Suicide In 2001 Anthrax Case
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David Willman of the LA Times breaks a big story on the post-9/11 terrorism wave that is one reason why we're in Iraq:

A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the last 18 years worked at the government's elite biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation.

Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.

Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator's office in Washington.

Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI. ...

The anthrax mailings killed five people, crippled national mail service, shut down a Senate office building and spread fear of further terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The extraordinary turn of events followed the government's payment in June of a settlement valued at $5.82 million to a former government scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, who was long targeted as the FBI's chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax.

Early in the year, I took a look at a third Ft. Detrick scientist (since moved on to other jobs) — i.e., neither Ivins nor Hatfill — whose name has been fairly widely tossed around as the possible anthrax assassin. The more I Googled, the more the pieces seemed to fit together. I was about ready to post my conspiracy theory when I took one more look at it and — poof — I realized that I didn't have any real evidence at all. So, thankfully, I didn't post his name, and instead wrote:
"I'm not going to mention his name, but if you know who I'm talking about and think he did it, try to force yourself into a gestalt where you assume he didn't do it and see if you can think of less sinister explanations for the facts known about him."
As far as I can recall, Ivins's name, in contrast, didn't come up much in the conspiracy theorizing. Here's a Google search that shows relatively little in the way of theorizing about his involvement — even though his name was published in USA Today in 2004 in regard to some dodgy doings at Detrick.

His name was featured suspiciously in the book Vaccine A by investigative journalist Gary Matsumoto about the anthrax vaccine that Ivins helped develop. But I don't see anything on Google suggesting Matsumoto linked Ivins to involvement with the 2001 terror attacks.

In general, it appears that almost nobody — whether government investigators, professional journalists, or lone obsessives in their bathrobes — suspected Ivins, at least not enough to leave much of a trace on Google. (Indeed, most of the Google searches on "Ivins anthrax" turn up references to the late pundit Molly Ivins.)

For example, here's the part of Ed Lake's website where he collects all the published facts on the anthrax attacks where he speculates on traits of the supplier and who the mailer might be. He doesn't sound too far off, but neither set of traits seems to fit Ivins terribly well. Lake's profile is in bold:

1. The supplier probably took the Ames anthrax from a government facility.


2. The supplier was probably fired from that facility.

Not when Lake wrote this a few years ago.

3. The supplier is probably considered an unstable personality, perhaps even a "drunk".

Sounds more like delusions of grandeur, according to Ivins's brother.

4. The supplier is almost certainly unmarried.

No, Ivins was married.

5. The supplier is a loner with few friends - if any. 6. The supplier is disgruntled and uncomfortable working with others. 7. The supplier probably uses phrases like "I keep telling them, but they don't listen." 8. The supplier doesn't care much about "rules". 9. The supplier believes that a free exchange of information is key to advancements in science. 10. The supplier may have had knowledge needed by the refiner/mailer.

I don't know about 5-10.

11. The supplier is probably in his late 40s or early 50s.

A little older.

12. The supplier probably lost his security clearance as a result of his actions.

No, Ivins got off scot-free despite admitting to breaking rules regarding handling of anthrax.

It's striking that here's one of the big historical mysteries of recent years, and yet nobody, official or unofficial, seemed to have had a clue for at least five years. I thought the Internet was supposed to make this kind of thing untenable.

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