The Anthrax/Hatfill Files
By Nicholas Stix
Posted July 22, 2002
Insight on the News
Just point and click. Those two steps, and a long e-mail "cc" list, apparently are all that it takes to spread a hoax around the world today. It works like a computer virus, and with consequences no less dangerous.
Just ask Dr. Steven J. Hatfill.
Readers of Insight and her sister daily, the Washington Times, know Hatfill through his attempts over the years to warn the public of America's lack of readiness against biowarfare attacks. However, the mainstream liberal press ignored Hatfill — until late June, that is.
Since then Hatfill has gained international notoriety with a slew of stories in Time magazine, the American Prospect, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, the Washington Post, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sun-Sentinel and on Websites as far away as Zambia. The stories played up FBI searches of Hatfill's home and a refrigerated storage locker he rents — implying that he is the anthrax terrorist who killed five people last fall with contaminated mail. On July 2, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof referred to Hatfill as "Mr. Z" and strongly suggested that the FBI should jail him as the anthrax terrorist.
"If Mr. Z were an Arab national, he would have been imprisoned long ago. … It's time for the FBI to make a move: Either it should go after him more aggressively, sifting thoroughly through his past and picking up loose threads, or it should seek to exculpate him and remove this cloud of suspicion."
Why would the FBI need to "exculpate" someone on whom it has nothing? The only cloud of "suspicion" hanging over Hatfill's head is the one manufactured by the media, who have let Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg lead them around by the nose.
Rosenberg blames the U.S. government for last fall's anthrax attacks. She long has called on the United States to sign on to biowarfare protocols that would permit international inspectors to visit our biodefense installations.
In a sympathetic portrait in the March 18 New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann wrote that "Rosenberg believes that the American bioweapons program, which won't allow itself to be monitored, may not be in strict compliance with the [1972 Biological Weapons] convention. If the perpetrator of the anthrax attacks is who she thinks it is, that would put the American program in a bad light, and it would prove that she was right to demand that the program be monitored."
Rosenberg has provided no evidence to support her charges. Meanwhile, as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton has argued, her prescription would allow rogue nations such as Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria to learn through protocol inspections about U.S. defensive programs and develop their own offensive programs.
Journalists usually refer to Rosenberg as a "microbiologist" and "State University of New York professor." Officially, she is a professor of environmental science at a performing-arts college, but she neither has conducted scientific research nor taught in years. And she has little biowarfare expertise. Working with the far-left Federation of American Scientists, Rosenberg is a taxpayer-supported, full-time activist.
Immediately after last fall's anthrax attacks, Rosenberg began claiming that the terrorist was an American scientist from within the biodefense establishment. However, her stories diverged wildly depending on her audience. In the European version, the terrorist was a CIA agent/contract scientist who acted on agency orders as part of a deadly germ-warfare experiment. Unbeknownst to European reporters, they were getting a plotline from the brilliant but little-watched TV show Millennium (1996-99).
In the American version, the terrorist was a "bioevangelist" (The Sun's Scott Shane) who sought not to harm anyone, but to warn the public of the dangers of biowarfare.
In setting up an American scientist to take the fall for the killings, Rosenberg may have seen an opportunity to discredit the U.S. biowarfare-defense program, get the Bush administration to sign on to international biowarfare protocols that would give our enemies access to our biodefense secrets and exact political revenge on Hatfill.
In seeking to convince readers of Hatfill's guilt in last fall's attacks, Kristof and the other journalists claimed that in the late 1970s, Rhodesian special forces attacked black-owned farms with anthrax, and sought to link Hatfill to these "attacks."
No one ever has provided any evidence showing that the Rhodesian army carried out anthrax attacks, much less that Hatfill participated in them. Kristof and company merely are regurgitating a tainted 1992 article by longtime Rosenberg associate Meryl Nass. The Nass report purported to explain the 1978-80 anthrax outbreak that affected 10,000 black farmers, predominantly with cutaneous anthrax, killing 182. In her "explanation," Nass leaped from one politically loaded speculation to another without any evidence.
The flamboyant, brilliant Hatfill earned his medical degree in Rhodesia in the late 1970s and early 1980s while serving in U.S. and Rhodesian special forces. In Rhodesia, he fought against communist guerrillas. One must recall that in Rhodesia — now named Zimbabwe, and ruled since 1980 by genocidal communist Robert Mugabe — the choice was never between apartheid and freedom, but rather between white or black apartheid.
Hatfill's attorney, Thomas C. Carter, told me, "My client doesn't want to do anything, right now. … He's really upset that his name continues to be mentioned, and he's decided that the best approach is to ignore everything and to try and stay as much removed from it as he can. He might change his mind at some point in the future and participate in something but, right now, he doesn't."
If Hatfill doesn't engage the campaign against him in a hurry, he soon may find himself sharing a cell with the likes of José Padilla.