Topic: Accuracy in Media
Last weekend, the Los Angeles Times published an excerpt from a new book on the 2001 mailing of letters containing anthrax spores, which killed five people and disrputed mail service and governmental functions. The article and book, by David Willman, focuses in part on Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008 after investigators began focusing on him after first targeting Steven Hatfill -- to whom the government eventually paid millions of dollars in a legal settlement -- as the prime suspect.
Willman writes that the letters were mailed from a New Jersey mailbox located outside the offiices of a college sorority Ivins was obsessed with, that Ivins made a career as a civilian microbiologist for the Army despite a history of mental instability -- a psychiatrist confied that Ivins was the "scariest" patient he had ever known -- and that Ivins had created the batch of anthrax that matched the material in the letters and had unrestricted access to it.
But when the FBI announced in 2010 that Ivins was responsible for the anthrax attacks and that it was closing the investigation, Accuracy in Media was quick to run to Ivins' defense.
In a Feb. 26, 2010, AIM column, Cliff Kincaid complained that the FBI "conveniently blames a dead man, who committed suicide under FBI pressure, for the anthrax murders." Kincaid continued:
The FBI blames “the late Dr. Bruce Ivins” and claims that he “acted alone in planning and executing these attacks.” But the “evidence” is unconvincing and the case should still be considered unsolved. Ivins, like another suspect in the case, Dr. Stephen Hatfill, had been harassed and hounded by federal agents. The difference is that Hatfill stood up to the pressure and, with the help of Accuracy in Media, eventually collected a financial settlement from the federal government for the damage to his career and reputation.
Kincaid insisted that "The likely culprits ... were Al-Qaeda operatives who were part of a second wave of attacks on the U.S. homeland. But because the FBI went on a media-generated wild goose chase after Hatfill, precious time, leads and evidence were lost."
In a March 24, 2010, column, Kincaid asserted that "expert observers ... believe the FBI failed to seriously consider the role of foreign terrorist organizations and their sponsors in the anthrax mailings," adding, "Public confidence is already lacking because serious analysts do not think the FBI’s blaming of Ivins holds up under scrutiny."
Two days later, AIM published a column by Kenneth J. Dillon claiming that "There’s a gaping hole in the FBI’s argument that U.S. Government scientist Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer." Dillon blamed an "Islamic ideologue" who he claimed "special kind of access" to the anthrax, "the kind you get when you steal something." Ivins, meanwhile, was "capable, dedicated, patriotic, and psychologically vulnerable," Dillon wrote:
Ivins was a pianist at his church, taught children juggling, was married and the father of two adopted children, was involved in many research projects, was entrusted with the anthrax, and had developed a promising vaccine for anthrax. This is the profile of an active contributor to his community, hardly of a ruthless anthrax mailer. The FBI, however, has tried to use his various quirks and obsessions to make Ivins out to be an intrinsically evil person.
Dillon concluded by scoffing at FBI Director Robert Mueller's statement that that Ivins was guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt": "Given the weak evidence and the widespread skepticism among experts and the public, this is an extreme statement that lacks any credibility."
Will AIM revisit the anthrax case in the wake of this article and book and concede at last that Ivins is the culprit? You'd think that Kincaid, who now heads AIM's Center for Investigative Journalism, might have done some, you know, investigative journalism to get to the bottom of this.