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FBI said to have stalked Ivins' family
Diane Sweet
Published: Wednesday August 6, 2008

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Did FBI cross the line in anthrax probe?

Before killing himself last week, Army scientist Bruce Ivins told friends that government agents had stalked him and his family for months, offered his son $2.5 million to rat him out and tried to turn his hospitalized daughter against him with photographs of dead anthrax victims.

The pressure on Ivins was extreme, a high-risk strategy that has failed the FBI before. The government was determined to find the villain in the 2001 anthrax attacks; it was too many years without a solution to the case that shocked and terrified a post-9/11 nation.

The last thing the FBI needed was another embarrassment. Overreaching damaged the FBI’s reputation in the high-profile investigations: the Centennial Olympic Park bombing probe that falsely accused Richard Jewell; the theft of nuclear secrets and botched prosecution of scientist Wen Ho Lee; and, in this same anthrax probe, the smearing of an innocent man — Ivins’ colleague Steven Hatfill.

In the current case, Ivins complained privately that FBI agents had offered his son, Andy, $2.5 million, plus “the sports car of his choice” late last year if he would turn over evidence implicating his father in the anthrax attacks, according to a former U.S. scientist who described himself as a friend of Ivins.

Ivins also said the FBI confronted Ivins’ daughter, Amanda, with photographs of victims of the anthrax attacks and told her, “This is what your father did,” according to the scientist, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because their conversation was confidential.

The scientist said Ivins was angered by the FBI’s alleged actions, which he said included following Ivins’ family on shopping trips.

Washington attorney Barry Coburn, who represents Amanda Ivins, declined to comment on the investigation. An attorney for Andy Ivins also declined to comment.

The FBI declined to describe its investigative techniques of Ivins.

Detox and rehab for Ivins?

The Washington Post reports today accounts from a fellow scientist, and Ivin's counselor alleging that Ivin's had difficulty with alcohol and prescription drugs that led to two inpatient stays for detoxification, rehabilitation, and therapy sessions from the counselor who eventually sought a protection order from Ivins:

"Late last fall, Bruce E. Ivins was drinking a liter of vodka some nights, taking large doses of sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs, and typing out rambling e-mails into the early morning hours, according to a fellow scientist who helped him through this period.

It was around the time that FBI agents showed Ivins's 24-year-old daughter pictures of the victims who had died in the 2001 anthrax attacks and told her, "Your father did this," the scientist said. The agents also offered her twin brother the $2.5 million reward for solving the anthrax case -- and the sports car of his choice.

Ivins "was e-mailing me late at night with gobbledygook, ranting and raving" about what he called the "persecution" of his family, said the scientist, a recovering alcohol and drug user who had been sober for more than a decade. The scientist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he had been contacted by a co-worker of Ivins's at the sprawling Army biodefense laboratory in Fort Detrick and that the co-worker said the veteran anthrax researcher "has really gone down the tubes."

The scientist agreed to help Ivins, focusing on a 12-step recovery program. He was one of many people who intervened in Ivins's life before he committed suicide last week as law officials were preparing to indict him in the anthrax attacks that killed five people.

Before he died July 29 of a Tylenol overdose, Ivins, 62, had two inpatient stays at Maryland hospitals for detoxification and rehabilitation and attended two sets of therapy sessions with a counselor who eventually sought court protection from him.

Ivins had just returned from a four-week stay at a psychiatric hospital in Western Maryland in late May when he wrote the fellow scientist in recovery a calm, six-sentence e-mail. "I hope," it said, "that both of us avoid relapsing into our previous substance abuse." Since his death, Ivins's long-term mental health and the psychological effects of the investigation have become increasingly prominent questions.

The counselor he saw for group therapy and biweekly individual sessions, who would eventually tell a judge that he was a "sociopathic, homicidal killer," had a troubled past. Jean C. Duley, who worked until recent days for Comprehensive Counseling Associates in Frederick, is licensed as an entry-level drug counselor and was, according to one of her mentors, allowed to work with clients only under supervision of a more-seasoned professional.

Shortly before she sought a "peace order" against Ivins, Duley had completed 90 days of home detention after a drunken-driving arrest in December, and she has acknowledged drug use in her past.

In a 1999 interview with The Washington Post, Duley described her background as a motorcycle gang member and a drug user. "Heroin. Cocaine. PCP," said Duley, who then used the name Jean Wittman. "You name it, I did it."

Ivins starting working with Duley after a stint in rehabilitation about six months ago. It was not the first time, though, that people sensed that he had an addiction problem. W. Russell Byrne, an infectious disease specialist who worked with Ivins in the bacteriology division at Fort Detrick until Byrne's 2000 retirement from the Army, has kept up with his former colleagues. Byrne said he remembers offering Ivins a beer one night several years ago when Ivins made a rare appearance at a party at Bushwaller's, an Irish pub in the heart of Frederick where their crowd of scientists sometimes gathered. "He declined," Byrne recalled. "He said he had a family history of alcoholism."

Gerry Andrews, who worked with Ivins at Fort Detrick for nine years and was the bacteriology division's chief from 2000 to 2003, said that it was rare for Ivins to join the other researchers after work for beer and that Ivins drank so little he was kidded about being a teetotaler.

Andrews said that after he retired from the Army, he kept in touch with Ivins via e-mail, sharing jokes and pondering scientific questions. Then in fall 2007, Andrews said, "he kind of fell off the radar screen. I found out that there was some issues with his house being surveilled."

According to the scientist, who said he spent about 80 hours with Ivins to help him recover from his addiction, the FBI agents pressured Ivins's children, and they were pressuring Ivins in public places. One day in March, when Ivins was at a Frederick mall with his wife and son, the agents confronted the researcher and said, "You killed a bunch of people." Then they turned to his wife and said, "Do you know he killed people?" according to the scientist."

Case 'solved' but will 'remain open'

The case of the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people in 2001 and alarmed a nation already traumatized by the Sept. 11 terror attacks has been solved — but will remain open for now to wrap up legal and investigative loose ends, according U.S. officials.

The government were to begin briefing victims and their survivors at FBI headquarters Wednesday — eight days after the top suspect, Army biowarfare scientist Bruce Ivins, killed himself as prosecutors prepared to charge him with murder.

Ivins' lawyer maintains the brilliant but troubled scientist would have been proven innocent had he lived. And some of Ivins' friends and former co-workers at the Fort Detrick biological warfare lab in Frederick, Md., say they doubt he could or would have unleashed the deadly toxin.

But after nearly seven years — much of which was spent pointing the finger at the wrong suspect — the FBI is ready to end the "Amerithrax" investigation by outlining its evidence against Ivins, according to two U.S. officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

The Justice Department "has a legal and moral obligation to make official statements first to the victims and their families, then the public," Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Tuesday. "And that's the order in which we're going to do it."

Officially, the case will stay open for an undetermined but short period of time. That will allow the government to complete several legal and investigatory matters that need to be wrapped up before it can be closed, the officials said.

Families of victims were to get the first glimpse inside the case at the morning FBI briefing. The Justice Department, meanwhile, was expected to ask a federal judge to unseal documents revealing how the FBI closed in on Ivins.

That evidence should answer many questions in the bizarre investigation. Still, skeptics may never be satisfied if the documents fail to show conclusively that Ivins was solely responsible for mailing the anthrax letters that killed five and sickened 17 in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

The case may turn on a couple of key points, including:

_An advanced DNA analysis that matched the anthrax used in the attacks to a specific batch controlled by Ivins. It is unclear, however, how the FBI eliminated as suspects others in the lab who had access to it.

_Ivins' purported motive of sending the anthrax in a twisted effort to test a cure for it, according to authorities. Ivins complained of the limitations of animal testing and shared in a patent for an anthrax vaccine. No evidence has been revealed so far to bolster that theory.

_Why Ivins would have mailed the deadly letters from Princeton, N.J., a seven-hour round trip from his home. In perhaps the strangest explanation to emerge in the case so far, authorities said Ivins had been obsessed with the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma for more than 30 years. The letters were sent from a mailbox down the street from the sorority's offices at Princeton University.

Investigators can't place Ivins in Princeton but say the evidence will show he had disturbing attitudes toward women. Other haunting details about Ivins' mental health have emerged, and his therapist described him as having a history of homicidal and sociopathic thoughts.

(With wire reports)

 
 


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