Glenn Greenwald
Politics • Writing • Culture
The Largely Forgotten—And Still-Highly Suspect—2001 Anthrax Attacks That Enabled the Iraq War & Shine Light COVID's Origins
Video Transcript
May 25, 2023
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Good evening. It's Monday, May 22. Welcome to a new episode – a special episode –- of System Update, our live nightly show that airs every Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern, exclusively here on Rumble, the free speech alternative to YouTube. 

Tonight, we devote the entire show to one of the most significant events in American history over the last 40 years that happens to also be one of the most forgotten, namely, the 2001 anthrax attacks. Just seven days after 9/11, while rubble from the World Trade Center still lay on the streets of New York City with thousands of corpses underneath it, news outlets began reporting that envelopes containing what was said at the time to be extremely sophisticated and highly weaponized strains of anthrax were dropped in the U.S. Postal Service and addressed to some of the nation's most prominent journalists, including NBC News anchor, Tom Brokaw, the newsrooms of ABC, NBC, CBS and the New York Post, as well as top political officials, including then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. 

Those anthrax spores ended up killing five people, including a photojournalist with The Sun and two postal workers and 17 others were infected, with 11 of them being seriously ill. One could very easily argue that the anthrax attacks were at least as important in ratcheting up fear levels in the United States as the 9/11 attack itself was. And one could even plausibly argue that they were more effective in generating widespread fear and panic. The fear enabled the U.S. government to do everything from enacting the Patriot Act and imposing a pervasive domestic surveillance state to invading Iraq and bombing nine different countries over the next 15 years. 

While the 9/11 attacks were aimed at key centers in symbols of American corporate, political and military power – two planes hit the World Trade Center in Manhattan, another crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, while the fourth plane either crashed or was shot down by Dick Cheney was reportedly headed for the U.S. Capitol – the anthrax attacks, though, were delivered by mail. As a result, it convinced Americans far away from the nation's most important cities, in the suburbs, in rural areas, in small towns, everywhere, that they, too, were severely endangered, that Bond-like terrorist villains could get at them with terrifying biological weapons that could materialize right in their front lawn, in their mailbox, long an American symbol of friendly neighborhoods and an implicit sense of safety. 

That such a dastardly plot was carried out just a week after the spectacularly frightening and traumatizing 9/11 attack created a perception that everything had become destabilized, that nothing was safe, that our enemies were simultaneously highly sophisticated and serious, yet had no limits of any kind, a completely new enemy, unlike anything we had seen before, even during the five-decade Cold War with the Soviet Union. Looking back, there is no question that this widespread fear and panic was deliberately fostered and opportunistically exploited. While the 2003 invasion of Iraq was largely justified based on the dangers revealed by the 9/11 attack, there was a very influential camp of neocons and militarists in the United States who were eager to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam for years prior to the September 11 attacks. They included Joe Biden; neocons led by Bill Kristol and David Frum, who would go on to write George W. Bush's post-9/11 speeches, John McCain and Dick Cheney. And many of them wasted little time encouraging Americans to blame Iraq for the anthrax attacks, inventing outright lies in the days and weeks after the 9/11 attack that they wandered through America's most influential news outlets that wasted no time in priming Americans to believe that their safety depended on overthrowing the Iraqi leader, long one of America's closest allies in the region, but who now was said to be both a close ally of al-Qaida and the likely perpetrator of these anthrax attacks. 

It took the FBI more than seven full years to claim, in 2008, that they had finally solved the case and found the perpetrator of the attacks. After first trying to pin the blame on an American bioweapons expert named Steven Hatfill, only to pay him almost $6 million in a lawsuit after admitting he had no role whatsoever, the FBI announced in 2008 they had finally found the perpetrator: an American microbiologist who worked at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland, named Bruce Ivins. Unfortunately, said the FBI, Dr. Ivins had just committed suicide as they were just about to arrest him, meaning the FBI would never have to prove their allegations in a court of law against him, and would never have to have their case and the evidence on which it was based that they found the real attacker subjected to the rigors of cross-examination, judicial scrutiny, or public examination. Almost instantly, serious doubts emerged about the FBI's evidence and their claim to have found the real killer, both circumstantial and scientific. And those doubts emerged not from obscure or marginalized venues, but from the nation's most mainstream newspapers and scientific journals. When the FBI finally made its scientific evidence available to a body of independent scientific investigators, that body concluded – in 2011 – that the FBI’s scientific evidence was far weaker than the FBI had claimed and raised more questions than it answered. 

That a crime of this magnitude – one whose effects included radical changes in how the U.S. government operates, the powers they claim, and the wars and regime change operations they will end up launching and executing for the next 15 years –  that a crime of that magnitude is still unsolved by itself justifies its revisiting, especially given that each year there are more and more Americans who have either forgotten this incident or have never lived through it in the first place. 

But the relevance of this event and the need to revisit it extends far beyond what is of historical interest. That the FBI itself claims that the worst bioweapons attack in American history came from a U.S. Army lab perpetrated by a U.S. Army scientist sheds significant light on the type of research the U.S. government does into bioweapons and that shed significant light onto the ongoing competing claims regarding the origins of the COVID pandemic. 

I spent years reporting on this anthrax case, and as I did, I became more and more convinced that, from the very start, lies and deliberate deceit drove the narrative about it from the start. There's no question about that. And every year that went by, I believe that more and more, and now I believe it more than ever. We'll walk you through the key event, surely the most central evidence, and examine the vital questions all of this raises so that you can recall everything that happened as part of this now deliberately forgotten episode and draw your own conclusions from it. 

As a reminder System Update is available in podcast form on Spotify, Apple and every other major podcasting platform to hear us in podcasting version, which is posted 12 hours after our live broadcast here on Rumble. Simply follow us, rate us and review us. That helps us spread the visibility of the show.

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update starting right now. 


The most important ingredient for state propaganda is historical ignorance. The observation is typically attributed to the philosopher George Santayana. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is based exactly on that recognition. The more history is forgotten, the easier it is to use the same exact methods of deception, falsehoods and propaganda to manipulate the public. One of the realizations you have as you get older is that every year the number of people who never live through the events that you lived through and that you remember vividly increases. And even for those who did live through those events, the confluence of our rushed lives, our need to focus on our work and family, the deliberate memory holding of those events and the memory erosion fostered by social media ensured that many simply have forgotten that which they learned and that which they lived through. And I can think of no major political event of the last 40 years for which this is more true than the anthrax attacks of 2001. There is no question that the so-called War on Terror launched by the United States after 9/11 is, along with the 2008 financial collapse, the most consequential political event in our lifetime. It radically transformed how the U.S. government functions and its relationship with the U.S. citizenry, enabling it to seize previously unthinkable powers of detention and surveillance that endured to this very day. It led to endless wars, occupations, bombing campaigns, drone warfare, a torture regime, mass domestic spying, due process, free imprisonment, and all sorts of atrocities all around the globe, and few events fueled and enabled this multiheaded War on Terror like the September 2001 anthrax attacks. And yet, few people remember much about it at all. That's because once it served its purpose it was rarely discussed, especially when the FBI claimed it had solved the case by heaping blame for it on a dead man who would never have to stand trial and thus would ensure that the FBI's evidence never received real scrutiny. That's why we decided to devote a special episode tonight to reviewing this long-forgotten yet indescribably important event. 

The facts of the anthrax attacks, as they were presented to us at the time, were quite simple. Starting on September 18, just seven days after the 9/11 attack, when obviously Americans were already in a state of fear and heightened concern when things seemed like they were unraveling in terms of our public security – a mass casualty attack by a foreign power on American soil that took down the World Trade Center, crashed a plane into the Pentagon and killed 3000 Americans. Just seven days after that, we were all still reeling from that, media outlets began reporting that what they claimed was a highly sophisticated and extremely weaponized version of anthrax had been dropped in the mail and sent to numerous news outlets and American politicians. And over the next six weeks, anthrax continued to appear. New letters continued to emerge, and they were accompanied by a very alarming statement that was clearly designed to link it to the 9/11 attack through which we had all just lived. 


Here you see one of the letters.  


This is the letter that was sent to the NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, along with the anthrax that we were told was highly sophisticated, that only extremely advanced parties, very few on the planet, would be capable of producing. It says:


This is next

Take penicillin now
Death to America
Death to Israel 

Allah is great 


So, the letter was clearly intended to suggest that this was an extension of the 9/11 attack carried out by the same people and that it was going to be not just a one-day cataclysmic event, but a series of new events. “This is next,” it said, as though this was just the next terror in a long line of what was to come. 

To remind you of how alarmist the reporting was around this anthrax attack – and justifiably so. It was supposedly this never-before-seen, extremely sophisticated version that was highly fatal and that could just be sent to you through your mailbox and all you had to do was open a letter and you would be killed when the spores dispersed. Let's show you just a few real-time network news reporting and cable news reports about this event, just to give you a sense of how this was talked about. 


(Video. Various cuts from NBC News.)


- Welcome back, everybody. It certainly has been a tough day and days for all of us at NBC News, because, of course, the press conference that announced yesterday that an NBC News staff member actually had been tested positive for anthrax. 


- The Florida man has contracted a very rare and potentially deadly form of anthrax […]


- […] a rare, inhaled form of anthrax. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson calls it an isolated case and says there was no threat of terrorism […] 


- In Boca Raton, Florida, today, a memorial service for Bob Stevens. He is almost certainly the first American to be killed in a deliberate anthrax attack […] 


- Now to the home front and those concerns over anthrax in Florida after one man died from the illness and his coworker was contaminated. The FBI has taken over the investigation. 


- America strikes back. Anthrax, another infection, this time at NBC News in Rockefeller Plaza. 


  • Good evening. Tonight, we find ourselves in the unusual and unhappy position of reporting on one of our beloved colleagues, a member of my personal staff who has contracted a cutaneous anthrax infection. That's an infection of the skin that is responding favorably to treatment and her full recovery is expected. 


- There were two letters that were suspicious that both arrived on the same day. One contained a white talcum powder-like substance. The other contained a brownish, granular, almost sandy-like substance. 


- In just two weeks’ time, we have had four confirmed cases of anthrax, all with media connections and a number of anthrax scares as well. 


  • ABC News in Nevada / New Jersey / Tonight, the U.S. House of Representatives is closing offices today until Tuesday to allow a complete sweep for traces of anthrax. And 29 staffers for Senator Tom Daschle's office have tested positive for exposure to anthrax. / The letter sent to NBC and The New York Post was the same. This is next. Take penicillin now. Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great. The letter sent to Senator Tom Daschle had similar wording. / You cannot stop us. We have this anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid? Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great. All carried the date 9/11 at the top. All were sent from Trenton, New Jersey. / I don't have anthrax and / Good morning. President Bush tries reassuring the nation after anthrax is found at a facility that handles mail going to the White House. / President Bush is calling those people who are mailing these anthrax letters “evildoers” and he says any attempt to terrorize this nation is going to fail. 

So, you see how it unfolded over the course of six weeks. It began with one person, one case, and then, over the course of six weeks, more and more letters appeared so that by the end, President Bush was saying this was done by evildoers. It was called germ warfare. It was said to be the greatest, worst attack of bioweapons attacks ever carried out on American soil. You can imagine how much of a role this played in escalating the fear that Americans already felt as a result of the 9/11 attack. 

By the end of October, when these multiple attacks had already manifested, there was almost literally nothing the government could demand that the American public didn't immediately acquiesce to as long as these new powers were described as necessary to keep us all safe. That's how terrorized overnight the population become, not only because of the 9/11 attack, but also because of these anthrax attacks, and they had no idea who perpetrated them, they said. 

But very quickly, the media started claiming, as a result of sources high up inside the government, that they began to learn who they thought the most likely suspect was of these attacks. It turned out, according to these media reports, that the government had revealed that, through analysis of the anthrax strains, they discovered bentonite. 

Bentonite sounds like a very terrorizing and highly sophisticated substance, in reality, it's basically the clay that holds together kitty litter because the challenge with weaponizing anthrax is it's extremely light and is likely to disperse, therefore, to weaponize it, you have to find a way to clump it together so that it only disperses when it's touched or moved, such as when opening an envelope. And according to these reports, the use of bentonite in weaponized anthrax was done only by one person on the entire planet. It just so happened to be the hallmark, they said, of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who many of the same people claiming this had been wanting to go to war with and topple his government years before 9/11 and the anthrax attack became the perfect attack to pin on him by laundering anonymous claims to the media that he was to blame. It's hard to overstate how frequently this was done and with how much certainty. 

Probably the worst offender at first was ABC News. Repeatedly, the investigative reporter Brian Ross went on the network news show of probably the most trusted television anchor of the time, Peter Jennings, and continuously pin the blame on Iraq. Let's look at one example. 


(Video. ABC World News Tonight. Oct 26, 2001)


Peter Jennings: […] ABC News has been told that initial tests on anthrax sent to Senator Daschle have found a telltale chemical additive whose name means a lot to weapons experts. It is called bentonite, a substance that helps keep the tiny anthrax particles floating in the air by preventing them from sticking together. Other countries may be using it, too, but it is a trademark of Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program.

“It does mean for me that Iraq becomes the prime suspect as the source for the anthrax used in these letters.” 

So here you have a major television network, and at the time, cable was nowhere near as influential as it became – it's not very influential now, but it was nowhere near its peak. The network news way is really where everything mattered, where everything happened. And arguably the most trusted show began laundering this claim over and over, “Iraq was the most likely suspect”, “this was a hallmark and a telltale sign of the Iraqi weapons program”, and the fact that this was done when Americans had very little defenses up, when we were in a state of great fear, desperately wanting to find out who was attacking our country in these very dastardly ways, obviously meant that claims of this sort were instantly accepted.

 After 9/11, David Letterman, who at the time was the highest rated late night comedy show, went on a hiatus because he thought it inappropriate to have a comedy show and be making jokes in the wake of the 9/11 attack and the anthrax attack. When he came back, one of his very first guests was Senator John McCain of Arizona. It had huge ratings because it was David Letterman coming back – it wasn't the very first show, but it was one of the first shows and, obviously, this is what Americans were interested in. John McCain was heralded as one of the most knowledgeable and important foreign policy experts. And let's show you what he said to David Letterman about the anthrax attacks. 


(Video. D. Letterman Show. Oct. 2001)


John McCain: The second phase is Iraq. There is some indication and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax, may I say, may have come in from come from Iraq. 


D. Letterman: Is that right? 


John McCain: Yes. 

So, there you see John McCain. He's not being definitive about it, but he's certainly saying that Iraq is the most likely or one of the leading culprits to continuously put into the ether that, when we think about the anthrax attacks, it's almost certainly Saddam Hussein who did it. And that's based on a very “technical, complex analysis” conducted at the highest levels of the U.S. government that revealed the telltale sign of Iraqi bioweapons and the use of anthrax, which is bentonite. That was the claim made over and over. In October, John McCain appeared with his then sidekick, the Democratic neocon senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman, who just nine months earlier had been the vice-presidential candidate running with Al Gore on the ticket that lost to George Bush and Dick Cheney in that extremely closely contested race. And here you see Joe Lieberman right at John McCain's side, agreeing with everything John McCain had to say. Joe Lieberman, like John McCain, were two of the people, along with Joe Biden, who had long advocated overthrowing Saddam Hussein way before the 9/11 attack. They went on “Meet the Press.” Obviously, lots of Americans were watching that program at the time. This is just six or five weeks after the 9/11 attack. And listen to what they said. 


McCain: Recently, in Rio, I believe, an envelope was received, which gives me the idea that perhaps this is an international organization and not one within the United States of America. 


Lieberman: I've got mixed reports, but I'll tell you what I've concluded. And this is consistent with every report I've been given. The stuff that is being sent out, most of it, including the stuff that went to Tom Daschle's office, is significantly refined anthrax. In other words, when we hear the stories that there's anthrax in labs all over this country, that's basically bacteria in a lab tube. Dr. Fauci [Dr. Anthony Fauci] can tell you more detail on that. 

To take it from that, to make it into the stuff that's being sent in envelopes, that requires a real effort and, frankly, more than a couple of guys in somebody's kitchen stirring things up. 

So, it says to me that there's either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program.

(The Washington Post. Oct. 21, 2001)

On October 14, 2001, there is a headline in The Guardian: “Iraq ‘Behind U.S. Anthrax Outbreaks,’” no caveating, no uncertainty, a bold statement quoting some unknown person that we should just blame Iraq. We should assume this is Saddam Hussein attacking the United States in memos in dastardly and ethically limitless ways. 


American investigators probing anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York believe they have all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack – and have named Iraq as prime suspect as the source of the deadly spores. Their inquiries are adding to what U.S. hawks say is a growing mass of evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved, possibly indirectly, with the September 11th hijackers. (The Guardian. Oct.14, 2001)

So, you see, they weren't using the anthrax attacks only to claim Saddam did it. They were using it to claim Saddam was in an alliance with al-Qaida, which, of course, was necessary to convince Americans to go and invade Iraq. 

A poll at the time, six months after the invasion, in fact, showed that 70% of Americans – 70% – believed that Saddam Hussein had personally participated in the planning of the 9/11 attacks. You had Jeffrey Goldberg, who has since been promoted to one of the most important and prestigious positions in journalism, at the time he was a New Yorker correspondent writing articles claiming Saddam Hussein was in an alliance with al-Qaida. Jeffrey Goldberg, of course, is part of the neocon camp that long wanted to overthrow Iraq. Do you see how they were exploiting these events to advance an agenda they had long craved to execute? 


U.S. intelligence believes Iraq has the technology and supplies of anthrax suitable for terrorist use. ‘They aren't making this stuff in caves in Afghanistan,’ the CIA source said. ‘This is prima facie evidence of the involvement of a state intelligence agency. Maybe Iran has the capability, but it doesn't look likely politically. That leaves Iraq. (The Guardian. Oct.14, 2001)


 That is as definitive as it gets.

 As it turns out, this CIA source and all these sources laundered through The Guardian and other sources turned out to be right: there was a government involved, a very sophisticated government involved. And when you factor in this weaponized anthrax, just turns out it wasn't Iraq or Iran, but the United States.

On June 1, 2002, as we're building up to the question of whether we need to go and invade Iraq, there's an article in The Atlantic by Jonathan Rauch entitled “Does al-Qaeda Have Anthrax? Better Assume So.” 


The operatives and allies of al-Qaeda have something in mind for the United States of which there can be little doubt. Something nasty. Vice President Dick Cheney said in May it is “almost certain” that the terrorists will strike again. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that terrorists inevitably will get their hands on weapons of mass destruction and “they would not hesitate one minute to use them.” 

QUESTION What if they already did use them and are preparing to do so again? Were last year's anthrax attacks, which caused five fatalities, a preview?

 in November, the FBI issued a suspect profile identifying the likely anthrax attacker as a single adult male, probably an American with a scientific background, lab experience, poor social skills and a grudge. Some people – I was one of them – viewed this interpretation with skepticism. What would be the motive? Why the timing so close to September 11? 

A number of analysts, including David Tell a useful article in The Weekly Standard on April 29, have subsequently cast doubt on the disgruntled-scientist hypothesis, and an FBI spokesman said in May that the bureau, far from being “convinced” that the attacks were carried out by an American loner, had “not precluded any category of suspect, motive or theory.” If anything, hints that anthrax and al-Qaida may be linked have grown harder to dismiss. (The Atlantic. June 1, 2002)

All of this was significantly elevated from very influential media outlets like ABC News, Meet the Press, The Guardian, John McCain, Joe Lieberman into a presidential pronouncement when, at the start of 2002, George Bush in January of that year gave his State of the Union address that was notoriously written by the neocon David Frum, that was the speech that notoriously proclaimed that we were fighting an “axis of evil” that was composed of Iraq, Iran and North Korea because these neocons were not content with only getting to Iraq and overthrowing Iraq. They also wanted to overthrow the government of Iran in the name of 9/11 and anthrax. And here you see George Bush take this same claim and elevate it to a State of the Union address. 


(Video. G. Bush State of the Union. Jan 2, 2002)


President Bush: Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and nerve gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its citizens, leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. 


So that was David Frum's work: circulating absolute lies designed to put into Americans’ minds that the state responsible for these anthrax attacks was Iraq and Saddam Hussein as part of the already well-underway effort just weeks after September 11. This was barely three months after September 11 to prime Americans to blame September 11 on a state that had no involvement of any kind either in the 9/11 attacks or in the anthrax attacks, which was Iraq. Do you see this barrage of lies – How it was laundered by the very media outlets that still claim that they're the only ones that can be trusted, manufactured by the very people who ended up constantly being promoted and elevated? David Frum is also at The Atlantic with Jeffrey Goldberg. Bill Kristol is one of the favorite guests of CNN and MSNBC, a hero of American liberalism. George Bush has been completely rehabilitated, as is Dick Cheney, thanks to the liberal worship of his daughter, Liz Cheney. And the CIA continues to be a highly trusted source for American media outlets who just leak to them anonymously, as they did over and over here, and are just constantly believed.

At the time, there were all kinds of reasons to believe that this was a lie. To begin with, It isn't just that bentonite is an extremely common substance – as I said, it's the thing that is used to produce cat litter. The idea that it's some specialized ingredient that only the sophisticated Iraqi scientists could possibly use to weaponize anthrax was a joke from the start. But the much more important point is that there was never any government analysis, as ABC News ended up admitting, that detected the presence of bentonite. A totally false story from the start. 

The sources that went to ABC News and told ABC News that bentonite was detected in government analysis completely lied. If you go to journalism school or read journalistic ethics books, one of the things you will read is that the only taboo in journalism is revealing who your sources are, if you promise them anonymity. You may remember during Russiagate that was supposed to be a sacred principle, so sacred, in fact, that American journalists are supposed to go to jail for not revealing their sources, even if they’re ordered by a court to reveal it. And American journalists have gone to prison before for defying court orders. That's how sacred this principle is during Russiagate. An obviously unwell blogger named Marcy Wheeler had promised anonymity to a source of hers, but she became convinced – because she's unwell – that this source was some sort of smoking gun, some critical part proving collusion between Trump and Russia in 2016, and, without even being asked to do so, let alone subpoenaed or ordered to turn over the identity of her secret source, she begged the Mueller team and the FBI to give her a few minutes. She fantasized that she was part of the Mueller team and that she had in her hands, the smoking gun proof of collusion, and she, on her own, voluntarily went to snitch on her own source to whom she had promised anonymity – the greatest taboo in all of journalism – and an American journalist applauded her. People like Margaret Sullivan, the then media reporter for The Washington Post, and CNN, wrote articles glorifying what this woman had done, this obviously unhinged woman. It turns out she snitched on her source. He wasn't even mentioned in the Mueller report. He was not involved in any of this. It was all a sick fantasy that she had concocted in her head. She wanted to be part of the Mueller team and so, they applauded her. They did. The American media applauded somebody who voluntarily, without being asked, let alone subpoenaed, turned over her own source. And to this day, she's like a favorite of the dead end or Russiagators. But usually, that has always been a very sacred ethical precept – you don't ever reveal the identity of your sources to whom you prove anonymity except in one case when it not only becomes permissible but required, ethically obligatory, to reveal the identity of your anonymous sources and that's when they deliberately lie to you, when they use you to disseminate to the public lies that they know are lies at the time. And there is no question that the three or four high-level sources that Brian Ross claimed went to him to tell him that government tests had detected bentonite, deliberately lied to him as a way of trying to get the American public to blame Saddam Hussein in Iraq for the anthrax attacks, because those are the very people in the government who were so eager long before 9/11 to invade Iraq. 

I spent two years badgering ABC and Brian Ross about this. How is it that you continue to protect the identity of these high-level government officials who on one of the most crucial issues of our time lied to ABC News and all these other sources? You had Joe Lieberman and John McCain and The Guardian and then finally George Bush through David Frum’s speechwriting disseminating the same lie that led to the Iraq war. How can you possibly protect the identity of these people? ABC finally, as a result of that badgering, admitted the stories were false, admitted there was never any government that revealed the presence of bentonite and they finally retracted them. But to this day, they refuse to reveal their own sources who lied to them. High-level government sources. That's the reason people in the CIA and the FBI and Homeland Security know that they can lie to the media on purpose without any accountability because they do so while hiding behind this shield of anonymity. So even if you know they lied, the media will protect these liars, people who are deceiving the public on purpose through the use of their media platforms – even though it is journalistic Ethics 101 that you not only have the right, but the duty to expose sources who do that. They never do this because they don't want to lose their sources, even if they know that those sources are feeding them false information, they’re still at least somebody giving them stories. 

Beyond the fact that this whole thing was a lie from the start, the whole basis of blaming Iraq that all these people just did, the reality is everything we knew about the anthrax strain would have led us to believe that it was a government involved, but not Iraq or Iran or al-Qaida, but the United States government, because the report suggested that the strain that was sent was the Ames strain and the reality was that was a telltale sign of a government weaponizing anthrax. It was a telltale sign of the United States. The Ames strain was a strain the United States government at Army labs had developed. In 2011, Frontline on PBS did a documentary revisiting the anthrax attacks. They interviewed one of the nation's most prestigious microbiologists and he talked about what he realized in 2001 about the likely source of this anthrax. Listen to him and what he said. 


(Video. PBS Frontline. 2011) 


Off: When they looked at the FBI's spores, they were stunned. All of them came from a single strain of anthrax, the Ames strain. 


Speaker 2: We were surprised it was the Ames strain, and it was chilling at the same time. 


Speaker 3 Because it was so virulent. The Ames strain was the anthrax of choice for the U.S. Army's bioweapon vaccine program. 


Off: Once you heard it was the Ames strain, you began to think to yourself, Ah, this doesn't sound like a job from the outside, it sounds much more like an inside job. 

The home of the Ames strain was the Heart Suites back in Maryland at USAMRIID. 

So just think about what this means. The public was flooded with outright lies about these anthrax attacks based on not a mistake, not a good faith misinterpretation of data, but an outright fabrication, that bentonite was detected in these strains, something that never happened and that caused the top levels of government and the most influential mainstream outlets to disseminate a very devastating, destructive and toxic lie to the public linking Saddam Hussein to these anthrax attacks. And not only was it based on lies, not only was it completely false, but as the scientist just explained, there was every reason in the world to know in 2001 for those analyzing the strains of anthrax, that by far the most likely culprit, no, it's not just the United States government, but the specific microbiology lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland, the U.S. Army lab, which eight years later the FBI ended up blaming and saying was, in fact, the source of these attacks to get to. 

The other part about this is that what this means, what he just said, what the FBI now claims is that the U.S. Army, the U.S. government, was developing extremely virulent, sophisticated strains of highly fatal anthrax. Why would it do that? We heard the United States government over the last three years during the COVID pandemic insist that it doesn't do any kind of research like that. When Victoria Nuland accidentally went to the U.S. Senate and admitted there were very dangerous and sophisticated Biolabs in Ukraine they were very worried would fall into Russian hands, which meant they couldn't just be old Soviet labs because the Russians would already have them. It would mean that they were very dangerous new kinds of biological strains in Ukraine. The response came when people like me noticed what she said was, “Oh, this is a crazy conspiracy theory. We don't do offensive biological weapons research. We're banned by conventions. We sign from doing it. That's something China does. That's something Iran does and Russia does – we don't do that”. And yet one of the things the anthrax episode revealed, and it's one of the reasons why they've worked so hard to make sure you don't know about it and have forgotten it is it was proof that there were very virulent fatal strains of anthrax being researched and developed and stored in U.S. Army labs. That's the version of events from the FBI itself. Now they justify it by saying, okay, fine, we do this research, but we don't do it because we intend to use it offensively against anybody. We do it just because we must manipulate these strains and make them more fatal so we can research defenses to them in case one of the bad countries breaks the convention and does it. But who knows what their intention was? 

What we know for sure is they're developing these kinds of bioweapons and making them more fatal and more dangerous – exactly what Anthony Fauci denied when it came time to discuss the origins of the COVID pandemic. He said we would never do gain-of-function research. We would never take dangerous agents and make them more fatal, even though we learned that's exactly the kind of research that was being done in the Wuhan lab with U.S. funding. But the anthrax attack sheds a lot of weight onto those questions, and it's one of the main reasons they've wanted you to forget that. 

Just to show you a couple of examples of how dangerous these guys ended up being about anthrax and the lies about where they came from. Let me just show you an article from Maureen Dowd, on September 26, 2001, where she talks about how panicky everyone she knew in Washington was as a result of these anthrax attacks. This is all about the anthrax attacks, not about 9/11, 


After all these finicky years of fighting everyday germs and inevitable mortality with fancy products, Americans are now confronted with the specter of terrorists in crop dusters and hazardous-waste trucks spreading really terrifying, deadly toxins like plague, smallpox, blister agents, nerve gas and botulism. Women I know in New York and Washington debate whether to order Israeli versus Marine Corps gas masks and half-our lightweight gas masks versus $400, eight-hour gas masks, baby gas masks and pet gas masks with the same meticulous attention they gave to ordering no foam-no-fat-no-whip lattes in more innocent days. They share information on which pharmacies still have Cipro, Zithromax and Doxycycline, all antibiotics that can be used for anthrax, the way they once traded tips on designer shoe bargains. They talk more now about real botulism than the trendy cosmetic derivative Botox. Judy Miller, a Times reporter who is one of the authors of the surprise new bestseller “Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War,” said she had been deluged with calls from people asking how they can protect themselves. “It's the ultimate freak out,” she said. (The New York Times. Sept. 26, 2001) 


So here you have a real-time article in 2001 about the intense level of mania and panic these anthrax attacks generated and you can only imagine the effects of linking those attacks to Saddam Hussein in Iraq based on absolute lies when, in fact, they came from the U.S. government itself – while you had people in the U.S. government very aggressively and effectively exploiting these anthrax attacks for their own ends, namely, to advance their long-stated goal of invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. 

Here is a similar article from The Washington Post’s longtime columnist, liberal columnist, Richard Cohen. He wrote a column in 2004 entitled “Our Forgotten Panic,” where he tries to justify why he supported the war in Iraq and he's trying to say: it's 2004, let's go back to 2001 and remember how scary everything was. And just to you to do that, he focused not on the 9/11 attacks, but on the anthrax attacks. This is what he said.

At the time, Stevens’s death and those that followed appeared somehow linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11. That seemed to make sense because the first letters containing anthrax spores were mailed around that time and, maybe more to the point, the authorities at first said so. “There is a suspicion that this is connected to international terrorists,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt echoed him: “I don't think there's a way to prove that, but I think we all suspect that.” Iraq was among the suspects. It was thought to have a storehouse of biological weapons. 

I mention anthrax for the simple reason that no one does anymore. It's a curious silence since, along with the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, it all but dominated the news. Some of us did not get mail deliveries and, when they resumed, we went into secure rooms where we donned latex gloves and face masks before opening letters. On a tip, I asked my doctor early on to prescribe Cipro for me, only to find out that, insider though I thought I was, nearly everyone had been asking for the same thing. People made anthrax-safe rooms and one woman I know of had a mask made for her small dog. 

My point is that we were panicked. Yet that panic never gets mentioned. Last month, The New Republic published a “special issue” in which a bevy of very good writers wondered whether they had been wrong to support the war in Iraq. Most of them admitted to having erred about this or that detail, or in failing to appreciate how badly George Bush will administer the war in the occupation. But none confessed to being seized by the Zeitgeist. I read the magazine cover to cover, and unless I somehow missed it, the word anthrax never appeared. Imagine! Not once! Not a single one of these writers admitted to panicking over anthrax. 

Well, I did. I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to anthrax, which I linked to September 11. I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack – more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war. (Richard Cohen.The Washington Post. July 24, 2004)

Here you have one of the longest-term and most influential liberal columnists in any newspaper in the United States, The Washington Post, acknowledging that the reason he encouraged his liberal readers to support the war in Iraq was in part because of the panic – in large part because the panic – spread by these anthrax attacks. You see him talking about people with obsessive gas masks, just like Maureen Dowd was talking about, people petrified they were going to be killed in their own homes. And the perception that was deliberately cultivated, the false perception by the same people, the same institutions, the same media outlets that lied to us constantly now that this came from Iraq. 

As I mentioned, there was a huge faction in Washington that had long wanted to invade Iraq and take out Saddam Hussein way before 9/11 – years before 9/11. And while we often talk about neocons as the people who are the ones who wanted that, one of the people who wanted that is named Joe Biden. Here is a hearing in 1998. So, more than three years before the 9/11 attacks, where he is questioning Scott Ritter, who was a weapons inspector on the ground in Iraq. And Joe Biden talks about – in 1998 – how important he thinks it is to take out Saddam. 


 (Video. C-SPAN. 1998)


Chairman: The ranking minority member on the Committee on Foreign Relations in the opening statement he would like to make. 


J. Biden: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me begin by saying, I think Major, you provided have provided and are providing a very, very, very valuable service to your country by coming forward as you have, because, quite frankly, I think what you've done is you've forced us to come to our milk here, all of us in the United States Congress. I think you and I believe and many of us believe here, as long as Saddam's at the helm, there is no reasonable prospect you or any other inspector is ever going to be able to guarantee that we have rooted out, root and branch the entirety of Saddam's program relative to weapons of mass destruction. And you and I both know and all of us here really know, and it's the thing we have to face that the only way, the only way, we're going to get rid of Saddam Hussein is we're going to end up having started alone – started alone – and it's going to require guys like you in uniform to be back on foot in the desert taking the son of – taking Saddam down. You know it and I know it. So, I think we should not kid ourselves here. There are stark, stark choices. 

There you have it. It was the official position in the Clinton administration before 9/11. The United States should invade Iraq and do everything possible to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Joe Biden was one of the most vocal advocates of that during the Clinton administration. We just showed you that 1988 video of him doing exactly that. And Biden, of course, became probably the key senator in 2000 to generate enough support in the United States Senate, as the Democratic head of the Foreign Relations Committee, where he became, along with Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, very vocal advocates for taking down Saddam. And the anthrax attacks were a major reason why they were able to convince so much of the public that that needed to be done. 

 The neoconservatives in Washington – Bill Kristol, David Frum and we'll show you the names on this list, which was called the PNAC. It was the leading neocon think tank or organization at the time – wrote a letter in January 1988 to President Clinton urging President Clinton to invade Iraq and take out Saddam Hussein. These were exactly the same people. Three years later, we're behind the lies blaming Iraq for the anthrax attacks. Here's the letter to Bill Clinton. 


Dear Mr. President, 

we are writing to you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War. In your upcoming State of the Union address, you have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the United States and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power. We stand ready to offer our full support in this difficult but necessary endeavor. 

The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction in the near term. This means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy. We urge you to articulate this aim and to turn your administration's attention to implementing a strategy of removing Saddam's regime from power. (PNAC. Jan 26, 1998)


And there you see the leading neocons – including Elliott Abrams and William Bennett and John Bolton, and Robert Kagan, who is the husband of Victoria Nuland, Bill Kristol, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, James Woosley, the former CIA director – the standard group in Washington that had been going around essentially badgering everybody about regime change in Iraq for many years before 9/11, and then became the leaders of this lie, blaming the anthrax attacks on the exact country that they wanted to invade. 

As I mentioned, I had begun reporting on this story a year before, at least, the FBI announced they had finally captured the real attacker, who they said was a bioweapons researcher at Fort Dietrich, Bruce Ivins, as we're about to show you. And the reason I began reporting on it was because when I went back and began looking at the anthrax attack and realized how aggressive the narrative was that they had the proof linking this to Saddam Hussein's government and how central ABC News in particular was to spread that lie. 

Honestly, as somebody who was basically starting my journalism career – this was 2007 – so a year or so after I began writing about politics, a year and a half, I was indignant about it. This was part of my awakening about how radically corrupted these institutions really are. I couldn't believe, I hadn't remembered. I really wasn't paying a lot of attention at the time to the details, the grand details of all of this. I was working as a lawyer; I wasn't a journalist. I couldn't believe how often and definitively ABC News spread this lie. And what I couldn't believe was that they weren't willing to tell us who in the government spread this lie and used ABC News to spread this lie. So, here's one of the first stories I ever wrote about it. It was entitled “The Unresolved Story of ABC News is False Saddam-Anthrax Reports” and the sub-headline was “In October 2001, ABC News broadcast highly inflammatory and false reports linking Saddam to the anthrax attacks. Who was behind those claims and why has ABC not retracted its stories?” And here you see the article:

ABC aggressively promoted it as its top story for days on end during that highly provocative period of time. That and these are all quotes:

  1. “the anthrax in the tainted letters sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was laced with bentonite” 

  2. bentonite is a “troubling chemical additive that authorities considered their first significant clue yet” 

  3. “Only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons”

  4. bentonite is “a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program”; and 

  5. “The anthrax found in a letter to Senator Daschle is nearly identical to samples they recovered in Iraq in 1994 and the anthrax spores found in the letter to Senator Daschle are almost identical in appearance to those they recovered in Iraq in 1994 when viewed under an electron microscope”.


At different times, Ross attributed these claims to three well-placed but separate sources and alternatively to “at least four well-placed sources.” All of these factual claims – each and every one of them, separately – were completely false, demonstrably and unquestionably so.

Ross claimed at the time, and there is no reason to doubt it, that these false reports – clearly designed to blame Iraq for the anthrax attacks in the eyes of Americans – were fed to him by “at least four well-placed sources.”

Who were the well-placed multiple sources feeding ABC News completely fictitious claims linking Saddam Hussein to the anthrax attacks, including false claims about the results the government has? What possible justification is there for concealing the identity of those who manipulated ABC to disseminate these fictitious claims? Peter Jennings, the highly trusted ABC News anchor, then added the end of the story. Remember, this is October 2001. 

This news about bentonite as the additive being a trademark of the Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant, partly because there's been a lot of pressure on the Bush administration inside and out to go after Saddam Hussein. And some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun. There's a battle about Iraq that's been raging in the administration. (G. Greenwald. April 9, 2007)


I just want you to take a step back and think about the fact that all this time when this anthrax attack was being used to frighten Americans and put them into a state of panic beyond what 9/11 could accomplish, and that the claim was being circulated at the highest levels of politics and media, that totally fictitious test had suggested strongly, if not proven, that Iraq was behind it, the country they wanted to invade four years before 9/11, all along – at least according to what the FBI now says – this anthrax actually came from a U.S. Army lab where it was developed, maintained and stored. It was sent by a U.S. Army bioweapons expert, a microbiologist who – unfortunately for everybody – the FBI was about to arrest, killed himself, alleviating the FBI of ever having to present those claims in court. Those are pretty striking events. And again, I'm not citing at any point any obscure media outlets, any conspiratorial media outlets – but I am citing conspiratorial media outlets, just not ones known for being that, I'm citing the most mainstream ones – again, the highest levels of establishment – government and politics – are behind all these lies. 

Here's something that has kind of gotten lost to history that I think is just worth noting. In 2008, Richard Cohen, the Washington Post columnist whom I quoted earlier as saying that anthrax played a vital role in the panic that led him to support the Iraq war, went to Slate as part of a symposium where a bunch of advocates in the media and government who were advocating for the Iraq war back in 2002 and 2003, went to confront what they got wrong. 

Here you see Richard Cohen’s article: “How did they get Iraq wrong?” The subtitle is “I thought we had a chance to stabilize an unstable region, and – I admit it – I wanted to strike back. And here's what Richard Cohen says about why he got Iraq wrong. 


Anthrax. Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore – at least it's never mentioned. 

The attacks were not entirely unexpected. I have been told soon after September 11 to secure Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. The tip had come in a roundabout way from a high government official, and I immediately acted on it. I was carrying Cipro way before most people had ever heard of it. (Slate. March 18, 2008)


Think about that. This is a long-time columnist in The Washington Post. He's been around the Washington establishment forever. He has all sorts of contacts in the highest levels of the U.S. government because they've used him to disseminate propaganda in The Washington Post for as long as anyone can remember. And according to him, he was told by a high-level government official, as a friendly tip, he should start carrying Cipro, the antidote to tainted anthrax, way before the anthrax attacks had happened, before anybody had even heard of Cipro. Who told them that and why did they tell him that? Specifically, not just a range of antibiotics, but the specific one most used for anthrax. 

It's kind of a note to history that Richard Cohen himself has said that no one has ever pressured him other than me that I know of to tell us who told them that and how they knew to tell him that. But someone had a strong suspicion in Washington at the highest levels of the U.S. government, according to Richard Cohen, that the anthrax attacks are coming now. 

For a while, of course, there was still in the air the question of who did this. It couldn't just be left unsolved forever. It killed five people. It severely injured 11 others. It was, as I said, something that was constantly reported. No attempt to make it forgotten could possibly make us content with the fact that we would never know who did it. The FBI had to give us some explanation for several years. They not only obsessively focused on but leaked to the media the fact that an army bioweapons expert, a physicist named Steven Hatfill, was the prime suspect they leaked to Nick Kristof, to others, The New York Times and his reputation was destroyed. Everywhere he went, people assumed he was the anthrax attacker. He sued the FBI and in 2008, they had to pay him close to $6 million and admit he had no role. So once that happened, once the prime suspect that they leaked to the media was removed, was exonerated, the question then became who actually did it. 

Here you see from The Los Angeles Times when Steven Hatfill was paid, “Anthrax as Suspect Receives Payout,” 


The former Army scientist who was the prime suspect in the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings, agreed Friday to take a $5.82 million from the government to settle his claim that the Justice Department and the FBI invaded his privacy and ruined his career. 

Dr. Steven Hatfill, 54, who was called “a person of interest” in the case by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002, said that label and repeated leaks of investigative details to the media damaged his reputation. 

For months in the anxious atmosphere after September 11, Hatfill was subjected to 24-hour surveillance and was widely identified as the leading suspect in the nation's first bioterrorism attack. However, he was never arrested or charged and a federal judge presiding over his lawsuit recently said that there “is not a scintilla of evidence linking him to the mailings.” (Los Angeles Times. June 28, 2008)


So, the person they tried to feed us for years ended up totally exonerated, leaving the question of who did it. It was just about five weeks after that – that the U.S. government paid Steven Hatfill – that they came back and said, this time we really got the real perpetrator. But unfortunately, he killed himself.

Here from the L.A. Times, you see the headline “Apparent Suicide in Anthrax Case.” This is August 1, 2008, just five weeks after that last article we showed you about the government paying off Steven Hatfill for having erroneously accused him for years. 

Top government scientist who helped the FBI analyze samples the 2001 anthrax attacks has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him for the attacks, The L.A. Times has learned. Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who, for the last 18 years worked at the government's elite biodefense research laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland, had been informed of his impending prosecution, said people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious that and the FBI investigation. 

Ivins, whose name had not been publicly disclosed publicly as a suspect in the case, played a central role in research to improve anthrax vaccines by preparing anthrax formulations used in experiments on animals. Regarded as a skilled microbiologist, Ivins has helped the FBI analyze the powdery material recovered from one of the anthrax-tainted envelopes sent to a U.S. senator's office in Washington. Ivans died Tuesday at Frederick Memorial Hospital in Maryland after ingesting a massive dose of prescription Tylenol mixed with codeine, said a friend and colleague, who declined to be identified out of concern that he would be harassed by the FBI. Federal investigators moved away from Hatfill – for years, the only publicly identified “person of interest “and ultimately concluded that Ivins was the culprit after FBI Director Robert Mueller changed the leadership of the investigation in late 2006. (Los Angeles Times. Aug. 1, 2008)


That's another interesting fact. This investigation was led by Robert Mueller. He was, as you may remember, George Bush's FBI director after 9/11. He was the one who presided over the FBI when it falsely blamed Steven Hatfill and then took seven years – seven years – to claim to find the real killer, the real attacker. It would just so happen they say, worked right under their noses in the most sophisticated U.S. Army lab in Fort Detrick where he was working with anthrax spores and was able to attack the country using them as a result. 

As I said, the FBI did not have to present its case in court because the person was dead. And so, the FBI explained how this happened, that it took seven years to find the perpetrator and explain their reasons for believing that he did it through a series of press conferences and leaks to the media. And right away – right away – there is extraordinary doubt. Again, not from people branded conspiracy theorists or from people who are accustomed to doubting the FBI, but from the most mainstream political and scientific sources in the United States. Serious doubt about the FBI's case. Circumstantially, the evidence made little sense, and scientifically there were gigantic holes in what the FBI was claiming. 

Here's an article I wrote in 2009 entitled “Remembering the Anthrax Attack” where I summarized how much doubt had been expressed by the types of institutions rarely willing to question the FBI's veracity.


Ideologically diverse sources have expressed serious doubts about the FBI's anthrax case. That leads a key congressman to demand an independent commission to investigate. One of the two Senate targets of the attacks, Senator Pat Leahy flatly stated at a Senate hearing last September that he does not believe the FBI's case against Ivins and emphatically does not believe that Ivins acted alone. Republican Senator Arlen Specter, at the same hearing, told the FBI they could never have obtained a conviction against Ivins in court based on their case – riddled as it is, with so much doubt – and he also demanded an independent evaluation of the FBI's evidence. Republican Senator Charles Grassley has been a long-time skeptic of the FBI's anthrax investigation and has expressed serious doubt about the case against Ivins. (See this interview I did with Senator Grassley last year.) The ultimate establishment organ, The Washington Post Editorial Page, issued numerous editorials expressing serious doubts about the FBI's case against Ivins and called for an independent investigation. The New York Times Editorial Page echoed those views. Even The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, citing the FBI's “So long and so many missteps,” argued that “independent parties need to review all the evidence, especially the scientific forensics,” and concluded, “that is an opportunity for Congress to conduct legitimate oversight.”

In the wake of the FBI's accusations against Ivins, the science journal Nature flatly declared in its editorial headline “Case not closed” – and demanded an independent investigation into the FBI's case. After the FBI publicly disclosed some of its evidence against Ivins, The New York Times reported “growing doubts from scientists about the strength of the government's case.” The Baltimore Sun detailed that “scientists and legal experts criticized the strength of the case and cast doubt on whether it could have succeeded.” Dr. Alan Pierson, director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, representative of numerous experts in the field, expressed many of those same scientific doubts and demanded a full investigation. 

So, it took the FBI seven years and when they claim that they found the person, who happened to act alone, in this extremely politically valuable attack on U.S. soil and presented their evidence, about the person who just happened to kill himself, alleviating them and the need to take it to court, everyone said the same thing and I mean by everyone the institutions that normally revere the FBI and write down whatever they tell them to say.

From “Nature”, the prestigious scientific journal, comes the headline “Case not closed” and here's what it said. 


Was Bruce Ivins, a scientist-gone-wrong who single-handedly orchestrated the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States? Or was the 62-year-old anthrax-vaccine researcher at Fort Detrick, Maryland, an emotionally unstable innocent whose profile made him a convenient fall guy for the FBI? The jury is still out on those questions – or rather, it would be if one had ever a chance to hear the evidence. Ivins’s apparent suicide last month means there will not be a trial, which makes it all the more important that the government releases the evidence it planned to use to accuse him in full. Now. 

   On August 6, the FBI’s parent agency, the U.S.   Department of Justice released what it described as hundreds of pages of evidence against Ivins and declared it would close the case because it was satisfied it had its man. But Ivins's attorney, Paul Kemp, has described those documents as “heaps of innuendo and a staggering lack of real evidence.” He has a point. 

For example, many of the documents are just search warrants – a reminder that despite extensive searches of Ivins’s house and cars, the FBI failed to come up with any physical evidence directly implicating him in the attacks. Similarly, the bureau has no evidence to place Ivins at the post boxes in Princeton, New Jersey, from which the anthrax-laden letters were sent. 

The core of the case against Ivins, as released so far, is contained in just a couple of dozen pages of affidavits – only four paragraphs of which discuss what the FBI says is the smoking gun: the genetic analysis of the anthrax powder from the letters. The FBI says it found four distinctive genetic mutations in the anthrax used in the attacks. It tested for those mutations and isolates of the Ames anthrax strain from 16 domestic, government and university laboratories, alongside ones from labs in Canada, Sweden and the U.K. In all, more than 1,000 samples were collected, only eight of which had the four mutations, according to the affidavit. Each of these isolates, it says, was directly related to a strain batch named RMR-1029, which was created in 1997 and held in a flask at the U.S. Army research facility in Fort Detrick. The affidavits described Ivins as “the sole custodian of that batch.” Many other researchers had access to it. [Turns out over 100 people had access to that flask.] But the FBI claims to have eliminated all of them as suspects. The genetic analysis itself seems quite solid. The FBI has collaborated with some of the best outside scientists on anthrax, and on August 18 convened many of them to answer journalists’ questions about the science. 

The researchers on the panel explained that none of the analysis techniques used in this case knew just the application to anthrax forensics. Several peer-reviewed papers on forensic work have already been published and another dozen or so anticipated. Although this openness about the techniques is commendable, neither the conclusions drawn from the scientific analysis nor such crucial legal elements as the veracity of the provenance and handling of the samples have been tested in court. So far, one side of the story has been heard: that of the prosecution. (Nature. Aug. 20, 2008)

The New York Times on August 8 had an editorial that was entitled “Identifying the Anthrax Killer,” and it expressed very similar doubts. The New York Times not exactly renowned for questioning the U.S. security state. 


The FBI seems convinced that has finally solved the long-festering case of who mailed the anthrax letters that killed five people in 2001. Yet its description of the evidence pointing to a mentally disturbed Army bioweapons expert as the sole culprit leaves us uncertain about whether investigators have pulled off a brilliant coup after a bumbling start or prematurely declaring victory, despite a lack of hard, incontrovertible proof. Federal agents relied on sophisticated scientific tests and laborious investigative work to conclude that only Dr. Bruce Ivins, who killed himself last week, could have made and mailed the anthrax used in the letters. They say that recently developed tests enabled them to identify telltale genetic mutations […] (The New York Times. Aug. 7, 2008)


Does that phrase sound familiar? “Telltale genetic mutations” –that phrase was used to blame it on Iraq at the highest levels of media in government seven years before. Now, the FBI says they developed tests that enabled them to identify telltale genetic mutations in the anthrax and to show it came not from Iraq or al-Qaida, but from a “flask kept by Dr. Ivins at the Army laboratories at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland.”


More than a hundred people might have had access to that deadly substance, but over a four-year period, investigators gradually eliminated suspects until only Dr. Ivans was left. None of the investigators’ major assertions, however, have been tested in cross-examination or evaluated by outside specialists. It is imperative that federal officials make public all of their data so independent experts can judge whether the mailed anthrax was indeed identical to Dr. Ivins’s supply and only that supply. 

It is also critical for officials to explain more fully how they eliminated the many other people with access to the material. There is no direct evidence of his guilt. No witness saw him pouring powdered anthrax into envelopes. No anthrax spores in his house or cars. No confession to a colleague or any suicide note. No physical evidence tying him to the site in Princeton, New Jersey, from which the letters are believed to have been mailed. 

Because Dr. Ivins killed himself before he could be indicted, there will be no opportunity for adversarial testing of the FBI's conclusions. The bureau, unfortunately, has a history of building circumstantial cases that seem compelling at first but ultimately fall apart. (The New York Times. Aug. 7, 2008)


In response to all of this pressure, the FBI voluntarily, meaning they pick and choose which scientific evidence to make available to an expert panel that had been convened – that was an FBI expert panel, one that they had actually approved of – and when this expert panel finally got to see the FBI has long touted scientific evidence, they concluded that it was nowhere near as compelling, let alone conclusive, as the FBI had spent years claiming. 

This is from 2011. From The New York Times. The headline “Expert Panel is Critical of FBI's Work in Investigating Anthrax Letters”. 


A review of the FBI's scientific work on the investigation of the anthrax letters of 2001 concludes that the bureau overstated the strength of genetic analysis linking the mailed anthrax to a supply kept by Bruce Ivins, the Army microbiologist, whom the investigators blamed for the attacks. The review, by a panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences, said the genetic analysis “did not definitively demonstrate” that the mailed anthrax spores were grown from a sample taken by Dr. Ivins lab at Fort Detrick. It does add, however, that the evidence is ‘consistent with and supports an association” between Dr. Ivins flask and the attack anthrax. 

The Academy's report faults the FBI as failing to take advantage of scientific methods developed between the mailings in 2001 and its conclusion after Dr. Ivins’s suicide in 2008 that he was the sole perpetrator… Dr. Ivan's guilt has been adamantly denied by many of his colleagues at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, where he was seen as an eccentric but popular character. The Academy's report is likely to renew claims by the FBI's critics that the bureau merely took advantage of Dr. Ivins’s suicide to close the case. (The New York Times. Feb. 15, 2011)


The Washington Post reported as well on the criticism from this expert panel approved by the FBI. There you see the headline from February of 2011: “Anthrax report Casts Doubt on Scientific Evidence in FBI Case against Bruce Ivins.” 


For the FBI, the case of the anthrax killer is an investigation that never seems to end. Agents thought they had solved the puzzle last year when they pinned the 2001 attacks on a deceased Fort Detrick scientist. But yet another new wrinkle emerged Tuesday, with a panel of prominent scientists casting doubt on key FBI scientific evidence. A report from the National Research Council questioned the strength of genetic testing that the government said conclusively linked the anthrax-infected letters that killed five people to a flask of lethal bacteria belonging to Bruce Ivins. Tuesday's report questioned a critical piece of evidence: the link between the anthrax spores in a flask labeled RMR-1029 stored in Ivins lab at Fort Detrick and anthrax from the attacks. The Justice Department report concluded that Ivins collection of anthrax spores, which he had called his “ultimate creation” was the “parent material” for the anthrax used in the mailings. “The scientific link between the letter material and the flask number RMR 1029 is not as conclusive as stated in the DOJ Investigative Summary,” said the $1.1 million report, which was commissioned by the FBI. The document did add that “Genetic evidence is consistent with and supports an association between the flask and the anthrax used in the attack.” The 190-page document by the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences praised the FBI's energetic pursuit of emerging science. But it offered another possible explanation for the apparent link between the letters and the Ivins flask, namely, that some of the mutations identified in the letters could have arisen independently through a process known as parallel evolution. The report said this possibility “was not rigorously explored” by the FBI. 


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Listen to this Article: Reflecting New U.S. Control of TikTok's Censorship, Our Report Criticizing Zelensky Was Deleted

Glenn seems to be working as diligently as ever. I hope he is taking good care of himself while dealing with his recent loss. I am so grateful to Glenn for his ethics and perspective.

Thank you, Glenn, for putting on such an excellent show tonight regarding the Snowden Files. It was fascinating to hear you, Laura, and Edward relive and reflect on the experience and importance of releasing the files. It was also a touching tribute to David and his vital role in the project, as well as the salient role of Daniel Ellsberg as the model and inspiration for whistleblowing.

Last night I listened again to an excerpt taken from the film Snowden, by Oliver Stone. It reminded me how great it was for Ed to do what he did, and how great Glenn's role was. Glenn and Ed are in some ways America's greatest living heros.

Glen, your system update episodes are consistently the best reporting happening in the English language. There is no way I can put into words the enormity of my respect and gratitude for what you do. Subscribing to your channel is a moral imperative for me. It's the least I can do.

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Thoughts on Grief and the Grieving Process
The grieving process is horrible but not hopeless.

Note to Readers: Returning to more frequent written journalism is something I have been wanting to do for some time. The combination of David's 9-month hospitalization and the need to launch our nightly Rumble show during that excruciating experience made it virtually impossible to find the time and energy for that. It is something I am still eager to do -- I'm writing an article now about the life of Daniel Ellsberg and my friendship with him for Rolling Stone, as the 92-year-old Pentagon Papers whistleblower nears the end of his spectacular life due to terminal pancreatic cancer. I originally started writing the following thoughts on grief for myself, with no intention to publish it, but decided to do so in part because I know it may give comfort to others (as the article I discuss below gave to me), but also because, for reasons I can't explain, it sometimes helps to write about this for others, and my view of the grieving process has become that you should do whatever provides any help at all to get you through the next day. I realize this is not for everyone but it's what I'm capable of and what is dominating my thoughts right now. I hope to be able to return to producing more traditional written journalism soon. 


The pain, sadness, and torment of grief deepens as you move further away from the moment of the death of a loved one. It keeps getting worse – harder not easier – with each passing day and each passing week. I know that it will begin to get better or at least more manageable at some point, but that can and will happen only once the reality is internalized, a prerequisite for healing and recovery. But the internalization that someone is really dead - that there's absolutely nothing you can do to reverse that - requires ample time given its enormity. Three weeks is nowhere near sufficient.

One of the hardest challenges of grief, of the grieving process, is finding the balance between confronting the pain, loss and sometimes physically suffocating sadness – all without wallowing in it to the point that it completely consumes and then incapacitates you. But while you can't let yourself endlessly drown in it, you also can't let yourself use some mixture of distractions, work, exercise and other "return-to-normal" activities to remain in a state of denial or escapism, to avoid the pain and suffering, to deny the need to process a reality this immense and horrible, to anesthetize yourself from the mourning. The pain and suffering is going to come sooner or later, and the longer you evade or postpone it, the more damage it will do.

If you try to close yourself off to it entirety, to pretend it's not there, that attempt will fail. The pain and sadness will come at the worst times, when you're least prepared for it, in the most destructive form, and will find the unhealthiest expression. But if you force yourself to swim in those waters with too much frequency, for too much time, without maintaining a vibrant connection to the normalcy of life, to the people around you whom you love, and to the things you still cherish, it will paralyze and consume you - drain all your energy and life force and replace it with total darkness, mental paralysis and physical exhaustion: just a cold, inescapable sense of bottomless dread. 

There's no perfect sweet spot, but every day, you have to keep trying to find the right balance between confronting and avoiding. What's most daunting is realizing how long this process of processing and acceptance will be: very possibly endless. During the first week after David's death, I told both myself and our kids that the first two weeks would be hard but not the hardest, that worse days lay ahead, once the shock begins to wear off and the inescapable reality sets in, once the ceremonies were over and everyone else moved on and want back to their lives. I knew we would then be left with nothing but the reality of this enormous loss and horrific absence, and that was when the worst days would commence.

But telling yourself that is one thing; experiencing it is something completely different. Even when you think you're momentarily safeguarded from it, it can just penetrate without warning in the sharpest ways. On Thursday, I stumbled into this Guardian article about a top-secret leak in Australia and there was a description of David in the article's second paragraph, printed below, that was the first time I saw this formulation in print. It fell so heavily and jarringly – at a moment when I wasn't prepared for it – because no matter how hard you try and how much effort you devote to it, the reality of death takes a long time to fully internalize. It's just very hard to believe that the person with whom you expected and wanted to share all of your life – decades more – is instead not coming back, ever, in the only form you know, that a person so full of life and strength and force is no more:

I don't know why that phrase packed such a punch. I've seen hundreds of articles and tributes talking about David's death. But this phrase casually indicates that he is someone of the past, with no present and no future in our world. It didn't just talk about the fact that David died but referred to him as a now-and-forever dead person. That subtlety had an impact far more painful and destabilizing than I could have anticipated. It disrupted my emotional state until I could find a way to move on to something else: the central challenge of every day.


All of this is complicated -- a lot -- by the need to find this balance not only for yourself but also for your kids, whose grieving is as intense but also different. It's at least just as hard to know how much space to give them to use distractions like entertainment, sports, friends and school to find some breathing space. There's a strong temptation to encourage them to use escapism because one so eagerly -- instinctively -- wants to see one's kids smiling and laughing rather than crying and suffering.

But their own need to feel this loss, the mourning, the sadness, the pain is just as inescapable as your own. There's no avoiding it. It's coming one way or the other, so you often find yourself in the disorienting position of watching your kids cry and show pain, and you feel a form of comfort and relief from seeing it because you know it's good and healthy and necessary that they feel that, even while you are submerged in that sharp, expansive pit in the center of your being that comes from having to watch your own children suffer.

[Rio de Janeiro, March 30, 2022: four months, 1 week before David's hospitalization]

For those interested, I want to highly recommend this op-ed from last week by New York Times editor Sarah Wildman, whose 14-year-old daughter, Orli, just died after a somewhat lengthy and evidently very difficult battle with cancer. Without thinking about it, I messaged her to thank her for her article and we shared experiences, condolences and advice. One thing I did not expect was how much comfort I get from hearing from others - people I know well, people I don't know well, people I don't know at all – describe their own experiences with grief and loss. There's that old cliché that physical death is the great equalizer: the inevitable destination awaiting all of us regardless of status and station. 

That is true of death, but it's also true of grief. Unless one chooses never to love in order to avoid the pain of loss – a dreary, self-destructive, even tragic calculation – the impermanence of everything material that we love means we will all experience grief and the pain of loss until we die ourselves. There's now a substantial body of research on people's end-stage regrets: what humans who know they are dying say they wish they had done more of and less of. 

Virtually nobody nearing the end of life on earth says they wished they worked more or made more money (many say they regret working too much). Most say they wish they had spent more time with loved ones. When all is said and done, one of the few enduring things we really value and from which we derive meaningful pleasure - something we are built and have evolved to crave and need – is human connection. We're tribal and social animals. That's why isolation is one of the worst punishments society can impose, or that one can impose on oneself. And that's why, looking back over these last weeks and even during David's entire hospitalization, thoughts and notes and comments and kind gestures from so many people, to say nothing of those who took their time to write to me to share, often at great length, their own experience with long-term hospitalization of loved ones and profound grief, provided so much more comfort than I ever imagined it would have.

Wildman's op-ed is raw, moving and unsettling. She doesn't falsify or prettify anything for the sake of making her daughter's death more comfortable for others or herself. The death of someone you love at a young age is not pretty or comfortable. It's tragic and deeply sad and incomparably painful and there's no getting around that. Some of the best advice I got in the last couple of weeks was to avoid lionizing David or erecting a mythology around his life or around his death. I loved a human being, not a flawless saint or an icon or an otherworldly deity. And one of the things that moved me most about Wildman's op-ed was her frank discussion of her daughter's fear of dying. It would be so much more palatable - for yourself or others - to say and believe that the person you lost was at peace with dying. Her daughter wasn't at peace with dying, nor was David. They wanted to live and fought to live and were afraid to die.

That's a hard and painful truth that does sometimes make things much more difficult – it means you focus not only on what you lost, not only on what your kids lost, but on what the person who died lost – but one can also find beauty and grace and meaning and inspiration by confronting that rather than whitewashing it. It's disrespectful to someone's life to build mythologies about them - about their life and their death - no matter how comforting those mythologies might be. Wildman's op-ed refuses to do that, yet it leaves no doubt that her daughter inspired her and others not just in how she lived but in also in how she died: with her determination, courage and strength. 

I blocked it out and denied it at the time because I wasn't able to accept it, but David's doctors made clear in the days after he was first hospitalized in ICU last August that the probability that he would survive the week was very low. His inflammation and infection had already incapacitated his pancreas and caused full renal failure within the first 48 hours. By the end of the week he was intubated because sepsis delivered that inflammation to his lungs. Even a quick Google search reveals how dire that state of affairs is for anyone, no matter their age or overall health. 

That David fought so hard to live and return to us over nine excruciating months brought some horrifically difficult moments – watching him and his body get battered over and over every time it looked like he was possibly recovering was probably the worst thing I ever had to witness – but it also gave us and our kids some of our most moving, profound, genuine, loving and enduring moments with him and with one another that I and they will cherish forever, as I wrote about a couple months ago, in the context of gratitude, when I thought he was improving. 

It may seem at first glance that had he died a quick death in that first week, David would have spared himself and us a lot of agony. That may be true. But I am absolutely convinced that had he died in that first week without giving us and himself these opportunities, all of this would be infinitely worse. Every moment you share with someone you love - even if it's in an ICU ward with every machine imaginable connected to them - is a blessing and a gift, and David's characteristic fight gave us so many of those moments that, by all rights, we never should have had.

I really wish there some singular book or some magic phrase or some way of interpreting all of this that would make the still-growing and still-deepening pain disappear for myself, for mine and David's kids, for those who loved him, for those who love and lose anyone that matters so much in their life. There is no elixir. But that does not mean that nothing helps, that one is doomed to a life of endless pain, sadness, and dread, that it is impossible to find comfort and inspiration and even greater love in the grieving process. 


For that to happen, you need humility and an acceptance of what you cannot control. I can't bring David back - that's obvious - but I also can't find a way to entirely avoid the type of pain and sadness and despair that is sometimes utterly debilitating. I realized that very early on and so I'm no longer trying to avoid it entirely. 

Sometimes it comes when I seek or summon it, and sometimes it comes when I think I am far away from it - like happened this week when I saw the adjective "late" before his name and on a thousand other occasions when I looked at a photo of him and his eyes connected to mine, or when one of our kids shared a memory they had of him that brought him so vividly to life. When that pain comes, I don't try to fight it or drive it away. I let it come and sometimes stay in it on purpose, until I can no longer physically endure it. Other times I allow myself to be distracted: through work, though entertainment, through proximity to my kids, through conversations with them that are not directly about sharing our mutual grief over the loss of their father and of my husband.

I don't know if I returned to work too early or, instead, am sometimes succumbing too much to my desire not to work. Each day, I try to follow my instinct about what is best for me and for our kids, and to give myself a huge amount of space and forgiveness to calculate wrong and make the wrong decisions. Down every road lies sadness and even horror, but some of those paths also offer some beautiful moments of family and connection, ways to find inspiration, to embrace the spirit and passion and compassion and strength that defined David and his life.

I'm certain that one of the things that is helping most is our unified devotion to concretizing, memorializing and extending his legacy. One of David's greatest joys in life was seeing the construction and opening of the community center we built together in Jacarezinho, the community that raised him. It offers free classes in English and computers, psychological services and addiction counseling, support for animal protection and pet care, and meals for that community's homeless. We are going to create and build "The David Miranda Institute" to extend that work beyond that community. My kids are eager to assume a major role in working on this institute and community center – they know instinctively that it honors David and would make him so proud – and working on this together is one of the few things that provides us unadulterated comfort and uplifting energy. 

The grieving process is horrible but not hopeless. I'd be lying if I denied that it sometimes seems unbearable. Every day the reality that David lost his life and that we lost David in our lives gets heavier and more painful. But humans are resilient. We are adaptive. I can't prove it and there was a time in my life when I not only rejected but mocked this idea, but I believe our life has a purpose and, ultimately, so do our deaths. Each day I see that my suffering and our kids' suffering deepen and worsen for now. 

But I also see us, together, creating ways to find and remain connected to that purpose. David's life, David's spirit, David's legacy, and somehow even David's death are what is propelling us, elevating us, toward that destination. I would trade anything for David to be back with us, but since that option does not exist, getting through the pain and then finding a way to strengthen us is our overarching challenge.

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Assange With Almost No Moves Left—US Trial Could Be Imminent. Plus: Aaron Maté on New TwitterFiles Showing FBI Aided Ukraine Efforts to Silence US Journalists
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Good evening. It's Thursday, June 8th. Welcome to a new episode of System Update, our live nightly show that airs every Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern, exclusively here on Rumble. The free speech alternative to YouTube. 

Tonight: the true moment of truth is essentially coming to a head for Julian Assange and the Biden Justice Department. The WikiLeaks founder has been battling, since he was arrested in 2019 in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the efforts by the Biden Justice Department to extradite him to the United States to stand trial on espionage charges – under the Espionage Act of 1917 – for apparently the crime of publishing top secret documents which revealed serious war crimes on the part of the United States and the British in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as corruption on the part of their allies. 

Shortly thereafter, the British Home Secretary signed an extradition order ordering Assange to stand trial in the United States. Assange has spent the year invoking all of the last appeals that he has, and he is essentially out of appeals. Earlier this week, a British court rejected one of his last appeals. The only appeal he has left is a last-ditch procedural one before a British court and then possibly an appeal to a European court on the grounds that his extradition would violate European human rights guarantees. But absent some highly unexpected event, Assange will find himself in a Virginia courthouse standing trial on felonies under the Espionage Act, all stemming from WikiLeaks, his 2010 publications of classified documents that WikiLeaks did not obtain but was instead provided to them by the U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning. We'll examine these possible last-minute interventions and the reason why the Biden administration may not want Assange coming to the U.S. at all. 

Then, reporting from the Twitter Files continues. The independent journalist Aaron Maté documented how the FBI worked jointly with Ukrainian authorities to pressure Twitter to censor journalists and other commentators who are deemed by Ukraine to be insufficiently supportive of the Ukrainian narrative and thus guilty of “disinformation”. Among those targeted by Ukraine and FBI access was Maté himself. 

Twitter, to its credit, recognized the threat posed to core free speech and free press rights by the Ukrainian campaign. But the fact that the Ukrainians, while now for 15 months demanding an unlimited supply of American money and arms, are yet again seeking to infringe our basic rights with all of its blacklists and demand for silencing reveals the fraud at the heart of its claims that Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials are “fighting for democracy”.

As we do every Tuesday and Thursday night, as soon as we're done with our one-hour live show here on Rumble, we will move to Locals for our interactive aftershow to take your questions and comment on your feedback. To obtain access to our aftershow, simply sign up to become a member of our Locals community. The red Join button right below the video player right here on the Rumble page enables you to access that show and the transcript for each show, as well as written journalism that we post there. And it also helps the independent journalism that we do. 

As a reminder, System Update is available in podcast form as well. You can follow us on Spotify, Apple and all other major podcasting platforms, where you can follow us, rate and review the show, which helps spread its visibility. 

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update starting right now. 

We have spent many shows reporting on the grave injustice and the serious danger posed by the United States effort to prosecute Julian Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917. As you may recall, the Espionage Act was a law first implemented by Woodrow Wilson, designed to do nothing other than criminalize Americans’ dissent to the idea that the U.S. should enter World War I and fight it as combatants. And indeed, many people were prosecuted under the Espionage Act for doing nothing other than opposing President Wilson's war policies in that European war. Efforts to overturn that law on the grounds that it is blatantly unconstitutional have produced some of the most notorious and shameful rulings in Supreme Court history and yet the court has protected this law. It is one of the most extreme and repressive laws in the U.S. Code, and it has basically been allowed to remain dormant for all of the 20th century. 

The one time that it was actually invoked in a high-profile case was when the Nixon administration used it to prosecute Daniel Ellsberg for the crime of leaking the Pentagon Papers, a volume of top-secret documents that revealed that the U.S. government was systematically lying to the American people about the Vietnam War. In other words, the U.S. government spent years insisting publicly that it was just a few months away from winning the war and vanquishing the North Vietnamese, all it needed was some more money, some more conscripts, some more authority, some more bombs, some more weapons. And yet, privately, as the Pentagon Papers revealed, the U.S. government and its top officials inside the Pentagon and war-making agencies in the U.S. security state had acknowledged, from the start of the war, that victory would be impossible, that the greatest and the best-case scenario – the best-case scenario – was a stalemate. 

Ellsberg was somebody who started at the Rand Corporation, had been an advocate of the Vietnam War, and helped plan the Vietnam War from his position in the Rand Corporation. He had access to the most sensitive secrets that the U.S. government possessed and along the way in the mid-sixties, he realized that the U.S. government was prosecuting this war based on a lie and that it was ending the lives of thousands of Americans who it did not volunteer to go to Vietnam, but instead were drafted and was also ending the lives of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians. As an act of conscience, he came forward and said, I can no longer stand by while I have the evidence in my hand that the U.S. government is lying to the American people and continue to conceal it, even though it's likely that I will go to prison for life if I reveal it. 

He first tried to get senators to read the Pentagon Papers into the record because senators under the Constitution have full immunity from prosecution for anything they do or say on the Senate floor. And not a single senator was courageous enough to do it, and some left it to Ellsberg. He finally went to The New York Times and provided these documents. The New York Times reported on it, and then the next administration dug up this archaic statute from the Wilson era and tried to use it to say that Ellsberg was guilty of espionage, even though Ellsberg's harshest critics acknowledged that he was not acting on behalf of a foreign government. They tried for a while to claim he was a Kremlin agent, but nobody believed that. He went to a journalist and leaked this information in order to inform the American people what the truth was. 

The Nixon administration ultimately was unsuccessful in its efforts to prosecute him because they had gotten caught engaged in all sorts of serious misconduct – this is 1971 – including ordering a break into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in order to find incriminating psychosexual secrets that would discredit him. And that misconduct resulted in the dismissal of the criminal case against him. Had that not happened, he almost certainly would have spent the rest of his life in prison. Ellsberg is now 93. He is diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and has weeks if not less, to live. But that was one of the things that he did in history, was reminded the U.S. government about the existence of this very repressive law and the reason it became such a valuable tool in the hands of the U.S. government – because Ellsberg, his plan all along was he wanted to come forward and identify himself as the leaker of the Pentagon Papers. He didn't want to hide behind it in the media. He decided he owed it to the American people to come forward and identify himself and explain why he leaked these documents, even though they were marked top secret. And his plan was to go to trial and convince a jury of his peers that even though the law prohibited him from doing what he had done, his actions were morally justified, he was obligated to do it, ethically, because the evil of forcing him to remain silent while watching the government lie to the population about something so significant outweighed the imperatives of the law. But what ended up happening was he went up on the stand and he began to explain to the jury, ‘Yes, I did this, but I was justified in doing so, and here's why” and the judge immediately shot him down and ruled that the Espionage Act, unlike most laws, is a strict liability statute – Meaning: it doesn't matter what motive you had when you violated it; if you are authorized to receive classified information and then you publish classified information or disclose it to someone who's unauthorized, to receive it, you are automatically guilty of felonies under the Espionage Act of 1917, and there is no defense available to you. And when the judge ruled that, it showed the U.S. government – the CIA, the FBI. Homeland Security didn't exist then, that was created in 2002, the NSA, and the rest of the U.S. security state agencies – ‘Look at this incredibly powerful weapon you have in your hand.’ It means you can take any document that exists – including revealing and proving that you've committed grave crimes or that you've lied to the American people – all you have to do is mark that document “classified “or secret or top-secret and it becomes a felony – years, if not decades in prison, is the punishment for anyone to take that document and reveal it to the world. Even if you've abused your powers by marking them secret with the intention of concealing your own crimes and your own deceit. That was the effect of that ruling and what the Espionage Act of 1917 meant. 

The Espionage Act was not used after that by any president through the Ford administration, the Reagan administration, fighting the Cold War, fighting the wars in Central America, nor was it used during the Clinton years, or even by George Bush and Dick Cheney under the War on Terror. That statute was picked up and was aggressively weaponized under the Obama administration to punish and criminalize anybody who leaked information, even whistleblowers who were exposing government crimes. In fact, the Obama administration, the Obama Justice Department under Eric Holder prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act of 1917 than all previous presidents combined. So, we went from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush, and there was a grand total of two prosecutions under the Espionage Act, one of which was Daniel Ellsberg. We get to the Obama administration and remember, Barack Obama ran on promises of restoring transparency to government – uprooting the excesses of secrecy abuses and civil liberties abuses carried out by George Bush and Dick Cheney and the War on Terror – and instead, he did the opposite. In so many instances, he strengthened and expanded those abuses of George Bush and Dick Cheney, including by re-weaponizing the Espionage Act and using it to prosecute more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined. 

That was the statute under which Edward Snowden was prosecuted and still is being charged. And I remember so well when Edward Snowden sought asylum in Russia after the Obama administration purposely trapped him there when he was transiting on his way to Latin America to get asylum. John Kerry and other Obama officials, and Hillary Clinton would constantly go to the media and say, ‘Oh, if Edward Snowden really believes in what he's saying, that he was justified in doing what he did, he should “man up” – those were the words of John Kerry – and go back to the United States and argue to a jury of his peers that he was, in fact, justified to do what he did. They were deliberately deceiving the public because they very well knew that under the Espionage Act of 1917, there is no such defense available. You cannot go before a jury of your peers and argue that what you did was justified, the way you can with so many other crimes where you can argue you didn't have the requisite ill-intent or malicious intent necessary to be turned into a criminal. The Espionage Act is a strict liability law, according to the ruling in that Ellsberg trial. And so, people charged under this law are essentially consigned, inevitably, to being found guilty, as long as it can be proven that they published classified information without authorization. 

The other thing that makes the Espionage Act of 1917 also dangerous is that it can actually be used against not just whistleblowers or sources, meaning people who work inside the U.S. government and took an oath to maintain secrecy the way Daniel Ellsberg did, the way Edward Snowden did, the way Chelsea Manning did, the way all the other people charged by the Obama Justice Department did. It can also be used to prosecute people who never worked for the U.S. government in their lives and therefore are under no obligation to maintain the secrecy of these documents. In other words, it can be used to prosecute journalists, who receive information that is classified, from a source, and then publish it. If you read the language of the Espionage Act, it doesn't confine itself just to sources. It essentially says anyone is guilty of a felony if they publish classified information – not only people who have an oath to keep it secret. So, in the language of the Espionage Act, you can actually criminalize journalists. 

The question has always been, if you were to try to use the Espionage Act against journalists and prosecute journalists, even though they're under no obligation to maintain classified documents in secret, would you run afoul of the First Amendment guarantee of a free press? The U.S. government has never wanted to test that because they liked having this weapon to hang over the heads of journalists. During the Snowden reporting, they constantly threatened us publicly and privately with prosecution because they were hoping that it would scare us, that we would think in any kind of difficult case, ‘Well, maybe it's no longer worth publishing because the government always has the option to prosecute prosecutors under the Espionage Act.’ Or maybe, ‘Look, we won all the awards. We've gotten all these plaudits. Maybe it's time to stop. Maybe we should just not report all the stories in the archive that the public has a right to know’ – out of fear that the Justice Department might prosecute us. They like having this weapon hang over your head, and they use it aggressively. And they don't want to risk losing it by having a court ruling where they prosecute a journalist and the journalist successfully raises a free press defense. 

Now we get to the case of Julian Assange. The Obama administration desperately wanted to prosecute Julian Assange of the Espionage Act. They convened a grand jury, they spent years investigating Assange and they knew from the start that they couldn't charge Assange with crimes simply for publishing these documents because Assange worked in partnership with some of the leading media outlets in the world that published these same documents, including The New York Times and The Guardian and El País and all sorts of other media outlets around the world. So, the question always was, how can you criminalize Julian Assange and his publication of these top-secret documents but not criminalize and prosecute The New York Times, The Guardian, and all the other newspapers that published the same material? And so, the challenge for the Obama Justice Department was to find something that Assange did that went beyond merely receiving these documents from Chelsea Manning and then publishing them, to say that he somehow became part of the criminal acts themselves beyond just publication. The Obama administration has, then, searched and searched and searched for years using grand juries. They subpoenaed people. They subpoenaed documents and witnesses, and they could find nothing. And the Obama administration concluded, as a result, that even though it wanted to, it could not and would not prosecute Julian Assange and it never indicted Julian Assange under the Espionage Act because it could not find anything he did that went beyond mere publishing. 

Enter the Trump administration, and especially Mike Pompeo, who was Trump's first director of the CIA and Pompeo, I think most Trump supporters now realize was completely deceitful in presenting himself as some sort of populist or some sort of adherent to MAGA ideology – he was pure neocon from the start. If you look at his voting record when he was in the House of Representatives, he supported every single U.S. war, including the Obama administration's covert war to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria, a war that even Ron DeSantis, when he was a member of the House, opposed, even though he had a pretty standard pro-war record as a Republican House member. And Mike Pompeo stood up as CIA director in 2017 and gave one of the creepiest and most menacing speeches I've ever heard from a top official in which he vowed he would do everything in his power, tirelessly to work to destroy WikiLeaks, he said “WikiLeaks believes they have the right to First Amendment free press and free speech rights, but they do not, and the time for them to abuse our Constitution has come to an end.’ And Pompeo worked tirelessly to get the Trump Justice Department to indict Julian Assange. And they did. And they charged him with crimes under the Espionage Act of 1917. 

If you read the indictment and I just want to be clear, nothing in the indictment has anything to do with what Assange did in 2016, with publishing documents relating to the Hillary Clinton campaign or John Podesta's emails – that is the reason Democrats hate him. That is the reason the Biden Justice Department is pursuing Assange. They hate him because they still blame him for helping Hillary Clinton lose the 2016 election because Julian Assange did what is the job of journalists: to obtain material and relevant documents in the form of those emails and published them to enable us to know the truth about Hillary Clinton in her campaign – you may remember that that reporting was so convincing that it forced the top five officials of the Democratic National Committee, including Deborah Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, to resign in disgrace, in the middle of the 2016 campaign, because they got caught cheating on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the primary because they were fearful that Bernie Sanders was going to become the nominee. And it revealed all sorts of other things about Hillary Clinton, including what she was saying to Goldman Sachs – when she was making $500,000 or $750,000 in private speeches for which she refused to provide the transcript – and all the other things that got revealed. That's why Democrats hate him. That's why the Biden Department of Justice is pursuing him so much. It is a political motive, but the indictment itself is about the 2010 publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan war files, which, as you may recall, included things like a video showing U.S. forces in Iraq shooting indiscriminately at civilians, including two Reuters journalists whom they killed. And when people came to rescue the dead civilians, they shot at them, and all kinds of documents that revealed other war crimes committed by the U.S. and the UK and all sorts of corruption throughout the world, including in the Arab world, on the part of American allies. In fact, Bill Keller, the editor-in-chief of the New York Times back then, credited those publications with helping to spark the Arab Spring, that it made the corruption of leaders in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and Qatar so manifest that it caused protest movements to break out all over the Arab world. That's the impact this reporting had. It was journalism more impactful, more consequential than anything anybody in the corporate media could ever hope to get close to, even if they lived to be a thousand years old. And I can assure you the fact that Assange is one of the most accomplished journalists of his generation, if not the most accomplished, is a major reason why there's so much support in the U.S. media for prosecuting him under the Espionage Act. 

Now, in 2019, when this indictment was unsealed and then when it was amended, there is a claim in the indictment that Assange went beyond merely passively receiving these documents from Chelsea Manning and then publishing them. But the indictment acknowledges that at the time that WikiLeaks got all of those documents, Assange played no role in their acquisition. Chelsea Manning was court-martialed and sentenced to eight years in prison or actually longer. Obama ended up commuting her sentence after she served seven years, and the facts of how she got these documents were demonstrated in that proceeding. She went in, she had gone to Iraq, and she became very disturbed by things that the U.S. government was doing to Iraqi dissidents. She thought we were there to fight them up for democracy and she found that people were being summarily imprisoned, that media outlets were being shut down – just like Daniel Ellsberg working inside the Rand Corporation and just like Edward Snowden working inside the NSA, in the CIA – she became convinced that the mythology she bought into was actually false and that the U.S. government's actions were, on balance, a net harm. And she went in and downloaded all of those materials by herself and sent them to Julian Assange. Even the government admits that. 

So how then does this indictment claim that Julian Assange did something beyond publishing? Because when Assange got these materials like any good journalist would, he did two things. Number one, he wanted her to get more so that they could report more, and he encouraged her to go back into the system and download other materials that she could send to him so that he could report on. Every single investigative journalist in the world – if you have a source come to you and says, ‘Here, I have material I want to provide you,’ that journalist is going to say: ‘Oh, but you also have this? You also have this?’ ‘It'd be great if we could have this.’ ‘Are you able to get that?’ Every single journalist in the world does that – encourages the source to give them more material. So, one of the two things Assange is accused of doing that makes him more than just a mere passive recipient of classified information, and then a publisher of it was encouraging her to go and get more. Even though she never did. And then the other thing he's accused of doing was trying to help her crack a password so that she could use the system without detection. In other words, he was trying to help her, his source, evade detection. 

It turns out this password-cracking effort was unsuccessful. She was never able to do it. Contrary to what you may have heard, to what the media has tried to depict, Assange is not even accused of being the one who hacked into these files and took these materials. He didn't need to hack into them. Chelsea Manning had access to them as a U.S. Army private. That was part of her job, and she used that access to download these materials, none of which, by the way, was top secret. They were all at a very low level of secrecy designation, classified or secret. None of them was top secret because she was just a U.S. Army private who shouldn't even have access to the most secretive material the way Edward Snowden did, the way Daniel Ellsberg did. So those are the two things he's accused of doing, encouraging a source to get more material and giving her tips on how she might avoid getting caught. 

The irony is, in 2019, when that indictment was unveiled, I went to The Washington Post and I wrote an op-ed, they had asked me to do so, arguing that every single journalist, no matter your views of Julian Assange, should be vehemently opposed to this indictment. And my argument was it creates a blueprint for any government anywhere in the world to criminalize investigative journalism of every kind. As I just got done explaining here, what I argued there is that every single investigative journalist does regularly, what the entire indictment hinges on, namely encourages their sources to get more information and helps their source evade detection. So, for example, if a source calls you on the telephone, on an open telephone line, and says, ‘I have very important sensitive secrets to give you that reveal high-level corruption and deceit that I think you should report,’ the first thing a responsible journalist is going to say to that source is, ‘Don't call me in an open phone line. Use encryption. Call me on Signal or Telegram or some other means. Use a Dropbox of the kind that the Freedom of the Press Foundation and other press freedom groups have given to newsrooms to enable sources not to get caught.’ Every responsible journalist not only has the right but the duty to give their source instructions on how not to get caught. If that becomes criminalized, if that makes a journalist become a conspirator with the source – to do nothing other than ask the source to get more documents and help them evade detection – it means that every single investigative journalist on this planet who really does investigative journalism, meaning something more than just writing out what the CIA told you to say – which I realize excludes most members of media – but people who do actual investigative journalism are susceptible under this precedent to being prosecuted and criminalized. And that was why I argued in The Washington Post, it's so vital to oppose it. 

Ironically, I wrote that article in April 2018. It turned out to be just a few weeks before I was contacted by a source in Brazil who had hacked into the telephone chats of some of the most powerful prosecutors and judges in Brazil and sent me an archive of those materials that I then used to report – and it changed the course of Brazilian history. It revealed that the anti-corruption probe here in Brazil was actually driven by corruption. It reversed the convictions of numerous high-level politicians, including Lula da Silva, and it had a big impact. And eight months later, after I started that reporting, Brazilian prosecutors loyal to the judge, whose corruption I had exposed indicted me, and charged me with multiple felony counts. The theory they used to try to criminalize my work was a verbatim copy of the indictment filed by the U.S. Justice Department against Julian Assange, namely, they acknowledged that by the time the source came to me, they had already hacked all this information – but I didn't participate in any way in the hack – but they claim that at some point, when the source asked me, ‘Should I keep hold of the chats you and I are having?’ and I said to him, ‘You don't need to because we're going to keep copies ourselves’ that was an implicit instruction to the source to destroy the chats he was having with me. And according to the Brazilian prosecutors, that was my becoming part of the conspiracy by trying to help the source evade detection. And when I did that, according to the prosecution, I became part of the criminal conspiracy I was charged with, I don't know, 182 felony counts facing 346 years in prison. The Brazilian courts quickly dismissed the charges in the indictment because there had been a Supreme Court ruling from Brazil banning any attempt to retaliate against me for the reporting on the grounds that doing so would violate the Brazilian free press clause. 

The warning that I issued in The Washington Post that this could criminalize any investigative journalist was something that just months later I experienced firsthand. And so, to describe this indictment as dangerous is to severely overstate the case. And yet, the Biden administration is very close to having Julian Assange be forcibly extradited to the United States, a country he has barely visited, I believe, one time for four days. He's not an American citizen. He never worked in the U.S. government. He has no legal duty to keep secrets of the United States government. And yet they want to physically bring him here onto American soil and put him on trial in a Virginia courtroom where they know the jury will be composed of U.S. security state agents, people who work for defense contractors and try him under the Espionage Act of 1917, which, as I said, is a strict liability law, you have almost no chance of acquittal – if you are tried under that law, you have no right even to argue that what you did was justified, as long as they can prove, and of course, he admits, that he published material that the U.S. government wanted to be kept secret. 

Assange basically has been fighting this extradition ever since he was arrested in London when the Ecuadorians withdrew the asylum they had granted to him and the London police came into the embassy and dragged him out in that very dramatic footage. He's lost at every level except the first. The first court to ever hear his objections to being extradited ruled in his favor, but only on the grounds that his mental health was so fragile that it could not withstand the rigors and hardships of a maximum-security prison in the United States. The British court cited reports from human rights groups that maximum security prisons in the United States are uniquely harsh and violative of core human rights. But the U.S. government came in and provided assurances that Assange wouldn't be kept under those harshest of conditions and so the British courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of the Biden administration and ruled that Assange has to be extradited.

Last year, after the substantive appeals were exhausted, the British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, signed an extradition order. There you see, from The Guardian, in June 2020, the headline “Julian Assange's Extradition from UK to U.S. Approved by Home Secretary.” So, the extradition order is already signed. As the article says, 


Priti Patel has approved the extradition of the WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange to the US, a decision the organization immediately said it would appeal against in the high court.

The case passed to the British home secretary last month after the UK supreme court ruled that there were no legal questions over assurances given by US authorities on Assange’s likely treatment. (The Guardian. June 17, 2022)

So, he had almost no chance left, but he pursued it anyway because he is very scared of going to the United States and being disappeared into the U.S. prison system, as anybody rational would be. And one of the last few appeals he had left was just rejected. This week here you see from the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, the headline, “Julian Assange dangerously close to extradition following the high court rejection of appeal.” 


In a three-page written decision issued on 6 June, a single judge, Justice Swift, rejected all eight grounds of Assange’s appeal against the extradition order signed by then-UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in June 2022. 


This leaves only one final step in the UK courts, as the defense has five working days to submit an appeal of only 20 pages to a panel of two judges, who will convene a public hearing. Further appeals will not be possible at the domestic level, but Assange could bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights.


Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is deeply concerned by the UK High Court’s decision rejecting WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s appeal against his extradition order, bringing him dangerously close to being extradited to the United States, where he could face the rest of his life in prison for publishing leaked classified documents in 2010. 


“It is absurd that a single judge can issue a three-page decision that could land Julian Assange in prison for the rest of his life and permanently impact the climate for journalism around the world. 


The historical weight of what happens next cannot be overstated; it is time to put a stop to this relentless targeting of Assange and act instead to protect journalism and press freedom. Our call on President Biden is now more urgent than ever: drop these charges, close the case against Assange, and allow for his release without further delay.


Rebecca Vincent

RSF’s Director of Campaigns   #FreeAssange



In a tweet earlier today, Assange's wife, Stella Assange, vowed that her husband will make a renewed application to the high court. She said it's going to be before two high court judges. She said she's optimistic that they will prevail, but the reality is he's almost certain to lose that appeal and he may have no appeals left or maybe just one to a European court. 

So, the question now becomes: does the Biden justice department, just Joe Biden, really want Julian Assange to come in the United States standing trial outside of a courthouse where almost certainly protesters in Assange's defense proclaiming him a hero will gather? Imagine what that's going to look like to the world. The U.S. and its media outlets love to condemn all sorts of other governments for attacking journalists, and yet, right on American soil, there will be the image to the entire world that they are putting on trial and attempting to prison for life. Under an espionage statute of 1917, the most consequential pioneering journalist of his generation. 

One of the only ways out of this is that Australia, the country where Assange was born, the only country in which he is a citizen, he has never been a citizen of the United States. I'm amazed when I see Liberals justifying his prosecution by saying he's guilty of treason. Treason to whom? I think they think everyone on the planet, even if you're not an American citizen, owes a duty of loyalty to the American government. Australia is a pretty subservient junior partner of the United States. It has been very meek and mute in defense of its own citizen’s rights until very recently. The Australian prime minister, who's pretty new, has been becoming more vocal about the fact that he thinks it's time for the Biden administration to stop its prosecution of Assange.

Here from Associated Press, in May, “Australian Prime Minister says he is working effectively to free WikiLeaks founder.” The article says:


 Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was working in the “most effective way possible” to secure the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange but declined an invitation Monday to meet the Australian citizen’s wife.


Independent lawmaker Andrew Wilkie asked Albanese if he would meet Assange’s wife Stella Assange, who was watching Parliament from the public gallery. Albanese said a meeting with Stella Assange wouldn’t help her 51-year-old husband who is in a London prison fighting extradition to the United States.


“A priority for us isn’t doing something that is a demonstration, it’s actually doing something that produces an outcome,” Albanese told Parliament. “And that’s my focus, not grandstanding.”


Albanese said he appreciated opposition leader Peter Dutton’s recent comments that he agreed with the government that Assange should be released.


“I’ve made it very clear to the U.S. administration and also to the U.K. administration of the Australian government’s view and I appreciate the fact that that is now a bipartisan view … that enough is enough,” Albanese said.


“Nothing is served from the ongoing incarceration of Julian Assange. What I have done … is to act in the most effective way possible,” he said. “What I have done is act diplomatically in order to maximize the opportunity that is there of breaking through an issue which has gone on for far too long.” (AP News. May 22, 2023)


That is a way out, but it's very difficult because imagine what would happen if the Biden administration, which kept Assange in prison for four years – starting with the Trump administration and now the Biden administration, the U.S. government – kept Assange in prison for four years, even though he's been convicted of no crime other than bail jumping for which he had an 11-month term that he long ago served and he's been kept in prison simply because they say he's a “flight risk.” – To avoid extradition. So, he's been in prison for four years with no conviction, right at the moment of truth, when it's finally time for the Biden administration to put him on trial and present the evidence that he's actually guilty, for them to come forward and say, ‘You know what? Never mind. Just let him go back to Australia. We don't really want to prosecute him.’ That would vindicate the theory that I certainly have long had, which is that the only thing the United States wanted all along was to destroy Assange, both physically and mentally, and according to Assange's positions, eight years or nine years in the Ecuadorian embassy without ever once going outside and now, on top of that, four years in a very harsh British prison that the BBC, in 2004, called the British Guantanamo has severely physically and mentally addled him. and it's possible he will never recover and that WikiLeaks will be smashed all without ever having to prove that he committed any crime beyond bail jumping. 

But that is one way out for the Biden administration. I think their other option, which is to bring them to U.S. soil and to have this whole spectacle in front of the world, having to prosecute a journalist who has broken more major stories than almost everybody in the corporate media will be cheering combined it's also not very palatable. Just to underscore how rogue the United States and the UK governments are here, world leaders have called Assange a hero, and have demanded his release, but so too have almost every single civil liberty and press freedom group in the West. It's very difficult to unite them on anything but on the question of Assange, they are.


From the New York Times in February 2021, there's the headline: “Civil Liberties Groups Ask Biden Justice Department to Drop Julian Assange Case.


A coalition of civil liberties and human rights groups urged the Biden administration on Monday to drop efforts to extradite the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Britain and prosecute him, calling the Trump-era case against him “a grave threat to press freedom.”


The coalition sent a letter urging a change in course before a Friday deadline for the Justice Department to file a brief in a London court. American prosecutors are due to explain in detail their decision — formally lodged on Jan. 19, the last full day of the Trump administration — to appeal a ruling blocking their request to extradite Mr. Assange.


Democrats like the new Biden team are no fan of Mr. Assange, whose publication in 2016 of Democratic emails stolen by Russia aided Donald J. Trump’s narrow victory over Hillary Clinton. 


But the charges center instead on his 2010 publication of American military and diplomatic documents leaked by Chelsea Manning, and they raise profound First Amendment issues.


“The indictment of Mr. Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely — and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do,” the letter said, adding: 


“News organizations frequently and necessarily publish classified information in order to inform the public of matters of profound public significance.”

The Freedom of the Press Foundation organized the letter. Other signers — about two dozen groups — included the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Demand Progress, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the Project on Government Oversight and Reporters Without Borders.


“Most of the charges against Assange concern activities that are no different from those used by investigative journalists around the world every day,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a separate statement. 

“President Biden should avoid setting a terrible precedent by criminalizing key tools of independent journalism that are essential for a healthy democracy.” (The New York Times. Feb 8, 2021)


It is incredibly striking to me that the U.S. media loves to point the finger at foreign governments. Look over there, it's Russia and China and Iran and this government and that government that doesn't respect journalists, that is imprisoning journalists, that's attacking for press freedom. And yet right under their nose, their own government is poised to create one of the most dangerous presidents ever for press freedom. And in seeking to imprison, whether you like them or not, a person responsible for more major scoops than all of them combined – and yet their reaction ranges from indifference to overt support. 

Whatever else is true, things like Donald Trump going on Twitter and insulting Chuck Todd or Wolf Blitzer are not threats to press freedom, but attempting to create a precedent that would criminalize the core activities of investigative journalism is the gravest press freedom I have seen in my lifetime and that is what the extradition of Julian Assange is all about. We will continue to keep you posted on these developments as they continue. It is very close to the time when Assange will have to come to the United States and we'll see how this plays out. 

The Interview: Aaron Maté


Aaron Maté is an independent journalist who has been one of the leading skeptics of the fraud that became known as the Russiagate scandal. For that skepticism, he was awarded the Prize for Excellence in Independent Journalism and the Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media. You can find his work at the “Gray Zone” as well as on the “Jimmy George Show,” where he's a frequent guest host, and on his own Substack, where just this week he has reported two extremely important stories and we are delighted to have him here in order to speak to him about those and other issues as well, including Ukraine.

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Chris Licht Out at CNN—The Latest Casualty of a Dying Medium, Tucker’s Explosive Return on Twitter, Ukraine’s Terrorist Attack on Russian Dam
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Good evening. It's Wednesday, June 7th. Welcome to a new episode of System Update, our live nightly show that airs every Monday to Friday at 7 p.m. Eastern, exclusively here on Rumble, the free speech alternative to YouTube. 

CNN's top executive barely lasted a year on the job. Chris Licht, who was brought in by the Most Trusted Name in News in the wake of multiple ethical scandals and collapsing ratings that drove out his predecessor, Jeff Zucker, was fired today. Most of the corporate press barely disguised their delight over his firing. One of Licht's primary directives was that the only way to save CNN and find a way to again attract an audience was to have CNN cease being little more than a messaging clearing house for the Democratic Party. 

Nothing enraged corporate media employees more than the idea that a news outlet should be independent rather than held in captivity to establishment neoliberalism. One of the few weapons they have left is ensuring that these media corporations remain a dissent-free sector of liberal propaganda, and Licht explicitly vowed to liberate CNN from that grim task. The reality is that cable news as a medium is dying, and CNN is close to irretrievably dead, so it hardly matters who captains that rotted ship as it deservedly crashes and then finally sinks. But the story is nonetheless worth covering because the media reaction to Licht, and their determination to keep every media corporation in line with Democratic Party ideology, reveals a great deal about their ongoing function.

Then: while CNN collapses, Tucker Carlson – the most successful cable host in the history of that medium – launched his show last night on Twitter, in scaled-down form for now. But there was no denying that the launch was a success. While view counts on Twitter are less than models of clarity and reliability, to understate the case, it is clear that millions watched Carlson's first monologue about Ukraine. That Carlson is able to find such a big audience without Fox, and that he's already obviously feeling far less constrained now that he's independent, are both highly encouraging signs for the future of independent media, and highly discouraging signs for the future of corporate media.

And then, finally: Russia once again suffered a major attack on key infrastructure: a huge dam in Russia-controlled Southern Ukraine. Despite the fact that its destruction would deprive Crimea of water, both Ukraine and leading U.S. and European elites are declaring as though it is proven fact that Russia is responsible for this attack – all this, despite the fact that we have repeatedly been subjected to lies and propaganda falsely assigning blame to Russia in the past, including claims that they blew up their own pipeline, exploded a cafe in St. Petersburg that kill a Russian nationalist journalist and injured 19 other Russians in attendance and that Russia even attacked the Kremlin with drones. 

We'll attempt to sort this all out - as well as analyze these other stories - with the most independent of independent journalists, Michael Tracey, who will join us shortly.

As a reminder, our System Update is available in podcast form 12 hours after the show first airs live here on Rumble. Simply follow us on Spotify, Apple and every other major podcasting platform. You can rate and review the show and help spread its availability.

For now, welcome to a new episode of System Update starting now. 

Most of you don't likely know who Chris Licht is and there's really no reason for you to have known him. He was brought in roughly a year ago as the chief executive of CNN after his predecessor, Jeff Zucker, suffered all kinds of ethical scandals, including claims that he was involved in a consensual adult relationship with another CNN executive, that he was helping Chris Cuomo combat allegations against that CNN host, that he, too, had been engaged in improper conduct in helping his brother, the governor of New York, fend off assault allegations and all sorts of other problems at the network, including the fact that nobody was watching the network. It was simply a collapsing disaster. 

Chris Licht was brought in and one of the things that he immediately did and tried to implement was the idea that one of the reasons CNN is falling and failing is because nobody trusted it any longer. And the reason nobody trusted it any longer is that it is openly and blatantly little more than a messaging machine for the Democratic Party – and anybody who wants that already has MSNBC to give it to them. There's no reason anybody would go to CNN in order to get it. They became addicted to the ratings high, which was nothing more than a sugar high that they got that was actually ushered in by Donald Trump and by talking about Trump 24 hours a day. They staved off collapse but with Trump gone, there was simply no reason for anybody else to tune in to CNN any longer and their ratings continued to collapse. 

What makes this story interesting is not the fact that now they're going to bring in somebody else to oversee CNN's inevitable and well-deserved collapse. What's interesting is the reaction among most of the corporate media, both inside CNN and out, who are celebrating Licht’s demise solely because he wanted to transform that network away from being shills to the Democratic Party and into the independent news network that it once was. That really reveals how the corporate media sees itself in general and the fact that they wanted his head on a pike and now have it now are celebrating even while they know that it hardly matters who supervises or runs CNN, that cable news is dying along with much of the corporate media. That's the really revealing part. 

So, let's look first at what the story is from The New York Times today. It says, “Chris Licht is Out at CNN, Leaving Network at a Crossroads. Mr. Licht turbulent time running the 24-hour news organization lasted slightly more than a year.” 


Chris Licht, the former television producer who oversaw a brief and chaotic run as the chairman of CNN, is out at the network.


David Zaslav, the chief executive of CNN’s parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, informed staff on Wednesday morning that he had met with Mr. Licht and that he was leaving, effective immediately.


Mr. Licht’s 13-month run at CNN was marked by one controversy after another. He got off to a bumpy start even before he had officially started when he oversaw the shuttering of the costly CNN+ streaming service at the request of its network’s new owners, who were skeptical about a stand-alone digital product. The cuts resulted in scores of layoffs. (The New York Times. June 7, 2023) 


Let's take a moment to remember that because it was one of the funniest things to ever happen to media prior to Chris Licht's arrival. CNN and their bosses, including Jeff Zucker, had decided that one way to save CNN was to create a streaming service that you had to pay for. And on the streaming service, they were going to offer the same host whom you can already watch for free but – like everybody else in the country – you were choosing not to because you had no interest in what they were saying. So, they were essentially saying, here are all these people who, if you want, you can watch for free and you're choosing not to. Nobody watches them. And so, our genius idea is we're now going to make you pay to watch them so that we can generate profit for ourselves and you will pay to watch the people you've already made clear you have no interest in. It lasted a grand total of 21 days. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, on marketing and publicity and trumpeting the arrival of this exciting streaming service. And then Chris Licht brought it in. They ordered him to kill it. After 21 days, it was dead. And as The New York Times says, the cuts resulted in scores of layoffs for which he was blamed. It goes on:


Ratings plummeted during Mr. Licht’s management and a series of programming miscues — including an il-fated morning show co-anchored by Don Lemon, as well as organizing a town hall featuring former President Donald J. Trump that was subject to withering criticism — did little to shore up support with his colleagues. (The New York Times. June 7, 2023) 


I think this is the really important part. The straw that broke the camel's back for Chris Licht was his decision to take the presidential candidate who was leading in all the polls – not only to become the Republican nominee but to be the next president – he's winning virtually all polls against Joe Biden if he were to get the nomination and leading all polls by 20 or 35, 30 points over the next leading candidate, Ron DeSantis. So, needless to say, by definition, Donald Trump has a very good chance to become the next president. He also happened to be the president just two years ago. And yet the idea that CNN should interview him, should allow him to go on their airwaves and let the American people hear what he has to say in response to questions being asked of him by a reporter who was told to and is fully capable of responding to whatever he says, fact-checking him if she thinks it's merited as she did. This idea was so controversial inside CNN. In fact, it was worse than controversial. It provoked large amounts of indignation among CNN staffers to the point that people like Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour went on the air and criticized CNN for the crime of interviewing Donald Trump. This is how institutionally rotted that network is. They really do believe that their only mission is to promote the Democratic Party, or at the very least, do everything possible to sabotage Donald Trump and his movement. They are overtly an activist organization, and that activism is all about promoting the Democratic Party and ensuring the Trump movement never obtains power again, even if the American people decide to vote for Donald Trump. 

And so, putting him on the air in that town hall that they had with him was by far their biggest rating night in a long, long time: it got over 3 million viewers, which is a different universe for what CNN ever gets. They just had a similar town hall with Nikki Haley, who's another GOP presidential candidate with Jake Tapper and they got a grand total of 550,000 people watching – only 100,000 or 150,000 people in the so-called demo. The only thing that matters, really, the age group that advertisers care about, which is 25 to 54, they could barely get half a million people to watch a town hall with Nikki Haley. So, the only time that ever anyone watches CNN still is when they got Donald Trump to come on their network. And it becomes so ingrained in the culture and the ethos of American corporate media is the idea that their singular mission is to ensure the victory and success of the Democratic Party, CNN journalists were outraged about Chris Licht's decision to allow Donald Trump to vandalize their airwaves. That is how far gone the corporate media is in the United States. And it's not just CNN journalists who thought that way, most of the corporate media did. 


Things deteriorated last week when The Atlantic published a 15,000-word profile extensively documenting Mr. Licht’s stormy tenure, including criticism of the network’s pandemic coverage that rankled the network’s rank-and-file. (The New York Times. June 7, 2023)


The entire media was out to get Chris Licht for no reason other than the fact that he wanted to prevent CNN from continuing to act as a servant to the Democratic Party, not for ideological reasons but just because CNN was failing and collapsing by trying to be that – nobody was watching,


Further worsening matters was CNN’s financial performance. The network generated $750 million in profit last year, including one-time losses from the CNN+ streaming service, down from $1.25 billion the year before. (The New York Times. June 7, 2023)


You may wonder how CNN makes that much profit when nobody watches and the answer is twofold. One is they still do attract a lot of attention to things like their website. But the bigger reason is that CNN is on every cable network and is on every cable package. Cable companies pay CNN to include their network in their cable packages because they assume, even though it seems to be quite untrue, that people who pay for cable want CNN – they never watch it but that's where CNN's profit comes from: cable companies pay them for the right to include them in the cable package, even though nobody watches them. The article goes on: 


Mr. Licht’s abrupt departure, earlier reported by Puck, represents the latest hit in a tumultuous era for the network.


In December 2021, the prime-time anchor Chris Cuomo was fired amid an ethics scandal involving his brother, the former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. 


Two months later, the network’s longtime chief executive, Jeff Zucker, was let go for failing to disclose a relationship with a colleague, the senior executive Allison Gollust, who was likewise pushed out within weeks of Mr. Zucker’s departure.


It did not help matters for Mr. Licht that Mr. Zucker enjoyed wide loyalty from top anchors as well as rank-and-file workers, even after his exit. Once employees began souring on Mr. Licht, Mr. Zucker turned into a quasi-grievance switchboard for frustrated staff members.


One of Mr. Licht’s first big programming moves was to reassign Mr. Lemon from his prime-time perch to a new morning show. Mr. Licht said the show, which Mr. Lemon would anchor with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins, would “set the tone for the news organization.”


Instead, “CNN This Morning,” which debuted in November, was marred by low ratings and tensions on and off the set. Two months after Mr. Lemon said that a woman over the age of 50 was not “in her prime,” he was fired, effectively blowing up the show that had been Mr. Licht’s signature project.


That was not the only misstep. Mr. Licht took his time — Warner Bros. Discovery executives believed far too much time — to figure out a prime-time lineup as it was rapidly losing viewers. 


To the shock of many CNN staff members, the network began last month to occasionally lose to Newsmax in total viewers in prime time. And the Trump town hall, which aired on May 10, was excoriated both outside and within CNN. (The New York Times. June 7, 2023)


In other words, that was really the last straw – the fact that he dared put a Republican – not just any Republican, but Donald Trump – on CNN's airwaves. They simply do not believe that media outlets any longer should report on people who disagree with Democratic Party ideology or who in any way have any relationship to Donald Trump or to his campaign. 

Now, a serious historical revision is going on in a way that only our media can do. What they're trying to say is that this is proof that any attempt to liberate media outlets from Democratic Party servitude or to suggest that the media outlets have a responsibility to do something other than just advance American liberalism is likely to fail. In other words, they're trying to say CNN was this model of great success until Chris Licht came in and caused it all to fail. 

Here, for example, is a tweet today from a former Washington Post journalist, and then he went to The Atlantic, Lowery: 


Chris Licht: the latest in a line of media leaders who burn their own house down with their determination to be anti-woke and prove their “independence” from liberals who criticize them on Twitter. (@Wesleylowery June 7, 2023)


So that's the narrative that they're trying to create – that CNN failed under Chris Licht because he had the audacity to say that news outlets should be independent and that they should be immune from the demands of liberals on Twitter, that they only adhere to liberal ideology. That is as explicit as it gets about what their views are and what media outlets should do. 

The reality is this is all a fairy tale. Long before Chris Licht came in to run CNN, CNN's ratings were already in total decline, in free fall, precisely because nobody trusted them, precisely because everybody knew they were a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. 

Here from Forbes in February 2022, so just days before Chris Licht was hired and Jeff Zucker was fired. There you see the headlines: “CNN's Ratings Collapse: Prime Time Down Nearly 70% In The Key Demo” – 70%. CNN's ratings were described as in collapse before Chris Licht came on board. And in great part, that was due to the fact that CNN lost all of the trust it had built up over several decades by turning itself into a pro-Democratic party, anti-Trump outlet during the Trump years. 

Here, too, from The Daily Beast in December 2021, a couple of months before Jeff Zucker was fired and Chris was brought in. “CNN bottomed out in 2021: Will viewers come back? The network reigned supreme at the end of the Trump era but has fallen back to earth. What happened?” 

That I think is the most important thing to note here: the reason these media outlets are collapsing is because people no longer trust them. And how you rebuild trust? There's only one way to do that, and that is to prove that you are not captive to either one of these parties, but instead are independent and willing to report things honestly. 

A major reason, according to Chris Licht, that CNN had lost faith among the public, that nobody trusted them any longer was because of their constantly hysterical COVID coverage. You probably remember when Donald Trump was president, they constantly had a clock or a chart counting in this gruesome, dreary way the number of people who died of COVID, as though each one of those corpses was a direct fault of Donald Trump. And then suddenly, when Joe Biden came in, CNN totally lost interest in how many people were dying of COVID, even though more people died of COVID under Joe Biden than under Donald Trump – despite the fact that Trump ushered in the vaccine that CNN told everybody to take. And obviously, when you do things like that, when you so blatantly exploit a pandemic for purely partisan and political ends, of course, the public will lose trust in you. 

Here is from the new media outlet Semafor which reports a lot on media. Its editor-in-chief is Ben Smith, who is a longtime media columnist for The New York Times. This is by Max Tanny on June 2023: “CNN Lost Trust Over COVID Coverage, Internal Report Found.” 


The Atlantic’s Friday profile of the embattled CEO profile Chris Licht drew cringes at Hudson Yards — but also anger over Licht’s criticism of the network’s award-winning pandemic coverage.


“In the beginning, it was a trusted source – this crazy thing, no one understands it, help us make sense of it. What’s going on?” Licht said. “And I think then it got to a place where, ‘Oh wow, we gotta keep getting those ratings. We gotta keep getting the sense of urgency.’”


“People walked outside and they go, ‘This is not my life. This is not my reality. You guys are just saying this because you need the ratings, you need the clicks. I don’t trust you,’” he said.


The network won multiple prizes for its coverage of Covid-19, including the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Cronkite/Jackson Prize, which was awarded to Dr. Sanjay Gupta for his coverage “correcting Covid-19 misinformation.”


But Licht’s criticism was drawn from CNN’s own research.


Last year, CNN commissioned a survey examining viewer trust and the places where CNN was succeeding and falling short with viewers across the ideological spectrum. According to a partial copy of the report, which hasn’t been revealed before, CNN’s coverage of Covid-19 was the third leading cause of distrust in the network behind liberal bias and “the Chris Cuomo situation.”


Survey respondents of all ideological stripes criticized the network’s "overly dramatic and sensational" and "dire" reporting, the report said. (Semafor. June 5, 2023)


So, this is the reality – the reason, trust and faith in media outlets and corporate media outlets are in freefall at exactly the time people are turning to independent media more and more as we're about to show you in the next segment – regarding Tucker Carlson’s return show on Twitter – is precisely because people understand that in the Trump years, these media outlets devoted themselves to the destruction of one party and the advancement of another. They also got extremely irresponsible with hysterical and false reporting on things like Russiagate and COVID. They are widely perceived to have a liberal bias and therefore nobody trusts them any longer. And so, with the exception of a couple of media giants like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, pretty much every sector of media is failing. Fox News is now failing because it got rid of Tucker Carlson, and its ratings have been in decline ever since because people understand that if you're a news network that fires your most popular host because he won't promote your ideology, you're not really a news network, you're an ideological activist outlet, and people no longer trust those. And that's why people are turning more and more to independent media. And the fact that the corporate media, almost all of them, reacted with such anger toward Chris Licht's attempt to make CNN just a little bit more independent, and to say that it should no longer be this outlet of partisan captivity in the Democratic Party, shows you that the corporate media believes, even if it means they're going to fail, that their overarching mission is to advance the Democratic Party and ensure the defeat of the Republican Party. People already see this. Polls overwhelmingly show that they see it. And the reason we decided to cover this somewhat amusing episode is not that it matters who steers the ship of any of these declining organizations. It doesn't. But because the reaction of the rest of the media is so revealing about how they see their own function. 

As I said in just a second after this little break, we're going to be back. We have Michael Tracey, come on. We're going to talk about Carlson's new program and the reaction to it and also the destruction of a dam in Ukraine that yet again, American the European elites are saying with no evidence, was carried out by Russia. We'll be right back. 


We, at System Update, would like to thank Field of Greens for being a great sponsor of the show. Field of Greens has allowed us to stay independent in our journalism. It’s a trusted brand of Glenn’s and he takes their fruit and vegetable supplement everyday. Visit and use promo code: GLENN for 15% off your first order and 10% more for recurring orders. Thank you Field of Greens and let’s get back to the show. 

Tucker Carlson was fired from Fox News on April 24, just about six weeks ago, despite the fact that he had long been and continues to be the most-watched host on any cable network. And the question is, why would Fox News fire its most popular and most-watched cable host? That is still a mystery that has not really been answered, although I think we're starting to get a lot of clues about part of the reason being ideological, the fact that Tucker Carlson was increasingly out of step with Republican establishment ideology. His most frequent targets, along with the CIA and the FBI, were leading Republican figures like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, much more so often than even Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer on the most central priority of the CIA and the U.S. security state, Joe Biden's War in Ukraine – Tucker Carlson was one of the leading opponents of that war, even though most of the GOP establishment is fully on board with it and vehemently supports it. 

Just like what happened with Glenn Beck roughly a decade earlier, when he was certainly the most-watched host in the history of cable at the 5 p.m. slot, and yet Fox News fired him. Part of the reason is ideological that no matter how many viewers you get watching your show, if what you're convincing them of is contrary to the political views or the interests of the owners of that network, you will only last for so long. And that's the reason why corporate media really cannot be trusted. There are people doing good work in corporate media. I certainly think Tucker Carlson did good work while he was at FOX, there are a couple of other people at Fox who I think are doing their best within those constraints. The reality, however, is that you can only do so much because as long as people are paying your paycheck and controlling what it is that you can and can't say, eventually – if you step over too many lines ideologically – it doesn't matter how successful you are, you will end up being fired. That was something I obviously discovered myself when I was at The Intercept, my own media outlet that I founded. And yet, because I wanted to report on Joe Biden in a way that was incriminating of him just a couple of weeks before the election, the senior editorial staff of The Intercept, even though my contract prohibited them from doing so, interfered with my editorial process, prohibited me from publishing my own article at the media outlet that was founded on my name because they had ideological lines that could not be crossed – specifically anything that might have helped Donald Trump win the election, even if it was good reporting, was something that could not be done. It was only once I left that I realized the full extent to which I had been constrained, even subliminally or subconsciously, by the fact that I was working within a corporate structure and a media controlled by other people. And obviously, Tucker Carlson has found that out firsthand as well. I can see it in how he left and now how he is speaking in a different way already with the first episode of a show that appeared on Twitter last night. 

Here you see it. He entitled it episode one. It is a scaled-down version of his show for now. He doesn't have any guests yet. It's only a 10 to 12-minute monologue similar to the kind that he would begin his show with when he was at Fox. I think probably the most important and popular part of his show was this monologue. So, for now, until they're capable and ready and up and running to have remote guests on, this is what the show is going to be, the monologue. And as I said, I don't think Twitter’s metrics are particularly reliable. It says here that it's been watched by 87.6 million people. I doubt 87.6 million people watched this monologue. I highly doubt that. In fact, if so, that would be the most-watched television event in the history of TV or for at least several decades, that essentially one-third or one-fourth of the American population. I think what happens a lot is if this gets retweeted into your feed, that counts to the View as if you scrolled by its account. But what clearly is the case, just based on the number of retweets alone, we don't have that here, but it's something like 270,000 retweets, close to a million likes. Yeah, it's 186,000 retweets and 700,000 likes already; 40,000 bookmarks, 21,000, quote-tweets. Clearly, more than a million people, well over a million people watched this monologue, which already makes it more successful than pretty much any show on CNN or MSNBC. And we'll see how once the awareness builds up the Tucker Show is on Twitter, remember, only 20% to 25% of Americans use Twitter regularly. So, he has a lot of ceiling left to fill. We'll see how many people end up watching it. But clearly, this is a successful debut. 

Now, before we bring Michael Tracey on to talk about this and most importantly, the content of what Tucker said in his monologue and the way in which it is characterized by the media, I want to just show you the media reaction to it. It was as predictable as it was negative, but the point in which they were angry over specific things that he said I think is incredibly interesting. So here, just take a couple of examples. 

CNN, which would kill to have that many people watching any of their programs when they don't have Donald Trump on, reports: “Tucker Carlson launches first episode of a low budget Twitter show after Fox News firing.


Nearly a month after vowing a return to right-wing commentary through a show on Elon Musk’s Twitter, the fired Fox News host made good on his promise Tuesday evening and posted a 10-minute monologue to the social media platform. 

The commentary, which appeared next to a “Tucker on Twitter” logo at the corner of the screen, was in the same style as viewers have come to expect from Carlson, a conspiracy-peddling talk show host who gave voice to some of the most extreme ideas in right-wing politics. (CNN. June 6, 2023)


What is that style, CNN, that viewers have come to expect from Carlson, “a conspiracy-pedaling” talk show host?


The NYT’s Katie Robertson and Jeremy Peters summarized the first episode like this: “He expressed sympathy for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and mocked President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. He accused the mainstream media of lying. (CNN. June 6, 2023)


Oh, perish the thought. Apparently, only right-wing people mock President Zelenskyy and accuse the mainstream media of lying, which, by the way, is what the right-wing means now that if you don't trust institutions of power, mainstream institutions of power, the CIA, the FBI, Big Tech and large media outlets, that is how you get labeled right wing. Nothing else is required.


He wrapped up by declaring that UFOs and extraterrestrial life are ‘actually real.’” (CNN. June 6, 2023)


Just to try to make him seem crazy. Even though there are a lot of scientists, a lot of people who study extraterrestrial life, who believe that there is now evidence that it exists. But this whole article is just kind of an exercise in empty labels tossed around to signal the people that you're supposed to hate. Even though he focused his entire monologue on something that many, many Americans support, which is opposition to the U.S. role in the proxy war in Ukraine. 

According to The Guardian, their headline is “Tucker Carlson Peddles Conspiracy Theories on Twitter Debut From His Barn.” So, this is all part of the mockery. It's low budget, there were people noting that he operated his own teleprompter, he did it from his barn. Why is this bad? In order to be credible as a journalist, do you have to work for a gigantic media corporation and have a team of 100 people around you to operate every little device that you use? The sub-headline here is “Ex-Fox News host backs Russia and Insults Ukraine's Zelenskyy in a ten-minute monologue greeted with widespread derision”. 

Widespread derision among whom? Here's what they say: “Tucker Carlson's debut on Twitter was greeted with widespread derision.” It was watched by millions of people way more than would ever read a Guardian article. This “widespread derision” means the liberal part of the corporate media that nobody watches. 


Tucker Carlson’s debut on Twitter was greeted with widespread derision, as the former Fox News host backed Russia in its war with Ukraine, abused the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, invoked conspiracy theories about 9/11 and Jeffrey Epstein and mused on the existence or otherwise of extraterrestrial life.


“Tucker Carlson’s lies cost Fox $800m,” said Anne Applebaum, a historian of authoritarianism, referring to the $787.5m settlement the network signed with Dominion Voting Systems over its broadcast of Donald Trump’s election lies, shortly before Carlson was fired. “Now he is still lying, and Twitter will eventually pay the price too”. (The Guardian. June 7, 2023)


That paragraph is itself a lie. Tucker Carlson was not one of the people spreading the claims about Dominion voting machines. Not even the lawsuit alleged that. In fact, Tucker was one of the people going on the air at the time, as we showed you on an entire show we did examining this, telling his audience that didn't want to hear it, that the claims of Sidney Powell and others that Dominion had engaged in voter fraud lacked evidence and until that evidence was presented, you shouldn't believe it. So, the idea that Tucker Carlson cost Fox $800 million, which is what The Guardian said quoting Anne Applebaum, is a lie.  

But who is Anne Applebaum? Anne Applebaum is a neoconservative who was one of the people who told the American public that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. She was a vocal advocate of the war in Iraq. She was a vocal advocate of the regime change operation in Syria to remove Bashar al-Assad that destroyed Syria. She was a vocal advocate of the regime change war in Libya that turned Libya into a hellhole of ISIS and slave markets and anarchy. And of course, she was one of the people pushing every version of Russiagate, including the Steele dossier and all the ones that got proven to be lies. The fact that she's held up as this paragon of truth, while The Guardian says that it was Tucker Carlson who spread conspiracy theories and lies, shows you how just utterly manipulated these terms are. The article goes on. 


The first taste of what that audience can expect included claims that Ukraine blew up the Kakhovka dam, not Russia, and lewd insinuations about the Republican senator Lindsey Graham. Carlson said Graham was “attracted” to the “rat-like” Zelenskiy and “aroused” by “the aroma of death”. (The Guardian. June 7, 2023)


How is that not true? Like Anne Applebaum, Lindsey Graham has also supported every single American war, including Joe Biden's war in Ukraine. It's very reasonable to conclude that they are indeed “aroused by the aroma of death” as they spend their lives dedicating themselves to urging more and more wars. 


Carlson also called Zelenskiy “sweaty” […] a “comedian turned oligarch”, a “persecutor of Christians”. (The Guardian. June 7, 2023)


And he was referring there to the fact that President Zelenskyy ordered closed some of the oldest Russian Orthodox churches in Ukraine because of suspicions of their loyalty.


Carlson also said: “What exactly happened on 9/11? Well, it’s still classified. How did Jeffrey Epstein make all that money? How did he die? How about JFK? And so endlessly on”. (The Guardian. June 7, 2023)


Meaning “We're constantly being lied to by institutions of authority and power that use classified documents to hide the truth and hide what they do” – mainstream media outlets which are supposed to be devoted to being adversarial to those institutions. The only Pulitzer Prize The Guardian ever won into this long in history was when we published classified material showing the NSA was lying. And yet now, they want to stigmatize the idea that anybody who is skeptical of the pronouncements of leading institutions of authority or the idea that whatever Ukraine and the Ukrainian government say we have to accept on faith, that person is a conspiracy theorist. Why do they quote Anne Applebaum, one of the leading advocates of the Iraq war, and every other lie told to justify American wars since then, as the expert on what is and is not disinformation? This is the game they play all the time. 

All right. Let's bring Michael Tracey on. I know he's, as always, very eager, filled with all sorts of insights and all kinds of wisdom that he's dying to share with us. 

G. Greenwald: Mike, are you there? There you are. So good to see you. 


Michael Tracey: By the way, I'm now going by the title Historian of Authoritarianism. 


(They laugh)


G. Greenwald: I mean, it's just so funny that they invent these titles of expertise they just assign whomever they want to be the authority on something. How is she a historian of authoritarianism or the person whom you bring on to say what is a lie and what is not?  

So first of all, I just showed you the media's reaction to Tucker's return. They, like mocked a bunch of that kind of stylistic stuff but the reaction to the substance of what he said, which is really just 10 minutes of urging skepticism about the pronouncements of leading institutions of authority, is kind of amazing, given that's supposed to be their job, and yet now they stigmatize it. 


Michael Tracey: Well, yeah, I especially like that passive-voice ridicule in the Guardian article where they said that the show was greeted with widespread derision. That just means we at the Guardian hereby wish to deride Tucker Carlson. I mean, are they referring to other than themselves? But then just phrasing it as this passive-voiced little dig […] 


G. Greenwald: And like CNN journalist on Twitter and like other liberal journalists on Twitter, that's what they mean, the little, tiny incestuous world to which they pay attention and that they think is the only one that matters and that exists. 


Michael Tracey: Yeah, clearly the presumption on their part is that if they're going to deride the show no matter what – now, I think 87.6 million is a bit inflated of a number that would make the viewership of the Tucker debut on Twitter a notch below the Super Bowl – but regardless, there is the potential for this kind of broadcasting methodology to gain traction, and that would be a threat to the established interests of people who run these media institutions. I don't know if that's the exact kind of causal motivator for why they're going out of their way to just blindly spew the same kind of ridicule that they always did. But there you have it.  

Insofar as the content that Tucker touched upon in that monologue, it's true that he went fairly. – he took a hard line on Ukraine in a way that you wouldn't see virtually anywhere else in the media. But that was also roughly the case when he was at Fox. I mean, just a month or so after the invasion started, I happened to be in Poland doing reporting and I had to be on the show and not to touch that. But he helped confirm me. And Tucker's position was ‘help me confirm a story with the Pentagon.’ They got confirmation from the Pentagon that the Pentagon had imposed a gag order on all U.S. military personnel in Poland to prohibit them from speaking to the media because they didn't want any information to be publicized as to their activities right across the border from Ukraine and Poland. And that was at a time when there was even more of an intractable consensus around the Ukraine issue and deviating from that consensus was even more probably of a risky move. So, I think that's actually what's admirable about Tucker if you want to kind of find a way to praise him, is that what he said in the monologue, that was relatively almost entirely, I would say, consistent with what you might have expected him to say on Fox. In other words, he's not kind of dramatically modifying what he's saying based on the medium or the audience, which I would contend is actually a marker of intellectual consistency. 


G. Greenwald: Yeah, I think and, you know, it's very hard to say because we're talking about subtleties and gradations, but I think when you have 10 minutes and you pack in not just a news story about Ukraine and you don't hear skepticism, but you pretty much say we're being lied to – it's not that we don't know; it's almost certainly the case that it was Ukrainians, not Russians, that did that. And then you got to just throw in for good measure what happened on 9/11 and where did Jeffrey Epstein get his money and how did Jeffrey Epstein die? And what about those UFOs? You're pretty much staking a position in the ground where you're saying this show is going to be very unflinching in its refusal to accept as good faith or reliable the claims about anything that comes from the leading institutions we're told to trust, even going so far as to question the narrative about 9/11 and Jeffrey Epstein. So, I think you can point to times in his show where he did talk about Jeffrey Epstein skeptically, the claim that he committed suicide. 


Michael Tracey: Yeah He talked about all those issues. 


G. Greenwald: Yeah, absolutely. 


Michael Tracey: Other than 9/11, which I'm not sure yet. 


G. Greenwald: Not 9/11. And I think the way that he packed it all in and used very like –even this language about Zelenskiy, you know, being like rat-faced and sweaty and Lindsey Graham having an attraction to him. I think a lot of this stuff is maybe just a slightly more unleashed version of Tucker as compared to how he was on Fox. So, I agree with you. You know, I said you can't really prove it. It's one show, it's 10 minutes. But to me, having heard Tucker talk about these things a lot on the air, this seems a little bit more aggressive. And I would hope that he would because he doesn't have to be [...] 


Michael Tracey: Yeah, and maybe I should retract my statement. It was probably a bit more audacious than you might expect from just a typical broadcast of the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox. Not that I was a regular viewer and I sat around watching it all day, but to the extent that was familiar with the contents, this would strike me as probably a bit more audacious. And I think maybe one way to think about it is, even if it's not a deliberate kind of substantive modification of one's content, if you're on the 8 p.m. slot on Fox News each night, you have to be mindful – or you inevitably are going to be mindful – that a huge segment of your audience is just going to kind of default FOX viewers who haven't actively sought you out personally and maybe don't watch your content or consume what you say because they have a particular ideological affinity with you. They just have made a habit of watching Fox, including at your hour. Maybe they like you incidentally, but it's not like they're actively seeking you out. Whereas if you're not speaking to an audience that has in a much greater sense sought you out directly because they're going onto Twitter, they're taking certain steps that they wouldn't have taken if they were just consuming passively your show on Fox, then maybe there is a bit more of a latitude that you have to be totally sort of unrestrained in what you put out there. 


G. Greenwald: Yeah, well, I think there are two other aspects to this, which is that –I'm getting back to personal experience here – so, one is and I alluded to this earlier, when you are attached to a media corporation or a news organization that has corporate bosses and senior editors and you have a bunch of colleagues, and especially when you're kind of one of the leading faces of it, the way Tucker was with Fox, the way I was when I was at The Intercept, there is a kind of subliminal constraint or sort of constraint it imposes on you, which are not even really conscious, but you just always know that if you're going to go to a certain place that provokes a lot of controversies, that's going to affect not only you but the entire organization. And it could […] 


Michael Tracey: It helps not know that. 


G. Greenwald: Yeah, well, I'm saying it kind of gets embedded into your head so that even if you're not consciously interrogating that in that way, that it's […] 


Michael Tracey: You are like a fish. It's literally the water you're swimming in like a fish. 


G. Greenwald: Exactly. And so, once I left The Intercept, I realized how kind of liberated I was in ways that I wasn't even aware had been constrained to me before and I guarantee you that's going to happen way more so with Tucker, who was under a lot more pressure in terms of having this gigantic news corporation, and the Murdochs, hanging above his head. But the other thing I think that is almost certainly going to happen, and that's definitely happened to me, is when I got to The Intercept into the circumstance that I did and I realized that I had become victimized by this genuinely illiberal and repressive climate, it wasn't something I was describing any longer. It was something [that] had affected me negatively and restricted my ability to speak. You become a little bit more radicalized about just how corrupted these institutions are, and you want to – or you're able to – speak more clearly about them because you've now kind of personally experienced it. Tucker got fired despite being the most-watched show on that network, very abruptly and very suddenly, in a way, I'm certain he feels betrayed by and angry about and kind of thinks it is unjust. And that has to affect going forward how he speaks about a lot of these institutions, including media corporations. 


Michael Tracey: Yeah, And I would think that what you also inevitably would have to sublimate is that there's a ton of money that is invested in your position in the institution. So, it's not just you on the line that requires you to maybe stay within the confines of a certain set of expectations as to what content you're going to publicize or put out. In other words, it's not just your own interest that you have to be mindful of, and even financially, it's a whole conglomeration of people's interests that are dependent on you. And even if you put up guardrails to kind of insulate yourselves from whatever pressures or potential corrupting influences that present and you can be the most genuine person in the world in wanting to kind of prevent those influences from having any influence on you. It seems like it's just an inevitable fact of life that it suffuses your world in such a way that it's just impossible to fully do away with those influences. 


G. Greenwald: Yeah. So, I don't know if you saw this news, but I want to get to the substance of the issue with Ukraine and who blew up the dam, which was the topic of his monologue and then something I want to go over with you. But just one last thing on this Tucker issue and Fox: people were a little confused when he said he was going to bring his show to Twitter because it wasn't necessarily the most natural place for him to go. And especially that was the case when it became clear that he had no contract with Twitter. Twitter's not paying him to be on Twitter. And the reason, as it turns out, is because Fox, his view of their relationship is that Fox has not terminated their contract with Tucker. He's still an employee of Fox News. According to Fox, he's still bound by his contract. They're still paying him under that contract. And it's a lot of money, $15 million to $20 million a year. So, if you're taking out $1.5 million, $2 million every single month that Fox pays to Tucker, every month, $1.5 million, and their view is, because he's still an employee of Fox, he is prohibited from going anywhere else and working for one of our competitors. So, I think the idea with Tucker was, well, I'm going to just go on Twitter, I have no contract, nobody can say that I've taken a job at CNN or even Rumble, I'm not competing with Fox, I'm just speaking out on Twitter the way anybody else uses social media to speak out on. There's no way they can interpret that as breaching my contract or trying to silence me there. And yet, right before we were on the air, Axios reported that Fox News regards Tucker Carlson as in breach of his contract as a result of him doing a show on Twitter, even though he's not being paid by Twitter, not making any money. Their view is that for the duration of the contract, which is through 2025, apparently, he's barred from being heard publicly in any way, even on social media. And I have to think there's something ideological about that, that Fox is trying to realign the Republican Party with the old-school establishment ideology that it had always been attached to – all this time the Murdochs were promoting it until Donald Trump came along – and they see Tucker as this hardcore establishment, the anti-establishment voice, who in some ways seems so ideologically threatening to the Republican Party and to the Fox News executives who are now trying to kind of have a rapprochement with the Republican Party, that they want to use this contract to silence him entirely. Don't you find that very strange? 


Michael Tracey: Yeah. I mean, I guess it would depend on the actual wording of the relevant clause in the contract, but it would be strange to say that Twitter was one of the competitors that the drafters of the contract had in mind when they inserted that clause prohibiting Tucker from going on the platform of a competitor to Fox. If anything, Twitter is a supplement to Fox in that Fox, just like every other media outlet, uses Twitter to promote their content and they cite Twitter in their content on broadcast and so forth. So, it's interesting to see how that argument hashes out. But yeah, I mean, I guess this does potentially lend itself to the theory that there is more of an ideological motivator that maybe some had suspected when he was fired. That was a popular theory initially that I was a bit more skeptical of, just insofar, given the ambiguities of the circumstances of the firing, it seemed to me that there was probably kind of a more banal explanation that was ultimately at play for it. And the ideological explanation might have been a bit more sort of emotionally satisfying, I didn't see a whole lot of evidence for it, given that, like just as I said before, Tucker was going even more against the grain, given the political climate at the time, last year, a year ago, than it would have been in April. So, it just didn't add up to me. But, you know, I have to be open to evidence. And if it's established or if there's an accumulation of evidence that they are seeking to just prevent him from engaging on the public platform at all, even if it couldn't really be conceivably argued to be in breach of that contract – they're still trying to make that argument. I don't know. I guess it's possible but, at the same time, I do think that these corporate lawyers are pretty vengeful. So even if they have to stretch the argument to claim that Twitter's a competitor, maybe they just want to do it just to test their own ability to enforce the law. 




G. Greenwald: I think Fox has clearly lost a lot by getting rid of Tucker. I mean, you can see it in the ratings. Did you see it? They used to get 3 million viewers a night starting at 8 p. m., and then it would kind of go down a little bit, but not much. And now they start off with one and a half million. They apparently are ahead of MSNBC ever since Tucker's firing. They're kind of, you know, really brought down a huge peg. And I would think the last thing Fox would want to do, having angered their viewership to this extent by firing Tucker, is now going to war against him in a way that seems very vindictive unless there's a real ideological motive. And I think this has been so overlooked because the liberal wing of the corporate media has been incapable of understanding this. I think they hate Tucker and his show without really watching it. It is a very unusual situation to have such radically different agendas from the 8 p.m. show in primetime on Fox to the 9 p.m. show with the second biggest star on Fox, Sean Hannity, where, you know, Sean Hannity is doing what he's always done, which is kissing the ass of every Republican Party leader, cheering on the war in Ukraine, calling everybody a traitor and a Kremlin agent who's against it. And you have Tucker, who is probably the leading voice of everything Sean Hannity is criticizing. The Murdochs clearly have a political agenda. There are politicians they support, there are ideologies that they hate and they like, and to have such a radical split between your two biggest hosts is pretty much unsustainable unless you're only running Fox News as a business and not as a political project. But I don't think anyone has ever thought of the Murdochs as just apolitical, profit-mongers. I mean, they clearly have a political agenda, and I think a political agenda is tied to the establishment in the Republican Party, and they very much want Trump not to be the standard bearer of the Republican Party any longer. And I think they see […] 


Michael Tracey: That as although Trump was on Hannity show again this week. I mean, it's not as though that Trump has been banished from Fox. If anything, Hannity is solidifying his ties with Trump. 


(Voices overlap)


G. Greenwald: Yeah, I mean […] 


Michael Tracey: […] the election clearly […] 


G. Greenwald: […] Has come to their senses on. I mean, they clearly want to elevate DeSantis. I think like, I mean, at the end of the day, they fired Tucker and hired Sean Hannity. 


Michael Tracey: […] Trump is going on the daily every week for a very friendly and lovable town hall. 


G. Greenwald: Yeah, but at the end of the day, Michael, they did fire Tucker and they did not fire Sean Hannity. And he's there are reports now that Laura Ingraham, the only other voice on there who's really an opponent of the war in Ukraine is also on her way out or at least leaving the primetime lineup. You know at some point the proof is in the pudding about who they like and who they don't. And all of these people are doing fine in the ratings. The thing that differentiates them is their ideological disposition. And it's hard not to believe that that wasn't a factor at all, given how these decisions seem to align with that. 


Michael Tracey: No, I think that could probably have been a factor. Don't really know how Trump himself factors into that, because there was hardly a bigger and more devoted booster of Trump throughout Trump's presidency than Sean Hannity. Again, as I said. Sean Hannity appeared at campaign events on stage with Trump and campaigned with him actively. So, I just don't know how. 


 (Voices overlap)


G. Greenwald: But that’s right that was the standard bearer of the Republican party that Trump […] 


Michael Tracey: That they're trying to get rid of Trump. 


G. Greenwald: No, but that's because Trump was the standard bearer of the Republican Party. There was no way to go against Trump and keep a Republican Party audience. You couldn't be openly opposed to Trump and during the Trump years, or even during the campaign, I mean, he dominated the campaign and then became the Republican Party nominee and then was the president. So, Sean Hannity was doing what he always does, which is sycophanticly hug whoever the standard bearer of the Republican Party is, I think remains to be seen what Fox's posture is, what Sean Hannity's posture is to run DeSantis […] 


(Voices overlap)


Michael Tracey: Certainly not, he’s doing the same thing last week with Trump. 


G. Greenwald: Yeah […] 


Michael Tracey: As I just told you, Trump was on Hannity Show. 


G. Greenwald: Yeah, sure. And Hannity is never going to be openly hostile to Trump. But I think Fox and the network are clearly aligning themselves more with the establishment wing of the Republican Party. And that is where all the establishment is going, behind Ron DeSantis. All the money that was behind Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush in 2016 is now going to Ron DeSantis. And even though DeSantis has to position himself as this kind of anti-establishment figure, I think most people in the establishment see him as their best choice for sinking Trump. And I think Fox is on that side, they do not want Trump to be the ongoing leader of the Republican Party and Tucker Carlson was the single most effective advocate of populist, anti-establishment politics within the Republican Party, a much better advocate even than Trump. And now he's out there and they're trying to keep him silent, even away from Fox. And I think the evidence is pretty compelling that that's part of the reason. 


Michael Tracey: Well, I think you're wrong in that DeSantis most certainly is anti-establishment. I mean, if the establishment is woke excess on college campus. Then, you know, I had never seen anybody who's more anti-establishment […] 


G. Greenwald: Right. Super exciting […] 


Michael Tracey: That's the emblem of the establishment. It's just, you know, college kids doing stupid stuff. I know that can be a legitimate story at times. But like, if your entire political persona is built around combating that particular scourge and nothing else, then it's amazing to now try to cast that as “anti-establishment" as other art factions of the establishment that are “anti-woke.” Maybe they have been stifled somewhat in the past few years, but to kind of make it. 


G. Greenwald: At the end of the day, nothing serves the establishment’s interests more than keeping everybody focused on the culture war. Because when you’re focusing on the culture war, I'm not saying it's unimportant, it means you're not focused on how financial power, how corporate power, how intelligence and military agencies continue to dominate Washington. It only focuses on things like, you know, the trans issue to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. That's a very good way to like kind of rile people up and make them think they're doing something radical. But in reality, staying away from establishment powers. 


(Voices overlap)


Michael Tracey: Yeah, true anti-establishment [...] 


G. Greenwald: It’s why it’s so popular on the left [...]  


Michael Tracey: 24/7 [...] 


G. Greenwald: It is the only thing people on the left are left with [...] 


Michael Tracey: 24/7 on this transition and nothing else […] 


G. Greenwald: Totally, totally. There are people on the left, the same way they know they can't challenge and don't want to challenge any establishment orthodoxy. So fighting Republicans on trans issues […] 


Michael Tracey: They don't care about anything else. 

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