CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

* The Atlantic “Wrong Man” … for years, the FBI was convinced that Dr. Steven Hatfill was the anthrax killer; then they paid him $5.8 million because he wasn’t

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 15, 2010

The FBI’s case against Dr. Ivins is bogus: no evidence, no witnesses, an impossible timeline. So what really happened? And why? The “fictional” scenario in my novel CASE CLOSED has been judged by many readers, including a highly respected official in the U.S. Intelligence Community, as “quite plausible.”

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *

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26 Responses to “* The Atlantic “Wrong Man” … for years, the FBI was convinced that Dr. Steven Hatfill was the anthrax killer; then they paid him $5.8 million because he wasn’t”

  1. DXer said

    The 08/05/2003 Amerithrax Weekly Update noted as to the FBI’s focus on Steve Hatfill:

    “The Bethesda apartment was searched on 07/01/03. NMRC received approximately 63 swabbings from various parts of the apartment.

    All samples were negative for Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis. Bacillus subtillus, Bacillus mucoides, and Bacillus cereus were identified in cultures from the apartment. These are common environmental species. No Bacillus licheniformis was identified.” (Initially, one contractor had identified the genetically distinct subtilis as bacillus lichenformis).

  2. DXer said

    Throughout the AMERITHRAX UPDATES, there are numerous and repeated express mention of testing of evidence relating to the FBI’s HATFILL Theory.

  3. FBI Badge said

    Still confused why they have to pay him $5.8 million because he’s not?

    • Lew Weinstein said

      Hatfill had sued the FBI/DOJ, and the case was coming to trial. Perhaps the government did not want to appear foolish or duplicitous in open court. As they would have if they had charged Dr. Ivins before he died, instead of a few days after he committed suicide.

    • DXer said

      It was the Privacy Act that had been violated.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      The FBI could never have indicted Ivins without a case; had he lived and sued instead of committing suicide, there would probably have been another even larger settlement.

      • Lew Weinstein said

        With respect, I completely disagree. By the way, have you read CASE CLOSED?

      • Roberto said

        Perhaps so, in a work of fiction. But, in real life THEY HAD A SOLID CASE.

        You seriously, honestly, believe that the published ‘Investigative Summary’ reflects a solid case? Really? Remember, “evidence” is testimony or facts that either prove or disprove something… most of the “evidence” contained in that document doesn’t do either, not the way I read it.

        • Roberto said

          As DXer hints to below – the FBI assumes, as I infer from the summary, several basic things that seemingly have no evidential basis: 1) that the mailings were the work of an individual and not a group, 2) that their universe of people who had *access* to genetically identical anthrax to what was contained in RMR1029 is a certain size, 3) that the anthrax was made mail-ready only after 911.

          Seems to me the FBI is the one with the theory to which they are trying to attach facts. That’s how we wound up with Hatfill. The sum total of their case only leaves us with the mere possibility that Ivins *could* have done it, especially if one allows for the incredible.

          The techniques the FBI used are ones that are used when there is no evidence. Psyche profiles, handwriting analysis (codes!), witnesses out of jail, constant pressure, selective data, hyperbolic language, leaks, etc.

          There are myriad lost opportunities for hyperlinking and/or footnotes in that summary. Why? With the lack of citations, it wouldn’t even pass as a senior college thesis. The FBI describes this as the biggest, most expensive, intensive investigation ever, but the lack of rigor is remarkable.

          Instead of telling me Ivins had a kinky side, tell me how he did it and when he did it. What equipment did he use exactly? What technique? Where’s the photocopier? How long did it take to make it? When did he plan it? Where are the artifacts that show he did some research specific to the mailed anthrax?

          This appears to be their case: RMR1029 originated in his lab, everyone else interviewed by the FBI couldn’t have done it, Ivins is weird, he did it.

          I have a hard time believing a lawyer could go into a courtroom with THAT narrative and prevail. Were they going to throw in 10,000 additional pages of disorganized documents as support?

          A jury’s preferred inclination is to be skeptical, isn’t it?

          I do think you do a better (than the summary) job of presenting and organizing the information, I will say that. Kudos for slogging through the document releases…

          I’m willing to believe Ivins did it, but this isn’t Judge Wapner’s court, preponderance of the evidence just can’t cut it.

          PS – Why include the word “NOW” in the warning letter? Wouldn’t “TAKE PENACILIN” suffice?

        • Roberto said

          I get your point… with my Hatfill comment I *only* meant they picked a target first, facts-to-fit came second. The Hatfill hunt was based on a non-developed theory. I admit it’s not a perfect comparison.

          This sums up (to me) how the Ivins hunt was like the Hatfill hunt – we know you did it, now we’re going to prove it.

          True, the Hatfill hunt was obviously different as he was pointed at initially by someone in a powerful position who had an opinion on the matter (Hatch-Rosenberg) with the backing of a prominent reporter or two, and this was corroborated by a “handwriting expert” (implying the lone-wolf, white guy scenario that FBI has stuck with since day one). After the leaks, and once the FBI publicly implied it was him, they put on the full court press. Only they were wrong: we might call this the Richard Jewell treatment (probably another bad comparison).

          With the Ivins hunt, the FBI had to find someone to fit their developed theory. The developed theory that the FBI seems to have incubated has the following characteristics – mailer & creator had to be the same person, had to be individuals with physical access to Ivins’ flask , everything had to have happened after 9-11-01. This was their point of departure; these were the constraints they placed on themselves. This is what I refer to as ‘incredible’ – as in, lacking credibility.

          You say, “It was only when they knew that Ivins did it all by himself that they truly began to focus on him.”

          Isn’t that the essence of making facts fit a theory? They *knew* he did it?

          And I know that’s the way an investigation works, at some point you have to pick a target before you have all the facts (absent the proverbial smoking gun). It is necessarily so: but you have to move beyond the initial facts which are not restrictive to get facts which are. Out with the inductive and in with the deductive… I don’t think the FBI has done this. We agree that ‘knowing it’ and ‘proving it’ are two different things.

          I fully believe that they scared Ivins, too (before 11/1/2007 even). And that his fear may have influenced his behavior. I don’t know of a way to discern behavior based on fear, and behavior based on ‘consciousness of guilt’.

        • Roberto said

          ooops – left out a /i tag after prove it…

        • DXer said

          Ed,

          Rather than talk in terms of your assertions like Ivins is “slippery” or evidences a guilty consciousness — let’s address the facts. What is your view of the factual support in the Investigative Summary regarding the allegation that Ivins used the particular photocopy machine? You have reasoned that perhaps they had no evidence to support their claim because the machine was switched out. But if you had bothered to read Dr. Bartick’s body of literature — he is one of the highly qualified FBI experts on the issue — you would appreciate that the toner could be measured from exemplars copied at the same time. That is, they have lots of material copied on those machines at the time and the toner on those pages could be compared to the letters used in the anthrax mailings. They were compared and it was NOT a match. (BTW, the photocopy machine had not been switched out as you without basis assume and was available in any event to test). You never even bothered to contact the person in charge of the library at 1425 and just pull speculation out of your ass.

          Ed, as demonstrated by your unique confusion on the genetics. You thought that the genetics pointed uniquely to Ivins rather than the 377 with access at Building 1425 and 1412 (and hundreds downstream). The fact that you did not even pause and take a breath when six months later you discovered your mistake shows you (1) do not bother to read the literature, (2) do not bother to make factual inquiry, (3) do not bother to quote named experts, and (4) do not bother to correct mistakes.

        • DXer said

          Or consider Dr. Ivins’ October 4, 2001 email as another example. You rely on the Investigative Summary characterization of it and the interview statement of the CDC person — without turning to the actual email which would show that the CDC person is misremembering it. The AUSA is mistakenly relying on his mistaken recollection rather than the email itself. So rather than support for the FBI’s Ivins’ Theory, the issue is an example of the mischaracterization of the documentary evidence. A federal district court would deem the email admissible as evidence of what it said — not the CDC person’s recollection a half decade later.

      • DXer said

        Ed Lake is the guy who thought the genetics pointed exclusively to Dr. Ivins instead of 377 (even though he had no basis for thinking that).

        He was the one who thought that silica made anthrax heavier and thus less floatable (even though he had no basis for thinking that).

        And so the fact that he thinks”They had the weapon and could prove that Ivins was the person who used that weapon” (even though he had no basis for thinking that) is further evidence in favor of Dr. Ivins.

  4. DXer said

    http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/36565308/ns/today-today_people/?ns=today-today_people

    • BugMaster said

      It seems quite clear what Hatfill’s views are in regards to Ivin’s guilt.

      No real surprise.

      • BugMaster said

        Besides completely mis-interpreting Hatfill’s “non-answer” when asked if in the case of Ivins, the FBI once again got it wrong, there is something else super-sleuth intrepid Ed missed in the interview.

        In light of his latest posting, his oversight is especially amusing.

        No, Ed, I am not going to tell you what it was. Someone will point it out eventually, and for now:

        I’m not going to spoil the fun! ;-}

  5. DXer said

    In his interview with Matt Lauer, he says he doesn’t know of any law that permits the FBI to go to friends and tell them not to talk to you. He says the purpose is to socially isolate the person. Ivins’ colleagues were told not to talk to him about anything have to do with the investigation which hugely increased the pressure.

  6. DXer said

    “The Wrong Man,” The Atlantic, May 2010
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/04/the-wrong-man/8019/

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