Justice Department reverses course on Ivins

The U.S. Justice Department recently submitted court documents correcting a legal filing in order to reassert its conclusion that a lone federal scientist was behind the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others.

Court papers submitted last week suggested that the Justice Department may have altered its position that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the perpetrator, according to Boston.com.

The government announced that it was not changing its position and that the previous filings contained inaccurate information.

The court filings, prepared by the civil division of the Justice Department, were part of a $50 million lawsuit filed by Maureen Stevens, the widow of the first victim in the anthrax attacks.

The Justice Department is attempting to get a federal judge to dismiss the suit, which contends that the government failed to adequately guard anthrax located at the U.S. Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, Boston.com reports.

The government’s motions assert that there is no proof that its actions, or lack of actions, led to Stevens’ death. They also reject the claim that the U.S. Army facility had a history of failing to adequately track its pathogens back to 1992.

The recent corrections involved whether a containment laboratory at Ft. Detrick that Ivins had access to could be used to turn anthrax from a liquid into the powder form used in the attacks. Last week’s filing said the lab did not have the equipment, according to Boston.com. The corrected filings stated that a containment lab had the equipment, though it was not the lab in which the anthrax used in the attacks was stored.

Ivins committed suicide in 2008 as authorities narrowed in on him as their suspect in the attacks.