Saturday, August 02, 2008

suicide by cop. conviction by tabloid (posthumously).

If this piece had a soundtrack, it would be "Pressure."
By now you've heard the "news." Dr. Bruce Ivins was the Feds' main suspect in the Anthrax-by-mail murders following 9-11.
Consider the damning evidence, as enumerated in a recent NY Post article:

He was an Anthrax expert.
He was "nerdy."
A shrink said he was "homicidal" (he actually had thoughts of killing someone).
He played the organ in Church.
He was pro-life.
He was against euthanasia.
His brother hadn't spoken to him in over twenty years.

And the Baltimore Sun alleges that he stood to gain "tens of thousands" of dollars from an Anthrax scare, as if that's a compelling reason to go on a killing spree.

Clearly the FBI need look no further. And the clincher, is, of course, that the prime suspect is dead, having killed himself. If that isn't proof enough of is his guilt, what is?

Unfortunately, you have to wait for the very end of the article before finding any balance, like this:

"The relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo takes its toll in different ways," said Kemp, Ivins' attorney. "In Dr. Ivins' case, it led to his untimely death."

Or this:

A co-worker, Dr. W. Russell Byrne, added, "I think he was just psychologically exhausted by the whole process . . . If he was about to be charged, no one who knew him well was aware of that, and I don't believe it."

Good job, Feds. After failing to produce a case against Steven Hatfill, and having to pay him $5.8 million for slandering him, you harass a man to the point of suicide and launch a PR campaign to convict him in the court of public opinion. Symptoms of a very flimsy case, indeed.

But, we should all feel safer, as the case is neatly closed.

Dr. Bruce Ivins.
Or not. We just don't buy the "nerd next door is a freak" angle. We can't see how this man had time to orchestrate, execute, and cover up a mail-order serial killing. We don't think this prosecution-by-innuendo answers the questions raised by the post 9-11 "suicides" of several other bio-weapons researchers, now forgotten by the media.

To be relentlessly harassed by heavy-handed gun- and subpoena-toting Storm Troopers might indeed prove to be too much for a gentle soul.

The known, verifiable facts are that Dr. Ivins is something of a scientific prodigy whose pastimes spoke of doing service for the benefit of good: he served his country by his work (36 years an expert in his field), his community through Church and the American Red Cross, the cause of life by his convictions. Those are the facts. Innuendo, suspicion and systematic character defamation cannot outweigh them.

Somebody at the FBI probably won't lose his job if they can pin this on someone. But Dr. Bruce Ivins got crushed, and his reputation, and the dignity of his surviving wife and twins, publicly demolished.

Editorial here.

[edit] August 3, 2008 5:40 pm:

To be sure they aren't outdone in trash journalism, the New York Post picks up on the Baltimore Sun theme above and raises the level of character defamation a few notches, quoting Tom Ivins referring to his tragically deceased brother as a "wussy." This is the same gentleman who stated that the accomplished Dr. Ivins "thought he was God." Perhaps the real story is a case of malicious sibling rivalry.

Also, the Post couldn't resist the "...and he bought a handgun!" angle, complete with pictures.

So, there you have it: nerdy scientist who was pro life, owned a handgun, had thought about killing someone (and was innocent enough to admit it), has a paranoid social worker, has comments added to his social worker's file in pen (as in, ex post facto, perhaps), had a jealous brother, and stood to make "tens of thousands of dollars" by carrying off an evil letter-writing campaign, somehow managing to keep it all hidden from his wife and two children for 7 years.

Case closed?

Hardly. The WaPo runs this: Ivins could not have been attacker, some say.


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