Dr. Steven Hatfill, the so-called “person of interest” in the anthrax letters case, announced at an October 5 Accuracy in Media conference that lawsuits are planned against those who have accused him of involvement in the murders of five people. For the first time publicly, Hatfill directly confronted and dismissed many of the accusations that have tried to link him to the deadly letters. His comments were covered by CNN and Fox News.
Hatfill, who has the expertise to help prepare America for biowarfare waged by countries such as Iraq or international terrorists, understands how to save lives. But he has been run out of two jobs because of the government and media campaign against him. Hatfill said, “A year ago at this time I was involved in theoretical studies helping to determine means by which we could protect our ports and harbors from large-scale biological events. Several months ago I was involved in designing and implementing 46,000 first responders in how to handle biological incidents. Now I sit at home and watch CNN.”
“What upsets me the worst,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion, is that “my country is getting ready for war, and I’m left on the sidelines.”
Hatfill, whose career and reputation have been ruined by media coverage of the case, told the conference 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 now knows better, he said, because the media have falsely depicted him as the anthrax killer of five people.
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 letter 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It was also reported that Hatfill had written an unpublished novel on anthrax letters being sent to Congress?another blueprint of what actually happened. He said that in fact, it dealt with mad cow disease and other emerging infections and the FBI was the hero of the book. 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.
Asked for his suspicions about where the anthrax came from, Hatfill replied: “Throughout this entire year I’ve tried to sit on the fence. There are times when I think it could be domestic. There are times when I think it’s foreign. I don’t know. I don’t have enough information. I haven’t seen the powder. I don’t have enough scientific evidence to make any sort of determination except that when these deaths happened I think we all thought it was terrorism. It was a follow-on to 9/11, and I for one was shocked when the FBI declared that this was a domestic incident. I thought they were out of their minds. It’s hard to make any decision unless you have the evidence. I haven’t seen the powder. I can’t comment on it?its sophistication or anything else. I don’t have enough data to make a firm conviction. However, I believe if it had been domestic after the millions of dollars and thousands of man- hours that the FBI has put into this, I think those people would be in jail now. And I think the fact that there is no suspect points us towards perhaps a foreign power or a terrorist group involved?just simply by the process of elimination.”
Described by Attorney General John Ashcroft himself as a “person of interest” in the case, Hatfill has been forced to hire a lawyer and hold two news conferences to deny that he is responsible for the anthrax letters. His lawyer, Victor Glasberg, has filed a complaint with the Justice Department over how his client has been treated. Hatfill has been tailed by the FBI and his apartment has been searched three times. Yet he is not a suspect, no evidence has been found, and Ashcroft admits the FBI isn’t close to an arrest. In one of the most blatant media distortions in the case, Newsweek claimed that FBI bloodhounds went crazy around Hatfill, thereby linking him to the anthrax letters. But the scientist dismissed that, saying he had merely petted one of the dogs walking around him in a room. “Dogs like me,” he joked.
Hatfill revealed that the country’s top active expert in dried biological warfare agents?Bill Patrick?who had been polygraphed by the FBI and brought into their inner circle?was now being targeted as well, and that bloodhounds were “out sniffing him the other day.” “I didn’t know it could be like this in the United States,” he said. “We’ve gone nuts. We eat our own here.”
Hatfill was the surprise guest on a panel discussion of the anthrax case that also included his spokesman, Pat Clawson; investigative free-lance journalist Nicholas Stix; and Kenneth J. Dillon of Spectrum Bioscience, Inc. The panel was moderated by Cliff Kincaid, the author of an AIM Report characterizing Hatfill as another Richard Jewell, the security guard falsely accused of the Olympic Park bombing.
Clawson, a former investigative reporter for CNN and other media, told the conference that coverage of Hatill has been “gossip masquerading as fact,” generated by leaks from the Department of Justice and the FBI, and he accused the media of malpractice. He said investigative journalism has been discarded in favor of “news candy” that seeks to entertain and not inform. Clawson said that he was interviewed by Geraldo Rivera of the Fox News Channel about the case and that Rivera was so unprepared to discuss the facts and looked so foolish that the story based on the interview never aired on the network. Instead, Rivera told viewers that Clawson had offered “nothing new” in the case and so the interview was killed.
Clawson blasted Attorney General Ashcroft for accusing Hatfill of being a “person of interest” in the case without having any evidence against him. He said Ashcroft lied on CNN’s Larry King Live when he said that the firing of Hatfill from a job in biodefense at Louisiana State University was a decision made by the university alone. In fact, the Justice Department had told the university not to use Hatfill in the program, which it funded.
Kincaid opened the discussion by noting evidence of al Qaeda interest in biowarfare from the FBI interrogation of American Taliban John Walker Lindh. Terrorist trainers told Lindh that the next wave of terrorism after 9/11 was to be chemical or biological attacks. Medical reports suggest that two of the 9/11 hijackers may have come into contact with anthrax. Two other possible hijackers, Ayub Ali-Khan and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, now in U.S. custody, after 9/11 quickly left New Jersey, where the anthrax letters were postmarked. Sources told CNN and the Associated Press that the men had large amounts of cash, hair dye and box cutters in their possession. New Jersey was a base for the bombers of the World Trade Center in 1993. A microbiologist with dual Iraqi-American citizenship living in New Jersey was involved in that bombing. Another key player, an Iraqi named Abdul Rahman Yasin who had a New Jersey apartment, was questioned by the FBI, released, and then fled to Baghdad. He was interviewed by Lesley Stahl of CBS 60 Minutes earlier this year, advertised as “The Man Who Got Away.”
Al Qaeda was interested in anthrax as a weapon, had labs designed to make it, and reportedly had purchased it. CNN has al Qaeda videotapes showing their access to chemical and biological agents. CNN also reported an al Qaeda terrorism manual includes instructions on how to send a “poisonous letter.”
National Security adviser Condoleeza Rice said on September 26 that the Iraqi regime was sheltering members of the al Qaeda terrorist network in Baghdad and helping bin Laden’s operatives in developing chemical weapons. Doesn’t it make some sense, Kincaid asked, to consider that Iraq and al Qaeda were behind the anthrax letter attacks? Despite the statements of Rice and Rumsfeld on an al Qaeda link to Iraq, the administration has seemed reluctant to make a full-blown case. From the FBI’s point of view, this might expose other FBI failures. Kincaid speculated that it might lead to disclosures relating to the FBI’s failure to hold Iraq or al Qaeda responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing.
Kenneth J. Dillon, a former Foreign Service officer and intelligence analyst, described the writing on the envelopes carrying the anthrax letters as authentic expressions of an al Qaeda operative. In what appeared to be the work of someone who spoke and wrote poor English, they said, “Take Penacilin (sic) Now. Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great.” Dillon said, “None of the various features of the letters points clearly to a domestic terrorist.” In particular, he said telling the target person to get “penacilin” can be explained as gloating, as making sure that the person would not just die of an unknown cause, or as an attempt to mislead.
On why Democratic Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy were targeted, Dillon noted that this has been viewed by some as an indication that the letters were the act of a domestic right-winger. But in fact, he said, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), the key component of al Qaeda under Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, head of al Qaeda’s biowarfare program, had targeted Senator Leahy because of his role as head of a panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee that had developed the so-called “Leahy Law” in 1998. Dillon explained, “According to the wording of the Leahy Law, the U.S. Government was authorized to ‘render’ suspected foreign nationals to the government of a foreign country, even when there was a possibility that they would be tortured, in ‘exceptional circumstances.’ When the Leahy Law was applied to send EIJ members captured in the Balkans back to Egypt, Zawahiri fiercely denounced the United States. So Leahy was a high-priority target.”
Dillon added, “Neither fingerprints nor DNA evidence was found on any of the letters, suggesting that the mailer had excellent forensic skills. It is conceivable that a domestic terrorist had mastered forensics, but it is not likely. Forensic skills are highly characteristic of a former Egyptian intelligence agent or special forces operative.”
Where did al Qaeda obtain its anthrax? Dillon said the high level of 1 trillion spores per gram in the letters to the senators must be the result of a team effort, not the work of a single disgruntled scientist. “This is a high-technology product that required iterative testing by a team of microbiologists, physical chemists, and chemical engineers over the course of several years and at a cost of millions of dollars,” he said. He suggested the source may have been the Porton Down Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment via the civilian Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research located in the same town. Dillon speculated that some scientist involved with one of these two institutes or with Porton Products and BioPort, Inc., companies owned by the Lebanese Fuad el-Hibri and working on behalf of the Saudi government, could have stolen a few grams each of various batches of anthrax and then sold them to al Qaeda. A subsequent report in the Washington Post quoted several scientists and biological warfare experts as saying that the evidence points to a foreign government such as Iraq as the likely source. Iraq may have given the anthrax to al Qaeda.
Dillon suggested investigating possible al Qaeda involvement in other incidents, such as the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 from JFK Airport on November 12, 2001?just a month after the 9/11 attacks. “The most plausible explanation of that crash is that, as the aircraft dipped in the downdraft of a preceding JAL jet, a Stinger missile missed the rear exhaust and sheered off the vertical tail stabilizer instead. The most likely suspect must be considered the same individual who sent the anthrax letters. He is probably a former Egyptian special forces operative trusted by Zawahiri. His range was from Trenton to JFK Airport, placing him most likely in northeastern New Jersey.” While the Flight 587 hearings are pointing to co-pilot error with the rudder as the most likely cause of the crash, Dillon says the Stinger missile hypothesis has not been adequately investigated.
Nicholas Stix, a free-lance investigative journalist who serves as Associate Editor of Toogoodreports.com, discussed his research into the background and motivations of Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, one of Hatfill’s main accusers. Stix, one of the first journalists to expose the “high-tech lynching” of Hatfill, said Rosenberg is a professor of environmental science at a performing-arts college in Purchase, New York, who has nevertheless emerged as a major critic of America’s biodefense community. A prominent figure in media coverage of the Hatfill case who has been consulted by the FBI, she has peddled the theory that the U.S. biodefense program, not a foreign terrorist group or government, was the source of the anthrax used in the attacks.
Rosenberg believes that a member of this program sent the anthrax letters to warn the public of biological weapons and generate more funds for biodefense. After she met with the FBI and staffers to Senators Daschle and Leahy on June 18, an FBI search of Hatfill’s apartment was launched on June 25 with journalists on the scene and even circling in helicopters overhead. Stix noted that when this failed to turn up anything, the FBI used the dubious story of bloodhounds going “crazy” around Hatfill to justify another search on August 1. This story was given to Newsweek.
Stix called Rosenberg the “Dr. Strangelove of the American left” and noted that she is committed to passage of a protocol to a U.N. treaty to prohibit biological weapons. Under the protocol, a body of “experts” would inspect and monitor a country’s ability to make biological agents. But foreign spies on such a body could discover U.S. developments in biodefense and help America’s enemies counter or overcome them, making the U.S. more vulnerable to such attacks. This is one factor behind the Bush administration’s rejection of the protocol. But if it is proven that a current or former member of the U.S. biodefense community is behind the anthrax attacks, that would seem to make it imperative in Rosenberg’s mind that American work with such biological agents be strictly monitored under the protocol.
More than one year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, our nation is still vulnerable to attack and the media remain indifferent to the problem. This was the verdict of Michelle Malkin, the nationally syndicated columnist who has written a blockbuster book, Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores, on America’s broken immigration system. “Our borders remain out of control,” she told the AIM conference. “They’re open channels not only for illegal aliens and drug smugglers but for terrorists as well.”
Malkin had particularly harsh criticism of the Wall Street Journal and its editorial page editor, Paul Gigot. She said his editorials on immigration reflect the views of “open border zealots” and that when the paper misrepresented a provision of immigration law that allows criminals and terrorists to enter the U.S., it refused to explain or correct its error. Malkin expanded her attack to much of the rest of the media, lamenting the almost complete lack of attention given to the murder of a National Park Service ranger, Kris Eggle. He was gunned down on August 10 while trying to apprehend two men fleeing Mexican law enforcement who crossed the border into the United States. Eggle, who was only 28 years old and a former Eagle Scout, served in the Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona, which has been described as the most dangerous national park in which to work. Malkin said 200,000 illegal border crossers and 700,000 pounds of drugs were intercepted in the park last year, and that drug and alien smugglers have cut their own roads to facilitate their illegal activities.
While the broadcast and cable networks ignored Eggle’s memorial service, where more than 700 people turned out, Malkin said that the very same day they were bringing the American people regular updates about the condition of Jason Priestly, the 32-year-old former star of the “Beverly Hills 90210” show who had been in a racing-car accident. Malkin asked, “Why does a Hollywood has-been like Jason Priestly and his car crash deserve endless headline news reports while a young man’s sacrifice in defense of the borders earns zero national coverage?”
While praising the work of Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who has repeatedly urged the Bush Administration to strengthen border security, Malkin said Washington has ignored pleas to increase enforcement of our immigration laws. “Unfortunately,” she said, “the Bush Administration remains far more concerned with appeasing Mexican President Vicente Fox than it is with protecting American men and women who are at the border on our front lines.”
She also discussed the case of Ingmar Guandique, a Salvadoran criminal alien serving a 10-year sentence for assaulting two female joggers in Washington’s Rock Creek Park. He has been interrogated as part of the investigation into the murder of former Washington intern Chandra Levy, whose remains were found in the same park this year. He had reportedly exhibited physical signs of being in a fight at the time of her disappearance. Yet Malkin said she searched the Lexis-Nexis database of major news media and had not found a single story referring to him as a criminal illegal alien. AP called him just “an immigrant,” the New York Times described him as “a Washington man,” and the Washington Post termed him just “a Salvadoran immigrant.” She said the Post, which covers the area where he committed his crimes, has failed to explain how he got in the U.S. and how he has been able to manipulate the system to stay. The New York Times is so bad, she said, that it has a policy of refusing to use the word “illegal” in referring to illegal aliens. The word “illegal” is too “sinister-sounding” for the paper. So it calls them “undocumented workers” or just immigrants.
Unfortunately, Guandique isn’t the only illegal alien involved in criminal activity on American soil. Malkin named several others, including Egyptians involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed 6 Americans. She described this as the precursor to 9/11. Even after the horrific terrorist attacks of last year, the Immigration and Naturalization Service continues to operate a “visa lottery” that opens our country to 55,000 additional foreigners every year. Malkin called it a random giveaway of green cards for visiting the U.S. that can go to people from terrorist- sponsoring nations. President Bush has failed to stop this program.
Malkin advocated several reforms, including a visa moratorium on those nations known to be breeding and exporting anti-American terrorism, and immediate implementation of a system to monitor foreigners getting student visas in the U.S. The latter was supposed to go into effect after the 1993 bombing.
The daughter of legal immigrants from the Philippines, Malkin said her parents had to speak English before becoming Americans and had to swear to uphold the U.S. laws and the U.S. Constitution. “That includes immigration laws,” she said. Yet, “that principle is totally lost when you let 9 to 11 million illegal aliens into our country whose first act on our soil is to break our laws and then you reward them with things like drivers licenses, discounted tuition, and if they wait it out long enough, you give them amnesty and you wipe the slate clean. Meanwhile there’s millions of other people around the world who are waiting to come here and join in that dream who are doing it legally, the right way, who are filing their paperwork, undergoing the criminal background checks and who are paying the fees and waiting their turn in line.”
She assailed members of both major political parties for rewarding “illegal line jumpers and America haters and foreign menaces” while good people who wait their turn to legally enter the U.S. are treated as “chumps.” She attacked INS chief James Ziglar, who has said that it is neither reasonable nor practical to deport millions of illegal aliens. “He’s nullifying the laws he’s supposed to enforce,” she said. Joan Hueter, who introduced Malkin, said that Zigler is resigning his post and that former prosecutor and Reagan official Peter Nunez could be his replacement. Hueter, president and founder of the American Council for Immigration Reform, said Nunez is a strong law and order advocate.
Malkin has subsequently broken the story of “Malvogate,” on how the INS had illegal alien and Washington sniper suspect John Lee Malvo in custody and then released him. Law enforcement authorities say that he has admitted that he pulled the trigger in several of the shootings, including the murder of FBI analyst Linda Franklin. Malvo and his associate, Nation of Islam member John Muhammad, have been charged or named as suspects in 21 shootings in which 14 people were killed and seven wounded. Both alleged killers are going to be tried first in Virginia, where they can face the death penalty.