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Details Emerge Slowly in Anthrax Case

POSTED: 11:25 AM ET, 08/ 4/2008 by Derek Kravitz

With lingering unanswered questions surrounding the anthrax case and the suicide of its chief suspect, scientist Bruce E. Ivins, one law enforcement official told the New York Times that the evidence that led the bureau to its latest theory of the case could be released as early as Wednesday.

Other developments in the investigation of the worst bioterrorist attack in the nation's history:

-- Investigators used advanced DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify unique sections of genetic code to track the anthrax back to the biological weapons lab at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., where the highly specific type of toxin was overseen by Ivins, The Associated Press' Lara Jakes Jordan and Matt Apuzzo.

-- Officials familiar with the case told NPR's Dina Temple-Raston that the Department of Justice had not yet "approved the case" against Ivins and that it had not presented to a grand jury nor had jurors been asked to vote on an indictment. That process could have taken weeks, NPR reported.

-- Ivins enjoyed a security clearance that allowed him to work most secure areas at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, including the facility's most dangerous laboratories, to handle deadly biological agents, and to take part in broad discussions about the Pentagon's defenses against germ warfare, The Post's Carrie Johnson, Marilyn W. Thompson and Joby Warrick report.

-- Ivins was a "sociopathic, homicidal killer" who planned to kill his co-workers "because he was about to be indicted on capital murder charges," a Maryland court was warned shortly before Ivins committed suicide last week, The Los Angeles Times' Bob Drogin reports.

A psychotherapist, Jean Carol Duley, had treated Ivins for six months and told the court July 24 that the microbiologist had purchased a bulletproof vest and gun and boasted of roaming the streets hoping to stab someone.

By Derek Kravitz |  August 4, 2008; 11:25 AM ET
Previous: Long, Crooked Road of the Anthrax Probe | Next: GAO: Fake Companies Approved Under Medicare Program


Please email us to report offensive comments.

A psychotherapist, Jean Carol Duley, had treated Ivins for six months and told the court July 24 that the microbiologist had purchased a bulletproof vest and gun and boasted of roaming the streets hoping to stab someone.

Is it possible to provide more info on this allegation? On this therapist? Can you show us the gun? A receipt ? A witness to the gun sale? You know how this whole thing looks? Oswaldian. I just made that up. Is this really an investigative arm of the paper?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 4, 2008 12:40 PM

Perhaps Jean Carol Duley was a sociopathic, homicidal killer who planned to kill Ivins.

Perhaps the government paid her to induce Ivins to commit suicide.

Posted by: Singing Senator | August 4, 2008 12:59 PM

the investigation of this crime has been an absolute travesty since the beginning. Ivins was of course the second scientist targeted after Hatfield was publicly destroyed. And even after using Ivins in the conduct of the investigation, the FBI is certain that their case is clean? And after years of FBI hounding, the guy cracked up? Maybe he did it, maybe he didn't, but I don't see any evidence or motive; and I will be very suspicious of the supporting data the FBI presents.

Posted by: mgbsc | August 4, 2008 1:38 PM

You sound like you're not entirely sure what you're discussing. So the folks sequenced unique sections of the DNA of the Bacillus anthracis bacterium used in the letters. So far, so good. Then you say "the biological weapons lab at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., where the highly specific type of toxin was overseen by Ivins"

Huh? How did we get from bacterial DNA to toxins and then to Ivins? Did the sequence in question code for one of the toxins expressed by the bacterium? And did Ivins work on these toxins for the vaccine production his lab apparently did? There are a lot of logical steps you folks are jumping over. I have a suggestion--how about get Rick Weiss to work on the science. He at least understands this stuff.

Posted by: Interested scientist | August 4, 2008 1:48 PM

Salon has looked into Jean Duley and she is evidently a social worker, not a psychotherapist. She's had several DUIs and other legal problems in Frederick; Salon links to public records available on the web with more details. How reliable is this woman? All these "highly placed" and "close to the investigation" unnamed sources sound like FBI people being transcribed by accommodating, unquestioning reporters.

Posted by: VA subscriber | August 4, 2008 2:01 PM


I think they are referring to the actual bacterial strain as the "toxin" in this case, rather than to the toxins produced by the bacterium. It appears that they did some sequencing of both the letter strains and the Ft. Detrick strains and found a match. The link to Ivins still isn't clear.

Posted by: Another Interested Scientist | August 4, 2008 2:21 PM

I am assuming the difference between "toxin" and DNA is caused by the reporter not understanding the science well.

There is an mp3 out on the web with the entire hearing for the protective order. There are many licensed social workers performing counseling- psychiatric and alcohol and drug, family therapy. Whether that individual was once convicted of drunk driving or not seems irrelevant, unless you are suggesting she is incompetent to evaluate a person threatening to kill others in his workplace. Somehow the implication is the FBI killed or drove to suicide an innocent man. I think the jury is out on that. We should also ask why the FBI was so convinced for so long the anthrax came from Iraq, not our national bioweapons labs. If Ivins did make the anthrax, that is appalling and shameful.

Posted by: an interested scientist | August 4, 2008 2:39 PM

For the black helicopter folks:

1) Social workers can be psychotherapists. Psychotherapist is not a degree, it's a job. Psychiatrist = MD, Psychotherapist = someone who claims to do psychotherapy. This is not a knock against psychotherapists, many have done extensive training and highly capable therapists. The real distinction is between Psychiatrists (who can prescribe drugs and order involuntary commitment) and everyone else.

2) The "allegation" about homicidal behaviour was documented in an request for a protection order requested by Duley. This was granted, so some court believed it. In addition, the therapy was group therapy, so the threats were presumably heard by others besides Duley.

Certainly, the FBI's history with Hatfill should encourage a certain level of skepticism, but there's no reason to trash some woman who had the misfortune to lead a group therapy session that included Ivins.

Posted by: markgo | August 4, 2008 2:47 PM

I live in New Mexico and am always reminded of a bumper sticker often seen in this state when there is a government investigation and information is leaked or slowly diffused through the press - - can you trust the government? ask any indian.

Posted by: Patrick | August 4, 2008 3:13 PM

Did Ivins leave a suicide note? Who else (how many others) had access to the genetically-identical strain of anthrax? How was the bacteria "weaponized" given knowledge, opportunity, and facilities at Ft. Detrick or otherwise available to Ivins? Ivins is portrayed by Duley as being a sociopath. Why did his co-workers who knew him for years -- or decades -- perceive him so differently? Was his emotional stress caused by guilt or simply by the pressure placed on him by the FBI's theory and investigation, and his sense of vulnerability to what might have been a false accusation? I hope the anticipated evidence release answers these and other logical questions convincingly.

After the Jewel and Hatfil experiences, unproven FBI solutions to high-profile crimes should reasonably be regarded with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Posted by: Richard | August 4, 2008 4:26 PM

Imagine that I am microbiologist at an Ivy League medical research facility. As I pursue critical X-ray crystallography experiments on anthrax, I need access to as many strains of the bacillus as possible, in the name of consistency. A reputed colleague at USAMRIID, with whom I have had dealings before, eagerly contributes to my effort by sending a sample of his own vintage 1997 "mix".
In the name of efficency, --to avoid tedious paperwork and complicated explaining--, this is done informally, on a mutual trust basis, as indeed was the practice in academia before 9-11. I then pass on the minute anthrax quantity to the guru of structural biology who happens to operate a fully equipped lab just down the hall.
But years later, I'm left wondering if I haven't unwittingly provided a deranged man with just the weapon he needed.
This example simply means that the FBI will have to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that not only Bruce E. Ivins did prepare the toxin, but that he also wrote the letters and personally dropped them in the Princeton mailboxes in september and october 2001. A tall order indeed.

Posted by: Sore Throat, Monreal | August 4, 2008 4:28 PM

The Washington Post, Salon, NPR, and the rest of the media should FIRST CONFIRM as it relates to Dr. Ivins' treatment for depression.

Jean C. Duley's credentials as a social worker. Duley worked at the Comprehensive Counseling Associates. She's a Bachelor of Social Work and CSC - AD. Here is what her credentialing means in the state of Maryland:

Certified Supervised Counselor-Alcohol and Drug (CSC-AD):
- At least 18 years of age
- Associates degree in Health or Human Services counseling field or completed a program of studies judged by the Board to be substantially equivalent in subject matter and extent of training
- 15 credits, including a minimum 1 credit Ethics in A&D counseling course
- 2 years, 2,000 hours. 1 year must be after the award of the degree
- Practice under the supervision of a CPC-AD or other supervisor approved by the Board AND while an employee of a JCAHO or Maryland State accredited program

Therefore, IMHO she's not even qualified to treat Dr. Ivins nor qualified to make the diagnosis she publicly made about Dr. Ivins.

Her violations of doctor patient confidentiality and communications with the FBI and DOJ were probably the cause of his anger and rage.

Dr. Ivins was a well-respected expert in his field. His career was ruined by an over-zealous addictions counselor who shouldn't even have been assigned to Dr. Ivins. This woman had to be supervised by someone with even more training and her licensed limited her to cases involving addictions. No where has it been stated that Dr. Ivins had any drug or alcohol addictions prior to his suicide.

The methods used to investigate Dr. Ivins were shoddy at best.

Furthermore, this case strongly suggests that the Patriot Act again be limited. It appears that the violation of doctor-patient confidentiality puts the patient at a real disadvantage especially when incorrect diagnosis are made but unqualified persons.

This is shameful.

Posted by: frank | August 4, 2008 4:32 PM

FBI is also going to make public its case. Only after that its kast piece of work can be judged. It must be judged carefully. In Britain a bioweapons expert Dr Kelly went for a walk, sat against a tree and cut his wrist, accordibng to an official version. A BBC journalist, to whom he had said Mr Blair is lying, was dismissed, with a few others. The responsible police authority allegedly found suspect "Iraqi agents" and got a high US decoration. The agents were needed: the suicide was not credible. A PM even wrote a book about that. There evidently is something rotten with all those Iraqi bioweapons and agents.

Posted by: Pennjuha | August 4, 2008 5:09 PM

Black helicopters, funny, I use that myself sometimes as it is so dismissive. Sorry, that is not going to work here. Many people were forced out of their workplaces as a result of this funny business.This is going to be a bigger story and that is the sad truth.

Posted by: mike | August 4, 2008 5:49 PM

Ivins, in addition to the group therapy sessions and the MD psychiatrist supervising Duley, had a private MD psychiatrist at Shade Grove. Their records go back to 2000. When suicide or homocide threats meet certain standards, here made in group session with housewife prescription abusers and pain medication addicts, the councilor is legally required by the State of Maryland to report (or lose their licence). Duley notes Ivins was enrolled in Sheridan-Pratt under suicide/homicide watch. However Duley states his attorneys, who Duley also updated on the events, explained a trick for getting out, namely sign yourself in. Ivins did that and then signed himself out and committed suicide.

What i see here is the FBI tiptoeing around desparate to close the case yet not wanting to open up the whole can of treaty violation worms involving DARPA's anthrax weaponization contract work with Battelle. Solution: keep trotting out those Lone Mad Scientists, never mind the physical properties of the powder, Leahy and Daschel holding up the Patriot Act, and the faux islam components to the mailings.

Being an actively publishing genome project researcher myself, I question the concept of DNA many generations downstream (via various production runs) really allowing traceback of its origin down to a specific flask, even by 454 technology. They're exagerating. For controls, they would have to access and test other flasks that they don't know exist, maybe these would have an even better match. I think this DNA claim is a bluff floated by the FBI trying to stampede Ivins into plea bargain (last Tuesday, over death penalty vs life) since they don't seem to have any real evidence. This flask stuff wouldn't be admissable evidence under Daubert in any event since no applicable peer-reviewed publication exists and could be years away.

Aliquot duplicates are commonly transfered in bacteriology, not least to back up refrigerator failure. For example, Ft. Detrick reportedly furnished the Ames strain to Batelle and other labs. No doubt Batelle stored aliquots of that original sample so that they could come back to a constant starting point. No one would test vaccines on one strain and do aerosol experiments with a different strain, nor on a derived colony many generations (and properties) removed. DNA could only provide circumstantial evidence. Here they already knew back in 2001 that the strain came from where else, Ft. Detrick.

When I look at the spore density reported in the Senate packets (a trillion live spores per gram, no clumping) greatly exceeding anything ever reported in the anthrax weapons program or subsequent attempts at Dugway to get anywhere near this density, in conjunction with the lack of debris in electon microscopy and the electrostatic properties, it seems impossible to me that Ivins could have singlehandedly pioneered a new advanced dry aerosol technology (which involves superheated air meeting an wet aerosol in a highly specialized $50,000 device).

The physical containment and transfer of this powder is all but impossible -- it poses an exceedling hazardous contamination issue to its manufacturer and facilities. Ivins was a bacteriologist -- all of his published aerosol tests on rhesus etc involved wet aerosols, not dry, never powders. Ft. Detrick has a separate aerobiology unit with a co-author from there on every aerosol paper. It's a wet anthrax facility.

I don't have an opinion on Ivin's participation overall but in my opinion he could not possibly have made the weapons-grade Senate material without a collaborator from the Batelle facility in West Jefferson, Ohio. The earlier material was sludge anybody could make.

I'm attaching some raw text gathered off the internet in no order with no representations as to its accuracy. Most of it is sourced to url or you can google keywords:

"USAMRIID doesn't deal with powdered anthrax," said Richard O. Spertzel, a former biodefense scientist who worked with Ivins at the Army lab. "I don't think there's anyone there who would have the foggiest idea how to do it. You would need to have the opportunity, the capability and the motivation, and he didn't possess any of those."

"As subcontractors, Battelle scientists have made anthrax powders for use by the Army and U.S. intelligence agencies, but rarely by Fort Detrick, which specializes in vaccine development. Charles Dasey, spokesperson for the parent agency, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, says that as far as he is aware, the only dried anthrax spores made at Fort Detrick since it stopped making weapons were made by Battelle scientists working there for DARPA. This material, made in a biosafety level 3 suite in the Diagnostic Systems Division, contained killed Ames strain at a concentration of 326 million spores per gram--several orders of magnitude less concentrated than the Senate powder and crude by current standards.

Battelle is capable of more sophisticated work, as it also makes one of the world's most advanced medicinal powders. Battelle's pharmaceutical division, BattellePharma, also in Columbus, is one of the few companies anywhere developing electrostatically charged aerosols for inhalation. BattellePharma's Web site boasts that the company's new "electrohydrodynamic" aerosol "reliably delivers more than 80% of the drug to the lungs in a soft (isokinetic) cloud of uniformly sized particles." Other powders, boasts the Web site, only achieve 20% or less."

Posted by: dr. t | August 4, 2008 6:02 PM

I guess if Steven Hatfill had killed himself when under investigation the Feds could have closed the case a couple of years ago. You're not paranoid if they are out to get you.

Posted by: JJ | August 4, 2008 6:49 PM

The above could be clarified. I don't need any leaks from DOJ. The DNA method involved will proved to be coalescence modeling. This is a non-deterministic statistical inference model preceded and based upon sequencing of many individual genomic lineages from anthrax bacilli in the victims that are descended from the original infectious agent exposure.

The idea is that these many clone lines have a common ancestor and that ancestral DNA sequence can be estimated by maximal likelihood methods. After ancestral sequence recovery, the DNA sequence is compared to stored stocks at Ft. Detrick. There will never be an exact match but there could very well be a match head and shoulders above the rest, namely "the flask" which as noted in my previous post could have gotten around by aliquot sharing w.i.t.h.o.u.t being changed genetically in any way.

Coalescence modeling would have to be done separately for each of the 5 letters (most importantly the two Senate envelopes) but i have reason to believe it was only done in the Florida case (where the tabloid had printed offensive material about Saddam Hussein genitalia), probably because samples or colony plates were saved by the hospital struggling with the unexpected diagnosis in their own bacteriology lab.

If you simple use "coalescence dna" as search term at PubMed you will encounter various unexplained glitches and back-and-forth controversies over this method. One of its much balllyhooed successes was coalescence of human AIDS virus to show it originated from well-adapted host viruses normally hosted by green monkey and chimpanzee.

You will recall that Dr. Claire Fraser at TIGR years ago sequenced the entire genome of the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis, Nature. 2003 May 1;423(6935):81-6. Related publications include Strain-specific single-nucleotide polymorphism assays for the Bacillus anthracis Ames strain.
J Clin Microbiol. 2007 Jan;45(1):47-53 and Comparative genome sequencing for discovery of novel polymorphisms in Bacillus anthracis.
Science. 2002 Jun 14;296(5575):2028-33.

My impression from recent Fraser quotes in the paper is that the FBI has kept her group totally in the dark. The coalescence modeling would then come from another FBI grant recipient.

The abstract of that 2007 Fraser paper reads:

"Highly precise diagnostics and forensic assays can be developed through a combination of evolutionary analysis and the exhaustive examination of genomic sequences. In Bacillus anthracis, whole-genome sequencing efforts revealed ca. 3,500 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) among eight different strains and evolutionary analysis provides the identification of canonical SNPs. We have previously shown that SNPs are highly evolutionarily stable, and the clonal nature of B. anthracis makes them ideal signatures for subtyping this pathogen. Here we identified SNPs that define the lineage of B. anthracis that contains the Ames strain, the strain used in the 2001 bioterrorist attacks in the United States. Sequencing and real-time PCR were used to validate these SNPs across B. anthracis strains, including (i) 88 globally and genetically diverse isolates; (ii) isolates that were shown to be genetic relatives of the Ames strain by multiple-locus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA); and (iii) several different lab stocks of the Ames strain, including a clinical isolate from the 2001 letter attack. Six SNPs were found to be highly specific for the Ames strain; four on the chromosome, one on the pX01 plasmid, and one on the pX02 plasmid. All six SNPs differentiated the B. anthracis Ames strain from the 88 unique B. anthracis strains, while five of the six separated Ames from its close genetic relatives. The use of these SNPs coupled with real-time PCR allows specific and sensitive (

Posted by: dr t | August 4, 2008 7:15 PM

Oh right. This story totally checks out.

Especially when Jean C. Duley, the psychotherapist in question, filed the restraining order 3 days before his death.

And in her paperwork, called someone in her profession a "theripist."

Try here:

Posted by: youdontknowjack | August 4, 2008 7:30 PM

See what happens when you lie?
No one believes a GD thing you say.
And for good reason.
You need to ask Bloody John McCain: "Why did you go on television and blame the Anthrax on Saddam? Who told you the Anthrax was from Iraq? Why were YOU so anxious to go to war?
Same with the traitor - Israel First Screw America Lieberman.

Posted by: Tomhere | August 4, 2008 7:59 PM

My hat(fill) is off to the posters in these forums who have out-investigated WaPo and their phalanx of reporters in this case:

To those (I'll be vain and include myself) who caught Duley's handwritten description of herself as a "theripist"; also to those who made a great catch by tracking down her MD Circuit Court records that cast doubt on her credibility.

To those like Dr. T who are acquainting us with fascinating, inside scientific know-how that sheds light into corners that the government would rather leave dark.

These posts are being read by national media reporters, and they are picking up and publicizing all this info that we, ourselves, have uncovered and posted.

Kudos to you folks, who are keeping this story alive and making WaPo look like amateurs in the process!

Posted by: laboo | August 4, 2008 8:59 PM

Her violations of doctor patient confidentiality and communications with the FBI and DOJ were probably the cause of his anger and rage.

Posted by: frank | August 4, 2008 4:32 PM

Would a group therapist, (read-Not Doctor) be held to a doctor/patient confidentiality?



Posted by: JayRockers! | August 4, 2008 10:50 PM

It takes very little to be accused of being homicidal, psychotic etc. by a therapist. We don't know the circumstances, because the therapist in question only accused Ivins in Court, she didn't say in what circumstances Ivins said what she considered threatening to her. Was he desperate and responding in a cynical way to the constant attacks by the FBI, because being a homicidal maniac is what they tried to make him admit to? Was he under the influence of psychiatric drugs, one of the side effects of which is that in some persons their effect will be a complete reversal of depression into a homicidal sounding outbreak and loss of self-control? We don't know. We are told that the FBI knows it all best and we should just believe their word, because the FBI wants to close a shamefully misbegotten case. Surely, they know very well who sent the Anthrax letters - and equally surely, not Ivins - and want to hide it. What better way to do that than to chase a world renowned scientist into suicide and claim nobody knew who he really was. They did the same in U.K to one weapons inspector Kelly. Similarly incoherent and unconvincing arguments were given to explain the collapse of the twin towers, which just couldn't have collapsed from collsion with an airplane alone the way they collapsed!

Posted by: B. Meier | August 5, 2008 12:03 AM

"Ivins was a "sociopathic, homicidal killer" who planned to kill his co-workers "because he was about to be indicted on capital murder charges," a Maryland court was warned shortly before Ivins committed suicide last week, The Los Angeles Times' Bob Drogin reports."

Who was it who warned the Maryland court? Why are you only using passive sentences (i.e. "weasle words") for these allegations? I'd like to at least see some evidence that Ivins had psychiatric problems before years of being under investigation - and before the anthrax killings. Sounds like he's another scapegoat for a botched investigation.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 5, 2008 2:05 AM

Nice work Dt t !!!

Now " The official story " is attempting to further discredit Ivins with the curious link to the Princeton sorority as some sort of stalker.

The more we learn the more all of this stinks of a deliberate disinformation campaign.

An independent congressional investigation might want to
explore the possibility that someone at Princeton is either
an under cover asset or take a look at certain "black budget" research funding at the university.

What we might have here is the possibility that Ivins knew too much or that he simply consulted with a colleague
at the university on a regular basis in his research.

The FBI was attempting to sweep all of this under the rug with their 'lone perp" theory and now the story has blown up in their faces.

Even if we fall for their stinking pile of fecal matter, then
it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the Bush administration, McCain, ABC News et al, deliberately
launched a massive, government sponsored fear campaign
attempting to tie the Anthrax attack to Iraq and Suddam, while knowing that the spores came from NO OTHER PLACE than Ft. Detrick or some other U.S. Bio-Weapons facility.

Why is the MSM protecting ABC News? Why are they avoiding the much bigger story here implicating the Bush
administration with indisputable "probable cause" in one
of the greatest crimes in U.S. history?

Why would Ivins only target news publications and members of Congress opposed to the war and opposed to the Patriot Act?

Shall we assume he was just being a good Republican?

Posted by: OgreDaddy | August 5, 2008 7:08 AM

@ Dr T,
I'm one of the people that worked on the analysis at the Insitute for Genomic Research back in 2002. Here's a link to the novel SNP publication for those that want to learn more about how the genomic DNA of the Florida strain was analyzed.

Posted by: LAU | August 5, 2008 10:20 AM

I would still like more info on Ivins, the suspected mad scientists. So he went off the deepend earlier this year. was there a prior history of mental illness? most of which major mental illnesse reveal themselves in early adulthood. is there a paper trail from insurance companies or doctors? How about his family, if mental problems recent only, whay are they not saying so? I would like to hear more from the supervisors of the Duley the therapist, psychiatric social worker. She was willing to speak to press about her belief Ivins was a sociopath but I would like to hear from a more qualified psychiatrist perhaps retired since as some have pointed out speaking to press is unethical if not illegal. what were poltical leanings of Ivins if any? why was second set aimed at Senate Democrats?

Posted by: djw3505 | August 5, 2008 10:42 AM

What doesn't seem to add up here, is why Mr. Ivins would commit suicide if he was an innocent man. Mr. Hatfill loudly proclaimed his innocence in the face of bungled FBI investigations, hung tough, and emerged a multi-millionaire. Mr. Ivins had the advantage of seeing the results of the Hatfill case. So, if Mr. Ivins was innocent, why didn't he yell his head off, tell the government where to stuff it, and then get rich from a lawsuit like Mr. Hatfill did? I guess we'll have to see the case which the Justice Department put together. Yesterday, I heard that the Justice Department had informed Mr. Ivins' lawyer that an Indictment had been handed down, and was on the way. Today, the News states that Ivins hadn't been charged yet. Good old 1984. Nonetheless, Mr.Ivins taking his own life because of FBI scrutiny, insinuations which might have affected his social standing etc. etc., just don't pass the "smell test" to me.

Posted by: Philip Monroe | August 5, 2008 11:43 AM

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