FBI pursues goofy pond theory in anthrax case

Is anybody else confused by this new development in the anthrax killer case?

FBI Drains Maryland Pond in Anthrax Probe

This theory stikes me as a totally bizarre attempt to make evidence fit the bogus case against bioterrorism expert Steven Hatfill. The notion that the extremely sophisticated weaponized anthrax that was used in the letters was made by someone who waded into an outdoor pond in Maryland strikes me as more than a little looney. I don’t doubt that they found a plastic box in the pond, but to conclude that it was part of a submerged anthrax lab is beyond belief. The FBI needs to step back and see how foolish their single-minded dedication to one suspect is making them look.

Eh. Once upon a time, I would have thought that a couple of fellahs with boxcutters couldn’t bring down the WTC, but look what happened.

It may be a bizarre theory, but if that is the best that they can get out of the evidence they currently have, they may as well pursue it.

(a) the characterization of “weaponized” is questionable.
(b) the theory has some merits insofar as the issue is how the materials were handled safely and w/o being in a lab per se.
© the plastic box with access points matches the theoretical equipment needed. Insofar as it is located, that suggests something.

None of the thoery is “loony” at all. Hatfield matches profile and had motive and opp. Valid suspect. May or may not be guilty in the end, but bears investigation.

I have no problem with your opinion except for point (a). I’m not going to look for a cite, but from everything that I have heard the Anthrax was quite sophisticated. AFAIK, it was finely milled and made to disperse readily. I would call that weaponized.

Well, if that’s the case, it sure did a piss-poor job as a weapon. It killed, what, a half-dozen people at most, nation-wide?

It did exactly what it was supposed to as far as I can tell. Frightened a lot of people and killed a few. More people would probably be dead if the mailings hadn’t stopped. It’s hard to say the attacks were a failure without knowing what the goals of the sender were, and we don’t even know who that is at this point.

Seeing as how they don’t know how this was all done and this (if true) would help explain it, I don’t see what’s goofy about this theory.

IIRC, it only killed two people (I could be wrong). My point was not that anthrax is a great weapon, but that for what it is, it was not something that you could brew in your garage.

One of the things I find goofy about this theory is the box itself. We are to believe that this plastic box with two holes was once fitted with watertight gloves; where are they? I suppose it could be argued that the perp removed the gloves in an attempt to prevent fingerprinting, but if that is the case, why did he leave the plastic vials behind?

The mechanics of this setup just don’t add up either; for one, the pressure of the water would fill the gloves and render them rigid and clumsy, not a good thing when trying to manipulate biotoxins in small vials and envelopes. Add the diffuculty of either fighting the bouyancy of a box full air to keep it submerged, or a weighted box on the bottom which would require scuba gear, and you begin to realize this is just a very cumbersome, problem ridden way to assemble the toxins into the envelope.

You have to remember who runs our government now. Nothing they do makes sense.

First in re my questioning the weaponized adjective, my scepticism in re the usage derives from following the Washington Post’s coverage, which questioned again the phrasing “weaponized.”

Who knows? An error?

Why scuba gear? It’s as far as I have read a shallow pond, and the theory as I understood it was the box was used in shallow water originally, not submerged. Unless this is incorrect, your above criticisms are exagerated or irrelevant.

True, but it’s not believed to have just been knocked up in somebody’s garage.

I thought that was the whole point of the box in the first place! The idea, according to the FBI, was that the box would be submerged to mimimize the spread of the aerosol powder. If it wasn’t submerged, why do it in the pond at all? Just assemble the envelopes inside the box on your coffee table. Make up your mind Collounsbury, either it was a good idea or not!

an article I read (was either in USA today or milwaukee journal-sentinel) RE: the pond today claimed an unidentified source in the FBI claimed they were doing it to fend off future criticism that they didn’t follow every possible lead, or something to that effect
(Sorry no online cite at the moment but i’ll look)

here it is:
3rd paragraph:

Well, let me allow that there is the potential to misread the statement and thus not a priori a deliberate misreading or denseness.

The box used submerged in shallow water, not need for the user to be submerged as well. No need for scuba equipment, and hardly the water pressure issues you raised either.

Then why a pond, and not an indoor water tank like a hot tub or swimming pool? An outdoor pond has so many disadvantages, not the least of which is the possibility of being observed. This whole theory just lacks any ring of authenticity, and smacks of desperation on the part of the FBI. I think the most telling fact in Donovan’s link was this:

It is clear that Ashcroft has concluded that Hatfill is the culprit, and evidence will be construed to fit this conclusion.

Insofar as (a) the pond is in a secluded area and (b) Hatfield might not have had access to a private swimming pool, the objections are strained.

Shrug, you’ve reached a conclusion and now are fitting your analysis to that.

Hatfield is a reasonable suspect, the pond is a reasonable item to check out. Whether it pans out or not is another matter, as is Hatfield’s guilt or innocence.

I’ll vote Goofy with a side of Donald Duck and Pluto.
If I’m following the puzzle correctly, the Ames strain of anthrax is only available in 4 labs. The sophistication necessary to produce weapons grade material cannot be accomplished outside of such a lab. The 10 grams distributed could not have been stolen without notice. So the facilities must have been used in overtime?
I’m not sure when Hatfill lost access to the labs. It would be interesting to compare that date vs. shelf life or if the strain was a version that had mutated since he left. It seems like he’s a scapegoat and they’re barking up the wrong pond.


But surely the culprit would have had access to a bathtub, no?

There’s another problem with this scenario (in fact, to be honest, with any scenario I can imagine). Even if one assumes that the culprit assembled the letters in a submerged glove box in order to avoid contaminating himself and his surroundings, how would he post the completed mailings? The envelopes were leaky (which is how various postal workers were killed or sickened). At some point, however, he must have removed the letters from whatever protective covering they were in, in order to drop them into the mailbox. How, without contaminating himself?

It seems to me that the obvious thing to do (if you are the anthrax-mailer) would be to have yourself immunized against anthrax. But it still doesn’t answer the question of why one would go through all the trouble of submerging the stuff in a pond.

And I agree that a bathtub would seem a lot easier to use than a pond.