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Anthrax whodunit: Is it a cold case file?

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A recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is an ironic reminder that one of the greatest whodunits in recent history remains a threat to the safety of Americans. Steven Hatfill, the man labeled a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation, has been allowed to go forward with his defamation suit against The New York Times. Clearly the anthrax investigation still weighs on Mr. Hatfill far more than it does on anyone else - and that's a shame.

The anthrax attacks were not only our first national experience with mass bioterrorism, they represent the greatest unsolved act of terrorism our country has faced since 9/11. Yet, while the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington continue to color national discourse, the anthrax mailings seem to have retreated from memory. The failure to apprehend or even identify a suspect represents a major failing for law enforcement and points out a serious problem in the investigation.

It is worth remembering that for all the horror of 9/11, the question of culpability has been little in doubt. Within days, our government determined who the responsible parties were. The anthrax killings, however, remain unsolved. Indeed, despite the attacks having been leveled at the country's political and economic nerve centers, and an unprecedented response by federal and state agencies, investigators seem no closer today to identifying the guilty than they were when the first envelopes showed up at NBC, the New York Post, and other news outlets four years ago.


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