Anthrax Suspect Commits Suicide

Via the LAT: Apparent suicide in anthrax case

A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the last 18 years worked at the government’s elite biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation.

The story notes that there was some suspicion about Ivins’ statements about alleged decontamination of anthrax spores.

The former official told The Times that Ivins might have hedged regarding reswabbing out of fear that investigators would find more of the spores inside or near his office.

The article also notes:

The family’s home is 198 miles — about a 3 1/2 -hour drive — from a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., where anthrax spores were found by investigators.

All of the recovered anthrax letters were postmarked in that vicinity.

The article does directly state, however, that Ivins was going to be arrested for the attacks themselves. I am not sure if that is the result of obtuse writing by the reporter, or hedging based on a lack of full knowledge.

I think that it would be extremely helpful to know exactly what happened with those attacks, as it would help us flesh out how to understand those attacks in the broader war on terror discussion. Indeed, I blame those anthrax attacks, so soon after 9/11 (see this LAT piece for a refresher), for helping to fully catapult the nation into the direction of believing that we really were set to face repeated terrorist attacks from abroad onto the United States itself. Certainly it was one of the pieces of evidence that convinced me, at the time, that a generalized war against terrorist groups made sense. In retrospect, we all read too much into that attack, especially if it can be confirmed that the source of the attack was a mentally unstable government microbiologist.

The WaPo write-up is more explicit about Ivin’s alleged relationship to the attacks: Md. Anthrax Scientist Dies in Apparent Suicide

A federal grand jury was preparing to indict a Maryland bioweapons expert for his role in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and terrorized the country, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

Prosecutors were considering whether to seek the death penalty against Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who worked at an elite U.S. Army bioweapons laboratory in Fort Detrick. Ivins died Tuesday in an apparent suicide.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. PD Shaw says:

    I look forward to the Oliver Stone movie about what really happened with fear and trepidation.

  2. Triumph says:

    Im not convinced that Ivins did it. One of McCain’s top foreign policy advisors, James Woolsey, has pushed the idea that Saadam Hussein was behind the anthrax attacks.

    Since we have no evidence to the contrary, I would suggest that Woolsey is correct and that the surge is the reason that we have yet to have another anthrax attack.

  3. RWB says:

    Since we have no evidence to the contrary, I would suggest that the anthrax attack was perpetrated by aliens who want to take over the planet.