Accuracy in Media

A lawyer has said that if Steven Hatfill is guilty in the anthrax at-tacks, he must be the dumbest criminal going. Hatfill, a medical doctor and scientist who worked for the U.S. government on biowarfare matters, allowed the FBI to search his apartment a second time for evidence that he was involved in the anthrax attacks that killed five people. They swabbed the place looking for the dangerous bacteria. Officials said they didn’t find any-thing incriminating the first time. If they found anything the second time, that would suggest that Hatfill was so stupid that he had brought in incriminating evidence between searches.

Richard Spertzel, head of U.N. biological weapons inspections in Iraq from 1995 to 1998, said FBI sweeps of the apartment so long after the attacks were a ridiculous waste of time. “If the anthrax had been made there, his neighbors would be dead,” he said. Spertzel believes Hatfill is “being railroaded.” Patrick Clawson, a former CNN reporter who has known Hatfill for years and is a close friend of his calls it a “witchhunt.”

Hatfill is not officially a suspect or a potential suspect, just a “person of interest.” Whatever that means, he has lost one job and been suspended from another because of the FBI’s treatment of him. He is regarded by many as another Richard Jewell, who was falsely accused by the FBI of the Olympic bombing in Atlanta that killed one and injured 111 people.

If so, Hatfill’s attorney, Victor M. Glasberg, will be in a position to explore civil suits against some media organizations and their sources for their coverage of the case. “Clearly, the man has been defamed,” Glasberg told Accuracy in Media. It is possible that a desperate FBI, under pressure to solve the anthrax killings, could still engineer an indictment and make him a scapegoat. Glasberg said that Hatfill has voluntarily cooperated but the FBI has responded with “absolutely improper leaks, and statements and behavior?” Hatfill, he said, wants the government to proceed in an ethical and reasonable manner. Hatfill vows, “I will not be railroaded.”

Same Old FBI

In a “Media Monitor” commentary we recorded several days before Hatfill dramatically affirmed his innocence in an August 11 press conference, we noted that the media seem not to have learned any lessons after getting burned by the FBI in the Jewell case. Jewell, a security guard, had discovered the pipe bomb minutes before it exploded and cleared people from the area, avoiding more injuries. But he then found himself under suspicion and falsely accused in the media of being the perpetrator. The FBI orchestrated the campaign against him. Jewell was never charged with a crime, but for nearly three months he was unable to leave his home without being followed by police, FBI agents and camera crews. After being cleared, Jewell filed suit, receiving a reported $2 million from media organizations, including $500,000 from NBC as compensation for the damage to his reputation and an undisclosed settlement from CNN. Jewell is still trying to collect a settlement from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In comparing Hatfill to Jewell, we suggested that another apology from the FBI and settlement might be forthcoming.

Hatfill held an extraordinary press conference, where he forcefully took the offensive against the FBI and the press. The comparison of Hatfill to Jewell was raised by several others, including Jewell’s attorney, Lin Wood, who said on CNN’s Crossfire, “I look over at the FBI’s handling of Dr. Hatfill, and I see striking similarities, disturbing similarities, because once again we’ve got a public investigation of an individual not charged with any crime in front of TV cameras and with statements from anonymous sources in the government and the FBI. That’s a problem.”

Crossfire’s liberal co-host and former Clinton aide, Paul Begala, added: “I regret that he [Clinton] didn’t fire Louis Freeh, the head of the FBI, when Richard Jewell was wrongly accused. Did anybody in the FBI or the Justice Department suffer any repercussions from what happened to your client, Richard Jewell?” Wood responded: “Yes, the wrong people did. Three field agents were penalized by the FBI in connection with a ruse interview that I believe was orchestrated out of Washington, D.C. But the people in Washington that were in the Justice Department that leaked information to the Washington Post about Richard Jewell from the search warrant affidavits, nobody ever looked into those leaks. Nobody ever examined then Director Louis Freeh’s involvement in the ruse interview where Richard was told that he was helping the FBI make a videotape training film on how to deal with suspicious packages. And they actually tried to trick [him] in to giving up his Miranda rights. There was not accountability and anyone that tells you to the contrary is not telling you the truth. That’s the problem with the FBI. No one really wants to hold them accountable.

“There was a hearing that Richard and his lawyers attended with me in July of 1997 at one of the subcommittees of [the] House Judiciary Committee. And let me tell you it was a photo op. They weren’t there to talk to Richard and to us about what had happened and what went wrong with the FBI to fix it. They were there to get on the evening news talking to Richard Jewell. So there is no accountability, and you’re not going to get change and you’re going to have potential Hatfills and Jewells in the future.”

Even after Hatfill’s press conference, the FBI continued with its dubious tactics, arriving in New Jersey, where the anthrax letters were postmarked, to ask residents if they recognized Hatfill from a photograph. The Trenton Times quoted Gary L. Wells, a professor at Iowa State University, as saying, “If Hatfill later becomes a full-blown suspect, these witnesses could be considered tainted by the suggestive procedure of having shown them a single photo of Hatfill. I hope the FBI is not cutting corners out of fervor over terrorism.” Wells helped develop guidelines for the U.S. Department of Justice on how law enforcement agencies should proceed when gathering evidence. The guidelines call for a minimum of five non-suspects to be included in any photo lineup presented to someone asked to make an identification.

Leaving America Vulnerable

The chaos in the investigation is reflected in the coverage by the Washington Times, which led the journalistic pack in claiming that a former U.S. government scientist (unnamed but fitting Hatfill’s description) may be the culprit, but has since flip-flopped to report that Hatfill may have been framed. Ironically, the second raid on Hatfill’s apartment took place as the Bush Administration seemed to belatedly be coming around to believing that one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohammad Atta, did meet with an Iraqi intelligence agent. Atta may have gotten anthrax to use as a weapon from Iraq, although the Saddam Hussein regime is not known to have the Ames strain identified in the post 9/11 attacks. However, as the media have reminded us, the true nature of the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program is not known and it is entirely possible that Iraq or Al Qaeda could have covertly obtained1 the Ames strain. This wouldn’t be the first time the CIA had been taken by surprise.

As we noted in our 2002 AIM Report #6, the FBI and the media have been going down the wrong road for many months, ignoring the available evidence pointing toward Islamic terrorists, including some of the 9/11 hijackers, as being involved in the attacks. They had to have collaborators-based on the fact that the first letters were mailed after 9/11. But since the FBI doesn’t believe they exist, they may still be at large, ready to strike again. The evidence includes:

  • The anthrax letters carried Islamic death threats. They said, “Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great.”

  • Hijacker Mohammad Atta went to a pharmacy for treatment for red and swollen hands, a condition that may have been caused by bleach used to kill anthrax, or the anthrax itself.

  • Another hijacker, Ahmad al-Haznawi, went to a hospital for treatment for a dark lesion that the doctor said was “consistent with cutaneous anthrax.” (The hijacker claimed he got it bumping into a suitcase two months earlier.) Dr. Christos Tsonas cleaned it and prescribed an antibiotic for infection. Federal investigators found the medicine among the hijacker’s possessions.

  • Atta’s rental car contained what the owner, Bradley Warrick, said was about a teaspoon-sized spot of white powder that may have been anthrax.

  • Atta’s rental car and apartment were not immediately tested for anthrax, a decision criticized by Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida as “almost unfathomable.” (Wexler’s district includes Boca Raton, where the first anthrax attack surfaced at the headquarters of American Media Inc.)

  • Al Qaeda labs to produce anthrax have been discovered by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

  • Documents referring to anthrax vaccine-maker Bioport Inc. were found in the possession of Pakistani scientists associated with Al Qaeda in Kabul, Afghanistan. Bioport, which is owned by a foreign businessman with ties to Saudi Arabia, worked with the Ames strain of Anthrax found in the letters.

  • The first anthrax target, American Media, was located just a few miles from where Atta and other terrorists lived and attended flight school.

Blame the Right-Wingers

The Islamic references on the letters have been dismissed by the FBI as transparently phony attempts to pin the blame on Muslims. And the rest of the evidence has been rejected for other reasons. The FBI has followed a pattern that developed under the Clinton Administration, when Islamic terrorists were tolerated on American soil, declared harmless and allowed to raise funds, and domestic terrorism was blamed on extreme right-wingers with ties to the U.S. military. This is why the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City was blamed solely on two former Army soldiers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, said to have vague ties to right-wing militias, and why “John Doe Number Two,” described by a witness as a Middle Easterner with an olive complexion, was declared by the FBI not to exist even after an all points bulletin was issued for him. The indictments of McVeigh and Nichols charged “others unknown” with the crime as well, but the federal government has never shown any interest in pursuing them. Nichols’ possible connections to Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in the Philippines, uncovered by McVeigh attorney Stephen Jones and his investigators, were dismissed by the FBI. Yet, Al Qaeda documents captured in Kabul last November indicated that they may have had better information than the FBI about the formula for the Oklahoma City bomb.

When Y2K was approaching, the FBI issued a “Project Megiddo” report warning of violence by Christian fundamentalists, gun-rights advocates, or those fearing the United Nations and a “New World Order.” Instead, an Al Qaeda terrorist was caught at the Canadian border with explosives he was going to use at the Los Angeles airport. A U.S. Customs officer, not the FBI, was responsible for his capture.

More of the Same

A left-wing activist, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, has been working mostly behind-the-scenes with liberal Democrats, the FBI and the media to divert attention away from any Islamic terrorist connection to the anthrax murders. Rosenberg, who believes the anthrax attacks were “an inside job” by government or former government scientists, is a biologist at the State University of New York who runs the Chemical and Biological Arms Control Program of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). Under Clinton, she served on an advisory panel to the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Health on biological weapons issues. Hatfill, a U.S. military veteran who spent time in Rhodesia when it was ruled by a white anti-communist government, seems like the perfect fall guy and villain. An association with the “white racist” governments of Zimbabwe and South Africa makes Hatfill an easy mark and target. He is politically incorrect. From all appearances, Hatfill appears to be an anti-communist who believed that the U.S. was vulnerable to a chemical/biological attack, and he worked on ways to counter those threats. “I am a loyal American and I love my country,” he says.

Hatfill identified Rosenberg as being behind the official and media interest in him. He says, “According to The Frederick (Md.) News-Post of June 27, 2002, in June 2002 a woman named Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, who affiliates herself with the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), saw fit to discuss me as a suspect in the anthrax case in a meeting with FBI agents and Senate staffers. I don’t know Dr. Rosenberg. I have never met her, I have never spoken or corresponded with this woman. And to my knowledge, she is ignorant of my work and background except in the very broadest of terms. The only thing I know about her views is that she and I apparently differ on whether the United States should sign onto a proposed modification of the international biological weapons convention. This was something I opposed to safeguard American industry, and I believe she favored. I am at a complete loss to explain her reported hostility and accusations. I don’t know this woman at all. In any event, within several days after Dr. Rosenberg’s reported comments in Congress, the FBI called me again at home. I was asked if these agents could look at my apartment and swab the walls for anthrax spores. I was surprised at the request. Anthrax is a deadly inhalational disease.”

The second search took place shortly after Rosenberg briefed members of the staffs of Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, who received two of the anthrax letters. The FBI was also in attendance. Hatfill said, “The FBI agents promised me that the search would be quiet, private and very low-key. It did not turn out that way. Within minutes of my signing the release to have my residence and property searched, television cameras, satellite TV trucks, overhead helicopters were all swarming around my apartment block. The FBI agents arrived in a huge truck with hazardous-materials technicians fully garbed in protective space suits. In fact, I had previously helped train one of the FBI agents who searched my apartment. Responding to my surprise and dismay, the agent in charge apologized to me, saying that the request for this swabbing and search had come from very, very high up. A written and televised media frenzy ensued and continues, with journalists, columnists and others writing, stating and repeating combinations of defamatory speculation, innuendo and other accusations about me. Several have urged the FBI to step up its investigation of me.”

Rosenberg, who suggested to the BBC that the anthrax attacks were a secret CIA project that went awry, had been taken seriously by the FBI and the media. On February 25, Jerry Seper of the Washington Times ran a much-publicized story on page one that the FBI’s prime suspect in the anthrax attacks was a former government scientist. Seper never identified Hatfill by name, but it is clear that he was referring to him. He claimed his sources were “law enforcement authorities” and “leading biochemical experts” but his main source for this charge was later named as Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. Seper, one of the paper’s top investigative journalists, failed to disclose the left-wing bent of Rosenberg and the FAS, whose Web site blasts the Bush administration for withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and trying to build a defense against long-range missiles that can carry chemical, biological or nuclear warheads. The Village Voice, a leftist New York weekly, said Seper’s story “more or less repeated” Rosenberg’s own theory of the case.

Protecting America Through Treaties

Rosenberg believes that arms control agreements and inter-national agencies are the way to deal with foreign enemies and terrorist threats. Rosenberg favors a protocol to an international agreement supposedly banning biological weapons that would create an international committee of experts to monitor and enforce compliance. She probably wants to be a member of such a body. By contrast, John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, says the protocol would endanger the viability of U.S. biological warfare defense programs because its inspection provisions could enable countries with offensive programs to place their agents on the international committee and learn about U.S. national defense programs and devise counter-measures.

A member of The Working Group, a United Nations-associated non-governmental organization (NGO) on biowarfare matters, Rosenberg does not believe in the U.S. developing its own offensive chemical/biological weapons arsenal. And in a September 5, 2001 column in the Baltimore Sun-just six days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks-she even dismissed the notion of “defensive measures for protecting the public from biological weapons.” Showing her liberal leanings and partisanship, Rosenberg has contended that rejection of the biological weapons treaty protocol demonstrates “arrogance” on the part of the Bush administration which creates unnecessary “antagonism” with other countries.

If it were proven that a former U.S. government scientist like Hatfill was behind the anthrax attacks, that would prove in her mind that a protocol mandating international inspections of government facilities, including our own, is necessary. She figures the Bush administration would have to seek ratification of the protocol and its intrusive and compromised inspection regime under those circumstances.

A Key Mouthpiece

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof published five columns this year pushing Rosenberg’s theories of the case without naming her explicitly as a source. In four of them, Kristof identified Hatfill as “Mr. Z.” In the fifth, on August 13, Kristof said that “Mr. Z named himself” and that he is Hatfill. Kristof linked Hatfill to all kinds of illegal and suspicious activities, including an anthrax outbreak in Zimbabwe in 1978-80 that he said sickened more than 10,000 black farmers. The FAS has posted the Kristof columns on its Web site.

Kristof appeared on CNN to say, “I wanted to prod the FBI because I thought there was an awful lot that they were not doing. I wanted to light a fire under them. And I wrote about Dr. Hatfill initially, without using his name, using just the name ‘Mr. Z’ as a way of raising the issue and trying to address some of the public policy concerns but without further putting him in the public eye and making-giving him trouble.” He ignored important exculpatory evidence such as the fact that Hatfill had not had an annual booster shot to protect him from anthrax in three years. He used Hatfill to get the FBI moving in the direction he wanted-and away from the evidence against the Islamic terrorists. It is noteworthy that Kristof went on The O’Reilly Factor Fox News Channel program to defend Palestinian activist Sami Al-Arian, a Florida professor, against charges that he was raising money on U.S. soil for terrorist groups.

Dogs As Witnesses

In the column on August 13, Kristof acknowledged that Hatfill had not worked with anthrax at Ft. Detrick, but he said “his expertise in dry biological warfare agents” and “his access to labs where anthrax spores were kept” helped explain the FBI’s interest in him. Kristof said Hatfill had “failed three successive polygraphs since January and cancelled plans for another polygraph exam two weeks ago.” He cited no source. A good source tells us that he had lost his security clearance because he was found to have been deceptive on a question not about anthrax on a polygraph not administered by the FBI.

Kristoff admitted, “There is not a shred of traditional physical evidence linking him to the attacks.” The only “physical evi-dence,” he said, “is obscure: smell. Specially trained bloodhounds were given scent packets preserved from the anthrax letters” and “they responded strongly to Dr. Hatfill?” This so-called “evidence” was also cited by Newsweek magazine in a story by Mark Miller and Daniel Klaidman, who said that “Bloodhounds are the only dogs whose powers of smell are admissible in court.” But the Baltimore Sun, which has raised numerous questions about Hatfill’s biography, expressed strong doubts about such claims. It found expert bloodhound handlers who said they did not think that any useful scent of the person who mailed the letters would have remained on the envelopes months after they were sent and decontaminated. Hatfill’s lawyer Glasberg said the bloodhound “evidence” is clearly “bogus.” A law enforcement officer who knows blood-hounds shares that view, saying the second search of Hatfill’s apartment, the one in which the dogs were used, may have been done to impress reporters who were there in force.

Guilt by Geography

In addition to this dubious smell test, the media have reported there is significance in the fact that Greendale School was the phony return address used in the anthrax letters to Daschle and Leahy. Brian Ross of ABC News, who clearly relied heavily on the FBI, said that investigators are “intrigued by the fact that Hatfill lived for years near the town of Greendale while attending medical school in Zimbabwe, Africa.” Time maga-zine and other media echoed this claim.

The Associated Press blew it even more out of proportion. An August 12 AP story reported, “The anthrax letters contained a return address of a nonexistent Greendale School in New Jersey. Hatfill once lived in Harare, Zimbabwe, where there is a school known as Greendale School. That school is actually named for Courtney Selous, the namesake of the Selous Scouts, who fought for white rule in what was then called Rhodesia. Hatfill has said he fought with the Selous Scouts.”

But an August 13 version of the AP story was different. It said, “The anthrax letters contained a return address of a nonexistent Greendale School in New Jersey. Hatfill once lived in Harare, Zimbabwe-near the suburb of Greendale, where there is a school named for Courtney Selous. Selous is namesake of the Selous Scouts, who fought for white rule in what was then called Rhodesia; Hatfill has said he fought with the Selous Scouts.”

Note that in this convoluted statement that the reference to a Greendale School was dropped, and Greendale was now being described as just a suburb. Glasberg said this is his understanding as well-that Greendale is a suburb not a school. But even if there were a Greendale school, it wouldn’t prove anything. Greendale is a common name. An Internet search on disclosed Greendale schools in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Virginia.

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed cards or your own cards or letters to Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, to Martin D. Baron, Editor of the Boston Globe and to Governor Jane Swift of Massachusetts.

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