November 20, 2002
FROM THE EDITOR'S CUFF
ON OCTOBER 28, THE WASHINGTON POST RAN A BIG FRONT-PAGE STORY ON HOW “A significant number of scientists and biological warfare experts are expressing skepticism about the FBI’s view that a single disgruntled American scientist prepared the spores and mailed the letters.” It quotes Dr. Richard Spertzel, the chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998, as saying, “In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I’m one of them.” He added, “And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good.” If he is right, that rules out Dr. Steven Hatfill, who has never worked with anthrax.
THE POST SAID ANTHRAX SPORES MAILED TO SENATOR DASCHLE HAD BEEN PROCESSED to a grade of one trillion spores per gram, 50 times as fine as anything produced by the U.S. offensive bioweapons program. But Dr. William C. Patrick III, who was head of that program when it ended in 1969, told the New York Times last December that they had processed anthrax spores to a grade of one trillion per gram, the same size as the spores in the Daschle letter. Some scientists interviewed by the Post said spores that small would have to be coated with fumed (colloidal) silica to keep them from clumping and impeding their dispersal. The Post said the U.N. had reported in the 1990s that Iraq had 10 tons of this silica with the brand name “Cab-O-Sil” that was “probably destined for its chemical weapons program.” The U.N. inspectors had also found that Iraq had three spray dryers that could have been used to coat the anthrax with the silica. Two of them had been destroyed and the third had been scoured and sterilized before inspectors could examine it. The implication was that Iraq was a more likely source of the Daschle anthrax than Steven Hatfill, the FBI’s only known “person of interest.”
THIS WASHINGTON POST STORY BY GUY GUGLIOTTA AND GARY MATSUMOTO WAS followed by a November 5 letter from Dr. Matthew Meselson of Harvard and Ken Alibek of the Center for Biodefense at George Mason University. They suggested that the scientists quoted in the Post story may have been wrong in saying the anthrax spores were coated with silica. Meselson and Alibek said they had examined micrographs of the Daschle anthrax spores and could not see certain distinctive features that other scientists said were associated with the silica coating according to the Post story. They concluded their letter saying, “Until knowledgeable governent investigators announce their results, statements attributed to anonymous sources or from persons who have not examined the actual evidence should be treated with caution.” [Dr. Meselson did not follow that advice when, without interviewing any of the Special Forces troops involved in Operation Tailwind in Laos in 1970, he told CNN’s Peter Arnett that “the gas described by the commandos fits the description of sarin nerve gas.” That bolstered the claim CNN made in 1998 that the Special Forces used deadly sarin gas against Vietnamese troops and that the commandos themselves were exposed to it, a claim CNN had to retract.]
KEN ALIBEK RAN THE SOVIET BIOWEAPONS PROGRAM BEFORE DEFECTING AND ADDING to our knowledge with his book Biohazard. He has cast doubt on the FBI theory that Dr. Hatfill may have been behind the anthrax attacks, telling Newsmax.com that he believes “the source of the anthrax attack was foreign, not domestic, as claimed by the FBI.” He cited the fact that the hijackers were looking for crop dusters, an indication they wanted to disperse a chemical or biological agent. The first cases of anthrax were in Florida where some of the hijackers lived. One of them developed an ugly, unexplained ulcer. Alibek is critical of the FBI’s failure to conduct an immediate search of their dwellings. He said that no opportunity to investigate any possible lead should be lost and that it is a mistake to pursue a single lead for many months, only to find that it is a dead end. By then, he said, “ It’s too late to go back to seek for some other cause... because in many cases, people have short memories.” The public is confronted with three possibilities: the anthrax was produced by a foreign government program costing millions of dollars; it was produced by a lone scientist in his home at a cost as low as $2,500; or a lone scientist stole it from a government laboratory. The Baltimore Sun’s Scott Shane has been pushing the lone scientist theory, focusing on Hatfill. The Post’s Guy Gugliotta makes a case for blaming Iraq while leaving the door open to theft from a federal lab. The FBI is doing what Ken Alibek says they should avoid.
by Reed Levine
December 6, 2002
"PERSON OF INTEREST" TAKES IT PERSONALLY
Dr. Steven Hatfill, the so-called “person of interest” in the anthrax letters case, announced at an October 5 Accuracy in Media conference that lawsuits are planned against those who have accused him of involvement in the murders of five people. For the first time publicly, Hatfill directly confronted and dismissed many of the accusations that have tried to link him to the deadly letters. His comments were covered by CNN and Fox News.
Hatfill, who has the expertise to help prepare America for biowarfare waged by countries such as Iraq or international terrorists, understands how to save lives. But he has been run out of two jobs because of the government and media campaign against him. Hatfill said, “A year ago at this time I was involved in theoretical studies helping to determine means by which we could protect our ports and harbors from large-scale biological events. Several months ago I was involved in designing and implementing 46,000 first responders in how to handle biological incidents. Now I sit at home and watch CNN.”
“What upsets me the worst,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion, is that “my country is getting ready for war, and I’m left on the sidelines.”
False Reports Finger Hatfill
Hatfill, whose career and reputation have been ruined by media coverage of the case, told the conference that he once believed the media were fair and accurate. “Like many Americans I trusted that the news that would be presented to me on television and in the newspapers would be filtered and have some degree of accuracy,” he said. “I took this for granted.” He now knows better, he said, because the media have falsely depicted him as the anthrax killer of five people.
He attacked a Brian Ross story on ABC News that said he lived near a Greendale school in Zimbabwe in Africa. This was said to be incriminating because a Greendale school was listed on the return address on some of the letters. “There is no Greendale school in Zimbabwe and never has been,” Hatfill said.
Hatfill said he was partly responsible for a report on how government “first responders” to a biological or chemical attack could deal with the anthrax letter hoaxes that were occurring in the U.S. This was designed to help America prepare for the real thing. And yet it was “turned against me [and the media] said that it was a blueprint for the anthrax letters attack,” he noted. He called the coverage of this matter “complete rubbish.”
It was also reported that Hatfill had written an unpublished novel on anthrax letters being sent to Congress—another blueprint of what actually happened. He said that in fact, it dealt with mad cow disease and other emerging infections and the FBI was the hero of the book. He said. “Well, I’m busy rewriting the book.”
“A lot of what I can see in the FBI’s investigation of me has been driven by the press,” he said. “An article appears in some newspaper that I have a secret mountain cabin. What’s the next question I’m asked by the FBI? ‘Do you have a secret mountain cabin?’” That cabin turned out to be a home belonging to a Washington attorney where Hatfill and friends gathered for dinner and conversation.
While Hatfill’s life has been made miserable for many months, the FBI has failed to identify the real perpetrators of the anthrax attacks.
Asked for his suspicions about where the anthrax came from, Hatfill replied: “Throughout this entire year I’ve tried to sit on the fence. There are times when I think it could be domestic. There are times when I think it’s foreign. I don’t know. I don’t have enough information. I haven’t seen the powder. I don’t have enough scientific evidence to make any sort of determination except that when these deaths happened I think we all thought it was terrorism. It was a follow-on to 9/11, and I for one was shocked when the FBI declared that this was a domestic incident. I thought they were out of their minds. It’s hard to make any decision unless you have the evidence. I haven’t seen the powder. I can’t comment on it — its sophistication or anything else. I don’t have enough data to make a firm conviction. However, I believe if it had been domestic after the millions of dollars and thousands of man- hours that the FBI has put into this, I think those people would be in jail now. And I think the fact that there is no suspect points us towards perhaps a foreign power or a terrorist group involved — just simply by the process of elimination.”
Described by Attorney General John Ashcroft himself as a “person of interest” in the case, Hatfill has been forced to hire a lawyer and hold two news conferences to deny that he is responsible for the anthrax letters. His lawyer, Victor Glasberg, has filed a complaint with the Justice Department over how his client has been treated. Hatfill has been tailed by the FBI and his apartment has been searched three times. Yet he is not a suspect, no evidence has been found, and Ashcroft admits the FBI isn’t close to an arrest. In one of the most blatant media distortions in the case, Newsweek claimed that FBI bloodhounds went crazy around Hatfill, thereby linking him to the anthrax letters. But the scientist dismissed that, saying he had merely petted one of the dogs walking around him in a room. “Dogs like me,” he joked.
Hatfill revealed that the country’s top active expert in dried biological warfare agents — Bill Patrick — who had been polygraphed by the FBI and brought into their inner circle — was now being targeted as well, and that bloodhounds were “out sniffing him the other day.” “I didn’t know it could be like this in the United States,” he said. “We’ve gone nuts. We eat our own here.”
Ashcroft Leads The Campaign
Hatfill was the surprise guest on a panel discussion of the anthrax case that also included his spokesman, Pat Clawson; investigative free-lance journalist Nicholas Stix; and Kenneth J. Dillon of Spectrum Bioscience, Inc. The panel was moderated by Cliff Kincaid, the author of an AIM Report characterizing Hatfill as another Richard Jewell, the security guard falsely accused of the Olympic Park bombing.
Clawson, a former investigative reporter for CNN and other media, told the conference that coverage of Hatill has been “gossip masquerading as fact,” generated by leaks from the Department of Justice and the FBI, and he accused the media of malpractice. He said investigative journalism has been discarded in favor of “news candy” that seeks to entertainand not inform. Clawson said that he was interviewed by Geraldo Rivera of the Fox News Channel about the case and that Rivera was so unprepared to discuss the facts and looked so foolish that the story based on the interview never aired on the network. Instead, Rivera told viewers that Clawson had offered “nothing new” in the case and so the interview was killed.
Clawson blasted Attorney General Ashcroft for accusing Hatfill of being a “person of interest” in the case without having any evidence against him. He said Ashcroft lied on CNN’s Larry King Live when he said that the firing of Hatfill from a job in biodefense at Louisiana State University was a decision made by the university alone. In fact, the Justice Department had told the university not to use Hatfill in the program, which it funded.
Kincaid opened the discussion by noting evidence of al Qaeda interest in biowarfare from the FBI interrogation of American Taliban John Walker Lindh. Terrorist trainers told Lindh that the next wave of terrorism after 9/11 was to be chemical or biological attacks. Medical reports suggest that two of the 9/11 hijackers may have come into contact with anthrax. Two other possible hijackers, Ayub Ali-Khan and Mohammed Jaweed Azmath, now in U.S. custody, after 9/11 quickly left New Jersey, where the anthrax letters were postmarked. Sources told CNN and the Associated Press that the men had large amounts of cash, hair dye and box cutters in their possession. New Jersey was a base for the bombers of the World Trade Center in 1993. A microbiologist with dual Iraqi-American citizenship living in New Jersey was involved in that bombing. Another key player, an Iraqi named Abdul Rahman Yasin who had a New Jersey apartment, was questioned by the FBI, released, and then fled to Baghdad. He was interviewed by Lesley Stahl of CBS 60 Minutes earlier this year, advertised as “The Man Who Got Away.”
Al Qaeda was interested in anthrax as a weapon, had labs designed to make it, and reportedly had purchased it. CNN has al Qaeda videotapes showing their access to chemical and biological agents. CNN also reported an al Qaeda terrorism manual includes instructions on how to send a “poisonous letter.”
National Security adviser Condoleeza Rice said on September 26 that the Iraqi regime was sheltering members of the al Qaeda terrorist network in Baghdad and helping bin Laden’s operatives in developing chemical weapons. Doesn’t it make some sense, Kincaid asked, to consider that Iraq and al Qaeda were behind the anthrax letter attacks? Despite the statements of Rice and Rumsfeld on an al Qaeda link to Iraq, the administration has seemed reluctant to make a full-blown case. From the FBI’s point of view, this might expose other FBI failures. Kincaid speculated that it might lead to disclosures relating to the FBI’s failure to hold Iraq or al Qaeda responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Oklahoma City bombing.
Anthrax Letters Analysis
Kenneth J. Dillon, a former Foreign Service officer and intelligence analyst, described the writing on the envelopes carrying the anthrax letters as authentic expressions of an al Qaeda operative. In what appeared to be the work of someone who spoke and wrote poor English, they said, “Take Penacilin (sic) Now. Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great.” Dillon said, “None of the various features of the letters points clearly to a domestic terrorist.” In particular, he said telling the target person to get “penacilin” can be explained as gloating, as making sure that the person would not just die of an unknown cause, or as an attempt to mislead.
On why Democratic Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy were targeted, Dillon noted that this has been viewed by some as an indication that the letters were the act of a domestic right-winger. But in fact, he said, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), the key component of al Qaeda under Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, head of al Qaeda’s biowarfare program, had targeted Senator Leahy because of his role as head of a panel of the Senate Appropriations Committee that had developed the so-called “Leahy Law” in 1998. Dillon explained, “According to the wording of the Leahy Law, the U.S. Government was authorized to ‘render’ suspected foreign nationals to the government of a foreign country, even when there was a possibility that they would be tortured, in ‘exceptional circumstances.’ When the Leahy Law was applied to send EIJ members captured in the Balkans back to Egypt, Zawahiri fiercely denounced the United States. So Leahy was a high-priority target.”
Dillon added, “Neither fingerprints nor DNA evidence was found on any of the letters, suggesting that the mailer had excellent forensic skills. It is conceivable that a domestic terrorist had mastered forensics, but it is not likely. Forensic skills are highly characteristic of a former Egyptian intelligence agent or special forces operative.”
Where did al Qaeda obtain its anthrax? Dillon said the high level of 1 trillion spores per gram in the letters to the senators must be the result of a team effort, not the work of a single disgruntled scientist. “This is a high-technology product that required iterative testing by a team of microbiologists, physical chemists, and chemical engineers over the course of several years and at a cost of millions of dollars,” he said. He suggested the source may have been the Porton Down Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment via the civilian Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research located in the same town. Dillon speculated that some scientist involved with one of these two institutes or with Porton Products and BioPort, Inc., companies owned by the Lebanese Fuad el-Hibri and working on behalf of the Saudi government, could have stolen a few grams each of various batches of anthrax and then sold them to al Qaeda. A subsequent report in the Washington Post quoted several scientists and biological warfare experts as saying that the evidence points to a foreign government such as Iraq as the likely source. Iraq may have given the anthrax to al Qaeda.
Dillon suggested investigating possible al Qaeda involvement in other incidents, such as the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 from JFK Airport on November 12, 2001—just a month after the 9/11 attacks. “The most plausible explanation of that crash is that, as the aircraft dipped in the downdraft of a preceding JAL jet, a Stinger missile missed the rear exhaust and sheered off the vertical tail stabilizer instead. The most likely suspect must be considered the same individual who sent the anthrax letters. He is probably a former Egyptian special forces operative trusted by Zawahiri. His range was from Trenton to JFK Airport, placing him most likely in northeastern New Jersey.” While the Flight 587 hearings are pointing to co-pilot error with the rudder as the most likely cause of the crash, Dillon says the Stinger missile hypothesis has not been adequately investigated.
Hatfill’s Main Accuser
Nicholas Stix, a free-lance investigative journalist who serves as Associate Editor of Toogoodreports.com, discussed his research into the background and motivations of Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, one of Hatfill’s main accusers. Stix, one of the first journalists to expose the “high-tech lynching” of Hatfill, said Rosenberg is a professor of environmental science at a performing-arts college in Purchase, New York, who has nevertheless emerged as a major critic of America’s biodefense community. A prominent figure in media coverage of the Hatfill case who has been consulted by the FBI, she has peddled the theory that the U.S. biodefense program, not a foreign terrorist group or government, was the source of the anthrax used in the attacks.
Rosenberg believes that a member of this program sent the anthrax letters to warn the public of biological weapons and generate more funds for biodefense. After she met with the FBI and staffers to Senators Daschle and Leahy on June 18, an FBI search of Hatfill’s apartment was launched on June 25 with journalists on the scene and even circling in helicopters overhead. Stix noted that when this failed to turn up anything, the FBI used the dubious story of bloodhounds going “crazy” around Hatfill to justify another search on August 1. This story was given to Newsweek.
Stix called Rosenberg the “Dr.
Strangelove of the American left” and noted that she is
attacks set off a frenzy of invention
PHILADELPHIA - Fueled by unrelenting coverage of last year's anthrax attacks, David O'Neal of Marlton, N.J., wanted to become part of the solution.
One late night last fall, it came to him: the ClearView Mailbox. Resembling an incubator the shape of a log cabin, the transparent container allows users to sort through the enclosed mail using attached rubber gloves.
"We are just about ready to go into mass production," O'Neal said.
The investigations into the anthrax attacks that killed five people last fall have yet to yield an arrest. Much more fruitful has been the invention blitz set off by a heightened sense of the nation's vulnerability to biological terrorism.
"We are talking about the equivalent of a space program," said John W. Caldwell, an attorney for Woodcock Washburn, an intellectual-property law firm in Philadelphia. "It's a big, big thing. Fortunately, we are not fighting gravity."
Synthetic blood. Cutting-edge pharmaceuticals. Million-dollar mail sorters. Do-it-yourself test kits.
From the inventor next door and from Fortune 500 companies, scores of products inspired by the four anthrax-laced letters sent from Trenton, N.J., last year are available or in development.
Take Prime Alert, also called the Hoax Buster.
The Spokane, Wash., company that developed the device specialized in testing dairy products and fermented alcohol for bacteria until its officials got the call to duty.
"Here we are drinking beer and eating cheese," GenPrime product manager Darby McLean said, when they were approached by their U.S. representative, George R. Nethercutt, a Republican on the House Science Committee.
He asked GenPrime to use its food-inspection technology to create a quick test for bioterrorism agents. A few months later, the Hoax Buster was born.
Combine the suspect substance with a test formula provided in 10 vials and pour the solution into a handheld detector. Thirty seconds later, the customer knows whether he has mere baking powder or a big problem. Price: $7,500.
Because using the Prime Alert requires handling potentially dangerous material, the product is marketed to hazardous-materials teams and fire departments.
For the corporate client, there is the Mail Defender, a desktop device that can sterilize mail without making it crisp or brittle, a common complaint among federal government workers handling irradiated mail.
By applying moisture, the Defender can expand the molecular structure of anthrax and other deadly bacteria. Then, in a process that resembles the cycle of a clothes dryer, contaminants are heated and destroyed. Price: $10,000.
"This system that we are selling will be able to clean anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds of mail at a time," said Michael Guevremont, vice president of Virginia-based Executive Protection Systems.
For significantly more cash, defense giants Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin offer competing large-scale mail processors for government use.
Lockheed's BioMailSolutions was introduced in January. It combines high-tech sorting capabilities with detection technologies similar to what weapons inspectors are using in Iraq. Price: up to $1 million, with optional equipment that ranges from $20,000 to $200,000.
"Some of this technology was developed for a battlefield environment," said Cynthia Sailar, vice president for Lockheed's Distribution Technologies.
Keeping mail safe is only part of the response to the anthrax attacks. Since then, the number of care options for biological terrorism victims has exploded.
GlaxoSmithKline, which has its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia, is working with the federal Food and Drug Administration for approval of two antibiotics - Amoxil and Augmentin - to treat anthrax. The company is also said to be in acquisition talks with Bayer AG, makers of Cipro, the anthrax-killing antibiotic.
Also up for FDA approval is a "blood substitute" produced by Biopure in Cambridge, Mass. The firm's chief executive officer told Congress this year that the saline and cow blood compound could be used in case a wide-scale bioterror attack reduced the number of potential blood donors.
Monday, 9 December, 2002, 13:53 GMT
Cow dies from anthrax at farm
A cow has died of anthrax on a Scottish farm, it has been confirmed.
Health officials in East Dunbartonshire said the disease was found in an animal which died several days ago.
It is thought to be the first case of the disease in Scotland for five years.
The area around Balcorrach farm in Lennoxtown was cordoned off to be disinfected - but council officials stressed that the incident posed no risk to the general public.
It was confirmed on Sunday that the animal had died of anthrax several days earlier.
Police sealed off the farm to allow health officials at East Dunbartonshire Council to burn all the areas where the animal had been kept.
Council spokesman David Maclavin said the bacteria could be present in the ground where cattle and sheep were kept, and could come to the surface after heavy rain.
But he stressed: "There is absolutely no risk to public health.
"This is a naturally occurring bacteria and these outbreaks do occur occasionally.
"You would have to be in direct contact with an infected animal to run a risk of catching anthrax.
"We are not talking about a highly-refined laboratory strain of the disease."
The last case of anthrax in Scotland is thought to have been in 1997.
On average, five or six cases of the disease are found in cattle in the UK every year.
Technician Behind Anthrax Attacks, New CDC Director Believes
By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2002 – Whoever unleashed the anthrax assaults that killed five people last year is most likely a trained biomedical technician.
That's the belief of the new chief of the U.S. agency responsible for national medical preparedness for biological, chemical and nuclear terrorist attacks.
Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, recently appointed as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, told a homeland security conference audience here today that everything changed regarding homeland security after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist-hijacked airliner attacks on New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.
She also pointed out the still unsolved anthrax attacks that began Sept. 18 last year highlighted the nation's vulnerability to yet another potential terrorist weapon: bio-terrorism.
Last year, as acting director of the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases, Gerberding played a key role in orchestrating her agency's response to the Sept. 18-Dec. 8 postal-system-launched anthrax attacks in New Jersey, New York City, Florida, Maryland, Connecticut and the District of Columbia that infected 22 people and killed five.
That the FBI hasn't yet caught the perpetrator of the anthrax attacks isn't surprising, she noted.
"I think it is a huge challenge -- in part, because it's (like) looking for a needle in a haystack," the infectious disease clinician explained.
Whoever launched the anthrax attacks possesses "incredible, sophisticated knowledge about what they are dealing with," she continued. "They had to protect not only themselves, but the people in their environs from exposure to the powders, which basically function as a gas."
Gerberding added that the method in which the anthrax attacks were carried out indicates intricate planning and a level of sophistication that suggests the culprit's "not somebody who went in their garage and cooked this up over the weekend."
Since last year's hijacker and anthrax terror attacks, she noted, more than $900 million has been disbursed through CDC and other U.S. agencies to state and local organizations for homeland security-related missions.
The recent creation of the Department of Homeland Security, she pointed out, should also enhance coordination, communication and planning of national anti- terrorism efforts. In fact, she said, CDC and other agencies are now working to develop a national distribution system for the smallpox vaccine.
However, more remains to be done, especially when the perpetrator or perpetrators of the anthrax attacks are at large, she emphasized.
"We haven't caught these people and that tells me that the alertness and the level of vigilance that has to go on in emergency departments throughout the country has not changed," Gerberding said.
She noted that 12 letters "almost shut down the U.S. Postal system" during the anthrax threat.
"It wouldn't take many more (such) letters to really create an enormous catastrophe. … Our best defense is to find the (perpetrator of the) first (anthrax) case," she concluded.
|This is the full text of the JAMA article.
(requires a subscription)
Secondary Aerosolization of Viable Bacillus anthracis Spores in a Contaminated US Senate Office
Christopher P. Weis, PhD; Anthony J. Intrepido, MS, CIH; Aubrey K. Miller,
MD, MPH; Patricia G. Cowin, MS,
Context Bioterrorist attacks involving letters and mail-handling
systems in Washington, DC, resulted in Bacillus anthracis
Objective To provide information about the nature and extent of indoor secondary aerosolization of B anthracis spores.
Design Stationary and personal air samples, surface dust, and
swab samples were collected under semiquiescent (minimal
Results Viable B anthracis spores reaerosolized under semiquiescent
conditions, with a marked increase in reaerosolization
Conclusions Bacillus anthracis spores used in a recent terrorist
incident reaerosolized under common office activities. These
On October 15, 2001, a letter containing threatening language and a
light tan powdery substance was opened in the mail
Following the attack, nasal swabs were collected by other investigators
from more than 7000 building occupants and cultured
The building was officially closed to the public on October 17, 2001,
with access to the contaminated suite limited to forensic
Information regarding primary aerosolization of B anthracis spores has
been reported,2-5 but few data are available regarding
Environmental samples were collected in the affected Senate office suite
(total area approximately 1200 sq ft) beginning 25
During semiquiescent sampling, movement was minimized in the suite while
air and surface samples were collected from various
There are no validated environmental sampling or risk assessment methods
for B anthracis contamination. Questions regarding
Environmental sampling methods included air monitoring with stationary
and personal sampling devices (devices worn by the
Andersen 6-stage viable (microbial) particle-sizing samplers (Thermo-Andersen,
Smyrna, Ga) were used to collect airborne
For the semiquiescent and the first active testing period, 2 viable
Andersen impact samplers (6-stage) were used; 1 was placed
Direct colony counts on SBA plates in the Anderson samplers were obtained
and the positive hole correction method (Box)
In addition to stationary air samples, personal air samples were collected
from the breathing zone of sample team members
Open plates were placed in workstations, on the floor, and within the
stairway to estimate spore settling during and following
A total of 17 surface samples were collected on fabric office dividers,
carpets, paper files, and near the source of the original
Swab samples were used to assess the presence of B anthracis contamination
on an additional 12 surfaces. Sterile nylon
Aseptic handling techniques were used throughout the sampling and analytical
process. All samples were labeled immediately
Samples were evaluated for the presence of viable B anthracis at the
Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Md.
Results for the 6-stage Andersen air samples are presented in Table
2. Positive hole correction results are presented below
Locations and results of viable colony counts on the 17 open SBA plates
(10 on chairs; 7 on the floor) collected during
Results of personal air monitor samples collected from team members
during each of the sampling periods are presented in
Six of the 9 surface swab samples taken during the semiquiescent and
first active period were positive; 3 vertical mailbox
Additionally, 5 microvacuum samples were taken in different office areas
during the second period of activity to evaluate
The importance of secondary aerosolization of B anthracis spores associated
with a bioterrorism attack has been discussed
This investigation presents empirical findings concerning secondary
aerosolization of viable B anthracis spores following a
During simulated activities, airborne concentrations of viable B anthracis
spores within the office ranged from 2 to 86
Using a mean (SD) respiratory rate of 1.38 m3/h (0.66) reported for
office workers,18 estimated inhalation exposures to B
Determining the magnitude of inhalational risks from reaerosolized B
anthracis spores is uncertain. Reliable human data on the
This work clearly demonstrates a potential for secondary aerosolization
of viable B anthracis spores originating from
Author Affiliations: US Environmental Protection Agency National Enforcement
Investigations Center, Denver Federal
Corresponding Author and Reprints: Christopher P. Weis, PhD, US Environmental
Protection Agency National
Author Contributions: Study concept and design: Weis, Miller, Durno.
Acquisition of data: Weis, Intrepido, Miller, Cowin, Durno, Gebhardt, Bull.
Analysis and interpretation of data: Weis, Intrepido, Miller, Cowin, Durno, Gebhardt, Bull.
Drafting of the manuscript: Weis, Intrepido, Miller, Cowin.
Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Weis, Miller, Durno, Gebhardt, Bull.
Statistical expertise: Weis, Miller.
Obtained funding: Weis.
Administrative, technical, or material support: Weis, Intrepido, Miller, Cowin, Durno, Gebhardt, Bull.
Study supervision: Weis, Durno, Gebhardt, Bull.
Funding/Support: Funding and/or resources for this investigation were provided by the participating federal agencies.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions, assertions, and findings contained
herein are those of the authors and should not be
Acknowledgment: In support of this work, we graciously acknowledge the
US Capitol Police for their hospitality, sample
Box. Positive Hole Correction Method
The positive hole correction method determines a statistical probablility
count of colony-forming units. It represents a count of
where Pr is the expected number of viable particulates to produce r
positive holes and N is the total number of holes per stage
(Return to text.)
Vienna, Va: Science Applications International Corp; 1999.
Investigators Search Public Land in Maryland
Thursday, December 12, 2002
WASHINGTON — The FBI is conducting an "evidentiary" search on public land in Frederick, Md., that was the focus of the government's anthrax investigation earlier this year, Fox News has learned.
Frederick, about 45 minutes north of Washington, D.C., was once the home of Steven Hatfill, a 48-year-old biochemist who is considered a "person of interest" in the anthrax case. Hatfill worked at the Fort Detrick Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases -- the primary custodian of the Ames strain of anthrax found in the letters last fall -- until 1999.
One law enforcement source told Fox News that Thursday's search is indeed related to the Hatfill saga.
The anthrax investigation began last year after letters laced with the deadly bacteria were sent to several Capitol Hill lawmakers and news organizations. Five people died after being exposed to the white powder.
Hatfill is the only "person of interest" whose name has come to public light in the longstanding investigation. Hatfill has vehemently denied any role in the anthrax mailings. His former apartment in Frederick and the storage facilities he rented in Florida have been searched multiple times.
"I am not the anthrax killer," Hatfill said in August as he lashed out against Attorney General John Ashcroft for calling him a "person of interest" in the investigation.
Hatfill allowed the release of the results of his blood test and said he has also offered to compare his handwriting to that appearing on the anthrax letters.
The FBI Baltimore and Washington field offices also issued a statement on Thursday's search. It reads:
"The FBI is conducting forensic searches on public land located within the City of Frederick, Maryland. The searches are in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation. It is important to note that based on water, soil and sediment testing already conducted, there is no indication of any risk to the public health or safety."
Hatfill's publicist, Pat Clawson, told Fox News this was the first he had heard of the situation and that he's looking into the activity. Hatfill has not lived in his Frederick apartment since Aug. 12.
The FBI has said in the past that Hatfill is no more or less important than about 30 fellow scientists and researchers with the expertise and opportunity to conduct the attacks.
Hatfill was fired Sept. 3 from a job at Louisiana State University after the Justice Department sent his supervisor an e-mail ordering that Hatfill be barred from working on department-funded projects.
Fox News' Ian McCaleb contributed to this report
may be searching for anthrax clues
From the Science & Technology
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The FBI said Thursday that it is searching land in Frederick, Md., in relation to an ongoing criminal investigation that may be related to the anthrax attack that killed five people over a year ago.
A spokesman for Steven Hatfill, who was called a "person of interest" in the investigation into the anthrax attacks, said the former U.S. Army scientist had received calls from the media asking about a possible link with the latest searches.
"Apparently they are searching some kind of a public park near Fort Detrick up there," said Patrick Clawson, Hatfill's spokesman. Media questions, he said, have focused on a connection between Hatfill and the park.
"We don't know anything about it," Clawson said, adding, "Steve has had no contact with the FBI for several weeks."
The FBI continues to talk to Hatfill periodically and follow him, Clawson said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington and FBI field offices in Washington and Baltimore took part in the search.
A statement from the FBI Washington office said the bureau was conducting forensic searches.
"It is important to note that, based on water, soil and sediment testing already conducted, there is no indication of any risk to the public health or the public safety," the statement said.
Copyright © 2002 United Press International
searches Catoctin woods
By Kate Leckie
December 13, 2002
FBI agents searched a wooded area in the Catoctin Mountains northwest of Frederick on Thursday, apparently seeking evidence in the government's anthrax investigation.
The search was centered near two small ponds in the City of Frederick watershed area. Agents shut down a 3-mile stretch of Gambrill Park Road as they moved tents, lights and other equipment into the area.
Officials said the road will be closed for several days as the search continues.
The agency refused to say what it was looking for.
"The FBI is conducting forensic searches," Special Agent Chris Murray said in a news release.
"The searches are in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation," his statement said.
In a hint that the search was related to the government's ongoing anthrax investigation, Mr. Murray said, "It is important to note that based on water, soil and sediment testing already conducted, there is no indication of any risk to the public health or public safety."
The heavily-wooded site is about 10 miles northwest of Frederick, and about 7 miles southwest of Thurmont.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips would not say whether Thursday's search was related to the investigation involving Dr. Steven Hatfill, a bioterrorism expert formerly based at Fort Detrick.
Dr. Hatfill has been called one of about 20 "persons of interest" in the government's anthrax probe.
"It would be inappropriate for me to say anything beyond what the advisory says. No one has been charged with a crime," Mr. Phillips said.
Mr. Phillips said the search had been planned for some time, refusing to be more specific.
The FBI operation apparently included both an excavation in a clearing and a search of the ponds. ABC News reported that divers were going to look for laboratory equipment that may have been thrown in the waters.
The Associated Press said one FBI agent had been at the scene of the search since Monday, an indication that the probe began several days ago. Eva Rosvold, an aide to Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty, told AP that the FBI had been talking "all week" with Police Chief Kim C. Dine about its work. She said the FBI was to brief the mayor and police chief this morning.
Dr. Hatfill's home in Frederick, in an apartment complex near Fort Detrick, was searched twice last summer.
Dr. Hatfill, who now lives in the Washington area, worked for Fort Detrick's U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases until 1999. The agency is the primary custodian of the virulent Ames strain of anthrax found in the anthrax letters.
In several public statements, Dr. Hatfill has denied any involvement in the anthrax attacks, which killed five people and infected 18 others. Thousands more were put on preventive antibiotics as a precaution.
After Dr. Hatfill left Fort Detrick, he worked at Louisiana State University. But the Justice Department sent a letter Sept. 3 asking LSU to "cease and desist" using Dr. Hatfill as an expert or course instructor.
Dr. Hatfill's lawyer in Alexandria, Va., Victor Glasberg, declined comment Thursday. "I know nothing about it, zero about it," he said.
Fort Detrick spokeswoman Eileen Mitchell said representatives of the base were not notified about the investigation.
Residents along the winding roadway in the watershed area reported seeing a large FBI evidence collection van make its way up the mountain about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, followed by dozens of unmarked police vehicles.
Vehicles at the site included large enclosed trailers, a white Ryder truck, sport utility vehicles, at least four six-wheeled all-terrain vehicles and a bus-sized vehicle.
At least two tents were erected. Equipment that appeared to include a generator or heating unit was linked to one of the tents by large hoses.
Portable toilets were stationed along Gambrill Park Road.
Vehicles continued to come and go for hours.
Agents closed Gambrill Park Road to traffic between Delauter and Tower roads, some of them wearing hardhats to protect themselves from falling shards of melting ice.
The agents stationed at the roadblocks said the road would be closed for the day and referred all questions to the field offices.
Charles Bailey, a resident of the area, said he was disturbed that agents would not tell people why the investigators were there.
"There are all these agents up here, and they won't tell me why," Mr. Bailey said.
"I'm not paranoid, but there's been all this talk about dirty bombs, and with Camp David being so close, I know there's a lot of wackos out there," he said.
The presidential mountain retreat is just more than 5 miles from the search site.
Orley Bourland, who was the plant manager of a Detrick anthrax production facility in the 1950s, said that if the agents were looking for the deadly microbe, rain and snow would have diluted the germ to render it harmless.
"I would not be worried about it at all," said Mr. Bourland of Walkersville.
Even so, Mr. Bailey remained upset.
"What's happening here is happening in my neighborhood. All I want to know is, 'Do I have a reason to lock my doors?'"
continues anthrax search
By Kate Leckie
December 14, 2002
For a second day Friday, FBI agents investigating last year's deadly anthrax attacks searched the area around two small ponds in the Frederick Watershed, keeping mum about the target of their probe.
From his Baltimore office, Special Agent Barry Maddox said no timeframe had been established for when the army of agents will leave the wooded Catoctin Mountains site they are excavating.
"As the investigation moves along, the agents will take it wherever it leads. No exact date has been set," Mr. Maddox said.
The FBI spokesman responded to most questions with replies of "I don't know."
However, he switched to a "can't comment" in reply to a question that the watershed search is connected to an unpublished novel written by Dr. Steven Hatfill, a former Fort Detrick scientist considered a "person of interest" in the anthrax case.
The 1998 novel centers on a terror scheme to spread deadly bacteria in Washington but does not involve anthrax or mailings, published reports said.
Later, Mr. Maddox responded "can't comment" again, to a question about whether the tip that led FBI agents to the area off of Gambrill Park Road referred to "twin ponds" located side by side.
Officials have acknowledged that divers have been searching the frigid waters for evidence linked to the anthrax attacks. But they won't say what, if anything, has been found.
As for how close investigators are to filing charges, "not close," Mr. Maddox said.
The agency's silence Friday was in sharp contrast to a deluge of statements made by Pat Clawson of Berryville, Va., a spokesman for Dr. Hatfill.
"This is kangaroo court type of stuff," Mr. Clawson said of the latest search directly or indirectly linked to his friend, now unemployed and living in Washington.
Dr. Hatfill's Frederick apartment just outside the gate to Fort Detrick was searched June 25, Aug. 1 and Sept. 11, Mr. Clawson said, adding that the first two searches were done voluntarily.
"The FBI blew this investigation from day one. What has happened to Steve Hatfill should be offensive to every American," Mr. Clawson said.
"Tomorrow it could be you. Next week, it will be your neighbor. Three weeks from now, it will be your baby sitter," he said.
Mr. Clawson said the Justice Department's scrutiny of his friend "has been like a never-ending nightmare. Steve is very depressed and he is very angry that his career and reputation have been smeared. ... It's like he's radioactive. No one will hire him. His savings are just about gone."
Dr. Hatfill repeatedly has denied any involvement in the anthrax attacks, which killed five people and infected 18 others. Thousands more were put on preventive antibiotics as a precaution.
Mr. Clawson said, "The FBI can search the planet until hell freezes over, but it will find that Steve Hatfill was never involved in the anthrax attacks," he said.
Meanwhile, while the FBI remained tight-lipped with the media regarding their investigation, agents held a 40-minute briefing Friday morning at Frederick City Hall with Mayor Jennifer Dougherty and Police Chief Col. Kim Dine.
"What's important for the public to understand is that there is no threat to public safety and no indication of any problems with water contamination," Chief Dine said.
"They will continue to brief us on what they're doing as needed. We've been totally brought into the loop," he said.
December 16, 2002
agents shift watershed search
The FBI continued its search Sunday in the Catoctin Mountains northwest of Frederick for clues in last year's anthrax attacks, as divers scoured two ponds near two others that were previously investigated.
FBI spokesman Chris Murray declined comment Sunday on what evidence, if any, has been found. He referred to a previous FBI statement acknowledging only a general connection to the anthrax letters.
"That's the extent of what we're going to say," he said.
Agents began searching the area in the Frederick municipal watershed Thursday, setting up tents and and unloading all-terrain vehicles from a fleet of trucks and evidence vans.
Gambrill Park Road between Tower and Delauter roads has been closed to the public. Only residents of the area are allowed passage.
"We're not going to inconvenience anyone," Mr. Murray said.
Asked if residents have been given any official orders or instructions, he said, "I don't know."
Angie Harris, who lives on the stretch of Gambrill Park Road closed to the public, said she has been issued no such directives.
Asked if she had been told to stay out of certain areas, Ms. Davis said, "They haven't said that at all. Then again, I haven't gone down and looked" at the evidence-gathering sites.
She said she hadn't been inconvenienced.
"We're not having any trouble at all," she said.
The FBI has given no indication how long their search will continue, or how many agents are involved.
News reports last week said the ponds are being searched for missing laboratory equipment.
A former Fort Detrick scientist, Steven Hatfill, has been identified as a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation but has not been charged.
Year Later: Evidence points to foreign terrorists as anthrax culprits
Ex-Army scientist Steven Hatfill has been the recent focus in the investigation about who mailed anthrax-contaminated letters last year in and around the time of the September 11th terror attacks. But as the FBI returns to AMI headquarters in Florida, home to the National Enquirer and Sun tabloids and recipient of the first anthrax letter, the focus of the investigation may turn once again to identifying foreign terrorists as the likely culprits.
There remains the possibility
that Atta and the hijackers are responsible for the Florida anthrax cases
and that another person - perhaps Steven Hatfill or another insider/scientist
- is responsible for the other anthrax letters. The suspect anthrax contaminated
AMI letter, received on September 4th - one week before September 11th,
reportedly bears little resemblance to anthrax contaminated letters postmarked
after September 11th. The AMI letter has been described as a "weird love
letter" to Jennifer Lopez that contained a star of David and a soapy powder.
It was addressed to Lopez c/o The Sun Tabloids. Anthrax-contaminated letters
sent after 9/11 to Senators Leahy and Daschle and to Tom Brokaw and the
editor of the New York Post,
A review of this last year's news
accounts of the Florida anthrax cases suggests that Mohamad Atta and his
hijacker cohorts are probably responsible for the Florida anthrax cases.
To believe that Atta and the hijackers were not responsible for the Florida
anthrax cases one would have to discount and ignore a mountain of physical
and circumstantial evidence. It appears that they were
AMI, known for the National Enquirer and Sun tabloids and sight of the first anthrax fatality, is within two miles of the Delray Racquet Club, where some of the terrorists stayed in the months before the hijackings and is about 12 miles from the Lantana airport, where Atta flew a light airplane that he rented on four separate occasions in August.
Lee identified Atta to the FBI, telling agents the suspected hijacker came to the airfield as recently as the Saturday before the Sept. 11 attacks, asking questions about the capabilities of crop-dusters, including how big a load of chemicals they could carry.
Atta was "very persistent about wanting to know how much the airplane will haul, how fast it will go, what kind of range it has," Lee told ABCNEWS.
"The guy kept trying to get in the airplane," Lee added, saying his ground crew chief had to order Atta away from one of the planes at one point because he kept trying to climb onto the wing and into the cockpit.
Lee said Atta and as many as 12 or 15 other men appearing to be of Middle Eastern descent visited the airfield in groups of two or three on several weekends prior to the attacks, often taking pictures of the aircraft."
The newspaper reported Friday that Moussaoui e-mailed the university's Crookston campus on July 31, 2001, seeking information on a "short course you offer to become a crop duster (6 month, 1 years max.)."
A pharmacist in Delray Beach, Florida said he told the FBI that two of the hijackers, Mohamad Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, came into the pharmacy looking for something to treat skin lesions (anthrax?) on Atta's hands.Evidence tying Steven Hatfill to the anthrax mailings: One FBI profile
Evidence tying the September 11th hijackers to the anthrax mailings: Too much to list.
A note about FBI profiles: FBI
profilers are sometimes asked to do the impossible. That's the case
with the anthrax mailer profile. In the anthrax case, all they have to
work with are short notes that contains little more than "YOU DIE NOW",
"DEATH TO AMERICA", "DEATH TO ISRAEL", and "ALLAH IS GREAT". (Somehow,
the FBI profilers have discerned that the culprit is an American scientist?!)
Such was the case in the mid-west pipe bombing case. A short note led FBI
profilers to declare that the bomber was an older gentleman who was "set
in his ways". The bomber turned out to be Luke Helder, a young college-age
kid who was a member of a grunge rock band. Given just tidbits of information,
FBI profilers have developed some uncanny profiles
FBI: Hijacker-anthrax link coincidental
BOCA RATON, Florida (CNN) -- In
what the FBI calls a strange coincidence, two
Possible Anthrax Scenario:
By Tom Wakefield, PostalMag.com
Remember the scene in the movie Three Kings (about the Persian Gulf War) where USA Sergeant Troy Barlow (Marky Mark Wahlberg) is being interrogated by Said, a young captain in the Iraqi guard? Said, having attached electrodes to Troy's head, begins the interrogation by asking, "What is the problem with Michael Jackson?" Troy doesn't have the answer Said is looking for. Said continues: "He's Pop King of sick fucking country." I imagine that's what Mohamad Atta and his cohort hijackers were thinking when they mailed an anthrax-laced letter to AMI -headquarters of the National Enquirer and Sun tabloids. - "They (AMI) are Media Kings of sick fucking country."
The anthrax letter that is suspected
of contaminating the AMI building and killing one worker has been described
as "a weird love letter" to Jennifer Lopez that contained a soapy powder
and a Star of David pendant. It was addressed to J. Lopez, C/O the Sun
tabloids. The AMI tabloids, in many aspects, mirrors the sick, seamy side
of American culture. The tabloids are filled with squalid stories about
J Lo, O.J., Bill Clinton, Michael Jackson and other famous and infamous
media stars. To Muslim suicide bombers on a holy mission in the land of
the Great Satan, AMI would represent the perfect representational target.
I can just see the hijacker/anthrax mailers now, sitting
Not too many people realize that this letter was probably mailed on September 3rd in the Boca Raton, Florida area - home to AMI and some of the hijackers. It was received at AMI on September 4th, exactly one week before the September 11th terror attacks. Ex-Army scientist Steven Hatfill of course did not know of the September 11th terror attacks on September 3rd and 4th, so he or another insider/scientist more than likely did not mail this letter. All signs, however, point to the hijackers who lived in the area.
The other anthrax letters, sent to Senators Leahy and Daschle and to Tom Brokaw and the editor of the New York Post, were mailed at least a week after 9/11. These letters were much different than the noticeable J Lo letter. These letters contained sternly worded messages that mentioned September 11th, death to America and Israel, and Allah.
The anthrax investigation (Amerithrax) has been a frustrating one for the FBI and Postal Inspectors. Part of the frustration lies in the differences between the Florida letter and the letters mailed in New Jersey to addresses in Washington and New York. When one looks at the New Jersey aspect of the investigation alone, it appears that the leading suspect would be a "government insider". But when investigators try to tie it into the Florida case the evidence just doesn't meld. The same goes for the Florida aspect when investigators try to tie it in to the New Jersey mailings.
It's probable that the Florida letter was mailed by the hijackers. Moreover, it's possible, and I only say possible, that Steven Hatfill or another insider/scientist mailed the New Jersey anthrax letters coincidentally without knowing that another anthrax letter had been mailed by the hijackers. (The Florida letter wasn't discovered to have been contaminated with anthrax until the first week in October, a week or two after the first New Jersey letters were sent.) This improbable but possible coincidence may be the reason why the investigation has gone in circles.
An FBI profile of the anthrax
mailer paints the portrait of a government-connected scientist who is actually
highly patriotic - calculatingly deranged, but nevertheless patriotic.
Here's the scenario I imagine in Steven Hatfill's (or another insider/scientist's)
world. In the week after September 11th, this Insider is sitting at home
watching news of the terror aftermath. Like many patriotic Americans, this
Insider was probably enraged at what he saw and wanted revenge. The Insider,
remembering that he had once secreted a vial of anthrax out of a lab, got
an idea. (Having a bit of anthrax was an elixir of power to this person.
The Insider decided that he would use his power for
YOU CANNOT STOP US
THIS IS NEXT
It worked. Within months the Taliban and al Qaeda had been "bombed back to the Stone Age".
briefed on search, but mayor still in dark
By Andrew Symonds
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said she's getting regular reports from police Chief Kim Dine on the FBI's investigation in the Catoctin Mountains, but the city does not know exactly what the federal agents are searching for.
Ms. Dougherty said Chief Dine has been updating her several times a day and has been "in regular contact with the FBI" since they set up shop in the woods about 10 miles northwest of Frederick.
She said at a Tuesday morning press conference that she doesn't "have an expectation of being involved in the investigation. I don't know what they are looking for. The only thing we're hoping for is they clean up and leave the area in the same condition they found it."
Ms. Dougherty acknowledged the investigation is being coordinated by an anthrax team from Washington investigating last year's deadly anthrax mailings. She said the investigation may wrap up as early as today.
Chief Dine said he is happy with the communication between himself and the FBI.
"I've been brought in the loop from the beginning," he said. "I have been assured there are no issues of safety or threat to the water. They have been very cooperative and have been calling me every day."
Chief Dine said he visited the site of the investigation in the municipal watershed northwest of the city on Friday and was given free rein to see what the operation entailed. He could not say whether the FBI has informed him of exactly what they are looking for or what they have found.
Tuesday afternoon FBI Special Agent Barry Maddox said, "Everything is about the same. The investigation is ongoing but" the search in Frederick County "should be completed soon."
The Baltimore agent would not say what, if anything, has been recovered.
In Washington, FBI Special Agent Chris Murray declined to answer questions on the status of the investigation.
"I won't go beyond the statement we released last week," he said.
Last week's statement read, "The FBI is conducting forensic searches ... in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation. It is important to note that based on water, soil and sediment testing already conducted, there is no indication of any risk to the public health or public safety."
Ms. Dougherty also said she has no reason to believe the city's water or soil has been affected, but that she would expect investigators to let the city know if they were at risk.
Kate Leckie contributed to this report.
search in Catoctins could be wrapping up
By Staff and Wire Reports
An FBI search of a wooded area atop Catoctin Mountain as part of the anthrax investigation appeared to be close to wrapping up Thursday.
Chris Murray, spokesman for the FBI's Washington field office, said agents were dismantling the operation that began last week and included divers who searched ponds for possible evidence.
Law enforcement officials have said the search was focused on information from a tipster that lab equipment may have been tossed into a pond.
Mr. Murray would not say whether any evidence was recovered.
The road block signs that previously prevented travel on a stretch of Gambrill Park Road north of Delauter Road now are gone. However, agents remained at the search site Thursday, preventing people from entering the search area.
Agents said they did not know when normal traffic will resume completely.
Late Thursday afternoon, a road block remained at Gambrill Park and Tower roads, preventing traffic from continuing onto Gambrill Park Road.
The search took place a few miles from the former home of Dr. Steven Hatfill, a scientist who once worked at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick. That facility is the primary custodian of the virulent Ames strain of anthrax found in the letters that killed five people and infected others last year.
Dr. Hatfill has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attacks and said he never handled anthrax while an Army scientist. The Justice Department, however, continues to refer to Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the case.
is tracking Hatfill
WASHINGTON -- Fifteen months after a series of anthrax-laced letters killed five Americans, the FBI again intensified its acknowledged interest in bio-war expert Stephen Hatfill, conducting a search of a Maryland state park and openly tracking him around Washington streets, despite emerging concern over their methods.
Hatfill told United Press International in an interview last week that beginning on Dec. 17, shortly after the FBI completed a search of Gambrill State Park in Maryland believed linked to him, he was subjected to day and night surveillance by unmarked vans and cars.
He said the agents had nearly run into his car at times as he drove on Washington's Beltway, following him during such mundane missions as meeting a friend to pick up a container of homemade soup.
"The cars were on my bumper," Hatfill told UPI.
Hatfill said he has no connection with the anthrax letters and has tried to cooperate with the investigation. He has not been charged with a crime or named a suspect or been called before a federal grand jury, but early last summer the FBI began making searches of his apartment in Rockville, Md., family storage space in Florida and the apartment of his girlfriend in the Washington area. The searches were highly publicized and the FBI was accused of leaking information on their efforts to the press.
When asked at the time why the FBI was conducting these searches, a spokesman at their headquarters confirmed he was a "person of interest," to the bureau. Later Attorney General John Ashcroft used exactly the phrase in a news conference that was broadcast around the world.
On Monday, the FBI field office in charge of the investigation declined to comment on whether Hatfill was still a "person of interest," or on the new surveillance of him and the search of the state park.
Many former FBI agents and federal prosecutors claim that there is no legal meaning to the phrase "person of interest" within the FBI and that it unfairly raises suspicion about someone without evidence. In October, Sen. Charles Grassley, D-Iowa, inserted himself into the case asking the Justice Department what the phrase meant.
An assistant attorney general at the Justice Department responded in a letter dated Nov. 4, 2002, that there was "no formal definition" for the term and that it is "commonly understood to refer to an individual whom law enforcement officials seek to question."
The phrase was applied to Hatfill after he had had numerous voluntary interviews with the bureau, he and his associates pointed out.
'Ruined My Life'
Hatfill claims the attention by the FBI has "ruined my life." He lost a $150,000 year job with a government contractor, he said, and an appointment to teach about defense against biological warfare at Louisiana State University.
He also lost assignments to assist American government and military forces in defending themselves. He has been unemployed for four months and does not believe that he will be able to work in his field of defense against biological terrorism and attack.
Hatfill said he has no idea why there has been a sudden resurgence of surveillance. Pat Clawson, a former television news reporter who has been assisting Hatfill, said he believes the surveillance is so obvious and so provocative that it amounts to harassment.
On several separate evenings, Hatfill and Clawson said, a virtual caravan of cars set out behind Hatfill, some racing ahead while others kept on his bumper. Hatfill believes that his telephone is wiretapped and that the night he received a telephone invitation to meet a friend and get some fresh, homemade potato soup, the FBI agents heard the call and set out after him.
He said he believes five cars followed him. He met his friend at a restaurant in Northern Virginia and had an ice tea. While he was in the restaurant two people came in who he believes were FBI agents.
After he picked up the soup and started to leave, he said his friend approached a black Mustang with two men it and offered them his business card, but they refused to talk to him. Later in the evening, after Hatfill returned home, a surveillance car drove past his residence with a video camera openly pointed out the window.
"That's not surveillance. That's harassment," said Clawson.
At no time, Hatfill said, have any of these people identified themselves as law enforcement officers.
The next night, Clawson approached several people sitting in cars near Hatfill's home and took pictures of their license plates. One woman sitting in her car said he could not take her picture. Later, Clawson said, a Washington Metropolitan Police car with plainclothes officers came by and told him he could not take photos without the woman's permission.
Hatfill and others have said that the FBI has presented no evidence to him privately or in public that would link him and the anthrax-laced letters that were mailed to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy and members of the news media.
Last year, the FBI publicly issued a profile that they had formed of who might have perpetrated the anthrax attacks. Profiling has been severely criticized in several other cases. Hatfill's supporters say the profile does not match Hatfill in several significant features and without any forensic evidence or witness testimony implicating him, the attention to him is unjust.
due in Norfolk for burning this week
© December 24, 2002
Last updated: 10:34 PM
NORFOLK -- A shipment of anthrax-contaminated waste will be brought to Norfolk by week's end to be incinerated.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced Monday that it had approved the shipment, which will arrive under police escort at American Waste Industries on East Indian River Road by the end of the week.
The transport route and the exact date and time of the shipment's arrival is being kept confidential for security reasons, state officials said.
As with two prior shipments in January and October, this one -- from Department of Justice offices in Landover, Md., -- has been decontaminated with a chlorine solution and wrapped in two layers of plastic.
The waste will be burned at temperatures between 1,400 and 1,800 degrees.
Anthrax spores are not thought to survive temperatures above 300 degrees, experts have said.
Incinerating hazardous waste from anthrax cleanups poses little risk to surrounding residents, health experts have said. A study two years ago by a national health panel found little evidence that medical-waste incinerators like the one in Norfolk affect the health of people who live nearby.
- Jan. 2, 2003
Law sends laboratories into pathogen panic
by ERIKA CHECK
[WASHINGTON] When unknown parties mailed anthrax spores to several US addresses in the autumn of 2001, plant researchers at a herbarium at Harvard University began to get nervous.
For years, the researchers had stored a set of innocuous-looking brown envelopes that contained samples of anthrax. Within weeks of the attacks, President George W. Bush had signed a law called the USA Patriot Act, under which possession of anthrax without a "bona fide research justification" became a criminal offence. The Harvard researchers soon found themselves facing a tricky dilemma — how to balance their hoarding instincts against the new demands of homeland security.
As thousands of US biologists face up to the same problem, some scientific leaders are concerned that researchers are dumping valuable samples to avoid trouble with the law.
For example, Ron Atlas, president of the American Society for Microbiology, is alarmed by the prosecution last July of a University of Connecticut graduate student who kept anthrax in his freezer. Atlas says these old microbes could hold useful information. "We are really in a delicate balance as to whether individuals will hold on to their cultures or whether they'll feel endangered by the USA Patriot Act," he says. He also warns that those who clear out their freezers may have problems restocking them because of new restrictions on the movement of pathogens between labs.
Some institutions — such as Iowa State University at Ames, which destroyed its entire archive of anthrax samples in October 2001 — have ordered mass clear-outs of materials. But individual researchers have also taken it upon themselves to dump potentially dangerous microbes. John Collier, a Harvard microbiologist who has long worked on the anthrax toxin, got rid of his samples of the bacteria late in 2001. "I wanted to be able to tell the world we didn't have Bacillus anthracis," Collier says.
The issue has now attracted the White House's attention — in part because archived samples could prove useful in criminal investigations. Kathryn Harrington, a spokeswoman for the administration's Office of Science and Technology Policy, says that the office is "aware of the destruction of select agents and is concerned". She adds that the office is trying to "encourage researchers to transfer materials to a secure facility, rather than destroy them".
This is exactly what the Harvard
plant scientists did, after consulting their colleague molecular biologist
Matthew Meselson. He contacted Paul Keim, a microbiologist at Northern
Arizona University in Flagstaff who has spent his career studying anthrax.
Keim persuaded the Harvard
Keim also argues that the federal government should use some of its new bioterrorism funds to solve the problem once and for all by creating a central repository for pathogens. "There's a big problem with saving these collections and a big problem with getting access to them," Keim says. "What's the point of putting $1.7 billion into the research if nobody can get hold of the strains?"
admits lying about plague vials;
Statement says he never thought report would trigger such a large investigation
Kevin Johnson and Steve Sternberg
WASHINGTON -- A nationally recognized scientist has acknowledged that he "accidentally destroyed" 30 vials of plague bacteria and then lied to Texas Tech University officials and the FBI when he reported the vials missing, according to federal court documents released Thursday.
One federal law enforcement source said Thomas Butler, chief of the infectious diseases division at Texas Tech, admitted making the false statements in a handwritten declaration after a polygraph test raised questions about the veracity of his original story.
Butler, 62, was arrested late Wednesday and is being held in the Lubbock County Jail. In his statement, which is included in court papers, he said he never thought his false report would trigger an alert at the White House and a frantic search involving more than 60 investigators, some of whom feared a case of bioterrorism.
"I made a misjudgment," Butler reportedly told the FBI. "Because I knew that the pathogen was destroyed and there was no threat to the public, I provided an inaccurate explanation . . . and did not realize it would require such an extensive investigation."
Federal agents say Butler might have been trying to protect himself from possible university and federal sanctions after not properly documenting the bacteria's destruction in lab records. "As a result of this false statement," U.S. prosecutors said in court documents, "the FBI was misled and necessarily expended tremendous investigative resources."
Butler's scheduled appearance in a Lubbock federal court Thursday was postponed until Tuesday at prosecutors' request. If convicted of giving a false statement to a federal agent, he could be sentenced to five years in prison and fined $250,000. His lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Officials at the university in the Texas Panhandle have placed Butler on paid leave from his $130,467-a-year post. Texas Tech officials have ordered him not to return to campus, changed locks on laboratories and eliminated Butler's access to university computers.
Butler's arrest was a jolt to the Lubbock campus, which drew national attention Wednesday amid concern about a possible public health threat. Plague, and other deadly agents such as smallpox and anthrax, are on a government watch list designed to make sure that hospitals and doctors recognize signs of a biological attack.
"He's a very, very well-respected individual," university spokeswoman Cindy Rugely said of Butler. "This is just stunning."
Butler got his medical degree at Vanderbilt University and completed graduate training at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore. He states in his resume that, as a naval officer during the Vietnam War, he ran a U.S. Naval Research Unit in Danang and spent two years studying plague in Vietnam for the U.S. Army. Butler has done numerous studies on tropical and infectious diseases, many of them sponsored by major drug firms. He has received a total of $2.7 million in research funding.
anthrax study violated privacy regulations, experts say
The Modesto Bee
By STEVE MITCHELL, United Press International
(UPI) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention violated federal regulations when it failed to notify postal workers potentially exposed to anthrax in the 2001 attacks that their confidential medical information would be included in a study, medical privacy experts and postal employees told United Press International.
The CDC collected the personal information for a study on the side effects of the extensive course of antibiotics given to postal workers in Washington, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey to prevent anthrax infection. However, the postal workers told UPI they were never informed the information was being collected for a study.
The CDC's failure to notify the workers is a serious infraction of federal regulations set up to protect medical research participants, experts on research protections told UPI. Due to the sensitive nature of medical information, researchers are required to inform subjects why the information is being collected and how their privacy will be protected.
"There are multiple violations going on," said Vera Hassner Sharav, founder of the advocacy organization Alliance for Human Research Protection. "If the CDC withheld full information about the nature and purpose of this study, how it will be used, who is using the information and keeping it...it is a violation of medical research regulations."
"If the facts stand up it violates the regulations for medical research," Adil Shamoo of the University Maryland School of Medicine told UPI. "It's an inappropriate way of conducting research with so many human beings." Shamoo is a former member of the National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee, which advised the Department of Health and Human Services on medical research protections.
The CDC study, which was published in the October issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, included information about minor problems such as nausea and headaches and more serious matters such as neurologic problems including seizures. Though not published, postal workers told UPI they also disclosed potentially damaging information about psychiatric problems including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The data was collected in such a way that it could be linked to an individual's name, address and telephone phone number - although it was not published that way in the study.
A major concern for the postal employees is that the information could be disclosed to third parties and impact their future ability to obtain insurance or employment, said Kathleen Rand Reed, president of Geographic Genetic Systems, a Washington consulting company that focuses on human research protections. The CDC has "raped those people. This is so egregious," said Reed, who serves on an Institutional Review Board - a panel that reviews studies to ensure they do not compromise protections accorded to human research participants - at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Federal regulations require that researchers notify people upfront that a study is being conducted. However, many of the postal workers first learned of the study from reports of it in the media or when UPI contacted them. Many were under the impression the CDC was collecting the information in an attempt to help them with health problems they were still experiencing nearly three months after the anthrax attacks.
Employees at postal facilities in Washington, Trenton, N.J., and New York - all of which were contaminated with anthrax - said they were not informed of the CDC study.
"I'm not happy about it," said William Smith, president of the New York Metro Area Postal Union. "The CDC wants to use (the employees) as guinea pigs... . This is a crisis these employees have been through and this should not be used as a test issue with their lives."
Both the CDC and RTI, a medical research firm in Research Triangle Park, N.C., contracted to collect the information by phone, insisted the employees were informed at the beginning of the phone calls the information was being collected for a study.
However, Colin Shepherd, an epidemiologist with the CDC and lead author of the study, acknowledged the only written notice the subjects got about the study was a one-page letter from Julie Gerberding, then acting deputy director of the CDC. Gerberding now is director of the agency.
The letter states the phone interviews were being conducted to help the agency evaluate its program for distributing antibiotics, but it "does not say anything about a study," said Dena Briscoe, a postal worker at the Brentwood facility in Washington.
UPI obtained a copy of the letter dated Jan. 24, 2002 and found it makes no specific reference to the study. The closest it comes is saying, "The CDC would like to evaluate this program to see if we can improve our service. CDC also wants to know how you did while taking antibiotics to prevent anthrax."
The letter goes on to say the CDC has enlisted "RTI, a not-for-profit firm" to contact people by phone. The letter does not state what type of corporation RTI is, why RTI is gathering information for the CDC or what the company plans to do with it, all of which are required under federal regulations.
CDC failed to respond to calls and emailed questions from UPI about why the letter did not mention the study or identify RTI.
Failure to adequately inform the postal workers of the purpose for collecting the information would mean the CDC and RTI "collected the information without their informed consent and their using it without it could well violate their rights to privacy," said Jim Pyles, a Washington lawyer who focuses on medical privacy issues. The courts have found that people have a right not to have their information disclosed without their consent, said Pyles, who is affiliated with the firm Powers, Pyles, Sufter and Verville.
The workers' concerns about the information they disclosed might not be over because RTI still holds the data. The medical information is kept separately so it is not identifiable to an individual, but Reid Maness, RTI's public affairs director, said it can be linked back "for the purpose of follow-up," which the CDC already has announced it plans to do.
Maness said RTI would not release the confidential health information to any third party, but he conceded, "If the CDC were to engage another contractor then we would have to hand off the confidentiality and the information."
That possibility is very troubling to Pyles.
"The federal government has a pretty abysmal record for holding confidential information," he said. Indeed, a report released in September 2002 by the U.S. General Accounting Office found confidential information collected by the federal government "was shared extensively with other federal agencies, other government entities (state, local, tribal, and foreign), and private individuals and organizations through authorized procedures."
Another report from the GAO in 1999 found two examples of confidential information being released without the research subjects' consent. In the first instance, "a university inadvertently released the names of multiple study participants testing positive for HIV to... a local television station." In the second case, the identity of a patient "suffering from extreme depression and suicidal impulses stemming from a history of childhood sexual abuse (was) distributed" at a national meeting.
Posted on 01/18/03
agents search Tech researcher's home
Doctor in plague case 'not guilty of a hoax,' attorney says
Amarillo Globe News 1/18/03
LUBBOCK - Federal authorities Friday searched the home of a Texas Tech doctor who this week prompted a national scare with reports of plague bacteria missing from a university lab.
About a dozen agents with the FBI and other federal agencies spent several hours Friday afternoon inside the Lubbock home of Dr. Thomas C. Butler. Agents leaving the home refused to comment.
Butler, 61, remained jailed without bond Friday on charges of making a false statement to a federal agent. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to court documents, Butler told a supervisor and authorities that 30 vials containing a bacterial agent that can be developed into bubonic plague were missing from his lab.
Butler later admitted to fabricating that story to hide that he accidentally destroyed the samples, court records say.
Butler's attorney, Floyd Holder of Lubbock, said the government's scenario accuses his client of perpetrating a hoax, "and he's not guilty of a hoax."
Holder said he thinks federal agents persuaded Butler to accept their explanation about the missing bacteria.
"He may think he knows (what happened to it)," Holder said. "I'm not sure. I imagine the FBI is sure."
FBI officials said Wednesday that the samples "have been accounted for."
According to a Tech police report Tuesday, Butler told an officer that the plague samples had been stolen.
Butler told police that on Jan. 1 he had 30 test tubes in a rack on a table in his laboratory. On the morning of Jan. 11, Butler "discovered that person(s) had taken the test tubes from the rack," the report said.
The lab is locked at all times, but Butler is not the only one with access, the report says.
In a written statement made after questioning by FBI agents, Butler wrote: "I made a misjudgment by not telling (the supervisor) that the plague bacteria had been accidentally destroyed earlier rather than erroneously first found missing."
Butler said he didn't realize his story would result in "such an extensive investigation," according to court documents.
Federal agents first searched Butler's home early Wednesday, Holder said.
They served a sealed federal search warrant Friday seeking financial records, records concerning Butler's travel inside and outside the United States since 2001, and documents "or other evidence of importation, transportation, shipment and/or possession of biological and chemical" agents.
Authorities removed computers and computer disks belonging to Butler, his wife and two children, Holder said.
"I think we would generally refer to it as a fishing expedition," he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dick Baker declined to comment.
Butler, who was chief of the infectious diseases division of the department of internal medicine at Tech's medical school, has been involved in plague research for more than 25 years and is internationally recognized in the field.
Tech officials said they are puzzled by Butler's actions.
"That remains a mystery to most of us, what his motive might have been," said Glen Provost, vice president of health safety at Tech's Health Sciences Center. "I just can't figure it out."
Butler was the only person with authorized access to the bacteria, which must be registered with the International Biohazards Committee and the government.
The university has placed Butler on paid leave, changed the locks on his laboratory, blocked him from computer access and barred him from campus.
Provost said he wonders why Butler would risk his career and reputation by his actions.
"A lot of people are obviously wondering that as well," he said.
A detention and a preliminary hearing for Butler is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday in the courtroom of federal Magistrate Nancy Koenig. The judge will decide then whether to set a bond for Butler's release.
The U.S. Attorney's Office plans to oppose Butler's release. Court documents filed Thursday said Butler's actions present a risk to public safety.
The report of the missing vials triggered a terrorism-alert plan and showed how jittery Americans are over the threat of a biological attack, as dozens of federal agents converged on Lubbock and reports of the missing bacteria became instant national news.
The public did not learn of the report of missing vials until early Wednesday but hospitals and medical personnel were notified Tuesday as part of the city's post-Sept. 11 emergency plan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This story printed
from the Amarillo Globe-News Online at amarillonet.com:
This one spread like plague
Tech professor's blunder overblown when feds, media started 'conjuring up hysteria.'
By JIM HENDERSON
LUBBOCK -- Two years ago, none of this would have happened.
A medical researcher who inadvertently destroyed biological materials and lied to cover up his blunder would have been disciplined and warned to be more careful in the future, some experts say.
No more, not in the season of terror.
Last week, the engines of homeland security thundered across the South Plains and slammed into Texas Tech University like a smart bomb. Dozens of agents sealed off laboratories, collared professors for questioning and visited the medical school dean at 1 a.m. with a warrant to look into his refrigerator.
After a brief but blitzlike investigation, the doctor in charge of the missing pathogens -- a bacteria that causes bubonic plague -- was polygraphed, arrested, handcuffed and jailed without bond.
The FBI announced that the missing material was "accounted for" but showed no signs of winding down the investigation. New agents arrived on campus late in the week, more searches were conducted, more polygraphs administered.
All this over a small quantity of bacteria that, a string of experts has agreed, is relatively common in the Southwest, cannot be converted to biological weapons and is easily treated with antibiotics.
"It seems like an inappropriate response to a non-threat," said Dr. Ted Warren Reid, director of ocular cell biology in Tech's Department of Ophthalmology, one of numerous professors who began rallying to support a "respected colleague" at week's end. "Something is totally out of control here."
Still, all anyone knew was the sketchy information released by the FBI in court documents.
Dr. Thomas Butler, 61, chief of the infectious disease division at Tech's Health Sciences Center, reported to his superiors at 3:30 p.m. last Tuesday that 30 vials of the bacteria were missing from his lab.
Dr. Richard Homan, dean of the School of Medicine, immediately contacted the authorities, and cops were prowling the Health Sciences building within hours. House calls to faculty members, by some accounts, continued until the wee hours.
By 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the news of missing vials was being reported on cable news networks, which stayed with the story almost exclusively until shortly after 2 p.m., then dropped it like a bad sitcom when the FBI announced there was no terrorist threat.
Lubbock City Councilman Frank Morrison blamed the media for "conjuring up hysteria" over what turned out to be a non-event.
"The Avalanche-Journal reported on its Web site that vials of bacteria had been stolen. There was no indication they were stolen. Even if they were, it would be like reporting stolen vials of the flu," he said.
When television got the news, he said, it was "damn the truth, full speed ahead in an effort to be first.
"Fortunately, it blew up and went away before anyone knew about it. If you weren't listening to the radio or watching television between 10:30 and 2 o'clock, you never knew this happened until it was over."
Although most television reports included interviews with experts who said the plague-causing bacteria post no broad threat, references were made to the millions of deaths resulting from the plague that swept Europe 500 years ago.
"When they showed that picture of the black death spreading over Europe, it scared me -- and I'm fearless," said Floyd Holder, Butler's attorney.
Around the Health Sciences Center, there was no panic, however.
"Most of us realize we work in an environment that is not typical," said Glen Provost, vice president for health policy. "We know what kinds of things we have around here. It's not just the materials in the laboratories, but patients coming in with infectious diseases."
To most of those who followed the rapidly developing details, the biggest enigma was Butler: A graduate of Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins, U.S. Navy officer in Vietnam, one of the nation's most respected medical researchers in his field, active Presbyterian, family man.
Why would he risk his career, even his freedom, to cover up what he later told FBI agents was the accidental destruction of bacteria by claiming it had been lost?
Matt Sheldon, a recent Tech graduate who tends bar at Cricket's Bar and Grill across the street from the school's main entrance, said he didn't hear the news until the radio woke him up at 2 p.m. Wednesday and his first thought was "how the hell can you misplace vials of plague?"
And when the FBI announced Butler had been charged with making a false statement to federal authorities, he was even more puzzled.
"I think I would rather take the rap for accidentally destroying them than for losing them," Sheldon said.
Butler's colleagues were also scratching their heads.
"We were relieved that there had not been a security breach," Provost said, "but his motives are a mystery to us."
Some speculated that Butler may not have documented the destruction of the bacteria and feared that would cause problems with the university and the sources of his federal funding.
Apparently, he initially told the FBI the same story he told the med school dean but changed it after a polygraph test.
Provost said that before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Butler probably would have been disciplined, but probably not fired, probably not locked out of his laboratory and probably not jailed.
"Things are different now," Provost said. "It was just amazing ... people moved so quickly. I was impressed."
In a Saturday editorial, the Avalanche-Journal praised the quick work of the investigators, but even as that editorial was being written, faculty members of the Tech medical school were meeting to express support for Butler and question the severity of his treatment.
"The faculty was very, very upset," Reid said. "Imagine the effect this could have on researchers. It's a problem for the whole country that happened to happen here. It's scary as hell."
Marsha Chapman, Butler's neighbor and longtime friend -- she first met him 20 years ago when her parents worked with him at a hospital in Bangladesh -- seemed stunned that the U.S. attorney would label him a flight risk and ask that he be held without bond.
"This man is the most kind-hearted, gentle spirit you would ever want to know," she said. "He has a lot of friends and we are horrified that he has been treated like a criminal, like the rapists and robbers and others in that jail. They are trying to make an example of him."
Butler has another court appearance Tuesday, one to determine if he can post bail.
on Wed, Jan. 22, 2003
FBI searches Palm Beach County ex-home of Saudi family
By SCOTT MCCABE and ELIOT KLEINBERG
FBI agents Tuesday night searched the former home of a Saudi family, who a neighbor said had enrolled an adult son in a nearby flight training school and had left ''in a hurry'' two days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
State records and neighbors in the upscale neighborhood in Greenacres, which is just southwest of West Palm Beach, identified the head of the family as Mohamad Almasri, 57.
According to state records, others who lived at the house were Madawi Almasri, 26; Turki Ma Almasri, 22; and Afaf I. Arif, 47.
Neighbors said Almasri lived at the home with his wife, a son and daughter in their late teens or early 20s, and a younger son and daughter.
Several agents, some in white biohazard suits, arrived Tuesday afternoon at the home at 1606 Doral Dr. in Fairway Isles, a gated community, neighbors said.
Into the night, agents went in and out of the home, carrying plastic and paper bags, and dug up parts of the front yard.
Neighbors said they saw the agents carrying what appeared to be metal detectors.
A pickup hauling a large metal trailer was backed up to the front door.
Miami FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said Tuesday night that the agents were acting on a search warrant. She would not say what they were looking for or might have found or whether there was any link to the ongoing national terrorist investigations.
At least 12 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked jets on Sept. 11 had addresses showing they once lived in Palm Beach County.
Lisa Dickerson, Martha Ruth's daughter, said she watched Mohamad Almasri hustle his family into their car on Sept. 9, 2000. She said that a few days after the attacks, when news reports began focusing on possible connections between the terrorists and the nearby Lantana airport, she called a special national FBI hot line.
''It was just the way he put them in,'' Dickerson said. ``It happened so fast.''
Martha Ruth, Dickerson's mother, said the home has been empty ever since, although she recalled briefly seeing Almasri or the adult son in the home a few days or weeks after the family's abrupt departure. Neighbors said they also grew suspicious when the grass in the yard became overgrown and cars normally out front were gone.
Neighbors said homeowners association officers tried to track down the family without result, and that at one association meeting in the last year, at least one family reported they had been talking to the FBI and local police.
Neighbors milled Tuesday night behind yellow crime scene tape that stretched in front of the home and across Doral Drive to the front yard of Rodney Lamarca. Lamarca said Almasri told him he was an engineer.
Lamaraca said the FBI had searched the home about two weeks ago. He did not know if that had been the agency's first visit.
''Now they are back like gangbusters,'' Lamarca said. ``They must have found something.''
Lamarca said homeowner association president Dave Remsen told him FBI agents had said they removed a computer and disks. Remsen told him FBI agents said the family packed up so quickly that food was left on the table.
Lamarca said last week he saw the FBI use tools to unlock a car that had been sitting in the garage. ''I didn't know it was there,'' Lamarca said.
Martha Ruth said the Almasri family bought the house about two years ago and came in the summer, telling her they were taking a vacation from their home in Saudi Arabia.
''They introduced themselves to me and they were very friendly neighbors,'' said Ruth, a retired private-duty nurse. ``I didn't even know their last name.''
Ruth said she was told the couple's son, Turki, 22, was attending one of the three flight schools at the nearby Lantana airport. Palm Beach Flight Training owner Marian Smith said Turki had not trained there.
Kemper Aviation manager David Allison said he would not have access to records until the morning. Officials at Chandelle Aviation said they would check Tuesday night but did not call back.
Owen Gassaway, Jr., who runs the commercial operation at the Lantana airport, said he keeps photographs and names of all suspected terrorists that the FBI has asked airports and flight schools to monitor.
He said he checked them Tuesday night and ``nothing matched.''
Michigan records show Mohamad Almasri as the registered agent for two corporations based in Dearborn, Mich. The Detroit suburb has the largest Arab-American population in the United States, according to the Arab-American Anti-Defamation League.
A Mohamad Almasri contacted in Dearborn said he is not the Florida Almasri and that he is not connected to the Dearborn corporations.
financing concern behind search
By Antigone Barton, Eliot Kleinberg
and John Lantigua,
GREENACRES -- The FBI Wednesday concluded an intense search of a home that was hurriedly abandoned by a Saudi family just two days before the Sept. 11 attacks. Federal sources said they are investigating whether the homeowner was involved in financing the terrorists.
Sources said investigators are trying to establish whether Mohamad Almasri, 57, who owned the white, one-story home in a gated community, might have financial ties to Muslim charities suspected of funneling money to the Al-Qaeda hijackers.
"We're looking to see if there is any connection, financial or otherwise, to any terrorist organization, including the 9/11 hijackers, but it is all very preliminary," a federal investigator familiar with the probe told The Miami Herald.
On Wednesday agents hauled away a car that apparently had been stored in the garage at 1606 Doral Drive in the Fairway Isles community since the home was abandoned 16 months ago. They also carted off cardboard cartons and paper bags full of unknown materials.
The vehicle, a 2001 silver Mitsubishi Mirage, was registered to Almasri's son, Turki Almasri, 22.
A flight instructor at the nearby Lantana airport said Wednesday the younger Almasri took classes from his company for six months in 2001. That, combined with the sudden departure by other family members, might have attracted the FBI's attention.
Many of the 19 men who participated in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were Saudis and several of them took flying lessons in Florida, leaving the state just before the hijackings. Mohamad Atta, the alleged ringleader of the Al-Qaeda hijackers, rented planes for practice flights out of the Lantana airport during his stay in South Florida.
But David Allison, chief flight instructor at Kemper Aviation, said Almasri was still at the school when armed hijacked airliners flew into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
"On 9/11 he was right here taking a lesson," Allison said. "He stopped coming about a week later."
Allison said Almasri told people at the school that he had been a flight attendant for Saudi Airlines and that he wanted to be a commercial pilot. He took lessons about two or three times a week and needed about another year of training to complete the course, the instructor said.
"He was a pleasant, respectful young man," Allison said, adding that Almasri was an "unremarkable" student and that there was nothing unusual or suspicious about his request for training.
Turki Almasri, according to neighbors, apparently stayed in the house for at least several days after most other family members departed. But he, too, apparently eventually left in a hurry -- leaving behind the car agents removed Wednesday.
One of its tires was flat and the trunk and doors were sealed with investigators' tape. The license plate had expired in March 2002 and was not renewed, state records show.
On the other hand, county records show that 2001 property taxes were paid on the house Dec. 5 of that year, almost three months after the family left. Property taxes for 2002 have not been paid. In October 2002, the town of Greenacres put a lien on the house for a $67.75 municipal trash pickup fee.
Family's only U.S. address
Mohamad Almasri bought the three-bedroom, two-bath house in June 2000, apparently for cash. Almasri told neighbors he was an engineer.
Other family members who lived there, according to state records and neighbors, were the older Almasri's wife, Alaf I. Arif, 47; a daughter, Madawi Almasri, 26; and two younger children, a boy and a girl.
A search of national records revealed no previous addresses in the United States for any of the Almasri family, and no subsequent addresses.
Dozens of agents, some of them in FBI windbreakers, worked at the scene for a second day Wednesday. On Tuesday, some of the agents wore biohazard jumpsuits, but those precautions were absent on Wednesday.
FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said she did not expect the searchers to return. She said the agents were not looking for anthrax or any other toxic substance. According to local residents, agents had been to the house about two weeks ago and removed a computer and disks. Agents also visited the house several months ago.
Orihuela emphasized that the searchers were not members of the FBI's terrorism task force, but were agents from South Florida offices.
An official at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington who is a liaison with the FBI has not been contacted by the agency, said embassy spokesman Nail al-Jubeir.
Several neighbors said they called the FBI soon after the Sept. 11 attacks to report the sudden and suspicious departure of the family.
Kristina Daddio, whose mother Martha Ruth lives next door to the Almasris' former home, remembered vividly that the family left on Sept. 9, 2001, with the adults throwing suitcases into a white minivan she had never seen and hurriedly ushering the children into the vehicle.
Daddio, echoing others in the neighborhood, said the Almasris were always courteous and always stopped in to say goodbye when they were about to leave on one of their frequent trips to Saudi Arabia.
But that day was different. Mohamad Almasri called a hurried goodbye and they drove away.
"They were just booting out of there," Daddio said.
Martha Ruth had been in the house next door just once, to clear up a misunderstanding about a gate between their properties, Daddio said. Turki Almasri had come home to find the gate between the two yards open, allowing entrance to his family's side and back yards. It was usually closed.
"He was frantic," Daddio said, "Saying, 'What happened? Who has been here?' "
He was so upset that Ruth later visited him, to find the family watching an Arabic news program.
"He had calmed down completely," Daddio said, "He told her not to worry, that everything was fine."
Staff writer Scott McCabe contributed to this story.
firstname.lastname@example.org, eliot_kleinberg@pbpost, email@example.com
again snoops about watershed
By Kate Leckie
Flight restrictions again were imposed Thursday over the Frederick Watershed as FBI officials acknowledged the move was tied to the ongoing anthrax investigation.
"We have no information that indicates there is any public safety hazard, but we want to comment about this matter now because people have a concern over public safety," Special Agent Barry Maddox said Thursday evening from Baltimore.
Mr. Maddox's statement mirrored a media advisory issued last month that "the searches are in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation. It is important to note that based on water, soil and sediment testing already conducted, there is no indication of any risk to the public health or public safety."
This is at least the second straight month that FBI agents have targeted sections of the wooded Catoctin Mountains for study.
Last month, access to the region around Gambrill Park Road was contained by FBI agents stationed at roadblocks. Toward the end of the month, photographers captured images of special tents that had been erected and divers plunging into two side-by-side ponds, searching for evidence linked to the anthrax attacks.
Mr. Maddox said the FBI's Baltimore field office is assisting the Washington field office with the investigation.
"I imagine if they deemed it necessary to protect the integrity of the area, they could take similar measures (to limit access) again," he said.
"Although, I'm unable to comment further, I expect that whatever investigative techniques we have at our disposal could be utilized," he said.
Thursday evening, Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine said he continues to receive briefings from federal investigators when activity takes place in the city's watershed. In addition to two ponds that were searched by divers in late December, investigators have been canvassing other parts of the region as well, he said.
Although FBI investigators indicated late last month that they were close to wrapping up their investigation, Chief Dine said Thursday that the agents might never have completely cleared out.
Mr. Maddox said, "The investigation is continuing, so it's likely agents have been out working the case this entire time. No time frame has been established for the investigation to conclude."
Probe Focusing Again on Frederick Forest
Updated: Friday, Jan. 24, 2003 - 3:29 PM EST.
FREDERICK, Md. - The search for clues to the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001 is focusing again on the forested mountains northeast of Frederick, FBI and local officials indicated Friday.
In December, dozens of federal agents closed roads, erected tents and combed several small ponds in the Catoctin Mountains during a week-long search for evidence of the anthrax mailings that killed five people and infected 18 in the fall of 2001.
No roads had been closed as of Friday. Frederick Police Chief Kim C. Dine said he thinks the targeted search area is so remote it may not require roadblocks.
Special Agent Barry Maddox in the FBI's Baltimore said a number of agencies were involved in the operation.
"It's one of those things that's just a continued investigation of what we've been doing," he said.
Dine said the search was focusing, at least in part, on the City of Frederick Municipal Forest, an area eight miles from the city that includes a drinking water reservoir. The FBI said in a statement that, "based on water testing already conducted, there is no indication of any threat to public health or safety associated with our search activities."
Frederick is the former home of Dr. Steven Hatfill, an ex-Army biological weapons researcher the government has labeled a "person of interest" in the anthrax case. Hatfill has denied any involvement in the October 2001 attacks, in which five people died and 18 others were infected by letters containing anthrax spores.
search in anthrax case
WBAY TV -Greenbay, WI
Frederick, Maryland-AP -- Federal agents are again at work, near the former home of a man who's been described as a "person of interest" in the anthrax case.
They're searching a forest today in Maryland -- near where former Army biological weapons researcher Doctor Steven Hatfill used to live.
He's denied involvement in the attacks in October of 2001.
Last month, there was a similar search -- as dozens of federal gents closed roads and put up tents for a week-long search for evidence.
The anthrax mailings killed five people and infected 18.
An F-B-I spokeswoman says today's search is "just a continuation" of the anthrax probe.
A resident says F-B-I officials told him the roadblocks that went up today around the search area will be there for about a week.
divers resume anthrax search
By Eric Slagle
Scuba divers working with the FBI resumed their search of a series of small ponds in the Catoctin Mountains on Monday.
The agents brought an inflatable boat, video monitors and special tents south to another pond in the City of Frederick Municipal Forest. Investigators cut five to six holes in the pond's frozen surface and divers were seen entering and exiting the freezing water.
Flight restrictions and roadblocks surrounding the remote part of the Frederick city watershed also returned Monday morning. Flight restrictions imposed last week had been lifted Friday.
FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman said Monday that no new information about the investigation was available.
The FBI acknowledges that the investigation is related to the deadly anthrax letters mailed in October 2001 and says there is no indication of any threat to public health or safety based on previously conducted water testing.
The area that investigators are searching, about one mile east of the 11000 block of Gambrill Park Road and a quarter mile west of Fishing Creek Road, can be reached via a fire trail along a blocked section of Fishing Creek Road.
A roadblock, installed at the intersection of Fishing Creek Road and Mountaindale Road, was one of several surrounding the pond.
Unmarked four-wheel drive vehicles with District of Columbia license plates also blocked Hamburg Road in two places: At its intersection with Gambrill Park Road and at its southeastern end near Quartet Lane.
This is the second straight month that the FBI has been searching the watershed.
Photographers captured images in late December of divers searching two side-by-side ponds farther north in the forest.
City officials said the FBI has been keeping them abreast of the investigation's progress.
Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine said the police have a "good working relationship" and that the FBI has provided him with daily briefings since December.
"They don't tell me about every step, because obviously, it's not our investigation," said Chief Dine.
PICTURE CAPTION: Scuba divers enter large holes cut in the frozen surface of a lake off Fishing Creek Road in the city watershed Monday morning. Nearly 50 persons, many in diving apparatus, were seen working in and around a number of holes cut in the ice.
January 29, 2003
Posted: January 29, 2003
By Paul Sperry
© 2003 WorldNetDaily.com
WASHINGTON – Biologists at U.S. Army labs say that, thanks to the FBI's floundering anthrax investigation, they will now have to undergo Top Secret background checks to work with anthrax and other bio-agents.
Army scientists handle anthrax, as well as plague, botulinum toxin and tularemia, on a regular basis. The biological agents are classified as Biosafety Level 3, the second-highest biohazard risk, but have not required such security clearance in the past.
"We were told that to even be in a room with the select agents we will have to have a special key and Top Secret clearance," said a biologist at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, a top Pentagon bioweapons research center.
The scientist, who requested anonymity, called the new restrictions a "knee-jerk reaction" to the FBI's profiling of possible suspects in the anthrax case.
Following stock psychological profiles, the FBI has focused on an angry, "lone individual" with some scientific background in its anthrax murder probe. Five people were killed by anthrax-laced letters sent through the mail just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The FBI identified former Army scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the case and has repeatedly searched his old apartment. He worked until 1999 for Fort Detrick's Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland. The USAMRIID lab is the primary custodian of the virulent Ames strain of anthrax found in the anthrax letters, which praised "Allah" and called for death to America and Israel.
Hatfill, who has not been charged in the case, strongly denies any involvement in the anthrax letters. The FBI has been criticized for rushing to accuse him in what looks to be a repeat of the bureau's bungled Richard Jewell case. Hatfill's spokesman, Patrick Clawson, declined comment on the tighter security measures at Army labs, which appear to be a legacy of the FBI's targeting of Hatfill.
WorldNetDaily also has learned that the FBI recently administered polygraph tests to some Dugway scientists. "They were asked questions about the letters," the Dugway biologist said.
FBI investigators have been working secretly for months at Dugway to "reverse-engineer" the highly lethal spores found in the letters. Determining precisely how the spores were weaponized could help agents narrow the suspect list. More than a year after the letters were mailed, they still have no solid leads.
The Army recently put up a fence around the perimeter of the Dugway lab where biologists handle anthrax, sources say.
A Dugway spokeswoman referred questions about the security tightening to the Pentagon. A spokesman there, James Turner, acknowledged that a review of lab security is underway, but he could neither confirm nor deny specific measures taken at the labs.
"The Department of Defense, the Army and the various agencies are still in the drafting stages of developing an appropriate level of security to properly safeguard biological select agents against loss, theft, sabotage, diversion or unauthorized use," Turner said in an interview. "Until the guidance is official and final, it would be too early to comment on the controls we have recently added to our facilities."
A USAMRIID spokeswoman says the post-anthrax "bioassurety program" will establish new guidelines involving personnel background investigations, as well as physical security, accountability and inventory of stock, and safety.
Army lab scientists complain that university labs also work with anthrax and other select BL3 agents, and many of them employ foreign nationals, and yet they have not restricted access to such bio-agents.
But USAMRIID spokeswoman Caree Vander-Linden says the new guidelines will cover university labs, too.
"It's not just defense labs," Vander-Linden told WorldNetDaily. "Other labs at universities will have a similar program in place."
awaiting payment from FBI
By Susan C. Nicol
As the FBI wrapped up its latest anthrax investigation in the Catoctin Mountains, Frederick County officials wonder if the check is in the mail.
"Agents concluded their forensic search (Wednesday) evening, and the roads were re-opened," said Debbie Weierman, an FBI spokesperson. She would not say what, if anything, the agents found.
She also couldn't say whether they will return.
Meanwhile, Frederick County has submitted a bill to be reimbursed for the highway crew and firefighters who assisted in an earlier search of the area in December.
"We have not been paid as yet," said Walter Murray, deputy director of operations for the Department of Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS).
Neither Mr. Murray nor County Manager Doug Browning had the amounts involved.
The county has not yet applied for reimbursement for services provided over the past week, when FBI agents and divers again searched ponds in the Frederick municipal watershed for evidence in the anthrax case.
But Ms. Weierman said the FBI has not received a request for reimbursement.
"From what I was told, Frederick County agreed to provide them (firefighters) as a cooperative effort," she said Thursday night.
Frederick County sent out a request last week seeking volunteers to staff an ambulance and the truck that fills air bottles from the Citizens Truck Co. Later, they said overtime would be paid for career personnel who wanted to help out.
Flight restrictions over the city watershed were imposed last week when FBI agents returned to work on their ongoing anthrax investigation.
Large triangles of ice, some 8 to 10 inches thick, were cut and removed from three ponds so divers could conduct underwater searches.
Small trees in some areas were cut to allow large vehicles to pass, and a trail off Fishing Creek Road was widened. In other sections, however, trees were felled to block paths. Portable toilets also were set up at the different sites.
The FBI has said since its first visit in December that there is no information that indicates there is any threat to public safety.
As last month, sections of Hamburg and Fishing Creek roads were closed as the agents went about the job.
Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine said Thursday he is briefed by the FBI on an as-needed basis.
"I don't think they really left,'' the chief said. "They were going ahead with their investigation. They were probably doing interviews. ... Not everything draws a lot of attention."
Chief Dine said that if requested, city officers would assist in the investigation. But that has not been the case so far.
"It's not our investigation,'' he said. "It does not involve us."
Chief Dine said he doesn't know if the agents are finished for good or whether they will return to the watershed in the future.
Manuscript Prompted FBI Forest Searches
By Mike Nartker
WASHINGTON — The FBI’s recent searches of a forest near Frederick, Md., were inspired partly by a manuscript confiscated from Steven Hatfill, a former U.S. Army biologist who has been the public focus of the bureau’s investigation into the autumn 2001 anthrax attacks, a former U.N. weapons inspector who has sources involved with the investigation told Global Security Newswire last week (see GSN, Feb. 3).
The FBI has conducted two searches of the area, one in December and one last month. Both searches used divers to search a number of ponds in the area, according to reports. The search of the area was inspired by a section of a bioterrorism-related manuscript recovered from Hatfill’s apartment last year, said the former U.N. inspector, citing a confidential source. A section in Hatfill’s manuscript mentioned terrorists dumping equipment into ponds similar to those investigated during the December search, he said.
The scene in Hatfill’s manuscript probably did not contain any sinister connotations, the former inspector said, adding the similarities were likely not intentional.
“In my mind this would not be unusual,” the former inspector said in a written response to GSN. “One usually writes about what one is familiar with and this would include descriptive areas,” he added.
The FBI’s use of Hatfill’s manuscript as an inspiration for new tactics in its investigation, which has progressed for more than 1 1/2 years without notable results, could indicate a sense of desperation, the former inspector said. “If the FBI is desperate, then anything might be beaten to death,” he added.
The FBI refused to comment on the searches, the motives behind them, or what, if anything, was found, citing that the investigation was still in progress.
The former inspector said he believed Hatfill is being “railroaded” by the FBI, which is ignoring other sources.
“It appears that the FBI has decided he is the one and now are concentrating all their efforts to find the evidence,” the former inspector said. “They are barking up the wrong tree,” he added.
As the FBI continues its efforts to find the person or persons responsible for the anthrax attacks, Hatfill currently lives in limbo — sitting “in his girlfriend’s apartment making fruitless calls looking for employment” and “watching CNN,” said Patrick Clawson, Hatfill’s personal friend and spokesman.
Clawson said that neither he nor Hatfill knew why the FBI had conducted two searches of the section of forest near Frederick and the ponds contained within.
“We don’t know why the FBI is searching those ponds ... but they can keep doing it,” Clawson said, professing Hatfill’s complete innocence in the attacks. The “FBI can keep looking till hell freezes over,” he added.
The FBI might have intended the searches to be only a publicity stunt, Clawson said. They were just to fool “the American public that Johnny G-Man was on the job,” he said.
expert implicates Iraq in US anthrax attacks
Accumulated evidence, albeit mostly circumstantial, is nonethless sufficient to implicate Iraq in the wave of Anthrax incidents in America in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks, according to former IDF intelligence officer Dr. Danny Shoham.
Mystery still surrounds the affair of letters containing the deadly biological warfare agent that were sent to various addresses in the US over a more than two-month period shortly after the suicide attacks on New York and Washington.
Shoham, a senior researcher at Bar Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, believes that the proximity of the two events is no coincidence and that both were perpetrated by al-Qaida and sponsored by Iraq.
This thesis, published in the latest edition of the authoratitive "International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence," is based on reported links between Iraqi intelligence and al-Qaida in Sudan in the early 1990s.
[NOTE: The entire thesis can be viewed by clicking HERE.]
The international terrorist organization's leader Osama bin Laden was reported to have found a temporary safe haven in Sudan at a time that coinicded with reports that significant portions of Iraq's non-conventional weapons assets had also been moved there for "safe-keeping."
"They (bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence) found several common denominators, including inflicting damage and harm on the US and Israel through a variety of means of terror," said Shoham.
"These strong bonds intensified towards the end of the 1990's and reached a peak in the attacks against New York and Washington and the distribution of the Anthrax letters.
"The preparations for both these acts of sabotage were far too meticulous and required such a great deal of complex planning and real-time intelligence that they could not have been conducted by a terrorist organization.
"The resources needed for such operations, including installations for the process of manufacturing Anthrax powder, point to the involvement of a State that sponsors terrorism," he said.
Regarding Iraq being behind the Anthrax letters, Shoham contends that the culmulative evidence is sufficient to form just that conclusion despite its circumstantial nature. This concept could equally apply to findings presented to the UN Security Council last week by Secretary of State Colin Powell to prove the existence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and that it is not disarming.
"The Anthrax evidence relates to four categories the earlier conduct by Iraq of non-conventional preparations and operations, Iraqi activities concerned with Anthrax as a biological warfare agent and the relationship of Iraq to the affair of the Anthrax letters," said Shoham.
"In each of these categories there is a critical mass of circumstantial evidence the integration of which is superior to the defense of reasonable doubt.
"In the first category it is known that in the 1980's Iraqi intelligence established a security network for researching and producing non-conventional weapons and made preparations for conducting biological and chemical terrorism. "In terms of operations, it is also known that these agents have been used, for example against the Kurds and against political opponents of the regime of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqis put nerve agents in the food supplies of fugitive Kurds, as well as in the the shells fired at them.
"Investigations into the abortive attack against the Twin Towers in 1993, when explosives as well as cyanide precursors were used, found that this was Iraqi sponsored.
"Regarding the third category, in the extremely diversified range of biological warfare agents developed by the Iraqis since the 1980's, Anthrax was considered in their conception to be the most important for military and sabotage operations."
Shoham said the fact that Iraq has stockpiled Anthrax, has not hesitated to use non-conventional weapons in the past and has an established a network for perpetration bio-chemical terrorism, coupled with its reputed links to al-Qaida, leads to the conclusion it was involved in the Anthrax letters affair.
"A comprehensive analysis of all the relevant information negates the still considered possibility that the operation was a purely American domestic affair," he said.
"Installations, not just a one or two room laboratory, are needed to produce the kind of Anthrax powder that was used in these cases.
"The chances that such installations existed in America but have not been discovered until this day are slim. Similarly, the chances that they were discovered but the information has been kept under wraps and has not been unearthed by the press are also slim."
Shoham contends that in the grey world of intelligence gathering and analysis where verifiable facts are hard to come by, it is often the case that accumulated circumstantial evidence has to suffice.
"Any analytical context that is not merely technical but relies on the power of the mind, ultimately reaches a point where evidence, even if only circumstantial, generally accumulates to a certain level of a critical mass, thus producing a solid conclusion," he says.
"This point is both conceivable and pragmatic. Its validity is both intrinsic and objective, stemming from an inherent plausability. Occasionally, the resulting conclusion is inadequate to propel the practical moves strategic or political which are regarded as it corollaries.
"This may be inevitable due to the very fact that the evidence is circumstantial, but that does not impair the validity even for those conclusions considered to be inferential assessments.
Unavoidably, intelligence analysts often face such challenges."
Asked why the alleged Iraqi links to the Anthrax letters had not been highlighted by the Americans and used to further justify the use of force to disarm Saddam and his regime, Shoham said the fact it had been accepted for publication in a highly reputable American journal did not necessarily mean it was accepted by the US authorities.
"They might, however, have come to this same conclusion but to only reveal the information now would be an admission of failure on the part of the investigators so they might be refraining from publicly dealing with the issue at this stage," Shoham added.
Lab on the Defensive
Calls for more funds to fight bioterrorism are met with cries for greater scrutiny at the United States' lead research facility.
By Charles Piller
February 12 2003
FREDERICK, Md. -- As the Bush administration proposes a dramatic increase in research funding to protect Americans against bioterrorism, congressional and scientific skeptics are calling for closer scrutiny of the nation's leading biodefense facility.
The U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Ft. Detrick, Md., has accumulated a record of environmental, safety and security problems.
In congressional testimony, internal reports and interviews, officials and former researchers at the institute have asserted that:
Dozens of laboratory samples, mostly noninfectious but crucial to biodefense research, were lost or misplaced during the 1980s and 1990s. Former employees say that controls on dangerous toxins were haphazard and record-keeping was spotty.
Twice in April 2002, anthrax spores escaped or were taken from high-security containment labs at the Army institute, despite a tightening of safety procedures after the 2001 anthrax mailings. Anthrax spores were found in a hallway and a locker room, prompting an urgent cleanup. No one is known to have been sickened by the leaks.
From 1946 until at least 1977, toxic waste from the institute and an earlier biowarfare program — including vials of biological agents and anthrax-laced sludge — was buried near Ft. Detrick. A decade ago, it was discovered that chemicals from the dump had leached into drinking water used by nearby suburban homes. The Army began a cleanup in late 2001.
Hundreds of employees, visiting scientists and trainees have passed through the institute with minimal screening, prompting suspicions that the perpetrator of the anthrax mailings in 2001, which killed five people and caused the closure of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, acquired the spores or the necessary knowledge at Ft. Detrick. An FBI investigation has focused on Steven Hatfill, a former scientist at the Army lab whom Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft has described as a "person of interest." Hatfill has denied any connection to the mailings.
The commander of the research facility, Col. Erik Henchal, defended its three decades of research, which has produced a number of experimental vaccines and treatments.
He blamed the toxic-waste dumping on bioweapons projects discontinued in 1969, and he strongly disputed the notion that a current or former employee is responsible for the anthrax mailings.
Henchal, a microbiologist and career Army officer, said that mishandling of dangerous substances at the institute was rare and accidental exposures even rarer. And, he said, security has been enhanced since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Hot labs" that handle the most dangerous microbes now operate on a buddy system; no one works alone. Employees are randomly searched as they leave the facility.
Yet Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations, said doubts persist about the institute, stemming partly from its origins in a secret, Cold War-era bioweapons program. Shays said he will pursue an investigation into problems at the lab.
"It's a part of our military that hasn't gotten enough scrutiny," he said. "We need to take a very close look at what they've done and what they should be doing."
About 600 scientists and other employees of the institute, known by the acronym USAMRIID, work in an industrial-looking monolith of offices and labs in Frederick, Md., about 50 miles northwest of Washington.
The heart of the institute is a long hallway with small sealed windows and crash doors marked: "Infectious Area. No Entrance." This quarantine zone is protected by heavy security, including military checkpoints.
Scientists slog around in rubberized suits, trailing bright yellow air-supply lifelines. Cinderblock walls are painted with light-green epoxy to withstand the strongest antiseptics. Researchers study lethal biological agents such as the Ebola and Rift Valley hemorrhagic fevers in the most secure laboratories.
The institute has served as the forensics lab for the FBI's investigation into the anthrax mailings. Researchers have tested 30,000 samples of mail, office supplies and swabs of potentially contaminated surfaces, Henchal said.
USAMRIID was created in 1969 from the remnants of a massive bioweapons program begun in 1943. At the height of that earlier program, some 4,000 scientists and technicians pioneered "weaponization," the dark craft of breeding, drying, encapsulating, hardening and spraying disease agents. Munitions filled with anthrax, plague and other pathogens were tested in the air over sparsely populated sections of Utah, Army records show.
During congressional hearings in October, the Pentagon revealed that, from 1963 to 1968, microbes were sprayed from ships off San Diego; Oahu, Hawaii; and other areas in the Pacific to simulate a germ-warfare attack. The germs, then considered harmless, were later found to be potentially lethal for adults with compromised immune systems and small children.
In a similar experiment in 1950, a bacterium thought to be innocuous was sprayed over San Francisco. In widely published reports and in legal documents, the microbe was later blamed for a spate of illnesses and one death, that of an elderly man said to have suffered heart inflammation.
In 1969, President Richard Nixon renounced bioweapons and refocused the U.S. efforts on defensive research — vaccines, treatments and similar measures. USAMRIID was created to do that work, using some of the same labs and personnel employed in the bioweapons program. Three years later, Nixon signed the Biological Weapons Convention, which permits only defensive research.
A legacy of the abandoned weapons program and of USAMRIID's early years lies buried at Ft. Detrick — at a 399-acre site about a mile from the main base and a few hundred feet from neat suburban homes. It is known simply as Area B.
Live pathogens, possibly including anthrax, were tested there, according to a 1977 Army report.
In addition, the carcasses of animals infected in experiments were supposed to have been incinerated, but "were buried in Area B when the incinerator was inoperable," the report said. "The burial of animals and contaminated sludge has caused the area to be considered permanently contaminated with anthrax spores."
A decade ago, Maryland state officials detected hazardous levels of chemical solvents — but no active biological agents — in the drinking water of nearby homes. Area B was identified as the source.
In late 2001, the Army began a multimillion-dollar cleanup. Tents were erected around the dig area, along with an elaborate safety system that samples the air and freezes the ground beneath the dump to hold toxic substances in place.
Among the toxic waste so far uncovered are 96 vials containing biological material. Lt. Col. Don Archibald, who oversees the effort, said that about half the vials have been analyzed, and that several contained viable pathogens, including the organisms that cause pneumonia, meningitis and tuberculosis.
Workers excavating the site were taken to a local hospital for tests, but none became ill. No illnesses have been attributed to the tainted water, according to Gerald P. Toomey, an engineering consultant and co-chair of a community advisory board monitoring the cleanup. He said the full extent of contamination may not be known for years.
Said Archibald: "We are really dealing with the unknown. What took place here really didn't take place anywhere else."
Former USAMRIID scientists say the dump reflects chronic problems in maintaining control over its toxic inventory — a particular concern at an institution that works with and regularly shares samples of pathogens with other labs. During a 1988 Senate investigation, a former USAMRIID virologist, Neil H. Levitt, said that two quarts of Chikungunya virus, which causes a flu-like illness, had disappeared from his lab.
David Huxsoll, then commander of the institute, said the virus had probably been heat-treated to render it noninfectious. But he acknowledged that Levitt's allegation was never formally investigated.
In 1992, the facility's chief of experimental pathology asked a staff member to tally laboratory samples that researchers had reported missing. It emerged that an experimental treatment for simian immunodeficiency virus, an HIV-like virus strain that affects monkeys, had been lost — along with at least 27 specimens of anthrax spores and the viruses that cause hanta, Ebola and other diseases.
Army officials said that the samples, like the missing Chikungunya virus, were noninfectious and that most were later recovered. Former staff members and outside critics say the lapses are nonetheless worrisome because lab samples, in the wrong hands, could reveal sensitive information about U.S. biodefense research and readiness.
Last year's anthrax episodes, which involved highly refined spores similar to those used in bioweapons and biodefense research, stirred further concern about security at the institute.
The first incident was discovered April 8 when a researcher, on his own initiative, tested areas outside the containment labs and found infectious spores in a hallway and locker room. USAMRIID officials would not say what triggered the scientist's actions. About two weeks later, anthrax — this time a noninfectious strain — was discovered again outside the containment labs, according to lab officials.
The institute declined to release its investigative report on the two incidents.
Such episodes reflect an atmosphere of laxity, said Richard Crosland, 56, a physiologist who spent 11 years at USAMRIID before he was laid off in a round of budget cuts in 1997. Crosland said that while lab managers vigilantly tracked expensive equipment, they were careless about monitoring stocks of dangerous toxins.
"If you were missing enough botulinum toxin to kill a few thousand people, they didn't know anything about it," he said. When asked to account for hazardous substances, many scientists merely photocopied an old inventory and changed the date, he said.
"They never once had an audit of materials I had," he said.
After his dismissal, Crosland sued the Army for age discrimination. A federal court dismissed the suit, noting that a number of older scientists still worked at the institute. Crosland and two other plaintiffs have appealed.
Ayaad Assaad, 53, a former USAMRIID researcher and an expert on biological toxins, also said that oversight was sloppy at Ft. Detrick. Like Crosland, Assaad lost his job in the 1997 cuts and is pursuing an age-discrimination suit. He is now a toxicologist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Assaad said that several years after he left the Army laboratory, its security office called him after an alarm sounded on a locked refrigerator filled with toxins and microbes. The officer was apparently unaware that Assaad had left the institute. Assaad said he was informed that he was still listed as the scientist responsible for the refrigerator.
"The security officer said, 'Yours is the only name on the roster,' " Assad said.
Candidates for jobs at USAMRIID must undergo a "national agency check," the standard background investigation for federal employees, said Henchal, the commander. This includes verification of education and the previous five years of employment and a search for criminal records going back three years.
Staff members with access to classified information must also undergo national security screenings.
Hatfill, the scientist identified as a "person of interest" in the FBI's anthrax investigation, did not undergo either background check when he joined the lab as a research associate of the National Research Council in 1997. Hatfill was one of hundreds of students, trainees and foreign scientists who have passed through the institute over the years, according to USAMRIID officials. Hatfill's background was vetted by the research council, part of the National Academy of Sciences, the country's premier scientific society. Such reviews typically involve examining letters of recommendation and educational transcripts.
After he came under FBI scrutiny, it emerged that Hatfill's resume included unfounded claims of having served in the U.S. Army Special Forces and of belonging to a prestigious British medical society.
Henchal said the research council's screening is more stringent today. But Ray Gamble, director of the council program that sponsored Hatfill, said there have been no substantive changes in how applications are reviewed.
"It's a scientific review that hasn't changed in hundreds of years. It's based on the technical proposal, the scientific merit," he said. "There are always opportunities for people to misrepresent themselves."
As part of its anthrax probe, the FBI administered polygraph exams to some of the institute's scientists. The results of those tests are not known. Henchal said there has been no wider security review of the USAMRIID staff but that a handful of foreign nationals were re-screened after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Henchal said that institute records, which he declined to disclose, showed "no evidence" that the anthrax used in the mailings was taken from USAMRIID "secretly or otherwise." The federal government spent $60 million on nonmilitary biodefense research in fiscal 2001, and $317 million in fiscal 2002. The Bush administration has asked for about $2 billion for the current fiscal year — more than the combined research budgets proposed to fight breast and lung cancer, stroke and tuberculosis. The funds have yet to be approved by Congress, even though the fiscal year began Oct. 1. The money would fund several new high-security labs at universities and government agencies for work on vaccines and treatments for biowarfare agents.
Additionally, President Bush announced in his State of the Union address last month that he will propose spending $6 billion on developing and stockpiling biodefense vaccines over 10 years. These funds would be on top of regular annual biodefense spending.
Some critics question the wisdom of so rapid a buildup. If a military lab has had problems, they say, civilian labs — nearly all inexperienced with exotic pathogens — might generate more security concerns than they solve.
"This well-intentioned response may perversely have exactly the opposite effect," said Richard Ebright, a microbiologist and biowarfare expert at Rutgers University.
Skeptics point out that the Bush program will increase the number of people with knowledge of biowarfare agents. This, they say, will make crimes of domestic bioterrorism more likely and, because of the expanded pool of potential suspects, harder to solve.
Such concerns are "understandable but really spurious," said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which would disburse grants under the Bush program. "Bioterrorism and the need for biodefense is a reality. We can't walk away from it."
Fauci said that, since Sept. 11, 2001, federal biomedical research labs have dramatically tightened security, and that other institutions can do likewise.
"It's going to be a challenge," he said, "but I have every confidence that the biomedical research community will adapt well to the change."
agrees to buy, clean up anthrax-tainted AMI building
By Kathy Bushouse
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Federal takeover of the anthrax-contaminated American Media Inc. building in Boca Raton won approval of both houses of Congress late Thursday as part of the $397 billion spending package that President Bush is expected to sign.
The government will pay $1 to purchase the building and then cover the cost of cleaning it, according to provisions added to the spending package on Wednesday.
The building at 5401 NW Broken Sound Blvd. was quarantined Oct. 7, 2001, after the inhalation anthrax death of tabloid photo editor Bob Stevens.
Estimates for the cleanup range from $7 million to $20 million, and no one knows what the government will do with the building after that.
But elected leaders were thrilled with what they saw as the final hurdle to having the building decontaminated.
"I am thrilled that the federal government has begun to remediate the threat posed by the AMI building.
"It should have been addressed a year ago," said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, who with U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, lobbied to make sure the AMI measure made it into the final version of the spending package.
The two tried last year to get the House to approve the purchase of the AMI building, but met with resistance from members of Congress who questioned the cleanup costs and whether a bad precedent would be set by using federal money for cleaning up a private building.
Those concerns were raised earlier this week, when U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, wrote a letter to his colleagues, calling the plan a $20 million bailout of the publishers of "`literature' such as the National Enquirer, the Weekly World News and the Globe" -- all tabloids published by AMI. Cannon said the cleanup should be left to the private sector.
A report from the General Services Administration said the cleanup of the AMI building could cost as much as $20 million; a private environmental firm told AMI last year it would cost about $7 million.
Other recent anthrax clean-ups have cost much more. It cost $100 million to decontaminate the 700,000-square-foot Brentwood postal facility in Washington, D.C., and it cost $23 million to clean up the 3,000-square-foot office suite of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
Wexler said the AMI cleanup was getting extra scrutiny because the company publishes tabloid newspapers. He said the federal government should help all victims of terrorist acts, regardless of their line of business.
"I find it very disturbing, quite frankly, that in the context of being a victim of terror, we as a people are engaging in an analysis of who the victim is," Wexler said. "Whoever is the victim should be helped and should be compensated and should be given every opportunity to get back on their feet."
AMI officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Once the spending bill is signed by Bush, the transfer from AMI to the federal government can begin. American Media has 12 months to officially offer to sell the property to the GSA. Then, if the agency determines that the private sector cannot dispose of the hazardous waste and the building is a public-health hazard, the purchase will be proceed.
Dr. Jean Malecki, director of the Palm Beach County Health Department who quarantined the building 17 months ago, said she still considers the building a public-health hazard, as the spores that remain inside the building are potentially life-threatening.
Anthrax was found in more than 80 spots in the three-story building.
"There are a lot of unknowns in the area of anthrax, but we do know it's a deadly disease," Malecki said. "There's still gross evidence of anthrax in the building."
Malecki wasn't sure whether a private company would be able to dispose of anthrax, but Keating Environmental Management, a company that provided a decontamination estimate to AMI, said the likelihood of a private company being able to dispose of the anthrax waste is slim.
Keating's proposal states there is "no known location that will accept this waste at any cost."
Thursday's House vote pleased local leaders.
Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams said the city has contacted AMI to set up a meeting with interested government officials to map out a strategy for cleaning the building.
Once the federal government takes ownership, Wexler said, he thought the building could best be used to further its study of anthrax, as well as to allow the FBI another chance to investigate how anthrax got into the building.
"Let's not forget, we still don't know who perpetrated this crime," he said.
Washington Bureau Chief William E. Gibson contributed to this report.
Kathy Bushouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6641.
victim's widow files $50 million suit against government
BY KATHY BUSHOUSE
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
(KRT) - By Kathy Bushouse
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A lawyer for the widow of the nation's first bioterrorism attack victim says he has filed a $50 million wrongful-death claim with the federal government, alleging that lax security at the U.S. Army's Fort Detrick may have allowed the theft of a deadly strain of anthrax that was used to kill her husband.
Tabloid photo editor Bob Stevens, who worked for American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla., died of inhalation anthrax on Oct. 5, 2001, after he handled an anthrax-tainted letter at his desk.
Frustrated by the government's silence on almost every detail surrounding her husband's death, Maureen Stevens is pursuing a financial settlement, her lawyer said. In the process, she would like more information about what led to her husband's death, possibly to reinvigorate the investigation, said Richard Schuler, a West Palm Beach lawyer.
"There have been no arrests. There's been no information given to her, no indication that the investigation is progressing," Schuler said. Stevens was particularly upset that she could not get copy of her husband's autopsy report, he said.
In the claim Schuler said he sent to the Defense Department and the Army, he outlines his theory that the anthrax that killed Stevens came from a security breech at Fort Detrick in Maryland, home of the Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
The Fort Detrick lab is the lead facility "for developing medical countermeasures, vaccines, drugs and diagnostic tools to protect U.S. service members from biological warfare agents and naturally occurring infectious diseases," according to the institute Web site.
Much of the information supporting the widow's claim came from a whistle-blower's lawsuit filed by two scientists against the government, Schuler said. They claim they were fired because they asserted security at Fort Detrick was "just completely non-existent, and they were trying to improve matters," he said.
The scientists' lawsuit included a1992 internal Army memo with the subject line, "missing anthrax blocks, etc.," Schuler said. A copy of this memo is included in Stevens' claim.
The memo goes into detail on anthrax and other specimens missing from the laboratory, although the lawsuit later says many were recovered after an internal investigation, Schuler said.
If the government denies the claim, Schuler would have six months to file a lawsuit.
Stevens' claim would not be the first against the federal government in the wake of the anthrax attacks. In January, a postal worker who survived inhalation anthrax filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service, claiming his life was endangered because the Postal Service did not immediately close the Brentwood postal facility, where he worked. The postal center in Washington, D.C., was contaminated with anthrax and the government has spent up to $100 million to decontaminate it.
Army spokesman Chuck Dasey had no comment on Stevens' claim or the assertions that a security lapse at Fort Dietrick could have led to someone illegally procuring a strain of anthrax.
The building where Stevens worked remains under quarantine by the Palm Beach County Health Department. Investigators from the FBI and other federal agencies have twice ventured inside to search for clues in the anthrax contamination, but no suspects have been named and the FBI has not indicated whether it ever found the anthrax-tainted letter believed to have been brought into the AMI building on Broken Sound Boulevard.
On Thursday, Congress approved a measure that will allow the federal government to buy the AMI building for $1, then assume the cleanup cost. There is no timetable for the cleanup, but government and AMI leaders are expected to meet in Boca Raton next week to work out details for the deal.
Cleanup has been estimated at $7 million to $20 million.
Although information has been sparse in Stevens' death, scientists have determined that it was the Ames strain of anthrax used in the mail attacks that killed five people, including Stevens, and infected 13 others.
Schuler said he believed the strain of anthrax that killed Stevens came from a government laboratory.
The Ames strain of anthrax is the most widely used version of the bacteria and is available to many laboratories, said Gregory Evans, director of the Centers for the Study of Bioterrorism and Emerging Infections at the St. Louis University School of Public Health.
"It was a strain that was developed years ago, before we were ever really worried about terrorism," Evans said. "Many labs could have had access to that strain. … I guess you can make a circumstantial case that these (government) laboratories are the ones most likely to be able to create (this kind of anthrax), but in reality it could have been created by a scientist who had the equipment and had the knowledge."
What could prove as tricky as tracking the source of the anthrax that killed Stevens is collecting information about the anthrax attacks from the federal government or proving government negligence contributed to Stevens' death, said William Banks, a professor at Syracuse University's College of Law.
Should Stevens and her attorney proceed with the lawsuit, many of the documents that typically are available to attorneys from the opposing side would probably be considered privileged information and not turned over, Banks said.
"It's just not likely to happen," Banks said. "I can't imagine that in the end this is going to go anywhere."
A settlement might be the most likely scenario, Banks said.
Schuler said that if discussions lead to a settlement offer, he would have to discuss it with Stevens.
More than anything, he said, they are seeking information about Bob Stevens' death.
"This family and this country deserve some answers," Schuler said.
on Sun, Feb. 16, 2003
FBI announces bioterrorism guidelines
BY TINA HESMAN
DENVER - (KRT) - A national system to trace biological crimes may soon make it more difficult to stage bioterrorism attacks without getting caught.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and prominent microbiology organizations announced guidelines Sunday for conducting criminal investigations of biocrimes, including cases such as the "anthrax letter" attacks in the fall of 2001 and incidents in which a person infected with HIV intentionally exposes others to the virus. The announcement was made at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"It's much easier now than ever to perpetrate a crime," said Bruce Budowle of the FBI. But law enforcement officials often have difficulty linking the crime to the criminal. No arrests have been made in the anthrax letter case, in which five people died of inhilational anthrax after breathing spores that leaked from letters sent to news organizations and members of Congress.
More than a year passed before intentional food poisonings in Oregon and Texas were recognized as crimes instead of naturally occurring disease outbreaks, he said.
The government hopes to establish a national BioForensics Analysis Center at Fort Detrick, Md., Budowle said. But clinical laboratories in hospitals, state and local health departments, veterinary offices and universities may be the first to recognize an attack with a biological agent. Workers at those labs should be properly trained and certified to collect evidence for use in a criminal investigation. New standards that establish the reliability of forensic tests will be necessary if such tests are to be used in court, Budowle said.
The government also plans to build a database of bacteria and viruses for comparison with microbes used in biological crimes. One of the most valuable resources may be the panel of experts the government hopes to call on in case of a bioterrorism attack.
Paul Keim, a geneticist and evolutionary biologist at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz., is such an expert. Keim maintains the largest collection of anthrax strains in the world. A detailed genetic analysis of anthrax samples collected from animals around the world has shown that the organism changes very slowly_mutations arise on average only once in every 1,000 generations, Keim said Sunday. As a result, all of the anthrax strains in the world are virtually identical.
Keim collected 269 samples of anthrax from North America. Those samples come from only 47 different strains of anthrax, most from two strains that vary from each other by only one mutation, Keim said.
Subtle alterations in the genetic makeup of the 1,400 different types of anthrax in Keim's collection could help investigators locate the source of the bacteria, or rule out innocent suspects. The variety of anthrax used in the letters is known as the Ames strain. That particular strain has been isolated only once_from a cow that died in Texas in 1981, Keim said.
Since then, the strain has become a favorite of scientists because it is even more virulent than the Vollum strain used in the British and U.S. bioweapons programs. Iraq also developed the Vollum strain in its program. No one knows why the Ames strain is deadlier than other types of anthrax, Keim said.
But his investigation did reveal why the Japanese doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyo, failed to sicken anyone when it launched an anthrax attack on Tokyo in 1993.
More than 160 complaints of strong odors emanating from a building owned by the cult, led Tokyo police to collect samples of slime oozing down the side of the building. The substance was tested for chemicals and for human proteins but none were found.
The case was dropped until a Japanese epidemiologist heard one of the cult members on trial for the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway testify that the group had attempted to use anthrax. The epidemiologist sent a vial of the slime to Keim, who determined that it did contain anthrax.
However, the strain was one used in veterinary vaccines. It does not sicken people or animals.
Databases such as the one Keim has compiled for anthrax and scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory use to catalog HIV should be built for other potential biological weapons, Budowle said. The list of bacteria and viruses that terrorists might use probably will include the organisms considered potential biological weapons, but may also be expanded to include food poisoning agents and livestock and plant diseases that could be used to disrupt the economy, he said.
cult used Colorado vaccine
Anthrax strain traced to '93 plot
By Diedtra Henderson
Monday, February 17, 2003 - The world's most popular animal vaccine, produced by a Colorado company, was the unsuccessful "weapon" chosen by a doomsday cult in Japan that two years later killed 12 and sickened thousands by releasing nerve gas in a subway station.
An Arizona researcher told colleagues about the 1993 anthrax attack in Japan at Sunday's session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual convention in Denver.
The talk showcased the same type of genetic fingerprinting being used to unravel the source of anthrax that killed five in the United States in 2001. It was the first bioterror attack in the U.S. involving anthrax but is unlikely to be the last using that or another infectious agent.
An army of investigators have fingered the Ames strain as the one responsible for America's unsolved anthrax attacks, which infected 22 people, mostly mail handlers.
Tracing the source of anthrax, though, is difficult because recognizable differences in vials from various labs are etched into the DNA fingerprint by mutation. The problem is that the pathogen mutates so slowly it's not clear whether anthrax can be tied to a specific lab by studying mutations alone.
"Especially if it's sitting in spores in someone's freezer ... there's little chance to get mutations," said Paul Keim, an anthrax expert at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Other techniques, such as having a detailed database of pollen native to specific regions of the country, could define where the killer anthrax came from, if unique pollens cling to anthrax samples held in evidence.
FBI officials said Sunday that good databases are apt to be key to solving biological crimes - whether they are anthrax-related or caused by someone intentionally spreading AIDS - and announced plans to build a database of bacteria and viruses that can be used for comparison if such a crime occurred.
It was a database that simplified the task of tracking the source of the anthrax used by Japan's Aum Shinri Kyo cult members in the summer of 1993. In that case, the anthrax matched a sample already in an anthrax database created to help track the former Soviet Union's supplies.
Japanese public health authorities had been tipped off about an eight-story concrete building the cult owned in a crowded area of Tokyo. Neighbors lodged 160 complaints about a terrible stench coming from the building, Keim said.
Public health officials investigated. They snapped photos of a smoke plume rising from the building's roof and scraped slime samples that had oozed down its walls. But they couldn't get inside the doors. Their worry: the fearsome cult and its psychotic leader were boiling the bodies of assassination victims.
"It seems like you could get a search warrant for that," Keim said.
As it turned out, the cult was growing anthrax in the basement in a vat and was pumping it from the building's roof. Meanwhile, cloaked in the banality of a white utility van with special vents, the cult spewed more anthrax-tinged gas through neighborhood streets.
"If authorities at the time had recognized this as a bioterrorist attack, perhaps the sarin gas attack would have never occurred," Keim said.
Instead, the anthrax plot wasn't known until cult members released nerve gas in one of Tokyo's most congested subway stations at rush hour in 1995. After their arrests for that incident, cult members mentioned the earlier anthrax attacks.
Four of five vials containing the slime had already been analyzed by Japanese scientists looking for proteins that would have confirmed rumors the cult processed human remains at the building. One dusty vial remained in a public health refrigerator.
Keim cultured the sample in a petri dish filled with sheep blood. The sample blossomed with the telltale shape of anthrax blooms. Of the 4,000 activated spores that crowded the petri dish, the lab ran DNA fingerprints for 48, matching them to the Sterne strain vaccine produced by Colorado Serum Co.
"The cult was using a vaccine strain, which wasn't virulent," Keim said.
While some would fault the cult for incompetence, Keim doesn't think that was the problem. The group's members included graduate level microbiologists.
Former cult leader Shoko Asahara had such a tight hold over his followers, he could raise money by selling cups of his bath water for $100 a gulp. And he swiftly killed, whether the dissenter was an enemy or cult member.
"They were afraid to tell him they didn't have the material," Keim surmises.
Keim, under a non-disclosure agreement with the FBI, would not talk about the anthrax case that was on the minds of most at the Sunday symposium - the 2001 letter cases.
Each envelope contained a letter decorated with ominous lines, like "09-11-01 ... You can not stop us. We have this anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid?"
The anthrax samples Keim's lab analyzed were sent blind. In addition, he said he does not want to make a defense attorney's life easier.
"There are certain areas that are just off-limits," he told reporters. "Pretty much anything that's directly related to the case I won't talk about. I don't want to be on the stand and have a defense attorney reading me what I said to you."
Denver Post science writer Diedtra Henderson can be reached at email@example.com or 303-820-1910.
of anthrax victim gives first U.S. interview
By Kathy Bushouse
A stoic Maureen Stevens appeared on the CBS morning news program The Early Show Wednesday, breaking nearly 14 months of silence to grant her first interview with an American reporter since her husband's death from inhalation anthrax.
Stevens, who earlier this month filed a $50 million wrongful-death claim against the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army, told CBS she still has difficulty grappling with her husband's death and still expects each day to see him "come in the door [with] a big smile and get a cold beer. He was just unbelievable and I miss him."
The network magazine program ran a 4-minute, 10-second segment Wednesday morning, talking with Stevens about the days leading to her husband's death and how she has coped in the months following.
Bob Stevens, a photo editor for American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, died of inhalation anthrax on Oct. 5, 2001. The source of the anthrax was determined to be a letter mailed to the AMI offices.
"They get strange letters sometimes, and the consensus seems to be that if Robert wasn't wearing his glasses and if it was something funny, he would hold the letters up to his face," Maureen Stevens said. "They think perhaps that's how he got it. Just bad luck."
Federal investigators have twice combed the AMI building for clues, removing hundreds of letters and office machinery in the course of their searches. The FBI has not revealed whether that anthrax-tainted letter ever was found, nor has it named a suspect.
The AMI building remains under quarantine by the Palm Beach County Health Department.
Stevens told CBS that all she wants is answers from the FBI about her husband's death. She blames lax security at the U.S. Army's Fort Detrick -- the Maryland base where anthrax and other deadly bacteria are stored and used in experiments -- for allowing an anthrax strain to be taken from the base's laboratory.
Stevens' attorney, Richard Schuler of West Palm Beach, has said he thinks a strain of anthrax from a government laboratory was used in the bioterrorism attack. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Spokesmen for the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army also could not be reached for comment.
CBS called Wednesday's segment exclusive, but it was not the first time Stevens spoke to the media since her husband's death. She gave interviews to AMI-owned tabloids in 2001, and did an interview to the British newspaper The Mail on Sunday. That article appeared Feb. 23.
Stevens continues to live in Lantana in the home she shared with her late husband.
Said Stevens in that article: "He is my hero and that won't ever change. I love him just as much today as I did when I fell for him 30 years ago. But I never had the chance to say goodbye."
Kathy Bushouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6641.
are FBI's most wanted
To stay ahead of bioterrorists, bureau beefs up its staff of experts
Sunday, March 02, 2003
BY KEVIN COUGHLIN
The FBI needs more G-men. As in "geneticists."
The bureau wants to hire more microbiologists, too. It's part of a broader FBI effort to improve its capability to investigate bioterror, in the wake of the unsolved anthrax attacks that killed five people in 2001.
"At this point, we'll take as many (scientists) as we can get," said Bruce Budowle, senior scientist of the FBI's laboratory division.
Budowle said the FBI will add an unspecified number of scientists to a national forensics lab being established at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the military's germ warfare defense center at Fort Detrick, Md.
Fort Detrick also is being considered as the site of a national clearinghouse for samples of bacteria and viruses most likely to be used by terrorists, Budowle said.
These deadly samples would help the new forensics lab identify pathogens in suspected attacks. A national repository also would offer secure ways to share samples with qualified academic researchers, whose access to such germs has become limited since the anthrax attacks.
Budowle said Northern Arizona University, which has an extensive collection of anthrax-causing bacteria, could be among several satellite repositories.
While many scientists support a national repository, placing it at Fort Detrick "is not comforting," said Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a bioterrorism expert from the State University of New York at Purchase.
The strain of Bacillus anthracis mailed from New Jersey to politicians and journalists in autumn 2001 had originated at Fort Detrick two decades earlier.
Federal officials have described a former Fort Detrick scientist as a "person of interest" in the anthrax case, and scientists there have been given polygraph tests by the FBI. Former employees have cited lax security practices at the facility. Germs that cause anthrax were found in a hallway last year.
Budowle praised the professionalism of scientists at the Army base.
"I think working with them is good for us. I don't see any problems that would raise a red flag for me," he said.
In coming months, Budowle added, the FBI will compile an "encyclopedia" of experts and information that can be tapped swiftly in a bioterror event.
Plans call for a database of genetic information about strains and sub-strains of numerous pathogens that threaten humans, livestock and agriculture. Determining which pathogens to study first is an urgent matter, he said.
Another pressing task is hashing out protocols and lab standards designed to preserve a "chain of custody" for handling evidence in bioterror cases.
Typically, health workers and scientists focus on resolving health emergencies. The pending protocols will suggest ways they may do so while also assisting criminal investigators.
"We want to be more proactive in our approach. We want to put more and more analytical systems in place and have better interaction with national labs and academia, so we can respond more quickly when an event occurs," Budowle said.
Ronald Atlas, president of the American Society for Microbiology, said protocols are sorely needed to preserve evidence. He recalled examining a dentist's death from Legionnaire's disease some years ago. The investigation was hindered when a lab destroyed a crucial sample.
"We had everything we needed except the original strain that was isolated in the clinical lab -- that was destroyed within 48 hours of the diagnosis of Legionnaire's disease," Atlas recounted.
Atlas and Budowle serve on a panel of academic and government scientists that last month endorsed plans for new forensics protocols, training, analysis methods and strain repositories.
Budowle also has met in recent months with scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories, the CIA and the National Academy of Science, among other groups.
They are helping fine-tune the FBI's bioterrorism proposals, which need approvals and funding from the Office of Homeland Security, Budowle said. He could not estimate a price tag.
Van Harp, head of the FBI's anthrax investigation, welcomed plans for the bioterror clearinghouse.
"If that were in existence prior to this investigation, it would have shortened the time on this science quite a bit," Harp said.
Authorities had hoped to discover which lab prepared the bacteria for the lethal letters, based on scientific analysis of spores found at the Florida offices of the Sun, a national tabloid, where the first victim was fatally infected, and from spores in a tainted letter sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Harp said the analysis continues. Things started slowly, he said, because painstaking protocols for handling the spores had to be invented. "I know there is a lot of frustration," said Harp, based in Washington, D.C. "Believe me, there is no more frustration than what we feel."
Harp said he has 50 agents working the case.
"We are making some progress. In no way, shape or form has this been de-emphasized. We're still working very hard on it," he said.
The FBI's efforts to sharpen its microbiology skills come as research labs around the country are struggling to meet new federal security laws, being phased in over the next few months.
Critics have complained that the laws, passed in response to Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks, are either too vague, too restrictive or too costly.
The laws require institutions that handle certain "select agents" to register with the government, and comply with minimum security standards in their labs.
These standards could cost universities around $700,000, according to estimates. In addition, up to 20,000 lab workers may have to pass background checks by the Department of Justice.
Scientists say it is unclear how or when these checks will be conducted; similar questions surround required inspections of pathogen shipments.
Some researchers contend the strictest security measures should extend only to researchers who handle select agents, and not to others working in the same lab.
But at least one scientist wants even tougher laws. Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University microbiologist, said he has no patience for researchers who think locking the lab door is enough.
"That was not what Congress had in mind," Ebright said.
Posted on Sat, Mar. 08, 2003
Blix Says Iraq May Still Have Anthrax
EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS - In a 173-page dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix says Baghdad may possess about 10,000 liters of anthrax, Scud missile warheads filled with deadly biological and chemical agents, and drones capable of flying far beyond a 93-mile limit.
The report, obtained late Friday by The Associated Press, traces the history of Iraq's weapons programs and outlines the many areas where questions remain, many old but some new. Blix told the Security Council earlier in the day that he planned to cull items from the document and compile a list of key remaining disarmament tasks by the end of March that Iraq must complete.
The table of contents reflects the scope of the unanswered questions: missile technology, aerial bombs, spray devices and drone aircraft, mustard gas, sarin, chemical processing equipment, Botulinum toxin, ricin, genetic engineering and viral research - and the list goes on.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the document as "a shocking indictment of the record of Saddam Hussein's deception and deceit, but above all, of the danger which he poses to the region and to the world."
Britain and the United States, which are seeking Security Council approval for a war against Iraq, can find plenty of ammunition in the dossier to support their argument that Baghdad has failed to cooperate and fully disarm. But opponents of a rush to war counter that Iraq is starting to provide evidence - and therefore U.N. weapons inspections should continue.
Blix has previously questioned Iraq's reporting of its destruction of anthrax supplies from 1988 to 1991. He said Iraq declared that it produced 8,445 liters but cited evidence in the new report that it produced more.
"The strong presumption is that about 10,000 liters of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist," he said. In addition, "Iraq currently possesses the technology and materials, including fermenters, bacterial growth media and seed stock, to enable it to produce anthrax."
"Many of the skilled personnel familiar with anthrax production have been transferred to civilian industries. There does not appear to be any choke points, which would prevent Iraq from producing anthrax on at least the scale of its pre-1991 level," Blix said.
The chief inspector also expressed concern about Iraq's program to build pilotless aircraft known as drones, citing intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein is developing vehicles with a range of 312 miles - far exceeding the 93-mile limit.
While small, Blix said, drones can be used to spray biological warfare agents such as anthrax.
Iraq hasn't revealed the development of any drones that fly automatically, though it has declared that it developed two vehicles controlled from the ground or other aircraft with a range of 62 miles, he said, adding that this must be investigated.
"Recent inspections have also revealed the existence of a drone with a wingspan of 7.45 meters (24 1/2 feet) that has not been declared by Iraq. Officials at the inspection site stated that the drone had been test flown," Blix said.
The chief inspector also expressed concern that Baghdad may be developing or planning missiles other than the Al Samoud 2 that may also have ranges exceeding 93 miles. Iraq has begun destroying its Al Samoud 2s.
"Indications of this come from solid propellant casting chambers Iraq has acquired through indigenous production, or from the repair of old chambers," he said. "The size of these chambers would enable the manufacture of a missile system with a range much greater than 93 miles."
Blix said Iraq must also produce evidence to prove that it has fully abandoned its program to develop a medium-range ballistic missile with a range of between 625 and 1,875 miles.
On Scud-B missiles, he said, "the lack of documentation to support the destruction of Scud-B liquid propellant, and the fact that approximately 50 warheads were not accounted for among the remnants of unilateral destruction, suggest that these items may have been retained for a proscribed missile force."
Iraq must also account for up to 30 chemical and biological Scud-type warheads which it claims it destroyed, he said. One way would be to provide minutes from a committee formed in 1991 to address the issue of retaining banned material and weapons, he said.
on Sat, Mar. 22, 2003
The Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader
Iraqi Scientists Sought for Questioning
NEW YORK - The United States will soon be hunting down and interrogating hundreds of Iraqi scientists, technicians and others who were involved in Iraq's clandestine weapons programs, hoping they will help in the search for chemical, biological or nuclear materials.
The general running the war in Iraq said Saturday he is certain those responsible - and the weapons they created - will be found.
"There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction," Gen. Tommy Franks said at a briefing in Doha, Qatar. "And as this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them."
Many of the people wanted for questioning have already been interviewed by U.N. weapons inspectors over the years. But those interviews were often conducted under the intimidating gaze of Saddam Hussein's regime, leaving inspectors doubtful as to whether they were being told everything they needed to hear.
The Americans "may well get a lot more out of interviews than we did," said Ewen Buchanan, spokesman for the U.N. inspectors. "If there was something hidden, there was no way that people under the old environment would have told us where to look," he said.
Much is riding on the disarmament process.
The Bush administration believes Iraq has chemical and biological weapons and a reviving nuclear weapons program.
But they were unable to convince much of the world.
Countries including France and Russia blocked the United States from winning U.N. support for the war partly because they saw no proof that Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction. The chief weapons inspectors reported several times that they had found nothing to support the administration's claims. And so far, invading U.S. forces have not found chemical or biological weapons.
Several U.N. inspectors who recently completed stints in Iraq believe stocks of anthrax, VX and other chemical and biological agents remain hidden in Iraq and that American specialists will be able to uncover materials they couldn't find.
"I think they'll find a lot," said one senior inspector, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They'll find archives, they will find scientists who are willing to talk and definitely facilities that have been producing weapons."
While U.N. inspectors managed to get important information from many Iraqis and exposed nuclear and biological weapons programs in the 1990s, U.S. forces will not employ the same genteel tactics of "tea and biscuits" used by the United Nations.
Instead, the scientists and others involved in the programs will likely be taken to an interrogation facility and held for questioning, according to U.S. officials involved in the planning.
But some Iraqi scientists may talk willingly once Saddam has been deposed.
U.S. and foreign disarmament specialists, including teams from Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, are equipped with ground-penetrating radar, sensors and sample-taking apparatus similar to that used by U.N. inspectors. Working with several former inspectors, they will likely go to many of the same locations inspectors have visited previously.
Intelligence experts will be involved in questioning the scientists while disarmament specialists comb sites and analyze samples in the field using mobile labs.
"This time, you won't have Iraqi security officials watching over you, you won't need anyone's permission to enter a site," said David Kaye, a former weapons inspector who worked in Iraq in the 1990s.
President Bush and other U.S. officials have said Iraq's chemical stocks include the deadly nerve agents sarin, cyclosarin and VX and a mustard agent. Officials believe the weapons are under the control of the Republican Guard, Saddam's best trained and most loyal troops. A large part of those forces is concentrated in and around Baghdad.
Most of Iraq's chemical arsenal, U.S. officials say, could be loaded onto hidden artillery and rockets that have a range of about a dozen miles or less.
Pentagon officials who discussed the chemical weapons issue on condition of anonymity said it was unclear what rank of Iraqi officer had the authority to order the use of chemical weapons.
The No. 1 Iraqi wanted for questioning about Iraq's chemical weapons is Amir al-Saadi, a special adviser to Saddam who oversaw the program. He is believed to have in-depth knowledge of other weapons program as well.
"He'll be a big target," said David Albright, an American nuclear expert who served with U.N. inspectors in Iraq in the 1990s.
Others named in Iraqi and U.N. documents as involved in developing long-range missiles that could be outfitted with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads include:
_Gen. Raad Ismael, considered the top Iraqi missile engineer.
_Hamid Ibrahim and Moder al-Sadiq, who designed missile engines.
_Kamal Mustafa and Fihan Kanosh, both members of the Republican Guard.
Inspectors weren't able to verify Iraqi claims that it had destroyed its biological weapons, including anthrax and aflotoxin.
The inspectors have identified more than 200 people involved in the biological program, though one inspector believes they never really figured out who was in charge.
Some of the top names include:
_Dr. Rihab Taha, a woman who was dubbed "Dr. Germ" by inspectors.
_Nasser al-Hindawi, considered the father of Iraq's biological weapons program.
_Hazim Ali, a virologist who may have experimented with small pox.
_Sinan Abdel-Hassan, a biologist.
_Maj. Gen. Hossam Mohammed Amin, a senior member of Saddam's government.
_Gen. Nizar Attar, who directed a biological weapons facility.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, which ran nuclear inspections in Iraq, has said it found no evidence that Iraq is restarting a nuclear program and dismisses U.S. intelligence information to the contrary.
But U.S. officials have not backed down from their concerns. Specialists will want to speak with Jaffar al-Jaffer, who founded Iraq's nuclear program in the 1980s and Mahdi Obeidi, a nuclear physicist involved in Iraq's uranium enrichment program.
In November, the Bush administration offered to protect Iraqi scientists who cooperated with U.N. weapons inspectors. But by the end of their four months in Iraq, inspectors had privately interviewed only 14 scientists of the 500 they had wanted to question.
Hans Blix, the head of the U.N. inspections regime, has scheduled a training program in Brazil in April, and is keeping some inspectors and equipment in Cyprus so they could make a quick return to Baghdad once the fighting ends.
"We have inspections capabilities in the biological and missile field that no other organization has in the world, and it is conceivable that some in the Security Council would want to rely on that capability," Blix told The Associated Press.
In Iraq: Weapons of Mass Destruction
With Ken Alibek
(From the Washington Post web site)
For years, UN weapons inspectors and, more recently, Sec. of State Colin Powell, have alleged that Iraq possesses or has the means to create chemical weapons. Since the opening of the war in Iraq over a week ago, coalition forces have found several caches of chemical weapons protection suits and Saddam Hussein's regime has reportedly made plans to use chemical weapons if U.S.-led forces attempt to enter Baghdad.
Ken Alibek, distinguished professor of medical microbiology and immunology at George Mason University, will be online Monday, March 31 at 2 p.m. ET, to discuss weapons of mass destruction.
Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.
Alibek is executive director of the George Mason University's Center for Biodefense. He also authored "Biohazard," the story of Russia's darkest, deadliest and most closely guarded Cold War secret, was the mastermind behind the former Soviet Union's offensive biological weapons program for two decades.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com
moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose
the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can
decline to answer questions.
Pittsburgh, Pa.: Recently you had raised the issue of SARS being linked to bioterrorism. It seems that if so, it would be something akin to an accidental release by a bioweapons facility, possibly in Guangding Province. Do you have any information on possible bioweapons programs in mainalnd China in general, and Guangdong Province in particular?
Ken Alibek: It's a very strange epidemic and we haven't seen anything like this before, especially caused by this type of virus. What is more strange is that China is not forthcoming and don't let people investigate the epidemic and don't provide trustful information about the epidemic there.
If we don't take any steps, we'll see it growing and become global.
Yes, we knew that China had a
biological weapons program, but I can not say whether this province had
Syracuse, N.Y.: Dr. Alibek,
With respect to the anthrax mailings, do you agree that the electrostatic charge was not removed? And that small scale production is indicated? And with respect to your letter to the editor to The Washington Post (with Dr. Meselson), could you explain your view for the reason silica was detected in the anthrax? How do you explain the floatability? Under all the circumstances, do you believe the science points away from (or toward) a state sponsored program? Relatedly, do you feel al Qaeda is responsible (with or without help from a state-employed scientist)? Finally, do you feel you have a sufficient basis to form an expert opinion on these particular issues (based on what you have been able to see)?
Ken Alibek: We need to understand that there is no specific technological procedure to remove electric charges. All discussions about to remove or not remove are absolutely senseless. Yes, electric charges could decrease it, but there's not specific.
These anthrax mailings create electric charge and this went through mail machines and had friction, so to say they didn't have an electric charge is not right.
To talk about silica, when I've looked at micrographs, I haven't seen any silica in the samples. We shouldn't forget that silica could be contained in an outer shell of an anthrax spore. Based on this information its hard to see if it is foreign or domestic. What you can see is that there was a lot of incorrect info published in the media. This anthrax wasn't sophisticated, didn't have coatings, had electric charge and many other things.
We can form an expert opinion
on what kind of anthrax it was, but based on this data, we can't say what
the source was.
Wheaton, Md.: Is it right to assume that Saddam Hussein would have WMD and be using them on U.S. troops had it not been for our allies in Israel taking action in 1981?
Ken Alibek: There is no doubt
in my mind that Hussein has WMD, but whether or not he'd use these is unknown.
He's enjoying a widespread support from many countries now. If he used
biological weapons, this support would evaporate immediately. He could
do three things: Not use them under any circumstances. Second, use these
as a last resort when he sees his life is in severe danger and, third,
he would give these weapons (or already has) to terrorist groups and we
would see attacks even after the war ends. Of course we'll find proof of
his weapons programs, but it's going to take time.
Linwood, Pa.: A recent BBC documentary has proven that many Islamic countries are trying to obtain Zyklon B, the chemical that the Germans used in the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Has your recent research proven this as well?
Ken Alibek: For a long time, we
have had a lot of information about a big interest in many Islamic countries
to acquire chem and bio weapons and build capabilities. I've told several
times that we shouldn't be so naive to believe that these are something
you need in these countries. There is no doubt in my mind they have them.
Mechanicsburg, Pa.: An article by James Hosworthy in today's Wall Street Journal has reported that Saudi Arabia is stockpiling chemical weapons. Do you believe that we should seek to uncover and destroy these weapons after we finish the campaign in Iraq? It appears that Saudi Arabia is joining the "axis of evil."
Ken Alibek: It's a continuation
of the previous question. There is nothing surprising in this report. There's
an overall distinction that Middle Eastern countries are interested in
these weapons. My personal opinion, I never believed that these people
would be our friend.
Shiremanstown, Pa.: Professor Alibek, thank you for being with us today. It is so nice to have an authority in this area answer questions. After WWII some German scientists fled to Egypt where they helped develop chemical weapons for use against Israel. Why does the Arab world always seem to make alliances with the world's most brutal regimes?
Ken Alibek: Again, it's interesting, but a continuation. There's no question about this. Some believe Egypt is neutral. We have much information about Egyptian WMD capabilities.
Ken Alibek: It's hard to say on
the second part.
Piscataway, .:. What is your opinion on the new flu that is hitting Asia -- SARS? Do you believe it could be some sort of biological attack? Thanks.
Ken Alibek: The WHO and UN must
press China to open information about this epidemic. It's not something
that would be considered a Chinese internal problem. We're facing a global
epidemic with a huge number of casualties. We could face something like
the Spanish flu if we don't do something now.
Piscataway, N.J.: How do they feel about you back in Russia? Have you gone back to Kazakstan? Does the Russian military feel that you betrayed them?
Ken Alibek: My country's the United
States. All my five children are here. All of us are American citizens
and I don't care how the Russian military feels that I betrayed them. I'm
sure the Russian military betrayed their own country and the rest of the
world for developing these weapons. They haven't come clean yet and the
worst case is through the history of Russia -- they've forced physicians
to develop these. It's these biggest betrayal that ever happened.
Harrisburg, Pa.: Is the current Russian government more open towards opening all files concerning Soviet research on biohazards? Has there been a full accounting of where all the biohazards current are, and, if some are missing, do our intelligence agencies have strong ideas where they are located?
Ken Alibek: Russia has never come
clean. Russia accuses the U.S. in development and its absurdly untrue.
It seems to me that Russia still tries to justify they're bioweapons research
by saying the U.S. is. But Russia has been doing it for decades.
Lafayette, Calif.: I don't get it. It hasn't been proved to me that WMD have ANYTHING to do with THIS war.
So I read the piece on the alledged "yellow cake" sold by Niger to Iraq -- a set-up of some kind. And then there's Scott Ritter.
So, can you cut and paste a case to me (or not) which clearly deliniates the connection?
Ken Alibek: Again, what I would say in this case -- we shouldn't believe that WMD like chem and bioweapons would require big storage facilities. They can be stored or hidden using some small places, far away in the country. Iraq is a huge country, the size of France. Saddam trying to repay big support for many countries and may try to destroy some of the chemical and biological weapons. At the same time, if some people know about this. There is high suspicion that in N. Iraq some sites have already been discovered.
Ken Alibek: With regard to Scott
Ritter, I do not understand this guy. He knew Iraq had these weapons, and
then when he recently visited, he made a conclusion that Iraq was clear
of them. I have no idea how without doing an inspection, he was able to
make such a final conclusion.
Hyde Park, Chicago, Ill.: Dear Dr Alibeck,
Thank you for taking the time to share your expertise with us. Although Iraq maintains that it no longer has any chemical and biological WMD, like the administration, I take it as axiomatic that it does. For the sake of argument, suppose that Hussein attempts to achieve a moral victory by destroying his weapons on the sly during the fighting; how much work would be required to do this? Would we be able to detect it? For example, would this work require incinerators whose thermal plumes could be detected with infra-red satellite imaging? Thanks!
Ken Alibek: We actually addressed
this already and in my opinion, repeating this again. Saddam Hussein wants
continued support from many countries. Of course he wouldn't use them --
up to a certain point -- it could be his last resort with the weapons.
Second, even when he disappears from this country, these weapons will be
in the hands of some terrorist groups after obtaining them from Iraq.
Falls Church, Va.: Thank you for joining us today Mr.Alibek.I respect your knowledge and opinions on this subject. What is your view about the site discovered by coalition forces that seems to contain and array of materials for military use of nerve agents as well as equipment and antidote for Iraqi military to use to protect themselves from this type of material? Do you think we are clever enough to discover any WMD the Iraqis may have hidden? It seems to me they have had ample opportunity to secret the materials away. Thank you.
Ken Alibek: Some people say that
these finds do not prove anything because these are defensive materials.
But I would answer a little differently. Hussein and his regime knew
for sure that the U.S. would never use WMD against them. In this case --
why do they want these stockpiles of protective gear. If there was no threat,
then why? It raises a completely different question. When you yourself
use chemical weapons you need to protect your own forces.
Baltimore, Md.: The people who were infected with anthrax still complain of being sick. Do you think that their problems are still from the anthrax or from other causes?
Ken Alibek: Of course these people
have no anthrax now, but we need to keep in mind -- if they feel sick,
it could be some residual symptoms after having this disease, or treatment
using Cipro. We shouldn't forget that any infection, they don't go away
in terms of not having any residual symptoms. People could still
have neurological symptoms, some signs of pain from many organs and systems
in the body.
Baltimore, Md.: Gulf War Syndrome is thought to be due to exposure to Sarin, soman or other nerve gas agents. Do you expect to get more information about Gulf War Syndrome from Iraqi scientists after the war?
Ken Alibek: Nobody has ever proven
that Gulf War Syndrome is a result of exposure to these gasses. It's one
of the assumptions. It is my opinion that it is a collective term for a
variety of different diseases and disorders that have different triggers.
Years of residual toxification, stress conditions. In my opinion, it is
not a specific disorder due to one single reason. It's a number of disorders
resulting from different factors.
Alexandria, Va.: Are nerve agents like Sarin a bioweapon? Are any chemical weapons as dangerous as bioweapons?
Ken Alibek: No, the nerve agents
are chemical weapons. Chemical weapons and bioweapons have different mechanisms
of action. Chemical work instantly, bioweapons have incubation periods.
Both have advantages and disadvantages. They're both very awful.
Alexandria, Va.: Whatever happened to Saddam's famous "baby milk factory?"
Is it known that the "baby milk factory" which featured a hastily scrawled cardboard English sign to that effect was in fact a bio-weapons factory.
Ken Alibek: It's pretty obvious.
Saddam had many undercover facilities and he claimed that some of them
were milk factories and some to produce single-cell proteins. It's a usual
way to cover up facilities. In this case, as soon as we start doing thorough
searches in Iraq we'd find those same examples.
Reston, Va.: How does the WHO determine whether or not SARS is a biological weapon? If in fact this is a "super-heated" virus that was used as a biological weapon, would the WHO announce that information to the public?
Ken Alibek: WHO would be able
to determine whether or not this is a bioweapon if China permits knowledgeable
experts to come to China for a thorough examination. It's a very strange
Dallas, Tex.: A published analysis of the anthrax mailed to government and media in Oct. 2001 shows unambiguously that silicon dioxide was present on the surface of the spores. The work was performed by the AFIP and the results can be seen here.
Does this mean, in your opinion, that the anthrax was made in a state-sponsored bioweapons lab?
Ken Alibek: We paid to much attention to the silicon oxide on the surface of the spores. I haven't seen any silicon presence on micrographs of this anthrax. We shouldn't forget that silica would be a natural component. In this case, in my opinion, silica was a natural presence in these spores. There was no special need to add silica to this anthrax.
Ken Alibek: Presence or absence
of silica says nothing about whether it was state sponsored. It's very
hard from technical characteristics to make conclusions about possible
source. That's why in my opinion, we should focus on two major directions.
We have to do technical examination -- equipment, source of the spores.
And regular interrogation. Interview people who could be sources of valuable
information. One more thing, we need to investigate how -- we know when
these letters have been sent and locations and we need to check and see
what people would be at that location at a certain time. It should
be more technical issues, though.
Somewhere, USA: Would silica be detected (in a comparable manner as in the product used in the anthrax mailings in the U.S.) if the instructions for bacillus thuringiensis were followed, such as described in the UN's description by the Food and Agriculture Organization below? Is bacteriologist Abdul Qadoos Khan, in whose home Khalid Mohammed was reportedly arrested, expert in the production of B.T. from his work for the UN in Sudan and Zambia? What was the field of expertise of that bacteriologist?
Product Harvesting and Formulation of Microbial Insecticide.
Ken Alibek: Again, I said before
that silica could be naturally present in spores. In this case, we shouldn't
over focus on silica. There are many other parameters and issues we need
to pay attention to.
Syracuse, N.Y.: In the Air Force Journal, May 2002, DOD's Defense Threat Reduction Agency Younger said that essentially the same process to make powderized anthrax is used to make dried milk. Could someone expert in making dried milk make the product used in the Daschle and Leahy letters?
Ken Alibek: Let me answer it this
way -- yes, actually, it would be the same technique to make a powderized
anthrax, but at the same time we shouldn't overestimate the complexity
of making it. My opinion is this -- in order to make this powder there
is no need to have sophisticated equipment. Such a small amount, keep in
mind that the people who did it could have very simple equipment and very
simple procedures. There is no need for industrial equipment. It would
be enough to have small equipment. But at the same time, when people talk
about it being "weaponized" -- I can't say it was that sophisticated. I
saw the particles -- they were the size of 40 microns. We can't say anything
about the quality of this powder because we saw it after it had gone through
mail sorting machines which create very powerful pressure. There
was no coating. What I saw on micrograph was no coating. It was natural
spores and for some people they mistakenly thought it wasn't. Some experts
said there was more charge because it was fluffy and made a cloud when
put on scale. This is another mistake. It did have charge. IT went through
the sorting machine and it's a matter of friction. In this case, it meant
that this powder had the same electric charge -- this is normal. In this
case, I would say it's a long story, but there have been so many mistakes
made in the conclusions, but I hope these mistakes were just in the media,
but not the case with the FBI and do know more information.
Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Are artillery shells filled with chlorine or mustard or sarin or VX nerve gasses considered to be WMD and if so, why? Also, what is the "shelf-life" of these shells?
Ken Alibek: Of course they are
WMD. The shelf life of these nerve gasses and chemical weapons. These are
chemical weapons and they are WMD. The shelf life would be years.
Middletown, Del.: After Fort Detrick Biological warfare labs were closed some of the work and personnel were located to the Porton Downs U.K. Bio Warfare labs. Are we still utilizing this facility? Also, comments regarding Dugway Proving Grounds release of a BioWarfare chemical which decimated ranchers sheep herds and which is presently working on anthrax. Frederick, Md., is presently home of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases which does some BW studies.
Ken Alibek: Many people in our country like conspiracy theories. Whatever you say they are going to believe you. There is no offensive biological weapons program in the U.S. This comes from my personal experience. I've seen all these facilities. I was working with people at Ft. Deitrick and knew many people at Porton down. These are all defensive facitlities. This is a matter of propaganda coming from countries like Russia.
The only person who understands
well the problem of biological weapons is Dr. Bill Patrick and he is 76
now and he's the only one who can discuss the issues professionally. All
the people I know know much about defense, terrorism threat, but their
knowledge of biological weapons is propaganda.
Palo Alto, Calif.: France and several other countries are still suggesting UN inspections as a means to uncover Saddam's WMD, or prove that they are not there. The recent French proposal suggesting tripling the number of inspectors. What would it take to make inspections effective to this task? Is an inspections program, of any type, up to the task of finding all of Iraq's chemical and bio weapons?
Ken Alibek: First of all, my personal
opinion, I was in Russia when the U.S. was trying to inspect Soviet facilities.
All inspectors will unsuccessful until Saddam's son in law defected. Inspections,
in one case -- if a country has good will. Take France, you could put thousands
of inspectors there and they wouldn't discover anything if the country
has no desire to tell the truth. All inspection regimes actually discredit
themselves. It will only work to prove the country doesn't do anything.
New York, N.Y.: Dr. Alibek, I've read your book "BioHazard" and found it terrifying. I'm curious if you think there is a potential for fighting biological weapons through special drugs, boosting the body's immune system, etc. Or is this too optimistic?
Ken Alibek: No, it's not too optimistic. Ever since the book was published, we've done a lot. In 1997 when I started the book, the research was considered silly. Now people don't think so. It was possible to find many solutions and to boost the immune system using unknown substances to protect against bioweapons. It's a very complicated field and you've got funding hundreds of times smaller than in the fields of vaccine development. You've got many experts working on this.
I said this five years ago in
my book. Now we see this mirroring in the anthrax crisis. We tried to stop
smallpox vaccinations and now we realize this won't work. I have no idea
how much info people would need to understand. There are many viable approaches
in many countries. Some have proven it, including our group. We've showed
that some mediators of human systems can protect against viruses that are
related to smallpox. The problem is that vaccine developers enjoy much
Washington, D.C.: Hello Dr. Alibek --
I found your book fascinating, as well as extremely frightening. Thank you!
In your opinion, are there enough former Soviet scientists (or "bioweaponeers") in Iraq to make the current action there worth the damage we will take for this?
Ken Alibek: Let me give you an example. In 1995, an Iraqi delegation came to Moscow to buy some equipment for building a facility for "single cell protein production." they claimed that 5,000 liter reactors would be used to produce yeast. It was so silly. If you use this for protein production, your yeast would have have a price of a big piece of gold. The only real explanation would be that they had a completely different reason for this. But when I read the name of the person who headed the Russian delegation, Prof. Matveev, he's professor was a major designer of Russian bioweapons facilities. So there's a big question -- why this person was responsible for talking about equipment for protein production.
When Colin Powell showed us a
picture of Iraq's mobile bioweapons facilities. There were three trucks.
One truck was manufacture truck. One was for cultivation of pathogens and
concentration. The third was for drying and packaging. It's logical, but
what shocked me, is that this is an identical copy of the Soviet concept
for bioweapons production. This design was done by the Institute in Moscow,
first assembles of this equipment were made in St. Petersburg and another
city. When I saw these, I remembered the Iraqi/Russian 1995 negotiations.
Washington, D.C.: Dr. Alibek:
Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us today. Do you find it strange that the U.S. is focusing so intently on smallpox when there are so many other awful bioweapons that can be used (tularemia, botulinium, etc.)? Even if smallpox is used, it could be one of the genetically altered strains which makes the serum ineffective.
What do you think the public health system should focus on instead of smallpox campaigns?
Ken Alibek: In my opinion, it's a great question. There are many biological agents that could be used, many deployment techniques. In this case, Smallpox, anthrax, plague -- many could be used. It's hard to say what you need to pay attention. Why smallpox is important is because it is highly contagious. It has a coefficient of contagiousness of 0.5 - 0.9. A lot of people would be infected by primary and secondary aerosols. It can cause epidemics and pandemics. It's stable in aerosol. If this happens, we need to pay attention to the issue of severe panic, anxiety and a severe damage to the economy of the U.S. It's obvious. Anthrax is not contagious. If it happened it would continue for several days and weeks. Smallpox would be unstoppable for a long period of time. So smallpox should be a great concern.
on the News - National
the FBI Make Rush to Judgment?
Five people dead, dozens of others injured and at least one more postal employee failing fast. Yet the FBI is no closer to solving the anthrax-letter attacks than it was when it began investigating them in October 2001. What's taking so long? The answer may be found in what critics say the authorities overlooked, bypassed or ruled out in a rush to wrap up a politically charged case.
"Lots of things just don't add up," says Neal Rawls, a security expert and author of Be Alert, Be Aware, Have a Plan. He believes the FBI rushed to judgment by ruling out the Sept. 11 terrorists as suspects in the attack. "This link was just disregarded," Rawls says. "This was just discounted. You can't discount it. If it looks like a duck, flaps like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck."
Certainly there was circumstantial evidence to suggest that at least some of the Sept. 11 hijackers might have played a role. Several of them rented an apartment from a real-estate agent married to Mike Irish, editor in chief of The Sun tabloid published by anthrax-targeted American Media Inc. and boss of photographer Bob Stevens, who died from anthrax exposure. At least four of the hijackers also tried to get government loans to finance their plots, including their leader, Mohammed Atta, who sought $650,000 to modify a crop duster, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture loan officer Johnelle Bryant. In June 2001, terrorist Ahmad al-Haznawi came to the emergency room at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with a dark lesion on his leg. Dr. Christos Tsonas has said the lesion was consistent with anthrax exposure. Experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies concluded at the time that the anthrax diagnosis by Tsonas "raises the possibility that the hijackers were handling anthrax and were perpetrators of the anthrax-letter attacks."
Despite these apparent coincidences, recently retired FBI Assistant Director John Collingwood disregarded the link. "This was fully investigated and widely vetted among multiple agencies several months ago," he said in a prepared statement. "Exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been."
Instead the FBI has focused on one target - Steven Hatfill, a microbiologist and bioweapons expert. He never worked with anthrax but had associates who worked with the Ames anthrax strain. The Ames strain was laced into five letters and mailed to several media outlets and congressional offices in September and October 2001. Rawls still finds it troubling that the FBI turned from the hijacker connections to focus on Hatfill. "There could be a larger group connected to the hijackers out there," he says. "They could have fallen through the cracks in this investigation. Nobody has done anything like searching burn centers to see if there are similar injuries to [those] Haznawi sustained."
While the FBI appears bent on pinning the entire attack on one microbiologist, Rawls says it ought to ask itself this critical question: "After sending the anthrax-laced letters, how did the perp take off the biosuit? The anthrax spores are airborne. He needed help."
But snap decisions in the interest of political correctness are not uncommon from the FBI, which more than once has overlooked possible suspects in a rush to name a less likely suspect and turn down the heat. Six years ago, Richard Jewell was wrongfully accused in the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing case in Atlanta, which some claim helped alleged bomber Eric Rudolph escape.
Meanwhile, the 30 FBI agents on the anthrax special task force appear to be desperately in need of a break. They might just have received one. The G-men who have been asked to work full time chasing this perpetrator well could find some answers thousands of miles away from the crime scenes in documents seized by U.S. troops in northern Iraq at a suspected chemical plant. Such discoveries bolster President George W. Bush's claims that Iraq possesses chemical weapons and also could provide links tying Iraq to al-Qaeda.
And authorities are looking closely at anthrax-related documents found in an Afghanistan office that apparently came from the U.S. military, according to the New York Times. Such information certainly will be compared with recently revealed documentary evidence collected from handwritten notes and computer drives during the March 1 capture of alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Those records indicate al-Qaeda leaders had plans to obtain and use chemical weapons.
It is unclear whether the FBI will consider these recent developments in relationship to the probe of the anthrax-letter crisis that shut down Washington two years ago. But Insight has learned the bureau is exploring the possibility that the attack was a test run for something bigger. By whom the bigger attack might be perpetrated, and when and where it might take place, apparently are mysteries to G-men who may be in over their heads when it comes to fighting organized terrorism. Another question might be whether the FBI has put together its best team to crack the anthrax case. Of the 30 task-force agents, some have less than one month of field experience.
Regardless, a recent visit to Insight by two FBI task-force agents - an experienced gang expert and a former environmental consultant - suggests the G-men are developing a psychological profile of Hatfill, who had warned this magazine in 1998 that terrorists might engage in a "test run" before unleashing an all-out anthrax assault upon the United States. At the time Hatfill, considered by many on the left to be a right-wing alarmist, was frustrated by the failure of the United States to prepare for a possible biological or chemical attack. He since has declined Insight's requests for a follow-up interview.
In 1998, to illustrate how easy it would be for a terrorist to produce anthrax, Hatfill donned a hazardous-materials suit at a makeshift lab in an undisclosed location and posed for a photographer as if he were making the deadly biological weapon. While Insight published that photo in 1998, it took nearly two years for the FBI to visit this magazine's office and inquire about the photo - which was in fact a National Institutes of Health file picture. The FBI had assumed that Insight photographers took the picture, even though the credit clearly was given on the photo caption.
So what is going on here? Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, chairman of the biological-arms control panel for the left-wing Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and a government adviser on biological weapons, supplied Hatfill's name to the G-men. Rosenberg claimed the FBI had a short list of suspects and said a genetic analysis conducted at Northern Arizona University concluded the strain could have come from one of three labs - U.S. Army Fort Detrick, U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground or the Battelle Memorial Institute. Hatfill, who worked at Fort Detrick, insists he is innocent. Rosenberg notes that Hatfill's mentor, Bill Patrick, invented weaponization of anthrax and holds five secret patents on it. Reportedly, no other country possesses the formula. In the meantime, Hatfill has threatened to sue Rosenberg and the Washington Times for publishing his name in connection with the attacks.
When Insight recently asked FBI agents if Hatfill remains a "person of interest," the agents responded, "Yes." Asked if it was good to be a person of interest, the agents shook their heads. They initially stated they had no DNA evidence from the anthrax-laced envelopes linking Hatfill to the crime, but then quickly said they had spoken too soon and could not confirm that assessment. They would not elaborate on the probe, and were interested primarily in the photo of Hatfill. In particular they sought to determine where the photo was shot, something which Insight reporters did not know. The agents also zeroed in on what appeared to be a postcard or some sort of handwritten letter attached by a magnet to a refrigerator in the photo.
In Insight's 1998 interview with Hatfill, the bioweapons expert said or did nothing to suggest he would commit a deadly act. His message was one he had been delivering at scientific and first-responder conferences: The United States is ill-prepared to handle an anthrax attack and needs to pay attention to homeland security.
Meanwhile, the motive behind the attack has been of significant interest to the FBI. In fact, this magazine has learned the FBI's field office in New York has received a letter and documents suggesting the anthrax task force take a hard look at who may have benefited both politically and financially from the anthrax-vaccination program approved under the Clinton administration to inoculate 2.4 million U.S. troops. The FBI has been looking hard for such motives, including interviewing Rosenberg, who posted her theory on the FAS Website (www.fas.org) under the title "Analysis of the Anthrax Attacks." She claims the perpetrator knew in advance that the attack would result in calls for strengthening U.S. defense and response capabilities: "This is not likely to have been a goal of anti-American terrorists, who also would be unlikely to warn the victims in advance" by telling them to get treatment and take penicillin. Rosenberg continues: "Perhaps the perpetrator stood to gain in some way from increased funding and recognition for biodefense programs. Financial beneficiaries would include the BioPort Corp., which is the source of the U.S. anthrax vaccine, and other potential contractors."
BioPort is the sole provider of the anthrax vaccine. The company is run by Faud El-Hibri, an ethnic Lebanese who now is a U.S. citizen. BioPort stands to profit by millions of dollars from the sale of the vaccine, which the company hopes to mass produce for the general public and sell overseas.
El-Hibri already has helped facilitate sales of the vaccine to Saudi Arabia, and his ties to the Middle East - particularly his friendship with the bin Laden family - have drawn scrutiny, although he has no known links to Osama bin Laden. El-Hibri purchased the anthrax facility from the state of Michigan without any national-security review of the application [see "Why BioPort Got a Shot in the Arm," Sept. 20, 1999]. That may be because retired Adm. William Crowe Jr., chairman of President Bill Clinton's foreign-intelligence advisory board, sits on BioPort's board of directors.
Shortages of the vaccine and concern about long-term side effects such as aseptic meningitis, lupus, Guillain-Barré syndrome and bipolar disorder led Congress to halt the program in June 2001. Weighing in that decision was a series of scathing reviews by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as congressional hearings and General Accounting Office reports blasting BioPort's failure to upgrade its lab.
In August 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resumed the vaccine program, but only on a limited basis, and the Pentagon kept secret which troops would be inoculated. A month later, CNN aired a report on BioPort's problems and various news organizations began running critical stories about the anthrax program, similar to Insight's 2-year-old investigative report [see "A Dose of Reality," Sept. 20, 1999]. That same month the undersecretary for acquisitions at the Pentagon was about to recommend terminating BioPort's contract for nonperformance, according to military sources. In October 2001 the first of several anthrax letters hit congressional offices in Washington and several news agencies. The tide had turned, and even a previously dubious public started requesting the vaccine to protect itself. There were no more congressional hearings. Previously outspoken critics such as Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, turned silent.
However, the allegations in the letter sent to the FBI's New York office and obtained by Insight did not accuse BioPort of wrongdoing, but asked the task force to consider the possibility that someone within the military may have had a motive for the attack. In particular, the letter points to the last anthrax epidemic, in 1957, at a wool-sorting mill in the northeastern United States, where the Army happened to be performing an anthrax-vaccine study. That epidemic resulted in several deaths. However, the data the military collected were used to license the current anthrax vaccine.
"I believe that the 1950s wool-mill studies require analysis as to the parallels with the latest anthrax epidemic," says the letter dated May 14, 2002. "A key question in addressing the parallels would involve looking closely at the strain of anthrax disease in the outbreak almost 50 years ago. Was it the Ames strain? Or was it a strain of the disease endemic to Asia where the hides being sorted and processed had originated? In short, was it a weaponized, laboratory, or domestic strain? This is a fundamental question that should be addressed by the FBI in order to exclude possible suspects."
The letter continues: "Almost 50 years later anthrax spores were once again unleashed by someone, and the FBI's profile implies it may be of military or weapons-grade origins. My concern is that the U.S. Army, with a history of medical experimentation, and a history of attempting to accomplish military objectives by all means available, may be involved in a direct or indirect means, with the ultimate objective of gaining approval for their vaccine manufacturer."
Military sources note that anthrax hoaxes began emerging as far back as the spring of 1997, when the FDA served the anthrax manufacturer, which was then the state of Michigan, a notice to revoke its license. These hoaxes increased in February 1998 with the announcement of congressional hearings on the vaccination issue and forced resignations from the Connecticut National Guard and a series of transfer requests.
The documents provided by the military sources identify microbiologists who are associates of Hatfill and state that the careers and credibility of these scientists are "directly tied to the success or failure of the anthrax vaccine." The letter suggests that these associates also were adamant supporters of the Pentagon's decision to inoculate the troops. "It is quite possible that a nonprofessional pseudo-'soldier of fortune' who had access to the concerns of high-level DoD [Department of Defense] officials may have taken the internal resistance to Rumsfeld as an unstated green light to ensure that the threat became real."
Military sources who provided the FBI with a detailed history of the anthrax program asked 10 months ago to meet with the anthrax task force but have yet to receive a phone call. Considering that it took nearly two years for the task force to visit Insight, they say they will continue to hold on to their story, documents and names of likely suspects until the G-men come knocking.
Timothy W. Maier is a writer forInsight.
near for post office tainted by anthrax
Monday, April 07, 2003
By TOM HESTER JR.
HAMILTON - When the U.S. Postal Service finally begins decontaminating the anthrax-tainted Route 130 post office, it will be an expensive and complicated process with an aim familiar to anyone who has battled household pests with a can of bug spray.
The goal: Kill all anthrax inside the building with a poison gas.
Of course, a sprawling postal processing facility filled with nooks and crannies and complicated mechanical equipment isn't comparable to a kitchen cabinet.
By the time the Postal Service is ready to pump yellow-green chlorine dioxide gas into the postal facility, the surrounding parking lot, which has been largely sleepy since the building was closed in October 2001, is expected to become home to an around-the-clock community of hundreds of bustling workers - everyone from scientists to meteorologists to people in protective suits.
That, at least, was what transpired during the setup at the recently cleaned Brentwood postal facility in Washington, D.C.
Two-story chemical tanks, tents, trailers, humming generators and a tangled web of pipes will take shape here.
Barring glitches, the massive equipment labyrinth that is coming will do exactly as it did at Brentwood - fumigate a giant building to kill deadly bacteria.
"I'm very pleased by the results," said Tom Day, Postal Service vice president for engineering, after the Brentwood cleaning was finished. "USPS worked hard to identify the best technology and processes to decontaminate (Brentwood). These efforts were worth it."
-- -- --
The Route 130 building processed at least four anthrax-laced letters in September and October 2001. Five people died and 13 others were sickened in the attacks.
Seven people who either work or live in New Jersey became ill, including five Mercer County postal workers, four of whom were among the 1,400 workers at the Route 130 facility. All recovered.
The FBI and Postal Service continue to offer a $2.5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who mailed the letters. So far, no arrests have been made.
Rep. Rush Holt, D-Hopewell Township, said he met with the FBI a week ago and was encouraged.
"Although I have been critical in the past of the conduct of the FBI's investigation, I am pleased to report that the investigation seems to be making progress," Holt said.
"The FBI has narrowed its search. That's about all I am permitted to say at this point."
The Hamilton cleanup won't duplicate the scope of the job in Washington, D.C. The Hamilton building is 7 million cubic feet compared to the 17-million-cubic-foot Brentwood postal center.
While the Postal Service said an exact schedule has not been finalized, it expects to begin moving equipment to Hamilton in the coming weeks.
A series of community meetings on the cleanup will be held as the process unfolds, said Rep. Chris Smith, R-Washington Township, who has vowed to monitor it closely.
"Safety must be the post office's paramount concern with regard to the cleaning process," Smith said.
The first meeting is scheduled from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Steinert High School at 2900 Klockner Road.
Postal Service and state and federal health and environmental officials are expected to attend to tell the public what to expect when the cleanup begins, Postal Service spokeswoman Diane Todd said.
-- -- --
Here are answers to basic questions about what might be coming to Hamilton, based on how the Brentwood cleanup was handled:
Why did it take so long to start getting the Route 130 building decontaminated?
The Postal Service said a team of engineers and scientists began planning fumigation in November 2001, a month after the last known anthrax letters were processed.
The Postal Service first fumigated the Hart Senate Office Building, where 100,000 cubic feet were contaminated. It then moved the equipment to nearby Brentwood.
Environmental regulations require extensive paperwork before chlorine dioxide gas is used and contaminated materials are incinerated. After months of trail-and-error testing, the Brentwood building was fumigated in mid-December.
"This is the largest bio-decontamination ever undertaken in the United States," Day said.
Will the chlorine dioxide gas pumped into the building pose a threat to community health and safety?
The Postal Service said it doesn't expect the gas to endanger anyone.
Chlorine dioxide, the only proven way to eliminate anthrax, is neither flammable nor explosive in the form that will be used. It has been widely used for more than 70 years to disinfect food and water, and more than 900 water treatment facilities use the chemical daily.
Also, the Route 130 building is to be completely sealed to ensure the gas stays inside. Monitors will be placed outside to immediately alert officials if gas escapes. Any leak would shut down the system.
At Brentwood, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mobile laboratory circled the building, taking and analyzing air samples, while a weather station provided constant updates on wind direction, temperature and barometric pressure to gauge where a potential leak might disperse.
How will the gas get to Hamilton?
The chemicals needed to create chlorine dioxide will be trucked to the site separately, then mixed on the Route 130 postal property. The Postal Service said it works closely with emergency management officials to define delivery routes and provide security. In Washington, about 60 tank trucks, each holding about 4,500 gallons of fluid, arrived with police escort.
What will happen to the gas once it is pumped into the building?
When fumigation is completed, the gas will be converted into water, saltwater and oxygen, which will be properly disposed of.
After the decontamination, the air inside will be continually monitored to ensure all residue from the fumigation has been removed. A chemical scrubber, large exhaust fans, air filters and high-powered vacuums will be used to remove any leftover residue. Special attention will be given to the sorting machines and areas where the contaminated letters were processed.
Wet bleach will then be used on hard surfaces, such as floors, to further ensure decontamination.
What will happen inside the building during decontamination?
All doors to offices will be opened during fumigation. Fans will be used to ensure gas reaches all areas and processing equipment in the building will be turned on remotely to ensure all parts of the machines are exposed.
The interior of the building will be brought to 75 degrees and 75 percent humidity. The gas will be kept inside for 12 hours.
The Brentwood building was declared anthrax-free after 5,029 surface and air samples showed no anthrax growth. An independent clearance committee will review the sampling and officially decide when the building is ready to be reopened.
Why go through all this when demolishing the building might have been easier?
The Postal Service said it has no choice but to clean the building. Demolishing the building without sanitizing it wouldn't kill the anthrax. Thus, the surrounding community would be exposed to the deadly spores.
"The Postal Service is a responsible corporate citizen and good neighbor in the communities that host our facilities," it said. "Even if we were to abandon contaminated facilities, we still would be responsible for decontaminating them using the same process."
Overall, the anthrax cleanups are costing the Postal Service about $150 million.
News - Suspected WMD site in Iraq turns out to contain pesticide
Posted: Tue, 8 Apr 2003 3:25 AEST
Suspected WMD site in Iraq turns out to contain pesticide
A facility near Baghdad that a US officer had said might finally be "smoking gun" evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons production turned out to contain pesticide, not sarin gas as feared.
A military intelligence officer for the US 101st Airborne Division's aviation brigade, Captain Adam Mastrianni, told AFP news agency that comprehensive tests determined the presence of the pesticide compounds.
Initial tests had reportedly detected traces of sarin - a powerful toxin that quickly affects the nervous system - after US soldiers guarding the facility near Hindiyah, 100 kilometres south of Baghdad, fell ill.
Captain Mastrianni said a "theatre-level chemical testing team" made up of biologists and chemists had finally disproved the preliminary field tests results and established that pesticide was the substance involved.
He said that sick soldiers, who had become nauseous, dizzy and developed skin blotches, had all recovered.
The turnaround was an embarrassment for the US forces in the region, which had been quick to say that they thought they had finally found the proof they have been actively looking for that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
A spokesman for the US army's 3rd Infantry Division, Major Ross Coffman, had told journalists at Baghdad's airport that the site "could be a smoking gun".
"We are talking about finding a site of possible weapons of mass destruction," he said.
The fact that the coalition forces have come up with no clear evidence of WMD after capturing much of Iraq in 19 days of fighting has raised questions over the war's justification.
probe suspected WMD cache
Mark Huband in London
US weapons experts are examining barrels of chemical formula and a cache of missiles found at two sites in Iraq.
American forces were on Monday reported to have found 20 medium-range BM-21 missiles at a site near Baghdad airport. Western intelligence and military officials were unable to confirm a report from troops on the ground that the missiles contained weaponised sarin nerve gas.
Earlier, US troops near the central town of al-Hindiyah discovered three 50-gallon and 11 25-gallon barrels which initial tests suggested may contain sarin, tabun and the blister agent lewisite.
US and UK officials have justified the campaign to overthrow the Iraqi regime on the grounds that it has failed to end its WMD programmes, and that it may provide WMD technology to terrorist groups.
Major Michael Hamlet, of the US 101st Airborne Division, said experts would carry out further tests on the substances, discovered at a military camp in Albu Mahawish near the site of ancient Babylon. "If tests from our experts confirm this, it would prove [President Saddam Hussein] has the weapons we have said he has all along. But right now we just don't know," he said.
US and UK forces now occupy territory in which 19 of Iraq's alleged 40 WMD-related sites listed in CIA and UK intelligence reports are located. However, after 19 days of war the invading forces have found no evidence to support their claims.
Moreover, without United Nations arms inspectors in the country, evidence provided by US officials under pressure to substantiate claims about WMD will be regarded with scepticism unless verified independently.
Referring to the discovery of barrels of chemicals, Major Ross Coffman, a US military spokesman, said on Monday: "Our detectors have indicated something. We're talking about finding a site of possible WMD storage. This is an initial report, but it could be a smoking gun." The barrels were discovered after a tip-off from an Iraqi army colonel who directed US troops to a site behind a pesticide factory.
US officials say that the thrust towards Baghdad and the overthrow of the regime have taken priority over the need to find the proof which might justify the war. However, Geoff Hoon, UK defence minister, on Monday told the UK parliament: "As I have made clear, we will find weapons of mass destruction."
But weapons experts drew a distinction between parts of the alleged WMD arsenal which had been weaponised for use, and chemicals which could have been discarded or forgotten about by Iraqi officials. "It doesn't sound as though what has been found was ready for use," said Garth Whitty, a former UN weapons inspector, on Monday.
are the WMD?
April 7, 2003
BY ROBERT NOVAK SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
As U.S. forces closed in on Baghdad on Friday, a civilian official at the Pentagon rejoiced at the success of American arms but worried about things that had not happened. Weapons of mass destruction neither have been used by Saddam Hussein's legions nor found by the invading Anglo-American coalition.
The absence so far of WMD does not diminish justification, in the view of U.S. policymakers, for changing Baghdad's dictatorial regime. Nevertheless, they would like to collect real evidence of weapons. ''If we don't,'' said the official, ''you can bet the liberals will make a big deal out of it.''
White House and State Department officials were saying the same thing two weeks earlier. On March 24, a mid-level Bush administration official told me he feared that modest quantities of chemical weapons would constitute the entire cache of captured weapons of mass destruction, but added that he would be grateful for that much. The official, an early advocate of Iraqi regime change, is not fretting about the decision to go to war but about the global reaction to it.
The real reason for attacking the Iraqi regime always has been disconnected from its public rationale. On the day after the United States launched the military strike that quickly liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, my column identified Iraq as the second target in President Bush's war against terrorism. I did not write one word about weapons of mass destruction because no such word was mentioned to me in many interviews with Bush policymakers.
The subsequent debate over weapons of mass destruction ensued when Secretary of State Colin Powell, over Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's objections, talked the president into seeking United Nations sanction for military action. Preemptive elimination of Saddam would not win over the UN Security Council, which had to be convinced the Iraqi dictator was a present danger. Failure to supply hard evidence of chemical weapons at the UN doomed Security Council approval.
Sen. Carl Levin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has argued a military attack might impel Saddam to employ weapons that he had been deterred from using. But what weapons? He clearly is not close to developing nuclear capability or weaponized biological devices. That leaves chemical weapons, which few military experts put in the category of weapons of mass destruction.
When the first air raid sirens sounded in Kuwait City as this war began, U.S. troops hurriedly donned their anti-chemical body armor. The reason stated by U.S. officials why there was no immediate chemical counterattack was that Saddam might be waiting to draw American troops into Baghdad--not firing until he sees the whites of American eyes. Yet, military experts say it would be less effective for the Iraqis to launch chemical assaults in the close quarters of urban warfare.
In his daily rant over Iraqi television Friday, Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf declared that such weapons would not be part of his regime's tactics in the battle of Baghdad. That could be a truth embedded in a web of lies.
On Friday, U.S. authorities told reporters that they may have discovered the smoking gun at the Latifiyah industrial complex, 25 miles south of Baghdad. A U.S. brigade found boxes of white powder, nerve agent antidote and Arabic documents on chemical warfare. This looked more like a chemical-biological training unit than a real command post.
''If we end this war with Iraq WMD-free, we're in trouble internationally,'' a State Department official said. ''But I cannot believe that is going to happen. This isn't over yet, and you cannot make such a judgment over just two weeks.''
There is, therefore, a double mission for U.S. forces. The primary mission is to destroy an evil regime, for the benefit of the Iraqi people and the peace of the region. The secondary mission is to come up with substantiation of the avowed reason Bush asked the world to remove Saddam Hussein from power. At stake may be the ruptured international relations of the United States.
Troops Raid Home of Iraqi Scientist
16 Apr 2003, 11:01 UTC
U.S. troops have raided the Baghdad residence of an Iraqi scientist believed to have been in charge of a secret biological laboratory.
U.S. Special Forces troops and several dozen heavily armed marines conducted an early morning raid on Wednesday at the home of Rihab Taha.
A U.S. military spokesman says the troops have recovered several boxes of documents inside the house and have detained three men for questioning. The whereabouts of the Iraqi scientist, known as Dr. Germ, is unknown.
Rihab Taha is an Iraqi microbiologist who is believed to have run a secret laboratory that manufactured the biological agent anthrax for use in weapons.
The raid follows the surrender of Saddam Hussein's top scientific adviser, Lieutenant General Amer al-Saadi, to U.S. forces four days ago. At the time of his surrender, the general insisted that Iraq had no banned chemical or biological weapons left in its arsenal.
U.S. Special Forces and intelligence officials in Iraq have been hunting for proof that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein never destroyed or never turned over such weapons to U.N. inspectors. They have found tantalizing hints such as chemical suits and antidotes. They have also discovered a number of suspect items like half-buried chemical drums and vials of powder. But most have turned out to be harmless.
U.S. officials insist much of the country still has not been searched. Suspect sites that have been found are being tested and getting results of those tests, they say, could take time.
office building in Boca bought for $40,000
By Kathy Bushouse and Sam Tranum
April 18, 2003
BOCA RATON -- A local real estate developer is gambling $40,000 and millions in likely clean-up costs on the commercial rebirth of the anthrax-contaminated American Media Inc. building.
David Rustine on Wednesday bought the building and said he plans to clean it up and lease it to new tenants.
"There's no need to build a new building. It's already there," said Rustine, 50. "It's a beautiful building in a great location."
AMI's offices at 5401 Broken Sound Blvd. have been under state Health Department quarantine since the October 2001 inhalation-anthrax death of tabloid photo editor Bob Stevens. Since then, only investigators dressed in thick moon suits have been inside the sealed building to search for clues on the source of the anthrax.
Rustine said the building's storied past doesn't bother him, nor does he think it will bother potential tenants.
He's already has hired a pedigreed company to do the work: Maryland-based Marcor Remediation, which was involved in the anthrax clean-up at the Hart Senate Office Building and worked on the cleanup of the World Trade Center site.
He's not sure how much it will cost to decontaminate it, but estimates have ranged from $7 million to $20 million.
Two years ago, the building in the Arvida Park of Commerce was valued at almost $5 million, and AMI officials had invested nearly $7 million in renovations. Post-anthrax, the value plummeted dramatically. County property records show the building is worthless, and the land worth more than $900,000.
Rustine bought the entire 5-acre site for $40,000
"Depending on how much it costs to clean it, it could be a really good deal," Rustine said.
The developer said he approached AMI officials about a month ago to make his offer. A month earlier, Congress approved a plan to buy the building for $1. But that strings-attached deal was never completed.
Other recent anthrax cleanups have had staggering price tags: $100 million to decontaminate the 700,000-square-foot Brentwood postal center in Washington, D.C., and $23 million to clean the 3,000-square-foot office suite of Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in the Hart Senate Office building. The Senate building reopened in January 2002. The Brentwood facility remains closed.
Linda DeNenno, a Marcor general manager, said she could not provide details about the AMI clean-up plan because her company had not finalized it.
"I can tell you it won't be long before we're able to start," she said, declining to elaborate except to say that the cleanup would be "shorter than a few months" away.
It's too early to say whether AMI employees will be able to recover belongings left behind on Oct. 7, 2001, when the Palm Beach County Health Department ordered the building evacuated and placed under quarantine. Family photos and employee address books were abandoned. Tropical fish were left to die. The company's irreplaceable photo archives, with more than 3 million images, could not be salvaged.
There are ways to clean up the building without damaging those items, but it could drive up the clean-up costs, and there's no telling what could be salvaged.
"[The building] was not sold on the understanding that anything would be recovered," said Gerald McKelvey, an AMI spokesman.
Whatever the plan, the cleanup will undoubtedly be much quicker than whatever could have been promised by the federal government, had it acquired the building.
Under the federal government's plan, AMI had 12 months to make a formal request for the government to buy the building. No timetable was set up for the building's decontamination, nor was it established what the government would do with the building if purchased.
Elected leaders who pushed for the federal takeover said Thursday they now don't care who owns the building. They just want it cleaned up.
"We've finally turned the corner on this," said Boca Raton Mayor Steven Abrams. "It's been too long."
U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, said he always preferred having the building remain private property. Wexler, U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, all had pushed for the government takeover.
State records show Rustine, a native of Binghamton, N.Y., is affiliated with several South Florida real estate and development firms.
Shortly after the contamination in 2001, Boca Raton real estate broker Joe Good said he offered to buy the building for less than $1 million. AMI refused, saying the price was far too low.
When told Rustine got the building for $40,000, he was surprised. "Wow, that's a great deal!
"He's a player, a plunger who likes to take chances," Good said of Rustine.
Staff Writer Neil Santaniello contributed to this report.
Kathy Bushouse can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6641.
to field 1,000-member WMD force in Iraq
Fri, Apr 18, 2003
WASHINGTON (AFP) - One thousand US experts will scour Iraq (news - web sites) for weapons of mass destruction, a US defense official said amid questions about the US failure to find banned weapons and mounting calls for the return of UN inspectors.
"Digging it out, ferreting it out is going to take some time," said the official, who asked not to be identified. "It's going to be difficult, it's not going to be a cakewalk."
The United States and Britain used accusations of a hidden weapons of mass destruction program as the primary justification for invading Iraq. But so far no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons have been officially reported.
Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, has suggested sending back UN inspectors. Blix told the BBC on Thursday they would give the world a "credible report on the absence or the eradication of the program of weapons of mass destruction."
The White House, however, has said it was not yet time to discuss the return of UN inspectors, and the large-scale US effort signalled that the United States wants to conduct its own search.
"We both want the same thing," said the defense official, referring to Blix's call for the return of UN inspectors. "So I can forsee some collaboration, but that's not something we've talked about at this time."
The new Iraq Survey Group will expand efforts currently underway by a couple of hundred US military personnel with 75th Exploitiation Task Force, who were assigned the task of finding and securing potential weapons of mass destruction sites.
They have visited only about 50 venues on a list of hundreds of sites related to Iraq's weapons program, the defense official said.
It was not immediately clear when the larger group of experts, who are mainly civilians but include some military personnel, will arrive in Iraq.
The defense official said the military has held off bringing them in until conditions inside the country are stable enough to allow them to work safely.
Thirty to 40 former UN arms inspectors have been asked to join the team, which also includes former and current US government experts and officials.
"In this organization there are going to be about 1,000 people," he said. "They are going to be involved in document exploitation, in interrogations, in weapons of mass destruction, the whole soup to nuts kind of things," he said.
"The team is significantly sized that we won't have to work in a serial fashion. We'll be able to approach the tasks that lay ahead of it in a parralel fashion, each group working on an area that concern it," he said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday highlighted concern that the United States might be accused of planting evidence of weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq.
But he insisted controls were in place to ensure evidence is untainted.
"That will not stop certain countries, and certain types of people from claiming, inaccurately, that it was planted," he said.
Even so, he said, Iraq's weapons will likely take time to find and then probably only with information from Iraqis who know where they are hidden.
"It is not like a treasure hunt, where you just run around looking everywhere hoping you find something," said Rumsfeld. "The (UN weapons) inspectors didn't find anything, and I doubt that we ill. What we will do is find the people who will tell us."
of the Homeland Whodunnit
By Randy Schultz, Palm Beach Post
Editor of the Editorial Page
What is the biggest terrorism-related mystery the United States is trying to solve?
Is it the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein? No, because we know he's guilty. The lingering question is how many counts the indictment contains.
Is it the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden? No, because we know he's guilty, too, and we know what he did.
The biggest terrorism-related mystery is who sent anthrax around the country and where he or she got the anthrax. Because "only" five people died, compared with 3,000 on Sept. 11, 2001, the hunt for the anthrax killer has received less attention. Because of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the search has receded more in the public mind.
Around the Stevens house, however, it's still the big story. Robert Stevens, a photo editor who lived in Lantana and worked at American Media in Boca Raton, was the first person to die from the anthrax that came through the mail just after the Twin Towers fell. News reports suggest that the anthrax may have come from the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (AMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Md.
It would be shocking and embarrassing to find that a former federal employee used government-made anthrax to kill Americans. So one reason for their $50 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the government, says the family's attorney, Richard Schuler, "is to make sure the investigation continues."
From an Army lab to Boca Raton?
In December 2001, the news broke that Army scientists in Utah had made weapons-grade anthrax almost identical to the type that killed Mr. Stevens and the others. The Army would ship that anthrax -- in paste form, not powdered -- to Fort Detrick, where staff used radiation to kill it before returning it to Utah for research.
In January 2002, it was reported that anthrax spores were among the pathogens that disappeared from Fort Detrick. The Ames strain of anthrax, according to news stories, is believed to have come from Fort Detrick. When a new commander took over at Fort Detrick in February 1992, he said there had been "little or no accountability" at the facility." A former employee said, "7-Eleven had better inventory control."
Mr. Schuler thus finds himself in an unusual position. He is suing the federal government, but "we want the FBI to succeed" in its investigation. If the FBI discovers that someone at Fort Detrick took the anthrax and, for whatever sick reason, sent it to Boca Raton, Washington and New York, it would prove the Stevenses' case.
In fact, Mr. Schuler doesn't need to solve all parts of the mystery. "We don't have to prove who did it or how it got out," he says. "We have to prove that it came from a U.S.-controlled facility," where it should have been under much tighter security than existed at Fort Detrick. A new system for tracking pathogens is in place.
Too little talk about bioweapons
Not surprisingly, this sort of lawsuit doesn't move quickly. Under procedures of the Federal Tort Claims Court, the lawsuit signals to the appropriate federal agencies that they must investigate. In this case, the agencies are the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army. They must respond within six months, which will be sometime around August.
A presidential commission is investigating what happened with intelligence agencies in the years leading up to 9/11. With all the talk about biological weapons in Iraq and other countries and the danger that terrorists might get them, there is too little public talk about the weapons available in this country -- many created to help, not kill -- and how well Americans are protected from them.
It came as a jolt when Timothy McVeigh, a decorated veteran of the Persian Gulf War, turned out to be the man who blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The man who apparently was brave in war but a coward as a civilian made 168 Americans pay with their lives for his gripe with his former employer.
In that case, though, any civilian could have bought the ingredients for McVeigh's bomb. The anthrax that killed Mr. Stevens was something else. Maybe it wasn't something that the government produced and failed to keep safe. Either way, it's a mystery the government needs to solve, and not just for Mrs. Stevens.
ship to be seized over anthrax
Officer died of disease, body left behind in Brazil
The [Montreal] Gazette
Thursday, April 24, 2003
A cargo ship bound for a Quebec port will be intercepted by Canadian authorities, after it was learned that an officer on board died of the bacterial disease anthrax this week.
The Wadi Al Arab, an Egyptian vessel carrying about 50,000 tonnes of bauxite to an Alcan aluminum plant in Saguenay, will be diverted to Halifax and inspected by Health Canada, Transport Canada and the RCMP for possible anthrax contamination.
An Alcan spokesperson alerted health officials after being told by the crew that the first mate had died from anthrax and been left behind in Brazil.
By midnight last night, the ship was over 300 nautical miles outside Canadian waters, about a day's journey away. It will not be allowed into any other other port until shown to be disease-free.
© Copyright 2003 Montreal Gazette
HALIFAX (CP) -- Crew aboard an Egyptian ship headed for Canada were showing no signs of illness just days after one of the crewmen died from a suspected case of anthrax, a source said Thursday.
The man, who underwent an autopsy in Brazil, had travelled from the Middle East and stayed in a hotel for about four days while he waited to board the Wadi Al Arab, said a federal justice official involved in the case.
The unnamed man boarded the ship two days before it was to set sail for an aluminum plant in Quebec. He died on the ship and his body was removed for examination by Brazilian authorities.
"There is no sign of disease in the other crew members," said the official who didn't want to be named.
The ship was scheduled to drop off a load of bauxite at an Alcan plant in Saguenay, Que., but it has been diverted to Halifax, company spokeswoman Margot Tapp told the Quebec newspaper Le Soleil.
Federal officials said they would place the ship under quarantine when it arrives outside Halifax harbour Thursday at around 8 p.m. ADT.
Officials with Health Canada, the RCMP and Transport Canada were scheduled to meet the ship to conduct decontamination procedures, said Tapp.
Anthrax is a fatal bacterial disease of sheep and cattle, transferable to humans and usually affecting the skin and lungs. People can get the disease by inhaling anthrax spores, but that requires close contact.
An official with Health Canada said it was unclear whether the deceased crew member actually had anthrax. Another autopsy in Brazil was expected to confirm the exact the cause of death.
Canadian officials issued the anthrax alert after discussing the crewman's death with ship officials, said Tapp.
The ship will not be allowed to dock at any Canadian other port until health officials determine the disease is not present on the vessel, Tapp added.
The RCMP may also conduct an investigation, although the official said authorities have no reason to believe there's a criminal link to the ship.
Officials with Transport Canada would not comment on the case.
Egyptian sailor had anthrax bacilli, but not clear if they caused death
HALIFAX (CP) -- An officer who died aboard a ship now quarantined off the coast of Nova Scotia had anthrax bacilli in his system, but Brazilian officials have yet to determine if the lethal bacteria caused his death. A specialist with the Brazilian Health Department said Friday the bacilli were discovered in the unidentified man's body after he died while the ship was sailing in Brazilian waters. However, a conclusive autopsy report had yet to be completed.
"The bacilli of anthrax was found in his body," Carlos Lopes said in an interview from Brasilia, the capital of the South American country. He said it wasn't clear if the traces came from external sources or if they caused the death. Lopes said the results of a second examination on the man were expected to be available Tuesday.
Canadian officials quarantined the Egyptian vessel about 10 kilometres off Halifax when it arrived early Friday, placing it under a one-kilometre exclusion zone off the mouth of the city's harbour.
The ship was headed to an Alcan Inc. smelter on the Saguenay River in Quebec, but was diverted to Nova Scotia after it was learned the man might have died from anthrax, an infection that normally afflicts cattle and sheep. It is transmissible to humans through anthrax spores, which killed several people in the United States following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Officials know very little about what happened to the man, said to be an officer in his 50s. It is thought he died two days after the Wadi Al Arab left a Brazilian port about two weeks ago.
Officials from Health Canada planned to go out to the 225-metre-long vessel on Saturday to conduct inspections and test for contamination. A team of infectious disease specialists was assembled in Halifax, preparing to take a coast guard vessel out to the ship.
The team, which includes an RCMP officer, a translator, environmental officers and a quarantine specialist, planned to interview the crew to determine what happened to their colleague, whose body was removed from the vessel last week in Brazil.
Team members will wear protective gear to prevent any exposure to potential communicable diseases, even though none of the up to 38 other crew members show signs of illness, Canadian officials said Friday.
Health Canada feared there might be something aboard the ship that infected the man. Tracey Taweel, a spokeswoman for the department, said the crew was co-operating and complying with the quarantine.
The ship, a 37,550-tonne carrier owned and operated by National Navigation of Egypt, left Brazil 10 days ago after picking up its cargo on the Amazon River.
The crewman died after the ship left one Brazilian port with a load of bauxite. The ship docked again at another port on the Amazon, where the man's body was removed and the vessel was sanitized.
Sources said the man travelled from the Middle East and stayed in a hotel in Brazil while he waited for the Wadi Al Arab to arrive. His body was returned to Egypt after the autopsy, a federal official said.
Dr. Douglas Sinclair, an emergency medicine specialist at the IWK Grace Hospital in Halifax, said the disease acts quickly and usually presents symptoms when it is too late to treat.
"Patients get very, very sick before it's recognized," he said, adding that it is not contagious. "It's fairly potent."
Grows Over Weapons Hunt Setbacks
The search in Iraq has been stymied by disorganization and bad intelligence, officials say. The lapses may raise the threat of proliferation.
By Bob Drogin
April 27, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Disorganization, delays and faulty intelligence have hampered the Pentagon-led search for Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction, causing growing concern about one of the most sensitive and secretive operations in postwar Iraq, according to U.S. officials and outside experts familiar with the effort.
The slow start has created so many interagency squabbles that a National Security Council military staffer at the White House has been assigned to mediate among the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the CIA, the Energy Department and other government agencies involved in the hunt.
And some weapons experts warn that the lapses have even raised the threat of arms proliferation from Iraq.
Two classified videoconferences involving commanders in Iraq, at the U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar and in Washington, were organized over the last week to help straighten out the mess, officials said. The DIA's deputy director for intelligence operations, Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton, also flew to Baghdad to investigate the disorder and organize reinforcements for the hunt.
"Everybody recognizes that it's gotten off to a rocky start," said one official who helped draft the Pentagon's weapons search plans and has seen reports coming back from Iraq. "Frankly, the whole situation is very confusing at the moment."
David Kay, a former U.N. weapons inspector, was critical of the initial U.S. effort. "Unity of command is not present," said Kay, who is now a senior fellow at the nonprofit Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. "There's not even unity of effort.... My impression is this has been a very low priority so far, and they've put very little effort into it."
While the administration has urged patience over a weapons search in a country that has yet to be stabilized, President Bush hinted at the problems last week when he noted that U.S. teams had visited 90 sites so far without finding any evidence of illegal activity. Bush raised the possibility for the first time that Hussein's regime may have destroyed, rather than simply hidden, any chemical and biological weapons.
Bush previously had cited Iraq's failure to account for allegedly vast stockpiles of anthrax material, botulinum toxin, mustard gas, sarin and VX nerve agents -- as well as more than 30,000 munitions, ballistic missiles and mobile biological weapons laboratories -- as the chief justification for going to war. Despite numerous false alarms, no weapons of mass destruction have been found.
A military officer involved in the search called the situation "very fluid ... right now." He said it will take 60 to 90 more days "at the earliest" for the program to get fully geared up.
The search program's problems are not insolvable, and Bush administration officials say they remain confident that they ultimately will unravel any clandestine weapons programs. But for now, officials describe the following shortcomings:
The Pentagon originally planned to deploy about 20 "mobile exploitation teams" of up to 30 people each to scour weapons sites, interrogate scientists and analyze documents. But only two such teams are now hunting for weapons in Iraq. Because relatively junior warrant officers are leading the teams, their reports must go through multiple layers before reaching senior commanders.
The Pentagon hasn't supplied enough transport helicopters and military guards to the teams. This limits the teams' movements and their ability to use two highly sophisticated chemical and biological laboratories that were left at an air base in northern Kuwait in shipping containers. "They've been totally unusable," one official said.
Because of the delays, scores of suspect Iraqi military sites, industrial complexes and offices were stripped of valuable documents, equipment and electronic data before U.S. forces or the exploitation teams reached them. Not all the looting appears to have been random, and U.S. officials believe Iraqi officials deliberately burned or removed some critical evidence to prevent detection.
New recruits for the program -- including a graduate student in international affairs in Boston, a molecular biologist from a U.S. national laboratory and up to a dozen former U.N. weapons inspectors -- complain about repeated delays and inadequate information as they await a weeklong training program at Ft. Benning, Ga., and deployment to Iraq.
The search for hundreds of Iraqi weapons scientists, engineers and technicians, and the interrogation of the handful in custody, appears haphazard.
Gen. Amir Saadi, who ran Iraq's chemical weapons program for years and was Iraq's chief liaison to U.N. inspectors before the war, waited at his Baghdad home for a week after U.S. forces entered the capital before his German-born wife arranged his surrender.
"He wasn't on the lam, he wasn't in a bunker, he wasn't in Syria," said Steve Black, a former U.N. inspector. "He just got tired of waiting for someone to knock on his door."
Similarly, it took a week for the CIA and DIA to send a three-member interrogation team from Washington to debrief Jafar Jafar, the founder and former chief of Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program, who gave himself up in the United Arab Emirates.
A third senior scientist, Emad Ani, who directed Iraq's 1980s program to produce deadly VX nerve gas, also has turned himself in to U.S. authorities. So far, according to a U.S. intelligence official, the top scientists are all "sticking to the party line, that Saddam destroyed all his WMD [weapons of mass destruction] long ago."
A junior Iraqi scientist who surrendered has told U.S. interrogators that Iraq burned or destroyed chemical weapons and germ warfare equipment shortly before the war began, U.S. officials said. But the scientist joined the weapons program only in the 1990s, and "his depth and breadth of knowledge is very limited," said an official familiar with his debriefing.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a news conference Friday that his "personal view" was that U.S. forces will find Iraq's unconventional weapons "only when they find people who will say precisely where things are."
A senior State Department official, speaking Saturday on condition of anonymity, described the investigation as "a forensic case" in which documents and interrogations will be key.
"The answers to the questions may come from the top, or they may come from a truck driver or a major whose unit was involved in transporting or dumping these things," he said. "All of those are people we would want to talk to."
Finding them may not be easy. The U.S. teams have access to an unpublished list of 500 names of scientists, engineers, technicians and others that Iraq provided the U.N. Security Council in December. But a U.N. official in New York said the list is of little use.
"They deliberately used confusing spelling, and, more importantly, it doesn't tell you where to find anyone," he said. "There's no Yellow Pages or phone directory in Baghdad. At the moment, there aren't even phones."
In addition, continued widespread instability in the country is making it difficult for teams to conduct the measured surveys and careful testing needed to fully understand any clandestine weapons procurement and production schemes, U.S. officials said.
"We will have to wait and be patient," Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said last week in a BBC interview. "Let the troops finish the work they're doing now, securing and stabilizing the country. And as more and more people come forward who are now free to speak, I think the evidence will be more forthcoming. We've got exploitation teams in country now, as I speak, and these exploitation teams are finding interesting things, interesting documents and having interesting interviews."
But the failure since the war began March 20 to find any clear evidence that Hussein stockpiled unconventional weapons, or even had active programs to produce them, has caused at least some officials to question the administration's claims.
90 Sites Checked
U.S. intelligence so far has been unable to identify precisely what illegal weapons Hussein might have had and where he might have stored them. The mobile exploitation teams, as well as special operations forces and Army and Marine site survey units, have visited 90 of the top 150 "hot" sites that U.S. intelligence indicated were most likely to hold illegal weapons. None so far has.
"I now think it is probably unlikely that we will find rooms of chemical or biological bombs ready for delivery," said a former senior Defense Department official who has been tapped to go to Baghdad to assist an interim government.
"Look, the intelligence is conclusive that we know they had a program," the former senior official said. "It's not conclusive that we know where to go to find the bombs and the bugs. What we got was a long list of places to go and look at. But that whole list could be wrong."
Rumsfeld has also appeared to downgrade his assessment of some U.S. intelligence. In response to a question Friday, he said previous assertions that Hussein had secretly retained 12 to 20 Scud missiles were "a speculation. We have not found whether or not that is a correct conclusion in the intelligence community."
The U.S. intelligence official said officials remain "confident that [Hussein] had a major program. We'll be able to find evidence of it given enough time."
For now, the Army is running the hunt, relying on a former field artillery brigade from Ft. Sill, Okla. The newly named 75th Exploitation Task Force, or 75th XTF, is in charge of the mobile exploitation teams, or METs, that were assembled and given special training in January. The groups are backed by an elite DIA group called the Chemical Biological Intelligence Support Team.
Only two of four operating METs are searching for weapons of mass destruction, officials said. The other two have been reassigned to investigate war crimes and other issues. The teams include members of the military as well as civilians, including explosives experts, intelligence analysts, FBI agents, scientists and former U.N. weapons inspectors.
An interagency task force is being created under the Central Command to expand the operation over the next three months with up to 1,000 additional scientists, technicians, analysts and others. In addition to searching for weapons, the new Iraq Survey Team will collect and screen confiscated documents and assist in the search and interrogation of Iraqi war crimes suspects and suspected foreign terrorists.
Among those awaiting deployment are about a dozen former U.N. inspectors, including Richard Spertzel, who headed the U.N. hunt for Iraq's biological weapons in the mid-1990s. Reached at home outside Washington on Friday, Spertzel declined to comment.
But other former U.N. inspectors in the U.S. and Europe are almost uniformly critical of the pace and scope of the effort.
By failing to secure suspect sites, Kay and others warned, the Pentagon could not guarantee that critical blueprints, weapons parts, precursor chemicals and other valuable material have not been spirited out of the country for sale to other nations or to terrorist groups.
"They've increased the proliferation threat," Kay said. "And they've made it more difficult to ever unravel what really happened. You can't reconstitute burned documents or stolen computer hard drives unless you find copies."
Terence Taylor, who heads the Washington office of the nonpartisan International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he fears there is a "real risk that certain materials could leak out" of Iraq.
He said U.S. teams have yet to recover crucial nonnuclear components from Iraq's former nuclear bomb program, including HMX high explosives and sophisticated circuitry.
"They haven't got the right people on the ground yet," said Taylor, who was a nuclear weapons inspector in Iraq from 1993 to 1997. "And to do that, they need offices, security, computers, all kinds of things. Most of that still isn't in place."
Jonathan Tucker, a former U.N. bioweapons inspector who is a senior fellow at the congressionally funded U.S. Institute for Peace, said the weapons teams "are stretched pretty thin." He added, "I don't think they've performed very well so far."
But the senior State Department official said the search program will prove its worth in coming months. "We have very well-trained people. They're being reinforced. They're using the best equipment in the world. We have a lot of skilled interrogators. We still believe the [weapons] program will be found. In what state it is, we'll have to wait and see."
Egyptian sailor on way to Canada dies from anthrax in Brazil
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
April 28, 2003, 12:54 PM EDT
BRASILIA, Brazil - A crew member of an Egyptian merchant ship has died in northern Brazil, almost certainly from anthrax, after opening a suitcase suspected of containing the substance which he was taking to Canada.
A spokesman for Brazilian federal police in the Amazon state of Para said Monday an autopsy of the Egyptian man, whom he named as Ibrahim Saved Soliman Ibrahim, showed that he had died after vomiting, internal bleeding and multiple organ failure.
``He was the victim of anthrax,'' said Castro, adding that police were 90 percent certain that Ibrahim had died of anthrax. Ibrahim died in the hotel were he was staying on April 11. Several health workers who found his body were taken to a hospital after becoming ill but are now out of danger.
Ibrahim had traveled to Brazil from Cairo to join his ship, the Wabi Alaras, which loaded bauxite in the Amazon to take to Canada.
``We imagine that this is about bioterrorism and Brazil was just used as a point of transfer,'' said Castro.
Ibrahim died before his ship sailed to Canada, where it was quarantined by authorities last week.
Canada was alerted about the ship through Interpol.
Castro said Ibrahim had been given the suitcase in Cairo by an unidentified person and was due to deliver it to somebody in Canada. But he doubted Ibrahim knew what the content of the bag was otherwise he most likely would not have opened it. ``He opened it because he was curious,'' Castro said.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, five people died in still-unsolved anthrax mailings.
on Tue, Apr. 29, 2003
authorities investigating death of Egyptian; anthrax suspected
WASHINGTON -(KRT) - U.S. law enforcement officials are monitoring the death in Brazil of an Egyptian seaman bound for Canada who might have been transporting anthrax.
A Brazilian government medical investigator whose office performed the tests said that he and federal police suspect that anthrax might have killed Soliman Ibrahim.
Ibrahim had just reached his ship, a bauxite carrier, on April 11 in the Amazon River port of Porto Trombetas, Brazil, when he told shipmates he felt sick. He'd been asked to deliver a suitcase to someone in Canada, Ibrahim told them, and had opened the suitcase out of curiosity.
Ibrahim died that night, vomiting blood.
Authorities are awaiting the results of blood tests to determine what killed him.
Brazilian officials are operating on a theory that a terrorist plot might have been foiled but are revealing few details.
Ibrahim's ship and crew of 30 were in quarantine on Monday six miles offshore of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
A team of Canadian health officials boarded the ship Saturday and conducted tests. Results are expected by Thursday, said Health Canada spokeswoman Tracey Taweel.
The crew members are all in excellent health, she said. The ship was bound for Port Alfred, Quebec.
Interpol alerted Canadian authorities late last week that the ship was headed their way.
A rash of anthrax mailings broke out in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in Washington and New York and killed five people. No one has been arrested, and the source of the anthrax has yet to be identified.
Canada has a long and porous border with the United States, and authorities have long feared that terrorists might try to smuggle themselves or weapons into the United States from Canada.
An aide to Brazilian Justice Minister Marcio Thomaz Bastos said Monday that there is a "strong suspicion" that the dead Egyptian might have been transporting anthrax. Authorities did not say whether he might have been carrying liquid anthrax or the more deadly powdered form used in the 2001 attacks.
Luiz Malcher, director general of the Renato Chavez Forensic Sciences Center in Belem in northern Brazil, told Knight Ridder that a necropsy found that bacteria destroyed Ibrahim's organs.
"The bacteria colonies were similar to anthrax," he said. "If it isn't anthrax, it is an extremely virulent bacteria."
The forensic scientist said he was told by Federal Police that the dead man had flown from Cairo to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to replace a crewman who was taking a vacation from the ore carrier Wadi Alaras. That ship carries the mineral bauxite from which aluminum is made.
From Sao Paulo, Ibrahim hopped a flight to Belem in northern Brazil and another to the interior of the state of Para, where he later made his way to Porto Trombetas.
"He had a very quick death because of the infection," Malcher said. "What we are lacking confirmation of is the bacteria."
Ibrahim's suspicious luggage and his body were wrapped in a plastic seal to prevent leakage of the bacteria.
"Everything he had with him is being held by police for future investigation," Malcher said.
Wesley Carrington, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil's capital, said: "We are monitoring the situation. The Brazilians are handling the matter here and the Canadians on the other end. We have full confidence in their abilities."
A spokeswoman for the Egyptian Embassy in Brasilia declined to comment.
(Hall reported from Buenos Aires; McCaffrey from Washington.)
guarded ship after four crew jumped
BY Chris Lambie
This is the second time this year the ship now quarantined off Halifax Harbour has come under scrutiny.
Coast guard and immigration officials swarmed the Wadi Alarab in Brownsville, Tex., this February because it was part of an Egyptian fleet involved in an immigration breach last year when four sailors allegedly jumped ship and entered the U.S. illegally.
Inspectors went aboard the ship, they went through the documentation with the captain's log (and) found that none of the crew members were eligible to enter the country, said Art Moreno of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.
Guards were posted on the ship during its week-long stay in Brownsville in mid-February to ensure none of the 32 Egyptian sailors left their ship. When asked if there was a suspected a terrorism link to the ship, Moreno said, "I'm certain that that did cross someone's mind."
Moreno stressed, however, that all ships are checked to see if sailors have valid papers. Though posting guards on ships is a somewhat rarer event. "Take into consideration that this was post 9/11 and the threat level was actually, I believe, orange then, so we had to take the necessary precautions," Moreno said.
Not a hot risk
The U.S. government raised its terror threat level to "high risk" orange Feb. 7, warning of a growing possibility that the al-Qaida network would launch an attack against the United States to coincide with Muslim holy days.
But the Wadi Alarab did not present "a hot risk," said Charles French, a coast guard supervisor in Brownsville.
The ship is under quarantine 61 kilometres east of Chebucto Head because its Egyptian first mate died from a suspected case of Anthrax while the 225-metre-long vessel was in Brazil. The rest of the crew has not reported any sickness. But a team of experts from Health Canada - including a quarantine officer, an environmental health officer, a translator and a cop - want to take test swabs from the crew and check the ship today before allowing the Wadi Alarab to dock in any Canadian port. Test results could be available by Tuesday.
The Daily News asked Mounties if they¹re probing the case. "If we were, we certainly couldn¹t share it with you," said RCMP Sgt. Wayne Noonan. "But right now, as I¹ve been saying all along, the fact that Health Canada has the lead on this should tell you a lot."
No official news
The sailor's suspected anthrax death hasn't made headlines in Brazil, said Evandro Didonet, of Brazil¹s embassy in Ottawa. "It's curious, because officially (there is) no news," Didonet said. "I've sent notes to my ministry and the ministry of health and I got no answer. What strikes me is the fact that the Brazilian press has no news on that. I'm becoming puzzled."
anthrax-free, officials say
By Cathy Nicoll
The Wadi Alarab was cleared to leave the waters off Halifax for Quebec yesterday afternoon, after tests found that anthrax did not kill one of its crew.
“Canada has received official word, through our colleagues in Ottawa, from Brazilian health officials that the crewman did not die from anthrax,” Bob Fowler, director general of Health Canada, Atlantic region, said yesterday at a news conference held at his office in the Maritime Centre.
The merchant ship was anchored off of Halifax for five days, and placed under quarantine, when suspicions arose that Ibrahim Sayed Soliman Ibrahim of Egypt had died of anthrax poisoning nearly three weeks ago.
Fowler said there was also no evidence of anthrax in samples taken from the vessel Saturday.
“The samples analysed at the local lab in Halifax (QEII Health Sciences Centre) do not suggest the presence of anthrax,” he said.
Based on these “critical pieces of information,” Fowler said, Canada’s quarantine officer had lifted the quarantine imposed on Wadi Alarab “effective immediately.”
The ship was free to leave for Port Alfred, Que., to unload its cargo of bauxite.
The cause of the sailor’s death will be made public today, Ron St. John, director general for the Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Health Canada, in Ottawa, said.
I t will be released once Brazil’s top labs have performed final tests to pinpoint the bacteria.
“But there’s no indication that this is a public health hazard at this time,” he said.
Earlier suspicions the sailor had died of anthrax were based on the presence of a bacteria in Ibrahim’s tissues that “appeared to resemble the anthrax bacteria,” St. John said.
The original postmortem was performed April 12, and four days later the “first real concern about the possibility of anthrax” arose, he said, when some bacteria was noted in the tissues.
“But, again, there are many bacteria that resemble the anthrax bacteria. So that meant that tissue samples had to be done, and those have been in process with Brazilian authorities,” St. John said.
That’s why Health Canada emphasized, from the beginning, that the vessel posed a low health risk to Canadians, Fowler said.
Fowler declined to comment on a story, originating in Brazil, that Ibrahim was carrying a suitcase contaminated with anthrax.
“Health Canada officials can’t speak to that; that would clearly be a matter for discussion with policing officials,” he said.
RCMP Insp. Dan Tanner said Monday that police had discovered “no threat to Canada, criminal or terrorism-wise.”
sequence may help stop killer in its tracks.
1 May 2003
by HELEN R. PILCHER
Researchers have decoded the genome of the bacterium that causes anthrax. The sequence may aid diagnosis, and highlight new targets for vaccine and drug development.
The sequence "is like a big Swiss army knife", says one of the team, Timothy Read of The Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland. It contains more than 5,000 genes, with many different functions, suggesting that the bacteria can survive in a variety of environments.
Anthrax hit the headlines in 2001 when five people died after inhaling spores that had been sent through the post. This heightened concerns that anthrax could be used for bioterrorism. Around the world, the anthrax bacterium is found naturally in farm animals and other mammals.
Working out the sequence "is the beginning of understanding every facet of this organism", says Read. By unravelling the bug's basic biology, researchers may also be able to devise new screening protocols and decontamination strategies.
When nutrients are scarce, the anthrax bacterium forms small spores and can remain dormant for decades. The deadly, respiratory form of the disease arises when spores are inhaled into the fine airways of the lung. From there, the immune system can transport them to the lymph nodes, where they can germinate.
The active bacteria produce toxins that can enter the bloodstream and cause internal bleeding. Patients experience severe breathing difficulties, and more than 85% die.
Read's team deciphered the genetic code of Bacillus anthracis Ames, a virulent strain of the bacterium isolated from a dead Texan cow in 1981. The DNA readout features more than five million chemical 'bases' or letters.
A difference of just 11 letters separates the Ames strain from that which was used during the American postal attacks. They probably have a recent common ancestor, says Read.
The team identified a plethora of genes that enable the bacteria to cause disease. These include sequences for spore survival and activation. New drugs could be designed to target the proteins that these genes encode.
Read's group, and a second team lead by Natalia Ivanova of Integrated Genomics in Chicago, compared the genome of B. anthracis with those of related, less dangerous bacteria, including Bacillus cereus, which causes food poisoning in humans.
Many of the genes are similar, the researchers found. But "what makes anthrax particularly nasty", says Colin Berry, who works on parasitic diseases at Cardiff University, UK, are the genes for virulence and toxicity that are housed on two extra DNA circles, separate from the bug's single chromosome.
B. anthracis and B. cereus also contain different forms of a gene that prompts bacteria to mutate. "This is switched on when the bug encounters a new environment, helping it to adapt," says Ivanova.
Compared to other environmental bacteria, the anthrax pathogen contains many more sequences that are involved in digesting proteins.
This hints that the microbe's ancestors may "have preyed on the dead or living bodies of insects and other animals", says Berry. Bacteria such as this may be "constantly ready and exquisitely able to adapt to and exploit any environmental or pathogenic niche that presents itself", he adds.
grow over Iraq 'smoking gun'
By Guy Dinmore and James Harding
Saddam Hussein appears to have shut down or destroyed large parts of his unconventional weapons programmes before the war in Iraq, a senior Bush administration official who has been closely involved in the quest to purge Iraq of weapons of mass destruction said this week.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he would be "amazed if we found weapons-grade plutonium or uranium" and it was unlikely large volumes of biological or chemical material would be discovered. He suggested that the sanctions and UN inspections probably prompted Mr Hussein to dispose of much of his stockpile.
"The biological weapons stuff is easy to destroy," he said, adding that chemical agents might have been dumped in the desert.
The disclosure will fuel criticism in Britain - and particularly among Tony Blair's backbenchers - about the failure to unearth a "smoking gun". The prime minister made the need to find and destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction the central justification for war.
President George W. Bush also repeatedly justified the use of force against Iraq by arguing that Mr Hussein's deadly weapons could threaten its neighbours and fall into the hands of terrorists who might strike the US. The failure so far to find evidence of an Iraqi weapons programme has led to speculation that no such programme existed.
However, the senior administration official insisted the US never expected to find a huge arsenal. He said the US was more concerned by Mr Hussein's team of 1,000 scientists, whom he termed "nuclear mujahadeen". These scientists, he argued, could have restarted Iraq's weapons programme once the crisis passed. A primary concern was dual-use "factories and breweries" which could be converted into weapons plants but were allowed under UN sanctions.
"He kept them together in the expectation that one day the sanctions would disappear and the inspections would disappear and he would fire up that nuclear capability," the official said.
The comments mark a refinement in the controversial concept of a "preventive war", according to which the Bush administration is willing to take pre-emptive military action against a country that has deadly weapons in mass quantities. It suggests instead that the administration will act against a hostile regime that has nothing more than the intent and ability to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The official's claims come even as US and UK officials have insisted in recent days that the US will ultimately find stashes of deadly weapons.
Mr Blair said this week he had "no doubt" that the allies would find them, while Richard Armitage, US deputy secretary of state, said on Wednesday: "We will find evidence of Iraq's weapons soon."
Additional reporting by Cathy Newman in London
Anthrax' Surrenders to U.S. Military
Monday, May 05, 2003
WASHINGTON — Another member of Saddam Hussein's regime has fallen from the U.S. military's deck of cards.
Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, known as "Mrs. Anthrax," was taken into custody on Sunday, according to Defense Department officials. Ammash is the "Five of Hearts" in the deck of cards portraying 55 members of Iraq's top regime leaders.
She was No. 53 of the coalition's list of Iraq's most wanted.
U.S. officials hope Ammash, 49, can provide details about Iraq's banned weapons program.
Ammash was a top scientist in Iraq's biological weapons program and was a member of Saddam's ruling Baath party. She's referred to as the party's Youth and Trade Bureau Chairman.
U.S. intelligence officers say she played a central role in revitalizing Iraq's biological weapons program after the 1991 Gulf War. She's the daughter of a former Iraqi minister of defense who was allegedly murdered by Saddam because he was seen as a potential rival for power.
Officials said Ammash was trained by Nassir al-Hindawi, described by United Nations inspectors as the father of Iraq's biological weapons program. Other top Iraqi scientists wanted by the United States include Amir al-Saadi, a chief chemical weapons researcher, and Dr. Rihab Taha, a woman who was dubbed "Dr. Germ" by inspectors.
Ammash, who has served as president of Iraqi's microbiological society and as dean at University of Baghdad, was educated in the United States.
She received a master of science in microbiology from Texas Woman's University, in Denton, Texas, and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Baghdad. She later spent four years at the University of Missouri-Columbia in pursuit of her doctorate in microbiology, which she received in December 1983.
In one of several videos of Saddam released during the war, Ammash was the only woman among a small group of men seated around a table. The videos were used as Iraqi propaganda as invading forces drew closer to Baghdad and it was not known when the meeting happened nor what was the significance of her visibility on camera.
In 2001, she became the first and only woman elected to the highest policymaking body in the Baath Party after working closely with Saddam's youngest son, Qusai.
American officials say Ammash is among a new generation of leaders named by Saddam to leading posts within that party. She played a role in organizing Baath activities in Jordan, Lebanon and Yemen, officials said.
Ammash is the 19th regime member to be rounded up by coalition forces. Thirty-six others are still at large.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Fox News Sunday that it likely will be the lower-level regime members who will provide the coalition with information about Saddam's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons program.
"I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country," Rumsfeld said. "We're going to find what we find as a result of talking to people, I believe, not simply by going to some site and hoping to discover it."
Rumsfeld said weapons of mass destruction will not be easily found because Saddam hid them from U.N. inspectors for so many years.
So far, high-level Iraqi officials, such as Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam's closest deputies, haven't cooperated or provided information about the weapons. Even lower-level officials don't seem to be helping much yet.
"Are they telling us something substantive? We don't have anything substantive to announce at the present time," Rumsfeld said.
The Washington Times reported Saturday that the Bush administration has received intelligence reports that top Iraqi weapons scientists fled to Syria and that some may be trying to enter France.
The Times reported that either one or both of Iraq's two top biowarfare researchers -- "Mrs. Anthrax" being one of them and "Dr. Germ" the other -- have shown up in intelligence reports as escaping to Syria.
Asked on NBC's Meet the Press if senior Saddam aides have fled to Syria, Rumsfeld said, "Oh, there's no question but that they did. Absolutely. ... Some left and went to Syria and stayed, and some have left Iraq, gone to Syria and transited to other countries."
Asked if "Dr. Germ" and "Mrs. Anthrax" were among them, the defense secretary said there was "nothing that I want to discuss about individuals of Saddam's regime."
Over the weekend, the coalition also announced the arrest of a former Iraqi intelligence chief.
The U.S. Army’s V Corps had no details on Iraq’s top spy other than his name, Adil Salfeg Al-Azarui. He was not in the deck of cards. Al-Azarui, a Baath Party official, also was once the mayor of Tikrit, Saddam's hometown.
On Friday, three more regime members were nabbed.
Abdel Tawab Mullah Huweish, No. 16 of the most wanted, was director of the Military Industrialization Organization, which oversaw development of Iraq’s most lethal weapons. There were reports that Huweish’s daughter, Wafa, had married Saddam.
Taha Muhie-eldin Marouf, one of two vice presidents and a member of the Revolutionary Command Council, was also in custody. He was the highest-ranking Kurd in Saddam’s administration. Marouf joined the Baath Party in 1968 and held several ministerial posts. He also served as ambassador to Italy, Malta and Albania.
No. 41 on the most-wanted list, Mizban Khadr Hadi, a member of Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council and a top Baath Party leader, also was captured in recent days. He was appointed commander of one of four military regions Saddam established on the eve of the war
There were also reports that former Transport Minister Ahmed Murtada Ahmed Khalil has been arrested recently. He was not on the most-wanted list, but is believed to be on the larger list of 200 former Iraqi officials sought by the coalition.
Fox News' Bret Baier and Jonathan Hunt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
the Company of Spies
It's the largest private IT firm in the nation. It's turned a profit for 33 straight years. And it's on the front lines of the war on terror. So why haven't you heard of SAIC?
By Paul Kaihla, May 2003 Issue
During the predawn hours of March 1, about 20 Pakistani intelligence agents and soldiers, backed by a team of CIA operatives, stormed a drab house in Rawalpindi. After a brief shootout, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the notorious al Qaeda mastermind of 9/11, emerged dazed, disheveled, and in handcuffs. Not much has been revealed since about how authorities hunted him down, but intelligence sources say the case turned on a months-long game of electronic cat-and-mouse between the terrorist and U.S. spy agencies. And it couldn't have been broken without the contributions of a mild-mannered, slightly eccentric, 78-year-old nuclear physicist named J. Robert "Bob" Beyster and his remarkable company, Science Applications International Corp.
Most people have never heard of either Beyster or SAIC -- and that's fine with Beyster, the company's reclusive founder and CEO. Privately held SAIC makes much of the supersecret technology that's at the core of the sleuthing done by the National Security Agency, CIA, and other spook services.
Neither Beyster nor the company will discuss any role in Mohammed's capture. But it's known within intelligence circles that SAIC data-mining and sensor systems helped tease out crucial clues about Mohammed's activities from intercepted text messages that he sent to his al Qaeda operatives using as many as 20 different cell phones. Now, with Mohammed allegedly talking to his captors, intelligence officials say they're pumping new material through SAIC-designed systems virtually around the clock, homing in on other terrorists and their plots. "We're winning victories almost every day, and a lot of them are based on stuff made by SAIC," says one intelligence agency consultant.
For Beyster and his company, these are just the latest in a long line of unsung coups. Since 1969, when Beyster quit a comfortable defense-industry job at the age of 45, mortgaged his house, and founded SAIC in a tiny La Jolla, Calif., office with rented typewriters, the company has been quietly compiling a record of technological breakthroughs, management innovation, and financial performance that few corporations can match. After 33 straight years of profits and growth, SAIC is now the country's largest privately held infotech company, with 2002 revenues of $6.1 billion.
About a third of SAIC's business is systems integration for other companies, such as Pfizer (PFE) and BP (BP), but its heart and soul is spy tech. Intelligence agencies don't list or rank their contractors. Intelligence sources, however, say SAIC was the NSA's top supplier last year and in the top five at the CIA. In addition to the high-powered data-mining software that helped nail Mohammed, SAIC makes undersea thermal imaging sensors for tracking submarines. It produces software that spy satellites use to map the earth and feed target data to precision munitions, including those that have been pounding Iraq. It's also a leader in the booming homeland security business: It builds gear that uses gamma rays to peer inside cargo containers and truck trailers.
Adding to SAIC's covert aura, Beyster has hired an unusual number of former spies, law enforcement chiefs, and secret warriors. Some 5,000 employees -- roughly one-seventh of the workforce -- have security clearances. Beyster himself has one of the highest arrays of top-secret clearances of any civilian in the country. "We are a stealth company," says Keith Nightingale, a former Army special ops officer. "We're everywhere, but almost never seen."
Much of the work may be hidden, but it has never been more vital. SAIC is on the front lines of today's most momentous national security battles. It's not too much to say that the future safety of many Americans rests in the aged hands of a brilliant and quirky septuagenarian and his clandestine army of techno geeks.
In a way, Beyster seems to have been preparing all his life to take on today's myriad global threats. He grew up in Detroit, the son of a General Motors (GM) engineer and a mother who dreamed he'd become a lawyer. He served in the Navy in World War II; to Mom's dismay, an aptitude test he took as he was mustering out indicated, as Beyster puts it, "Whatever you do, don't be a lawyer." It did suggest that he might have a calling in science. Beyster went to the University of Michigan, and by 1950 he had earned a doctorate in nuclear physics.
With the Cold War in high gear, Beyster headed to Los Alamos National Laboratory to do top-secret research related to atomic weaponry. He continued to work on nuclear projects in the private sector at General Atomics, but after its parent company was bought by Gulf Oil, Beyster's group of scientists felt marginalized by the oilmen. "It was a terrible company to work in," he recalls. So he took a flier on founding his own firm and was soon back to doing what he loved best: classified work on subjects like the output of a nuclear bomb in the first fraction of a second after detonation.
From the start, SAIC was a different kind of animal. In 1974, Beyster embraced what was then still a novel idea for motivating employees: rewarding them with stock. He created a special arm of SAIC called Bull Inc. that effectively acts as a trading floor for the stock, setting a price for the shares based on SAIC's performance and that of peer companies. The internal market gives workers a way to buy and sell their shares. (The stock has routinely outperformed the S&P 500.) Today, SAIC is fully employee-owned; Beyster retains only a 1.3 percent stake. The program has been widely lauded by corporate governance advocates and has been a key tool for attracting and motivating SAIC's brainiac talent.
Beyster -- Dr. B, as he's known throughout the company -- also motivates by example: A lifelong workaholic, he still puts in 70-hour weeks. He may finally be ready to dial that back a bit: In April he asked his board to search for someone to take on the CEO post by next February. But he still intends to remain deeply involved as the company's main visionary, mapping out product strategy and new technological directions. For decades Beyster has been jotting down thoughts in dime-store spiral notepads everyone at SAIC calls "Beyster books." He's filled more than 1,000 of them; he keeps them in a company archive and often pulls out books from years past to hammer home some technical or managerial point. He keeps fit for the grind by running several miles almost every day, often trailed by other SAIC executives toting notebooks of their own to record the insights the boss is known to toss off as he jogs.
Throughout SAIC's development, Beyster has shown a keen instinct for spotting emerging technologies and a sure touch on acquisitions. He made one of the great steals of the Internet boom by buying Network Solutions, the Web domain name keeper, for $4.5 million in 1996 and selling it for $3.1 billion before the bubble popped. But Beyster's most powerful insight came in the early 1990s, when he foresaw that the mushrooming power of microchips meant that intelligence agencies would soon be wrestling with vast volumes of new data. SAIC's core expertise back then was in manipulating the huge amounts of information required to simulate the firing of atomic warheads. Beyster set out to adapt those technologies to deal with the coming tsunami of data. "He saw the explosion in data mining and knowledge management, even before those were terms people were using," says Duane Andrews, a former Pentagon chief intelligence officer who now heads SAIC's government contracting division.
Among the fruits of that vision are two of SAIC's most technically advanced products: TeraText and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). They're data-mining programs -- some of the most powerful in existence. Both are central to enabling intelligence agencies to sift the immense volumes of data they now collect. Beyster was right about the information explosion; the NSA alone intercepts millions of phone calls, faxes, e-mails, and other types of electronic communications every single hour.
TeraText is designed to help make sense of it all. Written texts -- books, magazines, intercepted messages -- in almost every language are digitized and loaded into a database linked to TeraText. The program can drill into that data at blinding speeds: It can process 2 billion documents every four seconds. It works by identifying patterns and connections between names, terms, and ideas that would take the human mind months to collate. For instance, an intelligence analyst might enter a request for all documents mentioning the name "Khalid," the word "sleeper," and the term "blind date," a possible code for a terror operation. The search could be tailored in innumerable ways -- by language, by time of day, and so on -- and would retrieve all records in which the terms appeared in, say, a single sentence. Finding such seemingly tenuous connections can produce the needle-in-the-haystack moment that unearths a terrorist plot.
LSI is even more esoteric. It looks for abstract relationships among intercepted texts and public documents, and can find even less distinct patterns. Say intelligence analysts learn that an al Qaeda subordinate refers to Osama bin Laden as "Blue Nose" and uses the code word "red" for the date of an attack. LSI will group all documents in any language that relate to "Blue Nose" and "red," even ones that don't contain those exact words. How can it do that? It's incredibly complicated. Suffice it to say that LSI processes language in much the same way the human mind does and contains a degree of artificial intelligence that allows it to make judgments about abstract connections. "That gives LSI a great power that, frankly, we've never seen before," says an intelligence agency consultant who uses the software.
However powerful, the current generation of SAIC data-mining software wasn't good enough to help prevent the 9/11 attacks; signals were missed. In an SAIC lab in Annapolis, Md., Steve Rizzi and his 150-person team are working on a highly classified program, called Trailblazer, designed to avoid a recurrence. Trailblazer, several intelligence sources say, may be the most important program for the entire future of U.S. intelligence efforts. It's currently in a development phase but will likely generate billions of dollars for contractors.
Rizzi, a cherubic 40-year-old who has been at SAIC since he was 21, can't say much about his work. But he does offer that the goal is software that can plow through millions more documents in fewer seconds and will be better at capturing signs of trouble. Rizzi seems inspired by the challenge. "We're all about solving hard problems," he says. "Terrorism is a hard problem."
Duane Andrews was a hot commodity when he left his post at the Pentagon at the end of the first Bush administration. He'd been part of the government's intelligence elite for more than 20 years; among other things, he'd headed the Department of Defense's satellite surveillance systems and overseen the CIA budget. Many of the big-name defense contractors were courting him, eager for his expertise and extensive contacts. Almost on a lark, Andrews went to see Beyster in Albuquerque, N.M. Beyster jotted in his ever-present notebook and talked to Andrews about the benefits of employee ownership. The big defense contractors were about to enter their post-Cold War contraction, but Beyster hada vision of where defense technology was headed that, to Andrews, seemed fresh -- inspired, even. "SAIC moved up from no place on my list to first place after one day of interviews," Andrews says. He accepted the job a week later.
The hire turned out to be a bonanza for Beyster. When Andrews took over SAIC's government division in 1993, it had about $900 million in annual revenue; in 2002, that figure was $4 billion. The growth didn't come from scoring a few giant deals, as can happen in government contracting; SAIC's biggest single government win is a $1.25 billion, seven-year deal to run the National Cancer Institute's main research center. But what SAIC lacks in contract size, it makes up for in quantity: it has 5,300 other government deals. To get them, it has become particularly effective at unseating larger incumbents when their pacts come up for renewal.
In the mid-1990s, SAIC was winning only about 30 percent of those bids against incumbents. Today it wins 67 percent of them. One key to that success grew from an idea culled from a Beyster book. In the early 1990s, Andrews and Beyster launched a program that dispatches corporate emissaries to its government clients to check on SAIC's people -- and to fix problems quickly. "We'll send in someone from another sector of the company who doesn't have an ax to grind," Beyster explains. "We'll move people around if somebody isn't working well or is not a good fit." (A former CIA analyst who has worked with SAIC puts it another way: "If you don't perform, you're outta there fast.")
Another boost has come from a program Beyster initiated in 1996. Called Lessons Learned, it's run by a senior vice president who answers only to the CEO. The VP's full-time job is to study, using a scientific method only a nuclear physicist could love, why SAIC wins or loses a bid. Under the program, SAIC has cataloged and data-mined thousands of its own bid proposals to see which phrases, descriptions, and other features have scored highest with government procurement clerks. The resulting information has been used to develop guidelines for everything from how to describe SAIC's plan for staffing a project to how to explain its software development process, right down to the specific words to use.
In Beyster parlance, the guidelines are called "fragments." They're disseminated to all managers on CDs for use again and again in preparing bids. "It's been very effective in improving the win rate," Andrews says. One recent victory: SAIC supplanted Raytheon (RTN) on a $155 million, five-year contract to help manage the U.S. Geological Survey's massive store of data from sensors and satellites.
SAIC has also benefited from what Andrews calls "punching up the barrel," meaning hiring heavyweights from agencies the company does business with -- people like himself, with deep Rolodexes. Their job is to court their contacts, including those at their former agencies. To some, that is tantamount to influence peddling, but it's the way defense contracting has always worked, and Andrews makes no apologies. He has landed some big fish lately: SAIC recently hired Donnie Marshall, a former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, to run a group that's pitching business to the new Department of Homeland Security. Andrews expects that agency to be a bureaucratic maze, and Marshall earned a reputation during his rise at the DEA as a master navigator of byzantine organizations. He was the first chief in the history of the 9,000-member force to rise to the top through the ranks. David Tubbs is a former high-ranking FBI official who, after leaving the bureau, coordinated security at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. SAIC got wind of the Greek government asking Tubbs to come to Athens to discuss security for the Games there in the summer of 2004. SAIC soon hired Tubbs. Last month it beat out Raytheon and other large companies for a $272 million contract to provide security for the Athens Games.
An organization full of former spies, soldiers, and crime busters naturally presents management challenges. Indeed, SAIC has some critics in the government who complain about a hyperaggressive cowboy culture and the company's constant raids on the managerial ranks of intelligence and defense agencies. Some Pentagon officers have dubbed the pair of buildings at SAIC's Washington-area site the Two Towers, after the strongholds of the evil wizards in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. "They're so cutthroat that they actually had two different parts of the company fighting for the same contract," says an Air Force intelligence analyst who has had dealings with the Two Towers. Even some SAIC insiders acknowledge that the company displays, as one executive puts it, a certain "Darwinian chaos."
But that, like everything else at SAIC, is by the deliberate design of Dr. B; he believes that organizing the company as a loose federation of semiautonomous entrepreneurs is the only way to generate the constant innovation that SAIC thrives on. And he brushes off assertions that SAIC can be a dog-eat-dog place. "That's totally wrong," he says. "I actually think there are people who get a 5th or 6th or 10th chance to find their niche."
In any event, Beyster's track record is hard to argue with. In its first year, his startup had $243,000 in sales; he has since increased that figure 25,000-fold. Besides, he doesn't have time for critics. He's far too busy dreaming up ways for SAIC to continue to push the frontiers of technology, and giving up the day-to-day responsibilities of the CEO job will free up more time for that. Sitting in an SAIC conference room, he's lean and gray but looks much younger than his 78 years, and his eyes light up as he talks about new SAIC data-mining projects he believes will revolutionize counterterrorism. His team has another contract to create software for a battalion of 70 miniature spy robots that operate autonomously and could swarm a building or battlefield -- something like the mechanical insects that hunt down Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Beyster believes that SAIC could be a $10 billion company before the end of the decade, and the work that he's doing still fills him with purpose. "I now think this company is an asset to the country," he says. "I'd like to see it continue." A few more Beyster books, it seems, remain to be written.
Paul Kaihla is a senior writer for Business 2.0.
FBI revives anthrax investigation
From the National Desk
WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- The FBI, still frustrated in its search for the person responsible for 2001's anthrax attacks, has found evidence in a Frederick, Md., pond that may suggest how the infectious letter packets were prepared, The Washington Post reported Sunday.
An ingenious criminal could have packed deadly anthrax spores into envelopes without killing or sickening himself by partially submerging the necessary equipment, sources close to the investigation told the Post.
A piece of equipment and other evidence recovered this winter from ice-covered ponds in Frederick Municipal Forest have reinvigorated the 18-month-old case, the report said.
Some involved in the case believe that the killer may have waded into shallow water to delicately manipulate anthrax bacteria into envelopes, working within a partly submerged airtight chamber, leaving the evidence under water.
Publicly, the FBI has said nothing about material that divers recovered during the elaborate search missions in December and January.
But sources close to the case said the discoveries were so compelling that the FBI now plans to drain thousands of gallons of water from one of the ponds.
Additional agents have been assigned to the case, code-named Amerithrax.
Two sources familiar with the items recovered from the pond described a clear box, with holes that could accommodate gloves to protect the user as he worked. Also recovered were vials wrapped in plastic.
Others involved in the case believe that the killer could have completed his tasks on land and simply disposed of the materials into the pond.
These investigators contend that the water theory is the result of the FBI's interest in one subject, Steven Hatfill, a medical doctor and bioterrorism expert who formerly worked as a researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, the Post reported. Hatfill has repeatedly denied any connection with anthrax. Attorney General John D. Ashcroft has described Hatfill as "a person of interest" in the investigation.
Hatfill's attorney, Thomas Connolly, called the water theory "far-fetched" and said Hatfill had nothing to do with the anthrax crimes.
Hatfill, who lives eight miles from the ponds, remains under round-the-clock FBI surveillance.
The attacks claimed five lives, sickened 13 other people and exposed thousands more to the deadly bacteria.
The attacks involved a series of letters mailed in pre-stamped envelopes to media outlets in Florida and New York and to the offices of Sens. Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). While en route, the letters passed through various post offices and postal distribution centers along the East Coast and left a trail of contamination.
The FBI's latest theory could explain why numerous searches of homes, buildings and open land yielded nothing, the Post said.
person may be behind anthrax attacks
By Dee Ann Divis and Nicholas
WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- One person, operating alone, could have placed anthrax in envelopes through tiny slits by using a hypodermic needle and a "glove box" or "glove bag" to protect himself or herself from contamination, United Press International has been told by a source knowledgeable of the case.
Five people died in the fall of 2001 after anthrax-laden letters were mailed to people in New York, Florida and Washington. One letter, mailed but not delivered to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was recovered unopened with anthrax still in it.
This spring, after a grueling 18-month investigation, the source told UPI that it is possible that one person with basic scientific knowledge and access to Ames strain anthrax could have carried out the anthrax attack.
"One person could absolutely do it," said the source who has insight into what the investigation has uncovered.
There has been significant debate over whether one person could have carried the attack. One of the key issues is that the anthrax found in the letters to Congress was "weaponized" -- dried and physically ground or "milled" into smaller pieces to make it linger in the air and more likely to be deeply inhaled and more deadly. Experts disagree over how complicated it would be to do that and the extent of manpower and equipment necessary to pull it off.
"There are several ways to dry it," explained the source. "One of the ways would be a lyophilizer -- it's piece of equipment that takes bacteria and dries it. It's a freeze-drier basically. (The anthrax) becomes a dry spore. At that point you have to contain it."
The container, the source suggested, would be a glove box. These are large sealed boxes that the researcher can see into. A scientist reaches into the box from the outside through holes that have gloves attached to them. The gloves extend into the box so the seal is never broken. There are also "glove bags" that operate in a similar way but are smaller and cheaper.
Milling could be done with a commercially available machine called a miller or even equipment as simple as a mortar and pestle.
"You would have to open up the containers inside the glove box and grind the spores with the mortar and pestle or some type of miller -- at that point it's going to float. It's going to go in the air," the source said. "It's going to act like gas. So you have to be able to contain it inside the glove box, collect it and put it inside the envelopes."
The powder could have been placed in the envelopes using a hypodermic needle said the source. Though the envelopes did not have holes from a needle this source said the anthrax could have been inserted through slits in the envelope. One envelope had a slit in it, the source said.
The Washington Post quoted two sources in its Sunday editions as saying that FBI searches had recovered a "clear box that could accommodate gloves to protect the user as he worked. Also recovered were vials wrapped in plastic."
The FBI has been conducting searches for traces of anthrax and pieces of equipment for months. Last Dec. 12, it began a search of several ponds in the Frederick, Md., watershed, 40 miles north of Washington, that lasted into January. The box was reportedly found in the ponds.
The paper said that "entering the water to manipulate virulent anthrax bacteria would provide some degree of protection from the finely ground spores, which disperse through the air and can live for decades. But expert opinions vary on whether spores from the containment equipment could later be in a natural body of water."
The paper said that the FBI has informed the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the City of Frederick that it will drain the pond on June 1, which would allow it to sift silt at the bottom.
The pond is in the Catoctin Mountains, not far from Frederick and Fort Detrick, a U.S. Army facility that has conducted experiments with Ames strain anthrax.
The site is also not far from the onetime apartment of Steven Hatfill, a medical doctor and former Army scientist at Fort Detrick. Attorney General John Ashcroft identified Hatfill as a "person of interest" to the FBI this case.
Hatfill has repeatedly said he had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks and many in the legal community said the FBI's repeating of his name without legal charges or any evidence is a violation of his rights.
In an interview with UPI last year, he said the bureau centered on him because he met the "profile" of the perpetrator that the bureau constructed. He said he had only been in the woods areas around Catoctin and Gambrill in working with young scouts.
Over the months, the bureau has searched Hatfill's apartment, his girlfriend's apartment and storage areas belonging to his parents without finding any trace of anthrax.
The investigation has been difficult for the FBI. Very early in the case it issued a profile of the type of person it thought could carry out this crime. It described a disgruntled, middle-aged white man with scientific training and experience working in government research labs. But legal critics argue that the description could fit dozens of people at Fort Detrick and other Army facilities or former bio-terrorism experts.
Ask why the case has taken so long, one source told UPI: "Because they have to build a good strong case in court.
"A lot of the case is circumstantial so -- why you wait is to put together a case with the attorney's office. It is the U.S. Attorney's Office that makes the decision to either indict the case or not indict it."
Pat Clawson, a spokesman for Hatfill told UPI the FBI was wrong to bring up Hatfill's name in connection with the case at this point.
"The truth of the matter is that Steve Hatfill had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks. ... If the FBI had any evidence they should charge him. They should charge him or clear him. To destroy his life and career with a pattern of leaks and innuendo is really immoral and un-American."
Mayor of Frederick comments on Anthrax investigation
By Lance Barry
FREDERICK, MD MAY 12 - Frederick's mayor is speaking out on the current state of the FBI's Anthrax investigation at the city's watershed.
The mayor's attitude on Monday was "what is the sudden big deal?" Mayor Dougherty said that despite a Washington Post article stating that plans to drain the pond are progressing, she knows nothing of the sort and that she should know because she is in contact with the FBI on a regular basis.
Mayor Dougherty said, "the idea of draining the pond was something that was discussed weeks, even months ago, but I don't think a decision has been made."
FBI agents have been to the pond at Frederick's Municipal Forest on several occasions in the past year and a half since the Anthrax attacks killed 5 people in 2001. One theory is that the Anthrax spores were born in the pond. A scientist from Frederick's Fort Detrick, Dr. Stephen Hatfill, has been called a person of interest in the case in the past.
The pond in question is only a one acre piece of property compared to the 8000 acres which make up the entire watershed. As of Monday, that area remained open to the public. Any water from that area goes through a filtration process.
The Mayor said that while the investigation is out of her control, since it is federal in nature, she hopes it is completed soon and if nothing more, to put this behind the City of Frederick.
However, putting this all into perspective when asked how high of a priority this is for the FBI right now, Dougherty said that it is, "certainly not at the top of their list."
May Drain Pond In Anthrax Search
Possible Evidence Surfaces In Water
POSTED: 5:29 p.m. EDT May 12,
WASHINGTON -- The FBI is working on a new theory about the deadly anthrax attacks nearly two years ago.
It's been 19 months since the attacks and police still haven't made an arrest.
Agents may drain a pond near Frederick, Md., next month to search for more evidence.
The Washington Post reports that during the winter, agents recovered a clear plastic box from the pond. Some agents theorize the box could have been used to prepare the anthrax that was sent in the mail.
However, NBC news has learned that no traces of anthrax were ever found on the plastic box.
And there is no evidence to suggest the box is linked to the anthrax attacks, or a doctor who is a person of interest in the case.
The doctor lived in Frederick at the time of the attacks. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Five people were killed and 13 others were sickened when anthrax-tainted letters were sent through the mail shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
letters prepared under water, says FBI
Divers find equipment for terror campaign in Maryland pond
Julian Borger in Washington
FBI investigators now suspect that the anthrax-filled letters sent to politicians and media figures in 2001 may have been prepared underwater using equipment investigators have discovered in a Maryland pond, it was reported yesterday.
This secluded pond, set in a thickly wooded park near Washington, is going to be drained in the next few weeks after divers found a clear box with holes for gloves of the sort used in handling extremely dangerous biological material. They also found vials wrapped in plastic.
According to the Washington Post, which reported the FBI find, some investigators believe that the anthrax killer waded into the pond taking the box with the vials of anthrax and envelopes already inside.
Pouring the dried anthrax spores into the envelopes in a watertight glove box would have greatly reduced the risk that the finely milled spores would have escaped, putting the perpetrator at risk and leaving microscopic evidence behind. The box and other equipment could then be left in the pond. Others on the case reportedly believe the equipment could have been dumped in the pond after use.
The box and vials were found in the winter after the FBI received a tip that evidence might be submerged in the ponds close to the town of Frederick, and divers had to break through ice to investigate.
The find represents the first physical evidence to surface in a case, codenamed Amerithrax, that has baffled the FBI for 18 months. It strengthens the growing belief that the attacks, which killed six people and made 13 others ill, were carried out by a home-grown terrorist, with possible links with the US bio-defence establishment. The pond on the outskirts of Washington, is eight miles from Fort Detrick, the headquarters of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Army scientists have reproduced the anthrax powder used in the 2001 attacks and concluded it was made using relatively rudimentary methods and cheap equipment.
No suspects have been named so far in the investigation, but the attorney general, John Ashcroft has named a "person of interest" to the inquiry - Steven Hatfill, a former Fort Detrick employee and bioterrorism expert who had also written an unpublished novel describing an attack with some similarities to the anthrax crisis of 2001.
The Washington Post noted that Mr Hatfill, a former member of the Rhodesian special forces, had a postgraduate diploma in diving and underwater medicine from a South African naval training institute.
Mr Hatfill has vigorously denied any involvement, and has accused the FBI of ruining his life by leaking its suspicions to the press. He says he has been unable to find a job and is under 24-hour surveillance. His lawyer, Thomas Connolly, said the box could simply be discarded medical or scientific equipment, or from an illegal methamphetamine laboratory.
The contaminated envelopes were sent in from a postbox near Princeton University in New Jersey. They were addressed to the offices of two Democratic senators, Thomas Daschle and Patrick Leahy, as well as media companies in New York and Florida.
Among the five victims were the photo editor for a magazine, two postal workers, a hospital employee and a 94-year-old woman. The last two victims are believed to have been killed by cross-contamination between envelopes in the post.
search could take years
By Bill Nichols, USA TODAY
May 15, 2003
WASHINGTON — The search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction could take years to complete, a senior Pentagon official told Congress Thursday.
The testimony by Douglas Feith, under secretary of Defense for policy, was the most pessimistic appraisal yet by a top Bush administration official of one of the White House's key justifications for the invasion of Iraq.
"I am confident that we will eventually be able to piece together a fairly complete account of Iraq's WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programs — but the process will take months and perhaps years," Feith told the House International Relations Committee.
Feith's comments are the latest and most striking example of a rhetorical shift by the Bush administration on the subject of banned Iraqi weapons, none of which has been found.
"Day by day, the administration is trying to lower the expectation of what they will find, as opposed to before the war, when they were trying to raise expectations day by day," said Jon Wolfsthal, a weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a non-profit organization in Washington.
In the months before the war, administration officials alleged that President Saddam Hussein's regime needed to be removed from power because Iraq had thousands of chemical and biological munitions, many of which could be ready to use within 45 minutes of an order being given.
Some U.S. officials privately criticized chief United Nations arms inspector Hans Blix and his inspection teams for failing to be sufficiently aggressive and failing to find traces of Iraqi weapons. The administration has said U.N. inspectors will have no role in postwar Iraq for the foreseeable future.
But senior officials, including President Bush, now say that though they are confident prewar intelligence estimates will be proven correct, the weapons have been destroyed, moved to another country or are so well concealed by members of Saddam's regime that it will take much longer to find them than originally expected. Feith called the U.S. weapons hunt "a huge undertaking. ... We are in the early stages of this effort. We have found evidence of WMD programs, but we have a long way to go before we can gain a complete understanding of them."
No chemical or biological weapons have been found in Iraq, according to Feith and Lt. Gen. Norman Schwartz, director of operations for the Pentagon's joint staff, who also testified before the committee Thursday.
Tests continue on two trailers that U.S. officials suspect were being used as mobile weapons labs by the Iraqi regime. Feith and Schwartz said no conclusions have been reached about the trailers.
In his appearance before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraq had as many as 18 of the labs, any one of which could produce enough biological weapons in a month to kill "thousands upon thousands."
Feith said U.S. forces have searched about 20% of roughly 600 suspected weapons sites.
Pentagon officials say that 110 of 616 suspected sites had been searched, and that the number of people conducting the searches will more than double in coming weeks, to 1,300.
5/28/2003 7:25 PM Updated 5/28/2003 10:14 PM
Anthrax investigators tail scientist '24/7'
By Toni Locy, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — For 10 months, Steven Hatfill hasn't been able to go to the store, take a walk or be interviewed for a job without being tailed by the FBI.
Hatfill, 48, the only person identified publicly by the Justice Department as a "person of interest" in the investigation into the anthrax attacks two years ago, has been kept under "24/7" surveillance by FBI agents who haven't been subtle. They routinely follow Hatfill in several cars and trucks, and they take pictures of him wherever he goes.
Earlier this month, Hatfill and his watchers clashed on a street in Washington's Georgetown section. Hatfill says an FBI employee, driving one of the tail vehicles, ran over his foot. Washington police gave Hatfill a ticket for "walking to create a hazard."
The FBI's tactics appear to be designed to put pressure on Hatfill, a former researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. But four law enforcement sources familiar with the anthrax probe say the real reason for the round-the-clock surveillance is rooted in the FBI's new mission of preventing terrorism. FBI officials believe they can't risk the embarrassment of losing track of Hatfill, even for a few hours, and then being confronted with more anthrax attacks.
He has not been charged, so the FBI has no basis to seize his passport — another reason why agents continue to tail him.
The sources, who requested anonymity because the anthrax probe is active, say the focus on Hatfill stems from the belief by many investigators — but not all of them — that he was behind the mail attacks that killed five people, sickened 17 others and forced thousands to take antibiotics. But two of the sources say evidence gathered against Hatfill by nearly 80 FBI and Postal Inspection Service agents is largely circumstantial.
The FBI used similar surveillance tactics in 1996, when agents tailed former security guard Richard Jewell for 88 days after the bombing at the Olympics in Atlanta, says Lin Wood, Jewell's attorney. "This gives the public the appearance that the FBI has some information that points to Dr. Hatfill that is sufficient to justify this incredible expenditure of resources," Wood says. "But it could be designed for nothing more than appearances, for (public relations) for the FBI."
Jewell was cleared, marking one of the most humbling chapters in FBI history.
"It's an investigative approach that is doomed to fail 99 out of 100 cases," says Wood, the attorney.
The Olympics bomber has not been found.
Hatfill's name surfaced in the anthrax probe last summer, when FBI agents searched his former apartment in Frederick and Attorney General John Ashcroft called him "a person of interest" in the probe. The designation has no legal significance.
Hatfill's lawyer, Tom Connolly, declined to comment. Hatfill has said he wasn't involved in the attacks, and he has complained about the FBI's tactics.
His friends say no one will hire him as long as he is linked, however vaguely, with the probe into the nation's first biological attacks. Last fall, the attention cost him a job at Louisiana State University. "Charge him or clear him," says Pat Clawson, a Hatfill friend and spokesman. "It's that simple."
But the four law enforcement sources say that nothing about the anthrax probe is simple. They say investigators have not been able to prove Hatfill did it, or rule him out.
The FBI's suspicions center on what investigators say is Hatfill's penchant for exaggerating his credentials on résumés and in statements to other scientists.
Hatfill is among dozens of scientists who have taken polygraphs at the FBI's request. An FBI analysis suggested he was "evasive" when asked a question about the attacks, a fifth source close to the probe says. Most states ban polygraph results from court because the tests are considered unreliable.
At various times, Hatfill has claimed he was a member of special operations troops in the U.S. military. He wasn't. He has claimed to be an expert at conducting underwater medicine. He's actually trained to treat people with "the bends," a condition that develops after prolonged exposure to pressure.
In February 1999, Hatfill and another scientist commissioned a study of a hypothetical anthrax attack as part of their work for a defense contractor.
Beyond that, one of the four law enforcement sources says, "there's just nothing to hang our hats on."
So far, investigators cannot rebut Hatfill's claims that he has never been to Trenton or Princeton, N.J., where the anthrax letters were mailed. Nor have they found any traces of anthrax in Hatfill's apartment, his girlfriend's home, his cars, a Dumpster near his home, or several places he visited.
Some investigators thought they had a break in the case when divers searched a pond in Frederick, near Hatfill's former home, in December and January.
The divers found an airtight plastic box and a rope, among other things. Initial tests showed traces of anthrax on the rope, leading some investigators to speculate that the attacker might have put the box in the water and then loaded anthrax powder into the five envelopes that were sent to the media and two U.S. senators. The rope, some investigators thought, could have been used to anchor the box in the pond.
But the initial tests on the rope soon proved to be wrong, which one of the law enforcement sources blamed on poor lab work. The rope, box and other equipment found in the pond are undergoing more sophisticated tests, the four sources say. Depending on the results, they say, the FBI will decide whether to drain the pond to seek more evidence.
Since Oct. 4, 2001, when Florida photo editor Bob Stevens was diagnosed with the inhalation anthrax that would kill him, the FBI and many top U.S. scientists have worked together to try to solve the case. The FBI is relying on microbiologists and others to invent techniques for identifying anthrax that could be used to present evidence in court.
It's an uneasy alliance because investigators wonder whether the killer could be one of the scientists working on the probe. Hatfill was one of 30 to 40 U.S. scientists the FBI believes had access to anthrax and the expertise to work with it.
One of the law enforcement sources says investigators sometimes wonder whether they focused on Hatfill too soon, and ignored someone who deserved more attention.
So much has gone into investigating Hatfill, the source says, that abandoning the focus on him "would be like starting all over."
Serve, to Protect, to Brag
by Phil Brennan - NewsMax.com
You could see it coming. Minutes after the news flashed around the nation, FBI agents, active and retired, were preening themselves before the TV cameras, once again basking in the limelight of an arrest they had absolutely nothing to do with.
Let this be said loud and clear before it becomes part of the self-created image of an agency that, like the Mounties, says it always gets its man: Eric Robert Rudolph was nabbed by a local cop on the beat. The FBI didn't have a damned thing to do with the capture of a man who had evaded the bureau for five long years while hiding practically under its nose.
After Attorney General Ashcroft, obviously miffed by the FBI's blatant grab for credit, showed the good sense to tell the bureau to shut up about the case, it went scavenging for an alternative route to the publicity bandwagon by joining in a widely publicized massive search for Rudolph's hiding place, which it couldn't find over a five-year period at the cost of a reported $30 million in taxpayer money.
Think about it. Remember the video shots of a thousand-man-strong search team acting under FBI control, looking under every rock and peering into every cave and every nook and cranny trying to find their prey, who appears to have been hiding in what amounts to plain sight somewhere in the area where he was ultimately caught by an alert local cop.
Also keep in mind the FBI's absurd fingering of Richard Jewell, who it subjected to extreme harassment, leaking what turned out to be false leads about the man's alleged culpability for the Olympic Park bombing, where in fact he'd been a hero.
They're up to the same kind of skullduggery, incidentally, with Dr. Steven Hatfill, where the harassment has now included an FBI employee, part of the 50-agent surveillance team dogging his heels, running over the man's foot when he tried to photograph his tormentor as evidence of what he is being subjected to.
Remember, the FBI candidly admits that it hasn't got a shred of evidence that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mail killer. Not one scintilla of evidence – yet they have 50 people on his tail 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But let's get back to the bureau's never-sated craving for favorable publicity it doesn’t deserve. Think back a few months to the Elizabeth Smart case. Like Rudolph, Elizabeth was picked up by – guess what? – local police officers, after being missing for almost 10 months.
For a lot of that time, Elizabeth had been under the FBI's nose, but it couldn't find her, even though on occasion she was out and about in public. At one point she and her kidnappers were camped out in the hills almost within sight of Elizabeth's home, but FBI search planes and helicopters couldn't find her. It took alert local Sandy, Utah, cops to find her.
But during a press conference held to announce her recovery attended by Chief Steve Chapman of Sandy City Police and Chief Rick Dinse of Salt Lake City Police, FBI Special Agent in Charge Chip Burrus of the Salt Lake office of the bureau hogged center stage, preening in the limelight and crowing about his agency's delight in finding the girl even though the bureau had nothing to do with the outcome and had failed miserably to find her over more than nine months of searching.
Burrus admitted that Elizabeth was taken to a campsite about three miles from her home and remained there for two months. As with the FBI's current search for Rudolph's hiding place, Burrus said the campsite had been found and was being processed by the FBI evidence response team. If you can't get in on the recovery, go looking for what you missed, months after you missed it. At least it keeps the FBI in the news.
Getting back to Dr. Hatfill, who looks more and more like another Richard Jewell: The bureau's man in charge of the anthrax investigation, Van Harp, who presided over the FBI's failed investigation of the anthrax killings, is retiring.
In an amazing coincidence, as he approached retirement, news stories suddenly surfaced about a mysterious plastic box and a rope found in a Maryland pond, which the stories suggested had been used to manufacture anthrax underwater, a conclusion an FBI source dismissed as a fantasy. "It got a lot of giggles," the source said. Moreover, the so-called discovery contradicted reports at the time that the search uncovered nothing, nada, no plastic boxes, no traces of anthrax, no ropes, nothing!
The leaks from the bureau appear to have come from Harp himself, who seems to have wanted to leave the FBI with allegedly damning evidence against Hatfill, indicating that he'd been right all along.
Just who is Van Harp? Well, to begin with, he's an FBI executive who admitted submitting a questionable expense account, which he reimbursed without admitting guilt.
He is also the man who, according to a U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, "A Review of Allegations of a Double Standard of Discipline at the FBI," "acted with an improper purpose" when he covered up FBI wrongdoing at Ruby Ridge and improperly "edited" formal FBI investigative notes to delete information documenting FBI wrongdoing.
The OIG concluded that Harp "should have been disciplined for failure to carry out" his duties as an FBI agent. The OIG further criticized the FBI for promoting Harp and for awarding him with $22,000 in cash bonuses while he was under investigation.
At the time, Kris Kolesnik, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said: "Harp is currently in charge of the FBI’s investigation into the anthrax attacks on Congress and the Postal Service. Given the fact that his investigation of Ruby Ridge was 'at best ' 'grossly deficient' he should be immediately removed from that investigation. Moreover, Harp’s Washington Field Office has come under fire for misconduct within its translation department. Harp’s past conduct in ‘slanting’ investigations in order to protect senior FBI officials calls into question the FBI’s role in terminating a whistleblower in the translation department."
It's not surprising that Harp would have wanted to leave the bureau with some indication that he was at least right about Hatfill.
And the beat goes on. According to Pat Clawson, Hatfill's spokesman and friend, "The FBI doesn't have anything to show for its anthrax investigation, so they're trying to provoke him into taking a swing at an FBI agent or doing something else to give them an excuse to lock him up."
Newsweek swallowed the bureau's absurd pond story whole, joining the speculation about the "clear plastic container" found in that pond near Frederick, Md., which Clawson described as a "Kmart sweater box" by using a sensationalistic headline: "Anthrax: Finally, the FBI Uncovers a Tantalizing Clue."
Despite that fiasco, Van Harp told Jim Stewart of CBS News that, on the anthrax case, "they believe they already have their man, even if they never get his indictment. …" Stewart said former government scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill is "the FBI's number one suspect in the attacks, even though round-the-clock surveillance and extensive searches have failed to develop more than what even Justice Department prosecutors describe as a ‘highly circumstantial’ case."
That was followed by the curious stories about the FBI suspecting that Hatfill dumped lab equipment into a Maryland pond.
As NewsMax.com's Chris Ruddy wrote recently, it's about time to junk this agency and find a real federal law enforcement agency to take its place.
* * * * * *
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor & publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Baltimore - Channel 2, Baltimore, MD
Monday, June 9, 2003
FBI Drains Frederick Pond in Anthrax Probe
Frederick - The FBI was draining a municipal pond Monday in a search for evidence of the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, a city spokeswoman said.
"They are draining it," said Nancy Poss, the city spokeswoman. She had no further details, and said the city would issue a statement later Monday.
Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said last month that FBI agents had discussed with city officials a plan to drain the spring-fed pond. It was among the first of about a dozen that divers searched in December and January.
The FBI's Washington field office did not return a call Monday seeking comment.
Robert Engle, a retired university administrator who lives nearby, said Monday morning that he had not seen any unusual activity or traffic in his area of the Frederick Municipal Forest. The city owns the land in Frederick County as part of its water supply system.
The idea to drain the pond stems from an FBI theory revealed May 11 by The Washington Post about how the person behind the attacks could have packed the deadly spores into envelopes without being infected or leaving traces in homes, buildings or on open land.
The Post reported that items recovered from one of the ponds searched over the winter included a clear box, with holes that could accommodate gloves to protect the user during work. Also recovered were vials wrapped in plastic.
For protection against airborne bacteria, a person could put envelopes and secured anthrax powder into the box, then wade into shallow water and submerge it to put the bacteria into the envelopes underwater, some involved in the case believe, the Post said. Afterward, the envelopes could have been sealed inside plastic bags to be removed from the underwater chamber.
Some investigators said the water theory is the result of the FBI's interest in Steven Hatfill, a physician and bioterrorism expert who formerly worked as a researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick. That facility is the primary custodian of the strain of anthrax found in the envelopes sent to the victims.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has described Hatfill as "a person of interest" in the investigation.
Hatfill formerly lived in an apartment outside Fort Detrick's main gate, about eight miles from the ponds.
The attacks 19 months ago killed 5 people and sickened 13 others who were infected from anthrax-laced mail.
Drained Near Washington in Anthrax Probe
Jim Malone - Voice of America
10 Jun 2003, 19:38 UTC
Federal investigators are draining a remote pond outside Washington as part of their probe into the 2001 anthrax-by-mail attacks that killed five people and sickened several others. FBI agents hope that the pond, about 70 kilometers north of Washington, will yield new clues in the anthrax investigation.
The pond is in a forest outside the city of Frederick, Maryland. In December, divers recovered a plastic box from the pond with a hole cut in the side that investigators believe might have used to prepare the anthrax-laden envelopes that were mailed in October 2001.
The pond is not far from a U.S. Army research laboratory in Frederick, one of several American labs that has stored anthrax.
The pond is also near the former home of an ex-researcher at Fort Dietrick, Steven Hatfill. Last year, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft described Mr. Hatfill as "a person of interest" in the anthrax investigation.
Steven Hatfill has repeatedly denied any involvement in the anthrax case. But he remains under round-the-clock surveillance by the FBI.
"He can't find work," said Patrick Clawson, a spokesman for Steven Hatfill. "Every time he leaves the house he is followed by an entourage of FBI agents. Sometimes they swear at him. It's a tough life."
It is not clear what investigators hope to find in the Frederick pond. It will take a few weeks to drain the pond and search through its mud bottom.
There has been little apparent progress in the anthrax investigation since the attacks in 2001. Anthrax-laden envelopes were sent to news organizations in Washington, New York and Florida and to the offices of two U.S. senators, Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, both Democrats.
Five people died as a result of exposure to anthrax spores and several others became ill.
Publish Date: 06/11/03
By Clifford G. Cumber
FREDERICK -- Although the press swarmed Frederick City Hall on Tuesday morning hoping for some glimmer of extra information on the anthrax investigation in Frederick Municipal Forest, there wasn't much offered.
"It seems like a somewhat irregular audience we have, but I do know my mom is watching on the end of this," said Mayor Jennifer Dougherty as she kicked off her regular Tuesday morning press conference, this time in front of a slew of TV cameras.
Federal officials "told us ... nothing," Ms. Dougherty said.
She and Frederick Police Department Chief Kim Dine had both been to the scene, Chief Dine said. And city employees were monitoring the situation.
The FBI is slowly draining one spring-fed pond in the watershed around a half-mile off Gambrill Park Road with a pump. It is part of an investigation into letters sent through the postal service last year, which killed five and made 17 others ill.
The work will take three to four weeks, city officials said, with around one foot of water in the acre-sized pond drained each day. The pond is four- to five-feet deep on average and about one acre in size.
"They are removing the water from the top level rather than the bottom so it does not disturb the aquatic life," she said.
There are some fish in the pond which could be removed, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Fishermen can use the pond for fishing with a DNR permit, Ms. Dougherty said.
Chief Dine said he is briefed daily by the FBI, but hedged around the question of if the agency has informed him of what they are looking for.
"They're looking for evidence and that is about all we can say," Chief Dine said.
The pond water is being drained into two adjacent ponds nearby, both full from the recent rain. The water will spill over eventually into Fishing Creek, which feeds the Fishing Creek Reservoir, one of the city's drinking water supplies, from there the water will be treated.
"Our water treatment plants are regulated by the state and federal government, obviously we observe every drinking water standard and we conduct regular hourly tests on our water, and the normal purification process can take care of all types of risks to our water supply," Ms. Dougherty said.
The FBI had conducted more than 300 water, soil and sediment tests without result. Marc Stachowski, water and sewer division chief with the city, said there was virtually no chance even a strong concentration of anthrax could make it down seven miles of creek, through a 55-million gallon reservoir, the city's wastewater treatment process and into a residential tap.
"It's pretty darn, darn slim," he said Tuesday afternoon.
He could not discuss where the process took place because of security concerns, he said. "The more you print how my process works, the more of a target I am."
But there had been no contact at City Hall from watershed residents voicing concern.
FBI agents met with Ms. Dougherty, Chief Dine, the mayor's executive assistant, Eva Rosvold, and public information officer Nancy Gregg Poss on Saturday to tell them of the operation.
There is no cost to the city from the estimated $250,000 operation, Ms. Dougherty said.
"And if there was, we would bill the FBI," she added.
Anthrax case was ‘perfect crime'
No evidence to link
mail attacks to any culprit
By PAUL FOY
DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah — The deadly anthrax-by-mail attacks may have been "the perfect crime," says the chief government scientist in charge of defending the U.S. military against biological agents.
Army microbiologist Jeff Mohr said no fingerprints were found on the anthrax-laced letters, and he knew of no other evidence pointing to a culprit. He said his laboratory at Dugway Proving Ground — which uses biological and chemical agents to test battlefield sensors and soldier suits — no longer is under suspicion by investigators.
"They can't crack it because there's no forensic trail. It was a perfect crime," said Mohr, who led a tour Wednesday for The Associated Press of one of the few U.S. laboratories that deals with anthrax.
An FBI investigator who visited this military base 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City disagreed with Mohr's assessment. And the FBI's Washington field office noted Thursday that agents drained a pond near Frederick, Md., where The Washington Post reported they found a transparent box last winter with arm holes that could have been used with gloves.
Mohr, who served as a U.N. weapons in-spector in Iraq after the Persian Gulf war, said anthrax can be safely handled only inside such a glove chamber that he says probably was used to fill the anthrax letters.
Mohr said his Life Sciences Test Facility was cleared of any involvement in the anthrax case that in 2001 killed five people and infected another 17 from Florida to New York City.
"Obviously when that happened they were on us because we had the Ames strain of anthrax" found in the letters, Mohr said. "But we are not suspected anymore. Some of us were polygraphed."
Col. Gary Harter, Dugway's commander, said he hadn't seen or heard from the FBI in a year.
Dugway doesn't produce anthrax and uses only small amounts of biological and chemical agents to test military defense systems, he said.
Mohr's synopsis of the anthrax case as a perfect crime was challenged by FBI agent George Dougherty, who said some evidence was turning up but he wouldn't elaborate.
Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office, said agents drained the Maryland pond that is eight miles from the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, the primary custodian of the Ames anthrax strain.
Dougherty said Dugway was no more or less under suspicion than any of a handful of U.S. labs that deal in anthrax or have a working knowledge of it.
"We were suspicious of everybody and went out there (to Dugway) to eliminate any ties" to the anthrax letters, he said Thursday. "They were very cooperative."
Dugway scientists helped the FBI understand how the powdery anthrax likely was produced and how only someone with specific knowledge could have made it and survived.
on Fri, Jun. 13, 2003
The Columbus, GA, Ledger-Enquirer
Investigators Search Drained Pond
FREDERICK, Md. - Federal investigators used rakes and tree limbs Friday to pick objects from the muck at the bottom of a drained pond as they hunted evidence in the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001.
Among the items fished out of the gray-brown mud were sodden bits of what appeared to be stiff fabric or flexible plastic. One investigator took photographs, and points near the bank were marked with bright pink flags.
The FBI is seeking clues to the origin of the anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and sickened 17.
FBI agent Larry Faust of the Baltimore field office declined to comment on the search.
The Washington Post reported last month that divers recovered items from the pond over the winter, including a clear box with holes that could accommodate gloves. Also recovered were vials wrapped in plastic.
Several FBI and Justice Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have told The Associated Press that investigators believe someone could have used these items to safely insert the deadly anthrax spores into envelopes under water. Testing of the items has not produced definitive evidence of anthrax contamination, the officials said.
The one-acre pond is in a city-owned forest about 50 miles northwest of Washington and eight miles from the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, the primary custodian of the strain of anthrax found in the envelopes sent to the victims.
Dr. Steven Hatfill, a bioterrorism expert who once worked as a researcher at the institute, has been described as a "person of interest" in the investigation. Hatfill has denied any involvement in the attacks.
The FBI drained the pond of its 4- to 5-foot-deep water over the past few days. By Friday, all that remained were a few puddles.
Agents wore hip waders or boots as they picked through the muck. After one had to be pulled out by his co-workers, they used rakes, tree limbs and a branch duct-taped to a rake handle to reach into the basin.
scrapes pond in anthrax search
Publish Date: 06/14/03
FREDERICK -- Federal investigators used rakes and tree limbs Friday to pick objects out of the mucky bottom of a pond they're searching for evidence in the deadly anthrax letter attacks of 2001.
It took a contractor three days to drain the pond in the Frederick Municipal Forest. By Friday, water remained only in a few puddles, including an area about 12 by 24 feet at the lowest point of the bottom.
The smooth, grayish-brown exposed surface spread beyond that point, turning tan at the drier edges. Points near the bank were marked with wires bearing bright pink flags.
Agents wore short-sleeved shirts and FBI T-shirts in the humid weather and hip waders or boots. After one had to be pulled out by his co-workers, they used rakes, tree limbs and an improvised tool -- a branch duct-taped to a rake handle -- to reach into the basin. At one point, an agent put a piece of plywood down to step onto the sticky surface.
They pulled out sodden bits of what appeared to be stiff fabric or flexible plastic. One agent took photographs.
The FBI is seeking clues to the origin of anthrax-laced letters sent in the fall of 2001. The letters killed five people and sickened 17 others.
The Washington Post first reported May 11 that divers recovered items from the pond over the winter, including a clear box with holes that could accommodate gloves. Also recovered were vials wrapped in plastic.
Several FBI and Justice Department officials have told The Associated Press, speaking on condition on anonymity, that investigators have a theory that someone could have used these items to safely place anthrax in envelopes. Testing of the items has not produced definitive evidence of anthrax contamination, these officials said.
The pond is eight miles from the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, the primary custodian of the strain of anthrax found in envelopes sent to the victims.
Dr. Steven Hatfill, a bioterrorism expert who formerly worked as a researcher at the institute, has been described as a "person of interest" in the investigation. Dr. Hatfill has denied any involvement in the attacks.
An FBI spokesman, Special Agent Larry Faust of the Baltimore field office, declined to comment Friday on the second phase of the search.
The FBI said in a statement Monday that agents were conducting "searches related to the investigation of the origin of the anthrax-laced letters" at the pond.
"I can verify that the draining is completed and they have moved on to the next phase, and that's about all I know," said Nancy Poss, a spokeswoman for the City of Frederick.
The one-acre pond is in a city-owned forest about 50 miles northwest of Washington. Additional police tape partially marked off the area around the pond Friday, and a roadblock kept nonresidents out.
Construction contractor Phillips and Jordan Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn., began draining the oval pond Monday with pumps and hoses. About 15 workers finished draining the 4-to-5-foot-deep pond Wednesday, said Page Riley, chief engineer and assistant vice president of the company's heavy engineering division.
on the News - National
FBI Closing in on Anthrax Killer?
With the capture of accused Olympic Park bomber Eric Robert Rudolph the FBI finally began to close a domestic-terrorism case that has dogged it for seven years. G-Men now are banking on reeling in an even bigger catch from a pond in Frederick, Md. The FBI apparently believes that evidence beneath murky waters in a municipal forest there will link a weapons microbiologist to the anthrax mailings that killed five people and sickened at least 17 others in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.
"I think they are closing in," says former FBI agent and terrorism expert Harold Copus. "They didn't drain this pond for no reason. You know somebody is supplying them with information. It's reminiscent of the late 1960s and a famous civil-rights case in Mississippi. The same concept is being employed."
In that historic case, dramatized in the Gene Hackman film Mississippi Burning, the FBI recovered bodies of three civil-rights workers by dredging at the base of a dam and subsequently convicted the perpetrators despite White House and public skepticism. The FBI is betting that draining the Frederick pond also will produce breakthrough evidence and a conviction after discovering in December 2002 a Plexiglas box with man-made holes in it that agents believe was used to transfer deadly anthrax bacteria to the carrier envelopes.
But don't take that bet. The Plexiglas box might just turn out to be a turtle trap, which certainly would put a cavernous hole in the 20-month-old FBI case, code-named "Amerithax," that appears to be targeting microbiologist Steven Hatfill. He once worked about eight miles from the pond at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick. Hatfill left that job in 1999 - nearly two years before the anthrax attacks - but is alleged to have visited the area on Boy Scout trips.
Last August, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft labeled Hatfill a "person of interest," in part to avoid the embarrassment of turning him into another Richard Jewell, the security guard wrongfully accused by the FBI of being the Olympic bomber. The FBI insists that even though only Hatfill has been identified, it has at least 20 others in the same category. Insight has learned that one of those is a former Hatfill colleague who has been supplying information to the FBI said to point to the microbiologist. What the bureau might not know is that the alleged tipster who suggested the FBI look in the pond may have had a grudge against Hatfill, who supervised him and consistently gave him poor performance reviews at Science Applications International Lab in McLean, Va.
Meanwhile, Hatfill's life has been turned upside down. "He's living in hell right now," says Pat Clawson, a former CNN correspondent who recently left a job with Radio America to serve as a spokesman for his friend of six years. Clawson reports that "Steve's days consist of sitting on a sofa watching Fox News. He's trying to find work, but he is radioactive. He's too hot to handle."
Hatfill has been unemployed since being fired by Science Applications. As a consultant for the company he worked on bioterrorism programs with the CIA, the Army Special Forces and other military agencies. He reportedly lost his CIA clearance after allegedly failing a lie-detector test concerning work as a medical doctor in South Africa, having been accused of embellishing his résumé to win a research appointment with a division of the National Institutes of Health. He has kept busy working on his girlfriend's apartment, which apparently was destroyed when the FBI searched it and smashed walls looking for evidence to link him to the crime.
Clawson warned Hatfill that he would come under media scrutiny again as soon as the FBI started draining the pond. But as far as Hatfill was concerned the bureau could drain all the ponds in Frederick. "The only thing they were going to find in that pond was maybe Jimmy Hoffa or Amelia Earhart," Clawson said. Besides, Clawson noted, "Steve says bio-containment boxes are equipped with power supply. You need negative air pressure to keep things in a box. How many ponds have electrical outlets?"
The pond became part of the investigation when divers acting on a tip last winter unearthed what seemed to be a makeshift Plexiglas or plastic box with holes in it - as if to allow someone using it to place anthrax bacteria into envelopes - reported the Washington Post. The Post also reported discovery at the pond of gloves and vials. Tests on these materials last winter produced conflicting results - one test was positive for anthrax bacteria and another negative. In addition, authorities conducted more than 300 tests of soil from the pond but no trace of the deadly spores was found. More sediment testing is expected.
After spending $250,000 to drain about 1.4 million gallons of water from the pond in less than a week it is unclear whether the dozen or so FBI agents and postal inspectors found anything of significance. But Hatfill remains a prisoner of 24-hour surveillance. "Wherever he goes, he is followed by a swarm of FBI agents in six to 10 cars," Clawson says. "It's like he is in a presidential motorcade. He's boxed in with cars in the front and cars in the back riding his bumper."
Recently Hatfill and his girlfriend stopped at a store to buy paint for her apartment. An agent was tailgating so closely that Hatfill grabbed a camera and confronted him. The G-Man took out a camcorder, attempted to photograph Hatfill, appeared to lose control of the government vehicle and ran over Hatfill's foot. Hatfill fell to the ground and his girlfriend feared the worst as children ran after the fleeing FBI agent. Paramedics treated the harassed Hatfill for a bruised foot, but after talking to the FBI the police issued Hatfill a $5 ticket for "walking to create a hazard."
And the media have been even more harsh. Geraldo Rivera showed a large picture of Hatfill with the caption: "Is he the anthrax animal?" Clawson says, "Imagine how Steve felt. He was furious and mad as hell."
Media reports have characterized the once-respected microbiologist as a racist responsible for unleashing anthrax in South Africa, ignoring the reports of scientific journals that the anthrax found there came from the natural environment. Not surprisingly, he has developed a total disdain for the press and has not spoken to reporters since facing the TV cameras in two press conferences last year. "I want to look my fellow Americans in the eye and declare to them, 'I am not the anthrax killer,'" he said, holding back tears. "My life is being destroyed by arrogant government bureaucrats who are peddling groundless innuendo and half-information."
Since that time he has been silent but may be wavering on making another statement. In fact, Clawson, a longtime member of the national organization Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. (IRE), says Hatfill offered to speak for IRE's national conference in Washington in June but was rebuffed.
"He wanted to go into the lions' den and take these guys head-on," Clawson says. "In the last year, he has had hundreds of reporters banging on his door and he never gave anyone an interview. But he thought addressing a thousand investigative reporters would be the way to do it. He wanted to tell reporters what life is like in a media vortex and what it's like to be the target of national media and FBI investigation. He wanted to talk about the emotional and financial impact. He wanted to give suggestions to reporters so that when this happens again they won't make the same mistakes. There would be no rules, no restrictions. He was also going to name several reporters who are members of IRE and committed acts of journalistic malpractice."
IRE Executive Director Brant Houston tells Insight, "It's like I said, we are a nuts-and-bolts conference. Hatfill wanted to address reporters directly, but we don't have people do that. We have people teach reporters how to get records and talk about their stories. He didn't fit. Our speakers are not newsmakers. There is no story here."
While Houston admits IRE did invite FBI agent Brad Garrett, who participated in the anthrax investigation, it was only because he was going to teach reporters how to conduct criminal investigations. And Garrett decided not to attend the conference, Houston says. He suggests a Hatfill speech to the National Press Club would be a better fit.
In the meantime, there has been no sign of letup in the investigation at the pond. The FBI remains convinced that the anthrax perpetrator made one stupid mistake that will enable them to crack the case. "Look, whoever did this is bright," says former FBI agent Copus. "But a bright guy will make stupid mistakes. It's those little things that are stupid that get you caught, like perhaps leaving something in the pond. Maybe there is a fingerprint on something that was sealed. You know the perp is kicking his rear end if that's true."
And if they find nothing? "Then they run the risk of embarrassment for having spent $250,000 to find some old tennis shoes and fishing lures," says Copus, "and they will go back to the guy that gave them bad information."
Timothy W. Maier is a writer for Insight.