Anthrax Articles from Miscellaneous Sources - Part 2
The Public I - Special Report - Sept. 12, 2001

U.S. Biological Weapons Lab Locked Down, 50 Miles from Pentagon

By Peter Eisner

(Washington, Sept. 12) Shortly after a fuel-laden jetliner plowed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, the U.S. Army quietly locked down a sensitive Army biological weapons lab at Fort Detrick, 50 miles to the north, in Frederick, Md. As the 3,804 civilian and military personnel at the 1,153-acre facility were evacuated, they looked up to see droning military helicopters patrolling the airspace around it. 

Fort Detrick conducts research to defend the United States against some of the most deadly biological agents in the world. Special protection of the facility is emblematic of the longtime major concern by intelligence officials that biological weapons are potentially the most dangerous weapons that could be employed by terrorists. 

"Frankly, when I heard the news, I thought, 'It's got to be biochemical,'" said Stan Bedlington, a retired CIA analyst at the agency's Counterterrorism Center.  "This is frightening enough and yet, you could take a small plane and sprinkle anthrax over New York City and wipe out half the population." 

Now, in the aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon disasters, there are differing opinions about the likelihood of such attacks. Analysts warn that their catastrophic nature cannot be diminished. But somewhat ironically, after Sept. 11, the very unpredictability of biological weapons makes them less useful to terrorists. 

"If biological weapons are as likely to be chaotic and catastrophic as some people think, why have they been so infrequently used?" said Leonard A. Cole, an author and political scientist at Rutgers University-Newark who has written extensively about terrorist threats by biological, chemical and nuclear means. 

"On a theoretical level, one could create a scenario that would be horrible," Cole said in a telephone interview. "But it is far less predictable that all the factors will produce the terrorist's desired effect." 

Yet there is significant concern about the potential of all parameters coming together to produce a devastatingly lethal biological attack. 

"The combination of available technology and lethality has made biological weapons at least as deadly a danger as the better known chemical and nuclear threats. The bombings in East Africa [against U.S. embassies] killed hundreds," wrote John Deutch, former director of the CIA, in a 1998 Harvard University study.

"A successful attack with weapons of mass destruction could certainly kill thousands, or tens of thousands," according to the study. "If the device that exploded in 1993 under the World Trade Center had been nuclear, or the distribution of a deadly pathogen, the chaos and devastation would have gone far beyond our meager ability to describe." 

Of greatest concern is the virus that causes smallpox, a disease with a 30 percent death rate. Smallpox was wiped from the planet 24 years ago in a global vaccination program. There are only two supplies of the virus left: one under tight security at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and another at a Siberian laboratory in Russia. 

According to Dr. D.A. Henderson, an epidemiologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies in Baltimore, evidence suggests the virus may have been replicated. 

While biological weapons are relatively easy to produce, the successful dispersion of such weapons depends on a series of physical and atmospheric conditions. A biological agent has to be dispersed over populated areas with winds blowing in the right direction and at proper altitude. Agents such as anthrax, against which the military is conducting a particularly vigorous vaccine program, can be mass produced, Cole said. 

But the variables involved make a predictable outcome less likely for a terrorist. "Nothing could be more predictable than the consequence of smashing a large jetliner into a skyscraper," he said. 

Fort Detrick is a logical site to defend. Research into biological weapons there in the past has included such agents as anthrax and plague. 

The United States learned that the Soviet Union breached the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention prohibiting such research and continued to develop biological weapons into the 1990s. 

For its part, the United States said it stuck to developing defense strategies for biological attacks. Critics have sometimes charged that since developing defensive strategies presupposes the need for testing material, the United States could quickly gear up to produce an offensive biological capacity. 

"If I have a small amount of anthrax, it would take a few days to develop a huge arsenal of anthrax," Cole said. "In 10 hours, one bacteria can yield a billion. A knowledgeable high school graduate could do it." 

Peter Eisner is managing director of the Center for Public Integrity. Delthia Ricks of Newsday contributed to this report, which first appeared in Newsday.

Labs work overtime to find anthrax source

17:50 05 October 01
Debora MacKenzie

Frantic laboratory work is underway in the US this weekend, as scientists try to find out how a 63-year-old man developed a rare form of anthrax. The tests should reveal whether the bacteria were left by a dead animal half a century ago, escaped from a laboratory - or even formed part of a terrorist attack that might claim more victims.

The anthrax genome is among the least variable known. Only a few US labs can tease apart subtle genetic variants, compare them to strains from around the world, and say whether it is a strain common in US livestock, used in US labs, or suspected of use in weapons development.

A 63-year-old resident of Lantana, Florida, developed headache and fever on Sunday while visiting Duke University in North Carolina. Doctors testing for meningitis in Florida found anthrax bacilli in his spinal fluid. 

An X-ray revealed an enlarged space under the breastbone. This is unique to the pneumonic form of anthrax, which is almost invariably fatal if antibiotic treatment begins after symptoms start. The US Centers for Disease Control confirmed the diagnosis on Thursday.

"No one has any idea where this came from," says Martin Hugh-Jones of Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, head of the World Health Organisation's working group on anthrax. 

Lurking spores 

Anthrax is primarily a disease of animals. Humans get it mainly from infected meat or wool. Bacteria from animal carcasses can also lurk as spores in the soil for decades. 

But animal anthrax has been eradicated east of the Mississippi River in the US. The last cases in Florida were in 1956. The Florida man may have inhaled dust harbouring spores from a long-dead animal - or spores that strayed accidentally from anthrax research labs at Duke. He could also have inhaled them from imported wool.

But he is extremely unlucky. Most human anthrax cases are skin infections. Of the 234 human cases in the US between 1955 and 1991, only eleven were pneumonic.

The fear is that the bacteria were deliberately released. US health secretary Tommy Thompson said there was no evidence that such an isolated case resulted from terrorism. But health authorities in the US are on heightened alert in case there are more.

The Al-Qaeda group suspected of the 11 September terrorist attacks is allied to Iraq, and to Chechen rebels in the former Soviet Union. Iraq and the Soviet Union both developed anthrax weapons consisting of aerosolised spores that would cause pneumonic disease. The group is also known to be interested in bioweapons. 

17:50 05 October 01

Florida cases likely to be first ever anthrax attack 

16:09 09 October 01
Debora MacKenzie

A man who died of the rare pneumonic form of anthrax on Friday now appears to have been the victim of a deliberate attack. If confirmed, the case will be the first documented and fatal attack with anthrax, long feared as a biological weapon.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has now launched a criminal investigation into the death of Robert Stevens of Lantana, Florida, after anthrax bacilli were detected on his keyboard at work, and in the nasal passages of a 73-year-old man who worked in his company's mailroom. That man has not been confirmed as having developed clinical anthrax.

Another employee who developed pneumonia symptoms may also have anthrax. So might a man in Virginia with suspicious symptoms who recently visited the company, American Media Incorporated, publisher of supermarket tabloids The Sun and The National Enquirer. 

Florida Senator Bob Graham told newspapers that, according to his briefings by top US health officials, the chance that two people in the same office would inhale anthrax spores "by anything other than human intervention was nil to none". The bacteria on the first victim's keyboard also seem to rule out earlier speculations that he might have inhaled spores from imported wool, or from soil contaminated by a long-dead animal.

Letter bomb 

Safety-suited specialists from state and federal agencies are examining the company's office building in Boca Raton, Florida for further contamination. The US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta wants anyone who worked in the building after 1 August to start taking antibiotics.

The anthrax spores may have been sent in the post. Since the threat of bioterrorism began getting widespread publicity in the US three years ago, dozens of offices have received envelopes containing powders alleged to be anthrax. Not one that was tested contained anthrax, raising the possibility that Stevens might have received a similar envelope but dismissed it as a hoax.

Britain, the US, the Soviet Union, Iraq and possibly others have worked on anthrax weapons. At least 64 people died in an accidental release of weaponised anthrax in Sverdlovsk, Russia in 1979. But a deliberate and successful attack is unknown - a point often cited by defence specialists who consider biological attack unlikely.

The Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan, which released nerve gas on the Tokyo underground in 1995, tried to develop anthrax weapons, but apparently never got beyond practice runs with a non-lethal strain.   Allegations that South African anthrax was released in Zimbabwe during its independence struggles have never been confirmed. 

Scientists in the US are analysing the anthrax that killed Stevens, and comparing it to strains from around the world, in an effort to trace the bacteria's geographic origins. The results have not yet been announced.

16:09 09 October 01

Oct. 4, 2001 

Lantana man hospitalized with anthrax


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A 63-year-old man has been hospitalized with pulmonary anthrax, Florida Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan said Thursday.

Anthrax has been developed by some countries as a possible biological weapon, but Brogan said there was no indication the illness was related to bioterrorism.

The Lantana, Fla. man, whose name was not released, checked into a hospital on Tuesday and it was initially believed he had meningitis, Brogan said. But testing and X-rays showed that it was pulmonary anthrax, an extremely lethal disease. It is treated with antibiotics.

Florida Secretary of Health John Agwunobi said the disease is not contagious and there is no indication that anyone else has it. The disease, while rare, can be caught naturally.

Brogan said the man had recently traveled to North Carolina and became ill shortly after he returned. The incubation period for the disease can be 60 days.

Tim O'Connor, spokesman for the Palm Beach health department, said officials believe the case is isolated and it is "very likely" to be fatal.

Palm Beach County health officials have scheduled a news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the case.

Anthrax is a spore-forming bacterium often carried by livestock that is especially virulent if inhaled. The disease causes pneumonia and the spores germinate and spread through the lungs, releasing toxin.

There is a vaccine to prevent the disease.

Anthrax can be caught by handling infected animals, eating contaminated meat or breathing in anthrax spores. All forms are rare, but the most recent cases -- including ones in Texas and North Dakota -- have been so-called cutaneous cases resulting from handling animals.

During the 20th century, only 18 cases of inhaled anthrax have been reported in the United States, the most recent in 1976.

Original URL:

Scientist's anthrax claim was bogus

Man with doctorate degree in chemistry was drunk, police say

of the Journal Sentinel staff

Last Updated: Oct. 4, 2001

A week after the terrorist attacks on America, a highly educated scientist told Milwaukee police that he was building an anthrax delivery system in his basement, according to documents filed in federal court.

In these times of heightened alert, the remark earned the man a visit from FBI agents armed with a search warrant, who took the man's computer, and keypads from a telephone and a microwave oven, according to court records. But no deadly anthrax.

As it turns out, police were responding to a neighbor dispute, and the man was intoxicated when he made the anthrax comments to police.

FBI spokeswoman Cathy Fahey said no further investigation is planned and the man, whose resume says he has a doctorate in nuclear and environmental chemistry, is not likely to be charged.

The affidavit says the man apparently was intoxicated when he made the anthrax statement to police just days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks left the nation with heightened vigilance against potential biological or chemical threats.

About 200 pounds of anthrax spores released upwind of Washington, D.C., could kill up to 3 million people, according to a government study.

Police were summoned to the man's west side home Sept. 18 by his mother, who feared he would get into a physical confrontation with a neighbor over damage her son allegedly did with a lawn mower to the neighbor's property.

The woman "indicated that her son was usually not violent, but had recently developed an alcohol problem and is unable to control his temper after drinking," according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Parker Shipley.

The affidavit was filed last week in support of a request for a search warrant. The search was conducted Friday.

The affidavit says the man told officers he had worked for subcontractors of the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy as a senior research scientist.

His resume, which he provided to the officers, "indicates that his specialty is in the areas of radio chemistry, military ordnance and munitions, and decontamination," the affidavit says.

The man's employment history was verified with a former employer, the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio. He was fired twice - in 1996 and 1999 - from his job there as a senior research scientist, according to the affidavit and the man's resume, which also was filed in court.

Battelle "had reason" to search the man's home after he was fired the second time, the affidavit says.

The searchers found chemicals that were not illegal to possess, but an informant told the FBI that the man "has the knowledge and experience to utilize the chemicals that were found in his basement to make a lethal chemical agent," the affidavit says.

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Oct. 5, 2001.

The J.Lo-Anthrax Connection?
by Josh Grossberg 
Oct 9, 2001, 1:15 PM PT 

In a bizarre development, J.Lo's name has come up in connection with the Florida anthrax scare. 

Newsweek's Website reported Monday that a "weird love letter to Jennifer Lopez" containing what was described as a "soapy, powdery substance" was sent to the Boca Raton, Florida, man who died of anthrax over the weekend. 

That man, identified as 63-year-old Bob Stevens, a photo editor for the Sun tabloid, died on Sunday as a result of exposure to a rare strain of anthrax which was also found on his keyboard in the office were he worked at American Media Inc., home to many of the nation's biggest supermarket tabs. The offices have been sealed and workers have been reporting to health centers to be checked for the bacteria. 

Citing unnamed sources, Newsweek says Stevens received the letter a week before the September 11 attacks.  Stevens and coworker Ernesto Blanco, 73, a mailroom employee who tested positive for anthrax bacteria in his nose, both reportedly handled the letter, which also contained a Star of David charm. The origin of the note is reportedly being investigated. 

The FBI has not commented on the letter. 

MSNBC contradicts the Newsweek story, saying neither Stevens nor Blanco touched the letter. A third, unidentified man reportedly opened the letter and threw it out. He did not contract anthrax, MSNBC reports. 

And according to the Associated Press, law-enforcement officials don't believe there is a real link between the infections and the note. They think the men were exposed to the potentially lethal bacteria by other means. 

Stevens lived just a mile from an airfield where suspected hijacker Mohamed Atta trained to fly. Coincidentally, employees at a crop-dusting business approximately 40 miles from Stevens' residence also identified several hijackers who expressed interest in renting their crop-dusters. 

J.Lo's camp, meanwhile, had little to say about the Newsweek report. 

"I'm not going to comment on unsubstantiated rumor at this point," says publicist Alan Nierob. 

He also refused to say whether the recently married actress-turned-pop star was going to be more vigilant in checking her mail from now on.

Anthrax found in Boca appears to be manmade in Iowa lab: CNN
Posted October 10 2001, 1:20 PM EDT

CNN reported Wednesday morning that the anthrax virus that killed a Lantana man and was found in his Boca Raton office appears to be manmade and apparently produced in an American lab about 50 years ago.

The television network reported that the anthrax that was found in a newspaper office in Boca appears to have been made in a lab in Iowa, one of only two in the United States, that made the deadly disease for research purposes.

The report also said the anthrax used in south Palm Beach County was probably manufactured sometime in the 1950s.

It is not yet known how the anthrax ended up in the Boca Raton headquarters of American Media Inc., which publishes a number of supermarket-type news tabloids.

But if true that the anthrax found at AMI was manmade it would quickly move the Boca Raton anthrax incident and the death of Robert Stevens into a criminal investigation mode.

Also, CNN pointed out investigators will have to backtrack the path the anthrax sample found in Boca Raton took over the years before appearing ere. CNN's sources did not identify the Iowa lab, and did not know if it was still in operation.

Officials said more testing is needed from the anthrax spores found in the late Stevens, on his computer keyboard at work and in the nasal passages of co-worker Ernesto Blanco, 73, a mailroom worker at AMI.

Stevens, 63, a photo editor with the Sun tabloid at AMI, died last week of inhaled anthrax, a rare, but particularly lethal form of the disease.

Blanco was listed in good condition at a Miami hospital.

On Tuesday, federal officials had said they believed the bacteria was manmade, but later said tests had not been completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Health officials have emphasized that there is no public health threat.

Still, some 770 fellow employees and others who visited the AMI offices are awaiting test results to determine whether they had contact with the anthrax at the Boca headquarters of American Media Inc. It could take days for the nasal swab test results to come back. Follow-up blood tests also were planned, and those results could take weeks.

After anthrax exposure, worker fine, back on job

By Dahleen Glanton and Jeremy Manier, Tribune staff reporters. Tribune correspondent Dahleen Glanton reported from Florida; Jeremy Manier reported from Chicago

October 12, 2001

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. -- As many Americans struggled with the fear of a possible bioterrorist attack, Stephanie Dailey, the third person at a Florida company found to have been exposed to anthrax, stood calmly in her front yard Thursday and declared that she is not afraid.

The day after learning that her nasal swab tested positive for spores of the rare bacteria, Dailey, 36, returned to her job as an office services clerk at American Media Inc. The publishing company has moved to a temporary location since state health officials quarantined its Boca Raton headquarters pending a criminal investigation into anthrax contamination.

"I just want everybody to know that I'm fine. I went to work today and I'm taking my medicine like everybody else," said Dailey, who was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt as she returned home from her job. "You've got to go back and get going."

Dailey, who distributes letters and packages at AMI, which publishes the National Enquirer, The Star, the Weekly World News and The Sun tabloids, is the company's second mailroom employee to be exposed to anthrax. She worked alongside Ernesto Blanco, 73, who tested positive last weekend for anthrax spores in his nose. Bob Stevens, 63, a photo editor at The Sun, died Oct. 5 of inhaled anthrax.

Dailey said she took the nasal swab test on Monday and was called into her supervisor's office Wednesday to be told the results.

"The first moment was shock and I called my parents. You don't know what all of it means until it's explained to you," said Dailey. "I am calm about this because of my faith in God. I know everything will be OK."

Dailey has no suspicious symptoms; in fact, officials said the mere presence of spores in her nose does not mean she would have developed full-blown anthrax. Her prognosis is excellent if she takes the antibiotics she has been prescribed.

Officials have said the contamination is confined to the AMI building in Boca Raton, where anthrax spores turned up on Stevens' computer keyboard. On Thursday, federal officials also found anthrax spores in the mailroom.

Still, many Florida residents have panicked, rushing to their doctors for examinations, inundating health officials with reports of mail with powdery substances they believe is anthrax. After one building near Miami had been evacuated, prompted by the delivery of a package containing white powder, workers were hosed off in their business suits.

So far none of those reports have proven valid, authorities said.

The FBI has sent bags taken from the AMI office to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to be tested for anthrax. Preliminary results were expected within the next few days.

The only evidence the FBI has acknowledged in the case are the microscopic spores of bacteria taken from the scene and from contaminated individuals.

But even as investigators bring some of the most sophisticated genetic analysis tools to bear on those samples, some experts say it likely will take much more than that to track down whoever committed the crime.

Initial signs were that the Florida bacteria resembled a variety known as the "Ames strain," which is widely used in research laboratories around the world. Yet even if the anthrax belongs to the Ames strain, that doesn't necessarily mean it came from a lab, experts said.

Martin Hugh-Jones, an epidemiologist and anthrax expert at Louisiana State University, said the Ames strain showed up in the field as recently as 1997, during a natural outbreak of anthrax among livestock in Terrell, Texas.

The implication, experts said, is that whoever released the anthrax could have obtained it from animals with the disease. That, along with the more likely possibility that the bacteria came from one of hundreds of labs known to work with anthrax, makes tracing the germ to a specific source a monumental task.

"It won't be easily identified just because you found the closest strain match," said Calvin Chue, a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies. "I'm sure they'll have to do a lot more work to say where it came from."

It could take weeks just to fully characterize what strain of anthrax is involved in the Florida contamination, according to the CDC.

Postal workers tested for anthrax

of the Journal Sentinel staff

Last Updated: Oct. 12, 2001

Boca Raton, Fla. - Federal officials on Friday started testing postal workers here for exposure to anthrax after saying publicly for the first time that they suspect the bacteria found in three people and their office building came in the mail.

"This is a step of extraordinary caution to ensure the public's safety," said Bradley Perkins, the leader of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team in Boca Raton.

"This is a precautionary, I have to underline very precautionary, measure, but we believe it is a prudent measure because we've always stated that public health is our first priority in this investigation," said Hector Pesquera, special agent in charge of the FBI in Miami.

He repeated that there is no evidence to link the anthrax exposures to terrorists, though the FBI has said it is a criminal case.

Pesquera also said there is "no link whatsoever so far" between the anthrax cases in Florida and the one discovered Friday in New York, but he said New York's investigation is so new that it's "in the infancy stage."

Although the cases in the two states involve different modes of exposure to anthrax - skin in New York vs. inhaled in Florida - the bacteria could be the same strain or from a common source.

In New York, authorities haven't yet found anthrax bacteria or spores from a letter they suspect carried the substance. In Florida, they have bacteria and spores from three victims and the building but no letter that can be tested, an FBI spokeswoman said.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Pesquera confirmed that anthrax had been found in a mail bin at the sealed-off American Media building, which publishes a variety of supermarket tabloids. Last Friday, Robert Stevens, a photo editor at the tabloid The Sun, died of anthrax he inhaled.

On Monday, officials announced that anthrax spores were found in the nose of 73-year-old mail courier Ernesto Blanco and on Stevens' computer keyboard. On Wednesday, another employee involved in mail delivery, 36-year-old Stephanie Dailey, was found to have anthrax in her nose.

Pesquera said Blanco's job was to go to post offices early each morning and collect mail for American Media, then sort it into bins for each tabloid. Dailey's job involved distributing the mail in the building.

Over the weekend, the CDC will screen thousands of mail handlers at three Boca Raton post offices to determine which among them may have handled mail destined for American Media and, therefore, ought to have a nose swab test for the germ, Pesquera said.

"We are applying methods that are quite common in public health, and that is the identification of concentric circles of possible risk for exposure," Perkins said.

Under that principle, if certain handlers are found to have been exposed to anthrax, the investigation would be widened to take in people who may have handled items before them.

"Trust them," Pesquera said of CDC workers who would decide who should and should not be tested. "They're good at that, and we rely on them."

More interviews scheduled

Authorities also will interview about 800 people who worked for or visited American Media for information that may help the investigation.

Test results are pending for 78 new samples taken from the building on Friday and on fewer than 100 employees and visitors to the building.

"This is a non-traditional type of investigation" that depends most heavily on the answers that CDC is able to supply, Pesquera said. "We need patience" for the lab work and the health investigation to yield results, he said.

Douglas Beecher, a microbiologist from the FBI's hazardous materials response unit in Quantico, Va., said there was no evidence the anthrax in Florida had been genetically altered. The purpose of such manipulation, he said, would be to make the bacteria drug-resistant or more deadly, and that does not appear to have occurred because the bacteria are susceptible to many antibiotics, including the oldest, penicillin.

Meanwhile, Florida, like the rest of the nation, continued to deal with a rash of calls about suspicious letters, powders, packages and fumes. A bank office was closed Friday afternoon because of a package or safe-deposit box emitting noxious odors, and hazardous materials units checked out a flurry of false alarms at a variety of other businesses.

In Washington, officials of the U.S. Postal Service urged people on Friday to be wary of suspicious and unexpected mail.

"We're advising everybody to be cautious, particularly our employees," Postmaster General John E. Potter said. "Obviously, we have a heightened sense of awareness."

The Associated Press contributed to this story from Washington.

Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Oct. 13, 2001.


Letter to Brokaw traced

Newsday - October 14, 2001

By Joshua Robin and Rocco Parascandola, STAFF WRITERS

A letter postmarked Sept. 18 from Trenton, N.J., and containing sand-like granules is apparently the source of anthrax in an aide to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, authorities said yesterday.

The disease did not come from white powder found in a hate-filled letter postmarked Sept. 20 from St. Petersburg, Fla., as authorities had speculated.

It instead came in another threatening letter Erin O'Connor opened between Sept. 19-25, that was kept inside another envelope at NBC headquarters in Rockefeller Center until FBI agents discovered it Friday.

During the two weeks, the letter was handled by "a handful" of O'Connor's associates, who must now be tested, authorities said yesterday.

One employee, who sources said is a female intern, has shown symptoms of the illness, including a rash, fever and swollen lymph nodes. Dr. Neal Cohen, the city's health commissioner, said the unidentified individual is taking antibiotics and is doing well.

Cohen said a handful of other NBC employees who came into contact with the letter also are taking antibiotics. He emphasized it is safe for NBC employees to go to work. Officials said 358 people who work at the network have been tested.

"The public health risk associated with that building at this point is pretty close to negligible," he said.

It was unlikely that a white powder that fell on a New York Times reporter Friday contained anthrax, officials said. The letter to Judith Miller, postmarked Oct. 5 from St. Petersburg, also contained a hate-spewed missive. Another powder-filled letter postmarked from St. Petersburg and sent to the St. Petersburg Times also appeared unlikely to contain anthrax, officials in New York said.

Barry Mawn, the director of the FBI's New York City office, said agents retrieved the Trenton letter Friday while at NBC investigating the letter with the powder.

He would not release much information about the letter postmarked from Trenton, citing security concerns.

"All I'll give you on that is that there was no return address, it was an anonymous letter, white envelope," he said, adding that it was addressed to Brokaw. "There was a threat in the letter, but I'm not going to give you the wording." A source said the letter contained "general threats against America."

Although the brown granules had been discarded, the letter and envelope were tested Friday night, and health officials said a swab of the envelope was found to have traces of anthrax.

O'Connor, 38, is recovering, officials say.

"Now we have identified the missing link, so to speak," said NBC president and chief executive Robert C. Wright, who was at yesterday's news conference. Wright said a number of people at NBC News received threatening letters during the past several weeks. Not all of them were turned over to security officials, he said, even the one containing the granules.

Even though the envelope wasn't in an airtight container, it didn't necessarily pose a large public health risk, according to Dr. Stephen Ostroff, chief epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Simply keeping the envelope closed inside another envelope, which is apparently what happened - the risk associated with that ... is pretty close to zero," he said.

Investigators are still looking for those responsible for the hoaxes sent from St. Petersburg. "As far as we're concerned, these negatives ... are as serious [as the letter containing anthrax]," Mawn said.

Meanwhile, as word spread of what appears to be the city's first anthrax case, some New Yorkers with questions about the bacteria went to area emergency rooms, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said yesterday at a news conference.

Outside Columbia Presbyterian Center in Manhattan yesterday, postal worker Gerson Carrathala, 35, there visiting his father, said he is worried and is wearing gloves at work. Still, he had not considered getting hold of Cipro, the anti-anthrax drug.

His wife, Martha, 41, said she has put her trust in the government.

"We have to try and lead a normal life," she said.

St. Vincent's Hospital Manhattan spokesman Bill McCann said 30 such people came to the hospital Friday with questions. The stream stopped when Giuliani appeared on television and told the public not to worry, McCann said.

Giuliani did the same yesterday during the news conference. "Right now, we have one case," the mayor said.

Staff writer Sean Gardiner contributed to this story.

ABC Producer's Infant Contracts Anthrax of Skin
Disease: A 7-month-old boy took ill after a Sept. 28 newsroom visit. Six other New York news outlets being checked for the bacterium.

Times Staff Writer

October 16, 2001

NEW YORK — The 7-month-old son of an ABC News producer contracted the skin form of anthrax after visiting the network's Manhattan newsroom, officials said Monday.

Detectives and FBI agents questioned employees of the network and examined two floors of ABC News headquarters. As a precaution, police also sent teams of investigators to other major news organizations in New York to conduct environmental surveys to check for further outbreaks.

"The baby has responded to treatment, and we are very hopeful he is going to make a full and complete recovery," said Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

"At the same time, we will be conducting an environmental review to make sure the premises and the areas are safe," the mayor said at a news conference with other city officials and ABC News President David Westin. "We are doing that out of an excess of caution. We will interview a significant number of employees to try to re-create what happened. . . . We will see if we can trace it to a source."

Giuliani said no other cases of anthrax had been found at ABC News.

He said the infant visited the newsroom Sept. 28 "for a couple of hours." Network sources added that the baby was taken there by his mother, a producer for "World News Tonight." He got sick the next day, but the test results did not come back until Monday.

Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik announced that teams of detectives and FBI agents were sent Monday night to CNN, CBS, Associated Press, the New York Daily News, Fox News and the New York Post.

"We will be doing environmental surveys in and around the mail rooms," Kerik said. "This is strictly a precautionary measure to determine whether there is any indication there is any contamination in those areas."

The commissioner stressed that there were no people with symptoms at the six other news organizations.

Westin said the infant, whose identity was not disclosed, was hospitalized and that blood samples and biopsies tested in conjunction with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta had shown positive for cutaneous anthrax.

Investigators took samples and questioned employees on the floors containing the network's anchor desk and the desk for "World News Tonight," ABC's signature nightly newscast.

It was the second case of anthrax at a Manhattan news organization. Police and the FBI are investigating a letter postmarked from Trenton, N.J., that infected the assistant to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw with cutaneous anthrax.

Like the infant, she was being treated with antibiotics and was expected to recover.

Westin said ABC was confident it could protect the health of its employees, but at the same time he stressed: "We are taking this very seriously."

He said if the baby was exposed Sept. 28, it had to be from some anthrax spores that were left behind. Westin said it appeared the infant had visited two floors of ABC's news facilities.

Westin said it was possible, though unlikely, that the infant had become infected with the disease somewhere other than ABC News.

Barry Mawn, assistant FBI director in charge of the agency's New York office, said that comparisons would be made of the anthrax recovered from the infant, the NBC employee and other reported cases.

Both Kerik and Westin declined to label the cases at ABC and NBC as attacks on the media.

"We don't know what the motives of these people are," Westin said at the news conference.

"It is more important now than ever that we stick to what we know and putting it in context. . . . We are obviously concerned."

Times staff writer Elizabeth Jensen contributed to this report.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 10.19.2001

Experts doubt anthrax a domestic plot

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

Domestic anti-government groups that spawned the likes of Timothy McVeigh and Eric Robert Rudolph have neither the expertise nor the funding necessary to produce the quality of anthrax found in New York and Washington the last few days, according to experts who monitor those groups.

Although there was some speculation out of Washington late Wednesday that home-grown terrorists could be responsible for the anthrax found in a letter delivered to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the experts disputed that possibility Thursday.

"It's become pretty clear that it takes some sophistication to produce dangerous anthrax or weaponized anthrax, and we have no indication the people on the radical right have the ability to do it," said Mark Potok, a researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery.

Potok, who also edits a quarterly journal on hate groups and anti-government organizations, said there has been considerable talk among members of those groups about using bioterror agents, especially anthrax, but there is no indication they have followed through.

'Slim possibility'

Brian Levin, a professor of criminal justice and director of the center on Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said that "because of the sophistication needed to put together an anthrax threat and the timing of this, I think it's far more likely that this is foreign rather than domestic."

Jay Kaiman, Southeast director of the Anti-Defamation League in Atlanta, also discounted a concerted effort by a domestic group to spread anthrax.

"But there's always that slim possibility that there is one sick individual who has bought into conspiracy theories and anti-democratic ways of thinking who would resort to these types of threats. We should never take anything for granted," Kaiman said.

McVeigh acted in a very small group, and Rudolph is believed to have acted alone. McVeigh was executed earlier this year for masterminding and building the truck bomb that killed 168 and injured more than 500 at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Rudoph has been charged with the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta and subsequent bombings at an abortion clinic and a gay bar in the city as well as the slaying of a Birmingham police officer in an abortion clinic bombing there. He escaped to the mountains of North Carolina and remains a fugitive.

'A how-to manual'

There have been previous threats involving the radical right and bioterrorism, though.

In 1998, an Ohio microbiologist with ties to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations was arrested in Las Vegas by the FBI when he allegedly claimed he had enough anthrax to "wipe out the city." That turned out to be a hoax: A vial in his possession was found to contain veterinary vaccine. Larry Wayne Harris was on probation at the time for mail fraud for obtaining four vials of freeze-dried bubonic plague culture. He had his probation extended for the Las Vegas incident.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Web site, Harris also self-published a book called "Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to North America" that he peddled over the Internet and on Florida anti-abortion shortwave broadcasts. The book provided "extensive information on a host of deadly bacteria and the diseases they produce," according to the Web site, including anthrax, bacillary dysentery, brucellosis, cholera and bubonic plague.

"It certainly can be read as a how-to manual," Potok said.

In 1995, four members of the Minnesota Patriots Council were convicted of plotting to kill federal agents with the poison ricin, which is extracted from the castor bean plant. The four planned to smear doorknobs with the poison and had accumulated enough to kill more than 1,000 people.

Hoaxes at clinics

While dismissing home-grown terrorists in the current anthrax threats, the experts believe anti-abortionists are responsible for more than 100 hoax letters sent to abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood offices the last few days.

All the letters have "Secret Service" as the return address and "security update" printed in the lower left corner, said Kay Scott, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Georgia. One such letter, opened Monday at the organization's downtown office, contained a white powder that is still being analyzed, Scott said Thursday.

The letter was opened inside a plastic baggie by an employee wearing gloves and a mask, Scott said. Those precautions were introduced several years ago when clinics became targets for anti-abortion protesters, she said.

The employee will be decontaminated only if the tests come back positive, Scott said. "They said for us to wait but to take showers and bag our clothes. The room was wiped down with bleach," Scott said.

"It's very likely that those letters came from an American," Potok said. "It is highly implausible that any foreign Muslim fundamentalist group would be interested in American abortion clinics."

American Media has history of threats

By Darcie Lunsford and Ed Duggan 
Reprint of article in October 19, 2001, South Florida Business Journal 

The National Enquirer and its sister tabloids have a history of threats against them, including one involving biological agents, police reports show. 

In that case, an out-of-work actress in Tucson, Ariz., became frustrated when the Enquirer refused to pay her for a story about how she was being stalked by a celebrity, according to the woman's husband, Jerry Newport. Newport said his wife, Mary Meinel, then 44, was depressed at the time. When an Enquirer editor wouldn't listen, a police report said Meinel turned to threats. 

In May 1999, Meinel left a series of messages for assistant editor Chris Wessling, making "threats of sending biological weapons in the mail," according to a May 18, 1999 police report. 

The Enquirer, which was then in a rambling building along railroad tracks in Lantana, now resides with five sister tabloids under the American Media moniker in more high-profile digs in Boca Raton. 

"From what I understood, she was mentally ill," said Lantana Police Det. Todd Dwyer. "I didn't take it real seriously at the time." 

Newport said he didn't either. Meinel didn't return a phone message, but her husband did. The FBI has not contacted Meinel, now under medical care and treatment, Newport said. 

FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said she was not aware of the incident, but said the agency would ask the tabloids about any past threats. 

"I am sure it is on the list," Orihuela said. "We haven't ruled anything out." 

A survey of police records at tabloid offices in Lantana and Boca Raton dating back to 1990 paint a picture of a business frequently reporting bomb threats, ominous letters, and suspicious incidents and people. 

Police in both cities have responded to three bomb threats, 32 suspicious people and incidents (most turned out to be nothing serious), two prowlers, six burglaries, two harassing phone calls and two disturbances over the years. "We have had our fill of wackos, especially in this business," said Henry Ostaszewski, head of Enquirer security since 1974. Ostaszewski left the tabloids last year to start his own security consulting firm. American Media is his principal client. 

The most recent scare happened just three days after the Sept. 11 attacks. 

Star employee Daisy Almeida picked up her desk phone at the company's Boca Raton headquarters just before lunchtime on Sept. 14 to discover an unidentified caller claiming to have information about a bomb, according to police reports. American Media VP Daniel Rotstein pulled the fire alarm and evacuated the building, reports said.  Boca Raton police responded, but there was little they could do because the threat was so general, reports said. "It wasn't a real threat," Ostaszewski said. "It turned out to be a hoax." 

The same scenario played out on March 9, 2000. In the early afternoon, the company receptionist got a call from an unidentified man with a British accent, reports said. The caller asked: "Is this America?" then said there was a bomb in the building, 

Rotstein again made the call to evacuate the building, reports said. Again police found nothing. 

Rotstein declined to comment. 

But keeping tabloid workers safe has long been a concern, dating back to the days when Generoso Pope owned the Enquirer, which is still the chain's top-read publication. 

Ostaszewski estimated that American Media, now owned by a New York investment group, spends as much as $500,000 a year to secure its Arvida Park of Commerce building. American Media took up residence there last spring.  The building had been home to competing tabs Globe, National Examiner and Sun since the 1980s. American Media also includes the Star, and The Weekly World News. 

American Media CEO David Pecker reportedly has said his company will never occupy that space again. 

American Media paid $105 million for Globe Communications' tabloids in 1999, giving it all the nation's major supermarket tabloids. It consolidated them under one roof. 

The newly renovated, 63,000-square-foot building has restricted access. All visitors are buzzed in by one of the company's 25-member security force. The force consists of part-time, off-duty police officers and retired full-time ones, Ostaszewski said. Visitors are issued high-tech passes that bleed through red ink after 24 hours to render them worthless. 

Once inside, as many as 10 cameras pan for any suspicious activity. 

"It's not the Pentagon, but it is real good system," Ostaszewski said. 

But the tabs' experiences as documented in police reports raises questions about any liability American Media might shoulder as a result of its 300 employees, outside contractors and visitors being potentially exposed to anthrax. 

"The general rule determining liability is, did the entity exercise reasonable duty in regard to known or foreseeable perils?" said Larry Silverman, litigation specialist with the Fort Lauderdale-based law firm of Akerman Senterfitt.  Questions like, "were there any previous credible threats? Could anybody anticipate these kinds of threats?" tend to determine the extent of a company's liability, Silverman said. 

Typically, a firm would have to be negligent in predicting or protecting against this kind of an attack to be held liable, Silverman said. 

The answer to those types of questions is evolving as additional confirmed and suspected anthrax mail attacks continue to crop up at media outlets and businesses nationwide. 

What was once improbable, in insurance companies' eyes, is now quite probable. Employers' liability may change as a result, experts said. 

"We are now opening our mail using gloves and masks," said Anita Setnor Byer, partner in the Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk agency. "We feel ridiculous doing it, but it seems to be a necessity in today's troubled times." 

Then there's the issue of whether American Media will be able to collect on the insurance it does have. What it might recover from its carrier for business interruption also depends upon what kind of exclusions or restrictions are in its policies, Byer said. 

Even paying for terrorism-based pollutant clean up ­ which American Media will surely have to do if it wants to reoccupy, lease or sell its prime building ­ might not be covered under many policies. Property damage is sometimes only paid from the discharge, dispersal, seepage, migration, release or escape of pollutants. 

Some policies are rather loose in their definition of pollutants and fail to specifically name biohazards and bacteria as exclusions. 

A new wrinkle is that insurance companies are now adding terrorism exclusion to insurance policies that are so broad as to exclude almost any act by any person, group or entity. 

"Insurance companies are running scared," Byer said. "They are afraid they could lose their annual re-insurance contracts in the middle of a policy year and be left bare on the terrorist coverage. Major changes are about to occur."

from the October 19, 2001 edition -

In anthrax probe, microbial clues

DNA testing of the bacterium itself helps investigators in their urgent push to learn who is behind letter attacks.

By Liz Marlantes | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor 

In the urgent quest to learn who is behind the different anthrax attacks of the past month - and to find the perpetrators before deadlier attacks occur - one of the most fertile sources of clues is proving to be the bacterium itself. 

Already, investigators have been able to establish links between the cases.

DNA testing indicates that the anthrax in letters sent to NBC News and American Media Inc. was of the same strain - which could mean it came from a common source. While tests on the anthrax sent to Sen. Tom Daschle's office were not complete at press time, an official from the Defense Department says there is "no evidence, based on what we know thus far, that it's any different from" the anthrax in the other two cases.

That knowledge, while increasing the likelihood that the attacks are connected, does not automatically give investigators a specific place to look in determining where the terrorists got the bacteria in the first place.  Many labs scattered around the world can possess samples of a single strain. Moreover, the strain found in Florida (in the American Media letter) and New York (in the NBC letter) is one that occurs in nature - meaning it could have been collected and grown by anyone anywhere.

Still, these clues give authorities a starting point in their efforts to trace the source. And just as the FBI is exploring the connection between the letters sent to NBC and Senator Daschle - both sent from Trenton, N.J., in similar envelopes - chemists and microbiologists are performing a similar type of detective work in the lab. By establishing the kind of medium the anthrax was grown in and the ways in which it was processed, experts say, they might be able to trace it back to a certain country or program.

"In this case, science is on our side," says Randall Larsen, director of the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, a nonprofit group in Arlington, Va.

"Some people have thought that biological weapons were such a wonderful asymmetric weapon because you could do it anonymously," Mr. Larsen says, "But it's tougher to remain anonymous now. The detective story is a long way from over, and it will be interesting to see where it leads us."

Assuming investigators have a large enough sample to perform a variety of tests, "a really clever chemist might figure out" ways to identify certain markers, either on the "goop" the anthrax was mixed with or even on the bacterium itself, says Matthew Meselson, director of Harvard University's Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Weapons Limitation in Cambridge, Mass. "This gets into real sleuthing."

There are still some puzzling discrepancies between the cases. The anthrax sent to NBC was reportedly brown and granular, whereas the substance in Daschle's office was said to be a powder. In fact, reports that the Daschle sample was unusually fine initially led many experts to speculate that it might be linked to a state weapons program, because producing finely milled anthrax requires a high degree of technical expertise.

But authorities say the sample is not resistant to antibiotics, and the Defense Department official yesterday classified it as "run of the mill."

FBI Director Robert Muller, meanwhile, announced a $1 million reward for information leading to the conviction of whomever is behind the attacks, and Postmaster General John Potter said the US Postal Service was sending a postcard to every US household detailing the kinds of things in the mail that should arouse recipients' suspicion.

Although investigators are actively exploring potential links to Al Qaeda, the network led by Osama bin Laden, they have not ruled out the possibility that a domestic group may be responsible.

Theoretically, anyone with a certain understanding of microbiology could obtain and grow a deadly form of anthrax. All they'd have to do, says Dr. Meselson, is find a place where an outbreak among livestock had occurred (just recently, there was a case in Saskatchewan, for example), and isolate the bacterium from the soil. From there, it wouldn't be all that difficult to grow the culture and purify it.

The hardest part, he says, is figuring out how to mill it down to a size that would float in the air efficiently - which the powder in Daschle's office was said to do, although the sample's degree of fineness is still uncertain.

"Only nations, probably, have figured out how to do this," says Meselson. But, he adds, this means "how to do it is in the minds of people," including former employees of weapons programs in the Soviet Union and the US, who could now be anywhere.

Certainly, it's possible that domestic terrorists are responsible for the attacks, but it seems increasingly unlikely, says Mark Pitcavage, a specialist in extremist groups who has worked for the Justice Department's antiterrorism program.

"Anthrax is harder to obtain in the US versus outside the US," he says. "In addition, the writings on the letters that I am aware of do not seem to mention any clearly domestic concerns."

If the Daschle sample is, in fact, especially fine, that would make it even less likely that the source was domestic, he adds. But that strikes him as unlikely. True weapons-grade anthrax would be "wasted on this sort of attack, when regular old anthrax would do as well."

Staff writers Francine Kiefer and Brad Knickerbocker contributed to this report.

10/21/2001 - Updated 09:48 PM ET 

Experts seek clues in a bioterrorist's penmanship

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY 

Days before authorities determined the strain of anthrax found in letters to newscaster Tom Brokaw and Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle were the same, handwriting experts reached a similar conclusion: One person launched both mail-in bioterror attacks. A third attack also may be linked by letters. An unopened envelope, laden with anthrax and mailed to the editor of the New York Post, matches the terrorist's handwriting characteristics, according to Sunday's Post.

The paper did not publish a photo of the envelope, but handwriting experts have seen photos of the Brokaw and Daschle ones.

"There are enough unconscious, habitual characteristics to say it's the same person," says Gideon Epstein, formerly chief forensic document examiner for the U.S. Army and for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"The more envelopes that surface, the more evidence you have for identifying the perpetrator," says Epstein, who is now in private practice in Rockville, Md.

In the Daschle and Brokaw letters:

 • The writing starts high on the left and slants downward.

 • Placement and spacing between the letters, the words and the lines have a similar rhythm.

 • The height ratios between the taller and lower block printed letters are consistent.

 • Comparable letters are constructed similarly. He notes the "distinctive flowing No. 2."

Epstein would still want to study these letters under a microscope, to look at how rapidly and easily they were written. He also would hunt for impressions in the paper that might show another envelope had been addressed on top of it.

Gerald McMenamin, a forensic linguistics expert who teaches at California State University-Fresno, says there's little he can say based merely on envelopes. He looks at a dozen categories, including the choice of words and phrases. "I have a case now where a man always starts a negative letter by saying, 'I'm amazed that ' "

"But I don't do psychological profiling," McMenamin says.

Others do, however.

"People are coming out of the woodwork making completely ridiculous comments on TV," says Sheila Kurtz, a New York graphologist who does psychological profiles based on writing.

But she says she will only do so if she can look at substantial samples of writing.  Photos of two envelopes in the anthrax cases are not sufficient to tell even if the writer tried to disguise his or her identity, she says.

But graphologist Mark Hopper, president of Handwriting Research, a Phoenix-based company that does personality profiles for corporate job applicants, sees a constellation of clues in the two envelopes. He calls them "definitely the writing of a sociopath." Hopper says the writer used block printing and the "wrong" hand to disguise normal script. This laborious process sapped energy, leading to the sloping baselines.

The awkward word placement, or rhythm, is "characteristic of bombers and people who send anonymous poison-pen letters. They have a very sterile look.

"Look at the letter N and see it was assembled in three strokes, like putting together Legos. That's not how people normally write. The S in 'Senator' looks almost box shape, showing it was done with the wrong hand and very slowly."

"Look at the punctuation of 'D.C.' in the letter to Daschle. A real perfectionist did this.  Disguised handwriting and sloping baselines are all indicative of a suicidal personality or very depressive person. The writing is completely free of emotion. All that is present is pure depression. Sociopaths have no conscience. They are without feeling. They will destroy others and themselves," Hopper says.

The experts did agree on a few points, however. They can't tell the original language of the envelope writer or assess the writer's level of career success or maturity. After all, who has worse handwriting than physicians?

They also agree that "this person will be found," Epstein says.

"You can narrow the suspect down fairly quickly with handwriting," says Epstein, who recalls a New York homicide case several years ago in which the killer was found when experts culled through 50,000 writing samples.

So why don't terrorists type their envelopes?

"I'm surprised they didn't. But the mind is a strange thing," Epstein says.

"They just don't do it," Hopper says. "They want to communicate with you as a personal attack and give the illusion that a real human being is behind it."

Hamilton complex scrutinized by FBI after discovery of third anthrax letter

Bill Beaver
Princetonian Senior Writer
Monday, October 22, 2001

A third letter containing anthrax was postmarked in Trenton and processed in the Hamilton Township mail facility that handled the letters sent to NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw and Sen. Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), New York city police officials said Saturday.

The letter, sent to the New York Post, was postmarked Sept. 18, the same day as the letter sent to NBC News and bears similar handwriting, officials said.

The discovery prompted a reevaluation of the mail facility located about 10 miles south of the University. Significant amounts of anthrax have been found throughout the facility, acting State Health Commissioner George DiFerdinando said yesterday.

Given the proximity of the campus to the Trenton mail complex and continued law enforcement encouragement, the McCosh Health Center, like other regional health facilities, will be more alert to anthrax symptoms, University Health Services Director Pamela Bowen said.

"[Health services is] on the look out for symptoms of anything unusual that could indicate a biological agent such as anthrax," Bowen said.

"I don't think there is any reason to suspect a suspicious package will turn up on campus," University Spokeswoman Marilyn Marks said last week. "We want to make sure that people here, as elsewhere, are aware and cautious."

Though anthrax has been found inside the Hamilton postal complex, no anthrax had been detected in the public areas of the office, DiFerdinando said. That greatly decreases the likelihood that infections have spread beyond facility workers.

The more than 300 postal employees at the facility began antibiotic therapy after test results confirmed a second worker had a skin infection of anthrax.

More than 150 FBI and other police agents continued to search the building yesterday as efforts shifted focus to the mail delivery route of one of the infected postal workers.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Barry Mawn said in a press release that the source of the anthrax-laced letters had not been determined, but he confirmed the investigation's focus on a small area in a suburban West Trenton neighborhood.

The Hamilton processing center and the West Trenton Post Office remain closed as the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services continues to test environmental samples from the two facilities for anthrax. 

Anthrax central

Iowa State U. has long studied the disease that has made the mail deadly, but its experts see a bigger threat on the horizon

The Chicago Tribune
Published October 24, 2001

AMES, Iowa -- Across Elwood Drive from Iowa State University's football stadium, home to a team that has enjoyed unusual success this autumn at wiping out opponents, stands the College of Veterinary Science, which annihilated a very different sort of foe last week -- and did it with a thoroughness that would draw a standing ovation from one of Saturday afternoon's gridiron crowds.

The object of this hush-hush exercise, carried out using precautions extraordinary even on a campus where hazardous organisms and chemicals are routinely stored and studied, was the university's anthrax supply.

Iowa State has become firmly associated in the public mind with anthrax, in part because it was among the first places to isolate the causative microbe, has studied it for 75 years, and has given its name to what is thought to be the strain used in the recent spate of bioterrorism.

ISU's anthrax eradication took place 10 days ago, or shortly after anthrax began spilling out of envelopes sent to legislators and the media. "The spores we had were as dead as dead could be when we finished," said David Inyang, superintendent of Environmental Health and Safety for the university. "If this helped calm any fears, then it was worth all the extra effort."

But while the rest of America focuses on what the next mail delivery might bring, experts at this highly regarded farm research center are more worried about another, arguably more frightening specter: agri-terrorism, or the poisoning of livestock and crops with anthrax, or, for that matter, other dangerous diseases.

Not only could this have a devastating effect on the food we eat and our wellness, it could also deliver the double blow of seriously affecting our farm economy.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture, which formed a task force last spring to address preventive measures for the spread of livestock diseases, has expanded its alert since Sept. 11 with a series of warnings to veterinarians, fertilizer dealers and commodity personnel on possible terrorism. A spokesperson said this will be an ongoing exercise, with more measures expected to be put in place.

"The way to cause great panic is to do it with human diseases, which is exactly what the terrorists have been doing," said Norm Cheville, dean of the ISU veterinary science department. "But the way to really have an impact is to do it to our plants and animals. We need to be more careful of that."

Concern over crop dusting

Cheville is especially nervous about reports that one terrorist killed in the Sept. 11 strikes had been contacting airfields involved in crop spraying. No link has been made with spreading infectious materials in this manner and, in fact, it is contaminating animals -- most likely via their feed supply -- that is the scariest thought for agricultural experts here.

"You just have took at England and the terrible problem it's had with foot-in-mouth disease to see what could happen," said Dr. James Roth, a microbiologist and professor in ISU's vet school. "Only a few animals would have to be infected to spread a disease, so the key is in diagnosing everything at an early stage."

As one of the leading agricultural schools in the nation, the place where former Vice President Henry A. Wallace went to school and founded Wallaces Farmer magazine and where George Washington Carver was a student and teacher, Iowa State is a major research center in which animal diseases such as anthrax, mad cow, foot-in-mouth, and hog cholera are part of the regular lexicon.

Ever since early news stories identified -- erroneously -- the anthrax sample that killed a Florida man as having been stolen from an Ames laboratory, the College of Veterinary Science has been dealing with scrutiny unlike anything the football team has attracted across the street. More than 60 publications, including almost every major U.S. newspaper, and a half-dozen TV outlets, have swarmed over the ISU experts since that initial bogus report like a cloud of locusts.

"This is still keeping us very busy, but actually it's given us a chance to clear up a lot of misunderstanding," said Cheville. It also fostered the decision to destroy the school's anthrax supply.

With an Iowa state trooper watching every step of the process, ISU technicians, looking a little like astronauts in their safety outfits, placed vials of the spores into an autoclave, or a radar-, rangelike, high powered, bio-contained cooking device, turned the heat up to 130 degrees Celsius, and left everything to "cook" for 13 hours. The trooper never left the room.

Then, the next morning, the containers and their now-harmless contents were placed in a department incinerator regularly used for destroying everything from diseased cows to toxic waste, and left there for two more hours at a temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The trooper stayed right to the end.

In fact, either of those two steps would have been more than enough to kill the B. anthracis, or anthrax bacilli, one of two stockpiles of the lethal organism in this central Iowa community of 50,000 people. But these are strange times, made even stranger for Ames because of its links to the disease agent being put in the mail by terrorists.

Bowing to pressure

The destruction of the anthrax in Cheville's department was, as much as anything, a bow to pressure exerted by the state's public relations-minded governor, Tom Vilsack. The school's small supply had been unused, but safely locked in storage, for at least 20 years, according to ISU officials.

"This is a teaching institution, first and foremost," Cheville said, "and so we always are aware of access. The students never, never are in a position to be exposed to anything dangerous like anthrax."

On the outskirts of Ames, the other known stockpile in the area is kept under lock and key in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services laboratory. Jim Rogers, a USDA spokesman, said nothing has been stolen from labs there. He knew of no plans to destroy what is on hand or move it elsewhere.

Rogers added that the anthrax colonies there are "not a big part of our work," but that they are necessary for research, tissue-typing and diagnostic purposes.

A lot of misinformation

"It's an important story and there's a definite buzz to it in Ames like everywhere else," said Steve Lekwa, director of the Story County Conservation Board, "but it's not exactly like we're all walking around here with gas masks on. There's a lot of misinformation out there."

This is also the home of the especially virulent Ames Strain of B. anthracis, which is the form some outside experts believe is being used in the mailings. This undoubtedly has added to misconceptions about the community. Experts here, as they are everywhere else, are anxiously awaiting the FBI's official assessment of the origins of the mailed bacteria.

"Anthrax has this reputation for producing absolute panic even though it may not be as hazardous as a lot of other choices," Cheville said. "The critical issue, from a treatment standpoint, is whether it's the Ames strain or another field strain, or a genetically engineered strain."

The Ames Strain has been traced to a diseased cow brought to the Iowa State labs in 1980. A blood culture was sent to the USDA laboratory here, which eventually forwarded it to the U.S. Army Infectious Disease Center.

After the sample finally was determined to be a separate strain, it was given the name Ames Strain, simply because of its point of origin. This was not even the strain stored at the university.

"It may have been first discovered in Iowa, but what route it took to get to that Florida newspaper office we don't know," said Kevin Teale, a spokesman for the state's Public Health Department. "Calling it the Ames Strain doesn't mean what was in the envelope came from Ames."

Though the USDA wasn't making any of its Ames area staff available for interviews, one former longtime scientist at its Veterinary Services Laboratory said security at the facility here has been exceptionally tight for the last 10 years or so. "They've never been careless, but things used to be a lot looser before they really began clamping down," he said.

The USDA complex here, which also includes the National Animal Disease Center, does research on other infectious diseases that are in the news. In addition to analyzing a population of sheep thought to have been exposed to mad cow disease that were brought here from Vermont earlier this year, the complex also performed some of the early work on the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, which is making inroads in the U.S.

Worried about the sheep

"To be honest, people [around here] might actually have been more worked up over the sheep than [anthrax]," Teale said. "It actually got down to this: If one of the sheep defecated in the truck on the way here, it dried, turned to dust, and got in the air, would we be in danger? People don't understand science and a lot of great leaps get made."

Iowa State experts said it would be a positive development if the mailed strain of anthrax turned out to be the Ames Strain.

"We could deal with it if it's the Ames Strain, but the scary thing about this is that it might be an engineered strain that just closely resembles one that we already know," said Cheville of the anthrax being sent through the mail.  "If you engineer one that might not be susceptible to penicillin, then that would put us in a bad spot.

"Theoretically, the Russians have already done that and we're certain Iraq is making it," he added. "I've heard the stuff (U.S. Sen.) Tom Daschle got was especially high-grade, which meant it had to come from four or five sites in the world."

Difficult for terrorists

Cheville said it would not be easy for a lone terrorist, or even an entire terrorist cell, to manufacture and mail anthrax from, say, a residential location in the U.S.

"You could grow the spores in your kitchen overnight if you wanted," he said, "but to do that in the quantities to cause real damage would be difficult. You'd have to have a fermentation unit, a dehydration unit, all sorts of industrial-size equipment. It would have to be very dangerous for the people doing it. Eventually you'd get caught."

Roth said the source of the anthrax can be determined better once the strain is determined. He said if it turns out to be high grade, "weapons" quality, it increases the chances it has been imported from abroad -- most likely Iraq.

"How that was done would be anybody's guess," he said. "If it's a cruder quality, that means it is more likely it was made domestically. It wouldn't be that hard to do, but it would be a very dangerous process."

Inyang, whose department supervised the destruction of ISU's anthrax, indicated the threat of biological terrorism has become a top security concern among his peers on other research-oriented campuses, where hazardous materials regularly are used and dangerous diseases studied. "You don't know what's coming down the pike next," he said, in an apparent reference to threats such as smallpox and plague."

The local Ames police, like law enforcement officials in many cities, have received telephone calls from nervous residents over what they thought were "suspicious-looking envelopes in the mail," according to Sgt. Mike Johns.  They were all false alarms.

Life returns to normal

In Ames, meanwhile, life seemingly goes on for most people without extra nervousness over the community's ties to terrorism.

"Everyone knows what's in the news," said Mavis Butler, an elementary school teacher here. "You can't help but be aware because of all the attention it's getting.

"But no one I know is walking around worried about opening their mail or what's going on in our laboratories.  They're more concerned about whether the football teams win or lose."

For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary October 25, 2001

White House Press Briefing

Director Ridge, Medical Authorities Discuss Anthrax Press Briefing by The Director of the Office of Homeland Security, Governor Tom Ridge; and the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Major General John Parker; and Deputy Surgeon General Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu on Homeland Security The James S. Brady Briefing Room

Listen to the President's Remarks

12:55 P.M. EDT

MR. FLEISCHER: Now I would like to introduce Governor Ridge, the Director of the Office of Homeland Security. He is joined by Major General John Parker, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command; as well as Admiral Kenneth Moritsugu, the Deputy Surgeon General.

GOVERNOR RIDGE: Good afternoon. Today I'd like to share with you the latest information and actions we are taking to protect the American people from the anthrax threats here at home.

Our investigation continues. We are aggressively pursuing every conceivable lead to find and bring to justice those responsible for these terrorist acts. Our health system nationwide is on full alert, and is working around the clock -- and is working around the clock -- to identify and treat those potentially affected by anthrax.

Today we want to share with you the latest scientific analysis of the anthrax samples. Major General John Parker, Commanding General of the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, has joined me today to further explain and answer your questions concerning these latest findings.

As I outlined last week, Department of Defense DNA tests showed the anthrax samples from Florida, New York and Washington are indistinguishable, meaning that they all come from the same strain of anthrax or the same family of anthrax. That continues to be the case. The DNA tests have also revealed that none of the anthrax samples have been genetically altered, which is very good news, obviously, because it means that the samples all respond to antibiotics. And, therefore, people who are exposed can be treated.

This week, we have received new information from additional laboratory tests. I convened a meeting at the White House last night to bring together the scientists, as well as representatives of the different agencies, to analyze and evaluate this information. It shows that the anthrax in the letter received in Senator Tom Daschle's office had some different characteristics. It is highly concentrated. It is pure. And the spores are smaller. Therefore, they're more dangerous because they can be more easily absorbed in a person's respiratory system.

We've also received a new preliminary analysis on the anthrax that was mailed to The New York Post. The preliminary analysis shows that it is more coarse and less concentrated than the anthrax in the Daschle letter. But I want to tell you, it's still highly concentrated. The New York Post anthrax is also sensitive to antibiotics.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to conduct similar tests on the anthrax from Florida or the Brokaw letter because of limited amounts of substance retrievable from the scene. Just wasn't enough for us to retrieve from the scene to conduct the same tests.

Now, I know there has been a lot of both public and private discussion, some of it with me and much of it among yourselves and even within this country, about the term "weaponize." It seems to have different meanings, different definition and meanings to different people. Based on these latest lab reports, it is clear that the terrorists responsible for these attacks intended to use this anthrax as a weapon. We still don't know who is responsible, but we are marshaling every federal, state and local resource to find them and bring them to justice.

And General Parker is here to give you more of the details. But before he briefs you, I would like to take a minute to share with the American people the steps we are taking to protect postal workers.

As of this morning, health officials have tested and treated more than 4,000 postal workers in the impacted areas. In addition, the Postal Service, working with federal, state and local officials, have begun environmental testing at the 200 postal facilities along the Eastern corridor. The Postal Service will also conduct random environmental testing at major postal facilities nationwide. It will conduct random testing nationwide. It is strictly a precautionary measure. It is taken to protect the mail.

I want to reiterate: There is no indication of any new exposure at this time at these sites, but the Postmaster General felt that it was appropriate to begin conducting random sample testing.

As the President announced on Tuesday, we are authorizing funds to implement immediate security measures to better protect our nation's mail. These funds will help purchase new technology to sanitize mail, and protective gear to help protect postal workers.

Clearly we are up against a shadow enemy, shadow solders, people who have no regard for human life. They are determined to murder innocent people. President Bush is very proud of the federal, state and local health care officials whose quick actions have no doubt saved many lives in the face of a new and horrible threat. Our country has never experienced this type of terrorism. Tragically, we have lost lives, starting with those in New York City in the Towers, but also including those who wear the uniform overseas in this war, and those who wear the uniform of the Postal Service here at home.

Our government will continue to do everything we can to make our nation safe, stronger and more prepared. We will continue to provide the American people with as much accurate information as we can, as soon as we can, to protect them from future attacks.

Before I respond to some questions, I would like Major General Parker to brief you, as well.

MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Thank you, Governor Ridge. I represent some great scientists and engineers at Fort Detrick who are currently working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, processing samples and helping to define the characteristics of the compounds that are given us to take a look at.

I can say to you without question, this is anthrax, and the samples from New York, Washington and Florida are all from the same family or strain. That's been documented by DNA testing. When we look at these spores underneath the microscope, they are uniform in size and highly concentrated, and highly pure. And these individual spores are very light, and if given some energy from, say, wind or clapping or motion of air in a room, they will drift in the air and fall to the ground.

The good news is that this strain is susceptible to all of the antibiotics that we have in the United States, from penicillin all the way to the most recent advanced quinolines that we have available.

The characteristics I already mentioned. When you look at it, it's like a very, very fine powder. And you can imagine, in your bathroom, if you take a fine talcum powder and you blow it, it drifts up into the air and then eventually drifts down to the ground and falls to the floor, where it sticks.

We are continuing to try to characterize the products. When we looked at the New York Post sample and compared that to the Daschle sample, even in gross introspection, it appeared that the New York Post sample was clumpy and rugged, and the Daschle sample was fine and floaty.

Now, one of my scientists actually described the New York Post sample as looking like Purina Dog Chow, clumpy like a pellet.

Q Under the microscope?

MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: No, that's not under a microscope, that's grossly. Under the microscope, the spores are densely packed in both samples, and highly concentrated in both samples.

I just want to mention one other thing, is that I know there's a lot of questions about some other things. We are trying very hard to characterize anything that would be associated with the sample, and we continue to do that research and we're continuing to do that investigation. And I don't have the absolute answers until all of those investigations are in.

Q Can I ask you a question about, given the nature of the powder, especially that was sent in the letter to Senator Daschle, what can you and the others say about where this was produced, how it was produced, and ultimately by whom -- domestically or foreign?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: Tests may give us answers to some or all of those questions, as well as investigations being conducted by the FBI and the Department of Justice. The tests now give us very specific characteristics, but the tests may or may not lead us to the source.

Q Can I follow and say, at this point, are you able to say at any level, preliminarily or otherwise, that this is the kind of anthrax that could have been produced by an individual or several individuals here in the United States? Or is this the kind of stuff that could only be produced by a foreign nation?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I believe further testing will give us the range. It will either expand it or contract it. But right now there are other, I believe chemical tests and other tests in a series of tests that have to be conducted.

I mean, one of the challenges we have with trying to give you as much information as we have as quickly as we get it, and give America this information, is that the properties of this anthrax and our ability to describe its characteristics really depend on ability for us to conduct several tests -- some simultaneously, some in different parts of the world, some one after another.

I will tell you that one set of tests often generates a recommendation that another set of tests, so we just -- the testing is incomplete, and we can't give you the answers to that question yet, if ever.

Q There was a report today that preliminary tests suggest that the anthrax could not have been produced in Russia or Iraq.

GOVERNOR RIDGE: Could not have been?

Q Could not have been, implying that it was produced in the United States. Is that accurate or not? Preliminary tests suggest this.

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't think I've seen any preliminary tests that drew any conclusions as to where it could or could not have been produced.

Q -- is aggressive? In other words, if these were mailed over a series of days and the Daschle is much more sort of concentrated, could it be that somebody is testing and getting more aggressive with the anthrax, and will that continue, perhaps?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I think people are inclined to draw conclusions about the number of letters in the mail, or the ability, the capacity of one letter to have contaminated multiple stations. I mean, right now, as we continue to conduct the investigation, we alert you to the letters we have and to the samples we have, and until we have thoroughly completed our investigation, we can't draw any conclusions as to number or source.

Q Governor Ridge, the apparent lethality of the anthrax sent to Senator Daschle was apparently understood more quickly in Congress than it was throughout other federal agencies. Are you and Major General Parker satisfied that the information flow about what was learned about the anthrax in the Daschle letter went to all of the agencies as fast as possible, and therefore, everything was done to protect the postal workers who have since been exposed, whereas, members of Congress were not?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: My sense was that -- I think it may have been General Parker and other people within the administration gave -- briefed Senator Daschle. And I think -- I'm not certain where the Senator got his information, but I suspect it's from the information that we had. And the recognition of the pureness of the spores, the concentration -- the highly concentrated nature of these spores, it's the conclusion that it hasn't been genetically altered, a lot of these things have occurred since that initial briefing, as we've had a series of tests to confirm it.

I will tell you what, I think because it was respirated, because we had several people who died because of inhalation anthrax, and because there's a body of scientific evidence out there that it is easier and certainly has much greater potential for infection if it's a smaller, purer form of anthrax, people legitimately, without doing the samples, could conclude that it had to be of higher concentration, it had to be a purer form, based on the information that we had at the time about anthrax.

We're now running through the series of tests. We're finding not only what might have been a good thing to conjecture from previous research on anthrax, but we have confirmed it. But there are other characteristics that we may or may not be able to confirm in future tests.

Q Doesn't the very fact that, as General Parker said, this is free and floaty anthrax that was sent to Senator Daschle, aerosolized, show that it is a very sophisticated operation that produced it, not a grad student in a basement, and that the knowledge of how to do that would be limited to a very narrow circle of people, some state actors and some people with access to American secrets?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I'm not prepared to tell you what level of competency, accessibility to equipment, and other training either an individual or an institution needs in order to develop this level of anthrax.

Q General Parker, can we ask you a question, sir? If you wouldn't mind stepping up to the podium. I take it that some of the tests that you were alluding to are on this chemical agent that's been mixed in with the anthrax to modify the electro-static properties of the anthrax. Can you tell us what your preliminary investigation shows about that? And who has the ability to alter the electro-static properties of anthrax spores?

MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Well, first of all, your question is complex, and I'd like to say that, although we may see some things on the microscopic field that may look like foreign elements, we don't know that they're additives, we don't know what they are, and we're continuing to do research to find out what they possible could be. They're unknowns to us at this present time.

Q Can you tell us who has the ability to alter the electro-static properties of anthrax spores in order to allow them to become more easily aerosolized?

MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Sir, that's beyond my knowledge. I don't know.

Q Isn't it limited to a very small number of countries?

MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: Sir, that's beyond my knowledge. I don't know.

Q Isn't it limited to a very small number of countries?

MAJOR GENERAL PARKER: I don't know, sir.

Q -- sophisticated product? Are you looking at a sophisticated product, essentially?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: What the General is trying to relate to you is that this still has -- there's a series of tests that need to be conducted by these men, who are far better equipped intellectually and by experience, to draw some conclusions from those results. And the fact of the matter is, we don't have all the information available to us yet to draw any of the conclusions to answer some of the questions you're asking.

Q When you say they're from the same -- all letters are from the same strain or family, how much does that really narrow this down?


Q Not much?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't think. I mean, I've got -- my sense is, it doesn't narrow it much at all. My brother and I are from the same family. So it means, it's a very broad and genetic classification. But, apparently, there are several strains available for research around the world.

Q Can you tell us which strain it is, sir? And does the fact that these are a little bit --

GOVERNOR RIDGE: Ames strain.

Q And can you tell us -- let me just finish my question. If you could tell us, since these are a little bit different in their qualities, does that suggest that these letters came from different people?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: Well, right now, first of all, you should know that, even though preliminary tests on The New York Post letter shows it to be of a different quality and, I guess, more readily in clumps than the other, it is still highly concentrated. And I don't think, to date, with the preliminary tests, we can point to one source or multiple sources.

Q Yes, sir. Two children, according to various -- including The New York Times, Agence France Presse, have been checked into Children's Hospital -- a girl age 2, a boy age 11, with, apparently, anthrax-like symptoms. Do you know anything about it?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I do not. And what hospital?

Q Children's Hospital in Washington.

GOVERNOR RIDGE: Children's in Washington? I do not know that.

Q Governor, a non-scientific question. Chances are that the person or persons who did this would be inclined to follow every briefing, every statement. That said, what would your message be to the person or persons who have sent this stuff?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: We'll find you. We'll bring you to justice.

You know, trying to think the way some individual who would use the United States mail service and take an envelope and turn it into a weapon of terror, it's pretty difficult for me to be able to, I suspect, to be able to communicate with that individual on any terms and within a value system that we share in this country. So I'm not sure we could communicate to him in a democratic, American way, how we feel about him and how we feel about this incident. But we'll get him.

Q Governor Ridge, there have been reports recently of tensions between the FBI, CDC and other federal agencies over the sharing of information or full disclosure of information on the quality of anthrax in the Daschle letter. Could you address that, please? And also, could you tell us a little more about the meeting last night at the White House?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: Yes. First of all, you know that as Director of Homeland Security, I interact with these agencies on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis. And I would tell you from day one, there has been collaboration and coordination, and every day it continues to accelerate as the circumstances of the threat bring people and people closer together.

There has -- everybody is intensely working on this issue. There has been extraordinary collaboration. There has been new relationships that have developed. And I thought it was important to have the meeting last night not just with the principals, but with the scientists that we're all relying upon, in order to consolidate whatever information we have, and to see if we can further accelerate the process of answering the questions that America seeks from the administration.

And I thought it was a very productive meeting. They have been working together, side by side. They will continue to work together. There's intense effort to collaborate. We live in a virtual world, but we can't always come up with virtual answers. And so, there's a process that goes along with trying to answer the questions that you and the rest of America has. But their coordination is fine. Maybe last night accelerated it even further. But it's not a question -- they share information; I assure you.

Q You said a few moments ago that this was intended as a weapon, whoever sent this intended it to be used as a weapon. Does that meet your definition of weapons?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't use that word, because I don't think "weaponize" has any medical or scientific value. I mean, we never thought a 747 could be turned into a missile. But someone who took an instrument that's part of who we are and what we do every day, an airplane, turned it into a weapon. Somebody took an envelope and turned it into a weapon.

Q What I'm getting at is, based on what you know to this point, can you put into context how lethal this -- how concentrated, how pure, how dangerous this was --

GOVERNOR RIDGE: It is -- it was not contaminated, which meant that the mass -- again, the General could answer this better -- but as I understand it, explained to me as a layman, and relate to people who don't have a background in microbiology or chemistry -- but as I understand it, if you took a look at the spores under the microscope, there was not any extraneous material. It was very pure. Practically everything you saw, every -- was an anthrax spore, and it was of such a size that with -- it was respirable; that if it was given a little energy, it could get up into the air.

Q I just want to clarify something from an earlier question. The fact is much of what you've told us here today we've already heard from other sources, and the debate over "weaponized," whether or not you want to use that word, has been going on for some time. But I just want to be clear --

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't want to use it, so there's no debate with me. It adds no scientific -- you could put this on the head of a missile, you could put it in an envelope, you could distribute it other ways. So it can -- anthrax, itself, is a weapon. I'm sorry.

Q My question is, if you, standing in front of us, are the definitive voices on anthrax, and you cannot even tell us, based on what you've discovered so far, the countries that can produce this strain and whether or not we can rule any of these countries out, be it Iraq, Russia, or the United States?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: We know it's -- I do not know. It is a an Ames strain -- look, there are other characteristics that may be discovered in the course of this investigation that may lead this government and our scientists to further conclusions. Right now, I'm not prepared because we don't have the answers.

Q -- characteristics to the strain developed by those countries, military --

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I don't know.

Q Governor, given all the things that are on your plate, Governor Ridge, given all the things that are on your plate, is your day defined more by facts you know, that expand what you know, or is it defined more by questions that expand what you don't know?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: It's a little bit of both. I mean, there are questions that I seek in my capacity as Director of Homeland Security that I ask, just because of information that comes across my desk. There's also information that I receive that's unsolicited that expands my knowledge as well. So, I mean, I think it's a little bit of a combination of both.

Q Do you have any preliminary idea -- forget which country or what the strain is -- do you have any preliminary idea about whether or not this is something that would have had to have been produced by a large organization such as a state, or if it's something that could possibly have been cooked up in a laboratory somewhere in Trenton?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: I'm not prepared to tell you today the range of potential actors who could have -- the range of potential actors who could have created as pure and as concentrated and as respirable an anthrax as we are working on and investigating now. I don't know whether it's a large range or a narrow range.

Q But do you know and you won't tell us, or -- I mean, isn't this information that the government has?

Q -- you and the government intentionally downplay the threat to the American public? And why, over time, have your statements changed about what the American public should be worried about?

GOVERNOR RIDGE: The information in the literature on anthrax that existed before this threat suggested the only way you can get inhalational anthrax -- that it would be much easier to get inhalational anthrax if the spores were smaller. And we not only have cases of anthrax, but we also have fatalities. So, based on the literature that existed, and even prior to the testing, that confirmed our worst suspicions that this was a different kind and a different grade of anthrax. It had to be -and so we shared that information with you. We shared it with the people on the Hill.

We run through a series of tests. The test tells us very specifically, the anthrax spores are not only smaller and concentrated, they are very pure. There are still some additional tests to be run on these individual spores. When we get additional information, I'll --

Q What about --

Q Governor, is there --


END 1:15 P.M. EDT

Ridge Offers Few Answers on Anthrax
Investigation: A lack of facts hinders the homeland security director's public mission of trying to reassure an anxious nation.
Times Staff Writer

October 26, 2001

WASHINGTON — The new director of homeland security stepped before television cameras Thursday to address mounting public questions about the anthrax scare. But, with little information to impart, he struggled to show himself in command of the situation.

White House officials argued that by frankly acknowledging what he does not know--indeed, what the government does not yet know--Thomas J. Ridge was being upfront and shooting straight.

But Ridge's sudden encounter with the complex scientific questions at the heart of the anthrax investigation left him to wander awkwardly and seemingly uncomfortably through the important public aspects of his new job.

"Any time you're dealing with scientific issues where there aren't any certainties, it's always a problem," said Marlin Fitzwater, a veteran of more than two decades in government communications who was White House press secretary for former Presidents Reagan and Bush.

Ridge, Fitzwater added, has not yet gotten on top of that challenge.

Ridge's briefing did little to resolve the shaky pattern of conflicting assessments and misstatements by government officials since the anthrax threat surfaced.

Last Friday, he said FBI agents had identified the site from which anthrax-laced letters were sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw. On Monday, a federal law enforcement source said Ridge had spoken "too quickly."

He also denied reports last Friday that the anthrax had been "weaponized" to make it more virulent or resistant to treatment.

Then Thursday, he dodged the word "weaponized," saying: "You could put this on the head of a missile, you could put it in an envelope, you could distribute it other ways. So it can--anthrax itself is a weapon."

He also said last week that the anthrax samples found in Florida, Washington and New York were largely indistinguishable. Thursday he said "that continues to be the case."

But, he added, subsequent laboratory tests found that the sample taken from Daschle's office was "pure," with smaller spores that were more dangerous, and that those mailed to the New York Post were "more coarse and less concentrated."

Standing next to Ridge, Maj. Gen. John Parker, commanding general of the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, said a scientist working for him described the New York sample as resembling "Purina Dog Chow--clumpy, like a pellet."

Ridge was seeking to present the very image of a government chief successfully wrestling with his first crisis--but the facts, or the lack of facts, kept getting in the way.

What is known, he was asked, about where the anthrax powder was produced, how and by whom?

"The tests may or may not lead us to the source," he said.

Could the anthrax have been produced by an individual in the United States or only by a foreign government?

"Further testing will give us the range. It will either expand it or contract it," he said. "The testing is incomplete, and we can't give you the answers to that question yet, if ever."

A 'Compulsion to Be Visible'

A Republican political operative with close ties to the White House said Ridge, who left the governorship of Pennsylvania to take the Cabinet-level job, was demonstrating a proper "compulsion . . . to be visible." But, he added, "sometimes you're going to have your cart in front of your horse. It will take some time to get into a groove."

Out of public view, Ridge's job is just as difficult as his public mission of reassuring an anxious nation: He is working to achieve cooperation among a tangled web of disparate agencies and jurisdictions--the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the FBI, for example--that are not accustomed to working with each other. And he has no direct authority over them.

"What America needs is a Rudy Giuliani, someone who can get everyone together, crack heads, appear on TV every day. Ridge has to become that guy," Fitzwater said.

White House communications chief Dan Bartlett defended Ridge, saying he was working in uncharted territory, dealing with such long-range problems as developing a budget for counterterrorism and such immediate needs as helping the U.S. Postal Service come up with emergency funds.

So, when the postmaster general sought $200 million, he turned to Ridge. Ridge asked Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., and the money was made available, Bartlett said.

"He has quickly become the focal point in the administration, helping navigate these decisions," Bartlett added.


Getting in Tune
Federal agencies' discord hinders bioterror battle

 By Laurie Garrett

October 28, 2001

Under fire on Capitol Hill, in the media, and from fearful postal workers, weary federal health officials are blaming a lack of coordination with other agencies and a paucity of specific enough information about anthrax itself as key factors hamstringing their ongoing battle against bioterrorism.

But they're working on making their response stronger, health officials said last week, including secretary Tommy Thompson of Health and Human Services.

"The only thing we can do is be as clear and complete in our information to the public and media as we can," Dr. David Fleming, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said in an interview with Newsday. "Part of that clear communication is going to be the message that what we are learning will change what we do, what we recommend, with time.

"The public needs to recognize that this flexibility is a sign of strength, not weakness."

One part of the learning curve, health officials said, has to do with how federal agencies interact.

For instance, Fleming and CDC Director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan insist that had they been immediately given all the information known by the FBI and the military about the anthrax-laced letter delivered to Sen. Tom Daschle (D-N.D.) on Oct. 15, they would have moved more quickly to address the possibility that workers in Washington postal facilities were dangerously exposed.

While the CDC had access to samples from the Florida and NBC anthrax cases, the FBI immediately took custody of all anthrax samples found in the Senate majority leader's office, sources told Newsday, blocking access to anyone but the U.S. Army Military Research Institute on Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, in Fort Detrick, Md.

Within hours after Daschle's staff opened the envelope on Monday, Oct. 15, Army scientists told the FBI that the contents were unusually virulent and dangerous. And by midweek, the sources said, they had found evidence that the finely milled anthrax powder was engineered in a highly sophisticated manner that makes it more likely to infect human lungs.

The anthrax had been treated chemically so it would not clump together, engineered to drift in air currents for hours, even days, as single spores some 1.5 to 3 microns in size - just the right size, in fact, to get inside alveolar cells in the lung.

Details of that chemical treatment took longer for USAMRIID scientists to sort out, but sources say they were fully known to the FBI by early last week. Meanwhile, none of the information was made available to health officials until later in the week.

FBI officials would not comment, but health officials said they were told that all details regarding the strain were matters of a criminal investigation, and thus could not be shared.

Meanwhile, Fleming said the only thing CDC scientists were told was that the envelope was sealed and taped, prompting them to think the anthrax they had seen in the other cases "could not be transmitted from a sealed envelope without any perforations." As a result, CDC scientists downplayed the need for widespread nasal swab testing and antibiotic use in the postal system.

Also, when pressed by the media, they publicly refuted suggestions that the anthrax in use was "weapons-grade," prompting public confusion.

"The investigator-types [from the military and FBI] are not known for openness, and this is a declared war," said Dr. James Curran, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, speculating as to why the communication breakdown occurred. "On the other hand, when information coming from top officials seems to be wrong or incomplete, trust declines and fear increases."

However, Fleming and others said inter-agency communication has improved over the past few days.

With the Bush administration facing tough criticism for the confusing manner in which it was handling the incidents as they layered one upon another, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge pulled all of the contributing agencies into his office on Wednesday for a tongue-lashing that stressed the need for coordination and control.

That resulted in an immediate decrease in the number of federal officials making statements, with Ridge and the CDC taking a prominent role with scheduled daily news conferences. And on Thursday, after a week of inconsistent statements from the government, Ridge clarified for the first time the dangerous nature of the anthrax in the Daschle letter.

Another roadblock that health officials face is a lack of specific information about the use of anthrax as a weapon, since the U.S. government eliminated its bioweapons programs in the 1980s.

For instance, Dr. Joseph McCormick, assistant dean of the University of Texas Houston School of Public Health in Brownsville, is concerned about a CDC recommendation that people sterilize possibly contaminated surfaces using chlorine.

"We have corresponded with a number of people about this, and they all say the same thing: It does not work," said McCormick, who used to head the CDC's top laboratory. "There is no published evidence that chlorine works."

Additionally, microbiologist Charles Turnbough, of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, says that nobody knows exactly what parts of the Bacillus anthracis are responsible for its virulence and infectibility, meaning there's no quick fix if a large-scale infection were to take place.

Surrounding the anthrax cell is "this huge balloon structure of proteins and lipids and polysaccharides [sugars]. And no one knows what that is, or how it affects the organism."

One thing that balloon - known as the exosporium - does do, Turnbough says, is make anthrax spores clump together, like clusters of grapes. And sticking with the grapes metaphor, he says getting from the exosporium to the actual anthrax core is like squishing all the juicy, sweet pulp out of a grape, leaving only the seed in hand.

Without knowing what role the exosporium plays, Turnbough said, it is hard to precisely analyze how long spores might recirculate in the air, how likely they are to infect lungs, or how many might be needed to cause infection. Additionally, it remains a mystery just how many spores might stay dormant on lung cells, causing disease later.

Turnbough says that the only people who may have good answers to questions like these worked on military bioweapon programs in the 1980s when that program was still going strong.

"Obviously there's no reference book, there's no textbook we can turn to," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "We do talk informally with colleagues at USAMRIID ... to kick around [the question] where you have material hanging around. But there's no reference."

Additionally, other health officials suggest the talent pool of scientists with knowledge in this area is thin because the number of people studying this particular bacterium is small.

Turnbough points out that in June he submitted a grant proposal to the National Institutes for Health for his anthrax work and got back a note saying, "if this is such an important organism why are all your references before the 1980s?"

The answer, Turnbough said, is that hardly anybody has done research on the organism for the past 20 years.

Finally, CDC leaders say they have been hindered by a lack of experience in handling disease panic in a wartime context.

The public wants assurance, when it is under attack, that authorities know what they're doing. But the CDC is very publicly making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and changing its policies day by day. As such, former CDC Director Dr. William Roper, now dean of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill, argues that "The public needs to cut the CDC some slack.

"They are learning," Roper said. "We are learning. There are things now known about anthrax that weren't known a few days ago."

David Ropeik directs the Harvard University Center for Risk Analysis, which studies how people respond to threats - real or imagined.

He thinks federal health officials are now striking the right chord by saying, "'We're doing all we can, but learning as we go.'

"That," he suggests, "can reassure by its trustworthiness even more than it unsettles by its admission that we don't have all the answers."

Anthrax attacks' 'work of neo-Nazis'

Guardian Unlimited
Ed Vulliamy in New York
Sunday October 28, 2001

Neo-Nazi extremists within the US are behind the deadly wave of anthrax attacks against America, according to latest briefings from the security services and Justice Department. 

Experts on 'survivalist' groups and extreme-right 'Aryan' militants have been drafted into the investigation as the focus shifts away from possible links with the 11 September terrorists or even possible state backers such as Iraq. 

'We've been zeroing in on a number of hate groups, especially one on the West Coast,' a source at the Justice Department told The Observer yesterday. 'We've certainly not discounted the possibility that they may be involved.' 

The anthrax crisis, which grew last week, had by Friday night spread to mailrooms at CIA headquarters, the Supreme Court and a hospital, and yesterday three traces were found in an office building serving the US Capitol. 

'There are a number of strong leads, and some people we know well that we are looking at,' the Justice Department said. 'These are groups organised into militia and "survivalist" movements - which pull out of society and take to the hills to make war on the government, and who will support anyone else making war on the government.' 

Investigators are examining threatening letters sent to media organisations - some dated before the 11 September attacks - which did not contain anthrax but contained similar messages and handwriting style as those which later did. The theory is that the anthrax attacks were planned - and the killer germ was obtained and treated - long before the carnage of 11 September. 

Speaking to The Observer yesterday, the Justice Department official said: 'We have to see the right wing as much better coordinated than its apparent disorganisation suggests. And we have to presume that their opposition to government is just as virulent as that of the Islamic terrorists, if not as accomplished. 

'But that is, in its way, one of the most compelling possible leads in the anthrax trail - that it is not really al-Qaeda's style, but rather that of others who sympathise with its war against the American government and media.' 

The official said the investigation had, in the past week, drafted in special teams from the Civil Rights division of the department to reinforce the international terrorism teams. The American neo-Nazi Right is motivated above all by its loathing of the federal government, which it believes is selling out the homeland to a 'New World Order' run by masons and Jews. 

Its insane politics have propelled numerous attacks and armed stand-offs over the past eight years, culminating in the carnage at Oklahoma. Now the anthrax investigation is zooming in on possible connections between these neo-Nazis and Arab extremists, united by their mutual anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel. Such alliances have been common among neo-Nazis in Europe, but have played a lesser role in the US. However, monitoring of the hate groups shows they are now embracing al-Qaeda's terrorism as commendable attacks on the federal government. 

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal centre in Los Angeles said that at a meeting in Lebanon this year, US neo-Nazis were represented alongside Islamic militants. 'There's a great solidarity with the point of view of the bin Ladens of the world,' said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which monitors the far right. 'These people wouldn't let their daughters near an Arab, but they are certainly making common cause on an ideological level. They see the same enemy: American culture and multiculturalism.' 

Neo-Nazi websites, including the largest umbrella organisation, the National Alliance, show support for al-Qaeda. Billy Roper, the alliance's membership coordinator posted a message within hours of the 11 September attacks, reading: 'Anyone who is willing to drive a plane into a building to kill Jews is all right by me. I wish our members had half as much testicular fortitude.'  Another group, Aryan Action, praised the attacks of 11 September, saying: 'Either you're fighting with the Jews against al-Qaeda or you support al-Qaeda fighting against the Jews.'  Others outwardly support the anthrax mailing. 

One message, entitled 'No Sympathy for the Devil', was posted in several chat rooms by right-winger Grant Bruer, whose racist writings are circulated among supremacist groups. It reads: 'Is there not a single person who has received these anthrax letters that isn't an avowed enemy of the white race? Tom Brokaw, Tom Daschle and the gossip rag offices have all been 100 per cent legitimate targets. Who among us has the slightest bit of sympathy for these pukes?' 

Right-wing groups have had an interest in anthrax and other biological agents. A member of the Aryan Nation group once bragged he had a stash of anthrax from digging up a field where cows had died of the disease in the 1950s. Larry Wayne Harris was arrested after trying to obtain three vials of bubonic plague from a mail-order science company. 

The trail leading investigators to groups from the domestic ultra-right - rather than the al-Qaeda terror network - comes as a dramatic twist in the confused crisis. Last week, parallel evidence appeared to be linking the now rampant anthrax attacks to another trail: leading from Iraq and through the Czech Republic, with al-Qaeda militants as the likely couriers. 

The shift in the investigation echoes that which followed America's other infamous terrorist attack: the destruction of the federal government building in Oklahoma City in 1995. The bombing was initially thought to be the work of Arab extremists, but turned out to be the work of the Aryan supremacists.

Milling Anthrax: Just a Click Away?
By Timothy P. Carney

Human Events
The Week of October 29, 2001

It has been widely reported in recent days that only highly sophisticated scientists could mill anthrax spores into a powder fine enough to enter human lungs and cause a fatal infection. But machines capable of doing just that are widely used in legitimate industries today.

They are not particularly expensive machines, and can be purchased over the Internet.

On October 17, Dr. Richard Spertzel, who served as a UN biological weapons inspector in Iraq, said on PBS’s "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer": "The access to the equipment, if you know what it is needed, anybody could theoretically buy it, it’s not specialized made, it’s commercially available, but it’s a very specific type, perhaps and hopefully not known to most people."

But if the September 11 terrorists were shrewd enough to learn the skills to pilot Boeing jets at commercial flight schools, is it realistic to assume they were not shrewd enough to do the simple research necessary to find where high-grade milling equipment is available in the marketplace?

Not Hard to Find

A few days of investigating by this reporter suggests that it is not.

Aadvanced Machinery in Dearborn, Mich., for example, sells on its website machines designed for milling pigments, ceramics and pharmaceuticals to fine powder. One such machine, the media mill, uses tiny glass or ceramic ball bearings to grind these materials to under 5 microns, small enough to make it into the human lung. 

Tom Suhy, sales manager for Aadvanced Machinery, told Human Events, "I wouldn’t see why you couldn’t use it for anthrax." He estimates that between 50 and 75 dealers in the United States sell machinery that could grind anthrax to the point where it could get airborne. 

Anthrax, the disease, is caused by the bacteria anthracis bacillus. The bacillus is a rodlike bacterium poisonous to the human body. 

When conditions become hostile to the anthrax bacillus—if it runs out of food, becomes too cold, too dry, too low in carbon dioxide—it resorts to a defense mechanism. The DNA and other essential cell matter gather together near the middle of the cell, and a hard wall forms around this cluster. This is the spore. 

As if in hibernation, the anthrax spore waits inside the carcass of a now-dead cell, waiting for more hospitable conditions. Sporulation is key for the bacteria’s survival in nature, and also key for its use as a weapon. 

Anthrax spores range in size from half a micron to 1 micron, while the active anthrax bacillus usually ranges from one to two microns in diameter and from three to four microns in length. A five-micron particle is small enough to make it past the human respiratory system’s defenses and into the lungs. (GOP Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, who is a medical doctor, has said that the anthrax particles in the letter sent by terrorists to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s office were between 1.5 and 3 microns in diameter.) 

Terrorists, then, who can culture anthrax colonies—either from an infected animal or a laboratory—would need to mill the sporulated cells down to 5 microns to be able to infect people with inhalational anthrax. 

Commercially advertised devices appear fully capable of performing this chore.

Sturtevant, Inc., of Hanover, Mass., sells on its website all types of crushers, millers and grinders. The Micronizer, which is used in the production of ceramics, pharmaceuticals and propellants, can mill materials to sizes ranging from 100 microns to less than a micron.

Dr. Elizabeth Elder, biology chairman at Georgia Southwestern State University, reviewed the material on Sturtevant’s website, and told Human Events, "If the Micronizer can get particles down to a micron, it can aerosolize anthrax."

Sturtevant officials did not respond to phone, and e-mail inquiries asking them directly whether they believed their machine was capable of milling anthrax. 

On its website, Sturtevant lists these "applications," among others, for the Micronizer: "Agricultural chemicals," "Pharmaceutical, cosmetics," "Propellants." It says that among the benefits of using the Micronizer are: "Narrow particle size distribution," "No product contamination."

Gilson, another company that also advertises on the Internet, carries a variety of jar mills, which are slower, but just as thorough as media mills. They can mill materials down to sizes ranging from 1 to 50 microns. The bench-top version (18 by 24 inches and only 2.5 inches tall) costs only $1,546. The most expensive version runs $6,470. These machines, like the Micronizer, can process a wide range of materials. 

Gilson also sells Fritsch Pulverisette Planetary Micro-Mills, which can grind particles down to 1 micron and can be used for biological studies, according to a Canadian website that sells the same product.

Gilson’s product manager, Michael Smith, expressed doubt that the Fritsch products could be used for anthrax milling, but he would not rule it out. He suspected the machines would crush the spores, although he did not know how hard anthrax spores are. Dr. Elder said the spores are incredibly hard.

Aadvanced Machinery sells on its web page new and used mills. Sales manager Suhy said a new media mill might sell for $20,000 and used one could go for "eight to ten grand." 

Because different machines use different milling methods, close inspection of the spores could give clues as to which mill, if any, the terrorists used.

An October 25 report in the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, indicated that the "anthrax spores that contaminated the air in Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle’s office had been treated with a chemical additive so sophisticated that only three nations [the U.S., Iraq and the former Soviet Union] are thought to have been capable of making it." This raised the question of whether the spores were run through a mill at all. 

(Dr. Spertzel told the Post in the same article that Iraq used "a novel one-step process that involved drying spores in the presence of aluminum-based clays or silica powders." Spertzel did not return calls from Human Events. But the Post article quoted a government official as saying "that the totality of the evidence in hand suggests that it is unlikely that the spores were originally produced in the former Soviet Union or Iraq.")

Aadvanced Machinery’s Suhy said there are no U.S. export controls on the milling products, because they have so many legitimate uses and are also widely available overseas. Commerce Department officials did not return calls on the subject.

In 1999, to demonstrate the ease with which a dedicated terrorist could make lethal anthrax, the Department of Defense launched "Project Bachus." Judith Miller told the project’s story in the September 4 New York Times, a week before the terrorist hijackings. 

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency gave a small group of scientists approximately a million dollars. Posing as regular civilians, these scientists built an anthrax laboratory. Then using a harmless stand-in for anthrax, they were able to produce lethal sizes of the spores with the help of a milling machine they bought from a retailer like those that now advertise their completely legitimate wares on the worldwide web.

October 29, 2001 
The Los Angeles Times

For Cattlemen, Anthrax Just Another Aggravation
By STEPHANIE SIMON, Times Staff Writer

UVALDE, Texas -- Gnarls of mesquite trees dot the plains of southwest Texas. There are cattle here, and goats and sheep. And there is anthrax. 

Anthrax is endemic here, an age-old plague like the eagles that snatch newborn lambs or the red ants that bite with a wicked sting. The spores seed this ragged ranch country southwest of San Antonio, lurking in the soil, burrowed by mesquite. 

Every so often, the anthrax spores surface.  Animals ingest them and, unless they have been vaccinated, they die. The same thing happens now and then across much of the Southwest and Midwest: the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Kansas. Anthrax has killed sporadically for decades, if not centuries, and it will kill sporadically for decades more. This is an aggravation. But it is not cause for alarm. 

"We've had it here forever," rancher Carl Hellums says. He bends over the bleached bones of a bull that died of anthrax on his land years back. "I don't know if it's ignorance or what, but we're not overly concerned." 

Hellums had just spent his morning castrating lambs amid clouds of dust so thick he could barely see his boots. That dust could well have contained anthrax spores. He could well have inhaled them. Hellums shrugs. He's not one to worry. Or rather, he worries about the coyotes that stalk his sheep, about the hard time he's having finding a ranch hand tough enough for the work. Anthrax? It's not on his mind. 

"It's just a fact of life around here," explains Dr. Herman Rathke, a veterinarian. 

Another livestock vet, Dr. Cecil Arnim Jr., says, "Nobody's ever had their nose swabbed." 

There is a world of difference between the clumps of dormant spores in the Texas soil and the concentrated, purified, finely ground particles that have been sent through the mail to lethal effect. Ranchers out here understand the distinction. 

Still, they observe the anthrax panic knotting the nation with the been-there, survived-that confidence of cowboys. "Livestock producers who have lived with this for generations know how to deal with it," explains Dr. Terry Conger, an epidemiologist with the Texas Animal Health Commission. 

To be sure, it is possible for humans to get sick from the soil spores. 

This summer, a Texas ranch hand developed a nasty lesion after skinning a buffalo in a pasture where several cattle had died of anthrax.  By the time doctors figured out the lesion wasn't just a bad spider bite, the man was so sick he had to spend nine days in the hospital.  Antibiotics eventually cured him. 

Another case of cutaneous anthrax cropped up in North Dakota a year earlier. The victim contracted the disease while disposing of five anthrax-stricken cows; he apparently had brushed one of his gloves--teeming with spores--against a cut on his face. A month after that case emerged, Minnesota officials announced that two family members who ate hamburgers made from a diseased cow had developed symptoms of gastrointestinal anthrax. Both recovered before the disease could be confirmed. 

Inhalation anthrax, however, is all but unheard of on the ranch, because the spores common to U.S. soil are too lumpy to waft airborne and lodge in human lungs. They could be kicked up in dust clouds, but even so, experts say, it's doubtful there would be enough of them to infect a person. Skin anthrax is a more likely threat, but gloves usually are protection enough. No biohazard suits or Cipro are needed. 

Hunting guide Jim Roche explains the Texas perspective: "You have a better chance of getting bit by a rattlesnake or attacked by a rabid coyote out here than you do getting infected by the anthrax." 

If anthrax inspires fear here at all, it's fear of financial loss. A microbe that can fell a $3,000 bull in hours--without so much as a visible symptom--is a fearsome enemy indeed. 

There is a vaccine to prevent such losses; it is inexpensive and extremely effective, although the protection only lasts a year. In regions like southwest Texas, where anthrax spores are seeded thick, most livestock are vaccinated each spring. Yet there's always some rancher who grows complacent, or forgets, or puts off the vaccines just long enough for an outbreak to flare. 

Anthrax in livestock, as in humans, is not infectious. But scientists believe horseflies can spread the disease from animal to animal. And when a stricken animal dies, the billions of bacteria in its blood revert to spores, an exceptionally hardy form. As the carcass rots, the spores reenter the soil, where they can lurk for decades--or infect the next unvaccinated animal to come along. 

Veterinarians advise burning anthrax-infected remains to kill off spores.  Still, a few dead animals and scattered patches of hot soil can set off an epidemic. 

That's what happened in southwest Texas last summer. 

Rancher John Rogers, a burly cowhand from way back, turned into his pasture one June morning to find Old Ben, his favorite rodeo horse, gasping for breath and teeming with hundreds of flies. "It was the first time in my life I had seen anything like it," he recalls. Rogers phoned his vet, who recommended 30 milliliters of penicillin. A few minutes later, the vet called back to amend the dose. Rogers hurried into the house to fill the syringe. By the time he came back out, Old Ben was dead. 

Rogers knew right away it was anthrax, although he never had seen the disease on his land. Within days, he lost three cows as well.  Vaccinations saved the rest of his herd, but it turned out that his ranch, in the small town of Montell, was smack in the middle of an epidemic unlike any the region had seen in decades. 

Dozens of horses and cattle in five Texas counties died of anthrax, along with a few elk, some water buffalo and even a pet llama. By far the most devastated animals, however, were deer. 

Thousands of them died; some ranches reported entire herds wiped out, and they canceled their fall hunts. Hellums says one of his neighbors hired three men to help him dispose of contaminated carcasses--"and all they did for a month was find and burn dead deer."

Despite the grim memory of that epidemic and the emergence of anthrax as a terrorist weapon, those who draw their livings from the wide-open land here seem unfazed by the spores in the soil.  There are bacteria that cause cows to miscarry and there are bacteria that infect sheep muscle and anthrax is, in the end, just another nasty bug. 

As Rathke the veterinarian puts it: "It's just one of the things we have around here. There's no use becoming alarmed." 

Hellums, proud of his good health at age 68, is proud too that he has not let anthrax scare him. But he has started wearing latex gloves when he works with his animals in a way that will draw blood, such as castrating the young lambs. 

"I always have cuts and scratches on my hands, and I got to thinking: if their blood should mingle with mine . . ." Then Hellums gives a good-natured snort of a laugh. "It's not panic. But there's no sense inviting trouble."

Anthrax preparation indicates home-grown origin

16:04 29 October 01 

As anthrax continues to turn up in US postal facilities, and postal workers, evidence is emerging that it is an American product. Not only are the bacteria genetically close to the strain the US used in its own anthrax weapons in the 1960s, but New Scientist can reveal that the spores also seem to have been prepared according to the secret US "weaponisation" recipe.

This is troubling, say bioterrorism specialists. While the terrorists behind the anthrax-laced mail US might have got hold of the strain of anthrax in several laboratories around the world, the method the US developed for turning a wet bacterial culture into a dangerous, dry powder is a closely-guarded secret.

Its apparent use in the current spate of attacks could mean the secret is out. An alternative is that someone is using anthrax produced by the old US biological weapons programme that ended in 1969 - in which case the scope for further attacks could be limited. Experiments to determine which is true are underway now in the US.

Particle size

Analysis of the physical form of the anthrax powder used in the attacks has lagged behind the genetic analysis. Bacteria from patients or contaminated surfaces can be multiplied up to provide enough DNA for analysis. But a physical examination requires a sample of the actual powder, and so far, only two are known. One is from the letter opened in Senator Tom Daschle's office in Washington on 15 October, the other from a letter sent to the New York Post.

Last week, US Senator Bill Frist announced that the powder in the Daschle letter was in particles 1.5 to 3.0 microns wide, a very narrow size range. The results of the physical analysis of the New York Post letter are not yet known.

The actual bacterial spore is ovoid and around half a micron wide. The whole trick to making anthrax weapons, says Ken Alibek, the former deputy head of the Soviet Union's bioweapons programme, is to turn wet cultures of bacteria into dry clumps of spores that are each between one and five microns wide, the optimal size to penetrate a human lung and stay there.

But dried spores tend to form larger particles, with a static electric charge that makes them cling doggedly to surfaces rather than floating through the air where they can be inhaled.

Fluidising agent

The Soviet Union got around this by grinding dried cultures along with chemicals that cause the particles to remain separate. Iraq is the only other state known to have tried making such a weapon, and it dried anthrax cultures along with bentonite, a clay used as a fluidising agent in powders. But last week the White House said there was no bentonite in the Daschle letter.

For its weapon, say informed sources, the US added various molecules, including surfactants, to the wet spores so that when they were dried, they broke up into fine particles within a very narrow size range of a few microns. There was no need to grind the powder further. Chemical tests are now being conducted to see if any traces of the US additives are present.

Grinding was considered the most likely way for terrorists to create anthrax powders, as the milling machinery is not hard to obtain. But it results in a wider range of particle sizes. Large particles can be filtered out, but smaller ones remain. The Daschle anthrax, say sources, looks instead like it was made according to the US recipe.

Anthrax stockpile

The question is, when? At its peak, the US bioweapons programme made 900 kilograms of dry anthrax powder per year at a plant in Arkansas. That stockpile was destroyed when the US renounced bioweapons in 1969. But small samples might have been saved without being noticed.

Experiments are now underway in the US to determine how many bacterial generations separate the anthrax being used in the attacks from the most closely related strains in a reference collection of anthrax, which includes the US weapons strain.

If the number is very small, and the anthrax closely resembles the weapons strain genetically, it could be a leftover from weapons production before 1969.

If, however, the bacteria have gone through many cell divisions since the most closely related strain was frozen, they might have been produced more recently. That would mean someone has obtained not only a virulent strain of anthrax, but the know-how to turn it into what was probably the most sophisticated anthrax weapon ever produced.

Debora MacKenzie



pp. 20, 21, 32 

National Enquirer - Oct. 31, 2001 

INVESTIGATORS probing the bioterrorist attack on American Media, Inc. believe the spores were delivered in a deadly “letter bomb” - and the senders were inspired by the best-selling Robin Cook book “Vector.” 

The ENQUIRER’S exclusive in-depth probe also reveals a chilling link between Stevens and the terrorists behind the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon: The wife of Steven’s boss at the Sun newspaper spent a week with two of the terrorists, helping them find rental apartments in Florida – which they left just before the September 11 carnage. 

Now experts say the anthrax attack on the ENQUIRER and Sun’s parent company American Media, Inc., is already helping authorities prepare for bioterrorism attacks in the future - and that will save countless lives. 

The anthrax nightmare that has gripped the nation began on September 19, investigators believe, when mail for the Sun was delivered to Managing Editor Joe West – and he immediately became suspicious of a bulky manila envelope he picked up. 

The next day a staff assistant at NBC in New York received a letter addressed to news anchor Tom Brokaw that later was shown to contain anthrax. 

The envelope sent to the Sun was addressed: “Please forward to Jennifer Lopez, c/o the Sun.” 

“When I picked up the envelope, I could feel something cylindrical inside,” West told The ENQUIRER. 

“Something told me, `Don’t open it! So I tossed it into the garbage.” 

But recently hired news assistant Bobby Bender, whose daughter is a J.Lo. Fan, said, “I want to open it.” He grabbed the envelope from West’s garbage can. 

“As he opened it, I saw a metal cigar tube – obviously the cylinder I’;d felt – with a cheap cigar inside.” Said West. “There was also an empty can of chewing tobacco and a small detergent carton. 

“There was a handwritten letter to Jennifer Lopez. The writer said how much he loved her and asked her to marry him. The letter also contained some sexual innuendo. 

Investigators say that addressing the letter to Lopez may have been a clever ploy – her name on the envelope made the letter intriguing enough for a Sun staffer to open. 

Moments later, Bender appeared in a different part of the newsroom. 

“Bobby Bender came around the corner with this letter in the upturned palms of his hands,” said photo assistant Roz Suss, a 13-year Sun staffer. 

“It was a business-size sheet of stationery decorated with pink and blue clouds around the edges. It was folded into three sections, and in the middle was a plie of what looked like pink-tinged talcum powder. 

“Sticking out of the powder was a little gold something. I couldn’t tell what. 

“Just then Bob Stevens came walking from his desk. He was obviously curious about it and held out his hands. Bender delicately transferred the letter from his palms to Bob’s palms. 

“Bob walked back to his desk and sat down, holding the letter in his cupped palms over the keyboard of his computer, with his arms ben so his face was right over the powder and just inches away from it.” 

Stevens was farsighted and investigators believe he inhaled deadly spores by bring the letter close to his face so he could see it better. 

“He was peering down for several seconds into the letter and the powder ant the gold thing sticking out,” Suss added. 

“I heard him say, `Gee, it looks like a Jewish star.’ 

“I reached from behind Bob and picked it out of the powder with two fingers. Sure enough, it was a little Star of David with a little loop for a string or chain. I threw it into the trash and walked away. 

“I never did see what Bob did with the letter or the powder. I assume he threw it in the trash.” 

Thirteen days later, on October 2, Stevens was hospitalized with what was later diagnosed as anthrax. He died October 5. 

After Steven’s death, CDC investigators found traces of anthrax on the keyboard of his computer. 

Said Suss: “The letter has to be the answer to this horrible tragedy. 

“When I think about it, I feel sick. I put my fingers in that powder!” 

The “letter bomb” fits perfectly into one of the FBI’s key theories – the terrorists followed a road map laid out in best-selling author Robin Cook’s 1999 thriller “Vector.” 

The book begins with a business man in New York, Jason Papparis, checking his mail. 

“Reaching the next-to-last envelope, he hesitated,” writes Cook. “It was thick and square instead of rectangular. Jason detected a small, irregular bulge in the center. 

“His curiosity getting the better of him, he picked up his letter opener and sliced through the envelope’s top flap.” 

Inside, he find a folded card sealed with a tab. 

“Jason worked the tab loose from its bed and as soon as he did the card leaped in his hands and snapped open. 

“At the same time a coiled spring mechanism propelled a puff of dust along with a handful of tiny glittering stars into the air.  He sneezed several times from the dust.” 

The nest day, Jason has a temperature of 103 degrees, a cough, a splitting headache and excruciating chest pain. And shortly afterwards he dies in hospital from a baffling infection caused by the puff of dust. Medical detectives finally track down the killer anthrax. 

Asked what he thought happened to Bob Stevens, a senior FBI agent told an ENQUIRER employee to read the first ten pages of `Vector.’ 

The ENQUIRER has learned that several copies of the book have been delivered to the FBI command center in charge of the anthrax investigation at American Media. Key investigators have been told to read it. 

The FBI’s interest in the incident is so intense that one Sun staffer was asked to undergo hypnosis to help plumb the depths of this memory, The ENQUIRER has learned. 

The ENQUIRER has also learned exclusive details about a link between the Sun and the terrorists who attacked America on September 11. Gloria Irish, the wife of Sun Editor-in-Chief Mike Irish, is a Delray Beach real estate agent – and she spent a week driving two of the Arab terrorists around the Florida city when they were looking to lease apartments. 

Gloria first met one of the terrorists when he walked into the office of her company, Pelican Realty, around July 10. He was Marwan Al-Shehhi, who would two months later pilot a jet into the second tower at the World Trade Center, killing thousands. 

“He asked if I had any rentals for a three-month period, saying he was studying to be a commercial pilot,” Gloria told The ENQUIRER.” “He was renting airplanes locally to rack up flying hours. I mentioned that my husband held a private pilot’s license. 

“It chills me to the bone now to remember how pleasant Marwan was. He was a 23-year-old kid, good-natured and easygoing. 

“Marwan said he was looking for two apartments – a one-bedroom for himself and a two- bedroom for his pal Hamza Alghamadi,” who turned out to be another terrorist involved in the attacks. 

“I spent much of the week driving Marwan around looking at apartments. He’s come into my office each morning to take a drive to look at another apartment and he’d say, `Hey Gloria! How are your doing?’ I’d say, `Hey Marwan! Did you go flying today?’ 

When Marwan brought along his buddy Hamza, Gloria said, he “was really a creepy guy. He didn’t speak at all. I was told he didn’t speak English, but when Marwan and I spoke, it was clear that Hamza understood without Marwan ever translating into Arabic for him. 

“Marwan casually talk about a very rich Arab friend he had. He said his friend had more money than he knew what to do with.” 

The last time Gloria saw the two men was just before the September 11 attacks, when they came into her office to get their security deposit refunded. 

“They were in the apartments only for two months,” she said. “The owners didn’t refund their deposits. They totally trashed both apartments. No garbage was taken out in two months, all of it was in bags. IN the tine one-bedroom, the toilet was taken off the floor! The whole place stank. Lamp shades were slashed and the entire place trashed. The two-bedroom was even worse.

“After the planes crashed into the World Trade Center the FBI called me and asked if I had rented apartments to Marwan and Hamza. I was stunned and totally shocked. 

“Then just as I was calming down a little, I found out that my husband’s photo editor and our good friend Bob Stevens died from anthrax that he got at the AMI office, and a terrorist link to September 11 is suspected. 

“I’ve spent night after night thinking about what I said to those monsters.” 

Another likely link between the terrorists and anthrax was revealed when Delray Beach pharmacist Gregg Chatterton said World Trad Center attacker Mohamed Atta came into his store with red hands, complaining of a rash, as if he had been handling dangerous chemicals. 

Atta refused to tell Chatterton what he had been handling, so the pharmacist never gave him any medicine. 

Chatterton also disclosed that Marwan Al-Shehhi had come to him with flu-like symptoms and a cough – which can be early signs of anthrax. 

As medical authorities battled to cope with the anthrax terror, American Media vice president and general counsel Michael Kahane found himself at the center of a drama that made worldwide headlines. 

Even though Bob Stevens was hospitalized on Tuesday, October 2, it wasn’t until Thursday that Kahane received the news that Stevens had anthrax. 

Kahane said when he was able to contact John O’Malley, Palm Beach environmental health administrator, “I asked him, `Do we need to close the building?’ 

“He told me Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, would speak to a meeting of employees the next morning.” 

The next day at 4 p.m. an investigative3 team from the CDC, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspector’s office arrived at the AMI building along with O’Malley. 

“There was a uniform consensus: You have absolutely nothing to worry about,” said Kahane. 

“They went to Bob’s work area and swabbed his computer keyboard and desk drawers, the floor around the desk and the ceiling overhead. Their actual working investigation took about 45 minutes.” 

It was about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday that Kahane received an urgent phone call from the FBI’s West Palm Beach office, telling him to call Dr. Malecki immediately. 

“She said they’d located anthrax in the workplace and they needed to close the building,” said Kahane. 

“I suddenly realized there were people still working in the building, including CEO David Pecker. I called her back and asked `Do you want me to get people out of the building?’ 

“ `Yes - they should leave right away,’ she said.” 

The next morning at 9 a.m. more than 500 employees started arriving at the health department offices. Because of the numbers, they had to wait outside before medical staff could administer nasal swabs to test for anthrax. They were given a powerful antibiotic, Cipro. 

Several employees nearly fainted from the stress and heat, and the Red Cross arrived to hand out water for the beleaguered throng. 

Despite all the problems, the ongoing ordeal of employees at The ENQUIRER and other AMI publications may help save American lives. 

Already, officials are handling anthrax scares in other parts of the country more quickly. Employees at NBC studios in New York were given antibiotics immediately after the staff assistant was diagnosed with anthrax. 

Because of the attack on AMI, doctors and nurses around the country are now being told to look for signs of anthrax in sick persons they treat. And hospital labs are being better equipped to quickly diagnose anthrax. 

“Diagnosis is the key,” said Florida State Senator Walter Campbell. “But did all doctors look for it before? They are now.” 

And retired U.S. Army Col. David Hackworth told The ENQUIRER: “We need to be alert. We were not alert on September 11. 

“This is not just a wake-up call for America. This is wake-up call number two!”

Thursday, Nov. 1, 2001 9:15 p.m. EST

Hannity, O'Reilly Hit by Anthrax Scare Letters

Fox News Channel personalities Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly were hit by threatening letters similar to those laden with anthrax sent to Sen. Tom Daschle and NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, the New York Post reported Thursday.

"In my gut, I know it's the same person," Hannity told his nationally syndicated radio audience Thursday afternoon, explaining that he'd kept quiet about the suspicious letters because they were the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation.

The letters arrived before Sept. 11 but were addressed in the same kind of block letter handwriting used in Daschle and Brokaw missives. They apparently contained no anthrax.

Each line in the printed address clearly sloped downward to the right, the paper said. The envelopes bore a postmark from Indianapolis, where the Post Office discovered yesterday that some of its equipment is contaminated with anthrax.

Hannity said that he'd begun receiving the suspicious mail last winter and again in August. 

"When I saw the Tom Daschle envelope and the Tom Brokaw envelope, I immediately was stunned," Hannity told listeners. "It was the exact same handwriting that I had recognized. ... When I saw it I said, 'Oh my God, that's the same guy.'"

The "Hannity & Colmes" co-host revealed that in addition to the letters with an Indianapolis postmark, "one or two were from Trenton (N.J.)," where traces of anthrax have also been reported.

Hannity said he hasn't gotten any more of the letters since the Sept. 11 attacks and hasn't been tested for anthrax exposure.

Investigators focus on domestic culprit



Authorities probing the wave of anthrax poisonings have turned in recent days to New Jersey universities and private laboratories, looking for clues to bolster the theory that a single person or group with ties to the region -- and not overseas terrorists -- may be responsible for the deadly letters.

FBI agents have contacted the facilities to ask specifically about missing equipment and employees who have been fired or who left under questionable circumstances, several companies confirmed.

"It appears that it is a domestic person or group; that is the prevailing thought," a ranking law enforcement source said.

A second senior official agreed that the idea of a home-based terrorist has emerged as a key operative theory, but cautioned the probe is filled with fast-moving developments that could shift the investigation at any point. "People are pursuing everything," the official said.

Investigators are pursuing the thesis that the anthrax terrorist is homegrown because of what they call "negative evidence": they simply have not found any proof linking the attacks to the Sept. 11 hijackings or to any foreign-sponsored groups such as al Qaeda.

"There is a lack of any substantive leads, or any clear-cut calling cards pointing to any organization," one Justice Department official explained.

At the same time, a preliminary analysis of the tainted letters by FBI specialists suggests a profile similar to that of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, the reclusive anti-technology mathematician whose deadly mail bombs killed three people and wounded 23 others over two decades, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

FBI experts in handwriting and behavioral analysis suspect the anthrax-laced letters were composed by an educated person of foreign descent, but someone who has spent much time in the United States and become proficient in English, law enforcement sources say.

The officials note that the date written on the letter addressed to Sen. Tom Daschle -- "09-11-01" -- is a more common style in the United States than in Europe or the Middle East, where Sept. 11 would be rendered as "11-09-01."


FBI spokeswoman Sandra Carroll confirmed that investigators are questioning individuals at universities, schools, pharmacies, veterinary services and other locations that may have had contact with anthrax. Carroll said the solitary suspect is "certainly one theory" being actively considered, but called it "premature" to draw one conclusion.

Seventeen people have contracted inhaled or cutaneous anthrax since early October, including four who have died of the more severe inhaled form of the disease. Five of the confirmed cases are in New Jersey, and officials are awaiting tests that could confirm a sixth in the state.

Agents have called or visited many of the state's drug makers, asking about missing equipment or materials and employees who may have been fired or left under questionable circumstances.

"Most, if not all, of the companies in the industry have been meeting with the FBI of late," said Paul Fitzhenry, a spokesman for Peapack-based Pharmacia Co.

Others who confirmed visits included Schering-Plough Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Aventis Pharmaceuticals. Representatives from the companies said agents asked them not to discuss the details of their conversations.

"We have cooperated with the agency's request for information," said Aventis spokeswoman Lori Kraut, who said the Bridgewater- based company turned over information about employees who had been fired.

Among the schools visited or called by investigators in the last two weeks were Princeton University, Rider University, Montclair State University and the College of New Jersey. All said they neither work with anthrax or have the equipment to do so, according to officials.

Rider University has neither the materials or equipment to handle anthrax, but biology professor Jonathan Yavelow said he was still quizzed about who had access to the school's labs.

"They asked me if we had a process to sign in and sign out," he said. "We didn't. We're just a small university with a few research grants."

Montclair State University's biology department chairwoman, Bonnie Lustigman, got the call from the FBI in the last week, "and they definitely knew what questions to ask.

"They wanted to know what cultures we had, what medium we had, what security measures were in place," said Lustigman.


The domestic terrorist theory has been receiving wider attention in recent days and sparked debate among experts not affiliated with the investigation. Robert Ressler, a former supervisor of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, believes agents should be looking for a home-grown bioterrorist.

"It is probably a person working in some lab somewhere," said Ressler. "And the hostility, the mental dysfunction, was present, but the triggering event (on Sept. 11) is what I think caused the person to do this."

But U.S. Air Force Col. (Ret.) Randall Larsen, an instructor and specialist on homeland security at the National War College, said such a plot would require expertise in engineering, microbiology and aerosol physics.

"I do not believe that a single individual -- I don't care how smart he is, Ted Kaczynski or whatever -- can make a sophisticated biological weapon," Larsen said. "It takes a team of people."

Agents also continue to review surveillance tapes of post offices around Trenton, where anthrax- tainted letters passed on their way to the New York Post, NBC News and Daschle's office in Washington.

Tony Esposito, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in New Jersey, said investigators have substantially narrowed down the target area from the 46 post offices and 650 collection boxes identified in the early days of the probe. But Esposito would not specify how narrow the focus has become.

A 61-year-old hospital worker in New York on Wednesday became the fourth person in a month to die from anthrax inhalation, following two Washington, D.C., postal workers and a Florida newspaper editor. Seven others have been diagnosed with the deadly form of the disease.

An additional seven postal workers and media employees have contracted cutaneous anthrax, the less severe condition caused after skin contact with spores. Officials are awaiting test results on others suspected to have it, and specialists have detected spores in dozens of buildings, from the Supreme Court to media outlets to the mail processing centers.

But agents are puzzled that they have not discovered any new anthrax-laced letters. Some believe that suggests the culprit may have lived in Trenton area but has been scared off by the army of federal agents now combing the area.

"If there were more letters, there would be more people sick," one investigator said.

Others say the relatively low number of deaths and tainted letters make it less likely the poisonings were part of a widespread terrorist biological attack. Still, as one source noted, the few letters that have been identified have succeeded in instilling panic and fear among the populace.

"We're dealing with a very intelligent mind," the source said. "It could be a case of 'death by a thousand cuts.'"

Staff writers Edward Silverman and John Mooney and the Scripps- Howard News Service contributed to this report.

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 3, 2001

Radio Address by the President to the Nation
The Oval Office

 THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  As all Americans know, recent weeks have brought a second wave of terrorist attacks upon our country:  deadly anthrax spores sent through the U.S. Mail.  There's no precedent for this type of biological attack, and I'm proud of the way our law enforcement officers, our health care and postal workers and the American people are responding in the face of this new threat.

At this point in our investigation, we have identified several different letters that contained anthrax spores.  Among them were the letters mailed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on Capitol Hill, NBC News in New York and the New York Post newspaper.  Four Americans have died as a result of these acts of terrorism.  At least 13 others have developed forms of anthrax disease, either in the lungs, or less severely, on the skin.

Public health officials have acted quickly to distribute antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to anthrax.  When anthrax exposure is caught early, preventative treatment is effective.  Anthrax can be treated with many antibiotics, and several pharmaceutical companies have offered medicine at reduced prices.  The government is swiftly testing post offices and other sites for anthrax spores, and is closing them where potential threats to health are detected.  We are working to protect people based on the best information available.

And as we deal with this new threat, we are learning new information every day.  Originally, experts believed the anthrax spores could not escape from sealed envelopes.  We now know differently, because of cases where postal workers were exposed even though the envelopes they processed were not opened.

Anthrax apparently can be transferred from one letter to another, or from a letter to mail sorting equipment.  But anthrax is not contagious, so it does not spread from human to human, the way a cold or a flu can.  Anthrax can be killed by sterilization, and the Postal Service is purchasing sterilizing equipment to be installed across the country.

More than 30 billion pieces of mail have moved through the Postal Service since September the 11th, so we believe the odds of any one piece of mail being tainted are very low.  But still, people should take appropriate precautions:  look carefully at your mail before opening it, tell your doctor if you believe you may have been exposed to anthrax.  An excellent summary of the symptoms of this disease can be found on the web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

Remember, doctors warn that you can put your health at risk by taking antibiotics when you don't need them, so use antibiotics only after consulting a health care professional.  If you see anything suspicious, or have useful information, please contact law enforcement authorities.  The Postal Service and the FBI have offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the arrest and the conviction of the anthrax terrorists.

And those who believe this is an opportunity for a prank should know that sending false alarms is a serious criminal offense.  At least 20 individuals have already been arrested for anthrax hoaxes, and we will pursue anyone who tries to frighten their fellow Americans in this cruel way.

We do not yet know who sent the anthrax -- whether it was the same terrorists who committed the attacks on September the 11th, or whether it was the -- other international or domestic terrorists.  We do know that anyone who would try to infect other people with anthrax is guilty of an act of terror.  We will solve these crimes, and we will punish those responsible.  As we learn more about these anthrax attacks, the government will share the confirmed and credible information we have with you.  I'm proud of our citizens' calm and reasoned response to this ongoing terrorist attack.

Thank you for listening.


FBI profiles anthrax culprit
Evidence points to adult male loner

Republic news services
Nov. 10, 2001 12:00:00

WASHINGTON - The FBI increasingly is convinced that the person behind the recent anthrax attacks is a lone wolf within the United States who has no links to terrorist groups but is an "opportunist" using the Sept. 11 hijackings to vent his rage, investigators said Friday.

Based on case studies, handwriting and linguistic analysis, forensic data and other evidence, authorities do not believe at this point in their five-week investigation that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network is behind the anthrax attacks, FBI officials said.

FBI investigators said at a news briefing that they likely are looking for a male adult with at least limited scientific expertise who was able to use easily obtained laboratory equipment for as little as $2,500 to produce a high-quality grade of anthrax.

In a related development, postal investigators said for the first time Friday that other mail containing anthrax bacteria was probably sent to Washington last month, in addition to the one letter that has been found, the one sent to the office of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

"We're thinking there may be one more letter and maybe more than one," said Kenneth Newman, the deputy chief postal inspector for investigations.

The basis for that view, said John Nolan, the deputy postmaster general, is that experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it is unlikely that a mail handler at a State Department postal center in Virginia who contracted inhalation anthrax could have been infected by a letter that had merely come in contact with the letter to Daschle.

FBI officials, in offering their most expansive public assessment to date of their much-criticized probe, are hoping that the rough profile they have developed of the anthrax culprit could produce a capture reminiscent of the 1996 netting of the infamous Unabomber.

In that case, an 18-year spree of bombings led authorities to Ted Kaczynski only after his brother recognized his writing style in a long manifesto that was released publicly.

In the anthrax case, the FBI is hoping its portrait of the perpetrator, as an anti-social loner with some peculiar mannerisms in his handwriting and speech, will help lead them to whoever mailed at least three anthrax-laden letters that killed four people.

Authorities have offered $1.25 million in reward money, and leads from the public "will play an integral role perhaps in identifying this individual," said James R. Fitzgerald, an FBI profiler who worked on the Unabomber case.

Even as authorities sought the public's help, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge acknowledged at the White House on Friday that progress in the probe has been frustratingly slow.

"We're still no closer to identifying specifically the origin of the anthrax and/or the perpetrators of that challenge that's confronted America," Ridge said.

FBI officials acknowledge that psychological profiling, the stuff of Silence of the Lambs and other Hollywood fare, is at best a rough science. But they insist they may have some telltale signs to follow by combining histories of serial bombers such as Kaczynski with handwriting and chemical evidence from three anthrax-laced letters sent in September and October to Daschle, NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and the New York Post. The FBI said that a fourth letter may have been addressed to a Florida tabloid publishing company where two men became ill from anthrax and one died.

Investigators suspect, for instance, that whoever mailed the anthrax has little contact with the public and carries deep-seated resentments, perhaps against Daschle, Brokaw or the New York Post, but does not like direct confrontation.

All three letters were postmarked from Trenton, N.J., but postal officials indicated Friday that they have discounted their early belief that the letters were mailed from a residential postal route in Ewing, N.J., just outside the Trenton city limits.

Federal investigators have changed their theory about Teresa Heller, a West Trenton mail carrier initially believed to have picked up a letter containing anthrax somewhere along her postal route. Postal officials say they now believe she contracted cutaneous anthrax from mail she delivered that was contaminated elsewhere in the system.

They have broadened their search to a wider region in the Trenton area, but FBI officials said there is no assurance that whoever mailed the anthrax letters had any direct connection to that area. Fitzgerald noted that Kaczynski traveled 1,500 miles to send several explosive packages.

Investigators believe the anthrax attacker has at least a limited background in science, perhaps a Ph.D., a lab technician "or somewhere in between," Fitzgerald said.

Forensic analysis indicates that the Oct. 9 letter sent to Daschle was much more highly refined than the two letters sent to the media on Sept. 18, officials said.

That refinement process would require only "basic laboratory equipment," including a microscope, a centrifuge and a milling device. The equipment would be available in many labs or could be purchased for as little as $2,500, officials said.

Although early speculation indicated the highly refined strain of anthrax could only have been produced in the United States, Iraq or Russia, investigators now say it could be from anywhere.

One sign leading investigators away from the prospect of an Islamic fundamentalist is the use of "Allah is great" to close all three letters. Fitzgerald said the phrasing and the absence of Arabic text do not jibe with past Muslim attacks.

Sunday, Nov. 11, 2001
Profile of a Killer
Lacking hard evidence, the FBI hopes its portrait of the anthrax mailer will flush out a suspect

He's undoubtedly a loner; if he lives with someone, there's almost certainly a place in the house — a basement, maybe, or a garage — that would be off-limits to anyone else. He's got some sort of scientific background and may make his living working in a lab. He doesn't like confrontation, but he's seething with repressed anger. And starting Sept. 11, he became in- tensely preoccupied — but seemingly not, strangely enough, with the events that gripped the rest of the nation. 

So far, the man described by the FBI last week is purely fictional, a portrait assembled in part from what little evidence is available and in part from long experience with serial killers. But if the bureau's forensic profilers are correct, it's a pretty good description of the man behind the anthrax attacks that have terrified America for the past five weeks. Sooner or later, they hope, someone will notice that it also describes a friend or co-worker or — as in the case of the Unabomber — a relative. 

If this portrait of a killer eventually results in an arrest, it will be largely thanks to James Fitzgerald of the FBI Academy's Behavioral Analysis Unit, a longtime student of such grandiose murderers. They're almost invariably male, says Fitzgerald, and they're always filled with anger. In this case, the rage is directed, for reasons still unclear, at Tom Brokaw, Tom Daschle and someone at the New York Post. "They represent something to him," says Fitzgerald. "Whatever agenda he's operating under, these people meant something to him." Indeed, the FBI is hoping the mailer might have spoken contemptuously of them to an acquaintance who will recall the incident. 

Surprisingly, though, Fitzgerald doesn't think the man is linked to Osama bin Laden. In a TIME/CNN poll of 1,037 Americans last week, 63% thought it very likely that bin Laden was responsible for the anthrax attacks, 40% thought it very likely that Saddam Hussein was to blame, and only 16% picked "U.S. citizens not associated with foreign terrorists." 

But the FBI profiler points out that references to Allah and Israel in the anthrax notes do not resemble similar references in letters from al-Qaeda terrorists. "He's an opportunist," says Fitzgerald, arguing that the man used the events of Sept. 11 as a cover. And while the finely powdered anthrax sent to Senator Daschle points to a skilled manufacturer, it need not have come from a professional bioweaponeer; it could have been made in a home lab with a budget of $2,500. 

If that's the case, says Fitzgerald, then right after the hijackings, the mailer "would have become all of a sudden very mission-oriented, very focused and preoccupied." He might have begun self-medicating with antibiotics. After the letters were mailed, he would have become obsessed with reading the papers and watching TV, especially when the anthrax news broke. Another possible clue: the letters were mailed on Tuesdays in all three cases. That suggests this domestic terrorist had access to a lab only on weekends; he would then package the stuff on Monday and send it out the next day. 

That is Fitzgerald's theory anyway, and with any luck the public will match this behavioral portrait with a real person. Or maybe someone will pick up instead on the mailer's writing style: 09 for September, rather than just 9; printing the number 1 with a distinctive foot and head; writing can not instead of can't; using block letters rather than upper and lower case. 

Unfortunately, this is about all the FBI has to go on. Not only is there an almost total absence of clues, but, say critics, there's also an abundance of cluelessness within the FBI. Several university labs that work with anthrax, and companies that make or repair equipment that could have been used to process it, complain that the bureau still hasn't questioned them or, when it did, asked the wrong questions. 

Scientists at Iowa State University, meanwhile, where the family of anthrax strains used in the attacks was first isolated, say the FBI didn't object when they decided to destroy their collection of anthrax samples for fear they couldn't keep them secure. (The bureau figured the "Ames" strain was so widespread the samples didn't matter.) And while officials insist that they've been thoroughly professional, FBI Deputy Assistant Director James T. Caruso admitted to a Senate committee last week that the bureau doesn't know how many labs in the U.S. handle anthrax. 

With no strong leads, investigators are turning to the public for help. In Washington, the U.S. Postal Service upped its reward for information on the attacks to $1.25 million. In New York City, the FBI and local police have put up posters asking about Manhattan hospital worker Kathy Nguyen's whereabouts in the weeks before her death. It's possible, they think, that learning how she got inhalation anthrax could somehow triangulate on the attacker. 

The one hopeful note Fitzgerald cautiously sounds is the suggestion that the perpetrator might be finished with his vendetta. He has proved his skill at making deadly bioweapons, and he's vented his anger at his targets. "He has accomplished," says Fitzgerald, "what he wanted to accomplish." If so, our latest national nightmare may be over. If not, the proof may already be in the mail. 

— Reported by Elaine Shannon/Washington

FBI: Anthrax mailer more 'Unabomber' than Bin Laden
Posted:00:52 AM (Manila Time) Nov. 11, 2001
By Carlos Hamann
Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON - With little information to go on, the FBI is portraying the person who mailed three anthrax-filled letters as a US-based loner with a scientific background, more akin to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski than alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believe the attacks are unrelated to the September 11 terror assaults -- but nevertheless refuse to discount followers of bin Laden as the culprits.

With no solid leads in the case, and mounting public pressure to solve the case, the FBI on Friday released a vague, three-page profile of the suspect, drawing conclusions largely from the content and handwriting of letters as well as and past case studies.

The letters -- mailed to Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, NBC television news anchor Tom Brokaw, and the New York Post newspaper -- contained brief letters that were likely written by the same person, the FBI said.

The FBI said in a statement that the anthrax mailer is likely to be an adult male who is a loner, who may work at a laboratory and is "apparently comfortable working with an extremely hazardous material."

The mailer probably owns or has access to laboratory equipment, and "did not select victims randomly," but instead "made an effort to identify the correct address, including zip code, of each victim and used sufficient postage to ensure proper delivery of the letters."

The suspect is also "a non-confrontational person, at least in his public life," who "lacks the personal skills necessary to confront others." This person "may hold grudges for a long time," and "may have chosen to anonymously harass other individuals or entities that he perceived as having wronged him" in the past.

"We don't have any evidence at this point linking this to any more than one person," said James Fitzgerald, head of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit.

Could the mailer be linked to bin Laden's al-Qaeda network?

"We're not ruling anything out," Fitzgerald said. "But we're looking in the direction of that being domestic."

The mailer probably had anthrax stockpiled ahead of the September 11 terror attacks, Fitzgerald said. "He is an opportunist and took advantage of this as a veil of secrecy," Fitzgerald added.

In the end, the FBI is hoping that -- as in the case of Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber who sent letter bombs and eluded agents for years -- someone who knows the culprit will come forward with information leading to his arrest.

Speaking on CNN late Friday, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a plea for help. "We need the help of Americans to help us find the individual who's involved here," he said.

Ashcroft said that investigators were uncertain of the origin of the deadly bacteria, and did not yet know if the letters originated from a domestic or foreign source.

The FBI statement said the letters sent to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and to the New York Post were "identical copies."

The third letter, to Daschle, contained a slightly different message and anthrax that was "much more refined, more potent" and more easily dispersed than that in the other letters, Ashcroft said.

US on its own in biological weapons debate
By Gustavo Capdevila

The Asia Times
November 24, 2001

GENEVA - The United States strategy of adopting bilateral accords to confront the threat of biological attacks is alienating Washington from the many countries that would prefer a multilateral approach.

These differences, notorious in forums on weapons proliferation - such as the United Nations Conference on Disarmament (CD) - are evident at the meeting to review the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), now under way here through December 7.

In a summary of the first week of meetings, Tibor Toth, a Hungarian diplomat and president of the BWC conference, commented that "many many countries" disagree with the US approach. Unlike Washington, said Toth, these nations "would like to continue the multilateral negotiating efforts" to establish an instrument that strengthens the BWC.

The United States came to the review conference with a series of alternative proposals that demonstrate Washington's "continued allergy to multilaterally negotiated, legally binding agreements", said Jenni Rissanen, of the London-based Acronym Institute, a non-governmental group specializing in disarmament efforts.

In spite of its nearly 30-year history, the BWC lacks a system of obligatory verification to prevent the production and stockpiling of "bacteriological and toxin" weapons. An attempt to fill in that gap with a protocol on powers to inspect suspicious sites was frustrated last July, after seven years of negotiations, by strong opposition from the United States. Washington argued that the draft document opened the door for intellectual property conflicts, and particularly threatened the industrial secrets of the country's powerful pharmaceutical and biotech sectors.

Other arms agreements, such as the treaty banning chemical weapons, establish strict verification mechanisms, but the BWC has no such legally binding inspection system.

The September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and the anthrax cases that subsequently appeared and which have claimed five lives so far in the United States have not changed Washington's stance on the matter.

After those incidents, disarmament negotiators from around the world expected the US delegation to arrive in Geneva with a more flexible attitude, commented a Latin American diplomat who requested anonymity. But the US undersecretary for arms control and international security, John Bolton, stated this week that the draft of the protocol "is dead, in our view".

"Dead, and it is not going to be resurrected," the undersecretary told a news conference in Geneva, where he heads the US delegation to what is officially known as Fifth Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction.

The United States "will not enter into agreements that allow rogue states or others to develop and deploy biological weapons", Bolton said. He accused Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria of engaging in clandestine biological-weapons production. It is also believed that Sudan has shown increasing interest in developing a biological-weapons program, but that country is not party to the BWC, he said. The list includes other states, but Washington will contact them privately about these concerns, Bolton said.

Rissanen commented that the US decision to "name names", which is an unusual move in diplomatic circles, caught many diplomats off guard.

In place of the protocol it rejected, the United States offered the review conference a series of alternatives for beefing up the convention. The initiatives include fortifying national application of the convention through legislation that would make it a crime for anyone to engage in activities prohibited by the BWC, and enhancing extradition agreements with respect to biological-weapons offenses. Another US proposal is to establish an international mechanism for investigating suspicious disease outbreaks and other alleged germ-warfare incidents.

Bolton also urged the parties to the convention to "adopt and implement strict bio-safety procedures, based on WHO [World Health Organization] or equivalent national guidelines".

Toth pointed out that the draft protocol, which the Bush administration criticized so harshly in July, covers many of the proposals outlined by Bolton.

But the US position came under fire from several delegations, including those of France and Chile, and from representatives of US and European scientific institutions, as well as from non-governmental organizations that are following the review conference. French Foreign Relations Minister Francois Rivasseau made it clear that his country does not agree with the positions the United States has taken with regard to the BWC.

Meanwhile, China's representative before the conference, Sha Zukang, alluded to the conflict between unilateralism and multilateralism. "At present, when the issue of security is becoming increasingly a cross-cutting and global issue, the interdependence among various countries in this field is augmenting, as are their common grounds," Sha said.

Civil-society groups at the conference called attention to the serious reality that diseases are being turned into weapons. Jean Pascal Zanders, of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), said the attacks with anthrax letters in the United States have underscored the vulnerability of societies to terrorist strikes that utilize biological agents. "The ever-increasing pace of developments in biotechnology, genomics, proteomics and related fields raises concern that these technologies could be misused for hostile purposes," Zanders warned.

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, with the Federation of American Scientists (United States), criticized the approach Bolton has been promoting at the conference. "If Secretary Bolton and other US officials believe that Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya, and others have biological-weapons programs, then it should be obvious to those officials that the voluntary measures [proposed by Bolton] won't work," Rosenberg said. She added that only an international agreement could "increase the available information about biological activities around the world, or bring the international community together to respond if a violation of the convention should be suspected".

The delegations at the conference will spend the next two weeks, in closed sessions, discussing the content of the final declaration. Toth sensibly declined to make any predictions about the outcome of the debates.

(Inter Press Service) 

11/28/2001 - Updated 11:41 PM ET 

Anthrax scare based on simple science

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY 

Finely crafted anthrax spores seen in the most recent bioterrorist attacks betray a startling level of terrorist expertise. But despite their surprise at the sophistication of the work, microbiologists interviewed in past weeks now acknowledge that the science employed in the cause of terror can be accomplished in relatively common laboratories and that bioterrorists have some fairly simple solutions at hand for protecting themselves from infection as they handle killer microbes.

As investigators weigh the evidence in the anthrax attacks — and as they prepare to open the anthrax-infected letter mailed to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. — they are trying to use their understanding of the sophistication involved to help them look for likely sponsors of the bioterrorism. 

"A lone person might produce enough for a small number of letters," says Craig Smith, a member of the bioterrorism committee of the Infectious Disease Society of America. "But, to develop enough high-quality spore concentration milled to the right size would require more equipment and much more expertise."

The anthrax-laced letter sent to the office of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., weeks ago contained 2 grams of spores, less than one-tenth of an ounce, but containing perhaps as many as 200 billion spores. Treated with silica — finely ground sand — the spores spread like cigarette smoke through the Hart Senate Office Building.

"It came from someone with extensive microbiological experience," says anthrax expert Martin Hugh-Jones of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Also, the culprits must have access to the anthrax strains traded regularly by biologists in an uncontrolled fashion before 1996.

Safely handling such an "aerosolized" form of anthrax requires at least a "Biosafety Level 3" laboratory. Such a lab contains sealed doors and windows, specially filtered ventilation systems that screen microbes and prevent their harmful escape outside the labs, and safety cabinets for handling materials. Personnel wear safety gear, goggles, gloves and smocks and enter the lab through a cleaning-area anteroom.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules set up four levels of biosafety, determining worker and facility isolation in labs. Level 1 is the lowest level of biosafety, and 4 is the highest.

In addition, to legally ship anthrax, domestic labs must register with CDC to transfer "special agents," bugs that cause deadly disease. About 250 labs nationwide reportedly have registered to transfer any of 42 special agents, ranging from anthrax to yellow fever. Citing security reasons, the CDC will not say how many facilities are now registered to trade anthrax, or reveal their biosafety ratings.

Simply possessing a special-agent pathogen doesn't require registering, which is one reason so much uncertainty surrounds the source of the anthrax used in the attacks. The American Society of Microbiology estimates that between 20 and 30 university labs nationwide and an unknown number of labs worldwide handle anthrax.

With registration, even a relatively common hospital-style Level 2 lab equipped with an open-faced vented cabinet can handle anthrax. Creating the bacteria in aerosol form requires a Level 3 facility.

Biosafety requirements in labs ensure that researchers do not contaminate themselves or the public with dangerous bugs. At the highest Level 4 labs, researchers work inside airlock-guarded facilities wearing self-contained suits like those seen in the movie The Hot Zone. Only the most dangerous viruses, those for which no cure exists, require biosafety Level 4 quarantine.

But for bioterrorists bent on destruction, who could dose themselves with antibiotics or vaccine for self-protection, niceties such as biosafety levels are a moot point, says biosafety expert Lee Thompson of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Experts say the terrorists could do their work in a basement or a garage if they didn't worry about infecting themselves or the public around them. There likely would not be any inquiries by public health officials unless people around the clandestine lab started to show up with anthrax, Thompson says.

A 1999 Defense Department effort, Project Bacchus, demonstrated that a domestic team, equipped with biological training, could produce two pounds of aerosolized mock anthrax, the same quality of spores used in the Daschle letter, for about $1.6 million. In one year, team members purchased equipment, fermenters, a grinder and other lab equipment commonly used in industrial settings to make their mock anthrax.

"There is no doubt, if you were vaccinated or didn't care about your life, you could acquire and produce a spore product if you had the correct shopping list and recipe," Smith says. "Remember, around the world, many of these dual-use items (whether for producing medicines or dangerous microbes) are totally unregulated."

One trait of the anthrax used in the recent attacks is that it is very susceptible to antibiotics. Bio-weapons experts have been confused by this susceptibility because making bugs impervious to antibiotics is a standard goal of bio-weaponeers.  However, regular use of the ubiquitous antibiotic penicillin may have protected the bioterrorists, so the terrorists may have wanted the anthrax to remain vulnerable to antibiotics as part of their plan.

In its natural form, anthrax clumps into a brown powder that resists going airborne, Smith says. Even in their most fine state in nature, spores will hang together in clumps, about 5 microns across at a minimum, that bioweapons experts say is unwieldy for effective attack. (A micron is one-millionth of a meter, about 0.00004 of an inch.)

Actually making anthrax into aerosolized form involves growing the spores, drying them and grinding the resultant clumps into a fine tan powder, then carefully mixing them with silica or other compounds to aid the spread. Past studies of monkeys suggested that 8,000 spores need to be inhaled to trigger inhalation anthrax. But some experts, such as former U.S. Army bioweaponeer William Patrick, wonder whether just a handful of spores, if ground down to a micron size, could lead to deadly inhalation anthrax if lodged in the lungs.

Further complicating things, the spores contained in the first attack, on a Florida media company, have been described by investigators as a clumpy powder, which would make a poor aerosol. Only two weeks later, the finely prepared Daschle-letter spores appeared. Those spores were ground so fine that they apparently drifted across offices and contaminated other letters in the mail. The same strain of anthrax was used in all the attacks, suggesting a common source.

The bioterrorists "must have had a hell of a short learning curve," says Patrick, who headed U.S. bioweapons work until the program's halt in 1969. "Or maybe there's two groups."

Despite the five deaths so far from anthrax attacks this year, mailing spores represents an inefficient way to kill people, he says. Overall, the letter method suggests the bioterrorists so far have been able to make aerosolized spores in only  small quantities, Patrick says. "Little lab processes can make good (anthrax) products, but that does not scale up to doing it on an industrial scale."

Tests conducted on New York's subways during the 1960s showed that industrial-strength spore attacks could infect 500,000 people with anthrax, Patrick says. Such a scenario represents the worst fears of investigators waiting for the next anthrax outbreak.

"The 2 grams (in the Daschle letter) may only represent a small pilot plant operation," Smith says. "Or, it may also represent a 'testing of the waters,' with more to come in the future. Remember, the goal of the terrorists is not necessarily to kill many people, but to get everyone to watch it on TV and change their patterns of daily living.

"They have been successful."

A Solution For Anthrax Mystery

Study: Spores seep through paper

By Earl Lane

November 30, 2001

Washington - Researchers have determined how fine-grained anthrax spores of the type sent in a letter to Sen. Majority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) can tunnel directly through pores of the envelope during mail processing.

That would explain how spores could escape into mail-processing facilities, cross-contaminating other letters and affecting workers, even though the Daschle letter, and a recently discovered one addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), reportedly were sealed with tape.

Experts earlier had said it would be possible for spores to puff out of the unglued openings at the ends of an envelope flap. But several had questioned how readily spores could escape from a well-sealed envelope.

E.J. Rice, vice president for development at the Institute of Paper Science and Technology in Atlanta, said this week that tests sponsored by the institute suggest there may be thousands of microscopic tunnels infiltrating the paper of a typical envelope.

"We are of the opinion now that it [anthrax powder] is able to come through" the paper, Rice said.

David Rothbard, an associate scientist at the institute, said, "It is not unusual to find pore connections on the order of five microns or larger" in envelope paper.

Such connections, under the right conditions, would provide passageways for the escape of the 1.5- to 3-micron particles found in samples of the anthrax powder mailed to Daschle.

Particles in the 1- to 5-micron range can be inhaled readily and can cause the potentially lethal inhalation form of anthrax. Such particles, much smaller than a dust mote, can float in the air like a gas once released, experts say. (A human hair is about 100 microns in diameter.)

The Leahy letter, discovered Nov. 16 in a barrel of unopened congressional mail, has been described by an Army scientist as leaking anthrax spores "like a sieve." After careful preparations, investigators at the Army's Fort Detrick biodefense facility in Maryland were planning to open the letter by today and begin a physical and chemical examination of its contents.

Paper, at the microscopic level, "is almost like spaghetti that's been cooked and laid in a pile," Rothbard said. "There are a number of pathways that go through." Such pathways can allow finely milled anthrax spores to escape when a sealed envelope is squeezed by mail-processing equipment or other handling.

The key factor, Rothbard said, is how well the voids and passages through a paper sample are connected. The porosity depends on such factors as the kinds of wood pulp used, the amount of recycled materials and the mineral fillers in the paper.

In one test sponsored by the Atlanta institute, liquid mercury was pressed through paper samples at various pressures. The smaller the pore openings, the greater the pressure required to force the mercury through them. By measuring the volume of mercury that intrudes at different pressures, the size of the pore openings can be calculated.

In another test, performed for the institute by Resolution Science Corp. of Corte Madera, Calif., scientists took images of successive horizontal slices (each 1-micron thick) from a piece of envelope paper. A computer used those images to create a three-dimensional structural view of the paper, revealing the fibers, fillers and voids in great detail.

The researchers did not test the transmission of particles of specified sizes through the paper nor did they estimate how many 5-micron channel or larger openings an envelope might contain.

But Rice said "there would be thousands of those pathways." If so, it could explain how hundreds or thousands of spores at a time could leak from an envelope.

While animal studies suggest that half of those who breathe in about 8,000 to 10,000 anthrax spores will develop potentially deadly inhalation anthrax, experts now say it may take substantially fewer spores to trigger the disease in some cases.

From Tuesday, December 04, 2001 issue.

Anthrax I:  Powder Produced Recently, Watchdog Says

By David Ruppe

Global Security Newswire

Genetic testing suggests the sophisticated anthrax mailed to two U.S. senators and two news organizations was produced in a small batch, and fairly recently, according to a well-connected molecular biologist.

That would further suggest the perpetrator was someone connected with a government program or who works in a laboratory connected with a government program, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, who runs the Federation of American Scientists’ chemical and biological arms control program, told Global Security Newswire yesterday.

“I’m certain it’s someone connected with a government program, or who works in a laboratory connected with a government program,” she said.

U.S. officials have yet to announce any results of the testing performed by a nongovernmental laboratory.

The anthrax probably was produced already in weapon form for U.S. biological weapons defense research, or was stolen from such a program and weaponized elsewhere, but did not likely come from an old offensive biological weapons program, she said.

“The grapevine has it that the results of an experiment on genetic variation at certain locations suggest that this material was made in a very small batch, and that suggests that the material was not made in some old weapons program on a large scale,” she said, citing sources inside and outside the government.

Mark Wheelis, a University of California-Davis microbiologist, similarly says that if the material were stolen from a government lab, it must have been done after 1980, probably from a small batch used for biological defense research, and not taken from U.S. offensive weapons stocks.

“Assuming for the moment that Barbara’s hypothesis is true, then this spore preparation could not have been stolen from the U.S. weapons program at the time we had an offensive program because the Ames strain wasn’t isolated until 10 years after the programs were ordered closed,” Wheelis said.

Wheelis is doubtful, however, that genetic analysis can pinpoint a specific time when it was made since 1980.

“That’s asking an awful lot for a technique like this, to even pin it down to a decade,” he said.

Strong Track Record

Rosenberg has a good recent track record on theorizing about the anthrax.

For several weeks, she has circulated her theory that a renegade person associated with a U.S. biological weapon defense laboratory was responsible for mailing the letters in September and October.

When she presented the theory in a speech last month at the Biological Weapons Convention review conference in Geneva (see related GSN story, today), a U.S. representative at the conference was said to have walked out of the room.

If her theory proves true, it could be embarrassing for the United States, which effectively killed conference efforts to create a legally binding verification mechanism for the treaty.

Rosenberg’s arguments seem to be gaining increasing credence. A New York Times story yesterday (see GSN, Dec. 3) reported federal scientists and a contractor found the mailed anthrax powder to be “virtually indistinguishable” from anthrax produced by the U.S. military in its offensive biological weapons program, which ended in the early 1970s.

The Times story said the powder had a similarly extremely high concentration of the deadly spores, much higher than other countries and terrorist groups are capable of producing.

An unidentified senior federal science adviser, cited in the story, said the finding lends credence to the idea the terrorist had links to a government lab or its contractors.

The Times also reported Sunday the FBI had expanded the focus of its investigation of the mailings to include government and contractors’ laboratories.

“Barbara’s analysis certainly fit all of the facts as we knew them at the time, and I don’t believe anything has surfaced yet that disagrees with it,” said Wheelis. “Certainly the articles in the Times provide further confirming evidence.”

Citing Publicly Available Evidence

Rosenberg said she developed her theories by analyzing publicly available evidence and with input from other scientists, and from “inside” sources.

She said the strain contained in the letters was the same as one that was used by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases for biological weapons defense research, the Ames strain.

Further, she said a sample of the anthrax reportedly was mixed with a drying agent believed used by the United States to keep the spores from caking so it will float in the air.

“All the available information is consistent with a U.S. government lab as the source, either of the anthrax itself or of the recipe for the U.S. weaponization process,” wrote Rosenberg.

The U.S. weaponization process is secret, however, she noted, so further analysis would be needed to determine whether the letter samples were made using the special U.S. process.

Investigators have yet to say officially whether the size of the spores and the type of drying agent match that of anthrax made through the secret U.S. process.

“I do think we have to be cautious in recognizing that this is still a hypothesis,” Said Wheelis of U.C.-Davis. “It is still at this point just a theory.”

Informed Speculation

Rosenberg is not alone in her suspicions. 

“There is explicit speculation floating around the informed bioweapons community in the United States that this might have been diverted from a U.S. biodefense program,” said Wheelis.

Some scientists have contended, however, that the perpetrator did not necessarily have to be associated with a U.S. biological defense program to produce that particularly virulent strain of anthrax. 

Marjorie Pollack, an epidemiologist based in Brooklyn, is not yet convinced there is evidence a person associated with a government program was responsible, although she doesn’t rule it out either.

“Nothing I’ve seen points it to being a government worker,” said Pollack. The perpetrator could be a former scientist, but might also be a disgruntled lab worker or doctoral student in the biological sciences, she said.

Pollack argues equipment that could be used to produce dry anthrax powder, like that used in the attacks, is commonly employed in commercial industries and the drying process is well described in a journal that can be found on the Internet. 

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to translate this particle size research and get the equipment to do it,” she said “It’s a whole industry out there and if I can find this online so can somebody else.”

A Disgruntled Person With Lab Experience

Rosenberg, Pollack and other scientists seem to agree on the perpetrator’s motivations and basic abilities. 

He is probably a disgruntled employee who probably had access to the bacteria at a laboratory somewhere in the United States and some skill at working with hazardous materials, they say.

It could be “somebody who is concerned there is not enough funding for biological terrorism research, and got tipped over the edge by the Sept. 11 attacks and wanted to point out how vulnerable we were,” said Pollack.

The particularly virulent Ames strain has been used in U.S. biological defense work, but it also has been distributed for study to a handful of laboratories within and outside the United States, experts say.

The perpetrator did not appear to intend to inflict mass casualties, suggests Pollack, because the letters, sent nearly a month after Sept. 11, warned the recipients that anthrax was present, and in at least two letters, to take antibiotics.

The FBI Nov. 9 issued a very general profile of the suspected perpetrator based upon an assessment of his handwriting on three of the envelopes and letters. It suggested the letters all were written by one person: an adult male with a scientific background, potentially a loner, and possibly comfortable working with hazardous materials.

The person may also have been vaccinated or used antibiotics, had access to anthrax and possessed knowledge of how to refine it, had access to relevant lab equipment, and could hold grudges for a long time, vowing that he will get even with “them” one day, according to the FBI.

The Independent (London)
December 4, 2001

FBI Fears US Anthrax Attacks Were An "Inside Job"

US investigators searching for the source of the East Coast anthrax attacks are increasingly entertaining the theory that the culprit is a former member of the US biological weapons program. Federal agents have begun interrogating military officials linked to the old program, which was phased out after 1969, and a number of government experts have been quoted in the media saying an "inside job" is a plausible, if explosive, explanation for the recent anthrax-laced letters.

"It's frightening to think that one of our own scientists could have done something like this, but it's definitely possible," one unnamed federal science adviser said in yesterday's New York Times. A source close to the investigation said it was "the most likely hypothesis". 

This theory, echoed by a handful of academics attending the United Nations biological weapons conference in Geneva last week, has bitterly divided experts in the narrow fields of anthrax research and biological weapons inspection, however. Dr Richard Spertzl, a former weapons inspector in Iraq, said yesterday the insider job theory was scientifically dubious, unsupported by any evidence made public so far, and "terribly irresponsible". 

"I think this is pure garbage," said the germ warfare specialist. "They're speaking out of ignorance, out of stupidity. They don't know anything about biological weapons or about the past US programme." 

The US insider theory starts with the unanimously held premise that whoever sent the letters had access to a high-grade weapons laboratory and was familiar with techniques for weaponising deadly bacteria. According to military experts and government scientists cited by the New York Times, the letter sent to the Senate majority leader, Tom Daschle, contained an extraordinarily high concentration of anthrax - around one trillion spores per gram. 

That is a far purer concentration than anything known to have been developed by a foreign government and is certainly out of the reach of an individual or individuals working alone. But it may, according to at least some experts, be consistent with weapons research conducted by the US more than 30 years ago. 

One molecular biologist who attended the Geneva conference, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, wrote a paper describing the letter-sender as "an American microbiologist who had, or once had, access to weaponised anthrax in a US government lab, or had been taught by a US defence expert how to make it". "Perhaps," she speculated in her paper, distributed by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, "he had a vial or two in his basement as a keepsake." 

Dr Spertzl denounced this line as uninformed nonsense. The anthrax sent to Senator Daschle, he argued, had to come from either an active or recently active government laboratory. The US programme, he added, has been defunct for too long to be a plausible source. He is increasingly convinced the anthrax came from Iraq. 

Dr Spertzl's rebuttal was partly substantiated by the senior research scientist at the army's biodefence laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Colonel Arthur Friedlander said the FBI had been asking questions about possible insider suspects but he said he thought this was unlikely. "We haven't had an offensive programme for a long time," he told the New York Times. "Nobody [at the army laboratory] has that kind of expertise. 

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles 
The Independent - London 

Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2001

Anthrax: Where the Investigation Stands

As the immediate danger recedes, anthrax remains at the heart of an ongoing investigation. Eleven weeks after the first diagnosis, what have we learned?


It's been nearly three months since the first deadly case of anthrax surfaced in Florida. And while much of the attendant hysteria has dissipated, myriad questions have not. Where did the spores come from? Who sent them? Are there more contaminated letters still in circulation? While little is known for sure, the ongoing investigation has yielded some clues as to the bacteria's origin.
Meanwhile, health officials are offering some workers a new way to keep anthrax — and, they hope, fear — at bay. 

Finding the source

Investigators are just about certain the anthrax that killed five people this fall originated from within the U.S. Domestic terrorism experts have been dispatched to study the patterns and delivery methods of the anthrax letters, hoping to pinpoint some identifying trait linking the attacks to a specific person or group. 

The first order of business is figuring out where the spores came from. That won't be easy. While new tests on letters received by Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy reveal a genetic fingerprint (called the Ames strain) that's traceable back to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Maryland, officials point out there are as many as 12 private labs that receive military samples for research. Officials are also checking into an ongoing anthrax-development project at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah.  While the possibility of an Army connection has raised a few eyebrows, investigators are urging people not to jump to any conclusions. 

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge hedged Tuesday when asked specifically about the military's potential involvement in the anthrax attacks. "There are multiple agencies within government that have for many years, for many reasons had access to this strain of anthrax," he told reporters. "The connection [to the military] could very well exist. The fact is we have multiple leads." 

According to scientists familiar with the manufacturing of weapons-grade anthrax, the investigation is likely to be frustrating, simply because so many agencies and individuals are familiar with the process, and have access to this specific strain of the bacteria. 

Offering a vaccine

Thanks to an historic offer from federal health officials, as many as 3,000 Capitol Hill and post office workers are eligible to receive the anthrax vaccine. This is the first time the government has provided civilians with vaccination against bioterror weapons. (The program is part of an experimental study run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). 

The eligible workers are those believed to have been exposed to concentrated anthrax spores; while no new cases have emerged, health officials say they are eager to provide any reassuring measures, out of, as one official put it, "an abundance of caution." 

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson announced the program Tuesday, adding that those not interested in the vaccine (which has been linked to rare but serious side effects) can also opt to take 40 extra days of antibiotics. 

Wednesday December 19, 2001 09:55

UNM Anthrax May Be Twin To Strain in Attacks

Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque Journal

Anthrax used in research at the University of New Mexico likely is an identical twin to the type that infected 18 people, according to a UNM spokesman.

The university expects its anthrax to be tested soon to see whether its genetic fingerprint matches that of mailed spores that ultimately resulted in five death this fall, said Sam Giammo.

“We would be very surprised if it didn’t match perfectly,” Giammo said.

UNM’s anthrax comes from the same batch sent out by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease to five other laboratories. The samples from those laboratories already tested identical to spores in letters sent to political and media figures, according to the Washington Post.

The U.S. Army lab is in Fort Detrick, Md.

UNM doesn’t use anthrax in the finely milled form that made the germs in the bioterrorism mailings deadly, Giammo added, although the anthrax could be ground down to the tiny size that helps anthrax spores seep through small openings, float for a longer length of time in the air and be inhaled more easily. The U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground — one of the five sites — confirmed this month that it has used the dry powdery form in its research to test detection equipment and decontamination methods, according to news reports.

Many laboratories use the Ames form of anthrax that was in the letters, but that form has several sub- types that can be identified through genetics. The FBI has been focusing on government research programs as a possible source of the anthrax used in the attacks, according to the Post story.

But The Associated Press quoted an Army spokesman as saying such matches don’t help discover source of the bioterrorists’ anthrax. The Army lab got its supply in 1980 from a U.S. Agriculture Department lab in Ames, Iowa, which might have supplied a number of other laboratories, he said.

UNM hasn’t received a formal request to test an anthrax sample as part of the bioterrorism investigation, but it knows that it will be asked to supply one, Giammo said. It is awaiting notice on where to send it, he added.

Anthrax used at UNM is rated a Biosafety Level 2 substance, according to Giammo. Substances and research techniques are rated at four levels, with 1 being the least dangerous and 4 the most dangerous. UNM has two Level 3 labs now and is developing plans for a Level 4 lab.

UNM is using the anthrax in a project that focuses on early detection of and vaccination against biowarfare agents. The project started earlier this year with $5.1 million in funding over three years from the federal Naval Surface Warfare Center in Virginia.

Albuquerque Journal Wednesday December 19, 2001

Anthrax Probe Story Is Baloney, FBI Says

by Bruce Cadwallader and Catherine Candisky 
The Columbus Dispatch 
December 21, 2001 

The FBI says it is not investigating a former Battelle scientist in relation to an anthrax scare, contrary to national broadcast news reports. 

U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine said he talked to FBI Director Robert Mueller yesterday and was assured that the scientist was not being investigated. ABC News reported otherwise this week. "He said the ABC News report was not true, that 'The network did not check with us, we 
have no investigation and no one with or formerly with Battelle is a suspect,' " DeWine said. 

The scientist hasn't been charged and isn't under investigation, so The Dispatch is not naming him. 

ABC said he was at the heart of an investigation into an anthrax threat soon after Sept. 11. 

The scientist, who said he now works in a bowling alley, told The Dispatch yesterday that agents searched his home in Milwaukee after he made a vague reference to police about anthrax during a dispute with a neighbor. 

He said he later spoke to an ABC producer, denying any involvement with anthrax. 

"I didn't even know what anthrax was back then," the scientist said. "My background does not involve biological weapons, and I never worked with anthrax." 

An Oct. 5 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story quoted FBI agents as saying they seized computer equipment from his home but found no anthrax spores and discontinued the investigation. 

The scientist, who worked at Battelle between March 1983 and April 1999, said his expertise included radioisotopes, military ordnance and decontamination. 

It has been widely reported that Battelle is one of two research facilities in the country authorized to produce weapons-grade anthrax spores. The other is in Utah. Both have been searched by the FBI. 

"We are cooperating fully with the investigation but we can't comment or provide any specific information on former personnel or an ongoing investigation," Battelle spokeswoman Katy Delaney said.

Published Friday, December 21, 2001 
The Miami Herald

Anthrax investigators focusing on strain from military facility


Federal anthrax researchers are attempting to match the strain that killed a Boca Raton man and four others to a weaponized strain secretly manufactured at a U.S. military facility in the Utah desert, according to sources familiar with the probe.

Agents are examining lab workers and researchers who had access to the weaponized, powdered anthrax grown at the U.S. Army's Dugway Proving Grounds and later supplied to Battelle Memorial Institute, a military research company based in Columbus, Ohio.

Among those interviewed include a fired researcher at Battelle who, according to FBIrecords, made remarks about an anthrax project in the basement of his Milwaukee home.

``This is complete nonsense,'' Michael P. Failey told The Herald Thursday. ``I have never been a researcher of anthrax.  I've never had access to anthrax. I didn't even know it was a bacteria until I saw it on TV. All I did was mention the word, that's it.

``And I've got the FBI in here searching my house and taking my computer.''

FBI sources said Thursday that Failey is not a prime suspect in the anthrax mailings but has not been ruled out.

``We have developed no information that he ever had access to anthrax while he was at Battelle, and there was no anthrax in his home,'' said one FBI official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

``He is one among many we have interviewed as possible suspects,'' said another FBI official.


The FBI sources also said there is no conclusive evidence the anthrax used in the deadly mailings was stolen from the U.S. military. It is clear, however, that a strong theory has emerged that the refined powder used in the anthrax attacks bears striking similarities to U.S. military grade anthrax manufactured only at Dugway.

``The anthrax at Dugway is the only known sample they intend to check right now. The investigation is clearly focused on the Dugway anthrax,'' said Dr. Ronald Atlas, dean of the University of Louisville Biology Department, and incoming president of the American Society of Microbiology.   ``The word in the scientific community is that they are very close to something.''

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said Thursday the FBI has ``winnowed'' the field of its investigation. 

For use in their comparisons, government scientists are using the strain of anthrax taken from the body of Robert Stevens, a tabloid photo editor from Lantana who was the first to die from the deadly mailings.

``Since it was the first one they had, it is the only one on which they completed the [DNA] sequencing,'' Atlas said.  ``They only did enough on the others to make sure it was identical.''

If medical researchers are able to conclusively match the Boca anthrax to that stored at its source, investigators could be able to home in on specific suspects. Researchers have already identified the mailed anthrax as the Ames strain, a virulent strain often used in research to develop vaccines.  For decades, the strain was stored and distributed by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md.

It went to several universities, government contractors, and military institutions in England and Canada. It also went to Dugway Proving Grounds, which developed small amounts of powdered anthrax to find ways to combat it.

As a strain moves from facility to facility, its genetic makeup can change slightly in ways that allow experts to identify it, Atlas said.

FBI records show Failey's name first emerged during the terrorism probe even before Stevens died Oct. 5.

Milwaukee police were called by Failey's mother after he became involved in a dispute with a neighbor, according to an FBI search warrant affidavit. Failey was allegedly drunk, the affidavit said, and told the police about his work. 

``Failey informed the officers that he was currently involved in a project in the basement . . . that involved the development of `simunitions' that will facilitate the dissemination of anthrax,'' wrote FBI agent Parker Shipley.


Failey, who has a doctorate degree in nuclear and environmental chemistry from the University of Maryland, said Thursday the affidavit was ``trumped up'' and that his mention of anthrax was innocent.

``I'm really angry at the agent,'' he said. ``That's not what I meant and he knows it. I don't even remember how the word anthrax came up, but it wasn't like that.''

The FBI searched Failey's home Sept. 26 and found no incriminating evidence. On Oct. 16, they returned and seized his computer, he said.

``I've never had anthrax. This whole thing is stupid. I'm just trying to live my life in peace,'' Failey said.

Seth Borenstein of the Knight Ridder Washington bureau contributed to this report.

The Washington Post
December 23, 2001.

Perpetrator, Motive Remain Elusive in Anthrax Case

By Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer

In the three months since a Florida photo editor became the first to die in this fall's bioterrorist attacks, investigators have learned a lot about the anthrax bacterium.

They have developed better ways to find, grow, isolate and kill it. They have learned how it travels through the air in its dry powdered state, clings to paper, leaks from envelopes and lingers in air ducts. They have even determined the spores' precise genetic fingerprint and largely ascertained the powder's molecular composition.

What scientists and law enforcement officials have not been able to learn, despite all these details, is who processed, packaged and sent the deadly spores -- much less what the perpetrator's motive might be. It is a state of abject ignorance that seems incongruous with the many recent investigatory revelations. But if this country's millions of armchair Columbos feel frustrated and confused, experts said, they should not feel alone. The puzzle is simply maddeningly difficult. And at this point, at least, many of the clues do seem to contradict each other.

"It's humbling," said Jeffrey Koplan, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "And it's unsettling."

At times it has seemed that the attacks were designed to tease.

In the past week, DNA tests have shown that the spores used in the attacks belong not only to the Ames strain -- a strain cultivated for years by U.S. researchers and other scientists around the world -- but also to the exact sub-strain that's been the focus of research at the Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. It was a finding of provenance so irrefutable that a key scientist involved in the study said he had no doubt that "the original source" of the terrorist microbes "had to have been USAMRIID."

But that doesn't mean that a current or even former Army person was behind the attacks. No one knows exactly how many labs here or abroad may have gotten hold of that virulent sub-strain, either from the Army directly or from someone else who got it second- or third-hand from the Army.

"We just don't know how many hands it went through before it got to the ultimate user," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a consultant to the government's investigation.

Experts also hold differing opinions on how difficult it is to process anthrax spores into a deadly, aerosolizable powder. So while it was recently revealed that a military base in Utah has quietly been making weapons-grade spore preparations from the Army's strain of the anthrax bacterium, no one knows whether others -- be they lone terrorists or state-sponsored weapons experts -- may be similarly adept at that black art.

William Patrick, who led the U.S. offensive biological warfare program at Fort Detrick until it was dismantled in 1969, said he would be surprised to learn that someone had made a fine aerosol of a more delicate bacterium, such as the one that causes tularemia, another agent of bioterror. Such fragile microbes do not hold up well when exposed to the most commonly available drying technologies. But the anthrax microbe is so hardy, he said, "it doesn't surprise me that someone out there has produced a very good anthrax powder. My fear is that he's sitting back now working madly to get the next supply."

But other experts disagree.

"I am skeptical that anyone can do this on their own," said Elisa D. Harris, a former National Security Council official who until recently was responsible for coordinating U.S. policy on chemical and biological defense and now is a research fellow at the University of Maryland. "Once the letter to [Senate Majority Leader Thomas A.] Daschle [D-S.D.] was opened, a number of us in bioproliferation said we think material of this quality certainly would have to have been produced by a national program or by a person with expertise from a national program."

Muddying the waters further are the apparent differences in quality among some of the batches sent through the mail. The spores sent to the New York Post were brown and clumpy. The letters to Daschle and to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) were of ultra-high quality. The sample that spilled in NBC's offices in New York appeared to have been something in between. Yet no one knows if all were derived from the same high-quality batch (perhaps with roots in a military program), differing in appearance only because some became damp, or if the variation in quality indicates that someone has made multiple batches, perhaps of increasing quality.

Ongoing analyses of the chemicals that were added to the Leahy letter spores may answer that question -- and should also allow scientists to compare the Leahy spore preparation to preparations made by the U.S. Army, Iraq and the former Soviet Union. But the FBI has said that those tests may not be complete for several weeks.

Meanwhile, experts disagree on whether a foreign power might be behind the attacks.

The FBI has created a psychological profile that pegs the perpetrator as a domestic loner, perhaps with microbiological skills gained from a scientific or military background.

But others are not so sure.

"The FBI seems to have prematurely ruled out the possibility of international involvement," said Jonathan Tucker of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a former inspector with UNSCOM, the United Nations team that inspected Iraqi bioweapons arsenals. Among other failings, Tucker suggested, not enough attention is being focused on the initial attack on the Florida tabloid, whose offices are close to where suspected Sept. 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and other hijackers were based. Atta is known to have made repeated inquiries about crop-dusters while he lived in Florida, suggesting an interest in biological agent dispersal.

Perhaps the most dramatic bit of speculation to have emerged from the investigation in recent weeks is the idea that the spores used in the attacks may have come from secret biowarfare programs run by either the Army or the CIA.

The Army's 800,000-acre Dugway Proving Ground, about 80 miles outside Salt Lake City, has a long history of biological and chemical warfare research and recently acknowledged that it has processed virulent anthrax spores into fine powders. Officials said the facility has made only small quantities of the deadly substance (they didn't say how much) and that it was all accounted for. Dugway officials said the preparations were for use in defensive studies that are legal under the provisions of the 1972 international Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, to which the United States is a signatory.

But Dugway's parsimonious acknowledgment served as a reminder that little is known about this nation's biowarfare programs.

"I don't think there is anyone in the U.S. government that has a complete understanding of the entire universe of classified and unclassified programs in this area," said Harris, the former NSC official. "What are we doing under the rubric of biodefense at military facilities and at contractor facilities? The revelations we've seen in the last week really raise some serious questions."

Nor is the Army alone in the field. The CIA, it turns out, has had a long-abiding interest in defensive research against anthrax and other biological warfare agents -- though it did not make even sketchy details of its program public until about a week ago.

In a brief statement released last week, the CIA said it "does not maintain any separate samples or stocks of agent at its own facilities," and that the terrorist spores "absolutely did not come" from CIA labs. But it also noted that, as with the Army, some of its work is conducted by outside contractors.

Among the contractors used by the Army and reportedly used by the CIA is Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio, which has an entire division dedicated to perfecting aerosolization technologies. FBI agents have recently conducted numerous interviews with Battelle employees, law enforcement sources say.

Here again, the experts remain divided on the risks.

Alan Zelicoff, a bioweapons scientist who is familiar with the classified-research scene through his work at the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico, discounted the possibility that a security breach at a secret program could have allowed weapons-grade anthrax to slip into a terrorist's hands. "I think this is a gigantic nonissue," he said.

But Philip Brachman, an anthrax expert at Emory University, said he was not sanguine. "Could someone have stolen some? We'd like to think it was top security, but we all know that no matter how tight that security is, there's often a way. That has to be of concern."

Despite all these lingering uncertainties, government officials and other experts said the anthrax attacks have taught the nation important lessons, and many improvements could be implemented without waiting for the perpetrator to be found.

Better tracking of shipments of dangerous pathogens, improved coordination among law enforcement and medical authorities, and a beefed-up public health infrastructure are just three that have already garnered lots of attention.

More generally, observers said, two overarching themes stand out. One is that just as biological systems are predictably unpredictable, mutating and adapting as they find the simplest solution to survival, so too when it comes to biological terrorism scientists must be prepared for the unexpected.

Scientists thought they knew a fair amount about how anthrax develops as a disease, how best to diagnose and treat it and how the spores behave in the environment. Much of that has proved false, especially in the context of the purified bacteria used in the attacks, which behave differently than they do in nature.

"Scientifically we've learned things that were absolutely 180 degrees different from the dogma when all this started," said CDC director Koplan. He and others stressed the importance of flexibility and open-mindedness among investigators as they chase the next terror-spawned outbreak.

The second lesson, some said, is that leaders must not underestimate the degree to which diseases in general, and epidemics in particular, frighten people -- and the importance of communicating useful information to reassure the public.

"Diseases tend to push our ancestral buttons," said the University of Minnesota's Osterholm. "And when there is a human perpetrator behind the disease, it not only pushes the buttons but it smashes them."

Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report.

December 27, 2001. 

Scientists at Loss in Anthrax Probe

Powder from attacks is best clue, but labs lack tools for a positive ID

By Laurie Garrett and Earl Lane, STAFF WRITERS

The White House openly discussed last week the possibility that the anthrax that has sickened 18 people and killed five was made domestically, and FBI investigators concentrated on labs involved in military biodefense research.

But scientists knowledgeable about anthrax said the tools may not yet be in hand to solve the mystery of who is responsible for this fall's attacks - at least, not based on analysis of the single best clue: the anthrax powder itself.

Anthrax spores mailed to Capitol Hill offices reportedly have the same genetic fingerprint as the virulent anthrax variety, named the Ames strain, that has been used in biodefense studies at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute on Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., and distributed in recent years to a handful of other labs, including the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said last week that, based on the nature of the substance found in the letter sent to Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), "There are multiple agencies within government that have for many years, for many reasons had access to this strain of anthrax. That connection [allegedly to a U.S. military laboratory] could very well exist. The fact is we have multiple leads."

But some scientists question whether it will be possible to definitively trace the mailed anthrax spores back to a specific laboratory, military or otherwise. The genetic analysis may not be sensitive enough, they said. Analysis of genetic "markers" can distinguish between strains of anthrax but may not be able to reliably identify some of the subtle mutations that occur within subcultures of the same strain, they said.

Chemical analysis might hint at the process by which the spores were filtered and whether they were treated with chemicals to remove electrostatic charges and prevent clumping, experts said.  That could provide clues to whether the spores originated in a government lab or were prepared by someone using government-taught methods.

Little is known publicly about the chemical analysis so far, and some experts said if the finely powdered spores were prepared in an ad hoc way by a knowledgeable loner using off-the-shelf materials, the spores might be difficult to trace chemically.

Even as investigators search for ways to narrow the probe, science is providing information that challenges some assumptions about how lethal anthrax spores behave. Recent studies suggest that even spores prepared without anti-clumping chemicals - if small enough - may be able to spread more efficiently in a closed space than had previously been thought possible. Further, scientists said, the fine-grained, readily inhaled character of the Daschle anthrax sample need not require production in a state-sponsored lab.

For now, without more information on the analysis being done on the available spore samples, experts said it is too soon to narrow the search for suspects only to government laboratories and their contractors.

The notion "that only the U.S. Army can build biological weapons is not based on fact," Dr. Tara O'Toole of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense said last week in a speech in Manhattan to the United Hospital Fund.

"They are obscuring the facts," said Dr. Cecil Fox, a microbiologist who heads Molecular Histology, a private company in Gaithersburg, Md., that conducts for the National Institutes of Health the sorts of studies the FBI, presumably, has performed on the anthrax samples. "And I don't see how anybody can shed light on this. And there may be people out there in the public who would have valuable information if they knew what they were supposed to look for. So far the FBI has painted a picture of a Unabomber-type guy in a starched white lab coat skulking around government labs, which doesn't tell us anything."

Investigators have determined that the spores in the anthrax attacks in Florida, New York and Washington, D.C., were of the Ames strain, one of the most widely studied and used form of the bacillus in the United States. It was isolated from a cow in Iowa in 1979 and eventually given its name by researchers at the medical research institute at Fort Detrick in a 1986 scientific paper.

Paul Keim, an anthrax specialist at Northern Arizona University, said via e-mail that the Ames strain "is pretty unique," with all of the closest related isolates found in North America.

Until recently, it had been hard to tell the difference between strains of anthrax. The organism changed so slowly that virtually all of the samples isolated from dead animals looked to have exactly the same DNA. Techniques developed by Keim and others have allowed identification of distinct strains based on slight changes in patterns of repeated base pairs in the organism's DNA. Using eight such "markers," Keim's group reported in May 2000 that it was able to fingerprint 426 anthrax isolates from around the world and identify 89 distinct strains.

Keim's team, now reportedly involved in analysis of anthrax samples from the mailed attacks, can use 50 or more such markers. Whether that will be sensitive enough to connect a sample to a specific lab is not yet clear, several specialists said.

Other scientists at The Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., are doing the painstaking identification of every base-pair building block in a reference sample of the Ames strain DNA and of an Ames strain isolate from the attack on America Media, a publishing company in Boca Raton, Fla. Such sequencing may show whether the bioterrorist Ames strain has subtle mutations that distinguish it from other Ames cultures.

But such analysis also has its limits, experts said. The error rate, about 1 in every 100,000 bases examined, can overwhelm the finding of rare differences in base pairs that might point toward a unique sample.

All the bioterrorism anthrax samples examined so far are said to be identical to the reference Ames strain that has been in research use and distribution by Fort Detrick (and originally obtained from a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa). In itself, however, that finding may not be surprising, nor does it significantly narrow the field of suspects, scientists said. It is difficult to say how many labs might have obtained copies of the reference Ames strain by informal exchange among scientists before the 1996 federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention rules on transfer of select agents such as anthrax. Some scientists said it could be a dozen or more.

There are other ways to narrow the search. The most dangerous parts of the anthrax DNA are free-floating bits of DNA called plasmids. They reproduce separately from the rest of the microbe's genes and are far more prone to mutation. The plasmids carry the instructions enabling the anthrax organism to invade the human lymphatic system and release toxins into the bloodstream. It is common practice at anthrax laboratories, except those that are specifically studying the characteristics of virulence, to pop the plasmids from the organisms or mutate them into nonvirulent forms.

Thus, it is unlikely that samples of virulent anthrax can even be readily found in most U.S. or European labs that study the bacillus. 

The methods of anthrax storage also can provide clues. Most scientists store anthrax bacteria the way Louisiana State University anthrax expert Martin Hugh-Jones does. They generally are kept in vials of a nutrient called agar rather than as dry spores, he said. If they are freeze dried, he said, "the quality of all these is very rough, indeed."

The Army's medical research institute only works with agar-stored anthrax, according to a spokesman, and never has dried spores in the facility. At Dugway Proving Ground, the anthrax samples used by the institute are grown and then shipped to Maryland, "in paste form in hermetically sealed containers ... and then returned," having been inactivated using radiation at the institute, a Dugway statement released last week said.

All of which further lowers the likelihood that a legitimate American research laboratory had samples of virulent, dried anthrax spores lying about, ripe for theft by a would-be assailant.

After the Oklahoma City federal office building bombing in 1995, most anthrax labs significantly increased their security, but before that time many - particularly those in academic settings - were quite open and freely shared their samples with anybody requesting them as a scientific colleague. If the strain was shared widely, experts said, there may be no way to pin down all possible sources.

Growing a quantity of stolen Ames anthrax and then cleaning and drying the sample sufficiently to produce deadly disease would, some experts said, be within the reach of a terrorist with sufficient scientific background. William Patrick III, a leader of the old U.S. biological weapons program, said it could be "done by a very decent graduate student." He also told The Associated Press it could be done in a crude home laboratory "as long as you are dealing with small quantities of material."

The only real difficulty posed by the entire process is protecting the health and environment of the maker. The FBI indicates on its Web site, probably for this reason, that the assailant is likely to have been taking antibiotics for some time.

Fox and others also question whether electrostatic treatment needs be considered a technologically advanced feat. Fox said proper use of fabric softener will do the trick.

A recent Canadian study, as well as published research from the University Of Cincinnati's Aerosol and Air Quality Research Laboratory question whether anthrax spores even need to be so treated to disperse widely and prove insidiously lethal.

In February, after an anthrax hoax aimed at a leading Canadian political figure, a team at the Defence Research Establishment in Suffield, Alberta, ran tests aimed to determine how dangerous an envelope full of spores might be. Kent Harding and his group used a well-known, harmless substitute for dried anthrax spores, Bacillus globigii, which they prepared "in a routine manner," Harding said, using classic textbook methods. They did not treat the spores with any chemicals, or exotic filters, and their preparation dried into a clumpy, undistinguished mess. The only step they took to refine the powder was to run the mess through a sifter that separated the largest clumps from those that were roughly the size of anthrax spores.

Using that crude method, Harding said, they were surprised to see "there was a high proportion of singular spores" in their final powder and, after being placed in a sealed envelope, readily dispersed when a man opened the letter in a windowless room with standard ventilation.

"We found there was a rapid and immediate release of spores just simply with the opening of the envelope," Harding said. "Spores did move about the room very quickly. We only ran the experiment for 10 minutes and they moved to fill the entire 18 feet. The distribution was purely because of air currents."   Had the spores in use been anthrax, Harding said, their studies, which were repeated several times, showed the man who opened the envelope would have inhaled a lethal dose.

The University of Cincinnati team recently published results of studies of the movement in air currents of spores similar to anthrax.  They found that regardless of whether the spores were electrostatically treated, the microbes dispersed widely in an indoor airspace. They discovered that the key factor affecting the amount of electrical charge on spores was the amount of shaking and agitation to which the microbes had been subjected. Any spore sample that has been handled gently and subjected to a minimum of abrasion in its production would be likely to have sufficiently low electrical charge to allow it to drift freely.

Even if a crude sample could drift in the air, would it do so in sufficient doses to cause disease?

"Certainly, there are many infectious diseases for which some people are exposed, but uninfected and others become infected and rapidly develop disease," said Dr. Steven Wolinsky, chief of infectious diseases for Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago. "For those who are susceptible to a particular pathogen, the chances of infection with that microbe increase with the size of the inoculum. Underlying immunosuppression and extremes of age contribute to the likelihood of microbial disease."

"Theoretically a single spore could infect if it could get past immune system macrophages and begin germinating and reproducing," bioterrorism expert O'Toole said. An older person or someone else with a less robust immune system would be more vulnerable to a small number of spores, she said. The state of the science of anthrax is in rapid flux. Truisms spouted, based on quite old data, in October have since proved less than accurate. In many ways, the scientists who are scrambling to track down the anthrax perpetrator and make guesses about the production of his deadly samples are in the same position researchers and doctors faced in New York City in the 1980s and early 1990s when tuberculosis suddenly raged through the region's hospitals and jails. Having long forgotten TB, with few scientists or doctors on hand who had ever seen the disease or studied the microbes, the CDC and local health officials were hard-pressed to reckon how the microbe spread through the air, who was at risk for infection and how best to stop TB airflow inside hospitals and subways. It took the CDC four years to come up with recommended standards for TB-proof airspaces.

"That we don't have all the definitive answers is frustrating for all of us," said D.A. Henderson of Johns Hopkins University and the top adviser on bioterrorism to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

2nd letter to land in Daschle's office

By John Lancaster and Dan Eggen

The Washington Post
January 4, 2002

WASHINGTON — A suspicious powder was found in an envelope opened Thursday in the tape Capitol building office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., briefly reviving fears of another anthrax attack.

But preliminary tests indicated the material posed no danger, and authorities said they suspect the letter was a hoax.

Capitol police spokesman Lt. Dan Nichols said the envelope also contained a "threatening note," but declined to offer additional details, saying the matter is now the focus of a criminal investigation.

Other law enforcement officials said that whoever mailed the letter apparently attempted to mimic the handwriting on the envelope of a previous letter to Daschle that contained highly potent anthrax spores. The microbes spread through Daschle's suite in the Hart Senate Office Building — prompting authorities to shut down much of the Capitol for weeks — when it was opened there Oct. 15.

Unlike the original Daschle letter, which was postmarked in Trenton, N.J., this one bore a London postmark, officials said.

"Everything about this points to a hoax," one law enforcement official said.

Since the October attack, authorities have implemented elaborate procedures — including treating mail with radiation — to protect Congress and other key federal institutions from biological attack. It was unclear Thursday how a letter containing powder and a threatening note to the Senate majority leader could have slipped through that system.

Nichols defended the screening procedures, saying they were designed to detect hazardous materials and consequently would not have picked up the apparently benign substance in the latest letter to Daschle.

"We're not looking for powder," Nichols said. "We're looking for things of a hazardous nature."

As a precaution against anthrax bacteria, all mail sent to key federal institutions — identified by zip codes — is routed through privately run facilities in Lima, Ohio or Bridgewater, N.J., where it is treated with radiation. From there it is trucked to Washington, where it is examined by U.S. postal inspectors for signs "that may jump out as being suspicious," said U.S. Postal Inspector Dan Mihalko.

The mail is then transferred to congressional sorting facilities, where, in the case of the Senate, it undergoes additional screening by Capitol employees.  The House employs a private firm, Pitney Bowes, Inc. to do the same job.

Among other things, congressional aides say, the mail workers clip the corners off many envelopes to search for powder.  Nichols declined to discuss specifics of the screening procedures.

Capitol police learned of the letter about 11:40 a.m., moments after it was opened by a congressional staff member in the majority leader's second floor office suite in the Capitol. Daschle was working in the suite but was not in the room where the letter was opened. He moved to a room farther from the letter and stayed there until the tests indicated there was no threat.

"People handled it amazingly well, especially considering they'd been through this before," a Daschle aide said.

Wearing protective gear, hazardous materials specialists from the Capitol police conducted two field tests on the powder, both of which came up negative, Nichols said. Similar tests in the past have detected anthrax spores even when they have been rendered inert by irradiation, investigators said.

The substance and the letter were immediately sent to the U.S. Army lab at Fort Detrick, Md., for final testing, according to Chris Murray, spokesman for the FBI's Washington field office.

"They've ruled out anthrax, either active or irradiated," one FBI official said. "It appears to be a hoax."

Monday, January 21, 2002

FBI examined photocopiers on campus

Princetonian Staff Writer

Shortly before the beginning of winter break, FBI agents made sample copies on all 45 of the University's publicly accessible copying machines as part of the bureau's on-going anthrax investigation.

Ted McLaughlin, who runs the Photographic Services office in Firestone Library, is in charge of publicly accessible machines on campus, which allow anyone with a pre-paid access card to make copies. He said that he was instructed to give bureau agents access to the machines.

McLaughlin said the agents made two copies at each copier without any document in the machine — one copy with the lid up and another with the lid down. He explained that these copies could reveal telltale scratches on the copier glass or faults on the machine's drum.

The FBI is investigating letters containing anthrax bacteria, which were mailed from the Trenton area in October. The bureau has repeatedly declined to comment on the specifics of its investigation. University Director of Communications Lauren Robinson-Brown '85 also would not comment on the situation.

All four of the anthrax-laden letters were prepared on a copying machine.  Comparing these letters to samples it has taken from machines, the FBI may be able to determine which machine was used to copy the letters.

 The Times of Trenton reported yesterday that the FBI has been testing other public copiers in the Mercer County area, including machines in local public libraries and the Pequod outlet inside the University Store. Machines at a Piscataway research institute affiliated with Rutgers University have also been tested.

An employee at Kinko's on Witherspoon Street declined to say whether agents had visited the store.

Detrick's security lapses date to 1980s; Anthrax not first biological agent to disappear from base

Frederick (MD) Gazette
by Nicole Belanger
Staff Writer

Jan. 24, 2002

Problems with security at Fort Detrick's research laboratories date back even earlier than 1991, when anthrax was discovered missing.

The missing vials of anthrax, ebola and hunta, all dangerous biological agents, were discovered after the Army conducted an environmental impact study on all of its labs as a result of a lawsuit filed by a local retired scientist. Their disappearance became public this week following another lawsuit's disclosure.

Neil Levitt, owner of The Deli restaurant in Frederick, sued the nation's military powers in 1987 after suspicious incidents he experienced surrounding his development of a vaccine for chikungunya, a painful, but not usually fatal, disease spread by mosquitoes.

The vaccine was unsafe, Levitt said, but he believed the Army was covering up the fact that soldiers could have been vaccinated with a virus, instead of a cure.

Two quarts of the virus disappeared and has never been found, according to testimony Levitt gave to the U.S. Senate in 1988.  Now Levitt, who worked at Detrick for 17 years before he resigned, said he is not surprised by reports of missing anthrax of the same strain as that involved in last fall's mail attacks that killed five people and injured 13.

Another former Fort Detrick scientist and Frederick resident, Ayaad Assaad, filed a lawsuit in 1998 along with two other former scientists alleging their 1997 termination from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) was a result of age discrimination.

Assaad claims in the suit that scientists and high-ranking Army officers formed a "camel club," a derogatory reference to his Egyptian background.

While Assaad's lawyer, Rosemary McDermott, recently studied a 500-page document the Army compiled about the harassment, she discovered that soldiers testified at the time to missing anthrax.

A warning bell went off in McDermott's mind.

"When we got this information, we felt it was important to get it out into the public for their safety," Assaad said, referring to reports that the strain of anthrax used in the attacks has been traced back to the same strain used at Fort Detrick.
Army officials said the strain is also used in other facilities throughout the country.

Assaad's story, and that of the two other scientists -- Richard Crosland and Kay Mereish -- has hit national news this week over concern about the anthrax mailer's identity.

Assaad became convinced that the terrorist is either a current or former Detrick scientist after the FBI received an anonymous letter identifying Assaad as a potential bioterrorist just days before the first anthrax letter was mailed.

But the FBI has not interviewed Assaad about his theory, he said.

"Everyone else is interested in my story except for law enforcement," Assaad said

A spokeswoman with the U.S. Army public affairs office in Virginia refused to comment on both the lawsuit and the missing vials of anthrax, saying that comments could interfere with the FBI's investigation.

Peter Gulotta, media representative for the FBI's Baltimore field office, would not comment on the ongoing investigation, he said. "We have no information that can be given out to the public," Gulotta said.

A former Army official said the fact that vials of anthrax were missing was public knowledge back in 1991, but both McDermott and Assaad disagree.

"I knew they were missing, but it was very hush, hush," Assaad said.

Norman Covert, who was the public information officer at Detrick from 1977 until 1999, said the Army never verified that anything was actually missing. "There was sloppy bookkeeping and no accountability, but nobody thinks that someone walked out with it," Covert said.

Covert also believes there is little credibility in the pending lawsuit the three scientists have filed.

He said there was an effort to overhaul and improve security at that time, such as installing electronic doors and video monitors. But according to Assaad, the security improvements did not extend to the USAMRIID part of the base.

"We were not impacted by that study," Assaad said. As far he knows, security problems still exist there.

According to the 500-page report, someone was conducting late-night unauthorized research in the labs dealing with anthrax.  Lab slides showed up with the words "Antrax 005."

The late-night part was not strange, both Assaad and Covert said, because scientists often conducted research during off-times.  But the fact that a specialized electron microscope was used improperly shows that it was by a person who was not trained to use the machine, Assaad said.

He and his colleagues are hoping for the same thing that Levitt wanted 15 years ago: security measures to be instituted at the Army base where lethal and dangerous biological agents are contained just a few blocks away from Frederick residents.  "I hope they do a lot of things there, not only security, but it could be a good place to do scientific research if things are improved," Assaad said.

Fort Detrick's anthrax mystery
Who tried to frame Dr. Ayaad Assaad, a former biowarfare researcher at the Army lab? Was it the same person responsible for last fall's anthrax mail terrorism?

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Laura Rozen

Jan. 26, 2002 | THURMONT, Md. -- On Oct. 2, Ayaad Assaad, a U.S. government scientist and former biowarfare researcher, received a call from an FBI agent asking him to come in for a talk. It was well before anthrax panic gripped the nation -- in fact, it was the same day that photo editor Robert Stevens, 63, was admitted to a Florida hospital. It wasn't until the next day that Stevens was diagnosed with inhalation anthrax, and another two days later, on Oct. 5, when he would become the first of five eventual fatalities caused by the apparent bioterrorist attack.

The day after hearing from the FBI, Assaad met with special agents J. Gregory Lelyegian and Mark Buie in the FBI's Washington field office, along with Assaad's attorney, Rosemary McDermott. They showed Assaad a detailed, unsigned, computer-typed letter with a startling accusation: that the 53-year-old Assaad, an Environmental Protection Agency scientist who filed an age discrimination suit against the U.S. Army for dismissing him from a biowarfare lab, might be a bioterrorist.

"Dr. Assaad is a potential biological terrorist," the letter stated, according to Assaad and McDermott. The letter was received by the FBI in Quantico, Va., but Assaad did not learn from the FBI where it had been mailed from. "I have worked with Dr. Assaad," the letter continued, "and I heard him say that he has a vendetta against the U.S. government and that if anything happens to him, he told his sons to carry on."

According to Assaad, "The letter-writer clearly knew my entire background, my training in both chemical and biological agents, my security clearance, what floor where I work now, that I have two sons, what train I take to work, and where I live.

"The letter warned the FBI to stop me," he said.

After their meeting, Assad was thanked by the FBI agents, who have not contacted him since. The bureau says it cleared Assaad of the anonymous allegations against him.

"We received an anonymous letter with certain allegations about Dr. Assaad," Chris Murray, an FBI spokesman, told Salon Thursday. "Our investigation has determined those allegations are unfounded. Our investigation is complete. Period." But Assaad believes there is a possible link between the person who sent the unsigned letter to the FBI and the terrorist who sent anthrax to Democratic politicians and prominent members of the media. Whoever it was seemed to display eerie foreknowledge of the biological attacks, since the letter was sent to the FBI well before any anthrax terror attacks were known to the public.

And there is also the fact that Assaad used to work at the U.S. Army's Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), in Fort Detrick, Md., a biowarfare lab many critics believe might have been the source of the stolen anthrax. According to internal Army documents in Assaad's own possession (and first reported about in the Hartford Courant), 27 specimens, including anthrax, Ebola and the hantavirus were lost in the early 1990s from the lab. The documents paint a chaotic picture of a poorly managed lab.

Assaad had his own unhappy experience at the lab: Before he was dismissed, he had run-ins with colleagues, once filing a racial discrimination complaint against some of them. And he believes that if the letter-writer was someone who at one point worked at the lab, it would explain why he knew so much about Assaad and would think that Assaad would make an easy target to frame.

"I'm the perfect scapegoat," Dr. Assaad explained. "I'm Arab-American. I'm a scientist who knows about biological and chemical agents. I'm suing the U.S. Army," he said. "Whoever did this clearly wants revenge."

There is no proof that former colleagues of Assaad at the Fort Detrick facility were behind the attempt to frame him or the anthrax mailings. But there is no doubt that security at the lab was notoriously sloppy. And government investigators hunting for the anthrax mail terrorist are reportedly looking at the lab as a possible source of the toxin.

Assaad worked for eight years, from 1989-97, at the Army-run lab, where civilian and military scientists with top security clearances handle the most lethal biological agents known. Assaad's tenure at the lab was not a particularly happy one. He was ultimately dismissed from the lab in 1997, along with six other older scientists, when the lab announced it needed to downsize because of budget restrictions. But Assaad disputes that reason in his age discrimination suit, which is still pending. He shared with Salon copies of Army internal documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Assaad's attorney, that are from the Army's own investigation into allegations of racial discrimination brought by Assaad.

But he is not alone in his concerns about his former colleagues. Another scientist who worked at the lab at the time -- and who admits to having been part of a group in the lab that called itself the "Camel Club," organized as a kind of drinking club that on the side ridiculed the Egyptian-born Assaad -- said he also believes that the anthrax in the recent terror scare came from Fort Detrick's USAMRIID.

"As soon as it came out" about the anthrax letters, "the first thing that came to my mind was Fort Detrick," said the scientist, who requested anonymity and is now employed in academia. "I don't know how many labs are utilizing anthrax from Detrick. Detrick represents a repository of many organisms, and they would send it out to various other labs. A lot of people who were working on anthrax in this country got their anthrax from Fort Detrick."

The scientist also claimed that he understood DNA analysis being performed by a private lab in Rockville, Md., had already determined that the source of the anthrax in the letter sent to Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was from Detrick. However, the private lab has told journalists that it will be another two weeks to a month before they publicly reveal their results.

According to interviews with Assaad and this scientist, along with additional Army investigative transcripts obtained by Salon, the Army's biowarfare research lab in the early 1990s was an organizational disaster area. A big problem at the lab, which apparently contributed to specimens going missing, was that after the Gulf War, USAMRIID decided to phase out work some scientists had been doing on projects that the Army lab no longer considered crucial to their core mission of researching vaccines against bioweapons. Many scientists who had been engaged in other projects, such as Lt. Col. Phil Zack, who had been researching the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), were eager to continue working on projects USAMRIID said they should stop. What followed, the documents reveal, were scientists sneaking into the Army biowarfare lab to work on pet projects after-hours and on weekends, former workers like Zack, who left in 1991, still being let in to do lab work, pressure applied to technicians to help out, documents going missing, and deliberate mislabeling of specimens among other efforts to hide unsanctioned lab work.

Lt. Col. Michael Langford, an Army scientist who became head of the USAMRIID experimental pathology division in February 1992, was interviewed by a USAMRIID investigator in the spring of 1992. The transcripts of that and other interviews reveal shocking lapses of security and resistance to oversight by USAMRIID lab scientists, including some of the same ones who engaged in harassment of Assaad.

"At the time I took over the Experimental Pathology branch on the 3rd of February [1992] it was obvious to me that there was little or no organization of that group and little or no accountability of many things," Langford told the Army investigator, Col. Thomas J. Taylor.

Langford describes walking in to work one morning and seeing a group of lab scientists and technicians huddled behind closed doors in the room that houses an electron microscope. What Langford concluded was that certain scientists were covertly working on projects at night and on weekends that had been ordered halted by their division chief. He further concluded that employees were desperately trying to find old specimens of biological agents, including anthrax, they could "re-label" to cover up specimens that had gone missing in the chaos of prohibited, after-hours lab work.

"I walked in and the lights were on, the scope was off, and they were intensely looking for these blocks [of anthrax]," Langford described. "What was indicated to me was that perhaps these specimens were bootleg so to speak, they were going to cover them with old specimens, and when the old specimens disappeared, they were going to take these old anthrax blocks and substitute them. Well, when those were unavailable then these new blocks [of anthrax] mysteriously disappeared. So of course the probability is high that there was a problem there."

Langford also described to the investigator strong resistance from his underlings and other scientists to his efforts to manage the group. Among those Langford considered management problems were Marian Rippy, a researcher in the experimental pathology division. (Zack and Rippy had also been reprimanded by the Army for harassing Assaad.) Langford said he considered a number of those on his staff to be "extremely difficult to deal with, would volunteer almost nothing, nearly almost always had to be given a written request to get a response, were very defiant, were very obstructive, and I also heard rumors that ... Marian [Rippy] had made comments to the people in that lab basically to undermine me, you know, when I was coming in there," according to Langford.

"We were not to continue any work; in fact I was aware that [Pathology division commander Lt. Col. Nancy Jaax] had secured the SIV materials and people because again it appeared from many sources that Phil Zack was asking people to work basically covertly and continue his SIV work against obvious clear mandates and directives of the division chief," Langford told the investigator. (In an interesting side note, Jaax, whom Langford refers to, is the protagonist of the Richard Preston book "The Hot Zone," about an Ebola outbreak in lab monkeys in Reston, Va., in 1989. The real-life events were also the basis of the movie "Outbreak," starring Dustin Hoffman.)

It was during this period, from 1990 to early 1992, when scientists apparently pursued projects covertly at the lab, that the Army facility appears to have lost track of 27 specimens, including anthrax, Ebola and hantavirus. USAMRIID told media this week that any specimens that went missing were rendered harmless by various preservation and radiation processes -- a contention Assaad says is not true. He says the specimens leave behind a residue that could be reactivated.

Assaad's personal experience at that lab makes him particularly skeptical. He complains of behavior from colleagues that, while certainly not necessarily that of potential terrorists, does seem like symptoms of a poorly managed lab that was out of control.

In particular, Assaad, who is Egyptian-American, was the target of the group of USAMRIID scientists and lab technicians who called themselves the Camel Club. Among his antagonists were colleagues in Fort Detrick lab's experimental pathology division, Zack and Rippy.

Using a stuffed camel as a kind of mascot, the Camel Club composed a poem, "The Rhyme of the Ancient Camellier," with the apparent purpose of humiliating Assaad. It begins:

"Ayaad Assaad was the start,
with a reputation for not having heart
A 'skimmer' without equal
We hope there's no sequel
In his honor we created this beast
It represents life lower than yeast
Whoever is voted this sucker,
you can't duck her, You must accept blame,
And bear all the shame Unlike Assaad,
that first motherfucker"

The poem continues for five typewritten rhyming pages, ending with:

Well it's time for the camel to pass.
So let's all reach and raise up a glass.
Let's give'm the credit,
the one who will get it,
the poor bastard we're gonna harass.

Assaad theorizes that the Camel Club and the racial discrimination he experienced were at least partly an outgrowth of a dispute he had with Zack and Rippy over the authorship of a scientific paper for which he says he had done the research. Rippy and Zack, Assaad says, had done only minor work, but wanted to put their names on the research paper, and he says he felt they didn't deserve it. Assaad says the dispute escalated, with Rippy and Zack threatening to be disruptive and humiliate him at a scientific conference where he delivered his paper's findings. Then, he says, their harassment took an ethnic cast, because of his Arabic heritage.

Assaad said he filed a formal complaint with the Army after his supervisor ignored him. The commander of the U.S. Army lab investigated the complaint and found in Assaad's favor, and singled out Zack and Rippy for criticism for being at the center of the Camel Club. (The Army investigation documents further revealed that the two, both married, were also having an affair.)

"Based upon your complaint, I directed that an informal investigation be conducted," USAMRIID's then-commander, Col. Ronald Williams, wrote Assaad in a memo in August 1992. "The investigation revealed that Lieutenant Colonel Zack and Dr. Rippy had participated in discriminatory behavior.

"On behalf of the United States of America, the Army, and this Institute, I wish to genuinely and humbly apologize for this behavior," Williams' memo continued.

Before the investigation ended, both Zack and Rippy were reprimanded. Then Zack left USAMRIID in December 1991, first heading to the Army's Walter Reed Institute, then going to the private pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, and then to a company in Colorado acquired by St. Louis' Nexstar Financial Management. Several calls by Salon to his last known phone number and address in Boulder, Colo., went unreturned, and Nexstar says it no longer has any record of Zack. Rippy, who left USAMRIID shortly after Zack, in February 1992, worked for a while at Eli Lilly, but could not be located by Salon.

Assaad is puzzled that after clearing him of the accusation that he could be a bioterrorist, the FBI showed no interest in talking with him about his days at Fort Detrick. "The whole world wants to talk to me, except the FBI," he said, as his lawyer's phones rang nonstop this week, with media organizations seeking interviews with him. "Something's wrong here."

But while the FBI may not be interested in talking with Assaad further, federal authorities increasingly seem to believe that the anthrax letters were sent by a U.S. government scientist -- and not by the Iraqis or al-Qaida, as some hawks have continued to insist over the past few months, while hundreds of Islamic and Arab-born immigrants have been questioned and detained by the FBI and INS.

"I can tell you there are scientists out there who do have military connections that we are focusing on, at least that connection," Kevin Donovan, FBI special agent in charge of the Newark bureau, said at a press conference Wednesday.

For his part, Assaad says, "I want people to know the truth," and wants to show the American people that Arab-Americans are not the enemy. Should the FBI trace the anthrax attacks back to his former lab, Assaad may have gone a long way toward his goal.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

About the writer
Laura Rozen writes about U.S. foreign policy and the Balkans crisis for Salon News.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002
The Daily Princetonian

Investigators explore new anthrax suspect

David Robinson
Princetonian Senior Writer

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg is the proponent of a new conspiracy theory.  Rosenberg, a molecular biologist leading an independent investigation into last fall's anthrax attacks on behalf of the Federation of American Scientists, said in a speech yesterday that many U.S. government insiders agree on one likely perpetrator whom they believe is responsible for the attacks.

But according to Rosenberg, the government may not want to prosecute this person because he is a government insider. Taking this insider to court might require making aspects of America's secret bioweapons program public.

In her speech, Rosenberg reviewed a wide variety of evidence to piece together a portrait of the likely perpetrator. She said that all signs suggest the person is an anthrax expert who had access to a U.S. government strain of the anthrax virus — known as the "Ames" strain — which was used in all five of the anthrax letters. She said this person used a classified process to make the anthrax spores float more easily in the air. This process, believed to be more advanced than any known to the Russian or Iraqi bioweapons programs, would only be accessible to someone who had worked for the U.S. program, Rosenberg said.

The anthrax used in several of the letters had been carefully milled into spores of two to five microns in length, which are desirable because they have the best chance of being inhaled deeply into the lungs. Top government experts believe that the person who prepared this powder must have had a great deal of experience preparing anthrax, Rosenberg said. She explained that the powder used in the letters "was not [the perpetrator's] first batch."

She said this person must have a current anthrax vaccination in order to be able to survive working with the organism. The letters have not contained any fingerprints or DNA material, which Rosenberg said suggests that the individual is an expert at covering his tracks.

"Many government insiders agree on one likely perpetrator, whom the FBI has questioned more than once," Rosenberg said. The Bureau has known about this individual since October, she added.

Rosenberg noted that the U.S. government may not want to prosecute the sender of the anthrax letters publicly, because doing so might force government officials to reveal the extent of the U.S. bioweapons program.

After the anthrax attacks began last fall, U.S. officials revealed that American military researchers — as well as outside contractors working for the Pentagon — have long been researching anthrax. Experts say the government's research activity is prohibited by a 1972 biological weapons convention.

Public statements by defectors from the former Soviet Union revealed years ago that the Soviets, and now the Russians, never stopped developing biological weapons, even though the Soviet Union signed the treaty along with the United States. Because the treaty has no enforcement provision, it is notoriously ineffective at curtailing the spread of biological weapons.

Rosenberg said she objects to President Bush's recently announced budget, which precipitously increases funding for anthrax-related research.  She explained that the new funding will bring more researchers and more labs into contact with anthrax.

"By spreading around this knowledge, and this access, we're asking for trouble," she noted, stressing that the recent attacks were probably launched by a veteran government researcher.

Rosenberg said she thinks further development of biological weapons will "have no benefit in terms of public protection" and said she hopes that "our government will see the light and agree to a legally binding treaty" prohibiting further development of such weapons.

Expert: Anthrax suspect ID'd


Staff Writer

PRINCETON BOROUGH -- An advocate for the control of biological weapons who has been gathering information about last autumn's anthrax attacks said yesterday the Federal Bureau of Investigation has a strong hunch about who mailed the deadly letters.

But the FBI might be "dragging its feet" in pressing charges because the suspect is a former government scientist familiar with "secret activities that the government would not like to see disclosed," said Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Chemical and Biological Weapons Program.

Rosenberg, who spoke to about 65 students, faculty members and others at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, said the FBI has known of the suspect since October and, according to her "government insider" sources, has interrogated him more than once.

The investigation into five anthrax-laced letters and several other hoax letters -- all mailed last fall, including several processed by Trenton Main Post Office in Hamilton -- was the focus of Rosenberg's talk. She also gave her thoughts about what the government should do to control biological weapons.

"There are a number of insiders -- government insiders -- who know people in the anthrax field who have a common suspect," Rosenberg said. "The FBI has questioned that person more than once, . . . so it looks as though the FBI is taking that person very seriously."

She said it is quite possible the suspect is a scientist who formerly worked at the U.S. government's military laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md.

Rosenberg said she has been gathering information from press reports, congressional hearings, Bush administration news conferences and government insiders she would not name.

During a brief question-and-answer session after her talk, one man wondered whether biological agents truly pose significant dangers to the public, given the limited number of deaths and illnesses caused by five anthrax-laced letters.

Without mentioning other biological agents that are far more deadly and contagious than anthrax, Rosenberg said the potential for a biological attack is "catastrophic."

Another man wondered if the FBI and other investigators might be focusing too narrowly on one scientist, saying, "New Jersey is the epicenter of the international pharmaceutical industry," and many people in those labs presumably have the skills to handle and refine anthrax.

"I think your argument would have been a good one earlier on, but I think that the results of the analyses (of the letters and the anthrax in them) show that access to classified information was essential," Rosenberg said. "And that rules out most of the people in the pharmaceutical industry. . . . It's possible, but they would have had to have access to the information," Rosenberg said.

Picking up the conversational thread, another man said, "People know a lot, and it's a question of what they choose to focus their knowledge on. Things are invented in parallel," he said.

                -- -- --

She said the evidence points to a person who has experience handling anthrax; who has been vaccinated and has received annual booster shots; and who had access to classified government information about how to chemically treat the bacterial spores to keep them from clumping together, which allows them to remain airborne.

"We can draw a likely portrait of the perpetrator as a former Fort Detrick scientist who is now working for a contractor in the Washington, D.C., area," Rosenberg said. "He had reason for travel to Florida, New Jersey and the United Kingdom. . . . There is also the likelihood the perpetrator made the anthrax himself. He grew it, probably on a solid medium and weaponized it at a private location where he had accumulated the equipment and the material.

"We know that the FBI is looking at this person, and it's likely that he participated in the past in secret activities that the government would not like to see disclosed," Rosenberg said. "And this raises the question of whether the FBI may be dragging its feet somewhat and may not be so anxious to bring to public light the person who did this.

"I know that there are insiders, working for the government, who know this person and who are worried that it could happen that some kind of quiet deal is made that he just disappears from view," Rosenberg said.

"This, I think, would be a really serious outcome that would send a message to other potential terrorists, that (they) would think they could get away with it.

"So I hope that doesn't happen, and that is my motivation to continue to follow this and to try to encourage press coverage and pressure on the FBI to follow up and publicly prosecute the perpetrator."

               -- -- --

She expressed disappointment that the U.S. government last July decided against signing an international biological weapons treaty that would ban nations from developing such weapons.

"It became clear from congressional testimony that the reason for this rejection was the need to protect our secret projects," Rosenberg said.

During the question-and-answer period, one woman said, "I'm not sure that I understood you completely, but it seems to me that the United States government has a double-standard," of wanting other nations to comply with a weapons ban but wanting freedom to pursue its own program.

"I'm totally shocked by this information," she said, sending a wave of laughter through the lecture hall.

"They make no bones about it," Rosenberg replied. "On many occasions they've argued that rules should be for the bad guys, not the good guys."

Rosenberg said she worries about an "enormous increase" in money in the Bush budget for research into bioterrorism agents. "There is already a rush for this funding," she said.

The number of researchers and labs ought to be tightly controlled, she said. Under the current budget proposal, however, she says the government will be spreading money around to "a lot more people and a lot more laboratories around the country from which bioterrorists can emerge, as one just did.

"By spreading around this access and this knowledge, we're asking for trouble.'

Trenton Times
20 Feb 2002

FBI says no prime anthrax suspect

Staff Writer

The  assertion  by  a biological and chemical weapons control advocate that the FBI has a prime suspect in the deadly anthrax letters case is flat-out wrong, several bureau sources said yesterday.

Barbara  Hatch  Rosenberg,  director  of  the  Federation  of American Scientists'  Chemical  and  Biological  Weapons Program, said during a lecture  Monday  at  Princeton  University  that  the FBI not only has interviewed  its  prime  suspect  but  might be "dragging its feet" in making  an  arrest  because  publicity  would  shed  light  on  secret government biological weapons programs.

"The  FBI  is  vigorously  investigating  the mailing of anthrax-laced letters and hoax letters," FBI spokeswoman Tracey Silberling said from her  Washington, D.C., office yesterday. "It is not accurate, however, that the FBI has identified a prime suspect in this case."

Asked  how  many  suspects  the FBI has, Silberling said she "can't go beyond this."

Rosenberg  is  not the  only  person to raise questions or criticisms about the FBI investigation.

Elisa  D. Harris, a former director of nonproliferation issues for the National Security Council, was quoted in a Feb. 8 article as being  "puzzled" that the FBI is casting such a wide net in its search for  the person or persons who sent the anthrax letters that left five people dead.

Four  of the letters were processed at the Trenton Main Post Office in Hamilton  in  September and October. That facility became contaminated by  anthrax  spores  that  presumably  leaked  from  the envelopes. It remains closed, awaiting decontamination.

In  response to Rosenberg's comments in Monday's editions of The Times of  Trenton, Sandra Carroll, an FBI spokeswoman based in Newark, said, "Ms.  Rosenberg has made these comments before. She, and I'm sure many others,  may have their ideas or opinions about the investigation. But the  FBI  is  actively  and  aggressively  moving  forward  with  this investigation.

"I  am  not  going  to react to the comments in your story today other than  to say we are moving forward with the investigation and continue to  seek  the  public's  help  and certain expertise in resolving this case,"  Carroll  said.  "There is no time frame that an individual can place  on  how  long  the  investigation would take. As far as a prime suspect and other statements, if a person is guilty of a serious crime and is identified, an arrest will ensue."

An  assistant  special  agent  in  the  FBI's  Washington field office yesterday  told  an  aide  to Rep. Chris Smith, R-Washington Township, that  agents  will  be traveling to Canada and England in the next few weeks to interview lab workers there.

"He  was pretty adamant that the investigation has not stalled," Smith aide  Nick  Manetto  said. "He was pretty upset at the accusation that the FBI would be hiding a suspect."

Rosenberg  said she has developed her theories from a host of sources, including   published   news   accounts,   Bush   administration  news conferences  and "government insiders," whose identities she would not reveal.

During  her  lecture, Rosenberg said the culprit is likely a scientist who  formerly  worked in a U.S. military laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick,  Md.  He  "did  a  superb job" in producing a batch of pure anthrax spores, she said.

An  analysis of the spores shows they were processed in a manner known only to those with access to classified government information to keep them from clumping together, she said.

Rosenberg could not be reached yesterday for additional comment.

The Federation of American Scientists was formed in 1945 by a group of scientists  who  worked on the country's top-secret Manhattan Project, which won the race to be the first to develop atomic bombs. Originally named  the  Federation of Atomic Scientists, it was formed "to address the implications and dangers of the nuclear age," according to the FAS Web site.

Rosenberg,  a research professor of environmental science at the State University  of  New  York  at  Purchase,  founded the FAS Chemical and Biological  Weapons  Program  in  1989.  She  was  invited to speak at Princeton University by physicist Frank von Hippel, a professor at the university's   Woodrow  Wilson  School  of  Public  and  International Affairs.

Hippel, whose maternal grandfather worked on the Manhattan Project, is chairman of the Federation of American Scientists. "I had Barbara here to talk to my class," von Hippel said. "I'm teaching a graduate course (titled) `Protection Against Weapons of Mass Destruction.' "

Trenton Times
21 Feb 2002

Anthrax expert stands by her claim

Staff Writer

A  biological  weapons  control  expert yesterday refused to back down from  her  claim  that  the  FBI  has a prime suspect in last autumn's deadly  anthrax  letters  episode,  despite  strenuous  denials by the bureau.

She  speculated  that  FBI  agents  might still be building their case against the suspect and possible accomplices.

"They're probably collecting evidence, so I can understand they'd want to  deny  that  they  have  a  specific  suspect,"  said Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Chemical and Biological Weapons Program.

"I'm  certain  that  since  they  haven't moved against the suspect or suspects   that   they  don't  want  to  alert  anyone  they're  under suspicion," she said.

During  a  Monday  lecture at Princeton University, Rosenberg said the FBI  has a prime suspect and might be "dragging its feet" in making an arrest  because he has ties to secret U.S. military biological weapons programs.

She  called upon the public and the news media to keep up the pressure on  the  FBI,  saying  some  of  her  sources,  who  she  described as "government  insiders,"  have confided fear that the FBI might attempt to  deal  with  the  suspect  discreetly,  out  of the glare of public scrutiny.

Meanwhile,  Rep.  Chris Smith, R-Washington Township, will be making a formal  request  to  FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III for a detailed briefing by a top-level agent on the bureau's investigation, aide Nick Manetto said last night. Smith also will seek a more detailed response from the bureau to Rosenberg's claims.

Several  FBI representatives Tuesday denied Rosenberg's assertion that the  bureau  has  a  prime suspect. One spokeswoman was asked how many suspects the bureau has but declined to answer the question.

Smith  is  also  planning  to  reach  out  to Rosenberg for a personal interview, Manetto said.

"The congressman wants every single angle examined," Manetto said. "It doesn't  make  sense  to not look at leads, especially when you have a source talking to other people and making her information well known."

Rosenberg  said  she  has  been  besieged  by telephone calls since an account of her lecture was published in Tuesday's edition of The Times of Trenton.

She  refused to divulge the names of her government contacts after her lecture  Monday. Asked again yesterday if she could reveal some names, she  said,  "I'm  afraid  not. My contacts won't talk to the press and won't divulge names. They won't tell me the name (of the suspect)."

Rosenberg said during her lecture that several of her contacts who are familiar  with  the  federal investigation have reached the conclusion that  a  particular man is the main suspect. And they know the FBI has interviewed him on more than one occasion, she said.

Analysis  of  the  anthrax  spores in the five contaminated letters -- four  of  which  were  postmarked  at  the Trenton Main Post Office in Hamilton  -- shows they were grown from the same so-called Ames strain of  the  bacteria used at a U.S. military research lab at Fort Detrick in  Maryland.  The  lab  sent the strain to seven other research labs, some  of  which in turn shared the bacteria with other labs, Rosenberg said Monday. About 20 labs have received the Ames strain, she said.

Rosenberg  said  the  perpetrator  is  likely  a  former  Fort Detrick research  scientist  who was familiar with classified information on a process to make the powder useful as a weapon.

A  particular  chemical process developed by the U.S. military removes an electrostatic charge that would cause the spores to clump together.  Unclumped, the spores float in the air more readily, where they can be breathed deep into a person's lungs.

Last  week  the  FBI  asked  the  American Society for Microbiology to e-mail  its  40,000  members,  asking  for  any  tips they might have, according to a story published on the Web site. Such efforts have led some observers to question why the FBI is casting such a wide net  instead  of  focusing  on the researchers in the 20 labs that had access to the Ames strain.

An  FBI  source said the agency's investigation has included inquiries at the labs.

Rosenberg, a microbiologist, is a former cancer researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering  Cancer  Center  and  former biochemistry professor at Cornell  Medical  College.  She  is  currently a research professor of environmental science at the State University of New York at Purchase.

The  Federation  of  America  Scientists  has an illustrious pedigree, dating  back  to  the  end  of  World  War  II  when it was called the Federation of Atomic Scientists.

Physicists  and  other  scientists  who  secretly  developed the first atomic  bomb  as  part  of  the  Manhattan Project formed the group to confront  the  new  perils  for  civilization and responsibilities for nations as the world entered the Nuclear Age.

Posted on Thu, Feb. 28, 2002

Anthrax tip may yet help
A letter blamed a scientist. Now a theory is the anonymous accuser is to blame.
By Lenny Savino
Inquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The phone rang at 9 a.m. 

"We have to talk to you," the FBI agent in October told Dr. Ayaad Assaad, a former researcher at Fort Detrick, the Army lab in Frederick, Md., that has done anthrax research. 

"I asked what it was about, several times," Assaad said in an interview. "But he kept telling me, 'When you come to see us, we'll tell you why.' " 

It turned out that Assaad had been anonymously accused of planning a biological attack. The accusation had extra punch for the FBI because until 1997, Assaad had been a physiologist at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, north of Washington.

Assaad was 52, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Egypt. He had complained of bias against older workers and Middle Easterners like himself, eventually filing a discrimination suit. He had enemies at Fort Detrick. 

Assaad was about to head the list, albeit briefly, of federal scientists who would be grilled in connection with what became the FBI's anthrax case. 

Eighteen to 20 names, but not Assaad's, remain on the list of suspects in the mailed anthrax poisonings that killed five people last year, the FBI said this week. The bureau said it also had subpoenaed the nation's scientific labs for samples of the Ames strain of anthrax, to compare with bacteria from last fall's mail attacks in an effort to narrow down the source. 

The FBI agent told Assaad to report to the bureau's Washington Field Office downtown the next day, Oct. 3, at 10 a.m. The first anthrax case, at a South Florida tabloid, would not be reported for another day. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had everyone - the FBI most of all - trying to avert the next disaster. 

Assaad, who lives in Frederick, met his lawyer, Rosemary McDermott, on the subway to the FBI. Uniformed police with bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled the stop where they exited. Assaad figured he wasn't going home. 

"I was just totally paralyzed, mentally and physically," Assaad recalled. "The only time I ever had any dealings with the FBI was when I had to be fingerprinted for my citizenship application. So I didn't know what to make of it." 

Agents Mark Buie and Gregory Leylegian led Assaad and McDermott through a thick stainless-steel door with an electronic lock into a vaultlike room. There were no windows. No pictures. Just a few chairs around a table with a stack of blank arrest forms sitting in front of Assaad.

Buie said military police in Quantico, Va., had received an anonymous letter saying Assaad was planning to mount a biological attack and had the motive and means to succeed. Buie read the letter aloud, then showed it to Assaad and his lawyer, but would not let them keep or copy it. It was one page long, single-spaced. 

The letter gave accurate details about Assaad's security clearances while he was at Fort Detrick, and spoke of his two sons as possible accomplices. It offered accurate details of his present employment at the Environmental Protection Agency's Arlington, Va., offices. The author said only that he was a former colleague of Assaad's. 

Assaad began sobbing. He said he was an Orthodox Christian who had earned a doctorate in physiology at the University of Iowa in Ames, where he had met his wife. 

"I've been in this country for 26 years," he told the agents. "I came here for the opportunity to build for the future, not for destruction." 

"This is a guy who cleaned bathrooms to get through school," McDermott said. 

She said the tone of the agents' interrogation became more relaxed. They asked him if he had ever had access to biological weapons, which he had not. Buie said he was free to go. 

"We have investigated the allegations against Dr. Assaad and found them to be baseless," Chris Murray, a spokesman for the FBI's Washington Field Office, said recently. 

But who sent the anonymous letter? The first anthrax letters were postmarked Sept. 18. The nation's anthrax scare began Oct. 4. So Assaad was fingered falsely at a time when only the culprit knew that a crime had been committed. 

After the anthrax cases came to light, Assaad figured that the author of the letter accusing him was the anthrax mailer. He gave Buie a list of Fort Detrick employees he suspected might have written the letter. 

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a biological arms-control expert at the State University of New York at Purchase and chairwoman of a bioweapons panel at the nonprofit Federation of American Scientists in Washington, thinks Assaad's theory on the anthrax mailer is right. 

"The superficial purpose," she said Tuesday, "was to cast suspicion on Assaad," drawing attention away from a "whole group of people" at the Fort Detrick lab.

"I think it could well be whoever sent the [hoax] letter," Rosenberg said.

The Anthrax Fumble

The Nation
Posted February 28, 2002

[from the March 18, 2002 issue]

Did the FBI's customary secrecy and turf-consciousness cause innocent people to die of bioterror? In October, when the first anthrax-laden envelopes were received, the FBI froze the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out of the high-profile investigation, according to CDC officials. That meant half the country's experts on bio-attacks and the only scientists with a special interest in public health were kept out of the loop. Then, to make matters worse, the CDC spread faulty information it had received secondhand. This all resulted in a fumbled response that put postal and media workers at serious risk. Consider: The US safety net against bioterror was porous because of a turf battle initiated by FBI autocrats--and five people died.

The main problem was that the CDC, the government agency charged with protecting the public from disease, was never permitted to see or examine the anthrax letters mailed to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, the New York Post and Senator Tom Daschle. Without direct access to these deadly envelopes, the CDC experts could not accurately assess a vitally important matter--the danger the letters posed to those beyond the people who opened the mail.

On October 12 Brokaw turned over an anthrax letter, postmarked in Trenton, New Jersey, to the FBI. The CDC never examined it. Dr. Mitchell Cohen, the CDC's director of bacterial diseases and liaison to the FBI for anthrax issues, says he saw only photographs of it. On the basis of media accounts and conference calls with the FBI--not direct examination of the evidence--the CDC determined that the Brokaw letter was "only risky to those who opened it." By October 18, though, several New Jersey postal workers had suspicious skin sores, and Teresa Heller, a West Trenton letter carrier, and Richard Morgano, a Hamilton postal worker, had confirmed cases of skin anthrax. New Jersey's Hamilton postal distribution center--which had processed the Brokaw letter--was closed as a result of these cases, and hundreds of workers there were given precautionary antibiotics. Had the FBI allowed the CDC to examine the Brokaw letter on October 12, the CDC would have been in a better position to make judgments and predictions that could have led to an earlier closing of the Hamilton facility. The CDC might well have learned that this anthrax could spread beyond its envelope. Unfortunately, the FBI did not perform tests for leakage on the Brokaw letter.

A comparable series of events occurred after Senator Daschle's office received an anthrax letter on October 15; it had been handled by the Brentwood postal facility in Washington. Again, the CDC was not invited to examine the letter, and its doctors were unable to observe just how easily the anthrax it contained could become airborne and spread. Nor could they run a test checking for cross-contamination by putting this envelope with other uncontaminated envelopes in a mail sorter.

The FBI did have the anthrax letters tested at the laboratory of the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland. But according to a letter sent by CDC director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan to Senator Chuck Grassley, who is investigating the bioterror crisis, "no CDC staff went to the Army labs to observe the tests." The FBI informed the CDC of its test results regarding the Daschle letter, telling the CDC via conference calls, for instance, that the letter was "well sealed," Koplan says. But for a scientist, being told of a result is not the same thing as being there. How was the CDC supposed to issue accurate directives if its doctors and lab specialists were kept away from criminal evidence loaded with contagion?

On October 16, microbiologists at the Army lab counted more than a billion spores in the Daschle envelope and discovered the fine military grade of the powder, which should have alerted them right away to its potency. In a conference call that day with the FBI and the CDC, the Army scientists described the powder as "going poof," an indication that it could become airborne. Yet, according to the CDC's Cohen, the Army and FBI officials didn't express concern that this could lead to the spread of the more deadly inhaled form of anthrax. In fact, Cohen said that the Army scientists, having heard from FBI officials that the Daschle letter was supposedly well sealed, predicted limited spread--as they had with the Brokaw letter. Army scientists, who are not accustomed to making public health proclamations, wrongly reassured the CDC without sufficiently testing the spread potential of this dangerous anthrax. The CDC, in turn, blindly passed the information to the post office, noting that there was no risk to postal employees and that mail sorting equipment could be presumed safe.

The dangerous powder in the Daschle letter was already working its way through the Brentwood postal facility by the time the letter hit Daschle's office. If the CDC had been given the opportunity to see the powder firsthand, it could have anticipated the illnesses and deaths then under way at Brentwood, and, consequently, it could have acted more quickly in examining postal workers and providing antibiotics there. It might even have closed Brentwood days earlier. But Brentwood continued to operate until October 21, and two US Postal Service workers there--Thomas Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen Jr.--died from inhaled exposure due to contaminated equipment. According to Cohen, the CDC "based our assumptions [concerning the Daschle letter] on limited epidemiological information from the letter to Tom Brokaw that the greatest risk was to those who opened the letters." Tragically, this misinformation wasn't corrected in time.

The FBI also kept another piece of crucial evidence from the CDC. On October 19 the New York Post turned over to the bureau an anthrax letter it had received. The letter had been stored unopened by a mailroom worker. Though this envelope was never unsealed, three Post employees acquired skin anthrax from handling the letter, which seemed to spread skin anthrax to anyone who touched it. Had the letter been shared with the CDC, its scientists could have tested seepage from the envelope and made predictions.

It wasn't until the last week in October that the FBI thought to test the seepage potential by using DNA tracers, which tag the anthrax molecules and track where they go when the envelope is moved. The FBI discovered with an electron microscope that the anthrax could escape through tiny, 50-micron-wide holes in the envelope, and that it became airborne if the envelope was compressed, shaken or passed through a sorter.

In mid-November an envelope addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy and containing anthrax was discovered. It had been postmarked the same day as the Daschle letter but had apparently been sent to the wrong ZIP code. Again the CDC wasn't included in the FBI/Army examination, which once more discovered a super-aggressive bacteria. But this time the danger was obvious even to a nonscientist. The FBI's fancy molecular tests had already discovered the potential for leakage, but the Leahy letter demonstrated leakage without a single lab test. As the letter was carried from the FBI to the Army lab, some powder leaked from a hole in the envelope into the plastic bag containing it. Unfortunately, the results of this unintentional field test came too late.

Four possibly preventable anthrax deaths--including Kathy Nguyen's on October 31 and Ottilie Lundgren's on November 21--had already occurred as a result of the mailings. Earlier precautions at the post office could have kept the deadly cross-contaminated mailings from ever reaching the last two women who died.

The Army and the CDC have the only two top response (Level D) microbiology laboratories in the country. When a federal crime involving contagion occurs, as with the anthrax mailings, the FBI automatically alerts the Army lab. But the FBI has the power to expand the scope of the inquiry to include CDC experts. Last fall, the FBI erred by excluding the CDC specialists. What is missed by one scientist might be discovered by another. And while the Army's primary interest is biowarfare, the CDC is concerned with public health issues. In fact, Dr. Julie Gerberding, the CDC's acting deputy director for infectious diseases, told Senator Grassley's staff that the anthrax should have been seen before the CDC rendered public health predictions. The CDC's specialists, she said, would have tried to determine "the concentration of the bacteria, and the chemicals that have been added to the powder to aerosolize it." These factors, she explained, "affect the impact of the anthrax on humans."

If the CDC was left out, the Postal Service was ignored, not informed and woefully underprotected throughout the anthrax scare. According to Deborah Wilhite, senior vice president for government relations at the Postal Service, the post office learned from the media--not the FBI or the CDC--on October 12 and 15 that anthrax was arriving by mail in New York and Washington. After October 15, when a Mail Security Task Force was created, the CDC sometimes provided "guest experts" at meetings, but there continued to be no formal connection between the CDC and the post office. And the FBI/Army test results were not provided directly to the office. Wilhite wrote that "the different focuses enforcement and health organizations...resulted in parties speaking different 'languages.'"

The FBI was in charge of the investigation, and the Army did the testing. The CDC was responsible for informing local health departments, working to decontaminate federal and media buildings, and preparing for the possibility of a larger attack. These were significant responsibilities for a group of scientists known around Capitol Hill as working for the "Rodney Dangerfield" of federal agencies. In fact, the CDC was not aware that the Army had been making its own anthrax, even after it was found that the anthrax in the mailings was probably domestic. The CDC learned this from media reports. If it had been informed about the powerful potential of this Army-made anthrax, CDC public health experts would have been better prepared to assess risk. The CDC also wasn't told by the Army lab testing the mailed anthrax that it was sensitive to multiple antibiotics. If the CDC had known this, it could have recommended the use of less expensive antibiotics with fewer side effects than Cipro, a move that would have saved millions of dollars in health costs.

In contrast to the real Rodney Dangerfield, the CDC did not complain. Overshadowed by the more powerful FBI, the CDC kept quiet out of respect for scientists they knew at the Army lab who were working closely with FBI agents. It is a convention among doctors not to bad-mouth other members of the club publicly. And the CDC fosters a culture of nonconfrontation. It clearly didn't want to ruffle FBI feathers while relying on it for information. But the CDC's Cohen admitted that "measured tests and longer experiments were necessary to make accurate predictions," and that underestimating the risk while the tests were being done by the Army was a mistake. All three agencies were guilty, he observed.

To this day, the CDC has never seen any of the anthrax letters. And the FBI didn't respond to inquiries as to why it largely ignored the agency tasked to protect the public from disease. CDC director Koplan has now announced his resignation in the wake of the anthrax fumble. But if he is to resign, why not the director of the Army lab or the FBI?

Cohen says that communication and cooperation between the FBI and the CDC are improving. "We never really worked together before this," he notes. With billions of dollars about to be spent on the new bioterror safety net, we can only hope that he's right. In the future, teamwork will be crucial in handling a bioterrorism public health crisis--particularly if it involves a contagious bug that spreads rapidly, like smallpox. "We will be there at [FBI] headquarters," he says. "Two different cultures, public health and law enforcement, forming a partnership. Scientists use data to form hypotheses, then test them. Law enforcement agents explore a crime scene for details, looking for patterns to develop leads. What one discovers could help the other to succeed."

Anthrax cost five lives (including tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens of Boca Raton), with eighteen others sick and recovering. In the world of bioterrorism, the lives of innocent people depend on cooperation. FBI secrecy and domination is far too costly.

Science Could Help to Crack Anthrax Case

Times Staff Writers

March 3 2002

WASHINGTON -- Federal investigators, stymied for months in their pursuit of the anthrax killer, said they are laying the groundwork for a science-based prosecution and are watching closely a small number of individuals believed capable of launching the bioterrorist attack-by-mail that left five people dead last fall. 

FBI agents here and abroad have interviewed hundreds of people, executed dozens of search warrants, searched for the machine used to copy the letters and reviewed thousands of documents and records in connection with the case, according to those familiar with the investigation. 

Still, officials said that they do not have a "prime suspect" in the case and that most of their progress has come in eliminating false leads. They believe their best chance at narrowing the list of potential suspects might lie in a scientific breakthrough that allows researchers to distinguish between stocks of the same strain of anthrax. 

The FBI moved forward on that track last week, delivering subpoenas to U.S. laboratories known to have the same virulent Ames strain of anthrax used to kill five people and sicken at least 13 others. 

Researchers who received the subpoenas--believed to have gone to 12 to 20 laboratories--said they have been asked to follow strict guidelines and then ship samples to Army researchers at Ft. Detrick in Maryland by Friday. 

Martin Hugh-Jones, an anthrax expert at Louisiana State University whose laboratory received a subpoena, estimated it would then take scientists working with the FBI "three weeks to a month" to determine if any of those anthrax samples match the stock used in the attack. 

But those who have conducted anthrax research point out that the list of samples the FBI is trying to acquire may not be exhaustive because, in the past, researchers traded samples somewhat freely. The government has regulated such exchanges of hazardous materials since 1996. FBI Director Robert Mueller said Friday that the demand for samples--long expected within the scientific community--comes now because the agency first wanted to establish investigative standards that they could explain to a jury and that would hold up in court. 

Investigators have had to move carefully to establish "scientific procedures that were utilized to make that match, the same way we would have to with fingerprints and DNA and the like," he said. 

Mueller noted that the undertaking is "not a simple matter." 

"Down the road, we hope to be in a position to prosecute somebody," Mueller said. "And when we are in a position to prosecute the individual responsible for this, we are going to have to come into court and explain to the jury exactly the process we went through to identify this individual." 

Scientists have worked aggressively to better understand anthrax since the bioterrorist attack began. Significant progress has been made since mid-November, when an anthrax-laden letter sent to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) was found in barrels of quarantined government mail. The Leahy letter, which investigators opened only after considerable planning so that they could retain as much of the substance as possible, gave researchers enough material to conduct extensive testing on the lethal spores.  Those tests are ongoing. 

Last month at a conference in Las Vegas, Dr. Paul Keim, a Northern Arizona University researcher who is working closely with the FBI, announced that he had found a way to distinguish between stocks of the Ames strain--opening the possibility that the source of the attack spores could be definitively determined. 

In addition, labs led by Paul Jackson at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Claire M. Fraser of the private Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Md., are working on how to determine a genetic fingerprint for the spores contained in the letters sent to Capitol Hill and to the media. 

The FBI recently appealed again to the small community of anthrax researchers, asking them to consider whether anyone they know fits the profile of the likely suspect. 

Glenn Songer, an anthrax researcher at the University of Arizona, said he doubted the plea would yield much useful information. 

"I don't think this is the sort of thing that would be done by a person so out of the ordinary--out of the normal--that he or she would stand out," Songer said. "If you were intelligent enough, informed enough to do this sort of thing, you would be intelligent enough to keep it a secret." But another researcher recently alleged that FBI officials already suspected a specific person but that they had been slow to take action because that person had for many years worked on sensitive government projects. 

Mueller last week dismissed those allegations, as well as grumblings that the FBI had failed to consult enough anthrax experts. 

"Somebody has indicated that we have a suspect and that we have been dragging our feet because . . . that person was somehow employed by the federal government at some point," Mueller said. "That is totally inaccurate. We have moved as fast as I think could be expected under the circumstances in all avenues of the investigation." 

A federal law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there is no prime suspect in the case but an evolving list of people that numbers "more than a handful." 

"A suspect suggests someone that you have information on or that we're moving toward" in a criminal prosecution, the official said. "We're not there yet." 

The anthrax attacks have left investigators baffled at many turns since early October, when Robert Stevens, 63, a tabloid photo editor in Florida, became the first person to die of inhalation anthrax in the U.S. since 1976. 

In fact, Stevens' illness at first was called "isolated" by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, who suggested he had contracted the bacteria while drinking from a stream. 

But a week after Stevens' death, evidence of a bioterrorist attack began to emerge. A case of skin anthrax was confirmed in an assistant to NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw. 

In all, four anthrax-laced letters--to Brokaw, Leahy, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and the New York Post--were recovered. Investigators believe others were sent but not recovered. 

Public health officials were slow to recognize the danger to those who worked in the postal facilities where the tainted letters were processed, and two Washington-area mail workers -- Joseph P. Curseen Jr., 47, and Thomas L. Morris Jr., 55--died.

Still unexplained is how two women--one in New York City and the other in rural Connecticut -- came in contact with the same deadly bacteria. Public health officials and law enforcement agents could find no trace of anthrax at any place the women were known to have been. 

Because their cases fell so far from the known path of the anthrax letters, investigators at first thought the women's deaths might provide clues that would lead them to the sender of the letters. 

Kathy T. Nguyen, 61, lived in the Bronx and worked at a hospital in Manhattan. She rode the subway regularly but had few close friends. By the time investigators determined she was ill from inhalation anthrax, she was on a ventilator. 

Perhaps most puzzling is the death of Ottilie W. Lundgren, 94, who never left her Connecticut home without assistance and kept a very limited schedule. 

Even before Lundgren's death on Nov. 21, the FBI had released a profile of the likely perpetrator, describing a "lone wolf" without terrorist links, an adult male with scientific knowledge who was familiar with the Trenton, N.J., area where the letters were mailed. 

Still Mueller, whose comments last week were his most extensive on the anthrax case in some time, said the investigation was proceeding in a "number of directions" and that he could not rule out a tie-in between the sender and a terrorist group. 

"We are not focusing on just one facility or even a series of facilities. We are open to any possibilities," he said. "I would be reluctant to specify where we think ultimately we will find the individual."

Wednesday, March 6, 2002
The Frederick News-Post

Anthrax story: Detrick cleared
From Staff Reports 

No Fort Detrick scientist, past or present, is probably a suspect in the anthrax letter case, according to the Hartford, Conn., Courant.

The newspaper, which has been closely following the FBI investigation, said a renowned forensic expert believes Detrick personnel have been cleared.

Henry C. Lee said the FBI wouldn't be sending its anthrax investigation samples to Detrick for testing unless it had confidence in the Army's biowarfare research lab.

The FBI wouldn't risk dropping the samples into the hands of a potential suspect, Mr. Lee said.

"These last two months, (FBI agents) have probably interviewed everyone at Fort Detrick and didn't find a suspect," he told The Courant. "They don't want to publicly rule anyone out, but their actions suggest that's what's going on. They don't think it's anybody who currently works at Detrick."

The FBI confirmed last week that it recently asked dozens of labs known to handle the strain of anthrax used in the letter attacks, which killed a Connecticut woman and four others, to send samples to the Detrick lab. 

A scientist at Detrick told The Courant he didn't expect the perpetrator to be identified soon. The physical evidence gathered so far doesn't point to any one lab, let alone any one person, said the scientist, who is close to the FBI probe and requested anonymity.

That's also the opinion of Mr. Lee, the newspaper said. Speaking as a knowledgeable outside observer, he said the FBI's dragnet tactics point to an investigation that's still far from closing in on its prey.

The Courant said the FBI set up a virtual satellite office at Detrick in the past two months to methodically interview employees about their work.  Agents also asked about the personalities of colleagues, probing for someone who fits their profile of a disgruntled loner who might be responsible for the attacks.

The newspaper said agents have also interviewed former Army scientists at the lab. It said Joseph Farchaus, who co-authored a paper on inhalation anthrax before he left Detrick in 1999, said two agents visited him at his house outside Trenton, N.J., just after Christmas.

Mr. Farchaus told The Courant he would have been surprised if the FBI had not paid him a visit, given his expertise and where he lives, not far from where the anthrax letters were mailed. When the agents finished questioning him, they asked if they could have a look around his house and yard, presumably to check for signs of a do-it-yourself anthrax lab, he said.

The newspaper said at least a dozen other people reportedly have had their homes, offices and vehicles searched in the same manner.

The exact number of the people interviewed is hard to determine because both the FBI and Army command have maintained a strict close-mouthed policy since the investigation began, The Courant said.

But top government officials, including White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, broke their silence twice in the past two weeks, both times to deny reports that they have focused their search on a single former Detrick scientist. Mr. Fleischer announced that the FBI actually had a "handful" of suspects, prompting bureau officials to clarify that they had a "floating list" of about 20 names, but that none was considered a suspect.

In a telephone interview Monday night, Chuck Dasey, a spokesman for Fort Detrick, told The Frederick News-Post the anthrax testing is being conducted at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) lab.

He said he had "no idea" how long the sampling process would last.

"It will last until we catch them," he said.

The FBI presence at Detrick is not interfering with any other work there, he said.

"We are cooperating with the FBI as much as possible," said Mr. Dasey.

On the trail of the anthrax killer

Letter to FBI falsely accusing scientist a possible clue pointing to U.S. Army lab

The Toronto Globe-Mail

Wednesday, March 6, 2002 – Print Edition, Page A3

WASHINGTON -- Somebody hated Ayaad Assaad, hated the Egyptian-born scientist enough to try to finger him as a biowarfare terrorist.

"Dr. Assaad is a potential bioterrorist," warned an anonymous letter sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation last fall. "I have worked with Dr. Assaad, and I heard him say that he has a vendetta against the U.S. government and that if anything happens to him, he told his sons to carry on."

Until 1997, the scientist, a U.S. citizen with top-security clearance, had worked at Fort Detrick, Md. There, the U.S. Army conducted top-secret biological warfare research, including "weaponizing" anthrax of exactly the sort that killed five Americans and terrified the country after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The FBI received thousands of tips after anthrax-laced letters were sent to two prominent senators and several media outlets. What makes the letter about Dr. Assaad unusual is that it was sent on or about Sept. 25 -- before the first anthrax case was even diagnosed.

On Oct. 3, Dr. Assaad, now a senior scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sat in a windowless cell in downtown Washington being interrogated by FBI officials. Dr. Assaad, who says he and other Arab scientists were subjected to racial slurs and harassment while working at Fort Detrick, says he broke into tears when confronted with the letter.

A day earlier, Robert Stevens, a 63-year-old photo editor with the tabloid Sun was admitted to a hospital in Boca Raton, Fla., with an unidentified illness that included chills, fever and nausea. He would die three days later, the first victim of inhalation anthrax.

As the FBI closes in on the anthrax terrorist, now believed to be a scientist at Fort Detrick or one of a handful of civilian contractors who participated in the secret weaponized-anthrax efforts, the circle of suspects numbers only a handful.

And the emerging scenario is not that of a botched biological-terrorist attack by al-Qaeda or other terrorists but rather a disgruntled scientist seeking to send a wake-up call to a government that had slashed biological-warfare research.

Dr. Assaad, 53, believes the person who wrote the anonymous letter to the FBI and the person who sent the anthrax-laced envelopes, with messages praising Allah and denouncing Americans, are one and the same.

"My theory is, whoever this person is knew in advance what was going to happen [and named me as a] scapegoat for this action," he said. "You do not need to be a Nobel laureate to put two and two together."

The FBI has cleared Dr. Assaad of any involvement in the anthrax attacks.  But it has refused to comment on whether it is investigating a link between the letter fingering him and the anthrax mailer.

There were people at Fort Detrick who harboured an "intense dislike" of Dr. Assaad, the scientist's lawyer, Rosemary McDermott, said in an interview. After her client was dismissed in 1997, when cutbacks during the previous administration slashed funding, Dr. Assaad sued the government, alleging age discrimination. His suit, which is still pending, details a bizarre and vicious atmosphere in which he and other Arab scientists -- all U.S. citizens with top-security clearances -- were denigrated and ridiculed at Fort Detrick.

Dr. Assaad believes the letter to the FBI "was a deliberate attempt to frame him," Ms. McDermott said. She said the letter was clearly written by a former colleague, who knew the details of Dr. Assaad's work and family and even the commuter train he took.

What has emerged from the investigation so far is that the anthrax originated not in some Afghanistan cave or Iraqi laboratory, as first feared, but at Fort Detrick or one of a handful of other labs involved in U.S. biological warfare research. (Despite signing a treaty outlawing biological weapons, the Pentagon says its secret program was legal because the weapons-grade anthrax was made to test vaccines and countermeasures.)

But FBI director Robert Mueller said last week that despite months of efforts, investigators have not pinpointed which lab may have been the source of the anthrax.

"All indications are that the source of the anthrax is domestic," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said recently. He denied that a single suspect had emerged.

Yet a leading U.S. expert on biological warfare believes the FBI has identified a prime suspect, and is concerned that no arrest has been made.

"I think I know who it is," said Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a microbiologist at the State University of New York who also heads the Federation of American Scientists working group on bioweapons. In an interview, Dr. Rosenberg said she believes the FBI identified a prime suspect before she did.

Dr. Rosenberg and dozens of other scientists were asked by the FBI to assist in narrowing the search by helping identify those who had the expertise, access and possible motive to mail anthrax to the two senators and several media outlets.

In an interview, Dr. Rosenberg suggested the government might be dragging its feet because of fears that the perpetrator might reveal dark secrets about the extent of U.S. biological-warfare programs.

Certainly, whoever mailed the anthrax knew enough about its enormous deadly potential to not deliver it in a way to maximize casualties. Even the small amounts contained in the letters could -- if dumped in Washington's subway system, for example -- have infected thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people.

"All the indications are that the perpetrator was not trying to kill [large numbers]," Dr. Rosenberg said, adding she believes "there was a personal element in this."

Which leaves the question of motive. Washington is swirling with theories, trying to make sense of the horrifying possibility that someone with access to U.S. weapons-grade anthrax played a high-stakes game that could have gone even more horribly wrong than it did.

One theory is the anthrax mailer was trying to force the government to vastly increase spending on bioweapons, and chose his targets deliberately to gain maximum publicity. Another theory is that the anthrax mailing, occurring in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, would force Washington to attack Iraq, which is known to have an anthrax bioweapons program. This could explain the clumsy efforts to suggest Arabic or Muslim authorship of the anthrax-laden letters.

The FBI's profile of the anthrax mailer, issued last fall, suggests the suspect was likely an insecure, non-confrontational, male who chose his victims carefully and knew the Trenton, N.J., area, from where the tainted letters were mailed.

Key dates in crisis 

Sept. 18, 2001: Letters postmarked in Trenton, N.J., are sent to The New York Post and NBC anchor Tom Brokaw. They will later test positive for anthrax. 
Sept. 30: Bob Stevens, photo editor at the supermarket tabloid Sun in Boca Raton, Fla., feels ill.
Oct. 4: First public announcement that Mr. Stevens has contracted anthrax.  It is dismissed by U.S. Health Secretary Tommy Thompson as "an isolated  case and it's not contagious," adding that there is no evidence of bioterrorism. 
Oct. 5: Mr. Stevens dies. 
Oct. 9: A letter postmarked in Trenton is sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. It later tests positive for anthrax. 
Oct. 12: Officials announce that Erin O'Connor, an aide to Mr. Brokaw, developed skin anthrax; she had noticed a lesion Sept. 28. 
Oct. 15: A letter containing anthrax is opened in Mr. Daschle's office. The office is quarantined. 
Oct. 16: Twelve Senate offices are closed; staffers tested. 
Oct. 17: About 30 people at the U.S. Capitol test positive for exposure to anthrax. House of Representatives closes for testing. New York Governor George Pataki's Manhattan office is evacuated after anthrax is detected. 
Oct. 19: Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge says anthrax bacteria strains in Florida, New York and Washington may have been from same batch. 
Oct. 20: Tests confirm anthrax traces found in mail-bundling machine at House office building near the Capitol. 
Oct. 21: Washington postal worker Thomas Morris dies of inhalation anthrax. Another postal worker, Joseph Curseen, goes to Maryland hospital complaining of flu-like symptoms and is sent home. Officials begin testing thousands of postal employees. 
Oct. 22: Mr. Curseen returns to hospital and dies of inhalation anthrax.  House and Senate reopen. 
Oct. 23: Anthrax is found on machinery at military base that sorts mail for White House; all tests at White House come back negative. 
Oct. 24: U.S. Surgeon-General David Satcher admits "we were wrong" not to respond more aggressively to tainted mail. 
Oct. 25: Mr. Ridge says the anthrax in the Daschle letter was highly concentrated and made "to be more easily absorbed." 
Oct. 26: Supreme Court building ordered closed for testing. 
Oct. 28: A New York hospital worker, Kathy Nguyen, goes to hospital with symptoms of anthrax. Dies three days later. 
Nov. 1: Investigators establish the bacteria that killed Ms. Nguyen were virtually identical to germs found in letters to New York news outlets and Mr. Daschle. 
Nov. 21: Ottilie Lundgren, a 94-year-old retiree, dies of  inhalation anthrax in Connecticut. 
Dec. 17: For first time, White House says it is "increasingly looking like" the anthrax bacteria had a domestic source, perhaps in a military lab.  Feb. 25, 2002: Federal authorities subpoena documents and anthrax samples from U.S. scientific laboratories to narrow source through genetic analysis. AP

 Copyright © 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Anthrax Spread Reduced by Static Charges

By: Jennifer Hazen - March 8, 2002
ESD Journal

In an article in the Wall Street Journal , scientist are now saying that the spread of the Antrax spores which were sent through the mail in 2001 were reduced by electrostatic charges. Many small particles can be clumped by the Coulomb forces associated with their handling and transport.

The scientists who have worked on anthrax-based chemical weapons state that the presence of electrostatic charges on the envelopes containing anthrax may have actually helped to keep the material from spreading. These static charges also promoted contact cross-contamination with mail and mail sorting machines. However, they also helped to keep the spores from becoming airborne which would have posed a much greater threat.

"Electrostatically charged materials are very hard to disseminate," says Bill Patrick, an American scientist who worked on anthrax weapons in the 1950s and 1960s. The charge must be removed with a secret combination of chemicals, Patrick told the Journal. Otherwise, "some of it can still get up in the air, but it’s not predictable." 

Patrick stated that, the anthrax spores found in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle are extremely similar to material he worked on as part of the U.S. biological weapons program decades ago. "It’s purified like our material and it has a small particle size, just as we did, but it has an electrostatic charge."

The Anthrax may have had its static charges removed before mailing. However, normal handling may have reintroduced electrostatic charges. We in the ESD industry know that mail-sorter machines could have created triboelectric charges by jostling the letters containing the powder.

The New Yorker
Talk of the Town

by Nicholas Lemann

A conspiracy theory that hits close to home.
Issue of 2002-03-18
Posted 2002-03-11

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a slight woman with short graying hair and deeply concerned hazel eyes, who works out of a small office at the State University of New York at Purchase, thinks she knows who was responsible for the anthrax attacks last October. Rosenberg is, to use the technical term, not chopped liver: she is a veteran molecular biologist and one of the world's leading experts on biological weapons. In 1998, she was one of a group of seven scientists who were invited to the White House to brief President Clinton on the subject. Yet her theory sounds like the plot of a conspiracy thriller, which is not usually true of experts' theories, especially on matters this grave.

On February 5th, Rosenberg posted an item on a Web site that she maintains for the Federation of American Scientists called "Commentary: Is the F.B.I. Dragging Its Feet?," in which she strongly implied that the F.B.I. was moving much more slowly in its anthrax investigation than it had any reason to. About the perpetrator she has in mind, she asked, "Does he know something that he believes is sufficiently damaging to the United States to make him untouchable by the F.B.I.?" It's important to note that, in addition to being an expert, Rosenberg has a political agenda: she is a committed campaigner for outside monitoring of biological-weapons laboratories. Although several local newspapers and the online magazine Salon ran articles on Rosenberg, it took a surprisingly long time—nearly three weeks—for her sensational Web posting to make an official impact, but on February 25th, after the Washington Times published a story that the F.B.I. had a prime suspect who sounded a lot like Rosenberg's, an array of top government officials, including Ari Fleischer, of the White House, and Robert Mueller III, of the F.B.I., were forced to address it—which is to say, deny it—publicly.

Here is Rosenberg's theory: All of the anthrax letters were sent by one person, a middle-aged man who had worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and who was familiar with the method of weaponizing anthrax devised by William Patrick III, the longtime head of bioweapons research at Fort Detrick.

The perpetrator now works for a Washington-area subcontractor to the U.S. biological-weapons program. He is, as Rosenberg puts it, "not a normal person," and has a pattern of erratic behavior. She believes he received some kind of career setback after he left Fort Detrick that caused him to become "confused, upset, depressed, angry." He decided to retaliate with the anthrax attacks, with which, Rosenberg guesses, he meant to accomplish two things: first, "he's showing somebody how good he is" at producing and distributing weaponized anthrax, and thus proving that the career setback was unwarranted; and, second, he wanted to get the government to invest more in bioweapons research, which would mean a budget increase for his current employer.

During the summer of 2001, Rosenberg suspects, the perpetrator prepared his anthrax. When the September 11th attacks occurred, he saw a perfect opportunity to strike, and to cover his tracks. Before he mailed any of the anthrax letters, he sent an anonymous letter to the military police at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, that was meant to raise suspicions about Ayaad Assaad, an Egyptian-born scientist who was formerly a colleague of his at Fort Detrick and who now works at Quantico. For the same reason, the anthrax letters themselves sometimes included notes with crude Muslim slogans.

Rosenberg thinks the perpetrator wasn't trying to kill people—hence the enclosed announcements about what was in the letters, and the admonitions to take penicillin—but he wasn't concerned enough to avoid the risk altogether. He wound up murdering five people, and sowed fear and disruption among millions—all to prove a point to an internal audience, the tiny bioweapons community. In a more benign way, Rosenberg is trying to prove a point, too. The United States officially forswore biological-weapons development in 1969, and signed the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, along with many other nations. But Rosenberg believes that the American bioweapons program, which won't allow itself to be monitored, may not be in strict compliance with the convention. If the perpetrator of the anthrax attacks is who she thinks it is, that would put the American program in a bad light, and it would prove that she was right to demand that the program be monitored.

Is Rosenberg's theory right? At the very least, she is persuasive in arguing that sending the anthrax letters required not just access to the "Ames strain" of anthrax but also knowledge of the weaponization technique developed by Bill Patrick. If the government is saying that the perpetrator was probably an American, it's hard to imagine how it couldn't have been an American who worked in a government-supported bioweapons lab. Think back to the panicky month of October: would knowing that have made you less nervous, or more?

BBC News - Newsnight
Anthrax attacks 

A Newsnight investigation raised the possibility that there was a secret CIA project to investigate methods of sending anthrax through the mail which went madly out of control.

The shocking assertion is that a key member of the covert operation may have removed, refined and eventually posted weapons-grade anthrax which killed five people.

In the wake of Sept 11th, the anthrax attacks caused panic throughout the States and around the world. But has the FBI found the whole case too hot to handle?

Our science editor Susan Watts reported from Washington.

America's anthrax attack last autumn was second only to that on the Twin Towers in the degree of shock and anxiety it caused...Some even say the anthrax letters triggered sub-clinical hysteria in the American people...yet this, the first major act of biological terrorism the world has seen remains an unsolved crime...

Initially the investigation looked for a possible Al-Qaeda or Iraqi link, then to a domestic terrorist, then inwards to the US bio-defence programme itself. But in the last four or five weeks the investigation seems to have run into the sand...There have been several theories as to why ...

Three weeks ago Dr Barbara Rosenberg - an acknowledged authority on US bio-defence - claimed the FBI is dragging its feet because an arrest would be embarrassing to the US authorities. Tonight on Newsnight, she goes further...suggesting there could have been a secret CIA field project to test the practicalities of sending anthrax through the mail - whose top scientist went badly off the rails...

Some very expert field person would have been given this job and it would have been left to him to decide exactly how to carry it out. The result might have been a project gone badly awry if he decided to use it for his own purposes and target the media and the senate for his own motives as not intended by the govt project...but this is a possibility that I think needs to be considered

And another leading bio-defence analyst has already sketched out a similar profile for the kind of person likely to be behind the anthrax attacks...

I would think it was somebody who had this kind of experience, and I think the word that I used for you was 'a cowboy' when we first spoke, that simply means in the United States someone who feels such bravura in his actions, he feels he's a free actor, he can decide what should be done and what shouldn't be done, and what the reason is.

In recent weeks, the focus of the investigation has been the US army medical research institute at Fort Detrick near Washington. Fort Detrick is the site at the centre of a web of military centres spread across the US and twilight private companies which work with these military sites hand-in-hand as contractors...

Colonel David Franz was in charge at Fort Detrick for eleven years - he's had hands-on experience with biological agents and has his own ideas about the kind of person the FBI should be looking for.

It's not someone who just got on the Internet or went to the library and got a book and held the book in one hand and a big wooden spoon in the other and stirred up batches. It's someone who has spent a significant amount of time I believe working with a spore former of some kind and knew how to grow ...and how to purify and how to dry

Inside accounts by former staff at Fort Detrick during the nineties reveal a research site in disarray with questionable security measures. We spoke to one former lab technician now working in Belize about unexplained night-time activities in the lab.

I came in developed my negatives and here they said anthrax and I looked at this little counter that would have been putting the sequential numbers on the film and there weren't any films missing and yet I knew that Friday I had used it and it hadn't said anthrax.

What did that suggest to you had been happening over the weekend?

That someone had been in there working on anthrax....Anyone who did have access to the labs was not monitored in what they did, either in what they did in the lab that is the amount of agent they were growing, or in what they did with that agent, that is if they put it in their pocket and took it home ...

Such is the FBI's determination to establish if Fort Detrick is at the heart of this that it has turned to genomic analysis of the powder itself...The Inst for Genomic Research was founded by Craig Venter - the man who sped up the decoding of the Human Genome... their anthrax team has created a DNA "fingerprint" of anthrax taken from the body of the first person to be killed - a Florida-based newspaper man. They're looking for differences between this so-called Florida "strain" and stored samples from a number of US military sites

This is the first time genomic analysis has been used for microbial forensics...Tim Read is one of the world's leading authorities on the genetic make-up of anthrax . He compared the fingerprint of the Florida strain with that of samples originating at Fort Detrick. The results are not yet published - so he's being careful what he says:

They're definitely related to each other ...closely related to each other

Could they be so closely related that one could consider them to be one and the same thing?

I'm not commenting on that...

But the real answer may lie not just in where the anthrax came from, but who had access to it. Veterans of the 1960s US germ warfare programme were the obvious first thought. Early on in the investigation, there was one name that immediately came to many people, but few dared whisper it aloud. William Capers Patrick the third was part of the original US programme, which officially drew to a close in the 1960s...The New York Times claimed last December he was the author in 1998 of a secret paper study on the possible effects of anthrax sent through the mail, although he now denies that. ...

We went to see Bill Patrick to ask him if he might know the culprit...

Hello Susan Watts BBC

Patrick is an acknowledged showman...known for his startling demonstrations ...some in less than classified company. During the course of our interview he told us several pieces of technical information which one expert said could help anyone intending to create an anthrax weapon.

I've prepared two harmless simulant powders... beautiful flow properties...

It's clear from what Bill Patrick told us that he's been a central figure in the bio-defence community for many years and that he may well have met or come across the person behind the attacks...

Most of my discussions about the biological problem has been in secure conferences and meetings, and involve people with need to know, with security clearance and what have you. I don't talk about 'how to', I don't get into 'how to' with many people, no people other than the fact that those who really have a need to know.

Does it nag at you in the back of your mind that possibly you do know him?

Possibly, possibly, I could have talked to these people. But it would have been within the context of their having a need to know.

He told me two FBI agents and an official from the attorney general's office interviewed him for 3 and a half hours two weeks ago. He says they told him he had been a suspect, but left him believing he was in the clear.

And just to put on record can I ask you did you perpetrate these attacks..

my goodness I did not ....I did not...I'm an American patriot.

Patrick was on the UN team that inspected Iraqi weapons facilities in the mid 1990s, and he WAS surprised the FBI didn't come to him straight after the attacks, simply because of his expertise. He acknowledges it was only logical to consider him a suspect, but for Patrick, the most likely explanation, or perhaps the most comfortable, is that the powder and the motive originated overseas - in some rogue state...

I would hate to think that anyone in our country.. that would do this to our own people, if we ever find whoever does this I hope it comes from overseas, because that way I would.. well I don't want.. I want someone to be caught, I want the perpetrator to be caught, but I would rather think that it came from our enemies outside of our own country as opposed to our own people perpetrating this crime against our own

Bill Patrick is no longer seen as a suspect, but the net IS closing around someone at the heart of the US germ warfare programme.

We now know by piecing together information from well-placed sources that there's another individual. He's been interviewed by FBI agents, and remains under widespread suspicion...

But he's no loner. He's likely to have worked on a key government project in the past and to have a network of friends and colleagues he can rely on. The possibility that more than one person is involved may answer some of the perplexing geographical questions about where the attacks originated.

I think that the significance of focussing on a group is that you can have one person with the expertise to produce this weaponised anthrax and someone else to actually deliver it to Trenton. I think that a large part of the investigation early on focused on AN individual. As such we would ask the question, could that individual have gotten to New Jersey. If you begin to think that it could have involved two or more, then the alibi of an individual that I was not near New Jersey may in fact fall apart and you could look at someone else delivering it...

The private contractor companies linked to the military and jokingly referred to as "beltway bandits" because they're sprinkled around the Washington beltway ring-road, is where individuals with the right mix of skills might be working. Some of these contractors are now known to have been involved in classified bio-defence projects. One of these secret projects, carried out in the Nevada desert, was part of a series of three In the first few days of September last year - immediately prior to the attacks of the 11th, the New York Times carried a major investigation which at any other time would have been a story of huge significance...It revealed three secret bio-defence projects at a time when the American people believed none was taking place. One - run by a contractor - Battelle - was to create genetically altered anthrax. The question now is - are there more such projects?

now we've discovered that the CIA is in this business too, though presumably only through contractors. But we don't know how many contractors. One contractor is now publicly disclosed, Battelle, that did one of those projects. There may be other contractors, so there was this whole story has not been clarified publicly, so that's the rest of your iceberg, in other words we don't know how many contractors, we don't know how many projects.

The 1998 paper study on anthrax in the mail was one secret project. Dr Rosenberg is making the astonishing suggestion that there may have been a deadly follow-up by somebody else. Last time she questioned the investigation, she was attacked by the FBI and the White House. But she says she's prepared to speak out again because she's so afraid of what might happen next.

This person is.. knows a lot about forensic matters, knows exactly what he can be prosecuted for and what he can get away with and I think he had some personal matters that he might have wanted to settle but I think in addition that he felt that biodefence was being under-emphasised for some time in the past

Rosenberg's claims are astonishing but she's an insider with good contacts. She thinks the FBI must act soon.

I think the time is rapidly coming when it will be very important to bring him to trial, even if they don't think they have sufficient evidence. This might at least, if not result in a criminal conviction, make it possible to bring civil charges somewhat like what happened to OJ Simpson in the past. So I think it's time to start moving because it's very important from the point of view of deterrence of any possible future terrorist.

America's desire to protect its biodefense programme from scrutiny at all costs was part of why it walked away from an international agreement to control biological weapons last summer. Could its near obsessive secrecy have come home to roost? breeding a climate that allowed one of its experts to take a step too far and turn bio-terrorist against his own?

THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT WAS READ OUT AFTER THE BROADCAST : The CIA have told Newsnight they totally reject Dr Rosenberg's theory and say they were unaware of ANY project to assess the impact of anthrax sent through the mail.

April 8, 2002

Anthrax and the Agency

Thinking the Unthinkable

By Wayne Madsen

Now that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has officially put the anthrax investigation on a back burner, it is time for Americans to think the unthinkable: that the FBI has never been keen to identify the perpetrator because that perpetrator may, in fact, be the U.S. Government itself. Evidence is mounting that the source of the anthrax was a top secret U.S. Army laboratory in Maryland and that the perpetrators involve high-level officials in the U.S. military and intelligence infrastructure.

FBI Debunks Anthrax-Hijacker Link

Coming shortly after the hijacked airliner attacks on New York and Washington, the anthrax attacks on the U.S. Congress, major media outlets, and the U.S. Postal System were, at first, blamed by the Bush administration on Al Qaeda or Iraq. However, on March 23, the FBI officially announced that "exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been." This statement came after a rather weak story based on conjecture appeared in The New York Times. The article reported that a Fort Lauderdale emergency room doctor treated Saudi hijacker Ahmed Alhanzawi in June 2001 for a cutaneous anthrax lesion on his leg. Although the doctor, Christos Tsonas, did not think the lesion was caused by anthrax at the time he cleansed and treated the wound, he later changed his mind after realizing Alhanzawi was one of the hijackers. 

Although Tsonas' theory was rejected by the FBI, it was supported by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Biodefense Strategies. Johns Hopkins has its own peculiar link to anthrax. President Bush recently named as the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Dr. Elias Zerhouni, an Algerian-born professor at Johns Hopkins University and notorious Pentagon yes-man on anthrax bio-defenses. As a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, Zerhouni and his colleagues, serving on a National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine special committee, gave a green light to the Pentagon's use of a questionable anthrax vaccine on military personnel. According to Dr. Meryl Nass, a member of the Federation of American Scientists who spent three years studying the world's largest recorded anthrax epidemic in Zimbabwe from 1979 to 1980, the report generated by Zerhouni and his colleagues "relies on ignoring many pieces of crucial information, and its recommendations give the Department of Defense everything it could have wanted. The report appears to be 'spun' to support a number of DOD initiatives, and it provides the needed justification for restarting mandatory anthrax vaccinations over the objections of many in Congress."

U.S. Link to Anthrax No Conspiracy Theory

Forget unfounded conspiracy theories. The evidence is overwhelming that the FBI has consistently shied away from pursuing the anthrax investigation, in much the same way it avoided pursuing leads in the USS Cole, East Africa U.S. embassies, and Khobar Towers bombings.

On April 4, ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross broadcast on ABC World News Tonight that after six months the FBI still had hardly any clues and no suspects in its anthrax investigation. A Soviet defector, the former First Deputy Director of Biopreparat from 1988 to 1992 and anthrax expert, Ken Alibek (formerly Kanatjan Alibekov), now a U.S. government consultant, made the astounding claim that the person who is behind the anthrax attacks may, in fact, been advising the U.S. government. After having passed a lie detector test, Alibek was cleared of any suspicion. 

Interestingly, Alibek is President of Hadron Advanced Biosystems. On October 2, 2001, just two days before the first anthrax case was reported in Boca Raton, Florida and a week and a half before the first anthrax was sent through the mail to NBC News in New York, Advanced Biosystems received an $800,000 grant from NIH to focus on very specific defenses against anthrax. Hadron has long been linked with the CIA. The links include charges by many former government officials, including the late former Attorney General Elliot Richardson, that the company's former President, Earl Brian, illegally procured a database system called PROMIS (Prosecutors' Management Information System) from Inslaw, Inc. and used his connections to the CIA and Israeli intelligence to illegally distribute the software to various foreign governments.

Ross reported that U.S. military and intelligence agencies have refused to provide the FBI with a full listing of the secret facilities and employees working on anthrax projects. Because of this stonewalling, crucial evidence has been withheld. Professor Jeanne Guilleman of MIT's Biological Weapons Studies Center told ABC, "We're talking here about laboratories where, in fact, the material that we know was in the Daschle letter and in the Leahy letter could have been produced. And I think that's what the FBI is still trying to find out." 

But the FBI does not seem to want to pursue these important leads.

CIA Testing Anthrax and the U.S. Mail

The first major media outlet to accuse the FBI of foot dragging was the BBC. On March 14, the BBC's Newsnight program highlighted an interview with Dr. Barbara Rosenberg of the Federation of American Scientists. After claiming the CIA was involved, through government contractors, in secret testing of sending anthrax through the mail, Rosenberg, someone with close ties to the biological warfare community, has been attacked by the White House, FBI, and, not surprisingly, the CIA.

The BBC also interviewed Dr. Timothy Read of the Institute of Genomic Research and a leading expert on the genetic characteristics of anthrax. Read said of the two strains, "They're definitely related to each other ... closely related to each other." However, Read would not go so far as to suggest the Florida strain, known as the Ames strain, and that developed at the U.S. Army's top secret Fort Detrick biological warfare laboratory - officially known as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases -- were one and the same.

William Capers Patrick III was part of the original Fort Detrick anthrax development program, which "officially" ended in 1972 when President Nixon signed, along with the Soviet Union and United Kingdom, the Biological Weapons Convention. Nixon had actually ordered the Pentagon to stop producing biological weapons in 1969. It now seems likely that the U.S. military and intelligence community failed to follow Nixon's orders and, in fact, have consistently violated a lawful treaty signed by the United States. 

Cuba certainly accused the United States of using biological war weapons against it during the 1970s. In his book, Biological Warfare in the 21st Century, Malcolm Dando refers to the U.S. bio-attacks against the Caribbean island nation. The American covert campaign targeted the tobacco crop using blue mold, the sugar cane crop using cane smut, livestock using African swine fever, and the Cuban population using a hemorrhagic strain of dengue fever.

Last December, the New York Times claimed Patrick authored a secret paper on the effects of sending anthrax through the mail, a report he denies. However, Patrick told the BBC that he was surprised that as an expert of anthrax (he was a member of the UN biological warfare inspection team in the 1990s), the FBI did not interview him right after the first anthrax attacks.

The BBC reported that Battelle Memorial Institute (a favorite Pentagon and CIA contractor and for whom Alibek served as biological warfare program manager in 1998) conducted a secret biological warfare test in the Nevada desert using genetically-modified anthrax early last September, right before the terrorist attacks. The BBC reported that Patrick's paper on sending anthrax through the mail was also part of the classified contractor work on the deadly bacterial agent.

But would the U.S. Government knowingly subject its citizenry to a dangerous test of biological weapons? The evidence from past tests suggests it has already done so. According to Dando, in the 1950s, the military released uninfected female mosquitoes in a residential area of Savannah, Georgia. It then checked on how many entered houses and how many people were bitten. In 1956, 600,000 mosquitoes were released from an airplane on a bombing range. Within one day, the mosquitoes had traveled as far as two miles and had bitten a number of people. In 1957, at the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, the Q-Fever toxin discharged by an airborne F-100A plane. If a more potent dose had been used, the Army concluded 99 per cent of the humans in the area would have been infected. In the 1960s, conscientious objecting Seventh Day Adventists, serving in non-combat positions in the Army, were exposed to airborne tularemia. In addition to Dando's revelations, a retired high-ranking U.S. Army civilian official reported that the Army used aerosol forms of influenza to infect the subway systems of New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia in the early 1960s.

From Fort Detrick With Love

The Hartford Courant reported last January that 27 sets of biological toxin specimens were reported missing from Fort Detrick after an inventory was conducted in 1992. The paper reported that among the specimens missing was the Ames strain on anthrax. A former Detrick laboratory technician named Eric Oldenberg told The Courant that while at Detrick, he only handled the Ames strain, the same strain sent to the Senate and the media. The Hartford Courant also revealed that other specimens missing included Ebola, hanta virus, simian AIDS, and two labeled "unknown," a cover term for classified research on secret biological agents.

Steven Block of Stanford University, an expert on biological warfare, told The Dallas Morning News that, "The American process for preparing anthrax is secret in its details, but experts know that it produces an extremely pure powder. One gram (a mere 28th of an ounce) contains a trillion spores . . . A trillion spores per gram is basically solid spore . . . It appears from all reports so far that this was a powder made with the so-called optimal U.S. recipe . . . That means they either had to have information from the United States or maybe they were the United States." (author's emphasis).

Block also told the Dallas paper, "The FBI, after all these months, has still not arrested anybody . . . It's possible, as has been suggested, that they may be standing back because the person that's involved with it may have secret information that the United States government would not like to have divulged."

And what the government would not want divulged is the fact that the United States has been in flagrant violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. Article 1 of the convention specifically states: "Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstance to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain: 1. Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes. 2. Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict."

The Death of Dr. Wiley: Murder They Wrote

The one person who was in a position to know about the origin of the anthrax sent through the U.S. Postal Service met with a very suspicious demise just a month after the attacks first began. 

The reported "suicide" and then "accidental death" of noted Harvard biophysics scientist and anthrax, Ebola, AIDS, herpes, and influenza expert, Dr. Don C. Wiley, on the Interstate 55 Hernando De Soto Bridge that links Memphis to West Memphis, Arkansas, was probably a well-planned murder, according to local law enforcement officials in Tennessee and Arkansas.

On November 15, Wiley's abandoned 2001 Mitsubishi Galant rental car was strangely found in the wrong lane, west in the eastbound lane of the bridge. The keys were still in the ignition, the gas tank was full, the hub cap of the right front wheel was missing, and there were yellow scrape marks on the driver's side of the vehicle, indicating a possible sideswipe. 

Wiley had last been seen four hours earlier, around midnight, before his car was found around 4:00 AM on the bridge. He was last seen in the lobby of Memphis' Peabody Hotel, leaving a banquet of the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, on whose advisory board he served. Police quickly "concluded" that Wiley committed suicide by jumping off the bridge into the Mississippi River. It appears the early police conclusion, decided without a full investigation, was engineered by the FBI. On December 20, Wiley's body was recovered in the river in Vidalia, Louisiana, 320 miles south of Memphis. After Wiley's friends and family discounted claims of suicide, the Memphis coroner concluded on January 14, 2002 that Wiley had "accidentially" fallen over the side of the bridge after a minor car accident.

Not so, say seasoned local law enforcement officials who originally assigned homicide detectives to the case. Memphis police claim there was only 15 minutes between the last time police had checked the bridge and the time they discovered Wiley's abandoned vehicle. They suspected Wiley was murdered. However, the local FBI office in Memphis stuck by its story that Wiley's death was not the result of "foul play." A Memphis police detective said, "the newspaper account of Wiley's accident did not clear anything up for me," adding, "everything attributed to the 'accident' could also be attributed to something else."

However, according to U.S. intelligence sources, Wiley may have been the victim of an intelligence agency hit. That jibes with local police comments that the FBI and "other" U.S. agencies stepped in to prevent the local Memphis police from taking a closer look into the case. Employees of St. Jude's Childrens' Hospital in Memphis, on whose board Wiley served, were suddenly deluged with unsubstantiated rumors that Wiley was a heavy drinker and despondent. 

It is a classic intelligence agency ploy to spread disinformation about "suicide" victims after their murders. The favorite rumors spread include those about purported alcoholism, depression, homosexuality, auto-erotic asphyxia, drug addiction, and an obsession with pornography, especially child pornography. 

According to the local police, it would have been easy to determine if Wiley was a heavy drinker and that would have shown up in his autopsy. The police also reckon that if Wiley left the Peabody under the influence, four hours later he should have been sober enough not to have fallen over the side of the bridge. Also, the bridge railing is high enough that event the 6' 3" Wiley could not have accidentally fallen over it without assistance. Add that to the fact that no one in the history of the bridge had fallen over the side. 

Police also feel that even at 4:00 AM, there should have been someone else on the bridge who would have called the police about a person who was driving down the interstate the wrong way. Due to the fact that access is restricted to the bridge, one would have to have driven a long way on the wrong lane. Some police are of the opinion Wiley was stuck with a needle and that one reason he was dumped into the fast-moving Mississippi is that with the length of his time in the water (one month), the needle mark evidence would have largely disappeared.

And in yet another strange twist, on March 14, a bomb and two smaller explosive devices were found at the Shelby County Regional Forensic Center, which houses the morgue and Medical Examiner's Office that conducted Wiley's autopsy. Dr. O.C, Smith, the medical examiner, told Memphis' Commercial Appeal, "We have done several high-profile cases from Dr. Wiley to Katherine Smith (a Department of Motor Vehicles employee mysteriously found burned to death in her car after being charged in a federal probe with conspiracy to obtain fraudulent drivers' licenses for men of Middle East origin) but there has been no indication that we offended anyone . . . we just don't know if we were the attended target or not."

Knowledgeable U.S. and foreign intelligence sources have revealed that Wiley may have been silenced as a result of his discovery of U.S. government work on biological warfare agents long after the U.S., along with the Soviet Union and Britain, signed the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

A South African Connection

The death of Wiley may be also linked to revelations recently uncovered in South Africa. His expertise on genetic fingerprints for various strains may have led him to particular countries and their bio-warfare projects.

The South African media has been abuzz with details of that nation's former biological warfare program and its links to the CIA. The South African bio-chemical war program was code-named Project Coast and was centered at the Roodeplat Research Laboratories north of Pretoria. The lab maintained links to the US biowarfare facility at Fort and Britain's Porton Down Laboratory. The head of the South African program, Dr. Wouter Basson, was reportedly offered a job with the CIA in the United States after the fall of the apartheid regime. According to former South African National Intelligence Agency deputy director Michael Kennedy, when Basson refused the offer, the CIA allegedly threatened to kill him. Nevertheless, the U.S. pressured the new President Nelson Mandela to turn over the records and fruits of Basson's work. Much of this work was reportedly transported to Fort Detrick. 

Basson also claimed to have been involved in a project called Operation Banana, which, using El Paso, Texas as a base with the CIA's blessing, was designed to transport cocaine to South Africa from Peru. The cocaine, hidden in bananas, was to be used in developing a new incapacitating drug.

One of the South African's secret projects involved sending anthrax through the mail. Among the techniques that fell into the hands of the Americans was a method by which anthrax spores were, with deadly effect, incorporated on to the gummed flaps of envelopes. 

Other South African bio-chemical weapons allegedly transferred to the CIA included, in addition to anthrax, cholera, smallpox, salmonella, botulinum, tularemia, thallium, E.coli, racin, organophosphates, necrotising fasciitis, hepatitis A, HIV, paratyphoid, Sarin VX nerve gas, Ebola, Marburg, Rift Valley hemorrhagic fever viruses, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, highly potent CR tear gas, hallucinogens Ecstasy, Mandrax, BZ, and cocaine, anti-coagulant drugs, the deadly lethal injection drugs Scoline and Tubarine, and cyanide.

Many of Dr. Wiley's family and friends doubt he would have committed suicide. The fact that he was certainly in a position to know about the origination of various viruses and bacteria -- which could have led to the U.S. government -- would have made him a prime target for a government seeking to cover up its illegal work in biological warfare.

Wiley's Anthrax Research

And Wiley had a significant connection to anthrax research. Wiley was not only a professor at Harvard but also conducted research at the Chevy Chase, Maryland Howard Hughes Medical Center, which does work for the National Institutes of Health. On October 1, 2001, just three days before the first reported anthrax case in Florida, the Hughes Center announced that a joint Harvard-Hughes team had identified a mouse gene that made mice resistant to anthrax bacteria. Although the media failed to play it up later, that research involved using Wiley's expertise on the immune system. The new gene, identified as Kif1C, located in chromosome 11 of a mouse, enhanced the defense systems of special immune cells, called macrophages, against the destructive effects of anthrax bacteria. 

Wiley's was not the only suspicious death of a scientist with knowledge of biological defenses. Just three day before Wiley's death, Dr. Benito Que, a Miami Medical School cellular biologist specializing in infectious diseases, died in a violent attack. The Miami Herald reported Que died after "four men armed with a baseball bat attacked him at his car." A week after Wiley died, Dr. Vladimir Pasechnik, a former scientist for Biopreparat, the Soviet Union's biological weapons production factory, was found dead from an alleged stroke in Wiltshire, not far from Britain's Porton Down biological warfare center. Pasechnik had defected from the Soviet Union in 1989 and was an expert on the Soviet Union's anthrax, smallpox, plague, and tularemia programs. While at Biopreparat, Pasechnik worked for Alibek, who defected three years later. When he died, Pasechnik was assisting the British government's efforts in providing bio-defenses against anthrax. 

Anthrax and Operation Northwoods

For those who disbelieve the possibility that the U.S. Government is the number one suspect in the anthrax attacks, they are directed to James Bamford's book on the National Security Agency, Body of Secrets. The book reveals that in 1962,Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lyman Lemnitzer was planning, along with other member of the Joint Chiefs, a virtual coup d'etat against the administration of President Kennedy using acts of terrorism carried out by the military but to be blamed on the Castro government in Cuba. The secret pan, code-named Operation Northwoods, entailed having U.S. military personnel shoot innocent people on the streets of American cities, sink boats carrying Cuban refugees to Florida, and conduct terrorist bombings in Washington, DC, Miami and other cities. Innocent people were to be framed for committing bombings and hijacking planes. If John Glenn's liftoff from Cape Canaveral in February 1962 were to end in an explosion, Castro would be blamed. Plans were made to shoot down civilian aircraft en route from the United States to Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama, or Venezuela and then blame Cuba. The U.S. military also planned to attack Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, both British colonies, and make it appear that the Cubans had done it in order to bring Britain into a war with Cuba.

So far, the Bush administration has refused to support a full and independent Congressional investigation into the events of September 11 and the later events involving anthrax. It seems it and the three-letter agencies the administration is so fond of praising, and funding, know more about the source of the anthrax attacks than they are admitting. If the saying, "where there's smoke, there's fire," has any basis of truth, the United States is in the midst of a raging inferno. Who will answer the fire alarm? 

Wayne Madsen is an investigative journalist based in Washington, DC. He can be reached at:


Scientists Weigh In With Deductions on Anthrax Killer

Terrorism: Their theories on the attacks range from a disgruntled researcher to a covert government project gone awry to right-wing extremists.


April 21 2002

WASHINGTON -- Microbiologists, like nature, abhor a vacuum, and in the absence of an FBI arrest in last fall's anthrax attacks, some of the nation's top scientists are offering their own theories.

In memos making their way around the Internet and in hallway conversations at professional conferences, leading scientists--many fearful that an unsolved case will only encourage other bioterrorists--are applying their deductive reasoning to the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and spread a new level of fear about biological warfare.

Their theories are full of intrigue: A disgruntled scientist. A covert government project gone awry. An accomplice to the Sept. 11 hijackers who stayed behind to mail the letters after their planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Right-wing extremists stockpiling the deadly material in anticipation of a visit from the Internal Revenue Service. "We all have our pet theories," said Jason Pate, a bioterrorism expert at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "But none seems to fit the facts exactly."

The FBI has been working aggressively on the case, conducting thousands of interviews and hundreds of lab tests in consultation with some of the world's top scientific experts and in concert with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies.

Some scientists applaud the effort--crediting agents with catching on quickly to the complexities of microbiology. But others, led by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg of Purchase College, State University of New York, think the FBI has been, as she put it, "dragging its feet."

They are scornful of an FBI e-mail sent to 32,000 members of the American Society for Microbiology in January -- three months after the attacks stopped -- asking scientists for their help in locating the culprit, possibly a loner with access to an American lab. They wonder why the FBI outreach came so late, and so broadly, when the number of scientists with expertise and access to anthrax materials is probably closer to 200.

For its part, the FBI privately takes a dim view of the armchair speculation. Mindful of their own mistakes in accusing scientist Wen Ho Lee of spying in 1999 and Richard Jewell in the Atlanta Olympics bombing in 1996, the FBI is eager to get this one right.

But many of the scientists upset with the FBI are passionate campaigners against the dangers of biological weapons. They have devoted their careers to studying sarin gas, anthrax and chemical weapons--and the cults and terrorists who might use them.  They fear the anthrax killer might turn into another Unabomber, a malcontent who for 17 years intermittently used the U.S. mail to send bombs to academics and executives he deemed enemies. Every day that passes without an arrest, they think, sends a dangerous message to those who might consider using bioterrorism.

"A taboo was broken here," warned Rosenberg, a molecular biologist and professor of environmental science. "Someone else might think they could get away with this too."

Steven M. Block, professor of biological sciences and applied physics at Stanford University, agreed that the stakes are bigger than catching one culprit.

"The fundamental question here is, are we victims of our own anthrax, or our own expertise, or is this a further fallout from Al Qaeda?" he said. "It's a critical question. This is the first biological warfare of the 21st century, and our proper response to it--morally, politically and in every other way--depends on our understanding which it is."

Rosenberg began the scientific sleuthing in February when she posted an article on the Web site of the Federation of American Scientists,, for which she has directed a panel on bioweapons for the last 10 years. In the article, she writes that the anthrax discovered in the letters mailed to two U.S. senators was so refined that it contained 1 trillion spores per gram, characteristic of the "weaponized" anthrax made by U.S. defense labs.

Given the technical expertise required to produce that kind of anthrax, and the small universe of scientists with that knowledge, Rosenberg estimates that perhaps fewer than 40 people could be suspects.

She believes that the perpetrator is one of her own: a disgruntled American scientist.

"He must be angry at some biodefense agency," she writes. "He is driven to demonstrate, in a spectacular way, his capabilities and the government's inability to respond."

At the heart of her case is a conspiracy theory, a conviction that the slowness of the investigation can be explained only by some big secret that the government wants to keep hidden for as long as possible.

"He is cocksure that he can get away with it," she writes of the perpetrator. "Does he know something that he believes to be sufficiently damaging to the United States to make him untouchable by the FBI?"

The BBC cited Rosenberg in a news report this month suggesting that there could have been a secret government program to test the practicalities of sending anthrax through the mail. "Some very expert field person might have been asked to investigate the consequences of mailing anthrax and it would have been left to him to decide exactly how to carry it out," she said. "The result might have been a project gone badly awry if he decided to use it for his own purposes."

The FBI fumes at any suggestion it would deliberately sit on evidence, pointing out that it arrested one of its own, agent-turned-spy Robert Philip Hanssen, as soon as it learned of his betrayal.

Still, while not ruling out any theories, the FBI's own public profile of the anthrax killer sounds a lot like Rosenberg's.

In its e-mail January to microbiologists, the FBI asked them to be on the lookout for a loner. "The perpetrator might be described as 'standoffish' and likely prefers to work in isolation as opposed to a group/team setting. It is possible this person used off-hours in a laboratory or [borrowed] equipment to produce the anthrax."

But the evidence points in a different direction for two theorizing medical professionals: Tara O'Toole and Thomas V. Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins University Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies.

Assessing a medical case in Florida, in which one of the Sept. 11 hijackers sought treatment for a leg wound in June, O'Toole and Inglesby concluded that the skin lesion might have been caused by anthrax. That was the conclusion too of the attending physician, Christos Tsonas of Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, but it was reached only after reviewing his notes taken while treating Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi for what appeared to be a simple, if unusual, leg injury.

In a two-page memo for the FBI, O'Toole and Inglesby said the anthrax diagnosis was "the most probable and coherent interpretation of the data available."

The FBI says that there are no blood tests, cultures or pictures that would help resolve the Florida case. While it does not rule out any leads, the FBI leans toward the theory of a domestic terrorist. But O'Toole argues that to believe that someone other than the hijackers and their accomplices hatched the anthrax plot would be to accept a lot of coincidences.

Haznawi lived with other hijackers in Boca Raton, Fla., the same city where the first anthrax victim worked. Exposure to anthrax can cause black skin lesions like the one on Haznawi's leg. And Mohamed Atta, another hijacker, visited Belle Glade State Municipal Airport, north of Fort Lauderdale, to look at crop-dusting equipment, possibly as a conveyance for biological agents.

To analysts like Pate of the Monterey Institute, the improbability of so many coincidences "makes your eyebrows go up."

But Pate, manager of a terrorism task force at the institute's Center for Nonproliferation Studies, has his own theory. He says American right-wing extremists are plausible suspects.

The anti-government cliques, wary of official agencies and with a fascination for biological agents, tend to stockpile such weapons, he said.

Pate's theory could explain the targets of the anthrax letters--two liberal Democratic senators (Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont) and the news media (CBS, NBC and the New York Post)--all hated by the fringe cults.

Some question whether the armchair sleuths have more than cursory knowledge of the case.

"I think that Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and Tara O'Toole may both be guilty of some degree of over-speculation," said one researcher who did not want to offend his colleagues by being named.

Still, given the similarities between the mind-set of scientists and detectives, the urge to speculate may be irresistible.

"Dr. Rosenberg thinks it's a disgruntled worker conspiracy. Drs. O'Toole and Inglesby think it's Sept. 11 accomplices. I think it's some right-wing extremists," Pate said. "But maybe it's a disgruntled right-wing extremist scientist accomplice."

Friday, April 26, 2002
The Frederick News-Post

Army questions scientist's motives for anthrax search
By Steve Miller 
News-Post Staff 

An internal Army investigation of anthrax contamination outside a Fort Detrick lab is focusing on a scientist who discovered the spores by conducting unauthorized tests, an Army commander said Tuesday.

Officials would not comment on what prompted the researcher to look for anthrax spores outside the lab.

It also was disclosed Tuesday that over the weekend there was a brief scare the anthrax contamination may have spread to a Frederick laundry service contracted to clean scrub suits and towels used in Fort Detrick's germ warfare defense laboratories.

The scare proved unfounded when extensive testing at the laundry facility did not detect anthrax, but the incident raised fears among laundry works and city and state officials.

At Fort Detrick, investigators are exploring the "exact circumstances" that led the unidentified scientist to search for and find anthrax spores last week in a hallway outside the lab, in a nearby office and on top a locker in the men's changing room, said Col. Edward Eitzen, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick.

The areas were decontaminated with a bleach solution and work resumed in that section of the laboratory complex Monday. The anthrax was from a vaccine strain and was not considered dangerous.

Col. Eitzen said it was unusual for a scientist to independently test areas outside the contained germ warfare defense labs.

"I would not want to speculate on his motives for doing that," Col. Eitzen told reporters Tuesday morning at news conference at Frederick City Hall hosted by Mayor Jennifer Dougherty.

Col. Eitzen was not even aware the scientist had performed the tests early last week until after the samples came back late Thursday positive for anthrax, he said.

The scientist's actions prompted Maj. Gen. Lester Martinez-Lopez, the fort commander, to order the internal investigation, Col. Eitzen said.

"One of the things we have learned is that we can probably improve our internal policies and procedures" for keeping dangerous substances contained in the labs, he said.

The anthrax discovered last week was the first case in USAMRIID's history where potentially dangerous substances escaped from one of the tightly sealed labs, Col. Eitzen said.

A source familiar with the preliminary investigation said one theory is that a lab worker carried an anthrax-tainted towel from the lab, through the decontamination shower and into the men's changing room. The towel may have been placed on top of the locker and the anthrax spores spread from there.

A former USAMRIID researcher said incidents of contamination outside the labs were unheard of, but it was "very strange" for a biological agent to reach the top of a locker in a changing room.

"Somebody got sloppy," he said.

The anthrax spores found outside the lab were from a vaccine strain used to protect researchers from contracting anthrax. The strain does not cause the disease in humans.

Col. Eitzen said there was no link between the anthrax found outside the lab and the mutant anthrax strain two scientists were exposed to April 8 inside a lab. They were different strains.

The mutant strain was being compared to that used in the anthrax attacks in Washington earlier this year. Col. Eitzen said he did not expect a match, since samples from the anthrax letters sent to Sen. Thomas Daschle and Sen. Patrick Leahy were stored elsewhere in the laboratory complex.

At the mayor's news conference, Ms. Dougherty and Delegate Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, criticized the Army's handling of the anthrax scare at the South Market Street laundry facility.

Ms. Hecht faulted Fort Detrick officials for waiting more than 24 hours to test for anthrax at Jeanne Bussard Center, the Frederick nonprofit education and employment service for the disabled that operates the laundry service.

"Somehow the communication was not what it should have been," Ms. Hecht said at the news conference.

More "checks and balances" need to be in place to keep elected officials and the public informed of possible dangers emanating from the post, she said. She complained of learning of the scare at Jeanne Bussard from a rumor.

"Something broke down," Ms. Hecht said. "I don't want to find out from a rumor."

Since taking office in January, Ms. Dougherty has pressed Fort Detrick officials to better communicate with City Hall. She said Tuesday that they had improved the lines of communication, but more timely information in cases like the laundry scare was needed to combat rumors.

Ms. Dougherty promised to continue to pressure the Army to keep the public informed about activity at the base. "We'll keep their feet to the fire," she said.

Col. Eitzen said Fort Detrick wants to work closely with City Hall and the Frederick community. "Our goal is the same as the mayor and the delegate's," he said.

Extensive tests by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine did not detect anthrax contamination Jeanne Bussard Center.

The scrub suits and towels from USAMRIID are decontaminated in a high-heat autoclave before being handled by laundry workers and transported to Jeanne Bussard. The risk of anthrax exposure through the laundry was low, but the testing was performed as a precaution and to reassure the public, Col. Eitzen said.

Army scientists tested 32 sites at the laundry facility, including washing machines, counter tops, handrails, laundry bags, the loading dock and in delivery trucks, said Jeanne Dalaba, executive director of Jeanne Bussard Center.

Ms. Dalaba was out of town Friday and attempts by Fort Detrick officials to reach her were unsuccessful. By the time the Army got in touch with her Saturday, Ms. Dalaba had already hired a private laboratory to test the facility for anthrax, she said.

Later that day, Army scientists conducted their own tests and the Army agreed to pay the $10,000 bill from the private tests, Ms. Dalaba said.

"I don't care about the political stuff," she said. "I just want to keep my people safe."

The threat of contamination at the laundry facility and the ordeal of undergoing testing and medical treatment frightened some of the center's workers.

"I think I was a little bit scared. I thought something might put us in the hospital," said Gerald Fly. He was one of the center's client/workers handling laundry Friday at USAMRIID and tested for anthrax exposure.

"I didn't know what was going to happen," he said.

About 100 workers were evacuated Friday from the areas where anthrax was found. About 42 people were tested for anthrax exposure and given antibiotic treatment, including seven laundry handlers from Jeanne Bussard.

None tested positive for anthrax exposure, Mr. Eitzen said.

Killer anthrax fingerprinted
Genome scans could reveal bioterrorism attacker.

10 May 2002


Investigators have yet to pinpoint the origin of the spores used in last year's attacks.

Detailed DNA comparisons of anthrax strains could help trace the source of last year's US bioterrorism attacks, say researchers. The technique might also track the spread of other infectious diseases.

Inhalation of deadly anthrax spores killed five and triggered widespread panic in October 2001. But investigators have yet to pinpoint the origin of the spores used in the attacks. "No-one has been prosecuted, because no-one can say where it originated," explains anthrax researcher Claire Fraser.

Forensics experts are limited by their ability to distinguish between highly similar types of the anthrax bacterium. Now Fraser, of The Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland and her team have read the entire DNA sequence of the 'Florida' strain taken from the first 2001 victim - and identified some rare distinguishing features.

The FBI may already be using the data in their investigation, suggests Fraser "We won't necessarily be able to narrow it down to a single source, but we may be able to eliminate some suspects," she says.

Straining the system

At the time of the attacks, researchers identified the bacterium as the 'Ames isolate' by comparing its DNA fingerprint with that of other strains. This method relies on a handful of variable regions called polymorphisms that distinguish one strain from another.

But this information is insufficient to pinpoint the bug's source accurately. The Ames strain, originally isolated from a dead cow in Texas in 1981, is studied by the US defensive weapons biological research programme and numerous other laboratories. "The problem was that the Ames strain has been all over the world," says David Relman, who studies infectious disease at Stanford University in California.

Distinguishing two closely related subtypes of Bacillus anthracis is particularly difficult as their genetic sequence is so similar. The bacteria spend much of their life as dormant spores, so do not pick up identifying mutations. In contrast, two strains of Escherichia coli can differ in up to 25% of their DNA.

Fraser's team pieced together the entire 5.2 million DNA letters of the Florida isolate and compared this sequence to another reference strain of the bacterium whose sequence was near completion. They found 60 small differences that can be used to divide isolates into families.

More markers will be needed from additional strains in order to nail the source of last year's attack, admits Fraser, so traditional detective methods might prove faster. In a future bioterrorism incident, however, forensics investigators would know exactly which regions of anthrax DNA house a strain's identifying features, and use them to trace suspect labs rapidly.

The sources of other bioterorrism and infectious disease outbreaks - such as smallpox, plague and tuberculosis - might also be traced, if several strains of each were completely sequenced and compared. This information should be collated into a central database, suggests Relman: "There's a new emerging infrastructure for microbial forensics."
May 13, 2002



By Meryl Nass, MD

Are you picking up on all the weird press on anthrax lately?

First, we were told there was only a trace of spores in the Wallingford, Connecticut post office, after Ottalie Lundgren’s demise. Then we hear that three million spores were found initially, but there are only traces now, found on the ceiling, no less: far from staff and customers.

Then we are treated to the story that the spore preparation sent in the letters last October became more highly purified with each letter. Today some bright light comes up with the idea that the letter sorters were milling machines, and caused the clustered spores to shake apart from each other, improving their offensive capability.

Does that mean that as time went on, the anthrax letters were put through more and more sorting machines? This theory makes little sense. Worse, these claims are very easy to either prove or dispute, but no one is disputing them or verifying them. Anthrax spores are easily visible with a light microscope, as is the debris that would accompany a crude milling process. All one need do is look to figure out the amount of debris, and whether the spore size ranges changed. Many other simple techniques should have been used months ago that would have identified a change in the spore preparation: why wasn’t this reported then?

Now more anthrax spores are found in the Federal Reserve. I’ve been told that spores keep turning up at other postal facilities.

Debora MacKenzie of New Scientist used open information to puzzle out the fact that the anthrax which so far is the best match to that isolated from Bob Stevens in Florida came from USAMRIID at Fort Detrick, Maryland. However, since it took months for the FBI to subpoena anthrax samples from those labs working with the Ames strain, there is no reason to think that the spores being tested are as pristine as they should be. For instance, there was plenty of time to treat an anthrax preparation with substances that induce mutations, and then give it to the FBI, assured that it would have significant differences from the parent strain.

What is going on?

The first thing that jumps out at you is that nearly all the important statements made about the anthrax investigation lack attribution. That means that although reporters got the information from official sources, the sources asked not to be named. This is a clue to disinformation.

Why might disinformation be used? For one thing, a few people may develop anthrax after inhaling a small number of spores; at least, that is how the deaths of Mrs. Lundgren and Mrs. Nguyen have been explained. Yet, given the history of anthrax spores in factories, gross contamination rarely leads to inhalation anthrax. The thinking probably goes that once spores get into the environment and begin sticking to things, they are much less likely to cause illness. This is probably what the authorities are counting on.

Since there have been no new inhalation cases in nearly 6 months, and the cost of clean-ups can exceed the cost of a new building, those in authority may be gambling that there will be no more, or extremely rare, cases in future. So the sampling being done is mostly not being reported, or problems minimized, to avoid fear of contaminated post offices.

Remember that many potentially affected buildings have not been tested for spores, so we really don’t know the extent of spore contamination. Imagine the cost of cleaning up every building where spores have been reported, let alone every single contaminated building. You could easily be looking at billions of dollars. That is no doubt why the revelations about the Federal Reserve were followed within hours by claims that the finding is probably due to lab error or dead, irradiated spores.

The question is, what is the methodology used to detect the spores? That piece of information is never provided, because if it was, you could extrapolate to find out how bad the contamination really was. For instance, when you hear there were 3 million spores found in Wallingford, does that mean three million spores grew colonies on petri dishes? Or does it mean that the test used does not identify spores unless there are at least 10,000 spores per milliliter of material, and that 300 samples tested positive?

If they found 10,000 spores per milliliter, that is 50,000 in a teaspoon, and you are looking at some extremely heavy contamination. Anyway, this is just an illustration of the need to be explicit about methodology to know how bad-or good--things really are.

If 3 million spores were found in Wallingford, they would not have been due to cross contamination, but rather to one or more letters that leaked passing through the post office. No such letter(s) have been found. I suspect that multiple letters were either not found, or not reported, last fall.

Similarly, I continue to hear of probable human anthrax cases that were also not reported, possibly because they did not meet the CDC’s case definition, or to avoid panic. (One of my patient’s sisters treated a case, and one of my cousins treated another with the classic rash, both postal workers in the NY metropolitan area. And several NYC postal workers died of unknown causes at the same time. Seems suspicious for at least a few more cases.)

Another reason the authorities are saying the contamination (if it exists) is old, is because the public will rightly fear that the anthrax perpetrator, not yet arrested, may be sending more letters. I doubt the FBI wants us taking that possibility seriously.

Something else may be going on. The letters last October may have been part of some deep dark officially-sanctioned plot (to save us from ourselves by forcing Americans to wake up to the biowarfare threat?) and the perpetrator(s) was never meant to be found. Instead, new letters might be going out now to leave evidence implicating a "fall guy" for both the new and the old letters.

We’ll probably never get to the bottom of this puzzle…but next time you see an anthrax "scoop" attached to an unidentified official, call the reporter who wrote the story and demand that in future stories, only sources who are willing to go on record with their names should be used. That will clear up at least some of the murkiness surrounding this investigation.

The Enemy Within? 
The FBI's anthrax investigation turns on itself.

By Laura Rozen
Issue Date: 5.20.02 

When anthrax first turned up in letters to journalists and members of Congress last October, much of the public, still shaken from the September 11 attacks, naturally assumed that the perpetrator was an outside terrorist group like al-Qaeda. 

But as investigators have honed in on domestic facilities and possibly even domestic suspects, the FBI faces a difficult test. Suppose the attacks were an inside job -- by, say, one of the U.S. Army's own biowarfare scientists. What scientific authorities could the FBI turn to if it's effectively investigating the very labs that do its testing? The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, for example, is charged with running diagnostic tests on the anthrax found in letters sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. And while FBI sources say they're happy with USAMRIID's level of cooperation, there's no getting around the fact that some of that lab's employees, former employees, and contract workers belong to the FBI's pool of potential suspects. After all, they know how to grow and weaponize anthrax, and they have access to spores. 

"There are really only a few places weapons-grade anthrax could have come from, including Dugway [Army Proving Grounds in Utah], Fort Detrick, and other labs contracted by the military," said David Fidler, a University of Indiana law professor who has written about the legal implications of biological terrorism. "In a way, you have one arm of the executive branch investigating another. And the FBI doesn't have the built-in competencies to conduct an investigation alone which is based on public health principles and science." In fact, the FBI has hired some 20 expert consultants to assist with the anthrax investigation, and most of them belong to the government bio-defense establishment. 

One measure of how very close the investigators are to the investigated is the fact that in March, those consultants were asked to take polygraph tests. "Did you do it?" the experts were reportedly asked, and, "Do you know who did it?" Likewise, even as some FBI investigators set up shop at USAMRIID, working side by side with scientists to trace the source of the anthrax, another FBI team descended on Fort Detrick in February to question lab employees about suspicious activity they might have seen -- and to administer polygraph tests to those with access to suites where anthrax and other deadly germs are handled. 

According to one USAMRIID scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, all of the lab's current employees have been cleared. But sources close to the investigation suggest that the FBI also has taken an interest in former USAMRIID scientists. As employees of other government agencies and contracting firms, such former laboratory employees might have continued access to military bio-defense facilities. But here the FBI has hit a particularly baffling roadblock. The bureau's investigators are not confident that other government agencies, such as the CIA and the Department of Defense, have let them in on the full range of bio-defense work they have commissioned. And this lack of full disclosure may not just be a matter of stonewalling, one former FBI investigator suggested. Rather, FBI investigators may not have the top level security clearances that would allow CIA or Pentagon officials to disclose all they know. The result is an almost comical impasse of mutual distrust and bureaucratic red tape. 

If the FBI can't investigate the U.S. bio-defense establishment, who can? It's an increasingly important question, given the apparent direction of the FBI's probe. The FBI is particularly interested in U.S. military bio-defense laboratories, well-placed sources suggest, because the anthrax in the letters was processed into a finely spored, chemically fluffed, aerosolized dry powder -- a form consistent with that used to test American defenses against biological weapons. Scientists who have seen photos of the spores also remark on their extraordinary degree of concentration. At more than a trillion spores per gram, the powder's potency surpasses what was achieved at the height of the U.S. offensive biological weapons program, which ended in 1970. But given the secrecy that surrounds such research, investigators may not yet know what innovations the U.S. government has made in chemically processing germ weapons since the program officially ended. It wasn't until last December, in fact, that the U.S. Army admitted to making small amounts of the lethal, dry, powder form of anthrax for testing purposes out at Dugway since the 1990s. Preliminary reports suggest that the anthrax in the Leahy letter was processed using methods and chemicals different from those of known government biowarfare programs. 

But could there be programs the FBI doesn't know about? For all that, and despite its public insistence that it has not zeroed in on a suspect or ruled anything out, the FBI does appear to be making progress on the case. And from the look of it, that progress is taking the investigation to the bio-defense establishment's doorstep. 

The investigation's "office of origin" remains the FBI's Washington field office, but sources say that in the last month, the bureau has stepped up activity at its field office in Baltimore, Maryland. Moreover, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, an interagency body that specializes in tracking domestic terrorists, has also been mobilized on the anthrax case -- yet another indication that investigators may believe the perpetrator was not international but homegrown. Identifying the lab from which the anthrax in the letters originated will supply one major piece of the puzzle. But investigators point out that this information is far from sufficient. Indeed, the classic criminal investigator's questions -- who had not just the weapon, but the motive and the opportunity? -- will most likely be addressed by the gumshoe special agents out in the field questioning people, gathering testimony, and testing hypotheses. 

Already investigators have identified the Xerox machine used to photocopy the letters sent to Democratic senators, NBC, and the New York Post last fall, a source close to the investigation said. The machine is "publicly accessible" and is in New Jersey, but in what town or what facility was not disclosed. The question of motive remains perhaps the most perplexing. What do the letters, which advised recipients to take "penacilin" and deliberately disseminated a noncontagious germ, reveal about the perpetrator's intentions? Some sources speculate that the perpetrator could be a biowarfare expert out to prove that the United States needs to take more seriously its vulnerability to biological attack. "This is not about killing five Americans," mused Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler who worked on the Ted Kaczsynski "Unabomber" and Timothy McVeigh cases. "This is about sending a message. When we find this person and say, 'But, man, you are a serial killer,' the guy is going to say, 'Hey look, this threat has been there for a long time. I simply took advantage of September 11 to get your attention. I caused this country to prepare for the next big incident of the twenty-first century. Without me, tens of thousands would die.'" It's a message the U.S. bio-defense community overwhelmingly endorses, whether or not the anthrax perpetrator sprang from its ranks. 

Laura Rozen

Does Al Qaeda Have Anthrax? Better Assume So 

National Journal, June 1, 2002 

By Jonathan Rauch


The operatives and allies of Al Qaeda have something in mind for the United States, of that there can be little doubt. Something nasty. Vice President Dick Cheney said in May it is "almost certain" that the terrorists will strike again. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that terrorists "inevitably" will get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, "and they would not hesitate one minute to use them." Question: What if they already did use them and are preparing to do so again? Were last year's anthrax attacks, which caused five fatalities, a preview? 

No one knows, of course. That said, there are dots worth connecting. 

The perpetrator(s). In November, the FBI issued a suspect profile identifying the likely anthrax attacker as a single adult male, probably an American with a scientific background, lab experience, poor social skills, and a grudge. Some people -- I was one of them -- viewed this interpretation with skepticism. What would be the motive? Why the timing so close to September 11? A number of analysts, including David Tell in a useful article in The Weekly Standard on April 29, have subsequently cast doubt on the disgruntled- scientist hypothesis, and an FBI spokesman said in May that the bureau, far from being "convinced" that the attacks were carried out by an American loner, had "not precluded any category of suspect, motive, or theory." 

If anything, hints that anthrax and Al Qaeda may be linked have grown harder to dismiss. Dot one: Several of the hijackers, including their suspected ringleader, Mohamed Atta, are reported to have looked at crop dusters in Belle Glade, Fla. Dot two: Among five targeted media organizations, only one was not nationally prominent -- American Media, of Boca Raton, Fla., which happens to be a few miles from where Atta and other terrorists lived and attended flight school. (Atta rented an apartment from a real estate agent whose husband worked for American Media.) Dot three: In March a doctor in Fort Lauderdale announced that he had treated one of the terrorists for what, in retrospect, he believes was cutaneous anthrax. Doctors at Johns Hopkins University examined the case and concurred that anthrax was "the most probable and coherent interpretation of the data available." 

Other recent reports cite captured documents and an unfinished lab in Afghanistan that suggest Al Qaeda was interested -- as presumably it would be -- in producing biological weapons, including anthrax. In 1999, an Arabic-language newspaper in London reported that "elements loyal to [Osama] bin Laden" had, for a few thousand dollars, "managed to obtain an offer for the supply of samples of anthrax and other poisons" from a former Soviet bloc country. 

None of that proves anything. The FBI checked the 9/11 terrorists' homes, cars, and personal effects for anthrax. "Exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been," an FBI spokesman told The New York Times in March. 

A point worth noting: The anthrax-laced letters were all mailed after the deaths of Atta and his fellow hijackers. If Al Qaeda did have something to do with the anthrax attacks, whoever did the mailings is still out there. 

The material. In April, news reports said that the material used in the attacks was not only "weaponized" but also more sophisticated than anything that U.S. military labs had managed to produce. In May, other news reports said that the material was (in The Times' words) "far less than weapons grade." Good grief. What's the story? 

Everyone agrees that all of the anthrax was of the same type, known as the Ames strain. Most sources also agree that the first mailing, to the media organizations, contained a cruder formulation than the second, to Sens. Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. They also concur that the second batch was of impressive purity and concentration. "Very, very pure" is how Matthew Meselson, a Harvard University biologist who has looked at images of the material, described it in an interview. "If you look at it under the electron microscope, you don't see anything but anthrax spores." A cruder preparation, by contrast, would contain so-called vegetative cells and other debris. 

One source of ultra-pure anthrax might be a foreign bio-weapons program. An obvious suspect: the former Soviet Union. The Soviets had as many as 2,000 scientists working on anthrax, Tell writes. In 1979, dozens, or hundreds, of Russians died when anthrax leaked from a bio-weapons facility in Sverdlovsk. Subsequent analyses found four or more different anthrax strains in tissue samples taken from the victims. 

So does the material used in America last year look Soviet? No, says Ken Alibek, a former Soviet bio-weapons official who is now executive director of the George Mason University Center for Biodefense. He has reviewed images of the material and says it looks like nothing he saw in the Soviet Union. The material, in fact, is of mediocre quality, he told me, and was not produced industrially. It definitely had not been milled, nor did it appear to have any sort of coating to reduce static or otherwise enhance its deadliness. Silica supposedly found in the material, Alibek thinks, may simply be a residue from an unsophisticated drying process. Meselson concurs that the anthrax evinces no sign of special coating or processing. "There is no evidence that I know of," he told me, "that it was treated in any special way." 

What about Iraq? It is known to have produced several thousand gallons of anthrax, but that was in liquid form. Stephen D. Bryen, who headed the Pentagon's Defense Technology Security Administration during the Reagan administration and who now is the managing partner of Aurora Defense, says that United Nations inspectors in Iraq found no "dusty" anthrax (the dry, wafting variety used in the U.S. attacks) -- which of course could mean either that the Iraqis didn't (yet) have it or that they hid it well. Bryen also notes that the Iraqis, like the Soviets, tend to mix together various germs (or strains) and chemicals in their weapons, presumably to defeat countermeasures. The U.S. anthrax was all of a single strain. 

If the U.S. anthrax was very pure but not specially weaponized, could it have been made by amateurs? In small quantities, yes, according to both Alibek and Meselson. It could be done, Alibek says, with "a very simple, nonindustrial process -- a very primitive process -- that could let you get a trillion spores in one gram. You can't make hundreds of kilos, but you could make hundreds of grams at this concentration."

Meselson concurs. "It's something that could be done by a fair number of people." The necessary glassware, culturing media, centrifuges, and so on "would exist in a large number of places, both hospitals and laboratories -- widespread." 

The U.S. attacks, Meselson notes, confirmed what a Canadian simulation had already shown: Even uncoated, nonindustrial-grade anthrax easily suspends itself in the air, floating around and penetrating lungs. No special coating or treatment is necessary. Whoever produced the few grams used last year could presumably produce more. Not enough to fill a crop duster, perhaps, but enough to kill a lot of people. 

The outlook. So what to assume? Bryen notes that dropping anthrax in the mail was a very primitive way to distribute it. "It's not how regimes think about dispersing a biological or chemical weapon," he said. "Which should say that the guy distributing it was a total amateur." That, in turn, argues for what Bryen calls the "sample" theory. "The sample theory being that somebody gave these guys a small amount. It has all the characteristics that it was given to people who didn't have any idea how to use it." 

Or maybe, on the other hand, not. Paul Ewald, a biologist at Amherst College and the author of Plague Time: The New Germ Theory of Disease, suggests that inefficient distribution might have been exactly the point. "If this attack was caused by the Al Qaeda group -- and I think that's the best explanation, given the evidence available -- this small release would be most useful as a demonstration that they have anthrax on U.S. soil." 

If the terrorists are dumb, Ewald says, they made or obtained a few grams of anthrax and mailed off their whole supply. "We'd be wiser if we planned for the smart-terrorist possibility," he says. Smart terrorists would have made or obtained larger quantities of the stuff and stashed it, probably (if they're smart) before setting off alarms by sending out a few grams. Later, with the potency of their weapon proved, they could mount, or threaten to mount, a much larger attack. 

Ewald argues for a policy that assumes this is what's going on and that urgently enlists the public's eyes and ears and memories. "We should be alerting people to let authorities know of any suspicious activity they may have seen that would relate to people hiding canisters or objects or doing something that didn't look right," Ewald says. The question is not whether Ewald is right, but whether we want to bet he is wrong. 

The New Republic - DAILY EXPRESS

Sender Unknown
by Michael Crowley 

Only at TNR Online
Post date: 06.04.02 

Lost in the debate over what clues the FBI may have missed prior to September 11 is the troubling fact that the agency still hasn't figured out who mailed those anthrax-laced letters to members of Congress and major media outlets. The FBI says it believes the letters come from a domestic source, most likely a disgruntled American scientist. But as the agency toils away to nab a culprit, many an alternate theory has bloomed. Some are nutty, like the contention this month by a British tabloid that the culprit was a Harvard biologist who mysteriously fell from a Memphis bridge last November.  (Assassinated by the U.S. government, naturally.) Or the recent suggestion by a respected New York microbiologist, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, that some rogue government scientist had taken an FBI plan to study the dangers of mail-borne anthrax too far.

A more serious, and credible, theory comes from conservatives who see the hand of Saddam Hussein at work. Not coincidentally, these also happen to be the same conservatives who favor imminent U.S. military action against Iraq. After all, any connection between Iraq and terrorism in America vastly strengthens the case for toppling Hussein. The most recent installment in this crusade came from Wall Street Journal editor-columnist Robert Bartley, who yesterday rejected the FBI's domestic "lone wolf" theory in favor of "a stream of evidence pointing in an even more sinister direction." The high-grade anthrax, Bartley argues, was likely brewed in Iraq and transferred to an Al Qaeda operative who began sending it around soon after 9/11. "Connect the dots," Bartley implored the FBI.

There are, to be sure, some curious dots out there. The Czech government insists it monitored a Prague meeting between an Iraqi agent and lead hijacker Mohammed Atta. In addition, one of Atta's accomplices visited a then-unsuspecting Florida physician last summer about a mysterious black lesion he had developed. Some scientists (but not the FBI) now believe it might have been cutaneous anthrax. Most oddly, perhaps, the tabloid employee who was the first anthrax victim lived within a few miles of Atta.

But there's one enormous, insurmountable flaw that sinks all the Al Qaeda-Iraq theories: The anthrax letters were not designed to kill; they were designed to terrify. All of the recovered letters (the letter sent to American Media in Boca Raton, Florida, was never found) clearly declared their deadly nature, with chilling warnings like "We have this anthrax," "Take penacilin [sic] now," and "You die now." It was these generous and quite unnecessary words that prevented the anthrax mailings from killing dozens, and possibly hundreds, of people instead of a handful. Imagine that, instead of an ornery message proclaiming "Death to America," the letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle really did appear to be from a fourth-grade class, as its return address so sinisterly indicated. ("Dear Senator Daschle, You are our most favorite Senator. Please come visit our science fair this fall..." and so on, innocently.) The anthrax could have been mixed into an adorable decorative frosting of glitter and tiny paper stars that would seem a perfectly natural flourish for a bunch of school kids. A letter like that would surely have been thrown into a "reject politely" folder and forgotten--until Senate staffers began to suffer massive infections and die a few days later, touching off a wild panic.  Al Qaeda didn't teach its recruits how to warn their victims; it taught them to kill as many people as possible. Does anyone believe Al Qaeda, or Saddam Hussein for that matter, would choose terror without murder when they can have both? If so, then why didn't Atta and friends simply buzz the World Trade Center menacingly, instead of slamming into it?

I have my own, highly speculative, and admittedly farfetched, theory about the anthrax culprit. It would seem to answer the mystery of who would have access to high-potency anthrax and a motive to mail it--but also a desire to limit its impact. Somebody determined to send a warning, I'd say--someone like a slightly off-kilter government scientist, long obsessed with the threat of germ weapons, who became convinced after September 11 that America needed to finally start getting serious about bioterror. Years of congressional testimony, and op-eds in The New York Times, never seemed to do the trick. So why not send a few scary letters to government and media figures, guaranteeing maximum hysteria but little death? (The mailer may not have expected the collateral harm to postal workers; some scientists were surprised at they way the anthrax powder leaked from envelopes.) If that was indeed the mailer's motive, he certainly succeeded: Within weeks, Tommy Thompson was rush-ordering millions of anthrax and smallpox vaccine doses.

This theory encounters obstacles of its own, of course. Why would such a person target the little-known Senator Pat Leahy, for instance? That suggests a right-winger with a loathing for Leahy's Vermont liberalism. But would Al Qaeda be any more likely to choose Leahy--and not, say, a prominent Jewish Senator like Charles Schumer? That makes just as little sense. And surely this question is easier to reconcile than the absurd notion that Al Qaeda, just days after massacring nearly 3,000 Americans, pulled its next deadly punch.

"'They'--whoever 'they' are--tried to kill us," the targeted New York Post reminded its readers in an April editorial. But "they" didn't. They only tried to scare us. And that's the biggest mystery of all.

MICHAEL CROWLEY is an associate editor at The New Republic.

The Indianapolis Star
today's editorial

Unfinished task of anthrax probe

June 13, 2002

Our position: The federal government is in need of some Sherlock Holmes-style expertise.

The reorganization of federal law enforcement proposed last week by President Bush failed to address one increasingly obvious weakness -- the quality of U.S. detective work.

How can the American people count on the government to protect us from terrorists when it can't track down those who've terrorized us before? 

This week, Indiana's Mike Pence reminded the administration that it has yet to determine the source of the anthrax that contaminated his congressional office in October and killed five U.S. citizens. 

"To my knowledge, months of FBI investigations have produced no suspects and few leads," Pence said in a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft requesting an update on the anthrax probe. 

"I would also greatly appreciate an answer to at least one question: Why has the FBI apparently concluded that the source of these anthrax attacks was domestic when there is significant evidence to suggest an international source for these materials?"

Pence's questions are timely, considering the administration's push for a Department of Homeland Security that would combine dozens of existing policing agencies into a single entity headed by a Cabinet officer. The president says more effective organization and communication will make it easier to uncover terrorist plots.

While turf battles and bureaucracy may indeed be to blame for government's failure to connect terrorist clues prior to Sept. 11, federal officials' competence to do so must also be questioned. Reorganizing the same people to do the same thing will not by itself get us very far.

Five people were killed by an anthrax terrorist. Eight months later, this serial murder has not been solved.

Further, Pence says new information has cast doubt on the domestic terrorist theory put forth by the FBI. That includes evidence suggesting that one or more of the 9-11 terrorists visited doctors to be treated for anthrax-type infections and the fact that material found in Pence's office was finely milled weapons-grade anthrax that had been genetically modified to increase its virulence. In his letter to Ashcroft, Pence noted that the anthrax appears to have come from a strain that Iraqi germ warfare scientists were attempting to obtain in 1988 as part of a biological weapons strategy.

Like most criminals, the anthrax terrorist probably had accomplices, who may be plotting evil at this very moment. Like any crime, this one will become harder to solve as evidence grows cold. And like Pence, the American people deserve to know what's taking so long.

Pence wants the FBI to look at foreign links to anthrax letters

The Star Press - Muncie, IN
June 14, 2002

MUNCIE - Congressman Mike Pence believes the FBI should reconsider international terrorists as the source of anthrax mail attacks. "I am troubled by the apparent lack of progress in the FBI's current investigation," Pence wrote to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft this week.

In that letter, Pence also gave 10 examples of evidence pointing to international, not domestic, sources for anthrax letters that killed five people and closed Pence's office in the Longworth Building for nearly 2 months.

As a result of the letters, Pence, his family and staff took weeks of antibiotics as a precaution. None developed anthrax-like infections.

Last week, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the investigation had not produced any suspects. Pence said the FBI had apparently concluded the anthrax came from a domestic source instead of from al-Qaida operatives who also were responsible for airplane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The congressman said the material found in his office and others on Capital Hill was weapons-grade anthrax that was genetically modified to increase its virulence.

DNA evidence showed the anthrax originated from the Ames strain that was developed at Fort Detrick, Md., and was later sent to a research facility in England.

In 1988, Iraqi germ warfare scientists attempted to obtain the Ames strain anthrax from England to create biological weapons. And the CIA has reported meetings between Al Qaeda members and Iraqi officials last year, Pence said.

"The FBI has spent most of its resources trying to find a mad scientist," Pence said.  "The evidence points to Iraq." 

Some 9-11 terrorists were treated for anthrax-type infections, he said.

Democratic congressional candidate Melina Fox said Hoosiers still worried about anthrax attacks, and like Pence, they wanted the people responsible identified and punished.

"We need a broader view than just the problems that touched one congressional office," she said. 

Pence will meet with senior officials involved in the investigation next week.

Meanwhile, the Republican congressman gained a powerful position this week to help oversee the war on terrorism and create the new Department of Homeland Defense.

Pence was named to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. The subcommittee will oversee all federal criminal matters relating to new terrorism policies.

"I hope to be a voice for the real world implications of certain terrorist attacks," Pence said.

Scotland on Sunday
Sun 16 Jun 2002

War on terror: FBI ‘guilty of cover-up’ over anthrax suspect


AMERICAN investigators know the identity of the killer who paralysed the US by sending anthrax in the post but will not arrest the culprit, according to leading US scientists.

For several months the Federal Bureau of Investigation has claimed it has few leads and little evidence about the group or individual who targeted politicians and media organisations.

Their failure to arrest a suspect has compounded other failures of the American security agencies to take action which could have prevented the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

This week, the FBI and John Ashcroft, the attorney general, were at the centre of controversy when they claimed that they had apprehended an American citizen intent on detonating a ‘‘dirty bomb’’, a conventional bomb which would contaminate a large area with radioactive material. Both were forced to admit that there was no evidence that Jose Padile had done little more than associate with suspected al-Qaeda agents in Pakistan.

Last week scientists at Fort Detrick, the US Army’s top secret biological warfare research centre at Fort Detrick, Maryland said the FBI had looked at ways in which anthrax could have been smuggled out of the complex.

At a time when the Bush administration is beefing up America’s Homeland Security defences any indication of progress by the FBI should be good news, but one prominent and well-respected biowarfare expert believes the FBI has not only known the identity of the terrorist for months but has conspired with other branches of the US government to keep it secret.

Dr Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, director of the biological warfare division at the Federation of American Scientists, first accused the FBI of foot-dragging in February with a scathing investigation that included a portrait of the possible perpetrator so detailed that it could only match one person.

Rosenberg said she knows who that person is and so do a top-level clique of US government scientists, the CIA, the FBI and the White House.

"Early in the investigation," Rosenberg told Scotland on Sunday, "a number of inside experts, at least five that I know about, gave the FBI the name of one specific person as the most likely suspect. That person fits the FBI profile in most respects. He has the right skills, experience with anthrax, up-to-date anthrax vaccination, forensic training, and access to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (AMRIID) and its biological agents through 2001."

‘Dr Barbara Hatch Rosenberg says she knows who the terrorist is’

Rosenberg’s profile suggests that the suspect is a middle-aged scientist with a doctoral degree who works for a CIA contractor in Washington DC. She adds he has to know or have worked closely with Bill Patrick, the weapons researcher who holds five secret patents on how to produce weapons-grade anthrax, that he suffered a career setback last summer that embittered him and precipitated his campaign and that he has already been investigated by the FBI.

Most crucially, she believes the suspect has in the past actually conducted experiments for the government to test the response of the police and civil agencies to a bioterror attack.

"It has been part of the suspect’s job to devise bioterror scenarios," Rosenberg said. "Some of these are on record. He is known to have acted out at least one of them, in hoax form, perhaps as part of an assignment to test responses. Some hoax events that have never been solved, including several hoax-anthrax events, also correspond to his scenarios and are consistent with his whereabouts."

The question she wants the FBI and the Bush administration to answer is, why it has taken so long to arrest this man? In the unlikely event that the government divulges all it knows about what she now believes to be a full blown cover-up, Rosenberg said responsibility can be expected to fall on a number of government agencies, all with a vested interest in shielding the truth.

"Either the FBI is under pressure from the Pentagon or CIA not to proceed because the suspect knows too much and must be controlled forever from the moment of arrest," she said, "or the FBI is sympathetic to the views of the biodefence clique or the FBI really is as incompetent as it seems."

Rosenberg’s analysis suggests a combination of all three. The American defence establishment guards its secrets well and given the suspect’s covert work on their behalf their reluctance to see him publicly exposed appears natural.

Equally there is evidence that some of the suspect’s colleagues are not unhappy with the fallout from his terror attacks. Rosenberg cites David Franz, a former commander of USAMRIID who earlier this year said of the anthrax campaign: "I think a lot of good has come from it. From a biological or a medical standpoint, we’ve now five people who have died, but we’ve put about $6bn in our budget into defending against bioterrorism."

As for FBI incompetence there are few in America today who have any doubt that the venerable agency made a serious of terrible errors before 9/11 and has conspicuously failed to conduct a solid investigation since.

Earlier this week, congressmen questioned George Tenet, the director of the CIA, about the arrest of Padile and the claims made about his mission. The congressmen were concerned that the attorney general was unduly alarmist about the nature of the plans Padile had made.

It appeared that Padile’s arrest was announced to bolster the image of the FBI and emphasise the continuing threat to the US. Instead the announcement raised questions about why Padile was arrested on arriving in the US rather than being watched to establish the identity of his associates and the source of the radioactive material he would need for a dirty bomb.

George Soros, the billionaire financier, accused the Bush administration of deliberately manipulating the aftermath of September 11 and the arrest of Padile to promote an authoritarian agenda.

‘"I feel that what happened was that Ashcroft (the attorney general) basically detonated a ‘dirty bomb’ plot. The plot is his. The detonation is his. The Bush administration is exploiting the terrorist threat for its purposes, to generate fear and to overcome constitutional constraints on the use of force,’’ he said.

USA Today
06/24/2002 - Updated 08:34 PM ET 

FBI mystified by anthrax attacks

By Ana Radelat, Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON — More than eight months after the anthrax death of a photo editor in Florida touched off a national manhunt for the perpetrator, the FBI says it has no suspect and hopes the public will provide a missing clue.

The lack of apparent progress in the case has irritated several members of Congress.

"That anthrax killer is out there. We need to nab this person," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said on a talk show this weekend. The senator and some of her colleagues complain that the FBI is spending too much time reorganizing itself into an anti-terrorism bureaucracy and not enough finding the person behind attacks that killed five people, sickened 18 others, shut down Capitol Hill and paralyzed mail delivery.

Since Robert Stevens, a tabloid photo editor, died of anthrax Oct. 5, the FBI has questioned nearly 6,000 people and sought samples — sometimes more than once — from all laboratories known to have a certain type of anthrax known as the Ames strain.

But a breakthrough has been elusive.

Van Harp, head of the FBI's anthrax investigation, said the agency is "light years" away from where it was after Stevens died.

The agency had no experience solving this type of crime, he said. Clues are also few.  The anthrax they've managed to collect from the attacks would fit into a sugar packet.

In addition, FBI handwriting experts say the brief notes contained in the anthrax-laden envelopes don't reveal much about their writer.

"With (Unabomber) Theodore Kaczynski, we had the luxury of having 39,000 words.  This time, we only have 39," said James Fitzgerald, head of the FBI's behavioral analysis unit.

Fitzgerald and his colleagues have put together a profile of a likely suspect: a male loner with a scientific background who might work in a laboratory.

Harp and the rest of his team hope someone comes forward with the "small kernel of information that we need" to break the case — just like Kaczynski's brother did. Harp hopes it will help that the reward for the tip that leads to an arrest in the case was doubled to $2.5 million.

"If anyone has any information on who did it, we welcome it," he said.

As part of the investigation, the FBI has set up a special lab at Fort Detrick, Md., a place that also is being investigated by the FBI because of repeated security breaches in the past 10 years. The bureau also has asked for help from dozens of scientists across the nation.

Martin Hugh-Jones, an epidemiologist with Louisiana State University, was one of them. The school has one of the labs that studied the Ames strain anthrax — and Hugh-Jones said FBI agents swarmed the campus conducting interviews and collecting the names of former lab employees.

Hugh-Jones said he felt a key method used by investigators — determining the rate of genetic mutations across generations of bacteria to try to find the lab of origin — has proved inconclusive. He also cast doubt on a recent revelation that the anthrax spores involved in the attacks were made less than two years ago. The dating was reportedly done with radiocarbon analysis, which can only pinpoint the age of a substance within a couple of years, Hugh-Jones said.

Lawmakers are increasingly anxious about the pace of the probe.

Several weeks ago, Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., sent FBI Director Robert Mueller a list of questions about the status of the case, but his queries remain unanswered. Mueller may not be able to avoid congressional questioning though: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D, who like Leahy was one of the congressional targets of the attacks, has asked Mueller to meet with him privately Thursday and fill him in.

Staffers from the offices of Leahy, Daschle and other senators have in the past two weeks met with Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a bioweapons expert from the State University of New York who has for months criticized the FBI for what she calls a fragmented, mismanaged and profoundly unscientific investigation. Rosenberg believes the FBI knows who's behind the attacks but is trying to develop an impossibly airtight case.

"Without a swift arrest, and the message it sends, the nation risks a future threat that could dwarf 9-11," Rosenberg warned in a critique prepared for the Web site of the Federation of American Scientists.

Eric Sterling, director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, said it's natural that the FBI is trying to avoid the mistakes it made when it unjustly accused Richard Jewell as the perpetrator of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing.

"It's a dangerous tactic to force law enforcement to act prematurely," Sterling said. "But while it's a mistake to pressure them, it is quite appropriate to ask, 'Are you making progress in this investigation?"'

Who is Steven Hatfill?
The FBI has searched a U.S. bio-warfare scientist's apartment as part of its anthrax investigation. 
By Laura Rozen
Web Exclusive: 6.27.02 

FBI agents investigating last fall's anthrax attacks searched the Frederick, Maryland, apartment of Steven J. Hatfill, a former U.S. government bio-defense scientist, this past Tuesday. Hatfill is not a suspect in the anthrax case, the FBI says. Rather, law-enforcement officials have told The Associated Press that Hatfill consented to the search in order to clear his name, which The New York Times reports has been much mentioned on Web sites frequented by scientists, journalists, and others who've taken an interest in the anthrax investigation. 

Monday's search of Hatfill's home by the FBI was reportedly not the first time the bureau has had contact with him in the course of its ongoing investigation. Sources close to the investigation say that he had been questioned on four previous occasions by FBI investigators, and that he'd been given, and passed, a polygraph exam. These sources also say that Hatfill has always been very cooperative with the bureau. 

Who is Steven Hatfill? The Prospect has spoken with dozens of biowarfare scientists, other government contractors who work in bio-defense, former medical school associates and colleagues, and sources close to the FBI investigation to get a clearer picture of the Maryland scientist.  Hatfill belongs to a small pool of people who have access to and detailed knowledge of how to grow and weaponize the highly lethal, concentrated dry powder spores of anthrax that were sent in letters to media personalities and members of Congress last October. Specifically, by virtue of his government contracts, Hatfill had access to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Maryland, up until early March. As one of a handful of places in the country where scientists grow the most lethal germs in order to develop vaccines to defend against them, USAMRIID and its Utah cousin, Dugway Proving Grounds, have been at the center of the eight-month-old FBI investigation. Last month, genetic analysis of the letter-anthrax suggested that it was indistinguishable from a strain developed at USAMRIID. 

Hatfill, who was employed as an Ebola researcher at USAMRIID from 1997 to 1999, has since worked as a government contractor who specializes in training U.S. Special Forces, embassy employees, emergency workers, and other government officials to respond to biological attacks. Today, Hatfill continues to perform bio-defense training work, to which his colleagues say he is passionately devoted. 

Hatfill's longer biography is riddled with gaps where classified projects presumably belong. The son of a thoroughbred horse breeder, Hatfill was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1953, then raised in Illinois. He studied biology at small Southwestern College in Kansas, taking a year off midway through to work with a Methodist doctor in Zaire. He graduated in 1975, married in 1976, had a daughter, and got divorced in 1978. From 1975 to 1978, he served with the U.S. Army Institute for Military Assistance, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while simultaneously, his resume says, serving in the Special Air Squadron (SAS) of the white supremacist regime in Rhodesia. He attended medical school in Rhodesia from 1978 to 1985, and then moved to South Africa, where he completed various military-medical assignments while obtaining three master's degrees, studying for a doctoral degree, and practicing in a South African clinic. 

"After graduating from Southwestern College," he wrote his alumni newsletter, "Hatfill received a medical degree from the Godfrey Huggins School of Medicine in Rhodesia, with board certification in hematological pathology from South Africa. The South African government recruited him to be a medical officer on a one-year tour of duty in Antarctica, and he completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Oxford University in England.His military background includes the United States Army's Institute for Military Assistance, the Rhodesian SAS, and Selous Scouts [Rhodesian counterinsurgency forces]." 

There is something curious about Hatfill's claim, on his resume, to have worked concurrently with the U.S. Army Institute for Military Assistance in Fort Bragg and with the Rhodesian Special Air Squadron. Indeed, several of his associates have told the Prospect that Hatfill bragged of having been a double agent in South Africa -- which raises some intriguing questions. Was the U.S. military biowarfare program willing to hire and give sensitive security clearances to someone who had served in the apartheid-era South African military medical corps, and with white-led Rhodesian paramilitary units in Zimbabwe's civil war two decades earlier? Or did Hatfill serve in the Rhodesian SAS, and later in the South African military medical corps, at the behest of the U.S. government?

In any case, when Hatfill returned to the United States in 1995, he took a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. A former colleague there describes Hatfill as very bright but restless. He jumped from project to project, becoming increasingly interested in the bioterrorism defense work spearheaded by the U.S. Army lab in nearby Frederick. After Hatfill landed his dream job as a research scientist at USAMRIID in 1997, the former NIH colleague says he rarely heard from him again. 

But Hatfill only stayed at USAMRIID until 1999. Why did he leave his dream job so quickly? Certainly, Hatfill did not leave for lack of interest in bioterrorism. On the contrary, during his two-year stint at the laboratory, Hatfill became increasingly invested in the issue. 

Indeed, Hatfill has been offering the press warnings about bioterror-attack scenarios for several years. His first high-profile media moment came shortly after April 24, 1997, when an 8-by-10-inch manila envelope oozing red gelatinous goo was delivered to the offices of B'nai B'rith International in Washington, D.C.. More than 100 employees were quarantined for eight hours in the building on 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, while the two workers who had come into contact with the package were stripped to their underwear and hosed down on the street with decontaminating bleach. 

The substance in the envelope turned out to be bacillus cereus -- a non-pathogenic cousin to anthrax that is often found in anthrax hoax packages. The envelope came complete with a typed, two-page rambling note that included such statements as "the only good Jew is an Orthodox Jew." 

A flurry of press attention followed. Among the reports was a piece in The Washington Times by a contributor named Fred Reed. "A sort of terrorism that hasn't gotten a lot of attention, but may yet, is bio-terrorism," Reed wrote in the article, published August 11, 1997. He continued: 

A fellow I know is Steve Hatfill, a medical doctor with years of experience in the Third World, and therefore with the diseases to be found there. What would happen, he wonders, if terrorists, with or without the support of governments like Iraq's, tried to use diseases as biological weapons against America? How would they do it? Dr. Hatfill has thought carefully about bio-terrorism. He made some intriguing points. To wit: 

There exist at least four reasonably distinct levels of possible biological attack. 

The first is the B'nai B'rith variety, in which no real organisms are used.("Hello. This is Abdul. We have put anthrax in the food at Throckmorton Middle School." In fact, Abdul hasn't.) We empty public buildings for bomb threats. How about for anthrax threats? After all, sooner or later one might be real. 

The second level consists in the release of real bacteria or viruses, but without the intention of infecting many people. For example, a bad guy might spray plague bacteria around the men's room in the World Trade Center. Probably only a few people would get it, and perhaps none would die -- but it would take only one plague case to shut down the entire building, especially if the bug had been sprayed on several floors.

The same year, Hatfill posed for a photo in his kitchen, decked out in an Army supply gas mask and protective body gear made of white trash bags. The photo appeared in Insight magazine's January 26, 1998, special issue on bioterrorism preparedness. An accompanying caption asserted that a determined terrorist could grow deadly plague harvested from wild prairie dogs, and process the germs using household supplies purchased from a grocery story, nurtured in a broth culture heated carefully in his own oven. 

In the same issue of Insight, Hatfill commented on two mysterious 1997 incidents that shut down Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., airports, respectively, due to unidentified gases that made some waiting passengers ill. "Hatfill says these types of incidents could be a form of testing for a possible future terrorist attack -- perhaps next time using anthrax," journalist Timothy Maier wrote in his story. "It could be a simple procedure of slipping a chemical into a paint sprayer, [Hatfill] says." 

In all his appearances in The Washington Times, Insight, and other print sources, Hatfill stressed a single, consistent message: The United States is woefully under-prepared for an inevitable biological terrorism scenario. It's a sentiment shared by many of Hatfill's colleagues in the U.S. bio-defense community -- in particular, William C. Patrick, one of the founders of the U.S. biological weapons program. 

In January 1999, Hatfill went to work for Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a large defense contractor. As a specialist in biological defenses working on contract for various government agencies, Hatfill continued to have access to the Fort Detrick lab; the Army's chemical weapons defense testing facility in Edgewood, Maryland; Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah; and other government labs and military facilities depending on his assignments. 

While colleagues at SAIC say that Hatfill's clients adored him, some of them grew concerned about Hatfill this February, after The (Baltimore) Sun ran a story -- not mentioning Hatfill -- about a scientist who was seen taking biosafety cabinets from USAMRIID, at the same time that Hatfill lost his government-issued security clearance and consequently his job at SAIC. Why did he lose his clearance? One military official recounts the story he says Hatfill told him. In this telling, the difficulties began last summer, when Hatfill allegedly applied for a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (TS/SCI) security clearance in order to bid for a top-secret contract with a government agency, perhaps the CIA. 

To qualify for this clearance, he was reportedly required to take a polygraph test. Hatfill allegedly told the military official that he failed the polygraph on questions concerning his activities in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The people conducting the polygraph were amateurs, Hatfill allegedly complained to his interlocutor; they couldn't understand what Cold Warriors like himself had to do in Rhodesia. The military official recalls Hatfill as saying that his father-in-law had been killed by rebels in Rhodesia, and that he had consequently undertaken some actions that caused concern when he was given his polygraph test. 

Hatfill has appealed the loss of his security clearance in a process that is pending. In the meantime, some former SAIC colleagues have gone to the FBI with concerns that nagged them in the wake of October's letters. They have pointed out that Hatfill was in the UK around November 15 for a business meeting at the very place and time from which a little-publicized hoax anthrax letter was apparently sent to Senator Tom Daschle. One colleague recounts specific comments Hatfill made about the mistakes made by the anthrax-letter perpetrator in his or her planning. For instance, Hatfill allegedly said that anyone who knew "how to grow anthrax spores of one to three microns had to know that the hole in an envelope is 10 microns and that the spores would escape." 

It's not easy to shine a light into the secretive world of U.S. military bio-warfare defense work. And it's awfully hard to tell suspicious activities from ordinary ones when you're casting about in the dark. For instance, as previously mentioned, in August 2000 scientists at USAMRIID saw Hatfill taking some old biosafety cabinets from a hallway, throwing them in the back of his car, and driving off. Theoretically, the cabinets could have enabled a knowledgeable user to cultivate deadly germs off-site. One scientist reported the incident to the FBI with understandable concern. But a spokeswoman for the U.S. Special Forces told the Prospect that Hatfill was authorized to take the cabinets as props for a then-classified training session, in which he was to show Special Forces how to recognize a makeshift germ lab. The cabinets were destroyed after two demonstrations, the spokeswoman said. 

The cabinets episode raises important questions about the concerns some of Hatfill's colleagues have raised. Do they reflect, as some Hatfill acquaintances feared, suspicious actions and statements, or just the musings of an expert during an extraordinary time of public scrutiny in his very field of study? Were Hatfill's colleagues right to be concerned, or were they seized by the mood of paranoia then gripping the nation? By several accounts, Hatfill appears to believe that such speculations and the snooping of journalists cost him his job. Whether the FBI's assertion earlier this week that Hatfill is not a suspect in the case will quiet these suspicions remains to be seen. 

Laura Rozen

FBI's anthrax probe focuses on scientists

The Trenton Times
Friday, June 28, 2002

WASHINGTON - The FBI is closely scrutinizing 20 to 30 scientists nationwide for possible connections to last fall's deadly anthrax attacks, including a biodefense researcher whose home and storage facility were searched this week, a U.S. government official said yesterday.

The FBI has a special interest in Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, whose Frederick, Md., apartment and storage facility were searched Tuesday based solely on his past interest in bioterrorism and his access to anthrax, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

Hatfill is a "person of interest" - a group that includes 20 to 30 researchers nationwide whose expertise and access might have given them the knowledge and opportunity to send the deadly anthrax letters, the official said. 

The homes of some of the other researchers also have been searched, said a federal law-enforcement official, who also spoke anonymously. 

A powder form of anthrax was sent through the mail last fall to several news organizations and political leaders in letters that originated in the Trenton area. 

FBI officials said they have conducted many searches during the investigation, but all of them, including an earlier search of Hatfill's house and car, were done quietly with no media attention. 

For example, in December two agents visited the home of Joseph Farchaus, another former scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Maryland. 

The scientist now lives in the Bloomsbury section of Holland Township in northern Hunterdon County, which geographically interests investigators. 

The Trenton area remains, to some extent, the heart of the FBI's probe, which was labeled "Amerithrax" last fall. 

The last paper Farchaus published before leaving the infectious diseases institute concerned putting anthrax in aerosol form. 

The agents asked questions, searched the man's home and later gave him a polygraph test, which he passed. His New York attorney, Donald Buchwald, said Wednesday the FBI has not contacted him since. 

Yesterday, Buchwald said Farchaus was not interested in talking to the media. 

  -- -- -- 

Despite having focused its investigation on scientists, the FBI still believes the attacker may not be associated with anthrax research, the official said. 

Hatfill commissioned a 1999 study depicting a hypothetical anthrax attack by mail while working for defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., said Ben Haddad, spokesman for the San Diego-based company. 

The study was written by bioterrorism expert William C. Patrick III and describes placing 2.5 grams of Bacillus globigii, a simulated form of anthrax, in a standard business envelope, The Baltimore Sun reported. 

The newspaper said portions of the study were read to it by a person who has a copy. 

Hatfill, 48, is listed on the Web site for the University of Zimbabwe Medical School as a 1983 graduate, and he provided to the school his e-mail address from SAIC. Investigators also have confirmed that Hatfill is a graduate of the school. 

The university is near the Greendale neighborhood of the capital Harare. "Greendale School" in Franklin Park, N.J., was printed in large block letters as the false return address on the anthrax-laden envelopes sent to U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. 

Franklin Park is a mailing address for a swath of suburbia in three New Jersey municipalities: Franklin Township in Somerset County, and North Brunswick and South Brunswick in Middlesex County. 

Letters to the New York Post and NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw carried no return address but had the same block caps handwriting and prepaid postal envelopes. 

The four known anthrax letters were put into the mailstream in the Trenton area and were processed at the regional postal processing center on Route 130 in Hamilton, which was closed Oct. 18 and later found to be contaminated with anthrax. 

The massive building is in line to be disinfected after the Brentwood facility in Washington, D.C., is decontaminated. 

Nationwide, five people died from inhalation anthrax and several others contracted the less severe skin form, including four local residents. 

One U.S. investigator cautioned that the FBI has been unable to place Hatfill near Trenton during the time the anthrax letters were mailed. 

In Florida, meanwhile, FBI agents on Wednesday searched a storage facility in Ocala used by Hatfill. 

Haddad said Hatfill and another scientist, Joseph Soukup, commissioned the report in February 1999 in their official capacity as employees of the contractor's biomedical sciences group. 

"These people asked him to put his thoughts down regarding this subject, so that's why he's listed their names on the report," Haddad said. 

Haddad wouldn't release the report, saying it was prepared for the SAIC, not the federal government. He said SAIC employees tap all kinds of scientists for reports, not just studies of anthrax. 

Hatfill's telephone at the Detrick Plaza Apartments near Fort Detrick has been disconnected, and no one answered a knock on the door yesterday by an Associated Press reporter. 

  -- -- -- 

Hatfill has denied involvement in the anthrax mailings, complaining to The Sun in a March telephone message that he had been fired from the defense contractor and blaming news media inquiries. 

"I've been in this field for a number of years, working until 3 o'clock in the morning, trying to counter this type of weapon of mass destruction, and, sir, my career is over at this time," Hatfill said. 

Hatfill worked in the virology division of the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, said Chuck Dasey, a spokesman for the western Maryland base. He worked for two years at the institute on a fellowship from the National Research Council, Dasey said. 

He stopped working at Fort Detrick in September 1999 and was employed by SAIC until March 4. 

The Sun said Hatfill was dismissed after his Defense Department security clearance was suspended Aug. 23. Haddad said he couldn't comment on the report. 

A U.S. law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AP that Hatfill's security clearance expired and never was renewed. Such clearances must be renewed every five years. 

That official described Hatfill as one of perhaps 200 people, overall, the FBI is interested in investigating further. The FBI has conducted about 25 searches of homes or apartments, always with the consent of the person interviewed, the official said. 

Hatfill was first interviewed by the FBI in December, the official said. 

Although Hatfill likely had access to anthrax in labs shared with bacteriology researchers, his primary duties did not involve working with anthrax, Dasey said. 

Copyright 2002 New Jersey Online. All Rights Reserved.

FBI planning new search at anthrax scene

By Eric Rosenberg 
Hearst Washington Bureau 

Web Posted : 06/30/2002 12:00 AM 

WASHINGTON — FBI investigators seeking additional clues into who's behind the deadly anthrax attacks last year are planning to re-enter the scene of the first crime, the sealed Florida offices of American Media Inc.

Judy Orihuela, a spokeswoman for the FBI field office in Miami, said agents want to look through the building, which has been quarantined since early October. 

"Before, when we were there, we took samples," she said. "My understanding is that they want to be more thorough."

Orihuela declined to comment on the specifics of what FBI investigators are searching for at the company that publishes the National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids.

In a separate development, FBI officials last week searched the Maryland apartment and Florida storage facility of a former Army researcher, Steven Hatfill.

The apartment is at Fort Detrick, Md., the home of the Army's biodefense laboratories. The storage facility is in Ocala, Fla., about 230 miles northwest of the American Media Inc. (AMI) offices in the Atlantic Coast city of Boca Raton.

Law enforcement officials say Hatfill isn't a suspect in the anthrax killings.

The AMI building last was examined in October, when investigators in spacesuit-style protective clothing searched the facility for the source of the anthrax bacterium that killed Robert Stevens, 63, a photography editor at AMI.

Stevens died Oct. 7 of inhalation anthrax, an especially deadly and rare variant. 

He was the first of five people to die from anthrax last year in what FBI officials believe was a coordinated bioterror attack by an individual who may have a scientific background and associations with agencies or laboratories that use anthrax for study.

The other anthrax fatalities included two postal workers in Washington, a New York hospital worker and an elderly Connecticut woman.

Authorities believe the deaths occurred after the individuals came in contact with mail that had been contaminated with anthrax spores.

Investigators concluded there were anthrax spores on Stevens' computer keyboard. 

Another worker at the AMI building was treated for coetaneous anthrax, a variant that appears on the skin.

The FBI has yet to make an arrest in the case. The agency has expended a huge amount of brain power and shoe leather to try and nab the perpetrator or perpetrators. They have conducted nearly 6,000 interviews and served about 1,700 grand jury subpoenas.

The Palm Beach County Health Department sealed the AMI offices Oct. 7, and since then only federal investigators and an air conditioning repair crew hired by AMI have been inside. 

Tim O'Connor of the Palm Beach County health department said the building "has been virtually untouched since the incident."

The FBI agents will re-enter the building in coordination with a team of several dozen investigators, including scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a unit of the CDC focused on managing public health hazards.

"What I have heard is there may be some follow-up activities (by the FBI) once we leave the facility," said Elwin Grant, a spokesman for the CDC in Atlanta.

The CDC and toxic substances agency want access to the building for purposes separate from the criminal investigation. 

They want to conduct tests that would be used to help thwart the effects of any future anthrax attacks, said Kathy Skipper, a spokeswoman for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

"We've put together a proposal to go into the building to do an examination which would have real-world utility," said Skipper, who added that the AMI building would provide an ideal laboratory to observe anthrax in an office setting.

"Should anything like this happen again, the tests would help us better understand how the material moves, who might be most at risk from a letter that came through the system, where the anthrax is likely to disperse and how might it disperse," she said.

Investigators are negotiating with AMI over entry to the building. 

Concerned about liability issues, company officials say they are against allowing anyone inside until the government takes ownership.

"It comes down to this: the building is a public health hazard," said Gerald McKelvey, an AMI spokesman based in New York.

McKelvey added that the company had offered to give the building to the federal government.

Florida health officials added that AMI isn't likely to convince its employees to return to the building, even if it is cleaned of anthrax, as was the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington.

The Senate building was contaminated after an anthrax-laced letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Health authorities still are waiting to sanitize the main mail sorting facility in Washington where the two postal workers contracted anthrax.


The Zimbabwe Sunday Mirror
Tuesday 9 July, 2002 
National News 

Ex-Rhodesian under probe for US anthrax attacks

Innocent Chofamba-Sithole and Norman Mlambo

DECEASED former professor of anatomy at the University of Zimbabwe, Robert Burns Symington, and his student, Steven J. Hatfill, have been linked to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into last October’s anthrax attacks in the US, the Sunday Mirror has learnt. 

Symington, whom former colleagues at the then Godfrey Huggins School of Medicine have described as a “little white supremacist”, allegedly facilitated the entry into the Medical School of Steven J. Hatfill, the man the FBI has now targeted as the prime suspect in the US anthrax attacks last year, which perpetuated terrorism in the wake of the September 11 aerial attacks. “I did suspect that Symington was connected to the military, but I did not know his connection with Hatfill. I only thought Hatfill had come (into medical school) via the military since he had connections with the Rhodesian army,” said a senior staff member at the UZ School of Medicine who declined to be named. He was one of Symington’s colleagues in the school’s department of anatomy and also a lecturer of Hatfill.

Hatfill served in Rhodesia’s Special Air Service (SAS) and the Selous Scouts before joining the Godfrey Huggins School of Medicine. The question has been asked, why and how an American citizen joined Rhodesia’s medical school.

“The only time we admit non-Zimbabweans is when a student comes from a country without a school of medicine,” explained the source. Symington is strongly believed to have worked with the Ian Smith-led white supremacist regime on its biological warfare project, which resulted in the world’s worst recorded outbreak of anthrax in the latter phase of Zimbabwe’s liberation war, between 1978 and 1980. Over 10 738 human cases of anthrax were reported, while over 180 people died. At that time, only about 7 000 cases were recorded world wide annually. The worst affected areas were the southern parts of the country, and these are still prone to anthrax to this day.

The Zimbabwe authorities have since established that Ian Smith’s security forces, particularly the much feared Selous Scouts, stealthily distributed the deadly anthrax spore among the hungry cattle of the Rhodesian Tribal Trust Lands, where most Africans lived, and seeded cholera into the rivers. Thirteen years after Zimbabwe’s independence, a former senior white member of the Rhodesian Security forces admitted the use of anthrax in the war by the military. “It is true that anthrax was used in an experimental role and the idea came from the Army Psychological Operations,” he said. The strategy was to blame the guerillas for cattle deaths and win a psychological victory, while also depriving them of food. The spreading of cholera epidemics among the villages was also meant to destabilise the guerillas and their infrastructure.

Unable to reconcile himself to black majority rule at independence, Symington moved to South Africa, where he died of a heart attack a year after joining the University of Cape Town. But that was not before the Zimbabwean government set up a committee to probe him for deliberately failing a group of African students in 1981.

Black students at the then-University of Rhodesia had always suspected Symington of engaging in sinister bio-chemical experiments in conjunction with the Rhodesian military. He was one of the major focus points of the 1972 student demonstration, which led to the suspension of several student leaders, including the late poet Dambudzo Marechera, Witness Mangwende, Ibbo Mandaza, Simba Makoni, and Heneri Dzinotyiwei. Symington at one time tried to douse Marechera with sulphuric acid, to which the maverick poet responded by hurling a rock at him. Marechera later described the incident in his book, “The House of Hunger”, when he made reference to “ the fascist professor whose black bullet-head” he “missed by inches”.

When Symington’s protégé, Hatfill graduated from the University of Zimbabwe in 1984 he also went to South Africa, where he obtained several master’s degrees and a doctorate, before joining apartheid South Africa’s military medical corps on a one-year tour of duty to Antarctica.

Hatfill is now known to be a former United States bio-defence scientist at Fort Detrick’s Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases who served in the Special Air Squadron Service and the notorious Selous Scouts of the white supremacist regime in Rhodesia. He belongs to a small pool of people who had access to and detailed knowledge of how to grow and weaponise the highly lethal, concentrated dry powder spores of anthrax that were sent to media personnel and members of the US Congress last October.

According to an article written by Laura Rozen, published last week on The American Prospect website, Hatfill’s “biography is riddled with gaps where classified projects presumably belong”. “From 1975 to 1978, he served with the US Army Institute for Military Assistance . . . while simultaneously serving in the Special Air Squadron (SAS) of the white supremacist regime in Rhodesia”, Rozen writes. Rozen queries whether Hatfill could have served in the Rhodesian SAS, and later in the South African military medical corps, at the behest of the US government. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof mentioned in May this year that there was evidence that the anthrax used in the American attack “was released by the white Rhodesian army fighting guerillas, and Mr. Z (Hatfill) 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?” Kristof asked, rhetorically.

Zimbabwean authorities have made several reports that indicate that Rhodesians were using biological warfare against guerillas during the liberation war, but these have not received international coverage. 

from the July 10, 2002 edition -

Anthrax case homes in on unusual suspect

The FBI narrows list of people it wants to interview to 30 scientists at two army labs.

By Faye Bowers | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor 

WASHINGTON - The FBI has someone in mind. He is a loner, a science nerd with access to a sophisticated lab. He has a reason to be peeved, and he's familiar with the Trenton, N.J., area. This Unabomber-like person, officials say, mailed the anthrax-laced letters last fall that resulted in five deaths.

Narrowing its nine-month search in the past two weeks, the FBI has closed in on two government labs that work with anthrax, and to several scientists who have the expertise, the access, and possibly the motive to carry out the worst bioweapons attack against this country.

A government official says they are now focused "more heavily than other places" on the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) – the Pentagon's primary biodefense research center – and the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. He says the FBI has narrowed the list of people it's "interested in interviewing" to some 30 people – all US-based biological warfare experts.

Jerrold Post, professor of psychiatry at The George Washington University and a former personality profiler for the CIA, says the FBI's personality sketch sounds quite accurate. But he says the perpetrator's characteristics are also what make this case so difficult to solve.

If it's a group, Dr. Post says, it's much easier to track – there are financial transactions, phone calls, and often paper trails of some sort. But when it's one troubled individual – like the Unabomber, who killed three people and injured 23 more over a 17-year period – it's very difficult to catch him unless he trips himself up (as by publishing his manifesto in a newspaper that his brother read). Everything points to "someone with technical expertise and ability," Post says.

Casting a wide net 

The FBI has questioned several biodefense experts recently, and searched several private homes – with their owners' permission. They've interviewed one former USAMRIID virologist four times and searched his home twice. And they are currently administering polygraph tests to more than 200 former and current employees of these two government labs which store quantities of anthrax spores.

The government official says this is just really "a lot of tedious spade-work."

A massive sleuthing effort

But this wearisome gumshoe effort has, in fact, become the FBI's second-largest inquiry – just behind the Sept. 11 hijackings investigation. The bureau has asked most of its field offices and overseas staff to help.  So far, agents have interviewed some 5,000 people, issued 1,700 grand jury subpoenas, polygraphed hundreds of people, and created 112 databases just for this case. The bottom line hasn't been tallied, but both dollars and man-hours are up in the high millions. Still, it's not clear when the FBI will make an arrest.  And its effort – sometimes called plodding – is coming under attack.

"I have been puzzled by the slow pace," says Jonathan Tucker, director of the chemical and biological weapons nonproliferation program at the Washington-based Monterey Institute. "It is hard to know if it is because [the FBI has] never done anything like this before and are on a steep learning curve, or if it's merely incompetence, or if something more nefarious is going on within the intelligence community."

Dr. Tucker is referring to charges lodged by several biodefense insiders, but especially those by the outspoken Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, chair of the Federation of American Scientists Working Group on Biological Weapons.

Controversial claims

She claims the FBI has long had genetic evidence that points to the USAMRIID as the source of the Ames strain of anthrax sent in the letters. Dr. Rosenberg, who says she's talked with the Senate Judiciary Committee staff, as well as FBI officials, says that early in the investigation, several biodefense insiders told the FBI that there were only 50 to 100 people "with the necessary expertise and access to do the job. Of these, most could probably be readily eliminated ... leaving, in the estimation of knowledgeable experts, a likely pool no larger than 10."

"Yet they've been casting a very broad net," she says. "It makes no sense."

She points out that the FBI did not open the envelope with the anthrax intact that was sent in October to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont until December, and didn't collect anthrax strains from labs for comparisons until March. The testing of those samples is still not complete.

Even so, the government official says they have not ruled anything out – including someone who doesn't fit the profile, such as a foreigner, or someone who doesn't work at a biodefense lab. The FBI may be reluctant to press its case to the DOJ until it has an airtight case (remember Richard Jewell and the Atlanta Olympics as well as Wen Ho Lee).

"The FBI will need enough solid evidence to bring to the DOJ [Department of Justice]. It's the DOJ that issues warrants – when they think the FBI has enough to go on," says Peter Crooks, a retired FBI official who specialized in counterterrorism.

Who Is Syed Athar Abbas?
And what was he doing with a $100,000 "fine particulate mixer" last summer?
by David Tell 
07/17/2002 10:00:00 AM 

BACK IN APRIL, having marinated myself in a decade's worth of published microbiology research and whatnot, I wrote a longish story for the Standard expressing near total bewilderment about the FBI's investigation of last fall's anthrax terrorism. Specifically, I couldn't understand why the Bureau seemed so strongly inclined to the view that its suspect was a lone American scientist--and so little inclined to take seriously the possibility that those mail-borne murders might
somehow have been connected with the hijackings of September 11.

Well, three months have gone by now, and even though solid evidence seems ever more elusive the FBI says it still prefers the domestic terrorism scenario--far and away--over any and all competitors. And while I still have (all) my doubts, I feel obliged to note that the trend of opinion in the community of outside anthrax investigation kibbitzers is running hard against me. 

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg of the Federation of American Scientists, the influential conspiracy theorist whom I cuffed around sarcastically in my April piece, has grown increasingly confident--and precise and personal--in her speculations about "the" American perpetrator. Other such internet-based anthrax sleuths have gone further, fingering Rosenberg's current top suspect by name: He is a former staff scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, one Dr. Steven Hatfill. Indeed, so appealing is the idea of Hatfill's guilt, apparently, that no less an eminence than Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has twice published columns (here and here) describing him in exhaustive detail--thinly disguised as "Mr. Z"--and wondering aloud why the FBI hasn't long since busted the guy. 

Seems to me the Times's libel attorneys must be mighty relieved that Kristof has chickened out with that "Mr. Z" business. Seems to me the case against Hatfill is based entirely (and torturously) on the circumstantial overlap of his biography with an arbitrary suspect profile. Seems to me that if the Bureau does wind up running him in--they've already searched his apartment while tipped off news crews from local Frederick, Maryland TV stations hovered overhead in helicopters--we could well have another Richard Jewell situation on our hands. Seems to me that the anthrax conspiracy junkies are excited by Hatfill for the same perfectly understandable but not especially persuasive reason that they are unexcited by any number of other possible culprits: Human nature makes us want to bend and improve reality the better to fit our preconceptions. 

Me, though, I like to think I don't have any preconceptions about the anthrax case. Could be the bad guy was an American, I figure. On the other hand, could be someone from, say . . . Pakistan. 

Speaking of which--and trusting that the discussion will not spoil my status as a down-the-line anthrax-case agnostic--let me here introduce you to a Pakistani gentleman named Syed Athar Abbas. 

The Newark, New Jersey office of local U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie has kindly provided me a fax copy of the April 23, 2002 plea agreement--signed by Mr. Abbas on June 10--according to which said Pakistani gentleman now waives his right to prosecution by indictment and agrees, instead, to acknowledge guilt in connection with a one-count felony "information" alleging his participation in an elaborate check-kiting scheme. Abbas, it appears, "from on or about June 7, 2001, through on or about July 10, 2001," defrauded two banks, a Wells Fargo branch in Woodland Hills, California and a Fleet Bank branch in Fort Lee, New Jersey, of slightly more than $100,000--by manipulating three checking accounts he'd opened for a bogus Fort Lee business alternately known as "Dot Com Computer" and "Cards.Com." 

None of which by itself makes Abbas particularly noteworthy or ties him, even inferentially, to the anthrax letters or any other form of terrorism. True, it turns out that the FBI, pursuing some thus far undisclosed lead, originally went looking for Abbas--in the first few days after September 11--at his presumed address on the top floor of a commercial building in Fort Lee. And Fort Lee is thought to have been home at some point to Nawaq and Salem Alhamzi, both of whom helped fly American Airlines Flight 77 into the side of the Pentagon. And the FBI could not locate Abbas at first because, so says his former landlord, the man had suddenly abandoned his Fort Lee lease
more than a month before--and had disappeared without a trace. 

But Abbas wasn't really on the lam, reports his court-appointed lawyer; he'd merely flown home to Pakistan to care for his dying father. And in (nearly) every other respect, Abbas is indistinguishable from hundreds of other Middle Eastern immigrants swept up--in Fort Lee and other such communities--by the FBI's post-9/11 dragnet. Most have been questioned and released. A few dozen of them have been lengthily detained, pending deportation, for minor immigration violations. And a handful, like Abbas, have been subject to other criminal charges, like bank fraud, that carry no explicit whiff of terrorism. Syed Athar Abbas is not that big a deal, you would think. In fact, Syed Athar Abbas is someone you and I would otherwise never have heard of, because so far as I can tell, in the entire world of internet journalism--and legitimate journalism, too--no one has ever before so much as mentioned his name . . . 

Except for a single reporter named Rocco Parascandola, who covers law enforcement and the courts for Newsday in New York. Only Rocco Parascandola--in two short dispatches for his paper, one this past December 27 and one just this week, on Monday--has noticed something interesting about Mr. Abbas. Rocco Parascandola has noticed, because his "law enforcement sources" have told him as much, that when the FBI first sought to interview Abbas back in September, they did not discover that he was a run-of-the-mill check-kiting scam artist who nevertheless loved his father like every good boy should. No, what the FBI discovered, instead, was that Syed Athar Abbas was an abruptly vanished fugitive who, using an alias, had recently "arranged to pay $100,000 in cash"--roughly the amount he'd stolen from Wells Fargo and Fleet--for the purchase and shipment of a "fine-food particulate mixer," a "sophisticated machine used commercially" to do various things you wouldn't expect an outfit called "Computers Dot Com" to do. Like "mix chemicals," for example. 


Mr. Parascandola reports that it's been established Abbas did take possession of this machine at the "Computers Dot Com" offices in Fort Lee last summer, but had the thing "immediately transported elsewhere" before taking off himself for Pakistan. Federal investigators, Parascandola adds, "have not been able to locate the industrial food mixer" in question, which problem continues to be of some "concern." All the more so because, despite his guilty plea and promise of restitution to the banks he bilked, Abbas has "refused to cooperate with investigators trying to find out more about his accomplices or the mixer." 


The $100,000 particulate mixer Parascandola describes, incidentally, is the exact same technology commonly employed by major food and pharmaceutical manufacturers to process fluid-form organic and inorganic compounds into powder: first to dry those compounds; next to grind the resulting mixture into tiny specks of dust, as small as a single micron in diameter; then to coat those dust specks with a chemical additive, if necessary, to maximize their motility or "floatiness"; and finally to aerate the stuff for end-use packaging. In other words, this is how you'd put Aunt Jemima pancake mix in its box. Or place concentrations of individual anthrax spores into letters addressed to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. 


Again, mind you, I know of no hard evidence to suggest that Syed Athar Abbas is "the" anthrax terrorist--or any kind of anthrax terrorist, for that matter. My only point is this: Nicholas Kristof and the rest of them have no hard evidence that poor Steven "Mr. Z" Hatfill is "the" anthrax terrorist, either, and yet they're all but calling him guilty anyway. Why? Mostly because he fits their preexisting suspect profile, that's why: Hatfill is a native-born American citizen with a scientific background in toxic organisms. Were Hatfill instead a Pakistani immigrant who'd recently completed a suspicious purchase of the expensive machinery necessary to weaponize toxic organisms, well . . . how much you want to bet he'd have gone completely ignored? The way Mr. Abbas has been ignored?

David Tell is opinion editor of The Weekly Standard.

Sun 16 Jun 2002

War on terror: FBI ‘guilty of cover-up’ over anthrax suspect 


AMERICAN investigators know the identity of the killer who paralysed the US by sending anthrax in the post but will not arrest the culprit, according to leading US scientists. 

For several months the Federal Bureau of Investigation has claimed it has few leads and little evidence about the group or individual who targeted politicians and media organisations. 

Their failure to arrest a suspect has compounded other failures of the American security agencies to take action which could have prevented the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. 

This week, the FBI and John Ashcroft, the attorney general, were at the centre of controversy when they claimed that they had apprehended an American citizen intent on detonating a ‘‘dirty bomb’’, a conventional bomb which would contaminate a large area with radioactive material. Both were forced to admit that there was no evidence that Jose Padile had done little more than associate with suspected al-Qaeda agents in Pakistan. 

Last week scientists at Fort Detrick, the US Army’s top secret biological warfare research centre at Fort Detrick, Maryland said the FBI had looked at ways in which anthrax could have been smuggled out of the complex. 

At a time when the Bush administration is beefing up America’s Homeland Security defences any indication of progress by the FBI should be good news, but one prominent and well-respected biowarfare expert believes the FBI has not only known the identity of the terrorist for months but has conspired with other branches of the US government to keep it secret. 

Dr Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, director of the biological warfare division at the Federation of American Scientists, first accused the FBI of foot-dragging in February with a scathing investigation that included a portrait of the possible perpetrator so detailed that it could only match one person. 

Rosenberg said she knows who that person is and so do a top-level clique of US government scientists, the CIA, the FBI and the White House. 

"Early in the investigation," Rosenberg told Scotland on Sunday, "a number of inside experts, at least five that I know about, gave the FBI the name of one specific person as the most likely suspect. That person fits the FBI profile in most respects. He has the right skills, experience with anthrax, up-to-date anthrax vaccination, forensic training, and access to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (AMRIID) and its biological agents through 2001." 

Rosenberg’s profile suggests that the suspect is a middle-aged scientist with a doctoral degree who works for a CIA contractor in Washington DC. She adds he has to know or have worked closely with Bill Patrick, the weapons researcher who holds five secret patents on how to produce weapons-grade anthrax, that he suffered a career setback last summer that embittered him and precipitated his campaign and that he has already been investigated by the FBI. 

Most crucially, she believes the suspect has in the past actually conducted experiments for the government to test the response of the police and civil agencies to a bioterror attack. 

"It has been part of the suspect’s job to devise bioterror scenarios," Rosenberg said. "Some of these are on record. He is known to have acted out at least one of them, in hoax form, perhaps as part of an assignment to test responses. Some hoax events that have never been solved, including several hoax-anthrax events, also correspond to his scenarios and are consistent with his whereabouts." 

The question she wants the FBI and the Bush administration to answer is, why it has taken so long to arrest this man? In the unlikely event that the government divulges all it knows about what she now believes to be a full blown cover-up, Rosenberg said responsibility can be expected to fall on a number of government agencies, all with a vested interest in shielding the truth. 

"Either the FBI is under pressure from the Pentagon or CIA not to proceed because the suspect knows too much and must be controlled forever from the moment of arrest," she said, "or the FBI is sympathetic to the views of the biodefence clique or the FBI really is as incompetent as it seems." 

Rosenberg’s analysis suggests a combination of all three. The American defence establishment guards its secrets well and given the suspect’s covert work on their behalf their reluctance to see him publicly exposed appears natural. 

Equally there is evidence that some of the suspect’s colleagues are not unhappy with the fallout from his terror attacks. Rosenberg cites David Franz, a former commander of USAMRIID who earlier this year said of the anthrax campaign: "I think a lot of good has come from it. From a biological or a medical standpoint, we’ve now five people who have died, but we’ve put about $6bn in our budget into defending against bioterrorism." 

As for FBI incompetence there are few in America today who have any doubt that the venerable agency made a serious of terrible errors before 9/11 and has conspicuously failed to conduct a solid investigation since. 

Earlier this week, congressmen questioned George Tenet, the director of the CIA, about the arrest of Padile and the claims made about his mission. The congressmen were concerned that the attorney general was unduly alarmist about the nature of the plans Padile had made. 

It appeared that Padile’s arrest was announced to bolster the image of the FBI and emphasise the continuing threat to the US. Instead the announcement raised questions about why Padile was arrested on arriving in the US rather than being watched to establish the identity of his associates and the source of the radioactive material he would need for a dirty bomb. 

George Soros, the billionaire financier, accused the Bush administration of deliberately manipulating the aftermath of September 11 and the arrest of Padile to promote an authoritarian agenda. 

‘"I feel that what happened was that Ashcroft (the attorney general) basically detonated a ‘dirty bomb’ plot. The plot is his. The detonation is his. The Bush administration is exploiting the terrorist threat for its purposes, to generate fear and to overcome constitutional constraints on the use of force,’’ he said.

This article:

U.S. considers takeover of tainted AMI building for use as anthrax lab

By Kathy Bushouse
Staff Writer

July 19, 2002

The American Media Inc. building in Boca Raton, site of the nation's first anthrax attack last fall, could soon belong to the federal government.

A plan is in the works that would have AMI turn over the building to the federal government, which could then use it as a laboratory for investigators seeking clues about the anthrax attacks. Bob Stevens, a photo editor for AMI tabloid The Sun, was one of the five people who died from anthrax exposure throughout the country.

The measure is expected to go next week before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations committee, said U.S. Rep Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, who is working on it with U.S. Rep Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton.

Should a takeover get approved, the government would be responsible for the building's cleanup, Shaw said.

"[AMI officials] find themselves in [an] impossible situation -- the private sector really has no way of sanitizing a building like this," Shaw said. "They have made the determination that it's in their best interest to simply abandon the building to the federal government."

The FBI already has expressed interest in using the building to learn more about how anthrax spreads, Shaw said.

Wexler said he was frustrated that it has taken so long to get the building cleaned up and said the federal government has dragged in taking action on the building.

"The sites where those [anthrax] attacks occurred in Washington and in New York have been cleaned up," Wexler said. "The site in Florida is not. It is a disaster waiting to happen."

The building has been closed since October, after federal health officials found traces of anthrax on a computer keyboard.

Stevens died on Oct. 5 and anthrax spores were later found to have spread to other spots in the building.

AMI spokesman Gerald McKelvey said the company "would look favorably on any reasonable solution" for what to do with the 67,000-square-foot building on Broken Sound Boulevard. The anthrax cleanup at U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle's Washington office cost $14 million, according to an estimate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The company moved its offices to another Boca Raton building, and had discussed returning to its space in the Arvida Park of Commerce if enough employees supported the idea. But last month AMI asked federal and local government officials to lobby for a federal takeover of the building.

Wexler said he didn't consider a government takeover as simply a way for AMI officials to get the building off their hands.

"I can understand people's concerns, but the fact remains I'm concerned about the building because it's a health issue," Wexler said. "It needs to be cleaned up, and the owner of the property isn't able to do it ... and shouldn't be required to do it. It was a terrorist attack."

The congressmen got an assist on Thursday from Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams, who went to Washington, D.C. to help lobby for the measure. He spent time talking to staff members in U.S. Sen. Bob Graham's office to see if Graham would be willing to sponsor the measure in the Senate, and spoke to House Majority Whip Tom DeLay about any procedural issues that could delay the measure.

"It's such a matter of concern, not only for the residents of Boca Raton but the folks who work in the Arvida Park of Commerce," Abrams said. "They were very receptive and staff is going to discuss it with the senator. We're hopeful that we'll have his support."

Wexler said he expects action to be taken quickly.

"If it doesn't get through, I'm going to go ballistic because this is a nightmare situation," he said.

Kathy Bushouse can be reached at or 561-243-6641. 

Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

July 14, 2002 Sunday TWO STAR EDITION



FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent. But the  investigation into the L.A. airport shooting July 4 is the latest indication  that it may.

Hesham Mohamed Hadayet stuffed two automatic pistols, extra clips of ammunition and a knife into his pockets, drove 45 miles to LAX, walked up to the El Al counter and blasted away. He killed two people and wounded others before being shot dead by El Al security. It took the FBI more than a day to conclude he'd gone to the airport intending to hurt people.

Special Agent in Charge Richard Garcia was quicker to dismiss "terrorism" as a motive for Hadayet's crime. He did this in a rambling and incoherent press conference hours after the shootings, even though FBI agents had yet to search Hadayet's home or interview his neighbors and co-workers.

The FBI is backtracking rapidly now that Israeli intelligence has identified Hadayet as a member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and an Arabic newspaper in  London reported that Hadayet met twice with Ayman Zawahiri, the Egyptian who is the No. 2 man in al-Qaida.

The bureau tends not to follow trails that lead in politically incorrect  directions. Consider now the anthrax investigation.

On Sept. 18, 2001, letters containing powdered anthrax were sent to NBC News and the New York Post. On Oct. 9, two more letters were sent to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. The anthrax in both was from the Ames strain developed at the Army lab at Fort Detrick, Md. But the anthrax in the letters sent to the senators was much more finely milled.

The Ames strain also claimed the life of Robert Stevens, an employee of American Media Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla., publisher of the National Enquirer and other tabloids. He died Oct. 5, the first known anthrax death.

Every bioterror incident in the last 100 years was the product of a conspiracy, according to a study by the National Defense University. But the FBI's working hypothesis is that the anthrax letters were mailed by a  disgruntled American scientist.

Why are they so sure? Look at the first anthrax incident of 2001 -- June  2001, that is. As The New York Times reported in March, a man named Ahmed Alhaznawi came to the emergency room at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale on June 25, 2001, for treatment of an ugly black lesion on his leg. Dr. Christos  Tsonas had never seen a lesion of that kind before. Alhaznawi told him it had been caused by a bump. Tsonas prescribed an antibiotic.

Alhaznawi was one of the 9/11 hijackers of Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. He was accompanied to the doctor's office by Ziad Jarrah, another one of the Flight 93 hijackers. Tsonas' prescription was found among Alhaznawi's effects. When Tsonas was shown photos of lesions caused by anthrax, he said Alhaznawi's lesion looked exactly like them. Fort Lauderdale, by the way, is just a short drive from the American Media headquarters in Boca Raton.

If the anthrax letters were prepared and sent by a single rogue scientist,  the FBI ought to have found him by now. The list of scientists capable of  weaponizing anthrax is not long. The list of scientists who have had access to  the top secret areas at Fort Detrick is shorter. And no scientist, no matter how brilliant, could have prepared the anthrax on the workbench in his garage. For that, sophisticated equipment such as a centrifuge would be required. There aren't many private purchasers of such equipment.

The FBI hasn't found the terrorist lab. This could be because: (1) It is  extremely well hidden, (2) the FBI is unbelievably incompetent or (3) the  anthrax wasn't prepared in the United States.

The U.S. government gave a sample of the Ames virus to the British military lab at Porton Downs. U.S. intelligence agencies reported that Iraqi scientists tried in 1988 to get a sample of the Ames virus from Porton Downs, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said in a floor speech last month. Perhaps they succeeded.

"European government and CIA officials reported meetings between al-Qaida members and intelligence officials," said Rep. Pence. "The 9/11 hijackers also attempted to rent crop dusters, presumably as delivery vehicles. These are all facts that suggest an international connection."

Somebody should tell the FBI."

NOTES: Jack Kelly is national security writer for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of  Toledo, Ohio

Anthrax: The Noose Widens

Time Magazine
Sunday, Jul. 21, 2002

Despite recent claims by some in the bioterrorism community that the investigation should be homing in on one particular American bioweapons expert (who denies any involvement), the FBI appears to be moving in the opposite direction. U.S. government officials say the investigation is still ranging far and wide and that the FBI has not ruled out a foreign connection.  The charred remains thought to belong to hijackers from United Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, and American Airlines Flight 77, which smashed into the Pentagon, were examined for anthrax residue. None was found. All told, more than 5,000 interviews have been conducted and 1,700 subpoenas issued in what FBI officials say is one of the largest operations in the bureau's history. Sources tell TIME that 50 U.S. bioweapons experts have been targeted for the most intense scrutiny (including surveillance, searches of their homes and offices and even, in some cases, polygraph tests).  But the pool of suspects also contains hundreds more, including researchers of biopesticides, biopharmaceuticals and veterinary products. "Remember, it doesn't have to be a top scientist. It could just be a good bench technician," says a federal investigator. Beyond the anthrax labs, the feds have also looked into more than 1,000 companies that sell equipment that could be used to process the deadly spores or that could have profited in some way from the attacks. The FBI counsels patience, but that's a tough sell to the public and increasingly vocal critics.

A Lack of Teamwork

Clash of agencies hampered inquiry into anthrax mystery

By Laurie Garrett

July 23, 2002

Though many theories have surfaced about the source of the anthrax mailings last fall, and even the names of possible suspects, the FBI isn't close to solving the mystery, according to White House sources. And top intelligence officials say the FBI investigation, though vigorous, is foundering.

FBI insiders who spoke on condition they not be identified acknowledged that the agency is operating under "many hypotheses." They say the investigation, however, is proceeding in a methodical fashion.

Others describe a probe troubled by confusion and lack of coordination between criminal and public health investigators since the Oct. 4 anthrax death of American Media photo editor Robert Stevens in Boca Raton, Fla. Subsequent mailings killed four more people and sickened 18 others in New York, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and Connecticut.

"The problem goes back to the very first days in Florida," one intelligence source said. "That's when everything started going wrong."

Under fire for failing to take seriously clues leading up to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the FBI is officially close-mouthed about the anthrax investigation. But FBI sources told Newsday that when the obvious avenues of investigation - such as fingerprints or analysis of the envelopes - failed to pan out this winter, the bureau decided to go back to the basics. Teams of agents asked themselves what it would take to make and mail anthrax powder, creating lists of necessary skills and equipment.

The equipment list has led to thousands of interviews and inquiries regarding such things as purchase orders for glove box devices and biohazard suits that protect scientists while they work on deadly substances. The inventory of the skills needed to commit the crimes led to the names of hundreds of people who theoretically could manufacture powder of the caliber found in the letter opened Oct. 15 by a staffer for Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

Dozens of theories as to who was responsible have appeared in the media since last fall, mostly relying on information from non-FBI sources. FBI insiders, however, say no published account has correctly disclosed the investigation's leading hypotheses. The insiders refuse to indicate how the search may be narrowing. Has the FBI ruled out foreign powers or terrorist groups? Does the bureau believe a Unabomber-like lone operative is responsible?

A peek inside the investigation came in a Jan. 29 mass mailing from the FBI to microbiologists, which said: "This person is experienced working in a laboratory. Based on his or her selection of the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis one would expect that this individual has or had legitimate access to select biological agents at one time. This person has the technical knowledge and/or expertise to produce a highly refined and deadly product. This person has exhibited a clear, rational thought process and appears to be very organized in the production and mailing of these letters. The perpetrator might be described as 'standoffish' and likely prefers to work in isolation as opposed to a group/team setting."

Most recently the media focus has been on scientists who work or once worked at former U.S. bioweapons development sites at Fort Detrick, Md., and the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. It has been theorized that these scientists would have the skills, equipment and motivation to carry out anthrax attacks.

Nearly all published accounts of that theory cite the same source: Barbara Hatch Rosenberg of the Federation of American Scientists, a microbiologist and lifelong advocate of controlling biological weapons.

Rosenberg's assertions have been roundly denounced, publicly and privately, by prominent public health officials and former military personnel. Dr. Tara O'Toole, who directs the Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies at Johns Hopkins University, the most influential bioterrorism think tank in the world, has publicly dismissed the theory that the perpetrator is a disgruntled military scientist.

In June, FBI agents searched the home of one individual pointed to by Rosenberg, former private sector biodefense researcher Steven J. Hatfill, a microbiologist. Rosenberg has never fingered Hatfill by name - she refers to the suspected scientist sometimes as 'Mr. Z' in her writings, but her descriptions of Mr. Z closely resemble Hatfill. "I just have decided never to use names," Rosenberg said.

Hatfill, according to the FBI, eagerly agreed to the search of his home last month in hopes of clearing his name. Hatfill no longer responds to media queries. Sources inside the FBI say he is merely one "of hundreds" of people agents are looking at.

Dr. David Franz, who ran the Fort Detrick top-security laboratory during the 1990s, scoffs at the idea that any of his former employees or contractors could have carried out the attacks. He said no one from the FBI has questioned him about individuals who had worked for him there, or about anything else.

Several sources connected with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, located inside Fort Detrick, argue that their facility would not have been the proper place to obtain samples of the Ames strain of anthrax - the type used last fall. That's because the Army had long used a different strain, known as Velum, which originated in England, and only a small amount of the Ames strain was stored there.

A former Army colonel who worked on biodefense programs said the only site in the military research system that could make sense for a theft or production of anthrax powder is Dugway, where aerosol tests of bacterial powders are conducted. But, the colonel adamantly insisted, such tests are performed using only harmless bacteria.

Even as leads from Rosenberg and other outsiders draw disdain from FBI agents, the bureau itself has made some missteps, according to scientific and intelligence sources.

Six months ago, with its investigation apparently going nowhere, the FBI officially reached out to the American Society for Microbiology in a plea for any information that might help. Critics charge the FBI waited far too long to reach out to the scientific community and lacked the necessary internal expertise to pursue an aggressive sleuthing job inside the world of science without such guidance.

Rosenberg goes further in her criticism, when asked if the FBI was flubbing the investigation or deliberately resisting following all the leads.

"I suspect there's both," she said. "The observations certainly are that there are things they have known about and haven't acted on. And it's hard to explain either as incredible incompetence or reluctance. The likely perpetrator is almost certainly somebody who knows things that they would think were better not to come out."

On Thursday night, Oct. 4, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's chief of meningitis and special pathogens, Dr. Brad Perkins, had just nestled in for his daughter's piano recital when his cell phone rang. The CDC caller told Perkins a man employed at American Media Inc. in Boca Raton was hospitalized with inhalational anthrax. Fourteen hours later Perkins was in Florida leading a CDC investigation to determine how Stevens got infected with a remarkably rare microbe.

"Here you are, you're in Florida, you're down here where the terrorists trained, you just had 9/11," Perkins recalled in an interview in his spartan office at the CDC. "It's easy to conclude it's bioterrorism. But my responsibility was to rule out that it was a sporadic, natural case. That was very much the local focus."

Perkins took his team to the American Media building, where Stevens had worked. As they met with editors who knew Stevens, the phone rang: It was the hospital, informing American Media that Stevens, 63, had just died of anthrax poisoning.

"That was a fairly dramatic moment because we were sitting in a room with people who had known him," Perkins said. "This was a universally loved guy. Everyone was just in utter disbelief. I saw him that morning. He was intubated [on ventilation support], critically ill, unable to speak. But I did not expect him to die that day."

Stevens' Oct. 5 death brought grim urgency to a CDC investigation that spanned four states through which he had recently traveled. And it brought the world's media, numerous state and federal agencies and the White House into the picture. Perkins' job was to stay focused on leading a solid, scientific investigation. He and his small staff meticulously scoured Stevens' home and office, as well as the American Media mail room, swabbing for anthrax spores.

On Sunday, Oct. 7, Perkins got word from the CDC's anthrax laboratory that swabs collected from Stevens' computer keyboard and the mail room tested positive for Bacillus anthracis.

"At that point I decided to chemoprophylax [treat with antibiotics] people who worked in the building," said Perkins, who placed thousands of American Media employees and recent visitors on ciprofloxacin antibiotics. In coming days, television shots of long lines of Floridians queued up to get nasal swabs and pills would spark difficulties in controlling public anxieties, as well as demand for antibiotics.

That October Sunday Perkins had more immediate problems. Discovery of anthrax spores inside the American Media building ruled out the possibility Stevens acquired his infection naturally. "At that point I urged [CDC director Dr. Jeffrey] Koplan to engage the FBI in what we now considered to be a criminal investigation," he said.

The FBI had had a small, just-in-case presence in Florida since Stevens was stricken. Once Koplan called FBI director Robert Mueller, that changed. Hordes of agents poured in to what Perkins considered a site of disease contamination, but what FBI agents viewed as a crime scene.

By Monday afternoon Perkins found himself ominously recalling one of the bioterrorism exercises he had participated in, back in 1998 in New York City. In that scenario, a Manhattan building was deliberately contaminated with anthrax by terrorists and a New York Police Department official was asked what he would do.

"And he said he would bring in the tank," Perkins said. "I said, 'The tank?' And he said, 'It's a show of force.'

"So I had been educated about this," Perkins said. "But having said that, it wasn't particularly smooth or comfortable [in Florida]. It was actually easier when they [the FBI] were casually interested because it was clear who was in charge: public health. The bigger challenge was when it became a dual public health/criminal investigation."

As hours ticked by, and it was learned a second American Media employee, mail room clerk Ernesto Blanco, 74, also was hospitalized with inhalational anthrax, tensions rose between Perkins and the FBI agent in charge in Florida. "I felt lives were on the line," Perkins said. "And he felt some criminal was out there killing people, and he needed to find him. The worlds were completely different."

The FBI took over the American Media building, turning it into a command center and excluding the CDC. To defuse tensions, Perkins accepted an FBI agent into his inner staff, and dispatched a CDC epidemiologist to work alongside the FBI chief. But by Wednesday, five days after Stevens' death, communication between the two agencies all but broke down.

Perkins called his boss, Koplan. Within a couple of hours, "I got immediate, clear support from the highest levels of government that saving lives - public health - was the highest priority. And it came down from [Attorney General] John Ashcroft and [Health and Human Services Secretary] Tommy Thompson. The message was conveyed to the field by the director of the FBI, and that made things much better," Perkins said, laughing heartily.

That day, Dr. James Hughes, director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, turned to one of the CDC's senior scientists, Dr. Mitch Cohen, director of the Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. Hughes asked Cohen to fly Oct. 9 to Washington, setting up shop inside the FBI, to act as an interagency liaison. Cohen took off that day, having no idea that for three months he would live out of a suitcase.

Right away, Cohen spotted the culture clash that was halting communication between scientists and agents. "The goal is the same: Remove the risk," he explained in an interview in Atlanta. "Public health wants the risk removed by identifying it and stopping transmission. Their view is that the goal is to identify the perpetrators, capture and prosecute them. Our standards are scientific. Theirs are to collect evidence ... "

For the CDC and its local health counterparts, the "whodunit" aspects had to take a distant backseat to figuring out how to find infected people before they became fatally ill. From the FBI perspective, every single anthrax spore or piece of paper that might have been in a mailbag alongside the lethal letters was evidence. The scientists and agents were working in parallel universes, using not only different techniques, but even conflicting ways of thinking.

"What I observed is that on the public health side we would gather information to develop a hypothesis, and then test that hypothesis," Cohen said. "Their work is to try to get every piece of information you possibly can and then see where it leads you."

As Cohen and his counterparts came to appreciate the cultural differences between public health and law enforcement, communication improved. Eventually, their search for the perpetrator going nowhere, the FBI began soliciting scientific insights from physician/microbiologist Cohen.

"They told me there was only one physician working in the FBI, and that was in behavioral areas," Cohen said. "They do have people with biology training in the hazardous materials area. But they really don't understand the scientific community. That was something we could help with."

FBI insiders say that is an exaggeration: the bureau has many scientists on staff. Most are, however, in the forensics division. Perhaps more importantly, few, if any, biologists are located in the field offices, where the bulk of all investigation takes place.

Cohen was able to communicate a better sense of how to investigate biological weapons. He realized, for example, that the FBI thought it was possible to measure the weight of an anthrax sample, as one might a container of toxic chemicals, to tell if any of the sample were missing. Cohen explained that anthrax spores are living organisms that reproduce; the size of a sample from one day to the next simply isn't relevant.

After the FBI recognized its need to establish lines of communication with the scientific community and issued the Jan. 29 appeal to the American Society for Microbiology, the CDC came to also realize that its staff needed to better understand criminal investigations. This spring and summer, the agencies convened joint training sessions. And Cohen, who returned to Atlanta, has been replaced by another official in a permanent arrangement.

The FBI has tried to find clues in other scientific places. It has relied on Fort Detrick scientists to analyze the anthrax powder found in the various envelopes and samples, and it has contracted with outside academic labs to scrutinize the genetic fingerprints in the anthrax samples. Analysis of the powder has led to the conclusion that the assailant had a fair amount of scientific expertise.

Yet the culprit's scientific acumen, investigators, have noted, was lacking in one crucial area: how to mail spores to a target. The anthrax was placed inside standard envelopes in which microscopic spaces between paper fibers were far bigger than the minuscule anthrax spores. This virtually guaranteed spores would leak if the envelopes were aggressively shaken.

Analysis of the genetic fingerprint of the anthrax spores has, after months of study, yielded two significant clues. First, all of the samples are genetically identical. And second, the anthrax used was the standard Ames variety, the most widely used strain of the bacteria in basic science and vaccine labs throughout the United States.

Overall, observers say, the proposed Homeland Security Department would need to examine how bioterrorism investigations should be conducted. The FBI's mandate is criminal prosecution. Public health's mandate is contagion control. It is inevitable that the two pursuits will clash. And amid that clash, vital clues to the identity of the assailants may be lost.

A Deadly Trail

A timeline of last fall's anthrax attacks.

o Oct. 3, 2001: Robert Stevens, a photo editor at The Sun, enters a Florida hospital critically ill. Two days later, Stevens dies. The diagnosis: inhalational anthrax.

o Oct. 8: FBI takes lead in anthrax investigation.

o Oct. 12: Authorities announce that an employee at NBC News in Manhattan has contracted anthrax. It is traced to a letter bearing a Trenton, N.J., postmark and addressed to Tom Brokaw. The employee, along with a police detective and two lab technicians infected in the ensuing
investigation, later recovers.

o Oct. 15: A letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle tests positive for anthrax. The letter originated from Trenton and went through the Brentwood postal center in Washington, D.C.

o Oct. 17: Officials confirm that a substance found on surfaces in Gov. George Pataki's office is anthrax.

o Oct. 21: An employee at the Brentwood postal center dies hours after describing his anthrax symptoms to a 911 operator. A fellow Brentwood worker dies of inhalational anthrax a day later.

o Oct. 31: Two days after being diagnosed with inhalational anthrax, Kathy Nguyen, a Manhattan hospital worker, dies.

o Nov. 21: Ottilie Lundgren, of Connecticut, dies of inhalational anthrax. 

Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.

Correction from Newday (July 27)

A story Tuesday about the investigation of mailings of anthrax last year mischaracterized a statement of Dr. David Franz, former commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick in Maryland. Franz stated that he believes it was impossible that the anthrax mailed to Congress and the New York Post was produced in the army laboratory and that he had no basis to conclude that a former employee or contractor could not have carried out the attacks.

July 25, 2002.

At anthrax base, 'space suits' and haze of suspicion

By Faye Bowers | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

FT. DETRICK, MD. – Col. Erik Henchal can't wait to begin. Before he's even finished striding from his desk to a conference table, he launches into a tirade – without provocation – on his lab's mission.

That mission, he says, is defensive. Henchal and his fellow scientists at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases -- known by the ungainly acronym USAMRIID -- have long been the nation's chief line of defense against anthrax and other, more deadly viruses. For 32 years, USAMRIID has delved into the secrets of the deadliest bugs known to humankind, all in the name of developing vaccines, detection methods, and other countermeasures

But then came last year's deadly string of anthrax letters in the US -- just the sort of attack this lab aims to prevent. Worse, it turns out that the bugs used in the envelopes were derived from a strain developed here in the 1980s.

In fact, the FBI is now focusing its search for the anthrax culprit among past and current USAMRIID workers.

Once they were silent heroes. Now, they're possibly dangerous saboteurs. No one here is immune from scrutiny -- not even the commander.

"Oh yes, I've been questioned," says the red-faced Col. Henchal, seated in his office during a rare interview.

The FBI has questioned all of the scientists here at this huge, low tan building about a hour north of Washington. Some have been interrogated more than once. Several have been polygraphed. And at least one, sometimes two, FBI agents are on the premises every day.

Henchal was interrogated like everyone else because he had access to the lab rooms where anthrax was present.

"No one wants the perpetrator to be caught more than USAMRIID.... The best thing for the FBI to do is to remove all reasonable doubt," he says, "We have gotten used to the enhanced oversight."

The military set up USAMRIID in the early 1970s, shortly after President Nixon ordered the US offensive biological weapons program to close.

Today, USAMRIID employs 650 people. About 125 are scientists with doctoral degrees, mainly in virology, microbiology, and veterinary medicine.

The work they do here, Henchal says, is critical to America's national security. He says more than 20 countries already have biological warfare capabilities, and are working on methods of disbursing them. At least 10 other countries are developing them. Then there's the threat from terror groups.

A dangerous line of work

Currently, scientists at USAMRIID have diagnostics -- the capability to quickly identify -- some 85 agents; it's their priority to develop countermeasures against 40 of those. And they are currently in various stages of working on vaccine development programs for 10, including anthrax, and the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

"We know the Russians were looking at weaponizing Marburg," Henchal says.

The labs where USAMARIID does this very dangerous work are reached from the office suites through a long, tan wallpapered hall and a metal door that opens only after a worker scans a magnetic identification card. Ahead are labyrinthine halls and labs -- 50,000 square feet at biosafety level 3, where agents like anthrax, plague, and Venezuelan equine encephalitis are studied, and the 10,000 square feet at biosafety level 4, where research is done with the most deadly agents, like Ebola and Marburg. To get into any of those, the worker needs to re-enter the magnetic card, along with a four-digit number that's only issued after the worker has been immunized against that particular bug. The doors are also keyed in to central security, so there is a master list of who enters and exits the labs.

Lisa Hensley splits her time between developing treatments and more effective vaccines for Ebola at USAMRIID and smallpox at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. The work is carried out in the biosafety level 4 suites. She enters an outer area, where she strips off her street clothes and shoes and dons hospital-like scrubs and socks. Then, she puts on what they call a blue "space suit," a 12-pound pressurized and ventilated suit that provides filtered breathing air. After she enters the actual lab -- a small, square cinderblock room lined with petri dishes, incubators, centrifuges, pipets, an inverted microscope, and other scientific paraphernalia -- she plugs in her lifeline -- a yellow, spiral air hose that hangs from the ceiling.

The actual work -- growing cell cultures, infecting them, observing what proteins come out of those cells, then injecting animals with the bug – usually takes two to five years, Dr. Hensley says.

She's worked at USAMRIID for four years; she came here as a post doctoral fellow and stayed. She says the work is not only vital to the biodefense of this country, but part of the larger public health picture. "That's what drives us to put in as many hours as we do." On the smallpox project, where she divides her time between this lab and the Center for Disease Control labs in Atlanta, she puts in an average of 60 to 80 hours per week.

When the scientists at this lab worked to identify the anthrax bacteria from the letters mailed last fall, scientists here put in 100-hour weeks. Some slept in their cars, others in their labs.

"Between 11 Sept. and May, USAMRIID processed over 31,000 samples and 260,000 assays in our forensic-based lab." Henchal says. Under normal conditions, they process four to six samples per month.

Questions for everybody

Hensley wasn't interrogated, because she didn't work on the anthrax letters project. But she did receive a call from the FBI because she had been inoculated against the disease. Everyone who had access to inoculation has at least been questioned.

"I understand that any lab involved in this type of work would naturally be suspect," Hensley says. "From a personal point of view, though, I think it was very difficult. These scientists' hearts are in the right place. We could go someplace else and make a lot of money."

Many others agree with this assessment. David Franz, former commander of USAMRIID says he left four years ago "with tears running down my chin."

He, as well as many others in the scientific community, say the scientists at USAMRIID are unfairly taking heat. They point out that the Ames strain of the anthrax virus was developed and worked on here. But it's also been sent out to at least five other laboratories.

"If some scientist wanted to work on anthrax in a university, they could get it," Dr. Franz says.

Moreover, "any country with first-rate science could have this," says Joseph Foxell, director of information security for New York City. He lists several that are capable: almost all of the European countries, Japan, Israel, Egypt, and Pakistan. Maybe Iraq.


War on Terrorism Highlights FBI's Computer Woes

Security: Arrogance, misplaced priorities and a culture that 'real men don't type' kept the bureau in the slow lane. Recovery won't come quickly.


July 28 2002

WASHINGTON -- In the frantic days after the terrorists struck, FBI agents scrambled to box up investigative files at their New York office a few blocks from the World Trade Center and haul them to safety. In the FBI's paper-driven culture, many of the documents had never even been downloaded into the bureau's aging computer system.

In Tampa, Fla., meanwhile, agents were scurrying to send photos of the 19 hijackers by overnight mail to 56 FBI offices around the country so agents could chase down possible conspirators. Frustrated agents had been unable to e-mail the photos because the FBI's computer system wasn't designed to handle such a basic task.

The Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath have exposed the FBI's computers as a national laughingstock, a system so antiquated and inefficient that U.S. senators quip that their kids get more bang for their byte than the nation's vaunted G-men.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has laid out an ambitious three-year plan for overhauling the bureau's beleaguered system.  But the severity of the problem, and its threat to national security, have long been known to top FBI officials.

Indeed, newly disclosed records and interviews show that years of warnings at the highest levels of the FBI often have gone unheeded and that the bureau allegedly diverted tens of millions of dollars from computer upgrades to manpower needs that it deemed more important.

Former Atty. Gen. Janet Reno became so frustrated by the FBI's inertia that she wrote then-Director Louis J. Freeh a highly unusual and strongly worded series of internal memos about the problem. In a May 2000 memo obtained by The Times, titled "Threats to U.S. National Security Interests," Reno told Freeh that it was "imperative that the FBI immediately develop the capacity" to search its files, analyze security threats and be able to share information with other intelligence agencies.

"I think our national security requires that we get started immediately on this effort," Reno told Freeh in a memo foreshadowing the intelligence failures that would be revealed 16 months later by the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

Yet not much has changed, and the threat to national security looms even greater. How the FBI reached such a state of technological lethargy is a story of institutional arrogance, misguided priorities, missed warning signs, overmatched technical advisors and a soured relationship with increasingly distrustful benefactors in Congress.

Dating back nearly a decade, officials warned in private communication and in public reports that the bureau was severely hampered by agents' inability to do such basic tasks as thoroughly searching case records and receiving e-mail. The shortcomings have played a part in virtually every high-profile misstep by the FBI in recent years, including missing Oklahoma City bombing documents, the Robert Philip Hanssen spy scandal and the Wen Ho Lee espionage investigation.

Investigations are still largely paper-driven, and many agents use dinosaur-era computers or even write reports longhand in this era of high-speed Pentium processors. The FBI has 42 databases that often run on incompatible software and hardware. Simple searches--allowing an agent in Minneapolis, for instance, to see whether the words "flight training school" show up in case files--are unwieldy, if not impossible.

Experts inside and outside of the FBI say myriad financial, political, technological and cultural factors explain the logjam, among them:

* The FBI, unable to pay the top salaries the private sector doled out through the 1990s, lacked the in-house technical expertise to manage complex upgrades. Until the last few years, officials often believed, mistakenly, that their people could do the job themselves without the help of outside experts.

* A distrustful Congress, grown weary of huge cost overruns after doling out $1.7 billion on FBI computer projects since 1993, has kept the bureau on a tighter financial leash, refusing to fund new projects until higher standards were met.

* And, perhaps most critical, the bureau experienced cultural resistance to letting machines take the place of solid, old-fashioned police work, an attitude shared by many top officials and street agents alike.

As one veteran agent said, the FBI has been dominated by an old-school attitude that "real men don't type. The only thing a real agent needs is a notebook, a pen and gun, and with those three things you can conquer the world. That was the mind-set for a long time, and the computer revolution just passed us by because of it."

Sept. 11 Attacks Provided a 'Sense of Urgency'

The FBI itself realized as early as 1996 that a newly installed case-file system had glaring holes. It sent in a special "red team" of experts and agents to analyze the problems, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the review. Six years later, the case system, with many of the same holes, has not yet been replaced.

FBI officials acknowledge that the Sept. 11 attacks forced them to rethink their priorities in rebuilding their information system.  "There was always the recognition that we needed to do this. The sense of urgency is what's different now," said Mark Tanner, the FBI's deputy chief information officer.

Mueller's overhaul plans--built around "paperless" files and artificial intelligence to "predict" terrorist activity--call for a full-speed sprint. But first, "we've got to get walking," Robert J. Chiaradio, one of the FBI's top systems gurus, admitted in a recent interview before leaving for the private sector. "You cannot [use technology to fight terrorism] unless you've got the foundation. So we're building this foundation."

The stakes are enormous. Many believe the FBI's success or failure, after more than a decade of fits and starts, will be a pivotal factor in deciding the outcome of the war on terrorism.

"I do not think the FBI can manage its responsibilities in the intelligence arena and the law enforcement arena, where national security's involved, without being sure that its technology is successfully upgraded to perform its mission," said William H. Webster, a former director of the FBI and CIA who is widely respected in Washington.

CIA officials have indicated in recent closed-door testimony that they are reluctant to share some sensitive information with the FBI because of concerns about safeguarding the data, according to a congressional source.

And FBI agents in the New York field office have simply refused to put some national security information into the system for fear it could be compromised, according to a review in March by the Webster Commission, appointed by the Justice Department to look into security issues. The concerns were driven home several years ago when an FBI college intern, given ordinary access to the system to test its vulnerabilities, penetrated restricted files in a single afternoon.

In recent weeks, scrutiny of the FBI's dilapidated system has set off a gut-wrenching exercise in  "what if" scenarios: What if the FBI had a nimble, secure, well-integrated system in place before Sept. 11?

Could agents in Minneapolis, Phoenix and Oklahoma City, each harboring suspicions about Middle Eastern flight students, have pooled their resources to detect a pattern? Would the FBI, working more quickly with the CIA, have found two of the 19 hijackers-in-training who were living quietly in San Diego after showing up on a watch list? Would FBI analysts have been able to decipher a spike in terrorism intelligence "chatter" to predict an attack?

"It just makes my jaw drop to think that on 9/11 ... the kind of technology that is available to most schoolkids, and certainly every small business in this country, wasn't available to the FBI," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has pressed the FBI for years on the issue, told Mueller at a recent hearing.

Unless the FBI overhauls its system--and does it even more quickly than Mueller's three-year timetable--the nation risks "another horrible attack," Schumer warned.

Computers Were Not a Priority for Ex-Director

Mueller admitted he was shocked to find the bureau's system in such disarray when he took over last year, a week before Sept. 11. "We are way behind the curve," Mueller told lawmakers.

With millions of pieces of information collected by FBI investigators but no good way to sort it all out, officials admit that "we don't know what we know."

Many blame former Director Freeh for fostering an anti-computer attitude during his tenure from 1993 through last year.

Freeh, a dogged investigator who rose from the ranks of FBI agents and took an active role in top-priority probes as director, eschewed the use of computers himself. "I never saw him use one," said Robert "Bear" Bryant, his top deputy.

To Freeh's credit, the FBI's ranks grew significantly under his leadership, as he gave the bureau a much-expanded international presence. But his perceived lack of interest in the FBI's computer woes became a growing source of frustration for Reno, according to officials familiar with their discussions.

"She was always pushing them to do more in that area and, sadly, she was right," said a former high-ranking official at the Justice Department under Reno, who asked not to be identified. "The results just weren't there."

Jamie Gorelick, the No. 2 official at the Justice Department in the mid-1990s, said in an interview: "Director Freeh's priorities were putting agents on the ground and building the [FBI's overseas] operations. He was simply less interested in, frankly, what was the more boring work, of infrastructure development."

Reno became particularly incensed in 1997 when the FBI began investigating allegations that the Chinese government had tried to illegally buy influence in U.S. elections, several former aides said. Congress wanted relevant documents on the issue from the Justice Department for its own investigation, but the FBI repeatedly missed records from its own files, aides said. At one point, CIA Director George J. Tenet told an embarrassed Reno that his agency had found a relevant FBI document in its own files and was turning it over to Congress. The FBI apparently didn't even know of the document's existence, aides to Reno said.

Freeh declined requests for an interview. Bryant and several other former aides said that Freeh, contrary to his critics' perceptions, did understand the importance of upgrading the FBI's computer capabilities.

But, according to a former aide who supports Freeh, "it would never be a top priority. He didn't care about it enough to devote his own time to it" because he was so often immersed in major investigations.

Money Intended for Technology Was Diverted

Publicly, Freeh spoke of the need to ramp up FBI technology. But privately, law enforcement sources disclosed, he allowed the FBI to raid its computer budget repeatedly, taking money intended by Congress for systems and infrastructure upgrades and using it instead to fund shortfalls in staffing and international offices.

The diverted money, much of it designated for vital computer upgrades, totaled $60 million in 2000, with millions more in other years, according to a former senior official at the Justice Department.

Members of Congress referred to the practice as "hollow" budgeting because it allowed the FBI to artificially inflate its manpower budget. Tensions became so great that the Bush administration, under pressure from Congress, last fiscal year quietly cut the maximum number of authorized agent positions by more than 400 to prevent the bureau from diverting more computer money, officials said.

"Louis Freeh wanted more cops on the beat, and he was robbing from the equipment side to pay for people," said Rob Nabors, an FBI budget specialist with the Republican staff of the House Appropriations Committee. "We saw it as an end run around the appropriations process. Legally, he didn't do anything wrong, but he was clearly violating the will of the appropriations committees."

FBI officials denied that they improperly diverted any money, but they declined to discuss the issue in detail or provide a breakdown of how computer money has been spent.

By the late 1990s, members of Congress were fed up with the money pit that the FBI's computer overhaul had become. The agency had suffered two black eyes in the development of its fingerprinting and criminal background check systems, which came in years behind schedule and $300 million over budget, according to Justice Department figures.

"It was just unconscionable," according to the former senior official.

With in-house people running the programs, the official said, "the bureau suffered from the mentality that an FBI agent can do anything .... This was the great myth. The FBI has always presented itself as the RoboCop of law enforcement, but when it came to technology, it was always last or next to last." Even in a federal law enforcement bureaucracy notorious for being slow to implement changes, "it was in a race for the bottom with the INS [Immigration and Naturalization Service]," the official said.

Part of the problem, officials said, is that systems jobs were, until recently, not seen as plum assignments. The bureau often relied on agents with limited technical backgrounds who were at or near the bottom of the career ladder.

"The FBI agents want to do cases. [Top officials] have not traditionally paid much attention to getting the best people in these jobs," said Harvard University management professor Steven Kelman, who oversaw federal procurement in the Clinton administration.

Frustrated, Congress placed tight restrictions on FBI computer funds in the late 1990s and demanded unprecedented scrutiny of how the money would be spent. With Congress reluctant to give the green light, the FBI shelved two plans for replacing its problem-riddled case system, which was only a few years old.

After the string of failures, "there was some skepticism [in Congress] as to whether we could actually deliver a major project," the FBI's Tanner acknowledged.

Retired IBM Executive Changed the Culture

A sea change came in 2000, when Freeh brought on retired IBM executive Bob Dies to oversee technical operations. Dies is credited with restoring the FBI's battered credibility in Congress and freeing up tens of millions of dollars for new automation systems before leaving the bureau this spring.

"Bob Dies was really the beginning of an evolution in terms of bringing substantial numbers of people in from the private sector," said Assistant FBI Director John Collingwood.

But the scars from years of neglect remain, much to the frustration of agents who believe their warnings have fallen largely on deaf ears.

One FBI agent complained that he didn't have access to office e-mail to communicate with the parents of a kidnapping victim, so he resorted to using his personal e-mail account.

Another agent said he recently couldn't get access to PowerPoint software to give an important presentation on weapons of mass destruction, so he had to bootleg the software.

And still another agent said that after the FBI finally gave him a new laptop, he couldn't get requisition authority for a battery to operate it.

Nancy Savage, president of the FBI Agents Assn., said agents often waste hours trying to resolve technical glitches.

"This is a problem we've been screaming about for years," she said.

"You're not getting your bang for your buck when you're paying agents to deal with faulty automation instead of putting people in jail."

Savage's predecessor, Agent John Sennett, also hammered that theme repeatedly in internal communications, warning in a 1999 bulletin that the FBI "is stuck in the slow lane."

But the response was minimal, and the results were often disastrous.

In 1999, for instance, when Angel Maturino Resendiz was caught sneaking across the New Mexico border, U.S. Border Patrol agents sent him back to Mexico--even though the FBI had a warrant out for his arrest in connection with three slayings in Texas and Kentucky.

The so-called railway killer went on to kill four more people in the United States in a cross-country railroad trek of murder and rape before his surrender.

Although the INS bore the brunt of the criticism for allowing Maturino Resendiz to get away, a March 2000 report by the Justice Department inspector general concluded that the failure of the FBI and the INS to integrate their fingerprinting systems was a critical problem in the deadly chain of events. The two systems are still not fully integrated.

Less than a year later, computer troubles haunted the FBI again with the arrest of longtime agent Hanssen, who had given the Russians reams of secrets on his way to becoming one of the most damaging spies in U.S. history.

It turned out that Hanssen, an adept computer user, had routinely plugged his own name and spy terms such as "dead drop" into the FBI's computer system to determine whether the FBI was onto him.

The FBI lacked basic computer-auditing safeguards that might have caught such suspicious activity, helping Hanssen's espionage go undetected for 22 years.

And in the Oklahoma City bombing, the FBI's inability to find more than 4,000 pages of documents and properly turn them over to Timothy J. McVeigh's attorneys forced a delay in McVeigh's execution last year.

Many victims' families, who had been hoping for a sense of finality, waited in anguish for nearly a month before the execution was allowed to proceed.

Again, the FBI promised reforms. But for all the major lapses the FBI has suffered in its computer systems, critics say it shouldn't have taken a crisis of the magnitude of Sept. 11 to light a fire under the bureau.

"It defies logic to think that an agency with the world at its feet has let things deteriorate to this point," said Nabors of the House Appropriations Committee.

"There was a train wreck coming, and they should have seen it coming from a mile away."


Computer Problems an Issue for Years

The FBI's computer systems have been dogged by problems in recent years. Some key events:


The FBI experiments with developing "artificial intelligence" to predict criminal activity, but after devoting significant resources with minimal results, abandons the research.


The development of two major FBI systems, aimed at upgrading the checks done on fingerprints and criminal backgrounds, suffers delays and cost overruns.


The FBI's automated case system, designed to replace the bureau's paper-laden system, goes online. An internal study the next year finds the system fraught with problems, many of which remain unresolved today.


The FBI's national instant check system, mandated by Congress to verify the backgrounds of gun purchasers, goes online. The system is criticized by both the gun lobby and gun-control activists.


The National Infrastructure Protection Center, run by the FBI, is created to combat cyber-crime. It improves the federal government's computer forensic abilities but struggles to earn the respect and cooperation of the private sector.


Congress and the FBI commit more than $86 million to overhauling the troubled automated case system, but the money is never released because of concerns over the FBI's history of problems with new systems.


The FBI's troubled fingerprinting and criminal background check systems go online in the same month--on schedule and at a cost of $823 million--but parts of the fingerprinting system are incompatible with other U.S. and European systems.


Retired IBM executive Bob Dies joins the FBI to oversee technological upgrades and is widely credited with shoring up the bureau's credibility with members of Congress. Dies left the agency this spring.


The FBI begins its third attempt to replace the automated case system. In the wake of Sept. 11, Director Robert S. Mueller III vows to speed up the bureau's systems overhaul with new efforts into at data-mining and gathering artificial intelligence.

Spring/Summer 2002

Congressional investigators examine the role that the FBI's systems problems may have played in the intelligence failures surrounding Sept. 11.


Monday: The FBI plans to turn its massive collection of data into a mother lode of predictive intelligence. 

Slowness in tracking down anthrax killer is intolerable
The Pittsburg Tribune-Review
Dateline D.C.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

WASHINGTON - The failings of the Federal Bureau of Investigation before Sept. 11 are understandable. What is intolerable is its continuing failure to bring the mass murderer to justice who killed five Americans using weaponized anthrax last fall.

There is a suspect, an individual named Steven J. Hatfill, 48. He is a medical doctor who had the means, the motives and opportunity to commit the crime. Hatfill also could benefit from the attacks and he pretends to knowledge that would make his arrest embarrassing to our government. All of this, the FBI denies. 

We've learned that his former colleagues in the biodefense community brought Hatfill's name to the FBI's attention last October, shortly after the anthrax victims began dying. He recently had lost his security clearance through polygraph inconsistencies. Some investigators believe the FBI's amazing caution stems from Hatfill's loose connections to the late Ron Brown, President Clinton's commerce secretary. Others think that he was working for the CIA; and still others believe that the anthrax killings were a defense-related exercise that went badly wrong.

A final scenario is that "non-suspect" Hatfill has been so deeply involved in U.S. secret operations related to biological warfare that the possibility of him "telling all" has terrified the Justice Department - and not the FBI - into immobility. 

Hatfill's resume is unusual. He still works with the U.S. Special Forces, and 30 years ago he was a soldier with the former white regime in Rhodesia. At that time, Hatfill was on the rolls of our Special Forces at Fort Bragg, N.C., but also serving with Rhodesia's Special Air Squadron and the counterinsurgency unit, the Selous Scouts. As a U.S. citizen, Hatfill was a rarity in that he trained as a medical doctor in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and later served as such on research projects undertaken by the South African Defense Force. Hatfill also was active in Cape Town with the white supremacist terrorist group Afrikaner Weerstandbeweging (the AWB or Afrikaner Resistance Group). There he trained the leader's bodyguards in weapons handling. At the same time, he worked on projects for SADF Gen. Wouter Basson, whose outlandish and gruesome ways of killing opponents for the white South African regime earned him the label "Dr. Death" and a three-year trial on murder charges. 

Hatfill worked for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., from 1997-1999. On June 25, the FBI searched his apartment at Detrick Plaza just outside the main gate of Fort Detrick. The following day, they located and searched a refrigerated storage facility Hatfill rented near Ocala, Fla.  At both locations, the FBI agents, most wearing hazmat gear with respirators, removed many boxes of material and swabbed air ducts for anthrax spores.

In 1999, Hatfill resigned from USAMRIID to work for Scientific Applications International Corporation, a defense contractor in McLean, Va., that boasts openly about its many top secret contracts. At SAIC, his yearly salary of $150,000 was some three times more than the U.S. government had paid him. In addition, SAIC continued his security clearances, which gave him continued access to USAMRIID. 

In August 2001, Hatfill's security badges were lifted - an act that infuriated him. He already was railing against Congress for constantly cutting bioterrorism research. Was this enough to provoke retaliation? 

Despite SAIC pushing for a new clearance, it never came; and in March of this year, SAIC gave Hatfill his pink slip. He began freelance consulting that involves a lot of foreign travel. 

By some reports, Hatfill lost his security clearance because he failed - or was evasive in - a number of polygraph tests. His home and other places where he had lived were searched several times by the FBI, with negative results. The bureau said the searches were conducted at Hatfill's request without warrant "to clear his name."  The bureau also says he passed a polygraph test and always was very cooperative with them. 

Some say that in 1985 Hatfill was working on projects in Antarctica for the South African military; others claim he was working on "Project Coast," an official program developing weapons using viruses that produce Ebola, Marburg and Rift Valley hemorrhagic fevers. We find his range of cooperation astonishing. 

When Hatfill was in Zimbabwe, there was a massive anthrax outbreak. More than 10,000 black farmers contracted the disease, and more than 180 people died. There is evidence that the anthrax spores were released by the Selous Scouts, Hatfill's unit. At that time, he was living a few miles from a place called Greendale School. What a strange coincidence that the return address on last year's anthrax letters was "Greendale School" with a false address in New Jersey. 

There are other coincidences. On Nov. 15, 2001, Hatfill was in London for a SAIC business meeting. On that date, a letter containing fake anthrax spores was sent from London to Sen. Tom Daschle in Washington (his office already had received a real anthrax letter). 

Last year, Hatfill spent many weekends at an isolated farmhouse in the vicinity of Monrovia, Md.  Guests and visitors were given doses of Cipro, the antidote to anthrax. Locals, who watched the comings and goings, believe the farmhouse did duty as a "safe house" for the CIA. 

In 1999, Hatfill, on behalf of SAIC, commissioned a study of how a spoonful of anthrax could be sent through the mail in an ordinary envelope and opened in an office. Hatfill's colleagues saw instantly that this was a virtual blueprint for last fall's lethal anthrax attacks and notified the FBI. 

Investigative reporters for the Hartford Courant, New York Times, Baltimore Sun, American Perspective and other publications have written around the periphery of the story. But this is vacation time, so most reporters with the stories percolating in their heads now have gone fishing! 

There are similarities between our Dr. Hatfill and South Africa's Dr. Basson. Now it's time to bring the similarities and coincidences to light. Dr. Death may have beaten the South African system of justice, but his apprentice, Dr. Hatfill, now a "freelance consultant" traveling internationally, must be shown that even "cooperation" in biodefense will not buy freedom from criminal prosecution in Washington. 

Dateline D.C. is written by a Washington-based British journalist and political observer.

Heat On Scientist In Anthrax Probe

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2002

FBI agents wearing protective gloves Thursday conducted a second search at the Maryland apartment of a former Army researcher who has emerged as the chief focus of the anthrax investigation. 

The agents also searched trash bins at the apartment complex. 

Federal law enforcement sources told CBS News that Dr. Steven Hatfill was "the chief guy we're looking at" in the probe. The sources were careful not to use the word suspect, but said they were "zeroing in on this guy" and that he is "the focus of the investigation." 

The search was conducted at Detrick Plaza Apartments in Frederick, Md., where Hatfill lives. Hatfill's neighbors believe that his apartment has been under surveillance. Investigators told CBS News that they were looking for something "tangible" as opposed to searching for microscopic traces of chemicals or substances. 

FBI Director Robert Mueller declined to say why a second search was conducted at Hatfill's home. 

"We're making progress in the case but I can't comment on ongoing aspects of the investigation," he said. 

Federal investigators searched Hatfill's apartment last June and questioned him about last year's deadly anthrax mailings. Hatfill has said he is innocent. 

On June 25, FBI agents, some in protective clothing, removed computer components and at least a half-dozen garbage bags full of material from Hatfill's apartment. But officials said no trace of anthrax was found in his home or at a storage unit he rented in Florida.

The apartment complex is next door to Fort Detrick, where Hatfill worked for two years for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, center of the nation's biological warfare defense research. 

Hatfill worked at the facility until September 1999. Although he probably had access to anthrax, his primary duties didn't involve working with it, a spokesman for the base has said. 

The FBI has previously identified Hatfill, 48, as one of 20 to 30 scientists and researchers with the expertise and opportunity to conduct the anthrax attacks. 

Investigators believe anyone skillful enough to send the anthrax letters without becoming sick must have had extensive experience. 

Hatfill denied involvement in the anthrax mailings and complained to The (Baltimore) Sun in a March telephone message that he was fired from his job because of media inquiries. 

"I've been in this field for a number of years, working until 3 o'clock in the morning, trying to counter this type of weapon of mass destruction, and, sir, my career is over at this time," Hatfill said.

Hatfill and another scientist, Joseph Soukup, commissioned a study of a hypothetical anthrax attack in February 1999 as employees of defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., said Ben Haddad, spokesman for the San Diego-based company. 

The study, written by bioterrorism expert William C. Patrick III, describes placing 2.5 grams of Bacillus globigii, a simulated form of anthrax, in a standard business envelope, The Sun reported. 

Hatfill is a 1983 graduate of the University of Zimbabwe Medical School, according to the university's Web site. Investigators confirmed Hatfill graduated from the school. 

ABC News has reported that the FBI was interested in Hatfill partly because he lived, while in Zimbabwe, near a Greendale elementary school. "Greendale School" in Franklin Park, N.J., was printed in large block letters as the false return address on the anthrax-laden envelopes sent to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy last fall. 

One investigator cautioned the FBI has been unable to place Hatfill near Trenton, N.J., during the time the anthrax letters were mailed. Officials believe the letters were mailed from the Trenton area. 

Five people died in the anthrax attacks that began in late September. One of the dead was Robert Stevens, a photo editor for a tabloid newspaper headquartered in Boca Raton, 230 miles southeast of Ocala, where Hatfill's storage facility is located. 

Anthrax Investigation Leads Back to Scientist's Home
Written by Gary Reals
WUSA (Aug. 1, 2002, approx. 2 p.m. CDT)

Agents investigating the anthrax letters sent to Capitol Hill are searching the home of a Fort Detrick scientist, for the second time. Doctor Steven Hatfill is one of dozens of researchers who had expertise and access to anthrax used at the Army's Infectious Diseases lab at Fort Detrick. 

Agents searched that house and a storage facility Hatfill rented in Florida last month. At that time federal officials said Hatfill was one of a short list of potential suspects. They searched his home at the end of June to rule him out as a suspect.

Thursday's search is pursuant to an arrest warrant bieng issued for Dr. Hatfill. Dr. Hatfill was a biological warfare expert who worked at Ft. Detrick in Frederick, Maryland until a couple of years ago. His apartment is just a block away from a secure entrance to the base. Agents are searching the dumpster outside Hatfill's apartment for traces of evidence that could have been there for several months, that may may provide more clues as to who was responsible for the anthrax attacks of last October.

Potential Suspect in Anthrax Investigation
by 9 News
WUSA - Aug. 1, 2002 (approx. 5:30 p.m. CDT)

FBI and Postal Service agents wearing protective gloves conducted a second search Thursday at the apartment of a former Army researcher considered a "person of interest" in the investigation of last year's deadly anthrax mailings. 

The FBI gained a search warrant to look inside Steven J. Hatfill's residence at Detrick Plaza Apartments in Frederick, Md., according to two U.S. government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Hatfill consented to the first FBI search of his apartment and no warrant was needed. 

It was unclear whether the FBI contacted Hatfill before gaining the warrant to search his home. 

Several phone calls to Hatfill's attorney, Thomas C. Carter, were not returned.

FBI Director Robert Mueller declined to say why a second search was conducted at Hatfill's home. 

"We're making progress in the case but I can't comment on ongoing aspects of the investigation," he said.

Hatfill was not questioned and no arrests in the case are imminent, a government official said. 

Federal investigators first searched Hatfill's home on June 25 and questioned him about last year's deadly anthrax mailings. During the search, FBI agents, some in protective clothing, removed computer components and at least a half-dozen garbage bags full of material from Hatfill's apartment. 

But officials said no trace of anthrax was found in his home or at storage unit he rented in Florida.

On Thursday agents searched Hatfill's apartment and the trash bins outside the building. A dark blue van was parked nearby with its back doors open and white cardboard boxes sat next to the bins. 

Hatfill keeps a residence at the apartment building, but has not lived there since the first search, according to neighbors. 

The apartment complex is outside Fort Detrick, where Hatfill worked for two years for the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, center of the nation's biological warfare defense research. 

Hatfill worked at the facility until September 1999. Although he probably had access to anthrax, his primary duties didn't involve working with it, a spokesman for the base has said. 

The FBI has identified Hatfill as one of 20 to 30 scientists and researchers with the expertise and opportunity to conduct the anthrax attacks, but investigators say he is not a suspect. 

The bureau has searched about 25 homes or apartments after getting permission from the person interviewed, a federal law enforcement official said.

Law enforcement officials said on Thursday that Hatfill, 48, is not a suspect and no evidence links him to the letters. 

Hatfill has not spoken publicly about the searches. In March, however, he denied involvement in the anthrax mailings and complained to The (Baltimore) Sun in a telephone message that he was fired from a recent job because of media inquiries. 

"I've been in this field for a number of years, working until 3 o'clock in the morning, trying to counter this type of weapon of mass destruction, and, sir, my career is over at this time," Hatfill said. 

Hatfill and another scientist, Joseph Soukup, commissioned a study of a hypothetical anthrax attack in February 1999 as employees of defense contractor Science Applications.

Friday, August 2, 2002
The Frederick News-Post

FBI looks for anthrax clues
From Staff and Wire Reports 
News-Post Staff 

Investigators looking into last year's deadly anthrax mailings are "making progress in the case," FBI Director Robert Mueller said Thursday as federal agents conducted a second search at the Frederick apartment of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army researcher considered a "person of interest" in the case.

For several hours Thursday, FBI and U.S. Postal Service agents wearing protective gloves searched Dr. Hatfill's residence at the Detrick Plaza Apartments, located off Seventh Street just over the fence from Fort Detrick.

The FBI gained a search warrant to look inside the residence, according to two U.S. government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Dr. Hatfill consented to the first FBI search of his apartment in June, for which no warrant was needed.

It was unclear whether the FBI contacted Dr. Hatfill before gaining the warrant for Thursday's search. Phone calls to Dr. Hatfill's attorney, Thomas C. Carter, were not returned.

Briefly addressing Thursday's events, Mr. Mueller declined to say why the second search of the Frederick apartment was conducted.

"We're making progress in the case, but I can't comment on ongoing aspects of the investigation," he said.

Agents at the Washington field office of the FBI, which is overseeing the portion of the investigation involving Dr. Hatfill, could not be reached for comment.

Dr. Hatfill, 48, was not questioned and no arrests in the case are imminent, a government official said.

Federal investigators first searched Dr. Hatfill's home June 25 and questioned him about last year's deadly anthrax mailings. During the search, FBI agents, some in protective clothing, removed computer components and at least a half-dozen garbage bags full of material from his apartment.

But officials said no trace of anthrax was found in his home or at a storage unit he rented in Florida.

On Thursday, agents again searched Dr. Hatfill's apartment and also scoured the trash bins outside the building. A dark blue van was parked nearby with its back doors open. White cardboard boxes sat next to the bins.

Dr. Hatfill keeps a residence at the apartment building, but has not lived there since the first search, neighbors said.

The resident manager at the apartment complex did not return a phone call.  As the federal agents wrapped up their search late Thursday afternoon, a representative of the apartment complex ordered a large gathering of reporters and photographers off the property.

Frederick police responded to the apartment complex to keep members of the media from trespassing at the request of the apartment complex's management.

Dr. Hatfill worked at Fort Detrick for two years for the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, center of the nation's biological warfare defense research.

Dr. Hatfill worked there until September 1999. Although he probably had access to anthrax, his primary duties didn't involve working with it, a spokesman for the base has said.

The FBI has identified Dr. Hatfill as one of 20 to 30 scientists and researchers with the expertise and opportunity to conduct the anthrax attacks, but investigators say he is not a suspect.

The bureau has searched about 25 homes or apartments after getting permission from the person interviewed, a federal law enforcement official said.

Dr. Hatfill has not spoken publicly about the searches.

In March, however, he denied involvement in the anthrax mailings and complained to The (Baltimore) Sun in a telephone message that he was fired from a recent job because of media inquiries.

"I've been in this field for a number of years, working until 3 o'clock in the morning, trying to counter this type of weapon of mass destruction, and, sir, my career is over at this time," Dr. Hatfill said.

Dr. Hatfill and another scientist, Joseph Soukup, commissioned a study of a hypothetical anthrax attack in February 1999 as employees of defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., said Ben Haddad, spokesman for the San Diego-based company.

Five people died from inhaling anthrax spores mailed last fall.
The Associated Press
Article published Aug 4, 2002

FBI returns to search Ocala storage shed

FBI agents searched a storage facility here for the second time in five weeks as part of the investigation into last year's deadly anthrax attacks.

The search Thursday centered on property used by Dr. Steven Hatfill, who once worked in the virology division of the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Md., and most recently for a defense contractor.

Hatfill stored some of his belongings in the facility after his parents sold their farm about 12 miles west of this north-central Florida city in 1999.

Ocala police assisted the FBI with the search, said police chief Andy Krietemeyer.

"They gave us a call and told me they were going to be serving a search warrant there," he said.

Four vehicles, including a Chevy Suburban with tinted windows, arrived at the storage facility Thursday morning, according to the Ocala Star-Banner. Several workers in plain clothes spent the day walking in and out of the unit.

Two vehicles left the scene that night with at least two boxes. A Marion County sheriff's bomb squad also helped agents transfer what looked like suitcases from two storage units to a van.

FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman declined to comment on specifics of the investigation, saying, "The FBI is continuing their diligent effort in order to advance the anthrax investigation."

In June, agents searched the storage unit but said they found no trace of anthrax at that time.

FBI officials said then that Hatfill was not considered a suspect in the anthrax attacks that killed five people last fall.

Hatfill is one of 20 to 30 scientists questioned because they could have known enough about working with anthrax to carry out the mail attacks.

Information from: Ocala Star-Banner

Anthrax probe proceeding with increased vigor

USA Today - 08/08/2002 - Updated 01:22 AM ET 

By Kevin Johnson and Toni Locy

WASHINGTON — A week after FBI agents investigating the anthrax attacks searched the apartment of a former government scientist for the second time, U.S. authorities are not close to making an arrest, U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft said in an interview with USA TODAY.

Ashcroft, in his broadest public comments on what has been a frustrating investigation into last fall's anthrax attacks, said the probe was proceeding with perhaps more intensity than ever. But he said that a "conclusion" is not imminent.

"Progress is being made," Ashcroft said in his fifth-floor suite at the Justice Department. "But until you cross the thresholds of information that will provide the basis for action, it may be that the progress doesn't mean a lot."

Since anthrax-laden letters that were mailed to government and media offices led to the deaths of five people, infected 22 others and contaminated several government buildings, FBI agents have pursued thousands of leads. They have been particularly interested in 30 to 40 U.S.-based scientists who have had access to labs where anthrax is kept and who have expertise in handling the deadly bacteria.

Last week, the FBI returned to the Maryland apartment of Steven Hatfill, 48, a former Army scientist at Fort Detrick, Md. Hatfill, who has a doctorate in molecular biology, was described by Ashcroft only as "a person of interest" in the probe.

Investigators first searched Hatfill's property in June, with his consent. They found no trace of anthrax at the apartment or in a Florida storage unit Hatfill had rented. When investigators returned last week, they had a warrant authorizing a search of the apartment and trash bins.

Shortly after the second search, Hatfill was suspended for 30 days with pay from his new job at Louisiana State University's Academy for Counter-terrorism Education, a Justice Department-funded program that trains emergency workers.

Hatfill could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But his attorneys said they are outraged by how law enforcement and the media are treating him.

Hatfill has hired lawyer Victor Glasberg of Alexandria, Va., to explore possible civil lawsuits to "address the flurry of defamatory publicity." The scientist also has hired criminal defense lawyer Jonathan Shapiro, also of Alexandria.

In a letter to a U.S. prosecutor last week, Glasberg complained that Hatfill had offered to cooperate with the FBI in a second search, and questioned why agents used a warrant.

Shapiro was scheduled to meet Wednesday with prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office here. But that plan changed after reporters gathered outside the office. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney said the meeting was not held there and declined to say whether it was held elsewhere. Shapiro did not return calls to his office.

Hatfill is a physician, a pilot and has trained to be a bioweapons inspector in Iraq.

In 1999, Hatfill, while working for a McLean, Va., defense contractor, commissioned a study that described a hypothetical anthrax attack using the public mail. The study was done by his mentor, William Patrick III, a former bioweapons expert at Fort Detrick who is viewed as the "father" of a process for making a sophisticated form of anthrax.

Hatfill attended medical school in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, and was there in 1979 and 1980 when the largest outbreak of human anthrax cases occurred. About 10,000 cases were reported. Most of them were the skin, or cutaneous, form of infection, which is not as deadly as inhalation anthrax.  Inhalation anthrax was cited in the deaths in the U.S. attacks.

In Rhodesia, Hatfill lived near a school named Greendale. "Greendale School" was the phony return address on the tainted letters sent last year to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

The first search of Hatfill's apartment occurred within days of a meeting between Senate staff members and Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a biologist at Purchase College of the State University of New York. She has criticized the FBI for not solving the anthrax mystery. She has done extensive critiques of the probe and has accused the FBI of covering for the CIA, which she maintains is protecting the anthrax culprit.

According to her critiques, the suspect knows many of the U.S. government's bioweapons secrets. In one posted on the Internet, Rosenberg says that at least five "inside experts" had told the FBI that one person was "the most likely suspect." Rosenberg does not name Hatfill in her writings, but she has told authorities that she is referring to him. Rosenberg did not respond to requests for comment.

Rosenberg sought the Capitol Hill meeting with staff members representing Leahy, Daschle and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, according to people familiar with the meeting. Leahy asked Van Harp, the head of the FBI's Washington field office, to sit in.

Law enforcement sources say the anthrax probe has been especially difficult because the pool of potential suspects is the same group of scientists upon whom the FBI is relying for expertise in identifying the bacteria type used in the attacks. Often, after a scientist passes a polygraph, the FBI asks the scientist to join the investigation team.

"My own view is that the work is very arduous, and it has not abated," Ashcroft said. "It's fair to say that it's as intense as it ever was, if not more intense. But we're not in a position to announce an outcome." 

London Sunday Times
August 11, 2002

US ‘Anthrax Suspect’ Trained At Porton Down

By Nicholas Rufford and Sarah Baxter

The American scientist at the centre of the FBI’s anthrax investigation trained at Porton Down in Wiltshire, the Ministry of Defence’s germ warfare research centre, just a few weeks after the deadly letters started to be distributed.

Dr Steven Hatfill, 48, a bio-weapons expert, was in Britain at the same time that a hoax anthrax letter was posted from London to a senator in the United States. It was similar to an earlier letter that did contain deadly anthrax powder. 

Five people died from anthrax infection after letters containing the spores were sent last October from within the United States to politicians and media organisations. 

MI5, the security service, has been in contact with Porton Down to find out about Hatfill’s movements during his two-week visit last November. The inquiries are described as routine but no interest has been shown in any of the other 20 or so international scientists who attended the course. 

The FBI says he is not a suspect but a "person of interest". He has been questioned and his home in Maryland has been searched a number of times. No forensic evidence has been found although it has been reported that FBI bloodhounds trained to scent the origins of last autumn’s letters went wild on approaching Hatfill’s apartment. Some security sources dispute the anecdote claiming it may just be an attempt to increase pressure on him. 

Hatfill insists he is innocent and plans to make his first public statement today about the anthrax investigation. 

His travel expenses to Britain were paid by the Foreign Office. At Porton Down he trained as a United Nations bio-weapons inspector so he could be on call to go to Iraq and track down anthrax and other germ weapons. During the course he worked with other scientists inside a mock-up of an Iraqi germ warfare laboratory. 

Hatfill has attracted the interest of FBI investigators because of his unusual career. He is a former employee of Fort Detrick, the American army’s top bio-defence establishment. After leaving there, Hatfill helped with a study for the American government into how powdered anthrax might be sent through the post. 

Some of the anthrax letters that followed the September 11 attacks carried the name of a fictitious school in New Jersey called Greendale. For five years, from 1978, Hatfill lived in Zimbabwe near a suburb called Greendale. 

He claimed to have been a member of the then Rhodesian special forces, which were later blamed for an anthrax outbreak which killed 180 during the Rhodesian civil war.

Hatfill travelled to Britain shortly before November 12 last year and left some time after November 23. A hoax letter, which investigators believe may have been posted by the anthrax terrorist in London during that period, was sent to Senator Tom Daschle who was also the target of an earlier letter sent through the American post containing the spores. 

Other scientists on the UN course described Hatfill as "energetic and outgoing". Another said he was "well-rounded" and did not fit the FBI’s suspect profile of a "loner".

Hatfill novel describes bioterror attack, but not with anthrax
08/14/2002 - Updated 04:09 AM ET 

WASHINGTON (AP) — An unfinished novel by a scientist being scrutinized in last fall's
anthrax-by-mail attacks centers on a terror scheme to spread deadly bacteria in Washington, but the story written in 1998 differs in important ways from recent real-world events.

The 198-page novel, mostly finished, describes a paralyzing attack against the White House and Congress in which dozens of people sicken or die, including the fictional president and top congressional leaders. But the unpublished book, on file at the U.S. Copyright Office, does not involve anthrax or mailings.

The co-author, former Army biological weapons researcher Steven Hatfill, is one of about 30 scientists who have drawn the attention of law enforcement officials investigating in the attacks, although only Hatfill's name has become public.

Hatfill, 48, has denied any role and criticized the FBI and news media for engaging in what he described as personally damaging speculation and innuendo.

Hatfill's novel, Emergence, has raised suspicions at the FBI. A U.S. law enforcement official on Tuesday characterized the work as an "interesting coincidence at this point." The FBI found a copy of the novel on Hatfill's seized computer.

It was registered for a copyright in 1998 by Roger Akers, a friend of Hatfill's who said Tuesday that he had proofread it for Hatfill and, with his permission, copyrighted it in both their names.

Hatfill's fictional villain is a Palestinian terrorist, Ismail Abu Asifa, paid by Iraq to launch a biological attack against Washington. The novel opens in Antarctica, where 10 members of a South African research team die from a strange sickness.

"Eight years later, a similar disease sweeps with explosive effect through the members of the U.S. congressional House and Senate," Hatfill wrote in the opening synopsis. "The nation's leadership is paralyzed and panic ensues as members of the executive office begin to show symptoms."

Asifa flies from England to Washington Dulles International Airport planning "to strike terror deep into the heart of the most powerful nation on Earth."

Once in Washington, Asifa buys supplies for $387 to grow bubonic plague bacteria — "not a high price to strike terror in the government of a country this large." The bacteria in the attacks is yersinia, not anthrax.

Hatfill's villain infects the White House using a sprayer hidden inside a wheelchair during a public tour.  The president is sickened before he departs for a trip to Moscow, and within days the illness spreads to top congressional leaders.

In his plot, the White House becomes the "House of Death."

But Asifa also accidentally infects himself and ultimately stumbles into the path of a car, dying six days later in a hospital.

"For all its wealth and power, the United States ... was actually an incredibly easy target for biological terrorism," Hatfill wrote. But Hatfill noted that U.S. experts were sufficiently well trained to detect attacks that his villain "would probably have only enough time to perform one attack and observe its early effects."

"It was unlikely with his present resources, that he would be able to kill more than a few hundred people at most," Hatfill added.

Also Tuesday, the FBI in New Jersey showed merchants near a mailbox that tested positive for anthrax exposure the photograph of a man and asked if they had seen him in the area last fall. An FBI spokesman would not identify the man in the photo, but several published reports said it was Hatfill.

The idea for the novel was hatched several years ago at a dinner party where a group of journalists and former military men got to talking about bioterrorism, said Pat Clawson, a friend of Hatfill's who was there.

"We started kicking it around, that would be a cool novel to write — let's have a bioterrorism attack on Washington and Congress," said Clawson, who is serving as Hatfill's spokesman.

The FBI has searched Hatfill's apartment in Frederick, Md., twice, as well as his car, a storage locker in Florida and the home of his girlfriend.

Law enforcement officials have described Hatfill as a "person of interest," not a criminal suspect.

While declaring his innocence publicly this week, Hatfill emphasized that his background is in the study of viral diseases such as Ebola, not bacterial diseases such as anthrax.

Hatfill previously worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute at Fort Detrick, Md., once home to the U.S. biological warfare program and repository for the Ames strain of anthrax that was used in the attacks.

Insight on the News - Daily Insight 
Issue: 09/02/02 

Media Manufacture Cloud of Suspicion Over Hatfill
By Nicholas Stix 

Insight first published this article about the effort to blame Steven Hatfill for the anthrax attacks in the Fair Comment section of the Aug. 12 issue. 

Just point and click. Those two steps, and a long e-mail "cc" list, apparently are all that it takes to spread a hoax around the world today. It works like a computer virus, and with consequences no less dangerous. 

Just ask Dr. Steven J. Hatfill. 

Readers of Insight and her sister daily, the Washington Times, know Hatfill through his attempts over the years to warn the public of America's lack of readiness against biowarfare attacks.  However, the mainstream liberal press ignored Hatfill — until late June, that is. 

Since then Hatfill has gained international notoriety with a slew of stories in Time magazine, the American Prospect, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, the Washington Post, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sun-Sentinel and on Websites as far away as Zambia. The stories played up FBI searches of Hatfill's home and a refrigerated storage locker he rents — implying that he is the anthrax terrorist who killed five people last fall with contaminated mail. On July 2, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof referred to Hatfill as "Mr. Z" and strongly suggested that the FBI should jail him as the anthrax terrorist. 

"If Mr. Z were an Arab national, he would have been imprisoned long ago. … It's time for the FBI 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." 

Why would the FBI need to "exculpate" someone on whom it has nothing? The only cloud of "suspicion" hanging over Hatfill's head is the one manufactured by the media, who have let Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg lead them around by the nose.

Rosenberg blames the U.S. government for last fall's anthrax attacks. She long has called on the United States to sign on to biowarfare protocols that would permit international inspectors to visit our biodefense installations. 

In a sympathetic portrait in the March 18 New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann wrote that "Rosenberg believes that the American bioweapons program, which won't allow itself to be monitored, may not be in strict compliance with the [1972 Biological Weapons] convention. If the perpetrator of the anthrax attacks is who she thinks it is, that would put the American program in a bad light, and it would prove that she was right to demand that the program be monitored." 

Rosenberg has provided no evidence to support her charges. Meanwhile, as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton has argued, her prescription would allow rogue nations such as Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria to learn through protocol inspections about U.S. defensive programs and develop their own offensive programs. 

Journalists usually refer to Rosenberg as a "microbiologist" and "State University of New York professor." Officially, she is a professor of environmental science at a performing-arts college, but she neither has conducted scientific research nor taught in years. And she has little biowarfare expertise. Working with the far-left Federation of American Scientists, Rosenberg is a taxpayer-supported, full-time activist. 

Immediately after last fall's anthrax attacks, Rosenberg began claiming that the terrorist was an American scientist from within the biodefense establishment. However, her stories diverged wildly depending on her audience. In the European version, the terrorist was a CIA agent/contract scientist who acted on agency orders as part of a deadly germ-warfare experiment. Unbeknownst to European reporters, they were getting a plotline from the brilliant but little-watched TV show Millennium (1996-99). 

In the American version, the terrorist was a "bioevangelist" (The Sun's Scott Shane) who sought not to harm anyone, but to warn the public of the dangers of biowarfare. 

In setting up an American scientist to take the fall for the killings, Rosenberg may have seen an opportunity to discredit the U.S. biowarfare-defense program, get the Bush administration to sign on to international biowarfare protocols that would give our enemies access to our biodefense secrets and exact political revenge on Hatfill. 

In seeking to convince readers of Hatfill's guilt in last fall's attacks, Kristof and the other journalists claimed that in the late 1970s, Rhodesian special forces attacked black-owned farms with anthrax, and sought to link Hatfill to these "attacks." 

No one ever has provided any evidence showing that the Rhodesian army carried out anthrax attacks, much less that Hatfill participated in them. Kristof and company merely are regurgitating a tainted 1992 article by longtime Rosenberg associate Meryl Nass. The Nass report purported to explain the 1978-80 anthrax outbreak that affected 10,000 black farmers, predominantly with cutaneous anthrax, killing 182. In her "explanation," Nass leaped from one politically loaded speculation to another without any evidence. 

The flamboyant, brilliant Hatfill earned his medical degree in Rhodesia in the late 1970s and early 1980s while serving in U.S. and Rhodesian special forces. In Rhodesia, he fought against communist guerrillas. One must recall that in Rhodesia — now named Zimbabwe, and ruled since 1980 by genocidal communist Robert Mugabe — the choice was never between apartheid and freedom, but rather between white or black apartheid. 

Hatfill's attorney, Thomas C. Carter, told me, "My client doesn't want to do anything, right now. … He's really upset that his name continues to be mentioned, and he's decided that the best approach is to ignore everything and to try and stay as much removed from it as he can. He might change his mind at some point in the future and participate in something but, right now, he doesn't." 

If Hatfill doesn't engage the campaign against him in a hurry, he soon may find himself sharing a cell with the likes of José Padilla. 

Nicholas Stix is a free-lance writer based in New York who contributes to the New York Post and Middle American News.

Aug 13, 2:29 PM
Florida Today

Agency hushed anthrax scandal

Billy Cox

With the FBI on the trail of missing, weapons-grade anthrax and former government bio-lab scientist Steven Hatfill claiming to be the victim of an Orwellian setup, there's only one thing anybody can be sure of: The genie left the bottle a long time ago. And it's insane to think anyone -- least of all Uncle Sam -- is going to accept any accountability for this stinking mess.

Last Thursday, in a remarkable press conference not nearly as extensively covered as Hatfill's brief media debut, the son of the man who once ran the special-operations division for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute in Fort Detrick, Md., revived a Cold War scandal that could've been soundtracked by The Who's sardonic "Won't Get Fooled Again." Among the documents touted by 57-year-old Eric Olson as additional proof of the long-standing cover-up was a letter from Dick Cheney to Donald Rumsfeld -- from 1975.

"The disinformation campaign was brilliant," Olson said several days later by phone from Maryland. "Everyone was focused on my father's death as a mind-control story, which it never was. This was about biological warfare. My father's specialty was the aerosol delivery of anthrax."

Much has been written and broadcast about the controversial last days of a troubled Frank Olson. When he crashed to his death from the 10th floor of a New York City hotel in 1953, police immediately logged it as a suicide. But one of the first skeptics was Armond Pastore, now 82 years old and living in Suntree. Pastore, the erst while night manager of the Pennsylvania Hotel, was the first to approach Olson's broken body. He'd seen jumpers before, but this one was completely different.  "Suicides," he reasoned, "don't jump through glass." Pastore concluded the fix was in when no one bothered to interview him about what he saw that night.

The Olson family nursed its doubts in silence until the 1975 Rockefeller committee hearings into CIA abuses. To their surprise, they learned, among other things, that an unnamed scientist had leaped from a New York hotel room in '53 after being given LSD without his knowledge. The Olsons connected the dots and held a press conference threatening legal action against the CIA. They were promptly summoned to the White House by President Ford, issued a public apology for a misfired mind-control experiment, and awarded a $750,000 settlement to relinquish all claims against the government.

Still, the family never fully bought the story that Frank Olson died from a surreptitious LSD trip. In 1994, his body was exhumed and a forensics expert determined Olson couldn't have burst through the window by himself. By 1995, the Manhattan district attorney was investigating for homicide. And later, compelling memos began surfacing, including a correspondence from then-White House assistant Dick Cheney to Chief of Staff Rumsfeld, dated July 11, 1975 (one day after the Olsons held their press conference): A lawsuit could ignite "the possibility that it might be necessary to disclose highly classified national-security information in connection with any court suit or legislative hearings on a private bill."

Eric Olson says his family accepted a payoff without knowing the big picture, which he says emerged only recently through snippets of documentation and a retired agency veteran. At a time when the United States was publicly disavowing the use of biological weapons, the CIA was employing them in Europe and Korea, most notably during "terminal interrogations," Eric Olson contends.

"The cover-up was about the close compatibility between biological weapons -- which are cheap, portable and deniable -- and covert operations. My father was very patriotic, he was very religious," he insists. "I doubt he was going to be a whistleblower in a conventional sense -- what, talk about biological weapons during the Korean War?  But he was facing a real moral crisis. He told them he was going to quit on Monday, and by Friday, he was dead."

Ultimately, Eric Olson says he was naive to think the district attorney, who has since dropped the case, would press a full-fledged murder prosecution. "No DA in the country, in New York or anywhere else, is going to indict an intelligence agency for murder," he says.  "It just isn't going to happen."

Thus, last week, after proving to his satisfaction his father was whacked by his own people, Eric Olson reburied his dad's remains. "There's nothing more I can do. I've got to get on with my life."

In response, a CIA spokesman told a West Coast newspaper the agency "fully cooperated" with Rockefeller during the Frank Olson inquiry. He suggested any new evidence be forwarded to "appropriate authorities."

Billy Cox's column runs every Wednesday. He can be reached at 242-3774, or Florida Today, P.O. Box 419000, Melbourne, FL 32941-9000.

Anthrax found in mailbox

The Trenton Times
Tuesday, August 13, 2002

PRINCETON BOROUGH - A public mailbox on Nassau Street has tested positive for a small amount of anthrax, sending federal agents searching for clues to whether any of the four known letters laced with the powder originated in this Ivy League town. 

FBI agents headed to Borough Hall yesterday and began searching municipal files, including tickets issued for traffic violations.

"They went into our computer and checked the names of several people," Administrator Robert Bruschi said. "I'm not exactly sure what they were looking for, or if the tickets they were checking for were recent or not." 

Agents also asked people in the town's central business district for information that might help their investigation, Bruschi said. 

Bureau officials would not say if the agents found anything useful. 

Biowarfare expert Steven J. Hatfill, one of 30 people with a background in biochemistry being investigated by authorities, has received no traffic or parking tickets in the borough, a court clerk told The Times yesterday. 

Investigators have not officially declared Hatfill, a 48-year-old Maryland resident, a suspect, but they also refuse to clear him. They have searched his apartment, car, a storage unit and his girlfriend's home and confiscated his computer. 

News of the slightly contaminated mailbox near Princeton University was announced by Gov. James E. McGreevey at a news conference yesterday. He said he wanted to assure the public they are safe. 

"There does exist no public health threat," he said. 

State Health Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy reinforced that message later in the day. McGreevey, on the advice of state Attorney General David Samson, refused to give too many details of the investigation. 

He did say that the Nassau Street drop box is only used to send mail into the postal system, which, if true, would increase the likelihood that an anthrax letter originated from that location. 

However, the box is also used by letter carriers to hold mail until it is delivered to postal customers in the area, said Bill Auft, vice president of the letter carriers union that serves the greater Princeton area. 

It saves a trip back to the post office for letter carriers who walk along the route carrying mail in a shoulder bag, he said. The mail dropped in the box by the public is collected in one of the tubs that is shuttled around to the central processing center and other post offices.

"That box could have been contaminated by incoming or outgoing mail," Auft said. "It could have been from anywhere. It could have been from October, which we think is the case because it was such a minute amount." 

Calls to McGreevey's spokesman last night were not returned. Earlier in the day he referred questions to the U.S. Attorney's Office. A spokesman there would not answer questions about the discrepancy. 

  -- -- -- 

The Princeton mailbox is one of nearly 650 that will be tested in towns where ZIP codes begin with 085 and 086, local postal workers said they were told by higher-ups yesterday. 

The tests have been under way for three weeks, they said. McGreevey said 39 boxes remain to be tested. No other boxes have tested positive for anthrax, he said. 

The decision to test all of the boxes came after federal investigators received calls from residents about suspicious-looking people putting letters in public mailboxes, Auft said. 

One caller said someone who appeared to be wearing latex gloves dropped a letter into a box, he said.

It was unclear yesterday what agency is testing the mailboxes. State officials gave conflicting details, and federal officials would not clarify the issue.

The positive test on the Nassau Street box came at 3 a.m. Friday, Auft said he was told by postal officials. The box was removed and replaced with another by 9 a.m.

Nationwide, five deaths have been blamed on the anthrax letters, which were postmarked at the Route 130 facility in Hamilton. Thirteen other people were sickened with either the skin form or the usually fatal form of inhalation anthrax. 

No arrests have been made in connection with the letters, which were sent to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy and the New York Post. 

  -- -- -- 

Thousands of drop boxes and nearly 50 post offices feed into the Hamilton distribution center, which has been closed since October because of severe contamination caused by the four letters containing anthrax that were processed there. The center's operations have been redistributed throughout three counties. 

The Route 130 post office is scheduled to be decontaminated this fall and should reopen next spring, postal officials estimate.

Since October, traces of anthrax also have been found at five other local post offices, including Palmer Square in Princeton Borough, a couple of blocks from the contaminated drop box. 

Workers and businesses along Nassau Street said they had not been told about the latest anthrax detection. 

"This is shocking," said Joan Warshefski, the office manager of Wills O'Neill & Mellk, a law firm whose door is directly behind the mailbox where the anthrax was found. "Just when we thought all of this stuff was over, here we go again. I guess they did it under the auspices of the night because they didn't want anybody to know." 

The mailbox that was removed is in the middle of a trio of boxes set by the curb. The new box is a slightly lighter shade of blue, but does not stand out. 

"I haven't noticed anything suspicious, lately or back in the fall," said Nassau Street worker John McGuigan as he pulled the handle on the center box. "How would you even know it had been replaced?" 

  -- -- -- 

Postal workers do not seem too concerned about the latest finding, Auft said. They know to seek medical help if a rash or flu-like symptoms develop, he said. 

"From our standpoint, if there was a trace in any mailbox it should have been tested months ago and not now," said Steve Bahrle, president of the local branch of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union. "But I am glad they are testing now." 

McGreevey and Lacy said a check from October to December of 240,000 emergency room visits and 7,100 intensive care unit cases in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey found no new cases of anthrax. 

Testing the boxes is the latest attempt to gain more information as part of an ongoing investigation that FBI and U.S Postal Service inspectors admit has stalled. 

Several actions have been taken since October: 

-- Investigators have checked area photocopiers for identifying marks that may resemble those on the anthrax letters. 

-- Prescription records at local pharmacies have been reviewed to see if large quantities of Cipro, an antibiotic used to treat anthrax sickness, may have been prescribed. 

-- Local residents of Middle Eastern descent have been questioned and, in some high-profile shows of police force, their homes have been raided.

-- Several laboratories and pharmaceutical research facilities with the potential ability to create anthrax have been looked at as well. 

Nothing has been uncovered to significantly advance the investigation, officials acknowledge.

NOTE:  Staff writer Robert Stern contributed to this report. 

Copyright 2002 New Jersey Online.

The scientist and the mailbox

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Staff Writers

New Jersey investigators searched Tuesday for a connection between Steven Hatfill, a bioweapons expert from Maryland, and a public mailbox in Princeton that tested positive for anthrax last week.

Postal Inspector James Britt and a Trenton detective canvassed the streets surrounding the tainted mailbox, showing local shop owners and employees a color photograph of Hatfill.

"Does that person look familiar?" Britt asked Rachel Herr, 39, owner of Pins and Needles, a fabrics store around the corner from a blue mailbox that has sparked a nationwide manhunt.

"He looks vaguely familiar only because he's like a generic white guy," Herr told the two investigators.

Though investigators did not identify the man in the photo, a head shot against a blue background, Herr and others said it was Hatfill.

After the investigators left, Herr expressed doubt that they will be able to place Hatfill or any other suspect near the mailbox at Nassau and Bank streets, across from Princeton University. 

"I think it's going to be awfully hard to tie somebody to the anthrax at this point," Herr said.

Hatfill, who once worked at the virology division of the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Md., has vehemently denied any involvement in the anthrax-by-mail terror campaign that killed five and sickened more than a dozen people, including six in New Jersey.

"I am a loyal American," Hatfill said at a news conference Sunday. "I have had nothing to do in any way, shape, or form with the mailing of these anthrax letters."

Though no one knows for sure how long anthrax spores can survive without a host to infect, health officials believe that the spores found in the mailbox have been there since last fall's attack. 

State Health Commissioner Clifton Lacy stressed that the public has nothing to fear. There have been no new cases of anthrax - and none connected to the mailbox.

"The risk from this is zero," Lacy said. "This is not a public health risk at all at this time."

At least four anthrax-laced letters were processed in the fall at a Hamilton distribution center that sorts mail from 46 area post offices, including one in Princeton. The letters caused widespread contamination, spreading anthrax on mail sorting machinery at the center, which remains closed.

Investigators have been searching for the point of origin for the anthrax-laced letters. This month, the FBI sent some 600 environmental samples to the state Health Department lab in Trenton for testing. One sample, taken from the curbside mailbox in Princeton, came back positive Thursday for anthrax, Lacy said.

The finding could point investigators to the spot where the anthrax-laced letters entered the postal system. But it is also possible that the microscopic anthrax spores got inside the mailbox from a plastic bin used to catch the mail dropped into the box. 

Shortly after postal officials closed the distribution center Oct. 19, health officials found anthrax spores inside five post offices, including Princeton's, and one local business. At the time, health officials said the likely culprit was "cross-contamination," meaning letters picked up anthrax spores as they traveled through contaminated mail-sorting machinery in Hamilton.

Authorities on Thursday removed the mailbox and airlifted it to an unidentified laboratory for further forensic testing to determine the "amount of colonies, amount of spores, type of spores," said FBI Special Agent Bill Evanina. The tests will determine if the mailbox was cross-contaminated and if the anthrax is the same strain involved in last fall's attacks. 

"Right now all we have is a box that tested positive," Evanina said. "Our hope, obviously, is that additional forensic testing will lead us to additional clues."

Evanina could not say when agents will have test results. The FBI is expected to send an additional 39 samples to the state health lab for testing shortly, Lacy said.

Members of the Anthrax Task Force, composed of the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, New Jersey State Police, and local police, are trying to determine who uses the Princeton mailbox. The goal is to find patterns of use, which might ultimately lead to more clues, Evanina said.

Megan Tepper, 28, who works at a gift store called Go For Baroque on Nassau Street, said investigators showed her a photo of a mustachioed Hatfill and asked if she's seen him around.

"I've seen him in the newspaper," Tepper said. "I'd love to say that I did see him on the street here but I didn't. Obviously, they are looking for some sort of connection between the two."

At least one person, a receptionist at The Glenmede Trust Co., told investigators that she recognized the man in the photo.

"I just saw him in passing," said the receptionist, who asked not to identified. "There are a lot of people around here who've seen the guy."

Months ago, early in the investigation, the FBI considered the possibility that the culprit was someone from Princeton University, though no anthrax research is conducted there.  Investigators took samples of photocopy machines, looking for marks on the screens that could match them to the letters, which they believe are photocopies. 

But investigators did not question anyone in the microbiology department and they haven't been back, said Jeffry Stock, a Princeton University microbiologist.

"We've heard nothing," Stock said Tuesday. "I haven't heard anything. Certainly there is no reason to think it came from somebody at Princeton."

Copyright © 2002 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

Anthrax probe goes door to door

The Trenton Times
Wednesday, August 14, 2002

PRINCETON BOROUGH - The FBI is showing Nassau Street residents and workers a dated picture of biowarfare expert Steven J. Hatfill and asking whether anyone saw him in the area when four deadly anthrax letters were mailed from the central New Jersey region beginning 10 months ago.

The door-to-door effort comes after a small amount of anthrax was detected last week in a public  mailbox on Nassau Street near the intersection of Bank Street. 

"I had seen Hatfill on TV when he was wearing a business suit, had no mustache and had neatly  combed hair," said John Trubee, who has an office about 100 yards from the mailbox. "The picture I was shown looked like a mug shot. He had a thick mustache and thicker hair than he has now. He was wearing a T-shirt. The appearance looked very dissimilar, but one of the FBI men said they are one and the same, which shows they really are going after him."

Bureau officials acknowledged they showed a photo but would not confirm it was Hatfill. It appears agents plan to stay in town for a while - they have set up a makeshift office in a borough hall meeting room. 

The hope is that fresh leads will emerge in an investigation the FBI said had nearly grown stale until the discovery of the tainted drop box. 

Still, investigators say it is impossible at this point, and might never be determined, whether the Nassau Street mailbox was a point of origin for one of the letters or if it became contaminated through contact with other mail or equipment containing traces of anthrax. 

That has not dampened their effort to search for new clues in this Ivy League town, though. 

"We're not discounting any possibilities, and we're finding some interesting things out there," said Ken Shuey, the agent in charge of the Trenton field office. "But we can't say with certainty where the letters entered the mail system until we have some other corroboration or someone confesses." 

  -- -- -- 

The FBI has not labeled Hatfill a suspect, but has not cleared him either. They have searched his apartment twice, along with his car, a storage unit, and his girlfriend's home. Agents also took his computer. 

He is one of 20 to 30 people bureau officials say are being looked at in connection with the anthrax mailings. 

The 48-year-old Maryland resident held a news conference Sunday to declare his innocence. He said the disclosure of his name has ruined his career. 

Hatfill worked for two years at Fort Detrick, Md., where the U.S. Army has a bioweapons facility.  During that time, he potentially had access to anthrax similar to what was sent to two U.S. senators and media outlets in September and October. 

A female employee of a Palmer Square coffee shop said she told investigators yesterday she recognized the picture of the white man shown to her by an FBI agent and police officer. 

The investigators did not disclose the man's name, said the woman, who asked that her name not be published. She said she does not know who Steven J. Hatfill is but thinks she saw the man in the photo in her shop late last summer. 

"I definitely recognized him," she said. "I remembered his face." 

Agents interviewed her for about three minutes and took her name and phone number, she said. 

The four known anthrax letters postmarked "Trenton, N.J." created major contamination at the Trenton area's main post office in Hamilton, along with the Brentwood facility that serves Washington, D.C., and the Hart Senate Office Building. 

Nationwide, five deaths were attributed to the letters, along with 13 cases of skin or respiratory forms of illnesses caused by exposure to anthrax. 

  -- -- -- 

The tainted mailbox was sent to a U.S. Army facility in Aberdeen, Md., to be tested. 

The box had two purposes: It was used by the public to drop off mail and was used by the Postal Service to hold sorted mail for letter carriers to deliver. 

It is along the route of letter carrier Cleveland Stevenson, who said his health is fine and he has no worries it will decline. 

He believes the anthrax has been in the box since the letters were mailed and is not a new case. 

"I have not seen anything suspicious or out of place. If I had, I would have reported it," said Stevenson, who has worked along Nassau Street for four years. "It has been pretty routine." 

Thousands of drop boxes and nearly 50 post offices feed into the Hamilton facility. 

The FBI decided to test nearly 650 public mailboxes in areas with ZIP codes that begin with 085 and 086 after receiving tips about suspicious-looking people using some of the boxes. 

The Nassau Street box is the only one that was found to contain traces of anthrax. Gov. James E. McGreevey said Monday all but 39 boxes had been tested. 

Some of those results came back yesterday, but none was positive, said Molly McMinn, a spokeswoman for the U.S. postal inspectors. 

Testing has been under way for a few weeks. The effort was not revealed to the public until the Nassau Street box was removed. 

"The important thing here would be to determine how long the anthrax has been in that box, and I don't know if that is possible," said Mark Van Wagner, vice president of the Trenton branch of the letter carriers union. "We still want to know why none of this was reported to the postal unions." 

Apparently, it was not made known to many people outside of the investigation. 

  -- -- -- 

Hopewell Township Police Chief Michael Chipowsky said he was notified by the FBI that it would be working in the township but was given no details. 

Officials in Lambertville wish they had been given the same heads-up. 

A resident there called police a few weeks ago at 2 a.m. to report a couple of suspicious people tinkering with a public mailbox. 

When police arrived, the people were gone. Following protocol, they opened the mail and found a package inside. The state police bomb squad was called to X-ray the package and found nothing dangerous. 

Postal Service officials came to the scene, telling Lambertville police two of their workers were performing routine maintenance on the box. 

"We were not told at the time what it was really about," Lambertville Mayor David Del Vecchio said. 

Earlier this week FBI agents ran several names through Princeton Borough's computer database to see whether any of those people had received traffic tickets. Hatfill's name did not come up. 

Officials in nearby towns such as Hopewell Township, Lawrence, Plainsboro and West Windsor said investigators have not asked to search their files. 

Special Agent Bill Evanina, a spokesman for the Newark FBI office, said it is hard to determine how long the investigation will remain active in the borough. 

"It depends on whether any leads come up and what comes out of the interviews and canvassing," he said. "You never know what will stem from interviews." 

Meanwhile, he said, agents are hoping some helpful leads will come from the laboratory examination of the Nassau Street mailbox. 

State Health Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy said again yesterday that no public health threat exists from the tainted mailbox. He suspects cross-contamination is to blame for the presence of anthrax on the box.

FBI agents have no theory yet on how the anthrax was spread to the box, Evanina said. 

"We have no idea," he said. "It could be something that was placed in the box or it could be cross-contamination. It is way, way too early to tell." 

NOTE: Staff writer Mike Jennings contributed to this report. 

Copyright 2002 New Jersey Online.