Sunday, August 17, 2008

Anthrax: Hindsight and "Heroes In Error"

The New York Times says the FBI will release more details of the "new" scientific evidence they used to frame Bruce Ivins for the 2001 anthrax attacks. No doubt that evidence will be closely scrutinized by a nation which still struggles with big scientific "questions" - like Darwin's Theory of Evolution, Global Warming and the Big Bang.

Regrets? Having successfully avoided a lawsuit from Stephen Hatfill, Nicholas Kristof has a few:
Kristof told me he plans to write a column looking back on the case and apologizing to Hatfill for any “extra scrutiny and upheaval the columns brought to him, and wrestling with the journalistic issues involved.”

... Kristof said he had been concerned about the potential impact of what he was writing. He said he tried to humanize Hatfill by writing that Mr. Z’s friends “are heartsick at suspicions directed against a man they regard as a patriot.” After Hatfill was identified, Kristof wrote that there “must be a genuine assumption that he is an innocent man caught in a nightmare.”

I asked Kristof if he regretted focusing so much on Hatfill when the point was to spur the F.B.I. to a more vigorous investigation. He said, “I think I should have tried harder to find a range of other examples to underscore the incompetence of the F.B.I. anthrax investigation.”
Years from now, Kristof will still be telling his grandkids how he helped pressure the FBI into resolving the case.

The Murdoch Wall Street Journal is also indulging in a little hindsight:
In the days after attacks, suspected samples of anthrax began pouring into the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases. In Room 19 of the bacteriology division, Dr. Ivins's office was jammed with desks for six more staffers where once there had been just Dr. Ivins and perhaps one other.

"We were scared," says Col. Arthur Anderson, who at the time was chief of laboratory medicine in the diagnostic-systems division. Many of the scientists were seeing for the first time the weaponized version of a microbe they had worked with for years.

They were also fascinated, particularly Dr. Ivins, who talked repeatedly about the refinement of the spores sent with the Oct. 9 letter to then-South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle. The spores nearly floated out of the envelope.

"The stuff just came out without any prompting," he told Gerald Andrews, his boss at the time.

Dr. Ivins, his colleagues said, argued that al Qaeda was responsible. "He was very passionate about this," former boss Jeffrey Adamovicz said. "He was very agitated."
Maybe Ivins was a WSJ reader. Or maybe he read the New York Times. Whatever. He was obviously very unbalanced.

If Ivins was really guilty, you could expect to see heads rolling at the US military lab where he was employed, and at the top of FBI. But of course that will not happen - it never does.