Could we have come to the coda of the FBI’s oft-bungled anthrax investigation? Greenwald comments on broader implications of the apparent suicide (just ahead of impending indictment) of the prime suspect, Bruce Ivins, 62, a civilian researcher at the Army’s bio-weapons research facility, Ft. Detrick, Maryland, including the extraordinarily interesting issues surrounding media-generated hysteria in the aftermath of 9-11 attempting to link the anthrax attacks to Saddam Hussein (amidst literal White House denials!) while the only actual evidence showed that the source of the anthrax was not only domestic, but from our own military’ research facility. One of many ironies of this case is that the anthrax used in tainted letters sent to Sens. Daschle and Leahy, Tom Brokaw of NBC, and others, which ultimately resulted in the death of 5 people, and national paranoia, was tested at Ft. Detrick.
One of numerous money paragraphs in Greenwald’s rich Salon piece:
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. Feeding claims to ABC designed to link Saddam to those attacks would, for obvious reasons, promote the goal of the anthrax attacker(s).
We had a government gearing up to attack Saddam’s Iraq almost before it was sworn in. We had a nation in some degree of shock if not existential angst after the September 11th attacks. And then, we had terror not merely in some specific location at giant office towers or government buildings, but anywhere, anytime, through the mail (I recall at that time the office manager of the small law firm where I then worked in strategically meaningless White Plains, NY donning gloves and a mask to open the mail… I’m sure this was common all over America.) Throw in a nation looking for answers– any answers– as Greenwald notes, by January 2002, the President himself was linking Saddam and anthrax in speeches, and voila, we have the backbone of a national consensus that Saddam poses a mortal threat (and to this day, a signficiant portion of the populace believes Saddam was intimately linked to the events of 9-11)– and you have a combination as lethal as the anthrax itself.
Glenn Greenwald is, like myself, a lawyer, and we are trained to be a careful lot, which is why Glenn confines himself to the facts as we know them, which include gross irresponsibility on the part of ABC News in reporting the purported Saddam link (bentonite and silica in the anthrax samples, reported– but false) and other media linkages.
But let me throw in a few more facts we know. The FBI’s analysis has always been “inside job” (for years, the prime suspect was another Ft. Detrich man, Dr. Steven Hatfill), and since it appears that this was the case, and given that our prime suspect is now conveniently dead (after a stint in mental health care), we cannot ask him questions like “why?” or ask him with whom he associated, and to what extent he acted alone. I will, however, add something to Greenwald’s spot-on analysis: we know that the Bush Administration has made tremendous efforts to the seed the clouds of the media for its pet projects, including buying outright retired members of the military to recite its talking points, (extensively discussed here by… Glenn Greenwald!), or in earlier times, running actual fake news reports, and paying commentators such as the Armstrong Williams fiasco…
Given that playing a sympathetic media has been pretty much the main strength of this Administration… the statistical probability that all of these facts are the result of complete random chance would seem to be quite remote.
Update: Greenwald again, on just how weak the case the FBI is leaking actually is; given how solid the FBI has been in making cases against, oh, Wen Ho Li, Richard Jewell or Steven Hatfill… why should its evidence against Bruce Ivins, a registered and active-primary-voting Democrat who supposedly sent poisoned letters to Dem leaders Daschle and Leahy, be uncritically accepted? Indeed, why should just about anything that comes from any part of the United States Government in the era of this Bush Administration be accepted, at all, unless proven to a damned near moral certitude?