Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FBI Director Mueller Not Forthcoming

The House Judiciary Committee hearing can be viewed here.

Eleven or twelve members attended the House Judiciary Committee's FBI oversight hearing today. Repeatedly, they expressed disappointment with the FBI's continuing failure to answer their questions, and to respond to written questions. Director Mueller only produced a written response to the Committee's September 5, 2008 letter last night, and copies were not made available to the audience. His verbal testimony had nothing to do with their questions: instead it was an exercise in cheerleading for the FBI team and proposed new guidelines, which would expand FBI authority. Oh, and by the way: Mueller abhors leaks.

Mueller spoke in generalities, failing to answer specific questions. Rep. Delahunt suggested that the FBI's lack of transparency skirted our system of checks and balances and placed our democracy at risk. Mueller could only reply, repeatedly, that he was happy to sit down "informally" with members, but essentially refused to answer their questions on the record.

Only Rep. Nadler asked about anthrax (details from Glenn Greenwald), and to his credit inquired pointedly about the Silicon signature and weaponization. Mueller had no answers.

Instead, responding to Nadler's question of whether the FBI would cooperate with an independent investigation, Mueller attempted to confuse the issue of an independent investigation, saying FBI was requesting this from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). However, the NAS will only be asked to review FBI's "microbial forensic" science. (FBI's M.O. is to keep trotting out the genomics, no matter what question is asked.) And NAS didn't even know they were going to get this gig until today's hearing, suggesting NAS' study might just be a bone thrown to the committee to head off a truly independent investigation of the letters case.

FBI's science takes us to a flask, and stops there. I have no bone to pick with FBI's science, although many details have yet to be revealed.

It's FBI's investigation that is unsatisfactory in every way, requiring an independent appraisal. Don't be fooled by an expensive and time-consuming NAS smokescreen.

12 comments:

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

We discuss all this detail and evidence and theories. Mueller said it didn't matter, none of it. Mueller said he knows nothing, nothing and will keep on knowing nothing, and therefore we will keep on knowing nothing. This is one of the great stonewallings of history. Mueller's Wall. Through it the Congress and people will not pass.

Ellen Byrne said...

They hound and intimidate a man to death.
They declare the case solved but don't provide proof.
They lie, they leak, they manipulate media.
They have one-sided news events.
They gag Ivins' suporters.
They ridicule skeptics.
They don't answer to Congress.
They are above the law.

Anonymous said...

That seems to be the current administration's response to any public inquiry, either refuse to testify, or invoke executive privilege or national security.

I pine for the "good old days" when government was held accountable.

Anonymous said...

The live webcast of the ongoing Senate Judiciary Committee hearings can accessed here.

George Washington said...

There is a tremendous amount of press about this today. For example, front page Wall Street Journal article says Leahy doubts Ivins did it himself (too bad Leahy doesn't say "Ivins didn't do it").

In addition, Fox News covered the letter about Assaad.

Anonymous said...

"They are above the law"

The whole "case" was constructed to convince 12 jurors, not an independent panel of scientists.

Think on this, if the FBI presented this case as it transpired during a trial,
there would be little of this weeks-long reflection and debunking by knowledgeable journalists, bloggers, scientists, congressmen. It would look like "interfering with a trial," for one.

There would only be Ivins and one or two lawyers. Against all the FBI's Ahas! The sorority. The pseudo-science. The insinuations. The highlight would have been the moment the Fed lawyer pulls out Ivins' Camus book, "The Plague", and shows it to the jury as clinching Aha! evidence against Ivins. Think that's too wild? They did the same thing to an actual judge via paperwork.

Another highlight would be the government scientist witness who pooh-poohs all non-Ivins theories as "grassy knoll" conspiracy theories, the irony being if anyone is spinning crackpot RubeGoldberg theories, it's the FBI against Ivins.

Elizabeth Ferrari/ San Francisco said...

As someone who has been monitoring what I now call "Congressional CSPAN Theater" on the issue of torture for some time, I'm not sanguine that any "independent" investigation will be independent or truly investigative.

What I have seen over and over is a pattern of manipulated public gestures. The various committees in the House and the Senate go through the motions of outrage, of raising questions and asking for answers and of never following any issue to completion. Maybe they cannot. Maybe this is the best they can do.

I haven't watched the Senate hearing yet, but Mr Mueller lied his remote off during the House hearing. He repeated FBI talking points, he implied that the national scientific community was solidly behind the FBI findings. He was almost flippant with John Conyers and with other members.

I have no confidence whatsoever that this case will receive serious attention before we have a new administration although it may be staged in a national venue to appease critics. The best that those who are interested can do is to develop and to document a history against the time when a more genuine effort can be made.

To that end, I suggest visiting The History Commons. Paul Thompson and others have been trying to piece together timelines there for many of the issues that have gone unattended since 2001. It is a collaboration and a valuable one, in my opinion. They need help there of all kinds. And it is a concrete way to put together the facts as we have them, while we have them.

Elizabeth Ferrari/ San Francisco said...

Ellen: I think that about sums it up. And it seems very purposeful because they set out to capture the Justice Department early on, to politicize it. They act with impunity.

And make no mistake, Mueller is not "constrained" by the Bush DoJ. He is and has been in bed with them for most of his public career as far as I can tell.

It might be of some use to write to the few members of Congress that still seem to be trying to act in good faith in some way and in this atmosphere. Conyers, Waxman, Grassley, Boxer, Feingold, Kerry, Nadler. If only to register an objection.

What the NAS will do is hard to tell. But the FBI wouldn't suggest it if they weren't pretty sure of the outcome, imho.

Ellen Byrne said...

Who Funds the Academy?

September 16, 2008 @ 07:29 PM: BCianflone blogs in today's Frederick News Post:

There are four academies (Sciences, engineering, medicine, and research) that make up the organization. About 85% of the work is for the Federal Government under contracts and grants. The National Academy of Sciences was specifically created by the federal government to be an adviser on scientific and technological matters. Studies undertaken for the government by the National Academies usually are funded out of appropriations made available to federal agencies. The great majority of the studies carried out by the National Academies are at the request of government agencies. So, essentially, the US Department of Justice is funding it for the task. Which means that the US Department of Justice is asking it if it did a good job or not. All the specific scientists serve pro bono on the academy.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

GW good link. The small type box is the actual text of the Quantico Letter. I had seen the story before but hadn't realized it. I couldn't cut and paste, so I retyped it. Here is is:

This guy is a potential terrorist. I don't know if he is guilty, but he certainly has
expressed contempt for the U.S. Government, even though he works for the U.S.
EPA.

Please talk to him to make certain that he is not involved in further terrorist
activity.

I work with this religious fanatic. The entire past year, he has expressed his
excitement at every terrorist attack in Isreal. He has also told me that his sons
will give their lives if necessary, and when I asked, he said that he will also give
his life if necessary. He believes strongly that the U.S. Government needs to be
taught a lesson, even though, as I have reminded him, he works for the U.S.
Government. Please find out of he plans more terrorism. This guy has access to
many dangerous biological poisons, as a result of his security clearance, and his
frequent visits to the U.S. EPA toxilogical laboroatories.

Here is his name:

AYAAD ASSAAD

His position: Toxicologist with the U.S. EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, OPP
(part EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxic Substances, OPPTS), Crystal
Mall II Building in Crystal City, his office is on the 8th floor, he rides the blue line
home and has often spewed government hatred.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

I added a misspelling, laboratories was the spelling on the Fox web page.

It is correct that toxilogical is not spelled toxicological. Moreover, the toxilogical spelling shows up in some EPA documents from before 2001, and in a paper by Andrew Cordesman from 1991 that another source said discussed Israel's bioweapons. Cordesman discusses Israel having weaponized anthrax.

http://oldatlanticlighthouse.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/fox-news-text-quantico-letter-2001-antrhax-attacks/

Discusses searches related to the above usage. The misspelling of toxilogical may be

1) Because Assaad worked at EPA and the author knew EPA sometimes used this spelling.

2) The author misspelled Isreal and toxilogical because of the Cordesman paper or other writings and thought this was an inside joke only he/she would know.

The most likely person to know EPA misspelled toxilogical in some documents was Assaad since he worked there. Hatfill and Ivins could have known it, as could others. If its the Cordesman article from 1991 that is the point of the "joke", then Hatfill is a more likely person, since he was reading that type of material and teaching or trying to teach courses about it.

This is speculation and not an assertion that either Hatfill or Assaad is the author of the Quantico Letter.

Old Atlantic Lighthouse said...

A major question on the warning letter is why send it to Quantico? One reason is to delay the response. But who benefits from that delay and how?