Report: 2001 Anthrax Attacks Were Preventable

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The report makes note of several factors that may have played a role in his mental illness, noting a traumatic and damaging childhood with an abusive mother and an unnatural obsession with the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. The focus on the sorority originated when he attended the University of Cincinnati and a sorority member turned him down for a date. The report says this would later manifest itself in criminal acts.

During graduate school at the University of North Carolina, Ivins crossed path with another Kappa Kappa Gamma sister. He admitted to the FBI that he stole her research notebook for her dissertation and later stalked her, vandalizing her home and car when she lived near him in Gaithersburg, Md. Ivins also burglarized two Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority houses, including one at UNC. "Had those in positions of authority known of his criminal behaviors, Dr. Ivins should not have been given a security clearance," the report concluded.

The report also maintains that Ivins possibly suffered from borderline and paranoid personality disorder. "For years before the anthrax mailings and until the time of his death, Dr. Ivins met the diagnostic criteria for a number of psychiatric disorders."

The report made extensive use of materials from Ivins' own emails and self assessments that were reviewed by the panel. "He referred at times explicitly to depression, paranoia, and delusional thoughts; described a sense of observing himself from the outside (depersonalization); talked and wrote about there being two Bruces (dissociation); described being harmed by [sorority] members; and worried about becoming and being schizophrenic."

Ivins worked extensively on an anthrax vaccine in the late 1990s and apparently came under stress when questions about the safety of the vaccine began to emerge after the first Persian Gulf War. Ivins allegedly held animosity against NBC because the network had rejected his plan for a mini-series about Christa McAuliffe and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In referencing the letter that was sent to Tom Brokaw at NBC the report noted the rejection of his mini-series idea and that "more importantly, Brokaw had been the co-host of the Today Show with Jane Pauley, who was among the most famous alumnae of [the sorority] of her generation."

By carrying out the anthrax attacks Ivins, "showed that anthrax was a real threat and the vaccine he helped manage was necessary to protect the public," the report says. The panel notes that Ivins may also have been deeply affected by a female technician who left the Army lab in 1999 and that the attacks may have been a distorted attempt to urge her to return to work at the lab.

After the attacks Ivins initially assisted the FBI in its investigation but became a suspect several years later after investigators honed scientific techniques and eliminated leads and other suspects. About a month before Ivins killed himself, the Justice Department settled a long running lawsuit with Steven Hatfill for almost $6 million who had claimed that the government violated his privacy rights during the investigation. In August 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft named Hatfill as a person of interest in the mail attacks.

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