Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Olbermann and the terrorists

Oliver Willis notes that Keith Olbermann was the victim of an anthrax-style hoax this week:
The acerbic host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" was terrified when he opened a suspicious-looking letter with a California postmark and a batch of white powder poured out. A note inside warned Olbermann, who's a frequent critic of President Bush's policies, that it was payback for some of his on-air shtick.

Perhaps just as disturbingly, as Crooks and Liars points out, the New York Post item reporting this actually made fun of him for it. It first described him as an "MSNBC loudmouth," and then went on:
An NYPD HazMat unit rushed to Olbermann's pad on Central Park South, but preliminary tests indicated the substance was harmless soap powder. However, that wasn’t enough to satisfy Olbermann, who insisted on a checkup. He asked to be taken to St. Luke's Hospital, where doctors looked him over and sent him home. Whether they gave him a lollipop on the way out isn't known.

Just in case the folks at the Post have forgotten, what they're describing here -- sending threatening letters through the mail -- is a federal crime. Not only that, but fake-anthrax letters are widely recognized to be a form of terrorism, since they clearly "piggyback" off of the still-unsolved anthrax attacks of 2001.

Perhaps the most notorious of these was the case of Clayton Waagner, who sent fake anthrax letters to some 500 Planned Parenthood clinics. Of course, as Frederick Clarkson reported at the time, despite having been on the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted List, the Justice Department wound up playing down the prosecution of Waagner, who was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison.

If the NY Post story is anything to judge by, we should expect more of the same here: the attack on Olbermann, at least in the media, will be treated as a "prank" or an "isolated incident." We'll see if anyone in law enforcement treats it seriously.

After all, this kind of case would remind everyone that the Bush administration's version of the "war on terror" is really just a political marketing campaign. And hey, if it happens to involve one of the administration's most effective critics, well, gosh, that's just too bad, isn't it?

UPDATE: Editor and Publisher has more.

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