Anthrax (Not the Band): Is the Case Really Closed?


The Justice Department yesterday announced that Dr. Bruce Ivins, the scientist who killed himself last week when he learned the feds were closing in on him, was the only suspect in the 2001 anthrax mailings.

The Post devotes four pages in the news section and an editorial to the case. The paper has a stake in this story since three of its staffers were infected by a letter sent to its offices and has been covering it extensively over the past few days. It takes up the majority of the front page today with the recycled “SPORE LOSER” headline (it was used in a story earlier in the week).

Ivins is pure tabloid fodder: He wrote bizarre poetry that hinted at multiple personalities, he was obsessed with a sorority after one of its members turned him down decades ago and he threatened to take as many of his co-workers and enemies down if he were ever arrested. As one of my friends described it to me in an e-mail, “This shit sounds like a movie – oh, guy we had an eye on commits suicide – HEY WE SOLVED IT IT WAS THAT GUY WITH THE SORORITY GIRL LUST HE’S A WIERDO [sic] AND KNOWS ANTHRAX! PLUS A PENCIL MOUSTACHE!”

The Daily News claims an exclusive on Ivins’s motive: that he was afraid that his career would be destroyed because the anthrax vaccine he helped develop was going to be discontinued. The Post has that info in one of its stories, but not the level of detail.

Both papers also cover Ivins’s lawyer’s insistence that he was innocent. The Post‘s editorial on the case expresses relief that the culprit may have been discovered, but notes that the Justice Department has a history of finding the wrong “person of interest” (see Richard Jewell, Dr. Wen Ho Lee and former anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill). Does this uneasily close a disturbing chapter in U.S. history, or does it offer more questions?