claims 3 lives in Orissa
GDH News Service BHUBANESWAR, June 24
Anthrax has claimed three lives during the last two weeks in tribal dominated southern Orissa district of Koraput, health officials today confirmed.
Talking to Deccan Herald, Dr S.K.Patnaik, Additional District Medical Officer(ADMO), Public Health, Koraput, said the three deaths had been reported from villages under Lamatpur block, about 60 km from Koraput. The three tribals have been identified as Nanda Kirsani, Mula Marza and Laxman Muduli.
The ADMO, however, claimed that the disease was under control and there was nothing to panic about. "The disease is under control and the situation is not at all alarming", he insisted adding that doctors' teams had already been despatched to the affected villages.
Stating that Anthrax is not new to the area and every year tribal people in the backward villages get affected by the disease, Dr Patnaik said 44 people had been afflicted by the dreaded ailment in different villages in the district since January this year. Out of this about 20 have been detected during the last fortnight, he added.
CMC links mystery deaths to Anthrax
KORAPUT: The disease which has claimed three lives in Lamtaput block of Koraput district during the last fortnight has been confirmed as Anthrax, according to a private hospital where the patients were treated. Specimen of the skin lesion found on the patients had been sent to the Christian Medical College (CMC) at Vellore who confirmed it as Anthrax, Dr Manoj Jacob, the treating physician at Asha Kiran hospital at Lamtaput said. "The lesions were typical of Anthrax and we sent it to CMC for confirmation," he told PTI. Jacob said that the hospital, which had a tie-up with CMC, had not received such patients of late except the one who came on Monday. "We are treating him for Anthrax," he said. He also said that the people got infected while peeling dead cattle and the lesions, if not treated, led to septicaemea which was fatal. Anthrax could develop in the intestine or lungs if rotten cattle flesh was eaten without proper cooking, Jacob said. Describing the disease as highly infectious, he said that a patient chose to go to the 'disari' (village quack) who pretended to treat him by blowing into his face. The next day, the 'disari' himself landed in the hospital with similar symptoms.
sounds from anthrax search
Publish Date: 06/25/03
By Liz Babiarz
FREDERICK -- Hiking the windy trails through Frederick's Municipal Forest is tranquil until the crime-scene tape appears. Around this point, the serenity of the forest is interrupted by the clamor of machines and shouts from federal investigators.
Only by trudging through the woods on an unbeaten path can a person get near the drained spring-fed pond that is being searched by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service. The investigation is seeking clues to a series of anthrax-laced letters that killed five and sickened 17 in 2001.
From under a canopy of trees beyond the FBI's line, agents can be seen working in a box that looks like a boxing ring. A power shovel scoops out mud from the pond and dumps it into this boxing-ring structure, which seems to be designed to be a giant strainer for the soil.
One worker sprays what appears to be water on the soil and about eight others stand in a line in the box, sifting through the muck with rake-like tools. On the other end of the pond, there is a huge contingent of vans and trucks. A bulldozer sits unused next to a white trailer.
Agents wear various T-shirts, orange reflector vests and different colored hard hats as they work in the blazing sun. Some wear tall boots and others have on protective yellow overalls. Loud sounds from the machinery and a generator rattle the surrounding foliage.
Sediment control, including a black runoff barrier and straw, has been placed around the pond. On the banks of the pond, wires with pink flags are stuck into the ground.
Around the pond, the humid, dank air smells like a mix of skunk cabbage and decaying leaves. Green flies buzz overhead, ants march in every crevice and spiders dangle from trees branches. The ground is lush green covered with ferns, moss and other plants. It is saturated with water and, in places, has turned to sludge.
The pond is completely drained of its 50,000 gallons, except for three puddles near the low point of the pond. Tons of muck remain. Near the middle it is grayish-brown, and near the edges it is tan. A large portion of sediment has been removed.
The drained spring-fed pond is not the only pond that is roped off with crime-scene tape. Agents have roped off other ponds to the right of the one under investigation.
The investigation of the pond continues for the third, and what could be the final week, with no word if any evidence has been recovered.
According to published reports in May, the FBI's wintertime searches of fire ponds in the watershed revealed a clear box with holes that could have been used to manipulate anthrax spores and vials. FBI has not released any new information other than verifying the investigation is continuing.
The city and Chief Kim Dine of the Frederick city police receive daily updates, but no representatives from the city are on site, said Nancy Poss, public information officer.
On Gambrill Park Road, the road has been blocked. Two agents in a car with New Jersey license plates jump out and flash their badges. They wear tags that read, "Fire Pond Alpha" and one wears a T-shirt that says, "National Joint Terrorism Task Force."
These agents stand post and turn cars back the way they came, making visitors leave the watershed without learning the secrets they so desire about this unending investigation.
sieve strains muck in anthrax search
FREDERICK, Md. -- Investigators looking for clues to the 2001 anthrax attacks appeared to be using a giant sieve to strain muck scooped from the bottom of a drained woodland pond, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
The device resembled a boxing
ring, The Frederick News-Post reported. Eight workers in brightly
The FBI had the one-acre pond drained June 9 as part of its investigation into the anthrax-laced letters that killed five and sickened 17 in the fall of 2001.
The pond is in the Frederick Municipal Forest, a watershed that provides some of drinking water for the nearby city of Frederick. The search poses no threat to the city's water quality, city officials have said.
The pond search will likely end by the end of this week or early next week, city spokeswoman Nancy Poss said Thursday after conferring with Frederick City Police Chief Kim Dine, who gets regular FBI briefings on the project. Once the search is done, it will take a contractor about a week to restore the site, Poss said.
The pond is of special interest because of items retrieved from its depths last winter. The Washington Post first reported May 11 that divers recovered items including a clear box with holes that could accommodate gloves. Also recovered were vials wrapped in plastic.
Several FBI and Justice Department officials have told The Associated Press, speaking on condition on anonymity, that investigators think someone could have used these items to safely place anthrax in envelopes. Testing of the items has not produced definitive evidence of anthrax contamination, these officials said.
The pond is eight miles from the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, the primary custodian of the strain of anthrax found in envelopes sent to the victims.
The FBI has described Steven Hatfill, a biological weapons expert who formerly worked as a researcher at the institute, as a "person of interest" in the investigation. Hatfill has denied any involvement in the attacks.
With Marilyn Thompson
Assistant Managing Editor, Investigative, The Washington Post
Thursday, July 03, 2003; 11:00 a.m. ET
Even as the FBI was seriously scrutinizing Steven J. Hatfill as part of its anthrax investigation, various government agencies employed him on a number of secret bioweapons programs, including training DIA teams that went into Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction. The Pentagon's insistence on using Hatfill as an expert even as the FBI was investigating puzzled some agents on the case.
Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Marilyn Thompson [was] online Thursday, July 3 at 11 a.m. ET, to discuss her story in today's Washington Post and the government's conflicted treatment of Hatfill.
The transcript follows.
Morganton, N.C.: Why does the Pentagon does not view Hatfill as a possible bad guy? Does the Pentgon know more about Hatfill's actions than what it is saying? Is there a background of Defense Dept. dissatisfaction with bioweapons defense funding? Is Hatfill so much of a patriot that he would undertake actions at huge risk to himself, actions that could result in the death of some people, to promote the greater good of preparing the nation for this threat? I recall a New Yorker article of a couple of years ago that made the point that we were woefully unprepared for bioweapons defense, that the issue had been ignored. Was there an organized constituency in the defense establishment for increased funding? What was Hatfill's relationship to such a constiuency?
Thompson: Many questions here. I will try to respond in an all-encompassing
way. Steve Hatfill has been an insider in a tight circle of bioweapons
consultants who have believed for some time that our government is not
prepared for an encounter with weapons of mass destruction and that funding
is woefully inadequate. They have made this point repeatedly in many different
forums, including a few public "demonstrations" by Hatfill and others of
how easy it would be to carry out an attack. In one very memorable photo,
Hatfill wrapped himself in garbage bags and wore a gas mask to show how
one could concoct a biological weapon in the kitchen. Hatfill was welcomed
into the bioweapons cabal in the late 90's upon his return to the U.S.
from South Africa. He became a protege to Bill Patrick, considered by many
to be Americs's leading bioweaponeer and the holder of several secret patents
for the anthrax weaponization process. Hatfill was involved in numerous
Pentagon "black" projects through his role as a consultant for Science
Applications International, and the Pentagon appears to have been pleased
with his work. The Pentagon seems to have been largely unaware of Hatfill's
growing problems at work -- including his loss of a security clearance
after a failed polygraph in the summer of 2001. Again, we see a case of
one government agency not knowing -- or pressing to find out -- about the
security concerns surfacing in another federal agency.
Rockville, Md.: Why hasn't the government collected samples of handwriting from this "person of interest?" It seems like that's the only thing left to tie him, or anyone, to the actual letters. The anthrax "leads" have all been played out.
Marilyn Thompson: The government has many samples of Hatfill's cursive handwriting and printing pulled from government files and work records. These have been analyzed and reanalyzed, and apparently bear no resemblance to the distinctive and creepy script used on the anthrax envelopes. Of course, the FBI for some time has theorized that this crime was not a one-person operation -- that whoever did it probably had help with some of the detail work.
You may remember that Hatfill
in his August 2002 press conference offered to supply handwriting samples
to prove his innocence. This was not necessary -- the FBI already had plenty
San Jose, Calif.: The plastic box that was found in the pond has received a wide range of descriptions in the media -- from what sounds like a practical containment device (hermetically sealed with two large holes to accomodate gloves) to what sounds more like a kid's homemade turtle trap (a K-Mart storage box with a snap on lid and ONE hole cut in one end). Can you tell us which description of the box best fits what you know about it?
Marilyn Thompson: Yes, this box has had a wide range of descriptions. Hatfill's supporters have suggested that the FBI dredged up nothing more than a minnow trap -- that agents were so dumb they did not know what they had found.
My understanding of the box is that it is a plastic or plexiglass box about the size of a small cooler made into a crude or makeshift glove box. It has holes in the sides for gloves. I have researched lightweight portable glove boxes that are commercially available and shown pictures of these to sources who have seen the evidence. I am told that these boxes are much more sophisticated than the one the FBI has found.
My personal feeling is that the
FBI would risk nothing by making its photo of the evidence public. In fact,
it might produce valuable information about what this box is and how it
could have been designed.
Dallas, Tex.: Marilyn - thanks for your continued coverage of this very important story. Don't you think the key to finding out who made the anthrax is forensic analysis not of the genetic sequence of the anthrax but of the chemical and physical signatures of the weaponization process? It has clearly been demonstrated by the Armed Forces Pathology (AFIP) Lab that silica was used to weaponize the anthrax. This can be seen here: Detecting Environmental Terrorism.
And yet even today many media reports deny that silica was present. Have you pressed any of your sources for more details on the weaponization technique?
Marilyn Thompson: Of course, we are constantly pressing for details of this material -- with limited success. The FBI has now had this material analyzed by numerous expert labs -- yet even last week, work surfaced that the agency would send it out for more cutting-edge analysis.
Certainly this is an important
process. but it is only one aspect of a very important case. The FBI also
needs hard evidence of how, where and when this material was packed into
envelopes. It needs to know more about who stuffed the letters into a postal
box in New Jersey. This information seem to be more difficult to come by.
Racine, Wis.: Why is this story about Dr. Hatfill training soldiers to identify bioweapons labs suddenly "news?" It's been known for well over a year that one of the reasons Dr. Hatfill was suspected by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and others is because he took three non-functioning biosafety cabinets from USAMRIID. This was explained in detail by Scott Shane in the Baltimore Sun on Feb. 22, 2002:
"Among others, the agents asked about a former Fort Detrick scientist who returned a few years ago and took discarded biological safety cabinets, used for work with dangerous pathogens. Like some other military lab workers, the scientist has expertise on weaponizing anthrax and has been vaccinated against it, sources say."
"The scientist acknowledged that several years ago, with Army permission, he took three biosafety cabinets that were being discarded at Fort Detrick, but he said they were for use in a classified Defense Department project that he could not discuss."
Isn't this whole story just an attempt to generate "news," at Dr. Hatfill's expense, about "clandestine" U.S. projects that some scientists see as violating the BTWC?
Thompson: I do not see it as an attempt to "generate" news. The
picture of Steve Hatfill's work for the government will be important in
unravelling the real story of an FBI investigation that has cost the taxpayers
many millions of dollars and dragged on for nearly two years. And as always,
it is important to know how our federal agencies communicate -- or fail
to communicate -- on issues of security.
Washington, D.C.: How non-operational were the bioweapons labs that Hatfill constructed?
If the weapons lab was simply used for training purposes so that special forces would know how to spot one when they encountered it in Iraq, why was it necessary to include our current level of technology into it?
Were any of the components connected electrically to a power source that could cause them to become operational with the flip of a switch?
Why does Hatfill insist he doesn't know anything about anthrax production when he built a mobile weapons lab in September 2001?
How many labs could you pack into a C-140 and deliver to theater in a week?
Thompson: These are all good questions and observations. The Special
Forces folks insist that the labs were non-functional, only to be used
for commando training. The idea was to teach soldiers what to do if they
found one of these very dangerous and complex labs in the field. I do not
know if they had a power source. I do know that the FBI wanted to inspect
them, just in case the real equipment could have been used at one time
and cleaned and decontaminated. Hatfill has stated on his resume
that he was familar with bioweapons production of wet and dry agents. This
was knowledge apparently passed on to him by other, more seasoned experts,
including Bill Patrick, the father of the weaponization process.
Washington, D.C.: Do SAIC employees corroborate his alibi for the September mailing as he claims (pointing to his timesheets for 9/17 and 9/18 evidencing 13 hour days)?
Thompson: Officially, SAIC has not commented on the time records
produced by Hatfill to show his whereabouts on these critical dates.
My sources who know and worked with Hatfill believe strongly that he was
on duty at SAIC during those hours.
Morganton, N.C.: Who is Hatfill's (ex-?) employer and how is that entity related to the Pentagon? Would that employer have a stake in increasing funding for bioweapons defense? Did Hatfill have an equity interest in that company?
Thompson: Science Application International is an employee-owned
consulting firm based in California, with a major office in McLean, Va.
It does many projects with numerous government agencies and is very active
in the field of bioweapons training and preparations. Many of its projects
are secret, and employees who work on them have to have security clearance
from the CIA. I do not know about Hatfill's personal finances, so I cannot
comment at this time on whether he had any financial stake in the company.
Nederland, Colo.: Did you hear the account (DemocracyNow.Org this morning) that Dr. Hatfill is routinely agressively tailgated by the FBI SUVs? One time he confronted an agent, who then ran over Hatfill's foot and drove off, only to be prevented from leaving by witnesses. When the police arrived, they fined Dr. Hatfill!
The biochemical evidence apparently indicates government origin of the anthrax. So Dr. Hatfill may legitimately be a "person if interest" -- along with how many other government bioscientists, would you say?
Thompson: From the beginning of the case, Hatfill was considered
to be one of a select group of experts -- not more than 25 to 50 -- who
could have had the know-how to commit these crimes. As the FBI pursued
the case, the field gradually narrowed. I know of no other person being
subjected to the same level of scrutiny as Dr. Hatfill, and he, of course,
claims that he is being unfairly harassed by the government and the media.
Syracuse, N.Y.: Marilyn, do you know if Dr. Hatfill contemplates litigation as he had threatened? It would seem that most claims with a 1 year cause of action may now be time-barred.
Thompson: Dr. Hatfill continues to threaten legal action against
the government and various members of the news media, but as far as I know,
no case has been filed. He has filed a formal complaint with the Justice
Department for being deemed a "person of interest" by Attorney General
Sandusky, Ohio: Do you have any sense as to whether the FBI has focused almost exclusively on Hatfill, or have they placed a "side bet" of some personnel resources on the working of other persons and parties of interest? Hatfill is intriguing, but it is not hard, after the Richard Jewell debacle, to wonder if the FBI has bet on the wrong horse.
Thompson: The FBI in recent months has narrowed its focus to Dr.
Hatfill and a very few of his close associates. The prospect of the FBI
targeting another "Richard Jewell" has loomed large over this investigation.
Some sources have acknowledged privately that the FBI will soon have to
put up or shut up and leave Dr. Hatfill alone.
Arlington, Va.: Can you describe precisely what you currently believe was found of significance in the pond? What kind of box? (One hole? Two holes? Make-shift glove box according to experts experienced with such devices? Turtle trap? Minnow trap? Survey for Crofton Snakehead infestation from last summer? Live bait dispenser?) If a make-shift glovebox, how precisely is it imagined it would be used?
Vials? (Wrapped in plastic? Found in box? Near box? Far away from box?)
Gloves? (Vinyl? Rubber? Cloth? Found in box? Near box? Far away from box?)
Thank you. We appreciate the hard work by you, your colleagues and the other reporters digging up new information. We have no need to know but it is what makes reading the Washington Post so fun.
Thompson: I wish that I could describe it precisely, and as I said
earlier, I believe that the FBI would benefit from making more details
of these findings public in the hopes of generating new insights and observations.
The box is described at a makeshift glove box -- obviously a homemade attempt
at creating a protected space. It has two holes, according to my sources.
USA Today has described a rope; we have not independently confirmed that
findings. Our sources (and here I must credit my colleague Allen Lengel)
have described vials wrapped in plastic and gloves wrapped in plastic.
Columbia, Md.: My question is whether this is a case where law enforcement is focusing so obsessively on one possible suspect that they are not perhaps missing other possibilities. The example of case of the Atlanta Olympics bombing and Richard Jewell for example.
Thompson: We can only hope that the FBI knows what it is doing and
that after nearly two years of rigorous investigation that has involved
hundreds of agents around the globe, the agency has a good sense of what
happened in this case. No one wants to see a repeat of the Richard Jewell
Miami, Fla.: Marilyn, do you think it's possible that a group of scientists from both the U.S. and South Africa are in any way guilty of a "conspiracy of gossip" against Steve Hatfill? Do you think the FBI have taken certain irrelevant incidents from his past too seriously?
Thompson: You are correct that much of the material that has surfaced
about Hatfill's past involves gossip and mischaracterizations. Most people
who have been quoted about his exploits now deny saying things attributed
to them -- and many of them have been contacted by Hatfill's legal team.
It is a complex picture and extremely difficult to sort out.
Sacramento, Calif.: "after he failed a polygraph..."
Surely government scientists are aware that lie detectors don't work. Are they also going to hire someone to read the bumps on the heads of people to renew security clearances?
Thompson: No, I doubt that in a time of reduced budgets, any agency
could afford to hire bump readers. Government relies on available tools.
Rhinelander, Wis.: From what you know of the case what is your opinion of Mr. Hatfield? Is he likely involved? What additional steps do you feel the government should take at this point?
Marilyn Thompson: Reporters try extremely hard not to have opinions about such matters -- but to delve into the facts and present them to the public. This investigation is a matter of keen public interest. Five people died horrible deaths, and their survivors deserve to know what happened, as does the American public. I only hope that the FBI brings resolution to this mystifying and awful murder case.
Suspect Did Work for Pentagon
The Manchester Guardian
By CURT ANDERSON
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Even after he came under FBI scrutiny in the 2001 anthrax attacks, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill continued to teach Pentagon training sessions for military personnel preparing to search for chemical and biological weapons overseas.
Officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Special Operations Command said Thursday that Hatfill did the work as an employee with defense contractor Science Applications International Corp.
The DIA got Hatfill to teach courses at Camp Dawson, W.Va., in March 2002, after he had lost both his job and his government security clearance as the anthrax investigation intensified.
"To lose him at that point would have been a bad thing for the DIA," said Lt. Cmdr. James Brooks, a DIA spokesman. "We wanted to get the training done, and he was the expert."
Hatfill also bought materials for and helped construct mock biological weapons labs to train special operations personnel on what to look for in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, officials say. And he trained State Department employees in how to respond to potential chemical or biological attacks against them.
A senior federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was this very work that caught the FBI's attention as agents searched for people in the United States who might be capable of making deadly anthrax spores into a weapon.
Hatfill, a physician and bioterrorism expert, has not been charged in the anthrax attacks, but has been labeled "a person of interest" by Attorney General John Ashcroft and is under 24-hour FBI surveillance.
Letters laced with anthrax that were mailed to government and news media offices in fall 2001 killed five people and sickened 17 others. Hatfill has repeatedly denied any connection to the attacks and his friend and spokesman, Pat Clawson, said Hatfill's sensitive work for the military shows the trust once placed in him.
"Steve's expertise and knowledge is something that's very valuable to the U.S. government," Clawson said. "Obviously the Defense Department values his expertise. It's astonishing that the Justice Department doesn't."
FBI and Justice Department officials declined comment. But Brooks, the DIA spokesman, called Hatfill "an extremely professional, knowledgeable expert. That was our relationship with him."
Hatfill came to SAIC in January 1999 from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. He worked for SAIC until March 4, 2002, as a senior scientist, said spokesman Ron Zollars from company headquarters in San Diego.
Hatfill went from there to a position at Louisiana State University - a job he subsequently lost amid the FBI anthrax probe. Hatfill is now unemployed and living in Washington.
Under the State Department contract with SAIC, Hatfill trained Diplomatic Security Services personnel in a "countermeasures program" in case they should encounter biological or chemical attacks overseas.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Hatfill did the training on a part-time basis from mid-April 2002 until mid-June 2002. Officials could not immediately explain how Hatfill was involved when he had left SAIC in March.
Still, Hatfill received a letter of recommendation in summer 2002 on State Department letterhead praising his work. Boucher said that was written by an unidentified employee without proper authorization from the agency.
"It was the personal views of that employee," Boucher said.
State Department and Pentagon officials said they were aware of the FBI's interest in Hatfill while he performed the work, but that security concerns were not an issue because Hatfill did not handle any classified materials.
Lt. Col. Rivers Johnson, a Pentagon spokesman, said Hatfill "never had unescorted access to equipment or Special Operations Forces compounds" while doing his training work.
The mock labs Hatfill helped construct were not functional and could not have been used to process anthrax or any other dangerous compounds, officials said. The FBI nevertheless tested the labs for traces of anthrax but found nothing.
The FBI also recently drained a pond outside Frederick, Md., where a previous search had turned up lab equipment and a plastic container that some investigators theorize could have been used to place anthrax into envelopes under water. Tests on the equipment, however, have not revealed anthrax and tests on pond muck and other items found after the drainage are incomplete.
The pond is a few miles from Fort Detrick, location of the Army bioterrorism lab where Hatfill formerly worked. It is also near his former apartment.
Associated Press writers Matt Kelley and George Gedda contributed to this story.
lab links Hatfill, anthrax
Publish Date: 07/03/03
By Liz Babiarz
FREDERICK -- A Frederick metalworking plant was used to create mobile biowarfare labs, a project that prompted the FBI to link a former Fort Detrick scientist to the 2001 anthrax scares, according to published reports.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, then a government contractor, supervised construction of a mobile germ lab in September 2001 at A.F.W. Fabrication, located at 1213 East St. The manager of A.F.W. Fabrication refused to comment on the veracity of the Times article.
FBI spokesman Barry Maddox also refused to comment on Dr. Hatfill or any suspects in the FBI's investigation. He did not say when the FBI learned of Dr. Hatfill's role in the mobile lab construction or how the information has affected its investigation.
The Justice Department has identified Dr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the investigation of anthrax-laced letters that killed five and sickened 17 in 2001.
The Times reported Dr. Hatfill's work on the mobile lab was one of the main reasons he came under suspicion by the FBI. The article said that the FBI examined the lab, but found no spores or other evidence linked to the crime.
Starting in January 1999, Dr. Hatfill was hired as a senior scientist with Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a leading government contractor based in Virginia. SAIC operates the National Cancer Institute labs at Fort Detrick and holds other contracts at the installation.
Dr. Hatfill was regarded as an expert in the bioweapons field and worked as a consultant, providing technical expertise in the construction of some mock exercise sites involving weapons of mass destruction, according to a Department of Defense spokesman.
"He had a role in acquiring models or old unusable equipment that could be placed in these labs," said Col. Bill Darley, spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla. "He had a role putting together labs that looked like the kind of labs we could see in other countries."
Ron Zollar, SAIC spokesman, declined to comment on Dr. Hatfill's role with the lab and said it was "highly classified."
According to the DOD, there are more than one of these labs in the United States, which have been built at various locations. The mobile germ labs are mock- ups and completely nonfunctional. Special Operation forces use the units to learn how to detect and disarm mobile germ labs such as the ones suspected in Iraq and other countries.
According to the Times, the lab contains a fermenter, a centrifuge and a mill for grinding bacteria into aerosol particles.
"We go to great pains to make them look as accurate as possible in order to familiarize our special operation forces," Col. Darley said. "However, these labs are not capable of making any pathogenic bacteria or capable of culturing any bacteria."
Dr. Hatfill did not have unsupervised or unrestricted access to the facilities or equipment he helped build, the DOD said.
"You would not have a contractor have unescorted access to a site," Col. Darley said.
Col. Darley also said that the government frequently contracts with businesses, such as A.F.W. Fabrication, even with sensitive activities like the construction of the mobile germ labs. He said all people who worked on the labs would need government clearance for the project.
A.F.W. Fabrication is a red brick building with rusting bars over the windows, set back from the road. As employees worked Wednesday, two side garage doors and a back garage door were open, allowing a clear view into the shop. People around the metalworking shop seemed surprised A.F.W. Fabrication would be a site for sensitive activities, like the construction of a mobile germ lab.
Ikhoon Shin, manager of the Citgo gas station on East Street, said he had not seen anything resembling a mobile germ unit and employees always seemed nice.
When asked if he was surprised to learn of the activities, Mr. Shin said, "Yes, I'm very surprised."
respite for Hatfill
Publish Date: 07/10/03
The FBI announced several weeks ago that it had completed its search at a pond in the Frederick Municipal Forest. With that, the FBI agents and others involved in the search packed up and headed out of town.
This search was the latest twist in the infamous anthrax investigation, which has been ongoing, sometimes hot, sometimes cold, since a string of anthrax-laden letters were mailed out to various individuals, well-known and otherwise, after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Though the FBI insists that it has numerous "persons of interest" in the case, that agency continues to focus on Dr. Steven Hatfill, a one-time researcher in bioterrorism at Fort Detrick and other places, who seems to be the only "person of real interest."
Dr. Hatfill's past is alleged to be somewhat checkered, and he had outlined some fiction about a bioterrorist attack. He apparently had spoken informally to some of his co-workers about how contaminated materials could be disposed of in water.
Despite all its efforts, the FBI has failed to pin anything on Dr. Hatfill, and he has not been charged with any wrongdoing. The FBI's very public "interest" in him, however, has surely ruined his career as a scientist.
There is a genuine need to find the anthrax serial killer. The institutional and political need within the FBI to solve the crimes may be a different story, however. The question is whether the FBI's intense need to produce results in this investigation has led to an unwarranted focus on Dr. Hatfill. The answer may well be yes.
The FBI's initial interest in Dr. Hatfill seemed warranted. He fit a certain profile they had developed and had both the know-how, the means and possibly the opportunity to create the anthrax-laced letters that killed a handful of people and made a lot of others sick. The problem is, the FBI seems to have enslaved itself to that profile.
At what point does the FBI cease and desist with its very public investigation of Dr. Hatfill? He has cooperated fully, had several living quarters and cars searched thoroughly, taken polygraph tests, yet no substantial evidence has surfaced.
The FBI is on the spot. Going on two years after the anthrax mailings took place, the agency has named no official suspects. Its purported long list of "persons of interest" has produced no names, at least publicly, other than Dr. Hatfill.
Everyone's a loser so far in this investigation -- the public, the FBI and Steven Hatfill. If the FBI insists on continuing to focus on Dr. Hatfill, the least it could do is be as discreet as possible about it. They owe him that much at this point, even though the damage to his career and personal life has already occurred and is probably irreversible.
July 16, 2003; Page B03
FBI Field Office Gets New Chief
Michael A. Mason, who served as a special assistant to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III after Sept. 11, 2001, was named yesterday to head the agency's Washington field office. Mason, 45, joined the FBI in 1985 and has worked at a number of FBI offices, including Buffalo, Washington and New Haven, Conn. For the past 15 months, he has headed the Sacramento bureau.
The Washington division is the second-largest FBI office, with 700 agents. It has headed the anthrax probe and made counterterrorism a top priority.
Mason replaces Van Harp, who retired in May. He said he expects to take over next month.
owners preparing to decontaminate Boca building hit by anthrax in 2001
By Kathy Bushouse and Neil Santaniello
July 18, 2003
Moon-suited crews will re-enter the former American Media Inc. headquarters in the coming weeks to collect anthrax samples, destroy documents, and begin formulating a plan to decontaminate the quarantined building.
The building's new owner, Boca Raton-based Crown Companies, has tentative approval from the Palm Beach County Health Department to go inside the building for two to three days and take air samples and surface swabs.
Once inside, teams also will destroy computers and documents hastily left behind when American Media Inc. employees evacuated after tabloid photo editor Bob Stevens died from inhalation anthrax in October 2001.
The samples will help Crown Companies and Marcor Remediation, a Maryland company hired to clean up the building, develop a decontamination plan, said Crown Companies president David Rustine. Marcor was involved in the anthrax cleanup of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Rustine said he hoped to have the building decontaminated in the next two to three months.
"We're all anxious, and hopefully we can get through this as quickly as possible," he said.
When Crown Companies' crews go inside the building on Broken Sound Boulevard, it will be the first time anyone has been inside since the fall. That's when investigators from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control spent 12 days searching the former home of the National Enquirer, Star and other tabloids for clues about who was responsible for an anthrax-laced letter that contaminated the three-story, 67,000-square-foot building
In buying the building for $40,000 in April, Crown Companies also acquired everything inside -- the tabloids' files, computers, equipment, source lists and a 3 million-photo archive that includes such shots as Elvis Presley in his coffin.
AMI spokesman Gerald McKelvey said the company wasn't interested in getting anything back. He said AMI had duplicates of virtually all of the files still in the old offices.
"There is nothing left there that AMI wants out," McKelvey said. "We sold the building with the understanding the contents will be destroyed."
The abandoned computers, papers and files won't be moved from the building, but will be decontaminated and prepared for disposal. The computers' hard drives will be removed, dipped into a bleach-and-water solution, then put in plastic bags for disposal. Those bags will be sealed with duct tape, put in another bag, then sealed again with duct tape, according to Marcor's plan submitted to the Health Department.
AMI's files, their contents and any loose documents will be taken to two paper shredders set up in offices inside the building. All the papers run through shredders will be dampened with a bleach-and-water solution to kill any lingering anthrax spores.
Marcor officials could not be reached for comment about the cleanup plans, despite attempts by phone.
Whatever cleanup plan emerges will need approval from the county Health Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Jeff Kempter, a senior adviser in the EPA's anti-microbials division.
Kempter said the FBI would not likely share the information collected during its previous foray into the building last year, since that information is part of the criminal investigation into who mailed the anthrax to AMI.
But, he said, the EPA would look at findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's trips into the building in 2001 and 2002, as well as the cleanup contractor's findings. That information will be used to help assess whatever decontamination plan is submitted by Crown Companies, Kempter said.
"We'll put it all together," Kempter said. "We'll look at everything that's available to us, see what it tells us, see if the plan they're putting together is acceptable."
City spokesman Neil Evangelista said the city Fire-Rescue Department will be on standby to help hose down workers.
He said the city also has given its approval for the bleach solution used to decontaminate the workers to be disposed in the sewer system -- but only after that water is tested, treated with chlorine, tested again and disinfected by the city's wastewater treatment plant. That will render harmless any anthrax spores in the water, according to city officials.
That's the same water-disposal method used last year when investigators went into the building, and there were no problems, Evangelista said.
It's unlikely, though, that much has changed in the building since investigators from the FBI and CDC ventured inside last year. Anthrax spores can't reproduce on their own, so they will remain in the building until the cleanup, experts have said.
Since the building in Boca Raton's Arvida Park of Commerce was quarantined on Oct. 7, 2001, the only people allowed inside have been federal investigators and Boca Raton firefighters who fixed a faulty fire alarm.
Kathy Bushouse can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6641.
on Fri, Jul. 18, 2003
building to get cleaned up
Moon-suited crews wielding paper shredders and underwater cameras will enter the site of the first post-Sept. 11 anthrax killing to demolish the secrets of the world's largest tabloids.
Marcor Remediation, the Maryland company that swabbed the offices of Sen. Tom Daschle and helped in the cleanup of the World Trade Center, has been hired to enter the American Media Inc. building in Boca Raton to shred documents, pull out all computer hard drives, soak them in bleach and vinegar and then photograph the lay of the building.
That means the destruction of all intellectual property -- personnel records, business plans, buyout offers, libel claims and the vast network of paid Hollywood informants for The National Enquirer, National Examiner, Globe, Sun and Weekly World News.
That also means the ruin of Bat Boy's original notes, Big Foot's first wedding photos and the location of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein's hide-outs -- even a famous image of Elvis at Graceland in his coffin.
Nothing of importance will be lost, said American Media spokesman Gerald McKelvey. Photos had already been archived electronically before the FBI quarantined the building in October 2001. The rest will be forgotten.
AMI is not running a museum, McKelvey said.
But what happens to $50,000 in cash that was left behind will remain a mystery, perhaps one for the grocery tabs to solve.
The three-story, 68,000-square-foot AMI building was sealed in October when photo editor Bob Stevens and mailroom worker Ernesto Blanco were sickened by a mysterious powder contained in envelopes mailed to American Media. Blanco recovered, but Stevens later died of inhalation anthrax.
The office complex had been avoided like the plague since discovery of the weapons-grade spores there touched off a national panic. In April, Boca Raton developer David Rustine bought the building for $40,000, a fraction of its original $3.8 million worth. The only condition, he said this week, was that he destroy the building's contents.
Trapped inside is AMI's photo library with 5 million images, 4.5 million pages of press clippings and about 600,000 pages of bound periodicals dating back three decades.
A plan released Thursday by the Palm Beach County Health Department and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is basically for a surveillance mission. It allows Marcor to destroy the intellectual property and take photos and samples. The company plans to be in by the end the month, according to health department spokesman Tim O'Connor.
Photos of the building will be taken by underwater disposable flash cameras. The cameras need to be water-tight and disposable because they then will be washed with a bleach and water solution before photo processing.
And the $50,000 still inside? The money supposedly sits untouched in a safe, AMI Chief Executive David Pecker said last fall. Now, the company isn't talking about it.
''I'm not saying there's a penny in there,'' McKelvey said. ``I'm just saying that the contents of the building will be destroyed.''
Case Is a Lure to Persons of Interest
The unsolved 2001 attacks have been a fertile field for conspiracy theorists, political radicals and other amateur sleuths.
By Richard B. Schmitt
July 20, 2003
WASHINGTON — A few weeks ago, in a creek not far from his suburban Maryland home, Pete Velis tackled one of the many unsolved mysteries of the 2001 anthrax attacks.
How did the perpetrator transfer deadly anthrax spores to four envelopes linked to the outbreak without exposing himself in the process?
A recent theory — given weight after the FBI dredged a pond near an Army biodefense lab where a "person of interest" in the case once worked — is that the transfer occurred underwater, with the help of an airtight plastic box.
So Velis picked up plastic storage containers of several sizes from a hardware store and, accompanied by a reporter for a local radio station, trekked to Rock Creek. There he methodically submerged the boxes, one by one.
His conclusions: 1)Tupperware floats, and 2) Steven J. Hatfill is not guilty.
"Even the shoe box required strong pressure to put underwater and full pressure to keep underwater," Velis said. "You could manipulate something," such as pouring anthrax from a container into an envelope, "but only crudely Now we know it does not work."
Despite what the FBI says, Hatfill — once a top researcher at the Army lab near Frederick, Md. — is not the only person of interest in the case.
The anthrax attacks have been a magnet for conspiracy theorists, political radicals and retirees with more than a little extra time on their hands.
The sleuthing, much of it played out on the Internet, started almost immediately after the October 2001 attacks. Even now, as the case threatens to drag on unsolved into its third year, there is no apparent end to it. Twists, such as news reports this month that Hatfill once helped build a mock mobile bioweapons lab as part of a military training exercise, continue to give people something to talk about.
"It is a fascinating mystery," said Ed Lake, a retired computer-systems analyst in Racine, Wis. "There really is a lot of information out there. Everybody comes at it from a different angle."
Before the anthrax attacks broke, Lake spent his time writing screenplays and honing a growing reputation among cyber-sleuths for exposing fake photos of nude celebrities. Now he runs a Web site called The Fake Detective. He says he has received more than 11,000 e-mails from people interested in the anthrax case, and corresponds with a dozen who think they know who did it.
He says a tracking service he uses for his Web site shows that the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency are regular visitors.
The attacker theories "range from scientists working for pharmaceutical companies to military people to biology professors to the mayor of a Texas city," Lake said. A few weeks ago, he said, he got a package in his regular mail with 47 photocopied pages purporting to provide a road map to a suspect in Louisville, Ky. — although a large chunk of the material turned out to be sports scores.
Personally, Lake thinks Hatfill is getting a bum rap. His money is on a nuclear chemist who is now working in a bowling alley in Milwaukee.
What is known is that 21 months ago someone sent a series of anthrax-tainted letters that killed five people and sickened others in Florida, Washington and New York.
The list of potential culprits has never been long. While the bacteria that cause anthrax are fairly easy to grow, only several dozen individuals in the country would have had the knowledge and ability to mill anthrax spores into the fine powder that was detected in the bioterror attacks.
While not ruling out the possibility that the attack was coordinated with a foreign terrorist network such as Al Qaeda, many people think it was an inside job, perpetrated by a misguided patriot who believed the U.S. government was ill-prepared for a bioterrorism attack and needed a wake-up call.
Proponents of that view include A.J. Weberman, who made a name for himself in the 1960s going through the trash of public figures, including Bob Dylan, for journalistic clues. He now helps run a group called the Jewish Defense Organization, which has fingered Hatfill in part because Hatfill spent many years living in apartheid-era South Africa.
"When you look at Hatfill's background, there are just too many coincidences," said Weberman, who is putting the finishing touches on the manuscript of a book about Hatfill called "The Bioevangelist." He added: "It is a tremendous circumstantial case against this guy."
Among his favorite clues is that Hatfill once lived in Zimbabwe, near an area known as Greendale — the name of a nonexistent New Jersey elementary school that is listed as the return address on two of the anthrax-laced letters.
Hatfill emphatically denies any involvement in the attacks, said his spokesman, Patrick Clawson — a former television and radio reporter who was working during the anthrax attacks for a station whose major on-air personality was conservative commentator Oliver North.
For starters, Clawson said, Hatfill plans to contest a ticket he got in May after, by his account, an FBI agent tailing him ran over his foot when he confronted the agent. A hearing has been set for Aug. 15 in District of Columbia Traffic Court, the closest thing to a trial in the anthrax case so far.
Through a spokeswoman, Debbie Weierman, the FBI declined comment on the investigation. The government has never said Hatfill is a suspect in the case, and officials have interviewed scores of other people.
Interest in Hatfill is derived in part from his work in the late 1990s at the nation's primary biodefense lab, the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, at Ft. Detrick, Md. Ft. Detrick was the main repository of the virulent strain of anthrax used in the attacks.
Former Hatfill associates say they considered him to be dedicated, affable and a little eccentric, someone infatuated with intrigue and who promoted a sense of mystery about his past.
He grew up in the Midwest and attended a small Methodist college in Kansas before shoving off for South Africa, where he got his medical degree and developed an in-depth knowledge of Ebola and other deadly viruses that cause hemorrhagic fever. He says he never worked with anthrax, although he befriended a scientist who was the preeminent expert on turning anthrax spores into a usable weapon.
Federal agents, who have been following Hatfill for nearly a year, have searched his apartment three times and taken samples of his blood.
Last month, they drained a man-made pond in the Frederick area where they had discovered over the winter what appeared to be part of a plastic glove box that scientists use in lab work. The latest dredging operation turned up "a street sign, some bottles and a tire," according to Nancy Poss, the city's public information officer.
Hatfill has also acknowledged to investigators that he once used a commonly prescribed anthrax antibiotic — for a nasal infection.
Students of the case also consider it significant that during an early interview Hatfill had with federal agents, a government bloodhound that had been exposed to the anthrax letters after they were decontaminated became animated in the scientist's presence. But that, Clawson said, is only because Hatfill played up to the animal.
The focus lately has been on Hatfill's work for a Pentagon contractor, Science Applications International Corp., after leaving Ft. Detrick. The New York Times recently reported that while working for Science Applications, Hatfill helped build a mobile germ lab to be used to help train U.S. troops looking to detect and disarm the sorts of labs that Iraq and other countries were suspected of building.
Some government officials and people close to the case have said the lab never became functional — and indeed, according to one person, was stocked with a few stuffed guinea pigs for laughs.
Velis, the out-of-the-box thinker, is a student of other unresolved mysteries. For example, he firmly believes the CIA was involved in plotting the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the shelves in his home are stuffed with books, reports and declassified documents on the case.
The operator of a family-owned insurance brokerage, Velis said he started checking out the anthrax case because he felt that Hatfill was being denied the presumption of innocence by the government and the media.
Velis first surfaced in the case in August 2002, when he bought two full-page ads in the Washington Times, declaring Hatfill to be "totally clean." He firmly believes the FBI is attempting to "fit all the evidence around Hatfill to the exclusion of other, better suspects."
The plastic tub test isn't the only contribution of empirical research Velis has made to the case. Another enduring riddle is how the culprit got the anthrax into the envelope without leaving his DNA from licking the envelopes. Some have suggested a hypodermic needle may have been the vehicle.
So Velis ordered some shark cartilage from a health-food supplier and pulverized it into a fine powder. He then put some of the powder into a needle ordinarily used to fill computer printer tanks. He says such needles are actually slightly thicker than standard hypodermic needles.
Will a hypodermic needle transfer a powder? Not according to Velis.
Such experiments may sound trivial, but, he says, they represent the kind of common-sense thinking that has been lacking in the case so far.
K. Thomasson: Another botched investigation?
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
By DAN K. THOMASSON, Scripps Howard News Service
WASHINGTON — It seems possible that the FBI has only one real suspect in the anthrax investigation but so far hasn't found enough evidence to make an arrest even after spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars (you probably could make that millions). It all has a bit of deja vu to it.
The latest attempt to turn Dr. Steven Hatfill from a "person of interest" to an official culprit, for instance, cost the government $250,000 to drain a Maryland pond on the theory that that is where the spores were put into envelopes and sent on their deadly way to post offices for delivery to congressional and news offices, both print and broadcast, where they killed five and sickened 17. So far there has been no indication that the bureau's efforts at the pond produced anything significant.
In the meantime, Hatfill through his lawyer proclaims his innocence almost daily while the media, operating on official leaks, discloses new information about his involvement in efforts to produce a defense against just such a biological attack and the FBI keeps him under 24 hour surveillance. This all has to be the most incredible display of bizarre ineptness since former FBI director Louis Freeh took personal charge of the investigation to nail Richard Jewell for the bombing in Atlanta's Olympic Park. Of course Jewell, we all now know, wasn't guilty of anything except some genuine heroism that saved lives.
But for a long time, Freeh and his minions insisted that he was the prime suspect, despite warnings from experts at a rival institution, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, that they thought the device had the imprint of an abortion clinic bomber named Eric Rudolph, who managed to elude the FBI for years in the hills of North Carolina until he was caught by a small town cop.
If it turns out that there is good reason to be pursuing Hatfill with such vigor, then this columnist will eat as much crow as can be gathered that is free of West Nile virus. One can only hope that the bureau knows more than it is revealing about the scientist's involvement, because if it doesn't Hatfill just may own the J. Edgar Hoover Building before it is over, not to mention a number of media companies whose over zealousness could cost more than it did with Jewell — and that was plenty.
The latest revelations about Hatfill were that he was a major contributor to a highly sensitive elite effort to devise a mobile laboratory that could be used in defense of biological attacks. He actually trained a Defense Intelligence Agency team in how to search for these weapons, and he worked on secret projects with the Army's highly regarded Delta Force. He won high praise for his efforts, it is reported. This record apparently is the reason the bureau took such an interest in Hatfill in the first place, if the reports are accurate.
That may be good enough initially, but when years of suspicion fails to turn up enough significant information to bring a formal charge, it begins to look not only like harassment of a citizen, it becomes counter productive to finding the real answer. During this period, Hatfill not only has been trailed morning, noon and night, his apartment has been searched at least twice with what seems to have been media participation. At least newsmen appeared at the right time suggesting they had been told in advance and reported that a dog caught a whiff of something. Nothing apparently came of that.
What is of grave concern here is the vulnerability of Americans to this kind of continued anonymous assault by madmen who seem able to escape detection by the nation's most celebrated law enforcement agency. Richard Jewell was the wrong guy and when the right one was identified it took forever to catch him. The Unabomber ultimately was caught by his own brother whose efforts to inform the bureau of his suspicions were summarily dismissed until he hired a lawyer to "drop the dime," as informing is known in street parlance.
All of us would feel more secure if the bureau and the other agencies working on this case were more effective. It is legitimate to ask how long it takes for the attorney general or the current director of the bureau to consider that an investigation of a particular individual may have run its course? If Hatfill is guilty, he shows no signs of it. If the bureau has something solid on this man, they should act on it. The bureau seems to have been here all too often.
Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.
July 25-31, 2003
WATCHING THE DETECTIVES
Since becoming the FBI's only known "person of interest" in the anthrax attacks, Steven Hatfill has attracted quite a following.
That car is definitely FBI.
The blue one. The one with the custom antenna. See it? Soccer moms don't use antennae like that.
From behind the wheel, Pat Clawson spots the feds first. But not before they've spotted him. The game began a traffic light up, outside an apartment building in Glover Park, when Clawson's friend Steven Hatfill slipped quietly into the front passenger seat. It took Clawson a few sharp turns, a few stabs at the accelerator, and a few peeks in the rearview to realize we had company.
"Well, buddy, I think I've gotten a tail," blurts Clawson, a longtime journalist who serves as Hatfill's press liaison.
Hatfill says nothing. This isn't news to the man the Justice Department last summer named a "person of interest" in the investigation over the fall 2001 anthrax attacks. And "interest" is something of an understatement: Nearly two years since the letters contaminated with aerosolized anthrax spores killed five people in the months after Sept. 11, Hatfill, 49, is a marked man. John Ashcroft's G-men have tracked him 24-7 since last August. In June, the FBI drained a Frederick-area pond in their attempt to link Hatfill to the murders. Although a suspicious box had been found this past winter, the June draining produced nothing, the Washington Post reported, except a street sign, a bicycle, and a few logs.
Along the way, Hatfill, a well-regarded hematologist, has become a lot of people's person of interest: Internet sleuths, bio-defense activists, Fort Detrick alumni, the media. Most of those folks trade in anthrax rumors and innuendo, which are the only things so far connecting Hatfill to those deadly letters. To rebut some of the talk, Hatfill and his attorneys are preparing defamation suits against various parties, according to Clawson.
The agents who dog Hatfill, however, worry more about surveillance than evidence. Their tracking system has become part of Hatfill's routine. As their cars swirl around, Hatfill just sits in the passenger seat and stares out the window. They are the daily nuisance; Hatfill and his camp have dubbed their FBI tails "the flies."
And today is a big day for the flies. As the Hatfill crew—Clawson, Hatfill, and a Clawson friend, plus me—zigzags around an upper Northwest neighborhood, Clawson gives updates at every corner, every turn, every green light.
"They're right behind us," says Clawson. Two cars away. Maybe three.
"Don't look," Clawson adds.
It's a tricky job, trying to lose the FBI. The Hatfill detail has shunned traditional law-enforcement autos, such as the Crown Vic, in favor of Dodge Durangos and GMC Yukons, models indigenous to upper-Northwest driveways. The FBI blends into D.C.'s plush neighborhoods like a renovated brick colonial.
The blue car fades away. But look, Clawson reports, see that big-ass '70s van? That's another member of the FBI team.
Clawson's friend, a second-grade teacher, tries her best to change the subject from the back seat. She gives Hatfill her most heartfelt good-to-see-you, her most up-to-date weather report, and bulletins on mutual friends.
"Where are we going?" Hatfill asks. Margaritas, Clawson says: "I want to have a private drink with my friends."
Clawson guns the engine, cutting across a quiet residential street near American University. He speeds through an intersection, making a quick right. After tearing around the 'hood, he slows down at one end of a block. He looks both ways. Everything is quiet. There are no feds in sight.
Seeing nothing, Clawson peels off into another neighborhood, not taking any chances. These are classic evasion moves. Hatfill seems confused because his buddy is driving away from the neighborhood commercial strip. Clawson has to repeat the fact that he wants his drink with his buddy to be private.
"Watch it!" Hatfill mutters. His voice has a disarmingly squeaky high end. The car gets silent again, as if he were a terminally ill hospital patient who had just asked for a cup of water or the TV clicker.
"Careful," Hatfill mumbles—there's a girl standing at a crosswalk. "Usually, I'm reprimanding [the feds] for their bad driving." He is a thick man, barrel-chested with a protruding gut—a big-game hunter who has done his share of gathering. His hair is cropped short, his beard trimmed neat. The only things that stand out are his cowboy boots, peeking out from dark pants.
Clawson passes the girl and then guns the engine harder still. The car groans all the way up a hill.
Clawson's getaway vehicle is a pure shitbox, a maroon 1988 Plymouth Reliant with 173,000 miles on the odometer. He bought it on eBay for $300. There are little pieces of newspaper, notebook paper, silver gum wrappers in every crevice. "This is like Al Bundy," Hatfill says of the car's vibe.
Everyone laughs—Hatfill made a joke. The FBI isn't in sight. Finally, after 10 minutes, Clawson pulls into an empty lot and stops the Plymouth. We all wait for the FBI to show up.
Ten seconds pass and nothing. The neighborhood is quiet. There are no cars. All you can hear is the wind through the trees.
Twenty seconds pass. A flicker of optimism. Maybe Clawson will get his private drink. Thirty seconds pass. Clawson starts up the car, pulls out of the desolate lot, and parks nearby so he has a good view of the street. Just to double-check.
Another 20 seconds pass. Still no FBI.
Soon, maybe another 10 seconds, we hear the rumble of the FBI's silver-and-black Chevy van getting closer and closer until we see it chugging up the street toward the Plymouth. The driver, straight out of a Cheech and Chong flick, leans out and gets a good look at us before motoring on. The agent turns around and passes us again before stopping at the next intersection. There, he is joined by a gold SUV and a blue sedan. All three wait a bit. Who knows what they're talking about?
The flies disperse when we start to move again. It's 4:20 p.m.
Hatfill gives his driver an exasperated look. That's enough. He wants his margarita.
"I think they put a homing device in your dick," Clawson says.
Since Hatfill became the Justice Department's obsession in the anthrax case, he has rarely left the confines of his girlfriend's Northwest condo. On a public foray in May, the SUV of an FBI agent ran over Hatfill's foot. Police issued the scientist a $5 ticket for "walking to create a hazard." He plans on contesting the ticket at an Aug. 15 court date. The person of interest's foot is now fully recovered. "[The agent] ran red lights in front of a school," says Hatfill. "When I went back to admonish him, he ran me over."
The fifth-floor one-bedroom reflects the touch of a swashbuckling geek. Hatfill has lined the living room with a fine collection of classic guy films, such as U-571, Behind Enemy Lines, and X-Men. African game animals that he's killed, eaten, or skinned share wall space with antique pistols. The one thing he showcases is a replica of King Tut's tomb, which opens up to a bar and more flicks.
The place was somewhat roughed-up after the FBI ransacked it last summer. As a gift for his girlfriend, who works as a secretary, Hatfill spends much of his time renovating it. The work has grown extensive, says one friend, adding that Hatfill's renovations are "from the studs out." He has remodeled the bathroom, and she bought some huge antique chairs that their friends refer to as "thrones."
The apartment has become the one place where he can work—on something—away from the scrutiny of the G-men.
Playing Bob Vila marks quite a fall for a local researcher once keyed into high-level government contracts. Hatfill comes with impressive credentials, including a medical degree, three master's degrees, a winter tour in Antarctica as a medical officer for the South African government, and graduate study at Oxford.
After all that training, he landed at the National Institutes of Health on a low-level research fellowship in 1995. He joined the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Frederick's Fort Detrick on a two-year fellowship in September 1997. There, he studied ebola and the Marburg virus, which causes a rare hemorrhagic fever in humans.
By the late '90s, Hatfill had become outspoken on the threats of bioterror. He gained attention on this front in 1997 when the offices of B'nai B'rith International in the District received a suspicious package containing a non-lethal relative of anthrax. A subsequent account in the Washington Times cited Hatfill as an expert on biological agents.
Hatfill posed for Insight magazine in 1998, theorizing that anyone could make biological weapons from his own kitchen. The story read, "National Institutes of Health researcher Steven Hatfill demonstrates how a determined terrorist could cook up a batch of plague in his or her own kitchen using common household ingredients and protective equipment from the supermarket....For this photo opportunity, Hatfill left out the secret ingredient — namely the plague bacteria — which an enterprising terrorist could collect from a prairie-dog habitat in the American Southwest, where it is endemic."
Along the way, Hatfill also wrote an unpublished novel, Emergence, in which terrorists attack humans with mad-cow disease and the plague. At the end of the story, FBI agents heroically capture the bad guys.
After leaving Fort Detrick in 1999, Hatfill began a stint at Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a large U.S. defense contractor. While at SAIC, says Hatfill, he worked on domestic preparedness for terrorist attacks. Hatfill's research convinced him that cities were ill-equipped to handle anthrax hoaxes, much less bona fide germ offensives. "I went to my boss and suggested, 'We need to develop some kind of doctrine here to provide a rational way to handle this stuff,'" says Hatfill. "My boss agreed."
SAIC commissioned a renowned expert to write a report on scientific procedures for dealing with hoax letters as well as real anthrax-laden missives. The expert reportedly inserted talcum powder into an envelope to test how much anthrax could be sent through the mail without detection. The resulting report and preparedness guides, completed roughly three years ago, made the rounds throughout the U.S. government, including many U.S. embassies.
Hatfill claims that FBI and media inquiries to SAIC regarding anthrax led to his departure from the defense contractor in March 2002.
Just after leaving SAIC, Hatfill
lined up a gig with Louisiana State University on another
Before his sudden dismissal, his girlfriend, who planned to move with him, had packed up her place. The place was full of neatly stacked cardboard boxes. There were hangers stacked in bunches, glasses wrapped in newspapers and put in a carton marked "Fragile."
But all the stuff stayed put in the apartment. And that soon included Hatfill. When he's not working on renovations, he sits in his small den and job-hunts, looking up old contacts for leads. He hasn't had any luck. He went to one interview, Clawson says—and so did the FBI. The interview, which concerned starting up a company doing private first-responder work, took place in public. So the federal sleuths pulled out their video camera to capture Hatfill's professional ambitions on tape, according to Clawson. The interviewer caught on to the surveillance, and he asked Hatfill, "Did you see that?" Hatfill couldn't say anything. It's just something he's learned to live with. He never heard back about the job.
Of course, getting an interview these days is a big score for Hatfill, who often doesn't even get his calls returned. "Nothing happens," Clawson says. "He's just radioactive. It's like he's got leprosy." It doesn't help that the media found apparent falsehoods on his résumé, namely that he'd earned a Ph.D. and had served in the U.S. Special Forces. "You don't have my résumé," says Hatfill. "Nobody has the accurate copy of my résumé." That document must make for some interesting reading: Hatfill once told me that he'd killed a terrorist, whose sandals he took as a souvenir.
Hatfill thought he had a job lined up as a weapons inspector with the United Nations last fall. He was told he'd be called up that December. The call never came. "I was working on plans for a going-away party for him," Clawson says. "Then all of the sudden, he got notified that he was not going to be going to Iraq."
Hatfill watches a lot of TV, particularly CNN and the Fox News Channel. He reads the wire services and hunts down any story that mentions his name or the anthrax investigation. "It's gotten to the point where I don't even tell him about a lot of the press coverage," Clawson says.
Friends and supporters call regularly in attempts to bring him out of the apartment. When he ventures outside, it's usually to go to the hardware store for building supplies. A good time is going to the movies or to a Thai restaurant. Usually the FBI will come in, sit at the bar, and sip water.
At a dinner three weeks ago with Clawson, Hatfill put on Eminem's latest album, The Eminem Show. He knew all the words to the rapper's first single: "Without Me." In an attempt at gallows humor, he changed the words to fit his situation:
"Why won't the FBI let me be me?" Hatfill rapped. "There is no investigation without me."
While Hatfill slings drywall in the apartment, the feds stay down on the street, waiting for him to cave under the pressure, to confess his sins, or maybe just to walk out to buy some ice cream. Any move will at least break up the monotony of staking out the researcher's apartment building. It seems clear from their setup that they are not looking to catch Hatfill doing anything sinister; they just want him to know they are out there, in the bushes, in the alleys, in that white construction van parked in front of his building. Maybe that will be enough to make him crack.
By now, Hatfill's camp has the feds' positioning down cold. There are upward of a dozen agents on the ground at all times, Clawson says. Two blocks up, a man usually sits in a blue Yukon. According to Clawson's map, a woman sits for hours two blocks south, reading a newspaper in a white sports car. Clawson believes agents have set up a command post on a side street near Hatfill's apartment. Agents park spare cars in alleys and spread over a two-block radius from Hatfill's building.
They use all kinds of cars: Durangos, Pontiacs, Buicks, Saturns. After midnight, agents patrol the area on foot. What happens if Hatfill slips out the back door? Agents will be there. If Hatfill decides to drive his truck, agents will be there, too. Hatfill believes they've outfitted the truck with a tracking device.
In a lot across from Hatfill's building, the feds have stationed their own vehicles beside marked Metropolitan Police Department vans. Clawson believes they have set up cameras in that lot and on the roof of an adjacent apartment complex. But when he attempts to show them to me, he can't find them.
If Hatfill were to go out and get that ice cream, he would be joined by agents creeping alongside him in cars as well as agents surrounding him on foot. They'd have additional cars driving parallel to Hatfill on side streets. "There's nothing subtle about it," Clawson says.
The feds took over Hatfill's life when they took his stuff last August. The agents came away with garbage bags full of the scientist's belongings—but no anthrax. Hatfill says that the feds were choosy about what they grabbed: individual pieces from suits, some T-shirts, his underwear, books and CDs, pairs of army boots, his girlfriend's hammer. After the raid, Hatfill says, he called the feds and told them they had missed some things they would surely want to look at. The search had seemed so haphazard.
Agents seemed pleased with one find in particular—an unassembled rock polisher. They showed it to Hatfill's girlfriend as evidence of the scientist's sinister deeds. In subsequent statements to the press, he lambasted the feds for telling his girlfriend he was the anthrax killer.
Hatfill's relationship with the agents—initially fairly cordial—has been uneasy ever since. On several occasions, agents have been the ones cracking up. He says he's seen them run red lights, speed, weave in and out of traffic. When he drives on the highway, agents will surround him with up to four cars, creating a veritable homeland-security motorcade.
While Hatfill was traveling in West Virginia a couple of months ago, an agent freaked out on him. "I was walking towards him as a truck was in front of his car," Hatfill remembers. "He couldn't get out. He panicked. He said, 'Fuck you!' and he showed me the finger." In Baton Rouge, when Hatfill was preparing for his job at LSU, agents made a bow out of yellow police tape and hung it up by his apartment door, Clawson says.
FBI agents have mistakenly followed his girlfriend on several occasions. One winter morning, Clawson reports, Hatfill's girlfriend went to the grocery store in his truck and attracted roughly 10 agents.
Another night, the agents caught on to a soup caper. Hatfill went to meet a friend in the Virginia suburbs, who handed him a bag containing homemade soup. The agents, Clawson says, took pictures of the bag. Hatfill's friend, spotting the cameras, yelled at the agents: "It's soup!" The agents took no action against the soup transfer.
Hatfill says agents have been busted trying to sneak into his apartment's secure garage. "Caught by the landlady," he says, incredulous, adding that, in one instance, an agent bumped his head on the garage door trying to get out. Clawson says the building manager has sent around a flier to the building's tenants warning them to be on the lookout for sharp-dressed men driving late-model cars.
Clawson says he's been the target of unwarranted searches, too. His house in the Shenandoah Valley, he suspects, has been broken into at least twice—though he has no idea who the intruders were. He has set his computer up to handle any and all such intrusions. In Microsoft Word, he keeps a file called "Hatfill Case" and a file marked "Hatfill Confidential." One night, he came home to find that the "Confidential" file had been opened. Far from containing juicy tidbits about Hatfill, the file contains a simple message: "Fuck You! You've Been Had!"
Clawson says that the FBI and D.C. police have confronted him twice when he wasn't with Hatfill.
In the early fall of last year, Clawson went to Hatfill's apartment to photograph the surveillance vans. He arrived in front of the building at about 9 p.m. and began snapping pictures with his Kodak Instamatic. He seized on a van parked in the lot across the street. A man and a woman inside covered their faces and pulled a curtain over the window. "Get out of here," Clawson remembers them saying.
"When you looked through [the van], you can see them with video cameras," Clawson adds. "They had them pointed toward Steve's apartment."
Eventually, the van began to pull out of the lot where it was parked. It was then joined by a blue sedan. The woman got into the sedan, which promptly parked in a different spot, with Clawson snapping away all the while.
Clawson then flagged down a police cruiser and told the officer about the suspicious activity. After the officer talked to the woman, who flashed a badge, the cop started questioning Clawson. "Next thing I know, I got six cops down there," he says. One officer took his camera and threatened to arrest him. After much debate, a sergeant agreed to give Clawson his camera back, but with a warning not to come back again.
Several nights later, Clawson returned with his camera and drew a crowd. Two men in an unmarked sedan began following him. He decided to drive to a well-lit area for protection and headed to Georgetown. He made it almost to M Street when a cruiser pulled in behind him and put on its lights. Clawson pulled over.
The two guys in the unmarked sedan, who were apparently coordinating their work with the police department, stopped, too. They began to question him. "What are you doing?" they asked.
"Is there any law against driving?" Clawson asked.
"They told me point blank if I didn't tell them what I was doing they were going to arrest me and take me in," Clawson remembers. "At which point, I said, 'Look, I'm out tonight working on a legal matter.'"
"What kind of legal matter?" the cops asked.
Clawson mentioned Hatfill's attorney's name. That ended the conversation. The cops let him go but told him to "watch what you're doing."
The video cameras seem to be the latest hassle. One time, Clawson remembers, Hatfill spotted a few agents trying to rig a camera to a lamppost across from his apartment building. He decided to have a little fun and go out there and offer his assistance.
"What are you guys doing?" Hatfill asked, according to Clawson.
The agents told him that they were installing an "Internet relay device." Whatever that means. He offered to help them install it anyway. The joke in Hatfill's camp is that he's secured the best Internet service in the District.
Hatfill's friends and associates believe that despite all the agents' annoying tactics, their 24-hour watch offers Hatfill a security blanket. If the real anthrax killer ever mailed another letter, they believe their buddy would be exonerated.
Hatfill claims he passed a polygraph exam in the aftermath of the attacks. Yet he claims that convincing the FBI of his innocence won't suffice in this case. He also has to convince one middle-aged professor of molecular biology at the State University of New York at Purchase. Her name is Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, and she chairs the Federation of American Scientists' working group on biological weapons.
Rosenberg has made the anthrax case her personal crusade and even met with the FBI. In February 2002, Rosenberg claimed that she knew the identity of the main suspect in the case, first telling an audience of roughly 65 students and faculty at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. The Trenton Times reported: "There are a number of insiders—government insiders—who know people in the anthrax field who have a common suspect. The FBI has questioned that person more than once...so it looks as though the FBI is taking that person very seriously."
In June 2002, Rosenberg put out a paper titled "The Anthrax Case: What the FBI Knows" that detailed her theory about this lone suspect. She stated that "a number of inside experts (at least five that I know about) gave the FBI the name of one specific person as the most likely suspect." This person, she went on to write, had devised bioterror scenarios, had access to remote locations to develop the anthrax, and had access to Fort Detrick.
Rosenberg wondered if the agents were dragging their feet for fear of what this suspect might expose, for fear that he might "divulge secret information" or "even threaten to release a biological agent." She went on to speculate that "perhaps he decided to mount an anthrax attack that would kill few people, if any, but would wake up the country and prove that he was right."
Soon after releasing "What the FBI Knows," Rosenberg presented her paper to Sen. Tom Daschle and Sen. Patrick Leahy, both of whose offices received anthrax-laced letters in 2001. She was then invited to brief the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee. She became the most well-known watchdog on the case. "I was very frustrated," she says now, adding that soon after her presentation before Congress, the FBI started to become much more aggressive in its investigation. In other words, the FBI went after Hatfill publicly.
Her description of the suspect fit Hatfill to a T: his experience at Fort Detrick, his ties to defense contractors and U.N. weapons inspectors, his friendship with anthrax expert William Patrick III. Her profile wasn't a profile of an anthrax killer—it was a profile of Steven Hatfill.
Rosenberg had Hatfill's name on her lips before the Justice Department tagged him as a person of interest. One reporter, who requested anonymity, stated that Rosenberg floated Hatfill's name as the lead suspect. She denies ever mentioning his name.
"I always stayed away from names," Rosenberg says, before adding: "I asked people if they had an idea of who did it. If they did, did that agree with what somebody else said? Many people were pointing in the same direction. I was looking to see if people were pointing in the same direction."
Within days of Rosenberg's June session with Daschle and Leahy, Hatfill's Frederick home was searched the first time. On July 2, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof began writing about Hatfill, referring to him as "Mr. Z." After a series of columns, Kristof unmasked "Mr. Z" as being Hatfill. Rosenberg will neither confirm nor deny that Kristof consulted with her. Kristof refuses to comment on the sourcing for his columns.
Three months before Hatfill was outed, Rosenberg told the BBC: "I think the time is rapidly coming when it will be very important to bring him to trial, even if they don't think they have sufficient evidence. This might at least, if not result in a criminal conviction, make it possible to bring civil charges somewhat like what happened to O.J. Simpson in the past. So I think it's time to start moving, because it's very important from the point of view of deterrence of any possible future terrorist."
Pretty soon, the FBI was back on Hatfill. "She's crazy. She caused it," says Hatfill of Rosenberg.
A green Grand Prix appears in the Plymouth's rearview.
And then a red Buick.
Both look suspicious to Clawson. "Hold tight—let's see what we got here," he says as he speeds down Canal Road on a recent Tuesday afternoon. His pal and I are in the Plymouth's back seat. Hatfill rides shotgun.
The red Buick has latched onto us, keeping a respectful distance. Maybe too respectful.
"Take a right up here, Pat," Hatfill suggests. "There's no way he would be taking a right."
Clawson refuses. He's got a plan worked out. Both men stare into mirrors. Clawson urges me not to look back.
The Buick makes the right, leaving us. We are soon joined by another suspicious car.
"Go straight," Hatfill urges.
"Let me worry about where we're going," Clawson argues, before taking a left over the Chain Bridge and into Virginia. During the momentary downtime, the two discuss the Buick and what got their attention.
"Nobody carries a microphone in their car," Hatfill says.
Clawson passes CIA headquarters and heads into downtown McLean. A gray sedan still seems to be following Clawson's Plymouth. Soon, a black van joins the motorcade. And then both turn off. Nothing.
Clawson waits in a leafy neighborhood, and no agents join him. "I can't tell you for sure if it was a tail," Clawson says. They wonder aloud: If Hatfill is so dangerous, why did they stop following him?
"They don't love you anymore, honey," Clawson jokes on the way home from lunch. "Gone on to a new girl."
Hatfill is pissed just the same. "It's a shower of shit," he says.
anthrax in pond
Publish Date: 08/02/03
By Liz Babiarz
FREDERICK -- No traces of anthrax were found in a pond in the Frederick Municipal Forest that was drained by the FBI in June, officials said Friday.
The Associated Press reported that authorities found a gun, a bicycle, fishing lures and "a lot of junk, but nothing of an evidentiary nature in the anthrax case," said one official who was speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said she wasn't sure if the FBI was going to uncover anything. But, she said she was confident in the FBI's investigation because of the open communication agents had with her and Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine.
"I want it to be resolved and I hope it is resolved outside of the city but we will continue to work with FBI as this investigation progresses," said Ms. Dougherty.
Debbie Weierman, spokeswoman for the FBI Washington field office that is overseeing the investigation, had no comment about the status of the investigation or what was found in the pond.
Chief Dine also had no comment about the news that no anthrax was found in samples taken from the pond.
"We have been in constant contact during the search," Chief Dine said. "We haven't been in contact about this case recently, but we remain in contact."
On June 9, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service started draining a pond in the Frederick city watershed, which investigators suspected might hold evidence in a series of anthrax-laced letters that killed five and injured 17 in 2001.
FBI divers searched the pond last winter and found a clear box with holes that could have been used to manipulate anthrax spores. The theory was that the envelopes were filled with the anthrax spores under water to reduce the chances of exposure.
Anthrax-laced letters were sent through the mail in September and October of 2001, which resulted in the deaths of several people and the closure of the U.S. Senate offices.
Frederick has been the focus of the investigation because of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick.
Suspicion also revolved around former Detrick germ warfare specialist Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, named as a "person of interest" by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Dr. Hatfill's spokesman, Pat Clawson, did not return calls to comment about the FBI's findings. Dr. Hatfill repeatedly denied any connection to the anthrax attacks and accused the government of harassment.
draws blank in anthrax probe
By Richard Hollingham
Despite a massive FBI investigation, those responsible for the anthrax attacks on the United States in October 2001 still have to be brought to justice.
The US TV crime show America's Most Wanted still features the anthrax letters, but the special reward of up to $2.5m for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators remains unclaimed.
This is surprising because it was a crime that gripped the entire nation.
"We had people in Montana bringing powdered hotdog buns to their state public health laboratories because they were afraid that white powder - which the day before had been flour - was now suddenly anthrax," Dr Elin Gursky from the Anser Institute for Homeland Security.
She has just completed a study into the attacks and found the authorities could barely cope.
"It was not only the cases of illness but the fact that it was our mail system, which is pervasive in our offices and our homes, that was used against us," she told the BBC.
Within a few weeks, five people were dead and 17 had been taken seriously ill.
The FBI now believes only four letters were sent - addressed to the New York Post, TV channel NBC, Democrat Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy.
They were laced with spores of a highly virulent form of the anthrax bacterium - known as the Ames strain.
The investigation has been termed Amerithrax, but the FBI refuses to discuss its progress.
Detectives are taking a particular interest in an area surrounding the US army biodefence research centre at Fort Detrick near Washington DC.
Reports claim divers searching ponds nearby found vials and an airtight container in which the letters could have been sealed.
A germ warfare expert and former US army scientist, Steven Hatfill, has been interviewed several times and is followed on a daily basis by a convoy of FBI personnel.
He maintains his innocence and has yet to be charged with anything.
The former head of the Fort Detrick research programme and now vice-president of the Southern Research Institute, Dr David Franz, urged investigators to keep an open mind.
"The individual or individuals who prepared the formulation were experienced, they need not have special degrees and they were good in the laboratory. It could be a laboratory the size of your kitchen not requiring a load of equipment," he says.
"This expertise would be found in many countries in the world, including the US and the UK."
In her report for the Anser Institute, Dr Gursky warned that if there was another, even small, bioterror attack on the United States, "public health resources are barely adequate".
"Biological warfare will be a grave concern in the next few decades and deserves strong attention in terms of our preparedness," she says.
In the meantime, the person (or people) behind the attacks of autumn 2001 is still at large.
Even if they do discover who did it, the question is, could it happen again? And the answer is almost certainly yes.
owner delays anthrax inspection of AMI building
By Kathy Bushouse
A scheduled foray this month into the anthrax-contaminated American Media Inc. building has been postponed indefinitely.
Representatives for David Rustine, who owns the Boca Raton building, told the Palm Beach County Health Department they were putting off a planned entry to collect samples, destroy documents and do other work inside the building that has been under quarantine since October 2001, said Health Department spokesman Tim O'Connor.
A new date for entering the three-story, 67,000-square-foot building on Broken Sound Boulevard wasn't given, O'Connor said.
Rustine could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In April, he paid $40,000 for the building once valued at more than $5 million. With the purchase, he assumed all cleanup costs for the building.
Rustine has hired a company to work on those cleanup plans, which must pass muster with the county Health Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency before any decontamination happens.
When crews do go inside the building, it will be the first time anyone has been inside since the fall. That's when investigators from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent 12 days searching the former home of the National Enquirer, Star and other tabloids for clues about who was responsible for an anthrax-laced letter that contaminated the building. Bob Stevens, an AMI tabloid photo editor, died of inhalation anthrax on Oct. 5, 2001.
Researchers Develop Anthrax Tracking Method
University of Maryland researchers have developed a technique to help the FBI track the origins of deadly anthrax spores.
The FBI asked Maryland professor Catherine Fenselau to turn her mass spectrometry lab to the forensic task of sleuthing how bacillus spores, such as anthrax, are prepared.
"There are several common types of chemicals that are used to grow anthrax spores," said Fenselau. "One is agar, and another is a blood-based medium containing heme. People tend to develop and use their own recipe to grow the spores.
"By analyzing for traces of these media, we can say a lot about how the spores were grown. That information can help investigators connect the growth with a certain recipe."
Molecules of organic compounds have specific weights. Mass spectrometry can determine what even a single molecule is based on its unique weight. Mass spectrometry analysis has been accepted as evidence in court cases for about 35 years.
"It's very sensitive and very specific," said Jeff Whiteaker, the post-doctoral researcher who developed the process for detecting the heme medium. "The mass spectrometry-based method is more specific for the heme molecule compared to the traditional methods. Even if we encounter compounds that have the same weight, we can confirm which molecule it is by the way it breaks up in the mass spectrometer."
"Our theory was that if you look at what is stuck to the outside of a spore, you can find out how it became a spore." Fenselau said. "Even when you try to clean up the spores, there are still scraps of stuff on the surface."
The Maryland team worked with five of the most frequently used recipes for blood agar to develop a method to detect and identify heme in any medium. "These bacteria grow on anything that has lots of nutrients available, which the heme medium does," Whiteaker explained. "Microbiologists like to use blood agar to grow bacteria like anthrax, because it mimics conditions in the body."
The Maryland researchers worked with non-toxic bacillus spores, "first cousins that have a similar genome to anthrax, but don't have the capability to synthesize the killer toxins," said Fenselau.
The Maryland researchers worked on the analysis from August, 2002 to February, 2003, producing a method where, said Whiteaker, "the heme medium jumps out."
The heme analysis was developed in collaboration with scientists at the FBI Academy. The team presented its results at an international conference in Montreal in June and expects to publish the technique in a scientific journal soon.
The University of Maryland's mass spectrometry laboratory is one of the most sophisticated in the Washington-Baltimore region. Other research in the lab includes studies of how drug resistance develops in breast cancer patients and development of methods for rapid characterization of airborne microorganisms.
Quelle: University of Maryland
Traffic Court Gets Its Man: Figure in Anthrax Inquiry
The FBI trailed Steven Hatfill, but D.C. police brought him to justice in a $5 pedestrian case.
By Richard B. Schmitt
August 16, 2003
WASHINGTON — Steven J. Hatfill is guilty, at least according to the District of Columbia traffic bureau.
Hatfill, designated a "person of interest" by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft in the investigation into the October 2001 anthrax attacks, showed up in a Washington traffic court on Friday. The issue: a ticket he received May 17 in connection with an incident involving an FBI agent who had been tailing him and his girlfriend.
Hatfill was cited in the trendy Georgetown section of the city after he approached the agent's parked sport-utility vehicle outside a grocery store and tried to take his picture. The agent, who was videotaping Hatfill, pulled away — and ran over Hatfill's foot.
Washington police officers responded to the scene and issued Hatfill a $5 ticket, saying he had created a hazard by stepping into traffic outside of a crosswalk. The FBI agent involved wasn't cited.
In a rare public appearance, the former Army biomedical researcher contested the ticket on Friday before a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing officer. He brought two lawyers and a dozen reporters, turning the event into one of the better-attended traffic-court proceedings in recent memory. He did not speak during the proceedings, other than to utter a one-word denial in response to a question from the judge.
At the hearing, the government stuck to its guns. Under questioning from Nick Bravin, a lawyer for Hatfill, the ticketing officer, Clyde Pringle, acknowledged that it was the first time he had ever issued such a ticket to a pedestrian. But he said the circumstances fully justified it.
"The accident wouldn't have happened if Mr. Hatfill had walked on the sidewalk," declared Pringle, a four-year veteran of the city's force.
The officer also acknowledged that although the FBI agent involved had captured the incident on videotape, he didn't obtain a copy for the hearing.
Bravin argued that the tape was "the best evidence" of what happened, and that without it the city could not possibly establish the "clear and convincing evidence" needed to establish that Hatfill was guilty. Bravin also introduced several photographs, including one showing his client's badly bruised foot.
After roughly 15 minutes' deliberation, the hearing examiner, Stephen Lawson, issued his ruling, saying that Hatfill had broken the law the moment he had stepped onto the road. He also ruled that the issue of whether the FBI agent was justified in running over his foot was, essentially, irrelevant.
After the hearing, Thomas Connolly, another lawyer for Hatfill, said the traffic incident was the result of an "unrelenting campaign of harassment" of his client by the FBI. He said Hatfill did not intend to appeal the decision, and that he would pay the $5 ticket.
Interest in Hatfill as a potential suspect in the anthrax attacks stems from his work in the late 1990s at the nation's primary biodefense lab, the Army Medical Research Institutes of Infectious Diseases, at Ft. Detrick, Md. The facility was a repository of the virulent strain of anthrax used in the attacks that killed five people and sickened others in Florida, Washington and New York.
The government has never declared Hatfill a suspect in the case, much less charged him with anything, but federal agents have been following him for about a year.
They have searched his apartment three times, taken his blood, and in June, drained a man-made pond in the Frederick, Md., area where they had discovered over the winter what appeared to be part of a plastic glove box similar to the kind scientists use in lab work. Some investigators have theorized that such a box might have been used to slip deadly anthrax spores into four envelopes linked to the outbreak and sent through the mail.
The dredging operation has turned up a street sign, bottles and a tire, but no signs of anthrax.
Through a spokesman, Hatfill has emphatically denied any involvement in the deadly attacks.
letter shows anthrax taint 2 years later
Saturday, August 16, 2003
BY KEVIN COUGHLIN
Anthrax sent through New Jersey during the deadly attacks of 2001 has turned up in Arkansas -- in an FBI evidence locker, authorities said yesterday.
Agents came upon the sealed letter while cleaning out the locker, and decided to have it tested by Arkansas health officials as a precaution before forwarding it to the FBI in Newark, said Special Agent William Temple in Little Rock.
A swab-test of the letter produced a positive finding Monday. The result was confirmed Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is doing further analysis to determine the strain of anthrax and other details, said Nancy Rosenstein of the CDC.
Authorities believe the letter, bearing a Trenton postmark of Oct. 9, 2001, was cross-contaminated by anthrax-laced letters processed there that day.
Nobody in Arkansas appears to have been infected, officials said yesterday.
The 2001 anthrax attacks killed five people, sickened 17 others -- including seven who lived or worked in New Jersey -- and disrupted postal operations in a nation that was still reeling from the Sept. 11 terror strikes.
At least four tainted letters to government and media offices were processed in September and October 2001 in Hamilton Township, near Trenton. The FBI and postal authorities hunted for letters that were processed there around the same time as the anthrax letters.
As part of that search, an FBI agent and a postal inspector retrieved a letter in April 2002 from a resident of Beebe, Ark.
Details of the letter were relayed to FBI investigators in Newark, Temple said. The letter itself, triple-bagged for safety, then was stored in the locker.
"We did not have any reason to think this was an anthrax letter," said Temple, who runs that office.
"We were asked to find these random letters. The purpose was not to test for anthrax, but to determine information from these letters that would help in the investigation -- the senders of the letter, that type of thing," he said.
Temple said the belated decision to forward the letter to Newark was "just an effort to get rid of that piece of evidence. It was a routine thing." The letter, for now, remains with the Arkansas Department of Health.
One expert suggested that the discovery, nearly two years after the attacks, proves the hardiness and potency of the bioweapon.
"If they swabbed it and were able to grow a culture from it, that's fairly strong contami nation, I would think," said David Siegrist, a bioterrorism researcher at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.
The anthrax case has frustrated the FBI and fueled its critics. Some have questioned the agency's focus on Steven Hatfill, a former federal virologist called a "person of interest" by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Hatfill maintains he is innocent.
In June, the FBI drained a Maryland pond near Hatfill's former home. A search for anthrax-processing equipment came up empty.
Through a spokesman, Hatfill has complained about FBI harassment. But yesterday a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered Hatfill to pay a $5 traffic ticket, issued after he was struck by an FBI vehicle that was tailing him. Hatfill had tried to photograph the vehicle.
A $65 million decontamination of the Hamilton Township postal center, closed since October 2001, is scheduled for November.
One year ago, officials announced they had found a trace of anthrax in a Princeton mailbox, prompting speculation that the attacks originated there. The case has yielded few developments since.
site tracks cleanup efforts at AMI
By John Murawski, Palm Beach Post
A new Web site gives amateur anthrax aficionados and bioterror buffs a venue to track the decontamination of the Boca Raton site of the country's first anthrax attack in 2001.
The Internet site's main attraction is the "Milestones" link with a timeline of work accomplished and upcoming developments in the building formerly occupied by The National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids.
The "History" link shows a photograph of photo editor Bob Stevens, who died from inhalation anthrax mailed to the building.
The site, www.buildingupdates.com, was launched last week. It also contains background on contractors who will do the work at the former office of American Media Inc., information about the building's new owner and links to local media and relevant government agencies.
Boca Raton developer David Rustine, who bought the quarantined AMI office for $40,000 this year, and the cleanup's project manager, Atlanta's Consultants in Disease and Injury Control, launched the web site as a community service for local residents concerned about safety and curious about the project, said Consultants Vice President John Taylor.
Rustine's Crown Companies will occupy space in the three-story, 68,000-square-foot building in the Arvida Park of Commerce once its cleaned up, the Web site says. Rustine will then try to lease space to other tenants.
Consultants is collecting data in preparation for entering the building. All the contents of the building will be destroyed, including corporate records, periodicals library and personal effects, according to filings with the Palm Beach County Health Department.
Predicting the cleanup date is a futile exercise, Taylor said.
"We will be in the building as soon as our plan is approved, and it will be approved as soon as the plan is written, and it will be written as soon as we're done collecting information," Taylor said.
3 09:49:02 2003 Pacific Time
University of Maryland Researchers Develop Anthrax Tracking Method
COLLEGE PARK, Md., Sept. 3 (AScribe Newswire) -- University of Maryland researchers have developed a technique to help the FBI track the origins of deadly anthrax spores.
The FBI asked Maryland professor Catherine Fenselau to turn her mass spectrometry lab to the forensic task of sleuthing how bacillus spores, such as anthrax, are prepared.
"There are several common types of chemicals that are used to grow anthrax spores," said Fenselau. "One is agar, and another is a blood-based medium containing heme. People tend to develop and use their own recipe to grow the spores."
"By analyzing for traces of these media, we can say a lot about how the spores were grown. That information can help investigators connect the growth with a certain recipe."
Molecules of organic compounds have specific weights. Mass spectrometry can determine what even a single molecule is based on its unique weight. Mass spectrometry analysis has been accepted as evidence in court cases for about 35 years.
"It's very sensitive and very specific," said Jeff Whiteaker, the post-doctoral researcher who developed the process for detecting the heme medium. "The mass spectrometry-based method is more specific for the heme molecule compared to the traditional methods. Even if we encounter compounds that have the same weight, we can confirm which molecule it is by the way it breaks up in the mass spectrometer."
"Our theory was that if you look at what is stuck to the outside of a spore, you can find out how it became a spore." Fenselau said. "Even when you try to clean up the spores, there are still scraps of stuff on the surface."
The Maryland team worked with five of the most frequently used recipes for blood agar to develop a method to detect and identify heme in any medium. "These bacteria grow on anything that has lots of nutrients available, which the heme medium does," Whiteaker explained. "Microbiologists like to use blood agar to grow bacteria like anthrax, because it mimics conditions in the body."
The Maryland researchers worked with non-toxic bacillus spores, "first cousins that have a similar genome to anthrax, but don't have the capability to synthesize the killer toxins," said Fenselau.
The Maryland researchers worked on the analysis from August, 2002 to February, 2003, producing a method where, said Whiteaker, "the heme medium jumps out."
The heme analysis was developed in collaboration with scientists at the FBI Academy. The team presented its results at an international conference in Montreal in June and expects to publish the technique in a scientific journal soon.
The University of Maryland's mass spectrometry laboratory is one of the most sophisticated in the Washington-Baltimore region. Other research in the lab includes studies of how drug resistance develops in breast cancer patients and development of methods for rapid characterization of airborne microorganisms.
FAIR - OCTOBER 2003
THE MESSAGE IN THE ANTHRAX
After fingering Joe Klein for Primary Colors and helping snare the alleged Atlanta Olympics bomber, the author, a professor of English at Vassar, was asked to analyze the 2001 anthrax letters. Frustrated with the F.B.I.”s anthrax task force, he unseals his investigation of a most intriguing -- and disturbing -- suspect.
BY DON FOSTER
In the spring of 1998, an officer at the Dugway Proving Ground, in Utah, called the veteran biowarrior William C. Patrick III to ask for his help. The army wanted to convert some of its deadly anthrax into a dry powder, but, in Patrick’s words, “didn’t have a freeze-dryer, didn’t have a spray dryer, no drying capability at all.” The Soviets hadn’t let the 1972 biological-and-toxinweapons convention stop them from producing 4,500 metric tons of anthrax per year. But when the Americans signed it, they put Bill Patrick out to pasture and then seemingly forgot the art, developed by Patrick in 1959, of weaponizing Bacillus anthracis without milling. Now Patrick had to re-educate the army’s top microbiologists, showing them how to freeze-dry a slurry of anthrax simulant; how to purify it to a trillion spores per gram in a centrifuge; and how to remove the electrostatic charge, to prevent clumping. On one visit to Dugway, Patrick said he had employed the less sophisticated method of acetone extraction to produce a pound of dry anthrax in a single day -- enough to kill thousands of people. (Patrick now says that he misspoke when he claimed to have produced the pound of anthrax.)
For nearly two decades -- until Richard Nixon shut down America’s offensive bioweapons program in 1969 -- Bill Patrick worked in secret government laboratories, designing and testing germ agents. His skull and- crossbones calling card describes him as a “Biological Warfare Consultant.” An old-school warrior, Patrick, 77, looks like a big teddy bear, but he continually slips into talk of mass destruction. When lecturing on biodefense, he speaks of “beautiful bomblets” and of how many people the U.S. could kill in good weather with a dry bioweapons agent “especially in the Middle East.”
On February 19, 1999, Patrick briefed two dozen officers at Maxwell Air Force Base, in Montgomery, Alabama, on his recent visits to Dugway: “The principles of biological warfare that we discovered 35 to 40 years ago have not changed.” Patrick held up a sealed vial containing eight grams of highly refined powder. “Now you’re very fortunate today,” he said, “that I’ve carried in my suitcase here a sample of anthrax. The only requirement I have is that you don’t drop it.” His audience tittered nervously as the bottle passed from hand to hand.
”I want to bring several things to your attention,” said Patrick. “Look how easily that powder flows. It is composed of three to five microns, the particle size that gets down into your lungs and causes the infection.” Then he came clean. It was not really anthrax but rather Bacillus globigii, or B.g., the army’s anthrax simulant of choice. “Now if you think I’m stupid enough to release anthrax in that powdered form,” Patrick said with a grin, “you’re giving me too much credit.”
Patrick”s B.g. sample was purified to a trillion spores per gram -- near the theoretical limit -- and better than anything ever produced by Iraq, South Africa, or the Soviet Union. An untrained eye could not differentiate it from the anthrax powder that Patrick had produced in 1959. The purpose of the exercise at Dugway, however, was defensive: to prepare our nation for a bioterror attack.
In April 1999, Patrick told Fox News that in two years there will be an attack with a sophisticated agent manufactured overseas. His prediction was not far off the mark.
By October 12, 2001, the press was reporting that Bob Stevens, the 63-year old tabloid photo editor at American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida, who had mysteriously succumbed to inhalational anthrax on October 5, had been infected at work.(Inhalational anthrax comes from breathing in spores, and is far deadlier than the cutaneous form of the disease, which is usually contracted through cuts and scratches in the skin.) Spores were found throughout the A.M.I. building, with hot spots in the mailroom and on the victim’s keyboard.
That day I got a call from supervisory special agent James R. Fitzgerald, a top F.B.I. profiler and threat-assessment expert. He said that anthrax had been discovered at NBC, and that he might be sending me some documents.
For my first 10 years as a professor of English literature at Vassar College, I got no closer to real-life tragedy than Titus Andronicus. Today, much of my time off campus is taken up by police detectives, F.B.I. agents, and district attorneys. My home phone number is unlisted, and my unexpected mail must be X-rayed or discarded. On the shelves of my office, the Great Books have been displaced by the writings of hoaxers, terrorists, kidnappers, the D.C. sniper, the anthrax killer.
It all began in January 1996, when Random House published Primary Colors, “by Anonymous.” The editors of New York magazine asked me to figure out who had written it by applying the same methods I had always used for assigning authorship to ancient poems and anonymous plays. Relying mostly on old-fashioned linguistic analysis, I concluded that “Anonymous” was the Newsweek columnist Joe Klein” who promptly announced on national TV that I was wrong.
Literary scholars look at punctuation, spelling, word usage, regionalisms, slang, grammar, sentence construction, document formatting, topical allusions, ideology, borrowed source material -- but most of our ascribed attributions are for writers like Shakespeare, Pope, or Wordsworth. A dead poet cannot stand up and say, as Joe Klein did, “It’s not me. I didn’t do it. This is silly.”
Five months later, when Klein finally admitted that he had written Primary Colors after all, lawyers and law-enforcement agencies were quick to see a real-world application for the kind of work that I and other scholars perform. I never dreamed that my correct answer would lead me from fiction to Quantico, or to the Montana cabin where the Unabomber scrawled his manifesto, or to the Boulder Police Department to help with the Jon Benet Ramsey homicide investigation, or to Boston’s Irish Mafia, or to Centennial Olympic Park and the so-called Army of God bombings, much less to deadly anthrax at the heart of our own biodefense establishment.
Every day, crimes are committed that involve unsigned or forged documents. When confronted with a “questioned document,” most police detectives seek out experts to analyze the physical evidence. It took Primary Colors for law-enforcement agencies to realize how much can be learned from the writing itself. A first-rate special agent in charge, such as Woody Enderson of the Southeast Bomb Task Force, can turn an investigation around by getting expert help with the linguistic evidence. Following the Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, traditional profiling techniques had at first focused investigative attention on Richard Jewell, who was innocent. Enderson’s task force gathered the Army of God letters from other bombings, along with envelopes, school papers, a grocery list, even marginal annotations in a Bible -- linguistic evidence that helped direct attention to Eric Robert Rudolph. He was arrested on May 31, 2003, after five years on the lam.
The main obstacle to the investigation of anonymous writing is simply that there is so much of it. Take the epidemic of hoax anthrax letters. Since April 1997 (the first recorded incidence of a major mailed anthrax hoax), law-enforcement agencies have responded to countless chemical and biological hoaxes -- an estimated 10,000 of them in October 2001 alone, following the news of Bob Stevens’s infection. Most mailed biothreats contain harmless household powder and an anonymous message from the offender. Police and F.B.I. officials have established a routine for this entire class of documents: Confiscate both the letter and the envelope from the recipient without allowing any copies to be retained. Test the powder to confirm that it is nontoxic. Announce to the press that “the incident will be investigated as a serious crime.” Then place the documents in what’s known as a zero file and never look at them again.
Unfortunately, when that same strategy is applied to the questioned documents in a case as important as the 2001 anthrax murders, critical evidence may be overlooked. Everyone saw reproductions of the New Jersey anthrax letters calling for “DEATH TO AMERICA DEATH TO ISRAEL.” More information has been gleaned from those brief letters than you may suppose. But many of the questioned documents pertinent to the anthrax case have been zero-filed. That is why I have decided finally to speak out.
On the phone that day, S.S.A. Fitzgerald told me that Erin O’Connor, an NBC aide, had been diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax 17 days after opening a powder-filled letter addressed to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw. The letter, postmarked on September 20 in St. Petersburg, Florida, began:
“THE UNTHINKABEL” [The Ns are backward Cyrillic Ns in the original]
SAMPLE OF HOW IT WILL LOOK
Brief but ominous, the handwritten note threatened bioterror attacks on New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
I found the text curious for a number of reasons. First, the quotation marks were done Russian-style, with the opening quotes below the line, and the document’s backward N’s resembled the letter I in Russia’s Cyrillic alphabet. But a bilingual Russian would be unlikely to confuse English and Cyrillic characters. This appeared to be someone’s attempt to make his writing look Russian, or at least foreign. The same went for the block letters, which Russian adults don’t use.
The Brokaw letter matched two other biothreat letters, also from St. Petersburg, mailed 15 days later -- same writing, same backward N’s and Russian quotes, same threats of imminent bioterror. One was sent to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, a co-author of Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War, and the other to Howard Troxler, a columnist for the St. Petersburg Times. Troxler opened his powder-packed letter on Tuesday, October 9. Miller opened hers at her office on Friday the 12th”the same day the NBC infection was diagnosed.
“THE UNTHINKABEL” looked like a deliberate misspelling, but why had it been placed in quotation marks” Turning to the Internet, I found announcements for a disaster-management conference to be held in Orlando called “It Could Happen to You -- Preparing for the Unthinkable” and featuring talks on bioterror readiness. The St. Petersburg letters, with their arrows and lists and dashes, vaguely resembled a slide from a Power- Point presentation, a common feature at scientific conferences. Then, too, Howard Troxler’s surname -- in the letter proper, though not on the envelope -- was spelled “TOXLER.” Could the error have been in-advertent, I wondered, a reflexive misspelling by someone used to writing such words as “toxic,” “toxicity,” “toxins,” “toxicology,” “toxoid?“
Linking bioterror to 9/11, the Florida letter writer warned of the destruction of Tampa Bay’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge and Chicago’s Sears Tower. Those threats were not credible -- terrorists do not send advance notice of their targets -- but the powder seemed to be “THE REAL THING,” as the sender phrased it. One NBC aide was infected, and a man in Florida was dead.
On balance, the St. Petersburg letters looked to me to be the work of a scientist. The linguistic evidence and choice of targets pointed to an offender interested in biodefense: 9/11, he seemed to be saying, could be the prologue to something worse -- a sweeping epidemic of biological terrorism, for which our nation stood unprepared.
It soon came out, however, that the F.B.I. had recovered the wrong threatening letter. Laboratory analysis indicated that the white substance enclosed in the three St. Petersburg biothreats was nontoxic. Erin O’Connor must have been infected from another source. A fresh search of segregated NBC mail turned up a second letter, one with anthrax traces, likewise addressed to Tom Brokaw but written by someone else and postmarked on September 18 in Trenton. The letter read:
Here, then, were two powder-filled biothreats addressed to the same news anchor, two days and 1,000 miles apart. Neither writer could have known of the other unless they were in cahoots. But the powder in the New Jersey Brokaw letter was indeed the real thing. America, still reeling from September 11, was under attack by biological terrorists. On Monday, October 15, a taped-up envelope ostensibly sent by schoolchildren was delivered to the office of then Senate majority leader Tom Daschle in Washington, D.C. When it was opened, a cloud of powder burst into the air. This letter read:
Powder samples from both the Brokaw and Daschle letters were couriered to Fort Detrick, headquarters of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), in Frederick, Maryland. The USAMRIID scientists were alarmed by what they discovered. It was the same stuff that had killed Bob Stevens, the tabloid photo editor, in Florida: the Ames strain, used in the U.S. biodefense program. The distribution of Ames, regulated by USAMRIID, was limited to about a dozen labs under tight security controls. Moreover, the anthrax had been weaponized, refined to its most lethal particle size of one to three microns. Most astonishing was its purity: the powder had been concentrated to a trillion spores per gram.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday afternoon, October 16, Senator Daschle described the dry anthrax sent to his office as “very potent.” Dr. Richard Spertzel, the former chief bio-inspector for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, went a step further. Describing the powder as “weapons grade,” Spertzel told ABC that he knew of fewer than five experts in the United States with the capability to produce such material.
While East Coast postal workers expressed alarm, commanders at Fort Detrick objected to the term “weaponized.” The F.B.I. and USAMRIID convened for an emergency interagency conference call. They agreed upon the terms “professionally done” and “energetic.” Government spokespersons were instructed to use these words, not “weaponized,” to describe the anthrax contained in the New Jersey letters. On Wednesday, a somber Senator Daschle sponsored a news conference. At his side stood Fort Detrick’s commander, Major General John Parker, who called the Daschle powder “a garden variety” anthrax “sensitive to all antibiotics.”
Two weeks later, appearing before the Senate’s Governmental Affairs Committee, Parker testified that the terms “professionally done” and “energetic” were chosen “as more appropriate descriptions in lieu of any real familiarity with weaponized materials.” Parker seemed unaware that the army for the past decade has conducted extensive biodefense research on weaponized materials, both at USAMRIID and at the Dugway Proving Ground, and has even pushed to duplicate a hybrid anthrax produced by the old Soviet program. But by the time Parker explained his choice of words to the Senate committee, two Washington postal workers, Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr., who had credited reports that mail handlers were not at risk, had died, and several others were critically ill.
When the F.B.I. first approached me about this case, I was perfectly willing to believe that the anthrax was “garden variety” and that it had been sent by Muslim extremists. In fact, I was puzzled at first that the government was so quick to announce that this was probably a case of domestic, not foreign, terrorism. But as I analyzed the letters from New Jersey, I did see some red “flags” or, rather, red-white-and-blue ones.
The Brokaw and Daschle letters were dated “09-11-01.” Most Americans write their dates in that order -- month, day, year -- while most of the rest of the world writes the date in day-month-year sequence. Might the offender be American? Maybe, maybe not. All who come to this country, including terrorists, learn from the moment they fill in their I.N.S. port-of-entry cards that American practice calls for the form MM-DD-YY. But why write the date at all? And why that date?
The New Jersey Brokaw letter was postmarked September 18 and the Daschle letter October 9. Neither letter was stamped on September 11. This offender wanted the authorities to explore a connection between the anthrax attacks and 9/11. But when an offender gives you unnecessary information that tells you what to think, you probably want to think twice.
The return address on the Daschle letter supplied more extraneous information: “FRANKLIN PARK, NJ 08852.” From an online search I learned that there is a Franklin Park in New Jersey, 22 miles north of Trenton, where the letters were postmarked. But the Zip Code, 08852, corresponds to another New Jersey town, Monmouth Junction. The three communities run parallel to I-95. Clearly, the offender knew something about New Jersey, and with all of those dropped geographic clues, he surely knew that the authorities would look for him there. I had a hunch he’d turn up somewhere else, though probably within driving distance.
The Daschle letter -- which was identical to a letter sent to Senator Patrick Leahy that remained undiscovered until November 16, 2001 -- had this return address: “4TH GRADE, GREENDALE SCHOOL.” The fictional school address was designed to make the envelope look harmless, and fourth graders in this country do indeed write letters to their elected representatives, often as a class project. Is that a piece of cultural information that would be known and referenced by an al-Qaeda cell?
Since there is no such school in New Jersey, I searched for Greendale schools elsewhere and found several, two of which, in Canada, had made headlines the year before, one for an arson fire and the other for a case of child molestation. A third Greendale School, in Maryland, had made news in 1973 in connection with forced desegregation. I made a note of it. It’s not uncommon for the writers of criminal threats to draw on their own experience and reading.
On Tuesday, October 23, I appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to offer a few observations. Were we supposed to believe that this “professionally made” anthrax powder was packaged and mailed by someone who thought penicillin would be the antibiotic of choice, and who didn’t even know how to spell it? That “penacilin” was the offender’s way of saying, “Look, I don’t know much about antibiotics. I don’t even know how to spell “penicillin.” So don’t start thinking that I’m an American scientist. I’m just a semi-literate foreign fanatic.”
Five days earlier, Johanna Huden, an assistant for the New York Post editorial page, was diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax. Searching a bag of segregated mail at the Post’s editorial office in Manhattan, F.B.I. agents discovered a letter identical to the New Jersey Brokaw letter. The powder tested positive. That same week in New York, a staffer at CBS and the infant son of an ABC News producer were diagnosed with cutaneous infections, but no contaminated letters were recovered.
A Florida tabloid, ABC, CBS, NBC, the Post, the U.S. Senate. Well-taped envelopes with a note inside warning the recipient to seek medical treatment because Muslim bioterrorists were on the loose. None of this added up to an al- Qaeda operation, but neither did it look like the work of a random serial killer. Somebody was trying to deliver a message -- a message that kept getting lost in the shuffle.
I tried to imagine the culprit’s point of view, based on my hypothesis that an American scientist might be responsible: September 11: America is under attack. John Doe, American biowarrior, knows that if the enemy escalates from airplanes to anthrax we’re in trouble. There is too little spent on biodefense, and the F.D.A. has halted production of the BioPort anthrax vaccine. It might take a dose of the real thing to put the nation on high alert and straighten out our government’s priorities. Taped envelope seals will prevent the powder from escaping before the letters reach their destination. And the enclosed message will ensure that all recipients are given the antibiotic Cipro in time to prevent fatalities. America’s leading biowarriors -- including, perhaps, John Doe himself -- will receive the kind of recognition and respect they have long deserved.
Within days of the 9/11 attack, the F.B.I. announces that several of the hijackers had been based in Delray Beach, Florida. Wasting no time, John Doe takes his cue: the nation’s first anthrax attack will take place in Palm Beach County. The authorities will associate the anthrax attack with that Delray terror cell. An Internet search supplies John Doe with an apt target: American Media Inc., a publisher of supermarket tabloids. When the letter arrives, the police will be called, and the powder tested. When they discover it is the real thing, biodefense will become the nation’s top concern.
Out goes the first Florida letter, to A.M.I. Oddly, nothing happens. To John Doe, it seems as if his anthrax letter has been discarded without being opened. Meanwhile, the F.B.I. has learned that some of the remaining hijackers were based in New Jersey. John Doe prepares a fresh salvo. His targets this time will include NBC and the New York Post, possibly ABC and CBS. On September 18, from New Jersey, John Doe mails a new batch of anthrax letters, this time with a more explicit message: “DEATH TO AMERICA. DEATH TO ISRAEL. ALLAH IS GREAT.”
Surely, one of those letters will be opened. John Doe watches the news from September 18 through October 1. Still nothing. Then, on October 4, comes the grim news that a photo editor at American Media Inc. in Boca Raton has been diagnosed with inhalational anthrax. So the letter was opened after all, and not credited. It’s too late now to save the victim. On October 5, Bob Stevens dies. John Doe has now killed a man, and the nation has not heard the wake-up call because the authorities think Stevens, an outdoorsman, may have gotten the disease “naturally.” John Doe waits a few more days, hoping that one of his September 18 letters will be opened. Not one scores a hit.
The offender is now in the uncomfortable position of having to warn the nation not only about the al-Qaeda threat but also about his own unnoticed handiwork. On October 9, he mails letters to two liberal U.S. senators, adding about a gram of his best material to each envelope, his deadliest payload yet. This time, the whole nation will sit up straight. The two senators will be put on Cipro, and no one else will get hurt.
On October 12, John Doe’s NBC letter of September 18 is discovered. Finally, all Americans will understand our vulnerability to biological terrorism. Unfortunately, the post-office sorting machines were a little too rough on the envelopes. A lot more people than John Doe ever intended are about to get sick.
On October 31, 2001, Fort Detrick’s commander was on Capitol Hill speaking to a congressional committee about “energetic” anthrax hours after Kathy Nguyen, 61, a South Bronx hospital worker, died from inhalational anthrax. Swabs were taken from her home, her workplace, and her mailbox, but not a single spore was discovered.
I sent an e-mail to a friend in the F.B.I.’s New York field office. Forensics are not my department, I wrote, but has the Amerithrax Task Force assigned to the investigation taken swabs from garbage dumpsters? If Nguyen dropped her trash into a Dumpster that already contained anthrax discarded by the offender, or, possibly, an anthrax-laced letter discarded by ABC, CBS, NBC, or the Post, then might those spores have spread into the air in sufficient quantity to be inhaled?
My source wrote back to say that “they think Nguyen got a real snout full of anthrax.” The task force hoped that this latest fatality would lead them straight to the killer. Perhaps there was a person or location that could account for her exposure to airborne anthrax. “They are still looking for that secret place,” my source wrote. In the end, though, Kathy Nguyen’s death was written off as an insoluble mystery.
In November, some of the West’s top biowarriors converged on Swindon, England, for an advanced training course for the United Nations Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission. One of the big names on hand for the conference was Steven J. Hatfill, a former USAMRIID virologist and a protégé of Bill Patrick’s. Those who completed the course and were certified would have a chance to join the search for Saddam’s bioweapons in Iraq. While the 12-day course was under way, someone sent another biothreat letter, postmarked in November in London, to Senator Daschle. When the powder proved nontoxic, the letter was filed away and escaped further scrutiny.
Ninety-four-year-old Ottilie Lundgren
of Oxford, Connecticut, succumbed to anthrax on November 21, making her
the fifth fatality. The infection was believed to have come from a cross-contaminated
letter. If you have a compromised immune system, it takes only a few spores
for B. anthracis to begin its silent work inside your body. Lundgren had
simply been unlucky. An estimated 85 million pieces of mail were
processed by the Washington, D.C., and New Jersey postal facilities while
By the time the F.B.I. showed up in Connecticut to investigate the Lundgren case, the press was hungry for news, but the Amerithrax Task Force was saying little about its search for the killer. After an F.B.I. agent mentioned something about “the Camel Club,” Dave Altimari and Jack Dolan of the Hartford Courant searched online legal archives for the phrase. They found a lawsuit, not yet resolved, involving Dr. Ayaad Assaad, an Arab-American scientist who worked at USAMRIID until he was laid off in 1997. Dolan and Altimari gave Assaad’s attorney a call and got an earful.
An American citizen since 1981, the Egyptian-born Assaad, 54, is grateful to his adopted country and proud of the ricin vaccine that he developed during his eight years as a civilian research scientist for the U.S. Army. But after Assaad transferred to USAMRIID, in 1989, he claimed in his lawsuit, several white, American-born pathologists founded “the Camel Club,” whose purpose was to harass and humiliate him.
Assaad says he experienced continued harassment until his unexpected layoff in March 1997. Given 60 days to vacate, Assaad packed up on May 9, 1997, said goodbye to his colleagues, and headed for the door. He says he was stopped by USAMRIID guards who, with a superior’s help, rummaged through his belongings in a vain search for stolen army property. (The U.S. Army denies that Assaad was discriminated against or wrongfully dismissed. The case is currently in appeals court.)
New USAMRIID hires that year, following Assaad’s departure, included Steven J. Hatfill, a recruit from the National Institutes of Health. Hatfill was a concept man with a detailed vision for building mobile germ labs. Assaad, meanwhile, took a job with the Environmental Protection Agency, where he now works as a toxicologist testing pesticides.
Assaad told Dolan and Altimari that he was at home in Frederick, Maryland, on October 2, 2001, when he received a call from Agent Gregory Leylegian of the F.B.I., summoning him to a meeting the next morning. It was the same day American Media’s Bob Stevens entered J.F.K. Medical Center in Atlantis, Florida.
Assaad and his attorney, Rosemary McDermott, arrived at the Washington, D.C., field office at 10 A.M. They were met by Agents Leylegian and Mark Buie, who explained that an anonymous letter had been mailed to the “Town of Quantico Police,” identifying Assaad as a fanatic with the will and means to launch a bioterror attack on the United States. Buie read the one-page, single-spaced, computer-generated 212-word letter aloud. Assaad, who holds a Ph.D. in physiology from Iowa State University in Ames and is married to a Nebraskan, was shocked by the letter's depiction of him as a potential terrorist.
Agent Buie asked what the letter writer might have meant by “further terrorist activity.” “Put it this way,” McDermott said, “Dr. Assaad is suing the army for discrimination and wrongful dismissal. Some people are pretty upset with him about that.” Buie and Leylegian had no reason to think that a bioterror attack was imminent. The Quantico letter was postmarked September 21, a day after the Florida Brokaw letter and three days after the New Jersey Brokaw letter that contained the real thing, but those documents had not yet come to light.
Dr. Assaad wondered what he would do if the government revoked his citizenship or if he could no longer work at the Environmental Protection Agency. When Assaad left USAMRIID in 1997, he thought his ordeal was over. Now, four years later, he stood accused as a traitor to his country, a corrupter of his sons, a dangerous psychopath, a bioterrorist.
It was now December 2001, yet Dolan and Altimari’s Hartford Courant story was the first I had heard of the Quantico letter. S.S.A. Fitzgerald had not heard of it, either. In fact, there were quite a few critical documents that Fitzgerald had not yet seen. What, I wondered, has the anthrax task force been doing” Hoping that the Quantico letter might lead, if not to the killer, at least to a suspect, I offered to examine the document. My photocopy arrived by FedEx not from the task force but from F.B.I. headquarters in Washington. Searching through documents by some 40 USAMRIID employees, I found writings by a female officer that looked like a perfect match. I wrote a detailed report on the evidence, but the anthrax task force declined to follow through: the Quantico letter had already been declared a hoax and zero-filed as part of the 9/11 investigation.
When Assaad’s attorney sought, under the Freedom of Information Act, to obtain a copy, the Justice Department denied her request: releasing the document “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of third parties” and “disclose the identities of confidential sources.”
Six months after the first deadly powder-bearing letter was mailed, five months after my initial call from the F.B.I., I still had only the four anthrax letters and envelopes, the three biothreats mailed nearly simultaneously from St. Petersburg, and the Quantico letter. The F.B.I. hadn’t identified a suspect and had only the anthrax itself by which to search for the offender. Barring further incidents, we would have to look for other extant writings by the anthrax killer. But where does one even begin looking?
Because the New Jersey and Florida letters seemed related and possibly collaborative, I searched for stories of past so-called hoaxes -- and uncovered a trail of seemingly related biothreat incidents, several of which exhibited language and writing strategies similar to those of the New Jersey and Florida documents. The earliest incident occurred in April 1997. Signing himself “The Counter Holocaust Lobbyists of Hillel” -- phraseology borrowed from the Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel -- someone sent a petri dish to the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith. The dish, broken in the mail, contained Bacillus cereus, or B.c., an anthrax simulant used for biodefense research. A hazardous materials team was called in. Whole city blocks were evacuated. But the writing was not examined, the document was zerofiled, and no arrest was made. Net cost to taxpayers: $2 million.
It was while looking for information on the B’nai B’rith incident that I found a Washington Times interview with Steven Hatfill, then a virologist with the N.I.H., who was said to have “thought carefully about bioterrorism.” The Times paraphrased Dr. Hatfill”s explanation of the “four levels” of possible biological attack:
The first is the B’nai B’rith variety, in which no real organisms are used. (“Hello. This is Abdul. We have put anthrax in the food at Throckmorton Middle School.” In fact, Abdul hasn’t.) We empty public buildings for bomb threats, how about for anthrax threats” After all, sooner or later, one might be real.
The second level consists in the release of real bacteria, but without the intention of infecting many people. Probably only a few people would get it, and perhaps none would die.
The third level consists in trying to get a lot of people sick, and maybe dead. Anthrax spores put into the ventilation system of a movie theater would do the trick. The result would be horrendous panic even if only 100 people got sick or died. ...
The fourth level consists of a self-sustaining, unstoppable epidemic.
How hard, really, would it be to carry out a bio-attack? Not very, Hatfill said. Culturing bacteria is easy and almost universally understood.
I searched the Internet for a Throckmorton school and found nothing of interest outside Throckmorton, Texas, except for the Throckmorton Plant Sciences Center at Kansas State University, where courses are taught on agricultural pathogens. Could there be a connection, I wondered, between the “Throckmorton Middle School” scenario and the anthrax killer’s “Greendale School?”
Searching further, I learned that the B’nai B’rith episode occurred a few months after mysterious gas incidents at Washington National Airport (now Reagan National) and Baltimore- Washington International Airport. On both occasions, passengers were overcome with noxious fumes not publicly identified by investigators. Ten months later, people again fell ill at Washington National and had to be hospitalized after reporting fumes. In January 1998, after the third airport incident in a year, The Washington Times’ magazine, Insight, published a second interview with Hatfill, who said, “These types of incidents could be a form of testing for a possible future terrorist attack -- perhaps next time using anthrax.”
This ominous commentary was accompanied by a photograph of Hatfill at home, in his kitchen, wearing garbage bags, gloves, and an army-supply gas mask, illustrating how a bioterrorist might cook up bubonic plague in a private laboratory and cause havoc using a homemade spray disseminator such as the one Hatfill had designed himself. All of which seemed, to me, an unusual hobby for a virologist then employed by the National Institutes of Health.
Then I found another interesting news item. Shortly after Insight published its ghoulish photograph of Hatfill in his home laboratory, a white male, wearing a gas mask, deposited a bottle outside the U.S. Treasury Building. An anonymous call was then placed alerting the U.S. Secret Service that it contained “liquid chemical warfare agent.” The bottle, though found, was not preserved -- it was, after all, just a “hoax.”
In its interview with Hatfill, Insight reported that he had worked in Zimbabwe in the late 1970s when “an epidemic of anthrax from natural causes affected 10,000 people.” In fact, Hatfill had been in apartheid Rhodesia from 1978 to 1980 (the year it was renamed Zimbabwe), and witnessed the worst outbreak of anthrax ever recorded -- in a part of Africa where anthrax was rarely encountered. During the civil war to topple the apartheid government, the southern Tribal Trust Lands were ravaged by an epidemic that caused 10,738 recorded human infections in about two years. Today, black Zimbabweans and their livestock are still becoming ill and dying from the biological fallout.
That the outbreak was “natural” is debatable. In 1992, Dr. Meryl Nass, an American physician, and Jeremy Brickhill, a Zimbabwean journalist, published separate reports supporting what was already suspected: that the Rhodesian anthrax epidemic was deliberate, a biowarfare attack on the black townships, probably carried out by Rhodesia’s notorious government-backed Selous Scouts militia.
In January 2002, while compiling documents by and about Hatfill, including his unclassified scientific publications, I found a brief autobiography. In it, Hatfill, though American, boasted of having served in the late 1970s with the Selous Scouts in Rhodesia. In that same brief bio, Dr. Hatfill indicated that he had taken his medical degree from the Godfrey Huggins School of Medicine in Harare, Rhodesia, which he attended from 1978 to '84. Next I searched the Internet for a Greendale School somewhere in Africa and discovered the Courteney Selous School, situated in the wealthy, white Harare suburb of Greendale, a mile from the medical school where Hatfill spent six years obtaining his M.D. while serving, by his own unconfirmed account, with the Selous Scouts.
Steven Hatfill was now looking to me like a suspect, or at least, as the F.B.I. would denote him eight months later, “a person of interest.” When I lined up Hatfill’s known movements with the postmark locations of reported biothreats, those hoax anthrax attacks appeared to trail him like a vapor cloud. But in February 2002, shortly after I advanced his candidacy to my contact at F.B.I. headquarters, I was told that Mr. Hatfill had a good alibi. A month later, when I pressed the issue, I was told, “Look, Don, maybe you’re spending too much time on this.” Good people in the Department of Defense, C.I.A., and State Department, not to mention Bill Patrick, had vouched for Hatfill. I decided to give it a rest. But first, I faxed a comparative-handwriting sample to F.B.I. headquarters, with examples of Hatfill’s printing on the left and printing by the anthrax offender on the right. I am not a handwriting expert, so I supplied the document without comment. A week later, I got a thank-you call.
In 1999, Hatfill was fired by USAMRIID. He was then hired at Science Applications International Corporation (S.A.I.C.), a contractor for the Department of Defense and the C.I.A., but he departed S.A.I.C. in March 2002, a month after he took a polygraph concerning the anthrax matter that he says he passed. Hatfill at the time was building a mobile germ lab out of an old truck chassis, and after S.A.I.C. fired him he continued work on it using his own money. When the F.B.I. wanted to confiscate the mobile lab to test it for anthrax spores, the army resisted, moving the trailer to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where it was used to train Special Forces in preparation for the war on Iraq. The classes were taught by Steve Hatfill and Bill Patrick.
In March 2002, as the F.B.I. continued to investigate, Hatfill moved on to a $150,000- a-year job in Louisiana, funded by a grant from the Department of Justice. That same month, from Louisiana, came a fresh batch of hoax anthrax letters. L.S.U.’s Martin Hugh-Jones, a World Health Organization director, examined the powder they contained and found it to be nontoxic. The letters were then put into a zero file without their language being examined by a trained professional.
On the night of March 12, Ayaad Assaad received a call from a person representing himself as a Louisiana F.B.I. agent. The caller demanded to know if Assaad had been told who wrote the Quantico letter. To prove his credentials, the caller rattled off personal information from as far back as Assaad’s Egyptian high school -- the Arabic name of which he pronounced correctly. Assaad believes he recognized the caller’s source of information: he was likely reading from Assaad’s confidential SF-171, a U.S.-government employment application form that had been on file at USAMRIID.
Frightened, Dr. Assaad hung up, then called me at home at 10 P.M. to tell me of the incident. I assured him the call was fraudulent. The F.B.I. does not conduct its business in that way.
There were, in my opinion, a few people whose recorded voices should be played back to Assaad to see if he recognized one of them as his anonymous caller. Though it is a felony to impersonate an F.B.I. agent, the task force decided not to investigate. According to Assaad, when he finally called the F.B.I., he was told to get caller ID.
In December 2001, Dr. Barbara
Hatch Rosenberg, a noted bioweapons expert, delivered a paper contending
that the perpetrator of the anthrax crimes was an American microbiologist
whose training and possession of Ames-strain powder pointed to a government
insider with experience in a U.S. military lab. In March 2002, she
told the BBC that the anthrax deaths may have resulted from a secret project
to examine the practicability of sending real anthrax through the mail
-- an experiment that misfired despite such precautions as taped envelope
seals. That surprising hypothesis made Rosenberg a target for knee-jerk
criticism, but competent sources within the biowarfare
In April, I met Rosenberg for lunch at an Indian restaurant in Brewster, New York, and compared notes. We found that our evidence had led us in the same direction, though by different routes and for different reasons.
The weeks dragged on. Prodded publicly by Rosenberg and privately by myself, the F.B.I.’s anthrax task force nevertheless seemed stubbornly unwilling to consider the evidence pointing toward a military insider or to examine the Quantico letter or those few “hoax” biothreats that I believed, and still believe, may shed light on the anthrax murders. The additional documents that I had been expecting from the F.B.I. never arrived. S.S.A. Fitzgerald, the F.B.I.’s top in-house text analyst, asked to examine the same set of documents and received the same answer: no. I'm not an insider, nor an old hand. I have worked with the F.B.I. for only six years, on no more than 20 investigations. But never have I encountered such reluctance to examine potentially critical documents.
Meanwhile, friends of Fort Detrick were leaking to the press new pieces of disinformation indicating that the mailed anthrax probably came from Iraq. The leaks included false allegations that the Daschle anthrax included additives distinctive to the Iraqi arms program and that it had been dried using an atomizer spray dryer sold by Denmark to Iraq.
Her patience exhausted, Dr. Rosenberg met with the Senate Judiciary Committee staff on June 18, 2002, and laid out the evidence, such as it was, hers and mine. Van Harp, head of the Amerithrax Task Force, sat in on the briefing. The senators were attentive. So, too, evidently, was Harp: exactly one week after Rosenberg’s meeting with the Judiciary Committee staff, the F.B.I. searched Hatfill’s residence. A bureau spokesman described it to The Washington Times as a “voluntary search” without a warrant, “requested” by Dr. Hatfill to clear his name.
Suddenly I was being flooded with documents from reporters and concerned scientists: letters, e-mails, curricula vitae, handwriting samples, and original .fiction by Steve Hatfill. I learned from one document that Hatfill had audited a Super Terrorism seminar in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 1997, the day of the B’nai B’rith incident. The next day, in a letter to the seminar’s organizer, Edgar Brenner, he wrote that he was “tremendously interested in becoming more involved in this area” and noted that the petri-dish scare, so soon after the seminar, showed that “this topic is vital to the security of the United States.” Hatfill’s original fiction included a cut-and-paste forgery of a diploma for a Ph.D. from Rhodes University, which he used to obtain his jobs at the N.I.H., USAMRIID, and S.A.I.C.
No less interesting to me, as a professor of English literature, was Hatfill’s unpublished novel, Emergence, which I examined in Washington at the U.S. Copyright Office. In the book, an Iraqi virologist launches a bioterror attack on behalf of an unnamed sponsor, using an identity acquired from the Irish Republican Army and a homemade sprayer like the one Steven J. Hatfill demonstrated for The Washington Times. A fictional scientist named Steven J. Roberts comes to the rescue, tracing the outbreak to Iraq. The Strangelovean novel ends with America nuking Baghdad. As the warheads fall, the pilot remarks, “Beautiful . . . just beautiful. Welcome to Fuck City, Ragheads! Let”s get the hell out of Dodge.”
I was reminded of Bill Patrick’s words in his talk at Maxwell Air Force Base: “The beauty of biological warfare, good people, is that you can pick an agent with a short period of incubation, or a moderate period of incubation, or a long period. And this, I think, would be very attractive to terrorists, because they can do their dirty work and get out of Dodge City, and you won’t know that you”re infected till they’re long gone.”
Hatfill’s novel, however, has a surprise ending. In a three-page epilogue, the narrator, a Russian mobster, reveals that his own organization, not Iraq, is responsible for the bioterror attack:
“The reaction was as great as we had hoped for the entire focus of the American F.B.I. has now shifted towards combating chemical/ biological terrorism and this is allowing us to formulate the unprecedented expansion of our organization.”
Biowarfare fiction was no mere lark for Steven Hatfill. It was his specialty. His responsibilities at USAMRIID included the writing of bioterror scenarios, at least one of which actually happened. Hatfill envisioned someone spreading a pathogen throughout several floors of a public office building. It would take only one reported illness, he predicted, “to shut down the entire building, especially if the bug had been sprayed on several .floors. Then the call comes: “Let our man loose, or we’ll do a school.”“ In August 1998, in Wichita, Kansas, 40 miles southeast of Southwestern College, Hatfill’s alma mater, powder was spread throughout several floors of the Finney State Office Building. Then came “the call,” in the form of a letter from a team of Christian Identity extremists and a group calling itself Brothers for Freedom of Americans.
A few days later, Hatfill and Bill Patrick arrived in San Diego for the Worldwide Conference on Antiterrorism, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. I asked my F.B.I. contact for the Wichita documents. Again, my requests were denied.
The ink was hardly dry on Emergence when the government hired Hatfill, now working for S.A.I.C., to commission a paper from Bill Patrick focusing on how to respond to a biological terror event.
I have read Patrick’s 1999 report “Risk Assessment.” Though it’s a classified document, it contains little that he hasn’t said before elsewhere. I did, however, find in it something that surprised me: Patrick describes a hypothetical incident in which an attacker uses the U.S. mail service to deliver a business envelope containing no more than 2.5 grams of aerosolized anthrax, refined to a trillion spores per gram, in particles smaller than five microns. Patrick explains that 2.5 grams is the amount that can be placed into a standard envelope without detection. “More powder makes the envelope bulge and draws attention.”
As prophecies go, that one’s right on the money. The “DEATH TO AMERICA” letters sent two years later to Senators Daschle and Leahy contained about a gram of aerosolized anthrax, particle size one to three microns, refined to a trillion spores per gram. Bill Patrick plus the Dugway scientists make up Richard Spertzel’s short list of four U.S. experts who know how to make such a fine dry powder. The anthrax killer, whoever he may be, represents a fifth expert with Patrick’s bench skills. But until the Daschle powder appeared, every quoted expert I had seen except Patrick said it couldn’t be done at all.
After rumors broke that Bill Patrick, in a classified paper, had foreseen a bioterror attack using the mail service, a transcript of his paper was leaked to the press. The leaked version represents Patrick’s original text for S.A.I.C., typos and all, but with one critical omission: a footnote in which Patrick claims that the U.S. has refined “weaponized” powder to a trillion spores per gram has disappeared.
By midsummer 2002, the F.B.I. and even Attorney General John Ashcroft were obliged to call Steve Hatfill a “person of interest,” despite diehard assurances from other government sources that he wasn’t. That August, the F.B.I. returned to Hatfill’s Maryland apartment. Searching his refrigerator, agents found a canister of Bacillus thuringiensis, or B.t. -- a mostly harmless pesticide widely used on caterpillars -- which USAMRIID adopted for study in 1995, after UNSCOM discovered that B.t. was Iraq’s favored anthrax simulant.
On August 25, in a second dramatic press conference, Hatfill, having shaved his mustache of 20 years, protested his persecution. This was the first I had seen of my suspect. He was five feet eleven and 210 pounds, with pale-blue eyes and a downturned mouth. He would not mind being investigated, he said, except that Attorney General Ashcroft “has broken the Ninth Commandment: Thou shalt not bear false witness.” With these words, Hatfill’s voice cracked and his eyes welled up with tears. His emotional display won over many hearts, even among the usually cynical Washington press corps.
The American press seems to enjoy dumping on the F.B.I. For the first nine months of the investigation, it was said that the F.B.I. was spinning its wheels. Ever since, it’s been said that the F.B.I. has ruined a man’s life -- that Steve Hatfill is a second Richard Jewell, the long-suffering suspect in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. In May, one F.B.I. team trailed Hatfill so closely that its S.U.V. ran over his foot. Then the Washington police ticketed him for “walking to create a hazard.”
I know something about the Centennial Olympic Park serial bomber, because I helped -- using linguistic evidence gleaned from the Army of God letters -- to direct investigative attention on to Eric Robert Rudolph. And it is my opinion, based on the documents I have examined, that Hatfill is no Richard Jewell. The F.B.I.”s early Centennial Olympic Park bombing suspect was said to fit a behavior profile of domestic bombers, but I found nothing in Jewell’s use of language to implicate him as a terrorist. As for Hatfill, it was the F.B.I.”s best team of trained bloodhounds, not an offender profile nor my text analysis, that finally persuaded the Amerithrax Task Force in July 2002 to associate Hatfill with the anthrax letters and put him under 24-hour surveillance. The bureau’s description of him as a “person of interest” is neither inaccurate nor unfair. (Through his lawyer, Hatfill maintained his innocence and declined to comment for this article.)
One thing I’ve learned about the F.B.I. in my years as a civilian consultant is that the bureau is a compartmentalized house of secrets. Each field office and task force guards its information and documents like a treasure trove, and no one office, not even F.B.I. headquarters, has direct access to the whole picture. But the F.B.I. is an open book compared with our biowarfare establishment. The Pentagon has a long history of clandestine experimentation on human guinea pigs that bears looking into. In 1952, for example, the army conducted open-air tests at Fort McClellan, Alabama, with bioweapons simulants that, though bacterial, were supposedly harmless. When local respiratory illness skyrocketed and dozens of civilians died, the army quietly discontinued use of the problem simulant and carried on with another.
Then there’s the 1965 simulated attack on the New York City subway. On June 8 of that year, under Bill Patrick’s direction, the subway was targeted with the anthrax simulant B.g. Lightbulbs, each containing 87 trillion spores, were dropped onto the tracks. Trains then sucked the clouds of live bacteria into the subway system. C.I.A. and military scientists, bearing fake ID”s, were on location to count the spores. More than a million riders were exposed to B.g. that day; many inhaled more than a million spores per minute. Patrick, when telling this story, still chuckles about how “we clobbered the Lexington line with B.g.” What he doesn’t say is that, during a similar test in San Francisco in 1950, one person died from B.g. complications and many others fell ill. The cause of the fatality was not discovered until 1977, when the U.S. Army, in Senate subcommittee hearings, finally disclosed its mock biological attack on San Francisco. (“We clobbered downtown San Francisco with Bacillus globigii,” Bill Patrick told his Maxwell Air Force Base audience in February 1999. “This was very successful.”) No one knows how many riders may have become sick from the 1965 New York” subway test. The experiment was kept secret for 20 years. By then, the statute of limitations for lawsuits was long past and contemporary medical records were hard to come by.
It’s also a matter of record that in 1965 military scientists gassed Washington National Airport and a Greyhound bus terminal, using B.g. Most Americans would like to think that our government doesn’t do that kind of thing anymore. I’d like to report, for example, that our military had nothing to do with those three gas incidents at Baltimore- Washington and Washington National airports in 1997. Though the F.B.I. won’t confirm it, I’ve been told at least one of those three events involved the dissemination not of B.g. but of B.t., the same substance the F.B.I. discovered in Hatfill’s refrigerator in August 2002.
It is not my job to indict or to try my own suspect for the anthrax murders. And even if the F.B.I. should find hard evidence linking Hatfill to a crime, he will remain innocent until proved guilty. But all Americans have a right to know more about the system that allowed Steven Hatfill to become one of the nation’s leading bioterror experts. Here is a fellow with a fake Ph.D. who posed for The Washington Times as a bioterrorist with a homemade plague disseminator, and who boasted as recently as last year of having served with the apartheid government’s notorious Selous Scouts during the Rhodesian anthrax epidemic. I have three different editions of his curriculum vitae, each one a tissue of lies. How did such a rascal come to be instructing the C.I.A., F.B.I., Defense Intelligence Agency, army, navy, Marines, U.S. marshals, and State Department on such matters as the handling of deadly pathogens and of bioterror incidents” How did he happen to acquire, to quote from his résumé, a “working knowledge of the former U.S. and foreign BW [biowarfare] programs, wet and dry BW agents, largescale production of bacterial, rickettsial, and viral BW pathogens and toxins, stabilizers and other additives, former BG simulant production methods, open air testing and vulnerability trials, single and 2 fluid nozzle dissemination, [and] bomblet design?” How did he obtain clearance to operate in top military labs on exotic viral pathogens, such as Ebola, and on Level 3 pathogens such as bubonic plague and anthrax?
In August 2000, Hatfill trained
forces at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, using a makeshift bioterror
“kitchen” lab that he built himself out of scavenged parts, as well as
biosafety cabinets taken from USAMRIID. The borrowed cabinets, suitable
for turning germs into weapons, are still missing and are said to have
been destroyed. Hatfill, a certified scuba diver, once spoke of how
to use a pond in the Frederick Municipal Forest”a few miles from his former
residence in Maryland” to dispose of toxins. On that information, the F.B.I.
searched Whiskey Springs Pond and found a
This summer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press ran stories on Hatfill’s activities as a designer of simulated bioterror labs. None mentioned that Hatfill sprayed his trainees with samples of aerosolized B.g. When questioned about these activities, Hatfill, in apparent contradiction of his 2002 résumé, denied having knowledge of how to refine a dry bacterial powder to the level achieved by army scientists.
The most curious piece of fieldwork noted on Steven Hatfill’s most recent C.V. is that of “open air testing and vulnerability trials.” In a 2001 paper, “Biological WarfareScenarios,” Bill Patrick called the 1965 simulated attack on the New York subway “one of the most important vulnerability studies” of the 70 he conducted. In 1969, when the army’s biowarfare program was officially terminated, Steven Hatfill was still in fifth grade. By 1998, Hatfill was Patrick’s sidekick in what one colleague has described as a “Batman and Robin” team. But it is from USAMRIID that Hatfill claims to have acquired his working knowledge of army-sponsored “vulnerability” trials.
Several of America’s bioweaponeers have said, for the record, that the anthrax attack has an upside. The killings have forced long-awaited F.D.A. approval of the Bioport anthrax vaccine facility and prompted increased federal spending on biodefense -- by $6 billion in 2003 alone. But the anthrax offender also diverted law-enforcement resources when we needed them most and wreaked havoc on the U.S. Postal Service. He has shown the world how to disrupt the American economy with minimal expense, and how to kill with minimal risk of being caught.
Now that it”s been done once, it seems likely to happen again. Bill Patrick -- whose expertise, in the wrong hands, may be deadly -- even though he is not --has advised our military to be prepared for something far worse: “People say to me, ‘BW”s not effective.’ Ladies and gentlemen, I”m here to tell you, you look at atomic energy, you look at chemical method of infection -- nothing, I mean nothing, produces what biological warfare does when you do your planning, and you have the right agent and the right dissemination-and-delivery system. Any questions?”
commissions anthrax tracking method
by Debra George Siedt
Sep. 11, 2003
ANNAPOLIS -- A new method, developed by a University of Maryland research team, to trace the growth of anthrax spores could aid the FBI in its ongoing anthrax investigations.
The College Park campus researchers, led by Catherine Fenselau, studied how spores such as anthrax are developed, which could help the FBI connect spores found in an investigation with their method of growth.
The University of Maryland team worked on the analysis from August 2002 to February 2003 in collaboration with FBI Academy scientists. The team submitted the report within the last month and the research will be submitted for scientific publication.
The FBI is still investigating the anthrax scare that struck in October 2001. Five people died and at least 18 others were infected with anthrax in Washington, D.C., New York and Florida.
As part of that probe, the bureau in June drained a 1-acre trout pond in Frederick County to hunt for anthrax spores or discarded biological equipment.
"I don't think there's been a precedent for determining growth conditions," said Jeff Whiteaker, an analytical chemist and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Maryland. "There has never been a case where you would want to know."
Anthrax spores are grown using different media, including agar, a gelatin-like substance, and a blood-based medium containing heme, an iron-containing component of blood. After the spores are harvested, traces of these media are left behind like fingerprints. The team used five different types of blood-based mediums to develop the heme-detecting method.
"Our theory was that if you look at what is stuck to the outside of a spore, you can find out how it became a spore," said Fenselau in a news release. "Even when you try to clean up the spores, there are still scraps of stuff on the surface."
A mass spectrometer -- a laboratory device that can distinguish a molecule by its weight and other characteristics -- can determine if heme was used as the medium to produce the anthrax spores.
"It's very sensitive and very specific," said Whiteaker. "Even if we encounter compounds that have the same weight, we can confirm which molecule it is by the way it breaks up in the mass spectrometer."
Neither Whiteaker nor the FBI would discuss the potential uses of the research.
"We were funded to develop the method and they (the FBI) are free to do what they want with it," he said.
Department of Justice guidelines and pending anthrax investigations do not allow the FBI to comment on the new method or how it will be used, a spokeswoman said.
The Puzzling Case of Steve Hatfill
Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 15, 2003; 1:00 p.m ET
It's not easy being "a person of interest" in post-9/11 America. Hatfill has been associated with the 2001 anthrax attacks--but never charged. And, in a lawsuit filed last month, he accused Ashcroft and the FBI of engaging in a "patently illegal campaign of harassment" to cover up their own failure to solve the case.
Marilyn Thompson, whose article about Hatfill's case appeared in yesterday's Washington Post Magazine, will be online Monday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. ET to field questions and comments about the article.
Thompson, a Post investigative reporter, is the author of "The Killer Strain: Anthrax and a Government Exposed."
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control
over Live Online
Galveston, Tex.: Regardless of the guilt or innocence of Hatfill, I'm disturbed by the FBI's narrow-minded methods. What if Hatfill is innocent and they have invested all their time and effort in the wrong guy? I used to debug network software for a living and trying to leap frog to a solution without investigating all the possibilities usually wastes time and causes embarrassment eventually.
Marilyn Thompson: The FBI contends that
it has pursued many other avenues, with thousands of interviews all over
the country. Many months ago, the FBI made a couple of publicized searches
of scientists' homes in Chester, Pa., and Milwaukee. They focused considerable
attention on a former USAMRIID anthrax researcher who now lives in New
Jersey. Agents say that they continue to put certain interesting people
on the investigative "hot seat" from time to time to update their information
and theories. The recent re-interviewing of inhalational anthrax victim
Ernesto Blanco is a sign of their strategy -- to keep revisiting people
and places looking for possible new clues or details missed during the
initial hurried sweep. Yes, of course the bureau faces the prospect
of major humiliation if this case remains unsolved, but officials talk
Fredericksburg, Va.: Ms. Thompson,
Thank you for helping keep the anthrax investigation alive. Hypothetical question: What if the anthrax mail was prepared by Hatfield, but delivered by another person?
While many red flags do point to Hatfield, I am convinced he could escape prosecution with the workplace timecard alibi. Being hours away from the New Jersey mailbox where anthrax spores were found, and from where the notorious mail was postmarked, certainly pales the other circumstantial evidence piled against him at this time.
While this defense argument seems to rest on the fact he cannot be placed in the vicinity of the mailings, it does not preclude the notion, however, that he could have prepared the package and an accomplice mailed it.
Do you think more emphasis should be placed on investigating this possibility? Did two (or more) persons working together on some high-scale bioterrorism project, create and commit this "perfect crime"?
Marilyn Thompson: I believe that the
FBI has thought for some time that the commission of this crime involved
more than one person. It is likely that an accomplice or accomplices helped
mail the letters from their scattered locations. If you recall, a few bore
a St. Petersburg postmark but the most virulent were stamped in Trenton.
Hoax letters from other locations are believed to be involved.
College Park, Md.: There seem to be numerous instances in which Hatfield seems easily connected with the anthrax mailings. So what evidence does the FBI actually need in order to make an arrest?
Marilyn Thompson: Ideally, the FBI needs
hard physical evidence - actual spores found in the possession of a suspect.
The bureau does not have such evidence. That means that it would have to
present a less convincing body of facts to a jury and run a higher risk
of losing the case.
Baltimore, Md.: So, how does someone with dim creditials -- no Ph.D. and difficulty in med school -- work his way from studying viruses in 1997 to reportedly having "close ties to U.S. military intelligence or the CIA?" Why did Leahy's committee have to prod the FBI to investigate this guy?
Marilyn Thompson: Good questions. Mr.
Hatfill seems to have benefitted from inattentiveness to detail and to
some loopholes. The Phd. certificate he submitted to NIH could have easily
been tracked back by authorities and exposed as a forgery, but it was overlooked
and Hatfill's credentials helped him gain access to sensitive government
agencies. USAMRIID allowed him in as a contract researcher because it depended
on his funding agency to vet his credentials, and so on and so on.
As for the influence of Leahy's committee, I think it is safe to say that
this FBI investigation has been more closely watched and prodded than any
other -- since two of the intended victims were members of the U.S. Senate.
Chicago, Ill.: Has Dr. Hatfill even been notified that he is a target of the grand jury?
Marilyn Thompson: His attorneys say
that he has not.
Washington, D.C.: They dredged and drained a pond. They surveilled him for over two years. They have taken apart every computer the man ever touched.
Please -- remind me -- exactly what further evidence against Hatfill do they purport to have? Is it lawful for them to continue hounding him?
Marilyn Thompson: The FBI contends that
it is lawful for the agency to watch anyone that it considers a public
threat, and certainly, under the new powers of the Patriot Act, the bureau
has authority to pursue anyone suspected of any connection whatsoever to
a terrorism act. That being said, I think that the FBI is increasingly
aware that it needs to produce a case or back off of this particular individual.
Washington, D.C.: Doesn't it seem a little suspicious that Hatfill threatened The Post reporter's career, a la John Mitchell during Watergate? It seems that an innocent man wouldn't mind the news media -- during their fact-finding stages -- talking to his acquaintances. Any thoughts on this?
Marilyn Thompson: Of course, I have
many thoughts on this. Having worked on many stories of this kind over
far too many years, threats of this sort are fairly unusual and more than
a little unsettling.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Does it seem credible to you that John Ashcroft's handling of the Hatfill affair could have been unaffected by input from his boss, President George W. Bush?
Marilyn Thompson: I certainly believe
that this case is being monitored by the highest levels of government.
The President, however, has made no public comment on it since the early
days of the attacks.
Ilion, N.Y.: Does Attorney Glasberg still represent Dr. Hatfill (in addition to the lawyers at the other firm)? His presentations in the summer of 2002 were very impressive.
Marilyn Thompson: Yes, Dr. Hatfill's
press conferences were very well managed, mostly due to the input of his
then-spokesman Pat Clawson, a former television investigative reporter
with media savvy. Glasberg is a civil lawyer and Hatfill consulted him
early on about possible lawsuits against the media and government agencies.
His new team specializes in criminal law but also is handling his lawsuit
against the Justice Department and FBI.
Los Angeles, Calif.: Have you been able to confirm the story which appeared in SEED magazine and the The Observer newspaper that Hatfill fabricated his MSc research? Do you know who fed that story to researchers, and what their motivation is?
Marilyn Thompson: I do not know who
fed that story to SEED magazine or leaked an old email in which Hatfill's
Professor Bohm was complaining about the student's research techniques.
Dr. Bohm declined to speak with me but did tell me that he understands
Hatfill's research has now been successfully duplicated.
Angers, France: Can you tell us anything about the status of the grand jury? Thank you for the story!
Marilyn Thompson: Numerous friends and
associates of Dr. Hatfill told me that they have received document subpoenas
from a federal grand jury supervised by U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard. I
have found no one who has actually been called to testify.
Virginia: How many lawyers and spokesmen does he have? They seemed to changed all the time. Must be stressful to work for.
Marilyn Thompson: I think there has
been some tension in the legal team, resulting recently in Pat Clawson's
decision to have nothing more to do with the case. This followed on the
heels of a very lively City Paper story in which Hatfill and Clawson allowed
a reporter to ride with them while they were purportedly pursued by the
FBI. Usually, criminal defense lawyers frown on this kind of antics, which
may not sit well with a federal judge.
West Chester, Pa.: Ms. Thompson --
Thanks for your continuing scientific investigation of the anthrax story. Your detailed description of Steven Hatfill's pinpointing by the FBI was the most comprehensive account I've seen. However, equally as plausible is to take the notes in recovered envelopes at face value and assume that the perpetrator(s) is(are) Muslim extremists.
Some points perhaps worthy of note:
1. Each of the postmarks recovered was on a Tuesday (following soon after 9/11, a Tuesday);
2. Bob Stevens, the first anthrax casualty, worked for a tabloid which had recently published a scathing article regarding unsavory habits of the Saudi royal family;
3. Two of the highjackers (Atta and el-Shehhi) had rented an apartment in Ft. Lauderdale from an AMI editor's wife while taking flight lessons; and
4. One of the highjackers had presented himself to a doctor in Ft. Lauderdale with a black-scabbed skin lesion in July 2001, which, in retrospect, the doctor admitted could have been cutaneous anthrax. I'd like your opinion on this alternative scenario, which, I believe, has as much credence as the trumped up case against Steven Hatfill.
Marilyn Thompson: I appreciate your
question. I wrote extensively about the hijacker theory in a book I did
on the anthrax attacks. The FBI contends that it pursued a hijacker connection
in the early days and became convinced that they were not involved in these
mailings -- mainly because the anthrax strain used was a military research
strain. Many people in Florida, however, who know about the hijackers'
movements in that part of the country in the months before 9/11, do not
believe the FBI pursued this with enough vigor.
Easton, Md.: Good article. Thank you. In the current issue of Vanity Fair, literary analyist Don Foster infers that Hatfill was present in a part of Africa that suffered a devastating outbreak of anthrax, where no anthrax had been before. Would you care to comment on Professor Foster's article?
Marilyn Thompson: I have read Mr. Foster's
article with great interest. His frustrations with the FBI are shared by
other consultants who have worked on the peripheries of this case. I believe
you are referring to Mr. Hatfill's years in Rhodesia at the time of a massive
outbreak of anthrax poisoning the Tribal Trust Lands, an event that has
been extensively analyzed as a possible bioterror event.
Angers, France: Yes, the issue of Pat Clawson is interesting. He was such a passionate supporter of Mr. Hatfill. Is there any info on what caused him to abandon his support (or at least his public support)?
Marilyn Thompson: He has not abandoned
his support of Hatfill. He truly believes that Hatfill had nothing to do
with these crimes and is being unfairly targeted. But he has differed with
the new lawyers on several crucial issues -- including how much Hatfill
should be allowed to say publicly in his own defense.
Washington, D.C.: I heard that at the time of Barbara Rosenberg's meeting with Senators Leahy and Daschle, many Senators had publicly made it known that they were displeased with how the FBI had handled domestic terrorism cases and were considering turning those responsibilities over to another government agency. Do you think this had anything to do with why the FBI turned up the heat on Hatfill in the following weeks?
Marilyn Thompson: Yes, there had been
much displeasure on the Hill with the FBI's performance on terrorism cases.
I do not know about your theory that the responsibilities could have been
turned over to others. But it seems very clear that the FBI cannot afford
to have a high-ranking Senator, at that time the Judiciary Committee chairman,
convinced that it was not aggressively pursuing leads and trying to solve
this important case. The pressure from Capitol Hill continues to be intense.
Bethesda, Md.: Great article! Way to present both sides throughout the story. It is hard to tell whether he did it or not, you seem to have created a planned the confustion in your article. It seemed to really represent the confusion of the FBI in the investigation. Being a graduate with a degree in Biology and working in the research field, this was a very interesting article. Everything seems to be pointing to Hatfill, but somehow and someway the FBI can't pin-point him or anyone else for that matter. If I were a betting man, which I am not, I would say it was someone that is close to Hatfill and that new his actions, and by knowing his location, especially in London, the blame and evidence could be traced to Hatfill and not the real perpetrator. Again, great article. Thank you
Marilyn Thompson: Thanks for your feedback.
Yes, confusion has been a very real factor in this investigation. Confusion
over the science especially. As I reported, lab analysis alone has cost
$13 million and it is not yet complete.
McLean, Va.: If Hatfill does not have either an MD or a Ph.D, why do you continue to refer to him as "Dr. Hatfill?"
Marilyn Thompson: Hatfill has a medical
degree. The Phd. is the one in question.
Deale, Md.: Greeting, Marilyn:
Sandra here at Bay Weekly. Is this person of interest or someone else indeed likely to get away with a "perfect crime?" It's vastly puzzling -- as curious as the twists and turns of the investigation of the assassination of
Marilyn Thompson: The FBI has made it
clear that it considers solving this case extremely important, partly because
of the message it wants to send to anyone else who would ever contemplate
using a deadly agent against American citizens. Let's hope the agency is
successful in solving it. Death by anthrax is a ghastly proposition.
Long Beach, Calif.: Two questions:
1. If Mr. Hatfill seemed to often talk hypothetically about how to conduct bio-terror attacks, perhaps someone close to him learned techniques from him. Has this avenue been explored?
2. Isn't it interesting that the letters were sent to news organizations and Democratic politicians. Has anyone investigated Mr. Hatfill's political leanings, or anyone elses, that would lead a would be attacker to target such individuals?
Marilyn Thompson: Yes, the avenue you describe has been explored. As for political leanings, the FBI has said from the start that it believes this person is of a conservative bent, which might explain the intended targets to some degree.
FARCE? Hatfill lawyer rips mag’s anthrax article
LAURA PELNER , Staff Writer
Ask Steven Hatfill’s lawyer about the new October issue of Vanity Fair magazine, and you’ll hear a little chuckle.
It’s not that Thomas Connolly dislikes George Clooney, who graces the cover. What really irks him is the small headline next to Clooney’s arm, the one about missed anthrax clues.
The story is about Connolly’s client, Hatfill, who was named the lead "person of interest" in the deadly anthrax outbreak in 2001.
Within the story’s 11 glossy pages in Vanity Fair, the author tells a compelling tale about Hatfill. One that implicates the virologist in an evil plot to gain recognition for his passion -- biological weapons and weapons of mass destruction -- by any means, including launching a home-grown attack in the U.S. so people realize how important his work is.
The author, Don Foster, is considered a linguistics expert by many people. In addition to teaching at Vassar College, he’s credited with pioneering the field of textual analysis, which involves studying written works to determine their author.
Even before the anthrax outbreak in 2001, Foster had worked on high-profile cases that involved a literary angle, such as the Unibomber and the JonBenet Ramsey murder.
And after the terrorist attacks, he was sought after to study the anthrax-laced letters that killed a handful of Americans and crippled the U.S. Postal Service. According to his Vanity Fair article, the government hoped Foster would be able to determine who sent the letters.
It’s this notion of Foster as a super-sleuth that makes Connolly laugh, especially after reading the Vanity Fair piece.
"It’s impossible for me to comment," Connolly told The Trentonian. "The article is ripe with so many errors. The real story is what a fraud (Foster) actually is."
The lawyer said he could not squeeze his rebuttal to the magazine piece into a short enough format for print. Though he did say the team working forHatfill would respond to the article somehow.
And, he added, he was "absolutely" upset that Vanity Fair ran the piece as it did.
"I don’t care to offer an opinion on it, we’ll deal with Mr. Foster when we have to," Connolly explained. "I’m going to take action. You’ve got a guy who claims he’s got this incredible skill, textual analysis, but when you read the article you think, where is the evidence that Steven (Hatfill) authored these letters. There’s nothing there."
What is in the article is a frightening take on the anthrax fiasco. Foster talks about the anthrax letters and discusses his interpretation of their meaning.
For example, Foster says the misspellings "penacilin" and "unthinkabel," (written with backwards N’s) in the letters were deliberate and used to throw off investigators.
"That ‘penacilin’ was the offender’s way of saying, ‘Look, I don’t know much about antibiotics. I don’t even know how to spell penicillin. So don’t start thinking that I’m an American scientist. I’m just a semi-literate foreign fanatic,’" Foster says in the article.
The literary expert goes on to discuss the geography of the letters -- where they were sent and what their return addresses mean. The "Franklin Park, NJ 08852," tag was another hoax, he said, to lead authorities in the wrong direction.
In reality, the 08852 zip code is from Monmouth Junction, not Franklin Park. So, Foster reasons, whoever sent the letters must be familiar with the area, and he probably wanted police to go to those towns.
Hatfill doesn’t become a major player in the Vanity Fair piece until Foster links the government scientist to the Zimbabwe anthrax outbreak in the late 1970’s, in which more than 10,000 people died.
Foster says Hatfill was in Zimbabwe studying for his M.D. at the time and that the virologist bragged in writings about supporting a zealous militia group in the country.
"When I lined up Hatfill’s known movements with the postmark locations of reported biothreats, those hoax anthrax attacks appeared to trail him like a vapor cloud," Foster wrote in Vanity Fair.
In his article, Foster writes that the government became increasingly less helpful as it became more apparent Hatfill might be dangerous. At one point, when Foster mentioned Hatfill as a potential suspect, the literary expert says officials told him he was "spending too much time on this" and that Hatfill had a good alibi.
The Vanity Fair piece also links Hatfill to the Maryland Pond that was drained and searched for bioweapons and Foster charges the manfabricated his resume and literally created his Ph.D. on the computer.
"It is not my job to indict or to try my own suspect for the anthrax murders," Foster says in Vanity Fair. "And even if the FBI should find hard evidence linking Hatfill to a crime, he will remain innocent until proved guilty. But all Americans have a right to know more about the system that allowed Steven Hatfill to become one of the nation’s leading bioterror experts."
©The Trentonian 2003
Tax collector at war with anthrax
By Alan Snel
Two years after anthrax-laden mail killed several Americans and stoked fears nationwide, Brevard County's tax collector still is checking every piece of mail for anthrax and other biohazards in two special trailers in Titusville.
"We're still at war," Brevard County Tax Collector Rod Northcutt said. "We care about our employees."
No other Brevard County offices test their mail for anthrax. And a spokesman at the Centers of Disease Control in Atlanta said he is unaware of any local government that test their mail for anthrax.
The county ended its daily practice of testing its mail for anthrax about nine months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, recalled Hugh Muller, Brevard's facilities management director.
"It was an economic decision based on the perception that it was no longer a viable threat," Muller said.
Northcutt began anthrax testing at a time when the bacteria began showing up in mail after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The photo editor of a supermarket tabloid based in Lantana died from the bacteria, and mail to leaders in New York and Washington tested positive for it. In all, 22 people were sickened and five died after a series of anthrax attacks that targeted news agencies in New York and a congressional office building in Washington in the days following the terrorist attacks.
The hysteria caused sheriff's deputies and other emergency personnel to chase false alarms around Brevard County for weeks.
Today, Northcutt rents two special mail trailers behind the county court records building and sheriff's office in Titusville for $340 a month. Northcutt also spends $35 a day for the Wuesthoff Reference Laboratory to test a giant swab that wipes the office's letter-opening machine and the surface where the letters pass by below a protective hood.
The culture is placed in a Petri dish at the lab. There have not been any anthrax deliveries since the testing began.
Northcutt said his office even paid $400 to an employee's father who was an anthrax expert to discuss biohazard issues with tax collector workers.
Northcutt justified the continuing anthrax testing by explaining the "anthrax guy was not caught" and that "we get mail from across the world."
As a favor to Property Appraiser Jim Ford, the tax collector's trailers also are used to test the property appraiser's office mail. "If he has the equipment set up, we might as well take advantage of it," Ford said.
Scott Ellis, the county clerk of courts, said Northcutt's anthrax testing represents "a different philosophy."
"He feels it's important to have it tested. I can be sympathetic, but the odds of sending something to Brevard County are virtually nil. I'd hate to let these terrorist SOBs control our lives," Ellis said.
County Commissioner Truman Scarborough said he was unaware that Northcutt was testing mail for anthrax and didn't know why only the tax collector tests mail for anthrax in Brevard.
He theorized that the tax collector's office could be a target because, "The payment of taxes is one of those things that people get irritated with."
CDC spokesman Von Roebuck said Northcutt should contact the health department if he has anthrax concerns.
"Perhaps Mr. Northcutt is a very forward-thinking individual on this," Ford said.
19, 2003, 9:00 a.m.
The National Review
Question About It
by James S. Robbins - contributing editor
When President Bush stated that "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th" attacks, his critics quickly spun this into "Saddam Hussein had no links to terrorism." This was despite the fact that in the same breath the president had said, "there's no question that Saddam Hussein had al Qaeda ties." According to Editor & Publisher, the story got little play, though it is certain to come back to haunt the president during the election campaign when Democrats seek to wedge the Iraq and al Qaeda issues. Thus, it is useful to review the bidding on the known facts of the relationship between the two.
While it is still debatable to what degree Saddam Hussein supported the global terrorist network, it is becoming increasingly clear that Iraq provided terror groups with some forms of logistical, intelligence, transportation, training, weapons, and other support. The emerging evidence points to the conclusion that al Qaeda had a cooperative relationship — that is, a strategic alliance — with Iraq. The conventional wisdom has been that this could not have been the case because bin Laden, an Islamic fanatic reactionary, and Saddam, a secular Baathist modernizer, could never align or cooperate. On a personal level, they probably hated each other. If intelligence analysts approach their task with the premise that a relationship could not exist, they will lack the analytical framework necessary to piece together the clues that could demonstrate that it did. Maybe an Elvis Presley/Richard Nixon-type photo of the two would convince them, but not much else.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 101
But the premise is facile. The principle that drove Iraq and al Qaeda together is one of the oldest in international-relations theory — the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The motive for their alliance was a common hatred for the United States and Israel. Ideology seldom determines wartime-alliance structures, and for both Saddam and Osama the 1990s were wartime. The Iraq/al Qaeda combination is as reasonable as the temporary strategic alliance between the U.S. and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, or Syrian and American troops fighting side by side during Operation Desert Storm. (Note that it is hard to distinguish Syria from Iraq ideologically, and Baathist solidarity was certainly not a motivating factor in the relationship between the two countries.) Moreover, despite their personal dislike for each other, Saddam Hussein was the only state leader openly to praise bin Laden's attacks on the U.S. (if not bin Laden himself).
Saddam Hussein showed no reluctance to support terrorism per se during his career. The fact that he gave money to the families of Palestinian suicide terrorists and had a close working relationship with the PLO was well known, and something he admitted. The Iraqi regime maintained a terrorist training camp at Salman Pak near Baghdad where foreign terrorists were instructed in methods of taking over commercial aircraft using weapons no more sophisticated than knives (interesting thought that). Saddam also harbored Abu Nidal and other members of his international terror organization (ANO) in Baghdad. Abu Nidal died under suspicious circumstances in Baghdad in August 2002, an apparent multiple gunshot suicide. Abd-al-Rahman Isa, ANO's second in command based in Amman, Jordan, was kidnapped September 11, 2002, and has not been heard from since. Coalition forces did recently apprehend ANO member Khala Khadr al-Salahat, the man who reputedly made the bomb for the Libyans that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. He was hiding out in Baghdad. Another bomb maker, Abdul Rahman Yasin, was also a Baghdad resident. He was one of the conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who had fled there after being detained briefly by the FBI. Recent document finds in Tikrit show that Iraq supplied Yasin with both money and sanctuary. The 1993 WTC attack was masterminded by Yasin's associate Ramzi Yousef, who received financial support from al Qaeda through Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a key 9/11 planner.
There is also the case of Abu Zubayr, an officer in Saddam's secret police who was also the ringleader of an al Qaeda cell in Morocco. He attended the September 5, 2001 meeting in Spain with other al Qaeda operatives, including Ramzi Bin-al-Shibh, the 9/11 financial chief. Abu Zubayr was apprehended in May, 2002, while putting together a plot to mount suicide attacks on U.S. ships passing through the straits of Gibraltar. He has allegedly since stated that Iraq trained and supplied chemical weapons to al Qaeda. In the fall of 2001 al Qaeda refugees from Afghanistan took refuge in northern Iraq until they were driven out by Coalition forces, and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an al Qaeda terrorist active in Europe and North Africa, fled from Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has reportedly been sent back to Iraq to coordinate al Qaeda activities there.
Iraq made direct payments to the Philippine-based al Qaeda-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group. Hamsiraji Sali, an Abu Sayyaf leader on the U.S. most-wanted terrorist list, stated that his gang received about one million pesos (around $20,000) each year from Iraq, for chemicals to make bombs. The link was substantiated immediately after a bombing in Zamboanga City in October 2002 (in which three people were killed including an American Green Beret), when Abu Sayyaf leaders called up the deputy secretary of the Iraqi embassy in Manila, Husham Hussain. Six days later, the cell phone used to call Hussain was employed as the timer on a bomb set to go off near the Philippine military's Southern Command headquarters. Fortunately, the bomb failed to detonate, and the phone yielded various contact numbers, including Hussain's and Sali's. This evidence, coupled with other intelligence the Philippine government would not release, led to Hussain's expulsion in February 2003. In March, ten Iraqi nationals, some with direct links to al Qaeda, were rounded up in the Philippines and deported as undesirable aliens. In addition, two more consulate officials were expelled for spying.
The most intriguing potential link is reflected in documents found by Toronto Star reporter Mitch Potter in Baghdad in April, 2003. The documents detail direct links between al Qaeda and Saddam's regime dating back at least to 1998, and mention Osama bin Laden by name. The find supports an October 2001 report by William Safire that noted, among other things, a 1998 meeting in Baghdad between al Qaeda #2 Ayman al Zawahiri and Saddam's vice president, Taha Yasin Ramadan. Other reports have alleged bin Laden himself traveled to Iraq around that time, or at least planned to. Former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, Farouk Hijazi, now in custody, allegedly met with bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks.
THE ATTA CASE
The alleged meeting between 9/11 team leader Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence agents in Prague, Czech Republic (CR) is a unique case in that the Czechs have been more adamant about proving it than the United States. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross held a press conference on October 26, 2001, revealing the details of the Prague connection. According to Czech police, visa records indicate that Atta visited Prague twice in 2000. His first confirmed visit was while he was in transit from Hamburg to Newark, New Jersey, June 2-3, 2000. The German newspaper Das Bild reported on October 25, 2001 that according to unnamed FBI sources, Atta met with Iraqi diplomat Ahmad Samir al-Ani in a cafe in Prague on June 2. Another report has it that Atta did not leave the airport terminal since he lacked a visa. Later that summer Atta flew back to the CR. He stayed one night in the Prague Hilton, and may have spent a brief period of time in the town of Kutna Hora, 35 miles north of Prague, under the name Mohammed Sayed Ahmed. During his second visit, he allegedly met with Ahmed Hedshani, the former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey.
The more controversial part of the story is the alleged meeting between Atta and al-Ani in the Iraqi embassy in Prague in the spring of 2001. Atta was identified based on photographs published after the 9/11 attacks by an informer who was at the embassy at the time and had met Atta, though said he was "not 100 percent sure" it was him. The Czech counterintelligence service (BIS) gives it a 70 percent probability. Al-Ani was expelled from the Czech Republic in April 22, 2001, for "activities which conflicted with his status." He was allegedly plotting an attack on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which was also supporting Radio Free Iraq.
But if they met, why? It is unlikely they were discussing the alleged RFE/RL operation, since Atta had more important things to do and the Iraqis did not need his help with that one anyway. They might have been discussing the 9/11 attacks, but there is no evidence to support that claim. The article in Das Bild raised another, more intriguing possibility: The Iraqis were supplying Atta with anthrax spores for use in attacks on the United States. The anthrax attacks had commenced shortly before the article was published, and the idea seemed plausible at the time. In fact, it still does — the anthrax used in the attacks was weapons grade, the attacks originated from areas near where the hijackers had been active, and two years of investigation have not turned up the presupposed domestic perpetrator. At some point, you would think Occam's Razor would come into play.
The US Justice Department disputes most of the above. Because the US has no independent evidence that the 2001 meeting occurred, and since an examination of INS records published in May 2002 showed no movements corresponding to the Czech timeline, Justice concluded that the meeting could not have taken place. (The report did however show Atta going to Madrid for a week in January 2001, and to Zurich for twelve days in July 2001.) Yet, the Prague meeting came and went in a day or so. If Atta had traveled under an assumed name, a possibility the Justice Department acknowledged, he could have been there and back before anyone noticed. (Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz also denied the meetings took place.) The affair has been a matter of contention between the U.S. and CR. Interior Minister Gross, BIS chief Jiri Ruzek, and Jan Klas, chairman of the parliamentary commission overseeing the BIS, have stated that thus far they have seen no evidence to challenge their conclusions. Clearly, the essential person to talk to is al-Ani. He was reportedly apprehended by U.S. forces on July 2, 2003, though where he was caught, where he is now, and what he has had to say about the alleged meetings, are all unanswered questions.
Last June, former CIA Director James Woolsey said that "there were enough connections [between al Qaeda] and Iraq and Iraqi intelligence that we ought to be looking at this very hard, as we capture files and people and hard disk drives in Iraq and so on, and see what we can turn up." There are more open-sourced links than those noted here — I would refer readers to Appendix A of Richard Miniter's Losing Bin Laden for some more noteworthy incidents and possible evidence of collusion. As I have noted before, Saddam Hussein had means, motive, and opportunity to be involved with global terrorism, and al Qaeda in particular. Much remains to be revealed, and one hopes the administration is compiling a dossier to make the case in detail and beyond doubt. The president has stated that there is no question these ties existed, and it is frustrating that something unquestionable keeps being questioned so persistently.
Radio (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)
Broadcast Saturday 20/09/2003
History of Bioweapons
Robyn Williams: Catapulting dead bodies?
Mark Wheelis: Yes, catapulting dead bodies, the dead from plague which had hit the Mongol force, the besieging forces very hard were catapulted, according to record we have from an Italian commentator at the times, who mentioned mountains of dead catapulted into the city. This suggests that there may have been hundreds or perhaps even thousands of plague cadavers catapulted into the city. This would have, according to my own research, been an effective means of transmitting disease into the city. It’s not clear that it actually happened since we only have one account by somebody who was probably not an eye witness himself but he was well connected and would have been in a position to talk to many people from the city of Kaffa. So I’m inclined to believe it.
Robyn Williams: Yes, it goes similarly a reminder of the disease blankets, the smallpox blankets for instance sent to Easter Island and other places, where you wonder the people who handled it how they managed to do so safely, let alone with cadavers.
Mark Wheelis: Well, certainly people handling plague cadavers would have been at risk of getting the disease themselves but those who were in the Mongol forces involved in doing this were of course at risk or normal transmission anyway. Besides which, they were under orders and they had little choice. In the case of smallpox blankets, I’ve been able to document definitively at least one instance in 1763, Fort Pitt on the western frontier of British colonies in the Americas at that time, there is no doubt that the British commander at Fort Pitt deliberately transferred to the Indians several blankets and handkerchiefs from smallpox patients in the infirmary of Fort Pitt, which was being besieged by the Delaware Indians under Pontiac at the time. Whether there was then, either slightly before or slightly after, a major smallpox outbreak among the Delaware, some people attribute this to the smallpox blankets, I’m not so sure, I don’t think the evidence exists to say one way or the other for sure. But it certainly would have been an effective way of transmitting disease to the Indians.
Now, in order to do that, the perpetrators themselves would presumably have had to be immune. Many Europeans at the time as opposed to the native Americans and as opposed to the American settlers, many Europeans had had childhood exposure to smallpox and were themselves immune.
Robyn Williams: So in that sense, biological warfare was effective because it seems to me that there is little evidence over history that it’s sufficiently predictable to be effective?
Mark Wheelis: I agree with that, I think there’s little evidence except in the case of the Japanese use of biological warfare in the second World War, where there are estimates at least of hundreds of thousands of casualties. There’s little evidence that other specific instances have been effective. In the case of smallpox blankets and the Native Americans it’s very clear that disease was a major factor in the Native American depopulation that followed in the hundred years or so after contact with Europeans, but whether the specific instances of deliberate attempt to transmit infectious disease was successful or not we don’t know.
Robyn Williams: Which brings us up to date over the last say, 12years since the first Gulf War. Are you convinced that Saddam Hussein’s regime has worked on biological weapons and indeed had stockpiles of them?
Mark Wheelis: Well, there’s no doubt that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had both an offensive biological weapons program and an offensive chemical weapons program. Chemical weapons were used extensively against Iran in the Iran/Iraq war and after the first Gulf War UNSCOM was able to document conclusively that Iraq had not only been working on biological weapons but had accumulated a modest stockpile of them, perhaps a 100 or so munitions filled with biological agents of one kind of another. However, after UNSCOM departed Iraq, suspicions in the west remained that Iraq had hidden stock piles that UNSCOM had not been able to detect and there was considerable suspicion that they had restarted their programs and were accumulating more biological and chemical weapons. However, the failure of UNMOVIC, the US successor to UNSCOM to detect any stock piles of chemical or biological weapons and the post war failure of an intensive American effort to find such stock piles suggests that in fact the testimony of high level Iraqi defectors and of Iraqi scientists after the war, that Iraq had essentially ended their biological and chemical weapons program and destroyed their stockpiles in the mid 90s was in fact correct.
Robyn Williams: So what did they do with all that anthrax?
Mark Wheelis: Well, it’s not clear how much anthrax they had. It’s documented that they had several dozens of munitions filled with anthrax spores, which they claim to have destroyed. There was certainly culture media imported sufficient to have made a great deal more anthrax culture and they claim to have destroyed that as well. The claim that there was that huge quantity of anthrax in the country however, assumes that all of the media that could have been used to produce cultures of anthrax were so used and there’s no documentation of that. Iraq claimed to have destroyed all of its biological agents before UNSCOM began its work and it may well be true.
Robyn Williams: Presumably the search for it was informed by pretty good intelligence, especially American intelligence, don’t you think?
Mark Wheelis: Well, at least the latter half of the UNMOVIC inspections and certainly US inspections after the war were informed by the best intelligence that we have. That said, I think there is good reason now to doubt whether intelligence by itself is adequate to allow us to define the scope or perhaps even the existence of a biological weapons program.
Robyn Williams: Yes, a country as big as France, do you think there is still some left to be found?
Mark Wheelis: Yes, it is a serious issue to find production facilities and munitions in a country the size of Iraq, but the United States and Britain claimed before the war that they had definitive intelligence evidence that such stockpiles and such production facilities existed. I think the failure to find these stockpiles brings that assertion into question and in turn brings into question the notion that intelligence by itself is adequate.
Robyn Williams: But do you think the capability still existed at the time of the war?
Mark Wheelis: At the time of the second Gulf War there is no doubt that the capability existed in the sense that the scientists who had been involved in the program in the late ‘80s when it was active still were in Iraq and that knowledge, once obtained, makes it easy to restart a program. So there’s no question but what Iraq could have started chemical and biological weapons programs and rapidly developed a stockpile given their previous experience with these kinds of weapons. That’s very different however from possessing a stockpile of weapons which constitute an immediate threat of use on the battlefield.
Robyn Williams: Some of your colleagues believe that people working in biology should be of a mind never to take part in this sort of work. Is that practically feasible?
Mark Wheelis: Well, the experience of a number of nations in the past has been that patriotism trumps ethics, not for everybody and there have been notable cases of scientists refusing to participate in work that they felt was morally repugnant. There have been other cases however, in which scientists of high moral character have been sucked into doing work that they later found to be reprehensible but at the time they came to realise that what they were doing was at odds with their ethics they were so deeply involved that it became very difficult for them to extricate themselves. And then there are of course, scientists who are fervent patriots and believe that the weapons work they do is for the greater good. It’s that middle category of scientists I think, which probably encompasses the largest number that more explicit and more widely publicised codes of conduct would be useful for them.
Robyn Williams: And so from this immense history of these awful weapons, what do you think is the most significant lesson you might draw from it?
Mark Wheelis: I would say there’s a couple of sort of converging lessons. The first is that advances in science almost always have equal potential for abuse as for peaceful beneficial use. Microbiology has done immense good for the human race in helping combat infectious disease but it also has the potential for immense harm when used as a weapon. It’s the role of the scientific community and of the general public in helping prevent the abuses while enjoying the benefits: that’s not an easy task. In order to do that involves a much great commitment to internationalism to try to subvert the temptation to do this kind of work in the interest of national security, when it may be at odds with the security of the international community and of future generations.
Guests on this program:
of Boca newsman killed by anthrax sues U.S. for $50 million
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
By JILL BARTON
September 24, 2003, 4:40 PM EDT
WEST PALM BEACH -- The widow of the photo editor killed in the nation's first anthrax attack in 2001 sued the federal government on Wednesday, alleging that lax security at an Army lab caused his death.
Maureen Stevens is seeking more than $50 million in what is believed to be the first lawsuit to hold the federal government accountable for producing and mishandling the deadly strain of anthrax that allegedly killed her husband.
Robert Stevens, an editor for The Sun tabloid, is believed to have contracted the disease in October 2001 from a tainted letter sent to the Boca Raton headquarters of American Media Inc.
Anthrax was also sent through the mail to media outlets in New York and a congressional building in Washington, killing four others and sickening more than a dozen people.
Maureen Stevens hopes the lawsuit forces the government to take action on its languishing investigation and provides answers to the victims' families, said her attorney, Richard Schuler.
``She doesn't want this to get wrapped up in government red tape when there's a killer that has used this deadly anthrax and was able to get this stuff because of lax security at a government lab,'' Schuler said. ``Missing a little bit here or there is not good enough when you're dealing with the deadly anthrax bacillus.''
Army spokesman Chuck Dasey declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Another victim who survived an anthrax attack, postal worker Leroy Richmond, also has sued, but his claim targets postal officials at Washington's Brentwood facility. He's asking for $100 million alleging that postal managers endangered his life by waiting too long to close the postal facility where he worked after anthrax contamination was discovered.
Schuler said he believed DNA tests on the anthrax found at Stevens' office would prove it was from the same strain as the anthrax produced at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. The lab develops vaccines and drugs to protect service members from biological warfare agents.
The lawsuit alleges that government officials failed to act when security was breached at the facility and have failed to put new policies in place that would prevent a future attack.
on Wed, Sep. 24, 2003
Widow of anthrax victim files lawsuits alleging negligence
BY KATHY BUSHOUSE AND JON BURSTEIN
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - (KRT) - The widow of inhalation-anthrax victim Bob Stevens filed two lawsuits Wednesday, alleging negligence by either the federal government or by a handful of laboratories that handle the anthrax bacteria that may have led to her husband's death.
Attorneys representing Maureen Stevens filed lawsuits in both state and federal court. The federal lawsuit is against the U.S. government; the state lawsuit is against two companies _Battelle Memorial Institute, a Columbus, Ohio, nonprofit research company with numerous U.S. military contracts; BioPort Corp., a Lansing, Mich. company that manufactures the only FDA-approved anthrax vaccine.
The state and federal lawsuits outline the same arguments - that negligence and bad practices by either the federal government or the companies led to someone getting a sample of Bacillus anthracis that was later mailed to American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, in the letter that Bob Stevens handled.
Bob Stevens died Oct. 5, 2001, from inhalation anthrax. His was the first death in a wave of bioterrorism attacks that killed five people.
West Palm Beach attorney Richard Schuler, who is representing Stevens, said the purpose of the lawsuits is simple: "To find out how this was done and who did it."
The federal lawsuit comes after a $50 million claim filed in February against the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army. Since that claim wasn't settled, the federal lawsuit was filed, Schuler said.
Maureen Stevens had until Oct. 5 to file a claim in state court, because that is when Florida's two-year statute of limitations for a wrongful-death lawsuit would have run out. In addition, filing the case in state court would ensure that a jury of Maureen Stevens' peers would consider the case.
In federal court, the law requires a judge, not a jury, to consider the case since the legal action was filed against the federal government, Schuler said.
Schuler said he has filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests with the federal government, but many of them gone ignored. However, he said, he has received some employee records from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland.
It is from that government facility that Schuler believes the anthrax may have come. The federal lawsuit accuses the federal government of failing to adequately secure samples of the anthrax bacteria, and claims that as early as 1992, "samples of this formidable, dangerous and highly lethal organism were known to be missing from the lab at Ft. (sic) Detrick … along with samples of the Hanta virus and the Ebola virus."
Those allegations surfaced in a whistleblower's lawsuit filed against the government by two scientists who claim they were fire because they asserted there was a severe lack of security at the Army facility.
Schuler said he talked to one former U.S. AMRIID employee who described walking out of a secured-area facility with three cardboard boxes that were never examined by guards. While the boxes he had contained nothing harmful, he was coming out of a containment area where potentially deadly diseases were handled.
Chuck Dasey, a spokesman for the U.S. AMRIID, declined to comment Wednesday. Officials at the Department of the Army at the Pentagon could not be reached, despite two phone calls seeking comment.
Thomas McClain, vice president of corporate communications for Battelle Memorial Institute, said the company had not received the complaint and declined to comment.
Officials at BioPort Corp. could not be reached.
To this day, the source of the anthrax that killed Stevens has not been revealed, nor has it been revealed if investigators ever found the letter that killed the longtime tabloid photo editor. The FBI still has not named a suspect, though it has have identified "persons of interest" in connection with the anthrax case.
Federal investigators made two trips to the AMI building in their search for clues, removing hundreds of letters and office machinery.
FBI officials also could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
AMI's Boca Raton office building was quarantined Oct. 7, 2001 by the Palm Beach County Health Department, and today remains under that quarantine. Maureen Stevens has collected worker's compensation insurance, and AMI also helped pay her husband's medical bills.
Maureen Stevens could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Schuler said she and her three children continue to mourn their loss.
"They miss their father and husband," Schuler said. "He was one of those guys liked by everyone."
(South Florida Sun-Sentinel correspondents Peter Franceschina and Patty Pensa and researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.)
September 26, 2003
Microbial Forensics as a Response to Bioterrorism
By: Bruce Budowle,1 - Steven E. Schutzer,2 - Anja Einseln,1 - Lynda C. Kelley,3 - Anne C. Walsh,4 - Jenifer A. L. Smith,1 - Babetta L. Marrone,5 - James Robertson,1 - Joseph Campos 6 - (credentials listed below)
Bioterrorists use microbes or their toxins to invoke fear, to inflict harm, and to impact economic well-being (1, 2). Although microbes have been used as weapons for centuries (3, 4), the anthrax letter attacks of 2001 generated great terror in the public. The attacks and subsequent public reactions revealed the need for an infrastructure with analytical tools and knowledge bases to rapidly provide investigative leads and help determine who was responsible for the crime (i.e., attribution), the source of the anthrax, and how and where the weapon was produced.
There are examples of well-developed practices for handling and analyzing pathogenic agents (5, 6). However, many of these assays address epidemiological concerns and do not provide sufficient information on the strain or isolate to allow law enforcement to better identify the source of the evidence sample. The continued development of additional assays for individualization of microbial strains is needed. For example, determining the microbe sent in a letter as Bacillus anthracis identifies the causative agent. At this point anyone who had access to B. anthracis is considered a potential perpetrator of the crime. But determining it was the Ames strain, an uncommon strain in nature, limits the investigation to those who had access to the specific strain and exculpates innocent scientists investigating B. anthracis. All of the above must be defined adequately and validated sufficiently to meet forensic needs. Furthermore, there are not many laboratories with adequate biocontainment facilities to handle forensic cases. Partner laboratories with specialty expertise will assist in investigations. There is little guidance on the logistics and financial commitment required to construct a microbial forensics laboratory or to retool partner laboratories to perform microbial forensic work.
The U.S. government now has the goal of instituting a dedicated national microbial forensics system. Microbial forensics can be defined as a scientific discipline dedicated to analyzing evidence from a bioterrorism act, biocrime, or inadvertent microorganism/toxin release for attribution purposes. Law enforcement has had the traditional role and infrastructure for investigating crimes and is now enhancing its capabilities to confront the new challenge of biological weapon usage and bioterrorism through partnership with the scientific community. To lay a proper foundation for the field of microbial forensics, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initiated the Scientific Working Group on Microbial Genetics and Forensics (SWGMGF) on 29 July 2002 (7). This working group provides an avenue for scientists from diverse disciplines within the government, academia, and the private sector to address issues collaboratively and to develop guidelines related to the operation of microbial forensics.
The FBI has hosted scientific working groups for other forensic disciplines. Perhaps the most notable is the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (8). Its success can be seen by the common use of DNA analysis in crime laboratories, the existence of standards of performance and practices, and the overwhelming acceptance of DNA analysis in the courts. Similarly, the SWGMGF aims to contribute to the infrastructure and development of tools for microbial forensics.
The members of SWGMGF, whose expertise spans multiple diverse scientific disciplines, represent a number of government agencies (9) and academia (10). Substantial input can also come from industry, and representatives from the private sector will be invited on a case-by-case basis for consultation. The cost of operations of the working group is relatively inexpensive because participants serve voluntarily.
The SWGMGF initially has focused on (i) defining quality assurance (QA) guidelines for laboratories performing microbial forensic casework analyses; (ii) establishing criteria for development and validation of methods to characterize or individualize various threat agents in ways that can be used forensically to attribute criminal acts; (iii) prioritizing efforts on those pathogens and toxins that would most likely be used in biocrimes; (iv) understanding and enhancing microbial population genetic data so that a finding can be interpreted; and (v) establishing design criteria for information databases.
Because quality practices are so important for establishing a solid foundation and maintaining credibility, the top priority was to develop a QA document for laboratories performing microbial forensic analyses. The QA guidelines document has been completed and is presented here (see supporting online material). We address the whole laboratory infrastructure and processes encompassing the analytical typing process including organization, management, personnel education and training, facilities, security, documentation, data analysis, quality control of reagents and equipment, technical controls, validation, proficiency testing, reporting of results, auditing of the laboratory procedures, and safety.
These QA guidelines are based on the standards for human forensic DNA typing (11), clinical laboratories standards (12), and the International Standards Organization (13), as well as the experience of a broad range of scientists. Earlier drafts of this QA guidelines document were presented for commentary to members of several universities, public health departments, hospitals, and professional societies to obtain broad input from the scientific community. The QA guidelines must be continuously reviewed so that they can evolve on the basis of experiences and current challenges. Comments for improving these guidelines are necessary and welcomed and should be sent to the authors. We also welcome input that may facilitate implementation.
We believe these guidelines will provide a basis for uniform quality practices for laboratories performing microbial forensics work, as well as others in various fields of science. Microbial forensics draws on the expertise of many disciplines. For example, an investigation may require a microbiologist for evaluating culture morphology, a chemist for isotope analysis, a molecular biologist for genetic typing, and a forensic scientist for fingerprint analysis. Each of these scientists will need to carry out analyses under quality practice conditions appropriate to a forensic investigation. Documents such as the QA guidelines provide focus and guidance for scientists who perform analytical work. Moreover, these guidelines can serve as a template for microbiology, molecular biology, and other application-oriented laboratories. In addition, our efforts may stimulate development of new approaches and technologies.
The recommendations of the SWGMGF will be implemented in the national microbial forensics laboratory network, other partner laboratories, and, where applicable, subcontracted laboratories. The United States is developing the National Bioforensics Analysis Center (BFAC), which is part of the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) and the Fort Detrick (Frederick, MD), interagency biodefense campus (14). The BFAC and partner laboratory network will serve as the national forensic reference center to support homeland security for the attribution of the use of biological weapons. The laboratory will be supported primarily by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the FBI, and the BFAC will execute and coordinate microbial forensic casework.
To be successful, this national microbial forensic laboratory must rely on at least three major components. The first is a knowledge center composed of databases on genomics, microbiology, forensics methods, associated materials and related evidence assays (including traditional forensic analyses such as fingerprints), bioinformatics, and standardized tools. The second component is the maintenance of strong partnerships between existing government, academic, and private-sector assets. These will include Plum Island, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, National Science Foundation, National Laboratories, specialty technology laboratories, and other centers of excellence. No single laboratory or institution can address all microbial forensic needs. Although the FBI has at times reached outside its own laboratory for scientists to provide assistance in casework, analysis of materials from the anthrax letter attacks may be the first time that so many outside scientists with diverse expertise were employed. This may well be standard practice in future cases. The third component is the SWGMGF. The SWGMGF's first contribution to the BFAC and bioforensic network is these QA guidelines. All of these components will form a partnership network with the capability of efficiently investigating potential bioterrorist activity.
In conclusion, scientists can play a substantial role in thwarting the use of bioweapons by developing tools to detect and to determine the source of the pathogen and to identify those who use such biological agents to create terror or to commit crime. By developing a robust microbial forensics field, security can be enhanced beyond physical locks and barriers.
Partnership network. Microbial evidence, either from real events or from hoaxes, may enter the bioforensic laboratory network by different routes. If an event is immediately recognized as an act of bioterrorism, any evidence will be sent directly by first responders, the intelligence community (IC), or the Department of Defense (DoD) to the national bioforensic laboratory. Alternatively, an event may be thought to be naturally occurring and therefore evidence will be sent to the public health sector, i.e., the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Once the evidence is deemed to be from an act of bioterrorism, the materials will be sent by the LRN to the national bioforensic laboratory for attribution analysis. That laboratory will carry out a suite of applicable assays, as well as use the partnership network to enhance attribution characterization capabilities.
References and Notes
1. National Research Council and Committee on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism, Making the Nation Safer: The Role of Science and Technology in Countering Terrorism (National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2002). 2. J. Lederberg, Science 288, 287 (2000). 3. R. J. Hawley, E. M. Eitzen Jr., Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 55, 235 (2001). 4. W. S. Carus, "Bioterrorism and biocrimes: The illicit use of biological agents since 1900," Working Paper, National Defense University; available at http://www.ndu.edu/centercounter/Full_Doc.pdf . 5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, ed. 4, April 1999). 6. D. O. Fleming, D. L. Hunt, Biological Safety Principles and Practices (ASM Press, Washington, DC, ed. 3, 2000). 7. For further information see www.promega.com/profiles/601/ProfilesInDNA_601_07.pdf. 8. B. Budowle, Crime Lab. Dig. 22, 21 (1995). 9. Central Intelligence Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Food and Drug Administration, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Academy of Science, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, New York State Department of Health, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 10. Children's National Medical Center, North Carolina State University, Northern Arizona University, University of Cincinnati, University of Louisville, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School, and The Institute for Genome Research. 11. FBI, Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories (Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1998). 12. Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments 1988 (CLIA '88). Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), 57 C.F.R. 7139, 883 (2001). 13. International Standards Organization (ISO)/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), "General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories" (ISO/IEC 17025, American National Standards Institute, New York, 1999), 26 pp. 14. B. Budowle, J. Burans, M. R. Wilson, R. Chakraborty, in: Microbial Forensics, S. Shutzer, R. Breeze, and B. Budowle, Eds. (Academic Press, San Diego, in press). 15. This is publication number 03-12 of the Laboratory Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Supporting Online Material www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/301/5641/1852/DC1
of Investigation, Laboratory Division, Quantico, VA 22135, USA.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
fuels row over anthrax case
Back in 1986, doctoral student Don Foster pulled off quite a coup. Working late in the library, the specialist in Elizabethan literature decided to look at one last roll of microfilm. He was tired, his eyes sore, and while he didn't hold much hope of finding anything of real interest among the photographic images of documents recently unearthed in an English archive, he had nothing better to do. The last bus didn't leave for 40 minutes and the library was safer than waiting on the dark street outside.
Then one of those frames caught his eye. It was a facsimile of what even Foster admits is a mediocre poem, A Funeral Elegy For William Peter. As he read, observing not so much the words but the placement of punctuation and other stylistic tics, his heart pounded. By the time he reached the last line and found the initials "W.S.", there was no doubt: He had found a long lost work by William Shakespeare. The bus left without him.
Today, the "academic detective" is a professor at prestigious Vassar College, and he is just as certain that he has made another irrefutable catch: the identity of the man who two years ago terrorised America with anthrax-dusted letters that killed five people and made 22 others sick. For legal reasons, he doesn't deliver that verdict in quite so many words, but Foster's account of his latest sleuthing in October's Vanity Fair leaves the casual reader in little doubt.
His prime suspect is former US Army bio-warfare specialist Steven Hatfill, the man whom the FBI has been keeping under surveillance since another academic, microbiologist Barbara Rosenberg, conducted an unofficial investigation. Like Foster, but for entirely different reasons, she concluded that the letters were a wake-up call from a misguided patriot.
As Ground Zero still smoked, she theorised that the culprit wanted to prod authorities into preparing for the next, inevitable terrorist offensive - biological warfare.
Hatfill angrily denied the allegations before deciding to let his lawyers do the talking. Even his supporters admit, however, that he makes a compelling suspect. He had access to the weapons-grade Ames strain used in the attacks. He was studying in Rhodesia when an unexplained anthrax outbreak killed or made 11,000 people sick. And later, after Ian Smith's white government fell, he moved to South Africa, where he knew, and may have worked with, the apartheid regime's germ-warfare specialists.
There were other circumstantial clues, too, including the anthrax letter's fictitious return address, "the Greendale School". Foster combed the internet to see if those words occurred anywhere in Hatfill's past. In the former Rhodesia, he found a suburb by that name a mile from his suspect's old address.
"A person writing, say, a ransom note or death threat will always try to conceal his identity, but it's really not possible," Foster told the Weekend Herald in an earlier interview.
"Certain traits - punctuation, idiosyncrasies of expression, hints of personal history - as markers, they're as good as fingerprints." And like a fingerprint analyst, Foster runs the loops and whorls of literary style through a computer that looks for similarities with a suspect's known works.
The FBI, which had been ridiculed in the press for its inability to find the anthrax killer, was keen to tap Foster's mind, and while others had doubts about Foster's methods, the bureau's agents were true believers.
Apart from the Shakespeare scoop, he had identified the New Yorker's Joe Klein as the anonymous author of the Clinton roman-a-clef Primary Colors, and helped nail Unabomber Ted Kaczynski by analysing the mad hermit's rants against technology and modern life. He helped Kenneth Starr's inquisitors to extract Monica Lewinsky's admission of enjoying sex and cigars in the Oval Office, and he applied the skills of a forensic linguist to the bizarre ransom note left in the Boulder home of murdered 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey.
That last case was problematical at first, because Foster initially believed the letter couldn't possibly have been the work of any member of JonBenet's family. But eventually, after writing to assure John and Patsy Ramsey that "I would stake my reputation on your innocence", his thinking fell into step with the authorities, who still see the couple as the only suspects worth considering.
The misspelled anthrax notes are full of clues, Foster explains. Why, for example, would a colleague of the September 11 terrorists warn recipients to seek immediate medical help, as all the letters did? And what of the misspellings and reversed characters? Elementary, proclaims Foster - clumsy attempts to conceal that English is the writer's native language.
Hatfill's lawyer, Tom Connolly, is unimpressed, likening the official investigation to the FBI's leaks and smears against Richard Jewell, the security guard initially suspected of bombing the Atlanta Olympics. Months later, investigators admitted that the blast was the work of anti-abortion fanatic Eric Rudolph. Like Hatfill, Jewell passed a voluntary FBI lie detector test, only to see the results dismissed.
The Vanity Fair article "is ripe with so many errors," Connolly says. "The real story," he adds, "is what a fraud Foster actually is."
They're fighting words, especially given Foster's reputation as the father of forensic linguists and, indeed, its only practitioner. But Connolly isn't impressed, promising defamation lawsuits that he says will make Hatfill even richer than Jewell, who collected millions for his pain and suffering.
But would a jury go against an expert of Foster's standing, the only person in 400 years to add an extra entry to the list of Shakespeare's known works?
Quite possibly. Last year, Foster conceded what scores of his less media-savvy colleagues had been saying almost from the moment A Funeral Elegy was trumpeted on the front page of the New York Times. As Foster now admits, the find that transformed him from obscure academic to media darling wasn't Shakespeare's work, but the words of some unknown Elizabethan hack. That admission was a long time coming. Connolly hopes his client doesn't have to wait as long for a retraction.
Palm Beach Post Editorial
With all the deserved attention that the 9/11 attacks receive, it's easy for people to forget the attacks that came in the wake of New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Those attacks, however, also left victims, and this week some of them filed a lawsuit to get answers that are nearly two years late and counting.
Robert Stevens, a photo editor at American Media Inc., then of Boca Raton, became the first of five people to die from exposure to anthrax. Not even a month had passed since the twin towers collapsed, and the method of his murder panicked South Floridians, who believed for a time that the airplane hijackers who moved through this area had left a poisonous, timed-release second wave of terrorism.
Even as the FBI moved in to examine the AMI building in the northwest section of the city, Mr. Stevens' death became overshadowed by anthrax attacks on the U.S. Capitol and Washington-area post offices. A jittery public in this area got no help from federal agencies -- the first portions of Mr. Stevens' autopsy weren't released until two weeks ago -- and Tallahassee went along. Though Palm Beach County health officials had been handling the situation superbly and were trying to keep residents advised, Gov. Bush sent Department of Health Secretary John Agwunobi with orders to muzzle the locals and say nothing himself.
In the lawsuit, the Stevens family alleges that the anthrax came from the laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland, where Army researchers study infectious diseases, and that Mr. Stevens thus died as a result of the government's negligence. It may be something of a legal reach, but it's a reach that the family is right to take. If relatives of the 9/11 victims are frustrated by not knowing whether the government could have prevented those attacks, they at least know who planned and carried out the murders. The Stevenses don't have even that much to fall back on.
If the case gets to trial, attorney Richard Schuler doesn't have to show who sent the anthrax. But he has to prove that the Ames strain came from Fort Detrick. Though the lawsuit asks for $50 million, the action is as much about answers as it is about money. With Osama bin Laden, it's down to a manhunt. With the anthrax killer, it's still a detective story. If the lawsuit spurs the government to look harder and disclose more, the public can thank Robert Stevens' family.
anthrax case stalled by security
By Kathy Bushouse
National security issues have hindered Maureen Stevens' hunt for answers about her husband's death two years ago from inhalation anthrax.
As Stevens moves ahead with a wrongful-death lawsuit that could embarrass the U.S. government and provide insight into the ongoing investigation of the fall 2001 bioterrorism attacks, it's certain those same national security arguments will take center stage.
Stevens filed the case Wednesday in federal court in West Palm Beach.
That will give her subpoena power, and experts say the federal government won't be able to withhold information simply by making unspecific claims of national security interests.
Bruce Winick, a University of Miami law professor, said it will be up to a federal judge -- not government officials -- to decide whether turning over information related to the anthrax investigation creates a security risk.
"The speculation about it will occur in a way where, if they assert that sort of a privilege, a federal district judge will rule on it," Winick said. "[The judge] won't just take the government's assertion at face value."
That's what Richard Schuler, an attorney for Stevens, could be counting on.
Since Stevens' husband, Bob, died Oct. 5, 2001, from inhalation anthrax and became the nation's first victim of a bioterrorist attack, information for the family has been lacking.
Stevens, a tabloid photo editor for American Media Inc., died after coming into contact with an anthrax-laced envelope mailed to the company's Boca Raton office. Who did it, and where the anthrax came from, remains unknown.
A U.S. attorney handling the anthrax case recently visited Maureen Stevens, but revealed little of what the government knows about who killed her husband.
Thus the lawsuit, which claims that anthrax samples were known to be missing from an Army laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., as early as 1992 and accuses the government of failing to adequately secure them.
"The bottom line is that a lot of our [Freedom of Information Act] requests were not acknowledged or were not answered or responded to," Schuler said. "By filing the lawsuit, we have subpoena power."
Schuler plans to use that power to get documents thus far unavailable to him, and to produce witnesses who could back his theory about government negligence ultimately leading to Bob Stevens' death.
Among the potential witnesses on Schuler's list:
Don Foster, an English professor at Vassar College, who wrote a scathing piece about the anthrax investigation in the October edition of Vanity Fair magazine.
Dr. Steven Hatfill, a bioterrorism expert labeled a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation. In August, Hatfill sued U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and other officials, seeking to clear his name in connection to the case.
Dr. Ayaad Assaad, a former researcher at Fort Detrick, who has publicly alleged lax security at the facility and is involved in an age-discrimination suit after he lost his job there.
Federal investigators made two trips to the contaminated AMI building in their search for clues, removing hundreds of letters and office machinery.
Little else has ever been made public about the case.
The investigation's seemingly slow pace could benefit Stevens. It might make a judge less willing to grant the government any kind of exceptions to handing over information, said William Banks, a professor at Syracuse University's College of Law. "What's the justification for the continuing secrecy if you're not going anywhere in the investigation?" Banks said.
Still, a judge might grant a government request to withhold information concerning government facilities such as Fort Detrick, Banks said. The case might reach a point that the government chooses to settle the lawsuit rather than turn over sensitive information, Winick said.
"I suppose if [the case] causes the government to reveal info it doesn't want to reveal ... the natural thing would be for the government to settle," he said.
Schuler said the Stevens family hopes to get both information and monetary damages from the case.
The family has been through an ordeal few can comprehend, he said. They watched from behind a window as Stevens lay in isolation at the hospital.
Their backyard was dug up by investigators trying to determine whether the anthrax bacteria came from there. His clothes and personal items were hauled away as evidence.
Months later, Maureen Stevens had to write to the government to get his shoes returned. They arrived in a big box with no note attached, Schuler said.
"There were a lot of indignities," he said. "It's just been horrendous."
Despite that, Schuler said they would love nothing more than to see progress in the federal investigation.
"Hopefully, there will be an arrest. We're on their side," Schuler said. "We want them to find the person or persons who did this, and prosecute them. Anything we can do to help, we'll do."
Kathy Bushouse can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6641.
fails to re-create anthrax production
By Toni Locy, USA TODAY
September 29, 2003
WASHINGTON — Two years after the nation's deadly anthrax attacks, the FBI still has not been able to re-create the process the killer used to produce the substance sent through the U.S. mail, a top FBI official said Monday.
But Michael Mason, the new assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, said testing has helped investigators "narrow" some aspects of the investigation and convinced them that the culprit has special expertise.
"We would not have that if reverse engineering had completely failed to provide us with any information or valuable leads," Mason said.
The FBI had hoped that by now, "reverse engineering," working backward from the end result to determine how something was made, would have re-created the process used to produce the anthrax.
In doing so, agents had hoped for clues to identify the killer.
The investigation began after anthrax-laden letters were sent to media outlets and two U.S. senators in September and October 2001.
Five people died and 17 others were sickened in the attacks. Thousands of people were placed on antibiotics.
Scientists said Monday that it is unclear what Mason's revelation means. They say much depends on whether the FBI is attempting an identical re-creation.
"It is so important that we sort through this," says Dave Franz, former commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. "We don't want people to think they can do this to us anytime they want."
The FBI is continuing efforts to re-create the anthrax. "If a couple of leads come out of it, it's worthwhile," an FBI official said Monday.
Mason said he has made some "refinements" to the investigation but has not changed its direction. He said leaks to the media about the inquiry, particularly about scientist Steven Hatfill, have been damaging to the investigation.
Last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft identified Hatfill, 48, a former researcher at the institute at Fort Detrick, as "a person of interest" in the investigation.
Mason said he understood that when confronted by a reporter with Hatfill's name, Ashcroft used the term. But, Mason said, "there is absolutely zero value in coming forward with persons of interest up to the point we indict the person."
NEWS MEDIA CONTACTS
DATE: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2003
RE: NEW LAWSUIT INVOLVING STEVEN HATFILL/ANTHRAX CASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(WASHINGTON, DC) – September 29,
2003 - A lawsuit has been filed in the Superior Court of the District
of Columbia by broadcaster and investigative reporter PATRICK M. CLAWSON
that seeks $5 million in damages from a major newspaper publisher and three
journalists for libel, defamation, false light invasion of privacy, emotional
distress and disparagement.
Defendants in the action are:
· ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, LLC, publisher of the St. Louis (MO) Post-Dispatch;
· PULITZER, INC., the parent company of the newspaper;
· KAREN BRANCH-BRIOSO, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter in the Washington, DC office of the Post-Dispatch;
· JON SAWYER, the Washington Bureau Chief of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and
· ARNOLD J. ROBBINS, the Managing Editor of the Post-Dispatch.
For the past year, Mr. Clawson has served as a pro bono media advisor and defense investigator for the attorneys of his friend, Dr. Steven Hatfill, a Washington, DC scientist who has been identified by the U.S. Justice Department as a "person of interest" in the investigation of the 2001 anthrax-by-mail attacks.
Mr. Clawson is represented in the action by attorney William P. Farley of the law firm of McDonald & Karl, 900 17th St. N,W, Washington, DC 20006. The case, which was filed on September 26, 2003, is Civil Action #03-0007959.
The Complaint alleges that on September 30, 2002, as part of its coverage of the Hatfill case, the Defendants published a newspaper report that recounted Mr. Clawson’s career in St. Louis, Missouri during the 1970s as a radio/TV investigative reporter and private investigator. The Complaint alleges that the Defendants falsely identified Clawson as a radio executive with " a history" of being an´"FBI informer." Mr. Clawson is not now and has never been an "FBI informer" and the Complaint alleges that Defendants’ statements were false, misleading, disparaging and defamatory and were published with malice and in reckless disregard of the truth.
The Complaint further alleges that the Defendants did not interview law enforcement officials or review court records and had no evidence prior to publication to support their allegations that Clawson had a "history" of being "an FBI informer", then repeatedly refused to publish a correction or clarification after their post-publication investigation failed to produce evidence supporting the allegations.
Clawson is a broadcaster, investigative reporter and licensed private investigator who resides in Berryville, VA, an outer suburb of the Washington, DC area. Clawson, a 30-year media veteran, specializes in coverage of organized crime, political corruption, terrorism, white-collar crime and activities of the media industry. He is a former on-air investigative reporter for Cable News Network, NBC Radio News, the Independent Television News Association and Independent Network News. He is the former Washington Bureau Chief of Radio & Records, a prominent broadcasting industry trade publication. Clawson recently was a radio talk show host and Director of Sales, Marketing & Strategy for Radio America, a Washington, DC-based national radio network. He is the recipient of several national journalism awards, including a National Emmy Citation for Community Service Broadcasting, the Janus Financial Journalism Prize, and investigative reporting awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the Associated Press Broadcasters.
STATEMENT OF PATRICK M. CLAWSON
"The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has smeared my reputation – and needlessly placed my life in jeopardy - by falsely, maliciously and recklessly publishing that I am a radio executive with "a history" of being an "FBI informer."
"I’ve worked hard over 30 years to build a reputation in both legitimate society and the criminal underworld as an investigative journalist who can be trusted to protect his confidential sources and report the news without fear or favor. I plan to protect my reputation aggressively both in the courts and on the streets. "
"I am an investigative reporter who has covered crime and corruption for decades and who often interviews and obtains information from criminals. I can’t think of anything more damaging to my professional reputation and personal safety than to be unjustly and recklessly branded as an "FBI informer."
"Let me be very clear. I’m not some FBI flunky. I am not now, nor have I ever been, an "FBI informer." I don’t plan to be one, either. I have never betrayed the confidentiality of my sources, regardless of whether they were cops or criminals. I have always been a stand-up news guy who keeps his word to sources. If there’s a story to be reported, I tell it to the public on the air or in print. I don’t whisper it secretly in some dark back alley to a government gumshoe in exchange for favors or money."
"In 1980, I complained very loudly
and very openly to force government officials to stamp out corruption involving
police officers and private investigators in St. Louis, Missouri.
"I paid a stiff price for doing my duty as a citizen whistleblower including an arrest on baseless charges that was aimed at discrediting me, a lengthy criminal grand jury investigation that eventually exonerated me of any wrongdoing, months of unemployment and financial ruin, and most tragically, the loss of a child when my spouse suffered a stress-induced miscarriage.
"When I was a reporter in St. Louis back in the Seventies, I authored news stories criticizing bias, misconduct and ethics lapses at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that angered the paper’s reporters and editors. Now more, over a quarter-century later, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is punishing me once again by smearing my good name and reputation."
"As a journalist, I don’t believe in suing fellow journalists. I believe problems with news coverage should be worked out in a constructive and cooperative way with colleagues. That’s why I made repeated requests that the Defendants simply publish a clarification or correction to set the record straight and end the matter. My requests were repeatedly brushed off by the journalists in an arrogant and offensive manner, even after they acknowledged conducting no interviews and finding no evidence to substantiate their published identification of me as an "FBI informer." Their shameless conduct left me with no alternative but to protect my good name and reputation throughout litigation."
"Over the past year, I’ve gone to the aid of a friend, Dr. Steven Hatfill, who has been wrongly identified as a "person of interest" by Attorney General John Ashcroft in the investigation of the 2001 anthrax-by-mail attacks. Despite the impression created by the Post-Dispatch report , I have never informed on Steve to the FBI. It’s ludicrous to think I would do that."
"I have provided my services as a defense investigator and media adviser to Steve’s lawyers on a no-charge, pro-bono basis because I believe in the innocence of my friend. He’s a good man and his life has been ruined by a steady campaign of government leaks, rumors and innuendos spoon-fed to gullible reporters who too often think they’re part of the law enforcement establishment they’re supposed to be covering instead of acting as independent watchdogs of the public interest. "
"If anyone has a problem with me helping a friend in a time of crisis, they should get over it. I’m unrepentant when it comes to standing up to protect freedom and justice in the face of government and media bullies. I want to see Steve Hatfill’s name cleared. "
"Now, I’d like my own name to be cleared as well. The newspaper’s allegations are a bunch of bogus bunk and I am going to hold the reporters and editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch accountable."
---------------------------------------- 30 -----------------------------------------
Biological warfare team reunites again at Detrick
by Karen Fleming-Michael
Catching up over sodas and beer in the pre-autumn sun Sept. 20, 235 people who worked in the biological warfare program at Detrick from 1943 to 1969 reunited after a two-year break to talk about the good old days.
Amid the steady chatter and laughter at the post's Nallin Farm Pond, some helped their former co-workers navigate the lines of picnic tables with rolling walkers or motorized carts, while others leaned in closer to hear co-workers' voices with ears that aren't as keen as they once were.
"We're just a close-knit group," said Richard Delauter, who worked as a technician for the program and went to work for a local radio station when his job at Detrick ended. "There's nothing any of us wouldn't do for another one."
"Like a family" is sentiment many in the group used during the afternoon to describe the relationship that's lasted for more than three decades. Why were they so close?
"We had one mission, and everyone was one big family, from the scientist at the top to the plumber and the janitor at the bottom," said Janet Michael, one of the event organizers.
In fact, she and about 15 to 20 women who worked in administration hold monthly mini-reunions to keep in touch. Calling themselves the "Has Beens," the women meet for lunch at a local restaurant to dine, "chat and act silly and have a good time," said Doris Egge, a regular attendee.
Holding the reunions every other year causes sleepless nights for its planners, especially the last two. The 2001 reunion was threatened by the heightened security on post after Sept. 11, and Hurricane Isabel did her best to thwart this year's get together. Still, people came from as far as California, Oregon, Wisconsin and North Carolina to attend.
The group's highly classified work during that era was developing defensive mechanisms for biological attacks and developing weapons the United States could use in response to a biological attack. In 1969, Fort Detrick's mission changed from a retaliatory biological warfare capability to medical defense to neutralize the threat.
Many of the scientists who worked in the biological weapons program have been in demand since the fall 2001 anthrax mail attacks. Bill Mahlandt, who worked at Detrick for 43 years, said though some of the stories he heard about the mail attacks didn't sound "quite right," he declined talking to reporters all the same.
"I told them 'I don't really know who you are but you're asking me stuff that was classified, and I don't know if I can talk to you,'" he said.
The anthrax-loaded letters were a "wake-up call" for Congress, said Louis LaMotte Jr., who went to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when he left Detrick. "The public health service in the United States has really gotten some new life because all of a sudden they (Congress) realize the public health service has never been funded, and (now) CDC is getting money and assistance to develop programs."
Former Fort Detrick Commanding General retired Maj. Gen. John Parker, who attended the reunion, told the crowd the nation needs their help to support the knowledge-based programs that came about after the mail attacks.
"More important than the gathering is making sure that we can reach out to you and talk to you about what you did and what you know and how that contributes to the future defense and security of the United States," Parker said.
Though the biological warfare program ended more than a quarter of a century ago, many attendees can't help but express their disappointment for when "Nixon canceled the program here."
"From a national defense perspective, we needed the program," said LaMotte, who with his wife, Lila Jean, traveled with their cocker spaniel, Heather, from Atlanta for the event. "You need to have a program to know how to defend against it and what vaccines and drugs to develop. The Russians worked very ingeniously to develop antibiotic-resistant strains of biological warfare agents. We didn't. So we didn't know what we had to do to defend against that."
Parker also encouraged the reunited group to take a last look at the building that housed a large fermenter, a key facility of the offensive biological weapons program, lamenting the historic edifice's destruction. The dismantling of Building 470 began this summer.
Orley Bourland, who was once the plant manager for 470, said he had no qualms about the building, one of the program's most visible legacies, being taken down.
"I didn't think it was anything that needed to be preserved," he said. "We got one 8-ball preserved, and that's enough."
The number of attendees at this year's reunion was down by 55 as compared to the 2001 event, but Egge said the group doesn't dwell on that.
"There are so many gone now who were at the last one. I'm just thankful for the ones that made it," she said.
The next reunion is set for 2005, and Egge said she'll be there. "As long as they keep having them, I'll keep showing up," she said.
down the fort
by Robert Schroeder
Oct. 2, 2003
Col. John E. Ball is smiling patiently. As the "mayor" of Fort Detrick -- a title self-given by the installation's chief officer -- Ball knows what some Frederick residents think of the place. That it's frightening. That it produces strange, offensive weapons. That they wouldn't want to live, well, too close to it, because ... well, just because it's Fort Detrick.
Ball takes it all in stride; he's heard it before.
"People will ... generally fear what they don't understand or don't know," he says. "Things have changed in the last 40 years here at Fort Detrick."
In April 1943, Camp Detrick was established as a biological warfare research facility. Its name was changed to Fort Detrick in 1956, when it became a permanent Army installation.
But, ever since President Richard M. Nixon ended the United States' offensive biological warfare program in 1969, Detrick's mission has shifted to defense and research, working on cures to diseases U.S. soldiers might encounter on battlefields or in bunkers. In 1971, Nixon set up at Detrick the National Cancer Institute and in 1979, the Army Medical Intelligence and Information Agency moved to the installation. These days, Detrick and National Institutes of Health officials are mapping out plans for a major new biodefense facility.
But as the sprawling military installation -- with 7,300 workers, Frederick County's largest employer -- celebrates its 60th anniversary, it appears that some Frederick residents still haven't gotten the memo that Detrick officials would like them to read: that their neighbor is not the creepy place they think it is.
And that's just the image problem. Residents also gripe about traffic congestion along Rosemont Avenue and 7th Street, and water issues grab the spotlight from time to time.
It is the dangerous element of what the installation does that draws the most concern from average residents. To wit, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) played a major role in testing the anthrax-laced letters sent to media offices in New York and congressional offices in Washington in 2001. USAMRIID possesses what Ball calls "research samples" of the deadly bacteria, along with others like SARS and Ebola.
"We have no secrets at Fort Detrick," Ball says.
Yet even Frederick Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty (D), with whom Ball and his staff consult regularly, says that "you're always a little concerned" by what goes on at Detrick. But, Dougherty adds, it is "exciting" to host Detrick. She cited the research conducted on SARS, AIDS and cancer as "what the best and the brightest are supposed to do."
Almost in the same sentence, though, the mayor acknowledges misgivings among residents here. "There's natural fear that they could use those powers for evil, not good," she says about Detrick's scientists.
"It's always been shrouded in mystery," agrees county resident Stephanie Felton during a cigarette break from her job downtown. "I'm sure there's a lot we don't know about dear old Detrick," she says.
Ball, a gregarious man with a can-do air about him, responds to comments like that by saying simply, "we're in the do-no-harm business." He points to a medical insignia on his camouflage jacket to underscore the statement.
Harming to help
But sometimes, to prevent harm, harm -- or the potential of it -- is inflicted on others. Beginning Friday and lasting through Sunday, a group of volunteers known as "whitecoats" will be holding an anniversary celebration of their own. These volunteers were all Seventh-day Adventists whose idea of serving their country was to breathe in such dangerous agents as Typhus Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Yellow Fever during tests at Detrick. Being conscientious objectors, the Adventists opted for putting their health at risk so they could help others find cures. About 2,300 Adventists served as whitecoat volunteers from the program's inception in 1954 until its closure in 1973. None died, according to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but many fell ill.
Harold Butler of Myersville was one. "I was experimented on," the 57-year-old Butler, a dentist, says matter-of-factly. "I guess that's kind of unique. There aren't too many human guinea pigs in the world."
Butler, a volunteer from 1969 to 1971, said he was experimented on twice; he was once given a yellow fever vaccine and another time subjected to a dietary experiment in which for two weeks he ate nothing but protein. Asked if he ever regretted volunteering for the experiments, Butler replies as if he'd never heard a stranger question.
"No," he says. "I've never had any ill health problems or any regrets."
Others, however, didn't volunteer for these kinds of tests. Bill Eisentrout, who worked at Detrick from 1953 to 1991, recalls tests done on prisoners serving life sentences in the mid-1950s. As a technician working with the installation's "Eight Ball" aerobiology chamber, Eisentrout controlled temperature and humidity for tests done on prisoners.
"They'd breathe aerosol into their lungs," remembered Eisentrout, who now runs a golf services business in Middletown. "They were breathing anthrax and I just don't know what all," he said.
Though such images are dated, these kinds of scenes persist in the community -- many people believe, for example, that the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks was leaked from Detrick. Last week, the widow of a photo editor sued the federal government, alleging that poor security at Detrick led to her husband's death. USAMRIID is the main custodian of the strain of anthrax found in envelopes sent to the victims of the attacks.
"I still think that anthrax got out in some kind of way," Frederick resident Lloyd Diggs said recently. "In other words, someone wasn't watching what they should've."
As the public face of Fort Detrick, Ball says he is eager to interact with county residents and officials. "I'm a believer in getting information out," he says. He stresses that the installation does no classified work and seems to relish the opportunity to dispel the notion that the installation undertakes worrisome work. Aides mention a meeting next Wednesday at Whittier Elementary School regarding new construction, and another "community liaison" meeting is coming up on Oct. 16 at Detrick headquarters. The meetings -- implemented by Ball -- group elected officials, residents and business people "so we can keep them informed of a broad range of things going on at Fort Detrick," says spokeswoman Eileen C. Mitchell. "It allows us to answer their questions and receive their input."
Ball also attends the monthly Council of Governments meetings and hobnobs with the county commissioners. And since he can't meet with city or county officials about everything all the time, he says he has able deputies to interface with Frederick's brass.
Recently, for example, an installation-wide traffic study involved both Detrick and elected officials. Completed in July, the study identifies a number of options to improve access to the base, including the widening of Rosemont Avenue to provide a dedicated left-turn lane between the intersection of U.S. 15's northbound and southbound ramps. The study has been handed over to the city for consideration and will be discussed by city and Detrick representatives before any concrete plans are made. Detrick's Mitchell said it will also be shared with Frederick County officials.
Traffic problems created by the base are of great importance to users of the roads surrounding the 1,200-acre post. And the installation's officials often come in for criticism from local residents and observers, as in a March 2003 commentary in The Gazette by former Frederick Mayor Paul Gordon, a Republican who served from 1990-94.
"Detrick constantly remains an island whose future plans are most often unknown until it is too late to mesh them with local government's planning," Gordon wrote. The former mayor this week criticized Detrick for what he calls "lack of continuity," referring to the two-year terms of its garrison commanders. Many actually serve for three years but Gordon believes those term limits hamper smooth base/community relations.
Gordon and others also are watching closely what Detrick does with its Area B, where crews have since 2001 cleaned up contaminated soil from a former dumping ground for drums, vials of bacteria and syringes.
Detrick officials came under criticism from nearby residents when it was revealed that water contained extremely high levels of the cancer-causing chemicals TCE and PCE. Samples taken on Oct. 21, 1997, showed TCE at 5,000 ppb and PCE at 23,000 ppb in a spring-fed well of a home on Montevue Lane. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets the drinking water standard for both chemicals at five parts per billion (ppb).
The installation acted to provide homeowners with bottled water. In some cases, the fort sprung for new wells for affected residents. It is unknown if or how many residents in neighboring homes contracted cancer from the installation's water, since the Frederick County Health Department does not keep area-specific statistics.
Lt. Col. Donald Archibald, the chief of safety, environment and integrated planning for Detrick's Army Garrison, says cleanup of Area B-11 should be finished in March, but that officials still must decide how exactly to approach groundwater cleanup for the wider Area B. "You don't know with 100 percent certainty ... that the contaminated water is a result of the area we're cleaning up," he said.
Archibald said that a non-disease-causing strain of anthrax was found during the cleanup, but that otherwise, "we haven't seen any bacteria that are bacteria of concern."
Whether or not perceptions about Detrick's activities are founded or false, the base appears poised to be a Frederick neighbor for a long time to come. Strong supporters of the installation, such as former U.S. Rep. Beverly Byron (D) of Frederick, who represented Maryland's 6th District from 1978 to 1993, say that Detrick plays a vital role in the community. "Many [Detrick] people have been active in schools, Scouts, athletics and teach at FCC," Byron says. They are "very well-educated -- many PhDs and research people." Byron, who fought to protect Detrick from a round of base closings in the mid-1990s, also says that technology companies located nearby benefit from Detrick's proximity and its scientists.
And current officials, while recognizing public misgivings about the base, appear to have faith in the place and what it's doing. "I know they are not doing anything to risk the public health," Dougherty says. "Their families live here," also, the mayor says.
And besides, Dougherty adds, "science has to be done somewhere."
links anthrax attacks to hijackers
By Larry Lipman, Palm Beach Post
WASHINGTON -- Two years after the first anthrax victim entered the hospital, the author of a new book examining the attacks suggests the FBI is making a mistake in focusing its efforts on a sole domestic perpetrator.
The anthrax attacks began when Robert Stevens, a photo editor at the supermarket tabloid Sun, published by American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, entered the JFK Medical Center in Atlantis on Oct. 2, 2001 suffering from inhalation anthrax. Three days later he was dead.
Eventually, 11 people were diagnosed with inhalation anthrax and six more with non-lethal cutaneous, or skin anthrax. The method of delivery was the U.S. postal system. Of the 11 who were infected, five died, five are still sick, and one -- Ernesto Blanco, who worked in the AMI building mailroom -- has returned to work.
Leonard Cole, author of the book The Anthrax Letters: A Medical Detective Story, said at a news conference with four inhalation anthrax survivors that there were tantalizing links between the Sept. 11 hijackers and the anthrax attacks.
Instead of pursuing those links, Cole said the FBI has used a profile for the anthrax perpetrator based on the Unabomber case, which resulted in the arrest of Theodore Kaczynski.
Dr. Larry Bush, the JFK Medical Center physician who diagnosed Stevens as having anthrax, joined Cole and said there were serious questions that need to be answered.
"Just to say this was a lone person, I think, is a little bit naive," Bush said.
Among the elements -- all of which have previously been reported -- Cole said indicated a possible connection between the anthrax attacks and the hijackers were:
"None of this suggests with certainty that I know who the killers were, or who the killer was, or that it wasn't a domestic loner, but it seems to me that at the very least we... should have kept on the table the probability of a foreign connection," Cole said.
Bush praised Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, for moving quickly to close the AMI building.
Survivors told reporters how their lives have been "turned upside down," because they still suffer numerous symptoms, including short-term memory loss, low blood pressure and fatigue. With the exception of Blanco, none has returned to work.
Blanco, 76, said "I feel fine," but Norma Wallace, a postal worker from Hamilton, N.J., said "it has been a traumatic experience."
weapons hunter: Tips to anthrax, Scud missiles in Iraq
Posted 10/5/2003 5:48 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) — Weapons hunters in Iraq are pursuing tips that point to the possible presence of anthrax and Scud missiles still hidden in the country, the chief searcher said Sunday.
David Kay told Congress last week that his survey team had not found nuclear, biological or chemical weapons so far. But he argued against drawing conclusions, saying he expects to provide a full picture on Iraq's weapons programs in six months to nine months.
While lacking physical evidence for the presence anthrax or Scuds, Kay said tips from Iraqis are motivating the search for them.
Critics, including many in Congress, say Kay's findings do not support most of the Bush administration's prewar assertions that the United States faced an imminent, serious threat from Iraq's Saddam Hussein because of widespread and advanced Iraqi weapons programs.
President Bush has said the U.S.-led war on Iraq was justified despite the failure to find weapons.
Kay reported that searchers found a vial of live botulinum bacteria that had been stored since 1993 in an Iraqi scientist's refrigerator. The bacteria make botulinum toxin, which can be used as a biological weapon, but Kay has offered no evidence that the bacteria had been used in a weapons program.
The live bacteria was among a collection of "reference strains" of biological organisms that could not be used to produce biological warfare agents.
Kay said Sunday the same scientist told investigators that he was asked to hide another much larger cache of strains, but "after a couple of days he turned them back because he said they were too dangerous. He has small children in the house."
Kay said the cache "contains anthrax and that's one reason we're actively interested in getting it." Kay, speaking on Fox News Sunday, did not say whether the anthrax was live or a strain used only for anthrax research.
Before the war, Iraqis said they had destroyed their supply of anthrax. Inspectors haven't found any and Iraqis haven't been able to provide evidence to satisfy investigators that they did destroy it. Experts note that old supplies of anthrax would have degraded by now.
While the Bush administration argued before taking the country to war that Iraq's arsenal posed an imminent threat, much of what Kay discovered is that Iraq had interest in such weapons and was researching some agents.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Kay's report shows Saddam's clear intent to develop chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. He said, however, that the administration didn't tell the public the whole truth.
"There is some evidence that the Bush administration exaggerated unnecessarily," he told "Fox News Sunday." Lieberman, a presidential candidate, said the exaggeration "did discredit what was otherwise a very just cause of fighting tyranny and terrorism."
Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have contended the vial of botulinum bacteria that Kay's team found is one strong piece of evidence of Saddam's weapons intent.
Searches have been unsuccessful for the kind of long-range Scud missiles the Iraqis fired at Saudi Arabia and Israel in 1991. Many were destroyed during and after the Persian Gulf War, but the Bush administration had accused Iraq of continuing to hide Scuds.
Kay said there are indications there may still be Scuds even though Iraq declared it got rid of them in the early 1990s.
"We have Iraqis now telling us that they continued until 2001, early 2002, to be capable of mixing and preparing Scud missile fuel. Scud missile fuel is only useful in Scud missiles," he said. "Why would you continue to produce Scud missile fuel if you didn't have Scuds? We're looking for the Scuds."
Kay's report to Congress said the information on fuel production came from Iraqi sources and has not been confirmed with documents or physical evidence.
Weapons hunters still are looking for chemical weapons at scores of large ammunition storage sites throughout Iraq. Because of the size of the depots, searchers have examined only 10 of 130 sites so far, Kay said.
"These are sites that contain — the best estimate is between 600,000 and 650,000 tons of arms," he said. "That's about one-third of the entire ammunition stockpile of the much larger U.S. military."
The Iraqis stored chemical weapons, often unmarked, among conventional munitions, so "you really have to examine each one," Kay said. He said 26 sites are on a critical list to be examined quickly.
The New York Post
October 6, 2003 -- Again we hear the cries of "no smoking gun." David Kay's report to Congress is decried variously as a full glass or an empty glass. It seem no one can accept that this is an interim report, and indeed the glass is half full.
Kay says his group has found considerable evidence that Iraq had ongoing, prohibited biological and missile programs, although to date no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have been found. He further reports of innumerable items and sites that should have been declared by Iraq to U.N. Monitoring and Verification Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and probably earlier to U.N. Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM). Not declaring directly violated Security Council Resolution1441.
Those of us experienced in dealing with Iraq over its weapons are not surprised that no "smoking gun" - e.g., munitions filled with chemical or biological agents - has been found. I've stated many times that if Iraq didn't use these weapons, they'd be difficult to find.
Iraq didn't use them. Rolf Ekeus, former UNSCOM executive chairman, explained why in an oped earlier this summer: Iraq had told him and others in UNSCOM that it realized chemical and biological weapons could do little against a rapidly advancing enemy.
Finding WMD-loaded munitions would require Iraqi individuals with knowledge of their storage sites to give that information to the Coalition forces. To date, this has not occurred. Yes, several scientists have talked to the press - but they've related less than what Iraq had already declared or acknowledged to UNSCOM. Many of the accounts seemed to be more akin to those of 1995 and early '96, rather than those of 1997 and '98.
Indeed, Kay says the scientists have been reluctant to talk. Several reasons come to mind: They may have been unaware of the later admissions by Iraq, and afraid of revealing that which was not permitted. This also indicates that there is still a fear of retaliation for telling too much.
The scientists may distrust both western reporters and Coalition personnel. I certainly saw this lack of trust in speaking with an Iraqi scientist this spring. And trust was not generated by the actions of some early "inspectors" from April through June, when the scientists were offered "less jail time" if they cooperated. The U.S. personnel were seemingly unaware that jail means one thing to us, but something far more horrific to Iraqis who lived under the Saddam regime.
In considering how full the glass is, don't that it takes relatively little biological-agent material to create large-scale havoc, misery and death. Rather than casually dismissing any link between al Queda and Iraq, more effort should be exerted to fully establish that there was or was not a connection.
Certainly, the official Czech position is still - despite all the leaks and innuendos to the contrary - that a meeting did take place in the Spring of 2001. We know from the anthrax letters that anthrax spores can survive the rigors of the mail service and produce evil results. These could be easily transported to and used in America. Nor are Anthrax spores the only biological agents that could be so used, or letters the only delivery means.
Iraq supplying terrorists with biological material to be used in the United Sates has always been my concern with an ongoing Iraqi bioweapon program. It was most unlikely that Iraq would develop missiles that could threaten North America. Indeed, UNSCOM was told that Iraq saw biological weapons as a way to get its neighbors to "see things Iraq's way." But Iraq could extend its reach by supplying terrorists with suitable material.
Yet to be accounted for is some significant WMD-production material that we know Iraq had. It is not apparent that current investigative units are even aware of these - i.e., a spray-dryer ideally suitable for making a powdered agent; 25 metric tons of Aerosil imported by Iraq in 2002, a product important to both the chemical and biological programs; and the missing 1,000-liter fermenters. These should have been among UNMOVIC's highest priorities, but the sites where they were located were not inspected. Where are these items now?
The glass is now clearly half full. With time, which David Kay has requested, it may be fuller than many would like to see.
Richard Spertzel was head of the biological-weapons section of Unscom from 1994-99.E-mail: RSpertzel@benadorassociates.com
Probe Should Trump the WMD Search
James P. Pinkerton
October 7, 2003
David Kay's report on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or lack thereof, was obviously a disappointment to President George W. Bush. But some weapons of mass destruction have already been found, here at home, and they have killed Americans. Yet the Bush administration is much less interested in the search for those weapons and the unknown evildoer who used them - and for future weapons of the same lethal sort.
Two years ago this month, even as America was still reeling from 9/11, the nation was further shaken by the letter-based anthrax attacks aimed at six different political and media targets. Those attacks - envelopes filled with bacterial spores - left five people dead and 17 sick.
Now author Leonard Cole of Rutgers University has come forward with a new book, "The Anthrax Letters: A Medical Detective Story," which offers us a wealth of detail on the case - even as it reminds us how little we know.
One man, Steven Hatfill, a former bioweapons researcher for the U.S. Army, was named as a "person of interest" by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Hatfill has denied any involvement, and has never been charged. Indeed, just last week the director of the FBI's Washington field office expressed regret that his superiors in the Justice Department had put Hatfill in the spotlight.
Yet, even as G-men seemingly back away from Hatfill, author Cole is concerned that the U.S. government is still looking for an American Psycho who fits its profile of a germy loner. As Cole puts it: "By zeroing in on the single lone misfit theory, we missed the opportunity to explore links to other nations and other programs experts." The problem, Cole continues, is that the technology for developing anthrax and other biological weapons is relatively inexpensive, and the human expertise is equally easy to obtain.
The former Soviet Union, for example, was active in bioweapons production. In the dozen years since its breakup, some ex-Soviet scientists have sold their grisly skills to new paymasters. And, of course, Iraq has been known to possess bioweapons. The one sure "find" uncovered by David Kay's Iraq Survey Group was a vial of botulinum bacteria.
The Iraqi botulinum was nowhere near being "weaponized"; it would be absurd to justify the American invasion on that evidence alone. Moreover, with each passing day, it becomes more obvious that Iraq posed no imminent threat to the United States. But at the same time, Kay has found, he says, "equipment, technology, diagrams, documents" concerning potential Iraqi weapons programs.
And so to the bottom line: It's not difficult to set up a clandestine bioweapons laboratory - and it's darn hard to find such a lab. If it took months for American inspectors to find the rudiments of such production in Iraq, where gumshoes have the run of the place - not a civil libertarian in sight - then it's easier to understand how, two years after the American anthrax attacks, the government doesn't have a single legit suspect. Meanwhile, there's the whole wide world of pranksters, hackers, extortionists, terrorists and rogue nations, all of whom have access to the United States, at least through the mail.
In other words, a bioattack could come from just about anywhere. So what to do? Laura Segal, speaking for the Trust for America's Health, a Washington-based advocacy group, offers a plan for upgrading America's emergency-response system. For starters, she would double the budget of the Centers for Disease Control - the federal agency responsible for countering everything from AIDS to SARS to whatever new killer agent some evildoer can cook up in a lab - from its current $6.5 billion.
To be sure, that's a lot of money. But it's less than the amount that Bush proposes to spend in Iraq every month, occupying and rebuilding a country that posed no urgent threat. In the meantime, as "The Anthrax Letters" makes plain, deadly potential threats aren't concentrated in any one country or axis of countries. Instead, the tools of terror are scattered around everywhere, at home as well as abroad.
And so maybe we need a different approach to terrorism, not one that involves an offense against threats that have yet to be proven, but one that involves defense of the homeland - especially against threats that have already demonstrated their deadliness.
Two years later, anthrax culprit still at large; cleanup continues
By Mike Nartker, Global Security Newswire
Two years ago this month, the first reports emerged that people in the eastern United States had become infected with the biological warfare agent anthrax. By the end of November, the 2001 anthrax attacks killed five people in Connecticut, Florida, New York and Washington, and sickened 13 others.
Over the past year, the FBI has had little public success in tracking down those responsible for the anthrax attacks — to the point where a senior FBI official was reported late last month as suggesting that the case might be never be solved. While various U.S. agencies have launched the massive cleanup effort needed to decontaminate the various facilities that were tainted with anthrax, some of the victims still complain of lingering symptoms.
Late last month, several newspapers reported on a set of surprising comments made by FBI Assistant Director Michael Mason, the newly appointed head of the bureau’s Washington field office. According to the Washington Post, Mason said he regretted that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft had publicly identified former Army biologist Steven Hatfill as a “person of interest in the case.”
Over the past two years, Hatfill has been the apparent public focus of the FBI investigation into the anthrax attacks. In early September, he filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, claiming the department had violated his constitutional rights and damaged his reputation.
Former U.N. inspector Richard Spertzel, who has followed the anthrax investigation, told Global Security Newswire that he hoped Hatfill succeeded in his lawsuit against Justice.
“I sincerely hope Hatfill is able to collect big-time from his lawsuit. To have one’s life ruined on such flimsy reasons is criminal in nature,” Spertzel said.
Mason was also reported late last month as having said that the FBI’s efforts to recreate the process used to produce the spores used in the attacks had been unsuccessful. Late last year, experts had praised the FBI’s decision to use this investigative tactic. While saying that the bureau had been unsuccessful in trying to recreate the process used to produce the anthrax spores, Mason also said that the effort had helped to narrow some aspects of the investigation, according to reports.
“We would not have that if reverse engineering had completely failed to provide us with any information or valuable leads,” Mason was quoted by USA Today as saying.
In addition this past year, another highly visible FBI investigative tactic also apparently resulted in failure, according to reports, when the bureau employed divers to search a forest pond near Frederick, Md. The discovery of pieces of laboratory equipment within the pond led the FBI this summer to drain it in hopes of finding further evidence. The three-week, $250,000 effort, however, only resulted in the discovery of discarded items unrelated to the attacks, according to reports.
Assistant FBI Director Mason was also reported as having suggested that the anthrax investigation may never be solved — a view shared by some outside experts.
“Most informed folk I have spoken with are of the same opinion that a break is not likely soon or maybe ever,” Martin Hugh-Jones of the Pathological Sciences Department at Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine told Global Security Newswire.
While the FBI has had little success in tracking down those responsible for the anthrax attacks, efforts over the past year to decontaminate the buildings contaminated with spores have had better results.
In March, the U.S. Postal Service scored a success with the successful decontamination of the Brentwood Road mail-handling facility in Washington, D.C. after more than a year of work. A Postal Service spokesman told Global Security Newswire in June that the Brentwood facility was expected to reopen by the end of November.
Efforts have also begun to decontaminate several other facilities affected by the attacks, including a U.S. State Department offsite mail facility in Sterling, Va., and a Postal Service mail-handling center in New Jersey. In addition, plans are being prepared to decontaminate the first site contaminated during the attacks — the former headquarters of American Media Inc in Boca Raton, Fla. That building has remained sealed since the discovery of the first two reported anthrax cases — AMI employees Bob Stevens, who died of the disease, and Ernesto Blanco, who came down with inhalational anthrax but recovered.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in August that the firm Consultants in Disease and Injury Control had been awarded the contract to decontaminate the former AMI headquarters. Real estate developer David Rustine, who purchased the building for only $40,000, has reportedly promised to be the first to walk through the building unprotected once it had been decontaminated.
In an effort to help prevent further biological attacks conducted by mail, the Postal Service in July began testing a new anthrax detection system at facilities in 15 cities. An agency spokesman told Global Security Newswire last month that the test had been a “resounding success” and now the Postal Service is scheduled to begin installing the system nationwide early next year.
While progress has been made in efforts to decontaminate tainted facilities and to develop new techniques to prevent further attacks, many of the survivors of the attacks have been less successful in moving on, according to recent reports. In mid-September, the Baltimore Sun reported that a doctor at Baltimore Sinai’s hospital has been monitoring five of the survivors through telephone interviews conducted every three months since the attacks. According to the Sun, the study has found that all five survivors continue to report similar lingering symptoms, such as weakness and memory problems.
In contrast to their experience, the 76-year-old Blanco, the first survivor of the attacks, has so far been the only one to return to work, according to the Associated Press.
“I feel fine,” AP quoted Blanco as saying.
Roll Call Inc.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) has unveiled one of the most closely guarded facts about the 2001 anthrax attack on Capitol Hill, revealing the identity of the intern who unwittingly opened the chemically laced letter exactly two years ago today.
Following the Oct. 15, 2001, incident, both the lawmaker and his staff made a concerted effort to shield the staffer's identity, indicating in news reports only that it was a female intern.
But in his new book on the 107th Congress, set for release next month, Daschle names Grant Leslie as the intern who opened the fateful letter in the sixth-floor suite of the Hart Senate Office Building, and also reveals other previously undisclosed details about the terrifying experience.
"She cut about an inch into the
envelope and, much like talcum powder squeezed out of its
The Senator goes on to describe
the arrival of Capitol Police officers, testing of the
"The doctor attending to Grant collected her nasal swab, and the police swabbed her clothes. The doctor advised her that she needed to prepare herself for the news that her nasal swab would be positive, even if others' weren't," Daschle writes. "He asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital. Shocked by the suggestion, she asked if he thought she needed to be hospitalized, and he responded, 'It's up to you.'"
Leslie, who is now a research
assistant in the Senator's office, declined the physician's
A Daschle spokeswoman declined a request to interview Leslie, stating the former intern would not speak publicly until after the Nov. 4 release of the book.
In a stirring reminder of the
gravity of the situation, Daschle also reveals that at one point
"Cultures are generally held for forty-eight to seventy-two hours, but the plates usually get checked for growth at the twenty-four- and forty-eight-hour marks. It had been less than twelve hours since the cultures were plated, but Greg checked them anyway," the Senator writes. "He was amazed to find the cream-colored colonies of rod-shaped Bacillus anthracis -- anthrax bacteria -- well on their way to completely covering about a dozen of the plates. Suddenly, it was a whole new ball game."
Martin, Daschle writes, believed
"there was a strong possibility that despite all medical
In addition to the anthrax attack, Daschle also addresses his relations with various lawmakers in the 279-page book. He recounts a December 2002 conversation with then-House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) in which they acknowledged the possibility of facing off with one another for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
"For the first time, we were confronting
the possibility that we could soon find ourselves
"I looked back at him and replied, 'We've been through a lot together. You'll always be my friend, too.'
"We gave each other a big hug. Then he turned without another word and left the room."
Later in the book, Daschle describes his own elation over Maria Cantwell's (D) victory in the Washington Senate race back in 2000, which resulted in the historic 50-50 split in the chamber. He recounts that Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) was simply too shell-shocked to deal with the reality of an equally divided chamber.
"[W]here my days had been driven by excitement and hope, Trent had been living in trepidation. Now, with the results final, he couldn't accept it," Daschle writes.
"When I first managed to reach him after the Senate officially became fifty-fifty, Trent could hardly finish a sentence. He was in shock. It was simply too soon for him to accept the fact that his world -- his position as Senate majority leader -- had just been turned upside down.
"It would turn out to be several weeks before Trent finally acknowledged what had occurred," Daschle writes.
Similarly, Daschle addresses the
Democrats' efforts, and eventual success, in recruiting a
"The reports I was getting by late March were that it looked as though something might happen with [Arizona Sen. John] McCain or [Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln] Chafee. There was very little going on with Jim Jeffords," Daschle notes, until the Vermont Senator met with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and mentioned that he would consider becoming an Independent. "[T]hat was enough to push him to the center of our radar screen."
talks on lasting effects of Princeton anthrax scare
At the corner of Nassau Street and Bank Street, there once were three mailboxes. Today, there are just two — one was removed after anthrax was detected in it almost a year after the anthrax attack in 2001.
Leonard Cole, author of the new book "The Anthrax Letters: A Medical Detective Story," speaking last night at the U-Store, discussed his work and emphasized the impact of the incident on the Princeton area.
Two of the survivors of inhalation anthrax, Norma Wallace and Jyotsna Patel, both former postal workers at the Hamilton facility, also attended the talk. Neither has returned to work, and the post office remains closed.
Wallace briefly spoke about her lingering health problems. She said she and other survivors still experience joint pain, chronic fatigue, shortness of breath and memory loss.
Cole said 22 people have been acknowledged as victims of anthrax as a consequence of the letters sent in September 2001. Eleven of the 22 suffered from cutaneous or skin anthrax, the less dangerous form, while the other half suffered from the more serious inhalation anthrax. Six of those victims, including Patel and Wallace, survived.
Cole, an adjunct professor of political science at Rutgers University and the author of six books, suggested investigators focused the case too narrowly. They theorized that an individual disgruntled American, similar to the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, was responsible.
Cole said he did not necessarily think al-Qaeda or the Iraqi government had sponsored the attack, but he had noticed information that did not fit with the FBI profile of an angry recluse.
"I'm trying to counterbalance the notion that has permeated the past two years . . . that this is a lone guy," Cole said. "It would be unfortunate . . . to just look at a lone individual and be possibly missing the larger picture."
Cole raised several inconsistencies he had discovered in his research. First, he questioned how the letters could have been sent within a week of the Sept. 11 attacks. He said it would take an excellent scientist several days to process the material, casting doubt on the theory that the anthrax was unrelated to Sept. 11.
In addition, Cole said the first letter had been directed at an employee of The Sun, a tabloid. He noted that the husband of the real estate agent of two of the Sept. 11 hijackers was the editor-in-chief of The Sun. Finally, he cited an instance in which a doctor claimed to have treated one of the hijackers for a crusty black lesion before Sept. 11, a lesion that could have resulted from cutaneous anthrax.
Cole said much of the difficulty in finding the perpetrator stemmed from the small amount of anthrax involved. He said the entire event involved a total quantity equal to about a handful of aspirin.
The main question that remains is how prepared the United States is for a future bioterrorist attack, Cole said.
"If there was to be a replay . . . there would now be surely a likelihood that we would find out much more quickly that someone would have become infected," Cole said. "Surely much of the medical community would think of these things in a manner that they hadn't previously."
October 27, 2003
Books, Arts & Manners
Bush vs. the Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror, by Laurie Mylroie (HarperCollins, 272 pp., $25.95)
This book is the best available account of the reasoning behind the conduct of the war on terror. But it is based on a faulty premise, the one implicit in its title: that presidents neither control nor reform their bureaucracies. This is an analgesic for Republicans, because it shields President Bush from responsibility for the incoherence of terrorism policy that the book documents. If all presidents are equally beset by bureaucrats, then Bush can be excused, even praised, for making U.S. policy come out no worse than it has.
In fact, however, the image of a president battling bureaucrats on nearly equal terms applies only to those who have not tried to master their servants, or proved inept at it. It certainly does not apply to FDR or JFK -- or even to Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton. Nearly a half-century ago, Kennedy's defense secretary, Robert McNamara, bequeathed an organizational structure -- an elite, and a culture -- that dominates the armed forces as well as the thinking about them; none of his successors have challenged it. Jimmy Carter's CIA and NSA directors -- respectively, Stansfield Turner and Bobby Ray Inman -- made their agencies into what they are today by firing one kind of senior bureaucrat and elevating another. Similarly, bureaucrats knew that Bill Clinton could not be crossed with impunity. (Ask James Woolsey and John Deutch.) Laurie Mylroie never attempts to show the general applicability of her judgment that "even after a clear decision is made [by the president], sub-Cabinet and sub-sub-Cabinet officials may work to undermine it, while the overruled Cabinet official may continue to emit public signals of his unhappiness with the policy." In fact, Democrats have tended to shape, staff, and be served by the bureaucracy, while Republicans have lived with it and complained. With precise mathematical accuracy, presidents get from their bureaucracies neither more nor less than they deserve.
Although Mylroie writes much and well on the intelligence bureaucracy's grievous shortcomings regarding terrorism, she does not directly shed light on President Bush's connection to the bureaucracy's failings -- except at one point, where she writes: "Even senior administration officials -- including the president -- may not have understood how strong the case against Iraq was." This points to the heart of what the title obfuscates: In fact as well as formally, President Bush is responsible. On this the sources she cites agree: Repeated reality checks to the contrary notwithstanding, Bush II, like Bush I, trusts U.S. intelligence, and the State Department as well. He staffs them and keeps them. He does not battle them. No one but he is responsible for the actual mix of judgment and policy.
This book's substantial value is as a case study of intellectual incompetence with regard to terrorism and Iraq. That incompetence has two sources: self-indulgent adherence to mistaken prejudices about policy, and failure to apply proper quality control to intelligence operations (the kind of watchfulness usually called counterintelligence).
Mylroie begins with the FBI's handling of the investigation into the fall 2001 anthrax mailings. There was never the slightest evidence that the spores came from an American, never mind a lone "right-wing" scientist; but the FBI angrily dismissed the massive evidence pointing in other directions. It did not deviate from its course, even though the anthrax letters -- the first of which was mailed on 9/11 from a location near where the hijackers had operated, and all of which contained references to Islamic causes -- practically begged the Bureau to think that they had come from al-Qaeda.
Then Iraq's Saddam Hussein publicly suggested that bin Laden was behind the anthrax attacks. Why was one of our enemies trying gratuitously to implicate al-Qaeda? One plausible answer begins with the fact that the essence of terrorist warfare is cover: giving the target the impression that the orchestrators of the attack are in fact innocent, and sending the target to look elsewhere. The anthrax attacks were small, and may have been a test -- not of the powders or the delivery system, because those were sure to work -- but of whether the cover would work: Would the American hounds go baying off after al-Qaeda and leave Iraq alone? Mylroie concludes that the FBI's focus on domestic terrorism baffled the Iraqis, who did not think that the FBI's theory would offer sufficient cover for larger attacks. In the absence of a firm disposition to blame al-Qaeda, the Americans might come after Iraq itself.
Within hours of the 9/11 hijackings, too, much evidence pointed to al-Qaeda. But this information was "low-hanging fruit": People expert at covering their tracks had left some tracks to be found. The media and the CIA pounced on the easy meat. Mylroie writes: "The willingness of the American media to accept simple (if flawed) explanations is matched only by the willingness of the U.S. government agencies to promote such explanations -- even in the face of disturbing evidence to the contrary." The agencies did after 9/11 something like what they had done after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. In 1993, they picked up a suspect who had been left behind intentionally (left without money, the sap went back to Ryder to collect the rental deposit on the van that had blown up with the bomb). Even though he had made 46 telephone calls to Iraq, the official judgment was that both the fool himself and the overall plot were about pure Islamist extremism, having nothing to do with any state. Similarly, U.S. intelligence went out of its way to ignore the fact that the professional doctoring of bombing mastermind Ramzi Youssef's Kuwaiti identity documents pointed to his being an agent of Iraqi intelligence.
Who, then, was ultimately behind the attacks on the World Trade Center, in 1993 and 2001? That is the question Laurie Mylroie has done more than anyone else to advance. In a nutshell, the official U.S. intelligence line -- the basis on which President Bush has been acting -- is that Youssef and the key organizers of 9/11 all belong essentially to one family, who are ethnic Baluchis, born and raised in Kuwait, and working for al-Qaeda. In fact, however, their activities began long before their 1997 association with al-Qaeda could have brought them the financial and organizational tools; furthermore, the notion that a single family could be at the heart of a worldwide assault on America is inherently implausible. Mylroie also argues, persuasively, that there is much reason to believe that these persons are not who they claim to be at all. In addition, at least five of the 19 persons whose names and photos U.S. intelligence published as those of the 9/11 hijackers did not match real people.
The CIA and FBI need to ask -- and be asked -- uncomfortable questions. In Mylroie's words: "People's egos and careers almost inevitably come into play [in intelligence] . . . the deceiver quickly finds an unlikely ally in the deceived." Until this problem is confronted, the title Bush vs. the Beltway will remain more a wish than a statement.
Of The Anthrax Murders
Published: Oct 29, 2003
The nation's most urgent murder mystery remains unsolved two years after anthrax was mailed to two U.S. Senate offices and several news organizations.
In New Jersey, the costly cleanup of an anthrax-tainted letter-sorting warehouse only now is nearly complete. Over the weekend, poison gas was pumped into the large building to kill any remaining anthrax spores. It has been sealed tight since letters leaking anthrax passed through in 2001 and made some postal workers sick.
The cleansing gas is so corrosive the machinery in the plant will be ruined. A newspaper office in Boca Raton, where the first anthrax victim worked, remains closed. Another postal office and the Senate office building have already been cleaned.
Only five people were known to be killed by the anthrax mailings, which is itself a mystery. Why did the killer stop? Why were warnings included in the letters? Victims were alerted to seek early treatment and buildings were evacuated, greatly minimizing casualties. That isn't how terrorists usually operate, certainly not the ones currently targeting the United Nations and the Red Cross in Iraq.
Key to solving the mystery is finding out the source of the unique anthrax used in the Senate mailings. Tom G. Day, vice president for engineering at the Postal Service, said two of those letters contained weaponized spores unlike anything previously seen.
"Ordinarily, anthrax spores contain an electrostatic charge that makes the microscopic spores stick together in clumps that are too big to be inhaled into the lungs,'' explains Iraq expert Laurie Mylroie in a new book. "But these spores had been coated with a Teflon- like substance containing silica. ... When U.S. Army experts tried to examine them, the spores refused to stay put on the glass microscope slide.''
Jack Kelly, columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, notes that the FBI and defense scientists have been unable to recreate the floating, deadly brew, "making it all the more unlikely a lone rogue scientist was able to whip it up.''
"Had the anthrax in either of those envelopes been put into the ventilation system at the World Trade Center,'' Kelly speculates, "it would have killed more people than the hijacked airliners did.''
Only the United States, Russia and prewar Iraq are thought capable of making such an effective biological weapon.
The clues two years later lead only to questions. Who would mail anthrax without intending to do maximum harm? And the biggest question of all, will someone do it again?
If the answers aren't uncovered in the secret laboratories of Iraq, the search must continue. This is one murder mystery the FBI dare not file away under "unsolved.''
November 8, 2003
America's two-year investigation of deadly anthrax attacks has come up empty-handed. If the chief suspect didn't do it, who did? Marian Wilkinson investigates.
When the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) first embarked on a secret project to train a team that could lead the hunt for deadly biological and chemical weapons in enemy territory, it turned to a little-known private company with excellent connections to the Pentagon. That company, Science Applications International Corporation, offered up one of its best experts to fill the contract, Steven J. Hatfill, an ingenious doctor with impressive credentials in the field of bio-terrorism.
As the senior DIA officer in charge of the project, Esteban Rodriguez, put it, Hatfill was "this ultimate biological weapons expert".
For more than two years, Hatfill worked under contract for the front-line US defence agencies on bio-terrorism, including the DIA, the US Special Forces and the Defence Threat Reduction Agency, a defence official told the Herald. Hatfill would continue to work on the Pentagon projects until May 2002, months after the FBI's Washington office began questioning him over the biggest bio-terrorist crime in US history, the mailing of a series of letters laced with a deadly strain of the anthrax virus.
The anthrax letters were sent through the postal service to two senators and some of the country's top news media in the weeks after September 11. The attack left five people dead and 22 ill but no one has been charged.
Today, Hatfill, stripped of his security clearances, is unemployed. His scientific reputation is in tatters. FBI agents on what's called the Amerithrax investigation tailed him around the clock for more than a year. Bloodhounds searched his home, his phones were tapped, his emails read and his friends interrogated. A former colleague turned out to be an FBI informant.
But Hatfill, described as "a person of interest" in the anthrax investigation by the US Attorney-General, John Ashcroft, over a year ago, has not been charged. Indeed, the FBI investigation has deeply split the small, elite world of bio-terrorism experts in the US. In the Pentagon, some defence officials are still accusing the FBI of having "a mindset" against him. One defence official said: "The guys around here say certainly he has the knowledge and expertise to do it but he is the last guy who would."
Martin Hugh-Jones, one of the US's top anthrax researchers, at Louisiana State University where Hatfill briefly worked, has said "Hatfill is just a jerk and an idiot and is paying for it". He said he was "willing to bet" he didn't do it.
The scientist who helped steer the FBI towards Hatfill, Dr Barbara Hatch Rosenberg of the Federation of American Scientists, says she has no regrets. "I know I've gotten a lot of flak. I don't care about that," she said, stressing that she never named Hatfill as a suspect. "My whole point was to make certain they were investigating some evidence that I learnt about from people with more knowledge than I in the case but who couldn't talk."
A new FBI agent in the Washington office, Michael Mason, took over supervision of the investigation in August. In one of his first public statements he distanced the FBI from the naming of Hatfill, saying, "Whether or not we bring the person or persons that are guilty to justice, this has been a remarkable investigation."
Mason's comments masked splits in the FBI over the course of the two-year investigation that has interviewed more than 6000 people and involved hundreds of agents. The second anniversary of the attacks last month was marked by the release of three inconclusive books on the case and several lawsuits, including one lodged by Hatfill for unspecified damages against FBI agents and against Ashcroft.
The FBI, through a spokesman, says the Amerithrax investigation is still "very active" and at least one witness said new documents have recently been subpoenaed. There is no evidence that the FBI has dropped its interest in Hatfill.
BUT behind the raging debate about whether Hatfill is guilty are very murky and disturbing questions for the US defence establishment. Was the perpetrator of the biggest bio-terror attack on US soil one of its own who strayed, as one scientist put, "off the reservation"? And was the motive criminal, personal or an attempt to shock the Government into pouring money and resources into bio-terrorism defence?
Suspicion that the killer was a defence scientist began when tests revealed the anthrax genetically matched the "Ames" strain of the virus. That strain was used in research at two US defence establishments, the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and its Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland, where Hatfill had worked. But the Ames strain, discovered in 1981, had also been sent around the country and the world for research purposes, so this hardly narrowed the field of suspects.
What intrigued investigators was how the anthrax had been refined. The most deadly letters were sent to Daschle, a Democrat senator, then the majority leader, and Pat Leahy, the head of the judicial committee that oversees the Department of Justice and the FBI.
The anthrax in these was extraordinarily highly processed or "weaponised", as one scientist said. It made the anthrax powder so light that the tiniest amount could become airborne when disturbed and infect the victims' lungs, bypassing their natural defences. When a minute amount leaked from the letters as they went through the mail in Washington DC it killed postal workers, even though they never opened the letters.
Dr Dick Spertzel, who worked for years at the US Army's lab at Fort Detrick, says the anthrax sent to the senators came from a sophisticated laboratory.
"This is not something that a person could casually make," Spertzel told the Herald. "And I contend that you can't do this in a clandestine fashion so it had to be made in a country that was complicit in its production - and that narrows the field."
But Spertzel, who has worked with Hatfill, is one of the few experts who does not believe the perpetrator was a US scientist. A former UN weapons inspector who is still convinced Saddam Hussein kept an active bio-weapons program, he is convinced Iraq is the most likely anthrax source. And the failure of the WMD search in that country has not dissuaded him.
"The FBI spent a year and a half trying to duplicate the product and failed by their own admission," said Spertzel. "It think I know what's being done in America and there is nothing resembling this."
Dr Martin Hugh-Jones, while deferring to Spertzel's military expertise, disagrees. "The betting is still that it's domestic and I have no reason to doubt that. My working model is that somebody came across some weaponised material being used in a trial and appropriated a small amount of it." Who was it? "I have my suspicions and I start with some of my best friends."
How Hatfill became a key target of the FBI investigation is intriguing. When he left the US Army's lab at Fort Detrick he was hired by the defence contractor SAIC. One close associate was a retired military scientist, Dr Bill Patrick. Now in his 70s, Patrick is one of the fathers of the US bio-terrorism program and runs a consulting company called Bio Threats Assessments.
When SAIC assigned Hatfill to work on his first important contract in 1999, he hired Patrick to write a paper on how to respond to bio-terrorist attack. One scenario Patrick scoped out was the effect of two grams of anthrax being sent through the mail.
By early 2001, Hatfill was working at SAIC on a secret project for the Defence Intelligence Agency. His job was to train teams to go in and secure possible weapons sites, take samples and test for deadly toxins.
About the same time, Patrick gave a series of lectures to meetings of defence scientists on the threat of biological warfare. For impact, he would take glass bottles of simulated weaponised anthrax to the talks.
Patrick told a conference in February 2001 such a powder "must produce very small particles, on the order of 1 to 3 microns. Particles this small can avoid your respiratory tract's defence mechanism, get down in your lung sacs and cause a deep-seated infection. Such a powder ... is difficult to prepare but once a terrorist has it, dissemination is easy."
Bio-terrorism was the hot new issue and by August 2001, Hatfill, partly through his association with Patrick, found his status as an expert soaring. He was in demand by the Pentagon. But he was also making enemies. That month, a colleague at SAIC began reporting back to the company on what he claimed were Hatfill's dark secrets.
Hatfill refuses to talk to reporters but a close friend said he probably deliberately misled the informant. "Steve would feed him a line of s---, not realising the guy was feeding it all to the FBI and the CIA."
If true, this proved to be a huge mistake. SAIC was a critical defence contractor. The informant's report was passed to the Government and Hatfill was called in for a polygraph. His security clearance, vital for his work, was suspended.
A month later, the US was thrown into turmoil by the September 11 attacks. On September 18 the first of the anthrax letters was posted from Trenton, New Jersey. On October 10 the most deadly letter, with the weaponised anthrax, was sent to Daschle's office. The letters carried the slogan "Death to America - death to Israel", casting suspicion on either al-Qaeda or Iraq. But within weeks those suspicions turned inward, especially as one of the letters carried the warning "Take penacilin now".
Once the search went domestic, Hatfill's clash over his security clearance put him under scrutiny. By last year he was under intense investigation. Other defence scientists were also questioned and given polygraphs. Patrick, especially, was offended that anyone would doubt his integrity.
In the end, no evidence appears to have linked either with the crime. Indeed, says Hatfill's lawsuit, the evidence shows he was working overtime at SAIC when the letters were posted hundreds of kilometres away. What the FBI discovered was that Hatfill had lied about his PhD and embellished his past military service. But while suspicious, it was not a hanging offence. His friends are still declaring him innocent.
Daschle hopes the FBI will solve the case but recently expressed his doubts. "They tell me they have good leads, they're making progress and they are confident they will solve the case." But he, too, has noted that two years on, the FBI has not yet made an arrest.
September 11, 2001: Terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
September 18: An anthrax-filled letter is sent to NBC News in New York. Other letters are sent to the news media over the next two weeks.
October 5: Bob Stevens, a photo editor with American Media, is the first victim to die.
October 15: A letter with more lethal anthrax is opened in Senator Tom Daschle's office.
November 9: The FBI posts its profile of the suspect as a domestic loner.
March 4, 2002: Hatfill is forced to leave his job with a defence contractor when his security clearance is finally revoked. He is now under scrutiny by the FBI.
August: Hatfill is described as a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation by US Attorney-General John Ashcroft.
August 11: Hatfill calls a public press conference to declare his innocence.
August 26: Hatfill, unemployed, sues FBI and Ashcroft.
IN BRIEF / WASHINGTON, D.C.
The Postal Service has reopened 11 Washington-area facilities that had been closed as a precaution after tests at a Navy mail-sorting office indicated the possible presence of anthrax.
Follow-up tests have come back negative for anthrax.
The facilities were closed after an automated alarm and a test indicated the presence of small amounts of biological pathogens, possibly anthrax, at the Anacostia Naval Station, which handles mail for federal agencies.
Development in Anthrax Case
By Cliff Kincaid
November 14, 2003
In their dubious campaign against Dr. Steven Hatfill in the anthrax case, news organizations have cited a return address on one of the anthrax letters, a "Greendale School," and reported that Hatfill once lived near a place called Greendale. But an Internet website devoted to the case has discovered another more interesting piece of information that links the attacks to the 9/11 Muslim hijackers. You can find it at: anthrax2001.blogspot.com
Not only has the Bureau relentlessly pursued Hatfill, without any hard evidence, but it has been ignoring the significance of two letters that were received at the headquarters of AMI in Florida, the publisher of the National Enquirer and other tabloids. These are the tabloids that made themselves potential targets of al Qaeda by having interviewed an alleged concubine of Osama bin Laden, who complained of his sexual inadequacy. The letters to AMI were addressed care of Jennifer Lopez, the actress and singer. One letter was described as having a white powder and a Star of David pendant. It was handled by AMI employee Bob Stevens, who died from an anthrax infection.
The FBI’s "Amerithrax" investigation focuses only on the anthrax letters sent from New Jersey to Senators Daschle and Leahy, Tom Brokaw and the New York Post. Those letters included praise for Allah and the phrases, "Death to Israel. Death to America." But the FBI believes that this information was intended to divert attention from the domestic right-winger who really carried out the attacks.
The FBI may dismiss the Lopez letters, but a report from the Centers for Disease Control describes how Stevens had examined and was observed handling one of the letters with "a fine-white-talc-like powder." The CDC links his death to the letter. Why would the perpetrators use the name of Jennifer Lopez? Using that name would almost certainly get the letter noticed and opened. But CBS News reports that Mohammed Atta, one of the hijackers, lived near the AMI headquarters in the weeks leading up to 9/11, and that he was communicating by code with a terrorist contact in Germany that he called "Jenny." There may be nothing to this, but if the media and the FBI are going to examine the significance of "Greendale," they should also take the "Jenny" connection seriously.
Another reason to take it seriously is that we already know that Atta had showed up at a pharmacy in Florida to get medicine for a red rash on his arm. The pharmacist reported this to the FBI and suspected that the rash had been caused by bleach used to decontaminate the scene of an anthrax accident. Another 9/11 hijacker, Ahmed Ibrahim al-Haznawi, went to a hospital to get treated for a black sore on his leg that was later determined by the doctor to be anthrax-related.
Was al Qaeda behind the Jennifer Lopez anthrax letter? The use of the name "Jenny" may be an indication that Atta and/or his fellow conspirators were behind it. Two years into the anthrax probe, it doesn’t make sense for the Bureau to continue to ignore the evidence implicating the 9/11 hijackers in the attacks.
Cliff Kincaid is the Editor of the AIM Report and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
POWDER - STATE OF THE ART?
November 28, 2003
When the anthrax mailers penned the message, "YOU CAN NOT STOP US. WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX," the threat included a chilling nuance that remains largely unrecognized. "ARE YOU AFRAID?" asked the attackers. "Yes," should have been the answer, according to some biodefense experts, who think that the anthrax spores mailed to Senators Thomas Daschle (D-- SD) and Patrick Leahy (D--VT) in the fall of 2001 represented the state of the art in bioweapons refinement, revealing telltale clues about the source. This view is controversial, however, because others dispute the sophistication of the Senate powder, and a schism now exists among scientists who analyzed it for the FBI.
One group, comprised mostly of microbiologists and molecular biologists, argues that this material could have been a do-it-yourself job, made by someone knowledgeable but with run-of-the-mill lab equipment on a modest budget. This contingent includes one well-known bioweaponeer, Ken Alibek, who defected from Russia to the United States in 1992.
The other faction thinks that the powder mailed to the Senate (widely reported to be more refined than the one mailed to the TV networks in New York) was a diabolical advance in biological weapons technology. This diverse group includes scientists who specialize in biodefense for the Pentagon and other federal agencies, private-sector scientists who make small particles for use in pharmaceutical powders, and an electronics researcher, chemist Stuart Jacobsen of Texas.
Early in the investigation, the FBI appeared to endorse the latter view: that only a sophisticated lab could have produced the material used in the Senate attack. This was the consensus among biodefense specialists working for the government and the military. In May 2002, 16 of these scientists and physicians published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, describing the Senate anthrax powder as "weapons-grade" and exceptional: "high spore concentration, uniform particle size, low electrostatic charge, treated to reduce clumping" (JAMA, 1 May 2002, p. 2237). Donald A. Henderson, former assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health Preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services, expressed an almost grudging respect: "It just didn't have to be that good" to be lethal, he told Science.
As the investigation dragged on, however, its focus shifted. In a key disclosure, U. S. Attorney General John Ashcroft revealed in August 2002 that Justice Department officials had fixed on one of 30 so-called "per sons of interest": Steven J. Hatfill, a doctor and virologist who in 1997 conducted research with the Ebola virus at the U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Hatfill has denied any involvement in the anthrax mailing.) Although the FBI did not spell out its theory, this announcement and leaks to the media from federal investigators indicated that the inquiry had embraced the idea that a lone operator or small group with limited resources could have produced the Senate anthrax powder.
This premise now appears to have run its course. In September 2003, the FBI's Michael Mason admitted that the bureau failed to reverse engineer a world-class anthrax powder like the Senate material and expressed regret that Hatfill had been called a "person of interest." One of the costliest manhunts ever conducted by federal investigators appears to be stymied. The FBI cannot or will not say whether the anthrax powder was foreign or domestic, expensively made or cheaply done, a professional job or the handiwork of an amateur.
But the scientific data amassed so far should provide a wealth of information on the weapon's possible origins, say scientists in the group with expertise in such powders. They argue that the most striking qualities of the Senate powder do not concern the anthrax spores but the way they were processed-- specifically, how they were given an electrostatic charge and unusual surface properties. If the Senate anthrax powder did in fact have these refinements, its manufacture required a unique combination of factors: a strain that originated in the United States, arcane knowledge, and specialized facilities for production and containment. And this raises the discomforting possibility that the powder was made in America, perhaps with the resources of the U.S. government.
There is no debating that the Senate powder was exceptionally pure and highly concentrated. Nor is there any doubt that it contained the Ames strain, one of the most virulent strains discovered. But what made it truly remarkable, according to biodefense specialists, was its conversion into a cutting-edge aerosol.
That transformation had as much to do with chemistry and physics as with microbiology. Anthrax spores cling to one another if they get too close; sticky chains of proteins and sugar molecules on their surfaces latch onto each other, drawn by van der Waals forces that operate at a distance of a few tens of angstroms. Untreated spores clump into larger particles that are too heavy to stay airborne or reach the narrowest passages in the lung.
To thwart this clumping, an earlier generation of biological weapons makers--operating out of Fort Detrick when it still made weapons--experimented with ways to prevent the surfaces of germs from getting too close. For example, William C. Patrick III, former chief of Fort Detrick's Product Development Division, pioneered the use of a dusty silica powder with nanometer-sized particles added to nonlethal incapacitating agents such as Francisella tularensis, the cause of tularemia (but not Bacillus anthracis, the cause of anthrax). "Otherwise," says Patrick, the powder was "very hard to disseminate."
In a separate research arena, pharmaceutical scientists in the 1990s began experimenting with adding electrostatic charges to small particles in medicinal powders designed for inhalation. Adding a like charge of sufficient strength creates an electrostatic field of up to a few centimeters, which makes particles repel one another, creating an "energetic" or self-dispersing powder.
Biodefense scientists say they became aware that such an innovation could be ap plied to germ-warfare powders with deadly effect, especially deadly because charged particles are more prone to lodge in the lung. Once in the lung, immune cells transport the spores to lymph nodes, where the spores germinate and cause infection. The Senate anthrax spores carried like electrical charges, and some experts believe that they were added deliberately to aid dispersal.
Was it a coincidence that this lethal innovation appeared in the anthrax spores sent to the Senate? Alibek thinks it is possible. The Senate anthrax could have acquired a charge from friction as the envelopes passed through mail-sorting machines. (Alibek also has speculated that the powders mailed to the Senate were more refined than those sent to the New York media and may have come from a different production run.) But his theory raises a question: Why would only the Senate powder acquire a charge from the sorting machines?
Jacobsen, a research chemist who coated sub--5-micrometer particles with silica while working on a program for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARYA), is skeptical of this idea. Jacobsen says that friction would add static electricity only to surfaces: "If anything, the sorting machine's pinch rollers and the envelopes should get charged," he says, "not the spores inside."
More revealing than the electrostatic charge, some experts say, was a technique used to anchor silica nano-particles to the surface of spores. About a year and a half ago, a laboratory analyzing the Senate anthrax spores for the FBI reported the discovery of what appeared to be a chemical additive that improved the bond between the silica and the spores. U. S. intelligence officers informed foreign biodefense officials that this additive was "polymerized glass." The officials who received this briefing-- biowarfare specialists who work for the governments of two NATO countries-- said they had never heard of polymerized glass before. This was not surprising. "Coupling agents" such as polymerized glass are not part of the usual tool kit of scientists and engineers making powders designed for human inhalation. Also known as "sol gel" or "spin-on-glass," polymerized glass is "a silane or siloxane compound that's been dissolved in an alcohol-based solvent like ethanol," says Jacobsen. It leaves a thin glassy coating that helps bind the silica to particle surfaces.
Silica has been a staple in professionally engineered germ warfare powders for decades. (The Soviet Union added to its powders resin and a silica dust called Aerosil–a formulation requiring high heat to create nanoparticles, says Alibek. U. S. labs have tested an Aerosil variant called Cab-O-Sil, and declassified U. S. intelligence reports state that Iraq's chemical and biological warfare labs imported tons of both Cab-O-Sil and Aerosil, also known as "solid smoke," in the 1980s).
"If there's polymerized glass [in the Senate samples], it really narrows the field [of possible suspects]," says Jacobsen, who has been following the anthrax investigations keenly. "Polymerized glasses are exotic materials, and nanotechnology is something you just don't do in your basement."
By March 2002, federal investigators had lab results indicating that the Senate anthrax spores were treated with polymerized glass, and stories began to appear in the media. CNN reported an "unusual coating" on the spores, and Newsweek referred to a "chemical compound" that was "unknown to experts who have worked in the field for years." When Science asked the FBI about the presence of polymerized glass in the Senate powder, an FBI spokesperson said the bureau "could not comment on an ongoing investigation."
By the fall of 2002, the awe-inspiring anthrax of the previous spring had morphed into something decidedly less fearsome. According to sources on Capitol Hill, FBI scientists now reported that there was "no additive" in the Senate anthrax at all. Alibek said he examined electron micrographs of the anthrax spores sent to Senator Daschle and saw no silica. "But I couldn't be absolutely sure," Alibek says, "because I only saw three to five of these electron micrographs." Even the astonishingly uniform particle size of 1.5 to 3 micrometers, mentioned in 2001 by Senator Bill Frist (R-- TN), now included whopping 100-micrometer agglomerates, according to the new FBI description recounted by Capitol Hill aides. The reversal was so extreme that the former chief biological weapons inspector for the United Nations Special Commission, Richard Spertzel, found it hard to accept. "No silica, big particles, manual milling," he says: "That's what they're saying now, and that radically contradicts everything we were told during the first year of this investigation."
Military scientists did not back off their findings. The August/ October 2002 newsletter from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) reported that a mass spectrometry analysis found silica in the powder sent to Senator Daschle (The AFIP Letter, August/ October 2002, p. 6). "This was a key component," said the institute's deputy director, Florabel Mullick, in the AFIP newsletter. "Silica prevents the anthrax from aggregating, making it easier to aerosolize," she added. Frank Johnson, chief of AFIP's Chemical Pathology Division, corroborated this in an interview. "There was silica there," said Johnson, "there was no mistaking it." Maj. Gen. John S. Parker, commander of the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at the time of the attacks, says he saw AFIP's lab reports. "There was a huge silicon spike" consistent with the presence of silica, he says. "It peaked near the top of the screen."
Other agencies support this view today. For example, John Cicmanec, a scientist with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, says the Department of Homeland Security confirmed to EPA that the perpetrators did, in fact, use silica to weaponize the Senate anthrax spores. According to an abstract that Cicmanec will present at the annual meeting of the Society for Risk Analysis next month, this weaponized form of anthrax is more than 500 times more lethal than untreated spores.
The contradictory military data compelled the FBI to do some explaining. Sources on Capitol Hill say that in an FBI background briefing given in late 2002, Dwight Adams, one of the FBI's top- ranking scientists, suggested that the silica discovered in the Senate anthrax was, in fact, silicon that occurred naturally in the organism's subsurface spore coats. To support his thesis, Adams cited a 1980 paper published by the Journal of Bacteriology-- a paper that Matthew Meselson, a molecular biologist at Harvard University, says he sent to the FBI. The authors reported that they found silicon, the element, in the spore coats of a bacterium called B. cereus, a close cousin of anthrax.
In the 23 years since the Journal of Bacteriology published these data, however, no other laboratory has published a report on significant amounts of silicon in the B. cereus spore coat, and many bacteriologists familiar with these data consider them an anomaly. Even the authors suggested the finding might have been due to "contamination."
In December 2002, the FBI decided to test whether a high-grade anthrax powder resembling the one mailed to the Senate could be made on a small budget, and without silica. To do this job, the bureau called upon Army scientists at Dugway Proving Ground, a desolate Army test range in southwestern Utah. By February 2003, the scientists at Dugway had finished their work. According to military sources with firsthand knowledge of this effort, the resulting powder "flew like penguins." The experiment had failed. (Penguins can't fly.)
Military sources say that Dugway washed and centrifuged the material four times to create a pure spore preparation, then dried it by solvent extraction and azeotropic distillation-- a process developed by the U. S. Chemical Corps at Fort Detrick in the late 1950s. It is not a simple method, but someone familiar with it might be able to jury-rig a lab to get the job done. As recently as 1996, Bill Patrick says he taught scientists at Dugway how to do this.
The FBI-Dugway effort produced a coarse powder. The spores--some dried under an infrared lamp and the others air-dried--stuck together in little cakes, according to military sources, and then were sieved through "a fine steel mesh." The resulting powder was placed into test tubes. When FBI officials arrived at Dugway to examine the results, a Dugway scientist shook one of the tubes. Unlike the electrostatically charged Senate anthrax spores that floated freely, the Dugway spores fell to the bottom of the test tube and stayed there. "That tells you the particles were too big," says Spertzel. "It confirms what I've been saying all along: To make a good powder, you need an additive."
Close to home
One doesn't have to look very far to find a powder that more closely resembles the Senate anthrax. The U. S. Army's newest batch of anthrax simulant is a closer match, made with B. globigii (BG) spores, which are similar to anthrax but nonlethal. According to military sources, the Danish company Chris- Hansen spray-dried the spores (along with an unidentified "additive") in Valby, a suburb of Copenhagen. Although the spore count varied somewhat from batch to batch, Chris-Hansen says that the average concentration was 500 billion spores per gram, about 100 times more concentrated than the Army's old BG powder. Chris-Hansen shipped the bulk material from Denmark to its New Berlin, Wisconsin, facility in 1996, where, according to Army instructions, it mixed silica into the powder-- a product sold commercially under the name Sipernat D 13. Sipernat D 13 is made by Germany's Degussa AG, the same company that makes Aerosil.
The initial Chris-Hansen production run wasn't exactly what the Army wanted, military sources say, so this batch of anthrax simulant was further enhanced at Dugway Proving Ground. An official at Chris-Hansen, speaking on condition of anonymity, says he doesn't know if the Army added an electrostatic charge or a coupling agent to the powder, and the Army won't discuss it. But unlike the powder that Dugway reverse engineered earlier this year, the most recent batch of simulant -- according to military sources-- has great "hang time."
A government scientist who had a sample of the Army's anthrax simulant described it for Science: When he shook a test tube filled with it, a dense fog of particles swirled to the top in roiling eddies. After 10 minutes, the powder still hadn't settled. This scientist observed two other marked similarities with the Senate material: "There appears to be a lot of static charge," he said. When he suspended the preparation in water, he saw mostly "single spores." When Canadian military scientists used this silica-laced simulant in 2001 to assess the risk from anthrax spores delivered by letter, the aerosol behaved like the one that would later contaminate Senator Daschle's office with real anthrax spores; the weaponized BG particles spread across a 50-cubic-meter room in less than 2 minutes.
This new batch of "energetic" simulant was light-years beyond the old U. S. weapon in its refinement, experts say. Divulging the specifications of the weapon, the last foreman in charge of drying and milling anthrax spores at Fort Detrick, Donald Schattenberg, told Science that the old U. S. anthrax powder contained no additives. "We didn't use silica or bentonite" (a clay that contains a high percentage of fine-particulate silica), says Schattenberg. "We made little freeze-dried pellets of anthrax," he says, "then we ground them down with a high-speed colloid mill." The resulting powder contained growth media residue (called "menstruum") and vegetative cells, making it less concentrated, according to William P. Walter, who says he worked on every batch of anthrax spores ever produced at Fort Detrick. This extraneous material accounted for a significant amount of the powder's volume and mass.
Orley Bourland, who once managed the entire operation, says the old weapon had no electrostatic charge and contained only 20 billion to 30 billion spores per gram. These facts were corroborated by more than half a dozen veterans of the former U. S. weapons program, including Edgar "Bud" Larson, who scoffs at the suggestion that the Senate powder was the product of a secret one-man operation. "I think that's very unlikely," Larson said. "I don't think anyone could make this product covertly."
So far, only Dugway Proving Ground has acknowledged making aerosols with Ames strain spores. According to a memorandum from U. S. Army Test and Evaluation Command dated 19 July 1995, Dugway began experiments with a liquid preparation of the Ames strain starting in February 1994. This was part of what the Army called "bioprofiling": an effort to "establish a 'library' of information," said the memo, to help defend against biological attack. In December 2001, The Baltimore Sun broke the story that Dugway had been making dried anthrax using live spores, and The Washington Post reported that Dugway used the Ames strain in its anthrax powders. Dugway released a statement acknowledging that its scientists have been doing this work to develop an "effective bioaerosol collection" but insisted that "All anthrax used at Dugway has been accounted for."
The Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit organization based in Columbus, Ohio, is possibly the only corporation in the world known to possess both the Ames strain as well as a "national security division" offering the services of a team of "engineers, chemists, microbiologists, and aerosol scientists supported by state-of-the-art laboratories to conduct research in the fields of bioaerosol science and technology." On its Web site, Battelle calls this research group "one-of-a-kind."
As subcontractors, Battelle scientists have made anthrax powders for use by the Army and U. S. intelligence agencies, but rarely by Fort Detrick, which specializes in vaccine development. Charles Dasey, spokesperson for the parent agency, the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, says that as far as he is aware, the only dried anthrax spores made at Fort Detrick since it stopped making weapons were made by Battelle scientists working there for DARPA. This material, made in a biosafety level 3 suite in the Diagnostic Systems Division, contained killed Ames strain at a concentration of 326 million spores per gram -- several orders of magnitude less concentrated than the Senate powder and crude by current standards.
Battelle is capable of more sophisticated work, as it also makes one of the world's most advanced medicinal powders. Battelle's pharmaceutical division, BattellePharma, also in Columbus, is one of the few companies anywhere developing electrostatically charged aerosols for inhalation. BattellePharma's Web site boasts that the company's new "electrohydrodynamic" aerosol "reliably delivers more than 80% of the drug to the lungs in a soft (isokinetic) cloud of uniformly sized particles." Other powders, boasts the Web site, only achieve 20% or less.
None of this argues that Battelle or any of its employees made the Senate anthrax powder. But it is evidence that Battelle was a logical place to start looking for clues. Officials from Battelle and the Army declined to comment on any aspect of anthrax powder manufacture.
The FBI says it has interviewed and polygraphed scientists working at both Dugway and Battelle. No "person of interest" at either facility has been named, and no evidence has been made public indicating either as a point of origin.
A dose of reality
Today, there is no firm evidence to link Iraq -- or any other government -- to the anthrax attacks. But some weapons experts such as Spertzel are still inclined to look for a sponsor with deep pockets, and they say Hussein's regime cannot be ruled out. Spertzel's main point, however, is that only a state-run facility or a corporation has the resources to make an anthrax powder as good as the one mailed to the Senate.
The amateur anthrax scenario appears to have lost some credibility with the failure of the FBI's attempt to reverse engineer a high-quality powder using basic equipment. If the Army couldn't do it in a top-notch laboratory staffed by scientists trained to make anthrax powders, skeptics ask, who could do it in a garage or basement?
The silica dust might still provide a trail to the killers, say chemists who specialize in silica. According to military sources, since the abandonment of the offensive biological warfare program, the U. S. Army has continued to experiment with various brands of silica nanoparticles added to germ-warfare powders produced in small quantities. These include WR-50 and WR-51 (manufactured by Philadelphia Quartz Co.), Cab-O-Sil (Cabot Corp.), and Sipernat D 13 (Degussa AG). Each brand is made differently, so each has a unique chemical signature, says Jonathan L. Bass, a Pennsylvania-based analytical chemist who used to do research with silica at PQ Corp. (formerly Philadelphia Quartz). "It'd be a laborious process, and some of the differences would be hard to detect," says Bass, "but if a known brand of silica was used by the killers, I think I could trace it back to a specific company." A coupling agent should also provide a unique chemical signature that could narrow the field.
Two years on from the attacks, public discussion of the silica additive has all but ceased; the discussion about polymerized glass has yet to occur. Instead, the FBI has devoted much of its effort to the idea that a low-budget amateur operation could have produced a "weaponized" form of anthrax powder without a sophisticated additive.
"ARE YOU AFRAID?" asked our unknown assailants 2 years ago. "Yes," is still the answer, but of whom?
Gary Matsumoto, an investigative journalist in New York City, is writing a book on biodefense.
Laurie Mylroie: The Neocons' favorite conspiracy theorist.
By Peter Bergen
Americans supported the war in Iraq not because Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator--we had known that for many years--but because President Bush had made the case that Saddam might hand off weapons of mass destruction to his terrorist allies to wreak havoc on the United States. As of this writing, there appears to be no evidence that Saddam had either weapons of mass destruction or significant ties to terrorist groups like al Qaeda. Yet the belief that Saddam posed an imminent threat to the United States amounted to a theological conviction within the administration, a conviction successfully sold to the American public. So it's fair to ask: Where did this faith come from?
In the past year, there has been a flood of stories about the thinking of neoconservative hawks such as Richard Perle, until March the chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board and a key architect of the president's get-tough-on-Iraq policy. Perle has had a long association with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank that was also home to other out-of-power hawks during the Clinton years such as John Bolton, now under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs. It was at AEI that the idea took shape that overthrowing Saddam should be a fundamental goal of U.S. foreign policy. Still, none of the thinker/operatives at AEI, or indeed any of the other neocon hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz, were in any real way experts on Iraq or had served in the region. Moreover, the majority of those in and out of government who were Middle East experts had grave concerns about the wisdom of invading Iraq and serious doubts about claims that Saddam's regime posed an urgent threat to American security. What, then, gave neoconservatives like Wolfowitz and Perle such abiding faith in their own positions?
Historians will be debating that question for years, but an important part of the reason has to do with someone you may well have never heard of: Laurie Mylroie. Mylroie has an impressive array of credentials that certify her as an expert on the Middle East, national security, and, above all, Iraq. She has held faculty positions at Harvard and the U.S. Naval War College and worked at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as well as serving as an advisor on Iraq to the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign. During the 1980s, Mylroie was an apologist for Saddam's regime, but reversed her position upon his invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and, with the zeal of the academic spurned, became rabidly anti-Saddam. In the run up to the first Gulf War, Mylroie with New York Times reporter Judith Miller wrote Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf, a well-reviewed bestseller translated into more than a dozen languages.
Until this point, there was nothing controversial about Mylroie's career. This would change with the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the first act of international terrorism within the United States, which would launch Mylroie on a quixotic quest to prove that Saddam's regime was the most important source of terrorism directed against this country. She laid out her case in Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America, a book published by AEI in 2000 which makes it clear that Mylroie and the neocon hawks worked hand in glove to push her theory that Iraq was behind the '93 Trade Center bombing. Its acknowledgements fulsomely thanked John Bolton and the staff of AEI for their assistance, while Richard Perle glowingly blurbed the book as "splendid and wholly convincing." Lewis "Scooter" Libby, now Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, is thanked for his "generous and timely assistance." And it appears that Paul Wolfowitz himself was instrumental in the genesis of Study of Revenge: His then-wife is credited with having "fundamentally shaped the book," while of Wolfowitz, she says: "At critical times, he provided crucial support for a project that is inherently difficult."
None of which was out of the ordinary, except for this: Mylroie became enamored of her theory that Saddam was the mastermind of a vast anti-U.S. terrorist conspiracy in the face of virtually all evidence and expert opinion to the contrary. In what amounts to the discovery of a unified field theory of terrorism, Mylroie believes that Saddam was not only behind the '93 Trade Center attack, but also every anti-American terrorist incident of the past decade, from the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to the leveling of the federal building in Oklahoma City to September 11 itself. She is, in short, a crackpot, which would not be significant if she were merely advising say, Lyndon LaRouche. But her neocon friends who went on to run the war in Iraq believed her theories, bringing her on as a consultant at the Pentagon, and they seem to continue to entertain her eccentric belief that Saddam is the fount of the entire shadow war against America.
Hussein on the brain
According to Bob Woodward's book Bush at War, immediately after 9/11 Wolfowitz told the cabinet: "There was a 10 to 50 per cent chance Saddam was involved." A few days later, President Bush told his top aides: "I believe that Iraq was involved, but I'm not going to strike them now." However, the most comprehensive criminal investigation in history--involving chasing down 500,000 leads and interviewing 175,000 people--has turned up no evidence of Iraq's involvement, while the occupation of Iraq by a substantial American army has also uncovered no such link. Moreover, the U.S. State Department's counterterrorism office, which every year releases an authoritative survey of global terrorism, stated in its 2000 report: "[Iraq] has not attempted an anti-western attack since its failed attempt to assassinate former President Bush in 1993 in Kuwait." In other words, by 9/11, Saddam's regime had not engaged in anti-American terrorism for almost a decade.
Ideas do not appear out of nowhere, so how is it that key members of the Bush administration believed that Iraq had been so deeply involved in terrorism directed at U.S. targets for many years? For that we must turn to Mylroie's Study of Revenge, which posits that Iraq was behind the first Trade Center attack, a theory that is risible as hundreds of national security and law enforcement professionals combed through the evidence of the '93 bombing, certainly looking, amongst other things, for such a connection, and found no evidence. But Mylroie claims to have discovered something that everyone else missed: the mastermind of the plot, a man generally known by one of his many aliases, "Ramzi Yousef," was an Iraqi intelligence agent who some time after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 assumed the identity of a Pakistani named Abdul Basit whose family lived there. This was a deduction which she reached following an examination of Basit's passport records and her discovery that Yousef and Basit were four inches different in height. On this wafer-thin foundation she builds her case that Yousef must have therefore been an Iraqi agent given access to Basit's passport following the Iraq occupation. However, U.S. investigators say that "Yousef" and Basit are in fact one and the same person, and that the man Mylroie describes as an Iraqi agent is in fact a Pakistani with ties to al Qaeda.
Mylroie appears never to have absorbed the implications of Occam's Razor, the basic philosophical and scientific principle generally understood to be: "Of two competing theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred." In this case the simpler--and more accurate--explanation of Yousef/Basit's identity is that he was part of the al Qaeda network, not working for Baghdad. Indeed, an avalanche of evidence demonstrates that Yousef was part of the loosely knit al Qaeda organization, evidence that Mylroie does not consider as it would undermine all her suppositions.
When Yousef flew to New York from Pakistan in 1992 before the bombing of the Trade Center, he was accompanied by Ahmad Ajaj, who was arrested at Kennedy Airport on immigration charges, and was later found to have an al Qaeda bomb-making manual in his luggage. Al Qaeda member Jamal al-Fadl told a New York jury in 2000 that he saw Yousef at the group's Sadda training camp on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border some time between 1989 and 1991. When Yousef lived in the Philippines in the early 1990s, his partner in terrorism was Wali Khan Amin Shah, who had trained in Afghanistan under bin Laden. A number of Yousef's co-conspirators had ties to a Brooklyn organization known as the Afghan Refugee Center. This was the American arm of an organization bin Laden founded in Pakistan during the mid-1980s that would later evolve into al Qaeda. Yousef's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, sent him money for the Trade Center attack, and would later go on to become al Qaeda's military commander and the chief planner of 9/11. I could go on. The point is that the 1993 attack was plotted not by Iraqi intelligence, but by men who were linked to al Qaeda.
In addition to ignoring Yousef's many connections to al Qaeda, Mylroie is clearly aware that in 1995, he gave what would be his only interview to the Arabic newspaper al Hayat since she alludes to it in her book Study of Revenge. "I have no connection with Iraq," said Yousef to his interviewer, adding for good measure that "the Iraqi people must not pay for the mistakes made by Saddam." "Yousef," who traveled under a variety of false identities, confirmed that his real name was indeed Abdul Basit and that he was a Pakistani born in Kuwait, and also admitted that he knew and admired Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, one of al Qaeda's spiritual gurus, whom the U.S. government would later convict of plotting terror attacks in New York. Yousef went on to say that he wanted to "aid members" of Egypt's Jihad group, a terrorist organization then led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is now bin Laden's deputy. Yousef's interview has the ring of truth as he freely volunteered that he knew Sheikh Rahman, the cleric whom the U.S. government had by then already identified as the inspiration for several terrorist conspiracies in New York during the early '90s and also explained that he was part of an Islamic movement which planned to carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia to avenge the arrests of Sheikh Salman al-Audah and Sheikh Safar al-Hawali, radical clerics who have profoundly influenced both bin Laden and al Qaeda. Yousef knew that he was likely facing a lifetime in prison at the time of this interview, and so had little reason to dissemble. In Study of Revenge, Mylroie is careful not to mention the substance of what Yousef said here as it demolishes her theory that he was an Iraqi agent.
Moreover, Mylroie's broader contention that the first Trade Center attack was an Iraqi plot is, to put it mildly, not shared by the intelligence and law-enforcement officials familiar with the subsequent investigation. Vince Cannistraro, who headed the C.I.A.'s Counterterrorist Center in the early 1990s, told me, "My view is that Laurie has an obsession with Iraq and trying to link Saddam to global terrorism. Years of strenuous effort to prove the case have been unavailing." Ken Pollack, a former C.I.A. analyst, scarcely to be described as "soft" on Saddam--his book The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq made the most authoritative argument for toppling the dictator--dismissed Mylroie's theories to me: "The NSC [National Security Council] had the intelligence community look very hard at the allegations that the Iraqis were behind the 1993 Trade Center attack. Finding those links would have been very beneficial to the U.S. government at the time, but the intelligence community said that there were no such links."
Mary Jo White, the no-nonsense U.S. attorney who successfully prosecuted both the Trade Center case and the al Qaeda bombers behind the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa, told me that there was no evidence to support Mylroie's claims: "We investigated the Trade Center attack thoroughly, and other than the evidence that Ramzi Yousef traveled on a phony Iraqi passport, that was the only connection to Iraq." Neil Herman, the F.B.I. official who headed the Trade Center probe, explained that following the attacks, one of the lower-level conspirators, Abdul Rahman Yasin, did flee New York to live with a family member in Baghdad: "The one glaring connection that can't be overlooked is Yasin. We pursued that on every level, traced him to a relative and a location, and we made overtures to get him back." However, Herman says that Yasin's presence in Baghdad does not mean Iraq sponsored the attack: "We looked at that rather extensively. There were no ties to the Iraqi government." In sum, by the mid-'90s, the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, the F.B.I., the U.S. Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York, the C.I.A., the N.S.C., and the State Department had all found no evidence implicating the Iraqi government in the first Trade Center attack.
Perles of wisdom
As Mylroie was fighting against the tide of expert opinion to prove her case that Saddam was behind the '93 bombing, her neocon colleagues at AEI and elsewhere were formulating an alternative vision of U.S. foreign policy to challenge what they saw as the feckless and weak policies of the Clinton administration. Mylroie's research and expertise on Iraq complemented the big-think strategizing of the neocons, and a symbiotic relationship developed between them, as evidenced by the garlands that the neocons bestowed upon her for her work. Wolfowitz gushingly blurbed Study of Revenge: "[Her] provocative and disturbing book argues that…Ramzi Yousef, was in fact an agent of Iraqi intelligence. If so, what would that tell us about the extent of Saddam Hussein's ambitions? How would it change our view of Iraq's continuing efforts to retain weapons of mass destruction and to acquire new ones? How would it affect our judgments about the collapse of U.S. policy toward Iraq and the need for a fundamentally new policy?" (How, indeed…) James Woolsey, another prominent Iraq hawk who headed the C.I.A. between 1993 and 1995, also weighed in: "Anyone who wishes to continue to deal with Saddam by ignoring his role in international terrorism…and by giving only office furniture to the Iraqi resistance now has the staggering task of trying to refute this superb work." Study of Revenge was reissued after 9/11 as The War Against America, Woolsey contributing a new foreword that described Mylroie's work as "brilliant and brave."
It is possible, of course, that the neocons did not find Mylroie's research to be genuinely persuasive, but rather that her findings simply fit conveniently into their own desire to overthrow Saddam. Having blurbed her first book as "wholly convincing," Richard Perle now says that "not everything she says is convincing" and that Mylroie's thinking was "not very important" to the development of his own views on Iraq. At the same time, Perle continues to praise Mylroie's investigative skills, even saying she should be put in charge of "quality control" at the C.I.A. So there are reasons to think that people like Perle actually were persuaded by her research. As the one member of the neocon team with serious credentials on Iraq, Mylroie offered opinions which would naturally have carried special weight. That she was a genuine authority, whose "research" confirmed their worst fears about Saddam, could only have strengthened their convictions.
The evidence that the hawks really believed her theories can be seen in their statements and actions following September 11. Shortly thereafter, Woolsey was dispatched to the United Kingdom on an extraordinary trip, apparently sanctioned by Wolfowitz, to check out a key aspect of Mylroie's argument about Yousef. During the early '90s, Abdul Basit, the Pakistani whose identity Yousef had supposedly assumed, attended a Welsh college to study electrical engineering. Mylroie writes that Basit was quite different in appearance from Yousef, thus further proving her contention that Yousef was a substitute, a fact that could be proved by visiting Basit's former college in Wales. As Woolsey has made no comment on his trip to the United Kingdom, it's fair to assume that his efforts to replicate these findings did not meet with success. However, around the second anniversary of 9/11, Vice President Dick Cheney continued to echo Mylroie's utterances when he told NBC's Tim Russert that Iraq was "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11," a demonstrably false theory that Mylroie has been vigorously touting since this past summer.
In July, Mylroie published a new book Bush vs. the Beltway, which reprised many of the themes of Study of Revenge. The subtitle of her new tome tells you where the book is headed: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror. The book charges that the U.S. government actually suppressed information about Iraq's role in anti-American terrorism, including in the investigation of 9/11. Luckily, Bush vs. the Beltway, which reads in part like Bush 2004 campaign literature, does have at least one heroic figure: "There is an actual hero, in the person of the president who could not be rolled, spun or otherwise diverted from his most solemn obligation."
Bush vs. the Beltway, the subject of additional hosannas from both Woolsey and Perle, claims that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the now-captured mastermind of 9/11, is an Iraqi intelligence agent, like Ramzi Yousef, who adopted the identity of a Pakistani living in Kuwait. Funnily enough, the U.S. government doesn't seem to have explored this intriguing theory. Why not? According to Mylroie, a plot is afoot to prevent Mohammed's unmasking. Shortly after Bush vs. the Beltway was published, she appeared as an expert witness before the blue-ribbon commission investigating 9/11, testifying that "there is substantial reason to believe that these masterminds [of both the '93 and 9/11 Trade Center attacks] are Iraqi intelligence agents." Mylroie explained that this had not been discovered by the U.S. government because "a senior administration official told me in specific that the question of the identities of the terrorist masterminds could not be pursued because of bureaucratic obstructionism." So we are expected to believe that the senior Bush administration officials whom Mylroie knows so well could not find anyone in intelligence or law enforcement to investigate the supposed Iraqi intelligence background of the mastermind of 9/11, at the same time that 150,000 American soldiers had been sent to fight a war in Iraq under the rubric of the war on terrorism. Please.
Further undermining Mylroie's theory about Khalid Sheik Mohammed is the fact that since his apprehension in Pakistan, KSM, as he's known to law enforcement, has specifically denied any connection to Iraq, at the same time that he has offered up actionable intelligence about terror plots in the United States. A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official told me that KSM, like several other high-ranking al Qaeda operatives, has disgorged much useful information following the use of coercive methods that include making him "uncomfortable and withholding water and sleep." As a result of KSM's interrogations, Iyman Faris, a trucker living in Ohio, was arrested for plotting to cut through the cable supporting the Brooklyn Bridge and was sentenced in October to 20 years in prison.
Mylroie declined to be interviewed for this article "with regret," so the only chance I have had to talk with her came this past February, when we both appeared on Canadian television to discuss the impending war in Iraq and Saddam's putative connections to terrorism. As soon as the interview started, Mylroie began lecturing in a hectoring tone: "Listen, we're going to war because President Bush believes Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Al Qaeda is a front for Iraqi intelligence…[the U.S.] bureaucracy made a tremendous blunder that refused to acknowledge these links … the people responsible for gathering this information, say in the C.I.A., are also the same people who contributed to the blunder on 9/11 and the deaths of 3,000 Americans, and so whenever this information emerges they move to discredit it." I tried to make the point that Mylroie's theories defied common sense, as they implied a conspiracy by literally thousands of American officials to suppress the truth of the links between Iraq and 9/11, to little avail.
At the end of the interview, Mylroie, who exudes a slightly frazzled, batty air, started getting visibly agitated, her finger jabbing at the camera and her voice rising to a yell as she outlined the following apocalyptic scenario: "Now I'm going to tell you something, OK, and I want all Canada to understand, I want you to understand the consequences of the cynicism of people like Peter. There is a very acute chance as we go to war that Saddam will use biological agents as revenge against Americans, that there will be anthrax in the United States and there will be smallpox in the United States. Are you in Canada prepared for Americans who have smallpox and do not know it crossing the border and bringing that into Canada?"
This kind of hysterical hyperbole is emblematic of Mylroie's method, which is to never let the facts get in the way of her monomaniacal certainties. In the case of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, she has said that Terry Nichols, one of the plotters, was in league with Ramzi Yousef. Richard Matsch, the veteran federal judge who presided over the Oklahoma City bombing case, ruled any version of this theory to be inadmissible at trial. Mylroie implicates Iraq in the 1996 bombing of a U.S. military facility in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 U.S. servicemen. In 2001, a grand jury returned indictments in that case against members of Saudi Hezbollah, a group with ties not to Iraq, but Iran. Mylroie suggests that the attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 might have been "the work of both bin Laden and Iraq." An overseas investigation unprecedented in scope did not uncover any such connection. Mylroie has written that the crash of TWA flight 800 into Long Island Sound in 1996 likely was an Iraqi plot. A two-year investigation by the National Tran-sportation Safety Board ruled it was an accident. According to Mylroie, Iraq supplied the bomb-making expertise for the attack which killed 17 U.S. sailors on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. No American law enforcement official has made that claim. Mylroie blames Iraq for the post-9/11 anthrax attacks around the United States. Marilyn Thompson, The Washington Post's investigations editor, who has written an authoritative book on those attacks, says, "The F.B.I. has essentially dismissed this theory and says there is no evidence to support it." A U.S. counter-terrorism official remarked: "Mylroie probably thinks the Washington sniper was an Iraqi."
In her book Bush vs. the Beltway, Mylroie approvingly quotes the maxim "we should not love our opinions like our children." It's long overdue that she heed this excellent piece of advice. Saddam is guilty of many crimes, not least the genocidal policies he unleashed on the Marsh Arabs and the Iraqi Kurds, but there is no evidence linking him to any act of anti-American terrorism for the past decade, while there is a mountain of evidence that implicates al Qaeda.
Unfortunately, Mylroie's researches have proven to be more than merely academic, as her theories have bolstered the argument that led us into a costly war in Iraq and swayed key opinion-makers in the Bush administration, who then managed to persuade seven out of 10 Americans that the Iraqi dictator had a role in the attacks on Washington and New York. So, her specious theories of Iraq's involvement in anti-American terrorism have now become part of the American zeitgeist. Meanwhile, in a recent, telling quote to Newsweek, Mylroie observed: "I take satisfaction that we went to war with Iraq and got rid of Saddam Hussein. The rest is details." Now she tells us.
Peter Bergen, a fellow of the New America Foundation, is the author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden and an adjunct professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.