Patterico's Pontifications

8/3/2008

Investigating the Anthrax Case

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 2:19 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

By now, most of us have read about the recent suicide of Bruce Ivins, a government scientist who was reportedly about to be indicted on murder charges in connection with the 2001 anthrax letters. Letters containing anthrax were mailed to the news media and government leaders, caused 5 deaths, sickened 17, and terrorized Americans in the wake of 9/11.

An article in today’s Washington Post reports new details about how the FBI linked Ivins to the anthrax:

“Although the Army biological weapons lab where Ivins worked _ Ft. Detrick in Frederick, Md. _ had long been on the FBI’s radar, scientists were unable to pinpoint the specific strain used in the attacks until recently.

The FBI recruited top genome researchers from across the country and gave them “no rules, so we could do the best and most compelling approaches,” said the scientist. At least $10 million was spent on the case, in what the scientist called “clearly the most expensive case FBI’s ever undertaken. And the most scientifically compelling case.”

The new genome technology used to track down Ivins was either not available or too expensive to use often until about three years ago.”

Researchers were able to isolate differences in the Ames strain used at Ft. Dietrick and trace it to Ivins’ research. Such genome advances could be valuable in the legal and medical fields.

Another Washington Post article addresses the FBI investigation and how it impacted the scientists at Ft. Dietrick. Some scientists express skepticism about Ivins’ guilt, especially in light of what happened to their former colleague Stephen Hatfill.

EDIT: I forgot to include this information in my post. The AP reports that Bruce Ivins had been under psychiatric care, both recently and perhaps for some time. The report includes these disquieting statements by his therapist Jean Duley at a July 24 court hearing in which Duley was granted a protective order from Ivins:

“As far back as the year 2000, the respondent [Ivins] has actually attempted to murder several other people, either through poisoning. He is a revenge killer. When he feels that he’s been slighted or has had – especially toward women – he plots and actually tries to carry out revenge killings,” Duley said.

She added that Ivins “has been forensically diagnosed by several top psychiatrists as a sociopathic, homicidal killer. I have that in evidence. And through my working with him, I also believe that to be very true.”

It’s hard to believe Ivins was allowed to work at Ft. Dietrick, let alone research and handle dangerous biologicals. As tragic as the anthrax letter attacks were, it sounds like they could have been much worse.

— DRJ

48 Responses to “Investigating the Anthrax Case”

  1. When psychiatrists make such a diagnosis, is that reported anywhere? It seems as if the only reason the diagnosis came out was because the therapist was asking for a protective order. Who knew about it otherwise?

    rsb1 (92fd54)

  2. They find the most dangerous pschopaths imaginable and put them in the most delicate postions of trust imaginable.

    j curtis (c84b9e)

  3. rsb1,

    The AP article said the Army refused to comment on Ivins or its security procedures at Ft. Dietrick. Based on the articles, I think Ivins became the chief suspect in the past year or so. I think he was relieved of his position July 11, 2008, and institutionalized, which may have been when Jean Duley started treating him. However, it sounded like Ivin has had psychiatric care before July.

    This is obviously very troubling. My guess is that the Army, government, and probably businesses try to put a wall up between supervisors and employees’ medical and psychiatric treatment. Employees won’t seek care if you punish them for seeking medical or psychiatric care. The downside is cases like this. I think there should be a higher standard of oversight for people who deal with dangerous substances like Ivins but, as we’ve seen so often, it’s hard to resolve conflicts between national security and individual rights.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  4. I made the mistake of reading Greenwald’s essay on the anthrax case at Salon. I literally had a headache by the end at all the bits and pieces he was trying to pull together into a conspiricy.

    MamaAJ (788539)

  5. more fun for you.

    And then there are the lies about Bentonite.

    JAR (08d0b1)

  6. JAR,

    I certainly don’t mind talking about what may have motivated Ivins – in a sense, one of the reasons for comments is to expand on the original post – but that wasn’t my focus. If it is true that Ivins wanted financial gain, then he reminds me of Americans who become spies. I’ve read they are often motivated by money instead of ideology.

    However, Ivins’ brother was quoted in the AP article as saying he wasn’t too surprised because his brother “considered himself like a god.” Money, power, fame … sad, isn’t it?

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  7. Just running over all the angles.
    You might be interested in this as well.

    JAR (08d0b1)

  8. I’ve read they are often motivated by money instead of ideology.

    Anyone who has ever so much as read a Tom Clancy novel knows the four basic motivations for those who betray – whether it is a friend, one’s family, or country. The acronym is MICE: Money, Ideology, Conscience or Ego.

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  9. Let’s just keep in mind that they still hadn’t arrested him after years of investigations. I think a lot of what we’re hearing now is an attempt to put the case to bed. The feds clearly did not have an accurate or successful investigation (And have paid millions to the other guy they were so certain was the culprit).

    Obviously this guy shouldn’t have been involved with such materials. Similarly for Hatfill, though.

    Juan (4cdfb7)

  10. I’d like for this to put the ending on the anthrax incidents but the fact remains that the FBI has screwed this case up that it is hard to figure out what to think.

    Hatfield just pocketed a bit shy of six million from the government thanks to the FBI bungling.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  11. By the way, anyone paying any attention to Greenwald’s ravings on this topic is pretty hilarious.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  12. As far back as the year 2000, the respondent [Ivins] has actually attempted to murder several other people,

    What! Why is that being glazed over? Why did no one report that to authorities. I mean attempted murder is a bit serious don’t ya think? I don’t think doctor / patient priveledge covers crimes or even serious threats such as this.

    Brett (225570)

  13. If Ivins did these things, he may not have admitted them until recently.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  14. JAR,

    I appreciate the links since I don’t always read those sources. It’s good to read different perspectives.

    As an aside, the TPM link jeered at Ivins for writing about hair whorls and homosexuality to his local newspaper. I was struck by that because when I visited the NIH with my son, they made a special point of locating and analyzing his hair whorl. They said studies suggested that the number and direction of hair whorls may be correlated with specific developmental or genetic traits. Their theory was that hair whorls vary depending on the way the brain develops.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  15. She added that Ivins “has been forensically diagnosed by several top psychiatrists as a sociopathic, homicidal killer. I have that in evidence.

    That sounds like there is prior knowledge of his murderous tendencies.

    Brett (225570)

  16. Any time you read a column with the first line: “Glenn Greenwald’s Salon piece is a must-read….” you can stop reading right there.

    Here’s a different take on Greenwald’s article

    Steverino (1dda08)

  17. Brett,

    It did to me, too, but I think it’s likely the screenings were done by several psychiatrists since Ivins was institutionalized in mid-July. He probably received a lot of attention since then and I think Duley used their conclusions to bolster her request for a protective order.

    If a mental health professional were treating Ivins for years and knew he was actively trying to kill people, I feel sure the ethics of his/her profession required that to be reported. It’s hard for me to believe that any professional would maintain a confidence concerning a murder threat.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  18. Steverino, its hilarious but you could use Second Hand Conjecture’s piece as a template for debunking every Greenwald piece.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  19. If a mental health professional were treating Ivins for years and knew he was actively trying to kill people, I feel sure the ethics of his/her profession required that to be reported. It’s hard for me to believe that any professional would maintain a confidence concerning a murder threat.

    Comment by DRJ — 8/3/2008 @ 4:45 pm

    They wouldn’t. They specifically tell them: if you say things that lead them to believe you are a threat to yourself or others, they are required to report it, to protect the sick ones/others.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  20. That dates back to Tarasoff.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  21. DRJ –

    Okay, that makes sense.(That she must have been alluding to several recent analysis of his mental health)

    Brett (225570)

  22. SPQR #19 – you could use Second Hand Conjecture’s piece as a template for debunking every Greenwald piece.

    Great point. Debunking not just Greenwald, by the way, but a great many of his fellow travelers. The rhetoric is failing to move beyond the BDS template. It’s like a Mad-Libs (pun intentional) for any political opponents.

    Apogee (186a12)

  23. I’m caught wondering if we have bent-over backwards too far in accomodating individual rights in pre-employment security investigations?
    As someone who underwent an extensive background check as a twenty-something in the early 60’s that looked into every aspect of my then very short existance, has something changed that allows the Ivens, and others, to get jobs in highly sensitive positions?
    Someone has to be asking themselves if any aspects of Ivens’ behavior could/should have been discovered much earlier?
    Or, have we backed away so far from the “paranoia” of J.J.Angleton, that people we would earlier have called “mad men” are acceptable security risks these days?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  24. Steverino, its hilarious but you could use Second Hand Conjecture’s piece as a template for debunking every Greenwald piece

    .

    Actually, at A Second Hand Conjecture, we have an entire category devoted to Greenwald, where we pick out his rhetoric, reveal his rhetorical sleights of hand etc. In addition we use it to collect other people doing the same. We call it Glenn Greenwalds Carnival of Fisking. We accept new submissions gladly.

    Lance (3f289c)

  25. Damn, link didn’t work. Try here

    Lance (3f289c)

  26. Lance, you’ve stronger stomachs than I.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  27. In the AP piece it says:
    “”Client has a history dating to his graduate days of homicidal threats, plans and actions towards therapists,” Duley wrote in court documents last week, adding that his psychiatrist had described him as homicidal and sociopathic.”
    What history? Could that only be describing his own recent accounts?

    rsb1 (92fd54)

  28. The Tarasoff decision applies in California but I don’t know if it does in all other states. There is also the difference between “duty to warn” and “duty to protect.”

    The amazing thing to me is the willingness of federal agencies to ignore these behavioral patterns in people with sensitive jobs. Think of Aldrich Ames and Hansen, both of whom had classic behavior patterns of security risks. Ivins is just one more in a sorry series of blunders.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  29. Mike, Tarasoff is pretty widely cited.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  30. rsb1,

    I’m not in the mental health field and I haven’t had much involvement in it except marginally in legal cases, but I think you could read that part of the article to mean different things. Here are my guesses:

    It could be that Ivins had a history of threats that were known and may or may not have been reported; that he had a history of making anonymous threats that only became known recently; or that he had a history of threats only against therapists.

    If it was the last option, I think there are times when counseling causes conflict between the patient and the mental health therapist. Maybe the therapists felt they were empty threats and it’s only in hindsight that the threats seem more ominous. I don’t think we know yet, especially since early news reports are not always reliable or complete.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  31. Since Laura Rozen was one who raised the specter of “Suspect X” which based on Meryl Nass and Barbara Rosemberg, all fingered Hatfill,and the message was spread by Nicholas Kristof of the Times you’d think her conjectures were more thought out. There seems to have been no apology to Hatfill from Rozen, Nass goes on her anthrax
    archive blog, speculating away. Kristof, (crickets in the background)

    (Ironically, Ivins, is in the acknowledgement of her piece on the Rhodesian small pox outbreak, which was used to flag Hatfill) Actually by the same logic, one could implicate Dr. Nass herself; seeing what her area of expertise was. Actually it sounds too close to a “Millenium” “X files” or
    the Canadian “Regenesis” plot. It seems unusual that Ivins would react in this way; as he could have challenged the methodology of the
    investigation and relied at least partially on the vindication of Hatfill; to bolster his case.
    Much of the speculation, implicating Hatfill, ie: dredging up the pond seems flawed in retrospect. The fact that it took nearly seven years, doesn’t inspire me with confidence

    narciso (c36902)

  32. Any time you read a column with the first line: “Glenn Greenwald’s Salon piece is a must-read….” you can stop reading right there.

    After reading it and taking a couple Motrin, I did a search to see if anyone had fisked it. Link after link was exactly that: a breathless “you’ve got to read this” and absolutely no thought involved or required.

    MamaAJ (788539)

  33. From John Wilkes Booth, to Charles Guiteau (Garfield’s killer), to Leon Czolgosz (McKinley’s killer), to Gavrilo Princip (who ignited WWI) to Lee Harvey Oswald (and all those I decline to list in the interest of space), whether its political assassination, or mass murder, there is ALWAYS a long history of mental pathology by the perpetrator. Curiously, if politics is involved it favors the Left. So when you see that homeless person on the freeway on/off ramp, wearing a Che` t-shirt, you are looking at an example of the person who will probably start WWIII!

    C. Norris (0138d4)

  34. How important does a victim have to be before it is called an “assassination”, instead of just “murder”?

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  35. “The amazing thing to me is the willingness of federal agencies to ignore these behavioral patterns in people with sensitive jobs.” by Mike K at #29.

    These people (the functionally mentally ill) seem to become either institutionally invisible or bureaucratically dismissed. Lee Harvey Oswald was not “detained” on the day JFK went to Dallas because, acording to Harvey’s FBI case agent in Dallas: “Harvey had made no threats against the president”. The mentally ill may be crazy, but they are not so stupid that they cannot become “invisible”. The 9/11 hi-jackers also come to mind.

    FWIW, I was involved during my ten years in the service with weapons nuclear, biological and chemical. Believe me, I’ll take “glowing-in-the-dark” to “bugs and gas” any day. I’m glad that they caught (?) this guy. But will gov’t. learn? Will a free and open society?

    C. Norris (0138d4)

  36. The therapist who filed the restraining order spelled it “theripist” … where’d she get her degree, Harverd? Greenwald is right.

    BF (7fc451)

  37. How curious. Investigators think Ivins had a long-standing fixation on Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  38. Smeared in life, smeared in death. They really perved him up with this sorority thing.

    What highly educated man with ultra-high clearance would blab and blab in group therapy to an under qualified “theripist?” Don’t you think he’d be a tad more discerning?

    Fact is he was hounded, smeared and isolated by the same kind of sleazy innuendo you’re convicting him with. It’s all bogus and he’s the third person they tried to pin this on. Sad.

    BF (7fc451)

  39. And why was a newly certified group addiction counselor who herself has a history of battery, drugs, DUIs and bankruptcies fully briefed on one of the most sensitive criminal investigations in history?

    BF (7fc451)

  40. “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains however improbable, must be the truth.”…..Sherlock Holmes.

    C. Norris (5e107c)

  41. FBI documents released today, 08/06/08, point to Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, an anthrax researcher at Ft. Detrick, Md….The documents allege that Ivins submitted “false samples” of anthrax to mislead investigators and was unable to explain away his other unusual activities around the time of the crimes in 2001, the federal documents showed. (paraphrased)

    In other words: “Don’t look for a conspiracy when incompetence (however slight) will explain the situation.” (unknown).

    C. Norris (02ce8d)

  42. “Don’t look for a conspiracy when incompetence (however slight) will explain the situation.”

    Patronizing, pacifying and not at all true. But it does make a person feel safer, so why not? In fact you cannot only feel safer with that attitude, you can also feel smarter, more capable and kind of superior. You may be on to something.

    BF (7fc451)

  43. The “theripist” stated in court that Ivins was “forensically diagnosed” as basically a murderous psycho… let’s break that down, shall we?

    “Forensically” means Ivins wasn’t anywhere near them when they made that diagnosis. He never met them, never knew them.

    Let me make a reasonable guess as to how she came to use these words: the FBI agent who encouraged her to get the restraining order fed her the official psychological profile of the Anthrax Killer that had been done by real psychiatrists in the aftermath of the attack. Then he attributed that forensic diagnosis to Ivins and that’s why she says fully awkward things like “he is a revenge killer”… really? What was her flat out proof that he had ever killed?

    She was told by someone that Ivins was the guy and then she smeared him in court with the “forensic diagnosis” of the anthrax killer, not of Ivins, but of whoever that killer might be. What was said about Ivins may have been based on a total smear that had nothing to do with anything real.

    Civil lawyers should be falling all over themselves to get to the Ivins family and represent them.

    Ivins should have a railroad named after him.

    BF (7fc451)

  44. Fox News has more about Ivins, including a scientist who claims Ivins stalked her and that she reported Ivins to the FBI in 2002 as a possible source of the anthrax poisonings. There’s also more on the Kappa Kappa Gamma connection. We’re only hearing one side of this story but this information makes Ivins look very suspicious.

    DRJ (9d1be2)

  45. Smear job.

    Guilty until proven innocent.

    Why doesn’t Congress call on White House officials to explain why they went on CIPRO BEFORE THE ANTHRAX ATTACKS?

    bf (d9146d)

  46. Ivins should have a railroad named after him.

    Yes, they could rename Amtrak. It’s always falling off the tracks, and is totally disfunctional.

    Another Drew (3397e8)

  47. So, Ivins mailed one from Florida too? He passed TWO polygraph examinations at Fort Detrick.

    Being servile doesn’t make you patriotic, it makes you a sell out to your country. If Ivins is being railroaded, and you’re too scared to ask tough implicating questions for fear of being labeled a “conspiracy theorist” what won’t you sign on for?

    Most of the wholly circumstantial evidence against Ivins has already been proven false. That “sorority” turned out to be a storage facility. He got smeared with innuendo. The “flask” he was supposedly in sole possession of, over 100 people had access to, and the original strain in question wasn’t created in Ivins lab, the CIA had the same strain, plus a few of their contractors had the same strain and the flask wasn’t weaponized anthrax, which is a process he was incapable of doing, due to lack of know how, time or equipment. It’s all bullshit. Here is a blog of an anthrax expert who knew him. She doesn’t buy any of this crap:

    http://anthraxvaccine.blogspot.com/

    bf (d9146d)


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