After the suicide last week of Bruce Ivins, the FBI’s prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five people and had a nation fearing to open its mail, [Dr. Russell Byrne] a friend and former colleague of the microbiologist says federal investigators were going after the wrong person and that it was their pressure on Ivins that led to his demise at his own hands.
“It’s possible somebody could hide that from all of your co-workers and nobody would ever hear about it,” Dr. Russell Byrne acknowledged to TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on Monday. “But I really, really doubt it.”
Oooh! His friend of 15 years doesn’t just doubt he did it … he double doubts it. How can the FBI explain Ivins completely fooling a close friend like this? There are also other unanswered questions. Like, my favorite, how did the White House know to start taking drugs to protect against anthrax on 9/11?
Byrne, an infectious-disease specialist who worked as a research scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases from 1993 to 2000, described himself as a friend of Ivins for 15 years. They attended the same Roman Catholic church in Frederick, Md., where Ivins was a member of the church band. After viewing a pre-interview report about the FBI’s investigation of Ivins, Byrne appeared so visibly shaken that Vieira commented on it.
“A lot of it is just consternation at the ridiculous motives they’re attributing, and I get upset whenever I hear that,” Byrne explained. … Some reports suggested prosecutors were working on the theory that Ivins may have sent the anthrax-filled letters to test a vaccine he had helped developed for the toxin. But Byrne considers that motive ludicrous, because the government restricts income from inventions produced in its laboratories to no more than $150,000 per year.
“[Ivins] was one of five researchers who patented that,” Byrne pointed out. “The patent is owned by the United States government. There may be some small monetary incentives, but the government owns that patent.”
To illustrate the intensity of the investigation’s pressure on Ivins, Byrne related an anecdote. He said that the FBI had inquired as to why Ivins might have borrowed a set of Byrne’s camouflage uniforms. Byrne explained to them that Ivins had borrowed the uniforms to dress as a member of ’70s music group the Village People at a Halloween costume party.
“It became a running joke how he never returned them to me,” Byrne recalled. “One week after I saw the FBI, [Ivins] brought them back to the house — but neither one of us could talk about that. That was the big elephant in the room that we couldn’t discuss [because] I had signed a paper saying [that] if I discussed anything about this interview, I could be liable for criminal prosecution.”
… “I don’t know what to make of the restraining order,” Byrne said. “I don’t have direct information on that. I knew him for 15 years. He was in the division for a lot longer than that, and that kind of thing never came up.” – msnbc