Tom Engelhardt Asks Six Good Questions About the Anthrax Case...
By Brad Jacobson on 8/19/2008, 10:52am PT  

Guest blogged by Brad Jacobson of MediaBloodhound

Do not miss Tom Engelhardt's article, "Double Standard in the Global War on Terror: Anthrax Department," in which he poses and explores six questions regarding the anthrax case. These questions, however, are not ones we're conditioned to ponder.

Prefacing his queries, Engelhardt writes:

Now, as the coverage fades and the story once again threatens to head for obscurity (despite doubts about Ivins's role in the attacks), I thought it might be worth mentioning a few questions that came to my mind as I read through recent coverage --- not on Ivins's guilt or innocence, but on matters that are so much a part of our American landscape that normally no one even thinks to ask about them.

His overall thesis is encapsulated in the first question:

Why wasn't the Bush administration's War on Terror modus operandi applied to the anthrax case?

Engelhardt first cites the hardships that suspects endured during the course of the investigation:

On August 10th, William J. Broad and Scott Shane reported on some of the human costs of the FBI anthrax investigation in a front-page New York Times piece headlined, "For Suspects, Anthrax Case Had Big Costs, Scores of the Innocent in a Wide F.B.I. Net." They did a fine job of establishing that those who serially came under suspicion had a tough time of it: "lost jobs, canceled visas, broken marriages, frayed friendships." According to the Times (and others), under the pressure of FBI surveillance, several had their careers wrecked; most were interviewed and re-interviewed numerous times in a "heavy-handed" manner, as well as polygraphed; some were tailed and trailed, their homes searched, and their workplaces ransacked.

Under the pressure of FBI "interest," anthrax specialist and "biodefense insider" Perry Mikesell evidently turned into an alcoholic and drank himself to death. Steven Hatfill, while his life was being turned inside out, had an agent trailing him in a car run over his foot, for which, Broad and Shane add, he, not the agent, was issued a ticket. And finally, of course, Dr. Ivins, growing ever more distressed and evidently ever less balanced, committed suicide on the day his lawyer was meeting with the FBI about a possible plea bargain that could have left him in jail for life, but would have taken the death penalty off the table.

But he then offers a chilling reminder of how Bush's War on Terror affected those accused of far less than masterminding the deadliest bio-terror attack on U.S. soil in our nation's history...

Still, tough as life was for Mikesell, Hatfill, Ivins, and scores of others, here's an observation that you'll see nowhere else in a media that's had a two-week romp through the case: In search of a confession, none of the suspects of these last years, including Ivins, ever had a lighted cigarette inserted in his ear; none of them were hit, spit on, kicked, and paraded naked; none were beaten to death while imprisoned but uncharged with a crime; none were doused with cold water and left naked in a cell on a freezing night; none were given electric shocks, hooded, shackled in painful "stress positions," or sodomized; none were subjected to loud music, flashing lights, and denied sleep for days on end; none were smothered to death, or made to crawl naked across a jail floor in a dog collar, or menaced by guard dogs. None were ever waterboarded.

Whatever the pressure on Ivins or Hatfill, neither was kidnapped off a street near his house, stripped of his clothes, diapered, blindfolded, shackled, drugged, and "rendered" to the prisons of another country, possibly to be subjected to electric shocks or cut by scalpel by the torturers of a foreign regime. Even though each of the suspects in the anthrax murders was, at some point, believed to have been a terrorist who had committed a heinous crime with a weapon of mass destruction, none were ever declared "enemy combatants." None were ever imprisoned without charges, or much hope of trial or release, in off-shore, secret, CIA-run "black sites."

Why not?

His remaining questions include: 2) "Why wasn't the U.S. military sent in?"; 3) "Once the anthrax threat was identified as coming from U.S. military labs, why did the administration, the FBI, and the media assume that only a single individual was responsible?"; 4) "What of those military labs? Why does their history continue to play little or no part in the story of the anthrax attacks?"; 5) "Were the anthrax attacks the less important ones of 2001?"; and 6) "Who is winning the Global War on Terror?"

Engelhardt not only further exposes the predominantly vapid, deficient and misleading coverage of the Ivins case, but, like most of the writing on TomDispatch, also pushes American citizens to think more deeply about the very real forces at work "in the shadows."

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Brad Jacobson, a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, media critic, independent journalist and satirist, is the founding editor and writer of MediaBloodhound.