Just a few months into the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the media are demanding answers. But it has been two years since the anthrax letter attacks killed five people and the FBI still doesn’t know who did it. The installation of electronic eavesdropping equipment in Dr. Steven Hatfill’s apartment has failed to produce any evidence against this “person of interest.” A search of a Maryland pond for biowarfare equipment was another foolish waste of time and money. Hatfill, who has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, was working in the Washington, D.C. area when the anthrax letters were mailed from New Jersey.
While the FBI pursues Hatfill, even running over his foot with a car on a Washington street, a report from the Partnership for Public Service warns that the U.S. doesn’t have enough scientists to respond to bioterrorism. If he’s done with his tour on behalf of the Patriot Act, Attorney General John Ashcroft should settle Hatfill’s lawsuit against the department, apologize, and let him take a job on the front lines helping to protect the U.S. from another biological attack.
No progress in the “Amerithrax” case has been made in two years primarily because the FBI made an early mistake, under political pressure, in assuming that because the anthrax was a “military strain” used in U.S. defense labs, the perpetrator had to be a current or former U.S. government scientist.
In his study, “The Anthrax Evidence Points to Iraq,” published in the International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Dr. Dany Shoham, (who is affiliated with the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel), debunks the notion that Iraq never got access to the Ames strain and writes that Saddam’s use of Ames as a weapon would have been preferred “because its origin would seem to be from within the U.S.” He explains, “In conducting an act of bio-terrorism against the U.S., Iraq would reasonably make an effort to mask, rather than manifest, its involvement.”
In a taunting “open letter” to the West on October 29, 2001, Saddam said, “We have heard in the news, recently, that American officials think that the source of anthrax is probably the U.S. itself. Is this?just a tactic to divert the attention of those who were terrorized to hear that bin Laden is the source of anthrax?Or have they done this to divert attention from the incompetence of American official bodies in the events of September 11?” The anthrax letters included praise for Allah.
The Bureau dismisses evidence implicating Iraq and/or al Qaeda, such as that one of the 9/11 hijackers was diagnosed with an anthrax sore and others were shopping for crop dusters for possible use in a biological attack. What’s more, there is a possibility that the FBI interviewed and released the killers or their accomplices in the roundup of Muslim militants after 9/11. Many of these “detainees” had come from New Jersey. Two of them had passports, cash, hair dye, box-cutting knives, and magazines with articles about chemical and biological weapons.
Similarly, the Bureau interviewed and released an Iraqi in New Jersey who was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack. The New York Times reports that Abdul Rahman Yasin, who fled to Baghdad and now has a $25 million price tag on his head, is suspected of having ties to al Qaeda.
The FBI may have ignored a foreign connection for other reasons. The White House, which is now unfairly accused of hyping an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, did not want to focus on Iraq at the time because of the Afghanistan war. Second, a key staff member in the office of liberal Senator Patrick Leahy, the target of one of the anthrax letters, believed the culprit was a “right-wing zealot deliberately targeting liberals,” according to Marilyn Thompson’s book, The Killer Strain. Third, left-wing groups conducted a campaign to blame the U.S. military or the CIA. Their advocate, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, met with the FBI and Leahy’s staff.
So while the Democrats yell about missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they bear some of the blame for the missing anthrax killers.
A similar fiasco happened before when Richard Jewell was falsely suspected by the FBI of being the Olympic Park bomber. The FBI suspected for years that CIA officer Brian Kelley was the Russian mole in the U.S. Government who turned out to be FBI Supervisory Special Agent Robert Hanssen.
Speaking at an Accuracy in Media conference, Hatfill said, “I didn’t know it could be like this in the United States. We’ve gone nuts. We eat our own here.” The FBI’s misconduct is exceeded by the reporters who ignore or excuse it.