The Clash of The True Believers
(Dr. Philip M. Zack is a Catholic)

by Ed Lake
July 13, 2008
(Updated Sept. 1, 2008)

On June 30, 2008, a settlement agreement was reached between Dr. Steven Hatfill and agencies of the U.S. Government.  Dr. Hatfill had sued the FBI and the Department of Justice for violations of the Privacy Act, claiming that they had given members of the media confidential information about him from confidential government files.  The Department of Justice admitted no wrong doing but agreed to pay Dr. Hatfill $5.8 million to settle all claims against the government.  Dr. Hatfill agreed.

The True Believers who were and who remain firmly convinced that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer are pointing out that the settlement does not prove Dr. Steven Hatfill's innocence.  The fact that America's system of laws is based upon the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty means nothing to a True Believer.

Other True Believers who feel just as strongly about their beliefs that Dr. Hatfill did NOT send the anthrax letters see the Hatfill settlement as proof that their own personal beliefs about who sent the letters are correct.

For example, those who believe that Saddam Hussein or al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters endlessly argue that they knew all along that Dr. Hatfill was innocent, because they know beyond any doubt that Saddam Hussein or al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters.

Facts mean absolutely nothing to those who truly believe.  They can rationalize anything.  They have their own facts -- very selectively acquired with absolutely no objectivity.  They start with a firm belief and then accumulate facts which they can twist and distort to prove that their beliefs are true.  And if you dispute them or try to show how the facts dispute them, they will tell you that you are closed minded.  In the end, it will all boil down to a single question: Can you conclusively prove to them -- beyond any doubt -- that they are wrong?  If you cannot, then, to them, that is proof that they are right.   If you tell them that proving the negative is impossible and that you also cannot prove that aliens from outer space didn't send the anthrax letters, they will just shake their heads and tell you that you are hopelessly closed-minded and unable to see the truth.

I've also been contacted by many people who seem absolutely convinced that someone else -- not Dr. Hatfill, not al Qaeda, not Saddam Hussein --  sent the anthrax letters.  One person even has a web blog where her "person of interest" is described.  I've had dozens of such people contact me over the years, identifying dozens of such "suspects"  Not all are True Believers, and, while proof might possibly convince a few of them that they are wrong, without the arrest of the actual anthrax mailer, such proof is hard to come by.  And I cannot argue the merits of their beliefs without going into detail on the merits of my analysis as to who I think most likely sent the anthrax letters.  With one exception, none of us want to do as those conspiracy theorists did with Dr. Hatfill and publicly identify another "person of interest" who may be totally innocent.

But there is one exception -- besides Dr. Hatfill -- who many True Believers are totally willing to name every chance they get.

Dr. Philip M. Zack (& Dr. Marian K. Rippy)

On December 19, 2001, The Hartford Courant printed an article titled "Turmoil In A Perilous Place" which described how an Egyptian-born, naturalized-American citizen and former USAMRIID employee named Dr. Ayaad Assaad had been questioned by the FBI as a result of a letter which had been sent to the authorities describing Dr. Assaad as a "'potential terrorist' with a grudge against the United States and the knowledge to wage biological warfare against his adopted country."  The FBI told Dr. Assaad that they had no reason to believe what was in the letter, and, after the brief interview, they let him go.

But when interviewed by the reporters from the Courant, it turned out that Dr. Assaad had his own theory about who had sent that letter about him.

Since the letter was mailed before it was known that someone had sent anthrax through the mails, 

"My theory is, whoever this person is knew in advance what was going to happen [and created] a suitable, well-fitted scapegoat for this action," Assaad said. "You do not need to be a Nobel laureate to put two and two together." 
He connected it all to events which occurred before Easter of 1991, just after the Gulf War ended, when some USAMRIID scientists sent an incredibly childish letter to Dr. Assaad.  The letter contained a lewd poem that was 8-pages long.  The Courant describes it this way,
The poem reads: "In [Assaad's] honor we created this beast; it represents life lower than yeast." The camel, it notes, each week will be given "to who did the least." 

The poem also doubles as an ode to each of the participants who adorned the camel, who number at least six and referred to themselves as "the camel club." Two -- Dr. Philip M. Zack and Dr. Marian K. Rippy -- voluntarily left Fort Detrick soon after Assaad brought the poem to the attention of supervisors. 

Although there were "at least six" people involved, the only names mentioned are Dr. Zack and Dr. Rippy.  So, in some people's minds that means that Dr. Zack or Dr. Rippy must or may have been behind the letter about Dr. Assaad, which, in turn, they believe was very likely sent by the anthrax mailer (although the FBI didn't think so).  The timing of the letter is the only real reason for such a belief.

The day following that first Courant article, the same authors produced another.  On December 20, 2001, the Courant published an article titled "Anthrax Easy To Get Out Of Lab."  The article says,

All of the scientists interviewed by The Courant over the past week said it would be virtually impossible for an outsider to get into a ``hot zone'' lab and steal a biological agent such as anthrax. But they agreed that someone already inside the institute could have taken vials of anthrax without much trouble.
Then, a month later, the same authors wrote an article titled "Anthrax Missing From Army Lab."  Published on January 20, 2002, the article begins with this:
Lab specimens of anthrax spores, Ebola virus and other pathogens disappeared from the Army's biological warfare research facility in the early 1990s, during a turbulent period of labor complaints and recriminations among rival scientists there, documents from an internal Army inquiry show. 
The article then describes something which, to some, appears very sinister: 
The 1992 inquiry also found evidence that someone was secretly entering a lab late at night to conduct unauthorized research, apparently involving anthrax. A numerical counter on a piece of lab equipment had been rolled back to hide work done by the mystery researcher, who left the misspelled label "antrax" in the machine's electronic memory, according to the documents obtained by The Courant.
But far less sinster to others:
"In January of 2002, it's hard to say how many of those were missing in February of 1991," said Vander-Linden, adding that it's likely some were simply thrown out with the trash.
And who was the "someone" who entered the lab late at night?  The article says:
Documents from the inquiry show that one unauthorized person who was observed entering the lab building at night was Langford's predecessor, Lt. Col. Philip Zack, who at the time no longer worked at Fort Detrick.  A surveillance camera recorded Zack being let in at 8:40 p.m. on Jan. 23, 1992, apparently by Dr. Marian Rippy, a lab pathologist and close friend of Zack's, according to a report filed by a security guard. 
Okay.  Even though this happened nearly 10 years before the anthrax attacks, it's enough for some people to see a potential suspect in the anthrax attacks.  And it doesn't make any difference that the anthrax spores used in the attacks were created no more than two years before the attacks.   According to The New York Times on June 23, 2002:
Scientists have determined that the anthrax powder sent through the mail last fall was fresh, made no more than two years before it was sent, senior government officials said.
Dr. Zack's name also shows up very clearly in a lengthy article on dated January 26, 2002, which begins with this question:
Who tried to frame Dr. Ayaad Assaad, a former biowarfare researcher at the Army lab? Was it the same person responsible for last fall's anthrax mail terrorism?
Accusations are often disguised as questions.  However, the article also shows that Dr. Zack was almost certainly a long way away from the mailbox in Princeton, NJ, at the time of the anthrax mailings.  The 4th section of the article says,
Zack left USAMRIID in December 1991, first heading to the Army's Walter Reed Institute, then going to the private pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and then to a company in Colorado acquired by St. Louis' Nexstar Financial Management.
So, at the time of the anthrax attacks, Dr. Zack was evidently living in Colorado.  While there's nothing in the media about where Dr. Rippy was, some research indicates that she was most likely in Minnesota.  But, it was Dr. Zack who became the focus of theories by most people who saw a connection between those incidents from 1991 and the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Zack may have been in Colorado, and the anthrax may have been made recently, but there was still one reason for some True Believers to suspect Dr. Zack.

Neo-Nazis versus Dr. Philip M. Zack

There are a large number of True Believers who have no problem stating that they believe Dr. Philip Zack is or could be the anthrax mailer.  And their beliefs are about as illogical as the beliefs that Dr. Hatfill or al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters.  These people, who appear to be mostly neo-Nazis, have singled out Dr. Philip Zack as their suspect, and they are very vocal about it.

They first started contacting me with their beliefs back in 2002.  Since a little research showed there was no solid reason to suspect Dr. Zack, my thinking back then was that it was best to just ignore the people pointing the finger at him, since there's no way to change the mind of a True Believer -- particularly a neo-Nazi True Believer -- and putting Dr. Zack's name on my web site would just give the neo-Nazi beliefs more visibility, which is what they want.  (As with other True Believers, a few have even felt the need to threaten me because I argued against their beliefs.)

Why do neo-Nazis believe so strongly that Dr. Zack is the anthrax mailer.  Simple.

One neo-Nazi web site that points at Dr. Zack can be found HERE.  It says, "Prime Suspect is a Zionist" and,

Jewish microbiologist Dr. Philip M. Zack may be behind the deadly anthrax contaminated letters that were mailed to NBC's Tom Brokaw, Senator Tom Daschle and others, according to FBI sources.
Another can be found HERE.  It says,
The fact that the Anthrax Letters were NOT sent by an Arab Muslim but by a Jewish gentleman with the intent to FRAME an Arab Muslim strongly suggests that the entire sequence of recent events has been one gigantic frame-up,
Another can be found HERE.  It says,
If the FBI were truly interested in finding and apprehending the “Anthrax Killer,” they’d be investigating Philip Zack, a Jewish American that once worked at Fort Detrick Maryland
Another can be found HERE.  It says,
Dr. Zack left Fort Detrick in December 1991 amid allegations of unprofessional conduct. The Jewish scientist and others were accused of harassing their co-worker.
Another can be found HERE.  It says there is "Overwhelming Evidence Implicating Philip Zack."  From my point of view, the "evidence" is far from "overwhelming" and the author's key item of "evidence" is made clear in this sentence:
'Doctor Zack', a Zionist, who was a key suspect and worked at USAMRIID, a military lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland.
And how do all these web sites know that Dr. Zack is a "Zionist":  The answer can be found HERE.  It says,
Well, some research into the name "Zack" reveals that it is a fairly common jewish surname, derived from the Old Testament "Zacharias". Dr. Zack is jewish, and given his obvious, fanatical hatred of Arabs - we can safely deduce that he is a hard core Zionist.
The same reasoning using the same words can be found HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.   They call all "safely deduce" that Dr. Zack is a "hard core Zionist."

However, there's one BIG problem with their safely deduced reasoning: 

Dr. Philip Zack is a Catholic

On the morning of April 11, 2008, someone who truly believes that al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters sent me a clipping from the July 28, 1974, issue of The Zanesville, Ohio, Times Recorder.  Here is the section of that clipping which refers to Dr. Zack:

So, Philip Zack was a member of the St. Nicholas Catholic Church.  And, although his wedding took place in a United Methodist Church, Msgr. Linus J. Dury, pastor of the St. Nicholas Catholic Church assisted. 

At first, I wondered if the article might possibly be about a different Dr. Philip M. Zack -- even though it seemed very unlikely for someone else to have an unusual name like Zack and to also have the same first name and middle initial.  (His father has different initials.)  But what about the information in the last paragraph?  It says:

Mr. Zack is a graduate of Zanesville High School and attended Muskingum College.  He is a graduate of Ohio State University where he received a B.A. degree in biochemistry.  He will begin his second year in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine in September.  Mr. Zack is a member of the St. Nicholas Church.
A little research finds that the Dr. Philip M. Zack in Colorado is both a PhD and a DVM.  DVM = Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, which fits with the newspaper article.  The idea that there could be two veterinarians named Philip M. Zack who are also of the right age to get married in 1974 is not totally impossible, but it is enough to make it a certainty beyond any "reasonable doubt" that the Dr. Zack mentioned in the wedding announcement is the same Dr. Zack who left USAMRIID in 1991.

After completing my research, I wasn't sure what to do with the information.  I was still reluctant to put his name on my site, particularly since his role in the "camel club" was something Dr. Zack might want people to forget.  I updated the Wikipedia entry for Dr. Philip Zack, but that wasn't enough to change the minds of True Believers.  Someone who evidently saw the entry (or comments I made elsewhere) put this on his web site

There is no evidence that Philip Zack is Jewish. It has been reported that he is Catholic. Of course, nobody has to be Jewish. They can still serve the interests of the Zionists or be a Zionist.
So, to some it doesn't make any difference if he's Catholic or Jew, he can still be a pawn in The Great Jewish Conspiracy.

To be fair, not everyone pointing at Dr. Zack was absolutely certain he was Jewish.  After the Hatfill settlement,  the log files for my web site showed that a LARGE number of people were linking in from a web site run by Justin Raimondo.  On that site, Mr. Raimondo states:

Hatfill's exoneration raises the question: if he didn't mail the anthrax letters, then who did?

The answer is not really a mystery, since all the facts are on the public record, but I'll reiterate them here in case you aren't familiar with my past writings on this fascinating subject.

The trail that leads us to the perpetrators of the anthrax letter terrorist attacks ends at Ft. Detrick, where the "Camel Club" held court. Check out this Courant story that details the incredible laxity of the security controls in place at one of the U.S. government's most sensitive military facilities – and then imagine how easy it was for the terrorists to have smuggled out anthrax and other even more lethal toxins.
Mr. Raimondo's search can be modified to look only for the articles he's written which mention Dr. Zack.  In one article, Mr. Raimondo says this about criticisms of his writings by David Frum, an ex-White House speechwriter and author of the "axis of evil" phrase:
As for my "broad hints" that the anthrax attacks were the work of "an American Jewish scientist" with political views similar to Frum's, he is here referring to a number of columns I wrote on the strange career of Colonel Philip Zack, the subject of a series of articles in the Hartford Courant.  Zack worked at Ft. Detrick's U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, had accesss to bio-engineered toxins, and was videotaped sneaking into the facility at night with the aid of an accomplice, according to the Courant [January 21, 2002] Zack, in addition, had a problem with Arabs, and was part of a clique that harassed Arab employees of the facility, according to a lawsuit filed by one of the victims, Dr. Ayaad Assaad.
I have no knowledge of Dr. Zack's religious or ethnic identity, and did not raise the subject. I will have to take Frum's word for it that Zack is Jewish. But, so what?
But why does Mr. Raimondo point at Dr. Zack?  Why not point at others who belonged to "The Camel Club" at Ft. Detrick?  Why ignore the fact that Dr. Zack lived in Colorado at the time of the attacks?  Why ignore the fact that the incident with Dr. Assaad took place ten years before the attacks?  Why ignore the fact that it took place at the time of the first Gulf War when many Americans were "anti-Arab?"  Why ignore the fact that the attack anthrax was made no more than two years before the attacks?  Why ignore the fact that there is really nothing that points at Dr. Zack other than a mistaken belief that he's a Jew and part of The Great Jewish Conspiracy?

Do conservatives like Mr. Raimondo think that Dr. Zack is a liberal Arab hater?  Is there such a thing as a liberal Arab hater?

If Dr. Zack is not a Jew, who conservatives readily label as "bigots" because Jews don't seem to like the Arabs who want to exterminate them, what kind of "bigot" could Dr. Zack be?  If he's a Catholic who didn't like Arabs at the time of the first Gulf War, what kind of "bigot" would that make him?  Does "conservative bigot" seem a reasonable term?   It appears that Mr. Raimondo is pointing the finger at a fellow conservative!

But the point really is: It doesn't take much to turn a True Believer's personal dislikes into a firm belief.  A name that seems Jewish is enough for thousands of them to assume that a person is Jewish.  They'll all nod and agree with each other.  And they'll attack anyone who disagrees with them as being closed-minded. 

The facts show who is closed-minded.  But, of course, True Believers don't care about facts.  They'll believe whatever they want to believe.

September 1, 2008 update:

The anthrax material used a source for the mailings did not exist at the time Dr. Zack and Dr. Rippy worked at USAMRIID.  The concentrated batch of spores known as RMR-1029 wasn't created until 1997, six years after Zack and Rippy left USAMRIID.   This information comes from the sworn affidavit located HERE.

From page 10:

RMR -1029 was compiled in 1997 by Dr. Ivins, the sole creator and custodian.
From page 13:
A second set of samples, labeled "Dugway Ames spores - 1997" was provided to the FBIR by Dr. Ivins in April of 2002. Dr. Ivins declared that he used the terms "Dugway Ames spores - 1997" and RMR-1029 interchangeably, as they are the same flask of material.
So, this is yet another nail in the coffin of the false beliefs by neo-Nazis that Dr. Zack was behind the anthrax mailings.   He had no access to the spores that were used.

© 2008 by Ed Lake, all rights reserved.