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

* Edward Epstein in the Wall Street Journal (9/17/11): After its 10-year quest, the FBI understandably wants closure. But so long as the source of the killer anthrax remains in doubt, the crime remains unsolved.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 17, 2011

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Is it possible that Director Mueller, an intelligent man, doesn't know the FBI has failed to make its case against Dr. Ivins? And what does it mean if he knows but won't admit it?

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EDWARD JAY EPSTEIN writes in the Wall Street Journal (9/17/11) …

After its 10-year quest, the FBI understandably wants closure.

But so long as the source of the killer anthrax remains in doubt,

the crime remains unsolved.

  • It was quickly established that all the anthrax was from the deadly Ames strain. All the envelopes carried the same Trenton, N.J., postmark, but the FBI had little else to go on.
    • There were no fingerprints, fibers or DNA traces on the envelopes, on the tape used to seal them or on the photocopied letters inside.
    • After testing every mailbox that used that postmark, the FBI found one in Princeton, N.J., that tested positive; investigators found no witnesses to the mailings.
    • Though the FBI eventually identified a few suspects and ultimately insisted that it had found its man, no one was ever prosecuted.
  • Now two excellent books give a thorough chronicle of the anthrax terror campaign and try to clarify what happened. “American Anthrax” is Jeanne Guillemin‘s brilliant examination of how America responded, while David Willman‘s “The Mirage Man” focuses more tightly on the FBI investigation, exposing the inner workings of one of the most extensive efforts in the bureau’s history.

To validate the science it had used to narrow the search,

the FBI contracted with the prestigious National Academy of Science

to conduct an independent assessment of its methods.

The result was not what the FBI expected.

  • The report concluded that the FBI’s key assertion—that its genetic fingerprinting showed that the killer anthrax could have only come from the flask in Ivins’s custody—was flawed.
    • “The scientific data alone do not support the strength of the government’s repeated assertions that ‘MR-1029 was conclusively identified as the parent material to the anthrax powder used in the mailings,’ ” the report stated.
    • “It is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the B. anthracis in the mailings based on the available scientific evidence alone.”

Without a scientific basis for tracing the killer anthrax to Ivins’s lab,

the FBI’s case against him was reduced to inferences from his behavior.

  • In “The Mirage Man,” David Willman reveals how the FBI’s bureaucratic inertia kept the bureau pursuing an innocent man, Steven Hatfill, for five years. As the author shows, the entire Hatfill case was built on inferences drawn from suspicious behavior … In August 2008, a federal judge expressed outrage that the FBI had pursued him for so long without a “scintilla of evidence,” leading the Justice Department to exonerate Mr. Hatfill and pay him $5.82 million. This injustice was made even worse, as Mr. Willman shows, by the ways in which the media, fed by leaks from FBI files, created myths about Mr. Hatfill that made him a pariah.

The only fault I find with “The Mirage Man” is that it does not

take sufficient account of the National Academy of Science report,

which concluded that the anthrax in the letters could have as easily come

from the Dugway Proving Ground as Ivin’s lab.

So it’s possible that someone at Dugway, or elsewhere,

stole a minute sample of anthrax any time after 1997 and,

as in any classic espionage operation,

delivered it to another party, foreign or domestic,

who used it in September 2001.

read the entire article at … http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903480904576512722234185038.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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LMW COMMENT … 

The FBI has never come close to supporting its outrageous August 2008 claim that Dr. Ivins was the sole perpetrator of the anthrax attacks. They have never offered any proof that Ivins was even involved in the crime. The NAS study blew away any pretense of scientific evidence the FBI had falsely claimed proved anything. 

What makes all this worse is the FBI’s continual stonewalling in providing answers to Congress and the American people, and in doing everything possible to assure that relevant documents are not released promptly in accordance with FOIA law.

This is a scandal of the first magnitude. The press and our elected officials need to state clearly (1) the anthrax case is NOT SOLVED, and (2) to demand a re-opening of the investigation.

Meanwhile, the real perpetrators remain free, perhaps plotting their next attack.

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