Wednesday, February 16, 2011

In depth discussion of anthrax case by Glenn Greenwald/ Salon

Glenn Greenwald (Salon) talks about the origins of this story.  He covers the media response to the FBI's case in 2008, when calls for an independent investigation came from
... the editorial pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal) Mainstream scientific sources were equally skeptical; Nature called for an independent investigation and declared in its editorial headline:  "Case Not Closed," while 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 scientific doubts and also demanded a full independent investigation.  I devoted much time to documenting just some of the serious flaws in the FBI's evidentiary claims, as well as the use of anonymous FBI leaks to unquestioning reporters to convince the public of their validity (see here, here, here, and here).
... Despite all of this, the FBI managed to evade calls for an independent investigation by announcing that it had asked the National Academy of Sciences to convene a panel to review only the FBI's scientific and genetic findings (but not to review its circumstantial case against Ivins or explore the possibility of other culprits).  The FBI believed that its genetic analysis was the strongest aspect of their case against Ivins -- that it definitively linked Ivins' research flask to the spores in the mailed anthrax -- and that once the panel publicly endorsed the FBI's scientific claims, it would vindicate the FBI's case and end calls for a full-scale investigation into the accusations against Ivins.
... It is hard to overstate the political significance of the anthrax attacks.  For reasons I've described at length, that event played at least as much of a role as the 9/11 attacks in elevating the Terrorism fear levels which, through today, sustain endless wars, massive defense and homeland security budgets, and relentless civil liberties erosions.  The pithy version of the vital role played by anthrax was supplied by Atrios here and here; in essence, it was anthrax that convinced large numbers of Americans that Terrorism was something that could show up without warning at their doorstep -- though something as innocuous as their mailbox -- in the form of James-Bond-like attacks featuring invisible, lethal powder.  Moreover, anthrax was exploited in the aftermath of 9/11 to ratchet up the fear levels toward Saddam Hussein, as ABC News' Brian Ross spent a full week screeching to the country -- falsely -- that bentonite had been found in the anthrax and that this agent was the telltale sign of Iraq's chemical weapons program, while George Bush throughout 2002 routinely featured "anthrax" as one of Saddam's scary weapons.
That there's so much lingering doubt about who was responsible for this indescribably consequential attack is astonishing, and it ought to be unacceptable.  Other than a desire to avoid finding out who the culprit was (and/or to avoid having the FBI's case against Ivins subjected to scrutiny), there's no rational reason to oppose an independent, comprehensive investigation into this matter.

1 comment:

Washington's Blog said...

Dr. Nass,

Thanks for your continuing coverage of this important issue. I've written up a couple of pieces quoting you (and Mr. Greenwald):