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August 01, 2008

Anthrax Gets Complex


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Okay, time to stop being duped and put on our thinking caps around here, because the criminals we elected (and didn't) in 2000 are at it again, and folks are dropping like flies (not just in Iraq).

Actually, Glenn Greenwald has done most of the thinking you'll need to do today about the anthrax attacks of seven years ago, and the attribution of blame, which has morphed, while we weren't paying attention, from Saddam Hussein , to Dr. Steven Hatfill to Dr. Bruce Ivins, of our very own Ft. Detrick. Fortunately for some, Dr. Ivins serendipitously committed suicide just before he was indicted. Greenwald traces the clever weaving of the anthrax attacks just after 9/11 into the rationalization for the war in Iraq. It's a "good citizen must read".

Firedoglake's Emptywheel has been sniffing around this anthrax business ever since she noted Patrick Leahy's confrontation of Mulkasey at a recent Judiciary Committee hearing. Leahy has a special interest in this case since two members of his staff died from the anthrax that was addressed to him. From Emptywheel:

And then there's the apparent suicide. Yes, according to the LAT report, Ivins was depressed and suicidal (which would have made you think they'd keep a closer watch on him). But if I were a super-skilled biologist, I might go out with a more interesting cocktail than Tylenol and codeine. I just can't help but think of all the suspicious circumstances surrounding David Kelly's "suicide."

Suicidal scientists are not unusual it seems, check out the suspicious death of Dr. Frank Olsen another Ft. Detrick alum. If you scroll down to the end of his son's narrative you will find this edifying paragraph:

The two politicians who collaborated in the conspiracy in 1975, Rumsfeld and Cheney, are back in power. As vice president and secretary of defense of the government of the United States. The Frank Olson case, it seems, is far from being closed, even 50 years later. That, at least, is one thing of which Olson’s son is now certain.

From a letter to the editor of Salon in response to Greewald's article, who points out that Ivin's suicide does not solve the crime or close the case, handy as that might be for some.

I question you, as you question NBC & ABC

I am surprised that this article, which both attacks and questions the legitimacy of ABC & NBC news' reporting isn't remotely interested in questioning the legitimacy of the media claims of Ivin's' supposed "guilt."

I have been reading news articles about the case and am disgusted by the inconsistencies and blind accusations that are being made about Ivins. Certainly there is cause for suspicion: the FBI investigating him. But has it been forgotten that the FBI falsely accused Steven Hatfill and Richard Jewell of crimes? The FBI ruined the reputations of innocent men in a rush to close a case...are you starting to see a pattern?

Numerous articles quote Ivins' estranged brother, but fail to quote other family-members who remained close to him throughout his life. Many of us who knew him, including Dr. W. Russell Byrne, a colleague who worked in the bacteriology division of the Fort Detrick research facility for 15 years, believe he is innocent. The same NPR article (and one of the only articles to do so) reports that "Ivins was "hounded" by aggressive FBI agents who raided his home twice... Ivins was forcefully removed from his job... [and] The investigation led to Ivins being hospitalized for depression earlier this month, Byrne said. He said he does not believe Ivins was behind the anthrax attacks."

Another article on the subject opens with the description: "Bruce Ivins was troubled by the dust, dirt and clutter on his officemate's desk, and not just because it looked messy. He suspected the dust was laced with anthrax." This introduction is certainly eye-catching and paints Ivins as having obsessive tendencies directed at clutter or, the media might like you to think, the investigation. While superficially sinister, the media fails to recognise the fact that these could simply be personal eccentricities of an extremely intelligent scientist. He certainly isn't the only creative person to have exhibited quirks. The article later states: "One researcher described a common room in the lab area as a "rats' nest." And experts say the "sloppiness" documented in the report may complicate prosecution if the anthrax killer is ever caught, especially if defense lawyers can cast doubt on USAMRIID'S reliability." In this light, shouldn't Ivins' cleanliness-- even if slightly over the top-- be seen as an asset in a dangerously disorganized office? If the disarray of the offices would have hindered the investigation, why is Ivins being criticised for his attempts to keep it clean? Numerous articles cite "bizarre" behavior such as conducting "unauthorized tests." Most of these articles fail to mention that these tests were "triggered by a technician's fears that she had been exposed" to anthrax. In fact, "Ivins found evidence of anthrax and decontaminated the woman's desk, computer, keypad and monitor." These tests, while portrayed to be mailicious, appear to me to have been conducted out of concern for a coworker's safety. Yes it is slightly questionable why these tests weren't reported to superiors, but people make unfortunate mistakes in judgment all the time. Doesn't anyone find it just as questionable why there was anthrax all over a coworker's desk? Shouldn't the presence of anthrax on the coworker's desk shift suspicion off Ivins as opposed to the clean-up of it being seen as implicating him?

Another Associated Press article states: "The six-member team that worked in the lab equipped to handle anthrax had swollen to a staff of 85. Most had to learn how to handle the bacteria "on the fly," says USAMRIID's commander Col. Erik Henchal." It seems entirely credible that someone less experienced would have caused contamintion throughout the office. Or that someone less dedicated to vaccine research-- to helping people-- would be responsible for the attacks.

Most important-- and disturbing-- is the media's eagerness to finger a man based on an investigation that has been fraught with lack of information and has been soiled by false accusations. It is hard to believe that 7 years of investigations and a change in FBI management miraculously caused the case to be "solved". It seems more like the passage of 7 years and a change in management brought a sense of desperation and a willingness to identify a weaker target than Steven Hatfill proved to be. Not to mention how solving this case would reflect on the new managment who, it seems, felt a strong need to prove itself capable--- but not culpable, as the FBI has yet to formally issue an apology to Mr. Hatfill for the havoc their false accusations wreaked on his life.

Those who personally know Mr. Ivins, as I myself do, believe in his innocence. It is very frustrating and disheartening to read articles that insinuate his guilt while simultaneously presenting information that contradicts those assertions. No one questions these news articles-- like the NBC report is being questioned-- for placing higher priority on information that suggests guilt as opposed to the information that suggests innocence. As has been demonstrated so many times through out history, the media is quick to serve as judge, jury and executioner when it makes for a good story. The greatest sadness in this story lies in the fact that Mr. Ivins couldn't withstand the pressure, scrutiny, and cruelness of the media, FBI, and general public. Let me say that his suicide does not indicate his guilt, but illustrates the fragility of the human spirit. Mr. Ivins was a kind and extremely intelligent man. Those of us that know him well believe in his innocence.

If you have any attention left to pay, there are some interesting comments to peruse on the ABC News site too.

All done? Think there's anything suspicious going on?

Photo note: A metaphorophoto- A complex subject that that you know has something to do with American patriotism, but you can't quite figure out what

Addendum: The New York Times report of the testimony of Dr. Ivin's therapist, Jean Duley who, recently had him "pink papered" into a psychiatric hospital because he was a danger to himself or others. She has known him "well" for six months, treating him biweekly individually, and in weekly group - a period of time during which he was under extreme pressure. He was pretty angry when he found out that she was cooperating with the FBI, which is quite understandable. This still doesn't mean Ivins is the culprit in the anthrax attacks. It sounds like he was psychotically depressed, not sociiopathic. Here are Jean Duley's official documents. If you will recall , The New York Times and the Bush Administration also have quite an impressive history of working together in their own sociopathic way, enough to warrant our extreme skepticism in this case.

Addendum 2: A better example of balanced journalism by the Times. Wonder which story was published first.

Addendum 3: Let's keep in mind that the targets of the anthrax attacks were all progressive democratic senators and the media, though some in the media were told to get themselves a little Cipro, and the entire White House was taking Cipro prophylactically.

Posted by Dakota at August 1, 2008 04:46 PM