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Ashcroft's Big Cover-Up
January 30, 2002
by Richard Prasad

In the silly but true category, comes the story out of Washington that the Bush Administration is spending $8,000 to cover up two semi-nude statues in the Justice Department's Great Hall, at the behest of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Is Ashcroft a prude? Of course he is! The statue has existed for 70 years, and no one sought to cover it up - until now.

Justice is supposed to be blind, but does the Attorney General have blinders on when it comes to more important issues like the anthrax investigation? Why is the pace of the investigation going so slowly? Why was it only recently that we found out that the source of the anthrax was probably domestic? Why was it that we only recently found out that the army was still testing anthrax?

Could Ashcroft be afraid of what he could find if he really looked? That military security of anthrax is lax? Or worse, that the release of anthrax was done by some right wing fringe groups, similar to those who perpetrated the bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City?

It's a distant memory now, but the deaths from anthrax began on October 5th 2001, when Robert Stephens, an employee of American Media Inc, a Florida tabloid, died of inhalation anthrax. No letter was found in the Florida anthrax case, but this anthrax death was first thought to be of natural causes. That was soon dismissed after letters were sent to Senator Daschle and Tom Brokaw. Soon, anthrax cases were being discovered in all kinds of news media outlets ,from ABC to CBS and even the New York Post. And a second letter was found addressed to a politician, this one addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy.

Even more shocking than the fact that these letters were aimed at media and politicians was the fact that our mail was unsafe, and the decent, hardworking letter carriers and mail sorters were the people most likely to contract anthrax. People were quite literally afraid to open their mail for a few weeks after the attack, and rightfully so.

These anthrax cases were no longer considered naturally occurring because the letters came with a white powdery substance. Coming on the heels of the World Trade Center attacks, the anthrax letters were naturally thought to be the work of Arab terrorists, like Osama Bin Laden. Also the letters said something to the effect of "death to America, death to Israel, Allah be praised," - so naturally it had to be Arab terrorists, right?

As time passes, it becomes clearer that the anthrax letters are a form of domestic terrorism. The strain of the particular anthrax is a form called the Ames Strain, it's origins are not from Ames Iowa as the names suggest, but actually from Texas. The Washington Post reported on December 16th, that only five labs have anthrax spores with the same genetic fingerprints as those used in the Capitol Hill and media anthrax attacks, and all those spores can be traced back to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The Ames strain has been a favorite of military testing since 1981. It was also learned through the course of the current investigation that the U.S. military is still conducting tests with anthrax. But how securely are those potentially deadly vials of anthrax being kept?

Apparently, security is not as tight as it should be. Several reports on CNN have indicated that the FBI is investigating the disappearance of more than two dozen biological samples over a decade ago - some of these samples included anthrax. Even the Washington Times pointed out that scientists said that security was lax during the 1990s.

Who stole these samples and why are we finding out about this now, instead of in 1991 when it happened? Could those anthrax samples have fallen into the hands to some right-wing wacko who is currently terrorizing the country? I believe this is the case.

Why do I think the people responsible for this domestic terror are conservative? Look at the targets of the letters. Two Democratic Senators, Daschle and Leahy, and look at the media targets, the three major television networks. What the conservatives love to call the "liberal media." Only the New York Post doesn't fit the pattern of the liberal media, but the others definitely do. There were no anthrax letters to the Washington Times or Fox News channel. Have you ever wondered why?

If it is a right-wing group, is that the reason why this anthrax investigation is being pushed to the back-burner? I realize that the war in Afghanistan is still going on, and there are many issues that Ashcroft is involved with, but it seems like no one from the Justice Department wants to talk about any possible suspects for the anthrax mailings.

It is already clear that Ashcroft has run roughshod over most civil rights in his international terror investigation, but the Attorney General still won't allow the FBI to do gun checks on possible terrorists. In the midst of walking all over the Constitution, Ashcroft still seeks to protect the conservatives favorite, the Second Amendment. Similarly, Ashcroft doesn't want to look in the places that might hold a militia or another domestic terror group, because those groups are most probably located in the "red states" that voted for Bush.

This is an ideal chance for Ashcroft to go after groups that act on their hatred, but he will not do it, because of a lack of political courage. Clinton's Justice Department went after the gun toting white supremacists in Ruby Ridge, and was vilified for it. Will Ashcroft do the same in the anthrax case? Probably not.

And what if someone is caught? And he is from a hate group? What then, will Ashcroft ask for the death penalty for this terrorist? Probably not. This domestic terrorist will probably not be tried in front of a military tribunal either. Why? Because he is an American citizen, and as such, will probably get a life sentence behind bars. Paid for by my tax dollars. Just like another domestic terrorist, named John Walker Lindh.

Sure, the Justice Department raised the reward for catching the anthrax terrorist to $2.5 million, but that is just window dressing. Just like those $8,000 curtains bought by the Bush Administration to cover those naked statues in the hall of the Justice Department.

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