MISCELLANEOUS ANTHRAX ARTICLES
PART 11
Chemical & Engineering News
July 31, 2006
Volume 84, Number 31, p. 15

Select Agents
University Labs Are Found Noncompliant With Security Rules for Bioterror Agents

by Lois Ember

Several university laboratories working with some of the deadliest biological agents are not complying fully with regulations to safeguard these so-called select agents from accidental release or intentional theft. The Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General reviewed the compliance of 15 labs with select-agent security regulations for the 12 months beginning in November 2003. Assistant IG Joseph J. Green would not tell C&EN how these 15 labs were selected from the pool of 96 labs working with such select agents as the anthrax bacteria and botulinum neurotoxins.

Eleven of the 15 unnamed labs were out of compliance with regulations in at least one of five areas. Eight of the 11 labs, for example, had weak inventory and/or access records. Six labs had weak access controls, including procedures for access to select-agent areas, and/or weak security plans.

Three of the 11 labs had poor emergency response plans, the IG reports. Such plans are critical because "most of the labs working with select agents are located in urban areas," says Edward Hammond, director of the U.S. Office of the Sunshine Project, a bioweapons watchdog group.

Overall, five of the 15 labs studied were not in compliance in three areas, and one lab complied with none of the regulations. There is no indication in the IG report that any of these labs were sanctioned.

Out-of-compliant labs should, "at a minimum," have their federal support withdrawn or lose "eligibility for future federal support," says Rutgers University molecular biologist Richard H. Ebright, who monitors select-agent studies.

Chemical & Engineering News
 ISSN 0009-2347
 Copyright © 2006 American Chemical Society 

The Seattle Times
Close-up
Custom-built pathogens raise bioterror fears

By Joby Warrick
The Washington Post
Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Eckard Wimmer knows of a shortcut terrorists could someday use to get their hands on the lethal viruses that cause Ebola and smallpox. He knows it exceptionally well, because he discovered it himself.

In 2002, the German-born molecular geneticist startled the scientific world by creating the first live, fully artificial virus in the lab. It was a variation of the bug that causes polio, yet different from any virus known to nature. And Wimmer built it from scratch.

The virus was made wholly from nonliving parts, using equipment and chemicals on hand in Wimmer's small laboratory at the State University of New York on Long Island. The most crucial part, the genetic code, was picked up for free on the Internet. Hundreds of tiny bits of viral DNA were purchased online and assembled in the lab.

Wimmer intended to sound a warning, to show that science had crossed a threshold into an era in which genetically altered and made-from-scratch germ weapons were feasible. But in the four years since, other scientists have made advances faster than Wimmer imagined possible. Government officials, and scientists such as Wimmer, are only beginning to grasp the implications.

"The future," he said, "has already come."

Five years ago, deadly anthrax attacks forced Americans to confront the suddenly real prospect of bioterrorism. Since then the Bush administration has poured billions of dollars into building a defensive wall of drugs, vaccines and special sensors that can detect dangerous pathogens. While government scientists press their search for new drugs for old foes such as classic anthrax, a revolution in biology has ushered in an age of engineered microbes and novel ways to make them.

The new technology opens the door to new tools for defeating disease and saving lives. But it is also possible to transform common intestinal microbes into killers. Or to make deadly strains even more lethal. Or to resurrect bygone killers, such the 1918 influenza. Or to manipulate a person's hormones by switching genes on or off. Or to craft cheap, efficient delivery systems that can infect large numbers of people.

"The biological-weapons threat is multiplying and will do so regardless of the countermeasures we try to take," said Steven M. Block, a Stanford University biophysicist and former president of the Biophysical Society.

The Bush administration has acknowledged the evolving threat, and last year it appointed a panel of scientists to begin a years-long study of the problem and has sought to boost bioterrorism preparedness in other ways:

• A network of hundreds of sensors is in major cities to detect the release of dangerous pathogens.

• Regulatory reforms and other incentives have been adopted to speed the development of new drugs.

• Millions of doses of antibiotics and other drugs are ready for use after an attack.

• Money and other resources have been distributed to help cities and states prepare.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declined so far to police the booming gene-synthesis industry, which churns out made-to-order DNA to sell to scientists. Oversight of controversial experiments remains voluntary and sporadic in many universities and private labs in the United States, and occurs even more rarely overseas.

Bioterrorism experts say traditional biodefense approaches, such as stockpiling antibiotics or locking up well-known strains such as the smallpox virus, remain important. But they are not enough.

Wimmer's artificial virus looks and behaves like its natural cousin — but with a far reduced ability to maim or kill — and could be used to make a safer polio vaccine. But it was Wimmer's techniques, not his aims, that sparked controversy when news of his achievement hit the scientific journals.

Wimmer's method starts with the virus' genetic blueprint, a code of instructions 7,441 characters long. The entire code for poliovirus, and those for scores of other pathogens, is available for free on the Internet.

Armed with a printout of the code, Wimmer places an order with a U.S. company that manufactures custom-made snippets of DNA, called oglionucleotides. The DNA fragments arrive by mail in hundreds of tiny vials, enough to cover a lab table in one of Wimmer's three small research suites.

Using a kind of chemical epoxy, the scientist and his crew of graduate assistants begin the tedious task of fusing small snippets of DNA into larger fragments. Then they splice together the larger strands until the entire sequence is complete.

The final step is almost magical. The finished but lifeless DNA, placed in a broth of organic "juice" from mushed-up cells, begins making proteins. Spontaneously, it assembles the trappings of a working virus around itself.

As the creator of the world's first "de novo" virus — a human virus, at that — Wimmer came under attack from other scientists who said his experiment was a dangerous stunt. He was accused of giving ideas to terrorists, or, even worse, of inviting a backlash that could result in new laws restricting scientific freedom.

Wimmer counters that he didn't invent the technology, he only drew attention to it. New techniques allow the creation of synthetic viruses in mere days, not weeks or months. Hardware unveiled last year by a Harvard genetics professor can churn out synthetic genes by the thousands, for a few pennies each. But Wimmer continues to use methods available to any modestly funded university biology lab.

"Our paper was the starting point of the revolution," Wimmer said. Wimmer believes traditional terrorist groups such as al-Qaida will stick with easier methods, at least for now. Yet al-Qaida is known to have sought bioweapons and has recruited experts, including microbiologists. And for any skilled microbiologist trained in modern techniques, Wimmer acknowledged, synthetic viruses are well within reach and getting easier.

The Mercury News
Posted on Mon, Aug. 07, 2006

The person who mailed anthrax spores in 2001 remains at large

By Greg Gordon
McClatchy Newspapers
(MCT)

WASHINGTON - The mysterious figure who dropped four deadly, anthrax-filled letters into the mail in October 2001 made it relatively easy for the government to save lives.

The letters, inscribed with messages such as "Death to America," served as clear warnings that the fine powder should be tested. The powder's arrival in envelopes, rather than an aerosolized spray, limited the spores' dispersal.

While response workers were able to hold down casualties and cleanse a contaminated Senate office building, the attack dealt sobering lessons about how far the spores can spread and how lethal they can be.

A New York nurse and a 94-year-old Connecticut woman later died, apparently after coming in contact with contaminated mail, demonstrating that even small numbers of spores can kill people who aren't strong and healthy. Antibiotics were given to about 30,000 people.

Ultimately, moon-suited cleanup workers used chemical sprays to kill anthrax in 23 facilities, including trace levels in mail rooms at the U.S. Supreme Court, the CIA and a remote facility handling White House mail. The cost: $227 million.

Since the attack, the Postal Service has irradiated all congressional mail to kill spores and germs. Congressional mail now takes three weeks to reach Capitol Hill.

As for the perpetrator, the FBI has long suspected it was an American, perhaps someone involved in U.S. bio-terrorism research. Bureau Director Robert Mueller said recently that he remains "optimistic that we will solve the case," but he declined to discuss specifics.

BBC News
Wednesday, 16 August 2006, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK

Man dies from 'rare anthrax bug'

A 50-year-old man is believed to have died from the first case of anthrax in Scotland for almost 20 years.

The man, named locally as Christopher "Pascal" Norris, died in July and later tests showed the acute infectious disease was the most likely cause.

NHS Borders said his home at Black Lodge in Stobs, near Hawick in the Scottish Borders, had been cordoned off and an incident control team set up.

The victim made drums with materials such as untreated animal hides.

He died on 8 July in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

After a series of tests at laboratories in England, experts identified anthrax as the most likely cause for septicaemia.

Anthrax is caused by the spore-forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis.

It most commonly occurs in animals such as cattle, sheep and goats but can also occur in humans when they are exposed to infected animals.

Health Protection Scotland said it was not passed from person to person.

"All appropriate precautions are being taken to deal with the house and its contents," said a HPS spokesperson.

"NHS Borders is tracing the man's relatives and other individuals known to have had access to the building.

"They are being assessed for risk of infection, with appropriate action being taken for each individual as required."

The effects of anthrax

"To put this in perspective this is the first death from anthrax that has occurred in the UK for something like 30 years, so it is a very unusual situation," said NHS Borders medical director Dr Ross Cameron.

"There is no risk to the general public - it's an isolated case.

"There has been one death and the contacts we have followed up have shown no signs of symptoms of any illness."

The last laboratory-confirmed case of anthrax in Scotland was in 1987 and affected a young girl who later recovered.

Leading bacteriologist, Prof Hugh Pennington said he was very surprised to hear someone could have died from anthrax in the UK.

He added that it would have been possible to have become infected from imported animal hides.

'Very rare'

"It's very rare for people to get infected from it, never mind to die from the disease," he said.

"People working in the wool industry used to be prone 50 years ago.

"The disease occurs in the wild in Africa and Asia and used to get imported.

"But it is now very uncommon in the UK due to better cleansing procedures.

"If this man was working with imported animal hides that had been infected, then that makes sense." 

scotsman.com
Fri 18 Aug 2006
Bongo fears in anthrax probe

MUSICIANS who have bought a bongo drum in recent months have been urged to investigate its history following the death of anthrax victim Christopher "Pascal" Norris.

Although it is believed that the 50-year-old did not sell the drums he made, it is feared that people who he gave them to as gifts may have sold them on.

Health chiefs investigating the outbreak today urged anyone who thinks they own something that he may have made to double-bag it and call the NHS Borders helpline.

Meanwhile, experts from the biochemical warfare defence laboratory Porton Down and staff from the government's decontamination service (GDS) converge on Stobs, near Hawick, have been decontaminating Mr Norris's home.

Since tests revealed Mr Norris' anthrax infection last Friday, health chiefs have been to trace people who visited his home or acquired items from within it.

Sask. records second human anthrax case
Last Updated: Thursday, August 24, 2006 | 11:13 AM CT
CBC News

A second human case of anthrax infection has emerged in Saskatchewan.

More than 663 animals have died in what health officials have called the worst anthrax outbreak in decades.

However, human infections are much more rare.

Yorkton-area veterinarian Ken Wood contracted the cutaneous type of the disease last week and is being treated with antibiotic ointment.

Wood said he scratched some welts on his ankle after he had been testing dead cattle for anthrax.

He said he must have had anthrax spores on his fingers at the time and that's how he got an infection.

'Just a mild irritation'

"A week later, the thing becomes an inch and a half in diameter and gets this black spot, which is typical for cutaneous anthrax," he said Wednesday. "Just a mild irritation is all it is. I guess it is a bit itchy."

Woods said he was surprised he got the infection because he used safety measures.

"Even though I did take precautions, wearing gloves and so forth. But I guess it can still happen," he said.

Thanks to the antibiotics, the infection has almost healed, he said.

The first case of human anthrax infection this year occurred last month, when a Melfort-area farmer was affected. He had the same kind of infection as Wood and has since recovered.

There are other types of anthrax infections that result when spores are inhaled or ingested. It's those varieties that have killed horses, cows and other livestock on the Prairies this summer.

Officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency say the outbreak is slowing. There had been no new cases of animal deaths in Saskatchewan in CFIA's last report on Tuesday.

The Scotsman
Tue 5 Sep 2006
9/11 anthrax scientists brought in to trace source of dead man's infection
by Alison Hardie

Scientists who decontaminated Capitol Hill in Washington after senators there were mailed anthrax after the 11 September attacks began hunting for spores of the deadly infection at an artist's Borders home yesterday.

Five experts from Sabre, a New York-based company, joined a team from the Health Protection Agency's Laboratories at Porton Down to establish the source of the anthrax that killed Pascal Norris.

The 50-year-old, who made drums from animal skins, died on 8 July and was the first person to die from anthrax in Britain for 30 years.

A total of 71 people who were in contact with Mr Norris before his death or who attended his funeral wake in his home have since been prescribed antibiotics as a precaution.

However, none was showing symptoms of infection and Dr Andrew Riley, the director of public health at NHS Borders, said yesterday that none was at any risk.

Police yesterday sealed off the roads leading to Mr Norris' isolated home, Black Lodge, at Stobs in the countryside outside Hawick.

Paramedics stood by as the two teams dressed in full body protection suits and breathing through respirators entered the building in shifts.

It was the first time the artist's home had been opened up since his death from anthrax was confirmed in the middle of last month.

The house has been surrounded by an 8ft high steel fence.

Large yellow signs warning of a toxic danger have been fixed every 20 yards along the new perimeter.

The potential danger to anyone entering the scene was so high that the paramedics yesterday set up an inflatable decontamination unit to clean down the scientists each time they exited Black Lodge.

The teams from the US and Porton Down worked independently of each other yesterday to gather samples and are not expected to finish at the site until the end of the week.

The samples from both teams, the majority of which will be animal hides as these are thought most likely to be the source of the anthrax spores, will be taken to Porton Down for tests.

It is suspected that Mr Norris breathed in anthrax spores while stretching animal hides taut over frames to make his drums.

According to a source at Health Protection Scotland, when the artist shaved the animal skins to make them smooth he created thousands of tiny vibrations that shook free the spores and sent them flying into the air around his face.

Dr Riley said he expected the results from the tests in four to six weeks.

He defended the time being taken by the authorities to get to the bottom of the source of the deadly anthrax infection. He said: "All the agencies involved are working meticulously and we think getting this right means it is time well spent."

Friends of Mr Norris have said they doubted he had been importing animal skins from overseas, they have also said they did not believe he had been making drums to sell commercially.

Mark Entwistle, who had been a friend of the dead man for ten years, said: "He was a committed Buddhist. He wouldn't have killed something just to make a musical instrument but he wouldn't have been against using something that had died naturally or in an accident."

Five people died as a result of the Washington anthrax campaign which began when spore-laden letters were posted on 18 September and 9 October, 2001, to media organisations in New York and Florida, and to the offices of Tom Daschle, then the Senate Democratic leader, and a colleague, Senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont.

The letters included photocopied notes referring to the 11 September attacks and Islamic rhetoric. No-one has been convicted over the campaign.

NHS Borders has set up a helpline for anyone who visited Mr Norris' home at Black Lodge, Stobs, Hawick and who has yet to make contact with them. The helpline is on 08000 282 816.

The New York Sun
Judge Dismisses Photographer's Anthrax Lawsuit

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
September 8, 2006

A federal judge in Florida has dismissed a freelance photographer's lawsuit seeking more than $2 million for celebrity photographs contaminated in the anthrax attack on a tabloid publishing house in 2001.

The Virginia-based photographer, Greg Mathieson, claimed to have lost about 1,400 photos stored at the Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters of American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, Star, and Weekly World News. Among the photos were images of President Clinton and his family, Princess Diana, and Frank Sinatra, Mr. Mathieson said.

Mr. Mathieson said a photo editor for American Media promised to pay $1,500 for each photo lost, regardless of fault. However, in an August 23 opinion, Judge Donald Middlebrooks said that oral agreement could not supersede written "term sheets" that accompanied the photos.

The anthrax contamination at American Media is believed to be linked to a series of anthrax-laden letters received in 2001 in Senate offices and by press outlets, including ABC, CBS, NBC, and the New York Post. No one has been charged in connection with the mailings.

Whatever happened to ... the anthrax attacks?

by Iain Hollingshead
Saturday September 9, 2006
The Guardian

The media is slowly cranking into gear for the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, but the anthrax scares that followed soon afterwards have largely been forgotten. Five years later, the crime still remains unsolved.

While the strikes on the twin towers turned modern aeronautical technology into weapons, the anthrax attacks used the more old-fashioned nexus of "snail mail". Four letters, all containing the same Ames strain of anthrax, were sent to the New York Post, the TV channel NBC and two democratic senators.

Dated 9.11.01, but posted sporadically over the next few weeks, the letters - predictable denunciations of Israel and America - were written in childish capitals. The two letters to the media also advised them to "take Penacilin [sic] now". Identical messages to the senators contained a fictitious return address, the fourth grade of Greendale School in New Jersey. "You die now," stated the letter. "Are you afraid?"

Both senators survived, but five people did die, including two postal workers. Mass hysteria ensued when 17 more people were hospitalised. In Montana, specks of flour on hotdog buns were reported to the police as evidence of anthrax. Sales of the antibiotic Cipro went through the roof. Capitol Hill was closed for weeks, forcing staffers to set up offices in the back of their cars. The Washington Post branded them "wimps" for abandoning their desks.

The rest of the world endured a huge escalation in anthrax hoaxes. Clean-up costs in the US came to over $1bn. The FBI launched a huge investigation, called Amerithrax. After ruling out a possible al-Qaida link, it focused on domestic terrorists and then the US biodefence programme. To date, no one has been arrested and only Steven J Hatfill, a physician and bioterrorism expert, has been publicly identified as a "person of interest". After losing his job in the fallout, Hatfill issued a legal writs against the government and media organisations.

An FBI spokesperson now confirms that "two dedicated squads" are still working full-time on the case. Their profiling, however, appears worryingly vague. The suspect is apparently a "non-confrontational person, at least in his public life". He is likely to "prefer being by himself more often than not. If he is involved in a personal relationship, it will likely be of a self-serving nature." Members of the public are helpfully warned not to "open, smell or taste" suspicious packages, especially if "mailed from a foreign country" or containing "protruding wires".

In the absence of anything more concrete, it is not surprising that conspiracy theories abound. One of the more convincing explanations for the lack of progress on the scaled-down Amerithrax operation is that the suspect is privy to embarrassing government secrets. A Newsnight programme in 2002 featured one expert who believed it was a botched CIA project attempting to test the practicalities of sending anthrax through the mail. It has even been suggested that the killer was a misguided patriotic individual wanting to demonstrate the US's lack of preparedness for such an attack.

If so, he has certainly achieved his aim. In the wake of the attacks, George Bush announced a threefold increase in funding for research against biochemical threats. Last March, more than 700 US scientists signed a letter protesting that public health research was suffering as a result.

Remember the anthrax attacks?
Posted: September 11, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Joseph Farah
© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com

Nobody talks much about the anthrax attacks that hit America just after Sept. 11, five years ago today.

No one was ever charged. The investigations seemed to go nowhere.

You might recall the FBI focused all of its suspicions on an American scientist – Steven Hatfill, a microbiologist and bioweapons expert. He never worked with anthrax but reportedly had associates who worked with the Ames anthrax strain. The Ames strain was laced into five letters and mailed to several media outlets and congressional offices in September and October 2001.

The case against Hatfill was always weak. Thus, he was never charged. I believe he sued the New York Times over what certainly appeared to be a crusade to frame him.

Meanwhile, in the rush to point the finger at a non-Muslim American, the real bad guys got away.

Do you want to know what I think after five years of observation? I think the anthrax was Iraqi in origin and spread by the 9/11 hijackers before they went to meet their imaginary virgins in the sky.

If I'm right, the anthrax attacks represented three compelling reasons for our eventual invasion of Iraq:

    * It would mean Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invasion.

    * It would mean Saddam Hussein participated in a WMD attack on America.

    * It would mean that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden did indeed work together in planning the worst terrorist attack in the history of the world.

What's the evidence?

ABC News reported in October and November 2001 that at least five experts had identified a substance called bentonite that was used to upgrade the anthrax found in the letter sent to Sen. Tom Daschle's Washington office. ABC's experts, as well as former U.N. inspectors that worked in Iraq, claimed that bentonite "was a trademark of the Iraqi germ warfare program."

ABC wasn't the only news agency that reported the bentonite discovery. The Wall Street Journal also claimed it was detected in the anthrax mailings that nearly paralyzed the country. Another clue is a little-known piece of evidence – a report by Dr. Christos Tsonas at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who treated Ahmed al-Haznawi, one of the 9/11 hijackers for a lesion that he thought "was consistent with cutaneous anthrax."

The way the FBI handled the story of Tsonas' encounter with al-Haznawi, which was related to the agency in several interviews, appears perplexing, as does its handling of another related incident examined below. A spokeswoman for Holy Cross Hospital said in response to a request for information about the incident, "We cooperated with the FBI and other authorities. At their request, we will not discuss the matter. ... We have nothing to say."

A team of microbiologists and weapons-grade anthrax experts interviewed Tsonas and investigated the report. They concluded her diagnosis made sound medical sense and said it "raises the possibility that the hijackers were handling anthrax and were the perpetrators of the anthrax letter attacks." That hijacker, by the way, lived near the headquarters of American Media International in Boca Raton, Fla. It was that company's photo editor, Robert Stevens, who became the first fatality in the anthrax letter attacks.

Then there is the report of pharmacist Gregg Chatterton in Delray Beach, Fla. He told investigators that two of the 9/11 hijackers came into his store, Huber Drugs, looking for medication to treat irritations on Mohamed Atta's hands. Chatterton, whose pharmacy is not far from American Media International's headquarters, recalled that Atta said, "My hands – my hands burn; they are itching."

There's more. Remember those controversial alleged meetings that took place between an Iraqi agent and Mohamed Atta in the Czech Republic?

The high-ranking Iraqi intelligence operative was Ahmed Khalil Sar al-Ani. Acording to Czech U.N. Ambassador Hynek Kmonicek, Atta met with him "at least on one occasion, perhaps more." Other sources say there were as many as four meetings. Weeks later, on April 22, 2001, al-Ani was expelled from the Czech Republic.

Several European newspapers reported in October and November 2001 that FBI teams were dispatched to Prague to investigate. An unnamed "Western intelligence official" was quoted in the London Times as saying: "If it can be shown that Atta was given a flask of anthrax, then the link will have been made with Osama bin Laden and Iraq."

Later, the German newspaper Bild claimed that, according to Israeli security sources, Atta was given anthrax by al-Ani, "which he took back to the U.S. on a flight to Newark, N.J." I know what you're thinking now. Why on Earth would the Bush administration want to see this overwhelming evidence covered up? Why wouldn't the Bush administration, which has been under fire for years for "lying" about the evidence against Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaida, want this information out there before the American public?

In fact, the White House, from the beginning, has gone out of its way to deny the Iraq link to the anthrax attacks. Then spokesman Ari Fleischer strangely even took issue with the ABC News report – later backing down.

A couple possibilities occur to me. This is where pure speculation enters the picture – so be warned. Until now, I've given you nothing but established facts. But I know the facts I have provided here are sure to raise questions – questions I can't necessarily answer with hard evidence.

What if it turned out the U.S. government had first provided Iraq with anthrax?

Well, in fact, that seems to be the case. During the 1980s, the U.S. government allowed biological pathogens to be sold to the Iraqi government, as I have previously reported. Export records provided by the American Type Culture Collection lists several pages of biological substances sent to Iraq's Ministry of Higher Education. Included on the list for May 1986 is a shipment of "Bacillus Anthracis (ATCC 14185) V770-NP1-R. Bovine Anthrax, Class III pathogen (3 each)."

Still there is more. Remember bentonite? It turns out one of the largest manufacturers is (get ready for this, Michael Moore) a subsidiary of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer.

Joseph Farah is founder, editor and CEO of WND and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. His latest book is "Taking America Back." He also edits the weekly online intelligence newsletter Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, in which he utilizes his sources developed over 30 years in the news business.

Anthrax victim's widow wants answers

By Eliot Kleinberg
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006

WEST PALM BEACH — Maureen Stevens says the federal government probably knows who killed her husband.

She believes it's not telling because that might reveal things the government doesn't want revealed. 

 Nearly five years after Bob Stevens' death, the first in the anthrax attacks that terrified a nation, "I want to know what happened," his widow, who's sued the government, said tearfully Wednesday at her lawyer's office. "I want to go into court and find out what happened. What information's obviously there. The truth is there."

Bob Stevens of Lantana, a photo editor for Boca Raton-based tabloid The Sun, died in October 2001, after he apparently opened mail laced with the deadly substance.

The government said in February 2002 that it had a "short list" of 18 to 20 people who had the knowledge, equipment, access and motive to obtain and "weaponize" anthrax. Richard Schuler, Stevens' attorney, said Wednesday it might be fewer than a dozen.

Stevens filed suit in December 2003, alleging that security lapses at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md., led to her husband's death. A federal judge refused to dismiss the case and it's been in front of a federal appeals court for nearly a year. The government has argued that proceeding with the suit would jeopardize the ongoing search for the killer.

In Washington, Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said he could not comment because the suit is still active.

Stevens said she's had only two contacts with the FBI since shortly after her husband's death. Agents talked with her in West Palm Beach in July 2003.

And she and families of the other four people confirmed killed by anthrax met with FBI agents in Washington in November.

Stevens said the agents told the families they were getting close to solving the case and that she felt positive after that meeting. But, she said Wednesday, "It was just lip service. I don't want to say things like this, but I do feel that."

And, Schuler said, "To only get with families once in five years, and to give what's only window dressing, I believe is a disgrace."

Debra Weierman, spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office, said the "Amerithrax" task force is still active, with about 20 investigators working on it full-time.

"The FBI considers this case to be a priority," Weierman said.

Stevens said she still believes the case will be solved.

"I have to be patient," Stevens said.

But, she said of her suit, "What else do I have?" Do I stand on a street corner and ask everybody to ask the government for answers? It's not going to happen."

Widow of Boca anthrax victim tries to keep case in spotlight after 5 years

By Peter Franceschina
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted September 14 2006

It's been nearly five years since her husband became the first victim in a series of anthrax attacks, and Maureen Stevens is still praying for answers.

She still gets emotional when she talks about her husband, Robert, but she says she could go on for hours about what a funny, interesting and engaging man he was.

 His loss is still acute, made all the more painful by the fact that no one has been arrested in his death. Or in the subsequent anthrax attacks that killed four others and sickened an additional 17 people, despite what the FBI has called the largest investigation in its history.

"I'm a positive person. I have to believe it will be [solved]," Stevens said Wednesday. "I just have to be patient."

Stevens generally shuns the media spotlight, but she fears her husband will be forgotten. So for the past two years she has hosted a news conference to talk about him, the anthrax investigation and the $50 million lawsuit she filed against the federal government seeking answers about its stymied investigation.

"I don't want to talk today. I don't want to talk any day. It's not easy for me," she said in her soft, lilting British accent. "I live with this every day. My husband is gone."

Robert Stevens, 63, a photo editor with the tabloid The Sun, worked in the American Media Inc. building in Boca Raton. He was the first person to fall ill with inhalation anthrax in the weeks after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. He opened a letter at work that spilled out a fine white powder, and then came down with flu-like symptoms.

Maureen Stevens awoke a few nights later to find her husband of 27 years out of sorts.

"He was up in the middle of the night and wandering around, and he wasn't coherent, so I just took him to the hospital. They checked him out. I thought we were OK. All the tests were coming back negative -- all the things, stroke and everything else, because that was my initial thought," Stevens said.

Robert Stevens went into the hospital on Tuesday and was dead by Friday, Oct. 5, 2001. Stevens said she was the last to know he had been infected with anthrax. By then, the FBI and postal inspectors were investigating.

She has only met with FBI agents twice to discuss the case since the early days of the investigation. She said that agents met with her and her family in July 2003, and that she and a group of other anthrax victims and family members met with FBI officials in November in Washington.

She said they were provided few details about the investigation. "We didn't get a lot of answers," she said.

Stevens was frustrated enough over the lack of information to file a $50 million wrongful death suit against the government in February 2003, alleging the anthrax was most likely taken from a U.S. Army laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland.

So far, the lawsuit hasn't gone anywhere. U.S. Justice Department attorneys successfully delayed Stevens' attorney from proceeding with the suit for six months by convincing a judge it would endanger the investigation and national security. After that time was up, government lawyers sought to have the case thrown out. The judge ruled against the government, which then took that decision to an appeals court, where the case sits.

Stevens vows not to give up.

"What else do I have? Ask the government for answers? That's not going to happen. So this is the only way I have," she said.

Stevens, a devout woman, doesn't dwell on the fact that she doesn't know why her husband was killed, but anger occasionally flashes because she doesn't know more.

"I don't get angry every day. I do once in a while when certain things make me angry, but I cannot live like that. So we're waiting now to hear from the [appellate] judges and we will go on from there," she said.

A spokeswoman in the FBI's Washington field office, which is overseeing the anthrax investigation, could not be reached for comment.

While Stevens waits for answers, she still has the memories of her husband. He was a wonderful cook, liked to lift a pint with his British ex-pats, and loved pinball. An avid fly fisherman, he removed the barbs from his hooks to give the fish a fighting chance. "So when he caught them he knew he caught them," his wife said.

Stevens has one memento she never wants to lose: her husband's voice on her answering machine.

"Sometimes I even call myself so I can hear his voice."

Peter Franceschina can be reached at pfranceschina@sun-sentinel.com or 561-228-5503.

Anthrax victim left with few answers
Winchester man exposed to potentially lethal bacteria in October 2001

By Suzanne E. Wilder
The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Almost five years have passed since a local man was struck down by anthrax.

In that time, David Hose Sr. has received few answers about how he inhaled the potentially lethal bacteria spores that have left him on government disability — and about what the government can do for him.

Hose, 64, apparently inhaled anthrax while working as a mail supervisor at a U.S. State Department mail facility in Sterling in October 2001.

In the days that followed, he suffered spells of sweating, muscle and joint pain, and vomiting.

He went to Winchester Medical Center, where doctors obtained blood samples and sent him home with prescriptions for Cipro, an antibiotic that targets the bacteria, and cough syrup with codeine.

On the next day, doctors called Hose to say his blood tests confirmed that he had contracted anthrax. He was in intensive care at the hospital for weeks.

The next year, he was struck with a severe case of pneumonia and was hospitalized for more than a month.

Investigators said Hose probably inhaled the spores from a letter addressed to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., that had been accidentally routed to the State Department facility.

During 2001, 22 people became ill and five died as the result of anthrax-laden letters sent through the mail, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Months after Hose’s initial hospitalization, doctors said he might be able to return to work by January 2002.

But his health problems have continued. He becomes tired after walking more than a few minutes and spends most of his days watching C-SPAN on television.

“I feel better than I did,” Hose said in an interview on Thursday. He takes nine prescription drugs for a variety of problems with his lungs, sinuses, and heart, and to deal with pain and sleeping.

“The sac around my heart and lungs is scarred so bad,” he said. “There’ll be periods when my heart acts up like crazy.”

He credited God — and a nation’s prayers — with helping his recovery: “The only way I lived through it was God.”

And he has become somewhat of a celebrity, appearing on CNN and in major publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Hose filed a $12 million lawsuit in 2003 against the federal government for his health problems and the disruption to his life, but he has seen little progress.

He said many of the officials involved have refused to talk, citing national security concerns. And he hasn’t heard from his attorneys in months.

The government did not arrest anyone for sending the anthrax-laden letter, and Hose is skeptical about the government’s knowledge of the incident.

He said he is suspicious about how someone obtained access to the highly-dangerous bacteria. And he spoke harshly about the government in general, criticizing problems with education, drugs, homeland security, the CIA, nuclear weapons, and the nation’s general awareness of current conditions.

“The whole United States has got their head in the sand,” he said.

During the last five years, Hose said, he has had plenty of time to think about these things. He rarely leaves the house, and has a “very slow” lifestyle.

“We don’t go anywhere, really,” said his wife Connie.

She listens to his governmental complaints quietly, agreeing as he says he is “driving my wife nuts” with it.

But he knows he can sound like a conspiracy theorist: “I’m sorry, I’m a little paranoid about this.”

But, he added later: “If you can disprove anything I’ve said, have at it.” 

The Houston Chronicle
Sept. 16, 2006, 6:51PM
5 years after terror of anthrax, case grows colder
Deadly germs in the mail rattled the nation in 2001, but time hasn't yielded many clues

By ERIC ROSENBERG
Copyright 2006 Hearst News Service

WASHINGTON — Five years after anthrax killed five people and introduced America to high-tech bioterrorism, one of the biggest crime mysteries of our times remains unsolved.

FBI agents and U.S. postal inspectors have pursued hundreds of leads and interviewed scores of scientists who work with the deadly anthrax bacteria, but the investigation now appears to be languishing.

"No matter what anybody says, if it is five years out, and we are not even seeing any smoke from the investigation, then I would say definitely that this case is cold right now," said Christopher Hamilton, a former FBI counter-terrorism official who worked on the anthrax investigation and is now a counter-terrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a non-partisan think tank. "This thing is just sitting out there with nothing happening."

The murders-by-germ in the weeks immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks added to the nation's anxieties and triggered a massive hunt for the perpetrator who used the mail to spread the bacteria.

Hundreds of FBI personnel worked the case at the outset, struggling to discern whether the Sept. 11 al-Qaida attacks and the anthrax murders were connected before eventually concluding that they were not.

A senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation insisted that "the investigation is still ongoing and intensely active." The official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said there "are a number of pending and very important leads that are being pursued."

There are 23 FBI agents and 12 postal inspectors on the case, dubbed the Amerithrax investigation inside the FBI, he said.

The anthrax investigation began after a Florida photojournalist died on Oct. 5, 2001, from an infection produced by the bacteria. Within days, anthrax-laced letters were uncovered at news outlets in New York City and at the Washington office of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., then the top Democrat in the Senate. In November, anthrax turned up in a letter sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The letters contained similar handwritten notes. The letter to Leahy read: "You cannot stop us. We have the anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid? Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great."

In addition to the Florida victim, two U.S. postal workers in Washington, a New York hospital worker and an elderly Connecticut woman died from anthrax-borne infections.

The federal government reacted by shutting some congressional offices and the Supreme Court building, while postal facilities throughout the U.S. were put on high alert.

The anthrax attacks led governments and businesses around the nation to devise new safety procedures for handling mail. Some mail handlers wore surgical masks and plastic gloves for protection.

Mail sent to government offices in Washington is irradiated to destroy any dangerous bacteria.

Anthrax is a naturally occurring bacteria and only rarely infects humans. However, the anthrax used in the attacks had been finely milled to make it more easily inhaled, thus increasing its lethality and suggesting a high degree of scientific competence.

Inhaled anthrax can trigger a deadly infection by swelling body parts, flooding the lungs with fluid and igniting internal hemorrhaging.

The FBI has spent much of the ensuing five years in efforts to identify the laboratory where the anthrax — dubbed the Ames strain — originated. This is a challenging task because the Ames strain has been widely studied in research centers.

The FBI has enlisted the help of 29 government, commercial and university laboratories to develop a profile of the anthrax used in the attacks. They are looking for a microbial fingerprint based on the theory that different scientists use different production techniques to make anthrax spores, and these varied production techniques impart different chemical and physical signatures.

5 years later, anthrax deaths a mystery
Despite cold trail, effort to find source of germs continues
- Eric Rosenberg, Hearst Newspapers
Wednesday, September 20, 2006 

(09-20) 04:00 PDT Washington -- Five years after anthrax killed five people and introduced America to high-tech bioterrorism, one of the biggest crime mysteries of the 21st century remains unsolved.

FBI agents and U.S. Postal Service inspectors have pursued hundreds of leads and interviewed scores of scientists who work with the deadly anthrax bacteria, but the investigation now appears to be languishing.

"No matter what anybody says, if it is five years out and we are not even seeing any smoke from the investigation, then I would say definitely that this case is cold right now," said Christopher Hamilton, a former FBI counterterrorism official who worked on the anthrax investigation and is now a counterterrorism expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a nonpartisan think tank. "This thing is just sitting out there with nothing happening."

The murders-by-germ in the weeks immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks added to a jittery nation's anxieties and triggered a massive hunt for the perpetrator who used the U.S. mail to spread the bacteria.

Hundreds of FBI personnel worked the case at the outset, struggling to discern whether the Sept. 11 al Qaeda attacks and the anthrax murders were connected before eventually concluding that they were not.

A senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation insisted that "the investigation is still ongoing and intensely active." The official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said there "are a number of pending and very important leads that are being pursued."

Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office, which is leading the investigation, said "the FBI considers this case to be a priority" and that FBI Director Robert Mueller has asked for briefings every Friday on developments.

The FBI and Postal Service have conducted 9,142 interviews, issued over 6,000 subpoenas and executed 67 search warrants in the investigation, she said.

There are currently 17 FBI agents and 10 postal inspectors working the investigation, and two additional FBI agents are being added next month, she said.

One high-profile change is that the FBI's longtime lead investigator on the case transferred earlier this month to run the agency's field office in Knoxville, Tenn.

The anthrax investigation began after a Florida photojournalist died on Oct. 5, 2001, from an infection produced by the bacteria. Within days, anthrax-laced letters were uncovered at news outlets in New York City and at the Washington office of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., then the top Democrat in the Senate. In November, anthrax turned up in a letter sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The letters contained similar hand-written notes. The letter to Leahy read: "You cannot stop us. We have the anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid? Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great."

In addition to the Florida victim, two U.S. postal workers in Washington, a New York hospital worker and an elderly Connecticut woman died from anthrax-borne infections.

The government reacted by shutting some congressional offices and the Supreme Court building in Washington, while postal facilities throughout the U.S. were put on high alert to watch for anthrax-tainted mail. Some government buildings were closed for months to allow for costly cleanups.

The anthrax attacks led governments and businesses around the nation to devise new safety procedures for handling mail. Some offices asked mail handlers to wear surgical masks and plastic gloves for self-protection.

To this day, mail sent to government offices in Washington is irradiated to destroy any dangerous bacteria.

Anthrax is a naturally occurring bacteria and only rarely infects humans. However, the anthrax used in the attacks had been finely milled to make it more easily inhaled, thus increasing its lethality and suggesting a high degree of scientific competence by the perpetrator.

If not treated rapidly with antibiotics, inhaled anthrax can trigger a deadly infection by swelling body parts, flooding the lungs with fluid and igniting internal hemorrhaging.

The FBI has spent much of the ensuing five years in efforts to identify the laboratory where the anthrax -- dubbed the Ames strain -- originated. This is a challenging task because the Ames strain -- named for a lab at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa -- has been widely studied in research centers around the country.

To narrow the list of suspects, the FBI has enlisted the help of 29 government, commercial and university laboratories to develop a profile of the anthrax used in the attacks. They are looking for a microbial fingerprint based on the theory that different scientists use different production techniques to make anthrax spores, and these varied production techniques impart different chemical and physical signatures.

In the course of its anthrax probe, the Justice Department announced in 2002 that Stephen Hatfill, a medical doctor and biowarfare expert, was a "person of interest" to investigators.

Hatfill was never charged and has denied any involvement in the attacks; he is suing the Justice Department and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who publicly identified him as the "person of interest."

Slate Magazine
press box: Media criticism.

Anthrax for the Memories -The Washington Post's "rowback."
By Jack Shafer
Posted Monday, Sept. 25, 2006, at 8:31 PM ET

The Washington Post's lead story Monday morning—"FBI Is Casting a Wider Net in Anthrax Attacks"—reports the FBI's current belief that the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks that killed five people "was far less sophisticated than originally believed."

Law-enforcement authorities inform the Post that "the conventional wisdom about the attacks turned out to be wrong," specifically, "the widely reported claim that the anthrax spores had been 'weaponized'—specially treated or processed to allow them to disperse more easily."

The piece fails to name any publication that played a role in establishing "weaponized" anthrax as the "conventional wisdom," a startling omission given that the Post contributed to the notion with a Page One piece in its Oct. 28, 2002, edition titled "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted." 

The 2002 Post story, written by Guy Gugliotta and Gary Matsumoto, questioned the FBI's theory (which appears to be very similar to today's theory) that a "single disgruntled American scientist prepared the spores and mailed the deadly anthrax letters that killed five people last year." The 2002 piece quoted at least eight scientists or biological warfare "experts" on the record to argue that the anthrax spores used in the postal attacks were of "such sophistication and virulence" that they would "require scientific knowledge, technical competence, access to expensive equipment and safety know-how that are probably beyond the capabilities of a lone individual."

The experts in the 2002 story theorized that only a country with a bio-war program could have produced the anthrax, and also that it might have been stolen or given to the attacker. The story cited unnamed investigators who said "the spores had been coated with silica to make them disperse quickly," and that "the uniformly tiny particle size and the trillion-spore-per-gram concentration" of the spores convinced "researchers" that "whoever weaponized the spores was operating at the outer limits of known aerosol technology."

To be fair to the Post, it wasn't the only publication to advance the idea that the spores used in the postal attacks were sophisticated and weaponized. For example, see this Nov. 12, 2001, New Yorker article, which asserts that the spores were "weaponized" and coated with an "anti-caking material that allows the spores to float free." Controversial author Laurie Mylroie made a similar assertion about the spores having been coated with silica in her book Bush vs. the Beltway: The Inside Battle Over War in Iraq. (To find the Mylroie passage, use Amazon's "Search Inside" feature and search for "teflon.")

But for the Post to carry on for 1,300 words about misconceptions without mentioning its role in creating them is a kind of "rowback." A rowback is defined as "a story that attempts to correct a previous story without indicating that the prior story had been in error or without taking responsibility for the error."

If the Post intends to overturn the conventional wisdom, it should also report its role in creating that conventional wisdom. The hook for Monday's piece is an article published in the August issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology by FBI scientist Douglas J. Beecher titled "Forensic Application of Microbiological Culture Analysis To Identify Mail Intentionally Contaminated with Bacillus anthracis Spores." In it, Beecher criticizes the 2002 Post piece as an example of an article implying that the postal anthrax powders were "inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone."

Perhaps the oddest thing about the play given today's Post story is that it isn't even a scoop. On Sept. 22, the Hartford Courant published a Page One piece about Beecher's anthrax article. 

Posted on Tue, Sep. 26, 2006
After 5 years, mystery of anthrax attacks widens

By Helen Kennedy
New York Daily News
(MCT)

WASHINGTON - Five years after the still-unsolved anthrax mail attacks killed five people and panicked the nation, the mystery is widening instead of narrowing.

Scientists now say the anthrax wasn't "weaponized" after all - meaning the substance was less sophisticated than first believed and, thus, could have been concocted by a much broader pool of suspects.

Officials initially had said the anthrax was mixed with an additive to aerosolize it - a complicated and dangerous process that could only have been pulled off by a handful of scientists with military training and access to sophisticated labs.

But, writing in a scientific journal last month, FBI microbiologist Douglas Beecher called those statements "a widely circulated misconception" and said the anthrax was, in fact, "simple spore preparations" - although remarkably pure and still the work of an expert.

The FBI would not comment, but the assistant director of the Washington field office, Joseph Persichini, released a statement saying agents "remain fully committed" to bringing the anthrax mailer to justice.

"Despite the frustrations that come with any complex investigation, no one in the FBI has, for a moment, stopped thinking about the innocent victims of these attacks," Persichini said.

"There is confidence the case will be solved," he said.

No suspects have been identified apart from former government scientist Steven Hatfill, who was not charged and is suing to regain his good name.

The 2001 letters were sent to media offices in New York and Florida and two Democratic senators in Washington.

None of the targets was hurt. Instead, the victims were mail handlers and people who opened deadly mail contaminated by spores that leaked from the terrorist's envelopes.

The low-grade reign of terror continues to haunt American workers. Bankers in Denver were stripped and scrubbed down Monday after five capsules containing a yellow powder fell out of an envelope with no return address. Tests showed it was not anthrax.

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
Wednesday, September 27, 2006 · Last updated 11:43 a.m. PT

Congressman wants FBI anthrax briefing

By DONNA DE LA CRUZ
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

WASHINGTON -- A New Jersey congressman said Wednesday it should have taken the FBI days, not years, to determine the anthrax used in 2001 that killed five people was much less sophisticated than believed.

Democratic Rep. Rush Holt asked FBI Director Robert Mueller for a classified briefing about the status of the bureau's investigation into who was behind the attacks.

Several published reports this week said the FBI had acknowledged the anthrax used in the attacks was commonly available and not weapons-grade.

In his letter to Mueller, Holt said the FBI's failure to determine what kind of anthrax was used meant that "resources were diverted and countless agents wasted their time investigating a small pool of suspects, instead of the broader search we now know was needed."

The FBI has conducted 9,100 interviews and issued 6,000 subpoenas.

Holt asked Mueller to have Douglas Beecher, a scientist in the FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit, testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

Beecher recently wrote an article in a scientific journal saying there was "a widely circulated misconception" that the anthrax spores were made using additives and sophisticated engineering akin to military weapons production.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter said he did not know if Mueller had received Holt's letter.

The anthrax attacks, in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, killed five people across the country and sickened 17. There were five confirmed anthrax infections and two suspected cases in New Jersey but no fatalities.

FBI denies it misunderstood the quality of anthrax used in 2001 attacks in U.S.
The Associated Press

Published: September 28, 2006
WASHINGTON The FBI denied on Thursday that it overestimated the potency of anthrax spores used in mailings that killed five people in 2001.

The bureau also rejected a request for a classified briefing on the case from Democratic Rep. Rush Holt. Citing media reports, Holt said Wednesday the FBI should have determined in days, not years, that the anthrax was less sophisticated than initially believed.

Shortly after the attacks, media reports said the spores contained additives and had been subjected to complex milling, both techniques used in anthrax-based weapons, to make them more lethal. Early this month, there were media reports that the FBI belatedly learned that those techniques had not been not used, and the anthrax was not enhanced.

Bureau officials say the early reports of weaponized anthrax were misconceptions, and more recent reports misunderstood how early the FBI was able to analyze the spores accurately.

"The FBI and its partners in this investigation have never been under any misconceptions about the character of the anthrax used in the attacks," Assistant FBI Director Eleni P. Kalisch wrote Holt on Thursday. "On the contrary, since the earliest months of this investigation, we have consulted with the world's foremost scientific experts on anthrax and relevant bio-forensic sciences, both inside and outside the FBI. While there may have been erroneous media reports about the character of the 2001 anthrax, the FBI's investigation has never been guided by such reports."

In a letter Wednesday to FBI Director Robert Mueller, Holt had requested a classified briefing on the investigation.

Kalisch rejected the request on two grounds:

Although Holt and other members of Congress got updates and briefings in 2002 and 2003, Kalisch said the FBI and Justice Department decided to stop briefing members of Congress after sensitive investigative information was reported in the media citing congressional sources.

Because this is a criminal investigation rather than an intelligence activity, a briefing of the House Intelligence Committee, of which Holt is a member, would be inappropriate, Kalisch wrote.

A spokesman for Holt said the congressman had not yet read Kalisch's letter.

Holt had written Mueller that the FBI's delay in determining what kind of anthrax was used meant that "resources were diverted and countless agents wasted their time investigating a small pool of suspects, instead of the broader search we now know was needed."

The FBI has conducted 9,100 interviews and issued 6,000 subpoenas in the case.

Holt asked Mueller to have Douglas Beecher, a scientist in the FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit, testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

In April, Beecher wrote an article published in a scientific journal in August saying there was "a widely circulated misconception" that the anthrax spores were made using additives and sophisticated engineering akin to military weapons production.

The anthrax attacks, in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, killed five people across the country and sickened 17. There were five confirmed anthrax infections and two suspected cases in New Jersey but no fatalities. 

The Register (UK)
Low-tech anthrax still deadly? FBI research widens suspect list
'Weaponised' theory undermined
By George Smith, Dick Destiny
Published Friday 29th September 2006 12:48 GMT

Analysis - Five years passage has eroded much of the received wisdom on the anthrax attacks. And many of the characters who took central stage are either gone and discredited, or not talking.

Judith Miller, an alleged expert on bioterror by way of her pre-9/11 book, "Germs," was often on Larry King to contribute her opinions. In a piece published in the New York Times and Guardian on October 15, she related how she'd become a part of the case upon receiving a hoax letter containing a white powder, mailed from St. Petersburg, FLA, not far from where the first anthrax infection killed a man.

Today Miller is toast, paid to go away for bringing shame upon the Times with bad reporting on the fruitless US hunt for WMD's in Iraq.

Miller's "friend and mentor," Bill Patrick, the nation's Dr. Disease from its Cold War bioweapons operation, has also gone dark. Voluble and ubiquitous in the newsmedia with descriptions of his experiences in bioweapons production during the initial hysteria, he clammed up when the FBI turned inward, looking at the attack as something that had possibly come out of the US bioweapons/biodefense industry or someone connected to it.

Former Federation of American Scientists bioterror guru, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, who went Oliver Stone with conspiracy theory, allegedly fingering microbiologist Steven Hatfill to the FBI, wound up on the outs with FAS.

Nicholas Kristof, originally brimming with what was said to be inside dope on whodunit, named Hatfill on the opinion pages of the New York Times, but doesn't see fit to opine on it any more. Sued along with his newspaper for defamation by Hatfill, he's covering Darfur, perhaps as atonement.

And while the FBI seems stalled in its hunt for the bioterrorist, it hasn't impeded the publication of good science on the anthrax letters.

To this end, we point you to the forbiddingly entitled "Forensic Application of Microbiological Culture Analysis To Identify Mail Intentionally Contaminated with Bacillus anthracis Spores," by Douglas J. Beecher of the FBI's Hazardous Material Response Unit in Quantico, VA.

Published in the August issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a peer-reviewed journal, the article is fascinating for the many things it says about mailed anthrax, specifically that which was found in a letter mailed to Senator Patrick Leahy. (While the abstract is on the web, the entire article won't come free to journal non-subscribers until four months from now. However, it has been circulating behind the scenes and we just happen to have a copy.)

The article goes into detail on the FBI unit's analysis of a huge volume of Congressional mail and the uncovering of the Leahy letter in just three days. It was a fine effort, when you slog through the dust-dry science, the FBI team employing brains and good old-fashioned determinative microbiology.

Beecher's team reasoned that potentially contaminated letters could be found by taking advantage of the mail's original separation into large plastic bags. Spores would be suspended in bag air by shaking and then sampled through freshly cut holes, swabbing the results directly to culture plates.

"Nearly all growth that occurred under sampling conditions . . . was B. anthracis," writes Beecher. The method allowed the FBI to quickly winnow out bags that contained anthrax spores. And then very roughly quantify them as to how hot they were in pathogen with respect to each other.

What they've laid out, in clear hard science, was that the Leahy letter was exceedingly dangerous.

Generally speaking, other letters found to be heavily contaminated, but not purposely loaded with anthrax powder, passed through the same sorting machine within one to two seconds of it and the poisoned letter sent to Tom Daschle.

Not only did cross-contaminated mail shedding of spores create an extreme danger but "[t]he capacity of [uncontaminated] envelopes to accumulate and retain dried spores was also remarkable . . . "

One graph showing concentration of spores found in the FBI's analysis room air shows an obvious spike, linked to the time when the bag containing the Leahy letter was opened.

This led Beecher to conclude: " . . . it appears that it is virtually impossible to intentionally place dried spores within a standard envelope without heavily contaminating its outside."

The Applied and Environmental Microbiology paper is unintentionally hard, thankfully so, on the media's old favorite bioterror experts.

In 2001, the wizard of Soviet bioweapons, defector Ken Alibek, spent some time clowning for the media, recommending that people could iron their mail to sanitize the anthrax. When simply agitating the anthrax letters produced extreme hazard, it was atrocious advice.

"I thought about what Bill Patrick, my friend and bio-weapons mentor, had told me: anthrax was hard to weaponize," wrote Judith Miller back in 2001, too.

"To produce a spore small enough to infect the lungs took great skill. Bill knew that firsthand. He had struggled to manufacture such spores for the United States in the 1950s and 60s as a senior scientist in America's own germ weapons program . . . "

More nonsense. No bentonite, no silica. Nothing to tie it to a particular weapon-making process or regime.

Beecher writes, " . . . a widely circulated misconception is the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production. This idea is usually the basis for implying that the powders were inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone."

The scientist found that such things didn't matter.

Even if the anthrax powder appeared to be in clumps, "some fraction is composed of particles that are precisely in the size range that is most hazardous for transmission of disease by inhalation." And that number is a large one.

While these findings seem to open the range of suspects to those with lesser capability than those with experience from state-run bioweapons programs, this might not necessarily be the case. It seems reasonably clear that some of the scientists from old state-run bioweapons programs may not have been as knowledgeable as they let on. That doesn't mean everyone is the same.

And because the Leahy letter was so dangerous to handle, one might argue that either the anthraxer was either extremely lucky or someone with a significant amount of training, possibly equivalent to those who worked in the FBI's hotroom.

If the FBI knows, either way, it's not telling. But we can thank them a great deal for the open science. 

George Smith is a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.

Five years after anthrax attacks, are we any safer?
Terrorist attacks remain a mystery

By Peter Franceschina
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted October 1 2006

When Bob Stevens, a tabloid photo editor in Boca Raton, died of anthrax poisoning five years ago, he became the first U.S. casualty in a new era of bioterrorism threats.

In the days and weeks to follow, four others who contracted anthrax through handling tainted mail died -- two postal workers in Washington, D.C., a New York City hospital stockroom employee and an elderly Connecticut woman. At least 17 others fell ill but survived during the uneasy autumn following the 9-11 attacks.

 Whoever devised the deadly letters slipped back underground -- there have been no anthrax mailings since. The attacker transformed the American consciousness, partly because a potential biological attack seemed remote, until it became a reality.

Hoax letters once tossed in the trash without a thought now merit a full hazardous materials response. Biodefense is a government priority, with billions of dollars dedicated to it. Even as some experts say anthrax would be the easiest biological weapon for terrorists to deploy, others say the threat is low because of the difficulty in obtaining, producing and dispersing it.

What disturbs some bioterrorism experts is the lack of positive signs the FBI will ever solve the mystery.

"It's been five years now. I don't see a solution forthcoming," said Bill Patrick, a former military anthrax researcher.

That uncertainty hangs over Maureen Stevens, who lost her husband of 27 years. Bob Stevens, 63, fell ill and was hospitalized on Oct. 2, 2001. He died three days later, and Maureen Stevens has no more answers today than she did then.

"I just want to know how it could happen, as much as how it happened, how easy it was for someone to do this," she said recently. "I would really like to know how they did it, why they did it, and what they hoped to achieve."

Though the investigation appears stalled, the FBI says the "Amerithrax" investigation remains a priority, with 17 agents and 10 postal inspectors assigned to the case.

"Despite the frustrations that come with any complex investigation, no one in the FBI has, for a moment, stopped thinking about the innocent victims of these attacks, nor has the effort to solve this case in any way been slowed," Joseph Persichini Jr., acting assistant director of the FBI's Washington Field Office, said in a recent statement.

The FBI initially focused on scientists who worked within U.S. biodefense programs with access to government strains of Ames anthrax and sophisticated labs.

It now appears the person or group behind the attacks didn't require specialized scientific training to manufacture the anthrax, opening up a much larger pool of suspects. Some experts had characterized the anthrax as "weaponized" to make its spores smaller, lighter and more deadly.

An FBI scientist, Douglas Beecher, recently published an article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology saying the spores didn't get special coatings to make the anthrax disperse more effectively.

"A widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production," Beecher wrote in the journal's August issue.

The FBI's first public comment on the nature of the anthrax is drawing attention from a scientific community that at times has been divided on how technologically accomplished the attacks were.

Patrick says the perpetrator knew his business, at least to the degree that an effective, deadly spore was produced.

"I don't think it's something you can go into your basement laboratory to do," he said.

The first batch of letters went to media outlets -- the three major television networks and the New York Post in New York City, and to tabloid publisher American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, which publishes the Star and National Enquirer, and where Bob Stevens was a photo editor at the now defunct The Sun.

That anthrax was not as refined as the spores in two letters postmarked Oct. 9 and sent to U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. The senate letters also had higher concentrations of anthrax -- experts believe the perpetrator got better at producing the spores. The FBI's Beecher wrote that even microbes left in a cruder state than weaponized spores can be dangerous.

"You can use fairly simple methods to make a fairly sophisticated powder," said David Siegrist, a bioterrorism expert at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Virginia.

For a time, the FBI focused on a former biological weapons researcher, Steven Hatfill, whose apartment was searched twice in the summer of 2002. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft called him a "person of interest," but no charges were filed. Hatfill is now suing the government.

The anthrax mailings radically changed some government priorities, increasing biodefense spending from roughly $150 million in the late 1990s to an estimated $7.5 billion last year, according to one study.

The U.S. Postal Service was forced to install machines around the country to detect anthrax and biological agents.

The increased biodefense spending is being used to study the threat and the best ways to respond to an attack. Almost $1 billion is earmarked for a new anthrax vaccine and an antitoxin, and an older vaccine and antibiotics are being stockpiled. Shipments of the new vaccine have been pushed back until at least 2008.

The first responders to any biological threat now receive more specialized training for such an event. Training is coordinated between local, state and federal agencies.

"South Florida in particular has the largest number of hazardous material technicians in the state," said Mike Jachles, a spokesman for Broward County Fire-Rescue.

But there are some bioterrorism specialists who believe the threat is overblown.

"I don't believe there is any great threat," said Milton Leitenberg, a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies. He said government officials and others are deliberately exaggerating the threat, even though no terror organizations have demonstrated the ability to carry out such attacks.

Peter Franceschina can be reached at pfranceschina@sun-sentinel.com or 561-228-5503.

Chemical & Engineering News
October 2, 2006
Volume 84, Number 40,  p. 14

Bioterrorism
Anthrax Redux
FBI scientist says powders in 2001 attacks contain pure, but untreated spores
by Lois Ember

In what is believed to be the most extensive public FBI statement to date on the 2001 anthrax attacks, an FBI scientist debunks much of the widely reported claims about the anthrax powders mailed to two U.S. senators and several news organizations. Those attacks killed five people and sickened 17 others.

Typical of earlier assessments, scientists and physicians published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May 2002 describing the Senate anthrax powder as "weapons grade" and having "high spore concentration, uniform size, low electrostatic charge, treated to reduce clumping."

But FBI scientist Douglas J. Beecher refutes that description (Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2006, 72, 5304). He writes that "a widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production." On the contrary, he writes, the anthrax powders in the letters "were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents." The FBI would not make Beecher available for interviews.

Harvard University molecular biologist Matthew S. Meselson is one of several scientists asked to examine electron micrographs of the powders and confirms Beecher's statement. Meselson tells C&EN that he "saw no evidence of anything except spores."

Meselson also says that "on a small scale it is not difficult" to produce preparations of high purity—up to 1 trillion spores per gram in some of the anthrax-letter powders. A skilled scientist possessing the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis used in the 2001 attacks could have produced such material using "basic microbiological lab equipment and supplies," he says.

The highly virulent Ames strain, first isolated in the U.S. and engineered as a weapon by scientists in the U.S.'s former bioweapons program, is now so globally distributed that the FBI has had to cast its net for the perpetrator more widely. Although the five-year-old investigation appears to be mired, Joseph Persichini Jr., acting assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office, says the bureau's "commitment to solving this case is undiminished." He insists "the case will be solved."

SeedMagazine.com
Some Lessons Learned From the Anthrax Attacks
Five years after anthrax-laden letters killed five people, we know a lot more about the FBI's forensic investigation, but even less about the possible assailant.

by Michael Stebbins • Posted October 2, 2006 01:19 AM 

The outcome is well documented: four to five letters mailed, 22 anthrax infections, five deaths, and at least one murderer.

The investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks is one of the largest and most expensive in history—in five years, the FBI has conducted 9,100 interviews and issued more than 6,000 subpoenas. It's not as if the agency has been sitting around twiddling its thumbs.

More impressive than the thousands of interviews is the forensic setup that led to the identification of the fourth letter, which was addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). (The first three letters were opened by staff members of Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD), Tom Brokaw at NBC News, and The New York Post.) In a paper published in the August issue of a relatively obscure journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Doug Beecher of the FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit describes how the agency was able to quickly build a 6,000-square-foot biohazard containment facility to screen more than two hundred 55-gallon drums full of mail from Capitol Hill. 

Inside the barrels were 642 separate bags of mail. Each was swabbed for the presence of anthrax. After taking air samples from the 20 bags that tested positive, one proved to have a very high concentration of anthrax spores. Each piece of mail from the 20 bags was photographed against a window to get an idea of its contents.

As soon as the envelope containing the powder-laden letter to Senator Leahy was held up, the investigators knew they'd found a fourth letter.

It had taken them only four days to devise a large-scale forensic screening for a biological agent, inspect a tremendous amount of mail, and identify the letter, all under extremely hazardous conditions.

Perhaps the most significant revelation in Beecher's article is that the anthrax spores were not coated with silica or any other agent designed to increase aerosolization of the spores. This means that the anthrax was almost pure spores, making it less likely that it was produced by someone with specific bioweapons experience. Despite this evidence, many press reports, including one from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, indicated the anthrax was produced by someone who knew how to weaponize it.

"[The] persistent credence given to this impression fosters misconceptions," Beecher wrote in his article, "which may misguide research and preparedness efforts." But it was the FBI that decided not to clarify the coating issue, in essence allowing the perpetuation of conspiracy theories about the source of the anthrax and the traits of the assailant. 

Due to Beecher's revelation, the press is now asserting that the FBI is widening their investigation to include people with microbiological expertise, but not bioweapons experience. Yet the FBI has reduced the number of fulltime investigators working on the case to 17 from more than 30 two years ago.

The FBI has yet to disclose how they found the mailbox from which the letters were mailed. Yet according to a source familiar with the investigation, a team of investigators, who worked at night so as not to alarm residents, took samples from 628 mailboxes in the Trenton, NJ area and tested for any trace of anthrax. In July of 2002, 10 months after the letters were sent, they identified a mailbox across the street from the Princeton University campus that still housed live anthrax spores.

As a direct result of the letters, the Federal government dramatically increased biodefense spending, which included increasing anthrax research funding by over a thousand-fold. In addition, in July 2004, Congress passed Project Bioshield, a $5.6 billion fund to "improve medical countermeasures protecting Americans against a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) attack." 

Part of the funding from Project Bioshield was earmarked for the development and stockpiling of a new vaccine against anthrax. (The old vaccine consisted of six shots administered over 18 months and had nasty side effects, including death.) But, because of a lack of an established market and the general high maintenance associated with government contracts, no major pharmaceutical companies stepped up.

Naturally, the government awarded a single $887 million contract for 75 million doses of anthrax vaccine to Vaxgen, a company that has never brought a product to market and was recently barred from the NASDAQ due to accounting irregularities. Scientific stumbles further hampered production of the new vaccine, delaying delivery beyond 2007 and kicking off a lobbying battle between VaxGen and Emergent, the company that produces the old vaccine. Millions of lobbying dollars later, the government contracted Emergent for a total of 10 million doses of the old vaccine at a cost of $243 million.

Most experts would be hard pressed to call Project Bioshield anything but a disaster.

Terrorism experts predict that we will see a significant event on U.S. soil in the next few years. Nonetheless, our election-bound Congress will leave this session without having passed a new biodefense bill that fully addresses our ongoing problems with public health preparedness.

At least we know the FBI can quickly respond to new bioterror attacks. They just may not tell us what they've found.

Michael Stebbins is the author of Sex, Drugs & DNA: Science's Taboos Confronted and the Director of Biology Policy at the Federation of American Scientists. He still thinks Anthrax is a cool name for a band.

The Times of New Jersey
Anthrax probe update sought
Hamilton mail workers' lingering fears cited
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
BY LISA CORYELL

Five years after anthax-tainted mail thrust a local post office to the forefront of a national bioterrorism attack, Rep. Rush Holt has called on federal investigators to meet with postal employees and update them on the status of their investigation into the deadly attacks.

In a letter sent to the FBI yesterday, Holt, D-Hopewell Township, demanded answers for employees at the Hamilton post office that processed the tainted mail that killed five people nationally. 

 "Clearly the folks most directly affected by this are the postal workers themselves who were moving that mail," said Pat Eddington, a spokesman for Holt. "The FBI owes them an explanation. They should be told whether this case is close to being solved and if there is anything they can do to preclude this from happening again."

The Route 130 postal facility was closed for more than three years following the 2001 attacks.

Yesterday, Hamilton Mayor Glen Gilmore echoed Holt's call. He said the men and women at the Route 130 site live with lingering fears that the attack could happen again.

"They know whoever did this is still out there," Gilmore said. "They deserve a briefing on where the investigation stands."

Holt demanded the local meet ing five days after the FBI rebuffed his request to share classified information on the investigation with a congressional intelligence panel.

Holt called for that briefing in the wake of media reports that the FBI had overestimated the sophistication of the anthrax spores used in the mailings, leading the agency to erroneously conclude the at tacks were carried out by a government scientist or someone with ac cess to a U.S. biodefense lab.

"This error meant that resources were diverted and count less agents wasted their time investigating a small pool of suspects, instead of the broader search we now know was needed," Holt wrote in a Sept. 27 letter to the FBI.

Holt, a scientist, called the FBI's investigation botched from the start, and demanded the FBI answer to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on which he sits.

 In a Sept. 28 response, the FBI denied it had ever overestimated the potency of the anthrax, saying the press had erroneously reported that the anthrax was of military weapons grade but that the FBI had known early on that it had been of a more common variety.

The agency refused to provide a congressional briefing, saying information from previous such briefings had been leaked to the press. 

 Yesterday Holt fired off another letter to the FBI, reiterating his request for a briefing and adding a request for a meeting with local postal workers.

"...They were on the front lines of this bioterrorism attack and are owed an update," Holt wrote. "I propose that we invite the U.S. Postal Service to make a presentation as well, and open the meeting to the general public."

The FBI did not immediately comment on Holt's latest letter.

The deadly anthrax attacks occurred within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The Hamilton mail facility handled at least four anthrax-laced letters in a one-month span. The letters, sent to NBC News, the New York Post and U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., spread anthrax spores throughout the Hamilton building.

The attacks left five area postal workers ill with anthrax, including four who worked inside the Route 130 facility. All five postal workers and a Hamilton accountant, who contracted anthrax from contaminated mail, recovered, but five people died and 17 were sickened across the nation.

The Route 130 building was closed immediately after the at tacks. In Oct. 2003 it was fumigated with chlorine dioxide and reopened in Feb. 2005.

Contact Lisa Coryell at lco ryell@njtimes.com or (609) 989-5709.

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
Tuesday, October 3, 2006 · Last updated 12:06 p.m. PT

Hunt for anthrax killer still going on

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID AND MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITERS

WASHINGTON -- More than 1,000 biological detectors are sniffing mail across the country for dangerous contamination as the hunt goes on for whoever put anthrax in letters and killed five people just after the Sept. 11 attacks.

An anthrax case in Florida, reported five years ago Wednesday, brought the first hint of what turned out to be contamination of mail that reached Washington, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey and raised fears nationwide.

Last month, FBI Director Robert Mueller said agents are still working on the aging anthrax case, and he declared it "will be solved and the person or persons responsible will be brought to justice."

"From the outset we have been open to any and all theories, and the investigation continues on any and all theories," he said.

The Postal Service has taken action in an effort to prevent a repeat.

"We have fully deployed the fleet of bio-detection systems" on canceling machines at 271 mail processing locations, Postal Vice President Tom Day said in a telephone interview.

A modified version for larger, flat mail items will be put into service next year, he said.

Installation of the current system cost $800 million, provided by Congress, and the post office is spending about $70 million to operate it. That annual cost is expected to climb to $120 million.

The detectors check for anthrax and two other biological hazards, which Day declined to name.

Among those killed in 2001 were two postal workers at Washington's Brentwood mail processing facility. Day said workers now are trained to look for suspicious packages and call in postal inspectors if they detect something unusual.

Among the things that make a package suspicious are leaking powder and liquids. In addition, there are other telltale signs that the agency does not like to discuss for fear of tipping off terrorists.

Last week, the FBI denied it had overestimated the potency of the anthrax spores used in the killings.

Shortly after the attacks, there were reports that the spores contained additives and had been subjected to sophisticated milling - both techniques used in anthrax-based weapons - to make them more lethal. But bureau officials now say the early media reports of weaponized anthrax were misconceptions.

If the anthrax used was less sophisticated than originally thought, that opens up a wider field of potential suspects.

A small number of people in the U.S. and abroad are being looked at by investigators because they fit some criterion, such as access to anthrax, said one official who declined to be identified because authorities are reluctant to discuss the details of ongoing investigations.

Neither that official nor any others involved with the case would discuss the status of Steven Hatfill, the former Army scientist once described by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft as a "person of interest" in the case. Hatfill has sued the government, alleging that leaked statements about him damaged his career.

Currently there are 17 FBI agents and 10 postal inspectors assigned to the case. Investigators have conducted more than 9,100 interviews, issued more than 6,000 grand jury subpoenas and completed 67 searches.

Most of the time when powder is leaking from a parcel, it turns out to be food, such as flour or baking powder, or perhaps a pill that has gotten crushed, Day said.

When packages leak, it may be because people ship things that should not go through the mail, such as parts of dead animals.

"They deep freeze them and, unfortunately, the dry ice is exhausted and we've had a number of cases where red liquid is oozing from the parcel," Day said.

Despite the installation of the detectors, many postal workers feel not enough has been done, according to William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union.

The units that have been installed are effective, Burrus said. But not all mail is processed in postal facilities, he said. Some is prepared in advance by large business mailers and dropped off for delivery.

So far, the detectors have conducted more than 3 million tests, screening some 60 billion pieces of mail with no false alarms. Postal contractors and the Defense Department worked together to come up with the system.

Asked if any real biohazards have been detected, Day said: "That, you would have heard about."

Replaceable cartridges in the system do the actual tests and run an automatic self-check. If that self-check indicates a problem, the sample is routed to a different cartridge. All the cartridges are connected through a secure broadband network so they can be monitored.

The Frederick News-Post
Five years later, and few answers in anthrax probe
Published on October 4, 2006

 By Alison Walker
News-Post Staff
FREDERICK -- Five years after anthrax was used in lethal mail attacks, the federal government still has few answers and considerable work to prepare for a similar attack.

Letters containing powdered anthrax spores were mailed to media outlets in New York and Florida and to Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The attacks resulted in five deaths and 17 anthrax infections. Officials first announced a confirmed case of inhalation anthrax Oct. 4, 2001, in a Florida photo editor who died the next day.

Dubbing the case "Amerithrax," the FBI investigation placed a Fort Detrick lab under national scrutiny.

The case remains unsolved.

Delays

The source of the anthrax has eluded investigators, and experts say the perpetrator may never be found.

Luciana Borio, an infectious disease expert, said anthrax is more difficult to trace than many bacterial agents. Ms. Borio is a senior associate at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Biosecurity.

"The difficulty we have with biothreats is there is no return address, there is no signature," she said. "It's almost impossible to identify who did it."

The genetic makeup of anthrax is not unique to its geographic origin, said Steven Hinrichs, who directs the University of Nebraska's Center for Biosecurity in Omaha. Finding such a geographic correlation would allow investigators to link an anthrax sample to its place of origin.

"Identifying genetic differences (among samples) has been difficult, and they may not even exist," he said.

Col. David Franz is the former commander of the Army's biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID.

While bullets from a gun can be traced to the gun that fired them, he said, similar techniques don't exist in biology.

Suspect pool

Reports that the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks was less sophisticated than once thought could extend the pool of suspects beyond the U.S. biodefense community, and could further complicate the FBI investigation.

Douglas Beecher is a scientist in the FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit. The theory that the spores were manufactured military-style was a misconception, he said in an August scientific journal.

These revelations may indicate the perpetrator wasn't a member of the U.S. biodefense community, The Washington Post reported in late September.

Media reports after the attacks said the anthrax was made with additives and complex engineering, a combination known as weaponizing. Investigators looked for a biodefense insider with the ability to produce such a product.

Col. Franz, the former USAMRIID commander, told The Frederick News-Post on Monday the anthrax mailed to Sen. Daschle was probably not weaponized, but it was still high quality.

"Whoever purified it and dried it had to know  what they were doing," he said.

The anthrax was clean, with little debris, Col. Franz said. The sample contained individual spores, which would take significant skill to produce, he said.

Mr. Hinrichs, the Nebraska biosecurity expert, said inhalation anthrax that isn't weaponized is still a serious infectious threat.

"(The anthrax used in 2001) was certainly effective enough," he said, referring to the five people who died from exposure to the agent.

It is possible that weaponized anthrax would have infected or killed more people than in 2001, Dr. Hinrichs said.

Investigators are also widening the scope of the anthrax case to outside the United States because the strain of anthrax used in the attacks has been found in labs around the world.

Fort Detrick

The FBI's investigation initially focused on USAMRIID, the Army's biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick.

USAMRIID was strongly linked to Ames strain anthrax. The lab was the first to use the Ames anthrax strain for research -- and gave the strain its name -- in the 1980s.

In June 2002, the FBI named former USAMRIID researcher Steven J. Hatfill "a person of interest."

Agents searched Mr. Hatfill's apartment across the street from Fort Detrick. They searched a frozen pond in the Frederick watershed in late 2002 for evidence used in the 2001 attacks, and drained the pond in June 2003.

Mr. Hatfill has pursued a lawsuit against the government, trying to find employees at the FBI and the Justice Department who leaked his name to reporters during the anthrax investigation. He is also suing several news organizations for libel.

Preventing threats

Anthrax remains the most probable agent of bioterrorism today, but government officials still have work ahead of them to prepare for another attack, said Ms. Borio of the UPMC Center for Biosecurity.

"Even though (anthrax) is a top threat, and even with a tremendous amount of resources to deal with it, we still haven't done as much as we can as a government to diminish the threat," she said.

Ms. Borio stressed the need for improvements in public health response preparedness.

Even with stockpiled antibiotics and vaccines, state and local action would be critical during threats, she said.

Delivering medical care, distributing treatments and educating physicians to recognize exposure is a local responsibility, Ms. Borio said.

States must also be prepared to request, transport and distribute vaccines and antibiotics within a few days.

Mr. Hinrichs said bioterrorism preparedness would be better if federal health agencies created uniform rules for reporting disease. Detecting outbreaks might require standardization of reportable conditions or diseases.

States report different information about different disease incidences to national health agencies, impeding federal officials from recognizing outbreaks and responding, he said.

Mr. Hinrichs worked with Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to introduce the National Reportable Conditions Act to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The legislation would create an advisory board to update a list of emerging diseases and establish uniform reporting standards, as well as create an automated electronic reporting system.

Strides since 2001

The UPMC biosecurity center issued a report in September on the nation's positive steps and failures in preparedness since the anthrax attacks.

The report stated that since 2001 the government has improved bioterrorism awareness and training, funding for state and local preparedness and biodefense research and development.

Since the 2001 attacks, federal spending on biodefense research has increased from about $675 million in 2001 to an estimated $3.4 billion in fiscal 2006, according to the Centers for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington.

At Fort Detrick, the Department of Homeland Security is building a $128 million biodefense laboratory, as part of the planned National Interagency Biodefense Campus on post.

The NBACC is scheduled to begin operating in 2008. Also under construction on the campus is a $105 million National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases laboratory, expected to open in early 2008.

Stockpiles

Stockpiling adequate supplies of anthrax vaccine -- a process expected to take three more years -- will be critical to coping with another attack, Ms. Borio said.

The Strategic National Stockpile has 40 million doses of anthrax antibiotics on hand to treat people who have been potentially exposed.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has contracted for 85 million doses of anthrax vaccine, which would vaccinate about 10 percent of the U.S. population.

Five million doses of anthrax vaccine are stockpiled, with another 5 million doses on the way. Production of the remaining 75 million doses, a second generation vaccine, has taken longer than expected.

The DHHS awarded California-based company VaxGen Inc. an $877.5 million contract in 2004 to produce for the national stockpile.

Because of many delays, the government gave London company Avecia a $71 million contract to develop a vaccine using the same approach.

Avecia said in late September clinical trials for the vaccine's safety and effectiveness in people were promising.

USAMRIID senior scientist Arthur Friedlander and a team of scientists at the laboratory discovered a key component of the vaccine that has shown promising results in human testing. 

Anthrax attacks fodder for rumors

By Eliot Kleinberg
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 05, 2006

BOCA RATON — Take a substance against which almost no one is immune and which can't easily be discerned from everyday materials. Deliver via an institution as trusted as the U.S. mail. Ferment for five years without resolution. On the side, bring copious amounts of the Internet to a rolling boil. The result: plenty to chew on for reporters, researchers, victims and their relatives, and the world's conspiracy buffs. Entering the search words "anthrax" and "conspiracy" on www.google.com produces nearly 1.5 million pages.

It's always hard to separate fact from rumor. Here's a short list of what's known.

The investigation: The FBI has 17 agents and 19 Postal Service inspectors assigned to what it calls "one of the largest and most complex investigations ever conducted by law enforcement." The FBI says it has logged hundreds of thousands of hours, conducted about 9,100 interviews, issued more than 6,000 grand jury subpoenas, conducted 67 searches and assembled eight panels of scientific schools to analyze evidence. The agency also says scientific advances gained from the case "have greatly strengthened the government's ability to prepare for, and prevent, biological attacks in the future." And a $2.5 million reward still stands. But no one has ever been arrested. The FBI insists it and postal inspectors are still heavily pursuing the case. But the number of investigators has reportedly dropped from 41 to 30.

Fort Detrick: The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md., manufactured anthrax before biological weapons were banned in 1969 and has experimented with the Ames strain for defensive research since the early 1980s. Gene sequencing conducted after the anthrax attacks revealed that anthrax spores recovered from Boca Raton, New York and Washington came from one source - the Ames strain. It originated in 1981 from a dead Texas cow and later was sent to Fort Detrick as well as other labs in the United States and Europe.

Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a molecular biologist at the State University of New York investigating the attacks for the Federation of American Scientists, concluded the culprit probably was a government insider, possibly someone from Fort Detrick. The government said in February 2002 that it had a "short list" of 18 to 20 people who had the access, equipment, knowledge and motive to obtain and "weaponize" anthrax.

The Hartford Courant, quoting an internal Army inquiry, reported in 2002 that lab specimens of anthrax spores, Ebola virus and other pathogens disappeared from Fort Detrick in the early 1990s, during a time of labor complaints and spats among rival scientists.

The Courant also reported that in 1992, Col. Philip Zack, a former Fort Detrick employee, was let into the complex in January 1992, apparently by lab pathologist Marian Rippy, a close friend. The newspaper said Zack had left the lab in 1991 amid allegations that Zack, Rippy, lab technician Charles Brown and others harassed their colleague, Egyptian-born Ayaad Assaad.

But on Sept. 26, 2006, the New York Times quoted an FBI scientist, writing in a pathology journal, saying the agency believes the anthrax was not specially coated to make it more deadly and did not have the hallmarks of a military weapon. That would mean the killer did not have to have an in at Fort Detrick or any other depository of weapons-grade anthrax.

The Sept. 11 connection: The FBI has said 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers lived in South Florida, and as many as 12 had links to Palm Beach County. Several lived in Delray Beach or Boynton Beach, not far from the AMI building in Boca Raton.

In 2003, Leonard Cole, author of the book The Anthrax Letters: A Medical Detective Story, pointed out several other links between the Sept. 11 hijackers and the anthrax attacks:

Ahmed Al Haznawi was treated at a Fort Lauderdale hospital for a leg ulcer. The doctor later said the ulcer was probably cutaneous anthrax. Gloria Irish, a real estate agent who is the wife of Mike Irish, editor-in-chief of AMI's The Sun, helped two of the hijackers, Hamza Alghamdi and Marwan Al-Shehhi, rent apartments in Delray.

In addition to Cole's contentions, Gregg Chatterton, co-owner of Huber Drugs in Delray Beach, has said a man came in during summer of 2001 seeking an ointment for his irritated and red hands. Chatterton later identified the man as Mohamed Atta, believed to be the ringleader of the hijackers. Chatterton said he also sold Al-Shehhi a bottle of Robitussin for a chest cold and directed him to a nearby clinic.

Staff writer Tania Valdemoro contributed to this story, which contains information from The Palm Beach Post, New York Times, Hartford Courant, Washington Post and the FBI.

Days of fear, turmoil still vivid after 5 years after anthrax attacks in Boca

By Luis F. Perez
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted October 5 2006

The microscopic anthrax spores that arrived in Boca Raton five years ago through the mail left an indelible mark on the psyche of this community.

For a disparate group of people whose world was turned upside down in the chaotic days after the attacks, it was a life-changing event.

 Many worked for American Media Inc., the publisher of supermarket tabloids such as the National Enquirer, Weekly World News and Globe, at its former headquarters, 5401 Broken Sound Blvd. in the Arvida Park of Commerce.

Others, such as government officials, responded to the first wave of anthrax attacks that killed Bob Stevens, a photo editor. He died five years ago today. Nationally, the anthrax attacks killed four others and sickened 17, including Ernesto Blanco, an AMI mailroom worker.

"Anytime you go through something like that, your life has to change," Blanco said in a recent interview. "I almost died."

Still, it was the loss of Stevens that struck him and many others most.

"I don't know why it had to be him," Blanco said.

Cliff Linedecker was a chief writer for Weekly World News back then.

"It was just really shocking to everybody," he said. "I swear if they were going to pick out the nicest guy, it was Bobby Stevens."

Many questions linger. Whoever laced envelopes with anthrax in a white powder, turning them into deadly weapons, remains on the loose. The building where Stevens and Blanco were exposed to the toxin remains under quarantine. It is the only building hit with anthrax, including federal buildings in Washington, D.C., other media outlets in New York and mail facilities in New Jersey, that's still lifeless. But memories of what happened are vivid.

Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, was giving a seminar on biological threats just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when she took a call from Dr. Larry Bush, an infectious disease specialist at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis.

He told her about a patient with an unusual condition that looked like anthrax. She sent a sample to the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further testing.

"Nobody believed me at the time," Malecki said in a recent interview.

The test came back positive. Even so, no alarms went off. Stevens was an avid outdoorsman just back from vacation and could have come in contact with the deadly bacteria naturally. It wasn't until samples taken from the AMI building came back positive for anthrax the Sunday before Columbus Day that Malecki and others realized the magnitude.

"We knew then it was a terrorist event," she said.

Malecki quarantined the building that night. She, Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams, and current and former AMI employees described the turmoil of the next few weeks. Public health officials put thousands on antibiotics as precautions. No one was sure what was happening, how it happened or where to turn to for much needed answers.

"It was just scary," said Alissa Marks, a former AMI editorial assistant. "Nobody knew anything."

Abrams called his father, a rheumatologist, in the middle of the night to ask about the poison lurking in town.

"We had no information whatsoever about anthrax," Abrams said. "Even the medical people had outdated information."

Blanco, 78, learned of his exposure to anthrax while watching TV news from his hospital bed. Hundreds of people waited in long lines for hours under the hot sun and in downpours for medicine and to have their noses swabbed, checking for anthrax. Linedecker, 75, fainted waiting in line for Cipro, an antibiotic. The pills made Marks ill by the fourth day and she switched to penicillin injections for 56 straight days.

 National and international media descended on Boca Raton. Abrams worked to keep city residents calm. Emergency personnel responded to more than 900 calls that were hoaxes, Malecki said. They had to figure out a way to keep from contaminating themselves and others on the fly, just in case a call was the real thing.

"People were afraid to open their mail," Malecki said.

 It went on for weeks.

"Every day was a new nightmare," Abrams said.

Those days are unforgettable for those who lived through them.

Linedecker, now a freelance writer and author, said changes at the tabloids after the attack cost him his job. The changes were going to happen anyway, he said. "But the anthrax sort of speeded things up," he said.

Marks, who now works in a doctor's office and a nutrition store, said that while it was "horrible at the time," good things happened to her as a result. Working in the disarray after the attacks gave her confidence to handle new experiences.

She took on more responsibility and received several promotions, eventually becoming a manager.

"It definitely changed my thinking in life," Marks said. "I definitely look forward to change more than I ever did."

Abrams, who was in his first year as mayor, said that in the aftermath city staff, residents, businesses and public safety workers felt besieged. The attacks brought the community together. And that unity started to spill into other aspects of governing, he said. In fact, one of his proudest achievements as a third-term mayor has been changing the political tone in Boca Raton, he said. "A turning point of that cohesion could well have been that [anthrax] episode," Abrams said.

Malecki said she has become more introspective and grown spiritually since the attacks. She worked closely with the Stevens family and held forums for AMI employees.

"It was very, very clear to me that these events are not just physical in nature," she said.

Now, she thinks public health officials should provide mental health and spiritual services and take a more human approach.

Don Gentile, an AMI senior reporter, said today colleagues are still "skittish," "a little jumpier" when a fire alarm goes off.

"We always wondered why we were targeted," he said. "I mean, who did it? If they were terrorists, why did they target us? And you wonder if it's going to happen again."

Luis F. Perez can be reached at lfperez@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6641.

Solving case may take many years
The anthrax killer of 2001 remains at large with no end to the investigation in sight.

By JACK DOLAN
jdolan@MiamiHerald.com
Oct. 5, 2006

Five years after the deadly anthrax attacks on media and Congressional offices, there's no indication that federal investigators are closer to making an arrest.

Instead, they're signaling the possibility of a very long wait.

''I believe it is important to note that many complex investigations, such as the Unabomber case and the Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta, often take years to resolve,'' Eleni P. Kalisch, assistant FBI director of Congressional affairs, wrote last week in a letter to a New Jersey congressman who criticized the pace and direction of the investigation.

Convicted ''Unabomber'' Ted Kaczynski was arrested 18 years after his first bombing in 1978.

`THE EXTRA MILE'

A statement posted on the bureau's website promises that the ``investigators who have worked tirelessly on the case, day-in and day-out, continue to go the extra mile in pursuit of every lead.''

But all outward signs suggest the trail, which once seemed red hot, has been cooling off for years.

In the 18 months after the attacks, federal agents were aggressively interviewing people in the relatively small world of U.S. government and university-based infectious-disease experts.

But several microbiologists who were contacted repeatedly by the FBI in the early stages of the investigation said last week that they haven't heard from the bureau recently.

''They say they still have a team, but nobody I know has heard from them in several years,'' said Martin Hugh-Jones, an anthrax researcher at Louisiana State University. ``So God knows what they're doing.''

Perhaps that's because the team is steadily shrinking. In the beginning, there were more than 100 agents assigned to the case, said FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman. In the fall of 2003, there were 48. Last month, the team consisted of 27 FBI agents and postal inspectors, Weierman said.

And in August, the agent in charge of the Amerithrax team since 2002, Richard L. Lambert, left to become chief of the FBI's Knoxville, Tenn., bureau.

67 SEARCHES

The FBI said the Amerithrax team conducted more than 9,100 interviews, issued more than 6,0000 subpoenas and completed 67 searches over the course of the investigation.

One thing investigators are not doing as much these days is tailing former U.S. Army bioweapons researcher Dr. Steven J. Hatfill.

In June 2002, Hatfill became the public focus of the investigation when agents in anti-contamination suits searched his Frederick, Md., apartment.

Later that summer, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft described Hatfill as a ``person of interest.''

Hatfill, who has never been formally named as a suspect, maintains his innocence. He is suing the Department of Justice and several media organizations in federal court.

''The bureau trashed Steven Hatfill's life, and the press was a willing participant,'' said friend and former spokesman Patrick Clawson.

Why Hatfill became the focus of such extraordinary attention remains one of the enduring mysteries of the case.

OTHER MYSTERY

Another is the origin of the anthrax used in the attacks.

DNA tests done on the anthrax found in Senate offices and the Boca Raton offices of American Media showed it was a close cousin of the Ames strain of anthrax taken from stocks at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md.

Prior to the attacks, USAMRIID shared its anthrax stocks with at least a dozen other research labs across the U.S. and one in England.

Investigators subpoenaed samples from those labs, hoping a comparison of their DNA would determine which most closely matched the anthrax used in the attacks. But after nearly five years, there is no public indication that investigators have been able to pinpoint a specific lab.

''There just weren't enough differences [between the samples] to create a trail,'' said Timothy Read, a former investigator for The Institute for Genomic Research who participated in the DNA comparisons.

Miami Herald staff writer Tania Valdemoro contributed to this report.

USA Today
Anthrax suspect as elusive as bin Laden
Posted 10/5/2006 5:44 PM ET

WASHINGTON — For many who lived in proximity to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, equally scary moments came a few days later when anthrax-laden letters killed five people here and elsewhere around the country.

Many feared it was the second wave from other terrorist cells buried deeply in American society.

The exploding airplanes had created a numbing shock but as days went by, the shock had been replaced with anger and a resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice. Then the anthrax attacks struck, with stealthy fury, through an even more ordinary venue — the U.S. mail.

First, there was the death of the American Media Inc. photo editor in Florida, Robert Stevens. Anthrax-laced letters arrived at the offices of network anchors Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, the New York Times and politicians' offices. After a letter containing the deadly white powder was opened on Oct. 15, 2001, in the Capitol Hill offices of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., no one knew how far and wide the conspiracy was, and whether it had connections to 9/11. By the time another letter intended for Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was intercepted, the super drug Cipro had already been widely dispersed among staffers and other workers on Capitol Hill and in media offices around town.

"I remember it as vividly as I remember 9/11," Daschle, who took Cipro, said in a recent interview. "I remember almost every moment and how it unfolded — how helpless I felt, and how anxious I was for my staff, for the policemen and the others involved."

Writing later in his book, "Like No Other Time," Daschle recalled how a "morbid parlor game" in his office had suddenly become true. Daschle wrote that some of his staff members, in "somewhat fatalistic expectations," had debated in the days right after 9/11 whether the next attack would be anthrax or smallpox.

"Everybody was bracing themselves for a chain of events" that would "if not replicate 9/11, at least present serious threats to the national security and the safety of many of us," Daschle said in the recent interview.

It's never been proven whether there was any connection between the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax letters. Daschle says the FBI has denied several of his requests to be briefed on the status of the investigations. An FBI spokeswoman said she knew of no specific requests from Daschle but that the bureau has offered annual briefings for all victims of the anthrax attacks, usually around the anniversary.

Five years after the attacks, the anthrax investigations have been largely out of sight and out of mind, except for a couple of dozen FBI agents and other federal investigators still working the case. Like Osama bin Laden, the anthrax killer or killers have not been brought to justice. But perhaps because the attacks killed five people, not thousands, there has been far less clamor on the anthrax front. Ex-Army chemist Steven Hatfill was named a "person of interest" by former Attorney General John Ashcroft, but Hatfill has adamantly denied any involvement and has defamation suits pending against the FBI, Justice Department, the New York Times and other media outlets.

The Washington Post reported last month that federal investigators have determined that the anthrax used was not as sophisticated as the FBI originally thought, and that that discovery had widened the list of potential source labs for the deadly bacteria beyond initial suspicions. It is unclear whether that has lessened the likelihood of finding the source of the anthrax or debunked the theory that the attacks were from homegrown terrorism.

The FBI says it has made great strides in its laboratory and chemical examination processes in the five intervening years. On its website, www.fbi.gov, the agency's acting assistant director in charge of the Washington bureau, Joseph Persichini Jr., said recently that the anthrax investigation remains "a top priority" for the agency and remains "one of the largest and most complex investigations ever conducted by law enforcement."

The FBI says there are 17 special agents and 10 U.S. postal inspectors assigned full time to the case and that 6,000 grand jury subpoenas have been executed, 67 searches made and 9,100 interviews conducted.

Daschle wonders if it will ever be solved. "I am generally an optimist and I would like to think it will be," he said. "The concern I have is that these investigations go cold after a while, and I have worried about this one being cold for some time."

Contact GNS Political Writer Chuck Raasch at craasch@gns.gannett.com.

Posted on Fri, Oct. 06, 2006
Chronology of anthrax events

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

(MCT)

Sept. 18: Envelopes containing letters and granular substances are sent to NBC News in New York and the New York Post. Both are mailed from Trenton, N.J.

Sept. 22: Editorial page assistant at New York Post who opens letters to the editor notices blister on her finger. She later tests positive for skin form of anthrax.

Sept. 26: Maintenance worker at Trenton regional post office in Hamilton, N.J., visits physician to have lesion on arm treated.

Sept. 27: Teresa Heller, letter carrier at West Trenton post office, develops lesion on her arm.

Sept. 28: Erin O'Connor, assistant to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, notices a lesion.

The 7-month-old son of an ABC producer in Manhattan spends time at the network offices. He develops a rash, and is hospitalized with an unknown ailment soon after the visit. He is later diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax.

Sept. 30: Bob Stevens, photo editor at supermarket tabloid The Sun in Boca Raton, starts to feel ill.

Oct. 1: Erin O'Connor, the NBC assistant to anchor Tom Brokaw, goes to her doctor with a low-grade fever and a bad rash and is prescribed the antibiotic Cipro.

Ernesto Blanco, 73, an American Media Inc. mailroom employee, is hospitalized with pneumonia.

Oct. 2: At 2:30 a.m., American Media Inc. photo editor Stevens arrives at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis with 102-degree fever, vomiting and confusion. He deteriorates rapidly.

Oct. 3: Doctors determine Stevens, 63, has anthrax. He is on a respirator, being treated with intravenous penicillin.

In New Jersey, Heller, the West Trenton post office letter carrier, is hospitalized and a biopsy is performed.

Oct 4: AMI calls the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ask whether its Boca Raton headquarters should be evacuated. The CDC says no, and everyone continues working as usual at AMI. That afternoon, JFK Medical Center along with the Florida Department of Health's Dr. Steven Wiersma call a news conference to confirm that a patient has anthrax. They stress that it is a public health investigation and they believe it is an isolated case.

Oct. 5: Teams from the CDC fan out to Stevens' home and office. At JFK's intensive care unit, Stevens is pronounced dead, becoming the first anthrax fatality in the United States since 1976.

Oct. 7: At 7 p.m. the CDC notifies AMI that they intend to seal the building because test samples have shown anthrax spores on Stevens' computer keyboard and in the nasal passages of Ernesto Blanco, an AMI employee who delivered mail to other workers there.

Oct. 8: In Miami, the family of Ernesto Blanco is notified that Blanco has tested positive for anthrax exposure. He has no symptoms of anthrax infection. Employees of AMI line up to be tested and to receive a two-week supply of antibiotics

Oct. 9: Letters containing anthrax addressed to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. Patrick Leahy are postmarked in Trenton, N.J. The letters bear the same fictitious "Greendale School" return address and are written in all-capital block letters.

In New York, a skin biopsy is performed on the NBC employee.

In South Florida, the FBI says it found no traces of anthrax in the known places the Sept. 11 hijackers had stayed, or in Stevens' home or the places he frequented. Federal and state officials said they now believe the case is an isolated incident of "foul play." President Bush tries to assure anxious Americans that the Florida cases do not warrant national alarm.

Oct. 10: Federal investigators announce that a third AMI employee has tested positive for anthrax exposure and that the AMI case has become a criminal investigation.

Oct. 11: Federal officials say they have found more anthrax spores in the AMI mailroom. Postal workers demand to be tested for anthrax exposure. The third AMI employee to test positive for anthrax exposure, Stephanie Dailey, 36, announces from her Boynton Beach home that she is on antibiotics and feels fine.

Oct. 12: In New York, the skin biopsy tests on the NBC employee reveals that she had been exposed to anthrax, making her the fourth confirmed exposure to the potential germ warfare agent at a media company. NBC offices are sealed off while investigators conduct tests. The letter to NBC's Brokaw from Trenton, N.J. containing the granular substance is tested.

Post officials believe on this day, the anthrax letter addressed to Sen. Leahy was misrouted and passed through a State Department mail facility in Sterling, Va., where a worker later developed inhalation anthrax.

Oct. 13: Five more employees of the Boca Raton tabloid publisher American Media Inc. test positive for the presence of anthrax bacteria. The employees are put on antibiotics and are not expected to develop the disease.

The threatening letter sent to Brokaw from Trenton, N.J. tests positive for anthrax. A second NBC News employee who handled the letter reports possible symptoms.

Oct. 14: The number of individuals exposed to anthrax grows to 12. Three new cases - a police officer and two lab technicians involved in an investigation at NBC's New York headquarters - test positive for the bacteria, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announces.

Oct. 15: The nation's anthrax inquiry widens. The letter postmarked in Trenton, N.J. is opened in the Washington office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. It tests positive for anthrax.

Inspectors in Boca Raton confirm the presence of spores in the city's main post office.

In New York, ABC announces that the 7-month-old son of one of its producers was found to be infected with cutaneous anthrax. The boy had been at the network's offices in Manhattan on Sept. 28.

The Florida Department of Health announces that tests show Ernesto Blanco, an AMI mailroom employee, has contracted the inhaled form of anthrax. Earlier tests indicated he had only been exposed to anthrax spores.

Oct. 16: AMI says it probably destroyed the letter to its Boca office that contained anthrax. AMI management decides to abandon its headquarters.

U.S. Senate offices close as hundreds line up for tests. It is announced that the anthrax mailed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is a pure and highly potent version. Based on similarities in the handwriting on the envelope and the postmarks, the FBI links this letter to the one sent to NBC News.

Oct. 17: Congressional leaders arrange for an unprecedented shutdown of the House after 31 people test positive for exposure to anthrax; the number is later dropped to 28. Those exposed include workers in the offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. Russell Feingold and Capitol Hill police officers.

New York Gov. George Pataki announces that anthrax has been found in his Manhattan office, but later tests came up negative.

Preliminary tests indicate the anthrax sent to New York and Florida is the same strain.

Oct. 18: The bacteria strikes the third major television network, forces the decontamination of two more South Florida post office buildings and is found in a package that originated in the United States and was delivered to Kenya.

An assistant to CBS News anchor Dan Rather and a New Jersey postal worker are diagnosed with the skin form of the disease in New York, making them the fifth and sixth Americans to come down with anthrax.

Oct. 19: A New York Post employee develops the skin-form of anthrax. A second New Jersey postal worker is diagnosed with the skin-form of anthrax, making him the eighth person nationwide to contract the disease.

Oct. 20: Anthrax spores are found in the Ford Office Building, where mail is processed for legislators in the House of Representatives. Also, a postal worker at the Brentwood post office in Washington D.C. is tested for anthrax.

Oct. 21: Thomas Morris Jr., 55, a Washington postal worker suspected of having inhalation anthrax, dies. Reports indicate that in a desperate 911 call hours before he died, the Washington mail sorter told a dispatcher that he suspected he had been exposed at work to an envelope containing lethal anthrax spores. His previous attempts to convince his supervisors and doctor that he had anthrax went unheeded.

The New York Post says its anthrax letter is almost identical to those sent to Brokaw and Daschle.

Oct. 22: The scope of the anthrax problem in Washington grows dramatically. Joseph Curseen, 47, a Washington postal worker, comes to the hospital with flu-like symptoms in the morning and dies of inhalation anthrax by evening, making him the second postal worker to die of anthrax.

Two more postal workers are hospitalized; nine others are ill with symptoms. Authorities test 2,200 workers.

Oct. 23: Anthrax is detected on a letter-opening machine that screens White House mail. Authorities confirm the two postal workers who died succumbed to anthrax. Three more workers are ill from inhaled anthrax - two in Washington, one in New Jersey. Images of the three anthrax letters mailed from Trenton, N.J., are released; they are strongly similar. Ernesto Blanco, AMI mailroom worker diagnosed with inhaled anthrax, is released from the hospital after 23 days.

Oct. 24: Surgeon General David Satcher admits "we were wrong" not to respond more aggressively to tainted mail in Washington. Three new cases of suspected inhalation anthrax announced in Maryland suburbs, all linked to Daschle letter.

Oct. 25: An employee at the State Department's mail facility is hospitalized with anthrax and the Postal Service sets up spot checks at facilities nationwide.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge says the anthrax the Daschle letter was highly concentrated and made "to be more easily absorbed" by its victims.

The number of Americans taking antibiotics for possible anthrax exposure reaches 10,000.

Oct. 26: The Supreme Court building is ordered shut down for anthrax testing. Postal workers demand the closure of anthrax-tainted buildings in New York and Florida, with some union officials threatening to sue the Postal Service

Oct. 29: A 61-year-old worker at a Manhattan hospital tests positive for inhalation anthrax. She is in "very, very serious" condition and on a respirator, officials say.

New Jersey health authorities report a woman who handles mail for a private company there has cutaneous anthrax.

Small amounts of anthrax were found in the Supreme Court's basement mailroom and four other federal buildings in Washington.

Tests in Florida on cars used by two of the Sept. 11 hijackers found no traces of anthrax.

Oct. 30: Trace amounts of anthrax are found in the mailroom of the USDA Economic Research Service, and the head of the State Department's medical unit also says that anthrax spores are "probably all over" the two-block building.

U.S. Postal Service officials say anthrax spore traces have been found at a postal station in northwest Washington and in Dulles Station, Va.

Oct. 31: A New York City hospital worker becomes the fourth victim to die from inhalation anthrax. Kathy Nguyen, 61, worked in a medical supply room in the basement of the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, in an area that once housed a mailroom.

In New Jersey, a major mail plant is shut down after a postal employee is suspected of having skin anthrax. In the nation's capital, three post office centers that had been closed for decontamination are reopened.

Nov. 2: The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation says that after weeks of investigation, the government has no idea who is behind the anthrax attacks, and he appeals to the public for help in solving the case.

Nov. 4: The FBI, criticized for its sluggish response to the widening anthrax crisis, begins testing hundreds of barrels of quarantined government mail at a Washington-area facility in search of undetected anthrax-laden letters. Health officials confirm more traces of anthrax in New York and Washington.

Nov. 6: No new anthrax cases are reported, and several buildings that had closed because of anthrax scares, including a New Jersey post office and a New York hospital, reopen.

Nov. 9: After three weeks of searching the American Media Inc. building for anthrax, federal officials dismantle the teams, leaving the Boca Raton site for its tabloid publisher to clean up.

The FBI says it is increasingly convinced that the person behind the recent anthrax attacks is a lone wolf within the United States who has no links to terrorist groups but is an "opportunist" using the Sept. 11 hijackings to vent his rage.

Nov. 10: Small amounts of anthrax are discovered in four new locations on Capitol Hill, including the Hart Building offices of Sens. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., but they do not threaten the health of anyone who worked or visited there, officials announce.

Nov. 12: Trace amounts of anthrax are found in the offices of three more senators, bringing to 11 the number of senators' suites found in recent days to be contaminated. The most recent discoveries were in the offices of Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; and Jon Corzine, D-N.J. All 11 are in the Hart Senate office building, where an anthrax-filled letter was opened Oct. 15.

Nov. 17: Capitol police close two Senate office buildings to test for anthrax spores after investigators discover a contaminated letter addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. The letter was postmarked from Trenton, N.J., as was the one sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and contains similar handwriting, investigators said.

Nov. 20: A sample taken from a plastic evidence bag containing a still-unopened letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy contains at least 23,000 anthrax spores, enough for more than two lethal doses, a federal law enforcement official reports. Traces of the anthrax bacteria are also found in the office mailrooms of Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.

Nov. 21: Ottilie Lundgren, 94, of Oxford, Conn., dies of inhalation anthrax, baffling authorities who see no immediate connection between this rural town and bioterror attacks in New York, Washington and Florida. She is the fifth person to die of inhalation anthrax in less than two months.

Nov. 23: Anthrax tests in and around Ottilie Lundren's Connecticut home come back negative, further enshrouding in mystery her death from inhalation anthrax.

Chilean and U.S. officials confirmed the first reported case of a deadly strain of the bacteria in mail outside the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta confirmed on Thursday that a letter sent from Switzerland to Chile was tainted with anthrax. The letter had been sent to Dr. Antonio Banfi, a pediatrician at a children's hospital in Santiago.

Nov. 28: A state health lab in Miami confirms the presence of anthrax in a letter mailed from Zurich, Switzerland, to a pediatrics professor in Chile.

Dec. 6: A batch of mail being processed at a mail-handling facility set up in a courtyard of the Federal Reserve's headquarters tests positive for anthrax. Officials say the positive reading was obtained for a batch of mail containing about 100 to 150 letters and it had not been determined whether any of the letters actually contained anthrax spores or whether some of the mail had been contaminated by other letters.

Government scientists open the anthrax-laden letter sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and find it to be "virtually identical" to one mailed to a colleague, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Dec. 7: Officials assure government workers that all federal mail is being irradiated to render any anthrax spores harmless.

Dec. 8: Employees of American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, the first place anthrax was discovered, end their two-month course of the antibiotic Cipro.

Anthrax still real concern five years after AMI attack

Published Friday, October 6, 2006
by By John Johnston & Dale M. King
Boca Raton News

Behind a ragged chain link fence in a corporate park in Boca Raton’s north end stands a sentinel to bioterrorism – the former American Media Inc. building.

“It was the site of the first bioterrorism attack in American history,” said Mayor Steven Abrams, who had been in office barely half a year when he took command of a city threatened with anthrax in October 2001.

Abrams learned of the anthrax “late on a Sunday night. We found out that the building was quarantined by the health department.”

The outbreak occurred just three weeks after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And now, five years have elapsed since the Boca incident.

We Now Know

Following the death of Bob Stevens who worked at the AMI building in 2001, anthrax began showing up in one of our most sacred institutions: the U.S. mail.

“And when mail-delivered anthrax killed four and sickened seventeen others later in 2001, following close upon the 9/11 attack, we all became more than a little unglued, emotionally,” says Dr. Gilbert Ross.

For residents of Boca Raton, that’s the understatement of the century. 

Ross, the Executive and Medical Director for the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) said “we had been assured by the FBI and other governmental agencies that the highly-processed "weaponized" anthrax powder required such sophisticated production techniques that, outside of a few state-sponsored terrorist groups, the ability to deliver death by mail was a shrinking concern.”

“Wrong on all counts,” Ross said.

Ross pointed out “an article in a microbiology journal, written by an FBI scientist, has recently come to public attention. In it, Dr. Douglas Beecher states that the degree of weaponization of the deadly 2001 anthrax spores was nothing beyond the scope of many microbiology labs. Yet, with nothing more sophisticated than a few envelopes of powder, the assailant was able to terrorize the whole country and bring our mail service to its knees.”

Little Progress

Nonetheless, and with the passage of time after Stevens’ death, tensions diminished, Ross said -- and that was aided by the passage in 2003 of Project Bioshield.  This project was designed to expedite and streamline the research and development of anti-bioterrorism products, Ross said, “specifically vaccines and anti-virals, to tighten up our protection against more widespread use of biological agents as weapons of terror.”Ross said, however, “we have made minimal progress on the production of a more efficient vaccine against anthrax. Thankfully, the old one remains effective and safe, but the FDA label requires six injections over eighteen months to be fully effective (there is some evidence that a shorter course, three shots over six weeks, would also offer protection). And it's not readily available for the civilian population, as most of the production is designated for military use.”

The recently revealed news that the anthrax spores that became deadly powder in 2001 did not require extensive purification or other techniques to infect and kill “is not good news,” Ross said, adding:

“Quite the opposite: there are many more labs able to manage the simpler techniques that are now known to be capable of producing effectively deadly spores.” 
Bob Stevens

The building, on Broken Sound Boulevard in the Arvida Park of Commerce, was the place AMI published a half-dozen supermarket tabloids – the National Enquirer among them.

Somehow, a letter mailed to AMI reached the desk of Globe Photo Editor Bob Stevens.  Inside was a deadly white powder.  He apparently inhaled the deadly spores that killed him a few days later.  In was ruled a case of inhalation anthrax – caused by then called weapons-grade spores..

Stevens’ widow, Maureen, still lives in relative seclusion in Lantana, speaking to the media only infrequently.

Ernesto Blanco, a Miami man who worked in the mailroom at AMI, was also sickened, but he survived after a lengthy hospitalization.

By the time a third employee tested positive for anthrax, the FBI and Centers for Disease Control had swarmed to the city.  But the woman never showed symptoms.  And soon, virtually all AMI employees were on Cipro, the antidote for the deadly toxin.

AMI Moves

In the meantime, a half-mile of TV satellite trucks from media all over the world lined the curve around the AMI building – watching as investigators in white haz-mat suits combed the site.

AMI and its employees hastily retreated from the headquarters, leaving behind everything from notes and coffee cups to the famed “Dead Elvis” photo published in the Enquirer in 1977.

AMI set up shop in Delray Beach for a time, then moved back to Boca, to new quarters in the T-Rex Park.

Abrams said Boca police and fire were the “first responders.  We had haz-mat equipment, but it has come a long way since then.  The city was the first line of defense.”

“We didn’t know a lot about anthrax,” he said. “There was a lot of confusion.”

Quickly, the FBI and CDC arrived. But the agencies weren’t communicating with the city. “My role was to reassure the public and get into the loop,” Abrams said. “There was a dichotomy. The FBI saw it as a crime scene.  CDC saw it as a public health issue.”

Abrams Calls

The mayor fought for – and got – better communications.

Then, he said, came the “white powder scares,” with people bringing envelopes and containers to the police and fire headquarters in Boca. “We had to set up makeshift stations outside.”

“There was no overt panic,” he said. “But a lot of scares.”

Abrams said he had to fire off some hasty emails to Gov. Jeb Bush. The governor said he planned to hold a news conference at the Emergency Operations Center in West Palm Beach.  Abrams nixed it.

“I told him that would be the equivalent of George Pataki going to the Bronx,” said the mayor.  Also, he said, if Bush didn’t come to Boca, people would think the city was not safe.

So Bush joined local officials at the Rutherford Community Center in Patch Reef Park.

Anthrax then showed up at two postal distribution sites in Boca – the sites where the anthrax-laden letter was processed.  Soon, the deadly material would be found at media outlets, post offices and federal buildings in Washington, D.C. and the northeast.

The AMI building still sands -- empty.  Purchased in 2003 by developer David Rustine, it has been decontaminated, and was to be the home of Bio-ONE, a firm that removes hazardous material.  The lease ran out and the deal fell through. 

The FBI classified Stevens’ death a homicide, but has yet to bring anyone to justice.

John Johnston can be reached at 561-549-0833, or at editor@bocanews.com; Dale King can be reached at 561-549-0832, or at dking@bocanews.com.

The Newark Star-Ledger
Questions on anthrax swirl anew for the FBI
Agency's own study stirs lawmaker's ire

Monday, October 09, 2006
BY KEVIN COUGHLIN
Star-Ledger Staff

Nobody has been arrested for the anthrax mailings of 2001, but many people have paid for the crime.

Five died and at least 17 others got sick.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been frustrated. Careers have crumbled. Taxpayers have gotten socked for billions of dollars to shore up bioterror defenses that some experts say still fall short.

Now, an analysis from the FBI itself, buried in a microbiology journal, is raising more questions about the investigation.

In the August issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, FBI scientist Douglas Beecher sought to set the record straight. Anthrax spores mailed to politicians and journalists in September and October of 2001, Beecher wrote, were not prepared using advanced techniques and additives to make them more lethal, contrary to "a widely circulated misconception."

The notion the anthrax spores were "weaponized" had fueled conjecture that only a government insider could have carried out the operation.

Beecher's article suggested a much wider universe of potential suspects -- who showed they could kill without highly refined spores.

"A clever high school student" could make such a preparation, according to Ronald Atlas, former president of the American Society for Microbiology and co-director of the Center for Health Hazards Preparedness at the University of Louisville.

The Beecher paper has left Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) wondering if the killings, which further shook a nation already reeling from the Sept. 11 terror attacks, will ever be solved. He blames the FBI for "botching" the case.

Agents spun their wheels chasing a small circle of weapons experts, Holt said, just like they focused too long on Richard Jewell, the early suspect who proved to be innocent of the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta.

In the anthrax attacks, Steven Hatfill, a virologist who has worked for the government, landed in the cross-hairs. Labeled a "person of interest" by officials but never charged, the scientist claims the public probe has made him unemployable. He is suing the government and media outlets.

Kenneth Berry's career also unraveled after the FBI searched a Dover Township summer home he was visiting in 2004. Berry, a Teaneck native, was a doctor from upstate New York who started an organization for training emergency workers to deal with biochemical attacks. He never was charged, either.

Holt also chides authorities for taking nearly a year to discover anthrax traces in a mailbox near Princeton University. That mailbox, where letters laced with anthrax bacteria may have begun their journey in 2001, is on a route that feeds the Hamilton Township postal center where anthrax letters were processed.

The congressman wants Beecher and FBI officials to update Mercer County residents and postal workers whose lives were disrupted by the anthrax attacks.

"I hear from the postal employees, who feel they got yanked around a lot at that time and have been left in the dark ever since," Holt said last week. The Hamilton Township facility was closed for almost 3 1/2 years for decontamination.

Postal employee Norma Wallace, who nearly died after inhaling anthrax spores, only recently returned to work. Former clerk Jyotsna Patel still complains of breathing problems and nightmares. She is scared to set foot inside the facility, despite the massive cleanup.

"Sometimes I can't sleep for three or four days in a row," Patel said. "I just wake up at night, with shaky things in my body."

The FBI denies the trail has gone cold, but it won't say much more.

"We won't be going out in any public forum," an FBI spokeswoman said last week.

In a letter to Holt, FBI Assistant Director Eleni Kalisch also declined to give a closed-door briefing to the House Intelligence Committee. Kalisch claimed sensitive information was leaked from classified briefings more than three years ago, and described the anthrax case as a criminal matter not subject to the committee's oversight.

Some cases -- like the successful prosecution of the Olympics bombing -- take time to crack, Kalisch wrote. Seventeen FBI agents and 10 postal inspectors remain on the "Amerithrax" beat. The FBI said the anthrax investigation has spanned six continents and generated more than 9,100 interviews, 67 searches and 6,000 subpoenas.

Early on, the FBI hoped that analysis of the spores would point to the lab that prepared them. But Beecher's article underscores difficulties of such microscopic sleuthing. Particle sizes, for instance, may not yield as many clues as some expected.

Over time, after being handled and exposed to different conditions, particles "may not resemble the initial product," Beecher wrote.

Yet the FBI is confident, and has forged scientific ties and advances to help prevent future biological attacks, said Joseph Persichini Jr., acting assistant director in charge of the Washington field office, on the FBI's Web site.

Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University microbiologist, still thinks the anthrax attacks were an inside job because they used a virulent form of the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis, which only a few biodefense- or intelligence-related labs were thought to possess.

"Whoever did it is an insider," said Ayaad Assaad, a toxicologist with the Environmental Protection Agency, who formerly worked at an Army biodefense center at Fort Detrick, Md. "It started with anthrax. Now it's ricin, and God knows what's coming."

Ed Lake has tracked the case closely, self-publishing a book, "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks, The First Three Years" and moderating a Web site. Lake is convinced the FBI knows the perpetrator but lacks evidence to prosecute. He believes the killer is a scientist from central New Jersey who wanted America to gird for an al Qaeda bioterror attack in the wake of Sept. 11.

"So he sent a warning to the media, saying this is next, there's a biological attack coming next, and be prepared: Take penicillin," said Lake, referring to hand-printed letters, bearing New Jersey postmarks, sent to NBC and the New York Post.

Leon Harris retired last year from the Hamilton Township postal center. He too suspects the bad guys are home-grown and will be caught.

"I don't care if it takes 10 years," the Air Force veteran said. "They're going to find them."

Ernesto Blanco agreed. He survived inhalational anthrax that killed his friend Bob Stevens, a colleague at a tabloid in Florida, five years ago this month. Blanco, now 79, returned to his mailroom job at American Media Inc. in 2002.

"I am positive they will catch them," Blanco said last week. "I have faith in what they are doing."

Kevin Coughlin covers technology. He may be reached at kcoughlin@starledger.com or (973) 392-1763. 

How FBI Blew The Anthrax Case By Profiling Everyone But Muslims
BY PAUL SPERRY (Editorial)

Posted 10/9/2006
Investor's Business Daily - Investors.com

The FBI now says the anthrax used to terrorize the East Coast after 9/11 wasn't "weaponized" in a government lab, but was more commonplace. The reversal is more reason to toss the politically correct profile of suspects that headquarters has been using.

Even though the deadly attacks followed within days of the worst Islamic terror in U.S. history, and even though the anthrax mailers praised Allah and used broken English in their letters, the FBI didn't treat the attacks as a case of Islamic terrorism.

Instead, it relied on stock psychological profiles of domestic serial murderers to track down suspects. Investigators operated from the dated assumption that whoever mailed the deadly spores was an angry white guy, possibly a former lab scientist with a grudge against the government.

Basically, they dusted off the old case file on serial letter bomber Ted Kaczynski and went after government scientists — namely former Army scientist Steven Hatfill. It was a dead end, and Hatfill is suing the bureau for damaging his career.

Now members of Congress are demanding an investigation into the FBI's "bungled" investigation. They argue, reasonably, that the bureau has "wasted" several years focusing on the wrong pool of suspects and has allowed the trail leading to the real culprits to run cold.

Even though the fear of more Unabombers and Timothy McVeighs has proved overwrought, the FBI still considers "attacks by right-wing groups" to be a "serious threat," according to a six-page briefing it helped prepare in 2004 for the Homeland Security Department. The document was first cited in my book, "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington."

Clinging to that old "domestic terrorist" profile is hurting post-9/11 terror investigations. The same Homeland Security document classifies the anthrax attacks as a case of "domestic terrorism" by a lone American extremist, rather than foreign-based terrorism by Islamic militants — despite little evidence to support the department's theory.

Even now, as the bureau comes under pressure to expand its suspect pool to include Islamic terrorists, FBI brass say they are still treating the case as if 9/11 never happened. "We regard this as a criminal law enforcement matter, rather than an intelligence activity," FBI Assistant Director Eleni Kalisch wrote last week in a letter to the House Intelligence Committee. He compares the anthrax case to "the Unabomber case and the Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta," both of which involved white men acting alone.

This pre-9/11 mentality does not inspire confidence in the FBI's ability to disrupt future anthrax or other bioterror plots. What if the 2001 mailings were a dry run for a large-scale al-Qaida attack? If the FBI isn't actively investigating anthrax terror suspects in the Muslim community, it's doubtful it will stumble across new, possibly larger, bioterror plots hatched there.

Again, the anthrax terrorism followed quickly on the heels of the Islamic attacks on Washington and New York. In nine separate incidents in September and November 2001, 45 people were diagnosed with exposure to deadly anthrax spores mailed through or to their offices. Five died. Targets included the offices of U.S. Senate leaders; NBC and the New York Post, among other media outlets; and postal facilities in Washington, Florida and Trenton, N.J.

The letters to the senators were mailed from a standard, blue drop box in Princeton, N.J. The FBI didn't even canvass the area, which is heavy with Muslim immigrants, until late 2003.

Oddly, the bureau from the start ruled out as suspects accomplices of the hijackers or al-Qaida sympathizers in the Muslim community. It's odd for several reasons, including:

• The letters containing the deadly spores end with the phrases: "DEATH TO AMERICA. DEATH TO ISRAEL. ALLAH IS GREAT." (In a gesture of PC religious tolerance, the government reveals only the fronts of the envelopes in its $2.5 million-reward poster, not the more significant contents of the letters praising Allah.)

• The letter writer mangled the spelling of other words, a clue that English may not be his first language.

• The numeral "1" in the date, "09-11-01," written at the top of the page of the letters was penned with a descender instead of simply a straight line, another sign the writer might be foreign, as the stylized version is common overseas.

• The locations of most of the victims and affected postal facilities — Florida, Washington and New Jersey — are all places the hijackers stayed and had numerous contacts with fellow Muslims who aided them and in some cases knew of their plans.

• Al-Qaida was known to be developing anthrax. The 9/11 Commission, which like the FBI didn't investigate the anthrax attacks as terrorism, nonetheless mentions deep in its report that al-Qaida put a U.S.-educated biochemist to work growing anthrax in Afghanistan. In 2001, Yazid Sufaat "would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al-Qaida in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport."

• According to terror expert Ron Suskind, the CIA recovered a batch of anthrax in Kandahar after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and determined that it "was extremely virulent." "What's more," he said, "it was produced in the months before 9/11."

• Several 9/11 hijackers had at one point rented an apartment from a Florida real estate agent who is married to the editor of a tabloid targeted in the anthrax attacks.

• Ahmed al-Haznawi, one of the hijackers aboard the doomed Flight 93, was treated for an infected black lesion on his left calf in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the June before the attacks. The lesion was consistent with external exposure to anthrax. Al-Haznawi lived near the Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters of the tabloid's parent company.

• More, hijack ringleader Mohamed Atta in late August 2001 came into a pharmacy in Delray Beach, Fla., looking for medication to treat irritations on his hands, both of which were red from the wrist down, according to a pharmacist at the store. His symptoms were also consistent with external exposure to anthrax.

The incidents suggest the hijackers may have prepared the anthrax-laced letters and handed them off to a mailer or mailers, who sent them after the hijackers died in the plane attacks. These potential accomplices are still at large, possibly living in New Jersey or Florida.

The FBI, however, appears to be sticking to its PC theory that the mailer is a lone wolf operator who capitalized on the 9/11 terrorism to carry out his own attacks, using the references to Allah as a ruse to throw off investigators and wrongly cast suspicion on Muslims.

But if it were an opportunistic attack, the FBI has yet to explain how the perpetrator was able to mobilize within just seven days. The first letters were postmarked Sept. 18, 2001. It would have required, for starters, immediate access to a lethal batch of spores.

Nor, for that matter, has the FBI explained the motive behind targeting apparently random victims up and down the East Coast. That looks more like Islamic terrorism than revenge by a disgruntled former employee or deranged Unabomber type.

Sperry, formerly IBD's Washington bureau chief, is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington."

BBC News
Thursday, 12 October 2006, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Discovery in Anthrax death probe

Experts have discovered anthrax spores in drums and animal skins during an investigation into the death of a drum maker in the Scottish Borders.

Christopher "Pascal" Norris, died in July and tests showed the infectious disease was the most likely cause.

Quantities of anthrax spores have now been detected in materials examined by the Health Protection Agency.

The items were drums and animal skins used in the making of African drums which were found in Northumberland.

NHS Borders, Health Protection Scotland and the Health Protection Agency have worked together on the investigation.

General public

At the time of Mr Norris's death, NHS Borders said his home at Black Lodge in Stobs, near Hawick, had been cordoned off and an incident control team set up.

Officials have concluded that the risk of being exposed to anthrax spores through drumming alone or merely handling the drums would be extremely low.

The Health Protection Agency said antibiotics were not needed for those people who attended any drumming classes or workshops where the drums were used.

Also, expert advice was clear that there was no increased risk of anthrax to the general public as a result of the findings. Current owners of drums or hides do not need to take any action.

All persons who have been in contact with the drums and skins have been contacted and provided with appropriate personal information, officials said. 

Anthrax attacks remain unsolved

By Peter Franceschina
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Originally published October 15, 2006

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. // When Bob Stevens, a tabloid photo editor in Boca Raton, Fla., died of anthrax poisoning five years ago, he became the first U.S. casualty in a new era of bioterrorism threats.

In the days and weeks to follow, four others who contracted anthrax through handling tainted mail died - two postal workers in Washington, a New York City hospital stockroom employee and an elderly Connecticut woman. At least 17 others fell ill but survived during that uneasy autumn following the Sept. 11 al-Qaida attacks. 

Whoever devised the deadly letters slipped back underground; there have been no anthrax mailings since. The unknown attacker transformed the American consciousness, in part because a potential biological attack seemed remote, until it became a reality.

Hoax letters once tossed in the trash without a thought now merit a full hazmat response. Biodefense is a government priority, with billions of dollars dedicated to it. Even as some experts say anthrax would be the easiest biological weapon for terrorists to deploy, others say the threat is low because of the difficulty in obtaining, producing and effectively dispersing it.

Mystery forever

What disturbs some bioterrorism experts is the lack of positive signs the FBI will ever solve the mystery.

"Every year that passes, the probability of solving it becomes less and less," said Bill Patrick, a former military anthrax researcher. "It's been five years now. I don't see a solution forthcoming."

That uncertainty hangs over Maureen Stevens, who lost her husband of 27 years. Bob Stevens, 63, fell ill and was hospitalized on Oct. 2, 2001. He died three days later, and Maureen Stevens has no more answers today than she did then.

"I just want to know how it could happen, as much as how it happened, how easy it was for someone to do this," she said recently. "I would really like to know how they did it, why they did it, and what they hoped to achieve."

Still a priority

Though the investigation appears stalled, the FBI says the "Amerithrax" investigation remains a priority, with 17 agents and 10 postal inspectors assigned to the case.

"Despite the frustrations that come with any complex investigation, no one in the FBI has, for a moment, stopped thinking about the innocent victims of these attacks, nor has the effort to solve this case in any way been slowed," Joseph Persichini Jr., acting assistant director of the FBI's Washington Field Office, said in a recent statement.

The FBI initially focused on scientists who worked within U.S. biodefense programs with access to government strains of Ames anthrax and sophisticated labs.

It now appears the person or group behind the attacks didn't require highly specialized scientific training to manufacture the anthrax, potentially opening up a much larger pool of suspects. Some experts previously characterized the anthrax as "weaponized" to make its spores smaller, lighter and more deadly.

An FBI scientist, Douglas Beecher, recently published an article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology saying the spores didn't get special coatings to make the anthrax disperse more effectively.

"A widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production," Beecher wrote in the journal's August issue.

Changes in spending

The anthrax mailings radically changed some government priorities, increasing biodefense spending from roughly $150 million in the late 1990s to an estimated $7.5 billion last year, according to one study.

The U.S. Postal Service was forced to overhaul its mail handling by installing machines around the country to detect anthrax and biological agents.

The increased biodefense spending is being used to study the threat, the biological agents that could be used and the best ways to respond to an attack. Nearly $1 billion is earmarked for a new anthrax vaccine and an antitoxin, and an older vaccine and antibiotics are being stockpiled. Shipments of the new vaccine were to start this fall, but problems have pushed back delivery until at least 2008.

The first-responders to any biological threat - the police, paramedics and firefighters - now receive more specialized training specifically for such an event. Training is coordinated between local, state and federal agencies.

Peter Franceschina writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The Times (of New Jersey)
Recalling anthrax terror
Monday, October 16, 2006

The news was surreal and frightening: Everyone who worked at the Hamilton branch of the Trenton Post Office on Route 130 was possibly contaminated with the anthrax found on four letters that passed through its doors.

Sidney Casperson, then-director of the state Office on Counterterrorism, called the Hamilton facility "the epicenter of the anthrax at tack on the United States." 

One area postal worker describes it differently.

"It was the end of feeling safe," she says.

That was five years ago this week and, as a result of what hap pened in Hamilton, postal workers nationwide are more alert to strange packages or leaking par cels. Rubber gloves are available for any worker who doesn't want to take a chance.

If they forget about precautions, there are printed signs to remind them. And in some offices, like the decontaminated one in Hamilton, there is a Biohazard Detection Sys tem machine to suck the air out of mail.

"I'm satisfied with the renovations," says Steve Bahrle, branch president of the Mail Handlers' Union Local 308, which encompasses southern New Jersey, most of Pennsylvania and all of Delaware. "And I'm somewhat satisfied with the detection system.

"Is it foolproof? Absolutely not."

AN UNEXPECTED THREAT

In the fall of 2001, with the country still reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a series of an thrax-laced letters was sent to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, ABC, NBC and CBS News plus the New York Post and the National Enquirer. Five people, in cluding two postal workers, were killed and 17 others sickened in four states and the District of Co lumbia by the letters. Five area postal workers were infected.

Four letters postmarked Sept. 18 went through the Hamilton Post Office on Route 130. Their purpose and author have never been discovered. 

Although many postal workers from the Hamilton facility exude a life-goes-on attitude, some things are changed forever. A handful never returned to work; some who suffered exposure refuse to discuss it. For others, lingering anxiety remains. After all, some say, they never discovered who sent the letters.

Stephen Kopec knows all too well that Oct. 18 marks the fifth anniversary of the closing of the Hamilton post office on Route 130 following an official anthrax exposure notice. There's a tremble in his voice just discussing it. 

 "You don't forget when some body tries to kill you," Kopec, a Hamilton resident, explains. "Have things changed for me? Yeah, they've changed. I just got back from having two-and-a-half weeks off with stress-related stuff.

"I read something in the paper about the anniversary coming up and it just hit me. This is the worst time of year for me."

A postal clerk in 2001, Kopec now works as an accountable clerk who handles registered mail at the new Hamilton annex facility across from the former Giovi's restaurant on Route 130. He still suffers from insomnia. He still works for the post office, he says, "because you've got to put food on the table."

"I handle registered type mail. Now I'm suspicious of foreign registered mail that comes in. Some times you get packages or bundles that are leaking."

Postal worker Maria Quinones of Browns Mills remembers where she was when she heard the news and says, "All I could think was, 'Will I infect the whole plane?'"

That's what raced through Quinones' mind as she waited for take off on a flight to Atlanta after over hearing another passenger mention anthrax at a Trenton postal facility. All she could do was wonder if she'd been exposed to the deadly virus at her job pitching mail into bins in the Hamilton post office on Route 130.

She was on her way to a softball tournament when the dread engulfed her. She didn't realize that she couldn't spread the virus. Who had ever heard of anthrax?

Now a highway transportation clerk who makes sure postal trucks are moving on time, Quinones has survived the scare emotionally but takes nothing for granted.

"We've been hit hard and it never goes away," the 20-year postal employee acknowledges. "People still send stuff like powdered sugar and it leaks and we have to treat it seriously.

"I think they (the government) should tell us everything they know about it. When they say 'We can't say at the moment,' I want to say, 'What moment?'" 

DEALING WITH A DIAGNOSIS

When mail carrier Teresa Heller of the West Trenton Post Office discovered a quarter-size spot on her right wrist, she went to her doctor, who suggested it was a spider bite and said she should see an orthopedist for its removal. Heller, a Bordentown resident, underwent the procedure only to be told, on the day she was to have the skin re-examined by her doctor, that it was anthrax.

"My arm started swelling and I was feverish," she remembers.

When the news of anthrax in Trenton was made public, Heller's doctor came to her house to advise her. Then the FBI questioned the mail carrier for an hour and, afterward, walked her through her route, trying to discover whether or not someone on it was the source of anthrax.

Heller recalls one woman on her route whose daughter always ran out to get the mail. After Heller's anthrax exposure, the woman discouraged her child from the practice.

Today, Heller walks that same route. At the West Trenton office, Heller's co-workers have abandoned the gloves they wore as protection after the anthrax scare. Things are pretty much back to normal. But not completely.

"I'm still leery when someone hands me a letter to mail when I'm walking my route on Lower Ferry Road," Heller says. "I look at the mail a little more closely."

FOLLOWING A CAUTIOUS ROUTE

Trenton postmaster Joe Sautello now oversees more than 750 employees who work around the clock, with 150 carriers operating out of the new Hamilton annex on Route 130.

He says that in the beginning, when the anthrax letters were first discovered, there was "a lot of pressure and people just changed the way they did things."

Now, Sautello says, "We're pretty much back to normal. We're happy to be here. But I don't think anyone has forgotten it." And, to enforce that thought, he mentions a moment of silence or some other "appropriate gesture" that will be made at the main Hamilton facility on Wednesday.

Joseph Mooney, a Mercerville resident who serves as president of the Trenton branch, Local 380 of the National Association of Letter Carriers union, was a letter carrier when the Hamilton office was closed and he remembers the "biggest problem was nobody really knew the seriousness of it."

"New Jersey health officials assured us the chance of contamination was 'infinitesimal' and could not escape an envelope. The carriers were less affected than the clerks and mail processors. Then they closed the building down and we couldn't re-enter. We worked in tents for a couple of months in the parking lot," Mooney recalls.

Mark Van Wagner of Hamilton is a customer relations coordinator at the Hamilton office who was a letter carrier and vice president of Local 380 when the anthrax contamination was discovered.

"A lot of people had a lot of different feelings," he explains. "There were increasing degrees of shock over what was going on. When we learned there was a health problem, it hit you in the gut. No one knew how to treat it. All they could give us was antibiotics. There was an increasing level of anxiety over the unknown.

AWAITING COMPENSATION

Barrie would like to see settled is the grievance filed to get travel time compensation for postal workers who were sent to Monmouth, New Brunswick, South River, Princeton, Monroe and Kilmer while the Hamilton facility was being decontaminated. It's been dragging through the court system even though a judge ruled the compensation should be allowed.

Mail processor Diane Fazekas of Hamilton, who lives a mile away from the Hamilton facility but had to commute to Kilmer for a year in order to keep her job, is one of the postal workers waiting for that compensation. The commute added between 90 minutes to two hours to her workday, she says. 

"I remember thinking what if the uniform I wore home was contaminated. Health officials blew it -- not intentionally -- but they blew it.

"Now I don't think about it very much. I worked in the same building. It was decontaminated. My main concern is what if they're wrong again, but most of us have the confidence that they got it right."

Union leader Bahrle points out that the new biohazard machine sucks the air out of the mail. If something is wrong, a series of alarms goes off.

"I worked as a mail processor during the anthrax time and I still do that from 3:30 p.m. to midnight," Fazekas, a 20-year veteran, explains. "It's kind of amazing how it happened. I think we all went a little crazy after 9/11 happened. I had a newborn baby at the time and when I went to my pediatrician, he didn't even know what anthrax was. I was shaking when he said that.

"Then I got a phone call from a friend (an area postal worker) who told me he was in a hospital under a different name with anthrax. His neck was swollen. He thought he may have had a cut or something."

When the Centers for Disease Control called a meeting for Hamil ton postal workers at the Colonial Firehouse in Hamilton, Fazekas re members being told, "We don't know how to treat you. Most don't survive anthrax."

"The meeting was packed with people and we were scared.

"We were given Cipro, but that made people sick. You'd get out of bed feeling like an 80-year-old woman. Another medication gave me migraines and sent me to the emergency room. Then they wanted us to sign off on any medication if it bothered us. My father is a Korean War vet and a Marine and he said, 'Don't take any more medication or sign anything' and I listened to him."

Now, if an alarm goes off from the biohazard system at the post office, workers are instructed to go outside into a tent and do a chemical wash.

"I handle mail from all over the world," says Fazekas, who still wears gloves as protection on her job. "We get a lot of hazmat training at work. But, the way I look at it, what happened was the end of feeling safe."

Contact Joyce J. Persico at jpersi co@njtimes.com or at (609) 989-5662. 

The New York Sun
October 24, 2006 Edition
Federal Judge Orders New York Times To Identify Confidential Sources

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 24, 2006

A federal magistrate in Virginia has ordered the New York Times to identify three confidential sources used by one of its columnists, Nicholas Kristof, in articles he wrote about the FBI's investigation into anthrax-laden mailings that killed at least five people in 2001.

The order came Friday in a libel suit filed by a former Army scientist who was eventually described by the Justice Department as a "person of interest" in the anthrax probe, Steven Hatfill. He contends that his reputation was besmirched unfairly by Mr. Kristof's columns, which castigated the FBI for not doing more to investigate Mr. Hatfill.

Mr. Hatfill has vehemently denied any involvement in the mailings. No one was ever charged in connection with the case.

Magistrate Liam O'Grady ruled that Mr. Hatfill was entitled to know the identities of Mr. Kristof's sources in order to pursue the libel claim.

"In order for plaintiff to meet its burden in the defamation case and offer evidence as to the reporter's state of mind, plaintiff needs an opportunity to questions the confidential sources and determine if Mr. Kristof accurately reported information the sources provided," Magistrate O'Grady wrote.

The magistrate ordered the Times to identify the sources by tomorrow, but the newspaper filed an emergency motion yesterday asking to stay the deadline while the judge overseeing the case, Claude Hilton, reviews the ruling.

If Judge Hilton upholds the order and the Times refuses to comply, the judge could fine the newspaper, take some punitive measure if the libel suit goes to trial, or jail an employee or officer of the Times for contempt.

"These days it seems courts kind of like the monetary sanction," a professor of press law at the University of Minnesota, Jane Kirtley, said. "Jail is possible, although in my experience that's pretty rare in libel cases."

Ms. Kirtley said the judge could instruct jurors to assume the sources in question did not exist, a finding that she said "essentially means" the Times would lose the suit.

Magistrate O'Grady said one reason testimony from the sources was needed is that discrepancies have arisen between sources Mr. Hatfill's legal team has been able to identify and Mr. Kristof's accounts of his conversations with those sources. According to Mr. Hatfill's lawyers, a SUNY Purchase biologist who served as a source for the columnist, Barbara Rosenberg, denied Mr. Kristof's claim that she said Mr. Hatfill was certain to have the ability to make "first-rate anthrax."

Ms. Rosenberg also initially denied having asked for confidentiality, as the Times asserted, but she later said she might have.

A spokeswoman for the Times, Catherine Mathis, said in a statement that Mr. Kristof "clearly recalls" getting information on condition of anonymity from Ms. Rosenberg. The spokeswoman also said Mr. Kristof's promise "was consistent with Times policy."

Lawyers for the Times argued that Mr. Kristof's sources were entitled to protection under so-called reporters' shield laws on the books in New York and Maryland, but Magistrate O'Grady ruled that Virginia law applied and offered no quarter to the newspaper.

The Times also argued unsuccessfully that any order to disclose sources be delayed until the court determines whether Mr. Hatfill should be considered a public figure.

Only the last of the five columns at issue in the suit actually identified Mr. Hatfill by name. The other four described him in a way he contends allowed friends and acquaintances to recognize him.

In 2004, Judge Hilton dismissed the libel case, ruling that Mr. Kristof's columns did not accuse Mr. Hatfill of being the anthrax mailer. However, last year, a panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 2–1, to reinstate the suit. "A reasonable reader of Kristof's columns likely would conclude that Hatfill was responsible for the anthrax mailings," Judge Dennis Shedd wrote for the majority.

The Times sought a review by the full bench of the 4th Circuit and by the Supreme Court, but both declined to take up the case.

Mr. Hatfill, who claims to have been rendered unemployable by the anthrax-related publicity, is also pursuing a Privacy Act lawsuit against the federal government and a separate libel suit over Vanity Fair and Readers Digest articles about the anthrax mystery.

The New York Sun
Top GOP Senator Joins Critics of FBI Anthrax Probe

BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 25, 2006

A powerful Republican senator is adding his voice to a growing chorus of congressional critics who contend that the FBI may have botched its investigation of the anthrax-laden mailings that killed at least five people in 2001 and have not been solved.

Senator Grassley of Iowa wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales late Monday demanding an update on the status of the probe and expressing frustration at a decision by the Justice Department and the FBI to stop briefing Congress about the investigation.

"How do they expect Congress to do our constitutional responsibility of oversight?" Mr. Grassley asked yesterday in an interview with The New York Sun. "Do they think we're not supposed to be part of the checks and balances anymore?"

Last month, the FBI refused a request from Rep. Rush Holt, a Democrat of New Jersey, for a briefing on the status of the probe. The agency said no further briefings would be offered to members of Congress because of press accounts that followed earlier briefings and cited congressional sources.

In his letter, Mr. Grassley said he was "shocked" by the explanation because leaks from FBI sources led to news reports fingering a former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, who was never charged. "For the FBI to withhold information from Congress for fear of leaks seems a bit hypocritical, to say the least," the senator wrote.

Officials at the FBI and Justice Department said they had received the letter but had no immediate comment. Mr. Grassley said "irritation" with the FBI contributed to his decision to take the matter directly to Mr. Gonzales. "We ought to have an answer as to why this crime hasn't been solved," the senator said.

In a letter last month to Mr. Holt, the FBI disputed reports that it operated for years under the mistaken impression that the anthrax used in the mailings was of a refined type that only a few scientists could have produced.

"The FBI and its partners in this investigation have never been under any misconception about the character of the anthrax used in the attacks," an FBI official, Eleni Kalisch, wrote. She said 17 FBI agents and 10 postal inspectors still were assigned to the nearly five-year-old investigation.

Mr. Grassley said that if Mr. Gonzales does not respond, Congress could consider other approaches, such as subpoenaing the information. "I also think holding up nominations for the Justice Department is a possibility," the senator said.

Mr. Hatfill is pursuing two libel suits over reports tying him to the anthrax attacks. He is also pressing a Privacy Act case against the federal government over alleged leaks. The New York Times, which is the defendant in one of the libel cases, has acknowledged that two of its confidential sources for columns about Mr. Hatfill were FBI employees. Last week, a federal magistrate ordered the Times to identify those sources and others, but the decision is under appeal.

Reporters Committee For The Freedom Of The Press
New York Times ordered to reveal sources in anthrax case

* A federal judge has ordered The New York Times to reveal the identities of Nicholas Kristof's confidential sources for stories about Steven Hatfill and the anthrax mailings of 2001.

Oct. 25, 2006  ·   A federal judge in Virginia has ordered The New York Times to reveal three confidential sources columnist Nicholas Kristof used to write columns about the deadly anthrax mailings that killed five people in 2001.

The order was issued Friday in response to a motion by lawyers for Steven Hatfill, a former Army scientist who was publicly named as a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigations.

Magistrate Judge Liam O'Grady ordered that the Times reveal the sources by Wednesday, but lawyers for the Times filed an emergency motion to stay the enforcement of the order until the appeal can be heard by the district judge. If that motion is successful, the case will go to U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton for review.

If the motion is unsuccessful, Times attorney David McCraw said the case will proceed. "When we are asked to reveal source," he said, "we will decline to do so, and there will be a motion for contempt."

Hatfill first sued Kristof and The New York Times for libel in July 2004, but a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit later that year. Hatfill appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond (4th Cir.), and the appeals court ruled that Hatfill did, in fact, have enough evidence to support his claim. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision, and the case was remanded to a lower federal court in Alexandria, Va., earlier this year.

Kristof was deposed in July but he refused to give the names of three of his sources. Two other sources gave him permission to reveal their identities.

Even though the case is in federal court because Hatfill and the Times are from different states, the state laws of Virginia will apply because Hatfill brought the suit there.

Although Virginia does not have a reporter's privilege statute, the Virginia Supreme Court recognized a qualified privilege under the U.S. constitution in the 1974 case Brown v. Virginia. In that case, the court held that a reporter has the right to withhold the identities of confidential sources but that there are circumstances that might outweigh that right.

O'Grady wrote in the order that while "[c]onfidential sources have been an important part of journalism," Hatfill "needs to acquire a full understanding of Mr. Kristof's state of mind and verify the accuracy of the statements from the article" and "the information is central to this dispute and this relevant" under the balancing test.

McCraw said that this balancing test is often tipped in favor of the plaintiff in libel cases "because the evidence being sought often goes to the question of how the reporter gathered the information, what he heard and how he decided to put it in his story. It's hard to win a balancing test without a shield law."

If the newspaper is found to be in contempt of court, however, it is unlikely that anyone will be imprisoned because the motion is against a corporation, not an individual.

"Because it's a civil case, it's unlikely that any sort of incarceration would be involved," McCraw said. "More likely, the result will be that the ruling will prevent the Times from making certain arguments at trial, or there may be monetary sanctions."

Kristof is no longer named as a defendant.

Hatfill also sued former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other government officials in federal court in Washington, D.C. in 2003 under the federal Privacy Act over government leaks to the media about his status as a "person of interest." Hatfill was never charged in the attacks but he lost his job as a government contractor and has remained unemployed, according to news reports.

(Hatfill v. The New York Times; Media Counsel: Jay Ward Brown, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz LLP, Washington, D.C.)

The New York Sun
New York Times Gets Two Extra Days To Disclose Confidential Sources

By JOSH GERSTEIN
Staff Reporter of the Sun
October 26, 2006

A federal judge gave the New York Times a brief reprieve from an order forcing it to identify confidential sources for columns about the 2001 anthrax attacks, but the paper could still face the possibility of being held in contempt of court as soon as tomorrow.

Judge Claude Hilton of Alexandria, Va., issued a two-day stay of a magistrate's order that would have required the Times to name the sources by yesterday. The order came in a libel suit filed by a former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, who claims he was defamed by five columns written by Nicholas Kristof in 2002.

According to a lawyer involved in the dispute, Judge Hilton said yesterday that he was still reviewing whether the Times should be compelled to identify the sources. He told attorneys that he planned to rule on the issue by Friday.

But the Times suffered a setback yesterday when Judge Hilton upheld a magistrate's ruling denying its request to suspend action on the libel suit until the government completes its investigation into the anthrax mailings, which killed at least five people. While investigators searched a home and storage locker belonging to Mr. Hatfill, no criminal charges were brought.

The newspaper wanted to defend against the libel suit by gaining access to the records of the government probe, but the Justice Department has refused to cooperate. The magistrate assigned to the suit, Liam O'Grady, declined to force the disclosure of details of the investigation, which the FBI contends is ongoing.

Federal anthrax lawsuit pending in White Plains

By Timothy O'Connor
The Journal News
(Original Publication: October 30, 2006)

Five years have passed since a wave of anthrax letter attacks killed five people.

The attacks have not resulted in any criminal cases. The perpetrator has never been caught.

But the attacks have generated civil cases. Three federal lawsuits have been filed by the only person ever publicly identified by federal authorities as a "person of interest" in the case - Steven J. Hatfill, a biodefense scientist from Virginia.

Hatfill has a libel suit pending in Virginia against The New York Times. He has another suit in Washington against former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

And he has a third lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court in White Plains against Vassar College professor Donald Foster, Conde Nast Publications, Vassar College and The Reader's Digest Association, which is based in Chappaqua. The suit seeks $10 million in damages, claiming defamation from an October 2003 article that Foster wrote for Vanity Fair magazine in which Hatfill was identified as a possible culprit. The Reader's Digest published a condensed version of the article in December 2003.

The White Plains case is currently in mediation, according to court records. If that fails, it will head toward trial. Foster declined to comment on the case. Hassan A. Zavareei, a lawyer for Hatfill, also declined to comment. Lawyers for the other parties did not return calls seeking comment.

In the fall of 2001, someone mailed a series of anthrax-laced letters to two U.S. senators and media companies around the nation. The attacks further frazzled a nation already traumatized by the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The FBI formed a task force, named Amerithrax, to investigate the mailings.

In a letter last month to a Democratic congressman from New Jersey, FBI officials said investigators had made "significant progress" and called the case "one of the largest and most complex investigations ever conducted." The letter, written by FBI Assistant Director Eleni Kalish to Rep. Rush Holt, said the FBI has assigned 17 agents and 10 postal inspectors to the investigation. More than 9,100 witnesses have been interviewed, 67 searches have been conducted and 6,000 grand jury subpoenas have been issued in the global investigation, according to the letter. An FBI representative did not return calls.

In the summer of 2002, Ashcroft and the FBI identified Hatfill as a "person of interest." FBI agents searched Hatfill's apartment twice. The scientist had done research at Fort Detrick in Maryland, headquarters of the Army's research on biological weapons and infectious diseases.

Hatfill held a news conference to profess his innocence.

But the public flurry of activity around the case died down. Hatfill was not arrested. The case remained unsolved.

A year later, in October 2003, Vanity Fair published an article by Foster in which the Vassar College professor seemed to imply that the FBI had the right man in Hatfill.

Foster, an English literature professor who holds a doctorate, first gained acclaim in 1996 when he correctly deciphered that Newsweek columnist Joe Klein was the author of the anonymously written political novel "Primary Colors." He used an investigative technique called "literary forensics" to identified Klein. Practitioners look at word usage, grammar, syntax, slang and punctuation to determine the writers of anonymous tomes. Since then, he had been brought in by authorities to assist in the JonBenet Ramsey investigation, the bombing at Centennial Park during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and the Unabomber case.

He was also consulted by the FBI on the anthrax case.

In the article, Foster wrote that he alerted the FBI to his belief in Hatfill's "candidacy" in early 2002, months before he was publicly identified. He wrote: "When I lined up Hatfill's known movements with the postmark locations of reported bio-threats, those hoax anthrax attacks appeared to trail him like a vapor cloud."

And, in perhaps the article's most damning line, Foster wrote of possible comparisons between Hatfill and Richard Jewell, who was wrongly suspected in the Centennial Park bombing. Foster points out his familiarity with the Centennial Park case, then writes: "It is my opinion, based on the documents I have examined, that Hatfill is no Richard Jewell."

In his suit, Hatfill says Foster made numerous factual errors in the story.

The suit belittles literary forensics as an investigative tool and accuses Foster of trying to "insinuate himself" into the investigation to further the practice.

The suit says "each of (Foster's) implied accusations is false." The article "betrays complete inattention to even a rudimentary sense of balance or fairness toward Dr. Hatfill."

Hatfill charges that Foster's article damaged his reputation and hurt him financially.

In a decision denying the defendants' efforts to have the suit dismissed, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon said the article can "fairly be read" to allege that "Hatfill is the anthrax killer."

The professor and Conde Nast had argued that the article was a critique of the FBI's handling of the investigation.

McMahon sharply disagreed.

"It is no such thing," she wrote.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel

Senator questions anthrax probe
Grassley wants info on progress, director's exit

By RICHARD POWELSON, powelsonr@shns.com
October 30, 2006

WASHINGTON - A Senate committee chairman has complained to the Department of Justice about the apparent "little progress" in the five-year-old anthrax mailing investigation and asked for documents on why the director of the probe, Richard Lambert, was "removed" and transferred to the Knoxville FBI office.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Finance Committee, wrote to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently that the FBI's long record of not briefing key members of Congress on the investigation "may be a symptom of a larger problem at the FBI. The agency's lack of response to congressional requests ... and what appears to be little progress in the investigation leads me to question whether the culture has really changed." 

 A spokesman at the FBI's Washington field office did not return a call for comment.

However, Lambert, 45, in a phone interview with the News Sentinel, said he heard of the opening in the top management job at the Knoxville field office, remembered fondly the 10 years he had spent in the Nashville area as a child, and decided to try to win the Knoxville slot.

"Knoxville is considered a prime office within the FBI," Lambert said. "The work is good, the people are wonderful, the law enforcement liaison relationships are fantastic, and it's just a highly desirable and very sought-after office to be in. There's the cost of living, no state income tax, reasonable housing, and the list goes on and on and on. So Knoxville is a great place to live."

The deadly anthrax mailings began soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Over multiple weeks, anthrax was mailed to some in the news media and in Congress, infected part of the postal service system, killed five people and infected 18 others. Thousands of Americans were panicked into seeking the antibiotic Cipro.

It spurred major, permanent changes in the handling of federal mail that still detour, delay, screen and treat dangerous substances sent through the system.

Lambert said he could not discuss details of the anthrax investigation that he supervised during the last four years but said he is optimistic that the culprit or culprits will be identified and caught.

"I am absolutely confident that it will be solved. It does represent the worst biological attack in U.S. history," he said.

Lambert took over the anthrax case supervision a year after the crime and said that he never knew how long the anthrax case would last. So, his wife remained at their San Diego home while he headed the investigation in Washington. He was chosen to head the anthrax case, he speculated, in part because he had supervised a comprehensive probe of what two of the 9/11 hijackers had done while living in San Diego before going east to help hijack commercial airliners.

He flew back home about once a month during the past four years, he said, but did not want to test the strength of his marriage any longer.

He competed for the Knoxville job and won selection to the post, he said.

Grassley wrote to the Justice Department that he wants a detailed briefing by Nov. 21 on his long list of concerns about the anthrax investigation.

Lambert said he was working on the anthrax case through August with competent FBI officials above and below his level, so he is "confident that they are bringing some continuity to the case in light of my departure."

Richard Powelson may be contacted at 202-408-2727.

govexec.com
October 31, 2006
Senators seek audit of more than $18 billion in biodefense spending

By Chris Strohm, CongressDaily

In a rare sign of bipartisanship close to the midterm elections, Senate and House Democrats and Republicans asked federal auditors Monday to examine how the government has spent more than $18 billion on biodefense capabilities and technologies since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The government began pouring billions of dollars into biodefense research and development after the terrorist attacks and after the deaths of five people exposed to anthrax spores mailed to two Senate offices and news organizations. The mailings remain an unsolved crime.

"Having reached the fifth anniversary of the anthrax attacks, we believe Congress and the administration would benefit from a comprehensive assessment by the Government Accountability Office of currently deployed airborne or environmental biological threat detection technologies and those that are planned or under development," lawmakers wrote in a letter to Comptroller General David Walker.

The letter was spearheaded by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, and ranking member Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. It was signed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

A congressional aide said the request was prompted by another GAO investigation that concluded the Homeland Security Department does not have a sound analytical basis for spending about $1.2 billion over five years on advanced nuclear-detection equipment at U.S. ports and border crossings. The results of that investigation were made public earlier this month.

Homeland Security stands behind its investment strategy, however, and contends that GAO misunderstood some aspects of its program. Lawmakers are trying to head off wasting billions to develop biodefense technology that does not work, the aide said.

A June report by the nonpartisan Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation found that 11 federal agencies have spent or allocated more than $36 billion to address the threat of biological weapons since the 9/11 attacks. Of that, funding for biodefense research, development, testing and evaluation will reach more than $18 billion by the end of fiscal 2007, the report states.

The lawmakers asked GAO to examine several areas, including how the government will determine the effectiveness of biological detection technologies; the effectiveness of developing technologies with current and future threats; plans to test and evaluate new technologies; the costs of research and development; and whether the government is also tapping private sector resources to develop technologies.

"Given the complexity of the subject and the need to gather information from many sectors of the federal government, academia and the private sector, we recognize that it may be necessary and prudent for GAO to accomplish this technology assessment with a sequence of reports," lawmakers added.

The New York Sun
N.Y. Times Must Disclose Sources for Anthrax Columns, Judge Rules

By JOSH GERSTEIN
Staff Reporter of the Sun
November 2, 2006 posted 5:05 pm EST

The New York Times is bracing for another high-profile First Amendment confrontation after a federal judge in Virginia upheld an order compelling the newspaper to divulge its confidential sources for columns about the 2001 anthrax mailings.

The decision Tuesday by Judge Claude Hilton effectively places the Times in contempt of court, as attorneys for the newspaper have said it will not comply with any order to identify confidential sources.

The standoff stems from a libel lawsuit filed in 2004 by a former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, who claimed he was defamed by five columns written in 2002 by Nicholas Kristof. Mr. Hatfill contended that the columns falsely fingered him as responsible for the anthrax mailings, which killed at least five people.

"We're certainly disappointed," Mr. Kristof told The New York Sun. "We certainly believe that it's imperative not only for journalism but also for society as a whole that investigative reporting be allowed to use confidential sources."

According to lawyers familiar with the case, the Times faces a range of possible sanctions for defying the court's order. The most likely outcomes involve Judge Hilton fining the newspaper or issuing a jury instruction that could hurt the Times in the pending libel case. The judge could order that an officer of the New York Times Company be jailed for up to 18 months, but attorneys following the dispute said they viewed that possibility as remote.

Asked whether he was concerned about being jailed, Mr. Kristof said, "I understand that that is unlikely, but fundamentally, I care tremendously about being able to report and to offer people in government confidentiality for information and my fear is that, in general, in recent cases there been something of a shadow over our ability to do that."

Four of the columns in question did not include Mr. Hatfill's name and referred to him simply as "Mr. Z." After the attorney general, John Ashcroft, identified Mr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the anthrax probe, Mr. Kristof named him in a fifth column.

The scientist's lawsuit asserts that the columns damaged his reputation and left him unemployable in his field.

While the FBI carried out searches of Mr. Hatfill's home and a storage locker he rented, neither he nor anyone else has ever been charged with involvement in the anthrax attacks.

Judge Hilton's ruling, which was not made public until today, offered little insight into his reasoning. He simply indicated that a magistrate's order forcing the disclosure of Mr. Kristof's sources was "not clearly erroneous or contrary to law."

In a more detailed ruling last month, the magistrate, Liam O'Grady, said there was no viable way for Mr. Hatfill to proceed with the libel suit without knowing the identities of Mr. Kristof's sources. "The court understands the need for a reporter to be able to credibly pledge confidentiality to his sources," Magistrate O'Grady wrote. "But that privilege must be balanced against the rights of a plaintiff."

Legal filings in the case indicate that the dispute involves three sources to whom Mr. Kristof said he promised anonymity. Two of them were employees of the FBI, the columnist said in a deposition.

The Times has said it will appeal. However, it will be hard for the paper to argue that Judge Hilton was unfair. In November 2004, the judge dismissed the case against the newspaper. He ruled that the Mr. Kristof's columns were mainly critiques of the FBI and "are not reasonably read as accusing Hatfill of actually being the anthrax mailer." The judge said dismissal of the case was "mandated by the First Amendment."

Last year, a panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 2-1, to reinstate the suit. "A reasonable reader of Kristof's columns likely would conclude that Hatfill was responsible for the anthrax mailings," Judge Dennis Shedd wrote for the majority.

The Times sought review by the full bench of the appeals court and by the Supreme Court but both turned down the case. Now, the paper is expected to go to the same lengths to challenge the order to name its anonymous sources.

The Los Angeles Times
Many fear FBI's anthrax case is cold
Its investigation into the deadly 2001 attacks seems to be making no progress, but the agency urges patience.

By Richard B. Schmitt and Josh Meyer, Times Staff Writers
November 3, 2006

WASHINGTON — Five years after a series of deadly anthrax-laced letters rattled the nation, the FBI has offered no indication that it is any closer to solving the first major act of bioterrorism on U.S. soil, leading critics to speculate the probe has stalled and to question how well federal officials would handle future attacks.

Members of Congress and targets of the attacks — which killed five people between Oct. 5 and Nov. 21, 2001, sickened 17 and exposed thousands of others — increasingly are expressing concern that the FBI-led federal investigation, code-named Amerithrax, has been mismanaged.

FBI officials have stopped providing regular briefings to victims and lawmakers about the investigation. The federal task force leading the investigation has shrunk in half. And it is now on its third leader.

The credentials of the latest chief may be telling: He has worked on complex international criminal cases that have run cold.

The reticence of the FBI is in sharp contrast to bold predictions the agency made about the investigation in its early days.

"Their public pronouncements about their confidence levels were obviously way off the mark all the way along," said Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota whose Capitol Hill office was one of the targets of the attacks. "It has sort of been the domestic version of Iraq. They made a lot of assumptions that turned out not to be accurate."

Daschle, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said he asked the FBI about a month ago for an update but was rebuffed.

"Clearly, this whole investigation has gone very cold," he said. "Because it has become so cold, they are all the more apprehensive about acknowledging that they do not have any real good evidence or leads."

A leading Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, also complained about the lack of new information on the investigation in a letter last month to Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales. Grassley is threatening to subpoena FBI officials to testify before Congress or to hold up Justice Department nominations if the agency does not divulge more information soon.

The FBI says its investigation remains highly active. It has told lawmakers that it would not provide any more briefings on the case in part out of fear that sensitive information would be leaked to the media.

"We have a substantial number of agents continuing to work on that case, and my expectation is that it will be solved and that the person or persons responsible will be brought to justice," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said in an interview in September. "Some cases take longer than others."

The unsolved mystery comes amid growing concern about federal efforts to detect and prevent even more catastrophic bioterrorist attacks. The government has set aside an estimated $18 billion for bio-defense research over the last five years, although it is far from clear what the nation has gotten for its money.

This week, citing the five-year anniversary of the anthrax attacks, a bipartisan group of senators asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a wide-ranging assessment of the bio-defense program.

Huge investigation

The anthrax attacks triggered one of the costliest federal manhunts ever — starting a week after the Sept. 11 attacks, when letters containing anthrax began coursing through the mail, targeting members of the media and the Capitol Hill offices of Daschle and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).

The FBI said it had conducted 9,100 interviews and obtained 6,000 subpoenas. It has hired psychologists, handwriting analysts and forensic analysts. It has spent millions on scientific studies to determine such information as the strain of the bacteria and the water used to prepare the lethal spores. And it has tracked a spate of anthrax "hoax" letters; one such letter was received last week by The Times.

Much of the initial public focus was on a medical doctor and virologist, Stephen J. Hatfill, who had worked for two years at an Army lab in Maryland, where the strain of anthrax used in the attacks was once studied.

FBI agents searched his home, took samples of his blood and put him on 24-hour surveillance. Then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft publicly declared him a "person of interest."

But Hatfill was never charged and says he is not responsible for the letters. Now he's fighting the Justice Department and FBI in a lawsuit claiming that they destroyed his reputation.

His lawyers have taken the sworn testimony of more than 30 journalists and investigators in an attempt to prove the FBI illegally leaked damaging information about him. Hatfill declined comment through his lawyer.

The public fingering of Hatfill was the first of many missteps that experts said had afflicted the probe.

"In how many investigations does the attorney general personally go out there and start talking about persons of interest? It should never happen," said Stephen Freccero, a former federal prosecutor. "That was a huge mistake. It was appalling. All the basic rules of a covert investigation were violated."

Freccero, who prosecuted Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, said that centering the anthrax probe in Washington politicized the case, making it difficult for investigators to independently pursue leads.

The case also has been slowed by the bureau's changing understanding of the quality of the anthrax used. Investigators originally believed the powder was highly refined and could only have been produced by experts with state-of-the-art technology. But the FBI eventually abandoned that idea.

In the recent interview, Mueller said, "From the outset, we have been open to any and all theories, and the investigation continues on any and all theories." But some observers said that the incorrect assumptions about the anthrax may have led the FBI to adopt an unduly narrow focus on potential suspects. According to one former federal law enforcement official, no other clear suspects have emerged in recent years.

"The way they were thinking was that it had to be a scientist at one of these … laboratories," said the former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he still works for the federal government and the investigation is ongoing. "Now, all of a sudden, you have people who may be hobbyists or … chemists who think they can do this stuff and might have done this stuff."

Some also have criticized the agency for not being more receptive to outside advice. Dr. Ken Alibek, a bio-weapons pioneer from the former Soviet Union, said he had written to Mueller to volunteer. "I said, 'Please keep in mind, I have expertise and I would like to help you resolve this case,' " he said. Alibek said he got a "thanks, but no thanks" letter from a top aide to Mueller. The bureau, he was told, already had "a big group of people working on this issue."

Leadership change

The new leader of that group, Edward Montooth, is the third to oversee the investigation. He declined to comment through an FBI spokesman.

People who have worked with Montooth said he had specialized in cases where Americans were killed overseas, trying to solve crimes in such places as Rwanda and Indonesia. He was on an FBI team that searched for mass graves in Kosovo and also helped investigate war crimes in the Balkans.

"Those cases get cold fast," said a law enforcement official who knows Montooth. "A lot of terror cases overseas can be 10 to 15 years before the case develops to the point where we can get the defendants."

Montooth replaced Richard Lambert, who headed the investigation from August 2002 through September 2006. Lambert said he decided to leave and called it a natural career progression. He now heads the FBI office in Knoxville, Tenn.

Lambert said he was "very confident" the case would be solved.

As the probe enters its sixth year, the FBI is urging patience, and notes that complex investigations often take years to resolve. It has compared the case to the Unabomber investigation, which took 17 years to solve, until the assailant renewed his campaign of terror and a relative turned him in.

On the anthrax section of its website, the FBI promises that its agents "continue to pursue each and every lead aggressively."

rick.schmitt@latimes.com
josh.meyer@latimes.com

Letter to the Editor of the Los Angeles Times
LETTERS
Anthrax case still has life
November 8, 2006

It may be true, as The Times reports, that "Many fear FBI's anthrax case is cold" (Nov. 3), but they are almost surely wrong. There is telling circumstantial evidence at http://www.scientiapress.com/findings/mailer.htm that the FBI identified the likely anthrax mailer — Al Qaeda operative Abderraouf Jdey — in September 2004, and that it stopped briefing victims' families and Congress at that time in order not to reveal what it had found.

The FBI told the judge in the Stephen J. Hatfill case that it was close to solving the case, which was correct. However, the FBI has evidently not yet found the source of the mailer's anthrax, which would justify its refusal to divulge the identity of the mailer.

I have previously suggested that the anthrax used in the attacks originated in a clandestine British biowarfare program. But NBC News reported on Oct. 5 that the water used in preparing the anthrax came from the Northeastern United States, which rules out a British source.

KENNETH J. DILLON
Washington
The writer is a former State Department intelligence analyst.

The New York Sun
Steven Hatfill Demands Fines for N.Y. Times

By JOSH GERSTEIN
Staff Reporter of the Sun
November 16, 2006

A former Army scientist suing the New York Times for libel has asked a federal judge to fine the newspaper $25,000 a day for refusing to disclose its confidential sources and to increase the fine amount by $25,000 each month in an attempt to encourage the paper to comply.

The scientist, Steven Hatfill, contends that a series of Times columns fingered him as responsible for the anthrax mailings in 2001 that terrorized the nation and killed at least five people. While the FBI searched Mr. Hatfill's home and the Justice Department eventually named him as a "person of interest" in the anthrax case, neither the scientist nor anyone else was ever charged in connection with the crimes.

Last month, a federal magistrate in Alexandria, Va., where Mr. Hatfill's suit was filed, ordered the Times to identify the sources for the five columns in dispute. A federal judge upheld the order, but the newspaper indicated the author of the columns, Nicholas Kristof, would persist in refusing to name his sources.

"There has been a certain ‘heads I win, tails you lose' quality to the Times's litigation of this issue so far," an attorney for Mr. Hatfill, Thomas Connolly, wrote in a motion urging the fines. "In order to ensure that the officers, directors, and shareholders of the Times are fully involved in determining whether it wishes to ignore the judicial power of the United States, this court should impose a significant monetary sanction for each day of non-compliance."

Mr. Connolly painted the Times's refusal to comply as brazen and willful. "Courts, not newspapers, decide what evidence must be presented in court when the administration of justice so requires," the lawyer wrote.

In a filing yesterday, counsel for the Times called the proposed fines "extreme, over-reaching and unwarranted."

Attorneys for the Times insist that the newspaper is simply preserving its right to appeal the order to disclose its sources.

The Times also noted that 10 of the 12 sources Mr. Kristof relied on are known to Mr. Hatfill, either because they were not granted confidentiality or agreed to waive it. As a result, the names of only two sources are being withheld. Mr. Kristof has said both were FBI employees.

The Times's lawyers also said Mr. Hatfill deliberately delayed giving his deposition in the case and that his attorneys' bid to block further discovery by the Times is part of "a ruse designed to insulate plaintiff from giving any testimony under oath at all."

A court hearing on the proposed sanctions is set for tomorrow.

Reporters Without Borders
16 November 2006

Anthrax case: The New York Times refuses to reveal one of its journalists’ sources and risks being fined

Reporters Without Borders hopes that the federal court will show proof of mercy on November 17, 2006, when it makes it ruling about the request for sanctions on The New York Times, after one of his reporters, Nicholas Kristof, refused to reveal his sources of information to the court. Kristof and The New York Times are being sued for "defamation" by a U.S. Army former bioterrorism expert, Stephen J. Hatfill.

“The lawsuit initiated by Stephen J. Hatfill concerns The New York Times, and do not engage the journalist’s personal liability. Nicholas Kristof therefore cannot be given a jail term, but the "professional secret" issue remains fully unresolved. Were the Times sanctionned, this would once again place freedom of the press in jeopardy. We have just asked the new members of Congress to adopt a federal "shield law" that would guarantee journalists the privilege of source confidentiality. What is more, we hope that the federal judge’s decision will be worthy of this critical issue for press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders stated.

On November 17, 2006, a federal district court in Virginia will decide whether Hatfill will be granted his request for sanctions on The New York Times. Sanctions primarily entails the imposition of fines or restrictions on the evidence that The New York Times can present. On November 2, the same court had upheld the first instance decision handed down by a federal magistrate in Virginia ten days earlier, obliging the journalist to name three of his informants.

Nicholas Kristof had devoted a series of articles on anthrax parcel bombs attacks, which had caused five deaths in 2001. Citing FBI sources, the journalist had mentioned Stephen J. Hatfill, a physician, and a U.S. Army former expert in bioterrorism, as one of the rare people likely to have access to anthrax and to know how to use it. In 2004, the doctor initiated a lawsuit for defamation against the Times. After the case was dismissed on the motion by the newspaper, Stephen J. Hatfill had won his case on appeal. After being brought before the U.S. Supreme Court, which had refused to make a ruling, the matter finally came back before a federal court this year.

Since both parties’ points of origin are in two different states (New York, for the daily, and Virginia for the plaintiff), the federal court ruled that the laws of the state of Virginia would apply, as much as Stephen J. Hatfill had filed the lawsuit in the latter state. Under the case law of the Supreme Court of Virginia, a journalist benefits from the qualified privilege of source confidentiality but can be legally compelled to name his (her) informants in certain cases. It is on the basis of this restriction that the judge has ordered Nicholas Kristof to reveal his. Two of the three informants gave the journalist permission to divulge their names.

The New York Observer
Posted by The Media Mob on November 17, 2006 05:32 PM

Kristof Does Not Have to Reveal FBI Sources; Times Not Fined, Trial Date Set
FILE UNDER: New York Times

This morning, Judge Liam O'Grady ruled that New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof will be forced to disclose his two FBI sources in a case brought against him by former Army scientist Steven Hatfill. However, by withholding sources, sanctions were imposed against the newspaper.

Last month, the Times was ordered to reveal Mr. Kristof's confidential sources that provided information for several columns written about the 2001 anthrax mailings. The justice department named Dr. Hatfill a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation, but he was never charged.

In an Alexandria, VA courtroom, around 10:30 a.m., Judge O'Grady imposed evidentiary sanctions against the Times. If the Times will not name the sources, then the newspaper "will not be able to rely on their FBI sources" in their defense, according to Charles Kimmett, an attorney for Mr. Hatfill.

The judge denied a request by the plaintiffs that the Times be fined $25,000 a day for non-compliance with the order to reveal sources.

A trial date has now been set for January 29, 2007.

"We're confident, based on the discovery we've taken, that we will present a strong case for Dr. Hatfill," said Mr. Kimmett.

-Michael Calderone

Newsday.com
Judge bars N.Y. Times from using sources in libel defense
November 18, 2006, 12:17 PM EST

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ A federal judge has ruled The New York Times may not rely on information from a columnist's confidential sources in its defense against a libel lawsuit filed over the newspaper's coverage of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Former Army scientist Steven Hatfill, once identified by authorities as a "person of interest" in the anthrax mailings that killed five people in late 2001, is suing the Times for libel for a series of articles written by columnist Nicholas Kristof. 

U.S. Magistrate Judge Liam O'Grady issued the ruling Friday as a sanction against the newspaper for refusing to disclose the identities of two confidential FBI sources used by Kristof. O'Grady had earlier ruled that Hatfill needed "an opportunity to question the confidential sources and determine if Mr. Kristof accurately reported information the sources provided."

The judge said Hatfill's right to move forward with his lawsuit outweighed the limited immunity Virginia gives reporters from disclosing sources.

A trial in the civil case is scheduled to begin Jan. 29 just outside Washington in Alexandria federal court.

The Times had cited FBI sources in reporting Hatfill was one of a limited number of people with the access and technical expertise to manufacture the anthrax and that he failed lie-detector tests. Hatfill was a physician and bioterrorism expert who worked at the Army's infectious disease laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., in the late 1990s.

In its filings, the Times has suggested Kristof had numerous sources for his stories. He initially refused to identify five sources but later disclosed the identities of three, saying they had released him from his pledge of confidentiality.

It's unclear how much of a setback the ruling is for the Times. That would likely depend on how much other substantiation the newspaper presents to counter Hatfill's claim.

The Justice Department has refused to discuss Hatfill but recently said the strain of anthrax used in the attacks was accessible to more people than initially reported. No one has been charged in the attacks.

Reporters Committee For Freedom Of the Press
NEWS MEDIA UPDATE   ·   FOURTH CIRCUIT   ·   Libel   ·   Nov. 20, 2006

Judge limits Times defense in libel suit

    *  A judge bars The New York Times from using information from unnamed sources to as part of its defense in a defamation case.

Nov. 20, 2006  ·   The New York Times cannot use information from two confidential sources in defending against a libel suit brought by a former Army scientist, a federal magistrate judge in Virginia ruled last week.

Judge Liam O'Grady's Friday ruling comes more than three weeks after the same judge ordered the Times to reveal confidential sources that Nicholas Kristof used in columns written about the anthrax mailings of 2004. Steven Hatfill, a former Army scientist, was publicly named a "person of interest" in the mailings but was never charged.

Kristof and the Times have refused to name two FBI officials who served as confidential sources, but Kristof has revealed the identities of three other formerly unnamed sources who he said recently released him from his confidentiality pledge.

O'Grady did not impose the large fines sought by Hatfill, who sought to make the Times pay $25,000 a day and increase the fine by $25,000 a month until the newspaper named the two sources.

David McCraw, senior counsel for the Times, said O'Grady's ruling was a significant break from Hatfill's attorneys' arguments that the media should be compelled to reveal confidential sources and that there should be "significant financial penalties until that compulsion occurs."

"From a newspaper's standpoint, the difference between those two things is huge," McCraw said.

O'Grady's ruling means that Kristof may not cite information received from the two confidential sources as confirmation for his columns. The libel trial is scheduled to start in January in Alexandria, Va.

Times attorneys said in court that their defense would have been "extremely strong" had they been allowed to use information from those two sources, McCraw said. Still, he said the newspaper will be able to "put on a credible defense."

Hatfill's libel suit was originally dismissed by a federal judge in 2004, but a federal appeals court in Richmond reinstated the case last year.

(Hatfill v. The New York Times, Media Counsel: David A. Schulz, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz LLP, Washington, D.C.) -- RG 

Hatfill v. Hatfill - The bio-warfare scientist and his dueling lawsuits.
By Jack Shafer
Posted Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006, at 6:53 PM ET

Without a doubt, the FBI and the Justice Department leaked Hatfill information to the press like a Bangladesh drainage ditch during a typhoon. The American media so boiled over with thinly sourced reports linking Hatfill to anthrax that his lawyers got it right in the first suit when they claimed it would be pointless and hopeless to catalog every news report that may have contained "illegal disclosures."

Included in the suit's incomplete list of stories containing "illegal disclosures" were three Kristof columns from July. (Have Times$elect? Read the Kristof columns.)

Let's assume for a moment that the blabbermouth feds violated the Privacy Act a million times over by divulging the contents of government files on Hatfill to reporters. And what if the information the feds released from those files was true, or if they believed it to be true? If that's the case—and if Kristof obtained his information from those sources—he could build a strong defense in the libel case that he wrote under the reasonable belief that the information was true. It would be difficult, though not impossible, for Hatfill to prove Kristof was negligent in his reporting, a fundamental test in any libel case.

But what if the information read out of the files to reporters was false? Actually, Hatfill's Privacy Act suit allows for this contingency, noting that "the leaked information was frequently wrong by the time it appeared in news stories, though plaintiff is unable to say whether the factual errors arose during the leaking or whether the information is wrong in the government's records." On the specifics of Kristof's work, the Hatfill Privacy Act lawsuit maintains that three of the columnist's July columns "contained fresh falsehoods about Dr. Hatfill."

Enter Hatfill's paradox: The more evidence his lawyers gather in the Privacy Act case to prove the government maintained a file on him and actively leaked it to reporters, the more he undermines his libel action against Kristof and the New York Times.

Why? Because if the information shared from the files is true, and Kristof drew on that information in his columns, he and the Times can plead the truth as a defense. Case over.

If the leaked government information proves to be false, Hatfill will still have his Privacy Act case against the feds: The truthfulness of a file has no bearing on determining a violation of the law. But Kristof and the Times will seize on the false information to repel the libel complaint, arguing that the columnist didn't create the false information, that it came from reliable sources, and that he wasn't negligent or reckless in repeating it. Indeed, the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein wrote last month that the Times has acknowledged in court that two of Kristof's confidential sources were FBI employees, who are, almost by definition, reliable.

Finally, in order to collect damages in a libel victory, Hatfill must prove Kristof's work damaged his reputation or his ability to make a living. Without a doubt, Hatfill's reputation declined as the FBI investigation accelerated. But, again, the chronology provided in Hatfill's Privacy Act complaint argues quite vehemently that it was the government's reaction to media leaks that cost him a federally funded job he was about to take in Louisiana, not Kristof's column. According to the Privacy Act complaint, the feds froze Hatfill out of the job in the first days of August 2002. Kristof didn't explicitly name Hatfill until his Aug. 13, 2002, column.

I'm no Privacy Act expert, something that causes me no embarrassment because nobody else is, either. As a tool of litigation, it largely lay unused until Linda Tripp used it to sue the Pentagon because one of its employees allegedly released information about her to reporters. The government settled for $595,000, according to The New Yorker. Attorneys for government scientist Wen Ho Lee used a similar strategy to beat a settlement out of the government, as well as blood money from several publications.

But I'm enough of an expert to predict that as Hatfill's twin suits advance, he'll have to bet on one, and having already punished Kristof and the Times, he'll capitalize on the Privacy Act's legal ambiguity and place all his chips there.

******

Hatfill has been charged with no crime related to the anthrax attacks. By my reckoning, Washington Post reporter Marilyn W. Thompson wrote the best Hatfill overview in the paper's Sept. 14, 2003, edition. If you've seen better, ping me at slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

Anthrax site cleanup may finally near end

Luis F. Perez | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted November 29, 2006 

BOCA RATON -- The old American Media Inc. building that endured the country's first anthrax attack more than five years ago could spring back to life within weeks.

Palm Beach County public-health officials are confident the next stage of the anthrax decontamination, which started Monday, really will be the final steps in a cleanup that began 2 1/2 years ago.

Plans call for Marcor Remediation Inc., the second company to take on the project, to test the three-story building to make sure it's anthrax-free.

It's a step designed to check the work of Bio-ONE, the first company hired to rid the tabloid publisher's former home of the toxin.

Palm Beach County Health Department Director Dr. Jean Malecki said Bio-ONE has a good track record and she's confident in the process the company used.

However, public-health officials never saw data showing Bio-ONE's results from the office floors because of a contract dispute between the building owner, David Rustine, and the company.

Rustine said he had nothing new to talk about regarding the building but that he would "real soon."

Marcor decontaminated the building's basement and thousands of boxes that held decades of celebrity photos and mundane office items.

Over the next few days, Marcor crews will enter the building, still quarantined, to take samples. Those samples should be sent to the lab next week, public-health officials said.

They hope to get results around Dec. 20.

Malecki said an advisory group of national experts would review the results. If they show the building is safe, a decision on the building would be made immediately.

The attack occurred in early October 2001. Anthrax came mixed in a white powder by mail.

Bob Stevens, an AMI photo editor, was killed and 17 others were made sick.

Chemical & Engineering News
December 4, 2006
Volume 84, Number 49
pp. 47-54

Anthrax Sleuthing
Science aids a nettlesome FBI criminal probe
by Lois R. Ember

It was a tense, unsettling time. A mere week after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, anthrax-laced letters began coursing through the mails on their way to several news organs and two U.S. senators, delivering death to five and mayhem to a nation.

This first major act of bioterrorism on U.S. soil triggered one of the largest, most complex, and costliest investigations ever undertaken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and still the person who mailed the letters remains at large.

This September, Joseph Persichini Jr., acting assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, acknowledged the major, if unheralded, role science is playing in the probe. Yet the FBI has said little about what science has revealed, citing the criminal nature of the case as its reason. What scientific tidbits the public has been fed come from media reports, and most of these have been incorrect or incomplete.

Since finding an unopened anthrax letter addressed to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) in late 2001 and the letter's dramatic handover to scientists at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the FBI has clamped down on information on the probe. The embargo has been so tight that a former top military scientist who now works for a government contractor tells C&EN that he was consulted before the Leahy letter, but afterward, he could get no updates on progress being made even from friends in the FBI.

Though massive resources have been devoted to solving the case, many FBI critics attribute FBI's silence to the fact that the probe initially was misdirected and is now stalled.

Inexplicably, that silence was broken this August. Then, Douglas J. Beecher, a microbiologist in the FBI's hazardous materials response unit, published a paper in Applied & Environmental Microbiology, a well-respected but not well-known journal. It took the media a month to publish accounts of Beecher's article, which they generally interpreted as indicating that the FBI initially had misunderstood the nature of the anthrax used in the attacks.

After reading those news accounts, Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote the FBI, requesting that it brief the committee on the status of the investigation. Assistant FBI Director Eleni P. Kalisch summarily rejected Holt's request.

Kalisch said that briefing the intelligence committee on a criminal investigation would be inappropriate. She also said the FBI and the Justice Department had decided long ago to stop briefing members of Congress after sensitive, classified information found its way into media accounts citing congressional sources. A Holt spokesman told C&EN the intelligence committee received "three limited briefings in 2002 and 2003, and no committee member has ever been implicated in leaks."

Angered by the FBI's refusal to brief Congress, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), in late October, blasted the FBI's investigation for its "dead-ends" and "lack of progress." In a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Grassley listed a litany of questions he wanted the department and the FBI to answer. He is still awaiting answers.

Beecher's peer-reviewed paper set off heated discussions not only in Congress but also in the arms control community and among government and academic scientists. The seven-page article chronicles the methodology the FBI used to uncover the Leahy letter, which, because it was unopened, contained the most unadulterated powder recovered from any letter.

What sparked debate was one paragraph in the discussion section that a military analyst, who asked not to be named because he still works with the FBI, says "clearly had nothing to do with the content of the article."

The first anthrax-laced letter destined for the Senate reached the office of former Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and was opened by one of his aides on Oct. 15, 2001. That simple act unleashed a fluffy light tan powder that wafted through the office and traveled the air ducts to contaminate the entire Hart Senate Office Building. Offices in the Hart building were evacuated, and eventually, other Senate and House offices were shuttered as well. The work of Congress came nearly to a standstill.

Five years later—after the FBI had conducted more than 9,100 interviews and 67 searches and had issued 6,000 grand-jury subpoenas—the case remains unsolved. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III expects the case will eventually be solved. But the FBI's critics agree with Daschle, who contends that "the investigation's trail has gone cold."

In an Oct. 16 Washington Post OpEd, Daschle alludes to the Beecher article and writes that questions still "remain in the scientific community about the composition of the anthrax and the level of technological expertise required to manufacture it."

Given how easily the powder in the Daschle letter aerosolized, government officials, military scientists, and academic anthrax experts were quoted in the media as claiming the anthrax spores in the letter had to have been "weaponized." That is, the spores had to have been specially treated or processed—milled and coated with an additive such as silica—to make them float in the air. But in his article, Beecher, almost as an aside, dismisses this possibility.

In the paragraph that set the scientific and arms control communities abuzz, Beecher writes: A "widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production."

This is the FBI's first public statement on the investigation since it began analyzing the material in the Leahy letter and the first time the bureau has described the anthrax powder. Beecher, however, provides no citation for the statement or any information in the article to back it up, and FBI spokeswomen have declined requests to interview him.

"The statement should have had a reference," says L. Nicholas Ornston, editor-in-chief of the microbiology journal. "An unsupported sentence being cited as fact is uncomfortable to me. Any statement in a scientific article should be supported by a reference or by documentation," he says.

Early news reports, replete with unnamed sources, implied that the universe of potential suspects was fairly narrow. The perpetrator of the attacks, the reports said, was likely to have special technical skills and likely had access to highly contained defense labs such as those operated by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Maryland and the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

Because the anthrax powders proved to be so deadly, the thinking was that the perpetrator had to have used equipment, additives, and procedures that the Army had used to weaponize biological agents in its offensive bioweapons program before President Richard Nixon shut it down in 1969.

Several former government officials and scientists, who asked for anonymity, say the early media accounts that Beecher says mischaracterized the anthrax powders can be traced to the government's struggle to deal quickly with an unsettling and unfamiliar threat.

At an Oct. 29, 2001, White House press briefing, Maj. Gen. John S. Parker, then-commanding general of the Army's Medical Research & Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, said silica had been found in the Daschle letter. Tom Ridge, then-director of the White House Office of Homeland Security, at a briefing a few days earlier said a binding agent had been used to make the anthrax powders.

As one of the former government officials tells C&EN, "Those judgments were premature and frankly wrong." At the height of the attacks, top government officials with no scientific background received briefings from people who also were not scientists, and "the nuances got lost," he explains.

Sometimes scientists misspoke as well, as was the case with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. AFIP studied the anthrax powder from the Daschle letter using energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry, and a top AFIP scientist, Florabell G. Mullick, reported the presence of silica in an AFIP newsletter. Yet, the spectrum AFIP released shows a peak for the element silicon, not silicon dioxide (silica).

Harvard University molecular biologist Matthew S. Meselson, who has consulted for the FBI on the anthrax probe, dismisses these early statements as misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the scientific studies conducted on the Daschle powder. "I don't know of anybody with spore expertise who actually worked on the stuff who said the spores were coated," he says. The FBI has never publicly claimed the spores were coated with silica and, in fact, told members of Congress at classified briefings that the spores were not coated, he says.

Meselson alerted the FBI to a 1980 microbiology paper that reports finding silicon in the spore coat of Bacillus cereus, a cousin to Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax. The silicon AFIP detected might be a natural element of the anthrax spore coat.

Although the FBI has released no information on studies probing for the presence of silicon in the coat of anthrax spores, and no studies have been published, Peter Setlow suspects that such studies have been done. About two years ago, Setlow, a molecular biologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center, was invited to an FBI-organized meeting of spore specialists.

The explanation for mischaracterizing the attack material is really quite simple, one of the former government officials says. When the attacks occurred, "there was no systematic methodology in place to evaluate a biological powder forensically." Initially, he says, the studies were "done on the fly." And quite frankly, he says, "a lot of people didn't know what they were looking for.

"The pace of the forensic investigation ground to a halt," this official says, "because there was not a lot of available expertise in the scientific toolbox."

Much of the material from the Daschle letter was consumed by destructive tests that produced little useful information, the official says. The government was understandably reluctant to proceed with tests on the Leahy powder until a validated testing protocol was developed, he explains.

So in December 2001, the FBI met with experts selected by the National Academies for advice on how to deal with the Leahy letter, a participant at that meeting says. Six NAS-vetted scientists attended that one-day meeting at the FBI's Washington field office and produced a flow chart, a scientific playbook on how to analyze the powder to garner the most information. Whether that flow chart was ever used is unknown.

The December meeting was among the first of eight the FBI would eventually convene with scientists "to develop a comprehensive analytical scheme for evaluating and analyzing the anthrax evidence," the FBI's Persichini says. In fact, the "FBI has held two outreach sessions in the past 18 months, and Beecher was present at the first one," says Milton Leitenberg, an arms controls expert at the University of Maryland.

Also in his paper, Beecher writes: "Individuals familiar with the compositions of the powders in the letters have indicated that they were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents." His citation for this statement is a 2003 article that investigative journalist Gary Matsumoto published in the news section of Science (302, 1492).

Meselson, who reviewed Beecher's article for the FBI, was asked to assess scanning electron micrographs of the anthrax powder. Early in 2002, he spent half a day at the FBI's Washington field office and looked at "a large heap of electron micrographs" of the powder from the Daschle letter.

"I saw no evidence of anything except spores, no evidence of silica nanoparticles," Meselson says. "If silica was present, I would have seen it, but nothing could have been purer than what I saw," he insists. Though purified, the preparation "had not been milled," he adds.

A government official who asked not to be named says the FBI knew early on that the Daschle and Leahy powders had a high concentration of spores. "But knowing the specific attributes of the spores took a longer time," he explains.

A former top military scientist speaking on background because his current employer has government contracts, tells C&EN that he, too, "saw scanning electron micrographs" of the powder from the Daschle letter. "I saw only spores and almost no rubbish from the culture media." If the spores had been coated with silica, they would have looked like doughnuts with large sugar particles on them, he says. Instead, "the Daschle spores were clean doughnut holes with no sugars."

He also says, "I had never seen a preparation that pure—1012 spores per gram—with no rubbish." Curious about the purity of the spores, he contacted William C. Patrick III, who had made bioweapons for the Army when the U.S. had an offensive program. He says Patrick told him it was possible to get rid of nonspore material by repeatedly washing the spores with water and spinning off the culture debris into the supernatant.

This former military scientist never saw the material from the Leahy letter and "heard nothing from the FBI regarding the Leahy letter." So, even though he saw pure spores in the electron micrographs of the Daschle powder he was shown, "It was never clear to me whether the spores were coated or not, because I heard it both ways."

Media reports had described the material released when the Daschle letter was opened as looking like a cloud of smoke. "I had always thought the spores had to be treated to get them to fluff up as they did," he says.

Meselson, however, has another theory. He believes that "if the spores are pure enough, they will be suspended into air, they will fly." He builds his theory on the scientific scaffold of triboelectricity, which, he notes, "aerosol physicists haven't considered."

Triboelectricity occurs, for example, when combing your hair on a dry winter's day causes sparks to fly as electrons move from hair to bind more tightly to the comb. In Meselson's theory, all the purified spores carry the same electrical charge so they will fly apart. And, he says, "you don't need much to fly into the air" to cause harm.

Both Meselson and the former military scientist agree that making the purified preparations didn't require an expensive laboratory setup. As the military scientist says, "A simple facility" is really all that's needed. "I have concluded that maybe the hardest part is doing it safely so you don't hurt yourself. Some experience is needed, but it's probably more an art than a science," he says.

Arms control expert Jonathan B. Tucker, a Bosch Public Policy Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, says, "The use of the Ames strain, the purity of the spores, and the extreme volatility of the material suggests that it was made by an individual with a high degree of technical sophistication."

Other experts say Beecher's now famous paragraph broadens the scope of potential suspects to include individuals or small groups lacking the resources of large national programs. Rutgers University microbiologist Richard H. Ebright, however, doesn't believe that it does.

As Ebright points out, the anthrax mailer had to have the "requisite microbiological and powder preparation skills." But equally important, the perpetrator "had to have access to the attack strain," which in all the letters was Ames.

Ebright admits that the pool of persons with the required skills is large and many times "larger than the pool of persons with access to the [Ames] strain." Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Ames strain "was narrowly distributed," probably to "no more than a dozen, certainly no more than 20 laboratories" worldwide, he says. Labs possessing the strain were part of U.S. and allied biodefense and intelligence programs, and the perpetrator "must have obtained the attack strain" from one of these labs, he argues.

On Oct. 5, NBC Nightly News reported: "Investigators tell NBC News that the water used to make [the anthrax spores] came from a northeastern U.S., not a foreign, source." Ebright says, "This information, if correct, would appear to narrow the field" of labs possessing seed cultures of the Ames strain prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

As Ebright explains, "The intersection between institutions in possession of the Ames strain prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and institutions in the northeastern U.S. would appear" to narrow the likely source of the Ames strain to "two or three institutions: USAMRIID; the University of Scranton; and, if one interprets 'northeastern' broadly, Battelle Memorial Institute" in Columbus, Ohio. Battelle does classified research for the Department of Defense. A University of Scranton scientist was using "nucleic acid sequences to develop taxonomies of bioweapons agents, a subject of interest to the Department of Defense," Ebright says.

"If the NBC report on the identification of the water source is correct, it reflects further development of the analytical approach" reported in articles published in 2003 on the use of stable isotope analysis for microbe forensics, Ebright says. Those methods applied to O and H can provide information about the water used for the culture media, Ebright says.

In mid-to-late 2003, the FBI contracted out some 20-odd studies of the culture media using isotopic analyses to trace to a specific geographic area the water and nutrients used to grow the anthrax. Yet, early in 2002, DNA sequencing of the anthrax taken from the first anthrax victim conducted at the Institute for Genomic Research and other genetic analyses pointed to USAMRIID as the origin of the Ames strain.

The DNA sequencing work was published in Science in 2002 and reported by the media. Also noted in media accounts was the radiocarbon dating analyses by Lawrence Livermore National Lab in June 2002 that found the Ames attack strain was cultured no more than two years before the mailings.

In November 2002, FBI Director Mueller announced that efforts were being made to "reverse engineer" the mailed anthrax. News accounts in spring 2003 reported that the work was being conducted by the Army's biodefense center at Dugway Proving Ground.

These news reports, naming no sources, claimed that Dugway had successfully reproduced the anthrax powder used in the attacks. Dugway, according to the media, concluded that the attack material was made with simple methods and inexpensive equipment and that the spores were not coated with an additive such as silica.

Daniel Martin, a microbiologist in Dugway's Life Sciences Division, tells C&EN that Dugway was asked "to produce materials to see how they compared with the materials the FBI had in its possession." But, Martin says, Dugway did not reverse or back engineer the attack powder. "Back engineering implies that you know exactly what the material is and can replicate the material exactly, step by step." That isn't what Dugway did, he says.

Instead, Martin says, Dugway used the Leahy powder as the culture starter to "produce several different preparations using different media, and different ways of drying and milling the preparation" that the FBI could use for comparison purposes. Dugway, he says, never analyzed the Leahy powder and did no comparative analyses between the preparations made and the Leahy powder.

Indeed, by fall 2003, Michael A. Mason, then-assistant director of FBI's Washington field office, is quoted as saying that the FBI had not been able to re-create the process used to make the anthrax attack material. Still, he said, the FBI had learned enough to believe that the perpetrator had special expertise.

Leitenberg says a well-connected former military scientist told him that Dugway was only able to produce preparations containing "one-fifth the number of spores found in the Leahy powder." This same military source also told Leitenberg that Battelle Memorial Institute was also asked to back engineer the Leahy powder.

Back in 2003, Mason was not certain whether the anthrax case would ever be solved. Even if there was no "successful resolution," Mason said the investigation was "remarkable" because of the scientific and analytical skills employed.

So why, three years after Mason's public remarks and a pretty effective gag order, has the FBI chosen to speak out through Beecher's article? It's possible that the FBI is confident enough in the science "to set the record straight or to deflect ongoing or anticipated criticism," one former government official speculates.

It is also possible that Beecher's famous paragraph may be setting the groundwork for the FBI's defense in the suit brought against it by Steven J. Hatfill, whom former attorney general John D. Ashcroft called "a person of interest," the former official says.

A former FBI laboratory official says the FBI may have realized that the scientific evidence is pointing to a different conclusion than initial speculation that the perpetrator had to be associated with a national program. If so, "then it is very valuable for a number of reasons to have the evidence published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, which gives it a measure of acceptance and credibility," he says.

To underscore his statement, the FBI lab official points to "the Daubert standard for scientific evidence and associated case law." This standard is a legal precedent by which federal trial judges rule on the admissibility of evidence based on its relevance and reliability (C&EN, Feb. 27, page 36).

Despite Mason's uncertainty three years ago, the FBI now seems confident that the case eventually will be solved. Writing in the Washington Post on Oct. 6, former State Department intelligence analyst Kenneth J. Dillon says there are two possible reasons for that confidence. One is that the FBI actually knows but lacks some confirmatory evidence to nail the perpetrator. The other, he writes, is embarrassment because "the evidence [the FBI might have] points to the clandestine biowarfare program of a close ally as the anthrax source."

If NBC reported the science correctly and the water used to make the anthrax did come from a northeastern U.S. source, Dillon's second supposition falls apart.

Leitenberg says that "scientists in the biodefense programs of several nations allied to the U.S. have frequently expressed the suspicion that the U.S. government is embarrassed to identify segments or individuals of the U.S. biodefense community as responsible for the 2001 anthrax events."

The FBI is not talking about the perpetrator and is saying very little publicly about the science it has called upon in trying to solve the five-year-old case. What the public has been told points to a U.S. biodefense facility as the source of the attack strain of anthrax spores that were not specially treated or engineered but were very pure—and very deadly.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2006 American Chemical Society 

Timeline
Chronology Of A Biocrime

Sept. 17 or 18, 2001: Five anthrax letters likely mailed from Trenton, N.J., and postmarked Sept. 8 arrive at news organizations in New York and Florida. Only the letters addressed to the New York Post and NBC News are recovered; the existence of the others is inferred from the pattern of infection.

Oct 4: A photo editor at the National Enquirer in Florida is confirmed to have inhalation anthrax, the first known case in the U.S. since 1976.

Oct. 5: The photo editor dies, the first of five fatalities in the anthrax attacks.

Oct. 6 to Oct. 9: Two more anthrax letters are mailed from Trenton, postmarked Oct. 9.

Oct. 15: Letter to former Sen. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) is opened and tests positive for anthrax; the enclosed anthrax is described as a "fine, light tan powder."

Oct. 16 and 17: Senate and House offices are closed.

Oct. 19: Tom Ridge, then director of the White House Office of Homeland Security, tells the media that anthrax spores found in the letters to the Enquirer, NBC News, and Daschle are "indistinguishable," meaning they are from the same strain.

Oct. 21 and 22: Two Washington, D.C., postal workers who handled anthrax letters die.

Oct. 25: Ridge updates the scientific analysis of the anthrax samples, telling reporters that the anthrax from the Daschle letter was "highly concentrated" and "pure" and that a binding material was used. The Daschle spore clusters, he says, are smaller when compared with the anthrax found in the letter delivered to the New York Post. He describes the Post anthrax as coarser and less concentrated—"clumpy and rugged"—than the Daschle anthrax, which he says is "fine and floaty." Still, he says, the material from both samples is the same Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax.

Oct. 29: Maj. Gen. John S. Parker at a White House briefing says silica was found in the Daschle anthrax sample, and the anthrax spore concentration in the Daschle letter was 10 times that of the New York Post letter.

Oct. 31: A New York woman dies of anthrax. Maj. Gen. Parker testifies before the Senate Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation & Federal Services about the anthrax found in the Daschle letter.

Nov. 7: Ridge briefs the press and dismisses bentonite as an additive for the anthrax spores in the Daschle letter and says it is silicon. (Iraq supposedly used bentonite in weaponizing anthrax.)

Nov. 16: FBI finds anthrax letter addressed to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).

Nov. 21: A Connecticut woman dies of anthax, the fifth and last person to die as a result of the anthrax mailings.

Dec. 5: The Leahy letter is opened at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, a biodefense facility, at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Md.

Dec. 12: The Baltimore Sun reports that the anthrax spores used in the attacks match those produced in small amounts over the past 10 years by the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.

Dec. 16: DNA testing of the anthrax spores in the Leahy letter shows them to be the Ames strain. The Washington Post reports that the spores in the Daschle and Leahy letters are identical to those produced at Dugway Proving Ground.

Aug. 6, 2002: Then-attorney general John Ashcroft, on CBS's "The Early Show," calls Steven Hatfill "a person of interest" in the FBI investigation. (Hatfill has never been charged with the crime, and he is suing the Justice Department, the New York Times, and others.)

August 2006: FBI scientist Douglas J. Beecher publishes a paper in Applied & Environmental Microbiology in which he strongly implies that the spores in the anthrax letters were not produced with additives and were not specially engineered (that is, weaponized).

Mixup
Army Error Leads To Ames Strain Misnomer

The Ames strain—implicated in the 2001 anthrax-laden letter attacks—is one of 89 strains of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax. Although its name implies an Iowa origin, the virulent strain was actually isolated from a sick cow that died in Texas in 1980 and later misnamed by Army researchers working in Maryland.

Confused? So were the scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Md.

In 1981, the Army obtained the strain as part of a collection sweep it had undertaken to obtain as many B. anthracis strains as possible to help develop and test vaccines. The microbe was actually cultured by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, part of the Texas A&M University system, which then transferred it to USAMRIID.

Following proper procedure, the Texas veterinary lab shipped the culture to Maryland in a special container supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The container's return address was USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

The strain remained unnamed for four years. Then, after isolating it from the culture, USAMRIID scientists dubbed it Ames in a research paper published in 1985.

The Ames strain became notorious following the 2001 anthrax attacks. Seven anthrax-laced letters were mailed to various media outlets and to two U.S. senators on Sept. 18, 2001, and Oct. 9, 2001.

The Army never developed the Ames strain as a weapon in its offensive biological weapons program, which President Richard Nixon ended in 1969. The gold standard B. anthracis microbe for U.S. bioweaponeers was the Vollum 1B strain.

The Houston Chronicle
Dec. 6, 2006, 11:32AM
Senators rap FBI over domestic spying program

By LARA JAKES JORDAN
Associated Press 

WASHINGTON — Senators frustrated by scant details on the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program today rapped FBI Director Robert Mueller for refusing to show how it has curbed terrorist activity in the United States.

Mueller said he was unable to talk about the warrantless spying program because it is classified.

"What assurances can you provide that the program is worthwhile?" asked Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa. "Have arrests been made? Have terror cells been broken?"

The FBI has briefed congressional intelligence committees on the controversial program, but Mueller said he did not have permission to share that information with other lawmakers — including the judiciary panels that oversee the bureau.

"I am prepared to brief whichever committee, to the extent that I am allowed to," he said.

In his opening remarks, Mueller ticked off a list of FBI cases targeting terror suspects since the 2001 attacks. They included the so-called "Lackawanna Six" who allegedly attended al-Qaida training camps; an Ohio truck driver who plotted to attack the Brooklyn Bridge; and four men charged with planning to hit synagogues and U.S. and Israeli facilities in the Los Angeles area.

But Mueller did not say if any of the cases resulted from the secret spying program, which was revealed last year. His answer annoyed senators, who said their constitutionally protected oversight was being hampered by the administration's stonewalling.

"When done poorly or without proper safeguards and oversight, data banks do not make us safer, they just further erode Americans' privacy and civil liberties," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the panel's incoming chairman. He said the administration "has gone to unprecedented lengths to hide its own activities from the public, while at the same time collecting and compiling unprecedented amounts of information about every citizen."

Later, Mueller also said the FBI could better fight terrorists if authorities had stronger subpoena power to determine if threats are valid, and if search and surveillance tools granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court could be expanded.

His appearance marked a long-delayed hearing for senators eager to hear about the FBI's progress on terror investigations, including a 5-year probe into the deadly anthrax attacks. Mueller declined comment on specifics of the case. He was also scolded by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., for ranking violent crime prevention as less of a priority than public corruption and organized crime cases.

"Gangs are killing more people in this country than organized crime ever did," Feinstein said. "And that's just a fact."

Responding, Mueller said that if the FBI didn't go after crooked public officials and organized crime cases, "it will not be investigated." He called public corruption cases the FBI's "top criminal investigative priority," noting that more than 1,000 government employees have been convicted over the last two years with the FBI's help.

Anthrax attack on US Congress made by scientists and covered up by FBI, expert says
Sherwood Ross
Middle East Times
December 11, 2006

WASHINGTON --  The terrorists who perpetrated the 2001 anthrax attack on Congress likely were US government scientists at the army's Ft. Detrick, MD., bioterrorism lab having access to "moonsuits" that enabled them to safely process and manufacture super-weapons-grade anthrax, an eminent authority on the subject says.

Although only a "handful" of scientists had the ability to perpetrate the crime, the culprit among them may never be identified as the FBI ordered the destruction of the anthrax culture collection at Ames, IA., from which the Ft. Detrick lab got its pathogens, the authority said.

This action makes it impossible "to pin-point precisely where, when, and from whom these bio-agents had originated," said Dr. Francis A. Boyle of the University of Illinois at Champaign.

Boyle, who drafted the US Biological Weapons Convention of 1989 enacted by Congress, said destruction of the Ames anthrax "appears to be a cover-up orchestrated by the FBI."

If impartial scientists could have performed genetic reconstruction of the anthrax found in letters mailed to Senators Daschle (D-S.D.) and Patrick Leahy, (D -Vt.), "the trail of genetic evidence would have led directly back to a secret but officially-sponsored US government biowarfare program that was illegal and criminal" in violation of biological weapons conventions and US laws, Boyle said.

"I believe the FBI knows exactly who was behind these terrorist anthrax attacks upon the United States Congress in the Fall of 2001, and that the culprits were US government-related scientists involved in a criminal US government biowarfare program," Boyle said.

The anthrax attacks killed five people, including two postal workers, injured 17 others, and shut down the operations of the US Congress.

Boyle, a leading American authority on international law, said after the attacks he contacted senior FBI official Marion "Spike" Bowman, who handles counter-terrorism issues, and provided him with the names of the scientists working with anthrax. Boyle told Bowman the Ft. Detrick scientists were not to be trusted.

In addition to then destroying the anthrax, the FBI "retained every independent life-scientist it could locate as part of its fictitious investigation, and then swore them all to secrecy so that they cannot publicly comment on the investigation or give their expert opinion," Boyle said.

Boyle pointed out that Bowman is the same FBI agent "who played a pivotal role in suppressing evidence which in turn prevented the issuance of a search warrant for the computer of Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th Al Qaeda hijacker on 11 September 2001, which might otherwise have led to foreknowledge and therefore prevention of those terrorist attacks in the first place."

A self-confessed Al Qaeda operative, Moussaoui was detained on immigration three weeks before 9/11 when a Minnesota flight school reported he was acting suspiciously.

Boyle asked if Bowman received an FBI award in December 2002, for "exceptional performance" because of his capacity "to forestall investigations, because of where they may lead?" He went on to inquire, "Could the real culprits behind the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, and the immediately following terrorist anthrax attacks upon Congress ultimately prove to be the same people?"

Because of its "bogus investigation," Boyle said, "the greatest political crime in the history of the United States of America since its founding on 4 July, 1776 - the anthrax attacks on Congress, which served not only to deliver a terrorist threat on its members, but actually to close it down for a period - may remain officially unresolved forever."

"Could it truly be coincidental," he continued, "that two of the primary intended victims of the terrorist anthrax attacks - Senators Daschle and Leahy - were holding up the speedy passage of the pre-planned USA Patriot Act ... an act which provided the federal government with unprecedented powers in relation to US citizens and institutions?"

Leahy is incoming Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and may have a personal interest in holding hearings to learn who tried to kill him. He recently said President George W. Bush should be "terrified" that he will be the new Chair.

Boyle's views are contained in his book Biowarfare and Terrorism, published by Clarity Press, Inc., of Atlanta, GA. His previously published titles include, Foundations of World Order, The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, and Destroying World Order. Dr. Boyle holds a Doctor of Law Magna Cum Laude and a Ph.D. in political science, both from Harvard.

In a forward to the book, Dr. Jonathan King, Professor of Molecular Biology at M.I.T. and a founder of the Council for Responsible Genetics, said the government's "growing bioterror programs [described by Professor Boyle] represent a significant emerging danger to our own population."

A harsh critic of Pentagon biowarfare activities, Boyle pointed out in inflation-adjusted dollars the US spends more on them today than it did on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb in World War II. He has accused the Bush administration of diverting the bio-tech industry "towards biowarfare purposes" and of making corrupting payoffs to Academia to turn university scientists to the pursuit of biowarfare work.

Sherwood Ross is an American journalist who writes on military and political topics. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Anthrax cleanup near conclusion in Boca

The Associated Press
Posted December 13 2006

Palm Beach County public health officials are confident they're in the final stages of the anthrax cleanup effort at the former American Media Inc. building in Boca Raton, a project begun in July 2004.

Meanwhile, 33 members of Congress wrote Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday demanding that the FBI update lawmakers on the investigation into the anthrax attacks five years ago that paralyzed the nation with bio-terrorism fears.

 Bob Stevens, an AMI photo editor, died Oct. 5, 2001, after being exposed to an anthrax-filled letter. The building, in the Arvida Park of Commerce, remains the last building in the country quarantined because of anthrax.

The second company charged with completing the decontamination process, Marcor Remediation Inc., on Saturday finished collecting samples from the building's top three floors, said Tim O'Connor, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Health Department. The 64 air and 30 surface samples now go to a lab to test for anthrax spores.

The process is designed to check the work of Bio-ONE, the first company hired to clean up the building. Officials from that company split with the building owner in a contract dispute. But they have said publicly that the building's upper floors are anthrax-free.

Lab results are expected in couple of weeks. Plans call for an expert advisory group to review those results before it forwards the findings to Dr. Jean Malecki, Health Department director.

Malecki, who quarantined the building, has said the only way to prevent another anthrax attack is to find the culprit who sent the letters.

Anthrax-laced letters arrived in Boca Raton, media outlets in New York and congressional offices, including the office of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat in line to be the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The outgoing chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., joined members of both parties and chambers of Congress signing the letter to Gonzalez.

The bipartisan letter escalates efforts by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., to get the FBI to tell lawmakers what it has learned during the five-year investigation. The FBI has refused, citing concerns about possible leaks.

The legislators said any leakers of previous information about the anthrax case inside the FBI or Congress should be punished but that such concerns do not justify keeping information from lawmakers so they could perform their required oversight of the FBI's performance.

The case remains unsolved five years later.

"As an institution, Congress cannot be cut off from detailed information about the conduct of one of the largest investigations in FBI history," the legislators wrote. "That information is vital in order to fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight."

Staff Writer Luis F. Perez contributed to this report.

The Sun-Sentinel
Published December 14, 2006
Howard Goodman - Columnist

Anthrax investigation has no answers, but secrecy abounds

It's still empty. Still desolate.

The former American Media Inc. building is still circled by a sagging chain-link fence. Its parking lot is bare except for fallen palm fronds no one sweeps up.

The "M" in the American Media sign is missing, a sign of abandonment from the raffish tabloid publishing company that long since left for other workplaces.

A yellow-and-red plastic canopy hangs over the entry, a moon-colony reminder of the cleanup effort still not finished -- more than five years after a mailed envelope containing grains of anthrax spores landed on the desk of an unlucky photo editor, Bob Stevens.

Cars drive by on Broken Sound Boulevard in Boca Raton. Golfers line up putts on links next door.

You wonder if anyone gives more than a few moments' thought to the moribund site. For five years, it has been standing there with nothing new to tell us.

Stevens died on Oct. 5, 2001. It was less than a month after the Twin Towers fell on 9-11. He was one of five people killed in what stands as the largest biological attack in U.S. history.

The rash of anthrax-laced letters sparked panic up and down the East Coast, and still causes many companies to screen their mail.

All these years later, the case is still unsolved.

Think of all that's happened in the "war on terror" since then:

The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, with its quick victory over the Taliban. And its slide backward, what with the re-emergence of those same fanatics.

Formation of the Department of Homeland Security, with its dubious threat alerts and still-pending port inspections. The expansion of presidential powers over warrantless surveillance and the treatment of enemy combatants.

We've seen the war on terror take a disastrous detour into Iraq, where it's become mired in a mess of our making from which no one sees any good escape.

And on. ... and on ...

But where are the updates on the only clear example of terrorism to hit America since 9-11, whose first victim was claimed in our backyard?

The FBI ain't saying.

This week, 33 members of Congress -- conservatives such as Trent Lott as well as liberals such as Ted Kennedy -- shot off a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, asking him to order the FBI to brief Congress on its anthrax investigation.

This was the sound of frustration boiling over.

Congress is supposed to conduct oversight of federal agencies. Yet the FBI, as if taking a cue from its old nemesis the Mob, is practicing Omerta.

The five-year-old investigation is all too representative of how this administration conducts business. In secret. Giving its reasons as national security.

For all we know, it's simply hiding its ineffectiveness or incompetence.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, in an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 6, said the FBI fears leaks if Congress were brought into its rightful job of overseeing the executive.

Which is rich, considering that it was the FBI that leaked the name of Stephen Hatfield, the scientist who is suing the government for being identified in the case in 2002 as "a person of interest." The label came not just from anonymous FBI agents, but from the very lips of former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

This disdain for the public isn't new. Maureen Stevens, Bob Stevens' widow, has spoken sparingly in the past few years. She last did so in September, saying she has received so little information from the FBI that she has felt forced to get answers through a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit. The suit, like everything else in this case, has gone nowhere.

"What else do I have?" she told reporter Peter Franceschina. "Ask the government for answers? That's not going to happen."

I guess it's just too shameful for the G-Men to have to look the country in the eye and say, "Hey, we've tried and tried, but we don't know who sent the anthrax.

"And by the way, if you know where Osama bin Laden is, give us a call."

Howard Goodman can be reached at hgoodman@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6638.

PoliticalAffairs.Net
("Marxist Thought OnLine")

Bush Developing Illegal Bioterror Weapons for Offensive Use

By Sherwood Ross
12-20-06, 9:05 am

n violation of the U.S. Code and international law, the Bush administration is spending more money (in inflation-adjusted dollars) to develop illegal, offensive germ warfare than the $2-billion spent in World War II on the Manhattan Project to make the atomic bomb.

So says Francis Boyle, the professor of international law who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 enacted by Congress. He states the Pentagon “is now gearing up to fight and ‘win’ biological warfare” pursuant to two Bush national strategy directives adopted “without public knowledge and review” in 2002.

The Pentagon’s Chemical and Biological Defense Program was revised in 2003 to implement those directives, endorsing “first-use” strike of chemical and biological weapons(CBW) in war, says Boyle, who teaches at the University of Illinois, Champaign.

Terming the action “the proverbial smoking gun,” Boyle said the mission of the controversial CBW program “has been altered to permit development of offensive capability in chemical and biological weapons!” (Original italics)

The same directives, Boyle charges in his book “Biowarfare and Terrorism”(Clarity Press), “unconstitutionally usurp and nullify the right and the power of the United States Congress to declare war in gross and blatant violation of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution.”

For fiscal years 2001-04, the Federal government funded $14.5-billion “for ostensibly ‘civilian’ biowarfare-related work alone,” a “truly staggering” sum, Boyle wrote.

Another $5.6-billion was voted for “the deceptively-named ‘Project BioShield,’” under which Homeland Security is stockpiling vaccines and drugs to fight anthrax, smallpox and other bioterror agents, Boyle wrote. Protection of the civilian population is, he said, “one of the fundamental requirements for effectively waging biowarfare.”

The Washington Post reported Dec. 12 both houses of Congress this month passed legislation “considered by many to be an effort to salvage the two-year-old Project BioShield, which has been marked by delays and operational problems.” When President Bush signs it into law, it will allocate $1-billion more over three years for additional research “to pump more money into the private sector sooner.”

“The enormous amounts of money” purportedly dedicated to “civilian defense” that is now “dramatically and increasingly” being spent,” Boyle writes, “betrays this administration’s effort to be able to embark on offensive campaigns using biowarfare.”

By pouring huge sums into university and private sector laboratories, Boyle charged Federal spending has co-opted and diverted the U.S. biotech industry to biowarfare.

According to Rutgers University molecular biologist Richard Ebright, over 300 scientific institutions and 12,000 individuals have access to pathogens suitable for biowarfare and terrorism. Ebright found the number of National Institute of Health grants to research infectious diseases with biowarfare potential shot up from 33 in 1995-2000 to 497.

Academic biowarfare participation involving the abuse of DNA genetic engineering since the late 1980s has become “patently obvious,” Boyle said. “American universities have a long history of willingly permitting their research agendas, researchers, institutes, and laboratories to be co-opted, corrupted, and perverted by the Pentagon and the CIA.”

“These despicable death-scientists were arming the Pentagon with the component units necessary to produce a massive array of DNA genetically engineered biological weapons,” Boyle said.

In a forward to Boyle’s book, Jonathan King, a professor of molecular biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote “the growing bioterror programs represent a significant emerging danger to our own population” and “threatens international relations among nations.”

While such programs “are always called defensive,” King said, “with biological weapons, defensive and offensive programs overlap almost completely.”

Boyle contends the U.S. is “in breach” of both the Biological Weapons and Chemical Weapons conventions and U.S. domestic criminal law. In Feb., 2003, for example, the U.S. granted itself a patent on an illegal long-range biological weapons grenade.

Boyle said other countries grasp the military implications of U.S. germ warfare actions and will respond in kind. “The world will soon witness a de facto biological arms race among the major biotech states under the guise of ‘defense,’ and despite the requirements of the Biological Warfare Convention(BWC).”

“The massive proliferation of biowarfare technology, facilities, as well as trained scientists and technicians all over the United States courtesy of the Neo-Con Bush Jr. administration will render a catastrophic biowarfare or bioterrorist incident or accident a statistical certainty,” Boyle warned.

As far back as September, 2001, according to a report in The New York Times titled, “U.S. Pushes Germ Warfare Limits,” critics were concerned “the research comes close to violating a global 1972 treaty that bans such weapons.” But U.S. officials responded at the time they are more worried about understanding the threat of germ warfare and devising possible defenses.

The 1972 treaty, which the U.S. signed, forbids developing weapons that spread disease, such as anthrax, regarded as “ideal” for germ warfare.

According to an article in the Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel of last Sept. 28, Milton Leitenberg, a veteran arms control advocate at the University of Maryland, said the government was spending billions on germ warfare with almost no analysis of threat. He said claims terrorists will use the weapons have been “deliberately exaggerated.”

In March of the previous year, 750 U.S. biologist signed a letter protesting what they saw as the excessive study of bioterror threats.

The Pentagon has not responded to the charges made by Boyle in this article. 

--Sherwood Ross is a Virginia-based free-lance writer on political and military issues. Contact him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com

BOYLE: FEDS WERE BEHIND ANTHRAX ATTACKS
Thursday, December 21, 2006 - FreeMarketNews.com

The anthrax attacks after 9/11 were both instituted and then covered up by "criminal elements" of the U.S, government, according to at least one international law expert and academic professional.

Internet investigative reporter Steve Watson reports that Dr. Francis A Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois-Champaign, and the man who wrote the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, is convinced that "9/11 was allowed to happen, the war on terror is facilitating the downfall of The Republic, and concentration camps are in place, with U.S. citizens as the targets." He also reportedly declared, during an appearance on the Alex Jones program, that the purpose of the anthrax attack was "to foment a police state by killing off opposition to hardline post-9/11 legislation."

Boyle reminded Jones and his audience that the USA PATRIOT Act had been drafted prior to the September attacks, "and was sitting on [Attorney General John] Ashcroft's desk as of September 10th." He said the anthrax attacks that followed 9/11 were engineered by elements of the government who sought this powertaking over the American people. - ST

Staff Reports - Free-Market News Network

Impending Police State in America
Interview with Professor Francis Boyle

Global Research, December 21, 2006
Infowars.net | December 19, 2006
By Steve Watson 

Esteemed Professor and Law Expert Warns Of Police State

Francis A Boyle says 9/11 was allowed to happen, war on terror is facilitating the downfall of The Republic, concentration camps are in place and US citizens are the targets

Alex Jones was joined on air this week by a leading American professor, practitioner of and expert on international law to discuss his detailed knowledge of the cover up of the 2001 anthrax attacks, which he is adamant were perpetrated by criminal elements of the US government in an attempt to foment a police state by killing off opposition to hardline post 9/11 legislation.

Dr Franics A. Boyle literally helped write the law with regards to terrorism, as he was responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 that was passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress and signed into law by President Bush Snr.

Professor Boyle teaches international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign. He holds a Doctor of Law Magna Cum Laude as well as a Ph.D. in Political Science, both from Harvard University. He has also served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International (1988-1992), and represented Bosnia- Herzegovina at the World Court.

The professor started off by explaining the motivation behind the October 2001 anthrax attacks:

"After the September 11th 2001 Terrorist attacks, the Bush administration tried to ram the USA PATRIOT Act through Congress, that would have, if already had not, set up a police state. And we know for a fact that the PATRIOT Act had already been drafted and was sitting on Ashcroft's desk as of September 10th.

Senators Daschle and Leahy were holding it up because they realised what this would lead to, indeed the first draft of the Patriot Act, they would have suspended the writ of habeas corpus. And all of a sudden out of nowhere come these anthrax attacks. And at the time I myself did not know precisely what was going on, either with respect to September 11th or the anthrax attacks, but then the New York Times revealed that the technology behind the letter to Senator Daschle. A trillion spores per gram, special electro-static treatment.

This is super-weapons grade Anthrax that even the United States government, in its openly proclaimed programs, and we had one before Nixon, had never developed before. So it was obvious to me that this was from a US Government lab, there is no where else you could have gotten that."

Dr Boyle proceeded to call a very high level official in the FBI who deals with terrorism and counter-terrorism, Spike Bowman, whom he had met at a terrorism conference at the University of Michigan Law School.

He told Bowman that the only people that would have the capability to carry out the attacks were people working on US government programs on Anthrax and with access to high level a bio-safety lab. Dr Boyle went through all the names, the contractors and the labs for Anthrax work with the FBI's Bowman. 

Bowman then informed Dr Boyle that the FBI was working with Fort Detrick on the matter, to which he responded that Fort Detrick could really be the main problem.

It was documented at the time that the anthrax strain used was military grade. This was widely reported in 2002 in publications such as the New Scientist.

"Soon after I had informed Bowman of this information, the FBI authorised the destruction of the AMES cultural Anthrax database." The Professor continued.

The destruction of the anthrax culture collection at Ames, IA., from which the Ft. Detrick lab got its pathogens, was blatant destruction of evidence as it meant that there was no way of finding out which strain was sent to who to develop the larger breed of anthrax used in the attacks. The trail of genetic evidence would have led directly back to a secret but officially-sponsored US government biowarfare program that was illegal and criminal.

"Clearly for the FBI to have authorised this was obstruction of justice, a federal crime. That collection should have been preserved and protected as evidence. That's the DNA, the fingerprints right there. It later came out of course that this was AMES strain anthrax that was behind the Daschle and Leahy letter."

At that point Boyle says it became very clear to him that there was a cover up in operation by the FBI. He points out that later on on reading one of David Ray Griffin's books on the 9/11 attacks, he discovered that Agent Bowman was the same FBI agent who sabotaged the FISA warrant for access to Zacarious Moussaoui's computer, which contained information that could have facilitated the prevention of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Later on Bowman was promoted and given a decoration, presumably because he did such a fine job on Moussaoui's computer and also on the anthrax.

So it was to be that the patriot act was rammed through, because the opposition from Leahy and Daschle, whom they had tried to kill, disappeared. Congress and even the House itself officially shut down for the first time in the history of the Republic. The Senate refused to shut down. Dr Boyle commented that he believes this to be one of the biggest political crimes in the history of America.

The professor agreed that actions such as this and legislation such as the Patriot act and the new Military Commissions act are the precursors to a military dictatorship.

"And remember that the first draft of the Patriot act that sat on Ashcroft's desk before 9/11, and also remember that Ashcroft was flying around in a private jet because he was told that there was going to be a terrorist attack with airplanes, so all this had been planned.

They were going to move to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, which is all that really separates us from a police state. And that is what they have done now with respect to enemy combatants."

With regards to 9/11 itself the professor asserted that it is clear Bush, Rice, Tennet, Ashcroft and other Bush Administration officials all knew a terrorist attack was coming and that the attacks were at the very least allowed to go ahead.

"They let it happen because they wanted a war and they wanted a police state, all the elements for a war against Afghanistan were there in place, even the military force in the gulf were there on the scene, there were massive military forces in the gulf, in the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, in the Arabian Ocean before September 11th poised for an attack, whether it was going to be Afghanistan or Iraq would be decided by Bush and the rest of them." 

The professor pointed out that it is now being argued by lawmakers that the 14th amendment does not mean what it has been taken to mean and that under the Military Commissions Act any US citizen can be stripped of their citizenship and thus be labeled an enemy combatant.

"So in other words they are taken the position that in some point in time if they want to, they can unilaterally round up United States native born citizens, as they did for Japanese Americans in World War Two, and stick us into concentration camps. That is correct. They haven't actually yet done it but my guess is that the papers have been drawn up... and we know that the FEMA camps are out there.

So it's clear that the Bush people, I guess they are waiting for some other terrorist attack, another anthrax attack, who knows what, and then they will proceed to invoke these emergency orders."

Dr Boyle believes that the domestic police state is a seen as a must by the neoconservatives who are pushing for dominance in the middle east in order to quell dissent from an American public who, the informed majority of, clearly will not stand for such aggression in their names.

The professor then went on to talk about the sickness of the neoconservative sympathizers who are pushing for the practice of torture to be made legal. Legislators such as John Yu and Professor Goldsmith of Harvard Law School. Dr Boyle believes that there is a move afoot to infiltrate both the legal profession and legal education with opinion and legislature that subverts long established US law. His warning is stark:

"The Nazis did the exact same thing too. They had their lawyers infiltrating law schools. Carl Schmidt was the worst and he was the mentor to Leo Strauss, the founder of the neoconservatives. So the same phenomena that started out in Nazi Germany is happening here and I exaggerate not... we could all be tortured, we could all be treated this way."

Dr Boyle stressed that in order to seek justice over the anthrax attacks it is vital to keep the pressure on Senator Leahy who will apparently be becoming the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy will have subpoena power and investigative power, and if anyone would have motivation to try to get to the bottom of the attacks, it would be him.

Dr Boyle ended by urging readers and listeners to become informed and spread this information. He also admitted that in the Summer of 2004 he was interrogated by an agent with the CIA/FBI joint terrorism task force. The agent tried to recruit Dr Boyle as an informant to provide the FBI with information on his Arab and Muslim clients. When he refused the FBI placed him on all of the government's terrorism watch lists and he now finds it very difficult to travel in and out of the US. 

Infection Diseases Society Of America
Press Release
January 4, 2007

Anthrax attack posed greater potential threat than thought

A new study shows that more people were at risk of anthrax infection in the Oct. 2001 attack on U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle's office than previously known. The research is published in the January 15 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, now available online. On the other hand, the study shows, prompt intervention with antibiotics and vaccination appeared to be highly effective against the disease.

In October of 2001, a letter containing spores of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes the deadly disease anthrax, was opened in Daschle's office at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. Those in or near Daschle's office, judged likely to have been exposed to the spores, received antibiotics or a vaccine, as did others within or outside the building, and no deaths resulted from this act of bioterrorism. According to the new study of the event, however, people in areas assumed to be at minimal risk of exposure showed immune responses suggesting they had been exposed.

The researchers, Denise L. Doolan, PhD, MPH, Daniel A. Freilich, MD, and coworkers of the Naval Medical Research Center, Silver Spring, MD, and elsewhere, prospectively studied clinical outcomes and immune responses in 123 subjects including 83 people who were nearby when the letter containing the anthrax spores was opened; 20 who were outside the building and presumed to be unexposed; and, for comparison, six individuals vaccinated against B. anthracis, two confirmed to have had anthrax, and 12 with no known B. anthracis exposure.

The results: Immune responses occurred not only in subjects in or near the Daschle office but also in those elsewhere in the Hart building, or even outside the building; the extent of exposure was thus greater than predicted. No associations were seen between exposure levels and immune responses or symptoms, but the most-exposed subjects were the only ones to have high-magnitude responses. Low-level exposure did not appear to trigger an antibody response, but did induce a response by cells of the immune system, Intermediate exposure induced both. Finally, cellular immune responses declined with post-exposure use of antibiotics, suggesting that the intervention impeded spore germination and implying that it may reduce the incidence of both subclinical and clinical B. anthracis infection.

In an accompanying editorial, James L. Hadler, MD, MPH, of the Infectious Diseases Section of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, commented that the study by Doolan and coworkers is "one of the few studies of the immune response to high-level, naturally occurring anthrax exposure in humans, and may be the first to describe cell-mediated responses to this pathogen." Dr. Hadler said that the study's data suggest that cell-mediated responses in B. anthracis infection may be more sensitive than antibody responses, and he recommended that future studies of anthrax vaccines investigate cellular immunity's role in inhibiting the pathogen.

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Founded in 1904, The Journal of Infectious Diseases is the premier publication in the Western Hemisphere for original research on the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment of infectious diseases; on the microbes that cause them; and on disorders of host immune mechanisms. Articles in JID include research results from microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, and related disciplines. JID is published under the auspices of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Based in Alexandria, Va., IDSA is a professional society representing 8,300 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases. For more information, visit www.idsociety.org.

Study: People outside Senate office infected with anthrax
Posted 1/8/2007 8:22 PM ET

By Steve Sternberg, USA TODAY

A Navy-led analysis of the anthrax attack on Sen. Tom Daschle's office in October 2001 has uncovered evidence that anthrax spores released in the Hart Senate Office Building infected people outside the building.

The researchers could not pinpoint where the four exposed people worked or where they encountered the airborne spores. They apparently fought off infection without getting sick, but they turned up in a group of 20 people who were "outside the building and presumed to be unexposed," says the study in the Jan. 15 Journal of Infectious Diseases.

"We couldn't believe it," says Navy Cmdr. Daniel Freilich, one of the study's authors.

Samples from people who were exposed and from those outside the building were collected during the initial investigation, when epidemic investigators collected 6,000 swabs from noses and throats of people in and near the Hart Building and tested them for anthrax. The investigators also collected blood from people who were known to have been exposed and from people serving as controls.

The surprise finding supports previous analyses indicating that the spores were engineered to float long distances in the air. Environmental samples revealed that spores penetrated so far into the Hart Building that the structure had to be fumigated.

The study's objective was to examine how the body's defenses respond to inhaled anthrax. Researchers focused on 124 people inside and outside the Hart "exposure zone." Two subjects had been vaccinated against anthrax before the attacks. All those with known or presumed exposure were vaccinated and given antibiotics.

Researchers found for the first time that anthrax exposure activates both major arms of the immune system. It unleashes biological antibodies to the anthrax bacteria's two deadly toxins and activates killer white blood cells that wipe out infected cells.

The presence of white blood cells in samples taken from those far from the exposure zone tipped researchers off that people outside the Hart Building were infected. The finding suggests that, in future attacks, these cells may help identify infected people and map the exposure zone, Freilich says.

Stephen Morse of the Center for Public Health Preparedness at Columbia University says the paradox that those outside the Hart Building were infected by anthrax but didn't get sick suggests that if you're young and healthy, "you might be able to get a few spores, get an immune response that's protective and survive."

Morse, who wasn't involved in the study, says it "reopens a critical question: How big a dose is necessary to cause disease?"

An encouraging finding is that anthrax vaccine, designed to protect against one of two toxins that make anthrax lethal, boosts immunity to both in people who are injected after they've been exposed.

"If you give antibiotics and vaccine early on, no matter how high the exposure, it looks like people generally will do fine," Freilich says.

Judge dismisses New York Times libel lawsuit
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

*      A federal judge in Virginia granted summary judgment in a lawsuit against The New York Times brought by Steven Hatfill, once named a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax mailings.

Jan. 16, 2007  ·   For the second time, a federal judge has dismissed a libel lawsuit against The New York Times brought by a former Army scientist who claimed columnist Nicholas Kristof defamed him in columns about the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks.

U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton in Alexandria, Va., issued the order on Friday and is expected to provide a detailed written opinion.

The Times sought summary judgment last month, arguing Steven Hatfill should be considered a public figure because he inserted himself into the bioterrorism debate by giving interviews to the media before Kristof's 2002 columns.

As a public figure, Kristof would have to meet a higher burden of proof than if he was considered a private citizen, as his attorneys argued he was.

Kristof's columns cited anonymous sources who said Hatfill was likely culprit in the anthrax mailings. Kristof referred to Hatfill only as "Mr. Z" until Hatfill gave a press conference denying he was involved in the anthrax mailings, which killed five people. No one has been charged in the attacks.

The same judge had dismissed Hatfill's libel lawsuit in 2004, but it was reinstated following a 2-1 decision by a panel of judges from the federal appeals court in Richmond (4th Cir.). The full appeals court split 6-6 on whether to review the case, letting the panel's decision stand, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case in March.

Attorney Lee Levine, who represents the Times, said the newspaper is pleased with the Hilton's decision and optimistic that it will stand if there is an appeal.

"It's entirely different issues, so I don't think that what happened the last time is a predictor one way or the other of what would happen on appeal this time," Levine said. "I think we made a pretty strong showing and obviously the district judge agreed with that, so we're feeling optimistic about the appeal."

In October, a federal magistrate judge ordered the Times to reveal Kristof's confidential sources. When the newspaper refused, Judge Liam O'Grady said the Times could not use information from the sources in its defense.

Hilton did not rule on a motion the Times made in December to have the case dismissed under the state secrets privilege, which allows for the withholding of information that could endanger national security.

Defamation lawsuits have been dismissed because of the state secrets privilege, but such motions are typically filed by the government. In the Hatfill case, several government agencies refused to provide information to the Times, saying the investigation into the anthrax attacks is still open, Levine said.

The newspaper also tried to question Hatfill's former employer, Science Applications International Corporation, but the company refused to provide information on classified government contracts, Levine said. When the Times tried to compel the contractor's testimony, O'Grady denied the request, saying it would be futile because the information was clearly classified.

Levine said the Times argued that "as a practical matter, the magistrate had held state secrets privilege had been invoked, although it hadn't been invoked in the normal way, by the government intervening and invoking it."

However, Hilton's decision to dismiss the case came before the state secrets issue had been fully discussed.

Hatfill has also filed a lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other government officials, claiming they violated the federal Privacy Act by revealing information about him to the press.

(Hatfill v. The New York Times, Media Counsel: Jay Ward Brown, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz LLP, Washington, D.C.) -- RG 

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