Remember How the FBI Pinned the Post-9/11 Anthrax Case on a Government Researcher Three Weeks After He Committed Suicide?


Even this pic does not do justice to what clusterfuck monstrosity the FBI building is

From Wired's Noach Schactman comes an excellent piece of journalism explaining why initial skepticism about the post-suicide "solving" of the case was justified. From the article's teaser:

For years, FBI agents insisted that they knew exactly who launched the anthrax attacks that killed five people and scared the living hell out of the county in the fall of 2001. Now, the Bureau is admitting for the first time that the case still has major holes.

[I]n an interview with WIRED, agent Edward Montooth, who headed up the anthrax investigation, acknowledges that he's still unsure of everything from Ivins' motivation to when Ivins brewed up the lethal concoction. "We still have a difficult time nailing down the time frame," Montooth says. "We don't know when he made or dried the spores."

And Montooth isn't alone. The scientists who developed the most convincing evidence against Ivins have even deeper reservations. Paul Keim, who identified the anthrax strain used in the attacks, now tells WIRED, "I don't know if Ivins sent the letters." Claire Fraser-Liggett, who used DNA sequencing to tie the killer spores to an anthrax flask in Ivins' possession, concedes that "there are still some holes."

It's been nearly a decade since the deadliest biological terror attack ever launched on U.S. soil. The manhunt that followed it ruined one scientist's reputation and saw a second driven to suicide. But an in-depth look at the anthrax investigation […] shows that nagging problems remain. Despite the FBI's assurances, it's not at all certain that the government could have ever convicted Ivins of a crime.

Whole thing, well worth a read, here. Reason on the anthrax case here.

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  1. Paging Warty.

    1. Bring tha noize!

    2. Bring tha m’f’n ruckus!

  2. But he still had that sorority obsession, right?

    1. Everyone knows the Pi Phis are easy.

  3. Of course the case has holes in it but we have also not had any more anthrax attacks. Ten years is is circumstantial

    1. And we’ve still got troops in Iraq, which was one of the policy consequences of the attack. Also circumstantial.

    2. Hi there dearie.

      1. I know too many a-holes-give me a better clue


    ok not really, but it is odd to have this attack of such a scale by someone WITH a reputation (not an alienated lone gunman type) and no motive to speak of, no manifesto, no accomplices… as SNL’s portrayal of Julian Assuange would say: “no matter how i die, even if it’s clearly suicide, it was murder”…

  5. I did not know that humans are not infallible, and I am outraged that government agencies are manned by humans.

    1. Of course humans are fallible, it is only when they are agents of the government that they pay no price for their mistakes.

      Did you really think that you had a point, or are you just too stupid to think things through?

      1. I’m gonna go with both.

  6. Keep this one in mind, Republican voters. The people keeping you safe from terror apparently had no clear idea who’d carried out these attacks, so they pinned a weak case on someone so we’d all stop talking about it.

    Way to go, FBI. Any day you make Alex Jones seem credible is a bad day at work for you.

    1. Keep this one in mind, Republican voters. The people keeping you safe from terror apparently had no clear idea who’d carried out these attacks, so they pinned a weak case on someone so we’d all stop talking about it.

      Also keep in mind Jamie Gorelick is on the short list to head the FBI. Her incompetence i.e. “The Wall of Gorelick” led directly, along with 9/11, to the wonderful and glorious Patriot Act.

      1. I tend to overestimate (or not sufficiently undervalue) the competence of politicians, so I subscribe to the theory that Gorelick is the staked goat that gets eaten so that Obama can put the guy he wants in. Realistically, the Republicans in the Senate only get to shoot down one nominee per position. Gorelick goes down and Obama puts in the tax-cheat he really wants running the FBI.

        1. Gorelick goes down

          Never, ever type that phrase again in any context.

          1. Yikes. I’m not sure which is the greater crime, my phrasing or your link.

  7. agent Edward Montooth

    His mother, Dorothy, is a saint.

  8. Wasn’t it the FBI that tried to peg Jewell with the Atlanta bombing? Wouldn’t it be better to actually admit that you don’t know who did it, so people will actually keep looking for the bad guy and stuff?

    1. Hooverism. It is best to get the bad guy who did the crime, but imperative to get someone.

      1. Besides the unethical and immoral part about harassing the innocent and allowing a dangerous guilty person to run around unpunished, there’s also the utilitarian issue of the person remaining free to do bad things. And of later being caught by some other law enforcement agency, which could reveal your venality to all the world.

        1. I absolutely agree with you, but we’re talking about an agency founded and run for 30-something years by a paranoid sociopath. I am completely unsurprised to find that they continue to railroad people on high profile cases.

  9. Dead men file no lawsuits.

  10. Good thing the FBI discovered who did it, otherwise there would be widespread panic over government incompetence and state actors.

  11. The most important thing about this story, and a thing continually and conveniently forgotten by everybody but Greenwald, is that the major networks reported that anonymous administration spokespeople leaked to them that the anthrax used in the attacks bore biological markers that linked it to Saddam Hussein’s weapon program.

    If the government’s ultimate conclusion here – that Ivins did it – is true, then whoever leaked the claim that there was evidence linking the anthrax to Iraq clearly deliberately lied. There was no such link, and could not be any such link, and no information released by the FBI makes it appear that the FBI ever even remotely thought that such a link existed.

    So why have the networks not outed whatever source clearly deliberately lied to them? Why are they to this day protecting the anonymity of a Bush administration source that tried to capitalize on the anthrax event to plant false information in the media pinning the letters on Iraq?

    1. Fluffy, there is, of course, one way to reconcile the claims that Ivins had anthrax that was identical to the mailed spores, and that the mailed spores had markers linking them to Saddam: if you hypothesize that the US Govt or ATCC at some point gave him test cultures identical to the ones Ivins was working on, perhaps in the early 80s when Iraq was killing Iranians by the trainload, then both statements can be true. Also, a lot of it depends on what “biological markers” really means. Were gels of all three strains substantially identical? Or by ‘biological markers’ did the source mean, “Well, it’s got the markers of being anthrax.”

      FWIW, I agree with you that it’s far, far more likely that the W admin source was lying hir ass off; but it’s interesting to speculate, particularly given the revealed holes in the Ivins case. And as for why no one’s burned the source? Perhaps the source is somewhat irreplaceable and gives good data most of the time, sort of a cutting off your nose to spite your face. After all, what are the comparative downsides of not burning v. burning? A few cranks on the Internet (guilty) will notice and call you on your bullshit versus having good information for later stories, helping you keep your job as Washington correspondent. That’s why. Sucks, doesn’t it?

  12. And, if you assume that we gave Saddam his anthrax, the following bit from Bill Hicks seems to be appropriate:

    During the Persian Gulf war, those intelligence reports would come out: “Iraq: incredible weapons ? incredible weapons.” “How do you know that?” “Uh, well ? we looked at the receipts. But as soon as that check clears, we’re goin’ in. What time’s the bank open? Eight? We’re going in at nine. We’re going in for God and country and democracy and here’s a fetus and he’s a Hitler. Whatever you fucking need, let’s go. Get motivated behind this, let’s go!”

  13. What a horrible building the FBI has. Classic Urban Brutalist style.

    Its perfect for them.

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