From The Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy
Posted by Steven Aftergood on January 22, 2007 11:16 AM
The State Secrets Doctrine and the Hatfill Case
In an unusual legal maneuver, the New York Times invoked the "state secrets" doctrine last month in a motion to dismiss the libel suit brought against it by Steven J. Hatfill, the former Army scientist who said he was erroneously linked by the Times to the 2001 anthrax attacks.
The case was dismissed on January 12, 2007 on other grounds (to be spelled out in an opinion that has not yet been published).
But in a sealed motion (pdf) on December 29, the New York Times argued that the classification restrictions imposed on the case were tantamount to an assertion of the state secrets privilege. Times attorneys cited the case law on state secrets to support their argument that the case should be dismissed.
The "state secrets" doctrine, they said, "precludes a case from proceeding to trial when national security precludes a party from obtaining evidence that is... necessary to support a valid defense. Dismissal is warranted in this case because the Times has been denied access to such evidence, specifically documents and testimony concerning the work done by plaintiff [Hatfill] on classified government projects relating to bioweapons, including anthrax."
"It would be manifestly unjust and improper to require the Times to defend against the claims being advanced by Steven Hatfill without affording it access to critical information concerning his own activities that could serve to defeat those claims."
"The government has not formally intervened in this case to assert the [state secrets] privilege, as it has typically done in analogous cases," the Times acknowledged in an accompanying memorandum of law (pdf).
"Nevertheless, ... it is now evident that the government has in fact invoked the privilege through ex parte evidentiary submissions by DOD, the Department of Justice and the CIA establishing that information concerning projects worked on by plaintiff and his colleagues were properly 'classified'," the Times' attorneys claimed.
A redacted copy of the December 29 New York Times Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant's Motion for an Order Dismissing the Complaint Under the "State Secrets" Doctrine was obtained by Secrecy News.
Attorneys for Dr. Hatfill filed a sealed response on January 12 in opposition to the motion for dismissal on state secrets grounds. A redacted copy of their opposition was not immediately available.
New York anthrax victim to thank doctors in Pa. dance performance
January 29, 2007, 8:31 PM EST
SAYRE, Pa. (AP) _ A New York dancer and drum maker who made a remarkable recovery from a rare and usually fatal form of anthrax is returning to Pennsylvania to give a thank you performance for people who saved his life.
Vado Diomande, an Ivory Coast native who lives in New York, last year contracted the first case of naturally occurring inhalation anthrax in the United States since 1976. He collapsed during a performance at Mansfield University in north-central Pennsylvania and was treated at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre.
He and his dance company, Kotchegna, will perform traditional African music, drumming and dancing on Feb. 12 at the Sayre Theatre.
Diomande and health officials believe he contracted the disease while working with a large animal hide to make drums.
Diomande, who lost 45 to 50 pounds during his ordeal, had to be placed on a ventilator and underwent multiple surgeries to drain fluid from around his lungs. His doctors said that his physical fitness and good health played a key role in his survival.
Inhaled anthrax is the deadliest form of the disease, with a fatality rate of about 75 percent even when antibiotics are given, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Posted by Steven Aftergood on January 30, 2007 11:44 AM
More on State Secrets and the Hatfill Case
Attorneys for former government scientist Steven J. Hatfill, who is suing the New York Times for linking him to the 2001 anthrax attacks, filed a vigorous rebuttal (pdf) earlier this month against a Times argument that the "state secrets" doctrine should dictate dismissal of the lawsuit.
The Hatfill rebuttal was filed in sealed form on January 12. On the same day, however, the Court dismissed the case for unrelated reasons that have not yet been published.
In a December 12 motion, the New York Times had argued that classification restrictions imposed on government witnesses were equivalent to an assertion of the state secrets privilege and that the case should be dismissed on that basis, since the restrictions limited the Times' ability to obtain the information needed for its defense.
That's nonsense, said Dr. Hatfill's attorneys.
"For one thing, a court may not even consider dismissal of a case on "state secret" grounds until after a department head of a government agency invokes that doctrine, something that has never occurred here," they wrote.
"And the notion that the inability of The Times to obtain any of this imagined evidence should relieve The Times of the burden of defending itself based on what it actually knew when it ruined Dr. Hatfill's life is nothing short of offensive."
Since the case has now been dismissed, it is unlikely that the Court will resolve the dispute over the applicability of the "state secrets" doctrine. But the sealed opposition from Dr. Hatfill's attorneys has just been released in redacted form.
|The New York Sun
Judge Gives Rationale for Tossing Hatfill Suit Against Times
By JOSH GERSTEIN
A former Army scientist's work and his public advocacy for bioterrorism defense led to the dismissal of his libel suit charging the New York Times with publishing columns unfairly linking him to the 2001 anthrax attacks.
In a 28-page opinion released yesterday, Judge Claude Hilton of Alexandria, Va., concluded that the scientist, Steven Hatfill, was a public official and a public figure. Those findings set a high bar for Mr. Hatfill's suit, requiring him to present evidence that the author of the columns, Nicholas Kristof, knew that the columns were false or had strong reason to think they were untrue. Judge Hilton said he dismissed the case last month before trial because there was no way Mr. Hatfill could make such a showing.
"Plaintiff was a vocal critic of the government's level of preparedness for a bioterrorist attack. His lectures, writings, participation on panel, and interviews, as well as his own resume, led many to consider Plaintiff an expert in the field of biological weaponry," Judge Hilton wrote. "Plaintiff should have foreseen that by providing interviews, delivering lectures, and publishing articles on the subject of the bioterrorism threat, a public interest in him would arise."
Judge Hilton's opinion offers no criticism of Mr. Kristof and suggests that he acted responsibly in preparing the columns. "The evidence in the record demonstrates that Mr. Kristof did not believe that any of his statements were false," the judge wrote, adding that the Times "made efforts to avoid implicating" Mr. Hatfill.
" Mr. Kristof reminded readers to assume Plaintiff's innocence, and highlighted the fact that Plaintiff was viewed by his family and friends as a patriot who could not have perpetrated the crime in question," Judge Hilton wrote.
An attorney for Mr. Hatfill, Thomas Connolly, vowed an appeal. "The opinion is more or less what we expected, given the judge's earlier statements," the lawyer said. "We expect to prevail on appeal like we've done before."
It was the second time that Judge Hilton has thrown out Mr. Hatfill's suit. In 2004, the judge dismissed the case after finding that the Times columns accurately described the federal investigation and did not accuse Mr. Hatfill of responsibility for the anthrax attacks. A federal appeals court overturned that decision, holding that a jury could find that the columns implied the scientist's guilt.
Mr. Connolly said there was evidence that Mr. Kristof knew that his reporting was unreliable. "There enough evidence on the record demonstrating the falsity of the statements to permit this to go to trial with a jury," the attorney said. Only one of the six columns in question mentioned Mr. Hatfill by name, and that was after the Justice Department identified him as a person of interest in the probe. The other five columns referred to him as "Mr. Z," though Mr. Hatfill contends his associates knew he was the one being discussed.
The columns, published in 2002, faulted the FBI for failing to investigate Mr. Z adequately in connection with mailing of anthrax to various news outlets. Five deaths were attributed to the tainted mailings. FBI investigators searched Mr. Hatfill's home and a storage locker, but neither he nor anyone else has been charged in the five-year-old case.
Judge explains dismissal of anthrax libel case against NY Times
February 2, 2007, 7:57 AM EST
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ A New York Times columnist did not act with malice when writing about whether a former Army scientist was responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks, a federal judge wrote in explaining his decision to dismiss a lawsuit against the paper.
Nicholas D. Kristof "reminded readers to assume plaintiff's innocence, and highlighted the fact that plaintiff was viewed by his family and friends as a patriot who could not have perpetrated the crime in question," according to the opinion by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
The lawsuit, filed by Steven J. Hatfill against the paper in 2004, was dismissed last month. The opinion explaining the judge's reasoning was released this week.
Hilton wrote that although Kristof's columns identified Hatfill as a "likely culprit" in the deadly anthrax mailings, the columnist "made efforts to avoid implicating his guilt."
Five people were killed and 17 sickened when anthrax was mailed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the news media in New York and Florida just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In the suit, Hatfill claimed that a series of New York Times columns falsely implicated him as the culprit in the case. Authorities have identified Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the mailings, but no one has been charged.
Kristof told The Washington Post in a story for Friday's editions that it was "terrific to have a judgment that protects journalism at a time when the press has had a fair number of rulings against it." He said he has spent hundreds of hours fighting the lawsuit.
Mark A. Grannis, an attorney for Hatfill, said the judge's opinion "is more or less what we expected, given the judge's earlier statements." He said Hatfill will appeal and "expects to prevail."
Kristof has said he never intended to accuse Hatfill but simply wanted to prod what he saw as a dawdling FBI investigation.
He initially referred to Hatfill in his columns only as "Mr. Z," and identified him by name only after Hatfill held a news conference to denounce rumors that had been swirling around him.
Hilton first threw out the case in 2004, ruling that Kristof accurately reported that the scientist was a focus of the FBI probe.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reinstated the suit in 2005 and said Kristof's columns could be read as blaming Hatfill for the attacks.
on Thu, Feb. 08, 2007
Building is free of anthrax, but mystery remains
A quarantine in the Boca Raton building contaminated by deadly anthrax is set to be lifted. But the mystery may never be solved -- who contaminated it and why?
BY TRENTON DANIEL
The letter addressed to Jennifer Lopez, containing a Star of David and a bluish powder, arrived in the mailroom of The Sun newspaper in Boca Raton on Sept. 19, 2001.
Several people handled it, including photo editor Robert Stevens. Within weeks, Stevens, 63, was dead, two others infected and more than 1,000 employees -- ordered to take antibiotics for weeks -- were in panic.
The scare heightened U.S. concern over bioterrorism and turned a medical mystery into a federal criminal investigation. Powder hysteria raged across South Florida, as almost every suspicious speck became cause for alarm.
The best criminal minds in the nation have been unable to solve the mystery of who sent the letter and why.
Now, almost 5 ½ years later, the Boca Raton building where it all started has been cleared to open.
The headquarters of American Media, publisher of The Sun and other supermarket tabloids including The National Enquirer and The Globe, is expected to reopen next week.
The beige three-story building, at 5401 Broken Sound Blvd., was quarantined since the anthrax was discovered. But federal environmental experts concluded last month the building has been cleared of the deadly spores. The agency's final report was given to the Palm Beach County Department of Health on Monday.
Today, the building looms almost without notice behind a chain link fence, based in a commerce park just off Yamato Road. The surrounding lawn is freshly mowed, but years of shrubs and leaves have collected at the fence gate. A red-and-yellow striped tarp covers the main entrance.
AMI has another office now in Boca Raton. A spokesman for the company referred questions to the FBI.
Since that jittery autumn, a debate has raged over who would clean up the building, resulting in the prolonged shutdown. Private contractor MARCOR Remediation of Downingtown, Pa., eventually was brought in to fumigate.
It's unclear what the owner plans to do with the 68,000-square-foot building, a haunting reminder of one of the most frightening times in our country's recent history.
In addition to Stevens, five others died from anthrax spores, from Florida to Connecticut, and 16 fell ill.
While a sense of uncertainty still seems to cling to the shuttered building, one anthrax victim views the space as an opportunity.
''I think it will be a good deal for the people who buy it,'' said Ernesto Blanco, 79, a mailroom worker who survived anthrax inhalation. ``It's a nice building. It has a golf course and a view.''
David Rustine, who bought the Boca Raton property for $40,000 in 2003, couldn't be reached for comment.
In a case that has since grown cold, investigators have never found the AMI letter -- or letters -- suspected of contaminating the building, killing Stevens, infecting Blanco and leaving an anthrax spore in the nasal passages of a third employee, who also worked in the mailroom.
Stevens was the first person in 75 years to die of anthrax inhalation in the United States.
The next chapter in the anthrax mystery is likely to begin next week when Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, reviews the final report, said Tim O'Connor, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County Health Department.
Malecki is expected to consult with state and federal health department officials before signing off on the removal of the quarantine, O'Connor said.
The final report, by a team of federal experts including Environmental Protection Agency workers, does note one caveat and a few recommendations.
Because of limited sampling and analysis, there isn't ''an absolute guarantee'' that every possible anthrax spore has been destroyed in the building, according to the report summary.
Nevertheless, federal experts concluded that ``the building can be safely reoccupied, normal working activities resume and building contents be reused.''
Federal experts also recommend that the owner work with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration before doing any refurbishing.
AMI building declared free of anthrax contamination
By Gretel Sarmiento
Thursday, February 08, 2007
WEST PALM BEACH — Federal environmental experts have concluded that the former American Media Inc. building in Boca Raton has been cleared of the anthrax spores that killed a photo editor more than five years ago and shuttered the tabloid publisher's headquarters.
The 160-page report was sent to Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department. She will review it and decide by next week whether the building, which she ordered closed on Oct. 10, 2001, can reopen.
Malecki did not indicate Wednesday what her decision would be, but her reaction after getting the positive assessment was clear.
"It was a relief," she said. "It's been five years of my life. But it will be over soon, I guarantee it."
The report's conclusion: "In summary, based in the information available, the technical working group concludes that the measures used to treat and remove B. anthracis at the former AMI building at 5401 Broken Sound Blvd. were successful.
"The technical working group believes that the building can be safely reoccupied, normal working activities resumed, and building contents reused."
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Public Health Service, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency reviewed the data.
News of the report brought back memories to Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams.
"It's really been an odyssey," Abrams said Wednesday. "This is a significant step closer to having it reopen."
Barely six months into his first term as mayor, Abrams found himself working around the clock and meeting with federal officials to deal with "the crisis."
"All of the networks were running a picture of the building 24 hours with the dateline of Boca Raton underneath it. None of this was in my playbook," Abrams said. "But we responded to the contamination and started to rebuild the image of Boca."
The AMI attack came just days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had shaken the nation's sense of security. For many, seeing planes fly into buildings was horrifying enough, but the idea that a letter in their mailbox could kill them shook them to their core.
Sun photo editor Bob Stevens' death on Oct. 5, 2001, forced parent AMI to shut down its multimillion-dollar building. Stevens co-worker Ernie Blanco was nearly killed after anthrax exposure. He now lives in West Palm Beach. Stevens lived in suburban Lantana
The U.S. Postal Service was nearly crippled by the discovery of anthrax in the mail. Police responded to scores of frantic calls, most of which turned out to be cases of sugar or baby powder.
Three lawsuits stemming from the attack are still active, including one by Stevens' widow against the federal government and another by Greg Mathieson of AMI Photo News Agency against AMI over 1,400 photos and negatives he never got back.
They were among the millions of tabloid staples stored in boxes in the basement, including photos of Bigfoot, celebrities caught in compromising positions and even the photo of Elvis in his coffin.
Former Boca Raton City Councilman Dave Freudenberg on Wednesday said he believed all along the building was clean of anthrax since the first cleanup efforts were performed in 2004 by fumigation company BioONE.
"If they told me I would have no problem walking in," Freudenberg said, "I would go right now."
Freudenberg, who was on the city council in 2001, blames bureaucracy for the delay in reopening the building.
"I was there when it all started," he said. "Now it's time we put this chapter in the city history behind us and we forget what that building did."
BioONE, a fumigation company associated with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, fumigated the three-story facility with chlorine dioxide in July 2004. But the building remained closed when BioONE refused to release the cleanup data, claiming the building's owner, David Rustine, did not renew its contract or pay for the fumigation efforts.
Rustine, who paid only $40,000 for a contaminated building worth $3.8 million, hired MARCOR Remediation to finish cleaning the boxes of AMI materials in 2005. This past November, MARCOR began the final cleanup and sampling to ensure all spores had been killed.
Samples were kept inside sealed boxes and sent to a laboratory in Houston that reported that all were negative for anthrax.
After reviewing the data, the federal advisory group submitted its conclusion to Malecki, the county health department chief.
"These negative results, particularly after the thousands of previous negative results for spore strips, wipe samples and air tests in the building, reinforces that all criteria for removing the quarantine and opening the building have been met," the report said.
The fate of the building now rests in Malecki's hands.
If the building reopens, some say it won't take much to get it back on track.
"It was a terrible tragedy what happened there, and people will remember that, but time heals all wounds," said Troy McLellan, Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. "It will make a great corporate headquarters."
Like McLellan, Abrams is looking to the future.
"It could be a very productive office building - that's what we are looking forward to," he said. "It would close the book - not just the chapters, the whole book."
Sept. 19, 2001: Eight days after the Sept. 11 attacks, tabloid photo editor Bob Stevens opens a letter in his AMI office and a white powder spills out.
Oct. 5: Stevens dies of what authorities later determine is anthrax poisoning.
Oct. 10: Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, signs a quarantine order for the AMI building and closes it.
Oct. 17: At least 28 people working in the U.S. Capitol test positive for anthrax exposure.
January 2002: Hart Senate Office Building reopens after the federal government spends $27 million to decontaminate it.
April 2003: Real estate investor David Rustine buys the AMI building for $40,000, a fraction of its $3.8 million value.
Sept. 24: Stevens' widow, Maureen, sues the federal government over his death.
July 12, 2004: BioONE, a joint venture between former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Saber Technical Services, decontaminates the former AMI building and plans to use it as its headquarters.
April 14, 2005: BioONE begins decontaminating anthrax-laden boxes at the former AMI building.
April 18: U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley refuses to dismiss Maureen Stevens' lawsuit. The federal government appeals to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal in Atlanta. A decision is pending.
May 31: Rustine declines to extend BioONE's contract to clean up boxes stored at the former AMI building.
June 9: BioONE announces suspension of the cleanup.
July: Rustine hires MARCOR Remediation Inc. to reclean thousands of boxes already fumigated by BioONE.
Week of Dec. 19: All anthrax-laden boxes are decontaminated.
May 2006: MARCOR returns to the site to collect post-decontamination samples.
November: MARCOR starts final round of fumigation and testing.
December: Samples are analyzed by Microbiology Specialists Inc., and the results are turned over to a federal advisory panel.
Wednesday: The panel reports that the former AMI is clear of anthrax.
Compiled by staff researcher Krista Pegnetter and staff writers Gretel Sarmiento and Eliot Kleinberg
of life return to Boca Raton anthrax building
Survivor back in former tabloid HQ for first time since attack
By Luis F. Perez
Boca Raton · The last time Ernesto Blanco left the old American Media Inc. building, he ended up in the hospital fighting off anthrax.
Five-and-a-half years later, he came back.
On Wednesday, Blanco visited the place where he sorted and delivered mail for 12 years before a microscopic toxin shut it down.
He walked into a building void of familiar markers. The walls are bare. Chairs and desks are empty, except for the occasional monitor, printer or fax machine. Clocks are stopped at odd hours.
But after years of wrangling, crews are bringing life back to the former AMI headquarters. It's the last building in the country to be cleared of a poison delivered through the mail in 2001. The anthrax attacks killed a beloved photo editor for the publisher of supermarket tabloids such as the National Enquirer and Star and four other people across the country.
At a news conference today, Vero Beach developer David Rustine, who owns the building, plans to announce a new name for the building and a scholarship in memory of Bob Stevens, who died of anthrax. Over two days this week, he gave the South Florida Sun-Sentinel tours and interviews.
In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, anthrax arrived at 5401 Broken Sound Blvd. in the Arvida Park of Commerce, federal offices in Washington, D.C., and other media offices in New York City, putting the nation's nerves on edge. Blanco was one of 17 people who got sick from anthrax, a toxin that led public health officials to put thousands of others on antibiotics and to close the building.
Rustine, owner of Crown Cos., of Boca Raton and Vero Beach, bought the building and all its contents for $40,000 in April 2003. He and his wife, Rebecca, thought it would take maybe a year to decontaminate it, they said. But a lawsuit, a contract dispute and government requirements stalled the project several times.
Rebecca Rustine wondered why her husband would even consider paying for an uninhabitable building. "I couldn't fathom buying something like this without going in," she said.
Walking into it for the first time last week they were surprised.
"I was just ecstatic at the condition of the building," David Rustine said.
Although Rustine kept the power on, much of the building was dark when he walked in because thousands of light bulbs burned out. They found computers humming and their battery packs incessantly beeping. Security cameras and monitors were still on. The intercom system worked. An ornate floor-to-ceiling mural of a city streetscape outside the third-floor elevators remained unscathed.
On Tuesday, workmen painted, cleaned and landscaped. It reeked of Murphy's Oil Soap as crews polished the woodwork. The building looks well-preserved, but the empty offices, chairs and desks give it a sense of vast emptiness.
A red marker on a white board showed a lineup of planned topics for supermarket mini-magazines. The board read: "Fat Burning Foods. Think Yourself Well. Where Jesus Walked." Three clocks on one wall stopped with no way of telling if it was morning or night: 6:55, 4:30 and 2:08.
Restarting the clocks could be the easiest part of the restoration ahead. The Rustines have to learn how all of the building's systems work.
David Rustine hopes to talk to the last building manager, even if it's just to locate the circuit breakers.
"Did you see these over here, David?" Rebecca hollered across a roomful of cubicles, holding a rack of keys. "I just found these."
It's like piecing together a puzzle of a three-story, 67,500-square-foot building.
Metal shelving in the mailroom still had many names marking them -- some of them well known, like David Pecker, AMI's chief executive officer; others less so, like Nancy Miller, Mike Walker and Rose Clark.
Blanco, 79, of West Palm Beach, still works for American Media at its new headquarters a few blocks away. He said many of his co-workers want to know about personal belongings left behind. Family pictures, mementos and office files were put in thousands of boxes, decontaminated and buried. However, the Rustines kept hundreds of boxes with the irreplaceable photo archive that once belonged to AMI.
The Rustines have just started looking through those, because their focus has been on opening the building, they said. On Wednesday, they showed a few examples of photos that were saved, including a 1934 shot of Bing Crosby with the Boswell Sisters. The Rustines said they don't know what they'll do with the entire collection, just yet.
Before entering the building, a stoic Blanco said his wife worried about him going where he fell ill. "But I told her don't worry about it," he said.
He darted to the first-floor mailroom, but opened the wrong door at first.
Finding the right entrance, he said: "This is my place," showing the spot where he sat at a desk. He went to the second-floor area where Stevens worked.
"He was a fun guy," Blanco said, remembering a running joke they had about Friday afternoon cervezas, or beer.
Luis F. Perez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6641.
building officially reopens, to be renamed Crown Commerce Center
By Gretel Sarmiento
Thursday, February 22, 2007
BOCA RATON — Owner David Rustine opened the doors of the reportedly anthrax-free AMI building today, saying he will change the name to Crown Commerce Center and headquarter his real estate business there.
He cleared off a chain, took down the white biohazrd sign and he and wife stepped on it.
"Today we can say this is one of the safest and healthiest buildings in America, Rustine said. "It's 100 percent recovered."
He and his wife led community leaders and former employees into the building where for more than five years only crews in hazardous materials suits were allowed to clean and test the former home of the National Enquirer, The Star and other tabloids.
At 10:40 a.m., Rustine officially liberated the 67,200 square-foot, three-story building, hoping to free it as well from a past and memories associated with drama and death.
"Every square inch of the this building has been cleaned. We found zero, zero spores," said Rustine, who purchased it in April 2003.
Following him inside the building were his wife, Dr. Rebecca Rustine, Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams and former mailroom attendant Ernesto Blanco, who survived an anthrax infection.
"The owner is willing to have his office here, and I'm willing to walk in," Abrams said. "There's nothing more comfortable to know."
The building at 5401 Broken Sound Blvd, whose notoriety from the anthrax attacks rivaled its fame as headquarters to some of the most popluar tabloids, had gone through a multimillion-dollar renovation when a envelope containing anthrax found its way to photo editor Bob Stevens - eight days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Stevens died weeks later.
Immediately afterward, Palm Beach County Health Department issued a quarantine order to protect the public's health and began screening AMI employees and medicating them and many in the community with whom they had come in contact to prevent further anthrax infections.
Only fumigation companies BioONE and MARCOR Remediation were allowed into the building.
Several lawsuits, cleanup attempts and lab tests later, some good news came when a panel of federal health agencies concluded the building was safe and clean.
The agencies submitted their opinion earlier this month to Jean Malecki, health department's director, who last week lifted the quarantine on the building.
With the reopening, Rustine put in motion the plan he had intended for the building when he bought it almost four years ago.
He also established a photojournalism scholarship to Florida Atlantic University in Stevens' name.
Hatfill Settles $10M Libel Lawsuit
By JOSH GERSTEIN
A former Army scientist named by investigators as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks, Dr. Steven Hatfill, has settled his $10 million libel suit against Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest after the two magazines agreed to retract any implication that the bioweapons specialist was behind the deadly anthrax mailings.
A statement issued today by a lawyer for Dr. Hatfill, Hassan Zavareei, said the case "has now been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all the parties." He did not indicate whether any money changed hands.
A spokeswoman for Reader's Digest, Ellen Morgenstern, confirmed the settlement, but she would not elaborate. "All I can tell you is we're very satisfied with the results. I can't get into any detail," she said. A call seeking comment from Vanity Fair's parent company, Condé Nast Publications, was not immediately returned.
Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit claimed that he was defamed in an article written in 2003 by an English professor at Vassar College, Donald Foster. Mr. Foster's assessment, first published in Vanity Fair and later carried in abridged form in Reader's Digest, analyzed Dr. Hatfill's writings and travels and found them consistent with patterns seen in the 2001 anthrax attacks, as well as prior hoaxes and suspicious incidents.
"When I lined up Hatfill's known movements with the postmark locations of reported biothreats, those hoax anthrax attacks appeared to trail him like a vapor cloud," Mr. Foster wrote.
Dr. Hatfill has vehemently denied involvement in the anthrax mailings, which killed at least five people and led to the closure of a Senate office building for three months.
The quasi-retractions issued by the two publishing companies and Mr. Foster suggested that readers were mistaken if they took the articles as accusing Dr. Hatfill of the anthrax mailings. "Neither Condé Nast Publications nor the article's author intended to imply that they had concluded that Steven J. Hatfill, M.D., perpetrated the anthrax attacks that occurred in the United States in the fall of 2001. To the extent any statements contained in the article might be read to convey that Condé Nast and Prof. Foster were accusing Dr. Hatfill of perpetrating these attacks, Condé Nast and Prof. Foster retract any such implication," the statement said. The statement from Reader's Digest was essentially identical.
Last month, a federal judge in Virginia threw out a separate libel lawsuit Dr. Hatfill filed against the New York Times over a series of columns about the anthrax case. Judge Claude Hilton said Dr. Hatfill was a public figure and that there was insufficient evidence that the Times printed the columns knowing or strongly suspecting that they were false. Dr. Hatfill has appealed.
It seems doubtful that the settlement announced yesterday delivered much, if any, money to Dr. Hatfill. Judge Hilton's decision could have undermined the case against Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest, which was already in some difficulty. Last year, the lawyers representing the scientist in the Times case and another case against the federal government withdrew from the case against the two magazines. Even before those blows, the case against the magazines was probably of less value than those against the Times and the government because Mr. Foster's article did not appear until after Mr. Hatfill's reputation was already damaged by press accounts and the Justice Department's identification of him as a "person of interest" in the probe.
Dr. Hatfill's suit against Vanity Fair, Reader's Digest, and Mr. Foster was filed in Virginia in August 2004, and later transferred to New York at the request of the publications. Mr. Foster's employer, Vassar, was named as a defendant early in the litigation but was subsequently dismissed from the case.
of interest' in '01 anthrax attacks settles defamation case
By Timothy O'Connor
WHITE PLAINS - The only person publicly named a "person of interest" in the wave of anthrax letter attacks in 2001 has settled his defamation lawsuit against the publishers of magazine articles that seemed to point to him as the culprit.
Dr. Steven Hatfill, a former Army biodefense scientist, filed a federal lawsuit after Vanity Fair printed an article in October 2003 by Vassar College professor Donald Foster about the investigation into the anthrax attacks that killed five people. Reader's Digest printed a condensed version of the article in December 2003.
Hatfill's $10 million defamation lawsuit named as defendants Foster, Vanity Fair, its parent company Conde Nast, and the Reader's Digest Association, which is based in Chappaqua. The case, originally filed in Virginia, was moved to U.S. District Court in White Plains.
The case had been in mediation and has now been settled.
"Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit has now been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties," Hatfill's lawyer, Hassan Zavareei, said in a statement yesterday. Details of the settlement were not revealed.
In the article, "Tracking the Anthrax Killer," Foster, a practitioner of what is called "literary forensics," focused on Hatfill as a possible suspect in the attacks. Foster is most famous for having unmasked Newsweek columnist Joe Klein as the author of anonymously written political novel "Primary Colors" in 1996. In the anthrax article, he wrote that he first called the FBI about Hatfill in early 2002, months before then-Attorney General John Ashcroft publicly identified Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the case.
"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," he wrote.
But in a statement announcing the settlement, Foster and Conde Nast said they never intended to accuse Hatfill.
"To the extent any statements contained in the article might be read to convey that Conde Nast and Professor Foster were accusing Dr. Hatfill of perpetrating these attacks, Conde Nast and Professor Foster retract any such implication," the statement read.
Reader's Digest issued a similar statement. Hatfill's purported connection to the anthrax case spawned two other lawsuits. A federal judge in Virginia recently dismissed Hatfill's lawsuit against The New York Times for the second time. Hatfill also has a lawsuit pending in federal court in Washington against Ashcroft.
Deadly anthrax mystery still at an official dead end
Thursday, March 01, 2007
As most will recall, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America were only part of the horror inflicted on the psyche and people of the United States in late 2001.
The other scare involved the mailing of a virulent biological weapon, anthrax, to public officials in several states and also to members of Congress, including then-minority leader U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. Also targeted were members of the news media.
Five people died either directly or indirectly during that horrendous crime spree. However, no one since has been arrested or even charged with these crimes.
Now, another aspect of this deadly mystery has reached a dead end with a federal judge's dismissal of a lawsuit brought against The New York Times by Steven J. Hatfill.
Hatfill, a specialist in biological weaponry employed by the federal government at the Army bioweapons center at Fort Detrick, Md., was termed "a person of interest" in the investigation by the government.
He was the subject of several columns by writer Nicholas D. Kristoff, whom Hatfill sued for "knowingly publishing false information." Hatfill was identified only as "Mr. Z" in the columns, but alleged he could be identified and thus was defamed by the columnist.
While this entire case did present some new insight into the still-ongoing investigation into the anthrax murders, the bottom line is that the perpetrator or perpetrators of this terrifying crime are still at large.
Not only are the deaths unavenged, but the enormous costs imposed by the attacks -- the Postal Service, for instance, had to completely change its mail handling operations -- are still being racked up.
Where are the answers all these years later? Why is the public still in the dark about the assailants? Is anyone still asking these questions?
wants status of anthrax probe
Calls lack of information 'inexcusable'
Saturday, March 03, 2007
It killed five people.
Shut down a local post office.
And chilled a nation already reeling from the terror attacks of 9/11.
More than five years after deadly anthrax-tainted mail hit a Hamilton postal facility, Rep. Rush Holt has called on congressional committee chairmen to hold hearings on the lack of headway in solving the 2001 attacks.
"It seems to me this investigation is not making a lot of progress. I can't say for sure. They won't brief me," Holt said yesterday. "Not briefing Congress on the status of the probe into the biggest biological attack in United States history is inexcusable."
Holt yesterday asked four committee chairmen and one subcommittee chairman to hold oversight hearings on the FBI probe.
"The postal workers still feel vulnerable, and we want to let them know we're doing what we can to protect them," Holt said.
Part of that, he said, is to find out who was behind the attack.
"The FBI has stonewalled each request for additional briefings and information," Holt wrote the congressional leaders yesterday.
Holt, D-Hopewell Township, renewed his push after several earlier attempts to obtain information failed.
Holt formally requested that the FBI brief Congress on the investigation in September and October last year and was denied. In December, 32 bipartisan members of the House and Senate asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to direct the FBI to provide Congress with a comprehensive briefing on the status of the investigation.
That request was also denied.
FBI spokesman Richard J. Kolko said the FBI has not received a letter from Holt on the recent request but did receive a letter last year.
Kolko described the FBI investigation as "one of the largest and most complex" ever conducted. No arrests were made, but the FBI insists the investigation remains a high priority.
Former government scientist Steven Hatfill was under scrutiny months after the FBI probe began.
"Early on they thought they knew who was behind this. They jumped to conclusions without a careful investigation," Holt said.
At least 17 people were sickened by anthrax spores sent through the mail in September and October 2001. Holt's own congressional office in Washington, D.C., was shut down after it was found to be contaminated with anthrax.
Holt's letters to the congressional leaders state in blunt terms his view that the FBI has not been forthcoming in the probe.
"The Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation have openly asserted their belief that Congress should be kept in the dark on this vital national security issue," Holt wrote the chairmen.
"It's certainly troubling," Holt spokesman Matt Dennis said of the FBI refusals. "It's important to be able to get answers. The postal workers were severely affected by this. Everyone in the country was affected by it. We can't allow people to forget about this."
The 2001 anthrax attacks originated from a mailbox at a post office in Hamilton. The Route 130 postal facility was closed for more than three years following the attacks.
The mail facility handled at least four anthrax-laced letters in a one-month span. The attacks left five area postal workers ill with anthrax. All five recovered, as did a Hamilton accountant who contracted anthrax from contaminated mail.
The Route 130 building was closed immediately after the attacks. It was fumigated with chlorine dioxide in October 2003 and reopened in February 2005.
Contact Jeff Trently at email@example.com.
of New Jersey
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Only about a month after the horror of 9/11, Mercer County residents awoke to news that letters containing deadly anthrax had been mailed from the Trenton regional mail facility in Hamilton Township. The anthrax attack ended up killing five people and left more than a dozen others ill, including five area postal workers. Fortunately, all five have recovered.
But now, five and a half years later, the killer or killers have not been found and federal investigators have been less than forthcoming in reporting progress or the lack thereof to the public or to elected officials.
Early on in the investigation there was a "person of interest" whom the FBI identified, but no charges ever were brought against the man, a former government scientist.
Fortunately, Rep. Rush Holt, D-Hopewell Township, whose office had to be shut down when traces of anthrax were found there, is pushing to have Congress hold hearings on the investigation. He's sent letters to the chairmen of four committees and the chairman of one subcommittee, requesting them to begin airing testimony on the status of the probe. This after Rep. Holt's request last fall for a congressional briefing by the FBI was denied. And when Rep. Holt and 31 other members of the House and Senate made another briefing request in December, U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales refused them.
"The Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation have openly asserted their belief that Congress should be kept in the dark on this vital national security issue," Rep. Holt wrote in his letter to the chairmen.
It's time to lift the veil of se crecy. After five-and-a-half years, Attorney General Gon- zales and the head of the FBI should share, within bounds, what they know about the investigation: Is it ongoing? And if it is, how do the resources in the investigation compare to five years ago when the trail, presumably, was fresher? Are there new leads or is the trail cold? Is there evidence to suggest this was an attack from terrorists outside the U.S. or the work of a domestic killer?
The deadly attack shut down the Hamilton mail facility on Route 130 for more than three years. After the building was fumigated and monitored, it reopened in February 2005. It is believed that four anthrax-laced letters were processed at the center, which has to raise a question in the minds of workers there and workers at every other mail distribution center: Could it happen again?
Federal investigators owe the public an update on the anthrax investigation. And they owe it now.
Defense News (www.officer.com)
LAW and ORDER Meets BIO Crime
The anthrax attacks of 2001 incited a movement to get microbial evidence accepted in courtrooms
Updated: March 5th, 2007 01:10 PM EDT
From the January 2007 Issue
The frenetic investigations which followed the October 2001 anthrax letter threats compelled law enforcement to devise new strategies to detect, stop and trace biological pathogens.
The search continues for the perpetrators of the anthrax crimes, but the good news is a new law enforcement discipline, known as microbial forensics, was found in the process.
Microbial forensics combines principles of public health epidemiology and law enforcement to identify patterns in a disease outbreak, determine which pathogen may be involved, and, when possible, trace the organism to its source. Microbial forensics uses the "biological fingerprint" of an infectious organism to help pinpoint the source, giving police and health officials a better chance to respond effectively to a biological threat.
Investigating evidence on the microbial level tends to raise the forensic bar. Since investigators must consider potential prosecution and presentation of minuscule evidence in court, biocrime investigations demand careful controls and standards for validation and evaluation of technologies and the data they produce.
Scientists can easily evaluate new methods of detecting organisms implicated in a bioterrorist attack, but taking the resulting evidence into a court is another matter. Any microbial evidence, such as anthrax spores, that links to a suspect has to meet stern standards.
Here comes the nudge
"We're not talking about a jury of your scientific peers. We're talking about lawyers, judges and trial juries," says Abigail Salyers, professor of microbiology at the University of Illinois, and past-president of the American Society of Microbiology. "The consequences are not just having a paper accepted or rejected by a prestigious journal, but rather of sending someone to jail."
Salyers says even if the anthrax perpetrators were caught, it might not be that easy to achieve a conviction, especially if the spores are part of the physical evidence. If tests on the spores found in the suspect's possession were the same DNA signatures as the spores found in the letters, that might mean one thing on the scientific level, but something quite different in court.
"If you took that finding into court, all sorts of questions arise," says Salyers. "What does 'same' mean? Does it have to be 100-percent identical? Even if it is identical, does it really prove that it's the 'same?' "
Salyers sees a couple of big problems pertaining to the presentation of microbial evidence in court.
First, although the technology for doing DNA-based and other molecular analyses is widely used and universally accepted in the research community, the kind of rigorous validation and development of appropriate quality control standards for the use of this technology in forensics is still not well developed.
"Research is under way, but it might still be fairly easy for a defense lawyer to raise questions about accuracy and interpretation, much as happened in the infamous Simpson trial," she explains.
This is not so much due to weaknesses in the technology as it is that scientists have not thought about forensic uses and thus not developed validation and quality control guidelines appropriate for legal application.
To show the strain of bacterium which produced a spore found in a suspect's home or office is the strain used in the anthrax attack, and not a strain that was originally in the soil and tracked into the location, is no problem.
Different strains of Bacillus anthracis differ enough at the DNA sequence level that even a partial genome sequence of the two strains would be sufficient to make the distinction because there would be a number of differences, what microbial scientists call a DNA sequence "fingerprint."
However, if one is trying to locate the exact laboratory where the anthrax attack strain came from, such distinctions would be more difficult since most laboratories share derivatives of the same strain, according to Salyers.
"Here, natural mutations over the past several decades that occurred in the strain due to numerous passages in the laboratory might be sufficiently abundant to allow the strain obtained from one laboratory to be distinguished from that obtained from another," she says. "But since the differences will probably be few in number, they will be less convincing than for strains isolated in different geographical locations."
The actual degree between strains is another matter of current scientific investigation.
"Scientists believe that B. anthracis mutates very slowly, so it may be difficult to have a differentiation that holds up in court," Salyers says.
There also are errors that occur during the DNA sequencing process (about 0.1 percent at present), but Salyers believes this problem can be solved by resequencing an area more than once.
An example is the recent delivery of the TIGER biosensor system by Isis Pharmaceuticals to the National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC), an arm of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, located at Fort Detrick, Maryland. TIGER stands for Triangulation Identification for Genetic Evaluation of Risks.
The TIGER technology simultaneously identifies thousands of infectious organisms in a sample without needing to know beforehand what might be present in the sample.
The system does more than identify organisms, however. It may be useful in tracking strain origins.
"Evidence put through the TIGER biosensor system from a biocrime or terrorist attack will allow bioforensic analysts to differentiate closely related infectious agents and their relatedness to other strains and species," says David Ecker, vice president of Isis Pharmaceuticals located in Carlsbad, California.
Ecker says this information or the "biological fingerprint" obtained from the TIGER system will enable highly precise strain identification ? critical to bioforensic work and solving crimes involving infectious organisms.
This whole mutation issue has led some scientists to consider molecules other than DNA to track microbial strains, such as those found in traces of the growth media used to cultivate the strain in the lab. It is not yet known whether other growth media molecules can be detected, but if they can, they might differ from one laboratory to another, which would provide an alternate or complimentary roadmap to the source of a strain.
Other species of Bacillus, such as B. thurengensis (better known as the organic gardener's friend because of its use as a common pesticide), have genome sequences strikingly similar to that of B. anthracis, the cause of anthrax. The main difference between the two species is two plasmids (extrachromosomal segments of DNA that make B. anthracis capable of causing disease, whereas B. thurengensis and most other Bacillus species are innocuous for humans. Some plasmids can be transferred from one bacterium to another, known informally to bacteriologists as bacterial sex.
"No one knows if an innocuous strain of another species could be rendered virulent, but you can imagine ways in which a defense attorney might use this sort of fact to place doubt in the minds of jurors who have no background in biology," Salyers says.
The reverse problem occurs in the cases of some viruses with RNA genomes, such as HIV and influenza, which are mutating so rapidly that it is possible to find different sequence variants in the same person.
"Granted these differences are small in number, but deciding what the 'same' means when comparing the strain from the presumed source with the strain that infected a victim could raise interpretation problems," Salyers says.
The anthrax attacks and subsequent public reactions revealed the need for a law enforcement infrastructure with adequate analytical tools, and a knowledge base ample enough to rapidly provide investigative leads and help determine who was responsible for the crime, what the source of the agent was, and how and where the weapon was produced.
"While there are a few well-developed practices for handling and analyzing pathogenic agents, most of these assays address epidemiological concerns and do not provide sufficient information on the strain or isolate to allow law enforcement to identify the source of the evidence sample," says the FBI's Bruce Budowle in a 2003 Science magazine article.
Additional analysis methods for individualization of microbial strains is needed, Budowle says.
For example, determining the microbe sent in a letter as B. anthracis identifies the causative agent. At this point, anyone with access to B. anthracis could potentially be considered a suspect. But determining it was the Ames strain ? an uncommon strain in nature ? limits the investigation only to those who had access to that specific strain.
"All of this must be defined adequately and validated sufficiently to meet forensic needs," Budowle explains in the paper. "Combating bioterrorism is a challenge to us all."
The problem is there aren't many laboratories with adequate biocontainment facilities to handle forensic cases. And so far there is little to be encouraged about on the logistics and financial fronts required to construct microbial forensics laboratories or even to retool existing partner labs to perform microbial forensic work.
The FBI has led the effort to address these issues. In 2002 it initiated the Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics (SWGMGF), whose goal was to provide an avenue for government, academia and private sector scientists to develop guidelines related to the operation of microbial forensics.
There is precedent for this FBI action. The agency has spawned scientific working groups for other forensic disciplines, most notably the 1995 Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods, whose success can be seen by the common use of DNA analysis in crime labs, the establishment of standards and the wide spread acceptance of DNA analysis in the courts.
SWGMGF issued a 2003 report, "Microbial Forensics: Establishing Foundations in an Evolving New Field to Respond to Bioterrorism," calling for a dedicated national system to analyze evidence from a bioterrorism act, biocrime or inadvertent microorganism/toxin release.
Since then the federal government has formalized the discipline of microbial forensics. The DHS established NBFAC in 2004 as the lead federal facility to conduct technical forensic analysis and interpretation of materials recovered from biocrime or bioterrorist events.
Also, microbial forensic experts participated in a colloquium in 2003 that dealt with evidence gathering, organism identification, organism source tracing and investigative techniques, the findings of which are summarized in the report, "Microbial Forensics: A Scientific Assessment," available online at www.asm.org/academy/index.asp?bid=17994.
Times, The Blog of
March 19, 2007
If you thought the Libby trial ended the media subpoena wars, think again. More subpoenas may be coming to reporters, this time from Steven Hatfill, the scientist former Attorney General John Ashcroft called a "person of interest" in the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people. The announcement came today during a court hearing for a lawsuit Hatfill filed alleging that this statement, and others, violated his right to privacy because law enforcement leaked information about him to multiple reporters. Hatfill has been fighting in federal court to get documentation to prove where some of the anonymous information came from.
The problem is he still doesn't know the name of all the leakers—a key fact Judge Reggie Walton says Hatifill will need to get the information he wants. The government won't say who did it and doesn't want to turn over certain information about what is in its investigative files without a name. DOJ attorney Elizabeth Shapiro says the reason is clear. "The investigation is not a cold case," she told Walton, noting that more than 20 agents are still working full time to find the culprit in the anthrax attacks.
The solution, Shapiro suggested, was to ask the reporters. And Walton seemed to agree. "I understand the concerns the plaintiff has with compelling the press, but my inclination is that that's going to have to be done," Walton said at a hearing today. Many reporters, such as Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman have already given depositions in the case, identifying their sources only as from DOJ or the FBI. But they may be forced to say more.
Walton also had a few words to say about Ashcroft's public comments about Hatfill: "He shouldn't have said it. He should have said no comment."
Posted by Emma Schwartz on March 19, 2007 at 02:23 PM in Crime and Punishment
March 27th, 2007
STATEMENT AT THE FBI OVERSIGHT HEARING
Chairman Leahy, thank you for calling this hearing today. There are so many important FBI oversight issues, that it is hard to cover them in one hearing. There's the Inspector General's recent report on the misuse of National Security Letters, which we heard about last week. Then, there are the FBI's failures as a domestic intelligence agency, and the recent calls for a separate domestic intelligence service. I will ask the Director today about one of the most troubling FBI failures. It has to do with foreign and domestic terrorist groups getting together and forming operational ties, and the FBI's retaliation against former Special Agent Michael German for suggesting that the FBI dropped the ball. There are also questions that need to be asked about: the recent verdict in the case of former FBI special Agent Jane Turner, where a jury found that she was retaliated against for filling an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint; the FBI's role in the case of former Agent Lindley Devecchio, who's been charged with four counts of murder in New York; and finally, I still have concerns about what I have learned about the FBI's handling of the investigation into the Anthrax Attacks after 9/11.
First, I will touch on National Security Letters. The Inspector General found that the FBI obtained over 3,000 telephone records with 739 so-called "exigent requests." The problem was these requests weren't really emergencies and the letters had false statements about a subpoena being in process, when no subpoenas had been drafted and none ever came. We have been trying to get unclassified emails from the FBI to find out who knew about the false statements in the exigent letter and when they knew it. The Inspector General said he did not do that kind of detailed investigation. The FBI is doing one, now that it has all become public. But, I'm not sure I trust them to investigate themselves. I'm especially skeptical since a well-known FBI whistleblower, Bassem Youssef, is the current head of the unit in headquarters that issued the exigent letters. He reportedly told his supervisor (who was also his predecessor in that job) about problems with the letters before the recent IG investigation uncovered the problems. According to Youssef, his concerns were dismissed, forcing him to report it to the General Counsel’s office. There needs to be a truly independent inquiry, not an FBI whitewash designed to cast blame on a whistleblower.
Second, I want to mention the Michael German case. Former Special Agent Michael German has publicly said that the FBI missed a golden opportunity to infiltrate a terrorist group operating on inside the United States. Remarkably, the opportunity came in the form of a recorded meeting between a white supremacist and an Islamic extremist. Over a year ago, the Inspector General found that the FBI retaliated against German and falsified records related to the case. It appears that the FBI failed to take any of this seriously. It's not clear whether the FBI official who retaliated against German was or ever will be punished. The case on two extremists who were meeting with each other to talk about operational ties doesn't look like it ever went anywhere. The FBI went on television and claimed that, essentially, Agent German was full of hot air. Referring to German's claim about a connection between domestic and foreign terrorist groups, the FBI spokeswoman said, "It did not exist, there was not a coming together of those two separate groups."
However, after years of effort by this Committee, the FBI finally provided a transcript of the meeting, and it flatly contradicts statements made by Bureau officials trying to downplay the incident and discredit Michael German. The transcript clearly shows a white supremacist and an Islamic militant talking about building operational ties between their organizations. Moreover, it is clear that what brings them together was anti-Semitism. According to the transcript these two groups also discussed (1) shooting Jews, (2) their shared admiration for Hitler, (3) arms shipments from Iran, (4) their desire for a civil war in the United States, (5) their approval of suicide bombings, and (6) assassinating pro-Israeli journalists in the United States. This was all the very first time they met.
The FBI's public statements about German's claims were misleading at best, and the transcript makes that clear. My bigger concern, however, is that the FBI seems incapable of mining its criminal cases for valuable intelligence like this and distributing it to the rest of the intelligence community. According to Agent German, this transcript sat in a supervisor's desk drawer for months, while he first raised his concerns and while other FBI supervisors were busy playing defense, claiming to headquarters that the meeting was not even recorded.
Now let me turn to Jane Turner. Agent Turner, who reported the theft of a Tiffany Globe from the World Trade Center site in New York after 9/11, recently won a $565,000 verdict from a federal jury in Minnesota. When a jury finds that FBI supervisors falsified performance evaluations to retaliate against someone for filing an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint, someone ought to be held accountable. The taxpayer ultimate pays the verdict to Agent Turner, but what price is paid by the FBI officials who retaliated?
I’d also like to talk a little about the Devecchio murder charges. A former agent, Lindley Devecchio, has been charged in New York with four counts of murder. The allegations are similar to the scandal in the FBI's Boston office that was exposed a few years ago, involving cozy relationships between informants and their FBI handlers while the informants are engaging in serious crimes. In addition to the current and former agents raising money for DeVecchio's legal defense, I recently learned that the Justice Department is also paying part of the tab. And, I have also heard that the local prosecutors in New York may have some trouble getting the documents from the FBI that they need to try the case. It is important that the FBI not take sides as an institution, just to protect one of its own. The FBI should cooperate fully and let the court process proceed.
Finally, I want to turn to the anthrax investigation. According to depositions in the lawsuit brought by Stephen Hatfill, Director Mueller prevented the lead agent on the case from conducting polygraph examinations to find out who was leaking information to the press. He also ordered the three squads on the case to stop communicating, over the objections of the lead case agent. The allegations in Hatfill's lawsuit are serious and disturbing. If there was a concerted campaign of leaks coming out of the FBI to tar one individual and make the FBI look like it was on the verge of solving the case, that is something that should have been investigated more seriously.
All these issues, and more, need to be addressed by this Committee, and I hope that we will have the opportunity to do so, not only in this hearing but in future hearings as well.
Judge Urges Hatfill To Compel Outing of Sources
By JOSH GERSTEIN
A federal judge is prodding lawyers for a scientist investigated in connection with the anthrax attacks in 2001, Steven Hatfill, to escalate a battle with the press by insisting that reporters identify anonymous government sources who linked Mr. Hatfill to the probe.
Judge Reggie Walton issued an order last week warning Mr. Hatfill that he may lose his civil lawsuit over the leaks if he does not compel journalists to name their sources. "A wealth of case law suggests that in order to prove that a violation of the Privacy Act has occurred, the actual source of the information must be identified," the judge wrote. "Whether the plaintiff can satisfy this requirement with circumstantial evidence alone is an endeavor the plaintiff assumes at his peril if he decides to not further identify the source or sources of the purported improper disclosures."
Mr. Hatfill's legal team has taken depositions from journalists at ABC, CBS, Newsweek, and the Washington Post. The scientist's lawyers thought they had averted a First Amendment clash by crafting a deal under which the reporters withheld the names of their sources but divulged their affiliation with the FBI or Justice Department.
However, at a hearing on March 19, Judge Walton signaled that probably would not be good enough. "I understand the concerns the plaintiff has with compelling the press, but my inclination is that that's going to have to be done," the judge said, according to Legal Times.
Judge Walton, who recently saw several high-profile journalists on the witness stand as he oversaw the trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr., gave Mr. Hatfill until April 16 to decide whether to press the press to give up its sources. An attorney for Mr. Hatfill, Thomas Connolly, did not return a call seeking comment for this article.
Neither Mr. Hatfill nor anyone else has been charged with producing the anthrax-laden mailings, which are believed to have killed at least five people.
Glenn Greenwald (commentary)
Thursday April 5, 2007 12:13 EST
National journalists believe you should trust them
(Updated below - Update II - Update III - Update IV)
I had what I consider to be an illuminating discussion this morning with Jeffrey Schneider, Senior Vice President of ABC News, concerning the story published (and broadcast) by ABC's Brian Ross and Christopher Isham on Monday. That story claimed that "Iran has more than tripled its ability to produce enriched uranium in the last three months" and therefore "Iran could have enough material for a nuclear bomb by 2009."
A reader had contacted Schneider, who told the reader that the post I wrote criticizing the story was "outrageous." I thereafter emailed Schneider to request an interview about the story, and we spoke this morning for 20 minutes or so.
My principal criticism of the ABC story was that it was exclusively predicated on what ABC vaguely described only as "sources familiar with the dramatic upgrade." It did not include a single other piece of information about the identity of the "sources" who were making such dramatic, consequential, and potentially war-inflaming claims -- not even whether they were government or private sources, American or Iranian (or some other nationality), or whether they have any history that evinces a desire for regime change in or war against Iran. For that reason, the story seemed worthless, given that it was impossible for the reader to assess the credibility of the assertions.
First, the following is a summary of the discussion (and I told Schneider to feel free to correct anything written in this post and I will post whatever he writes):
Schneider began by explaining that decisions about the use of anonymous sources in a story such as this one are "approved at very high levels" at ABC News. The sources for this specific story are, he claimed, ones with whom ABC has a "long relationship" and are ones they "find credible." He said that both ABC News itself and these specific reporters have proven "over a very long period of time" that they are reliable and credible journalists. He emphasized on several occasions that after I wrote my post on Tuesday, it was announced that Ross had been awarded a Peabody for a story he worked on last year. He said he found that "ironic" and specifically requested that I include Ross's new prize in whatever I wrote.
When I kept pressing the actual question at the core of my criticism -- why did ABC not provide any information about its sources? -- Schneider kept asserting, with no rationale at all, that to do so would compromise their identity. The question I pressed as much as possible was how it could be that providing at least some background information to assess whether these sources are worth listening to could "compromise" their identities. On that topic, he would only say that the decision was made "at very high levels." When pressed further, he did claim that ABC's sources for this story are "numerous and diverse." Unlike the New York Times and The Washington Post, ABC News, according to Schneider, has no publicly available written polices governing its use of anonymous sources.
In response to my central point -- that a story of this magnitude and potential impact should not be passed on without at least some information enabling an assessment of the credibility of the sources (or, at the very least, should include an explanation as to why such information was being concealed) -- Schneider's response was that there is a way for the reader to assess the credibility of the story. Namely, because ABC News and the reporters in question have "proven over a long period of time" that they are "very reliable" (Brian Ross won a Peabody Award), the fact that they have assessed this story as credible is, by itself, sufficient to render it newsworthy.
In essence, then, the story which ABC News published is not that "Iran has more than tripled its ability to produce enriched uranium in the last three months." Instead, the story is most accurately described as one which conveys the fact that some unknown individuals whom Ross, Isham and others at ABC News trust asserted that this was this case.
Since ABC refuses to disclose any information to allow the reader/viewer to make such assessments for themselves, what determines whether one views this story as meaningful or of any worth at all is the answer to one question: do you have sufficient faith in the judgment and integrity of ABC News to rely blindly on its assessments, made in secret, about who is and is not credible when it comes to claims that could contribute to spawning a new war against Iran?
Many Americans lack that trust -- not because of anything ABC News specifically did or did not do (like most news outlets, they do have journalists who have done good investigative work, including Ross). Instead, it is because, throughout the Bush presidency (and even before), the national American media as a whole has been extraordinarily gullible, if not outright complicit, in disseminating all sorts of patent falsehoods under the guise of unidentified agenda-driven sources. As but one example, a 2005 Harris poll found that most Americans distrust their media, and the distrust is far more pervasive than exists in Europe: "A 62 to 22 percent (almost 3-to-1) majority of Americans did not trust 'the press'; Europeans were split 47 to 46 percent."
And at least one key reason for that distrust is both clear and compelling. Many Americans who more or less did trust the judgment of the country's most respectable media outlets were severely betrayed, when they supported an invasion of a sovereign country based exclusively on patently false claims that were uncritically though aggressively disseminated by the American press. For that reason, distrust of the media has been substantially heightened, and that is so particularly when it comes to stories -- like the ABC News one here -- that bolster the Bush administration's warnings of a "grave threat" posed by whatever country happens to be The New Nazi Enemy of the Month.
I would speculate that most national journalists -- certainly the ones with whom I have interacted following media criticisms and/or observed responding to criticism of others -- simply do not recognize, acknowledge, or accept the level and intensity of distrust for what they report, particularly when their behavior appears similar to the government-boosting conduct that led us into Iraq. Most of them will acknowledge that there were isolated instances of gullible or even biased and corrupt reporting during the Bush presidency (call it The Judy Miller Concession), but they believe that none of that resulted in -- nor should it have resulted in -- any significant change in how their profession is perceived and in the level of mistrust which Americans have for what they report.
They still think that the phrase "ABC News" means that whatever follows will be presumed credible and reliable. But that just isn't the case any more. And that's why stories which rely exclusively on placing virtually blind faith in the judgment of such organizations are likely to be disregarded (except by those whose pre-existing political agenda is advanced by the story).
Schneider, though somewhat combative at times, was perfectly rational and civil, but the crux of his defense was this: we are ABC News, the award-winning and respected news network of Peter Jennings, and we can therefore be trusted when we say that these sources are credible. That was the premise on which many Americans previously operated, but it isn't any more. Personally, before I will be convinced that Iran is accelerating its nuclear capabilities beyond what even the Bush-led American intelligence community claims, I would need some proof. And ABC News' conclusory insistence that unidentified trustworthy people said it was so is not "proof." Not even close.
I think it's quite problematic for a citizenry to have so little faith and such overwhelming scepticism in the statements of its most important institutions, including its government officials and media. But the Bush presidency generally and the War in Iraq specifically are towering testaments to why such deep scepticism and mistrust are warranted.
Journalists find any criticisms based on that lack of trust to be "outrageous," because they think they've done nothing to deserve it. They see themselves as trustworthy and solid professionals with a record that merits great respect and faith. After all, they win Peabody Awards. Their failure to recognize just how fundamentally broken their profession has become -- and how little faith so many people have in it -- explains, more than anything else, why they are not really changing how they operate. It also explains why they are incapable of understanding criticisms of this sort as anything other than outrageous (or "partisan-motivated") slander.
UPDATE I: Atrios points to the first of what I imagine will be many examples today rebutting the entitlement of trust touted by ABC News (and again, ABC is by no means unique, merely illustrative). And just to preempt the inevitable response, disgraceful incidents like the Jessica Lynch Fraud are not mere "mistakes" which "everyone makes" and therefore can just be corrected and then forgotten afterwards.
Instead, such incidents reflect a fundamental defect in how national journalists operate -- fueled by excessive, really mindless, trust in people who are not trustworthy, but instead are using them. And because they see those incidents only as isolated mistakes reflective of nothing, nothing ever changes.
Schneider condescendingly contrasted the vaunted "vetting process" used by ABC News with the alleged ability of bloggers to just say whatever they want with no fact-checking mechanisms (no blogger-journalist exchange is complete without that assertion), but whatever "vetting process" they are using is manifestly insufficient. Other than national journalists themselves, who could read those Jessica Lynch excerpts, or any of the pre-Iraq-war reporting, and reach a different conclusion?
UPDATE II: Each time I emphasized to Schneider that the media's behavior in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion compelled them to be particularly scrupulous with stories like the one they broadcast on Iran's alleged nuclear acceleration, Schneinder would claim that ABC News was not really culpable with pre-Iraq-War reporting, and even suggested that Peter Jennings was some sort of stalwart challenger of the administration's WMD and Iraqi threat orthodoxy.
I didn't, and don't, recall anything specifically that ABC News did or did not do during that period, but this interesting list of rather ignominious episodes, compiled by FAIR, strongly suggests that ABC News was -- at least -- just as gullible and accommodating to the Bush administration when it came to alarmist (and false) claims about Iraq.
UPDATE III: I don't think that Brian Ross and Chris Isham won a Peabody for this ABC News report, from October 26, 2001 (confirmed via Lexis):
Despite a last-minute denial from the White House, sources tell ABCNEWS the anthrax in the tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was laced with bentonite. The potent additive is known to have been used by only one country in producing biochemical weapons -- Iraq.
ABCNEWS has been told by three well-placed and separate sources that initial tests on an anthrax-laced letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle have detected a troubling chemical additive that authorities consider their first significant clue yet. . . .
As far as is known, only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons. . .
While it's possible countries other than Iraq may be using the additive, it is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program.
On October 28, 2001, Ross himself went on ABC News to discuss -- as Vanderbilt University's Television Archives put it -- "the significance of the discovery of bentonite in the anthrax sent to Senate majority leader Tom Daschle," "the possible link to Iraq," [and] "details recalled of the meeting in the Czech Republic of hijacker Mohamed Atta with an Iraqi intelligence officer."
That ABC News report, even as early as November 2001, led various warmongers to cite that report in order to argue for war against Saddam on the ground that he was likely responsible for the anthrax attacks, and they still cite that report to this day to imply the same thing.
UPDATE IV: Amazing -- I never realized this before, but I now see that Brian Ross was, far and away, the journalistic leader and the real pioneer in trying to claim a connection between Saddam and the anthrax attacks (as well as between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks).
On October 29, 2001, Ross "reported" this on Good Morning America (all via LEXIS):
Former UN weapons inspectors say the anthrax found in a letter to Senator Daschle is nearly identical to samples they recovered in Iraq in 1994. The UN inspectors shut down much, but not all, of the Iraq bioweapons program blowing up a facility, Al-Hakum, where inspectors believe Iraq was preparing to mass produce weapons-grade anthrax. . . .
And under an electron microscope, trace amounts of telltale additives are matching up, according to at least four well-placed sources, although the White House denies it.
Also on October 29, on ABC's World News Now, this is what ABC's viewers were told:
DEREK McGINTY, co-anchor:
ABC News has learned that the anthrax in the letter mailed to the Senate contained an additive called bentonite. It's a substance used to make anthrax more dangerous. And the question of where that chemical came from has turned attention back to a terrorist ring leader of the September 11th attacks. ABC's Brian Ross has the details.
BRIAN ROSS reporting:
New questions about a possible Iraqi connection, given the disclosure of a meeting in Prague earlier this year between hijacker Mohamed Atta and a senior Iraqi intelligence officer.
The same day, with George Stephanopolous, Ross said:
George. Former UN weapons inspectors have told ABC News they've been told the anthrax spores found in the letter to Senator Daschle are almost identical in appearance to those they recovered in Iraq in 1994 when viewed under an electron microscope.
On October 28, on ABC's This Week, Ross said:
At the same time those [anthrax] results were coming in, officials in the Czech Republic confirmed that hijack ringleader, Mohammed Atta, had met at least once with a senior Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague, raising what authorities consider some extremely provocative questions.
Once Ross was done strongly insinuating that Saddam may be behind both the 9/11 and anthrax attacks, he was followed on the program by Donald Rumsfeld, and Cokie Roberts used Ross' highly inflammatory claims concerning Iraq to all but demand from Rumsfeld an explanation as to why we have not yet attacked Iraq:
ROBERTS: Now, there's a perception, certainly, here in Washington, that part of the reason that--that this war is not widened, to go--you talked about going after terrorism all over the world, to go into Iraq, and you heard Brian Ross' report, the confirmation that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official and the suspicion about anthrax in Iraq, and that this administration doesn't want to say the word Iraq for fear of having to go in, and that then the Arab world could blow apart.
Mr. RUMSFELD: This administration is not afraid of saying the word Iraq. Iraq's been on the terrorist list--list for--for years. There is no question that--that Iraq is a state that has committed terrorist acts and has sponsored terrorist acts.
ROBERTS: Do you think it was--the meeting with Mohammed Atta was significant in terms of September 11th?
Mr. RUMSFELD: I--we will know that only after the proper law enforcement people investigate that. Clearly, the meeting is--is not nothing, it is something notable.
ROBERTS: And the reports that the anthrax could have been tampered with by this betonite, that is Iraqi-based?
Mr. RUMSFELD: I am really not into could haves and might haves. I--I--I think that in--in a position of responsibility in a government, I've got an obligation to talk about what I know about and--and to not speculate about those things. And I know that serious people are looking at both of those matters seriously.
Might a rational person have ample grounds for refusing to place faith and trust in Brian Ross's secret, non-transparent judgments, in reliance on his very, very trustworthy (he swears) completely anonymous sources? And let's re-cap again the vaunted ABC "vetting" process that distinguishes them from those reckless, unreliable bloggers: "Former UN weapons inspectors have told ABC News they've been told the anthrax spores found in the letter to Senator Daschle are almost identical in appearance to those they recovered in Iraq in 1994."
But they don't think they did anything wrong. They actually think they were one of the leading examples of great journalistic work in the pre-Iraq-war era. And, for exactly that reason, they haven't changed how they do anything, certainly not fundamentally.
Committee For The Freedom Of The Press
April 6, 2007
Judge urges plaintiff in anthrax case to uncover sources
*Judge Reggie Walton issued an order last week urging scientist Steven Hatfill to compel reporters to disclose the names of government employees who linked Hatfill to the anthrax investigation.
April 6, 2007 · A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has suggested that scientist Steven Hatfill find a way to compel several journalists to identify the confidential government sources who identified Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.
Judge Reggie Walton -- who also presided over I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's perjury trial -- issued an order last week saying Hatfill "may, at his discretion, proceed with discovery" to find the source or sources at the Department of Justice and FBI who told reporters about the criminal investigation.
Hatfill sued then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and other government officials under the Privacy Act in 2003 after news reports named him as a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigations. Although he was never charged with any crime, Hatfill lost his job as a government contractor and says he has been unable to find employment since being identified in the investigation.
In February 2004, Walton first approved the use of news media subpoenas in Hatfill's Privacy Act suit, but Hatfill's attorneys declined, anticipating legal challenges by the media. In October 2004, Walton approved similar subpoenas again, and in December 2004, he ordered as many as 100 federal agents to waive any confidentiality agreements they had with the media. Beginning that month, a number of news organizations received subpoenas to provide documents and testimony in the case.
At least 13 subpoenas were served at that point. Four subpoenas were voluntarily withdrawn, but another nine subpoenas -- served on ABC, CBS, NBC, The Associated Press, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Gannett Co., the Los Angeles Times, and former Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Shane -- were contested. In May 2005, Hatfill voluntarily withdrew these subpoenas after the government made federal employees available as witnesses.
After the subpoenas were served again, reporters agreed to testify at depositions, but they refused to answer questions related to the names of sources or other confidential material. According to Walton's most recent order, Hatfill has until April 16 to decide whether to move to compel that testimony.
If Hatfill decides to do so, the order grants him another 45 to 60 days to attempt to identify the people who allegedly leaked information about him to reporters.
Attorney Nathan Siegel said Walton's language in urging Hatfill to compel disclosure of the sources was unusual because "the judge reached out to do something that he didn't have to do" by "saying Hatfill would proceed at his peril if he chose to continue without the identity of the sources." Siegel represents CBS reporter Jim Stewart.
Although the District of Columbia has a shield law that allows reporters to refuse to disclose the identities of their sources, the law will not apply because the case is in federal court. There is currently no federal shield law.
A separate defamation lawsuit filed by Hatfill against The New York Times in federal court in Virginia was dismissed in January.
(updated below - updated again)
At the end of the post I wrote last week about ABC News and Brian Ross' new report that Iran could have nuclear weapons by 2009, I noted that ABC and Ross -- back in October and November 2001 -- were the driving force, really the exclusive force, behind news reports strongly suggesting that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were responsible for the anthrax attacks on the U.S. There are several very important issues arising from those events which I strongly believe merit real attention. This post is somewhat lengthy because it is vital to set forth the facts clearly.
Last week, I excerpted several of the Saddam-anthrax reports from ABC and Ross -- here and here -- but there are others. ABC aggressively promoted as its top story for days on end during that highly provocative period of time that -- and these are all quotes:
(a) "the anthrax in the tainted letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was laced with bentonite";At different times, Ross attributed these claims to "three well-placed but separate sources" and, alternatively, to "at least four well-placed sources."
All of those factual claims -- each and every one of them, separately -- were completely false, demonstrably and unquestionably so. There is now no question about that. Yet neither ABC nor Ross have ever retracted, corrected, clarified, or explained these fraudulent reports -- reports which, as documented below, had an extremely serious impact on the views formed by Americans in those early, critical days about the relationship between the 9/11 attacks, the anthrax attacks and Iraq. There are two vital questions that ABC News should answer:
(1) How can ABC News just let these Saddam-anthrax reports -- as false as they were consequential -- remain uncorrected and unexplained, even through today?
(2) More importantly, Ross claimed at the time, and there is no reason to doubt it, that these false reports -- clearly designed to blame Iraq for the anthrax attacks in the eyes of Americans -- were fed to him by "at least four well-placed sources." Who were the well-placed, multiple sources feeding ABC News completely fictitious claims linking Saddam Hussein to the anthrax attacks, including false claims about the results of government tests? What possible justification is there for concealing the identity of those who manipulated ABC to disseminate these fictitious claims?
ABC's linkage of Saddam and the anthrax attacks
As noted, many of the ABC/Ross reports were quoted in the links above, but it is hard to overstate how prominently ABC touted this story. Peter Jennings led off his October 26, 2001 World News Tonight program with this:
We're going to begin this evening with what we believe is a meaningful lead in the most sensitive anthrax case so far, despite a very recent denial by the White House.Ross then said:
The discovery of bentonite came in an urgent series of tests conducted at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and elsewhere. This is what bentonite looks like under a microscope, a substance which helps keep the tiny anthrax particles floating in the air by preventing them from sticking together. It's possible other countries may be using it, too, but it is a trademark of Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program.Jennings then added at the end of the story -- remember this is October, 2001:
This news about bentonite as the additive is being a trademark of the Iraqi biological weapons program is very significant. Partly because there's been a lot of pressure on the Bush administration inside and out to go after Saddam Hussein. And some are going to be quick to pick up on this as a smoking gun. There is a battle about Iraq that's been raging in the administration.Although Ross noted in that original report with Jennings that the finding of bentonite was from an "initial test," that qualifier was quickly eliminated over the next several days on ABC, as Ross and various ABC anchors claimed definitively that the anthrax "was laced with bentonite"; that "the anthrax found in a letter to Senator Daschle is nearly identical to samples they recovered in Iraq in 1994"; that "ABC News has learned that the anthrax in the letter mailed to the Senate contained an additive called bentonite," and on and on.
The impact of ABC's Saddam-anthrax reports
It is vital to recall how significant the anthrax attacks were in this country, and what a paramount role it played in how Americans viewed the terrorist threat generally and Saddam Hussein specifically. As Atrios has noted many times, the anthrax attacks seem to have been flushed down our collective memory hole, but other than 9/11 itself, that event -- and the media's coverage of it -- did more to spawn the next several years of Bush worship and support for his mindless militarism than anything else.
As but one very illustrative example, The Washington Post's liberal columnist, Richard Cohen, supported the invasion of Iraq, came to regret that support, and then explained what led him to do so, in a 2004 column entitled Our Forgotten Panic:
I'm not sure if panic is quite the right word, but it is close enough. Anthrax played a role in my decision to support the Bush administration's desire to take out Saddam Hussein. I linked him to anthrax, which I linked to Sept. 11. I was not going to stand by and simply wait for another attack -- more attacks. I was going to go to the source, Hussein, and get him before he could get us. As time went on, I became more and more questioning, but I had a hard time backing down from my initial whoop and holler for war.Really -- just contemplate that for a moment. One of the country's leading political pundits, writing in some of the most influential opinion-making space in this country, supported an invasion of Iraq because he believed that Saddam Hussein was connected to both the anthrax attacks and, by implication, the 9/11 attacks.
And why wouldn't Cohen -- along with millions and millions of Americans -- believe that, given that the venerable ABC News was leading off its Peter Jennings broadcast, in the aftermath of the attacks, claiming that they had strong evidence of a connection between Saddam and the anthrax attacks, and then repeating that claim, definitively, over the next several days, never to retract it?
While Andy Card infamously claimed that the "marketing product" for the Iraq invasion was not unveiled until September, 2002, the Bush White House and various war supporters had, in fact, been giving speeches and writing articles basically from the very first week after the 9/11 attacks which had, as their primary and clear purpose, convincing Americans of the need to invade Iraq. And anthrax was at the center of that campaign.
The Iraq/anthrax report from ABC was used by all sorts of warmongers throughout 2002 to suggest that Saddam was responsible for the anthrax attacks. The Weekly Standard (wherever there is a fraud on Americans designed to justify Middle East wars, Bill Kristol and friends are to be found somewhere nearby) published two lengthy articles attacking the FBI for focusing on a domestic culprit and -- relying almost exclusively on the ABC/Ross report -- insisted that Saddam was one of the most likely sources for those attacks.
In November, 2001, they published an article (via Lexis) which began:
On the critical issue of who sent the anthrax, it's time to give credit to the ABC website, ABCNews.com, for reporting rings around most other news organizations. Here's a bit from a comprehensive story filed late last week by Gary Matsumoto, lending further credence to the commonsensical theory (resisted by the White House) that al Qaeda or Iraq -- and not some domestic Ted Kaczynski type -- is behind the germ warfare.The Weekly Standard published a much lengthier and more dogmatic article in April, 2002 again pushing the ABC "bentonite" claims and arguing: "There is purely circumstantial though highly suggestive evidence that might seem to link Iraq with last fall's anthrax terrorism." The American Enterprise Institute's Laurie Mylroie (who had an AEI article linking Saddam to 9/11 ready for publication at the AEI on September 13) expressly claimed in November, 2001 that "there is also tremendous evidence that subsequent anthrax attacks are connected to Iraq" and based that claim almost exclusively on the report from ABC and Ross.
And when President Bush named Iraq as a member of the "Axis of Evil" in his January, 2002 State of the Union speech -- just two months after ABC's report, when the anthrax attacks were still very vividly on the minds of Americans -- he specifically touted this claim: "The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade" -- the only reference in the State of the Union address to the unsolved anthrax attacks.
And even now -- because ABC has never retracted or corrected its false claims -- various war supporters from Michael Barone to The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page to Michelle Malkin and other generic war supporters continue to insist that the FBI is at fault for not focusing on a Middle East state sponsor, and, in the case of Malkin and others, that the FBI is ignoring "evidence" of Saddam's connection to those anthrax attacks -- the "evidence" being the still unretracted ABC/Ross reports.
The numerous false (and still uncorrected) claims from ABC and Ross
That the ABC/Ross reports are completely false is now beyond reasonable dispute. As Cernig noted several days ago, an FBI anthrax investigator, Douglas Beecher, published an August, 2006 article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology which expressly concluded that there were no additives found in the anthrax:
A widely circulated misconception is that 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 (3, 6, 12; J. Kelly, Washington Times, 21 October 2003; G. Gugliotta and G. Matsumoto, The Washington Post, 28 October 2002).That led The New York Times reporter covering the anthrax case, William Broad, to report as follows (full Times Select article here):
Seeking to clear up public confusion, an FBI official has reiterated the bureau's judgment that the anthrax in the letter attacks five years ago bore no special coatings to increase its deadliness and no hallmarks of a military weapon.The claim that the anthrax was laced with bentonite, and that government tests detected the presence of bentonite, was simply false -- a complete invention from Ross's sources, eager to link Saddam and anthrax attacks. And separately, it was a complete fiction that "the anthrax spores found in the letter to Senator Daschle are almost identical in appearance to those they recovered in Iraq in 1994 when viewed under an electron microscope." That just never happened.
Equally false, really completely frivolous, was the conclusion Ross's sources fed to him from this false premise -- namely, that even if bentonite -- which ABC referred to as a "troubling chemical additive" -- had been found in the anthrax, that would be some sort of compelling proof linking Iraq to the anthrax attacks.
The very idea that bentonite is "a troubling chemical additive," let alone that it is some sort of unique Iraqi hallmark, is inane. Bentonite is merely a common clay that is produced all over the world, including from volcanic eruptions. Over the weekend, I spoke via e-mail with M.A. Holmes, a Geologist in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who wrote:
Bentonite is mined and used for drilling mud (getting the rock chips out of a drill hole when drilling for oil or deep water) and now is mined for the clumping-type kitty litter ("swells when wet"). It's also used to draw cactus spines put of the skin (sold as a product called "Denver Mud"). It has lots of other uses, like lining pits for waste disposal (because it "swells when wet" it forms a pretty good seal).One ironic fact that illustrates just how commonplace is bentonite is this 2004 Washington Post profile of Dick Cheney, in which his wife, Lynne, fondly recalled the early years of their relationship: "I knew when he was digging ditches out at the Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Grounds. And I knew him when he was loading bentonite, hundred-pound bags of bentonite, onto railroad cars."
The best publicly available investigative work by far on the anthrax attacks and subsequent investigations is, unsurprisingly, not from a "credentialed journalist," but from someone named Edward G. Lake -- an American citizen, a non-journalist, who is a retired computer systems analyst in Racine, Wisconsin. To his credit, the Times' Broad quoted Lake in his article on the FBI's recent anthax findings, because Lake knows more about the anthrax investigations than any national journalist, by far.
Lake began following the anthrax reporting and noticed the endless series of misstatements and misperceptions being reported. On a website he created (and subsequently in a self-published book he wrote in 2005) he began chronicling and meticulously documenting the actual known facts relating to the anthrax attacks, and continues to do so with an amazingly relentless allegiance only to credible, established facts (and with appropriate disdain for speculation, fact-free assertions and conspiracy theories alike).
As Lake has also documented at length (long before the FBI confirmed it in August), virtually all of the credible, available evidence proves conclusively how false the ABC/Ross "bentonite" report was (see point 4 on Lake's main page, with multiple links).
The unresolved, critical issues
At one of the most critical times in American history -- the weeks following the 9/11 and anthrax attacks -- ABC News and Brian Ross published multiple, highly inflammatory reports, aggressively linking Iraq to the anthrax attacks, which turned out to be completely false. Accompanying those false anthrax reports, ABC News frequently linked Saddam to the 9/11 attacks as well -- such as when Cokie Roberts, during an interview with Donald Rumsfeld immediately following one of Ross's Saddam-anthrax stories, referenced "the confirmation that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence official."
While ABC, from the beginning, noted that even the White House publicly denied the bentonite story, they have never retracted, corrected or even explained their false reports. When I spoke with ABC News Senior Vice President Brian Schneider last week, he repeatedly emphasized that ABC News' credibility rests with the fact that when they are wrong, they quickly and clearly correct their errors.
Yet -- more than five years later -- why do they continue to allow these extremely damaging Saddam-anthrax reports to go uncorrected? The New York Times published a lengthy examination of its own culpability in publishing false reports about Iraq's WMD program long after those reports were published. Why hasn't ABC done that with these anthrax reports?
But the most important issue is this: Someone clearly invented false stories about the anthrax investigation and fed them to Brian Ross, knowing he would run all over ABC News programs heaping blame on Saddam for those attacks. In fact, Ross said that there were at least four highly-placed, separate sources who told him that.
How can ABC and Ross justify continuing to conceal the identity of these sources -- some of whom, presumably, were and still are in the Bush administration -- when those sources concocted lies with the intent to manipulate Ross and the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the anthrax attacks?
There is a widely accepted journalistic principle that reporters are not required to conceal the identity of anonymous sources who feed them false information with the intent to induce the journalist to disseminate the falsehoods. In fact, in such a situation, there is an obligation on the part of the reporter to reveal who the sources are who passed on those lies.
Multiple people, in key positions, made numerous false statements to Brian Ross suggesting that Saddam was responsible for the anthrax attacks and made false claims about the results of government tests on anthrax. They did so with the clear intent to mislead the whole country on the most critical issue we faced -- a fraud which resulted in damage that is impossible to quantify but unquestionably significant. How can ABC News and Brian Ross justify continuing to protect the people were who led them to perpetuate that fraud? Shouldn't we know who invented those false stories and fed them to ABC?
UPDATE: Jonathan Schwarz has a highly relevant excerpt from Hubris, the book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, which reported:
In October 2001, [Bush terrorism official Gen. Wayne] Downing, [Paul] Wolfowitz, and other proponents of a war with Iraq thought they had yet more ammunition for the case against Saddam. A series of deadly anthrax-laced letters had been sent to the Capitol Hill offices of Senator Daschle and Senator Patrick Leahy and to several newsrooms. Mylroie asserted that Saddam was behind the mailings. An early forensic test of the anthrax letters (which was later disputed) appeared to show that the anthrax spores were highly refined and "weaponized."The attempt to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks was just as fraudulent -- and just as significant -- as the attempt to link Saddam to 9/11, Al Qaeda and nuclear weapons. Brian Ross and ABC played a key role in that part of the fraud, yet have never accounted for their conduct.
April 09, 2007
Anthrax: some new findings
by Clarice Feldman
Dr. Laurie Mylroie has given me permission to share with American Thinker readers her important analysis of a recent article on the source of the U.S. anthrax attacks by the Shoham/Jacobsen and the extensive comment on the piece by Richard Spertzel, a highly regarded, highly qualified Biological Warfare expert. She writes:
Last week, TNR's Marty Peretz drew attention to an article on the 2001 anthrax letters by Dr. Dany Shoham and Dr. Stuart Jacobsen: The article underscores the very sophisticated nature of the anthrax in the letters sent to the two US senators and suggests that Iraq may well have been responsible for it.
Richard Spertzel, a BW expert formerly with UNSCOM and the Iraq Survey Group, was kind enough to share his expertise with a few colleagues and wrote the following comment on that article:Much of what these authors say, I can verify. Iraq had air-freighted into Baghdad two Niro spray dryers that were of the type that would yield "plus or minus any particle size" the producer desired. One of these was located at Al Hakam and was destroyed under UN supervision in May/June 1996. The other one we were unable to locate (and, of course, Iraq did not know its whereabouts) until spring 1998. Within two weeks I had a sampling team in Iraq to thoroughly sample the 2nd dryer. Unfortunately, Iraq suddenly had an urgent need for the dryer and had thoroughly disassembled it, cleaned and sterilized it and then reassembled it. We were not able to get permission to destroy it but we kept tabs on it. However, UNMOVIC never checked for it and I believe the US did not after the war. It very well could have been moved to Syria .To start, I have believed all along that Iraqi intelligence had their dirty hands on this event. Based on ISG findings that Iraq had apparently decided in 1994 to not attempt production, but rather only research to enhance "break-out" capability and that the Iraqi and Syrian intelligence services had formed an alliance to develop the field "in chemical and biological of mutual interest," I now suspect that Syria made the anthrax product with Iraqi Intelligence assistance. The cooperation included Iraqi scientists assisting the Syrians.
Iraq did import 200 metric tonnes of aerosil from Germany in 1988. The silica was for the CW/BW weapons group. We, UNSCOM, believed the silica was intended for making dusty chemical agents, but it could also have been used for BW weapons. We know that Iraq had all the aerobiology technology necessary. It appears that the UN FAO also obtained 25 metric tonnes for Iraq "drug industry" in 2002 (of course this was after the anthrax letters). This also was not checked by UNMOVIC.
There is evidence that the Pasteur Institute in Paris had the Ames strain. We know that Iraq obtained from the Pasteur Institute several strains of anthrax but we were only able to confirm the identity of one strain (Pasteur A15, I believe. I could check it.) Thus one of the other strains might have been the Ames strain; in addition to the two possible sources cited by the authors.
Thus, the authors seem to have done a rather thorough analysis that the FBI should have done. There are some minor flaws in their data but I have not checked against their sources. There is no doubt that the material in the Daschle and Leahy letters as well as the AMI building contained a hydrophilic silica. The polyglass binder came from the FBI itself. I have learned of the addition of the weak like-charge from several sources including some on the inside of the investigations. The pharmaceutical industry is interested in this because, as the authors state it also increases retention of the small particles in the lung. Normally this retention is around 40%, but the like-charge increases this approaching 100%. I suspect this was the interest of whoever did this.
wants answers from FBI on anthrax
He and postal workers seek probe update
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 04/11/07
BY MICHAEL RISPOLI
PRINCETON — Nearly six years after letters laced with anthrax spooked a nation freshly worried about terrorist attacks, a federal lawmaker and postal workers gathered Tuesday to call for the FBI to explain the progress of its investigation and why the case has never been solved.
Standing down the street from the drop-box where the first anthrax-tainted letter was mailed, Rep. Rush D. Holt, D-N.J., continued to ask the FBI to brief Congress on the status of the investigation of the origin of the 2001 letters that killed five people and left sick many who came into contact with the bacterium.
Holt, flanked by representatives from postal administration and handlers, said the issue needs to remain upfront and that Congress needs to learn lessons from the probe — specifically whether lawmakers need to readdress how to help combat bioterrorism.
"Central New Jerseyans don't need to be reminded that these deadly attacks originated here — that lives were disrupted, that commerce was disrupted, that people died," Holt said. "And for all we know, the murderer is still at large."
When the anthrax scare began, Ron Procaccino, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 268 in Princeton, said his office was shut down and operated out of a tent for nearly a month.
"People were afraid to take their mail. Everyone was frightened," Procaccino said. "It gets to the point after years and years where you begin to wonder if it's forgotten."
Holt said he was "stonewalled" from being briefed on the investigation by the FBI last September, when a formal request was made seeking an update on the case. Holt said he has begun to wonder if the refusal for a briefing is because the FBI is "embarrassed about their slow progress and the failures so far of the investiga tion."
"If they are making more progress, I'd like to know it," Holt said.
A response letter from the FBI last year declined a classified briefing on the case but said "significant progress" had been made in the investigation, calling it "one of the largest and most complex investigations ever conducted."
Holt was asked by reporters Tuesday if he would go as far as to issue subpoenas to the FBI to respond at a congressional briefing. While not ruling that out, Holt said, "Subpoenas should be used sparingly."
Michael Rispoli: firstname.lastname@example.org
Postal union leaders protest probe into anthrax attacks
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Postal workers across the country are frustrated that the FBI's investigation into the deadly mailed anthrax attacks from fall 2001 hasn't landed anyone behind bars yet, Postal Service union leaders said during a news conference over the anthrax investigation yesterday in Princeton Borough.
"We are here for one reason: for closure and justice," said Les Cohen, New Jersey branch president of the National Association of Postal Supervisors.
"All I ask is that the FBI do the job and get this taken care of so we can all rest easy," Cohen said.
Cohen and other Postal Service union leaders joined ranks at the press briefing with U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.), who has been at the forefront of a bipartisan effort to have the FBI brief Congress on the status of the investigation and why the case remains unsolved 5 1/2 years after the anthrax attacks killed five people, injured at least 17 others and terrified the country.
"Three dozen bipartisan members of the House and the Senate have asked for briefings so that we (Congress) can do our oversight role. Despite all of that, we have been stonewalled," Holt of Hopewell Township said during the news conference, which Princeton Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman and Councilman Andrew Koontz also attended.
A couple of Postal Service drop boxes served as a backdrop for yesterday's gathering on Nassau Street.
A different drop box at another location on Nassau Street had tested positive for anthrax in August 2002, almost a year after the anthrax attacks began. That tainted drop box was taken out of service when the anthrax was discovered.
Four anthrax-laced letters postmarked Sept. 18, 2001, were routed through the Hamilton Post Office on Route 130, which serves as the Postal Service's regional distribution center for the greater Trenton- Princeton area.
Holt said it's baffling that the FBI has refused to brief Congress -- even at the committee level on a classified basis -- on the anthrax investigation since 2003.
He noted that the FBI's fact sheet on the anthrax investigation, which the agency refers to as the "Amerithrax" case, last September described the probe as "one of the largest and most complex investigations ever conducted by law enforcement."
"Yet there is nothing to show for that," Holt said. "I understand that cases go cold."
On its Web site, the FBI describes the case as active and its commitment to solving it as "undiminished."
But whatever the status of the investigation, it's important that the FBI brief congressional overseers because that might help improve future investigations, enhance national security and protect the public, Holt said. And there is no need or expectation that the FBI disclose information that would compromise the ability to apprehend the anthrax killer or killers, he said.
April 11, 2007
New Leads in Anthrax Case?
Ross Getman, an attorney in New York who has conducted exhaustive research into the anthrax mailings, believes a code used by Al Qaeda implicates the terror organization in the anthrax attacks. Also, the American Thinker reports of "some new findings" in the case.
Code Used In The Anthrax Letters
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told a recent conference in Washington, D.C.:
"People often ask me what keeps you up at night; what do you worry about?While by his account in that speech, he starts his day at 4:00 a.m., let's consider whether Mr. McConnell has made the time to brief the President on the code used in the earlier anthrax letters.
(1) Atta's "Jenny" Code and the Jennifer Lopez Letter
The goofy letter sent to the publisher of the National Enquirer and Sun tabloids in Florida sought to dissuade Jennifer Lopez from a planned marriage. “Wedding” is known Al Qaeda-speak for “event” or “attack.” In the Summer of 2001, Mohammed Atta was communicating with a terrorist contact in Germany. He used tradecraft code in these contacts -- he used the code "Two sticks, a dash and a cake with a stick down" to convey to his contact the intended date of the 9/11 attack. In sending these emails to Germany, Atta pretended to be writing to an imaginary girlfriend named "Jenny." Khalid Mohammed used a similar code in communicating with Ramzi Binalshibh during the period, instructing Binalshibh to send "the skirts" to "Sally". (The 9/11 Commission Staff noted that "Sally" was Zacarias Moussaoui.) KSM admits that upon the death of military commander Atef, he came to supervise the cell planning on attacking the United States with weaponized anthrax. In 2003, after the interrogation of regional operative Hambali, "extremely virulent" anthrax was found at a house in Kandahar that could be readily weaponized. Al Qaeda had it prior to 9/11.
Stevens noted at the time it was
especially odd given that the Sun did not deal with celebrities, which
was the subject of the sister-paper Globe. Stevens' fellow
photo editor Roz Suss was looking over his shoulder: "With that Bob
says to me, 'Hey, I think there's something gold in here. It looks
like a Jewish star sticking out of the powder.' I walked up behind
him and reached over his shoulder. I pulled this little star out
of what looked like a mound of powder in this letter." "It
looked like something from a Cracker Jacks box," she says.
She picked it out of the powder and tossed it in her wastebasket.
Stevens' colleague Bobby Bender recalls opening a large envelope to Jennifer
Lopez, care of the Sun. In it was a cigar tube containing a cigar,
a small Star of David charm, and somethiing that seemed like soap powder.
According to an early National Enquirer,
Jennifer Lopez' fame had withstood a number of underperforming movies, to include the movie "The Cell" in the year 2000. In the movie, following a trail of bodies, an FBI agent tracks down and captures a disturbed serial killer. Before the killer can reveal the whereabouts of his next victim (a woman trapped in a cell on the verge of drowning), he falls into a coma. Enter FBI psychologist Lopez, who uses a radical link to the killer's brain that could destroy her own sanity. "Her mission: Find the cell's location before time runs out, and avoid getting trapped inside the killer's head." How apt.
Mrs. Stevens explained:
"They get strange letters sometimes, and the consensus seems to be thatThe CIA knows that wedding is Al-Qaeda-speak for an event. That, according to New York Times journalists, is why the CIA got so anxious to have the Buffalo boys arrested. Apart from an email about a "big feast," they had started talking about a planned wedding. Interpreting such code is not without risk. The CIA kicked down the door in Bahrain and dragged him away from the altar to the horror of his bride-to-be.
What does the J.Lo letter tell us about the sender, or senders? J.Lo is what they used to call a "sex bomb" - and the biggest one at the time. She had international fame. The vehicle had a "weird" love letter, a Star of David, maybe a cigar. Who has "issues" and weird obsessions with women, sex (with a cigar being a crude symbol) and Jewish symbolism? Atta, for example, had strict instructions in his will about what women would be allowed to do at his funeral. Follow the anomalies.
Two of the hijackers had subscriptions to AMI publications, as did at least one other Al Qaeda operative in contact with Atta in the summer of 2001.
"Greendale" School is the return
address of the anthrax letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy -- two Senators
who played key roles in both appropriations to Israel and Arab secular
regimes and the rendering of senior Egyptian Islamic Jihad leaders.
In December 2002, the Arabic paper London Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that
correspondence on Zawahiri's computer (which was obtained by the Wall Street
"We have been trying to go back to our main, previous activities. The most important step was the opening of the school. We have made it possible for the teachers to find openings for profitable trade."
The letter read:
"We have been trying to go back to our military activities. The most important step was the declaration of unity with al-Qaeda. We have made it possible for the mujahideen to find an opening for martyrdom. As you know, the situation down in Egypt has become bad for the mujahideen: our members in Upper Egypt have abandoned military action,Dr. Jean Rosenfeld, a researcher associated with the UCLA Center for the Study of Religion, and an expert on the symbolism of religious extremist movements, wrote me: "Greendale' to me signified a conscious choice to use the symbolic color of Islam." She continued: "The franked eagle on the envelope of the anthrax letters was identical to
the one I caught on a documentary that showed a one-second shot of the site where Sadat was assassinated -- the huge eagle above the podium where he was when he died. That assassination was of great significance to Egyptian Jihad and produced the pamphlet by Faraj that justifies "fard 'ayn"/individual duty as the basis of jihadist
doctrine." She explained that "AQ is rooted in Egypt and Salafism, not Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism. Al-Zawahiri, I believe, is intensely nostalgic for the Nile Valley."
The CIA factbook explains that
the color green -- such as used by anthrax lab technician Yazid Sufaat
in naming his lab "Green Laboratory Medicine" , and by the mailer who used
the return address "Greendale School" -- is the traditional color of islam.
Green symbolizes islam, Mohammed and the holy war. In its section
on Saudi Arabia, and the
"Green is the color of the prophet
Mohammed who himself declared it his favourite color and who's cloak and
turban were green. Even today only his direct successors - the Kaliphs
- are allowed to wear a green turban. The Holy Banner - the most precious
relic of Islam - is green with golden embroidery. Mohammed supposedly carried
Al Qaeda anthrax lab technician Yazid Sufaat and Zacarias Moussaoui used the name Green Laboratory Medicine as the name of the company that he used, for example, to buy 4 tons of ammonium nitrate, and that he used to cover his anthrax production program. In a Hadith the Messenger of Allah explains that the souls of the martyrs are in the hearts of green birds that fly wherever they please in Paradise.
Green dale refers to green "river valley" -- Egypt, Cairo, Egyptian Islamic Jihad and/or Egyptian Islamic Group. Put it all together and you have their new official name (though the American press does not use it) -- Qaeda al Jihad. For what it is worth, at the Darunta complex where jihadis trained, recruits would wear green uniforms, except for Friday when they would be washed.
A similar type of coded talk was used around the same period between Atta and Binalshibh as they approached the zero hour of 11 September. Code phrases included:
Faculty of Fine Arts/arts = PentagonIn the conversations that the blind sheikh's spokesman, Sattar, had with people like Taha, al-Sirri, and the sheikh's son, Ahmed, they used the same language found in emails between Zawahiri and the Yemeni cell in email. If a brother was in the hospital, it meant he was in prison. If he had an accident, it meant perhaps that Egyptian security services had killed him.
Given that using the same address helps the second recipient receiving the letter to identify it and avoid opening it, the perp would have no reason to use the same address unless he was communicating something and wanted to draw attention to it.
On the return address, Greendale
School purported to be in Franklin Park where fugitive Adnan El-Shukrijumah
worshipped along with others who now have been indicted. The pilot El Shukrijumah
is said to be at the level of Mohammed Atta and is thought to have been
associated with Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-trained biologist. Mohammed
Atta lived 11 miles away from this mosque across from Franklin Park.
Holy Cross hospital -- where Dr Tsonas treated Flight 93 hijacker
Ahmad al-Haznawi for a suspicious leg lesion that he and other experts
think was due to cutaneous anthrax -- is only 7 miles from the mosque.
Al-Haznawi had just come from Kandahar where the "extremely virulent"
The coded e-mail Faris wrote back
to KSM suggesting that the idea of removing bolts from the span of the
Brooklyn Bridge was not a viable idea was but one of many examples
of the simple codes used by Al Qaeda operatives. Sometimes it might
be Iyman Faris' reference to the weather or Ramzi Binalshibh's "shirts"
for Sally. Sometimes the code might be as simple as Adham Hassoun's
"stuff" for the local soccer
But putting aside this question of nuptials, impending or annulled, the fact remains that the sender of the anthrax letters would have had no reason to use the same address on the second letter unless he was communicating something. That identical return address, in fact, helped authorities locate and intercept the letter to a Senator.
(3) "In The Hearts Of Green Birds" (Inside Green Birds)
It was widely published among
the militant islamists that martyrs go to paradise "in the hearts of green
birds." The stamp used in the anthrax mailings was designed by artist
Michael Doret. Mr. Doret advises me that the color of the eagle
is a “teal” or
In the very interview in which
they admitted 9/11, and described the codes used for the four targets for
the planes, KSM and Ramzi Binalshibh admitted to the Jenny code,
the code for representing the date 9/11, and used the symbolism of the
"Green Birds." Osama Bin Laden later invoked the
symbolism in his video "The 19 Martyrs",
9-11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh a few months earlielr in his interview with al-Jazeera, in a lengthy and articulate essay "The Nineteen Lions" published by Azzam Publications on December 2002, explained:
"One of the explanations of the Quranic verse [3:169] in which Allah says that the shuhadaa (martyrs) are not dead, is that as well as their souls being inside the hearts of green birds, they are alive because the shaheed (martyr) gives life to those around him. Indeed evidence of this is apparent throughout the Ummah today."Peter Finn of the Washington Post explains the symbolism:
"Around 7 one evening during Ramadan in 1998, the believers filed down a long corridor leading to the prayer room of the Al Muhadjirin mosque here, placing their shoes on the dark brown shelves before stepping onto a carpet the color of turquoise, a mixture of green for Islam and blue for heaven. Among the worshipers was a small group of men who clustered around a severe, slight Egyptian named Mohamed Atta. ..In the [9/11/2002] interview with al-Jazeera, Binalshibh, said that Al-Shehhi, even before he learned of the operation, used to have beautiful visions that he flies in the sky with huge green birds and crashes into things."
A FAQ on Al Qaeda's website, the
Azzam Publications website, explained that "In the Hearts of Green
Birds" refers to what is inside: “The actual Arabic word used
in the Hadith is not Qalb (heart) but it is Jowf which can mean any of
interior, inside, or heart
Azzam.com posted an exclusive
interview with Ayman al-Zawahiri and stressed the importance of cash donations
and gas masks and chemical-resistant suits. Ibn Khattab, the Arab
Chechnyan fighter who was Bin Laden's good friend, had told his public
that azzam.com was highly recommended and that only the two charities identified
Azzam.org had "no bricks
and mortar address, but operates a post office box in London, and bill[ed]
itself as "an independent media organisation providing authentic news and
information about jihad and the Foreign Mujahideen everywhere."
One posting datelined from the southern Afghan city of Kandahar and was
a message to Muslim youth from top terror suspect Bin Laden. A farewell
message from Azzam Publications .. exhorts "Muslims all over the
World (to) render as much financial, physical, medical, media and moral
support to the Taliban as they can." Azzam also urged those
with computer expertise to mirror the website so as to keep it up after
authorities took it
British and US intelligence sources suspected that some of Azzam.com's jihad photos and graphics contain messages embedded with a technology known as steganography. The code instead perhaps was there separately for all to see on the stamps of the lethal missives being sent.
A man formerly known as
Paul Hall, was arrested in Phoenix on a federal criminal complaint in March
2007 and agreed to be removed to District of Connecticut for
further prosecution where there has been investigation of Azzam Publications
website located on a server there. He is alleged to have provided
classified information to the
Even Zarqawi invoked the imagery in a 60-minute audio message:
"The martyrs rejoice in the bounty provided by God. Their souls are inside the bodies of green birds that fly in heaven."In Fall 2004, the federal authorities indicted the fellow behind Azzam Publications selling "Green Birds," Babar Ahmad, pointing, in part, to the "distribution of videotapes and compact discs depicting fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere, and the eulogizing of dead fighters, for the purpose of recruiting individuals and soliciting donations to support the mujahideen in Afghanistan and Chechnya." Of Pakistani descent, Ahmad is a British computer specialist. He is associated with KSM, who had anthrax production documents on his laptop and admits to having headed the cell (after Atef’s death) planning to use weaponized anthrax against the United States. Ahmad is also the
cousin of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested mid-2004 in Pakistan. Khan’s computers carried detailed surveillance of five financial buildings in New York, Newark and Washington and once prompted the Department of Homeland Security to elevate the threat alert level to orange.
In an affidavit, an FBI special
agent and computer investigative specialist, alleged that a New Brunswick,
NJ man, Mazen Mokhtar, assisted Babar in maintaining the continued
operation of the Azzam sites, through the use of mirror sites, when the
Of course, given that the symbolism
used in this regard in the anthrax mailings had an origin in religious
writing, there is no direct tie with the website -- the tie could be with
the hadith. The webmaster has said that the FBI allowed it
to remain up (while it moved
Bin Laden was using "Green Birds" in the same way he used the repeated phrase "Looming Tower" to hint of what was to come with the planes attack on the World Trade Center. He would say:
"Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower."On October 7, 2001 in a prerecorded tape aired October 7, Bin Laden said "The winds of faith have come." This would be enough to keep Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell up at night -- or when he does sleep, to keep him dreaming about green birds.
(4) KSM and Clouds (Al-Sahab)
In admitting that he had taken over supervising the development of anthrax for use against the US, Khalid Mohammed separately noted that "I was the Media Operations Director for Al-Sahab or 'The Clouds,' under Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri.
The flagship of American Media, Inc. described the letter sent AMI as follows:
“Bobby Bender came around the corner with this letter in the upturned palms of his hands,” said photo assistant Roz Suss, a 13-year Sun staffer.
“It was a business-size sheet of stationery decorated with pink and blue clouds around the edges.”
(5) Allusion to Both Atta and Genomic Sequencing of Ames Strain
The writing of the text of the letter is also interesting in that the "As" and "Ts" are double-lined -- to suggest ATTA, the lead hijacker.
When the US Centers for Disease Control first identified that the Ames strain had been used in the mailng to Florida in October 2001, Dr. Paul Keim and his colleagues at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) had nearly finished a project to sequence Bacillus anthracis— specifically, the chromosome of an anthrax isolate from a laboratory in Porton Down, U.K. Ayman had a microbiologist attending Porton Down-sponsored conferences at which presentations were made about the sequencing of Ames. The Defense Intelligence Agency provided me the correspondence between the scientist and Zawahiri. And, sure, enough, the letter writer appears to have even double-lined A's and T's in the letters possibly to simultaneously allude to Atta and the genomic sequence. The hazmat courier who delivered anthrax to Dr. Keim’s lab emailed me this past week to say that he was interviewed twice -- once in March 2002 and then in January 2003. It was in January 2003 that the FBI had come to be fixated on whether any middle eastern man had come to have access to anthrax at the lab. The FBI thus apparently has been clued into the code used in the letter years ago.
As explained at the Porton Down
conferences attended by Ayman's operatve Abdur Rauf, Keim's research team
eventually discovered 60 new 'markers' in the Bacillus anthracis genome—DNA
sequences that may vary from one isolate to another. These include insertions
or deletions of DNA, and short sequences that are repeated at different
lengths in the genome known as VNTRs (variable-number tandem repeats).
A decade earlier, it had been determined that one of three proteins comprising
anthrax toxin, and the first nucleotide sequence to be reported from B.
anthracis (by USAMRIID authors no less), had a consensus TATAAT sequence
located at the putative -10 promoter site. It is all greek to me
but apparently something with meaning to the person who drafted the letter.
Perhaps the sender was saying that the bacteria was pathogenic
This and the other coding together
may have served to tell the world, for example, that Mohammed Atta and
the others were going to fly to paradise on a green bird and that the anthrax
was courtesy of Zawahiri’s Vanguards of Conquest. Ayman simultaneously
framed the US Army and UK biodefense establishment while telling them who
Wednesday April 11, 2007 10:28 EST
Response from ABC News re: the Saddam-anthrax reports
In response to the post I wrote regarding the multiple October 2001 reports from ABC News falsely linking Saddam Hussein to the anthrax attacks, I received the following e-mail from ABC's Jeffrey Schneider (emphasis added):
Glenn - Had you contacted us for comment prior to posting your story - or done a little research yourself - you would know that ABC News and Brian Ross did in fact update and clarify our original Friday, October 26, 2001 Anthrax/Bentonite report and quickly.
Contrary to what Schneider tries to imply, this is, in fact, the first time ever that ABC News is acknowledging that its Iraq-anthrax report -- flamboyantly trumpeted for five straight days -- "was indeed wrong." Schneider here is apparently trying to insinuate that what Ross said to Jennings at the end of that November 1 report constituted some sort of retraction, acknowledgment of error, and/or explanation -- and not just a retraction, but a satisfactory one -- for ABC's completely false and highly consequential "scoop." I find this response truly amazing on several levels.JENNINGS: And, Brian, what's the latest we know about the additive called bentonite in the anthrax which made it so allegedly dangerous?You assert that sources "manipulated ABC News." The reality is that we reported what numerous, diverse sources believed to be true on October 26, 2001. As further tests were done, the story evolved as did our reporting and just days later we made it clear to millions of viewers that our original report was indeed wrong.
Initially, I will note that not only was I aware of the November 1 Jennings-Ross "exchange" when I wrote my post, but I expressly noted in my post the following:
While ABC, from the beginning, noted that even the White House publicly denied the bentonite story, they have never retracted, corrected or even explained their false reports.There was nothing new about that November 1 exchange. Exactly as I noted in the post, Ross, from the beginning, stressed that the White House denied his Iraq-bentonite report, and that is all he did in the November 1 comments as well (which came at the end of a lengthy anthrax report). Ross' sentence -- which ABC News is now trying to claim was an admission of error of their five days of previous reporting -- was, in fact, nothing more than a repeat of what ABC and Ross said every day when they reported this false story:
October 26 -- World News Tonight: PETER JENNINGS, anchor: "We're going to begin this evening with what we believe is a meaningful lead in the most sensitive anthrax case so far, despite a very recent denial by the White House. . .The very idea -- pushed here now by ABC -- that Ross' November 1 comment that the White House denied his report constituted some sort of retraction or acknowledgment of error for the five days of prior reporting is outright absurd. All Ross was saying there was that the White House denied there was a finding of bentonite -- something they had said from the very beginning. Ross did not say -- and has never said -- that ABC's breathlessly touted exclusive that bentonite was found was wrong or that they were retracting it.
It just goes without saying that Ross's statement that the White House claims that ABC's report was wrong is not remotely the same as an acknowledgment from ABC that it was, in fact, wrong. Nobody would have understood Ross' remark -- made virtually in passing at the end of a report -- to constitute a retraction or acknowledgment of error with regard to the top story ABC touted for five straight days. And the proof of that is in the pudding.
As I documented in the prior post, long after that November 1 comment from Ross which Schneider tries to depict as an acknowledgment of error, the ABC "bentonite" reports continued to be cited by those wanting war with Iraq -- such as The Weekly Standard -- to argue that Iraq was responsible for the anthrax attacks. Indeed, to this day various pro-war pundits continue to cite those ABC reports as "proof" of a connection between Saddam and the anthrax attacks. That is precisely because ABC never retracted the story or even acknowledged that it was wrong -- until Schneider's e-mail yesterday.
Conversely, if ABC really had -- as Schneider now claims -- retracted its Saddam-anthrax reports, or even admitted error, that would be a significant story. Yet, at least to my knowledge after searching, nobody has ever even noted that ABC acknowledged that its story was wrong -- there is not an article or report anywhere (that I can find) suggesting that. The only references to those ABC bentonite reports subsequent to November 1, 2001 are from those who continue to cite those reports as valid. If ABC retracted its story or acknowledged error, apparently nobody noticed.
Moreover, what Ross said in that November 1 exchange with Jennings was totally misleading. This is what he said: "today the White House said that despite initial test results which we reported suggesting the presence of a chemical called bentonite, a trademark of the Iraqi weapons program, a further chemical analysis has ruled that out." What Ross was really doing there was implying (falsely) that the White House confirmed the ABC story that "initial tests" revealed a presence of bentonite. That is the opposite of a retraction or acknowledgment of error.
Ross' suggestion in that comment is itself totally false. The White House never confirmed any such thing, but rather, denied from the beginning that bentonite was ever found in the anthrax. What Ross was doing here was creating the false appearance that ABC was right from the beginning, because initial tests did find bentonite and the White House even confirmed as much.
In fact, the White House claimed -- and never stopped claiming -- that ABC was wrong from the beginning because no tests ever found bentonite. As USA Today reported on October 31 (via Lexis):
Who has it right, the White House or ABC News?Contrary to the impression Ross created on November 1, the White House insisted from the beginning that ABC's report was wrong. And, from start to finish, it was wrong -- as Schneider now admits ("our original report was indeed wrong"). But neither Ross nor ABC ever told its viewers that its story was wrong, and still -- to this day -- they have not done so. If anything, Ross insinuated (falsely) that the White House provided confirmation that the story was accurate.
This is the real point here: For five straight days, ABC -- on virtually every one of its news programs, and out of the mouths of virtually every one of its media stars -- breathlessly told the country that there was compelling evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the anthrax attacks (at the same time they were claiming that there were "confirmed" reports of a meeting between Mohammad Atta and Iraqi intelligence officials). They repeatedly led their viewers to believe that there was compelling, if not dispositive, evidence that Saddam Hussein and Iraq engineered the anthrax attacks on this country.
That was a major, major story with untold consequences on how Americans thought, and on how some Americans still think. And that story turned out to be completely wrong. Yet ABC never told its viewers what happened or acknowledged any wrongdoing. And now, instead of honestly acocunting for what happened and how -- and who fed them these false stories -- they are instead trying to deceitfully suggest that they really did slip in some sort of retraction that was obviously not understood to be a retraction and no reasonable person would have understood it as such.
Just compare that behavior to what The New York Times did in response to the widespread realization that their pre-war Iraq reporting was so plagued with errors. They published a lengthy Editor's Note acknowledging the errors, explaining how those errors occurred, identifying what lessons they drew from those mistakes, and in essence, apologizing to their readers for misleading them. As inadequate as one can argue that Editor's Note is, there is at least an editorial recognition that they have a journalistic responsibility when they publish false reports of that magnitude to clearly admit error and explain how it occurred.
Or compare ABC's behavior even to what The Politico's Ben Smith did recently when he made a comparatively insignificant mistake of reporting that John Edwards would announce that day that he would suspend his campaign in light of his wife's medical condition -- an error which lasted a grand total of 57 minutes and harmed nobody.
Almost immediately, Smith published a post -- entitled "Getting it Wrong" -- clearly acknowledging his error and apologizing for it. Later that day, he published another story transparently explaining in detail what happened, what caused his error, and what lessons he learned from his mistakes. ABC has never done anything remotely like that with its far more consequential and disturbing story.
Recall how this interaction with ABC began: with their publication of a new report by Brian Ross and Christopher Isham claiming -- based solely on anonymous sources about whom ABC News disclosed no information whatsoever -- that Iran's nuclear program was far ahead of what even the American intelligence community believed. [And now there is apparently some notion being floated that the subsequent boastings of President Ahmadinejad on Tuesday that that their program is more advanced than even ABC claimed somehow bolsters the credibility of the ABC report (it's fascinating how -- just like with Osama bin Laden -- we are to discount, ignore and dismiss everything the "irrational crazy Holocaust-denying new-Hitler-Enemy" Ahmadinejad says, except when what he says can be exploited to promote a warmongering agenda, in which case he is to be believed)].
My criticism of that ABC story was that, by publishing such an obviously significant story without disclosing any information whatsoever about their sources, the story was essentially worthless, since there was no way to assess the credibility of the story other than by blindly relying on the judgment and integrity of ABC News. And ABC News -- like most if not all of our most prestigious national journalistic outlets -- apparently believes it is entitled to such faith.
But their behavior with regard to their false anthrax story -- not so much the original reporting as their six-year refusal to acknowledge error (until Schneider's email yesterday) and their ongoing refusal to explain how and why they got the story so wrong -- reveals why blindly relying on ABC's secret and unexplained judgments is so misguided.
Clearly acknowledging one's errors and accounting for why and how those errors occurred is a prerequisite to credibility. And that is particularly so where a news organization gets a story of this magnitude so completely wrong.
More importantly, transparency about what occurred here and why -- including whether the sources in question had motives to feed false information to ABC blaming Saddam for the anthrax attacks -- can, by itself, have great journalistic value. Why were Americans subjected to five straight days of such an inflammatory story, touted by one of the country's leading news organizations, when the story was false from the beginning? How can ABC not provide an explanation for that? And whatever else is true, a news organization which makes such a grave error and refuses to account for what it did is not behaving as a credible or reliable source of journalism. -- Glenn Greenwald
Anthrax postal attacks remain unsolved, five years later
By: Courtney Gross, Staff Writer
Holt, union chiefs gather near site of Princeton mailbox where traces found
Five years after anthrax attacks were directed at mailboxes in Princeton and other communities across the nation, a new call for answers was issued here this week.
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12), with representatives of postal workers' associations and unions from across the state, demanded a resumption of briefings on the investigation by the FBI.
The crimes, which remain unsolved, took the lives of five civilians, sickened others and brought postal services to a halt.
Gathered on a crowded Nassau Street sidewalk Tuesday afternoon, minutes away from a mailbox where traces of anthrax were found nearly five years ago, Rep. Holt called for briefings, confidential or not, by the FBI regarding the status of the anthrax investigation. These talks have been abandoned or ignored by the federal agency for months, the congressman said.
"For all we know the murderer is still at large," Rep. Holt said. "The longer it goes on, the more I wonder whether their unwillingness to brief us is because they are embarrassed about their slow progress and the failures so far of the investigation," he added.
Following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, letters laced with anthrax were sent to members of the media and Congress. Some of the letters were routed through the Postal Service's mail processing center in Hamilton. The processing center was closed for more than three years, the congressman said, and $65 million was spent to decontaminate it.
The fallout from the anthrax attacks caused a temporary closure of Rep. Holt's office in 2001, after traces of anthrax were found on equipment.
Less than a year later, the FBI found anthrax in a mail drop box on Nassau Street, similar to the box postal workers surrounded Tuesday.
Since these incidents, Rep. Holt said it seems little progress has been made in the case.
"Despite all of that we have been stonewalled," Rep. Holt said. "Congress deserves better and, of course, the people of New Jersey and of the country deserve better."
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the anthrax case is still active, and is being pursued by a number of federal agencies. Beyond that, he said, the FBI's position on briefing members of Congress is in line with a letter sent by an FBI representative to Rep. Holt in September.
According to the letter, the investigation has spanned six continents, included 9,100 witness interviews, 67 searches and the issuance of 6,000 grand jury subpoenas. In the letter the FBI refuses to entertain congressional briefings after "sensitive information" appeared in media reports that was attributed to congressional sources.
Rep. Holt, who had been briefed on the anthrax investigation on three occasions from June 2002 through April 2003, said Tuesday that there was no evidence that there were congressional leaks on the anthrax case.
As residents strolled down Nassau Street and dropped letters or bills through the squeaky hatch of a blue U.S. Postal Service mailbox, Rep. Holt said he has called for several congressional oversight committees to hold hearings on the anthrax investigation. So far, he said, more than 30 of his congressional colleagues have solicited information from the FBI, but to no avail.
Les Cohen, president of the New Jersey branch of the National Association of Postal Supervisors, representing 1,500 postal employees in the state, called his colleagues heroes for challenging the fear that gripped the nation in 2001 and coming to work anyway.
"We are here simply for one reason — for closure and justice for our brothers who died and for those who were sickened," Mr. Cohen said.
Other representatives called for protection for both postal workers and the general public. Robert Blum, vice president of Local 300 of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union, said nothing is more important than safety.
"I'm looking back at 2001, I recall the worried look of fear in the workers' eyes," Mr. Blum said. "Yet despite that fear, despite that worry, postal workers did their job of processing and delivering the mail to the general public."
To this day, said Martin Carey, vice president of the New Jersey Rural Letter Carriers' Association, postal employees are frightened by the threat of anthrax. Mr. Carey said he is not optimistic the 2001 anthrax perpetrator will ever be brought to justice.
"Anthrax isn't something you can sweep under the rug," Mr. Carey said. "As they handle the mail every day, it's always in the back of their minds."
Free Press Battle Looms in Hatfill Case
By JOSH GERSTEIN
A court battle that could result in substantial fines for news organizations and jail time for reporters is looming, after lawyers for a former Army scientist investigated in connection with the deadly anthrax mailings in 2001 signaled plans to demand the names of confidential sources for news stories about the anthrax probe.
The scientist, Steven Hatfill, is suing the federal government for invading his privacy by publicly labeling him as a "person of interest" in the crimes and by giving journalists details of his involvement in the investigation.
On Monday, Dr. Hatfill's attorneys asked Judge Reggie Walton to allow them to issue new subpoenas to reporters who covered the story. In 2004, more than a dozen journalists were called to testify, though a smaller number actually gave depositions.
To stave off a protracted First Amendment fight, Dr. Hatfill's legal team did not try to force the journalists to identify their sources. Instead, several reporters simply confirmed the government agencies for which the sources worked.
However, last month, Judge Walton told the scientist's lawyers that they were likely to lose the Privacy Act suit if they did not establish the actual identities of the sources.
Lawyers for Dr. Hatfill and for press organizations involved in the case declined to comment for this article.
Attorneys monitoring the lawsuit said the new subpoenas will likely trigger appeals that could drag out the case for more than a year. "Even assuming the worst case scenario, nobody's going to jail immediately," one press freedom advocate, Jane Kirtley of the University of Minnesota, said.
Ms. Kirtley said the reporters, who work for the Associated Press, CBS, CNBC, and others, face an uphill fight because the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2005 that journalists can be forced to name their sources when an individual sues the government for violating the Privacy Act.
The reporters in jeopardy now are expected to defy Dr. Hatfill's subpoenas and any court order to name their sources. Ms. Kirtley said one critical issue will be whether Judge Walton imposes fines on the news organizations involved. "That kind of monetary sanction speaks to a corporation the way jailing a reporter would not," she said.
A First Amendment battle could possibly be avoided: The government and Dr. Hatfill's lawyers asked Judge Walton to name a mediator to explore a possible settlement of the case.
No one has been charged in the anthrax attacks, which killed at least five people.
Bioterror scientist cites lack of funds
Dead end for research into antidotes
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Although he expects there to be another deadly anthrax attack, a top biodefense expert said yesterday he is shifting to cancer research because he cannot get funding to develop antidotes to biological weapons.
"Unfortunately, the likelihood is very high" of a follow-up to the anthrax mailings of 2001, Ken Alibek told a seminar at Princeton University. "And the agent very likely is still anthrax."
Alibek was chief scientist of the Soviet Union's massive germ warfare operation before coming to the U.S. in 1992. A strain of anthrax bears his name.
The naturalized citizen has been working on ways to trigger the body's "nonspecific" immune system -- which repels countless microbes every day -- as an all-purpose shield against many biological agents at once. He envisioned in halers, like those used by asthma sufferers, to boost immunity at the first sign of bioterrorism.
Alibek said his Maryland company, AFG Biosolutions Inc., achieved some success in animal tests of antibodies to protect against avian influenza and a virus similar to smallpox.
Several million federal dollars funded the work, he said. But the government, private foundations and pharmaceutical companies won't commit "tens of millions" more for the next stage, he said.
"The biggest part of my life now is devoted to cancer and cardiovascular (research). If you work in the biodefense community, good luck to you. I hope you succeed," Alibek told a gathering of the university's program on science and global security.
Five people died and at least 17 were sickened in the unsolved anthrax attacks of 2001, which involved tainted letters possibly mailed from Princeton. A postal processing center in nearby Hamilton Township was contaminated.
Like other bioweapons experts, Alibek has been scrutinized and consulted by authorities. He said he was given a polygraph test after the anthrax attacks.
Alibek described many gruesome bugs and viruses during yesterday's 75-minute talk, but concluded that anthrax probably remains the scourge of choice for terrorists, because the bacterium is fairly easy to grow and transport.
Despite billions spent on biodefense in the last six years, the U.S. remains ill-prepared for the logistical nightmares and panic that another attack would spark, said Alibek, a medical doctor and microbiologist. The business card for his new cancer venture, Max-Well, or Maximum Wellness, lists offices in Maryland and Ukraine.
Alibek expressed concern that a number of countries may possess smallpox, a virus that inspires dread because it is so contagious. And Iran has 20 institutions with "unbelievable" capabilities for creating biological agents, he said. "They are highly sophisticated."
Postal workers and lawmakers have voiced frustration that the anthrax killer remains at large. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) has complained the FBI has refused to brief Congress since 2003.
Speculation continues about the killer's technical savvy.
Reporting in a microbiology journal last year, an FBI scientist reported that, contrary to some accounts, the 2001 spores were not specially prepared, or "weaponized," with advanced techniques to increase their lethality. Alibek still suspects an insider who is familiar with old U.S. methods of cultivating anthrax.
"It was a person who knew from some source how the U.S. manufactured anthrax years and years ago," said Alibek, a native of Kazakhstan. "It's not rocket science."
Kevin Coughlin may be reached at email@example.com.
of Legal Times
May 01, 2007
The Media's Strange Ally
The subpoena battle in the Valerie Plame leak investigation pitted the news media against federal prosecutors. So reporters subpoenaed last month by the attorneys for the scientist once suspected in the anthrax attacks might be surprised by their new ally: The Justice Department is coming to their defense.
In documents filed April 27 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, federal prosecutors wrote that Steven Hatfill has overstepped court orders allowing him to compel testimony from reporters whom he had already questioned and has instead "served a new round of subpoenas" on organizations "that he failed to question during the discovery period."
Judge Reggie Walton gave Hatfill permission in March to re-subpoena reporters to find out the names of the government sources who had told them about the DOJ's investigation of Hatfill. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had called him a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people.
Hatfill, represented by lawyers at Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, filed suit in 2003 alleging that this statement and other leaks to the press by unknown law enforcement officials violated his right to privacy.
During the first round of depositions, prosecutors wrote, Hatfill subpoenaed six reporters: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, ABC's Brian Ross, The Washington Post's Allan Lengel, CBS's Jim Stewart, and USA Today's' Toni Locy. They provided accounts of what government officials had told them about Hatfill but weren't required to name their sources, only to identify them broadly as officials from DOJ or the FBI. Hatfill had also subpoenaed the news organizations, but those were dropped when the individual reporters testified.
Hatfill asked Walton to force the Justice Department to turn over documents that might help him identify the specific sources. But when Walton denied this, he gave Hatfill permission to find the sources through another means: the news media.
This time, Hatfill has subpoenaed eight news organizations, including three that he didn’t before — The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, and the Associated Press. The subpoenas require organizations to turn over documents relating to Hatfill, from email contacts to notes to company policies about confidential sourcing. They also mandate that a representative of each company appear for a deposition at the office of Hatfill’s lawyers on various dates over the next two weeks.
Hatfill has yet to ask Walton to compel the individual reporters to identify their sources. It’s unclear whether he will subpoena more individual reporters this time around, but court documents indicate the names of 22 journalists whose bylines appeared on articles related to Hatfill.
For the Justice Department, this is already going too far. “The court should reject this attempt to expand discovery,” prosecutors wrote.
Lawyers for the various news outlets say they have yet to decide how they'll respond to the subpoenas. For now, says Kevin Baine, a partner at Williams & Connolly who represents the Post, Newsweek, and ABC, “We’re not going to be in initial responses handing over anything or giving testimony that identifies sources.”
Posted by Emma Schwartz on May 01, 2007 at 04:24 PM in Justice Department , Politics and Government
Bipartisan bid in Congress for law to shield journalists
Carolyn Lochhead, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Thursday, May 3, 2007
(05-03) 04:00 PDT Washington -- A rare bipartisan coalition of House and Senate lawmakers vowed to pass federal legislation this year to shield journalists from being forced under subpoena to reveal their confidential sources.
The move comes as a civil litigant in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people in Washington delivered wide-ranging subpoenas last week to eight news organizations demanding reporters' notes, phone records, e-mails, work schedules and other material, apparently opening another legal war over reporters' sources.
"Newsrooms of all sizes are becoming embroiled in legal battles, with journalists increasingly becoming the first stop rather than the last resort for civil litigants as well as prosecutors," said John Sturm, president of the Newspaper Association of America.
The anthrax case involves scientist Steven Hatfill, who was named by former Attorney General John Ashcroft as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax investigation. Hatfill contends his reputation and ability to find work have been ruined, and that his privacy was violated in part by leaks to reporters by federal law enforcement officials. The case is being heard by the same judge who presided over last year's trial of vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter'' Libby, which led to the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller in the leak of Valerie Wilson's identity as a CIA agent.
"We face the real danger that there may never be another Deep Throat," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who is co-sponsoring the shield law, referring to the confidential source who helped topple Republican President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal three decades ago.
"As a conservative who believes in limited government, I know the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press," he said.
Pence, introducing the Free Flow of Information Act with Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., cited the case of San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who faced 18-month prison sentences for refusing to reveal their sources in the baseball steroids investigation.
Their subpoenas were lifted only after attorney Troy Ellerman, who represented two top executives of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, pleaded guilty to charges that he allowed The Chronicle reporters to take notes from secret grand jury testimony.
"I do think that the cumulative weight of the San Francisco Chronicle reporters' courage and the stand that they and their organization have made, the courage demonstrated by Judith Miller, when she was incarcerated for months across the river, has resulted in something of a national awakening to this crisis," Pence said.
"Most Americans like to hate the media almost as much as they like to hate the politicians, but I do think there is a deep sense among the American people about the importance of the reporter being able to protect a confidential source."
Similar legislation languished last year, with business groups and the Bush administration arguing the proposed shield was too broad.
This year, with Democrats in control of the House, Boucher has secured the endorsement of the new judiciary chairman, Michigan Democrat John Conyers. In the Senate, the legislation also has bipartisan sponsors, Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
The legislation would make exceptions for national security, trade secrets and personal privacy, which Boucher hopes have addressed the concerns of the Justice Department and business groups.
Under the new bill, disclosure of sources can be compelled when a judge deems it necessary "to prevent imminent and actual harm to national security" and "to prevent imminent death or significant bodily injury." To meet complaints from business groups, the bill would also allow a court to compel disclosure of sources who revealed valuable trade secrets or personal or financial information in violation of federal law.
But the bill would require a court to balance the public interest in these areas against the public interest in free news gathering.
The exceptions do not yet satisfy business groups, said Phil Goldberg, an attorney at Shook Shook, Hardy & Bacon. The bill is well-intentioned, but, he said, "the way it's constructed it would protect people who illegally obtain or leak legitimate private information, allowing them to cover their tracks by giving it to a reporter and hiding behind the shield law."
Nor does the Justice Department appear to be satisfied.
Justice spokesman Erik Ablin said the department is reviewing the new legislation and has not yet taken a position.
"In past years, however, the department has not supported media shield legislation nor found such legislation necessary," Ablin said.
But Pence described the use of reporter subpoenas as a crisis. "This bill is not about protecting reporters," he said. "It's about protecting the public's right to know."
The legislation provides a definition of journalist that Boucher said would cover bloggers in the rapidly evolving news industry. According to the bill, "the term journalism means the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public."
E-mail Carolyn Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, May 4, 2007
FBI Briefs Senators on Anthrax Case
The FBI delivered a long-awaited briefing to key U.S. senators in March to describe the status of its investigation into the 2001 anthrax mail attacks, Roll Call reported yesterday (see GSN, March 5).
Lawmakers have criticized the bureau for refusing to provide briefings which stopped when officials said information was leaking to the media.
The attacks killed five people on the U.S. East Coast and many congressional offices were closed after anthrax-laced letters were sent to Capitol Hill.
Those receiving the March briefing included Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). Leahy was the addressee of one anthrax-tainted letter and Grassley has led the call for more FBI briefings.
“With the concurrence of [the Justice Department], the FBI briefed Senator Leahy on the Amerithrax investigation,” said special agent Richard Kolko in a Tuesday e-mail to Roll Call. “Senator Leahy was provided this brief due to his specific status as a victim in this case.”
Neither Leahy nor Grassley provided any substantive details of the briefing or of the investigation. The FBI has made no arrests in the case (see GSN, April 12).
“They say [the case is] active, and I hope it is,” Leahy said.
U.S. House lawmakers have also been seeking an anthrax investigation briefing but were not invited to the March briefing. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) said Tuesday that he would work to get more information (Jennifer Yachnin, Roll Call, May 3).
Star - ANALYSIS
Terror plots and information overload
How Canada, Britain and the U.S. all fail to digest the heaps of security data they gather
May 06, 2007 04:30 AM
"Whatever the complexities
of the puzzles we strive to solve and whatever the sophisticated techniques
we may use to collect the pieces and store them, there can never be a time
when the thoughtful man can be supplanted as the intelligence device supreme."
Charges of failure, fair or unfair, hit the intelligence communities of Britain, the United States and Canada one after the other last week.
In the case of Britain's MI5, the agency took an extraordinary step to combat them.
Hoping to forestall an inquiry into what some are calling a massive intelligence failure, it posted on its website an explanation of how it had two of the London transit suicide bombers in its sights 18 months before the attacks.
And had put them to one side.
In the course of the U.K.'s biggest-ever counterterrorism operation into a bomb plot that was successfully disrupted in 2004 – involving tens of thousands of hours of surveillance, tapping 97 telephone lines and tracking 50 terrorist networks – MI5 says it drew up a list of 55 individuals associated with the plotters.
Of them, 15 were judged to warrant further monitoring. The rest included two men later identified as among the suicide bombers who would kill 52 people on July 7, 2005. They were "parked up," not treated as urgent cases.
Basically, the explanation given was a lack of resources.
"The security service," said MI5 head Jonathan Evans, "will never have the capacity to investigate everyone who appears on the periphery of every operation."
Publicizing his new book last week, former CIA director George Tenet – out of the spotlight since his heave-ho in 2004 – admitted the agency failed to predict the specifics of the 9/11 attacks. But he says it repeatedly issued warnings over the years about the dangers posed by Al Qaeda, including a July 2001 prediction of an imminent "big event."
Tenet says he gave the White House his "best estimate" of what could happen.
As for the CIA's failure to watchlist two of the 9/11 hijackers when they came to its attention in early 1999, critics scoffed at Tenet's argument that, if they'd been caught, Al Qaeda would simply have replaced them with other recruits.
Either way, nearly 3,000 people died.
At week's end, Ontario Lieutenant-Governor James Bartleman stunned an inquiry into the 1985 Air India disaster when he testified that he saw an electronic intercept just days before the bombing suggesting the airline was being targeted for the coming weekend – when the plane was indeed blown up with the loss of 329 lives.
Bartleman, then foreign affairs head of intelligence and security, said he was brushed off by an RCMP officer when he spoke to him about it.
He noted, however, that the intercept was "raw, unevaluated" intelligence. And given so many false alarms the year before, he supposed it was "possible for someone to say this is just another one of those cry-wolf events."
At a time of unprecedented technological capability, how is it that intelligence services can still fail to see what is happening in their environment or, seeing it, fail to recognize a threat? Aside, that is, from the core fact that they consist of human beings, fallible to everything from error to bias to denial.
Mistakes happen. But why?
Because, say insiders, intelligence services are so overwhelmed by the information they're now able to collect, they can barely process it, let alone analyze it.
The revolution in technology has exponentially multiplied the amount of data flooding into Canada's CSE (Communications Security Establishment), Britain's GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) and America's NSA (National Security Agency).
Computers may sift through the bulk of it searching for certain words and phrases, patterns and abnormalities, but smart plotters talk and email in euphemisms that are hard to screen for. It's known that more sophisticated networks now routinely camouflage sensitive activities when they know satellites are overhead.
Still, intelligence agencies remain obsessed with data collection.
It's a holdover from the Cold War, says Kevin O'Connell, a former CIA officer who worked at the White House during the 1991 Gulf War and later with the RAND Corp. think-tank.
"The information age put us in a foot race with our adversaries. What was once only available to intelligence is now available to everybody and we can't control the information flow."
But the overemphasis on data has come at the expense of judgment, he says: "For intelligence to be useful, you have to understand what you're looking at. It's all about understanding your adversary – you have to have time to think about them."
With transnational terrorism, the "problem set" has changed, says O'Connell. "In the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a static target. Today, there are many more moving targets, and the pace of decision-making is much faster."
He echoes the phrase used by Bartleman: "You may have information, but without the knowledge of when and where, it's just `threat, threat, threat,' and you risk crying wolf too often. People do get warning fatigue."
Decision-makers want prima facie evidence, he says: "They don't like vagaries. They want everything in black or white, red or green, one or two."
And that is rarely doable.
The complexity of data collection is like a jigsaw puzzle of a million pieces, says Gavin Cameron, president of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies. Most of the pieces don't fit, you don't even know what the picture is and other countries may be hiding key pieces.
Individual cells have very little track record: "They don't show up in a nice clean package, saying here's someone you should flag, a terrorist in waiting."
Compounding the difficulty is the fact that a lot of data comes from foreign-language sources, but electronic translation misses cultural nuances and dialects. All security services are having a huge problem getting enough linguists to supply analytical interpretation. People likely to speak certain dialects are people with roots in that region and they may be reluctant to work for Western governments, or vice versa.
On top of all that is the problem of information-sharing between agencies, an issue that regularly arises in failure probes.
"If you have multiple organizations collecting data – and you always will – what bits should be shared? Even presuming a willingness to share, you don't know which bits are relevant, so do you share nothing or everything?"
Critics inside, let alone outside, security circles are increasingly talking about a "failure of imagination" in today's high-tech services. Why didn't the CIA brainstorm the possibility of terrorists turning airplanes into bombs? Why didn't they ask "What if?" more often, or "What's the most unexpected thing that could happen?"
The problem with what-ifs is that they're almost infinite, says Cameron. "You can come up with possibilities, but at some point you have to make an assessment of what is most likely or most damaging. Choices have to be made."
It's unfair for critics to say that "not every possibility was considered, therefore there was a failure," he says: The old CIA line about "speaking truth to power" would be better phrased "speaking your best bet, your best estimate."
As for longer-term thinking, it's not going to happen "when you're trying not to drown in the info. Intelligence faces such pressing daily demands on resources that the scope for standing back and blue-sky thinking is limited. In a perfect world, you'd have it."
But this isn't a perfect world.
Since 9/11, Western services have been on major hiring drives, but resources aren't, nor ever will be, infinite, says David Harris, former head of Strategic Planning at the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.
MI5 shouldn't be blamed for making a "best judgment" that two of the people they encountered were peripheral to the plot under investigation, despite the final tragic outcome. "You can't have special pleading," says Harris. "But people should know you have to make hard choices, prioritize, decide what's the best bet for resource use."
He also notes the youth of recently arrived personnel: "That's a real issue. It takes years to get an intelligence officer up to scratch."
But, asks former CIA officer O'Connell, does it have to? He argues that analysis sections should be drawing on outsiders with different perspectives who might see patterns the ostensible experts miss. The ongoing culture of secrecy and "need to know" that blocks access to other minds is dangerously out-of-date, he charges.
"We need people from well outside the fence line – cultural anthropologists, social psychologists – who can improve the quality of thinking, who can come in and out of the intelligence world."
The idea has its detractors, he admits, but he won't stop arguing for it. "We spent the last decade revolutionizing collection. We should spend the next decade revolutionizing analysis."
O'Connell stresses, however, that the methods and uses of intelligence are ultimately subject to the "political agendas of policy-makers, even manipulation" (as both the U.S. and U.K. services were reminded in regard to Iraq's non-existent WMDs).
Successes aren't known about unless there are arrests, but failures, justifiably, are open season.
Critics should understand, however, that only failure is measurable, says security association president Cameron.
Successes generally aren't measurable because it's the absence of an event that constitutes a success.
Tabloid building bargain for buyer
By Jeff Ostrowski
BOCA RATON — The former tabloid headquarters that has sat empty since an anthrax attack soon will be home to credit card company Applied Card Systems.
Applied Card founder Rocco Abessinio last week paid $9.29 million for offices once owned by American Media Inc., publisher of The Star and National Enquirer, property records show.
AMI moved out of the 67,000-square-foot building in September 2001 after anthrax was sent to the company. Photo editor Bob Stevens died and mail room worker Ernesto Blanco became ill.
In 2003, developer David Rustine paid $40,000 for the tainted building at 5401 Broken Sound Parkway and spent millions to clean it.
He reopened the offices in February and promised to lure tenants with rock-bottom rental rates.
Instead he found a buyer.
Applied Card Systems has a 300,000-square-foot lease at the T-Rex Corporate Center, across Yamato Road from the AMI building.
But Applied Card occupies only part of that space, and its lease expires in August, said broker Jeff Kelly of CB Richard Ellis in Boca Raton.
The building's stigma likely would have scared off tenants, said Kelly and other brokers, but the memory of the anthrax attack meant Applied Card could get a discount on buying the building.
Applied Card paid about $139 a square foot for the former AMI building.
By contrast, the One Town Center Road building in Boca Raton recently sold for nearly $300 a square foot.
"They got a great deal," said Rob Siemens of Brookside Realty Corp. in Boca Raton.
Neither Rustine nor Abessinio could be reached for comment, but a spokesman said Abessinio plans significant building renovations.
AMI left behind President David Pecker's desk and ornate conference table and the newsroom's metal cubicles and filing cabinets.
Applied Card, which also has operations in Pennsylvania, opened its Boca call center in 1997.
The company issues cards to borrowers with poor credit and has run afoul of regulators for its collection practices in the past.
State regulators in Florida, New York, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states in 2004 sued Applied Card for abusive practices, and Abessinio in 2004 signed a Federal Trade Commission consent order in which he agreed to stop harassing borrowers.
to run biohazard cleanup test
Maria Hegstad, The Examiner
Arlington - Pentagon officials will test the effectiveness of cleanup measures during a simulated biohazard attack Saturday.
A harmless dust used in organic farming will be released near the Pentagon’s south parking lot from the back of a moving truck. As many as 50 volunteers will stand in the parking lot and be “treated” by Pentagon and Arlington County emergency response teams.
The event is a test, not an exercise, said Paul Benda, director of the Pentagon’s chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear directorate. Benda’s office is responsible for protecting the Pentagon, Navy Annex and about 30 other buildings in the Washington area from such attacks.
Testers want to determine the amount of dust that lands on the people and cars in the parking lot, and the most effective method of removing it. Arlington County Fire Department trucks will pump water to decontaminate the volunteers and cars.
The test is part of a five-year process to put an automated biohazard sensor system into place, Benda said. Sensors are used because biohazard attacks are hard to see and often do not cause immediate illness. When the system is operational, sensors that detect an airborne biohazard will automatically alter the heating and air conditioning systems at the defense buildings to reduce the biohazard’s impact, Benda said.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, letters containing the biohazard anthrax sickened a score of people and killed two employees at the Brentwood postal facility in the District.
Benda would not say if the system is operating at the Pentagon now. The system will also be extended to Arlington County, Benda said.
The test will be conducted between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday.
State justices asked to resolve legal question in anthrax lawsuit
By BILL KACZOR
A panel of federal appellate judges Monday asked the Florida Supreme Court to resolve a key legal issue in a lawsuit over the anthrax death of a photo editor for a supermarket tabloid publisher.
Robert Stevens died Oct. 5, 2001 after being exposed to the deadly material that was in an envelope mailed to the offices of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, Sun and Globe newspapers, in Boca Raton.
His wife, Maureen, sued the federal government and Battelle Memorial Institute, a research company based in Columbus, Ohio, alleging they were the source of the anthrax strain that killed her husband and had been negligent in failing to keep it secured.
The lawsuit alleged its origin could be traced to the Army's Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., although investigators have been unable to determine who sent the anthrax to American Media.
The lawsuit is on hold pending an appeal of a federal trial judge's decision to let the lawsuit proceed after finding that the government and Battelle had a duty under Florida law to protect members of the public from the anthrax used in their facilities.
The governor and Battelle appealed that decision to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in Atlanta, which asked the Florida justices for help after failing to find a controlling precedent on the issue in case law.
A three-judge 11th Circuit panel noted that in one instance a Florida appellate court had ruled Dollar Rent-a-Car had a duty to warn a British tourist, who was accosted while driving a car with tags clearly identifying it as being rented, of foreseeable crime.
Another Florida appellate ruling, though, denied a claim against Publix Super Markets for a manager's failure to warn an employee of the known sexual predatory history of a co-worker entrusted with taking care of the employee's child.
Those and other cases fail "to fit neatly into the complex factual pattern at hand," the 11th Circuit panel wrote.
Whitman Criticizes Giuliani Admin. On Handling Of Anthrax Scare
POSTED: 7:05 pm EDT June 21, 2007
NEW YORK -- Former Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency Christine Todd Whitman said Thursday that the Giuliani administration appeared to be more concerned with its image than the safety and speedy response of EPA employees in the wake of the 2001 anthrax scare.
Her comments came in an interview with WNBC.com's Brian Thompson at her Hunterdon County farm, where the former New Jersey governor also addressed criticism of the EPA's handling of health concerns at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Her criticism of the Giuliani administration centered on the EPA's inspection of 30 Rockefeller Center after a letter containing anthrax arrived at the NBC building nearly six years ago.
While Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and then-New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik were taking command of the scene, Whitman said the city would not allow the EPA inspectors to be seen entering 30 Rock in their hazmat suits. Instead, the city wanted a tent to be set up where they first could change into the gear hidden from public view.
"There was concern by the city that EPA workers not be seen in their hazmat suits going in because [the city was] still recovering from 9/11. They didn't want this image of a city falling apart. I said, 'Well, that’s not acceptable, and this is the way we're going to have to do it.'"
The Giuliani Administration's Former Deputy Mayor, Joe Lhota, responded in a statement, “As the incident commander, F.D.N.Y.’s response was exemplary. They coordinated, conducted and affected a multi-agency response in a timely, safe and efficient fashion.”
Whitman also told Thompson that all did not go well in the days and weeks after Sept. 11 in terms of protecting workers' health.
"Some things didn't get done that should've gotten done," she said. "What we need to do is look back on that and say, 'OK, how can we make it better and make sure is never happens again.'"
Whitman said New York City had taken responsibility for the work at Ground Zero, and that she could only urge city officials -- on an almost daily basis -- to require workers to use respirators.
Thompson asked if Whitman believed the health of Ground Zero workers was a "ticking time bomb."
"I'm not a scientist, so it's hard to say definitively, but I do (believe that). We wouldn't have been saying that the workers should wear respirators, that there was a difference, that there was a problem with the air on the pile, if we didn't think there might be health consequences from it."
Whitman spoke with WNBC on the eve of a congressional showdown Monday, in which she will testify about the EPA's response, facing U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler -- who has already called her a liar.
— A TIMES INVESTIGATION
Selling the threat of bioterrorism
An ex-Soviet scientist raised fears, helped shape U.S. policy and sought to profit.
By David Willman, Times Staff
WASHINGTON — In the fall of 1992, Kanatjan Alibekov defected from Russia to the United States, bringing detailed, and chilling, descriptions of his role in making biological weapons for the former Soviet Union.
As a doctor of microbiology, a physician and a colonel in the Red Army, he helped lead the Soviet effort. He told U.S. intelligence agencies that the Soviets had devoted at least 30,000 scientists, working at dozens of sites, to develop bioweapons, despite a 1972 international ban on such work.
He said that emigrating Russian scientists and others posed imminent threats. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, he said, several specialists went to Iraq and North Korea. Both countries, he said, may have obtained anthrax and smallpox. The transfer of smallpox would be especially ominous because the Russians, he said, had sought to genetically modify the virus, posing lethal risk even to those who had been vaccinated.
His expertise, combined with his dire pronouncements, solidified his cachet in Washington. He simplified his name to Ken Alibek, became a familiar figure on Capitol Hill, and emerged as one of the most important voices in U.S. decisions to spend billions of dollars to counter anthrax, smallpox and other potential bioterrorism agents.
"It was Alibek's revelations, when he defected, that really provided the first information about the scope" of both the Soviet program and the possible proliferation to Iran and Iraq, said Dr. Thomas Monath, who was a top biodefense specialist for the U.S. Army.
Monath, who later led a group of experts that advised the Central Intelligence Agency on ways to counter biological attacks, said Alibek's information resonated at high levels of the U.S. government and was "amplified by 9/11."
"I think he influenced many people who were in position to make some decisions about response," Monath said, adding, "Concern about smallpox, in particular, was driven by Alibek."
Dr. Kenneth W. Bernard, who served President Bush as a special assistant for biodefense, agreed, saying that Alibek "had a substantial and profound effect."
Having raised the prospect that Iraq had acquired the ability to wield smallpox or anthrax, Alibek also was outspoken as the U.S. went to war in early 2003, saying there was "no doubt" that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Officials still value his seminal depictions of the Soviet program. But recent events have propelled questions about Alibek's reliability:
No biological weapon of mass destruction has been found in Iraq. His most sensational research findings, with U.S. colleagues, have not withstood peer review by scientific specialists. His promotion of nonprescription pills — sold in his name over the Internet and claiming to bolster the immune system — was ridiculed by some scientists. He resigned as executive director of a Virginia university's biodefense center 10 months ago while facing internal strife over his stewardship.
And, as Alibek raised fear of bioterrorism in the United States, he also has sought to profit from that fear.
By his count, Alibek has won about $28 million in federal grants or contracts for himself or entities that hired him.
He has had well-placed help. Some of the money has been allocated because of a Southern California congressman's "earmarks," controversial budget maneuvers that direct federal agencies' spending. Moreover, two senior aides to a New Jersey congressman who also provided crucial help to Alibek left government and promptly joined his commercial efforts.
Alibek now is seeking new government contracts related to countering biological terrorism that could be worth tens of millions of dollars.
He has followed an unconventional scientific approach, seeking a product that would protect against an array of deadly viruses and bacteria, not just a single germ.
He also is raising money to build a drug-manufacturing plant in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine. From there, his company will seek to sell its antiviral agents and antibiotics to the U.S. government's Strategic National Stockpile, he said.
Thickly built and with willing, if imperfect, English, Alibek said in an interview that his focus had been scientific, "in terms of raising awareness about biological weapons and biological terrorism." An attack, he said, could kill "hundreds of millions, if not billions" of people.
The Los Angeles Times explored Alibek's public pronouncements, research and business activities as part of a series that will examine companies and government officials central to the U.S. war on terrorism.
Uncertainty surrounds the threat of a biological attack. Authorities list no fewer than 30 fungi, bacteria and viruses as potential biological weapons. One agent, anthrax, already has been deployed in the U.S., killing five people in late 2001. Because anthrax spores can be dispersed in a variety of ways — perhaps even by bomb — some experts believe that a well-executed attack could kill millions of people over large areas. Others, citing the vagaries of weather, say that anthrax or other airborne agents are unlikely mass killers.
Some experts question Alibek's characterizations of the threats.
Dr. Philip K. Russell, a retired Army major general and physician who joined the Bush administration from 2001 to 2004 to confront the perceived threat of smallpox, said he was convinced that Alibek had solid firsthand information about the former Soviet Union's production of anthrax. But regarding other threats, such as genetically engineered smallpox, Russell said he "began to think that Ken was more fanciful than precise in some of his recollections."
"He would claim that certain things had been done, and then when you came right down to it, he didn't have direct knowledge of it — he'd heard it from somebody. For example, the issue of putting Ebola genes into smallpox virus. That was viewed, at least in many of our minds, as somewhat fanciful. And probably not true."
Alibek told The Times that the comments in question were based on articles he read in Russia's "scientific literature."
Alibek, 56, is now a player in the multibillion-dollar business that has sprouted around the U.S. war on terrorism.
It's been a stark transformation for the former Communist military man.
Alibek grew up in Almaty, the capital of the then-Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. After entering the Tomsk Medical Institute in Siberia, he studied the 1942-43 battle of Stalingrad.
As he described in a 1999 memoir, "Biohazard," Alibek concluded that the Soviets had waged biological warfare against the Germans and that "large numbers" of the invaders fell ill with tularemia, a deadly infectious disease also known as rabbit fever.
But Alibek also described a lesson he learned about the risk of waging germ warfare: Because of a wind shift, the Soviets had inadvertently infected their own troops and civilians, causing perhaps thousands of casualties.
When Alibek emerged with a medical degree, he was recruited by the Soviet government and climbed in military rank while earning a doctorate in microbiology. In 1987, he was promoted to a top position in Biopreparat, the civilian agency that ran the Soviets' secret biological-weapons program.
Alibek has said he worked with numerous lethal agents — including Marburg virus, plague, smallpox and a virulent "battle strain" of anthrax. The Soviets assumed that the U.S., which began developing germ weapons during World War II, maintained its program despite the 1972 international ban.
By the late 1980s, with the Cold War ending, teams of U.S. and Soviet biological warfare experts prepared to visit each other's laboratories to see for themselves.
On Dec. 11, 1991, Alibek and his Soviet colleagues traveled to Ft. Detrick, Md., home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), where researchers studied how to protect troops from germ warfare, work that was allowed under the 1972 agreement. And Alibek began making personal connections that would soon ease his transition to American life.
None would prove more important to him than his rapport with USAMRIID director Charles L. Bailey, an entomologist and U.S. Army colonel.
Within a year, Alibek resigned from Biopreparat and fled to the U.S. with his wife and three children. Bailey retired from the Army but stayed at Ft. Detrick as an analyst with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.
Bailey's job was to assess what the Russians were up to.
This gave him a close view of Alibek's confidential debriefings with U.S. intelligence agents. The debriefings, Bailey said, provided "very valuable" information about the Russian program. Alibek described threats beyond the Russian borders.
"Alibek thought that every country that had anthrax" also had smallpox, including Iraq, Iran and North Korea, Bailey said.
In the mid-1990s, when Bailey went to work for a Huntsville, Ala., company with defense and intelligence contracts, Alibek visited frequently. They shared meals, attended horse shows. Alibek seemed to enjoy learning about American life.
"He was easy to like," Bailey recalled. "We became friends."
They also became a commercially sought-after team.
"I helped to build Alibek's reputation with the military," Bailey said. "A lot of people were impressed with Alibek. I was impressed."
The Alabama company also hired Alibek as a consultant, and asked him to compose a history of the Soviet program that could be used by the intelligence community.
In 1997, the two worked together for Battelle, a large nonprofit research and development organization. Next, they moved to Virginia-based Hadron Inc., another firm that had ties to U.S. intelligence agencies. Alibek also circulated among government officials. He privately briefed Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, then vice chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, the nation's second-highest military officer.
Alibek made his first network-television news appearance in February 1998, and three months later testified at a congressional committee hearing on terrorism and intelligence. A news release said Alibek would "provide new information on Russia's offensive biological weapons program."
The only contact listed was a committee staffer named Vaughn Forrest, a onetime candidate for Congress. Forrest in the 1980s had traveled to Afghanistan to support the Muslims who ultimately drove out the invading Soviet Union. In helping Afghanistan's mujahedin, Forrest had developed a productive relationship with the CIA. Forrest introduced Alibek to the chairman of the Senate-House Joint Economic Committee. Forrest took the lead in arranging the hearing.
He and Alibek formed a lasting bond.
In his 1999 memoir, Alibek said that Forrest "was among the first to perceive the potential" for developing a product that would guard against not one, but an array of biological agents.
Forrest introduced Alibek to others who could help, including Florida Republican Bill McCollum, then-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Forrest had once been McCollum's chief of staff. McCollum, now Florida attorney general, said Alibek "was worried about what the Soviets had made and what somebody else could get ahold of."
The list of identified suspects, McCollum said, included Libya, Iran and Iraq.
"I thought we had a real threat from this," McCollum said, adding that he distributed Alibek's book to "people in the administration and also members of Congress."
When Forrest left the congressional payroll, he became a consultant to Hadron Inc., where Alibek and Bailey worked. Forrest later became a director with Alibek in a successor company. Forrest declined to be interviewed for this report.
Alibek's public profile rose after the Sept. 11 attacks and the mailings of anthrax a month later that killed five people.
Appearing before a House subcommittee on national security in October 2001, Alibek said that earlier "attempts to wipe out Iraq's biological weapons capability were probably not successful." He also told the subcommittee that Russian biological weapons experts had "emigrated to rogue nations such as Iraq." As the U.S.-led war got underway in March 2003, Alibek said during an online discussion hosted by the Washington Post: "There is no doubt in my mind that [Saddam] Hussein has WMD."
Fear that Iraq possessed smallpox was emphasized by the Bush administration leading up to the war. As Congress prepared to vote on whether to authorize war, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18, 2002, that a smallpox attack by Iraq could kill as many as 1 million Americans and infect an additional 2 million.
Alibek has not retreated from his statements regarding Iraq's possession of smallpox or other biological weapons. He said in an interview that he had "talked to people who actually visited the Iraqi sites. And they said they had no doubt [there] was an offensive biological weapons program…. We need to look for the traces."
It is a lonely position today.
"There's been a lot of people thrashing around there for the last five years," said Russell, the retired general. "I don't think anybody could have hid it."
Millions in funding
Alibek's most reliable benefactor in Washington has been Rep. H. James Saxton (R-N.J.), a gravelly voiced former elementary school teacher and state legislator. Saxton says that for two decades, he has focused on the threat posed by Islamic terrorism.
For most of the last decade, Saxton chaired the House Armed Services Committee's terrorism subcommittee and also headed the Joint Economic Committee, where Forrest landed as a senior aide.
On May 21, 2002, Saxton called a news conference to announce "a potential new defense against bioterrorism," based on Alibek's tests with mice. After being treated with an experimental product, the mice had survived doses of smallpox and anthrax.
Saxton at the time said that the results held hope for "lifting some of the burden of fear that haunts Americans."
And, while fighting for an earmark of federal grant money for Alibek at a March 2004 hearing, Saxton upbraided Anthony Tether, the Bush administration's director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
"You need to be more on his side," Saxton said of Alibek, adding: "I find it hard to believe that I have to fight as hard as I can to get a few measly bucks to keep him going."
Tether assured Saxton that he would accede to his wishes. Tether did so — and fresh grant money was sent for Alibek's research.
Tether said that he had resisted spending more on Alibek's research because his "cocktail approach" — mixing more than one drug with other ingredients in search of a product that might protect against smallpox, anthrax and plague — made it "very hard to determine what is working and what is not."
The research could have dragged on for years with the ambiguous results, Tether told The Times.
"After the [March 2004] hearing, I basically said, 'OK, this is it, Alibek. You're either going to get over here and listen … or you're not going to get a nickel from us,' " Tether said.
He preserved the funding, Tether said, after Alibek agreed privately to change his approach and perform experiments outlined by Tether's staff. Some of Alibek's subsequent work with mice has shown promise, Tether said.
Alibek also has been helped by Mark A. O'Connell, a lobbyist and Republican fundraiser who for a decade served as Saxton's congressional chief of staff. (Campaign contributions in recent years to Saxton from Alibek, Alibek's wife and one of their business partners have totaled $14,450, public records show.)
O'Connell said he began lobbying Congress for Alibek's company in mid-2003, two months after he left Saxton's staff. His congressional salary, O'Connell said, was slightly below a revolving-door threshold that would have barred him from lobbying Saxton or his staff for one year. He confirmed that he had lobbied for the congressional earmarks benefiting Alibek's company.
Saxton acknowledged in an interview that he had done much for Alibek since Forrest brought them together about a decade ago:
He said he introduced Alibek to then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and to other congressional and executive-branch leaders. Among them was Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), who from 1999 to 2005 was chairman of the subcommittee that controlled spending for national security projects. Lewis headed the full House Appropriations Committee from 2005 to 2006.
Lewis, Saxton said, began providing the annual earmarks of federal money for Alibek's projects.
"We were able to convince Jerry Lewis to begin an appropriations stream for him," Saxton said.
Lewis' spokesman, Jim Specht, did not return telephone calls seeking an interview with the congressman. Earmarks generate controversy because they enable some projects to win federal funding based more on political influence than competitive merit. And earmarks can be carried out discreetly, obscuring the identity of the originator.
This year, Saxton said, he has guided Alibek as he seeks an additional $10 million in research funds — from the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
Saxton said that he had helped Alibek solely to bolster national security.
"I was committed to do whatever I could do to help develop an answer to problems posed by bioterrorism," he said.
"And if they had worked for Alibek or not, I would have been just as committed," he added, referring to Forrest and O'Connell.
Alibek's federal research money also has come from the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and the State Department, according to company and government documents.
The company that Alibek formed and for which Forrest serves as general manager and as a director, AFG Biosolutions Inc., has said that it is developing "a new generation of vaccines" and medicines for anthrax, smallpox, plague and tularemia.
Claims in question
Some of the projects Alibek has helped lead were promoted heavily but faltered.
One sensational claim came in a Sept. 11, 2003, news release from Virginia's George Mason University, where Alibek two years earlier arrived on the faculty.
Findings from laboratory research led by Alibek and another professor, the news release said, suggested that smallpox vaccination might increase a person's immunity to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The release quoted Alibek saying, "Our outcomes are very encouraging."
University President Alan Merten weighed in, saying the research might "produce dramatic, practical benefits for future generations."
Scientists elsewhere were less enthused.
They pointed out that George Mason had announced the results even though the Journal of the American Medical Assn. had declined to publish them. Alibek and his colleagues also submitted a paper summarizing the research to another prominent medical journal, the Lancet.
The paper "was rejected after peer review," said Dr. Sabine Kleinert, senior executive editor of the Lancet, in an e-mailed comment.
More than three years later, no published study has replicated the provocative results touted by Alibek and his colleagues at George Mason. Neither Alibek nor his principal collaborator, who had worked at another university, is still pursuing the project.
"This is a theory that, I must say, does not hold up at all, and it does not make any sense from a biologic point of view," said Dr. Donald A. Henderson, a former White House science advisor whose work with the World Health Organization is credited with eradicating smallpox outbreaks globally. "This idea … was straight off the wall. I would put no credence in it at all."
Alibek said that it was not his decision alone to issue the September 2003 news release. He ascribed others' criticisms to professional jealousies.
Apart from the university or his company, Alibek has used his ties with the government to promote "Dr. Ken Alibek's Immune System Support Formula," nonprescription pills sold over the Internet. Advertisements for the product described Alibek as a biological and medical expert who had "testified before Congressional committees and is a frequent consultant to the U.S. government."
Alibek acknowledged that he did "consulting work" for a dietary supplement company that distributed the product in his name, but said that he was not paid for subsequent sales. However, an aide to the chief executive of the company, Vital Basics Inc., said that Alibek was paid.
More recently, Alibek's warnings of bioterrorist threats echoed in the debate surrounding "Project Bioshield," signed into law by Bush in July 2004. The program, with an initial budget of about $5.6 billion, aims to encourage companies to develop vaccines or other products that could counter a biological or chemical attack.
And, as Alibek has warned Congress that enemies of the U.S. have sought genetically altered biological agents to resist antibiotics or vaccines, he has promoted products that would address those very threats:
In 2004, a San Diego company, Aethlon Medical Inc., signed Alibek to its advisory board and issued a report, co-written by Alibek, which said its product for filtering toxins from blood "could be rapidly deployed even against genetically altered biowarfare agents."
Alibek's report emphasized the availability of federal funds, including from Project Bioshield. Aethlon said that Alibek served without pay on the advisory board but "may be compensated for future consulting work."
Alibek also hopes to tap into Project Bioshield with his own company.
He said that he expected to submit a proposal to sell what could be millions of dollars of medicines to the government for use in the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency. As envisioned by Alibek, his drug facility in the Ukraine would produce generic versions of antiviral agents or antibiotics at a cost "three, four, five times lower" than if they were made in the U.S.
Meanwhile, within the last year an internal controversy flared regarding Alibek's leadership of the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases, a fledgling graduate program at George Mason. Alibek resigned as a tenured and distinguished professor there last Aug. 31.
University spokeswoman Christine LaPaille confirmed the resignation and said that George Mason was no longer collaborating with Alibek's company on research backed by any of the recent federal grants or contracts. LaPaille declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding Alibek's departure.
Alibek said the college administration had grown displeased with his company's role in sharing grant-funded research. The university, he said, requested that he dismantle or leave AFG Biosolutions. He chose to resign from George Mason.
This spring, Alibek traveled to the Ukrainian city of Kiev to push his plans for the drug-manufacturing plant and for a center for cancer and cardiac care. He did so after making comments, reported by the Russian news agency Interfax, which struck some officials in Washington as inconsistent with his previous dramatic claims:
Since 1992, Alibek has told U.S. intelligence agencies, and later general audiences, that Russia had persisted in developing biological weapons. For instance, in his memoir, "Biohazard," subtitled, "The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in the World — Told From Inside by the Man Who Ran It," Alibek wrote in 1999:
"I am convinced that a large portion of the Soviet Union's offensive program remains viable despite [then-President Boris N.] Yeltsin's ban on research and testing."
And in a September 2000 interview with an online publication sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Alibek said:
"Russia is still retaining its biological weapons capability, specifically at the Ministry of Defense. The Ministry of Defense is maintaining four major research and production sites, which are still active."
But as reported by Interfax, Alibek in November 2005 told a different story in his ancestral hometown of Almaty: As of the early 1990s, Alibek said, the Russians had stopped "all work to develop biological weapons."
The arc of Alibek's statements has not been lost on Bailey, the former USAMRIID chief who remains at George Mason after having been recruited there six years ago by his former friend. Does the inconsistency cause him to reassess Alibek's earlier statements regarding global biological threats?
Bailey answered quietly.
"Definitely, it does."
Selling the threat
After helping to lead the Soviet Union's germ-weapons program, Dr. Ken Alibek defected to the U.S. and began warning about the threat of a mass-casualty biological attack. Alibek also has sought to profit from the fear of such weapons of mass destruction, landing federal contracts or grants for himself or entities that hired him totaling about $28 million, including several listed below.
1992: Alibek begins describing to the Central Intelligence Agency details of the biological weapons that he helped research and develop for the then-newly dissolved Soviet Union. The alleged magnitude of the program stuns U.S. officials.
May 1998: Alibek tells a congressional committee that the Russians had produced "hundreds of tons of anthrax weapons" and "tons of smallpox and plague." And by using genetic engineering, Alibek says, the Russians sought to "develop antibiotic-resistant'' strains of various viruses. Alibek also raises the possibility that Soviet weapons scientists sold their expertise to regimes averse to the U.S., such as Iraq and Iran.
1999: In his memoir, Alibek writes: "I am convinced that a large portion of the Soviet Union's offensive program remains viable despite [then-President Boris N.] Yeltsin's ban on research and testing."
October 2001: Appearing before a House subcommittee just a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, Alibek says some Russian biological weapons experts "have emigrated to rogue nations such as Iraq." He adds that he believes some countries have secret stocks of smallpox, and that "well-funded terrorist groups are capable of purchasing the knowledge" needed to execute a biological attack.
March 2003: As the U.S.-led war in Iraq gets underway, Alibek tells an online forum: "There is no doubt in my mind that [Saddam] Hussein has WMD."
April 2007: Asked in an interview to reconcile his earlier statements with the failure to find smallpox or any other weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, Alibek says: "We need to look for the traces."
July 2001: A company at which Alibek is an executive, Advanced Biosystems, wins a $3.59-million contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
March 2004: A Republican committee chairman, Rep. H. James Saxton of New Jersey, upbraids the Bush administration's director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on Alibek's behalf. "You need to be more on his side," Saxton says. The official, Anthony Tether, reassures Saxton, and releases grant money for Alibek's research.
July 2004: Saxton and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) work to insert earmarks in appropriation bills that steer millions of dollars to research led by Alibek at George Mason University and at a Maryland company he co-founded, AFG Biosolutions Inc.
2005-2007: Alibek's company wins more than $1 million in small-business innovation research grants from the National Institutes of Health. One of the company's directors is a former aide to Rep. Saxton, and its Washington lobbyist is Saxton's former chief of staff.