Monday, May 28, 2012

Underwater Labs, Women's Panties and Bioterrorism

In the fall of 2001, America was still reeling from 9/11, so when envelopes containing a very strange form of anthrax were delivered to U.S. Senate offices (as well as various media outlets), people paid attention.  The FBI was on the case, though, and the world could rest easy that the guilty would be caught.

Or so it was believed.

The Anthrax Files is a Frontline production that takes a hard look at what the FBI did and didn’t do with that investigation.  After one suspect in the case holds an emotional press conference and sues the government and wins, the next suspect is driven to the point of suicide before the FBI declares, “We got our man.”  But did it?

Army scientist Dr. Bruce Ivins was the man the FBI targeted after the first suspect went on the attack.  Ivins, the bureau said, was the man behind these attacks that left five dead.  After all, there were e-mails that pointed to psychological problems, he had access to anthrax, and he had a bit of questionable activity in his background.  In between the mailing of the envelopes and the FBI press conference that played fast and loose with the truth, there is a tale of a hidden underwater laboratory, stalking, a basement firing range, women’s underwear and songs written to dead female astronauts.  Indeed, as clich├ęd as it sounds, the truth is stranger than fiction.

Playing at an hour, this production introduces a lot of questions, presents a lot of answers, and leaves viewers feeling as if there is still more to this story.  It also leaves them with a mixed feeling on Ivins.  It all comes down to: Did the FBI prove he did it, and is it possible that even without that proof he was behind the attacks?  The answers aren’t as easy as one would think, and that points to a story that did its job and did it well.  Unlike the FBI.

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