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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    Doubts about anthrax story

    Ivins died last Tuesday after federal investigators had spent a year watching his house near Fort Detrick in Frederick, following him, and interviewing him and his colleagues at the U.S Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Ivins' lawyer has said the scientist was innocent.

    "I think he's a convenient fall guy. They can say, 'OK, we found him, case closed, we're going home,'" said Dr. Kenneth W. Hedlund, the former chief of bacteriology at Fort Detrick who hired Ivins. "The FBI apparently applied a lot of pressure to all the investigators there [at Detrick], and they found the weakest link."

    The FBI has not yet said how it was able to connect Ivins to the attacks.

    But the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, relying in part on unnamed sources, reported that investigators employing new technology were able to find a genetic link between the specific anthrax strain recovered from the letters and the bodies of victims and the one found in an office and other "nonlaboratory space" where Ivins worked in 2001.

    The New York Times reported that investigators intensively questioned his children, Andrew and Amanda, now both 24. One former colleague, Dr. W. Russell Byrne, said the agents pressed Ivins' daughter repeatedly to acknowledge that her father was involved in the attacks.

    "It was not an interview," Byrne said. "It was a frank attempt at intimidation."

    Byrne said he believed Ivins was singled out partly because of his personal weaknesses. "If they had real evidence on him, why did they not just arrest him?"

    The Associated Press, quoting unnamed government sources, reported yesterday that Ivins had a lengthy obsession with the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, which has a chapter house near the Princeton, N.J., mailbox from which the anthrax letters were sent. However, the report says the FBI can't place Ivins in Princeton the day the letters were mailed.

    Hedlund said Ivins was a bacteriologist and lacked the expertise to convert the anthrax into the deadly form that was used in the 2001 mailings to government offices and newsrooms.

    Rep. Rush Holt, who represents the central New Jersey district where the anthrax letters were mailed, said circumstantial evidence is not enough, especially after the series of mistakes made in this case. The FBI spent years investigating Steven J. Hatfill, another scientist who worked in the same lab as Ivins. The government recently agreed to pay a $5.82 million settlement to Hatfill.



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