Friday, March 25, 2011

Hannity and the Letters

There's a "Wired" story going around the net about Bruce Ivins and the anthrax letters that succinctly states what everyone already knows--Dr. Ivins appears guilty as sin but he's dead; there's no smoking gun; and even some of the investigators are still not convinced. So if he didn't do it, who did?

The article breaks some new ground making Ivins look even guiltier, but it also suggests the FBI had their suspicions from at least 2003 onward. At the time Steven Hatfill was their official non-official suspect in the media. Why did the Bush Justice Dept leave him out there? Yeah, it's not too hard to imagine a sinister lefty fantasy where evil Bush warlocks used him as a foil to invade Iraq...wait, how would that have worked again?

Seems to work better to consider that if Hatfill was indeed a foil he would have been more useful as a focus to get America's mind OFF state-sponsored (or rogue non-state terrorist) culprits rather than the reverse. It was the classic lone wolf. Besides, he was paid well in the end. The plausible reason is that they needed someone, anyone, to assuage public paranoia, and if the public believed the suspect was under surveillance, the threat would be reduced.

At the same time it might also act to lessen the worry of the real culprit, leaving them open to error. But as the Wired story suggests, nothing is crystal clear. A lot seems to depend on the mailer and his/her targets--mainly media figures. In looking back at some of the early coverage a story emerged that didn't ring a bell in the ole memory banks:
A series of hoax anthrax letters are sent to Fox News commentators Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Hannity will later say he began receiving the letters in the winter of 2000 and then a second batch in August 2001. Most of them were sent from a postmark in Indianapolis, Indiana, but “one or two were from Trenton,” New Jersey, where the deadly anthrax letters will be sent from shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

The FBI will later allow the New York Post to see copies of these letters, which have block handwriting sloping down to the right and other features remarkably similar to the later letters containing real anthrax. Hannity will later say: “When I saw the Tom Daschle envelope and the Tom Brokaw envelope, I immediately was stunned. It was the exact same handwriting that I had recognized.… When I saw it I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s the same guy.’”
Were those letters ever published? If Hannity was getting hoax attack letters sans powder leading up to 9/11, and postmarked from Trenton, NJ--the same place the actual attack letters were sent--that seems kind of important. In the least it would provide another opportunity to check Ivins' alibi as to his whereabouts during the likely mailing windows for those letters, that is, if Hannity wasn't just blowing smoke trying to horn in on a big story after 9/11.

Also, if the Hannity letters were a match does it make sense for AQ or Iraq or some other terrorist entity to have been sending them empty before 9/11? Maybe, maybe not. Supposedly an anthrax letter was sent to Canadian authorities in early 2001 in an effort to get an Egyptian terrorist released. A hoax powder letter was also sent to former NY Times writer Judy Miller in the period after 9/11 but before the letter story had become news, and she had written a book on bioweapons. So it's hard to speculate precisely. Which is the jist of the Wired story.

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