Princeton anthrax spores were at a sorting mailbox

August 25, 2008

The box the spores were found in NJ was not a mailbox you as a person could put mail in. (Another paper said it was both a normal mailing box and a sorting box, see below.) It was one only postal employees could use according to the following story from 2002. If its the same box? Does anyone know if this was sorted out by the FBI or anyone else?

“In a search of more than 600 area mailboxes, agents said, the box at the corner of Nassau and Bank streets was the only one to test positive.”

“The box in which spores were found was used to store sorted incoming mail and outbound letters, leading some to speculate that a letter addressed to an area resident might have picked up spores on contaminated sorting equipment before arriving in Princeton.

After the test, agents canvassed the area with a photograph of Stephen Hatfill, a biologist who who investigators believe may have been involved in the attacks, local business owners said.”

So what mailboxes fed into this sorted mail mailbox? Also the claim he used the same mailbox twice seems to be unsupported if the mailbox they found spores in was a sorted mail mailbox the general public can’t use.

Is this something else than the box they alleged that Hatfill, I mean Berry, I mean Ivins used?

Search mailbox anthrax New Jersey

If the spores were cross contaminated, then what do we really know about where the letters were mailed from?

“The finding does not conclusively tie the anthrax mailings to Princeton, leaving the FBI still unable to answer the most basic questions like where the letters entered the postal system, let alone who sent the letters, spokesmen have said.”

From same Princetonian link. The spores could have come from cross contamination?

“The Palmer Square post office was also briefly closed last fall after a single spore of anthrax was found in a container inside the building.”

These spores could have been cross contaminated? How much do we really know? Someone could have put the letters in that box if they had a key? Or simply inserted it into the system someplace else and cross contamination is what got spores there?

The mailbox timeline was based on the 5 PM pick up on Monday Sep 18, 2001 and later in October for the 2nd mailing. How do they know the same mailbox was used? The timeline depends on the assumption the same mailbox was used both times. But if the spores were found on one box, you don’t know the same box was used for the two mailings.

That means the timeline for the two mailings is complicated. Then there is the issue of whether its a mailbox only available to the postal system or to the public that the spores were found in. The mailbox with spores, if only available to the postal service, doesn’t establish much of anything about the mailbox it was mailed in.

The mailbox used should have had a lot of spores? More than the lethal dose of 10,000? That many were cross contaminated, presumably, in some of the fatal cross contaminations?

Swabs are supposed to find 125 spores or more.

So questions are as follows.

Was the mailbox one not available to the public that spores were found in?

How many spores were found in it? Millions or hundreds or thousands? If the latter, then this was a cross contaminated box?

Even if the box was available to the public, it could have been cross contaminated?

Even if we had one of the boxes used, we still would have the problem of not knowing which date it was used. It would be a mistake to use the same box twice since that risks back contamination to the mailer.

If one or zero boxes available to the public are identified, then all the business about 5 PM or Saturday or Monday etc is lost.

That means the strings of days of Ivins working at the lab don’t link to the mailing date. In fact, the mailing date would likely be earlier than assumed by the FBI. That means the mailing would be while Ivins was accounted for at the lab.

Somehow the FBI must have found some box with spores that was available to the public. But that also could have been cross contaminated. Especially if it didn’t have millions of spores.

The actual mailbox used, should have had millions of spores? Unless someone opened a box and placed the letters in the system?

If two letters had a trillion spores inside each or 2 trillion inside each, then their outside should have millions? If they cross contaminated in the tens of thousands to kill then they should have had millions themselves to start? Most of the anthrax would be lost in the machines not transferred to other envelopes in a way that sticks to the destination. Some spores are lost continuously from the point of cross contamination, so that is a constant decrease.

The FBI has some box available to the public that has a 5 PM pick up date on a Monday. But how do they know that is the box and not cross contaminated? The mail carrier would have cross contaminated letters just from picking up from the mailbox. We know the cross contamination was over a million in the system to end up with some fatal doses at the end of letters delivered later?

So really, any mail box could have been the source? Or most likely somewhere else? It has to be some place a letter carrier would get mail? Unless a postal only box. I that case, it means little?

If the box was a postal only box, then we have to move the mailing date up a few days earlier. That means the mailing date was while Ivins was in the lab according to the records and couldn’t have mailed the letter. This is key.

One additional point. If the mailbox was a postal employees only box, then the mailbox used by the mailer must have been one used a couple days earlier. For the first mailing, Sep 18 roughly, that would be on the weekend or prior week. In that case, Ivins was in the lab when the mailbox available to the public was used.

Alternatively, if the FBI has a mailbox available to the public, and it doesn’t have millions of spores but only hundreds, then that box is likely a cross contamination box. That weakens the timing. Which weakens the power of the coincidences of the dates.

If the letters had trillions of spores on the inside, then they likely had millions on the outside. In any case, they cross contaminated later to cause lethal doses after loss in travel. It seems the mailbox initially receiving the letters should have had lethal doses in it. The mail carrier should have gotten sick at a minimum. This is quite a mystery all around. Its really not been thought through.


Is the reason the FBI was confused on the timeline on Monday Sep 17, 2001 because of these issues? Was the mailbox a sorting mailbox? That is why they had communication and confusion issues within the FBI and with Jeff Taylor of the DOJ? They were themselves confused on the timeline on the mailings because they had a fundamental error?

By Richard M. Smith of
December 20, 2002

The above link indicates the middle mailbox in the photo was the one with spores.

The FBI discovered anthrax spores in the original mailbox at this location in late August 2002. It is the only mailbox that anthrax spores have been found in the Trenton area. Speculation is that one or more anthrax letters were mailed from the box and spores leaked from one of the letters. The original box was sent to Maryland for forensics analysis and a new mailbox was put into its place.

“According to the sticker on the replacement mailbox, mail is picked up at the box at 11 AM and 3 PM, Monday through Saturday. There are no mail pickups on Sundays or holidays.”

In fall 2001, the New York Times reported that Dr. Weisfogel had some of kind of serious skin infection in September and October of 2001 which was original diagnosed as a spider bite. The article speculates that the infection might instead be cutaneous anthrax. The exact cause of the infection has never been determined.,%20nj&mag=5&ard=1#mvt=m&lat=40.348484&lon=-74.663478&mag=5&zoom=14&q1=5%20nassau%20st%20princeton%2C%20nj

5 Nassau st Princeton, NJ 08542

This is an odd location to pick. Why not pick some isolated box so as to do it all unobserved, if somehow this was the mailing box. Even parking is uncertain at this box? Also, someone who knew the Princeton campus would make sense for the mailer? If they picked it to be near bus and train routes to make it hard to figure out who did it, then they had to know that.

search: sorted mail , anthrax Nassau Banks Princeton

Is it possible that the 5 PM pickup time at that corner was for one of the 3 boxes usable by the public and the contaminated box was one only the postal service can use? In that case, the timing issues are seriously weakened. Moreover, the implication would be that the mailing by the mailer was days earlier. That could put it during the time Ivins was working at the lab.


Anthrax probe goes door to door

The Trenton Times
Wednesday, August 14, 2002

The tainted mailbox was sent to a U.S. Army facility in Aberdeen, Md., to be tested.

The box had two purposes: It was used by the public to drop off mail and was used by the Postal Service to hold sorted mail for letter carriers to deliver.

==Alt summary

I found another source that says the mailbox was used by the public and mail carriers.

“The box had two purposes: It was used by the public to drop off mail and was used by the Postal Service to hold sorted mail for letter carriers to deliver. ”

“Anthrax probe goes door to door

The Trenton Times
Wednesday, August 14, 2002 ”

In any case, it seems the FBI has picked this box as the mailbox to fit the lab times which reduces the improbability factor. It seems as or maybe more likely this was a cross contamination box.

One person in the area, Dr. Weisfogel, got sick, but no mail carrier. The one person was not identified in time as anthrax and it was a skin infection. So it appears more likely that the spore count in the box was low. So this was likely a cross contamination event, not a direct deposit so to speak. In that case, the strings of nights and the timing of pickup at this box are not so closely linked as the FBI thinks.

Moreover, if it was the transfer use of the box that had the cross contamination, as seems likely, that means the mailing date by the mailer was earlier. That puts it during the period that Ivins was in the lab each time. That means he didn’t do it alone, if he was involved.

It appears the FBI may be caught again fixing the story and evidence and what they present to their preference for a lone nut. If someone else did it, they picked a perfect patsy in Ivins, if they did. The FBI would latch onto him was a safe prediction if this was some calculating third party.


The hours on the contaminated mailbox tell us little if that mailbox was cross-contaminated. Until we know if it was, it also helps us little. It also doesn’t make sense that the direct deposit mailbox was not full of toxic anthrax that caused several people to get sick.

How was the envelope prepared with so few anthrax spores on the outside? That seems difficult. If he was working with the envelop in a safe room wearing a hazmat suit then the envelope should have been covered in spores?

The envelope could have been mailed anywhere in the post office zone for that post office? Or were there very few spores on the letter originally, and the spores in the mailbox are a clue? We don’t seem to really know.

Much of the power of the case against Ivins comes from the connected strings of days ending on the mailings. The assumption that this mailbox was used and the letter mailed by 5 PM on Monday Sep 17, 2001 and then later on the Tuesday after Columbus Day at the same box is part of what drives the picture of Ivins in the lab every day up to the day the letter was mailed. But that picture seems to have come first and the decision he mailed it both times from this box by 5 PM came second.


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