Glenn Greenwald at Salon has a lengthy article presenting a subtle but terrifying point of consideration - that ABC, and very possibly the government, was at the very least complicit in presenting the anthrax scare immediately after 9/11 as the work of Iraq, paving the way to public support for the war.
I implore you to take the time to read the entire thing. Greenwald is extremely well sourced and includes numerous examples showing how anthrax was used as a catalyst for support for the war, both for the media and the government. Except that this link between the anthrax and Iraq - the presence of bentonite - that was touted was entirely false. And that this false information was actively promoted by the media as the case to invade Iraq.
An attempt at summation follows:
In 2001 anthrax was sent to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets.
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 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.
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.
So not only has ABC either falsified or didn't check at all their "sources" who claimed that bentonite was found in the anthrax (which was the smoking gun leading the public to swallow the idea that Saddam was responsible for it), but the only place that those sources could have come from was on a level that had direct contact with the actual source of the anthrax - the now deceased Bruce Ivins at Ft. Detrick.
And ABC has never once retracted their report, nor followed up on who their sources were.
Considering this was the major source of the public push for war in Iraq, ABC has an ethical responsibility to report who their sources were that provided deliberately false and misleading information.
Not only the public push, but the government ran with this as well:
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 claim:
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.
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 from Iraq."
Presidential candidate John McCain was on national television, prior to ABC's false story, parroting the exact same false talking point. Where did he get his information from?
Will we demand answers from ABC and John McCain, and the rest of this administration?