January 15, 2008

The Anthrax Case

The wave of bioterrorism that killed five people shortly after 9/11 is unsolved and largely forgotten, but it played a role in sending us off to war in Iraq, so it is of considerable historical importance in understanding how we got to where we are.

Feeling cocky after my recent run of investigative successes, I sat down last week to solve the anthrax case. A quick scan identified a character who many on the Internet had wondered why he, rather than the hapless Stephen Hatfill, hadn't been put through the ringer. He's a microbiologist, retired Army officer, worked at the Army base where they keep lots of anthrax, had been mean to an Arab colleague, was involved in lots of unseemly stuff, etc etc. The more I Googled, the more the pieces fell into place ... until, pffft, I looked at the evidence again from a different angle and it all blew away.

Sure, I could make the bits and pieces fit into the notion that he was the anthrax mailer, but then a simpler explanation occurred to me: He was just a jerk who had done some jerky things over the last 15 years. I'm not going to mention his name, but if you know who I'm talking about and think he did it, try to force yourself into a gestalt where you assume he didn't do it and see if you can think of less sinister explanations for the facts known about him.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

35 comments:

steve rox said...

"Feeling cocky after my recent run of investigative successes, I sat down last week to solve the anthrax case."

Steve rocks

Roger Chaillet said...

Left unsaid by Steve is the race of the victims.

I believe all five were black employees of the US Postal Service. This could only in Washington, D.C., as the express policy of Uncle Sam is to hire nothing by racial minorities if at all possible. Readers can confirm this by doing a search on "blacks in federal government."

So, we have a statistical anomaly, at least at first glance (do the search!), and then a guy (Hatfill) with unsavory connections (allegedly) to right wing death squads in the former Rhodesia.

Now we can understand why so little effort was expended to find the real culprit(s).

We have blacks as victims (always) and an angry white male as bogeyman.

Steve Sailer said...

One victim was an editor at a supermarket tabloid and another was a little old lady in Connecticut. I don't recall the other's identity.

RobertHume said...

So Steve, who did do it?

TGGP said...

When I started reading this, I didn't expect the twist at the end. I nominate this post for inclusion at Overcoming Bias.

SKT said...

Not that I support terrorism or anarchy or serial killing or whatever it was, but this seems like a rare instance of it having been done well. Normally these guys keep killing, keep getting more bold until they are eventually caught. It seems like the Anthrax mailer claimed some victims, created some havoc, and then quit while he was ahead.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think about this event now and then. We haven't had any more attacks as far as I know.

This perpetrator, and Osama, kind of got lost in the shuffle.

I can see why it'd be hard to find a mail killer, (like the Unabomber), and a guy who lives in apparently uncharted territory in Pakistan, but I can't tell how hard we are trying. It seems to me that we are going to want the capacity to find such villains in the future. Hopefully it can be addressed before the next attack, I don't know how many countries are left to invade (except Iran of course.)

BTW Steve, you were right to err on the side of discretion. I think the question is, What are we doing to investigate this type of attack now?

green mamba said...

Wasn't one of the Anthrax letters sent to Tom Daschle? Would your culprit have a motive for wanting to bump off Daschle?

dodo said...

I thought someone was going to ask why this is still a big deal when we continue to lose more than a person a day to murder in cities like Philadelphia...

dearieme said...

"Feeling cocky after my recent run of investigative successes": fishing for compliments, eh? Well have one on me.

Bucakroo said...

I expect that most people reading this blog can answer dodo's implied question easily. But as a public service to any impressionable new readers here goes.

We care less about the one-murder-a-day in Philadelphia because it happens in predictable places to predictable and generally unsavory people engaging in predictable high-risk activities. There are occasional innocents caught in the crossfire but they are relatively rare although they obviously get disproportionate attention from the press.

Thus the vast majority of citizens can fairly easily avoid getting endangered by this violence. A seemingly random and unsolved and thus evidently repeatable attack such as the Anthrax case makes everyone a potential victim. As a bonus, as Steve notes, the implied political character of the attack makes our government react in pretty expansive fashion, to the point of affecting world history. Philadelphia murders, on the other hand, are just a tedious story of criminals being criminals.

Rob said...

Well Steve, I'm guessing it was not Greg Cochran, or we'd all be dead.

Anonymous said...

Lew Rockwell should have fallen on the sword ten years ago when Paul was going back to Congress. He didn't, and now there's no way out for at least a few people. His name is associated with too many things that are too valuable to too many people. This will probably have consequences in every little nook and cranny of the libertarian/paleo fusionist movement. Maybe Rockwell is a jerk.

In the long term, the Ludwig von Mises Institute is number one. So there are lots of people other than Rockwell who don't want him to take this bullet for Paul (if it's even possible). But on an even bigger scale, the entire paleo "movement" is tied up with him. I thought about blogging at LRC once before, but thought better of it. Glad I did.

tanabear said...

There were two mailings of the anthrax. One occurred on September 18th, the other on October 9th. A total of 5 people were killed. Some of the anthrax was mailed to the office of Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. It seems it was sent to provide an "incentive" to hasten the passage of the Patriot Act. According to the AP some WhiteHouse officials began taking Cipro on 9/11/2001. Apparently, this advice came from Jerome Hauer. Patrick Leahy stated regarding the anthrax attacks:

"I don’t think it’s somebody insane. I’d accept everything else you said. But I don’t think it’s somebody insane. And I think there are people within our government — certainly from the source of it — who know where it came from...And these people may not have had anything to do with it, but they certainly know where it came from."

Steve, next we need to know who put all those put options on United and American Airlines, as well as Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch right before 9/11.

Jim O'Sullivan said...

This reminds me. Remember the Tylenol killer in Chicago in the eary eighties? He quit while he was ahead, too. I have it on very good authority that the FBI knows pretty much for sure who he is, but they never got enough evidence to convict him. He had just come under surveillance when he quit. Without saying too much: they think he got wise to fact that they were on his trail. Anyway, he'll stay under surveillance till thay stick a pin in him at his wake.

mq said...

A quick scan identified a character who many on the Internet had wondered why he, rather than the hapless Stephen Hatfill, hadn't been put through the ringer.

This gets my nomination for the least grammatical and comprehensible statement in the history of this blog. Also, it's "wringer", like on a mop.

Anonymous said...


Also, it's "wringer", like on a mop.


Actually, it's "wringer," like on a washing machine. Ie, don't get your tits caught in a "wringer."

manindarkhat said...

"Feeling cocky after my recent run of investigative successes": fishing for compliments, eh? Well have one on me.

And me. That Steve isn't rich and famous proves by itself that something is rotten in the state of America. Then again, if America were Sailer-friendly, there might be no need of Sailer.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I love your stuff but once in a while I think I've surfed onto Daily Kos by mistake. Secret right-wing paramilitaries from Bushco did an inside job! They were ready to go in case anything like the WTC attack happened. In fact, when it didn't they set up the WTC attack! Then the huge conspiracy covered it up!

It's time to apply Occam's Razor and consider the simplest and most obvious explanation. Let's also keep in mind that we've learned in the last few years that the FBI and CIA couldn't find their ass if a GPS unit had been inserted therein. Mohammed Atta mailed the anthrax. He got it from an Iraqi source inside the Saddam Hussein regime who probably got it from "Dr. Germ". That operation originally got it from the Soviet biowarfare agency run by Ken Alibek. This is by far the most likely explanation. Looking for an inside-the-USA right-wing fanatic who was all ready to go on 9/11 is very improbable.

tanabear said...

anonymous writes, "It's time to apply Occam's Razor and consider the simplest and most obvious explanation."

Occam's razor is always used by people in regards to 9/11 when they don't have any evidence for their claims. How could Mohammed Atta have mailed the anthrax letters when they were postmarked on September 18, 2001 and another mailing on October 9, 2001. That is pretty good for a dead guy.

"At least some White House personnel were given Cipro six weeks ago. White House officials won't discuss who might be receiving the anthrax-treating antibiotic now." Washington Post Oct 23, 2001.

There is no evidence that Saddam ever produced the type of anthrax that was mailed. It was the Ames strain of the Anthrax bacteria.

Why isn't the Bush Administration looking for the real killers?

RKU said...

t's time to apply Occam's Razor and consider the simplest and most obvious explanation. Let's also keep in mind that we've learned in the last few years that the FBI and CIA couldn't find their ass if a GPS unit had been inserted therein. Mohammed Atta mailed the anthrax. He got it from an Iraqi source inside the Saddam Hussein regime who probably got it from "Dr. Germ". That operation originally got it from the Soviet biowarfare agency run by Ken Alibek. This is by far the most likely explanation. Looking for an inside-the-USA right-wing fanatic who was all ready to go on 9/11 is very improbable.

Wow! It's a real honor to have Judith Miller, formerly of the New York Times and still a best friend of Irv Libby, commenting on your blog...

Anonymous said...

The reason Steve with his otherwise fine mind is blogging instead of a journalist making lots of money like say, Steve Emerson or people like that (there are places for conservative journalists) is that his hatred of Jews along with being white makes him radioactive.

If he was black and held these views he'd be a national correspondent for NBC. Being white he's ... bloggin on Blogger. Just being honest Steve.

The *REAL* reason we don't hear anything about the Anthrax Cases is doubtless someone important in the FBI screwed up royally and careers are at stake people!

Mistakes and embarrassments go down the memory hole.

Anonymous said...

"hatred of jews"? Steve is half-jewish. seriously, that's a petty argument which know to be false, yet you repeat it anyway. You should be ashamed of yourself.

==alphabeta

Anonymous said...

The anthrax attacks may have actually been done by a foreign power, just "testing the waters" after 911. A foreign power would stop after completing its mission, whatever its mission actually was. It could have been done to probe our vulnerability. It could have been done to terrorize the US and force down the US stock market so that someone would get a trading advantage. It could have been done to push the US into greater war hysteria. Or a foreign secret police force may have just thought it was a really neat idea, and did it because they could. Decide what the motive was, and then take a good guess as to who did it.

fifi said...

Sometimes I speculate on Steve's ethnicity but that being impossible to determine, I came up with the Steve IQ o'meter. It works like this. I estimate his lowest IQ at 140 b/c he was obviously a geek in high school and college and his highest at 160 b/c any higher, he'd be safely tucked away in a physics lab somewhere. When I like his articles and he's being congenial the arrow gets close to 160, sarcastic remarks and taunts (directed at me) land him closer to 140. I know I could just stop reading his blog when he gets annoying but where would the fun be in that?

BTW, this article merited a 149 b/c while interesting, he didn't actually tell us anything.

SFG said...

"hatred of jews"? Steve is half-jewish. seriously, that's a petty argument which know to be false, yet you repeat it anyway. You should be ashamed of yourself.
He does seem to enjoy pointing out all the rotten things the Jews are up to. The Donmeh thing is what really tips me off--why get obsessed with a bunch of people who used to be Jews 200 years ago?

Still, it's not like he's David Duke or Don Black or anything. It's more of a distaste than a real hatred, the way kids feel about broccoli, not the way the Irish feel about the English. He reserves most of his ire for the Mexicans.

I'd actually put Steve's IQ somewhere in the 130 to 140ish range--too high for his own good but not so high that he's not understandable or enamored of infinitely complex explanations.

fifi said...

"I'd actually put Steve's IQ somewhere in the 130 to 140ish range--too high for his own good but not so high that he's not understandable or enamored of infinitely complex explanations."

Nah, that's too low. Steve actually can be obscure though he eventually connects the dots for those of us who would never figure these things out on our own. As for his reasoning well I guess it's all relative to IQ who understands it and who doesn't. An IQ below 140, he'd be more conventional. You know, the kind of guy that might go to law school or run for president.

Sailer for president!

Martin said...

"SFG said...
He does seem to enjoy pointing out all the rotten things the Jews are up to. The Donmeh thing is what really tips me off--why get obsessed with a bunch of people who used to be Jews 200 years ago?"

I've been reading Steve's blog for nearly three years, and in all that time, I can not recall him writing a single anti-semitic statement

Criticizing someone who is jewish - Paul Wolfowitz, for example - is not anti-semitic, if he - Wolfowitz, that is - has done something that merits criticism. Likewise, criticizing Israel is not anti-semitic. It is a different country than the U.S., and has it's own interests which are not necessarily the same as ours.

And as far as the Donmeh go - Steve is just interested in small, strange little ethnic groups. That is part of what ethnography is about.

manindarkhat said...

Steve does not "hate" Jews, Steve thinks that Jewish power and influence are important topics. Of course, the fact that he has noticed that Jews have power and influence is proof to some that he's just itching to lead the New Cossacks, but that kind of hysteria is not necessarily "Good for Jews":

...the problem is not that Jews are inherently worse behaved (or better behaved) than any other human group, but that they have achieved for themselves in America in recent years a collective immunity from anything resembling criticism. And being immune to criticism doesn't make human beings behave better.

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2006/03/real-larry-summers-scandal.html

Anonymous said...

What is curious is to see the fuzzy upper boundary of IQ that can sustain an incurious but highly functional attitude toward life. My guess is around 140+.

Certain well paid professions like business, medicine and law schools seem to select for people in this IQ range (high enough to learn the trade but not too high to get bored and distracted). Too high an IQ and you start not being able to work with people or deal with the practical compromises life demands. The best one can hope for in this situation is to be locked in a lab or library (lucky the one with brains and personality).

What is odd about journalism is that it tends to be a lower IQ profession in search of high curiosity individuals. If journalists don't have a natural intellectual curiosity, they have to have a pseudo-religious PC dogma firing their curiosity. I think this contributes to the the inmeracy, logical fallacies, shoddy fact checking and other intellectual shortcomings in our media.

Given that most people are even less intelligent and informed than journalists, it works to some extend.

The refreshing thing about Steve is that he's too smart for a journalist. The high-IQ deamons on his back don't allow him to parse the world the way the non-cognitive, emotional PC-driven dogma of journalism demands. It’s his blessing and his curse.

ovid said...

The first anthrax attack occured a week after 9-11. You would need to move very quickly to weaponize anthrax in a week, I don't think that it could be done. So there are two possibilities:

1-The anthrax attack was carried out by al Qaiuda. They didn't continue mailing anthrax because they had a limited amount of anthrax spores and/or they saw how this sort of extreme terrorism mobilized and united the US (for an example read Dan Savage's column immediatly after 9-11)

2-The anthrax spores were being held in reserve by someone like Hatfield who was waiting for a major terrorist incident to release them to stimulate fear of bioterrorists. This assumes that these people were confident that an incident like 9-11 would occur, and that they had either not had the spores for long, or seen the attacks on US embassies in Africa, the Cole etc, and considered them insufficient.

I think that 1 is more likely than 2.

Comments please.

RichardC said...

If anyone wants to know the name of the suspect, go to whatreallyhappened (dot) com.
Steven Hatfill made a good patsy because of his time in Rhodesia and because he padded his resume. The return address on one of the anthrax letters included "Greendale School" . Greendale was a wealthy suburb of the capital Salisbury, now Harare. Someone had to have known enough to set up Hatfill. I doubt that Hatfill would have referred to Greendale if he were really guilty. I certainly wouldn't mention "Scarsdale" if I really were from New York and were guilty.

tanabear said...

ovid writes, "The anthrax spores were being held in reserve by someone like Hatfield who was waiting for a major terrorist incident to release them to stimulate fear of bioterrorists."

Why would Hatfield want to mail antrax to members of the media and two us Senators? What was the motivation behind anthrax mailings?

Where did this statement come from:

"advanced forms of biological warfare that can target specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool."

This is the place to go hunting. :)

none of the above said...

The best I can do is put together a small number of facts:

a. 9/11 scared the hell out of the most powerful people in our society, the folks at the top of politics and finance. The anthrax attacks spread that fear to more of government and to a lot of the media.

b. That fear led, almost certainly, to being able to steamroller through the Patriot Act, the DHS, outsourced and insourced torture, pre-emptive war against Iraq, and a godawful list of other stuff.

c. The anthrax spores probably could not have been made into a mailable weapon between 9/11 and when they were used, so they were lying around ready to be used, or they were part of the plan that included 9/11.

d. The anthrax attack was seriously lame, in terms of number of deaths. It scared a lot of people, but you'd think, intuitively, that someone with weaponized anthrax spores could have killed a lot more people. The killers would have gotten a higher body count sending a lone nut to shoot up a mall. They probably would have gotten a much higher body count somehow dropping the price of drinks at all the bars in Chicago for a single Friday night.

e. Soon after that, the whole Capitol region was terrorized by the snipers. Again, this was a high-fear, high-publicity, low impact crime, in that only a few people were actually killed.

f. Some parts of the immediate post-9/11 response, like the Patriot Act, were clearly ready in some rough form before 9/11.

A vague guess with no evidence: The 9/11 attacks were carried out by someone who wanted to kill lots of Americans and seriously hurt us. The anthrax and sniper attacks were done by someone (assuming they weren't done by random nuts; the snipers have apparently been caught and convicted) who wanted to scare the hell out of us, while doing little damage and killing only a very small number of people. (Or maybe the attackers would have done in another 3000 people if they knew how, but half a dozen was the best they could do.)

Mitchell said...

Try the "thesis" here.