Monday, August 11, 2008

A few days later, the case against Ivins not looking nearly as good

Why am I not surprised? Glenn Greenwald:
The FBI's total failure to point to a shred of evidence placing Ivins in New Jersey on either of the two days the anthrax letters were sent is a very conspicuous deficiency in its case. It's possible that Ivins was able to travel to Princeton on two occasions in three weeks without leaving the slightest trace of having done so (not a credit card purchase, ATM withdrawal, unusual gas purchases, nothing), but that relies on a depiction of Ivins as a cunning and extremely foresightful criminal, an image squarely at odds with most of the FBI's circumstantial evidence that suggests Ivins was actually quite careless, even reckless, in how he perpetrated this crime...

The Washington Post Editorial page -- the ultimate establishment organ -- published its second Editorial yesterday calling for an independent investigation of the FBI's case against Ivins and pointed out just some of the numerous, critical holes in that case:
The case is admittedly circumstantial, and questions have been raised about the reliability of the FBI's scientific evidence, the inability to tie Mr. Ivins to the handwritten notes included with the mailed anthrax, the process by which the FBI excluded as suspects others who had access to the anthrax, and more.

The NYT today has an excellent Op-Ed from a microbiologist (the former Chief of Fort Detrick's bacteriology division) pointing out the numerous deficiencies in the FBI's scientific assertions. Critically, that Op-Ed describes the properties of the high-grade anthrax sent to Sen. Daschle and then notes: "It is extremely improbable that this type of preparation could ever have been produced at Fort Detrick, certainly not of the grade and quality found in that envelope."

I felt a little weird about that first big information dump on Bruce Ivins because of how much it focused on his psychological problems and fetishes. We saw the same sort of thing happen in the Kenneth Starr investigations and in various other trials, where the prosecutor would bombard us with stories about the defendant's peccadilloes and deviant tendencies to mask the thinness of their case.

Ivins appears to have been guilty of having a whole panoply of psychological problems, but evidence that someone is crazy doesn't actually prove that said person committed a given crime. In fact, it's not even particularly helpful in that regard.

I think it's still much too early for anyone to be rendering a verdict on this case one way or the other, but it's not looking good at this point.

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