Skip to comments.Unlearned lessons from the Steven Hatfill case
Posted on 04/21/2010 9:45:30 AM PDT by Justice Department
Andrew Sullivan rightly recommends this new Atlantic article by David Freed, which details how the FBI and a mindless, stenographic American media combined to destroy the life of Steven Hatfill. Hatfill is the former U.S. Government scientist who for years was publicly depicted as the anthrax attacker and subjected to Government investigations so invasive and relentless that they forced him into almost total seclusion, paralysis and mental instability, only to have the Government years later (in 2008) acknowledge that he had nothing to do with those attacks and to pay him $5.8 million to settle the lawsuit he brought. There are two crucial lessons that ought to be learned from this horrible -- though far-from-rare -- travesty:
(1) It requires an extreme level of irrationality to read what happened to Hatfill and simultaneously to have faith that the "real anthrax attacker" has now been identified as a result of the FBI's wholly untested and uninvestigated case against Bruce Ivins. The parallels are so overwhelming as to be self-evident.
Just as was true for the case against Hatfill, the FBI's case against Ivins is riddled with scientific and evidentiary holes. Much of the public case against Ivins, as was true for Hatfill, was made by subservient establishment reporters mindlessly passing on dubious claims leaked by their anonymous government sources. So unconvincing is the case against Ivins that even the most establishment, government-trusting voices -- including key members of Congress, leading scientific journals and biological weapons experts, and the editorial pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall St. Journal -- have all expressed serious doubts over the FBI's case and have called for further, independent investigations.
Yet just as was true for years with the Hatfill accusations, no independent investigations are taking place. That's true for three reasons. First, the FBI drove Ivins to suicide, thus creating an unwarranted public assumption of guilt and ensuring the FBI's case would never be subjected to the critical scrutiny of a trial -- exactly what would have happened with Hatfill had he, like Ivins, succumbed to that temptation, as Freed describes:
I’m still not sold that Hatfill is innocenct. Yes, he won the case of INVASION OF PRIVACY, and this was based on the absence of an indictment or arrest, which came because of insufficient evidence. I know I’m alone in this, but there were a number of things at the time that indicated he had some involvement, and I still wonder if he wasn’t either a dupe or was being blackmailed in some way to give AQ some help.
Can someone here tell me WHAT the FBI has EVER done RIGHT?
Exactly, which is why Hatfill “got off.” Doesn’t change that I think he is involved, only that they didn’t PROVE it and let the evidence out way too early.
One thing for certain, the FBI did not do right by Bruce Ivins.
Circumstantial, yes. But it is a LOT of circumstantial evidence.
The Ivins theory of the case is the one theory so far proposed that best fits the known facts.
Of course, that is where the argument becomes epistemological. Whence comes our ‘knowledge’ of these facts? Previously, our understanding of the ‘facts’ in this case came from respected ‘authorities’ such as Barbara Hatch Rosenberg (Federation of American Scientists), Don Foster, PhD (identifier of “Anonymous” Joe Klein) and Pulitzer Prize-winning NYT journalist Nicholas Kristof. How much more credible and authoritative can one be? And yet, QED, they were mostly full of crap.
Now our “facts” are being fed to us by... the Feds. They haven’t covered themselves in glory either. Who, and what, to believe?
It is not unlike Schrodinger’s Cat. Ivins did, or Ivins didn’t. Ivins did AND didn’t. We can’t know until we look in Schrodinger’s box. Unfortunately, the Feds are the keepers of the box, and we aren’t going to get a direct view inside.
Are there possible alternative explanations? Sure. However, the Ivins theory is the one that makes the most sense when laid alongside the meager few independently verifiable facts. That is good enough for Ed, and coincidentally, me. That is, at least until we can get a look inside the box. But for now, I won’t lose sleep.
I like it.
People conveniently forget that for years I thought that a scientist living and working in New Jersey was most likely the anthrax mailer. But, I also knew that my evidence was VERY circumstantial and the FBI could have a lot more evidence against someone else I never heard of.
That turned out to be the case. When I looked at all the evidence against Bruce Ivins it was UNDENIABLE that he was the anthrax mailer. I changed my mind and went with the evidence. So, I am NOT "set in my ways."
Unfortunately, the FBI and DOJ hasn't done a very good job of explaining the case against Ivins. I've taken some of the facts and explained their significance in great detail (and hopefully with greater clarity) at these links:
I'm working on a couple others, too, including a timeline for Ivins which shows all the times he was interviewed by the FBI, when he started telling the FBI he wouldn't talk with them any further without his lawyer, when the FBI started tailing him, etc. The nonsense that Ivins only became a suspect after he committed suicide is shown to be total nonsense by looking at the facts.
I love you like a brother Ed but you’re barking up the WRONG TREE.
Wake up and smell the anthrax
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