Saturday, August 2, 2008

Anthrax Suspect: Mad Scientist? Frustrated Businessman? Victim of Conspiracy?

Why not all three?

No, I don't think so. There isn't evidence for that.

That won't stop conspiracy theorists, of course.
  1. The senators who received anthrax-laced letters, Leahy and Daschle, are both Democrats. That proves that the anthrax attacks were politically motivated by
    • Right-wing radical extremist Republicans, trying to kill Daschle and Leahy
    • Left-wing radical extremist Democrats, trying to discredit Republicans by implicating them
      • How else could Daschle and Leahy have survived?!
  2. Nobody would commit suicide just before being arrested. That proves that Dr. Bruce E. Ivins was killed before he could talk. The FBI and CIA are in collusion with the real powers in the world to
    • Kill Democrats
    • Smear Republicans
  3. Steven Hatfill is part of the conspiracy.
    • Identifying him as the top suspect was a ruse to distract Americans from the real culprits
      • Nobody would really finger someone in a high-profile case with such flimsy evidence
      • Steven Hatfill was paid for his services: a cool $5,800,000!, cleverly disguised as a settlement for a Privacy Act lawsuit
No, I don't believe that. Any of those outlandish notions. Although they do make pretty good stories.

A few days after Dr. Ivins' death, more details are coming out.
  • Bruce E. Ivins had a financial interest in bioweapons programs. He's listed as co-inventor of
    • two patents for a genetically engineered anthrax vaccine
    • an application to patent an additive for various biodefense vaccines
  • As co-inventor of a new anthrax vaccine, Ivins would get patent royalties if the product went on the market
    • But the product stayed on the lab self until
      • The Sept. 11 attacks and the anthrax mailings
      • A sudden federal interest in vaccines and antidotes against biological terrorism
    • VaxGen, a San Francisco-area biotechnology company, got a contract worth $877,500,000 to produce vaccine.
      • Ivins might have gotten enough money to buy a new car
      • The company failed to deliver the vaccine on schedule, so nobody got paid
An executive who knew about the deal said, "Some proportion would have been shared with the inventors," ... "Ivins would have stood to make tens of thousands of dollars, but not millions." ("Anthrax scientist Bruce Ivins stood to benefit from a panic" (Los Angeles Times (August 2, 2008))

My guess is that eventually someone's going to claim that President Bush is behind Ivins' death. There actually is a connection. As the L.A. Times writes, "...A San Francisco-area biotechnology company, VaxGen, won a federal contract worth $877.5 million to provide batches of the new vaccine. The contract was the first awarded under legislation promoted by President Bush, called Project BioShield...."

Me? I think that the case against Dr. Ivins is better than what was whipped together for Steven Hatfill. Wouldn't take much.

I also think that the death of Bruce E. Ivins complicates the anthrax investigation. And, regrettably, provides a martyr for people who want to see something conspiratorial. From the sounds of it, Dr. Ivins gave himself "a massive dose of a prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine." ("Report: Anthrax suspect kills self before filing of criminal charges" (August 1, 2008)) It's going to be a great deal harder now, maybe impossible, to determine whether he actually mailed the anthrax letters, whether he had an accomplice, and why he started the second terror panic of 2001.

Finally, I think that an unnamed official who had been questioned by the FBI may have at least some of the answers: "I don't think he ever intended to kill anybody. He just wanted to prove 'Look, this is possible.' He probably had no clue that it would aerosolize through those envelopes and kill those postal workers." ("Anthrax scientist Bruce Ivins stood to benefit from a panic" Los Angeles Times (August 2, 2008))

More, about the "Amerithrax" case, in this blog: People around the world have quite a number of opinions and reactions to the 2001 anthrax letters. A pretty good sample is in "The American Anthrax Investigation: Another Milestone" (BlogCatalog discussion thread, started August 1, 2008)).

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.