Accuracy in Media

The release of AIM’s powerful new documentary, “Confronting Iraq,” could represent the last best hope to change the national debate over the war in Iraq. Produced by Roger Aronoff of AIM, the film sets the record straight about Saddam Hussein, his weapons of mass destruction, ties to terrorists, and threats to America and the world. It portrays the war in Iraq as a noble cause essential to America’s survival in the “clash of civilizations” between the West and fanatical Islam.

AIM has mounted a major national effort to get the film into the hands of millions of Americans?and our troops?in the next critical weeks and months. It is the only film that has the potential to counter the noxious and subversive influence of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, which uses the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an opportunity to attack President Bush and the U.S. response to global terrorism, including the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bootleg copies of the Moore film have been circulated in Iraq and are said to be having a “devastating” impact on U.S. morale, with some soldiers saying they are ashamed of their military service on behalf of “a lie.” Moore is now trying to get his film shown at U.S. military bases.

The AIM film will be a real morale-booster for the Armed Forces because it describes how a successful outcome in Iraq is essential to U.S. national security interests. It features interviews with James Woolsey, former CIA director; Bernard Kerik, former New York City Police Commissioner; Christopher Hitchens, author of A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq; Bernard Lewis, an expert on Islam from Princeton University; Victor Davis Hanson, a military historian and senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution; Cliff May, president of The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; Frank Gaffney, President of Center for Security Policy and a former Assistant Secretary of Defense; Stephen Hayes, reporter for The Weekly Standard and author of  the book The Connection, on Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda; Richard Miniter, author of Losing bin Laden; Tim Trevan former U.N. weapons inspector; and Jano Rosebiani, a Kurdish-American filmmaker who has documented Saddam’s mass graves. 

The film is being shown at the American Film Renaissance in Dallas, Texas, September 10-12.

The release of the film comes in the wake of publication by The American Spectator of a provocative article challenging the media and policymakers to call the “war on terrorism” what it is?a war on militant Islam. Andrew C. McCarthy, a former chief assistant U.S. attorney who led the 1995 terrorism prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in connection with the first World Trade Center bombing, says, “You can’t win a war without identifying who the enemy is, and I think we’ve bent over backwards to avoid labeling all of Islam as the enemy. That is fair enough. But I think we’ve gone overboard in saying that our enemy is terrorism. Terrorism is a method, not a person or a faction or an enemy.”

In his article, “The Great War on Militant Islam,” he points out that Islam began in violence and that Muhammad himself was a violent warrior. McCarthy writes that, of all the global religions in the modern world today, “only Islam sports an unbridled faction that systematically inculcates hatred, systematically dehumanizes non-adherents, and systematically kills massively and indiscriminately.”

In the World Trade Center case, McCarthy said Sheik Rahman taught that the only legitimate Jihad was war. “There was no authoritative body in Islam that is empowered to step in and say that’s wrong,” he pointed out.

One elementary way to separate militants from moderates is by their behavior and willingness to take a stand against violence. But Abdurahman Alamoudi, president of the American Muslim Council, was viewed as a moderate until he was implicated in an assassination plot and money-laundering scheme for terrorists. 


John Kerry voted for the anti-terrorist law, the USA Patriot Act, but now wants to change it and replace Attorney General John Ashcroft with someone “who actually upholds the Constitution of the United States.” However, Kerry and the liberal critics never cite alleged “abuses” under the law involving the anthrax investigation, which has been driven by Kerry’s Democratic colleagues, Senators Patrick Leahy and Thomas Daschle. Leahy and Daschle promoted  what former CIA director James Woolsey ridicules as the “crazed solitary American microbiologist” theory of the case. Woolsey believes the FBI ought to change course immediately and pursue the al-Qaeda connection to the anthrax attacks.

The FBI’s dubious theory of the case, says Woolsey, means that the perpetrator was either “very quick” or “very lucky” because he was ready to mail his anthrax letters shortly after al-Qaeda hit the U.S. on 9/11.

According to the FBI theory, this crazed scientist even wrote like an Islamic radical, putting references to “Death to Israel,” “Death to America,” praise for Allah, and the notation, “09-11-01,” on the letters. Such references, according to the FBI theory, were a diversion intended to make it seem like Islamic radicals had written them.

Dr. Leonard Cole of Rutgers University agrees that the FBI must move beyond the “misfit lone scientist” theory and consider that the anthrax attacks were staged by a person(s) with a connection to al-Qaeda who had advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. His book, The Anthrax Letters: A Medical Detective Story, examines some of this evidence.  

There were seven or eight anthrax letters, only four of which were recovered. Two were postmarked September 18, seven days after 9/11, suggesting that the perpetrator had “advance knowledge and was ready to move pretty quickly,” he explains.

The anthrax attacks not only killed five people and sickened at least 17 others, but closed down hundreds of federal offices and brought the postal system to a standstill. Decontamination of these and other sites are costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Of the 11 who got inhalation anthrax, six survived but only one is back to health. “This is an awful disease, an awful bioweapon,” says Cole, who has written on the subject for 20 years. 

The FBI’s failure to solve the case was evident as America prepared to remember the September 11, 2001, attacks that brought down the World Trade Center and destroyed part of the Pentagon. Ashcroft had warned before the 9/11 anniversary that terrorists associated with al Qaeda were intending to attack the United States in operation “Winds of Black Death,” a possible reference to the black lesions on anthrax victims, which was said to be 90-percent complete.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said police had asked corporate security managers to safeguard their heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems to prevent a chemical or biological attack. There was also fear of the use of helicopters in a terrorist attack, truck bombs, and the assassination of public officials.

The warnings served as a reminder of the evidence that al-Qaeda was interested in anthrax as a weapon, had a lab in Kandahar, Afghanistan, designed to make it, and had published a terrorism manual instructing operatives on how to send a “poisonous letter.” FBI inter-rogation of American Taliban John Walker Lindh revealed he had been told that the next wave of terrorism after 9/11 was to be chemical or biological attacks.

Despite all of this evidence implicating al Qaeda, the post-9/11 anthrax attacks remain officially unsolved.

For three years now, the FBI has been using the Patriot Act to obtain search warrants against doctors and scientists who had been warning about the threat of bioterrorism in the U.S. that the FBI and CIA didn’t prevent. The most prominent such cases are Dr. Steven Hatfill and Dr. Kenneth Berry. No evidence has been produced against either man, but the highly publicized raids on their homes?and the media feeding frenzy?give the fleeting impression that the Bureau is making progress.

But the evidence suggests otherwise.

Major Mistakes

The FBI seems to have missed the significance of the fact that the anthrax letters to Daschle and Leahy were mailed from New Jersey, a base for the bombers of the World Trade Center in 1993. A participant in that bombing, an Iraqi named Abdul Rahman Yasin who had a New Jersey apartment, was questioned by the FBI, released, and then fled to Baghdad. He has not been found.

In the 9/11 case, the FBI may have made a similar mistake. Muslims Ayub Ali-Khan and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath quickly left New Jersey after 9/11. Sources told CNN and the Associated Press that the men had been apprehended carrying large amounts of cash, hair dye and box cutters in their possession. Curiously, they were held by the FBI as material witnesses, charged with immigration violations, and then deported.

The same FBI that falsely implicated security guard Richard Jewell in the Olympic Park bombing has made several mistakes in the anthrax case. The first mistake was assuming that Leahy and Daschle received anthrax letters because they were liberals. Leahy’s influential chief of staff, who pushed this theory, was quoted in Marilyn Thompson’s book on the case as saying the anthrax killer was a “right-wing zealot.” Daschle offered his opinion that the perpetrator probably had a U.S. military background. This fit an FBI profile of the alleged perpetrator. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a leading advocate of this view, met with the FBI and Leahy’s staff and pointed them toward Hatfill, a former U.S. government scientist who had worked at the lab at Ft. Detrick. Her views were echoed by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and other media.

Hatfill came under 24-hour surveillance by the FBI and a media assault, losing two jobs in the process and his privacy and career. He was publicly labeled a “person of interest” by Ashcroft, who was apparently convinced by the FBI that the former U.S. government scientist was worth pursuing. The FBI even searched a Maryland pond, to no avail, looking for biowarfare equipment supposedly dumped by Hatfill. The media noted the recovery of an alleged biowarfare device that turned out to be a minnow or turtle trap.

Hatfill had no alternative but to file suit against the Justice Department and Kristof and the Times.

Berry, a bioterrorism expert who started, a website on how to respond to terrorist attacks, was targeted in much the same way as Hatfill. In the raids, captured in photographs distributed around the country, some of the federal agents wore protective suits to dramatically enter one of Berry’s homes, even while the FBI was telling local officials there was no danger to public health.

In a column distributed by Accuracy in Media, AIM editor Cliff Kincaid said that journalists should investigate how the FBI obtained search warrants in the Berry case and what, if any, “evidence” is contained in them. “There may be a story here about real abuses of the USA Patriot Act and why the FBI has been unable to solve this nearly three-year-old case,” he said.

Berry’s local paper, the (Olean, New York) Times Herald, was virtually alone among the media in questioning the massive federal show of force. In an editorial titled, “Feds Engage in Public Spectacle,” it said that Berry was “left to twist in the winds of suspicion created by all the notice the FBI has brought down on him.”

The situation was similar to when Hatfill’s home was raided. After left-wing activist Barbara Hatch Rosenberg met with the FBI and staffers to Senators Daschle and Leahy, the FBI launched a search of Hatfill’s apartment with journalists on the scene and even circling in helicopters overhead. The FBI raided and ransacked the apartment of Hatfill’s girlfriend.

The FBI’s “Amerithrax” investigation focuses on the anthrax letters sent from New Jersey to Senators Daschle and Leahy, Tom Brokaw of NBC News and the New York Post. The FBI seems to ignore the significance of two letters that were received at the headquarters of American Media Inc. (AMI) in Florida, where many of the 9/11 hijackers had been based at one time. The letters to AMI were reportedly addressed care of Jennifer Lopez, the actress and singer, and one letter was described as having a white powder and a Star of David pendant. It was handled by AMI employee Bob Stevens, who died from an anthrax infection.

The Florida Connection

Why would the perpetrators use the name of Jennifer Lopez? Using that name would almost certainly get the letter noticed and opened. But Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers, lived near the AIM headquarters in the weeks leading up to 9/11 and was communicating by code with a terrorist contact in Germany that he called “Jenny.”

Atta himself had shown up at a pharmacy in Florida to get medicine for a red rash on his arm. The pharmacist reported this to the FBI and suspected that the rash had been caused by bleach used to decontaminate the scene of an anthrax accident. Another 9/11 hijacker, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Haznawi, went to a hospital in June 2001 to get treated for a black sore on his leg that was later determined by the doctor and experts at Johns Hopkins who work in the biodefense area to be anthrax-related. Al-Haznawi was treated with an antibiotic.

Atta, whose reported meeting with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague has been the subject of endless speculation and press accounts, had shown an interest in crop-dusting equipment possibly for use in a biological or chemical attack. Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, was also interested in crop dusters.

The second key FBI mistake was thinking that the Ames strain of anthrax, used in U.S. labs and found in the letters, was not available to foreign terrorists. Experts now concede that the strain was shipped to numerous labs here and abroad.

The Other “Person of Interest”

Ross Getman, an attorney who has written extensively on evidence implicating al Qaeda in the anthrax attacks, points to Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, director of al Qaeda’s biological weapons program and head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), as an obvious “person of interest” in the case.

Getman notes that, two years before 9/11, during a terrorism trial in Egypt, Zawahiri’s right-hand man, Ahmad Salamah Mabruk, revealed that Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden had purchased biological and chemical agents.

Al-Qaeda 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, whose capture was announced on March 1, 2003, had been apprehended in the home of Dr. Abdul Qadoos Khan, a bacteriologist who previously worked in Sudan for the U.N.’s World Health Organization. The media have reported that documents relating to the weaponization of anthrax were found on Mohammed’s laptop computer. Mohammed says that Yazid Sufaat, a Malaysian microbioloist educated in the U.S., took the lead in developing biological weapons for al-Qaeda at the Afghan lab. He fled after the U.S. invasion and was arrested by Malaysian authorities.

An Indonesian-born al-Qaeda associate, Riduan Ismuddin, also known as “Hambali,” was captured in the summer of 2003 and reportedly confirmed that he had been working on the anthrax program in Kandahar.

A hopeful sign, Getman says, is that the FBI has issued an alert for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani who reportedly fled the U.S on September 19, one day after some of the anthrax letters were mailed. Getman suggests she may have had access to anthrax at Brandeis University, where she graduated with a Ph.D in neurology, and which was conducting anthrax experiments as late as November 2001, when the Department of Public Health was called to decontaminate a campus lab. In March of 2002, the FBI subpoenaed records from Brandeis about its work in anthrax.

On the question of motive, Getman believes Zawahiri targeted Senator Leahy because his name was associated with the so-called “Leahy Law” that passed in 1997 and was expanded in 1998. Leahy chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee and Daschle was Senate Majority leader in 2001-2002 at the time of the attacks. Although the Leahy Law was designed to cut off U.S. military aid to governments guilty of human rights violations, it had exceptions for continued aid when waivers were signed by officials of the executive branch. This meant that U.S. military aid would continue to the Egyptian government, which once imprisoned Zawahiri, even when Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) members were being picked up by the CIA and sent back to Egypt for interrogations and possible torture. 

The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, on August 6, 1998, had reported that the EIJ warned of “revenge” against the U.S. for its involvement in the extradition to Egypt of several terrorist suspects. The EIJ statement said that, “We are interested in briefly telling the Americans that their message has been received and that the response, which we hope they will read carefully, is being [prepared], because we?with God’s help?will write it in the language that they understand.”

On why U.S. media organizations were targeted in the anthrax attacks, Getman notes that Zawahiri had written a book blasting “the Western media” for claiming the Islamic resistance movement was a CIA-financed creation in Afghanistan, in the war against the Soviet Union. Zawahiri wrote that the movement pre-dated the Afghan war.

One of the media targets, AMI, was known to Atta, who lived in the area and used a real estate agent married to an editor of one of the popular supermarket tabloid news-papers based at AMI. In fact, notes Leonard Cole, six of the hijackers lived in the Boca Raton, Florida, area, just a few miles from AMI.

In an October 2001 interview with Al-Jazeera television correspondent Tayseer Alouni (later arrested in Spain as an al-Qaeda agent), bin Laden was asked if he had anything to do with the anthrax attacks. He replied that the “diseases” were “a punishment from God” and “God’s response” to prayers.

Before it is too late, the media should start examining whether there has been another major FBI intelligence failure in the anthrax case that has left us even more vulnerable to terrorism. 

What You Can Do

Send cards and letters of your own choosing to Ernest Sotomayor and Ted Koppel. Also, be sure to order copies of the AIM film, “Confronting Iraq.”

Mr. Ernest R. Sotomayor
New York Newsday
235 Pinelawn Rd.
Melville, NY 11747

Mr. Ted Koppel
ABC News
1717 DeSales St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

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