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What the FBI Knows: For Bruce Ivins and For Us

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What the FBI Knows: For Bruce Ivins and for us

"I don't think the FBI knows what the FBI knows" – Richard Clark testifying before the 9/11 Commission

In the summer of 2001, two hijackers were renting lodgings from an FBI asset in San Diego, California. But the FBI couldn't be bothered to know in the same way that they ran off John O'Neill when he was "on fire" about Bin Laden and they couldn't be bothered to listen to him. The next thing you know, thousands of people are dead, John O'Neill is dead and there's a scar in the heart of Manhattan. In 2005, the FBI is sure, knows with cold institutional certainty that Steve Hatfill is the anthrax mailer and before you can turn around, they're paying out 5 million dollars for ruining the life of an innocent man and publicly, too, by pillorying him in the press. You'd think they'd have learned by now. You'd think they'd have a picture of Richard Jewell up in every single FBI office and a special promise to say silently every morning before sitting down to the day's work.

You'd think by now the FBI would have a long needed moment of ontological panic and ask themselves how they know what they know. In 2003, they mapped out every single minute of Steve Hatfill's life on the days surrounding the two anthrax mailings and they were not loathe to announce that to the New York Times. But in the last few weeks, when they were accusing Bruce Ivins in the press, they didn't seem to know that Ivins couldn't be in Frederick, Maryland at 4:30 and in Princeton, New Jersey at 5:00 p.m. on September 17th, 2001, although they seemed to know each fact separately. It's as if the FBI has had the membrane connecting the two lobes of its institutional brain slashed, isolating one working hemisphere from the other.

The FBI claims that new technology can trace DNA from the weapon to Dr. Ivins when the tech to map a genome was available in 1998 and while withholding the exact nature of that new technology. Do you believe in magic? They claim that Ivins was the sole custodian of that flask of anthrax but do not mention the origins of that anthrax at the Dugway Proving Ground and they also elide the fact that ten other researchers had access to that same anthrax at Fort Detrick alone. And that's without considering all the researchers and labs that obtained samples from Dr. Ivins over the years, or the fact that Ivins helped evaluate the letter sent to Tom Daschle. The FBI is dealing with a crime scene faceted over space and time as if it was a simple plane, or a projection, a Power Point presentation they can point to unambiguously. The FBI does not know what it knows. Richard Clarke was right.

I'd like to ask them if Bruce Ivins was so careful that he could drive weaponized anthrax two hundred miles and mail it without leaving any trace at all on his person, in his car or around his residence or, if he was so careless that he mailed anthrax to Pat Leahy and Tom Daschle and didn't know that postal machines would pound the deadly powder out into the public sphere long before the envelopes were delivered. Which is it?

The FBI has said Bruce Ivins was afraid his vaccine program would be canceled and that motivated him to mail the anthrax. How is that possible? Ivins had a new vaccine in the works. No matter what happened to the BioPort vaccine he had been hired to fix, Dr. Ivins would get work. Make no mistake about it. Even if BioPort's product went down in flames, Dr. Ivins had another vaccine in development and his expertise would be in demand. There is always work for skilled people like Bruce Ivins. As a consumer of the BioPort vaccine himself, Bruce was as motivated as anyone to get a better vaccine in place.

In 2001, the FBI knew the anthrax mailer was a loner
Source: Los Angeles Times, November 10, 2001.


WASHINGTON -- The FBI is increasingly convinced that the person behind the recent anthrax attacks is a lone wolf within the United States who has no links to terrorist groups but is an opportunist using the Sept. 11 hijackings to vent his rage, investigators said Friday.

The FBI is still pushing the idea that Ivins fits the "loner" description. But he doesn't. He was a married man with two adopted children, with mentees and colleagues and neighbors.

Fairfield resident recalls time at Fort Detrick; worked with suspected anthrax terrorist

While civilians like Battersby work at Fort Detrick, the site has military management, she said. And some people, such as those who want to advance their careers, have stayed quiet about their experience there, according to Battersby. (Emphasis added.)

But the few people not worried about talking about their experience with the government should talk, she said. "It's painful to me on a whole bunch of levels," Battersby said. "I feel like I should tell my story because I know I can." (Emphasis added.)

Are people who knew Bruce Ivins afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs if they disagree with what the FBI "knows"? Battersby seems to say exactly that.

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Elizabeth Ferrari is a San Francisco author and activist.
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