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Anthrax case closure
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Anthrax case closure - August 1, 2008, 09:20 AM

http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sec...?storyID=78270

BREAKING NEWS: Fort Detrick anthrax scientist commits suicide as FBI closes in


WASHINGTON -- A top U.S. biodefense researcher apparently has committed suicide in the wake of what a brother said was his intense pursuit by the FBI in connection with anthrax-tainted letters that killed five people.

The Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against the scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, 62, a leading military anthrax researcher who worked for the past 18 years at the government’s biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, the Los Angeles Times reported in today's editions. Ivins had been told of the impending prosecution, the paper said.
In an e-mail statement to The Frederick News-Post, USAMRIID spokeswoman Caree Vander Linden wrote that the institute is mourning the loss of Ivins, who served there for 35 years as a civilian microbiologist. She had no further statement regarding the anthrax investigation other than to note that the investigation is ongoing.
Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital. The Times, quoting an unidentified colleague, said the scientist had taken a massive dose of a prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine. A woman who answered the phone at Bruce Ivins’ home in Frederick declined to comment.
The News-Post has learned that Ivins was scheduled to appear in Frederick County District Court on Thursday on a peace order charge. On July 24, he was ordered to stay away from his Frederick residence and Fort Detrick.
Ruth Ann Randall, a member of the family who owns The Frederick News-Post, knew Ivins.
"Several years ago I played in an Irish band with him," she said. "I remember mentioning at that time to the newsroom that he might be a good source on some of the anthrax stuff. Wow. Now look what happened! I'm in shock. He was a pretty religious guy, and he never seemed nervous around me (knowing I was with the paper) back when we played together and the subject of anthrax and Fort Detrick would come up."
Only last month, the government exonerated another scientist at the Fort Detrick lab, Steven Hatfill, whose name for years had been associated with the post-9/11 attacks that traumatized the nation. Investigators had publicly named Hatfill a “person of interest” in 2002. The government paid Hatfill $5.82 million to settle a lawsuit contending he was falsely accused and had been made a scapegoat for the crimes.
Hatfill's lawyer, reached this morning by The News-Post, said, "The FBI wants to speak to the victims' families first, and I want to respect that process. Today is not the appropriate time to comment. I want to give these families time to have comfort."
Investigators have been interviewing Ivins’ family and co-workers since at least last year, and the pressure increased after Hatfill’s name was cleared. Justice Department officials declined to comment. “We are not at this time making any official statements or comments regarding this situation,” said Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office, which is investigating the anthrax attacks, said Friday.
Tom Ivins, a brother of the scientist, told The Associated Press that his other brother, Charles, had told him that Bruce committed suicide and Tylenol might have been involved.
Tom Ivins said today that federal officials working on the anthrax case questioned him about his brother a year and a half ago.
“They said they were investigating him,” he said from Ohio, where he lives, in a CNN interview.

But he never talked to his brother about it: “I stay away from him,” Tom Ivins said.
A woman who answered the phone at the home of the third brother, Charles Ivins, in Etowah, N.C., refused to wake him and declined to comment on his brother’s death. “This is a grieving time,” she said.
Henry S. Heine, a scientist who had worked with Ivins on inhalation anthrax research at Fort Detrick, said he and others on their team have testified before a federal grand jury in Washington that has been investigating the anthrax mailings for more than a year. He declined to comment on Ivins’ death.
The Fort Detrick laboratory and its specialized scientists for years have been at the center of the FBI’s investigation of the anthrax mailings, which killed five people, shut down a Senate office building and postal center for months, and compounded Americans’ sense of vulnerability to terrorism.
An aide to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who received one of the anthrax-tainted letters, said Friday that Leahy had not yet been briefed on the developments. Leahy, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, has the FBI under congressional oversight.
Unusual behavior by Ivins was noted at Fort Detrick in the six months following the anthrax mailings, when he conducted unauthorized testing for anthrax spores outside containment areas at the infectious disease research unit where he worked, according to an internal report. But the focus long stayed on Hatfill.
Dr. W. Russell Byrne, a physician who worked with Ivins in the bacteriology division of the Fort Detrick research facility for 15 years, said he does not believe Ivins was behind the anthrax attacks. Byrne of Frederick said he believes that Ivins was “hounded” by aggressive FBI agents who raided his home twice. He said Ivins was forcefully removed from his job by local police recently because of fears that he had become a danger to himself or others. The investigation led to Ivins being hospitalized for depression earlier this month, Byrne said.
He described Ivins as “eccentric,” but not dangerous.
“If he was about to be charged, no one who knew him well was aware of that, and I don’t believe it,” said Byrne, who attended the same Catholic church as Ivins, who played the keyboards and led the church’s musical program.
Norman Covert, a retired Fort Detrick spokesman who served with Ivins on an animal-care and protocol committee, said Ivins was “a very intent guy” at their meetings.
Ivins was the 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.
The Times said federal investigators moved away from Hatfill and concluded Ivins was the culprit after FBI Director Robert Mueller changed leadership of the investigation in 2006. The new investigators instructed agents to re-examine leads and reconsider potential suspects. In the meantime, investigators made progress in analyzing anthrax powder recovered from letters addressed to two Leahy and Sen. Thomas Daschle, D-S.D., according to the report.
Besides the five deaths, 17 people were sickened by anthrax that was mailed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the news media in New York and Florida. The victims included postal workers and others who came into contact with the anthrax.
In the six months following the anthrax mailings, Ivins conducted unauthorized testing for anthrax spores outside containment areas at USAMRIID — the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick — 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, according to the report.
The report says Ivins performed more unauthorized sampling on April 15, 2002, and found anthrax spores in his office, in a passbox used for moving materials in and out of labs, and in a room where male workers changed from civilian clothing into laboratory garb.
Ivins told Army investigators he conducted unauthorized tests because he was worried that the powdered anthrax in letters that had been sent to USAMRIID for analysis might not have been adequately contained.
In January 2002, the FBI doubled the reward for helping solve the case to $2.5 million, and by June officials said the agency was scrutinizing 20 to 30 scientists who might have had the knowledge and opportunity to send the anthrax letters.
After the government’s settlement with Hatfill was announced in late June, Ivins started showing signs of strain, the Times said.
Ivins was one of the nation’s leading biodefense researchers.
In 2003, Ivins and two of his colleagues at the USAMRIID received the highest honor given to Defense Department civilian employees for helping solve technical problems in the manufacture of anthrax vaccine. In 1997, U.S. military personnel began receiving the vaccine to protect against a possible biological attack. Within months, a number of vaccine lots failed a potency test required by federal regulators, causing a shortage of vaccine and eventually halting the immunization program. The USAMRIID team’s work led to the reapproval of the vaccine for human use.
The Times said Ivins was the son of a Princeton-educated pharmacist who was born and raised in Lebanon, Ohio. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. in microbiology, from the University of Cincinnati. He and his wife, Diane, owned a small white home just outside the main gate to Fort Detrick, about two blocks from an apartment where Hatfill once lived.


RIP Jeff Vega 10/06/09 You will forever ride on in our hearts
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August 1, 2008, 09:23 AM

Nice.


Wow. Just..................wow.
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August 1, 2008, 09:25 AM

It is still not definitive whether or not Ivins was the one who leaked the anthrax.

The press here today is ridiculous. Very sad indeed.
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August 1, 2008, 11:34 AM

I bet it's a nuthouse there. What is even more ridiculous is the initial investigations only focused on Hatfield, and not the others.


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August 1, 2008, 11:38 AM

Yeah I hear ya Denny. I feel like Ivins was another pawn. They had been investigating him for quite some time and had managed to prevent leaks...and now all of a sudden it's leaked after his death? Whatever.
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August 1, 2008, 11:42 AM

There is so much that is shady about the whole thing. I'm sure we'll never know the truth.

So I'll just keep hunting like I normally do in the watershed and hope I don't come across the sealed containers


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August 1, 2008, 01:57 PM

I am no lawyer but I don't see anything that really gives any motive what so ever. His killing himself could very well just have been his seeing that the FBI had it in for him and he knew it would be a long battle to clear himself even if he was successful.
Once the police or FBI have their sights on you it is never a fun journey innocent or not! Not to mention that even if cleared his good name is forever tainted!


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August 1, 2008, 03:28 PM

i remember signing my Anthrax vaccine waiver in the military...was a peice of paper that went something like "if you die because of the vaccine, sorry...we'll replace you - now sign your life away...again...and shut up, oh yea...ooorah!!!
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