August 6, 2008

Anthrax evidence

First take on evidence against Dr. Bruce Ivins, as revealed to victims' families.

CNN reports:

"At the time of the attacks, he was the custodian of a large flask of highly purified anthrax spores that possess certain genetic mutations identical to the anthrax used in the attacks," according to a July 11 affidavit from a U.S. postal inspector. ...

A source familiar with the investigation said Tuesday that in the fall of 2001, Ivins borrowed a machine that can convert wet anthrax -- the kind used at Fort Detrick where Ivins worked -- into dry powder -- the kind used in the anthrax letters.

By the way, the first anthrax attack, as I recall, wasn't technically in the Fall, it was on September 18, 2001, in the very late summer. So, I'd like to hear the exact date.

Washington Post reports on the timeline:

"According to a chart investigators submitted with their October 2007 request for a search warrant, Ivins began working longer hours in mid-August 2001, logging lengthy evening shifts from Sept. 14, 2001, through Sept. 16, 2001, with another spike in late hours in early October 2001.

Ivins explained his longer shifts by telling investigators that he retreated to the lab "to escape" from problems at home, Dellafera said in his affidavit. The document referred to e-mail messages Ivins sent to a friend describing his rising stress loads, depression and feelings of "isolation -- and desolation" in 2000 and through the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The anthrax letters sent to congressional offices and news organizations that fall were postmarked Sept. 18, 2001, and Oct. 9, 2001, investigators said.

The timeline fits pretty well: Ivins' anthrax vaccine project got cancelled before 9/11. Then 9/11 happens showing how vulnerable we are to terrorism. He spends the following weekend, Friday through Sunday in the lab. Then, after work on Monday, Feb. 17, he drives 198 miles to Princeton and back to mail the letter. It gets postmarked on 9/18.

From the NYT:

Documents Detail Evidence Against Anthrax Scientist

WASHINGTON — A few days before the anthrax attacks of 2001, the scientist who has emerged as the suspect in the case sent e-mails warning that Osama bin Laden’s “terrorists for sure have anthrax and sarin gas” and have “just decreed death to all Jews and all Americans,” according to documents released by the government on Wednesday.

The documents, released on the orders of federal judge, were made public to bolster the Justice Department’s contention that the scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, was the man behind the lethal mailings that killed five people and made at least 17 others ill while the country was still traumatized by the Sept. 11 attacks.

The segment about the e-mails does not reveal to whom they were sent — the address was redacted before the documents’ release — but it notes that the wording was similar, and in some instances identical, to the language in the anthrax-laced letters. “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” were phrases that appeared both in the doctor’s e-mails and in the letters.

Moreover, the envelopes that held the letters were “federal eagle” envelopes, so-named because of the eagle perched on a bar bearing the initials “USA” in the upper right-hand corner, and bore tiny but tell-tale defects that searchers determined were bought from a post office in Maryland or Virginia, the official documents relate.

And of the 16 government, commercial and university laboratories that had virulent anthrax strains like the one used in the deadly mailings, only one was located in Maryland or Virginia — the Fort Detrick, Md., lab where Dr. Ivins worked before his July 29 suicide, the documents say.

In addition, searches of Dr. Ivins’s home in Frederick, Md., turned up “hundreds” of similar letters that had not yet been sent to media outlets and members of Congress, people who were briefed by the F.B.I. on Wednesday said. Those people said investigators found that Dr. Ivins sometimes kept odd, night-time hours in the lab, and that he would sometimes drive to mailboxes miles out of his way.

“Ivins has been unable to give investigators an adequate explanation for his late night laboratory work hours around the time” of the mailings, the documents say. And around that time, Dr. Ivins was suffering from “incredible paranoid, delusional thoughts at times,” in the doctor’s own words to a colleague, and feared that he might not be able to control his own behavior, the documents go on.

The material released Wednesday is meant to bolster the F.B.I.’s circumstantial case against Dr. Ivins, who by many accounts had descended into paranoia and despair before he took his own life.

As for motive, the documents suggest that in addition to whatever long-term personal problems he had, Dr. Ivins was distraught because a company had lost its government approval to produce an anthrax vaccine for troops, and he believed the vaccine was essential.

So, mass-murderer or harmless weirdo who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? I lean toward the former, but I'm not sure yet.

My experience, as I've gone through life, is that the fraction of people who, at some point in their lives, aren't quite right in the head is much higher than you might imagine.

I suspect that the terrorist wasn't actually trying to kill people, just to scare the country into taking anthrax vaccines seriously.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Dedalus said...

Yeah, Israel and America in the same breath. As if our interests are exactly the same.
That makes sense. Because after all, Israel love us so much. We should fight for her.

I mean, that's why the Jews in America who support Israel, and even have dual citizenship, are working so hard to get as many immigrants in the country on the sly as they can - cause, naturally, they want us to know how much the world loves us. And what better way then to tell you in person. No?

Anyway, by now it's pretty obvious that the USA is just a name on the map and that Israel controls this country from head to toe and inside out. Only in that respect does it makes sense to put the two names together. America is of interest to Israel because quite simply, we belong to them. They own this place.
That's why in the past few years you see some of their writers online telling us about the similarities between Anti-Semetism and Anti-Americanism. Of course, they are one and the same for the reasons given above. But in truth, when it comes to an America that was supposed to be about Freedom and Individuality the most virulent Anti-Americans were the same people supporting Israel. This can be seen in their treatment of people like Sam Francis, Joe Sobran, and Mr. Sailer himself, among many, many others.

I admit, that I too could be counted among the slow-witted in the States who, though I had a sense, knew it wasn't enough, but still couldn't connect the dots. So, I went on with my life. Until my life, and what was happening around me, were so hopelessly intertwined that, if I was ever going to even have a life, I would have to free myself emotionally and psychologically from this mess. And to do that I would have to learn more. Only then could I begin, what has proven to be, a difficult seperation process that is far from over.

I don't think this experience of mine is at all unique today. But it's happening. Thank God for the Internet.

RKU said...

I really wonder how suspicious it was that Ivins sent one or two friends emails saying he thought Osama had Anthrax or Sarin.

After all, that's exactly what all the neocons and neocon-journalists like Judy Miller had been saying for years. Maybe Ivins read it in the Weekly Standard or saw it on FoxNews.

And remember he was an Anthrax biowarfare researcher. So wouldn't a biowarfare researcher tend to focus on the alleged biowarfare weapons of Osama?

I'd bet that half the biowarfare researchers in America sent similar sorts of email to their friends around the same time.

Anonymous said...

As Neil Craig noted on another thread, they had all the info to narrow the list of suspects down to a very few people very early on. Some, shall we say, creative interrogations and interviews of the very few people with access and expertise, and I would think they'd have their man pretty quick. What has the FBI been doing for seven years? Famous But Incompetent indeed.

At one step down from the deliberate-conspiracy-to-get-the-PATRIOT Act-passed hypothesis, I wouldn't dismiss the possibility that it was a government drill gone bizarrely and insanely wrong, and it's taken them this long to concoct a cover story.

Or, as it just might be, this lone nut just went off the rails one day. He certainly wouldn't be the first normal-appearing psychophath.

--Senor Doug

Anonymous said...

Leak: We know he was the anthrax mailer because the mailbox was 100 yards from a sorority he was obsessed with.

Reality: It was 100 yards from a sorority storage site which had a member that he dated 27 years ago at another school in Ohio.

Blode said...

Thank you, Steve, for going out on a limb and suggesting a possible motive. No one else has done that that I've read.

It's fairly plausible - he was someone who wanted people to take his field more seriously, and chose the most unethical of methods to try to change that. Others are content to spread panic and portray themselves as the only logical savior - less unethical, but in sum probably about as damaging.

RobertHume said...

They found similar letters and envelopes in his house?

So the handwriting matches? That would be conclusive. Why don't they tell us that?

A mismatch might not be conclusive, perhaps he had a partner.

Michael said...

Steve: "My experience, as I've gone through life, is that the fraction of people who, at some point in their lives, aren't quite right in the head is much higher than you might imagine."

And ain't that the case!

Anonymous said...

to roberthume,

I think we can safely assume Ivins worked alone. Played alone. Did a lot of things alone.

Here's my favorite bit from the AP article:

An avid juggler, Ivins gave juggling demonstrations around Frederick in the 1980s.

"One time, he demonstrated his juggling skills by lying on his back in the department and juggling with his hands," said Byrne, who described Ivins as "eccentric."

Bill said...

My experience, as I've gone through life, is that the fraction of people who, at some point in their lives, aren't quite right in the head is much higher than you might imagine.

-S. Sailer

I like that quote. It's a keeper.