Accuracy in Media

FBI Director Robert Mueller told the National Press Club on June 20th that the Bureau had made significant progress in the domestic war on terror, but he had no comment on the failure to resolve the anthrax murders. He refused to comment on whether Dr. Steven Hatfill is still a “person of interest” in the case. The media run constant stories on the search for WMD, or weapons of mass destruction, in Iraq, but have not shown comparable interest in the source of the WMD that killed five people in America shortly after 9/11.

Worse than that, Scott Shane of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Investigative Reporters and Editors, the IRE, rejected a request by Hatfill to speak at its recent Washington conference about how the FBI-media axis has ruined his life and career in the anthrax probe. On the other hand, FBI agent Brad Garrett, who has participated in the anthrax investigation, was scheduled to speak at the convention.

It was recently big news that the FBI was draining a Maryland pond in an attempt to find some evidence concerning the anthrax attacks. CBS Evening News correspondent Jim Stewart showed a computer-generated design of something that “looks like” a piece of lab equipment that the FBI is said to have recovered from the pond. It also “looks like” a sweater box with a hole cut in the side of it. Some think it was a turtle trap made by a kid. Others say it’s a minnow trap or live-bait dispenser.

Toni Locy in USA Today reported that a law enforcement source said investigators “sometimes wonder whether they focused on Hatfill too soon, and ignored someone who deserved more attention.” But so much has gone into investigating Hatfill, a source said, that abandoning the focus on him “would be like starting all over.” Locy also reported, “So far, investigators cannot rebut Hatfill’s claims that he has never been to Trenton or Princeton, New Jersey, where the anthrax letters were mailed.”

The attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 was also launched from New Jersey. 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 from New York City shortly after 9/11, Edward Helmore of the London Guardian said that the FBI was scouring Arab-American neighborhoods in New Jersey for evidence that could tie the September 11 attacks and the anthrax outbreaks. He 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. The two Muslims were arrested and their luggage reportedly contained an assortment of passports, cash and box-cutting knives.

But 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 months in detention. FBI Director Mueller has offered no public explanation of what happened in this case. And the anthrax case remains unsolved.




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