Friday, August 1, 2008

Anthrax scientist commits suicide as FBI closes in

Well, that's the official story, anyway:

A U.S. military scientist committed suicide as federal prosecutors readied an indictment alleging he mailed anthrax-laced letters in 2001 in what authorities said Friday may have been a bizarre attempt to test a vaccine for the deadly poison.

The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, worked at the army's biodefence labs at Fort Detrick, Md., for 18 years until his death on Tuesday.

He had a long history of homicidal threats, according to papers recently filed in local court by a social worker.

Letters containing anthrax powder turned up at congressional offices, newsrooms and elsewhere weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, killing five and sending numerous victims to hospitals with anthrax poisoning.

From here. There are a few curious things about this story; the one that initially leaped out at me was this:
Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland. Tom Ivins, a brother of the scientist, told the Associated Press that his other brother, Charles, had told him that Bruce committed suicide and Tylenol might have been involved. The Los Angeles Times, which first reported that Ivins was under suspicion, said the scientist had taken a massive dose of a prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine.
Now maybe this is true. However, that seems to me to be an unlikely way for a biologist to commit suicide. If the codeine kills you, great- but if it doesn't, you're likely to die much more slowly, as your liver shuts down from the effects of the Tylenol. And Ivins would likely have known that. Of course, a severely despondent person might not be thinking clearly enough, so there's some plausibility... but one has to wonder.

Glen Greenwald has a great deal more on Ivins' death:

We now know -- we knew even before news of Ivins' suicide last night, and know especially in light of it -- that the anthrax attacks didn't come from Iraq or any foreign government at all. It came from our own Government's scientist, from the top Army bioweapons research laboratory. More significantly, the false reports linking anthrax to Iraq also came from the U.S. Government -- from people with some type of significant links to the same facility responsible for the attacks themselves.

Surely the question of who generated those false Iraq-anthrax reports is one of the most significant and explosive stories of the last decade. The motive to fabricate reports of bentonite and a link to Saddam is glaring. Those fabrications played some significant role -- I'd argue a very major role -- in propagandizing the American public to perceive of Saddam as a threat, and further, propagandized the public to believe that our country was sufficiently threatened by foreign elements that a whole series of radical policies that the neoconservatives both within and outside of the Bush administration wanted to pursue -- including an attack an Iraq and a whole array of assaults on our basic constitutional framework -- were justified and even necessary in order to survive.

So it does make you wonder, doesn't it? If Ivins was party to this deception, or simply was aware of it, it might be a wee bit awkward if he were about to be cross-examined in court. Maybe someone decided to make sure that didn't happen...

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