Accuracy in Media

Three days after the 9/11 anniversary, Judith Miller reported in the New York Times that an Al Qaeda terrorist laboratory was discovered by troops in Afghanistan. Miller said the lab could have been used to “eventually” make anthrax. That suggests anthrax wasn’t made at this lab. But that’s not to say Al Qaeda didn’t make it somewhere else. Miller noted about 370 samples have been taken from this and other sites, and that, “In only five cases were there any apparent indications of the presence of biological agents, and these were in tiny or trace amounts.” Miller didn’t say what they were but Al Qaeda videos obtained by CNN clearly show that the terrorists had access to chemical/biological agents.

Last November, CNN reporter Mike Boettcher highlighted the capture of an Al Qaeda bioterrorism manual with chemical formulas and “step-by-step instructions in the manufacture of deadly biological weapons.” He said that one chapter is called “The Poisonous Letter.” Boettcher reported that biological warfare sections give exact formulas for the production of two deadly toxins, but there was no evidence of instructions on how to make or distribute anthrax.

On the other hand, Global Security Newswire reported that documents discovered in Kabul, Afghanistan, included “A chart explaining how to distribute anthrax using a hot-air balloon, copies of media articles about anthrax and a computer disk showing former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen explaining that anthrax could destroy much of Washington?”

Despite this evidence, the FBI seems determined to eliminate Al Qaeda as a possible source of the anthrax attacks that killed five Americans. In an effort to link former government scientist Steven Hatfill to the anthrax letters, the FBI has shown pictures of him to people in New Jersey, where the letters were postmarked. Hatfill has produced time sheets from his job showing he was in the Washington, D.C. area at that time. But was there an Al Qaeda connection to New Jersey?

Ayub Ali-Khan and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath were the first material witnesses arrested after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They were pulled from a train in Forth Worth, Texas, but had been headed to San Antonio aboard a plane that left Newark, New Jersey, about the time of the attacks. That plane was grounded in St. Louis because of the attacks. Sources told CNN and the Associated Press that the men had large amounts of cash, hair dye and box cutters in their possession. In other words, they may have been intending to hijack a plane. Were they also involved in sending the anthrax letters?

Paul Ewald, a biologist at Amherst College, believes that Al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks. He says the letters were intended to be a “demonstration that they have anthrax on U.S. soil.” Professor Richard A. Muller says that he, too, believes that the attacks were the work of terrorists working for Osama bin Laden. In an article in Technology Review, he goes into detail about why he believes the anthrax letters were the “second wave” of Al Qaeda terrorism. But the FBI doesn’t seem interested.

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