“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” George Orwell

The Anthrax Man

Pay attention good readers, we are about to take a trip into our past. Like an old movie mystery; the drama and intrigue surrounding accused anthrax killer Dr. Bruce Ivins continues to pours out into the internet, the iridescent silvery screen reflecting back the images of a man none of us knew.

Photo: Frederick News Post 

 Apparently Doctor Ivins moved in and out of one of the most secret, and secure departments of our national security structure like a master spy. Not his friends, family, co-workers, the U.S. Army, or Department of Defense knew that within their inner circle lurked the mind of a madman. Biding his time, Dr. Ivins apparently waited till he could strike out, scaring the public as well as waking us up to how defenseless we really are against what our and other government were growing in their secret labs. By trying to poison or kill members of the media and the government, suddenly we would open our eyes and demand for greater security from this insidious threat…

 Or was he the vicious spree killer depicted by therapist Jean Duley in an article reported by NPR Journalist David Kestenbaum?  A desperate animal trapped and hunted by the F.B.I. who was intent on going out in a “blaze of glory”? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93235339

So which was he I have to ask?

A dedicated clinical scientist so upset with the lack of biological defense in this country that he was willing to kill to make his point? Or is he the high strung, emotional fireball pushed so far that he threatened the lives of his co-workers and frightened his therapist so badly that she filed a restraining order against him?  

Dr. Bruce Ivins, a noted scientist of 36 years who acquired a P.H.d in Biology from the University of Cincinnati in 1976, was a senior researcher of the super secret USAMRIID ( United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases ) at Ft. Dietrich, Maryland for 18 years. He holds co-ownership of several patents for his work on genetically enhanced anthrax vaccine and has been published over one hundred times in his illustrious career. According to reports in the Los Angeles Times as well as the Chicago Tribune; Dr. Ivins also received the highest award given by the Department of Defense to civilian contractors, the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service, in March of 2003 for solving issues related to the production of anthrax vaccine.

It is this man; father, active community volunteer (the American Red Cross as well as his local church), dedicated public servant, widely respected and well liked member of his peer community, that is being buried in the slush pile of modern media. If you search hard enough on the net you can clearly see all of Dr. Ivins service being buried beneath a systematic attempt to highlight all the negatives at the end of his life. From all reports Dr. Ivins was subjected to harassment at every turn, was detained by the F.B.I. on numerous occasions, had his friends and family interrogated; his life was shredded before his eyes and knowing the system the way he did Dr. Ivins knew there was no way out.

I am neither a soothsayer nor a mindreader but I can only imagine what it must be like to work your entire life dedicated to researching and trying to defeat the deadliest organisms on the planet only to have your life ripped apart by the very government you dedicated your life to serve.

Maybe Dr. Bruce Ivins did release the Anthrax on the media and our Government to raise awareness of the precarious state of our defense structure against biological agents…Maybe Dr. Ivins did threaten his co-workers in the privacy of his therapists office, feeling betrayed, used, and rejected. Maybe he did have a dark side that went back to his days as a graduate student and as his brother Tom Ivins reported in an interview with BBC News “considered himself godlike“.

None of this really matters because we will never know. What matters now is why…

Why is there suddenly this flood of negative information? Is it because the evidence presented by his own peers in the scientific community claim that he was an exemplary scientist but probably incapable of weaponizing an aerosol version of this biological agent?

As quoted from the NYTimes, “I don’t think a vaccine specialist could do it,” said Dr. Alan P. Zelicoff, a physician who aided the F.B.I. investigation when he worked at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. “This is aerosol physics, not biology,” Dr. Zelicoff added. “There are very few people who have their feet in both camps.” 

Try reading the latest article in the Wall Street Journal on line. In it one of the leading bio-terrorism experts in the world, former head of the biological-weapons section of UNESCO from 1994-99, Richard Spertzel tears apart the very basis for the governments case. “The FBI spent between 12 and 18 months trying “to reverse engineer” (make a replica of) the anthrax in the letters sent to Messrs. Daschle and Leahy without success, according to FBI news releases. So why should federal investigators or the news media or the American public believe that a lone scientist would be able to do so?


 It’s evidence like this that the establishment doesn’t want the public to hear because it could actually point towards another source besides Dr. Ivins.

This whole tale has the uncanny feel of a classic spy story, where the unfortunate lead character finds himself stuck up to his neck in a situation beyond his control. Just as the government is ready to bring in the main character something terrible happens and the cover-up; that is the old stand-by of these stories, kicks in. Demonize the accused, reduce the level of their credibility by airing all their dirty laundry, and suddenly a meek, socially awkward scientist who dedicated his life to public service becomes a homicidal sociopath that the public fears. 

Do any of us remember the tales of David Ferrie, the supposed middleman between Lee Harvey Oswald and the CIA’s New Orleans effort to overthrow cuban dictator Fidel Castro, portrayed in Oliver Stone’s JFK? Did he know something and was shut up through the use of a drug overdose or did he just die from a Berry Aneurysm?

Did Dr. Ivins kill himself from guilt/stress or was he silenced to keep his mouth shut about something far deeper? I don’t know, I’m just a writer… But I do know something of the culture of fear that has been rampant since Sept. 11. and I know good story line.

This story feels like a little bit of both…


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