Who Planned the Anthrax Attacks?
It’s the $5,800,000 question
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com Behind the Headlines
July 4, 2008
You remember the anthrax
attacks — or do you? It often seems, to me at least, that this important
catalyst for the invasion of Iraq and our supremely wrong-headed
post-9/11 foreign policy has been flushed down the collective memory hole. For
all the attention that’s been paid to that spooky chapter in the history of
the “war on terrorism” in the intervening years, it may as well have
never occurred. That’s why news of the former prime suspect’s ultimate vindication
— and his victory in a $5.8
million lawsuit in which he accused the feds of unfairly targeting him as
of interest” (as John Ashcroft put it) — seems like a visitation from
another time, the ghost of 9/11 past, haunting and mocking us. It sends chills
down my spine — because, you see, the real culprits are still out there.
The FBI’s non-investigation of this heinous and sinister crime was a joke from
the beginning: after all, since when do FBI probes have official names, and
why such a silly one as “Amerithrax“?
Such brazen corniness has about it an unmistakable Keystone Kops air, which
was certainly evident throughout the long-playing media circus that will evermore
be known as the persecution of Steven
Hatfill, you’ll recall, is the long-suffering victim of this horror story,
a bio-weapons expert and “insider” who was targeted as the culprit
not only by the FBI and New York Times columnist Nicholas
Kristof, but also by dustbin Dylanologist A.J. Weberman, who, with characteristic
him of being “the scumbag who killed several people in an attempt to awaken
America to the dangers of biological warfare.” This profile of the killer
or killers as a “rogue insider” was also pushed by Barbara
Hatch Rosenberg, a biowar expert at the State University of New York at
Purchase, who chairs the Chemical and Biological Arms Control Program of the
Federation of American Scientists.
It was Rosenberg who became the mainstream media’s expert-in-residence at the
height of the anthrax scare, and, although she never named Hatfill, it was she
who relentlessly pushed the “insider” thesis to the major news organizations,
which settled on her detective story as the conventional wisdom. A story that
turned out to be spectacularly, disastrously, and tragically wrong. Tragic,
that is, from the perspective of poor
Hatfill, who found himself vilified
and hounded out of his job, deprived of his position in the community, and practically
run out of human society by his relentless pursuers.
The Hatfill-haters’ narrative went something
like this: Senor Hatfill is a right-wing nut-case with dubious connections
to South Africa’s apartheid regime, and quite possibly a “bio-evangelist”
(as Weberman put it) who might conceivably have planned the attacks to “warn”
us of the dangers of biowar — by demonstrating, on a small scale, how terrorists
might envelop a nation in a miasma of fear.
Which is precisely
what the anthrax attacks accomplished. The administration invoked them as part
and parcel of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the War Party pointed to Saddam
Hussein as the probable culprit. Andrew
Sullivan, who had earlier accused the antiwar movement of being part of
a bi-coastal “fifth column,” was so certain the anthrax attacks were
proof of Iraq’s perfidy that he called on the U.S. to drop nuclear
bombs on the Iraqis in retaliation.
The anthrax letters that arrived at major media outlets as well as the Senate
offices of two prominent Democrats certainly added a special fillip of fear
to the war hysteria that ensued in the wake of 9/11: the senders definitely
had an agenda, and there seems little doubt as to what they aimed at: to prepare
the nation for war, for some kind of massive retaliation against the Arab world.
That was the agenda, and it largely succeeded — but whose agenda was
it? Hatfill’s exoneration raises the question: if he didn’t mail the anthrax
letters, then who did?
The answer is not really a mystery, since all the facts are on the public record,
but I’ll reiterate them here in case you aren’t familiar with my past
writings on this fascinating subject.
Just before the anthrax letters became public knowledge but after they’d
been mailed, military police headquarters at Quantico, Virginia, received a
letter that accused an Arab scientist who once worked at the USAMRID facility,
a biowarfare lab at Ft. Detrick, of being a terrorist about to unleash biological
warfare against civilian targets in the U.S.
The author of this anonymous missive claimed to have been one of the scientist’s
former co-workers, and appeared to have a detailed knowledge of Assaad’s career
and daily routine. When the anthrax letters were opened, the FBI paid a visit
to Dr. Ayaad
Assaad, a former Ft. Detrick employee, and questioned him extensively.
The FBI cleared Assaad of any connection to the anthrax letters early on,
but then seemed to have let this significant clue grow quite cold, failing to
follow up on it until the winter of 2004, when they launched
an investigation into the Quantico letter. It seems clear that whoever sent
that letter had at least foreknowledge of the anthrax attacks, and discovering
the writers’ identity could certainly lead us to the source of the attacks.
Yet for years the FBI did nothing: instead, they chased Hatfill around, following
him everywhere, blackening his name — and diverting attention away from the
only hard evidence that has so far surfaced in this baffling case.
What were the results of the Quantico investigation? The Hartford Courant,
which ran a series
of articles on the anthrax case and the attempted framing of Dr. Assaad,
was the only media outlet, to my knowledge, that reported on this development,
which seems mysterious in itself. As for the outcome, that, too, remains a mystery
— as does practically everything connected with this murky affair.
Dr. Assaad, an Egyptian-born biologist who worked at USAMRID in the early 1990s,
was the target of a hateful harassment campaign that became the subject of a
federal lawsuit later settled out of court. The defendants in the suit were
a group of USAMRID employees who targeted Assaad by sending him anti-Arab missives
— including a rubber camel outfitted with a sex toy — and composed poems that
they left on his desk. An account in the Courant depicts the bizarre
atmosphere in which U.S. government scientists worked on toxins powerful enough
to kill off entire populations:
“Assaad said he was working on the Saturday before Easter 1991, just after
the Persian Gulf War had ended, when he discovered an eight-page poem in his
mailbox. The poem, which became a court exhibit, is 47 stanzas — 235 lines in
all, many of them lewd, mocking Assaad. The poem also refers to another creation
of the scientists who wrote it — a rubber camel outfitted with all manner of
sexually explicit appendages.
“The poem reads: ‘In [Assaad’s] honor we created this beast; it represents
life lower than yeast.’ The camel, it notes, each week will be given ‘to who
did the least.’
“The poem also doubles as an ode to each of the participants who adorned
the camel, who number at least six and referred to themselves as ‘the camel
club.’ Two — Dr. Philip M. Zack and Dr. Marian K. Rippy — voluntarily left Fort
Detrick soon after Assaad brought the poem to the attention of supervisors.”
The ideological flavor of the Camel Club’s jibes isn’t too hard to fathom:
they sound just like the participants in the hate-fest over at Little
Green Footballs, or, come to think of it, the editorial board of the Weekly
Standard. The anthrax-laden letters read “Death to America”
and “Death to Israel,” and invoked the name of Allah. Clearly this
wasn’t just an attempt to set up a particular Arab, Dr. Assaad, but to finger
all Arab-Americans, and Muslims, as potential terrorists — weeks after bin
Laden and his boys downed the World Trade Center and took out the Pentagon.
The trail that leads us to the perpetrators of the anthrax letter terrorist
attacks ends at Ft. Detrick, where the “Camel Club” held court. Check
out this Courant story that details the incredible laxity of the
security controls in place at one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive military
facilities — and then imagine how easy it was for the terrorists to have smuggled
out anthrax and other even more lethal toxins.
Doesn’t any of this merit investigation by our “law enforcement’ agencies
— or are they too busy reading ordinary
people’s email and spying on antiwar
organizations to bother going after a gang of dangerous poisoners and murderers?
In settling with Hatfill for mega-bucks, the U.S. government isn’t officially
admitting any wrongdoing, — and we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for anything
like an apology — but clearly something was going on behind the scenes that
looks very much like obstruction of the investigation. Of course it’s easy for
a libertarian like me to scoff at the inefficiencies of government agencies:
that’s comes with the territory — and is, furthermore, a well-known
fact [.pdf]. Yet there seems something a bit more dicey than mere incompetence
at work here.
Source URL: http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=13090