Richard Ochs (On the Anthrax scare and its political implications)
I’m not an expert on anthrax. I’m a freelance writer. I’ve published in the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Chronicle, the Times Magazine, but more than a writer, I’m an activist. I’m on the board of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Superfund Citizen’s Coalition, also the Military Toxics Project and [inaudible] working group. Ever since I’ve been a college student I’ve been trying to keep an eye on Fort Dietrich. I’ve written about it, even back in the ’60’s. And someone, a friend of mine told me that right after Senator Leahy called for hearings on military tribunals he got an anthrax threat. And right away I smelled a rat. And I started looking into it and I found a bunch of other circumstantial evidence that I think justifies a Congressional investigation or a Blue Ribbon Commission investigation to answer a lot of these questions that are raised by some of these circumstances.
I have a ten page paper that outlines some of these things which is on the table, but they’re out. If someone didn’t get one you get a card from me and I’ll send it to you or you can get it off my web site. The timing and targeting of the letters, the anthrax letters, suggests that the motivation of the perpetrators was to promote legislation, mainly the USA Patriot Act. Anthrax letters were mailed to the Democratic Senate leadership on the same day that they blocked an attempt to rush the bill through without debate or amendments. These threats frightened Congress in general and intimidated certain opponents of the Patriot bill in particular. No Republican received an anthrax letter. The closing of the House and Senate office buildings made it difficult for members to read the bill. Many members didn’t even get a chance to read most of the bill. It was like 350 pages. After the letters were received the Democratic leadership gave up their insistence on a two year sunset clause of the Patriot Act.
The day after the constitutionally challenged Patriot Act was signed, the Supreme Court was closed with a false anthrax scare. Anthrax letters to the news media created widespread fear and a lockstep mentality and support of the administration’s policies. The administration suggested that the anthrax attacks were perpetrated by the same people who crashed the planes on 9/11. Well, while agreeing that the anthrax came from US government sources, the FBI investigation has been so inept that members of Congress and anthrax scientists have complained. And this is the other reason I think that we need to have a commission or Congressional hearings. Not just because of the strange coincidences of the Patriot Act, but the behavior of the FBI in investigating what’s actually going on. It’s been four months now since they, or anyone, has said anything. The last thing that’s been written about the anthrax investigation was the beginning of February and nothing’s been said since then, not even from our friends who are watching the FBI. They’re just not saying much.
Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg of the Federation of American Scientists thinks that the culprit is known by the FBI but may be untouchable because he has knowledge damaging to the government. That may be that knowledge is that the United States is doing illegal research in violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. In an article by Laura Rosen in Salon on February 8th of this year revealed that the "Defense Intelligence Agency hired Betell Labs to create a genetically enhanced version of anthrax, even though no vaccine was proven to be effective beforehand." A former Clinton administration official, Alyssa D.. Harris, "was shocked to read in the New York Times about bio-weapons research that she herself had not known about although she had served eight years in the White House as the point person for weapons of mass destruction non-proliferation issues."
The FBI investigation has seemed to have ground to a halt. Some categories of suspects may be precluded due to the FBI’s ideological boundaries and/or conflicts of interest. It is therefore advisable for Congress to conduct open hearings on the greatest criminal germ attack on citizens in US history. Now in terms of questions, I have written about 18 questions myself. I don’t probably have time to read them all but I’ll read a few. Why did the FBI allow the destruction of the Ames anthrax stockpile in Ames, Iowa one week after the same strain killed a tabloid editor in Florida? Why did the FBI wait for two months after the anthrax attacks before interviewing the experts at Ft. Dietrich? Why did the FBI rule the death of anthrax expert, Dr. Don C. Wiley, a suicide instead of a murder? Local homicide detectives thought otherwise. Would the FBI reconsider a homicide investigation? What is the source of the anthrax used in the letters? What is the hold up in the FBI’s investigation? What damaging information, if any, does the suspected anthrax perpetrator have on the government? Why does the CIA or its contractors possess anthrax or other bio-weapons? And in my paper I go into what the CIA is doing on that. What is the extent of the CIA’s research or the US bio-weapons program? Is the US or any of its agents in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and/or the Biological Weapons Antiterrorism Act of 1989? Is the US developing genetically modified biological agents? Does the US or its contractors possess genetically engineered pathogens which have no vaccine or cure? What would happen if such pathogens got into the general environment by accident or design? How easy is it to smuggle a few grams of lethal agent out of the high security labs? What is required to grow dangerous quantities of these agents from a few grams? And is the danger of proliferation worth the presumed benefit of possessing such bio-weapons? Thank you.