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Ivins Told Ethics Officer About Anthrax Clean-up

Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images When the Los Angeles Times first broke the story that the government had been "about to file charges" in the anthrax case, it pointed to a few pieces of apparent evidence against Bruce Ivins. Perhaps most damning was this:

Ivins, employed as a civilian at Ft. Detrick, earlier had attracted the attention of Army officials because of anthrax contaminations that Ivins failed to report for five months. In sworn oral and written statements to an Army investigator, Ivins said that he had erred by keeping the episodes secret -- from December 2001 to late April 2002. He said he had swabbed and bleached more than 20 areas that he suspected were contaminated by a sloppy lab technician.

The detail about Ivins' apparent failure to report anthrax contamination was picked up by toomanynewsoutletstocount.

But a tidbit buried in today’s Wall Street Journaloffers a slightly different take on the episode. Countering the vast expanses of anonymice-filled coverage, the Journal talks to a named source, Col. Arthur Anderson, who it turns out says Ivins quickly told him about the clean-up:

Col. Anderson says Dr. Ivins told him about the lapse in safety shortly after it occurred, contradicting Army findings in 2002 that Dr. Ivins had told no one. Dr. Ivins's failure to immediately report the incident to his superiors is now seen by law-enforcement authorities as key evidence against him.

"He didn't tell the safety office, he didn't tell the commander, but he told me," said Col. Anderson, director of the office of human use and ethics.

Not telling a safety officer or one’s commander about a spill and subsequent cleanup of deadly pathogens is certainly suspicious. But at the least, the incident doesn’t appear to be as clear as it was made out in the first report . And that report -- of Ivins' "secret clean-up" -- is still being picked up.

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