Check out this WSJ article chronicling Bruce Ivins’ reactions to the anthrax investigation as it moved forward (h/t Hmmm). The article notes that many of his actions might be natural responses to the attack itself–or they might be efforts to cover up his own involvement in the attack.

Most interesting, though, is confirmation of a detail alluded to by Ivins’ lawyer, but never confirmed. Ivins took–and apparently passed–a lie detector test just after the attack. The FBI never asked him to take a second one, not even when they were having other scientists do so.

That winter, the FBI asked Dr. Ivins to take his first and only lie-detector test, according to a law-enforcement official. The polygraph was part of the bureau’s vetting of investigators. The FBI hasn’t released the results. Dr. Ivins retained his role in the investigation.


By this time [spring 2002], all of the scientists in the bacteriology division were under the FBI’s investigative microscope, people working there at the time said. One after another, they submitted to a 3½-hour polygraph test. Dr. Ivins "was in the safety zone" because he had already passed his polygraph, Dr. Andrews said. Dr. Ivins was never tested again, a law-enforcement official said.

I understand lie detector tests can be really unreliable and some people can game them. But we’re talking about a guy who, even by his own admission, was an emotional basket case. No wonder the FBI didn’t mention the lie detector test when it applied for search warrants on Ivins, nor did it mention the test in its press conference the other day. Either the apparent results of his test refute their claim he was emotionally unstable, or they suggest he wasn’t the culprit.

Chuck Grassley has asked the FBI for details on any lie detector tests Ivins submitted to.

Was Dr. Ivins ever polygraphed in the course of the investigation? If so, please provide the dates and results of the exam(s). If not, please explain why not.

It’ll be interesting to see how the FBI gets around the fact that the polygraph seems to poke a pretty big hole in their case against Ivins.



Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel is an American journalist whose reporting specializes in security and civil liberties.