He had already given you, you know, false specimens, those kinds of things.
When did you get back around to him from March 31st of 2005 as a suspect?
TAYLOR: It's important to remember how complex and complicated this investigation was. At the outset, we had identified the universe of persons and labs that might have access to this type of anthrax, once we identified what type of anthrax it was. And then, over the years, there were efforts to shrink the size of that pool.
Now, one of the key steps was the science that the FBI was able to develop that, over time, allowed them to show that that flask, RMR- 1029, was the parent flask for the spores used in those envelopes. That further shrunk the pool, if you will, and created additional interest in Dr. Ivins.
But even at that point, the investigation still had a long way to go because there's still a universe of people who might have access to that flask or people with whom Dr. Ivins may have shared some portion of that anthrax.
The initial science breakthrough, if you will, came in early 2005, in terms of having validated science that could be used to show the flask was the parent, science that could be used at trial, that could lead to admissible evidence.
Then, in 2007, as we conducted additional investigative steps, we were able to narrow the focus even further, exclude individuals and that left us looking at Dr. Ivins.
QUESTION: There was at least a two year delay between the forensic evidence (INAUDIBLE) Fort Detrick and when you were focusing on Dr. Ivins.
How big a factor was Dr. Hatfill in that?
And how did the FBI get so off track on focusing on him apparently as the sole and primary suspect?
TAYLOR: Let me refer back to what I said. It was an extensive investigation. An investigation of this scope and complexity, the task is to follow the evidence where it leads. The science breakthrough in '05 leads you to flask RMR-1029. At that point, as I said, there is a tremendous amount of additional investigation that needs to take place to identify the universe of individuals who had access to that flask, what they did with it -- checking lab books, doing interviews, things of that nature. And only through taking those extensive, time- consuming steps involving a lot of agents, were they able to exclude individuals and include others, in particular Dr. Ivins.
QUESTION: What about Dr. Hatfill, though? Can you address that?
TAYLOR: Again, the evidence, they followed where it led. That's all I'm prepared to say on that at this point.
QUESTION: Dr. Hatfill was never established to have access in the bacteriology division or possession, obviously, of anthrax, yet his residence was searched in June of 2002. Further searches of his property were conducted throughout that year and beyond. Yet it took until, if I'm reading your documents correctly, late 2007 before you ever sought to search Bruce Ivins' vehicle or his residence.
Can you just speak to that gap?