Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Falsely-Accused "Anthrax" Doctor Steven Hatfill Settles $10 Million Lawsuit Against Vanity Fair And Reader's Digest

A former Army scientist named by investigators as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks, Dr. Steven Hatfill, has settled his $10 million libel suit against Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest after the two magazines agreed to retract any implication that the bioweapons specialist was behind the deadly anthrax mailings. Full story published in the February 27th, 2007 edition of the New York Post. The case of Dr. Steven Hatfill was previously discussed HERE in May 2006.

A statement issued by a lawyer for Dr. Hatfill, Hassan Zavareei, said the case "has now been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all the parties." He did not indicate whether any money changed hands.

A spokeswoman for Reader's Digest, Ellen Morgenstern, confirmed the settlement, but she would not elaborate. "All I can tell you is we're very satisfied with the results. I can't get into any detail," she said. No reaction has been forthcoming from Vanity Fair's parent company, Condé Nast Publications.

Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit claimed that he was defamed in an article written in 2003 by an English professor at Vassar College, Donald Foster. Mr. Foster's assessment, first published in Vanity Fair and later carried in abridged form in Reader's Digest, analyzed Dr. Hatfill's writings and travels and found them consistent with patterns seen in the 2001 anthrax attacks, as well as prior hoaxes and suspicious incidents. "When I lined up Hatfill's known movements with the postmark locations of reported biothreats, those hoax anthrax attacks appeared to trail him like a vapor cloud," Mr. Foster wrote.

Dr. Hatfill has vehemently denied involvement in the anthrax mailings, which killed at least five people and led to the closure of a Senate office building for three months.

The quasi-retractions issued by the two publishing companies and Mr. Foster suggested that readers were mistaken if they took the articles as accusing Dr. Hatfill of the anthrax mailings. "Neither Condé Nast Publications nor the article's author intended to imply that they had concluded that Steven J. Hatfill, M.D., perpetrated the anthrax attacks that occurred in the United States in the fall of 2001. To the extent any statements contained in the article might be read to convey that Condé Nast and Prof. Foster were accusing Dr. Hatfill of perpetrating these attacks, Condé Nast and Prof. Foster retract any such implication," the statement said. The statement from Reader's Digest was essentially identical.

In January 2007, a federal judge in Virginia threw out a separate libel lawsuit Dr. Hatfill filed against the New York Times over a series of columns about the anthrax case. Judge Claude Hilton said Dr. Hatfill was a public figure and that there was insufficient evidence that the Times printed the columns knowing or strongly suspecting that they were false. Dr. Hatfill has appealed.

It seems doubtful that the settlement announced yesterday delivered much, if any, money to Dr. Hatfill. Judge Hilton's decision could have undermined the case against Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest, which was already in some difficulty. Last year, the lawyers representing the scientist in the Times case and another case against the federal government withdrew from the case against the two magazines.

Dr. Hatfill's suit against Vanity Fair, Reader's Digest, and Mr. Foster was filed in Virginia in August 2004, and later transferred to New York at the request of the publications. Mr. Foster's employer, Vassar, was named as a defendant early in the litigation but was subsequently dismissed from the case.

Wikipedia provides us a more detailed account of Dr. Hatfill's life.

Analysis: Even if little money changed hands, it represents a moral victory for Dr. Hatfill, who has been further vindicated in a court of law. However, Dr. Hatfill's primary enemy, the Department of Justice, still has not been held accountable. The civil rights lawsuit filed against the DOJ by Dr. Hatfill in 2003 continues to slowly wend its way through the judicial labyrinth, with DOJ hoping to wear him out or even bankrupt him by filing endless delaying procedural motions. And the Jewish Defense Organization continues to irrationally and vengefully pursue him.

A poster on the Vanguard News Network Forum refers to an alternate source of information, the Whatreallyhappened.com website, to identify a much more likely "person of interest" in this attack. The site casts suspicion on a Dr. Philip Zack. Here's a short excerpt, with additional links:

The FBI knows of a man who was caught entering the lab where the Anthrax used in the letters was kept, after he had been fired for a racially motivated attack on a co-worker. So, why is the FBI wasting its time with Steven Hatfill?

News Story identifying Dr. Philip Zack as the man caught entering the Anthrax storage area at Fort Detrick without authorization.

In this story, it is reported that Dr. Zack was caught on a security tape making an unauthorized entry into the Anthrax storage area.

Foreign press picks up story that Anthrax letters were sent by American bio-war scientist ... and that the FBI is dragging its feet on the case.

FBI'S PRIME SUSPECT ON ANTHRAX LETTERS IS JEWISH! No wonder they were dragging their feet.

Salon's story of the attempt to frame Dr. Ayaad Assaad, an Egyptian, for the Anthrax letters . Already the hate email is pouring in insisting that coverage of this story is "anti-Semitic". Clearly, a certain nation is terrified of this story getting wide coverage.

The time has come to face the unpleasant fact the citizens of the United States may well be the victims of the most incredible hoax in history regarding who is really behind the attacks on the World Trade Towers, the mailing of Anthrax letters to political and media leaders, and even to
doubts that Daniel Pearl's killers are actually who we have been told they are.

Even if the site appears a bit conspiratorial, the government's obsession with Dr. Hatfill, in the absence of any supportive evidence of his complicity, ensures the actual perpetrator remains at large and in a position to launch a larger scale attack in the future. Just as the WTC attack in 1993 turned out to be a dry run for 9-11, so the earlier anthrax attack may end up being a dry run for a catastrophic biological attack upon an entire city in the future. It's time for the Feds to pursue this case wherever and however it may lead, without regard for political sensitivities.

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  2. Philip M. Zack, age 51, PhD, DVM is not jewish and never was. So as conspiracy theories go, this is a particularly baseless one. PMZ was a good Catholic boy. Member of St. Nicholas church in Zainesville, OH growing up. Married a methodist in 1974. Any work colleague could have confirmed this -- or even a google news search in the archives -- but apparently all the political propagandists don't engage in fact-checking. Jihad Unspun, Washington Report, Arab News, WhatReallyHappened and aztlan webpage apparently just made the assumption that fit their prejudices rather than engaging in any sort of fact-checking. (Either Delinda at WR or Hector at aztlan being the first) Then additional webposters (like Alaska Pride here) have just kept posting the specious lie that served as the context for a false accusation of murder. Simple rule of thumb: before making a baseless accusation of murder, check your facts, and when found wrong, correct the fact promptly, and, heck, if it was overboard stupid like this mistake was, apologize. (Further hint: the irradiated bacteria was not weaponized and he was thousands of miles away in Fall 2001).

    Source: "Miss Nancy L. Wise Weds Philip M. Zack, The Times Recoder, July 1974
    (full-text available at ancestry.com using 14-day free trial and searching under wife's name; or partial text on google news) See also Zabanews.

  3. errata - "age 51" should read "born 1951".

    errata -Zabanews should be Zabasearch

    See how easy and painless it is to correct obvious mistakes?