Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 1, 2008

Anthrax Attack Suspect Dead

Filed under: Biosecurity,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Jonah Czerwinski on August 1, 2008

The LA Times is reporting the suicide death of the bioweapons scientist employed at Ft. Detrick who was considered by the FBI to be the suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and severely sickened 17 others. Steven Hatfill? Nope.

The LA Times report said the Feds ruled out Hatfill and settled on Bruce E. Ivins, a different bioweapons expert at Ft. Detrick, as the culprit. Hatfill had been under investigation for years and publicly proclaimed “a person of interest” by then Attorney General John Ashcroft.

In June, the Justice Department reached a settlement valued at $5.85 million with Steven Hatfill, who sued them for trashing his name in the media.

The Washington Post tells that FBI Director Robert Mueller changed leadership of the anthrax investigation in 2006, instructing the new investigators to re-examine leads and reconsider potential suspects. Turns out that Ivins had an impressive record for his research on behalf of the Defense Department in the area of anthrax decontamination. Ivins also is reported to have conducted extra-curricular research that tipped the investigation in his direction. What is odd is that the following information was public for years:

Ivins was one of the nation’s leading biodefense researchers, according to the Times report, and co-author of numerous anthrax studies, including one on a treatment for inhalation anthrax published in the July 7 issue of the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

In the six months following the anthrax mailings, Ivins conducted unauthorized testing for anthrax spores outside containment areas at USAMRIID and found some, according to an internal report by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, which oversees the lab.

In December 2001, after conducting tests triggered by a technician’s fears that she had been exposed, Ivins found evidence of anthrax and decontaminated the woman’s desk, computer, keypad and monitor, but didn’t notify his superiors, the Times reported. The report says Ivins performed more unauthorized sampling on April 15, 2002.

This information was reported by USAToday in 2004.

“I swabbed approximately 20 areas of (her) desk, including the telephone computer and desktop,” Ivins told Army investigators. Half of the samples, he found, “were suspicious for anthrax.”

Rather than report the contamination, Ivins said, he disinfected the desk. “I had no desire to cry wolf.”

Ivins also helped the FBI analyze one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to Senator Daschle’s Washington office.

It is unclear if anything Ivins did before the attacks in September and October 2001 was suspicious. We’ll never know whether Bruce Ivins was indeed the perpetrator among the 20-30 scientists at Ft. Detrick under investigation. Ivins had been told about the impending prosecution and apparently committed suicide by overdosing on Tylenol with Codeine.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 5, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

Interesting that while discussion of the highly refined dispersal agent died off, now focus is on Ivins borrowing the “Drying” machine. I think the Butler did it.

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