What Price Justice?

Linked to the 2001 anthrax attacks, Steven Hatfill has finally had his day in court.

You want a happy ending. You want to say that everything eventually worked, that the system got it right in the end, that the latest twist in the seven-year long anthrax attack saga is a turn for the better. Except you can't.

On June 27th former federal bioweapons researcher Steven Hatfill essentially won his dispute with a federal government that had suspected him of unleashing anthrax letters on America in the fall of 2001. While admitting no wrongdoing, the feds agreed to pay Hatfill $5.8 million. In other words, the feds admitted they screwed up. Big time.

This sounds like a victory, and it surely is for Hatfill, who was hounded by the FBI and identified by hapless Attorney General John Ashcroft as a "person of interest" in the case. But the bigger picture remains bleak.

Most striking is the fact that the masterminds behind bold acts of terrorism—Osama bin Laden and the anthrax killer—remain at large despite untold of amounts of blood and treasure spent to catch them. Moreover, the anthrax attacks, unlike the use of airliners as guided missiles, remains an eminently repeatable mode of mass mayhem. Authorities still do not know exactly how the deadly compound was formed, where, or by whom.

The investigative missteps in the anthrax case were huge and there is no sign that procedures have changed in such a way as to avoid repeat. In fact, counter-terrorism measures have only become more hair-trigger and susceptible to political or panicked influence from outside the immediate investigation.

Former FBI agent Brad Garrett, who was part of the original anthrax investigation, recently reflected on how top brass in D.C. tried to micromanage every step of the investigation. FBI Director Robert Mueller demanded and received daily briefings on the case, which predictably tried to convey "progress" even if the facts suggested otherwise. This, of course, is not investigation, but ass-covering.

Any semi-complex problem requires getting smart people together and then leaving them alone to solve it. Trust, it turns out, is a key investigative tool. But the FBI didn't trust itself or others in 2002 and there is little reason to believe that anything has changed.

Instead, the FBI turned from trust to fear, now the defining element in America's counter-terrorism toolkit—from shock-and-awe to waterboarding. Clumsy and obvious surveillance was maintained on Hatfill with hopes of cracking him. Then a wholly implausible circus of "anthrax alerting" bloodhounds was staged to further ratchet up the pressure. In all likelihood, the "results" of these dog sweeps were fabricated by the feds, then leaked to gullible reporters to further pressure Hatfill.

This mind-set does not look for evidence or leads, let alone the truth. Such activity is not investigative, but prosecutorial. Guilt has been decided, the only question is how to make the case. It is no coincidence that a unitary executive branch that claims the power to imprison without the need for independent review or verifiable evidence produced and sanctioned this approach in the anthrax case.

There are now several distinct possibilities in the anthrax mystery, all with backers on the Internet and elsewhere. One is that the feds have no clue who might have been responsible. This is possible, beyond depressing to consider. Disputes over whether the anthrax spores themselves were "weaponzied" took up an inordinate amount of investigative energy, perhaps allowing the killer to cover all tracks leading back to him or her.

Then there is the case-making theory. This is the notion that the government has a suspect or suspects, but has yet to come up with enough evidence to merit an arrest. A close cousin of this view is the "Central New Jersey" theory; the idea that the anthrax used in the attacks was cooked up in the Garden State among a narrow range of possible circumstances.

Finally, we have most tin foil-plated view, one that on my blacker days I can readily see. Namely, the anthrax attacks were undertaken by a person or persons with ties close enough to the federal government that it is effectively impossible to prosecute them. Too many secrets would spill out.

All of these possibilities are dysfunctional enough for the next occupant of the Oval Office to undertake a top-to-bottom reform of America's counter-terrorism efforts. Otherwise, justice will remain elusive and arbitrary for citizens like Steven Hatfill.

Contributing Editor Jeff Taylor writes from North Carolina.

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  • ||

    Was any reason ever given for why the Vice President's office went on Cipromax about a month prior to the anthrax attacks?
    http://www.judicialwatch.org/1967.shtml

  • Taktix&#174||

    Uhh, because any asshole can drop a letter in the millions of mailboxes around the country.

    That's one in the bank.

    Next post.

  • ||

    "Uhh, because any asshole can drop a letter in the millions of mailboxes around the country."

    Exactly!

    First, go to Walmart and buy yourself some Anthrax spores.

    Then just mail them off. Piece of cake!

  • ||

    Mojotron, if the Bushreich had some kind of advance notice of the anthrax attack, why wouldn't the White House be on Cipromax? Why just the VP staff?

  • ||

    RC Dean, apparently it was (a larger segment of) the White House and not just the VPs office, my mistake. There may have been a perfectly legitimate reason for that (like a credible threat) but i have yet to hear the explanation, and this was before we were aware that there were any Anthrax mailings.

  • ||

    Maybe the staff contracted complementary venereal diseases: Dick Cheney and George W. Bush?

  • SIV||

    Did they just airbrush Weigel out of the Kochtopus politburo group photo?

    For posting a racist smear on Barack Hussein Obama

    The link has been purged as well.

  • ||

    Funny. I saw that video and immediately thought of Bill Clinton. Is Obama running on that recycled theme?

  • Nigel Watt||

    Uh, wasn't there something after this a little bit ago?

  • Mike M.||

    In my mind, Occam's Razor suggests that they got overly focused on the wrong guy and simply don't know who did it.

    I've never been a big fan of ultra-paranoid conspiracy theories.

  • Bob||

    So the taxpayers were stuck with a $5.8m bill. Were any of the Feds actually responsible for destroying Hatfill's life even slightly inconvenienced?

  • SIV||

    Weigel posted this video at 3:20 PM but it ain't there now

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Cyxi0q7f40

  • kinnath||

    I watched the video. I didn't make a connection to Obama. Without a translation of the asian language, it is a stretch to say this was a parody of US politics. I have seen far more bizarre commercials on travel around the world.

  • ||

    Between AG Ashbrook and Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge can anyone be shocked this was FUBARed? And Ridge is mentioned as a possible McCain vp.

  • ||

    They never solved this case because the FBI is very politically driven. The politics of the FBI do not always align with the current administration. The FBI head is appointed to a term of years that can cross administrations. The fact is that a lot of people in the FBI have an agenda to show that the real threat from terrorism is domestic not foreign. If the threat is foreign, then the CIA and DOD get some of the glory. But if it is domestic, that is a completely FBI show.

    Remember that the anthrax attacks came right after the 9-11 attacks. The 9-11 attacks were perpetrated by a foreign adversary. The FBI didn't get to play much in hunting down Al Quada in Afghanistan. The anthrax attacks offered the FBI a chance to play. Because of this, there was tremendous pressure within the bureau to make them the result of the dreaded "domestic terrorism" bogeyman. Once it was revealed the stuff was weaponized or close to weaponized and of a quality high enough that it was unlikely some crazy white supremacist or religious nut made it in his basement in Idaho, then the FBI's options were limited. So what they did was try to pin it on someone associated with the federal government because that was the only place where you could get anthrax of that quality domestically. The idea that it came from a foreign source was simply not allowed or entertained. That is why the perpetrators were never caught. The FBI just didn't look. The facts as they say, just didn't fit the narrative.

  • kinnath||

    Settle down.

    e-mobile only used the monkey in rivalry with it because rival's Softbank had made it big in CM of "Dog".

    OK ?

    The monkey is a god in Japan.


    In the extended comments at the link pointed by to SIV there appears to be an on-going dispute between YouTube users with asian-looking handles versus euro-looking handles (how's that for more blatant racism). The asian side can be summarized as "its a monkey so what" and the euro side is "americans have always associated blacks and monkeys to disparage blacks".

    Having been to alot of different places around the world, I would say that both sides of the argument have merit.

  • ||

    I watched the video. I didn't make a connection to Obama.

    Didn't all the signs in the audience saying "Change!" and the big graphic "Change!" at the end make it pretty obvious?

  • SIV||

    Maybe the post was pulled because it is a duplicate story to this one.
    Although the links were different and redundant posts usually remain on the server.


    After all, who would find this offensive?

    Change is good, but what about hope?

  • kinnath||

    Fundamental issues: We seperate domestic and foreign intelligence services to protect the rights of US citizens. Because we seperate domestic and foreign intelligence services, we expose US citizens to risks that they might not be exposed to if the services were combined.

    So what scares you more, the US government prying into the private lives of US citizens or foreign criminals/terrorists?

  • kinnath||

    Didn't all the signs in the audience saying "Change!" and the big graphic "Change!" at the end make it pretty obvious?

    I'm old and tired and it's late on this psuedo-Friday . . So no it didn't actually penetrate my brain ;-)

    Then again, I've seen enough non-US TV that I don't generally try to relate foreign shows or commercials back to my regular life.

  • kinnath||

    But now that I see the light and recognize it as Barak, you still cannot project American bigotry onto a commercial made in another country.

  • Dave W.||

    Mojotron, if the Bushreich had some kind of advance notice of the anthrax attack, why wouldn't the White House be on Cipromax?

    1. I don't think it has been established that they were not.

    2. Maybe they knew who was on the target list.

    3. They didn't publically identify or punish the individuals who did it because the people in charge of the investigation did not want the ciulprits publically identified or punished. Occam's Razor.

  • ||

    It's been suggested on occasion that I have a hair trigger about this stuff, I didn't make the connection between that ad and Obama, either.

    In my experience, racists who want to compare black people to monkeys use brown or black monkeys, not grey.

    Cuz, you know, they're not grey people.

    None of the logos looked even remotely like Obama's, either.

    And while the political right seems to have forgotten it in this campaign season, "Change" is a pretty common slogan for politicians to run on, and isn't unique to Barack Obama.

  • ||

    The obvious answer to why people at the White House went on Cipromax in the Summer of '01 is, because they were concerned about a terror attack.

    But the thing is, underestimating the threat of terror attacks was one of the more remarkable things the administration did when they came into office. They demoted the Terrorism Czar from cabinet to sub-cabinet level. The pulled FBI agents off of counter-terrorism, in order to free up labor for obscenity prosecutions. They downgraded the Middle East in their foreign policy efforts, in order to concentrate on Great Power jousting with China and the EU. Bush told the CIA agent who gave him the August 6 President's Daily Brief (titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.") "OK, you've covered your ass."

    So, it's a bit out of character. Then again, maybe that was a call made by the professionals in the Secret Service.

  • ||

    "So, it's a bit out of character."

    Not really. Self-preservation was always Job One.

    As for the rest of us, tough.

    I personally think Cheney's office arranged the anthrax mailing, in order to help gin up the anti-Iraq fervor, and that's why nobody was convicted.

    It was probably n an attempt to get their way and justify an attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan in response to 9/11.

    Nutbar conspiracy theory? Maybe. But at this point the Bush administration really doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt. Would they do that? Yes. Hell, they may have figured the risk was *low* enough that any deaths would be justifiable 'collateral damage'.

  • dpsc||

    Underestimating terrorist attacks was not unique to the Bush administration. The Clintons had ample opportunity to get Bin Laden, but were unwilling to do so. Though I loathe the Clintons I'm willing to admit that given the information we had at the time that can be framed as a reasonable decision.

    I knew a major attack was inevitable (I remember prognosticating that in the late 90s, and also saying that it could not be prevented), but I did not expect it to be delivered by mechanical means, and I didn't expect it for another 10 years. As far as I am concerned the BListas shot their wad prematurely. I was thinking about a much larger attack.

    After 9/11 it was reasonable to do everything possible to immunize the US leadership against all foreseeable vectors. It's worth noting that Iraq had purchased anthrax from US labs at one point, and that it was one of the last places naturally occurring smallpox was found, if I recall correctly.

    You don't need a criminal conspiracy to explain the Executive branch taking Cipro en masse- it would have been (figuratively) criminal not to prescribe it to them in the aftermath of 9/11.

  • Amakudari||

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Cyxi0q7f40

    That monkey's in some other commercials. Japan loves monkeys and Obama and pretty much any animal dressed like a person.

    Seriously, if they wanted to stereotype black people, they'd use Bobby even if there's a macaque around (or just blackface). And those macaques are called nihonzaru, "Japanese monkeys," so I doubt anything non-Japanese would register with the domestic audience.

    As for whether it parodies Obama, that should be obvious. Japanese politicians are usually bureaucrats who don't really run on "change," and potential PMs don't campaign like US presidential candidates. Obama's pretty well-known here, too.

    Having been to alot of different places around the world, I would say that both sides of the argument have merit.

    Well, it was intended for the Japanese cell phone market and seized upon by foreign residents who understood the history. A lot of racial insensitivity in Japan is unintentional, brought about more by cultural ignorance than malice.

  • Ross||

    Mojo,

    As the Washington Post explained in Fall 2001, prior to 911, it was an anthrax attack that was expected, not a planes attack. For example, the WTC head explained he had anticipated an anthrax attack rather than planes. In late January 2001, a threat to use anthrax was made in connection with Egyptian Islamic Jihad ("EIJ")/Vanguards of Conquest #2 Mahjoub. An early February 2001 still-classified PDB explained this. A study was done to address the seriousness of mailed anthrax. It was published on September 10 or 11 and is now unclassified and online. It found that anthrax would leak before opening and immediately disperse across the room. The Secret Service would have been negligent in not recommending the taking of Cipro. Ayman Zawahiri's plan to use weaponized anthrax against US targets has been public record since mid-1998 when Mabruk was captured. Mabruk was the EIJ military commander. He and al-Najjar, another EIJ leader, explained that was Ayman's plan. The first news stories appeared in March 1999 when the blind sheik's lawyer announced Ayman would likely use anthrax given the extradition pressure EIJ leaders faced. I have hyperlinked the pre-911 news articles explaining the Al Qaeda anthrax threat, that was known to the Administration, at this URL.

    http://www.anthraxandalqaeda.com

  • Dave W.||

    A study was done to address the seriousness of mailed anthrax. It was published on September 10 or 11 and is now unclassified and online. It found that anthrax would leak before opening and immediately disperse across the room. The Secret Service would have been negligent in not recommending the taking of Cipro.

    No. If they really had been warned, then the secret service would have been negligent in:

    1. Not setting up a clean room to scan in all the administation's mail and forward it by computer.

    2. publicizing the threat

    3. Having Bayer ramp up the CIPRO production

    and, most importantly, importantly, importantly of all:

    4. figuring out what right wing hawks stole the anthrax from the US army

    COMMENT: For libertarians, you guy sure do trust the government a lot. I mean, I expect this from joe because he is candid about the nature and depth of his libertarianism, and I expect it from "Weigs" Weigel because he was at a very impressionable time in his life when the Towers fell. But the rest of youse: what's your excuse?

    In other news of barn doors locking after the horses are gone, the WTC7 whitewash report thingee is supposedly due soon for real-real this time.

  • You probably knew what I meant||

    should have been: negligent in failing to do nos. 2-4.

  • ||

    "As the Washington Post explained in Fall 2001, prior to 911, it was an anthrax attack that was expected, not a planes attack."

    An odd statement given that when the anthrax attack came, the authorities dismissed the possibility of terrorism as a cause.

    Anyway...this case attracts crackpots who want to push an ideological POV (e.g. Iraq did it, Al Quada did it, Israel did it, etc)...meanwhile the most likely explaination remains that an American did it, probably someone who works with anthrax professionally.

  • Mario Beatty||

    An odd statement given that when the anthrax attack came, the authorities dismissed the possibility of terrorism as a cause.

    Which was done entirely for 100% purely political reasons.

    The real explanation to the anthrax attacks is contained within the books "Bush at War" by Bob Woodward and "At the Center of the Storm" by George Tenet, for those who are observant enough to find them.

  • dpsc||

    Dave W: "I expect this from joe because he is candid about the nature and depth of his libertarianism,"

    Has joe ever claimed to be recognizably L(l)ibertarian, to any depth at all? Anyway, if you're referring to my comment, I certainly didn't claim that the anthrax mails came from Iraqi agents. I just said that at that point knowing that the Iraqis had anthrax was a good enough reason to prescribe Cipro to the most important members of the executive branch.

    I don't know who mailed that anthrax. You don't know either. Your suggestion that it must have been stolen by right-wingers is at least as ridiculous as the suggestion that it must have been sent by Saddam himself. Either is possible, but nothing can be determined.

  • Dave W.||

    Your suggestion that it must have been stolen by right-wingers is at least as ridiculous as the suggestion that it must have been sent by Saddam himself. Either is possible, but nothing can be determined.

    It came from the US army. They can tell that by the strain and they did.

  • Mario Beatty||

    It came from the US army. They can tell that by the strain and they did.

    The Ames strain of anthrax was available in research labs all over the world years before 9/11, and not just in five or six U.S. labs as was incorrectly reported in the early days. It was and is the "gold standard" of strains for doing research.

    Besides, even if it was stolen directly from an American laboratory, there is this thing called "espionage", which means that your facilities and institutions get infiltrated and penetrated by the enemy. Which was probably all too easy back in the days when we were asleep during the Clinton years, especially considering the extent to which he had crippled the security investigation and clearance process.

  • ||

    I love when people gullible to believe conspiracy theories throw out the naive card.

    You don't think the Freemasons and Reverse Vampires are conspiring with the CIA to drive up oil prices?

    Um, no. I think there's growing demand and possibly a speculation bubble.

    Pfffffffttttttt...man, you are so naive. You just believe whatever The Man tells you. It's the corn syrup that does that, you know.

  • Air Jordan 15 XV Retro||

    so perfect

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