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Monday, October 08, 2007

A High-Tech Lynching: ABC News, the FBI, and the “Greendale School” Myth

The Anthrax/Hatfill Files
By Nicholas Stix

August 14, 2002
Toogood Reports

Are the FBI and the elite media interested in catching the right guy, or the right-wing white guy? In the case of the terrorist who last fall murdered five people and made 13 others ill via anthrax-contaminated letters, the feds and Big Media have decided that it would be expedient to railroad scientist Steven J. Hatfill, and have engaged in collusion towards achieving that end. The only problem is, that no one has produced one iota of evidence tying Hatfill to the crime. And so, the media and law enforcement have subjected Hatfill to the death of a thousand cuts, via incredible leaks, innuendoes, irrelevancies, and even outright fabrications. Apparently, Hatfill’s tormentors seek to make an eventual trial a mere formality, or perhaps even drive their victim to an act of such desperation, as to make a trial unnecessary.

There was (and still is) only one school in the neighbourhood. In my day, it was called Courtney Selous primary school.... I checked on a NGO website which listed all the name changes which the government is proposing presently and discovered that the school is, indeed, still called Courtney Selous (after a famous ‘White Hunter’. Frederick Courtney Selous, who featured prominently in early Rhodesian pioneer history). Although the school is located in Greendale, it has never been known as “Greendale School”. No other schools have ever been built in the area.

There isn’t and never has been a Greendale School.

There is a suburb in Harare called Greendale. The schools in that area were Courteney Selous School which is a school for junior kids. The only other schools in that area were for high school i.e Oriel Boys Oriel Girls and Chisipite. There is a school that is called Greengrove but is not in the school zone in the area mentioned although it is fairly close.

I will not be railroaded.

The first two passages quoted above, are from e-mails sent to me during the past week, by two of the dozens of Zimbabwean expatriates I’d contacted, in seeking to determine if a “Greendale School” had ever existed in or near Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare. An official at the Zimbabwean Ministry of Schools, in Harare, assured me on August 2, that there is presently no “Greendale School.”

The third quoted passage is a statement by biowarfare scientist, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, from his August 11 press conference.

Since June 25, in hit pieces on Hatfill, countless American and foreign TV and print reporters have repeatedly emphasized that during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Hatfill lived near a “Greendale Elementary School” or a “Greendale School” in a suburb of Harare.

The anthrax letters sent last fall to senators Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), both carried the same return address:

“4th Grade
Greendale School
Franklin Park, N.J. 08852.”

American journalists reported triumphantly, that Hatfill had lived near a Greendale School, as if this were the ultimate nail in his coffin, proving that he was guilty of having murdered five people and sickened thirteen others last fall, through anthrax-contaminated letters. And yet, not one of the articles published a single incriminating piece of evidence against Hatfill.

Readers have learned such “damning” facts as that Hatfill likes girls (the grown-up kind), carried a 9-millimeter pistol while living in a civil war zone, has studied and warned of the dangers of biowarfare attack, is “working on” a bioterrorism novel (actually he and his friend Roger Akers had completed and copyrighted it in 1998), and perhaps most pathetic of all, that federal bloodhounds had barked at Hatfill and his girlfriend.

The last two charges were made in a Newsweek article that appeared on the Web on August 4, and were echoed, with a straight face, on the NBC Nightly News (guest-hosted by Storm Phillips) the following day.

(Note that the FBI leaked the “bio-terror novel” red herring to reporter Rebecca Cooper, at ABC’s Washington affiliate, WJLA. Cooper, the former lover of then-Rep. Gary Condit, had provided Condit’s initial alibi for the time when Chandra Levy disappeared. Later, it turned out that Cooper had gotten her days wrong.)

Cooper reported, “This novel written by Steven Hatfill envisions a biological attack on Congress. It’s an attack so deadly that not only do members of Congress and congressional aides become ill, but hundreds of Washington residents become ill and many die as a result.”

In the context of Hatfill’s warnings since 1997 of the dangers of biowarfare attack, and his formal, 1999 study of such dangers, that he would co-write a novel on the topic would not alarm anyone who had done her homework.)

The “Greendale School” Myth was initially perpetrated by ABC News’ “Chief Investigative Correspondent,” Brian Ross, in a June 25 report. On June 26, the Hartford Courant’s Dave Altimari, Jack Dolan, and David Lightman repeated the claim, but without attributing it to Ross. From then on, countless reporters repeated the myth, attributing it to Ross’ ABC report. Even the Baltimore Sun’s Scott Shane, a major player in the anthrax business, cited ABC.

In an August 8 story, USA Today reporters Kevin Johnson and Toni Locy claimed that, “In Rhodesia, Hatfill lived near a school named Greendale,” without attributing the claim to ABC News.

A sage observer recently noted, “If there is a Greendale School, it is insignificant. But if there is no Greendale School, it is very significant.”

What the observer meant, was that the existence of a Greendale School in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe would hardly be incriminating. There are Greendales and Greendale Schools scattered about the English-speaking world. There are sixteen Greendales in the U.S. alone. Canada has active Greendale schools in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia (and a defunct one in Saskatchewan); Worcester, MA has one, as does Philadelphia; there are Greendale schools in Dublin, the Republic of Ireland, and even as far off as Christchurch, New Zealand.

And as correspondents and acquaintances have pointed out to me, even without counting reporters’ fictions, “Greendale” has enjoyed a rich fictional life. In the Andy Griffith Show, Don Knott’s character, “Deputy Barney Fife,” was offered a job as sheriff in the town of Greendale. And “Greendale” is the site of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and the role-playing kids’ game, Teenagers from Outer Space.

Perhaps the most famous “Greendale” is the fictional village on the British children’s TV show, Postman Pat, which has run for over twenty years, and which is even watched, for campy fun, by some adults. According to its web site, “[T]he animated television programme [is] now being shown in more than 40 countries from Australia to Japan.”

The notion that the existence of a Greendale School during the time of Steven Hatfill’s stay in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, would “prove” that he was the anthrax terrorist, would only impress someone who either had convinced himself that Hatfill was guilty, or who wanted him to be guilty so badly that he was indifferent or hostile to the truth. The Greendale Myth has been the story not of Steven J. Hatfill, but of reporters who were scientifically illiterate, lazy, and politically compromised.

After Brian Ross started the myth on its way, he was cited by hundreds of other reporters, none of whom bothered to check out the story. Scott Shane of the Baltimore Sun, who cited Ross, deserves special mention, because he has been one of the most influential reporters covering the anthrax investigation, and because he has given prominent coverage to the hoaxer who created the campaign persecuting Hatfill, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. Shane coined the term for one of Rosenberg’s hoaxes: The “bioevangelist” theory.

On rare occasion, a reporter writing on Hatfill would correctly state that there was a “Greendale neighborhood” or “district” near where Hatfill had lived or studied in Zimbabwe, but even those reporters failed to correct the false claims that he had lived near a “Greendale School.”

One AP reporter, Jeremiah Marquez, went beyond the call of corruption, in fabricating the story that “A school in Harare known as the Greendale School was actually named for Courtney Selous, a famed white hunter and the namesake of the Selous Scouts.”

Thus has Marquez sought to immunize from scrutiny all those who have perpetuated the Greendale School hoax.

Marquez’ failure to turn up a single incriminating fact against Hatfill, combined with his relentless repetition of politically incorrect irrelevancies from Hatfill’s past, imply that he is intent on keeping hoax alive.

On August 10, long after any diligent reporter would have determined that there was no “Greendale School,” ABC News’ “Chief Investigative Correspondent” Brian Ross was at it again: “ABC NEWS has also reported that investigators are intrigued by the fact that Hatfill lived for years near a Greendale Elementary School while attending medical school in Zimbabwe.”

On August 12, ABC News’ Brian Ross, co-authoring a story with his colleagues Barry Serafin and Pierre Thomas, was at it again, albeit permitting Hatfill’s lawyer to contradict him and his colleagues:

Greendale School
Investigators are intrigued by the fact that Hatfill lived for years near a Greendale Elementary School while attending medical school in Zimbabwe, ABCNEWS has reported. Greendale School was the phony return address used in the anthrax letters.
However, Glasberg denied Hatfill knew of such a school in Harare, Zimbabwe.
“There is a subdivision in Harare called Greendale, [but Hatfill] did not live there,” Glasberg said. “The information we have is that there is no such Greendale School.”

Like the other irrelevancies that have filled reports on Hatfill, the point of constantly reaffirming the existence of a “Greendale School” in Zimbabwe, is to predispose potential jurors to see everything about Hatfill in a sinister light, and railroad him, should he be arrested and tried. ‘Remember, this guy supported apartheid. Send him a message, with a vote to convict!’

The Greendale School Hoax’ current incarnation is the AP version.

Amazingly, other reporters have echoed Jeremiah Marquez – his colleagues, Laura Meckler and Ted Bridis did so on August 12 and 13, respectively, and the New York Post’s Niles Lathem, did so on August 13.

Lathem writes,
While no Greendale School exists in New Jersey, a school in the Greendale suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe, is informally known as the Greendale school.
It’s actually named for a white Rhodesian fighter Courtney Selous – and the Rhodesian commando unit Hatfill joined was called the Selous Scouts.

The media campaign against Hatfill was initially orchestrated by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, chairwoman of the far-left, Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Working Group on Biological Weapons. Although FBI officials initially discredited Rosenberg’s theories, instead of discouraging the campaign, the FBI and federal prosecutors have more recently exploited it to the fullest extent, with their own campaign of steady leaks. Thus, “discreet” searches of Hatfill’s home were always accompanied by a full complement of reporters, and even media helicopters, and the FBI leaked to the press that agents had found a bioterror novel on Hatfill’s computer hard drive. The newest leak is the claim that Hatfill was in London last November, at the same time that an anthrax hoax letter was sent to Sen. Tom Daschle.

I suppose, given the FBI’s current standards, that being in the city from which a hoax letter was sent, is enough to convict a man on five counts of capital murder. But why bother with the formality of a trial?

One of the more notorious FBI leaks followed the August 1 search of Hatfill and his girlfriend’s respective homes. FBI sources told Newsweek reporters Mark Miller and Daniel Klaidman, that bloodhounds that had been given “scent packs” from decontaminated anthrax letters to sniff, barked wildly at the sight of Hatfill. And yet, “On Sunday, a law enforcement official close to the case said the scientist has not ‘received any more attention than any other person of interest in the investigation,’” according to the AP’s Laura Meckler.

Such statements do not help the FBI with its credibility problem – or Laura Meckler with hers.

The NBC News reporter who repeated the bloodhound story said that the dogs’ reaction was the basis for the criminal warrants the FBI procured on August 1, to search Hatfill’s home and that of his girlfriend. On June 25, the feds had already searched, with Hatfill’s consent, his Frederick, MD home and car, and a refrigerated storage locker he rents in Ocala, FL. At the time, they found nothing, which is all they ever had on Hatfill. So why keep harassing the man?

Each explanation raises more questions than the one that preceded it. Even the NBC News reporter admitted that the anthrax attacker had left no fingerprints (he also did not lick the envelopes), and had surely handled the letters with rubber gloves. Getting some bloodhounds excited – perhaps with an item FBI agents had previously removed from Hatfill’s apartment – to cast suspicion on someone on whom the Bureau has no evidence, is bush league (under current circumstances, I don’t know whether I want you to pardon the pun). But then, we don’t know if the bloodhound story even happened.

The Bureau coined the phrase, “person of interest,” which is clearly a euphemism for “suspect,” but which does not carry the same legal niceties, like Miranda rights and the presumption of innocence. Unlike Hatfill, who has voluntarily sat down with FBI agents for several interviews, a suspect would have no reason to cooperate with authorities, because he would have been alerted that anything he said, could and would be used against him, in a court of law. And while the FBI still claims that Hatfill is only one of “20 or 30 persons of interest,” that ruse isn’t fooling anyone, especially when Bureau officials claim – or at least ABC News’ Brian Ross, Barry Serafin, and Pierre Thomas on August 12 asserted the officials claimed – that the Bureau isn’t ready to “clear” Hatfill.

Despite Steven Hatfill’s strong denials this weekend of any involvement in last year’s fatal anthrax attacks, FBI officials told ABCNEWS today there are new questions about the former government scientist.

The FBI has not officially labeled Hatfill, 48, a suspect in the anthrax killings. But officials point to continued questions about the scientist and say they are also unable to clear him.

Perhaps most significant to the FBI, authorities say a police bloodhound reacted strongly to Hatfill and his apartment after being exposed to the scent retrieved from the anthrax letters under a new technology, reports ABCNEWS’ chief investigative reporter Brian Ross.”

The “bloodhound,” again. Apparently, since August 4, the other “bloodhounds” had died off. It is a sad day for American law enforcement, when the people running the Federal Bureau of Investigation think that they can presume the guilt of a man on whom they have no incriminating evidence, until which time they are ready to “clear” him. This is the stuff of communist show trials. Where have you gone, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.?

As Hatfill’s friend and spokesman, Pat Clawson, a former CNN reporter, told Wolf Blitzer on the latter’s CNN show, on August 12,

In all the years I covered the Justice Department for this network, I don’t have a clue what a ‘person of interest’ is. It’s not an official term. When in this country do we start casting a finger of accusation at people on national media, when does our government start doing this when it has no evidence to back up any kind of criminal charges? It’s just outrageous as an American that he is being subjected to this.”

In 1996, the FBI colluded with media organizations in the attempted crucifixion of hero Richard Jewell, the security guard who had saved untold lives by discovering a bomb, and evacuating a busy area at the Atlanta Olympics. The Bureau and the media cast Jewell as the bomber.

Against all odds, Jewell saved himself, when he turned the tables on his persecutors. Eventually, Jewell got a public apology from the Bureau, and a couple of million dollars in settlements from media outlets.

As Hatfill said in his August 11 public statement,

My girlfriend’s home was also searched. She was manhandled by the FBI upon their entry, not immediately shown the search warrant. Her apartment was wrecked while FBI agents screamed at her that I have killed five people and that her life would never be the same again.

Previously, FBI agents had told the media that while staking out Hatfill’s apartment building, they grew suspicious when they saw him throwing duffel bags of material in the dumpster in the back. Hatfill was merely preparing to move to his new job, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Or so he thought; Hatfill’s enemies have already succeeded in getting him suspended from his new job. The constant news glare and searches have given his new employer the willies, which was the point.)

And what were FBI agents doing staking out a man, on whom the Bureau had, and has, nothing?

The temptation to politicize the administration of criminal justice is ever present in law enforcement. The FBI suffered great embarrassment over its politically correct mishandling of investigations that properly handled, might have broken up the 911 terrorists’ cells. Under intense pressure to make an arrest in the anthrax attacks by the first anniversary of 911, the Bureau is apparently willing to go PC again, and pin the anthrax attacks on the white guy. The FBI is acting increasingly like the political police in a dictatorship. Meanwhile, the media, which are supposed to be a brake on arbitrary power, have instead acted more like a state-run Ministry of Propaganda, manufacturing lies and helping the FBI terrorize Steven Hatfill.

In previous articles, I advised Hatfill that if he did not soon go on the offensive, he might find himself sharing a cell with the likes of Jose Padilla, and might not be able to speak to his attorney, let alone the world. With his August 11 press conference, Hatfill and his new civil attorney, Victor Glasberg, have signaled that they are prepared to turn the heat on Hatfill’s tormentors.

As the saying goes, turnabout is fair play.

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