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August 1, 2008

U.S. Biodefense Research Apparently Commits Suicide in Wake of Impending Charges in Anthrax Investigation

As reported by this Associated Press article and numerous other media outlets, Bruce E. Ivins, a U.S. biodefense researcher, apparently committed suicide as the Justice Department was preparing to file an indictment against him stemming from the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five and sickened numerous others.  It is being reported that the government had planned to seek the death penalty against Ivins, who was said to have been informed of the impending prosecution.

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August 1, 2008 at 12:02 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I think it's tragic because once again the FBI is running amok. They spent years getting it wrong so upon what faith can anyone base a conclusion that this time they got it right? Now, they have destroyed two lives rather than admit that they never had a clue. Shame on you FBI, shame on you.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 1, 2008 12:26:33 PM

This is a terribly sad situation. Regardless of guilt, suicide is a horrible tragedy. The federal agents did seem to take their time in collecting evidence, so my guess would be that this individual most likely had a great deal of evidence against him.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 1, 2008 1:05:43 PM

Daniel:

What is the specific factual basis for your assertion that the FBI "never had a clue" about this researcher's involvement?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 1, 2008 2:16:46 PM

Because for the last five years they have focused on Dr. Stephen Hatfield. In fact, they just settled a five million dollar case he brought against them. Now, color we silly, but if they knew the guy who killed himself was to blame all along, they sure have an odd way of showing it.

Really, though, I just underestimate the devious minds of the FBI. They spent five years chasing the wrong guy all as part of a brilliant move to throw the real suspect off the scent. (rolls eyes)

The better conclusion is that they are idiots looking for someone to blame. And there is absolutely no basis to have any faith that they were more right about this guy than they were about Hatfield.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 1, 2008 7:14:04 PM

I look at it just a bit differently, Daniel. Whether or not this fellow was guilty, the FBI had narrowed the source down to a handful of Fort Detrick scientists, it was just impossible to definitively identify which one. There's zero doubt, however, that the anthrax sent to the media and Congress came from that lab. I posted some additional commentary about this case on Grits for anyone interested.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 1, 2008 7:17:41 PM

Daniel:

I asked if you would provide the specific factual basis for your assertion that the FBI "never had a clue" about Ivins's involvement in the anthrax case.

You provide none. Indeed you do not point to a single fact about Ivins that you claim the FBI got wrong. Instead you emphasize that the FBI botched the Steven Hatfill (not Hatfield) investigation. Thus, you say, "Because for the last five years they have focused on Dr. Stephen Hatfield. In fact, they just settled a five million dollar case he brought against them. Now, color we silly, but if they knew the guy who killed himself was to blame all along, they sure have an odd way of showing it."

Who claimed that the FBI "knew...all along" that it was Ivins? When the case against Hatfill imploded, the FBI had to go back to square one -- which is what anyone would do. What's wrong with that? Should the FBI just take a pass on multiple murder because they blew the investigation the first time?

You then say, "Really, though, I just underestimate the devious minds of the FBI. They spent five years chasing the wrong guy all as part of a brilliant move to throw the real suspect off the scent. (rolls eyes)"

Again, this has nothing to do -- indeed it doesn't even purport to have anything to do -- with pointing to a flaw in the facts alleged to show IVINS'S involvement. It does, however, further display a jaundiced attitude toward the FBI.

Jaundice is not evidence.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 2, 2008 2:20:24 PM

Bill, no one can "pointing to a flaw in the facts alleged" because the FBI has barely alleged any except the big one - that Ivins did it. But after the FBI's Keystone Kops routine throughout this case resulting in a multimillion dollar settlement with Mr. Hatfill, I'd say their actions have earned a jaundiced eye.

There's another possible suspect from that cadre of scientists as well, though his name escapes me.

The suicide makes it convenient to close the case, but at this point I agree they've gotten SO much wrong, it's important they show the public why they think this was the guy or make other arrests if anyone else was involved. Maybe Ivins did it, maybe he was alone, but just the FBI's say so isn't necessarily good enough any more and the FBI hasn't presented any meaningful case against him besides to blame him posthumously.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 4, 2008 2:57:35 PM

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