“Anthrax Torie”: Strategic disinformation at the Pentagon- Part 2
Seven days prior to events which would set the world on-edge, newly-hired Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria “Torie” Clarke offered an equally startling admission to Agency France Presse wire service, but which received scant attention within U.S. media sources.
Ms. Clarke– having been lured back into government service by pal Mary Matalin on Vice President Dick Cheney’s staff, from a high-paying post as Manhattan office director for the venerable public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton–the former PR chief to Senator John McCain and one-time George Bush (the elder) staffer would divulge to foreign media that the United States, via the Pentagon and the shadowy Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, would begin producing a new and potent strain of anthrax bacteria, and that such plans had been in the works since 1997. The source of the anthrax was to be from Russian stock, and, according to Ms. Clarke, would be used “purely for defensive measures.”
The new strain of anthrax, engineered by Russian sources, Clarke purported, would be used to test the effectiveness of a newly-developed vaccine in the United States. “We have a vaccine that works against a known anthrax strain. What we want to do is make sure we are prepared for any surprises, for anything that might happen that might be a threat,” she said.
Clarke presented this information on September 4, 2001, via a Department of Defense news briefing; when asked directly as to whether the United States, through any agency, was developing or producing anthrax bacilli, her response, repeatedly, was, “no.”
The DoD issued this update recently to Ms. Clarke’s news briefing: “the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program is funding a collaborative research project on anthrax monitoring with the State Research Center for Applied Microbiology in Obolensk, Russia. In August 2001 the State Research Center applied to the Russian Export Control Commission for a license to transfer the anthrax strain to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The application is currently pending a decision of the Russian Export Control Commission, and the U.S. government will seek Russian approval of the export license.”
One week after this news conference, three hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center and Pentagon buildings, killing an estimated 3,100 civilian and military personnel. Shortly thereafter, white powder began to appear on the desks of prominent politicians and at news broadcast stations–most notably at NBC and American Media, headquarters of The National Enquirer tabloid–and bearing strikingly identical handwriting, each dated “09-11-01” and proclaiming the message, “Allah Is Great.”
Incredibly, despite airport videotapes of Middle Eastern men boarding the various hijacked jets, and what with the messages contained on and within the anthrax envelopes and the fact that hijackers Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi had taken flight training lessons at a private airfield very near to American Media’s headquarters, Boca Raton, Florida, and that al-Shehhi had rented a room in a condominium owned by the wife of American Media (National Enquirer) publisher, news reports filtered out for weeks, attempting to convince the public that FBI profilers had determined the anthrax exposures in New York, Connecticut and Florida to be the work of a “right-wing loner”; anonymous FBI sources, through the Washington Post, offered that a “popular West Coast right-wing organization” was under specific scrutiny.
Domestic critics of the government would counter that the style in which the dates were penned on the envelopes containing the anthrax spores could not be that of a person of Middle Eastern descent, which would use a script akin to: “01. 09. 11.”; government sources bandied back that, the sources probably thought ahead and disguised the script. Nobody knew what to believe, and the investigations into the anthrax exposures were not (and are still not) being made known to the American citizenry.
The American public didn’t bite on the “right-wing loner” theory, with no proof offered, no suspect produced, and in light of a New York Times article, citing weapons expert William C. Patrick III, a U.S. microbiologist active in germ weapons design during the late 1960s. The Times quoted Dr. Patrick as saying, of the batch sent to Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), “he had learned details of the federal inquiry from a senior investigator. The Senate powder, Mr. Patrick said, was quite potent and capable of sailing far through the air to hurt many people.remarkably free of extraneous material. `It’s high-grade,’ said Mr. Patrick, who consults widely on making germ defenses. `It’s free flowing. It’s electrostatic free. And it’s in high concentration.'” (“Contradicting Some U.S. Officials, 3 Scientists Call Anthrax Powder High-Grade,” William J. Broad, 10/25/01)
Pressured by the Times report, newly-installed Director of the Department of Homeland Security, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, announced that the type of anthrax found at all locations corresponded to a perfect genetic match to one (1) specific stock of anthrax bacilli, known as “the Ames strain,” developed at the US Department of Agriculture’s veterinary lab, Ames, Iowa, in the 1930s, and stored currently only at an Army biochemical research facility in Ft. Detrick, Maryland, which it is said produced via budget cuts and layoffs scores of disgruntled employees and whose inventory procedures and security was, in recent years, notoriously lax.
Within days of the failed government trial-balloon, samples of the anthrax sent to office within National Broadcasting Company and to Sen. Daschle proved what most “right-wingers” feared most: The Anthrax Was Ours.
But We Weren’t Supposed to be Producing Anthrax
On December 12, 2001, media scrutiny of international treaties and U.S. law forced the U.S. Army to make an embarrassed admission: contrary to government propaganda, which had it that the U.S. had ceased producing or storing anthrax, according to terms of treaty signed by President Richard Nixon, 1969, substantial stocks of anthrax bacilli were, in fact, being stored at Dugway Proving Ground, Tooele county, Utah, with “limited quanties” still being produced, toward “defensive research” against possible airborne attacks by hostile sources. Army sources at the Dugway facility reported to FBI that all stocks of anthrax were secure and accounted for, following a thorough inventory. The same could not be said for elsewhere.
International media–tipped off by British sources at a biochemical warfare research facility in Porton Down, Salisbury, England–were informed that an investigation was underway at Porton Down, of stocks of a unique form of anthrax sent to that facility via the U.S. Army, Ft. Detrick. From the Porton Down admission, not only was it acknowledged that the U.S. government was exporting anthrax abroad, but via the “FBI’s interest in a CIA contractor” who worked at the Porton Down facility, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began, as is its charter and scope, to investigate the Central Intelligence Agency, on grounds of domestic terrorism. Porton Down was later cleared of involvement in the U.S. anthrax outbreaks, after all stocks were accounted for, but not before British involvement laid the U.S. clean with a very black eye.
And still, according to the London Telegraph, and despite Tom Ridge’s admission that the Florida and New York samples were identical and were that of “the Ames strain,” held only at US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Ft. Detrick, Maryland, FBI persisted in reporting that it “believes the attacks, which have killed five people, to be the work of a domestic terrorist, although they have not ruled out links with Osama bin Laden and his al-Qa’eda network.”
The highly-milled, “weaponized” anthrax which killed five known persons, sickened dozens of others, and to which perhaps even hundreds were exposed, was not Iraqi, nor Soviet in origin. Martin Hugh-Jones, a biological researcher from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, was quoted by the UK’s New Scientist that, “while many laboratory animals are immunised with the vaccine now being given to thousands of American troops are exposed to anthrax, many are still killed by the Ames strain.”
Both Soviet and Iraqi researchers favored the “Vollum strain,” isolated in Oxford, England, in 1930; Gulf War-era weapons inspectors in Iraq found samples of the Vollum strain at Iraq’s Al Hakam plant.
And still, according to New Scientist, “the White House reiterated last week that all anthrax mass-produced in the US was destroyed after 1969.” (“Trail of Terror,” Debora MacKenzie, 10/24/01)
But the White House and the Pentagon were lying. And whether by error, leak or design, the United States Government had killed five of its own citizens domestically. Torie Clarke’s statement to Agency France Presse had not been valid and true: we were not “looking to procure” a stock of Russian anthrax; we were already making it, with spores bred from a stricken cow in Ames, Iowa, in secret, illegally by international treaty, and with faulty safeguards toward our citizens’ safety.
Meltdown at the Pentagon: OSI Leaked from Within
On February 19, 2002, news reports began running hot and fast that the Pentagon had created formally an agency through which to “influence opinion” abroad; the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), as it was to be called, would be run by retired Brigadier General Simon “Pete” Worden–an eccentric character, with heavy ties to former Reagan Cabinet member Frank Carlucci’s Carlyle Group, given to answering his staff in fluent Russian and a master of practical jokes (hence, some say, OSI’s acronymic similarity to the fictional “Office of Special Intelligence” in the 70’s TV series, The Six Million-Dollar Man).
Associate Press reporter Sally Buzbee broke the story officially, citing as her source: “a defense official said Tuesday on condition of anonymity.” Within minutes, the AP report had circulated to top-of-the-bar news on the popular Yahoo News site, and, moments later, was disseminated via FreeRepublic.com, where the general consensus was one of extreme discontent.
According to the AP story, “State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the department was aware of the Pentagon office but declined to discuss its functions.” Deputy Director of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, addressing the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Washington on the day of the leak, declined comment on the report. Clearly, the Departments of State and Defense were caught off-guard and uncomfortable in addressing the issue before consulting with their superiors: Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush.
While many activists and journalists stationed themselves before their keyboards with reactions to the news, Insight magazine managing editor Paul Rodriguez sought to ferret out the source of the leak. His conclusions, which are his own, but which are impressive and which have not been answered, in now-49 days of continuous inquires, by the subject herself, point to FreeRepublic.com poster and Pentagon Deputy Director of Public Affairs Victoria “Torie” Clarke. It is surmised by those who know Ms. Clarke that the strong-willed, militarily-challenged new-hire felt threatened in her public relations position by the emerging Office of Strategic Influence, to be headed by a military General. Knowing “Torie” Clarke, as I do, such a disclosure is perfectly in keeping with her character, as a power-hungry ladder-climber and self-proclaimed “statist neocon,” but I’ll leave this angle to Mr. Rodriguez and his staff at Insight.
And although the Pentagon “officially” closed its Office of Strategic Influence one-week-to-the-day post-leak, with the nation nearly dead-square against such a proposal, the facts herein are ugly and indisputable:
1) The Pentagon, despite its protestations of ignorance, lied to the American public about its stockpile and continued production, however limited, of anthrax bacilli.
2) The White House either lied to the American public about the aforementioned Pentagon activities, or was ignorant of the Pentagon’s operations and is, therefore, negligent in its executive oversight capacity of the Department of Defense.
3) The Pentagon’s disinformation campaign–contrary to reports that it began on February 19, 2002, was already in motion on September 5, 2001, and Victoria Clarke, as Deputy Director for Public Affairs was its “go-to girl” on “the anthrax question.”
4) Should “Torie” Clarke retain her position at the Pentagon, President George W. Bush will have committed a mockery of his promise of a “leak-free Administration,” to be offered alongside his breach of promise in re: signing John McCain’s Campaign Finance Reform and his opposition to “amnesty” for illegal aliens–a foetid buffet, served, as always, on the finest of bone-China to the “grassroots,” in 2004, and earning him a place alongside his father, in the “read my lips” Hall of Shame.
Related Article: WHO IS “TORIE” CLARKE?