Documents: Bruce Ivins Sent False Samples The Justice Department released documents Wednesday shedding light on the military scientist linked to the 2001 anthrax attacks. They show a troubled man, who sent the the FBI false samples rather than help the organization.
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Documents: Bruce Ivins Sent False Samples

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Documents: Bruce Ivins Sent False Samples

Documents: Bruce Ivins Sent False Samples

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

I'm Alex Chadwick. Coming up, a government report says Iraq has billions of dollars in oil money, while U.S. taxpayers get bills to rebuild that country.

BRAND: But first, the Justice Department has released documents supporting its focus on scientist Bruce Ivins as a suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks. Those attacks killed five people. The documents include explanations for the court as to why investigators needed certain search warrants. Ivins committed suicide last week amid questioning and surveillance. NPR's Laura Sullivan is here to bring us up to date on these documents. And Laura, how does the document - how does the government - what these documents - what do they say about the case against Ivins?

LAURA SULLIVAN: Well, the FBI has unveiled a really damning but largely still circumstantial case against possible anthrax killer Bruce Ivins. They've got hundreds of pages of documents, search warrants and other court records, and really, they seem to show a really troubled man who they say, "a custodian" of the specific strain of anthrax used in the attacks. Investigator said that Ivins was unable to give them an explanation for some of his very unusual and late-night visits to the office, to the lab where the anthrax was stored. And when they asked him why all of a sudden he was spending all of his afternoons and late at night in the lab, he said it was just because home was no good. And that time he also apparently told a co-worker he was suffering from serious mental health troubles, and he said he feared he might not be able to control his behavior. And this was at the time that the letters were mailed. And most tellingly, from the FBI, the warrant says that while he was - Ivins was supposed to helping the FBI solve the case and sending them different strains, he was actually submitting false samples and altering the samples that he was sending them, which they now believe was an effort to mislead them in their investigation. And in one instance they went back and they took the samples themselves that they had wanted, and they realized they were completely different from the samples that Ivins had sent.

BRAND: Hmm. So in these documents any suggestion of a motive as to why he might possibly do this?

SULLIVAN: The documents still do not fully explain why a man who is so beloved by his co-workers and friends would want to kill people with this lethal bacteria. But there is one suggestion, the FBI asserts in one of the documents that Ivins was under pressure to help a private company produce an anthrax vaccine, and that company had just lost i's FDA approval, which suggests he may have been trying to make the anthrax threat more pressing or more real.

BRAND: And remind us again what these attacks consisted of?

SULLIVAN: Well, they were - it was a series of letters that were contaminated with anthrax that were mailed to the media and congressional offices. And the first person to die was a photo editor in Boca Raton, Florida, and after that four more people died including an elderly woman in Connecticut.

BRAND: And as you say, there are a lot of personal documents that were seized, and what did they reveal about Bruce Ivins?

SULLIVAN: Throughout the documents, Ivins appears to be mentally unstable. They show Ivins send an email to someone he knew a few days before the attacks warning. It says here, "Bin Laden terrorists for sure have anthrax and sarin gas, and have just decreed death to all Jews and all Americans." That is strikingly similar to the language that was on the letters that he sent which said, we have anthrax. Death to America, death to Israel. Interestingly, the documents also tied those envelopes that he wrote - that someone wrote on to post offices in Maryland and Virginia. And he also received a shipment of those exact envelopes to a post office box, the same day that they arrived in post offices of Maryland and Virginia. Overall, the records are just replete with sort of seemingly bizarre and writing and conversations he had with his friends and co-workers. In an email in 2000, he talked about his depression and a metallic taste in his mouth. Feeling paranoid and isolated, and had an obsession with one of the sororities, Kappa Kappa Gamma, as well.

CHIDEYA: All right. We will be following the story as it progresses. NPR's Laura Sullivan, thank you very much.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

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