THE BLOG
08/07/2008 06:50 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Anthrax Suspect Had Ties to French Communist: FBI

The documents disclosed that authorities searched Ivins' home on Nov. 2, 2007, taking 22 swabs of vacuum filters and radiators and seizing dozens of items. Among them were video cassettes, family photos, information about guns and a copy of The Plague by Albert Camus. -- AP, 06/08/08

It's a shitty world full of jerks -- just ask Albert Camus -- and alleged anthrax killers like Bruce Ivins make it even more miserable. (Yes, I'll come right out and say it: I'm against alleged anthrax killers.) You've got to take joy wherever you can find it. Like an FBI agent, discovering that a suspect owns a book called The Plague.

"Schiff! Martin! Get these radiator swabs to CBSU! Warrenberg, I want a cryptanalysis report on these videocassettes and family photos and I want it yesterday! Wait, what the hell is this...? Boyle, what have you got on Albert Camus?"

"I'm pulling it up now... French anarcho-syndicalist... atheist... born Algeria..."

"Algeria!? Boyle, you may have just cracked this whole thing wide open!"

I remember thinking it was kind of "bad" that the Patriot Act gave the government unlimited access to Americans' library records, but not their gun permits, but now I understand. It's about prevention. If only we had known Bruce Ivins was reading existentialism before he struck.

He was obviously planning something pretty bad. Why else would a vaccinologist own a book that was superficially about disease?

Of course, The Plague is about a plague like The Magic Mountain is about a magical mountain. (Wait, what is The Magic Mountain about?) The plague in The Plague is what you might call "a symbol," which makes imagining some FBI agent writing a report on it so exciting.

"His bedroom, meals in a cheap restaurant, some rather mysterious coming and goings - these were the sum of Cottard's days..."

Request s. warrants all cheap restaurants in vicin Ivins home/US Army Medical Research Institute... sgst interview waitstaff re: comings/goings...

"What's more, the plague suits me quite well and I see no reason why I should bother about trying to stop it."

Possible $ motive? Chk bnk recrds.

"I can see," Tarrou said, "that you're not going to join our effort."

Twiddling his hat uneasily, Cottard gazed at Tarros with shifty eyes.
"I hope you won't bear me a grudge."
"Certainly not. But" - Tarrou smiled - "do try at least not to propagate the microbe deliberately."

PRPGATE MICRB DELIBERATE!!!

SMKIG GUN!

WLL HOLD UP N CRT???

I also wonder what Bruce Ivins thought of The Plague. If he figured out that the plague was just life. (Spoiler Alert: The plague is just life.) I wonder if that made him mad. He seems like a guy with a temper. I wonder what he expected it to be about?

And that's the truly surreal thing about Bruce Ivins and the FBI and their book club: Not only is the FBI misreading Bruce Ivins misreading The Plague, but there's a character in The Plague who's misreading The Trial.

He thinks it's a murder mystery.

"I've been reading a detective story. It's about a poor devil who's arrested one fine morning, all of a sudden. People had been taking an interest in him and he knew nothing about it. They were talking about him in offices, entering his name on card indexes. Now do you think that's fair? Do you think people have a right to treat a man like that?"

Your FBI collected, as evidence, a book in which a character is reading a book in which a character is on trial, but it's not clear why.

Wait. Unless that's not what The Trial is about at all.

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Good thing Ivins didn't have The Stranger. They would have charged him with shooting an Arab.