Sunday, August 10, 2008

The BioPort Connection

The latest government plant in the Ivins case is that the scientist was motivated by opposition to mandatory anthrax inoculation of the military, knowing that an attack would eliminate skepticism and most likely lead to a large government purchase of the controversial anthrax vaccine. While the premise overall is believable, surely there were people who stood to benefit much more than Ivins if that was indeed the impetus for the attacks.

Enter BioPort, the sole government supplier of the anthrax vaccine, and the direct beneficiary of the anthrax attacks. BioPort was in serious trouble, having been cited several times for health violations and contamination, which combined with the campaign against forced vaccinations was threatening to bankrupt the company. Despite its obvious problems, BioPort remained the sole government supplier, raising questions as to just who its friends were in the government.

A 2000 report by Defense Department Assistant Inspector General for Auditing, Robert Lieberman, details some peculiarities.

On August 13, 1999, the Office of the Inspector General, DoD, received a request from Congressman Walter B. Jones for a review of the financial and contractual relationship between the Department of Defense and BioPort Corporation, the sole U.S. domestic source of Anthrax Vaccine Adsorbed (AVA). In his request letter, Congressman Jones noted that the General Accounting Office and Defense Contract Audit Agency had reported that BioPort was experiencing financial problems and having difficulty performing against Army contracts for AVA production. Congressman Jones expressed concern that "despite these serious questions regarding the overall viability of BioPort, the Federal government has chosen to more than double the value of the existing contract."

The report also notes that the facility's license was revoked in 1996, shut down from 1997 to 1998, and strapped for cash. BioPort asked the Army to supply it with a cash infusion to cover their lack of funds, and the request was duly granted. BioPort remained the sole contract holder with the government despite these problems and the fact that the FDA had not yet approved its only product, the anthrax vaccine.

Bioport was formed in 1998 by Ibrahim and Fuad el-Hibri, Lebanese businessmen, with the sole purpose of buying Michigan's state-run laboratory which only output was the anthrax vaccine. Fuad el-Hibri, not surprisingly, has contacts with Booz-Allen Hamilton and serves as CEO of the Carlyle Group, founded in part by George H. W. Bush, where he has immense dealings with the Saudi royal family and the bin Laden family. The Carlyle Group's interdependence on the Sauds and the the revolving door with right-wing politicians in several countries is legendary.

Also on the board of Carlyle was Admiral William Crowe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Reagan. Crowe invested heavily in Bioport prior to the 2001 attacks, despite the signals to outside observers that the company was in dire straits due to the issues already mentioned, which raises serious questions about what assurances el-Hibri was able to give to Crowe to compel him to invest in a failing company. After the anthrax mailings, the government predictably ordered significant amounts of the vaccine from its only distributor, Bioport, practically begging to pay three times the going rate.

Bioport continued its PR campaign into 2002, utilizing the administration's favorite surrogate journalist, Judith Miller.

The nation's sole producer of anthrax vaccine says it is in financial jeopardy because the Bush administration has failed to say how much vaccine it intends to buy, preventing it from selling vaccine to foreign and private customers at much higher prices.

Robert Kramer, president of the producer, the BioPort Corporation, said that although foreign and private parties -- which outsiders characterized as foreign governments and even large multinational corporations -- were pleading to buy vaccine for more than $100 a dose, the company could not sell to them until it had fulfilled its contract with the military to supply what one administration official estimated was about 3.4 million doses.

Despite the government providing a lifeline for a flailing and failing company based on no visible signs of viability, BioPort was still planting stories into 2002 hoping to further push the government along to buy even more vaccines, preferably at the boosted price (triple the cost). Miller even finds a way to work in her favorite hobby horse:

The impasse comes at a time when the Bush administration is vowing to oust Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who is believed to be storing thousands of gallons of anthrax that could be used as weapons in war or terrorism.

Again, the article designed purely as a PR campaign for BioPort, hoping to push larger contracts and ridiculous prices for its only product.

Beyond the speculation as to motive I mentioned at the outset of this piece, the FBI has offered no indication of just what Ivins stood to gain financially or otherwise by prompting the purchase of BioPort's product. BioPort's relationship to the anthrax attacks raises serious questions and presents serious irregularities, all of which would lead one to believe that its officials stood to gain much, much more than Ivins ever did by domestic anthrax attacks.

As with every theory advance by the FBI thus far, the latest suggestion about Ivins raises more questions than it answers.

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1 comment:

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