Saturday, May 01, 2010

Anthrax - a cautionary tale

I wasn't blogging when, one week after the 9/11 attack, mailed anthrax killed five people, seriously injured 17 others, and paralyzed much of American commerce.

If I had been blogging back then, I'm pretty sure I would have joined in the general attack on an innocent man. It was a heck of an attack; this month The Atlantic tells the story of how the FBI got the wrong man. He (and his lawyers) ended up with various settlements totaling millions of dollars.

Later the FBI turned on Bruce Ivins, a troubled man. Turns out biological warfare research attracts unusual people. Ivins committed suicide. Since the post 9/11 FBI has well deserved negative credibility, nobody is fully convinced that Ivins was the murderer.

The FBI was never reformed. It staggers on today.

What have some of us learned from the anthrax story? We learned that the FBI is institutionally troubled. We learned that government can break the rules and get away with it. We learned that when crisis hits, we lose our bearings. We learned that defense lawyers are a good idea. We learned that massive security failures can be easily forgotten.

There was never a full evaluation of all the ways the FBI failed, and why. Bush/Cheney had too much dirty laundry of their own to go there, and Obama has way too much Bush/Cheney dirty laundry to clearn.

So the FBI is going to do this again.

1 comment:

Alan said...

As always, great post! Alan