11/29/2005 7:12 PM
false Wikipedia 'biography'
"John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960's. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven."
This is a highly personal story about Internet character assassination. It could be your story.
I have no idea whose sick mind conceived the false, malicious "biography" that appeared under my name for 132 days on Wikipedia, the popular, online, free encyclopedia whose authors are unknown and virtually untraceable. There was more:
"John Seigenthaler moved to the Soviet Union in 1971, and returned to the United States in 1984," Wikipedia said. "He started one of the country's largest public relations firms shortly thereafter."
At age 78, I thought I was beyond surprise or hurt at anything negative said about me. I was wrong. One sentence in the biography was true. I was Robert Kennedy's administrative assistant in the early 1960s. I also was his pallbearer. It was mind-boggling when my son, John Seigenthaler, journalist with NBC News, phoned later to say he found the same scurrilous text on Reference.com and Answers.com.
I had heard for weeks from teachers, journalists and historians about "the wonderful world of Wikipedia," where millions of people worldwide visit daily for quick reference "facts," composed and posted by people with no special expertise or knowledge — and sometimes by people with malice.
At my request, executives of the three websites now have removed the false content about me. But they don't know, and can't find out, who wrote the toxic sentences.
I phoned Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder and asked, "Do you ... have any way to know who wrote that?"
"No, we don't," he said. Representatives of the other two websites said their computers are programmed to copy data verbatim from Wikipedia, never checking whether it is false or factual.
Naturally, I want to unmask my "biographer." And, I am interested in letting many people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool.
But searching cyberspace for the identity of people who post spurious information can be frustrating. I found on Wikipedia the registered IP (Internet Protocol) number of my "biographer"- 65-81-97-208. I traced it to a customer of BellSouth Internet. That company advertises a phone number to report "Abuse Issues." An electronic voice said all complaints must be e-mailed. My two e-mails were answered by identical form letters, advising me that the company would conduct an investigation but might not tell me the results. It was signed "Abuse Team."
Wales, Wikipedia's founder, told me that BellSouth would not be helpful. "We have trouble with people posting abusive things over and over and over," he said. "We block their IP numbers, and they sneak in another way. So we contact the service providers, and they are not very responsive."
After three weeks, hearing nothing further about the Abuse Team investigation, I phoned BellSouth's Atlanta corporate headquarters, which led to conversations between my lawyer and BellSouth's counsel. My only remote chance of getting the name, I learned, was to file a "John or Jane Doe" lawsuit against my "biographer." Major communications Internet companies are bound by federal privacy laws that protect the identity of their customers, even those who defame online. Only if a lawsuit resulted in a court subpoena would BellSouth give up the name.
Little legal recourse
Federal law also protects online corporations — BellSouth, AOL, MCI Wikipedia, etc. — from libel lawsuits. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, passed in 1996, specifically states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker." That legalese means that, unlike print and broadcast companies, online service providers cannot be sued for disseminating defamatory attacks on citizens posted by others.
Recent low-profile court decisions document that Congress effectively has barred defamation in cyberspace. Wikipedia's website acknowledges that it is not responsible for inaccurate information, but Wales, in a recent C-Span interview with Brian Lamb, insisted that his website is accountable and that his community of thousands of volunteer editors (he said he has only one paid employee) corrects mistakes within minutes.
My experience refutes that. My "biography" was posted May 26. On May 29, one of Wales' volunteers "edited" it only by correcting the misspelling of the word "early." For four months, Wikipedia depicted me as a suspected assassin before Wales erased it from his website's history Oct. 5. The falsehoods remained on Answers.com and Reference.com for three more weeks.
In the C-Span interview, Wales said Wikipedia has "millions" of daily global visitors and is one of the world's busiest websites. His volunteer community runs the Wikipedia operation, he said. He funds his website through a non-profit foundation and estimated a 2006 budget of "about a million dollars."
And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research — but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects. Congress has enabled them and protects them.
When I was a child, my mother lectured me on the evils of "gossip." She held a feather pillow and said, "If I tear this open, the feathers will fly to the four winds, and I could never get them back in the pillow. That's how it is when you spread mean things about people."
For me, that pillow is a metaphor for Wikipedia.
John Seigenthaler, a retired journalist, founded The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. He also is a former editorial page editor at USA TODAY.
Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
The New York Times
ACCORDING to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, John Seigenthaler Sr. is 78 years old and the former editor of The Tennessean in Nashville. But is that information, or anything else in Mr. Seigenthaler's biography, true?
The question arises because Mr. Seigenthaler recently read about himself on Wikipedia and was shocked to learn that he "was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John and his brother Bobby."
"Nothing was ever proven," the biography added.
Mr. Seigenthaler discovered that the false information had been on the site for several months and that an unknown number of people had read it, and possibly posted it on or linked it to other sites.
If any assassination was going on, Mr. Seigenthaler (who is 78 and did edit The Tennessean) wrote last week in an op-ed article in USA Today, it was of his character.
The case triggered extensive debate on the Internet over the value and reliability of Wikipedia, and more broadly, over the nature of online information.
Wikipedia is a kind of collective brain, a repository of knowledge, maintained on servers in various countries and built by anyone in the world with a computer and an Internet connection who wants to share knowledge about a subject. Literally hundreds of thousands of people have written Wikipedia entries.
Mistakes are expected to be caught and corrected by later contributors and users.
The whole nonprofit enterprise began in January 2001, the brainchild of Jimmy Wales, 39, a former futures and options trader who lives in St. Petersburg, Fla. He said he had hoped to advance the promise of the Internet as a place for sharing information.
It has, by most measures, been a spectacular success. Wikipedia is now the biggest encyclopedia in the history of the world. As of Friday, it was receiving 2.5 billion page views a month, and offering at least 1,000 articles in 82 languages. The number of articles, already close to two million, is growing by 7 percent a month. And Mr. Wales said that traffic doubles every four months.
Still, the question of Wikipedia, as of so much of what you find online, is: Can you trust it?
And beyond reliability, there is the question of accountability. Mr. Seigenthaler, after discovering that he had been defamed, found that his "biographer" was anonymous. He learned that the writer was a customer of BellSouth Internet, but that federal privacy laws shield the identity of Internet customers, even if they disseminate defamatory material. And the laws protect online corporations from libel suits.
He could have filed a lawsuit against BellSouth, he wrote, but only a subpoena would compel BellSouth to reveal the name.
In the end, Mr. Seigenthaler decided against going to court, instead alerting the public, through his article, "that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool."
Mr. Wales said in an interview that he was troubled by the Seigenthaler episode, and noted that Wikipedia was essentially in the same boat. "We have constant problems where we have people who are trying to repeatedly abuse our sites," he said.
Still, he said, he was trying to make Wikipedia less vulnerable to tampering. He said he was starting a review mechanism by which readers and experts could rate the value of various articles. The reviews, which he said he expected to start in January, would show the site's strengths and weaknesses and perhaps reveal patterns to help them address the problems.
In addition, he said, Wikipedia may start blocking unregistered users from creating new pages, though they would still be able to edit them.
The real problem, he said, was the volume of new material coming in; it is so overwhelming that screeners cannot keep up with it.
All of this struck close to home for librarians and researchers. On an electronic mailing list for them, J. Stephen Bolhafner, a news researcher at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote, "The best defense of the Wikipedia, frankly, is to point out how much bad information is available from supposedly reliable sources."
Jessica Baumgart, a news researcher at Harvard University, wrote that there were librarians voluntarily working behind the scenes to check information on Wikipedia. "But, honestly," she added, "in some ways, we're just as fallible as everyone else in some areas because our own knowledge is limited and we can't possibly fact-check everything."
In an interview, she said that her rule of thumb was to double-check everything and to consider Wikipedia as only one source.
"Instead of figuring out how to 'fix' Wikipedia - something that cannot be done to our satisfaction," wrote Derek Willis, a research database manager at The Washington Post, who was speaking for himself and not The Post, "we should focus our energies on educating the Wikipedia users among our colleagues."
Some cyberexperts said Wikipedia already had a good system of checks and balances. Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford and an expert in the laws of cyberspace, said that contrary to popular belief, true defamation was easily pursued through the courts because almost everything on the Internet was traceable and subpoenas were not that hard to obtain. (For real anonymity, he advised, use a pay phone.)
"People will be defamed," he said. "But that's the way free speech is. Think about the gossip world. It spreads. There's no way to correct it, period. Wikipedia is not immune from that kind of maliciousness, but it is, relative to other features of life, more easily corrected."
Indeed, Esther Dyson, editor of Release 1.0 and a longtime Internet analyst, said Wikipedia may, in that sense, be better than real life.
"The Internet has done a lot more for truth by making things easier to discuss," she said. "Transparency and sunlight are better than a single point of view that can't be questioned."
For Mr. Seigenthaler, whose biography on Wikipedia has since been corrected, the lesson is simple: "We live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research, but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects."
Encyclopedia Tightens Rules
By DAN GOODIN
SAN FRANCISCO - Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that allows anyone to contribute articles, is tightening its rules for submitting entries following the disclosure that it ran a piece falsely implicating a man in the Kennedy assassinations. Wikipedia will now require users to register before they can create articles, Jimmy Wales, founder of the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Web site, said Monday.
The change comes less than a week after John Seigenthaler Sr., who was Robert Kennedy's administrative assistant in the early 1960s, wrote an op-ed article revealing that Wikipedia had run a biography claiming Seigenthaler had been suspected in the assassinations of the former Attorney General and his brother, President John F. Kennedy.
Wikipedia, which on Monday offered more than 850,000 articles in English, has grown into a storehouse of pieces on topics ranging from medieval art to nano technology. The volume of content is possible because the site relies on volunteers, including many experts in their fields, to submit entries and edit previously submitted articles.
The Web site hopes that the registration requirement will limit the number of stories being created, Wales said.
"What we're hopeful to see is that by slowing that down to 1,500 a day from several thousand, the people who are monitoring this will have more ability to improve the quality," Wales said Monday. "In many cases the types of things we see going on are impulse vandalism."
Wikipedia visitors will still be able to edit content already posted without registering. It takes 15 to 20 seconds to create an account on the Web site, and an e-mail address is not required.
Seigenthaler, a former newspaper editor at the Tennessean in Nashville, Tenn., and founder of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, said that following his op-ed piece in USA Today the biography of him was changed to remove the false accusations.
But Seigenthaler said the current entry on Monday still got some facts wrong, apparently because volunteers are confusing him with his son, John Seigenthaler Jr., a journalist with NBC News.
Also disturbing is a section of his biography that tracks changes made to the article, Seigenthaler, Sr. said. Entries in that history section label him a "Nazi" and say other "really vicious, venomous, salacious homophobic things about me," he said.
Wales said those comments would be removed.
For 132 days, Seigenthaler said the biography of him falsely claimed that "for a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby."
The biography also falsely stated that he had lived in the Soviet Union from 1971 to 1984.
Seigenthaler said he wasn't convinced the new registration requirement would stop the practice of vandals posting content that is slanderous or knowingly incorrect. Wikipedia will either have to fix the problem or will lose whatever credibility it still has, he said.
"The marketplace of ideas ultimately will take care of the problem," Seigenthaler said. "In the meantime, what happens to people like me?"
|The New York Times
December 11, 2005
A Little Sleuthing Unmasks Writer of Wikipedia Prank
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
It started as a joke and ended up as a shot heard round the Internet, with the joker losing his job and Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, suffering a blow to its credibility.
A man in Nashville has admitted that, in trying to shock a colleague with a joke, he put false information into a Wikipedia entry about John Seigenthaler Sr., a former editor of The Tennessean in Nashville.
Brian Chase, 38, who until Friday was an operations manager at a small delivery company, told Mr. Seigenthaler on Friday that he had written the material suggesting that Mr. Seigenthaler had been involved in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. Wikipedia, a nonprofit venture that is the world's biggest encyclopedia, is written and edited by thousands of volunteers.
Mr. Seigenthaler discovered the false entry only recently and wrote about it in an op-ed article in USA Today, saying he was especially annoyed that he could not track down the perpetrator because of Internet privacy laws. His plight touched off a debate about the reliability of information on Wikipedia - and by extension the entire Internet - and the difficulty in holding Web sites and their users accountable, even when someone is defamed.
In a confessional letter to Mr. Seigenthaler, Mr. Chase said he thought Wikipedia was a "gag" Web site and that he had written the assassination tale to shock a co-worker, who knew of the Seigenthaler family and its illustrious history in Nashville.
"It had the intended effect," Mr. Chase said of his prank in an interview. But Mr. Chase said that once he became aware last week through news accounts of the damage he had done to Mr. Seigenthaler, he was remorseful and also a little scared of what might happen to him.
Mr. Chase also found that he was slowly being cornered in cyberspace, thanks to the sleuthing efforts of Daniel Brandt, 57, of San Antonio, who makes his living as a book indexer. Mr. Brandt has been a frequent critic of Wikipedia and started an anti-Wikipedia Web site (www.wikipedia-watch.org) in September after reading what he said was a false entry about himself.
Using information in Mr. Seigenthaler's article and some online tools, Mr. Brandt traced the computer used to make the Wikipedia entry to the delivery company in Nashville. Mr. Brandt called the company and told employees there about the Wikipedia problem but was not able to learn anything definitive.
Mr. Brandt then sent an e-mail message to the company, asking for information about its courier services. A response bore the same Internet Protocol address that was left by the creator of the Wikipedia entry, offering further evidence of a connection.
A call by a New York Times reporter to the delivery company on Thursday made employees nervous, Mr. Chase later told Mr. Seigenthaler. On Friday, Mr. Chase hand-delivered a letter to Mr. Seigenthaler's office, confessing what he had done, and later they talked at length.
Mr. Chase told him that the Seigenthaler name had come up at work and that he had popped it into a search engine and was led to Wikipedia, where, he said, he was surprised that anyone could make an entry.
Mr. Chase wrote: "I am truly sorry to have offended you, sir. Whatever fame comes to me from this will be ill-gotten indeed."
Mr. Seigenthaler said Mr. Brandt was "a genius" for tracking down Mr. Chase. He said he "was not after a pound of flesh" and would not take Mr. Chase to court.
Mr. Chase resigned from his job because, he said, he did not want to cause problems for his company. Mr. Seigenthaler urged Mr. Chase's boss to rehire him, but Mr. Chase said that, so far, this had not happened.
Mr. Chase said that as Mr. Brandt and the news media were closing in and he realized how much he had hurt Mr. Seigenthaler, he decided that stepping forward was "the right thing to do."
Mr. Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center, said that as a longtime advocate of free speech, he found it awkward to be tracking down someone who had exercised that right.
"I still believe in free expression," he said. "What I want is accountability."
Jimmy Wales, who founded Wikipedia, said that the site would make more information about users available to make it easier to lodge complaints. But he portrayed the error as something that fell through the cracks, not a sign of a systemic problem. "We have to continually evaluate whether our controls are enough," he said.
January 11, 2006
Journal to Examine How It Reviewed Articles
By NICHOLAS WADE
Science magazine, the leading scientific journal that published Dr. Hwang Woo Suk's two now-discredited reports on cloning human cells, said yesterday that it would evaluate how the articles had been reviewed and search for ways to improve its procedures.
The journal's statement followed the announcement yesterday by an investigatory panel of Seoul National University that Dr. Hwang had never generated embryonic stem cells from human cells, as he reported in articles in March 2004 and June 2005.
The 2005 paper was retracted by the authors, and the journal is now retracting the 2004 paper.
Journal editors have usually taken the position that their reviewers cannot be expected to detect fabrication. This was the view expressed by Donald Kennedy, the editor of Science, and Philip Campbell, the editor of Nature, at an earlier phase of the Hwang scandal.
Nature has emerged the luckier of the two journals, having published only Dr. Hwang's claim that he had cloned a dog, Snuppy. The Seoul panel said yesterday that Snuppy was a true clone.
Science, however, must recover from publishing the two articles on human embryonic stem cells, which seemed to bring therapeutic cloning - treating patients with new tissues generated from their own cells - almost within reach.
One change Science is considering is to require a statement from each author describing his or her contribution to an article. These statements would be published, probably online, Dr. Kennedy said.
By longstanding practice, scientific reports carry only a list of authors. The first and last named authors generally garner most of the credit for a discovery. The custom is that the first author is the one who did most of the research and the last is the most senior author.
Authors may also be required to sign statements saying that they agree with a report's conclusions.
Dr. Kennedy said in an interview that the review system could not be relied on to prevent fraud.
"I do not think a perfect system can be designed for detecting fraud, and I do not think we can make a dramatic improvement in our capacity to detect it," he said.
Benjamin Lewin, a former editor of the journal Cell, said the requirement to state individual contributions might prevent scientists from getting an authorship credit when they had made a minor contribution or raised money. "If this proposal took hold, it wouldn't be a bad thing since you would have a better sense of people's contributions," he said.
31 March 2006
Recently citizen scientist Forrest Mims told me about a speech he heard at the Texas Academy of Science during which the speaker, a world-renowned ecologist, advocated for the extermination of 90 percent of the human species in a most horrible and painful manner. Apparently at the speaker's direction, the speech was not video taped by the Academy and so Forrest's may be the only record of what was said. Forrest's account of what he witnessed chilled my soul. Astonishingly, Forrest reports that many of the Academy members present gave the speaker a standing ovation. To date, the Academy has not moved to sanction the speaker or distance itself from the speaker's remarks.
If the professional community has lost its sense of moral outrage when one if their own openly calls for the slow and painful extermination of over 5 billion human beings, then it falls upon the amateur community to be the conscience of science.
Forrest, who is a member of the Texas Academy and chairs its Environmental Science Section, told me he would be unable to describe the speech in The Citizen Scientist because he has protested the speech to the Academy and he serves as Editor of The Citizen Scientist. Therefore, to preclude a possible conflict of interest, I have directed Forrest to describe what he observed and his reactions in this special feature, for which I have served as editor and which is being released a week ahead of our normal publication schedule. Comments may be sent to Backscatter.
Shawn Carlson, Ph.D.,
Special Editorial: Dealing with Doctor Doom
Meeting Doctor Doom
Forrest M. Mims III
There is always something special about science meetings. The 109th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science at Lamar University in Beaumont on 3-5 March 2006 was especially exciting for me, because a student and his professor presented the results of a DNA study I suggested to them last year. How fulfilling to see the baldcypress ( Taxodium distichum ) leaves we collected last summer and my tree ring photographs transformed into a first class scientific presentation that's nearly ready to submit to a scientific journal (Brian Iken and Dr. Deanna McCullough, "Bald Cypress of the Texas Hill Country: Taxonomically Unique?" 109th Meeting of the Texas Academy of Science Program and Abstracts [ PDF ], Poster P59, p. 84, 2006).
But there was a gravely disturbing side to that otherwise scientifically significant meeting, for I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola. The speech was given by Dr. Eric R. Pianka (Fig. 1), the University of Texas evolutionary ecologist and lizard expert who the Academy named the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist.
Something curious occurred a minute before Pianka began speaking. An official of the Academy approached a video camera operator at the front of the auditorium and engaged him in animated conversation. The camera operator did not look pleased as he pointed the lens of the big camera to the ceiling and slowly walked away.
This curious incident came to mind a few minutes later when Professor Pianka began his speech by explaining that the general public is not yet ready to hear what he was about to tell us. Because of many years of experience as a writer and editor, Pianka's strange introduction and the TV camera incident raised a red flag in my mind. Suddenly I forgot that I was a member of the Texas Academy of Science and chairman of its Environmental Science Section. Instead, I grabbed a notepad so I could take on the role of science reporter.
One of Pianka's earliest points was a condemnation of anthropocentrism, or the idea that humankind occupies a privileged position in the Universe. He told a story about how a neighbor asked him what good the lizards are that he studies. He answered, “What good are you?”
Pianka hammered his point home by exclaiming, “We're no better than bacteria!”
Pianka then began laying out his concerns about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth. He presented a doomsday scenario in which he claimed that the sharp increase in human population since the beginning of the industrial age is devastating the planet. He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore the planet before it's too late.
Saving the Earth with Ebola
Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.
He then showed solutions for reducing the world's population in the form of a slide depicting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War and famine would not do, he explained. Instead, disease offered the most efficient and fastest way to kill the billions that must soon die if the population crisis is to be solved.
Pianka then displayed a slide showing rows of human skulls, one of which had red lights flashing from its eye sockets.
AIDS is not an efficient killer, he explained, because it is too slow. His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world's population is airborne Ebola ( Ebola Reston ), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However, Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal organs.
After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, “We've got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that.”
With his slide of human skulls towering on the screen behind him, Professor Pianka was deadly serious. The audience that had been applauding some of his statements now sat silent.
After a dramatic pause, Pianka returned to politics and environmentalism. But he revisited his call for mass death when he reflected on the oil situation.
“And the fossil fuels are running out,” he said, “so I think we may have to cut back to two billion, which would be about one-third as many people.” So the oil crisis alone may require eliminating two-third's of the world's population.
How soon must the mass dying begin if Earth is to be saved? Apparently fairly soon, for Pianka suggested he might be around when the killer disease goes to work. He was born in 1939, and his lengthy obituary appears on his web site.
When Pianka finished his remarks, the audience applauded. It wasn't merely a smattering of polite clapping that audiences diplomatically reserve for poor or boring speakers. It was a loud, vigorous and enthusiastic applause.
Questions for Dr. Doom
Then came the question and answer session, in which Professor Pianka stated that other diseases are also efficient killers.
The audience laughed when he said, “You know, the bird flu's good, too.” They laughed again when he proposed, with a discernable note of glee in his voice that, “We need to sterilize everybody on the Earth.”
After noting that the audience did not represent the general population, a questioner asked, "What kind of reception have you received as you have presented these ideas to other audiences that are not representative of us?"
Pianka replied, "I speak to the converted!"
Pianka responded to more questions by condemning politicians in general and Al Gore by name, because they do not address the population problem and "...because they deceive the public in every way they can to stay in power."
He spoke glowingly of the police state in China that enforces their one-child policy. He said, "Smarter people have fewer kids." He said those who don't have a conscience about the Earth will inherit the Earth, "...because those who care make fewer babies and those that didn't care made more babies." He said we will evolve as uncaring people, and "I think IQs are falling for the same reason, too."
With this, the questioning was over. Immediately almost every scientist, professor and college student present stood to their feet and vigorously applauded the man who had enthusiastically endorsed the elimination of 90 percent of the human population. Some even cheered. Dozens then mobbed the professor at the lectern to extend greetings and ask questions. It was necessary to wait a while before I could get close enough to take some photographs (Fig. 1).
I was assigned to judge a paper in a grad student competition after the speech. On the way, three professors dismissed Pianka as a crank. While waiting to enter the competition room, a group of a dozen Lamar University students expressed outrage over the Pianka speech.
Yet five hours later, the distinguished leaders of the Texas Academy of Science presented Pianka with a plaque in recognition of his being named 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist. When the banquet hall filled with more than 400 people responded with enthusiastic applause, I walked out in protest.
Corresponding with Dr. Doom
Recently I exchanged a number of e-mails with Pianka. I pointed out to him that one might infer his death wish was really aimed at Africans, for Ebola is found only in Central Africa. He replied that Ebola does not discriminate, kills everyone and could spread to Europe and the the Americas by a single infected airplane passenger.
In his last e-mail, Pianka wrote that I completely fail to understand his arguments. So I did a check and found verification of my interpretation of his remarks on his own web site. In a student evaluation of a 2004 course he taught, one of Professor Pianka's students wrote, "Though I agree that convervation [sic] biology is of utmost importance to the world, I do not think that preaching that 90% of the human population should die of ebola [sic] is the most effective means of encouraging conservation awareness." (Go here and scroll down to just before the Fall 2005 evaluation section near the end.)
Yet the majority of his student reviews were favorable, with one even saying, “ I worship Dr. Pianka.”
The 45-minute lecture before the Texas Academy of Science converted a university biology senior into a Pianka disciple, who then published a blog that seriously supports Pianka's mass death wish.
Let me now remove my reporter's hat for a moment and tell you what I think. We live in dangerous times. The national security of many countries is at risk. Science has become tainted by highly publicized cases of misconduct and fraud.
Must now we worry that a Pianka-worshipping former student might someday become a professional biologist or physician with access to the most deadly strains of viruses and bacteria? I believe that airborne Ebola is unlikely to threaten the world outside of Central Africa. But scientists have regenerated the 1918 Spanish flu virus that killed 50 million people. There is concern that small pox might someday return. And what other terrible plagues are waiting out there in the natural world to cross the species barrier and to which scientists will one day have access?
Meanwhile, I still can't get out of my mind the pleasant spring day in Texas when a few hundred scientists of the Texas Academy of Science gave a standing ovation for a speaker who they heard advocate for the slow and torturous death of over five billion human beings.
Forrest M. Mims III is Chairman of the Environmental Science Section of the Texas Academy of Science, and the editor of The Citizen Scientist. He and his science are featured online at www.forrestmims.org and www.sunandsky.org. The views expressed herein are his own and do not represent the official views of the Texas Academy of Science or the Society for Amateur Scientists.
Copyright 2006 by Forrest M. Mims III.
UT professor says death is imminent
By Jamie Mobley
Published April 2, 2006
“Every one of you who gets to survive has to bury nine,” Eric Pianka cautioned students and guests at St. Edward’s University on Friday. Pianka’s words are part of what he calls his “doomsday talk” — a 45-minute presentation outlining humanity’s ecological misdeeds and Pianka’s predictions about how nature, or perhaps humans themselves, will exterminate all but a fraction of civilization.
Though his statements are admittedly bold, he’s not without abundant advocates. But what may set this revered biologist apart from other doomsday soothsayers is this: Humanity’s collapse is a notion he embraces.
Indeed, his words deal, very literally, on a life-and-death scale, yet he smiles and jokes candidly throughout the lecture. Disseminating a message many would call morbid, Pianka’s warnings are centered upon awareness rather than fear.
“This is really an exciting time,” he said Friday amid warnings of apocalypse, destruction and disease. Only minutes earlier he declared, “Death. This is what awaits us all. Death.” Reflecting on the so-called Ancient Chinese Curse, “May you live in interesting times,” he wore, surprisingly, a smile.
So what ’s at the heart of Pianka’s claim?
6.5 billion humans is too many.
In his estimation, “We ’ve grown fat, apathetic and miserable,” all the while leaving the planet parched.
A 90 percent reduction.
That ’s 5.8 billion lives — lives he says are turning the planet into “fat, human biomass.” He points to an 85 percent swell in the population during the last 25 years and insists civilization is on the brink of its downfall — likely at the hand of widespread disease.
“[Disease] will control the scourge of humanity,” Pianka said. “We’re looking forward to a huge collapse.”
But don’t tell local “citizen scientist” Forrest Mims to quietly swallow Pianka’s call to awareness. Mims says it’s an “abhorrent death wish” and contends he has “no choice but to take a stand.”
Mims attended the educator ’s doomsday presentation at the Texas Academy of Science’s annual meeting March 2-4. There, the organization honored Pianka as its 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist — another issue Mims vocally opposes.
“This guy is a loose cannon to believe that worldwide genocide is the only answer,” said Mims, who filed two formal petitions with the academy following the meeting.
Joining the crusade, James Pitts, who recieved a Ph.D. in physics from UT-Austin, became the second to publicly chastise Pianka when he filed a complaint Saturday with the UT board of regents. He insists a state university is no place to disseminate such views.
“Pianka’s message does not fall within the realm of his professional competence as a biologist, because it is a normative claim, not a descriptive one. Pianka is encouraged to use his ecological expertise to predict the likely consequences of certain technological and reproductive strategies, but to evaluate some as good, bad, or worthy of prevention by genocide is the realm of philosophy or political science, not science. His message falls no more within his professional competence than it would for a physicist to teach religion in class or a musician to encourage racism.”
But Pianka, a 38-year UT educator, maintains he’s not campaigning for genocide. He likens mankind’s story to an unbridled party on a luxury cruise liner. The fun’s going strong on the upper deck, he says. But as crowds blindly absorb the festivities, many fail to notice the ship is sinking.
“The biggest enemy we face is anthropocentrism, ” he said, describing the belief system in which humans are the central element of the universe. “This is that common attitude that everything on this Earth was put here for [human] use.”
To Pianka, a human life is no more valuable than any other — a lizard, a bison, a rhino. And as humans reproduce, the demand for resources like food, water and energy becomes more than the Earth can sustain, he says.
Ken Wilkins, a Baylor University biology professor and associate dean, agrees the inevitability of a crashing point is unarguable.
“The human population is growing,” he said. “We will see a point when we reach the carrying capacity — there aren ’t enough resources. ”
But resources aren’t the only threat, Pianka says. It’s the Ebola virus he deems most capable of wide scale decimation.
“Humans are so dense (in population) that they constitute a perfect substrate for an epidemic,” he says.
He contends Ebola is merely an evolutionary step away from escaping the confines of Africa. And should an outbreak occur, Pianka assuredly says humanity will quickly come to a “grinding halt.”
The professor’s not the only one who can articulate this concept. Because Pianka includes his doomsday material in his coursework, Ebola and its potential play a notable role in some students’ studies. A syllabus for one course reads:
“Although [Ebola Zaire] Kills 9 out of 10 people, outbreaks have so far been unable to become epidemics because they are currently spread only by direct physical contact with infected blood. However, a closely-related virus that kills monkeys, Ebola Reston, is airborne, and it is only a matter of time until Ebola Zaire evolves the capacity to be airborne.”
It is here that some say Pianka ventures from provocative food for thought to, as Wilkins said, “very extreme material” that violate many people’s views — including his own — about the treatment of human life. While many praise Pianka’s boldness and scientific know-how, others say he crosses an ethical line in his treatment of Ebola ’s viability as a killer.
In an evaluation of Pianka ’s course — performed anonymously in keeping with university policy — one student offered:
“Though I agree that conservation biology is of utmost importance to the world, I do not think that preaching that 90 percent of the human population should die of Ebola is the most effective means of encouraging conservation awareness.”
Mims says he’s seen countless doomsday predictions come and go. But Pianka’s is different, Mims said. Pianka, he insists, exhibits genuine cause for alarm.
Mims worries fertile young minds with a thirst for knowledge may develop into enthusiastic supporters of a deadly disease, advocating the fall of humanity.
“He recommended airborne Ebola as an ideal killing virus,” Mims said. “He showed slides of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse and human skulls. He joked about requiring universal sterilization. It reminded me of a futuristic science fiction movie with a crazed scientist planning the death of humanity.”
But as confident as Mims is in his assessment, he faces one unarguable fact: Most of Pianka’s former students are bursting with praise. Their in-class evaluations celebrate his ideas with words like “the most incredible class I ever had” and “Pianka is a GOD!”
Mims counters their ovation with the story of a Texas Lutheran University student who attended the Academy of Science lecture. Brenna McConnell, a biology senior, said she and others in the audience “had not thought seriously about overpopulation issues and a feasible solution prior to the meeting.” But though McConnell arrived at the event with little to say on the issue, she returned to Seguin with a whole new outlook.
An entry to her online blog captures her initial response to what’s become a new conviction:
“[Pianka is] a radical thinker, that one!” she wrote. “I mean, he’s basically advocating for the death for all but 10 percent of the current population. And at the risk of sounding just as radical, I think he’s right.”
Today, she maintains the Earth is in dire straits. And though she’s decided Ebola isn’t the answer, she’s still considering other deadly viruses that might take its place in the equation.
“Maybe I just see the virus as inevitable because it’s the easiest answer to this problem of overpopulation,” she said.
Though listeners like McConnell may walk away with a deadly message, Pianka maintains this is inconsistent with his lecture. One UT official said Pianka is likely well within his rights as a tenured educator.
The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure — a set of guidelines recognized nationwide — guarantees college professors vast classroom liberties. But Neal Armstrong, vice provost for faculty affairs at UT, said even this freedom is not without limits.
“Faculty members have the right of free speech like anyone else,” he said. “In the classroom, they’re free to express their views. There is the expectation, though, that in public — especially when speaking on controversial topics — they must make every effort to be clear that they are not speaking on behalf of the university.”
Students should be able to discern on their own the validity of views like Pianka’s, Armstrong said. But if allegations of Pianka actively advocating human death were to be confirmed, he said “there might be some discussion about the appropriateness of that subject.”
“I would hope that’s not what ’s intended,” he said. “I don’t think that’s appropriate for the classroom, but that’s my personal statement.”
Robert K. Jansen, chair of the section of integrated biology under which Pianka is classified, said his understanding of the doomsday material left no cause for concern.
“It’s important for students to get all opinions, and they have to do that on a daily basis,” he said. To hold a classroom’s attention, Jansen says educators must often “speak their mind” in a fashion bold enough to garner a bit of shock.
The Texas Academy of Science uses a similar approach in defending its decision to honor Pianka with the Distinguished Scientist award. Though TAS offered no direct comment to the Gazette-Enterprise, an email sent from TAS President David Marsh to Mims in response to Mims first letter of protest reads:
“We select the DTS speaker based on his/her academic credentials and contributions to science. We do not mandate the subject he/she decides to address, nor will we ever. I would suggest that one of the purposes of any such presentation is to stimulate discussion — which indeed it did.”
In his petitions, Mims inquires about the group’s stance on Pianka’s talk, asking if the recent honor should be interpreted as an endorsement by TAS. Marsh responded firmly, saying the award does not represent any formal backing of Pianka’s ideas.
But despite the academy ’s flat denial of any wrongdoing, Mims maintains his stance. He said thus far, he’s seen no response to the second petition.
“I completely agree with one assertion made several times by Dr. Pianka: ‘The public is not ready to hear that he hopes 90 percent of them will be exterminated by disease,’” Mims said.
McConnell said the TAS audience, unlike Mims, was in awe of Pianka’s words. They offered a standing ovation, and enthusiastically applauded Pianka’s position, Mims said.
“There was a good deal of shock and just plain astonishment at what he had to say,” the student said. “Not many folk come out and talk about the end of the human population in as candid of a manner as he did. Dr. Pianka received a standing ovation at the end of his talk, if that says anything. What he had to say was radical, no question about it, but that is not to say that at least some of what he had to say is not true.”
Though Pianka turned down requests for a sit-down interview, he maintains he is not advocating human death.
Does he believe nature will bring about this promised devastation? Or is humanity’s own dissemination of a deadly virus the only answer? And more importantly, is this the motive behind his talks?
Responding to these very questions, Pianka said, “Good terrorists would be taking [Ebola Roaston and Ebola Zaire] so that they had microbes they could let loose on the Earth that would kill 90 percent of people.”
As of press time, Pitts — who sent his appeal via email Saturday — had received no response from the university, but he says, “It’s too early for any responses to have been made.” Meanwhile, Pianka urges humanity to heed his call to be prepared, saying “we’re going to be hunters and gatherers again real soon.” “This is gonna happen in your lifetime, ” he told his St. Edward’s audience. “Do you wanna go there? We’ve already gone there. We waited too long.”
Professor Advocates Death of Humans to Save Earth
LAST UPDATE: 4/5/2006 9:52:58 AM
Posted By: CyberBob to WOIA.com
By LIZ AUSTIN, Associated Press Writer
A University of Texas biology professor has been targeted by talk radio, bloggers and vitriolic e-mails -- including a death threat -- after a published report that he advocated death for most of the population as a means of saving the Earth.
But Eric Pianka said Monday his remarks about what he believes is an impending pandemic were taken out of context.
"What we really need to do is start thinking about controlling our population before it's too late," he said. "It's already too late, but we're not even thinking about it. We're just mindlessly rushing ahead breeding our brains out."
The public furor began when The Gazette-Enterprise of Seguin, Texas, reported Sunday on two speeches Pianka made last month to groups of scientists and students about vanishing animal habitats and the explosion of the human population.
The newspaper's Jamie Mobley attended one of those speeches and also interviewed Forrest Mims, an amateur scientist and author who heard Pianka speak early last month before the Texas Academy of Science.
After the newspaper's report appeared, it was circulated widely and posted on "The Drudge Report." It quickly became talk radio fodder.
The Gazette-Enterprise quoted Pianka as saying disease "will control the scourge of humanity. We're looking forward to a huge collapse."
The professor weighed the killing power of various diseases such as bird flu and HIV, insisting neither would yield the needed results.
"HIV is too slow. It's no good," he said. He went on to discuss how an ebola pandemic could wipe out a significant chunk of the human population.
Pianka said he was only trying to warn his audience that disease epidemics have happened before and will happen again if the human population growth isn't contained.
He said he believes the Earth would be better off if the human population were smaller because fewer natural resources would be consumed and humans wouldn't continue to destroy animal habitats. But he said that doesn't mean he wants most humans to die.
But Mims, chairman of the academy's environmental science section, told The Associated Press there was no mistaking Pianka's disdain for humans and desire for their elimination.
"He wishes for it. He hopes for it. He laughs about it. He jokes about it," Mims said. "It's got to happen because we are the scourge of humanity."
David Marsh, president of the Texas Academy of Science, said in a statement that Pianka's comments have been "severely misconstrued and sensationalized," although in a separate e-mail to the newspaper said its account was not sensationalized. Marsh said the professor simply applied commonly accepted principles of animal population dynamics to humans.
No recording or transcript of either that speech or another delivered Friday at St. Edward's University in Austin was available for review by the AP. The Gazette-Enterprise said it reviewed a transcript of the original speech, which was provided on the condition that it not be distributed.
Allan Hook, a St. Edward's biology professor who heard both speeches, said Pianka "wasn't so perhaps adamant in his own personal views of what he thinks might happen" in his second lecture.
But Hook declined to elaborate on what Pianka said in the earlier speech, which Pianka delivered while being honored as the academy's 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist.
University of Texas officials don't plan to take any action against Pianka, university spokesman Don Hale said.
"Dr. Pianka has First Amendment rights to express his point of view," Hale said. "We have plenty of faculty with a lot of different points of view and they have the right to express that point of view, but they're expressing their personal point of view."
FBI dig at Michigan farm finds no sign of Hoffa
May 31, 2006
BY TOM KRISHER
MILFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- The FBI said Tuesday it found no trace of Jimmy Hoffa after digging up a suburban Detroit horse farm in one of the most intensive searches in decades for the former Teamsters boss.
The two-week search involved dozens of FBI agents, along with anthropologists, archeologists, cadaver-sniffing dogs and a demolition crew that took apart a barn.
Louis Fischetti, supervisory agent with the Detroit FBI, said the tip that led agents to the farm was the best federal authorities had received since 1976.
The agency planned to continue the investigation into Hoffa's 1975 disappearance.
''There are still prosecutable defendants who are living, and they know who they are,'' said Judy Chilen, assistant agent in charge of the Detroit FBI.
The farm was once owned by a Hoffa associate and was said to be a mob meeting place before the union boss' disappearance.
Chilen said she believes Hoffa had been buried on the farm and said she had no evidence his body had been moved. Fischetti added: ''We really don't have any indication that it was or wasn't moved.''
Giants Stadium, Florida swamp?
Hoffa vanished after he went to meet two organized crime figures. Investigators have long suspected he was killed by the mob to prevent him from reclaiming the presidency of the Teamsters after he got out of prison for corruption. But no trace of him has ever been found, and no one was ever charged.
The farm was just the latest spot to be torn up in search of clues to Hoffa's fate. In 2003, authorities excavated beneath a backyard pool about 110 miles north of Detroit. The following year, police ripped up floorboards in a Detroit home to test bloodstains. But the blood was not Hoffa's.
Over the years, some have theorized Hoffa was buried at Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands; ground up and thrown into a Florida swamp, or obliterated in a mob-owned fat-rendering plant.
The FBI began the excavation May 17, digging at Hidden Dreams Farm, 30 miles northwest of Detroit. The search started after a tip from Donovan Wells, an ailing federal inmate who once lived on the farm and was acquainted with its former owner, 92-year-old Hoffa associate Rolland McMaster, according to a government investigator.
McMaster's attorney Mayer Morganroth said he was not surprised that the search was wrapping up with the mystery unsolved.
''We never expected that anything was there,'' he said.
The FBI said 15 to 20 agents worked at the site on a daily basis during the search, with five to seven agents guarding it around the clock. The search was expected to cost less than $250,000, the agency said. The government plans to pay for the barn to be rebuilt.
Hoffa was last seen on July 30, 1975. He was scheduled to have dinner at a restaurant about 20 miles from the farm.
organizations agree to pay Wen Ho Lee
Ex-nuclear scientist to receive $750,000 as part of privacy suit settlement
WASHINGTON - The Associated Press and four other news organizations have agreed to pay a former nuclear weapons scientist $750,000 as part of a settlement of his privacy lawsuit against the federal government that turned into a fight over reporters’ confidential sources.
Wen Ho Lee, once suspected of being a spy, ended his 6½-year-old lawsuit against the Energy and Justice Departments on Friday. Lee had accused federal officials of smearing him by leaking information that he was under investigation as a spy for China.
The case took an unusual turn when federal judges held five reporters in contempt of court for refusing to disclose the sources of their stories about the government’s espionage investigation of Lee.
The payment by AP, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and ABC is the first of its kind in recent memory, and perhaps ever, legal and media experts said.
The companies bluntly said they agreed to the sum to forestall jail sentences for their reporters, even larger payments in the form of fines and the prospect of revealing confidential sources.
“We were reluctant to contribute anything to this settlement, but we sought relief in the courts and found none,” the companies said. “Given the rulings of the federal courts in Washington and the absence of a federal shield law, we decided this was the best course to protect our sources and to protect our journalists.”
The statement noted that the accuracy of the reporting itself was not challenged.
The final terms of Lee’s settlement with the government were not immediately known, but a draft settlement circulated last week included a payment of $895,000 in attorney’s fees and no admission that the government agencies had violated Lee’s privacy rights.
News Media Pay in Scientist Suit
By ADAM LIPTAK
Wen Ho Lee, an atomic scientist once suspected of espionage, yesterday settled an invasion of privacy lawsuit against the government for $1,645,000.
Five news organizations are paying almost half that sum to avoid contempt sanctions against their reporters.
In the suit, Dr. Lee said the government had violated privacy laws by telling reporters about his employment history, finances, travels and polygraph tests. The settlement followed seven months of unusual negotiations among Dr. Lee, the government and lawyers for the news organizations.
The five reporters were not defendants, but had been held in contempt of court for refusing to testify and ordered to pay fines of $500 a day for refusing to disclose the identities of their confidential sources.
The news organizations — ABC News, part of the Walt Disney Company; The Associated Press; The Los Angeles Times, part of the Tribune Company; The New York Times; and The Washington Post — agreed to contribute $750,000 to the settlement.
Specialists in media law said such a payment by news organizations to avoid a contempt sanction was almost certainly unprecedented. Some called it troubling.
In a joint statement, the five organizations said they made the payment reluctantly.
"We did so," they explained, "to protect our confidential sources, to protect our journalists from further sanction and possible imprisonment and to protect our news organizations from potential exposure."
A senior vice president of ABC, Henry S. Hoberman, said the decision to settle was made after a long, hard legal fight.
"The journalists found themselves between a rock and a hard place after years of seeking relief from the courts and finding none," Mr. Hoberman said. "Given the absence of a federal shield law and the consistently adverse rulings from the federal courts in this case, the only way the journalists could keep their bond with their sources and avoid further sanctions, which might include jail time, was to contribute to a settlement between the government and Wen Ho Lee that would end the case."
Federal courts have been increasingly hostile in recent years to assertions by journalists that they are legally entitled to protect their confidential sources. Last year, Judith Miller, who was a reporter for The New York Times, spent 85 days in jail before agreeing to testify to a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of a C.I.A. operative.
Dr. Lee, who worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, brought his case against the government in 1999, the year federal investigators accused him of giving nuclear secrets to China.
Dr. Lee spent nine months in solitary confinement awaiting trial. Ultimately, he pleaded guilty to one felony count of illegally gathering and retaining national security data, and he received an apology from the judge in the case.
A lawyer for Dr. Lee, Brian A. Sun, said the settlement furthered two goals.
"We wanted to send a message to the government that leaking information protected by law is not justified, even if they think it's politically expedient to do so," Mr. Sun said. "And the fact that the journalists contributed to the settlement recognizes the role they played in the series of unfortunate events that surrounded Dr. Lee's case."
The settlement included an unusual condition, Mr. Sun said.
"The government didn't want any of the money going into his pocket," Mr. Sun said of Dr. Lee.
In the end, Dr. Lee agreed to apply the government's payment to lawyers' fees, litigation costs and taxes. The money from the news organizations was unrestricted.
The fines against the reporters — Robert Drogin of The Los Angeles Times, H. Josef Hebert of The A.P., Walter Pincus of The Washington Post, James Risen of The New York Times and Pierre Thomas, formerly of CNN and now of ABC News — were suspended while they appealed.
The judge in the case, Rosemary M. Collyer of Federal District Court in Washington, vacated the contempt sanctions as part of the settlement. The settlement also moots a pending appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
Though Mr. Thomas covered Dr. Lee for CNN, part of Time Warner, it did not participate in the settlement.
"CNN paid over $1 million toward Pierre's defense in this matter," a spokeswoman, Laurie Goldberg, said. "We parted ways because we had a philosophical disagreement over whether it was appropriate to pay money to Wen Ho Lee or anyone else to get out from under a subpoena."
The five other organizations made roughly similar contributions to the settlement, lawyers in the case said.
The government has settled similar privacy suits in the past. In 2003, it paid Linda R. Tripp, a central figure in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, $595,000 to settle a suit that accused it of leaking employment information about her.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said she viewed the settlement in Dr. Lee's case with mixed emotions.
"It's a huge disappointment, and it's certainly not an ideal resolution," Ms. Dalglish said. "But it's probably as good as we could have expected under the circumstances."
The New York Times has long maintained that it will not settle libel suits in the United States for money. Its lawyers said the payment to Dr. Lee did not violate the principles behind that policy.
"It's apples and oranges," George Freeman, an assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company, said. "That principle remains. In libel suits, people aren't sent to jail."
The Times covered the charges against Dr. Lee aggressively. But in September 2000, it published a lengthy note "from the editors" saying that despite "careful reporting that included extensive cross-checking," there were "some things we wish we had done differently in the course of the coverage to give Dr. Lee the full benefit of the doubt."
The note said The Times should have pushed harder and sooner "to uncover weaknesses in the F.B.I. case against Dr. Lee" and to assess the scientific, technical and investigative assumptions behind the case.
In their statement yesterday, the news organizations said the settlement was not connected to their coverage of the case against Dr. Lee.
"The journalism in this case — which was not challenged in Lee's lawsuit — reported on a matter of great public interest," the statement said. "And the public could not have been informed about the issues without the information we were able to obtain only from confidential sources."
Jane E. Kirtley, a professor of media law and ethics at the University of Minnesota, said she found the news organizations' decision to participate in the settlement "profoundly disturbing."
"These are very strange times in which we are living," Professor Kirtley said, "and it does appear that sometimes decisions have to be made that would have been unthinkable five years ago. But to make a payment in settlement in this context strikes me as an admission that the media are acting in concert with the government."
Ms. Dalglish of the Reporters Committee disagreed.
"I view it," she said, "purely as, 'What can we do to get the least damaging result?' "
Mr. Freeman, the lawyer for The Times, also rejected Professor Kirtley's characterization.
"We acted in the best interests of our reporters and our news organizations to protect our sources and protect our journalists," he said. "We were not acting in concert with anyone. The three parties managed to resolve the matter."
News media lawyers said they hoped that the settlement would help prompt a change in federal law. The Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment offers reporters no protection, at least in the context of grand jury subpoenas.
Though most states have so-called shield laws that protect journalists' confidential sources, those laws are usually irrelevant in cases brought in federal court.
The settlement in Dr. Lee's case, Professor Kirtley said, "certainly underscores the need for meaningful journalists' shield laws, now."
Human Flu Transfers May Exceed Reports
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
In the wake of a cluster of avian flu cases that killed seven members of a rural Indonesian family, it appears likely that there have been many more human-to-human infections than the authorities have previously acknowledged.
The numbers are still relatively small, and they do not mean that the virus has mutated to pass easily between people — a change that could touch off a worldwide epidemic. All the clusters of cases have been among relatives or in nurses who were in long, close contact with patients.
But the clusters — in Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Vietnam — paint a grimmer picture of the virus's potential to pass from human to human than is normally described by public health officials, who usually say such cases are "rare."
Until recently, World Health Organization representatives have said there were only two or three such cases. On May 24 Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, estimated that there had been "at least three." Then, last Tuesday, Maria Cheng, a W.H.O. spokeswoman, said there were "probably about half a dozen." She added, "I don't think anybody's got a solid number."
And Dr. Angus Nicoll, chief of flu activities at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, acknowledged that "we are probably underestimating the extent of person-to-person transmission."
The handful of cases usually cited, he said, are "just the open-and-shut ones," like the infections of nurses in the 1997 Hong Kong outbreak and of a Bangkok office worker who died in 2004 after tending her daughter who fell sick on an aunt's farm.
Most clusters are hard to investigate, he said, because they may not even be noticed until a victim is hospitalized, and are often in remote villages where people fear talking. Also, he said, by the time doctors from Geneva arrive to take samples, local authorities "have often killed all the chickens and covered everything with lime."
The W.H.O. is generally conservative in its announcements and, as a United Nations agency, is sometimes limited by member states in what it is permitted to say about them.
Still, several scientists have noted that there are many clusters in which human-to-human infection may be a more logical explanation than the idea that relatives who fell sick days apart got the virus from the same dying bird.
For example, in a letter published last November in Emerging Infectious Diseases analyzing 15 family clusters from 2003 through mid-2005 in Southeast Asia, scientists from the disease control centers, the W.H.O. and several Asian health ministries noted that four clusters had gaps of more than seven days between the time family members got sick. They questioned conventional wisdom that only one, the Bangkok office worker, was "likely" human-to-human.
In one Vietnam cluster, not only did a young man, his teenage sister and 80-year-old grandfather test positive for A(H5N1) avian flu, but two nurses tending them developed severe pneumonia, and one tested positive.
In another questionable case, the Vietnamese government's assertion that a man developed the flu 16 days after eating raw duck-blood pudding was publicly ridiculed by a prominent flu specialist at Hong Kong University, who said it was more likely that he got it from his sick brother.
Dr. Henry L. Niman, a biochemist in Pittsburgh who has become a hero to many Internet flu watchers and a gadfly to public health authorities, has argued for weeks that there have been 20 to 30 human-to-human infections.
Dr. Niman says the authors of the Emerging Infectious Diseases article were too conservative: even though the dates in it were fragmentary, it was possible to infer that in about 10 of the 15 cases, there was a gap in onset dates of at least five days, which would fit with the flu's incubation time of two to five days.
And in a study published just last month about a village in Azerbaijan, scientists from the W.H.O. and the United States Navy said human-to-human transmission was possible. That conclusion essentially agreed with what Dr. Niman had been arguing since early March — that it was unlikely that seven infections among six relatives and a neighbor, with onset dates stretching from Feb. 15 to March 4, had all been picked up from dying wild swans that the family had plucked for feathers in a nearby swamp in early February.
While Dr. Niman is an irritant to public health officials, his digging sometimes pushes them to change conclusions, as it did in the recent Indonesia case. The W.H.O. at first said an undercooked pig might have infected the whole family, but Dr. Niman discovered that the hostess of the barbecue was sick two days before the barbecue and the last relative was infected two weeks after it.
His prodding, picked up by journalists, eventually led the W.H.O. to concede that no pig was to blame and that the virus probably had jumped from human to human to human.
The health organization's periodic updates on the number of avian flu cases and the death toll concentrate on cases confirmed by laboratories. The updates use no names and are often cleared by the affected country's health minister.
Dr. Niman, by contrast, trolls local press and radio reports and uses Google software to translate them — sometimes hilariously — looking for family names, onset dates and death dates.
For example, a May 15 report quotes a village midwife named Spoilt describing the death of a woman in Kubu Sembilang, Indonesia and the hospitalization of one of her sons:
"Praise br Ginting experienced was sick to last April 27 2006, with the sign of the continuous high fever to the temperature of his body reached 390 C was accompanied by coughs... Added Spoilt, second casualties Roy Karo-Karo that also the son of the uterus from Praise br. Gintin after his mother died last May 3, also fell ill, afterwards was reconciled to RSU Kabanjahe."
Dr. Niman contends that the largest human-to-human cluster so far was not in Indonesia, but in Dogubayazit, Turkey, in January. W.H.O. updates recorded 12 infected in three clusters, and quoted the Turkish Health Ministry blaming chickens and ducks. Dr. Niman counted 30 hospitalized with symptoms and said the three clusters were all cousins with the last names of Kocyigit and Ozcan, and that most fell sick after a big family party on Dec. 24 that was attended by a teenager who fell sick on Dec. 18 and died Jan. 1.
A patriarch, Dr. Niman said, told local papers that the two branches had had dinner together six days after the 14-year-old, Mehmet Ali Kocyigit, had shown mild symptoms. He died on Jan. 1, and several other young members of the two families died shortly after, with other relatives showing symptoms until Jan. 16. No scientific study of that outbreak has been released.
Dr. Niman also said clusters were becoming more frequent, especially in Indonesia. Just last week two more emerged there, one including a nurse whose infection has not yet been confirmed. With 36 deaths, Indonesia is expected to eclipse Vietnam soon as the world's worst-hit country.
Dr. David Nabarro, chief pandemic flu coordinator for the United Nations, said that even if some unexplained cases were human-to-human, it does not yet mean that the pandemic alert system, now at Level 3, "No or very limited human-human transmission," should be raised to Level 4, "Increased human-human transmission."
Level 4 means the virus has mutated until it moves between some people who have been only in brief contact, as a cold does. Right now, Dr. Nabarro said, any human transmission is "very inefficient."
Level 6, meaning a pandemic has begun, is defined as "efficient and sustained" human transmission.
Ms. Cheng of the W.H.O. said that even if there were more clusters, the alert would remain at Level 3 as long as the virus dies out by itself.
"A lot of this is subjective, a judgment on how efficiently the virus is infecting people," she said. "If it becomes more common, we'd convene a task force to raise the alert level."
of Higher Education
From the issue dated June 23, 2006
By JOHN GRAVOIS
Nearly five years have gone by since it happened. The trial of Zacarias Moussaoui is over. Construction of the Freedom Tower just began. Oliver Stone's movie about the attacks is due out in theaters soon. And colleges are offering degrees in homeland- security management. The post-9/11 era is barreling along.
And yet a whole subculture is still stuck at that first morning. They are playing and replaying the footage of the disaster, looking for clues that it was an "inside job." They feel sure the post-9/11 era is built on a lie.
In recent months, interest in September 11-conspiracy theories has surged. Since January, traffic to the major conspiracy Web sites has increased steadily. The number of blogs that mention "9/11" and "conspiracy" each day has climbed from a handful to over a hundred.
Oddly enough, the answer lies with a soft-spoken physicist from Brigham Young University named Steven E. Jones, a devout Mormon and, until recently, a faithful supporter of George W. Bush.
Last November Mr. Jones posted a paper online advancing the hypothesis that the airplanes Americans saw crashing into the twin towers were not sufficient to cause their collapse, and that the towers had to have been brought down in a controlled demolition. Now he is the best hope of a movement that seeks to convince the rest of America that elements of the government are guilty of mass murder on their own soil.
His paper — written by an actual professor who works at an actual research university — has made him a celebrity in the conspiracy universe. He is now co-chairman of a group called the Scholars for 9/11 Truth, which includes about 50 professors — more in the humanities than in the sciences — from institutions like Clemson University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin.
But even as Mr. Jones's title and academic credentials give hope to the conspiracy theorists, his role in the movement may undermine those same credentials. What happens when science tries to function in a fringe crusade?
It was a gorgeous early June day in Chicago. Jetliners taking off from O'Hare were throwing clean, quick shadows on the ground. And a tall, biblically hairy man was weaving his way through the crowded first floor of the airport Embassy Suites hotel wearing a black T-shirt with Steven Jones's picture on it.
On this Friday afternoon, 500 conspiracy theorists descended on the Embassy Suites for a conference called "9/11: Revealing the Truth — Reclaiming Our Future." It was the most substantial gathering of the "9/11 truth movement," as the conspiracy theorists call themselves, to date. And for Mr. Jones, it was a coming out of sorts.
The 57-year-old professor, who has a long history of research in the controversial field of cold fusion, had not ventured outside Utah since he first posted his paper about the collapses seven months before. He was by now a huge figure in the movement — he was slated to deliver a keynote address that night — but he had not actually met many people involved, not even his co-chairman of Scholars for 9/11 Truth. On the airport shuttle ride to the hotel, he was almost sheepish. "This is one of the more unusual conferences I've been to," he said. "I don't know quite what to expect."
He probably did not know to expect that two journalists from Finnish TV would accost him at the hotel before he made it to the front desk. Or that the conference would draw so heavily on references to The Matrix.
That night, the first keynote address was delivered by Alex Jones (no relation to Steven), a radio personality from Austin, Tex., who has developed a cult following by railing against the New World Order. He is a bellicose, boyish-looking man with a voice that makes him sound like a cross between a preacher and an announcer at a cage wrestling match.
"It energizes my soul at its very core to be here with so many like-minded people," he began, "defending the very soul of humanity against the parasitic controllers of this world government, who are orchestrating terror attacks as a pretext to sell us into even greater slavery."
"If they think they're gonna get away with declaring war on humanity," he thundered, "they've got another think coming!"
The audience was a mix of rangy, long-haired men with pale complexions, suntanned guys with broad arms and mustaches, women with teased bangs, serious-looking youngsters wearing backpacks and didactic T-shirts, and elderly people with dreadlocks. But everyone seemed to get behind what Alex Jones had just said. In fact, they went absolutely wild with cheers.
Alex Jones then plunged into a history of what he called "government-sponsored terror." In this category, he included the Reichstag fire of 1933, the sinking of the USS Maine, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and a shadowy, never-executed 1962 plan called Operation Northwoods, in which the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved false terror attacks on American soil to provoke war with Cuba.
Then he got to matters closer at hand. He mentioned the Project for the New American Century, the think tank of prominent neoconservatives that wrote a report in 2000 called "Rebuilding America's Defenses," which includes a line that many 9/11 Truthers, as they call themselves, know by heart: "The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor."
To Alex Jones and to those in the audience, this was as good as finding the plans for September 11 in the neoconservatives' desk drawers.
"These people are psychopathic predators," Alex Jones rumbled. "They've got to be met head on!" The audience cheered like it was ready to tar and feather someone.
When Alex Jones finished, it was Steven Jones's turn to speak. The audience gave the professor a standing ovation before he had even said a word.
He stepped up to the podium in a tweed jacket. He had a kind face, a round nose, and hair somewhere between corn-silk blond and pale gray. He began to speak. His voice was reedy and slightly nasal. Someone yelled:
One of the most common intuitive problems people have with conspiracy theories is that they require positing such complicated webs of secret actions. If the twin towers fell in a carefully orchestrated demolition shortly after being hit by planes, who set the charges? Who did the planning? And how could hundreds, if not thousands of people complicit in the murder of their own countrymen keep quiet? Usually, Occam's razor intervenes.
Another common problem with conspiracy theories is that they tend to impute cartoonish motives to "them" — the elites who operate in the shadows. The end result often feels like a heavily plotted movie whose characters do not ring true
Then there are other cognitive Do Not Enter signs: When history ceases to resemble a train of conflicts and ambiguities and becomes instead a series of disinformation campaigns, you sense that a basic self-correcting mechanism of thought has been disabled. A bridge is out, and paranoia yawns below.
Steven Jones's contribution to the September 11 conspiracy movement is that he avoids these problems — or at least holds them at bay — by just talking about physics.
Like many others in the movement, Mr. Jones sees a number of "red flags" in the way the buildings fell. Why did the towers collapse at speeds close to the rate of free fall? Why did they fall straight down, instead of toppling over? Why did World Trade Center 7, a 47-story high-rise that was never hit by a plane, suddenly collapse in the same fashion — fast and straight down — on the evening of September 11?
A rather hefty report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology explains how high-temperature fires started by jet fuel caused the buildings' outer columns to bow in, leading to the buildings' collapse. But the conspiracy theorists complain that the report stops short of showing computer models of the collapses.
Mr. Jones's hypothesis is that the buildings were taken down with preplanted thermite — a mixture of iron oxide and aluminum powder that burns hot enough to vaporize steel when it is ignited. Mr. Jones says that this hypothesis offers the most elegant explanation for the manner in which the buildings collapsed. He says it best explains various anecdotal accounts that molten metal remained pooled in the debris piles of the buildings for weeks. And he says it offers the only satisfying explanation for a weird sight captured in video footage of the south tower just before its collapse.
Near a corner of the south tower, at around 9:50 a.m., a cascade of a yellow-hot substance started spewing out of the building. The National Institute of Standards and Technology says in its report that the substance was most likely molten aluminum from the airplane fuselage. But Mr. Jones points out that aluminum near its melting point is a pale-silver color, not yellow. By his reckoning, then, that spew is a thermite reaction in plain sight.
Mr. Jones is petitioning Congress to release the raw data that went into the National Institute of Standards and Technology report. "If they just give us the data," he says, "we'll take it from there."
Soon after Mr. Jones posted his paper online, the physics department at Brigham Young moved to distance itself from his work. The department released a statement saying that it was "not convinced that his analyses and hypotheses have been submitted to relevant scientific venues that would ensure rigorous technical peer review." (Mr. Jones's paper has been peer-reviewed by two physicists and two other scholars for publication in a book called 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, from Olive Branch Press.)
The Brigham Young college of engineering issued an even stronger statement on its Web site. "The structural engineering faculty," it read, "do not support the hypotheses of Professor Jones." However, his supporters complain, none of Mr. Jones's critics at Brigham Young have dealt with his points directly.
While there are a handful of Web sites that seek to debunk the claims of Mr. Jones and others in the movement, most mainstream scientists, in fact, have not seen fit to engage them.
"There's nothing to debunk," says Zdenek P. Bazant, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University and the author of the first peer-reviewed paper on the World Trade Center collapses.
"It's a non-issue," says Sivaraj Shyam-Sunder, a lead investigator for the National Institute of Standards and Technology's study of the collapses.
Ross B. Corotis, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a member of the editorial board at the journal Structural Safety, says that most engineers are pretty settled on what happened at the World Trade Center. "There's not really disagreement as to what happened for 99 percent of the details," he says.
Thomas W. Eagar is one scientist who has paid some attention to the demolition hypothesis — albeit grudgingly. A materials engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Eagar wrote one of the early papers on the buildings' collapses, which later became the basis for a documentary on PBS. That marked him for scrutiny and attack from conspiracy theorists. For a time, he says, he was receiving one or two angry e-mail messages each week, many accusing him of being a government shill. When Mr. Jones's paper came out, the nasty messages increased to one or two per day.
So Mr. Eagar has become reluctantly familiar with Mr. Jones's hypothesis, and he is not impressed. For example, he says, the cascade of yellow-hot particles coming out of the south tower could be any number of things: a butane can igniting, sparks from an electrical arc, molten aluminum and water forming a hydrogen reaction — or, perhaps most likely, a spontaneous, completely accidental thermite reaction.
Occasionally, he says, given enough mingled surface area, molten aluminum and rust can react violently, à la thermite. Given that there probably was plenty of molten aluminum from the plane wreckage in that building, Mr. Eagar says, it is entirely possible that this is what happened.
Others have brought up this notion as well, so Mr. Jones has carried out experiments in his lab trying to get small quantities of molten aluminum to react with rust. He has not witnessed the reaction and so rules it out. But Mr. Eagar says this is just a red herring: Accidental thermite reactions are a well-known phenomenon, he says. It just takes a lot of exposed surface area for the reaction to start.
Still, Mr. Eagar does not care to respond formally to Mr. Jones or the conspiracy movement. "I don't see any point in engaging them," he says.
Hence, in the world of mainstream science, Mr. Jones's hypothesis is more or less dead on the vine. But in the world of 9/11 Truth, it has seeded a whole garden of theories.
"Steven Jones! Who'd like Steven Jones!" hollered a man outside the main convention room as people exited Mr. Jones's speech. "Dripping metal! Steven Jones!"
He was selling DVD's of a speech Mr. Jones gave a few months earlier in Utah.
Another man walked by on the conference floor and pointed to a picture of the yellow-hot spew from the south tower. "There's your smoking gun," he said, to another conferencegoer.
The evening ended just after midnight, with the 9/11 Truthers chanting en masse in the conference hall, "We're mad as hell, and we're not gonna take it anymore."
"We have all kinds of weird conferences," said the concierge the next morning. "I mean, not to say this is weird. Last year we had one that was all tall people."
"For a while there, people who wanted to dismiss us could say, 'Well, it's just a bunch of crazies on the Internet,'" says David Ray Griffin, a well-known theologian and philosopher and a prominent member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth. "The very existence of the organization has added credibility," he said.
By many accounts, scholarly contributions to the movement began with Mr. Griffin, who retired from the Claremont School of Theology in 2004. About a year and a half after September 11, Mr. Griffin began reading books and Web sites arguing that the U.S. government was complicit in the attacks. Eventually, they won him over.
That left him feeling a peculiar sense of obligation, he says. The official story had all the voices of authority on its side, and the case for government complicity in the attacks had no real standing. "It was not reaching a really wide audience," he says.
So Mr. Griffin wrote his own book, trading on his authority as an academic. He called it The New Pearl Harbor. It was mostly just a synthesis of all the material he had read, tidied up by a philosopher's rhetorical skills.
When it was finished, he aggressively pursued blurbs for the book jacket — and eventually scored one from Howard Zinn, the radical professor emeritus of political science at Boston University. Mr. Zinn said the book was "the most persuasive argument I have seen for further investigation on the Bush administration's relationship to that historic and troubling event."
It went on to become one of the most successful books on the purported conspiracy.
"There's a big chasm between those who are even willing to entertain the hypothesis enough to look at the evidence and those who aren't," Mr. Griffin says. "The only way to overcome that is by appeal to authority."
"You can't just appeal in terms of straight argument," he says. "You've got to do something to break through, to get people to look at the evidence."
Now that the movement has progressed, and more voices of authority have joined, Mr. Griffin is more convinced than ever.
"I think now it's just irrefutable," he says. People who don't question the official story, he says, are "just whistling in the dark."
James H. Fetzer, the co-chairman of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, retired last month from his post as a distinguished McKnight university professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. He wanted to focus more on the movement. "Whether there's another critical-thinking course being taught at the University of Minnesota is relatively trivial," he says, "compared to this."
Mr. Fetzer, a voluble, impassioned man who often speaks in long paragraphs, is no stranger to conspiracy theory. Before September 11, he had a side career investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But the issues surrounding the Scholars for 9/11 Truth are far more acute, he thinks. In Mr. Fetzer's mind, the country is in a state of dire emergency.
Hence, it does not much bother Mr. Fetzer that outside scientists have largely refrained from tackling the group's arguments. "I don't think it's a problem," he says, "because we have so much competence and expertise among ourselves."
911myths.com, a Web site run by a software developer in England, is one of the few venues that offers a running scrutiny of the various claims and arguments coming out of the 9/11 Truth movement. Mr. Fetzer has heard of 911myths .com, but he has never visited the site.
"I have been dealing with disinformation and phony stories about the death of JFK for all these years. There's a huge amount of phoniness out there," he says. "You have to be very selective in how you approach these things."
"I can assure you the things I'm telling you about 9/11 have objective scientific status," he says. 911myths.com, he says, "is going to be built on either fabricated evidence, or disregard of the real evidence, or violations of the principles of scientific reasoning."
"They cannot be right," he says.
On the second afternoon of the conference, Mr. Fetzer gave a speech in one of the hotel salons to a standing-room-only crowd. It began like an introductory lecture in moral philosophy he might have given at the University of Minnesota. He discussed different theories for the origins of right and wrong — moral egoism, utilitarianism, deontological moral rights. Then he came to the emergency.
"The threat we face," he said, is "imminent and ominous." He recommended arming the citizenry.
During the question-and-answer session, an audience member asked whether there might be a way to capture a TV station, to get the word out about September 11. Mr. Fetzer upped the ante on the idea.
"Let me tell you, for years, I've been waiting for there to be a military coup to depose these traitors," he said from the podium.
"Yeah!" shouted some men in the audience.
"There actually was one weekend," Mr. Fetzer went on, "where I said to myself, my God, it's going to happen this weekend, and I'm going to wake up and they will have taken these guys off in chains."
His voice was building. "Listen to me," he said. "The degree of perfidy involved here is so great, that in the time of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, frenzied mobs would have dragged these men out of their beds in the middle of the night and ripped them to shreds!"
"Yeah!" cried a chorus of voices in the audience. "Yeah!"
Amid the cheers and applause that swept the room, there was Steven Jones, sitting quietly in a chair against the wall. He had one leg crossed over the other, and he was looking around at the cheering audience with a vaguely uncomfortable smile on his face, holding his foot in his hands.
The Untold Story of al-Qaeda's Plot to Attack the Subways
In an EXCLUSIVE BOOK EXCERPT, author Ron Suskind reveals how officials learned about a cell that came within weeks of striking in New York City with poison gas
By RON SUSKIND
Jun. 26, 2006
In the following excerpt, Suskind describes the government's reaction to information about a different WMD threat: hydrogen cyanide gas. As in the rest of the book, he illuminates the constant interplay and occasional tension between the "invisibles," the men and women in the intelligence and uniformed services actually fighting the war on terrorism, and the "notables," high-level officials who "tell us that everything will be fine, or that we should be very afraid, or both." Suskind, who won the Pulitzer Prize as a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, wrote the 2004 best seller The Price of Loyalty, an inside look at the Bush Administration. In The One Percent Doctrine, Suskind finds that the notables and the invisibles have at least one thing in common: a "profound sense of urgency." TIME's exclusive excerpt:
In late May 2002, the NAtional Security Agency had a gift for the CIA, and NSA Director Mike Hayden was on the phone to deliver it. They had as precious a dispatch as any since 9/11.
It was a communication from a designee of Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaeda chief had not used a cell phone or satellite phone since 1998. He was very careful. A ring of deputies, below the level of an Ayman al-Zawahiri or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, carried messages for him. The United States had determined who some of them were. They made calls, or sent e-mails, on bin Laden's behalf.
One such communication was passed to a mysterious character in Saudi Arabia who--on the intercepted signals intelligence--went by several aliases, the most compelling of which, translated from Arabic, meant "Swift Sword." Two things were clear. Bin Laden seemed to be alive and well and providing guidance from some location in the tribal regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; and Swift Sword was al-Qaeda's representative on the Arabian Peninsula. His hand seemed to be in several places at once in the kingdom, guiding several cells of angry opponents of the regime. The instructions from the top of al-Qaeda: Turn your operational focus toward the overthrow of the Saudi government.
The illegitimacy of the Saudi regime was a favorite subject for bin Laden. His dream was that it, along with regimes in Egypt, Jordan and countries across the region, would be overthrown, and that he would rule a restored Muslim empire, a caliphate, stretching from Tehran to Cairo, from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic. But this communication was not about grand designs and distant dreams. It was an action plan for whom to kill and what targets to hit. Specifically, kill members of the royal family, and destroy the oil fields.
The idea of sabotaging the Saudi oil fields--the world's largest oil reserve--strikes directly at the heart of the uneasy co-dependency of the gulf's oil-producing countries and their avid customers in the developed world. Fifteen percent of U.S. oil comes from Saudi Arabia. The strategic import of bin Laden's dictate was immediately clear to U.S. policymakers. His goal was never the untenable idea of engaging in a lasting struggle with America. It was, rather, to prompt the United States to withdraw its support for various Arab regimes, particularly Saudi Arabia, leaving them vulnerable to uprisings.
Tenet and his briefers informed Cheney and President Bush of the intercepted communications. Then they went to see Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Bandar greeted the delegation arriving at his palatial home in northern Virginia, Tenet and his small band of deputies. They hugged. Tenet is a hugger. He and Bandar have passed countless hours together, trust building, a Tenet specialty.
After brief cordialities, Tenet got down to business. He leaned forward. A concerned look crossed his wide mug. "Bad news," Tenet said. "Bin Laden has changed his focus. Now it's you. It's Saudi Arabia."
Bandar was grim. "Scotch?"
He got some. And they drank Johnnie Walker Blue Label as Tenet delivered the bad news. He described the intelligence.
"Can we see the cable?" Bandar asked.
"Can't," Tenet said. "But I'll tell you everything you need to know."
It was the start of a secret shift in relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, getting the Saudis off the sidelines and on the field. Bush's meeting with the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, a month earlier, hadn't done it, nor had a stream of U.S. dignitaries arriving in Riyadh, exhorting the Saudis to allow the Americans to interview the families of the 9/11 terrorists or, at least, to provide access to bank accounts that might yield leads to terror financiers. It was fear that moved the Saudis. The oil fields, the function of every equation, were targeted. The House of Saud was under direct attack.
Bandar poured a second glass. "Where do we begin?"
The King Fahd Causeway, connecting the countries of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, is seen by many Saudis--both religious and not--as an illicit passage.
It is steel and concrete as metaphor--tied, on one shoreline, to a truce struck between the Saudi ruling family and religious traditionalists in the kingdom. The Sauds get virtually limitless wealth, a healthy chunk of which they share with their dour clerical partners and their Wahhabist accountants. In exchange, the royals receive a stamp of religious approval, as the true protectors of the Holy Sites of Mecca and Medina, as well as an understanding that 25,000 or so members of the royal family can do, more or less, anything they please, while the country's 27 million citizens live under strict religious laws mandating traditional dress, shrouding of women, prohibitions against the consumption of alcohol or premarital sex. Adultery carries a death sentence.
For such indulgences, and countless others, you cross the bridge to the island principality of Bahrain--a country of almost 700,000, with high-rise hotels, a playboy king, a base for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, and significant cash flow from its role as a discreet "service provider" for Saudi Arabia. The lives of Saudis, and Bahrainis, are thoroughly framed by this arrangement, and its attendant hypocrisies. And both suffer the presence of its by-product: groups of stealthy, violent religious purists, graced with many opportunities to feel self-righteous.
One such group was traveling across the King Fahd bridge toward Bahrain on Feb. 13, 2003, when they were picked up by Bahraini police. The United States, specifically the CIA, was behind the arrest. The NSA had picked up calls and e-mails from a cluster of Bahrainis that were troubling--boastful talk of what should be done to infidels, and some problem phrases, such as picking up "honey pots." "Honey" is often terrorist code for destructive items.
The Bahraini group consisted of five men: two gunrunners of a traditional criminal stripe, and three men with strong jihadist credentials. All were put through the basics of law enforcement procedure that are not necessarily common in their part of the world. Their belongings--cars, cell phones, wallets--were held in a secure place, used to glean further leads, and their apartments were searched.
One of the jihadists, Bassam Bokhowa, an educated fiftyish professional, with computer skills, had visited an apartment in Saudi Arabia. And there, a joint Saudi-U.S. counterterrorist unit, formed after the meeting with Bandar in his study, found a computer. The contents were dumped onto a separate hard drive, which was sent to the United States for imaging--a way to suck out digitalia, encrypted or not.
That's where they found it: plans for construction of a device called a mubtakkar. It is a fearful thing, and quite real.
Precisely, the mubtakkar is a delivery system for a widely available combination of chemicals--sodium cyanide, which is used as rat poison and metal cleanser, and hydrogen, which is everywhere. The combination of the two creates hydrogen cyanide, a colorless, highly volatile liquid that is soluble and stable in water. It has a faint odor, like peach kernels or bitter almonds. When it is turned into gas and inhaled, it is lethal. For years, figuring out how to deliver this combination of chemicals as a gas has been something of a holy grail for terrorists.
Ramzi Yousef plotted to release the gas into the ventilation system of the World Trade Center prior to bombing the place in 1993 and couldn't quite manage it. The famous chemical attack by the doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo on the Tokyo subway in March 1995--the release of sarin gas that killed 12 people and sent about 5,000 to area hospitals--was followed, two months later, by an attempted cyanide gas attack by cult members. A small fire, set in a Tokyo restroom that ventilated onto a subway platform, was designed to disperse the gas and was extinguished by alert subway guards.
Terrorism experts inside many governments have been on the lookout for reports of a solution to these engineering hurdles. Now, the CIA had found it. Mubtakkar means "invention" in Arabic, "the initiative" in Farsi. The device is a bit of both. It's a canister with two interior containers: sodium cyanide is in one; a hydrogen product, like hydrochloric acid, in the other; and a fuse breaks the seal between them. The fuse can be activated remotely--as bombs are triggered by cell phones--breaking the seal, creating the gas, which is then released. Hydrogen cyanide gas is a blood agent, which means it poisons cells by preventing them from being able to utilize oxygen carried in the blood. Exposure leads to dizziness, nausea, weakness, loss of consciousness and convulsions. Breathing stops and death follows. (Since blood agents are carried through the respiratory system, a gas mask is the only protection needed. If one is exposed to blood agents, amyl nitrite provides an antidote, if administered quickly enough.)
In a confined environment, such as an office building's ventilation system or a subway car, hydrogen cyanide would cause many deaths. The most chilling illustration of what happens in a closed space comes from a 20th century monstrosity. The Nazis used a form of hydrogen cyanide called Zyklon B in the gas chambers of their concentration camps.
When the plans were discovered on Bokhowa's hard drive, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the CIA's operational chief for WMD and terrorism, and his counterpart, "Leon," who heads the analytical side of that same division, went into something just shy of a panic. Leon instantly pulled together a team to make a model of the device that he could eventually test.
At 5 p.m. in Tenet's conference room in early March, Leon waited until everyone was seated. He pulled from a bag a cylinder, about the size of a paint can, with two Mason jars in it. He placed it in the center of the large mahogany conference table, sat back down in his chair. People had heard various things about the recent discovery of a delivery system.
But seeing it was something else.
"Oh, s___," Tenet whispered after a moment.
John McLaughlin, Tenet's deputy, sat forward in his chair--thinking of how easily it might be transported in a backpack, a suitcase, a shopping bag, and how innocuous it looked.
The room fell silent.
"The man's got to see this," Tenet said, and called the White House to clear a few extra CIA briefers for the next morning's presidential briefing.
Tenet entered the Oval Office first, to prebrief Bush for four or five minutes. This was common practice: a short confidential primer from Tenet, so Bush could be authoritative and updated when others arrived.
The CIA briefers were summoned from the waiting area. One of them placed the mubtakkar on a low table in the sitting area. Bush looked at it. Cheney and the others were seated. The President picked it up--felt its weight. "Thing's a nightmare," he said quietly, almost to himself, and put it down. A CIA briefer went through a dissertation on the device, the technical problems it solved, its probable uses and the long road of trial and error leading to this moment. Everyone just sat in the Oval Office, looking at it--thinking about the era and its challenges, and saying nothing.
After the Oval Office briefing, Bush ordered alerts sent through the U.S. government. Tenet held meetings with the intelligence chiefs. Rolf and Leon showed the device to the relevant people in law enforcement and other intelligence services. The word had to be spread. The device was unstoppable--for people walking onto subway cars, railroad trains or through crowded, enclosed areas of any kind. Selective awareness, under intense standards of secrecy, seemed to be the only response.
In the world of terrorist weaponry, this was the equivalent of splitting the atom. Obtain a few widely available chemicals, and you could construct it with a trip to Home Depot and then kill everyone in the store.
Bahraini police found a phone number in Bokhowa's records that led to an address in Saudi Arabia. Three men were arrested in Riyadh. They were part of a diffuse community of radical Islamic activists in the kingdom. Beyond their connection to the Bahrainis, the Saudi trio was connected to another threesome of jihadists in the kingdom. They were arrested as well. All of these actions were handled under the supervision and encouragement of the CIA, which had large stations in both countries. This investigation was now a priority. Finding the mubtakkar designs in Bokhowa's computer had ensured that.
But getting action from the Saudis, even now, nine months after Tenet had delivered his warnings to Prince Bandar, was anything but easy. Interrogations commenced. CIA operatives could only stand on the sidelines. The questions posed to the prisoners--both the Bahraini group and the two sets of captives in Saudi Arabia--were pointed. Yet compared with what was happening to captured al-Qaeda men Abu Zubaydah or Ramzi Binalshibh at "black sites," these interrogations were polite, respectful. The captives were all religious men. Day after day, they praised Allah and talked about their bonds of religious commitment to one another. This is a problem, said one CIA operative on the case. "Some of these guys are looked at almost like clergy. It's hard to interrogate clergy."
Bokhowa was especially savvy. He was too old to be a courier; he was more an analyst than an operator. He had highly placed friends in the country's community of Islamic activists. If there was a wider plot here, it remained out of sight. The Bahraini trio and the two Saudi trios were clearly tied to one another, but where they fit in a broader array of the region's jihadists was unclear. They did not seem to be tightly connected to several other Saudi cells that were being tracked by the U.S.-Saudi intelligence teams. Nor did they seem connected to the mysterious Swift Sword, who had appeared numerous times on cables picked up by the NSA and seemed to be running matters on the peninsula.
The President, each morning, would ask Tenet, "What've you got on the mubtakkar?"
Tenet would reply, "Not much more, but we're doing anything we can to pin down who these guys are."
In the middle of March, as the invasion of Iraq directed the energies and focus of the Administration, CIA chiefs huddled in Langley. They simply had no context for either the trio in Bahrain or the ones in Saudi Arabia. The White House and CIA pressed officials in both countries with a single message. We're on the case. Just don't let these men go free.
It has been generally acknowledged that the United States has never had any significant human sources--or, in intelligese, humint assets--inside al-Qaeda.
That is not true.
It was, in fact, not true by early 2003. There was a source from within Pakistan who was tied tightly into al-Qaeda management.
Call him Ali.
Ali was, not surprisingly, a complex character. He believed that bin Laden might have made a mistake in attacking America. This was not an uncommon sentiment among senior officials in the organization. It is, in fact, periodically a point of internal debate, according to sigint--signals intelligence--picked up in this period. Bin Laden's initial calculation was that either America wouldn't respond to the attacks or that its response would mean the U.S. Army would soon be sinking in an Afghan quagmire. That, of course, did not occur. U.S. forces--despite the mishap of letting bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and most of the organization's management escape--had managed to overthrow the Taliban and flush al-Qaeda from its refuge. The group was now dispersed. A few of its leaders and many foot soldiers were captured or dead. As with any organization, time passed and second-guessing began.
That provided an opening. The disgruntlement was enough to begin working a few potential informants. It was an operation of relationship building that reflected traditional European spycraft. Build common bonds. Show sympathy to the sources' concerns. Develop trust. While al-Qaeda recruits were ready for martyrdom, that was something its more senior officials seemed to have little taste for. As one CIA manager said, "Masterminds are too valuable for martyrdom." Whatever Ali's motivations, his reports--over the preceding six months--had been almost always correct, including information that led to several captures.
Now, in late March 2003, the CIA was in a jam. The Saudis were complaining that they couldn't hold prisoners without some evidence of wrongdoing. The trio directly connected to the Bahrainis, they could hold for only a few more weeks. The other trio, they had already released. They had nothing on them.
It was time to call on Ali.
His handler contacted him through an elaborate set of signals, and a meeting was set up. CIA operatives mentioned to him the names of the captives in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and the existence of the mubtakkar designs.
Ali said he might be able to help. He told his CIA handlers that a Saudi radical had visited bin Laden's partner al-Zawahiri, in January 2003. The man ran the Arabian Peninsula for al-Qaeda, and one of his aliases was Swift Sword. Ali said the man's name was Yusef al-Ayeri. Finally, the United States had a name for Swift Sword.
This brought elation--a mystery solved, a case cracked--and then screams of pain. Al-Ayeri was in the Saudi group that had been released. They had had him. The Saudis let him go.
But what Ali would next tell his American handlers would shape American policy and launch years of debate inside the White House. He said that al-Ayeri had come to tell al-Zawahiri of a plot that was well under way in the United States. It was a hydrogen cyanide attack planned for the New York City subways. The cell members had traveled to New York City through North Africa in the fall of 2002 and had thoroughly cased the locations for the attacks. The device would be the mubtakkar. There would be several placed in subway cars and other strategic locations and activated remotely. This was well past conception and early planning. The group was operational. They were 45 days from zero hour.
Then Ali told his handlers something that left intelligence officials speechless and vexed. Al-Zawahiri had called off the attacks. Ali did not know the precise explanation why. He just knew al-Zawahiri had called them off.
Ali then offered insights into the emerging structure of Islamic terrorist networks. The Saudi group in the United States was only loosely managed by al-Ayeri or al-Qaeda. They were part of a wider array of self-activated cells across Europe and the gulf, linked by an ideology of radicalism and violence, and by affection for bin Laden. They were affiliates, not tightly tied to a broader al-Qaeda structure, but still attentive to the wishes of bin Laden or al-Zawahiri. Al-Ayeri passed al-Zawahiri's message to the terror cell in the U.S. They backed off.
Over the next days, teams of CIA briefers, analysts and operatives were in the Oval Office. The President and the Vice President sat in the two wing chairs, each with his back to the fireplace.
"We need to figure this out," Bush said, "as long as it takes. We need to get our arms around this thing."
First, a nightmare delivery system--portable, easy to construct, deadly.
And now, this--evidence of a truly operational attack on American soil, the first since 9/11. Mubtakkars in the New York subways? As the questions rose and swirled, in the back of each person's mind ran disaster scenarios, continuous play, of panic underground in New York.
The Vice President was intense. "The question is why would Zawahiri have called them off? What does it indicate about al-Qaeda's strategy?"
Bush cut him off. He was more interested in Ali.
"Why is this guy cooperating with us? That I don't understand."
The CIA analysts attempted answers. Many of the questions were simply unanswerable.
Bush became focused on the players. Now that the United States finally knew the identity of Swift Sword, how did he fit? CIA analysts explained a triangle of relationships--and that al-Ayeri had been captured and then released: "The Saudis didn't know what they had." But having al-Ayeri's identity confirmed helped CIA establish links between al-Qaeda's Saudi chief and the Saudi group that was still in custody. The U.S. cell, whereabouts unknown, was linked to them both.
Bush, in tactical mode, pressed them. "Who came to New York?" and "Are they still here, somewhere?"
The answer from the CIA briefers: "We don't know."
As Bush dug deeper, Cheney moved to reframe the discussion. Did al-Zawahiri call off the attack because the United States was putting too much pressure on the al-Qaeda organization? "Or is it because he didn't feel this was sufficient for a 'second wave'?" Cheney asked. "Is that why he called it off? Because it wasn't enough?"
The destruction tape--still running, unexpressed, in everyone's head--turned toward calculation. Ten subway cars at rush hour--two hundred people in a car--another thousand trampled in the underground in rush-hour panic as the gas spreads through the station. As many dead as 9/11, with a WMD attack spreading a devastating, airborne fear?
Not enough of a second wave?
"I mean, this is bad enough. What does calling this off say about what else they're planning?" Bush blurted out. His eyes were wide, fist clenched. "What could be the bigger operation Zawahiri didn't want to mess up?"
In April 2003, while the world's many eyes were trained on Iraq, and vivid images of U.S. tanks settled along Baghdad streets, the CIA's analysts and operators were sending urgent messages to the Saudis: something was coming.
The kingdom, with a subpar system of telephone landlines, is the land of the cell phone. And not cell phones that were being judiciously discarded and replaced, a technique of the more skilled jihadist operative. Saudis love their "mobiles." That love meant that the sigint was strong.
And deafening. The United States started to discover proof of thousands of militants, sympathetic to al-Qaeda and maybe bent on violence, operating inside Saudi Arabia. Since the warning delivered to Prince Bandar the year before, cooperation between the CIA and Saudi intelligence had broadened. There was still a kernel of distrust--the United States would not show the Saudis its sigint cables--and actionable intelligence it passed along often vanished when it reached the salons of the royal family, whose interests were often inscrutably complex.
Tenet called Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who runs the country's interior department for his father--the imperious, religious Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the country's chief of interior and intelligence matters. Operators of the Middle East desk at NSC made calls to mid-rung Saudi officials. Bob Jordan, the U.S. ambassador, was asked by the State Department and White House to talk directly to contacts in Riyadh. The United States didn't know the time or the place--but al-Qaeda's Saudi army was gathering. There was another, companion message. A message of pressing U.S. interest: Find al-Ayeri.
Since the Americans had identified the elusive Swift Sword in March as Yusef al-Ayeri, the status of the al-Qaeda operative had risen swiftly. A name will do that. It helps fix identity. First, it was discovered that this al-Ayeri was behind a website, al-Nida, that U.S. investigators had long felt carried some of the most specialized analysis and coded directives about al-Qaeda's motives and plans. He was also the anonymous author of two extraordinary pieces of writing--short books, really, that had recently moved through cyberspace, about al-Qaeda's underlying strategies. The Future of Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula After the Fall of Baghdad, written as the United States prepared its attack, said that an American invasion of Iraq would be the best possible outcome for al-Qaeda, stoking extremism throughout the Persian Gulf and South Asia and achieving precisely the radicalizing quagmire that bin Laden had hoped would occur in Afghanistan. A second book, Crusaders' War, outlined a tactical model for fighting the American forces in Iraq, including "assassination and poisoning the enemy's food and drink," remotely triggered explosives, suicide bombings and lightning-strike ambushes. It was the playbook.
Once it became clear that the writer wasn't some enthusiast looking to curry favor with al-Qaeda but the organization's chief for the Arabian Peninsula, the writings took on predictive import. Al-Ayeri was conducting a kind of cyberspace conversation with bin Laden and al-Zawahiri.
And more specific conversations, as well. Tucked inside the sigint chatter in April 2003 of possible upcoming attacks inside the kingdom was evidence of a tense dialogue between al-Ayeri and another, less senior operative in the gulf, Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi, over whether the Saudi al-Qaeda operation had enough men, weapons and organization to truly challenge and overthrow the Saudi regime. Al-Ayeri said no, it was too soon, the organization had not yet matured, while al-Ghamdi strongly recommended pushing forward. Al-Zawahiri, who managed the discourse, sided with al-Ghamdi.
On May 6, the first inkling of trouble surfaced: a gun battle in Riyadh between well-armed terrorists and Saudi security forces. The Saudi government issued a most-wanted list--citing 19 insurgents, including al-Ayeri and al-Ghamdi, and adding photographs. Six days later, explosions ripped through an apartment complex on the outskirts of Riyadh, killing 35--including nine Americans--and injuring more than 300. War broke out in the streets of Riyadh, as Saudi forces clashed with well-armed al-Qaeda soldiers.
Events were being monitored by the hour inside the CIA. "Owning Iraq," a country in confusion, with its oil wells shut down, was one matter. The overthrow of Saudi Arabia--the true nexus of oil and Allah, producer of 25% of the world's exported petroleum and, by some U.S. estimates, nearly all of the world's most far-reaching terrorism--was entirely another. At a 5 p.m. meeting in mid-May, the CIA's top management huddled. Tenet, that morning, had been grilled by Cheney about the status of the CIA's investigation of the reputed mubtakkar cell in the United States.
"What do we know?" Cheney pressed CIA operatives. "This could be another 9/11. This one we can't miss."
Tenet's response was dispiriting. He told Bush and Cheney that interrogations of both the Bahraini trio and the Saudi trio still in custody had, thus far, yielded nothing. Saudi intelligence said it was keeping track of the whereabouts of the trio that recently had been let go. Short of al-Zawahiri, the only person who could potentially identify the U.S. mubtakkar cell was al-Ayeri.
Cheney was grim. The priorities were clear, he intoned. Al-Ayeri--writing shrewd assessments of Iraq's future, going head-to-head with al-Zawahiri, managing al-Qaeda affairs in Saudi Arabia and, possibly, guiding the only operational WMD attack in America--might be the most important active member of al-Qaeda. He must be found. As things heated up in the kingdom, calls from the White House and the CIA to the top of the Saudi hierarchy were urgent and clear: Make sure al-Ayeri is captured, alive.
On May 31, a carful of young men ran a Saudi roadblock near Mecca. As they passed, the driver threw a grenade at the guards. Saudi security forces gave chase and cornered the men in a building. A standoff took shape. The Saudis called in reinforcements. Overwhelming force was applied to the situation. All the terrorists were killed, including a man easily identified from pictures plastered across the kingdom: Yusef al-Ayeri.
In the breast pocket of the bullet-riddled body was a letter from bin Laden. It was an affectionate, personal letter, six months old, congratulating the young man on his good work and on a successful celebration of 'Id al-Fitr, the feast at the end of Ramadan. The letter was now covered in al-Ayeri's blood.
The Saudis put out no press reports in the days following the gunfight. It took several days before they notified the United States. They never bothered to collect al-Ayeri's personal effects--his cell phone, his address book, the registry of his car, or trace such clues back to an apartment that might be searched.
The news hit hard at CIA. It soon became a metaphor, a Chinese box displaying the dilemmas of the "war on terror." The Saudis--like the Pakistanis, the Yemenis, the Sudanese and so many "dark side" states allied with the United States in the battle--had a way of often disappointing America. Beneath the warm handshakes and affectionate words, there was always that nugget of distrust. Were our interests truly aligned? What were they telling us; what were they withholding? All were ruled by dictators, who, necessarily, view power and their own self-preservation in ways that differ from a democracy.
The U.S., of course, had told the Saudis about the mubtakkar discovery, and about the report of an operational Saudi cell with chemical weapons in America. We hadn't told them exactly how we knew. We never told them about Ali, the al-Qaeda inside source in Pakistan, who fingered al-Ayeri. We couldn't because, deep down, we don't trust our friends from Riyadh. As they do not trust us.
But in the urgent days of May, the CIA let on to the Saudis that al-Ayeri might know about the mubtakkar cell--and that he might be the only one. In postmortems that roiled through Langley, that last part was seen, maybe, as a misstep. 9/11, with 15 of the 19 hijackers from the kingdom, created the greatest fissure in the long, dime-a-dance waltz between Saudi Arabia and America. The effect of a second disaster--with chemical weapons and a clear link to Saudi Arabia--would be unfathomable.
"It was a bad day. We wondered, Was it an accident that they killed him, or not? The Saudis just shrugged. They said their people got a little overzealous," said one of the top CIA operatives who was fixated on al-Ayeri, hoping he might lead investigators along a Saudi trail to the WMD attack cell in America. "The bottom line: the missing link was dead, and his personal effects, which can be pretty important, were gone. Like so much else when you're dealing with these countries, you're never sure--Was it an issue of will or capability? Just try to sort those two things out."
Tenet brought the bad news to Bush and Cheney at the next morning briefing. Bush was angry. At the very least, he told Tenet, tersely, someone should be sent to Riyadh to get the Saudis to rearrest the trio that had recently been released. A few days later, Mowatt-Larssen entered the chambers of Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, at the Royal Palace in Riyadh. He knew not to expect much. Meetings with Nayef were often short and nonproductive.
Mowatt-Larssen dispensed with pleasantries. "With al-Ayeri dead, we want you to rearrest the others and hold them for as long as possible," he said, referring to the other trio.
Nayef nodded. "Fine."
"But," he added, "we cannot hold people indefinitely when there is no hard evidence against them and no charges." After a few more minutes of the lecture--about how important due process and civil rights are to the Saudis--Nayef said they would hold the men for only a few more months. "We're doing this because you are asking us. But if you have any evidence against them, you better show it."
The meeting lasted five minutes. Mowatt-Larssen smiled, a tight, tense smile, then thanked the Prince for his extremely valuable time and cooperation.
FROM THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE, BY RON SUSKIND. © 2006 BY RON SUSKIND. TO BE PUBLISHED BY SIMON & SCHUSTER
We Don't Get No Respect
'It's not a real conversion,' remarks one senior European politician. 'It's a product of failure.'
By Fareed Zakaria
July 3-10, 2006 issue - The Bush administration must wonder these days if it has a Rodney Dangerfield problem. No matter what it does, it can't seem to get any respect. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has engineered a broad shift in American diplomacy over the last year, moving policy toward greater multilateralism, cooperation and common sense on Iran, North Korea and Iraq, and several other issues. And yet it hasn't produced a change in attitudes toward the United States. The recent Pew global survey documents a further drop in America's poor image abroad. President Bush tried to be conciliatory while visiting Europe last week but confronted an angry public. A poll published in the Financial Times on the eve of his visit showed that across the continent, the United States was considered a greater threat to world peace than Iran or North Korea.
Why aren't people noticing the new, improved Bush foreign policy? First, the changes coming out of Washington have been very recent. Perhaps more important, they remain incremental and incomplete. This is probably because they are still contested within the administration. Almost all of those officials who embody the administration's crude and clumsy policies of the first term—led by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney—remain in office. They merely appear to be lying low, for now. So there's a limit to how much things can change. What appears like a revolution in Bush policy—the administration is now finally thinking that maybe, possibly, Guantánamo should be shut down—often is just the belated arrival of common sense.
Rice and her team are clearly in charge—and extremely capable—but they operate within fairly tight constraints. The result is that the new approach retains many elements of the old: hectoring rhetoric, constant conditions and stiff demands. U.S. negotiators can talk to the North Koreans, but only on certain subjects in limited ways. For example, the North Korea talks have gone nowhere for some months in part because the United States has suddenly decided that Pyongyang's counterfeiting of currency is a dealbreaker and must stop before any further progress can be achieved. Memo to Washington: get your priorities right. The urgent problem right now is not that North Korea can make fake dollars but that it can make genuine nukes.
On Iran, Rice has won a broader reversal of policy by personally making her case to the president. But even there, the offer of talks is tightly conditional. She does not appear to have the flexibility and scope to really explore the diplomatic option. No one in the administration seems able to really take a fresh look. The entire approach of isolating, shunning and sanctioning regimes as a way of changing them or their behavior has been an unmitigated failure from Cuba (boycotted since 1960) to Iran (since 1979). Meanwhile, the regimes we have talked to and thus had influence with—in China, Vietnam, Libya—are evolving. In Washington, it's still more important to look tough than be effective.
But the main reason the Bush administration's overtures aren't having the effect that might have been expected is that they have come about under duress. "You're bogged down in Iraq, and so you need us to help you," said a senior European politician who declined to be named because he didn't want to add to transatlantic tensions. "It's not a real conversion. It's a product of failure. The administration tried unilateralism and, when it failed, went for a multilateral approach."
An international diplomat, who was revealing a private conversation, went further, saying that the Iranians remain suspicious because they are themselves wary of greater engagement with the West but also because they suspect Washington's motives. "An Iranian diplomat told me that Tehran believes Washington's change of heart has come only because it is in trouble in Iraq," he said. "If the situation in Iraq stabilizes, their attitude will instantly harden."
And you know what? The Iranians might be right. The Bush administration has moved to be more conciliatory, more multilateral and more sensible. But it's done this because its preferred approach failed, most spectacularly in Iraq.
As if to remind us of its preferred option, John Bolton has remained largely unreformed at the United Nations. Taking on the politically easy task of U.N.-bashing, his style has alienated almost every other country, resulting in failure after failure, most notably the breakdown of a reform program that met many of the United States' demands. His latest salvo was a crude, bullying message to Secretary-General Kofi Annan—that he expected U.N. officials to speak only in glowing terms of the United States (even as he constantly bashes the U.N.). In five minutes of posturing in front of a microphone, Bolton undoes five months of careful work by his boss, the secretary of State.
If the Bush administration wants to gain the benefits of a new and different foreign policy, it needs to actually have a new and different foreign policy—without rogue officials' constantly undermining it. And it has to convince the world that this new policy is the product of a change of heart, not a change of circumstance.
Write the author at email@example.com.
anger spurs 9/11 conspiracy belief
by: Thomas Hargrove and Guido
H. Stempel III
More than a third of the American public suspects that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East, according to a new Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll.
The national survey of 1,010 adults also found that anger against the federal government is at record levels, with 54 percent saying they "personally are more angry" at the government than they used to be.
Widespread resentment and alienation toward the national government appears to be fueling a growing acceptance of conspiracy theories about the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Suspicions that the 9/11 attacks were "an inside job" _ the common phrase used by conspiracy theorists on the Internet _ quickly have become nearly as popular as decades-old conspiracy theories that the federal government was responsible for President John F. Kennedy's assassination and that it has covered up proof of space aliens.
Seventy percent of people who give credence to these theories also say they've become angrier with the federal government than they used to be.
Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East."
"One out of three sounds high, but that may very well be right," said Lee Hamilton, former vice chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also called the 9/11 commission.) His congressionally appointed investigation concluded that federal officials bungled their attempts to prevent, but did not participate in, the attacks by al Qaeda five years ago.
"A lot of people I've encountered believe the U.S. government was involved," Hamilton said. "Many say the government planned the whole thing. Of course, we don't think the evidence leads that way at all."
The poll also found that 16 percent of Americans speculate that secretly planted explosives, not burning passenger jets, were the real reason the massive twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed.
Conspiracy groups for at least two years have also questioned why the World Trade Center collapsed when fires that heavily damaged similar skyscrapers around the world did not cause such destruction. Sixteen percent said it's "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that "the collapse of the twin towers in New York was aided by explosives secretly planted in the two buildings."
Twelve percent suspect the Pentagon was struck by a military cruise missile in 2001 rather than by an airliner captured by terrorists.
That lower percentage may result from an effort by the conservative Washington-based Judicial Watch advocacy group to debunk the claim. The group filed claims under the Freedom of Information Act and got two fill loops released from Pentagon security cameras.
"Some people claim they can't see anything, but I see a plane hitting the Pentagon at incredibly high speed," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "I see the nose of the plane clearly entering the frame of one video and the tail of the plane entering the Pentagon in the other video."
Many conspiracy Web sites have posted the video loops and report the films are inconclusive or were manipulated by the government.
"Some folks will never be convinced," Fitton said. "But I'm hoping that these videos will dissuade reasonable people from falling into a trap with these conspiracy theories."
University of Florida law professor Mark Fenster, author of the book "Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture," said the poll's findings reflect public anger at the unpopular Iraq war, realization that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction and growing doubts of the veracity of the Bush administration.
"What has amazed me is not that there are conspiracy theories, but that they didn't seem to be getting any purchase among the American public until the last year or so," Fenster said. "Although the Iraq war was not directly related to the 9/11 attacks, people are now looking back at 9/11 with much more skepticism than they used to."
Conspiracy-believing participants in the poll agree their suspicions are recent.
"I certainly didn't think of conspiracies when 9/11 first happened," said Elaine Tripp, 62, of Tabernacle, N.J. "I don't know if President Bush was aware of the exact time it was going to happen. But he certainly didn't do enough to stop it. Bush was so intent on having his own little war."
Garrett Johnson, 19, of Manassas, Va., said it was "well after the fact" before he started questioning the official explanation of the attacks. "But then people I know started talking about it. And the Internet had a lot to do with this. After reading all of the different articles there, I started to think we weren't being told the truth."
The Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University has tracked the level of resentment people feel toward the federal government since 1995, starting shortly after Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City. Forty-seven percent then said they, personally, feel "more angry at the federal government" than they used to. That percentage dropped to 42 percent in 1997, 34 percent in 1998 and only 12 percent shortly after 9/11 during the groundswell of patriotism and support for the government after the attacks.
But the new survey found that 77 percent say their friends and acquaintances have become angrier with government recently and 54 percent say they, themselves, have become angrier _ both record levels.
The survey also found that people who regularly use the Internet but who do not regularly use so-called "mainstream" media are significantly more likely to believe in 9/11 conspiracies. People who regularly read daily newspapers or listen to radio newscasts were especially unlikely to believe in the conspiracies.
"We know that there are a lot of people now asking questions," said Janice Matthews, executive director of 911Truth.org, one of the most sophisticated Internet sites raising doubts about official explanations of the attacks. "We didn't have the Internet after Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin or the Kennedy assassination. But we live in different times now."
Matthews' Web site averaged 4,000 "hits" a day last year, but currently has at least 12,000 visits every 24 hours. The site, according to its online policy statement, is dedicated to showing the public that "elements within the U.S. government must have orchestrated or participated in the execution of the attacks for these to have happened the way in which they did."
Participants in the poll were asked to respond to "several serious accusations that some people have made against the federal government in recent years." Five conspiracy theories were described and participants were asked if each was "very likely, somewhat likely or unlikely."
The level of suspicion of U.S. official involvement in a 9/11 conspiracy was only slightly behind the 40 percent who suspect "officials in the federal government were directly responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy" and the 38 percent who believe "the federal government is withholding proof of the existence of intelligent life from other planets."
The poll found that a majority of young adults give at least some credence to a 9/11 conspiracy compared to less than a fourth of people 65 or older. Members of racial and ethnic minorities, people with only a high school education and Democrats were especially likely to suspect federal involvement in 9/11.
The survey was conducted by telephone from July 6-24 at the Scripps Survey Research Center at the University of Ohio under a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
conspiracy theorists energized
Five years later, purveyors claim academic momentum
Sunday, August 6, 2006; Posted: 11:45 p.m. EDT (03:45 GMT)
(AP) -- Kevin Barrett believes the U.S. government might have destroyed the World Trade Center. Steven Jones is researching what he calls evidence that the twin towers were brought down by explosives detonated inside them, not by hijacked airliners.
These men aren't uneducated junk scientists: Barrett will teach a class on Islam at the University of Wisconsin this fall, over the protests of more than 60 state legislators. Jones is a tenured physicist at Brigham Young University whose mainstream academic job has made him a hero to conspiracy theorists.
Five years after the terrorist attacks, a community that believes widely discredited ideas about what happened on September 11, 2001, persists and even thrives. Members trade their ideas on the Internet and in self-published papers and in books. About 500 of them attended a recent conference in Chicago, Illinois.
The movement claims to be drawing fresh energy and credibility from a recently formed group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth.
The organization says publicity over Barrett's case has helped boost membership to about 75 academics. They are a tiny minority of the 1 million part- and full-time faculty nationwide, and some have no university affiliation. Most aren't experts in relevant fields.
But some are well educated, with degrees from elite universities such as Princeton and Stanford and jobs at schools including Rice, Indiana and the University of Texas.
"Things are happening," said co-founder James Fetzer, a retired philosophy professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, who maintains, among other claims, that some of the hijackers are still alive. "We're going to continue to do this. Our role is to establish what really happened on 9/11."
What really happened, the national September 11 commission concluded after 1,200 interviews, was that hijackers crashed planes into the twin towers.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a government agency, filed 10,000 pages of reports that found fires caused by the crashing planes were more than sufficient to collapse the buildings.
The scholars' group rejects those conclusions. Their Web site contends the government has been dishonest.
It adds: the "World Trade Center was almost certainly brought down by controlled demolitions" and "the government not only permitted 9/11 to occur but may even have orchestrated these events to facilitate its political agenda."
The standards and technology institute,
and many mainstream scientists, won't debate conspiracy theorists, saying
they don't want to lend them unwarranted credibility.
But some worry the academic background of the group could do that anyway.
Members of the conspiracy community "practically worship the ground [Jones] walks on because he's seen as a scientist who is preaching to their side," said FR Greening, a Canadian chemist who has written several papers rebutting the science used by September 11 conspiracy theorists.
"It's science, but it's politically motivated. It's science with an ax to grind, and therefore it's not really science."
Faculty can express any opinion outside the classroom, said Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors.
However, "with academic freedom comes academic responsibility. And that requires them to teach the truth of their discipline, and the truth does not include conspiracy theories, or flat Earth theories, or Holocaust denial theories."
Members of the group don't consider themselves extremists. They simply believe the government's investigation was inadequate, and maintain that questioning widely held assumptions has been part of the job of scholars for centuries.
"Tenure gives you a secure position where you can engage in controversial issues," Fetzer said. "That's what you should be doing."
But when asked what did happen in 2001, members often step outside the rigorous, data-based culture of the academy and defer to their own instincts.
Daniel Orr, a Princeton Ph.D. and widely published retired economics chair at the University of Illinois, said he knew instantly from watching the towers fall that they had been blown apart by explosives. He was reminded of watching an old housing project being destroyed in St. Louis, Missouri.
David Gabbard, an East Carolina education professor, acknowledges this isn't his field, but says "I'm smart enough to know ... that fire from airplanes can't melt steel."
When they do cite evidence, critics such as Greening contend it's junk science from fellow conspiracy theorists, dressed up in the language and format of real research to give it a sense of credibility.
Ex-professor doubts government
Jones focuses on the relatively narrow question of whether molten metal present at the World Trade Center site after the attacks is evidence that a high-temperature incendiary called thermite, which can be used to weld or cut metal, was involved in the towers' destruction.
He concludes thermite was present, throwing the government's entire explanation into question and suggesting someone might have used explosives to bring down the towers.
"I have not run into many who have read my paper and said it's just all hogwash," Jones said.
Judy Wood, until recently an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Clemson University, has been cited by conspiracy theorists for her arguments the buildings could not have collapsed as quickly as they did unless explosives were used.
"If the U.S. government is lying about how the buildings came down, anything else they say cannot be believed," she said. "So why would they want to tell us an incorrect story if they weren't part of it?"
In fact, say Greening and other experts, the molten metal Jones cites was most likely aluminum from the planes, and any number of explanations are more likely than thermite.
And the National Institute of Standards and Technology's report describes how the buildings collapsed from the inside in a chain reaction once the floors began falling.
"We respect the opinions of others, but we just didn't see any evidence of what people are claiming," institute spokesman Michael Newman said.
Wisconsin officials say they do not endorse the views of Barrett, an adjunct, but after investigating concluded he would handle the material responsibly in the classroom.
That didn't mollify many state legislators.
"The general public from Maine to Oregon knows why the trade towers went down," said state Rep. Stephen Nass, a Republican. "It's not a matter of unpopular ideas; it's a matter of quality education and giving students their money's worth in the classroom."
In a July 20 letter obtained by The Associated Press in an open records request, Wisconsin Provost Patrick Farrell warned Barrett to tone down his publicity seeking, and said he would reconsider allowing Barrett to teach if he continued to identify himself with the university in his political messages.
BYU's physics department and engineering school have issued statements distancing themselves from Jones' work, but he says they have not interfered.
At Clemson, Wood did not receive tenure last year, but her former department chair, Imtiaz ul Haque, denies her accusation that it was at least partly because of her September 11 views.
"Are you blackballed for delving into this topic? Oh yes," Wood said. "And that is why there are so few who do. Most contracts have something to do with some government research lab. So what would that do to you? The consequences are too great for a career. But I made the choice that truth was more important."
"If we're in higher education to be trying to encourage critical thinking," Wood says, "why would we say 'believe this because everybody else does?'"
2 U.S. Reports Seek to Counter Conspiracy Theories About 9/11
By JIM DWYER
Faced with an angry minority of people who believe the Sept. 11 attacks were part of a shadowy and sprawling plot run by Americans, separate reports were published this week by the State Department and a federal science agency insisting that the catastrophes were caused by hijackers who used commercial airliners as weapons.
The official narrative of the attacks has been attacked as little more than a cover story by an assortment of radio hosts, academics, amateur filmmakers and others who have spread their arguments on the Internet and cable television in America and abroad. As a motive, they suggest that the Bush administration wanted to use the attacks to justify military action in the Middle East.
Most elaborately, they propose that the collapse of the World Trade Center was actually caused by explosive charges secretly planted in the buildings, rather than by the destructive force of the airliners that thundered into the towers and set them ablaze.
The government reports and officials say the demolition argument is utterly implausible on a number of grounds. Indeed, few proponents of the explosives theory are willing to venture explanations of how daunting logistical problems would be overcome, such as planting thousands of pounds of explosives in busy office towers.
Nevertheless, federal officials say they moved to affirm the conventional history of the day because of the persistence of what they call “alternative theories.” On Wednesday, the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued a seven-page study based on its earlier 10,000-page report on how and why the trade center collapsed. The full report, released a year ago, and the new study, in a question and answer format, are available online at http://wtc.nist.gov.
About a dozen researchers produced the new study over the last two months by assembling material from the longer report that addressed the conspiracy claims.
“With the fifth anniversary coming up, there seemed to be more play for the alternative viewpoints,” said Michael E. Newman, a spokesman for the institute. “We have received e-mails and phone calls asking us to respond to these theories, and we felt that this fact sheet was the best means of doing so.”
A nationwide poll taken earlier this summer by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University found that more than a third of those surveyed said the federal government either took part in the attacks or allowed them to happen. And 16 percent said the destruction of the trade center was aided by explosives hidden in the buildings. The survey questioned 1,010 adults by telephone and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points. Details are available at http://newspolls.org.
The demolition theory has managed to endure what would seem to be enormous obstacles to its practicality. Controlled demolition is done from the bottom of buildings, not the top, to take advantage of gravity, and there is little dispute that the collapse of the two towers began high in the towers, in the areas where the airplanes struck.
Moreover, a demolition project would have required the tower walls to be opened on dozens of floors, followed by the insertion of thousands of pounds of explosives, fuses and ignition mechanisms, all sneaked past the security stations, inside hundreds of feet of walls on all four faces of both buildings. Then the walls presumably would have been closed up.
All this would have had to take place without attracting the notice of any of the thousands of tenants and workers in either building; no witness has ever reported such activity. Then on the morning of Sept. 11, the demolition explosives would have had to withstand the impacts of the airplanes, since the collapse did not begin for 57 minutes in one tower, and 102 minutes in the other.
Those who believe in the demolition theory remain unpersuaded by government statements new or old, and the officials who issued the would-be rejoinders say they are not surprised. “We realize that this fact sheet won’t convince those who hold to the alternative theories that our findings are sound,” Mr. Newman said. “In fact, the fact sheet was never intended for them. It is for the masses who have seen or heard the alternative theory claims and want balance.”
Mr. Newman was correct that the institute’s reports would not convert those who favor the demolition theories, said Kevin Ryan, who is the coeditor of an online publication, www.journalof911studies.com, that has published much of the material arguing that the government’s accounts are false.
“The list of answers NIST has provided is generating more questions, and more skepticism, than ever before,” Mr. Ryan said.
Mr. Newman said, “NIST respects the opinions of others who do not agree with the findings in its report on the collapses of WTC1 and WTC2.”
The State Department report, which officials said was written independently of the new institute study, is titled, “The Top Sept. 11 Conspiracy Theories” and says, “Numerous unfounded conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11 attacks continue to circulate, especially on the Internet.” Produced by an arm of the State Department known as a “counter-misinformation team,” the report is dated Aug. 28 and appears as a special feature on the department’s Web site, at http://usinfo.state.gov/media/misinformation.html.
The report brought to light one little-known detail about the morning: a private demolition monitoring firm, Protec Documentation Services, had seismographs at several construction sites in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Those machines documented the tremors of the falling towers, but captured no ground vibrations before the collapses from demolition charges or bombs, according to a separate report by Brent Blanchard, the director of field operations for Protec. It is available online at www.implosionworld.com.
Asked for comment, Mr. Ryan said that his online 9/11 journal would soon publish an article on those seismic recordings. He also maintained that the Protec paper did not adequately address why puffs of smoke were seen being expelled from some of the floors. However, the federal investigators said that about 70 percent of a building’s volume consists of air, and what looked like puffs of smoke were jets of air — and dust — that were pushed ahead of the collapse.
Among those now propelling the argument that explosives took down the trade center is Steven E. Jones, a physics professor at Brigham Young University, coeditor with Mr. Ryan of www.journalof911studies.com, which published his paper, “Why Indeed Did the World Trade Center Buildings Completely Collapse on 9-11-2001?”
In an e-mail message yesterday, Professor Jones did not explain how so much explosive could have been positioned in the two buildings without drawing attention. “Others are researching the maintenance activity in the buildings in the weeks prior to 9/11/2001,” he wrote.
He said his investigation was finding fluorine and zinc in metal debris and dust gathered from near the trade center site, and argued that those elements should not have been found in the building compounds. “We are investigating the possibility of thermite-based arson and demolition,” he wrote, referring to compounds that, under controlled circumstances, can cut through steel.
The federal investigators at the National Institute of Standards and Technology state that enormous quantities of thermite would have to be applied to the structural columns to damage them. Not so, said Professor Jones; he said he and others were investigating “superthermite.”
Professor Jones also argues that the molten steel found in the rubble was evidence of demolition explosives because an ordinary airplane fire would not generate enough heat. He cited photographs of construction equipment removing debris that appeared to be red.
In rebuttal, Mr. Blanchard of Protec said that if there had been any molten steel in the rubble, it would have permanently damaged any excavation equipment encountering it. “As a fundamental point, if an excavator or grapple ever dug into a pile of molten steel heated to excess of 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, it would completely lose its ability to function,” Mr. Blanchard wrote. “At a minimum, the hydraulics would immediately fail and its moving parts would bond together or seize up.”
Judge Says Jewell Libel Suit Can Proceed
By Associated Press
October 3, 2006, 2:22 AM EDT
ATLANTA -- A judge ruled Monday that former Olympic security guard Richard Jewell's libel suit against The Atlanta Journal-Constitution can proceed, but threw out most of Jewell's other claims that the newspaper defamed him.
State Court Judge John R. Mather said a jury would decide whether the newspaper was wrong to report that investigators believed Jewell placed a 911 call warning that a bomb would go off at Centennial Olympic Park.
The July 27, 1996, bombing killed one person and wounded more than 100. Jewell was praised as a hero for finding the backpack that contained the bomb and helping clear park visitors from the scene. But he fell under suspicion when it was reported that the FBI was investigating him for possible involvement.
Jewell was later cleared, and some news organizations settled legal claims that he had been defamed. The Journal-Constitution defended its reporting.
Eric Rudolph, an anti-government extremist, pleaded guilty in April 2005 to setting the Olympic park bomb and three others, including a fatal explosion at a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic.
This year, Gov. Sonny Perdue marked the 10th anniversary of the bombing by commending Jewell, who is now a deputy sheriff in Meriwether County.
Mather ruled that the Journal-Constitution reported truthfully that Jewell was the focus of investigation, that investigators believed he fit the profile of a lone bomber and most other points surrounding the probe.
However, the judge acknowledged that although Jewell may have been suspected initially of making the 911 call, it became clear that the call was made three minutes after Jewell found the suspicious backpack from a telephone booth several blocks away -- possibly a five to eight minute walk.
Jewell's lawyer, Lin Wood, said the newspaper's reports on the telephone call were "absolutely" false.
"It is a significant victory for Richard Jewell to get his case before a jury," Wood said.
Tom Clyde, the newspaper's lawyer, said that when the stories were published, "the timing sequence of when the bomb went off and when the phone call was made remained very much in question."
Clyde said the Journal-Constitution later "led the way" in reporting evidence that exonerated Jewell.
The newspaper's publisher, John Mellott, said it will seek permission to appeal the ruling on the 911-call claim "and looks forward to the opportunity to show the accuracy of our reporting on that issue to the Court of Appeals."
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
November 27, 2006
The Media Equation
Subpoenas and the Press
By DAVID CARR
Like the rest of us, Eve Burton, general counsel at the Hearst Corporation was itching to get out the door last Wednesday. Every Thanksgiving, she makes the journey to Chatham Center in upstate New York to make dinner for 10 bachelor farmers in the area, aged 84 and up. Instead, she was stuck at headquarters most of the day, performing what has become a chronic, grinding task: keeping Hearst reporters out of jail.
She and the rest of the legal team were finishing an appeal, to be filed this Friday, of a judge’s decision to sentence two San Francisco Chronicle reporters, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, to up to 18 months in jail for their refusal to reveal who leaked grand jury information in the Balco steroids case.
The underlying case is finished, but District Judge Jeffrey S. White said the reporters belonged in jail for refusing to comply with subpoenas. The appeal hearing will be held on Feb. 12 and the pair faces longer prison terms than any of the actual Balco defendants.
“The government is apparently willing to spend three years and millions of dollars putting two reporters in jail,” Ms. Burton said. “They won’t get the information they want. These guys made a promise and they are going to keep it.”
The view from her 42nd floor office at Hearst — Central Park and beyond — was breathtaking, but Ms. Burton, who has been working in First Amendment law for 20 years, sees nothing but trouble on the legal horizon. She has been to Seattle, Albany, Baltimore and, of course, San Francisco, putting out fires and defending the ability of journalists to work without being subject to subpoenas that dig into their reporting.
“This is what we do now,” she said. “The culture of the press as an independent body is now under attack and if this continues, will come to be seen as an investigative arm of the government.” (On Friday, attorneys for The New York Times asked the Supreme Court to bar a federal prosecutor from reviewing the phone records of two reporters — Judith Miller and Philip Shenon — in another effort to obtain the identities of their confidential sources.)
In the last 18 months, she says, her company has received 80 newsgathering subpoenas, for broadcast stations, newspapers and magazines. “But that was after the Judy Miller case,” she said, mentioning the case in which the former New York Times reporter went to jail to protect a source. “In the two years before that, we had maybe four or five subpoenas. We didn’t even keep track.”
In the Balco case, the two reporters uncovered information that suggested steroid use was rampant in baseball despite statements to the contrary, and which implicated big-name stars like Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. President Bush praised their work at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2005, saying, “you’ve done a great service.”
The four defendants in the underlying case — two Balco executives, a track coach and a personal trainer — received light sentences or probation, with the most severe punishment, four months in prison, going to Victor Conte, president of Balco. But government prosecutors, in the name of protecting the sanctity of the grand jury process, are still trying to throw Mr. Williams and Mr. Fainaru-Wada in jail for 18 months.
Within the news business, there is a consensus that the roof is caving in on the legal protections for working journalists. But the general public does not hold the craft in much esteem lately. Years of journalistic mis- and malfeasance have left many people thinking the Fourth Estate could use a little oversight, regardless of where it comes from.
“It’s true there have been some changes in the way the law has been interpreted,” said Mark Feldstein, an associate professor of media at George Washington University. “But it has occurred in part because there is a political environment in which journalists are no longer viewed as heroes, as they were after Watergate, while now they are sometimes seen as villains.”
“The Bush administration views the media as one more special interest, as an elite,” he added. “And journalists have played into that in the way that they have framed the issues. The legal concept is called the ‘reporter’s privilege,’ not the ‘people’s privilege.’ It reinforces that sense of elitism.”
Ms. Burton knows first-hand that her indignation is not widely shared by the public.
“My 15-year-old is constantly reminding me that no one cares about this stuff but reporters, but I don’t think the public understands what is at stake here,” Ms. Burton said. “Everyone knows that what was revealed in that story about Major League Baseball and steroids was important, but I don’t think that they understand that they could lose that. That story could not be told today.”
In the appeal, the reporters’ lawyers will argue that courts have a duty to look at every case on its merits and that the federal effort is out of step with the state courts, including California, which guard reporters against fishing expeditions by prosecutors.
“This is the single biggest case I have ever been involved in,” she added. “In terms of the public’s right to know what the government does and doesn’t do, it is huge. If the government wins in this case, every reporter’s notebook will be available to the government for the asking.”
For years, Ms. Burton advised her reporters on how to stay out of jams in civil cases and defended those who ended up on the wrong end of libel suit.
Now, in between telling working reporters to avoid e-mail messages and any other records of their phone calls and reporting — all of which is readily available to a prosecutor with subpoena power — she is spending an enormous amount of time defending remaining press freedoms against an administration she believes has “a strong ideological view that the executive branch should be able to proceed mostly unimpeded.”
“It is not limited to the press,” she said. “If you look at the briefs they have filed all over the country, whether it is N.S.A. or wiretapping, or leaks to the press, everybody and everything that relates to the rights of the individual, they would like to have the right to make whatever decisions they want about whoever they want whenever they want.”
And because the same administration that makes the laws selects the judges, this shift represents more than just one swing of the pendulum. What will be lost, she believes, are the kind of investigations where confidential sources play a critical role.
“You won’t get the Watergate story, you won’t get the Pentagon Papers,” she said.
Not that her Thanksgiving guests care. “They just wanted to know why I was late,” she said. “One of them told me that stuff could wait — that the food on the back porch was going to freeze if I didn’t get it inside.”
Justices reject N.Y. Times in leak case
U.S. prosecutors can now review reporters' phone records.
By David G. Savage, Times Staff Writer
November 28, 2006
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court refused Monday to shield the New York Times and two of its reporters from a prosecutor's probe into who leaked word of planned raids on two Muslim charities five years ago.
The decision clears the way for federal prosecutors to review the phone records of the two reporters for several weeks in the fall of 2001. The prosecutor, U.S. Atty. Patrick J. Fitzgerald in Chicago, says the records will help point to the source of the leak.
The New York Times maintains it has a 1st Amendment right to protect the confidentiality of its sources. Floyd Abrams, the newspaper's lawyer, said, "There has been no claim of wrongdoing against the Times reporters. The only thing at issue here is a leak investigation in which the government seeks to obtain information on who spoke to the journalists."
Two years ago, lawyers for the newspaper went before a federal judge in New York and won an order that barred the prosecutor from examining the phone records.
But in August, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that order in a 2-1 decision. The prosecutor has a "compelling interest" in learning who tipped off the reporters to the planned raids, thereby "endangering federal agents" and permitting the "targets to spirit away incriminating information," said Judge Ralph K. Winter in the appeals court opinion.
"We see no danger to the free press in so holding," he added. "Learning of imminent law enforcement asset freezes or searches and informing targets of them is not an activity essential … to journalism."
The Supreme Court has never squarely ruled that the news media has a 1st Amendment right to protect its confidential sources. On Monday, the justices turned down an emergency plea from the Times in a one-line order.
This is the second time in two years that the Times and its former reporter Judith Miller have been on the losing end of a legal battle with Fitzgerald. Besides being the U.S. attorney in Chicago, Fitzgerald is the special prosecutor who was named to look into who leaked to the media the name of former CIA agent Valerie Plame.
In that case, Fitzgerald sought the cooperation of several reporters who spoke with top officials of the Bush White House, but Miller refused, citing the 1st Amendment.
Fitzgerald went to court to compel Miller's cooperation, and the Supreme Court refused the Times' request to intervene. Miller spent 85 days in jail before agreeing to talk to Fitzgerald.
The probe of the two Muslim charities — the Holy Land Foundation and the Global Relief Foundation — intensified after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Officials believed the two groups might be funding terrorists in the Mideast, and they moved to freeze their assets.
On Dec. 4, 2001, the FBI raided the offices of the Holy Land Foundation. The day before, Miller had called one of its officials asking for comment on the government's plans to move against it. She wrote in one story that she had been tipped off by "confidential sources."
A similar sequence of events happened a few days later. On Dec. 13, 2001, Times reporter Philip Shenon contacted the Global Relief Foundation seeking comment on the government's plan to freeze its assets. The foundation's office was raided the next day, and FBI agents reported that charity officials had removed many items.
Fitzgerald then began a probe into who in the government spoke to the reporters.
Reporter Wins A Court Battle With Government
By Staff Reporter of the Sun
A New York Sun reporter won an unusual victory in federal court in San Francisco last week, when a federal judge ordered the Department of Justice and other government agencies to respond to the reporter's request for a variety of documents that could show what efforts the Bush administration has made to investigate leaks to the press.
The decision, by Judge Maxine Chesney of U.S. District Court in San Francisco, came after the federal government was slow to comply with a request from more than eight months ago by reporter Josh Gerstein made under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
The documents Mr. Gerstein requested relate to investigations the government has conducted into leaks of classified information to reporters. The documents requested included any that would indicate what disciplinary actions were taken against government officials believed to have leaked classified information.
In court, the government had resisted Mr. Gerstein's request for documents. Mr. Gerstein had argued that issues involving press leaks were of "acute and significant national interest," according to the decision.
Judge Chesney ruled that the standard 20-day response time afforded the government applied to Mr. Gerstein's request as well. The judge ordered the government to give Mr. Gerstein a response to his document request within a month of the court order, which came down last week.
from the February 02, 2007 edition
How bloggers worked the Boston 'bomb hoax'
Furious over a guerilla marketing gimmick gone awry, city officials vow to recoup emergency response costs.
By Ben Arnoldy | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
BOSTON - The latest bomb scare to upset a major US city wasn't the handiwork of the Al Qaeda terror network. This time, it was the Cartoon Network.
It all began Wednesday morning when a transit worker spotted a wired device on a girder underneath Interstate 93. After police found similar devices across the city, they shut down key roads and subway stations and called in federal officials with Homeland Security.
It took most of the day before a worried public would learn that the suspicious devices were merely electronically lit signs depicting a cartoon character known as a Mooninite – and were part of a "guerrilla marketing" campaign by Turner Broadcasting, gone awry. But even as security officials labored to get to the bottom of the incident, a parallel investigation was under way and open to all – in the blogosphere.
Bloggers claim they were the first to suspect that the "suspicious packages" weren't bombs. In fact, some had been blogging about the Mooninite marketing campaign for weeks, given that similar Mooninite signs had been sighted in other cities over the past couple of weeks.
Boston police haven't said whether the blogs or bloggers played any role in their own investigation, but some security analysts say such online social networks ought to be a prime law-enforcement tool during emergencies – or perceived emergencies.
"Increasingly networked personal communications, combined with the new understandings we have now of the power of social networks, should actually be harnessed for good in terms of dealing with terrorism [or] a situation like Katrina," says W. David Stephenson, a homeland security consultant based in Medfield, Mass.
Police have arrested two local men, Peter Berdvosky and Sean Stevens, and charged them each with one count of planting a hoax device and one count of disorderly conduct. They pleaded not guilty Thursday. If convicted, the men could face up to five years in prison.
Mr. Berdvosky told The Boston Globe he had placed the devices for a marketing firm in New York hired by Cartoon Network and that he considered them to be art installations.
Outside the courthouse Thursday, protesters gathered, arguing against prosecuting the two men. Some bloggers have criticized police officials for overreacting. Some websites even found levity in the situations: Online entrepreneurs were selling "I survived the Mooninite attack" T-shirts, and devices found in other cities were going for as much as $5,000 on eBay.
But, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, the governor, mayor, and police commissioner weren't laughing.
"This has taken a significant toll on our resources," said Ed Davis, Boston police commissioner. He cited the mobilization of emergency teams, bomb-squad units, and state and local police, as well as the shutdowns of major highways and rail traffic. "This has created enormous inconvenience to people in the city."
A costly stunt
The costs of this "Mooninite attack" may be more than $500,000, said Mayor Thomas Menino.
"It's a hoax – and it's not funny," said Gov. Deval Patrick.
Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of Cartoon Network, claimed responsibility Wednesday – some eight hours after the first device came to police attention. The company, in a statement, said the devices were part of a promotion for an animated show called "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" and were not meant to resemble bombs.
Chairman and CEO Phil Kent issued an apology to Bostonians and said the ads would be taken down in Boston and nine other cities where they'd been placed.
The show is part of the Cartoon Network's late-night "Adult Swim" lineup that is geared toward college students and young adults. The content includes violence and profanity, though it doesn't push the envelope nearly as much as Comedy Central's "South Park," says Jerry Beck, an animation historian and co-writer on cartoonbrew.com.
The show's main characters are a carton of French fries named Fryloc, a milkshake named Master Shake, and a ball of meat named, appropriately, Meatwad. "It's zany, non sequitur humor," says Mr. Beck. "It's more funny to laugh at it, than with it."
The channel has produced a feature-length "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" film to be released in March, which he expects will benefit from this controversy.
"What could be more subversive than the Man mistaking their publicity material for a terrorist plot?" says Beck. "I'm sure there's a marketing guy – the one who isn't going to prison – who is going to 'fail upward.' "
Several marketing experts, however, disagreed that Cartoon Network would ultimately benefit.
"The notion that all publicity is good publicity made a little more sense when there was very narrow bandwidth for attention, when only a few people got to comment on the event – then you can manage spin," says David Weinberger, a co-author of "The Cluetrain Manifesto," a book about the impact of the Internet on marketing. "If it's just scary or shocking, then we get to see through that and talk about it together."
Even if the publicity results in more revenue, the company faces possible fines as Boston's mayor vows to recover the costs of the police operation.
Hoaxes and fake terror alerts can cost big money.
During the height of the scare over the anthrax letters, one state worker in Connecticut falsely reported finding a powder on his desk. The resulting evacuation and testing cost $1.5 million in lost workers' time and $400,000 in decontamination costs.
Something as simple as hoax e-mails can also take up enormous amounts of time – and therefore money – when factored over millions of recipients. The potential cost of a hoax e-mail that makes the rounds of the Internet could be $41.7 million in lost productivity, according to one rough estimate by William Orvis, head of Hoaxbusters at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
How the FBI failed us -- and how we can fix it
By Richard A. Clarke and Roger W. Cressey
April 4, 2007
NOW WE KNOW why the government failed to stop 9/11. Embattled FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate committee last week that what prevented his agency from halting the attack was its inability to issue warrant-less search orders with the profligacy of a parking ticket officer.
If only it had the currently available unfettered "national security letter" authority to run through personal information data bases without judicial oversight, Mueller suggested, the FBI would have found 9/11 terrorist Khalid al Midhar and through him the other Al Qaeda conspirators. Really?
Midhar was one of the 9/11 terrorists. When he entered the United States, the CIA knew it and knew he was an Al Qaeda terrorist. An FBI agent at the CIA knew he was in the country. Months later FBI headquarters was told, but the agents working the case never told the FBI leadership or the White House.
So what does Mueller want us to believe now, that when the CIA finally told the FBI that Midhar was in the United States that it was the bureau's difficulty in getting a warrant on a known Al Qaeda terrorist that was responsible for its failure to find him?
Might a few other factors have played a bigger role in Midhar's not getting caught? Perhaps it was the fact that the FBI agent (stationed at the CIA to ensure "information sharing") accepted the decision to deny the bureau the information that Midhar had entered the United States? Or maybe it was the later decision by FBI counter terrorism supervisors working on the Midhar case not to tell the bureau's representative on the interagency Counter-terrorism Security Group? Could it possibly be the absence of a serious nationwide manhunt for an Al Qaeda terrorist or the FBI's failure to tell the National Security Council he was in the United States? Or could it have been the bureau's inability to listen to its own agents' concerns about flight schools, when the 9/11 terrorists were here learning how to fly?
Mueller's "blame the Fourth Amendment" excuse cannot hide the consistent record of colossal mismanagement under the current FBI director and his predecessor. Republican senators Arlen Specter and Charles Grassley have detailed the long list of the bureau's failures -- from the thousands of errors in warrant-less search orders, to the millions of dollars wasted in botched computer system contracts, to the failure to provide adequate training in radical Islam to new recruits.
There is an embarrassing string of national security cases in which the Bureau either accused the wrong man or was unable to arrest him, from the Atlanta Olympics bombing, to the Los Alamos nuclear espionage, to the lethal anthrax attacks. In many of the terrorism cases it did "crack," the agency exaggerated the threat, giving the impression it had uncovered and prevented serious or imminent plots when in fact the plot was still little more than a day dream.
Specter was right to suggest it is time to take away national security investigations from the FBI and let it concentrate on fewer, easier things so that it might do a better job. We and other counter terrorism specialists have struggled with the decision to call for a separate national security protective investigatory agency. Creating a new agency is always fraught with challenges. One can only look at the disastrous start to the Department of Homeland Security. But it is also difficult to re invent an existing bureaucracy with a deeply engrained culture like the FBI's.
Other democracies, such as Britain and Germany, have recognized that national security and terrorism investigations do not require men with guns and badges. Those nations have created separate analytic research and investigations groups, which call the police to make arrests. The Germans named their agency the "Office to Protect the Constitution."
The Bush administration and Congress have given the FBI "one more chance" to get it right too many times. There is no reason to continue to believe that the bureau as now designed can be effectively managed to handle its counterterrorism and other responsibilities. Its scope should be narrowed and a separate national security protection agency created with effective safeguards to do analysis, research, and investigation of domestic security. Threats to national security within the United States are too important to be left to the FBI. The time to do this is not in the aftermath of another terrorist attack, when Congress's instinct will be to legislate first and worry about the consequences later. It should be done now, in a manner that is thoughtful, logical, and supportive of the nation's security and constitutional liberties.
Richard A. Clarke and Roger W. Cressey, who were counterterrorism officials in the Clinton and Bush administrations, are officers of Good Harbor Consulting.
liar, you may get fired
BY PATRICIA KITCHEN
April 29, 2007
The most obvious lesson from the announcement that a respected dean at Massachusetts Institute of Technology lied on her resume is this: Don't do it on yours.
But the truth is, plenty of people have done so, even though they risk shame and career setback. Some experts estimate that 10 to 30 percent of job applicants include distortions, if not downright fabrications, on resumes, according to the Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Last week, the misrepresentations of Marilee Jones, 55, MIT's dean of admissions, became public when she resigned. "I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to M.I.T. 28 years ago," she wrote, "and did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since."
For those who fear that they, too, might be found out, this is a good time to ask, "Is it riskier to remain silent or to come clean?" says Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer at Adecco Group North America in Melville. An employer may understand "a youthful indiscretion, a stupid decision." And it's possible that "falling on your sword will result in acceptance."
Of course, there are no guarantees. If you do fess up, she says, you could be fired. But if you don't, "you definitely run a higher risk of being terminated" if the information comes out.
Only you can judge your own comfort level, says Jeannine Ayres, a life coach in Huntington Station. She says it may be worth talking it over with a therapist, coach or spiritual adviser. Do not, she says, broach the subject with someone in your workplace or even in your industry.
And no matter what happens, Ayres says, remind yourself: "I am still an OK human being."
Say what you did.
Consider explaining why, but only if you had a compelling reason.
Say you're sorry.
Explain how you're making amends or trying to live up to the lies.
Judge Won't Delay Libby Prison Term
By NEIL A. LEWIS and DAVID STOUT
WASHINGTON, June 14 — A federal judge refused today to delay the start of the prison sentence for I. Lewis Libby Jr. in the C.I.A. leak case while he appeals his conviction, meaning he could be ordered to surrender within two months.
The ruling intensifies the legal and political drama surrounding Mr. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of perjury, making false statements and obstructing justice.
Judge Reggie B. Walton said today that he found no reason to postpone Mr. Libby’s sentence of two and a half years in prison for four felony counts. Defense lawyers had asked that he be allowed to remain free while pursuing appeals.
Judge Walton’s decision means that the defense lawyers will probably ask a federal appeals court to block the sentence, a long-shot move. It also sharpens interest in a question being asked by Mr. Libby’s supporters and critics alike: Will President Bush pardon Mr. Libby?
So far, the president has expressed sympathy for Mr. Libby and his family but has not tipped his hand on the pardon issue.
If the president does not pardon him, and if an appeals court refuses to second-guess Judge Walton’s decision, Mr. Libby will probably be ordered to report to prison in six to eight weeks’ time. Federal prison authorities will decide where. “Unless the Court of Appeals overturns my ruling, he will have to report,” Judge Walton said.
After the hearing today, Mr. Libby was taken to a basement probation office, where he surrendered his passport. Later, he left the federal courthouse silently and with a stony face, as he did daily throughout his trial and after his sentencing on June 5.
Typically, a federal defendant like Mr. Libby, who is not regarded as dangerous, serves his sentence at a minimum-security prison camp as close to his home as possible. Thus, Mr. Libby might be sent to a camp in Western Maryland, Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
There were no surprises at today’s court session, since Judge Walton had said earlier that the evidence against Mr. Libby was overwhelming and that he saw no realistic prospects for a successful appeal. Still, today’s hearing was not without drama.
For one thing, Judge Walton revealed that he had received threatening letters in recent weeks. At first he just discarded them, he said, but as they kept coming, he began collecting them and has turned them over to the authorities.
Mr. Libby’s lawyers made a last-ditch argument today, asserting that the special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, had been given too much independence. The judge dismissed that argument, saying that Mr. Fitzgerald was subservient to the Justice Department and thus could have been dismissed.
One telling moment came as Judge Walton referred to a motion filed by 12 law professors asserting that there were appealable issues in the case. The judge dismissed the motion, remarking acidly that it was “not worthy of a first-year law student.”
Mr. Libby, once one of the most powerful men in the Bush administration, was undone by the accounts he gave to F.B.I. agents and grand jurors who were investigating the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, a C.I.A. agent whose husband, a former diplomat, wrote critically about the administration’s rationale for going to war in Iraq. Mr. Libby was a principal architect of the war.
The jurors who convicted Mr. Libby rejected his claims that memory loss, rather than any attempt to deceive, lay behind any inconsistencies in his accounts to the grand jury and F.B.I. agents. Basically, Mr. Libby claimed that reporters told him about Ms. Wilson’s C.I.A. status; the prosecutors said it was the other way around.
Mr. Libby was not charged with leaking Ms. Wilson’s name and affiliation, which first appeared publicly in a column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003. Mr. Novak’s sources were later revealed to be Richard L. Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state, and Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s senior political adviser in the White House. Neither man was charged with violating a federal law prohibiting the disclosure of the identities of C.I.A. officers.
Prosecutors Seek Reporters’ Testimony in Murder Case Against Couple
By MICHAEL BRICK
After a year and a half of legal maneuvers and pretrial motions, murder charges against the parents of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown now hang on their own words, a judge said yesterday.
“Trust me,” said the judge, L. Priscilla Hall of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, speaking from the bench, “this is basically a statement case.”
But while many criminal trials turn on the credibility of statements obtained by the police, prosecutors are seeking to use a far less common type of statement against the parents, Cesar Rodriguez, 28, and Nixzaliz Santiago, 29.
In separate interviews on Rikers Island after their arrests in January 2006, Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Santiago each told newspaper reporters the circumstances of the girl’s death. Nixzmary was found beaten and starved to death in her family’s home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, on Jan. 11.
Now prosecutors are seeking to compel two reporters, Corey Kilgannon of The New York Times and Douglas Montero of The New York Post, to testify about the interviews. At a pretrial hearing yesterday, prosecutors argued that the reporters could provide the only unbiased testimony available to convict the parents.
Without the testimony, “we would have no case against these defendants,” said an assistant district attorney, Jane S. Meyers. “It is hard for me to even imagine something that’s as important to our case as these reporters’ testimony,” she added.
Lawyers for the newspapers sought to quash subpoenas issued to the reporters. George Freeman, vice president and assistant general counsel for The Times, based his argument partly on the state’s shield law, which can exempt reporters from subpoenas under certain circumstances.
He argued that the law’s purpose was to prevent prosecutors from borrowing and effectively eroding reporters’ credibility.
“That’s the reason why reporters have to be protected,” Mr. Freeman said, adding: “They’re good eyewitnesses. They’re always at the scene of crimes and fires and negligent acts.”
Also citing the shield law, a lawyer for The Post argued that prosecutors had failed to meet the standards required to subpoena a reporter, including showing that the information could be obtained only from the reporter.
“They have to show there are no alternative sources,” said the lawyer, Slade R. Metcalf.
Mr. Freeman conceded that the shield law did not apply to published material. In an article published on Jan. 16, 2006, The Post reported that Ms. Santiago had “admitted she stood idle as her sadistic husband viciously beat her daughter because she feared for herself.”
And in an article published Jan. 20, 2006, The Times reported that Mr. Rodriguez had “detailed an approach to discipline that involved hitting the girl, locking her in a room and binding her to a chair all night to keep her from misbehaving.”
Both articles were published after the police and assistant district attorneys had separately obtained incriminatory statements from the defendants, prosecutors said. Lawyers for Mr. Rodriguez have said that he was improperly denied access to a lawyer before giving his statement to the authorities. Ms. Santiago’s lawyers have argued that she had merely repeated a version of events concocted by detectives on the promise of seeing her children again.
In court yesterday, Ms. Meyers said she could show a jury that the statements to the police were not coerced by demonstrating that those statements matched the newspaper interviews.
“Lo and behold, a reporter comes along, and she says the exact same words,” Ms. Meyers said.
As with any documents presented as evidence, including police reports and findings from medical examiners, prosecutors must establish a basis for the credibility of the articles in court. Ms. Meyers said she would limit the scope of her questions to the circumstances of the interviews, including the methods used by the reporters to obtain consent for the interviews.
Defense lawyers could then try to erode the credibility of the testimony through cross-examination. Both articles included quotations attributed to the parents, though reporters are typically prohibited from taking notes in the visiting rooms at Rikers Island. The Times article disclosed that Mr. Kilgannon had not taken notes.
A lawyer for Ms. Santiago, Robert W. Abrams, argued that the testimony was unnecessary.
“This is just another ploy by the People to influence the jury pool,” Mr. Abrams said. “The People are just trying to get the newspaper — some lurid headlines, I thought, by The Post — before the jury.”
Jewell found dead in home
Olympic security guard suspected but cleared in bombing
By MIKE MORRIS
Richard Jewell, the Centennial Olympic Park security guard once suspected — but later cleared — in the bombing of the park during the 1996 Summer Games, was found dead Wednesday in his home in Meriwether County. He was 44.
County coroner Johnny Worley said Jewell's wife discovered him dead in their Woodbury home at about 10:30 a.m., and he was pronounced dead by Worley about 45 minutes later.
Worley said an autopsy would be performed by the GBI to determine how Jewell died, but added there was "no suspicion of foul play.
"He had been having some pretty serious medical problems," Worley said.
He said Jewell had been diagnosed with diabetes in February and had a couple of toes amputated.
"He had been going downhill ever since," Worley said.
Jewell returned to his job as a deputy with the Meriwether County Sheriff's Office over the summer, "but only for a couple of days," according to Worley.
Jewell was initially lauded as a hero after a bomb went off at the July 27, 1996, Olympic celebration. He called attention to the suspicious knapsack that held a bomb and helped evacuate the area.
But days later he became the FBI's chief suspect, as The AJC and other media outlets reported.
The FBI later cleared Jewell of any wrongdoing. He was never charged with a crime.
Eric Robert Rudolph pleaded guilty to the bombing in 2005 and is serving life in prison for it and other attacks.
After he was cleared, Jewell sued the Journal-Constitution and other media outlets for libel, arguing that their reports defamed him. Several news organizations settled, including NBC and CNN.
The Journal-Constitution did not settle. The newspaper has contended that at the time it published its reports, Jewell was a suspect, so the articles were accurate. The newspaper also has asserted that it was not reckless or malicious in its reports regarding Jewell. Much of Jewell's case was dismissed last year. One claim, based on reports about a 911 call, is pending trial.
After the Olympics, Jewell worked as a law officer in a handful of small Georgia cities, including Luthersville, Senoia and Pendergrass.
A year ago this month, Jewell was commended by Gov. Sonny Perdue at an event marking the 10th anniversary of the bombing.
"The bottom line is this: His actions saved lives that day," said Perdue. "Mr. Jewell, on behalf of Georgia, we want to thank you for keeping Georgians safe and doing your job during the course of those Games."
Jewell, his voice choked with emotion, responded:
"I never sought to be a hero. I have always viewed myself as just one of the many trained professionals who simply did his or her job that tragic night. I wish I could have done more."
— Staff writer Rhonda Cook contributed to this report.
By ROBERT LEE HOTZ
The Wall Street Journal
Science Studies Appear to Be Tainted By Sloppy Analysis
We all make mistakes and, if you believe medical scholar John Ioannidis, scientists make more than their fair share. By his calculations, most published research findings are wrong.
Dr. Ioannidis is an epidemiologist who studies research methods at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece and Tufts University in Medford, Mass. In a series of influential analytical reports, he has documented how, in thousands of peer-reviewed research papers published every year, there may be so much less than meets the eye.
These flawed findings, for the most part, stem not from fraud or formal misconduct, but from more mundane misbehavior: miscalculation, poor study design or self-serving data analysis. "There is an increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims," Dr. Ioannidis said. "A new claim about a research finding is more likely to be false than true."
The hotter the field of research the more likely its published findings should be viewed skeptically, he determined.
Take the discovery that the risk of disease may vary between men and women, depending on their genes. Studies have prominently reported such sex differences for hypertension, schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis, as well as lung cancer and heart attacks. In research published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Ioannidis and his colleagues analyzed 432 published research claims concerning gender and genes.
Upon closer scrutiny, almost none of them held up. Only one was replicated.
Statistically speaking, science suffers from an excess of significance. Overeager researchers often tinker too much with the statistical variables of their analysis to coax any meaningful insight from their data sets. "People are messing around with the data to find anything that seems significant, to show they have found something that is new and unusual," Dr. Ioannidis said.
In the U. S., research is a $55-billion-a-year enterprise that stakes its credibility on the reliability of evidence and the work of Dr. Ioannidis strikes a raw nerve. In fact, his 2005 essay "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False" remains the most downloaded technical paper that the journal PLoS Medicine has ever published.
"He has done systematic looks at the published literature and empirically shown us what we know deep inside our hearts," said Muin Khoury, director of the National Office of Public Health Genomics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We need to pay more attention to the replication of published scientific results."
Every new fact discovered through experiment represents a foothold in the unknown. In a wilderness of knowledge, it can be difficult to distinguish error from fraud, sloppiness from deception, eagerness from greed or, increasingly, scientific conviction from partisan passion. As scientific findings become fodder for political policy wars over matters from stem-cell research to global warming, even trivial errors and corrections can have larger consequences.
Still, other researchers warn not to fear all mistakes. Error is as much a part of science as discovery. It is the inevitable byproduct of a search for truth that must proceed by trial and error. "Where you have new areas of knowledge developing, then the science is going to be disputed, subject to errors arising from inadequate data or the failure to recognize new matters," said Yale University science historian Daniel Kevles. Conflicting data and differences of interpretation are common.
To root out mistakes, scientists rely on each other to be vigilant. Even so, findings too rarely are checked by others or independently replicated. Retractions, while more common, are still relatively infrequent. Findings that have been refuted can linger in the scientific literature for years to be cited unwittingly by other researchers, compounding the errors.
Stung by frauds in physics, biology and medicine, research journals recently adopted more stringent safeguards to protect at least against deliberate fabrication of data. But it is hard to admit even honest error. Last month, the Chinese government proposed a new law to allow its scientists to admit failures without penalty. Next week, the first world conference on research integrity convenes in Lisbon.
Overall, technical reviewers are hard-pressed to detect every anomaly. On average, researchers submit about 12,000 papers annually just to the weekly peer-reviewed journal Science. Last year, four papers in Science were retracted. A dozen others were corrected.
No one actually knows how many incorrect research reports remain unchallenged.
Earlier this year, informatics expert Murat Cokol and his colleagues at Columbia University sorted through 9.4 million research papers at the U.S. National Library of Medicine published from 1950 through 2004 in 4,000 journals. By raw count, just 596 had been formally retracted, Dr. Cokol reported.
"The correction isn't the ultimate truth either," Prof. Kevles said.
Email me at ScienceJournal@wsj.com.
Press (Tracy, CA)
Anthrax mishap nets lab $450K fine
Improper shipment of anthrax in 2005 earned the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories a $450,000 fine, it was revealed Friday.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories was fined $450,000 for failure to properly prepare a package of anthrax shipped across the country in 2005.
The Department of Health and Human Services levied the fine against the laboratories on Sept. 24 for failure to comply with packaging laws, and for erroneous paperwork when they mailed vials of anthrax to bio labs in Virginia and Florida two years ago. Federal investigators publicly announced the fine Thursday at a Congressional hearing.
The fine was the biggest of the 11 issued since 2003 by the inspector general.
Vials of anthrax leaked inside the packages during their cross-country shipment, and government investigators found that an unauthorized employee packed the shipment from Lawrence Livermore’s Bio-Safety Level-3 lab, a lab that handles deadly pathogens.
The lab sent the first package to a biodefense lab in Palm Beach, Florida containing 1,025 anthrax-filled vials, the size of an index finger. Two of the vials arrived at the laboratory with their caps off, and the cap on another was loose.
The second package, containing upward of 3,000 vials of anthrax, which was sent a day later to the Virginia bio-lab, contained no uncapped vials, but the paperwork listed an incorrect number of vials in the package.
Both are errors punishable by federal fine.
Federal investigators used the lab’s anthrax incident as an example at Thursday’s hearing of how the government is struggling keep tabs on the burgeoning number of biodefense labs that handle lethal pathogens throughout the U.S. It was also said at the hearing that national defense labs fail to submit reports with enough detail about their experiments, often using vague, even evasive language.
In a March 2007 report submitted about the 2005 anthrax leak, Livermore Laboratories did not disclose that there was a leak at all, just that the pathogen was sent with deficient “inner packaging.”
One of the anthrax shipments was “inappropriately packaged and another shipment (had) incorrect paperwork,” admitted lab spokeswoman Susan Houghton in a statement Friday. “But there was no leak outside of the package during shipment.”
Since 2000, the lab has shipped 30 packages of anthrax vials, and the two they were fined for were the only ones with reported deficiencies in packaging or documentation.
The lab responded quickly to the Sept. 2005 incident by suspending all lethal pathogen research for seven months, using the time to adequately train employees to avoid like accidents, Houghton added.
The employee responsible for the two mistakes was fired, and the local level-3 lab still tests anthrax to study exposure and treatment “in case, for example, a terrorist were to release anthrax somewhere, we’d have the ability to test it,” Houghton said.
Houghton chalks up the faulty packing and paperwork to “human error,” and said the lab takes the mistake very seriously.
“I think we certainly understand the need for the (Department of Health and Human Services) to respond in that manner,” she said. “And our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
And while federal authorities have difficulties keeping a constant eye on the thousands of bio-labs nationwide, local watchdog group Tri-Valley Cares does its share of monitoring the Livermore lab.
“What happened with the anthrax is a major accident,” said Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley Cares, the group that filed suit against the lab in 2001 for opening the Bio-Safety Level-3 research center that the nonprofit said posed a threat to the safety of residents in surrounding cities, like Tracy and Livermore.
“The laboratory has a history of accidents and spills and unintended releases, so I’m very, very worried about this,” Kelley said. “They have a history of sloppy handling. There have been radioactive releases from the Livermore laboratories many times in the past, and now we’re finding that they’re responsible for an anthrax accident. This is no small thing.”
to shield reporters' secret sources likely to pass
By Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — A House bill that would help reporters protect confidential sources will pass easily this week, supporters say, despite opposition from the Bush administration.
"I believe we'll have a strong bipartisan vote," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., the bill's co-author.
The Justice Department sees the proposed reporters' shield law, as it is called, as an obstacle to law enforcement. It could "seriously impede our ability to investigate and prosecute national security matters," spokesman Peter Carr said last week.
Even so, the bill has attracted an unusual right-left coalition.
Liberal Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have joined conservative Republicans, such as Pence, to support the bill. Although no floor vote has yet been scheduled in the Senate, the chamber's Judiciary Committee this month approved its version of the shield bill by a 15-2 vote.
News organizations have been pushing for a federal law to protect reporters' sources since the Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that the First Amendment gives journalists no right to refuse to name them. Backers say the House vote represents a major breakthrough. "It's kind of a 'pinch me' moment," Pence said.
It comes the same week that the Senate opens confirmation hearings for President Bush's nominee to be attorney general, Michael Mukasey. The former federal judge worked as a reporter for United Press International while he was in college and later represented The Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News. On the bench, he ruled against forcing a TV reporter to provide outtakes of an interview to a defendant in a civil lawsuit.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is hopeful Mukasey will soften the administration. "I would not expect him to come out and support this, but I would not see him making an effort to destroy it," she said.
The House bill would prohibit courts and federal prosecutors from forcing journalists to reveal sources except in cases where the information is vital to protecting national security or to prosecuting a crime and is not available by any other means. The bill defines journalists as those "regularly involved in newsgathering" and making "substantial income" from it, said Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., the bill's other co-author. He said that would cover some, but not all, bloggers.
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar shield laws. More than 50 news organizations, including Gannett, owner of USA TODAY, support a federal shield law. Sponsors say it will benefit more than the news media.
"The basic reason we're passing this is to protect the public's right to know," Boucher said. He argued that whistle-blowers will be discouraged from talking to reporters if they fear their identities might be disclosed.
Opponents argue that not all leaks involve people risking their jobs to expose wrongdoing. One recent case involved Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was accused of leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame. Libby was convicted of perjury, but Bush commuted his sentence.
"There's got to be accountability so people will think about it before they go out and hurt people," said Brian Sun, a lawyer who represented Wen Ho Lee. Lee, a scientist, won more than $1.6 million in a suit that alleged the government smeared him by leaking information that he was stealing U.S. nuclear secrets for China. The espionage charges against Lee were dropped.
Bush administration officials argue the bill could hurt their fight against terrorism. Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, a deputy director of national intelligence, said a shield law "would make it very difficult to enforce criminal laws involving the unauthorized disclosure of classified information."
The Justice Department argues that the news media have plenty of protection. Federal prosecutors subpoena reporters "very rarely," Carr said. He said the department has sought reporters' confidential sources 19 times since 1991.
That figure does not, however, include subpoenas from special prosecutors and attorneys for private clients. By Dalglish's count, at least 40 reporters have been subpoenaed to turn over confidential information in the past three years, and courts tend to rule against the journalists.
Refusal to comply with the court has resulted in long jail sentences for some journalists. Joshua Wolf, a freelance videographer who refused to turn over tape of a protest to federal authorities, served 226 days.
October 16, 2007
White House recommends veto of 'shield law'
by Mark Silva
The House today is acting on what's widely known as a "shield law,'' protecting journalists from having to testify in federal court about information provided by confidential sources.
The White House doesn't like it.
A White House spokesman refused to comment on the policy, deferring to a written statement issued just now by the Office of Management and Budget: "The administration believes strongly in the importance and rights of a free press; however, based on the overriding imperative to protect national security, the administration strongly opposes H.R. 2102.
"The bill would provide a broad privilege to a large class of 'covered persons' that could severely frustrate – and in some cases completely eviscerate – the federal government’s ability to investigate acts of terrorism and other threats to national security,'' the White House states.
"Accordingly, if H.R. 2102 were presented to the President in its current form, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.''
More from the White House statement:
"The Administration believes that H.R. 2102 would create a dramatic shift in the law that would produce immediate harm to national security and law enforcement. The legislation would make it extremely difficult to prosecute cases involving leaks of classified information and would hamper efforts to investigate and prosecute other serious crimes. The bill would impose an unreasonable and unjustified evidentiary burden on prosecutors seeking to issue a subpoena to a member of the news media, placing authorities in an untenable position. In order to satisfy the bill’s requirements, prosecutors essentially must prove the existence of specific criminal activity – in a hearing before a judge, with notice to the subjects of the investigation – before they have been able to undertake the necessary investigative steps to determine whether a crime has occurred. Thus, in many cases, prosecutors will have to conduct a mini-trial before their investigation has concluded and, in some cases, even before their investigation has gotten off the ground.
"Because of the heavy evidentiary burden that the bill would require, it is likely that the legislation will encourage more leaks of classified information by giving leakers such a formidable shield behind which they can hide. Moreover, the bill will discourage investigations and prosecutions of such leaks because, by imposing such an unacceptably high evidentiary burden, the bill virtually requires the Government to disclose additional sensitive information in order to pursue a leaker of classified information.
"Efforts to safeguard national security and bring to justice those who have breached it must not be subjected to such unreasonable burdens and standards.''
Posted by Mark Silva on October 16, 2007 12:41 PM
House OKs bill to protect reporters in U.S. courts by wide margin
by Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The House overwhelmingly approved a media shield bill Tuesday that would protect reporters from having to reveal their confidential sources in federal courts, despite warnings from the White House that it could lead to more leaks of classified information.
The measure passed by a lopsided vote, 398-21, as lawmakers complained that journalists are under siege from federal prosecutors and civil litigants seeking to unmask their sources. In the end, 176 Republicans joined virtually all Democrats to support the bill.
In an unusual alliance, even top Republican leaders like House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, broke with the Bush administration to join the majority to pass a bill that supporters said would bolster the freedom of the press.
"In the past few years, there have been too many instances where the pendulum has swung against the free flow of information and in favor of the government," House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said on the House floor. "I was troubled by the instances I've seen where reporters have been jailed or threatened with jail for simply protecting their sources."
The White House issued a statement Tuesday afternoon that threatened a veto by President Bush, saying the legislation is too broad and could harm national security.
"It is likely that the legislation will encourage more leaks of classified information by giving leakers such a formidable shield behind which they can hide," the statement read.
House sponsors of the bill said the stronger-than-expected bipartisan vote was a response to recent high-profile cases in which reporters were jailed or threatened with jail time to name their sources to prosecutors. More than 40 reporters have been subpoenaed to testify or turn over their notes in criminal and civil cases in the last three years.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail in 2005 for refusing to identify her sources in the CIA leak case. Rhode Island TV reporter Jim Taricani spent four months under house arrest for defying a court order requiring him to reveal who gave him an FBI tape showing a public official taking a bribe.
Lawmakers also cited the case of two Chronicle reporters, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who were threatened with up to 18 months in prison for refusing to divulge their sources for federal grand jury testimony in which top professional athletes admitted using illegal steroids. The two journalists narrowly avoided jail time when their source pleaded guilty to leaking grand jury documents earlier this year.
"Compelling reporters to testify and, in particular, compelling them to reveal the identity of confidential sources is a detriment to the public interest," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., one of the bill's chief sponsors. "Without the promise of confidentiality, many important conduits of information about our government will be shut down."
The legislation would offer journalists a qualified privilege that would prevent them from testifying or turning over their notes in most cases. But reporters would still be forced to testify under limited circumstances: if the information is necessary to prevent a terrorist attack or "significant and specified harm" to national security; if it could prevent "imminent death or significant bodily harm"; or if it's needed to identify a person who has leaked significant trade secrets or certain financial or medical information.
However, prosecutors, criminal defendants or civil litigants would have to prove they had exhausted all other means of getting the information before demanding that a journalist testify or turn over notes.
The bill also would require telephone companies and Internet providers to protect information that could identify a reporter's confidential sources.
The legislation would ask federal judges to use a balancing test to determine whether the public interest in disclosing the information "outweighs the public interest in gathering or disseminating news and information."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, used her clout to push for a vote this fall. She told a group of Associated Press editors this month she would move the bill quickly, and she appeared on the House floor to support its passage.
"Nearly all states have some form of press shield protecting the confidentiality of journalists' sources," Pelosi said. "However, that protection is lacking at the federal level and in the federal courts.
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have media shield laws on the books, and all the remaining states except Wyoming follow court rulings that offer some level of protection for reporters' confidential sources. But federal law has been less clear since the Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that reporters do not have a privilege under the First Amendment to refuse to reveal their sources to grand juries.
Only 20 Republicans and one Democrat - Hawaii Rep. Neil Abercrombie - opposed the bill. Those lawmakers said they agree with the administration's view that the bill would tie the hands of federal prosecutors and lead to more leaks that could help America's enemies.
"No one should be above the law - not even the press," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. "We must err on the side of caution and not support legislation that could make it harder to apprehend criminals and terrorists or deter their activities."
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a similar federal shield bill earlier this month, but plans to bring it to the Senate floor have been slowed because of strong opposition from a few Republican senators. The bill's sponsors fear that one or two senators may put a hold on the bill to block its progress.
But Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, warned, "If one senator were to hold the whole thing up, I think you'd see a lot of attention focused on that senator."
Media groups are backing the House version because it's a broader bill. The Senate bill only deals with confidential sources, while the House bill also would protect journalists from other subpoenas seeking information not related to their sources. "It greatly reduces the number of ... little fishing expedition subpoenas," Dalglish said.
Some bloggers have expressed concern that the bill mainly protects journalists in the mainstream media. Lawmakers added language that says those covered by the act must regularly report the news and earn a substantial portion of their livelihood from journalism. It's not clear whether it would cover San Francisco blogger Josh Wolf, who spent 226 days in jail for refusing to turn over video of a protest by anarchists - even though he did benefit financially by selling portions of his tape to a local TV station.
Pence said the law's new definition "will exclude casual bloggers - but not all bloggers - criminal offenders or the media wings of terrorist groups."
Supporters of the bill include the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the National Association of Broadcasters and more than 50 media outlets, including the Hearst Corp., parent company of The Chronicle.
E-mail Zachary Coile at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dept. of Criminology
by Malcolm Gladwell
On November 16, 1940, workers at the Consolidated Edison building on West Sixty-fourth Street in Manhattan found a homemade pipe bomb on a windowsill. Attached was a note: “Con Edison crooks, this is for you.” In September of 1941, a second bomb was found, on Nineteenth Street, just a few blocks from Con Edison’s headquarters, near Union Square. It had been left in the street, wrapped in a sock. A few months later, the New York police received a letter promising to “bring the Con Edison to justice—they will pay for their dastardly deeds.” Sixteen other letters followed, between 1941 and 1946, all written in block letters, many repeating the phrase “dastardly deeds” and all signed with the initials “F.P.” In March of 1950, a third bomb—larger and more powerful than the others—was found on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal. The next was left in a phone booth at the New York Public Library. It exploded, as did one placed in a phone booth in Grand Central. In 1954, the Mad Bomber—as he came to be known—struck four times, once in Radio City Music Hall, sending shrapnel throughout the audience. In 1955, he struck six times. The city was in an uproar. The police were getting nowhere. Late in 1956, in desperation, Inspector Howard Finney, of the New York City Police Department’s crime laboratory, and two plainclothesmen paid a visit to a psychiatrist by the name of James Brussel.
Brussel was a Freudian. He lived on Twelfth Street, in the West Village, and smoked a pipe. In Mexico, early in his career, he had done counter-espionage work for the F.B.I. He wrote many books, including “Instant Shrink: How to Become an Expert Psychiatrist in Ten Easy Lessons.” Finney put a stack of documents on Brussel’s desk: photographs of unexploded bombs, pictures of devastation, photostats of F.P.’s neatly lettered missives. “I didn’t miss the look in the two plainclothesmen’s eyes,” Brussel writes in his memoir, “Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist.” “I’d seen that look before, most often in the Army, on the faces of hard, old-line, field-grade officers who were sure this newfangled psychiatry business was all nonsense.”
He began to leaf through the case materials. For sixteen years, F.P. had been fixated on the notion that Con Ed had done him some terrible injustice. Clearly, he was clinically paranoid. But paranoia takes some time to develop. F.P. had been bombing since 1940, which suggested that he was now middle-aged. Brussel looked closely at the precise lettering of F.P.’s notes to the police. This was an orderly man. He would be cautious. His work record would be exemplary. Further, the language suggested some degree of education. But there was a stilted quality to the word choice and the phrasing. Con Edison was often referred to as “the Con Edison.” And who still used the expression “dastardly deeds”? F.P. seemed to be foreign-born. Brussel looked closer at the letters, and noticed that all the letters were perfect block capitals, except the “W”s. They were misshapen, like two “U”s. To Brussel’s eye, those “W”s looked like a pair of breasts. He flipped to the crime-scene descriptions. When F.P. planted his bombs in movie theatres, he would slit the underside of the seat with a knife and stuff his explosives into the upholstery. Didn’t that seem like a symbolic act of penetrating a woman, or castrating a man—or perhaps both? F.P. had probably never progressed beyond the Oedipal stage. He was unmarried, a loner. Living with a mother figure. Brussel made another leap. F.P. was a Slav. Just as the use of a garrote would have suggested someone of Mediterranean extraction, the bomb-knife combination struck him as Eastern European. Some of the letters had been posted from Westchester County, but F.P. wouldn’t have mailed the letters from his home town. Still, a number of cities in southeastern Connecticut had a large Slavic population. And didn’t you have to pass through Westchester to get to the city from Connecticut?
Brussel waited a moment, and then, in a scene that has become legendary among criminal profilers, he made a prediction:
“One more thing.” I closed my eyes because I didn’t want to see their reaction. I saw the Bomber: impeccably neat, absolutely proper. A man who would avoid the newer styles of clothing until long custom had made them conservative. I saw him clearly—much more clearly than the facts really warranted. I knew I was letting my imagination get the better of me, but I couldn’t help it.A month later, George Metesky was arrested by police in connection with the New York City bombings. His name had been changed from Milauskas. He lived in Waterbury, Connecticut, with his two older sisters. He was unmarried. He was unfailingly neat. He attended Mass regularly. He had been employed by Con Edison from 1929 to 1931, and claimed to have been injured on the job. When he opened the door to the police officers, he said, “I know why you fellows are here. You think I’m the Mad Bomber.” It was midnight, and he was in his pajamas. The police asked that he get dressed. When he returned, his hair was combed into a pompadour and his shoes were newly shined. He was also wearing a double-breasted suit—buttoned.
In a new book, “Inside the Mind of BTK,” the eminent F.B.I. criminal profiler John Douglas tells the story of a serial killer who stalked the streets of Wichita, Kansas, in the nineteen-seventies and eighties. Douglas was the model for Agent Jack Crawford in “The Silence of the Lambs.” He was the protégé of the pioneering F.B.I. profiler Howard Teten, who helped establish the bureau’s Behavioral Science Unit, at Quantico, in 1972, and who was a protégé of Brussel—which, in the close-knit fraternity of profilers, is like being analyzed by the analyst who was analyzed by Freud. To Douglas, Brussel was the father of criminal profiling, and, in both style and logic, “Inside the Mind of BTK” pays homage to “Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist” at every turn.
“BTK” stood for “Bind, Torture, Kill”—the three words that the killer used to identify himself in his taunting notes to the Wichita police. He had struck first in January, 1974, when he killed thirty-eight-year-old Joseph Otero in his home, along with his wife, Julie, their son, Joey, and their eleven-year-old daughter, who was found hanging from a water pipe in the basement with semen on her leg. The following April, he stabbed a twenty-four-year-old woman. In March, 1977, he bound and strangled another young woman, and over the next few years he committed at least four more murders. The city of Wichita was in an uproar. The police were getting nowhere. In 1984, in desperation, two police detectives from Wichita paid a visit to Quantico.
The meeting, Douglas writes, was held in a first-floor conference room of the F.B.I.’s forensic-science building. He was then nearly a decade into his career at the Behavioral Science Unit. His first two best-sellers, “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit,” and “Obsession: The FBI’s Legendary Profiler Probes the Psyches of Killers, Rapists, and Stalkers and Their Victims and Tells How to Fight Back,” were still in the future. Working a hundred and fifty cases a year, he was on the road constantly, but BTK was never far from his thoughts. “Some nights I’d lie awake asking myself, ‘Who the hell is this BTK?’ ” he writes. “What makes a guy like this do what he does? What makes him tick?”
Roy Hazelwood sat next to Douglas. A lean chain-smoker, Hazelwood specialized in sex crimes, and went on to write the best-sellers “Dark Dreams” and “The Evil That Men Do.” Beside Hazelwood was an ex-Air Force pilot named Ron Walker. Walker, Douglas writes, was “whip smart” and an “exceptionally quick study.” The three bureau men and the two detectives sat around a massive oak table. “The objective of our session was to keep moving forward until we ran out of juice,” Douglas writes. They would rely on the typology developed by their colleague Robert Ressler, himself the author of the true-crime best-sellers “Whoever Fights Monsters” and “I Have Lived in the Monster.” The goal was to paint a picture of the killer—of what sort of man BTK was, and what he did, and where he worked, and what he was like—and with that scene “Inside the Mind of BTK” begins.
We are now so familiar with crime stories told through the eyes of the profiler that it is easy to lose sight of how audacious the genre is. The traditional detective story begins with the body and centers on the detective’s search for the culprit. Leads are pursued. A net is cast, widening to encompass a bewilderingly diverse pool of suspects: the butler, the spurned lover, the embittered nephew, the shadowy European. That’s a Whodunit. In the profiling genre, the net is narrowed. The crime scene doesn’t initiate our search for the killer. It defines the killer for us. The profiler sifts through the case materials, looks off into the distance, and knows. “Generally, a psychiatrist can study a man and make a few reasonable predictions about what the man may do in the future—how he will react to such-and-such a stimulus, how he will behave in such-and-such a situation,” Brussel writes. “What I have done is reverse the terms of the prophecy. By studying a man’s deeds, I have deduced what kind of man he might be.” Look for a middle-aged Slav in a double-breasted suit. Profiling stories aren’t Whodunits; they’re Hedunits.
In the Hedunit, the profiler does not catch the criminal. That’s for local law enforcement. He takes the meeting. Often, he doesn’t write down his predictions. It’s up to the visiting police officers to take notes. He does not feel the need to involve himself in the subsequent investigation, or even, it turns out, to justify his predictions. Once, Douglas tells us, he drove down to the local police station and offered his services in the case of an elderly woman who had been savagely beaten and sexually assaulted. The detectives working the crime were regular cops, and Douglas was a bureau guy, so you can imagine him perched on the edge of a desk, the others pulling up chairs around him.
“ ‘Okay,’ I said to the detectives. . . . ‘Here’s what I think,’ ” Douglas begins. “It’s a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old high school kid. . . . He’ll be disheveled-looking, he’ll have scruffy hair, generally poorly groomed.” He went on: a loner, kind of weird, no girlfriend, lots of bottled-up anger. He comes to the old lady’s house. He knows she’s alone. Maybe he’s done odd jobs for her in the past. Douglas continues:
I pause in my narrative and tell them there’s someone who meets this description out there. If they can find him, they’ve got their offender.You might think that Douglas would bridle at that comparison. He is, after all, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who studied with Teten, who studied with Brussel. He is an ace profiler, part of a team that restored the F.B.I.’s reputation for crime-fighting, inspired countless movies, television shows, and best-selling thrillers, and brought the modern tools of psychology to bear on the savagery of the criminal mind—and some cop is calling him a psychic. But Douglas doesn’t object. Instead, he begins to muse on the ineffable origins of his insights, at which point the question arises of what exactly this mysterious art called profiling is, and whether it can be trusted. Douglas writes,
What I try to do with a case is to take in all the evidence I have to work with . . . and then put myself mentally and emotionally in the head of the offender. I try to think as he does. Exactly how this happens, I’m not sure, any more than the novelists such as Tom Harris who’ve consulted me over the years can say exactly how their characters come to life. If there’s a psychic component to this, I won’t run from it.In the late nineteen-seventies, John Douglas and his F.B.I. colleague Robert Ressler set out to interview the most notorious serial killers in the country. They started in California, since, as Douglas says, “California has always had more than its share of weird and spectacular crimes.” On weekends and days off, over the next months, they stopped by one federal prison after another, until they had interviewed thirty-six murderers.
Douglas and Ressler wanted to know whether there was a pattern that connected a killer’s life and personality with the nature of his crimes. They were looking for what psychologists would call a homology, an agreement between character and action, and, after comparing what they learned from the killers with what they already knew about the characteristics of their murders, they became convinced that they’d found one.
Serial killers, they concluded, fall into one of two categories. Some crime scenes show evidence of logic and planning. The victim has been hunted and selected, in order to fulfill a specific fantasy. The recruitment of the victim might involve a ruse or a con. The perpetrator maintains control throughout the offense. He takes his time with the victim, carefully enacting his fantasies. He is adaptable and mobile. He almost never leaves a weapon behind. He meticulously conceals the body. Douglas and Ressler, in their respective books, call that kind of crime “organized.”
In a “disorganized” crime, the victim isn’t chosen logically. She’s seemingly picked at random and “blitz-attacked,” not stalked and coerced. The killer might grab a steak knife from the kitchen and leave the knife behind. The crime is so sloppily executed that the victim often has a chance to fight back. The crime might take place in a high-risk environment. “Moreover, the disorganized killer has no idea of, or interest in, the personalities of his victims,” Ressler writes in “Whoever Fights Monsters.” “He does not want to know who they are, and many times takes steps to obliterate their personalities by quickly knocking them unconscious or covering their faces or otherwise disfiguring them.”
Each of these styles, the argument goes, corresponds to a personality type. The organized killer is intelligent and articulate. He feels superior to those around him. The disorganized killer is unattractive and has a poor self-image. He often has some kind of disability. He’s too strange and withdrawn to be married or have a girlfriend. If he doesn’t live alone, he lives with his parents. He has pornography stashed in his closet. If he drives at all, his car is a wreck.
“The crime scene is presumed to reflect the murderer’s behavior and personality in much the same way as furnishings reveal the homeowner’s character,” we’re told in a crime manual that Douglas and Ressler helped write. The more they learned, the more precise the associations became. If the victim was white, the killer would be white. If the victim was old, the killer would be sexually immature.
“In our research, we discovered that . . . frequently serial offenders had failed in their efforts to join police departments and had taken jobs in related fields, such as security guard or night watchman,” Douglas writes. Given that organized rapists were preoccupied with control, it made sense that they would be fascinated by the social institution that symbolizes control. Out of that insight came another prediction: “One of the things we began saying in some of our profiles was that the UNSUB”—the unknown subject—“would drive a policelike vehicle, say a Ford Crown Victoria or Chevrolet Caprice.”
On the surface, the F.B.I.’s system seems extraordinarily useful. Consider a case study widely used in the profiling literature. The body of a twenty-six-year-old special-education teacher was found on the roof of her Bronx apartment building. She was apparently abducted just after she left her house for work, at six-thirty in the morning. She had been beaten beyond recognition, and tied up with her stockings and belt. The killer had mutilated her sexual organs, chopped off her nipples, covered her body with bites, written obscenities across her abdomen, masturbated, and then defecated next to the body.
Let’s pretend that we’re an F.B.I. profiler. First question: race. The victim is white, so let’s call the offender white. Let’s say he’s in his mid-twenties to early thirties, which is when the thirty-six men in the F.B.I.’s sample started killing. Is the crime organized or disorganized? Disorganized, clearly. It’s on a rooftop, in the Bronx, in broad daylight—high risk. So what is the killer doing in the building at six-thirty in the morning? He could be some kind of serviceman, or he could live in the neighborhood. Either way, he appears to be familiar with the building. He’s disorganized, though, so he’s not stable. If he is employed, it’s blue-collar work, at best. He probably has a prior offense, having to do with violence or sex. His relationships with women will be either nonexistent or deeply troubled. And the mutilation and the defecation are so strange that he’s probably mentally ill or has some kind of substance-abuse problem. How does that sound? As it turns out, it’s spot-on. The killer was Carmine Calabro, age thirty, a single, unemployed, deeply troubled actor who, when he was not in a mental institution, lived with his widowed father on the fourth floor of the building where the murder took place.
But how useful is that profile, really? The police already had Calabro on their list of suspects: if you’re looking for the person who killed and mutilated someone on the roof, you don’t really need a profiler to tell you to check out the dishevelled, mentally ill guy living with his father on the fourth floor.
That’s why the F.B.I.’s profilers have always tried to supplement the basic outlines of the organized/disorganized system with telling details—something that lets the police zero in on a suspect. In the early eighties, Douglas gave a presentation to a roomful of police officers and F.B.I. agents in Marin County about the Trailside Killer, who was murdering female hikers in the hills north of San Francisco. In Douglas’s view, the killer was a classic “disorganized” offender—a blitz attacker, white, early to mid-thirties, blue collar, probably with “a history of bed-wetting, fire-starting, and cruelty to animals.” Then he went back to how asocial the killer seemed. Why did all the killings take place in heavily wooded areas, miles from the road? Douglas reasoned that the killer required such seclusion because he had some condition that he was deeply self-conscious about. Was it something physical, like a missing limb? But then how could he hike miles into the woods and physically overpower his victims? Finally, it came to him: “ ‘Another thing,’ I added after a pregnant pause, ‘the killer will have a speech impediment.’ ”
And so he did. Now, that’s a useful detail. Or is it? Douglas then tells us that he pegged the offender’s age as early thirties, and he turned out to be fifty. Detectives use profiles to narrow down the range of suspects. It doesn’t do any good to get a specific detail right if you get general details wrong.
In the case of Derrick Todd Lee, the Baton Rouge serial killer, the F.B.I. profile described the offender as a white male blue-collar worker, between twenty-five and thirty-five years old, who “wants to be seen as someone who is attractive and appealing to women.” The profile went on, “However, his level of sophistication in interacting with women, especially women who are above him in the social strata, is low. Any contact he has had with women he has found attractive would be described by these women as ‘awkward.’ ” The F.B.I. was right about the killer being a blue-collar male between twenty-five and thirty-five. But Lee turned out to be charming and outgoing, the sort to put on a cowboy hat and snakeskin boots and head for the bars. He was an extrovert with a number of girlfriends and a reputation as a ladies’ man. And he wasn’t white. He was black.
A profile isn’t a test, where you pass if you get most of the answers right. It’s a portrait, and all the details have to cohere in some way if the image is to be helpful. In the mid-nineties, the British Home Office analyzed a hundred and eighty-four crimes, to see how many times profiles led to the arrest of a criminal. The profile worked in five of those cases. That’s just 2.7 per cent, which makes sense if you consider the position of the detective on the receiving end of a profiler’s list of conjectures. Do you believe the stuttering part? Or do you believe the thirty-year-old part? Or do you throw up your hands in frustration?
There is a deeper problem with F.B.I. profiling. Douglas and Ressler didn’t interview a representative sample of serial killers to come up with their typology. They talked to whoever happened to be in the neighborhood. Nor did they interview their subjects according to a standardized protocol. They just sat down and chatted, which isn’t a particularly firm foundation for a psychological system. So you might wonder whether serial killers can really be categorized by their level of organization.
Not long ago, a group of psychologists at the University of Liverpool decided to test the F.B.I.’s assumptions. First, they made a list of crime-scene characteristics generally considered to show organization: perhaps the victim was alive during the sex acts, or the body was posed in a certain way, or the murder weapon was missing, or the body was concealed, or torture and restraints were involved. Then they made a list of characteristics showing disorganization: perhaps the victim was beaten, the body was left in an isolated spot, the victim’s belongings were scattered, or the murder weapon was improvised.
If the F.B.I. was right, they reasoned, the crime-scene details on each of those two lists should “co-occur”—that is, if you see one or more organized traits in a crime, there should be a reasonably high probability of seeing other organized traits. When they looked at a sample of a hundred serial crimes, however, they couldn’t find any support for the F.B.I.’s distinction. Crimes don’t fall into one camp or the other. It turns out that they’re almost always a mixture of a few key organized traits and a random array of disorganized traits. Laurence Alison, one of the leaders of the Liverpool group and the author of “The Forensic Psychologist’s Casebook,” told me, “The whole business is a lot more complicated than the F.B.I. imagines.”
Alison and another of his colleagues also looked at homology. If Douglas was right, then a certain kind of crime should correspond to a certain kind of criminal. So the Liverpool group selected a hundred stranger rapes in the United Kingdom, classifying them according to twenty-eight variables, such as whether a disguise was worn, whether compliments were given, whether there was binding, gagging, or blindfolding, whether there was apologizing or the theft of personal property, and so on. They then looked at whether the patterns in the crimes corresponded to attributes of the criminals—like age, type of employment, ethnicity, level of education, marital status, number of prior convictions, type of prior convictions, and drug use. Were rapists who bind, gag, and blindfold more like one another than they were like rapists who, say, compliment and apologize? The answer is no—not even slightly.
“The fact is that different offenders can exhibit the same behaviors for completely different reasons,” Brent Turvey, a forensic scientist who has been highly critical of the F.B.I.’s approach, says. “You’ve got a rapist who attacks a woman in the park and pulls her shirt up over her face. Why? What does that mean? There are ten different things it could mean. It could mean he doesn’t want to see her. It could mean he doesn’t want her to see him. It could mean he wants to see her breasts, he wants to imagine someone else, he wants to incapacitate her arms—all of those are possibilities. You can’t just look at one behavior in isolation.”
A few years ago, Alison went back to the case of the teacher who was murdered on the roof of her building in the Bronx. He wanted to know why, if the F.B.I.’s approach to criminal profiling was based on such simplistic psychology, it continues to have such a sterling reputation. The answer, he suspected, lay in the way the profiles were written, and, sure enough, when he broke down the rooftop-killer analysis, sentence by sentence, he found that it was so full of unverifiable and contradictory and ambiguous language that it could support virtually any interpretation.
Astrologers and psychics have known these tricks for years. The magician Ian Rowland, in his classic “The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading,” itemizes them one by one, in what could easily serve as a manual for the beginner profiler. First is the Rainbow Ruse—the “statement which credits the client with both a personality trait and its opposite.” (“I would say that on the whole you can be rather a quiet, self effacing type, but when the circumstances are right, you can be quite the life and soul of the party if the mood strikes you.”) The Jacques Statement, named for the character in “As You Like It” who gives the Seven Ages of Man speech, tailors the prediction to the age of the subject. To someone in his late thirties or early forties, for example, the psychic says, “If you are honest about it, you often get to wondering what happened to all those dreams you had when you were younger.” There is the Barnum Statement, the assertion so general that anyone would agree, and the Fuzzy Fact, the seemingly factual statement couched in a way that “leaves plenty of scope to be developed into something more specific.” (“I can see a connection with Europe, possibly Britain, or it could be the warmer, Mediterranean part?”) And that’s only the start: there is the Greener Grass technique, the Diverted Question, the Russian Doll, Sugar Lumps, not to mention Forking and the Good Chance Guess—all of which, when put together in skillful combination, can convince even the most skeptical observer that he or she is in the presence of real insight.
“Moving on to career matters, you don’t work with children, do you?” Rowland will ask his subjects, in an example of what he dubs the “Vanishing Negative.”
No, I don’t.
“No, I thought not. That’s not really your role.”
Of course, if the subject answers differently, there’s another way to play the question: “Moving on to career matters, you don’t work with children, do you?”
I do, actually, part time.
“Yes, I thought so.”
After Alison had analyzed the rooftop-killer profile, he decided to play a version of the cold-reading game. He gave the details of the crime, the profile prepared by the F.B.I., and a description of the offender to a group of senior police officers and forensic professionals in England. How did they find the profile? Highly accurate. Then Alison gave the same packet of case materials to another group of police officers, but this time he invented an imaginary offender, one who was altogether different from Calabro. The new killer was thirty-seven years old. He was an alcoholic. He had recently been laid off from his job with the water board, and had met the victim before on one of his rounds. What’s more, Alison claimed, he had a history of violent relationships with women, and prior convictions for assault and burglary. How accurate did a group of experienced police officers find the F.B.I.’s profile when it was matched with the phony offender? Every bit as accurate as when it was matched to the real offender.
James Brussel didn’t really see the Mad Bomber in that pile of pictures and photostats, then. That was an illusion. As the literary scholar Donald Foster pointed out in his 2000 book “Author Unknown,” Brussel cleaned up his predictions for his memoirs. He actually told the police to look for the bomber in White Plains, sending the N.Y.P.D.’s bomb unit on a wild goose chase in Westchester County, sifting through local records. Brussel also told the police to look for a man with a facial scar, which Metesky didn’t have. He told them to look for a man with a night job, and Metesky had been largely unemployed since leaving Con Edison in 1931. He told them to look for someone between forty and fifty, and Metesky was over fifty. He told them to look for someone who was an “expert in civil or military ordnance” and the closest Metesky came to that was a brief stint in a machine shop. And Brussel, despite what he wrote in his memoir, never said that the Bomber would be a Slav. He actually told the police to look for a man “born and educated in Germany,” a prediction so far off the mark that the Mad Bomber himself was moved to object. At the height of the police investigation, when the New York Journal American offered to print any communications from the Mad Bomber, Metesky wrote in huffily to say that “the nearest to my being ‘Teutonic’ is that my father boarded a liner in Hamburg for passage to this country—about sixty-five years ago.”
The true hero of the case wasn’t Brussel; it was a woman named Alice Kelly, who had been assigned to go through Con Edison’s personnel files. In January, 1957, she ran across an employee complaint from the early nineteen-thirties: a generator wiper at the Hell Gate plant had been knocked down by a backdraft of hot gases. The worker said that he was injured. The company said that he wasn’t. And in the flood of angry letters from the ex-employee Kelly spotted a threat—to “take justice in my own hands”—that had appeared in one of the Mad Bomber’s letters. The name on the file was George Metesky.
Brussel did not really understand the mind of the Mad Bomber. He seems to have understood only that, if you make a great number of predictions, the ones that were wrong will soon be forgotten, and the ones that turn out to be true will make you famous. The Hedunit is not a triumph of forensic analysis. It’s a party trick.
“Here’s where I’m at with this guy,” Douglas said, kicking off the profiling session with which “Inside the Mind of BTK” begins. It was 1984. The killer was still at large. Douglas, Hazelwood, and Walker and the two detectives from Wichita were all seated around the oak table. Douglas took off his suit jacket and draped it over his chair. “Back when he started in 1974, he was in his mid-to-late twenties,” Douglas began. “It’s now ten years later, so that would put him in his mid-to-late thirties.”
It was Walker’s turn: BTK had never engaged in any sexual penetration. That suggested to him someone with an “inadequate, immature sexual history.” He would have a “lone-wolf type of personality. But he’s not alone because he’s shunned by others—it’s because he chooses to be alone. . . . He can function in social settings, but only on the surface. He may have women friends he can talk to, but he’d feel very inadequate with a peer-group female.” Hazelwood was next. BTK would be “heavily into masturbation.” He went on, “Women who have had sex with this guy would describe him as aloof, uninvolved, the type who is more interested in her servicing him than the other way around.”
Douglas followed his lead. “The women he’s been with are either many years younger, very naïve, or much older and depend on him as their meal ticket,” he ventured. What’s more, the profilers determined, BTK would drive a “decent” automobile, but it would be “nondescript.”
At this point, the insights began piling on. Douglas said he’d been thinking that BTK was married. But now maybe he was thinking he was divorced. He speculated that BTK was lower middle class, probably living in a rental. Walker felt BTK was in a “lower-paying white collar job, as opposed to blue collar.” Hazelwood saw him as “middle class” and “articulate.” The consensus was that his I.Q. was somewhere between 105 and 145. Douglas wondered whether he was connected with the military. Hazelwood called him a “now” person, who needed “instant gratification.”
Walker said that those who knew him “might say they remember him, but didn’t really know much about him.” Douglas then had a flash—“It was a sense, almost a knowing”—and said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the job he’s in today, that he’s wearing some sort of uniform. . . . This guy isn’t mental. But he is crazy like a fox.”
They had been at it for almost six hours. The best minds in the F.B.I. had given the Wichita detectives a blueprint for their investigation. Look for an American male with a possible connection to the military. His I.Q. will be above 105. He will like to masturbate, and will be aloof and selfish in bed. He will drive a decent car. He will be a “now” person. He won’t be comfortable with women. But he may have women friends. He will be a lone wolf. But he will be able to function in social settings. He won’t be unmemorable. But he will be unknowable. He will be either never married, divorced, or married, and if he was or is married his wife will be younger or older. He may or may not live in a rental, and might be lower class, upper lower class, lower middle class or middle class. And he will be crazy like a fox, as opposed to being mental. If you’re keeping score, that’s a Jacques Statement, two Barnum Statements, four Rainbow Ruses, a Good Chance Guess, two predictions that aren’t really predictions because they could never be verified—and nothing even close to the salient fact that BTK was a pillar of his community, the president of his church and the married father of two.
This thing is solvable,” Douglas told the detectives, as he stood up and put on his jacket. “Feel free to pick up the phone and call us if we can be of any further assistance.” You can imagine him taking the time for an encouraging smile and a slap on the back. “You’re gonna nail this guy.”
McCann's Parents Receive $1 Million, Front-Page Apologies in U.K. Newspapers
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
LONDON — The parents of missing British toddler Madeleine McCann have received more than $1 million in damages and profuse apologies from tabloid newspapers for "numerous grotesque" and "defamatory" articles suggesting that they caused their daughter's death.
Kate and Gerry McCann said Wednesday that Express Newspapers has agreed to pay the equivalent of $1.1 million, or £550,000. The couple's lawyer said the money would go into a fund they have set up to help find their daughter.
Express has also been forced to say it's sorry for more than 100 inaccurate articles written about the McCanns, according to Sky News.
Madeleine disappeared last May 3, only a few days before she was to turn 4 years old, from an apartment where her family was staying during a vacation in Praia da Luz, Portugal.
A statement read by the McCanns' public spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, confirmed the group has agreed to give the money to the Find Madeleine Fund, Sky News reported.
The McCanns said the Express newspapers had published "numerous grotesque and grossly defamatory allegations" about them.
In a statement read outside London's High Court by Mitchell, the couple said they still believed their daughter was alive.
"There is absolutely no evidence that Madeleine is dead or has been seriously harmed," they said.
The parents of the cherubic little girl have said they were eating dinner with friends at a restaurant in the resort and left their three children sleeping in the apartment.
The McCanns have tried to fend off criticism that they shouldn't have left the toddlers alone and insisted that they checked on their daughter and her younger twin siblings frequently. At one point when they looked in on the children, they said, Madeleine was gone.
The money paid to the McCanns will be put toward "investigative initiatives" in the search for the tot, Sky reported.
Two of Express' newspapers ran front-page apologies Wednesday for suggesting the couple were responsible for Madeleine's death. Both The Daily Express and The Daily Star front-page headlines on Wednesday read "Kate and Gerry McCann: Sorry."
The pair of newspapers were among those that went furthest in claiming in daily front-page stories that the couple were responsible for their daughter's disappearance.
"We acknowledge that there is no evidence whatsoever to support this theory and that Kate and Gerry are completely innocent of any involvement in their daughter's disappearance," the identical apologies read.
Wednesday's Daily Express admitted that it ran a number of articles implying that "the couple caused the death of their missing daughter Madeleine and then covered it up," Sky News reported.
"Kate and Gerry, we are truly sorry to have added to your distress," the Daily Express added. "We assure you that we hope Madeleine will one day be found alive and well and will be restored to her loving family."
Two more front-page mea culpas were expected to follow in the newspapers' sister publications, The Sunday Express and The Sunday Star.
Weeks after the child's disappearance, Portuguese police named her parents as suspects. The couple say they were not involved in their daughter's disappearance, and they have run an international campaign to find her.
They have complained that they are unable to give their version of events because of Portuguese laws limiting what can be said in criminal cases. But in the meantime British media have published sensational stories claiming to be based on leaks, apparently from Portuguese officials.
No one has been charged and Portugal's Justice Minister Alberto Costa said last month that the police investigation into the disappearance was nearing its conclusion.
Speaking on behalf of the couple "in their words," their spokesman Mitchell read from the statement that the newspapers' action was the "only just, proper response" following the couple's complaint, according to Sky News.
"It is fitting the search for Madeleine will benefit from the wrongs that have been committed against us, her parents," the statement read. "Express newspapers rightly acknowledge they ran stories with absolutely no evidence."
The McCanns had repeatedly asked the papers to tone down their coverage.
"The sustained run of defamation by the group caused great distress, not just for Gerry and Kate, but for their family," Mitchell later told Sky News. The negative reports "provided an absolute distraction to the search to find Madeleine."
He confirmed to Sky that the Express group's four papers — the Daily Express, Daily Star and their Sunday counterparts — "had been politely but firmly warned" by representatives of the couple about the articles, in particular the headlines.
Mitchell acknowledged that many papers were guilty of false reporting, but those published by Express had "the worst track record, with a number of headlines seeing libelous statements and false claims repeated."
Public relations expert Max Clifford told Sky News Online that the settlement sends a message to the British publishing community.
"It will send a warning bow across the whole of Fleet Street," Clifford said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.