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

* “I wouldn’t want to be the lawyer taking this (the FBI case against Dr. Bruce Ivins) to court,” said U.S. Rep. Rush Holt

Posted by DXer on March 29, 2011



Congressman Holt is Dr. Bruce Ivins best chance for a deserved posthumous exoneration


Jeff Edelstein writes in The Trentonian (3/29/11) …

  • The anthrax killer might still be out there … and this isn’t some far-flung conspiracy theory
  • “Let me put it this way: I wouldn’t want to be the lawyer taking this to court,” said U.S. Rep. Rush Holt.
  • “… I’d feel a lot better if it (the FBI’s case) rested on physical evidence.”
  • “Did Ivins do it? I’m not saying that he didn’t,” said Holt. “But the case is not as solid as the public deserves.”

read the entire article at …

13 Responses to “* “I wouldn’t want to be the lawyer taking this (the FBI case against Dr. Bruce Ivins) to court,” said U.S. Rep. Rush Holt”

  1. Anonymous said

    Did the Anthrax Attacks Kickstart the Iraq War?
    Noah Shachtman March 29, 2011 |

    On February 5th, 2003, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell went to the United Nations, to make the case for war in Iraq. A central plank of his presentation: the anthrax attacks that killed five people and helped send the country into a panic in the days after 9/11.

    “Less than a teaspoon-full of dry anthrax in an envelope shut down the United States Senate in the fall of 2001. This forced several hundred people to undergo emergency medical treatment and killed two postal workers just from an amount just about this quantity that was inside of an envelope,” Powell said. “Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters. If concentrated into this dry form, this amount would be enough to fill tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of teaspoons..”

    By the end of the following month, the invasion of Iraq was underway.

    The debate over Iraq’s WMD (or lack thereof) has been endlessly rehashed in the eight years since. Less discussed — and less understood — is the role that the largest bioterror attack in American history played in launching the march to Baghdad.

    The anthrax attacks “made it possible to manufacture the argument that there was WMD in Iraq and links to Al-Qaeda,” Rep. Rush Holt, a leading Congressional critic on the anthrax investigation, tells Danger Room.

    And long after any links between Iraq and the killer spores were disproven, the Bush administration used the mystery surround the anthrax mailer to press its case for war.

    “I point out the anthrax example just to remind everybody that it is very hard sometimes, especially when we’re dealing with something like a biological weapon… [to] know who launches the next attack,” Dick Cheney said in September, 2002. “And that’s why it’s so important for us when we do identify the kind of threat that we see emerging now in Iraq… we have to give serious consideration to how we’re going to address it before he can launch an attack, not wait until after he’s launched an attack.”

    By the time the anthrax letters began arriving the fall of 2001, the public — and public officials — had been thoroughly conditioned to be terrified by a biological strike. Books like the The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story and Biohazard: The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World scared the hell out of audiences. Movies like Outbreak didn’t exactly calm their nerves.

    In June of 2001, a simulated smallpox attack on Oklahoma City killed nearly 6,000 during Dark Winter, a biodefense exercise later criticized for overhyping the threat. On October 2nd, Simon & Schuster released Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War, co-authored by controversial reporter Judith Miller.

    Two days later, Robert Stevens tested positive for anthrax. The attacks — and the panic — only grew.

    Perhaps the most unnerving case was that of Ottilie Lundgren, a 94-year-old widow who lived by herself in the small, rustic town of Oxford, Connecticut. She didn’t leave the house much, except to go to the hairdresser and to collect her mail. Yet in mid-November, she somehow became infected with anthrax, and passed away.

    No one was really sure how she got sick. Investigators never found a spore-laden letter addressed to Lundgren. Their best guess was that one of the anthrax letters might have brushed against one of hers somewhere along its route and left some spores behind.

    The country was only starting to come down, ever so slightly, from its 9/11 panic. What happened to Ottilie Lundgren confirmed, and rekindled, everyone’s worst fears. Lundgren didn’t get on a plane or go to a job at a known extremist target, like the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. She didn’t live in New York or Washington or some big city. She just stayed at home in her small town, opening her mail. And she still became a victim, anyway. If that could happen to Ottilie Lundgren, it meant that no one was safe.

    “It was the second and confirming incident that a worldwide network had penetrated the United States, that the country was under widespread attack — and that anything was possible,” Holt says. “The enemy could be anywhere and everywhere and use any means to attack.”

    That was the view inside the Bush Administration, where the “bioterror attacks had a larger impact than is generally appreciated—one in many ways bigger than 9/11. Without the anthrax attacks, Bush probably would not have invaded Iraq,” wrote Newsweek’s Jacob Weisberg.

    “I think the seminal event of the Bush administration was the anthrax attacks,” someone close to the president told me. “It was the thing that changed everything. It was the hard stare into the abyss.”

    In the days that followed, a few government officials (most notably, Sen. John McCain) publicly suggested that the Saddam Hussein regime may have been behind the anthrax letters. ABC News trumpeted a bogus claim that the attack spores contained the chemical additive bentonite, a hallmark of the Iraqi anthrax program. “Some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun,” anchor Peter Jennings said.

    In November, microbiologist Paul Keim was able to prove that wasn’t the case. An FBI agent gave Keim a sample of Iraq’s anthrax — obtained by an undisclosed “U.S. government agency.” Keim used a series of DNA tests to identify the sample’s strain. It didn’t match the anthrax found in the lethal letters. The investigation for the anthrax mailer begun to turn inwards, to domestic scientists, while the Iraq war drums quieted, ever-so-briefly.

    “I tell people: I didn’t stop the Iraq war,” Keim says. “I just delayed it for two years.”

    • Anonymous said

      Seven Days in October

      by Michael Massing

      The Nation

      November 12, 2001

      A month ago, when thirty-seven neoconservatives, led by William Kristol, William Bennett and Jeane Kirkpatrick, signed an open letter warning George Bush that failure to attack Iraq would “constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism,” they were widely dismissed as extremists. But in one short week, the extreme became the mainstream, thanks largely to the anthrax scare and to the media’s role in fanning it.

      On Tuesday, October 16, Senator Tom Daschle announced that the anthrax discovered in a letter sent to his office was of a “very potent” form. On Wednesday, the headlines blared. “Sign of Escalating Threat,” the New York Times declared atop a story by Stephen Engelberg and Judith Miller. This “high grade” anthrax, they wrote, “finely milled so that it would float a considerable distance on the smallest of air currents,” suggested that “for the first time in history a sophisticated form of anthrax has been developed and used as a weapon in warfare or bioterrorism.” It also suggested that “somewhere, someone has access to the sort of germ weapons capable of inflicting huge casualties.” A prime suspect, Engelberg and Miller noted, was Iraq. But, they cautioned, it was too early to say for sure whether Iraq was responsible.

      • Anonymous said

        I should stress – the only reason I bring up the “Anthrax Attacks Kickstart the Iraq War” is because the enormity of what the anthrax attacks caused may be the very reason the FBI is hiding what it really knows.

        It’s not because I think attacking Iraq was a bad idea – indeed what’s the difference between Saddam attacking his own people with chemical weapons in 1988:

        and what Qaddafi did in Libya 2 weeks ago? Qaddafi was responded to with western airstrikes – Saddam received nothing. Surley nobody would have complained if Saddam had been attacked in 1988.

        The point is only to analyze what drove the FBI to fabricate the false case against Bruce Ivins.

        • DXer said

          Saddam attacked Iraqi civilians using Iraqi combat configured helicopters which had been sold to him by US helicopters manufacturers. According to a federal indictment, they were equipped illegally with TOW (heat seeking missiles), a US-controlled item. Tariq Aziz said in a press conference reported by the Washington Post that the helicopters were being sold to the Agriculture Ministry for crop-dusting spraying missions. They were in fact equipped with a pesticide quick release mechanism. I saw the plans. When the arms trafficker Sarkis Soghanalian was prosecuted, his defense was that it all was approved by Ollie North in the basement of the White House. Eric Nadler and I coincidentally both covered aspects of the trial in Miami. Sarkis went to jail and has confirmed all that I am saying in interviews (and he would say it again). I met the AUSA over lunch during the trial in Miami and found him to very cynical.

          Prince Bandar had met with the arms trafficker at Beni Hana to arrange for Saudi Arabia to pay for the helicopters. Saudia Arabia’s motive was to prevent Iraq from being overrun by Iranian infantry. And so part of Bush’s consternation that the helicopters had been used to attack Iraqi civilians may have been fueled by the fact that US sold them the helicopters. The thing that fuels such transactions is money. Follow the money at the same time as the politics.

  2. DXer said

    The FBI in 2010 estimated that up to 377 had access required elimination (allowing for some duplication who had access in both 1425 and 1412). With duplication eliminated (those who had access at both places), the number might be 200 as Attorney Kemp was told. In contrast, US Taylor in August 2008 incorrectly claimed that only 100 needed to be eliminated — only those 100 with access at Building 1425.

    If US Attorney Taylor had made that argument in oral argument and upon the first defense witness, Dr. Heine explained that he had multiple samples in Building 1412 — and even the FBI’s anthrax expert did — the US federal judge would have been flummoxed that such a basic and centrally important fact had been misstated.

    It’s a hoot that such a big deal is made out of “holes” in the genetics case when the genetics only served to narrow things — even under the FBI’s reasoning — from 700 to “up to 377”. The genetics, even on the face of the FBI’s argument, was never even as probative as the federal eagle stamp that is understood to narrow things to Virginia and Maryland.

  3. DXer said

    Mr. Schactman says that the fact that the federal eagle stamp was sold in 45 offices throughout Maryland and Virginia is what the FBI found compelling evidence.

    Postage Stamps Delivered Anthrax Suspect to FBI
    • By Noah Shachtman
    • March 28, 2011 |

    At the August 2008 press conference, the US Attorney and AP created the impression that the Federal Eagle stamp was uniquely sold in Ivins’ post office (near USAMRIID) when it in fact was sold in 45 known post offices throughout Maryland and Virginia. Imagine US Attorney giving the same argument he gave to the media to a federal district court judge and then to have the claims rebutted.

    And I love it when an article ends a story quoting an anonymous source who finds the case compelling when one element after another was grossly misstated — for example, the genetics, the federal eagle stamp etc.

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