The ultimate establishment organ, The Washington Post Editorial Page, issued numerous editorials expressing serious doubts about the FBI’s case against Ivins and called for an independent investigation. The New York Times Editorial Page echoed those views. Even The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page, citing the FBI’s “so long and so many missteps,” argued that “independent parties need to review all the evidence, especially the scientific forensics” and concluded that “this is an opportunity for Congress to conduct legitimate oversight.”
In the wake of the FBI’s accusations against Ivins, the science journal Nature flatly declared in its editorial headline — “Case Not Closed” — and demanded an independent investigation into the FBI’s case. After the FBI publicly disclosed some of its evidence against Ivins, The New York Times reported “growing doubts from scientists about the strength of the government’s case.” The Baltimore Sun detailed that “scientists and legal experts criticized the strength of the case and cast doubt on whether it could have succeeded.” Dr. Alan Pearson, Director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation — representative of numerous experts in the field — expressed many of those scientific doubts and demanded a full investigation.
There may be legitimate grounds for doubting whether an independent, 9/11-type Commission of the type Holt proposes is the ideal tribunal to conduct a real investigation, but it is clearly the best of all the realistic options. The only other plausible alternative — an investigation by Congress itself — is far inferior, as anyone who has observed any so-called “Congressional investigation” over the last decade should immediately recognize (here, as but one example, is the account I wrote about a House hearing last September attempting — with cringe-inducing ineptitude and total futility — to “grill” FBI Director Robert Mueller about the FBI’s case against Ivins). How effective an independent investigative Commission like this will be will depend on the details of its structure — its subpoena powers, punishments for defiance, and the independence of its members. That Rush Holt will play a key role, if not the key role, in overseeing its creation is a reassuring feature that the bill he introduced can be actually productive.