Anthrax: Nobody Buys the FBI Story

During the DNCC, I asked Pat Leahy whether he believed the FBI’s claim that Bruce Ivins was the one and only anthrax attack culprit. Today, Lichtblau and Shane have an article showing that Pat Leahy isn’t the only one who doesn’t believe the FBI’s tale.

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.”


“My conclusion at this point is that it’s very much an open matter,” Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate committee, said of the strength of the case against Dr. Ivins, a microbiologist at the Army’s biodefense laboratory who worked on anthrax vaccines. “There are some very serious questions that have yet to be answered and need to be made public.”


But in interviews last week, two dozen bioterrorism experts, veteran investigators and members of Congress expressed doubts about the bureau’s conclusions. Some called for an independent review of the case to reassure the public and assess policies on the handling of dangerous pathogens like anthrax.


Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican and frequent critic of the bureau, said he was frustrated by the delay in closing the case and answering questions.

“If the case is solved, why isn’t it solved?” Mr. Grassley asked. “It’s all very suspicious, and you wonder whether or not the F.B.I. doesn’t have something to cover up and that they don’t want to come clean.”


“They took their shot,” said Representative Rush D. Holt, a Democrat who holds a doctorate in physics and has followed the case closely because the letters were mailed in his New Jersey district. “They hoped and maybe believed that the case they laid out would persuade everyone. I think they’re probably surprised by the level of skepticism.”

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Kill Game: The Path Of Destruction From The Amerithrax Investigation

"Have you no sense of decency, … at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" These prophetic words were spoken on June 9, 1954 by Joseph Welch, attorney for the United States Army, at the nadir of the shameful McCarthy hearings. It was a time of scurrilous persecution of all numbers and types of fellow humans, based mostly on sheer rumor, innuendo and manufactured evidence. The acts of a United States Government drenched in it’s own fears, drunk of it’s own hubris and looking for political scapegoats.

The result was an everlasting shame carried by a generation of Americans. To this day, the methods and tactics of the red baiting McCarthy investigators, and the hell they wrought on the ostracized and disavantaged targets, not to mention the devastation to their families, is taught to our children as a seminal lesson of the dark, malignant growth that can consume the American ethos when fear, ambition, unitary power and political malevolence intersect unchecked and unbalanced in the halls of power in Washington DC. It is a tragic intersection that seeks a target of convenience and finds it.

And so we advance fifty years to find our dark history repeating itself in the Amerithrax case. Once again we find a unified and unchecked power in the government fueled by, and fueling, fear and trolling for a target of convenience to scapegoat. This is now incontrovertible.

Sunday’s New York Times has an extended article, by William Broad and Scott Shane, on the hell that our Government hath wrought upon it’s citizenry in the Amerithrax investigation. It is chilling.

But along the way, scores of [individuals] — terrorists, foreigners, academic researchers, biowarfare specialists and an elite group of Army scientists working behind high fences and barbed wire — drew the interest of the investigators. For some of them the cost was high: lost jobs, canceled visas, broken marriages, frayed friendships.

The bureau began looking at biodefense insiders like Mr. Mikesell, an anthrax specialist who had worked in the 1980s and 1990s with Dr. Ivins at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, in Frederick. He had then joined Battelle, a military contractor in Columbus, Ohio, that became deeply involved in secret federal research on biological weapons.

In 2002, Mr. Mikesell came under F.B.I. scrutiny, officials familiar with the case said. He began drinking heavily — a fifth of hard liquor a day toward the end, a family member said.

“It was a shock that all of a sudden he’s a raging alcoholic,” recalled the relative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of family sensitivities.

By late October 2002, Mr. Mikesell, 54, was dead, his short obituary in The Columbus Dispatch making no mention of his work with anthrax or the investigation.

Another casualty was Kenneth M. Berry, an emergency room physician with a strong interest in bioterrorism threats. In August 2004, agents raided his colonial-style home and his former apartment in Wellsville, a village in western New York, as well as his parents’ beach house on the Jersey Shore.

In scenes replayed for days on local television stations, the authorities cordoned off streets as agents in protective suits emerged from the dwellings with computers and bags of papers, mail and books.

“He was devastated,” Dr. Berry’s lawyer at the time, Clifford E. Lazzaro, said in an interview. “They destroyed his marriage and destroyed him professionally for a time.”

The government has unequivocally admitted that it wrongfully targeted an individual, Steven Hatfill, for a period of six years with little to no basis in fact or evidence to do so. The result of that "most complex criminal case in bureau [FBI] history", and dedicated certainty by the Bush Department of Justice for six years, has been a lawsuit brought by Hatfill, a settlement with Hatfill, humiliation of the DOJ and, finally, a complete exoneration of Hatfill.

It is pretty clear that Hatfill would, in spite of all the evidence, still be the target of this persecution had he not fought back doggedly with every ounce of his being. The government relentlessly tried to get his civil case dismissed and to hide the ball. As with another infamous case of Bush Administration subterfuge, if not for the honesty and spine for justice on the part of Judge Reggie Walton, Hatfill would still be Read more