The unfolding anthrax story may not unfold much because the government seems to be in a hurry to keep it folded. They claim — not officially but through the news media — to have found the nutjob who did it. He had opportunity, means and motive (he was a nutjob). Now he’s dead and can’t defend himself. Case closed. Maybe. But neither the news media nor the government who feeds them crapola have track records for credibility, so I’m not yet willing to lay this vicious homicide automatically on his grave. Yes, we are getting all sorts of leaked info but then we got a lot of leaked info when the attacks occurred and then later when authorities were under pressure to find the culprit. They wound up pilloring a government scientist, Stephen Hatfill. Hatfill sounds like a jerk and the current suspect, Bruce Ivins, may not have been a prize either. But if being a jerk or having some people say bad things about you is grounds for a murder indictment then a lot of other people should be on the list, too. Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com, to his great credit, has been beating the drums about government and news media culpability in this cock up investigation for some time and we refer you to his recent posts (here, here), which also have links to his earlier warnings, warnings which had little response — until now. His account is long, detailed and documented, so we’ll give you the gist to encourage you to follow-up on your own.
The salient features of his reporting are these. By the government’s own admission, they believe the culprit in the anthrax attacks just after 9/11 came from within the US bioweapons establishment. But that judgement become clear to the public only some time after the event. In the wake of the attacks both the government and the news media used the attacks to create a climate of fear and to advance an explicit claim the perpetrators were Islamic extremists connected with Saddam Hussein. Greenwald singles out Brian Ross of ABC News as being a willing tool of unnamed government sources in spreading a false story the anthrax had the hallmarks of the Iraqi weapons program (false information it contained bentonite, claimed to be uniquely associated with the Iraq version of weaponized anthrax; there never was any bentonite in the anthrax involved in the attack, nor is it clear that even if there were it would have any relevance to Iraq). It was sheer fabrication on someone’s part, one ABC News has never retracted or apologized for. And not an inconsequential error. Greenwald adduces substantial evidence the Iraq connection was a signifiant factor in getting the public and more especially the media establishment onboard. We note with some interest that it was also Brian Ross at ABC News that was saying recently his sources were telling him Iran was close to nuclear capability. Once burned, twice shy.
If Ivins was indeed involved and not just the new fall guy after Hatfill fought back successfully, then we have a number of other questions. News leaking out now that Ivins had behaved in suspicious ways in the 7 years since the attack raise further questions. If true — and the examples seem flagrant — why was he allowed to continue working in a top secret government weapons laboratory? Greenwald also cites other scattered pieces of information that together present a darker picture. After 9/11 and before the anthrax attacks government officials (including the Vice President) and some influential news pundits were advised to have a supply of ciprofloxicin on hand and even to start taking it. It was as if someone in the government knew that anthrax spores might be floating around soon. And indeed they were soon floating around, in Washington, DC and among the news media. What a coincidence. Now the story is the stuff came from a government lab from a long time weapons scientist. But don’t worry. It wasn’t a conspiracy. The guy is nuts. How do we know? Leaked information from a social worker and his therapist. Hmmm. Forgive me for being skeptical. (If you think that contriving pretexts for war is tinfoil hat stuff, consider this.)
It’s taken the FBI seven years to get this far and along the way they’ve either found no one or found the wrong person (costing the US taxpayer, $.5.3 million dollars to settle Hatfill’s lawsuit). Now we are supposed to believe they’ve got the right guy in the waning months of the Bush administration, before a new administration and Congress might arrive and take a good hard look at this. The suspect is dead (nothing was leaked about this until his body was already cold) and the FBI is reportedly interested in closing the case. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Even now the FBI is showing no signs of being able to conduct an investigation within acceptable bounds. Consider this:
“Two FBI agents walked into a public library in Maryland, without a warrant, and walked out with two computers. The library director agreed to release the machines to these smooth-talking feds. According to the article, the director of Frederick County Public Libraries indicated that this was the third time in his 10 years there that the FBI had requested records, but the first time they had come without a court order. The director seemed to indicate no regrets, stating ‘It was a decision I made on my experience and the information given to me.’ He further justified his actions, noting that the agents indicated specific computers they needed (of the several dozen in the library) and further that they ‘had an awful lot of information.'”
The library director speculated whether the raid may have involved the Bruce Ivins / anthrax case, musing “Obviously it coincided with the events everyone is talking about,” but he said the agents hadn’t mentioned it. (Slashdot, link to WTOP News)
There is no urgency in this case, no ticking time bomb. This keystone cops inquiry has been going on for 7 years. But warrants? Who needs warrants? Not this administration.
Whatever else the US “biodefense” program has done for us — and benefits are hard to document if they indeed exist at all — it seems at least to have brought us the only successful bioterrorism attack on US soil in our history.
That in itself is quite an accomplishment.