Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Couple of thoughts on the anthrax mailing case,

and the suicide of the 'chief suspect':
The fact that he committed suicide doesn't mean guilt; it wouldn't be the first time someone was driven to that out of despair. He might have been guilty, but... considering the record the FBI has compiled on things of this type, I have doubts.
The pressure on Ivins was extreme, a high-risk strategy that has failed the FBI before. The government was determined to find the villain in the 2001 anthrax attacks; it was too many years without a solution to the case that shocked and terrified a post-9/11 nation.

The last thing the FBI needed was another embarrassment. Overreaching damaged the FBI's reputation in the high-profile investigations: the Centennial Olympic Park bombing probe that falsely accused Richard Jewell; the theft of nuclear secrets and botched prosecution of scientist Wen Ho Lee; and, in this same anthrax probe, the smearing of an innocent man - Ivins' colleague Steven Hatfill.

In the current case, Ivins complained privately that FBI agents had offered his son, Andy, $2.5 million, plus "the sports car of his choice" late last year if he would turn over evidence implicating his father in the anthrax attacks, according to a former U.S. scientist who described himself as a friend of Ivins.

Ivins also said the FBI confronted Ivins' daughter, Amanda, with photographs of victims of the anthrax attacks and told her, "This is what your father did," according to the scientist, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because their conversation was confidential

Put enough pressure on someone's family, you might get them to 'confess' to something just to get relief for the family, and hey! case closed!

The FBI "always moves aggressively to get to the bottom of the facts, but that does not include mistreatment of anybody and I don't know of any case where that's happened," said former FBI deputy director Weldon Kennedy, who was with the bureau for 34 years. "That doesn't mean that from time to time people don't make mistakes," he added.
Awww, isn't that a nice, lawyerly way to make excuses for the Bureau?
Dr. W. Russell Byrne, a friend and former supervisor of Ivins at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., said he had heard from other Ivins associates that investigators were going after Ivins' daughter. But Byrne said those conversations were always short because people were afraid to talk.

"The FBI had asked everybody to sign these nondisclosure things," Byrne said. "They didn't want to run afoul of the FBI."

Because the Bureau, like the IRS, can screw you over bigtime regardless of guilt or innocence. Ask the aforementioned Jewell & Hatfill, and God knows how many others.
Byrne said he was told by people who had recently worked with Ivins that the investigation had taken an emotional toll on the researcher. "One person said he'd sit at his desk and weep," he said.
Naw, that couldn't possibly have anything to do with his suicide, could it?
Questions about the FBI's conduct come as the government takes steps that could signal an end to its investigation. On Wednesday, FBI officials plan to begin briefing family members of victims in the 2001 attacks.

The government is expected to declare the case solved but will keep it open for now, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. Several legal and investigatory matters need to be wrapped up before the case can officially be closed, they said
"Solved but still open", hmmm.

During its focus on Hatfill, the FBI conducted what became known as "bumper lock surveillance," in which investigators trailed Hatfill so closely that he accused agents of running over his foot with their surveillance vehicle.

FBI agents showed up once to videotape Hatfill in a hotel hallway in Tyson's Corner, Va., when Hatfill was meeting with a prospective employer, according to FBI depositions filed in Hatfill's lawsuit against the government. He didn't get the job.

One of the FBI agents who helped run the anthrax investigation, Robert Roth, said FBI Director Robert Mueller had expressed frustration with the pace of the investigation. He also acknowledged that, under FBI guidelines, targets of surveillance aren't supposed to know they're being followed.

"Generally, it's supposed to be covert," Roth told lawyers in Hatfill's lawsuit.

And so on.

I'll admit, I've gotten awfully cynical about much of law enforcement, and the feds in particular; and they've earned it. Look at all the people who've wound up in jail because "We can't prove you committed the crime, but your story wasn't quite the same here and here, so we'll charge you with 'lying to a federal investigator'." Look at the PC bullcrap that's affected terrorism investigations. And look at the cases like this. The FBI is going to have to show actual evidence, some kind of actual proof, before I'll believe this guy was guilty. If he was, if your investigation actually turned up proof, so be it. But if, after all this, they've got nothing but conjecture...
It is unclear how the FBI eliminated as suspects others in the lab who had access to the anthrax. It's not clear what, if any, evidence bolsters the theory that the attacks may have been a twisted effort to test a cure for the toxin. Investigators also can't place Ivins in Princeton, N.J., when the letters were mailed from a mailbox there.

Richard Schuler, attorney for anthrax victim Robert Stevens' widow, Maureen Stevens, said his client will attend Wednesday's FBI briefing with a list of questions.

"No. 1 is, 'Did Bruce Ivins mail the anthrax that killed Robert Stevens?'" Schuler said, adding, "I've got healthy skepticism."

I understand some things need to be kept confidential; I also understand that the FBI needs to be able to look this family in the eye and say "Yes" to that question, and show the evidence. If they can't do that, then they may well have driven an innocent man to suicide in the name of 'Solving the Case and adding Luster to the Bureau'. And there's probably a place in hell for people who do things like that.

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