Scott Shane’s newest, detailed exploration of Bruce Ivins can be summarized in Shane’s statement, “unless new evidence were to surface, the enormous public investment in the case would appear to have yielded nothing more persuasive than a strong hunch, based on a pattern of damning circumstances, that Dr. Ivins was the perpetrator.”
Let me make a few comments on this very detailed story.
…anthrax specialists who have not spoken out previously said that, contrary to some skeptics’ claims, Dr. Ivins had the equipment and expertise to make the powder in his laboratory.
He may well have–but this begs the bigger question of how long it would have taken and whether he could have done so without being detected.
And most importantly:
The science alone could not close the case. “We could get to a lab, to a refrigerator, to a flask,” said Dwight E. Adams, the F.B.I. laboratory director until 2006. “But that didn’t put the letters in anyone’s hand.”
As the bureau’s undercover informant, Dr. Haigwood struck up a breezy e-mail correspondence about scientific grants, pets and travel. Dr. Ivins complained about psychological screening and other “rather obnoxious and invasive measures” imposed at Fort Detrick since the anthrax attacks.
Dr. Nancy Haigwood believed Ivins was the culprit and had additionally, “damaged my property, he impersonated me and he stalked me.” She was afraid he would send her an anthrax letter. Her goal in renewing their friendship was to get him to incriminate himself. So any evidence resulting from their correspondence would need to be viewed from this perspective and in its entirety.
Dr. Ivins still carried resentment from four decades earlier at Lebanon High School in Ohio, where he had been a nerdy, awkward teenager devoted to photography and, even then, to the study of bacteria.
What percent of Ph.D. scientists did not feel nerdy, awkward and excluded as teens, I wonder? (I do not mean to target scientists. The teen years are awkward for most people.)
Though a public debate had raged for years over whether the mailed anthrax had been “weaponized” with sophisticated chemical additives, the F.B.I. had concluded early on that it was not.
The jury is still out on this issue, but many believe otherwise.
By 2004, secret scientific testing established that the mailed anthrax had been grown somewhere near Fort Detrick.
Presumably this comment refers to properties of the water used to grow anthrax; whether such analysis can reliably pinpoint the Frederick, Maryland area remains open to question.