Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Anthrax Spores "in Iraq in 1994"

In a post below, I claimed that Brian Ross's reporting on the Anthrax spores mailed to Senator Daschle was not only incorrect but also grossly incompetent. The reason is that Ross said

"Former UN weapons inspectors have told ABC News they've been told the anthrax spores found in the letter to Senator Daschle are almost identical in appearance to those they recovered in Iraq in 1994"

and Duelfer concluded that Iraq destroyed its bioweapons stocks in 1992. The title of my post is a google search. Click and you will notice that the highest ranked references to Anthrax AND spores AND "in Iraq in 1994" track back to Ross.

The first exception is a CNN interview of Raymond Zilinskas, a bioterrorism expert from Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Ziliskas appears to claim that he found Anthrax spores in Iraq in 1994.

WOODRUFF: You mentioned, you said earlier that Iraq perhaps among others has the supplies, perhaps the know-how. Are you saying that in Iraq and other places, they know how to do this?

ZILINSKAS: Oh, yes. I was actually a biological inspector in Iraq in 1994. And so, we got to learn about their programs pretty carefully. So, they had something like 25 missiles and 166 bombs that were filled with anthrax and botulinetoxin. So, they are well aware how to do thi

You will note that he didn't actually claim to have retrieved Anthrax from Iraq in 1994. He was in Iraq in 1994 and he "learned" that they "had" missiles and bombs filled with Anthrax (not necessarily in 1994).

Given the quote by Ross and Zelinskas's enthusiasm for making strong claims about Iraqi biological weapons, which Duelfer et all consider to be false, I find it impossible to doubt that Raymond Ziliskas isn't one of Ross's sources.

I stand by my view that no Anthrax spores were found in Iraq in 1994 and that Ross should have been able to determine this before going on the air.

This from a source clearly hostile to Iraq makes many claims but does not claim that weaponized Anthrax was ever seized in Iraq.

Nothing here

will update when I have time.

Updating: This is about the band Anthrax (I don't think they performed in Iraq in 1994 don't seem to fall under the heading "food and medicine")

This includes
In 1995, the international community was confronted by Iraq's massive program for developing offensive biological weapons -- one of the largest and most advanced in the world.

Despite four years of intensive inquiries and searches, the weapons inspectors did not even know if its existence until Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected. Faced with its duplicity Iraq finally admitted to producing aflatoxin -- which causes cancers, the paralysing poison botulinum and anthrax bacteria
Notice that the discovery is dated 1995, that there is no mention of weaponised anthrax spores, and that there is no mention of any seizures of biological weapons in Iraq ever.

The final hit from my search is to the Greenwald article criticizing Ross. I conclude that all web pages which contain the assertion that Anthrax spores were seized "in Iraq in 1994" can be tracked back to Brian Ross's source's clearly false assertion. I use the quotation marks to stress that I searched for the exact phrase "in Iraq in 1994" and can't rule out the possibility that there are equivalent assertions with different wording (also there might be equivalent assertions which don't include the word "spores" or even the word "Anthrax").

I had to google to check my impression that the claim that weaponised Anthrax spores were seized in Iraq in 1994 is absurd. However, a reporter who actually researched the story would ahve to compare 21st century claims to the 20th century history of the discovery of Iraq's biological weapons program, which started in 1995. I didn't remember that date, but I was absolutely certain that the program was detected only when a defector who was a relative of Saddam Hussein described it.

If someone had mentioned Anthrax spores detected in Iraq in 1994, and if I were a journalist with ABC news, I like to think I would have checked with someone other than my source, who was involved in weapons inspections to make sure that Anthrax spores were indeed gathered in Iraq in 1994. Barring that, I'm sure a little lexis nexis on Anthrax and Iraq in 1994 would have yielded zilch, then on Anthrax and Iraq in 1995 or 1996 would reveal that the program was discovered, via testimony not samples, in 1995.

Brian Ross chose not to do his job. My google search is enough to make a very strong case that he totally blew it. He should certainly have checked when challenged by Greenwald and noted his gross error by now.

update: Richard M. Smith has more criticisms of Brian Ross

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