The suicide of Bruce Ivins brings to a close one of the more extraordinary episodes of the war on terror.
The suicide, from a drug overdose, of Bruce Ivins in July 2008, brings to a close one of the more extraordinary episodes of the post-9/11 war on terrorism.
Ivins was a brilliant scientist who had for years tried to persuade his colleagues and others at the U.S. Army’s chemical laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland, that the proliferation of biological weapons posed just as great a threat to the west as any other weapons of mass destruction, especially if material such as Anthrax fell into the hands of terrorists.
Few listened, and to prove his point Ivins embarked on an extraordinary campaign, mailing packets of Anthrax to journalists and politicians in 2001. Five people died, and seventeen others became seriously ill after unwittingly inhaling the toxin.
Ivins, a respected army expert in his field, was identified as the chief suspect because he was working briefly at the British chemical weapons research establishment at Porton Down when one of the packages was mailed from a neighbouring town.
Of all the packages that were delivered to addresses in the United States, this was the only one sent from aborad, and the timing was compelling, but not absolute proof of his guilt.
Accordingly, the U.S. Army and the FBI put Ivins under intensive, very overt surveillance to deter him from continuing the campaign, but there was never enough evidence to ensure his conviction.
As a result, wherever Ivins went, he was trailed by a large, very obvious surveillance team, and eventually the pressure proved too much for him. Although his widow claims his overdose was accidental, the intelligence community has given a massive collective sigh of relief.
The attention given to Ivins was entirely justified because he was one of the most dangerous men on the planet, but his death has freed a huge commitment of scarce resources to other, much more worthwhile targets.