Accuracy in Media

Stories about an Inspector General report on the FBI’s Robert Hanssen spy scandal followed a pattern: information was included about the unprecedented nature of the scandal and the FBI was then quoted as saying that changes were being made. However, Toni Locy of USA Today had a piece of information we didn’t see in other stories?no one at the FBI has been fired, even though 30 FBI employees were “red-flagged” after they flunked polygraphs in the wake of the scandal.

The Hanssen case is described as the most damaging in FBI history. He compromised secret operations and revealed the identities of dozens of Russian agents working for the FBI, three of whom were executed. Despite the treason he committed, he escaped the death penalty and his wife receives a portion of his FBI pension.

Another report on the Hanssen spy scandal was released last year. Elaine Shannon of Time magazine reported at that time that 700 FBI employees had been polygraphed, and seven had failed to pass. But Shannon reported that none of them had been fired or disciplined. So the only difference in more than a year’s time is that more FBI agents have been polygraphed and more have failed. Still, no one has been fired.

New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau was alone in quoting FBI critic Senator Charles Grassley as saying he was alarmed to learn from the Inspector General’s report that the FBI remains vulnerable to espionage within its own ranks. Dan Eggen of the Washington Post quoted one of the investigators as saying, “It’s been more than two years since Hanssen was arrested, and the reality is that a lot of this stuff [the needed reforms] still?[hasn’t] been done yet.” Eggen also quoted an attorney for a CIA officer who had been wrongly hounded by the FBI as the mole who turned out to be one of its own?Robert Hanssen. The lawyer said the FBI was wearing “institutional blinders” in the case and was guilty of incompetence.

The FBI’s pursuit of the innocent CIA officer, rather than the real culprit, Hanssen, reminds us of the Bureau’s fruitless pursuit of Dr. Steven Hatfill in the anthrax murder case. On August 8th, the White House released a report noting that a senior al Qaeda terrorist, now detained, who had been responsible for al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, has reported that al Qaeda was intent on obtaining assistance in producing and using weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. The White House report says, “According to a credible, high-level al Qaeda source, Osama Bin Laden and deceased al Qaeda leader Muhammad Atif did not believe that al Qaeda labs in Afghanistan were capable of manufacturing chemical and biological weapons, so they turned to Iraq for assistance. Iraq agreed to provide chemical and biological weapons training for two al Qaeda associates starting in December 2000.”

Is it too much to believe that al Qaeda obtained that training and the weapons, such as anthrax, from Iraq? And that they used the anthrax in the attacks on America? The White House has produced some important evidence that is apparently not being taken seriously by the FBI.

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