June 23, 2002
Anthrax in Mail Was Newly Made, Investigators Say
By DAVID JOHNSTON and WILLIAM J. BROAD
WASHINGTON, June 22 — Scientists have determined that the anthrax powder sent through the mail last fall was fresh, made no more than two years before it was sent, senior government officials said. The new finding has concerned investigators, who say it indicates that whoever sent the anthrax could make more and strike again.
Establishing the age of the anthrax that killed five people has strengthened the theory that the person behind the mailings has a direct and current connection to a microbiology laboratory and may have used relatively new equipment. "We're still looking for someone who fits the criteria of training, knowledge, education, experience and skill," a government official said.
The new finding casts serious doubt on another theory that had complicated the so far fruitless investigation: that the culprit had stolen or somehow obtained an old laboratory sample of powdered anthrax, from a strain first identified in 1981.
The dating of the anthrax as recent suggests that the person who mailed it prepared the germs on his own and has the ability to make more without relying on old material, possibly taken from the small supplies of anthrax that the government keeps for testing new kinds of defenses against dangerous microbes.
"It's modern," one official said. "It was grown, and therefore it can be grown again and again."
Officials said the F.B.I. determined that the anthrax was fresh by radiocarbon dating, a standard means of estimating the age of biological samples. It measures how much radioactive carbon a living thing has lost since it died or, in the case of anthrax spores, since they went into suspended animation.
As the case now stands, investigators say they believe that the mailer, if ever caught, will fit the profile offered by F.B.I. behavioral scientists, who theorize that the anthrax killer is a male loner with a scientific bent and a grudge against society, a man who feels comfortable in the Trenton area, where the letters were postmarked. The investigators are uncertain whether the perpetrator is American or foreign.
The new forensic evidence about the anthrax, usually referred to as the Ames strain, has been closely held among investigators. Laboratory experts and senior investigators will meet this coming week with the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, to discuss the evidence in the case. Among the topics will be the results of months of sophisticated studies conducted on the anthrax contained in the letter sent on Oct. 9, 2001, to Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont.
Even though they are making progress in the science of anthrax, officials acknowledge that they have no prime suspect and have not narrowed the list of possible subjects, which in fact appears to be expanding. Investigators have a list of about 50 people, which is updated periodically as possible subjects are added or deleted.
The Leahy letter, which investigators say holds new promise in their search, was the only one of the four letters recovered in the case that contained enough anthrax to permit extensive scientific testing. The sample retrieved from the envelope addressed to Mr. Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, at his Senate office address contained as much material as a sugar packet and weighed about a gram.
Along with earlier tests that showed the anthrax was an extremely fine powder that hung dangerously in the air, the scientific studies represent the leading edge of an investigation that has expanded far beyond the F.B.I.'s investigative norms. No active criminal case has a higher priority. The inquiry has consumed millions of dollars and vast amounts of manpower.
Under heavy pressure from Congress and the Bush administration to produce results in the country's first case of deadly bioterrorism, Mr. Mueller has presided over what has expanded into the bureau's second-biggest case after the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The anthrax case offers a glimpse into what may be the future of criminal investigation on a vast scale in an age of biological and other sophisticated forms of terrorism. The F.B.I. has collected huge amounts of personal information on hundreds of thousands of American citizens, combining it with a scientific arm that has moved far ahead of the Bunsen burners, fingerprints and microscopes of conventional forensic sleuthing.
The F.B.I. and the Postal Service, its partner in the case, have turned to experts beyond their own labs. A new high-level containment lab to hold deadly germs and a backup unit have been built at the Army's biodefense research facility at Fort Detrick, Md.
Scientists at labs in Massachusetts, Ohio, Utah and elsewhere have invented new protocols and tests to probe the molecular structure of the anthrax — a task complicated by the possibility that the culprit could be among the microbiologists assisting the F.B.I.
Officials say every investigative technique available to the F.B.I. has been used in the case, including round-the-clock surveillances, eavesdropping and searches conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Agents have conducted 5,000 interviews and served more than 1,700 grand jury subpoenas.
Hundreds of people have been polygraphed. Investigators have compiled minute-by- minute chronologies of the lives of some subjects, examining their whereabouts when the letters were sent. Forty of the F.B.I.'s 56 field offices and many of its 44 overseas legal attachés have been asked to help. The F.B.I. has established 112 separate databases to store information about the case.
The scale of the investigation and the lack of progress in finding a suspect have prompted a number of people to criticize the F.B.I.'s approach to the case. These people, many of them science experts, have prodded the bureau to move more aggressively, unsuccessfully pushing it to narrow its focus.
So far, even the offer of a $2.5 million reward has failed to produce a breakthrough lead — even though in one case last fall, investigators said they were convinced they had their culprit. They passed the word of a pending arrest up the chain of command to President Bush, but their hopes were dashed when their quarry proved innocent. "We just can't seem to catch a break," one government official said.
Besides being one of its largest investigations, the anthrax case has also been one of the F.B.I.'s most frustrating. On Nov. 2, Mr. Mueller publicly acknowledged at a White House news conference that the F.B.I. was stymied and had no idea who was responsible for the attacks.
"We have not said it's domestic, we have not said it is international," Mr. Mueller said at the time. "We have not precluded any possibility."
Mr. Mueller was not the only senior official who has been impatient about the lack of progress. The anthrax case has been one that Mr. Bush has often asked about in morning briefings by Mr. Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Mr. Mueller and Mr. Ashcroft have chafed at having little to report to the president, officials say.
Although there were five victims whose manner of death was apparent, hard leads were surprisingly scarce. "We had four letters that had no evidence on them and one gram of powdered anthrax that would kill you if you mishandled it," one official said.
Agents subpoenaed pharmacy records for the names of people who obtained prescriptions for Cipro, an antibiotic used against anthrax, or anyone who obtained a vaccination, in hopes of finding someone who might have tried to ward off possible infection. The information from those searches was fed into a database containing lists of people who were stopped for traffic violations in the Trenton area or who traveled to or from nearby airports in the days before and after the mailings.
The government's multi-agency terrorism financial review unit, which traced the origins of money spent by the Sept. 11 hijackers, was brought in to examine whether any unusual stock trading or changes in stock prices might suggest whether anyone profited from the anthrax attacks. The stocks of more than 100 companies were inspected.
But at the center of the effort was an investigation of labs that had the ability to make anthrax or had an inventory of the Ames strain. Along with that effort was a second track in which agents compiled lists of the thousands of manufacturers and distributors, primarily in the United States, of specialized equipment needed to make anthrax, like hooded glove boxes or milling and drying machines.
Those results offer insight into the complexity of the case. One group under scrutiny is the biopesticide industry, a group of eight primary companies that has produced a list of about 80 people who remain under investigation. Another group is the biopharmaceutical industry, a larger sector of more than 100 companies, which has produced a list of about 200 possible subjects. Finally, public and private labs with anthrax inventories or production capability account for another group of about 50 people who are under suspicion.
Early on, genetic testing of the anthrax in the letters yielded a major clue. The germs found in Florida, Washington and New York were all of the variety known as Ames, named after the Iowa city. Scientists in the United States frequently used the Ames strain in their work, raising the prospect that the deadly powder was American in origin.
Zeroing in on its presumed home, federal agents went to Iowa State University but discovered that the germ was isolated from a dead cow, not in Iowa but in Texas. It turned out that an Army scientist at Fort Detrick had obtained the Texas microbe to expand the military's collection of dangerous germs for vaccine testing but had misidentified its origins.
By early this year, military labs and contractors had become a focus of the inquiry. They not only had the germ, investigators reasoned; they also had the knowledge of how to turn Ames into a dry powder that would float as a lethal cloud for easy dissemination — exactly as the anthrax in the tainted letters had done.
One focal point of the F.B.I. inquiry was the Dugway Proving Ground in the Utah desert, an Army facility where scientists made powdered forms of anthrax to test decontamination methods. The Fort Detrick biodefense laboratory also came under scrutiny. But experts at Fort Detrick bristled openly at the idea of complicity. Arthur M. Friedlander, a senior scientist there, said the researchers used wet anthrax and had no idea how to make dry powders.
As part of the inquiry, agents are now questioning scientists about the possibility that lax security at Fort Detrick allowed someone to smuggle out a pilfered sample of the Ames strain and refine it at home or elsewhere.
Luann Battersby, a microbiologist who worked at Fort Detrick from 1990 to 1998, said two F.B.I. agents interviewed her for three hours on June 12 about the smuggling theory. "I said it was extremely easy to do," she recalled. "A quarter-million micro-organisms fit in the period at the end of a sentence. It doesn't take any great strategy to take this stuff out."
below was in the print
Suspicions of foreign ties remain
a matter of serious debate in Washington, not only in intelligence circles
but in the White House and Congress. Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana
Republican whose office was contaminated by traces of anthrax last fall,
wrote a letter to Mr. Ashcroft on June 11 saying he was troubled by the
In an interview, Mr. Pence said he learned from an F.B.I. briefing last week that investigators were having trouble scrutinizing possible foreign links because some countries were not cooperating. "They're leaving no stone unturned on the domestic front," he said. "But there are some stones they can't flip overseas."
One senior official said of the overseas inquiry: "It's more problematic and difficult. Some countries aren't going to tell you anything."
June 26, 2002
Search of Biologist Is Uneventful
By DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, June 25 — Federal authorities today searched the home of a biologist who has done work on germ defenses for the government, but they found no evidence linking him to the mailing of deadly anthrax spores, law enforcement officials said today.
Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation examined the apartment of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill near Fort Detrick, Md., after he consented to the search, the officials said. They had said before the search that Dr. Hatfill was not a suspect, and today's results seemed to strengthen that position.
Dr. Hatfill, 48, had been the subject of Web site gossip among scientists, journalists and other professionals about possible domestic suspects in last year's anthrax attacks. After reporters pursued him, he was fired in March from his job at Science Applications International Corporation, a contractor for the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency that helps the government with germ defenses. From 1997 to 1999, he worked at the Army's biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick.
In an interview, Dr. Hatfill said he had been the victim of a witch hunt.
"I've got a letter from the F.B.I. that says I'm not a suspect and never was," he said. "I just got caught up in the normal screening they were doing, because of the nature of my job."
A senior law enforcement official said Dr. Hatfill was one of several people on a floating list of subjects who, upon close examination, fade from view. Such people, who have also agreed to consensual searches, come and go as new information alters the picture of what is known and believed, the official said.
The bureau's investigation has
failed to identify who was responsible for the anthrax-laced letters sent
to two senators and the news media last fall. Five people were killed by
the anthrax, and 13 others were infected.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
Anthrax? The F.B.I. Yawns
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
The F.B.I.'s bumbling before 9/11 is water under the bridge. But the bureau's lackadaisical ineptitude in pursuing the anthrax killer continues to threaten America's national security by permitting him to strike again or, more likely, to flee to Iran or North Korea.
Almost everyone who has encountered the F.B.I. anthrax investigation is aghast at the bureau's lethargy. Some in the biodefense community think they know a likely culprit, whom I'll call Mr. Z. Although the bureau has polygraphed Mr. Z, searched his home twice and interviewed him four times, it has not placed him under surveillance or asked its outside handwriting expert to compare his writing to that on the anthrax letters.
This is part of a larger pattern. Astonishingly, the F.B.I. allowed the destruction of anthrax stocks at Iowa State University, losing what might have been valuable genetic clues. Then it waited until December to open the intact anthrax envelope it found. The F.B.I. didn't obtain anthrax strains from various labs for comparison until March, and the testing is still not complete. The bureau did not systematically polygraph scientists at two suspect labs, Fort Detrick, Md., and Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, until a month ago.
Perhaps it's a cheap shot for an armchair detective to whine about the caution of dedicated and exceptionally hard-working investigators. Yet months pass and the bureau continues to act like, well, a bureaucracy, plodding along in slow motion. People in the biodefense field first gave Mr. Z's name to the bureau as a suspect in October, and I wrote about him elliptically in a column on May 24.
He denies any wrongdoing, and his friends are heartsick at suspicions directed against a man they regard as a patriot. Some of his polygraphs show evasion, I hear, although that may be because of his temperament.
If Mr. Z were an Arab national, he would have been imprisoned long ago. But he is a true-blue American with close ties to the U.S. Defense Department, the C.I.A. and the American biodefense program. On the other hand, he was once caught with a girlfriend in a biohazard "hot suite" at Fort Detrick, surrounded only by blushing germs.
With many experts buzzing about Mr. Z behind his back, it's time for the F.B.I. to make a move: either it should go after him more aggressively, sifting thoroughly through his past and picking up loose threads, or it should seek to exculpate him and remove this cloud of suspicion.
Whoever sent the anthrax probably had no intention of killing people; the letters warned recipients to take antibiotics. My guess is that the goal was to help America by raising preparedness against biological attacks in the future.
So it seems fair to ask the F.B.I. a few questions:
Do you know how many identities and passports Mr. Z has and are you monitoring his international travel? I have found at least one alias for him, and he has continued to travel abroad on government assignments, even to Central Asia.
Why was his top security clearance suspended in August, less than a month before the anthrax attacks began? This move left him infuriated. Are the C.I.A. and military intelligence agencies cooperating fully with the investigation?
Have you searched the isolated residence that he had access to last fall? The F.B.I. has known about this building, and knows that Mr. Z gave Cipro to people who visited it. This property and many others are legally registered in the name of a friend of Mr. Z, but may be safe houses operated by American intelligence.
Have you examined whether Mr. Z has connections to the biggest anthrax outbreak among humans ever recorded, the one that sickened more than 10,000 black farmers in Zimbabwe in 1978-80? There is evidence that the anthrax was released by the white Rhodesian Army fighting against black guerrillas, and Mr. Z has claimed that he participated in the white army's much-feared Selous Scouts. Could rogue elements of the American military have backed the Rhodesian Army in anthrax and cholera attacks against blacks? Mr. Z's résumé also claims involvement in the former South African Defense Force; all else aside, who knew that the U.S. Defense Department would pick an American who had served in the armed forces of two white-racist regimes to work in the American biodefense program with some of the world's deadliest germs?
What now? When do you shift into high gear?
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
The Anthrax Files
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
When someone expert in bio-warfare mailed anthrax last fall, it may not have been the first time he had struck.
So while the F.B.I. has been unbelievably lethargic in its investigation so far, any year now it will re-examine the package that arrived on April 24, 1997, at the B'nai B'rith headquarters in Washington D.C. The package contained a petri dish mislabeled "anthracks."
The dish did not contain anthrax. But a Navy lab determined that it was bacillus cereus, a very close, non-toxic cousin of anthrax used by the U.S. Defense Department.
Anybody able to obtain bacillus cereus knew how to spell "anthrax." An echo of that deliberate misspelling came last fall when the anthrax letters suggested taking "penacilin."
The choice of B'nai B'rith probably was meant to suggest Arab terrorists, because the building had once been the target of an assault by Muslim gunmen. In the same way, F.B.I. profilers are convinced that the real anthrax attacks last year were conducted by an American scientist trying to pin the blame on Arabs.
In a column on July 2 I wrote about "Mr. Z," an American bio-defense insider who intrigues investigators and whose career has been spent in the shadowy world of counterterror and intelligence. He denies any involvement in the anthrax attacks.
On the date that the perpetrator chose for the B'nai B'rith attack, a terrorism seminar was under way in the Washington area and Mr. Z seemed peeved that neither he nor any other bio-defense expert had been included as a speaker. The next day, Mr. Z sent a letter to the organizer saying that he was "rather concerned" at the omission and added: "As was evidenced in downtown Washington D.C. a few hours later, this topic is vital to the security of the United States. I am tremendously interested in becoming more involved in this area. . . ."
Over the next couple of years, Mr. Z used the B'nai B'rith attack to underscore the importance of his field and his own status within it. "Remember B'nai B'rith," he noted at one point. In examples he gave of how anthrax attacks might happen, he had a penchant for dropping Arab names.
The F.B.I. must be on top of the B'nai B'rith episode, right? Well, it was told about it months ago. But B'nai B'rith says it hasn't been asked about the incident by the F.B.I.
The authorities seem equally oblivious to another round of intriguing anthrax hoaxes in February 1999. As with last fall's anthrax letters, a handful of envelopes with almost identical messages were sent to a combination of media and government targets including The Washington Post, NBC's Atlanta office, a post office in Columbus, Ga. (next to Fort Benning, an Army base), and the Old Executive Office Building in Washington (where Mr. Z had given a briefing three months earlier).
I found a local policeman in Columbus willing to dig out his file on that 1999 anthrax hoax. There are several similarities with last fall's mailing. For example, one page of the 1999 letter says, in big, bold capitals: "WARNING: THIS BUILDING AND EVERYTHING IN IT HAS BEEN EXPOSED TO ANTHRAX CALL 911 NOW AND SECURE THE BUILDING. OTHERWISE THE GERM WILL SPREAD."
Last fall's letters are also in bold capitals and use similar language patterns.
In contrast to the 1997 package with fake anthrax gelatin, the 1999 letters each contained a teaspoon of fake anthrax powder (roughly the same amount as of real anthrax in 2001). That's interesting because as of 1997, U.S. bio-defense scientists were working basically only with wet anthrax, while by 1999 some had experimented with making powders.
For example, Mr. Z apparently learned about powders during those two years. His 1999 résumé adds something missing from the 1997 version: "working knowledge of wet and dry BW [biological warfare] agents, large-scale production of bacterial, rickettsial and viral BW pathogens and toxins."
Two outside consultants used by the F.B.I. to examine documents in the anthrax case, Don Foster and Mark Smith, both say they have not been shown the 1997 or 1999 hoax letters. The 1999 envelopes carried stamps, which may have been licked.
It would be fascinating to know whose DNA that is. Perhaps when the F.B.I. is finished defending itself from charges of lethargy, it will check.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
of the Missing Anthrax
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
July 19 ,2002
It's bad enough that we can't find Iraqi anthrax hidden in the desert. But it turns out that we also misplaced anthrax and Ebola kept in a lab outside Washington D.C.
Internal Army documents about the U.S. biodefense program describe missing Ebola and other pathogens, vicious feuds, lax security, cover-ups and a "cowboy culture" beyond anyone's scrutiny. Moreover, germ warriors in the C.I.A. and the Defense Department decided - without bothering to consult the White House - to produce anthrax secretly and tinker with it in ways that arguably put the U.S. in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention.
It's time for Congress or an outside commission to investigate our nation's biodefense program and establish oversight.
"Shenanigans have been going on," declares one internal Army memo about the labs at ground zero of the biodefense world: Usamriid, the acronym for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, based at Fort Detrick, Md.
The 400 pages of documents, which I've obtained and which were described by The Hartford Courant earlier this year, quote a newly arrived officer named Michael Langford as saying that he found "little or no organization," "little or no accountability," "a very lax and unorganized system" and signs of covert work and cover-ups.
Mr. Langford requested an inventory of pathogens acquired in 1991. The resulting memo shows that 62 samples had vanished, including Ebola, hantavirus, anthrax, S.I.V. (the monkey version of the virus that causes AIDS), and several described only as "unknown."
Usamriid says that it rechecked this year and was able to account for virtually all of the missing specimens except one set that would have been irradiated to render it harmless. But a decade's delay in bothering to look for missing Ebola seems a bit much, and conversations with scientists who have worked at Usamriid do not inspire confidence (although, in fairness, many who talk publicly have lawsuits pending against the lab).
"When I was laid off, I walked out for three days in a row with boxes, and no one looked inside them," recalled Richard Crosland, who worked at Usamriid from 1986 to 1997. "I was there for 11 years, and never once did anyone ask, `Where is the substance you ordered?'
"I could have walked out with it when I left, and no one would have known. I didn't, but I could have. 7-Eleven had better inventory control. And I was working with botulinum, which is one of the deadliest substances on earth.
"If you couldn't find a microscope, you were in real trouble. But if you misplaced five micrograms of botulinum that could kill thousands of people, nobody would notice."
In truth, many microbiology labs are pretty chaotic, and ultimately labs have to pick reliable people and then trust them. But that's what piqued my interest in Usamriid in the first place - my research about a man I've called "Mr. Z," who has been interviewed four times by the F.B.I. and whose home has been searched twice in connection with the anthrax investigation. Usamriid hired Mr. Z in 1997 to work with Ebola and Marburg viruses, although he had spent years in the armed forces of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa.
Most researchers at Usamriid are dedicated patriots who could earn more in the private sector. When Mr. Z left Usamriid in 1999, he was making $58,000 a year - and jumped to a $150,000-a-year job with a private contractor. Many bio-defense scientists risk their lives working with deadly germs to improve vaccines for American troops, and they deserve our gratitude.
Still, the Army documents indisputably point out serious problems. They recount incidents in 1992 when someone appeared to be working secretly with anthrax at night and on weekends and then trying to cover it up. Memos describe how someone tried to roll back a numerical counter on an electron microscope to hide his work with anthrax.
As recently as April of this year, anthrax spores were found in a hallway and administrative area of Usamriid - shortly after Senator Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, visited the complex. Anthrax spores seem to have it in for Democratic senators.
Apartment Searched Anew in F.B.I.'s Anthrax Inquiry
By DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 — Federal investigators seeking evidence related to last year's deadly anthrax attacks searched the apartment of a former Army scientist today for a second time, government officials said.
Armed with a search warrant, F.B.I. agents wearing protective gloves went through the apartment of the scientist, Steven J. Hatfill, and trash bins outside his multiunit building in Fort Detrick, Md.
Mr. Hatfill was not arrested and spoke briefly with investigators, the officials said. He is among a group of people whose backgrounds in biochemistry have led the F.B.I. to examine their activities.
But he is the only person known to have been subjected to such intensive scrutiny, indicating that investigators remained focused on Mr. Hatfill even as they emphasized in public that he was not a suspect and said that they had no evidence linking him to the mailings of letters containing anthrax.
Investigators first searched Mr. Hatfill's apartment on June 25, with his consent. It is not clear whether he consented to the search of his home today or whether agents had to present the search warrant. He is said to have told investigators that he knows nothing about the anthrax mailings.
One senior official said today's search was a follow-up to the one in June, when investigators were observed removing computer parts and plastic bags of material from the apartment. At that time, agents also searched a storage unit that Mr. Hatfill rented in Florida.
Officials have said they have no prime suspect in the attacks and have not narrowed the list of possible suspects. Investigators have a list of about 50 people, which is updated periodically. Mr. Hatfill's name remains on that list, the officials said.
Mr. Hatfill has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but he has been the subject of speculation by people outside the government, some with scientific training, who have closely followed the anthrax inquiry and have offered theories about who might be responsible for the attacks.
Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, would not comment on the latest search, except to say, "We're making progress in the case, but I can't comment on ongoing aspects of the investigation."
Five people died last fall after exposure to anthrax. They were an employee of a Florida tabloid, two postal workers in the Washington area, a New York City woman and a Connecticut woman. Four contaminated letters were recovered. They had been mailed to news organizations and to the offices of two Democratic United States senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the majority leader, and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Only one of the letters, which was addressed to Mr. Leahy, contained enough anthrax to permit extensive testing. That sample, the size of a sugar packet, has led the F.B.I. to commission a series of sophisticated forensic experiments by outside laboratories to try to determine when, where and how the anthrax was produced.
Mr. Hatfill once worked for a contractor at Fort Detrick, the Army's biowarfare research center. He previously worked for the Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease, a center of research on defenses against biological warfare, for two years, until September 1999. He did not work with anthrax, although like other employees, he might have had access to anthrax and other hazardous substances.
Investigators have said they believe that the culprit, if he is caught, will fit the F.B.I.'s behavioral profile, which theorizes that the anthrax killer is a male loner with a scientific background and a grudge against society, a man who feels comfortable in the Trenton area, where the letters were postmarked.
Anthrax Inquiry Draws Protest From Scientist's Lawyers
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
This article was reported by William J. Broad, David Johnston and Kate Zernike and written by Mr. Broad.
A lawyer representing Steven J. Hatfill, a germ weapons expert, has protested to the Justice Department that the government is violating his client's rights in its search for the culprit in the anthrax attacks that killed five people last fall.
"We are very angry at the way they have treated this man, who has done nothing but cooperate fully with federal authorities," said Jonathan Shapiro, the criminal lawyer Dr. Hatfill hired to represent him after government inquiries about him intensified last week.
Mr. Shapiro would not describe how this anger had been conveyed to the Justice Department, except to say "we've made it clear."
Government officials say Dr. Hatfill is one of scores of scientists in and out of government who have been "persons of interest" in their investigation of the anthrax attacks. But their interest in him intensified recently. On Aug. 1, agents armed with a search warrant searched Dr. Hatfill's apartment complex in Frederick, Md., as a news helicopter beamed pictures of the hunt worldwide. Their search warrant, federal officials said, represented an escalation over a voluntary search conducted months earlier.
The next day, Dr. Hatfill was suspended with pay from a new job he was taking at Louisiana State University as associate director of the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, a program financed by the Justice Department that teaches police, firefighters, health professionals and federal agents how to handle germ attacks. Officials said they decided to suspend Dr. Hatfill after investigators' interest in him appeared to intensify.
Dr. Hatfill had already lost an earlier job at a federal contractor for reasons that are in dispute. In an interview in the spring, he said incessant questioning by reporters led to his dismissal. Company officials say publicly only that he was dismissed in March. Insiders at the company say he was let go because he lost security clearances after failing lie-detector tests last summer on matters unrelated to anthrax.
Senior law enforcement officials have disclosed the F.B.I.'s searches of Dr. Hatfill's home and related sites, even as they carefully avoided declaring him a suspect.
In interviews, Mr. Shapiro complained bitterly about this technique. He conceded that the government had no obligation to keep Dr. Hatfill's name secret and could not control the activities of journalists. But the result has severely damaged his client, Mr. Shapiro said. "Through innuendo in the public eye they have begun to destroy this man's life, his standing in the scientific community, his ability to make a living," he said. "That is absolutely wrong."
He also accused the government of leaking details from the affidavit submitted with the application for the search warrant, details that he said are supposed to be kept secret. "That is outrageous," he said.
The situation is particularly offensive, Mr. Shapiro added, because Dr. Hatfill has cooperated fully with the anthrax investigation.
Repeated efforts to reach Dr. Hatfill by telephone this week were unsuccessful.
Many of his colleagues describe Dr. Hatfill, a 48-year-old medical doctor, as a patriot, if at times abrasive, and law enforcement officials say they have found nothing but weak circumstantial evidence to tie him to the anthrax attacks.
In part, officials say, the F.B.I.'s investigative effort is intended to clear Dr. Hatfill of suspicion of the crime definitively. They say they are mindful of embarrassments like the deadly bombing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, when F.B.I. agents focused on Richard Jewell, a security guard, as their suspect but were later forced to acknowledge that they were after the wrong man.
They are quick to say that repeated searches of Dr. Hatfill's apartment and related locations have yielded no incriminating evidence. Agents have examined his home computer, looked through documents and even brought in bloodhounds to sniff his clothing. Borrowing investigative techniques used in espionage cases, they have compiled a minute-by-minute timeline of Dr. Hatfill's whereabouts on days when the anthrax-tainted letters were mailed.
They say Dr. Hatfill is among dozens of people whose backgrounds in science and bioterror research have attracted close attention, yet no one else in the case has been subjected to such scrutiny, or such wide publicity.
For more than six months, some biowarfare experts in and out of government have spoken quietly of him as fitting their profile of the anthrax attacker: a knowledgeable person worried enough about the nation's vulnerability to germ weapons to send anthrax spores to the news media and Senate as a warning. By this theory, the attacker's motivation was never to kill or hurt but rather to alert the nation to a looming threat.
Dr. Hatfill's emergence comes as the larger F.B.I. investigation into the baffling case seems to be going nowhere and the agency is under heavy pressure to make progress, especially as the anniversary of the mailings draws near.
In the spring interviews, Dr. Hatfill denied any role in the anthrax mailings and expressed contempt for those who raised questions publicly about him as a possible culprit.
Mr. Shapiro, a criminal lawyer in Alexandria, Va., who has represented such high-profile clients as Brian P. Regan, a retired Air Force master sergeant charged with trying to sell American secrets to foreign countries, said in an interview that the government's publicizing the case had seriously hurt his client.
"We're extremely angry at the course of this investigation and the way the United States has seen fit to trash Dr. Hatfill," he said, adding that he and Victor M. Glasberg, Dr. Hatfill's civil lawyer, formally complained about it this week.
For their part, government officials say their interest in Dr. Hatfill has grown for several reasons. He clearly had the skills and access necessary to obtain anthrax spores and turn them into a weapon. He has also long complained publicly that the government was paying too little attention to the bioterror threat. Finally, investigators have uncovered aspects of his past that raise suspicions and have discovered inconsistencies in his accounts of his life.
Mr. Glasberg said yesterday that the focus of the legal work was on the government's investigation, not Dr. Hatfill's résumé. "Our hands are full," he said, "we have not been concerned to address matters going back 25 years. We are focusing on what's happening today."
Dr. Hatfill was born in St. Louis and grew up in Illinois. In 1975, he graduated from Southwestern College, in Winfield, Kan., where he studied biology and took time off to work in Zaire on rural health care.
After that, his career is the subject of some dispute. Résumés he has produced at various times assert that he served with the Army Special Forces after college, from June 1975 to June 1977, but an Army spokesman says he "was never part of the Special Forces."
He moved to Rhodesia, joining the military there in 1978 and saying he had "combat experience" during the guerrilla war against white rule. In 1979 and 1980, while he was in Rhodesia, thousands of black tribesmen became infected with anthrax. Some analysts call it the first modern case of germ warfare. Dr. Hatfill has never been linked to the outbreaks.
He remained in Rhodesia after blacks won majority rule and the country was renamed Zimbabwe, graduating in 1984 from the Godfred Huggins School of Medicine in Salisbury, now Harare, with the British equivalent of an M.D. degree, his résumé says. One fact about his time in Zimbabwe later caught the eye of investigators: he lived near a neighborhood called Greendale, and a nonexistent "Greendale School" was the return address on the anthrax envelopes sent to Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont last fall.
After leaving Zimbabwe, Dr. Hatfill practiced medicine in South Africa. At times he has listed on his résumé a Ph.D. in molecular cell biology from Rhodes University in South Africa. But Stephen Fourie, the university's registrar said, "Rhodes did not, repeat, did not award a Ph.D. to Hatfill."
As a medical doctor, Dr. Hatfill published more than a dozen scientific papers, many on his African research. One tracked untreated disease in rural Zimbabwe. Others focused on leukemia, H.I.V. and the Ebola virus.
He moved to England in 1994, according to his résumés, working at an Oxford University hospital as a clinical research scientist. At least one of his résumés says he was a member of the Royal Society of Medicine, but a spokeswoman for the society said it had no records of his ever being a member.
Dr. Hatfill returned to the United States in 1995, when he went to work for the National Institutes of Health. From September 1997 to September 1999, he worked at the Army's biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., home of the nation's abandoned program to make germ weapons.
In this time, he became a protégé of an expert on germ warfare, William C. Patrick III. In the 1950's and 1960's, Mr. Patrick made germ weapons for the American military and, after the program was shut down, became a private consultant. In this period, Dr. Hatfill would say on a résumé, he gained "a working knowledge" of wet and dry biological warfare agents, their chemical additives, spray disseminators and designs for germ weapons.
In the late 1990's, Dr. Hatfill became known around Washington as an outspoken advocate of bolstering germ defenses. In late 1998, he began working at Science Applications International Corporation, a contractor for the Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency that specializes in developing germ defenses.
In 2000, Dr. Hatfill trained in France to become a United Nations inspector ready to hunt for germ weapons in Iraq, said Ewen Buchanan, a United Nations spokesman. He never went there because the government refused to let inspectors in.
Dr. Hatfill suffered a major setback at Science Applications last summer, federal officials and former colleagues said, when his application for a high-level federal intelligence clearance was rejected after he failed a lie-detector test. They added that he then lost his regular clearance as well.
Last fall, after the anthrax attacks killed five people and sickened more than a dozen others, Dr. Hatfill found himself among those questioned by federal authorities who administered more lie-detector tests, officials said.
As no clear suspects emerged, private experts began to argue that the culprit was probably a federal insider who meant to warn of terrorist dangers. As evidence of the mailer's benign intent, such analyses noted that the seams on the tainted envelopes were sealed with tape, presumably to keep spores from leaking out. In addition, the letters warned of anthrax and suggested that openers of the envelopes take antibiotics.
A main proponent of the insider view was Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, an expert on biological weapons at the State University of New York at Purchase. Publicly, Dr. Rosenberg never named any suspects. But Dr. Hatfill's name circulated on the scientific grapevine.
In an interview, Dr. Hatfill said he lost his Science Applications job in March after a reporter questioned senior managers about him. A spokesman said the company could say nothing about Dr. Hatfill's career except when he was employed and his job title, staff physician. Company officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Dr. Hatfill was fired because the loss of his clearance hindered his work.
Dr. Hatfill spoke to a reporter for The New York Times in late May and early June, before his name emerged publicly in the anthrax case. By turns, he was conciliatory, angry and acerbic. Protesting his innocence, he bristled at the private experts who had pursued him as a suspect, and belittled F.B.I. agents as having little or no "idea what they're doing."
Still, he claimed that the bureau had exonerated him. "I've got a letter from the F.B.I. that says I'm not a suspect and never was," he said in an interview in May. "I just got caught up in the normal screening they were doing, because of the nature of my job."
In June, he declined to show a reporter the F.B.I. letter. "Why should I?" he snapped. "My reputation is intact. I was caught up in the first round" of the federal investigation. "So what?"
In an interview this week, Dr. Stephen L. Guillot, director of the biomedical research center at L.S.U., said Dr. Hatfill had impressed him as a "technically very competent individual" but not in anthrax. "Steve's expertise is Ebola," Dr. Guillot said.
In recent weeks, some critics
have faulted the F.B.I. investigation as well as the insider thesis as
too narrow. Such approaches to the anthrax case, they argue, have too quickly
ruled out foreign terrorists or hostile states like Iraq.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
The Anthrax Files
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
It's time for me to come clean on "Mr. Z."
Since May, I've written periodically about a former U.S. Army scientist who, authorities say privately, has become the overwhelming focus of the investigation into the anthrax attacks last fall. I didn't name him.
But over the weekend, Mr. Z named himself: He is Steven J. Hatfill, 48, a prominent germ warfare specialist who formerly worked in the Army labs at Fort Detrick, Md. Dr. Hatfill made a televised statement on Sunday, describing himself as "a loyal American" and attacking the authorities and the media for trying "to smear me and gratuitously make a wasteland of my life."
The first thing to say is that the presumption of innocence has already been maimed since 9/11 for foreign Muslims, and it should not be similarly cheapened with respect to Dr. Hatfill. It must be a genuine assumption that he is an innocent man caught in a nightmare. There is not a shred of traditional physical evidence linking him to the attacks.
Still, Dr. Hatfill is wrong to suggest that the F.B.I. has casually designated him the anthrax "fall guy." The authorities' interest in Dr. Hatfill arises from a range of factors, including his expertise in dry biological warfare agents, his access to Fort Detrick labs where anthrax spores were kept (although he did not work with anthrax there) and the animus to some federal agencies that shows up in his private writings. He has also failed three successive polygraph examinations since January, and canceled plans for another polygraph exam two weeks ago.
So far, the only physical evidence is obscure: smell. Specially trained bloodhounds were given scent packets preserved from the anthrax letters and were introduced to a variety of people and locations. This month, they responded strongly to Dr. Hatfill, to his apartment, to his girlfriend's apartment and even to his former girlfriend's apartment, as well as to restaurants that he had recently entered (he is under constant surveillance). The dogs did not respond to other people, apartments or restaurants.
Putting aside the question of Dr. Hatfill and the anthrax, there are two larger issues.
First is the F.B.I.'s initial slowness in carrying out the anthrax investigation. Why did it take nine months to call in the bloodhounds, or to read Dr. Hatfill's unpublished novel, "Emergence," which has been sitting in the copyright office since 1998 and draws on his experiences in South Africa and Antarctica to recount a biological warfare attack on Congress?
Second is the need for much greater care within the U.S. biodefense program. Dr. Hatfill's résumé made claims (a Ph.D. degree, work with the U.S. Special Forces, membership in Britain's Royal Society of Medicine) that appear false, but these were never checked.
Moreover, what was a man like Dr. Hatfill who had served in the armed forces of two white racist governments (Rhodesia and South Africa) doing in a U.S. Army lab working with Ebola? With a new wave of funding for smallpox and anthrax research, we must be doubly careful that the spread of pathogens to new labs solves problems rather than creates them.
The White House is putting strong pressure on the F.B.I. to solve the anthrax murders. Top administration officials would love to find an Iraqi connection, but would settle for solving the case. The F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller, is pushing back, saying that nothing would be worse for the bureau than a premature prosecution that would fizzle in court.
To its credit, in the last few months, the bureau has finally picked up its pace. Its experts in Quantico are belatedly examining anthrax hoax letters sent in 1997 and 1999 that bear fascinating resemblance to the real anthrax letters. Investigators are looking at another hoax letter with intriguing parallels to the real one; that hoax was sent to Senator Tom Daschle from London in mid-November, when Dr. Hatfill was visiting a biodefense center in England.
Partly because of the newfound
energy, the F.B.I. has lately been enjoying genuine progress in its anthrax
investigation. People very close to Dr. Hatfill are now cooperating with
the authorities, information has been presented to a grand jury, and there
is reason to hope that the bureau may soon be able to end this unseemly
limbo by either exculpating Dr. Hatfill or arresting him.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
Anthrax Finding Prompts Questions in Princeton About Scientist
By IVER PETERSON
PRINCETON, N.J., Aug. 13 — Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, postal inspectors and police officers fanned out in downtown Princeton today, seeking links between a germ warfare expert and a single curbside mailbox here that was found last week to contain anthrax spores.
According to people whom the agents and officers interviewed, the investigators were looking for a connection between the mailbox and Dr. Steven J. Hatfill of Frederick, Md., a biological warfare expert who over the weekend criticized the F.B.I. for seeming to implicate him in last year's deadly anthrax mailings, which killed five people.
Dr. Hatfill has denied any involvement in the mail attacks.
Residents said agents showed a photograph that they recognized as being Dr. Hatfill from reports last weekend in the news media.
Anthony Federico, chief of the Princeton Borough police, said the F.B.I. agents had been in the borough's neighborhoods since Monday. He said he expected them to complete their rounds, with the help of his officers, before long.
"They're just going around and talking to people," Chief Federico said.
On Monday, Gov. James E. McGreevey said that anthrax spores had been found in a mailbox on the corner of Nassau and Bank Streets, opposite the Princeton University campus. The box's mail went into the Hamilton Township sorting station, now closed, which processed the anthrax-contaminated mail that was sent last fall to Senator Tom Daschle, the NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and The New York Post.
Since Mr. McGreevey's announcement, state officials have stressed that the tainted box was removed last Thursday and posed no health hazard to the public. But people working in offices near the corner, who have been using the mailbox for months since last fall's anthrax attacks, wondered today why all this was coming to light only now.
"I've been sending things to my mother, my mother-in-law, my business associates," said Ross N. A. Woolley, an architect with Woolley & Morris. "And they're just getting around to testing this mailbox?"
Mr. Woolley said the Postal Service had "no credibility" with him anymore. "They can write in the paper there's no problem all they want," he said.
Mr. Woolley said a postal inspector had shown him and an office worker, Mark Nye, a picture of Dr. Hatfill, and had asked the two if they had seen the scientist around Princeton. Both said they told the inspector that they had not.
Clifton R. Lacy, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, said in an interview today that the chances of mail being contaminated by the spores found in the mailbox were "vanishingly small."
"I think the most important take-home message from this is that since October of 2001, there have been no new cases of anthrax in humans in New Jersey," Dr. Lacy said.
A question left unanswered today was whether the spores found in the mailbox were genetically related to those found at the Hamilton sorting center in October, or whether they were a new strain. Dr. Lacy referred those questions to the United States attorney's office in Newark. The office did not return a phone call.
Dr. Lacy said his department's
laboratories received swabs of the interiors of about 600 New Jersey mailboxes
in the weeks before last Thursday, when the swab from the Princeton mailbox
tested positive for spores. He said he did not know when the swabs were
taken, or whether the recent arrival of the test suggested that the mailboxes
had only recently been examined.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
Official Suspects Anthrax Is From Last Fall
By ROBERT HANLEY
New Jersey's health commissioner said yesterday that he suspected the anthrax spores found recently in a street-corner mailbox in downtown Princeton had been there several months, possibly since last fall.
But the commissioner, Dr. Clifton R. Lacy, cautioned that he and other state health experts did not know for certain when, or how, the spores got into the box.
Dr. Lacy said he thought it was unlikely that the spores had reached the box recently because there have been no reports of anthrax illnesses or anthrax-contaminated letters circulating in the mails for months.
"I think this is probably a remnant from last fall," Dr. Lacy said. But he added that federal investigators and scientists would make the final conclusion on that issue and on the source of the spores. "We'll let our law enforcement colleagues do their investigation," he said after a news conference in Trenton.
During the conference, he disclosed that 76 more samples collected in recent days from 38 mailboxes in New Jersey had all tested negative for anthrax. Those specimens are the last of about 700 specimens gathered in recent months by the Postal Service and the F.B.I. — primarily from mailboxes in New Jersey — and sent to the state health lab for analysis.
The only specimen that tested positive for anthrax came from the mailbox at the corner of Nassau and Bank Streets, opposite the Princeton University campus. The box has been sent to a federal laboratory for testing.
The 700 samples were collected as part of an federal investigation into the source of four anthrax-contaminated letters sent last fall to Senators Patrick J. Leahy and Tom Daschle, the NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw, and The New York Post.
The federal authorities have said that all four letters passed through a sprawling mail processing and distribution center in Hamilton Township, near Princeton. That center was heavily contaminated with anthrax, and three postal workers there were stricken with the disease. The center has been closed for de-contamination since mid-October.
Mail from all the boxes involved in the current testing was processed at the Hamilton center before it was shut. Princeton-area mail is now processed regularly at a postal center in Edison and sometimes at a center in Eatontown, according to Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the Postal Service.
Specimens from those two centers were gathered Sunday and are being analyzed for possible anthrax contamination from the Princeton mailbox. The results of that testing are expected tomorrow or Thursday.
"This is being done as a precautionary measure only, just to be on the safe side and make sure everything is clean," Mr. Quinn said.
Dr. Lacy, the health commissioner, said the state lab had been unable to determine whether the spores found in Princeton matched the Ames strain of anthrax that contaminated the four letters that passed through the Hamilton processing center. He said the Princeton specimen had been sent to a federal lab for further analysis.
The F.B.I. yesterday declined
to comment on the investigation.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
Scientist Fired After Warning on U.S. Funds
By DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 — A bioweapons scientist whose apartment has been searched twice in the F.B.I.'s anthrax inquiry was fired from his job at a Louisiana State University biomedical laboratory after the Justice Department warned the school that it could not use him on grants financed by the department, law enforcement officials said today.
L.S.U. officials said they received an e-mail message last month advising the university that it could not use the researcher, Steven J. Hatfill, on Justice Department grants.
The Aug. 1 message from the department's Office of Domestic Preparedness, which issues grants for research on terrorism-related subjects, said the university should "cease and desist from the subject matter expert and course instructor duties of Steven J. Hatfill on all Department of Justice-funded programs."
Mr. Hatfill, whose lawyer has
said he has been unfairly singled out by the government in the anthrax
investigation, had already been placed on administrative leave by the university
after the highly publicized searches last month at his apartment in Frederick,
Md. He had been hired as a teacher at the university's National Center
for Biomedical Research and Training, which receives
The university's chancellor, Mark A. Emmert, did not mention the e-mail message on Tuesday in announcing Mr. Hatfill's firing. Mr. Emmert simply said of Mr. Hatfill's dismissal, "I have concluded that it is clearly in the best interest of L.S.U. to terminate this relationship."
A spokesman for the university, Greg Sands, told The Associated Press that the decision to fire Mr. Hatfill had been made before senior school officials learned about the e-mail message.
Today, several senior law enforcement officials expressed embarrassment over the e-mail incident, saying the domestic preparedness office acted improperly because Mr. Hatfill has never been charged with any wrongdoing and has not been identified as a suspect in the anthrax attacks that killed five people last fall.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr.
Hatfill expressed outrage at the Justice Department warning, saying his
life had been "utterly destroyed."
Copyright The New York Times Company
Can These Boxes Be Locked Against Terror?
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
As postal authorities scramble to strengthen security of the mail, they face a daunting realization: the process will take years, it will cost at least a billion dollars and until it is finished the nation is probably even more vulnerable than it was last fall, when anthrax-tainted letters killed five people, sickened at least 17 more and caused widespread disruption and fear.
Engineers are rushing to devise steps to deter bioterrorist mailings, or to speed detection of any such attacks. They are reconsidering almost every step in the chain that moves 200 billion pieces of mail a year — from the design of the 350,000 street-corner mailboxes to the way postage stamps are printed and sold. Meanwhile, though, the postal system stands revealed as a potent tool for terrorism.
"We cannot believe that whoever did this is the only one capable or willing to do this," said Thomas G. Day, the Postal Service's vice president for engineering. The attacks last year served as a blueprint, he said. "Clearly anyone who hadn't thought of it now fully understands it."
In fact, despite their toll, some postal authorities view last year's attacks as a close call, not a true disaster. For one thing, the tainted letters were apparently designed to affect only the mail recipients. Their seams were carefully taped and they were precisely addressed. But as they passed through high-speed machinery, they spewed a trail of spores that infected postal workers and, apparently, people who received other mail moving through the system at the same time.
"If such an incident was repeated on a larger scale, the consequence to the economic health of the entire nation could be truly incalculable," said Patrick R. Donahoe, the Postal Service's senior vice president for operations, in an August letter to the General Accounting Office.
The Postal Service, consulting with several federal agencies, contractors, scientists, and the Royal Mail and other postal agencies overseas, is proceeding with the first stages of a long-term plan to secure its sprawling system, in which almost every collection box is an unguarded portal.
Private corporations and government agencies that are potential targets or that handle floods of mail, among them Pitney Bowes and the Internal Revenue Service, are also conducting their own searches for ways to defuse biological threats without impeding their work. The only mail being routinely irradiated with bacteria-killing electron beams or X-rays is that bound for government agencies in Washington, leaving other offices, like the many addresses for paying tax bills, unsecured.
The mail network — linking every address in America in a chain of boxes, trucks, letter sorters, 750,000 letter carriers and other postal workers — will never be immune to terror, postal officials and experts say. But a number of steps could reduce the threat.
Some efforts focus on reducing the volume of anonymous mail, which now constitutes about 17 percent of the daily flow of some 680 million items.
For example, the Postal Service plans eventually to change most stamps from uniform bits of sticky paper to personalized, encrypted records that would provide the postal equivalent of caller ID. This would make it harder for someone to send a malicious letter anonymously.
Letters, either the postage itself or a return address label, would be imprinted with a box containing a dense checkered pattern that encodes far more information than a conventional bar code, according to the postal security plan.
Such postage is already being sold over the Internet by companies like Stamps.com to consumers seeking convenience. But the Postal Service and private mail companies are considering a vast expansion of this technology, even offering it door to door.
Letter carriers may eventually wield hand-held printers — somewhat like those used by workers checking in rental cars — that can spit out personalized postage for each outgoing letter.
Any concerns about reduced privacy would most likely be outweighed, officials and experts said, by the knowledge that such mail would be in the fast lane — in the same way that proposed special identification cards for frequent travelers might someday allow them to pass airport checkpoints.
Besides serving as a deterrent, the data-containing postage — read by sorting machinery all along a letter's path — would allow investigators of an attack to more easily trace an envelope back to its point of origin or sender.
The investigation of last fall's attacks remains hampered by a lack of any data trail pointing to a perpetrator.
In fact, the only recent lead in the 11-month-old investigation is a chance trace of anthrax found on a single mailbox in Princeton, N.J., after swabs were done of more than 600 collection boxes in the central part of the state, where all the tainted letters are thought by investigators to have originated.
The tainted box was removed from a street corner and now sits in a sealed enclosure at the Army's Edgewood center, undergoing more analysis to see if its anthrax strain matches the deadly Ames variant used in the attacks, investigators said. In another effort to reduce the amount of potentially suspicious mail, the Postal Service is also working on certifying as secure the operations of the dominant users of its system: commercial mailing houses sending electric bills, fashion catalogs and the like.
With adequate security and screening of employees, such mail could be deemed "safe," postal officials say, cutting the volume of mail bound for biohazard detection systems or subject to irradiation.
The number of blue mailboxes is likely to be reduced, and those that remain may eventually be monitored by video cameras and have replaceable plastic liners that will prevent any contamination from spreading.
Other efforts focus on detecting the presence of pathogens in the mail.
At two mail-sorting hubs in Virginia, postal engineers and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say they successfully tested new systems that check the dust that arises from sorting machinery as the mail moves through it. The checks, performed hourly using a process called polymerase chain reaction, would bathe dust samples in enzymes that cause DNA to explosively replicate, allowing quick comparisons to a library of known DNA sequences from anthrax, bubonic plague or other pathogens.
In theory, if DNA from one of the threats were present in the dust, the system would detect it and contaminated mail could be stopped before the first trucks rolled.
Detection systems are important, postal experts say, because even a single contaminated envelope can spread pathogens widely. This potential was vividly demonstrated in recent tests run on postal machinery assembled at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, the Army's main research center for testing chemical and biological defenses, in Aberdeen, Md.
Video cameras recorded close-up images as test envelopes containing spores of a harmless anthrax cousin moved through the machinery. "It's amazing how much comes out even when the corners on the envelope are taped shut," Mr. Day said.
The Postal Service is planning to award $200 million in contracts this fall to install the detection systems.
Meanwhile, companies like Lockheed Martin are developing more sophisticated detection systems for vulnerable agencies and businesses. These would set off extra biochemical tests if they detected particularly minute particles with the signature of bacterial spores.
In a separate effort to prevent spores from dispersing, the service also plans to spend an estimated $245 million on large networks of exhaust vents and vacuums that will draw dust out of the sorting machines and trap any particles in filters.
Until last fall's attacks, workers cleaned the machines by blowing compressed air through them, a process that is believed to have spread any anthrax that escaped from tainted letters.
It will take months to install the new equipment at all of the postal system's 282 hangarlike sorting centers.
Two sorting centers that handled the tainted mail, the Brentwood facility that serves Washington and one in Hamilton Township, N.J., where all the tainted letters apparently originated, remain sealed, awaiting cleansing with the same chlorine dioxide gas used to kill any lingering anthrax in the Hart Senate Office Building. That is where the anthrax mailings first came to light after the letter to Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic majority leader from South Dakota, was opened in a cloud of powder on Oct. 15.
Other post offices and transfer points where trace contamination was seen, from Florida to Connecticut, were cleaned last fall and remain open.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the new security and safety measures will work the way engineers hope they will. Yesterday, for example, the General Accounting Office, the investigating arm of Congress, strongly recommended more testing and analysis before the Postal Service begins installing the vacuum exhaust systems. One concern, the G.A.O. analysts said, is that the vacuums could disrupt the separate effort to sample air and test for biological hazards. Another is the cost of running them and providing enormous amounts of electricity.
On Friday, a new federal task force under the White House Office of Homeland Security and drawn from eight agencies will hold the first of several meetings to assess the DNA detection method that postal officials prefer.
Dr. Lawrence D. Kerr, the director of bioterrorism research and development in the Office of Homeland Security, said it would be a mistake to invest heavily in a new system, only to find out that it was still porous.
"The Postal Service has been in an almost yearlong 24-hour, 7-days-a-week process of searching for the ideal system to implement nationwide," he said. "But as we look to this technology, we still need to make sure it passes rigorous scientific review."
The prospect of further delays is frustrating to postal officials and workers alike. Employees from Brentwood and Hamilton, still traumatized by the deaths and illnesses of co-workers, say they are worried that the pace of adopting new protections will be too slow to save them from the side effects of another assault.
Mr. Day, the Postal Service official, said he was confident that the bioterrorism plan would pass muster and that the American public would be willing to invest in improvements that would make the postal system safer for employees and mail recipients.
"We're convinced that the technical fix we have coming forward will reduce the threat," he said. "If you're going to send a biohazard through the mail, we're going to detect it very quickly, get it isolated and contained and, if necessary, get people medicated."
In the end, however, the last line of defense will simply be mail handlers and recipients on the alert for suspicious envelopes or contents, and health workers alert to symptoms of exposure to biological or chemical weapons.
Dr. Clifton R. Lacy, the New Jersey health and senior services commissioner, whose state remains a focal point in the anthrax investigation, said he was confident that from this perspective at least the response to any new assault would be far more effective.
"It's like what happens to the human body when it's exposed to a foreign substance — a virus, the flu, whatever," he said. "With the second exposure, the response is quicker, more coordinated and more decisive."
"Health care providers and the
public have undergone quite an education," he said. "We're ready."
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
Lab Suggests Qaeda Planned to Build Arms, Officials Say
By JUDITH MILLER
WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 — Pentagon officials disclosed new details today about equipment found in a laboratory near Kandahar, Afghanistan, that they contend Al Qaeda intended to use to make biological and chemical weapons.
The officials said the equipment — a centrifuge for separating liquids and an oven in which slurried agents could be dried — supported the assessment that Al Qaeda might have acquired what it needed to make "a very limited production of biological and chemical agents," one official said.
A senior Defense Department official presented photographs of the equipment today at a briefing on efforts by terrorist groups and by Iraq, Iran and other nations to acquire chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, as well as the means to deliver them. The briefing was a more limited version of a classified presentation that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and senior aides have made to NATO allies and to legislators on Capitol Hill.
A senior Defense Department official said he did not know whether the centrifuge or the dryer had actually been used. Other officials said they believed that they had not been used, and added that no live agents had been found at the laboratory, which was still under construction when it was discovered by British forces in Afghanistan this past spring. Centrifuges and dryers are also used in making ordinary pharmaceuticals.
But, the senior official added, the equipment and documents found at the site left little doubt that Al Qaeda was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Pentagon officials said American intelligence officials had not known of the lab's existence before the British forces discovered it on the outskirts of Kandahar last spring. It was the only one of about 60 sites that American officials have investigated that was previously unknown. They said that about 370 samples have been taken from these sites. In only five cases were there any apparent indications of the presence of biological agents, and these were in tiny or trace amounts.
But the discovery of a lab previously unknown to American intelligence officials intensified concerns about Al Qaeda's intentions and the extent to which the United States and its allies can accurately monitor efforts by terrorist groups and what the Bush administration calls rogue states to develop unconventional weapons.
In an interview, another Defense Department official said the equipment and the documents found in the lab suggested that Al Qaeda had intended to make a wide variety of chemical and biological agents to use against people, plants and animals. Intelligence analysts say the lab could have been used eventually to make biological agents that cause anthrax, plague and cholera, as well as a variety of rusts and blights that attack plants, and foot and mouth disease to use against animals with cloven hooves.
"They were actively hunting with shopping lists for equipment, materials, and expertise, and they were working with foreign scientists familiar with such agents," the official said.
Osama bin Laden and his senior aides made no secret of their desire to buy or develop unconventional weapons. Testimony in terrorism trials in New York and other cities indicated that Al Qaeda was actively seeking nuclear and other unconventional weapons even in the early 1990's. Mr. bin Laden indicated that he considered the acquisition of such weapons a religious duty.
Discovery of the lab near Kandahar was first disclosed by The New York Times in March. The lab had been abandoned by Al Qaeda before production began, officials said.
"We got them before they got us," one official said.
The Department of Defense refused to make available the photos of the dryer and the centrifuge it said came from the lab, or any of the other photos and slides discussed at today's briefing. In response to a reporter's question, the senior official said the department had arranged the briefing in response to reporters' requests for an unclassified version of the secret briefing on these subjects that Mr. Rumsfeld had been giving.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company
Seeking Terrorist Plots, F.B.I. Is Tracking Hundreds of Muslims
By PHILIP SHENON and DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 — The Federal Bureau of Investigation is trying to make an open book of the lives of hundreds of mostly young, mostly Muslim men in the United States in the belief that Al Qaeda-trained terrorists remain in this country, awaiting instructions to attack.
Senior law enforcement officials say the surveillance campaign is being carried out by every major F.B.I. office in the country and involves 24-hour monitoring of the suspects' telephone calls, e-mail messages and Internet use, as well as scrutiny of their credit-card charges, their travel and their visits to neighborhood gathering places, including mosques.
The campaign, which has also involved efforts to recruit the suspects' friends and family members as government informers, has raised alarm from civil liberties groups and some Arab-American and Muslim leaders. The men are suspected of ties to Al Qaeda or other groups affiliated with Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.
Law enforcement officials say the surveillance program has provided vital evidence to support a string of arrests and indictments around the country since late summer — in western New York, in Detroit, in Seattle and, on Friday, in Portland, Ore. — of Americans and others accused of conspiring in terrorist cells to assist Al Qaeda.
Still, the F.B.I. has acknowledged that it has no evidence of any imminent terrorist threat posed by the so-called sleeper cells connected to Al Qaeda. Federal law enforcement officials say there is no sign of a terrorist cell operating on American soil that, in its level of commitment and training, resembles anything like the team of suicide hijackers who trained in the United States for several months before carrying out the Sept. 11 attacks.
They concede that the domestic threat posed by Qaeda cells may at times have been overstated, especially after the arrest last May of Jose Padilla, an American also known as Abdullah al-Muhajir. Justice Department officials have backed away from their initial suggestion that they had compelling evidence linking him to a plot to build an explosive radiological device known as a dirty bomb.
Still, law enforcement officials say they are convinced that at least several dozen people now under F.B.I. surveillance in the United States — with different degrees of terrorist training, and with varying degrees of loyalty to Al Qaeda — would take part in an attack if ordered, and that they represent a clear threat.
"If you look at the number of people who went through the Al Qaeda training camps, and there are literally thousands who did, it stands to reason that a certain percentage of them are in this country," said John E. Bell Jr., who retired last summer as the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.'s field office in Detroit. Much of the surveillance campaign is centered in Detroit, since the region is the home to the nation's largest population of people of Arab descent.
On Friday, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that an investigation based in Portland had resulted in charges against six people, five of them Americans, because they were members of a "suspected terrorist cell within our borders."
The suspects were accused of conspiring to "levy war against the United States" and to contribute services to Al Qaeda. One of the suspects was accused of joining the Army Reserve to get weapons and tactical training for use in what officials said was a "jihad" against the United States. It was the latest in a series of arrests of people around the United States accused of ties to Qaeda cells.
In the New York case, six Americans of Yemeni descent from a suburb of Buffalo were accused last month of traveling to Afghanistan last year to attend a Qaeda camp.
In Detroit, four men were charged in August with membership in a "sleeper operational combat cell" tied to Al Qaeda that was preparing for attacks in the United States, Turkey and Jordan. In Seattle, James Ujaama, a local Muslim activist, was accused of providing Al Qaeda with training facilities, safe houses and computer services as part of a conspiracy to "murder and maim persons located outside the United States."
Within the Bush administration, there has been a fractious, mostly unpublicized debate over how many sleeper agents of Al Qaeda might be in the United States, and the amount of resources the F.B.I. and other law enforcement agencies should devote to their effort to ferret them out.
American counterterrorism officials have estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 young Muslims from around the world trained in Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, with information gathered from abandoned Qaeda hideouts in Afghanistan and Pakistan and from captured terrorists, the officials have tried to compile the names of everyone who attended the camps. So far, the officials say, they have been able to identify and track down several hundred people around the world who trained at the camps and might be considered a threat.
Some law enforcement officials say that when they have detected Qaeda loyalists in the United States since Sept. 11, they have tended to be hapless malcontents and not disciplined terrorists.
"They are hangers-on and wannabe terrorists for the most part," said one official, adding, in reference to the leader of the Sept. 11 plot, "Mohammed Atta wouldn't have asked most of these guys to take out his trash."
But other senior officials emphasized that they were reluctant to dismiss the threat posed by these suspects, in part because they view terrorist acts like bombings as relatively easy to carry out — even by unskilled groups operating without much money or leadership.
Some Arab-American and Muslim groups have complained that the intense F.B.I. surveillance campaign, which they insist has been evident for months, has unfairly left the perception that all young men of Arab descent or the Muslim faith have some connection to terrorism.
"Young Arab men, in particular, are being treated as suspicious, possibly dangerous," said Hussein Ibish, communications director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "I think there have been some really egregious instances of abuse."
But he said there was an understanding among Arab-Americans that a handful of young men of Arab descent in the United States might pose a terrorist threat, and that it was in the best interests of the community here to find and stop them. "I would be surprised if there are hundreds of them," he said. "But there could be 10, 20, 30."
In Buffalo, the F.B.I. said tips from local Muslims led to the arrest of the six men last month. Mr. Bell, the former special agent in Detroit, said that Arab and Muslim leaders in the city had "made it very clear that they were not interested in supporting terrorism, and that they were going to be the first to step forward if they learned about it."
The bureau's surveillance campaign has depended heavily on wiretaps obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows electronic surveillance of terrorism suspects at a far lower standard of evidence than in normal criminal cases.
Law enforcement officials said the bureau had worked closely with the National Security Agency in trying to monitor telephone calls and other communication between suspects in the United States and telephone numbers abroad that are known to be used by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
The bureau's dependence on the surveillance act in the search for sleeper cells helps explain why the Justice Department has so aggressively defended its request to expand its authority under the law, passed in 1978, which has been the subject of a recent battle involving the secret court in Washington that reviews the bureau's surveillance requests.
"The terrorists don't know it, but we're listening in all the time," said a senior law enforcement official, noting that there had been extensive electronic surveillance of the six men charged near Buffalo, including reviews of e-mail messages between some of the men as they traveled in the Middle East in recent months.
In F.B.I. offices in Detroit, Newark, Los Angeles and other cities with large Arab-American and Muslim populations, officials say, the bureau is struggling to keep up with the mountain of tapes, transcripts and photographs from the surveillance.
Mr. Bell, the former director of the Detroit office, said that after Sept. 11, he doubled the number of agents assigned to work on counterterrorism — he says he is barred from providing an exact figure — and that he moved quickly to hire several Arabic-language translators to deal with the tapes and transcripts.
Prague Discounts an Iraqi Meeting
By JAMES RISEN
PRAGUE, Oct. 20 — The Czech president, Vaclav Havel, has quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports that Mohamed Atta, the leader in the Sept. 11 attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague just months before the attacks on New York and Washington, according to Czech officials.
Mr. Havel discreetly called Washington to tell senior Bush administration officials that an initial report from the Czech domestic intelligence agency that Mr. Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer, Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, in Prague in April 2001 could not be substantiated.
Czech officials did not say precisely when Mr. Havel told the White House to disregard the reports of the meeting, but extensive interviews with leading Czech figures make clear that he did so quietly some time earlier this year in an effort to avoid publicly embarrassing other prominent officials in his government, who had given credibility to the reports through their public and private statements in the months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The statements by those officials, including the Czech prime minister, had helped turn the reports of a meeting between an important Al Qaeda operative and an Iraqi spy into an international issue.
When the reports of a meeting between Mr. Atta and Mr. Ani came to attention in October 2001, they appeared to provide the most direct connection yet uncovered between the Sept. 11 attacks and the government of Saddam Hussein, and they set off a debate in Washington that continues today over whether a possible war with Iraq should be considered an extension of the global war on Al Qaeda and terrorism.
For months, American intelligence and law enforcement officials have cast doubt on the reports of the Prague meeting, which proved to be based on the statements of a single informant, and last week the director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, told Congress that his agency could find no evidence to confirm that the meeting took place.
The White House has generally been cautious about using the reports of the Prague meeting to help make the case for war with Iraq. Yet the Prague meeting has remained a live issue with other proponents of military action against Iraq, both in and out of the government.
The disclosure of Mr. Havel's decision to inform the Bush administration that it should ignore the reports of a meeting comes after a year of confused and often contradictory statements from other Czech officials about the incident.
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross first gave public credence to the reports when he held a news conference in October 2001 to announce that Mr. Atta had come to Prague in April to meet with Mr. Ani, an intelligence officer who was working under diplomatic cover in the Iraqi Embassy.
More significantly, Czech officials say that Milos Zeman, then the Czech Republic's prime minister, privately informed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell about the intelligence reports, while Mr. Zeman was holding meetings in Washington in November, thus placing the credibility of the Czech government even more squarely behind the reports.
Mr. Zeman's statements, along with an assertion that Mr. Atta and Mr. Ani had met to plot an attack on the offices of Radio Free Europe in Prague, made it difficult for officials there and in Washington to easily brush aside the reports of the meeting. American counterterrorism specialists at the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. subsequently came under intense pressure to thoroughly investigate the matter.
But Czech officials who have investigated the case now say that Mr. Zeman and Mr. Gross spoke without adequately vetting the information or waiting for the Czech internal security service to substantiate the initial reports.
Officials say they also spoke without adequately consulting Mr. Havel, who was effectively excluded as others went to the press and the Bush administration. In the Czech political system, the president is the head of state, but the prime minister manages most day-to-day government affairs and is not necessarily from the same party as the president.
Mr. Havel, the playwright and former dissident who led Czechoslovakia out of Communism in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, moved carefully behind the scenes in the months after the reports of the Prague meeting came to light to try to determine what really happened, officials said. He asked trusted advisers to investigate, and they quietly went through back channels to talk with Czech intelligence officers to get to the bottom of the story. The intelligence officers told them there was no evidence of a meeting.
It was also clear they were irked that Czech political leaders had spoken out despite the caveats that had been placed on the initial report of the meeting. "I'm sure that the report was written carefully, in guarded language," a Czech leader who has reviewed the matter said.
The intelligence report of the Czech domestic intelligence agency on a possible meeting between Mr. Atta and Mr. Ani had come from a single informant in the local Arab community, and the information was treated skeptically by Czech intelligence experts because it had been provided only after the Sept. 11 attacks, after Mohamed Atta's picture had been broadcast on television and published in newspapers around the world, and even after the Czech press reported that records showed that Mr. Atta had traveled to Prague.
Officials of the intelligence service were said to be furious that Mr. Zeman had taken the information straight to the top of the American government, before they had a chance to investigate further.
After Mr. Havel's advisers reported back to him, the president told the Bush administration that reports of an Atta-Ani meeting could not be substantiated. "I think he tried to do it politely because he didn't want to embarrass anyone," a Czech leader familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Zeman declined to comment about his role in the case. Mr. Gross could not be reached, but in May he told a Czech newspaper that he stood by his initial statements about the meeting.
Today, other Czech officials say they have no evidence that Mr. Atta was even in the country in April 2001. In fact, American records indicate he was in Virginia Beach, Va., in early April. "The interior minister claims they did meet, but the intelligence people have told me that they didn't, that the meeting didn't happen," a senior official said.
The Czechs say border police records show that Mr. Atta, an Egyptian who was then living in Hamburg, Germany, did come to Prague in June 2000, after obtaining a visa late in May. Shortly after arriving in Prague on that occasion then, Mr. Atta flew to Newark. Now, some Czech and German officials say that their best explanation of why Mr. Atta came to Prague was to get a cheap airfare to the United States.
Czech officials also say they have no hard evidence that Mr. Ani was involved in terrorist activities, although the government did order his ouster in late April 2001. Those officials say that while the Iraqi was photographed outside the Radio Free Europe building, there is scant evidence that Radio Free Europe had been chosen as a target.
Czech officials say the very small Iraqi Embassy here has usually had only one intelligence officer. Iraqi intelligence has used a larger office in Vienna as a regional base for Central Europe, and Prague appears to be little more than a satellite office.
Over the years, Czech security officials also say they have never seen any other evidence that Iraqi intelligence officers stationed in Prague were involved in terrorist activities. Instead, Czech officials say Iraqi intelligence officers here typically spends their time tracking the small community of Iraqi opposition figures, sometimes pressing them to return home. The Iraqis may also have been involved in illegal arms deals, seeking weapons and spare parts for the Iraqi military in violation of international sanctions.
Plague in Perspective
Every now and then we're really glad not to be living in the 14th century. That was particularly true this week, when a New Mexico man who fell sick in New York City was diagnosed as having bubonic plague. There was a time when the so-called Black Death — a mix of bubonic and pneumonic plague — wiped out a third of Europe's population, some 20 to 30 million people in all, as it spread inexorably from village to village. What a contrast with today, when the plight of the visitor from New Mexico and his wife, who may also be afflicted, scarcely caused a ripple of anxiety.
Plague, a bacterial disease that
causes high fever and either inflammation of the lymph nodes (bubonic plague)
or a severe lung infection (pneumonic plague), afflicts some 10 to 15 people
a year in this country, mostly in rural areas of the Southwest and Far
West. If not treated quickly, it is often fatal. But today, unlike the
Middle Ages, we have antibiotics to quell the germ, and good
Bubonic plague, the more common form, does not spread from human to human. Instead, fleas pick up the germ from infected rodents and transmit it by biting humans. The plague spread so widely in the 14th century because hordes of flea-infested rats lived in human homes and workplaces, and many people developed the pneumonic form, which can be spread by sneezing or coughing.
Even though plague currently poses little threat to Americans, it has been cited as a potential bioterror weapon. The Japanese reportedly dropped plague-infected fleas on Chinese cities in World War II, and the Russian and American biological weapons programs developed techniques to deliver plague germs as aerosols that would cause the more lethal pneumonic plague. A disease that has been tamed by modern medicine thus remains on the list of potential horrors.
C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox
By JUDITH MILLER
The C.I.A. is investigating an informant's accusation that Iraq obtained a particularly virulent strain of smallpox from a Russian scientist who worked in a smallpox lab in Moscow during Soviet times, senior American officials and foreign scientists say.
The officials said several American scientists were told in August that Iraq might have obtained the mysterious strain from Nelja N. Maltseva, a virologist who worked for more than 30 years at the Research Institute for Viral Preparations in Moscow before her death two years ago.
The information came to the American government from an informant whose identity has not been disclosed. The C.I.A. considered the information reliable enough that President Bush was briefed about its implications. The attempt to verify the information is continuing.
Dr. Maltseva is known to have visited Iraq on several occasions. Intelligence officials are trying to determine whether, as the informant told them, she traveled there as recently as 1990, officials said. The institute where she worked housed what Russia said was its entire national collection of 120 strains of smallpox, and some experts fear that she may have provided the Iraqis with a version that could be resistant to vaccines and could be more easily transmitted as a biological weapon.
The possibility that Iraq possesses this strain is one of several factors that has complicated Mr. Bush's decision, expected this week, about how many Americans should be vaccinated against smallpox, a disease that was officially eradicated in 1980.
The White House is expected to announce that despite the risk of vaccine-induced illness and death, it will authorize vaccinating those most at risk in the event of a smallpox outbreak — 500,000 members of the military who could be assigned to the Middle East for a war with Iraq and 500,000 civilian medical workers.
More broadly, the Russian government's refusal to share smallpox and other lethal germ strains for study by the United States, or to answer questions about the fate of such strains, has reinforced American concerns about whether Russia has abandoned what was once the world's most ambitious covert germ weapons program.
A year ago in Crawford, Tex.,
Mr. Bush and Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, issued a statement
vowing to enhance cooperation against biological terrorism. But after an
initial round of visits and a flurry of optimism, American officials said
Russia had resisted repeated American requests for information about the
Russian smallpox strains and help in the investigation into the
"There is information we would like the Russians to share as a partner of ours," William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said in an interview. "Because if there are strains that present a unique problem with respect to vaccines and treatment, it is in the interests of all freedom-loving people to have as much information as possible."
Cooperation on biological terrorism was not discussed at the meeting last week between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin in St. Petersburg, American officials said, mainly because administration officials are not certain just how willing Mr. Putin is to enhance cooperation in this delicate area. They wonder if he is not doing more because of the military's hostility to sharing the information.
"The record so far suggests he is either unable or unwilling to push the military on this front," an administration official said. "We think it may be a little of both, but we're not really sure at this point or what to do about it."
Administration officials said the C.I.A. was still trying to determine whether Dr. Maltseva traveled to Iraq in 1990, and whether she shared a sample of what might be a particularly virulent smallpox strain with Iraqi scientists.
World Health Organization records in Geneva and interviews with scientists who worked with her confirmed that Dr. Maltseva visited Iraq at least twice, in 1972 and 1973, as part of the global campaign to eradicate smallpox.
Formerly secret Soviet records also show that in 1971, she was part of a covert mission to Aralsk, a port city in what was then the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, north of the Aral Sea, to help stop an epidemic of smallpox. The Soviet Union did not report that outbreak to world health officials, as required by regulations.
Last June, experts from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, drawing on those Kazakh records and interviews with survivors, published a report saying the epidemic was a result of open-air tests of a particularly virulent smallpox strain on Vozrozhdeniye Island in the Aral Sea.
The island, known as Renaissance Island in English, is between Kazakhstan and another Central Asian country, Uzbekistan. The United States recently spent $6 million to help both countries, which are now independent, to decontaminate anthrax that the Soviet military buried in pits on the island.
Alan P. Zelicoff, co-author of the Monterey report and a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, said the Aralsk outbreak was a watershed because it demonstrated that the smallpox virus was more easily spread than previously thought and that there may be a vaccine-resistant strain.
The organism can indeed be made to travel long distances, city-size perhaps, and there may be a vaccine-resistant strain or one that is more communicable than garden-variety smallpox, he said in an interview.
The Monterey report led American
officials to question whether America's smallpox vaccine would be effective
against the Aralsk strain or whether new vaccines or drugs might be needed
if the strain was used in an attack. American concern increased in recent
months after the White House was told that Dr. Maltseva might have shared
the Aralsk strain with Iraqi scientists in
David Kelly, a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, said there was a "resurgence of interest" in smallpox vaccine in Iraq in 1990, "but we have never known why."
A spokesman for the Russian Research Institute for Viral Preparations declined to comment on Dr. Maltseva or her work. Her daughter, a physician in Moscow, said she had no recollection of her mother's ever going to Iraq.
Svetlana Sergeyevna Marennikova, Dr. Maltseva's deputy in the Moscow laboratory, said in an interview that Dr. Maltseva had never gone to Iraq as far as she knew.
"She worked, and then when she got sick, she took a sick leave when she was no longer able to work," she said. "I don't know about Iraq. I didn't know about a trip there. I don't think she was there. I would know."
Donald A. Henderson, a senior adviser to the Department of Health and Human Services and a leader of the smallpox eradication campaign, described Dr. Maltseva as an "outgoing, hard-working scientist." He said she had traveled widely for the W.H.O in the eradication campaign.
While the organization's records show that she visited Iran, Iraq and Syria, Dr. Henderson recalled that he had also sent her to Pakistan to follow up on an outbreak there. "She clearly enjoyed the international travel circuit," he said.
Scientists and American officials have speculated that Iraq may have tried to buy the Aralsk strain from Dr. Maltseva, whose institute, like so many other scientific labs in Russia, has fallen on hard times since the Soviet Union's collapse.
Dr. Henderson said he was deeply disappointed that Dr. Maltseva and other Russian scientists with whom he had worked closely had helped cover up outbreaks of infectious diseases that should have been reported to the W.H.O.
The Russian government has never
publicly acknowledged that Aralsk outbreak or that it tested smallpox in
the open air. At a World Health Organization meeting in Lyon, France, last
August, officials said, Russian virologists argued privately, in response
to the Monterey report and news accounts, that there was no reason to believe
that the Aralsk incident was anything other than a
American officials familiar with discussions about Aralsk said Russians scientists had confirmed that Dr. Maltseva took tissue samples from Aralsk back to her Moscow lab in 1971. But Russians have insisted that the material was destroyed when Russia quietly moved its smallpox strain collection from the Moscow lab to Vector, where the collection is now stored.
Many American scientists and officials, even those who doubt that the Aralsk strain is unusually potent, are deeply skeptical that the strain was destroyed. Former Soviet germ warfare scientists have privately told American officials that the military took control of these strains when the collection was moved.
American health and defense officials have tried without success to press Russia for help in securing a sample of the strain from the Aralsk smallpox outbreak.
The American officials have also been unable to obtain information that they believe could help federal investigators with their stalled inquiry into the anthrax attacks of October 2001, in which 5 people died and at least 17 were infected.
After 9/11, Universities Are Destroying Biological Agents
By DIANA JEAN SCHEMO
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 — As federal officials search for more powerful tools to investigate biological terrorism, universities across the country are destroying collections of laboratory agents crucial for understanding how biological weapons work and tracing their sources.
New federal laws require only that such biological materials be registered, but many universities are pressing researchers to clean out their freezers and destroy materials they are not currently working on.
While there is no official count of how many biological specimens have been destroyed, concern that laboratories have gone overboard prompted the White House to ask institutions, through the American Society of Microbiologists, to reconsider their haste in doing away with specimens that could prove "difficult or impossible to replace," said Rachel Levinson, of the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy.
"Obviously, these materials are valuable as research tools, and in terms of developing countermeasures should these agents be used as weapons, or if there's an unintentional natural outbreak," Dr. Levinson said. "They're valuable research tools, and we would not like to see them destroyed."
Under laws enacted since last year's anthrax mailings, which killed five people, research institutions, clinical and diagnostic laboratories must inventory and register the presence of 61 select agents that could be used to make biological weapons, including ebola, herpes B, smallpox and a variety of toxins. The materials must be kept under lock and key, with access to them restricted to people cleared by government background checks. Scientists must also demonstrate a "bona fide research purpose" for working with a given material.
The problem appears to lie in conflicting messages from Washington and in overly zealous compliance with the new laws on select agents, said Ronald Atlas, president of the American Society of Microbiologists. The prosecution of Tomas Foral, a University of Connecticut scientist arrested after he pocketed an anthrax specimen in cleaning out a laboratory freezer, caused many researchers to think twice, Dr. Atlas recalled.
"Many say Tomas Foral at Connecticut was a clear message from the Justice Department to the scientific community: If you can't justify having it, clear it out," Dr. Atlas said. "When you have these criminal penalties hanging over your head, you ask, `Why should I be the one to bear that legal risk?' "
The most spectacular example of the wholesale destruction of specimens came last year, when Iowa State University at Ames destroyed its entire collection of anthrax specimens. The university acted after an Ames strain was tied to the fatal anthrax letters, and with the criminal investigation in full swing.
John McCarroll, a spokesman for Iowa State, said copies of the anthrax strains that were destroyed existed elsewhere, but other scientists disagree. They maintain that recent advances in genetic engineering have shown that families of strains that appeared the same were, on closer inspection, quite different. Mr. McCarroll said that more recently, Iowa State had asked researchers to destroy select agents that they were not "currently working on."
Few universities have gone so far as to order the elimination of specimens outright. Rather, in conducting inventories of biological agents, most have urged researchers to consider seriously, and justify, their need for sensitive materials. Some describe the procedure as good "housekeeping," saying as a matter of principle, dangerous materials not immediately needed should be discarded.
At the University of Pennsylvania, the new laws on select agents has prompted not just housekeeping, but also soul searching, said Matthew Finucane, director of environmental health and radiation safety.
"If they don't have a mission for the material, people are disposing of it," Mr. Finucane said.
At Duke University, the discovery of a select agent was grounds for an "internal audit," said Wayne Thomann, the university's director of occupational and environmental health. If they were "historical stocks" and researchers could not come up with a current need for the agents, Mr. Thomann said, "we went through a process of controlled destruction."
"I can't give any exact numbers," he said, "but it was a fair number that decided there wasn't a real research benefit in maintaining this stuff."
Harvard University did not suggest researchers destroy agents, but R. John Collier, a biochemist who works on anthrax there, said he had taken it upon himself last year to destroy the only strain he had on hand "to avoid attracting terrorists and more of the press than I wanted."
But policies that make sense in other contexts, like discarding old samples, are madness when it comes to scientific research, said Steven Block, a physics and biology professor at Stanford University.
Dr. Block said past strains of anthrax were essential for understanding how quickly an organism altered itself in nature.
"So much you can learn by knowing the evolutionary biology of bacteria," he said, "but you can't research that evolutionary biology if you can't look at the past versions of it. It's the connectedness of all this that's so important."
Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Immunopathogenesis and Infectious Diseases at Columbia University, said, "What you're discarding is access to materials and intellectual property you may need downstream."
Dr. Lipkin is investigating what causes diseases like autism and cancer, and relies on comparing genetic sequences in as many specimens as possible. "This will definitely interfere with our work," he said.
He noted that in the 1990's accusations arose that American scientists had introduced the AIDS virus, H.I.V., to Africa through earlier research infecting monkeys with polio. The scientific community was only able to disprove the theory conclusively by turning over the 40-year-old cells for independent scrutiny.
Dr. Levinson, at the White House, said that if institutions really felt intimidated by the new rules, they should transfer the materials to a laboratory willing to accept them.
Others have said the administration should have created such a repository to accept materials that laboratories felt compelled to discard. And many fear that it may take time to repair the harm that is being done.
"I would hope that we could recover from any deleterious effect in the long run," said Barbara Johnson, president of the American Society of Biological Safety. "But if you had a unique sample that no one had replicates of, that sample's gone."
With Dog Detectives, Mistakes Can Happen
By MARK DERR
MIAMI, Dec. 23 — When bomb-sniffing dogs indicated the presence of explosives last summer in the cars of three medical students bound for Miami, the authorities detained the men and closed a major thoroughfare across South Florida. No trace of explosives was found in their cars.
Now, a number of scientists and trainers are expressing concern that such mistakes could become more common as thousands of new canine detectives are deployed across the country.
Experts on explosives detection say that when dogs' handlers are excited and stressed, the dogs may overreact and falsely suggest that explosives are present when they are not. False alerts are better than missing a live bomb, they say, but it is better for the dogs to be accurate.
More rigorous training and certification standards and more research into the way dogs detect scents and the relationship between them and their handlers are needed to avoid these problems, said Dr. Lawrence J. Myers, an expert on dog olfaction at the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dogs are far better at sniffing out the source of a particular odor than any machine yet developed, experts say. They are also more manageable and culturally acceptable than rats and other animals adept at detecting scents.
Scientists have estimated that a dog's nose has about 220 million mucus-coated olfactory receptors, roughly 40 times as many as humans.
When a dog sniffs, chemical vapors — and, perhaps, tiny particles — lodge in the mucus and dissolve, sending electrical signals along the olfactory nerve and ultimately to nearly all parts of the brain. In dogs, the vomeronasal organ in the roof of the mouth and two branches of the trigeminal nerve in the nasal cavity also play roles in scent detection.
Skilled trainers have taught dogs to detect just about anything that emits even the faintest odor, including explosives, underground oil and water leaks, contraband food, termites, guns, drugs and cash. But in most cases, scientists have not measured the lowest levels of odor that dogs can detect.
Training and handling dogs is an art at which some people excel, and together top dogs and top handlers can perform extraordinary feats. But there are limits on dogs' performance that are frequently overlooked. Poor handlers alone, Dr. Myers said, can cause dogs' vaunted accuracy rate of 85 percent to 95 percent to plummet to 60 percent, Dr. Myers said.
"Dogs want rewards," he added, "and so they will give false alerts to get them. Dogs lie. We know they do."
Determining how accurately dogs in general detect particular odors is difficult, experts say, because procedures vary from place to place, and few have been subjected to rigorous scientific testing. Though some dogs and handlers are consistently good, all may vary in their daily performance.
When dogs are asked to identify people, the situation is even more complex. This use of dogs is based on assumptions that every person has a unique scent, that odor is stable over time and that dogs can tell one person from another. But the first two assumptions have not been fully verified and the last is not always true, said Dr. Adee Schoon, scientific adviser to the Netherlands National Police Agency Canine Department.
"You need special handlers and special dogs for identifying suspects," said Dr. Schoon, who recently visited Florida International University in Miami to present a seminar on scent identification at its International Forensic Research Institute and to discuss collaborative research.
In the 1990's, Dr. Schoon documented that the Dutch procedure for identifying suspects with dogs was prone to substantial errors. Then, she redesigned it.
Her biggest achievement, she said, has been discrediting people who say, `My dog never errs.' "
Scent identification in Holland is now conducted under controlled circumstances to minimize human and dog errors. Investigators ask the suspect and six "foils," who have had no involvement in the crime, to hold small steel tubes briefly.
The tubes are then lined up on a platform in parallel rows of seven each in a pattern unknown to the handler. The dog's task is then to match a scent from the crime scene to tubes in two rows.
The dog performs two tests, the first to prove that its nose is on target and that it has no interest in the scent of the suspect, by tracking down the tubes touched by a foil.
In the second, it identifies the suspect, if that person's scent is present, from scents taken at a crime scene. The dog works off its leash to minimize the handler's influence. "All kinds of problems" arise when a dog is asked to match scent to an actual person, Dr. Schoon said. For one thing, she said, the handler may unconsciously direct the dog toward a particular suspect.
Dogs are also known to become fixated on people for no apparent reason and to return to them again and again, Dr. Schoon said. Without the first test run in which the dog is asked to find another "suspect" in the same group, it is very difficult to tell when a dog is becoming fixated for no apparent reason, she added.
Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a bioweapons expert, was identified by federal law enforcement authorities this summer as "a person of interest" in the anthrax inquiry based in part on scent-matching by three bloodhounds.
Pat Clawson, a spokesman for Dr. Hatfill, questioned the circumstances surrounding the use of bloodhounds and said the dogs' responses were inadequate to link Dr. Hatfill to the anthrax letters. No charges have been brought in the case.
Experts say other problems can emerge when the dog is faced with only one person. Because dogs are regularly rewarded for choosing suspects in training, they are predisposed to say yes when asked to match scents in situations involving only one potential suspect, experts say. It takes time to train an animal to say no in such cases.
Edward Hamm, a member of the Southern California Bloodhound Handlers Coalition and one of the bloodhound handlers involved in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's anthrax work, said that all three dogs in the Hatfill case were specifically trained to say no, but he would not discuss any details of the case. Paul Bresson, an F.B.I spokesman, also declined to comment.
Determining the accuracy of detection and scent identification dogs is often difficult. Certification standards for dogs and handlers vary markedly from state to state and agency to agency.
Written training logs, which are used to establish a dog's reliability in court, are themselves often unreliable.
"There is a saying in Holland that the training log is a lie," Dr. Schoon said, if only because handlers want their dogs to look good. It is not known how often this problem crops up in the United States.
Dr. Myers said: "The standard measure of a dog's accuracy is what it finds. The best programs subtract from that score the number of false alerts, but most do not and so they have no accurate measure of their dogs' reliability." He is helping to create software to assist handlers and trainers in selecting, training and maintaining their dogs at optimal levels.
Maine Specialty Dogs in Alfred trains dogs for fire departments around the country to search burned out buildings, often for minute traces of flammable compounds that may have been used in arson, said the head trainer there, Paul Gallagher. Sponsored by State Farm Insurance, the school selects, trains, certifies and recertifies about 100 "arson dogs" a year. No dog that has even one false alert in its final proficiency test receives certification, he added.
Around the country, a few other programs are equally demanding. Secret Service bomb dogs, considered among the best in the world, are retested weekly and must have an accuracy percentage in the upper 90's, said a spokesman, Brian Marr.
While concerned about missed targets, many trainers and handlers deny that their dogs sound false alarms, and so they do not record them, especially if they occur in the field. They argue instead that the dog is picking up a faint trace of a substance that was once present, or that a handler caused the dog to err.
Handlers can create errors by pulling their dogs away from things they are investigating, by letting them search too long in a single place or by inciting the dog through some gesture, glance or emotion, even unconscious. Trainers say the message "travels right down the leash."
Mainly for that reason, the few studies of dog performance that have been done suggest that dogs perform best off their leashes.
Off-leash work is common in Europe, but for a variety of social and legal reasons, dogs are worked almost exclusively on-leash in the United States, said Dr. Paul Waggoner, interim director of the Canine and Detection Research Institute at Auburn.
Other factors can also hurt a dog's performance, Dr. Myers said. He estimates that in any year, 35 percent of detection dogs temporarily lose their sense of smell because of illness, tooth decay or other physical problems.
Weather also affects performance. Dry, hot weather can cause the mucus in the dog's nose to dry out. Hot, humid weather brings early fatigue. Extreme cold kills scents, and the wind scatters them.
Creatures of habit, dogs also can become stuck in their ways. For example, a dog might become fixated on a particular object or smell, Dr. Myers said, citing a police dog in Alabama that began alerting its handlers to Ziploc bags because the police stored drug training samples in them.
In the 1990's, researchers at Tel Aviv University showed that dogs would begin to slack off if they were given fewer samples to sniff for than they had been trained to find.
The researchers also found that after several days of patrolling an area, like a stretch of road, the dogs would give up if they discovered no explosives.
As a result, bomb-sniffing dogs in Israel are continually rotated to new areas on patrol, said Dr. Joseph Terkel, the professor of zoology at Tel Aviv University who directed the research, conducted by a doctoral student, Irit Gazit. Trainers also vary the number, size and concentration of targets, down to zero, in practice and include "blanks" with different scents, which the dog should ignore.
Because Israeli bomb dogs work off-leash, 50 to 100 yards ahead of their handlers and often out of sight, the Tel Aviv researchers several years ago developed a miniature microphone that fits on the dog's nose and allows the handler to hear whether the dog is panting or sniffing.
A panting dog cannot sniff. A radio receiver allows the handler to recall the dog and send it out to search a specific site again if necessary.
The practice of training dogs on substances concocted to replicate the primary odors found in drugs or explosives can also lead to error, said Dr. Kenneth G. Furton, director of the forensic science program at Florida International University.
Studies have shown that different dogs respond to different components of an odor and that those components change over time. So dogs accustomed to a concoction used in training may have a hard time recognizing the more complex bouquet of the actual substance.
Experts say more research may resolve uncertainties and maximize dogs' performance. Meanwhile, they say, training and certification standards should be tightened to ensure that dogs and handlers are as reliable as possible.
U.S. Is Deploying a Monitor System for Germ Attacks
By JUDITH MILLER
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 — To help protect against the threat of bioterrorism, the Bush administration on Wednesday will start deploying a national system of environmental monitors that is intended to tell within 24 hours whether anthrax, smallpox and other deadly germs have been released into the air, senior administration officials said today.
The system uses advanced data analysis that officials said had been quietly adapted since the Sept. 11 attacks and tested over the past nine months. It will adapt many of the Environmental Protection Agency's 3,000 air quality monitoring stations throughout the country to register unusual quantities of a wide range of pathogens that cause diseases that incapacitate and kill.
Officials said that although the system would not by itself protect Americans against a germ attack, early detection of such a strike would give the government more time to mobilize medical resources that could save thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of lives. The faster those exposed to most deadly pathogens are vaccinated against a disease, or treated with antibiotics to combat it, the lower the death rate.
Under the system, the E.P.A. monitoring stations will send samples of a tissue-like paper from newly upgraded machines that filter air to the closest of some 120 laboratories across the country associated with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results will be available within 24 hours, and possibly within 12 hours.
Although officials declined to say which or how many E.P.A. monitoring stations would ultimately be used, experts on the government's program said the first environmental monitoring stations in the new system, called Bio-Watch, were in New York. The city has more than seven such stations. The stations, which are all outdoors, now mainly monitor for air pollution.
"We will ramp up to other cities and areas of concentrated populations very quickly," one official said. "Within a matter of days, we will be able to tell in almost any major urban area whether a large release of a dangerous pathogen has occurred, what was released, and where and when it occurred."
Officials said today the introduction of the system by the newly created Department of Homeland Security was not linked to a specific terrorist threat. The intelligence community, one senior official noted, has "no credible evidence that Al Qaeda has acquired biological weapons, or any weapon of mass destruction at this time."
But the system is being deployed as the Bush administration moves toward deciding whether to use military force against Iraq. After the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Iraq declared having made thousands of gallons of liquid anthrax, botulinum toxin and other pathogens that cause disease, and it may have kept stocks of deadly smallpox virus as well.
Although Baghdad says it has destroyed these stockpiles, American officials believe it is hiding some of its chemical and germ agents, and that it tested anthrax as an aerosol before the gulf war.
However, one senior official said, the new environmental surveillance system was not being deployed specifically because of Iraq, but "to prepare the country for whatever the weapon and whomever the culprit might be."
While environmental monitoring does not provide instant detection of the release of a dangerous germ, the new system is aimed at giving health officials more time to send doctors, vaccines, antibiotics and medical equipment to the scene of a bioterror attack. Doctors and terrorism experts have long said that the lack of such a system is one of the most glaring deficiencies in the nation's biodefenses.
While the government is still working to develop cheap and reliable instant detectors, the technology has yet to be perfected, officials said. The hand-held detectors, which have been distributed in some cities, and others that are now being tested provide what experts call too many "false positives" — mistaken identifications of a germ release.
The new environmental surveillance system uses monitoring technology and methods developed in part by the Department of Energy's national laboratories. Samples of DNA are analyzed using polymerase chain reaction techniques, which examine the genetic signatures of the organisms in a sample, and make rapid and accurate evaluations of that organism.
Officials who helped develop the system said that tests performed at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and national laboratories showed that the system would almost certainly detect the deliberate release of several of the most dangerous pathogens. "Obviously, the larger the release, the greater the probability that the agent will be detected," an official said. "But given the coverage provided by the E.P.A. system, even a small release, depending on which way the wind was blowing and other meteorological conditions, is likely to be picked up."
The anthrax attacks of October 2001 would probably not have been detected by the new system, officials said, mainly because the outbreak was caused by a tiny amount of anthrax — one to two grams — and because the release was indoors, where the sensors do not monitor.
Officials said the new system would not detect releases in such places as shopping malls, subways and other covered areas.
"But the system is calibrated to detect relatively small amounts of some of the agents of greatest concern," an official said, referring to smallpox and larger releases of anthrax.
While officials declined to disclose how much the program would cost, they said it was relatively inexpensive. They said it would cost about $1 million to provide upgraded filters to the selected air quality monitoring stations and another $1 million per city a year for analyzing samples.
A senior administration official said the White House did not plan to announce the start of the system.
March 16, 2003
Iraq Links Germs for Weapons to U.S. and France
By PHILIP SHENON
WASHINGTON, March 15 — Iraq has identified a Virginia-based biological supply house and a French scientific institute as the sources of all the foreign germ samples that it used to create the biological weapons that are still believed to be in Iraq's arsenal, according to American officials and foreign diplomats who have reviewed Iraq's latest weapons declaration to the United Nations.
The American supply house, the American Type Culture Collection of Manassas, Va., had previously been identified as an important supplier of anthrax and other germ samples to Iraq.
But the full extent of the sales by the Virginia supply house and the Pasteur Institute in Paris has never been made public by the United Nations, which received the latest weapons declaration from Iraq in December.
Nor was there any public suggestion before now that Iraq had — apart from a small amount of home-grown germ samples — depended exclusively on supplies from the United States and France in the 1980's in developing the biological weapons that American officials say are now believed to threaten troops massing around Iraq. The shipments were approved by the United States government in the 1980's, when the transfer of such pathogens for research was legal and easily arranged.
A copy of the pages of the Iraqi declaration dealing with biological weapons was provided to The New York Times, and it reveals the full variety of germs that Iraq says it obtained from abroad for its biological weapons program.
The document shows that the American and French supply houses shipped 17 types of biological agents to Iraq in the 1980's that were used in the weapons programs. Those included anthrax and the bacteria needed to make botulinum toxin, among the most deadly poisons known. It also discloses that Iraq had tried unsuccessfully to obtain biological agents in the late 1980's from other biological supply houses around the world.
The quantities of the agents were described in terms of ampuls, which are sealed glass or plastic containers about the size of test tubes.
Iraq has acknowledged that it used the American and French germ samples to produce tons of biological weapons in the 1980's. It has repeatedly insisted in recent years that the program was shut down, and all of the biological material destroyed, in the 1990's, an assertion that the United States and many other nations have said is demonstrably untrue.
The United States, France and other Western countries placed severe restrictions on the shipment of biological materials in the early 1990's, after the extent of Iraq's biological weapons program became clear in the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Spokesmen for the American Type Culture Collection and the Pasteur Institute said that they were not surprised that Iraq had identified them as the exclusive foreign suppliers of germ samples to its weapons programs. They said that all of their shipments had been legal and that they were made with the understanding that the agents would be used for research and medical purposes.
"A.T.C.C. could never have shipped these samples to Iraq without the Department of Commerce's approval for all requests," said Nancy J. Wysocki, vice president for human resources and public relations at the American Type Culture Collection, a nonprofit organization that is one of the world's leading biological supply houses. "They were sent for legitimate research purposes."
Michele Mock, a microbiologist at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said in a telephone interview: "In the 1980's, the rules were entirely different. If there was an official letter, there was no reason to avoid providing this material. One good thing now is that the rules have changed."
The Iraqi statement on its bioweapons was prepared by the Iraqis in 1997 and was incorporated in its entirety into the full weapons declaration provided to the United Nations last year, officials said.
The bioweapons declaration was obtained by Gary B. Pitts, a Houston lawyer who is representing ailing gulf war veterans in a lawsuit claiming that their illnesses were explained by exposure to chemical or biological weapons that were known to be in Iraq's arsenal in the war. United Nations officials confirmed the authenticity of the document.
Mr. Pitts said that American Type Culture Collection, which is a defendant in the lawsuit, and the Pasteur Institute should have known in the 1980's that "it was unreasonable to turn over something like this to Saddam, especially after he had used weapons of mass destruction in the past."
"It's ironic that we're now talking about going into Iraq to clean up these weapons," Mr. Pitts added.
He had previously made public a copy of Iraq's chemical weapons declaration. In it, the Baghdad government identified several major suppliers for its production of nerve gas and other chemical weapons. Apart from two small suppliers in the United States that are now defunct, most of the chemical suppliers identified in the report were European.
Jonathan Tucker, a former United Nations weapons inspector who is a visiting fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, said that the 1980's "were a more innocent time, and the default in those days was to supply these cultures to academic research labs without asking many questions."
"At the time, the U.S. government was tilting toward Iraq, was trying to improve relations with Iraq, and the tendency was not to scrutinize these requests," Mr. Tucker said.
But Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project, an arms control research group, said that the biological supply houses should have realized that Iraq might use the germ samples to make weapons, especially since it was known then that Iraq had used chemical weapons against Iranian troops in the Iran-Iraq war.
"If you know that the buying country is involved in a chemical weapons program, you have an obligation to ask some questions rather than just send it out," Mr. Milhollin said.
March 24, 2003
Lab Technicians Eagerly Await Work
By JUDITH MILLER
NORTHERN KUWAIT, March 23 — Nothing distinguishes the complex of trailers parked at the edge of the desert encampment here south of the Iraqi border. Only the sign on the door barring "unauthorized" visitors belies the spirit of the welcome mat below. But the vehicles and their occupants, which are off-limits even to most soldiers here, are at the core of the Bush administration's effort to disarm Saddam Hussein of biological, chemical and other weapons of mass destruction.
Commanded and supported by the 75th Field Artillery Brigade from Fort Sill, Okla., the 21 men and women in charge of those trailers are members of an elite Defense Intelligence Agency group called the Chemical Biological Intelligence Support Team. Its mission here is to help find and survey suspected Iraqi weapons-related sites, collect samples of suspicious materials and analyze them in the mobile labs they assembled here 10 days ago. The samples are intended to prove to the court of world opinion, and before a court of law, if necessary, that Saddam Hussein, as President Bush alleges, has been hiding unconventional weapons.
Members of the unit prepared Saturday to make their first foray into southern Iraq to verify what initial reports indicated were envelopes of anthrax and documents for disseminating it that were found in the knapsack of an Iraqi prisoner of war in the city of Umm Qasr. But the deployment was canceled after an initial report from a site survey team was determined to be inaccurate.
The labs and their technicians have been preparing for days to analyze the samples they are certain will come. In the meantime, the scientists and unconventional weapons experts in the labs have been training and sampling the environment for traces of chemical or biological agents. This quality control testing, which also protects soldiers camped nearby, provides baseline information about the area.
"The military is getting double benefit from us," said a team group leader who showed the labs to a reporter and spoke on condition that he not be identified.
The labs are marvels of modern technology and Navy engineering. The biological trailer is equipped to handle lethal germ weapons that cause diseases like anthrax, plague and tularemia. The lab can also do DNA fingerprinting to identify the pathogen for key biological weapons.
An array of sophisticated machinery has been packed inside a relatively small trailer. One of the biologists who helped design the lab said it could produce an assessment of an agent within hours with a 90 percent level of confidence. After an initial analysis is completed here, the samples are to be taken in air-tight containers to the United States for further study and a final assessment.
The chemical lab, like its germ counterpart, has a small steel air-lock door through which samples are passed and the surrounding material decontaminated. The chemical lab, run by another veteran of the bio-defense program who works at the military lab at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Edgewood, Md., has a pressurized glove box through which the scientists can handle the most dangerous chemical agents and a gas chromatograph and mass spectrometer, which separates and characterizes particles by molecular weight.
A major challenge is to keep agents clean and cool. That requires reliable power — no easy challenge in a harsh desert where overburdened generators often break down. Two backup generators weighing 600 pounds each have been shipped to this remote location.
As important as the equipment itself is the decision to design the labs and the process for collecting samples to forensic standards that will pass muster in a court of law. Those who collect the samples have been trained to record where and how samples have been collected, when they are received at the lab, that gloves have been changed so as not to contaminate the samples, and that other steps have been taken to document a "chain of custody," or what has happened to the samples in government hands.
The lack of such documentation led many scientists to challenge the government's assertion in the late 1970's and early 1980's that the Soviet Union had dropped unknown toxic weapons in Southeast Asia and on Afghans. The prevailing view today is that the illnesses identified were caused by bee feces, a theory that many military experts have never accepted.
The labs made their debut in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, when several members of the expert team here hunted for evidence that Al Qaeda and the Taliban had been experimenting with unconventional weapons. The lab in Afghanistan was smaller and less sophisticated.
Other lessons were learned from the hunt in Afghanistan, experts and military officers said. Among the most important was that someone needs to be in charge of such a mission. In Afghanistan, several government agencies involved in the search vied for resources, control of the mission and glory. That led military planners for Iraq to include weapons experts from several agencies in a military unit and assign a single commander the responsibility of integrating all the different agencies to accomplish the mission. Col. Richard R. McPhee, 47, a veteran of several wars and military engagements, was drafted and made the head of the new 75th Exploitation Task Force.
The support team was conceived by the Defense Intelligence Agency in the late 1990's and approved by the Pentagon in May 2001. Last year, George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, paid a rare public tribute to the group in awarding it a commendation for its contribution to the campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan.
"Doing this mission at all is challenging," one team member said. "Doing it in such a lousy environment and in combat is something else again."
The New York Times
Key to Strains of Anthrax Is Discovered
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Scientists have discovered why different strains of the bacterium that causes anthrax differ so much in virulence, a finding that in theory could produce more effective vaccines and better tools for distinguishing and tracking the lethal germ.
But the finding could also aid the creation of designer varieties of anthrax that are potentially deadlier to humans. Because of that potential danger, a debate occurred over whether the discovery should be kept secret, scientists said. In the end, it was decided that the benefits of publication outweighed the risks.
The discovery was made by six scientists at Louisiana State University, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the nation's top center for studying germ defenses. It is published in the current Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
The lead author, Dr. Pamala R. Coker, formerly at L.S.U. and now at the Livermore laboratory in California, spearheaded the research for her Ph.D. dissertation. The Livermore laboratory once pioneered nuclear arms but increasingly studies biology and germ defenses.
The team's finding centers on the anthrax genome, which consists of a single large chromosome and two small circles of DNA, known as plasmids, that carry extra genes. The scientists found that, contrary to common belief, each anthrax bacterium carries not just one set of plasmids but up to 243 copies of the first and up to 32 copies of the second, which is known as pX02. The more copies of this plasmid in a bacterial strain, the more it is capable of causing disease, the scientists said.
The research was conducted in guinea pigs. The scientists found, for example, that an anthrax strain from Mozambique that possessed just one pX02 plasmid killed 25 percent of the test animals. But a strain from Australia with 32 copies of the plasmid left all the guinea pigs dead.
The team of scientists also reported that added factors like subtle features of the bacterium's DNA chromosome appeared to help determine virulence. Thus, the anthrax that killed five Americans in the germ attacks of 2001 — the so-called Ames strain — was found to possess just two copies of pX02. But it nonetheless killed 62 percent of the guinea pigs.
The pX02 plasmid carries genes that let the anthrax bacterium fashion an outer protein coat that acts as a defensive shield to thwart the immune system of hosts. The scientists suspect that multiple copies of pX02 thicken that coating, letting the germ escape immune damage and multiply to do extensive harm.
Scientists had previously identified 89 types of anthrax as genetically distinct but had failed to discover what determined their wide differences in virulence. The plasmid findings, they said, opened a new window on that question.
"It's very interesting," said Dr. Sam Kaplan, a microbiologist at the University of Texas medical school at Houston. "But a lot more work needs to be done."
Dr. Martin E. Hugh-Jones, a team member at L.S.U., said the discovery would help scientists understand why some anthrax vaccines are effective and others weak. "This will allow us to do some very impressive things in coming on with new vaccines," Dr. Hugh-Jones added.
It could also aid investigations of germ attacks. Dr. Coker of the Livermore laboratory said the finding could help forensic scientists track down the country and laboratory from which the weapon arose. That, she said, was possible because the plasmid technique acted as a kind of microscope to reveal finer genetic distinctions among the 89 known varieties of anthrax. A match between the attack germ and a library of detailed fingerprints could help locate the perpetrator.
Dr. Coker conceded that the research in theory could also help a genetic engineer make a more deadly form of anthrax by increasing the number of pX02 plasmids.
Dr. Kaplan of the University of Texas, who heads the publication board of the American Society for Microbiology in Washington, said no reviewer or official of the society raised objections to publication of the plasmid paper, even though the White House has urged scientists to screen their work carefully for possible harm to national security.
Steve Wampler, a spokesman at the California laboratory, said the plasmid research was done before Dr. Coker came to Livermore but the laboratory nonetheless put the paper through a careful security review. "In the end," he said, "it was decided that it was fine to publish."
In addition to Dr. Coker of Livermore and Dr. Hugh-Jones of L.S.U., the paper's authors are Dr. Kimothy L. Smith of the Livermore laboratory, Patricia F. Fellows of the Army research institute, and Dr. Galena Rybachuck and Dr. Konstantin G. Kousoulas of L.S.U.
to pay $257 million in fraud case
By Melody Petersen
April 17, 2003
In the largest-ever Medicaid fraud settlement, Bayer agreed yesterday to pay the government $257 million and pleaded guilty to a criminal charge after engaging in what federal prosecutors said was a scheme to overcharge for the antibiotic Cipro.
According to documents turned over to the government by a company employee, Bayer was coached in the scheme by a purchasing manager from Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation's largest health-care organizations.
The fraud involved selling Cipro to Kaiser at prices lower than the company was charging Medicaid, in violation of a federal law that requires drugmakers to give the Medicaid program the lowest price charged to any customer. As a cover-up of the fraud, the Cipro bottles sold to Kaiser were relabeled with Kaiser's name and given a different drug identification number.
In announcing the settlement yesterday, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston did not charge Kaiser with any wrongdoing. Prosecutors declined yesterday to comment on Kaiser and said the investigation was ongoing.
"There is a commitment to pursuing those who cheat the federal health-care programs in any way," said Susan G. Winkler, an assistant U.S. attorney.
The five-year scheme by Bayer, which unfolded before the 2001 anthrax scare caused a run on Cipro, shows the lengths to which some drug companies will go to profit on the nation's complex prescription drug laws. Rules allow drugmakers to keep most pricing information secret.
Recently, federal prosecutors have begun focusing on similar pricing schemes as drug costs continue to rise and as whistle-blowers have come forward with documents detailing the activities.
Prosecutors also announced yesterday that GlaxoSmithKline had agreed to pay $87.6 million to settle civil charges that it had overcharged the Medicaid program for Paxil, an antidepressant, and Flonase, an allergy spray. That deal also involved relabeling medicines for Kaiser, prosecutors said.
The money from the settlements will be divided between the federal and state governments, which jointly pay for Medicaid. A portion also will go to public health clinics, AIDS programs and other groups that are allowed to buy medicines at the Medicaid price.
About $34 million of the Bayer settlement will go to the estate of a former executive at the German drugmaker who became a whistle-blower. George J. Couto, the whistle-blower, died from cancer in November at age 39.
Bayer said yesterday in a written statement that it was pleased to have the matter resolved. The company said it believed its marketing practices "were responsible and conducted in good faith." It said it did not believe the settlement would affect its ongoing business with the government.
In a brief statement, Kaiser said it believed its employees acted in accordance with the law. It said it had been cooperating with investigators for more than three years and would continue to do so.
GlaxoSmithKline said it had agreed to the settlement to avoid the delay and expense of a trial. The company said it "continues to believe that its interpretation of the law was reasonable and in good faith."
Bayer's Cipro scheme began in 1995, when Kaiser threatened to stop buying the antibiotic after Johnson & Johnson offered its medicine, Floxin, to the health insurer at a much lower price, according to documents, including internal memos, that Couto gave to prosecutors.
Bayer was desperate to keep the business of Kaiser, a nonprofit health group with 8 million members, according to documents. The health insurer was buying about $7 million of Cipro each year. In addition, other health groups often follow Kaiser's lead in drug-buying decisions.
But if Bayer offered to beat the price offered by Johnson & Johnson, Cipro's new price would fall to below what Bayer was charging Medicaid, forcing it to pay tens of millions of dollars in additional rebates.
In April 1995, according to Couto's testimony, Kaiser suggested a solution. Bayer would ship Cipro to Kaiser in the usual way, but the words, "Distributed by Kaiser Foundation Hospitals," would be typed on each bottle's label along with Kaiser's national drug code number rather than Bayer's. National drug codes, which are kept on a list maintained by the Food and Drug Administration, serve to identify medicines.
According to Couto, the executives' reasoning at the time was that the responsibility for reporting the new Cipro price would then fell to Kaiser. Because Kaiser did not have a Medicaid agreement with the government, the reasoning continued, it did not have to report the new price or pay additional rebates to the government.
Medicaid fraud investigators and other experts say similar relabeling schemes have been used by many drug companies to hide the deeply discounted prices they charge to select customers.
In a study, Stephen W. Schondelmeyer, a professor of pharmaceutical economics at the University of Minnesota, found that the number of medicines that had been relabeled, much like Bayer did with Cipro, had grown from 791 in 1990 to 20,801 this year. Some of the medicines may have been relabeled for legitimate purposes, he said, but some relabelings appeared questionable.
"How do you have competition when you don't even know the price?" Schondelmeyer asked.
Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert
Mon Apr 21, 8:59 AM ET
By JUDITH MILLER The New York Times
WITH THE 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION, south of Baghdad, Iraq, April 20 A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.
They said the scientist led Americans to a supply of material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, which he claimed to have buried as evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs.
The scientist also told American weapons experts that Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990's, and that more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, the military officials said.
The Americans said the scientist told them that President Saddam Hussein's government had destroyed some stockpiles of deadly agents as early as the mid-1990's, transferred others to Syria, and had recently focused its efforts instead on research and development projects that are virtually impervious to detection by international inspectors, and even American forces on the ground combing through Iraq's giant weapons plants.
An American military team hunting for unconventional weapons in Iraq, the Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, or MET Alpha, which found the scientist, declined to identify him, saying they feared he might be subject to reprisals. But they said that they considered him credible and that the material unearthed over the last three days at sites to which he led them had proved to be precursors for a toxic agent that is banned by chemical weapons treaties.
The officials' account of the scientist's assertions and the discovery of the buried material, which they described as the most important discovery to date in the hunt for illegal weapons, supports the Bush administration's charges that Iraq continued to develop those weapons and lied to the United Nations about it. Finding and destroying illegal weapons was a major justification for the war.
The officials' accounts also provided an explanation for why United States forces had not yet turned up banned weapons in Iraq. The failure to find such weapons has become a political issue in Washington.
Under the terms of her accreditation to report on the activities of MET Alpha, this reporter was not permitted to interview the scientist or visit his home. Nor was she permitted to write about the discovery of the scientist for three days, and the copy was then submitted for a check by military officials.
Those officials asked that details of what chemicals were uncovered be deleted. They said they feared that such information could jeopardize the scientist's safety by identifying the part of the weapons program where he worked.
The MET Alpha team said it reported its findings to Washington after testing the buried material and checking the scientist's identity with experts in the United States. A report was sent to the White House on Friday, experts said.
Military spokesmen at the Pentagon and at Central Command headquarters in Doha, Qatar, said they could not confirm that an Iraqi chemical weapons scientist was providing American forces with new information.
The scientist was found by a team headed by Chief Warrant Officer Richard L. Gonzales, the leader of MET Alpha, one of several teams charged with hunting for unconventional weapons throughout Iraq. Departing from his team's assigned mission, Mr. Gonzales and his team of specialists from the Defense Intelligence Agency tracked down the scientist on Thursday through a series of interviews and increasingly frantic site visits.
While this reporter could not interview the scientist, she was permitted to see him from a distance at the sites where he said that material from the arms program was buried.
Clad in nondescript clothes and a baseball cap, he pointed to several spots in the sand where he said chemical precursors and other weapons material were buried. This reporter also accompanied MET Alpha on the search for him and was permitted to examine a letter written in Arabic that he slipped to American soldiers offering them information about the program and seeking their protection.
Military officials said the scientist told them that four days before President Bush gave Mr. Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq or face war, Iraqi officials set fire to a warehouse where biological weapons research and development was conducted.
The officials quoted him as saying he had watched several months before the outbreak of the war as Iraqis buried chemical precursors and other sensitive material to conceal and preserve them for future use. The officials said the scientist showed them documents, samples, and other evidence of the program that he claimed to have stolen to prove that the program existed.
MET Alpha is one of several teams created earlier this year to hunt for unconventional weapons in Iraq. Supported by the 75th Exploitation Task Force, a field artillery brigade based in Fort Sill, Okla., the teams were charged with visiting some 150 top sites that intelligence agencies have identified as suspect.
But the Pentagon-led teams, which include specialists from several Pentagon agencies, have been hampered by a lack of resources and by geography.
Because the task force has two expensive, highly sophisticated, transportable labs in which chemical and germ samples can be analyzed quickly, it was kept at a safe distance from fighting at a desert camp in Kuwait, just across the Iraqi border.
Unable to move their task force closer to Baghdad, where most of the suspect sites and scientists who worked in them are situated, the mobile exploitation teams have had to rely on scarce helicopters to travel to suspect sites in the Baghdad area. Until recently, these were reserved mainly for soldiers going to battle. As a result, most of the teams had done almost no weapons hunting until the fighting had largely concluded.
Two weeks ago, MET Alpha was finally given a mission of inspecting barrels filled with chemicals that were buried on the outskirts of Al Muhawish, a small town south of Baghdad. A small team with little equipment and virtually no supplies traveled to the town for what was supposed to be a half-day survey. The barrels turned out to contain no chemical weapons agents.
But during the survey of that site, Maj. Brian Lynch, the chemical officer of the 101st Airborne Division, told MET Alpha members about a report of suspect containers buried in the area that fit the description of mobile labs.
Other officers mentioned that a man who said he was an Iraqi scientist had given troops a note about Iraq's chemical warfare program. No one had yet followed up the report, they said, because of the fighting and also because similar tips had failed to produce evidence of unconventional weapons.
The team, with vehicles and supplies from the 101st Airborne Division, went out on its own to survey other sites and pursue the tip about the buried containers and the scientist. After completing a lengthy survey of one installation, Mr. Gonzales and other team members from the Defense Intelligence Agency's Chemical Biological Intelligence Support Team decided to try to find the scientist.
Mr. Gonzales tracked down the scientist's note, which had never been formally analyzed and was still in a brigade headquarters, along with the scientist's address, military officials said.
The next morning, MET Alpha weapons experts found the scientist at home, along with some documents from the program and samples he had buried in his backyard and at other sites.
The scientist has told MET Alpha members that because Iraq's unconventional weapons programs were highly compartmented, he only had firsthand information about the chemical weapons sector in which he worked, team members said.
But he has given the Americans information about other unconventional weapons activities, they said, as well as information about Iraqi weapons cooperation with Syria, and with terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda. It was not clear how the scientist knew of such a connection.
The potential of MET Alpha's work is "enormous," said Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division.
"What they've discovered," he added, "could prove to be of incalculable value. Though much work must still be done to validate the information MET Alpha has uncovered, if it proves out it will clearly be one of the major discoveries of this operation, and it may be the major discovery."
Sunday, April 27, 2003
Scientist: Claims To U.N. Were Lies
By JUDITH MILLER
BAGHDAD -- Dr. Nissar Hindawi, a leading figure in Iraq's biological warfare program in the 1980s, says the stories and explanations he and other scientists told the United Nations about the extent of Iraq's efforts to produce poisons and germ weapons "were all lies."
Hindawi, imprisoned during the final weeks of Saddam Hussein's rule, is now free to talk about his experiences in the program, in which he says he was forced to work from 1986 to 1989 and again sporadically until the mid-1990s.
Iraq, as it belatedly acknowledged, he says, "produced huge quantities" of liquid anthrax and botulinum toxin, which it concentrated five to 10 times with sulfuric acid and other preservatives.
"There were orders to destroy it," Hindawi said during interviews conducted Saturday and Friday. "They destroyed some -- whether all or not, I can't say."
He said that while he worked in the program or was ordered to brief the inspectors on it, Iraq made 8.9 cubic meters of concentrated liquid anthrax, one of the deadliest and most durable germ weapons, and even larger quantities of botulinum toxin, one of the most lethal poisons.
Even so, he said, there is little need for concern if U.S. military teams hunting for unconventional weapons stumble across such stockpiles: The arsenals would have degraded quickly, he said.
In addition, he said, Iraq was never able to make dried anthrax, a medium that would have made the lethal spores far more durable and easier to disseminate. He thought he had devised a way to turn liquid anthrax into the even more lethal powder, he said, but he did not do it. "I kept the method secret," he said. "History would have cursed me."
Several U.N. inspectors questioned his assertion that Iraq had not made a powdered form of anthrax. They said that in 1989, Iraq imported two drying ovens that could have made powdered anthrax, and that at least one other senior scientist in the program appeared to know the required techniques.
But Hindawi said that if Iraq made such a weapon, it did so after he left the program in 1989.
Though he no longer had first-hand knowledge of the program after that, Hindawi said, he kept up on its progress through his students, some of whom stayed in the program until the war began last month. U.S. officials have been hunting for several, including Rihab Taha, the microbiologist who reportedly headed the germ weapons program and is known in the West as "Dr. Death," and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a senior scientist and Baath Party regional command member who is the only woman on America's most wanted list.
Although there has been no public word from American authorities on their whereabouts, Hindawi said he had been told that both women were hiding in Syria, as other Iraqi scientists, Baath Party members and military officers were said to be.
Hindawi, 61, is now in the custody of the Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi. Hindawi said he spent 12 years at college and doing postgraduate work in the United States.
He painted a portrait of a biological warfare program that was riddled with bitter personality rivalries, sycophancy and corruption. He said he was originally dismissed in 1989 because he had personally complained to Saddam about fraud in the awarding of contracts in the program. He said Saddam appeared to agree with him, but did nothing because his son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, was in charge of the program.
"He was very gentle with me," the scientist said. "He respected me."
Suspected Weapons Lab Is Found in Northern Iraq
By SABRINA TAVERNISE
MOSUL, Iraq, May 9 — An American military unit found an abandoned trailer outside a missile testing site in northern Iraq today that they suspect was a mobile biological weapons laboratory. It was the second such find in recent weeks, and could potentially bolster the United States' claim that Saddam Hussein's government was producing biological and chemical weapons.
Maj. Paul Handelman of the 101st Airborne Division's chemical weapons team, based in Mosul, said infantry soldiers in the division found the trailer this morning. It was parked, missing its wheels and stripped by looters, about 50 feet from the entrance to Al Kindi, Iraq's largest missile research and testing complex, near Mosul. Soldiers had been guarding the gate for weeks but had never noticed the trailer, the major said.
The soldiers found an air compressor, refrigerator, fermenter and dryer — all items associated with a biological weapons laboratory, Major Handelman said.
The trailer was virtually identical to another suspected mobile biological weapons laboratory seized on April 19 at a checkpoint controlled by Kurdish forces near Erbil, about 50 miles from here in northern Iraq, Major Handelman said. That vehicle had been stolen, stripped and washed with ammonia. Preliminary tests were negative, but it was shipped to Baghdad for further testing.
When Secretary of State Colin L. Powell addressed the United Nations in February to describe intelligence on Iraq's biological and chemical weapons program, he cited a defector's report on mobile laboratories, which could develop unconventional weapons and be moved around Iraq to avoid detection.
The division's chemical weapons experts said the find was notable because of the trailer's proximity to the factory and its similarity to the other vehicle. In his speech in February, Mr. Powell described a configuration of two or three trailers parked alongside each other that could be attached to one another by hoses when producing biological agents.
The discovery of a lightning rod nearby provided another clue, Major Handelman said. The most sensitive parts of the complex — the underground explosive storage rooms — were each equipped with lightning rods.
"If they were testing rockets and missiles with biological agents, this would be the logical place to do it," he said in an interview at the site. "For us it's almost a no-brainer. It always has to be two-plus-two. I'm absolutely convinced."
The trailer looked innocuous enough today. It had been stripped of its canvas covering by looters and stood starkly in the afternoon sun. Other than the few pieces of equipment bolted to the floor, only the skeleton of the trailer remained. Shepherds and sheep wandered in the field just behind the vehicle.
A rough preliminary test, Major Handelman said, found no obvious traces of chemical weapons at the trailer. The drying rack, where the final products would have been placed, was empty, he said. The sealed fermenting machine remained to be opened.
A team from the 75th Mobile Exploitation Team is scheduled to arrive on Saturday from Baghdad to conduct more tests.
A thorough search of the several-acre complex will take three weeks, Major Handelman said, underscoring how thinly spread the division is here in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city. Soldiers are occupied with duties like keeping order in endless, unruly gasoline lines and helping organize food distribution and the harvest.
Iraqis approach the division daily with information on weapons, he added. "We searched that facility three or four times, looking for just this thing," Major Handelman said.
It was unclear today whether the discovery would amount to anything more than a false alarm. A date on the fermenting machine showed it was produced in January 2003. The date on a similar machine in the other trailer was 2002.
Inside the sprawling complex here, looters and American bombs have taken a toll. Buildings have been crushed and underground bunkers stripped of missile casings and fins. One missile was missing its warhead.
In a surreal tableau, shepherds clucked to their goats and sheep, which grazed aimlessly among the discarded missiles and industrial garbage.
Not long after the division arrived in Mosul in April, Major Handelman said, an engineer from the plant handed over what the major called "a treasure map" of clues to what was buried inside the complex. Mounds of earth, some that looked fresh, were strewn throughout the area.
According to the map, a chemical weapons cache was buried near building 900. But the damage by American bombs was so extensive that it was impossible to discern any building numbers, the major said.
U.S. teams says it found a secret lab
By Judith Miller
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Saturday, May 10, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A team of experts searching for evidence of biological and chemical weapons in Iraq has concluded that a trailer found near Mosul in northern Iraq two weeks ago is a mobile biological weapons laboratory, the three team members said Saturday.
Describing their four-day examination of the lab for the first time and on the condition of anonymity, the members of the Chemical Biological Intelligence Support Team-Charlie, or Team Charlie, said they had based their conclusion on a thorough examination of the gray-green trailer, with the help of British experts and a few American soldiers.
The members acknowledged that some experts were still uncertain whether the trailer was intended to produce biological agents. But they said they were convinced that it was a mobile lab for biological production.
The team leader said the lab contained equipment that could be used to make vaccines, drugs and other peaceful pathogens, as well as deadly germs for weapons, and that this meant Iraq had been obliged to disclose it to international inspectors before the war.
"The failure to disclose such equipment is a clear violation of United Nations sanctions and an indication of ill intent," said the team leader, a 20-year veteran of special operations forces and explosive ordnance work and a nuclear weapons expert.
He contended that this could be construed as the kind of "smoking gun" that his team was charged with finding to substantiate the Bush administration's allegations that Iraq was making biological and chemical weapons.
Other U.S. experts say they believe that teams hunting for biological and chemical weapons may now have located parts of three mobile labs, military and civilian officials said Saturday.
These experts said that in addition to the Mosul trailer and another one found recently in northern Iraq, a smaller trailer was discovered the week before last by U.S. forces near Baghdad. They said this smaller trailer, like the one near Mosul, had been taken to Baghdad International Airport for further examination.
The experts also said they believed that based on intelligence information, there might be as many as eight mobile labs in Iraq, adding that the location of the other five could not yet be determined.
Some members of another team of weapons experts and intelligence officials arrived in Baghdad on Saturday to survey the labs at the airport and gather additional information about their operation and purpose. Pentagon officials sent the team to check the initial test results, and if they find they are accurate, to help assemble an ironclad technical case that would counter alternative, peaceful explanations for the trailers.
Some scientists say the trailers could have been used for peaceful purposes, like biopesticide production, but none of them have seen the labs or talked to the experts who reject such contentions.
All three Team Charlie members said they were certain that future tests would confirm that the trailer was evidence of a weapons program.
The team also said they had found a substance in the lab's fermenting machine, which they declined to identify. Officials in Washington, reached by telephone, said they believed the team had found growth media that might have been used to culture germs. More lab tests on the samples are being conducted in the United States and Britain, which assisted Team Charlie in its examination, officials said.
The team also found that the lab had been cleaned with a "caustic agent" — ammonia or bleach.
"We never expected to find positive samples" of pathogens, the team's biological specialist said. "But to prove that the lab could make biological agents, you don't need to find such agents."
The members of the team work for the Defense Intelligence Agency as part the 75th Exploitation Task Force, which has been responsible for the search for unconventional weapons. Team members said their investigation showed that the lab was partly assembled under the noses of international inspectors. A new inspection agency, known as the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Commission, returned to Iraq late last year after its predecessor agency was forced to leave the country in 1998. The agency conducted inspections in Iraq with many restrictions until just before the war.
The team's chemical expert, a 34-year-old former Marine, said the team had found identification plates on equipment inside the trailer that "had dates from 2000 to 2002."
While most of the equipment in the lab was Iraqi in origin, some of it was from "foreign sources," the team leader said, describing it as "generic equipment that could have been easily ordered from several different places." The team declined to identify the countries that had supplied such equipment.
The members said another indication that the lab was part of a biological weapons program was an information plate found on a major piece of equipment from Al Nasser Co., an Iraqi concern that had helped design and equip a major biological weapons plant destroyed after the Gulf War in 1991.
The biological specialist said the equipment he took apart would support the production of peaceful germs, as well as those for weapons. But he said the presence of equipment to contain the emission of gases from the trailer — known informally as scrubbers — indicated that the two to four people who may have operated the lab, including a driver, did not want traces of what they were making to be detectable.
"You don't need that kind of system if you're making a vaccine," he said. "You don't make baby formula on the road in a mobile van."
The team did not find any protective clothing or biocontainment system to safeguard the scientists or technicians who worked inside the trailer from exposure to deadly germs. But the team leader said he wasn't surprised by the absence of such equipment, which is standard in Western labs.
"We've already seen what a low regard for human life this regime had," the leader said.
He said the team had tried to eliminate other possible explanations for the lab. First, they discounted the possibility that the lab was intended to be a decoy. They also dismissed the possibility that it was a nuclear reactor on wheels, or that it held any other nuclear-related equipment. Also discounted was the theory that the lab was intended to produce missile fuel, propellant or explosives. The equipment was not appropriate for those functions, they said.
Finally, they considered the possibility that the lab was intended for chemical production.
"There are still some experts who think that," the team leader said. "And while we haven't totally ruled it out, the lack of glass, stainless steel, teflon and other material that can withstand the corrosive effects of chemicals suggests that the purpose was bio."
The team said the only major piece of equipment that was made of stainless steel was the lab's fermenter. They said that much of the craftsmanship in the lab was crude, but that the equipment — a fermenter, a system to bring in fresh water to and eliminate contaminated water from the trailer, and a water cooling system based on what appeared to be a jerry-built air-conditioning unit — was capable of making considerable amounts of pathogens in a relatively short time.
"It was a Rube Goldberg system, but it clearly would have worked," the team leader said. "And they continued making improvements to it."
The lab was mobile, the team concluded, despite the fact that there were no shock absorbers between the tires' rubber and the lab floor.
The team said the configuration of the trailer and the equipment inside it was similar in many respects to the lab described in detail by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in his speech to the United Nations in February.
Md. Pond May Be Drained in Anthrax Probe
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 10:19 a.m. ET
FREDERICK, Md. (AP) -- A Maryland pond could be drained after federal agents suggested it may have been the site where anthrax used in a series of mailings in 2001 was assembled or where evidence was dumped.
The FBI is considering draining a spring-fed pond that is up to an acre in size and 10 feet deep in Frederick Municipal Forest, Mayor Jennifer P. Dougherty said Sunday.
The plan stems from a new FBI theory reported Sunday by The Washington Post that the person behind the attacks could have packed the deadly spores into envelopes under water without being infected or leaving traces on open land.
The theory is based on evidence recovered from the pond this past winter, the Post reported Sunday, citing anonymous sources close to the investigation.
FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman, contacted Sunday by The Associated Press, declined to comment on the Post report or on searches conducted at a series of ponds in the forest.
The attacks nearly 19 months ago killed five people and sickened 13 others. The pond findings offer physical evidence in a case that so far has been built almost exclusively on circumstantial clues, the Post quoted sources as saying.
Two sources familiar with the items recovered from one of the ponds described a clear box, with holes that could accommodate gloves to protect the user during work, the Post reported. So-called glove boxes are commonly used to handle dangerous pathogens. Also recovered were vials wrapped in plastic.
For protection against airborne bacteria, a person could put envelopes and secured anthrax powder into the box, then wade into shallow water and submerge it to put the bacteria inside the envelopes, some involved in the case believe, the Post said. Afterward, the envelopes could have been sealed in plastic bags before being removed from the underwater chamber.
Other sources told the newspaper the work could have been done on land and the materials discarded in the pond.
The FBI has said nothing publicly about the material divers recovered during the December and January search missions.
Sources close to the case told the Post that the discovery in the ponds was so compelling that the FBI now plans to drain one of the ponds of thousands of gallons of water for a detailed search this summer.
Heather Lynch, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, declined to comment on that plan Sunday.
Dougherty said Sunday that draining the pond was ``one of the possibilities.''
``Obviously, they want to find other evidence, and they think that, as I recall, they want to find other things being hidden by the muck,'' she said.
The search of the ponds was based on a tip, the Post reported.
Some investigators said the water theory is the result of the FBI's interest in Steven Hatfill, a physician and bioterrorism expert who formerly worked as a researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick. That facility is the primary custodian of the strain of anthrax found in the envelopes sent to the victims.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has described Hatfill as ``a person of interest'' in the investigation. Hatfill formerly lived in an apartment outside Fort Detrick's main gate, about eight miles from the ponds.
Hatfill's attorney, Thomas Connolly, called the water theory ``far-fetched.'' He said Hatfill had nothing to do with the anthrax crimes.
American military inspectors have found what they consider their most persuasive evidence yet that Iraq was pursuing weapons of mass destruction: three trailers that look as if they may be mobile biological weapons laboratories. Should the evidence hold up after more thorough analysis, it would validate at least one of the claims made by the Bush administration in arguing that Iraq had an active biological weapons program. But at this point it is difficult to know for sure whether these mobile units were part of a program to produce unconventional weapons or served a more benign purpose.
Two of the suspicious trailers contained equipment that American military experts concluded was almost certainly intended to produce biological weapons. These included, in one trailer or the other, a fermenting machine, a dryer, a system to bring in fresh water and eliminate contaminated water, and equipment to contain the emission of gases that might give away the laboratory's purpose. Yet outside critics say it remains possible that the military investigators, who have cried wolf several times in the past, may once again have misinterpreted what they are seeing.
One former weapons inspector suggests that the trailers may be chemical processing units intended to refurbish Iraq's antiaircraft missiles. Indeed, one was parked at a missile research site. An agricultural expert suggests that the labs may have been intended to make biological pesticides close to agricultural areas to avoid degradation problems. Neither expert, of course, is on the scene. The American military teams claim to have considered these and other alternatives before concluding that biowarfare was the only likely purpose. That judgment will need confirmation from outside experts if it is to carry weight in world opinion. The most definitive proof would be the detection of traces of anthrax or other biological agents in the equipment as analysts continue to examine these most intriguing finds in the weapons search.
Meanwhile, the search for the large stocks of chemical and biological weapons that the administration cited as a threat that could wipe out millions of people has yet to turn up anything significant. The recent surrender of Dr. Rihab Rashid Taha al-Azzawi al-Tikriti, known as Dr. Germ for her past role in the Iraqi biological warfare program, offers some hope that she may shed light on whether the program has continued to function in recent years. But several other high-level scientists and military officials in the weapons programs have already surrendered and have apparently so far denied that Iraq had an active program to make unconventional weapons. Some insist that the programs were dismantled during the years of United Nations monitoring.
American authorities have begun broadcasting offers of rewards in an effort to get lower-level Iraqis to lead them to illicit weapons, and military experts continue to pore over documents that may offer leads. All that is fine, but we still believe that the best way to spur this investigation and give its findings credibility is to invite the United Nations to send its inspection teams back in. They are ready to go if invited.
Pond Drained in Search for Evidence in Anthrax Case
By DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, June 9 — Federal authorities began draining a small pond today in a public park near Frederick, Md., searching for evidence in the unsolved anthrax mailings that killed five people and sickened 17 others in 2001, the F.B.I. said.
The small tree-shaded pond near a dirt road is located about 50 miles north of the capital. It is the same pond where investigators retreived a plastic box in December that reenergized the inquiry when bioterrorism experts theorized that the container could have been used by someone involved in the mailings.
The pond is also about six miles from the Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, also located in Frederick. The institute is a center of the military's biological warfare defense research and investigators have speculated that there could be a connection between the deadly mailings and activity at the lab.
Nevertheless, the effort to empty the pond did not signal a breakthough in the case or that an arrest was imminent, said a senior government official, who added that planning for the project had been underway for months, requiring local government approval.
The decision to drain the pond was made after investigators determined that dragging the silty bottom would be ineffective and that divers could not search effectively in the murky water made even more turbid by recent rains.
If anything, the search seemed to underscore the slow and frustrating nature of the investigation and how investigators have been forced to turn to unorthodox methods in their effort to obtain forensic evidence in the still baffling case of bioterrorism.
The F.B.I. said in statement today: "The purposes of these searches is to locate and collect items of evidence related to the attacks. To facilitate the search activity, one pond will be drained. This pond is located in a municipal forest owned by the city of Frederick."
Authorities sought to reassure nearby residents about the possible dangers posed by removing the water from the pond. "Based on extensive environmental testing already conducted, there is no indication of any threat to public health or safety associated with our search activities," the statement said.
Letters containing lethal anthrax spores were mailed to news organizations in Washington, New York and Florida. The letters were also sent to the offices of two senior Democratic senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate Minority leader, and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont.
Although the investigators have had thousands of leads and maintain a changing list of people who have come to the attention of authorities, only one person, Steven Hatfill, has been singled out of continuing scrutiny and surveillance.
Mr. Hatfill is germ warfare expert who once worked at the Fort Detrick laboratory. Mr. Hatfill's former home in Frederick has been searched twice and other locations he frequented have been searched for traces of anthrax, all of which have turned up negative.
Mr. Hatfill and his lawyer have repeatedly said he was not involved in any way in the anthrax letters and they have bitterly criticized the government for placing him under suspicion and severely damaging his reputation.
Subject of Anthrax Inquiry Tied to Anti-Germ Training
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
This article was reported and written by William J. Broad, David Johnston and Judith Miller.
Three years ago, the United States began a secret project to train Special Operations units to detect and disarm mobile germ factories of the sort that Iraq and some other countries were suspected of building, according to administration officials and experts in germ weaponry.
The heart of the effort, these officials said, was a covert plan to construct a mobile germ plant, real in all its parts but never actually "plugged in" to make weapons. In the months before the war against Iraq, American commandos trained on this factory.
The tale of the mobile unit provides a glimpse into one of the most secretive of military and intelligence worlds, that of germ warfare defense. But here, two stories intersect. The first involves this previously unknown aspect of the Iraq war. The second involves the investigation into who sent letters containing anthrax that killed five people in the United States in late 2001.
Officials familiar with the secret project say that to design an American version of a mobile germ unit, the government turned to Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, then a rising star in the world of biological defense but more recently publicly identified by the Justice Department as "a person of interest" in the anthrax investigation.
It was unclear why investigators focused on Dr. Hatfill. Officials now say a major reason he came under suspicion was his work on the mobile unit.
Dr. Hatfill has been subjected to greater scrutiny than anyone else in the anthrax investigation, but the government has brought no charges. He has repeatedly denied any role in the attacks and has said he knows nothing about anthrax production.
Dr. Hatfill, people close to him say, is proud of his work on the mobile unit and says it demonstrates his desire to assist the government in biodefense, even though investigators tried to use his work against him. In any case, investigators found no evidence suggesting that the plant ever made anthrax, his friends, government experts and investigators all agree.
The secret trainer is similar to the mobile units that the Bush administration has accused Iraq of building to produce biological weapons. Neither its existence nor Dr. Hatfill's work on it has previously been disclosed publicly. Pat Clawson, Dr. Hatfill's spokesman and friend, said Dr. Hatfill would not comment on any secret project or any role that he might have played. Mr. Clawson also declined comment.
Dr. Hatfill helped develop the mobile plant while working for Science Applications International Corporation, a leading contractor for the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, the officials and the experts said.
They said the unit was set up last fall at Fort Bragg, N.C., to help Delta Force, the Army's elite Special Operations unit, learn what to look for in Iraq and how to react if it found dangerous mobile gear.
Several people familiar with the Delta Force trailer, including senior counterterrorism officials, said it was intended solely for training. They emphasized that its components were not connected and that it could not have made lethal germs.
Even after the F.B.I. began investigating Dr. Hatfill, the Pentagon continued to draw on his expertise. But tensions arose between the Justice Department and the Defense Department over their access to the mobile unit, the weapons experts said.
The trainer's equipment includes a fermenter, a centrifuge and a mill for grinding clumps of anthrax into the best size for penetrating human lungs, these experts said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, suspecting that components from the Delta trainer might have been used to make the anthrax mailed in late 2001, examined the unit, officials and experts said. But investigators found no spores or other evidence linking it to the crime, they said.
The mobile unit is part of the government's secretive effort to develop germ defenses.
Critics say such biodefense projects often test the limits of the 1975 global ban on germ weapons, which the United States championed.
But the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the anthrax letters only weeks later prompted the Bush administration to greatly expand the number of such clandestine projects.
Elisa D. Harris, a Clinton administration arms control official now at the University of Maryland, said developing a mobile germ trainer would not violate the treaty. But she questioned the wisdom of it.
"It will raise concerns in other capitals," Dr. Harris said, "in part because the United States has fought tooth and nail to prevent the international community from strengthening the germ treaty."
Senior Pentagon officials declined to discuss the mobile unit. An administration official said the Pentagon had reviewed the unit to ensure legal compliance with the germ treaty.
The American mobile unit was not a first. About 50 years ago, when the United States made germ weapons, scientists drew up plans for mobile units that could produce enough anthrax to kill almost everyone in a large city, said William C. Patrick III, a former head of product development at Fort Detrick, Md., then the military's center for developing germ weapons. The goal, Mr. Patrick said in an interview, was to create a reserve in case an enemy destroyed the nation's germ factories, in Arkansas and Maryland at the time.
Over the decades, other countries, including Iraq, have also sought such mobile gear.
After Iraq lost the 1991 Persian Gulf war and agreed to destroy its unconventional arms, Iraqi officials told United Nations inspectors that Baghdad had once considered making mobile germ plants. A United Nations official said that inspectors "kept that in the back of their minds" while looking for evidence of mobile germ plants. They found none.
In the fall of 1997, Dr. Hatfill, a medical doctor, entered the world of germ defense by taking a job at Fort Detrick, where he studied protections against deadly viruses like Ebola. In late 1998, he began working at Science Applications, a company based in San Diego that has offices in the Virginia suburbs of Washington. Among other things, it helps the government develop defenses against germ weapons.
At Science Applications in Virginia, because of an increase in anthrax hoaxes, Dr. Hatfill helped commission a paper from Mr. Patrick to assess the risks of spores sent through the mail. The February 1999 paper compared the probable physical characteristics of anthrax that could be produced by amateurs with the known traits of American weapon-grade anthrax; it said nothing about anthrax production.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other senior American officials have said that in late 1999 a defecting Iraqi chemical engineer told American officials he had supervised operations at a mobile germ unit, and that Baghdad was making a fleet of them.
By 2000, the United States appears to have concluded that the rumored Iraqi mobile plants were probably real.
At his job, Dr. Hatfill took on the mobile trainer project with enthusiasm, colleagues recalled. At times, one said, he asserted that he was its instigator.
Military officials said that the effort was financed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an arm of the Pentagon that works to counter biological, radiological and chemical weapons.
Experts said that Science Applications assigned the project to Dr. Hatfill and Dr. Joseph F. Soukup, a vice president for biomedical science, who helped commission the 1999 anthrax report.
Science Applications declined to discuss the project or Dr. Hatfill's involvement. "It's highly classified," Ron Zollars, a company spokesman, said. Dr. Soukup did not return phone calls.
To learn about mobile production, Dr. Hatfill again called on Mr. Patrick and his encyclopedic knowledge, said experts familiar with their work. Mr. Patrick, who also declined to comment, described the old American plans in detail, these experts said.
The collaboration, experts said, produced a novel design that demonstrated a number of ways to multiply viruses and bacteria, including the use of fermentation, chicken eggs and tissue culture. It was not meant to replicate Iraqi or American designs but instead to illustrate a range of mobile biological threats.
In 2000, Dr. Hatfill began gathering parts for the mobile unit, an expert said. Another quoted Dr. Hatfill as saying he had bought parts for the Delta trailer long before its construction and stored them in a warehouse.
"It's all the ordering of equipment that in hindsight looks suspicious," said a third expert, who is familiar with the secret federal projects that Dr. Hatfill worked on.
The trainer's construction began in September 2001, one expert said. Dr. Hatfill supervised it at A.F.W. Fabrication, a metalworking plant on the outskirts of Frederick, Md. The shop was a mile from Dr. Hatfill's apartment outside Fort Detrick's main gate.
Although Dr. Hatfill seemed fully engaged in biodefense work, his world began unraveling. That summer, the C.I.A. had rejected his application for a high-level intelligence clearance after he failed a polygraph test, associates and officials said. Then, in September 2001, the anthrax attacks began and Dr. Hatfill soon found himself under scrutiny.
Science Applications fired him in March 2002. The secret Delta trailer, a person close to Dr. Hatfill said, was then half built.
Mr. Zollars of Science Applications said Dr. Hatfill did no further work for the company and received no further pay. Experts familiar with Dr. Hatfill said he continued to work on the germ trainer. "He was doing it on his own, using his own money," one recalled.
Later, as the Delta trailer was being hauled to Fort Bragg, F.B.I. agents and experts pulled it over and thoroughly checked it for anthrax and other deadly germs.
"The F.B.I. wanted to confiscate it," one expert recalled.
After tense discussions, the Pentagon kept the Delta trailer, which was set up at Fort Bragg last fall in preparation for the war with Iraq. Experts said many troops used it in training sessions run at times by Dr. Hatfill and at other times by Mr. Patrick.
"This is a sensitive thing," Col. Bill Darley, spokesman for the United States Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., said of the mobile unit in an interview. He declined to disclose details, other than to say it was used exclusively for training.
"We are not growing anthrax or botulinum toxin," Colonel Darley said. "None of this equipment is functional. It looks like — it is — the real stuff, but it's nonfunctional."
Friends said Dr. Hatfill was deeply committed to following through on the project because it was for the Special Forces, in which he had tried to serve while in the Army at Fort Bragg. "I had given my word," one friend quoted him as saying. "I wasn't about to break it."
Exclusive! It's Doom for Tabloid Archives!
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
BOCA RATON, Fla., Aug. 20 — It may not be a collection worthy of the Smithsonian, but it is quintessential Americana, the trove of photos, notes and clippings from the spicy, arresting and often downright unbelievable issues of The National Enquirer, Star and other supermarket tabloids.
Now those archives, trapped here inside the posh, abandoned former headquarters of the tabloids' publisher, American Media Inc., or A.M.I., are destined for destruction. For amid the original photos of Bigfoot's wedding, the reporters' notebooks chronicling Monica Lewinsky's every move and the piles of clippings about Elizabeth Taylor's decline lurk who-knows-how-many deadly anthrax spores.
The mind leaps in considering these artifacts: five decades' worth of stunning, shocking, exclusive, tragic, spine-tingling, sidesplitting and bizarre images and documents from the tabloid world. There are five million photographs, to start. Models and movie stars cavorting half-naked in the tropics. The Bigfoot nuptials, Bat Boy lurking in caves and forests. And Elvis, of course, stone-faced and eerily out of focus in his coffin.
Then there are page upon page of clippings: breathless accounts of presidential trysts, exclusives on the trials of O. J. Simpson, John W. Hinckley Jr. and the Menendez brothers, and the occasional interview with a space alien.
"It was a phenomenal library," said Kathleen Cottay, A.M.I.'s chief librarian, standing at the single file drawer that holds the few hard-copy photos in the company's new offices, just across the highway from the old one. "Everyone used to call us for stuff."
Almost two years after a still-unidentified biological terrorist contaminated the company's headquarters with anthrax, killing a National Enquirer photo editor and provoking international dread, a developer has bought the star-crossed building on the condition that he destroy its contents. The new owner, David Rustine, bought it in April for $40,000, seemingly a steal considering that pre-anthrax, the newly renovated building was valued at $15 million. The difficult, dangerous work of decontamination, already delayed because the preparation has been more troublesome than Mr. Rustine expected, could begin soon.
The Environmental Protection Agency found anthrax spores throughout the three-story building late in 2001, and officials of the agency say the spores can become more potent over time. So Mr. Rustine, with the help of Marcor Remediation, a Maryland cleanup company that helped rid the Hart Senate Office Building of anthrax, has a painstaking job ahead of him.
Before the cleanup crew can set foot in the building, now surrounded by wire fencing and overgrown grass, Mr. Rustine must submit a detailed cleanup plan to the E.P.A. and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A preliminary plan alone is more than 100 pages, outlining the moon suits the crew would wear, the exact ratio of Ultra Clorox Germicidal Bleach to white vinegar that would be used to kill the anthrax spores and the dimensions of the chamber where the crew would be decontaminated.
The first task will be destroying
everything, from the treasured archives to the lunch tray that Michael
B. Kahane, A.M.I.'s chief counsel, left on his desk when the building was
suddenly evacuated. According to the preliminary plan, that means soaking
the photos and clippings in the bleach and vinegar, shredding them, wrapping
them in plastic and duct tape, and disposing of them
John Taylor, a vice president of Consultants in Disease and Injury Control, an Atlanta company helping with the planning for the cleanup, said he did not yet know where all this material would eventually end up. But he said nothing would leave the building until tests showed it free of anthrax spores.
As the final plan for detoxifying the property is pieced together, A.M.I. employees are waiting with regret but also relief. Mr. Kahane, for one, is not sentimental. He said he would be surprised if anyone now wanted the personal possessions like artwork, family photos, fountain pen collections, source lists and such that he and 350 co-workers had left in the building.
"Anything in there that I owned, not touched for two years, I don't think I'd want it back," Mr. Kahane said, sitting in his austere new office below mock-ups of tabloid covers with headlines like "Demi and Ashton: Their New Love Nest!"
Exactly which A.M.I. photos will be gone forever is complicated to sort out, but this much is known: The company scanned into an electronic archive almost all the images that had actually appeared in its publications over the years. On the other hand, many thousands that the company had on file but had never used are now lost, said Ms. Cottay, the chief librarian, as are virtually all the old clippings, for which no electronic archive existed at the time.
The anthrax spores that infested the building are believed to have arrived in a letter addressed to the singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, in an envelope that contained bluish powder and a plastic Star of David. Federal health officials found traces of anthrax on all three floors of the 68,000-square-foot building — on desks, computers, carpets, a fax machine and shelves in the library where the archives were kept.
The question of who was responsible for the cleanup and for guarding the building lingered for over a year, as the company squabbled with the F.B.I., the E.P.A. and other government agencies. The environmental agency and the Palm Beach County Health Department quickly seized control of the building, Mr. Kahane said, although the company had to continue spending $50,000 a month for round-the-clock security and upkeep until it was sold. Even the air-conditioning has had to stay on, he said, because anthrax is believed to grow faster in humid conditions.
Two congressmen from Palm Beach County eventually proposed legislation to transfer the building to the federal government and make it a Superfund site, but the bill stalled. Boca Raton city officials and executives of the company grew increasingly nervous, envisioning a hurricane that would knock out the building's windows, causing the anthrax to spread hither and yon.
Mr. Kahane said Mr. Rustine offered the perfect solution because, unlike others who expressed interest in the building, he had the means to clean it properly. Mr. Rustine has a relative who is an executive at Marcor Remediation, the Maryland company that helped decontaminate the Senate building and will be doing the actual cleanup work here.
Mr. Rustine, who buys distressed property, said he wanted the building because he believed it could be coveted office space again. His company will be the first to move in, he added.
"It's a beautiful building in what is probably the most prestigious office park in Florida," he said. "And after we clean it, it will be the cleanest building in Florida, probably in the country."
He said he had no idea yet how much the cleanup would cost. It took more than $14 million and three months to disinfect the Senate building. In that case, workers pumped poisonous chlorine dioxide gas into the office of Senator Tom Daschle, who had received a letter containing anthrax just after A.M.I. did, and into the ventilation system. It took three attempts before testing showed that no anthrax spores remained in the building.
Though Mr. Rustine acknowledged that he occasionally glanced at the cover of The National Enquirer in the checkout line, he said he felt no pangs about destroying the photographs that have absorbed supermarket shoppers and helped define the nation's popular culture since the days of the Eisenhower administration.
"I don't marry my real estate," he said. "There is some curiosity there, but to me it's just a part of business that we have to clean up and eliminate them."
Scientist Files Suit Over Anthrax Inquiry
By JUDITH MILLER
Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, whom senior government officials have identified as a "person of interest" in their investigation into the 2001 anthrax mailings, filed a lawsuit yesterday accusing Attorney General John Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials of having violated his constitutional rights and the agency's own rules by making him a "fall guy" in their inquiry.
In the 40-page civil suit filed in Federal District Court in Washington, Dr. Hatfill asserted that Mr. Ashcroft and other Justice Department employees had ruined his life and violated his rights to free speech and privacy by making public information about him to cover their failure to make progress in the investigation of the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001. The letters containing minute quantities of the deadly germ killed 5 people, infected 17 others and put thousands on antibiotics.
By publicly identifying Dr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the case and through other information given to the press and innuendos, the lawsuit says, Mr. Ashcroft and the other officials destroyed Dr. Hatfill's professional reputation, making him "not only unemployed, but as a practical matter unemployable."
The complaint said Justice Department officials had never previously used the term "person of interest."
Dr. Hatfill is seeking unspecified monetary damages from Mr. Ashcroft, the Justice Department, the F.B.I. and other current and former officials at those agencies.
A spokesman for the Justice Department said the agency would not comment on the suit or its charges. But he noted that H. Marshall Jarrett, the Justice Department counsel, found in January that Mr. Ashcroft had not engaged in professional misconduct or violated Justice Department rules by publicly describing Dr. Hatfill as a "person of interest."
Dr. Hatfill's suit won praise from L. Lin Wood, a lawyer for Richard Jewell, whom federal authorities and the news media identified, falsely it turned out, as the suspect in the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta.
"I applaud the effort because I think we have to make sure there are checks and balances against the government," Mr. Wood said.
Dr. Hatfill is not the first scientist to file such a suit. In a lawsuit filed in late 1999, Dr. Wen Ho Lee accused the F.B.I. and the Justice and Energy Departments of engaging in a campaign of news leaks that violated his privacy and wrongfully portrayed him as a spy. The case is pending.
Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit details the alleged surveillance and harassment that he has endured and the substantial financial price he has paid since the government's inquiry began focusing on him last summer. It says that Dr. Hatfill, a medical doctor and an expert on biological weapons defense, cooperated with the government's inquiry for months.
The suit says he was dismissed from a teaching job at Louisiana State University after a campaign by officials "without producing any evidence against him, without officially naming him as a suspect," his lawyer, Thomas G. Connolly, said.
The suit says the F.B.I.'s constant physical and electronic surveillance of Dr. Hatfill and his home constitute undue harassment that "continue to prevent Dr. Hatfill from finding gainful employment, or enjoying any semblance of a normal life." It states that last May an F.B.I. agent tailing him struck Dr. Hatfill near his apartment in Georgetown. He was not seriously injured.
Government officials have said that Dr. Hatfill has come under suspicion partly because he worked for a time at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. The lab is one of several government facilities that has stored the strain of anthrax that was found in the deadly anthrax letters.
But the complaint says that while the government has devoted "tens of thousands of man hours and tens of millions of dollars trying to pin the anthrax attacks" on Dr. Hatfill, it has found "no evidence" linking him to the crime.
Teams Up With Scientists on Germ Lab
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 3:34 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Detectives hunt a criminal's fingerprints. Scientists hunt a germ's genetic fingerprints. Tracing the origin of bioterrorism takes both specialties.
So the FBI is teaming up with public health experts and other scientists to create a national laboratory network dedicated to this field of ``microbial forensics,'' analyzing evidence from crimes committed with germs.
It's the same type of partnership invoked in the investigation of the 2001 anthrax-by-mail attacks. Although that case remains unsolved, the FBI consulted experts in anthrax genetics to learn that the type used was the virulent Ames strain, narrowing the probe to people with access to that particular microbe.
Formally establishing a laboratory network for future investigations promises to enhance the field, said Dr. Steven E. Schutzer of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, who is helping to draft quality-assurance guidelines for lab participants.
In Friday's edition of the journal Science, FBI scientist Bruce Budowle, who is heading the project, and Schutzer describe the lab plans and call for scientific critique of the quality guidelines.
``Scientists can play a substantial role in thwarting the use of bioweapons,'' by developing ways to detect them and trace their origin, they wrote.
Scientists from government agencies and university laboratories nationwide will participate in the network, with a hub at Fort Detrick, Md., they wrote.
One goal is to have on-call all the necessary experts on a particular bioweapon -- for some types, there may be only one or two specialists in the country -- whose home labs know how to handle evidence so that it's admissible in court, Schutzer said.
Another goal is to foster research ensuring all the analytical methods used are scientifically solid, he added.
``It's an unusual law-enforcement partnering with scientists,'' he said.
Names Top Scientists for Advisory Panel on Germs
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
Caught unprepared by the anthrax attacks two years ago, the F.B.I. has formed a scientific brain trust that is helping find new ways to track down germ attackers, be they criminals or terrorists.
The advisory board of about 35 members includes academic stars, as well as top federal scientists with expertise in biology, chemistry, physics and forensics, the application of science to legal cases.
"If you want to do a good job, you go to the best," the chairman of the panel, Bruce Budowle, a senior F.B.I. scientist, said. "They see this as an important issue and want to help."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dr. Budowle said in an interview, has never before gathered such a diverse body of scientific advisory talent or taken on a hard scientific job like pinpointing when and where a germ weapon was made. The bureau once had a reputation for shoddy or even faulty science but has worked hard at improving its work.
The new group is aiding the effort to advance the new science of microbial forensics, which studies deadly germs usually invisible to the human eye. It seeks to identify where a living weapon arose by analyzing its signature features and tracing it back to a particular nation, region, laboratory or microbe dish.
The work is like tracking down where a gun in a criminal case was made and bought, if not necessarily who pulled the trigger.
The new science looks for clues in places like the DNA of a microbe, contaminants in an attack powder and trace chemicals that hint at where and when an attack germ was grown. The science seeks investigative tools and evidence strong enough to hold up in court.
A board member, Dr. Paul S. Keim, a prominent geneticist at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, said the effort had the potential to produce quick leads for law enforcement.
"This is a tremendous step toward deterring potential biocrimes or catching those responsible for future acts," Dr. Keim said.
Most experts consider another germ attack on the United States only a matter of time.
Today, the brain trust makes its public debut in Science magazine, where Dr. Budowle of the F.B.I. and eight members of the advisory body discuss some of its work, goals and techniques.
Dr. Budowle said that the names of some members were not being released because they worked for sensitive arms of the government.
Perhaps as surprising as the brain trust is the high caliber of the F.B.I. scientists who are working on germ forensics, several scientists said.
Dr. Matthew S. Meselson, an expert from Harvard on biological weapons who has advised the bureau on the anthrax-tainted letters, said he and his colleagues admired the federal scientists' talent and dedication.
"I was surprised at how competent they were, how young," Dr. Meselson said. "I was very impressed with these people. They were high quality."
Dr. Steven E. Schutzer, an immunologist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark who is on the advisory board, also praised the scientists.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Dr. Schutzer said. "I found them sharp. During down times, when you'd talk about your own research. They got it and could offer insights."
He added that board members worked free and that they had in some instances decided to help the bureau despite reservations about Washington's ability to get things done.
"Instead of criticizing the government," Dr. Schutzer said, "we decided to step forward and see what we could do."
The skills of the advisory board and the bureau's scientists are no guarantee of success, experts said. The fledgling science of germ forensics, they noted, is inherently difficult. As an example, some added that the investigation into who sent the letters with anthrax in September and October 2001, which killed five people and sickened more than 12 others, has apparently produced no breakthroughs despite nearly two years of hard work.
Even so, experts added, new methods for investigating deadly germs promise to produce significant new leverage in helping investigators track when and where biological weapons were made.
For instance, scientists at the University of Utah have developed a way to zero in on a rare oxygen isotope, oxygen 18, a form of the element that has two extra neutrons in its nucleus.
In lakes, rivers and water supplies across the nation, oxygen 18 occurs in differing concentrations, with maps showing its variable presence as colorful contour bands. More oxygen 18 occurs in sea water than fresh water, so rain and snow near coastlines tend to have more of it because it is heavier than oxygen 16 and falls out sooner.
Helen Kreuzer-Martin, a leader of the Utah research, said that laboratory investigations of deadly germs like anthrax could disclose the oxygen 18 taken from local waters and that those readings could be matched to contour maps to help pinpoint the growth location.
In a blind test published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in February, the team examined oxygen 18 signatures to identify four areas, Baton Rogue, La.; Columbus, Ohio; Los Alamos, N.M.; and Salt Lake City, where colleagues had grown benign cousins of anthrax.
Scare Closes 11 D.C. Mail Centers
Filed at 11:50 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Postal Service closed 11 Washington-area post offices Thursday while authorities ran tests to determine whether anthrax was detected at a Navy site that handles mail for federal agencies.
Postal Service spokesman Azeezaly Jaffer said authorities decided ``out of an abundance of caution'' to close the facilities and test them for any biohazard contamination.
There was no indication any of 1,200 to 1,500 postal workers involved were exposed to anthrax, and Jaffer said none had been offered Cipro or any other antibiotic.
Five workers at the small Navy mail-sorting office will be given antibiotics, however, two Washington television stations reported.
Equipment that routinely monitors the air at the Naval Automated Processing Facility in the District of Columbia indicated Wednesday the presence of ``small amounts of biological pathogens, possibly anthrax,'' said Rachael Sunbarger, a Homeland Security spokeswoman.
After the initial field test, eight air samples were sent to Fort Detrick, Md., for testing, according to Lt. Cmdr. Edward Zeigler, spokesman for the Naval District of Washington. One sample tested positive for anthrax and seven tested negative, he said.
As a result, more testing was being done, he said.
A Navy spokesman at the Pentagon, Cmdr. Conrad Chun, said the Fort Detrick test showed a spore count of 138. Someone would have to breathe 8,000 to 10,000 spores to become infected by anthrax, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most of the mail moving through the Navy mail station was processed by the Postal Service's V Street facility, which handles government mail, and it was closed, Jaffer said.
Later, however, it was determined that a contractor that transported the mail to the Navy site had also collected mail from 10 other facilities in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. All were closed.
The contractor, Shaw Inc., participated in the testing.
Only a few people work at the automated naval site. Chun said the workers wear protective clothing and that an air monitor worked as designed. Mail is screened there before going to a mail-handling facility nearby, he said. The facility, which also handles mail distributed to Navy personnel throughout the Washington area, also was closed.
Chun said the matter was being further investigated by the FBI, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, postal inspectors and others.
All mail destined for Congress and federal agencies is irradiated before being delivered to the postal facilities.
U.S. Has New Concerns About Anthrax Readiness
By JUDITH MILLER
Two years after the anthrax letter attacks, senior administration officials say they have fresh concerns about the nation's vulnerability to terrorist attacks with the deadly germ.
The officials said their fears had intensified in part because they now recognized that anthrax spores could be more widely dispersed than previously believed. In addition, they said, terror suspects with ties to Al Qaeda have told questioners that the group has been trying to obtain anthrax for use in attacks.
One indication of concern was a secret cabinet-level "tabletop" exercise conducted last month that simulated the simultaneous release of anthrax in different types of aerosols in several American cities.
The drill, code named Scarlet Cloud, found that the country was better able to detect an anthrax attack than it was two years ago, said officials knowledgeable about the exercise. But they said the exercise also showed that antibiotics in some cities could not be distributed and administered quickly enough and that a widespread attack could kill thousands. "The exercise was designed to be very stressful to the system, and it was," a senior government official said.
Veterans of America's biological warfare program of the 1950's and 1960's said the recent recognition of the ability of anthrax to spread widely appeared to be in line with research conducted decades ago and remains secret.
"The new generation of biological and chemical experts is simply unfamiliar with the earlier studies," said William C. Patrick III, a former head of product development at Fort Detrick, Md., then the military's center for developing germ weapons.
Another factor fueling concern about anthrax is the questioning of senior Qaeda agents now in United States custody, administration officials said.
One official said that after his arrest in March, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants, confirmed to American officials earlier reports that Al Qaeda, and particularly its second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, a physician, had long been eager to acquire biological agents, particularly anthrax. The official noted that Qaeda agents had inquired about renting crop-dusters to spread pathogens, especially anthrax.
According to an article by Milton Leitenberg, a biological warfare expert at the Center for International and Security Affairs at the University of Maryland, computer hard drives and handwritten notes seized at the home where Mr. Mohammed was arrested included an order to buy anthrax, along with other evidence of an interest in acquiring anthrax and other dangerous germs.
"Nothing so far translated implies access to the most dangerous microbial strains or to any advanced processing or delivery methods," Mr. Leitenberg concluded in a survey of recent developments in bioterrorism published in the journal Politics and Life Sciences.
American officials also said in interviews that Mr. Mohammed had told questioners that until the American invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Al Qaeda's anthrax program was based in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and was led by two men: Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, and Yazid Sufaat, a Malaysian member of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Qaeda-affiliated group.
Mr. Sufaat, who received a degree in biological sciences in 1987 from California State University, was a technician in the Malaysian military. In 1993, he set up a company to "test the blood and urine of foreign workers and state employees for drug use," Mr. Leitenberg wrote. Government officials say his company appears to have been involved in transferring money and buying ammonium nitrate for explosives for Qaeda groups in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Although Mr. Sufaat tried to acquire anthrax, there is no evidence that he was able to procure the appropriate strain used for attacks, officials said. Mr. Sufaat was arrested in 2001 as he tried to enter Malaysia and is being held at an undisclosed place, officials said. He has reportedly confirmed numerous details about Al Qaeda's effort to develop anthrax and other biological agents.
So, too, has Hambali, who like Mr. Sufaat fled to neighboring Pakistan after the United States invaded Afghanistan. He was arrested last August in Thailand and has been cooperating with American officials, several officials said.
CBS News reported in early October that Hambali had been trying to open a new biological weapons program for Al Qaeda in the Far East when he was arrested.
Officials said recent notices from the Department of Homeland Security also reflected the concern about a bioterror attack. A Nov. 21 warning from the department to law enforcement agencies states that while Al Qaeda is not known to have executed an attack using chemical or biological agents, "the acquisition, production or theft of these materials and subsequent dissemination is a top Al Qaeda objective."
Jerome Hauer, a former acting assistant secretary of health and human services for biodefense who now heads a biodefense center at George Washington University, said it was "no secret that Al Qaeda wants to use anthrax." He said, "If they get to the point where they have the technical sophistication to execute an attack, I think they would do so."
Lisa Bronson, a deputy under secretary of defense, said an anthrax attack was viewed as a threat to military personnel. Speaking to a group of security and arms control experts, she said anthrax was considered a unique weapon because of its stability and potential use in missiles and other delivery systems.
Last month's anthrax drill was notable for the top-level attention it drew and the gaps it showed in the effort to protect against bioterrorism. About three dozen senior officials involved in domestic defense, including two cabinet officers — Tom Ridge, the secretary of homeland security, and Norman Y. Minetta, the secretary of transportation — as well as John Gordon, the head of the White House's Homeland Security Council, participated in the exercise at the Pentagon's National Defense University, officials said.
The drill was an effort to follow up on weaknesses in federal emergency response plans identified in a simulated bioterrorism attack. That exercise, called Top Off 2, was organized by the Department of Homeland Security and involved 8,000 local, state, and federal officials. It simulated a radiological attack on Seattle and a pneumonic plague attack on Chicago.
The weeklong exercise showed that the government needed to improve plans for delivering vaccines and antibiotics to those exposed to a deadly agent, administration officials said. It also demonstrated that the government needed better plans for controlling and monitoring the movement of potentially contaminated produce and people in such an emergency, officials said.
Last month's test "showed that we are a lot better off today than we were two years ago before 9/11," a senior administration official said in an interview. "It also showed that there has definitely been a fast learning curve on bioterrorism."
But it also pointed up the problems in rapid distribution of medicine that could counteract anthrax exposure and showed that the government had enormous difficulties stopping the spread of contamination through the country and into Canada.
In an interview, a senior official said the exercise underlined the need for a program that President Bush first outlined in this year's State of the Union speech for providing $5.6 billion over 10 years to encourage the development of drugs, vaccines and other defenses against biological, nuclear, radiological and chemical attacks. The program, Project Bioshield, would also encourage private companies to work with federal agencies to develop measures to combat smallpox, Ebola virus, plague, anthrax and other pathogens. The government would then buy and stockpile the drugs or vaccines.
Although the measure passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, legislation authorizing its implementation has not been approved.
The New York Times
3 Senate Buildings Shut After Alert on Possible Poison
By CARL HULSE
WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 — Three Senate buildings were closed today after a suspicious substance was found in the mail room of the office of the majority leader, Senator Bill Frist, on Monday afternoon. Officials said repeated tests indicated the presence of the poison ricin. More definitive test results were expected later today.
Early today, Senator Frist's office announced that the Senate will be in session as scheduled, starting at 9:45 a.m.
But the three Senate office buildings, the Hart, Dirksen and Russell, will be closed while all unopened mail is collected and removed, forcing the cancellation of committee meetings scheduled for those buildings. The Capitol will be open, but all tours have been canceled, said Bob Stevenson, a spokesman for Senator Frist.
The Capitol Police said they received the report of the material in a room of the Dirksen building next to the Capitol at about 3 p.m. and conducted initial tests that came back positive for ricin. The workers, who were on the fourth floor, were evacuated, and aides said the material was sent to a location away from the Capitol for testing in a laboratory setting.
At least 16 people on the floor were decontaminated, and others who might have been in the area were urged to contact Senate officials, the Capitol Police Chief, Terrance Gainer, told reporters late Monday night.
Congressional officials said the ventilation system had been shut down and the mail room workers had been moved to another room in the building for medical supervision. Dr. Frist, a heart-lung transplant surgeon who wrote a book advising the public on how to prepare for a bioterror attack, said no one had shown any signs of sickness.
An official with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Monday night that if the case appeared to be a criminal or terrorist act against a member of Congress, the bureau was prepared to begin an investigation.
Ricin (pronounced RICE-in) could cause illness or potentially death if enough was ingested, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Envelopes containing anthrax were mailed to the Capitol offices of Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader, and Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, in 2001, shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. Two postal workers at an office that processed the envelopes died, and the Hart Senate Office Building was subsequently closed for months for decontamination.
A new system for handling mail for the Capitol was instituted after of those assaults. There have been other incidents of suspicious substances since then, though they have proven to be mainly false alarms.
"To the best of my knowledge, in a human being, inhaling it has never hurt anybody," said Dr. Frist, who said the police were following procedures put in place after the anthrax attacks were being followed.
Doctor's Homes Are Searched in the Anthrax Investigation
By ROBERT D. McFADDEN
In upstate New York home and a Jersey Shore cottage owned by a doctor and self-described bioterrorism expert were searched yesterday by federal agents investigating the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, but there was no apparent breakthrough in the long-running case.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Service carried away bags of materials from the large colonial home in Wellsville, N.Y., 65 miles southeast of Buffalo, and from the lagoon-front cottage in Ocean Beach, an Ocean County community 45 miles south of New York.
They also searched a Wellsville apartment formerly occupied by the physician, Dr. Kenneth M. Berry, 48, who was in Ocean Beach and was not arrested in the case. Five people were killed and 17 made ill by anthrax sent by mail to news media and government offices.
Several hours after the searches began, Dr. Berry was arrested at the White Sands Oceanfront Resort and Spa in Point Pleasant, N.J., on four counts of simple domestic assault after the Point Pleasant police said he punched his girlfriend and her daughter. He was being held in $10,000 bail last night and could not be reached for comment.
Debbie Weierman, an F.B.I. spokeswoman in Washington, said the searches were carried out with warrants and the help of state and local officials in the anthrax investigation. Ms. Weierman emphasized that there was no danger to the public. But she and other officials declined to say what materials had been seized, and the significance of the raids was unclear.
Scores of law-enforcement officials searched Dr. Berry's Ocean Beach cottage on Sailfish Way and and his home at 211 East Pearl Street in Wellsville, a Southern Tier village of 7,000, as well as an apartment at 209 Maple Street, where he had lived three years ago. The tenant said he did not know Dr. Berry, who was a staff member at Wellsville Memorial Hospital from December 1996 to October 2001.
Allegany County court records indicated that Dr. Berry and a friend, Cathy Litzburg, were charged in 1999 with two counts of second-degree forgery of a document filed as the will of Dr. Andrew Colletta, a prominent Wellsville physician. Dr. Berry pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $300, and the charge against Ms. Litzburg was dismissed.
Dr. Berry is the founder and chief executive of Preempt, an organization that advocates specialized training for medical professionals to respond to chemical and biological attacks. His organization's Web site describes him as an expert on bioterrorism and a consultant to the Pentagon on unconventional weapons.
But the Defense Department has thousands of consultants, and Jerome M. Hauer, a director of the New York City Office of Emergency Management during the administration of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, recalled Dr. Berry as a self-appointed expert at bioterrorism conferences. "Many of us felt he was looking to do more for himself than for bio-defense," Mr. Hauer said. "He came out of nowhere as an alleged expert on bio-defense, but none of us in this area knew him."
Jason George in New Jersey and Judith Miller contributed reporting for this article.
desert town is ready to become a target
Monday, September 27, 2004
It will be an antiterror training ground
PLAYAS, New Mexico The Phelps Dodge mining company pictured a suburban utopia with a Southwestern flavor when it built this town for its employees from scratch in the early 1970s. It incorporated a six-lane bowling alley, a rodeo ring, a helicopter pad, a shooting range and a swimming pool into the community of 259 ranch-style homes.
But the company shut its nearby copper smelter because of sluggish prices in the late 1990s. And these days, more animals than people wander the streets.
Quail, javelinas and the occasional mountain lion strut through empty cul-de-sacs with names like Chaparral, Lomitas and Ocotillo. Weeds and creosote bush poke through the asphalt.
So the residents of Playas, all 50 or so of those remaining from the peak of 1,000, say they are more than ready for their town to become a target for pickups laden with explosives and simulations of suicide bombs, water-supply poisoning and anthrax attacks.
In what might be the beginning of Playas's renaissance, the Department of Homeland Security is channeling $5 million to a small New Mexico engineering school to buy the entire town. The school plans to turn it into one of the country's top locations for antiterrorism training.
"I wish they'd hurry up and start hiring people," Carol Davis, 51, a part-time emergency medical technician, said in front of her spacious home, with the Chiricahua Mountains in the distance. "It's too quiet out here right now. I'd like a job driving an ambulance or something."
No one denies that steady jobs are scarce. A sign hanging on the Western Bank window sums up the level of economic activity: "Bank hours: Friday only, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Drive-thru only."
Davis's husband, Alan, is part of a skeleton crew of 13 Phelps Dodge employees who watch over the inactive smelter 10 miles, or 16 kilometers, south of town, ensuring that electricity and water still flow to the facility. The smelter, about 40 miles north of the Mexican border, is called "La estrella del norte" ("north star") by migrants using its flashing lights as a beacon for crossings into the United States.
The isolation of Playas is part of the allure for New Mexico Tech, which expects to complete the purchase in the next few weeks. The town is in empty desert plains, near where General John Pershing once searched in vain for Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary and bandit who attacked the border town of Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916.
The nearest city, El Paso, Texas, is three hours away on a winding highway where every other automobile seems to be operated by the Border Patrol.
"Playas is not your typical ghost town, with a saloon and a couple of storefronts, which is what made it so attractive to us," said Van Romero, vice president for research and economic development at New Mexico Tech, which is based in the town of Socorro.
The university, which has 1,800 students, has undergone its own transformation in recent years, training more than 90,000 emergency workers to respond to terror attacks since the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.
Begun in the late 19th century as the New Mexico School of Mines for mining engineers, it was renamed the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, reflecting in part its new mission.
Altogether, it is receiving $20 million in grants from the Department of Homeland Security for antiterrorism programs.
Playas is to be used mostly to train security, medical and military personnel to prevent attacks and to respond to them.
"The town has all the characteristics of a contemporary American community: the churches, the bank, the health clinic - even the baseball diamonds," Romero said. "Plus, it's mainly empty."
It also has some unusual features for a town its size, including an airstrip capable of handling small jets and underground electrical wiring connecting every home to the grid. There is also the Feelgood Lounge, the town's watering hole, and the Copper Pins bowling alley. Phelps Dodge is including about 1,200 acres, or 485 hectares, of land surrounding Playas in the sale.
Interest in Bioterror Issues Puts Doctor Under Scrutiny and His Life in Turmoil
By JASON GEORGE and JUDITH MILLER
Dr. Kenneth M. Berry had become well known in some circles as a small-town emergency room doctor with a consuming interest in the threat of bioterrorism. He was also a bit of a puzzle, impressing some friends and associates with his high-placed biodefense connections while striking others as a self-appointed crusader.
But on Aug. 5, in dramatic fashion, Dr. Berry seemed to become something more: quarry in the investigation of the deadly anthrax letter attacks in the fall of 2001.
On that day, agents from the F.B.I. and the United States Postal Service raided his large colonial home and former apartment in Wellsville, a village in western New York, as well as his parents' beach house on the Jersey Shore.
In scenes replayed for days on the local television news, the authorities cordoned off streets as agents in biochemical protective suits emerged from the dwellings with computers and bags of papers, mail and books.
Since then, however, the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors have neither charged Dr. Berry, 46, nor called him a suspect in the anthrax mailings, which killed five people, infected at least 17 and compounded the anxiety of a nation still reeling from the attacks of 9/11. Nor has the Justice Department called him a "person of interest," as it did Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a medical doctor and expert in biological weapons defense who came under scrutiny two years ago.
Indeed, federal investigators say that the raids were aimed more at eliminating the doctor as a suspect than at incriminating him. "They've actually said that they're doing all this to clear him," said John Moustakas, a lawyer for Dr. Berry.
Yet the government has been investigating the doctor for at least 18 months, interviews show. Friends, family members and former colleagues say that federal agents seized the hard drives of computers belonging to at least three people who knew him and as recently as July interviewed dozens of his associates, including more than 10 at the hospital from which he resigned in October 2001, just as the anthrax mailings became publicly known.
Where the investigation may lead is unclear. But it has put a fresh spotlight on the government's frustrated attempts to find the killer or killers behind the anthrax mailings, an effort that has gone on for three years without an arrest. Mr. Moustakas, a partner in the Washington office of Goodwin Procter, said that the pursuit of his client had left Dr. Berry in a "legal limbo."
Dr. Berry would not speak publicly about the case. But in response to questions from The New York Times, his lawyer wrote: "His life has been turned upside down. He has been abandoned by some who, in better times, called him friend. He has lost his job and has little prospect of caring for the sick until the government concludes, once and for all, that he is clear of any suspicions."
Friends and relatives say that the publicity surrounding the raids has cost the doctor his most recent job and helped to destroy his second marriage. A restraining order bars him from returning home because of assault charges filed against him on the Jersey Shore hours after the Aug. 5 raids.
The police released few details of the incident, in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., but said four people had been treated for scrapes and bruises. Friends and family members identified them as Dr. Berry's stepchildren and his wife, Tana. Dr. Berry attributed his actions to the stress of seeing his world crumbling, his lawyer said. The doctor has also filed a complaint against his wife and two teenage stepdaughters, accusing them of assaulting him in the incident.
"He's hurting," said the Rev. Dick Helms, an Internet pastor and friend. "He still cares about people. He still cares about this nation."
Federal law enforcement officials would not discuss why Dr. Berry first caught their attention. But they did say that the investigation had yielded nothing that would implicate him in wrongdoing.
The searches, they said, were an effort to eliminate possible suspects. That is a legal and not-uncommon tactic in complex cases like the anthrax inquiry, in which investigators have exhausted obvious leads and are trying to narrow the field of people who might have been involved.
The comments by the federal officials strongly suggested that their interest in Dr. Berry had substantially waned. Federal investigators almost never publicly clear anyone who has come under scrutiny.
In some respects, Dr. Berry may have fit a profile of the kind of person federal agents are looking for: someone with a passionate interest in counterterrorism, a basic knowledge of biological weaponry and perhaps the potential to profit financially from a biological attack. Dr. Berry owns patents on devices intended to offer protection in such attacks. He had been asked by the F.B.I. to submit to the searches voluntarily but he refused, said Clifford E. Lazzaro, another of Dr. Berry's lawyers.
For a time, Dr. Berry had managed to carve out a place for himself as a player in the biodefense world, discussing the germ threat with members of Congress, the military, defense contractors and news organizations. And he did this largely through an association with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an arm of the Pentagon that deals with unconventional weapons.
In 2000, for example, when Bruce Burgess, an independent film producer, began researching sources on the Internet for a documentary about bioterrorism, he quickly found Dr. Berry, who told Mr. Burgess that he could help arrange interviews with people like William C. Patrick III, a biodefense expert, and R. James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director.
"He said he could open up all these doors and he did," Mr. Burgess said.
The cornerstone of Dr. Berry's niche in the nation's growing biodefense effort was his organization Preempt, an acronym for Planned Response Exercises and Emergency Medical Preparedness Training. Founded in 1997, Preempt promoted a three-step plan to protect the nation against a nuclear, biological or chemical attack, largely by training 200,000 first responders, including firefighters and emergency medical professionals. The plan was never adopted on such a scale.
Preempt also held conferences. The first was in Philadelphia in 1997, and the sessions had titles like "Overview of Mammalian Radiation Effects" and "Medical Implications of a Biological Incident." The speakers were mostly low-level officials and emergency services personnel.
But by 1999, Dr. Berry had raised his profile and was meeting prominent experts and politicians involved with the issue. In a conference that year at the Hilton Washington hotel, the speakers, some appearing by video, included Senators Arlen Specter and Richard G. Lugar, former Senator Sam Nunn and Mr. Woolsey.
"You don't get people like Jim Woolsey speaking at your conferences if you don't have something to say," said Mr. Helms, who is also the Webmaster for Dr. Berry's and Preempt's Web site.
At the same time, Dr. Berry was acquiring patents for systems to detect and counter the spread of germ weapons. His first, obtained in 1999, was for a variation on a fire retardation device, created by a Connecticut inventor, using a building's fire sprinkler lines. The second, granted in 2001, was for a system that would detect the release of "hazardous agents" inside and near a building, according to the patent application.
His latest patent, approved this year, is for a surveillance system for identifying chemical, biological or nuclear hazards in a large area.
None of these systems have been sold or developed, Mr. Moustakas said. But the timing of the patents, he said, so close to the anthrax mailings, may have been one reason he drew the F.B.I.'s attention. Another, some former associates say, was Dr. Berry's tendency to invent or exaggerate his credentials.
For example, on his Web site, Dr. Berry says he did his third and fourth years of medical training predominantly at the Yale University School of Medicine, yet the school has no record of Dr. Berry's ever being associated with it. In fact, he received an undergraduate degree in biology from Fairfield University in Connecticut in 1979 and a medical degree from American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in 1983. He is or has been a licensed physician in six states, according to the states' records.
At Jones Memorial Hospital, the Wellsville hospital where Dr. Berry ran the emergency room from 1996 to 2001, colleagues said that he told them he was a "connected" figure in Washington who might be summoned at any moment to help defend the nation against bioterrorism - a point he made by keeping a cellular "hot phone" at the nurses' station.
"He would tell us he was on an important mission," a former medical employee said.
Mr. Moustakas said those recollections were mischaracterizations. "Dr. Berry's own cellphone could have only become a 'hot phone' in the minds of others who quite rightly understood that D.T.R.A. might be expected to reach him in a biodefense emergency," Mr. Moustakas said, referring to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
Still, many of his associates portrayed him as a weekend biowarrior. "He was a counterterrorism wannabe," said Jerome Hauer, a former assistant secretary of health and human services for emergency preparedness in the Bush administration.
In late 2000, Dr. Berry persuaded Mr. Patrick, the biodefense expert, to give him a two-day course on using pathogens, including anthrax, as weapons. Mr. Patrick agreed to the request but found it suspicious, he said in an interview.
"The guy tried to pay me with a personal check, and that bothered me," Mr. Patrick said, adding that Dr. Berry had presented himself as a contractor for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. "If he worked for D.T.R.A., why wasn't D.T.R.A. paying for the course?" Mr. Patrick said.
An agency spokesman said that Dr. Berry himself had never been a contractor but that he had been a consultant for one, the Advanced Information Systems Group in Orlando, Fla., and was paid by the hour. The company declined to comment, referring questions to the agency.
Mr. Moustakas, Dr. Berry's lawyer, said the agency was trying to distance itself from his client because of a longstanding complaint by Dr. Berry that the agency had ended its relationship with him after it "misappropriated" some of his intellectual property and transferred it to another company.
David Rigby, the agency's chief spokesman, denied the allegation, saying the agency had ended the relationship after the work Advanced Information Systems had hired him to do "was no longer required."
Though the Defense Threat Reduction Agency has not been associated with him since 2001 and interest in Preempt seems to have fizzled, Dr. Berry has kept his hand in the bioterrorism field. Last summer, he gave a presentation at a bioterrorism conference in Sweden. But he has largely been out of the Washington circuit for three years and was dropped by Advanced Information Systems as a consultant in April 2003.
In his presentation for the Swedish conference, Dr. Berry used Pittsburgh as an example of how an area could be attacked and defended against dangerous pathogens. Dr. Berry knew the city well: he had worked at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center until the F.B.I. raids in August.
His contract, which ends in November, will not be renewed, and he is no longer working there, said a hospital spokesman, who declined to say whether the termination was a result of the raids.
But Mr. Lazzaro, his lawyer, said Dr. Berry's hospital e-mail account had been shut down within days of the raids, and he was told not to return to the hospital. The hospital declined to comment.
"All he wanted to do was to get people interested and going," Mr. Helms, Dr. Berry's friend, said of Dr. Berry's interest in training first responders. "A lot of our protocols and stuff you see today that the government is using were developed by Ken Berry, although he doesn't get credit for them."
"He just basically was very concerned that America was vulnerable and nobody was listening," Mr. Helms said. "They are listening now."
David Johnston contributed reporting from Washington for this article.
Anthrax Inquiry Draws Criticism From Federal Judge
By SCOTT SHANE
The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 - A federal judge who reviewed a classified update on the F.B.I. investigation of anthrax-laced letters that killed five people in 2001 said on Thursday that he saw little chance of the case's being solved in the next six months.
"Candidly, from my review of the classified information, it doesn't seem to me that anything is going to happen in the near future that's going to change the status quo," said Judge Reggie B. Walton of United States District Court. The judge is handling a lawsuit filed against the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department by a former Army bioweapons expert, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill.
Elizabeth J. Shapiro, a lawyer in the civil division of the Justice Department, did not dispute the judge's conclusion but emphasized the difficulty in finding the anthrax attacker.
"This is perhaps the most extraordinary investigation the F.B.I. has ever engaged in, and the most complex," Ms. Shapiro said.
The exchange took place at a hearing on the government's effort to postpone Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit, which claims that illegal leaks from F.B.I. and Justice officials destroyed his reputation and left him unemployable. He has been named as a "person of interest" in the anthrax case.
Raising his voice, Judge Walton said: "If you don't have enough information to indict this man, it's wrong to drag his name again and again through the mud. That's not a government I want to be part of."
Dr. Hatfill filed a defamation lawsuit in July against The New York Times and its columnist Nicholas D. Kristof for columns about him. A spokesman for The Times said when the suit was filed that it lacked merit and would be defended vigorously.
Anthrax Figure Wins a Round on News Sources
By SCOTT SHANE
The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 - In a development that could undercut reporters' ability to obtain confidential information, Justice Department officials agreed Thursday to distribute to dozens of federal investigators in the 2001 anthrax case a document they can sign to release journalists from pledges of confidentiality.
Lawyers for Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army bioterrorism expert, had sought the releases as a step toward questioning reporters about their sources in the case. Dr. Hatfill, who has been described by Attorney General John Ashcroft as a "person of interest'' in the anthrax investigation, is suing the government over leaks of a variety of information suggesting his guilt.
Experts on journalism and the law said the releases - first used in another case, involving a leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, an undercover officer for the Central Intelligence Agency - could erode government employees' confidence that they can provide information to reporters without fear of being later identified and punished.
These experts said being presented such a form could pose an excruciating dilemma for news sources. If they refuse to sign, superiors may suspect that they were the source of a leak. If they did leak information and then do sign, they risk being identified by the reporter as the source.
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said it was "ridiculous" to think that waivers sent by the Justice Department to its employees would be viewed as voluntary.
"The ultimate result of this,'' Ms. Dalglish said, "will be that in the future, less information will get to the public.''
The experts said the use of release forms in the Hatfill case suggested that the practice of asking people whom reporters may have promised anonymity to then permit the release of their names could become routine. Documents filed by Dr. Hatfill's lawyers already refer to the forms as "Plame waivers," as if they were an established legal tool.
Justice Department lawyers said Thursday that under the new agreement, they would send the release forms, beginning in about four weeks, to at least 80 people who have worked on the government's investigation of the anthrax-laced letters that killed 5 people in the fall of 2001 and made at least 17 others ill. The list of those who are to receive the forms includes Mr. Ashcroft and Robert S. Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as numerous F.B.I. agents, postal inspectors and federal prosecutors.
The releases will be accompanied by a letter advising the recipients that signing them is voluntary. Waivers that are signed will be passed on to Dr. Hatfill's lawyers, who can then present them to reporters in an effort to persuade them to disclose who gave them information about Dr. Hatfill.
Reggie B. Walton, the federal district judge overseeing the Hatfill case, first allowed the plaintiff's lawyers to question reporters last March. But they have not yet sought to do so, maintaining that case law first required them to exhaust all other routes before pursuing journalists.
At a hearing Thursday before Judge Walton, Justice Department lawyers and Dr. Hatfill's portrayed the waivers as a compromise that would advance proceedings in the lawsuit without interfering with the criminal investigation of the anthrax case by requiring depositions from a large number of investigators.
"All that's affected by the waiver is a private promise of confidentiality," said Mark A. Grannis, a Washington lawyer who is representing Dr. Hatfill. "We want that waived precisely so that we don't have to depose investigators but can get the information from reporters."
Elizabeth J. Shapiro, a lawyer in the Justice Department's civil division, called the decision to distribute the release forms to anthrax investigators "an extraordinary concession."
"We will work as fast as we can,'' Ms. Shapiro added, "to get these waivers to our people and back to the plaintiff's counsel."
As a "person of interest'' in the anthrax case, Dr. Hatfill, 50, of Washington, was trailed by F.B.I. surveillance teams for months. He has denied any connection to the anthrax letters and has said that being treated as a suspect has made him unemployable and wrecked his life.
In addition to suing the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, he has filed defamation lawsuits against The New York Times, for columns about him by Nicholas D. Kristof, and against Vanity Fair magazine, for an article by Don Foster, a Vassar College professor who has analyzed documents in criminal cases.
None of the discussion in the hourlong court hearing Thursday touched on the question of the waivers' effect on journalism and public information. But legal specialists said the impact could be profound, making government whistle-blowers and other sources reluctant to share information with reporters.
Bruce W. Sanford, a Washington lawyer specializing in media law, called use of the releases "outrageous" and said it "shows a fundamental failure to understand the role the press plays in our society."
City and F.B.I. Reach Agreement on Bioterror Investigations
By JUDITH MILLER
The New York Times
The New York Police Department, the F.B.I. and the city's health department have agreed for the first time on a set of rules that will govern investigations of suspected biological attacks in the city, detailing the roles the agencies will play as well as how confidential medical information is to be shared.
The "protocol," a six-page document that officials regard as something of a remarkable cooperation agreement, resulted in part from lessons learned in New York during the 2001 anthrax letter attacks, which killed five people in Florida and the Northeast and infected more than a dozen others in the months after the Sept. 11 strikes.
The anthrax investigations, and several subsequent inquiries into suspected germ attacks, were strained by tension between health and law enforcement officials over turf and procedures.
The accord, which was worked out in confidential, sometimes contentious meetings over the last two years, states that while law enforcement officials have the lead in investigating any terrorist crime, such investigations must be conducted jointly with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since physicians are likely to be the first to identify a victim of a germ attack.
To aid that effort, the protocol agreement details some novel compromises among agencies that sometimes have competing interests.
For instance, law enforcement officials, in the course of a bioterrorism investigation, will have access to the once typically confidential medical information of those who might have become infected. But the police and F.B.I. must keep such information confidential. And to encourage sick people to seek medical help, law enforcement agencies have agreed essentially to overlook a sick person's immigration problems or minor criminal activities.
The agreement also lays out some minor but still meaningful tactics. For example, law enforcement officials involved in interviews of patients will, by design, not wear uniforms, to avoid intimidating possible victims. And while patients will be interviewed jointly by teams of medical and law enforcement officials, physicians will be authorized to ask police and federal agents to leave the room.
"This is a groundbreaking agreement in uncharted waters," said Michael A. Sheehan, the Police Department's deputy commissioner for counterterrorism. "Both law enforcement and the public health community have made some tough compromises on what they consider sacred ground. But New Yorkers will be safer and healthier for it."
With the agreement, which was signed a month ago by Thomas R. Frieden, the health commissioner; Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner; and Pasquale J. D'Amuro, the assistant director of the F.B.I.'s New York office, New York becomes the first city in the nation to have adopted such a formalized protocol.
Richard A. Falkenrath, President Bush's former deputy homeland security adviser, said that he knew of no comparable agreement at the federal level and that New York was ahead of other cities in trying to systematically sort through the roles of public health and law enforcement officials in a potential bioterrorist attack. "This is in the public interest to do," Mr. Falkenrath said.
A copy of the internal protocol was provided to The New York Times. It provides for joint training of law enforcement and public health officials that is scheduled to start in January.
The agreement has not solved all outstanding issues. For instance, it does not state when and how quickly public health officials must notify the F.B.I. and police if they come across someone who may be infected with a dangerous germ. Officials said that law enforcement and health officials were still discussing which germs should require immediate notification and joint investigations as part of a separate agreement, a so-called "annex" to the broader agreement.
According to a draft of the annex, the city's health department is to provide immediate notification of the detection of illnesses that could involve nine pathogens, including germs that cause anthrax, plague, and such virally induced, highly infectious diseases as smallpox and Ebola. But the Police Department is trying to broaden that list to include germs that also cause Q fever and tularemia, which though naturally occurring, have also been studied by several countries for use as potential germ weapons.
In areas of disagreement concerning the specifics of how the joint efforts will work, law enforcement and health personnel may rely on what one official called the document's "creative ambiguity."
"A lot of this has to do with trust that has developed between the people who have worked together on bioterrorism investigations," said Dr. Dani Margot-Zavasky, a physician with the Police Department who helped draft the accord.
Phil T. Pulaski, assistant chief of the Police Department's counterterrorism bureau, said the accord reflected an effort to institutionalize that trust, along with the techniques and procedures that have developed over time. The accord was filled with qualifiers because of what he called the "knucklehead factor" - the "one-in-one-hundred chance that someone will try to wave this document around to assert authority in a spirit that was not intended."
The effort to draft such rules actually predate the 9/11 and anthrax letter attacks of 2001, some officials said. William A. Zinnikas, the weapons of mass destruction coordinator for the F.B.I.'s New York office, said he and Marcelle Layton, his counterpart from the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, began discussing the need for such guidelines in 1999.
"It was derived from a common acknowledgment of the problems we would all face if an incident of bioterrorism were to develop in New York City," Mr. Zinnikas said.
But the effort did not move at a "lightning pace" until after the 9/11 and anthrax attacks, Mr. Pulaski said. "Before that, there was just no immediacy."
The communication gaps, turf disputes between departments, fear of sharing information, and other complications highlighted by the anthrax letter attacks, a crime that remains unsolved, were reinforced by other, less well publicized bioterrorism scares, officials said.
Law enforcement and public health officials referred specifically to an investigation in the summer of 2003 of a suspected case of brucellosis, also known as undulant fever, a disease that can be caused by a biological attack but that is usually acquired from consuming unpasteurized dairy products.
Accounts of the tension vary, but officials said that after a Syrian man checked himself into a New York hospital and seemed to be suffering from an illness that could have been deliberately induced, the medical staff resisted turning over to the police potentially relevant information about him and his case. The police, according to two separate accounts of the case, reacted by pursuing the investigation very aggressively at the hospital.
Encouraged by the health department, the medical staff at the hospital finally began cooperating more fully. Both the medical investigators and the police eventually concluded that the man had acquired brucellosis, which is not contagious person-to-person, naturally during a vacation back home.
Some physicians continue resisting the trend in New York and at the federal level toward joint investigations by medical and law enforcement officials, and, in particular, the sharing of sensitive medical data that identify individuals by name.
Victor Sidel, a past president of the American Public Health Association and the New York City Public Health Association, expressed concern that such information-sharing might dissuade sick people from seeking medical help and hence, encourage the chances that infectious agents might spread throughout the city.
"I find the provision of such medical information inimical to human freedom and medical care," he said. Based on a reporter's description of the protocol, which has not been made public, he said he feared that the agreement negotiated between law enforcement and public health officials might jeopardize civil liberties and fail to provide the security it claims to bolster.
"There must be a balance between human freedom and counterterrorism," he said. "And an agreement like this steps over the line."
Public health and law enforcement officials disagreed, saying the accord contained many acknowledgments of the need to safeguard sensitive patient information and to underscore the fact that while physicians and police may have common goals, they continue to have separate cultures, rules, and requirements.
"We are not an agent of the police," said Dr. Frieden, the health commissioner. He noted that under the agreement, medical records would continue to be controlled by public health officials. "Our documents do not become declassified," he said. "Unless there is a bioterrorist event, that information is essentially sealed from the public, permanently and forever."
He said that "99.999 percent of the time," the health department carried out its mandate to protect public health without Police Department help. But in certain rare cases, he added, "I make the determination that police help would be valuable."
"Many of us are queasy about sharing health data with anybody, because we take confidentially of health data very seriously," said Dr. Frieden, who oversees the nation's largest municipal public health department of some 6,000 people and an annual budget of $1.5 billion. "There has never been a breach of this confidentiality as far as I know."
But after the Sept. 11 and anthrax attacks, "we all became much more aware of the circumstances in which the police and health departments must work together," he said.
The document acknowledges what Dr. Zavasky and Chief Pulaski called the differing approaches and concerns of each community. The document notes that all parties to the accord recognized the "potential chilling effect" that the presence of law enforcement officers might have on patients being interviewed and on medical professionals. It states, "it is understood that joint investigations remain essentially a public health epidemiological investigational activity," and that the health department is "not an agent of law enforcement when conducting investigations."
Nevertheless, securing access to sensitive patient data is sometimes critical, said Mr. Sheehan, the police counterterrorism deputy director, because it may help spot a bioterrorism attack more quickly and by limiting the spread of a deadly germ, save hundreds, and potentially thousands of lives.
November 30, 2004
Times Wins Libel-Suit Dismissal
By NAT IVES
A federal judge in Virginia has dismissed a libel suit brought by a former Army bioterrorism expert who accused The New York Times and its Op-Ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof of implicating him in the unsolved anthrax attacks of October 2001.
The suit, filed last July by Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, contended that some of Mr. Kristof's columns in 2002 implied that Dr. Hatfill was responsible for the anthrax attacks, which killed five people and heightened terrorism worries after Sept. 11. Federal investigators have identified Dr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the case but have not brought any charges against him.
In an opinion made public yesterday, the judge, Claude M. Hilton of the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., ruled that Mr. Kristof had directed his columns primarily at the handling of the investigation by the F.B.I. and had not accused Dr. Hatfill of responsibility for the attacks. Judge Hilton wrote that "it is evident that the Op-Ed pieces highlighting the perceived shortcomings of the F.B.I. are not reasonably read as accusing Hatfill of actually being the anthrax mailer."
Some of the columns did not even include Dr. Hatfill's name, instead referring to him as Mr. Z, the judge added. Mr. Kristof did not identify him until Dr. Hatfill, in August 2002, held a news conference related to the case.
The judge wrote that while some columns raised questions about Dr. Hatfill to support the argument that the F.B.I. needed to be more thorough and swift in its investigation, "none of these accuse him of guilt, and the columns specifically caution that there may be no connection, that his friends consider him a patriot, and that a thorough F.B.I. investigation may well exculpate him of any wrongdoing."
Victor M. Glasberg, a lawyer for Dr. Hatfill, said it was too early to tell whether there would be an appeal. The decision does not affect a separate suit Dr. Hatfill has filed against the government over release of a variety of information that, the plaintiff says, suggested his guilt.
Responding to the dismissal, Mr. Kristof described himself as "delighted," and added, "This is a real victory for the rights of journalists aggressively to cover these kinds of investigations."
U.S. Germ-Research Policy Is Protested by 758 Scientists
By SCOTT SHANE
ASHINGTON, Feb. 28 - More than 700 scientists sent a petition on Monday to the director of the National Institutes of Health protesting what they said was the shift of tens of millions of dollars in federal research money since 2001 away from pathogens that cause major public health problems to obscure germs the government fears might be used in a bioterrorist attack.
The scientists, including two Nobel Prize winners and a biologist who is to receive the National Medal of Science from President Bush in March, say grants for research on the bacteria that cause anthrax and five other diseases that are rare or nonexistent in the United States have increased fifteenfold since 2001. Over the same period, grants to study bacteria not associated with bioterrorism, including those causing diseases like tuberculosis and syphilis, have decreased 27 percent, the petition said.
The letter, which has been circulated among scientists for several weeks, was sent on Monday to Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the director of the institutes, and was posted on the Web site of the magazine Science.
"The diversion of research funds from projects of high public-health importance to projects of high biodefense but low public-health importance represents a misdirection of N.I.H. priorities and a crisis for N.I.H.-supported microbiologist research," the letter said.
The letter was signed by 758 scientists who have received grants from the institutes or have served on panels helping to distribute them in the fields of bacteriology and mycology, the study of fungi.
Scientists specializing in viruses were not asked to sign because their grants are handled separately, but some virologists have expressed interest in organizing a similar petition, said Richard H. Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University who was the primary organizer of the petition.
"A majority of the nation's top microbiologists - the very group that the Bush administration is counting on to carry out its biodefense research agenda - dispute the premises and implementation of the biodefense spending," Dr. Ebright said in an interview.
Dr. Zerhouni declined through a spokesman to comment on the letter. But Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which controls about 95 percent of the institutes' biodefense research spending, said the petition's signers were mistaken on several points.
Dr. Fauci said the $1.5 billion a year the administration decided to spend on biodefense research starting in 2003 was new money and was not taken from existing N.I.H. programs. Moreover, he said, much of the biodefense research should also help protect against natural emerging disease threats.
For example, he said, research centers around the country that his institute has designated for biodefense financing will also work on the possibility of an influenza pandemic, which he acknowledged is a greater threat today than bioterrorism.
"The United States through its leaders made the decision that this money was going to be spent on biodefense," Dr. Fauci said. If the institutes had not taken the money, it would have been spent by the Defense Department or the Department of Homeland Security for similar purposes, but without the influence of scientists through the traditional grant-reviewing mechanism of the institutes, Dr. Fauci said.
But signers of the petition insisted that the government was making poor trade-offs. "These projects obviously take money away from basic research in the United States," said Sidney Altman, a molecular biologist at Yale who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989. He said that while a risk of bioterrorist attack existed, he considered it "a very minor factor" among all the threats faced by the nation. "There's no question that microbiology has suffered" by the focus on obscure organisms, Dr. Altman said.
The other Nobel laureate who signed is Arthur Kornberg, a biochemist at Stanford who won the medicine prize in 1959.
Charles Yanofsky, a biologist at Stanford set to receive the National Medal of Science on March 15, said in a statement that he had signed because he feared the current biodefense spending "will sacrifice progress by well-established investigators who are contributing to our overall understanding that is benefiting mankind in medical as well as many other areas."
Some scientists said they had signed because the institutes used a heavy hand in directing the money to six pathogens: those causing anthrax, tularemia, plague, glanders, melioidosis and brucellosis.
Washington Awaits Results of 2 Anthrax Tests
By DAVID STOUT
WASHINGTON, March 15 - Tests under way at the Army's bio-defense laboratory were being eagerly awaited in the capital this afternoon, a day after indications of anthrax turned up in a Pentagon mail site and another military postal facility in Northern Virginia.
The tests being conducted at the lab in Fort Detrick, Md., may determine whether Monday's events signaled an attack like those of 2001, when five people were killed by anthrax, or just another in a long series of false alarms, possibly involving an anthrax biological "lookalike." Officials are hoping to get the results of the tests perhaps as early as this evening.
Even if the tests at Fort Detrick indicate there was no reason for fear, the indications that turned up Monday were a disturbing reminder of 2001, especially since two of the five people who died in the anthrax attacks that fall were postal workers in the capital.
On Monday, a test on a filter in the Pentagon mail site, which is separate from the massive Defense Department building, yielded at least a tentative positive for the presence of anthrax. The filter had been shipped to a laboratory last Thursday in a routine monitoring procedure.
Meanwhile, a sensor in another military postal office, in nearby Fairfax County, indicated the presence of anthrax on Monday. The Pentagon mail site was evacuated, but the Fairfax County mail facility was locked down, and no one was allowed to leave.
People who are knowledgeable about anthrax and involved in the investigation emphasized today that it appeared that no anthrax had been airborne in either facility, and that there was consequently little chance of anyone becoming infected.
On the other hand, even though anthrax does occur naturally in the environment in small quantities, experts considered it unlikely that anthrax could appear inside a post office strictly by chance. So if the tests come back positive from Fort Detrick, they would raise the probability of an anthrax mailer. And the person who mailed the tainted letters in 2001 has never been caught.
A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Cmdr. Jane Campbell, said the mail at both facilities had been irradiated before arriving at either site, The Associated Press said. Irradiation is supposed to kill any anthrax spores, but the sensors would still be able to detect them.
Anthrax is a deadly, often fatal disease that can afflict some animals. It rarely infects people, but when spores invade a person's lungs death often results. Medical personnel took cultures from people who may have had contact with the tainted mail on Monday, and the people were offered antibiotics as a precaution.
Anthrax can be spread through the air or by skin contact. Since the sensational attacks of the autumn of 2001, there have been numerous false alarms around the country, some caused by pranksters sending power through the mail, others by anthrax sensors picking up something that wasn't there.
Still another postal building, in the District of Columbia, was closed today because it may have handled shipments to the two military mail site. Hospitals were alerted for symptoms like respiratory problems, rashes or flu-like ailments that could indicate exposure to anthrax.
"This is a prudent course of action," Dr. Gregg Pane, director of the District of Columbia Health Department told The A.P. "I don't think there's cause for alarm or panic or undue worry."
Meanwhile, a building occupied by the Internal Revenue Service was inspected today by a hazardous-materials team after a report of a powdery substance found in a letter, an emergency medical services spokesman, Alan Etter, told The A.P. No one was evacuated.
In the 2001 attacks, which have never been solved, anthrax-laden letters were sent to such disparate locations as a tabloid newspaper in Florida, news organizations in New York City and the Capitol Hill offices of two senators. The two postal workers who died were employed at a huge mail-processing site in Northeast Washington. Other postal workers became seriously ill.
Scott Shane contributed reporting from Washington for this article.
Anthrax Scare Is Attributed to a Testing Error
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON, March 15 - Health officials believe that a mix-up of samples in a Defense Department contractor's laboratory was behind an anthrax scare Monday and Tuesday that rattled the stock market, set the White House on alert, shut three post offices in the Washington area and led to more than 800 people being offered antibiotics.
A senior military official said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday night that "quality control problems" at the contractor's laboratory appeared to have caused the bioterrorism false alarm.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that any laboratory testing for anthrax usually kept a sample of anthrax on hand to calibrate equipment. He said evidence suggested that the sample had somehow contaminated an air filter from a Pentagon shipping center that had been sent to the laboratory for routine testing last Thursday.
The error was compounded when the same contaminated sample was then sent for a confirmation test to the Army's biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. The Army laboratory confirmed the positive test at 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Only after dozens of other swabs from walls, floors and machinery in the Pentagon shipping facility were tested and all proved negative did officials conclude that the initial positive test must have resulted from the laboratory error, the official said.
The Defense Department official declined to identify the contractor, which does routine anthrax testing on air filters from the Pentagon shipping facility. Another government official said it was a private laboratory in Richmond, Va.
Health experts said little danger existed even if the tests had proven the presence of anthrax in the buildings, because all mail entering the three buildings was routinely irradiated to kill dangerous germs. They said that there was never a potential danger to the general public from ordinary mail or any other source.
Officials said that some tests remained to be conducted and suggested that workers from the closed facilities who had started taking antibiotics keep taking the drugs until all the tests were completed, probably on Thursday.
As a result of the initial positive test reported on Monday, officials closed the mail-handling building at the Pentagon's Remote Delivery Facility, which is next to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va.
Later on Monday, when a mail-handling machine shut down automatically at a second Defense Department building, the Skyline office complex in Falls Church, Va., officials feared that the machine might have detected germs and closed that facility as well. Several hundred people were required to stay in their buildings at the complex for as long as six hours Monday while officials assessed the situation.
On Tuesday, the United States Postal Service shut a third mail center, the V Street Postal Facility in Washington, because mail routinely moves from the facility to the mailrooms at Defense and other federal departments. Workers at all three mail centers were offered antibiotics, and most began a 60-day course of treatment, officials said.
The episode provided a test for the emergency response and communications systems set up after the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. In that case, which has never been solved, fine anthrax powder in letters addressed to news organizations and two United States senators killed 5 people and sickened at least 17 others.
April 23, 2005
The New York Times
ASHCROFT MUST ANSWER IN ANTHRAX SUSPECT'S SUIT Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, left, the former Army bioterrorism expert who is suing the Justice Department for publicly naming him as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks, won the right in federal court to demand answers in the case from former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Judge Reggie B. Walton of Federal District Court rejected government requests to stay the deposition. The suit argues that illegal leaks to the press and public comments by Mr. Ashcroft destroyed Dr. Hatfill's reputation. Eric Lipton (NYT)
Qaeda Letters Are Said to Show Pre-9/11 Anthrax Plans
By ERIC LIPTON
WASHINGTON, May 20 -Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan began to assemble the equipment necessary to build a rudimentary biological weapons laboratory before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, letters released by the Defense Department show.
The operatives were not immediately able to obtain a sample of the deadly anthrax strain that they wanted to reproduce in their laboratory, according to the letters.
The letters are among the documents recovered in late 2001 after the invasion of Afghanistan that United States intelligence officials have frequently cited as evidence that Al Qaeda was working to develop biological weapons.
The letters, recently made public as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request, detail a visit by an unnamed Qaeda scientist to a laboratory at an unspecified location where he was shown "a special confidential room" with thousands of samples of biological substances.
The scientist tried to buy anthrax vaccines, which would be necessary to protect any Qaeda members working with the material. He also bought a sterilizer, a respirator and an air-contamination detector, one letter said.
"The conference was found to be highly beneficial for our future work," the letter said. "I finalized all the accessories required for the smooth running of our bioreactor."
A separate handwritten letter includes a detailed list of additional equipment that would be necessary, like an incubator and a centrifuge, as well as a crude layout of a four- or five-room laboratory.
The letter specifies a training program for the staff, lasting six to eight months for senior workers and two to four months for technicians.
The letters appear to be the same documents referred to in the report of a special presidential commission on intelligence failures and unconventional weapons led by former Senator Charles S. Robb of Virginia and Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the federal appeals court.
The report, released in March, describes a biological weapons program that "was extensive, well organized and operated two years before the Sept. 11."
Two biological weapons experts who have read the letters said in interviews Friday that the letters suggested that the laboratory construction was at an early stage and that it would have most likely been at least two to three years, if not more, before the Qaeda team would have been able to produce enough anthrax to use as a weapon.
"They were moving to try to get the right stuff," said D. A. Henderson, an expert on biological weapons who is a former top scientific adviser to the Health and Human Services Department. "But not in a very sophisticated way."
The second of the two experts, Dr. Milton Leitenberg, a senior research scholar at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, said many of people who were involved in the effort had been arrested or, in one case, killed.
"It is not likely that anything is going on right now," said Dr. Leitenberg, author of "The Problem of Biological Weapons" (2004). "And in the three years they were working on this, as best as is known, they did not succeed in obtaining a pathogen or reach the stage of growing the pathogen in the laboratory."
The writer of the two letters is widely believed to be Abdur Rauf, a Pakistani microbiologist who is known to have attended a conference before 2001 sponsored by the Society for Applied Microbiology, said a biological weapons researcher who insisted on anonymity because of his work investigating Al Qaeda.
One letter was written on a notepad from the Society for Applied Microbiology, a prominent British organization of microbiologists.
All the names on the letters are blacked out on the copies that were released to Ross Getman, a lawyer from Syracuse who filed the Freedom of Information Act request.
At the same camp where the letters were found, officials recovered articles from medical journals that detailed an approach to isolating, culturing and producing bacteria, including anthrax.
The second letter says that so far no toxic sample of anthrax needed for the laboratory had been secured.
"Unfortunately," it says, "I did not find the required culture of b. anthrax, i.e. pathogenic. However, I have started correspondence with [name blacked out] for the supply of the culture."
After a Shower of Anthrax, an Illness and a Mystery
By SCOTT SHANE
The New York Times
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - During the anthrax mail attacks in 2001, Bill Paliscak, a gung-ho, hockey-playing postal investigator who had missed 3 days of work in 11 years, removed a filthy filter above a mail-sorting machine to preserve it as evidence. Anthrax-laden dust showered down on him.
Four days later he began to feel feverish. Soon he was in intensive care. After spending the next three years in and out of the hospital, Mr. Paliscak, 41, now needs a wheelchair to move about, sleeps with a breathing device to get enough oxygen and takes dozens of pills a day.
His medical bills total more than $800,000, and he has been living in a motel here for more than a year because he cannot reach the shower on the second floor of his home.
Yet Mr. Paliscak (pronounced PAL-uh-sack) remains a medical puzzle. Blood tests never detected the bacteria that cause anthrax or the antibodies the immune system should produce in response. As a result, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention never classified his disease with the 11 confirmed cases of inhalational anthrax, 5 of them fatal.
Mr. Paliscak's nondiagnosis ultimately has had little practical effect, because the Department of Labor agreed in 2002 that his illness was work-related, permitting workers' compensation to cover his medical bills and provide support of about $1,000 a week. But the C.D.C. decision rankles Mr. Paliscak, his family and his doctors.
"It sort of feels like - 'You don't believe me,' " says Mr. Paliscak, rocking in agitation in his wheelchair, his old Postal Inspection Service bag sitting on the floor nearby. "I've dedicated my life to law enforcement and the military. And an agency of the government I was sworn to protect won't accept this. That bothers me."
After consulting with dozens of specialists across the country, his doctors at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore remain convinced that his anthrax exposure produced his disease, in part because exhaustive testing found no other cause. They believe his experience may hold scientific lessons about anthrax, which experts consider the likeliest weapon in future bioterrorist attacks.
"I think we can still learn something from Bill's case," said Dr. Gary J. Kerkvliet, an internist at Sinai who has cared for Mr. Paliscak since 2001. Dr. Kerkvliet says he fears the C.D.C. "has its head in the sand." A colleague, Dr. Tyler C. Cymet, who spent months talking to the confirmed anthrax survivors and their doctors, said, "I come down strongly on the side that this is anthrax." Few diseases cause "whole-body symptoms" as does the toxin produced by anthrax, said Dr. Cymet, who, like Dr. Kerkvliet, is an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins medical school.
The variety of symptoms Mr. Paliscak suffers would be enough for a hospital ward full of patients. His limbs swell with fluid, pushing his previous weight of 185 pounds as high as 310. His hormone-producing glands have shut down, setting off a cascade of secondary effects.
He experiences spells of overwhelming fatigue that can last for several days. His legs regularly are gripped by painful convulsions, the thigh muscles shaking as he struggles to hold them still.
But C.D.C. officials, who declined to discuss Mr. Paliscak's case, say they cannot bend diagnostic criteria. "Case confirmation is based on laboratory results and is an essential starting point in any public health investigation and for medical treatment," the agency said in a statement.People who knew the muscular ex-marine say they hardly recognize him now. "He was in tip-top shape," said Patrick T. Carroll of Quakertown, Pa., a former hockey teammate who was best man at Bill and Allison Paliscak's 1996 wedding. "He was the kind of guy who could skate the whole game."
Now, Mr. Carroll said, his friend is "a totally different person." At Mr. Paliscak's mother's funeral in 2003, "when they wheeled him in, my wife just lost it."
"I probably wouldn't have known him," Mr. Carroll continued.
One key to the mystery may be the paucity of data on the inhalational form of anthrax. "Historically, there haven't been a lot of survivors to study," said Dr. Philip S. Brachman, who studied five cases at a New Hampshire mill in 1957 - the largest cluster in the United States before 2001.
Before the anthrax letters, of the 18 cases of inhalational anthrax diagnosed in Americans during the previous century, 16 were fatal, he said.
Anthrax remains largely an animal disease, with cattle or other mammals periodically infected by inhaling spores that can lie dormant for a century in soil. This very hardiness attracted biowarriors of a half dozen countries in the 20th century, who made anthrax the core of their arsenals.
Whoever mailed anthrax-laced letters in Princeton, N.J., on Sept. 18 and Oct. 9, 2001 - the case is still unsolved - proved its effectiveness as a killer and contaminant.
Two postal workers at the Brentwood mail processing center in Washington, where Mr. Paliscak removed the filter, died of inhalational anthrax and two others survived it. The cost of cleaning up the billions of spores that leaked into the building from two letters addressed to Democratic senators exceeded $100 million.
Even after gas had exterminated all the anthrax spores, workers re-entered the cavernous structure in moon suits, just in case.
But in the first days after the letter to Senator Tom Daschle was discovered in October 2001, the drive to act outpaced officials' understanding of the exotic bug. As Mr. Paliscak gathered evidence around Delivery Bar Code Sorter No. 17, an anthrax hot spot, he wore only a hardware-store dust mask for protection.
Testing would show that the filter he removed was thick with anthrax spores. He got sick four days after exposure, the mean incubation time of the confirmed cases. Some of his symptoms, though not all, would resemble theirs. Like him, they have recovered slowly and incompletely, complaining of a bewildering variety of ailments.
"I feel a little better," said David R. Hose, 62, of Winchester, Va., who was infected at a State Department mailroom. "I think my stamina is a little better. But I'm still on seven kinds of medication."
Mr. Hose and the other official victims tested positive for anthrax. Mr. Paliscak did not. Studies have shown that a dose of antibiotics can kill the bacteria while still allowing the toxin to do its damage, and Mr. Paliscak took two antibiotic pills in the first couple of days after exposure. Yet other tests - one to look for anthrax DNA, another to find antibodies - also found nothing.
As Mr. Paliscak became deathly ill, cycling in and out of Sinai Hospital, his wife and friends from the Postal Inspection Service pursued a workers' compensation claim. After initially rebuffing the case, the Department of Labor ruled in May 2002 that while it could not justify a formal diagnosis of anthrax without a positive test, some major symptoms - inflammation of the heart and lungs - were caused by dust exposure at Brentwood.
The department eventually assigned a top manager to track the case. But medical bills went unpaid for months on end, creating havoc with the Paliscaks' credit and causing several medical facilities to temporarily suspend services.
Though a hospital administrator herself, Allison Paliscak found the effort to get treatment and payment for it daunting. "It's a maze that no one has any directions to get through," she said.
After Mr. Paliscak finally went home in late 2003, he spent more than six months taking sponge baths, because the only shower is on the second floor. The Department of Labor agreed to put in an elevator and chose contractors for the work. But after a shaft was opened and the house became virtually uninhabitable, the elevator contractor disappeared.
They were to spend two weeks in the Marriott Residence Inn during a $10,000 house renovation. They have been in the motel for a year, at a cost to workers' compensation of $30,000. One night Mr. Paliscak's pizza dinner was interrupted when a car crashed through the motel wall and into his room. He switched rooms.
Shelby Hallmark, director of the office of workers' compensation programs at the Department of Labor, acknowledged that computer problems fouled up bill payments and blamed an unscrupulous contractor for the elevator delay.
But he said the program had spent nearly $1 million in medical bills and direct payments on the case, even assigning a nurse to help coordinate Mr. Paliscak's therapy, transportation to appointments and home renovations.
Anthrax experts asked about Mr. Paliscak's illness had varying views. Dr. Brachman, of Emory University, said he would not rule out anthrax as a cause, despite the test findings. Dr. Ken Alibek, a former Soviet bioweapons expert now at George Mason University, was more skeptical. "You cannot make the diagnosis without laboratory confirmation," Dr. Alibek said.
Both wondered whether Mr. Paliscak's illness might be a devastating reaction to some other substance on the filter, such as yeast or mold spores. But Mr. Paliscak's doctors said they could find no evidence for that possibility.
Dr. Leonard A. Cole, a Rutgers University professor who reviewed Mr. Paliscak's case for his 2003 book, "The Anthrax Letters: A Medical Detective Story," said the C.D.C. should have at least labeled Mr. Paliscak a "suspect" case of anthrax.
"It's more than just an academic question," he said. "The bigger our base of knowledge about this disease, the better off we'll be."
Dr. Mary E. Wright of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is conducting a follow-up study on the anthrax victims and has included Mr. Paliscak in her research. But through a spokeswoman, she declined to comment on his case, saying she does not want to discuss her study until it is published.
Mr. Paliscak is tired of the debate about his illness and simply wants to get back to work. "I was one of those lucky people who really love what they do," he said.
Some of his colleagues in the Postal Inspection Service are still investigating the anthrax case, as the fourth anniversary of the attacks draws nearer. He would like nothing more, he said, than to rejoin the hunt for the person responsible for killing five people and sickening 17 others - or 18, if Mr. Paliscak and his doctors are right.
A year ago, Mr. Paliscak was honored by a law enforcement group and had a chance to talk with the speaker, Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose agency has overseen the anthrax investigation.
"I told him I'd like to be well enough when we catch this guy to put the handcuffs on him," Mr. Paliscak said.
published Jul 4, 2005
Journalists Say Threat of Subpoena Intensifies
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
In 1991, when Timothy Phelps, a reporter for Newsday, and Nina Totenberg, a reporter for National Public Radio, broke the news that Anita Hill had accused Clarence Thomas, then a Supreme Court nominee, of sexual harassment, a special Senate counsel tried to subpoena the reporters' telephone records to unmask their confidential source.
The accusations prompted a second round of highly contentious confirmation hearings, but Senate leaders ultimately refused to give the special counsel permission to pursue the records, and eventually the matter was dropped.
Mr. Phelps, who is now Newsday's bureau chief in Washington, recalled his case last week after two courts, including the Supreme Court, ruled in two similar cases against journalists.
"We seemed to have pretty solid support for the stand we took, from the journalistic community, the legal community, the human rights community, the public," he said. "And I don't sense as much of that today, even in the journalistic community. The legal atmosphere, the corporate atmosphere, and the public atmosphere has changed."
Lawyers for the news media say that the legal climate for those seeking to protect confidential sources is turning chillier, with more subpoenas being issued to reporters. There is no database that tracks such subpoenas, and some prosecutors dispute that they are on the rise. But a series of high-profile cases involving confidential sources has the news media on edge.
"It does feel like open season," said Laura Handman, a First Amendment lawyer based in Washington. "There are more instances of courts ordering confidential sources to be disclosed," she said, adding that she believed the Bush administration's emphasis on secrecy was partly to blame. "This leads to more leak inquiries, which, in turn, leads to more subpoenas."
In the last year, more than two dozen reporters across the country have been subpoenaed or questioned about their confidential sources in cases before federal courts, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Paul J. Boyle, senior vice president of the association, said he believed that "the filing of subpoenas, as well as the letters and phone calls that media companies receive from prosecutors and civil litigants, is on the rise."
Kurt Wimmer, a media lawyer whose firm, Covington & Burling, represents 45 television stations in 40 states, said he had as many subpoenas against reporters in the first three months of this year as he had in all of last year.
He said those subpoenas were largely inspired by the looming prospect over the last several months that Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine would go to jail for refusing to testify in a grand jury investigation into the disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. operative, Valerie Plame. The Supreme Court last week declined to hear the reporters' appeal, intensifying one of the biggest clashes between the news media and the courts in a generation.
"When the Supreme Court says there's nothing wrong with forcing reporters to testify and go to jail, other lawyers are looking at that and saying, 'Why shouldn't I subpoena a reporter?' " Mr. Wimmer said.
Others doubt that there have been more subpoenas recently, saying it may just seem that way because a handful of cases have become so prominent. They say that regardless of the numbers, there is nothing wrong with pursuing justice if a reporter has been manipulated by a source and published misleading information.
In another case last week, a federal appeals court in Washington upheld contempt orders against four reporters who had refused to disclose their confidential sources to Wen Ho Lee, an atomic scientist who had been suspected of passing secrets to the Chinese but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. He is suing the government for giving information about him to those reporters, violating his privacy.
Brian A. Sun, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents Dr. Lee, said that while he did not see more subpoenas, just more publicity about them, he agreed that the Miller-Cooper case "could encourage other prosecutors to utilize the tools that they have had available to them." In Mr. Sun's view, what is behind these cases are leakers who have "less than altruistic motives" and are using reporters, while those reporters in turn are looking to break a big story.
The heightened interest in national security issues since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has drawn attention to some cases, said Martin London, a New York lawyer who has litigated several media cases and subpoenaed nearly a dozen reporters in 1972 on behalf of Spiro T. Agnew, the former vice president. At the same time, he said, high-profile scandals at various news organizations, including The New York Times and CBS News, have undermined confidence in the news media.
"I don't buy that there is any increase in subpoenas," Mr. London said. "The Miller-Cooper case is very unusual, it has a lot of wrinkles that are just sort of extraordinary. But it's perfectly reasonable in a post-9/11 world for the government to be concerned about the security of C.I.A. information."
John Nowacki, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said the department would not comment on the use of subpoenas against reporters.
Mr. Boyle and others said there was a change after a 2003 ruling written by Richard Posner, an influential federal appeals court judge in Chicago, who said that lower courts had been misreading a 1972 Supreme Court decision, Branzburg v. Hayes. That case in fact rejected the idea of First Amendment protections for reporters, but media lawyers over three decades managed to convince judges otherwise.
"He seems to have freed some of his colleagues to pull back on the privilege," said Sandra Baron, executive director of the Media Law Resource Center.
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the Miller-Cooper case, has served as something of a role model for those who are seeking information from reporters. Mr. Fitzgerald has employed a technique based on the idea that if a source no longer requires confidentiality, the reporter's pledge to keep it is moot. He has sought and obtained waivers from suspected sources releasing reporters of their confidentiality agreements, making it harder for reporters to claim they are bound by a pledge not to talk.
Through this approach, Mr. Fitzgerald obtained at least limited testimony from journalists including Tim Russert of NBC, Walter Pincus of The Washington Post and Mr. Cooper. Mr. Cooper was subpoenaed again and refused to testify, although Time Inc. has turned over his notes to the prosecutor, a decision with which Mr. Cooper said he disagreed. Mr. Cooper and Ms. Miller face another court hearing Wednesday to learn their fates.
Mr. Phelps, for one, lamented this turn of events and said it was only likely to chill potential sources in the future. "The fact that some news organizations have cooperated in this case is going to put a little seed of doubt in people's minds about whether they can really depend on reporters or not," he said.
And there is a rising concern among reporters that those people might be right.
"The biggest fear that most reporters have now is not having their mail taken or their phone records taken without their being told," said John Solomon, who oversees investigative reporting for the Associated Press and who had both of those things happen to him, in 2002 and 2001, respectively. "The biggest concern is that they'll write about something and will be forced to talk about it."
Representative Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who is pushing, so far unsuccessfully, for Congress to pass a federal law to protect journalists, said that fear was justified. "No reporter, as the law has evolved in the last 30 years, can give absolute assurance to any source that at no time will their identity be disclosed," he said.
In addition to the Lee and Miller-Cooper cases, there have been several other high-profile cases involving confidential sources. Jim Taricani, a reporter with WJAR, a television station in Providence, R.I., refused to reveal the identity of the person who leaked him an F.B.I. videotape of a politician taking a bribe. He was sentenced to six months of home detention in December and was released after four months.
Nine news organizations have been subpoenaed in the case involving Steven J. Hatfill, a scientist, who sued federal officials under the privacy act for naming him as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax investigations. As many as 100 federal agents have waived any confidentiality agreements they had with the media in that case.
Ms. Miller of The New York Times and a colleague, Philip Shenon, are under subpoena for their phone records by a grand jury investigating the leak of information about a planned F.B.I. raid on an Islamic charity suspected of funding terrorism. In February, a federal district judge in New York held that the reporters had a right to keep their phone records confidential.
The cases come as polls show the public has a deepening distrust of the news media, although a study by the Pew Research Center last month found that 76 percent of Americans think the use of confidential sources is at least sometimes justified.
Michael Getler, the ombudsman for The Washington Post, cautioned between linking what he agrees is a rise in the number of legal proceedings over sources and the low regard in which the news media is held. "There clearly is a more widespread ideological assault from both sides on the press these days, and that may well be feeding some of the prosecutorial zeal," he said. "But I don't know that that is really the case. I don't think we know enough to say exactly what is driving individual prosecutors."
Appeal Restores Libel Case Against Times
By TIMOTHY L. O'BRIEN
The New York Times
A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that a libel suit filed against The New York Times Company by a former Army bioterrorism expert could proceed, reversing a Federal District Court decision last November that dismissed the case.
The suit, filed two years ago by the bioterrorism expert, Steven J. Hatfill, accused Nicholas D. Kristof, a Times Op-Ed columnist, of implicating Dr. Hatfill in the unsolved anthrax attacks in October 2001.
Dr. Hatfill asserted that a series of Mr. Kristof's columns, which criticized the pace of an F.B.I. investigation into Dr. Hatfill's background and activities and many of which referred to him as an anonymous "Mr. Z," suggested that Dr. Hatfill was responsible for the attacks. The suit charged that the columns defamed Dr. Hatfill and caused him emotional distress.
Five people died in the attacks, which heightened national anxieties after the Sept 11 attacks. Although the federal authorities have identified Dr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the case they have not charged him with any crimes.
When Claude M. Hilton, a federal district judge in Alexandria, Va., dismissed the case, he ruled that Mr. Kristof's columns were directed primarily at the F.B.I. and did not accuse Dr. Hatfill of being responsible for the attacks.
But a three-member appellate panel in Richmond, Va., overturned that decision yesterday in a 2-to-1 ruling, noting that a "reasonable reader" of Mr. Kristof's columns would have concluded that Dr. Hatfill was responsible for the anthrax attacks and that the columns intentionally inflicted emotional distress on him.
The Times has the right to appeal yesterday's decision to the full United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The newspaper said yesterday that it had not decided whether to appeal. If The Times does not appeal, the case will be sent back to Judge Hilton's court, where it will be permitted to proceed.
"We are disappointed in the court's decision, but we remain confident in our case," The Times said in a statement. "Mr. Kristof's columns were fair and accurate, and we continue to believe that newspapers need to be able to comment on how investigations - especially one as important as this - are being conducted."
Mr. Kristof, who was dismissed as a defendant in the case and bears no personal liability in the matter, said he had nothing to add.
Dr. Hatfill's lawyer, Victor M. Glasberg, said he found yesterday's ruling encouraging.
"The Fourth Circuit did the right thing," Mr. Glasberg said. "I'm pleased."
In 4-Year Anthrax Hunt, F.B.I. Finds Itself Stymied, and Sued
By SCOTT SHANE
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 - Richard L. Lambert, the F.B.I. inspector in charge of the investigation of the deadly anthrax letters of 2001, testified under oath for five hours last month about the case.
But Mr. Lambert was not testifying in a criminal trial. He and his teams of F.B.I. agents and postal inspectors have not found the culprit. Instead, he and six other F.B.I. and Justice Department officials have been forced to give depositions in a suit over news media leaks filed by Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, the former Army biodefense expert who was under intensive scrutiny for months.
Four years after an unknown bioterrorist dropped letters containing a couple of teaspoons of powder in a mailbox in Princeton, N.J., what began as the largest criminal investigation in American history appears to be stalled, say scientists and former law enforcement officials who have spoken with investigators.
The failure to solve the case that the authorities call "Amerithrax" is a grave disappointment for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Postal Inspection Service, the investigative arm of the Postal Service. The letters were the first major bioterrorist attack in American history and killed five people, sickened 17 others, temporarily crippled mail service and forced the evacuation of federal buildings, including Senate offices and the Supreme Court.
"They've done everything they can possibly think of doing, and they're just not there yet," said Randall S. Murch of Virginia Tech, a former scientist at the bureau who led the use of laboratory tests to trace the origin of microbes used in crimes. "You have to understand that the pressure is enormous."
A former law enforcement official who keeps up with several investigators said, "From the people I've talked to, it's going nowhere." The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity over leaks in the case, said some agents still formally assigned to the investigation were mostly working on other cases, because "there's nothing for them to do."
For the director of the bureau, Robert S. Mueller III, who started work in September 2001 just before the Sept. 11 attacks and the anthrax letters, the case is a priority. He is briefed on the investigation every Friday that he is in Washington, Debra Weierman, a spokeswoman for the bureau, said.
Ms. Weierman said 21 agents from the bureau and nine postal inspectors were assigned to the inquiry, a far cry from the hundreds of the early months, but still a major commitment. She said that investigators had conducted more than 8,000 interviews and served 5,000 subpoenas and that the case remained "intensely active."
The fact that Dr. Hatfill, who has not been charged or cleared, has turned the tables on the agents who he says have ruined his life can only make this fourth anniversary more frustrating for the authorities.
The two sets of anthrax-laced letters, addressed to news media organizations and Senators Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, both Democrats, were postmarked Sept. 18 and Oct. 9, 2001.
Dr. Hatfill, 51, grew up in Illinois and trained as a physician in Zimbabwe before conducting medical research in South Africa. After returning to the United States, he worked from 1997 to 1999 at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md.
He was the focus of public attention from anthrax investigators in 2002 and 2003, when his apartment near the fort and places he had lived or visited were searched. For months, he was under 24-hour surveillance; one worker from the Federal Bureau of Investigation ran over his foot when the scientist tried to photograph him.
Two years ago, Dr. Hatfill sued the bureau and the Justice Department, saying leaks to the news media about him and the public description of him by Attorney General John Ashcroft as a "person of interest" in the case had destroyed his reputation.
He also has a suit pending against The New York Times and a columnist for the paper, Nicholas D. Kristof, saying Mr. Kristof defamed him.
This summer, Judge Reggie B. Walton, of Federal District Court in Washington, let Dr. Hatfill's lawyers begin questioning people about the reported leaks. According to a lawyer for Dr. Hatfill, Thomas G. Connolly, among the six people who have been deposed so far are Mr. Lambert, the top investigator; Brad Garrett, another longtime agent; and Ms. Weierman, the spokeswoman.
Mr. Connolly said Van Harp, the former assistant director in charge of the Washington Field Office of the bureau, is scheduled for a deposition next week and Mr. Ashcroft in November.
"F.B.I. and Department of Justice officials engaged in a campaign of smears against Dr. Hatfill," Mr. Connolly said. "The big question is who in the government is going to stand up and make this right by publicly exonerating him and condemning those who smeared him."
The investigators at first pursued a possible connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The letters included photocopied notes referring to the attacks and Islamist rhetoric.
The anthrax was the Ames strain, most commonly used in American biodefense research. Though agents have pursued leads overseas, the F.B.I. has focused on the possibility of a domestic criminal.
In addition to Dr. Hatfill, agents searched the homes in November 2001 of two Pakistani-born public health officials in Chester, Pa., and in August 2004 of a doctor in Wellsville, N.Y. Like Dr. Hatfill, the physician, Dr. Kenneth M. Berry, lost his job after the search and is fighting to have the bureau publicly clear him, said a friend, the Rev. K. Richard Helms.
"He's struggling," Mr. Helms said. "He needs to get this clearance from the F.B.I. to get work. Otherwise who's going to hire him?"
This year, in a sign that the investigators were still trying to identify a suspect, they contacted a former American intelligence officer who in 2002 provided a tip about a potential suspect. The officer, who insisted on anonymity because he did not want to attract attention, said he was summoned in February to an office of the investigators near Frederick, where he took a four-hour lie detector test. He was told that he had passed but has heard nothing more, he said.
Early in the investigation, agents tested the paper, ink and tape from the letters; tried to track the notes back to particular photocopiers; and showed photographs of Dr. Hatfill to people near the Princeton mailbox. They used bloodhounds to try to match a scent from the letters to suspects, including Dr. Hatfill, though some dog handlers said the technique was unreliable.
Eventually, the bureau called on 19 government, university and private laboratories to test every quality of the powder. A senior government scientist who has been briefed on the case said a two-year effort to compare tiny genetic mutations in the mailed anthrax with hundreds of samples of Ames anthrax from 16 laboratories has paid off.
"It was a very successful effort that allowed investigators to narrow the scope of the investigation," the scientist said, declining to elaborate.
He insisted on remaining unidentified because the information was classified.
In addition, chemists have tried to determine the origin of water used to grow the bacteria, while scientists at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah spent months trying to reproduce the powder to understand how it was made. Each experiment has been carried out with careful legal advice, because the results may some day be presented in court, the scientist said.
Just laboratory work is unlikely to solve the case, scientists in the fast-developing field of bioforensics said.
"The science can only take them so far," Richard O. Spertzel, a former United Nations bioweapons inspector, said. "It can help to narrow the field. But it won't identify the lab, let alone the individual perpetrator."
Biodefense experts say solving the case, even belatedly, is critical.
"If we can't catch this guy, I'm afraid it's going to encourage others to try an attack," said David W. Siegrist, who studies bioterrorist threats at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies outside Washington.
Claire M. Fraser, president of the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., which has helped he F.B.I., said she was frustrated that the attacker was at large.
"If we solve this case, even if it takes five or six years, it might provide some degree of deterrence," Dr. Fraser said. "What everyone's afraid of is another incident before this one is solved."
David Johnston contributed reporting for this article.
Court Rebuffs The Times Co. Over Lawsuit
By DAVID CAY JOHNSTON
Published: October 19, 2005
A federal appeals court yesterday declined to reconsider a ruling that allowed a former Army bioterrorism expert to proceed with a defamation suit against The New York Times Company.
Six judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., voted to consider the case, and six opposed doing so; one judge did not vote. To grant a rehearing, a majority was required.
The suit, filed two years ago by Steven J. Hatfill, accused Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for The Times, of implicating Dr. Hatfill in the anthrax attacks of October 2001.
Dr. Hatfill asserted that a series of Mr. Kristof's columns, which criticized the pace of an F.B.I. investigation into Dr. Hatfill's background and activities, suggested that he was responsible for the attacks.
In July, a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled that the case could proceed to trial, reversing a lower court decision that had dismissed the suit. The Times then asked the full appeals court to reconsider the panel's ruling.
The order yesterday in which the court declined to do so was issued without comment. But in a lengthy dissent, three of the judges declared that allowing the case to proceed would chill robust public commentary, especially in small newspapers, on matters of vital public concern.
The dissent, written by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III and joined by Judges M. Blane Michael and Robert Bruce King, said that "viewed as a whole, the columns do not pin guilt" on Dr. Hatfill "but instead urge the investigation of an undeniable public threat." It added that the columns were a valuable critique containing "pointed criticism of the executive branch," and in particular the F.B.I., for what Mr. Kristof characterized as "lackadaisical ineptitude in pursuing the anthrax killer."
The dissent expressed doubt that Dr. Hatfill would prevail at trial.
David E. McCraw, a lawyer for the Times Company, said that "we are obviously disappointed," but also "very pleased by Judge Wilkinson's dissent." Mr. McCraw said that there would be no further appeals and that the company would proceed to trial.
Thomas G. Connolly, Dr. Hatfill's lawyer, expressed his pleasure at the decision but declined detailed comment.
February 22, 2006
New York Anthrax Case Believed to Be Accidental
By MARIA NEWMAN
A New York City man was hospitalized this week with an infection from anthrax, but city officials said this afternoon that terrorism was not involved.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the man, who was not identified, was hospitalized in Pennsylvania, where he fell ill a few days ago while he traveling. He said doctors and health officials determined that the man, who makes drums, suffered from a case of anthrax inhalation that he probably contracted from working with untreated animal hides he bought in Africa in December and brought back here.
No one else is believed to be in danger of contracting the disease, the mayor said.
"There's no evidence of terrorism here," Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference at City Hall.
"Although we'll keep an open mind, at this time we have every reason to believe that this infection is an isolated, accidentally and naturally transmitted case," he said. "No other illnesses have been reported whatsoever."
Anthrax became a household word after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when anthrax-laced letters popped up in several places, including New York City. The anthrax attacks in 2001 killed five people across the country and sickened another 17, but investigators have never determined who was responsible for the attacks.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, the city's health commissioner, said anthrax in its natural form "is not spread by air." The most likely place to get it is if someone works with untreated animal skins, as the man did, he said.
Anthrax "does not spread from person to person," Dr. Frieden said. "It requires quite extensive contact with the infected material."
In bioterrorism, he said, anthrax is altered chemically and sometimes spread by means of aerosol sprays.
The man, who is 44 and lives in the West Village, is in fair condition at the hospital, Mr. Bloomberg said. He worked with the hides in a rented workspace in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn. Three other people who are close to the man are also being treated with antibiotics, the mayor said, but none has been found to be infected.
Nevertheless, he said, investigators from local and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, will be conducting additional tests on the man's home and workplace to make sure of the extent of the presence of anthrax.
"There is no reason that people living in these neighborhoods and these buildings should feel that their health is in jeopardy," the mayor said.
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said investigators would also make sure, during their investigations, that anthrax was not being produced in the man's home or work place, but the mayor said this was merely a precaution.
"There is no, I repeat, no evidence at this time of any criminal intent associated with this infection," the mayor said.
"There is also nothing to suggest that anyone who lives in this area is at an increased risk."
February 23, 2006
Officials Try to Trace the Journey of a Disease
By MARC SANTORA
In the small, impoverished West African nation of Ivory Coast, the ancient plague of anthrax still thrives, infecting and killing animals at one of the highest rates in all of Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
Among the animals plagued by anthrax are goats, which are prized for their skins. When stretched tight, those skins provide the perfect acoustical top for a drum. And that most pre-modern of instruments is wildly popular in the most modern of cities, sold on street corners from London to New York.
It is through this bit of commerce, the authorities now suspect, that the germ was brought to New York in December, lurking in the hairs of a hide that was carried in a suitcase through Kennedy International Airport by an unsuspecting African musician. Now, officials are investigating how that musician, Vado Diomande, was able to transport infected animal carcasses thousands of miles without being detected.
Regulations on the importation of animals or animal byproducts from Africa are clear, said Teresa Howes, a spokeswoman for the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Inspection Service.
"We restrict the importation of animal product from slaughtered animals, including hides, skins, wool, hair, and bristles from countries where anthrax infections occur," she said, noting that she was based in Colorado and not familiar with the details of Mr. Diamande's case. "African animals and animal byproducts are prohibited entry into this country entirely."
Judging, however, by even a cursory survey of the brisk trade among sidewalk vendors, shop owners and Internet vendors in drums made with African animal skins, it seems to be a difficult ban to enforce.
The agency responsible for regulating the importation of animal skins, along with the Agriculture Department, is Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
"If you're trying to come into the country and you have animal skins, we're going to question you about your use of them," said Kelly Klundt, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection. The goal, she said, is to determine whether the goods are illegal and whether they pose any danger.
The Agriculture Bioterrorism Protection Act, passed in 2002 after anthrax was used as a weapon and sent through the mail, was meant to help improve control of the spread of dangerous agents. But law enforcement officials declined to provide details about the security at Kennedy Airport or whether the system broke down in any way.
At a news conference yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he did not know the rules on importing animal hides.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who have joined New York health authorities in investigating the incident, said they were not sure what measures were in place at the nation's ports of entry to ensure that dangerous organisms are not brought into the country — whether the intent is malicious or innocent.
Those officials repeatedly stressed yesterday that there was no evidence to suggest that the incident was anything more than an unfortunate accident.
In fact, the officials said they could not rule out the possibility that the germs had come from some of the domestic animal skins that Mr. Diomande also worked with in his Brooklyn warehouse. The authorities were just beginning their search and examination of the musician's warehouse and his Manhattan home last night.
Even though Mr. Diomande might have traveled across the city with contaminated hides, officials said that it likely took aggressive handling to release enough anthrax spores to do any damage. The process of making a drum is ideal for such a release.
Mr. Diomande told investigators that he uses a razor to strip off the hair, then pours water over it so he can more easily manipulate the skin. Still, it is much more common for people to contract a less deadly form of anthrax that infects the skin, called cutaneous anthrax, from handling infected hides. Mr. Diomande is suffering from respiratory anthrax, which he contracted through inhaling spores.
February 23, 2006
A Dancer Apparently Felled by the Animal Skins on Drums
By MICHAEL WILSON
If one were to try to predict an accident befalling Vado Diomande, a natural guess would be a fall from stilts while "mask dancing," a frenetic performance that he was thought not only to have mastered, but one that he believed was his duty to his Ivory Coast ancestors to spread.
A dancer since age 4, Mr. Diomande, 44, regularly took his stilts and his performers from the Kotchegna Dance Company from their base in Greenwich Village to large cities and small towns all over the country.
"I want to bring my culture to the audience," Mr. Diomande said in an interview before a 2003 performance in Syracuse. "I want everyone to know what we are doing in my country."
But when he collapsed last Thursday after a performance at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pa., it was not from dangers above, but below — from his drums. Mr. Diomande is considered to possess a gifted ear in the tuning of drums, his friends said yesterday, and it is believed that while handling and stretching the animal skins, he inhaled anthrax spores.
Mr. Diomande was listed in stable condition yesterday at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa., the hospital said. He was not available for interviews, and it was unclear how long he would remain there, the hospital said.
It may be the performer's second bout with anthrax. Friends said the first, in 2003, nearly killed him. That episode did not stop his travels to Ivory Coast to collect animal skins, or his handling of the skins in a work space in Brooklyn, friends said. He had worked with the skins the night before his collapse in Pennsylvania.
Other African drummers from many countries routinely sent their drums to Mr. Diomande for tuning, said Marcus Robinson, 52, artistic director of the Florida African Drum and Dance Festival in Tallahassee, where Mr. Diomande performed last year.
"They had to be pulled to a certain pitch," Mr. Robinson said. "He's particularly good at that, in terms of knowing the proper pitch, specifically for Ivory Coast percussionists."
The infection sent teams of health workers to Mr. Diomande's apartment in the Village and his storage space at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. His friends described a man who would recoil from so much attention, a flamboyant performer but, offstage, a very private man.
"He dresses in the traditional mask, where you can't see the dancer's face," said Belinda Becker, 40, a dancer who trained under Mr. Diomande at the Djoniba Dance and Drum Center on East 18th Street in Manhattan. "He's on stilts. He's like this huge sort of mythic figure. He interacts with the crowd and does these amazing acrobatic moves. It almost looks like break dancing on stilts.
"He embodies the cliché 'still waters run deep.' He's very quiet but very patient and helpful. He's not outgoing or supertalkative, but once he gets onstage he becomes this colorful performer and character."
When he became ill in 2003, in the Netherlands with a serious skin infection, his friends worried whether he would live. "He was deathly ill, almost to the point where people didn't think he was going to survive," Ms. Becker said. "He was very, very, very sick. Somehow he came through it, and is back in tiptop form."
Mr. Diomande has mastered more than 60 forms of dancing and drumming from Ivory Coast since the age of 4, according to his biography at the Kotchegna Dance Company, which he founded. He was recruited by the national ballet of Ivory Coast as a teenager, touring extensively over the next 15 years in Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia.
He brought Kotchegna to the United States in 1994. His wife and manager, Lisa Diomande, could not be reached for comment at the hospital yesterday.
One of his trademarks is acting as an intermediary for the spirit of Gue-Pelou, or "God of the Sacred Forest," his biography states. As he stood nine feet tall on his stilts and wore a mask, his dancing was believed to lend protection to those in the audience.
Mr. Robinson recalled being struck by the dancer's discipline at his Tallahassee performance.
"He needed to have a room to himself, and he needed to have space, and he needed to not be interrupted at least one half-hour before he went onstage," said Mr. Robinson, who tried to get Mr. Diomande to perform five minutes ahead of schedule that day.
"I sent some of the other guys to get Vado out of the dressing room. He didn't come out. He shut the door shut. No matter how many times we tried to get in, he shut the door. Extremely disciplined."
Matthew Sweeney and Kate Hammer contributed reporting for this article.
February 23, 2006
Health Officials Take Samples in Anthrax Case
By SEWELL CHAN
Seven people who had contact with a New York City man who contracted inhalation anthrax last week are now receiving antibiotics, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said today.
The man, Vado Diomande, 44, remained in stable condition at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa., where several friends and relatives from the New York area have gone to visit him. Mr. Diomande is believed to have contracted anthrax last week from untreated animal skins, which he used to make drums for his dance troupe.
Officials from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, collected samples last night from the man's apartment in Manhattan and from a storage space in Brooklyn where the man worked, the mayor said during a news conference in Harlem to announce affordable-housing programs.
Those samples will be analyzed to determine if either space is contaminated. Mr. Bloomberg emphasized that the authorities had found no evidence of any anthrax production in either location and described the case as "a tragic accident."
New York was one of the cities affected by the anthrax attacks of 2001, which infected 22 people in the country and killed 5. On Wednesday Mr. Bloomberg said "There is no — let me repeat, no — evidence at this time of any criminal intent associated with this infection."
Mr. Diomande, a drummer and dancer, collapsed after a performance in Pennsylvania and was hospitalized there last Thursday. On Tuesday, after blood tests confirmed the presence of anthrax, Pennsylvania authorities alerted New York City officials. Wednesday morning, federal authorities concluded definitively that Mr. Diomande had inhalation anthrax.
About 5 p.m. Wednesday, federal agents, police officers, firefighters and other city workers surrounded Mr. Diomande's apartment building at 31 Downing Street in the West Village of Manhattan and the warehouse at 2 Prince Street, near the foot of the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn, where he used animal skins to make drums for his dance troupe and for other musicians.
Mr. Diomande's fifth-floor apartment was sealed. Residents on the first four floors were allowed to enter the building.
The officials set up a command post near the warehouse, an eight-story building, and police cordoned off the area as workers — some carrying radiation detectors, others wearing protective suits — prepared for a floor-to-floor search.
At 8:30 p.m., Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, said the tests at both the apartment building and the warehouse were complete and showed no evidence that anthrax had been produced there. Outside Mr. Diomande's apartment building, city health officials distributed fliers saying the residents were not "at risk for anthrax," but federal officials said they were actively investigating whether any of the hides were passed along to others.
The warehouse, identified as Pinnacle Storage on a sign, is mostly used for storage, but parts of several floors have been converted to recording and art studios and other commercial uses over the past year or so, according to occupants.
Tom Beale, 27, a wood sculptor who works on the third floor and lives nearby, said he was disturbed by the news. "Have I been exposed?" he asked. "Am I going to have to go to the hospital?"
Officials in Pennsylvania also took steps last night to reassure students and employees at the school, Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pa., where Mr. Diomande performed before he collapsed. Mr. Diomande, who is conscious and cooperating with investigators, remained in fair condition last night in the intensive-care unit at the hospital.
Mayor Bloomberg and officials in Pennsylvania said the chain of events leading to Mr. Diomande's illness began on Dec. 21, when he returned from a two-week trip to Ivory Coast. There, he obtained raw animal hides to bring home with him, the mayor said.
A city official who is close to the investigation and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case said Mr. Diomande arrived at Kennedy International Airport with four goat skins and took them in suitcases directly to his studio in Brooklyn. The skins were probably never taken to his Manhattan apartment, the official said.
Officials with the United States Department of Agriculture said no animals or animal products are allowed into the country from Africa. Customs officials said agents generally questioned anyone trying to import animal skins and seized any untanned or partially tanned hides.
A relative disputed the officials' account.
"I think the officials are confused," said a brother-in-law, Alexander Harman, 43, a computer animator in Jersey City. "He is not importing, by hand, this quantity of skins. I've always understood that he buys them from local distributors, and I am positive that he does not carry skins through customs himself. They are heavy, and he goes through sometimes 100 in a month. He's only made two trips to Africa in the last 14 years."
Dr. Melanie A. MacLennan, a friend and personal physician of Mr. Diomande, said she believed that he had been infected with anthrax overseas in the past. In December 2003, she said, he was hospitalized for six weeks in the Netherlands with a skin infection so severe that he had to receive several skin grafts on his left thigh. She said he probably contracted the bacteria in Africa.
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the New York City health commissioner, said the three people who were given antibiotics as a prevention worked with Mr. Diomande. A fourth person who worked with him will be given antibiotics when he returns to the city, Dr. Frieden said.
Such quick preventive treatment can be effective. But antibiotic treatment may not be effective in late stages of inhalation anthrax, which can quickly lead to severe breathing problems, shock and death.
In his work as a maker of drums, Mr. Diomande has used both domestic and imported skins, but he and his relatives have told investigators that he worked with the imported skins in the Brooklyn warehouse in the days preceding his trip to Pennsylvania.
He made the drums by "soaking the hide and then stretching and scraping it to remove the hair, which is potentially a scenario where he could aerosolize any spores," said Dr. Lisa Rotz, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta.
Last Thursday, after Mr. Diomande and other members of his dance company performed at the Steadman Theater at Mansfield University, he collapsed and was taken to the nearby Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital in Wellsboro, Pa., with chills, fever and fluid in his lungs. On Friday, doctors took samples to identify a possible infectious cause. The next day, he was transferred to Packer, a larger hospital about 60 miles away.
On Monday, the tests revealed the possible presence of anthrax. The hospital notified the Pennsylvania Department of Health and sent it a sample for additional tests at a state lab in Lionville, which also detected anthrax bacteria on Tuesday. The department notified the C.D.C., the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
That night, a sample was taken to the C.D.C. for definitive testing. Those tests were completed yesterday morning. Mayor Bloomberg announced the case at 3:30 p.m. in a City Hall news conference.
Dr. Rotz, the epidemiologist, said federal officials would try to determine whether health officials at every level acted as quickly as possible. "We always realize that time is of the essence when it comes to these investigations," she said. "Anthrax can be a challenge to diagnose."
She added, "We are definitely reviewing the sequence of events here to see if there's anything we can do to speed up the process, and if there is, then we'll do that."
Mark J. Mershon, the assistant director in charge of the F.B.I. field office in New York City, said there was no indication that the skins were smuggled into the country.
Although outbreaks of anthrax still occur in areas that lack livestock immunization programs, the last accidental case of inhalation anthrax in the United States occurred in 1976, according to the federal disease center.
Reporting for this article was provided by Lawrence K. Altman, Al Baker, Kate Hammer, David Johnston, William K. Rashbaum, Marc Santora, Ann Farmer, Colin Moynihan and Matthew Sweeney.
February 24, 2006
Drum Maker in Brooklyn Has No Fear of Anthrax
By ANDY NEWMAN
Ibrahima Diokhane spends most of his waking life surrounded by goatskin.
His shop, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, is crammed with West African drums of every shape and size, all crowned in goatskin that Mr. Diokhane personally fetches from his native Senegal.
Down below in the cramped basement, where Mr. Diokhane stretches the skins across the heads of the wooden drums, the air is saturated with a pleasant, gamy leather smell. Goat hides hang from a line, drying, some still covered in the black and brown hair of their original owners.
Even after a day of being bombarded by news reports that an African drummer and craftsman in Brooklyn had contracted anthrax from working with unprocessed goatskins, Mr. Diokhane (pronounced jah-KHAH-nay) said he was not afraid of getting sick.
"I used to hear of anthrax coming from the post office by the mail," he said yesterday. "I never hear of it coming from a drum. I never hear of anyone getting sick from a drum."
In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Michael Marcus, who has worked with goatskin drums for a decade, is not reaching for the Cipro pills to fend off anthrax, though he says he has a drummer friend who contracted skin anthrax after handling goatskins in a village in Guinea several years ago.
Mr. Marcus said his main fear is the government.
In the expanding community of devotees of the West African drum called the djembe, the anthrax case stirred concern that American officials would curb imports of the African goatskins that they say are essential to the full-bodied sound of an authentic drum.
The city's health department said yesterday that imported animal hides and pelts are generally not seen as posing a risk for inhalation anthrax, and that drums in particular pose no health risk.
Mr. Diokhane, however, is prepared for the worst. "I think they're going to crack down," he said.
When people talk about West African drums, they usually mean the djembe, a tall drum shaped like a top-heavy hourglass with a web of taut ropes attached to the head.
Mr. Marcus, who runs a drum studio and an import business, said the djembe, with its wide tonal range, is the most popular hand drum in the country now, more popular even than the better-known conga drum. The djembe turns up in nightclubs, in informal African drumming circles in city parks, and in hundreds of school music programs.
Each drum needs a skin, and the skins don't last forever. That is where the importer-repairman comes in. Mr. Marcus said there are several dozen people in New York City who import drum skins.
Twice a year, Mr. Diokhane goes to Senegal and picks out goats for slaughter. He helps prepare the skins, which are soaked in water, shaved with a razor blade and dried. Then he ships them to New York, where they are typically held by the federal Department of Agriculture for several weeks, he said.
Back in the basement of his Brooklyn shop, Keur Djembe on Union Street, Mr. Diokhane washes the skins in a bleach solution to disinfect and whiten them, shaves and air-dries them again, fits them to the head of a drum and tunes the ropes by hand. "I soak myself in the skin every single day," he said.
Mr. Diokhane and Mr. Marcus scoffed at the notion of using anything on a West African drum other than the skin of a lean, free-range West African goat. "American goatskins are terrible," Mr. Marcus said. "They're fatty and rubbery, they don't dry well. They're harder on your hands."
Skins of other animals, like cows, do not stretch nearly as well, Mr. Diokhane said.
His customer O'sow Danone, a musician from Ivory Coast, said: "In Africa, the drum was originally used for communication from one village to another. At night when you want to send a message, you need something that projects."
Even Mr. Marcus's friend who survived skin anthrax in his hand, Ryan Edwards, was not daunted by the disease, which he contracted in 1999.
"I saw it as a spiritual experience," said Mr. Edwards, who lives in Michigan. "I went to an old medicine woman, who got out this rock and pounded a green herb into a paste and put it on my hand. She said, 'If you don't touch any women, don't take a bath for three days, all the evil that's in your hand will leave it.' "
It worked. After he returned to the United States, he said, doctors found dead anthrax cells in his hand. Not everyone is sure the skins are safe. In the African bazaar that has grown up in the Chelsea Mini-Storage in Manhattan, a craftsman from Burkina Faso, Goulgoul, said he was done with drums.
"I don't want to fix djembe no more," Goulgoul said, adding: "Have six kids in Africa. Two wives. Me die here, this problem for me. No good."
But most of Goulgoul's business is repairing wooden sculptures. He can afford to turn away drum work. Mr. Diokhane cannot.
Mr. Danone, the musician, said he had faith that reason would prevail. "This is a very sensitive moment we're living in," he said. "But we cannot live in fear. If America lives in fear, the whole rest of the world lives in fear. It's unfortunate that this has happened in America. But I think we'll get back to the groove."
February 24, 2006
Where Tracking Anthrax Begins With the Honor System
By AL BAKER and MARC SANTORA
Vado Diomande left New York for West Africa in early December. He went through Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, and to his hometown, a dusty speck of a village so small that it is not identified on many maps.
There, in Tousingha, or on the road to it, Mr. Diomande, 44, bought five goatskins that authorities say he sent on a plane to a warehouse in Brooklyn, where he cleaned them and turned them into the drums that made the music he spent much of his life celebrating.
Officials suspect that the skins he bought during his two-week trip to Africa ultimately made him sick with inhalation anthrax — an extremely rare affliction, and a development that for New Yorkers amounted to a jarring flashback to the scares of October 2001.
Interviews and records show that the authorities had at least two chances to prevent the spread of the disease and that both, in the end, depended on Mr. Diomande's telling them the details about what he was bringing back from Africa. As of yesterday, it appeared he had not, officials said.
The first time that Mr. Diomande, who lives in Greenwich Village, was obligated to inform authorities about his purchases was when he packed the shipments of goatskins to send them out of Ivory Coast as cargo. A law enforcement official said that Mr. Diomande shipped the skins in a plane's cargo hold, not as part of his carry-on bags or checked personal luggage. It is unclear on what date he did this.
But United States Customs and Border Protection officials in New York and Washington say that if Mr. Diomande had followed regulations precisely, an entry form filed with a Customs broker would have spelled out what was being imported.
The second opportunity for Mr. Diomande to reveal his cargo was when he flew to Kennedy International Airport on Dec. 20, on an American Airlines flight. He was subjected to standard questioning, but officials say it appears he did not tell anyone of his shipment. Had he said anything at any point, a long list of standard procedures would have kicked in. Customs agents say they would have debriefed him more thoroughly, and federal agriculture officials very likely would have become involved.
"Absolutely, there are questions on the Customs declarations asking if the person is importing any type of animals, plants or meats, or whether they have been on a farm," said Lucille Cirillo, a supervisory Customs and Border Protection officer in the New York field office. "All the indications that I have gotten are that Mr. Diomande did not declare anything on his Customs declaration on the 20th of December."
She added that in "everything I looked at from his travel, there is nothing to indicate he had skins. If he had them, he should have declared them."
Experts in the field say that Mr. Diomande's case makes clear a fundamental reality: it is all but impossible to systematically stop the entrance of all potentially lethal germs, whether anthrax or other organisms, in plants, insects or animals. The ports are porous, and systems are not in place to inspect everything, law enforcement officials said. So, little winds up being thoroughly reviewed, in part to keep the travel and commerce of the world moving. And, despite the presence of security agents, a great deal hinges on the honor system.
Moreover, some experts believe that Customs and agriculture officials are still working to refine their joint efforts.
In March 2003, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, inspectors from Customs merged with inspectors from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to form a unified border agency. It was called Customs and Border Protection, a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The new agency's primary mission was to prevent terrorists and their weapons from entering the United States. But it still had to enforce traditional missions, which include preventing the illegal importation of merchandise. The mission of the agriculture specialists is to prevent diseases that could jeopardize American plant and animal life.
One law enforcement official said that while being "under one roof" theoretically makes for better coordination, "the merger is still seen as a work in progress in a lot of places." Over the past two days, people from the different branches of the agency were giving conflicting information, with each repeatedly steering questions from reporters to their counterpart agencies.
Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, said that preventing dangerous agents at ports of entry was impossible with the current technology. But he suggested that it was critical that various arms of the federal government charged with watching the borders work together.
However, the real question is what is done once the agent is in the country. He cited three critical areas: early detection, enhanced laboratory capacity to do the necessary testing and vigilant clinicians who are trained to make a diagnosis.
"Despite billions of dollars in expenditures, I don't think the nation has made significant progress in those areas," Dr. Redlener said. "I still think we have work to do."
Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, say that any emphasis on anthrax at the borders might be somewhat misdirected. Criminals seeking to obtain anthrax, harvest it and make a weapon out of it could get it from a domestic source — a farm in the Southwest, for instance, without risking an overseas crossing. Someone interested in it for malicious reasons, the officials say, could probably find where dead cows are buried.
In addition, said Dr. Philip S. Brachman, who worked as an anthrax investigator with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more than two decades, making a weapon from an infected animal skin is a hard task, and sometimes a deadly one.
Mr. Diomande seems to have some level of awareness of the dangerous nature of the skins he worked with, a law enforcement official said. In interviews with him and his relatives, authorities learned that once he made his drums, he stripped off his clothes, put them in a hamper and showered.
If his cache of skins had been found, he very likely would have faced a civil penalty, but not criminal charges, a Customs official said. Once he became ill, city and federal officials said, he was extremely cooperative in discussing the skins. They said that he harbored no malicious intent, though he — like many travelers — did not disclose what he was bringing into the country at the time.
Even experts said they were shocked to see a case of inhalation anthrax from an animal hide; the last known case was in 1954, in Pennsylvania. In 1976, a California man fell ill making a rug with goat-hair fibers.
By the time the authorities got to Mr. Diomande's Brooklyn warehouse on Wednesday, three of the skins made into drums had been sold; a fourth was stretched over a drum there.
With port security center stage in Washington over the outsourcing of port ownership to a Middle Eastern country, both Republicans and Democrats were quick to highlight the possible security implications of this case.
"Obviously, the fact that anthrax got into the country and it got through Customs without being detected raises questions," said Representative Peter T. King, a Republican from Long Island, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "We will have to have an after-action report to find out what happened and what has to be changed in the future."
February 25, 2006
Anthrax Traces Found at 3 Sites as Victim Worsens
By MARC SANTORA and AL BAKER
The Greenwich Village home of a man infected with inhalation anthrax after working with unprocessed animal skins tested positive for the deadly germ, city officials said yesterday. Tests on the van and workplace used by the man, Vado Diomande, also tested positive for traces of anthrax.
At the same time, Mr. Diomande's health worsened. Officials at a Pennsylvania hospital where he is being treated said he was having trouble breathing and have downgraded his condition to serious from stable.
Mr. Diomande is the only person found to have been infected with anthrax in this case, which he is thought to have contracted while working with goatskins to make traditional African drums. However, since Thursday investigators have expanded their search to include two new locations as they tried to pinpoint the exact origin of the anthrax.
The testing done so far supports the hypothesis that the germ was carried on animal skins. Mr. Diomande has told investigators that he brought unprocessed skins into the United States from Africa.
One of the two new locations investigators are looking at is a garage on Argyle Road in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, where they believe Mr. Diomande also obtained animal skins. The police said 50 to 60 animal skins were found stored there and city officials said they were working with Customs officials to determine if they were legally obtained. The health department said it had not yet tested the garage.
The other location is a Crown Heights home where a man may have worked with skins obtained from Mr. Diomande. Test results for anthrax traces at the home, at 1100 Dean Street, were not complete yesterday.
With investigators in white biohazard suits scouring locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan for traces of anthrax, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called a news conference to once again reassure the public that this case was not the result of terrorism and that there was no threat to the general public.
"This is not a surprise and should not cause alarm," Mayor Bloomberg said. "These tests are extremely sensitive as they must be; they can detect the presence of even a teeny number of bacteria."
Still, while the case seems to be the result of a rare and isolated case of bad fortune, the investigation highlights the difficulty in tracing the path of a microscopic pathogen. It has been more than four years since anthrax entered public consciousness when it was used as a weapon, infecting 22 people in the country, killing 5 and instilling widespread fear. Those cases remain unsolved.
This case could not be more different than the 2001 situation. The anthrax spores are not weaponized and do not spread as easily or widely; the central figure in the investigation is cooperating; and there seems to be no malicious intent. Still, at least three locations, miles apart, are contaminated and it is proving very hard to pinpoint an exact source of the anthrax.
City officials have assumed that Mr. Diomande was probably infected from unprocessed goatskins he brought into New York from Ivory Coast, a West African nation where anthrax is still endemic in livestock. From his hospital bed, Mr. Diomande told officials of this journey and his purchase of the skins, which his relatives confirmed.
But Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city health commissioner, said that they still could not be sure that those skins were the source of the anthrax.
Mr. Diomande kept skins from several sources at his Brooklyn workspace. In addition, he told investigators that he also purchased skins from the dealer on Argyle Road.
Mr. Diomande's colleague in Crown Heights, whose name was not released, is one of seven people being treated with antibiotics out of what Mr. Bloomberg said was an abundance of caution. "Let me point out that they exhibit no symptoms of anthrax infection," he said. "We just want to be absolutely sure."
Dr. Frieden said the city's investigation had been aided by a $16 million high-security laboratory that opened in 2004. With dozens of samples being collected from each location, he said the laboratory had been working around the clock.
Those tests are extremely sensitive, which is why traces of anthrax have been found in Mr. Diomande's home, even though officials do not believe he kept animal skins there.
Mr. Diomande is thought to have become infected with inhalation anthrax at his workspace on Prince Street in Downtown Brooklyn. There, he pulled, stretched, and cut the hair from the unprocessed animal skin, most likely releasing anthrax spores that he inhaled. Unprocessed skins — which have not been chemically treated with a bacteria-killing agent like formaldehyde — are often used in traditional drum-making.
Mr. Diomande told investigators that he did not use respiratory protection. Inhaling anthrax is rare, even from contaminated skins. In 50 years, there have been only nine naturally occurring cases of inhalation anthrax associated with either animal hide or hair, officials said.
Investigators explained how the anthrax may have traveled: As Mr. Diomande worked, anthrax spores most likely settled on his clothes and then got into his Dodge van when he later drove home to his apartment at 31 Downing Street in Greenwich Village. When he removed his clothes to shower, the spores on his clothes probably fell to the floor.
The amount of anthrax he would have left behind at any one point was so minimal as to have posed virtually no risk, officials said.
Still, Mr. Bloomberg said officials planned to reach out to a city school where Mr. Diomande played his drums earlier this month to reassure parents that there was nothing to worry about. He also said that the public spaces in the buildings where anthrax traces were found would be cleaned, and that residences in those buildings would be scrubbed if their owners desired.
Residents of the Downing Street building took the developments in stride, even if a bit cautiously.
Stefan Schatz, 33, who lives on the second floor, said he would probably take the city up on its offer to clean his apartment. "It's been a little unnerving knowing anthrax has been in the building," he said.
Martha Rosas, 39, who also lives in the building, said that while she was "not fazed" by the episode, she wanted her apartment cleaned. "I will get the city to scrub my apartment," she said. She paused, and then added, "Because I have a child."
Kareem Fahim, Colin Moynihan and Jeremy Smerd contributed reporting for this article.
February 26, 2006
City Officials Await Anthrax Tests Results
By MANNY FERNANDEZ
The New York City man who contracted inhalation anthrax after working with untreated animal hides remained in serious condition yesterday, as the authorities awaited results of laboratory tests from the Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home of one of the man's colleagues.
The man, Vado Diomande, a 44-year-old drummer and dancer, is believed to have inhaled anthrax spores while working with unprocessed goatskins he brought into the United States from Africa. Mr. Diomande, who used the hides to make traditional African drums, collapsed on Feb. 16 after performing in Mansfield, Pa.
Mr. Diomande's apartment in Manhattan and his studio at a warehouse in Brooklyn where he worked with the skins tested positive for anthrax on Friday.
A Dodge van Mr. Diomande is believed to have used to transport the hides also tested positive. A residence in Crown Heights where Mr. Diomande's drumming colleague lived has also been tested, but results were still pending. Officials said untreated hides from Mr. Diomande's studio were taken to the Crown Heights apartment at 1100 Dean Street and processed.
Mr. Diomande's colleague, whose name has not been released, knows Mr. Diomande because he would often have his drums fixed by him, said a woman who identified herself as the man's girlfriend. The woman, who did not want her name used, said she was one of seven people officials have given antibiotics as a precaution.
At a building on Argyle Road in Ditmas Park West in Brooklyn, the police said they found 50 to 60 animal skins in the garage of a man they believe sold Mr. Diomande additional hides. The supplier is not the subject of a police investigation and did not appear to have any criminal ties, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department's chief spokesman.
Andrew Tucker, a spokesman for the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the agency was investigating areas where the hides were processed. He said no processing occurred at the Argyle Road location, and no tests for anthrax were done there since it did not pose a health risk.
Mr. Diomande's health worsened on Friday, when he was downgraded from stable to serious condition at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pa. A hospital spokeswoman did not provide details on his condition yesterday, except to say that doctors were working with experts from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on his treatment.
Reporting for this article was contributed by Kareem Fahim, John Holl, Winnie Huand Jeremy Smerd.