Friday, August 01, 2008
by Glenn Greenwald
(updated below - Update II - Update III)
The FBI's lead suspect in the September, 2001 anthrax attacks -- Bruce E. Ivins -- died last night, apparently by suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to charge him with responsibility for the attacks. For the last 18 years, Ivins was a top anthrax researcher at the U.S. Government's biological weapons research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, where he was one of the most elite government anthrax scientists on the research team at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID).
The 2001 anthrax attacks remain one of the great mysteries of the post-9/11 era. After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential. The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters -- with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 -- that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. It was anthrax -- sent directly into the heart of the country's elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokow, and other leading media outlets -- that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism.
If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab, sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick. Without resort to any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the significance of that fact. From the beginning, there was a clear intent on the part of the anthrax attacker to create a link between the anthrax attacks and both Islamic radicals and the 9/11 attacks. This was the letter sent to Brokaw:
The letter sent to Leahy contained this message:We have anthrax.
You die now.By design, those attacks put the American population into a state of intense fear of Islamic terrorism, far more than the 9/11 attacks alone could have accomplished.
Are you afraid?
Death to America.
Death to Israel.
Allah is great.
Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent -- indispensably aided by ABC News -- to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. News of Ivins' suicide, which means (presumably) that the anthrax attacks originated from Ft. Detrick, adds critical new facts and heightens how scandalous ABC News' conduct continues to be this matter.
During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."
ABC News' claim -- which they said came at first from "three well-placed but separate sources," followed by "four well-placed and separate sources" -- was completely false from the beginning. There never was any bentonite detected in the anthrax (a fact ABC News admitted for the first time in 2007 as a result of my badgering them about this issue). It's critical to note that it isn't the case that preliminary tests really did detect bentonite and then subsequent tests found there was none. No tests ever found or even suggested the presence bentonite. The claim was just concocted from the start. It just never happened.
That means that ABC News' "four well-placed and separate sources" fed them information that was completely false -- false information that created a very significant link in the public mind between the anthrax attacks and Saddam Hussein. And look where -- according to Brian Ross' report on October 28, 2001 -- these tests were conducted:
And despite continued White House denials, four well-placed and separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the anthrax by the US Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have detected trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica.Two days earlier, Ross went on ABC News' World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and, as the lead story, breathlessly reported:
The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere.Clearly, Ross' allegedly four separate sources had to have some specific knowledge of the tests conducted at Ft. Detrick and, if they were really "well-placed," one would presume that meant they had some connection to where the tests were conducted -- Ft. Detrick. That means that the same Government lab where the anthrax attacks themselves came from was the same place where the false reports originated that linked those attacks to Iraq. It's extremely possible -- one could say likely -- that the same people responsible for perpetrating the attacks were the ones who fed the false reports to the public, through ABC News, that Saddam was behind them. What we know for certain -- as a result of the letters accompanying the anthrax -- is that whoever perpetrated the attacks wanted the public to believe they were sent by foreign Muslims.
Seven years later, it's difficult for many people to recall, but, as I've amply documented, those ABC News reports linking Saddam and anthrax penetrated very deeply -- by design -- into our public discourse and into the public consciousness. Those reports were absolutely vital in creating the impression during that very volatile time that Islamic terrorists generally, and Iraq and Saddam Hussein specifically, were grave, existential threats to this country. As but one example: after Ross' lead report claiming that the Government had found bentonite on the October 26, 2001 edition of World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, this is what Jennings said into the camera:
This news about bentonite as the additive is being a trademark of the Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant. Partly because there's been a lot of pressure on the Bush administration inside and out to go after Saddam Hussein. And some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun.That's exactly what happened. The Weekly Standard published two lengthy articles attacking the FBI for focusing on a domestic culprit and -- relying almost exclusively on the ABC/Ross report -- insisted that Saddam was one of the most likely sources for those attacks. In November, 2001, they published an article (via Lexis) which began:
On the critical issue of who sent the anthrax, it's time to give credit to the ABC website, ABCNews.com, for reporting rings around most other news organizations. Here's a bit from a comprehensive story filed late last week by Gary Matsumoto, lending further credence to the commonsensical theory (resisted by the White House) that al Qaeda or Iraq -- and not some domestic Ted Kaczynski type -- is behind the germ warfare.The Weekly Standard published a much lengthier and more dogmatic article in April, 2002 again pushing the ABC "bentonite" claims and arguing: "There is purely circumstantial though highly suggestive evidence that might seem to link Iraq with last fall's anthrax terrorism." The American Enterprise Institute's Laurie Mylroie (who had an AEI article linking Saddam to 9/11 ready for publication at the AEI on September 13) expressly claimed in November, 2001 that "there is also tremendous evidence that subsequent anthrax attacks are connected to Iraq" and based that claim almost exclusively on the report from ABC and Ross ("Mylroie: Evidence Shows Saddam Is Behind Anthrax Attacks").
And then, when President Bush named Iraq as a member of the "Axis of Evil" in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech -- just two months after ABC's report, when the anthrax attacks were still very vividly on the minds of Americans -- he specifically touted this claim:
The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.Bush's invocation of Iraq was the only reference in the State of the Union address to the unsolved anthrax attacks. And the Iraq-anthrax connection was explicitly made by the President at a time when, as we now know, he was already eagerly planning an attack on Iraq.
There can't be any question that this extremely flamboyant though totally false linkage between Iraq and the anthrax attacks -- accomplished primarily by the false bentonite reports from ABC News and Brian Ross -- played a very significant role in how Americans perceived of Iraq. As but one very illustrative example, The Washington Post's columnist, Richard Cohen, supported the invasion of Iraq, came to regret that support, and then explained what led him to do so, in a 2004 Post column entitled "Our Forgotten Panic":
I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to anthrax, which I linked to Sept. 11. I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack -- more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war.Cohen -- in a March 18, 2008 Slate article in which he explains why he wrongfully supported the attack on Iraq -- disclosed this:
Anthrax. Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore -- at least it's never mentioned. But right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, letters laced with anthrax were received at the New York Post and Tom Brokaw's office at NBC. . . . There was ample reason to be afraid.
The attacks were not entirely unexpected. I had been told soon after Sept. 11 to secure Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. The tip had come in a roundabout way from a high government official, and I immediately acted on it. I was carrying Cipro way before most people had ever heard of it.
For this and other reasons, the anthrax letters appeared linked to the awful events of Sept. 11. It all seemed one and the same. Already, my impulse had been to strike back, an overwhelming urge that had, in fact, taken me by surprise on Sept. 11 itself when the first of the Twin Towers had collapsed. . . .
In the following days, as the horror started to be airbrushed -- no more bodies plummeting to the sidewalk -- the anthrax letters started to come, some to people I knew. And I thought, No, I'm not going to sit here passively and wait for it to happen. I wanted to go to "them," whoever "they" were, grab them by the neck, and get them before they could get us. One of "them" was Saddam Hussein. He had messed around with anthrax . . . He was a nasty little fascist, and he needed to be dealt with.
That, more or less, is how I made my decision to support the war in Iraq.Cohen was warned by a "high government official" about anthrax before the attacks occurred. And Cohen's mental process that led him to link anthrax to Iraq and then to support an attack on Iraq, warped as it is, was extremely common. Having heard ABC News in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 flamboyantly and repeatedly link Saddam to the anthrax attacks, followed by George Bush who did the same (more subtly) in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech, much of the public had implanted into their minds that Saddam Hussein was not just evil, but a severe threat to the U.S., likely the primary culprit behind the anthrax attacks.
Critically, ABC News never retracted its story (they merely noted, as they had done from the start, that the White House denied the reports). And thus, the linkage between Saddam and the anthrax attacks -- every bit as false as the linkage between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks -- persisted.
We now know -- we knew even before news of Ivins' suicide last night, and know especially in light of it -- that the anthrax attacks didn't come from Iraq or any foreign government at all. It came from our own Government's scientist, from the top Army bioweapons research laboratory. More significantly, the false reports linking anthrax to Iraq also came from the U.S. Government -- from people with some type of significant links to the same facility responsible for the attacks themselves.
Surely the question of who generated those false Iraq-anthrax reports is one of the most significant and explosive stories of the last decade. The motive to fabricate reports of bentonite and a link to Saddam is glaring. Those fabrications played some significant role -- I'd argue a very major role -- in propagandizing the American public to perceive of Saddam as a threat, and further, propagandized the public to believe that our country was sufficiently threatened by foreign elements that a whole series of radical policies that the Bush administration wanted to pursue -- including an attack an Iraq and a whole array of assaults on our basic constitutional framework -- were justified and even necessary in order to survive.
ABC News already knows the answers to these questions. They know who concocted the false bentonite story and who passed it on to them with the specific intent of having them broadcast those false claims to the world, in order to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks and -- as importantly -- to conceal the real culprits behind the attacks. And yet, unbelievably, they are keeping the story to themselves, refusing to disclose who did all of this. They're allegedly a news organization, in possession of one of the most significant news stories of the last decade, and they are concealing it from the public, even years later.
They're not protecting "sources." The people who fed them the bentonite story aren't "sources." They're fabricators and liars who purposely used ABC News to disseminate to the American public an extremely consequential and damaging falsehood. But by protecting the wrongdoers, ABC News has made itself complicit in this fraud perpetrated on the public, rather than a news organization uncovering such frauds. That is why this is one of the most extreme journalistic scandals that exists, and it deserves a lot more debate and attention than it has received thus far.
UPDATE: One other fact to note here is how bizarrely inept the effort by the Bush DOJ to find the real attacker has been. Extremely suspicious behavior from Ivins -- including his having found and completely cleaned anthrax traces on a co-worker's desk at the Ft. Detrick lab without telling anyone that he did so and then offering extremely strange explanations for why -- was publicly reported as early as 2004 by The LA Times (Ivins "detected an apparent anthrax leak in December 2001, at the height of the anthrax mailings investigation, but did not report it. Ivins considered the problem solved when he cleaned the affected office with bleach").
In October 2004, USA Today reported that Ivins was involved in another similar incident, in April of 2002, when Ivins performed unauthorized tests to detect the origins of more anthrax residue found at Ft. Detrick. Yet rather than having that repeated, strange behavior lead the FBI to discover that he was involved in the attacks, there was a very public effort -- as Atrios notes here -- to blame the attacks on Iraq and then, ultimately, to blame Stephen Hatfill. Amazingly, as Atrios notes here, very few people other than "a few crazy bloggers are even interested" in finding out what happened here and why -- at least to demand that ABC News report the vital information that it already has that will shed very significant light on much of this.
UPDATE II: Ivins' local paper, Frederick News in Maryland, has printed several Letters to the Editor written by Ivins over the years. Though the underlying ideology is a bit difficult to discern, he seems clearly driven by a belief in the need for Christian doctrine to govern our laws and political institutions, with a particular interest in Catholic dogma. He wrote things like this:
Today we frequently admonish people who oppose abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide or capital punishment to keep their religious, moral, and philosophical beliefs to themselves.And then there's this rather cryptic message, published in 2006:
Before dispensing such admonishments in the future, perhaps we should gratefully consider some of our country's most courageous, historical figures who refused to do so.
Rabbi Morris Kosman is entirely correct in summarily rejecting the demands of the Frederick Imam for a "dialogue."It should be noted that the lawyer who had been representing Ivins in connection with the anthrax investigation categorically maintains Ivins' innocence and attributes his suicide to "the relentless pressure of accusation and innuendo."
By blood and faith, Jews are God's chosen, and have no need for "dialogue" with any gentile. End of "dialogue."
On a note related to the main topic of the post, macgupta in comments notes the numerous prominent people in addition to those mentioned here -- including The Wall St. Jorunal Editors and former CIA Director James Woosely -- who insisted rather emphatically from the beginning of the anthrax attacks that Saddam was likely to blame. Indeed, the WSJ Editorial Page -- along with others on the Right such as Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report and Fox News -- continued even into 2007 to insist that the FBI was erring by focusing on domestic suspects rather than Middle Easterners.
The Nation's Michael Massing noted at the time (in November, 2001) that as a direct result of the anthrax attacks, and the numerous claims insinuating that Iraq was behind them, "the political and journalistic establishment suddenly seems united in wanting to attack Iraq." There has long been an intense desire on the neoconservative Right to falsely link anthrax to Saddam specifically and Muslims generally. ABC News was, and (as a result of its inexcusable silence) continues to be, their best friend.
UPDATE III: See this important point from Atrios about Richard Cohen's admission that he was told before the anthrax attacks happened by a "high government official" to take cipro. Atrios write: "now that we know that the US gov't believes that anthrax came from the inside, shouldn't Cohen be a wee bit curious about what this warning was based on?"
That applies to much of the Beltway class, including many well-connected journalists, who were quietly popping cipro back then because, like Cohen, they heard from Government sources that they should. Leave aside the ethical questions about the fact that these journalists kept those warnings to themselves. Wouldn't the most basic journalistic instincts lead them now -- in light of the claims by our Government that the attacks came from a Government scientist -- to wonder why and how their Government sources were warning about an anthrax attack? Then again, the most basic journalistic instincts would have lead ABC News to reveal who concocted and fed them the false "Saddam/anthrax" reports in the first place, and yet we still are forced to guess at those questions because ABC News continues to cover up the identity of the perpetrators.UPDATE IV: John McCain, on the David Letterman Show, October 18, 2001 (days before ABC News first broadcast their bentonite report):
LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?ThinkProgress has the video. Someone ought to ask McCain what "indication" he was referencing that the anthrax "may have come from Iraq."
MCCAIN: I think we're doing fine . . . I think we'll do fine. The second phase -- if I could just make one, very quickly -- the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may -- and I emphasize may -- have come from Iraq.
LETTERMAN: Oh is that right?
MCCAIN: If that should be the case, that's when some tough decisions are gonna have to be made.
After all, three days later, McCain and Joe Lieberman went on Meet the Press (on October 21, 2001) and both strongly suggested that we would have to attack Iraq. Lieberman said that the anthrax was so complex and potent that "there's either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program."
As I said, it is not possible to overstate the importance of anthrax in putting the country into the state of fear that led to the attack on Iraq and so many of the other abuses of the Bush era. There are few news stories more significant, if there are any, than unveiling who the culprits were behind this deliberate propaganda. The fact that the current GOP presidential nominee claimed back then on national television to have some "indication" linking Saddam to the anthrax attacks makes it a bigger story still.
UPDATE V: I tried to be careful here to avoid accepting as True the matter of Ivins' guilt. Very early on in the article, I framed the analysis this way: "If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab," and I then noted in Update II that Ivins' lawyer vehemently maintains his innocence. My whole point here is that the U.S. Government now claims the anthrax attacks came from a Government scientist at a U.S. Army lab, and my conclusions follow from that premise, accepted as true only for purposes of this analysis.
It's worth underscoring that it is far from clear that Ivins had anything to do with the anthrax attacks, and someone in comments claiming (anonymously though credibly) that he knew Ivins personally asserts that Ivins was innocent and makes the case as to why the Government's accusations are suspect. As I see it, the more doubt there is about who was responsible for the anthrax attacks, the greater is the need for ABC News to reveal who fabricated their reports linking the attacks to Iraq.
UPDATE VI: I'll be on Rachel Maddow's radio show tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST to discuss this story. Local listings and live audio feed are here.
Numerous people have advised me in comments and via email that ABC News is deleting any mention of my piece today in the comment section to their article on the Ivins suicide. Last year, ABC was in full denial mode when responding to the stories I wrote about this issue. The key here, I think, will be to try to devise the right strategy to induce the right Congressional Committee to hold hearings on the false ABC News stories and the anthrax issue generally. I hope to have more details on that effort shortly.
Domestic Terrorism: Anthrax Attacks Came from U.S. Scientist?
August 1st, 2008 3:00 am
Apparent suicide in anthrax case
Bruce E. Ivins, a scientist who helped the FBI investigate the 2001 mail attacks, was about to face charges.
By David Willman / Los Angeles Times
A top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples from the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, the Los Angeles Times has learned.
Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the last 18 years worked at the government's elite biodefense research laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Md., had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and the FBI investigation.
Ivins, whose name had not been disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals.
Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins also helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator's office in Washington.
Ivins died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI.
The death -- without any mention of suicide -- was announced to Ivins' colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, through a staffwide e-mail.
"People here are pretty shook up about it," said Caree Vander Linden, a spokeswoman for USAMRIID, who said she was not at liberty to discuss details surrounding the death.
The anthrax mailings killed five people, crippled national mail service, shut down a Senate office building and spread fear of further terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The extraordinary turn of events followed the government's payment in June of a settlement valued at $5.82 million to a former government scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, who was long targeted as the FBI's chief suspect despite a lack of any evidence that he had ever possessed anthrax.
The payout to Hatfill, a highly unusual development that all but exonerated him in the mailings, was an essential step to clear the way for prosecuting Ivins, according to lawyers familiar with the matter.
Federal investigators moved away from Hatfill -- for years the only publicly identified "person of interest" -- and ultimately concluded that Ivins was the culprit after FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III changed leadership of the investigation in late 2006.
The FBI's new top investigators -- Vincent B. Lisi and Edward W. Montooth -- instructed agents to reexamine leads or potential suspects that may have received insufficient attention. Moreover, significant progress was made in analyzing genetic properties of the anthrax powder recovered from letters addressed to two senators.
The renewed efforts led the FBI back to USAMRIID, where agents first questioned scientists in December 2001, a few weeks after the fatal mailings.
By spring of this year, FBI agents were still contacting Ivins' present and former colleagues. At USAMRIID and elsewhere, scientists acquainted with Ivins were asked to sign confidentiality agreements in order to prevent leaks of new investigative details.
Ivins, employed as a civilian at Ft. Detrick, earlier had attracted the attention of Army officials because of anthrax contaminations that Ivins failed to report for five months. In sworn oral and written statements to an Army investigator, Ivins said that he had erred by keeping the episodes secret -- from December 2001 to late April 2002. He said he had swabbed and bleached more than 20 areas that he suspected were contaminated by a sloppy lab technician.
"In retrospect, although my concern for biosafety was honest and my desire to refrain from crying 'Wolf!' . . . was sincere, I should have notified my supervisor ahead of time of my worries about a possible breach in biocontainment," Ivins told the Army. "I thought that quietly and diligently cleaning the dirty desk area would both eliminate any possible [anthrax] contamination as well as prevent unintended anxiety at the institute."
The Army chose not to discipline Ivins regarding his failure to report the contamination. Officials said that penalizing Ivins might discourage other employees from voluntarily reporting accidental spills of "hot" agents.
But Ivins' recollections should have raised serious questions about his veracity and his intentions, according to some of those familiar with the investigation. For instance, although Ivins said that he swabbed areas near and within his personal office, and bleached surfaces to kill any spores, and that some of the swabs tested positive, he was vague about what should have been an essential next step:
Reswabbing to check whether any spores remained.
"I honestly do not recall if follow-up swabs were taken of the area," Ivins said. "I may have done so, but I do not now remember reswabbing."
"That's bull----," said one former senior USAMRIID official. "If there's contamination, you always reswab. And you would remember doing it."
The former official told The Times that Ivins might have hedged regarding reswabbing out of fear that investigators would find more of the spores inside or near his office.
Ivins' statements were contained within a May 2002 Army report on the contamination at USAMRIID and was obtained by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act.
Soon after the government's settlement with Hatfill was announced June 27, Ivins began showing signs of serious strain.
One of his longtime colleagues told The Times that Ivins, who was being treated for depression, indicated to a therapist that he was considering suicide.
Soon thereafter, family members and local police officers escorted Ivins from USAMRIID, where his access to sensitive areas was curtailed, the colleague said.
Ivins was committed to a facility in Frederick for treatment of his depression. On July 24, he was released from the facility, operated by Sheppard Pratt Health System. A telephone call that same day by The Times verified that Ivins' government voice mail was still functioning at the bacteriology division of USAMRIID.
The scientist faced forced retirement, planned for September, said his longtime colleague, who described Ivins as emotionally fractured by the federal scrutiny.
"He didn't have any more money to spend on legal fees. He was much more emotionally labile, in terms of sensitivity to things, than most scientists. . . . He was very thin-skinned."
FBI spokeswoman Debra J. Weierman said Thursday that the bureau would not comment on the death of Ivins.
Last week, FBI Director Mueller told CNN that "in some sense, there have been breakthroughs" in the case.
"I'll tell you we made great progress in the investigation," Mueller added.
"And it's in no way dormant."
Ivins, the son of a Princeton-educated pharmacist, was born and raised in Lebanon, Ohio, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a doctorate in microbiology, from the University of Cincinnati.
The eldest of his two brothers, Thomas Ivins, said he was not surprised by the events that have unfolded.
"He buckled under the pressure from the federal government," Thomas Ivins said, adding that FBI agents came to Ohio last year to question him about his brother.
"I was questioned by the feds, and I sung like a canary" about Bruce Ivins' personality and tendencies, Thomas Ivins said.
"He had in his mind that he was omnipotent."
Ivins' widow declined to be interviewed when reached Thursday at her home in Frederick. The couple raised twins, now 24.
The family's home is 198 miles -- about a 3 1/2 -hour drive -- from a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., where anthrax spores were found by investigators.
All of the recovered anthrax letters were postmarked in that vicinity.
Willman reported from Los Angeles and Washington. Times researcher Janet Lundblad contributed to this report.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Douche of the Week: Toby Keith
I guess Toby expects Barack to shuffle and keep his eyes on the ground. I guess Toby's surprised that Barack isn't yelling "M-Fer! Get me some tea" like Bill O'Reilley expected.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Secretary Of Energy Repeats Katrina Oil Spill Lie: ‘Not One Case’ Where Oil ‘Spilled In The Environment’
In order to support Bush’s message, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman went on Fox News today to push the claim that offshore drilling is safe for the environment. But in the midst of his interview, Bodman repeated the right-wing lie that no oil spilled in 2005 during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:
JARRETT: Has technology improved so dramatically that drilling can now be done in a way that protects the environment?
BODMAN: I believe that it can. When we had Katrina and Rita, the two worst hurricanes in — at least in recent memory, in ‘05, some three years ago, there was not one case where we had a situation with oil or gas being spilled in the environment.
As ThinkProgress has previously noted, the clear satellite evidence of major spills was borne out by final reports. In May 2006, the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) published their offshore damage assessment: “113 platforms totally destroyed, and 457 pipelines damaged, 101 of those major lines with 10 inches or larger diameter.”
In all, the two hurricanes caused 124 offshore spills for a total of 743,700 gallons, including six spills of 42,000 gallons or greater.
It’s one thing for right-wing hacks like the Wall Street Journal editorial page to push these lies, but America’s highest-ranking energy official should know better.
Look, you’re an engineer by background.
BODMAN: That’s right.
JARRETT: Has technology improved so dramatically that drilling can now be done in a way that protects the environment?
BODMAN: I believe that it can. When we had Katrina and Rita, the two worst hurricanes in — at least in recent memory, in ‘05, some three years ago, there was not one case where we had a situation with oil or gas being spilled in the environment.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
You've Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me...
A Pro-Life Democrat? A member of Democrats for Life?
You've Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me....
You think Hillary supporters had a hard time with Obama before... watch what happens if Obama picks Kaine.
I'm still wondering if we've backed the wrong horse.
Dear Barack Obama-
Change means running left. Not in the middle. The middle of the road is the best place to get run over by a drunken Republican.
Hugs and Kisses,
Another Republican Crook: Alaska Senator Ted Stevens Indicted
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Naturally) has been indicted
WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator and a figure in Alaska politics since before statehood, has been indicted on seven counts of falsely reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in services he received from a company that helped renovate his home.
Stevens, 84, has been dogged by a federal investigation into whether he pushed for fishing legislation that also benefited his son, an Alaska lobbyist.
From May 1999 to August 2007, prosecutors said Stevens concealed "his continuing receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things of value from a private corporation." The indictment released Tuesday said the items included: home improvements to his vacation home in Alaska, including a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, plumbing, electrical wiring; as well as car exchanges, a Viking gas grill, furniture and tools.
Justice Department officials were holding a news conference later Tuesday to discuss the charges.
Messages left Tuesday at both Stevens' Senate office in Washington and his campaign office in Anchorage were not immediately returned.
Prosecutors said Stevens "took multiple steps to continue" receiving things from oil services company VECO Corp., and its founder, Bill Allen. At the time, the indictment says, Allen and other VECO employees were soliciting Stevens for "multiple official actions .... knowing that Stevens could and did use his official position and his office on behalf of VECO during that same time period."
VECO's requests included funding and other aid for the oil services company's projects and partnerships in Pakistan and Russia. It also included federal grants from several agencies _ as well as help in building a national gas pipeline in Alaska's North Slope Region, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.
Another Republican Terrorist: Toby Keith makes lynching "cool again."
Toby Keith's Pro-Lynching Tour hits Colbert, CBS and More
by Max Blumenthal at HuffPo
Despite his background as a comedian, Stephen Colbert is known by many of the authors who have appeared on his show as one of the toughest interviewers in the business. But on July 28, when country music superstar Toby Keith stepped on the set of the Colbert Report to promote his movie, Beer For My Horses, he was greeted by his host with nothing less than reverential admiration. After a jovial, back-slapping sit-down with Keith, Colbert turned the stage over to his guest for a performance of the song that inspired the title and theme of his forthcoming "Southern comedy."
While Keith belted out "Beer For My Horses," Colbert's studio audience clapped to the beat, blithely unaware that they were swaying to a racially tinged, explicitly pro-lynching anthem that calls for the vigilante-style hanging of car thieves, "gangsters doing dirty deeds...crime in the streets," and other assorted evildoers.
The lyrics to Keith's ode to lynching are as follows:
Well a man come on the 6 o'clock news
said somebody's been shot
somebody's been abused
somebody blew up a building
somebody stole a car
somebody got away
somebody didn't get to far yeah
they didn't get too far
Grandpappy told my pappy back in my day, son
A man had to answer for the wicked that he'd done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys
Hang them high in the street
For all the people to see
That Justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys
You got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune
And we'll all meet back at the local saloon
And we'll raise up our glasses against evil forces singing
whiskey for my men, beer for my horses
We got too many gangsters doing dirty deeds
too much corruption and crime in the streets
It's time the long arm of the law put a few more in the ground
Send 'em all to their maker and he'll settle 'em down
You can bet he'll set 'em down...
During the days when Toby Keith's "Grandpappy" stalked the Jim Crow South, lynching was an institutional method of terror employed against blacks to maintain white supremacy. According to the Tuskegee Institute, between the years 1882 and 1951, 3,437 African-Americans were lynched in the United States, mostly in the heart of Dixie. Felonious assault and rape (read: corrupting "the flower of white womanhood") were the two most frequent justifications for lynch mob actions.
During the glory days of Keith's "Grandpappy," lynching brought the whole community together
Georgia was ground zero for lynch mob activity. Though most of the Peach State's victims were black, one of its most high-profile hangings claimed the life of a Jew, Leo Frank. Frank, a college-educated Northerner, was wrongly convicted in 1913 of murdering a 13-year-old girl after a show trial in which his prosecutor portrayed him to a grand jury as a bisexual pervert. Before the trial, one juror remarked, "If I get on that jury, I'll hang that Jew for sure."
A crowd gathered outside the courtroom as soon as the verdict came down. "Hang the Jew!" they chanted. Above the mob's cries rose the voice of a country fiddler named John Carson who had come to debut his ode to Frank's supposed victim, Mary Phagan. He sang:
Leo Frank he met her
With a brutish heart, we know;
He smiled, and said, "Little Mary,
You won't go home no more."
The terrifying spectacle outside the courtroom prompted Jewish families to flee Atlanta in droves. Two years later, after the governor commuted Frank's sentence, a lynch mob spirited Frank from his prison cell, dragged him into the woods and lynched him -- from "a tall oak tree," as Toby Keith sang.
Leo Frank, a Northern Jew, was lynched in 1915 -- from "a tall oak tree," as Toby Keith sang
Those who doubt the presence of racist undertones in Keith's "Beer For My Horses" should see the song's video. (The embed link to the video's Youtube version was disabled by Keith's record label so you have to click here to watch it). Cue ahead to 3:00 and watch as Keith intones, "We got too many gangsters doin' dirty deeds." The singer's words are not-so-subtly accompanied by the image of a swaggering black man sporting short dreads and baggy clothes. Thus the profile of Keith's ideal lynching candidate is revealed.
Keith's whirlwind publicity tour continues on July 30 with his appearance on CBS's Early Show, then sit-down interviews with Esquire Magazine and Us Weekly. The following week, Jay Leno will play host to another raucous rendition of "Beer For My Horses." Thanks to Keith and his unsuspecting hosts, lynching is becoming cool again.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Another Republican Terrorist
July 27, 2008
Police found right-wing political books, brass knuckles, empty shotgun shell boxes and a handgun in the Powell home of a man who said he attacked a church in order to kill liberals "who are ruining the country," court records show.
Knoxville police Sunday evening searched the Levy Drive home of Jim David Adkisson after he allegedly entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and killed two people and wounded six others during the presentation of a children's musical.
Knoxville Police Department Officer Steve Still requested the search warrant after interviewing Adkisson. who was subdued by several church members after firing three rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun into the congregation.
Adkisson targeted the church, Still wrote in the document obtained by WBIR-TV, Channel 10, "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."
Adkisson told Still that "he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them in to office."
Adkisson told officers he left the house unlocked for them because "he expected to be killed during the assault."
Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.
The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday's mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of "the liberal movement," and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.
Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his "hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said. "Liberals in general, as well as gays."
Adkisson said he also was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job, Owen said.
The letter, recovered from Adkisson's black 2004 Ford Escape, which was parked in the church's parking lot at 2931 Kingston Pike, indicates he had been planning the shooting for about a week.
"He fully expected to be killed by the responding police," the police chief said.
Owen said Adkisson specifically targeted the church for its beliefs, rather than a particular member of the congregation.
"It appears that church had received some publicity regarding its liberal stance," the chief said. The church has a "gays welcome" sign and regularly runs announcements in the News Sentinel about meetings of the Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays meetings at the church.
Owen said Adkisson's stated hatred of the liberal movement was not necessarily connected to any hostility toward Christianity or religion per say, but rather the political advocacy of the church.
The church's Web site states that it has worked for "desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women's rights and gay rights" since the 1950s. Current ministries involve emergency aid for the needy, school tutoring and support for the homeless, as well as a cafe that provides a gathering place for gay and lesbian high-schoolers.
Adkisson does not appear to be a member of any church himself, Owen said.
"In his written statement, he does not ascribe to any affiliation," the chief said. "It does not appear he's a member of any organized group."
Officers recovered 76 shells for a 12-gauge, semiautomatic shotgun inside the church. Among those shells were three spent rounds. He had carried the shotgun inside the church in a guitar case, Owen said.
"He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties," the chief said.
Adkisson is accused of killing two people and injuring seven others. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Greg McKendry, 60. Also killed in the shooting was Linda Kraeger, 61, who was visiting the church from Westside Unitarian Universalist Church.
Injured were Joe Barnhart, 76, and Jack Barnhart, 69, who are brothers; Betty Barnhart, 71; Linda Chavez, 41; John Worth Jr., 68; Tammy Sommers, 38; and Allison Lee, 42. Jack and Joe Barnhart are brothers, and Jack and Betty Barnhart are married.
At about 10:25 a.m., two staffers from Second Presbyterian Church next door, placed a large flower arrangement from their church's sanctuary atop TVUUC's sign along Kingston Pike.
"Our hearts go out to this church. This is our community. We love these people," said Julie Lothrop, assistant to the pastor.
The shooting began at 10:18 a.m. Adkisson was arrested minutes later after being restrained by church members.
Three of those wounded remain in critical or serious condition at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Two others were treated at a local hospital and released. One of those suffered an injury when trampled as worshippers left the church.
The letter was not addressed to anyone but was signed by Adkisson, Owen said.
Adkisson's criminal history includes a DUI in Calfornia and in Clinton.
He had been a member of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne, according to Owen.
Public Defender Mark Stephens' office has been appointed to represent Adkisson.
Through a spokeswoman this morning, Stephens said he could not comment.
If the suspect's own resume is accurate, Owen said, Adkisson worked in a variety of places across the country and most recently worked in Knoxville in 2006. The chief did not specify where Adkisson last held a job. Adkisson also holds an associates degree in mechanical engineering.
More than 200 people were packed into the church's sanctuary watching the children's musical, "Annie Jr." when a gunman opened fire.
McKendry, according to witnesses and police, confronted Adkisson, who shot him with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Witness Barbara Kemper said Adkisson walked past the area where children were awaiting their stage call and into the sanctuary.
Witnesses said Adkisson did not aim the shotgun at children but focused on the pews filled with adults. The first blast left many wondering if the disabling boom was part of the musical program.
"We heard the first shot," said Marty Murphy, 66, a church member since 2000. "It sounded like a bomb went off. We thought it was part of the program at first.
"The second shot is when everyone started calling 911 and telling everyone to get down."
Murphy and others said Adkisson didn't say a thing before he began firing. Kemper, however, said Adkisson was yelling "something hateful."
Witnesses said Adkisson had a fanny pack around his waist that contained extra shells for his shotgun.
"There were shotgun shells all over the place, so he must have thought he was going to get more shots in," Murphy said. "He had those shells everywhere.
"Who would have thought, here in Knoxville?" she said.
News Sentinel staff writers Bob Fowler, J.J. Stambaugh, Frank Munger and Amy McRary contributed to this story.
More details as they develop online and in Tuesday's News Sentinel.1995
July 28, 1995
Antigovernment extremist Charles Ray Polk is arrested after trying to purchase a machine gun from an undercover police officer, and is later indicted by a federal grand jury for plotting to blow up the Internal Revenue Service building in Austin, Texas. At the time of his arrest, Polk is trying to purchase plastic explosives to add to the already huge arsenal he's amassed. Polk is sentenced to almost 21 years in federal prison, with a projected release date in 2009.
October 9, 1995
Saboteurs derail an Amtrak passenger train near Hyder, Ariz., killing one person and injuring scores of others. An antigovernment message, signed by the "Sons of Gestapo," is left behind. The perpetrators remain at large.
November 9, 1995
Oklahoma Constitutional Militia leader Willie Ray Lampley, his wife Cecilia and another man, John Dare Baird, are arrested as they prepare explosives to bomb numerous targets, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, gay bars and abortion clinics. The three, along with another suspect arrested later, are sentenced to terms of up to 11 years in 1996. An appeals court upholds Lampley's sentence the following year. Baird is released in August 2004, while Ray Lampley — who wrote letters from prison urging others to violence — is slated to be freed in January 2006.
December 18, 1995
An Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee discovers a plastic drum packed with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil in a parking lot behind the IRS building in Reno, Nev. The device failed to explode a day earlier when a three-foot fuse went out prematurely. Ten days later, tax protester Joseph Martin Bailie is arrested. Bailie is eventually sentenced to 36 years in federal prison.
January 18, 1996
Peter Kevin Langan, the pseudonymous "Commander Pedro" who leads the underground Aryan Republican Army, is arrested after a shootout with the FBI in Ohio. Along with six other suspects arrested around the same time, Langan is charged in connection with a string of 22 bank robberies in seven Midwestern states between 1994 and 1996. After pleading guilty and agreeing to testify, conspirator Richard Guthrie commits suicide in his cell. Two others, Kevin McCarthy and Scott Stedeford, enter plea bargains and do testify against their co-conspirators. Eventually, Mark Thomas, a leading neo-Nazi in Pennsylvania, pleads guilty for his role in helping organize the robberies and agrees to testify against Langan and other gang members. Shawn Kenny, another suspect, becomes a federal informant. Langan is sentenced to a life term in one case, plus 55 years in another. Thomas is sentenced to eight years in prison, and is released in early 2004.
April 11, 1996
Antigovernment activist Ray Hamblin is charged with illegal possession of explosives after authorities find 460 pounds of the high explosive Tovex, 746 pounds of ANFO blasting agent and 15 homemade hand grenades on his property in Hood River, Ore. Hamblin is sentenced to almost four years in federal prison, and is released in March 2000.
April 12, 1996
Apparently inspired by his reading of a neo-Nazi tract, Larry Wayne Shoemake kills one black man and wounds seven other people, including a reporter, during a racist shooting spree in a black neighborhood in Jackson, Miss. As police close in on the abandoned restaurant he is shooting from, Shoemake, who is white, sets the restaurant on fire and kills himself. A search of his home finds references to "Separation or Annihilation," an essay on race relations by National Alliance leader William Pierce, along with an arsenal of weapons that includes 17 long guns, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, several knives and countless military manuals.
April 26, 1996
Two leaders of the Militia-at-Large of the Republic of Georgia, Robert Edward Starr iii and William James McCranie Jr., are charged with manufacturing shrapnel bombs for distribution to militia members. Later in the year, they are sentenced on explosives charges to terms of up to eight years. Another Militia-at-Large member, accused of training a team to assassinate politicians, is later convicted of conspiracy. Starr is released from prison in 2003, while McCranie gets out in 2001. The last member, Troy Allen Kayser (alias Troy Spain), draws six years in prison and is released in early 2002.
July 1, 1996
Twelve members of an Arizona militia group called the Viper Team are arrested on federal conspiracy, weapons and explosive charges after allegedly surveilling and videotaping government buildings as potential targets. All 12 plead guilty or are convicted of various charges, drawing sentences of up to nine years in prison. The plot participants are all released in coming years, with Gary Curds Baer, who drew the heaviest sentence, freed in May 2004.
July 27, 1996
A nail-packed bomb goes off at the Atlanta Olympics, which is seen by many extremists as part of a Satanic "New World Order," killing one person and injuring more than 100 others. Investigators will later conclude the attack is linked to 1997-1998 bombings of an Atlanta-area abortion clinic, an Atlanta gay bar and a Birmingham, Ala., abortion facility. Suspect Eric Robert Rudolph — a reclusive North Carolina man tied to the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology — flees into the woods of his native state after he is identified in early 1998 as a suspect in the Birmingham attack, and is only captured five years later. Eventually, he pleads guilty to all of the attacks attributed to him in exchange for life without parole.
July 29, 1996
Washington State Militia leader John Pitner and seven others are arrested on weapons and explosives charges in connection with a plot to build pipe bombs for a confrontation with the federal government. Pitner and four others are convicted on weapons charges, while conspiracy charges against all eight end in a mistrial. Pitner is later retried on that charge, convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. He is freed from prison in 2001.
October 8, 1996
Three "Phineas Priests" — racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity terrorists who feel they've been called by God to undertake violent attacks — are charged in connection with two bank robberies and bombings at the two banks, a Spokane newspaper and a Planned Parenthood office. Charles Barbee, Robert Berry and Jay Merrell are eventually convicted and sentenced to life terms. Brian Ratigan, a fourth member of the group arrested separately, draws a 55-year term.
October 11, 1996
Seven members of the Mountaineer Militia are arrested in a plot to blow up the FBI's national fingerprint records center, where 1,000 people work, in West Virginia. In 1998, leader Floyd "Ray" Looker is sentenced to 18 years in prison. Two other defendants are sentenced on explosives charges and a third draws a year in prison for providing blueprints of the FBI facility to Looker, who then sold them to a government informant who was posing as a terrorist.
January 16, 1997
Two anti-personnel bombs — the second clearly designed to kill arriving law enforcement and rescue workers — explode outside an abortion clinic in Sandy Springs, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. Seven people are injured. Letters signed by the "Army of God" claim responsibility for this attack and another, a month later, at an Atlanta gay bar. Authorities later learn that these attacks, the 1998 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, were all carried out by Eric Robert Rudolph, who is captured in 2003 after five years on the run. Rudolph avoids the death penalty by pleading guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but simultaneously releases a defiant statement defending his attacks.
January 22, 1997
Authorities raid the Martinton, Ill., home of former Marine Ricky Salyers, an alleged Ku Klux Klan member, discovering 35,000 rounds of heavy ammunition, armor piercing shells, smoke and tear gas grenades, live shells for grenade launchers, artillery shells and other military gear. Salyers was discharged earlier from the Marines, where he taught demolitions and sniping, after tossing a live grenade (with the pin still in) at state police officers serving him with a search warrant in 1995. Following the 1997 raid, Salyers, an alleged member of the underground Black Dawn group of extremists in the military, is sentenced to serve three years for weapons violations. He is released from prison in 2000.
March 26, 1997
Militia activist Brendon Blasz is arrested in Kalamazoo, Mich., and charged with making pipe bombs and other illegal explosives. Prosecutors say Blasz plotted to bomb the federal building in Battle Creek, the IRS building in Portage, a Kalamazoo television station and federal armories. But they recommend leniency on his explosives conviction after Blasz renounces his antigovernment beliefs and cooperates with them. In August, he is sentenced to more than three years in federal prison. Blasz is released in early 2000.
April 22, 1997
Three Ku Klux Klan members are arrested in a plot to blow up a natural gas refinery outside Fort Worth, Texas, after local Klan leader Robert Spence gets cold feet and goes to the FBI. The three, along with a fourth arrested later, expected to kill a huge number of people with the blast — authorities later say as many as 30,000 might have died — which was to serve, incredibly, as a diversion for a simultaneous armored car robbery. Among the victims would have been children at a nearby school. All four plead guilty to conspiracy charges and are sentenced to terms of up to 20 years. Spence enters the Witness Protection Program. Carl Jay Waskom Jr. is released in June 2004. Shawn and Catherine Adams, a couple, are expected to be freed in 2006, and Edward Taylor Jr. in early 2007.
April 23, 1997
Florida police arrest Todd Vanbiber, a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance's Tampa unit and the shadowy League of the Silent Soldier, after he accidentally sets off pipe bombs he was building, blasting shrapnel into his own face. He is accused of plotting to use the bombs on the approach to Disney World to divert attention from a planned string of bank robberies. Vanbiber pleads guilty to weapons and explosives charges and is sentenced to more than six years in federal prison. He is released in 2002. Within two years, Vanbiber is posting messages on neo-Nazi Internet sites boasting that he has built over 300 bombs successfully and only made one error, and describing mass murderer Timothy McVeigh as a hero.
April 27, 1997
After a cache of explosives stored in a tree blows up near Yuba City, Calif., police arrest Montana Freemen supporter William Robert Goehler. Investigators looking into the blast arrest two Goehler associates, one of them a militia leader, after finding 500 pounds of petrogel explosives — enough to level three city blocks — in a motor home parked outside their residence. Six others are arrested on related charges. Goehler, with previous convictions for rape, burglary and assault, is sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
May 3, 1997
Antigovernment extremists set fire to the IRS office in Colorado Springs, Colo., causing $2.5 million in damage and injuring a firefighter. Federal agents later arrest five men in connection with the arson, which is conceived as a protest against the tax system. Ringleader James Cleaver, former national director of the antigovernment Sons of Liberty group, is eventually sentenced to 33 years in prison, while accomplice Jack Dowell is sentenced in a separate trial to serve 30 years. Both are ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution. Dowell's cousin is acquitted of all charges, while two other suspects, Ronald Sherman and Thomas Shafer, plead guilty to perjury charges in connection with the case.
July 4, 1997
Militiaman Bradley Playford Glover and another heavily armed antigovernment activist are arrested before dawn near Fort Hood, in central Texas, just hours before they planned to invade the Army base and slaughter foreign troops they mistakenly believed were housed there. In the next few days, five other people are arrested in several states for their alleged roles in the plot to invade a series of military bases where the group believes United Nations forces are massing for an assault on Americans. All seven are part of a splinter group of the Third Continental Congress, a kind of militia government-in-waiting. In the end, Glover is sentenced to two years on Kansas weapons charges, to be followed by a five-year federal term in connection with the Fort Hood plot. The others draw lesser terms. Glover is released in 2003, the last of the seven to get out.
December 12, 1997
A federal grand jury in Arkansas indicts three men on racketeering charges for plotting to overthrow the government and create a whites-only Aryan People's Republic, which they intend to grow through polygamy. Chevie Kehoe, Daniel Lee and Faron Lovelace are accused of crimes in six states, including murder, kidnapping, robbery and conspiracy. Kehoe and Lee will also face state charges of murdering an Arkansas family, including an 8-year-old girl, in 1996. Kehoe ultimately receives a life sentence on that charge, while Lee is sentenced to death. Lovelace is sentenced to death for the murder of a suspected informant, although in early 2005 he will be up for resentencing because of court rulings. Kehoe's brother, Cheyne, is convicted of attempted murder during a February 1997 Ohio shootout with police and sentenced to 24 years in prison, despite his key role in helping authorities find his fugitive brother in Utah in June 1997 after the shootout. Cheyne went to the authorities after Chevie began talking about murdering their parents and showing sexual interest in Cheyne's wife.
January 29, 1998
An off-duty police officer is killed and a nurse terribly maimed when a nail-packed, remote-control bomb explodes outside a Birmingham, Ala., abortion facility, the New Woman All Women clinic. Letters to media outlets and officials claim responsibility in the name of the "Army of God," the same entity that took credit for the bombings of a clinic and a gay bar in the Atlanta area. The attack also will be linked to the fatal 1996 bombing of the Atlanta Olympics. Eric Robert Rudolph, a loner from North Carolina, is first identified as a suspect when witnesses spot his pickup truck fleeing the Birmingham bombing. But he is not caught until 2003. He ultimately pleads guilty to all four attacks in exchange for a life sentence.
February 23, 1998
Three men with links to a Ku Klux Klan group are arrested near East St. Louis, Ill., on weapons charges. The three, along with three other men arrested later, had formed a group called The New Order, patterned on a 1980s terror group called The Order (a.k.a. the Silent Brotherhood) that carried out assassinations and armored car heists. New Order members plotted to assassinate a federal judge and civil rights lawyer Morris Dees, blow up the Southern Poverty Law Center that Dees co-founded and other buildings, poison water supplies and rob banks. In the end, all six plead guilty or are convicted of weapons charges, drawing terms of up to seven years in federal prison. Wallace Weicherding, who came to a 1997 Dees speech with a concealed gun but turned back rather than pass through a metal detector, is freed in 2003. New Order leader Dennis McGiffen is released in July 2004, the last of the six to regain his freedom.
March 18, 1998
Three members of the North American Militia of Southwestern Michigan are arrested on firearms and other charges. Prosecutors say the men conspired to bomb federal buildings, a Kalamazoo television station and an interstate highway interchange, kill federal agents, assassinate politicians and attack aircraft at a National Guard base — attacks that were all to be funded by marijuana sales. The group's leader, Ken Carter, is a self-described member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations. Carter pleads guilty, testifies against his former comrades, and is sentenced to five years in prison. The others, Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf, go to trial and are ultimately handed sentences of 40 and 55 years, respectively. Carter is released from prison in 2002.
May 29, 1998
A day after stealing a water truck, three men shoot and kill a Cortez, Colo., police officer and wound two other officers as they try to stop the suspects during a road chase. After the gun battle, the three — Alan Monty Pilon, Robert Mason and Jason McVean — disappear into the canyons of the high desert. Mason will be found a week later, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot. The skeletal remains of Pilon are found in October 1999 and show that he, too, died of a gunshot to the head, another apparent suicide. McVean is not found, but most authorities assume he died in the desert. Many officials believe the three men intended to use the water truck in some kind of terrorist attack, but the nature of their suspected plans is never learned.
July 1, 1998
Three men are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction after threatening President Clinton and other federal officials with biological weapons. Officials say the men planned to use a cactus thorn coated with a toxin like anthrax and fired by a modified butane lighter to carry out the murders. One man is acquitted of the charges, but Jack Abbot Grebe, Jr., and Johnnie Wise — a 72-year-old man who attended meetings of the separatist Republic of Texas group — eventually are sentenced to more than 24 years in prison.
July 30, 1998
South Carolina militia member Paul T. Chastain is charged with weapons, explosives and drug violations after allegedly trying to trade drugs for a machine gun and enough C-4 plastic explosive to demolish a five-room house. The next year, Chastain pleads guilty to an array of charges, including threatening to kill Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh. He is sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
October 23, 1998
Dr. Barnett Slepian is assassinated by a sniper as he converses with his wife and children in the kitchen of their Amherst, N.Y., home. Identified as a suspect shortly after the murder, James Charles Kopp flees to Mexico, driven and disguised by friend Jennifer Rock, and goes on to hide out in Ireland and France. Two fellow anti-abortion extremists, Loretta Marra and Dennis Malvasi, make plans to help Kopp secretly return. Kopp, also suspected in the earlier sniper woundings of four other physicians in Canada and upstate New York, is arrested in France as he picks up money wired by Marra and Malvasi. He eventually admits the shooting to a newspaper reporter — claiming that he only intended to wound Slepian — and is sentenced to 25 years in prison. Marra and Malvasi go to prison for almost three years after pleading guilty to federal charges related to harboring a fugitive.
June 10, 1999
Officials arrest Alabama plumber Chris Scott Gilliam, a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, after he attempts to purchase 10 hand grenades from an undercover federal agent. Gilliam, who months earlier paraded in an extremist T-shirt in front of the Southern Poverty Law Center's offices in Montgomery, tells agents he planned to send mail bombs to targets in Washington, d.c. Agents searching his home find bomb-making manuals, white supremacist literature and an assault rifle. Gilliam pleads guilty to federal firearms charges and is sentenced to 10 years in prison. He is expected to be released in 2008.
July 1, 1999
A gay couple, Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, are shot to death in bed at their home near Redding, Calif. Days later, after tracking purchases made on Mowder's stolen credit card, police arrest brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams. At least one of the pair, Matthew Williams (both use their middle names), is an adherent of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology. Police soon learn that the brothers two weeks earlier carried out three synagogue arsons in Sacramento, along with the arson of an abortion clinic there. Both brothers, whose mother at one point refers in a conversation to her sons' victims as "two homos," eventually admit their guilt — in Matthew's case, in a newspaper interview. But Matthew, who at one point badly injures a guard in a surprise attack, commits suicide in jail in late 2002. Tyler, who pleads guilty to an array of charges in the case, is not expected to be eligible for parole for some 50 years.
July 2, 1999
Infuriated that neo-Nazi leader Matt Hale has just been denied his law license by Illinois officials, follower Benjamin Nathaniel Smith begins a three-day murder spree across Illinois and Indiana, shooting to death a black former college basketball coach and a Korean doctoral student and wounding nine other minorities. Smith kills himself as police close in during a car chase. Hale, leader of the World Church of the Creator, at first claims to barely know Smith. But it quickly emerges that Hale has recently given Smith his group's top award and, in fact, has spent some 16 hours on the phone with him in the two weeks before Smith's rampage. Conveniently, Hale receives a registered letter from Smith just days after his suicide, informing Hale that Smith is quitting the group because he now sees violence as the only answer.
August 10, 1999
Buford Furrow, a former member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations who has been living with the widow of slain terrorist leader Bob Mathews, strides into a Jewish community center near Los Angeles and fires more than 70 bullets, wounding three boys, a teenage girl and a woman. He then drives into the San Fernando Valley and kills Filipino-American mailman Joseph Ileto. The next day, Furrow turns himself in, saying he intended to send "a wake-up call to America to kill Jews." Furrow, who has a history of mental illness, eventually pleads guilty and is sentenced to two life terms without parole, plus 110 years in prison.
November 5, 1999
FBI agents arrest James Kenneth Gluck in Tampa, Fla., after he wrote a 10-page letter to judges in Jefferson County, Colo., threatening to "wage biological warfare" on a county justice center. While searching his home, police find the materials needed to make ricin, one of the deadliest poisons known. Gluck later threatens a judge, claiming that he could kill 10,000 people with the chemical. After serving time in federal prison, Gluck is released in early 2001.
December 5, 1999
Two California men, both members of the San Joaquin Militia, are charged with conspiracy in connection with a plot to blow up two 12-million-gallon propane tanks, a television tower and an electrical substation in hopes of provoking an insurrection. In 2001, the former militia leader, Donald Rudolph, pleads guilty to plotting to kill a federal judge and blow up the propane tanks, and testifies against his former comrades. Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles are ultimately convicted of several charges in connection with the conspiracy. They are expected to be released from federal prison in 2021 and 2018, respectively.
December 8, 1999
Donald Beauregard, head of a militia coalition known as the Southeastern States Alliance, is charged with conspiracy, providing materials for a terrorist act and gun violations in connection with a plot to bomb energy facilities and cause power outages in Florida and Georgia. After pleading guilty to several charges, Beauregard, who once claimed to have discovered a secret map detailing a planned un takeover mistakenly printed on a box of Trix cereal, is sentenced to five years in federal prison. He is released in 2004, a year after accomplice James Troy Diver is freed following a similar conviction.
March 9, 2000
Federal agents arrest Mark Wayne McCool, the one-time leader of the Texas Militia and Combined Action Program, as he allegedly makes plans to attack the Houston federal building. McCool, who was arrested after buying powerful C-4 plastic explosives and an automatic weapon from an undercover FBI agent, earlier plotted to attack the federal building with a member of his own group and a member of the antigovernment Republic of Texas, but those two men eventually abandoned the plot. McCool, however, remained convinced the un had stored a cache of military materiel in the building. In the end, he pleads guilty to federal charges that bring him just six months in jail.
April 28, 2000
Immigration attorney Richard Baumhammers, himself the son of Latvian immigrants, goes on a rampage in the Pittsburgh area against non-whites, killing five people and critically wounding a sixth. Baumhammers had recently started a tiny white supremacist group, the Free Market Party, that demanded an end to non-white immigration into the United States. In the end, the unemployed attorney, who was living with parents at the time of his murder spree, is sentenced to death for targeting his victims because of their race.
March 1, 2001
As part of an ongoing probe into a white supremacist group, federal and local law enforcement agents raid the Corbett, Ore., home of Fritz Springmeier, seizing equipment to grow marijuana and weapons and racist literature. They also find a binder notebook entitled "Army of God, Yahweh's Warriors" that contains what officials call a list of targets, including a local federal building and the FBI's Oregon offices. Springmeier, an associate of the anti-Semitic Christian Patriots Association, is eventually charged with setting off a diversionary bomb at an adult video store in Damascus, Ore., in 1997 as part of a bank robbery carried out by accomplice Forrest Bateman Jr. Another 2001 raid finds small amounts of bomb materials and marijuana in Bateman's home. Eventually, Bateman pleads guilty to bank robbery and Springmeier is convicted of the same charges, and both are sentenced to nine years.
April 19, 2001
White supremacists Leo Felton and girlfriend Erica Chase are arrested following a foot chase that began when a police officer spotted them trying to pass counterfeit bills at a Boston donut shop. Investigators quickly learn Felton heads up a tiny group called Aryan Unit One, and that Chase and Felton, who had already obtained a timing device, planned to blow up black and Jewish landmarks and possibly assassinate black and Jewish leaders. They also learn another amazing fact: Felton, a self-described Aryan, is secretly biracial. Felton and Chase are eventually convicted of conspiracy, weapons violations and obstruction, and Felton is also convicted of bank robbery and other charges. Felton, who previously served 11 years for assaulting a black taxi driver, is sentenced to serve more than 21 years in federal prison, while his one-time sweetheart draws a lesser term.
Oct. 14, 2001
A North Carolina sheriff's deputy pulls over Steve Anderson, a former "colonel" in the Kentucky Militia, on a routine traffic stop as he heads home to Kentucky from a white supremacist gathering in North Carolina. Anderson, who has issued violent threats against officials for months via an illegal pirate radio station and is an adherent of racist Christian Identity theology, pulls out a semi-automatic weapon and peppers the deputy's car with bullets before driving his truck into the woods and disappearing for 13 months. Officials later find six pipe bombs in Anderson's abandoned truck and 27 bombs and destructive devices in his home. In the end, Anderson apologizes for his actions and pleads guilty. He is sentenced on a variety of firearms charges to 15 years in federal prison.
Dec. 5, 2001
Anti-abortion extremist Clayton Lee Wagner, who nine months earlier escaped from an Illinois jail while awaiting sentencing on weapons and carjacking charges, is arrested in Cincinnati, Ohio. Wagner's odyssey began in September 1999, when he was stopped driving a stolen camper in Illinois and told police he was headed to Seattle to murder an abortion provider. He escaped in February 2001 and, while on the lam, mailed more than 550 hoax anthrax letters to abortion clinics and posted an Internet threat warning abortion clinic workers that "if you work for the murderous abortionist, I'm going to kill you." Wagner is eventually sentenced to 30 years on the Illinois charges, including his escape. In Ohio, he is sentenced to almost 20 years more, to be served consecutively, on various weapons and car theft charges related to his time on the run. In late 2003, he also is found guilty of 51 federal terror charges, but his sentencing is deferred.
Dec. 11, 2001
Jewish Defense League chairman Irving David Rubin and a follower, Earl Leslie Krugel, are arrested in California and charged with conspiring to bomb the offices of U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) and the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City. Authorities say a confidential informant taped meetings with the two in which the bombings were discussed and Krugel said the jdl needed "to do something to one of their filthy mosques." Rubin later commits suicide in prison, officials say, just before he is to go on trial in late 2002. Krugel pleads guilty to conspiracy in both plots, and testifies that Rubin conspired with him. Krugel faces a mandatory 10-year sentence, and could receive up to life in federal prison.
Jan. 4, 2002
Neo-Nazi National Alliance member Michael Edward Smith is arrested after a car chase in Nashville, Tenn., that began when he was spotted sitting in a car with a semi-automatic rifle pointed at Sherith Israel Pre-School, run by a local synagogue. In Smith's car, home and storage unit, officials find an arsenal that includes a .50-caliber rifle, 10 hand grenades, 13 pipe bombs, binary explosives, semi-automatic pistols, ammunition and an array of military manuals. They also find teenage porn on Smith's computer and evidence that he carried out computer searches for Jewish schools and synagogues. In one of his e-mails, Smith wrote that Jews "perhaps" should be "stuffed head fIRSt into an oven." In the end, Smith is sentenced on weapons and explosives charges to more than 10 years in prison.
Feb. 8, 2002
The leader of a militia-like group known as Project 7 and his girlfriend are arrested after an informant tells police the group is plotting to kill judges and law enforcement officers in order to kick off a revolution. David Burgert, who has a record for burglary and is already wanted for assaulting police officers, is found in the house of girlfriend Tracy Brockway along with an arsenal that includes pipe bombs and 25,000 rounds of ammunition. Also found are "intel sheets" with personal information about law enforcement officers, their spouses and children. Although officials are convinced the Project 7 plot was real, Burgert ultimately is convicted only of weapons charges and draws a seven-year sentence; six others are also convicted of or plead guilty to weapons charges. Brockway gets a suspended sentence for harboring a fugitive.
July 19, 2002
Acting on a tip, federal and local law enforcement agents arrest North Carolina Klan leader Charles Robert Barefoot Jr. for his role in an alleged plot to blow up the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, the sheriff himself and the county jail. Officers find more than two dozen weapons in Barefoot's home. They also find bombs and bomb components in the home of Barefoot's son, Daniel Barefoot, who is charged that same day with the arson of a school bus and an empty barn. The elder Barefoot — who broke away from the National Knights of the KKK several months earlier to form his own harder-line group, the Nation's Knights of the KKK — is charged with weapons violations and later sentenced to more than two years. In 2003, Barefoot's wife and three men are charged with the murder of a former associate. Police say the murder may have been related to the alleged bombing plot.
Aug. 22, 2002
Tampa area podiatrist Robert J. Goldstein is arrested after police, called by Goldstein's wife after he allegedly threatened to kill her, find more than 15 explosive devices in their home, along with materials to make at least 30 more. Also found are homemade C-4 plastic explosives, grenades and mines, a .50-caliber rifle, semi-automatic weapons, and a list of 50 Islamic worship centers in the area. The most significant discovery is a three-page plan detailing plans to "kill all 'rags'" at the Islamic Society of Pinellas County. Eventually, two other local men are also charged in connection with the plot, and Goldstein's wife is arrested for possessing illegal destructive devices. In the end, Goldstein pleads guilty to plotting to blow up the Islamic Society and is sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison.
Oct. 3, 2002
Officials close in on long-time antigovernment extremist Larry Raugust at a rest stop in Idaho, arrest him and charge him with 16 counts of making and possessing destructive devices, including pipe bombs and pressure-detonated booby traps. He is accused of giving one explosive device to an undercover agent, and is also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot with colleagues in the Idaho Mountain Boys militia to murder a federal judge and a police officer, and to break a friend out of jail. A deadbeat dad, Raugust is also accused of helping plant land mines on property belonging to a friend whose land was seized by authorities over unpaid taxes. He eventually pleads guilty to 15 counts of making bombs and is sentenced to federal prison. Raugust is expected to be released in 2008.
Jan. 8, 2003
Federal agents arrest Matt Hale, the national leader of the neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), as he reports to a Chicago courthouse in an ongoing copyright case over the name of his group. Hale is charged with soliciting the murder of the federal judge in the case, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who he has publicly vilified as someone bent on the destruction of his group. (Although Lefkow originally ruled in wcotc's favor, an appeals court found that the complaint brought by an identically named church in Oregon was legally justified, and Lefkow reversed herself accordingly.) In guarded language captured on tape recordings, Hale is heard agreeing that his security chief, an FBI informant, should kill Lefkow. Hale is eventually found guilty and sentenced to serve 40 years in federal prison.
Jan. 18, 2003
James D. Brailey, a convicted felon who once was selected as "governor" of the state of Washington by the antigovernment Washington Jural Society, is arrested after a raid on his home turns up a machine gun, an assault rifle and several handguns. One informant tells the FBI that Brailey was plotting to assassinate Gov. Gary Locke, both because Locke was the state's real governor and because he was Chinese-American. A second informant says that Brailey actually went on a "dry run" to Olympia, carrying several guns into the state Capitol building to test security. Eventually, Brailey pleads guilty to weapons charges and is sentenced to serve 15 months in prison. He is released in February 2004.
Feb. 13, 2003
Federal agents in Pennsylvania arrest David Wayne Hull, imperial wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and an adherent of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology, alleging that Hull has arranged to buy hand grenades to blow up abortion clinics. The FBI says Hull also illegally instructed followers on how to build pipe bombs. In addition, Hull published a newsletter in which he urged readers to write Oklahoma bomber Tim McVeigh "to tell this great man goodbye." Hull eventually is found guilty of weapons violations and sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.
April 3, 2003
Federal agents arrest antigovernment extremist David Roland Hinkson in Idaho and charge him with trying to hire an assassin on two occasions in 2002 and 2003 to murder a federal judge, a prosecutor and an IRS agent involved in a tax case against him. Hinkson, a businessman who earned millions of dollars from his Water Oz dietary supplement company but refused to pay almost $1 million in federal taxes, is convicted in 2004 of 26 counts related to the tax case. In early 2005, a federal jury finds him guilty in the assassination plot as well.
April 10, 2003
The FBI raids the Noonday, Texas, home of William Krar and storage facilities he rented in the area, discovering an arsenal that includes more than 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 65 pipe bombs and remote-control briefcase bombs, and almost two pounds of deadly sodium cyanide. Also found are components to convert the cyanide into a bomb capable of killing thousands, along with white supremacist and antigovernment material. Investigators soon learn Krar was stopped earlier in 2003 by police in Tennessee, who found in his car several weapons and coded documents that seemed to detail a plot. Krar refuses to cooperate, and details of that alleged plan are never learned. Eventually, he pleads guilty to possession of a chemical weapon and is sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.
June 4, 2003
Federal agents in California announce that former accountant John Noster, in prison since November 2002 for car theft, is under investigation for plotting a major terrorist attack. Noster was first arrested as part of a car theft ring investigation, but officials who found incendiary devices in his stolen camper continued to probe his activities. Eventually, they find in various storage facilities three pipe bombs, six barrels of jet fuel, five assault weapons, cannon fuse, a large amount of ammunition and $188,000 in cash. Law enforcement officials, who describe Noster as an "antigovernment extremist," allege at a press conference that he "was definitely planning" on an attack, but they do not elaborate.
Oct. 10, 2003
Police arrest Norman Somerville after finding a huge weapons cache on his property in northern Michigan that includes six machine guns, a powerful anti-aircraft gun, thousands of rounds of ammunition, hundreds of pounds of gunpowder, and an underground bunker. They also find two vehicles Somerville calls his "war wagons," and on which prosecutors later say he planned to mount machine guns as part of a plan to stage an auto accident and then massacre arriving police. Officials describe Somerville as an antigovernment extremist enraged over the death of Scott Woodring, a Michigan Militia member killed by police a week after Woodring shot and killed a state trooper during a standoff. Somerville eventually pleads guilty to weapons charges and is sentenced to six years in prison.
April 1, 2004
Neo-Nazi Skinhead Sean Gillespie videotapes himself as he firebombs Temple B'nai Israel, an Oklahoma City synagogue, as part of a film he is preparing to inspire other racists to violent revolution. In it, Gillespie boasts that instead of merely pronouncing the white-supremacist "14 Words" slogan ("We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children"), he will carry out 14 violent attacks. A former member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, Gillespie is found guilty of the attack and faces a minimum 35-year sentence without parole.
Oct. 13, 2004
Ivan Duane Braden, a former National Guardsman discharged from an Iraq-bound unit after superiors noted signs of instability, is arrested after checking into a mental health facility and telling counselors about plans to blow up a synagogue and a National Guard armory in Tennessee. The FBI reports that Braden told them he'd planned to go to a synagogue wearing a trench coat stuffed with explosives and get himself "as close to children and the rabbi as possible," a plan Braden also outlined in notes found in his home. In addition, he intended to take and kill hostages at the Lenoir City Armory, before blowing the armory up. Eventually, Braden, who also possessed neo-Nazi literature and reportedly hated blacks and Jews from an early age, pleads guilty to conspiring to blow up the armory. He faces a mandatory 10-year minimum prison sentence on two separate charges.
Oct. 25, 2004
FBI agents in Tennessee arrest farmhand Demetrius "Van" Crocker after he allegedly tried to purchase ingredients for deadly sarin nerve gas and C-4 plastic explosives from an undercover agent. The FBI alleges that Crocker, who local officials say was involved in a white supremacist group in the 1980s, tells the agent that he admires Hitler and hates Jews and the government. He allegedly also says "it would be a good thing if somebody could detonate some sort of weapon of mass destruction on Washington, D.C." Crocker is charged with trying to get explosives to destroy a building and other charges, and faces more than 20 years in prison if convicted.
May 20, 2005
Officials in New Jersey arrest two men they say asked a police informant to build them a bomb. Craig Orler, who has a history of burglary arrests, and Gabriel Garafa, said to be a leader of the neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator and a member of a racist Skinhead group called The Hated, were charged with illegally selling 11 guns to police informants. Carafa allegedly gave one informant 60 pounds of urea to use in building him a bomb, but never said what the bomb was for. Police say they moved in before the alleged bombing plot developed further because they were concerned about the pair's activities. They taped Orler saying in a phone call that he was seeking people in Europe to help him go underground.
This Week in Corporate Malfeasance: Salmonella losses cost $250 million because of lobbying success.
WASHINGTON - One of the worst outbreaks of foodborne illness in the U.S. is teaching the food industry the truth of the adage, "Be careful what you wish for because you might get it."
The industry pressured the Bush administration years ago to limit the paperwork companies would have to keep to help U.S. health investigators quickly trace produce that sickens consumers, according to interviews and government reports reviewed by The Associated Press.
The White House also killed a plan to require the industry to maintain electronic tracking records that could be reviewed easily during a crisis to search for an outbreak's source. Companies complained the proposals were too burdensome and costly, and warned they could disrupt the availability of consumers' favorite foods.
The apparent but unintended consequences of the lobbying success: a paper record-keeping system that has slowed investigators, with estimated business losses of $250 million. So far, nearly 1,300 people in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Canada have been sickened by salmonella since April.
Investigators initially focused on tomatoes as a culprit. Now they are turning attention to jalapeno peppers.
A former member of Bush's Cabinet and three former senior officials in the Food and Drug Administration told the AP that government food safety experts did not get the strong record-keeping and trace-back system originally proposed under a bioterrorism law to cope with a major foodborne illness.
"In retrospect, yes, if they (the regulations) had been broader and a bit more far-reaching, it could have helped with this," said Robert Brackett, senior vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. "It wouldn't have hurt, for sure." Brackett formerly was a top safety official at the FDA.
Diluted record-keeping proposals
Under pressure in 2003 and 2004, the White House agreed to dilute record-keeping proposals by FDA safety experts.
"If the FDA had been given the resources and authority years ago that it asked for to solve these kinds of problems, I think we would have solved this already," said William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner.
Tommy Thompson, who was health secretary during the industry's lobbying campaign, acknowledged that a more robust food-tracking system — opposed by business groups as too expensive — could have helped stem the current illnesses and business losses.
"We went in with the larger package but knew we had to compromise," Thompson told the AP. "I was satisfied with this being the first step. It's always better to be a Monday morning quarterback. We could have ended up with nothing. If we had more, would it help the situation now? Yes."
According to government records reviewed by the AP, business groups met at least 10 times with the White House between March 2003 and March 2004, as the FDA regulations were under debate. Food industry lobbyists successfully blunted proposals using arguments familiar in other regulatory debates: The government's plans would saddle business with unnecessary and costly regulations.
"The FDA's strong proposed bioterrorism rules were significantly watered down before they became final," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest. The private advocacy group obtained the White House meeting records under the Freedom of Information Act and provided them to the AP.
Participants in the meetings included companies and trade groups up and down the food chain, including Altria Group Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc., when Altria was Kraft's parent; The Kroger Co.; Safeway Inc.; ConAgra Foods Inc.; The Procter & Gamble Co.; the American Forest and Paper Association; the Polystyrene Packaging Council; the Glass Packaging Institute; the Cocoa Merchants' Association of America; the World Shipping Council; and the Food Marketing Institute.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association spent $2.6 million on lobbing in 2003 and 2004, the period when the FDA rules were under consideration, according to federal lobbying records. The Food Marketing Institute spent $1.7 million during the period. The figures were for all lobbying by the trade groups and on their behalf.
More tracking = better result?
The grocery group complained during the comment period that the FDA was overstepping authority that Congress had granted under the new bioterrorism law. It said the FDA wanted a "cradle-to-grave record-keeping system" to track every morsel of food delivered to every retail grocery shelf and said more tracking information does not always produce a better result.
The marketing institute said a proposed tracking system as envisioned by the FDA "would be exorbitantly costly."
The food industry now says it will agree to a better tracing system operated by the government, as long as the industry can advise how to design it.
"We support the government requiring industry to have traceability systems that are effective and work," said Jill Hollingsworth, group vice president for food safety programs at the marketing institute. "But industry has to come up with a system that follows products throughout the food chain."
The FDA official in charge of the current salmonella investigation, David Acheson, said the agency slowly is reviewing paper records to help trace tainted produce. But Acheson disputed arguments that an electronic records system would necessarily have helped investigators.
"We still haven't managed to figure out this outbreak," he said in an interview days before the case's biggest break — discovery of a tainted Mexican-grown jalapeno in a southern Texas warehouse.
The White House Office of Management and Budget defended its meetings with food industry groups in 2003 and 2004, saying it regularly meets with companies and individuals with a stake in proposed government rules.
"Our door is open for anyone — from non-profits, industry representatives to individual citizens — who request meetings on regulations," OMB spokeswoman Jane Lee said. "These are listening sessions in conjunction with personnel from the regulating agency."