Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Anthrax: Did it go down the memory hole?

If you haven't been reading Glenn Greenwald's series of posts about the 2001 anthrax attacks then I highly recommend you take the time to read through them. Here are the first three:

Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News
Journalists, their lying sources, and the anthrax investigation
Additional key facts re: the anthrax investigation

After pointing out that these anthrax attacks were purposefully designed to create the impression they were part of additional attacks from the 9/11 terrorists, Greenwald reminds us about the role that ABC News had in creating the false perception in the public's mind that Iraq was responsible for the attacks - which played a major role in generating the public perception that Iraq was linked to the 9/11 attacks. If it had not been for this perception, the Iraq invasion may not have happened.

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.

During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."

ABC News' claim -- which they said came at first from "three well-placed but separate sources," followed by "four well-placed and separate sources" -- was completely false from the beginning. There never was any bentonite detected in the anthrax (a fact ABC News acknowledged for the first time in 2007 only as a result of my badgering them about this issue). It's critical to note that it isn't the case that preliminary tests really did detect bentonite and then subsequent tests found there was none. No tests ever found or even suggested the presence of bentonite. The claim was just concocted from the start. It just never happened.

That means that ABC News' "four well-placed and separate sources" fed them information that was completely false -- false information that created a very significant link in the public mind between the anthrax attacks and Saddam Hussein.
It is difficult to overstate the significance of this. And, yet, as Greenwald points in the rest of this and the other posts, Brian Ross and ABC News have not revealed who those sources were!

That is simply unacceptable. The point of protecting sources is to protect whistle-blowers and to uncover malfeasance and what not. The point is not to help anonymous entities mislead the public and disseminate propaganda lies that now run with the blood of hundreds of thousands of people and which have been used to roll back the Bill of Rights.

Brian Ross has apparently been to the Judy Miller school of journalism.

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