Saturday, June 28, 2008

Anthrax reckoning??

Over six and a half years after the anthrax attacks in the U.S. this week Steven Hatfill settled his suit with the U.S. Department of Justice. The government is to make a one-time payment to Hatfill of $2.825 million, as well as provide him an annuity that will pay him $150,000 each year for the next 20 years. No apparent progress has been made in identifying the person or persons responsible for the attacks that lead to five deaths.

The news media kept fairly quiet about this development, no doubt not wishing to remind the public of yet another occasion when the government, media, and others chasing the almighty news cycle conspired to destroy a person’s life by printing leaks, innuendo, etc. (think 1996 and Richard Jewell). No one has come out looking good in this entire imbroglio (e.g. see OPED28 from September 2002, reprinted below).

Steven Hatfill – Wikipedia
Steven J. Hatfill – NYT
U.S. to pay $5.8M to settle scientist Hatfill's anthrax suit

OPED28 Empty Suits on TV (September 2002 reprint)

Steven Hatfill has been in the news recently, as the only visible suspect in the FBI's "Amerithrax" investigation. Investigated by the FBI, he has been hounded by the press which has been egged on by leaks... Hatfill is fighting back, holding two press conferences to denounce John Ashcroft for declaring him a "person of interest", and to bitterly complain that the government has made his life a wasteland. During his second press conference Hatfill made specific allegations against the investigators e.g. blasting FBI profiling by alleging that the FBI had profiled the Unabomber as a "well-dressed, blue-collar, man," specifically alleging that 2 FBI investigators had told his girlfriend that he (Hatfill) had murdered 5 people and that the FBI had evidence of this, etc., etc. Watching the coverage on the various TV news channels it was amazing to see the vacuousness of the coverage, both by the on-air "talent" and by their "experts."

On MSNBC, expert Candace Long, a former FBI profiler, was asked about the implications of Hatfill's allegations. Rather than addressing anything substantive, this 'expert' caviled about who made the erroneous Unabomber profile (apparently it was a consultant and not a FBI profiler....), then said about Hatfill's allegations, "..until it's proven I'll have to assume it's false..."

On Fox (?) the expert was Skip Brandon, former FBI deputy assistant director for international terrorism. When asked specifically for a reaction to Hatfill's statement about what was allegedly said to his girlfriend, this "expert" also did not address the issue, preferring instead to engage in a non-sequitur, ad hominem attack on Hatfill (making a snide remark that Hatfill was trying to stretch out his 15 minutes of fame while proclaiming that he valued his privacy...). Instead of calling him on this, the "talent" volunteered his view that Hatfill was engaged in triple hearsay (".. he says that his girlfriend says that the FBI agents said...")

It's amazing how easily the news anchors shrugged off this story. Possible official malfeasance evidently is of small interest to them. And the "experts" that these channels use apparently have their own agendas. No longer active FBI, they ply their wares as "experts," but apparently have blinders on. How could any right-minded person not agree that if even some of Hatfill's allegations are true, that an investigation is called for? And that if any of them were to be corroborated, that corrective action would need to be taken? Subject to the 'ifs' being confirmed, it would seem that even ex-FBI should understand this. But apparently not, which by extension makes you wonder about the other experts, ex-generals, ex-CIA, etc. that the TV news channels trot out to explain the war on drugs, the war on terror, the coming war with Iraq, etc.

Visit the following links for a two part series in The Weekly Standard addressing the question "Why are so many people eager to believe that this man is the anthrax killer?" (one of the more balanced and comprehensive articles available), or do a Google search...

The hunting of Steven J. Hatfill - part I
The hunting of Steven J Hatfill - part II

Note: at the end of OPED28 this blogger idly wondered re the reliability of other “experts” including those opining on Iraq. Little did he know the full extent of the story, as we found out when it was revealed that many of the "retired" brass appearing as experts on Iraq were merely channeling Pentagon talking points!

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