Feeds

Inside the tent, the best bioterrorist money could buy?

Bruce Ivins, US government scientist, and anthrax terrorist?

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

When Bruce Ivins, presumed psycho amateur juggler/church keyboardist/government scientist/bioterrorist, committed suicide by drug overdose, taking two days to die, everyone was taken by surprise by an FBI effort notable for almost complete information secrecy until the shoe was about to drop. In early July, many had commented, including this writer, on the huge payout to Steven Hatfill, a former "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation, assuming it meant that the case was all screwed up. Apparently, just the opposite!

Since 2006, the agency had refocused its investigation on Ivins. The story, broken by the Los Angeles Times, was a major scoop. It outlined how the feds had placed the 62-year-old Ivins in an investigative vice, one which led to him being kicked out of the US Army's biodefense research facility at Fort Detrick for threatening to kill co-workers and himself. Ivins was then briefly admitted to a local psychiatric unit, where he continued to menace people. With a grand jury hearing witnesses and scientists sworn to secrecy, the government had notified Ivins' lawyer, Paul Kemp, that charges were coming down.

Stranger still, a peace order lodged against Ivins in the quiet town of Frederick, MD, the home to many of Fort Detrick's scientists, had put the information into the open on July 24.

Jean Duley, a therapist, had filed a petition requesting Ivins be compelled to stay clear of her. Ivins, Duley wrote, had been undergoing counseling and had been judged homicidal by his psychiatrist and "sociopathic with clear intentions." Duley continued that she had testified in a case involving Ivins and that he would "be charged with five capital murders." Anyone looking over the document at the courthouse on July 24 and noting that Ivins' place of employment was "Ft. Dietrick" [sic] would have immediately concluded that the Amerithraxer, whose mailings had killed five in October 2001, was about to be arrested. (A weekend report added that Duley testified that Ivins had attempted to poison people as early as 2000. How she knew this was not disclosed.)

At this point, we'll note that Ivins' lawyer, alongside some scientists at Fort Detrick, maintains Ivins' innocence, pointing out that it was pressure from the FBI and humiliation at being kicked out of the biodefense lab that led to his suicide.

Anthrax vaccine boffin

Ivins had worked at the facility for 18 years. Vexingly, the boffin's research was on an improved anthrax vaccine. The Los Angeles Times informed that Ivins' held patents on it. Farmed out to the the private sector, inefficiency and struggle wrapped production of it in failure, most notably at a San Francisco company named VaxGen, which never delivered on orders. Ivins, although entered into a royalty sharing agreement on future sales, had subsequently not made money off it. Various parties pointed out that even if the vaccine had gone into rapid production, the scientist, while possibly gaining some tens of thousands of dollars, would not have become fabulously wealthy through it. In 2003, Ivins had also received the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, the highest award the military can award to a civilian employee, for helping to solve problems in the manufacture of the vaccine.

After the anthrax mailings, Ivins was also part of a team of scientists at Fort Detrick who consulted to the FBI while the facility was analyzing contaminated mail and the original powders. Readers are left to imagine the dilemma faced by the bureau, its agents working to map a scientific maze in which a sophisticated psychopath is tapped into the analysis of his own work.

Ivins also represents a major practical dilemma.

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.