Thursday, August 07, 2008

Anthrax Answers?

Government officials asserted yesterday that Bruce Ivins acted alone to perpetrate the anthrax attack that killed five people, but others believe the evidence is inconclusive. (If video doesn't show, click here.)

Gerald Posner raises the question about how Ivins could have weaponized the anthrax. This mystery alone is one critical reason for the public to scrutinize the government's conclusions.

However, as I wrote about earlier this week, there is another reason for scrutiny over the entire anthrax case. The media's reporting on the attack was used to advance Bush's plan for a war in Iraq. Some people, notably Glenn Greenwald, Jay Rosen and Dan Gillmor, want ABC News to answer vital questions about the sources behind the initial reports connecting Saddam Hussein to the anthrax attacks. Bloggasm has an exclusive interview with Greenwald asking him about ABC's responsibility in the matter:
“I think first of all that this is a basic principal of journalism, that if you get a story wrong, you explain what happened that led to the bad reporting,” Greenwald told me. “That’s what the New York Times did to explain how they got those Judy Miller stories wrong. When people get stories wrong, the credibility of the journalistic outlet depends upon them explaining what happened. If Brian Ross wants to say, ‘our sources acted in good faith, they just got it wrong,’ then he needs to explain the basis of that.”
Yesterday, Brian Ross, ABC's lead reporter on the anthrax stories in late 2001, explained what happened and what it means now: "Our sources were current and former government scientists who were all involved in analyzing the substance in the letter." He says that Ivins was not one of those scientists. He also denies that his reports contributed to the case for war. "The people who say the White House lied to us to build a case on Iraq or something doesn't hold." He says that the White House denied it was bentonite from day one.

I find it strange enough that Ross doesn't believe the Bush administration lied to us to start a war... but his other claims also lead me to wonder why is he a reporter if he believes his own reports are so ineffectual that they don't influence the public? I remember the hype, and I remember the fear. Every claim that went unchallenged and uncorrected added to the public's anxiety. You can't convince me that those reports didn't matter.

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