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August 11, 2008


Brad Jacobson

Ivins Anthrax Case Another Black Eye for Network News


Good overview. Greenwald's done some great work on this story, too.

Brad Jacobson

Thanks, Batacchio. Greenwald's work on this case has been excellent; I've linked to it two or three times within this piece. Larisa Alexandrovna is also another standout on this investigation.


Your basic argument is plenty convincing, and I'm with you all the way.

Nevertheless, I can't help regretting your focus on the term? concept? "circumstantial evidence." I know defense attorneys like to trumpet that the prosecution's case is "merely circumstantial," and jurors cite that as a reason for defying logic in their decisions. But really....

I don't know the legal terms, but I've always thought in terms of three types of evidence: forensic, circumstantial, and eye-witness. And that's in order of reliability.

Anyone who has had Psychology 101 knows how unreliable eye-witness testimony can be. (The most entertaining example involves the basketball teams' passing a ball while an "invisible" guy in a gorilla suit moonwalks among them.) Regardless, accurate or not, an eyewitness provides a discrete datum.

Forensic evidence involves direct stuff. Experts might argue about how to interpret the stuff, but there it is. Once again, though, a discrete datum.

A circumstantial case takes all available data, from all sources, and puts it together into a coherent narrative. Yeah, garbage in, garbage out. But an overall narrative, sound in logic, and supported by multiple data creates a structure that stands, even if one or several specific data are discredited.

Note to lawyers: If you allow me to serve on a jury, the overall circumstantial case is what will push me one direction or the other.

ARG in Chicago

Brad, another interesting tid-bit is that Pete Williams -- the NBC justice correspondent -- was once the chief of staff for a Congressman. The Congressman was a guy named Dick Cheney.

Gut instinct leads one to beleive there's much more to this story than one lone mad scientist.

An obvious conspiracy theory would be that the government put the antrhax out there to influence the public, and a couple of key Senators, into going to war with Iraq and passing laws which greatly expand the power of the executive branch.

Who in the executive branch would have had this on his agenda? And to what extent has he infiltrated other media outlets (besides NBC) with his people?

It's really hard to understand why this hasn't gotten more media attention.

-- ARG

Brad Jacobson

Good point about Pete Williams' old boss, ARG. I've noted that connection here in the past multiple times. It's impossible to believe his coverage isn't compromised by this former association -- the choices are: a) it is, b) he's a terrible journalist, or c)both. I wrote long ago that it's unethical for NBC News to keep him in this position. Every time I hear "Justice Correspondent" + "Pete Williams," I cringe. The only possible way this should be allowed is if NBC News and Pete Williams provided viewers with full disclosure each report, making clear his ties to Cheney. Of course that would be too awkward for NBC and off-putting to viewers, who would think, "Hey, why is this guy covering the Justice Department?" So it would never happen.

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