Sunday, August 03, 2008

The FBI Never Gets Their Man: Bruce E. Ivins

Federal Bungling Investigators/The United States Army (nuff' said, don't ask , don't tell)--Even a cursory look at the stories should tell you something: the FBI and other investigative bodies botched this investigation for nearly seven years.

It was only when the psychopath behind it began acting-out, disintegrating, that he was reported by his psychiatrist and therapeutic counselor.

In addition to this fact, we find that Mr. Ivins had a history of behavioral problems extending-back to his days as a graduate student. This has all been easily uncovered by media, and presumably Ivins's counselor Jean Duley and psychiatrist, Dr. David Irwin. Irwin probably conveyed Ivins's psychiatric history to Duley.

The real heroes? Not the FBI, but Ivins's aforementioned psychiatrist and counselor. He told them quite a bit, which is why Duley put out a restraining order on the man, reporting him to police as is procedurally laid-out for a psychiatrist or a mental health worker.

But ultimately, it had to be Dr. Irwin who made the original diagnosis and who alerted the authorities.

If a patient is clearly psychotic, has confessed to crimes or the strong desire (and the wherewithal to do it) and attempts to commit them, a psychiatrist or counselor is morally and legally bound to report it to the authorities to prevent a potential crime. But only a psychiatrist can make an official diagnosis of psychopathology, or that someone is dangerously psychotic.

Duley went to the police. On July 10, authorities at the Fort Detrick lab where he worked removed him from the premises and had him committed for a psychiatric evaluation. A judge in Frederick, Md., granted an order that required Ivins to cease contact with Duley and stay away from her home and place of work.

The FBI suspects that Ivins' behavior changed after the Justice Department announced a $5.8 million settlement a former scientist from the same Fort Detrick lab. Steven Hatfill, who then-Attorney General John Ashcroft named a person of interest in the case in August 2002, had claimed he was unfairly targeted and his reputation damaged by leaks to the press. ("Counselor: Anthrax Scientist Was 'Homicidal,' " ABC, 08.03.2008)

Yet, Ivins blamed Duley and not his psychiatrist Dr. David Irwin, the man who can be safely presumed to have made the diagnosis and originally alerted the authorities of Ivins's threat to himself and others.

The formerly bungled investigation finally got going on the right foot for the first time since 2002. What likely is that they confronted Ivins and notified him of what the potential charges held (the death penalty), he saw no way out, and he committed suicide. Why? Because he was guilty. Innocent people don't act like Ivins.

The problem with the feds' story of breaking the case? Dr. Irwin probably broke the case, and Duley just added fuel to the fire. Doubt it? Here's some of the transcript of the taped interview with Duley where she was requesting the restraining order. The Smoking Gun's documents state "received July 24th," and it's signed and dated as such by the counselor:

(Describing early morning voice messages from Ivins) [Ed.--Curiously, no date given.]

Duley: The first voice message was sort of a ranting, blaming me for having this done to him. It was sort of just rambling.

Same with three minutes later, saying that obviously we no longer have a therapeutic relationship, and how could I do this to him.

(Describing a July 12 call)

Duley: That one was rather scary. He very calmly thanked me for ruining his life and opening, allowing the FBI now to be able to prosecute him for the murders and that it was all my fault, and it's going to be my fault that they could now get him. [Ed.--A virtual confession of his crimes.] ...

Duley: As far back as the year 2000, the respondent has actually attempted to murder several other people, either through poisoning—he is a revenge killer when he feels that he's been slighted or has had, especially towards women, he plots and actually tries to carry out revenge killing. He has been forensically diagnosed by several top psychiatrists as a sociopathic, homicidal killer. ("Excerpt of tape in which therapist Jean Duley seeks restraining order against Bruce Ivins," The Minneapolis Star, 08.02.2008)

Wouldn't one have filed right away, right after the first message on what appears to be the 9th of July? I would, but not if someone else had reported Ivins. There is an apparent contradiction in the timeline that masks Irwin's involvement: did Duley make earlier contacts with the authorities? Irwin must have. Perhaps Duley did make earlier contact with federal authorities, but she must have felt covered by Dr. Irwin in some way. What authorities did Dr. Irwin contact?

Did the FBI put Duley and Irwin under protection after the July 9-12 calls from Ivins? The record seems confused. Since there's no oversight of the FBI by Congress, we may never know their role in this breakthrough. The transcript of the restraining order reads as though Duley had already been briefed thoroughly on Ivins, but by whom? Probably Irwin.

Duley was scheduled for an August 1st appearance before the grand jury. She also knew by July 24th that Ivins would be charged with "5 capital murders," and that the "FBI [is] involved. She waited two weeks to file the restraining order on Ivins, thanks to the fact that he was being held for observation at Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore. Yet why the need for a restraining order with other authorities, local ones?

On another count, gleaned from Duley's filing, Ivins's superiors at Fort Detrick and the bioweapons program he worked for had some inkling that he was completely nuts, and barred him from entry of the bioweapons research facility where he worked on July 10th. But there are other indications in the above record that they knew he was sick for several years. Irwin and Duley could probably answer these questions, hence the peculiarity of the records based on what little additional context is being provided against public statements by investigators and the aforementioned players.

When you bring in the "big guns" of psychiatry to examine a top level government scientist, someone's paying the bills, and it's unlikely that his employers would have been unaware. What's more likely is that they ordered the diagnoses themselves for legal protection, among other reasons.

Many questions remain, and are likely to remain so, in order that those who could have identified Ivins--but did not, probably due to incompetence and his peculiar talents--aren't held accountable. This is likely more of a story of bungling by federal investigators within and without of the United States Army, as well as outside pressure to contain information of a questionable weapons program and the real dangers it poses to the civilian population. Other questions will remain for future historians, one could imagine, and for decades.

One question is highly pertinent: of the many anthrax-laced envelopes that were sent, why were some to the opponents (primarily Democrats) of the Patriot Act, and by a top-level biowarfare scientist after a major terrorist attack on US soil? Was he told to? Senator Patrick Leahy was one of the recipients, though he emerged from the incident unscathed. That raises numerous alarming possibilities and questions to those of us paying attention, and they are of a constitutional nature. I'm not alone:
Daschle, whose office was a target of the attacks, tells Fox News Sunday that from the very beginning he's had "real concerns" about the quality of the investigation.

He notes the government recently agreed to pay almost 6 million dollars to a former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, who accused authorities of unfairly targeting him in the probe.

Daschle says he doesn't know if the investigation involving the late government microbiologist Bruce Ivins "is just another false track and a real diversion" from where investigators need to be. ("Daschle criticizes FBI's handling of anthrax probe," AP, 08.03.2008)

If it says anything at all, it's that our own weapons programs can be turned against us by lunatics--and Ivins wasn't the usual kind. He wasn't a politician, but a nutty geek who made things that killed people. He was already sick wanting to work at Fort Detrick, having been there for 36 years.

Dr. David Irwin
and Jean Duley are likely to be the real heroes here, not the U.S. Army's investigators, and certainly not the storied FBI. Ivins is just one part of the American disease, and so are they. Duley's husband is calling her a hero. Ivins behavior was probably tolerated due to his actual value to powerful interests. How far that value extends is the real question.
"The relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo takes its toll in different ways on different people. ...In Dr. Ivins' case, it led to his untimely death." states the press release by his attorney.

Tell it to another Fort Detrick scientist, Steven Hatfill, he survived nearly six years of pressure and harassment at the hands of the FBI. They went as far as to run his foot over with one of their surveillance cars. No tears here for Ivins, that's for his misguided former co-workers and neighbors, the kind who never notice serial killers in their midsts.

"Excerpt of tape in which therapist Jean Duley seeks restraining order against Bruce Ivins," The Minneapolis Star, 08.02.2008:

"Counselor: Anthrax Scientist Was 'Homicidal,' " ABC, 08.03.2008:

"Anthrax Suspect Homicidal, Sociopathic-Counselor sought restraining order against biodefense researcher," The Smoking Gun, 08.01.2008:

"Documents reveal turbulent days leading to a dark end,", 08.02.2008:

Postscript, 08.07.2008: Yes, I am implying that the FBI rarely ever closes a case successfully without tips from informants. They're flatfoots, and the real adults quit to be around someone intelligent like a janitor. The FBI would be a joke if it wasn't for the fact that they've continued to systematically harrass dissenters, and generally done everything outside of their mandate. They never got John Dillinger either, that's a myth.


  1. There is a few problems with your conclusion. The statements of the social worker are hearsay. Irwin has not made his opinion known. Also, all though she claims this history was extensive, nobody else, his family, friends, coworkers has said anything like this. It smacks of an exagerration to ensure the restraining order was granted.

    And, even if Irwin stated this, how long was his history with Irwin. Was it only since the FBI began leaning on Ivins heavily over a year and a half?

    BTW, social workers are not medically trained. They're social workers which is about on the level of a history major for scholastic achievement.

    I think your hero will be exposed as having been a bit of an alarmist.

  2. This is correct--at least when I wrote this days ago, but it doesn't appear so after Wednesday. The FBI has confirmed the long history of mental illness. Clearly, we're not getting the whole story yet.

    Also, that's correct about counselors/social workers, however, it's unclear why he was seeing her and exactly what her position was. In addition, you declined to post under your own name, and misspelled
    "exaggeration," but I assume you were possessed by certain passions at the time.

    Today--August 7th--we don't know if she was being alarmist. It still appears she was 100% correct, though it's possible there's more here (isn't there always?).

    Of course this was a speculative piece--that's all the media can do as well, and they have budgets.

    What we know: he was the only individual who had access to the specific mutagen of anthrax that was used in the letters, he was its custodian. Nobody else was. Also, to handle it at all without infecting oneself and others requires his kind of knowledge.

    Granted: at-minimum, he provided SOMEONE ELSE with the anthrax.

    The fact is, the restraining order was granted immediately, and we can assume that a psychiatrist was backing her up for good measure. The jig was up, he was fucked either way.

    Biased? The same people (Jeffrey A. Taylor as the lead US Attorney) successfully prosecuted someone I defended for several months--Deborah Jeane Palfrey. She was guilty, she committed suicide. Take from that what you will, I'm waiting with bated breath. Thanks for the thoughts, a rarity these days, thought and thinking. Sigh...