Crime

Suicide Solution?

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The wave of post-Sept. 11 anthrax attacks, as Jeff Taylor wrote in this space a month ago, is one of the murkiest and most unsatisfying criminal cases in recent U.S. history. Today comes news that teases satisfaction, while deepening the murk:

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.

Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.

Whole thing here. Color me skeptical of anyone who becomes a public* suspect only after their death, particularly in a case that has already produced a $5.82 million settlement for the last government scientist who was accused of the crime.

* I added the word "public" there, because it was silent in the original.

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  1. Yeah, I don’t think this provides any closure. “We got him! –and he’s dead!” is a cop-out.

  2. Today comes news that teases satisfaction, while deepening the murk:

    That is a perfect description of this development.

  3. Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly

    Color me skeptical of anyone who becomes a suspect only after their death

    He was a suspect before his death, but the investigators learned a lesson from the previous “person of interest”: leaking that info could cost you $5 million in a lawsuit settlement.

  4. “We got him! –and he’s dead!” is a cop-out.

    Only if it is not true. The fact that he killed himself when he found out he was being charged doesn’t make him guilty but it also doesn’t make him innocent.

  5. Color me skeptical of anyone who becomes a suspect only after their death

    Some sources are saying he only killed himself after his lawyer was informed that charges were about to be filed.

    One of those sources is the lead paragraph of the article you linked:

    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.

  6. Don’t you get it? He took an “overdose” of Tylenol 3 (Tylenol + codeine), just like Marylin Monroe. This is all a cover-up. JFK is responsible–don’t you know he’s been dyed black and is living in East Texas in a nursing home with Elvis?

  7. Umm, motive?

    Can someone refresh my recollection on what day(s) the anthrax was mailed?

  8. If I was the wrong guy, I wouldn’t kill myself. I’d wait for it to all shake out and collect my 5 million smackaroos.

  9. R C Dean,

    Well, he was a bioweapons researcher… An anthrax scare would get billions pumped into his field of study. I know it sounds like Bond villain logic, but it is a motive.

  10. Maybe he was just a weirdo.

  11. Maybe he was just sad? Or had a really bad headache?
    Those pictures of Bobby Kennedy in his wallet seem odd.

  12. Of course they’re going to read suicide = guilt into this, and that’s going to be the end of this case. It’s just as likely to mean that he saw what the media did to Hatfill (or Richard Jewell…) and knew what was going to happen regardless of his guilt or innocence. Sometimes people can’t take that, even if they might get some settlement in the future.

  13. 1. Not “government scientist,” but –US Army scientist.– Et tu, Mr. Welch?

    2. There was a conspiracy.

    3. This death was accomplished to keep the conspiracy secret so that youngsters like Dave “Weigs” Weigel can keep living in their Fools’ Paradise.

  14. Dave, please explain to us the conspiracy, as you seem to know it all. Does it involve a mummy in a cowboy hat?

  15. Andrew – good point. What this means is that we’ll never really know.

  16. R C Dean | August 1, 2008, 9:40am | #

    Umm, motive?

    Most people who commit suicide have a serious mental illness.

  17. Staying on the Weigel-beat for a mo’, this is proof positive that the republican establishment thinks it is Obama in ’08.

  18. I’ve added the prefix “public” to “suspect,” since that is indeed what I meant. Thanks.

  19. Does it involve a mummy in a cowboy hat?

    Yes it does.

  20. Dave, please take me for a ride on the Insane-o-flex and explain what the conspiracy is. Come on.

  21. Cheney knew a terrorist attack was coming and instructed his friends high up in the military that if such an attack happened, then they were to follow it up with some bio-terrorism, the details of which bio-terrorism may have been more or less specified.

    Cheney further directed that the trigger code would be an announcement that he was going to an “undisclosed location.”

  22. Most people who commit suicide have a serious mental illness

    Huh? It takes courage to kill yourself. Suicide has gotten a bad rap. It’s the ultimate demonstration of independence, and if you do it right you can spare your loved ones a lot of hassle and inconvenience. Sell your crap, cancel your subscriptions, pay your bills, get your will notarized, empty the garbage and say goodnight. People will respect you for that.

  23. I don’t get it. Why would they use anthrax and not HFCS?

  24. Dave, if you’re afraid of using Prozac or Zoloft, the over-the-counter St John’s Wort has been proven to be just as effective without the negative sexual side effects.

  25. Partrick leahy comments from almost a year ago are worth revisiting:

    VDB: Okay, I wanted to jump to the anthrax letter, what’s now known as the Leahy Letter. There was the one that was mailed to you, and the one that went out to Tom Daschle –

    Leahy: And people died just from touching it.

    leahy letter

    VDB: Exactly. And in a way, it’s like the hunt for Bin Laden: since there’s no good news, there’s just complete radio silence from the White House. I’m wondering if you’re satisfied with the progress of that investigation –

    Leahy: [Face a thundercloud now and voice emphatic and loud enough to turn heads at nearby tables] No! [Then again] No!

    VDB: – and do they keep you apprized in any way of the progress of it?

    Leahy: [More quietly] I’ve had discussions.

    VDB: Yeah.

    Leahy: I’m a little sensitive on this one, because two people died touching an envelope I was supposed to open.

    VDB: Sure.

    Leahy: I feel badly for them, and for their families. And we spent three years, Marcelle and I couldn’t go anywhere without heavily armed people around us. Finally, I said, This guy’s not going to try anything, and our family wants our privacy back. [Meditatively] I wish they had turned this investigation over to some good sheriff or police chief somewhere. I think it’s been very badly handled.

    VDB: Yeah, I don’t think there’s any other way to look at it. And when you call it what it is, it was biological warfare conducted against the highest levels of the US government.

    Leahy: What I want to know – I have a theory. But what I want to know is why me, why Tom Daschle, why Tom Brokaw?

    VDB: Right. That all fits into the profile of a kind of hard-core and obviously insane ideologue on the far Right, somebody who would fixate on especially Tom Daschle, who at that point was the target of daily, vitriolic attacks on Right-wing talk radio.

    Leahy: [Slowly, with a little shake of the head] I don’t think it’s somebody insane. I’d accept everything else you said. But I don’t think it’s somebody insane. And I think there are people within our government – certainly from the source of it – who know where it came from. [Taps the table to let that settle in] And these people may not have had anything to do with it, but they certainly know where it came from.

  26. Not “government scientist,” but –US Army scientist.

    I’ve always suspected that the US Army wasn’t part of the government! Ah-ha!

  27. Where is that transcript from, Dave? You don’t have a link.

  28. My theory is that some Mylroie-crazed people in the Pentagon or OVP saw that their desire to invade Iraq after 9/11 was losing to the rational plan to attack bin Laden in Afghanistan, so ordered that the anthrax be sent out to some prominent officials and media figures, in order to frame Iraq.

    They probably figured the death toll would be small, especially compared to 9/11, and thus an acceptable amount of collateral damage.

  29. Color me skeptical of anyone who becomes a public* suspect only after their death, particularly in a case that has already produced a $5.82 million settlement for the last government scientist who was accused of the crime.

    This may have been the guy.

    This may be complete bullshit of cops lying to make themselves look good. We’ve seen cops and DAs do that sort of self serving perjury so often, cynicism is warranted here.

  30. ed,

    Most suicides aren’t like the honorable seppuku you describe.

    Most suicides are committed by people who are so miserable and in so much fear and pain that they’re just trying to make it stop.

  31. I think Dave is trying to goatse or rickroll me. I don’t do tiny urls.

  32. It’s tough to assume that he was necessarily guilty – he lost his security clearance and was escorted out of the labs after telling a shrink that he was contemplating suicide. Whether this was before he heard that he was to be charged may have something to do with it, but regardless, his career was over because of that. His kids were grown, he didn’t have money enough for legal defence, and the gov’t wanted someone to pin it on, guilty or no. I can see why he took that option, regardless of guilt.

  33. The Bush admin is covering for Al-Qaeda.

  34. I would be depressed if I killed all those elderly people, too. I don’t think they ever definitively announced how many. there will be enough “negligent entrustment” suits against Fort Detrick as it is.

  35. ed, joe is 100% correct on the suicide thing. Suicide is a selfish, frightened act by a desperate, depressed person who thinks oblivion is better than what they are currently feeling or experiencing. They are emphatically not thinking about the people that they leave behind and what the suicide will do to them.

  36. Dave W.

    Are there public metal heath services in your area? If so, please drop into one of the clinics for a conversation with a professional.

    I’m not insulting you. I’m dead serious.

  37. The CIA has a term for this…he was “suicided”…kinda like the dc madam who retired went to florida, went on national radio saying she WOULD NOT kill herself and then paid a years rent before hanging herself that afternoon.

    Deborah Jeane Palfrey: listen to her interview on yotube…sound like she was going to kill herself? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzvrgQ5hOM4

  38. Most suicides are committed by people who are so miserable and in so much fear and pain that they’re just trying to make it stop.

    Indeed. But they’re not insane.

  39. Episiarch | August 1, 2008, 10:33am | #

    ed, joe is 100% correct on the suicide thing. Suicide is a selfish, frightened act by a desperate, depressed person who thinks oblivion is better than

    …you guys are a little presumptious on this…I have no problem classifying many suicides as you describe…but couldn’t someboday also say take these pills or we are raping and killing your children? I’m sure that has happened at some point in our world history. I’m also sure that at some point someone has murdered someone and succesfully made others think it was suicide…your 100% declaritives are crap.

  40. Gabe, spare me your paranoid delusions. I’m talking about real life here, not an episode of The Lone Gunmen. If you want to assert that people have been killed and been made to look like suicide, sure, I’m sure it has happened. But that’s not what ed, joe, and I are talking about.

  41. Gabe, that wouldn’t be suicide. Like Palfrey.

  42. gabe,

    Here’s what I wrote:

    Most people who commit suicide have a serious mental illness.

    Most suicides aren’t like the honorable seppuku you describe.

    Most suicides are committed by people who are so miserable and in so much fear and pain that they’re just trying to make it stop.

    Don’t give me your horseshit about made-up scenarios that musta happened once in world history. You know what “most” means, right?

  43. Color me skeptical of anyone who becomes a public* suspect only after their death

    I suppose–let’s just say the burden is still on the feds to present the case information somewhere. I presume it will someday be available via a FOIA request.

    In the article, they mention a very questionable contamination incident involving Ivins. And for “motive”, there’s this quote from his older brother:

    “I was questioned by the feds, and I sung like a canary” about Bruce Ivins’ personality and tendencies, Thomas Ivins said.

    “He had in his mind that he was omnipotent.”

  44. Epi sez:

    Suicide is a selfish, frightened act by a desperate, depressed person who thinks oblivion is better than what they are currently feeling or experiencing. They are emphatically not thinking about the people that they leave behind and what the suicide will do to them.

    Dear Epi,

    Believe me that I’m being completely sincere in my wishes for your continued good fortune when I say I hope you never change your opinion on this matter.

  45. No one will ever know the entire truth on this. Information is intentionally compartmentalized so that no one involved knows more than their specific part in the plan. The scientists don’t know what the targets know, the politicians don’t know what the military knows, etc. and so on. I’m sure the scientists themselves didn’t know what they were making anthrax for–rather they were probably fed disinformation. There are only tiny pieces scattered around that won’t become whole, just like every government operation. Duh.

  46. Believe me that I’m being completely sincere in my wishes for your continued good fortune when I say I hope you never change your opinion on this matter.

    You’ve “been there” on which end; the “I have attempted suicide” end or the “I have had a person close to me commit suicide”? Because those two viewpoints have vastly different perspectives.

  47. “I have no problem classifying many suicides as you describe…but couldn’t someboday also say take these pills or we are raping and killing your children? I’m sure that has happened at some point in our world history.”

    I guess you’ve never heard of Rommel, huh?

    See also Frankie Pentangeli’s discussion with Tom Hagen.

  48. When you hear hooves, think horses, not zebras.

  49. joe spare me your hypocritical criticism I said quote:

    “I have no problem classifying many suicides as you describe”

    what part of “many” don’t you understand?…that doesn’t mean I believe that a person goes on radio and says they are “not going to kill themselves” and “if I’m suicided it is because they got me”…and then goes and prepays their rent for many months and hangs themselves.

    I don’t think that suspected foul play in such a casse is paranoid by ANY commonly accepted definition…The only people who think Palfrey case is legit are naive…now maybe it is paranoid to now immediately suspect this “anthrax attacker ” was suicided…but there are a lot of unanswered questions and I think Welch is smart to be suspicious. If this guy was o guilty why didn’t the CIA, FBI homeland security guys track it back to him bofre 2008? aren’t they trying to STOP terror attacks?! It doesn’t seem to take a sherlock holmes to decide to send somebody to talk to the the bioweapons guy sometimes before 7 years after the attack?!?

    I suppose you just assumed the anthrax attacks came from bin laden the last 7 years? is that what the correct non-paranoid person has been thinking all this time?

  50. Guys, there is no reason to postulate a complicated conspiracy when a minor one will do:

    Maybe this guy committed suicide, and the FBI heard about it, and someone said, “Hey, we can get people off our back about this anthrax thing if we tell the LA Times we were about to get the Justice Department to indict this guy.”

    It doesn’t have to be a Truther conspiracy. It doesn’t have to be a coverup. It can just be cops putting the blame on a dead guy because that’s convenient for them as cops.

    BTW:

    …he lost his security clearance and was escorted out of the labs after telling a shrink that he was contemplating suicide.

    So the lesson here is: Always lie to shrinks. Or better yet, don’t seek out mental health assistance. Ever. Because it will always be used against you in the end, and nothing you may think you know about confidentiality means anything at all.

  51. The fact that he killed himself when he found out he was being charged doesn’t make him guilty but it also doesn’t make him innocent.

    He should already be presumed innocent until he’s shown to be guilty.

  52. When you hear hooves, think horses, not zebras.

    Similarly, when you read fuckwittery, think joe, there is no need to go further.

    Whether this was before he heard that he was to be charged may have something to do with it, but regardless, his career was over because of that. His kids were grown, he didn’t have money enough for legal defence, and the gov’t wanted someone to pin it on, guilty or no. I can see why he took that option, regardless of guilt.

    The difference here is that the govt was was intending to indict, not just declare him a “person of interest” as previously done. Further, they apparantly intended to seek the death penalty. This would indicate something stronger in terms of actual evidence than with Hatfield, and him testing/cleaning desks is a hell of a lot more plausable than the “pond” theory they were chasing around Gambrill park (I walk my dogs up there a lot, if you’d seen these ponds you’d realize how ridiculous it would be to think a guy would haul anthrax all the way up there just to put it under water and do his thing….but that’s another story).

    My point is that there are people who commit suicide to avoid the public humiliation, not necessarily out of honor but out of shame. I had a martial arts instructor in a dojo I used to teach in do this, when it was discovered he had carved a peephole into the women’s changing area. His issues were far less than sending anon bio bombs, but the percieved shame was enough to drive him to it also.

    So, while you are correct that there was a lot coming down on him in terms of loss of future, etc, my suspicion leans more towards shame avoidance.

    It shall be interesting to see what motivated the original mailings, if it ever becomes public. Ted K had the idea that machines would take over the earth. I would be interested to see what this guy’s “thing” was.

  53. Suicide is an action undertaken for any number of reasons that the living cannot understand. Even when the departed leave a note, we never comprehend the depth of the effect those feelings had on them.

    If a person has persuasive reasons for suicide and ignores them in order to appease the people in their lives, that strikes me as cowardly.

    Episarch and joe, while a large number of cases may fit the patterns you describe, your blanket condemnations of the act itself seems willfully ignorant and emotionally motivated.

  54. “He should already be presumed innocent until he’s shown to be guilty.”

    the world changed after 9/11 it is dangerous now to assume everyone is innocent…we have to assume that you are guilty and anyone who suspects we are wrong in charging certain people is also guilty of being a conspiracy mongerer and this anti-american paranoia must be squashed with an iron fist. Joe and Epi will help me out on this one, we cannot tolerate insane conspiracy theories.

    palfrey is old news …LETS ROLL!

  55. The Anthrax Attach after 911 was put in place in some way, shape or form, by the Mosad (Israeli CIA). After 9/11 happened, MOSAD saw an opportunity to really PISS off americans even More…And it worked.

    The US knows it…they just won’t talk ablut it.

  56. How dare you Alice, you should be put in a prison camp. Everyone knows that Bin Laden committed the anthrax attacks…those dang muslims are insane! Rumsfeld and Cheney are just trying to keep us safe…why else would Obama go along with them and start voting for the patriot act sequels? Obama know we have to fight these terrorist as well. People like Matt Welch, Alice and Gabe need to be stopped and now we are finally getting the power to take them out for good. Soon we will all be safe from these paranoid madmen.

  57. Wow…that was pretty good.

  58. Most people who commit suicide have a serious mental illness.

    That doesn’t really give me any reason to believe that he mailed the anthrax – “he probably had a serious mental illness” describes about 10% of the people in this country, minimum.

    My theory is that some Mylroie-crazed people in the Pentagon or OVP saw that their desire to invade Iraq after 9/11 was losing to the rational plan to attack bin Laden in Afghanistan, so ordered that the anthrax be sent out to some prominent officials and media figures, in order to frame Iraq.

    I think the anthrax was mailed too early for that. I think the letters were mailed within a few days after 9/11. Nice try, though.

  59. Episarch and joe, while a large number of cases may fit the patterns you describe, your blanket condemnations of the act itself seems willfully ignorant and emotionally motivated.

    Noooo, not joe…willfully ignorant and emotionally motivated? Never joe, not joe

  60. Gabe,

    what part of “many” don’t you understand?…

    Well, three parts:

    I don’t understand why “many” turns your statement into a refutation of my point.

    I don’t understand why “many” means I commented on the Palfrey case.

    And I don’t understand why “many” means that my observation about suicide means I think bin Laden sent the anthrax letters.

    Those are the parts of “many” that I don’t understand.

    Mancrush Matt,
    .
    *kiss kiss* Im n yr hed, obsessing yr thawts agin.

  61. RC,

    That doesn’t really give me any reason to believe that he mailed the anthrax – “he probably had a serious mental illness” describes about 10% of the people in this country, minimum. Well, you asked “motive?” A motive that could explain both the anthrax letters and the suicide suggests itself.

    I think the anthrax was mailed too early for that. I think the letters were mailed within a few days after 9/11. Nice try, though.

    There’s a memo signed by Donald Rumsfeld, dated 9/14, that discussing attacking “not just OBL, but SH.”

  62. Hugh Atkinson,

    Episarch and joe, while a large number of cases may fit the patterns you describe, your blanket condemnations of the act itself seems willfully ignorant and emotionally motivated.

    1. What condemnation? I think you’re mixing me up with Episiarch. I haven’t shared my opinion on the subject of the relativley-rare episode of mentally-stable people killing themselves. I made an observation of fact, which is both widely known among experts, and common sense.

  63. Policing agencies have a dismal record in solving random poisonings.

    Remember the cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules in 1982? Seven dead. No one ever convicted.

    FBI turf warring with Chicago police had more than a little to do with THAT bungling.

  64. I think the anthrax was mailed too early for that. I think the letters were mailed within a few days after 9/11. Nice try, though.

    Well, the minor league version of this conspiracy theory would be that the anthrax attacks happened independently, whether by this dead guy or by some other nut, and the administration decided to exploit those attacks in order to facilitate its plan to attack Iraq.

    After all, by claiming that this was the guy, the FBI is conceding that whatever “high placed government sources” told ABC News that a) the anthrax in the letters had bentonite in it and b) that this showed that Saddam was probably behind the attacks were lying. If it was our own anthrax sent by this dead guy, there was no bentonite in it and whoever told ABC that there was deliberately lied.

    So if it’s too crazy to wonder if there was a government conspiracy to send these letters, let’s forget about that. Let’s focus instead on the government conspiracy to leak false information to ABC in order to try to use the attacks to whip up public support to attack Iraq.

  65. There’s a memo signed by Donald Rumsfeld, dated 9/14, that discussing attacking “not just OBL, but SH.”

    And they whipped up the anthrax attacks that day? Holy crap, that’s quick work. You’d think something like this would take more than a couple of phone calls and a day or two to pull off. You can’t just call around at random, after all – you have to use people you have the utmost trust in. For that matter, I really don’t know if the Chimpluminati could have set this up for a 9/14 mailing if they started the day he was sworn in.

    I think Fluffy may have about as much of a conspiracy theory as the facts will bear.

  66. Why bother trying to uncover little government white lies anyway? We know it comes from a good place. Everyone agrees that the government loves us.

  67. Those fucking clowns in the FBI have never solved anything. Maybe he just couldn’t take the stress of being a “person of interest”. Look what they did to poor Doctor Hatfill.

  68. Fluffy is right

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