|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Wednesday, December 31, 2003
December 28, 2003 - I've completed writing my book "Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks". It's 432 pages, 82,200 words. Because it looks better and is easier to read on paper than on-line, I removed the sample chapters from the on-line version of the proposal, leaving only the introduction. Now the work of finding a publisher really begins.
December 26, 2003 - Just when it seems that everyone has forgotten about the anthrax case, up pop a couple columnists for the The Washington Times who have found unnamed "U.S. officials" who say that "The CIA has been quietly building a case that the anthrax attacks of 2001 were in fact the result of an international terrorist plot." The rest of the article, however, indicates that there is no real evidence of such a plot. The article even says, "Asked to comment, a[nother] U.S. official said, 'There is no evidence at this point to suggest a foreign terrorist link or connection. But the matter is still under investigation and we're not ruling anything out.'" The columnists evidently don't know when the letters were sent (they were sent in September and October of 2001, not October and November as they say), or how many people where infected (22 victims, not 27), or other details about the anthrax (the spores were not milled), or even how to spell Dr. Hatfill's name (it's Steven, not Stephen), but they evidently know how to generate news where there really is no news.
December 22, 2003 - Someone pointed out to me that my copy of the March 31, 2003, discussion with Ken Alibek was truncated and did not include the question from Stuart Jacobsen and Alibek's answer (and a lot of other interesting questions and answers). I was looking at the original on the Washington Post's web site when I made my comments of Dec. 19. I've now updated my copy to include the entire discussion. Sorry about that.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, December 20, 2003
December 19, 2003 - While looking for something else, I stumbled upon a March 31, 2003, discussion with Ken Alibek on the Washington Post's web site where he repeatedly says that the spores were not coated, that it didn't take sophisticated equipment to make the anthrax, and that the media was putting out a lot of bad information about how the spores were made. It also appears that Stuart Jacobsen was one of the people asking questions. I added Alibek's comments to the new supplemental page about coatings.
December 18, 2003 - After several days of e-mail discussions with an expert on taking photographs via a scanning electron microscope (SEM), I made a few changes to the new supplemental page about coatings. The expert has seen the "fried egg gunk" in images of his own, and he doesn't know what it is, but he knows it isn't silica, since he never used silica when preparing specimens for the SEM. However, it appears that silica is commonly used to clean parts of older SEMs (and government labs tend to have older equipment). Also, a specimen inside an SEM is also inside a vacuum, so the material oozing out of the spores could be an effect of the vacuum and could be natural material or material absorbed during the complex preparation procedures necessary for viewing a biological specimen via an SEM. His observations do not prove that the statements about "fried egg gunk" in Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer" are incorrect. They only show there could be another explanation.
To Members of These Respective Lists:
I am grateful to Mr. Ed Lake for the effort that he has made in responding to my last posting to the CBW list. He invested a great deal of time and energy in his response, and I, for one, appreciate that.
Unfortunately, I did not invest much time in what I wrote (about 40 minutes). I made an error, as Mr. Lake correctly points out, but, as far as I know at this juncture, only one error. I did, indeed, make a mistake in saying that a four nanometer particle of colloidal silica is a billion times smaller than a spore. It's a billion times smaller than a meter, not a spore. For that gaffe, I am duly chastised. What was I thinking!? That's what I get for writing an email for public consumption, having had too little sleep ... I dashed something off a bit too cavalierly and made a mistake. My apologies to one and all.
As for the rest of his posting, I've read all of his annotations, and with the exception of my "nanometer/micrometer" error, I disagree with everything else he says. My thanks again to Mr. Lake.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, December 13, 2003
December 13, 2003 - Around 1:30 p.m. (CT) on Dec. 11, Gary Matsumoto posted a 5 page letter about his coating theory to the FAS CBW forum. While researching my response, I probably learned more about creating anthrax spores than I really want or need to know. And I certainly don't want to go into too many details on this web site. However, here is Matsumoto's letter along with my responses after each key comment. Gary's words are in black and mine are in red.
To the Members of This [FAS CBW forum] List:
For those people who remain curious about nanoengineering bacillus spores and the mechanics of aerobiology, I would like to provide a few more facts to ponder. This will be my final posting on the subject.
WHY BIOWEAPONEERS USE SILICA NANOPARTICLES
So the relevant science has been around for over two hundred years, and it is universally accepted. Coating particles with additives like silica has been done, routinely, for decades. The Army does it. Corporations making paint, printer ink, phosphors for electronics, plastic sheet and film all do it. Some graduate schools of engineering and physics do it, and now some pharmaceutical powder designers are doing it too.
Your argument is somewhat self-defeating. You say that using silica is commonplace, not only among bioweaponeers but in numerous industries and scientific fields. I have no doubt that is true, since fumed silica is a product that anyone can buy. Just to prove it, Richard M. Smith went out and bought some, a product that is sold in woodworking and hardware stores as a thickening agent for epoxy glue. But that merely shows that the anthrax did not have to be made in a bioweapons facility in order to have silica mixed with it.
As I understand it, your argument is that the anthrax could ONLY have been made in a bioweapons facility. But here you say silica could have been added by almost anyone anywhere.
As far as I know, silica is not FDA-approved for human inhalation with good reason (silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust), but a medical professional named Denise DeLisle (who works with a well known and highly respected investigative journalist named Scott Malone) recently tracked down a patent granted July 2003 to a New Jersey biotech company using silica additives to make respirable aerosol powders for medicinal use. This core technology is in widespread use around the world.
Again you say the technology is widespread and not limited to bioweapons manufacturing. I fully agree. While silica may not be FDA-approved for human consumption, that doesn't mean that scientists wishing to view spores under an electron microscope wouldn't use silica to help separate the spores prior to viewing.
Here's why. According to Cabot Industries, the makers of a fumed silica product named CAB-O-SIL®, adding silica to powders and colloids will create “surface irregularities” on larger particles, preventing “continuous contact between two surfaces leading to adhesion.” In other words, the silica acts as a “spacer”—it is just wide enough keeping the surfaces of larger substrate particles like anthrax spores far enough away from each other (50+ angstroms) to be out of range from van der Waals and Coulombic forces.
In reality, anthrax spores already have "surface irregularities". Spores are a long way from being perfectly round or perfectly smooth. Unlike many manufactured substances, under a scanning electron microscope the organic spores look like snowballs or hand-packed clay, with lots of irregularities and indentations. The best image I have of the surface of a spore is HERE.
Since you trust in Richard Preston's book "The Demon in the Freezer" so much, here is his description of the spores:
"The spores were stuck together into chunks that looked like moon rocks. They remined him [Tom Geisbert] of grinning jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, hip sockets, and Halloween goblin faces. The anthrax particles had an eroded, pitted look, like meteorites fallen to earth. Most chunks were very tiny, sometimes just one or two spores, but there were also boulders. One boulder looked to him like a human skull, with eye sockets and a jaw hanging open and screaming. It was an anthrax skull.Attaching fumed silica aggregates to the surface of a spore with a coupling agent will create something that nano-engineers call “micro-roughness.” It is these irregular surfaces—reducing the point of contact between spores to infinitesimally small areas at the tips of silica aggregates — which prevent sticking.
As stated above, spores are not perfectly round nor perfectly oval, so the diagrams you use in the Science article are not representative. The surfaces of spores are already irregular. Preston said they had "an eroded, pitted look".
You can also leave the silica aggregates unattached to form a thin, movable layer on the surface of a spore. This way the loose silica nanoparticles will slide and tumble like ball bearings, making the powder flow like water. Based on the available information from military and intelligence sources, the silica in the Senate powder was affixed to the spores’ surfaces.
That's where you need to provide sources and references. Using silica to keep spores from sticking together is one thing, but to afix the silica to the spore is something else altogether. The sources you use further down in this letter seem to indicate that the silica was NOT "affixed to the spores' surfaces" (it oozed out and boiled, etc.).
Although nanoparticles add mass, volume and weight to spores, they greatly enhance their aerodynamics.
Yeah, sure. Tell me another one. You're going to need solid evidence on that one.
This is because silica nanoparticles have a unique architecture. They are amorphous, which means their molecules are arranged in what appears to be a haphazard way. They look different at different distances. Under extreme magnification (350,000x), a single aggregate of fumed silica particles, like those you find in CAB-O-SIL®, looks like a squiggly chain of cotton balls. If you reduce the magnification (50,000x), you can no longer see these cotton balls, or the chains for that matter—they now look like denuded grape stems. No matter what you do, individual particles of fumed, colloidal or precipitated silica aggregate—these aggregates can look like flakes of dry skin, or, as Richard Preston described them in this book, The Demon in the Freezer, like “fried egg gunk, dripping off [Daschle] spores.” According to the account in Preston’s book, this is what USAMRIID scientists Tom Geisbert and Peter Jahrling saw on the surface of the Daschle spores when they performed the initial electronmicroscopy — “fried egg gunk.”
"denuded grape stems?" That is exactly what the materials below and to the right of the spore look like in photo No. FA5679 that is found HERE. I think you are convincing me that the "gunk" seen in photo # FA5682 found HERE could also be fumed silica.
Being good scientists, Geisbert and Jahrling declined to draw conclusions about the identity of this “gunk” until it was analyzed with an Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectrometer at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The gunk turned out to be silica.
I concede that
egg gunk" seen by the scientists appears to have been silica. But
the question is whether or not the spores were coated. No
one ever said the spores were coated. The wording of their
comments (below) indicates otherwise.
WHY SILICA ADDS MASS, VOLUME & WEIGHT BUT STILL MAKE
Whether or not spores require coatings to prevent clusters of spores from falling apart is the question. If they were created individually with a spray dryer and had no significant static charge, why would they stick together? You say they would stick together because of van der Waals forces. But van der Waals forces relate primarily to the way molecules of a single substance stick together - like water or liquified gases. If spores stick together as solidly as you suggest, why aren't there any pictures of spores stuck together that way? When I asked Stuart Jacobsen that question, he merely responded with insults and ridicule. Spores do not consist of a single substance, nor are they perfectly smooth. We know that static electricity will cause them to stick together, but we also know there are many ways to eliminate that problem.
In order to self-crumble, aerosol and pharmaceutical powder specialists say the particles that form these crumbly aggregates must contain an additive. This is what the 100+ micrometer aggregates in the Senate powder did, they pulverized, so the silica in the Senate powder did, in fact, do its job quite well.
An additive isn't necessarily a coating.
If you can create a particle from scratch (which you can't do with B. anthracis spores), you might not need an additive. For instance, the Nektar Corporation in California makes inhalable medicinal powders without a flow agent. This is because Nektar engineers created small particles of dried medicines like albuterol sulfate (an asmtha drug) that are cratered and pitted like tiny meteorites. The irregular surfaces on these particles do the same job as the fumed silica does when coating the surface of particles like B. anthracis spores—they create an uneven surface to thwart surface adhesion forces.
I think you
down your own argument. Spores are NOT perfectly round, they DO
irregular surfaces. And they ARE created from
Or to put it more accurately, they are created as single
One bacterium creates one spore and that spore is "cratered and pitted"
when dried as a single entity. Why would you think
WHY YOU CAN’T SEE INDIVIDUAL SILICA NANOPARTICLES ON SPORES
Actually, a typical spore is between 1 micron and 1.1 microns in diameter. But let's use 1 micron for sake of simplicity.
I'm not sure where you learned about numbers, but a billion is a thousand million. That means that, but if a spore is 1 micron in diameter and a silica nanoparticle is 4 nanometers in diameter, then the nanoparticle is 4 thousandths of the size of a spore - not "a billion times smaller". Even if you use the British definition of a billion, you still can't get that answer. Besides, 7 nanometers is more realistic as a minimum size for a nanoparticle of silica and they can be as large as 70 nanometers, with aggregates getting to 200-300 nanometers in size. Such an aggregate would be a quarter the size of a spore!
And the entire argument is nonsense since no one is talking about seeing an "individual nanoparticle of silica". We're talking seeing coatings consisting of vast numbers of nanoparticles of silica - and unattached nanoparticles and aggregates, too.
Looking up the sizes of various viruses, I find that an ebola virus is about 100 nanometers in diameter and close to a micron in length. And rhinovirus is a ball that is roughly 25 nanometers in diameter. And a polio virus is roughly half the size of an ebola virus. So, it's pretty big and could easily be seen next to an anthrax spore.
To help you visualize things, click HERE for a graphic showing spores and viruses and their relative sizes.
To explain why this is so difficult, consider this account from The Demon in the Freezer. When USAMRIID scientist, Tom Geisbert, examined the Daschle anthrax spores, he also looked for "bricks" of smallpox virus intermingled with the spores. The smallpox virus, Variola major, is much smaller than a B. anthracis spore, so this was a difficult job. “The task of finding a few particles of smallpox mixed into a million anthrax spores,” writes Preston, “was like walking a mile of stony gravel looking for a few diamonds in the rough.”
Actually, a smallpox virus is a very LARGE virus. The variola virus measures 260 by 150 nanometers. So, it's roughly a quarter the size of an anthrax spore. But "finding a few particles of smallpox mixed into a million anthrax spores" would still be like looking for a needle in a haystack when you can only see one square inch at a time.
So it takes a practiced eye to recognize nano-sized particles under a scanning electron microscope (SEM). Spotting aggregates is another matter.
otherwise. And you use extreme examples to make your case, while
the actual situation is far from your extreme examples.
WHY SILICA, NOT RAW SILICON, WAS PRESENT ON THE SURFACE OF
SPORES MAILED TO THE SENATE
Geisbert and Jahrling saw large aggregates of something they couldn’t identify at first “boiling off” the Daschle anthrax spores. According to Preston’s account: Geisbert zoomed in for a closer look and saw “some sort of goop clinging to the spores.” Geisbert rastered over the spores surface to try and identify this goop that “…made the spores look like fried eggs — the spores were the yolks, and the goop was the white,” writes Preston. “It was a kind of splatty stuff.”
"'Boiling off' the Daschle anthrax spores" seems to suggest something very different from a coating. We seem to be talking about something coming out of the spores.
According to Preston, Geisbert then took “Polaroids” of these spores oozing some sort of additive (Did Drs. Meselson and Alibek see these same Polaroids?).
"Oozing" is another term implying something coming OUT of the spores. My dictionary defines "ooze" as "to flow out slowly or give forth moisture, as through small holes." That is VERY different from a coating.
On page 192 of Richard Preston's "The Demon In The Freezer" it says:
"He [Tom Geisbert] spent the day with a group of technicians running tests with an X-ray machine to find out of the powder contained any metals or elements. By lunchtime, the machine had shown that there were two extra elements in the spores: silicon and oxygen."Dripping off the spores". No mention of coatings anywhere in Preston's book. But it clearly indicates that silica was there - and probably not natural silica.
(Professor Meselson saw several large, glossy electron micrographs of high quality which he believes were 8 1/2 by 11-inches in size.)
When the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) analyzed this alleged additive, it got a signature. According to AFIP, the signature was silica.
Okay. So, we've got some kind of substance containing silica oozing out of the spores. NO silica coatings. It appears that the spores were soaked in some silica solution and then spray dried. But, after doing that and under the right conditions, some of the soaking material will ooze out of the spore coatings. That makes a great deal of sense, since the silica would definitely help keep the spores from clogging the nozzle of the spray drier. We're getting dangerously close to telling people how anthrax was made, but I can also see how most of the silica was removed from the spores during the spraying process, leaving only what had been absorbed into the spores' natural coatings. Very interesting.
A large number of government officials and scientists all have stated, on-the-record, that the Senate anthrax powder contained silica. They have never recanted their statements. Nearly two years after AFIP’s elemental analysis of the Daschle powder showed the presence of silica on the anthrax spores, an AFIP spokesman says the institute stands by its findings. A spokesperson at Fort Detrick says USAMRIID does not dispute anything in Preston’s account.
creating a "straw
man argumgent" by implying that someone stated that there was NO silica
in the anthrax. Who ever said that? Everyone agrees
there was silica present. The dispute is over the form of
the silica. You say it must be a coating on the
Others suggest that it could be from natural sources or from some
process - or from both natural sources and a drying
From what you write and from what I now know, it definitely looks very
likely that it came from some liquid substance used to aid drying the
via a spray dryer.
WHY, UNLIKE FORT DETRICK’S GEISBERT AND JAHRLING, DRS.
ALIBEK DIDN’T SEE SILICA NANOPARTICLES ON THE SENATE SPORES
evident now. The silica is there - absorbed inside the spores -
small amounts - and is only visible under the right conditions. I
don't know that much about how electron
microscopes work, but I've
read that "the specimen is placed inside the column part of the
The column is then placed under vacuum so the electrons will not
That makes me wonder what effect the vacuum has upon what is being
Could it cause the silica to ooze out? Does a higher resolution
effects not seen with lower resolution?
WHY THE PRESENCE OF SILICON IN STRUCTURES BENEATH A SPORE’S
HAS NO KNOWN RELEVANCE TO MAKING AEROSOLS
I think your viewpoint is seriously open to question. Your facts are not valid, so your conclusions are incorrect. If some silica solution oozes out of the spores coating under certain conditions that explains a great deal. The ability for such an object as a spore to float is almost entirely related to weight.
So the internal components of the Senate anthrax spores could be drenched in silicon atoms, but they would not enable the spores to aerosolize or stay afloat.
The silica has
to do with making spores float. And, because it weighs less, an
spore would float better than a coated spore. The spores is not
round, and it already has irregularities, so additional irregularities
won't help much.
WHY A TRILLION SPORES PER GRAM IS PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE OF A
This is an ivory tower construct built upon assumptions that ignore engineering realities. There are a number of complex engineering tasks to be completed between purification and the final product—a powder comprised of micron-sized particles that behave, once they are airborne, like a gas.
False. First, only you are talking about "engineering". Everyone else is talking about creating small quantities on the order of a few grams in a lab. And that is easily within the capabilities of almost any microbiology lab. Plus, while the spores might "act like a gas" because they are small and invisible to the naked eye, they are NOT a gas. They are tiny spores or clusters of spores. They are more like dust or smoke than a gas.
The first step, purifying spores, involves, as many microbiologists and molecular biologists have pointed out, a process that is more laborious than it is ingenious—multiple centrifuging and washings will spin out extraneous cellular material and other detritus from the growth phrase. You can also purify spores both other means, but multiple centifuging/washing is arguably the simplest way.
Once the spores are spun down in a centrifuge, they will be compressed in a gooey pellet at the bottom of a test tube. This pellet then must be dried, which yields a tiny cake of spores, and this dried cake must then be milled. As long as that cake remains intact, you may have a trillion spores, but they are in the form of one very large chunk that no one could possibly inhale … even if they forced it up a nostril and tried to snort it.
False. Nonsense. There are well-known alternatives to drying the "pellet". Once the spores have been separated from the debris of sporulation and purified down to a gooey mass of wet spores via a centrifuge, those spores can then be mixed with some kind of silica-containing solution and spray dried to create a powder of dry, individual spores.
Milling also will not produce a trillion spores per gram. In the old U.S. biological warfare program, milling yielded 20 to 30 billion spores per gram. In the old Soviet program, milling reportedly yielded about one hundred billion spores per gram. This is because the processing of a germ powder (sporulation, the degree of purification and milling, adding an additive) can leave debris (e.g., residual media, vegetative cells, broken spores, larger agglomerates), all of which have mass, volume and weight. The more debris you have in a gram of dried powder, the fewer spores you can have. Two things can’t occupy the same space at the same time. It’s a simple as that.
The experts who have seen the spores have said that the spores were not milled. It seems very clear that they were probably spray dried. So, your point is moot.
If you have close to a trillion discreet spores or CFU’s, something had to be done to those spores to keep them from clumping together into larger and larger agglomerates. Without an additive, clumping is inevitable due to innate van der Waals and Coulombic forces on the surface of spores, and the additional electrostatic charge generated by friction (otherwise known as tribo-electric charging) in milling.
False. No milling was done. Based upon your own evidence, there is no reason to believe that van der Waals forces play any significant role in causing spores to clump, and static electricity is easily controlled if no milling was used. (And because of clumping, a trillion spores is not likely to create a trillion CFUs.)
So milling alone will not give you a trillion spores per gram. Somebody had to coat the surfaces of the Senate spores to make them “energetic,” to make them aerodynamic, and to make them each a discreet particle or colony forming unit … which, under certain conditions, might agglomerate, but could then “self-crumble” or "pulverize" when disturbed.
Mother Nature doesn’t make a product like this.
Neither did the
refiner/mailer. The anthrax refiner/mailer made a product that is
very similar to what Mother Nature makes - except that he apparently
some silica solution during the drying process.
THE LOGIC OF SPORE COATINGS
If Mother Nature did, in fact, make naturally “energetic” and “aerogenic” B. anthracis spores, why is inhalation anthrax such a rare disease?
I find it bizarre that you would even ask such a question, since it shows how far from reality you are. However, I'll try to explain:
Inhalation anthrax is a rare disease for many reasons which have nothing to do with being “energetic” and “aerogenic”. First, its causes have been known for over a century. So, any modern person who is likely to be in an environment where there are anthrax spores in the air will take precautions. They'll use masks, they'll be up-to-date on their shots, they'll have adequate ventilation in their work area, etc. Second, the human immune system will typically take care of small exposures, so a normal healthy person needs to inhale several thousand spores in order to be in serious danger of contracting inhalation anthrax. Third, although there is a lot of debate about how long a spore can survive in sunlight, the top experts say only a day or two. So, deadly spores don't just float around in the air forever. Fourth, it's a disease of animals and the spores are normally found underground. When an animal contracts anthrax by ingesting spores pulled up while eating grass, it begins vomiting and excreting fluids laden with B anthracis bacteria onto the ground. It then dies and vultures may pick it apart, causing more bacteria to be exposed to the air as blood flows onto the ground. When the bacteria is outside of the body, it can no longer survive, so it begins the process of sporulation - forming spores. (The B anthracis bacteria needs to be exposed to air in order to sporulate. It cannot sporulate inside a dead animal.) The spores generally come to rest just a few centimeters under the ground where the liquids carried them. There, protected from the UV rays in sunlight and mixed with dirt, vegetation and animal products, they can survive for a century or more. A century later, some grazing animal may pull up the spores as it feeds on grass, it ingests the spores with the grass and contracts anthrax. But while underground the spores are no significant danger to humans.
If coating small particles with additives is so unnecessary, why have governments and corporations spent vast sums of money over the past several decades to devise better ways of doing this? Governments are legendary for wastage, but why would so many bottom-line oriented corporations spend the money if they didn’t have to?
They do it to prevent clumping and to make a more lethal product. In a weapon, the spores are packed tightly into some container. Packing will force the spores together, and since they are not totally devoid of liquids, they may stick together if stored for any period of time. Using silica to keep the spores from sticking together is necessary because of the way the spores are packed. If you don't pack the spores into a bomb, you don't have the problems associated with packing and storage. The spores in the letters were not tightly packed.
If a regular gun can kill people, why develop a machine gun? If a regular bomb can kill people, why develop an atomic bomb? Answer: to be able kill more people very quickly.
If small particles disperse and flow without additives, why do graduate schools of engineering and pharmaceutical science hire Ph.D.’s who specialize in coating particles? Why not save the money from all these allegedly unnecessary salaries, medical and life insurance policies, and pension funds? Who can afford such extravagance? And why do these allegedly redundant Ph.D.’s publish articles about coating small particles in engineering journals like Powder Technology, which are expressly devoted to this discipline? Are all of these peer-reviewed papers just the 21st century techno-babble version of selling snake oil?
There's a big difference between optimal distribution and normal distribution. The additives make a better product. But that doesn't mean that you won't get individual spores floating around in nature.
If coating B. anthracis spores with silica is so unnecessary, why did the U.S., the Soviet Union, and possibly Iraq bother doing it? Again, why waste the time and the money on something you don’t have to do?
It makes a much better product. Anthrax is lethal in nature. Man is just using additives to make it as lethal as possible.
If raw bacillus spores will do the job, why does the U.S. Army also add silica to its anthrax simulant powders?
Same-o same-o. They want a more lethal product. They want something better than what nature provides.
If untreated B. anthracis spores can disperse, aerosolize and stay airborne without treatment, why didn’t Dugway Proving Ground’s untreated spores behave like the Senate material?
Because they didn't make it the way the anthrax refiner/mailer made it. They allowed the gooey blob of refined spores to dry into a cake instead of using a spray drier or some better method. They were evidently proving that the anthrax was NOT made that way, rather than blindly looking for some new method of making anthrax - as you suggest. Knowing that the anthrax could NOT be made that way will almost certainly be necessary in court to help prove a circumstantial case of exactly how it WAS made by the anthrax refiner/mailer.
It appears clear from your own explanations via the FAS CBW forum that your article in Science Magazine is really not a science article but a political article using fiction instead of fact. You misunderstand the size of spores and totally failed to grasp the shape of spores. And your own words show that when the size is understood and the pitted nature of the spore coatings is understood, then your theory falls apart as total nonsense.
December 11, 2003 - Around 1:30 p.m. (CT) this afternoon, Gary Matsumoto posted another long letter about anthrax coatings to the Federation of American Scientists' CBW (Chemical & Biological Weapons) forum. The subject of the posting says it's his "final posting" on the subject, but the letter poses numerous questions and ask for answers, so it may not be the final final.
It's going to take me at least a day to write a response, so I'll put his letter here when I post my response here.
December 8, 2003 - I just updated the Coatings Page with new information and made a few corrections. The biggest change is exposing the fact that Matsumoto misleads people about the relative size of silica nanoparticles versus spores.
Someone sent me a .pdf file illustrating the size of silica nanoparticles. It's HERE.
When compared to the spore images on the Coatings Page, it tells us is that a cluster of nanoparticles would be roughly a QUARTER the size of a spore. That would hardly be invisible to experienced scientists viewing spores in a micrograph as Matsumoto suggested.
While Matsumoto may have viewed a micrograph of silica nanoparticles taken at a magnification "several hundred thousand times greater than the magnification employed to view, and photograph, a cluster of spores", the amount of magnification isn't what's important. It's the relative size of a spore compared to a silica nanoparticle or cluster that is important. Even at the smallest size of 7 nanometers, silica nanoparticles would still look like a sand coating on a chicken egg and would be CLEARLY visible.
It's either just carelessness on his part or Matsumoto deliberately twisted facts to make his political point. Either way, I'm certain he's aware of the philosophy used by many politicians to promote their favorite causes: If you don't have facts, bury them in bullshit.
I feel certain there are other scientific inaccuracies in the Science Magazine article yet to be pointed out. But this one alone would seem to be enough to prove that the article is bad science.
December 7, 2003 - Reading Gary Matsumoto's article in Science Magazine over and over again only confirms to me that it is a political article and not a scientific article. I may not be the right person to question Matsumoto's conclusions, but I seem to be the only one doing so. One problem with a counter-argument is finding the right words, illustrations and facts to show that his conclusions are without scientific basis. Another problem is being accepted as having the scientific background to challenge a report in such a prestigious scientific magazine. I do not have the right credentials to be doing what I'm doing, but that has never stopped me in the past, and it doesn't stop me on this.
So, I've created a new supplemental page titled "Were the anthrax spores coated with silica or not? The logic of the coating arguments" which is my evaluation of the Matsumoto article laid out in detail, complete with illustrations. Hopefully, it will spur someone with the right credentials to present to the public enough solid facts to put the issue of coatings to rest once and for all. Logic clearly isn't enough to accomplish that. Authority and credentials are also required.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, December 6, 2003
December 5, 2003 - Last night at around 5:50 p.m. Central Time, CNN Headline News repeated an interview segment I did on Wednesday about this site with Becky Worley of TechTV. The CNN version was extremely complimentary. I'm not all that certain I'm as "altruistic" as they suggested. Mostly I work on this web site just to pacify my own insatiable curiosity. However, it's nice to be flattered by Sophia Choi of CNN and Becky Worley of Tech TV (in a different interview, Becky called me "sweet"). And it was nice to hear such things from journalists just after another journalist Gary Matsumoto called me a "shrill boor". As usual, reality is probably somewhere in the middle.
Meanwhile, the debate between Gary Matsumoto and I over his article in Science Magazine seems to have reached the point where we are just standing nose to nose and glaring at each other with teeth on edge and fists clenched (figuratively speaking). In a follow-up exchange to the earlier e-mails, some key points of contention came out. Here is the basic exhange with Gary's comments in black and my responses inserted in red (plus a few added comments in brackets):
As for the media powder not containing silica, that is another one of your presumptions that the U.S. military would dispute. Military sources say the media anthrax powder also contained silica.
Yes, you are correct that my article only looks at the Senate anthrax. I intentionally focused on it because of its signature refinement. When referring to the media anthrax, I think you have to exclude the material sent to the AMI building because federal authorities did not recover a sufficient amount of this material to make a meaningful analysis.
I'm not as certain as you about that. One of the stated purposes of the second search of the AMI building in August and September of 2002 was to find enough spores to make comparisons.
"They also want to be able to compare spores in the building with anthrax spores found in letters to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy.
"'We are looking for large quantities of spores in order to chemically characterize those spores and compare them against the spores found in the Sens. Leahy and Daschle letters,' said Dwight Adams, assistant director of the FBI's laboratory division."
That second search was "scientifically driven for a criminal investigation".
I do not know if the media anthrax (the stuff mailed to the NY Post, NBC, ABC and CBS) was truly of a lesser grade, as has been suggested in numerous press reports ... or if it was refined material that had been corrupted.
There is no reason to believe it was "corrupted". The evidence says that it was simply dried, unrefined, sporulated anthrax. My sources tell me that a ratio of 10 percent spores and 90 percent dead mother germs and dead germs which failed to sporulate is what you would get from an excellent sporulation run in a microbiology lab.
Scientists have been forcing anthrax to sporulate since Robert Koch first did it back in 1877. It's not an unknown process.
Yes, a lesser grade powder can contain an additive like silica. BT pesticide powders all use additives, including bentonite, but are less refined. Refinement involves a range of factors, including particle size, electrostatic interactions, residual debris from milling (if the material wasn't spray-dried or processed by even more advanced methods) or from media components, not to mention the addition of diluents and flow agents like silica.
Actually, for the purposes of this discussion, refinement consists of only ONE factor: purity. The Senate envelopes contained "pure spores" or nearly "pure spores". That's been stated by everyone who has seen the attack anthrax or pictures of the attack anthrax. Other factors, such as debris, dilutants and additives are not refinement factors but represent (1) an intentional or unintentional incomplete job of refinement or (2) things done to the spores after refinement. Refined spores by definition are pure spores.
It is also a matter of percentages. All small particle engineering creates a range of particle sizes; a certain percentage of these particles will be bigger, some will be the optimal size, and some will be smaller. It's a curve. Getting a narrow particle range is partly a matter of processing and partly a matter of the way those particles are collected. You can segregate particles by size during collection.
For our purposes here, a spore is a "particle" that is about one micron in diameter. That's the way Nature makes them. They don't come in any other size. Spores may clump together for various reasons, but if you have pure spores, your "particles" are single spores. For our purposes, to avoid misunderstandings, "clumps" should be defined as clumps, not particles. The clumps of spores in the Senate anthrax fell apart when touched, so I don't think the clumps qualify as particles.
As I stated earlier, there may be silicon atoms present in the B. anthracis spores mailed to the Senate, and wild spores, in rare instances, may get aerosolized, but neither of these possibilities make a whit of difference when it comes to the elemental content of the Senate spores as determined by the Army's laboratories.
That's a supposition. How can a spore WITH a coating float better in the air than a spore WITHOUT a coating - since the coating adds weight?
Silica is primarily an anti-clumping agent. It helps increase the number of single spores which will fly around when dispersed. But each single spore should fly less well than an uncoated spore.
It's my understanding that static electricty can be present in any tiny particle, such as a natural spore. And it can come from many sources.
Simple purification, as I explained in my article, is done by repeated centrifugation and washings in de-ionized water. This produces a moist pellet of pure spores that must be subsequently dried and broken up into small particles for inhalation. Breaking up this pellet involves friction and thus generates a de facto tribo-charging and electrostatic force. Electrostatic force is just one factor that creates clumping. So purifying spores alone does not create a good aerosol, let alone the world class powder mailed to Senators Daschle and Leahy ...a powder so exceptional it behaved like a gas.
See the NewsDay article above.
The Dugway reverse engineering attempt last winter proves this point. The material made by Dugway was pure spores, but it was crudely milled and contained no additive. This material, again made from pure spores, did not come anywhere close to matching the Senate powder, or, as far as I know, the allegedly lesser grade media powder.
If the Dugway powder was "milled", then it was NOT made the same way as the attack anthrax. I believe Meselson, Alibek and Patrick have all stated that they saw NO signs of milling in the Senate anthrax. That is something that would definitely be seen in an electon micrograph.
A 23 year-old paper reporting data from one crop of B. cereus spores does not in any way shape or form constitute scientific evidence that refutes AFIP's spectrometer data. It is only evidence that X-ray microanalysis found silicon in one batch of B. cereus spores, and that's all . Any trained scientist will tell you that. Even the authors of this paper raised questions about the provenence of the silicon they detected. "Contamination from glassware" was just one suggestion in the paper.
Actually, the paper says, "Since there was considerable variation in silicon content both within and between different spore preparations, we considered it unlikely that the effect could be due entirely to contamination." [I goofed. I should have also pointed out that a finding is not invalidated by time, it's invalidated by new facts.}
The bottom line is this. The Army scientists who performed the electronmicroscopy say they saw an additive on the Daschle spores. The Army scientists who performed the spectroscopy on the additive say it was silica.
Actually, the AFIP article says,
“Ft Detrick sought our assistance to determine the specific components of the anthrax found in the Daschle letter,” said Florabel G. Mullick, MD, ScD, SES, AFIP Principal Deputy Director and department chair. AFIP experts utilized an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (an instrument used to detect the presence of otherwise-unseen chemicals through characteristic wavelengths of X-ray light) to confirm the previously unidentifiable substance as silica."
The word "additive" does not appear anywhere in the article. It merely comments upon what silica has been used for in OTHER anthrax preparations.
Your use of the word "additive" just twists things to support a belief.
Two scientists, Meselson and Alibek, say they did not see the individual CAB-O-SIL particles that I described in The Washington Post. They never said, as far as I am aware, that their visual examination of electronmicrographs enabled them to conclusively rule out the presence of an additive. I have never heard either Meselson or Alibek dispute the discovery of an additive by USAMRIID's Tom Geisbert or Peter Jahrling, as recounted in Mr. Preston's book.
Aren't you rationalizing? When people say that they saw no signs of silica, you respond that the particles are too small to be seen. When someone says they saw "fried-egg gunk", you say it must be silica.
We haven't heard any expert say what form of silica would look "like fried-egg gunk dripping off the spores". According to Professor Meselson, if fumed silica had been used, under an electron microscope it "would look like cotton balls strung together into strands that branch out in every direction."
Check out this site:
Image #FA5679 - second row, first picture from the left. I see what looks like "fried-egg gunk". Is it silica?
The USAMRIID experts were unfamiliar with dried anthrax and didn't know what to expect. We don't know if what they told Mr. Preston was what Mr. Preston actually wrote. Everything gets interpreted. I asked Mr. Preston about some statements he made about the MEDIA anthrax, and he replied:
"I'm afraid I have no fresh information on the media anthrax. My report on it in The Demon in the Freezer is simply based on contemporaneous impressions of the anthrax from (anonymous) sources who would not have had the full picture of the material, because that has only come later with analysis by FBI-contracted scientists and labs, and they are being extraordinarily close-mouthed about what they're finding, as you know. As one of my sources explained to me, the FBI has pointed out to its participating scientists that to talk about federal evidence is a federal felony. I would not be surprised if my description of the media anthrax is incorrect, nor would I be surprised if it was basically correct."
In general, your analyses are grossly unscientific because they make too many leaps of logic. You cannot draw conclusions about the AFIP spectroscopy data from the results of a totally unrelated experiment ... especially one from a quarter century ago that relied on a previous generation's technology.
I'm not drawing any conclusions from either the AFIP article or the 1980 paper on Bacillus cereus. I'm just looking for a working hypothesis that explains ALL the known data. The anthrax contains silicon. That's known. How it got there is unknown.
The silica chemist I quoted in my article, Dr. Jonathan Bass, says the X-ray microanalysis spectrometers from 23 years ago were insufficiently sensitive to detect oxygen. If true, the scientists who published the 1980 J. of Bact. paper would have been incapable of discerning whether the silicon atoms they detected were from silica (which is silicon and oxygen), a silicate or silicic acid. In short, it is an almost meaningless comparison.
Irrespective of any spin propagated by individual FBI officials about additive-free anthrax spores, you would do well to consider two things. The officials who have stated, on-the-record, that there is silica in the Senate anthrax powder include a White House spokesman and cabinet secretary, as well as scientists from the U.S. Army, the CDC and the EPA. In two years, the FBI has steadfastly declined to state, on-the-record, that all of these government officials and scientists got it wrong. The FBI has never refuted the AFIP data. It has never attacked Preston. It has muzzled Geisbert and Jahrling, but never challenged what they had to say.
As a journalist you should know that because the FBI does not give out information about a case, you cannot conclude that they don't have any information. If they got into any of these arguments, they would be giving out information that might be harmful to their case. Besides, no one has said the AFIP report was wrong. What is being said is that many INTERPRETATIONS of the [AFIP] report are wrong because the [AFIP] report does not say what the [various] interpretations [of the AFIP report] imply.
Nothing you have said in your presumptuous and snide emails would pass muster in scientific peer review.
I'm not so sure about that. I came to the subject with an open mind. I stand by my findings, and if anyone finds a factual error, I'm happy to listen. And I'm always hunting for new facts. Opinons, however, are not facts, and neither are misinterpretations.
The materials engineering required to make a high quality aerosol with bacillus spores involves disciplines like colloid chemistry and physics; microbiology is the easy part. A college freshman taking organic chemistry, molecular biology and physics should be able to tell you about van der Waals forces, and possibly even Coulombic forces (although a freshman armed with such knowledge could not engineer a a high-grade pharmaceutical powder). But you dispute these well-established scientific principles dating back to the 18th century as some sort of fabricated mumbo jumbo.
Check the NewsDay article above. It states very clearly that a lot of beliefs need to be adjusted: "spores prepared without anti-clumping chemicals - if small enough - may be able to spread more efficiently in a closed space than had previously been thought possible."
In short, you don't know what you're talking about. If anyone actually listened to you bloviate on scientific matters, I'd say you were a public menace. But most people know better than to listen to you, I think, because you advertise your ignorance with every one of your stupefyingly arrogant and intemperate insults. If you are going to hold forth on science, I recommend that you actually learn some of it first, especially before you presume to lecture the entire world about it.
I'm not lecturing the world. My web site is my interpretation of what I've been able to learn about the anthrax case though two solid years of research. It's presented on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. I'm just looking for facts that I've missed. [Besides, Becky Worley says I'm "sweet" and Sophia Choi wonders if I'm "altruistic".]
I present facts so that people can make their own judgements. I don't recall anyone ever sending me an e-mail saying that they agree with everything I write. But I've received a LOT of e-mails from people who compliment me on the site and all the information it provides - people from NSA, EPA, FBI and elsewhere.
The biggest difference between your article and my web site is that I look at the WHOLE picture regarding the anthrax attacks. It's about everything from the letters and envelopes to the locations to the sequence of events. And scientific details about anthrax are a tiny part of it.
I don't just select a specific aspect of the anthrax case which I can interpret to fit some theory that the powder MUST have been industrialized. If you look at ALL the evidence, the anthrax was clearly made in a standard lab somewhere in New Jersey by an experience microbiologist.
You show your prejudice with the opening words of your article: "Although the investigation seems focused on the idea that the Senate powder could have been 'homemade', some experts say that's improbable."
There is NO reason to believe the FBI is focused on the idea that the powder was "homemade". That's just a denegrating term you use to ridicule the idea that it didn't require a massive government program to make the Senate anthrax. You want people to think that the FBI believes it was made in a bucket in a garage.
And your experts are merely saying that's "improbable". I.e., they have different opinions. If any of your experts is saying that the anthrax could NOT have been made in a small lab, then you need to contact Meselson, Alibek and Patrick who have all publically said that the anthrax was simply done:
"Meselson concurs that the anthrax evinces no sign of special coating or processing. 'There is no evidence that I know of,' he told me, 'that it was treated in any special way.'"
"It could be done, Alibek says, with 'a very simple, nonindustrial process -- a very primitive process -- that could let you get a trillion spores in one gram. You can't make hundreds of kilos, but you could make hundreds of grams at this concentration.'"
"Patrick, who holds patents for techniques used to make weapons-grade anthrax, said that the type of spores mailed to the offices of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., could have been processed in a crude laboratory 'as long as you are dealing with small quantities of material.'”
You need to pay more attention to facts and less attention to interpretations which support your beliefs.Gary's message was dated Wednesday afternoon, and mine was posted Thursday morning. It's now Friday. So, either Gary has decided not to continue the debate (which is probably a very good idea for both of us because we both have books to write) or he's spending more time researching.
December 3, 2003 - Gary Matsumoto posted a response to my comments about his article in Science Magazine. The posting was to the Federation of American Scientists CBW forum, so I see no reason why a copy can't be also placed here:
3 December 2003
Over the past few days I have been alternately entertained and appalled by the emails of Mr. Ed Lake which have grown progressively more shrill with each passing day. Mr. Lake has been boorish and he is entitled to be a boor, but he has also been grotesquely inaccurate, and to the extent that he is trying to tell other people what to think on a matter of national security, he is obligated to make a minimal effort get his facts straight. As he seems to take that obligation lightly, I feel it is necessary to offer the following response.
* The scientists who performed the electronmicroscopy and elemental analyses on the Senate anthrax powder have stated, on-the-record, that there was silica present;
* Two of those scientists, Tom Geisbert and Peter Jahrling of the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), saw silica nanoparticles on the Daschle anthrax spores that looked, as author Richard Preston described it in his book, The Demon in the Freezer, "like fried-egg gunk, dripping off the spores";
Finally, Mr. Leitenberg suggests that "the parameters listed by the JAMA authors were a generic description of "weapons grade," material and not a description of the Amerithrax samples." Again, I disagree. The authors of the JAMA paper clearly state that the "parameters" in question (i.e.., "high spore concentration, uniform particle size, low electrostatic charge, treated to reduce clumping.") referred to material "such as that used in the 2001 attacks." In other words, those parameters did, in fact, describe the Senate powder. This interpretation is buttressed by the fact that at the time JAMA published this paper, May 2002, various government officials had already ascribed the above characteristics to the Senate powder in press conferences and other on-the-record briefings.
There is, in fact, no such thing as a "generic description" of weapons grade material, because no such material exists. The various anthrax weapons known to U.S. intelligence are heterogenous in composition and their characteristics. The specifications of the Senate powder, as I pointed out in my article, did not resemble the former U.S. weapon, which had a much lower spore concentration ... was lyophilized, milled and contained no additive. There are no known parameters for an Iraqi anthrax powder as no such powder has been discovered. Weapons inspectors have never recovered an Iraqi anthrax weapon, wet or dry. According to Dr. Richard Spertzel, UNSCOM inspectors have only found DNA from the Vollum 1B strain, but no samples from an actual weapon. In previous interviews that I have conducted with Dr. Ken Alibek, he said the anthrax powder produced by the former Soviet Union contained no electrostatic charge.
The Science article is the culmination of a year-long investigation. Several staff editors and correspondents reviewed it. The magazine also took the unusual step of having scientists critique the article, which is standard practice for peer-reviewed scientific papers, but not news articles. Five Ph.D. scientists who specialize in B. anthracis , biotechnology and molecular chemistry reviewed the article for publication. All endorsed the scientific content.
In general, I think it is a dubious practice to extrapolate occult meanings from an author's syntax, or to impute ulterior motives merely because an author reports facts that inconveniently skewer a pet theory. When in doubt, ask. The Science article is not a Dead Sea scroll. The authors, and his editors, are alive and willing to answer questions.
-Gary Matsumoto-I definitely should have read the letter over more thoroughly before responding, but I responded as follows:
I concede that you may be right in that the Canadian BG simulant was coated with silica. It seems silly to use as a simulant for such a test a powder that a terrorist cannot easily make in a small lab, but people often do silly things. The Canadian tests definitely could have used a simulant that Dugway had in stock for when Dugway wanted to simulate the use of WEAPONIZED anthrax as created in a large industrialized facility.
However, the MEDIA anthrax was reportedly unrefined anthrax. It was 90 percent dead mother germs and dead germs which failed to sporulate. It was only 10 percent spores.
Yet, the Media anthax killed Bob Stevens, infected Ernesto Blanco and caused Stephanie Dailey to test positive (via a nasal swab) for exposure. And it apparently also killed Kathy Nguyen with inhalation anthrax.
While you may argue that it COULD HAVE BEEN some different anthrax from the rest of the media mailings, we KNOW that the spores in the New York media anthrax could be aerosolized without problems because the police officer who took the NBC letter to the NYDOH lab was contaminated, and so were two lab technicians. I.e., nasal swabs showed they had inhaled aerosolized spores.
The question then is: Is it reasonable to believe that the MEDIA anthrax was also coated with silica - even though it wasn't even refined? The entire AMI building was contaminated by it.
It seems to me that your article focuses only on the Senate anthrax. You have to look at the WHOLE PICTURE.
Aerosolized spores occur in nature. Many thousands have been killed by naturally aerosolized spores over the millenia. As recently as 1966, Norbert Lemoine, a 46-year-old worker at a machine shop across the alley from the Arms Textile Mill in New Hampshire died after contracting inhalation anthrax, presumably from spores that had wafted over from the mill building.
Here's something else for you to consider:
"Even as investigators search for ways to narrow the probe, science is providing information that challenges some assumptions about how lethal anthrax spores behave. Recent studies suggest that even spores prepared without anti-clumping chemicals - if small enough - may be able to spread more efficiently in a closed space than had previously been thought possible. Further, scientists said, the fine-grained, readily inhaled character of the Daschle anthrax sample need not require production in a state-sponsored lab."
(snip) so you do your research and I'll do mine, and we'll see who is right when the facts about the attack anthrax become known.
Meanwhile, feel free to comment on my analysis anywhere you like, as I will certainly be commenting further about yours.
EdDecember 3 - 2003 - Someone sent me a copy of the FBI's Nov. 21 response to Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against John Ashcroft et al. It's HERE. My reading of the document says that the FBI wants a stay of Dr. Hatfill's Privacy Act claim because it's "viewed by the FBI as critical to the integrity and successful resolution of the Amerithrax investigation". Essentially, as I see it, it confirms that they have compartmentalized the case and do not want any leaks of any kind - particularly the leaks that would be bound to occur during the discovery process in a lawsuit, where "fishing expeditions" are very common as one side tries to figure out what the other side is up to, what their tactics are, and what they know and don't know.
The report makes a big point of the fact that the FBI has two avenues of investigation: 1. Investigating possible suspects. 2. Investigating how the anthrax was made. And they say that both avenues of the investigation are "active and ongoing".
December 3, 2003 - A True Believer in the theory that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax killer pointed out to me that yesterday's AP article - which is now in many newspapers around the country - includes this comment:
The officials, however, cautioned against drawing the conclusion that Hatfill no longer was of interest to investigators.I totally missed that comment. So, apparently, while there are still lots of rumors about Dr. Hatfill no longer being a "POI", they are still nothing but rumors.
Meanwhile, I can see that I need to create a new supplemental page about coatings on the anthrax. The subject keeps coming up, and I keep writing the same things over and over in this "Updates and Thoughts" section. By creating a new supplemental page I can also use illustrations to clarify the situation, and I can make corrections when necessary instead of writing something totally new every time the subject comes up. I'll begin work on the new supplemental page today.
December 2, 2003
- I'm not sure what to make of the AP
saying that the FBI can't disclose details about how the anthrax was
for fear of giving terrorists information to make bioweapons.
I certainly wouldn't want to give information about making bioweapons
terrorists, I wonder if the absurd report in Science
Magazine by Gary Matsumoto had anything to do with this new
The basis for the article is the FBI's response to Dr. Hatfill's
which the FBI filed on November 21 - almost two weeks
Scott Shane also mentioned the FBI response in his Baltimore
Sun article on November 28.
1. Professor Matthew Meselson of Harvard and former bioweaponeer Ken Alibek have both seen large, clear electron micrographs of the Daschle anthrax. They have reported that they saw NO coating on the spores.
2. There is virtually no way a scientist can make a mistake and not notice coatings of fumed silica or a silica coating or glass particles or anything like that on a micrograph - particularly if they were specifically looking for such things - which Meselson and Alibek almost certainly were. As an illustration, click HERE for a picture of uncoated spores and HERE for a picture of Bt spores coated with starch and other materials.
3. No one has ever said that they have seen a coating on the attack anthrax!
4. The Matsumoto article in Science is not based upon anyone seeing coatings. It is based upon findings that the element silicon was found when the spores were examined with a spectragraph. A spectragraph does not take pictures. It produces a readout that shows what elements are present in the substance. Silicon was detected.
5. Matsumoto and Jacobsen believe that the spores were coated, and they produced their Science Magazine report based upon the spectrographic analysis - assuming that the presence of silicon means the presence of a coating - while ignoring the reports by people who actually saw the spores and what they look like.
6. There is a valid question that needs to be asked: How can a spectragraph detect silicon if there is no silcon-based material in the micrograph images? Two possible answers have been given by Meselson and Alibek: (1) There is natural silicon in the natural coating of the spores. A 1980 scientific report on the coatings of Bacillus cereus showed the presence of silicon. And Bacillus cereus is very similar to Bacillus anthracis, so the silicon could be from the same natural causes. Or, (2) the person who made the anthrax could have dried it using some crude technique involving silica which left traces which were absorbed into the natural coatings of the spores. In short, silica was there but it was inside the spores' natural coating.
7. The Science article simply ignores these explanations and says that the spores were coated - without any proof that they were coated. In effect, they are saying that Meselson and Alibek are deliberately lying. And William Patrick III must be lying, too, since he also says that the spores showed no signs of any such "industrialized" processing.
8. Why is this important? Because, if the spores were coated, that would indicate a large manufacturing facility probably made them. If they spores were not coated, then they could have been made in a small lab.
9. So, if your political agenda says that the spores must have been made by some illegal U.S. government program or by Iraq, then you want the spores to be coated.
10. And if you want the truth, you look at the evidence.
December 1, 2003 - It now appears that the Canadian Study was declassified a couple years ago, but I failed to notice it or I failed to realize its significance at the time. It came to my attention because over the weekend it was posted as something "new" on a couple anthrax forums. It's still "new" to people who haven't seen it before (or who forgot about it), and it has gained new relevance because of the Science article. Also, perhaps because I mentioned that Stuart Jacobsen posted under a pseudonym to the FreeRepublic.com forum, he had all of his postings deleted from that forum. That's why the link I gave now points to a message that says the "thread has been pulled".
November 30, 2003 - The Canadian Study titled "Risk assessment of Anthrax Threat Letters" produced shortly before the anthrax attacks has now been declassified. It's a very good antidote to the misinformation in the Science article, since the Canadian researchers began with the idea that if someone actually sent anthrax through the mails it would be exactly like the anthrax found in the Senate letters, i.e., anthrax made via standard small lab techniques and not coated with silica. They used a standard anthrax simulant, Bacillus globigii, a harmless cousin of anthrax, and the same simulant William Patrick III uses in demonstrations and Dr. Hatfill used in his classes. Details:
1. The study was done because of all the anthrax hoaxes that had been happening for the prior couple years. (So any idea that a hoax occurring around the same time as the anthrax letters had to be connected to the anthrax letters is clearly pure nonsense. Anthrax hoaxes had become a common occurrence at the time of 9-11.) The purpose of the study was to determine how the powder would spread around if someone actually did send anthrax through the mails and the letter was opened by the recipient.
2. The study doesn't seem to even consider that the powder could escape through the paper. It seems to assume that if the corners of the envelope are sealed, then the powder cannot escape. It took a real anthrax attack to teach experts what "assume" means (it makes an ass out of u and me).
3. The testers used the "pharmaceutical fold" to wrap the letter around the powder - which probably just means that that is what almost anyone would use - unless they had an IQ in the single digits.
4. There is no mention of the Bacillus globigii being coated with silica. The test was about the type of anthrax a terrorist might be able to make, so it's a near certainty that there was NO coating on the Bacillus globigii. Yet, the powder inside spread very well when opened. In fact, it acted almost exactly like the anthrax used in the attacks.And, if I'm reading the report correctly ...
5. The stock Bacillus globigii powder used as the simulant was around a trillion spores per gram - the same as the anthrax in the Senate letters.
6. The stock Bacillus globigii powder used as the simulant was around 100 percent viable - i.e., very very few dead spores. (That should interest the "expert" who has stated to me with great force that only a tiny fraction of the spores could be viable.)So, the Bacillus globigii used in the Canadian tests was very much like the anthrax that was in the Senate letters - routine stock material, 1 trillion spores per gram, no special coatings, very easy to spread around a room and to seep through the paper of an envelope.
And it's stock stuff - something any well-trained microbiologist could make in a regular lab. After all, what would be the point of doing such a test if you used spores which could only be made in a massive govenment-sponsored bioweapons lab?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, November 29, 2003
November 28, 2003 (slightly revised Nov. 29) - A new article in Science Magazine titled "Anthrax Powder - State of The Art?" by Gary Matsumoto should have been printed in Bad Science Magazine ... if there is such a thing. The theme of the article is that the Senate anthrax "represented the state of the art in bioweapons refinement". Matsumoto admits that many experts totally disagree, but he plods forward with his theory anyway. And to help him make his case he has found someone who believes as he does. He uses as a supporting "expert" electronics researcher, chemist Stuart Jacobsen of Texas, who is known to many followers of the anthrax case through his angry and bombastic postings on the FreeRepublic.com discussion forum and other forums under various pseudonyms. One of Jacobsen's favorite theories is explained in the article:
Anthrax spores cling to one another if they get too close; sticky chains of proteins and sugar molecules on their surfaces latch onto each other, drawn by van der Waals forces that operate at a distance of a few tens of angstroms. Untreated spores clump into larger particles that are too heavy to stay airborne or reach the narrowest passages in the lung.There are certainly many pictures of spores and collections of spores available on the Internet - but I've seen none showing spores held together the way Jacobsen describes in the article or on FreeRepublic.com.
According to the Science article by Matsumoto and Jacobsen, they believe that only a massive government progam can refine pure spores. That would seem to mean that all photographs of pure spores must be of spores refined as part of a massive government program.
But, in reality, any good microbiologist can refine anthrax spores in small quantities -as would be needed for a micrograph. And that is where the conflict lies. Matsumoto and Jacobsen assume that industrialized processes were used to make the attack anthrax. They use as sources people who worked with industrialized processes and who were never able to achieve such purity with industrialized processess. In reality, the attack anthrax was almost certainly refined using fairly routine processes common in microbiology labs to separate spores from debris - in small quantities.
It's truly bad science to build a theory of how the anthrax was made using only testimony from "experts" who don't know how to make pure anthrax with industrialized processes - while ignoring the experts who routinely do such things in small quantities with standard lab equipment. After all, the attack anthrax was a small quantity - thank God.
Of greater interest to me than reading Matsumoto and Jacobsen endlessly repeat their ill-conceived theories about silica coatings on the anthrax is the mention Matsumoto makes of the Battelle Memorial Institute:
As subcontractors, Battelle scientists have made anthrax powders for use by the Army and U. S. intelligence agencies, but rarely by Fort Detrick, which specializes in vaccine development. Charles Dasey, spokesperson for the parent agency, the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, says that as far as he is aware, the only dried anthrax spores made at Fort Detrick since it stopped making weapons were made by Battelle scientists working there for DARPA. This material, made in a biosafety level 3 suite in the Diagnostic Systems Division, contained killed Ames strain at a concentration of 326 million spores per gram -- several orders of magnitude less concentrated than the Senate powder and crude by current standards.In the past, Matsumoto has always been a big believer in the theory that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks. Now, suddenly, he is also pointing a finger at Battelle as a possible source for the anthrax. He seems to be hedging his bets for some reason. While I think his reasoning about silica is way off base, I do wonder why he is now considering Battelle as a source of the anthrax. If I were to make a list of the labs most likely to be the source of the attack anthrax, Battelle would definitely be at the top my list.
Meanwhile, Scott Shane at The Baltimore Sun has written a review of the Science article titled "Additive use could shift theory in anthrax case" which also includes information about the rampant rumors that something is happening in the Dr. Hatfill case. The subtitle of the article is "FBI's interest in Hatfill seems to have dropped off". There definitely seems to be something happening in the Dr. Hatfill case, but I'm not certain that either of these articles shows the right picture. Coatings are not the key. There almost certainly was no coating on the anthrax. But if there's emerging evidence that Battelle was the source of the anthrax, that would go a long way toward proving that Dr. Hatfill was not the person who sent the anthrax letters.
November 26, 2003 - Someone
this summary of the Swiss Radio
"The beginning of that Swiss radio show talks a lot about your theories. Then it mentions the fact that the US government had already imagined a bio-weapon attack because some guy wrote a sci-fi book called Cobra. Then the guy starts talking about a Swiss professor of history called Sarasin who said that there are many examples in history of people thinking of foreigners as microbes. He talks about how the Jews were called microbes by the Nazis and how people thought the Jews brought the black plague to Europe. Then the say that high American officials already had taken the anthrax antidote immediately after September 11. The main thesis of this professor is that we used the fear of anthrax as a primary reason to attack both Afghanistan and Iraq. Then they interview the American (Gallo?) who helped first identify AIDS. He discussed the Soviet bioweapons threat The point is that we have a ready-made early warning system that dates back to the Cold War. The guy Sarasin goes pretty much off the deep end analyzing our national psyche; he spends a lot of time talking about society's anxieties and so on. A central part of his thesis is that anthrax was more frightening for the American psyche than the 9/11 attacks. He quotes you to towards the end of that article about how invisible microbes are scary and also that you think something will be found out within the next year. It ends with a quote form Ari Fleischer saying that the President is satisfied that we are doing the best we can to find out who spread the anthrax."November 25, 2003 - That Swiss Radio interview is now on-line. Just click HERE and you will be taken to the Swiss Radio's web site. The 30-minute interview is titled "Die Anthrax-Story" and - if you have the right software - all you have to do is click on "hören" to listen to it.
From the tiny bit I can understand from a few semesters of learning German in high school a half century ago, it sounds very fascinating. It opens with me talking and ends with me talking, and in the middle it has such people as John Ashcroft, George W. Bush, Tom Ridge and (I think) a Swiss historian named Philipp Sarasin.
I'd certainly like to get some information about what the program says - what the tone of it is, what the conclusions are, etc.
Does anyone reading this speak German? If so, a review or summary of the program would be appreciated. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
November 25, 2003 - This morning it occurred to me that it's been 3 months since Dr. Hatfill's lawyers filed the lawsuit against the FBI, John Ashcroft and others. I wondered if that might explain all the rumors going around that something is about to happen in the Dr. Hatfill case. Theoretically, the Plaintiffs must respond to the suit. And there is a time limit. But according to Cornell University's web site, it's 60 days:
(A) The United States, an agency of the United States, or an officer or employee of the United States sued in an official capacity, shall serve an answer to the complaint or cross-claim - or a reply to a counterclaim - within 60 days after the United States attorney is served with the pleading asserting the claim.
(B) An officer or employee of the United States sued in an individual capacity for acts or omissions occurring in connection with the performance of duties on behalf of the United States shall serve an answer to the complaint or cross-claim - or a reply to a counterclaim - within 60 days after service on the officer or employee, or service on the United States attorney, whichever is later.Unless someone got a 30 day extention, that doesn't explain why that the interviewer at that Swiss Radio station indicated to me a few weeks ago that he expected something to happen within "the next few weeks". Hopefully, someone listening to the program who understands German will be able to explain what they were thinking about. I can hear where the question is brought up. But I can't understand the context.
Meanwhile, the rumors are rampant that something is up in the Dr. Hatfill case, and that the news will break sometime in the next 10 days - probably after Thanksgiving. It appears that everyone in the media knows something about it, but no one is reporting anything. Since the media never had a problem reporting rumors when they suggested Dr. Hatfill was guilty of something, one might be able to safely conclude that the news will favor Dr. Hatfill in some way. And because it apparently favors Dr. Hatfill, the media is waiting until they can see something in writing or until they can hear someone in authority (either some government official or Dr. Hatfill's lawyers) actually spell it all out in detail during a news conference.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, November 22, 2003
November 21, 2003 - Nearly two years ago people informed me that the New York Post is located in the same building as the Fox Network. It just sank in. I'm not sure if it means anything, but the fact that the anthrax mailer targeted NBC, CBS and ABC, but not FOX, could be explained by the fact that he targeted The New York Post which is in the same building as FOX. He was "killing two birds with one stone" - so to speak. There might be other significance to the fact that FOX and the Post are in the same building - like who would know that? - but it would all be speculation. However, I changed the Targets Section of this page to note that Fox and the Post are located in the same building.
November 21, 2003 - The current (December 2003) issue of "Reader's Digest" digests and excretes Don Foster's Vanity Fair article which clearly points the finger at Dr. Hatfill as being the anthrax mailer. Since Reader's Digest's circulation is roughly 12 million Middle Americans, versus Vanity Fair's circulation of roughly 1.1 million elite readers, the Digest reprint should vastly increase any damages Dr. Hatfill's lawyers may demand if and when they ever file their long-promised lawsuits.
November 20, 2003 - While looking at the times between the date of the earliest likely exposure and date of the first symptoms for each of the media anthrax cases, I noticed a minor error on my attack chart which I corrected (it showed 5 days between the 18th and the 22nd instead of 3 days). I also found that if Bob Stevens was exposed to the anthrax via the J-Lo letter on the 19th, then it took him longer to show symptoms than any other victim of the first attack, and also longer than any of the victims of the second attack - with the possible exception of David Hose who was exposed to the delayed Leahy letter. That would seem to be yet another nail in the coffin of the much-discredited notion that the J-Lo letter contained the anthrax. And it's yet another indicator that the anthrax was actually in the letter opened by Stephanie Dailey on September 25.
November 18, 2003 - A new
Cliff Kincaid at "Accuracy in Media" (AIM) is titled "New
Development in Anthrax Case", but it's really just a rehash of the
old old theory that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax
The "new development" consists of one old "fact": that 9-11 hijacker
Atta was communicating by code with a terrorist contact in Germany that
he called "Jenny." This "fact" from an October
9, 2002, feature on "60 Minutes" was just noticed by a True
and it's the current hot topic in discussions
of the anthrax case on the Internet.
November 18, 2003 - According to information on The Swiss Radio Web site, my interview as part of "Die Anthrax-Story" has been delayed a week to November 25.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, November 15, 2003
November 12, 2003 - Yesterday I finished reading Robert Graysmith’s book "Amerithrax: The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer", and I was pleasantly surprised. While I had been told that it is primarily a "rehash" of newspaper articles, and it is that, it is still a good overview of the attacks with countless details for flavoring.
Graysmith credits my web site as an "invaluable resource", and while reading the book I occasionally felt that I was reading my own words. Yet, as if to prove that everyone interprets facts differently, he begins his book in what I consider to be "fantasy land" by accepting as valid the notion that the J-Lo letter contained the AMI anthrax. And he even mentions it again in the very last paragraph as being the "Holy Grail" for the case.
That "flaw" points out a larger problem. Every book I’ve read about the anthrax case - and most articles about - it begin with the Bob Stevens case. Seven people had contracted anthrax before Bob Stevens began to show symptoms. So, beginning with the Bob Stevens case just shows how the case unfolded in the media and doesn’t show how the crime really happened and when key events occurred.
Nevertheless, the book has some valuable details.
I don't know if anyone else but me ever pointed out that Leahy and Daschle were probably targeted because of their opposition to the Patriot Act, but Graysmith really picked up on it and explored it. In his book he added some facts that I'd missed. On pages 416 & 417 he writes:
"His motive had most likely been to influence a Congressional vote on a tough version of the Patriot Act that had passed on October 12, 2001. The timing and choice of targets suggests that Senators Daschle and Leahy were impediments to the bill in its most invasive form. On October 4, Leahy, who had opposed Ashcroft's nomination as Attorney General, had been attacked by several conservative talk shows as the bill's lead opposition. If Amerithrax's letters to the senators, mailed on October 8, had not gotten wet, blurring the zip code, they would have arrived in time to potentially influence the vote."
Graysmith is wrong about when and how the Daschle letter got wet (it was an accident at USAMRIID when they were photographing the letter), but he could be right about the anthrax mailer wanting to influence the vote on the Patriot Act.
He’s wrong on lots of his facts. On page 50 he writes, "Using the coded [on the envelopes], the Postal Service was able to locate the box where the anthrax mail originated." In reality, it was only through testing of nearly every possible mail box that they found the right one - a year after the mailing. And he seems to think that most or all the letters got wet somehow. And on page 147 he says that "The Post sample turned out to be nearly pure spores." I seriously doubt that. He thinks the anthrax mailer sent the Assaad letter. Bah! Humbug! On page 186 he says that the Ames strain was "perfected" at Iowa State University. And on and on. His understanding of the facts disagrees with my understanding of the facts quite often, but we also agree on many items. And he does supply information that I may have missed or forgotten or just never knew before.
He states several times that UV light from the sun will kill anthrax spores "within minutes". It’s probably more like hours or a few days. But he can be forgiven, since I’ve had e-mails from scientists who believe UV light is virtually harmless to anthrax spores.
I was pleased to read that between September 25, 2001, when the AMI anthrax letter was opened and October 7 when the AMI building was closed down, "Janitorial crews vacuumed and cleaned each of those days". The book also says, "Spores fell not just in the mailroom, but also in such remote places as atop a room divider, in a nook between banks of shelves, and on computer monitors." And no anthrax spores were found in the air conditioning system. That is all totally consistent with vacuum cleaners having spread the spores around - particular if the air conditioning system was turned off at night. (Graysmith makes no mention of AMI’s vacuum cleaners.)
The book also states several times that one reason for going back into the AMI building a year after the attack was to find spores to compare to the other spores. The FBI knew it was the same strain and the same DNA, but were the spores processed exactly the same way as the other media spores. The FBI hasn’t released any results on that.
I was also pleased to read that bloodhounds have been used to track a person traveling by car. In one case the dogs were let out at off-ramps of a highway to sniff around until they picked up the scent of which off-ramp the dogs used. Graysmith writes, "You see, the cells exfoliate off your body and go out the exhaust and out the window and then eventually, those skin cells and hair falls to the street and that’s what the bloodhounds get by with." That sounds almost unbelievable, but it fits with my theory that the bloodhounds were used to figure out where Dr. Hatfill had gone when the FBI lost their tail on him. So, I’ll accept it until I see proof that it’s nonsense.
Graysmith seems to think that Dr. Hatfill is a suspect only because the FBI has no other suspect and they need to be able to show the public they are accomplishing something. That’s a very popular belief, but I don’t share it. I think the FBI just needed to show a few specific amateur detectives - and the people who those amateur detectives got stirred up - that they were doing something.
But it was a worthwhile read.
One person e-mailed me to say I shouldn’t be stopping work on my own book to read someone else’s book, but I think it was a well-spent 3 or 4 days. The book brought to light no facts about the case that changed anything in my book, but it did help me realize how my book is different from all others.
One of the e-mail queries I’d sent to literary agents came back with this information, "I recently tried to sell a book on the same subject by some very well informed journalists, but was unable to find a suitable publisher. Publishers feared that the market for an anthrax book has already been cannibalized by other WMD books, like Judith Miller's."
WMD book? My book isn’t a WMD book! And I’ve also become tired of WMD books. Graysmith’s book has chapters about the effects of the disease, about the history of USAMRIID and the various tests they’ve done, about unrelated hoaxes, about the Sverdlovsk incident, about postal inspectors, about Jewell and Wen Ho Lee and about Aum Shinrikyo. It even has a chapter about the Texas cow which begins, "The cow chewed gravely under the Texas sun, tossing her head to jerk off clumps of grass. A breeze rustled the yellow pasture and ruffled her short-haired coat." Gimme a break!
So, reading Graysmith’s book helped. The first two sentences of my book will now be "This is not a WMD book. It is not a book about Weapons of Mass Destruction. It’s a book which examines the evidence in a murder case where someone used anthrax to kill five innocent people and injure 17 others during September and October 2001."
November 12, 2003 - Today, someone who still believes al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks told me that in Senator Daschle's new book he states that anyone who thinks the anthrax mailer wasn't trying to kill people is naïve. That would apply to me. Perhaps it would also apply to Michael Mason, the new head of the FBI'sWashington Field Office, Michael Mason, since Reuters wrote this recently:
Of the possibility that a scientist wanted to issue a wake-up call about the bioterrorism threat and it went out of control, FBI Assistant Director Michael Mason told a news conference, "That's a possible theory, but it's all conjecture."To check out the context of the Daschle statement, I examined his book at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore. The exact statement on page 153 is as follows:
Reporters kept asking me what it felt like to know that someone was trying to kill me. I was obviously a target, but I wasn't sure how to interpret it.So, context is everything. Someone sent anthrax to Senator Daschle's office and nearly killed a large part of his staff. Did the culprit intend to kill? Maybe not, but it would be difficult to convince anyone of that who was the target of the attack and saw friends and associates put in danger by such a scary weapon. Opinions often outweigh evidence in such situations.
On the other hand, the correct answer would seem to depend upon how much the anthrax mailer was upset by Senators Daschle's and Leahy's efforts to "water down" the Patriot Act. And only the anthrax mailer knows that for certain.
November 11, 2003 - I broke one of my own long-established rules when I reported what someone told me without verifying it for myself. The actual statement in Tom Daschle's book about the tape on the letter is on page 147 and reads as follows:
"Contrary to later media reports, the letter was not heavily taped and didn't appear unusual in any way."So, the word "heavily" could change the whole meaning. Was it taped but not heavily taped? Or wasn't it taped at all? Who knows?
November 9, 2003
- Although I haven't read the book myself, I'm told that Senator Tom
new book "Like No Other Time : The 107th Congress and the Two Years
Changed America Forever" says that the anthrax letter received at his
was not taped shut and that the
accounts were all wrong. A year ago I'd looked long and
hard at the pictures
of the Leahy letter on the FBI site, even magnifying them many
but I could find no clear indication that there was any tape on the
of that envelope.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, November 8, 2003
November 8, 2003 - My copy of Robert Graysmith's book "Amerithrax: The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer" arrived today. Wow! 418 pages with small margins! And that's not including the 17 pages listing "Sources" and an 18 page index. (This site is described on page 420 as "An invaluable resource and clearinghouse for every idea on the Ameri- thrax case", and the index shows I'm mentioned on page 93, where I'm quoted about how and why the letters were cropped.)
It's going to take me awhile to go through 418 pages with a highlighter, so I won't be working on my own book for awhile.
November 7, 2003 - The news seems to be filled with anthrax stories this morning because some equipment that routinely monitors the air at the Naval Automated Processing Facility in the District of Columbia indicated the presence of "small amounts of biological pathogens, possibly anthrax." The key phrase in the AP article about the incident seems to be:
"One sample tested positive for anthrax and seven tested negative"I cannot recall ever reading about one of these situations where there were both negative and positive initial test results and the final results came back positive.
Meanwhile, there is an interesting article about the anthrax case in The Sydney Morning Herald. It contains an interesting quote from Professor Martin Hugh-Jones about Dr. Hatfill:
"Hatfill is just a jerk and an idiot and is paying for it". [Hugh-Jones] said he was "willing to bet" he didn't do it.The article also includes a statement from Barbara Hatch Rosenberg about her motivation for pressuring the FBI about Dr. Hatfill:
"My whole point was to make certain they were investigating some evidence that I learnt about from people with more knowledge than I in the case but who couldn't talk."And the article reminds us that Richarch Spertzel is still actively promoting his theory:
But Spertzel, who has worked with Hatfill, is one of the few experts who does not believe the perpetrator was a US scientist. A former UN weapons inspector who is still convinced Saddam Hussein kept an active bio-weapons program, he is convinced Iraq is the most likely anthrax source. And the failure of the WMD search in that country has not dissuaded him.The title of the article in the Sydney Morning Herald is "Without A Clue". Presumably that refers to the FBI's investigation, but it could also refer to the media's reporting.
November 4, 2003 - This morning I was interviewed for a Swiss Radio program which is scheduled to air on November 18. Apparently, the primary theory in Switzerland about the anthrax attacks is that the U.S. Government was behind them. The interviewer didn't go into the reasoning, but it most likely has to do with justifying the war with Iraq. They have a Swiss scientist who will give US-Goverment-did-it theory, and I was picked to counter it with my theory that it was probably an American scientist acting on his own.
Near the end of the 20 minute telephone interview, I was asked the standard question: What was the scientist's motive for sending the anthrax letters? I gave my standard answer: He was trying to awaken the American people to the danger of a bioweapons attack.
Then the interviewer asked: "What did he expect the American people to do?"
I don't recall exactly how I responded. It was probably some lame answer about how the kinds of precautions that are now being taken: radiated mail, testing, new vaccines, etc.
But, as is often the case, after the interview was over I wondered about that question and thought about how I should have answered. It's been a question that's been in the back of my mind for probably two years, and I've never fully answered it for myself.
What did the anthrax mailer expect to achieve with his mailings? If "he wanted to awaken the American people to the dangers of bioweapons", what did he expect them to do once they were awake?
The things that resulted - radiated mail, new tests for detecting anthrax, new procedures for keeping the mails safe, better vaccines, etc. - are all long term and required research and development! That couldn't have been what he was after. He was anxious. He was worried. He was looking for something immediate. He wasn't looking for ways to detect an attack in progress or to react better and faster after an attack. He was looking for an immediate way to reduce or end the risk of a bioweapons attack ever happening at all.
And he demonstrated in the second mailing what he was looking for. When Senators Leahy and Daschle tried to "water down" the Patriot Act as proposed by Attorney General John Ashcroft, the culprit sent anthrax-filled letters to Leahy and Daschle to convince them that the dangers from bioweapons were real and they had better stop delaying the solution.
The solution: To round up all the terrorists or potential terrorists who might still be in the country - whether they have bioweapons or not. Sleeper cells. Foreign agents. Stop them, arrest them, lock them up, and you stop any attack before it begins. That's an immediate solution. And I think it's probably the immediate solution that the anthrax mailer was looking for. Plus it would be a particularly important solution for someone living and working in Central New Jersey where there is a large Muslim community and where some of the 9-11 hijackers apparently found safe haven and lived for awhile.
He was living among "potential terrorists", he was worried about it, and he was looking for an immediate solution.
So, I'm going to have to read go over various pages on this site to see if any have to be changed to include this explanation of what the anthrax mailer expected the American people to do: He probably expected them to help with and approve of the roundup of terrorists and potential terrorists - without being too concerned about "civil rights" and "racial profiling" and other "left wing obstacles" which he felt allowed the terrorists to do what they did on 9-11 and which could "hobble" law enforcement and prevent them from rounding up potential terrorists in our midst.
At least that's the way I see it.
November 3, 2003 - After months of searching, I finally stumbled across an electron micrograph of an anthrax spore still inside the dead "mother germ". So, I removed the Bt image I had been using in "Section 4 - Refining anthrax" and in the supplemental page about Spores, and I replaced it with this new image - which shows very nicely how cleanly a spore separates from the dead mother germ.
November 2, 2003 - With
absolutely no new
news coming out about the anthrax case, I've had time to work on the
draft of my book. Summarizing,
and rewriting information often results in seeing things never noticed
before. It's been a busy couple days for that sort of
While working on chapter 6, I suddenly realized that Stephanie Dailey
vacation from September 8th through September 23rd which includes
day the J-Lo Letter was opened and passed around - September 19,
There was no way for her to have been exposed to the J-Lo letter.
So, the other letter containing powder - which Stephanie opened
on the 25th - must have been the anthrax letter. It seems
like the final nail in the coffin of the idea that the J-Lo letter was
the anthrax letter.
Several [Sources at American Media] are focusing on a letter that arrived at the company about a week before the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. It was described by sources as a “weird love letter to Jennifer Lopez”—similar, outwardly, to the types of mail the tabloids often get. But inside the oddly-worded letter was what was described as a “soapy, powdery substance” and in the pile of that a cheap Star of David charm. The letter, per routine, was taken in by the joint mailroom of the company. Employees said the letter was handled both by Stevens and Blanco.I didn't have that article on this web and quickly added it. I'd been using a different source for the date the J-Lo letter was opened. I'd been using an article published on October 31, 2001, by The National Enquirer. That article goes into great detail and says the letter was opened on September 19:
The anthrax nightmare that has gripped the nation began on September 19, investigators believe, when mail for the Sun was delivered to Managing Editor Joe West – and he immediately became suspicious of a bulky manila envelope he picked up.
The envelope sent to the Sun was addressed: “Please forward to Jennifer Lopez, c/o the Sun.”I saw the Enquirer article as more authoritative, naming names, while the Newsweek article only referred to unnamed sources. Moreover, the Enquirer article was written after time for analysis, while the Newsweek article was written in the hectic days when it was first realized that two people at AMI had anthrax.
The buff quickly shot back an e-mail stating that the pre-9-11 date was supported in articles by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, by Philip Brennan at NewsMax.com and by someone at "BuzzFlash.com". That made the Newsweek date the correct date by the buff's reckoning. Majority rules. Moreover, he said the Phil Brennan article was "a confirming inside source" on the date, because Brennan's son worked for AMI at the time of the attack. The buff ridiculed me for believing anything written by The National Enquirer.
It seemed clear that from these articles that both Rosenberg and BuzzFlash got their information from the Newsweek article. So, the only question was where Brennan got his information. We'd communicated several times in the past, so, I contacted him and Phil Brennan quickly replied:
The arrival date of the J Lo letter probably came from Newsweek because nobody at the Sun mentioned the time of arrival.While I was smiling over that, another anthrax buff advised me of another Newsweek article that I didn't have on this site (but it's here now). The article was from their October 22, 2001, issue and corrected their earlier inaccuracy:
If the science offers few leads, old-fashioned police work might. In Florida, investigators focused on a one-page, handwritten love letter addressed to Jennifer Lopez, NEWSWEEK first reported on its Web site. It was sent to The Sun, says a source, in Lantana, Fla. It reportedly arrived sometime after Sept. 17.Okay. So not even Newsweek supports the pre-9-11 date anymore. Plus, I now knew where Robert Graysmith got the September 17 date he uses in his new book.
Of course, the buff supporting the pre-9-11 date didn't agree that the September 19 date was the right date. He merely changed the subject and began arguing something else.
Meanwhile, I noticed another inaccuracy in the second Newsweek article. The article describes Bacillus anthracis as a "rod-shaped microbe" which "grows in soil". Anthrax does not grow in soil. When in soil, anthrax is an egg-shaped spore in a type of hybernation - not growing, just lurking and waiting for a victim.
So, even though nothing new is happening in the anthrax case, it's still a good time for learning new things that help me to understand the case and to understand the sources of other people's beliefs about the case.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, November 1, 2003
October 30, 2003 - Yesterday's Tampa Tribune contains another comment that seems to be more of a political point of view than actual news. This paragraph is key:
"Ordinarily, anthrax spores contain an electrostatic charge that makes the microscopic spores stick together in clumps that are too big to be inhaled into the lungs,'' explains Iraq expert Laurie Mylroie in a new book. "But these spores had been coated with a Teflon-like substance containing silica. ... When U.S. Army experts tried to examine them, the spores refused to stay put on the glass microscope slide.''Experts who have seen images of the attack anthrax say that the spores were NOT coated with anything. Yet it often seems the consensus in the media is that the spores were coated. This seems to be because Richard Spertzel has done hundreds of interviews saying that's how he would have made the anthrax.
It seems to me that a lot of misconceptions about the case could be easily resolved by the FBI definitively answering one simple question: Were the spores in the Senate letters coated with some "substance" or not?
But when the FBI does say something, as new Washington Field office Chief Michael Mason did, it only generates more controversy. When he told the media that the reverse engineering efforts have still "not been able to re-create the process the killer used to produce the substance sent through the U.S. mail", did he really mean that they cannot refine anthrax to a trillion spores per gram (as many seem to think), or did he mean that they haven't been able to find the exact method used to the point where they can use it as evidence in court?
October 29, 2003 - The latest blurb on Amazon.com about the new book "Amerithrax: The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer" by Robert Graysmith is not very encouraging. It says:
September 17, 2001: A Florida tabloid receives a love letter addressed to Jennifer Lopez. The paper's photo editor opens it--and, unknowingly, inhales thousands of toxic spores. By 10/5 he's dead.
October 12, 2001: NBC anchor Tom Brokaw's assistant tests positive for cutaneous anthrax, a result of exposure to a powder in an envelope she inhaled three weeks before.
In the days that followed, 28 more people tested positive for anthrax, plunging an entire country into the frontlines of an insidious bioterror.
The anthrax war had begun.I almost regret ordering a copy. But, on the other hand, it may provide a lot of errors to expose. Tom Brokaw's assistant inhaled spores and got a lesion on her chest? Gimme a break! And that old nonsense about the J-Lo letter yet again?!
The author seems to distort the facts. Tom Brokaw's assistant had symptoms of anthrax almost a week before Bob Stevens had any symptoms. She just wasn't correctly diagnosed until October 12 or so.
I certainly hope this small blurb isn't representative of the entire book. (Note added Oct. 30: Someone pointed out to me that the blurb doesn't say that Tom Brokaw's assistant inhaled spores, it says she inhaled the envelope.)
October 26, 2003
- With all the books coming out about the anthrax case, I figured I'd
better get to work on my own. I've completed the first draft.
in concept to this web site, it presents all the data I've found during
the past two years, gives my analysis of the data, and prompts the
to rethink the case in hopes that someone out there may discover than
have critical knowledge which could help the FBI close the case and
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, October 25, 2003
October 23, 2003 - Hmmm. It looks like another book about the anthrax case will be out soon. "Amerithrax: The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer" by Robert Graysmith will be out on November 4. I better get to work on finding a publisher for my own book.
October 23, 2003 - The latest issue of the National Review includes a review of Laurie Mylroie's new book "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror". The review includes this paragraph:
Mylroie begins with the FBI's handling of the investigation into the fall 2001 anthrax mailings. There was never the slightest evidence that the spores came from an American, never mind a lone "right-wing" scientist; but the FBI angrily dismissed the massive evidence pointing in other directions. It did not deviate from its course, even though the anthrax letters -- the first of which was mailed on 9/11 from a location near where the hijackers had operated, and all of which contained references to Islamic causes -- practically begged the Bureau to think that they had come from al-Qaeda.I haven't read the book - and probably won't - but I would think that the fact that the anthrax was the Ames strain and DNA testing showed it almost certainly came from a U.S. government facility would be considered "evidence". And, too, there are reports that the Bush administration really really wanted Iraq to have been behind the anthrax attacks - but the evidence showed otherwise. Specifically, there is a New York Times report that goes into the early investigation in detail and has these paragraphs:
For months, intelligence agencies searched for Iraqi fingerprints and scientists investigated whether Baghdad had somehow obtained the so-called Ames strain of anthrax. Scientists also repeatedly analyzed the powder from the anthrax-laced envelopes for signs of chemical additives that would point to Iraq.But for True Believers, if you haven't found proof of what they believe, it just means you haven't done a good job of looking.
October 21, 2003 - A commentary in the Washington Times today has yet another person suggesting that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks. But it also includes an interesting comment about the plastic box found in that Maryland pond:
"Locals said it was a turtle trap."October 19, 2003 - On September 30 I commented on how reporters from three different newspapers went to the same news conference with the new Director of the FBI's Washington Field Office, Michael Mason, and reported three totally different stories, each concentrating only on the statements by Mason that fitted with the reporter's or newspaper's primary interests.
There is probably no better example of that than two articles about me resulting from interviews done 10 months apart in time but done in exactly the same place. The Time Magazine interview (HERE) was done in my "garden apartment", the Wired Magazine interview (HERE) was done in my "cramped hovel". The only consistency between the articles seems to be that both photo editors chose to print the worst photograph they took of me. Wired Magazine must have taken 150 shots. Why couldn't they have used the one HERE or HERE? (BTW, the Wired Magazine photo shoot was done on a "set" they created in a small conference room at the Racine Marriott, not in my actual office where Time did their shoot. Click HERE.)
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, October 18, 2003
October 17, 2003 - The Washington Post called today to say that a section of my letter to the editor is scheduled to be printed in their November 9 Sunday Post Magazine. It will be printed without comment, so my concerns of October 10 were for naught. Here is what they say they will print:
The FBI says it is "pursuing a short list of suspects" but the public has fixated on Steven Jay Hatfill. Why is that? Could it be because of articles like Marilyn Thompson's? It appears that it is the media that is focused on Hatfill, not the FBI.October 16, 2003 - I finished reading Leonard Cole's book "The Anthrax Letters: A Medical Detective Story" over the weekend. It contains a lot of details I'd never read before - such as the intricacies of various tests that must be performed in order to confirm that someone has inhalation anthrax - and what each test proves. Also how easy it is to cause anthrax germs in a Petri dish to sporulate. You merely have to lower the temperature from what they like - 37 degrees Celcius or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit - to what they don't like - 30 degrees Celcius or 80 degrees Fahrenheit - and the germs will die and form spores.
The book also included chapters filled with material I found to be of little interest, such as the chapter about Johns Hopkins University think tank scientist D. A. Henderson and the chapter about hoaxes totally unrelated to the anthrax case.
But those chapters convinced me that I should write my own book: "Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks", which should be very different from any other book about the subject. As I began writing the first draft, I had to re-examine much of what is on this site, and I had to reread sections I haven't read in over a year. I noticed for the first time some small items of interest, such as the indications that the writer of the first letter apparently paused after writing the first two lines, and then paused again after writing the second two lines. He not only left wider than normal spaces between lines when he paused, but he also may have moved the paper because the first two lines are more straight than the second two lines and the last line is relatively straight again.
But of more importance than that is what I saw while rereading the supplemental section titled "What Was Plan A?". In that section, which I wrote in March of 2002, I speculated that "Plan A" probably involved some plan to demonstrate "just how easy it was for a terrorist organization to obtain anthrax". But because the Ames strain of anthrax was used, and that strain is not easily available to terrorists, it now seems more likely that "Plan A" involved a demonstration that would suggest that some U.S. government lab was weaponizing anthrax and that lack of security at the installation had or could have allowed some to get into the hands of outsiders - such as black market profiteers or terrorists. It's still just speculation, but I had to revise the "What Was Plan A?" section to reflect a change in thinking dating back to when I wrote the supplemental section titled "The Anthrax Mailer: Right Wing or Left?" in October of 2002. I failed to go back to make the revisions then, so I did it today.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, October 11, 2003
October 10, 2003 - Back on September 15, 2003, I tried to get Marilyn Thompson of the Washington Post to respond to my evaluation of her article "The Persuit of Steven Hatfill" during an on-line Q&A Session. Among the statements I made in my evaluation was this one:
Your article says, "It [The FBI] also sought help from police in Kuala Lumpur after a hoax package arrived at a Nevada Microsoft office bearing a Malaysian postmark." And you suggest this is somehow linked to Dr. Hatfill.
That information is FALSE. The "package" was NOT a hoax. It contained NO threatening letter. It contained NO anthrax. It was just a strange letter that arrived at the height of the anthrax scare when people thought that ALL the U.S. mail could be contaminated. It contained some pornographic magazine clippings and a check made out to a Microsoft vendor in Malaysia. There was also some powder on the clippings (which were damp) and that scared people. The powder initially tested positive as anthrax, but was later proven to NOT be anthrax.
The fact that you connect FALSE information in some way to Dr. Hatfill's Malaysian girlfriend is the sleaziest innuendo I think I've ever seen in a major newspaper. It's like we're back in the 1920s or something. Incredible!Marilyn Thompson didn't respond during the Q&A session, so I decided to also send a copy to The Washington Post's "Letters To The Editor" address on their web site.
Yesterday, I received a call from Brian Miller of the Washington Post. He said they were going to publish a response to a portion of my evaluation, perhaps sometime next week. To keep the response short, Miller said, they were going to respond only to my comments about the Microsoft letter. He wanted to know where I got my information. I pointed him to the References Section of this site and found and read to him several articles. One from The Las Vegas Review-Journal dated Oct. 14, 2001, says,
The piece of mail that sparked the Reno anthrax scare was initially sent by Microsoft Licensing to an unidentified vendor in Malaysia. The envelope was returned several weeks ago, but it was not until Wednesday that an employee opened it.
Guinn said the check Microsoft had mailed was still inside the envelope. However, it appeared to have been dampened and then dried.
Also, the employee discovered that five pornographic magazine pictures had been inserted into the envelope before it was returned.
Alarmed Microsoft employees immediately contacted authorities.Reuters released a similar story the next day saying the same thing.
Since the letter was between Microsoft and one of its customers, it contained a returned check from Microsoft and some pornographic pictures, but there were no threats and no mention of anthrax, I saw no reason to consider it a "hoax".
On the 18th the Associated Press reported that the powder in the letter was not anthrax. The AP article said,
Final tests on a letter in a Microsoft office in Reno have come back negative for anthrax, Gov. Kenny Guinn announced Thursday.
Tests performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the presence of a bacterium, but ruled out that it was anthrax.
Officials at Microsoft Licensing contacted health officials Oct. 10 over an employee's suspicions about a returned envelope, mailed earlier to a vendor in Malaysia. Pornographic pictures had been inserted into the envelope, which also contained a check made out to the vendor, who wasn't identified.
The Malaysian government, which along with the FBI is investigating, says it is not clear where the contamination originated.It wasn't called a "hoax" in the AP article or anywhere else that I saw. It was just someone going into a panic over something unexpected at a time when people were worried that the entire postal system could be contaminated with anthrax. To me it looked like an internal squabble between Microsoft and a Malaysian vendor. Microsoft sent the vendor a check, the vendor probably urinated on it and returned it with some pornographic pictures in some kind of silient protest. There certainly wasn't any connection to Dr. Hatfill or his Malaysian Girlfriend, and I couldn't see how any intelligent person would consider this to be a "hoax".
But it appears that someone does. The FBI.
On November 8, 2001, Senator Joe Biden announced that in the previous 8 weeks the FBI had responded to more than 7,000 suspicious anthrax letters.
Jason Pate, an analyst with the Monterey Institute of Interenational Studies, believes the actual number of anthrax hoaxes has been far fewer than the FBI's figures. He heads a project that monitors reports of terrorism incidents and says that in the wake of the anthrax letters there may have been tens of thousands of false alarms. But among them were "perhaps only 1,000 actual anthrax hoaxes worldwide." He explains the discrepancy:
I don't know of people at the Washington Post have read this, too. I suspect they have. And if they do print something about my evaluation of Marilyn Post's article and what I said about the Microsoft letter, it will be interesting to see what they write. It seems possible that they may agree with the FBI's definition of what a "hoax" is.The FBI counts any investigation or call or report as a "hoax", where we [at Monterey] only count a hoax as an event where there was a letter/powder/threat that indicated that someone was trying to create an incident. What we call "false alarms", including the thousands of calls that someone had seen "white powder" or a "mysterious cloud", law enforcement agencies and the FBI often label hoaxes.
October 9, 2003 - According to a report in the Associated Press, FBI Director Robert Mueller "believes his agents will catch the anthrax killer". Here's more of what AP wrote:
"I am comfortable we are doing everything," Mueller said. "We have sufficient [personnel]. We are going everything that is necessary to pursue that investigation and ... it is proceeding apace."
"It is my belief that we will identify the person responsible for it," he said. "It is a difficult investigation. As I say, it has many facets. But as I say, I am comfortable with the process as it goes along."Director Mueller is probably the only person I've ever seen quoted (except maybe Shakespeare) who uses the word "apace". I verified its meaning in my Webster's: "With a quick pace; fast; speedily; with haste". So, according to Mueller the investigation is proceeding speedily.
October 9, 2003 - This morning it occurred to me that the FBI profile of the anthrax mailer could contain a basic flaw.
The profile includes things like:
"if employed, [he] is likely to be in a position requiring little contact with the public,"
He "is a non-confrontational person, at least in his public life. He lacks the personal skills necessary to confront others. He chooses to confront his problems 'long distance' and not face-to-face."
"He may hold grudges for a long time, vowing that he will get even with 'them' one day."It seems to me that this profile is based upon the notion that the anthrax mailer MEANT TO KILL. But according to the latest word from Michael Mason, the anthrax mailer probably did NOT mean to kill. That puts a totally different light on the anthrax mailer. It would create a totally different "profile".
The FBI's profile was for some Ted Kaczynski or Mad Bomber type - sullen, moody, secretive and vindictive. When you look at someone who did not mean to kill, you are in a very different personality area. You are talking about someone who could very well be comfortable working with others, who could even be a leader in his field, who could be a good public speaker or even a guy with many friends and associates. You could be talking about someone who may have done what he did because he lives near New York and was afraid that bioterrorists in that area would kill him and the people around him. You could even be talking about someone who has been a leader in some cause, vocal and public in his beliefs. That's very different from what the FBI profile suggests.
October 8, 2003
- While contemplating writing a book of my own about the anthrax case,
I decided to skim through the new book by Leonard Cole, "The
Anthrax Letters: A Medical Detective Story". While much
of the book goes into details I've already read about many times or
which seem only indirectly related to an investigation of the anthrax
I guess I'll have to read the whole thing. Who knows what nuggets
of fascinating information could be buried within? During my
skim-through I was definitely fascinated by Chapter 5 "The
Outliers" which went into greater detail about the deaths of Kathy
Nguyen than I had ever read before. The book spends 9 pages on
Nguyen case, but, from my point of view, it can all be summarized into
four sentences of my own: The investigating authorities first assumed
Nguyen's case was the start of a new "wave" that could cripple New
When that panic-based assumption proved false they assumed she had
a cross-contaminated letter from the second mailing - i.e., the
most recent mailing. When that notion could not be proven, they
gave up. Even though her case was in the same small
of Manhattan as 7 other cases from the first mailing, and
within days of two other New York cases from the first mailing,
apparently no connection to the first
was ever investigated.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, October 4, 2003
October 4, 2003 - Yesterday's Palm Beach Post has an article about a new book by Leonard Cole which resurrects the old theory that the FBI was too quick in dismisssing theories that al Qaeda could have been behind the anthrax attacks. The book seems to provide nothing new - except a vague notion that al Qaeda could have gotten the wrong address for The National Enquirer from out-of-date phone books. But the anthrax mailer could also have gotten the wrong address from out-of-date information on the Internet.
Meanwhile, in a matter that is only vaguely related to the anthrax case, Pat Clawson - Dr. Hatfill's former spokesman - is suing the St. Louis Post-Dispatch because they called him an "FBI informant" in regard to events in St Louis long ago. Although Pat Clawson issued a "News Release", there doesn't seem to be anything about it in the mainstream media, but here are some details which were reported on a TV insiders' news site:
A lawsuit has been filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia by broadcaster and investigative reporter PAT CLAWSON that seeks $5 million in damages from a major newspaper publisher and three journalists for libel, defamation, false light invasion of privacy, emotional distress and disparagement.
Defendants in the action are: ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH publisher of the St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch; PULITZER, INC., the parent company of the newspaper; KAREN BRANCH-BRIOSO, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter in the Washington, DC office of the Post-Dispatch; JON SAWYER, the Washington Bureau Chief of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and ARNOLD J. ROBBINS, the Managing Editor of the Post-Dispatch.
Clawson alleges that on September 30, 2002, as part of its coverage of the Hatfill case, the Defendants published a newspaper report that recounted Mr. Clawson’s career in St. Louis, Missouri during the 1970s as a radio/TV investigative reporter and private investigator. The Complaint alleges that the Defendants falsely identified Clawson as a radio executive with “ a history” of being an´”FBI informer.”
Mr. Clawson is not now and has never been an “FBI informer” and the Complaint alleges that Defendants’ statements were false, misleading, disparaging and defamatory and were published with malice and in reckless disregard of the truth.
The Complaint further alleges that the Defendants did not interview law enforcement officials or review court records and had no evidence prior to publication to support their allegations that Clawson had a “history” of being “an FBI informer”, then repeatedly refused to publish a correction or clarification after their post-publication investigation failed to produce evidence supporting the allegations.
“The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has smeared my reputation – and needlessly placed my life in jeopardy - by falsely, maliciously and recklessly publishing that I am a radio executive with “a history” of being an “FBI informer,” Clawson said. “I’ve worked hard over 30 years to build a reputation in both legitimate society and the criminal underworld as an investigative journalist who can be trusted to protect his confidential sources and report the news without fear or favor. I plan to protect my reputation aggressively both in the courts and on the streets," he added.It seems a bit reminiscent of the digging into Dr. Hatfill's lawyer's past life by the Washington Post last month.
October 1, 2003 - The CBS News & AP report on the Michael Mason news conference contains a sentence that will probably upset those who think Dr. Hatfill sent the anthrax letters:
Law enforcement officials have said Hatfill is not a suspect and that no evidence links him to the letters.September 30, 2003 - It's interesting how every news outlet seems to have a slightly different reaction to the new director of the FBI's Washington field office Michael Mason's comments at his news conference yesterday. Most interesting (and amusing) of all is this from The New York Post:
FEDS HAVE NEW THEORY ON ANTHRAX ATTACKS
September 30, 2003 -- WASHINGTON - The deadly 2001 U.S. anthrax attacks may have been carried out by someone who did not intend to cause any harm, a top FBI official said yesterday.
Of the possibility that a scientist wanted to alert people to the bioterrorism threat and it got out of control, FBI Assistant Director Michael Mason told a news conference, "That's a possible theory, but it's all conjecture."
"I suppose the leading thought might be the person didn't intend to cause harm, and did," Mason said.That's the entire article. It was extracted from what was on the Reuters news service yesterday. Apparently it's a "new theory" to the New York Post because they've been assuming - until now - that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks.
Reuters emphasized Mason's comment that the anthrax culprit apparently didn't intend to harm anyone.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post emphasizes the comments made by Mason that the FBI regrets that Dr. Hatfill was called "a person of interest". Mason seems to be making an initial step toward issuing and apology to Dr. Hatfill with his comments:
Mason, 45, said he objects to that phrase in all cases and prefers to identify people only when they are formal suspects and the FBI has enough evidence to charge them with a crime. Naming someone as a person of interest does not help an investigation, he said, and can unfairly harm a person's reputation.And USA Today emphasizes a comment Mason made about the reverse engineering of the anthrax and how they haven't been able to exactly duplicate the process.
The USA Today article seems to deflate my notion from yesterday that the case might be "wrapping up". Or does it? As the scientists say, "much depends on whether the FBI is attempting an identical re-creation". An exact re-creation probably isn't required in order to convict. Even if the culprit repeated the process himself, he might not get an exact "re-creation". There are just too many variables - from the temperature in the room to the time spent between steps in the process.
September 29, 2003 - The New York Times article printed on Friday titled "F.B.I. Names Top Scientists for Advisory Panel on Germs" was nagging at me all weekend.
Even though it said "the investigation into who sent the letters with anthrax in September and October 2001, which killed five people and sickened more than 12 others, has apparently produced no breakthroughs despite nearly two years of hard work", this group seems to be patting itself on the back after a job well done. (And the key word may be "apparently".) They seem to know each others' abilities very well.
"Instead of criticizing the government," Dr. Schutzer said, "we decided to step forward and see what we could do."Dr. Steven E. Schutzer, an immunologist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark who is on the advisory board, also praised the scientists.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Dr. Schutzer said. "I found them sharp. During down times, when you'd talk about your own research. They got it and could offer insights."I was able to obtain a copy of the Science magazine article to which the NYT article refers. After reading it, I still felt that they were congratulating themselves for a job well done, and that on the anthrax case they established a model for use in the future. The Science article says,
"Although the FBI has at times reached outside its own laboratory for scientists to provide assistance in casework, analysis of materials from the anthrax letter attacks may be the first time that so many outside scientists with diverse expertise were employed."It also says that the "Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics" was put together by the FBI on 29 July 2002. So, the Working Group has been working for a year (perhaps with something less "formal" before that) and we've heard nothing about them before (that I recall). Whatever they've been doing, it is tightly held - as is just about everything the FBI has been doing on the case since January of 2002 (except for harassing and following up on "tips" about Dr. Hatfill).
If the group didn't do a good job on the anthrax case, why
so pleased with
I still get the very strong feeling that there is more here
meets the eye. And it could
1. The Arkansas letter was uncovered as the FBI was cleaning up an evidence locker - getting rid of things they don't need.
2. The FBI no longer seems interested in "tips" from the public.
3. The FBI no longer seems to be interested in
scientific community anything
4. Reportedly, a Grand Jury has been collecting documents but not hearing testimony.
5. The FBI is completely locked-down on the "progress" in the case. No leaks of any kind. No news of any kind - except for this stuff about the Working Group. Yet they keep saying they are making progress.
6. When the Maryland pond nonsense wrapped up, the FBI didn't have any problem stating that they never believed it would lead to anything; they just had to search the pond to keep people from accusing them of not following up on "leads". So, they were not "bumbling around" at the pond, they were just being politically safe - and making certain they can testify that they explored all possibilities.
There may be other indicators, too. I hope I'm right
them. It just doesn't seem
On the other hand, all my feelings about this may just be my tendency toward "positive thinking" running amok.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, September 27, 2003
September 27, 2003 - While The New Zealand Herald reminds everyone that the "discovery" that made Shakespeare scholar Don Foster famous turned out to be a big mistake - just as his Vanity Fair article attacking Dr. Hatfill appears to be -, an editorial in today's Palm Beach Post may put conspiracy theorists to work in a totally different area with these two sentences:
A jittery public in this area got no help from federal agencies -- the first portions of Mr. Stevens' autopsy weren't released until two weeks ago -- and Tallahassee went along. Though Palm Beach County health officials had been handling the situation superbly and were trying to keep residents advised, Gov. Bush sent Department of Health Secretary John Agwunobi with orders to muzzle the locals and say nothing himself.One might ask why the locals were "muzzled", but who is there to ask but the "muzzled" locals and the Gov. Bush officials who "muzzled" them?
September 25, 2003 - Yesterday's South Florida Sun-Sentinel had an article with the headline "Widow of Boca newsman killed by anthrax sues U.S. for $50 million". Other papers carried similar articles about Bob Stevens' wife suing the U.S. Government over her husband's death. At first, it looked to me like the newspapers were so desperate for something to print about the 2nd anniversary of the anthrax case that they were rerunning old stories. The same newspaper had had almost the same headline on February 15, 2003: "Anthrax victim's widow files $50 million suit against government". But the first story was just about a "claim". The government had 6 months to respond to the "claim", and when they didn't, an actual lawsuit was filed. Another article in yesterday's Sun-Sentinel contains a lot more details. When filing a lawsuit against the government, a claim must be filed first. If the government doesn't respond, then it's lawsuit time.
September 22, 2003 - In the latest edition of the National Review's Online magazine, contributing editor James S. Robbins revisits the idea that Iraq supplied Mohammed Atta with the attack anthrax. He writes,
The article in Das Bild [reporting on the supposed meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi diplomat Ahmad Samir al-Ani] raised another, more intriguing possibility: The Iraqis were supplying Atta with anthrax spores for use in attacks on the United States. The anthrax attacks had commenced shortly before the article was published, and the idea seemed plausible at the time. In fact, it still does - the anthrax used in the attacks was weapons grade, the attacks originated from areas near where the hijackers had been active, and two years of investigation have not turned up the presupposed domestic perpetrator. At some point, you would think Occam's Razor would come into play.One would also think that by now the people who believe Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks would have seen the light. But apparently not.
I really wish someone in authority who knows details about the anthrax would clear up a lot of the misconceptions. I don't see how anyone benefits when there are so many screwball ideas out there and NO solid proof to debunk them. To people like Robbins, if you can't prove them wrong, they believe that means that they are right.
Even though experts have
the anthrax was NOT "weaponized" as would be done
Some basic information
unimpeachable source could clear up a lot of misconceptions. It
come from "unnamed sources" and be printed only in some
The Bush administration is clarifying a lot of other baloney that was spread around in order to justify the war on Iraq. Why not clear up some anthrax questions, too?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, September 20, 2003
September 18, 2003 - When I wrote on Tuesday that one of the popular misconceptions about anthrax was that "The anthrax spores were ground down to inhalable size", I received a response from a scientist who felt that this was too preposterous for anyone to believe. I.e., no one would be dumb enough to believe that spores were actually ground down from big spores to make small spores. Nature produces anthrax of the RIGHT size. There is no reason to alter the size.
The idea is looney. It is like saying that an ostrich egg can be ground down to create a chicken egg (or an ostrich egg the size of a chicken egg), but there is no doubt that many people believe it. And the source of their misconceptions often comes from very credible sources. Here is a short list of statements which indicate that spores are ground down to alter their size:
Experts say it remains very difficult to transform the deadly bacterium into a weapon that can be effectively dispersed and kill large numbers of people. To develop an anthrax strain in its most lethal form — pulmonary anthrax — spores have to be crafted to just the right size. If too small, a person will exhale the spores. If too large, the spores fall to the ground and become ineffective.
To develop an anthrax strain in its most lethal form — pulmonary anthrax — spores have to be crafted to just the right size. If too small, a person will exhale the spores. If too large, the spores fall to the ground and become ineffective.
anthrax tends to be too big to infiltrate the human lungs. To get it small enough to be infectious via inhalation, weapons scientists have to mill it in a precise and expensive process.
The process involved freeze-drying and chemical processing and was achieved without having to grow vast quantities of spores or mill them to terribly small dimensions, the experts said.
The focal question appears to be whether a large dose of anthrax spores of the right size is sufficient to provoke infection, or is an additional factor necessary?
But whatever the strain, the most potent anthrax must be finely ground to the right size.
Those spores were ground so fine that they apparently drifted across offices and contaminated other letters in the mail.
Their most significant achievement was to grind anthrax spore to the size at which it quickly disperses in the air, specialists say.
'Making anthrax, on its own, isn't so difficult,' one senior US intelligence source said. 'But it only begins to become effective as a biological weapon if they can be made the right size to breathe in. If you can't get airborne infectivity, you can't use it as a weapon. That is extremely difficult. There is very little leeway. Most spores are either too big to be suspended in air, or too small to lodge on the lining of the lungs.'
The spores had been carefully milled to produce the size most effective in spreading the deadly bacteria, between one and three microns.
It is possible to chemically and/or mechanically manipulate the anthrax spores to increase the likelihood that contact with them will result in infection. For example, spores can be "milled" into a size (1-3 microns) that would them optimal for inhalation deep into the lungs, specifically into the alveolar sacs.
To infect someone with the most deadly form of anthrax, the bacteria spores would have to be freeze-dried and ground down to a fine powder that can easily be inhaled.
Anthrax spores, even small ones, don't stay in the air for very long. Because anthrax is a soil bacterium, the spores are meant to fall to the ground.
In addition to difficult dissemination of the bacteria, Summers notes that in order for anthrax to work effectively, it must be at the correct size and weight. As a result, the grinding process neccessary to achieve this size renders many bacteria innocuous.
September 16, 2003 - Marilyn Thompson's article in the Washington Post tells me that a lot of people in the media (and also in the general public) have some truly BASIC misconceptions about the anthrax case.
The biggest misconception seems to be that the anthrax MUST have been stolen from USAMRIID. My research says it could just as easily have come from Dugway, Battelle and a couple other places. And there's a remote possibility the list of places could be much longer. (Millions are currently being spent by the government in an attempt to narrow down the list.) And, since USAMRIID says none of their anthrax is missing, USAMRIID should probably not even be at the top of the list.
Another BIG misconception: Only a half dozen people know how to make anthrax that was in the Senate letters. It's my understanding that that is TOTALLY UNTRUE. Thousands of people - virtually any microbiologist or even a grad student in microbiology with six months of post-graduate experience - should know how to make it.
Another misconception: The anthrax spores were ground down to inhalable size. This is TOTAL NONSENSE. Anthrax spores are formed by Nature to be the right size - about 1 micron in diameter. People were dying of inhalation anthrax (a.k.a. "woolsorter's disease") for centuries before anyone even knew what was causing the disease, much less how to "mill" spores. Procedures developed by the government in the 1960s may have included grinding away debris surrounding the spores, but the scientists who have actually SEEN the Senate anthrax say it was NOT ground. And the spore size was certainly not reduced by grinding.
Another basic misconception: It takes millions of dollars worth of equipment to create such anthrax. This appears to be TOTAL nonsense. It may have taken millions of dollars worth of equipment to INDUSTRIALIZE some process in order to produce anthrax spores BY THE TON, but small quantities of a few grams could be easily produced in almost any microbiology lab.
There are probably some other BASIC misconceptions that continously appear in the media, but these are the most common. They seem to have been originated by scientists back in late 2001 when they first began speculating about how the anthrax was made - based upon their knowledge of how the government did it in the 1960s, and based upon their political orientation regarding bioweapons. The scientists who have actually SEEN the anthrax, and microbiologists with good bench skills, have a totally different point of view.
At least that's the way I see it.
September 15, 2003 - Marilyn W. Thompson from the Washington Post answered a few fluff questions in a Q&A Session today, providing little new information, but raising a question about her research and sources when she wrote:
I believe that the FBI has thought for some time that the commission of this crime involved more than one person. It is likely that an accomplice or accomplices helped mail the letters from their scattered locations. If you recall, a few bore a St. Petersburg postmark but the most virulent were stamped in Trenton. Hoax letters from other locations are believed to be involved.Who except a few Hatfill-did-it theorists believes that the hoax St. Petersburg letters were connected to the anthrax mailings? There's certainly no evidence that the FBI believes such a thing. And if the "most virulent" letters were stamped in Trenton, does she mean some "less virulent" anthrax was sent in the St. Petersburg letters? That's certainly not true.
I asked her what she was talking about, but it wasn't one of the questions she chose to answer. Nor did she choose to respond to this message which I also sent her:
If this Grand Jury you mention is a Special Grand Jury and not just the regular standing Grand Jury that’s been around forever, how do you know it isn't investigating the FBI's improper harassment of Dr. Hatfill?
Why would the D.A. be seeking an indictment of Dr. Hatfill when his time sheets, work records and other such documents would create "reasonable doubt" in any American court? All the rumors, innuendo and FALSE information that you, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Don Foster, Glenn Cross and other Hatfill theorists believe in would NOT be admissible in court.
Your article says, "Although Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed just last month that the case would be solved, and FBI officials say they are still pursuing a short list of suspects, only one man has been subjected to intense public suspicion: Steven Jay Hatfill."
The FBI says it is "pursuing a short list of suspects" but the public has fixated on Steven Jay Hatfill. Why is that? Could it be because of articles like yours, Don Foster’s in the October 2003 issue of Vanity Fair, and all the speeches by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg? It appears that it is the MEDIA that is focused on Dr. Hatfill, not the FBI.
Your article says, "It [The FBI] also sought help from police in Kuala Lumpur after a hoax package arrived at a Nevada Microsoft office bearing a Malaysian postmark." And you suggest this is somehow linked to Dr. Hatfill.
That information is FALSE. The "package" was NOT a hoax. It contained NO threatening letter. It contained NO anthrax. It was just a strange letter that arrived at the height of the anthrax scare when people thought that ALL the U.S. mail could be contaminated. It contained some pornographic magazine clippings and a check made out to a Microsoft vendor in Malaysia. There was also some powder on the clippings (which were damp) and that scared people. The powder initially tested positive as anthrax, but was later proven to NOT be anthrax.
The fact that you connect FALSE information in some way to Dr. Hatfill's Malaysian girlfriend is the sleaziest innuendo I think I've ever seen in a major newspaper. It's like we're back in the 1920s or something. Incredible!
Then there are these two paragraphs from your article:
"In Utah, an FBI agent who also was a microbiologist spent weeks questioning more than 100 employees at Dugway Proving Ground. For some time, the Army disclosed, Dugway researchers had been producing small quantities of anthrax powder, similar to the type found in the letters, for use in testing military equipment. This revelation raised the prospect that the powder used in the letters had simply been stolen from Dugway's supply.
"As they conducted interviews, sifted through tips and searched homes and laboratories, agents asked one question over and over: Who could have done this? Several people offered up the same name: Steven Jay Hatfill."
Putting those two paragraphs together suggests that Steven Hatfill could have stolen the powdered anthrax from Dugway. How can such a suggestion be made without some information about how Dr. Hatfill could have gotten into Dugway's secure labs? When was he ever AT Dugway?
Or did you just deliberately put those two paragraphs together to imply something that is totally false?
Your article seems to be a long jumble of innuendo and questionable information. It again raises the Maryland pond fiasco as if it somehow pointed to Dr. Hatfill's guilt. It doesn't. Haven’t you read this Washington Post article http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/mdpondnoanthrax.html which said,
"Law enforcement sources said FBI officials knew the laborious undertaking was a long shot but, after much internal debate, decided to proceed rather than be second-guessed as to whether they were being thorough enough."
In other words, the FBI didn't check out the pond because they thought it would lead to something, they checked it out because, if they didn't, people like you, Dr. Rosenberg and Don Foster would accuse them of not thoroughly investigating Dr. Hatfill. Or to put it another way, the Dr. Hatfill case is all just politics!
The same with Malaysia and Africa. The fact that the FBI checked out these theories doesn’t mean they believe them. It only means that they have no political option but to either check them out or to be accused of not being thorough in the Dr. Hatfill investigation. You and Barbara Hatch Rosenberg merely interpret events to justify your campaign to persecute Dr. Hatfill.
You mention that the FBI has located the copier which was used to make the anthrax letters (which the FBI denies), why didn’t you also mention that the copier was supposedly found in New Jersey? Is it because that would suggest that Dr. Hatfill is not the culprit?
When you write something like this: "He [Hatfill] took a polygraph in early 2002 and said the examiner assured him he had passed it -- a contention that FBI sources later challenged," the public needs to know when was this challenged and by whom? Who were these "FBI sources"? There are some situations where unidentified sources just aren't good enough. And this is one of them. The FBI is not some monolith where everyone knows what everyone else knows. There appear to be plenty of FBI sources who don’t know anything for a fact but who are willing to give opinions and to speculate.
Any examination of the Dr. Hatfill situation will find that there seem to be "inside sources" and unidentified "law enforcement officials" who will provide statements confirming or denying any questionable "fact". Mostly they seem to be opinions and speculation that the media prints as fact, using whichever version happens to suit the reporter’s own political agenda.
You need to check on your Grand Jury "scoop" to find out whether or not such a Special Grand Jury really exists, and, if it does exist, whether it is investigating the FBI or Dr. Hatfill. In a previous innuendo-laden article attacking Dr. Hatfill, you wrote, "In recent months, many of Hatfill's friends and colleagues and his former employers have said that they provided documents under grand jury subpoena." Since such information would only help Dr. Hatfill and not incriminate him, the FACTS say the Grand Jury is NOT investigating Dr. Hatfill but may be investigating the FBI. Check with your newspaper’s lawyers. They will tell you that none of the innuendo from you, Dr. Rosenberg or Don Foster is admissible in court.
Your article is a disgrace to your profession. It is innuendo turned into a sport at Dr. Hatfill’s expense. The Washington Post should be ashamed.Since it's a very pointed set of questions, I probably shouldn't have expected a response, but when I see someone using a position in the media to foster a theory that I believe is both wildly wrong and very harmful, I find it difficult to be gentle and friendly.
September 14, 2003 - Today's version of Marilyn Thompson's innuendo-laden article about Dr. Hatfill appears to be identical to yesterday's, except that the word "pursuit" is now correctly spelled. (See yesterday's comments for my evaluation of the article.)
The article says that Ms Thompson will be fielding questions about the article tomorrow (Monday) on this web site: www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline
I'll definitely be there to ask how she knows that the Grand Jury isn't investigating the FBI's unethical and improper harassment of Dr. Hatfill. Why would the D.A. be seeking an indictment of Dr. Hatfill when his time sheets, work records and every other document would create "reasonable doubt" in any American court, and all Marilyn Thompson, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Don Foster, Glenn Cross and other amateur detectives have to counter that is innuendo, rumor and false information.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, September 13, 2003
September 13, 2003 - In a very bizarre, muddled, innuendo-laden article written by Marilyn W. Thompson for Tomorrow's Washington Post titled "The Persuit [sic] of Steven Hatfill", she again mentions the Grand Jury:
In a chase that had taken agents to the far corners of the world, more than 5,000 people had been interviewed and 20 laboratories used as consultants, according to U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard Jr., who is overseeing the grand jury investigation of the case. The costs for scientific analysis alone had reached $13 million.It concerns me that I can find no other reference to this Grand Jury by anyone else in any other media outlet. Why isn't it BIG news?
How can so many people at the Post not notice the misspelling of "pursuit"? Is Marilyn Thompson so revered at the Post that even her spelling can't be questioned?
The Post article also mentions that the FBI found the copy machine used to make the anthrax letters:
Agents, sometimes disguised as Xerox repairmen, looked at thousands of copiers and finally isolated one that could produce the unique smears seen on the letters, but haven't disclosed its location.In truth, they have not only not disclosed where the copy machine is located, they also deny finding it. The "leaks" also say the machine was found in New Jersey. If your going to report that the copy machine was found, why not also report it was found in New Jersey? Is it because that would suggest someone other than Dr. Hatfill as the culprit?
Then there's this:
Although Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed just last month that the case would be solved, and FBI officials say they are still pursuing a short list of suspects, only one man has been subjected to intense public suspicion: Steven Jay Hatfill.The FBI says it is "pursuing a short list of suspects" but the public has fixated on Steven Jay Hatfill. Why is that? Could it be because of articles like the one in tomorrow's Washington Post?
Then there's this:
In Utah, an FBI agent who also was a microbiologist spent weeks questioning more than 100 employees at Dugway Proving Ground. For some time, the Army disclosed, Dugway researchers had been producing small quantities of anthrax powder, similar to the type found in the letters, for use in testing military equipment. This revelation raised the prospect that the powder used in the letters had simply been stolen from Dugway's supply.
As they conducted interviews, sifted through tips and searched homes and laboratories, agents asked one question over and over: Who could have done this? Several people offered up the same name: Steven Jay Hatfill.Putting those two paragraphs together suggests that Steven Hatfill could have stolen the powdered anthrax from Dugway. How can such a suggestion be made without some information about how Dr. Hatfill could have gotten into Dugway's secure labs? When was he ever at Dugway?
Then there's this:
Agents also had gotten a positive identification from bloodhounds sniffing through Hatfill's apartment after smelling the decontaminated anthrax letters, law enforcement sources told reporters.Why not mention how stupid that whole bloodhound story seems? Why not mention that other "knowledgeable sources" say what was reported about the bloodhounds was "completely wrong". And Marilyn Thompson adds this:
Bloodhounds sniffed through Bill Patrick's home; the scientist says he doesn't know what, if anything, they found.But other sources say that the bloodhounds did NOT enter Patrick's home. They merely sniffed around his driveway and garage. It may seem like nit picking, but it could be critical to understanding what the bloodhound episode was all about.
Then there's this:
It [The FBI] also sought help from police in Kuala Lumpur after a hoax package arrived at a Nevada Microsoft office bearing a Malaysian postmark.That package was not a hoax. It contained no threatening letter. It contained NO anthrax. It was just a strange letter that arrived at the height of the anthrax scare. It contained some pornographic magazine clippings and a check made out to a Microsoft vendor in Malaysia.
There was also some powder on the clippings (which were damp) and that scared people. It initially tested positive as anthrax, but was later proven to NOT be anthrax.
The fact that Marilyn Thompson connects that in some way to the fact that Dr. Hatfill's girlfriend is Malaysian is the sleaziest innuendo I think I've ever seen in a major newspaper. It's like we're back in the 1920s or something. Incredible!
The Washington Post, like Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, doesn't seem to understand that checking on something doesn't mean there's a connection to the anthrax case. It can also mean that it was just another idiotic "tip" that they had to check out.
Then there's this:
He [Hatfill] took a polygraph in early 2002 and said the examiner assured him he had passed it -- a contention that FBI sources later challenged.Oh? When was this challenged and by whom? There are some situations where unidentified sources just aren't good enough. This smacks of manufactured innuendo.
The Post article seems to be a long jumble of innuendo and questionable information. It again raises the Maryland pond fiasco as if it somehow pointed to Dr. Hatfill's guilt. It doesn't mention another Post article which said,
Law enforcement sources said FBI officials knew the laborious undertaking was a long shot but, after much internal debate, decided to proceed rather than be second-guessed as to whether they were being thorough enough.In other words, the FBI didn't check out the pond because they thought it would lead to something, they checked it out because, if they didn't, people like Dr. Rosenberg and Marilyn W. Thompson might accuse them of not thoroughly investigating Dr. Hatfill. Or to put it another way, the Dr. Hatfill case is all politics!
It will certainly be nice to learn if Marilyn W. Thompson and the Washington Post are right about Dr. Hatfill or if they are on the verge of a scandal bigger than that recently suffered by the New York Times when editors failed to check the work of reporters.
September 12, 2003 - I asked a lawyer about whether or not a Federal Grand Jury might investigate the FBI's treatment of Dr. Hatfill, and I received this reply:
A Federal Grand Jury is an Investigative arm of the Judiciary and can conduct criminal investigations under the authority of the U.S. attorney, etc. on any matter presented to them under "Powers and Duties" of Grand Juries, United States Code Title 18, part 2, Chapter 216, section 3332. This would include any crime by the F.B.I. , C.I.A, or the President. Remember President Clinton was Investigated by , and they televised the proceeding of his testimony, by a Federal Grand Jury in the Monica Lewinsky matter.So, that definitely could be the reason the Grand Jury mentioned in the Washington Post article is in session. I suppose it's also possible that they are working on an indictment of some New Jersey scientist in the anthrax case. I'd like to be surprised some day by news that an arrest has been made in the anthrax case, but a Grand Jury report on the Dr. Hatfill situation would also be welcome news - regardless of what the report says.
1) to hear evidence of criminal accusations in possible felonies ....)" yada yada yada
"2) to hear evidence of potential public wrong doing by city and county officials, including acts which may not be crimes but are imprudent, inneffective or inefficient, and to make recommendations to the county and cities involved."
At this site http://www.udayton.edu/~grandjur/faq/faq3.htm it says:
In the federal system, there are two kinds of grand juries: "Regular grand juries" primarily decide whether to bring charges. But a different kind of grand jury--a "special grand jury"--is called into existence to investigate whether organized crime is occurring in the community in which it sits. "Organized crime" is defined very broadly--it is not limited to the "Godfather"-style image of the Magia or La Cosa Nostra. Instead, a special grand jury can investigate, for example, organized drug activity or organized corruption in government. If a special federal grand jury investigates and establishes that organized crime is, or has been, occurring in the area, the grand jury can charge the individuals responsible for the organized crime and/or can issue a report describing what has been going on. If the grand jury issues a report, it has to submit the report to the court that supervises the grand jury; the court then decides whether the report can be made public.This makes me wonder: Wouldn't a systematic, year-long harassment of an innocent person fall under this definition of "organized crime"?
September 9, 2003 - Something from a few days ago continues to nag at me. According to the Washington Post:
A federal grand jury has been empaneled in the anthrax case under the supervision of Roscoe C. Howard Jr., US attorney for the District of Columbia. In recent months, many of Hatfill's friends and colleagues and his former employers have said that they provided documents under grand jury subpoena.
Howard declined to say whether the grand jury has begun calling witnesses in the case, one of the largest and most expensive criminal investigations the FBI has ever conducted.So, what could the Grand Jury be doing? They can't be considering an indictment of Dr. Hatfill. That makes absolutely NO sense, based upon what is known.
This item is particularly curious:
many of Hatfill's friends and colleagues and his former employers have said that they provided documents under grand jury subpoenaWouldn't all the documents provided by "Hatfill's friends and colleagues and his former employers" be evidence that he is NOT the anthrax mailer? His time sheets from SAIC would be the best example. The logs from USAMRIID showing he was never issued anthrax and showing what kind of work he did there would be another example. Pictures from the wedding he attended on October 6, 2001, could be provided by his friends.
Is it significant that The Washington Post did NOT say that many of Hatfill's enemies and accusers have provided documents under grand jury subpoena? But what documents could they possibly provide?
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg would have nothing. She's never met Dr. Hatfill. All she apparently has is "a gut feeling" based upon rumor and innuendo. Don Foster has nothing except a complaint that he wasn't allowed to try to link Dr. Hatfill to numerous hoaxes. And all Glenn Cross apparently can do is repeat some stories Dr. Hatfill told him about adventures Hatfill had in Africa more than fifteen years ago.
If there was anything at all that could be taken to court showing Dr. Hatfill to be the anthrax mailer, surely something would have been printed in the media after all the attention they've given him. Instead all we have is innuendo (Africa, hoaxes, etc.) that has nothing to do with the anthrax case and a lot of rumors (the secret cabin in the woods, the pond, etc.) that were proven to be total nonsense. That cannot possibly offset the fact that Dr. Hatfill has a good alibi, a good lie detector test, no known access to anthrax, and other facts indicating he is not the anthrax mailer - facts which would create reasonable doubt in any court.
If the Grand Jury is hearing a totally circumstantial case against someone else, a "Mr. Respected Scientist", would the District Attorney have to explain to the jury why they do NOT think Dr. Hatfill is the culprit? The probability is very great that Mr. Respected Scientist's lawyers will try to generate reasonable doubt by bringing in witnesses who believe that Dr. Hatfill did it. Plus, any trial jury pool would be wondering about the Dr. Hatfill situation. Would the DA have to explain to a jury why the "evidence" against Dr. Hatfill has no weight at all and that Hatfill has been thoroughly investigated and cleared?
Whatever is going on, if the Grand Jury is truly hearing the anthrax case and is not just a regular standing Grand Jury, I certainly hope it's another indicator that things are wrapping up.
September 7, 2003 - The new article by Shakespeare scholar Don Foster in the October 2003 issue of Vanity Fair magazine is titled "The Message In The Anthrax", but it probably should have been titled "Why I think Steven Hatfill is the anthrax killer".
Throughout the article, Foster gripes that the FBI hasn't been connecting hoaxes to the anthrax mailings. It appears to be Foster’s big issue - and he's being ignored by the FBI because of it. He says they just "place the documents in what's known as a zero file and never look at them again". And he repeats that again and again. And his claim seems to be totally invalid, since many hoax cases have been solved (check HERE) - including one that Don Foster blames on Dr. Hatfill.
The article says that at one point, Foster was told by the FBI that Dr. Hatfill had a "good alibi" and that "Good people in the Department of Defense, CIA, and State Department, not to mention Bill Patrick, had vouched for Hatfill." But that doesn't seem to matter to Foster - apparently because he thinks that Bill Patrick is almost as suspicious as Dr. Hatfill. (In a BBC interview from August of 2002, "Prof. Foster told the BBC he had identified two suspects who had both worked for the CIA, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and other classified military operations.") It can be interpreted that Prof. Foster and Dr. Rosenberg believe that Patrick and Hatfill "were in it together".
Foster brings up the 11,000 cases of anthrax in Africa in 1978-80 again. He brings up Greendale School again. And he links them to Dr. Hatfill ... again. He also seems to suggest that Dr. Hatfill replaced Dr. Assaad at USAMRIID and that Dr. Hatfill sent the letter accusing Dr. Assaad of being a potential terrorist. And he accuses Dr. Hatfill of building a "mobile germ lab" when it was really a mockup of a mobile germ lab. Facts are apparently unimportant to him.
Professor Foster is clearly in the same political camp as Barbara Hatch Rosenberg regarding biological weapons, and he says that when he learned that he and Dr. Rosenberg were both after Dr. Hatfill as the anthrax mailer, he had lunch with Dr. Rosenberg in April of 2002. "We found that our evidence had led us to the same direction, though by different routes and for different reasons," he says.
I find it difficult to understand how Hatfill’s timesheets and alibi have so little meaning to True Believers such as Don Foster and Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. It doesn’t make any difference to them that Hatfill’s timesheets have been made public. The timesheets say he worked on both the 17th and 18th of September, making it difficult for him to get to Trenton unnoticed to do the first mailing. The timesheets say he worked 4 hours on Friday October 5th (he was at a wedding on the 6th, and he was sleeping it off at his girlfriend’s apartment on the 7th); he worked for 12 hours at SAIC on the 8th (Columbus Day) and 13 hours on the 9th. When did he have time to send the letters? It apparently doesn’t matter when innuendo and speculation are used as proof.
When I tell such True Believers that Dr. Hatfill has a good alibi for the time of the mailings, they say that someone else could have mailed the letters for him.
When I tell them that Hatfill never worked with anthrax and was never issued any anthrax while at USAMRIID, they say that someone else could have given him the anthrax.
When I tell them that Hatfill didn't have the bench skills to make the anthrax, they say that someone else could have done the lab work.
When I ask them what Hatfill actually did while the other person was doing all these things, they say Hatfill was playing innocent. And no one can prove otherwise.
One glaring item that jumped out at me in the Vanity Fair article was Don Foster’s belief that the AMI letter was mailed before the New York letters. His only reason for such a belief appears to be that Bob Stevens was diagnosed with anthrax before anyone else. I doesn’t seem to matter to him that Joanna Huden at the New York Post had anthrax symptoms a week before Stevens, nor that 5 other New Yorkers and New Jersians had symptoms before Stevens. Bob Stevens was merely the first to be diagnosed as having anthrax. (Because anthrax was so rare, the others were all initially misdiagnosed.)
According to Foster and his ill-conceived logic, the anthrax mailer (a.k.a. Dr. Hatfill) sent anthrax to AMI (from some unknown point) around Friday September 14th, i.e., as soon as he learned that the 9-11 terrorists once lived in Palm Beach County. Then, when the anthrax mailer learned that some of the terrorists also once lived in New Jersey, he sent more letters from New Jersey. Foster provides no reasoning why the two letters to the Senators mailed three weeks later were also sent from New Jersey.
And he doesn’t seem to realize that by suggesting that the AMI letter was sent on the 14th of September he says there was another day when Hatfill was driving around to mail anthrax letters. A work day and another day for which Dr. Hatfill has an alibi. Nor does he care that there is no evidence of any mailing from anywhere but the Trenton area.
I've previously written (HERE) that I think linking hoaxes to the real anthrax case is pure innuendo and idiotic thinking. In what appears to be a total screwup, Professor Foster confirms my beliefs when he attempts to connect Dr. Hatfill to some hoax letters which were sent from Louisiana during a time that Dr. Hatfill was in Louisiana. Don Foster is very specific in the article:
In March 2002, as the FBI continued to investigate, Hatfill moved on to a $150,000-a-year job in Louisiana, funded by a grant from the Department of Justice. That same month, from Louisiana, came a fresh batch of hoax anthrax letters.An article from www.nti.org appears to be his source, although it doesn't mention Martin Hugh-Jones:
More than 100 threatening letters recently sent to homes, businesses and government offices in Lafayette, La., appear to be hoaxes, said the head of the FBI office in Lafayette (see GSN, March 27 [this link mentions some DIFFERENT hoax letters mailed in MARCH to Hispanics from Oakland, CA]). Many of the letters arrived Friday and some contained white powder that later tested negative for anthrax or other chemical agents, the Louisiana state police said (Associated Press/New York Times, April 23 [this link says nothing about hoaxes])."It appears that Foster misread this. The Oakland letters were sent in March, not the Louisiana letters. The Louisiana letters were sent in mid-April.
the rash of hoax letters that flooded Lafayette residences and businesses, such as Argus, April 19.
On that day some 200 letters arrived at destinations throughout town and even as far away as Baton Rouge and San Antonio, Texas. The letters, printed with a font that resembled handwriting, promised that 25 bombs would detonate April 27 during the height of Festival International de Louisiane. Some letters were also coated in a powdery substance that has since tested negative for anthrax. The letters also pinned responsibility on someone or something called "the Brothers" and contained two lines of Hebrew and Arabic writing.Then I found another article from August of this year (or HERE) which says:
Suspect in Anthrax Hoax in Court on Arson Charges (Lafayette Daily Advertiser, 8/19/2003)
Suspect mailed more than 200 hoax bombs and anthrax scares LAFAYETTE, (Louisiana) - A man facing federal charges of mailing more than 200 hoax bomb and anthrax letters in Acadiana last year had his trial on state charges of arson postponed on Monday.
Stephen Michael Long, 38, of Rayne, faces 78 federal charges in connection with hoax letters sent in April 2002 to businesses, public officials and others, as well as e-mails that threatened law enforcement officials and judges.So, it appears that Professor Don Foster is accusing Dr. Hatfill of sending out hoax letters in a case that has been solved and for which the culprit has been arrested? That would appear to be a clear explanation as to why the FBI is keeping him out of the anthrax case.
I find no reference to any other "batch of hoax anthrax letters" sent from Louisiana around that period of time.
The rule of thumb used by Don Foster and Barbara Hatch Rosenberg when linking Dr. Hatfill to hoaxes seems to be: If the case hasbeen solved, then Dr. Hatfill didn’t do it. If the case hasn’t been solved, then Dr. Hatfill did it.
But Don Foster seems to have put the Louisiana hoax case in the wrong column. That one has been solved.
The Vanity Fair article seems to me to be a good look inside the mind of another True Believer. When solid facts do not fit with the innuendo, find ways to discount the solid facts. And forget about research - it only confuses things!
September 7, 2003 - Today's Washington Post has an article that apparently names another of the rumored"secret 5" who were pointing at Dr. Hatfill. In addition to Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Don Foster we now have SAIC employee Glenn Cross - a work rival of Dr.Hatfill's. The article is very difficult to analyze. Did the FBI ever consider Glenn Cross to be a "potential witness" or is it only the "secret 5" and the media who did so?
The article also says :
A federal grand jury has been empaneled in the anthrax case under the supervision of Roscoe C. Howard Jr., U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. In recent months, many of Hatfill's friends and colleagues and his former employers have said that theyprovided documents under grand jury subpoena.Whether this means that the Federal Grand Jury is trying to determine if there is enough evidence to indict Dr. Hatfill, or if they are trying to find out if there is enough evidence to indict the FBI for its persecution of Dr. Hatfill, or if they are looking into vigilantism by amateur detectives who have tried to circumvent the legal processes, or whether Marilyn Thompson simply got it wrong and the Grand Jury is a standing grand jury that has always been there ... time will tell.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, September 6, 2003
September 5, 2003 - Shakespeare scholar Don Foster has written an article about the anthrax case for the upcoming October 2003 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, and he's promoting it by doing TV interviews. On NBC yesterday, he seems to have come to all the same conclusions previously reached by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. He sees connections between hoaxes and the real attacks, and he apparently thinks that Dr. Hatfill is the culprit - not only in the anthrax attacks of 2001 but in genocide:
he [Hatfill] professed doing combat duty with Selous Scouts who were later identified as having been responsible for the worst anthrax outbreak in--in--in human history with 11,000 cases in just two yearsThe anthrax outbreak in Africa from 1978 to 1980 has never been determined to have been man-made. The best experts believe it was the result of natural conditions.
The attacks by innuendo continue.
And it's clear that the FBI did at least one thing right: They kept Don Foster out of their anthrax investigation.
September 4, 2003 - With the second anniversary of the anthrax attacks rapidly approaching, new information about the anthrax case seems to becoming harder and harder to find. Yesterday, an article from the "AScribe Newswire" told about a new type of test that has been developed to enable investigators to connect anthrax spores to a particular nutrient recipe. It could be the same test mentioned by The Washington Post's Marilyn Thompson during an Internet Q&A Session on July 3, when she said,
The FBI has now had this material analyzed by numerous expert labs -- yet even last week, work surfaced that the agency would send it out for more cutting-edge analysis.Putting such pieces together (along with reports of the FBI doing re-interviews) could indicate that the FBI is wrapping up the case, or that they are just continuing to plod along, or that they have done all they can do and still cannot find enough to make a case that the Department of Justice is willing to take into court.
But, if they cannot make a case, it would seem that there should be some information that they could release to the public that would allow non-government scientists to help by having them look in the right direction. Surely by now there should be solid information about how the anthrax was made. Official information indicating that the spores were either milled or not milled, or that they were coated or not coated, or that they were created in a way that is similar to some commercial process, could cause scientists to look at things differently. Many scientists will continue to be locked into the idea that the spores were created in some government facility using some secret government formula, and they might never accept any other possiblility, but some solid information could open their minds. It would seem worth a try - as long as the information doesn't explain too much about a method that is too easy for terrorists to replicate.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, August 30, 2003
August 27, 2003 - Checking over Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit more thoroughly, I find that Timothy Beres, who was named as a defendant in the suit, was the Acting Director of the Office of Domestic Preparedness who sent the e-mail to Louisiana State University confirming the phone call made by his employee Daryl Darnell (also a defendant) that LSU was to "immediately cease and desist" from employing Dr. Steven Hatfill on DOJ-funded programs. The lawsuit also says that defendant Special Agent Van Harp was at the Senate staffers meeting where Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg reportedly accused the FBI of covering up for Dr. Hatfill, the meeting which apparently resulted in the first public search of Hatfill's apartment. (Beginning with paragraph 27 on page 12 and continuing through paragraph 31 on page 14, the lawsuit goes into some detail about Dr. Rosenberg's "campaign", although she's not a defendant in this lawsuit.) The unnamed DOJ employee defendants in the lawsuit will be identified during discovery.
The main thrust of the lawsuit against John Ashcroft seems to be that he did nothing to stop the leaks and actions that turned Dr. Hatfill's life into a living hell, and he thereby effectively sanctioned such actions and encouraged more of them. In other words, he was the manager in charge, and he did nothing to stop illegal and unethical activities by his subordinates. A good point.
The lawsuit states (pg 2 sect 3) as follows:
The early stages of the anthrax investigation were motivated by a desire to apprehend the real murderers who mailed the anthrax-laden letters. However, as time wore on and the investigation stalled, the Attorney General and his subordinates came to understand that for their own personal and political interests, as well as the institutional interests of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") and the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), it was essential to appear to know who committed theses [sic] crimes. Thus, in the summer of 2002, they embarked on a highly public campaign to accuse Dr. Hatfill without formally naming him as a suspect or charging him with any wrongdoing.I'm not a lawyer, but I'm not certain it makes good legal sense to accuse Ashcroft et al of deliberately persecuting Dr. Hatfill in order to cover up their lack of progress on the anthrax case. All the evidence suggests that Ashcroft simply caved in to the political pressures created by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and her band of amateur detectives. On the other hand, if an arrest is made, it would be very interesting to have the FBI explain in court why they harassed Dr. Hatfill for over a year even though they had a real suspect under investigation during that time.
August 26, 2003 - A feature article in today's Washington Post says that Dr. Hatfill has finally filed suit against Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI. The article contains some speculation by about other possible "persons of interest" and repeats an oft-heard statement:
FBI sources say that investigators continue to look at a short list of potential suspects and that Hatfill is not the only one under scrutiny.The court documents also list as defendants Special Agent Van Harp, two specific Department of Justice employees, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and an unknown number of unnamed employees of the Department of Justice.
The complaint appears to include some very solid points: When wiretapping Dr. Hatfill's phone, an FBI agent had to swear under oath that there was "probable cause" to believe that such a wiretap might lead to a solution to the anthrax case - which is an extremely dubious claim. The idiotic showing of Dr. Hatfill's picture around Princeton a year after the crime is also listed, as is the in-your-face surveillance.
Whether this will be the only law suit or just the first of many remains to be seen.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, August 23, 2003
August 21, 2003 - While the anthrax case seems to have set many records for bad and inaccurate reporting by the media, new accomplishments in misinformation are still coming in. According to an "Exclusive!" article in today's New York Times:
The anthrax spores that infested the [AMI] building are believed to have arrived in a letter addressed to the singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, in an envelope that contained bluish powder and a plastic Star of David.The author appears to have written a well-researched article about a treasure trove of tabloid material that was left behind in the AMI building. But then she adds nonsense about the J-Lo "letter", which was actually a package. Was it because that's the way she remembered things? Did her editor also remember things the same way? Or was the misinformation about the J-Lo package added just to make the article more entertaining? Has entertainment value become more important to the media than accuracy?
According to The National Enquirer, the J-Lo package was opened on September 19, 2001, the day after the media letters were postmarked in Trenton, NJ. This means there's no way it could have been part of the same mailing. The package contained a cheap cigar in a metal tube, a small box of laundry detergent (the "bluish powder"), an empty can of chewing tobacco, and a handwritten love letter to Jennifer Lopez which was apparently wrapped around a Star of David pendant and some pink talcum powder. So, it certainly doesn't follow the pattern of the anthrax media letters.
According to a very detailed chronology of events produced by The Center for Counterproliferation Research at The National Defense University, the package actually arrived at AMI somewhere between September 2 and September 8, 2001. Determining exact dates is totally dependent upon personal memories.
As far as I know, no authority on the anthrax case believes that the J-Lo letter contained anthrax. Florida Health officials believe the anthrax arrived at AMI around September 22 to 25 - which is consistent with a letter being postmarked in New Jersey on September 18. Stephanie Dailey recalls opening a powder-filled letter on September 25. The AMI anthrax is known to be indistinquishable from the NYC anthrax, and it almost certainly came from the same batch.
But all of this seems to mean nothing to those who want the J-Lo package to be the source of the AMI anthrax. To some it fits their theory that the Florida anthrax was different and came from al Qaeda. To reporters who want to make their articles more entertaining, the J-Lo package has entertainment value. There's no entertainment value in an anthrax-filled letter that looked just like the all the other anthrax letters sent to the media. That would be too boring.
August 20, 2003 - While nothing new seems to be happening in the anthrax case, certain aspects of the articles about the "Arkansas letter" continue to nag at me.
Although I don't think the letter sent to Beebe, Arkansas, is anything more than it is said to be - a cross-contaminated letter from the time of the Oct. 9, 2001, mailing (and possibly just one of many such letters which were tracked down by the FBI using mail sorting records) - the degree to which the FBI's Newark Field Office was involved seems to be an important piece of a different kind of puzzle.
A lot of people who send me e-mails seem to think the FBI is some kind of Borg Collective where every agent knows what every other agent knows. But that's never true, and in the anthrax case it's definitely not true. In fact, it's almost a certainty that the FBI has "compartmentalized" the anthrax case in order to stop leaks to the media.
In a compartmentalized environment, information flows only toward the center. No information goes back to the outer areas - except possibly on a "need to know" basis.
I've always felt that the compartmentalization began around the time when there were leaks to the media that the copy machine used to produce the anthrax letters had been located in New Jersey. Shorthly before, there were also leaks about possible suspects, including one report in The New York Times about how the FBI in December of 2001 had been about to tell the President that they had found the culprit, but then they changed their minds. We don't know who the FBI suspected, and they quickly denied the reports of finding the copy machine, but because the copy machine "leaks" came from several different sources, I've always wondered if the denials were to just attempts to plug leaks.
Compartmentalization might also explain why the media in Washington seems to have so many "informed sources" providing them with "information" that later turns out to be either uninformed speculation or just total nonsense - particulrly regarding Dr. Steven Hatfill. The bloodhound reports supposedly came from low-level lawyers in the Washington Office of the Department of Justice, not from FBI agents actually investigating the case. The "information" about the items found in that Maryland pond seems to have turned out to be just speculative nonsense. And the FBI now says they never expected the pond probe to find anything. It was just done to show they were investigating all serious leads.
This becomes understandable if - because of compartimentalization - the agents from the Washington Field office and lawyers at the DOJ in Washington are not privy to the information known only to the agents actually in charge of the case - agents probably at the Newark Field Office. While it might appear that the Washington Field Office is in charge, actually they are more likely just chasing down the "leads" that come to their office - primarily "leads" from various amateur detectives/scientists in the Washington area who have been pointing at Dr. Hatfill as the most likely culprit.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the FBI agents who are actually collecting evidence that will be used in court are quietly putting all the pieces together. New Jersey is where the letters were mailed, it's where the letters were initially handled, it's probably where the anthrax was refined, it's probably where the letter copies were made, and it's very likely where the anthrax refiner/mailer currently lives and works.
While it's certainly possible that the case is bogged down and going nowhere, I still like to think that the investigation is just going slowly because of the difficulties of making a solid circumstantial case in a politically sensitive environment where "everyone has a theory". When I read that the FBI is clearing up old matters - like the Arkansas letter - and when people tell me the FBI no longer seems interested in "new theories" - I continue to hope that it's because they see an end is in sight.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2003, thru Saturday, August 16, 2003
August 16, 2003 - Although it's easy to understand how Dr. Hatfill might feel wronged and persecuted as a result of being issued a traffic ticket last May when an FBI employee who was tailing him ran over his foot, fighting the ticket seems to have accomplished little or nothing. According to The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, Hatfill still had to pay the $5.
August 16, 2003 - A puzzling article from the Associated Press yesterday said that last week the FBI field office in New Jersey asked the Arkansas State Health Department to test a letter delivered 22 months ago to a family in Arkansas. The puzzling parts seem largely resolved by an article in today's New Jersey Star-Ledger which explains:
"We were asked to find these random letters. The purpose was not to test for anthrax, but to determine information from these letters that would help in the investigation -- the senders of the letter, that type of thing," he said.
Temple said the belated decision to forward the letter to Newark was "just an effort to get rid of that piece of evidence. It was a routine thing." The letter, for now, remains with the Arkansas Department of Health.The incident seems to explain a bit about the FBI's investigation - which apparently included tracking down every letter that went through the postal system at the same time as the anthrax letters. Such information might help narrow down the time when the anthrax letters were actually mailed, etc.
August 10, 2003 - Today's Washington Times is apparently attempting to reopen the theory that the anthrax mailer also sent a letter to the military police at Quantico accusing Dr. Assaad of being a potential biological terrorist. Except for one paragraph, however, there was better information in the Washington Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer back in February of 2002. The one new paragraph worth reading is:
Asked about the anonymous letter Friday, a spokeswoman at the FBI's Washington field office said it is "unrelated to the anthrax mailings."The whole Dr. Assaad situation was thoroughly described in my page about "Anthrax, Assaad, Terror & the Timeline" from March 3, 2002. Maybe it's time to believe the FBI when they say the Assaad letter is "unrelated to the anthrax mailings", since the theory that it is related seems to be total speculation.
The Washington Times article refers to a Hartford Courant article from July 18, 2003, about Dr. Assaad. The Hartford Courant article says:
Reprisal, in the form of a defamation suit, is among the reasons why Assaad would like to know who set the FBI on his trail.And the FBI's reason for not releasing the letter is clearly to prevent exactly that, since it could allow ALL confidential informants to sue their accusers:
A Department of Justice official, who declined to be publicly identified, cautioned that definition of "confidential informant" is extremely broad. He said all anonymous letters received by the FBI would be considered secret under their interpretation of the law, so the denial should not be construed as proof that the anonymous letter is part of an active investigation.If the authorities were the release information about confidential informants so they could be sued, law enforcement would cease to function. It would be a total disaster to society. No one is that dumb.
But apparently such a dumb idea doesn't stop conspiracy theorists and newspapers from surmising that by not releasing such a letter the FBI is covering up something.
Is it really proof of some government coverup? Or is it proof that the media will print any theory that helps them sell newspapers?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
August 3, 2003,
thru Saturday, August 9, 2003
August 6, 2003 - With Dr. Hatfill at least temporarily out of the news, discussions among some of those on the Internet who follow the anthrax case has returned to the notion that Arabs sent the anthrax letters. One person dug up a National Enquirer article about the J-Lo letter which he used as "proof" that there was more than one anthrax letter sent to AMI. (The J-Lo letter was received at AMI before the anthrax letters sent to New York were mailed.) Interestingly, the article tells more about the J-Lo letter than any I'd seen before, and particularly about the "Star of David" pendant that was inside the letter along with some pink powder. (One theorist who believes in three anthrax mailings immediately declared that the anthrax was "color coded". The anthrax in the media letters sent to New York was brown. The anthrax sent to the Senators was white. And the anthrax sent to AMI was pink!) I was rolling on the floor laughing my ass off over that when someone else pointed out that Senator Daschle's letter also contained a "Star of David"!! My reaction was: Huh? Sure enough, he had "proof" - an article in Newsweek's October 29, 2001, issue that says very clearly in its last two sentences,
"A powder-containing letter sent to AMI (but not recovered) contained a little star of David, recall staffers. So, too, Newsweek has learned, did the anthrax letter to Daschle."A search for further information about a "Star of David" in the Daschle letter found absolutely nothing. If the exasperation over having to address another apparently erroneous media statement from early in the case wasn't enough, a BBC article from yesterday provided this tidbit of misinformation:
The FBI now believes only four letters were sent - addressed to the New York Post, TV channel NBC, Democrat Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy.Just four letters? So, the AMI letter (or letters) must have been just an illusion - if one is to believe the BBC.
It's been a slow week so far, so it's nice to have a couple good laughs to make it seem somewhat worthwhile.
August 3, 2003 - In addition to placing my analysis of "Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's 'Political Campaign" on this web site, I also submitted a copy to the Federation of American Scientists' Internet discussion forum.
It created quite a stir. Friends and colleagues of Dr. Rosenberg were upset. But the only person who found an "error" in the article was an executive from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute who complained that they did not distribute Dr. Rosenberg's paper at the November 2001 BTW Conference. That "error" came from Judy Miller at The New York Times, who wrote that that's how the article was distributed. Judy Miller actually got the article off the old SIPRI Internet discussion forum where Dr. Rosenberg had posted it. (I made the correction.)
One scientist complained that it was an "ad hominim attack on a colleague", but another scientist provided the definition of "ad hominim" to show that it was no such thing.
The defenders of Dr. Rosenberg and her campaign seemed to feel that it was okay to attack a colleague like Dr. Hatfill but not a colleague like Dr. Rosenberg. However, no one attempted to define the difference.
Another associate of Dr. Rosenberg tried to make the case that it's perfectly okay to give the media a description of a person you believe to be a mass murderer; you can tell the media where the guy lives, what kind of work he does, where he works, where he previously worked, what kind of shots he's had, and just about everything else. As long as you do not specifically mention the person's name, it's perfectly okay ... even if the person you believe is guilty is actually totally innocent.
My intent in doing the analysis was merely to find out how Dr. Hatfill became such a "person of interest". But, since many or all of Dr. Hatfill's accusers are probably members of the FAS forum (it's the same forum to which Dr. Rosenberg posted her "hypothesis" about Dr. Hatfill a couple weeks ago), I also certainly hope I've made it more difficult for rumor mongers to persuade The New York Times that the main reason that Dr. Hatfill is a "person of interest" is because of his work on that mock-up bioweapons trailer - or similar nonsense which the media has attributed to unnamed sources during the past year and half.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, August 2, 2003
August 2, 2003 - The Frederick News-Post today has a quote that nicely sums up the Pond Probe findings:
The Associated Press reported that authorities found a gun, a bicycle, fishing lures and "a lot of junk, but nothing of an evidentiary nature in the anthrax case," said one official who was speaking on the condition of anonymity.August 1, 2003 - The Washington Post reports this morning that the Maryland Pond Probe has found nothing to incriminate anyone. The "rope" which was once said to have been tied to the plastic box is now described as "something resembling a boot lace". And the plastic box is now thought by some to be "unrelated to the case and may have been used to produce some type of illegal street drug." The Washington Post article, however, does confirm one thing:
Law enforcement sources said FBI officials knew the laborious undertaking was a long shot but, after much internal debate, decided to proceed rather than be second-guessed as to whether they were being thorough enough.In other words, the FBI felt the pond probe was almost certainly a waste of time and money, but they had to do the search or they would have been accused of covering up for Dr. Hatfill.
July 30, 2003 - As a result of a few telephone conversations I had with Dr. Steven Hatfill over the past couple weeks - conversations which were prompted by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's "hypothesis" about his work at SAIC on that mock-up bioweapons trailer and by the Federation of American Scientists' official notice that her theories are not their theories - I realized I'd never laid out in clear detail how Dr. Rosenberg has been on a political campaign since November of 2001 and how that political campaign affected Dr. Steven Hatfill. I corrected that oversight by creating a new supplemental page titled "Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's 'political campaign".
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 26, 2003
July 25, 2003 - The Washington City Paper today has an front page article that tells more about the 24-7 tailing of Dr. Hatfill than we've ever seen before, plus information about his living conditions. It describes in detail what happened when Dr. Hatfill's friend Pat Clawson (a licensed private detective) took the reporter for a couple drives with Dr. Hatfill , and with the FBI following. While Pat Clawson has repeatedly tried to convince me that Dr. Hatfill looks upon the FBI tail with the same acceptance as he views the weather conditions - yesterday it was cloudy, the day before it was partly cloudy, today there are 15 FBI people in cars outside, tomorrrow the forecast is for 20 FBI people outside - I can't help but get the impression that it's often a very stormy situation that is just one flared-temper away from a true disaster.
The article also describes Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's campaign to get Hatfill arrested, and the impact of her meeting with Senate staffers in June of 2002. That meeting appears to have been prompted by a paper Ms Rosenberg published on June 13, 2002, titled "The Anthrax Case: What The FBI Knows". While the paper doesn't name Dr. Hatfill, he's the only person who could fit the description of her "suspect". And the paper attacks the FBI for not following up on "evidence" which seem to consist mainly of her highly dubious theories linking various hoaxes to the anthrax case - plus all those debunked rumors about a secret cabin in the woods where the anthrax was made, etc.
Once again it seems abundantly clear that the "Hatfill Case" is just politics. Yet, many continue to chant "Where there's smoke there's fire" while ignoring the data which indicates that it isn't "smoke". It's steam coming off a mountain of bullshit.
July 24, 2003 - This morning, NPR's "Morning Edition" had a lengthy segment about Dr. Steven Hatfill. It contained some "new" information and a lot that's worth listening to. For instance, it tells where Dr. Hatfill was on the weekend before the Oct. 9 mailing. People have argued that, because Monday Oct. 8, 2001, was Columbus day and there were no mail pickups, Dr. Hatfill could have driven to Princeton on the weekend to mail the letters. But the NPR feature says that it's been confirmed that on Saturday October 6, Dr. Hatfill was at a wedding in Baltimore with his girlfriend. And on Sunday the 7th he was "sleeping it off" at his girlfriend's apartment in the Washington area.
The segment also gives details confirming that Dr. Hatfill was at work at the times shown on his time sheets for those periods.
The segment confirms that the FBI surveillance of Dr. Hatfill increased dramatically after Barbara Hatch Rosenberg went before that Senate committee in June of 2002. Ms Rosenberg referred to the Senate meeting on the NPR segment when she said,
"I put together all the of evidence I knew about … about the perpetrator. But I didn’t put it in full detail. Some items I left rather vague because I didn’t, again, want to be pointing finger at any particular person. It was interesting that the FBI then started to work harder on the investigation. And they seem to have kept going ever since, so I feel good about that."July 23, 2003 - It was brought to my attention today that Michael A. Mason will soon replace Van Harp as the person in charge of the Washington Field Office of the FBI, which is primarily responsible for investigation of the anthrax case.
It was also brought to my attention that a little bit of the history of anthrax should be somewhere on this site, so I added a few historical and explanatory details to The Anthrax Section.
July 20, 2003 - I was looking forward to seeing what The Los Angeles Times would print as a result of an interview I had with them last week. It turned out to be a very disappointing article. All the discussion I had with Rick Schmitt about the Kathy Nguyen case and the vacuum cleaner at AMI was totally left out. Instead he chose to print that when it comes to a suspect in the anthrax case, my "money is on a nuclear chemist who is now working in a bowling alley in Milwaukee". Actually, I explained very carefully to Schmitt that that nuclear chemist has a perfect alibi for the time of the mailings and that the FBI has indicated that they do not believe that he is the anthrax mailer - and neither do I.
In addition to that inaccuracy, Schmitt also says "only several dozen individuals in the country would have had the knowledge and ability to mill anthrax spores into the fine powder". A bit of research would have shown him that the anthrax was NOT MILLED, so that piece of information is worthless and misleading.
In an article about the anthrax case, it's hard to understand why he does not mention this site but only mentions The Fake Detective site. His article even implies that The Fake Detective site is the site visited by the FBI, the Defense Intelligence agency and others interested in the anthrax case! That is inaccurate and misleading reporting that reaches a new low. I can only assume that whatever Schmitt wrote was rewritten by a disinterested editor who wanted more "humor" in an article about silly amateur detectives on the Internet.
However Schmitt does repeat one factual piece of information that is worth remembering: "The government has never said Hatfill is a suspect in the case".
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 19, 2003
July 18, 2003 - With the Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post reporting that the AMI building is finally going to be cleaned up, I can only hope that any vacuum cleaner found in the building will be turned over to authorities - if the authorities don't already have it. (See my comments for April 14, 2003 through April 17, 2003.)
July 18, 2003 - A "highly informed source" contacted me by telephone this morning to say that the trailer that Dr. Hatfill was working on at A.F.W. Fabrication was "just a shell". Except for airconditioning equipment, it contained no scientific equipment of any kind. It did NOT contain any fermenter or milling equipment. And even in its completed form it was not intended to be a mockup for anything involving bacteria - not anthrax nor any other form of bacteria. And the "source" says that William Broad at the New York Times knew that it was only a shell and that it didn't contain any fermenter or milling equipment when he wrote:
The trainer's equipment includes a fermenter, a centrifuge and a mill for grinding clumps of anthrax into the best size for penetrating human lungs, these experts said.It's difficult to say who is right when the information is totally conflicting and there is no third source, but on this matter I tend to believe my "highly informed source". He actually saw the trailer during many stages of its construction.
Dear Mr. Lake,I called Director Oelrich and asked if I could print his entire e-mail on this site. He gave his approval.
July 17, 2003 - Just when it was beginning to look like there would be absolutely nothing new to report in the anthrax case this week, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg provided something that showed up in my mailbox this morning. She submitted to a Federation of American Scientists discussion forum an "hypothesis" regarding the mockup bioweapons labs Dr. Hatfill was involved with building:
Hypothesis regarding US trailer lab
Based on articles in NY Times 2 July 03, Washington Post 3 July 03 and Baltimore Sun 3 July 03 and on discussions with knowledgeable sourcesBarbara Hatch Rosenberg
1. Hatfill started collecting and storing BW-relevant equipment in 2000 or perhaps before, on his own. He may or may not have had a clear purpose in mind.
2. In September 01, right after 9/11 and concurrent with the anthrax letters, the purpose was clear. He began to construct a BW production unit on a trailer at a metalworking plant on the outskirts of Frederick, MD.
3. Then, or at some time in the next few months, he proposed to DTRA that they support the project, and they agreed to do so through SAIC. Joseph Soucup and William Patrick (both connected with SAIC) were collaborators on the project.
4. In March 02, when Hatfill was fired by SAIC, the project was not finished yet (this indicates that he must have been doing it mostly single-handedly). He then continued to work on it, either on his own or with continuing DTRA support at least for construction costs, with or without going through SAIC. The project was completed in the summer of 02.
5. The FBI, which was keeping an eye on Hatfill in the summer of 02, undoubtedly was aware of his work on the trailer. FBI agents spent two weeks studying it in Frederick (according to a “source close to the case” cited in the Balt. Sun, probably an FBI source) and apparently found no anthrax evidence.
6. There is no reason to suppose that ALL of the equipment collected earlier was used for the trailer project.
7. The trailer was then hidden in order to prevent the FBI from confiscating it.
8. When the question of possible Iraqi mobile BW facilities came to the fore last fall, the Delta Force at Ft. Bragg became interested in using the trailer for training. The trailer was located and hauled to Fort Bragg. On the way, “FBI agents and experts” checked it again and tried to confiscate it but were prevented by DOD.
9. Training at Ft. Bragg, using the trailer, was conducted last fall by Hatfill and Patrick. SAIC says Hatfill did no work for them and received no pay after March 02. Whether Hatfill (who no longer had any form of clearance and was under investigation by the FBI) received payment from DOD for his training work at Fort Bragg is unknown.
10. Several weeks before the news abroke on 2 July 03, the Washington Post reporter was told about the trailer by a friend of Hatfill’s, as a demonstration of Hatfill’s patriotism and public service. Shortly before the news broke, the reporter spoke with another close friend of Hatfill’s. Word got back to the NY Times and government officials, who, realizing that the story was about to become public, quickly gave their desired spin on it to the NY Times, allowing them to scoop the Post.This "hypothesis" is so filled with false information, crass innuendo and screwball logic that it's difficult to know where to begin when analyzing it.
According to the July 3, 2003, Frederick News-Post:
Dr. Hatfill was regarded as an expert in the bioweapons field and worked as a consultant, providing technical expertise in the construction of some mock exercise sites involving weapons of mass destruction, according to a Department of Defense spokesman.
"He had a role in acquiring models or old unusable equipment that could be placed in these labs," said Col. Bill Darley, spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla. "He had a role putting together labs that looked like the kind of labs we could see in other countries."So, Dr. Hatfill was doing what he was hired for by a government agency. To some who totally distrust everything the government does, that is undoubtedly very sinister. The article goes on:
According to the DOD, there are more than one of these labs in the United States, which have been built at various locations. The mobile germ labs are mock-ups and completely nonfunctional. Special Operation forces use the units to learn how to detect and disarm mobile germ labs such as the ones suspected in Iraq and other countries.So, there were more than one of these nonfunctional mockup labs. The News-Post article then adds:
Dr. Hatfill did not have unsupervised or unrestricted access to the facilities or equipment he helped build, the DOD said.
"You would not have a contractor have unescorted access to a site," Col. Darley said.
Col. Darley also said that the government frequently contracts with businesses, such as A.F.W. Fabrication, even with sensitive activities like the construction of the mobile germ labs.So, contrary to what Barbara Hatch Rosenberg implies, Dr. Hatfill clearly did NOT work alone at building the mobile lab. The fact that it took so long is probably more related to how long it takes to scrounge up the scrapped and nonfunctioning equipment than to the fact that only one person was working on it. And the fact that there was more than one such mock-up. The equipment had to be located, negotiated for and transported to A.F.W. Fabrication.
And it seems really really sleazy innuendo and totally crazy to suggest that Dr. Hatfill dreamed up the idea of a mobile lab right after 9-11 and was able to initiate such a project at a government contrator A.F.W. Fabrication on such short notice and with his own money. And she seems to be suggesting that he was not only building the mock-up lab by himself but also making highly-refined anthrax somewhere all by himself.
According to the July 2, 2003, New York Times,
The trainer's equipment includes a fermenter, a centrifuge and a mill for grinding clumps of anthrax into the best size for penetrating human lungs, these experts said.What they don't point out is that the spores in the anthrax letters were not ground or milled in any way. So, key equipment in the mockups was not the type of equipment the anthrax refiner/mailer used.
When Barbara Rosenberg writes that "There is no reason to suppose that ALL of the equipment collected earlier was used for the trailer project", she is absolutely correct. The three biological safety cabinets scavenged from USAMRIID that I once thought might have been part of the mock mobile lab project were, according to the Baltimore Sun, actually used in 2000, when Hatfill began doing work for U.S. Special Forces Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. So, Dr. Hatfill had been building different kinds of mock-ups for a long time prior to 9-11. ("All three cabinets were eventually destroyed during exercises in which troops learned, with Hatfill's guidance, how to safely attack and disable such labs," according to the Sun.)
It may be incredible that the FBI has to spend so much time and money checking out what has been proven to be nothing but innuendo and false information, but that's the nature of something that is more politics than fact.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 12, 2003
July 12, 2003 - The 24-hour in-your-face surveillance of Dr. Hatfill was reportedly restarted yesterday. Hopefully it wasn't because a few people (like me) made note of the fact that it had been dropped. In the world of politics, it can be dangerous to point out the fact that things are not being done the way some group thinks it should be done.
July 9, 2003 - Phil Brennan, a writer and columnist for NewsMax.com and other outlets has written a new column where he says that the FBI has apparently dropped it's massive in-your-face surveillance of Dr. Hatfill. He writes:
The bureau has been trailing Dr. Hatfill day and night, sometimes with 50 agents shadowing him at one time. Over the weekend he drove to West Virginia and said that he was not tailed for the first time, no FBI agents in cars in front, behind and alongside him as has always been the case in the past.
Last night, he had dinner with his friend and spokesman Pat Clawson who told me that there wasn't an agent in sight at the restaurant or later at Dr. Hatfill's home.Pat Clawson confirmed through other sources that the surveillance does indeed appear to have been withdrawn. However, those sources say that this has happened a couple times before. No one (except me) seems willing to guess if it means anything or not. My guesses: (1) If the pond probe turned out to be a total waste of time, the in-your-face surveillance made certain the FBI could prove that Dr. Hatfill didn't go anywhere near that pond to remove evidence. (2) The FBI didn't want to risk having Dr. Hatfill disappear if the pond probe found something, so they boxed him in for the duration. Just wild guesses. #1 seems more likely.
July 9, 2003 - While researching various aspects of the case, I came across two articles that have been in my files for a long time, but which, when displayed together, provide information that might not be noticed when displayed separately. The first article from ABC says:
"Bill Patrick, a scientist who used to make anthrax weapons for the United States, patented a secret process that involved freeze-drying the spores, milling the resulting anthrax 'cake' to yield particles of the proper diameter, then coating them with a special mixture to dampen electrostatic charges that cause clumping. Patrick calls this making the particles 'slippery.'"The second article from The National Journal says of the Daschle anthrax:
"The material, in fact, is of mediocre quality, [Ken Alibek] told me, and was not produced industrially. It definitely had not been milled, nor did it appear to have any sort of coating to reduce static or otherwise enhance its deadliness. Silica supposedly found in the material, Alibek thinks, may simply be a residue from an unsophisticated drying process. Meselson concurs that the anthrax evinces no sign of special coating or processing. 'There is no evidence that I know of,' he told me, 'that it was treated in any special way.'"So, the anthrax spores in the Senate letters were NOT milled, were NOT coated and were probably not freeze-dried. This tends to confirm that they never went through any true "weaponization" step. I modified the Refining Section to include this information.
And it also tends to indicate that whatever "secret" processes William Patrick III may have patented at one time, those secret processes probably had nothing to do with the way the attack anthrax was refined.
This paragraph from the National Journal article makes the point clearly:
If the U.S. anthrax was very pure but not specially weaponized, could it have been made by amateurs? In small quantities, yes, according to both Alibek and Meselson. It could be done, Alibek says, with "a very simple, nonindustrial process -- a very primitive process -- that could let you get a trillion spores in one gram. You can't make hundreds of kilos, but you could make hundreds of grams at this concentration."And William Patrick III confirms that evaluation with statements of his own from the Associated Press:
Patrick, who holds patents for techniques used to make weapons-grade anthrax, said that the type of spores mailed to the offices of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., could have been processed in a crude laboratory “as long as you are dealing with small quantities of material.”July 6, 2004 - Of all the dubious logic in Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's "Analysis Of The Anthrax Attacks", the element I've always considered to be the most unbelievable has been the way she links numerous hoaxes to the anthrax attacks. I've seen the media repeat this dubious linkage many times, but when it recently once again became the subject of a discussion among amateur detectives interested in the anthrax case, I finally decided to put together all my thoughts about "Hoaxes, Psychology and Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, and I created a new supplemental page for it HERE.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, July 5, 2003
July 3, 2004 - While Marilyn Thompson's article may not have contained anything new, she answered a few questions on WashingtonPost.com with some provocative and (possibly) informative statements:
Regarding the plastic box found in the pond, she says:
My understanding of the box is that it is a plastic or plexiglass box about the size of a small cooler made into a crude or makeshift glove box. It has holes in the sides for gloves. I have researched lightweight portable glove boxes that are commercially available and shown pictures of these to sources who have seen the evidence. I am told that these boxes are much more sophisticated than the one the FBI has found.She also indicates that she got her information second hand from her colleague Allen Lengel who apparently got the information from someone else - who may have gotten the information from someone else. Clearly, no reporter has actually seen the box.
Then there is this statement about the anthrax:
The FBI has now had this material analyzed by numerous expert labs -- yet even last week, work [word?] surfaced that the agency would send it out for more cutting-edge analysis.Regarding Dr. Hatfill working long hours at SAIC at the time of the mailings:
My sources who know and worked with Hatfill believe strongly that he was on duty at SAIC during those hours.And this about a possible end to the Dr. Hatfill situation:
Some sources have acknowledged privately that the FBI will soon have to put up or shut up and leave Dr. Hatfill alone.And, finally, this:
The FBI in recent months has narrowed its focus to Dr. Hatfill and a very few of his close associates.I cannot help but wonder if that statement is fact, wishful thinking, speculation or a total misinterpretation of facts.
July 3, 2003 - Yesterday's New York Times article linking Dr. Hatfill to mock-ups of mobile biological weapons labs used to train Special Forces has spawned new articles today in The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun. The article in the Sun seems the most relevant. It shows that Dr. Hatfill was merely doing his job - a very important job in the war against terrorism, which was his field of expertise. But that job clearly made him a "person of interest". According to the Baltimore Sun:
[FBI] Agents spent two weeks studying a mock mobile biolab he helped build on an old truck chassis on the property of a Frederick contractor, AFW Fabrication, then halted the unit for another look while it was being transported to Fort Bragg, according to a source close to the case.But it's been known for over a year that his work in this area made him a suspect to Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and other scientists. The problem is: There is no way to tell if the FBI's attention was purely the result of those scientists pointing at Dr. Hatfill or the result of some other evidence (even though most reports say there is nothing but innuendo). The following two paragraphs - also from the Sun - probably sum it all up:
However, as months have passed without any decision to charge or clear him, even the investigators have split into camps, according to an official who speaks regularly with agents on the case.
Some agents still believe that they're on the right track, while others have grown skeptical that Hatfill had any connection to the attacks.July 2, 2003 - This morning's New York Times contains a "new" article that is creating a lot of attention, but which, to me, seems to be old news. It's been known for well over a year that one of the reasons Dr. Hatfill was suspected by some people was because he took three non-functioning biosafety cabinets from USAMRIID. Scott Shane wrote about it in the Baltimore Sun on February 22, 2002:
"Among others, the agents asked about a former Fort Detrick scientist who returned a few years ago and took discarded biological safety cabinets, used for work with dangerous pathogens. Like some other military lab workers, the scientist has expertise on weaponizing anthrax and has been vaccinated against it, sources say."
"The scientist acknowledged that several years ago, with Army permission, he took three biosafety cabinets that were being discarded at Fort Detrick, but he said they were for use in a classified Defense Department project that he could not discuss."
So, now we know a little bit more about the "classified" DOD project. Big deal. And we now know that those "mobile bioweapons labs" in Iraq were of concern for a long time before Colin Powell talked about them at the U.N.
And we've all known that Dr. Hatfill last job was training first-responders and soldiers who might go into secret bioweapons labs. He was proud of doing such work.
This latest NYT article is filled with innuendo, but mainly it's innuendo about "clandestine" U.S. government projects. It seems to be taking us back to November 2001 when Barbara Hatch Rosenberg first began preaching that the anthrax attacks were the work of a U.S. government agent working to sabotage the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention. This new article does more of the same. It implies that the U.S. government was doing something illegal, and Dr. Hatfill was a key man on the project.
It's innuendo. But mostly IT'S ALL POLITICS!! It contains very little that is new to anyone who has been paying attention to the anthrax case.
July 1, 2003 - Reminding us all that there were plenty of nuts in the world before 9-11, a woman in Hawaii who was sending out anthrax hoax letters prior to 9-11 was just given a 7-year jail sentence - according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
June 29, 2003 - According to this morning's Washington Post, the FBI has concluded its search of that Maryland pond. In addition to the plastic box, the gloves, a piece of rope and the vials they found earlier, they now report having found a bicycle, a street sign, some fishing lures, some coins and a handgun. It's probably absolutely clear to every True Believer that Dr. Hatfill rode the bicycle to the pond wearing the gloves so he wouldn't leave fingerprints on it; he then used the plastic box as a makeshift glovebox to fill the envelopes with the anthrax that was in the vials, holding the box down in the muddy water with the piece of rope; then seeing that he'd completed the task without anyone seeing him, he threw away the fishing lures he'd taken along as a explanation for being there, he tossed away the handgun because shooting his way out of the place wasn't necessary, he checked the street sign to make sure he knew the way home, then threw the sign into the pond; then he flipped the coins into the pond to make a wish that all would turn out the way he planned. And then he walked home. Simple. And totally "obvious" to any True Believer.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 28, 2003
June 25, 2003 - While the only "news" in the anthrax case is that the FBI is continuing to poke around in the mud of that Maryland pond, I did some more research about anthrax and found this:
"Human anthrax is traditionally classified as either nonindustrial or industrial anthrax, depending on whether the disease is acquired directly from animals or indirectly during handling of contaminated animal products. Nonindustrial anthrax usually affects people who work with animals or animal carcasses, such as farmers, veterinarians, knackers, and butchers, and is almost always cutaneous. Industrial anthrax, acquired from handling contaminated hair, hides, wool, bone meal, or other animal products, has a higher chance of being pulmonary as a result of the inhalation of spore-laden dust."
"Death from inhaling Bacillus anthracis spores, then referred to more commonly as 'woolsorter's disease' or 'ragpicker's disease,' was a frequent hazard during the Industrial Revolution before a vaccine and better ventilation were provided."
Apparently, except for the strain, there's no difference
that type of inhalation anthrax produced "naturally" and the type that
killed the 5 people in the U.S. in 2001. The workplace
of the Industrial Revolution were simply revisted when someone sent
high concentrations of anthrax through the mails without
June 23, 2003 - After looking through dozens upon dozens of web sites for information related to working with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) spores, the only conclusion I could reach was that there are many ways to process such germs and their spores. And those processes are used every day.
I found nothing to indicate that a person familiar with creating Bt powders couldn’t also create anthrax powders with similar ease. The prior information I’d found indicated that the creation of powdered germs is fairly routine and within the capabilities of any expert in the business of making Bt (or similar bacilli) and probably even any second-year grad student in the field of microbiology. Nothing in my latest research changed any of that.
Although I could be misinterpreting things, it appears that creating "liquid anthrax" is just as easy as creating "liquid Bt", which is done every day. The process apparently involves forcing the vegetating cells to create spores while they are suspended in liquid in a fermenting tank. Such material may then be dried with a spray drier which usually coats the spores. It’s routine to coat Bt spores with various kinds of starches to protect them from ultraviolet rays of the sun when the spores are sprayed on plants as a pesticide. But it’s also standard procedure to coat the spores with various materials to prevent caking, and using fumed silica is one of the coating materials commonly used.
The attack anthrax spores do not appear to have been coated, and they do not appear to have been dried via a spray drier. Spray drying appears to result in slightly less than 50 percent viable spores even under ideal conditions, and the attack anthrax probably had close to 100 percent viable spores. As a result, logic indicates that, although the anthrax may have been grown in a fermenting tank of some kind, the spores were not created in a liquid in a fermenting tank but probably through some separate drying procedure. I.e., the spores were created by drying, not in a liquid prior to drying. Freeze drying seems unlikely. It's a very fast process which would kill all the germs instead of causing them to sporulate. (It takes hours for spores to form under ideal conditions.) And if the spores were already formed when freeze drying was done, it would probably tend to leave the mother cells in a condition that is not conducive to separating them from their spores. And many spores would not survive. So, the technique used to create the media anthrax was most likely something very simple. As simple as using a hair dryer. Simple processes imitate what is done in nature, and in nature the spores are automatically released as the mother cells wither and wear away in the heat and natural abrasions of being blown around by the winds.
Summing it all up: nothing was learned in the past few days of research that wasn’t already assumed on this site. But a lot was learned about ways that the culprit probably did NOT make the anthrax. And it was confirmed that the people who continue to insist that the anthrax could only have been made in a large government lab are talking politics and not talking science.
June 22, 2003 - While hunting for more Internet material to use in arguments with people who continue to believe that the anthrax could only be done in a massive government lab, I found an interesting illustration and description of how spores are formed which I added to the supplemental page on spores. It's a reminder that spores are manufactured and "refined" by nature, so all man really has to do is apply controls to the process.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 21, 2003
June 21, 2003 - While arguing with people who still think that the anthrax in the Senate letters could only have been produced in a massive government lab, I dug into the manufacturing of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a cousin to anthrax which is used on farms all over the world for pest control. Bt spores are separated into powders, they are coated and used with various materials - including fumed silica - and they are grown with materials that can be purchased in any supermarket. So, there's a very good chance that the anthrax refiner/mailer got his expertise from working with Bt (or some similar germ) and not from working with anthrax.
I've just begun the research, but one of the first items that popped up was a picture of a Bt spore still inside the dead "mother germ". (Anthrax is very similar but does not have the Crystalline Inclusion.) Check out the picture below, imagine it multiplied by a hundred billion, and you get what was in the media envelopes.
I changed the Refining Anthrax section to include this picture - and a picture of refined Ames anthrax spores - and to explain how it relates to the media mailings. And I also changed the supplemental page about spores for the same reason.
June 15, 2003 - Since they seemed to have missed the obvious in their investigation of the Kathy Nguyen case, and maybe also in their determination of how anthrax was spread throughout the AMI building, I cannot help but wonder if the FBI might also be missing the obvious on something else:
They seem to be concentrating on trying to determine how the Senators's anthrax was made. They're supposedly "reverse engineering it", trying to duplicate exactly what was in the letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy. And they're reportedly not making much headway.
But what about the media anthrax? Has the FBI learned all that can be learned from that? It appears that it's a mixture of spores and "debris" straight from forced sporulation. I.e., someone removed the living germs food supply and applied dry hot air to cause the germs to form spores. But was any significant expertise demonstrated? Is the 1-9 ratio of spores to "debris" significant? Can the exact method of forcing sporulation be determined? Was it a method that is commonly used on other types of sporulating germs in any commercial field? Did the material in the envelopes contain traces of the nutrients used? Is there anything significant about the nutrients used? Is there any real difference between individual spores in the media mailing versus individual spores in the Senate mailing? Is there any difference between the spores in the media letters and spores formed in a lab from other Ames germs? Is there anything unusual in the "debris"? Is anything unusual missing from the debris? Etc.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 14, 2003
June 12, 2003 - From the For What It's Worth Department: One of the leading experts on anthrax, Martin Hugh-Jones of Louisiana State University, reviewed my analysis of the Kathy Nguyen case and sent me this comment on June 8, 2003:
That the Nguyen case is ascribed to the second posting [i.e., the Oct. 9 mailing] follows from a simplist epidemiological view of incubation periods. You go for the nearest source event. However the NY Post cases just before hers suggests that there may have been a local recycling of the NY risk and she tragically caught the back end of it because of her age increasing her risk. What that "recycling" / regeneration could have entailed I have no idea.So, it's becoming very clear that if any expert examines the facts of the case, they can only concluded that Kathy Nguyen's anthrax came from the Sept. 18 mailing and the CDC, FBI and the New York Health Department totally missed the boat in their investigation. They were on the wrong path from moment-one and never varied from that incorrect path.
June 11, 2003 - While reading yet another repetitious article about the draining of that pond in Maryland, this one from The Voice of America, a single sentence jumped out at me - and a single phrase.
In December, divers recovered a plastic box from the pond with a hole cut in the side that investigators believe might have used to prepare the anthrax-laden envelopes that were mailed in October 2001.The phrase:
"a plastic box ... with a hole cut in the side ..."A hole? ONE hole? What kind of "glove box" has only one glove hole? It seemed to me that that same wording had been used before. So I checked back.
On May 19, Pat Clawson told Geraldo Rivera that according to his sources, the plastic looked "like a K-Mart sweater box; like a piece of Tupperware that just happened to have a hole in it." But a Washington Post article from May 30 uses this phrase: "described as a plastic or plexiglass box with holes cut into it". But a USA Today article from May 28 says, "The rope, some investigators thought, could have been used to anchor the box in the pond". How? By tying the rope through the ONE hole!?
Was it one hole or two? If it was only one, then this whole plastic box story is even more silly than it appears - if that's possible. The idea of filling the anthrax letters with one hand using a box that is underwater is beyond crazy.
June 10, 2003 - Just about every news organization in the country - and many outside of the United States - reporting on the draining of that Maryland pond. Each article includes the author's own interpretation of events and dubious "facts". An ABC News article by Brian Ross includes this item:
The FBI was led to the pond last year by bloodhounds, including one named Tinkerbell, tracking the scent picked up from Hatfill and the anthrax letters, federal sources said.That's the first time I've read that bloodhounds led the FBI to the pond. Previous stories said the FBI was led there by a comment Dr. Hatfill made at a cocktail party about how someone might dispose of evidence.
Then there is this tidbit of "information" (the original is HERE):
Other circumstantial evidence that has sources said has led the FBI to continue its focus on Hatfill includes his presence in Florida, around the time an anthrax-laced letter was mailed to the American Media Co. in Boca Raton, Fla.That's news to me. It's my understanding that Dr. Hatfill was working long hours at SAIC in Virginia at the time of both mailings, and he has time sheets to prove it. I've never before heard that Dr. Hatfill was in Florida at that time, although I did hear this morning that he is currently living in Florida. I think Brian Ross is playing fast and loose with the facts on this one, since Dr. Hatfill stated in his second press conference:
He [John Ashcroft] should know, in fact, that while the anthrax letters are mailed from New Jersey and the first anthrax incidents occurred in Florida, I did not set foot in either of these states in September or October of 2001.But, looking at Ross's comment carefully, I see this phrasing: "evidence that has sources said has led ...". That's not any form of English I know, so, some typist probably just forgot to SAVE the final version, and what we've get from ABC.com is a big typo.
An article in the The Washington Post this morning somewhat contradicts what Brian Ross wrote (although bloodhounds could still be involved):
The FBI has obtained documents under grand jury subpoena and interviewed hundreds of people to construct an elaborate day-by-day timeline of Hatfill's activities, the sources said. Agents also have been working to coax many who knew and worked with Hatfill to come forward with information. One such person -- a business associate of Hatfill's -- led the FBI's anthrax team to explore the possibility that the anthrax was put into envelopes in or around the murky Frederick pond.The same Washington Post article also includes this "information" which wasn't in earlier editions:
FBI agents also scrutinized a number of hoax letters that surfaced at about the same time as the anthrax letters, the sources said.
Two of the hoax letters were mailed from Malaysia and London, where authorities have worked closely with the FBI to pursue their origins and determine whether they have any link to Hatfill or anyone connected to him, the sources said.
A mailing opened on Oct. 12, 2001, in a Reno, Nev., office of Microsoft Licensing Inc. bore a Malaysian postmark, and police in Kuala Lampur were promptly enlisted by the FBI to help track its source. Nevada officials have said the envelope contained a check that Microsoft had sent to a Malaysian vendor, along with a pornographic photo. The white powder inside the envelope tested positive for anthrax bacteria, but that finding was proved false in more elaborate tests conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In its investigation of the letter, the FBI has questioned Malaysian relatives and associates of Hatfill's girlfriend, who moved to the United States from that nation, the sources said. Her relatives in the northeastern United States also were interviewed.Clearly the FBI is investigating every possible connection Dr. Hatfill might have had to the anthrax mailings, and just about any other crime, but why they would go to such extremes to find evidence against someone who is not an official "suspect" is highly debateable. It still seems that - for political reasons - they have no choice but to check out every lead that might point to Dr. Hatfill - even if the lead is totally silly.
Connecting Dr. Hatfill to various anthrax hoaxes is a big part of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's dubious logic. So, either the FBI believes her, or the FBI has no choice - politically - but to look where she tells them to look.
Meanwhile, in today's Baltimore Sun, Scott Shane supplies more information about the pond. It was stocked with "about 1,300 rainbow trout", which means it should have been a popular place for fishermen. And the FBI only has to drain about 50,000 gallons of water to empty the pond. That illustrates how small the pond is. A cubic foot contains 7.48 U.S. gallons. So, the pond contains 6,685 cubic feet of water, equivalent to a hypothetical pond that is only 50 feet long, 10 feet deep and about 13.3 feet wide. In Minnesota they would call that a "deep puddle". Some people have swimming pools that hold more water.
June 9, 2003 - According the Associated Press and InsideBaltimore.com, the FBI has begun to drain that pond in Frederick, Md. But it seems highly doubtful that any explanation will be given or and results will be made known any time soon.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 7, 2003
June 7, 2003 - Because some people with "other theories" about the anthrax case have criticized me for not giving them full coverage, I've added a new section with links to web sites with "other theories". That new section is HERE.
June 4, 2003 - The anthrax crowd is buzzing this morning about the dangerous powder found in some letters in Belgium. Reuters had a report on it. Those who think al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters are seeing only similarities, those who think al Qaeda did not send the anthrax letters are seeing only differences.
June 3, 2003 - Saturday afternoon, May 31st, I met with Pat Clawson at a restaurant in Mishawaka, Indiana. We both had to drive nearly 200 miles to get to the meeting, so in any movie eventually made of this case (with Gene Hackman playing Pat, Warren Beatty playing me and Meryl Streep playing Pat’s girlfriend), the meeting will seem very strange and mysterious. But it wasn’t. It was mostly just a thoroughly enjoyable 3-hour conversation at a nice buffet-type restaurant.
Pat didn’t let me in on any "inside secrets". Mostly he just went into details of the same things he’s been telling people as spokesperson for Dr. Steven Hatfill for the past year.
We also talked about the case in general. He seems inclined to think that al Qaeda did it. I told him I think it’s an American scientist living in Central New Jersey. We totally disagreed on how the FBI is handling the case. He felt he was closer to the case than I was, so his opinion was of greater value, and I felt that he was too close to the case to be objective, so my opinion was more likely correct. But we totally agreed on the lunacy of the Maryland pond situation and on John Ashcroft. And we totally agreed that the FBI’s 24-hour "bumperlock" surveillance of Dr. Hatfill must be a strain on Dr. Hatfill, and it is totally unlike anything either of us has ever seen or heard of before.
Pat Clawson didn’t know if the FBI has ever lost their tail on Dr. Hatfill, but he doesn’t think that Dr. Hatfill ever ditched them deliberately. He thinks the "bloodhound incident" was some intimidation and a harassment effort by the FBI, but he can’t explain about the dogs sniffing around the Denny’s restaurant nor why the dogs only sniffed around William Patrick’s garage and driveway.
There was one fact about the tailing of Dr. Hatfill that I didn’t previously fully realize: The FBI employees following Dr. Hatfill routinely operate "six to ten vehicles" at a time. It becomes a "motorcade" whenever Dr. Hatfill goes out for a drive. Sometimes they don’t just follow him, but "box him in", with vehicles in front, in back, and beside him. We speculated on why they might do that. Intimidation and harassment was Pat’s view. Taking no chances that Dr. Hatfill might "bolt" was another possibility. But we also got the creepy feeling that it might be to protect the person they put into the public eye from the crazies that are out there looking to make a name for themselves.
June 3, 2003 - One of the problems with running a web site like this one is that many people tend to misunderstand its purpose. They think I’m trying to campaign for some cause or to influence people or to persuade people to my way of thinking. That’s what most web sites seem to try to do.
Nope. This web site is just my analysis of the case. Take it or leave it.
In a three-way conversation between me, Richard M. Smith and a staunch True Believer that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks, the True Believer complained that I didn’t have enough material on my site about al Qaeda and that I should try to disprove all his findings about al Qaeda. If I didn’t try to disprove his case that al Qaeda sent the anthrax, then my site wasn’t "fair". Try as I might, I couldn’t make him understand that this site is purely to show my analysis of the anthrax data. I only include material about al Qaeda and Dr. Hatfill because there’s no way to avoid it. And I try to keep it to a minimum, because my analysis says that neither one was involved in the anthrax case. Data about them is therefore "noise", not the "signal".
During the conversation, Richard M. Smith pointed out that while my site includes the Washington Post article from March 23, 2003, titled "Al Qaeda Near Biological, Chemical Arms Production", my site doesn’t point out the following statements:
"Because of al Qaeda's limited sophistication, the documents do not support a theory that al Qaeda had a role in the anthrax letters mailed in late 2001 to Senate and news media offices that killed five people."
"Another reassuring sign, officials said, is that the strain of anthrax involved in al Qaeda's planning is not among the most virulent."In another Washington Post article from March 28, 2003, titled "Moussaoui Said Not to Be Part of 9/11 Plot", which I include on my site, I failed to mention anywhere that the article says,
"Mohammed has also told interrogators that he knows nothing about why Moussaoui and some of the hijackers were interested in learning how to operate crop-dusters, but he has said it could have been connected to Sufaat's work on anthrax. The effort by Sufaat, who obtained a biology degree at Sacramento State University, stalled because he could not procure a strain of anthrax that could be dispersed as a weapon, Mohammed has told interrogators, according to the sources."Richard’s comment was: "Sounds to me like Al Qaeda's anthrax effort never got out of first gear." And he suggested that I update my site "to basically say that Al Qaeda was very interested in anthrax, but all indications point to the fact that anthrax was beyond their reach in 2001. Also, it is unlikely that they ever got Ames."
The True Believer merely complained that I didn’t point out the elements in these article that indicate that al Qaeda had plans to do nasty things to harm America. And he felt it was just a continuation of their prior nasty plans which included 9-11 and the anthrax attacks.
I added this information to my "Other Theories" page even though it’s just more "noise" that doesn’t really relate to the anthrax case, and doesn’t help the purpose of this site, which is to analyze the data about the case - NOT to disprove other people’s theories.
In this conversation and several others, I got the very strong feeling that people are afraid of believing that al Qaeda wasn't behind the anthrax attacks. They seem to fear that if they say such a thing, and if al Qaeda atom bombs Washington, their lack of belief in al Qaeda's guilt will somehow make them partially responsible. They want to say "knock wood" for even thinking such a thing. Superstition is still a force in America.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 31, 2003
May 30, 2003 - Another article about the junk found in that Maryland pond - this time in today's Washington Post - seems to be trying to make a conflict out of the fact that initial sampling tested positive for anthrax in the "plastic box" and later tests indicated there was no anthrax. The rest of the world has become accustomed to incorrect initial reports about finding anthrax. There have been hundreds of them. How can a Washington Post editor think this is news? The article also says that among the junk that was found were some "gloves wrapped in plastic". Gloves found in a pond where people go fishing? Is that really suspicious? If the gloves really exist, we know they were not the type of gloves used to create a "glove box". Other reports say those gloves were not found.
Meanwhile, a columnist for the Accuracy In Media (AIM) website suggests that links to al Qaeda should be more thoroughly examined. The columnist complains that the FBI "dismissed solid evidence that some of the 9/11 hijackers were exposed to anthrax". "Solid evidence?" Really? How accurate is that statement? The al Qaeda theory is so silly and full of holes that it makes the Dr. Hatfill theory look brilliant by comparison. And the Dr. Hatfill theory consists nearly entirely of innuendo.
It seems to me that the FBI has compartmentalized the anthrax investigation in order to stop leaks - as may have happened with the stories about finding the copy machines. So, the FBI "employees" following Dr. Hatfill probably have no clue as to what evidence the "inside team" may have. Same with attorneys at the DOJ and other FBI personel who are not part of the "inside team" but who make themselves available as "sources".
When the media provides our only information, and the media is just speculating about the meaning of what "sources" who are also just speculating tell them, accuracy in media is a concern. But switching from one screwball theory to another screwball theory that may be even more ridiculous is NOT the path to "accuracy in the media".
May 29, 2003 - An article in yesterday's USA Today says that the FBI also found a piece of rope at that bottom of that pond near Frederick, MD. Wow! A piece of rope found at the bottom of a pond where people fish! With stunning news like that, it's amazing they haven't called out the National Guard and lined up firing squads!
With Iraq apparently being out of the picture as a potential suspect in the anthrax case, that leaves only two "possibilities" for the "clueless" media to speculate about: Dr. Hatfill and al Qaeda. If a reporter or editor doesn’t think either one of those "possibilities" did it, then they usually write about how the FBI is apparently without a clue as to who did it. (In reality, it just means the reporter or editor is without a clue as to who did it.)
One of the problems with having a web site which says that Dr. Hatfill is almost certainly not the anthrax mailer is that the True Believers who still believe al Qaeda was behind the anthrax mailings are on the same side. They also do not think Dr. Hatfill did it, because they are certain al Qaeda did it.
It’s very frustrating to be in an argument over whether or not Dr. Hatfill did it and to have your point of view be supported by people who think al Qaeda did it!
The problem is: the "al Qaeda Did It" bunch are almost certainly the most illogical people on the Internet. When you try to pin them down on why al Qaeda would have included medical advice in the media letters, or any of the other facts that point away from al Qaeda, the True Believers' standard answer is "Sometimes al Qaeda members do things that aren’t logical - just like everyone else".
I wish I really wish the FBI would give some indication of what is really going on. I don't think it helps anyone to have America think the FBI is incompetent. And that seems to be the only message one can get from recent news stories about the anthrax case.
May 25, 2003 - A lengthy new article titled "How one man lied his way into the most dangerous lab in America" in a new magazine called "Seed" shows several errors and/or misstatements on the first page as it begins a dissection of the life of Dr. Steven Hatfill. The author (contributing editor Simon Cooper) says that Bob Stevens died on October 2, 2001, when Stevens actually died at 4 p.m. on Oct. 5. Then he says that the attack anthrax was created "possibly using a process similar to one developed at Fort Detrick". It may be "possible it was similar", but the scientists have said that it was not done in a way that anyone at USAMRIID has seen before. Then it says "The attacker, the Bureau suggested, had worked at USAMRIID some time in the past, might have worked as a CIA contractor, and could have a connection to the UN's weapons inspectors". Whaaaaat? When did the FBI ever suggest that? Dr. Rosenberg did, but I can find no reference that the FBI ever did. The author just drops that statement and provides no evidence to back it up. While seemingly pointing the finger at Dr. Hatfill, the article really doesn't provide anything new about the anthrax case. And while the title implies that Dr. Hatfill was hired by USAMRIID without a thorough check of his credentials, the article says that Hatfill was never actually an employee there, merely a "volunteer" working on a federal grant and on loan from from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Dr. Hatfill has a lot of "splaining to do" about his resumés, but the final words of the article say it all regarding the anthrax case: "no government department or agency has offered any evidence of Hatfill's guilt."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 24, 2003
May 23, 2003 - In an appearance on Court TV this afternoon, Dr. Hatfill's spokesman Pat Clawson reminded everyone that the FBI has said that it has THIRTY "persons of interest" in the anthrax case. Dr. Hatfill is merely the only one ever specifically mentioned by Attorney General John Ashcroft. And Civil Rights Attorney Norm Pattis, who called Ashcroft a "constitutional crook", reminded everyone that the FBI has stated repeatedly that Dr. Hatfill is NOT a suspect in the case. From what I see, it all really boils down to how Dr. Hatfill became known to the media. All his troubles result from that.
May 22, 2003 - There have been numerous articles about the accident on Saturday involving Dr. Hatfill and the FBI agents tailing him, but the one in The Baltimore Sun seems the most comprehensive and illuminating. Whether or not it was his own fault is debatable, but it appears that Dr. Hatfill was truly injured - and being without health insurance or much money, and being a doctor himself - he chose not to go to a hospital.
What's most interesting about the article, though, is the fact that very few people seem to fully understand why the FBI would follow Dr. Hatfill so aggressively.
"Only when FBI surveillance teams trail foreign spies are they sometimes directed to 'bumperlock' their targets, following closely to prevent them from meeting contacts or visiting dead drops, [Mike Hayes, who spent 20 years as an FBI agent specializing in surveillance] said.So, now we have some new reasons to "bumperlock" someone: (1) To verify that Dr. Hatfill did not meet any actual suspect in the case and complicate an already complicated case, (2) to assure the American public (and the group of scientists led by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg who believe that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer) that Dr. Hatfill does not have any opportunity to prepare any new anthrax letters, and (3) to make sure Dr. Hatfill doesn't ditch his FBI tail again and force the FBI to again bring out the bloodhounds to figure out where he was during the time he was missing. (If there was another anthrax incident and every second of Dr. Hatfill's time was not fully known to the FBI, there would be hell to pay. And Dr. Hatfill would almost certainly never see the outside of a prison cell until the case was closed.)
It's a good day when we learn something new, and these days we're learning something new about FBI activities nearly every day - along with learning about the idiotic effects of political pressures. One thing Dr. Hatfill apparently needs to learn, however, is that the agents following him are not his problem. Getting angry at them is not a solution. His anger should be directed at the person at the top of the chain of command who almost certainly authorized this "bumperlock" surveillance: his former idol Attorney General John Ashcroft.
May 19, 2003 - Dr. Hatfill's friend, Pat Clawson, appeared on Fox News Channel twice in the past 24 hours to describe how Dr. Hatfill's foot was "crushed" by an FBI vehicle that had been tailing him. This morning, the Associated Press reports that "Hatfill did not seek hospital treatment and refused attention from paramedics at the scene."
Interestingly, it was Dr. Hatfill who was cited by the police. They issued him a $5 ticket for "walking to create hazard". He appears to have forgotten that the FBI agents following him aren't doing it because they think it's "fun", they are doing it as part of their jobs, because they were ordered to do so, and interfering with them could be considered to be illegal. It's probably a good general rule that if you are being tailed by the FBI, do not try to make them look like fools and do not try to play childish games with them. It's counter-productive.
In Pat Clawson's first interview, on the Geraldo Rivera Show (the other was on Fox & Friends), he also described the "plastic box" found in the pond. He said that according to his sources, it looked "like a K-Mart sweater box; like a piece of Tupperware that just happened to have a hole in it." And he added, "From what I understand it didn't have anything to do with bioweapons".
May 18, 2003 - Not being satisfied with its ridiculous story last August about how some bloodhounds got the anthrax mailer's scent off of the anthrax letters, Newsweek has joined the speculation about the "clear plastic container" found in that pond near Frederick, MD., by using a sensationalistic headline: "Anthrax: Finally, the FBI Uncovers a Tantalizing Clue". The most solid piece of information in the article is this:
While some law-enforcement officials are taking the novel theory seriously, others have dismissed it as fantasy. “It got a lot of giggles,” says one FBI source.In other words, it could have nothing to do with handling anthrax, but those who want it to be "a clue" are free to speculate, and the people who know what it is are free to laugh at their speculations. Why not publish a picture of the item!? What's the point of having the media endlessly speculate? A picture could cause someone to come forward and say, "Ah! That's a makeshift device I made for cleaning fish without getting scales all over the boat. It turned out to be too hard to use, and I threw it overboard."
The image here is one of the media mindlessly speculating about Dr. Hatfill and the FBI giggling over their speculations. It's an image in which everyone looks incompetent.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 17, 2003
May 13, 2003 - According to NBC, the mayor of Frederick, MD, is wondering "what is the sudden big deal?", since the subject of draining the ponds was discussed months ago. But then the article mentions this: "One theory is that the Anthrax spores were born in the pond." Huh!? That needs some explanation! Meanwhile, according to an editorial in today's New York Times, the mobile labs in Iraq could be what the army says the are - or they could be "chemical processing units intended to refurbish Iraq's antiaircraft missiles". Some days it seems like the best idea is just to go on a vacation for a few weeks so that when you come back all the real "facts" will be sorted out. But, of course, there'll also be a new batch of speculation, theories and Huh!? news.
May 12, 2003 - At least one question was answered this morning when CNN reported:
Just a follow up on what you said leading into me, you said there were traces of anthrax found on an item. Actually in the preliminary testing of this item, they thought that it was anthrax, but subsequent testing of that to proved that be negative.
So while there were people saying that, well, maybe we have an anthrax connection here, our officials have said subsequent to that that testing proved negative, that sometimes early tests come up positive. In this case, it was negative, but they still have high interest in this pond, want to get in there and see what they find.I.e., it was just another case of wanting to be first with the news - even if it's incorrect.
At this point in time I certainly wouldn't be surprised if the "clear box, with holes that could accommodate gloves to protect the user as he worked" turned out to be some kind of fish finder box. I wouldn't even be surprised if the "vials wrapped in plastic" turned out to be a couple empty Jim Beam pints in a plastic liquor store bag.
May 12, 2003 - This morning CNN is reporting that a trace of anthrax was found in the makeshift "glove box" or some other piece of equipment found in the Maryland mountains back in December. The Associated Press and the Baltimore Sun are repeating the news and adding other comments, but the only questions seem to be coming from people on Internet forums: Wouldn't anthrax be naturally found in such a location? What advantage is there to using a glove box underwater? If there was a danger that the glovebox might leak out anthrax, wouldn't it also leak in water? Are we supposed to assume that both mailings were done this way, or just the second mailing? Could the makeshift "glove box" be just a makeshift fish-finder device, and the holes in the sides just the places where the device is gripped as you put it on the surface of the water to see if there are any fish in the area? Is this suddenly in the news because the war with Iraq is over - and we no longer need to keep alive the idea that Iraq could have been behind the anthrax mailings?
May 11, 2003 - The Washington Post and UPI are reporting that the FBI has turned up something interesting in the anthrax case as a result of those searches of the ponds last winter in the Maryland mountains near USAMRIID. What the information means is debateable, but it clearly puts Dr. Steven Hatfill in the spotlight once again.
To me the information makes little sense, since it seems vastly more difficult to use a glovebox on or under water than on a table. How much force would be needed to push down "a partly submerged airtight chamber"?
Let's see ... water weighs 62.4 pounds per cubic
a very small glove box would
What am I missing? I see only huge problems and disadvantages to preparing the letters on or under water. I see no advantages - except that it's a quick way to get rid of the equipment. But you'd first have to get the equipment to the place. And unless you brought along some form of lighting, you'd have to do it in broad daylight .... in a public place while the whole country is on the alert for suspicious activity! And then we're supposed to believe he did it a second time for the second mailing!?!?
The Washington Post article also says:
"Some believe that the killer could have completed the task on land and simply dumped materials into the pond to avoid detection."Ah! That makes a bit more sense. But not much. There are countless ways to destroy such things so that they can never be traced. Dumping a glovebox in a pond still seems like something from a Jessica Fletcher TV mystery.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 10, 2003
May 9, 2003 - In the first news item about the anthrax case in a long time, CBS reports that the FBI is still watching Dr. Hatfill. The report includes a comment that says more about the Bush administration than about Dr. Hatfill:
"And now one possible outcome, sources suggest, is that the government might take the unusual step of bringing charges against Hatfill unrelated to the anthrax attacks at all, if they become convinced that's the only way to prevent future incidents."Van Harp, the senior FBI official in charge of the case, is retiring this week and, while he declined to talk specifics, CBS reports this:
“'I think we've made progress,' said Harp of the case against Hatfill."One can only wonder if Harp really said that about "the case against Hatfill". Or was it just a comment about the anthrax case in general which CBS applied to Hatfill.
What might be most interesting is that, according to the article, the FBI is willing to trump up charges against Hatfill in order to arrest him for something they can't prove he did, and CBS reports that as if it was an ACCEPTABLE AND ROUTINE EVENT.
May 8, 2003 - The media is reporting on the discovery of the mobile lab in Iraq that could be used for creating biological weapons. An Associated Press article on the subject includes this:
"While some of the equipment on the trailer could have been used for purposes other than biological weapons agent production, U.S. and U.K. technical experts have concluded that the unit does not appear to perform any function beyond what the defector said it was for, which is the production of biological agents," Cambone said.However, America's leading expert on anthrax (Martin Hugh-Jones of LSU) explains things in an Internet forum this way:
"The Iraqis had a number of mobile laboratories in the early 1970s which were used to brew up B. thuringensis out in the cotton fields as these cultures had a very short shelf life. Obviously they might later have been used to brew up B. anthracis either on an experimental basis or in an intended militiary role. Finding such a laboratory is one thing, proving that it was for military purposes is another .."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Apr.
thru Saturday, May 3, 2003
May 3, 2003 - An article in The Financial Times of London indicates that the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq is going to turn into the same type of endless argument I've had with people who believe that Iraq and/or al Qaeda were behind the anthrax attacks: They argue that if I can't prove that they were not behind the attacks, then that proves that they were. Who can prove that the WMD were not dumped in the desert or burned or shipped to some other country?
May 1, 2003 - According to an article in today's "Nature", there were only slight differences in 11 out of the 5000 genes in the anthrax used in the anthrax attacks versus (apparently) some kind of base "cured" Ames strain. According to Timothy Read of The Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland, this indicates "They probably have a recent common ancestor". (Since germs can be frozen for decades and spores can remain unchanged for even longer, I have no clue as to how they can make that determination.)
Apr. 30, 2003 - A chart in the May 5 issue of Newsweek magazine which shows that the SARS epidemic apparently peaked in mid-March finally ended a 6 week debate with the same guy who thinks that the Florida anthrax was from a "third mailing". The SARS debate was a "A Study in Panic", and I put it on a web page by that name.
Apr. 29, 2003 - According to the latest from Reuters, the Egyptian sailor who died in Brazil did not die of anthrax. So, it was all much ado about nothing. Apparently it was just a matter of an incorrect diagnosis at an autopsy generating a lot of speculation which was reported as news. And some reporters are still reporting - like today's London's Evening Standard which has this headline: "Anthrax attack on US averted"
Apr. 29, 2003 - The latest about the "anthrax ship" from MSNBC is this:
U.S. disputes Brazil ‘anthrax’ case
NBC NEWS AND NEWS SERVICES
BRASILIA, Brazil, April 28 — Federal officials in the United States dismissed a report from Brasilia on Monday that suggested a bioterrorism case had been uncovered. The report emerged after a crew member of an Egyptian merchant ship died in northern Brazil after opening a suitcase he was said to have been carrying to Canada. Local authorities said he had died “almost certainly of anthrax,” but U.S. sources told NBC that the case appeared instead to involve drug smuggling.It would seem that the chances are about 90 percent that this story will turn out to be unconnected to terrorism, and there's probably about a 50 percent chance that it will turn out to have nothing to do with anthrax. Meanwhile, facts continue to trickle in as if Belém was a remote trading post in the jungle instead of a modern port with a population of over a million. The latest report from Knight-Ridder was written by reporters in Buenos Aires and Washington. According to The Halifax Daily News, even the Brazilian ambassador doesn't know exactly what's going on and is suspicious of the reports. Only the conspiracy theorists seem to know exactly what's happening.
Apr. 28, 2003 - The English language media are beginning to report on the "possible terrorist plot" that may have been foiled in Brazil, starting with Reuters via The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and an Israeli web site. Continuing with MSNBC. But it all seems very tentative - like news that is mostly rumor. There are just too many things that don't make sense - like improbable incubation times, the lack of any mention of finding containers of anthrax, the fact that all the information is coming from one guy who is having his 15 minutes of fame.
Apr. 28, 2003 - While the Brazilian media is making big news of the anthrax death of the first mate of that ore carrier now in Nova Scotia, CBS News says the ship is apparently clean and the man may have gotten got anthrax when he visited a farm where there may have been an infected animal.
The anthrax forums are working again, so the alarmist and conspiracy theorist e-mails are once again pouring in. An old article from The Los Angeles Times about anthrax on American farms and ranches doesn't pacify them. They just chant: "I suppose you believed Tommy Thompson when he said Bob Stevens drank from a stream in North Carolina as well!"
Apr. 27, 2003 - Canadian health officials have finished checking the Egyptian ore ship, but the results of the swabs won't be known for a couple days. Meanwhile, there is a lot of speculation about a "package" the dead officer had apparently brought with him from Egypt. It was apparently taken off the ship in Brazil along with the man's body. Brazilian newspapers are speculating (in Portuguese) that the package could contain anthrax, but so far it seems to be just speculation. The Brazilian media is also speculating that it could have been an "aborted terrorist action". So far, no one has been able to find anything about this in any English language newspaper.
Apr. 27, 2003 - According to Judy Miller in today's New York Times, a leading figure in Iraq's biological warfare program is now free to talk, and one of the first things Dr. Nissar Hindawi had to say was:
"Iraq was never able to make dried anthrax"
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Apr.
thru Saturday, Apr. 26, 2003
Apr. 24, 2003 - There is news in today's Montreal Gazette and Canadian Press that an Egyption ship carrying bauxite and headed for Canada has been quarantined. A crewmember had died of anthrax in Brazil. That prompted a question which caused me to look around the net for information about how many cases of anthrax there are in the world. The answer was found HERE. The big mystery for me on this is: How can an autopsy find that a person died of anthrax and not be conclusive? Apparently it's possible, because they are going to perform a second autopsy for confirmation.
Apr. 23, 2003 - The article in yesterday's Hartford Courant saying that Wallingford had a higher concentration of anthrax spores than any other post office facility has generated a flurry of conspiracy theories as to how that could have happened. The lead theory is that "the second AMI letter" was sent from Yale, and there's a conspiracy to keep the American people from knowing about "the Yale connection". Clearly, it doesn't take more than one unexplained fact to generate a dozen conspiracy theories. And if you can't prove them wrong, then the theorists assume they are right.
On the other hand, the coollist.com forums where I've been discussing the anthrax case are suddenly not operating - and haven't been since Friday. Could it be part of a conspiracy to prevent discussion of the anthrax case? Or maybe coollist.com just has technical problems. This web site was down for the entire weekend because of "technical problems". Hmmm. Could it be that there is a conspiracy to ...
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Apr.
thru Saturday, Apr. 19, 2003
Apr. 18, 2003 - Jeeze! Yesterday I pointed out that the FBI may have been wrong about how anthrax was spread through the AMI offices, and today The Washington Post has a story that Van Harp, the head of the FBI's anthrax investigation, will retire, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has a story that the AMI building has been sold. It makes me wonder if it was because of something I said.
Apr. 17, 2003 - Looking back through old newspaper articles about how the anthrax was distributed around the AMI building, I found an article in the Palm Beach Post which said that originally "officials surmised the anthrax might have been spread by [Ernesto Blanco's] rolling mail cart used to deliver the letters to AMI departments". But later the FBI concluded it must have been the copy paper. The article also says:
"More important, the FBI's discoveries will lay the foundation for an emerging branch of science that studies anthrax dispersal in public buildings."I can find no information indicating that they ever considered the cleaning staff's vacuum cleaner, nor any indication that they ever checked the vacuum cleaner. One wonders how often the cleaning staff changed bags in the vacuum cleaner - and just how much anthrax could still be inside it. It would seem like a good thing to consider for this "emerging branch of science".
Apr. 15, 2003 - The vacuum cleaner subject continues to intrigue me. When someone cleans an office they move the vacuum cleaner from place to place, plugging it in at each place. Each time it is turned off, the bag deflates. Each time it is moved, the material in the bag jossles around a bit. And each time it is turned it, the material in the bag is really shaken up, which would cause new material to escape through the pores. If one vacuum cleaner was used for the entire AMI building, moving from the first floor to the third, that would explain why there was less anthrax on the third floor (Bob Stevens' floor) than on the first or second. And the use of a single vacuum cleaner makes that scenario much more logical than the the anthrax being transported by the movement of copy paper. Plus, when someone cleans an office, they pay particular attention to high-traffic areas - such as the area around a copy machine.
I modified the Florida Section to reflect the fact that the use of a vacuum cleaner could easily have played a part in Bob Stevens' death.
Apr. 14, 2003 - The idea from April 4 where I figured that a vacuum cleaner would be a perfect device for distributing anthrax spores around AMI nagged at me because I didn't really know how well the filter bags worked. So, I checked The Internet and found this:
Hoover Allergen Filtration (MicroFiltration) Bags - "Traps 99% of particles down to 5 microns! Filters a wide range of airborne particles including many pollens, spores, other allergens and dust mites. Ideal for many with dust related or allergic discomforts. Electrostatically charged liner enhances the capture of extremely fine particles."
Panasonic Micron Bags - "Total Efficiency of 99.9% at five microns. Can even trap some particles as small as 0.1 microns."
Sharp Twin Ply Microfiltration Bag - "The highly efficient Twin Ply microfiltration dustbag traps over 99% of dust and dirt down to 5 microns. Twin Ply's electrostatically charged fibers capture fine dust particles for enhanced air filtration and cleaner air in your home."So, anthrax spores - which are typically 1 micron in size - could easily escape a standard vacuum cleaner bag. And as I figured on April 4, a vacuum cleaner would be a very good device for separating individual anthrax spores from sporulation debris and spore clumps so that the material released from the bag would be particularly deadly. Certainly someone did some vacuuming between the time the anthrax letter was opened and the time (around 3 weeks later) when the AMI building was shut down. So, more than ever it makes me wonder what happened to the vacuum cleaner and the person who used it. (If you don't know how a vacuum cleaner works, click HERE to find out.)
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Apr.
thru Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003
Apr. 11, 2003 - Today's Baltimore Sun includes a lengthy article by Scott Shane that seems to indicate that progress is still being made on the anthrax case, and that "the mailed anthrax was probably produced by renegade scientists and not a military program such as Iraq's." The article also says that the anthrax was not coated with silicon as some previous articles have suggested.
Someone sent me an e-mail with this comment about the Sun article:
"It seems to me the most interesting statement in the article is that the Insight Magazine reporter was interviewed only two weeks ago. That would seem to indicate that as of two weeks ago, the FBI was still building a case against Hatfill."My response was:
"Could be. Or it could mean that, as of two weeks ago, the FBI was still responding to screwball tips about Dr. Hatfill. Asking questions about a picture on a refrigerator in the background of a photograph from 5 years ago seems very reminiscent of searching some lakes in the mountains because of a tip from someone who talked hypothetically about anthrax with Dr. Hatfill at a cocktail party."Apr. 7, 2003 - It's difficult to find anything about the anthrax case anywhere, but an article appeared in The Trenton Times today that included this information:
"The FBI and Postal Service continue to offer a $2.5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who mailed the letters. So far, no arrests have been made.
"Rep. Rush Holt, D-Hopewell Township, said he met with the FBI a week ago and was encouraged.
"'Although I have been critical in the past of the conduct of the FBI's investigation, I am pleased to report that the investigation seems to be making progress,' Holt said.
"'The FBI has narrowed its search. That's about all I am permitted to say at this point.'"Apr. 6, 2003 - I finished reading "The Killer Strain" by Marilyn W. Thompson, and Scott Shane's book review was correct in saying that Thompson doesn't provide anything new about Dr. Hatfill. She does, however, seem to think that Dr. Hatfill made a suspect of himself by going before the media to say he's innocent. And while she does mention that Barbara Hatch Rosenberg was pointing her finger at Hatfill without actually naming him, the author fails to connect the dots and point out (and/or realize) that BHR was pointing at Hatfill for seven months before the FBI did that first public search of his apartment.
Thompson spends a lot of time on the "mistakes" made by the CDC in not closing down the mail sorting facilities and prescribing Cipro to everyone as soon as the first case of anthrax showed up in such a facility. But she also mentions that the initial cases (Morgano and Heller) at the postal facilities were both cutaneous cases, and Cipro won't prevent you from getting cutaneous anthrax. Plus, she mentions that the CDC was criticized for giving Cipro to a lot of people who didn't really need it.
The book confirms that the wet smear along the bottom of the Daschle envelope (and apparently the brown stains on the letter itself) were the result of a screwup by John Ezzell at USAMRIID when he first cleaned the surface of a work area inside a "glove box" (a.k.a. "safety cabinet") with bleach and then propped the envelope up against the back of the box to take a picture of it. Some bleach was still wet on the surface and it soaked into the bottom of the letter. I changed the Envelopes and Letters sections of this web page to mention that.
The book goes into a lot of details about individual anthrax cases, the backgrounds of scientists and others involved in the case, Bioport, CDC conflicts with HHS, and the gradual unfolding of all the events connected to the anthrax attacks.
The four biggest items of "new" information I got out of the book are (1) the fact that Bob Stevens worked late on the evening of September 26th (which is interesting only in implications and realizations; see the comments for April 4), (2) the information about how the bloodhounds were used to sniff William Patrick III's garage and driveway (again only interesting because of what it appears to mean regarding the true purpose for the FBI using the bloodhounds; check HERE), (3) the cause of the wet stain on the Daschle envelope the brown stains on the letter, and (4) the information that all the letters were taped shut (not just the Daschle and Leahy letters), apparently so the culprit wouldn't have to wet the glue on the flap.
Marilyn W. Thompson makes no guesses as to who the anthrax culprit may be.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Mar.
thru Saturday, Apr. 5, 2003
Apr. 5, 2003 - I'm wondering if a vacuum cleaner wouldn't have done a much better job of distributing spores around AMI than the movement of copy paper. The more I think about it, the more it seems that a vacuum cleaner is absolutely perfect for that task.
"The anthrax was the Ames strain, a clue that would lead authorities to conclude some weeks later that the attack was not foreign but most likely the work of a homegrown terrorist. Someone had managed to secure the strain and was using it to send a wake-up call to the U.S. government."Something that might be "new" from page 29:
"For USAMRIID's vaccine challenge studies, researchers used a liquid spore preparation of the Ames strain of B. anthracis. The spores were suspended in a clear watery solution."The solution was sprayed into a fine mist and breathed in by monkeys to determine how many spores actually made it to their lungs. This is the best definition of "liquid anthrax" that I've seen so far.
The book goes into details about the postal worker cases, about America's bioweapons programs in the 1950s and early 60s, about some creepy bioweapons tests done back then and some scary tests done decades later, and about the backgrounds of many experts in the field, including William Patrick III. Clearly, Patrick was viewed as a possible suspect early in the case. And in the summer of 2002 he appears to have been tested for to see if he'd recently met with Dr. Hatfill. On page 49 is says this about the bloodhounds event:
" ... the agents brought with them what Patrick described as two 'marvelous bloodhounds' that had recently been used to survey Hatfill's apartment. The dogs were led through Patrick's garage, then came out to the driveway to sniff both the scientist and his wife, looking for any trace of a scent that might somehow be connected to the anthrax crimes."The fact that the bloodhounds checked Patrick's garage and driveway seems to confirm that the FBI was trying to determine if Dr. Hatfill had visited Patrick after Hatfill dumped his FBI tail on a drive from Louisiana to Maryland. (More about that HERE.)
On page 75 of the book it says that Bob Stevens worked late at AMI on the evening of September 26, 2001 - the day after Stephanie Dailey opened that letter containing a strange powder.
If Stevens worked late, he may have been there as a cleaning crew vacuumed the carpets! Vacuuming the carpets would reaerosolize the anthrax!
Looking at a vacuum cleaner, it sucks in air with the dirt and releases the air through the tiny pores in the vacuum cleaner bag. That would be a perfect method to distribute the tiny anthrax spores into the air. The process of vacuuming might even help separate the anthrax sporulation debris from the spores. Certainly, the porous vacuum cleaner bag would put large amounts of tiny anthrax spores into the air!
This information would probably be of more interest to the CDC than the FBI, but I've never been able to make contact with anyone at the CDC, so I notified the FBI. If it isn't an obvious conclusion that they came to long long ago, they can tell the CDC.
(If this was a screenplay, what I'd do at this point would be to have the FBI rush to the office of the cleaning services company that does the cleaning for AMI, where they would have to pressure the owner to learn that an illegal alien named "Maria" did the vacuuming on the evening of September 26, and she failed to report to work the following Monday. No one bothered to check further. They just assumed she took another job. Then the FBI would trace "Maria" down and find that she was found dead by her landlady in her rented room that Monday - October 1, 2003 - misdiagnosed by the coroner as having died of some routine problem and buried on the 3rd, the first true death from the anthrax attack. The Unnoticed Victim.)
Apr. 3, 2003 - While there seems to be absolutely nothing happening on the anthrax case at the moment, I just received in the mail a copy of "The Killer Strain" by Marilyn W. Thompson, which - if it doesn't provide any new information about the anthrax case - will hopefully at least provide a different perspective. Meanwhile, the SARS epidemic is finally showing some "good news", and the arguments that SARS could have been a bioterrorist attack seem to have subsided. Plus, the war in Iraq seems to have quieted the "true believers" who felt Iraq was responsible for the anthrax attacks. So, I should have some time to get some reading done.
The first piece of "new information" from "The Killer Strain" isn't very encouraging. On page 12 it says that, after it was determined that Ernesto Blanco also had anthrax, the FBI paid the AMI offices a visit, and ... :
"The feds carted off Stevens's office computer keyboard and mail slot, chunks of carpeting, clothing, and equipment for testing."While some of this may be true, other reports say that they merely swabbed Stevens' computer keyboard and mail slot for traces of anthrax. I'll have to do some research to see if they carted away his in-box or the mail sorting bins from the mailroom, but it's difficult trying to visualize the feds "carting off" Stevens' mail slot. That's a bit like "carting off" a donut hole. Apr, 4 Added Note: on page 80 it says they took "his entire mail cubicle from the AMI mailroom". That makes slightly more sense. Most likely they took an entire sorting bin - with dozens of other mail slots besides Stevens'. And that poses the questions: Were spores found in any other mail slots? Was there some kind of misunderstanding by reporters about exactly where the spores were found? Was the whole sorting bin referred to as "Stevens' mail slot"? Or did AMI have some kind of sorting bin where a single "cubicle" could be removed?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Mar.
thru Saturday, Mar. 29, 2003
Mar. 25, 2003 - I've had several people question whether or not there could be a connection between the Maryland snipers and the anthrax case. John Allen Muhammad was a Muslim who turned terrorist, and Lee Malvo apparently had connections to Florida and New Jersey. Plus, Malvo apparently has a tendency to write in block letters.
While I haven't done any research to prove that they weren't involved, it certainly seems highly unlikely that Muhammad and Malvo would have had access to anthrax and the technical knowledge and equipment to refine and use anthrax.
But it is interesting that Lee Malvo writes in block letters. A sample of Lee Malvo's handwriting provides a very interesting comparison to the handwriting on the anthrax letters. As with Dr. Hatfill, Lee Malvo writes his R's different from the anthrax letter writer. I added a new section about Lee Malvo's handwriting to the Handwriting Page. To do directly to it, click HERE.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Mar.
thru Saturday, Mar. 22, 2003
Mar. 21, 2003 - People who believe Iraq was behind the anthrax mailings are now wondering if Iraq actually had any anthrax (or any weapons of mass destruction of any kind) at the time of the anthrax mailings. It was certainly easier to believe it before America moved into Iraq. Now the world should be able to find out for certain.
Others who believe everything bad that happens in the world is terrorist-related are looking at the SARS outbreak as being a possible terrorist act - one that might possibly be intended to wipe out mankind. Trying to calm down one such individual and his followers, I created a new web page to track the SARS cases in a very general way - primarily to see if the situation is getting worse or better. The new page is HERE.
Mar. 20, 2003 - With the Iraq war dominating the news, there isn't much new information about the anthrax case. However, a recent interview with a leading expert on anthrax, LSU's Martin Hugh-Jones, on BiohazardNews.com gives his point of view on who the anthrax culprit may be. He said,
"My working mental model is a U.S. individual (singular) who had routine access to this special powdered preparation by working in either USAMRIID or a similar institute in the general area that was involved in quality checking it for Provo or whoever made it. This person, or another who acquired it from the first, used it all up when filling the envelopes."That working hypothesis is so convoluted that my own working hypothesis is partially included within it. "USAMRRID or a similar institute" means that it didn't have to come from USAMRIID, and "This person, or another who acquired it from the first" means that the person who stole it may not have been the person who mailed it. Hugh-Jones, however, seems to believe that the powder in the letters was obtained directly from "USAMRIID or a similar institute" and was not processed elsewhere. That seems to go against the known evidence. While he may be "an expert on anthrax", clearly he's not an expert on the anthrax case.
About the only other hypotheses that Hugh-Jones excludes are that Iraq or al Qaeda were behind the anthrax attacks.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Mar.
thru Saturday, Mar. 15, 2003
Mar. 13, 2003 - I added a comparison of the dates on the two letters to the Handwriting Section. To me, the date on the second letter appears to be copied from the first.
Mar. 12, 2003 - It appears that the date on the anthrax letter to Tom Brokaw and The New York Post was not written by the same person who wrote the text.
Someone sent me an e-mail with what he considered to be "proof" of his theory that the anthrax letters were actually written many years before they were mailed. His "proof" consisted of vague indications that the person who wrote the date on the media letter used a different pen or wrote with less pressure on the pen than the person who wrote the text of the media letter. So, he concluded that only the date was added to the letters which he believes were written more than a decade earlier.
While he'd written me many times before about his belief that the entire anthrax plot was developed over ten years ago (and he's also written the FBI about it many times), he'd never before mentioned a difference between the handwriting of the date and the text. Nor had anyone else. So, I examined the media letter for indications that the date was written with a different pen than the text.
While I couldn't find any solid evidence about using a different pen or different pressure, I noticed something very different about the handwriting for the date versus the text.
Specifically, the person who wrote the date wrote the zeroes very round and he left the circle open on one zero and barely closed on the other. But the writer of the text wrote the letter O as an oval nearly every time and closed every loop on every letter O, even to the point of tracing over some of it. That is a very good indicator of a different writer. Plus, the 1's in the date have shorter serifs than the 1's on the envelope. And there are vague indications that the person who wrote the date either used a different pen or wrote with less force.
After studying this at length, I've concluded that the date on the media letter was added by someone other than the writer of the text. And, because it is a matter of final editing, logically the writer of the date was the culprit.
Although this says nothing about the letters being written years earlier, it does fit fairly nicely with my analysis of how the letters were written.
Mar. 11, 2003 - The book review Scott Shane wrote for "The Killer Strain: Anthrax and a Government Exposed", by Marilyn W. Thompson, seems to explain why the Daschle envelope has a wet stain along the bottom and why the Daschle letter has brown stains:
"Consider John Ezzell, one of the Army's top anthrax experts at Fort Detrick and perhaps the leading character in her narrative. His work was not perfect; Thompson describes his horror as he notices that the bleach he's used to decontaminate his workbench has soaked the edge of one of the anthrax letters, conceivably destroying critical evidence."I'll probably have to wait until I read the book to confirm that the Daschle letter is the letter being mentioned, but I'm fairly certain it is, since I recall seeing something else about this on some TV program. In any event, this information will shoot down all the theorists who thought the letter had gotten wet in the mailbox (and checked out what days it rained), plus various theories about the cause of the brown stains (getting stuck in sorting equipment, etc.).
In his book review, Scott Shane complains that the FBI didn't contact the old timers who worked on government projects refining anthrax in the 1960s, and Shane seems to feel that those old timers could have told the government that the anthrax would leak out of the envelopes. But he fails to note that the old timers didn't proactively call anyone to warn them about the possibilities of the letters leaking. They just complained to reporters like Scott Shane about not being consulted. So, while in hindsight it all seems very obvious, it clearly wasn't obvious at the time - to the old timers or to anyone else.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Mar.
thru Saturday, Mar. 8, 2003
Mar. 5, 2003 - The CDC seems to have done a very questionable job on the anthrax case, possibly because the infections resulted from a deliberate biological attack and their expertise is with diseases from natural causes.
I was first puzzled by their use of a single chart to show all the known cases. That chart is HERE. Clearly, if you want to understand a series of biological attacks, you need to chart each attack separately. Combining all the data on one chart muddles the information.
The Kathy Nguyen case was clearly muddled by the chart, making it look like it was part of the "second wave" - i.e., the second attack - when it wasn't. It was anthrax from the first attack that had been reaeresolized by people hunting through trash to find the letters from the first attack that had been tossed out. As a result of being in a "second wave" frame of mind, the CDC appears to have totally bungled the investigation of the Nguyen case.
And they also appear to have muddied the waters in the Bob Stevens case by stating that there were two letters when their own data indicates no such thing. As with the Nguyen case, the Florida cases seem to have been influenced by being swept up into the thinking of the time. A second letter opened on the 19th in Florida couldn't have been postmarked in New Jersey on the 18th. But that didn't seem to matter to the CDC. Nor did the fact that AMI was accustomed to receiving hoax letters.
Perhaps I'm missing something, but when I look at the investigation of the anthrax cases, I see a CDC that is accustomed to working with diseases from natural causes and totally out of its element when investigating diseases caused by bioterrorism.
Partly because of this concern, I revised the Florida Cases supplemental page to include floor plans of the AMI building and more data about how the CDC handled those cases.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Feb.
thru Saturday, Mar. 1, 2003
Mar. 1, 2003 - I've had a number of people tell me that "no one watches network news shows anymore". They tell me that everyone watches Fox or CNN. And therefore, they wonder why the anthrax mailer sent his letters to NBC, CBS and ABC and not to Fox and CNN.
Here are some interesting statistics that might explain things:
ABC "World News Tonight" with Peter Jennings: 11.6 million
Fox averaged 1.2 million viewers a night in 2002.
Feb. 26, 2003 - Discussions about the Esquire article caused me to change the onset date for Bob Stevens' case from September 27 to September 30. The new date seems to conflict with testimony, but it's the date which both the CDC and UCLA are now using. Teresa Heller's onset date was also moved from September 27 to September 28 for the same reason. The change has no effect on the case.
Feb. 24, 2003 - A web site operator who points to Dr. Hatfill as the anthrax mailer obtained samples of Dr. Hatfill's handwriting via the Freedom of Information Act and has a small sample on his web site HERE. When he asked me about the sample, I responded:
The biggest difference is the Rs. Hatfill writes his Rs with the extender coming from the point where the curved upper section meets the vertical stroke. The anthrax mailer ALWAYS connected the extender farther out on the curve portion.
Hatfill's Ns also seem more rounded.
The 2 is certainly very different from the way the anthrax mailer wrote them.
Hatfill's D's are also usually rounder - but not always.
No S's. Damn.
Only one G to compare. They don't look similar, but there's only one to compare.His response to me was that I should be looking for similarities, not differences. Obviously, his intent was to convict, not to be objective. And that may be why he only showed me a small sample.
There are going to be similarities when almost any two people write in block letters. Similarties mean nothing in this context. It's the differences and the patterns to the differences which have meaning.
Feb. 24, 2003 - I made some modifications to the new supplemental page about "The Florida Anthrax Cases", primarily just modifcations to the wording in certain areas, but I also added a chart from the CDC that shows the links between the two anthrax mailings and the 22 victims.
Feb. 23, 2003 - Because the March 2003 Esquire article reopened so much debate about the Florida anthrax cases, I decided to summarize all that I know and understand about those cases and to put the information on a new supplemental page called "The Florida Anthrax Cases", along with responses to all the arguments.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Feb.
thru Saturday, Feb. 22, 2003
Feb. 21, 2003 - While reading the Esquire article, one thing struck me: I wondered how much there was in the news prior to the first anthrax mailing about Mohamed Atta having taken flight training in Lantana, Florida. A quick Google search finds that it was very well known all over the world: Here are just a few of the news stories dated before the first anthrax mailing:
So, why was one of the
letters sent to an obsolete address for the National Enquirer in
Florida? Could it be because the anthrax mailer wanted to show a
connection between the 9-11 attack and the anthrax mailing? If he
wanted to send an
It seems very logical. In fact, it seems so logical that I changed the Targets Section to use it as the prime reason for targeting The National Enquirer. And I think it further indicates that the culprit uses the Internet, so I added that to his profile.
I'm stunned that something so obvious, so simple and so important could have escaped me for a year and a half.
Feb. 21, 2003 - The current (March 2003) issue of Esquire magazine contains a very long article titled "Whatever Happened to Anthrax" by Sean Flynn. It's 7 pages of fine print, and it hasn't appeared anywhere on the Net, so I may not be able to include a link to it on this web site. But it's many inaccuracies which have reopened old arguments among various anthrax factions on the Net. The author mentions "proof" that "more than one letter had been sent" to Florida (no such proof exists). And he writes "it has been determined that the anthrax in each of the mailings was from the same batch and apparently did not increase in potency from New York to Washington" (a grievous misstatement of the facts). I'm going to study the article and use it as a basis for a new supplemental page that examines all that is known about the "Florida" and anthrax and what can be logically deduced from the facts. It should be on-line early next week. possibly as early as Sunday, Feb. 23.
Feb. 19, 2003 - When that Houston woman ran over her philandering husband with her Mercedes, does that mean she "weaponized" her car? In 1993, Aum Shinrikyo sprayed live anthrax germs into the air over Tokyo for 24 hours in an attempt to commit mass murder, but no one is known to have been harmed. Does that mean the anthrax wasn't "weaponized"? Discussions last weekend about the anthrax case illustrated that "weaponization" is just a meaningless buzz word used mainly by people who want to blame Iraq or U.S. government programs for the anthax attacks. It's meant to conjure up visions of huge facilities. But, when you forget about misleading buzz words and use real, meaningful words instead, a lot can be learned about the anthrax case. As a result of those weekend discussions I created a new Supplement to this web site and called it "Weaponization Is Just A Buzz Word".
Feb. 17, 2003 - An article about the new FBI guidelines for bioterrorism printed in yesteday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other papers reminded people of the Tokyo anthrax attack by the Japanese doomsday sect Aum Shinrikyo in 1993. The sect brewed large drums of liquid anthrax in their basement and sprayed it from their rooftop into the Tokyo air for 24 hours. But apparently no one was harmed. It's weird to realize that something like that attempt at mass murder via anthrax could be totally forgotten, and even more weird being reminded that New Scientist and The Miami Herald wrote about it less than three weeks before the first anthrax mailing of Sept. 18, 2001. An article in today's Denver Post goes into greater, somewhat horrifying detail.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Feb.
thru Saturday, Feb. 15, 2003
Feb. 11, 2003 - An article implicating Iraq in the U.S. anthrax mailings appeared today in the Jeruselem Post. The problem with such "evidence" is that it indicates that al Qaeda was doing nasty things in other countries. It does absolutely nothing to prove that al Qaeda or Iraq were behind the anthrax mailings from New Jersey. There's a big BIG gap between saying al Qaeda was working on anthrax in the Sudan and proving that they sent the anthrax letters from New Jersey. After all, the fact that al Qaeda and Iraq are nasty is also seen as the reason the American scientist wanted to awaken America to the dangers of bioterrorism.
Feb. 10, 2003 - This fact from the FBI's web site is worth remembering:
"Although the FBI is responsible for investigating possible violations of federal law, the FBI does not give an opinion or decide if an individual will be prosecuted. The federal prosecutors employed by the Department of Justice or the U.S. Attorneys offices are responsible for making this decision and for conducting the prosecution of the case." Source: http://www.fbi.gov/aboutus/faqs/faqsone.htmFBI officials have stated repeatedly that they think the anthrax culprit is "domestic". But, the fact that no arrest has been made allows people to continue to speculate that al Qaeda and/or Iraq may have been involved. The fact that both the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense last week mentioned the anthrax mailings while talking about Iraq has also generated a lot of speculation. Why did they mention the anthrax mailings in that context? Neither even remotely suggested that Iraq might have been behind the mailings. All that they apparently did was to plant the seeds for endless speculation. Was that the intent? And if that was the intent, that generates endless speculation about why no arrest has been made.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Feb.
thru Saturday, Feb. 8, 2003
Feb. 6, 2003 - I contacted Richard Preston, the author of "The Demon In The Freezer", and he responded to my question about the discrepancy between what his book says about the New York Post anthrax and what is generally reported in the media:
"I'm afraid I have no fresh information on the media anthrax. My report on it in The Demon in the Freezer is simply based on contemporaneous impressions of the anthrax from (anonymous) sources who would not have had the full picture of the material, because that has only come later with analysis by FBI-contracted scientists and labs, and they are being extraordinarily close-mouthed about what they're finding, as you know. As one of my sources explained to me, the FBI has pointed out to its participating scientists that to talk about federal evidence is a federal felony. I would not be surprised if my description of the media anthrax is incorrect, nor would I be surprised if it was basically correct."So, I have no solid reason to change the information on this site about how the media anthrax consisted of up to 90 percent dead germs and debris.
Feb. 3, 2003 - I went to my local library and withdrew the book "The Demon In The Freezer" by Richard Preston (Random House, 2002), then went through it looking for anything new about the anthrax case. The book seems to agree with just about everything mentioned on this site, except for the one tiny comment it makes about the anthrax sent to the media - specifically to the New York Post:
"One of the many samples was a little bit of anthrax from the letter that had arrived at the New York Post. The Post anthrax was almost pure spores, like the Daschle powder, but the spores had somehow gotten glued together into glassy chunks. It looked like a glued-together version of the Daschle anthrax."This is VERY different from the many other reports which said that the media anthrax was up to 90 percent dead germs and debris. Since it's all Preston mentions about the media anthrax, one has to conclude that he didn't really know much about it - and maybe what he did know wasn't all that accurate. So, until his observation is verified by some other source, I'll leave things the way they are.
"[David Lee] Wilson was head of the [FBI's] HMRU [Hazardous Materials Response Unit] between 1997 and 2000, and during those years the number of credible bioterror threats or incidents rose dramatically, up to roughly 200 per year, or one biological threat every couple of days. Most of them were anthrax hoaxes."The book also says this about the anthrax:
"The Ames strain was natural anthrax. It had not been 'heated up' in the lab -- had not been genetically engineered to be resistant to antibiotics. Nowadays, it is so easy to make a hot strain of anthrax that's resistant to drugs, intelligence people simply assume that all military strains of anthrax are drug resistant. The fact that the Amerithrax strain wasn't military pointed to a home-grown American terrorist rather than to a foreign source, to someone who had perhaps not wanted large numbers of people to die. Someone who might have wanted to get attention."The book dedicates about 6 pages to Dr. Hatfill which can be summed up in this sentence:
"The FBI said that Steven Hatfill is not a suspect in the case."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Jan.
thru Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003
Jan. 29, 2003 - In a lengthy discussion about the return address on the anthrax letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy, there was the usual speculation about what might have been meant by mixing up town name, school names, zip codes, etc. Then someone asked: "Why go to all that trouble? Why didn't the culprit just use a valid address?" And the only answer anyone could think of was: Because, if something went wrong, the culprit didn't want the anthrax-laden letters to be returned to some grade school.
And the media letters had no return addresses, possibly for the same reason. The culprit didn't want the letters returned to anyone. (Some media organizations return mail that isn't properly addressed to a specific individual. I know this for a fact from having sent many query letters to agents and movie production companies.)
What does this all mean? It seems to be another indicator that al Qaeda wasn't behind the mailings. Would al Qaeda care if the anthrax letters were returned to a grade school in New Jersey?
Jan. 29, 2003 - According today's Frederick News-Post, the FBI has nearly 50 people - including divers in scuba gear - working in and around a number of holes cut in the ice in a frozen lake off of Fishing Creek Road. "FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman said Monday that no new information about the investigation was available." So, it's anyone's guess as to what could possibly justify such a massive effort.
Jan. 27, 2003 - NBC news last night showed groups of FBI agents arriving in the mountains outside of Frederick, MD, in preparation for beginning a massive search of some kind starting today. WBAY TV in Greenbay, WI, has an AP report today that the work has started and will likely continue all week.
I admit I cannot make any sense of it whatsoever.
What could they possibly hope to find? Why are they spending so much money and effort on something that seems so pointless? If the earlier searches found nothing, why do they think new searches will find something?
This whole effort is supposed to be based upon a comment Dr. Hatfill made to someone in a conversation about a hypothetical biological attack. We don't know to whom he made the comment, but the impression is that it was made at a party of some kind. Since Dr. Hatfill was writing a book about a biological attack on Washington, and since he was an expert on talking about such subjects in classes he taught, wouldn't it be natural for him to talk about hypothetical attacks? What makes this "tip" about a comment made by Dr. Hatfill so credible that so much time and effort is being spent on it?
The idea of a scientist throwing equipment away in a forest or in a lake seems ridiculous - since it would mean that the equipment could eventually be found. Why not just destroy it? If it's small, why not just throw it in the trash? If it's big, how could it be transported by a single person?
Why kind of equipment could be considered incriminating? If it's a bunch of Petri dishes, how can they be tied to Dr. Hatfill? If it's some large piece of equipment with a serial number that can be traced, who would be dumb enough to throw it away in an area where it could be found by some swimmer or hiker?
And if someone threw away equipment, where was the equipment used? In the non-existent mountain cabin "safe-house"? It can't be from some government lab. Was it used in the woods? How? Are there power outlets in the woods? If not, what kind of equipment doesn't need power?
This whole thing seems like something from a old Jessica Fletcher mystery.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Jan.
thru Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003
Jan. 25, 2003 - Articles in today's Washington Post and Baltimore Sun add to yesterday's news that the FBI is again (or still) searching the Frederick Municipal Forest for clues, but the Post article says a bit more:
Law enforcement officials said a weeklong search of ponds and woods in the area last month netted some materials that were being tested for links to the anthrax attacks, which killed five people and sickened 13 others in late 2001.
Sources said the search is tied to scientist Steven Hatfill, who authorities have described as a "person of interest" in the investigation. Law enforcement sources said the search was triggered by a hypothetical statement Hatfill had made about anthrax.
Specifically, investigators are trying to determine whether Hatfill, a former scientist at the U.S. Army's principal biodefense laboratory at nearby Fort Detrick, disposed of any containers or byproducts that may be linked to the anthrax spores that were sent through the mail, law enforcement sources said.Jan. 24, 2003 - Those who believe that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer were cheered up by a report in today's Frederick News-Post that the FBI is again (or still) poking around in the mountain lakes and forest outside of Frederick, Maryland. Those who think al Qaeda terrorists mailed the anthax letters were briefly cheered up by yesterday's report in the Palm Beach Post that the FBI has been poking around an abandoned home in Florida that was once the residence of a Saudi family which might have had connections to the 9-11 terrorists.
Jan. 22, 2003 - A article in The New York Times reporting that the "U.S. is deploying a Monitor System for Germ Attacks" includes a sentence worth remembering:
The intelligence community, one senior official noted, has "no credible evidence that Al Qaeda has acquired biological weapons, or any weapon of mass destruction at this time."Jan. 22, 2003 - I received the following comment via e-mail from a microboiologist:
"I think that it was a scientist who was concerned about the possibility of a biological attack and who wanted to alert the authorities to the reality of the problem. I know someone who pulled a stunt something like this in order to attract speakers to a symposium on bioweapons at a Society for Industrial Microbiology meeting a few years ago. People were a bit ticked off and alarmed when they opened their packet of tickets and a cream-colored powder fell out along with the warning that 'this could have been a biological weapon'".I filed it under the heading of "How times have changed" while wondering what would happen if someone pulled a stunt like that today.
Jan. 19, 2003 - A report in USA Today indicates that the Texas scientist who destroyed the bubonic plague vials "might have been trying to protect himself from possible university and federal sanctions after not properly documenting the bacteria's destruction in lab records". So, he lied and created a much bigger problem for himself. Instead of being any kind of deliberate "harmless demonstration" as some were wondering, it could be more like the other cases where people created problems because of concerns about of new laws and new scrutiny of procedures. However, an article in Saturday's Amarillo Globe-News indicates that there are a lot of unanswered questions about exactly what happened to the vials.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Jan.
thru Saturday, Jan. 18, 2003
Jan. 18, 2003 - An attempt to get copies of the "Indianapolis letters" via the Freedom of Information-Privacy Acts (FOIPA) ended today with a reply from the FBI saying they didn't know what I was talking about - or in their terminology: "No records pertinent to your FOIPA request were located by a search of the automated and manual indices." Unfortunately, there isn't much of a description in the two articles which mention the "Indianapolis letters" - HERE and HERE.
Jan. 18, 2003 - After working on the new "Anthrax Attack Chart" a bit more, I decided it contained too much valuable information to be relegated only to a supplemental section, so I added the chart to the main page in the "Three Mailings?" Section.
Jan. 17, 2003 - Because the charts used by the CDC to plot the anthrax cases seem truly inadequate and inappropriate for non-contageous diseases - and particularly for terrorist attacks using non-contageous bioweapons, I created a new chart for the anthrax cases which more clearly illustrates exactly what happened. One look at this chart and it becomes clear that Kathy Nguyen's death must have been part of the first attack. On this chart, the "after effect" cases show up much more clearly and demand attention so that their causes can be understood. The new chart is included on the Kathy Nguyen page in a new section called "Anthrax Attack Charts".
Jan. 16, 2003 - The incident with the bubonic plague vials in Texas causes some to wonder if another scientist didn't try a different kind of "harmless demonstration" to focus public attention upon his personal area of concern.
Jan. 14, 2003 - I added a few comments to the new Refining Anthrax Section to point out that "refining" means to "free from impurities", so Germination, Vegetation and Sporulation all take place before refining actually begins with Step #4, Separation.
Jan. 14, 2003 - Discussions of Brian Ross's latest "exclusive" on Dr. Hatfill point out very clearly that virtually everyone who believes Dr. Hatfill is the culprit believes so because (1) others believe it, and/or (2) because the FBI considers him "a person of interest". Conclusion: It's mob mentality at work. They only know of one person they can suspect, so, without alternatives, Dr. Hatfill is it. Evidence is not a factor.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Jan.
thru Saturday, Jan. 11, 2003
Jan. 9, 2003 - Brian Ross at ABC once again has "exclusive" information that the FBI is focusing its investigation on Dr. Steven Hatfill.
Jan. 8, 2003 - While changing the site to reflect the new working hypothesis that the anthrax found in the media letters was from an early step in a truncated refinement process, I found that I had a lot of places on the main page where I suggested that the spores in the first mailing were larger than the spores in the second mailing. The size of the spores is determined by Nature, not by processing. Processing might break up clumps of spores, but it doesn't change the size of spores. I corrected all those errors.
The new working hypothesis about the refining caused me to add a new section to the main page: Section #4 - Refining anthrax.
And this morning something else occurred to me:
Would an anthrax chemical test be able to distinguish between an anthrax spore and a dead mother cell or a dead germ? Or would you need to go to a microscope to make that distinction? Most likely you'd need a microscope.
In theory, then, if the media batch in the letters postmarked Sept. 18, 2001, was just unrefined anthrax, when the CDC and FBI went back into the AMI building in Boca Raton a few months ago they should have found dead mother cells and dead germs as well as anthrax spores. That would be close to proof-positive that there was no real distinction between the New York anthrax and the Florida anthrax.
I'd like to see the FBI answer one simple question: Did they find significant amounts of anthrax debris in the AMI building along with anthrax spores?
And wouldn't one expect to find more debris close to the point where the letter was opened? Wouldn't the heavier material be closest to the source? I think that's called "air classification". Lots of interesting questions come to mind when you look at things from a slightly different angle.
Jan. 7, 2003 - With nothing much happening on the anthrax case, I decided to mull over a couple things that had been bothering me for a long time, specifically (1) what did the "debris" consist of in the first mailing, and (2) was the "powder" in the Sept. 18 mailing from an early experiment or from a preliminary processing step that eventually produced the more refined "powder" used in the Oct. 9 mailing.
Some research showed me that there were probably 5 basic steps involved in producing the anthrax powder found in the letter sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy:
1. Germination - Causing
spores to develop into living germs.
Each of these "steps" could have 50 sub-steps and might possibly be done in a hundred different ways, but there are some basic factors at work here:
Steps #1 thru #4 all occur naturally. All that man really does is speed up the process.
Steps #1 thru #3 are relatively simple and require almost no specialized equipment, although #3 requires a very delicate touch to avoid killing all the germs instead of causing them to sporulate.
Step #4 is actually the most complex and time consuming step. In theory, if done right, it could include Step #5 as a single procedure.
The fact that Step #4 is very complex and requires specialized equipment and lots of time is meaningful if one considers the likelihood that the anthrax refiner/mailer apparently didn’t go beyond Step #3 when he prepared the anthrax for the first mailing. There appears to be good reason why the first mailing apparently contained anthrax that was processed only through Step #3: The next step required special equipment and lots of time.
It appears that the culprit paused at the end of Step #3 and sent out the anthrax he had, rather than to delay action for the time it would take to do the next two steps. If he was worried about a biological attack and wanted to awaken America to the danger, he may have felt America couldn’t wait until he completed the last two steps.
It would be nice to know for certain that the anthrax in the letter sent to The New York Post was from Step #3 and the anthrax in the letter sent to Senator Daschle was from Step #5. I’ve seen nothing in the newspaper articles that indicates otherwise. And it seems a logical conclusion.
Sporulation is an interesting process. On one web site it is described this way:
"When conditions become hostile to the anthrax bacillus — if it runs out of food, becomes too cold, too dry, too low in carbon dioxide — it resorts to a defense mechanism. The DNA and other essential cell matter gather together near the middle of the cell, and a hard wall forms around this cluster. This is the spore.
"As if in hibernation, the anthrax spore waits inside the carcass of a now-dead cell, waiting for more hospitable conditions. Sporulation is key for the bacteria’s survival in nature, and also key for its use as a weapon."Was the "debris" that apparently constituted about 90 percent of the "powder" found in the New York Post letter just the natural "debris" left behind from sporulation? I.e., was it just dead "mother cells" and dead anthrax germs that failed to sporulate?
If so, it tells us a lot about the culprit. It tells us he hoped the unrefined anthrax he sent to the media would accomplish his mission. When it accomplished nothing, he then moved ahead to steps #4 and #5. It makes it a near certainty that the anthrax was being refined during the 3 week period between mailings. It tells us he was probably using specialized equipment and labor intensive procedures during the two weeks prior to the October 9 mailing. Etc.
While it’s certainly possible that the first mailing was the result of a first attempt at weaponization, or an experiment that didn’t work as expected, that no longer seems the most likely scenario. It now seems more likely it was all he had time to do. And when that didn't accomplish his goal, he did the full procedure with the second mailing.
I began changing a few items on the site to use as this site’s working hypothesis the idea that the first anthrax mailing contained spores from an abbreviated procedure rather than from an early experiment that didn’t produce the excellent product sent in the second mailing.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Dec
thru Saturday, Jan. 4, 2003
Jan. 3, 2003 - I'm told that The Washington Times doesn't have a very good reputation, and articles like the one in today's paper certainly show why.
The article says, "Mr. Hatfill, a self-proclaimed anthrax expert who has written a novel about an anthrax attack on Washington, repeatedly has denied any involvement in the attacks."
But Dr. Hatfill says, "I have never, ever worked with anthrax in my life."
And according to The Washington Post, his novel "involves neither anthrax nor mailings." "The agent used in the attacks [in the novel] is the bacteria yersinia, which causes bubonic plague".
Jan. 3, 2003 - Several discussions during the past week brought to light some articles describing the official endings to other "anthrax mysteries" which I hadn't previously included on this web site. They are now included. The mysteries were: the Microsoft anthrax, the Chilean anthrax, and the Wiley case.
Jan. 1, 2003 - It's time for some New Year's resolutions. During 2003 ...
1. I resolve to never again beat my head against the wall when someone declares that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax culprit because of a "tip" to the FBI that turned out to be worthless.
2. I resolve to never again beat my head against the wall when someone declares that al Qaeda must have been behind the anthrax attacks because some of them lived in Florida for awhile.
3. I resolve to never again beat my head against the wall when someone declares that the Florida anthrax must have been different from the New York anthrax because there were only inhalation cases in Florida.
4. I resolve to never again beat my head against the wall when someone declares that Kathy Nguyen’s anthrax must have been from the Oct. 9 mailing because that’s the only idea the CDC investigated.
5. I resolve to never again beat my head against the wall when someone declares that Dr. Hatfill must be guilty because the Department of Justice calls him "a person of interest".
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Dec
thru Saturday, Dec. 28, 2002
Dec. 24, 2002 - Dr. Hatfill said on August 25, 2002:
"I am openly followed by the FBI agents and in cars and on foot, 24 hours a day. Going down to store for a pack of gum yields a parade of FBI cars sometimes following me closely as two to four feet from my rear bumper."
The reason Dr. Hatfill is being followed should be well known, too. He's got a group of scientists playing amateur detective who think Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer, and, if the FBI didn't follow him 24-hours a day, that group of scientists would raise holy hell - including going before congressional committees to tell them that the FBI is covering up for Dr. Hatfill.
The Dr. Hatfill case is all about politics! It is not about the anthrax case. The FBI has stated repeatedly that Dr. Hatfill is NOT a suspect.
Dec. 24, 2002 - The New York Times printed an interesting article about bloodhounds today. ("A panting dog cannot sniff." I love that tidbit of basic information!)
It seems to me, however, that the biggest question about the bloodhounds is: Exactly what was the bloodhound incident all about? This item was printed last September:
"It was reported that the bloodhounds went crazy when they entered Hatfill's apartment, supposedly because they detected scents there that were on envelopes in which anthrax had been mailed. This has been questioned by bloodhound handlers, and an FBI spokesman says they gave no such information to the media. A knowledgeable source says what was reported was completely wrong."If the Newsweek reporter who started this whole bloodhound information chase got it all wrong, then how can anyone evaluate all the followup stories about bloodhounds?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Dec
thru Saturday, Dec. 21, 2002
Dec. 19, 2002 - The results of the FBI's search of the woods near Fredrick, Maryland, were printed in today's Washington Post:
The FBI was wrapping up a six-day search in a Frederick forest for clues in the anthrax case yesterday, but had yet to find any new leads, law enforcement sources said.
The FBI was examining materials seized in the search, but some law enforcement officials said they held out little hope that it would amount to anything.
Agents combed the forest and ponds at Frederick Municipal Forest. The search was in response to a tip from someone who had spoken to former Army scientist Steven Hatfill hypothetically about biological weapons. Hatfill has been described as a person of interest in the case.There is some satisfaction to learning that the search went exactly as expected, but not much.
Interestingly, some who truly believe Dr. Hatfill is the culprit think this proves that Dr. Hatfill is "too smart" for the FBI, when it probably only indicates that Dr. Hatfill was telling the truth when he said he was "clueless" as to the reason for the search.
Dec. 18, 2002 - A small paragraph in today's Baltimore Sun includes what might be considered a "clue" as what the FBI is doing in the woods outside of Frederick, MD. But it's anyone's guess what the "clue" means. Here's the paragraph:
"They've been taking things out of two fire ponds and labeling everything and taking it away," said Nancy Gregg Poss, a spokeswoman for the city of Frederick. "If they found what they're looking for, we still don't know."They've been taking "things" out of two fire ponds and labeling them??? I have absolutely NO idea what the "things" might be! And speculation seems pointless.
Dec. 17, 2002 - In Chapter II of the report from The Gilmore Commission (a.k.a. the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism involving Weapons of Mass Destruction), it says,
Regardless of the perpetrator of the attacks (who at this writing is still unknown), the sophisticated nature of the material and its potency marks a watershed. Experts previously believed that a state weapons program could only produce this type of material. Similarly, most experts assumed that a state would not clandestinely attack for fear of retaliation. If the attacks are the work of a state or a state using a terrorist group to conduct the attacks, this is a new development.
If the attacks are the work of an individual, then this again points to the difficulty of tracking down and stopping a lone committed terrorist. A concensus is emerging in the U.S. Government and among outside experts that the perpetrator or perpetrators had some connection to the U.S. biodefense program. Those involved would most likely have the capability to produce such a weapon. If the perpetrator or perpetrators are in fact "our own", it raises fundamental issues about security at our Federal laboratories, personal background screening, and the nature and scope of our defensive program. Alternatively, if the perpetrator is indeed a foreign state waging a covert attack against the United States, this is also a significant development.This Rand Corporation "Think Tank" evaluation stands in sharp contrast to editorial comments just unearthed from postalworkersonline.com and Postal Magazine (a magazine for postal workers), which included this "information":
There remains the possibility that Atta and the hijackers are responsible for the Florida anthrax cases and that another person - perhaps Steven Hatfill or another insider/scientist - is responsible for the other anthrax letters. The suspect anthrax contaminated AMI letter, received on September 4th - one week before September 11th, reportedly bears little resemblance to anthrax contaminated letters postmarked after September 11th. The AMI letter has been described as a "weird love letter" to Jennifer Lopez that contained a star of David and a soapy powder. It was addressed to Lopez c/o The Sun Tabloids. Anthrax-contaminated letters sent after 9/11 to Senators Leahy and Daschle and to Tom Brokaw and the editor of the New York Post, contained a sternly worded message that mentioned September 11th and Allah. The AMI letter was designed to be noticed. The other letters were designed to be nondescript until opened. However, a timeline of the anthrax mailings suggests that both parties (Atta and Hatfill/insider) could not have known about the other's plans and that two anthrax mailings conducted by two groups at the same time is highly unlikely.It's difficult to understand why the FBI does not release definitive information to prove whether or not the anthrax in the letter sent to AMI in Florida was absolutely identical to the anthrax sent to The New York Post. It may not be part of the FBI's "mission" to disprove amateur theories (any more than it is part of NASA's mission), but it would help if they could release some solid information about the Florida anthrax. What harm could be done by showing evidence that the Florida anthrax is identical to the New York anthrax? Or is it just that the FBI is unaware of all the debates over this subject among amateur sleuths fascinated by the anthrax case - apparently including many amateur sleuths in the media?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Dec
thru Saturday, Dec. 14, 2002
Dec. 14, 2002 - In today's Frederick News-Post the suggestion is made that the search of the public land near Frederick, MD, might be connected in some way to something read in Dr. Hatfill's unpublished novel about a plague attack on Washington. As hilarious as that may seem, it makes more sense than anything else I can find. If it's true, it seems the FBI is once again being pressured to do something bizarre by True Believers in the theory that Dr. Hatfill did it - the last previous bizarre act being the showing of Dr. Hatfill's picture around Princeton a year after the crime and after everyone has seen Dr. Hatfill's picture in the newspapers and on TV.
While the True Believers are cheering that Dr. Hatfill will soon be in jail, others (like myself) are saddened that this seems to indicate that the FBI isn't about to make an arrest anytime soon.
Dec. 12, 2002 - Reports on Fox News that the FBI is conducting an "evidentiary" search on public land in Frederick, Md., spurred a lot of activity in anthrax discussion forums, but what does it mean? At the same time, The Associate Press reports that Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. Bryant said the Justice department did not mean to suggest that Dr. Hatfill was a suspect when they used the phrase "person of interest". Key paragraph:
"The phrase was never used by the FBI or the Department of Justice to draw media attention to Dr. Hatfill," Bryant said in the letter. "On the contrary, the phrase was used to deflect media scrutiny from Dr. Hatfill and explain that he was just one of many scientists who had been interviewed by the FBI and who were cooperating with the anthrax investigation."Because the search is taking place near where Dr. Hatfill once lived, did the Justice Department feel compelled to confirm that the search has nothing to do with Dr. Hatfill?
On the other hand, as usual, Brian Ross at ABC News reports that the search has everything to do with Dr. Hatfill. Key paragraph:
The search is based on information that former Fort Detrick government scientist Steven Hatfill may have disposed of certain laboratory equipment in one of the bodies of water in the lake near his former Maryland home, which investigators have searched repeatedly, the sources said.Time will tell if Brian Ross has been consistently right or consistently wrong about Dr. Hatfill.
Dec. 12, 2002 - I checked out a report that the mailbox at email@example.com is full, and it was confirmed. This poses some interesting questions: (1) Did the search of public land in Maryland have something to do with it? I can't imagine what it would. That search should only provoke questions, not tips. (2) Has the FBI stopped looking at e-mail tips from the public? (3) Why? (4) Have they stopped checking tips because they know who did it and don't believe the tip mailbox is cost effective any longer? (5) Then why does their web site still ask for tips via e-mail? (6) Have they stopped checking tips because they've stopped investigating the case? Clearly the other news today says that is not true. (7) Is the person who tends the mailbox on vacation without a replacement? (8) Are they as frustrated with deleting junk mail as I am, but they just gave up and let the damn mailbox fill up?
Dec. 12, 2002 - Although it doesn't even mention the case, the complete text of a report from The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) seems to further indicate that Kathy Nguyen got her anthrax as a result of a secondary aerosolization of B anthracis spores from the September 18, 2001, mailing. This secondary aerosolization occurred when people searched for the anthax-laden letters that had been tossed away or filed three weeks earlier.
The report says, "Additionally, findings of airborne B
spores during the initial
While the Sept. 18 mailing had fewer active spores and much more debris, there is no doubt that searching for the New York letters also caused a secondary aerosolization of B anthracis spores because nasal swabs taken from a police officer and two lab technicians showed positive results.
The only unanswered question remains: Where and how did Kathy Nguyen come in contact with the reaerosolized B anthracis spores? Unfortunately, it still seems that no one in authority is interested in answering that question.
Dec. 10, 2002 - An article from DefenseLINK News includes comments from the new director for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, explaining why there hasn't been an arrest in the anthrax case:
"I think it is a huge challenge -- in part, because it's (like) looking for a needle in a haystack," the infectious disease clinician explained.
Whoever launched the anthrax attacks possesses "incredible, sophisticated knowledge about what they are dealing with," she continued. "They had to protect not only themselves, but the people in their environs from exposure to the powders, which basically function as a gas."
Gerberding added that the method in which the anthrax attacks were carried out indicates intricate planning and a level of sophistication that suggests the culprit's "not somebody who went in their garage and cooked this up over the weekend."While I can't disagree with the first two paragraphs, the "intricate planning" mentioned in the third paragraph is very questionable. Dr. Gerberding seems to forget that the first anthrax letters were all either tossed into the trash or ignored. And it appears that every death or injury from the anthrax was unintended. So, while the culprit almost certainly didn't cook the anthrax up in his garage over a weekend, the evidence clearly indicates that the "plan" was hastily conceived and thoughtlessly executed.
|Updates & Changes:
Dec 1, 2002, thru Saturday, Dec. 7, 2002
Dec. 5, 2002 - A New York Times article from December 3, 2002, titled "C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox" included this paragraph tacked on at the very end:
"The American officials have also been unable to obtain information that they believe could help federal investigators with their stalled inquiry into the anthrax attacks of October 2001, in which 5 people died and at least 17 were infected."Questions about what the American officials might be looking for regarding the anthrax case prompted a search through the archives to find other articles about the U.S. asking Russia for information about anthrax. That search found an article from The New York Times dated Sept. 4, 2001, dated one week before 9-11 and two weeks before the first anthrax mailing. Because this pre-9-11 article is about gene splicing and secret work at Battelle, it was of particular interest and worth re-reading. It's known that the anthrax sent through the mails was not genetically altered, but could that anthrax have been made using some of the same type equipment used in gene splicing? Lots of questions come to mind when reading the two New York Times articles. The fact that one of the articles was written before the anthrax attacks doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't relevant - particularly when is seems certain that the anthrax used in the attack was removed from some government lab prior to 9-11.
Dec. 1, 2002 - With absolutely nothing happening on the anthrax case - not even any repetitious forum discussions - I spent some time trying to find out if the "Indianapolis letters" were ever mentioned anywhere except that one article in The New York Post back on November 1, 2001. Today, I found one other mention in NewsMax.com from the same day quoting Sean Hannity and including this additional comment:
Hannity said that he'd begun receiving the suspicious mail last winter and again in August.So, while it was previously only suspected that there may have been "threatening letters" mailed in August, making the timing of the first anthrax mailing very clearly connected to the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, this now seems confirmed. However, it would certainly be nice to verify that the handwriting on the Indianapolis letters was indeed identical to that on the anthrax letters. This all seems much too critical to the case to have been ignored by the rest of the media. I don't understand why they ignore it. I'd really like to see comments from some unimpeachable source on this.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Nov.
thru Saturday, Nov. 30, 2002
Nov. 26, 2002 - I’ve been asked many times why I started this web site, and I’ve always answered that it was to resolve arguments between people who argued only opinions without providing facts: "Al Qaeda did it!" "No, Right Wingers did it!" "No, al Qaeda did it!" "No, Right Wingers did it!" Etc.
Since all those early debates took place in discussion newsgroups, I decided it was time to verify that my memory was working correctly. I checked groups.google.com and discovered I’d forgotten that there was an initial event that set my mind to working. It happened around Oct. 11, 2001, when the world was first learning that the anthrax death of Bob Stevens might have been a deliberate act and not simply a death from "natural causes" as had been initially presumed. That night, on his now defunct TV show "Politically Incorrect", comedian Bill Maher posed a question: If it is learned that someone in Afghanistan was responsible for the anthrax attacks, should the United States atom bomb Afghanistan?
The stupidity of that question stunned me, and I tried to get discussions started about it on the alt.tv.pol-incorrrect discussion newsgroup. But the question apparently didn’t bother anyone else, most of whom seemed to feel that Bill Maher was not thinking clearly anyway because of an earlier comment about bravery and cowardice that had caused him some serious trouble.
Within the following few weeks, newspaper articles began appearing saying that the attacks could be from "domestic" sources. A Washington Post article from October 27 began:
"Top FBI and CIA officials believe that the anthrax attacks on Washington, New York and Florida are likely the work of one or more extremists in the United States who are probably not connected to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist organization, government officials said yesterday."A reporter from the Manchester Guardian in England was apparently at the same briefing and put his own spin on it in an article titled "Anthrax attacks' 'work of neo-Nazis'", writing statements like this:
"Neo-Nazi extremists within the US are behind the deadly wave of anthrax attacks against America, according to latest briefings from the security services and Justice Department."The debates really began with those articles, and on November 21, 2001, I began gathering information with the idea of putting together a web site with all the available data. The first version of this web site went on-line the next day.
So, while my memory was correct in that I did start this web site to help resolve arguments about the anthrax case, I’d forgotten the question by Bill Maher that caused me to want to make absolutely certain that the debates used data and not just opinions. If people were suggesting that we start dropping atom bombs on the culprits, I wanted to be certain that we really knew who the culprits were.
That’s what started it all.
Nov. 24, 2002 - Someone pointed out an error in the Time Line Section where I said that Stephanie Dailey at AMI had contracted cutaneous anthrax. She didn't. She tested positive for exposure, but did not come down with any form of the disease.
While researching Stephanie Dailey, I found an interesting quote from the Washington Post that further illustrates how the Florida anthrax was no where near as deadly as the anthrax sent to the two Senators. Although spores were found throughout the AMI building, only 3 people from among 1,100 tested positive for the disease. The quote:
"Company administrative clerk Stephanie Dailey, found with an anthrax spore in her nasal passages, did not become ill and also could not recall a letter. No one else, among 1,100 people tested, had anthrax exposure."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Nov.
thru Saturday, Nov. 23, 2002
Nov. 21, 2002 - The latest debate over the Florida anthrax cases seems to have ended - at least for the time being. The consensus seems to be that older people are like canaries in a coal mine when it comes to anthrax. If there's something hazardous in the air, they'll be the first indicators of the problem, because it doesn't take many spores in the air to affect them. There really doesn't need to be an explanation for why there were no cutaneous cases in Florida. Inhalation cases in older people simply appeared first. And, fortunately, that's all there were in the Florida outbreak. But, if further explanation is needed, it seems likely that the high humidity Florida in September played a role. Moist, uncracked skin provides fewer niches for the anthrax spores to germinate and multiply. The climate in New York would be much less humid.
Nov. 20, 2002 - Someone pointed out to me that I frequently misuse scientific terms regarding anthrax. Anthrax is a disease. A disease could not be in a letter. Spores of the bacterium that cause anthrax were in the letters.
That made me wonder: is "anthrax spores" an invalid term? I’d hate to have to use "Bacillus anthracis spores" all the time. I’ve been viewing "anthrax" as the English translation of the Latin "Bacillus anthracis".
While it might be scientifically correct, it makes for difficult reading on my web site if I have to say "spores of the bacterium that cause anthrax" instead of "anthrax spores" or just "anthrax".
So, I asked a few "experts" on the subject, and they responded that only nit-pickers would care, and the media and the FBI frequently use "anthrax" the same way I do. But they also suggested I put somewhere on the web site that I use "anthrax" when the proper scientific term would be "spores of the bacterium that cause anthrax". I put the "disclaimer" at the beginning of the Anthrax Section.
Nov. 20, 2002 - The Australian radio show reminded me of an e-mail exchange I had last week with Alan Weberman from JDO.com. Although I don’t think Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with the anthrax case, the exchange still brought out some information that might be of interest to those who want to know more about Dr. Hatfill - specifically his "forged" Rhodes University Ph.D. certificate.
Between rants against Dr. Hatfill, whom he constantly calls a "Nazi" and a "mass murderer", Mr. Weberman obtained a copy of the "forged" certificate from the government via the Freedom Of Information Act. After examining the certificate, Mr. Weberman then contacted the firm of solicitors who certified that the copy of the certificate Dr. Hatfill apparently gave to his government employers was a true copy. The solicitor responded that it was a true copy of an original, and they did verify that, but they could not verify that the original was authentic. In other words, they apparently made photocopies of the certificate Dr. Hatfill gave them, and verified that the copies were exact duplicates by putting their company stamp on them and signing them, but they could not verify that the certificate that Dr. Hatfill originally gave them was valid.
According to The Baltimore Sun: "The Ph.D. certificate, a copy of which was obtained by The Sun from the NIH under the Freedom of Information Act, is a forgery, Rhodes officials say. The university seal is not in the right place, the vice chancellor's signature has the wrong middle initial and other names are made up, they say. 'Our parchment doesn't even look like that,' says Angela Stuurman, assistant to the registrar at Rhodes University. 'It's most definitely a forgery.'"
Interestingly, the firm of solicitors that certified the copies was "situated just around the corner from the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford". One would think they’d recognize such a phony Ph.D. certificate. But apparently not.
But that information posed a question: If Dr. Hatfill had created a "forgery", why did he make so many obvious errors? Wouldn’t a forger begin with a valid certificate and create a copy as near to perfect as possible? Putting the seal in the wrong place, using the wrong parchment and invalid signatures is like a forger putting Mickey Mouse on a fake dollar bill instead of George Washington.
Aha! Suddenly it was clear. Technically, it wasn’t a "forged" Ph.D. certificate. It was a "phony" Ph.D. certificate. I.e., it was a certificate of the type that can be bought from novelty shops - or their on-line equivalent. Alan Weberman then contacted one such place, and they responded that they were ready, willing and able to produce such a certificate any time Mr. Weberman (or anyone else) was willing to pay to have it done.
So, it now appears that Dr. Hatfill used a novelty shop Rhodes University Ph.D. certificate to obtain a job with the U.S. government. That takes balls. And it also takes balls to have copies of such a certificate verified by a firm of solicitors "situated just around the corner from the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford".
So, while Dr. Hatfill may not have had anything to do with the anthrax mailing, he certainly provided fodder for conspiracy theorists and any late night comics who learn of this.
Nov. 19, 2002 - A transcript from "Background Briefing", an Australian radio program includes an interesting quote from FBI Domestic Terrorism Chief, Tom Carey regarding the lack of "hard evidence" in the anthrax case:
"What we do have and what we do know is that the anthrax was mailed here in the United States; we know it was mailed from 10 Nassar Street, Princeton, New Jersey, from a mailbox. We know the flow of the mail flow, we know the dates that the letters were sent, and it would appear to many of us that have worked this investigation, that it’s much more consistent with someone being an American-born, and having some level of familiarity with the Princeton-Clinton New Jersey area versus a foreign operative coming into the US and being able to successfully conduct such an attack."The article includes comments from many people. Weapon Inspector Dr. Richard Spertzel still thinks the anthrax letters were sent by someone from Iraq. But Tom Carey says that FBI investigations showed that Iraq could not be involved and that people have wrong information about what Iraq possesses.
Nov. 19, 2002 - Arguments over the significance of the ages of the victims resulted in locating two old articles that had been previously missed. An article in October 31, 2001, issue of The New York Times pointed out that there is no theoretical justification for believing that thousands of spores are needed to cause inhalation anthrax. It could theoretically be caused by a single spore if the victim was particularly susceptible. (Susceptibility seems more dependent upon age and the condition of the lungs, rather than the immune system.) And an article in the November 2, 2001, issue of The Wall Street Journal specifically wondered if age was a factor in getting inhalation anthrax.
The arguments are mainly over the Florida cases. Why did all the victims get inhalation anthrax? There is no scientific or medical reason to believe that the anthrax could not also have caused cutaneous anthrax. But there were none in Florida. Why?
Nov. 17, 2002 - Examination of the ages of all the people infected with anthrax from the September 18, 2001, mailing shows that all the younger people got cutaneous anthrax while the three oldest people all got inhalation anthrax. It's another fact that helps tie everything connected to the September 18 mailing together. I added tables to the Kathy Nguyen Page and the Anthrax Section showing the cases sorted by age.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Nov.
thru Saturday, Nov. 16, 2002
Nov. 16, 2002 - Some people continue to argue that the anthrax in the letter received at AMI in Florida was somehow different from the anthrax in the other letters sent on Sept. 18, and/or that the Florida letter was mailed on some other date. As a result of one of these arguments I took another look at the onset dates for the victims - i.e., the dates the victims first noticed symptoms of anthrax infection - and those dates clearly show that the Florida letter was mailed at the same time as the other letters. I added that information to the "Three Mailings?" Section. People may still argue why all the New York cases were cutaneous while all the Florida cases were inhalation, but my response is always the same: There was also a New York inhalation case from the September 18 anthrax: Kathy Nguyen.
Nov. 13, 2002 - The fact that Osama bin Laden didn't mention the anthrax attacks while saying in his new tape message that al Qaeda supported all the recent terrorist attacks on U.S. Allies doesn't shake any die-hard opinions from Camp Jingo. They'll believe al Qaeda did it until it's proven they didn't. The Global Security Newswire article from Monday also shows that most opinions are locked in. Only hard facts will change them. Unfortunately, the hard facts may not be known until an arrest is made.
Nov. 10, 2002 - The anthrax case seems to have reached a potential fork in the road. While everyone still has a theory, everything seems to depend upon how the anthrax was made. The anthrax processing controversy seems to boil down this way:
Did the anthrax processing require equipment and resources available only to large government laboratories?
As illustrated in recent articles in The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, scientists can currently be found to testify to both sides of this issue. It would be difficult to make a case in court against a single scientist if "experts" are ready to testify that a single scientist could not possibly have done it. So, an attempt is being made to resolve that issue via "reverse engineering".
In the unlikely event that the government is able to scientifically determine that the anthrax could ONLY have been created in a government lab or with government processes, that determination would probably also pinpoint which government lab made it.
However, if it is found that the processing could have been done in a much smaller lab by a single person, then the question becomes one of determining which lab had the right equipment, the right chemicals and the scientist with the right expertise at the right time.
If the exact lab and person can be pinpointed, then the matter should be over and an arrest should be made very quickly.
If the exact lab and person cannot be pinpointed, however, then since small lab type work CAN also be done in a large lab, people will still be able to endlessly debate whether the anthrax was created by
1. Some secret U.S. government project that is being
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Nov.
thru Saturday, Nov. 9, 2002
Nov. 6, 2002 - While few people seem to see a connection between the anthrax case and the (apparently) growing minority of Americans who believe the moon landings were all a massive U.S. government hoax, I continue to see intriguing similarities. NASA has just commissioned a book to help teachers combat that particular conspiracy theory. Details are HERE. Someday someone will almost undoubtedly make a lot of money on a book about the "conspiracy" to cover up Dr. Hatfill's "guilt" forcing someone in the government to write a book debunking that theory. And this will probably be true even if someone else is arrested and convicted. Yes, Virginia, there are patterns to human behavior.
Nov. 5, 2002 - Because many people who e-mail me do so to disagree with my reasoning for the slanted handwriting on the envelopes while ignoring the fact that the writer wrote fairly straight when writing the letters, I added a new graphic and some new comments to the Handwriting Analysis Page to show how the envelopes compare to the letters. Any explanation would have to account for the difference. To me the cause of the difference seems to be the size of the writing space.
Nov. 3, 2002 - It's interesting to compare today's anthrax article in The Baltimore Sun: "Anthrax powder from attacks could have been made simply" to the Oct. 28 article in the Washington Post: "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted - Attacks Not Likely Work Of 1 Person, Experts Say".
The Post article has scientists saying "that making a
aerosol of such
The Sun article has scientists saying "The anthrax powder in the poisoned letters that killed five people last year could have been prepared using tabletop equipment costing a few thousand dollars, according to two scientists with knowledge of the FBI's yearlong investigation."
Analyzing this "data" I would conclude that a reporter could find a group of scientists to support any position on the anthrax case - and so could a defense attorney.
So, it seems like a good idea to "reverse engineer" the anthrax to see if it can be determined exactly how it was made. Would that convince the scientists who believe it was done some other way? Probably not. But at least they would no longer be able to testify that it COULD NOT have been done the other way.
And people wonder why the FBI hasn't arrested the culprit. How can they arrest anyone when the defense lawyers could line up scientific experts to testify that the anthrax could not have been made the way the government attorneys say?
Proving that it CAN be and probably WAS made with specific equipment and specific chemicals will eliminate any argument that it could NOT be made that way. Hopefully, that will also mean that an arrest can be made.
If you want to win a circumstantial case in court, you not only have to prove your own case, you also have to anticipate the defense's case and prevent them from creating reasonable doubt via "expert witnesses" who are stating beliefs instead of facts.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Oct.
thru Saturday, Nov. 2, 2002
Nov. 2, 2002 - Finally the FBI has made a statement about what they are doing on the anthrax investigation! According to the Washington Post and other sources, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III confirmed that the FBI is attempting to reverse engineer the anthrax to determine exactly how it was made. At the same time they are trying to determine via the DNA if there is any way to prove which laboratory was the source of the anthrax.
Without such knowledge, they would have a difficult time making a circumstantial case in court. And with such knowledge they may be able to prove that only one person had the necessary equipment, chemicals, lab access and abilities to make the anthrax.
But clearly many feel that this is "paralysis by analysis" and that "proof is for pussies". Attack Iraq now and sort through the evidence later, they insist. Or, for others, lock up Dr. Hatfill now and then gather the evidence.
While arguing about the lack of any evidence that Iraq was behind the anthrax mailings, I learned that ABC has another major reporting blunder to its discredit on the anthrax case. A year ago, on November 1, 2001, ABC was reporting that the anthrax in the Daschle letter contained bentonite:
ABCNEWS reported last week that initial tests on the Daschle letter discovered the presence of one of those important additives, bentonite, an anti-clumping agent that makes the spores float through the air and into the lungs more easily, and which United Nations weapons inspectors have associated with Iraq.Apparently, even though the information was later shown to be incorrect, Brian Ross had found four sources "confirming" it. Here is an excerpt from an ABC's "This Week" program on October 28, 2001, where Sam Donelson talked with Dr. David Franz, former commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases:
DONALDSON: Dr. Franz, bentonite, that's the Iraqi signature in making anthrax for terrorism uses, for military uses, is it not?
FRANZ: Bentonite was used by the Iraqis in producing the anthrax that they produced, in producing the bacillus thuringiensis (ph) that they used as a model in developing this technology to produce anthrax, we believe. However, bentonite is found throughout the world. Bentonite is found in the U.S., it's found wherever there was ever an active volcano, probably.
DONALDSON: Well, you know about the struggle going on. Our Brian Ross reports that he has four sources, ABC News does, that says that bentonite has been found in the Daschle anthrax. The U.S. government says no. Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesperson, told our White House correspondent yesterday that as of that time, no bentonite had been found. What do you think's going on here?
FRANZ: Well, I think someone probably knows whether there's bentonite there or not. I don't happen to know. But even if we have definitive proof that we have bentonite in a sample from the Daschle letter, in my mind, that's just another piece of the puzzle, it's not the final piece of the puzzle.Richard M. Smith tells me, "According to the Preston book ["The Demon In The Freezer"], Jahrling of Ft. Detrick basically had to talk down the White House from attacking Iraq over the anthrax attacks. He said the forensic evidence wasn't there."
But, clearly, to some the fact that the evidence isn't there just means that the evidence isn't being properly interpreted to support locked-in beliefs regarding Iraq.
Nov. 1, 2002 - The Washington Post article from a few days ago continues to cause heated arguments from people who feel that Iraq was behind the anthrax mailings and that the FBI is not spending enough time looking at Iraq and too much time looking at domestic suspects. Yet, when confronted, these people admit they have no solid evidence that Iraq did it. They just want Iraq to be guilty.
In addition, the failure of the "profile" in the sniper case puts all profiling in doubt for some people - particularly people who want Iraq to be guilty in the anthrax case. A commentary from Front Page Magazine sums up most concerns about profiling - but in an absurd way. The article says that in the sniper case the profile was "politically correct". That's a mind-bogglingly ignorant comment.
Profiling is not an exact science. As I understand it, basically it is just a tool used by law enforcement people, and an FBI profile merely says, "In the past, when crimes of this kind were committed, this is the general type of person who committed those crimes."
If 99 percent of the snipers in the past were white males, then the profile is going to say that the new sniper is most likely a white male. Does that mean he MUST be? No.
But what's the alternative? To forget about past experience and human behavior patterns and say it could be anyone? To demand that cops consider young white males the same as elderly Chinese women as being potential sniper suspects?
When you start an investigation from scratch, you go with odds and percentages. You go with past experience. That's all a profile is. A tool based upon past experience.
That tool may occasionally cause you to miss possible clues, as it did in the sniper case. But most times it leads in the right general direction. And in law enforcement you use any tool you can find. It's just not practical to pretend that you have no experience and that everyone in the world is equally suspect.
Profiling is a good target for FBI critics and civil libertarians. But it is a good law enforcement tool - most of the time. People just have to understand that it isn't a perfect tool. And there is nothing else that is better.
The profile of the anthrax mailer is the same. The evidence indicates that the crime was almost certainly done by a scientist living and working in America. The profile says that IN THE PAST, similar crimes were done by this type of person. Does it say that the profile is an EXACT description? No. It says nothing like that. It only says, that from experience, in the past, this general type of person did similar crimes. That's all it says.
If a tool doesn't work 100 percent of the time, but there is no better tool, what do you do? Guess? Give up? Hire a thousand times as many police officers so that they can investigate a thousand times as many people?
To profiling critics, knowledge of the past, experience and human patterns of behavior are just prejudices. And when the profile is wrong, they say it is worthless. A common complaint: If it isn't 100 percent reliable, it's worthless.
But in law enforcement you just do the job the best way you know how with the best tools you have available and let the critics complain. They'd complain a lot more if the profiling tool wasn't used.
At least that's the way I see it.
Oct. 30, 2002 - It's been pointed out to me that the anthrax may have been refined with the use of a spray-drier but not with a jet-mill, since a jet mill would create more damaged sprores than was seen in the anthrax sent to Senators Leahy and Daschle. I looked for references to jet-mills on the site, but found none. Apparently, I'd just used the terms interchangeably in discussions. While looking through the site, however, I found statements that only $2,500 worth of equipment may have been needed. That is now looking very unlikely. A spray-drier costs around $50,000. A fairly sophisticated lab was probably used - although probably not a government lab. I made some minor changes to emphasize that the anthrax was probably not refined in a "makeshift lab".
Oct. 29, 2002 - I changed item #14 in the profile of the anthrax refiner/mailer. It's always been a weak point in the profile, but with the added possibility that the refiner/mailer compares himself to Einstein, combined with the theory that he apparently acted to protect America because he feels the rest of the country is too stupid to see the dangers of bioterrorism, his mood swings most likely aren't between elation and depression but between feelings of superiority and feelings of deep anger. I'm still looking for the best psychological term to use.
Oct. 28, 2002 - A new article in The Washington Post criticizing the FBI's handling of the anthrax case seems more political than scientific. Although it uses comments from numerous scienists and "experts", it fails to recognize that on the anthrax issue there are several political sides, and each side views the evidence in the way that best fits their political agenda. They are locked into whichever "boogie man" they see as the most likely culprit and readily rationalize any evidence that points elsewhere.
It never fails to amaze me when "experts" who do not know how the anthrax was refined are believed when they say how difficult it must be and how long and how costly it would be for them to figure it out. And therefore the culprit couldn't have approached the problem in any other way.
Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998, says, "And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good."
So, the culprit must have been equally clueless? Why?
Professor Richard Ebright of Rutgers, in an anthrax forum, wrote this reponse to Washington Post reporters Guy Gugliotta and Gary Matsumoto:
It is simply incomprehensible that the claim that a spore count of 10^12 spores per gram is unprecedented continues to be repeated.
A Bacillus spore has a dry mass of 10^-12 gram.
Therefore, ***any*** pure preparation of Bacillus spores ***must*** contain 10^12 spores/gram. And ***any*** impure preparation of Bacillus spores ***must*** contain (100% - X) x (10^12) spore/gram, where X is themass-percentage of impurity.
No matter how it was made. No matter where it was made.
Gugliotta's and Matsumoto's suggestion that the former US BW program was unable to achieve spore counts higher than 10^10 to 10^11 spores/gram implies -- preposterously -- that the former US BW progam was unable to achieve purities higher than 1 to 10%.
Gugliotta's and Matsumoto's suggestion that the former US BW program was unable to achieve spore counts higher than 10^10 to 10^11 spores/gram also directly contradicts the following statements by former US BW program staffer William C. Patrick (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bioterror/biow_patrick.html):
"Patrick: Yes. As chief of the old product development division, I had my scientists and technicians make simulant powders that could be used [for tests] in place of the real thing. Now this is a simulant that represents anthrax. It is a freeze-dried powder of Bacillus globigii [a different type of bacteria].
"Broad: So if this got wet, would it come back to life?
"Patrick: Oh, it very much should, yes. But you would disseminate this as a dry powder. It is small particle size. It has very good "free flow" properties.
"Broad: How many little bugs are in there?
"Patrick: There are a trillion noninfectious spores per gram in this.
"Broad: Per gram?
"Patrick: Per gram.When asked, "Why wouldn't the size of the spores also influence the number per gram?", Professor Ebright responded:
Particle size is not a function of spore size--which is constant in all circumstances, being genetically determined--but, rather, of the number of spores per particle.
Hence, mass (grams/spore) and reciprocal mass (spores/gram) do not depend on particle size.
(Just as the mass and reciprocal mass of ten apples does not depend on whether the ten apples sitting alone on shelves or grouped together in a bag.)When experts view the same data and come to totally different conclusions, all that can be safely said for certain is that more data is needed ... and/or that politics are involved.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, Oct.
thru Saturday, Oct. 27, 2002
Oct. 25, 2002 - The "FDR link" is clearly more fascinating to me than anyone else. But it still raises some interesting questions: Why did the anthrax mailer choose to use the mailbox directly across the street from Princeton University? Anthrax has not been found in any other mailbox that could have been used. Certainly the anthrax mailer did not expect the box would contain a few residual spores to indicate to the FBI that it was the mailing point. More likely, the anthrax mailer expected that the letters would be postmarked "Princeton". Before the anthrax attack, how many people in that area knew that their letters were postmarked "Trenton"?
He could have figured that the letters might be traced back to that specific mailbox some other way? He may have hoped that it would suggest that someone at Princeton University was the culprit. Or he may have seen the parallels to the Einstein letter and mailed the letter from there for his own emotional satisfaction. Or both. Certainly, any scientist in that area who felt he needed to awaken America to a threat from weapons of mass destruction would see the parallels. It would help justify his actions.
And there is another odd FDR link: Greendale in the return
As it says in the Return Address Section,
WI, Greenbelt, MD, and Greenhills, OH, were
I think there's a very good probability that the anthrax mailer was comparing his actions to those of Albert Einstein when he mailed the second batch of letters. And he may have been talking with others about such parallels prior to sending the letters.
Oct. 24, 2002 - Among the e-mails I received today as a result of the Time Magazine article was one from a concerned citizen Stephen Balbach, reminding me that on Oct. 11, 1939, a letter from a scientist at Princeton was delivered to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt advising him of a dire threat of a weapon of mass destruction against which the United States needed to be prepared to defend itself. The intent of the letter was to raise alarm. FDR heeded the letter from Professor Einstein of Princeton, and the result was the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb before Germany could do the same thing.
Professor Einstein later tended to regret sending that letter, since it did start the Age of Nuclear Weapons, and Nazi Germany was nowhere near as close to developing an atomic bomb as had been feared. Which reminds me of a old adage: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
Oct. 23, 2002 - According to Dr. Meryl Nass who has connections to the anthrax case similar to those of Dr. Rosenberg, the bloodhounds could have had more to work with than just what has been reported in the media:
"The FBI has a number of additional letters that were never announced, that it obtained from stored mail after the attacks.
"These letters are additional evidence containing the scent of the attacker, and will likely be used in the court case."Dr. Nass was also asked this follow-up question: "Were all of the additional letters postmarked Oct 9?". Her response:
"Unfortunately, I have no details about them, except some were from NJ and some from the State Department mail facility."Oct. 23, 2002 - All the anthrax case watchers were tuned into Peter Jennings and ABC's "World News Tonight" last night for a report about Dr. Hatfill and the bloodhounds that had been pre-announced on the ABC News web site a couple days before. A text version of the report is HERE. The TV version made it even more clear that - according to Brian Ross and Peter Jennings - Dr. Hatfill is the FBI's prime suspect and maybe their only suspect in the anthrax case.
The TV version began with Peter Jennings summarizing the anthrax case to date, and then saying,
"The FBI tells ABC News that it is very confident that it has found the person responsible. ABC's Brian Ross is here. Brian? Same case, same individual."To which Brian Ross responded,
"That's right, Peter. Steven Hatfill. And while there is no direct evidence, authorities say they are building what they describe as 'a growing case of circumstantial evidence.'"And then the TV program went into the same general comments as in the text version.
The text version says, "While he is not officially called a suspect, Hatfill is clearly the main focus of the FBI , even as he continues to deny any involvement.".
It may be possibly true, but one cannot help but recall that back in December of 2001, Brian Ross said exactly the same thing about a totally different scientist. That ABC report is HERE. The Reuters News Agency reported on it. The next day, however, Reuters reported that the ABC story was denied by the FBI.
And, of course, it was Brian Ross who incorrectly reported on a non-existent "Greendale School" in Greendale, Zimbabwe.
Plus, the main point of last night's report was about the highly debateable bloodhound story from Newsweek, a story which another source reports the FBI saying they "gave no such information to the media" and another "knowledgeable source" saying "what was reported [about the bloodhounds] was "completely wrong". And then of course, there's the fact that the story just plain seems totally unbelievable.
Nevertheless, those who believe Dr. Hatfill is guilty were cheering. "THE FILTHY NAZI HATFILL IS ON HIS WAY TO LETHAL INJECTIONVILLE," ranted one true believer in a discussion forum.
For me it was a disconcerting experience to have Time Magazine report on one day that I do not believe Dr. Hatfill is the culprit, and then to have Peter Jennings and Brian Ross tell all of America on the next day that Dr. Hatfill is the focus of the FBI's investigation.
Was the ABC news report actually "news" or just more rumor and innuendo? Time will tell. (No pun intended.)
& Changes: Sunday, Oct. 13, 2002, thru Saturday, Oct. 19, 2002
Oct. 19, 2002 - For the first time that I've seen, there was information in the news about what happened to some of the anthrax that was sent to NBC. The Virginian-Pilot reports that "protective gear, office equipment, papers, carpets" are to be incinerated at Norfolk. And it indicates that similar disposals were done for materials from other sites where anthrax was found. But there are still no reports about any attempt to determine if Kathy Nguyen could have been exposed to this anthrax.
Oct. 15, 2002 - Now it turns out that the speculation about no mail collections on Columbus day was actually right. The secretary of the postal union for that New Jersey area wrote:
"A few different scenarios could be true regarding the postmark on a piece of mail. The Trenton P&DC DID NOT cancel mail on October 6th, 7th or 8th of 2001. Mail that was collected for canceling, from the 085,086 areas on October 6th was sent to the Monmouth facility for canceling and would have had a Monmouth 077 cancellation. Guaranteed date of postmark, to day of drop, would occur if the piece was deposited in a collection box prior to the time that is marked on the collection box. The time varies, but is between 10:00 and 11:00 AM. This is what is labeled on the collection box, but these boxes are normally collected later in the day. A safe bet would be that the piece of mail WAS deposited AFTER the labeled time on the box and COULD have occurred anytime AFTER early afternoon on October 6.2001 until midmorning on October 9, 2001."I've decided to leave things on this site the way they are, since the matter really has very little to do with identifying the anthrax mailer. The first mailing of Sept. 17 or 18 was not complicated by any holiday. And we don't know that that anthrax mailer was totally informed on exact mail pickup times for holidays. The fact that all the letters were postmarked on Tuesdays may be significant, but the significance of Columbus Day is highly debateable.
Oct. 14, 2002 - It turns out that all the speculation about no mail collections on Columbus day was wrong. A postal empoyee wrote this:
"Although the Postal Service does not deliver mail to homes and businesses on such holidays, they do deliver to PO boxes, collect mail (pull) from ALL collection boxes and operate mail processing facilities on these holidays. Holidays such as Columbus day and Veterans Day are considered 'non-widely observed holidays', typically a single employee at each office is scheduled to do a collection run, and therefore one should have been scheduled in Trenton last year."Therefore, people who think Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer have to go back to believing that he drove to Princeton/Trenton during the night of Oct. 8-9, instead of being able to do it on a leisurely drive over the weekend.
It also meant that I had to undo the minor changes I made to this site about mail collections on Columbus Day.
An article in today's Wall Street Journal, about amateur sleuths working on the anthrax case, mentions the Columbus day theory and vividly demonstrates how theories can be publicized and trashed on the same day. Been there, done that.
Oct. 13, 2002 - Richard M. Smith reminded me, by showing me a Scripps Howard article from Oct. 30, 2001, that demonstrations illustrating the dangers of bioweapons weren't limited only to people in favorof BTWC inspections.
"Retired Air Force Col. Randall Larsen, director of the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security and an instructor on homeland security at the National War College in Washington, recently showed Vice President Cheney of vial of finely milled, weaponized bacillus globigii at a recent briefing on bioterrorism.
& Changes: Sunday, Oct. 6, 2002, thru Saturday, Oct. 12, 2002
Oct. 12, 2002 - Arguments over "POI" and how his alibi is affected by the fact that October 8, 2001, was Columbus Day caused me to think again about why a Right Winger would use anthrax that would point back to a government lab. Doing a bit of research, I found an article from The Washington Post dated November 25, 2001, that goes into some detail about Iraq's use of the Vollum strain of anthrax in their weapons. Wouldn't someone wanting to blame Iraq or terrorists use the Vollum strain mixed with bentonite? The Vollum strain isn't unknown to American labs. It's a more common strain of anthrax than Ames. And it is probably a better strain for weaponization, since it is not as easy to kill as Ames. It's another tidbit of information that seems to fit well with my "Right Wing or Left Wing" analysis.
Oct. 11, 2002 - Someone noticed that Columbus Day was on October 8 last year. Since there are no mail box collections on Columbus day, that means: If the bar codes on the Senators' letters indicate that they were collected from the mail box during the 11 a.m. pickup on October 9, then the letters could actually have been mailed any time after the last pickup on Saturday, October 6. I had to make some minor changes to reflect that there were no mail pickups on Monday, Oct. 8.
Oct. 11, 2002 - The best guess about Pete Velis (who bought the ad in the Washington Times) is now that his name really is Pete Velis. He has apparently paid for other newspaper ads to comment on other FBI investigations in the past.
Oct. 10, 2002 - An article in yesterday's Hartford Courant is a good reminder of one important fact that people sometimes forget:
"Army spokesman Chuck Dasey would not comment on the merits of Stevens' proposed claim. But he said there are still important questions that remain to be answered about whether the anthrax used in the attacks came from USAMRIID."Oct. 10, 2002 - Interesting comments about the anthrax case in today's Florida Sun-Sentinel from Milton Leitenberg, a former international arms monitor and a bioterrorism expert at the University of Maryland. Among them:
"This is most definitely dividing the scientific community, and it's right down ideological lines," said Leitenberg. "The people who back Hatfill are the people who worked with him, who mentored him. They stand to lose a lot if it's someone from the inside who did this. At the same time, those who are on the other side are the ones who believe in international treaties, who think the Bush administration should sign them."Oct. 9, 2002 - Interesting details appeared yesterday in the second of a two part essay in Newsday about the way the anthrax letter to Tom Brokaw was handled, yet very few see any connection to the Kathy Nguyen case. The key passage:
"On that morning, Oct. 12, the NYPD showed up at the city health department lab with a second envelope addressed to Tom Brokaw that O'Connor had received within a week before the first envelope. It had been in one of O'Connor's file drawers.Oct. 9, 2002 - The best guess regarding who paid for the ad in the Washington Times seems to be that his name is Petruchio, not Pete.
Oct. 7, 2002 - With nothing else happening in the anthrax case, the biggest subject of discussion today was a full page (or two page) advertisement, that someone paid for in the Aug. 26 issue of the Washington Times, to state their feelings about who was behind the anthrax mailings. It's difficult reading, and probably puts most people to sleep. That may explain why it wasn't noticed by most anthrax case followers on the Internet until today.
& Changes: Sunday, Sept. 29, 2002 thru Saturday, Oct. 5, 2002
Oct. 5, 2002 - Debates over whether the anthrax mailer is "Right Wing" or "Left Wing" caused me to write down my ideas on this subject. They are HERE.
Oct. 4, 2002 - Because of the flood of e-mails I've received from people who heard the NPR program, I updated the Handwriting Analysis Page to include more comments about writing with the wrong hand, foreigners writing English, the mental condition of the writer, etc.
Oct. 4, 2002 - My interview with National Public Radio aired this morning on "Morning Edition". As expected, the half-hour interview resulted in only one verbal comment from me actually making it into the radio program - a comment about the handwriting. Much of the rest was qualifiers about my expertise - or lack of it - in these matters. But David Kestenbaurm did also mention that I felt there were two scientists behind the attack. That was good. It could be the first time anyone in the media anywhere mentioned that possibility. And they also pointed out the absurdity of an al Qaeda terrorist giving medical advice in a threatening letter. (If you don't know where to click on the NPR site, you can try clicking HERE.)
Oct. 3, 2002 - The anthrax case now seems to be a contest in the media to see who can write the most innaccurate or nonsensical articles. On Sept. 30, USA Today did a rehash of the anthrax case that seems more misleading and inaccurate than informative.
"They have been unable to link two of the victims — Kathy Nguyen, 61, a New York hospital worker and Ottilie Lundgren, 94, a Connecticut retiree — to any contaminated letters."They may not have found the letter that killed Ottilie Lundgren, but there was contamination in her local post offices, there was someone on the same mail route who got a letter that went through the Trenton post office around the same time as the Leahy and Daschle letters, etc. And they learned that Lundgren had a habit of tearing her junk mail in half before throwing it away, a practice which could have caused spores inside the paper fibers to be flung into her face. However, as far as Kathy Nguyen is concerned, the CDC apparently hasn't made any link because they aren't trying. Read my Kathy Nguyen page HERE.
"But there are no links to a culprit and no motive."No motive? A lot of people agree on the most likely motive for the culprit - even though they agree on nothing else. So why would anyone suggest that it seems like a motive-less crime?
"The investigation also has been hampered by the recovery of only minuscule amounts of anthrax spores.""Minuscule amounts of anthrax spores"? The New York Post letter AND the Leahy letters were both recovered UNOPENED. A couple grams of anthrax is hardly a "miniscule amount".
"And investigators have not been able to determine why the recipients of the other four letters — the New York Post, NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw and Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy — were chosen."If anyone is unable to figure out why Senators Leahy and Daschle were chosen, go to the Targets Section of this web site. It's easy to figure out why they were targeted, it's just difficult to confirm it without an arrest and confession.
"agents say they believe they are looking for one culprit."Is that really what they say? Or are they saying they don't think the culprit(s) belongs to any domestic or foreign terrorist organization?
Then we have an Oct. 3. article on NewsMax.com which gives Dr. Ken Alibek another outlet for the nonsensical al Qaeda theory.
"The FBI failed to conduct an immediate search of the places where the hijackers lived in Florida."Has he still failed to realize that the 9-11 hijackers were all DEAD at the time of the anthrax mailings? They'd been dead a week when the first letters were mailed, and dead a month when the second letters were mailed.
"The hijackers were looking for crop dusters."There were no crop dusters used in the anthrax attack! And the terrorist who asked about crop dusters was DEAD at the time of the anthrax attacks! So why continue to talk about crop dusters?
"The timing of the attack in conjunction with 9/11 was 'sort of a simultaneous attempt' to cause a greater fear and anxiety."How many hoaxes have we seen in the past year illustrating clearly that when there is public alarm over something, America produces idiots by the hundreds who try to take advantage of that alarm to promote a personal agenda of some sort by scaring specific people or organizations?
"Noting that the FBI early on devoted most of its energies and resources to tracking a domestic perpetrator, Alibek said: 'For example, if you investigate something immediately after it happened, people still have something in mind, what they saw, what they knew, and so on and so forth.'"So soon we forget. The FBI began the anthrax investigation by assuming it was the work of foreign terrorists, but all the evidence they found indicated it was a domestic terrorist. The New York Times article of December 22, 2001, complains that the FBI wasted too much time looking for foreign terrorists before realizing it was a domestic crime.
It seems to me that a big element in the al Qaeda theory could be easily resolved by testing the body of Al Haznawi. We have his body. Check HERE. He was one of the hijackers who died in the crash in Pennsylvania. Why not test it for anthrax?
The media seems to have only two theories they can write about: It was either al Qaeda or Dr. Hatfill. Beyond those two "boogie man theories" they don't have any sound bites or quotes on file, so they don't even know how to consider any other possiblities.
Oct. 1, 2002 - After having several people tell me about a program called "Anthrax: Trial By Media?", when I finally located the web site address, the link wouldn't work!
& Changes: Sunday, Sept. 22, 2002 thru Saturday, Sept. 28,
Sept. 28, 2002 - It was becoming too difficult for me to find reference articles when I had them divided between this page and the "Other Theories" page. When visitors also complained, I decided to combine all the references (excluding the hoax-related articles on the Hoax Page) onto this page. It makes things easier to find, but it also means that there may now be some references in the list that do not seem to relate to the anthrax case (but which relate to conspiracy theories or only to things in a general way).
Because people also seemed to have a hard time finding the supplemental pages, I also changed the Table of Contents to include them - in addition to retaining Section #11.
Sept. 28, 2002 - An article from "AIM - Accuracy In Media" about the bloodhound story has generated a new debate over exactly what happened. As Leo Rosten once wrote, "I never cease to be dumfounded by the unbelievable things people believe."
Sept. 27, 2002 - It's a very slow week for news about the anthrax case, and the only interesting tidbit (so far) seems to be a typo in a Boston Globe article this week where they wrote about Dr. Hatfill's friend Pat Clawson:
"Clawson would not discuss his friend's past, other than to contend vehemently that Hatfill is the killer."The Globe published a retraction for that, and also about another comment they attributed to Pat Clawson:
"Clawson, who said he works on a radio show with Oliver North, the retired Marine lieutenant colonel, said he had his own anthrax scare a few weeks earlier when he inadvertently opened mail left on his desk for North. The letter, he said, came from a radical Jewish organization and was postmarked Trenton, N.J., where the anthrax letter was mailed to Daschle."On some Internet site, Pat Clawson said this:
"The truth is that I never made any statements to anyone - including the Boston Globe - about any so-called 'radical Jewish organization.' I don't know how the reporter who wrote the Globe story came up with that, and I've complained to him about that and at least three other factual errors that appeared in his report."On Wednesday, I did an interview with David Kastenbaum from NPR. The half-hour interview will be edited and is currently scheduled to be part of the "Morning Report" on Friday, October 4. I always find it interesting to see what 2 or 3 minutes will be chosen to be aired out of a half hour interview.
Sept. 22, 2002 - Dr. Rosenberg gives her opinion on the lack of progress in the anthrax case in today's Los Angeles Times along with comments on bioweapons in general.
& Changes: Sunday, Sept. 15, 2002 thru Saturday, Sept. 21,
Sept. 21, 2002 - In a week of almost no new anthrax news, someone managed to dig up an ABC article from November 12, 2001, that I had never seen before. It's about a doctor in Kendall Park, NJ, who thinks he may have gotten anthrax from the anthrax mailer two weeks before the first anthrax mailing.
Sept. 18, 2002 - Yet another study from the CDC (reported in today's Hartford Courant) shows that the CDC still hasn't even considered the possibility that Kathy Nguyen probably died from anthrax that originated with the September 18, 2001, mailing. How can it be so difficult to believe that all the New York anthrax cases came from the Sept. 18, mailing? Why must this one case be from the October 9, 2001, mailing - even though it was within a few miles of the other New York cases? Because of the timing? There were two other New York cases at that time that are undoubtedly related to the Sept. 18 mailing. Because it was inhalation anthrax? The Florida cases were also inhalation anthrax, and they were from the Sept. 18 mailing. The CDC's position on this is baffling to me. For details on how Kathy Nguyen most likely got anthrax, click HERE.
Sept. 16, 2002 - The release of the information that the anthrax was spread through the AMI building by paper used in copy machines seems of little interest to the anthrax case except that it helps quash the theory that there must have been more than one letter. (Some people felt one letter couldn't have caused such widespread contamination.)
Sept. 16, 2002 - An article from the Sept. 14 issue of The Miami Herald illustrates the dangers of believing "breaking news". My favorite quote:
"The worst parody of journalism Friday was actually on CNN, where the high-paid-low-rated anchor Paula Zahn speculated, without a jot or tittle of evidence, that the three men were coming to Florida to blow up the Turkey Point nuclear reactor. Now you know why CNN promotes her sex appeal rather than her news judgment."Sept. 15, 2002 - A commentary on Newsmax.com dated Sept. 10 includes some new (but long suspected) information about the bloodhounds in the Dr. Hatfill case:
"They have searched his apartment near Fort Detrick twice. Reporters and camera crews were there when they made the second search, which involved the use of bloodhounds. It was reported that the bloodhounds went crazy when they entered Hatfill's apartment, supposedly because they detected scents there that were on envelopes in which anthrax had been mailed. This has been questioned by bloodhound handlers, and an FBI spokesman says they gave no such information to the media. A knowledgeable source says what was reported was completely wrong."
& Changes: Sunday, Sept. 8, 2002 thru Saturday, Sept. 14, 2002
Sept. 14, 2002 - Rereading the main page for the first time in months, I noticed that in the handwriting graphic I said "9. The letters were originally written on some kind of drawing paper, NOT on regular writing paper." That was an old thought from the time when it was believed that the paper was metric size. There's no longer any reason to believe that the original letters were on drawing paper, so I erased that point from the graphic. Plus I rephrased the conclusion. I also made a few other minor changes in various sections, mostly as a result of the spores that were found in that mailbox in Princeton. There were a lot of places where I said the letters were mailed in Trenton; I changed them to say "the Trenton area" or Princeton.
Sept. 12, 2002 - According to The Washington Post, the FBI has once again searched the apartment where Dr. Hatfill lived until Aug. 12th. The FBI has not explained why they needed this third (or fourth) search, but, presumably, it was to verify that the apartment contained nothing of interest before occupation by a new tenant. (When dealing with conspiracy theorists, an ounce of anticipation is worth a ton of explanation.)
Sept. 12, 2002 - According to The Palm Beach Post, investigators took 5,000 anthrax spore samples from the AMI building, but they won't say if they found or didn't find the source letter(s).
Sept. 11, 2002 - According to the Florida Sun-Sentinel, the FBI has concluded its search of the AMI building. Key comment:
"I can confirm that we finished up today, and that we have left," Judy Orihuela, an FBI spokeswoman in Miami, said Tuesday.Sept. 10, 2002 - David Tell of "The Weekly Standard" has put on-line HERE Dr. Steven Hatfill's SAIC time cards for the dates of the anthrax mailings, along with copies of various exchanges between Hatfill's attorney and The New York Times regarding Nicolas Kristof's columns attacking Dr. Hatfill. Also today, according to the Associated Press, astronaut Buzz Aldrin punched out a conspiracy theorist who demanded that he swear on a Bible that he actually went to the moon. (According to some sources, "up to 20 percent" of Americans believe that the moon trips were an elaborate government hoax.) This makes me think that when Dr. Hatfill talked in his second news conference about the possibility of going to jail for something he might do, he could very well have been thinking about punching out one of the conspiracy theorists who have been dogging him. But most people don't seem to remember that Dr. Hatfill began his time in the public eye as an unnamed "rogue CIA agent" in a conspiracy theory fostered by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg.
Sept. 9, 2002 - According to the Palm Beach Post, the FBI continues its search of the AMI building. So far, however, there has been no report on their findings.
& Changes: Sunday, Sept. 1, 2002 thru Saturday, Sept. 7, 2002
Sept. 7, 2002 - The Rapid City Journal reports that a minor outbreak of anthrax in South Dakota (the third this year) has killed a few cattle. Standard stuff, but the information about weather conditions can be extrapolated to help make the major anthrax outbreak in Rhodesia twenty years ago more understandable.
Sept. 7, 2002 - Someone helped me locate a transcript of the statement Dr. Hatfill made at his second news conference. It's now also on this site HERE. In that news conference, Dr. Hatfill mentioned time sheets that show he was working at SAIC in McLean, VA, on the dates of the anthrax mailings. I'm told that copies of those time sheets have been obtained by some individuals using the Freedom Of Information Act. People are now examining them to compare the handwriting to the anthrax letters and to see if anything about the time sheets indicates that Dr. Hatfill was lying or that there is some kind of government conspiracy to protect Dr. Hatfill.
Sept. 6, 2002 - In a biological weapons forum used by scientists, someone posted a link to a very interesting article from The Albion Monitor dated Aug. 16, 2002. The writer's (Paul de Armond's) agenda is very clear from this boxed headline:
"A close look at the anthrax attacks reveals the deadly bacteria could only have been produced by a covert bioweapons program in violation of international law. Is that the reason why the FBI hasn't been able to catch the killer?"It's been known for a long time that the anthrax in the media letters was less refined than the anthrax in the Senators' letters, however, the article contains some new details I've never seen before:
"The attacker's anthrax was roughly 75 percent non-infectious material."
"The anthrax for the New York mailings was not very high in purity; those batches contained about 10 percent anthrax spores. The powder in the Daschle and Leahy letters is remarkably pure, consisting almost entirely of viable spores."
"The composition of the Florida anthrax is critical to the case. It appears to have been intermediate in purity between the New York and Washington, DC samples."This last comment about the Florida anthrax should be verified or debunked very soon, since the FBI is wrapping up its search of the AMI headquarters today.
The article also confirms that the anthrax was apparently not "milled" in the standard military bio-weapons way, instead, the process "is highly suggestive of a spray-drying process -- a recent innovation in anthrax-weapons research."
This also seems to be where Paul de Armond's logic fails. He doesn't mention that the "jet milling" process is commonly used in non-government labs for other types of work. It is common equipment in certain fields. Check this LINK. The "jet mill" subject is also described on this web site as part of the answer to Question #5 in the "A Theory About Who Did it" Section.
Sept. 5, 2002 - Although it is not really related to the anthrax case and is just an interesting political side issue (details HERE), the Dr. Hatfill situation continues to generate news. Not only has Dr. Hatfill been fired from LSU, but now Stephen Guillot, the man who hired Hatfill, has also been fired. The only apparent reason is that Guillot didn't tell his superiors about the the "smoking gun" e-mail evidence he had that the Department Of Justice wanted Hatfill fired. The legality of both firings and whether or not the DOJ can force such a firing of Dr. Hatfill without just cause is now an issue that might go to the courts. Key comment from the Washington Post:
"Justice Department officials effectively blackballed Hatfill by instructing LSU to prohibit him from working on the university's government-funded programs."And more comments from The Advocate:
"'The federal government cannot just bar someone from getting federal contracts or working on federal contracts,' said Hatfill's spokesman, Pat Clawson of Virginia. 'They have to have just cause to do that. There are administrative procedures and due process … The Justice Department has done none of these things [in Hatfill's case].'"
"Mark Corallo, a Justice Department spokesman, said the Justice Department cannot tell LSU whom to remove from its payroll but it can tell the recipient of a Justice Department grant who cannot work on that project."This is the Aug. 1 e-mail sent to LSU's Stephen Guillot from Timothy Beres, acting director of the Justice Department's Office of Domestic Preparedness:
"'Steve, This is a follow-up of the phone conversation you had with Darrell Darnell [another ODP official] earlier this afternoon. I want to reiterate that the Office of Justice Programs/Office for Domestic Preparedness directs that Louisiana State University Academy of Counter-Terrorist Education cease and desist from utilizing the subject matter expert and course instructor duties of Steven J. Hatfill on all Department of Justice funded programs.'"One thing that seems clear from all this is that the DOJ is behind the harassment of Dr. Hatfill, not the FBI. While the FBI is a division of the DOJ, the Department of Justice makes the decisions on who to arrest and - apparently in this case - who to harass.
Sept. 4, 2002 - Dr. Hatfill is fired from LSU. One key quote is from The Advocate:
"the U.S. Justice Department, in an e-mail, asked LSU not to use Hatfill on projects financed with Justice Department grants. That restriction would have complicated Hatfill's ability to function at the center."Whether the Justice Department sent the e-mail to put pressure on Hatfill, or because pressure was being put on the DOJ for indirectly paying the salary of a "person of interest" in the anthrax case, the effect is the same on Dr. Hatfill. Note that the e-mail was from the Department of Justice, not the FBI.
The Washington Post states:
"LSU spokesman Greg Sands said Hatfill's supervisor, Steven Guillot, received an e-mail Aug. 1 directing him to 'cease and desist' from using Hatfill on Justice Department-funded projects."There's something very wrong here. This smacks of blacklisting. And, while I could be wrong, it appears that the DOJ is persecuting Dr. Hatfill simply as a way of relieving political pressure on themselves. Dr. Hatfill has not been charged with any crime. He apparently has a solid alibi for the dates of the anthrax mailings. And the FBI has stated repeatedly that he is not a suspect. How can the DOJ legally tell LSU that Dr. Hatfill cannot work on any DOJ project? Don't they have to have some justification? Something is definitely very wrong here.
"Whereas the sponsorship of the anthrax attacks remain a mystery, the attacker presumably gained knowledge about the vulnerabilities of the United States. What would a hostile state, especially one intent on developing a deterrent against an American attack (or an American reprisal for 9/11), have learned?"His answer assumes that everything is the same as it was a year ago, that we have learned nothing, and that we are just as unprepared today as we were then. That is beyond preposterous.
He suggests that the letter opened at AMI didn’t contain a warning. He has no way of knowing that - unless he’s assuming that the anthrax letter was the J-Lo letter, and that is an absurd assumption. Most likely the letter sent to the National Enquirer (and forwarded to AMI) was identical to the letter sent to Tom Brokaw.
He inaccurately states that the letters to the media generated panic because they had a warning. In reality, all those letters were either thrown out or never opened. Whatever panic there was, occurred after people started dying and it was learned that someone had sent anthrax through the mails. The "warnings" had nothing to do with anything. The media letters were dug out of the trash or located after the panic began.
Lastly, he assumes that the FBI has not identified the lab where the anthrax was refined, when all he really knows is that the culprit has not been arrested.
Sept. 2, 2002 - Someone pointed out a mistake in the "Timeline Section" on this web site. I had stated that, on September 18, 2001, the day of the first anthrax mailing, the FBI had searched the home of a scientist who claimed to be developing "an anthrax delivery system" in his basement. It appears from rereading the Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel article about the incident, that only the policecame to his home on September 18th, and the FBI did not arrive with a search warrant to search the place until ten days later (apparently after doing a background check to verify that the man was not "just a drunk"). I corrected the error.
Sept. 1, 2002 - Questions about the anthrax found two weeks ago in the mailbox in front of Princeton University prompted me to finally revise the "Glove & Mailbox" section of this web site to reflect the fact that the spores were found (I'd previously said that no spores were found in any mailboxes) - and to include some speculation about whether or not the letters were mailed at night, based upon the time when the bar code was written on the envelopes.
Sept. 1, 2002 - An article at Salon.com seems to explain how Dr. Rosenberg came by her theory that some unnamed person from USAMRIID (a.k.a. Dr. Hatfill) sent the anthrax letters:
"I began just putting together the data that was available, and discussing it on this e-mail list. Then people starting sending me information, so I sort of became a center for collecting information on the subject," she says.
& Changes: Sunday, Aug. 25. thru Saturday Aug. 31, 2002
Aug. 30, 2002 - The newest "Boogie Man Theory" is from Professor Don Foster - who helped convict Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and unveiled Joe Klein as the author of the novel Primary Colors. Prof. Foster assists the FBI in matters of forensic linguistics.
Last night, in a program from the BBC called "Anthrax Detectives", which aired on The Learning Channel, Professor Foster outlined his theory - which had been previously mentioned in a BBC article on Aug. 18th. According to Foster, he has identified two suspects who had both worked for the CIA, the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and other classified military operations, two individuals who he feels could be the anthrax culprits.
Foster’s theory is that the men are experts in forensics, and one of them sent the letters using Arab phases while knowing that it would be clear to experts that the letters were NOT sent by Arabs. Because the letters were sent from Central New Jersey, some former USAMRIID employees living in that area would automatically become suspects - thus diverting attention away from the real culprit(s): someone high up at USAMRIID who has access to personnel records. Key phrase:
"It's very frustrating. Ordinarily with the FBI if there's some documents needed - known writings - boom, they're on my desk the next day."This phrase indicates to me that Prof. Foster is "out of the loop" on the anthrax case. And because he’s been left out of the loop, he is suspicious of the reasons.
But the reason he is "out of the loop" is most likely because the FBI is very concerned about leaks to the media, and Prof. Foster talks to the media. To me, Prof. Foster’s theory seems even more unlikely than Dr. Rosenberg’s theory about Dr. Hatfill. Prof. Foster’s theory is just too convoluted and depends too much upon some super-spy being able to do too many things without being detected. Taking Prof. Foster "out of the loop" means he won’t be given facts that he can rationalize to verify his theory and thereby create misgivings that might later influence a jury in a trial of someone else.
It’s very likely that most FBI personnel are also "out of the loop". It seems that, in order to prevent leaks, the FBI has compartmentalized the case, and only certain key individuals know all the pieces. The leaks about Dr. Hatfill may not really be leaks, according to Clinton Van Zandt, a former FBI special agent, speaking on PBS yesterday. He said, the first time the FBI searched Hatfill’s apartment, "a local TV crew happened to be in the area, saw FBI cars and came over. The second time a search took place, a neighbor called up the media and said, hey, you might be interested. The FBI is back again. So to me that's not a FBI leak. That's a happenstance." Perhaps, but the fact that Hatfill’s name was well-known to the media because of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg’s speeches means the media was tuned into anything having to do with Hatfill, and they flooded to the scene at the mention of his name.
Unless a lot of newspapers start reporting on Professor Foster’s theory, however, I won’t be adding it to the "Other Theories" page. Everyone has an anthrax theory.
Aug. 29, 2002 - I was reminded today that the finding of anthrax spores in a mailbox across the the street from Princeton University will probably cause me to change some speculation in the "Glove & Mail Boxes" page on this site. A medical doctor in a bioweapons forum wrote this:
"if this mailbox was contaminated by the Oct 9 mailings it would seem that the Senate letters would have been mailed between 11 AM and 3PM Oct 9, because the Senate letters were processed at the Trenton facility beginning at 5:27 PM Oct 9. That means a broad daylight drop on what must be a crowded corner at a major entrance to Princeton."If this analysis is true, it means the letters were not mailed at night, as I previously thought. It also provides more information to exonerate Dr. Hatfill, since he was known to be working long hours at SAIC in McLean, VA, during the day on Oct. 9.
Added Aug. 30: However, we have nothing official about how long it takes for a letter to get from the mailbox in front of Princeton University to the machine that puts on the bar code. If it takes 2-1/2 hours, then the letter was mailed between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the 9th. If it takes 6-1/2 hours, then it was probably mailed the night before.
Aug. 28, 2002 - It occurred to me today that I was making a lot of interesting changes to this web site that few readers would notice - because I've only been indicating major updates in this section. So, beginning today, I will try to indicate significant minor updates, too.
Some of these "minor" updates may actually have major significance if and/or when this whole case is eventually resolved. There are good examples among the last few updates:
Aug. 28, 2002 - Information about the hoax letter sent to Al Gore's office is not relevant to the anthrax case, so, instead of being on the main page, it is among the hoax references at the end of the Hoax Section.
Aug. 27, 2002 - The Miami Herald reports that the AMI building in Boca Raton will be thoroughly searched by the FBI, starting Friday. They will look for the missing anthrax letter(s) and envelope(s). This caused me to change the "FBI Questions" page because they will be answering my Question #4 (Is there any evidence that the Florida anthrax is different from the New York anthrax?). The key phrase:
"All spores gathered will be compared to spores found on infected letters mailed to Sens. Leahy and Tom Daschle of South Dakota."Because of that change, and an article from AP titled "Feds Hold 9/11 Hijackers' Remains", I also used the occasion to add a new question (#5) for the FBI: Was there any trace of anthrax in the body of Ahmed Ibrahim Al Haznawi? Al Haznawi's body was recovered from the crash site in Pennsylvania. He is the man who had the lesion on his leg that convinces many people that al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters. Testing his body for anthrax (if it's possible) could end some of the speculation about whether the 9-11 hijackers were somehow involved with the anthrax mailings.
Aug. 27, 2002 - I added a link to a Washington Post article from January 4, 2002, that describes the hoax letter mailed from London on November 15, 2001, a hoax that appears to be the basis for questions from the media at Hatfill's first news conference suggesting that someone may have attempted to "frame" Dr. Hatfill (who was in England at that time, but not in London). Key phrase:
"Other law enforcement officials said that whoever mailed the letter apparently attempted to mimic the handwriting on the envelope of a previous letter to Daschle that contained highly potent anthrax spores."This information caused me to slightly modify the section "It's all just politics" to include more details about this hoax. I'm also attempting to obtain copies of the letter to see what it actually said, and, hopefully, to examine the handwriting.
Aug. 26, 2002 - The National Review printed an article titled "Hatfill Strikes Back". Key phrases:
"Rosenberg might best be labeled a crank conspiracy theorist with an axe to grind against Hatfill."Aug. 25, 2002 - Because the battle between Dr. Rosenberg and Dr. Hatfill doesn't appear to have anything to do with the anthrax case, and is just about politics regarding the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC), most links to articles about Dr. Hatfill's second news conference are at the bottom of the "Other Theories" page.
Aug. 25, 2002 - I completed a transcription of the Question and Answer session Dr. Hatfill's lawyer had at the end of their first news conference on Aug. 11. It's HERE.
& Changes: Sunday, Aug. 18. thru Saturday Aug. 24, 2002
Aug. 22, 2002 - Attorney General again says, "Mr. Hatfill is a person of interest to the Department of Justice, and we continue the investigation." Quote from CNN.
Aug. 20, 2002 - An article in The Hartford Courant suggests that the anthrax refiner/ mailer could have refined the anthrax with a "jet mill" commonly available in many labs in Central and Southern New Jersey. Key phrases:
"Several labs at Princeton University, and countless private companies in the area, work with the $50,000 machines, which can be purchased secondhand for about a third of the original cost, Ebright said."I added comments about this article to Question #5 in the "A Theory About Who Did It" Section of the main page.
August 18, 2002 - After taking a step back outside of the box and looking at the Dr. Hatfill "case" objectively (and from a historical perspective) I found that it's not about the anthrax case, it's all just politics. It's infighting between those in favor of and those opposed to The Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC). For details click HERE.
August 10-11, 2002 - Even though the FBI doesn't consider him a suspect, and I certainly don't either, I decided to write down why I don't consider Dr. Steven J. Hatfill to be a suspect. My reasoning can be found HERE.
August 7-9, 2002 - The events of August 1, 2002, concerning Dr. Steven J. Hatfill puzzled me for almost a week, until I came up with a theory. It could be total baloney, but that theory is on a new supplemental page located HERE. Also, since the Al Qaeda supplemental page is now really about two "other theories" - both the al Qaeda theory and Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's theory about Dr. Hatfill, I changed the name of that page to "Other Theories".
June 26, 2002 - The media feeding frenzy over the search of the home of a scientist who clearly matches the description of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's "suspect" doesn't change anything on this site, but I still felt compelled to comment on it in the al Qaeda Section.
June 24, 2002 - News reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post that the anthrax in the letter sent to Senator Leahy was "newly made" seems to confirm and changes little on this web site, but I did add some comments about it to the al Qaeda Section and a minor comment to the FBI Questions Section.
June 16, 2002 - A letter sent by Congressman Mike Pence to Attorney General Ashcroft and numerous newspaper editorials calling for the FBI to shift the focus of the anthrax investigation to Iraq and al Qaeda prompted me to overhaul the al Qaeda page with responses to some of their claims.
May 8-15, 2002 - New information from a May 7, 2002, article in The New York Times seems to partially answer three of the four questions I posed to the FBI. I added the information and speculated about it in the FBI Questions supplemental page. That article and two other newsreports indicating that the FBI may have located the copy machine used by the anthrax terrorist also caused me to create a "Circumstantial Evidence" Section where I speculate about how the FBI might be viewing a case where there is no "smoking gun". In additon, the NY Times article gives new information about the purity of the spores in the Sept. 18 mailing. Also, I had to make various minor corrections after learning that the New York Post letter was found in their mailroom unopened and not in the trash.
May 1, 2002 - Discussions resulting from the article in The Weekly Standard caused me to add a few speculative comments to the Letters and Anthrax sections about why the anthrax mailer changed his warning from from "TAKE PENACILIN NOW" to "WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX".
April 12-15, 2002 - Larger sized images of the letters obtained via a Freedom of Information request for www.anthrax-letters.com showed that the letters were not the metric sizes previously thought. As a result, much of the Letters Section had to be revised. In addition, the larger views of the letters and envelopes showed more about the handwriting, so the handwriting supplemental page was also slightly revised.
April 8-11, 2002 - As a result of discussions about the April 15 Newsweek article, I learned that my terms "mentor" and "disciple" were misleading to some people. As a result, I did a major change to the site to use the new terms "supplier" and "refiner/mailer" instead, expanding upon the significance of the anthrax being refined after it changed hands. I also generalized information about the "supplier" to open up thinking about other possibilities.
April 5 & 6, 2002 - Added some minor comments to the Envelope Section about the post office envelopes. Added some comments to the Spores Page about why there was no anthrax in any Trenton area mail boxes, how a glove box was most likely used in order to get the anthrax into the letters, and speculated on why the anthrax letters were all mailed on Tuesdays. Also updated the Kathy Nguyen page, since the CDC appears to have given up on figuring out how she contracted anthrax.
March 30, 2002 - The number of supplemental pages has grown to the point where an index is needed, so I revised the site to include the index [on the main page]. I also put old update information on a separate page and added a new supplemental page of questions for the FBI.
March 24, 2002 - The New York Times raised the "possibility" that Al Qaeda could have been behind the anthrax mailings (which is really a question of how it is possible for dead people to commit crimes), so I created a new page to address that subject. The page is HERE.
March 13 & 16, 2002 - Stepping "outside the box" once again, I realized that the anthrax that killed Kathy Nguyen didn't have to have come from cross-contamination of the mails, it is more likely to have come from the anthrax thrown into the trash at NBC, ABC, CBS and The New York Post. What happened to the people and equipment that handled that trash? I revised Mystery #3 and added a new page with a map of Manhattan that can be accessed by clicking HERE.
March 11, 2002 - While awaiting further developments in the anthrax case, I decided to look at things from a different angle (from "outside the box" in current terminology). Everything indicates that the anthrax attacks were hastily prepared, yet the anthrax was almost certainly stolen prior to Sept. 11. That poses a question: Could there have been a "Plan A" that was trashed by Sept. 11, and the hastily conceived "Plan B" was implemented instead? It's speculation piled upon speculation, but one resulting scenario can be found by clicking HERE.
March 3, 2002 - Speculation in The Philadelpia Inquirer and elsewhere that the letter accusing Dr. Assaad of being a potential terrorist may actually have been sent by the anthrax terrorist caused me to research that particular period in time. The timing of the letter was the prime reason for all the speculation, but it seems clear from my research that it is the times, not the timing, that must be understood in order to evaluate that letter. For details, click HERE.
February 25, 2002 - Breaking news in the Washington Times seems to indicate that the "mentor" may now be employed in the Washington D.C. area, possibly helping to decontaminate the mail system (while at the same time partially atoning for his sins, which will help him at his trial). If true, this changes nothing on this site. It is still the "disciple" who needs to be firmly identified. The disciple is the one who processed the stolen anthrax received from the "mentor" and the one who actually mailed the letters.
February 20, 2002: While trying to understand exactly how the anthrax spores escaped from the envelopes, and whether or not the "terrorist" would have realized that they would escape, I discovered something about the way the letters were folded that could be very significant. To put all this information in understandable form, I created a separate page for it which can be accessed by clicking HERE.
February 7, 2002: Someone informed me of an Oct. 13, 2001, St. Petersburg Times article that showed an actual hoax letter mailed around the time of the real letters. The hoax letter provides a good exhibit to use for a handwriting comparison, so I added an analysis of it to the handwriting supplemental page of this web site. I also mention it at the end of the Envelopes section, and it caused me to add some comments to Mystery #1.
January 30, 2002: After reading various articles on the FAS web site detailing the anger expressed by scientists because of America's rejection of the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention which ended August 17th, I added some links to articles written just days before Sept. 11, and I also modified the "Who Did It?" Section slightly to include the possibility that the anger over rejection of the treaty may have played a key role in initiating the anthrax terrorist's decision to send anthrax through the mails.
January 27, 2002: Expanded the Theory Section to include 5 questions that simplify and explain the thought processes behind the theory in much greater detail.
January 26, 2002: I've been working to fix all the expired links on this page, and to make everything more accessible. It's still a work-in-progress, but if you notice any links that don't work, please let me know. (NOTE: The New York Times requires authorization before accessing their site, but authorization is free.)
January 21, 2002: New information from the Hartford Courant and The Washington Post about Ft. Detrick caused me to add a new item to the Timeline for Oct. 3, 2001, about a mysterious letter to the FBI accusing an Egyptian-American scientist of being a potential bioterrorist (at a time when bioterrorism was not yet in the news). And I added it as a new mystery in the Mystery section. The articles should also end many debates about how anthrax can get out of a secure government lab and how it can be possible for a person to be both a scientist and stupid and irresponsible. Also, CNN reports that a breakthrough is imminent on the DNA of the anthrax spores sent to Senator Leahy, which could help further pinpoint the source of origin.
January 16, 2002: I added more information to the separate page analyzing the handwriting, which can be accessed by clicking HERE. I also added some comments to the Targets section about the significance of choosing the media as the first target.
January 15, 2002: All mysteries surrounding the death of Harvard biologist Don C. Wiley appear to have been resolved. Richard H. Smith sent me an article from The Boston Globe that explains a lot of the details of the autopsy investigation. Another interesting story indicates that the FBI is hunting for copy machines that could have been used. The link is in the References section.
January 11, 2002: I started a new page which includes handwriting samples from children and goes into greater detail on that subject. That page is HERE, and it's linked to from the Letters section. I also had to remove some expired links from Yahoo!, primarily regarding Greenpeace and the BTW conference. A new source on the BTW Conference was added.
December 31, 2001: It was pointed out to me that Senator Leahy was most likely targeted because of media reports about the "Anti-Terror Bill" that were in the news shortly before the second anthrax attack, so I updated the Targets and Theory sections to reflect that probability.
December 30, 2001: People responding to this page have stated they have difficulty believing that a child could have written the letters and addressed the envelopes, so I revised the page to address that subject more precisely and coherently - adding a new graphic to the Letters section. People also want me to cover "the return address mystery", so I created a separate page for it HERE.
December 28, 2001: Something occurred to me today: There are probably two people involved: the mentor and the disciple. While the mentor was establishing an alibi (because he would be a likely suspect), the disciple was mailing the letters. I created separate profiles and changed other sections in web page to reflect those thoughts.
December 22, 2001: The Boston Globe reports that the body of the missing biology professor is found in Louisiana. The cause of his death is still a mystery. Steven D. Litvintchouk sent me a link to a Washington Post story that the FBI is looking into a possible profit motive for the attacks. He also pointed out that the square letters are most likely trimmed down A3-size paper which is commonly used for drawings. This required some revisions, too.
December 20, 2001: Richard M. Smith advised me of various news links telling of a scientist who made threats about mailing out anthrax on the same day the anthrax letters were sent to the media. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the police went to his home in Milwaukee on Sept. 18, so he has a perfect alibi. And the FBI insists that he is not a suspect. Have they seen the movie "Strangers On A Train"? I updated the timeline. In the envelopes section I added a graphic to show what a label to Senator Leahy might look like.
December 16, 2001: The Washington Post prints a story confirming that the anthrax is U.S. made. I revised the graphic that show letter sizes to use A4-size as the basis (instead of 8-1/2 by 11). I also did a major rewrite to eliminate redundancies and out-of-date entries.
December 15, 2001: Made some minor additions about the handwriting. There are indications that the writer is accustomed to writing on lined paper (as a child would be), plus the use of serifs on the number "1" but not on capital "I" could indicate home schooling.
December 14, 2001: Richard M. Smith created a web page that pointed out the missing commas between city and state on all the addresses, plus the fact that "Building" is on a separate line on the Senators' addresses. This almost certainly indicates that the addresses were copied from a computer printout. I changed the section about the envelopes to reflect this.
December 13, 2001: The Baltimore Sun breaks the news that the U.S. military has been working with dry anthrax in forms similar to what was used by the terrorist. I was advised that lots of companies in America use A4-size paper when they have requiements to send manual, letters and other materials to Europe and other places where A4-size is the standard. Changed various sections to reflect this new information. Added more links.
December 12, 2001: A feature story in the December 11, 2001, issue of The Wall Street Journal causes some rethinking about paper sizes - and the credibility of the news media. The feature also seemingly ignores the story in the New York Post about "threatening letters" from Indianapolis prior to Sept. 11! And it also ignores the letters that were on paper that is almost square in size! I also added comments about how the anthrax letters included warnings to the recipients that they had just come in contact with anthrax and how to cure it - something a bin Laden soldier wouldn't be likely to do. I added graphics showing and comparing the sizes of the letters.
December 9, 2001: Richard M. Smith provided me with a link (now expired) to a page that provided comments by Senator Daschle that the government now (more or less) officially thinks that the anthrax terrorist is a former member of the US military. In addition, I was provided with a link that says that the FBI is fully aware that some or all of the letters are photocopies. Plus, a comment by "Debby" on the alt.true-crime newsgroup that the anthrax terrorist's ex-wife might read supermarket tabloids caused me realize that the anthrax letters could actually have been written by a small child - just as they appear. It's a big stretch in speculation, but the letters could have been written by a child belonging to the terrorist, and the child may also have addressed the envelopes. I added speculation about that to the page.
December 8, 2001: I found a direct quote that confirmed that the anthrax in the first anthrax mailing was less well refined than the anthrax in the mailing to the Senators. That indicates that the terrorist worked to refine the anthrax during the 3-week period between mailings. I revised the page to make that more fact and less speculation. I also put the comparison of the Brokaw letter and the Post letter in the page instead of as a link. And I added the photograph that became available of the Leahy letter.
December 7, 2001: I did a major overhaul, adding information about Senator Leahy being in the Appropriations Committee, trimming some redundancies, plus I added a "profile of the anthrax terrorist".
December 5, 2001: Richard M. Smith provided me with the report from the Federation of American Scientists. Mr. Smith has his own web page on the anthrax subject HERE.
December 4, 2001: "TVsHenry" provided me with the New York Post's article on the Pre-9-11 "threatening letters", which caused a major overhaul of this page.
22, 2001: The first version of this page goes on-line.