The more that is revealed about the FBI’s still largely-secret case against Bruce Ivins, the more doubts that are raised about whether their accusations are true. A particularly vivid episode illustrating how shoddy the FBI’s case seems to be occurred in the last several days.

Ever since the FBI accused Bruce Ivins of being the sole anthrax attacker, one of the most glaring of the many deficiencies in the FBI’s case is the complete lack of evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, placing Ivins at the New Jersey mailboxes (the proverbial “scene of the crime”) on either of the two dates on which the anthrax letters were sent. To respond to criticisms pointing out that huge flaw, the FBI, on August 7, leaked — and the news media then dutifully and uncritically trumpeted — what was supposedly a highly incriminating fact: namely, that Ivins, on September 17, the day before the first batch of anthrax letters were postmarked, took administrative leave from work in the morning and did not return until 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. that day. This time period during September 17, according to The Washington Post (which was fed the leaked scoop), was the window in which Ivins drove to New Jersey and mailed the anthrax letters:

Anthrax attack suspect Bruce E. Ivins took several hours of administrative leave from his Fort Detrick, Md., laboratory on a critical day in September 2001 when the first batch of deadly letters was dropped in a New Jersey mailbox, government sources briefed on the case said yesterday. The gap recorded on his time sheet offered investigators a key clue into how he could have pulled off an elaborate crime that involved carrying letters packed with lethal powder to a distant location for mailing, the sources said. . . .

A partial log of Ivins’s work hours shows that he worked late in the lab on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 16, signing out at 9:52 p.m. after two hours and 15 minutes. The next morning, the sources said, he showed up as usual but stayed only briefly before taking leave hours. Authorities assume that he drove to Princeton immediately after that, dropping the letters in a mailbox on a well-traveled street across from the university campus. Ivins would have had to have left quickly to return for an appointment in the early evening, about 4 or 5 p.m.

CNN mindlessly though flamboyantly trumpeted the FBI’s story of Ivins’ administrative leave all day as though it were definitive proof that Ivins used that leave in order to drive to New Jersey that day and mail the anthrax letters.

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