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Friday, April 06, 2007

Simple as ABC

Glenn Greenwald is suspicious about the reliability of an ABC news report that Iran is rapidly progressing towards an atomic bomb. He is particularly critical of one of the producers of that report Brian Ross. Greenwald provides examples of totally false claims made by Ross who totally fell for lies told to him by anonymous sources in the past. I would like to point out that Ross's error was gross and obvious at the time, since it was based on claims about Anthrax seized in Iraq by UN inspectors in 1994, and it is now believed that Iraq destroyed its Anthrax stocks in 2002. That is, not only are the key details false, but a claim is totally obviously false as should be clear from the absence of a report of a seizure of Anthrax in Iraq in 1994. Such a seizure would not have been kept secret. Ross fell for a lie which was demonstrably false given public records available at the time.

The whole story.

In a sign that the MSM ABC is no longer dismissing bloggers completely

[he] had what [he] consider[s] to be an illuminating discussion [April 5th] with
Jeffrey Schneider, Senior Vice President of ABC News, concerning the story published (and broadcast) by ABC's Brian Ross and Christopher Isham on Monday. That story claimed that "Iran has more than tripled its ability to produce enriched uranium in the last three months" and therefore "Iran could have enough material for a nuclear bomb by 2009." A reader had contacted Schneider, who told the reader that the post I wrote criticizing the story was "outrageous." I thereafter emailed Schneider to request an interview about the story, and we spoke this morning for 20 minutes or so
Before you get all excited about the fact that Schneider was willing to spend 20 minutes of his valuable time talking to Greenwald, I should note that Schneider basically said that Greenwald should trust ABC news' assessment that it's anonymous completely unidentified sources were reliable because

The sources for this specific story are, [Schneider] claimed, ones with whom ABC has a "long relationship" and are ones they "find credible." He said that both ABC News itself and these specific reporters have proven "over a very long period of time" that they are reliable and credible journalists."

Greenwald is not convinced noting that Brian Ross repeatedly argued that the anthrax sent to Senator Daschle came from Iraq.

On October 29, 2001, Ross "reported" this on Good Morning America (all via LEXIS):

Former UN weapons inspectors say the anthrax found in a letter to Senator Daschle is nearly identical to samples they recovered in Iraq in 1994. The UN inspectors shut down much, but not all, of the Iraq bioweapons program blowing up a facility, Al-Hakum, where inspectors believe Iraq was preparing to mass produce weapons-grade anthrax. . . .

And under an electron microscope, trace amounts of telltale additives are matching up, according to at least four well-placed sources, although the White House denies it.

Oh my here we have Mr Ross claiming that the White House is covering up for Saddam Hussein. This goes well beyond Judith Miller. I wonder if the "long relationship" with the anonymous sources for the recent story includes the bit about how the anthrax in the letter was identical to Anthrax found in Iraq in 1994. I don't know how many anonymous sources Ross has, but he has definitely been very badly burned by one in the past.

The grossness of the falsehood of the lie peddled by Ross is demonstrated by a glance at the key findings of the Iraq Survey Group (that is the Duelfer report).

ISG judges that in 1991 and 1992, Iraq appears to have destroyed its undeclared stocks of BW weapons and probably destroyed remaining holdings of bulk BW agent. However ISG lacks evidence to document complete destruction. Iraq retained some BW-related seed stocks until their discovery after Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
  • After the passage of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 687 in April 1991, Iraqi leaders decided not to declare the offensive BW program and in consequence ordered all evidence of the program erased. Iraq declared that BW program personnel sanitized the facilities and destroyed the weapons and their contents.
  • Iraq declared the possession of 157 aerial bombs and 25 missile warheads containing BW agent. ISG assesses that the evidence for the original number of bombs is uncertain. ISG judges that Iraq clandestinely destroyed at least 132 bombs and 25 missiles. ISG continued the efforts of the UN at the destruction site but found no remnants of further weapons. This leaves the possibility that the fragments of up to 25 bombs may remain undiscovered. Of these, any that escaped destruction would probably now only contain degraded agent.
  • ISG does not have a clear account of bulk agent destruction. Official Iraqi sources and BW personnel, state that Al Hakam staff destroyed stocks of bulk agent in mid 1991. However, the same personnel admit concealing details of the movement and destruction of bulk BW agent in the first half of 1991. Iraq continued to present information known to be untrue to the UN up to OIF. Those involved did not reveal this until several months after the conflict.
  • Dr. Rihab Rashid Taha Al ‘Azzawi, head of the bacterial program claims she retained BW seed stocks until early 1992 when she destroyed them. ISG has not found a means of verifying this. Some seed stocks were retained by another Iraqi official until 2003 when they were recovered by ISG.

This means that weaponised Anthrax was definitely not found in Iraq in 1994. The ISG refers to seed stocks which are not weaponised (and were I think Bacillus botulinus not Anthrax). Now an anonymous source might have secret information on the appearance under an electron microscope of Anthrax spores found in Iraq, but the date of the seizure (not 1994 and I think never) would be in UN inspectors' reports. Clearly it isn't. Clearly Ross bought a lie which could have been disproven by checking published sources at the time he repeated it on the air. Since he is still employed by ABC News, we must conclude that ABC News is not really a journalistic operation at all.

By the way, in the last bullet point, the ISG is clearly referring to the test tube with Bacillus botulinus (a common soil bacterium) stored in a home refrigerator. Even after all these years, the ISG is still talking about that test tube containing a bacterium which can be freely bought and is not dangerous except if it contaminates canned or jarred food (since it can grow without oxygen unlike most bacteria which would make the stuff stink).

update: Greenwald has much much more

key point -- the ABC news psuedo-scoop swells when all wet.

Greenwald is serious and I am not so I will grossly edit his post to make it inflamatory

[anip] I noted that ABC and Ross -- back in October and November 2001 -- were the driving force, really the exclusive force, behind news reports strongly suggesting that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were responsible for the anthrax attacks on the U.S. [snip]

ABC aggressively promoted as its top story for days on end during that highly provocative period of time that -- and these are all quotes:

(a) "the anthrax in the tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was laced with bentonite";

(b) bentonite is "a troubling chemical additive that authorities consider their first significant clue yet";


Peter Jennings led off his October 26, 2001 World News Tonight program with this:

We're going to begin this evening with what we believe is a meaningful lead in the most sensitive anthrax case so far, despite a very recent denial by the White House.

ABC News has learned what made the anthrax so dangerous in the letter to Senator Tom Daschle was a particular additive [snip] .

Ross then said:
The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere. This is what bentonite looks like under a microscope, a substance which helps keep the tiny anthrax particles floating in the air by preventing them from sticking together. [snip]
Although Ross noted in that original report with Jennings that the finding of bentonite was from an "initial test," that qualifier was quickly eliminated over the next several days on ABC, as Ross and various ABC anchors claimed definitively that the anthrax "was laced with bentonite"; [snip]

this 2004 Washington Post profile of Dick Cheney, in which his wife, Lynne, fondly recalled the early years of their relationship: "I knew when he was digging ditches out at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Grounds. And I knew him when he was loading bentonite, hundred-pound bags of bentonite, onto railroad cars."

Now by his own logic, Richard Cheney will have to account for each of those hundreds of pounds of bentonite (milligrams of which are deadly if spread around anthrax spores) or else we will be compelled to invade him (I do *not* volunteer).

update 2: buy Edward G. Lake's book.

While supplies last

(If you can)

Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks (Paperback)
by Edward G. Lake (Author)
(10 customer reviews)
List Price: $19.95
Price: $19.95 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details

Availability: In Stock. Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

Only 1 left in stock--order soon (more on the way).

By the way, I just tried to buy that one (probably after hundreds of Atriots.)

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