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Ivins claimed he knew who sent anthrax

Unsealed documents indicate that the suspect was consumed with the criminal case closing in on him.

September 25, 2008|David Willman | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — On Sept. 7, 2007, as investigators were building the case against him for the deadly anthrax mailings, Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins sent himself an excited e-mail titled, "Finally! I know Who mailed the anthrax!"

The e-mail -- along with other correspondence showing that Ivins more recently mused about how to blind or kill a reality TV participant -- was among previously confidential investigative documents unsealed on Wednesday by a federal judge.

Ivins, 62, a microbiologist who specialized in handling anthrax at the Army's biological warfare research facility at Ft. Detrick, Md., died July 29 in a suicide. Justice Department prosecutors were preparing to charge him in connection with the anthrax mailings, which in 2001 killed five people and sickened or injured 17 others.

The unsealed documents had originally been submitted by investigators last month to win the judge's permission to search seven e-mail accounts that Ivins had maintained. Federal officials declined to comment on the newly unsealed e-mails, which had remained under wraps while investigators combed through Ivins' correspondence.

At face value, the new e-mails reinforce the view that Ivins was consumed with the criminal case closing in on him and, in the final months of his life, behaved in a way that suggested madness.

By early September 2007, the FBI had determined with the help of outside experts that the anthrax used in the mailings originated in a flask of material maintained by Ivins at Ft. Detrick.

But the bureau had not yet done all of the investigative work necessary to exclude as suspects colleagues of Ivins at Ft. Detrick and scientists elsewhere who also had worked with or had access to the material, labeled RMR 1029.

It was against that backdrop that Ivins, at 5:49 p.m. EDT on Sept. 7, sent the e-mail to himself, proclaiming that he had solved the case. Sent from one of the addresses he had registered, KingBadger7@aol .com, Ivins wrote:

"Yes! Yes! Yes!!!!!!! I finally know who mailed the anthrax letters in the fall of 2001. I've pieced it together! Now we can finally get all of this over and done with. I have to check a couple of things to make sure ... absolutely sure . . . and then I can turn over the info. I'll probably turn it over to my lawyer, and then he'll turn info over to the authorities."

Ivins added -- in an apparent reference to his colleagues at Ft. Detrick:

"I'm not looking forward to everybody getting dragged through the mud, but at least it will all be over. Finally! I should have it TOTALLY nailed down within the month. I should have been a private eye!!!!"

Paul F. Kemp, a lawyer whom Ivins had hired to represent him, said that the e-mail "was a note with himself to discuss with me certain information that he wanted to pass on to the FBI. He did, and I passed it on. It was an attempt to say who might have had access to the beaker" containing the RMR 1029 anthrax.

Officials from the FBI and the Justice Department have said that their investigation determined that Ivins, alone, perpetrated the anthrax mailings. Kemp has said that he would have won Ivins' acquittal had the case gone to trial.

Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.) introduced legislation Wednesday calling for a "9/11-style" commission to investigate the anthrax mailings.

Holt does not have any co-sponsors for his bill, an aide said.

As for the e-mails in which Ivins discussed the TV participant, federal officials said they brought these to the attention of the judge because they wanted to search for any evidence that Ivins had targeted witnesses in the anthrax case, according to the court documents. In the e-mails, Ivins focused on Kathryn Price, who appeared in 2001 in episodes of "The Mole," an ABC-TV reality series.

The FBI, after searching Ivins' trash outside his home, found mentions of addresses that enabled investigators to trace to him this e-mail, discussing how another participant in the "The Mole" could have detected Price's arranged role as the show's spoiler from within.

"He should have taken the hatchet and brought it down hard and sharply across her neck, severing her carotid artery and jugular vein," Ivins wrote in early July. "Then when she hits the ground, he completes the task on the other side of the neck, severing her trachea. . . . I personally would have paid big money to have do[n]e it myself."

Ivins also wrote, "The least someone could do would be to take a sharp ballpoint pin or letter opener and put her eyes out, to complete the task of making her a true mole!"


Times researcher Janet Lundblad in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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