Accuracy in Media

Dr. Steven Hatfill, whose career and reputation have been ruined by media coverage of the anthrax letters case, told an Accuracy in Media conference on October 5th that he once believed the media were fair and accurate. “Like many Americans I trusted that the news that would be presented to me on television and in the newspapers would be filtered and have some degree of accuracy,” he said. “I took this for granted.” He knows better, he said, because the media have falsely depicted him as the anthrax killer of five people. He is fighting back with a planned series of lawsuits but those could be in the courts for years. In the meantime, he has lost two jobs, and his services as an expert on biowarfare have been denied to the American people.

For the first time publicly, Hatfill directly confronted several of the accusations made in an effort to link him to the deadly letters. He attacked a Brian Ross story on ABC News that said he lived near a Greendale school in Zimbabwe in Africa. This was said to be incriminating because a Greendale school was listed on the return address on some of the letters. “There is no Greendale school in Zimbabwe and never has been,” Hatfill said.

Hatfill said he was partly responsible for a report on how government “first responders” to a biological or chemical attack could deal with the anthrax hoaxes that were occurring in the U.S. This was designed to help America prepare for the real thing. And yet it was “turned against me [and the media] said that it was a blueprint for the anthrax letters attack,” he noted. He called the coverage of this matter “complete rubbish.”

It was also reported that Hatfill had written an unpublished novel on anthrax letters being sent to Congress ? another blueprint of what actually happened. In fact, he said it dealt with mad cow disease and other emerging infections and the FBI was the hero of the book. “I made the FBI the hero of this,” he said. “Well, I’m busy rewriting the book.”

“A lot of what I can see in the FBI’s investigation of me has been driven by the press,” he said. “An article appears in some newspaper that I have a secret mountain cabin. What’s the next question I’m asked by the FBI? ‘Do you have a secret mountain cabin?'” That cabin turned out to be a home belonging to a Washington attorney where Hatfill and friends gathered for dinner and conversation.

While Hatfill’s life has been made miserable for many months, the FBI has failed to identify the real perpetrators of the anthrax attacks. On September 26th, however, National Security adviser Condoleeza Rice said that Saddam Hussein’s regime was sheltering members of the Al Qaeda terrorist network in Baghdad and helping Osama bin Laden’s operatives in developing chemical weapons. Equally significant, reports of the interrogation of American Taliban John Walker Lindh revealed that he was told in the camps in Afghanistan that the next wave of attacks after 9/11 were supposed to be biological, chemical or radiological weapons. That would include anthrax.

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