Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Journal Nature calls for investigation: Case "too important to be brushed under the carpet"

In an editorial published online today, titled "Case Not Closed," Nature noted that "Only full disclosure can lift suspicions that the FBI has again targeted an innocent man:"

... neither the conclusions drawn from the scientific analysis, nor such crucial legal elements as the veracity of the provenance and handling of samples, have been tested in court. So far only one side of the story has been heard: that of the prosecution.

Certainly Ivins's behaviour in the crucial autumn months of 2001 raises questions about his emotional stability, but mental illness does not necessarily a murderer make.

The FBI should explain why it thinks the scientific evidence implicates Ivins himself, and not just the flask. As Kemp aptly puts it: "In this country, we prosecute people, not beakers." The absence of such a full disclosure can only feed suspicions that the FBI has again targeted an innocent man in this case — as it did with former Fort Detrick researcher Steven Hatfill.

This case is too important to be brushed under the carpet. The anthrax attacks killed five people, infected several others, paralysed the United States with fear and shaped the nation's bioterrorism policy. Science and law share a conviction that conclusions require evidence, and that the evidence be debated openly. The FBI says it regrets that Ivins's untimely death has denied it the chance to have its day in court. So presumably the bureau would welcome a full congressional or independent enquiry into this case, as has been called for by Senator Chuck Grassley (Republican, Iowa) and several other lawmakers. It is essential that such an enquiry takes place.

(A pdf of the full article is here.)


George Washington said...

Dr. Nass,

This seems (to me) to be an important angle for further invesigation:

Top Anthrax Expert: "Maybe There's Two Groups" of Anthrax Killers

daedalus2u said...

If there are two groups, what is especially frightening is that the FBI doesn't seem to want to find either of them, and instead pin it on their patsy.

That implies two lawless groups in the US government that are willing to use WMD against US civilians and Democratic legislators, and that the FBI is protecting. Actually with the FBI acting that way it makes at least 3 lawless groups.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for keeping on this. Dr. Ivins is gone, but at least you are trying to make sure that he gets justice, and I am sure that his children will appreciate this, and also the country needs to know that justice is eventually done, whatever that is. You are doing right, and that is less common than it ought to be. I suspect when you are old and gray, you will remember this and realize that you have made a positive difference in the world, even beyond your scientific work.

If this case is truly investigated, it will be because you and Glenn Greenwald wouldn't let injustice stand. I don't mean to be too dramatic, but Dr. King and Gandhi both would be proud of you!

Mitchell said...

Mr Washington: There have been many contradictory reports about the anthrax, including the degree of clumping and the nature of any chemical additives (or indeed, whether there were any). In fact, I would recommend a study of the history of such reports to any anthrax conspiracy theorist; it is a subject worthy of a detailed timeline. It is far more likely that Patrick's comments (which were made in the immediate aftermath of the second wave of anthrax letters) reflect this confusion and contradiction, rather than being an indication that there were two groups. See Richard Preston's "Demon in the Freezer" for an account of how the initially contradictory analyses were produced. According to his sources, one group ran their anthrax sample through the autoclave and thereby brought about the clumping that they later reported, while the other group was the one which saw the spores "floating off the slide".

Robert Pate said...

A review of early press reports on the advance nature of the Senate anthrax is an excellent idea. I do not think it is just coincidence the FBI consulted two experts on Soviet anthrax, Matthew Meselson and Ken Alibek. William Patrick the leading expert on American anthrax was not given the same consideration. Also, it should be noted the FBI consulted with NATO bioweapons experts. All this leads one to conclude the Senate anthrax was weaponized and advance. I am convinced former Soviet bioweapon experts did have a had in the production of the anthrax after they relocated to a particular country in the Middle East.

Anonymous said...

And as usual it will get brushed under the carpet.... The Government is the biggest culprit of Fraud, Waste, and Abuse. It still amazes me people still accept the two party system and think there is "really" a difference between those two major parties.