Sunday, March 30, 2008

Domestic terrorism update

Concurrent to the mild publicity given to Steven Hatfill's defamation case for being named a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax letter attacks the FBI recently announced some news regards their "Amerithrax" investigation, summarized nicely by Michelle Malkin:
The FBI has narrowed its focus to “about four” suspects in the 6 1/2-year investigation of the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001, and at least three of those suspects are linked to the Army’s bioweapons research facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland, FOX News has learned.
While it appears the FBI has traded one person of interest for four (they learned from their previous mistake and didn't name names) this release of information is very interesting. It would seem to suggest they're either close to cracking the case or hopelessly desperate, trying to use a press release to play head games with the staff at Fort Detrick in hopes one of them might turn. Curiously, their wording left open the possibly that Hatfill himself is still a suspect but it also doesn't take foreign terrorists off the list.

The different powders used in the mailings seem to point away from a terrorist organization since logic would say they'd use a single source. At the same time, different powders would not rule out a lone wacko since he/she might be trying to cover tracks. But the varying locations from which the mailings were sent seems to point more towards a group. Curiously, some of the mailings went to notable individuals and featured inert powder, such as a letter sent to former New York Times terrorism reporter Judith Miller. This leaves open the possibility of copycats or opportunists. The FBI seems content with the lone perp theory.

Conspiracy theories abound, running the gamut from Big Pharma trying to protect an investment in a military anthrax vaccine to Saddam Hussein sending Bush a message to back off after 9/11. Others are less sensational. The near-military grade powder used on the Daschle letter hints at bio-weapons experts, undoubtedly why the Feds are still concentrating on USAMRIID workers. Perhaps some misguided concerned scientist decided to send a message illustrating how vulnerable America was or perhaps a liberal faction resented the notion America was clandestinely producing aerosolized anthrax in violation of international treaty. Assuming we were.

Of course there was a foreign terrorism angle. The first recorded attack occurred at the American Media building in Florida, home of the National Enquirer and very close to the former domicile of head 9/11 plotter Muhammad Atta. Some have asked a reasonable question--why would Atta be asking around about buying a crop duster if he had no "dust"? Dig a little deeper in this area and you'll eventually come across this site. Have fun.

Finally, since Walton was the judge on the Libby case it's surprising some intrepid lefty bloggers haven't tried to connect the two events, especially since Libby seemed to be a kind of point man on bio-weapons at the White House. It might explain the judge's draconian order in light of Bush's commutation. As blogger Luigi Warren once alluded, Libby was mentioned in Bob Woodward's "Bush at War" as follows, page 167:
They turned to the hot topic of anthrax. The powder in the letter mailed to Senator Daschle's office had been found to be potent, prompting officials to suggest its source was likely an expert capable of producing the bacteria in large amounts. Tenet said, "I think it's AQ" -- meaning al Qaeda. "I think there's a state sponsor involved. It's too well thought out, the powder's too well refined. It might be Iraq, it might be Russia, it might be a renegade scientist," perhaps from Iraq or Russia.

Scooter Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, said he also thought the anthrax attacks were state sponsored. "We've got to be careful on what we say." It was important not to lay it on anyone now. "If we say it's al Qaeda, a state sponsor may feel safe and then hit us thinking they will have a bye because we'll blame it on al Qaeda."

"I'm not going to talk about a state sponsor," Tenet assured them.

"It's good that we don't," said Cheney, "because we're not ready to do anything about it."
Putting on the Clancy hat, perhaps the administration was using an elaborate disinformation campaign to steer the public away from terrorism fears. Anyone seen Ashcroft lately?

Thing is, Walton also mentioned the Wen Ho Lee case in his ruling so there's no indication he harbors bias towards the truth. More likely he wants to keep the government from using private citizens with limited resources as scapegoats to solve sticky political problems (wonder if we'll ever find out who within the Clinton administration leaked Lee's name?). After all, shield laws would equally protect whistleblowers, partisan hacks and frauds.

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