Monday, August 04, 2008

ABC, Anthrax and Deception

Was Bruce Ivins the lone crackpot responsible for the anthrax mail attacks in 2001? Perhaps. But I think we, as a nation, have bigger fish to fry...

The first anthrax-laced letters were mailed September 18, 2001 -- one week after the 9/11 attacks -- to several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators. The country was already traumatized, but the fear of biological weapons, deadly and imperceptible, was escalating our panic.

It made sense to blame the same people who attacked us on 9/11. When we were told by ABC News that, according to "four well-placed and separate sources," Saddam Hussein was behind the anthrax attacks, we didn't question.

And remember, it was mostly journalists who received the anthrax letters. And journalists asked their doctors to prescribe Cipro, an antibiotic effective against anthrax. And journalists opened their mail in secure rooms wearing latex gloves and face masks. And journalists, conceivably because of this panic, supported the Bush administration and linked Saddam to the anthrax and September 11.

At least one columnist, Richard Cohen, has written about the role that anthrax played in his support to take out Saddam Hussein: "I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack -- more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war."

However, Saddam Hussein was not behind the attacks. The anthrax spores came from a U.S. Army research lab.

Salon's Glenn Greenwald has written several scathing reports about anthrax, ABC News and the concocted lies that took us to war:

Greenwald asserts that the role ABC played cannot be overstated:

Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent -- indispensably aided by ABC News -- to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. News of Ivins' suicide, which means (presumably) that the anthrax attacks originated from Ft. Detrick, adds critical new facts and heightens how scandalous ABC News' conduct continues to be in this matter.

ABC News has to respond. Jay Rosen and Dan Gillmor have posted three vital questions that ABC should answer:

1. Sources who are granted confidentiality give up their rights when they lie or mislead the reporter. Were you lied to or misled by your sources when you reported several times in 2001 that anthrax found in domestic attacks came from Iraq or showed signs of Iraqi involvement?

2. It now appears that the attacks were of domestic origin and the anthrax came from within U.S. government facilities. This leads us to ask you: who were the "four well-placed and separate sources" who falsely told ABC News that tests conducted at Fort Detrick showed bentonite in the anthrax sent to Sen. Tom Daschle, causing ABC News to connect the attacks to Iraq in multiple reports over a five day period in October, 2001?

3. A substantially false story that helps make the case for war by raising fears about enemies abroad attacking the United States is released into public debate because of faulty reporting by ABC News. How that happened and who was responsible is itself a major story of public interest. What is ABC News doing to re-report these events, to figure out what went wrong and to correct the record for the American people who were misled?

I, like everybody who follows these stories, have my suspicions about the "four well-placed and separate sources." You don't have to be a genius to come up with four liars in the Bush administration. And knowing now about message-force multipliers and revised CIA documents, I find it easy to imagine government insiders hand-feeding lies to ABC.

Another person who needs to be questioned is John McCain.

I'd really like to know what he knew, when he knew it, and how he learned it.

If we keep pushing and demanding answers, the story of the anthrax attacks will slowly come to light.

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