A BuzzFlash News Analysis
A BuzzFlash News Analysis
October 30, 2001
Why is the White House Denying that there's Bentonite in Anthrax?
According to five experts interviewed by ABC News, bentonite was used to upgrade the anthrax found in the envelope sent to Senator Daschle's office - from a "garden variety" anthrax strain into a "weapons grade" killer.
"Adding to the anthrax mystery late yesterday, ABC News reported that the anthrax taken from the letter addressed to Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., contained bentonite, a chemical additive that the network reported was a trademark of the Iraqi germ warfare program."
"The Wall Street Journal also reported the presence of bentonite in the anthrax, calling it a stronger indication that a state-sponsored weapons program such as Iraq's was involved in the development of the anthrax.'"
Yet, the White House is adamantly denying the presence of bentonite in the anthrax.
"White House press secretary Ari Fleischer disputed reports Monday that anthrax samples taken from the New York Post and the Washington office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle tested positive for bentonite. The analysis showed neither sample contained aluminum, Fleischer said, an indication that bentonite was not present. The presence of bentonite could provide a helpful clue to determine the source of the anthrax. Bentonite can be used to aerosolize anthrax so it is more easily inhaled."
As noted earlier, contradicting the claims of the White House, ABC News claims the bentonite connection is verified by five different sources:
"Despite continued White House denials, five well-placed and separate sources have told ABCNEWS that initial tests have detected traces of bentonite and silica, substances that keep tiny anthrax particles floating in the air by preventing them from sticking together - making them more easily inhaled."
So, what gives?
A couple of reasons come to BuzzFlash's mind. Although there are several "hawks" in the Pentagon and White House pushing for an attack on Iraq, the White House has its hands full now in Afghanistan. Our military couldn't, at the moment, probably attack on two fronts, given the slow pace of the current war effort.
Then there's the odd coincidence that Halliburton, which Cheney headed for many years, owns a bentonite subsidiary (http://www.bentonite.com). Bentonite is readily available around the world, so Iraq probably got its industrial quality bentonite from a source closer to home. But the White House probably doesn't want the mention of Bentonite Performance Minerals (owned by Halliburton) to start any unfounded rumors.
Finally, the administration has been trying to minimize the anthrax threat every step of the way. BuzzFlash can understand the need to try and couch information in a way to avoid panic. But, as we have editorialized since the first Florida anthrax death, if the government isn't frank and candid with its citizens, it only adds to the panic.
As we learned from the Bush administration's refusal to use the term "weapons grade" anthrax, we will hear some euphemism being used in place of bentonite. Perhaps they will call the substance "an anthrax enhancer."
In the end, BuzzFlash.com has no independent knowledge of whether bentonite was used in refining the anthrax received by Senator Daschle. But according to ABC News, the experts are lining up on one side of the issue and the White House on the other side.
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