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March 2, 2010

FBI Report? Hog Wash!

Roy Meachum

New Orleans detectives rode Aunt Kate and me to a restaurant where crabs and oysters were free for anyone buying beer. In my case, it was Barque’s root beer, once a local drink made and bottled on the Mississippi Gulf Shore. (The Coca Cola Corporation did me and all the other displaced coonasses a great favor when it bought Barq’s lock, stock and barrel of caffeinated root beer.)


What made that night different was the newsboy yelling on Second Street, virtually in front of Aunt Kate’s boarding house door: Dillinger was dead!


A woman in red figured in his shouting. Only later did I understand the woman, a Romanian, had fingered for the Federal Bureau of Investigation the most notorious gangster in an era when criminals dominated the news.


A few days on I learned the name of the special agent in charge. Melvin Purvis did not stick around the bureau very long: his public prominence gave founding Director J. Edgar Hoover fits. Never mind, the man who nabbed the superstar on the most wanted list signed a deal with the Post cereal company; for only two box tops a kid could become a Junior G-Man, under Mr. Purvis’s personal surveillance. (Aunt Kate sent the tops; Post Toasties mailed back the badge – which was lost or given away very shortly.)


The Dillinger night marked the high point of my regard for the FBI. The luster disappeared when I learned how Mr. Hoover ruled the agency with a ruthless iron fist, forcing conclusions he wanted; it turned to ashes after I discovered the director was in cahoots with Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and the others who destroyed reputations and lives.


It would be lovely to still own my Junior G-Man badge so I could travel down to Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue and throw it up against the building named for the bureau’s founder. The reason?


The latest report turned out by the agency puts the finger solely on Fort Detrich’s late Bruce Ivins. The scientist’s former boss points out all of the “so-called” evidence is purely circumstantial. The only substantial “proof” the agency cites was how the longtime Frederick resident killed himself.


The agency slipped word that Dr. Ivins knew an indictment was imminent; it fails to declare the man’s motive. Colleagues and friends say he was hounded to take his life by the nature, aggressiveness and pressure of the investigators. They certainly made his last days weird.


Frederick News-Post Reporter Megan Eckstein has read through some 2,600 pages of the investigation report, obtained from the newspaper’s filing under the Freedom of Information Act. She wrote for Sunday’s front page that “Ultimately, a task force of 25 to 30 full-time investigators spent 600,000 hours interviewing witnesses and reviewing evidence.”


Obviously, with that sort of investment the Justice Department agency could not announce they were stumped, lost, confused: finally they had no one else to finger. That, however, is the conclusion reached by most of his colleagues and the people he knew in Frederick. Add me to the hundreds confused by why the report took so long.


The feds proclaimed early last August that Bruce Ivins was the culprit. Why did they wait until last week to issue the scope of investigations? I would like to think the FBI was questioning its own early judgment, reviewing the evidence once again. After nine years, it seemed to me the government rushed into fixing Dr. Ivins as solely responsible and sticking stubbornly to the self-serving decision.


The entire affair reeks to high-heaven for me. It bears the heavy imprint of bureaucracy covering its own rear end. It follows faithfully the J. Edgar Hoover tradition of trashing human life in order to substantiate its reputation of being the world’s foremost law enforcement agency.


Guess what, fellas? Nobody has felt that way since Richard M. Nixon colluded with The Director – as he insisted on being addressed – to pull off all sorts of hanky-panky, claiming they were only thinking of us, the American people.


Hog wash! Then and now.


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