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Saturday, August 02, 2008


Newspapers and TV networks are running various stories about the suicide of a scientist who worked for decades at the Fort Detrick, MD, research center. He was apparently considered the FBI's prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks and allegedly feared that he was about to be arrested.

Even more interesting, Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald has a lengthy piece discussing "Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News." Greenwald takes the opportunity to explain the effect of some leaks to ABC that are highly troubling in retrospect. Someone lied to ABC, claiming that the anthrax included a chemical agent known to be used exclusively by Iraq.
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.

...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.
Is this true?

I would argue that the anthrax attacks put Iraq front-and-center on the agenda in fall 2001, though as I've previously documented, the seed had already been planted. Indeed, the links between Iraq and 9/11 started to be asserted publicly on 9/11.

Greenwald notes that former AEI neocon Laurie Mylroie relied upon the ABC report.

As I documented on my blog in a series of posts back in September 2003, Myrloie was all over the news in fall 2001 linking the anthrax attacks to Iraq. Indeed, she and her allies were linking 9/11 and Iraq immediately. Here's a quick summary of my prior work:

Mylroie was on national television 40 times between 9/11 and December 31, 2001. Her thesis also got a lot of coverage in the nation's newspapers and opinion magazines, so there's a lot of stuff to sort out.

To begin, neocon ally James Woolsey was on ABC about 3 pm on 9/11 crediting Mylroie with linking Iraq to al Qaeda, the prior World Trade Center bombing, etc. He said Iraq could have been behind that day's attacks. The next evening, Mylroie was on CBS during its prime time coverage of the attacks rehearsing the range of her wild charges and calling al Qaeda a "front operation" for Iraq. Woolsey was on CBS later that night (west coast prime time) repeating the claims he'd made on 9/11. He was also on ABC again 9/12 making the same allegations and crediting Mylroie. Jim Hoagland mentioned Mylroie's "convincing case" in a Post op-ed on the 12th. It was widely syndicated around the country.

Mylroie herself had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the 13th, calling the 9/11 attacks an "act of war" likely linked to Iraq. She was then on FOX on the 14th, on C-SPAN on the 15th, and CBS again on the 19th. S was even quoted favorably on NPR that day. Once the anthrax attacks hit, she was very busy the next month or so, adding Canadian TV, CNN (multiple appearances), and additional appearances on ABC, Fox, C-SPAN, NPR and CBS. In October she was on various Fox News programs again and again and again.

I didn't find any appearances for Mylroie on NBC stations until December, but she made up the difference quickly with multiple appearances on MSNBC and CNBC.

Did this continue into the Iraq war debate? Well, in October 2002, Myrloie told PBS: "The Pentagon believes Iraq is behind the terrorism that began on September 11 and wants to include Iraq as a central target in our war on terrorism."

I think one could reasonably argue that the anthrax attacks primed the country to worry about dubious mushroom clouds in fall 2002 -- and about Iraq as the specific source of concern.

Note: I think my last post about anthrax was in December 2006. Does everyone recall that former Mylroie coauthor and NYT reporter Judith Miller is one of the journalists who received anthrax by mail?

Small world, eh?

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