Occam's Butterknife Always More Popular
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The unmasking of Bruce E. Ivins as a mad scientist who, with a high degree of likelihood, carried out the 2001 anthrax attacks, most likely singlehandedly, has not proven popular. People want to hear that Bush did it, Saddam Hussein did it, the cigarette-smoking man did it, whatever. Personally, I think the idea that a mad scientist at the government's bioweapons lab did it is pretty interesting, but apparently that's not good enough. Everybody wants a conspiracy that goes all the way to the Top! (Which Top is a matter of dispute, but that's not the point; the point is that a mere mad scientist just isn't good enough.)

One thing to keep in mind is that everybody failed in the case of Ivins. The FBI overlooked him for years; his bosses let him continue to work on deadly toxins despite homicidal ideation about "mixing poisons" to murder some poor soccer-playing girl in 2000; the war-bloggers never gave him a moment's thought; the Bushitler crowd never did either; the conspiracy theorist hobbyists did a terrible job too.

The guy who did the best job, amateur analyst Edward G. Lake, still didn't come close to Ivins. In fact, he admitted last week,

"Bruce Ivins is a name I don't recall ever hearing before (but I'm told his name appears in several articles on this site)."

That's fascinating, because Lake was generally considered the best informed amateur analyst in the country.

Last week, Lake was highly skeptical that Ivins did it at first, but said after yesterday's FBI news conference:

"The FBI certainly has a better case against Ivins than I've seen against anyone else."

Here's Lake's list of his conclusions from several years ago, with his brand new updatings as of 86/08:

1. Dr. Steven Jay Hatfill is innocent of any connection to the anthrax attacks, and his life was ruined by a band of politically-motivated conspiracy theorists who conned the media, the public and government officials into forcing the FBI to publicly investigate him. Links: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7

2. The culprit almost certainly used a child to write the anthrax letters and to address the anthrax envelopes. Links: 1 - 2

3. In the tense and panicky first few days of the investigation, mistakes were made at USAMRIID and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) which were unfortunately leaked to the media. The result was that the silly mistakes and false assumptions were turned into false headlines which misled the world and continue to mislead the world about the nature of the attack anthrax to this day. Links: 1 - 2 - 3

4. Despite all the erroneous media headlines and made up theories, the attack anthrax did not contain any visible additives as so many scientists and media people believe. That basic misconception has caused much of the scientific community and the media to look in the wrong direction for the culprit. Links: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17

5. The cause of Kathy Nguyen's anthrax exposure was never properly investigated because the investigators were caught up in the thinking of the moment and didn't look at the "whole picture". Link: 1

6. The common belief that Bob Stevens was exposed to anthrax as a result of examining the so-called "J-Lo letter" is total nonsense and just more of the thinking of the moment. It doesn't stand up against facts. Link: 1 - 2

7. The anthrax powder in the attack letters was a "garden variety" powder and was most likely made in either a commercial lab, a university lab or a hospital lab in Central New Jersey that is still in use. Link: 1Partially wrong.

8. The anthrax mailer most likely lives and works in Central New Jersey and has not been arrested because the FBI has not yet obtained sufficient evidence to make an arrest. It is hoped (and possibly expected) that the new science of microbial forensics will produce the evidence that is lacking for a conviction. Link: 1 - 2 Partially wrong.

9. The motivation for the attacks was almost certainly to awaken America to the danger of a bioweapons attack by Muslim terrorists - particularly any Muslim terrorists that might be living or staying in Central New Jersey. Link: 1Partially wrong.

10. The anthrax mailer probably had no direct connection to any source of the Ames strain of anthrax and probably never worked for any government lab. Link: 1Totally wrong.

11. The person who removed the Ames anthrax from the lab where it was being used for medical research is almost certainly not the same person who refined and mailed the anthrax. Link: 1 Totally wrong.

12. Al Qaeda was not involved with the anthrax attacks in any way. Link: 1

So, Lake wasn't close at all to identifying Ivins, but he got much of the big picture right — it wasn't Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Stephen Hatfill, Dick Cheney or that other Fr. Detrick scientist whom I looked into but resolved not to publish his name. But congratulations to Lake for publicly grading himself like this.
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