The story behind the article, which is used to advertise the "laboratory principle" of COVID-19, makes issues worse
Almost two decades later, Judith Miller is the name that comes to mind first when the term “aluminum tubes” comes up. Miller kept returning to the War Whisperers' Well and eagerly reporting what ultimately turned out to be false rumors and open lies. For those who have been with Daily Kos from the start, Judy Miller is an extremely household name (this link, by the way, refers to a post by Steve Gilliard in 2003). Miller also played an infamous role in outing CIA agent Valarie Plame after Plame's husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, penned a comment stating that some of the theories Miller played in her reporting were nonsense.
But it wasn't Miller's name that was listed as the lead author on that 2002 Catalog of Reasons to Get in there and get Saddam. The main author was actually Military and Diplomacy Correspondent Michael Gordon. This story from September 2002 with the "aluminum tubes" was to become a reliable support in the run-up to the war. Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Don Rumsfeld all cited the article as evidence that Iraq was in the process of building nuclear weapons and that an immediate military strike was needed.
With the war in full swing, Gordon penned a series of stories in 2006 that promoted the idea of a troop surge. This included a number of doomsday articles that posited that the upswing was the last possible defense in deciding whether America would "stand or fall."
In 2007, Gordon penned another story for the New York Times claiming that "the deadliest bomb in Iraq is made in Iran" and claimed that it was "broad consensus among American intelligence agencies “that some type of IED that can penetrate American vehicles was imported by Iraqi insurgents, although the majority of the IEDs in question were actually used by Sunni fighters, who certainly were not used by S. were deliveredwith dominated Iran.
Though Miller took much of the blame for the inaccurate reporting, it was hard to say that Gordon didn't deserve his war from Iraq – he wrote two books on the conflict, both of which promised "the inside" history of the war.
In 2017, Gordon joined the Wall Street Journal, where he is listed as a national security correspondent. There he continued to write about the war in Iraq, weapon systems that President Biden might reject, and how the Marines are preparing for a possible war with China. For the most part, these articles seem simple. It is also worth noting that Gordon's books on the Iraq war receive high praise for being detailed and well researched.
So does Michael R. Gordon's name at the beginning of the Wall Street Journal article, often cited as evidence of the "laboratory escape" theory, mean that he should be discredited? Not really. But the article never really contained anything new at first. Apart from the allegations about the "exquisite quality" of the intelligence services, there was nothing that had not already appeared on the factsheet.
Gordon has since featured the article on a number of media appearances, including on a visit to CNN during which he implied that the intelligence information came from an allied nation. It might be easy to find a source for it; Australian news outlets reported the "three researchers get sick" story back in March (although it is unclear whether their source was this "fact sheet" published in January just days before Trump left office). Australian news sites quickly made that connection, but the Australian scientist who was part of the WHO team defended the original conclusion that it was a laboratory leak "extremely unlikely."
Gordon's name in the Wall Street Journal article does not discredit the possibility that the virus escaped by infecting WIV staff. However, the article also did not contain any new information that made this possibility more likely.
The disappointing thing about the whole thing is that this article, like the 2002 article on "Aluminum Tubing", was quickly taken up as evidence and how it has already influenced public opinion. Even President Joe Biden's requests for an investigation to be conducted are treated as "gains" to laboratory theory.
Equally disappointing is that the exposure of Gordon's role in both stories will almost certainly be the source of explosive propaganda from Chinese state media and Fox News, OAN, etc. Gordon's presence or absence in this story should make no difference – especially when the article in question added so little.
The conversation is not supported by pieces like this one by Marc Thiessen in the Thursday Washington Post, which intentionally misrepresents the theory, as many researchers believe, that COVID-19 made the transition from animal to human to create a straw man who can easily be set on fire.
Finding the truth about it has value. It was difficult. It's harder now.