Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Poetry of The "Mad Scientist" Bruce E. Ivins

The Department of Justice has released some redacted FBI documents about their "Amerithrax" suspect Dr. Bruce E. Ivans.

Dr. Ivins wrote to a friend about his struggle with mental illness in a series of e-mails.

On April 3, 2000, Dr. Ivins wrote:

Occasionally I get this tingling that goes down both arms.

At the same time I get a bit dizzy and get this unidentifiable metallic taste in my mouth. (I'm not trying to be funny, [redacted] It actually scares me a bit.) Other times it's like I'm not only sitting at my desk doing work, I'm also a few feet away watching me do it. There's nothing like living in both the first person singular AND the third person singular. [page 11-12]

On June 27, 2000, Dr. Ivins wrote:

What is REALLY scary is the paranoia...Remember when I told you about the "metallic" taste in my mouth that I got periodically? It's when I get these paranoid episodes...it's as if I'm on a passenger on a ride...Ominously, a lot of the feelings of isolation-and desolation-that I went through before college are returning. [page 12]

It seems as though Dr. Ivins had struggled periodically with a serious mental or neuological disorder since he was a teenager. The gustatory aura [see also aura and epilepsy] which preceeded his attacks of paranoia may have been caused by his medication or may have been a symptom of a neurological disorder such as epilepsy. Gustatory and tingling sensations similar to Dr. Ivins' are described in a patient with epilepsy here. People with epilepsy often develop mental illness, too.

The out-of-body experience that Dr. Ivins describes may also be caused by a neurological disorder such as epilepsy. A recent article in the Economist (8-23-07) reports:

Occasionally, people who suffer from epilepsy report having standard out-of-body experiences..the part of the brain in question seems to be involved in integrating inputs from different senses. If this area is overstimulated during the electrical brainstorm that is an epileptic fit, the consequence is an out-of-body experience.

Dr. Ivins had talked with a psychiatrist and some kind of social worker or therapist. Probably he should have had a work-up by a neurologist to see if he had an underlying neurological disorder such as epilepsy that was making him anxious and paranoid.

Sometimes epilepsy does come and go during a person's life, and seizures can be precipitated by a lack of sleep.

Dr. Ivins was under a lot of pressure at his job and may not have been sleeping well. He wrote that he had paranoid episodes as a teenager, too. Mental and neurological disorders often make their appearance during a person's teen years. Adolescence is a psychologically stressful time because the brain is changing rapidly and people often don't get enough sleep.

I wonder if Dr. Ivins really was suffering from untreated epilepsy. Did the lady therapist/social worker who told a court that he was dangerous consider that possibility?

The documents include two poems that show his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mental state following the anthrax attacks.

In an e-mail dated December 15, 2001 Dr. Ivins wrote:

I made up some poems about having two people in one (me + the person in my dreams):...

I'm a little dream-self, short and stout.
I'm the other half of Bruce-when he lets me out.
When I get all steamed up, I don't pout.
I push Bruce aside, them I'm free to run about!

Hickory dickory Doc-Doc Bruce ran up the clock.
But something then happened in very strange rhythm.
His other self went and exchanged places with him.
So now, please guess who
Is conversing with you.
Hickory Dickory Doc!

Bruce and this other guy, sitting in some trees,
Exchanging personalities.
It's like having two in one.
Actually it's rather fun!" [page 14]

Here are official statements from the Department of Justice and today's impressions of the documents from major media:

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor at Amerithrax Investigation Press Conference (8-6-08)

Transcript of Amerithrax Investigation Press Conference (8-6-08)

Amerithrax Court Documents (8-6-08)

Washington Post (8-6-08)--"A Strong Circumstantial Case"
Washington Post (8-6-08)--"The Case Against Bruce Ivins"
Newsweek (8-6-08)--"The Case Against Ivins"
Christian Science Monitor (8-6-08)--"FBI: Ivins Held Identical Anthrax Strain"
Newsday (8-6-08)--"US: Scientist in Anthrax Case Sorority-Obsessed"
Voice of America (8-6-08)--"FBI Reveals Evidence Against Army Scientist In Anthrax Case"
Telegraph (8-6-08)--"Suicide Scientist 'Was Sole Anthrax Terrorist'"
BBC (8-6-08)--Scientist 'lone anthrax attacker'

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