In September of 2001, Bruce Ivins was just an unappreciated bio terror researcher in a lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland. He lived just off the base and many days walked to work. Though we now know he was probably suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, he had access to the most dangerous toxins in the U.S. Army’s unrivaled storehouse. Ebola, Anthrax, smallpox, you name it, Bruce could get his hands on it. And then Bruce probably realized he didn’t have to be the mousy nerd any more. And he carefully sent out some anthrax letters.
F.B.I. investigators have long speculated that the motive for the attacks, if carried out by a biodefense insider like Dr. Ivins, might have been to draw public attention to a dire threat, attracting money and prestige to a once-obscure field.
If that was the motive, it succeeded. In the years since anthrax-laced letters were sent to members of Congress and news organizations in late 2001, killing five people, almost $50 billion in federal money has been spent to build new laboratories, develop vaccines and stockpile drugs.
After the attacks, for example, an experimental vaccine Dr. Ivins had spent years working on moved from the laboratory to a proposed $877 million federal contract, though the deal collapsed two years later. Federal documents suggest that Dr. Ivins, along with several colleagues, might have earned royalties had the contract gone forward, but the deal ultimately collapsed.
According to some very reliable sources, Ivins was the main insider pushing the Steven Hatfill investigation , which ended with the government apologizing and paying Hatfill millions of dollars.
Two take-aways for me.
- How the fuck did this nut case get access to these labs? And what did we do in reaction? We added 10 times as many University and corporate labs that have access to this deadly stuff. This is insane.
- The lures to get in on the Homeland Security Gravy Train, a major topic of The Cost Of Empire, might move a truly mentally ill patient like Ivins, to kill people to get his patent taken seriously. It’s like a Batman villian. But for every truly crazy guy who made big money in the Military Industrial Complex(MIC) in the last 30 years, there are 100 Jack Abramoffs–just short of being institutionalized–we’d call them ambitious, who’ve made far more than Bruce Ivens.
Some were ambitious for money and some like Dick Cheney, who had already scored in the MIC Game, did it for power. The power to remake the American Constitution–to create a Defacto set of laws that concentrates power to the executive, backed by a conservative Supreme Court. Those laws allow the president to torture in contravention of the Geneva Convention of which we are a major signatory as Jane Mayer so brilliantly shows us in her new book The Dark Side. Those laws allow the President to declare de facto war on terrorism that only ends when he says so. In South American dictatorships these are called a “State of Emergency”. This is America, God Dammit. We’re not supposed to act like General Pinochet. We were going to be “The Light on a Hill”, not as someone said, “The man on a box with wires coming out of his fingers”;
These de-facto laws allowed The President and Vice President to leak names of American undercover agents and classified documents to their propaganda wing in the establishment media. These laws allow the President and Vice President to read every one of your emails and listen ot all your calls through their IP vacuum pumps at the major switches. Anyone with any technical know how, knows that the decision as to whether your phone call is “of interest” is made after the IP splitter has sent you out of AT&T’s custody and into the government network.
While this frontal assault on the constitution was being carried out, Cheney, Halliburton, Blackwater and the rest of their MIC cronies helped themselves to the public treasury. And don’t you believe for a minute John McCain would change any of these “de-facto laws” or reduce the power of the Military Industrial Complex.
By contrast, my guess is that Obama would look again at each of these decisions and make major changes.
We can do much better. We can restore the Constitution.