The media
July 4, 2002 10:42 PM   Subscribe

The media seem to think Steven Hatfill, the guy whose apartment was searched by the FBI last week and former infectious disease researcher for the Army, is the anthrax mailer. Kristoff says Hatfill (Kristoff calls him "Mr. Z," presumably so he won’t be sued for liable) gave some friends who visited him Cipro, he has connections to a Rhodesian army who used anthrax in the late 70s and his security clearance was suspended less than a month before the mailings. Laura Rozen of The American Prospect has news clips of him warning about bioterror attacks. (Bonus for the conspiracy theorists: The Globe and Mail collected info on the "[s]uspicious deaths" of eleven of the world’s leading microbiologists.) [1, 2]
posted by raaka (7 comments total)
Chilling, that it could come down to a guy who spent so much time researching bioterror attacks and readiness that he could not help but feed his burning curiosity by unleashing the beast. "Just testing our preparedness, you'll thank me for it later."

Fascination with the abomination. My brother was a firefighter for a time. He said so many of the firemen were pyromaniacs that they would likely be arsonists if they weren't employed as firefighters. That has been repeatedly shown to be true, are we facing the same phenomenon here?
posted by planetkyoto at 1:14 AM on July 5, 2002

He said so many of the firemen were pyromaniacs that they would likely be arsonists if they weren't employed as firefighters.

wow. never thought of it that way, but it makes sense -- especially in light of recent events.
posted by donkeyschlong at 5:01 AM on July 5, 2002

And why doesn't the Dubya regime pull a Jose Padilla on this guy? I mean there's at least anecdotal evidence pointing toward the actual crime of terrorism here. Guess if it's those despised liberals it's OK. Just like encouraging the murder of doctors who perform abortions is free speech. Is the only good liberal a dead liberal in the eyes of right wing fundies or racists (a group to which this guy belongs.) Are domestically grown terrorists treated to a different standard so long as their ideology is approved of?
posted by nofundy at 5:08 AM on July 5, 2002

Troll. Not to mention proven bias, nakedly expressed. Are you determined to discredit yourself?

There is absolutely no evidence that Hatfill is either a right-wing "fundy" or a racist. There certainly seems to be insufficient evidence for the FBI to arrest him -- only a circumstantial case, one which is being stoked by certain outlets with, it must be admitted, an axe to grind against the government (either bioweapons programs, or the FBI, or both), e.g. the FAS.

I would be very, very cautious about hooking into the Richard Jewell or Wen Ho Lee scenarios, where all sorts of third-hand speculation about a person becomes a virtual grand jury indictment. They were telling us from Day One that Jewell was a sad sack, and everybody knows that sad sacks are just the type to whip up hero scenarios involving a fully-functioning bomb, right?

Certainly if the Rhodesians were involved in any kind of germ warfare it's an easy call that the USG would be keenly interested in what they were doing. But there's nothing to indicate that they really were, let alone that he was involved in it. Even critical sources merely surmise Rhodesian army involvement. That's nothing like Padilla, who was clearly working for terrorists (at least by the equal standards of both investigations, information released so far, rather than court evidence).

Also, supposed foot-dragging by the FBI can be attributed, at least in part, to the problem of investigating a group of people whose assistance you require in order to (possibly) solve the case.

My concern, at worst, is that we may never see proper resolution -- as with Wen Ho Lee, who regardless of his guilt was treated shabbily by the FBI and press, and no suspect in the original crime ever being charged.
posted by dhartung at 7:51 AM on July 5, 2002

Hmm, the author of that study linked above seems to believe that the 1979 outbreak wasn't natural in this interview and does imply as much in the original paper.
The first large-scale use [of anthrax as an offensive weapon] that we know about was in Rhodesia, where it appears to have been used to kill cattle owned by black farmers to prevent them from harboring guerrillas. However, the poor farmers ate meat from the dead animals, and so nearly 200 human deaths and 10,000 human cases of cutaneous [skin-infected] anthrax were documented.
Zimbabwe's Minister of Health initiated an investigation into the source of the anthrax outbreak in 1998 but it seems it wasn't completed. Some questions shouldn't be answered apparently.
posted by euphorb at 9:44 AM on July 5, 2002


How can you say there's no evidence of racism when the man was known to work with the radical faction of the Rhodesian army and with the enforcers of apartheid in South Africa? Also, some further research might have led you to comments he made to colleagues over the years and caused ALL of them to very loudly point out Hatfill as the most likely suspect.

Now what evidence do we have on Padilla? Ashcroft's word?

I must admit I do not think Hatfill (or anyone else) should be treated as Padilla was but there does seem to be a double standard for right wing home grown terrorists by our government. I also agree there is probably insufficient evidence to arrest him but the foot dragging certainly hasn't improved the chances of gaining evidence either.
I sincerely believe that initially the focus was to find some Ann Thrax "swarthy male" to blame instead of honest investigation.

Yeah, I troll at times, or at least do not sufficiently make my case and for that I apologize.
posted by nofundy at 11:45 AM on July 5, 2002

I suppose we could retroactively classify anyone who ever worked with a racist government as racist themselves, though it seems a rather crude filter to employ.

Or maybe sometimes it's really, really hard to find the person who sent anonymous mail. Was the Unabomber right-wing? Did the FBI drag its heels on that one? I think you're ginning up a disparity which does not exist except in your mind.
posted by dhartung at 3:57 PM on July 5, 2002

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