Finally, after three months of screwing around, the FBI may be moving on the anthrax case—or maybe not. A report this week in The Washington Timessays investigators are homing in on a single suspect, a former U.S. scientist who learned to make a weapons-grade strain of the bacteria in a government lab. On Feb. 25, an FBI spokesman told the Village Voice there is no prime culprit and insisted the bureau is still interviewing hundreds of people.
That's just the kind of stalling and wavering Barbara Hatch Rosenberg has been railing about. The outspoken director of the Federation of American Scientists' (FAS) working group on biological weapons says the FBI has likely known the identity of the anthrax perp since October.
"Clearly they don't want to name anyone until they have sufficient evidence to make a conviction," she said. "On the other hand, considering the small number of people they have to interview and that they've had five months to do it in—this is purely conjecture—they may be reluctant to pursue this guy because he may know too much."
Together with www.redflagsweekly. com, the FAS website, www.fas.org/bwc/news/anthraxreport.htm, has made a serious public effort to keep track of the case and push the cops to move. Rosenberg has taken her argument offline as well, telling an audience at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School that the government is concerned an arrest would compromise still-secret projects.
Rosenberg grasped the possible scandal behind the attacks, a tale that includes incompetence at government labs, lousy security and back-stabbing among employees. She claimed in her Princeton lecture that the FBI found the suspect in October and questioned him on more than one occasion.
In its article about the purported perp, The Washington Timesmore or less repeated her report. She has painted this profile of the perpetrator: he's a middle-aged American who is skilled in handling hazardous pathogens, including anthrax. The individual "works for a CIA contractor in the Washington, D.C., area," she wrote. He has an up-to-date vaccination against anthrax and a grudge against some government agency. At Princeton, she dismissed the possibility the individual might have worked for one of the pharmaceutical enterprises in New Jersey because "access to classified information was essential." There's no sense looking for him there, she argued, but the FBI wasted resources that way just the same.
Rosenberg has said her insight is based on published sources and government insiders she refuses to name. "We know that the FBI is looking at this person, and it's likely that he participated in the past in secret activities that the government would not like to see disclosed," Rosenberg said, according to the Trenton Times. "I know that there are insiders working for the government who know this person and who are worried that it could happen that some kind of quiet deal is made that he just disappears from view."
Last week, lawyers for two Brits and one Australian held at Camp X-Ray in Guantnamo Bay, Cuba, filed a writ of habeas corpus in Washington, D.C., demanding the men be charged in U.S. courts. The petition, made in a federal court, challenges the constitutionality of President George W. Bush's executive order allowing the detentions of those captured during the Afghan war. It also accuses the president, the secretary of defense and commanding officers at the base of denying the men their right to a lawyer.
Attorneys are arguing that these prisoners—Brits Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul and Australian David Hicks—should be treated in the same manner as John Walker Lindh, who has been charged under federal laws and ordered to stand trial in federal district court in northern Virginia sometime this summer. They say there is no evidence any of them set out to wage war against the U.S.
"We all know that John Walker Lindh is going to receive a full trial, a fair trial in the United States, and we're merely asking that citizens of the United States' closest ally, Great Britain, receive the same treatment," Stafford Smith, an attorney representing the Brits, told reporters last week.
There are about 300 detainees in the camp from some 25 nations, including France. The U.S. government has taken a nuanced position toward the inmates. Those it suspects of being Taliban—and only Taliban—are being treated in compliance with the Geneva convention on prisoners of war. Nonetheless, they will not be formally designated as prisoners of war. Those suspected of being part of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida forces will not get protections under the Geneva convention; some may face military tribunals. The detainees so far have been denied access to lawyers, but the Red Cross has been permitted to visit them.
"The U.S. position is that no one can seek habeas corpus if they are incarcerated on Guantnamo Bay," said Joseph Margulies, the attorney representing the Australian Hicks. "It doesn't matter if the person is a U.S. citizen or not. If they are on Guantnamo Bay, the court has no jurisdiction to make any ruling."
But as Bush presses his endless war against terrorism, his policies could end up endangering both his fragile alliance and Yankee troops. "American soldiers will find themselves in harm's way, and if that happens, we will want them treated pursuant to the rule of law," Margulies said. "We would rely on the support of our allies to say, 'We demand that these prisoners are treated under the rule of law.' But the United States is taking an independent position and not treating these prisoners according to the rule of law—and indeed in violation of the Fifth Amendment of our constitution."
Pay Before You Pump
The donor asked for it, and the donor got it. Forrest Hoglund, CEO of Arctic Resources and big-time Republican contributor, admits he used an invite to Vice President Cheney's secret energy confabs last year partly to seek support for an Alaskan gas pipeline. In its final report, the task force recommended building just such a pipeline, routed near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to carry gas from the North Slope to the Lower 48. "This was an apolitical issue," Hoglund told the Center for Public Integrity, which broke the story.
According to the Washington watchdog, Hoglund has given GOP causes more than $200,000 since 1997. He reportedly made $34,572 in soft-money contributions to the Republican National Committee last year alone, with one $25,000 check around the time the task force considered his proposal. "I've been a supporter for some time," Hoglund said. "There is no new pattern to this. This is standard business practice."
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Hoglund's outfit had asked Enron to become a partner in the deal. The pipeline could have connected with Enron's Northern Natural Gas Pipeline, the largest system in the U.S. The executive said he had already severed ties to the energy-trading firm—itself a major campaign contributor—when he met with Cheney. Now the Center for Public Integrity says documents show that on the same day Enron announced a $1.2 billion reduction in shareholder equity, the Republican National Committee recorded a $60,000 contribution from the soon-to-be-bankrupt company.
Robert Bennett, Enron's Washington attorney, did not respond to calls from the center. "Donations come in throughout the year," said Kevin Sheridan of the Republican National Committee. "It would be a stretch to make any kind of link between these meeting dates spread throughout the year and contributions."
Last weekend, Bush used his Saturday radio address to put the heat on Congress to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
Additional reporting by Gabrielle Jackson, Meri Meritxell, Michael Ridley and Adrian Brune.