There’s a long-running joke about the most terrifying words in the English language: “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help.”
As the FBI and two of its former directors — Robert Mueller and James Comey — look increasingly incompetent, that old wisecrack could perhaps be updated for 2018: “We’re from the government, and we’re here to investigate.”
It is now widely known that bureau officials who were directly tied to the “collusion” investigation against Donald Trump and the email security inquiry against Hillary Clinton had strong political bias against the current president.
Increasingly, it looks like that anti-Trump bias is just the tip of the iceberg. Evidence such as the discredited Russian dossier and the bombshell wiretapping memo make it clear that Comey and the entire agency began with an agenda and then worked backwards, doing whatever was necessary to make their preconceived notions seem true.
What if “wild goose chases” aren’t new to James Comey and Robert Mueller, but botching investigations and being swayed by personal views are actually old habits for the not-so-dynamic duo?
That’s the alarming conclusion that journalist Carl M. Cannon came to not long ago. While most of the media was holding up Comey and Mueller as ideal models of integrity, the executive editor of RealClearPolitics remembered very different sides of the former FBI directors.
“(The) most important factor tempering my enthusiasm for the new special prosecutor is that Comey and Mueller badly bungled the biggest case they ever handled,” Cannon explained in the Orange County Register.
He went on to outline an oft-forgotten piece of the Bush era: The anthrax case, which both Mueller and Comey were closely involved in… and quickly bungled.
“They botched the investigation of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks that took five lives and infected 17 other people, shut down the U.S. Capitol and Washington’s mail system, solidified the Bush administration’s antipathy for Iraq, and eventually, when the facts finally came out, made the FBI look feckless, incompetent, and easily manipulated by outside political pressure,” Cannon wrote.
The FBI looking incompetent and politically manipulated? You don’t say!
Early on in the investigation of anthrax-tainted letters that were sent to several government offices, experts believed that a foreign government — most likely Saddam Hussein’s Iraq — may have been behind the attack. That turned out to be a false lead, but the Mueller-led FBI continued to bumble around through a maze of incompetence for most of the investigation.
“The FBI ignored a 2002 tip from a scientific colleague of the actual anthrax killer, who turned out to be a Fort Detrick scientist named Bruce Edwards Ivins; the reason is that they had quickly obsessed on an innocent man named Steven Hatfill,” explained Cannon.
Just as politics and internal bias were major factors in exonerating Hillary Clinton and launching a witch-hunt against Trump, political pressure led the FBI down the wrong path in the anthrax case, with Mueller and Comey as the leaders of the farce.
“The bureau was bullied into focusing on the government scientist by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and was duped into focusing on Hatfill by two sources — a conspiracy-minded college professor with a political agenda who’d never met Hatfill and by Nicholas Kristof, who put her conspiracy theories in the paper while mocking the FBI for not arresting Hatfill,” Cannon wrote.
In the current scandal, we know that Comey’s FBI ignored evidence that the “Russian dossier” had been invented out of thin air, paid for by the DNC, and used to push wiretaps against American citizens despite being of dubious origin.
Similarly, the FBI turned a blind eye to obvious evidence in the early 2000’s anthrax case, and went after an innocent man based essentially on a whim.
“Hatfill was an implausible suspect from the outset. He was a virologist who never handled anthrax, which is a bacterium,” explained the Orange County Register piece.
“So what evidence did the FBI have against Hatfill? There was none, so the agency did a Hail Mary, importing two bloodhounds from California whose handlers claimed could sniff the scent of the killer on the anthrax-tainted letters,” journalist Cannon stated.
That isn’t slang. Actual bloodhounds were brought in to “solve” the crime, based on the vague promises of a dog handler who had already been debunked in several other cases.
“These dogs were shown to Hatfill, who promptly petted them,” explained Cannon. “When the dogs responded favorably, their handlers told the FBI that they’d ‘alerted’ on Hatfill and that he must be the killer.”
It is on this flimsy “evidence” that the FBI essentially destroyed the life of an innocent man.
“In a news conference in August 2002, Dr. Hatfill tearfully denied that he had anything to do with the anthrax letters and said irresponsible news media coverage based on government leaks had destroyed his reputation,” The New York Times reported in 2008.
That ruined life was largely thanks to Comey and Mueller’s arrogance despite almost no evidence. “Mueller, who micromanaged the anthrax case and fell in love with the dubious dog evidence, personally assured (Attorney General) Ashcroft … that in Steven Hatfill the bureau had its man,” summarized Cannon.
“Comey, in turn, was asked by a skeptical Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz if Hatfill was another Richard Jewell — the security guard wrongly accused of the Atlanta Olympics bombing. Comey replied that he was ‘absolutely certain’ they weren’t making a mistake.”
Comey’s “absolute certainty” was dead wrong. The true criminal — Bruce Ivins — ended up committing suicide before authorities could catch him. It took years and a major lawsuit for the wrongly-accused Steven Hatfill to finally clear his own name.
“The Justice Department announced Friday that it would pay $4.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Steven J. Hatfill,” stated the New York Times in 2008, some seven years after the botched investigation began.
“Dr. Hatfill’s lawsuit, filed in 2003, accused FBI agents and Justice Department officials involved in the criminal investigation of the anthrax mailings of leaking information about him to the news media in violation of the Privacy Act,” continued the Times. Sound familiar?
A written statement from Hatfill and his legal team a decade ago could be an eerie warning of Mueller and Comey’s involvement in politically-motivated scandals.
“We can only hope that the individuals and institutions involved are sufficiently chastened by this episode to deter similar destruction of private citizens in the future — and that we will all read anonymously sourced news reports with a great deal more skepticism,” the 2008 statement said.
It seems Robert Mueller and James Comey are still on the same fool’s errands, only they’ve replaced anonymously sourced news reports with poorly written, shady dossiers.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. One piece at a time, an alarming picture of the Obama-era FBI is starting to appear. Comey and Mueller are right in the middle, and they may not be the paragons of virtue or professionalism that we were led to believe.
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