Nearly thirty-three years ago on 29 December 1975 at 1833 hrs a bomb exploded in the baggage claim area of the TWA terminal at La Guardia Airport. Eleven were killed and seventy-five others wounded. It was New York City's most lethal terrorist incident since the 1920 bombing of Wall Street which killed more than three dozen and injured hundreds.
Officially the La Guardia bombing was never solved. The FBI never got its man.
Or did it?
A fellow by the name of Zvonko Busic who was quietly paroled from Federal prison late in July and repatriated to his native Croatia is thought by non-Federal investigators including former members of the highly respected NYPD bomb squad to have been responsible for the La Guardia mass murder. Busic was never charged in the case.
He was, however, convicted of having planted a bomb virtually identical in all respects to that which wreaked the carnage at La Guardia in Grand Central Station. That bomb killed a bomb squad member who was working to defuse it and badly wounded his partner.
The motive behind the bomb planting in a luggage locker at the crowded rail terminal was to divert attention from a planned aircraft hijacking. Busic was a member of a Freedom for Croatia group proving that terrorists and freedom fighters are one in the same critter.
Those close to the investigations claimed that Federal interference prevented conclusively demonstrating that Busic was also involved in the La Guardia atrocity. This view has been espoused by a former prosecutor, former cops who interrogated Busic and a crime writer who interviewed Busic at Lewisburg Federal prison. (See The New York Times online edition, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/nyregion/10laguardia.html?pagewanted=1&th&emc=th)
From all appearances the Feds didn't use the thirty plus years they had Busic in custody to solve the La Guardia mystery. There was not even an attempt to get him to talk under some form of immunity so that valuable intelligence could be developed. Busic did his time for the crime of which he was convicted and was paroled under the condition that he never return to the US. Case closed.
What makes the old mystery relevant is the presence of a more recent one. Who was behind the anthrax mailings of 2001?
The performance of the FBI in the case of the anthrax deliveries is seemingly no better than it was in the aftermath of the La Guardia bombing. Forensics work was done in both cases including the most advanced scientific techniques available. The soles of innumerable shoes were worn thin as dozens, even hundreds of individuals were "interviewed," property searched and evidence collected.
In the anthrax case the FBI fingered suspects, "persons of interest" in today's jargon. In the process careers were ruined, marriages destroyed, one scientist drank himself to death, another collected megabucks from the taxpayers of the US in compensation for Federal damage done.
And one committed suicide. Bruce Ivins, the man the Feds now claim was the mad scientist anthrax mailer killed himself. Depending on your willingness to believe the FBI, he took the lethal Tylenol with codeine either because the Long Arm of the Law was about to clamp itself around his throat or because the Feds had hounded an emotionally unstable man to a point that death was the least worst option.
So which was it? Innocent emotionally distraught man? Mentally ill paranoid killer?
The Feebie and its overlords at the Department of Justice want us all to believe Ivins did it. Unfortunately the evidence so far adduced comes far short of doing that job. The circumstantial nature of it is not the major problem. Most criminal cases rely on circumstantial evidence.
The problem is the ambiguity of so much of the Feds' "proof." Some of the ambiguity is inherent to the incomplete nature of the evidentiary release. But most of the uncertainty comes from the simple fact that actions, words and circumstances can be subject to vastly different, even antipodal interpretations.
That's the way the Feds case against Ivins stands at the moment. Evidence equally compelling for innocence or for guilt.
Given a history which includes the Great Cold Case of the La Guardia bombing, the Geek is more than slightly sceptical of the Government's conclusion that the anthrax mailings is now Case Closed.
"But," you object, "the FBI did solve the first attack on the World Trade Center."
Sure. They did. After the terrorists were so stupid as to come on back to the rental agency and demand their deposit back, claiming that the truck had been stolen. Then the Feebie could roll up the case with the critical aid of an informant-in-place.
The anthrax mailer, like those who planted the bomb in a luggage locker in the TWA baggage claim area, were not so stupid. The FBI had no informant conveniently in place.
Now, again as in the case of the La Guardia blast, the FBI and DoJ are rushing to place the case behind them. In the 1975 incident the Feds resorted to silence. Now they are noisily declaring victory.