Not only the greasepaint was missing Wednesday from the justice department's dog-and-pony show. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's crew left behind their costumes. U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor lacked the red bulb on his nose. The performance would have been hilarious except a Frederick man wound up dead.
The Greatest Show on Earth, it wasn't.
Having welcomed into my home for 11 years, a group of rotating scientists performing experiments at Ft. Detrick, I find nothing astonishing about the news that Dr. Bruce Ivins worked erratic hours. In more than one instance, my guests returned "home" well after midnight and went back to the lab a couple hours later: they waited for experiments to progress.
Republican loyalist Taylor and his corps of nine-to-five bureaucrats were doubtless confused. They would be more shocked to learn scientists collect no overtime pay. Research gives meaning to their lives. Having been forced from his lab last November, it's no wonder that Dr. Ivins went slightly bonkers. Others are similarly cursed. Without writing I have no doubt I would turn into a basketcase.
As counselor to former U. S. Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Alexander Gonzales, Mr. Taylor did more than sharpen pencils. He was at hand when Mr. Ashcroft declared Ft. Detrick scientist Stephen Hatfill "a person of interest;" that was seven years back, in those 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five and left 14 hanging on to life. As counselor, Mr. Taylor specifically was responsible for keeping his boss from legal stupidities like that statement.
You know how that turned out: Dr. Hatfill received nearly $6 million for the damage the trial-by-media investigation caused to his career and personal life. Having paid out all that dough, the government refuses to acknowledge Dr. Hatfill's innocence. At Wednesday's conference, Mr. Taylor refused to even mention the wronged-man's name.
Filling the same counselor's spot for Mr. Gonzales, Mr. Taylor was in on the ground floor for what became the U.S. attorneys' scandal. A recent investigation showed the attorney general's office and the White House acted illegally in the wholesale national reshuffling of U.S. attorneys. That is how Mr. Taylor got his present political plum in Washington.
Under examination, the Federal Bureau of Investigation fares little better; nor can we expect it to. Converted into an ideological arm of the administration, the bureau now bears little resemblance to the admired law enforcement agency that existed for so long. Like it or not – and I don't – the government's top investigators are little more than shills for the White House.
The Ivins family told friends and his attorney that they were harassed by agents showing the scientist's picture and insisting he was a mass murderer. The son was quoted that the feds offered him the advertised reward's $2.5 million to inform on the father.
In their very dark suits, the U.S. attorney and FBI topguns present the unanimity of a Greek chorus in reciting verses about how their people were totally professional. Unfortunately for their veracity, Dr. Hatfill said much of the same thing happened to his girlfriend when he was number one on the firing line.
As I wrote earlier this week, media bear a heavy burden for their role in murdering Bruce Ivins; they hovered around his home like so many vultures on a death watch. They increased his sense of desperate isolation. But they did more.
Blocked from much of the story, reporters breathlessly recorded charges made by self-described therapist Jean Duley; in fact she trained as a social worker. The Frederick News-Post and other media labeled her a "psychiatrist," which was egregiously false.
According to published reports, Ms. Duley chose to work for a consulting company when she was caught drinking while driving and incurred several hundreds in debt that has yet to be paid. She was hired on the condition that she dealt with patients only in association with another employee more qualified. Private sessions, she talked about with the media, were strictly verboten!
Over the past week she selected the medium she chose to talk to; her unsubstantiated allegations did much to advance the government's story in the public arena. In fact, she admitted her alliance with the FBI. She was prepared to testify before a grand jury, she said, two days after Dr. Ivins death. By the way, Comprehensive Counseling Associates lists her as a former employee.
Much of the feds' gambit was based on an untrue assumption that Dr. Ivins died on the morning the U.S. attorney was scheduled to discuss a plea bargain in the case. All by itself that indicates the man was willing to concede specified allegations, with the hope of avoiding capital murder charges. His attorney categorically protests assumptions that his client was guilty in any way.
Paul Kemp continues to argue that Dr. Ivins would receive justice had he lived. Incidentally, Mr. Kemp's Venable law firm is a highly respected name in Washington. There must be no doubt Venable would not have taken on the case to negotiate honorable surrender; that's what a plea bargain amounts to.
The firm issued this statement: "The government's press conference was an orchestrated dance of carefully worded statements, heaps of innuendo and a staggering lack of real evidence – all contorted to create the illusion of guilt by Dr. Ivins."
The act that demeaned the Constitution and the American judiciary system most came in U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor's announcement that the case was all over. He admitted the wholly circumstantial nature of his evidence. But that's it, he said. Others flatly disagreed.
At least two congressmen and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, of Iowa, have already called for another look at how things got so fouled up and killed Frederick scientist Bruce Ivins.
In other words, look for more shows – with or without greasepaint.