Last week, Bruce Ivins, a government scientist who researched anthrax and was expected to be charged in connection with the 2001 attacks, reportedly committed suicide. As Glenn Greenwald has noted, President Bush and his administration initially attempted to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq.
The New York Daily News has a new twist in the administration’s attempt to peg the anthrax attacks to its own bellicose aims. Immediately after 9/11, the Daily News reports, “White House officials repeatedly pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller to prove it was a second-wave assault by Al Qaeda,” according to a former FBI official:
After the Oct. 5, 2001, death from anthrax exposure of Sun photo editor Robert Stevens, Mueller was “beaten up” during President Bush’s morning intelligence briefings for not producing proof the killer spores were the handiwork of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, according to a former aide.
“They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East,” the retired senior FBI official told The News.
As the Daily News noted, similar to its efforts with Iraq, the White House on multiple occasions suggested that the anthrax attacks were tied to al Qaeda operatives abroad:
On October 15, 2001, President Bush said, “There may be some possible link” to Bin Laden, adding, “I wouldn’t put it past him.” Vice President Cheney also said Bin Laden’s henchmen were trained “how to deploy and use these kinds of substances, so you start to piece it all together.”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed “some of this anthrax may…have come from Iraq,” suggesting that the “second phase” of the war on terror may be in Iraq.
The claims, however, were quickly rejected by experts, who “told us this was not something some guy in a cave could come up with,” the former FBI official said. “They couldn’t go from box cutters one week to weapons-grade anthrax the next.”
As press reports have indicated, while the source of the attacks is still unknown, a large body of evidence points towards Ivins’s lab in Ft. Detrick, Maryland. For the Bush administration, however, the evidence doesn’t seem to matter until after the case for war is made.
Jonathan Schwarz notes that Colin Powell used the anthrax-Iraq scare in his U.N. speech in the months leading up to the Iraq war:
Iraq declared 8,500 liters of anthrax, but UNSCOM estimates that Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters. If concentrated into this dry form, this amount would be enough to fill tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of teaspoons. And Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoon-full of this deadly material.