Friday, August 08, 2008

Is there anything you wouldn't believe?

I'm sorry, but I can't help mulling over the preposterousness of the FBI's case against Bruce Ivins. The anthrax attack was made with state-of-the-art - let me correct myself, beyond-state-of-the-art - weaponized anthrax. The Russians couldn't have made it, the Chinese couldn't have made it, hell, even the Iraqis (ha!) couldn't have made it. Only one tiny group of people in the world could have made it, a handful of scientists at . . . Fort Detrick. I hate to even bring it up, but developing this expertise is completely illegal under treaties signed and ratified by the American government. The main point is that the manufacturing process needed to make this stuff was beyond the ability of anyone other than a tiny number of American scientists, and Bruce Ivins wasn't one of them.

The case against Ivins is based entirely on (questionable) DNA analysis which is said to prove that he had custody of a flask of the base anthrax material from which the weaponized powder was made. How do we get from anthrax spores to weaponized powder? According to the FBI, Ivins made it all by himself in his spare time at night.

Ivins was an immunologist. He worked on vaccines. He had neither the expertise - remember, it is beyond-state-of-the-art - nor the equipment to turn the spores into weaponized anthrax. It is as if he was trained as an accountant and the FBI told us his night-time hobby was brain surgery. Or better, manufacturing gasoline out of crude oil in the oil refinery he built in his lab, without anybody noticing. Or better, manufacturing gasoline out of crude oil in the oil refinery he built in his lab, using beyond-state-of-the-art refining techniques developed over years of experimentation, without anybody noticing.

And yet, we're told he must have done it, as he had custody of the flask. Others, some of whom were part of a team that actually had made beyond-state-of-the-art weaponized anthrax based on years of (illegal) experiments using the most sophisticated equipment and techniques, also had access to the contents of the flask, but they have been 'ruled out'. Somehow Ivins, without training in the right field, the proper equipment, years of (illegal) experiments, and a team of scientists, turned the contents of his flask into beyond-state-of-the-art weaponized anthrax in his spare time at night without anybody noticing. On top of this, he did it without getting any of the notoriously hard-to-contain spores on himself or his car or his home. If you believe this, is there anything you wouldn't believe? I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.