Anthrax Suspect's Abortion Stance Eyed As Motive Bruce Ivins may have targeted Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy with anthrax-laced letters in 2001 because he saw them as bad Catholics owing to their pro-choice votes, officials close to the investigation say.

Anthrax Suspect's Abortion Stance Eyed As Motive

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. One day after the FBI presented evidence against Army scientist Bruce Ivins, there are new suggestions emerging about what motive he might have had for the anthrax killings.

The anthrax case has been the FBI's longest and most complicated investigation in the past decade. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has been speaking with officials close to the investigation. She's here to give us an update. Hi, Dina.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Hi there.

BLOCK: And what have you learned about Bruce Ivins' possible motives?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, originally, the thinking was that Ivins had targeted Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy because they were leaders in Congress and were holding up funding that would have helped pay for research he was doing on an anthrax vaccine, but now officials are saying that it may have been for another reason. It may have been because he resented their pro-choice voting record.

BLOCK: And what's leading them in that direction?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, there is some evidence to that. I mean, investigators found an article in Ivins' home that basically singled out four senators -Daschle, Leahy, Senator Edward Kennedy and Joseph Biden - for criticism because of their pro-choice votes.

I mean, it was an article that was in a right-for-life magazine. Now, the affidavit that came out yesterday stopped short of saying that Ivins read the article, but his wife was the president of the Frederick right-to-life chapter, according to him, and his own beliefs about abortion were fairly well known. There were e-mails that showed that. So it isn't inconceivable that, you know, he did read the article. I mean, officials close to the case say they believe Ivins' right-to-life fervor was at least in part the reason why he targeted Daschle and Leahy.

BLOCK: Have you learned anything else about any anti-abortion activity within the family?

TEMPLE-RASTON: No, not really. I mean, what we know is more that they were practicing Catholics, and their children had attended and graduated from a Catholic high school in Frederick, Maryland. Ms. Ivins, as I said, was apparently the president of the Frederick County right-to-life group, and they had connections to a lot of other pro-life, anti-abortion groups.

Now, back in 2001 the Catholic pro-life movement in this country was openly critical of Catholic congressional members who had voted pro-choice. So two of the more prominent members who were voting that way, of course, were Senators Leahy and Daschle.

BLOCK: Still, Dina, a lot of what you're describing is circumstantial evidence that could easily be explained away if Bruce Ivins were alive to defend himself. Is the FBI over-reaching here?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, that's a good question. I mean, the case is not a slam dunk. There are problems. There is, for example, a lot of scientists who say that the FBI couldn't possibly rule out everyone who might have had access to anthrax that they're linking to Ivins.

While they might have a log of people who used this vial of anthrax that was linked to him, a suspect might have been able to, for example, grow more anthrax without anybody knowing.

Another problem: Investigators can't place Ivins in Princeton, which is where the letters were mailed from. And Ivins has this very distinctive, cramped handwriting, but the FBI said they couldn't make a match with the handwriting on the envelopes. It was similar, they said, but apparently there was nothing conclusive.

BLOCK: Bruce Ivins' lawyer has complained about heavy-handed tactics by the FBI. They say they basically hounded his client to commit suicide. What does the FBI say about that?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, officials I spoke to said that quite a lot of what has been reported about this heavy-handedness is flat wrong. One often-reported inaccuracy was that the FBI offered Ivins' son a $2.5 million reward and a sports car to turn in his dad.

Apparently that never happened. The son had seen a wanted poster for the anthrax killer and saw the reward was 2.5 million, and the FBI says he's the one who mentioned it to them.

Now, earlier today, Ivins' lawyer said to us that the son had told him that it had happened. So there's a lot there that's in dispute.

BLOCK: Okay, NPR's Dina Temple-Raston. Thanks so much.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.

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