There is an interesting story out of Galveston, Texas where officials say that a vial of hemorrhagic fever has gone missing from a research facility at the University of Texas Medical Branch. What is striking is that the school has simply said that the vial was probably lost in a cleaning process. I represented Dr. Thomas Butler who was charged with numerous national security counts for the loss of vials of plague. I was brought into the case by the National Academy of Science members who were alarmed by the abuse of this esteemed scientist by the Bush Administration. With the encouragement of federal officials, Butler was vilified in the media as “Dr. Plague” in an absurd federal prosecution despite the fact that he revealed the missing vials and also thought that they were likely cleaned. Yet, the Justice Department not only pursued him viciously but enlisted Texas Tech University to make unrelated contracts claims against him to try to force a plea bargain. Butler is one of the leading experts on plague and is revered by many for his selfless work in some of the poorest areas of the world. He went to jail (on the contract claims) while the Justice Department is just shrugging off the loss of this vial on the same theory.
It is not clear how such lax handling of hemorrhagic material can occur or why it is able to be housed in labs like this one. Yet, the response to the case only puts the Butler case in sharper relief. Attorney General Ashcroft wildly misrepresented the Butler case in a meeting with George Bush and dispatched an army of agents to Lubbock. The Justice Department leaked the story to the media which created absolute panic and international press for Ashcroft. They soon found that there was no evidence that Butler, a renowned humanitarian, gave the vials to terrorists. The whole allegation was absurd since plague is widely available in third-world countries if you are looking for samples. It was laughable to think that Al Qaeda would go to Lubbock for such vials. Yet, in the Bush Administration, this type of overreaction was something of a signature move.
The problem was that, after quickly deducing that there was no terrorist threat, the Justice Department needed a scalp to explain its massive mobilization to Lubbock. This followed the Padilla embarrassment when the White House had to disavow a claim by Ashcroft that he and his department had foiled a nuclear attack on a major city. They were not going to simply come home empty handed and leave Ashcroft again looking like a clown. While the jury rejected virtually all of the national security counts (except a minor claim of transportation unrelated to the missing vials), the DOJ secured convictions on charges that were little more than contractual disputes with Texas Tech.
The latest story out of Texas simply shows what a farce this prosecution was and how Dr. Butler was made a scapegoat for an over-reaction by the Bush Justice Department. To this day, I view the jailing of Dr. Butler as one of the worst abuses in the post-911 period.
32 thoughts on “Case of the Missing Vial of Hemorrhagic Fever In Texas Brings Back Memories of Abusive Butler Prosecution”
That seems like being worried that the stolen marble from the quarry is being used to fashion crude spear points.
Gyges, That’s where the weaponizing comes in. ‘Not believed to be’ isn’t quite a sterling assurance. Thanks for trying to reassure me though.
Bruce E. Woych: “The abuse of legal power has no systemic comprehensive recognition for critical restraint; in fact, it is considered the equivalent of the invisible hand in our justice system”
I’d like to know where the 30 vials of plague virus in the original Butler case went too. Reporting them missing probably stuck a big old thumb in a really nasty pie IMO. both corporate and government interests were endangered, Dr. Butler is lucky he didn’t end up in a field, dead by suicide like David Kelly.
I don’t know, do the Iranians hate rats? From the Article:
The medical branch says the virus, native to Venezuela, is transmitted only through contact with Venezuelan rats. It is not believed to be able to survive in U.S. rodents or to be transmitted person-to-person.
Gene: “A picture perfect postcard proclaiming the Peter Principle proudly.”
🙂 In a playful mood are we? Nice.
Occam’s razor dictates that it was destroyed ‘cleaned’ and someone forgot to log that action.
When I read the story of the missing vial I filed it in anticipation of, possibly, reading at a later time that Iran or N Korea or some other ‘enemy’ had used a chemical weapon (with the same characteristics) proving that they had WMD’s and thus needed invading. Or some variation on that scenario. Maybe it was just lost and maybe it was channeled to people in our own government or an allied government for use down the road.
I don’t know… I guess when you have sociopaths running the store, only sociopaths need apply. How would a sane individual maneuver through such a quagmire?
Once these strategies and tactics have become standard operating procedure of power, is there any hope that they will ever be expunged or at least “reasonably” modified?
About Thomas Butler:
(Links supplied by Jonathan Turley in this posting.)
Our government is very good at destroying good people. Sometimes it’s accomplished “out in the open”, as was the case with Thomas Butler. At other times, it’s done very quietly. But make no mistake, it’s a brutal and ruinous process.
The abuse of legal power has no systemic comprehensive recognition for critical restraint; in fact, it is considered the equivalent of the invisible hand in our justice system…where claims of objectivity are highly inter-subjective domains of rank, file and the cold pursuit of indifferent influences to achieve status in the system.
Counter-terrorism as terrorism: Career building for reductionist predators; life destruction and civilians as scale production in a manic State of run away power structures. Legitimation is literally justifications manipulating blind Justice with a righteous indignation that borders on the criminally insane. .
“The latest story out of Texas simply shows what a farce this prosecution was and how Dr. Butler was made a scapegoat for an over-reaction by the Bush Justice Department. To this day, I view the jailing of Dr. Butler as one of the worst abuses in the post-911 period.”
They did the same thing during The 911 Anthrax Episodes I and II.
The Department of Justice? Department of persecution, torture and cover up perhaps but Justice, NO.
I wonder how these connect to the number of world class microbiologists who have been suicided over the past few years
Fascist president. Fascist AG. Fascist congress. Fascist DHS. Fascist Supreme Court……
Our freedom is in grave danger.
“They were not going to simply come home empty handed and leave Ashcroft again looking like a clown. ”
A leopard does not change it’s spots.
Ashcroft was a clown long before he was AG.
A picture perfect postcard proclaiming the Peter Principle proudly.
“Eric Holder and John Ashcroft … two peas from the same pod.”
Correction: Eric Holder and John Ashcroft … two peas from the same ROTTEN pod.
Eric Holder and John Ashcroft … two peas from the same pod.
One wonders how good lawyers abide this incredibly dysfunctional Justice Dept and the equally dysfunctional Supreme Court.
You think this is the first time for these witch hunts….not in Texas at least….
Comments are closed.