-- Brad Friedman
Bruce E. Ivins, reportedly on the verge of being indicted for capital murder in the anthrax killings, was a registered Democrat, according to the Fredrick County, MD, Board of Elections. He had been registered there since 1982 and records indicate that he voted in "every election since 1996," including Democratic primaries, according to the official who responded to a request from West Virginia-based radio host Bob Kincaid.
The party affiliation of the bio-terror researcher who worked at U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) adds a notable twist to the ever increasing questions surrounding the bizarre case following Ivins' reported suicide last week. He was, according to media reports, soon to be indicted for charges related to the post-9/11 terror attacks that rocked the nation and, as Salon's Glen Greenwald has very effectively argued, served as a crucial influence in marching the country towards war with Iraq.
Last week, as the story of Ivins' reported suicide was breaking, The BRAD BLOG excoriated the corporate mainstream media for failing to note that the targets of the multiple post-9/11 terror attacks on American soil were primarily powerful men, perceived as "liberals" by the Republican right wing. Nonetheless, despite two senior Democratic U.S. senators, Tom Daschle of SD and Patrick Leahy of VT, having been the only known governmental targets in the deadly letter campaign which also included perceived "liberal" media figurehead Tom Brokaw, the MSM coverage --- almost uniformly --- failed to note the obvious correlations in the attacks. Most even failed to even mention the names of those who were directly targeted in what was clearly meant to appear as a follow-up attack from Muslim extremists.
Furthermore, as we also noted on Friday, despite a parade of reporters who had contacted Ivins' oldest brother Thomas that day for comment, not one of them --- until us --- bothered even to inquire about Bruce's political leanings or affiliations.
That it now turns out Ivins was a registered Democrat adds yet another curious twist to a story which is already revealing bizarre and potentially exculpatory evidence and other cracks in the government's reported (though, as yet, not publicly disclosed) case against him. Today, the New York Times noted, as we similarly did yesterday, that the FBI's case against Ivins appears to be almost entirely circumstantial, at least based on the information so far available...
As the Times, The BRAD BLOG, and many others have now noted, the case appears to hinge largely on the testimony of a social worker, Jean C. Duley, who had treated Ivins for a number of months in group therapy. As it turns out, however, Duley herself has a criminal history (as detailed by both Larisa Alexandrovna and Greenwald) and is no longer working at the Fredrick, MD, facility where Ivins was being treated, according to Bloomberg News.
Further, the Washington Post noted on Friday (before they scrubbed the story from their website, but then re-asserted the charges on Sunday) that colleagues of Ivins and other experts felt Ivins couldn't have carried out the attacks, as "he had no access to dry, powdered anthrax" of the type used in the attacks at the Army lab in MD where he worked.
While it was too late to reach anyone for confirmation at the Frederick County, MD, Board of Elections, our source for this report, Bob Kincaid, creator and host of the progressive Head-On Radio Network, has been a long-time trusted friend of The BRAD BLOG. He detailed the information he gathered and how he gathered it.
[ED NOTE 5/8/08 1:45pm PT: We have since confirmed the information ourselves with the Frederick County Board of Elections. See the update at the end of this article for details.]
After he informed us of his findings late this afternoon, we asked if he had documents from the BoE to support the claim that Ivins was a Democrat.
He replied, via email, that he had no physical documentation, at this time, since "The nature of Maryland law was such that I had to provide them with a written request for info, signed by yrs trly."
He "complied by e-mailing a scan of a signed request letter" and was told that he could either wait for the information in response to his request to be sent via the U.S. mail or he could be notified by phone. "They...informed me that the Board isn't allowed to e-mail such info in response" to such requests, Kincaid wrote and later confirmed when we chatted about the matter later on the phone, and on his radio program late this afternoon. (The MP3 of that interview is now posted as an update at the bottom of this article.)
"I didn't want to wait for the snail mail, so I requested they let me know by phone," Kincaid told us during the follow-up call.
"I asked for Bruce Ivins," he explained while detailing his call to the BoE. "I spelled the name, and they were well familiar with who I was talking about. I can't imagine that there could be many other Bruce Ivins in Frederick, Maryland."
The BRAD BLOG has reviewed the signed request that Kincaid says he sent to Stuart Harvey, Supervisor of the BoE, in which Kincaid noted that "Any response [to the request] may be made telephonically to the number above or to [his email address]. Inasmuch as this is information for a story on deadline, there is no need to mail the response."
"The purpose of this correspondence is to provide you with a written request," Kincaid wrote to Harvey, "pursuant to Maryland law as you expressed it to me, for all public voter registration information for an individual by the name of Bruce Ivins, included, but not limited to name, address of registration, party affiliation and elections/primaries in which the registrant has voted."
Kincaid was later called back by a deputy to the Supervisor of the Fredrick County BoE and informed that Ivins had been a registered Democrat and had voted in every election since 1996. The pertinent part of the initial email from Kincaid follows:
They then informed me that the Board isn't allowed to e-mail such info in response. She instead conveyed the information by phone, said info being received by my lovely wife, Agnes. That information via Noreen, the deputy to Stuart Harvey, Supervisor of the Frederick County, Maryland Board of Elections, is as follows: Bruce Ivins, Date of Registration 24 November 1982. Party of Registration: Democrat. Records indicate he voted in every election since 1996.
Kincaid confirmed again, on the air today, that his understanding was that Ivins had voted in every Democratic Primary election in Frederick County since '96, since Maryland has a "closed" primary system, allowing only members of each political party to vote in their own primaries. "So it wasn't an Operation Chaos type of thing," Kincaid explained on the air, referring to rightwing radio host Rush Limbaugh's campaign to encourage Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton in this year's Democratic Primary contests.
Little otherwise seems to be known so far about Ivins' political affiliation and little has been reported on what would seem to be a crucial element in the case. The toxic letters sent to the Democratic senators were written so as to have appeared to be from a Muslim extremist, and were used to further the Administration's early allegations that the 9/11 attacks were from similar entities.
Ivins was known to have been a practicing Roman Catholic and a regular attendee of his local parish, according to a number of media accounts. He had sent Letters to the Editor of his local paper, the Frederick News-Post, over the years. The paper printed several of them.
Greenwald reported on the cryptic clues, perhaps revealed by those letters, regarding Ivins' ideology. The letters, which seem to indicate, contrary to his party registration, that he leaned politically rightward, were excerpted by Greenwald on Friday as follows:
Today we frequently admonish people who oppose abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide or capital punishment to keep their religious, moral, and philosophical beliefs to themselves.
Before dispensing such admonishments in the future, perhaps we should gratefully consider some of our country's most courageous, historical figures who refused to do so.
And then there's this rather cryptic message, published in 2006:
Rabbi Morris Kosman is entirely correct in summarily rejecting the demands of the Frederick Imam for a "dialogue."
By blood and faith, Jews are God's chosen, and have no need for "dialogue" with any gentile. End of "dialogue."
A full reading of the first letter excerpted above by Greenwald, however, reveals that Ivins was speaking up for early religious leaders, such as Quakers, who believed "slavery was a sin". He goes on, in the same letter then, to laud American "ministers, rabbis and priests whose beliefs brought them to the forefront in the battle against forced, racial segregation in America."
Other letters from Ivins to the News-Post exhibited still more signs of Progressivism, as late as this 2004 letter to the paper:
I'm a scientist, as well as a married heterosexual, and I'd be very interested in learning what those "newest studies" are. Hopefully they are based upon scientific study, rather than political, social, cultural or religious ideology.
Going on to recommend a specific scientific study [PDF] on the matter, he notes:
It's a very interesting paper, regardless what side you take on the debate of how individuals gain their sexual preference.
In 2002 Ivins wrote:
And in 1999 he excoriated the "racial insensitivity, profanity and abuse" on rightwing talk radio shows that had recently been added to one of his local stations:
A few days later I tried WFMD's "Mike Gallagher" program. He referred to some of his listeners as "pinheads."
Capstar owes a special apology to African-American residents of the area, and local businesses should seriously rethink their commitment to sponsoring racial insensitivity, profanity and abuse on WFMD.
As well, it's been reported that Ivins volunteered with the Red Cross and encouraged neighbors recycle their grass cuttings.
Given the similarities in the perceived political ideology among the targeted victims of the anthrax letters, the political affiliation or leanings of whoever was responsible for the attacks would seem key to the government's still-undisclosed case. Yet that aspect continues to be largely overlooked in the media coverage since Ivins' death.
Greenwald noted this interesting exchange from a Vermont Daily Briefing interview with Leahy late last year, which highlights the political undertones in the case [emphasis Greenwald's]:
VDB: Right. That all fits into the profile of a kind of hard-core and obviously insane ideologue on the far Right, somebody who would fixate on especially Tom Daschle, who at that point was the target of daily, vitriolic attacks on Right-wing talk radio.
Leahy: [Slowly, with a little shake of the head] I don't think it’s somebody insane. I'd accept everything else you said. But I don’t think it's somebody insane. And I think there are people within our government --- certainly from the source of it --- who know where it came from. [Taps the table to let that settle in] And these people may not have had anything to do with it, but they certainly know where it came from.
While Ivins' registration as a Democrat, originally filed as far back as 1982, doesn't necessarily mean he continued to hold the same political leanings today --- many voters who are registered, but who haven't moved, simply do not bother to change their party affiliation, even as their political beliefs morph over the years --- it's certainly another point of interest in an increasingly troubling case.
Kincaid, who conceded during our interview that the revelation of Ivins' party registration, in and of itself, was not necessarily "probative," still found it difficult to believe that someone as virulently rightwing as the author of the anthrax letters was believed to have been, would continue year in and year out to vote in Democratic primary elections.
Why it has taken the mainstream corporate media this long to ask and investigate similar questions about the political affiliation of Ivins, or even probe their many unnamed "government official" sources who have been feeding them reports, is just one more troubling mystery in the ever-growing mountain of troubling aspects in this story.
UPDATE: As promised, here is our hour-long interview today with Bob Kincaid, from his Head-On program, concerning the latest developments, issues and concerns in the anthrax case. Details concerning his findings on Bruce Ivins' Democratic Party registration in Maryland are discussed in the final 15 minutes or so of the hour.
UPDATE 8/5/08 12:30pm PT: A quick update. Reader RS notes that both of the targets of the anthrax letters in the Senate, Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, in addition to being Democrats like Ivins, are also both Roman Catholics, according to their Wikipedia pages. As Ivins was, by all accounts, a practicing Roman Catholic who volunteered for his local parish, (and as we've been informed by Catholic readers that suicide is a grave sin, punishable by eternal damnation, in the faith, and as Ivins, the meticulous scientist and prolific writer reportedly left no suicide note) the story just continues to grow curiouser and curiouser with each passing hour...
UPDATE 8/5/08 1:40pm PT: Just to close this loop. We called the Frederick County Board of Elections today, now that they are open for business again, and the Deputy Election Director Noreen Schultz, the same person who called Kincaid back yesterday, confirmed to us that in fact Ivins was a registered Democrat since 1982. She said they only have voting records going back to 1996 in their database, but that, yes, Ivins "was a very regular voter" who had voted in every election, including Democratic Primaries, since that date.