The threat is unique, but so is the moment
by Charles Krauthammer
Jewish World Review, 2001-10-05

[This received wider distribution
when it was published (on the same day) as a Washington Post op-ed
under the title “A War On Many Fronts...

Here is an excerpt; emphasis is added.]

But what if we do topple the Taliban? Do we stop there?

We cannot. We have entered a new era with a new threat.
They're called weapons of mass destruction, but that is a euphemism.
These are weapons of genocide.
What is at stake is not a repetition of the World Trade Center
but a massacre unseen in human history,
possibly millions of Americans dead from biological or chemical warfare.

You do not make weaponized anthrax in Afghan caves.
For that you need serious scientists and serious laboratories,
like the ones in Baghdad.

Richard Butler, the former chief arms inspector in Iraq,
tells us that
Iraq has weaponized anthrax and VX gas.
Syria has chemical weapons.
Iran is developing nukes.
They all sponsor terrorists.


Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2008-08-01

[This is an extremely important story
for those trying to construct an “audit trail”
on the drivers of our war psychosis in 2001–3.
This “bentonite” issue was a key cause of that psychosis.

Greenwald’s story is too long and has too much highly formatted text
for me to be able to reproduce it in its entirety here;
you will have to read it at its original location via the link.
But here are some key paragraphs,
with a mix of Greenwald’s original and my added emphasis.

(This post is posted in both
Selling the Iraq War and

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,
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 Islamic radicalism.

From the beginning,

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.

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”
“only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons.”

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.
[I.e.: 100% bullshit.]

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 attacker(s).

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.

[Greenwald quotes several Weekly Standard stories,
that leading Saddam-basher Laurie Mylroie,
and President Bush.
One should note, though,
that while Bush, in the given quote, did link Iraq to anthrax,
he did not, so far as I can see, there
link Iraq to the specific American 2001 anthrax attacks.

Note, by the way, that Jennings back in 2001 observed that there was
“a lot of pressure on the Bush administration ...
to go after Saddam Hussein”.

Bush-haters, both before and after the war,
have tried to put all the blame for the war on Bush (or Cheney).
This shows why that is both invalid and harmful,
because it avoids correctly diagnosing the causes of this terrible mistake.
And those who do not understand causes of past mistakes
cannot reliably prevent future ones.
In particular, are not Maureen Dowd’s attempts, even as late as 2008,
to blame the war on Bush’s relations with his father
proof that she is a complete ditz?]

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.
[Greenwald quotes the Post‘s Richard Cohen at great length to document this.]


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

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 later.

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 II:


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. Journal 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.”

[Are we allowed to say “conspiracy” yet?]

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.

[For a follow-up by Greenwald on the question of Ivins’s guilt
(but not on bentonite),
see What's the answer to this?.]

Is Bruce Ivins the American Version of David Kelly?
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-08-07

[Lots of interesting comments here from one Nancy Horn, a clinical psychologist.
She thinks the case against Ivins, at least the part asserting that
his psychological problems gave him motivation to make such an attack,
is so much bullshit.
Some excerpts (emphasis is added):]

The man was hounded to death (admittedly a short trip),
and the real killers are still out there.


Innocent or guilty, the guy was framed, driven to death, and now smeared.
[If he was indeed guilty,
then it may be that he was driven to death,
but it seems incorrect to say that he was framed.]

How could his family be anything right now besides terrified and in shock.
His colleagues, btw, showed up in droves at his funeral,
and spoke quite highly about him --
they are also on the record as being very, very skeptical.
And unless everyone there was in on the plot,
they'd know the man, wouldn't they?


My main concern is that the facts as presented
might work fine in the court of public opinion,
but they're just not enough to convict him.

The Anthrax Follies and the Bizarro Effect
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-08-08

The case against Bruce Ivins is pathetic

What's the answer to this?
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2008-08-10

[For a preceding article by Greenwald on the issue of bentonite,
see 2008-08-01-Greenwald-anthrax-ABC.]

Doubts over the anthrax case intensify -- except among much of the media
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2008-08-18

The Anthrax Files
By Christopher Ketcham
The American Conservative, 2008-08-25

The FBI claims to have caught the killer.
But so much evidence has been neglected or mishandled
that many experts still have doubts.

[There is little new in this article,
but it is a useful summary, and there are a few new (to me) tidbits.]

Key senators dispute FBI's anthrax case against Bruce Ivins
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2008-09-17

Trail of Odd Anthrax Cells Led FBI to Army Scientist
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post, 2008-10-27


The Anthrax Attacks Remain Unsolved
The FBI disproved its main theory about how the spores were weaponized.
Wall Street Journal Online Opinion, 2010-01-24


Silicon was used in the 1960s to weaponize anthrax.
Through an elaborate process, anthrax spores were coated with the substance
to prevent them from clinging together so as to create a lethal aerosol.
But since weaponization was banned by international treaties,
research anthrax no longer contains silicon,
and the flask at Fort Detrick contained none.

Yet the anthrax grown from it had silicon,
according to the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
This silicon explained why,
when the letters to Sens. Leahy and Daschle were opened,
the anthrax vaporized into an aerosol.
If so, then somehow silicon was added to the anthrax.
But Ivins, no matter how weird he may have been,
had neither the set of skills nor the means to attach silicon to anthrax spores.

At a minimum, such a process would require
highly specialized equipment that did not exist in Ivins’s lab—
or, for that matter, anywhere at the Fort Detrick facility.
As Richard Spertzel, a former biodefense scientist who worked with Ivins,
explained in a private briefing on Jan. 7, 2009,
the lab didn’t even deal with anthrax in powdered form, adding,
“I don’t think there’s anyone there
who would have the foggiest idea how to do it.”

So while Ivins’s death provided a convenient fall guy,
the silicon content still needed to be explained.


If Ivins had neither the equipment or skills to weaponize anthrax with silicon,
then some other party with access to the anthrax must have done it.
Even before these startling results, Sen. Leahy had told Director Mueller,
“I do not believe in any way, shape, or manner
that [Ivins] is the only person involved in this attack on Congress.”

When I asked a FBI spokesman this month about the Livermore findings,
he said the FBI was not commenting on any specifics of the case,
other than those discussed in the 2008 briefing
(which was about a year before Livermore disclosed its results).
He stated:
“The Justice Department and the FBI continue working to conclude
the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks.
We anticipate closing the case in the near future.”

So, even though the public may be under the impression that\the anthrax case had been closed in 2008,
the FBI investigation is still open—
and, unless it can refute the Livermore findings on the silicon,
it is back to square one.

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