A federal judge on Thursday signed search warrants allowing FBI agents to analyze two computers that Army microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins used July 24, just days before he killed himself.
According to an affidavit seeking the warrants, Mr. Ivins said during a group therapy session on July 9 that he knew federal investigators were closing in on him in their probe into the 2001 anthrax attacks.
“He said he was not going to face the death penalty, but instead planned to kill co-workers and other individuals who had wronged him,” the affidavit stated. “He said he had a bullet-proof vest, and a list of co-workers, and added that he was going to obtain a Glock firearm from his son within the next day, because he knew federal agents are watching him and he could not obtain a weapon on his own.”
Mr. Ivins’ threats led authorities to confine him for two weeks to a psychiatric hospital, according to the affidavit.
Mr. Ivins, 62, of Frederick, Md., was identified Wednesday as the sole culprit in the anthrax mailings that killed five people and sickened 17 others, several weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His lawyer contends that the Justice Department hasn’t proven Mr. Ivins was the killer.
According to the affidavit seeking the warrants, authorities said they seized a bulletproof vest, homemade body armor and ammunition from Mr. Ivins’ home while he was hospitalized.
Mr. Ivins remained under 24-hour surveillance after his release from the hospital on July 24. That day, according to the affidavit, agents saw Mr. Ivins use two computers at a public library in his hometown.
Mr. Ivins took a fatal overdose of Tylenol mixed with codeine July 27 and died two days later.
The affidavit seeking the warrants indicates the FBI thinks the computers may contain “a plan to kill witnesses, names of intended victims, photographs, suicide letters and other relevant information.”
The search of the computers had not been completed by Thursday evening, but it brings the government one step closer to closing the case.
“These were among the actions we referenced yesterday that had to be completed before we could close the case,” Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said Thursday of the search warrants.
The Justice Department took the unusual step Wednesday of releasing other search warrants and revealing evidence related to the investigation of Mr. Ivins.
Authorities said DNA testing linked the anthrax spores used in the attacks to a strain that only Mr. Ivins had access to.
The records released Wednesday portrayed Mr. Ivins as suffering from mental illness and facing great stress from his job working on an anthrax vaccine at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick.
Authorities theorized that mental illness and stress, along with a need to show the worth of the vaccine, may have been the motivation behind the attacks.