Joe Volz: Frederick massacre averted?
A number of well-meaning Frederick residents have contended that Bruce Ivins, the Fort Detrick scientist suspected by the FBI of killing five persons with anthrax, could not have been the murderer and was the victim of inconclusive circumstantial evidence.
But they are wrong. All of them, according to a new report released through a nonprofit think tank, Research Strategies Network based in Vienna, Va. It's time for those Frederick residents to admit they made a mistake.
The Gazette's Katherine Heerbrandt revealed last week that a new study suggested that if Ivins had not been involuntarily admitted for psychiatric treatment shortly before his suicide, he might have committed a mass shooting, fulfilling his promise to go out in a "blaze of glory." (The story appeared on The Gazette's website Friday, and is on page A6 in today's paper.)
"In obtaining his involuntary commitment, Dr. Ivins' mental health professionals likely prevented a mass shooting," The Gazette reported on its website Friday.
Ivins killed himself with an overdose of Tylenol a few days after his release from the involuntary psychiatric treatment.
Heerbrandt wrote: "The report paints a portrait of a man with a history of psychiatric problems since childhood. Given that, he should not have been given a security clearance in 1980 to work with dangerous pathogens at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick,' the experts conclude."
So much for all of those residents who said the FBI, in a rush to find a killer, reached the wrong conclusion about Ivins.
It now looks like the FBI was right and the Frederick residents, with a minimal amount of evidence, just didn't want to believe that a hometown boy could have done such a thing, particularly a man noted for good works in the community. He had worked for the Red Cross and participated in church activities.
They talked about a lot of loose ends still up in the air.
No one has yet to be formally charged with the killings, but one thing FBI agents will tell you is that no case ever ties up all the loose ends. It would be nice if that happened, but it doesn't.
I covered the FBI for two decades, and there was never a case, even those with convictions "beyond a reasonable doubt," where there wasn't still some doubt. A huge number of Americans, for example, believe today that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the lone killer of President Kennedy.
I looked more than 20,000 FBI documents on the killing and found no solid evidence of other killers. But there are still people, even so-called experts such as Jim Garrison (portrayed by Kevin Costner in the 1991 movie "JFK"), who believed there was more to the story.
If anything, you could say many residents in Frederick were trying to cover up for Ivins by attacking the FBI. Granted, the Justice Department made mistakes, particularly by declaring another scientist at Detrick a "person of interest" and effectively ruining his career.
But even if accusing the government of ruthless ineptness is a popular sport these days, it is wrong. We owe the FBI an apology and the Ivins family our sympathy.