What was billed as the big day for the DOJ and FBI to show us the results of their yawningly long investigation into the post 9/11 anthrax letter bombs, was less than satisfying, at least in my mind. And probably unsatisfying in their minds now they have had time to reflect.

The 2001 Anthrax attacks came out of nowhere, the obvious early suspect was Osama Bin Laden, but it really didn’t take long to topple him from the suspect list. Although Anthrax is a naturally occurring bacteria, this version was presented in a fashion that was most certainly man made. And man made it a very sophisticated facility. The average cave on the Pakistan Afghanistan boarder does not qualify.

What did qualify, well mostly qualify, was a US based Bio-Weapons lab. Few other locations would have the knowledge or the scientific toys to pull off the manufacturing and refinement.

As we all know Bruce Ivins committed suicide last week, and he was the latest ‘hot’ suspect in what was becoming a very Cold Case. The popular press has it that the Feds were in the verge of indicting him, although there are other unconfirmed reports that this action was in fact some ways in the future. While that might be the case, lets look at the history. For several years the focus was on another Fort Detrick researcher Steven Hatfill, according to reports he had the access, and he had the knowledge. Last month the DOJ caved in and admitted they were wrong, Steven Hatfill walked away with an almost $6 million pay check. As he explained it, they had ruined his career, the leaks to the press had made him unemployable. Where did the leaks come from?

What I find amazing is the quick way that Hatfill wins the Lotto and Ivins tops himself.

The press release about todays announcement made the claim that hundreds of pages of FBI material were going to be unsealed. I will admit that I was pounding on my browsers refresh button waiting for the event. When the ‘hundreds of pages’ were released, I was hugely disappointed. This was no inside look at the investigation, it was the mostly boring court documents requesting search warrants. The ‘Hundreds’ actually boiled down to just 23 pages of original stuff. And these 23 pages were just a summary that was clearly slanted toward persuading the judge to grant the 14 search warrants.

This 23 page summary can be thought of as the FBI trump cards, but when you look at the quality of them you would be hard pressed to be excited about them in a game of Poker. The evidence is pretty circumstantial, there is no ‘smoking gun’.

The case seemed to boil down to the fact that Ivins had access to the batch of anthrax that was almost certainly used, this was determined though DNA testing. Alas DNA testing may not be as accurate as law enforcement might lead us to believe. A quick Google of the subject reveals some pretty interesting research that seems to have been stomped on by the Feds.

Their other main thrust is in Ivins mental attitude, or should we say instability. I am pretty certain that having the FBI hounding you, your family, and your friends 24/7 for months on end would make even the strongest of us just a little paranoid.

Also mentioned is the spike in the amount of time that Ivins spent at the lab after normal working hours around the time of the attacks. When asked by investigators he apparently told them that life at home was not very pleasant. While I can think of better places to hang out than a lab full of deadly Anthrax, to each his own.

There is also a mysterious reference to his supposed obsession with a college sorority, one who happens to have an office near where the letters were posted from. Now in my mind this one really stretches my imagination, this is analogous to saying that he was wearing shoes bought at WalMart, and the letters were mailed from a post box near a WalMart, ergo he must be the killer!

About the only card that has any value is the one that says claims he tried to mislead investigators by sending them the wrong Anthrax sample. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.

So when you add up all of the damning evidence, what do you end up with? Well in my mind you have a hill of beans.

Think back to the OJ debacle for a moment, that was a case with what looked like good solid scientific evidence, and OJ walked. A defense team with any competency would likely have been able to impart enough reasonable doubt in the juries minds that Ivins would have walked as well. Then turned around and done a Hatfill on the Feds.

I see no closure in this case, just unanswered questions. Clearly though there is an urgent need for the DOJ to bury this case ASAP. Having cost the taxpayers $10 million, this is not one of the shining lights of Law Enforcement.

The Washington Post seems to share my sentiments.

Simon Barrett


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