Anthrax comes to Congress

With all that's going on we sometimes forget about all that went on, even all that went on recently. Like "solving" the anthrax attacks case. Fortunately the New York Times reporters on the case are still on the case. And so is Congress:

A month after the F.B.I. declared that an Army scientist was the anthrax killer, leading members of Congress are demanding more information about the seven-year investigation, saying they do not think the bureau has proved its case.

In a letter sent Friday to Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Democratic leaders of the House Judiciary Committee said that "important and lingering questions remain that are crucial for you to address, especially since there will never be a trial to examine the facts of the case."

The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, committed suicide in July, and Mr. Mueller is likely to face demands for additional answers about the anthrax case when he appears before the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on Sept. 16 and 17. (Scott Shane and Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, h/t Abel)

The FBI was hoping for a quick close to this embarrassingly mishandled investigation of one of the most notorious crimes in US history. It killed five people and brought government agencies, especially health departments at the state and federal levels to their knees. But now that the FBI claims they had solved the case, although the culprit conveniently died before they could charge him, few scientists (if any) of those interviewed by the Times were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they had the right guy. I wonder why?

The official story is that the alleged bioterrorist, Dr. Bruce Ivins, killed himself when he saw the FBI closing in on him. But we now learn that as recently as April 2007, after the spores were traced to his lab (among other places) and he was questioned about his whereabouts, prosecutors told him he wasn't a target of the investigation. We have raised legitimate questions (here, here, here) whether Ivins actually committed suicide or died by an accidental overdose of acetaminophen. Apparently no autopsy was done and the manner of death was declared a suicide by Maryland's Chief Medical Examiner. No details to substantiate this judgment were given. The case was made by the FBI the day after he died. It seems quite convenient.

It's also not like there weren't ample others with means and opportunity. We were told possibly more than 100 had access to the flask of spores the FBI says the weapon came from, but now we learn that the flask had not been stored not in Ivin's lab the whole time but also in another building. This means the number of people with access to it might have been much larger than the estimate of 100. The FBI had previously fingered the wrong person, another scientist, Steven Hatfill, also without sufficient evidence. They recently paid him over $4 million dollars in a lawsuit to compensate him for loss of earnings, reputation and peace of mind. This time, they assure us, they've got the right one. Except

Officials also acknowledged that they did not have a single, definitive piece of evidence indisputably proving that Dr. Ivins mailed the letters -- no confession, no trace of his DNA on the letters, no security camera recording the mailings in Princeton, N.J.

But they said the case consisted of a powerfully persuasive accumulation of incriminating details. Dr. Vahid Majidi, head of the F.B.I.'s weapons of mass destruction directorate, said the accumulation of evidence against Dr. Ivins was overwhelming: his oversight of the anthrax supply, his night hours, his mental problems and his habit of driving to far-off locations at night to mail anonymous packages.

"Who had the means, motive and opportunity?" said John Miller, assistant F.B.I. director for public affairs. "Some potential suspects may have had one, some had two, but on the cumulative scale, Dr. Ivins had many more of these elements than any other potential suspect."

When the anthrax attacks occurred, shortly after 9-11, they were quickly blamed on Iraq and bogus information to "prove" it were leaked to a pliant reporter at ABC, Brian Ross. Everyone agrees the weapon came from within the US biodefense establishment. So let's ask again, with the FBI, who had means, motive and opportunity?

Maybe the FBI should look in the mirror. Of course it's just circumstantial, but on the cumulative scale . . .

More like this

Seems to me that Brian Ross is the key to an interesting piece of the picture.

If we accept the FBI conclusions, then, necessarily, whoever told Ross that Iraq was involved, lied to Ross. Journalistic ethics do not allow for revealing of confidential sources with few exceptions: one of which is when a source lies to a reporter. In that case, reporters are basically obligated to reveal the liar's identity, as a means of deterring further such cases of lying to reporters.

Thus, Ross should have no problem revealing the source of his information.

Except of course, doing so would also reveal part of the picture of how the Iraq war was sold to the public, which is to say, how the government was lying to the public to sell the war.

If Ross continues to refuse to reveal his source, he is effectively supporting the claim that the FBI conclusions are faulty.

Whatever Ross does about this, damns the Regime one way or the other.

,blockquote>g336: Journalistic ethics do not allow for revealing of confidential sources with few exceptions: one of which is when a source lies to a reporter. In that case, reporters are basically obligated to reveal the liar's identity, as a means of deterring further such cases of lying to reporters.

Unfortunately this is not a consensus. There is much debate about whether it is ever permissible to violate a confidence, especially if it were given granted with no preconditions. OTOH, if a reporter says, "no, I won't tell anyone unless I find you lied to me," that may not be sufficient for some whistleblowers. There has been much discussion of this in the journalism community and unfortunately the issue is complicated.

Who had the means, motive and opportunity?" said John Miller, assistant F.B.I. director for public affairs. "Some potential suspects may have had one, some had two, but on the cumulative scale, Dr. Ivins had many more of these elements than any other potential suspect."

"Many more"? There are only three things in the list!

I assume that this means that they have identified a motive. I don't recall hearing anything like that, other than that he was wierd. Has any valid motive been put forward?

You are correct to question the official FBI account, as are the Senators and the NYT, however, the questions being asked are not the right ones. Focusing on who had the "opportunity and means" are far less important than who had the "motive." Forget the so called evidence trotted out so far, these are red herrings, designed to distract the casual, and incurious. The real questions revolve around motive.Ivins had no motive. Previous claims that he was planning to get rich are baseless, he is not entitled to benifit financially from the patent he was working on, that was owned by the Army. Ask instead why the FBI has not ever mentioned a handwriting analysis? Are we to believe that in 6 years of investigating they never did any? Nonsense, the answer is that none of the handwriting experts will go on record to say Ivins penned the Anthrax letters. And if he didn't pen the letters, then he didn't act alone, and if he didn't act alone, then most likely he was a patsy for a powerful group of sinister players, who need to shut down this story. Now, ask again, who had motive to terrorize American citizens in the immediate wake of 911? Who benefited fromm this terror? Answer: The Anthrax operation was a simple "false flag" operation just like the Scotter Libby leaked "Aluminium Tubes" story, and the Doug Feith engineered "Niger Forgeries" which were perpetrated by minions of Dick Cheney, at his direction,specifically to draw focus away from OBL and focus it on Sadam Hussain. Remember, 911 was supposed to be the work of OBL. But Cheney wanted to go to war against Sadam. he need a way to conflate the two men in the eyes of the nation and the congress. The motive for the Anthrax attacks was to create chaos, and fear and cow the congress into signing the Patriot Act, and give the president sweeping new powers to target Iraq, and open up an endless and very profitable war on terror. When in doubt, follow the money. Cheney had a net worth of about $1.5MM 8 years ago, he is worth well of $55MM today. Read and research the PNAC to understand the Neocon agenda. If you don't believe it is possible that the US government would sacrifice a few of it's own citizens to gin up popular support for a war then you are not a student of history. investigate the history of False Flag events, you will be astonished. Start with the attack on the USS Liberty, go to the Gulf on Tonkin incident, and swallow hard, but then look into FDR's advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbour. Spend a half hour doing google searches and it will change your perspective on everything. In each case a President and a small group of advisors used these events to terrorize americans and galvanize support for war, and each event was a fabrication, made up of whole cloth. Ivins was murdered, the congress knows it, Senators fighting the keep the case open know it, they are just waiting to see if you, the american people care enough to put a stop to the killing, well do you? If you are on the fence, research the death of Frank Olsen in 1953, and David Kelly in 2003. That ought to bring it all home for you. See the documentary "Wake up call."

By Gene Reilly (not verified) on 08 Sep 2008 #permalink

Gene: I agree that this is a plausible possibility. Regarding handwriting, their excuse is that the letters were written with block characters which are difficult to do handwriting analysis on. I don't know if that is true or not, but that is their story and they're sticking to it.

One of the scariest aspects about the murder was how little effort was made to cover it up. When the government gets lax about covering their tracks in matters such as these it's chilling. I've examined this case extensively. The FBI is doing it's darnedest to bury this case. Because they realize that once the public acknowleges the fact that Ivins was a patsy along the same lines as Lee Harvey Oswald, This will open a floodgate of questions, and the public will insist on looking at the case in a much larger context. One of the things this will reveal is that Ivins was approached by men posing as CIA. They appealed to his sense of patriotisim, and told him a BS story that sounded very believable. The fake CIA told him they needed his help to uncover an international terrorist ring, and of course, he signed up to help. I beleive Ivins was enlisted in this false flag operation to be the fall guy. Ivins had no idea what he was getting into. He was tricked into using his expertise to create the powdered anthrax. An investigation would bring all this to light in a courtroom or congressional hearing, and the jig would be up, becasue in addition to eposing the Anthrax false Flag oepration, investigators would find that the Fake CIA agents enlisted Ivins help well before 911.

That is significant becasuse the timeline will provide further proof that Cheney and his operatives, knew about 911 in advance, and did nothing to stop it. There is a great deal in the bublic domain that supports this fact, if people will only open their eyes to see it.

In a way the Ivins case is a rossetta stone for understanding all the covert conduct of the Cheney "Shaddow Government". One need only have an internet connection to connect the dots, and find the truth.

Plausable? Heck yes. Probable? Absolutly! In a half hour I was able to make a better case than the FBI did over 6 years. It's not that they are stupid, far from it. It's that they have a great deal to hide from the american public.

By Gene Reilly (not verified) on 08 Sep 2008 #permalink

I'm new here. I have a question for anyone. Does the word "progressive" describing effect measure, code for democrat?

By Ned Smith (not verified) on 08 Sep 2008 #permalink

I was just looking a recent post of Mery Nass (where I posted part of this comment)…

I hadnt realized that the flask purported to be the source of the anthrax held much less material than was sent, necessitating a growth step(s) to produce enough material for the various letters. To me, that calls into question the conclusion that the anthrax attack was a response to 9/11. Was there sufficient time between when 9/11 occurred and when the first anthrax sample was mailed (9/18) for the perpetrator to plan his/their attack, procure supplies, inoculate the culture, grow the anthrax, induce sporulation, collect the spores, process the spores into suitable format, put the spores in the envelopes, mail the envelopes?

I would think that would be extremely difficult if not impossible to do all of that in a single chronological week. Especially in secret without arousing suspicions of anyone. While seemingly maintaining otherwise normal work flow and habits.

Ivins would have no conceivable reason to try and do something like this on such a crash basis in response to 9/11. The only individual/group that could do something like this in a week would be an individual/group that already had at least 20 grams of anthrax spores lying around that they could play with and which would not be missed (to allow for some spillage).

I dont think Ivins was involved at all.

I think Gene has the right idea, that the anthrax program started long before 9/11. I think it was a plan for GWB to have greatness thrust upon him, to give him the opportunity to act presidential. That is why when 9/11 happened everyone at the Whitehouse starting popping cipro. They knew there was some sort of bioterror thing going on and thought 9/11 was it. I suspect that following all the excitement of 9/11, the people running the anthrax program either forgot to call it off, or there were not the lines of communication to do so.

If Ivins was involved at all he would have been killed long ago. I think the reason he was killed now was to try and close the case and purge the files before the next administration takes over. A careful examination of how the investigation was run will show that it was deliberately mismanaged. That instead of gathering all the data ASAP in parallel, they followed one false lead after another in series. Who was it that directed the investigators to ignore the obvious fact gathering in favor of the wild-goose chases based on the hoax letters? It was the hoax letter from England that implicated Hatfill, it was the bogus analysis of the anthrax sample from Ivins (which the FBI destroyed, huh?) that first implicated him.

The anthrax attacks were not put together in a couple of days by a single person.

"So let's ask again, with the FBI, who had means, motive and opportunity"

You may ask the same about the 9/11 attacks themselves. The NIST final report on WTC 7 has engineers. physicists and architects rolling with laughter. But if they work for a corporation dealing with government, or a university, or government they can say nothing w/o jeapordizing their jobs or careers (kind of like AGW), so they laugh, or cry, at home

Of course, under expanded FBI guidelines coming on October 1, asking questions about anthrax or 9/11 can get you investigated. That will be the end of free speech as we know it. You can still question it, but....

Ned: Progressive means we are on the left but not liberals. There are all kinds of progressives. If you need a label for us it would probably be libertarian socialist. We frequently criticize Democrats. There are many bad Democrats, but in our world the worst Democrat is almost always better than the best Republican. But who wants a bad Democrat?

daedalus2U says"If Ivins was involved at all he would have been killed long ago. I think the reason he was killed now was to try and close the case and purge the files before the next administration takes over."

Not a bad theory, but in the end, I believe he was not killed until now becasue the FBI had Hatfill in their sights, and they thought they could sell the public on the idea that he was the lone-assasin. Examine the timeline and you'll realize that Hatfill was identified as a "person of interest" by John Ashcroft in 2002, and it took until 2008 for the FBI to finally throw in the towel and admit they had nothing on the guy. That is 5 long years. Now consider that it took the FBI just 30 days to put it's case against Ivins together. Ivins was murdered becasue he was psycologically weak, his kids were being badgered by FBI and he was ready to crack under pressure, and reveal the truth to the press. Cheney knew that he needed to pull the plug on Ivins before that happened. Under no circumstances would Cheney have allowed Ivins to take the stand in a courtroom or a congressional hearing.

Ivins wasn't killed before this becasue it would have diverted suspicion away from Hatfill, the prime suspect, and would have raised the specter of multiple perps working in concert, an idea the government didn't want to introduce into the heads of the american people.

By Gene Reilly (not verified) on 08 Sep 2008 #permalink

I think the idea that Ivins was killed is unlikely. His death had all the earmarks of an accidental overdose of acetaminophen which the FBI took advantage of by declaring him the culprit when he was dead. Or perhaps it was a suicide. We'll probably never know now.

revere, this is your post, I'm only commenting, so I'll kick back and let you call the shots, however, I find it puzzling that you question the fact that Ivins was murdered. The man left no suicide note, his body was not autopsyed, and the man had zero motive to commit suicide. As one blogger put it, the notion that Ivins a biological and chemical weapons expert would choose to commit suicide by Tylenol with Codine, is akin to a hangman killing himself with a slinky. It is beyond absurd.
The government chooses this method. becasue they have a method of killing a target that leaves no trace, no signiture, aside from what looks like a common anelgesic like acetomenphine. Again I refer you to the killing of bilogical and chemical weapons expert David Kelly in 2003. The same method was employed.
If you have other information that supports the idea that it was an accidental suicide,I'd be curious to hear the thought process behind that conclusion. Nothing I've read thus far would lead me to believe he killed himself.

By Gene Reilly (not verified) on 08 Sep 2008 #permalink

Gene: As I pointed out in one of the earlier posts about this, toxic hepatitis from Tylenol is well known at therapeutic doses in alcoholics. Ivins was drinking heavily in this period according to reports and it is easy to OD on acetaminophen (it is the leading cause of liver failure in the US). As a murder weapon it is a very clumsy one and very unsure. He could well have survived it. There are several untraceable ways to kill someone if you have the kind of resources the gov't has. Moreover he had several guns and it would have been more believable if he had shot himself, a typical male suicide manner. This looks to me like a very convenient accident that the FBI spun into a suicide to add to the veracity of their story. Maybe.

I don't think that Ivins was murdered by the FBI, that would require too many witnesses. Anything that causes acute liver failure in someone who is drinking and taking Tylenol would look like acute liver failure from Tylenol poisoning. If those compounds are not specifically looked for, they will never be found. They were never looked for, so they could not be found even if they were present.

When the FBI's prime suspect dies, and they don't require an autopsy, that alone is suspect.

I came across this today, Reveres, and thought you might be interested if you hadn't already seen it: Ivins's will uses threat of a donation to Planned Parenthood as a lever to make sure his remains are treated as he wished. Basically, he said, if I'm not cremated and my ashes scattered, I give $50,000 to Planned Parenthood... because he knew his wife was very anti-abortion and wouldn't want that to happen.

If it's true that the FBI said Ivins targeted Daschle and Leahy because he was a pro-choice Catholic, then this does make this a little suspect. Because there's always a chance, even if vanishingly small, that his wife would decide to bury him and let the donation happen. If someone's so anti-abortion that they try to kill people over it, is that a gamble they'll take? Seems mighty suspicious to me.