Accuracy in Media

It was big news that former government scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill has sued the Department of Justice for ruining his life and career in the anthrax-murders investigation. The FBI has no evidence against him but Attorney General Ashcroft called him a “person of interest” in the case. Most major media failed to mention that news organizations are named in the suit as recipients of leaks of information from the FBI designed to make the Bureau look good and Hatfill look bad.

An exception was Scott Shane of the Baltimore Sun, who reported that Hatfill’s lawsuit “lists alleged leaks of confidential investigative information to ABC, CBS, Newsweek, The New York Times and The Washington Post.” Shane wrote “Asked whether the media or others might be sued in the future, [Hatfill attorney Thomas] Connolly said he thought it unwise to speculate about ‘who might end up in Steven Hatfill’s crosshairs.'” Connolly told Accuracy in Media, “I can tell you that there have been people in the press that have been so wholly responsible that at some point they’re going to have to answer for their misdeeds.”

The New York Times story about the suit said that the FBI fed information “to the press” to damage Hatfill, but the Times failed to note that it was one of those press organs. The Washington Post story noted that the suit accuses the FBI of having “leaked information to the media,” but ignores the fact that the Post is named in the suit for receiving information from the Bureau.

The lawsuit says that Hatfill has become a scapegoat for the Bureau’s inability to solve the case. It appears that the Bureau is trying to divert attention away from the fact that it may have picked up the anthrax attackers in the aftermath of 9/11 and let them go. Something similar happened before, when a participant in the 1993 World Trade Center attack was picked up, interviewed and released by the FBI. He fled to Baghdad.

Remember that the anthrax letters were sent from New Jersey, where the 1993 attack was launched. Trenton, Paterson and Jersey City have significant populations of Arab militants. Of the 762 illegal immigrants jailed in the weeks and months after 9/11, nearly three out of four were from New York City or New Jersey. Reporting shortly after 9/11, Edward Helmore of the London Guardian reported that the FBI overlooked clues which suggested that two New Jersey men suspected of plotting to hijack a fifth airliner may have been involved in bioterrorism.

These two Muslims were arrested and their luggage reportedly contained an assortment of passports, cash and box-cutting knives. However, the FBI came to the conclusion that none of this was related to the terrorist attacks on America. The Muslims were convicted of credit card fraud and released by the FBI after several months in detention. Rather than admit they have bungled the case, the FBI has recklessly pursued Steven Hatfill. Now he’s fighting back.

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