Friday, August 01, 2008

MEET THE NEW FEARMONGER: Same as the old fearmonger

Updated 3:30 PST.

In a speech on security policy a couple weeks ago, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama signaled that a change in administration probably wouldn't change the way the establishment views threats.

"In a globalized world, the power to destroy can lie with individuals - not just states," the man said. This was supposed to show some unique vision setting him apart from Republican rule, but it indicated quite a bit of the opposite.

Nuclear, biological and cyber threats - "three 21st Century threats that have been neglected over the last eight years," Obama said. "It is time to break out of Washington's conventional thinking that has failed to keep pace with unconventional threats," he added. Obama's breaking out, however, really means the opposite - adhering to groupthink that views apocalyptic attacks as only a matter of when, not if.

Anthrax needs more attention, he said, lest an attack kill "tens of thousands" and smash the economy. Keep in mind the quoted part, because it's a specific part of a well-used script.

"To protect against bioterrorism we need to invest in our analysis..." Obama added. So what analysis is that?

It's prognostication delivered courtesy of Richard Danzig, now an Obama advisor, and one of the true-believers in catastrophic bioterrorism. Read the entire piece at el Reg here.

However, the real news of the day was the major scoop that someone who was probably the Amerithraxer had committed suicide. Delivered by David Willman and the Los Angeles Times, the frontpage story informed that a scientist within the US's main biodefense research facility, USAMRIID at Fort Detrick, MD, had killed himself as the FBI was preparing to file murder charges against him.

The man's name was Bruce Ivins.

In this remarkable news, it was said that after 2006 and the Steven Hatfill imbroglio, the FBI put a clamp on scientists interviewed before a grand jury, compelling them to sign non-disclosure agreements to curb their leaking of news on the investigation. Ivins, according to Willman and the Times, had been involved in a cover-up involving anthrax contaminations at the defense lab in 2001, around the same time he had been a consultant in the case.

Reports on this have surfaced intermittently in the news since 2002. We'll sample from the most recent, an AP news piece in 2006 which directly mentions Ivins.

From Fort Detrick had multiple anthrax leaks in 2001-02, report finds

In December 2001, a USAMRIID technician told Dr. Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist in USAMRIID's Division of Bacteriology, that she may have been exposed to anthrax spores when handling an anthrax-laced letter, the report says. [The report] said Ivins tested the technician's desk area and found growth that had the earmarks of anthrax. He decontaminated her desk, computer, keypad and monitor, but didn't notify his superiors.

Ivins later told Army investigators he did the unauthorized testing because he was concerned that the powdered anthrax in the letters might not be adequately contained.

(At the time, USAMRIID had been processing a large amount of mail, contaminated and not from the anthrax case. -- DD)

[Ivins] said he again became suspicious of contamination April 8, 2002, when two researchers reported potential exposures after noticing that flasks they were working with had leaked anthrax, causing crusting on the outside of the glass. Ivins reported the concerns to USAMRIID officials, who then found spores on nasal swabs from one scientist involved in the incident. The scientist had been vaccinated and did not contract the disease.

The report says Ivins performed more unauthorized sampling of areas outside containment April 15 and found anthrax spores in his office area; in a passbox, which allows workers to safely transfer materials from labs to outside areas such as hallways; and in a room where male workers change from civilian clothing into laboratory garb.

The report says Ivins found heavy growth of Ames-strain anthrax, a pathogenic or disease-causing form of the agent, on rubber molding surrounding the noncontainment side of a passbox. His office area also tested positive for Ames anthrax spores. The changing room tested positive for Ames spores and Vollum 1B, another pathogenic form.

The upshot here, one implied in some of today's news reports, is that this is being viewed as Ivins covering up -- swabbing for Ames, the strain used in the mailings, then sanitizing the surfaces in his office, and not immediately telling superiors.

After 2006 and more interviews with government scientists, the FBI became convinced Ivins was the instigator of the anthrax mailings, attacks which killed five and tipped the nation over into a bioterror hysteria.

The implication of Ivins as potentially the worst bioterrorist in world history has some rather obvious implications.

It destroys many of the arguments on the nature of bioterror delivered by government-approved scenario. Ivins' attacks, while provoking great fear, were not catastrophic and did not involve the many kilograms of material the government has long assumed an outside terror agency would find easy to obtain and use on American cities. Amerithrax was an inside job and Ivins was our very special fiend, one from the heart of the US biodefense establishment, equipped with the best tools of the trade, experience and science at his disposal. It shows that a rogue American scientist, one hidden within the trusted environs of a most sensitive biodefense facility, could go to the dark side.

Preliminary news implies that members of Ivins' family and associates may have come to know that he was the culprit. "I was questioned by the feds and I sung like a canary," Thomas Ivins -- a brother -- told the Los Angeles Times.

See here for the story at the Times.

Hats off to the FBI.

From a press release, hot off the presses of the Department of Justice today:

Statement by the Department of Justice on the Anthrax Investigation
The Justice Department, the FBI, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) today announced that there have been significant developments in the investigation into the 2001 anthrax mailings, which killed five individuals and injured 17 others. In particular, we are able to confirm that substantial progress has been made in the investigation by bringing to bear new and sophisticated scientific tools.

We are unable to provide additional information at this time. The Department, the FBI, and the USPIS have significant obligations to the victims of these attacks and their families that must be fulfilled before any additional information on the investigation can be made public. In addition, investigative documents remain under court seal.

We anticipate being able to provide additional details in the near future.


Blogger J. said...

His brother sounds like a real piece of work. On an NPR interview this AM, he was asked if he felt sorry that his brother committed suicide and was dead. He very quickly replied, "No."

9:52 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home