Accuracy in Media

Cable news has been preoccupied with the Duke Lacrosse rape case, with commentators debating the strong possibility that the white players are being falsely accused by a black stripper. Here’s a case for the media that is even more sensational and has important national security implications. It’s about a former government scientist falsely accused of carrying out the post 9/11 anthrax murders.

The scientist, Steven Hatfill, is suing the government and the media for implicating him in the anthrax murders. So covering the case could make the media, especially the New York Times, whose columnist Nicholas Kristof smeared Hatfill, look bad. The paper refuses to settle the case, insisting that what it wrote about Hatfill was fair comment. In fact, it was a smear.

Using information supplied by a left-wing activist, Kristof urged the FBI to investigate Hatfill and make his life miserable. He succeeded.

For those who think the FBI has cleaned up its act since 9/11, consider the revealing Jeff Stein article published in CQ Weekly. Citing court testimony and other documents, he demonstrates that key officials of the FBI to this day do not understand the nature of the terrorist enemy and continue to do sloppy investigative work.

Next to the Hatfill case, perhaps the worst fiasco was falsely accusing an Oregon lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, of being linked to the Madrid, Spain bombing carried out by al Qaeda. Stein discusses this amazing case, in which the agency confused fingerprints.

After 9/11, Stein notes that many young people were anxious to join the FBI and fight al Qaeda. But some of the hired agents got “clerical duties,” while others found themselves emptying wastebaskets. What a waste of talent and patriotism.

Although it is not intended this way, the Stein article helps demonstrate why the NSA terrorist-surveillance programs are so critical to finding the enemy and stopping them from carrying out their terrorist attacks on our fellow citizens. Our FBI is still badly in need of repair.

Stein notes that one NSA official was brought into the FBI to shake things up and left, complaining that some personnel functioned more as “furniture” than agents. The official refused to talk on the record about what happened to her.

For the sake of our country, we need more journalists like Jeff Stein who offer constructive criticism about the performance of our intelligence agencies. This kind of reporting helps us strengthen our front-line defenses. This is information we need to know. 

Most of our media, however, would rather deal with stories like the FBI making a big show out of searching for Jimmy Hoffa’s body. It gives the impression that the FBI never gives up. That impression, however, is contradicted by the fact that the anthrax case, which involves the threat to our nation posed by foreign terrorists, is still unsolved.

The FBI had the wrong man in the anthrax case and won’t admit it. Forget about Hoffa. Our media should be demanding that the real perpetrators of the anthrax murders be pursued and brought to justice.

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