Friday, August 08, 2008


[T]he danger of violence, even if it moves consciously within a nonextremist framework of short-term goals, will always be that the means overwhelm the end. If goals are not achieved rapidly, the result will be not merely defeat but the introduction of the practice of violence into the whole body politic. Action is irreversible, and a return to the status quo in case of defeat is always unlikely. The practice of violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is to a more violent world.

--Hannah Arendt
The White House was not happy with the direction that FBI investigators were pursuing after the Anthrax Letters attack of 2001. FBI Director Mueller was harshly reprimanded in private for not finding a connection to Iraq or al-Qaeda operatives, that would solve the case of the biological attack that had struck such panic into official Washington. But the DNA markers on the strain of anthrax which was recovered could only have come from a source in an American military laboratory. The results were conclusive.

But in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, the lie, and the opposing truth of what happened during the anthrax panic, began to wage a desperate contest for the minds of Americans and their Representatives. There was certainly a climate of fear and enough political leverage to compel Congress to pass the Patriot Act.

Almost seven years later we look back to that panic of October, 2001. It was like a cry of FIRE in a crowded theater; and after the false information was given out, a scramble toward war ensued, a veritable stampede for the exits. And we are still living the tragedy of the Big Lie and the Bigger Cover-up, because the antidote to truth was passed along to ABC news reporter, Brian Ross, and others in his department, who put out the awe inspiring story that tests at the Army's Fort Detrick lab, in Maryland, had found traces of bentonite, a clay-derived additive ( used as a binder in some toothpaste and processed food) which they said was a component unique to the production of Iraq's biological weapons. Respected journalist, Glenn Greenwald, reports that there was never any such test at Fort Detrick or anywhere else. And the strain of anthrax used in the attacks, a modified virus, was absolutely identified as the product of American ingenuity, and traced back to the Fort Detrick facility.
“It's extremely possible--one could say highly likely--that the same people responsible for perpetrating the attacks were the ones who fed the false reports to the public, through ABC News, that Saddam was behind them. What we know for certain--as a result of the letters accompanying the anthrax--is that whoever perpetrated the attacks wanted the public to believe they were sent by foreign Muslims.

Seven years later, it's difficult for many people to recall, but, as I've amply documented, those ABC News reports linking Saddam and anthrax penetrated very deeply--by design--into our public discourse and into the public consciousness. Those reports were absolutely vital in creating the impression during that very volatile time that Islamic terrorists generally, and Iraq and Saddam Hussein specifically, were grave, existential threats to this country.”
And ABC News, under persistent pressure from Greenwald, admitted only last year that no bentonite was ever detected in anthrax which was mailed to the victims in 2001. The “four well-placed and separate sources” the news organ cited in its report are at present a closely held secret. ABC refuses to give up the identity of its sources, even though this could be evidence in criminal proceedings against those who are most likely accomplices in murder. The same people who submitted the false story to ABC News also made an abridgment of our basic liberties possible, and led the nation to a completely needless war that has killed thousands of our soldiers and well over a million Iraqis.

Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, a microbiologist and specialist in vaccines, had worked 36 years, the greater part of his adult life, at the Army's Fort Detrick lab in Maryland. The FBI had harassed and tailed him, even harassing his grownup step-children in the the course of an 18 month investigation. Attention focused on Ivins after the FBI dropped its fruitless investigation of Steven Hatfill. They quickly forgot Hatfill, who had turned the tables on them and won a lawsuit; and the Bureau then consolidated its efforts. And with another mass of circumstantial evidence it moved against Ivins. The government case seemed to hinge on Ivins' increasingly erratic behavior, which could be seen as the result of stepped-up pressure that they were placing on a nervous, and somewhat vulnerable man.
Dr. Byrne [a former colleague] said he believed Dr. Ivins was singled out partly because of his personal weaknesses. “They figured he was the weakest link,” Dr. Byrne said. “If they had real evidence on him, why did they not just arrest him?”

Another former co-worker, Dr. Kenneth W. Hedlund, who collaborated on anthrax research with Dr. Ivins in the 1980s, had a similar theory.

“The investigators looked around, they decided they had to find somebody. They went after all of them but he looked the most susceptible to pressure,” Dr. Hedlund said. “It is like prisoners of war: if they are harassed enough, they will be driven to do anything. But I don’t believe he would have done what they say he did.” --Scott Shane and Nicholas Wade
The last month of Bruce Ivins' life was misery; he was lashing out and making threats; he was committed to the hospital for depression. He was 62. But Bruce Ivin's suicide put an end to the FBI's process of intimidation and may have had the effect of curtailing what we can learn.

Dr. Meryl Nass, another scientist in this field, who met Ivins at a University of Maryland biowarfare conference in 1991, was recently interviewed by Amy Goodman, and made this comment:
...There has been a tremendous amount of innuendo and information put forward that has never been backed up and never been attributed to anybody.

And I fear that because a variety of the information that may be used to convict Bruce Ivins after his death is going to be classified, or perhaps we will be given false information, that it will become impossible to defend him and impossible to really make sense of the entire letters case...
The forensic part of the government's case leads to the Fort Detrick lab, but it can't conclusively point to any one person. Scientists working there, as well as occasional visitors, would have access to the area to which the anthrax was traced.

Even though most people who knew Ivins saw him as a rather selfless fellow, the government seriously intends to portray him as a man who had some rational, selfish motives, in that he desired to stimulate production of vaccine he developed, in order to profit from it. The FBI is here accusing a man of notable scientific accomplishment. Dr. Ivins had received official recognition for his prominent role in developing the anthrax vaccine that was later given to US troops on their way to Iraq. It is suggested that he hoped to profit, as the letters of deadly anthrax would certainly have caused government contracts to be awarded, and would have spurred the production of Ivin's vaccine.

But Dr. Nass counters that argument this way:
Bruce wasn't the anthrax perpetrator. First off, he had no motive. He didn't need to direct money toward the bioterrorism effort, or increase interest in it. He had a very solid job, since he was the army's top expert on anthrax vaccines. He didn't move on to a better job in industry, unlike many of his colleagues at Fort Detrick, after the anthrax letters made bioterrorism a profitable industry.
The sad thing is, we won't know whether Ivins was the loner, according to the government's scenario, who acted without help and put together the anthrax attacks--or if on the other hand--he was only another in the long line of American patsies and sacrificial goats.



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