Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Ivins Document Dump

The Ivins document dump happened as promised today and it's pretty least from the standpoint of proving he was indeed a troubled man and certainly could have done it. Why such an individual would be left close to infectious diseases is another post. By the way, here's a timeline, FWIW.

The two strongest pieces of evidence seem to be, 1) Ivins gave the FBI switched samples of the evidence anthrax when requested in 2002, and 2) he spent many extra evening hours in his lab alone during the days leading up to--but not including--the day when the letters were mailed.

So the potential is there for him to have simply told the wife--whom he was having trouble with--that he was working late again while instead driving up to New Jersey, quickly mailing the letters, then getting back by midnight. His wife might know the answer to that if her memory serves.

When one considers Ed Lake's 2003 reconstruction it all sounds pretty reasonable.

Yet there are still a few lingering questions, although fewer than before. The New York Times article from 2002 posted here yesterday details the effort put forth by the FBI after the attacks:
Officials say every investigative technique available to the F.B.I. has been used in the case, including round-the-clock surveillances, eavesdropping and searches conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Agents have conducted 5,000 interviews and served more than 1,700 grand jury subpoenas.
For some reason Ivins didn't stand out, though. They mention a possible culprit--a "superpatriot" sending the germs to alert the world to bio-terror, but apparently a revenge of the nerd scenario was trumped by Hatfill's more conservative profile. He was single. And yes, the mistake could be as innocent as that, where once tagged as a person of interest he was hard to shake.

Perhaps it was also the "Greendale School" return address that fooled investigators since Hatfill had a history with that name while in Africa. It be interesting to know what Ivins's relationship was with Hatfill, if any. Now that Hatfill's off the hook and 5 million dollars to the richer guess they can't release his employment record and hours worked during the times the letters were mailed. It would also be nice to hear from him at some point. Has he ever been interviewed?

Some may find it odd the document dump didn't include much about the Stevens inhalation case in Florida since it was close to where the terrorists trained, including the airport Atta reportedly visited and asked about crop dusters. Why ask about crop dusters unless there's dust? But as Ed Lake points out, the mention of crop dusters was already in the news by September 18th and besides, Atta had already found out the horrible truth about the virgins by then. Oddly enough, news came out that same day about the Czech Republic's link of Atta meeting al-Ani in Prague. More fodder for the inside jobbers.

There's one more key point in contention. While it's hard to agree with Glenn Greenwald, this case isn't completely closed until someone determines where ABC's Brian Ross got his bentonite claim. Ross isn't saying, no doubt claiming source privileges, but at the time he said they were government research types, presumably from the Fort. This has been long-contended, mentioned in 2003 by Gary Matsumoto and as late as yesterday by former UNSCOM inspector Richard Spertzel, who said the powder wasn't something one man could have cooked up by himself without being caught.

Those elements tie in with the bentonite claim because if there was any reason to cover this event up it was a conclusive link to Iraq and/or Russia. It's clear the government "wasn't ready to do anything about it yet" as Cheney would tell Woodward for his book "Bush at War", which perhaps explains Hollywood Bob's immediate dousing of the bentonite story days later.

Ironically, even Ivins himself seemed to confirm the special quality of the Daschle powder if he can be believed. In the NPR story linked above he was attributed by a woman as excitedly telling her the particles in the Daschle letter were so finely milled they were basically weightless and just "hovered". The evidence released today seems to suggest the main difference was a bacterial contaminant in the Brokaw/Post/Florida letters that wasn't present in the Daschle/Leahy versions.

Indeed, 2003 was a confusing year. In April we got a story that said Dugway Proving Grounds was able to reverse engineer the powder to something similar:
Such additives or coatings, including glass-like silica, were routinely used in past U.S., Soviet and Iraqi bioweapons programs, and some accounts have suggested that silica was present in the mailed anthrax. But more thorough testing disproved that.

"Everybody was looking for a coating, but there wasn't one," the investigator said.

But the methods used point more to a makeshift lab than a professional operation, the source said. One clue pointing away from a state program was the absence of any additive to neutralize the spores' electrical charge and make them float more freely
But then on Dec 7 Gary Matsumoto made a splash with this "Science Magazine" article:
The amateur anthrax scenario appears to have lost some credibility with the failure of the FBI’s attempt to reverse engineer a highquality powder using basic equipment. If the Army couldn’t do it in a top-notch laboratory staffed by scientists trained to make anthrax powders, skeptics ask, who could do it in a garage or basement?
Hmm. Well, in the unlikely event there was a cover up it would have started with the bentonite push-back continuing with the persecution of Steven Hatfill and the flip-flopping releases that followed from time to time through the years. But short of this event being some kind of bio-terror urinating contest between states or perhaps some kind of message delivered by criminals or others it has never made sense for it to have come from al Qaeda, since they wouldn't have had the capabilities nor would they have stopped short with just seven letters. Therefore, the Ivins angle looks the most promising.

And if a plea deal was actually being discussed as reported it wouldn't be surprising to see them dealing towards a reduction to life from the death penalty based on the evidence released today.

That might also explain a subsequent bottle of Tylenol washed down with happy juice at the thoughts of 20+ horrible years as somebody's prison lover. Bullets hurt, besides, anyone who'd send anthrax through the mail is by default a craven coward. If nothing else the FBI has established that Ivins was unstable enough to justify the risk of tossing away a government pension and losing his family, a point sure to be pondered by any reasonable jury faced with a load of circumstantial evidence.

What's next? Well, the popular Congress will return in September just as the presidential race heats up. Chances are this story will float back down to whence it came with a public now largely reassured and the moonbats crushed to find Ivins was a registered Democrat.

No comments: