Friday, August 1, 2008

LA Times reports bizarre break in unsolved 2001 case; but not necessarily "solved"


There is a bizarre twist in the story of the post 9/11 incidents in which five persons in the eastern United States died of anthrax, mailed to a Florida workplace (the company that published the National Enquirer and other similar tabloids), and to several members of Congress and the media. Seventeen persons were infected and recovered. Casualties included postal workers, who started wearing gloves handling mail. There was also discussion of irradiating the mail.

Bruce E. Ivins apparently committed suicide with an overdose. He was apparently going to be charged with unauthorized possession of biologically hazardous materials outside the federal workplace. He had worked for 18 years at the biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md, near Frederick, 40 miles NW of Washington DC along I 270, at the foot of the first ridge of “Catoctin Mountains”. I visited the exterior perimeter and saw the gate myself in 1988.

It is not clear that the FBI would have charged him for the actual deaths and attack.

Earlier, the Department of Justice settled with another scientist mentioned as a “person of interest” without sufficient evidence. The scientist had sued for defamation. (The scientist had also written an unpublished novel about a biological attack -- following the theme developed on these blogs about the potential legal risks fiction resembling reality -- and this work wasn't even posted anywhere). A similar situation had occurred with an incorrect FBI allegation against a security guard at Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996.

The incidents, in late September and throughout October in 2001, frightened a nation, on the heels of 9/11. A whole post office in Washington DC was closed for months, and some congressional facilities had to be decontaminated with chlorine dioxide.

Earlier, media reports had also speculated on the possibility of a foreign source, rumored to have come from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The fear that followed the attacks contributed to the political climate that, along with faulty intelligence and misleading testimony by Colin Powell before the United Nations, led to the American invasion in Iraq in March 2003. The reports seemed credible at the time because the incidents stopped suddenly, as if the attacker had run out of material. That would have been consistent with a foreign source. The Weekly Standard published material on this theory in 2002. Furthermore, the FBI arrested two Arab men around a complex near Trenton, NJ in late 2001, supposedly in connection with the attacks, and then nothing more was ever heard about the arrests.

So, this mystery is by no means solved.

The Los Angeles Times story is by David Willman, and appears here and is dated Aug 1, 2008. It includes a video.

It seems that the Los Angeles Times, despite the corporate pressure reportedly put on it according to a 2007 PBS Frontline program om journalism, is very much in the running as a "world" newspaper.

Update:

Now it sounds as if the government is acknowledging that it was going to prosecute Ivins for the attacks and seek the death penalty. This news came out at around 5 PM today, right after Pete Williams on NBC said that the DOJ could not release details until next week.

Also, other stories indicate that Ivins had actually "helped" the FBI with the early stages of the investigation. Stories that broke Friday tied the DNA from the envelope to beakers in Ivins's lab. One bizarre story claimed that he could have mailed it to test a vaccine. There were other stories about "sociopathy."

Update: August 6, 2008


The government unsealed the documents today, and the DOJ website is this.

One theory is that Dr. Ivins wanted to demonstrate the need for a better anthrax vaccine, after the experience of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, where many veterans seemed to have become ill as a result. Now the government maintains that Dr. Ivins was responsible for the mailings and probably acted alone.

Second Picture: Fort Detrick


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