Monday, August 04, 2008

Glenn Greenwald on the Latest Anthrax Death's Glenn Greenwald is tracking the strange death of Ft. Detrick anthrax scientist Bruce Ivins while under survelliance by the FBI on his blog. It makes for interesting reading:
It's perfectly possible that Bruce Ivins really is the anthrax attacker -- that he perpetrated the attacks and did so alone. Perhaps the FBI is in possession of mountains of conclusive evidence that, once revealed, will leave no doubt that Ivins is the guilty party. But no rational person could possibly assume that to be the case given the paltry amount of facts -- many of which contradict one another -- that are now known....

...So much of the public reporting about Ivins has been devoted to depicting him as a highly unstable psychotic who had been issuing extremely violent threats and who had a violent past. But that depiction has been based almost exclusively on the uncorroborated claims of Jean Carol Duley, a social worker (not a psychiatrist or psychologist) who, as recently as last year, was apparently still in college at Hood's College in Frederick, Maryland. Duley's scrawled handwritten complaint against Ivins, seeking a Protective Order, has served as the basis for much of the reporting regarding Ivins' mental state, yet it is hardly the model of a competent or authoritative professional. Quite the opposite.

Duley herself has a history that, at the very least, raises questions about her credibility. She has a rather lengthy involvement with the courts in Frederick, including two very recent convictions for driving under the influence -- one from 2007 and one from 2006 -- as well as a complaint filed against her for battery by her ex-husband. Here is Duley's record from the Maryland Judicial data base...Just three months ago, Duley pled guilty and was sentenced to probation (and fined $1,000), as a result of having been stopped in December, while driving at 1:35 a.m., and charged with driving under the influence...

On April 21, 2006, Duley was also charged with "driving a vehicle while impaired by alcohol," driving "while impaired by drugs or alcohol," and reckless driving, and on October 13, 2006, she pled guilty to the charge of reckless driving and was fined $580. Back in 1992, Duley was criminally charged with battery against what appeared to be her now-ex-husband (and she filed a complaint against him as well). Later that same year, she was criminally charged with possession of drug paraphenalia with intent to use, charges which appear to have been ultimately dismissed.

Prior to the restraining order against Ivins which Duley obtained two weeks ago, Ivins had no criminal record at all, at least not in Frederick. A story in today's Frederick News-Post quotes Duley's fiancee as claiming: "She had to quit her job and is now unable to work, and we have spent our savings on attorneys." But she doesn't appear to have used an attorney for her complaint against Ivins. If anything, her savings were likely depleted from attorneys' fees, court costs, and fines and probation for her various criminal proceedings (Larisa Alexandrovna has more details on Duley).

None of this is to defend Ivins, nor is to suggest that this constitutes evidence that Duley is lying or is otherwise inaccurate in her claims. As I said, it's perfectly possible that Ivins is guilty of being the anthrax attacker. I have no opinion on whether he is. The point is that nobody should have any opinion on that question -- one way or the other -- until they see the FBI's evidence.

What is certain is that Jean Carol Duley is hardly some upstanding, authoritative source on Bruce Ivins' psychological state or his guilt, nor is she some accomplished and highly credible psychological professional, notwithstanding the fact that most media depictions of Ivins are based on uncritical recitations of her accusations. The fact that her depiction contradicts not only the claims of virtually everyone else who knew Ivins but also numerous facts about how Ivins was treated even by the FBI (see below), suggests that a large amount of skepticism is warranted...
Someone I know pointed out that in Duley's handwritten complaint, she spelled the word therapist as "T-H-E-R-I-P-I-S-T." No qualified therapist would make such a spelling mistake.

Further, it is incumbent upon a professional therapist to protect a patient first--before themselves. If Duley truly believed that Ivins were a danger to himself or others, she had an obligation to seek his involuntary commitment to a psychiatric institution. Especially since he had recently been released from Sheppard Pratt psychiatric hospital (established by Quakers for the humane treatment of the mentally ill, and once home to Zelda Fitzgerald.) And, if her citation of Dr. David Irwin's alleged diagnosis were true, there may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawwsuit on behalf of surviving family members against both Dr. Irwin and Ms. Duley--for failing to seek involuntary commitment when they believed Irwin posed a real danger to both himself and the community.

The Frederick News-Post has found at least one authority on medical ethics who believes that something appears seriously wrong with Duley's behavior towards her patient, Dr Arthur O. Anderson:
As a health care professional and bioethicist -- he heads USAMRIID's Office of Human Use and Ethics -- Anderson said he takes issue with what he views as Duley's professional betrayal of Ivins.

"I can tell you very clearly that the minute a conflict of interest occurs in the caregiver-client relationship É she has to withdraw as the caregiver," he said. "She can't ethically continue to gather information or share information -- betray that trust -- without disclosing to her client that she is sharing what he believes is confidential, privileged information."

Anderson said that if he was to betray a patient's trust in such a manner, he would be subject to medical disciplinary procedures.

In commenting about remarks made by Duley when she applied to the District Court of Maryland for a Peace Order, Anderson said he was amazed that a judge would allow hearsay to be entered on the record.

Duley referred to comments allegedly made by Ivins' psychiatrist about Ivins' homicidal and sociopathic tendencies, without confirmation to the court that the doctor actually made the comments.

"The remaining allegations about murderous ideas and plans sound so foreign to me that in the absence of contemporaneously documented evidence I would have to consider them items of Ms. Duley's vivid imagination or information fed to her by the people she communicated with outside the therapeutic environment," Anderson wrote in an e-mail to the News-Post. "It is not at all surprising to me that a patient whose therapist is serving as a double agent 'therapist' and 'accuser' would become very angry with the therapist and might make some rather dramatic expressions of that anger."

The doctor and scientist paused briefly after being asked if he believes Ivins committed suicide.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "I think all of the circumstances put him in a place where he felt he had no place to go."

Anderson said he became aware in June that the FBI had taken items out of Ivins' lab.

"The FBI took all of the stored things in his lab freezer," Anderson said. "They basically destroyed his life's work. I think that's what upset him the most."

Anderson said it is "highly incomprehensible" to him that Ivins would be regarded as the perpetrator in this case simply because he had access to anthrax.

He said he last saw Ivins around July 6. Ivins told him the FBI was stalking him, following him everywhere, Anderson said.

"He was animated and appropriately concerned, but certainly not out of control."

Anderson does not believe Ivins is responsible for the 2001 anthrax deaths.

"Now that he can't defend himself against the allegations, this will play out the way it will play out," he said.

But he firmly believes it wasn't guilt that killed his colleague and friend.

"I think it was the sense of betrayal and complete abandonment by those around him," Anderson said. "He cared so much and had so much pride in the work he did -- I don't think he could handle that sense of abandonment."
Curiously, The Wall Street Journal has published the only halfway decent editorial on this case that I can find today:
The FBI has invested its credibility in proving its mad scientist theory of the case, only to be wrong about Mr. Hatfill. Perhaps the sudden turn toward Ivins has solved it, but FBI Director Robert Mueller needs to reassure Americans that his agents didn't target another innocent man because he fit their psychological profile. Justice should make its evidence about Ivins public for anthrax experts and the media to inspect. Congress should also hold hearings that explore how the FBI pursued the case from the beginning and why it went awry. The FBI cannot be allowed to close the case and declare victory.
More at Meryl Nass's blog and Larisa Alexandrovna's blog.