The FBI’s case claiming that government anthrax scientist Bruce Ivins was solely responsible for the 2001 anthrax letter attacks has a “seemingly powerful narrative,” said biological weapons expert Richard Spertzel in The Wall Street Journal, but an implausible one. Ivins could not have produced anthrax of that type and potency at his Army research lab without “many other people being aware of it,” and without equipment the lab doesn’t have.
Guilty or innocent, said The Hartford Courant in an editorial, Ivins—who killed himself—does seem to have been the “victim of overzealous investigation,” much like previous FBI main suspect Steven Hatfill. Ivins was a quiet, respected microbiologist for 18 years, until the FBI put him in a “pressure-cooker” and forced him to retire. Given how the FBI botched the Hatfill investigation, “it’s in the realm of possibility” that Ivins “was hounded to death.”
We’ll never know unless we have a full investigation of the FBI’s handling of the case, said Glenn Greenwald in Salon. If Ivins was responsible, though, we also need to know the sources of the ABC News reports that the anthrax came from Iraq—a key influence on public support for the 2003 invasion. The ABC sources, and the anthrax, seem to be from Ivins’ lab, which makes the Bush FBI’s “bizarrely inept” investigation suspicious.
The “dark hints that the Bush Administration used the anthrax attacks to ‘frame’ Saddam Hussein and inflame public opinion for the War on Terror” don’t hold up, said Richard Fernandez in The Belmont Club blog, because the FBI was always looking for a “lone American,” not Muslim extremists.
“Sometimes incompetence is so spectacular it looks like a conspiracy,” said Ian Williams in Britain’s The Guardian, and the FBI’s recent “Clouseau-like” investigations seems to fit that bill. One thing’s for sure: looking at how the FBI mucked up the Hatfill and Wen Ho Lee cases, among others, “it would be presumptuous to take Ivins’ suicide as in any way an admission of guilt.”
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The Obama administration's nonstop incoherence on ISIS
- How I dug myself out of debt — and stayed that way
- 6 super-helpful iOS8 tricks you probably don't know about
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Why Japan is turning to high-tech floating islands to solve its energy needs
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
Subscribe to the Week