Mike the Mad Biologist

Glenn Greenwald asks a lot of good questions about the recent turns in the anthrax case. I’ll get to Greenwald’s specific questions at the end of the post, but all of Greenwald’s questions could have innocuous answers.

At this point, however, one would be a fool to, at least, not consider that something nefarious is going on–the only time I’ve been wrong about the Bush administration is when I’ve thought, “No, they couldn’t do that.” Over at Pissed on Politics, here’s one vein of off-the-wall speculation (italics mine):

Ok, here is what I think happened: Some persons in the bowels of our government from some nefarious agency approached Ivins about supplying some weapons grade Anthrax to them. Ivins was told it was a matter of National Security. These people took the Anthrax and sent some to Leahy and Daschle with the express purpose of strong arming the Patriot Act through Congress. This whole thing reeks of Dick Cheney by the way.

Well years go by and some government detectives, likely FBI, traced the trail back to Ivins. The people from the nefarious group, (remember Cheney said he likes to spend time in the shadows) approached Ivins and interrogated him. They wanted to know if he would take the fall for them. When Ivins learned they were going to pin the blame for the attacks on him he got pissed. These nefarious characters then felt they had no choice but to kill Ivins.

And yes I do think Cheney orchestrated the whole thing. Recently Seymour Hersh disclosed that Cheney had a plan to dress up Navy Seals like Iranians and have them attack U.S. installations and troops in order to justify attacking Iran. This is the type of Tom Clancy shit Cheney loves.

Remember the whole yellow cake uranium thing. Remember Curveball. Remember the slam dunk of WMD in Iraq, not wanting the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud, or that we had evidence that Saddam attacked us on 9/11. All of it was lies. All of it championed by Cheney.

Who wanted the Patriot Act the most? Cheney. How was it finally passed? By sending Anthrax to Daschle and Leahy. What did it do? Sent a veiled threat to both Senators that they could be gotten to if they didn’t fall in line.

Ivins was just a patsy. He was in many ways a person who just followed orders. He was probably told he was doing his duty for his country and how he would be remembered as a hero. He was probably sick to his stomach when he found out what they did with his Anthrax but he knew if he talked he was a dead man.

Is this crazy? Yes, but, then again, we’re not dealing with people equipped with a full deck. In sane times, this would be tinfoil helmet territory, but, as Greenwald notes, there are a lot of unanswered questions:

  • Why were White House aides given cipro weeks before the anthrax attacks, and why “on the night of the Sept. 11 attacks, [did] the White House Medical Office dispense Cipro to staff accompanying Vice President Dick Cheney as he was secreted off to the safety of Camp David”? [Washington Post, 10/23/2001];
  • Why, if Cheney was given cipro on the night of the 9/11 attacks, was he allegedly “convinced that he had been subjected to a lethal dose of anthrax” on October 18, and that this fear is what led him to seek refuge in “undisclosed locations” and thereafter support an array of hard-line tactics against suspected terrorists? [Jane Mayer, The Dark Side, 2008];
  • Which “high government official” told Richard Cohen to take cipro prior to the anthrax attacks (it wasn’t a “source” who did so, since Cohen didn’t write about it and apparently never intended to; it was just someone high up in Government passing along a helpful tip to a media friend) [Richard Cohen, Slate, March 18, 2008];
  • Did the FBI meaningfully investigate who sent an anonymous letter to the FBI after the anthrax letters were sent, but before they were made public, accusing a former Fort Detrick scientist — the Arab-American Ayaad Assaad — of being a “potential biological terrorist,” after Assaad was forced out of Fort Detrick by a group of USAMRIID bioweapons researchers who had exhibited extreme anti-Arab animus? [Laura Rozen, Salon, 1/26/2002];
  • Why did the FBI gives its consent in October, 2001 for the remaining samples of the Ames anthrax strain to be destroyed, thereby losing crucial “genetic clues valuable to the criminal inquiry”? [San Fransisco Chronicle, 11/9/2001];
  • If — as was publicly disclosed as early as 2004 — Bruce Ivins’ behavior in 2001 and 2002 in conducting unauthorized tests on anthrax residue was so suspicious, why was he allowed to remain with access to the nation’s most dangerous toxins for many years after, and why wasn’t he a top suspect much earlier? [USA Today, 10/13/2004];
  • If it’s really the case — as principal Ivins antagonist Jean Duley claims — that Ivins, as far back as 2000, had “actually attempted to murder several other people, [including] through poisoning” and had threatened to kill his co-workers at his Fort Detrick lab, then why did he continue to maintain clearance to work on biological weapons, and why are his co-workers and friends, with virtual unanimity, insisting that he never displayed any behavior suggestive of being the anthrax attacker? [Washington Post, August 3, 2008];
  • What was John McCain referencing when he went on national television in October, 2001 and claimed “there is some indication, and I don’t have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may — and I emphasize may — have come from Iraq”? [Late Show with David Letterman, 10/18/2001];
  • What was Joe Lieberman’s basis for stating on national television, three days after McCain’s Letterman appearance and in the midst of advocating a U.S. attack on Iraq, that the anthrax was so complex and potent that “there’s either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program”? [Meet the Press, 10/21/2001];
  • What did Pat Leahy mean when he said the following in a September, 2007 interview:
    Leahy: What I want to know — I have a theory. But what I want to know is why me, why Tom Daschle, why Tom Brokaw?

    VDB: Right. That all fits into the profile of a kind of hard-core and obviously insane ideologue on the far Right, somebody who would fixate on especially Tom Daschle, who at that point was the target of daily, vitriolic attacks on Right-wing talk radio.

    Leahy: [Slowly, with a little shake of the head] I don’t think it’s somebody insane. I’d accept everything else you said. But I don’t think it’s somebody insane. And I think there are people within our government — certainly from the source of it — who know where it came from. [Taps the table to let that settle in] And these people may not have had anything to do with it, but they certainly know where it came from.

    [Vermont Daily Briefing, 9/5/2007];

  • Who were the “four separate and well-placed sources” who told ABC News, falsely, that tests conducted at Fort Detrick had found the presence of bentonite in the anthrax sent to Tom Daschle, causing ABC News to aggressively link the attacks to Iraq for five straight days in October, 2001? [Salon, 4/9/2007];
  • Who was responsible for the numerous leaks even before the ABC News bentonite reports linking the anthrax attacks to Iraq? [The Guardian; 10/14/2001; Wall St. Journal Editorial, 10/15/2001 ("Is Iraq unleashing biological weapons on America?"); CNN, 10/15/2001].

One problem with flat out lying as a matter of course is that no one will believe your honest denials. Add a healthy dose of batshit lunacy to the mix (e.g., wanting the Iranian version of the Gulf of Tonkin–because the first Gulf of Tonkin worked out so damn well…), and even Kafka or Ionesco would be at a loss. There could be innocuous answers to all these questions. But at this point, even “Trust, but verify” (to steal a phrase) is too much with these guys.

This is how the Bush Administration drives the country insane: we don’t even have a good grasp on what qualifies as the surreal anymore.

Comments

  1. #1 Rick Pikul
    August 5, 2008

    …wanting the Iranian version of the Gulf of Tonkin

    Not quite the comparison I’d make for a fake attack using the intended enemy’s uniforms.

    Tonkin involve one actual clash, followed by an erroneous report of a second[1]. These were then lied about, both as to where the ships exactly were/what they were doing there, and that there had been the second attack.

    A fully fake attack would be better compared to the less famous Gleiwitz incident. (Which occurred on Aug 31, 1939 in Gleiwitz, Germany.

    [1] Known issue with that ship class, the rudder made a noise very similar to that of a Russian-built torpedo during sharp turns.

  2. #2 Aaron Golas
    August 5, 2008

    This whole situation has me buggy, especially the word floating about that the FBI was considering the case “closed” now that their prime suspect is dead.

    But regarding your fifth bullet, the article says the samples destroyed were a collection at Iowa State University in Ames. However, the “Ames” strain was discovered in Texas and misnamed when a sample was shipped to D.C. (a point the article appears to miss). Now, I won’t deny that 70-odd years’ worth of anthrax samples would have been valuable to any genetic inquiry. But from a more traditional forensic standpoint, the FBI’s response seems valid:

    “We didn’t recommend one way or another whether they should destroy it,” said Larry Holmquist, a spokesman for the FBI in Omaha, Neb., which runs the bureau’s Iowa operations. “But we did say it had no evidentiary basis.”

    Or am I missing something?

  3. #3 cooler
    August 5, 2008

    Finally someone on science blogs with the balls to tell the truth.

  4. #4 Pierce R. Butler
    August 5, 2008

    “Terrority”, in this context, is one of the most inspired typos I’ve seen all year.

  5. #5 Hank Roberts
    August 5, 2008

    You missed the smoking gun part from PoP:

    ____-quote-_____

    … There are several things about this story that bug me. I am also extremely pissed off that NO ONE in the media is bothering to ask if Ivins is guilty, then why did he send the Anthrax to Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy?

    Just a quick history lesson: After 9/11 Bush and the Republicans wanted to ram through “The Patriot Act” as a matter of “National Security”. …
    … Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy were both holding up the bill and threatening to not allow it come to the Senate floor for a vote.

    In November 2001 letters containing Anthrax were found addressed to them. The media and Republicans went into a frenzy claiming these Anthrax letters were proof that we “needed” “The Patriot Act” to keep America safe. Congress rolled over and the Freedom Hating Bill was passed….”

  6. #6 Karl
    August 5, 2008

    I want to point out the similarities that the Ivins “suicide” has to the movie “Wag the Dog” (and the book it was based on). The protagonist who directed the whole phony operation is found dead of a “heart attack” after he threatens to blow the whistle on the whole thing.

  7. #7 Joshua
    August 5, 2008

    The “Main Core” business drives me similarly nuts. It sounds completely insane, the sort of ridiculous thing guys in cabins in Montana dream up to fuel their paranoid fantasies of armed rebellion.

    However…

    Honestly, Main Core as that article describes it isn’t so far from the Total Information Awareness project that we actually know the government actually tried to fund and build. So there’s just no basis for us to say, “Nah, that’s too crazy, they’d never do that.”

  8. #8 travc
    August 5, 2008

    Yeah, this really does seem like the perfect conspiracy theory fodder (perhaps partly intentional on that?)

    The levels of incompetence alone necessary to make the ‘officially leaked’ story work are just incredible, in the old fashioned sense of “not credible”. And I’m not one who typically ascribes much competence at all to the gov.

    At best, we have a mentally unstable scientist working in a military bioweapons lab with all sorts of clearances.

    My current theory (scant evidence, but fits so far) is that some folks at Fort Detrick quickly suspected a domestic military source and went into ‘cover your ass’ mode… playing along with the already mounting ‘it was Iraq’ meme being pushed by the neocons. That explains the supposed numerous independent sources for the story.

    As for the actual crime… well Ivins might be responsible, though I’d suspect someone (probably at a lower level) who had access to already weaponized material if we are going for the ‘lone nutcase’ theory. A lot of Ivins’s incriminating actions fit better with simple CYA (or in this case his and his co-worker’s asses).

    What is really abundantly clear about the crime is that it was a smashing success despite being laughably transparent in retrospect. (Have you seen the ‘letters’? It looks exactly like what you’d expect from a right-wing nutjob trying to pin the blame on ‘sand niggers’… and doing a cartoonishly bad job of it.) Almost doubtless in my mind, the perp (or perps) thought of themselves as patriots doing what ‘must be done’ to ‘wake up’ America to threats they absolutely KNEW were lurking out there.

    Does ‘false flag’ necessarily imply official involvement… if not, this was a ‘false flag attack’. No tinfoil hat required to see that.

  9. #9 Colugo
    August 6, 2008

    Greg Laden, I think you ought to try to resist the temptation to resort to conspiracy theorizing.

    Consider:

    - The federal investigation soon focused on a biodefense insider and that’s where the investigation stayed. If there was really a conspiracy to pin it on foreign Islamic terrorists or a foreign state that wouldn’t have happened.

    - Long before 9/11, the possible threat of an anthrax or other bioweapons attack by terrorists who had been provided bioweapons by Iraq or another enemy state had been raised by Sec Def Cohen, President Clinton and other officials. (Remember Powell and the sugar? Cohen once brandished a bag of sugar for the same demonstration purposes.) Therefore it seemed reasonable to assume that 9/11 could be followed by a biowarfare attack, and one preventative countermeasure would be taking cipro.

    - Even if the original address of the anthrax could be pinpointed to the US (which it was), this does not preclude it being sold to or stolen by Islamic terrorists (or any other kind of terrorist or state outside of US biodefense circles). At this point that has been ruled out, but early on there were a host of possibilities. And given the mindset of the immediate post-9/11 period, some scenarios seemed more likely then than they do now.

    The most parsimonious scenario of the 2001 anthrax attacks, the one supported by the evidence, is that it was the actions of a lone disturbed bioweapons expert: Bruce Ivins. Not a sprawling, premeditated conspiracy by the executive branch of the federal government.

  10. #10 Colugo
    August 6, 2008

    Correction: sorry, I’m addressing Mike. My bad. Brain fart.

  11. #11 Colugo
    August 6, 2008

    In addition:

    - The New York Post, one of the anthrax targets, is not exactly considered a liberal/left journalistic bastion.

  12. #12 Bugs Bunny
    August 6, 2008

    Sounds like you folks have been using the bargain brand foil again and some of the Martian death rays have gotten through to your brains!

  13. #13 notgonnatellya
    August 8, 2008

    The New York Post put Jenna on the cover. The Post’s headline read “Jenna and Tonic.”

  14. #14 notgonnatellya
    August 8, 2008

    The White House is appealing to journalists to respect the privacy of the First Family in the wake of alcohol-related charges being brought against George W Bush’s twin daughters.

    “I would urge all of you to very carefully think through how much you want to pursue this,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

    BBC News, June 2, 2001

  15. #15 mirc
    March 15, 2009

    thanks

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