Sunday, August 10, 2008

innocent, until.

A reprise of this post follows:

The New York Post, presumably egged on by the major slander wire services, continues its daily article containing details of Dr. Bruce Ivins' Internet records, emails, myspace and other social networking site posts -- at least, posts that have user names that resemble his, and so they must be his, right?

This pursuit of theirs raises questions about the veracity of the "documents" they cite, to be sure. And if they indeed originated with Dr.Ivins, where on earth are they getting them? Who has an exhaustive inventory of all Dr. Ivins' online activity, requiring access to private, password-protected user accounts?

Who sought and obtained the required access? Who granted it? What are the implications for any Internet user? And, is an Internet citation that is made by a user name that can be imagined to be somehow linked to someone really conclusive evidence of anything?

Conclusive evidence. Indeed, that's the rub. Dr. Ivins' every utterance has been aired publicly in the context of "mad scientist" for over a week now. Has it proven anything?

It has. It's proven that there is apparently not enough information to convict the man of anything in a just court. Not yet, at least. So who's behind the relentless smear campaign? We already know that tabloids like the New York Post are enabling it, but who initiated it, and who continues to feed it, and why?

It only takes a few hit pieces to obtain a conviction in the court of public opinion. And yet, it seems, judging from blog and website comments, that all the jury is sure of in Dr. Ivins' case is that his apparently weird behavior seems to stem from the effects of being a fragile person in a pressure cooker of suspicion. Weird, perhaps, but not quite malicious. He yapped a lot, so it would appear, but an Internet post isn't exactly a smoking gun.

If Dr. Ivins turns out to be guilty, let it be proven. His lawyer doesn't think so, and nobody ever accused a lawyer of being naive. His surviving co-workers don't believe he is, and they understood completely the sort of pressure he was under. His family seemed oblivious to it, if he was, and that seems to be very unlikely.
On the other hand, the FBI has a track record of pursuing the wrong person, even to the point of having to pay millions of dollars for damages they wrought in his life. As to the notion of an agency of government making malicious use of the media, we have the recent example of the disgraced former governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer, who had quid-pro-quo relationships with the news media which he used as a weapon to harass those he decided to make "suspects." It wouldn't be a terrific stretch to imagine that the FBI, presumably at least as long on power and short on accountability as Governor Spitzer was, might employ the same despicable tactics.
In fact, the evidence suggesting that is less circumstantial than the littany of innuendos offered up by the news media to suggest Dr. Ivins' guilt as a postal-anthrax-mad-scientist-murderer. If the government really has a case against him, why continue to feed the media suggestive gossip?
A state of mind, however unstable, is not a crime. A crime is a provable criminal act. The man is innocent until proven guilty, despite the childish tale-bearing of the New York Post and its peers in the slander trade. And if he is innocent, the act of harassing a man until his state of mind grew unstable, and then using that as evidence against him, will not likely be subject to justice in this life. But in the next, it might be.


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