- TWO men arrested in a massive terrorist
scare last week possessed only harmless vaccine, not weapons-grade anthrax,
the FBI has admitted.
- Laboratory tests showed that the vaccine
in the possession of Larry Wayne Harris and William Leavitt did not have
the genetic structure to produce deadly spores and was designed for use
by vets to prevent anthrax infection in animals.
- Trying to cover its blushes, the bureau
argued yesterday that it was better to be safe than sorry. It said early
information suggested that the men had claimed to have military anthrax
and Mr Harris was linked to neo-Nazi groups implicated in terrorist conspiracies.
The FBI therefore swooped on the men, handcuffed them and charged them
with possessing toxins for use in a weapon.
- Asked whether the FBI had overreacted,
Bobby Siller, the bureau's spokesman, said: "Absolutely not. We truly
felt and we feel now that we had enough probable cause to believe there
was a danger to the community."
- However, it is another public relations
blow to the bureau, which in recent years has exchanged a pristine reputation
in crime detection for comparisons to the Keystone Cops. The FBI crime
laboratory has allowed evidence to be contaminated and in some cases to
be doctored to incriminate suspects.
- The bureau's hair-trigger response towards
anyone linked to Right-wing groups was demonstrated in the 1992 Ruby Ridge
incident in which an FBI "marksman" killed a woman holding a
baby in her arms.
- Vicki Weaver was shot as she stood in
the open doorway of a cabin besieged by the FBI, which was trying to arrest
her husband, Randy Weaver, a white supremacist. The previous day, a federal
marshal and Mr Weaver's son had been killed in a shoot-out.
- Ruling on the incident last year, an
appeal court attacked the FBI's shoot-to-kill policy as "a gross deviation
from constitutional principles and a wholly unwarranted return to a lawless
and arbitrary Wild West school of law enforcement".
- The bureau released Mr Leavitt on Saturday.
After a tearful reunion with his family, he said: "I understand the
position the FBI took. I have no hard feelings."
- Mr Harris, a former member of the Aryan
Nations white supremacist group, continued to be detained pending further
investigations and a hearing today.
- He is on probation, after being convicted
last year of illegally obtaining bubonic plague bacteria through the post.
One condition of his probation was that he should cease handling toxins.