Remember the rationale the FBI gave for why he sent anthrax to Senators Daschle and Leahy?

In 2001, members of the Catholic pro-life movement were known to be highly critical of Catholic Congressional members who voted pro-choice in opposition to the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Two of the more prominent members of Congress who fell in this category were Senator Tom Daschle, then Senator Majority Leader; and Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, both recipients of the 2001 anthrax mailings. 

The FBI suggested Ivins was ardently pro-life, which contributed to his selection of Leahy and Daschle as targets.

Problem is, they never actually prove that Ivins was ardently pro-life. Rather, they describe him discussing his wife’s pro-life activities as head of the local Right to Life group.

On July 10, 2002, in an e-mail to a friend, Dr. Ivins identified his wife, [redacted] as the President of the Frederick County Right to Life, as well as having connections to many other pro-life/anti-abortion groups. 

They go on to include another excerpt from the email that suggests he considers himself pro-life–though it also suggests he is not entirely sure an anti-choice stance is the true Christian stance.

Dr. Ivins later states in the same e-mail, "I’m not pro-abortion, I’m pro-life, but I want my position to be one consistent with a Christian.

Without providing the context of that sentence, Ivins’ use of the conjunction "but" in the sentence does more to suggest Ivins has some doubt whether traditional pro-life activities are Christian than it does to prove that he–and not just his wife–was ardently pro-life.

Yet the claim that Bruce Ivins was pro-life was the primary reason the FBI gave for why Ivins targeted Daschle (they brought up the PATRIOT Act, but focused more on Leahy’s involvement in slowing the passage of the bill). In addition, the FBI explained the "Greendale School" reference on one of the envelopes because of the couple’s joint membership in the American Family Association (with no indication that Bruce Ivins–and not his wife–was the active subscriber of their materials).  

Which is why it’s so damning to the FBI case that Ivins wrote instructions in his will that if his family refused to cremate him and scatter the ashes, he would give a huge donation to Planned Parenthood.

Six weeks after Bruce E. Ivins killed himself, the cremated remains of Mr. Ivins, the Army scientist and anthrax suspect, are stored at a funeral home here, awaiting the outcome of an unusual probate court proceeding.

In a will he wrote last year, a few months before the Federal Bureau of Investigation focused the anthrax letters investigation on him, Dr. Ivins wrote of his wish to be cremated and have his ashes scattered. But fearing that his wife, Diane, and their two children might not honor the request, he came up with a novel way to enforce his demand: threatening to make a bequest to an organization he knew his wife opposed, Planned Parenthood.

“If my remains are not cremated and my ashes are not scattered or spread on the ground, I give to Planned Parenthood of Maryland” $50,000, Dr. Ivins wrote in the will. Court records value the estate at $143,000.

Ivins’ clever trick with the will in no way indicates he was pro-choice. All it does is show that he gambled his wife’s own opposition to choice was stronger than her desire to bury him. But it does make it clear that his wife was the anti-choice zealot in the household, not him. The membership in the American Family Association and the articles opposing Leahy and Daschle? There’s no reason to believe Ivins cared about them or even read them.

But if Bruce Ivins wasn’t an anti-choice zealot, then several more pieces of the FBI case fall apart.



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