Just a quick and cuteaneous reminder of what happened. Last fall, anthrax-tainted letters were mailed to media outlets in Florida and New York, and to Senate office buildings in D.C. Five people were killed, 13 more become sick with anthrax, and D.C.'s main mail processing plant is still shut down from contamination.
Investigators have been focusing on a relatively small group of bio-weapons experts in the United States to find the attacker. By one supposed expert estimate, there are only about 100 people in the world who could have made the anthrax used in the letters. While that narrows down the field of suspects considerably, it also poses a cheesy-thriller-movie-like complication. The group to which law enforcement thinks the attacker belongs is the same group that law enforcement must rely on for the scientific expertise to help catch the attacker. As an aficionado of cheesy thrillers, I suggest to the FBI that they pay careful attention to the soundtrack when interviewing scientists. Whoever has sinister-sounding, minor-key string music playing in the background while you talk to him is probably the guilty party.
The main focus of the investigations right now is a scientist named Steven J. Hatfill, who denies involvement in the attacks. Speaking of cheesy-movie-like twists, when scent-tracking, plain-clothes FBI bloodhounds sniffed around Hatfill's apartment, they went berserk -- indicating to investigators that a scent in Hatfill's apartment matched the scent of the anthrax letters. The dogs also reportedly went berserk when they sniffed Hatfill's girlfriend's place and a Louisiana Denny's at which Hatfill ate. Despite the fact that they are unable to swear on the Bible or control their occasional urges to lick their genitals, a bloodhound's sniffings are, in fact, admissible in court.
Hatfill supposedly has the expertise to have manufactured the letters. He studied at the U.S. Army bio-weapons lab at Fort Detrick, Md., where he would have had access to the strain of anthrax used in the letters. In addition, he studied under William Patrick III, the man frequently cited by the media as the "father" of a sophisticated process to make weapons-grade anthrax. No word on who the mother is.
There's at least one more spooky coincidence that has the feds looking at Hatfill. The anthrax letters sent to Congress had the name "Greendale School" in the return address. While studying in Zimbabwe in 1979-80, Hatfill lived next to a Greendale School.
Investigators also believe that he may have had a motive. Newsweek reports that one month before the anthrax letters were mailed, Hatfill was turned down for a job with the CIA because he failed a lie detector test. They suggest that his annoyance at not getting the job may have spurred the attacks.
Just because law enforcement is leaking all of this incriminating evidence doesn't necessarily mean that they've got their man. A couple of years back, government researcher and U.S. citizen of Chinese origin Wen Ho Lee was accused via law enforcement leaks to the media of spying for China. He served nine months in solitary confinement before ultimately pleading guilty to making an improper backup tape of some of his computer work, not spying. It may turn out that Hatfill's only crime was eating at Denny's -- a crime that frequently becomes its own punishment.
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