Plague of bioweapons accidents afflicts the US
* 12:07 05
Deadly germs may be more likely to be spread due to a biodefence lab accident than a biological attack by terrorists.
Plague, anthrax, Rocky Mountain spotted fever - these are among the bioweapons some experts fear could be used in a germ warfare attack against the US. But the public has had near-misses with those diseases and others over the past five years, ironically because of accidents in labs that were working to defend against bioterrorists. Even worse, they may be only the tip of an iceberg.
The revelations come from Ed Hammond of the Sunshine Project, a biosafety pressure group based in Austin, Texas, US, who after persistent requests got the minutes of university biosafety committees using the US Freedom of Information Act. The minutes are accessible to the public by law.
There are now 20,000 people at 400 sites around the US working with putative bioweapons germs, says Hammond, 10 times more than before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Some scientists have warned for years that more people handling dangerous germs are a recipe for accidents.
The fears have been borne out by publicised infections of lab workers with tularemia, brucellosis and Q fever.
The Q fever incident took place at Texas A&M University, which has now been ordered to stop research into potential bioweapons while an investigation takes place.
However, Hammond’s minutes contain further, previously unreported, slip-ups:
• At the University of New Mexico, one worker was jabbed with an anthrax-laden needle, and another with a syringe containing an undisclosed, genetically engineered microbe.
• At the Medical University of Ohio, workers were exposed to and infected with Valley Fever.
• At the University of Chicago, there was another puncture with an undisclosed agent normally requiring heavy containment, probably anthrax or plague.
• At the University of California at Berkeley, workers handled deadly Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which spreads in the air, without containment when it was mislabelled as harmless.
• At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, workers were exposed to TB when containment equipment failed.
As yet, none of the accidents have been serious in outcome. But, Hammond fears, more such accidents may go unreported. "Instead of a 'culture of responsibility', the federal government has instilled a culture of denial" he says. "Labs hide problems, and think that accident reporting is for masochists"
Without stringently enforced reporting rules, he says, labs have every reason to cover up accidents. They want to avoid losing research funds, and fear the massive official reaction to any accident – such as the imprisonment of plague researcher Thomas Butler in 2003. And he claims Texas A&M officials have said they now regret reporting the Q fever incident.
"I think the answer is to create a level playing field by having clear and absolutely mandatory reporting requirements," says Hammond. "Eliminate even the possibility of an institution claiming that it does not have to report infections."
"The labs will say, you can't do that because then people won't report accidents," says Hammond. "Well, I think it's pretty clear that people don't report accidents as it stands."
The lure of the conspiracy theory
From issue 2612 of New Scientist
magazine, 11 July 2007, page 35-37
Was Princess Diana the victim of drunk driving or a plot by the British royal family? Did Neil Armstrong really walk on the moon or just across a film set in Nevada? And who killed President John F. Kennedy - the Russians, the Cubans, the CIA, the mafia... aliens? Almost every big event has a conspiracy theory attached to it. The truth, they say, is out there - but where exactly? Perhaps psychology can help us find at least some of the answers.
Whether you are a dyed-in-the-wool conspiracy theorist, a confirmed anti-theorist, or somewhere in between, one thing's for sure: conspiracy theories pervade modern culture. Thousands of films, talk shows and radio phone-ins are built around them. US lecture tours from prominent theorists such as radio host Alex Jones can draw audiences of tens of thousands, while books raking over the evidence sell millions of copies worldwide. The internet documentary Loose Change, which claims that a CIA plot lay behind the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, is approaching its 10-millionth download.
Belief in conspiracy theories certainly seems to be on the rise, and what little research has been done investigating this question confirms this is so for perhaps the most famous example of all - the claim that a conspiracy lay behind the assassination of JFK in 1963. A survey in 1968 found that about two-thirds of Americans believed the conspiracy theory, while by 1990 that proportion had risen to nine-tenths.
One factor fuelling the general growth of conspiracy beliefs is likely to be that the internet allows new theories to be quickly created, and endlessly debated by a wider audience than ever. A conspiracy-based website built around the death of Princess Diana, for example, sprang up within hours of the car crash that killed her in 1997.
So what has been the impact of the growing conspiracy culture? Conspiracy theories can have a valuable role in society. We need people to think "outside the box", even if there is usually more sense to be found inside the box. The close scrutiny of evidence and the dogged pursuit of alternative explanations are key features of investigative journalism and critical scientific thinking. Conspiracy theorists can sometimes be the little guys who bring the big guys to account - including multinational companies and governments. After all, some conspiracy theories turn out to be true. Take the Iran-Contra affair, a massive political scandal of the late 1980s. When claims first surfaced that the US government had sold arms to its enemy Iran to raise funds for pro-American rebel forces in Nicaragua and to help secure the release of US hostages taken by Iran, it certainly sounded like yet another convoluted conspiracy theory. Several question marks remain over the affair, but President Ronald Reagan admitted that his administration had indeed sold arms to Iran.
On the other hand, there is a dangerous side to conspiracy theories. During the cold war, they arguably played a part in sowing mistrust between east and west. For canny politicians or campaigners, conspiracy theories can be a good way of exploiting people's fears by promulgating rumours that are difficult, if not impossible, to disprove.
Such beliefs can have a far-reaching impact on people's lives. For example, over 20 per cent of African Americans believe that HIV was created in a laboratory and disseminated by the US government in order to restrict the growth of the black population, according to a series of studies by Sheryl Bird at Oregon State University and Laura Bogart at Kent State University in Ohio. The people who believe this theory also tend to be more sceptical of government health messages that condoms can stop HIV transmission. These are chilling findings, especially considering that although African Americans constitute only 12 per cent of the US population, they account for nearly half of the nation's AIDS cases.
Unfortunately there has been little research carried out into what kind of events trigger conspiracy theories, who tends to believe them, and why. We do know, however, that people who believe in one theory are more likely to believe in others: there is a good chance that someone who believes the moon landings were faked will also believe that JFK was killed by a second gunman from the infamous grassy knoll.
There are some variations in who believes what, though, as shown by an as yet unpublished study I carried out recently in the UK with psychologist Chris French at Goldsmiths College, London. We found that beliefs in JFK conspiracies are highest among people aged 36 and over, while those between 20 and 35 are most likely to see a conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks. Surprisingly, perhaps, the youngest age group - 19 and under - are least likely to endorse any theory.
One possible explanation of these findings is the phenomenon known as "flashbulb memory" - the recall of a sudden event, often shocking and international in scale, that affects individuals on a personal level. This type of memory is more easily formed when individuals are between 20 and 35 years old, so for different generations there are certain events - the assassination of JFK, space shuttle Challenger exploding on take-off, the death of Princess Diana - that tend to trigger flashbulb memories. Some of these iconic, shared events can provide fertile ground in which conspiracy theories are sown.
Age is not the only demographic to influence conspiracy beliefs. Several US studies have found that ethnic minorities - particularly African and Hispanic Americans - are far more believing of conspiracy theories than white Americans. In our recent UK study, we found a similar race effect, coupled with an even stronger association between income and belief levels. People who describe themselves as "hard up" are more likely to believe in conspiracies than those with average income levels, while the least likely to believe are the well off.
How can we account for the link between race, income level and conspiracy theories? Theorists tend to show higher levels of anomie - a general disaffection or disempowerment from society. Perhaps this is the underlying factor that predisposes people more distant from centres of power - whether they be poorer people or those from ethnic minorities - to believe in conspiracies.
So what kind of thought processes contribute to belief in conspiracy theories? A study I carried out in 2002 explored a way of thinking sometimes called "major event - major cause" reasoning. Essentially, people often assume that an event with substantial, significant or wide-ranging consequences is likely to have been caused by something substantial, significant or wide-ranging.
I gave volunteers variations of a newspaper story describing an assassination attempt on a fictitious president. Those who were given the version where the president died were significantly more likely to attribute the event to a conspiracy than those who read the one where the president survived, even though all other aspects of the story were equivalent.
To appreciate why this form of reasoning is seductive, consider the alternative: major events having minor or mundane causes - for example, the assassination of a president by a single, possibly mentally unstable, gunman, or the death of a princess because of a drunk driver. This presents us with a rather chaotic and unpredictable relationship between cause and effect. Instability makes most of us uncomfortable; we prefer to imagine we live in a predictable, safe world, so in a strange way, some conspiracy theories offer us accounts of events that allow us to retain a sense of safety and predictability.
Other research has examined how the way we search for and evaluate evidence affects our belief systems. Numerous studies have shown that in general, people give greater attention to information that fits with their existing beliefs, a tendency called "confirmation bias". Reasoning about conspiracy theories follows this pattern, as shown by research I carried out with Marco Cinnirella at the Royal Holloway University of London, which we presented at the British Psychological Society conference in 2005.
The study, which again involved giving volunteers fictional accounts of an assassination attempt, showed that conspiracy believers found new information to be more plausible if it was consistent with their beliefs. Moreover, believers considered that ambiguous or neutral information fitted better with the conspiracy explanation, while non-believers felt it fitted better with the non-conspiracy account. The same piece of evidence can be used by different people to support very different accounts of events.
This fits with the observation that conspiracy theories often mutate over time in light of new or contradicting evidence. So, for instance, if some new information appears to undermine a conspiracy theory, either the plot is changed to make it consistent with the new information, or the theorists question the legitimacy of the new information. Theorists often argue that those who present such information are themselves embroiled in the conspiracy. In fact, because of my research, I have been accused of being secretly in the pay of various western intelligence services (I promise, I haven't seen a penny).
It is important to remember that anti-theorists show a similar bias: they will seek out and evaluate evidence in a way that fits with the official or anti-conspiracy account. So conspiracy theorists are not necessarily more closed-minded than anti-theorists. Rather, the theorist and anti-theorist tend to pursue their own lines of thought and are often subject to cognitive biases that prevent their impartial examination of alternative evidence.
How then can we predict who will become believers and non-believers? My hunch is that a large part of the explanation lies in how individuals form aspects of their social identities such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status and political beliefs. The reasoning and psychological biases that create believers or their opposites are fostered by social origins. For conspiracy believer and non-believer alike, there is a kind of truth out there. It's just a rather different truth that each seeks.
Create the perfect conspiracy theory
Pick your adversary
A sense of anomie (dislocation from society and authority) fuels beliefs in conspiracy theories, so pick a big bad organisation of some sort - government or big business is ideal
For added spice, identify a shadowy, secretive society with implied links to your adversary: the more shadowy, the better
Choose your event
You'll need a big, contemporary newsworthy event around which to weave your theory
If it's a sudden, shocking visual occurrence of international import it is more likely to become a "flashbulb memory" for the masses. Your key conspiracy audience, most able to create such vivid "indelible" memories will be between the ages of 20 and 35
Develop your story
Construct your theory from carefully selected information that weaves together into a compelling story
If something doesn't fit, reinterpret it in line with your theory
Create uncertainty: question existing evidence or find new evidence that contradicts the "official" account
Prepare your defence
If someone highlights a gap or inconsistency in your evidence, don't be afraid to tweak your story, but keep the core conspiracy in place
You can allow the finer details of the theory to mutate, but always keep in mind the maxim - "they did it, I just have to find the proof that they did it"
Broaden the circle of conspirators to include those who question your position... "they're denying the truth - they must be involved too!"
US admits anthrax attacks still a mystery
WASHINGTON - US authorities have yet to pin down who was responsible for a series of anthrax attacks that killed five Americans in late 2001, US President George W. Bush's top counterrorism aide said Tuesday.
"Obviously, that's an ongoing investigation," Frances Townsend told reporters during a White House briefing on the newly declassified key findings of a National Intelligence Estimate on terrorist threats to the United States.
"I'm sure (FBI) Director (Robert) Mueller would be delighted to answer that," joked Townsend, who had said that the United States had not suffered a terrorist attack nearly six years after the September 11, 2001 strikes.
Asked whether the anthrax attacks, which began with a letter reportedly postmarked September 18, 2001, counted as a terrorist attack, Townsend tersely replied: "It does in my mind."
Five people died after letters containing anthrax spores were sent to several news media figures and two Democratic US senators.
07/17/2007 16:51 GMT
Committee for Freedom of the Press
Five journalists ordered to reveal Hatfill sources
* Saying the reporters were the only source for information crucial to a former government scientist's lawsuit, a judge ordered the journalists to reveal their sources.Aug. 14, 2007 · Rejecting arguments that the First Amendment and a federal common law privilege protects them from revealing their sources, a federal judge Monday ordered five journalists to disclose who gave them information about Steven Hatfill, the government scientist once under investigation for the 2001 anthrax attacks.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton in Washington, D.C., ruled that there was no other way for Hatfill to obtain the names of the government sources, which are central to his lawsuit alleging that the government improperly disclosed his personal information. Consequently, Hatfill's need for the information outweighed the journalists' First Amendment rights to protect their sources, Walton said.
"Thus far, Dr. Hatfill's discovery efforts have revealed numerous leaks from government officials to the press regarding personal information about Dr. Hatfill, his status in the anthrax investigation, and the techniques used to investigate his possible involvement in the events related to the anthrax mailings," Walton wrote. "However, all of his efforts have failed to reveal the names of the sources who leaked this information."
Five journalists -- Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman of Newsweek; Allen Lengel of The Washington Post; Toni Locy, formerly of USA Today; and James Swart, formerly of CBS News -- now risk being held in contempt of court if they refuse to comply with the judge's order.
Walton called Hatfill's case "strikingly similar" to that of Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos nuclear scientist investigated for espionage in 1999.
Like Hatfill, Lee brought a claim against the government under the Privacy Act and subpoenaed journalists to find out who in the government had leaked them information. The journalists in the Lee case were held in contempt of court and heavy daily fines were assessed against them by the judge, though the fines were stayed while the reporters appealed. Lee eventually agreed to settle his claim, and in an unprecedented arrangement, the media companies that employed the journalists agreed to contribute money to the settlement.
In the Hatfill decision Monday, Walton refused to recognize a federal common law privilege for journalists to decline to reveal their sources.
Walton said doing so "would erect a potentially insurmountable hurdle for a Privacy Act litigant seeking to hold the government accountable for leaks condemned by the Act."
In one bright spot for the media, Walton quashed Hatfill's attempt to subpoena the corporate representatives of the media companies that employed the five journalists at the time of the leaks. Walton said such a move, which could ultimately subject the deep-pocketed companies to penalties, was premature at this stage when the information could be obtained directly from the reporters. If the reporters continue to refuse to reveal their sources, however, Walton said he would revisit this decision.
(Hatfill v. Gonzales)
17 August 2007
New threat to confidentiality in judge’s decision ordering five journalists to disclose sources of reports on anthrax attacks
Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a Washington DC federal judge’s decision on 13 August ordering five journalists to identify the government officials who told them that former government scientist Steven Hatfill was a suspect in a series of anthrax attacks in 2001.
Hatfill is suing the justice department under the Privacy Act for improperly disclosing his personal information and has subpoenaed the five journalists - Allan Lengel of the Washington Post, Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman of Newsweek, former USA Today reporter Toni Locy and James Stewart of CBS News - who reported that he was a suspect. They have all so far refused to name their sources.
“Judge Reggie Walton’s decision is worrying because it is one of a growing number of attacks in the United States on the principle of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Journalists have yet again been targeted in a lawsuit by persons who consider themselves to have been defamed by the government. In all these cases, the reporters were just doing their job of providing information on a matter of crucial public importance.”
The press freedom organisation added: “The judge should focus on the officials who provided the information. By calling into question the confidentiality of sources, he is undermining investigative journalism. The proposed federal ‘shield law’ that would protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, which was approved by the judiciary committee of the House of Representatives on 1 August, must now be quickly adopted by both House and Senate.”
Hatfill brought his suit against the justice department in 2003, accusing it of a “coordinated smear campaign.” He said federal officials had ruined his career prospects by telling reporters that the FBI regarded him as a “person of interest” in the investigation into the mailing of packages containing anthrax that caused five deaths in 2001.
When refusing to name their sources, the journalists said there had been about 100 instances when FBI and justice department officials had provided them with information about the investigation.
The judge refused a request from Hatfill’s lawyers to subpoena executives from the Washington Post, Newsweek, USA Today and CBS News but he warned that he would reconsider his position if the journalists did not comply, and that the news organisations could be fined.
He added that identifying the sources was “central” to Hatfill’s case and would be decisive in any future case in which someone tried to hold the government accountable for leaks condemned by the Privacy Act.
Hatfill won a libel suit against the New York Times in November 2006. In this case, the judge ruled that the newspaper could not use information from anonymous FBI sources as a basis for implicating Hatfill in the attacks. But he refused to fine the newspaper for not revealing its sources.
Peter Scheer: Congress needs to approve a federal shield law for reporters
Article Launched: 08/25/2007 11:05:46 PM PDT
JUST WHEN YOU thought it was safe again for journalists to talk to confidential sources inside government, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. has ordered five reporters - Allan Lengel of the Washington Post; Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, both of Newsweek; Toni Locy, formerly of USA Today; and James Stewart of CBS News - to disclose the names of government sources to whom they promised confidentiality.
The order comes in a civil suit filed by Steven Hatfill, the bioterrorism expert whom federal investigators suspected was behind the 2001 anthrax mailings.
A former federal employee, Hatfill claims that the Justice Department and the FBI, by leaking to the press information about their suspicions of him, violated his rights under the federal Privacy Act. Hatfill, who has never been charged in the still-unsolved anthrax homicides, sued only the government, not the reporters (although in a separate case he sued the New York Times for libel based on Op-Ed articles by columnist Nicholas Kristof published in 2001; that suit was dismissed earlier this year).
The subpoenaed reporters have acknowledged in pretrial depositions that their stories about Hatfill were based on leaks from government investigators.
Until now, however, they have refrained from naming those investigators. The order issued this week by U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton - who presided over the trial of I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby - directs the reporters to identify their sources, finding that the names "are central to Dr. Hatfill's case" against the government.
Walton's order leaves the reporters few options to avoid jail or fines for refusing to reveal confidential sources. The reporters can hope that the government will settle the case, as it did a similar Privacy Act lawsuit that was brought by Livermore physicist Wen Ho Lee, who had been falsely accused of giving nuclear secrets to the Chinese government. To resolve that litigation and protect their reporters from contempt sanctions, news organizations, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, ABC News and the Associated Press, contributed $750,000 of a $1.6 million settlement deal between Lee and the government.
But repetition of the settlement in the Lee case is unlikely. The Justice Department was willing to settle with Lee in part because it had no hope of prosecuting him further. The Bush administration, however, has not necessarily given up on prosecuting Hatfill, whom investigators characterized as a "person of interest" at the time of the anthrax crimes.
Nor are the reporters in the Hatfill case likely to be able to obtain valid waivers from their sources, freeing them from their promises of confidentiality. Although the waiver strategy was invoked by half the Washington press corps in the Libby trial and in the Valerie Plame grand jury proceeding leading up to it, waivers in the Hatfill case would be highly suspect: Why would government sources, after all, willingly admit to career-ending misconduct (or worse)? Any waivers must be viewed as coerced and involuntary.
Walton's order is a reminder to journalists - whether reporters for national news media or bloggers writing about local politics - that use of confidential sources can lead to demands for disclosure not only in grand jury proceedings and criminal trials, but also in civil litigation filed by private individuals in federal court.
Civil litigation may pose the greater threat. Private plaintiffs are not subject to the guidelines that apply to federal prosecutors for obtaining evidence from journalists. Private plaintiffs, moreover, are completely unaccountable. U.S. Attorneys are subject to oversight by the Justice Department, which in turn is accountable to congressional committees that control the agency's budget. This food chain provides opportunities for the application of political pressure to rein in an over-zealous prosecutor. But private plaintiffs, of course, are subject to no such constraints.
It's hard to see how the Hatfill case won't end badly for the subpoenaed reporters and the news organizations they represent. The remedy is for Congress to pass a federal Shield Law comparable to those in effect in California and most states. Legislation to do that, the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2007," is before both the House and Senate. Although it's not perfect - exclusions for confidential sources of "national security" information and "trade secrets" would be too easily abused - the bill is an improvement over previous versions and the best that we are likely to see anytime soon.
It's time for a federal Shield Law to be transformed from theory to law.
Peter Scheer, a lawyer and journalist, is executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, which is based in San Rafael (www.cfac.org).
of New Jersey
Antidote or sleight of hand?
Sunday, September 02, 2007
BY DARRYL R. ISHERWOOD
HAMILTON -- During the chaotic days after anthrax-laced letters made their way through the township post office in 2001, sickening several workers and pitching the region into fear, a local company began marketing a product that would protect mail sorters from the deadly bacteria.
Eterna, a company owned by Republican mayoral candidate John Bencivengo, advertised its Skin Guard product as the "first line of defense" against anthrax and urged postal workers to use the cream every day before sorting mail. A 6-ounce bottle cost $19.95 plus shipping and handling.
Now Skin Guard has become a hot potato in the upcoming mayoral race as local Democrats are charging Bencivengo with attempt ing to profit from one of the worst tragedies in the region's history. What's worse, they say, is the federal agencies that monitor drugs have no record of Skin Guard and there is no evidence that the product was effective at blocking cutaneous anthrax.
"There is no question that what (Mayor) Glen Gilmore did during the anthrax crisis saved lives and there is no question that what John Bencivengo did during that same time is to try to make money for himself," said Rich McCellan, Mercer County Democratic chairman and former Gilmore chief of staff. "Glen Gilmore went out and got (antibiotics) for the folks that needed it, he did not go out and buy a carload of snake oil to try to get rich personally."
Gilmore, a Democrat, is running for re-election.
But Bencivengo defended the sale of Skin Guard, saying it was first marketed as a barrier to anthrax by its inventor. His goal in selling it was to protect people, not to take advantage of the situation, he said.
"I had no intention of trying to mislead anyone," Bencivengo said. "The data was given to us that said this was useful with anthrax. It was our intention to provide added protection against biological problems."
Advertising on the Eterna Web site urged postal workers to use the product before sorting mail.
"The threat of bio-terrorism has caused significant concern especially for postal workers, mail room employees and others who routinely handle packages, envelopes and unrevealed contents. We are now urging them to use SKIN GUARD every day," the site said.
But by pushing the product to postal workers, local Democrats say, Bencivengo profiteered on the fear caused by the anthrax contamination that sickened 17 and killed five people nationwide. The cream was at best unproven and at worst a gimmick, they say.
That opinion is bolstered by representatives of two federal agencies that track drug approvals and biological hazards. Both say they have never heard of a cream that protects against anthrax.
"We have no information on the product," said Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Karen Riley. Riley said the only product approved by the FDA as a barrier against chemical warfare agents is a gel developed by the U.S. Army. That product has been discontinued, Riley said.
A spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said his agency also had no information on any product to protect against contracting cutaneous anthrax.
The Eterna Web site is no longer active, but reached last week, Bencivengo defended the sale of the cream, saying he relied on information he received from its inventor that Skin Guard could be used for protection against anthrax. Eterna marketed Skin Guard before the anthrax attacks, Bencivengo said, and only after they were contacted by distributor CJ Products of Oklahoma about its effectiveness against anthrax did he begin advertising it that way.
"It was invented to protect people from latex allergies and as an added protection against substances such as grease and blood," he said. "After that the company called us to say they had gotten the OK to say it could be used against anthrax."
Literature about inventor Cyn thia Judd's company provided by Bencivengo included a press re lease with Judd's name on it, quot ing her saying the product would be effective against anthrax.
An October 2001 article from a Texas newspaper quotes Judd making the anthrax claims just days after the tainted letters were processed by the Hamilton post office.
But reached yesterday, Judd called it "ridiculous" for the product to be marketed as a barrier to anthrax. Asked about the article and press release, Judd said she was unsure about their origin.
The Oklahoma woman also denied that the product was ever authorized to be sold as a private label by a company like Eterna and blamed an unscrupulous distributor in Oklahoma for allowing Benci vengo's company to sell it.
Judd said she eventually gave up marketing the product after spending about $80,000 to market it to the military, to no avail.
It is not clear what is actually in Skin Guard and Bencivengo said he did not know all of the ingredients.
The bottle claims the product is "clinically proven" to be effective, but it does not say by whom. The only ingredients listed on the Web site or on the picture of the bottle shown online are "77 minerals."
It also is unclear if the product works to protect skin against any of the substances and problems listed on the Web site, including: chemical agents, medical hazards, mosquitoes, ticks, insect bites, der matitis, skin cracking and peeling, poison ivy, poison oak, bleach, detergents and other household products, and pesticides and other gardening chemicals.
However, as proof of its effectiveness, the Eterna Web site outlines a test using muriatic acid poured on the hands of a demonstrator who has applied the cream. According to the site, the acid burns through tin foil, while leaving the demonstrator's hands un harmed.
When confronted with the criticism of his business venture, the GOP hopeful took issue with the assertion that he took advantage of the situation, lashing out at Gilmore's own actions during the 2001 crisis, which at the time were lauded by several news agencies as well as local Republican and Democratic officials.
"Nobody took more advantage of the issue than Gilmore," Benci vengo added. "He took every opportunity that he had to put this out there and make himself a hero, when he wasn't even the guy who got the (antibiotics) for the employees, (U.S. Rep.) Chris Smith was."
Bencivengo also decried what he called the personal attack by the Democrats, saying they have resorted to this for lack of any bet ter issues to confront him with.
The product is no longer for sale and the Web site is no longer ac tive, Bencivengo said.
Contact Darryl Isherwood at Disherwood@njtimes.com or (609) 989-5708.
Two members of Danbury family contract anthrax
Two members of a Danbury family have contracted a case of cutaneous anthrax poisoning.
At least one of those two people, a man, contracted the anthrax from African drums, Mayor Mark Boughton has told The News-Times .
"I want to emphasize that cutaneous anthrax is not communicable, but we are always concerned any time anthrax pops up in the community," said Boughton during a 3 p.m. press conference at City Hall. "We still have a few more hours of work to do at the site, we expect traffic to resume in two to three hours."
Both Boughton and officials from Danbury Hospital at the press conference declined to name either of the people diagnosed with anthrax.
Boughton said Danbury officials were first made aware of the anthrax case several days ago, after the man got sick and went to the hospital. Since then, he has since been treated and released.
William Gerrish, the spokesman from the state Department of Public Health, has confirmed that the two cases in Fairfield County are from the same family.
Both the F.B.I. and Gerrish told The News-Times that the cases are not terrorism.
The Danbury house being investigated by officials is a residence at 69 Pandanaram Rd., and the current tenant of the home is Ase-AmenRa Kariamu, according to Donald Lombardo, the owner of the house.
According to Lombardo, Kariamu lives there with his wife and family.
Kariamu is a renowned African drummer who is also a drum maker and restorer who teaches African drumming at the Danbury Music Centre. It is not officially known at this hour if Kariamu is involved directly in the case of anthrax.
The last case of cutaneous anthrax in Connecticut is believed to be in the 1950s.
William Glass, Associate Superintendent of Danbury Public Schools, said that he has "been assured by city and medical officials that the case is not a threat to our students," and that students are safe, but that "there may be some disruption to our bus schedules due to traffic interruptions in the area."
An emergency staging area has been formed at the intersection of Padanaram and Jeanette Roads. Both roads have been blocked at the intersection.
The incident is located in the area of the intersection of Pembroke and Padanaram Roads.
Police estimate that the investigation will continue into the afternoon. Neighbors of the anthrax victim's house are currently being held at the scene.
The F.B.I. is on the scene, but officials say the situation is routine. While the investigation is ongoing, officials say the case is not believed to be anything other than a natural anthrax occurrence. Emergency crews at the scene are wearing yellow protective clothing.
About half of the city fire department is at the scene.
Police are advising that those traveling north bypass the scene by driving north up Jeanette Road, turn right onto Stacy Road, a left onto East Pembroke, a left onto Pembroke Terrace and a right back onto Pembroke to travel north on Route 37 to New Fairfield.
In 2006, a Manhattan man from Greenwich Village contracted a case of anthrax poisoning last year from handling African drums made with goat skin. He survived, after a lengthy stay in the hospital.
Though the disease conjures up images of bio-weapons of mass destruction, cutaneous anthrax is not contagious and is usually treated with antibiotics.
Anthrax infection can occur in three forms: cutaneous (skin), inhalation, and gastrointestinal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of people who become infected with cutaneous anthrax die.
The first warning sign of cutaneous anthrax is a small sore that develops into a blister. The blister then develops into a skin ulcer with a black area in the center. The sore, blister and ulcer do not hurt.
B. anthracis spores can live in the soil for many years, and humans can become infected with anthrax by handling products from infected animals or by inhaling anthrax spores from contaminated animal products. Anthrax can also be spread by eating undercooked meat from infected animals.
It is rare to find infected animals in the United States.
Anthrax has long history
Ancient disease presents challenges, but Danbury patients are recovering
By Robert Miller
In the Book of Exodus, God smites the cruel Pharaoh and his people with a series of plagues -- frogs, lice, hail and rivers that run blood-red.
In the fifth plague, the herds of the Pharaoh -- horses, asses, camels, oxen and sheep -- all lie down and die.
The Lord then commands Moses to throw ashes on a fire, promising him that "it shall become small dust in all the lands of Egypt and shall be a boil breaking with the blains upon man and upon beast.'' -- the sixth plague.
No. 6 sounds an awful lot like anthrax, a disease that since time immemorial has started out in livestock and ended up in humans.
When it turned up on Padanaram Road in Danbury last week, it was a shock -- there hadn't been case of the disease in the entire state in nearly 40 years. And the neighborhood involved is a row of suburban homes, not cattle range or dairy country.
"You don't see this here," said Dr. John Stratidis, an infectious disease specialist at Danbury Hospital.
Stratidis and his colleagues were able to correctly diagnose the cause of a nickel-size sore on a patient after learning the man made African drums and had been working with goat hides to form drum heads. They then quickly identified a second anthrax sore on a family member.
City and state officials have not identified the two patients, but African drum-maker Ase-AmenRa Kariamu and his family live at the Padanaram Road house where anthrax has been found. Both patients are taking antibiotics and recovering without a hitch, according to Dr. Gary Schleiter, chief of infectious disease department at Danbury Hospital.
When state tests confirmed that it was anthrax, the city got thrown into an emergency mode it has trained for but never experienced as the real thing.
Officials had to shut down a section of Padanaram Road -- one of the city's major arteries. They had to muster emergency support as crews from the State Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency sampled the barn and home where the drum-maker lived with his family. They had to assure a panicky public that no one was at risk.
Next week, Danbury may have to go through the same drill, after the EPA decides how to decontaminate the site.
"This is the culmination of our training," said Paul Estafan, deputy director of the city's Office of Emergency Management, outside the house on Padanaram Road where the drum-maker stores the hides. "But who would have ever thought I'd be standing here talking about anthrax?"
Because of an act of bioterrorism in September 2001 -- when a still-unidentified person sent seven anthrax-laden letters in the mail, killing five people and making another 17 ill -- people think of the disease as something as lethal as ebola, as communicable as the common cold.
But as diseases go, it's relative hard to get anthrax and is does not spread from person to person.
It is a very ancient disease -- along with the Biblical plagues and the burning plague in the Iliad, the Roman poet Vergil describes something very much like anthrax in his Georgics, a collection of poetry published around 30 B.C.
It wasn't until the 19th century that scientists began to identify the black sores on people who worked with hides and wool as a disease particular to their trade. By 1850, researchers had isolated the bacteria involved in anthrax, then proved it caused the disease. By the late 19th century, scientists including Louis Pasteur had developed a vaccine to protect livestock.
But anthrax has never gone away. In much of Africa, Asia and western South America, it's endemic -- constantly present. In a few countries, including West Africa, Turkey and Myanmar (the former Burma), it's at epidemic levels.
Only a few countries -- among them Greenland, the Scandinavian countries, and Egypt (Biblical plagues aside) -- are anthrax-free today.
Anthrax has come through the centuries because live anthrax bacteria can revert to spores -- microscopic seeds that can get into the earth and survive for decades. Then, if the spores find themselves in the right environment, live bacteria hatches and the cycle of disease begins again.
One of the good environments is the human body. Most often people get cutaneous anthrax, which creates black-scabbed sores, and which can be lethal if the bacteria gets into the blood stream. If a person eats meat that contains anthrax, it can get into the gastrointestinal system. Pulmonary anthrax -- when the spores get into the lungs -- is rare, but more lethal.
This is one of the reasons many countries have considered anthrax as a weapon of bioterrorism. The spores can stay in the environment for a long time. And because it's not a communicable disease, it has the advantage of not starting a plague that could circle the globe and infect the people who started the attack.
"That's one of the challenges of anthrax," said Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior analyst at the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "The spores are very resistant."
The 2001 letters -- while scary -- did not involve weaponized anthrax, Nuzzo said.
"To weaponize it, you make it more lethal. It has to make people sicker, or stay in the air longer, so more people breath it in," Nuzzo said,
Cleanups after the 2001 attacks were complicated undertakings. One building contaminated by anthrax from those attacks -- the former offices of American Media Inc. in Boco Raton, Fla. -- was only re-opened for occupancy this year.
The spores in Danbury found their way here via an importer in New York City. According to the state DEP, the local drum-maker purchased goat hides in New York City -- hides that originally came from West Africa. The fur on the hides hid anthrax spores. Those spores got under the skin of the drum-maker -- probably through a small cut. The same thing probably happened to the family member.
Stratidis of Danbury Hospital said the man suggested the nickel-size sore on his arm -- which had a center of dead, black flesh -- was a spider bite.
"We don't see people with spider bites like that here," Stratidis said.
It was only when Startidis began talking to the man about his work with hides that he began to suspect anthrax. Then, he said, the pieces of the puzzle fit together -- the incubation period, the progression of the disease.
When the state Department of Public Health did DNA tests on biopsies of the man and the family member, Stratidis' diagnosis became fact.
Because of the very nature of anthrax -- its ability to live as spores in the ground -- the Pandararam Road site must be cleaned up as completely as possible so that occupants of the house aren't infected anew.
For those who watched the operation there this week -- with its command center, its decontamination tents, its mobile emergency medical care van, and its teams of men in green haz-mat suits, complete with face masks and air tanks and gloves taped to sleeves -- it seemed impressive that so much time and energy and money were being spent on bacteria in goat hides. But given anthrax's long history, it made sense.
"There's no typical response to anthrax," said Michael Nalipinski, the EPA's on-site coordinator. "The highs and lows of these things are easy to classify. I would say what we're doing is Danbury is on the upper end of moderate."
# Contact Robert Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or (203) 731-3345.
Angeles Times (Opinion)
More reasons to shield journalists
A ruling ordering reporters to name their confidential informant illustrates the need for a shield law.
September 11, 2007
It may not have been his intention, but a federal judge in Washington has underscored the need for Congress to join 33 states and the District of Columbia in recognizing a reporter's privilege to protect confidential sources.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled that five journalists must disclose who in the FBI or the Justice Department told them that Steven Hatfill was being investigated in connection with the anthrax attacks that killed five people in 2001. Hatfill, a physician who had worked at an Army laboratory where the strain of anthrax used in the attacks was once studied, has filed a lawsuit against the government under the federal Privacy Act, seeking damages for the "intentional and willful" leaking of his name. A similar suit by former nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee,who was arrested in 1999 as part of an espionage investigation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, was settled last year after the government and five news organizations -- including The Times -- agreed to pay Lee a total of $1.65 million.
Earlier this year, a different judge dismissed Hatfill's libel suit against the New York Times, ruling that Hatfill was a public figure who couldn't show that the newspaper had knowingly published falsehoods. Yet Walton's order -- even though it comes in a suit against the government -- poses the same danger for journalism. Most news organizations prefer to be able to identify sources of information. But without assurances of confidentiality, some important stories will go uncovered. The investigation of the anthrax attacks was an important story. So was the fact that the government was focusing, albeit mistakenly, on a particular individual.
Two weeks before Walton ordered journalists to identify their sources in the Hatfill case, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007. The legislation, similar to a bill introduced in the Senate, would require federal courts to recognize a qualified privilege for confidential sources -- one that couldbe overcome if disclosure were necessary to resolve a criminal case, to prevent terrorism or to identify a person who had leaked trade secrets or private health records.
Even then, a judge would have to determine "that the public interest in compelling disclosure [of the information or document sought] outweighs the public interest in gathering or disseminating news or information." Without a robust federal shield law, other aggrieved parties will be tempted to follow Hatfill's path.
poses ‘no risk’ to public
State sends memo to Danbury schools
By ROBERT MILLER
DANBURY — Here’s the message from the state Department of Public Health to Danbury Public Schools: Don’t worry about anthrax.
Dr. James Hadler and Dr. Matthew Cartter — the state two top epidemiologists — sent a memo Tuesday to city schools assuring them there was nothing brought into any school from a barn on Padanaram Road that has been the focal point of an anthrax investigation.
That barn, and the house next to it, are contaminated with anthrax spores — dormant seeds of live anthrax bacteria.
"There is no risk to the general public or to the school population,’’ the memo said.
Health officials learned about the barn and the hides last week after two members of a family developed cutaneous anthrax — a form of the disease that occurs when anthrax bacteria gets under the skin.
All anthrax, while potentially deadly, is non-contagious — it does not spread from person to person like a head cold or the chicken pox.
Neither the city nor the state have identified the two patients. But Ase-AmenRa Kariamu, an African drummer and drummaker, lives in the house with his family and was using the hides to make drum heads.
The family has temporarily vacated the house, which is sealed off from the public.
Because anthrax was found in the barn and a house — and because Kariamu’s wife, Althea, teaches at Great Plains School — the department acknowledged "some parents have raised concerns about the safety of schoolchildren.’’
However, Hadler and Cartter said there are only two anthrax cases that were originally reported. No others have arisen, even among other family members.
The doctors also said that "no items were brought into any school from areas where the processing of contaminated hides took place.’’
"Therefore the Department of Public Health is not recommending any special testing or cleaning of schools or preventive antibiotics for those who actually work or attend schools in Danbury,’’ they said.
The memo also warned city residents against precautionary self-medication with antibiotics. These drugs — while life-savers when infection occurs — have serious side effects.
They also can interfere with other drugs and encourage drug-resistant bacteria to develop — bacteria that then can’t be treated with conventional antibiotics.
"All evidence continues to indicate that the illness that has affected two members of this Danbury family is still an extremely rare event,’’ the memo said.
In an interview Tuesday, Hadler said the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency tested the house for anthrax only because the case histories of anthrax — which occur once or twice a year in the United States — indicate that sometimes, people can track spores from a workplace to a nearby dwelling.
That’s what happened in Danbury, Hadler said. While there is clear evidence of anthrax spores in the shed where Kariamu built his drums, there is only faint evidence of it being tracked into the house.
"We found it exactly where we expected it would be,’’ Hadler said.
He refused to elaborate on where the spores were found in the house, except to say they were tracked in.
The DEP and EPA will announce this week how they plan to decontaminate the shed and house.
Hadler said there are no cases of anthrax spores being transferred again — from a workplace to a house to another building. Therefore, he said, there was no reason to test Althea Kariamu’s classroom at Great Plains School.
Hadler also said that none of the drums Kariamu was building when his shop became infected have been sold, and all remain on the premises. Therefore, there is no reason to fear someone else is using a drum head with anthrax on it.
Hadler said the state is now working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test about a dozen hides in Kariamu’s shop for spores. Although the hides came from West Africa — where anthrax is near-epidemic among cattle and goats — Kariamu purchased them in New York City.
"It may turn out that of all the hides he had, only one was contaminated with anthrax,’’ Hadler said.
Contact Robert Miller at email@example.com or (203) 731-3345.
Crews work to rid Padanaram Road house of anthrax
By Robert Miller
DANBURY — The complicated and expensive anthrax cleanup of a house and barn on Padanaram Road began in earnest Friday, with men in white hazardous-materials suits vacuuming rugs, then scrubbing the walls and floors of the buildings with bleach.
State environmental and public health officials also acknowledged Friday that the trunk of a car was also contaminated with anthrax spores. However, they emphasized it posed no health risk to the public.
Ase-AmenRa Kariamu — a local musician and African drum-maker who lives with his family at the home — had contaminated the car, barn and house with goat hides he bought in New York City, which he planned to use for drum heads. The family has temporarily vacated the home, which has been sealed off from the public.
Dr. Matthew Cartter, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Public Health, said Kariamu sold the car Aug. 8. — well before the anthrax issue arose.
Neither state or city health officials have ever disclosed the names of the two people who developed cutaneous anthrax from the hides, other than to say it was an adult male and a family member who was a child. The disease — which causes black-scabbed sores on the skin — is not contagious and antibiotics now cure it almost 100 percent of the time.
But Cartter said health officials confirmed the first anthrax case Sept. 1 and the second Sept. 2.
Once city, state and federal official learned of the cases Sept. 4, they responded Sept. 5. by closing down the house and began testing the house and barn for anthrax spores. State police seized the car Sept. 5 from the dealers who bought it, and brought it back to the Padanaram Road home.
Cartter said the initial tests of the car for anthrax were negative. Only when the state health department developed cultures from the trunk did they find anthrax spores. They learned this Monday. By then, the car was impounded and out of harm’s way.
Cartter said the announcement on Monday that the house tested positive for anthrax was not meant to be a detailed listing of every place at the home where the spores had been found. Instead, he said, state and federal authorities wanted to alert the public that they would have to decontaminate the site. That’s why the anthrax in the car was not mentioned at that time, he said.
Cartter also said the state health department interviewed everyone who had come in contact with the car between the time Kariamu had sold it and when state police had seized it. None have become ill, and none got precautionary antibiotics.
By now, Cartter said, the exposure time for developing the disease has passed. Only the two family members who came in contact with the hides have developed any symptoms and there is no health risk to the public.
Mayor Mark Boughton said there was no attempt by anyone to hide the details of the spores in the car trunk.
"It’s outrageous that anyone would allege anything different,’’ Boughton said in response to TV and blog reports.
Michael Nalipinski, on-site coordinator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said Friday the car’s trunk and seats have been vacuumed. The car’s trunk has also been washed with a bleach solution.
That’s the protocol cleanup crews are following in the house and the more seriously contaminated barn used as a workroom to make the drums. That work will continue through Sunday. Both today and Sunday, Padanaram Road will be closed between Jeanette Street and Stacey Road between 6:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.
EPA on-site coordinator Richard Haworth said Friday that the crews should be ready to leave by Sunday. The state health department will then determine if final tests on the site show the anthrax has been successfully cleaned.
On Friday, the crews finished work on the house, vacuuming the rugs where tests showed there were spores, and scrubbing down a bathroom that also tested positive. Today and Sunday, the crews will vacuum the barn, scrub its walls and floor with bleach solution, then wipe down every object in the barn with the solution.
Nalipinski said a TV and stereo contaminated by spores would have to be thrown away.
"The owner and I agreed that any stereo dropped in a vat of bleach solution wouldn’t be worth much," he said.
Cartter said Friday that at least one of the dozen hides the state health department tested was positive for anthrax. What the state now has to determine, he said, is whether several hides held anthrax or whether a single hide contaminated others.
Anthrax spores are like seeds that can hatch live bacteria. These spores can live in the soil and other places for decades. Because the bacteria can kill human beings, city health director Scott LeRoy said Friday it is important to rid the site of the spores.
"It’s a deadly disease,’’ LeRoy said.
The cleanup, while led by the EPA, involves staff from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Public Health. The EPA has hired three private firms to clean the buildings, while the U.S. Coast Guard’s Atlantic Strike Force is in charge of decontaminating those workers.
EPA staff from its main decontamination unit in Cincinnati will be on the scene today, as well as EPA staff from its New York regional office. The city has also had police guarding the house.
It’s also taken a lot of negotiations on how to proceed. On Thursday night, Kalipinski said that Kariamu had to be assured that the crews would not damage his family’s belongings and his woodworking equipment.
"We went late into the night,’’ he said of the negotiations to get all parties to sign on.
Nalipinski would not venture to guess how much the work would cost, except to say "several hundreds of thousands of dollars.’’
Boughton later upped that amount.
"It’s in the upper ranges of several hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.
Contact Robert Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or (203) 731-3345.
Editorial: Free flow of information needed
Monday, September 17, 2007
Later this week the Senate Judiciary Committee will have the opportunity to vote on the Free Flow of Information Act.
The House Judiciary Committee has already approved similar legislation by voice vote without objection. The legislation deserves the same treatment in the Senate.
The legislation will establish a uniform federal standard to govern when testimony can be sought from reporters.
While 33 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect reporters from being forced to reveal confidential sources and 16 other states recognize a privilege through court decisions, a federal shield law is needed to provide similar standards at the federal level that will shield a reporter’s confidential sources.
The federal law is needed because law enforcement officials, prosecutors and trial lawyers more commonly are attempting to force reporters to reveal their confidential sources, notes, outtakes and more in federal court.
In the past few years, more than 40 reporters have either been subpoenaed, questioned or jailed in judicial attempts to force them to reveal confidential sources.
Last month, a federal judge ordered five more reporters from major news organizations to reveal their confidential sources in the privacy lawsuit filed by Dr. Steven Hatfill against the federal government. At one point, the government named Hatfill as a “person of interest” in the 2001 anthrax investigation.
Reporters occasionally obtain information on a confidential basis from whistle-blowers who want to reveal wrongdoing but not their own identities.
These confidential sources have led to valuable reporting such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the Enron scandal, steroid abuse in Major League Baseball and the stories about dismal conditions confronted by wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Forcing them to reveal confidential sources diminishes reporters’ ability to reveal scandals in the public interest.
This legislation is needed by the public even more so than those reporting the news.
Editorials Support Federal Shield Law -- As Hearing Looms
By Joe Strupp
Published: September 26, 2007 12:15 PM ET
NEW YORK As chances for a federal shield law to protect journalists' anonymous sources move closer to reality with a Senate committee set to consider the latest proposal on Thursday, newspapers nationwide have been weighing in with their support for the idea via editorials all week.
The New York Times was among those to kick off the latest editorial campaign for the federal protection with an editorial Sept. 20 that declared, "For freedom of the press to be more than a promise and for the public to be kept informed about the doings of its government, especially the doings that the government does not want known, reporters must be able to pursue the news wherever it takes them. One of the most valuable tools they have is the ability to protect the names of confidential sources — people who provide vital information at the risk of their jobs, their careers and sometimes even their lives."
The Los Angeles Times weighed in two weeks ago in anticipation of the coming Capitol Hill fight. Using the recent case of Steven Hatfill, the physician suing the federal government for linking him to the 2001 anthrax attacks and whose lawyers are demanding reporters' sources in the case, the Times urged that a federal shield law be approved.
"Most news organizations prefer to be able to identify sources of information," the L.A. Times' editorial stated. "But without assurances of confidentiality, some important stories will go uncovered. The investigation of the anthrax attacks was an important story. So was the fact that the government was focusing, albeit mistakenly, on a particular individual."
In the past few days alone, a number of newspapers have published arguments in favor of the proposed law, with more likely on Thursday, citing the need for protection in an era when more reporters are being sought for sources.
Excerpts from several of the most
recent editorials are posted below:
The purpose of a free press, and of the First Amendment that makes a free press in the United States possible, is to tell you, the citizens, what is happening in your country — especially in the halls of power. The primary way we have of fulfilling that constitutional mandate, lacking a clairvoyance clause, is for people who work in the halls of power to tell us. The purpose of the proposed Free Flow of Information Act is to help reporters do their job in a way that they, and their sources, don’t have to fight off fishing expeditions from federal prosecutors and other lawyers who might demand that the press become an arm of the government. It deserves to become law.
THE CINCINNATI POST
The excesses of the CIA-leak investigation
made clear the need for a federal shield law to protect reporters and their
sources. Indeed, the need for such a law has been clear since 1972, when
the Supreme Court upset a long-standing understanding that journalists
were more or less immune from government investigations into their reporting.
AUSTIN (TEX.) AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The shield law, S.2035, has been
rewritten to comply with concerns raised about national security and complaints
from the U.S. Department of Justice. It is unlikely that any bill offering
protection to confidential sources will be acceptable to the Justice Department,
so any new opposition should matter little to the committee members.
THE PLAIN DEALER, CLEVELAND
This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on a bill that directly affects your ability to be an informed citizen. The Free Flow of Information Act, sponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Charles Schumer of New York, would at last create a qualified privilege shielding journalists from having to reveal confidential sources in federal court cases. Many states have such a law on their books, with no evidence that they impede justice.
KANSAS CITY STAR
Journalists generally share the sources of their information with readers and viewers. In rare cases, however, sources ask to remain unnamed. They may fear losing their jobs or encountering other forms of retribution if their identities are ever disclosed. Open government and vigorous news gathering can hinge on the trust that a journalist will not betray the confidence of a source, even at the behest of a prosecutor or other official.
CORPUS CHRISTI (TEX.) CALLER TIMES
In this age of information overload, sometimes it's difficult to separate real reporting from urban myth. But some journalism breaks through the noise and makes history by uncovering a grave misdoing or shining light on the darkest corners of government. Americans may never have known about the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center or the Abu Ghraib prison scandal had reporters not aggressively pursued those stories and been willing to risk the use of confidential sources.
Joe Strupp (email@example.com) is a senior editor at E&P.
Journalist Ross of ABC Ordered To Disclose Sources
By JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN
A federal judge in New York has ordered a journalist at ABC News, Brian Ross, to disclose the identities of the government sources he relied upon when reporting about the anthrax attacks of 2001.
Mr. Ross is now the sixth reporter to have been ordered to give up sources to assist with a civil lawsuit brought by a former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, whom the government named as a "person of interest" in the investigation into the deadly anthrax mailings. Mr. Hatfill, who was never charged with the mailings, is suing the federal government for invading his privacy.
The ruling, signed last week by Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, comes a month after a federal judge in Washington first ordered five reporters from the Washington Post, Newsweek, and other news outlets to name their sources. Since that first order, two of the sources have come forward and identified themselves, according to a letter filed last week by a lawyer for Mr. Hatfill, Charles Kimmett. The letter does not identify the sources beyond saying they are former Justice Department employees, nor does it say to which reporters the sources spoke.
The litigation involving Mr. Ross's sources is proceeding in New York separately because of jurisdictional issues. In the order, Judge Hellerstein, wrote that Mr. Hatfill's interest in learning the sources' identities overcame the First Amendment privilege that protects reporters from testifying about sources.
It is not yet clear whether ABC will appeal the order.
"We believe firmly in honoring promises of confidentiality to our sources, and we are guided by that principle in this case," a spokesman for ABC News, Jeffrey Schneider, said yesterday, declining to comment further.
A lawyer for Mr. Hatfill declined to comment.
Postal workers union wants more answers on 2001 anthrax scare
8:22 AM EDT, October 3, 2007
A Connecticut postal workers union is demanding an update from federal authorities investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed an elderly Oxford woman and four other people across the country.
The Greater Connecticut Area Local of the American Postal Workers is asking the state's congressional delegation to press the Justice Department and FBI about the investigation. The union represents 5,000 postal workers.
"It happened to kill two of our people," said local union President John Dirzius, referring to postal workers in Washington, D.C., who died of inhalation anthrax. "And yet, we still don't know who did it.
"What happened changed our industry and people's entire lives," Dirzius said. "The union believes that our request for an update in this matter is both fair and reasonable."
Ottilie Lundgren, 94, of Oxford, was among those who died after handling anthrax-contaminated mail. Lundgren's mail was apparently distributed from a Wallingford postal center, which had to be decontaminated after anthrax spores were found there.
The attacks also sickened 17 other people nationwide.
Dirzius said knowing more about the federal investigation would give postal workers a greater sense of security. He also said the union's national leadership is renewing efforts to find out what the federal government knows about the attacks.
The U.S. Postal Service has taken steps to protect workers, including installing bioterrorism detection equipment at distribution centers, Dirzius said.
The office of U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said she will continue to urge the Justice Department and FBI to release more information on the investigation.
Committee for Freedom of the Press
Hatfill seeks contempt citations for journalists
A former government scientist asks a federal judge to hold two journalists in contempt for refusing to disclose sources.
Oct. 3, 2007 · Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army scientist and one time suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks, asked a federal judge Tuesday to hold two journalists in contempt for refusing to name which government sources leaked details about the investigation to the press.
Hatfill, a physician who had worked at an Army laboratory where the strain of anthrax used in the attacks was once studied, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice under the federal Privacy Act, seeking damages for the "intentional and willful" leaking of his name.
The court had earlier ordered five journalists to reveal their sources. On Tuesday, Hatfill's attorneys asked for a contempt order against two of the journalists: James Stewart of CBS News and Toni Locy of USA Today. The motion does not address the three other reporters named in the suit -- Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman and the Washington Post's Allan Lengel -- but that does not mean that they have cooperated with Hatfill.
Hatfill's attorneys are seeking fines for every day that Locy and Stewart do not cooperate. They have suggested U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton fine both reporters $1,000 per day. After one week, the fine would increase to $2,000 and continue to increase by a rate of $1,000 per week thereafter. The order also stated that media corporations should be prohibited from paying the fines for the reporters.
In addition, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan last week ordered ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross to disclose source information as part of the lawsuit.
The ruling comes one month after a federal judge in Washington ordered the initial five reporters to reveal their sources. The Ross subpoena is being handled in New York because of jurisdictional issues.
"We believe firmly in honoring promises of confidentiality to our sources, and we are guided by that principle in this case," an ABC News spokesman told the Associated Press.
(Hatfill v. Gonzales) -- Adam Vignan
of bioterror agents adds to risk
Funding to prevent attacks like the 2001 anthrax crisis has given more people access to toxic substances -- and brought more accidents.
By Jia-Rui Chong, Los Angeles
Times Staff Writer
The researcher at Texas A&M University had never been trained to handle Brucella, a bacterium included on the government's select list of potential bioweapon microbes.
Her work was in a different type of bacteria, but when asked to help clean a chamber that had been used to create an aerosol version of Brucella, she leaned inside and wiped it down.
The bacteria entered her body through her eyes, investigators later surmised. She was infected for more than a month before doctors diagnosed her with brucellosis and put her on a regimen of strong antibiotics.
The incident last year was part of a small but unsettling number of laboratory accidents that has followed a boom in research funding after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the still-unsolved anthrax mailings that came a week later.
The burst of money has spread biodefense work to hundreds of university and research laboratories. In some cases, the labs have been ill-prepared to work on the exotic microbes.
"Universities aren't set up to handle these programs," said Edward Hammond, U.S. director of the Sunshine Project, a nonprofit group in Austin, Texas, that tracks information on biological weapons research. "I think we made a serious mistake putting 400 labs, thousands of people in the U.S., in the driver's seat behind biological weapons."
All told, there have been 111 cases involving potential loss of bioagents or human exposure reported since 2003 to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The incidents include the potential exposure of 12 laboratory workers to live anthrax bacteria after an incorrect sample was sent to Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in 2004, the infection of three researchers at Boston University in 2004 after they mistakenly handled a sample of live tularemia bacteria, and the disappearance of a mouse infected with Q fever at Texas A&M in 2006.
Federal officials say that the overall number of incidents is small, and they emphasize that no one has died -- and that no one beyond laboratory workers has been infected.
"If you're looking at the total amount of work in these labs, it strikes me that 100 incidents is very low," said Dr. Richard E. Besser, director of the CDC's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response. "Full investigations were done, and none of the events were thought to put the public at risk."
But Richard Ebright, a microbiologist at Rutgers University who has been monitoring biodefense safety issues, said that given the potential danger of the materials, the number of accidents is, in some ways, immaterial.
"Twenty-five incidents per year does not represent a good record," he said. "It only takes one incident in which a highly transmissible agent is introduced into a human population to produce a catastrophic loss."
Following the money
Before 2001, experts say much of biodefense research took place in government laboratories, such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick in Maryland. There, scientists in full-body suits worked in containment laboratories developing vaccines for some of the world's most hideous diseases, such as Ebola, Marburg hemorrhagic fever, anthrax, smallpox, tularemia and Lassa fever.
Then, everything changed. A week after the Sept. 11 attacks, letters containing anthrax spores began appearing around the country. Five people died and 17 others were infected.
The incident prompted Congress to dramatically increase biodefense funding. Research money from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which administers a major portion of biodefense funding, has grown from $187 million in 2002 to $1.6 billion in 2006.
Scientists followed the money. The CDC now counts about 14,000 researchers registered to work with so-called "select agents."
Biodefense experts were worried from the beginning about the expansion.
Increasing the number of laboratories increased the chances of an accident, experts said. Ebright said that the expansion also raised the problem of spreading the deadly knowledge of bioagents to potential terrorists.
Some of the early fears have not materialized. For example, there have been no confirmed thefts or losses of bioagents.
"We're in a much better place now than we were four years ago," the CDC's Besser said. "Now we have really strong requirements about who is allowed to work with these agents and what kinds of safety and security are in place."
In 2002, new federal rules required biodefense researchers to register their labs with the CDC or USDA to work with the agents, and pass a Department of Justice background check. They were also required to devise safety plans and report accidents to the government.
Still, concerns linger that the rules are inadequate. Congress has begun investigating the issue, and a hearing in Washington is scheduled for Thursday.
"There are no clear rules about training, ability or the orientation of the lab to handle these matters," said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"There are bills for funding and for research, yet nobody knows what regulation there is, how the regulations work and whether they are safe," he said. "There is a culture of secrecy."
The results of government inspections have not been encouraging. A 2006 report by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services found 11 out of 15 universities did not fulfill all the federal requirements. Several universities kept sloppy inventory records, and inspectors could not identify who was gaining access to the pathogens, according to the report.
Institutions working on animal and plant pathogens did worse. None of the 10 institutions described in a 2006 report by the USDA inspector general met all standards. Many had not updated their lists of people with access to the pathogens and had failed to fully train their staffs.
Potential for disaster
Many of the accidents have been relatively mundane. Most would be small events if not for the danger of the agents involved.
In May, a researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston was working with anthrax in a centrifuge. When the machine began clanking, the researcher opened the cover and saw liquid spilled inside.
She and three others in a nearby room tested negative for anthrax, and no spores were found in the lab, university officials said.
"It was a rookie mistake," said Robert Emery, assistant vice president for safety, health, environment and risk management at UT Houston. "We exist to teach people to treat and prevent disease. Part of that is a lack of knowledge about technique and learning it."
Among the most serious incidents were the infections of three researchers at Boston University in 2004. They thought they were working on an inactivated vaccine strain of the bacterium Francisella tularensis, but actually were handling a virulent form that had been mistakenly sent by another laboratory.
The researchers all recovered, but it took months for doctors to diagnose their potentially fatal disease because its symptoms -- coughs, fever, headaches -- are common.
The Brucella case at Texas A&M turned out to be only the beginning of the university's troubles. When the CDC began investigating in April -- a year after the incident -- the university disclosed that three lab workers had blood tests in 2006 showing higher-than-normal levels of antibodies for Q fever, a disease caused by the bacterium Coxiella burnetii.
The researchers never showed any symptoms, so the university thought it did not have to report the cases, the university's interim president Eddie J. Davis told reporters in July.
The CDC found other problems, and on Aug. 31 suspended all work with select agents at the university, the first and only suspension issued by the agency.
Despite the punishment, Hammond, of the Sunshine Project, said the case was another example of how the biodefense program had grown too fast and too large for the government to adequately manage.
The system "is not really working," he said. "The explosion of biodefense programs is creating dangers."
Dr. Alan Barbour, a UC Irvine professor who directs a federally funded regional center for biodefense and emerging diseases, said national training standards must be adopted for bioagents.
"I'm a physician, and I'm used to dealing with people in the hospital," Barbour said. "If you make a mistake, someone could die. I think some people are not used to handling things that way. They're going to have to learn."
A&M hearing reveals lack of oversight in country's biodefense labs
Violations reflect lack of oversight of biodefense facilities, officials say
11:56 PM CDT on Thursday, October 4, 2007
By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas
WASHINGTON – Lawmakers issued a strong rebuke of Texas A&M University for lab security breaches on Thursday, in a daylong hearing that highlighted how little the government knows about its own biodefense program.
And, they credited the Austin-based bioweapons watchdog that uncovered safety violations at A&M – violations the university failed to disclose for more than a year – with raising questions about federal research oversight nationwide.
"No one in the federal government even knows for sure how many of these labs there are in the U.S., much less what research they are doing or whether they are safe and secure," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.
Government investigators at Thursday's hearing painted a bleak picture of a fragmented and rapidly growing national biodefense program. And they attributed the exposures of Texas A&M lab workers to dangerous pathogens – problems they said could've been catastrophic – to the unchecked expansion of the country's biodefense lab facilities without a comparable increase in oversight.
The National Institutes of Health has spent more than $1 billion building new high-security research labs since the anthrax attacks of 2001, many of them on university campuses.
Edward Hammond, director of the Texas-based watchdog group The Sunshine Project, said biodefense lab space will grow by 4 million square feet in the next few years, equivalent to 36 "big box" stores.
"We would be safer and could accomplish our national needs if [the federal biodefense] program were a fifth or even smaller of what we have right now," Mr. Hammond told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. "We went considerably too far."
Keith Rhodes, of the Government Accountability Office, said that government's oversight is not adequate to keep pace with the growth in the number of labs.
"Since the labs are largely overseeing themselves at this point, it is not the regulators but only the operators of the labs who can tell you ... whether [the problems] are the tip of the iceberg or the iceberg themselves," he said.
More than 400 labs in the country are registered to do research with "select agents," highly infectious pathogens monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But these don't account for all of the nation's labs that work with other agents.
Texas A&M was central to Thursday's hearing and the key example for almost every government official citing problems in the country's biodefense research. The CDC has halted A&M's biodefense research pending an overhaul of the university's safety standards.
On Thursday, interim Texas A&M President Eddie Davis Jr. said the university made a serious mistake when it failed to report the exposures to the CDC for more than a year. He said university officials only realized their lapse when Mr. Hammond requested documents from them. "This is not the type of role model we would like to be," Dr. Davis said. "Our episode and the revelations of this hearing will probably cause others to awaken to the need to be very vigilant."
Texas lawmakers on the committee – including Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston; Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound; and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis – stood behind A&M on Thursday, vowing to help the university's biodefense program get back on its feet. "Texas A&M will be a model for how to do things right; you have my personal guarantee," said Mr. Barton, an A&M alum.
But the lawmakers also demanded to know how the CDC missed the shortcomings at A&M that Mr. Hammond found through an open records request, despite repeated inspections. "I think it is fair to say the CDC probably didn't do the same level of searching" that A&M did to respond to Mr. Hammond's request, Dr. Davis said.
CDC officials declined to comment on A&M specifically, citing an investigation by the Health and Human Services inspector general that could result in up to $250,000 in penalties for the university. But they defended their oversight of labs, saying their triennial inspections and hard-line approach to the facilities under their purview have "greatly enhanced the nation's oversight of dangerous biological agents."
Number of Labs
A look at who's doing research in the U.S. on deadly germs and toxins:
Approved labs: 409 labs, including 15 of the highest-security labs, have been approved by the government to handle the 72 deadliest substances, called "select agents." The number of labs has nearly doubled since 2004.
Little known: The Government Accountability Office says little is known about labs that aren't federally funded or don't work with any of the select agents.
Problems: 37 accidents and lost shipments were reported during 2007 through August – nearly double the number reported during all of 2004.
From staff and wire reports
Scripps helps on anthrax fighter
By STACEY SINGER
If another anthrax victim were to enter JFK Medical Center's emergency room today, infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush believes, he would treat that patient just as he treated Robert Stevens six years ago today.
And the outcome would probably be the same.
"In his case, the damage from the anthrax toxins was so aggressive that antibiotics couldn't reverse it," Bush said. "Having an antitoxin would be huge. And a reliable, readily available vaccine would be the best thing."
Hoping to develop both a vaccine and antitoxin, a team of California scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and the Salk Institute reported Thursday the creation of a custom-designed drug that appears to accomplish both goals. Their paper appears in the journal PLoS Pathogens, published by the Public Library of Sciences.
The scientists' idea was to use a tiny piece of an otherwise harmless insect virus and attach pieces of the anthrax toxin to its surface, creating an object so foreign to the immune system that it would launch a massive attack. Their nanoparticle proved surprisingly successful in its first test on rats.
"All of the rats died without the antitoxin, and all of the rats survived with the antitoxin," said Marianne Manchester, a cell biologist at Scripps.
The team now is in talks with the Army Medical Research Institute to do further studies at its secure laboratory in Fort Detrich, Md. Besides the tests already done, they want to see if the drug protects against inhaled spores such as those that killed Stevens, Manchester said.
Her collaborator is John A.T. Young, a Salk geneticist and biochemist whose group had discovered two key reaction points on the anthrax molecule that would be receptive to a drug. They found the first receptor just weeks before Stevens became ill.
Stevens, a 63-year-old photo editor at tabloid publisher American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, was the first fatal victim of mystery anthrax mailings that fueled a second wave of fear and panic that swept the nation after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"We actually discovered the first receptor in the summer of 2001, and had just submitted our paper when the attacks began," Young said. "It was a very surreal time."
Stevens slipped into a coma before doctors could tell him what his spinal tap revealed under a microscope. Bacteria shaped like boxcars, the telltale form of anthrax, moved ominously throughout the slide. It seemed impossible, JFK 's Bush said, because anthrax was an infection not seen in the United States in about 25 years.
Bush treated Stevens with high doses of antibiotics, the only tool available against the rare disease. Yet on Oct. 5, 2001, three days after entering the Atlantis hospital, Stevens suffered multisystem organ failure and died.
"We didn't have much," Bush said. "We only had antibiotics to treat the organism."
Anthrax's toxin has several key pieces to its molecule:
One part binds to its victim's cells and is referred to as the protective antigen. Another part causes its victim's tissues to fill with fluid. It's referred to as the edema factor. The third part, referred to as the enzymatic lethal factor, seems to disable key parts of the immune system.
The Scripps and Salk scientists engineered their nanoparticle to resemble a spiked ball — the interior ball coming from a harmless insect virus and the spikes made from the protective antigen molecules that the anthrax toxin uses to attach to cells. They used the lethal factor on the rats to see if the nanoparticle worked against it. It did.
Their approach to vaccine-making is relatively new, but it's one that has worked before, most notably in development of Gardasil, the cervical cancer vaccine.
"We know from the past this repeating pattern is very good at inducing immune responses," Salk's Young said.
But he said they didn't expect their drug to be quite so effective in its first trial.
"We need to figure out exactly why this is working as well as it is," Young said.
Scripps' Manchester, who spent more than six years developing the viral scaffolding of their drug, said it's still "early days" in its development. It can take a decade or more for new drugs to reach humans, and most fail along the way.
But Manchester and Young's collaboration already has proven fruitful in a different way.
Shortly after meeting at a scientific conference, they began dating and have since married and had a child. They're never far from their passions. Dinnertime conversations are often about anthrax.
"I think each of us brought a unique set of expertise to the table," Young said.
They also depended on the expertise of Scripps molecular biologist Anette Schneemann and 10 others.
"Any one of us could not have done this by ourselves," said Young, who is the editor in chief of PLoS Pathogens, a peer-reviewed journal.
He said the current anthrax vaccine, which is taken by U.S. military personnel, also is designed to block the so-called protective antigen by generating antibodies against it. But to work, it requires six doses over 18 months, plus annual boosters, and has a high rate of side effects, making it a poor defense in case of a mass-casualty terrorist attack.
A large research effort is under way, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Department.
JFK's Bush hopes that if someone finds better drugs and vaccines, they develop them soon.
"We have more knowledge about anthrax than we have before. We have better diagnostic tools," he said. "But there really isn't much more available now than we had then."
His only other wish?
A break in the investigation into the deaths of Stevens and four other anthrax victims.
"It's been six years," he said.
How the anthrax crisis unfolded
Three weeks after Sept. 11, JFK Medical Center in Atlantis made a shocking announcement: A man from suburban Lantana was grievously ill from anthrax. Before the 2001 bioterror attacks subsided, five people had died and 18 others were sickened. Who was responsible remains a mystery.
Oct. 5: Robert Stevens, 63, of suburban Lantana dies of anthrax, one day after Dr. Larry Bush makes the diagnosis. JFK doctors had treated Stevens with penicillin after he was admitted Oct. 2, to no avail. A photo editor at tabloid publisher American Media, Stevens first began feeling ill Sept. 27.
Oct. 7: Investigators discover anthrax spores on Robert Stevens' work keyboard. The Boca Raton building is sealed.
Oct. 8: A second sick American Media employee, mailroom worker Ernesto Blanco, is diagnosed with inhalational anthrax.
Oct. 10: A third American Media employee tests positive for anthrax.
Oct. 15: Congress, ABC and NBC all find evidence they've been mailed anthrax. A 7-month-old boy is diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax. Postal workers with symptoms are tested.
Oct. 21-22: Postal workers Thomas Morris and Joseph Curseen die and two others are hospitalized from anthrax exposure. They had worked at a Washington mail processing center. In all, nine people nationwide have been diagnosed with cutaneous or inhalational anthrax. Thirty are exposed in Florida, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C. The anthrax-laced mail had a Trenton, N.J., postmark. The mail targeted then-Senate President Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. as well as The New York Post, NBC, ABC and American Media.
Oct. 31: Kathy T. Nguyen, an employee at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, dies of inhalational anthrax three days after falling ill.
Nov. 21: Ottilie W. Lundgren, 94, a widow from Oxford, Conn., dies from inhalational anthrax. She is believed to be the final victim of the 2001 anthrax attacks.
Widow wants answers
By EMILY J. MINOR
When she looks back - and how can you not? - it all makes so much sense.
The tubes and the masks and the FBI agents.
The worried doctors and the sneaky reporters and the room where they told her the ending.
"I should have known," Maureen Stevens says now.
But back then, things like masks and tubes and a box of tissues on a meeting room table just didn't click.
Now, of course, it all makes sense.
It was six years ago Friday that Robert Stevens, the lovable, affable, kind man that Maureen Stevens adored, died from breathing in anthrax. And while anniversary dates like these come and go in our lives, Stevens, 65, pretty, soft-spoken and still brokenhearted, doesn't need a date on a wall calendar to remember that her husband was murdered the first week of October 2001.
It's the week that started out so beautifully in the leafy green nooks and crannies of Charlotte, N.C. - visiting their son - and ended in that room, the room with the chairs and the table and the water and the tissues, for the grief that would come.
"Water and tissues," she says again. "I should have known."
Those were just a few of the clues that passed by Maureen Stevens during that short week, the one that seemed to last forever.
But time is a funny thing and - along with healing her heart, just a little - it tends to make some things more clear.
Some things about Robert.
The way he was talking nonsense. The way he practically collapsed into the hospital wheelchair. The way she did not want to leave him.
Victim list expands
The fall and early winter of 2001 was one of those surreal times in American history that the country just kind of muddled through. The attacks of Sept. 11 had left us shocked and anxious, and in the weeks that followed we hung nervously - and in most cases, foolishly - to every airplane mishap, every stray package, every olive-skinned man who looked like he wasn't from Nebraska.
Then the anthrax scare ratcheted up the nation's nerves by about 2,000 percent.
Before his death, Stevens was a photo editor at American Media Inc. in Boca Raton. The company published such supermarket favorites as The National Enquirer - Stevens actually worked for The Sun - at its sprawling office complex. Investigators combed the AMI building, protected by white suits, headgear with breathing tubes and green latex gloves that looked as if they could have been bought at a hardware store in outer space.
Eventually, AMI left the building for good.
In South Florida, though, there was another surreal twist. Federal investigators began to realize that several of the Sept. 11 terrorists had lived here, even learning to fly at area airports. The government's "spot map" of key terrorist locations overlapped with our homes and our offices and our schools. For weeks, investigators thought the two - Sept. 11 and the anthrax - were connected.
Meanwhile, Stevens would not be the last to die.
Two postal workers at the Brentwood facility outside Washington - Joseph P. Curseen and Thomas L. Morris Jr. - died Oct. 22 after apparently becoming contaminated at work. Curseen was 47; Morris, 55.
And while more than two weeks passed between Stevens' death and the death of those two postal workers, the 17 days in between were one bizarre scare after another.
A look back:
Oct. 15, they found anthrax in a letter sent to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. The Capitol was shut down. No important government work. No tours. No visits to the nation's capital by the safety patrol kids of Palm Beach County, the first time the trip - a rite of passage for fifth-graders here - had ever been canceled.
Then letters began to appear at major news agencies in New York City. Among those affected: Tom Brokaw's assistant at NBC News. The baby boy of an ABC news producer. Dan Rather's assistant at CBS. An editorial page clerk at The New York Post.
All of them took medication and survived.
The fourth death was in New York. Kathy T. Nguyen, 61, a stockroom worker at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, died from anthrax Oct. 31.
And then there was Ottilie Lundgren, 94, of Oxford, Conn.
Lundgren died after she opened a letter inside her home that apparently had been contaminated somewhere along the way. She died Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving.
By this time, there had been 30 anthrax cases nationwide, five of them fatal.
And no matter where these stories appeared - People magazine, The New York Times, Washington Post, The Columbus Dispatch - Bob Stevens' name was always at the end of the list.
Six years later, it's still there.
Bob Stevens, 63, photo editor at American Media's Sun tabloid. Died Oct. 5.
A lifetime of joy
They met on a blind date, and Maureen Stevens was so unenthusiastic about the prospect, she didn't even dress up.
"Neither of us wanted to go," she says.
She was 30, working in an antique store in a little town outside London. He was doing freelance photography. Back then, he handled the high-end cosmetic photos for big-name advertising clients. They went to a pub called the Shepherd's Hut and, at night's end, when they both knew they'd found something nice - even without fancy clothes - he asked to see her again.
Of course, she said.
She tore a small slip of paper from her address book and wrote down her telephone number for him.
They were both private and unassuming, each once divorced, and they liked to read and travel and laugh. They got married Oct. 18, 1974, and the next day he left for America, where he had a new job with The National Enquirer in Lantana. Maureen Stevens followed soon after.
At his job for the supermarket tabloid, it was Stevens who would take a picture of, say, Cher or Prince or even O.J. and doctor it up a bit, make the star look just a touch better. Bob Stevens was great at this tabloid technique, and he loved his job and the people who made that nutty newsroom go round.
But he also loved his family. He liked to go fishing. He liked to work with wood. He was a sci-fi fan, even taking what little spare time he had to write a novel of his own.
He was both a perfectionist and the life of the party.
A lovely twist, really.
"Robert was just an all-around nice person," his wife says.
Eventually, as their lives here became more and more grounded with the house and friends and the four children and then the grandchildren, he liked to make the little ones laugh.
Humor was his forte.
Even today, the grandkids tell the story about the time Granddad took the bucket of earthworms, spread out the newspaper on Grandmother's good dining room table and dumped the whole caboodle all over the place.
What fun to have him in trouble instead of them!
"I love talking about him," Maureen Stevens said this week during her first one-on-one interview with The Palm Beach Post. "I love looking at photographs of Robert."
She added: "This will not be forgotten. I will not forget what happened to him. I just won't."
And, of course, she will not forget that first date. Who would?
The small pub. Their instant connection.
The little slip of paper she tore from her address book that night so she could write down her telephone number.
After his death - after Robert Stevens' horrible, wretched death - she found that slip of paper in her dead husband's wallet.
He'd tucked it away and saved it.
"Robert was a bit of a romantic," she says in her lovely British accent. "He really was."
They thought it was flu
This is not the way it's supposed to be, not by a long shot.
He's supposed to be here, with her.
He's supposed to make the trips back to England to visit family.
He's supposed to be in his wood shop, the one with all the new tools they were going to buy him, making something lovely for inside the house.
Instead, here she is, sitting in her lawyer's office, very much alone, talking about her husband's murder - the box of tissues within easy reach.
"It's never easy," she says about doing the interview. "I have a lot of anger in me because I'd like a few answers.
"Answers would be nice."
Investigators now think Robert Stevens was contaminated before the couple left for North Carolina that fall. He'd felt punky during their visit, but they thought it was the flu. On the way home, the Monday of the week he died, Stevens felt so ill that he got behind the wheel and drove with exceptional fortitude, apparently pulling himself together just long enough to make it home.
Back in South Florida, they turned in early the night they got back because they both felt like they were coming down with something.
Maureen Stevens awoke in the middle of the night and found him wandering the house.
It was odd. She knew that right off.
He was stumbling, speaking in gibberish, barely lucid. When they got to JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, she found a wheelchair and sat him in it.
It was really the last interaction between them.
The next 48 hours elapsed in that kind of slow-motion surreal blur that happens when personal disaster strikes. She began to gather the kids, one of whom was overseas at the time. First the doctors thought it was pneumonia. Then meningitis, because of the cloudy spinal fluid.
On Thursday, Dr. Jean Malecki - the county health department director, who would become a dependable source of truth for her - called her at the house in suburban Lantana. Maureen Stevens had gone home for a short rest.
We think it's anthrax, Malecki told her.
"That floored me," Maureen Stevens said. "I didn't know a lot about it, but I knew it wasn't good."
Newspaper photographers took pictures - click, click, click - of the handwritten note she'd taped to the front door telling the kids where she was. There were top-level officials everywhere: deputies, FBI, officials from the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At their home, reporters scared away her daughter, who on Friday afternoon took refuge at a friend's house about 20 minutes away.
"We couldn't go home," Maureen Stevens said.
It was then, of course, that the family got the hospital page.
Hurry, they said.
When they got to JFK, she and the kids were ushered to the private room - the room with the table and the water and the boxes of tissues.
He was dead, they said.
He'd inhaled the anthrax too deeply into his lungs.
In the days and weeks that followed, others at the AMI building, including mailroom worker Ernesto Blanco, who almost died from anthrax, were put on Cipro, the strong antibiotic used to treat anthrax.
Maureen Stevens never took it.
"I didn't see the use," she said.
If she had been exposed, she figured, she'd already be dead. Just like him.
Maureen Stevens still lives in the same house near Lantana that they bought all those years ago.
The anthrax, they know now, was on a letter that Stevens had apparently brought to his desk at the AMI building. He had trouble reading small print, so they imagine he'd held the letter close to his face.
As the months went on, Maureen Stevens hired an attorney, a good one, and together they're plodding through her case, which was filed in federal court.
It boils down to this.
Attorney Richard Schuler is alleging that the strain of anthrax that killed Stevens was the Ames strain, which can be traced to Fort Dietrich, the Army's biowarfare defense lab outside Washington.
Government lawyers have nickel-and-dimed Schuler's legal team, he says, stalling with motion after motion. But he thinks it will eventually get to court, and a fairly important piece of the case should be heard before the Florida Supreme Court early next year. That ruling will help set the pace for Maureen Stevens' lawsuit.
And then, maybe, she will get her chance.
Schuler claims the security at Fort Dietrich was so poor - it was vastly and noticeably improved after the 2001 anthrax scare, he says - that anyone could have walked out with anthrax.
You don't need a lot to commit murder.
Schuler says he's deposed a man who worked there who said that when he quit, he could have put anthrax in the box with his personal belongings. No problem.
Top guys in the field, from a noted handwriting expert to a key anthrax guy, have been told not to discuss the government's investigation. In court, Schuler will do this questioning using subpoenas.
That's what Maureen Stevens wants.
Some answers to her questions.
The kids are grown and scattered. She has still has her quiet pastimes. She likes to read. She gardens. She enjoys movies and crosswords and she goes to church. Her friends are the same source of strength they've always been.
"My husband was killed in a horrible way," Maureen Stevens said this week. "He was murdered. And nobody's that interested.
"Well, I am."
Every day of every year, six years running. No calendar needed.
Newspaper execs speak out
Article Last Updated: 10/11/2007 05:07:04 PM MDT
This is what the Newspaper Association of America, a nonprofit organization that lobbies on behalf of the $55 billion newspaper industry, has to say about the need for a federal shield law:
Congress Should Pass H.R. 2102, The Free Flow of Information Act
WHAT: A federal shield law would provide important and balanced ground rules for when the confidential relationship between reporters and their sources can be protected. While 49 states and the District of Columbia have recognized a privilege through laws or court decisions, no federal shield law exists to provide similar ground rules at the federal level for shielding or compelling a reporter's confidential source.
STRONG BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT: U.S. Representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA), John Conyers (D-MI) (Chairman of House Judiciary Committee), Mike Pence (R-IN), Howard Coble (R-NC), Greg Walden (R-OR) and John Yarmuth (D-KY). The bill is currently co-sponsored by 45 Democrats and 26 Republicans.
WHY: More than 40 reporters have been subpoenaed or questioned about their confidential sources, their notes, and their work product over the last few years in criminal and civil cases in federal court. The need for this legislation was underscored again when, on August 13, a federal judge ordered five more reporters from major news organizations to reveal their confidential sources in the privacy lawsuit filed by Dr. Steven Hatfill against the federal government. Dr. Hatfill is suing the government under the federal Privacy Act for being named a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax investigation. Reporters are now becoming the first stop, rather than the last resort, for civil litigants and prosecutors attempting to obtain the identity of confidential sources.
THE HARM: Groundbreaking stories, such as conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and baseball steroid abuse, would not have been possible without confidential sources. Forcing reporters to disclose sources and other information obtained in confidence creates the appearance that journalists are - or can be - used as an investigative arm of the judicial system. As Justice Potter Stewart wrote, "When neither the reporter nor his source can rely on the shield of confidentiality against unrestrained use of the grand jury's subpoena power, valuable information will not be published and the public dialogue will inevitably be impoverished."The proliferation of subpoenas to journalists is having a chilling effect on the flow of information to the public.
DOES H.R. 2102 PROVIDE AN ABSOLUTE PRIVILEGE? No, a confidential source's identity can be compelled if disclosure is necessary to prevent "an act of terrorism against the United States and its allies or other significant specified harm" to national security, to prevent imminent death or significant bodily harm, or to identify a person who has disclosed trade secrets or certain financial or medical information in violation of current federal law. The compelling party must also satisfy a public interest balancing test. Under this test, a court must find "that the public interest in compelling disclosure outweighs the public interest in gathering or disseminating news or information." The bill's sponsors have recently made changes - incorporating language used in the Senate bill that recently passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 15 to 4 vote. This "Manager's Amendment" will address Representatives' concerns about national security, unauthorized disclosures of properly classified information, and the scope of the definition of a journalist.
SUPPORTERS: A working alliance of more than 50 media companies, media organizations and journalist groups support the passage of H.R. 2102, the "Free Flow of Information Act of 2007." Thirty-four state attorneys generals have also pointed out to the Supreme Court that lack of a clear standard of federal protection undermines state law.
OPPONENTS: The Department of Justice (DOJ) opposes the legislation, even though the bill tracks, in large part, the principles embodied in the DOJ's own guidelines for when the media can be subpoenaed for confidential source information. And, the bill goes above and beyond what is required by the DOJ guidelines by providing for compelled disclosure under certain circumstances, including threats to national security, bodily harm, leaks of properly classified information and certain disclosures of trade secret, medical and financial information. The DOJ has publicly testified that its guidelines have worked well. Media companies and organizations agree and call on Congress - in a sense - to codify the guidelines for all parties before a federal court, so that these important ground rules also apply to special prosecutors and civil litigants. The 35-year old DOJ guidelines do not apply to special prosecutors and civil litigants, which have been the principal source of media subpoenas in recent years.
CAN THIS WORK? Yes, it is already working in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Passing a federal shield law would provide a similar standard at the federal level to govern when testimony can be sought from reporters.
Shield Law Talking Points -- Sloppy, Sloppy, Sloppy
Doesn't the Newspaper Association of America bother to check any facts before it puts these things out for republication on editorial pages across the country?
First, the discussion of the Hatfill case (in which I am an attorney) is followed directly by the assertion that "Reporters are now becoming the first stop, rather than the last resort, for civil litigants and prosecutors attempting to obtain the identity of confidential sources." Do you know how many depositions of government officials were taken before any reporters were deposed in the Hatfill case? Not even the reporters' own lawyers bothered to argue that Dr. Hatfill had failed to exhaust other possible sources of the information. What you printed is simply false. Do you care?
Second, your list of opponents fails to list the very people you complain about above: Privacy Act plaintiffs like Steven Hatfill! The omission is telling because it is of a piece with the gigantic bait-and-switch that Big Media uses to try to justify this odious piece of legislation. The cases in which the press is in trouble are the cases in which it teams up with shady public officials in order to engage in character assassination -- cases like Richard Jewell, Wen Ho Lee, and Steven Hatfill. Those cases have nothing to do with Walter Reed, Abu Ghraib, or other cases of national importance in which anonymously sourced reports have not generated any subpoenas to reporters.
It suits the newspapers' lobbying interests to pretend that this bill is all about the press versus the government, and that the only people who could possibly oppose it are the people who want to overclassify official documents. But the truth is that national security whistleblower cases are simply not the cases that are generating all the subpoenas. The cases generating the subpoenas are "anonymous smear" cases in which government officials trash an innocent member of the public and then hide behind the anonymity that reporters have come to grant as a matter of course whenever it will give them something to print. These smears ruin reputations, end careers, and shatter lives, and if the press had any sense of public duty it would print the names of the anonymous smear artists without a court even asking. For the press to seek a legal privilege to conceal the leakers' identities from courts of law is nothing short of despicable.
If you want a privilege that covers whistleblowers, ask Congress for a whistleblower privilege. The bill for which you are now flakking will injure countless individuals by giving government officials a license to smear us.
An Interview With Terry Turchie About Hunting The American Terrorist
October 16th, 2007 by zzsimonb
I had the good fortune to get my hands on Hunting The American Terrorist by authors Terrie Turchie and Kathleen Puckett PhD for a review. This is a fabulous look ‘under the skirts’ of two of the most famous home grown lone wolf terrorists, Ted Kaczynski who is better known as the Unabomber, and Eric Rudolf whose resume includes the bombing of the Atlanta Olympic Games.
One aspect that I always take into consideration when reading a factual book is the authors credentials. In this case those credentials are top-notch. Terry led the hunt for Kaczynski for the final two years for the FBI, he also spent over a year spearheading the Rudolph hunt, and much of the groundwork he laid paid off several years later. Kathleen is no slouch either, she was the lead profiler. Profiling may sound like Voodoo, the developing of a picture of someone, their lifestyle, their history, maybe even some physical attributes, based solely on the events and evidence. Voodoo indeed in my simple mind, but it is a science that has helped solve many crimes.
It is not often that I get the opportunity to chat with someone who has such a unique story as Terry Turchie, and I was delighted when he agreed to do an interview.
You certainly had an interesting career with the FBI, what was your motivation in joining the organization?
I realized during the later years of high school that I enjoyed the Law, History, Social Science and English more than anything else. I wanted to find a career that combined all of these interests, allowed me to help people and my country and at the same time would be fast moving and different. The high school library (DeAnza High School in Richmond, California) had two copies of the old book by Don Whitehead, “The FBI Story.” I read it several times. After the first time I was hooked and decided I wanted to be an FBI agent.
Early on in your involvement with UNABOM you became concerned with the command and control structure and made some huge changes. I imagine that at the time you came under some pressure, yet your ideas were proved to be successful, have many of your ideas now become part of the FBI Modus Operandi?
The major differences characterizing UNABOM were hands on involvement with each dimension of the investigation by the local field office management team; the total integration of around the clock analysis by personnel trained in the discipline; the presence of a permanent behavioral profiler sitting with the task force and integrated into the daily thinking of the case; and continuous reinvestigations of each aspect of the case by a consistent group of investigators and analysts who stayed in place with the task force for an extended period of time. These same principles were applied when I went to North Carolina to assume control of the Eric Robert Rudolph fugitive investigation.
The only idea that has been adopted post 9/11 is the recognition of the importance of analysis to any investigation or initiative. Conversely after 9/11, major terrorist investigations are run from FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., behavioral profilers work primarily from Quantico and have seldom been assigned to work full time on just one case, local field office management has never been integrated into the role that the management team played in UNABOM, and consistency of personnel is almost unheard of. For example, there have been continuous streams of managers and agents assigned to the anthrax investigation since the attacks during the week of 9/18/01. The case is unsolved.
Hindsight is 20/20, we all have it, and we all hate it, is there one thing you would have changed in the UNABOM investigation?
In hindsight, there are several employees I would have transferred off of the Unabom Task Force sooner than I did since they never seemed to find their groove and were unable to carry off their part of the investigation. Personnel matters are always the most delicate to deal with in a way that will solve a problem with one particular personality without making others feel that you’re acting harsh or dismissive. That’s why the go slow approach is usually favored in spite of the obvious downside of moving the case along at the fastest pace possible. At the end of the day, the only way to assemble and build the right team is to move some people on and off until you reach an effective and successful formula of complimentary personalties, skill levels and work ethic.
I received an interesting email from someone that read my review, in part he disagreed with the effectiveness of profiling, and went on to say that the profile of the Unabomber did not fit in key areas. I replied to this gentleman, that I thought he was ‘off base’, knowing if your suspect wears red or yellow socks is not important, but knowing if he wears socks at all might be. How important is profiling in these kind of cases?
Behavioral profiling is important if: a.) the profiler is sitting with the task force in cases like this; b.) the profiler is also acting as an analyst and an investigator and becomes familiar with every detail of the case; c.) participates in the daily management/analytical reviews of progress in the case; and is able to maintain the profile in an updated status based upon every breaking event that occurs during the investigation. The educational background of the profiler is extremely important. We were fortunate to have Kathy P, whose Ph.D in clinical psychology was the perfect compliment to her hands on experience interviewing decades worth of incarcerated espionage subjetcs. No other profiler in the FBI at the time had this level of experience.
As I understand it you have now retired from the FBI? So now you are no longer chasing the ‘Lone Wolf’ what keeps your interest?
I retired from the FBI on May 1, 2001 and a month later started working at the Lawrence Livermore National Weapons Lab as the head of the Counterintelligence/Counterterrorism program there. The lab was managed by the University of California. I retired from the lab two weeks ago and am now in the process of working with Kathy on a second book. Kathy and I are also committed to several additional books over the next few years with History Publishing Company. The topics will deal with terrorism, leadership and risk management. In the spring Kathy and I will begin teaching one night a week at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. We will design a course on terrorism and leadership. Kathy and I have formed a company called TK Associates. We will concentrate on public speaking, common sense and risk management in the age of terror.
Obviously 9/11 was not a ‘Lone Wolf’ endeavor but there was something that happened a little later that might be, the Anthrax packages. Do you have any thoughts?
Kathy and I immediately felt that the anthrax mailings sounded more like a domestic terrorist and that the timing was more coincidental than anything else. We had seen so many coincidences during Unabom that we were not convinced the mailings were related to international terrorism and certainly not to al-Qaeda. The trouble is that many politicians (and former CIA Director James Woolsey) started telling the public that the anthrax attacks looked like they were connected to Iraq. In hindsight, this seems to be the best proof that there were many in the U.S. government that were itching for the excuse to invade Iraq sooner rather than later. We referred Kathy’s study on the Lone Wolf to our colleagues in the Bureau at the time and the FBI stepped upto the plate and beat back the tide on this issue. Today, it appears that all the evidence supports the notion that the anthrax attacks were domestic in nature.
I talk to a lot of Authors, particularly new ones, I hear this re-occurring theme, writing the damn book is easy, getting it into the stores is a whole different ball game. What has been your experience? Is it as tough as being an FBI Guy?
It’s very difficult for new and unknown writers to break through. Literary agents are reluctant to take risks on “old” stories, publishers want known authors and commercial successes guaranteed before they will take a chance, and book stores see so many books published each year that they can only make a few choices on what to stock and what not to buy. Kathy and I were fortunate that Don Bracken saw this as a current story with important lessons for the time we live in. We have also been gratified that reviewers like yourself have given the book a chance, read it and believe that it has a message worth reading in a story that is not written like an FBI report. (Boring, very boring, grin, grin).
My rumor mill, and it’s very reliable (the internet) tells me that you have another book in the works, can you talk a little about it?
Our next book, Homeland Insecurity, How Washington Politicians Have Made America Less Safe” names 15 politicians from Watergate to 9/11 whose decisions, emotions, and treatment of the FBI make them “profiles in courage” in reverse. Focused on the trends that have been established to fight the terror war, the book contends that America is actually less safe today because many of the decisions and recommendations that have been made to deal with the threat of terror have actually been the result of political expediency rather than solid analysis of the problems we face. The sum total of the move towards regarding terrorism as a problem that mandates secrecy and intelligence rather than solid law enforcement, transparency and adherence to the law of the land is that one approach will undermine our freedom while the other will preserve it for as long as the war against terror is waged.
It would be lunacy to ask if there is a solution to the ‘Lone Wolf’, but there has to be something that can be pursued as a preventative measure. We have High School and college students going on shooting rampages, and I would be naïve not to think that there is not another Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph or Timothy McVeigh out there.
The key is really public awareness at all levels of society and the need to encourage people to report suspicious behavior- of any type. Teaching people to trust their instincts and report things that seem suspicious, out of place or out of character for a particular setting or situation is one thing. Knowing that people can have the confidence and trust in their institutions of government so that they will feel comfortable reporting certain behavior is the other key. One can be taught and enhanced, the other depends upon the longstanding conduct of government officials and whether they have proven that they can be trusted to do the right thing. It is vital in the terror war or with any other potential crimes such as you mention that we encourage people to focus on behavior, not on race or nationalities.
Terry a question for fun. I am sure that you have been interviewed many times, and I am sure that my questions to you are not new. So here is a question for you to try and fix that. What is the one question you wish us darn interviewers would ask?
I’ve really never given this much thought. It may be the hardest question you threw at me. At any rate, I don’t have any suggestions right this minute for you. I will reserve the right to think about it and let you know if I come up with an answer.
Haha, I guess I stumped the master! Terry I really want to thank you for taking time out to talk to Blogger News.
Note: And to all you fans of CSI, this is the book you should be reading, real life is always more interesting than fiction. Hunting The American Terrorist is available from the History Publishing Company.
November 09, 2007
Startling implications of a Jihadi letter
By Ray Robison
New light is being shed on the 2001 anthrax attacks in a fascinating open letter to Ayman al Zawahiri of al Qaeda, written by a jihadi living in London.
Numan Bin Uthman, a former leader of an armed Islamic group in Libya, provides yet more evidence that the global Islamic jihad movement is losing its resolve. But the letter contains a startling admission. Uthman tells us of a conversation he had with al Qaeda leaders before the 9/11 attacks in which he urged them not to use WMD. From AKI News:
Uthman also said that he had taken part in an important al-Qaeda summit in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2000, in which al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had defined search for and use of weapons of mass destruction as a "Sharia obligation".I was unfamiliar with the name "al Kumandan" but there is a well known al Qaeda leader named Abu Hafs who is a "martyr" and was killed by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. Looking up Kumandan on the internet I found a reference and it seems to mean "commander". Abu Hafs has been identified as Usama bin Laden's WMD chaser. He fits Uthman's description. He was the number three man in al Qaeda.
Controversial informant Ibn Sheik al Libi identified Abu Hafs, otherwise known as Mohammad Atef as a contact between al Qaeda and the Saddam regime for procurement of WMD, before he recanted.
In a previous article I noted that a new al Qaeda document matched very well with a Saddam regime document. The linkage between the documents gave a chain of command and time-line from a Saddam regime order to "hunt Americans" in Somalia followed by a Abu Hafs order just two days later that would lead to that ultimate end.
I have also argued publicly that the 2001 anthrax attack makes a lot more sense as a continuation of the 9/11 attacks than as the plot of some embittered scientist. If al Qaeda did perform the anthrax attack, I consider it likely that Abu Hafs most likely obtained anthrax from Iraq, through his relationship to the Saddam regime in his position as WMD chaser.Former CIA Director George Tenet confirmed in his book At The Eye of the Storm that a second al Qaeda source backed up this connection; there is further evidence of collaberation. It didn't have to be much; just a small sample, a pound or two easily smuggled out of Iraq.
"He wanted to use these weapons to dissuade the United State from attacking Afghanistan. And yet I knew that al-Qaeda did not have any strategic vision and would have used the weapons to kill indiscriminately and not to dissuade".Now consider this: you plan to conduct an attack (9/11) and you expect retaliation. One tactic to counter the threat of invasion would be to make the enemy believe he will endure a devastating biological attack (or mutually assured destruction, to resurrect an antiquated term).
But having WMD and using WMD are two different things. It is well known that before the Gulf War Saddam Hussein had massive stockpiles and the ability to soak the battlefield in WMD. However, he did not use them, partially because President George H.W. Bush promised nuclear retaliation if Saddam used WMD. Saddam had them but did not have the will to use them against U.S. forces; he wasn't willing to accept the consequences.
But what if we had known he had the will? What if Saddam had proved beyond a doubt that an invasion would have been met with WMD? Would that have been a successful deterrent? Quite possibly it might have.
Now consider the possibility that al Qaeda leaders believed we would retaliate for 9/11 and decided that they would have to prove they not only had WMD but also the will to use WMD. How would they do that?
One very solid way would be to launch a small scale WMD attack in the United States as a demonstration. Remember, Uthman said,
"He wanted to use these weapons to dissuade the United State from attacking Afghanistan."Of course, he doesn't say if this is directly related to 9/11. He may have meant that before 9/11 UBL wanted WMD to keep us out of Afghanistan. But remember, this whole conversation takes place in the context of procuring WMD as a duty of jihad. And prior to this, Usama bin Laden had already declared war on the United States. I think the rest of his statements make it clear what he meant.
Remember, he said "And yet I knew that al-Qaeda did not have any strategic vision and would have used the weapons to kill indiscriminately and not to dissuade". The word "indiscriminately" as used here sounds an awful lot like he means a terrorist attack without actually having to say terrorist and thereby validate the term. Jihadis find it very important to invalidate that concept (along with "war on terror") in order to convince other Muslims that it is really a war on Islam.
"At that time I said that provoking the United States would turn them against the Taliban and by striking the country in an unconventional way would bring occupation to the entire Middle East and not only Afghanistan and that's what's happened," he said.Uthman clearly is indicating that he warned Usama bin Laden and Mohammad Atef not to strike the U.S. in an "unconventional way" which is one way to describe an attack with WMD or unconventional weapons. He highlights that he claimed the war would spread to the Middle East "and that's what's happened". He means he warned al Qaeda that the war would spread to Iraq if they used WMD.
Considering that the world (minus the bulk of the American press) now sees that it is quite likely the U.S. will defeat al Qaeda in Iraq, Uthman has clearly written an "I told you so" to Zawahiri.
He speaks circumspectly, so as not to admit too much that would support the case made by the Bush Administration, but his meaning is clear. Uthman has become convinced that Usama bin Laden has lost the war in Iraq, has lost his credibility and lays it all at the feet of his use of anthrax on the United States. Of course, the vagaries of his statement will be exploited with alternate theories by liberals bent on denying the al Qaeda threat and George Bush's success. All I ask is for the fair minded to keep Uthman's statements in context to get the big picture here.
Now let's put that big picture together.
Uthman says he tried to talk Mohammad Atef and Usama bin Laden out of using WMD in a terrorist attack to convince the U.S. not to retaliate in Afghanistan because it would ultimately spread to Iraq.
Why would Uthman expect this? I can think of one salient reason.
Because he knew that al Qaeda was planning an Anthrax attack with weaponized anthrax provide by Saddam Hussein.
Katherine Heerbrandt (Columnist)
Detrick meeting tonight
Originally published November 19, 2007
As a result of the anthrax mailings in 2001, President Bush dedicated $6 billion to fund biodefense research.
Sending anthrax through the U.S. Postal Service that subsequently killed five people was certainly an act of terrorism. The FBI never solved the case, but eminent scientists agree that the anthrax used in the mailings was homegrown, most likely manufactured at Fort Detrick.
Now, we are expanding bio-labs that work with similarly virulent bugs to create more samples so that we can then create vaccines for them. All with no evidence that the real enemy even has the ability to make them, much less deploy them.
And with the full knowledge that we are responsible for the bioterrorism acts of October 2001.
Bush has acknowledged his program will be conducted largely in secret because, of course, it’s all about national security. The mission, on paper, is to protect people and animals from bio-terrorism threats. Yet, the same scientific principles and techniques apply whether you call them bio-weapons or bio-defense.
This administration has proven again and again that it operates under the corrupt notion that the means justify the ends, with little regard to whether those means are illegal or immoral.
We engaged in what’s become a chaotic bloody free-for-all in Iraq at an exorbitant cost in lives and dollars. Though recent reports show the surge is making some headway, 2007 is so far the deadliest year of the war. A war that was predicated on finding weapons of mass destruction.
We all know how that turned out.
Yet, we are supposed to trust this same commander in chief when he tells us that the expansion and proliferation of high-level research laboratories, working with contagions that have no cure or treatment, often in densely populated areas, such as Frederick, will protect us from all evil?
With no central oversight, a lengthy history of near misses, and the additional thousands of people who will have access to these pathogens exponentially increases the risk that not only could they accidentally infect the populace, but that terrorists will find a way to steal them and use them against us.
There’s no doubt that Detrick has done noble work in the field of medical research and has contributed to this community, the country and the world in many ways. But too many times, Detrick hasn’t been forthcoming about accidents or other potential hazards.
Look at the groundwater contamination of 1997 around Area B-11 that leaked off post into areas around Shookstown Road. Initially, officials denied that the drinking water was affected, yet samples from a spring on Montevue Lane showed high concentrations of two solvents that cause liver, kidney and nerve damage in the short term, and cancer in the long term.
Three years later, Detrick officials admitted the contamination was “not small,” according to a Nov. 9, 2000 FNP story. Yet, the clean up didn’t start until 2001.
It might be late in the game, but kudos to County Commissioner David Gray for taking up the banner for the health and safety of his constituents. Gray is holding a public hearing tonight at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
In question is whether Detrick fully complied with federal regulations in looking for alternative sites for expansion. Though not a formal hearing, at least three commissioners are expected to attend.
The best scenario is that local leaders will see fit to ask for a court review that has the potential to stop the expansion of BSL- 4 labs. The worst scenario is that people come away with a clearer sense of what’s happening and can do nothing about it.