Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Ivins Case Revisited

***Update Appended 8/10 @ 1134 CDT***

Tuesday, I made the case that the failure on the part of the FBI to present a viable case against Bruce Ivins and likewise of American journalists to be sufficiently skeptical of that proposition was independent of the eventual resolution to the scenario. Indeed, there will likely be no resolution, as there is no longer anyone to prosecute and closing the case precludes further investigation proving someone other than Ivins is responsible (if he, in fact, is not).

Under enormous pressure, the FBI has since outlined its case, which shapes to be exactly as I suspected it was from the start, a collection of circumstantial evidence lacking anything remotely definitive which will avoid serious scrutiny for lack of a living suspect. The government released a substantial stack of documents which prove to be nothing more than a series of warrant applications and findings. In other words, as Ivins lawyer states, "it was an explanation of why Bruce Ivins was a suspect," but offers nothing in the way of conclusions.

The FBI, of course, assures the skeptical among us that they "could prove his guilt to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt," a task surely far easier when the jury is purely hypothetical. Again, of Ivins' guilt are innocence I am not sure, but what remains clear is that he provided the FBI with the perfect fall guy, a suspect who acted strangely enough to present himself as a plausible suspect with the added bonus of never forcing the government to test its hand in court. Once the media predictably forget about the case in a week's time, seven years of bumbling ineptitude will be safely down the memory hole.

And that, really, is all the government is after. For all the time given to assuring us that the government is in good hands and providing safety against foreign terror, the only tangible proof in that direction is their inability to protect the country from domestic attack, much less foreign, failure to ascertain the responsible party for those attacks, and a wildly-expanding bureaucracy no more capable of preventing testers passing weapons by TSA screeners. By posthumously prosecuting Ivins in the court of public opinion, the government can point to success in the national security arena without the threat as in previous instances of facts painting a different picture down the road.

The Ivins case, though predicated on the flimsiest of evidence, provides a salve for an ailing government which, though given seven years, is no closer to closing the gaps which stood wide open in 2001. Here, the FBI is aided immensely by the lack of an accused able to stand trial and a complicit media more than willing to play their role without question.

Throughout, there has been scant mention of Steven Hatfill, as any mention of the previous suspect in the case may beg the question: "If you were so wrong on Hatfill, are we now to believe that you've nailed it on Ivins?" Pleasing enough to the FBI, no one seems to have been so impolite as to ask such an impropriety.

The script for the two individual accusations could not be more similar: the FBI launching a baseless allegation built upon scant evidence and a media more than willing to spit it out to a credulous public without digestion or investigation. Yet no one seems the least bit apprehensive about performing an encore, even if the last act closed with the government forced to pay Hatfill $5 million for destroying his reputation and career. Fortunately for Hatfill, he still has his life.

The Ivins suicide is, in some respects, a self-fulfilling prophecy. The FBI exerts ever-growing pressure on the scientist, accuses him of murdering American citizens in cold blood, Ivins becomes paranoid as a result, folds under pressure, and presto he opens the door for the government to point and say, "See. Would an innocent man do that?" We see the same tact in foreign policy, where we perform unprovoked attacks on countries meant to provoke a response, and if it comes we say, "See they're a danger to their neighbors."

I claim no omniscient knowledge of Ivins' guilt or innocence, but I can lay claim to historical literacy, something that is sorely lacking on the American scene. Americans have long lacked even basic competency in linking events together through time, viewing each occurrence as a separate instance completely disconnected to everything that happened before. Clearly this is a deficiency, as holding such a talent might allow gullible observers to see the public prosecutions of Hatfill and Ivins as two sides of the same coin. If the memory of the American public was longer than 48 hours, questions beneficial to the search for the truth might be broached, and lives might be saved in future acts of the tired play. But I'm not holding my breath.

***Appended 8/10 @ 1134 CDT***

Apparently, the FBI agrees with me:

FBI official John Miller said that "what we have seen over the past few days has been a mix of improper disclosures of partial information mixed with inaccurate information and then drawn into unfounded conclusions. None of that serves the victims, their families or the public."

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