After seriously undercutting the FBI claims about Bruce Ivins’ guilt 5 days ago, the DOJ revised its filing yesterday in the case brought by Bob Stevens’ wife against the government.
Marcy Wheeler provides great details and links to the filing and other useful documents. Scott Shane gives us the usual FBI response when challenged: “We are confident that we would have proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at a criminal trial.” CIDRAP notes:
The investigative reporters and other media outlets have suggested that the DOJ is likely poking holes in the case against Ivins as a strategy to defend the government in the civil suit, which claims negligence. For example, the Frederick (Md.) News Post reported yesterday that in a motion to dismiss the case, the DOJ argues that any doubt about Ivins’ guilt would make it more difficult for the victim’s family to show government negligence.The ProPublica group said it’s unclear how the DOJ’s civil court filings came to be so at odds with the case put forward by its prosecutors, and that the DOJ has not offered an explanation.
Glenn Greenwald has written a polished synopsis of how the FBI case has been disputed, while also discussing the meaning of the DoJ filing.
IMHO, Friday’s DOJ statement of facts followed the identical methods used by FBI during the past 3 years. [Ivins died on July 29, 2008 and the FBI’s (media) case was first prosecuted on Aug 1 by David Willman.]
The FBI’s M.O. has three parts. In Part 1, the FBI strings together a complex scenario that sounds plausible as long as one isn’t knowledgeable about the details of the case. This method is designed to confound 99% of reporters and 99.99% of the public, and does so successfully. FBI avoids discussing those parts of the case that cannot be explained by the synthesized scenario, and there are many.
FBI felt it could kill the 2011 Stevens case by challenging its earlier scenario, assuming nobody would notice. When they noticed, FBI simply repaired the brief.
Part 2 of the M.O. is an attempt to obtain testimonials from eminent authorities, and silence any authoritative voices that might challenge FBI’s case. The National Academy of Sciences study was purchased to shut up the Judiciary Committees of Congress, and when NAS’ report was not going well for the FBI, FBI showed up with a new document dump, designed to scare the NAS committee members about the seriousness of the bioterrorism threat, and thereby coerce them to go easy on the FBI.
When that didn’t work, and the report undercut FBI’s claims about the genetics studies conclusively linking Ivins to the letters, FBI tried to preempt the NAS report by loudly “closing the case” several months before the report was released (after an FBI review that forced its release to be delayed).
At Fort Detrick, everyone still employed was forbidden to discuss the matter.
Part 3 of FBI’s M.O. is to proclaim (at every possible juncture) FBI’s total conviction that the case against Ivins would prove his guilt in court. This is based on the premise that if you say it enough times, loud enough, for long enough, practically everyone will come to think it is true.
This time the FBI M.O. will fail, because people are paying close attention, since the anthrax letters are so important to understanding recent American history. As Greenwald puts it:
… discovering the perpetrators with confidence is so vital. As I’ve argued before, the anthrax attack was at least as important as (if not more important than) the 9/11 attack in creating a climate of fear in the U.S. that spawned the next decade’s War on Civil Liberties and Terror and posture of Endless War; multiple government officials used ABC News‘ Brian Ross to convince the nation that Saddam was likely behind those attacks (as but one example, The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, in 2008, cited the anthrax attacks as his primary reason for supporting the attack on Iraq; in October, 2001, John McCain said on David Letterman’s program that there is evidence linking Iraq to the anthrax attack). Even if one believes the FBI’s case, it means that one of the most significant Terrorist attacks in American history was launched from within the U.S. military. As Alan Pearson — Director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation — put it:
If Ivins was indeed responsible for the attacks, did he have any assistance? Did anyone else at the Army lab or elsewhere have any knowledge of his activities prior to, during, or shortly after the anthrax attacks? . . . It appears increasingly likely that the only significant bioterrorism attack in history may have originated from right within the biodefense program of our own country. The implications for our understanding of the bioterrorism threat and for our entire biodefense strategy and enterprise are potentially profound.
OH, and by the way (Thanks, Marcy!) one other correction made to FBI’s brief was to delete the information that
Ivins had sent anthrax spores to Bioport. Bioport, maker of the US anthrax vaccine, has an excellent motive for the crime. And Bioport has obtained contracts with the US government for 1.5 billion worth of anthrax vaccine since the letters were sent. Did I mention that the anthrax vaccine program was undergoing a high-level review and was about to be cancelled by the Pentagon in the fall of 2001?