FBI Suffers Bruises Over
Harris/Leavitt Anthrax Scare
From The London Telegraph,
By Hugo Gurdon in Washington

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.

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