U.S. experts: Army researcher was anthrax attacker

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 24, 2011 3:15am IST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A panel of experts that reviewed the psychiatric records of Army researcher Bruce Ivins said it agreed with the Justice Department's finding that he committed a series of deadly anthrax attacks in 2001.

"Dr. Ivins was psychologically disposed to undertake the mailings; his behavioral history demonstrated his potential for carrying them out; and he had the motivation and the means," the experts said in a 285-page report released on Wednesday.

The report said his psychiatric records offered considerable circumstantial evidence to support the conclusion that Ivins mailed the anthrax-contaminated letters that killed five people and sickened 17 others.

The panel's review "does support the Department of Justice's determination that he was responsible," it said.

The department concluded in 2008 that Ivins, who committed suicide that year as prosecutors were preparing to charge him with murder for committing the attacks, acted alone in mailing the letters.

Ivins' attorney, some politicians in Congress, a different group of scientific experts and colleagues at the U.S. Army's Fort Detrick installation in Maryland have said Ivins was innocent or have expressed skepticism that he was responsible.

The anthrax-laced letters, sent to the news media and lawmakers, jolted a nation that was at the time reeling from the September 11, 2001 attacks and resulted in one of the FBI's largest investigations ever.

The study, requested by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., was conducted by nine experts in fields such as psychiatry, medicine, toxicology, and terrorism.

The report agreed with the department that Ivins' motives included career preservation. By manufacturing the scare, Ivins showed the vaccine program he was working on was necessary to protect the American public.

His psychiatric records should have prevented Ivins from being hired by the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and getting security clearances to work with anthrax, according to the report.

It said the information never reached the Army facility because of Ivins' omissions on medical forms and because background investigators did not follow up on clues.

The report said healthcare professionals who had Ivins involuntarily committed to a hospital in July 2008 "likely prevented a mass shooting" as Ivins might have carried out his plan to die by police fire.

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