Olbermann Suggests Govt Delayed Anthrax Case to Push Iraq Attack

For Friday's Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann showed up wearing his tinfoil hat to cover the recent break in the Anthrax attacks case from 2001, as he charged that "the government took advantage of this situation to use it as a tool to build up a case to go to war in Iraq," and, stepping into his "conspiracy theory" mode, even suggested that the Bush administration was not interested in quickly solving the case. Olbermann: "And in that context, there would be no rush to find the deranged, solo killer."

During the show's teaser, Olbermann's bizarre choice of words made it sound as if he were theorizing about the possibility of a conspiracy to carry out the Anthrax attacks to build support for invading Iraq, as the MSNBC host used the loaded phrase "it was an inside job" because the suspect was a government employee, and then seemed to link John McCain's speculation from 2001 that the Anthrax "may have come from Iraq," to the "motive." Before playing a clip of McCain, Olbermann teased: "For motive, for explanation, there are few options, and all of them are terrifying, including why people like U.S. Senators were saying this in 2001."

The Countdown show's teaser ran:
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The Anthrax attacks. Nearly seven years after "terror by mail," it was reportedly an inside job by a top government scientist inside our own biological warfare lab in Maryland. The suspect reportedly identified, the FBI readying criminal charges, and the man suddenly dies of a prescription drug overdose, an apparent suicide.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The FBI has been here for about a year. I mean, we knew that they have been here for a long time. I would see them all the time.

OLBERMANN: For motive, for explanation, there are few options, and all of them are terrifying, including why people like U.S. Senators were saying this in 2001.

JOHN MCCAIN, APPEARING ON DAVID LETTERMAN'S SHOW IN OCTOBER 2001: There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this Anthrax may, and I emphasize "may," have come from Iraq.
During the introduction for the show's first segment, the MSNBC host posed three questions: "If reporting by the Los Angeles Times today is even remotely accurate, the questions about the Anthrax attacks which terrified this nation late in 2001, would seem tonight to have boiled down to three. First, was the Anthrax sent by just one employee of our own government or more than one employee of our own government? Second, when the FBI missed an easy clue, the unreported spilling of Anthrax in the federal repository of Anthrax, that the suspect did not report, was it incompetence or a cover up? And third, how, if there was evidence of something askew in our biological warfare lab in Maryland as early as December 2001, why did national news organizations in this country receive supposedly reliable leaks from the Bush administration that the Anthrax had originated in Iraq?"

After recounting some of the developments, Olbermann returned to the issue of whether the Anthrax attacks were "used to argue for the invasion of Iraq," and showed the McCain soundbite from 2001:
OLBERMANN: In the wake of the apparent suicide of an alleged suspect in the Anthrax attacks, new questions being raised about the extent to which the attacks were used to argue for the invasion of Iraq. On October 18, 2001, a United States Senator having raised that very possibility with David Letterman.

DAVID LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?

MCCAIN CLIP #1: I think we're doing fine.

MCCAIN CLIP #2: I think we'll be fine. The second phase, if I could just make one very quickly, the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this Anthrax may, and I emphasize "may," have come from Iraq.

LETTERMAN: Oh, is that right?

MCCAIN: If that may be the case, then that's when some tough decisions are going to have to be made.
After being filled in on some of the details in the case by guest David Willman of the Los Angeles Times, the MSNBC host brought aboard investigative journalist Gerald Posner, author of Why America Slept, and seemed to theorize that the Bush administration was deliberately slow in catching the Anthrax killer. Olbermann: "But let me switch over to the other half of this. The government's reaction to this, from the investigation to the Bush administration reaction, the leaks tying all of this to Iraq, getting the wrong man, Hatfill, and dogging him for years, letting the other guy continue to work at Fort Detrick. He was still there until weeks ago, and then close in on him so slowly that he has time to go into the psychiatric ward and then get out and then reportedly kill himself. It smells terribly bad. Is it as bad as conceivably as bad as it smells?"

During his response, Posner mentioned the McCain soundbite and charged that the Bush administration "never had a lie leading up to the war in Iraq and scaring this country into it that they shied away from, and Anthrax was one of those that they embraced."

Olbermann then asked Posner about the possibility the government "took advantage of this situation," but the way he phrased the question he seemed to hold open the possibility that Ivins was part of a deliberate conspiracy to perpetrate the Anthrax attack to bolster the case for invading Iraq, as Olbermann suggested they "assume for a moment there's no pro-activity, that this was Dr. Ivins's flipping out ... that the government simply took advantage of this," as if he were holding open the possibility of government involvement in the plot. Olbermann: "Do you see a scenario in which simply, this government took advantage of this situation? Whether or not, let's assume for a moment there's no pro-activity, that this was Dr. Ivins's flipping out to whatever degree it was required to do this, that the government simply took advantage of this to use it as a tool to build up a case to go to war in Iraq?"

Posner charged that "there were individuals inside the Bush administration and in the government that wanted the war in Iraq so badly, that they decided that if there was something that they could use to push it forward, they would. Anthrax fell into their lap, even if he is the deranged solo killer. They used it in order to scare this country and say Iraq is somebody we have to go after, and we did."

Olbermann concluded by repeating his theory that the Bush administration may have been deliberately slow in solving the case: "And in that context, there would be no rush to find the deranged, solo killer." Posner: "They could rely on the blunders of the FBI." Olbermann: "Indeed."

Below is a transcript of the relevant portions of the Friday, August 1, Countdown show on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN, IN OPENING TEASER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? The Anthrax attacks. Nearly seven years after "terror by mail," it was reportedly an inside job by a top government scientist inside our own biological warfare lab in Maryland. The suspect reportedly identified, the FBI readying criminal charges, and the man suddenly dies of a prescription drug overdose, an apparent suicide.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The FBI has been here for about a year. I mean, we knew that they have been here for a long time. I would see them all the time.

OLBERMANN: For motive, for explanation, there are few options, and all of them are terrifying, including why people like U.S. Senators were saying this in 2001.

JOHN MCCAIN: There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this Anthrax may, and I emphasize "may," have come from Iraq.
...

OLBERMANN: First, if reporting by the Los Angeles Times today is even remotely accurate, the questions about the Anthrax attacks which terrified this nation late in 2001, would seem tonight to have boiled down to three. First, was the Anthrax sent by just one employee of our own government or more than one employee of our own government? Second, when the FBI missed an easy clue, the unreported spilling of Anthrax in the federal repository of Anthrax, that the suspect did not report, was it incompetence or a cover up? And third, how, if there was evidence of something askew in our biological warfare lab in Maryland as early as December 2001, why did national news organizations in this country receive supposedly reliable leaks from the Bush administration that the Anthrax had originated in Iraq?

Our fifth story on the Countdown, there is finally a suspect in the Anthrax attacks. He worked for the government's Anthrax lab, and, unfortunately, he's dead, as of this past Tuesday. His name was Dr. Bruce E. Ivins.

After summarizing the recent developments in the case, Olbermann continued:

OLBERMANN: Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, of course, Anthrax-laced letters having arrived here at NBC News, at the Capitol Hill offices of then Senator Daschle and Senator Leahy and at the company that owns the National Enquirer. Former Senator Daschle saying today that, "the FBI owes it to the country to provide some accounting of their investigation and their expectations for a successful conclusion."

So far, many more questions than answers remain. The FBI, the Justice Department, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service today jointly announcing that "there had been significant developments in the investigation but confirming only that substantial progress has been made by bringing to bear new and sophisticated scientific tools."

At Kennebunkport, Maine, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino telling reporters that President Bush was aware of the investigation to an extent.

DANA PERINO: President Bush, over the years, has maintained an interest in this case and has periodically been updated by the FBI director on developments in the case, not necessarily so much in specifics, but in general, so that he can make sure that the FBI continued to work to try to solve the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: So was he aware that this particular person was about to be indicted?

PERINO: I think the President was aware that there have been developments, but for me to answer that question would be to comment on the story that is reported in the papers this morning, which I can't do at this moment. So I'm going to have to refer you to the Justice Department for now.

OLBERMANN: In the wake of the apparent suicide of an alleged suspect in the Anthrax attacks, new questions being raised about the extent to which the attacks were used to argue for the invasion of Iraq. On October 18, 2001, a United States Senator having raised that very possibility with David Letterman.

DAVID LETTERMAN: How are things going in Afghanistan now?

MCCAIN CLIP #1: I think we're doing fine.

MCCAIN CLIP #2: I think we'll be fine. The second phase, if I could just make one very quickly, the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this Anthrax may, and I emphasize "may," have come from Iraq.

LETTERMAN: Oh, is that right?

MCCAIN: If that may be the case, then that's when some tough decisions are going to have to be made.

OLBERMANN: We're joined now by David Willman, the Los Angeles Times staff writer who broke the newspaper story on the apparent suicide in the Anthrax case.
...

OLBERMANN: But let me switch over to the other half of this. The government's reaction to this, from the investigation to the Bush administration reaction, the leaks tying all of this to Iraq, getting the wrong man, Hatfill, and dogging him for years, letting the other guy continue to work at Fort Detrick. He was still there until weeks ago, and then close in on him so slowly that he has time to go into the psychiatric ward and then get out and then reportedly kill himself. It smells terribly bad. Is it as bad as conceivably as bad as it smells?

GERALD POSNER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Oh, you know, absolutely. I think this is a case where you can just say and look, it's been bungled from the start, it was bungled from the very beginning when they went after Hatfill, they have the wrong person. Now, they claim, and if you read the L.A. Times article, it's very clear on this that they have new DNA technology which isolates it to a specific strain of this type of Anthrax, and that's why they know that he handled it. There's a debate over that.

In addition, you're talking about the most secure lab in America for this type of bacteriological warfare items, and there are cameras all over and security items, and supposedly he went down and swabbed with all types of material like chlorine and bleach, areas around his desk where spores were from the Anthrax and nobody ever saw him on a security camera. The FBI never picked up any example of this.

And, meanwhile, as you showed with McCain, back in just a month after 2001, they are already beating the war drums in the Republican Party that there might be a tie to this Anthrax attack to Iraq. There wasn't an iota of evidence to support that at the time. There isn't today. It was irresponsible at the time and it's irresponsible today. This man's death shows that, and that there's no answer from the Bush administration. They never had a lie leading up to the war in Iraq and scaring this country into it that they shied away from, and Anthrax was one of those that they embraced.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, this was American Anthrax used to kill Americans. That's the one conclusion, I think, we can draw out of this. But the other thing becomes that point that you just raised about Iraq. It's not just what John McCain said one night on Letterman's Show, it was dozens of tips provided by supposedly reliable sources inside the government. One can't imagine they were all wrong.

Do you see a scenario in which simply, this government took advantage of this situation? Whether or not, let's assume for a moment there's no pro-activity, that this was Dr. Ivins's flipping out to whatever degree it was required to do this, that the government simply took advantage of this to use it as a tool to build up a case to go to war in Iraq?

POSNER: I have absolutely no doubt about that. From everything that I've done on my own investigation and following up from 2001, I'm now more convinced than ever that there were individuals inside the Bush administration and in the government that wanted the war in Iraq so badly, that they decided that if there was something that they could use to push it forward, they would. Anthrax fell into their lap, even if he is the deranged solo killer, they used it in order to scare this country and say Iraq is somebody we have to go after, and we did.

OLBERMANN: And in that context, there would be no rush to find the deranged, solo killer. Investigative journalist-

POSNER: They could rely on the blunders of the FBI.

OLBERMANN: Indeed. Investigative journalist Gerald Posner, as always, great thanks for joining us, sir.

POSNER: Thanks, Keith.