Anthrax Suspect E-Mailed Himself About Solving the Case
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Investigators yesterday unsealed the final search warrants executed against the man who they say is responsible for the 2001 anthrax-by-mail attacks, disclosing that Bruce E. Ivins sent an e-mail to himself last year claiming that he had solved the notorious case.
FBI agents examined several e-mail accounts linked to Ivins, a government bioweapons researcher who has been named by prosecutors as the sole culprit behind the spore-laced letters, which killed five people.
In one September 2007 message, Ivins wrote: "I finally know who mailed the anthrax letters in the fall of 2001. . . . I should have been a private eye!!!"
FBI agent Marlo Arredondo wrote in a sworn statement unsealed yesterday that Ivins sent the message "to/from himself."
After learning that FBI scientists had traced the bacteria to his laboratory, Ivins suggested to agents several other scientists who he said might be responsible for the mailings, documents show.
The e-mails deepen the mystery surrounding Ivins, who died July 29 after an overdose of Tylenol as prosecutors inched closer to charging him with responsibility for the largest bioterrorism attack in U.S. history.
Paul F. Kemp, an attorney for Ivins, said the government has failed to offer a direct link between his client and the anthrax killings. In an e-mail yesterday, Kemp said the unsealed materials contain "no new information . . . even two months after his death."
Also yesterday, fresh details emerged about Ivins's work in the final months of his life. Ivins spilled bacteria from a veterinary strain of anthrax on his pants March 17 but walked home to wash the garment in a bleach solution before reporting the mishap to his supervisors, according to a U.S. Army report.
The incident resulted in Ivins being assigned to "administrative duties" and his badge being deactivated for all areas of the bioweapons lab at Fort Detrick, Md., the report said.
Ivins had been banned from the biological select agents and toxins lab, which houses the most dangerous agents, after the FBI executed search warrants at his house in November. But the March episode, first reported by the Frederick News-Post, resulted in further restrictions and the total lab ban, said Caree Vander Linden, a spokeswoman for the Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Ivins continued to report to work, with interruptions for in-patient alcohol and drug treatment, until July, when a counselor raised alarms about his deteriorating mental health and the Frederick police picked him up at Fort Detrick. In a document released yesterday, federal agents said Ivins had shown a piece of paper to his counselor on which he had worked out the "precise recipe" of alcohol and prescription drugs that would cause his death, based on his body weight.
Several friends and relatives of Ivins, who had led a quiet life in the Maryland suburbs, continue to defend him. And lawmakers have called for additional hearings to test the quality of the government's evidence.
Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.) introduced legislation yesterday that would create a national commission to investigate the handling of the case. The panel would determine whether investigators pursued all credible leads, would vet other suspects and would make policy recommendations for future cases.
Senior members of Congress, including two senators who were intended recipients of anthrax letters, have called for Judiciary Committee hearings, but they have not backed Holt's proposal. Yesterday Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) praised Holt's efforts but said establishing a commission would be "premature."
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said this month that the bureau would enlist the National Academy of Sciences to review the scientific breakthroughs that investigators developed to advance the case.