Why Did Anthrax Suspect Ivins Recently Call His Counselor from 2000?
August 13, 2008, 04:25 PM
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A point that's often overlooked in the anthrax case is that mad scientist Bruce Ivins had at least two counselors over the years who were disturbed enough by what he said during therapy sessions to alert the authorities that he was likely to murder somebody.

His 2008 counselor, who led a group therapy session for substance abusers, had to get a judge to issue a restraining order against Ivins after he threatened to murder her, along with his colleagues at work. This poor woman has had her dirty laundry aired all over the Internet by people trying to discredit her. Of course, Ivins made threats in front of his therapy group, so if you don't believe the group leader, you could just ask the other members of the group. But, I guess, the theory then would be that they are all drunks and pill-poppers too, so you can't believe them either ... or something.

Tellingly, Ivins' therapist in 2000 went to the cops, too, because Ivins had told her he intended to poison a young woman if she lost a soccer match. Fortunately, her team won.

That's like Anton Chigur demanding the that gas station clerk in "No Country for Old Men" flip a coin to see if he lives or dies. It's just not sane.

For me, that evidence that he was homicidally loony many years before the FBI had ever heard of him is, more than anything else, what caused me to change my evaluation of the case against Ivins from Plausible to Highly Probable. When a suspect kills himself, that's usually a sign of guilt. Perhaps, though, the FBI badgered an innocent man into suicidal depression?

But, it now turns out that Ivins had boasted about much of the modus operandi of the 2001 attacks in 2000—poisoning people and taking long drives to anonymously mail things without anybody noticing.

Moreover, it appears that the FBI was not in contact with his 2000 counselor until this summer. Evidently, they had settled upon him as the main suspect before talking to his 2000 counselor.

Strangely enough, it was Ivins himself who set in motion the surfacing of his 2000 therapist. Why did he do it? The Washington Post reported on August 7 about his 2000 counselor, who has had the good sense to stay anonymous and not endure the kind of abuse to which his 2008 counselor has been subjected:

The counselor had not heard from Ivins for years until he called out of the blue about two months ago. Politely, "he asked whether I remembered him," she said. And he asked whether she could give him his records for his attorney.

When FBI agents called her late last month [July] — near the day [July 29, 2008] Ivins swallowed a lethal dose of Tylenol — she replied, "In all my 25 years of counseling, there is only one client the FBI would call me about."[Acquaintances and Counselor Recall the Scientist's Dark Side, August 7, 2008]

So, why did Ivins' attorney want Ivins' psychiatric records from 2000?

The only rational explanation that I can come up with is that his attorney was considering, with Ivins' cooperation, a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea in the anthrax terrorism case.

Ivins would have been crazy not to plead insanity!

Judging from what we've seen of Ivins emails, you could make a decent argument that he was close to legally insane in 2000. My vague impression is that he wasn't quite as crazy in 2001, perhaps due to the medication he'd been prescribed: I haven't heard about as many deranged emails from 2001 as from 2000.

In summary, we should have a national commission to investigate the anthrax terrorism. Put on it non-politicians who could master the genetics and the criminal investigation — Henry Harpending, Vincent Bugliosi, Richard Posner, people of that caliber. My guess would be that Ivins will turn out to be the killer.

By the way, Science has a helpful article on the genetic side of the FBI's case.