Accuracy in Media

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently asked “why have there been no terrorist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11?” This is a claim that is frequently made but false. He ignores the post 9/11 anthrax attacks.

Friedman went on to say, “I’ve got my own pet theory about what’s produced this period of calm-and, more important, why it may be coming to an end. I fear that when and if the Jihadists conclude that they have been defeated in the heart of their world, they will be sorely tempted to throw a Hail Mary pass. That is, they may want to launch a spectacular, headline-grabbing act of terrorism in America that tries to mask, and compensate for, just how defeated they have become at home. In short, the more the Jihadists lose in Iraq, the more likely they are to use their rump forces to try something really crazy in America to make up for it. So let’s stay the course in Iraq, but stay extra-vigilant at home.”

There has been no “period of calm” after 9/11, unless you are prepared to ignore  the failure to solve the post 9/11 anthrax attacks. This stands out as a major intelligence failure when the U.S. is facing, in Friedman’s view, the increasing possibility of a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. It’s curious why a columnist for the New York Times would take the position that the post- 9/11 terrorists attacks were not really terrorist attacks. One possible explanation is that Friedman accepts the view of his colleague, Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who tried to blame the attacks on former U.S. Government scientist Steven Hatfill, not al Qaeda. But even if Hatfill had been responsible-and there is absolutely no evidence for that theory-the anthrax attacks would still constitute a form of domestic terrorism. But because Kristof had no evidence, only innuendo and speculation, Hatfill sued him for defamation. Hatfill lost two jobs and had his career ruined by such charges. The Hatfill suit was thrown out but is on appeal. The Kristof charges were based on a theory advanced by a left-wing interest group and accepted by the FBI, which wanted to blame the anthrax attacks on a disgruntled right-winger. Hatfill, who had a conservative background, fit the bill. 

Hatfill sued the Justice Department and the FBI after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called him a “person of interest” in the anthrax case. Despite that charge, it bears repeating that there is no evidence against Hatfill and never has been. He has never been labeled a suspect or charged in the case.

Friedman should correct his error and use his journalistic talents to investigate the FBI. That would take real courage. Most reporters are reluctant to probe the FBI for obvious reasons.

But the recent case of Eric Rudolph shows where the FBI can go wrong. He pleaded guilty to the Olympic Park bombing, which had been falsely blamed by the FBI on security guard Richard Jewell. In that case, Jewell also sued the media for repeating the FBI line against him. He reportedly collected several hundred thousand dollars in damages. Jewell was accused of being the Olympic Park bomber when, in fact, he had assisted victims of the bombing.

It’s time for the FBI-and the media-to look beyond Hatfill. There’s no evidence indicating he is anything other than a patriot who tried to help America prepare for the terrorist attacks that have now been blamed on him. AIM has been saying for years that the evidence indicates an Al Qaeda connection to the anthrax murders. 

Attorney Ross Getman, who has analyzed this connection in detail, has uncovered some new information. He reports evidence that Al Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri “had a scientist named Rauf attending conferences sponsored by Porton Down, UK’s biodefense facility, for the purpose of obtaining the Ames anthrax strain.  The scientist’s handwritten notes reporting on his efforts are available through the Freedom of Information Act.  He is just one of a number of microbiologists who have been captured that have gotten no attention by the media.”

He explains, “In October 2002, Jang publication ‘The News’ (in English),  in reporting on a raid of a compound of doctors in Lahore, Pakistan, let drop a remarkable sentence about the arrest of a microbiologist named Rauf.  The article noted, as reported by the CIA’s Foreign Broadcasting Information Service, that ‘Well-placed sources pointed out the … arrests were also part of the chain of events which started from the arrest of PCSIR’s Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research microbiologist Dr. Abdur Rauf…..’

“Rauf attended conferences sponsored by the UK biodefense facility Porton Down while seeking a pathogenic anthrax strain for Ayman Zawahiri.

“In December 2002, a journal called ‘Science’ magazine pictured excerpts from a handwritten letter by Dr. Rauf, without naming him, that had been obtained under the Freedom  of Information Act.  The letter was on the letterhead of the Society for Applied Microbiology (SFAM). Dr. Rauf  was merely one of hundreds of members of the society, and not an employee.

The latest dates, he reports, from the handwritten notes are reportedly July and September 1999:

“(6)  Unfortunately, I did not find the required culture of B. anthrax i.e., pathogenic.  The culture available in [REDACTED] is non-pathogenic.”

“(8) Therefore, keeping in view to above circumstances, a visit to [REDACTED]  can be arranged for 10 days in the 1st week of [REDACTED] .  (FN) This requires at least the air ticket expenses.”

“For this visit, I should  be informed as early as possible.

Yours sincerely,


FN (9)  The money with me is only for the purpose to buy strains or vaccines.”

Getman asks, “Did Dr. Rauf ever obtain virulent Ames? While the notes refer to dates in 1999, an A. Rauf attended the 2000 conference on ‘Dangerous Pathogens.’ Of course, there still would be a major question of who weaponized the anthrax and who mailed it.Khalid Mohammed was allegedly arrested in the home of an elderly bacteriologist, Abdul Qadoos Khan. KSM’s laptop with undated anthrax spraydrying production instructions was allegedly found in the home. There is no indication, however, that Dr. Khan had the relevant skills to weaponize the product used in the second batch of mailings in the US. The family stridently denies even that KSM was arrested in the home.

“But imagine, if you will, Ayman watching some Porton Down scientist lecture on anthrax. Compare the capability Ayman was showing on gathering intelligence on the anthrax work at Porton Down and elsewhere to the US understanding of Ayman’s program to weaponize anthrax pre-9/11.”

Al Qaeda was way ahead of what the U.S. understood its expertise and potential to be. Sadly, the FBI is still behind the curve, setting us up for that new terror attack that Thomas Friedman predicts.

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