Vital unresolved anthrax questions...
- Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News by Glenn Greenwald
is so interesting that I have to point this blog's readers to it,
and it really does have Jewish-Islamic element that connects it to
the theme of this blog.
According to Greenwald Bruce E. Ivins, the alleged anthrax letter
assassin, sent the following message in 2006 to the Maryland
Frederick News in apparent condemnation of interfaith dialogue.
Rabbi Morris Kosman is entirely correct in summarily rejecting the
demands of the Frederick Imam for a "dialogue."
By blood and faith, Jews are God's chosen, and have no need
for "dialogue" with any gentile. End of "dialogue."
Here is the whole article.
Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News
Friday Aug. 1, 2008
[NOTE: There are many hyper links in the above article. If you want
more information on this topic, go to the above website. -WVNS]
The FBI's lead suspect in the September, 2001 anthrax attacks --
Bruce E. Ivins -- died Tuesday night, apparently by suicide, just as
the Justice Department was about to charge him with responsibility
for the attacks. For the last 18 years, Ivins was a top anthrax
researcher at the U.S. Government's biological weapons research
laboratories at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, where he was one of the most
elite government anthrax scientists on the research team at the U.S.
Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID).
The 2001 anthrax attacks remain one of the great mysteries of the
post-9/11 era. After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably
the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make
a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential. The
9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the
absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been
perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax
letters -- with the first one sent on September 18, just one week
after 9/11 -- that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created
the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several
years after. It was anthrax -- sent directly into the heart of the
country's elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate
Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News
anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets -- that created
the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by
If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks,
then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab,
sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick. Without resort to
any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the
significance of that fact. From the beginning, there was a clear
intent on the part of the anthrax attacker to create a link between
the anthrax attacks and both Islamic radicals and the 9/11 attacks.
This was the letter sent to Brokaw:
The letter sent to Leahy contained this message:
We have anthrax.
You die now.
Are you afraid?
Death to America.
Death to Israel.
Allah is great.
By design, those attacks put the American population into a state of
intense fear of Islamic terrorism, far more than the 9/11 attacks
alone could have accomplished.
Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to
Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent -- indispensably
aided by ABC News -- to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam
Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and
in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this
episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this
decade. News of Ivins' suicide, which means (presumably) that the
anthrax attacks originated from Ft. Detrick, adds critical new facts
and heightens how scandalous ABC News' conduct continues to be in
During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross,
continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that
government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft.
Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the
chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter
Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the
anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the
attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a
trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons
program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce
ABC News' claim -- which they said came at first from "three well-
placed but separate sources," followed by "four well-placed and
separate sources" -- was completely false from the beginning. There
never was any bentonite detected in the anthrax (a fact ABC News
acknowledged for the first time in 2007 only as a result of my
badgering them about this issue). It's critical to note that it
isn't the case that preliminary tests really did detect bentonite
and then subsequent tests found there was none. No tests ever found
or even suggested the presence of bentonite. The claim was just
concocted from the start. It just never happened.
That means that ABC News' "four well-placed and separate sources"
fed them information that was completely false -- false information
that created a very significant link in the public mind between the
anthrax attacks and Saddam Hussein. And look where -- according to
Brian Ross' report on October 28, 2001 -- these tests were conducted:
And despite continued White House denials, four well-placed and
separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the
anthrax by the US Army at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have detected
trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica.
Two days earlier, Ross went on ABC News' World News Tonight with
Peter Jennings and, as the lead story, breathlessly reported:
The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests
conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere.
Clearly, Ross' allegedly four separate sources had to have some
specific knowledge of the tests conducted and, if they were
really "well-placed," one would presume that meant they had some
connection to the laboratory where the tests were conducted -- Ft.
Detrick. That means that the same Government lab where the anthrax
attacks themselves came from was the same place where the false
reports originated that blamed those attacks on Iraq.
It's extremely possible -- one could say highly likely -- that the
same people responsible for perpetrating the attacks were the ones
who fed the false reports to the public, through ABC News, that
Saddam was behind them. What we know for certain -- as a result of
the letters accompanying the anthrax -- is that whoever perpetrated
the attacks wanted the public to believe they were sent by foreign
Muslims. Feeding claims to ABC News designed to link Saddam to those
attacks would, for obvious reasons, promote the goal of the anthrax
Seven years later, it's difficult for many people to recall, but, as
I've amply documented, those ABC News reports linking Saddam and
anthrax penetrated very deeply -- by design -- into our public
discourse and into the public consciousness. Those reports were
absolutely vital in creating the impression during that very
volatile time that Islamic terrorists generally, and Iraq and Saddam
Hussein specifically, were grave, existential threats to this
country. As but one example: after Ross' lead report on the October
26, 2001 edition of World News Tonight with Peter Jennings claiming
that the Government had found bentonite, this is what Jennings said
into the camera:
This news about bentonite as the additive being a trademark of the
Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant. Partly because
there's been a lot of pressure on the Bush administration inside and
out to go after Saddam Hussein. And some are going to be quick to
pick up on this as a smoking gun.
That's exactly what happened. The Weekly Standard published two
lengthy articles attacking the FBI for focusing on a domestic
culprit and -- relying almost exclusively on the ABC/Ross report --
insisted that Saddam was one of the most likely sources for those
attacks. In November, 2001, they published an article (via Lexis)
On the critical issue of who sent the anthrax, it's time to give
credit to the ABC website, ABCNews.com, for reporting rings around
most other news organizations. Here's a bit from a comprehensive
story filed late last week by Gary Matsumoto, lending further
credence to the commonsensical theory (resisted by the White House)
that al Qaeda or Iraq -- and not some domestic Ted Kaczynski type --
is behind the germ warfare.
The Weekly Standard published a much lengthier and more dogmatic
article in April, 2002 again pushing the ABC "bentonite" claims and
arguing: "There is purely circumstantial though highly suggestive
evidence that might seem to link Iraq with last fall's anthrax
terrorism." The American Enterprise Institute's Laurie Mylroie (who
had an AEI article linking Saddam to 9/11 ready for publication at
the AEI on September 13) expressly claimed in November, 2001
that "there is also tremendous evidence that subsequent anthrax
attacks are connected to Iraq" and based that accusation almost
exclusively on the report from ABC and Ross ("Mylroie: Evidence
Shows Saddam Is Behind Anthrax Attacks").
And then, when President Bush named Iraq as a member of the "Axis of
Evil" in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech -- just two
months after ABC's report, when the anthrax attacks were still very
vividly on the minds of Americans -- he specifically touted this
The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and
nuclear weapons for over a decade.
Bush's invocation of Iraq was the only reference in the State of the
Union address to the unsolved anthrax attacks. And the Iraq-anthrax
connection was explicitly made by the President at a time when, as
we now know, he was already eagerly planning an attack on Iraq.
There can't be any question that this extremely flamboyant though
totally false linkage between Iraq and the anthrax attacks --
accomplished primarily by the false bentonite reports from ABC News
and Brian Ross -- played a very significant role in how Americans
perceived of the Islamic threat generally and Iraq specifically. As
but one very illustrative example, The Washington Post's columnist,
Richard Cohen, supported the invasion of Iraq, came to regret that
support, and then explained what led him to do so, in a 2004 Post
column entitled "Our Forgotten Panic":
I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close
enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush
administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to
anthrax, which I linked to Sept. 11. I was not going to stand by and
simply wait for another attack -- more attacks. I was going to go to
the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time
went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time
backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war.
Cohen -- in a March 18, 2008 Slate article in which he explains why
he wrongfully supported the attack on Iraq -- disclosed this:
Anthrax. Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore -- at least
it's never mentioned. But right after the terrorist attacks of Sept.
11, 2001, letters laced with anthrax were received at the New York
Post and Tom Brokaw's office at NBC. . . . There was ample reason to
The attacks were not entirely unexpected. I had been told soon after
Sept. 11 to secure Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. The tip had come
in a roundabout way from a high government official, and I
immediately acted on it. I was carrying Cipro way before most people
had ever heard of it.
For this and other reasons, the anthrax letters appeared linked to
the awful events of Sept. 11. It all seemed one and the same.
Already, my impulse had been to strike back, an overwhelming urge
that had, in fact, taken me by surprise on Sept. 11 itself when the
first of the Twin Towers had collapsed. . . .
In the following days, as the horror started to be airbrushed -- no
more bodies plummeting to the sidewalk -- the anthrax letters
started to come, some to people I knew. And I thought, No, I'm not
going to sit here passively and wait for it to happen. I wanted to
go to "them," whoever "they" were, grab them by the neck, and get
them before they could get us. One of "them" was Saddam Hussein. He
had messed around with anthrax . . . He was a nasty little fascist,
and he needed to be dealt with.
That, more or less, is how I made my decision to support the war in
Cohen's mental process that led him to link anthrax to Iraq and then
to support an attack on Iraq, warped as it is, was extremely common.
Having heard ABC News in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack
flamboyantly and repeatedly link Saddam to the anthrax attacks,
followed by George Bush's making the same linkage (albeit more
subtly) in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech, much of the
public had implanted into their minds that Saddam Hussein was not
just evil, but a severe threat to the U.S., likely the primary
culprit behind the anthrax attacks. All along, though, the anthrax
came from a U.S. Government/Army research lab.
Critically, ABC News never retracted its story (they merely noted,
as they had done from the start, that the White House denied the
reports). And thus, the linkage between Saddam and the anthrax
attacks -- every bit as false as the linkage between Saddam and the
9/11 attacks -- persisted.
We now know -- we knew even before news of Ivins' suicide last
night, and know especially in light of it -- that the anthrax
attacks didn't come from Iraq or any foreign government at all. It
came from our own Government's scientist, from the top Army
bioweapons research laboratory. More significantly, the false
reports linking anthrax to Iraq also came from the U.S. Government --
from people with some type of significant links to the same
facility responsible for the attacks themselves.
Surely the question of who generated those false Iraq-anthrax
reports is one of the most significant and explosive stories of the
last decade. The motive to fabricate reports of bentonite and a link
to Saddam is glaring. Those fabrications played some significant
role -- I'd argue a very major role -- in propagandizing the
American public to perceive of Saddam as a threat, and further,
propagandized the public to believe that our country was
sufficiently threatened by foreign elements that a whole series of
radical policies that the neoconservatives both within and outside
of the Bush administration wanted to pursue -- including an attack
an Iraq and a whole array of assaults on our basic constitutional
framework -- were justified and even necessary in order to survive.
ABC News already knows the answers to these questions. They know who
concocted the false bentonite story and who passed it on to them
with the specific intent of having them broadcast those false claims
to the world, in order to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks and --
as importantly -- to conceal the real culprit(s) (apparently within
the U.S. government) who were behind the attacks. And yet,
unbelievably, they are keeping the story to themselves, refusing to
disclose who did all of this. They're allegedly a news organization,
in possession of one of the most significant news stories of the
last decade, and they are concealing it from the public, even years
They're not protecting "sources." The people who fed them the
bentonite story aren't "sources." They're fabricators and liars who
purposely used ABC News to disseminate to the American public an
extremely consequential and damaging falsehood. But by protecting
the wrongdoers, ABC News has made itself complicit in this fraud
perpetrated on the public, rather than a news organization
uncovering such frauds. That is why this is one of the most extreme
journalistic scandals that exists, and it deserves a lot more debate
and attention than it has received thus far.
UPDATE: One other fact to note here is how bizarrely inept the
effort by the Bush DOJ to find the real attacker has been. Extremely
suspicious behavior from Ivins -- including his having found and
completely cleaned anthrax traces on a co-worker's desk at the Ft.
Detrick lab without telling anyone that he did so and then offering
extremely strange explanations for why -- was publicly reported as
early as 2004 by The LA Times (Ivins "detected an apparent anthrax
leak in December 2001, at the height of the anthrax mailings
investigation, but did not report it. Ivins considered the problem
solved when he cleaned the affected office with bleach").
In October 2004, USA Today reported that Ivins was involved in
another similar incident, in April of 2002, when Ivins performed
unauthorized tests to detect the origins of more anthrax residue
found at Ft. Detrick. Yet rather than having that repeated, strange
behavior lead the FBI to discover that he was involved in the
attacks, there was a very public effort -- as Atrios notes here --
to blame the attacks on Iraq and then, ultimately, to blame Stephen
Hatfill. Amazingly, as Atrios notes here, very few people other
than "a few crazy bloggers are even interested" in finding out what
happened here and why -- at least to demand that ABC News report the
vital information that it already has that will shed very
significant light on much of this.
UPDATE II: Ivins' local paper, Frederick News in Maryland, has
printed several Letters to the Editor written by Ivins over the
years. Though the underlying ideology is a bit difficult to discern,
he seems clearly driven by a belief in the need for Christian
doctrine to govern our laws and political institutions, with a
particular interest in Catholic dogma. He wrote things like this:
Today we frequently admonish people who oppose abortion, euthanasia,
assisted suicide or capital punishment to keep their religious,
moral, and philosophical beliefs to themselves.
Before dispensing such admonishments in the future, perhaps we
should gratefully consider some of our country's most courageous,
historical figures who refused to do so.
And then there's this rather cryptic message, published in 2006:
Rabbi Morris Kosman is entirely correct in summarily rejecting the
demands of the Frederick Imam for a "dialogue."
By blood and faith, Jews are God's chosen, and have no need
for "dialogue" with any gentile. End of "dialogue."
It should be noted that the lawyer who had been representing Ivins
in connection with the anthrax investigation categorically maintains
Ivins' innocence and attributes his suicide to "the relentless
pressure of accusation and innuendo."
On a note related to the main topic of the post, macgupta in
comments notes the numerous prominent people in addition to those
mentioned here -- including The Wall St. Jorunal Editors and former
CIA Director James Woolsey -- who insisted rather emphatically from
the beginning of the anthrax attacks that Saddam was likely to
blame. Indeed, the WSJ Editorial Page -- along with others on the
Right such as Michael Barone of U.S. News & World Report and Fox
News -- continued even into 2007 to insist that the FBI was erring
by focusing on domestic suspects rather than Middle Easterners.
The Nation's Michael Massing noted at the time (in November, 2001)
that as a direct result of the anthrax attacks, and the numerous
claims insinuating that Iraq was behind them, "the political and
journalistic establishment suddenly seems united in wanting to
attack Iraq." There has long been an intense desire on the
neoconservative Right to falsely link anthrax to Saddam specifically
and Muslims generally. ABC News was, and (as a result of its
inexcusable silence) continues to be, their best friend.
UPDATE III: See this important point from Atrios about Richard
Cohen's admission that he was told before the anthrax attacks
happened by a "high government official" to take cipro. Atrios
writes: "now that we know that the US gov't believes that anthrax
came from the inside, shouldn't Cohen be a wee bit curious about
what this warning was based on?"
That applies to much of the Beltway class, including many well-
connected journalists, who were quietly popping cipro back then
because, like Cohen, they heard from Government sources that they
should. Leave aside the ethical questions about the fact that these
journalists kept those warnings to themselves. Wouldn't the most
basic journalistic instincts lead them now -- in light of the claims
by our Government that the attacks came from a Government scientist -
- to wonder why and how their Government sources were warning about
an anthrax attack? Then again, the most basic journalistic instincts
would have led ABC News to reveal who concocted and fed them the
false "Saddam/anthrax" reports in the first place, and yet we still
are forced to guess at those questions because ABC News continues to
cover up the identity of the perpetrators.
UPDATE IV: John McCain, on the David Letterman Show, October 18,
2001 (days before ABC News first broadcast their bentonite report):
LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?
MCCAIN: I think we're doing fine . . . I think we'll do fine. The
second phase -- if I could just make one, very quickly -- the second
phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don't have the
conclusions, but some of this anthrax may -- and I emphasize may --
have come from Iraq.
LETTERMAN: Oh is that right?
MCCAIN: If that should be the case, that's when some tough decisions
are gonna have to be made.
ThinkProgress has the video. Someone ought to ask McCain
what "indication" he was referencing that the anthrax "may have come
After all, three days later, McCain and Joe Lieberman went on Meet
the Press (on October 21, 2001) and both strongly suggested that we
would have to attack Iraq. Lieberman said that the anthrax was so
complex and potent that "there's either a significant amount of
money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that
was stolen from the former Soviet program."
As I said, it is not possible to overstate the importance of anthrax
in putting the country into the state of fear that led to the attack
on Iraq and so many of the other abuses of the Bush era. There are
few news stories more significant, if there are any, than unveiling
who the culprits were behind this deliberate propaganda. The fact
that the current GOP presidential nominee claimed back then on
national television to have some "indication" linking Saddam to the
anthrax attacks makes it a bigger story still.
UPDATE V: I tried to be careful here to avoid accepting as True the
matter of Ivins' guilt. Very early on in the article, I framed the
analysis this way: "If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit
behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a
U.S. Government lab," and I then noted in Update II that Ivins'
lawyer vehemently maintains his innocence. My whole point here is
that the U.S. Government now claims the anthrax attacks came from a
Government scientist at a U.S. Army lab, and my conclusions follow
from that premise, accepted as true only for purposes of this
It's worth underscoring that it is far from clear that Ivins had
anything to do with the anthrax attacks, and someone in comments
claiming (anonymously though credibly) that he knew Ivins personally
asserts that Ivins was innocent and makes the case as to why the
Government's accusations are suspect. As I see it, the more doubt
there is about who was responsible for the anthrax attacks, the
greater is the need for ABC News to reveal who fabricated their
reports linking the attacks to Iraq.
UPDATE VI: I'll be on Rachel Maddow's radio show tonight at 8:30
p.m. EST to discuss this story. Local listings and live audio feed
Numerous people have advised me in comments and via email that ABC
News is deleting any mention of my piece today in the comment
section to their article on the Ivins suicide (though many such
comments now seem to be posted there). Last year, ABC was in full
denial mode when responding to the stories I wrote about this issue.
The key here, I think, will be to try to devise the right strategy
to induce the right Congressional Committee to hold hearings on the
false ABC News stories and the anthrax issue generally. I hope to
have more details on that effort shortly.
-- Glenn Greenwald