fervent believers in the theory that al Qaeda was
behind the anthrax attacks of 2001 do not seem to
be able to see the total lack of logic in their
For more than ten years, ever since October 2001, people with various theories that "the government" doesn't know the "truth" or is lying about the anthrax attacks of 2001 have been arguing their beliefs on the Internet and elsewhere. These people, sometimes called "Anthrax Truthers," each seem to have a unique theory that is not quite the same as any other "Anthrax Truther's" theory. Many believe the attacks were a massive US Government conspiracy to start a war with Iraq, some think it was a Jewish conspiracy, others think their next door neighbor did it, and some of the most vocal Anthrax Truthers heatedly argue that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001 - even though the facts clearly show that to be extremely unlikely. All believe that the culprit identified by the FBI, Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins, was innocent, since if they accepted Ivins' guilt, each individual Anthrax Truthers would have to admit he or she is wrong.
No amount of evidence can convince Anthrax Truthers of anything. They seem to believe that if the FBI would just look in the right places, they would quickly find even better evidence that would support whatever each Anthrax Truther believes. The Anthrax Truthers seem incapable of finding any meaningful evidence for themselves. So, for them it is all about opinions and beliefs.
Since Ivins' suicide in July 2008, the people with various theories that al Qaeda was behind the attacks have become a bit more vocal in arguing their case.
In July 2011, Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett clearly argued in favor of the al Qaeda Theory in her book "I Heard The Sirens Scream." And, in February of 2012, Dr. David Relman definitely seemed to be arguing in favor of the al Qaeda Theory in his review of Jeanne Guillemin's book "American Anthrax" in Science magazine. And, for the past 10 years, one Anthrax Truther on the Internet has been producing a flood of writings to promote his unshakable belief in his personal version of "the al Qaeda Theory."
So, exactly what is "The al Qaeda Theory"? It appears that no one who has an "al Qaeda Theory" has ever bothered to try to explain or summarize the key details. Mostly they just point out endless disconnected facts and imply those facts are all somehow connected, and they all point to al Qaeda.
Since no one who has an al Qaeda theory will concisely summarize their theory, I'll try to summarize them all together here as concisely as I can:
Al Qaeda Theory Summary
Since nearly every person who has an "al Qaeda theory" has a theory that is slightly different from all other such theories, there's no doubt that many who have an "al Qaeda theory" will disagree with some part of the summary above. If so, I welcome their suggestions about how the summary can be improved.
1. The "microencapsulation" sub-theory: One Anthrax Truther endlessly argues that the anthrax spores were microencapsulated in some form of Silicon, even though that is scientifically preposterous. And he claims it was done by a student of computational biology at George Mason University. I would add that to the "al Qaeda Theory," but I haven't been able to get answers to key questions:
Where do you believe the microencapsulation as done? In Afghanistan? In Canada? At George Mason University in Fairfax, VA? In New Jersey when they were near a place where there was a "particulate mixer"? Or did the al Qaeda members have a portable "microencapsulation kit" that they carried with them?
The microencapsulation done at George Mason University was a technique for reducing the effects of contamination when growing bacteria. It had nothing to do with spores.
2. The problems with The "people dusting" sub-theory: How could Mohamed Atta be thinking of using a crop duster to spray people with anthrax if he didn't have a large supply of anthrax ready to use? He applied for a loan to buy the crop duster, which suggests he was ready to put the crop duster into action as soon as the extra tank was installed. What happened to all that anthrax?
3. One Anthrax Truther argues that the 9/11 hijackers attended a mosque in Franklin Park, FL, and that's why Franklin Park, NJ, was part of the return address on the anthrax letters. The argument is illogical, since the letters were mailed near Franklin Park, NJ, the return address used the zip code for nearby Monmouth Junction, NJ., and if some al Qaeda member wanted to connect the letters to Franklin Park, FL, why wouldn't he just use FL as the state and use the Florida ZIP in the return address?
The Anthrax Truther also wrote:
On the return address, Greendale School purported to be in Franklin Park where fugitive Adnan El-Shukrijumah worshipped along with others who now have been indicted. The pilot El Shukrijumah is said to be at the level of Mohammed Atta and is thought to have been associated with Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-trained biologist. Mohammed Atta lived 11 miles away from this mosque across from Franklin Park.
This muddle of misinformation suggests that there is a school called "Greendale School" in Franklin Park, FL. There isn't any such school. It fails to point out that the "mosque across from Franklin Park" is across the street from a playground called "Franklin Park," (A) which is also in the town of Franklin Park, 13.7 miles from where Mohammed Atta lived (B). And according to this illogical theory, the town in the return address on the anthrax letters has nothing to do with the Franklin Park, New Jersey, which is 10 miles from where the letters were mailed.
1. Theorists have no problem believing a "computational biology" student at George Mason University could make the anthrax powders without being noticed, but they can't accept that Bruce Ivins who had an entire sophisticated lab to himself could do it.
2. Theorists have no problem believing a biology student at Montreal University could make the anthrax powders without being noticed, but they can't accept that Bruce Ivins who had an entire sophisticated lab to himself could do it.
3. Theorists argue that al Qaeda terrorists put medical advice in the first anthrax letters ("TAKE PENACILIN NOW") because Muslims are forbidden from using poisons (or anthrax) to cause mass casualties, yet they see no problem with al Qaeda terrorists using anthrax sprayed from crop dusters to cause mass casualties.
4. 9/11 terrorist Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi had the "anthrax lesion" on his leg when he entered the United States from overseas. How is that possible if the powders were made in Canada just prior to 9/11?
5. The same person who argues that the attack powders were made in Canada also argues that the J-Lo love letter contained the anthrax powder that killed Bob Stevens and contaminated the AMI building. Yet, facts clearly say that the letter that killed Bob Stevens and contaminated the AMI building was NOT the J-Lo letter, it was a different letter opened by Stephanie Dailey.
6. The sub-theory that the al Qaeda terrorists' rent money was contaminated with anthrax cannot explain how the AMI building was contaminated, how Bob Stevens was infected, or how the rent money could have been infected by powders made in Canada that were never transported to Florida.
7. It seems illogical to go through so much trouble to steal a sample of the Ames strain when there are so many other anthrax strains more accessible in the world, particularly since the Ames strain can be easily killed by many antibiotics, which makes it a bad choice for a bioweapon.
8. The sub-section of the al Qaeda Theory where the anthrax mailer kills himself and 264 others by using a shoe bomb to bring down American Airlines flight #587 implies that the shoe bomb was built in America and used on that outbound flight to the Caribbean. The facts indicate that shoe bombs and underwear bombs were constructed by one al Qaeda member - Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri. It seems illogical that al Qaeda would take the chance of smuggling a shoe bomb into America so they could use it on an outbound flight. Why not just use it on the flight that brought it to America? (Besides, the facts showed that flight #587 crashed because of "the first officer's overuse of rudder controls in response to wake turbulence." The rudder broke off, and the pilot lost control.)
All of the al Qaeda theories are illogical, although some more illogical than others. Each theorist seems to think his or her theory is best, even though they all use bogus science and rely on beliefs instead of facts.
UPDATES:June 19, 2012 -[ADDED NOTE: The following update is in error. Three samples were removed from RMR-1029 before the inventory log was officially started. See the comment on my web site dated Dec. 8, 2014 for further details.] - A believer in the al Qaeda Theory argued on my interactive blog that a sample of the Ames strain was given to Tarek Hamouda in May 1998. However, a check of the RMR-1029 Receipt Record shows that the first sample taken from flask RMR-1029 was removed on September 17, 1998. So, the FACTS say that it is illogical to believe that Hamouda was given a sample from flask RMR-1029 before the first known sample was removed. The Theory says that sample was turned over to some al Qaeda member for use in the letters three years later. The theory is illogical.
December 11, 2014 - Modified item #3 in the "Pending Modifications" section to explain that the mosque in the town of Franklin Park, Florida, was also across the street from a playground called "Franklin Park." But there's no reason to believe either had anything to do with the town of Franklin Park in New Jersey which was used in the return address on the anthrax letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy and which was near where the anthrax letters were actually mailed.
December 8, 2014 - Removed two sentences from item #1 in the al Qaeda theory summary, and I changed the June 19, 2012 note below to reflect the fact that the FBI found three occasions when RMR-1029 material was dispensed or removed prior to the start of the RMR-1029 inventory log on September 17,1998.
When confronted with these facts, the Anthrax Truther next argued that Bruce Ivins wrote in an email that "it was NOT standard practice" to record the transfer of samples of the Ames strain within USAMRIID. However, if transfers out of flask RMR-1029 weren't recorded, the amounts remaining on the Receipt Record wouldn't add up. They do add up. Plus, the FBI Repository found 606 samples of the Ames strain at USAMRIID, and only 7 samples had the morphs from flask RMR-1029. If many unrecorded samples had been taken from flask RMR-1029, there should have been FBIR samples with the morphs but without any known connection to flask RMR-1029. There weren't any.
I modified item #1 in the al Qaeda Theory summary to reflect this new information.