Edward Montooth: “The Mandate Was to Look at the Case With Fresh Eyes”
October 10, 2011, 11:54 pm ET
In 2006, Montooth was brought in to shake up the FBI’s investigation of the anthrax attacks. He says he’s “very comfortable” with the evidence that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the perpetrator: “What we see today is exactly what we wanted to avoid. We wanted a trial so that the public could see it and make their own informed decision. With that suicide, ultimately when he died, that took it away.” This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on July l8, 2011.
What was the state of the case [when you took over in 2006]? … What are your goals, your mandate?
The mandate was to look at [the case] with fresh eyes and determine, is there sufficient evidence to charge? Is there anything that has been missed? Is there something that needs to be done with the investigation that hasn’t been completed yet? Not so much looking at one particular individual but the whole investigation, which we typically had done many times on cold-case homicides.
Walking in, what I was told is: “We just want you to look at it with fresh eyes, no preconceived notion. Let the investigation go as you see fit.” …
But this is not just any case. This is probably the most important case that the FBI has dealt with in the history of the FBI. … What does it feel like to walk into the cauldron at the middle of such a hot case?
You’ve got to do the right thing. We’re five years into it. The victims don’t have an answer; the nation doesn’t have an answer. And if I can do one small thing to move it forward, then that’s part of being an FBI agent. …
“We never said the science was going to prove the case. The science in conjunction with the traditional investigation was going to prove it. … The science would have withstood scrutiny in a cross-examination, and so would our traditional investigation.”
… What were your experiences with the [FBI] Director [Robert Mueller]? … People felt the case hadn’t moved ahead as quickly as it should have. Some people say there were blinders on a little bit, and they looked too much at one person. What did Mueller tell you when you walked in the door?
… I was told: “If there’s anything in the bureau you need, it’s yours. If you need any resources, you need anything done, call.” I was supposed to call directly to Deputy Director [Joseph Ford]. That’s a little different than how we normally work cases. …
Lay it out for us. When this starts up, where is the investigation? Dr. Steven Hatfill is still a suspect?
Hatfill was one of numerous people that were being looked at. His name, obviously, had been prominently put out into the media, so that’s the one individual a lot of folks tend to focus on. But there were other people that were being investigated at the same time.
With a transition of management of the investigation, it was a perfect time for us to sit down and re-evaluate the strength of every piece of evidence on every subject.
At the same time, you have to realize and remember that the science was evolving. With the science evolving, it’s easier now to sit back and say, “Why didn’t they do this two years earlier?”
I was fortunate. The science evolved at the same time I came in. It was coming into something that our laboratory was starting to feel comfortable with, that if we had to use it in a court of law, it would stand up.
Once that [science] really got locked in, it helped put a final decision in my mind, and [Special Agent in Charge] Vince Lisi’s mind, and [U.S. Postal Inspector] Tom Dellafera’s mind, that it’s not Steven Hatfill.
But now … who was it? We have all these people that have access to RMR-1029, and we have to investigate them.
A lot of work had already been conducted on a lot of people that happened to have access to RMR-1029, … so some people we could immediately pull the background investigation … and determine they were out of the country, or … their alibis, where they were during the window of opportunity for the mailing. …
When you came in, the focus was on who? A long time before, it had been decided that the strain was Ames.
… The first multiple years of the investigation, anybody that had access to Ames was what you were looking at. By the time I come along, now we’re starting to focus down to a specific strain, specific flask, where it was located and who had access to it.
Critics say that you guys focused too much on USAMRIID [United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases] and didn’t focus enough on other places, like Battelle [Memorial Institute] and other places that had testing programs with dry anthrax. Explain how thorough — or not thorough, as the critics say — you were.
The critics are free to throw stones at us — that comes with the nature of the business — but I can assure you that we were looking at people, and we were looking at them hard and close. …
You just don’t start with one individual and say, “He had access, so he has to be someone we look at.” …
No, we looked at phone records, we looked at credit card records, we interviewed family members, whatever. There wasn’t one set of protocols that was used on each individual. Everybody was unique on how you could investigate them and clear them from being a suspect.
What were the important things that you were looking for? Ability to mail the material, or time to make the material? What were the specifics?
… Who had the whole ability, the skills, access? Where were they during the windows of opportunities? What type of activity were they involved in leading up to it? What activity were they involved in afterward? We looked at people that had won government contracts, so we were looking to see, is there a financial issue related?
I can’t sit here and tell you specifically, “We did 1 through 6 on every individual,” because sometimes that wasn’t the case. Sometimes you went 1 through 20 different steps to clear somebody.
Tell me about Dr. Bruce Ivins. … Who was he? What was his reputation? …
Dr. Ivins was someone that when I came onto the investigation, everybody said he was somebody that was always around.
When the FBI brought samples up to USAMRIID, somehow he had access to it. When they went up there to try doing additional scientific studies, he was involved. When they were looking at getting protocols on how to collect the … samples across the United States of everyone that had Ames [strain], he was on the edge.
So there was a lot of information on him, but nobody really looking at him.
Why was he so involved?
It wasn’t by our request. … We go to USAMRIID and ask them for help on: “Hey, we have this investigation. We need people that have knowledge and true hands-on experience.” We wouldn’t know to ask for Dr. Ivins. That is something USAMRIID would put forward.
Why are they presenting him? They think he’s one of the best experts?
[He was] somebody within their organization that absolutely had the ability and expertise to assist in the investigation, and we have to take their word for it.
What we did do at that point is everyone that was supposed to be involved in the investigation we wanted to take a polygraph test. That caused a lot of people a little heartburn. … That’s something outside their comfort level, outside their normal experience. They weren’t happy with that.
How did that go with Bruce Ivins?
Bruce Ivins was not happy with having to take it. He agreed to take it. …
At that time, we thought it appeared that he had passed the polygraph test, and we were comfortable with that. It was only after we started doing a more detailed and thorough investigation into Dr. Ivins that we started seeing e-mails where suddenly we realized he was on a lot of medications. He [had] some unusual e-mails that would indicate that there may be some instability, some mental issues. That started to concern us.
How does that relate to the polygraphs?
If you’re on medications and we don’t know it, the polygrapher may not really give an accurate decision on the results of the polygraph.
That’s when we took all this information from what we could find out through e-mails and through other records. We presented that to our polygraphers’ unit, [which] monitors for quality control and things, and that caused them concern.
So then they went back to Department of Defense, who has more experience in counterintelligence. … We went and asked them for their assistance and their opinion, and they came back and told us that they felt that countermeasures had been used during the polygraph test.
Countermeasures by Bruce Ivins?
Meaning that he had purposely tried to give a false reading as a response to his questions.
Was another polygraph given then?
No. At that point it was determined that we weren’t going to go with another polygraph. We were just going to go with the traditional investigation. …
When was the first time that Ivins, in your mind, became more than just a scientist that you guys were working with, that you suspected there was something going on there?
I would say in late fall 2006. When we started the review of the investigation, we divvied up a number of people that needed to be reinvestigated. He was one of them. Over the next roughly three months, four months, as more information came in, … things weren’t adding up.
What were the red flags?
Too many coincidences, … just too many things that couldn’t be explained. One of them, one of the biggest red flags, is there was absolutely no alibi, no accounting for his time in the “hot suites.”
On the surface we couldn’t answer them. We could not find any reason. The laboratory notebooks didn’t support it. What we could see in e-mails and e-mail traffic didn’t support it. Where he was during the window of opportunity was wide open. There was no accounting for his whereabouts.
Then, as we were getting more and more information on his medical and drug use and starting to review e-mails, it just was an uncomfortable feeling, and that struck us. …
Why does Ivins’ first on-the-record interview not take place until January 2008?
Because from an investigator’s point of view, we already had a tremendous amount of information. Now we needed to go through it and try to make sense out of it. … It takes a while. …
We started running out all these different investigative avenues. We were doing covert action against Dr. Ivins, trying to determine is there something there that we could obtain without tipping our hand that we were looking at him?
At the same time, we were trying to conduct an investigation in a manner so that we don’t have another Hatfill situation where everybody in the media is following it. … I was pretty adamant that we were going to go slow. We were going to make sure everything would stand up under cross-examination, and we were not going to have another media circus.
And so, that took time. It was only after pretty much all of 2007, when we had exhausted everything that we felt we could do … in a manner that does not draw attention to him, at that point we decided that Nov. 1, we were going to do the search warrants.
And that would be, really, the time when we would tip our hands to Dr. Ivins that we were seriously looking at him. After that point, we felt it would be well known to him we would never be able to do covert things against him. And that was a decision we made collectively, as an investigative team, it’s time to move forward from a covert to an overt investigation.
Take us to [the moment of] the search warrants. How is that arranged? How does [Ivins] first find out about it? …
… We made a decision that we were going to conduct a search in a manner that hopefully no one would know except Dr. Ivins and his family and his household, and that’s what we did. …
We went up to his residence and started an actual search warrant. We started the process by just having a couple of people go in at a time. We blacked out the windows so that no one could tell that we were inside.
Simultaneously, we had teams of postal inspectors and FBI agents go interview the family members. It was at that time Dr. Ivins learned that not only was he being interviewed, but his family was being interviewed and the search was going on. …
What were you looking for? … What did you find?
… Ultimately we were looking at anything that would be related to the envelopes, for instance, the tape, anything — tape dispensers, scissors, paper — that would match the letters being used; maps of where the mailbox was up in Princeton; handwritten notes that could help us connect him to the envelopes.
Computers. Anything you can think of.
How does one do that? …
There were members of the evidence response team that are trained in conducting hazardous searches. They go in and they do some tests, swabbing and vacuuming and collecting of whatever they feel would be a good location that would contain spores or anything like that.
Once they collect it, they would package it in a safe and controlled container. Then we would submit that to a laboratory for testing.
What did you find? … What did you not find that you had hoped to find?
We didn’t find any additional envelopes. We did not find any tape dispensers that would connect to the tape used to seal the envelopes.
What we did find were some unusual things, like he was conducting a shooting range in his basement. He had numerous stun guns and things like that.
He also had a tremendous number of letters that he had written to various members of Congress and the Senate. One of the things that struck us was some of the addresses used in those mailings were similar to what would be used to mail the anthrax letters, not only to Capitol Hill but to some of the same news agencies that had received the letters.
As far as the people who support him or don’t think that he did it say one of the most glaring things is that no spores were ever found. The spores weren’t found in the house. The spores were not found in the cars or in any piece of equipment.
… [It] didn’t necessarily mean anything if we found them or we didn’t find them, because he worked with them.
If we found spores there, his comment would be: “Well, I work with them. Somehow when I cleaned myself as I was exiting the hot suite, I must not have done it properly, and I must have carried it home.” …
But if the spores had had the same signature in some ways as the attack spores, it would have been a smoking gun.
Not necessarily. He works with it.
But the attack anthrax he didn’t work with.
He worked with RMR-1029, which was the parent [strain]. …
But the attack stuff had silicon, for instance. … The spores were different because they seemed to have been grown [over] a couple of generations. So there would have been something.
It would have been a possibly suspicious thing.
Yes. But once again, you wouldn’t have been able to really go one way or another positively, because he worked on it. He handled the letter, right? They’ve handed him samples when it was in the hot suite. He’s still going to be able to say maybe it came home with him then.
… He doesn’t become a real suspect until 2006. That’s five years after the attack. Is it a problem that by that point a lot of evidence would have been missing no matter what?
Very possible. It would be nice to say in October 2001 we were looking at him. We had enough evidence to really suspect him at that time. We might have found items that would have been very critical to the mailing, to his guilt. But we didn’t have that.
We still built a very strong investigative case against him, and one that I think, if we [had gone] to trial, we would have won.
Nancy Haigwood, when does she come on your radar screen? Because we know early on she had warned that she had suspicions.
[She] would have come back on my radar screen in 2006, when we started looking at [Ivins] and then started searching our file: What do we know about Dr. Ivins? Has anyone given us any information on Dr. Ivins? …
Was that an “aha” moment? …
… I never had what I would call a real “gotcha” moment. I looked at it as a continual building of unexplained circumstances — there’s just too many coincidences here.
As close to an “aha” moment would be when we were conducting the interview, … and [Ivins] sat there and said: “You don’t understand. It’s an obsession, and you can’t understand it.”
Those are critical moments to me personally, because now I’m hearing it from his mouth. Now I’m hearing it where there’s nobody that can say, “You’re guessing,” or “You’re jumping to a conclusion.”
Take us to that January interview with him: … where is it, who’s there, how he comes in, his demeanor, and some of what you were looking at.
… We met at the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the prosecutors and a couple of the investigators, myself and Vince Lisi.
Dr. Ivins was very quiet, very reserved, and would not look at us, speak to us. Even when we introduced ourselves and tried to shake his hand, he was reluctant to do so unless his attorney nodded approval or indicated that it was OK to have a conversation with us or to even acknowledge us.
That was our first time for Vince Lisi and myself to sit across the table from him and meet with him and talk to him. You know you might have only one shot; you want to elicit something from him. …
Some of the things we wanted to elicit from Dr. Ivins from the very first interview was for him to explain issues of importance to him. We were starting to suspect he had an interest in KKG [Kappa Kappa Gamma], and we knew that the mailbox was close to KKG in Princeton, so we were interested in that. We were trying to find out what were his activities, as far as how he conducts himself outside of work.
Some of the other things would have been: Had he ever been in trouble? Had he used mailboxes? Had he assumed anybody’s name or used aliases? Those were the type of things that we would ask, hoping that it would confirm what our suspicions were but at the same time not tip our hand that they had some real significance to us. …
… What specifically about the [KKG] obsession seemed to be important to understand? What did it say about him that you thought was important to prove?
It showed us that this mailbox wasn’t a random mailbox, that there was significance to it for multiple reasons. … We think [it was] not only because of KKG, but [also] its proximity to somebody that he had a great disdain for, somebody that he absolutely implicated multiple times as being responsible for the mailing. That meant a lot to us.
Who was that?
I’m not going to name the individual, but … from within the first month or two of the mailing, when it was obvious that a mailing had occurred, [Ivins] was telling [us]: “Oh, yeah, look at this person. He has the skill. He lives in the area. He’s somebody that his personality is such that he’s difficult to work with. He would do something like this.”
He seemed to have pointed the finger at a bunch of people. … How did you read that?
I found it interesting that he would point to some people that he claimed to be very good friends with. …
He never ever said he didn’t have the ability. He would avoid that question. What he would say is: “Well, I wasn’t as good as, for instance, my lab technicians. They’re the spore queens. I’m not that good at making spores. I can do it, but I’m not that good.”
I found that interesting, because some of the individuals that he was pointing out as being this highly skilled person who could have done the attack were people that, in our [estimation], … were probably lesser scientists than Dr. Ivins.
Did you ask him point blank, “Could you do this, Dr. Ivins?”
His response was, “I’m not that good.”
… Did you guys talk about dry spores with him?
What would he respond?
If it was a tough question, one that would really draw attention to him, generally he would not answer the question.
There were plenty of times during the multiple interviews that we conducted with Dr. Ivins that he would just sit there and not answer the question.
… After that meeting, you sit down with [Assistant U.S. Attorney] Rachel [Lieber] and Tom [Dellafera] and everyone else, and what do you guys say? What do you think?
It was a very successful day. The things we suspected, based on just our investigation, were now confirmed by Dr. Ivins as somebody that had no qualms about conducting late-night surveillance on sorority houses to see the comings and goings of the coeds, to determine when is it safe to break into a house. This is an individual that was very comfortable breaking into a house and staying in there for an extended period of time. …
But his lawyer would say it happened decades before, a college prank, not a big deal.
If you’re in your 30s and you’re married, do you consider it still a college prank? I don’t.
[What's] your next step? Where do you go after the first meeting?
… That’s when we did hit him up with some more pointed questions, questions that we knew would make him feel a little more uncomfortable and probably let him know that we’re not quite believing him, and he’s got more explaining to do. …
So this is the second meeting, about a month later. Is he feeling more pressure? Is he surprised at being called back? What’s the mood of that second interview?
I think he wasn’t completely surprised. I think he was wishing he wouldn’t get called back, but I think he fully expected it, just because we hadn’t even gotten into the real details of the attack. He knew, ultimately, that’s what we were asking for. …
And his explanation of the late nights?
Ultimately, at the end of the day, he had several different stories. For instance, one of them was, “I just liked to go in there to get away from a bad situation at home.” But we knew from e-mails that wasn’t necessarily true, because he was saying in e-mails that things were the best they’d been at home for quite a while. When we challenged him on some of his excuses or statements, he would change it.
Another example of why he was in there was to get away. He liked to go in to USAMRIID at night and work and be left alone. But he wasn’t being left alone. A guard was coming in and bothering him at all times. And that’s why he would go into the hot suites, to stay away from the guard.
When we looked at the access records and the key card of where the guard was, out of all the times in the hot suite that were of concern to us, the guard was only working one night, and he wasn’t even in the same area of the building that Dr. Ivins was. So we felt that was another — just a blatant lie by Dr. Ivins for why he was in there.
When we challenged him on that, he eventually sat there with his head looking down, his arms folded, and his attorney actually said: “Bruce, just explain why you were there. That’s got to be an easy response.”
He never responded. Finally he said, “I can’t explain it.”
What about his records? The calendar that was found in his briefcase showed over that period 20 different experiments — animal experiments — that he was going in and testing, checking for dead animals and whatever. Why was that discounted as being a reason and not to explain why he was in the labs?
… My recollection of what was on the calendar was there were only a couple times that he went in to check on mice. … When you asked him, “How long does it take you to note what happened?,” it doesn’t come close to explaining why he was in there for the length of period of time he was.
His lawyer says that he often spent long amount of times in the labs, and if you look back at other periods of time, this would not be that uncommon.
I disagree. I think the chart that we’ve released through the prosecutive summary (PDF) would contradict his attorney.
… The two samples that he submitted from [RMR-1029], does that topic come up in the second meeting?
Explain how you guys broached that subject and why it was important.
We were trying to figure out an explanation as to why we believed the samples changed and who submitted them.
When we interviewed him, that was one thing he couldn’t remember: Did he submit the sample? Did he not submit the sample?
At one point he said, “I think I wrote on the labels and put them on the slants, but I think one of my technicians actually did the sampling,” which doesn’t make sense to us, especially when people at USAMRIID would tell us — prior to suspecting Dr. Ivins — that’s not a standard way of conducting scientific business.
You wouldn’t do that. You would do the whole labeling and sampling yourself. You wouldn’t leave it up to somebody else to do it.
… When does it become apparent to you that there is a problem with the second sample?
… The first sample and the second sample appeared to be different, but they’re supposed to be the same. Why? My portion of the investigation looked into why did it change.
And during that course of the investigation we determined that Dr. Ivins sat in meetings at USAMRIID and participated in how and why you would collect the samples and why we were looking for these samples. We could tell he was in those meetings because of the agents that took notes of who sat in what meeting, where they were located during the course of the meeting, and what the topics were.
We then had what I would say is direct evidence that he was aware of why we were doing the sampling and what the issues were. And that was after the first sample. …
The second submission doesn’t show the four morphs. … Is there a possibility that a sample could be taken from [RMR-1029] and not show the morphs if you did it according to the protocol?
… It would be highly unlikely that if you followed the protocols you would miss all four morphs. …
How big a smoking gun was this? This was the thing that the grand jury focuses on. … How important was it?
I don’t think it turned the investigation. The importance of did he try to mislead the investigation shows a guilty conscience more so than anything.
Would it help prove the case? It will help, but it’s not going to be the smoking gun, absolutely not.
What [it] showed us is, once again, his willingness and deliberate attempt to mislead us and actually tell us mistruths.
So you believe he, on purpose, tried to mislead you on this point?
What would he have had to do to [mislead you]?
If the first sample was returned to him or destroyed, and [we] said, “It’s not acceptable. You need to submit us a new one,” then he’s thinking, “OK, they don’t have it. And now I know — because of meetings that I’ve sat in, and I’ve heard discussions — why they want those samples. Well, if I don’t follow the protocols, and I only do an individual plucking of [spores] and submit those, … there won’t be a connection. They won’t ever link it back to RMR-1029.” So there is significance there. …
… After the second interview, the pressure is building on Bruce. … He seems to be falling apart to some extent. What’s the lay of the land as we’re coming into spring of 2008?
We felt that his personal actions were starting to become more of concern. We had him under surveillance at different times, and we would see him walking down the street muttering to himself, sometimes acting somewhat incoherent. … His activity just was unusual. …
What was the significance? …
It was a concern to us that mentally he was starting to have issues and probably wasn’t coping very well with what was happening. We didn’t know if it was because he starting to get weaned off of drugs. We knew he had gone into some rehabilitation clinics and stuff like that. …
He’s not acting what we would perceive as normal, and we were afraid, would he hurt himself or hurt somebody else?
Later on you find out he’s carrying a sharp object or something? What was that all about?
What we understood was that at times he would carry a sharp object and walk through some areas — what he described were less than ideal or safe — hoping that someone would confront him or accost him, and then he could strike out at them. …
What does that tell you?
… It showed that he does have a predisposition to carry out some violence when, on the surface, that’s not how people perceive him. …
The July 9 therapy session, what happens? How do you find out about it? Why is it relevant?
… We knew he was going to group therapy, but we didn’t realize that there was a problem during the course of one of his therapy sessions until I got a call from the Frederick, [Md.,] police saying: “Hey, we understand that Dr. Ivins is a suspect in the anthrax investigation, and we have an involuntary commitment order that we’re going to carry out on him. Is there anything that we need to know?”
That was the first time that we found out that he had had a bad therapy session and that one of his therapists had gone to the court seeking to have him committed.
Claiming what did he do?
Claiming that he was a threat to himself and others, that he had showed a piece of paper that supposedly was a list of individuals that he was going to harm, people that he felt had betrayed him, and that he had made arrangements to receive weapons from his son so that he could carry out revenge against people.
… What was the effect of these events on him as far as you could see?
From what we were seeing, Dr. Ivins felt that there was a lot of information in his records that would confirm what our suspicions were, and those suspicions were that he did have a violent streak, that he did have the ability to harm people, even though on the surface people wouldn’t believe that. …
I think he felt we were going to get immediate access to all those records, and therefore he was basically done for; that with everything else we had on him, that he was now going to go to jail for the anthrax mailings.
Was there anything in those records that, in fact, does stand out when you look at it afterward?
… It became very clear to us that he had homicidal tendencies dated back to when he was in college.
There’s also an incident in 2000 where he takes a bottle of wine and poisons it. That’s in the public records. Did that stand out?
… It confirmed to us that was the event where he had taken a bottle of wine, planning to harm the person he was visiting.
So what does this tell us? …
To me, it shows that he is very methodical. He is an individual that, if he feels he’s wronged or if he needs to extract revenge, he’s capable of devising a way to carry out that attack. He’s someone that will think through everything as best that he feels he can so that he can get away with it.
… Some of his friends at USAMRIID say that Bruce was always on the edge emotionally; he was a weak link, and that you guys chose the weak link to go after, … and you basically … forced him into suicide eventually. …
What I would say is that they’re looking at it from their perspective, and they don’t have the clear picture that we do.
For instance, many times Dr. Ivins told people that the FBI had badgered him when in fact we had never badgered him. We had never approached him or his family in the mall like he claimed. Even his attorney has gone public and made a statement saying that we treated him with complete professionalism and respect.
Dr. Ivins had mental problems that date way back before we ever were associated with him. We didn’t drive him to the suicide. …
How sure are you that you guys got your man?
I’m very comfortable with Dr. Ivins as the mailer.
Based on the totality of the investigation, the science, the direct evidence, the circumstantial evidence, I’m very comfortable with that.
… How do they think that Ivins, who had never worked with dry anthrax, could have done it? Even the FBI, with all their abilities and all their access to labs and everything else, couldn’t figure out how to reproduce it. …
We’ve reproduced similar products. Did we do it with the same silicon content? No.
But I think the scientists are who you need to speak to, and they’ll tell you that it’s not just the bureau, but other people have tried to do it, and there is no explanation on why and when it develops, and to what the concentrations are, … the level of percentages of the silicon. …
… Tell us how you made the science decisions. How did you guys wrestle with stuff that was growing and evolving over those five years from 2002 to 2007?
We did have individuals that were highly educated, worked with various fields within the science community. I relied on them.
I also relied on … outside experts that would come in and sit down and spend hours discussing the pros and the cons of the different scientific examinations that we were trying to carry out. …
We went around the world talking to various experts, getting their opinion, and it is based on those interviews, in speaking to experts, that the science decisions were made. …
Did those experts comfortably say Bruce Ivins could have done this?
We had numerous people tell us not Bruce Ivins specifically could have done it, but someone like Bruce Ivins certainly had the skills. Someone who had worked with it the number of years that he had, absolutely he could have done that. …
How do you hear about [his suicide]? What are your first impressions of it? What does it mean to the case? …
At that point, it was attempted suicide. The fact that he attempted it was terribly upsetting.
We didn’t want anything to happen to him because we knew we were so close to charging him, and once we could get him charged, then we could go to trial. …
What we see today is exactly what we wanted to avoid. We wanted a trial so that the public could see it and make their own informed decision. With that suicide, ultimately when he died, that took it away.
When you say “what we see today,” what do you mean?
The debate that carries on to this day; the people that feel he couldn’t have done it; the people that say, “It was weaponized”; the people that say, “It’s Al Qaeda.”
The fact remains, our investigation wasn’t reviewed by a judge and a jury, and Dr. Ivins wasn’t held accountable. That leaves a lot of people unsatisfied, unfulfilled. …
That’s exactly what we were afraid of. We wanted to be able to answer to the victims all their questions, let it be heard in a court of law so that they could see that justice was served one way or another.
Do you think he would have been convicted? Do you think a jury would have convicted him?
I think so, yes. …
… What was the process involved in deciding to go forward with the press conference, to define what the case was and to basically close the case?
They did the press conference because [there were] a lot of questions by the media: Was [Ivins the] subject? Why did he kill himself? They tried to give the media what information they could at the time.
We didn’t actually finish closing the case until we completed a lot of the things that were already in process. Once they were done, then we closed the case. …
The [National Academy of Sciences] report comes out afterward. What’s your impression? There’s been a lot said about the fact that they say the science itself does not prove your case.
We never said the science was going to prove the case. The science in conjunction with the traditional investigation was going to prove it. … The science would have withstood scrutiny in a cross-examination, and so would our traditional investigation. …
What I think people fail to realize is that in that report — it’s a very good report — it’s applied in academic standings, which is completely different than the legal standing. To do some of the things that the report suggested, we didn’t have that luxury.
Some of the additional examinations and everything that would have taken a considerable amount of time and money, we didn’t have that. We have a case to prosecute, and if we have what we believe is enough evidence to successfully prove our case, then that’s where we’re going to go. …
When you look back at this whole case, the number of years you were involved in it, what are the lessons learned? …
There are things we would do differently. I think there are things we wish we could have moved forward more quickly with.
But at the time, you can’t rush science. At the time, when we were trying to do the sampling of the mailboxes and things like that, we didn’t want to create a mass panic by going around in daylight and, too obvious, doing swabs of mailboxes. Everybody would have been afraid to go to the mailbox.
… It was an extremely complicated case. It wasn’t one that this country had ever faced before, and hopefully will never face again.
But we are better prepared not only as an agency but as a country, because we have new procedures in place. We have new agreements, where we bring additional people in. Resources that we have now, we didn’t have previously.
I think if it happens, we’ll be much better off next time. …
SUPPORT PROVIDED BY
NEXT ON FRONTLINEPrison StateEncore PresentationJune 9th
FRONTLINE Watch FRONTLINE
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.