So, after almost a week of intense media scrutiny and finger-pointing at USAMRIID scientist Bruce Ivins as the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks, the FBI has now released its documents pertaining to the case, and declares that Ivins was indeed their man. However, a lot of unanswered questions remain–about the investigation itself, the whole mess surrounding the anthrax attacks and what they meant to the “war on terror,” and the science itself that linked the attack strain to Ivins’ lab. A few of the remaining issues are discussed below…
First, as Glenn Greenwald notes, there was a lot of inaccuracies reported about the anthrax itself in the weeks, months, and even years following the attacks. Some of this information came from “unidentified sources” who claimed to be in the know, and some of the misinformation supported the invasion of Iraq (as that country had been linked to the preparation of the anthrax spores early on).
This also goes to the credibility of the investigators, as Revere notes. With the shadow of Hatfill’s botched investigation looming over them, why was this one again tried in the media, and hinging partially on leaked reports of Ivins’ mental state and personality (claims which many close to him have denied). Isn’t this again what happened with Hatfill? Reports of how the investigation was conducted and the tactics used to intimidate Ivins’ friends and family also seem sketchy, though they’ve been defended as above-the-board.
Additionally, regarding the bacteria strain(s). Some reports have said that one damning piece of evidence was that a particular “admixture” of strains found in the attacks could have only come from Fort Detrick. The evidence for this seems to come partly from the growth characteristics of the strains (some small, some large colony morphologies) and from the finding of an inversion of one part of the genome. However, as Mike notes, that’s not necessarily evidence for a mixture of two strains (via TomJoe). So where does that leave us regarding the tie to Ivins’ strains? (Paging Steven?)
Revere also hits on something I’d not considered–what happened to Ivins’ body? He notes conflicting reports regarding Ivins’ autopsy (or lack thereof).
I really want to believe that they solved the case. Some of the victims (including Maureen Stevens, widow of Florida photographer Robert Stevens, the first victim–accept Ivins’ guilt, while other targets, such as former senator Tom Daschle, expressed skepticism. I haven’t begun to wade through all the evidence uploaded to the DOJ site yet, and maybe there’s something slam-dunk in there–but if there is, it’s certainly gotten much less media attention than the innuendo that’s been publicized thus far.