The Conclusion of the Anthrax Attacks -- The Rush to Judgement

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 1, 2008 08:31pm | Post a Comment
Remember the anthrax attacks of 2001? The case was named Amerithrax by the F.B.I. The attacks began one week after the 9/11 attacks and were linked by the government and media to Iraq as yet another reason to invade. And then, as quickly as it began, the anthrax scare ended with a conspicuous lack of closure. By the time the US invaded Iraq, the media were content to be Bush's hype men.

The anthrax attacks came in two waves. The first set were mailed out, as mentioned, one week after 9/11. Letters were mailed to ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Post and AMI (publishers of The National Enquirer). Robert Stevens, an employee of AMI, was the first to die. Following him to their deaths were Thomas Morris Jr, Joseph Curseen, Kathy Nguyen and Ottilie Lundgren. At least 22 were infected with anthrax. The original wave of letters read:


The attempt to make the anthrax-containing letters look like the work of a fanatical Muslim was crude. Few Muslims write the date in the American manner of day/month/Christian Calendar year. In addition, most Muslims say "God is great" if writing in English, not "Allah is great." I'm not suggesting that the anthrax attacks were part of a conspiracy to drum up support for the invasion of Iraq, but they certainly helped win support.

The second wave of letters were dated October 9 and were addressed to Democratic senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. They were identified by the media as opposed to the Patriot Act over concerns of its violation of civil liberties. The second letters read:
If the rationale was, as it seems, to target opponents of the Patriot Act and to use the media to get attention, it suggests that perhaps the perpetrator was not a crazed Muslim hoping for abuses of civil liberties. No, the perpetrator's main aim was apparently to make himself needed and he merely used the post-9/11 paranoia as a smokescreen and tool for his own advancement. Indeed, in 2003, Dr. Bruce Ivins (a top US biodefense researcher) and two of his colleagues at USAMRIID at Fort Detrick were awarded the Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service for their development of an anthrax vaccine.

    Anthrax at work and Dr. Bruce Ivins, the man with the possible cure

In 2002, tests revealed anthrax contamination at Fort Detrick where Bruce Ivins was employed. In fact, his office and a passbox near it tested positive for more than 200 spores of the same strain as had been in the mailings. Five years earlier Ivins had written to the New York Post lobbying for the vaccine facility's construction. The purpose of the facility was to create a place devoted to protecting US troops from biological agents. Dr. Ivins' letter (falsely identifying himself as "a reasonably scientifically literate private citizen living right across the street from Fort Detrick" stated: "I personally welcome the proposed vaccine facility. What is being proposed is a vaccine production facility, not a lethal biological agent production facility. The only way I can think of being seriously injured by anthrax or plague vaccine is to get plunked on the head by a vial of the stuff."

The lab was built. Ivins was hired to work in the anthrax lab, despite a documented history of mental instability, including years of homicide threats. When a co-worker would leave the biochemistry department, Ivins would write a poem and song which he'd treat his co-workers to, accompanying himself on keyboards.

The media and government fell for it, with amazingly uncritical willingness, perhaps to be expected in the confusing days following the terrorist attacks. But their willingness to connect the dots with Iraq may've helped lead to the needless destruction of the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. The Guardian reported that Iraq was the "prime suspect as the source of the deadly spores." The CIA said, "They aren't making this stuff in caves in Afghanistan. This is prima facie evidence of the involvement of a state intelligence agency. Maybe Iran has the capability. But it doesn't look likely politically. That leaves Iraq." It reminds me of the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing when plenty of people called for the immediate destruction of the non-Israeli middle east. The US, in response to the anthrax, increased funding for biological warfare research by $1.5 billion in 2003. The following year, Project Bioshield was instigated, providing $5.6 billion for new vaccines and drugs.

So here, perhaps, is why in order to go after the Afghanistan-based al Qaeda, the US instead invaded Iraq. In 2003, Colin Powell presented the argument before a UN Security Council, saying:

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he's determined to make more. Given Saddam Hussein's history of aggression... given what we know of his terrorist associations and given his determination to exact revenge on those who oppose him, should we take the risk that he will not some day use these weapons at a time and the place and in the manner of his choosing at a time when the world is in a much weaker position to respond? The United States will not and cannot run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11 world.

The investigation involved interviews of over 9,000 on six continents. Over 6,000 subpoenas were issued and 67 searches conducted. Dozens of buildings were contaminated due to mailings and clean-up is estimated in one FBI document as exceeding a billion dollars. The famously stupid Attorney General John Ashcroft named Greg Dulli look-alike Dr. Steven Hatfill as "a person of interest." Hatfill sued and the Department of Justice reportedly settled for between 4.6 and 5.8 million.

Dr. Hatfill and Mr. Dulli

Ivins grew depressed and sought psychiatric help when suspicion shifted to him. Ultimately, he was removed from his workplace by the police after threatening to kill his co-workers to his counselor. A restraining order was subsequently filed against him by the same counselor, Jean Duley, who said he was stalking and threatening to kill her. On July 29 he committed suicide through an overdose of Tylenol and codeine, only weeks after publishing Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. The church-going Catholic, American Red Cross volunteer, juggler and gardener is survived by his wife of 33 years, their two children and his two brothers. When the FBI contacted his brother Tom, from whom he was estranged for 20 years, he offered, "It makes sense, what the social worker said. He considered himself like a god."

The accused perp's Reverend had described him, predictably (almost damningly), as “...a quiet man ... always very helpful and pleasant.”

Stay tuned for the conspiracy theories...

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Relevant Tags

Iraq War (2), Terrorism (2), Anthrax (3)