Sunday, January 04, 2009

Case Closed

When one of the most skeptical reporters covering the 2001 anthrax letters case appears convinced, it might be over. Scott Shane's seven page NY Times online expose of Bruce Ivins leaves little reason to believe the killer(s) are still loose. If so, they got extremely lucky.

Surely this piece will be rapidly dismissed by those who currently think Mike Connell's plane crash was murder and who are holding out faint hope for a final world inquisition of the "Bush crime family" at the Hague. Conversely, it might also bust the bubble of those who still firmly believe AQ or Saddam were involved, a group to which I formerly belonged.

But the circumstantial evidence is simply too overwhelming to ignore. He had opportunity (lab access to Ames) and hubris (emails showing himself working around cultures without gloves). He had no alibi during the mailing windows and enough time to drive up and back. He worked late in the lab before both mailings. His psychiatric history suggested a propensity to compartmentalize nefarious behavior. He had previously taken long overnight drives to deliver packages or mail letters from different postal zones. Imagine if they had that much evidence against Rove--for anything?

By all accounts he was a brilliant but rather thin-skinned man who never forgave his high school peers for not treating him better. No, they never put the letters in his hand but a smart guy like Ivins would have taken precautions and he knew how to handle germs.

Some ask why he wasn't a suspect early on (including me) but think about it--if it came down to a nerdy 'goody-two shoes' type who juggled and was helping the FBI (and had even signed up to volunteer at the Red Cross after 9/11) versus a guy like Steven Hatfill, who had written an unpublished novel about bioterrorism, briefly worked at Fort Detrick via a forged a PhD, who would you choose? The irony is that while volunteering for Red Cross, Ivins was attending therapy.

Many claim he had no motive and admittedly, securing funding for his anthrax vaccine by sending deadly letters sounds foolish since 9/11 would have likely done the trick by itself. Perhaps it was more towards preparedness than funding. The letters created a frenzy in businesses all over America as to proper ways of sorting mail and handling hazardous materials, and made everyone more vigilant about odd parcels.

Recall that at the time everyone thought the 'other shoe' would soon drop, many believing it might be of a bio-terror nature. It was well known that Zawahiri was pursuing anthrax for AQ and Saddam's unaccounted-for stockpiles were legend. As Shane pointed out, crop dusters were banned for a long period of time after 9/11 and they had a bio-terror expert into the White House for a briefing on the evening of the attack. Reportedly Dick Cheney carried around a bio-hazard suit wherever he went for awhile after the attacks.

But perhaps the weirdest part of Shane's article was Ivins' final request, via a will:
But he left one more surprise for his family: a clause in his will intended to enforce his wish to be cremated and have his ashes scattered. If his demands were not met, $50,000 from his estate would go not to the family but to Planned Parenthood of Maryland, whose abortion services Mrs. Ivins abhorred.

It was one last, devious step for a man whose oddities, for many people, made the F.B.I.’s anthrax accusation more plausible.
Just speculating, but many Catholics do not condone cremation and especially the scattering of ashes. So rather than suggesting he'd had a change of heart as to abortion or was trying to enact a last-minute revenge on his wife, maybe this was Ivins' way of taking his punishment by a last act of self-desecration, knowing the PP threat was the only way she'd agree to it.

If Bruce Ivins was indeed the culprit it doesn't signal an end to the bio-terror threat against America by any means. Our enemies would likely do a lot more than a few letters. And it would be nice to see somebody, anybody, interview Steven Hatfill, although it's fairly obvious as to why he wouldn't want to talk.

But the conspiracies will never die, therefore it'll be interesting to see if the new Congress takes them up with any hearings. Chances are with Bush gone and Ivins not exactly a neocon they'll forego such inquiries in an effort to pursue more pressing issues.

MORE 1/4/09

Those of you who read Shane's summary of events:
That examination found that unless new evidence were to surface, the enormous public investment in the case would appear to have yielded nothing more persuasive than a strong hunch, based on a pattern of damning circumstances, that Dr. Ivins was the perpetrator.
..might be wondering what's gotten into this blogger by suggesting the Times article hints the case might be solved. Well, it's what Shane did not say that was key for me.

He quickly dismissed the terrorist angle after ruling out the source of the material being anywhere but Frederick, MD due to water testing. That's significant, meaning the material would have had to have been stolen from the Fort if Ivins didn't do it since we know it was RMR-1029. That wouldn't preclude a terrorist or other nut from coming to Frederick with stolen RMR-1029 then making the concoction using local water but with all the circumstantial evidence pointing to Ivins such begins a journey into fantasyland.

In sum, I think Shane threw in the above paragraph to appease the many moonbat readers of the Times then proceeded to all but prosecute Dr. Ivins with the rest of the article. Ed Lake seems to agree.

OF COURSE... 1/4/09

They've never found Abderraouf Jdey, something that has long bothered those who believe AQ might have been involved. He was based in Canada, a hot bed of jihadi activity when 9/11 occurred:
Following 9/11, United States security officials looked across the border, towards Montreal, Qu├ębec where Ressam alleged that over 60 trained Jihadists remained. Of particular concern were two Tunisian-born Canadians, Abderraouf Jdey [1] and Faker Boussora [2]. The two had settled in Montreal in the early 1990s, and like a number of local militants, had also attended the Assuna mosque. There, they most likely met with Ahmed Ressam’s recruiter and fellow Tunisian, Raouf Hannachi, before being sent to train in Afghanistan. Jdey was subsequently chosen by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to pilot an airliner in a second wave of suicide attacks supposed to take place following 9/11. [3]
One can make connections between his group and those associating with Mohamed Mahjoub, who was also linked at one point to a man whom the 9/11 Commission called a WMD procurement agent for bin Laden, Mubarak al-Duri. Had there ever been any connection between this al-Duri and the slightly more famous one in Iraq then perhaps the circle would be complete. But both the FBI and CIA interviewed him in the Sudan after 9/11 and left him alone.

Why would this not come out? I can think of a couple of good reasons... 1) if Jdey was indeed on AA 587 in November 2001 and crashed it with a shoe-bomb (which sounds about as bizarre as excessive rudder travel causing the tail to fall off during wake turbulence) it could have nose-dived the struggling aviation industry. We had already bailed them out with 15 billion dollars. 2) to stop panic--if the public knew for sure AQ had anthrax it could have been a game changer. And 3) if the WMD material was linked back to Saddam the government wasn't ready to do anything about it at that point, especially since they didn't know what might happen next.

But that still leaves the source material issue. The only way Jdey could have sent the letters is if he or someone complicit stole material from Fort Detrick and passed it to him, OR, if the FBI switched out the letter powder at their crime lab with an RMR-1029 mixture to hide the event from the public. They wouldn't do that, would they? At any rate, Ivins' weirdness was not something manufactured by the Feds. Ignoring him requires a belief in other fantastical circumstantial evidence. Considering him does not require a giant conspiracy and follows more in line with Occam's Razor.

MORE 1/6/09

I've received some private correspondence that suggests my reading of Mr. Shane's column is erroneous; that he does not think the case is closed by any means. That may well be true. My post was a gut reaction to the tone of his column, which was top heavy with the dark side of Ivins and pretty thin on evidence for terrorists, both corporate and Islamic. At some point you go to conclusions with the facts you've got.

That doesn't mean my mind is now locked to any future developments, it just means the evidence shown so far looks worse and worse for Dr Ivins. The skeptics need to somehow get the same genetic mutated RMR-1029 (and now believed to have been cooked in Frederick, MD) out of the building somehow, preferably into the hands of a terrorist. The Feds have reportedly checked all the instances of the material leaving the facility, at least those reported. But would anyone admit a breach under the circumstances, especially if it was due in part to their own hubris?

Maybe, as it would mean moving the interrogation lamp to someone else. But there's always that liability aspect to consider along with the fact the Fort might not have defended indivuduals who didn't follow the rules. Hopefully the FBI has already considered and followed this line of thought to it's conclusion.


Debbie said...

Glad you are on top of this. It all seems pretty strange to me. I like nice, neat, packages with all the facts lined up and in order, showing clear guilt.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

A.C. McCloud said...

*IF* both Ivins and Hatfill were foils built and maintained by the FBI through false accusations I might be tempted to forgive them if the motive was to protect the public from a brutal truth--such as that terrorists had acquired WMDs. If it was to protect Batelle or Corp interests or politics then they deserve to rot.

But I think the easiest most sensible explanation is that Ivins was shaken by the attack and felt compelled to pitch in by warning everyone to the threat. I can't get past all the circumstantial evidence, so until other information pops up I'm staying with this explanation (but it would be nice to find Jdey, al-Duri, and of course Adnan Shukrijumah. ;-)