Back in late 2001, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon alone did not convince me that the United States was in a stage of siege. It was the anthrax attacks coming right on the hells of the 9/11 attacks.
Letters containing deadly anthrax germs were mailed Sept. 18, a week after the 9/11 attacks, to ABC, NBC and CBS, the New York Post, and American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer and Sun tabloids. On Oct. 9, anthrax germs were mailed to two leading Senate Democrats, Tom Daschle, the majority leader, and Patrick Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
These attacks convinced me—and many other Americans, no doubt—that this was what we were in for from then on, a deadly attack on the country every couple of months by radically different means.
In retrospect, it seems odd that the news media and Democrats should be the ones singled out for attack. These are the people that somebody who was trying to stampede the country into war would wish to neutralize.
President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney speculated that the anthrax originated in an Al Qaeda laboratory. And Senator John McCain said on television that he had it on good authority that the anthrax germs originated in Iraq.
But the anthrax attacks soon became yesterday’s news. The government determined that the germs were not “weaponized” anthrax, and that they originated in the United States. In 2001, Attorney-General John Ashcroft named John Hatfill, an American bio-war expert, as a suspect in the anthrax attacks. The FBI investigated him for years, but never charged him with anything, and Hatfill successfully sued the Department of Justice for harassment.
In 2008, Bruce E. Ivins, who’d worked in the biological warfare laboratories at Fort Detrick, Md., for 18 years, committed suicide. The FBI announced that it had been preparing to charge him with the crime. Later the FBI published a report making its case. The evidence, however, was largely circumstantial. Ivins behaved in a suspicious manner and made suspicious statements, but the FBI never produced any direct that he mailed the letter nor that the anthrax came from his laboratory. The scientific evidence has come under attack from the National Academy of Sciences, among others.
It is odd that, in all these years, the FBI has been unable to tie up the loose ends in the case. The FBI seems to have focused on pinning the guilt on particular individuals, first Hatfill and then Ivins, instead of running down all possible leads.
None of what I have written is proof of anything. I make no charges. I am mindful of Robert A. Heinlein’s admonition: Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. But I would like to see an impartial, outside investigation to tie up all the loose ends.
It is a curious thing that there are many people devoted to exploring conspiracy theories about the 9-11 attacks, but so much less interest in finding out what is behind the anthrax attacks. In the same way, there is a huge effort devoted to conspiracy theories of the John F. Kennedy assassination, but so much less curiosity about what was behind the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, which manifestly were conspiracies.
If I were conspiracy-minded, I would suspect the existence of a conspiracy to spread bogus conspiracy theories in order to divert attention from the real conspiracies.
Click on Amerithrax Investigative Summary PDF for the FBI’s summary of its evidence in the Ivins case.
Click on Review Faults F.B.I’s Scientific Work in Anthrax Investigation for a New York Times report on the National Academy of Science critique of the FBI’s scientific investigation.
Click on FBI lab reports on anthrax suggest another miscue for McClatchy newspapers’ report on questions raised by the FBI laboratory’s own report.
Click on 2001 anthrax attacks wiki for Wikipedia’s details on the anthrax attacks.