Yesterday (May 3rd) the National Vanguard website published a story entitled "How The Times Destroyed An Innocent Man", which intrigued me, because it lead to another story, reported on March 28th, about how accused "anthrax" doctor Steven Hatfill (pictured at left) will finally get his day in court. This development got absolutely zero publicity in the same mainsteam media that was only too eager to destroy his career and reputation back in 2002. If I missed this development, I'm sure 99% of the population also missed it. So I discuss it here.
Update: June 27th, 2008 - National Vanguard has disbanded. The National Vanguard links in this story are permanently severed.
In a ruling issued on March 27th, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a defamation lawsuit against The New York Times over columns that linked a former Army scientist to the 2001 anthrax killings. Authorities have never solved the mysterious mailing of anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and sickened 17 not long after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Steven Hatfill, a physician and bioterrorism expert, was labeled a "person of interest" by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, although he was never charged and has since sued Ashcroft and others. A federal judge had thrown out Hatfill's lawsuit against The New York Times over five editorial columns written by Nicholas Kristof (pictured below left, courtesy of N.Y. Times) in 2002 criticizing the FBI for failing to thoroughly investigate Hatfill. Kristof allegedly never attempted to contact Hatfill or his legal representatives for their side of the story. In an effort to deflect the suit, the Times offered to let Dr. Hatfill write a rebuttal column, but only if he didn't criticize Kristof by name. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the suit, and the Supreme Court declined without comment to take up the case. In addition to this media defamation lawsuit, Dr. Hatfill is also suing the Department of Justice over invasion of privacy. He wants the government agents who smeared him, by using the media, to pay for their crimes.
Dr. Hatfill launched his original suit in Federal court in Alexandria, Va., in 2004, claiming defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In its ruling, the appeals court said that the newspaper columns, taken as a whole, might be considered defamatory.
Dr. Hatfill's life has been a living hell ever since the Justice Department declared him a "person of interest". Despite having never been formally charge with any crime, he has lost two jobs and his career has been destroyed. Furthermore, in an article published on August 19th, 2002, NewsMax described the media frenzy thusly:
"Reporters bang on Steven J. Hatfill's door at all hours," the Washington Post reported Aug. 11 (2002). "An Internet Web site labels him Steven 'Mengele' Hatfill, Nazi swine. Cable talk shows routinely discuss whether he is last fall's anthrax mailer. And twice, the FBI has very publicly swept into Hatfill's Frederick apartment." And that’s only part of the story of the harassment of Dr. Steven Hatfill by the FBI and their media lapdogs who have swallowed every crumb of misinformation fed to them by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and her left-wing colleagues and by an out-of-control and pitifully incompetent Federal Bureau of Investigation. Almost oblivious of the fact that they are in effect charging Dr. Hatfill with wantonly murdering five innocent fellow Americans, the media have swarmed around him like angry bees, dredging up incidents in his distant past to justify their continuing attacks.
While the mainstream media harassment has since abated, the extremist Jewish Defense Organization (JDO) continues to harass him to this very day, assembling, collating, and connecting various pieces of circumstantial evidence to make it appear as if Dr. Hatfill's the prime suspect. His career continues to lie in ruins.
New York Times lawyer David Schulz of New York said the appeals court decision undermines free speech protections for reporters and invites more lawsuits over legitimate news reporting. The Associated Press and some 30 other news organizations urged the court to use the case to clarify reporters' free-speech protections. "Reporting on government investigations is critical to the public's ability to evaluate how their elected and appointed officials are executing the responsibility of enforcing the laws and protecting the peace," Washington lawyer Paul M. Smith wrote in the groups' filing. Hatfill's attorney, Christopher Wright, said that the reporting by Kristof was reckless, with multiple errors, including the claim that Hatfill had failed three polygraph tests. The New York Times has been plagued by instances of biased reporting and even outright plagiarism in recent years.
Analysis: This case is remarkably similar to the Richard Jewell case in 1996, when Jewell was also declared a "person of interest" in the Atlanta Olympic Park bombings, and subjected to similar media frenzy. Jewell successfully sued the government and several media organizations. One suit, Richard Jewell v. Cox Enterprises (the parent company of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), was still pending as of April 2005.
One law cited by media organizations in cases like this is the proposed "Federal Media Shield Law". Media organizations claim they need this law to facilitate accurate and timely reporting. However, some are concerned that media organizations would use such a law to evade accountability and responsibility, and would hinder the presumption of innocence by impinging upon the right to confront one's accusers. This is what happened to the once-commendable Rape Shield Law. Originally conceived to protect rape victims from being "placed on trial" like their accusers, rape "victims" have been able to use it to launch hit-and-run attacks against people who cross them for other reasons. The notorious Kobe Bryant case, where his name was dragged through the mud by a neurotic groupie, is the most prominent example.