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Reply #100: The L.A. Times (hard copy edition) ran a story [View All]

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JDPriestly Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-02-08 08:31 PM
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100. The L.A. Times (hard copy edition) ran a story
suggesting Ivins might have sent the letters thinking they would gain public support for his efforts to produce an anthrax vaccine.

Playing devil's advocate,

(a) it is possible that Ivins sent the letters thinking that no one would really be hurt because the anthrax would stay in the envelope. The problem with this theory is that, as an anthrax expert, he surely would have understood the risk he was taking in sending such envelopes. And if he did not recognize it before sending the first envelope, he would have known it before sending the subsequent ones. So, he surely would not have continued to send them.

(b) assuming the hypothesis that Ivins sent the letters and that, for some reason, he thought he was doing the right thing, based on my experience, scientists and technicians sometimes become so fascinated by the details of their work that they fail to see the big picture. It is possible that Ivins failed to think clearly about this scheme (assuming it was his scheme) because he was not looking at the big picture, not thinking about the consequences for himself and others.

From the little I have read about Ivins, I think he would have been far more vulnerable to psychological harassment than some people. His devotion to the Catholic religion suggests to me that he liked to have ritual and certainty in his life. Therefore, if he believed something, he might not question it. This also makes me think (as an amateur psychologist) that he might tend to have "faith" in ideas suggested to him by authority figures. He may have been an original thinker in his scientific research, and he may even have been eccentric, but he was not a nonconformist. He was clearly attuned to trying to please others. Clearly, this was a man whose eccentricity was in spite of himself. If he was odd, it was because he was odd and not because he sought to stand out as different. He might still have done this act thinking according to some confused logic that he would get broad public approval for it.

Ivins would have been more vulnerable to this kind of harassment than Hatfill. First Ivins had children. Second he clearly valued having status in his community. He would have been easily shamed, deeply shamed. He would have been afraid of the rejection of people in his community, especially in the scientific community.

Ivins, remember, was quite conservative in many respects. In the hard copy of the Friday L.A. Times, one of his brothers, Thomas Ivins, is quoted as saying that, when the FBI questioned him, he (Thomas) "sung like a canary," and that Ivins "had in his mend that he was omnipotent." If that is true, Ivins probably had rivals in the workplace and elsewhere. The rivals might correctly assess his capacity for crime, but might not be totally objective and reliable either.


Once again, this is a situation in which the government needs to be absolutely open and honest about just what the facts are and let the people draw their own conclusions. The government does itself a disservice when it hides and covers up. People like us who are smart and who think for ourselves lose trust in the government when it is obvious that it is hiding facts from us.

The government is creating a class of people who take everything they say as probably untrue or incomplete. I think I can be trusted with the facts, whatever they are. When I am not given the facts, I tend to suspect the worst. So, in this situation, the government would win by just letting all the facts about its investigation, every detail, be known. Hey, they read our e-mails and posts. I still write e-mails and posts.

We here on DU like most Americans are not hiding anything. Why should our government hide stuff from us?
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