Anthrax and the Government

60 Minutes did an interesting story just this Sunday on the investigation into the person behind all the anthrax mailings back in 2001. The story is about the main suspect in the case, Steven Hatfill, who was wrongly accused of being the culprit. Now, and this is where 60 Minutes picks up, Hatfill is suing the government (specifically the FBI and the Department of Justice) for defaming him and ruining his career. The story is interesting for two reasons: one because Hatfill is suing the government because the FBI leaked very specific information about the case (a practice that may well define the Bush administration, another great example is the Valerie Plame leak) but also because the story concludes, and it’s all but obvious from the evidence of the case, that the FBI purposely leaked information about Hatfill simply because it had no other leads and wanted to make it seem that the culprit was just around the corner, so to speak.

Regarding the leaking, even (members of) the Congress has come to the conclusion that the FBI was sneaky. The story goes, “Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has looked into the case and has concluded that there was leaking by top officials and that the purpose was not to shut Hatfill down, but to hide the lack of progress in the case.” While it is still possible that Hatfill was, in fact, the perpetrator, the FBI is split and most of the evidence (including the fact that he would have had to turn the “wet slurry anthrax” available to him into weapons-grade powder) seems to indicate that it was not Hatfill.

Whether the FBI did wrong is a different issue. On the one hand, the government made an effort to cover up what might have scared the general public (that the FBI was clueless). To this end, lying is not always “bad.” On the other hand, this type of behavior is indicative of the larger problem of the Bush administration: misleading the public. While the war in Iraq and this case are very different, they are both examples of this administration’s complete secrecy and willingness to lie to the public.

No comments: