As the media prepare the nation for Bush National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice’s testimony to the 9/11 commission, we should all be asking ourselves why the post-9/11 anthrax attacks haven’t been solved. This is a glaring intelligence failure that exposes our continuing vulnerability to foreign attack.
We know who committed the 9/11 attacks. But who carried out the anthrax attacks? The liberal media find no political profit in going after this issue because Democratic Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy were among those urging the FBI to waste time and resources pursuing a former U.S. government scientist, Steven Hatfill, in the case. That is exactly what Attorney General Ashcroft and the FBI have done. So what is to be gained, from the media point of view, in attacking the Bush administration over this?
Steve Coll, author of The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, recently commented that the Bush terrorism policy before 9/11 resembled the Clinton policy. This is the nub of the problem. That’s why former counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke’s criticism of Bush and praise of Clinton demonstrate his phoniness. Like CIA director George Tenet, Clarke was a holdover from the Clinton administration. For whatever reason, he wants to make the matter into a partisan political controversy. The media have gone overboard in obliging him.
The obvious fact, which Bush supporters must concede, is that both the Bush and Clinton administrations didn’t take the terrorism problem seriously enough before 9/11. The CIA had commissioned a 1999 study warning that al Qaeda could crash airplanes into government buildings, including the Pentagon. The CIA had evidence of such a plot dating back six years before 9/11. Not only couldn’t the CIA and FBI stop the attacks, they couldn’t even stop the terrorists from coming into the U.S. and taking flight training on U.S. soil. The unanswered question is whether some foreign terrorists on U.S. soil also carried out the anthrax attacks.
For his part, Hatfill filed suit against Ashcroft, who had labeled Hatfill a “person of interest” in the case. That designation and the media coverage have destroyed his life and career. Nevertheless, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton has delayed a trial on Hatfill’s complaint. AP reported that Walton said, “At some point, Dr. Hatfill is going to have to have his day in court. I don’t think that point has occurred yet.”
It’s been two and a half years since the anthrax attacks occurred. This probe has included the draining of a Maryland pond, at a cost of $250,000, in order to find “evidence” of the crime. Investigators found an old bicycle, a gun and a minnow trap that some anonymous government sources tried to portray as a biological warfare device.
In a story about Walton’s decision, the Washington Times reported that, “Government lawyers said Mr. Ashcroft’s reference to Mr. Hatfill as a ‘person of interest’ during an August 2002 news conference was an attempt to make clear that the bioweapons expert was not a suspect.” The government statement is absolute hogwash. There is no question that the government regarded Hatfill as a suspect. That’s why the FBI kept him under 24-hour surveillance and followed him around Washington in a car, even running over his foot on one occasion.
The Times noted that the government wants his suit dismissed on the grounds that allowing it to go forward “will compromise and frustrate” the anthrax probe and could give Hatfill and others “a voyeur’s window” into the probe’s workings. That’s just another justification for a cover-up to conceal failure.
Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court recently voted unanimously to sanction the government’s refusal to release photographs of the body of Clinton White House lawyer Vincent Foster, who died under mysterious circumstances in July 1993. Accuracy in Media has published an investigative report by chairman emeritus Reed Irvine indicating that the death was a murder, and that several government investigations, including the one run by the ardent “Republican” Kenneth Starr, into the death were flawed.
Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, was absolutely correct when she said that the Court decision was a “setback to the public’s right to know.”
In the Foster case, as well as the anthrax matter, both political parties would prefer for their own reasons not to pursue the truth. Journalists pretend to believe in the “right to know” but are content to go along with the cover-ups.