contract stops anthrax cleanup of AMI building in Boca
Building owner, Bio-ONE officials in clash over deal
By Luis F. Perez
June 10, 2005
The on-and-off anthrax cleanup of the former American Media Inc. building is off again.
This time, the delay stopped the company hired to decontaminate the first building in the country attacked with anthrax just weeks away from finishing the job.
Bio-ONE officials walked off the Boca Raton property on Broken Sound Boulevard after a May 31 contract deadline passed without an extension, once more clouding the future of the building in the Arvida Park of Commerce.
Karen Cavanagh, Bio-ONE general counsel and chief operating officer, said the company couldn't agree to extend the contract with building owner David Rustine because of "economic" terms.
The company planned a gala June opening with former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who co-founded Bio-ONE. Company officials wanted Giuliani and an employee sickened in the anthrax attack, Ernesto Blanco, to be the first people to walk into the anthrax-free building.
The Palm Beach County Health Department quarantined the building after the Oct. 5, 2001, death of an AMI photo editor, Bob Stevens, who inhaled the biological agent from a contaminated letter.
Company officials also planned to move into the building and make it their headquarters. However, the contract dispute puts that move in doubt.
"Right now, a move into the building or any lease relationship is moot," Cavanagh said. "In some ways, we need to sit down and start over again."
Tim O'Connor, county Health Department spokesman, said the building owner is responsible for the cleanup, and health officials won't lift the quarantine until all the boxes inside the building are decontaminated.
"At this point, it's in the same position as it was," he said about the building.
Rustine, president of Crown Companies, could not be reached Thursday afternoon despite attempts by phone.
Bio-ONE completed the interior fumigation of the former home of the publisher of Star, National Enquirer and Weekly World News, among other publications, July 12 with chlorine dioxide gas. Company officials said the cleanup was successful. The original plan called for the building's contents, packed up hastily in about 12,000 boxes, to be incinerated.
But cleanup was stalled by a dispute over ownership of freelance photographers' photos in those boxes. The tabloid photo collection contains historic images of the jet set and celebrities such as James Cagney, Cary Grant, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Princess Diana and Elvis Presley.
After months of delays, Bio-ONE and Rustine, who bought the building two years ago for $40,000, agreed to decontaminate the photographs and everything else in the boxes. The company created a decontamination chamber in the building's basement level to fumigate about 305,500 pounds of files, photos, employees' personal belongings and mundane office items.
Crews unloaded boxes in April and started treating the contents with chlorine dioxide gas. Last month, Bio-ONE hired a medical-waste company to help disinfect boxes that held less-sensitive materials.
Cavanagh said crews finished the fumigation process. They needed a few days for the medical-waste company to finish disinfecting the remaining boxes and two or three weeks to complete the entire project.
An April 2005 deadline was set 11/2 years ago when Bio-ONE signed a contract to clean the building with Rustine, Cavanagh said. The deadline was extended to May 31.
Rustine and company officials have not disclosed the terms of their contract. Last year, Giuliani said the building's cleanup would cost about $5 million.
The prized picture collection of generations of celebrities remains sealed away, tucked in the basement of an empty building. Cavanagh emphasized the boxes are not a public health danger and Bio-ONE is ready to complete the project.
"We're anxious to get back and finish the job," she said.
Luis F. Perez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6641.
June 23, 2005
ready for 'new era in biodefense'
by Caree Vander Linden
This article is the first of a two-part series on USAMRIID transformation based on interviews with Col. Erik A. Henchal, outgoing commander of the Institute. In Part I, Henchal talks about the events following 9/11 that served as a catalyst for change at the Nation's premier biodefense laboratory, followed by a discussion of biosurety, safety, physical plant issues, and the National Interagency Biodefense Campus. The second and final article will appear in the July 7th issue of The Standard.
On June 20, 2005, Col. Erik A. Henchal relinquished command of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the nation's lead biodefense laboratory and his professional home for the past 13 years. Reflecting on his three years as commander, he said he's proud of the Institute's achievements and its continuing effort to transform itself to meet new demands in the post-9/11 world.
Henchal took the helm in June 2002--a particularly challenging time in the Institute's history. Following the anthrax mail attacks of October 2001, USAMRIID was used as a confirmatory site for identifying and characterizing anthrax spores. As chief of the Diagnostic Systems Division at that time, Henchal oversaw an operation in which USAMRIID processed over 30,000 samples and performed approximately 260,000 diagnostic assays over an eight-month period.
In April 2002, as that effort was starting to wind down, USAMRIID identified very low levels of anthrax spores in a few localized areas outside of a containment laboratory. There were no cases of illness due to anthrax exposure at the laboratory and appropriate measures were taken to ensure the safety of the USAMRIID workforce. Nonetheless, the incident highlighted the need for improvements in the Institute's safety program.
The convergence of these events, together with the FBI's widely publicized questioning of a scientist with ties to USAMRIID as a "person of interest" in the anthrax letters case, heightened scrutiny of the Institute and led some to speculate that the material used in the attacks had originated at USAMRIID.
According to Henchal, his first priority as commander was to raise the visibility of USAMRIID and re-establish its reputation.
"People had misguided perceptions about the Institute when I took over," he said. "USAMRIID was seen as the source of the anthrax letters. My impression was that the staff was demoralized and didn't know where we were going anymore. I think we are now recognized as important contributors to biodefense for the country."
Biosurety guidelines handed down
Shortly before Henchal took command, the Department of the Army issued guidelines for its biosurety program, a comprehensive effort to ensure the safe and secure use of biological agents. The program encompassed physical security, biological safety, agent accountability, and personnel reliability measures to prevent unauthorized access to select agents of bioterrorism.
While USAMRIID already had efforts in each of these areas, the Army guidelines imposed additional requirements. Some were costly--like additional security cameras, x-ray machines and other security measures. Others were burdensome--such as the "two man rule" that required researchers accustomed to working independently to have an observer present. In small labs that were crowded to begin with, this requirement quickly proved unworkable.
Fortunately, USAMRIID was able to broker a compromise in which security cameras took the place of the "observer." To address the issue of containment laboratories where cameras were not yet installed, the Institute created the Elite Roving Observer Force, or EROF, a cadre of specially trained soldiers who have access to any lab at any time and can monitor the research being performed. Henchal credited LT. COL. Ross Pastel, his deputy commander for safety, biosurety, operations, plans, and security, with helping to develop a workable biosurety program.
"Something that not everyone at USAMRIID appreciates is that biosurety protects us," Henchal said. "It's not just a bureaucratic notion. We have a documented program--and if another bioterrorism event happens, that program will protect us from the type of criticism and speculation that we experienced in 2002."
In addition to strengthening physical security at the Institute, and improving documentation of how biological agents are stored and accessed, the biosurety guidelines called for a personnel reliability program. USAMRIID had always performed background security checks on personnel who worked in containment laboratories, but the new program contains some additional requirements--including urinalysis and enhanced medical screenings. While unpopular with employees, Henchal said, a program like this is a necessary inconvenience in today's world.
"It's a burden--but ultimately it allows us to do our work without suspicion," he added. "If we had not been able to implement a viable biosurety program, we would have been shut down."
Renewed emphasis on safety
USAMRIID has a comprehensive safety program that emphasizes safety training, risk management, environmental surveillance, and occupational health screening. In the past 34 years, there have been only five confirmed cases of laboratory-acquired infections. Moreover, said Henchal, safety records for the past 3 years have documented a steady decline in the annual rate of potential hazardous exposures from about 16 to 4 per 1,000 personnel in the program. From the commander on down, a culture of safety and risk management is encouraged at the laboratory.
That being said, the events of 2002 made it clear that some changes were necessary. Henchal directed a reorganization of the safety office and mandated division chief involvement in the safety committee. He stepped up regular safety meetings at the office, division and Institute level.
"Safety has always been our number one mission," said Henchal, "but before 2002, people seemed to think safety was the job of the safety office. We emphasized that it was everyone's responsibility."
At USAMRIID, every new laboratory employee attends a safety workshop on laboratory operations, and annual refresher training is required. Safety-related Minimum Essential Training tasks are specified for each employee. Supervisors are held accountable for the safety of their subordinates, and a safety standard is included in the performance objectives of all USAMRIID employees.
In addition, the safety committee meets regularly to review safety data and to propose methods to prevent accidents. Safety concepts are emphasized by the publication of institute-wide safety messages. The entire workforce receives risk management training. Finally, according to Henchal, environmental monitoring for the presence of biological agents now takes place both inside and outside containment laboratories on a weekly basis.
Facility challenges...and a new building
During Henchal's tenure, the USAMRIID facilities have undergone several renovation projects totaling about $30 million. He called facilities manager Mr. Robert (Bob) Koning "a miracle worker" in keeping the aging building running safely.
Among the highlights: the complete renovation of a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory and containment clinical laboratory, additional office space, and an expanded Center for Aerobiological Studies that is slated to open in July. It features unique open suites, custom-designed aerosol equipment, and an improved workspace design that will double the Institute's capacity to do aerosol testing of vaccines and therapies in animal models. This testing--a core capability of USAMRIID--is a critical step in the process of obtaining Food and Drug Administration approval of medical products for biodefense.
Even more exciting has been the campaign to replace USAMRIID's aging facility, spearheaded by MAJ. GEN. Lester Martinez-Lopez, former commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. USAMRIID's existing facilities were built in the 1950's and 1960's for 325 personnel and now house more than 750 people, according to Henchal.<
"Basically, our lab complex has exceeded its life expectancy, and we are spending up to 25 percent of our operating budget on maintenance costs," he said. "Most importantly, our mission has expanded and the facilities we currently have are inadequate to meet the demand."
The proposed new USAMRIID would be constructed in two phases over a period of eight years. The programmed amount is approximately $1 billion, which consists of $610 million for Phase I and $405 million for Phase II. The total includes costs for design, site work, construction, equipment, furniture, transition, relocation of buildings in the footprint, and demolition of existing buildings.
USAMRIID has formed a project team and is moving forward with the planning process, according to Henchal. The first step will be preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. A contract was awarded in April to begin the EIS process.
Cornerstone for medical biodefense
Over the past three years, USAMRIID has emerged as a cornerstone of the nation's interagency biodefense strategy. In a series of U.S. House and Senate reports since September 2001, USAMRIID is not only acknowledged as the military's premier biodefense laboratory, but recognized as a national asset whose biocontainment facilities and expertise provide critical support to the federal biodefense research system.
Efforts are currently underway to establish a National Interagency Biodefense Campus at Fort Detrick that will consist of several federal laboratories, including USAMRIID, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (part of the National Institutes of Health), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The intent is that close proximity and shared resources will facilitate interagency research on medical countermeasures, benefiting both civilian and military populations.
"The campus is a reality," said Henchal. "And coordination on the campus begins with coordination among people. I think we have the elements now for scientific forums where scientists can truly exchange information and decide where the best opportunities are...the ones that can lead to breakthroughs."
Reflecting on his accomplishments as commander, Henchal was quick to praise his staff.
"This is about USAMRIID--not about me," he said. "If I had to point to one major accomplishment during my tenure, it would be this: we prepared the Institute for its new role in the biodefense community. We're on the cusp of a completely new era in medical biodefense--the fruition of the National Interagency Biodefense Campus. And everything we've done in the past couple of years has prepared us for it."
Editor's Note: Coming up in Part II: Henchal and USAMRIID Commander Col. George W. Korch, Jr., talk about USAMRIID's new way of doing business, including organizational restructuring, changes in research programming, and creation of a civilian scientific director for the Institute. They also discuss the challenges facing USAMRIID in the next decade.
Topics in Journalism Today
By Cliff Kincaid | July 14, 2005
The old media, with their documented and demonstrable liberal bias, have lost much of their clout. But through the networks, the major papers, and the White House press corps, they continue to set the national agenda. And that means there are some things you just don't write about if you want to remain "in" with the liberal media.
Newsweek senior writer Charles Gasparino, appearing on Tina Brown's now-defunct CNBC show, made the following admission. "We sow the seeds of our own demise. Journalists have been advocates of the liberal attitude for way too long, and now we're paying the price-Fox News." Gasparino was saying something that should be quite obvious-that Fox News is a response to the overwhelming liberal media bias. He explained, "Journalists are generally liberal. That does come out in the reporting…It comes out in the stories that they do."
ABC News political director Mark Halperin and his staff explained the bias this way:
"Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections. They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are 'conservative positions.'...The press, by and large, does not accept President Bush's justifications for the Iraq war...It does not accept the proposition that the Bush tax cuts helped the economy...It remains fixated on the unemployment rate..."
Evan Thomas of Newsweek estimated that media bias for Kerry-Edwards was worth between 5 and 20 million votes.
The bias is evident, as Thomas said, in coverage of Democrats vs. Republicans. But the bias is also evident in coverage of the issues. Here are some of the things you can't write about objectively in the mainstream media:
The harmful effects of abortion. Abortion is considered a sacred right
of women that should not be challenged. In a related matter, a link between
abortion and breast cancer is always discounted.
And the fact
* That so-called medical marijuana is a complete hoax. A video shows Ed Rosenthal of High Times magazine telling fellow marijuana activists, to laughter, cheers and applause, that he smokes dope to treat glaucoma, which he admits he doesn't have, and because he likes to get high.
This is certainly not a complete list of major issues ignored by the press. Indeed, almost every significant issue is subjected to such distorted coverage. The good news is that the old media are losing their clout and hold over the minds of the American people.
But further bad news is that the bias in the old media may get worse.
Chris Mooney, a liberal writer for the New Republic and the Boston Globe, among other publications, has written that traditional "balanced" coverage of climate change and an abortion-breast cancer link cannot be justified because, in his view, the evidence supports the liberal view of those issues.
Victor Navasky, publisher of The Nation and now chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review, wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times under the headline, "Objectivity is Highly Overrated." He argued for more "opinion journalism" from the media.
He'll get his wish. The trouble is that the opinion journalism is being provided under the cover of objective reporting.
10 follow up: Anthrax investigation
I-Team 10 has a follow up to the anthrax investigation that led agents to the southern tier a year ago. On August 5, 2004 FBI agents raided the home of a doctor in the town of Wellsville. Since then, Doctor Kenneth Berry has neither been charged, nor formally cleared.
The FBI never said, what, if anything they found from their search of Dr. Berry's home but the investigation apparently never yielded anything that implicated berry in any wrongdoing. Still, the publicity surrounding the raid has left him in legal limbo.
Dr. Berry’s home sits quietly on a hill in the southern tier town of Wellsville but a year ago, in dramatic fashion, it became the focal point of an intense federal investigation.
The FBI was looking for clues into the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed 5 people and sickened 17 others.
A year after the raid, the man at the center of the investigation, Dr. Kenneth Berry, has never been charged. He also has never been cleared of suspicion.
Reverend Dick Helms is an internet pastor and close friend of Berry. "It's outrageous that the FBI and the investigators have not publicly cleared him, although they have privately and verbally told him and his attorney that he is no longer under investigation. He has reason to be bitter. It shouldn't have happened. He has reason to be angry."
Kenneth Berry was a small town emergency room doctor with a big interest in the threat of bio-terrorism. He was director of the emergency room at Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville from 1996 to 2001. Colleagues, like ER Nurse Manager Joan Hand, say he spoke constantly of the importance of emergency response to a biological attack. She shared an office with Dr. Berry. "All of the staff was aware of his concerns and his interest. He was very interested in our ems system, anti-terrorism, and in particular the anthrax threat."
So much so that he started an organization called pre-empt designed to train medical professionals on how to respond to a biological attack.
Berry lectured on the threats of anthrax and spoke at conferences on domestic terrorism.
Ironically, it's his level of interest in the topic that probably drew investigators to his doorstep.
Dr. Berry knew a few months prior to the raid here at his house in Wellsville that he was under investigation by the FBI. In fact, he and some of his associates had been interviewed by investigators. But it was the very public search of his home that friends say began his professional and personal descent."
Images of agents in protective suits removing items from his home in full view of TV cameras angered the doctor. They also raided his parent's beach home in New Jersey where he was staying with his family as cameras captured footage from above.
"It didn't surprise him that they came to look through his home. They could have brought two or 3 agents and quietly done it," said Helms.
In his only interview since the raid, berry told the local Wellsville paper in March that he cooperated with the FBI and in return, the investigation has destroyed his life.
A dispute with his wife on the day of the raids led to assault charges and she has since filed for divorce. A fight has ensued over custody of their son.
Professionally, he lost his job at a Pittsburgh hospital where he commuted and claims his reputation is ruined.
"There's a lot of us that feel they didn't prove anything and what did they have to base their investigation on," said Hand.
The FBI tells I-Team 10 it will not comment on Berry or the case.
Did Berry fit a profile agents were looking for? Shortly after the anthrax mailings, he received patents related to bio-terrorism including one for a surveillance system that would detect an attack. His pre-empt website also flaunted credentials and powerful connections. He had reportedly bragged of having contacts in Washington that included former senator Sam Nunn and retired admiral William Crowe.
Reached at home by I-Team 10 the retired admiral said quote: "I have no knowledge whatsoever of Kenneth berry. No recollection of every meeting him."
Still, his longtime friend Pastor Helms says Berry is a pioneer in homeland security and is owed a major apology. “They have totally destroyed this man. Totally destroyed him. Without cause."
I-Team 10 contacted doctor berry by phone and he referred us to his attorney who would not say if the doctor plans to sue the federal government.
Dr. Berry still has his medical license, but is unable to find work as a doctor.
Pastor Helms says his friend is developing a small business and may at some point decide to write a book.
Friend says FBI ceased probe of Wellsville doctor
By DANIEL LEBLANC , The Times Herald
WELLSVILLE — A year has passed since the Federal Bureau of Investigation performed simultaneous raids on past and present homes of Dr. Kenneth M. Berry, a former Wellsville doctor.
FBI officials descended on two properties in Wellsville, one in New Jersey as well as Dr. Berry’s plane on Aug. 5, 2004, one year ago today. More than 30 federal officials raided Dr. Berry’s home on 211 E. Pearl St., a former rental apartment at 125 Maple Ave. and his father’s vacation residence in New Jersey.
As a result of the raids, Dr. Berry later lost his medical job in a Pittsburgh hospital, is undergoing divorce proceedings and has had his reputation tarnished, despite no formal charges by the FBI as a result of their investigation.
The FBI said they were investigating Dr. Berry because of an alleged connection to the anthrax-laced letters mailed in fall of 2001 which left five people dead and caused illness in another 17 people. Dr. Berry had worked in the emergency room at Jones Memorial Hospital from 1996 to 2001 and had most recently worked in a Pittsburgh hospital until shortly after the FBI raids.
Some believe that Dr. Berry was investigated because of his involvement in his Planned Response Exercises and Emergency Medical Preparedness Training (PREEMPT) organization, which gave information on handling bio-terrorism issues to emergency responders.
The organization, founded in 1995, has filed several patents for recommended procedures in combating bio-terrorism incidents.
The New York Times reported in an Oct. 3, 2004, article that Dr. Berry’s influence “as a player in the bio-defense world” brought him in contact with the likes of Congress, the military, defense contractors and news organizations.
Itinerant pastor and close friend Rev. Dick Helms said in an interview with The Times Herald that Dr. Berry and others associated with PREEMPT had been the subject of investigation prior to the raids and that it did not come as a surprise.
“Dr. Berry had been under investigation for some time,” Rev. Helms said. The pastor added that he did not have a problem with the FBI investigating his friend’s home, but said they went about it the wrong way.
“What they did was not wrong, but the way the FBI did the raids was wrong,” he said. “It put a cloud over him so that he can’t work and caused him to lose his family and job.”
Rev. Helms said he still keeps in close contact with Dr. Berry, who declined to be interviewed for this story. The FBI has verbally told Dr. Berry that he is no longer under investigation, Rev. Helms said, but has not put it in writing.
Federal investigators almost never publicly clear anyone who has come under scrutiny, the New York Times reported.
“They’ve actually said that they’re doing all this to clear him,” John Moustakas, a lawyer for Dr. Berry, told the New York Times.
Rev. Helms said the FBI made news of the raids into “a purposefully created media circus. There was no call for it. The FBI had an open search warrant and could have had access to his house at any time.”
Wellsville police chief Steven Mattison said that he had been briefed the day before the raids, but had not been aware of how large scale the investigation would be. At the time, he was filling in as interim police chief as then-chief James Cicirello was on medical leave.
“I just thought that I’d be shuffling papers until Jim came back,” Chief Mattison said. A regional FBI investigator contact briefed Chief Mattison as well as other law enforcement officials on the nature of the raids.
Wellsville Mayor Bradley Thompson said he had even shorter notice regarding the FBI’s presence in the village. “I didn’t know about it until the morning of the raids,” he said.
His first concern was ensuring the safety of village residents, Mayor Thompson said. Once it was established that there was no public threat, he said that he turned his attention to handling the large contingent of media on the scene.
Even though his department had been briefed, Chief Mattison said he was “a bit overwhelmed” by the FBI’s response. The police department received several phone calls from neighbors reporting that strange men in suits, ties, unmarked cars and even yellow bio-hazard protective equipment were entering homes on East Pearl Street and Maple Avenue.
At that point, Chief Mattison said he made the decision to have uniformed police officers on the scene. “We called in all available officers because we did not have enough personnel to answer all the questions” from residents and media, he said.
“We got the word out quickly that there was no imminent danger.” He was told at the time that the FBI was only looking for trace amounts of anthrax.
Chief Mattison said the FBI conducted themselves in a professional manner and kept him informed about their actions. The FBI even later presented the police department with a certificate commemorating “cooperation and assistance” during the searches.
As far as he knew, the FBI’s investigation was still ongoing, Chief Mattison said.
Mayor Thompson said the FBI “came, did what they had to do and left.” He added that was a reminder that “terrorism can happen anywhere — even in Wellsville.”
In retrospect, despite much media fanfare drawing national attention to Dr. Berry, he remains uncharged by federal officials.
In November of 2004, Dr. Berry did plead guilty to two charges of simple assault resulting from an incident at a borough hotel in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., reported the Ocean Star of Point Pleasant Beach.
Shortly after the raid on his parents’ summer home, Dr. Berry had an altercation with his wife, Tana Leucken-Berry and step-daughter, leading to his arrest. In entering his guilty plea, he agreed to drop similar charges brought against his wife and step-daughter. He was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
The Rev. Helms said a medication Dr. Berry was taking at the time may have contributed to his outburst.
Dr. Berry, age 47, had moved to Wellsville in 1996. He became a member of the Jones Memorial Hospital medical staff, working in the emergency room. He left the hospital in June 2001.
In March of 1999, State Police charged Dr. Berry with two counts of second-degree forgery after he allegedly signed the forged will of Dr. Andrew Colletta, who owned a doctor’s office in the area, according to previously published reports.
Dr. Berry later pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.
The Rev. Helms said Dr. Berry still has his medical licenses, but has been out of work since the FBI raids.
“People are now realizing that this guy is innocent and they are asking why there were no charges,” Rev. Helms said.
August 09, 2005
germ war plot is traced back to one Oxford cow
A BRITISH cow that died in an Oxfordshire field in 1937 has emerged as the source of Saddam Hussain’s “weapons of mass destruction” programme that led to the Iraq war.
An ear from the cow was sent to an English laboratory, where scientists discovered anthrax spores that were later used in secret biological warfare tests by Winston Churchill.
The culture was sent to the United States, which exported samples to Iraq during Saddam’s war against Iran in the 1980s. Inspectors have found that this batch of anthrax was the dictator’s choice in his attempts to create biological weapons.
The discovery has angered some British politicians. Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, has renewed his call, supported by 126 MPs in the last Parliament, for a UN investigation into whether Washington broke a weapons control agreement. “It just makes them look more hypocritical than ever,” he said.
The odyssey of the Iraqi anthrax was unravelled by Geoffrey Holland, a politics student and antiwar campaigner at the University of Sussex. The exact batch chosen by Saddam was disclosed in the CIA report by Charles Duelfer, the former UN weapons inspector, last autumn.
“Iraq declared researching different strains of B. anthracis, but settled on the American Type Culture Collection strain 14578 as the exclusive strain for use as a BW,” Mr Duelfer said.
A congressional investigation into Gulf War syndrome by Don Riegle had already uncovered invoices showing that this batch was shipped from the United States between 1986 and 1988.
The ATCC is a private, non-profit-making collection of cultures of living micro-organisms, viruses, plants and human and animal cells, stored in Virginia.
Its catalogue shows that batch 14578 consists of “bovine anthrax”, isolated by R. L. Vollum, a professor of bacteriology at Oxford University during the 1930s. It is named after him.
Martin Hugh-Jones, who co-ordinates the World Health Organisation’s Working Group on Anthrax Research and Control, said: “We have traced it back and it would have come in on some contaminated bones from Southern Rhodesia.
“England was importing sun-dried bones from dead animals in the colonies. They would be shipped to London and used to make soap. When they got the fat out, (the bones) were meant to be sterilised and ground as bone meal and fed to cattle. The sterilisation was not always complete. It was the major cause of anthrax for almost 100 years.”
The Vollum anthrax was used in biological weapons tests on the Scottish island of Gruinard in 1942, which had to be quarantined for 48 years. “It killed any number of sheep in Gruinard,” Professor Hugh-Jones said.
“(Saddam) obviously at one point had a programme because he was buying the laboratory’s cultures to underwrite a programme. Why would he want peaceful research with Vollum? Come on!”
anthrax source traced back to Britain
The World Today - Wednesday, 10
August , 2005 12:38:00
ELEANOR HALL: Scientific research in the UK is today ringing warning bells about the adequacy of international controls over the movements of deadly biological materials.
A British researcher has sourced the oft-cited Iraqi anthrax threat under Saddam Hussein's regime to pre-World War Two Britain.
A United States congressional hearing had previously found that anthrax samples were exported to Iraq from the United States in the 1980s. Now, Iraq's anthrax's source has been tracked further back to the ears of a cow, which died in south Oxfordshire in 1937, as Karen Barlow reports.
KAREN BARLOW: The intelligence about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Saddam Hussein's Iraq is now deemed to be faulty, but the Bush administration stood by it in the lead up to war.
US SPOKESPERSON 1: There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
US SPOKESPERSON 2: He's amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons including anthrax, botulism toxin, possibly small pox.
KAREN BARLOW: With no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, the "Coalition of the Willing" chose to focus on what could have been.
The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, cited the UN Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix's last report in 2003, which he says detailed unanswered disarmament questions.
JACK STRAW: For example, saying that the Iraqis had failed to account for the whereabouts of 10,000 litres of anthrax and that the chances were that that was still in existence and that it could still be viable.
KAREN BARLOW: But where did Iraq get this anthrax?
The United States intelligence agencies knew that Iraq had anthrax samples because the US gave them to Baghdad in the 1980s.
Geoffrey Holland is a politics student at the United Kingdom's University of Sussex.
GEOFFREY HOLLAND: In 1994 there were a series of hearings, Senator Donald Riegle as was then, chaired, and I came across the Riegle report and was absolutely riveted by it. Within the Riegle report are some pretty extensive details of the materials that were transferred by the American Type Culture Collection, which at that time was based in Maryland and one of the items on the agenda was anthrax strain 14578.
KAREN BARLOW: Geoffrey Holland then used a US Culture Collection catalogue, which details the source of every strain of anthrax.
GEOFFREY HOLLAND: It became apparent that the origin of this particular strain was in south Oxfordshire, probably 1937 and you know, it had gone through, as I say, various sets of hands through the Second World War when it had been used and developed and weaponised by the British in conjunction with the Americans and the Canadians as well, as a potential weapon of war.
KAREN BARLOW: Geoffrey Holland's work has been confirmed by the world's foremost expert on anthrax, Emeritus Professor Martin Hugh-Jones, who told The World Today that the anthrax can be traced back even further to the former British colony of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
Professor Hugh-Jones says sun-dried, but inadequately sterilised bones were sent to the UK for soap processing and a by-product, bonemeal, was then fed to English cattle leading to anthrax emerging in British herds.
The International Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention came into effect in 1975, well before Britain handed the anthrax to the United States, but researcher Geoffrey Holland says the United States' anthrax export to Iraq should be further investigated.
GEOFFREY HOLLAND: The fact that it was then transferred to Iraq does seem to me to indicate that it was in breach of the Convention. Other people would perhaps argue that that's not the case, but I'd like really to… I think we deserve to hear from them why that's not the case.
If there is an international convention in place, if there is such a thing as a Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which is legally binding, then it seems to me that something obviously went wrong.
ELEANOR HALL: That's Geoffrey Holland from the University of Sussex, ending that report from Karen Barlow.
next big battle
The Wen Ho Lee case could deal a harsher blow to investigative reporting than Plamegate did
BY MARK JURKOWITZ
Two months ago, the surprise identification of former FBI official W. Mark Felt as the nation’s most famous confidential source ended a three-decade mystery and triggered a noisy, partisan debate over whether "Deep Throat" was a Watergate hero or a self-serving traitor.
This summer, the media and political establishments have been riveted by the tale of Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose public outing triggered a criminal probe that has reached deep into the Bush White House. For refusing to disclose her confidential sources in the case, New York Times reporter Judith Miller has spent more than a month behind bars, becoming both a media martyr and a public celebrity.
Yet for all the buzz and hand-wringing generated by Deep Throat and Plamegate, another battle is likely to have an even greater impact on journalists and those who provide them with information under the cloak of anonymity. Currently grinding its way through the courts, the case brought by Wen Ho Lee — the former nuclear scientist who was suspected of espionage — pits an individual’s right to privacy and to protect his or her reputation against the free flow of information and the public’s right to know.
Four reporters — James Risen of the New York Times, former CNN staffer Pierre Thomas, H. Josef Hebert of the Associated Press, and Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times — are now under contempt citations for failing to disclose confidential sources in connection with Lee’s suit against several government agencies, which alleges the government leaked personal information that violated his privacy and helped fuel a feeding frenzy against him.
Lee’s assertion of his legal rights has put journalists directly in the cross hairs. And First Amendment advocates are worried, angry, and fearful that this case will do more damage to investigative journalism than anything that comes out of the Plame probe.
"While we’ve always had a certain number of federal prosecutors going after journalists, we’re seeing a different type of phenomenon — the federal employee who’s been wronged. If you can somehow compel the journalists to be agents of discovery, it’s going to have a chilling effect," says Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "This is very troubling."
"In some ways this ... has the potential to have much broader implications in the long run. This is more of a garden-variety day-to-day journalism issue than the Valerie Plame case," says Jane Kirtley, Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. "It is not the role of the courts ... or private litigants to impose standards on the press by means of a coercive tactic like this."
Adds Kirtley ominously, "I think this is just bizarre."
RUSH TO JUDGMENT
A former Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory scientist, Lee was indicted in December 1999 on 59 counts of mishandling classified information. But the much-ballyhooed case fizzled, and Lee ended up pleading guilty to only one count. The judge who released him apologized for the government’s actions, and President Clinton voiced his regrets as well.
It wasn’t exactly the media’s finest hour either, as critics complained that coverage created a rush to judgment about Lee’s guilt. In September 2000, the New York Times published a rare half-page note to readers admitting that its reporting had failed to "give Dr. Lee the full benefit of the doubt" and "did not pay enough attention to the possibility that there had been a major intelligence loss in which the Los Alamos scientist was a minor player, or completely uninvolved."
Dalglish says that the eventual backlash of sympathy toward Lee was so potent that "you can also argue that the media did a lot to rehabilitate his reputation in recent years. A lot of people feel sorry for him."
Shortly after his indictment, Lee filed suit against several government agencies, claiming their leaks of his personal information to news organizations violated the Privacy Act, which prohibits such agencies from intentionally disclosing personal and private records. (Lee’s lawyer failed to respond to several Phoenix phone calls for comment.)
After making efforts to discover the origin of the leaks through government channels, Lee issued subpoenas to the journalists, who unsuccessfully sought to quash them. In a dramatic ruling last summer, US District Court judge Thomas Penfield Jackson found Risen, Drogin, Thomas (now at ABC), Hebert, and the New York Times’ Jeff Gerth in contempt for refusing to disclose their sources and ordered them to pay fines of $500 a day — although those fines are on hold pending the appeals process.
The news organizations reacted with dismay. The Los Angeles Times issued a statement saying that the "ruling seriously jeopardizes the press’s ability to report about our government’s actions and the public’s right to know." A similar message from the New York Times said that "confidential sources are critical for us to give the public as broad a perspective as possible on the important issues of the day, particularly when they concern the actions of government."
A challenge to Jackson’s ruling failed on June 28, 2005, when the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the contempt citations against all the reporters except Gerth. In late July, attorneys for the other four journalists petitioned for a rehearing before the appeals court.
"I’m not going to speculate about whether or not we get a rehearing," says Risen’s attorney, Joel Kurtzberg. But he does point out that if the court does not agree to the petition, the next option to consider would be the US Supreme Court.
A CIVIL MATTER
Other recent attempts to breach source confidentiality via the courts have been related to criminal investigations: Plamegate involves a possible federal criminal violation, while Providence TV reporter Jim Taricani was sentenced to home confinement for refusing to reveal the source of a secret tape in a municipal corruption case. But reporters caught in the Wen Ho Lee saga are being asked to cough up confidential sources in a civil Privacy Act lawsuit, and journalism advocates see that as an even greater threat.
"It lowers the bar for when somebody in a civil lawsuit can demand, when a reporter must unmask a source," says Charles Tobin, an attorney representing Thomas.
Lee Levine, an attorney for Hebert and Drogin, says that "there’s an additional concern that the interest of a private litigant would be held to be more important than the journalist’s or source’s [right to confidentiality]."
In his petition for rehearing, Levine argued that given the DC Circuit’s ruling, "no reporter today could make a credible promise of confidentiality to a contemporary Deep Throat because any modern-day Watergate suspect or even convicted felon could file a Privacy Act suit and compel disclosure of the reporter’s confidential sources."
In fact, reporters could be compelled to testify in a Privacy Act suit filed by Steven Hatfill, the researcher whose name surfaced in connection with the investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people. Claiming he was the victim of leaks to the media, Hatfill sued the government under the Privacy Act and subpoenaed about a dozen news organizations. (Hatfill has also sued the New York Times for libel, litigation that had been dismissed but was reinstated by a federal appellate court in late July.)
For now, Hatfill has withdrawn the media subpoenas while his legal team pursues a full-fledged discovery strategy against the government. But he could still come after the news outlets later. In a brief filed in connection with the Wen Ho Lee case earlier this year, Hatfill’s lawyers argued that "neither the First Amendment nor the common law gives reporters or media enterprises any exemption from a citizen’s obligation to disclose evidence of illegal acts committed in his or her presence, including violations of the Privacy Act."
Judging the public’s attitude toward the complex issue of reporters and their confidential sources is a pretty tricky matter. In one survey touted as a good sign for the media, a May 2005 poll commissioned by the American Journalism Review and the First Amendment Center found that 69 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement, "Journalists should be allowed to keep a news source confidential.’"
Yet another survey taken around the same time by the University of Connecticut seems to fly in the face of those sentiments. In that poll, 57 percent of the general public voiced approval for the court ruling that forced Miller and Time magazine’s Matt Cooper to reveal their sources during the Plame investigation.
In their petitions for a rehearing in the Lee case, the journalists’ attorneys argued that specific circumstances relevant to their clients’ reporting should exempt them from the court’s ire. But they also focused on the broader dangers to journalism posed by Lee’s suit.
Hebert’s legal team argued that "[t]he authors of the Privacy Act ... would likely be among the most surprised and troubled to find that a statute aimed at combating the misuse of computer database technology has become a vehicle for imposing onerous sanctions on reporters for using normal journalistic methods to report about a matter of such obvious public importance as alleged nuclear espionage."
Thomas’s lawyers contended that "the trial court erroneously failed to require Dr. Lee to demonstrate that he had exhausted alternative sources for the information sought to be compelled from Pierre Thomas specifically." And the filing on behalf of Risen stated that "the newsworthiness of the stories published here outweighed any harm caused by any of the leaks."
In a potentially significant development, lawyers for the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus — an accomplished national-security reporter whose case has lagged procedurally behind those of the other Wen Ho Lee reporters — argued before US District Court judge Rosemary Collyer last week for the court to create a common-law application of a reporter’s privilege similar to attorney-client privilege. (Judge Jackson, who issued the August 2004 contempt rulings, has retired.)
"There’s no overriding public interest in compelling disclosure. That’s the main thing I argued to Judge Collyer," says Pincus’s attorney, Kevin Baine. "I argued that there was no substantial harm caused by any leak in this case."
It’s not clear how a favorable ruling by Collyer might affect other reporters already in contempt. But Kurtzberg says it could re-open the entire matter: "As a practical matter, we would likely have the opportunity to raise the argument with her — even if we lose at the appellate [level] — that we should have the benefit of that same argument."
In the meantime, the complicated, convoluted fight to protect the Wen Ho Lee sources goes on. And the stakes for investigative reporting and freedom of the press couldn’t be higher.
"The question really is whether or not reporters have the right to promise confidentiality to their sources and then abide by their promises," says Baine, suggesting that forcing journalists to choose between disclosure or incarceration isn’t a realistic alternative.
"In the long run that’s not a very secure basis for sources to operate on," Baine adds, "that reporters are going to be willing to go to jail."
Mark Jurkowitz can be reached at email@example.com
of the spores
TRENTON - Almost fours after killer Anthrax-laced letters were mailed from a Hamilton post office the FBI doesn’t have a clue that can crack the case.
The FBI has been tracking down leads as part of one of the most extensive investigations in its history, but every promising lead has gone nowhere.
"This globe-spanning investigation remains intensely active and broadly focused," Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office told The Washington Post last week.
"The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service remain steadfastly committed to the 22 victims of the attacks and to bring to justice those responsible."
Investigators have interviewed over 8,000 people on four continents in their quest for answers. Dozens of homes, office spaces, laboratories and other locations like a small pond in the rural Catoctin Mountains near the presidential retreat of Camp David have been searched and probed - still no solid clues have surfaced.
As the fourth anniversary of the anthrax attacks draws near the case is in desperate need of a big break, but the number of investigators is dwindling.
In the past year, 14 investigators have been pulled from the case and reassigned, as 21 FBI agents and 9 postal inspectors continue to probe the case.
FBI officials told The Washington Post last week that investigators are still working diligently to find whoever is responsible for the killer anthrax-laced mailings, which killed five people, sickened 17 others and led to the temporary shutdown of the House and Senate office buildings, the Supreme Court building and numerous postal facilities along the East Coast, including the John K. Rafferty Postal Facility in Hamilton.
Dr. Steven Hatfill, a bio-terrorism expert, is the only individual labeled a "person of interest" by the FBI.
Hatfill worked at the U.S. Army’s Fort Detrick, from 1997 to 1999.
Fort Detrick is home to the U.S. Army’s Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The facility is located outside of Frederick, Md., a nearby pond in the Catoctin Mountains was drained by the FBI in late 2003 in search of clues, but turned up nothing that could crack the case.
Hatfill has repeatedly denied any involvement in the killer anthrax-laced letters. He was hounded by the media and investigators, but he was never charged with any crime related to the mailings.
"He remains innocent today as he was four years ago," Hatfill’s attorney Thomas G. Connolly told The Washington Post last week.
"They were getting enormous pressure, and a way to alleviate the pressure was to offer someone up, and that person happened to be Dr. Hatfill," Connolly said. "That caused enormous harm to Dr. Hatfill. It didn’t advance their investigation one iota."
Last summer, the FBI raided the upstate New York home of Dr. Kenneth Berry, an emergency room physician and the founder of an anti-terrorism organization that trains medical professionals to respond to chemical and biological attacks.
The FBI also raided Berry’s parent’s Lavallette shore house which he vacationed inside the home. He was relocated to a Point Pleasant hotel where he subsequently got into a tiff with his wife and was charged with domestic violence.
Berry lost his job at the University of Pittsburgh Hospital emergency room shortly after the FBI began investigating him.
The FBI later said they were "not excited" about what was found in either of the Berry homes. He has not been charged by federal authorities for any role in the killer anthrax mailings.
In the nearly four years since the killer anthrax-laced letters were mailed from the Hamilton postal facility in September and October 2001, more than $1 billion has been spent cleaning up several postal facilities. The Hamilton facility was only reopened late last year.
The FBI and postal inspectors are currently putting the finishing touches on an internal report that is expect to list all "persons of interest," the latest results of lab testing and volumes of other important data.
But still no suspect has been charged in relationship to the killer anthrax letters.
The profile of the suspected culprit remains the same: a U.S.-based scientist with the knowledge and access to tamper with weapons-grade anthrax.
sues AMI over images in anthrax-tainted site
By Tania Valdemoro
Thursday, September 22, 2005
WEST PALM BEACH — Four years after anthrax attacks shuttered American Media Inc.'s former headquarters in Boca Raton, a freelance photographer is suing the tabloid publisher in federal court to retrieve more than 1,400 of his negatives, transparencies and prints contaminated with the deadly bacterium.
Greg Mathieson, a Washington-based photographer, seeks at least $2 million in damages, according to the suit filed this month. He alleges AMI failed to: return his work in its original condition; protect and insure his photos; compensate him for his losses; and keep accurate records. Mathieson further accused AMI of not telling him where his photos were or what condition they were in.
Mathieson shot photos of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Bruce Willis, Jacqueline Onassis, former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, and Princess Diana.
His is the first lawsuit filed by freelance photographers over the contaminated photos. Last year, they threatened to sue AMI and real estate investor David Rustine after they learned of Rustine's plans to incinerate the photos. Some photos are worth thousands of dollars, they say.
Rustine bought AMI's contaminated former headquarters and the building's contents, including a photo library containing 4.5 million images, for $40,000 in April 2003.
AMI says the lawsuit is baseless.
"The introduction of anthrax into our offices was a horrible crime that impacted our employees and the entire Boca Raton community," said spokesman Stu Zakim. "We think it's unfortunate Mr. Mathieson has decided to exploit this crime into an economic windfall. We believe his claim is entirely without merit, and we will vigorously defend this action."
Mathieson and his Miami attorneys, Kendall Coffee and Mark Journey, did not return several phone calls Wednesday.
The photographer has licensed photos to the Globe, Star and National Enquirer since 1985. Following a common industry practice, he let AMI keep his original photos so that the publisher could reuse them. As photos were republished, AMI paid him a licensing fee. Publishers such as AMI typically pay photographers $1,500 when their work is damaged, lost or destroyed, photographers said.
"I'm not surprised Mathieson is suing AMI," said Mark Reinstein, a freelance photographer whose work also is housed in the former AMI building. Reinstein exposed presidential adviser Dick Morris' affair with prostitute Sherry Rowlands in 1996 for Star.
"AMI basically walked away from that library," he said. "All those pictures were under their control and they said, 'See ya.' "
The Palm Beach County Health Department shut down the former AMI building following the death of Sun photo editor Bob Stevens of anthrax inhalation in October 2001.
Rustine hired BioONE to fumigate the building, which it did in July 2004. BioONE began decontaminating 8,500 boxes of anthrax-laden materials stored in the building's basement — about 2,500 boxes contained photos — in mid-April. The company's contract with Rustine expired May 31. At the time, BioONE officials said they had cleaned thousands of boxes.
Rustine then hired BioONE's rival, MARCOR Remediation, to begin the cleanup from scratch. But the project has not resumed, John O'Malley, a health department official, said this week. "Both sides are working to finalize a new cleanup agreement."
sues tabloid publisher over unreturned images from anthrax building
By Missy Stoddard
A freelance photographer has sued American Media Inc., claiming the Boca Raton-based tabloid publisher owes him at least $2 million for more than 1,400 images that have yet to be returned to him after AMI's building was contaminated with anthrax in 2001, according to a federal lawsuit filed earlier this month.
Photographer Greg Mathieson alleges that AMI has numerous images of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Bruce Willis, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Princess Diana and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. AMI publishes The National Enquirer, Star and Globe, among other magazines.
AMI photo editor Bob Stevens died Oct. 5, 2001, after inhaling anthrax from a contaminated letter. Since then, according to the lawsuit, Mathieson has tried repeatedly to retrieve negatives, transparencies and prints of his work.
Mathieson says he was assured his work was stored in a vault, which he says he later learned was nothing more than a room referred to as such by AMI staff. A licensing agreement between Mathieson and AMI states that each time one of Mathieson's images was to be published, he was to receive a licensing fee, the complaint states. AMI typically compensates photographers $1,500 per damaged, lost or destroyed image. Mathieson's suit alleges that AMI recovered millions in insurance claims, but has refused to compensate Mathieson or his company, MAI Photo News Agency.
Since Crown Companies purchased the AMI building and its contents in 2003, Mathieson alleges that he has been unable to recover his photographs. AMI cleaned and removed selected documents but made no attempt to decontaminate Mathieson's work, the lawsuit claims. In 2004, David Rustine, a principal of Crown Companies, told Mathieson that cleaning the pictures would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and probably wouldn't work anyway, according to the complaint. AMI told Mathieson in April 2004 that he would have to pay to retrieve and decontaminate the images.
Neither AMI nor Rustine could be reached for comment Thursday, despite attempts by phone. Mathieson said he had no comment. His Miami attorney, Mark Journey, said Mathieson doesn't know if AMI still has his photographs, but he plans to find out.
"He wants the pictures back if possible, but if he can't, he wants to be compensated per the agreement," Journey said.
Cleanup of the building is not done, according to John O'Malley of the Palm Beach County Health Department. After a contract dispute with another company, Crown retained Marcor Remediation, which must submit a health and safety plan for its workers as well as how the building will be treated. Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, will review those plans. The Health Department has a quarantine on the building until it's notified that it is safe to reopen.
Missy Stoddard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-832-2895.
terrorists outfox the FBI
FOUR years after the deadly 2001
anthrax attacks, which brought fresh terror to the US days after the September
11 hijackings, the biggest criminal investigation in American history has
Bob Stevens, a British picture editor from Berkshire who worked in Boca Raton, Florida, was one of five people who died in and seventeen who became ill in September and October 2001, after coming into contact with a weapons-grade strain of anthrax posted to media organisations and the offices of two Democratic senators in Washington.
His widow, Maureen, who believes that the anthrax came from a government biodefence laboratory in Maryland, spoke yesterday of her anger and frustration at the failure of the FBI to make an arrest in the case. She is suing the Government for $30 million (nearly £17 million), alleging that security lapses at the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick led to her husband’s death. Much of her case is aimed at getting leading bioterrorism experts to testify in court.
“There’s nothing coming out — it’s just amazing,” Mrs Stevens said. “I’ve had one meeting with the FBI. I have had little communication with them. I would have thought they wanted to talk more.”
She said that she found the case difficult to talk about, because of anger and other emotions, and that she and her lawyer were “just meeting a stone wall”.
The failure to make one arrest in the case has astounded and dismayed many Americans. FBI agents and officials from the Postal Inspection Service have conducted more than 8,000 interviews on four continents and served more than 5,000 subpoenas. They have travelled to Afghanistan twice.
In the past year, the FBI says, the number of agents on the case has dropped from 31 to 21, a far cry from the hundreds assigned to the investigation in its early weeks. Despite a $2.5 million reward for information leading to a conviction, the case “is going nowhere”, a former investigator said. The favoured theory has remained consistent: that the culprit is an American scientist who had access to the anthrax.
Spore-laden letters were posted on September 18 and October 9, 2001, to media organisations in New York and Florida, and to the offices of Tom Daschle, then the Senate Democratic leader, and a colleague, Senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont. Five people were killed — Mr Stevens and two postal workers, and also a New York hospital worker and an elderly Connecticut woman, whose deaths were not a direct result of the mail attacks.
Panic gripped Washington, with the Senate, House of Representatives, Supreme Court building and numerous postal facilities being shut down. The letters included photocopied notes referring to the September 11 attacks and Islamic rhetoric.
Investigators soon determined that the anthrax used was the Ames strain, most commonly used in American biodefence research. Attention focused on Fort Detrick, and in particular on Steven Hatfill, an American biodefence expert who worked at the facility between 1997 and 1999. Dr Hatfill, who has not been charged and fiercely denies any involvement, was named as a “person of interest” by John Ashcroft, then the Attorney-General.
Numerous tips have proved fruitless. Two years ago the FBI spent three weeks draining a pond near Fort Detrick, believing that the culprit may have discarded materials there. The pond yielded nothing.
Another tip, apparently from an inmate in Guantanamo Bay, led agents to fly to Kabul, the Afghan capital, in May last year, and then to the Kandahar mountains — but nothing was found. US scientists have still not been able to identify the laboratory from which the anthrax came, but other facilities have been investigated, including one at Louisiana State University and another in Utah.
DEATH IN THE POST
Sept 25, 2001 Erin O’Connor, an assistant to an NBC journalist, opens a letter postmarked Trenton, New Jersey, containing a brown granular substance
Oct 5 Bob Stevens, picture editor of the Sun newspaper, dies in Boca Raton, Florida. Traces of anthrax are found on his computer keyboard
Oct 10 Anthrax is found in a sorting office that handles post for the White House
Oct 12 A case of anthrax is reported in New York City; O’Connor becomes the first person to test positive for skin anthrax
Oct 15 A letter containing anthrax is received by Tom Daschle, the leader of the United States Senate
Oct 21 and 22 Two male postal workers at the office in Washington that sorts post for Capitol Hill die
Oct 29 Fresh anthrax spores are detected at the Supreme Court, prompting justices to meet outside the building for the first time in its 66-year history
army plans to bulk-buy anthrax
* 10:00 24
THE US military wants to buy large quantities of anthrax, in a controversial move that is likely to raise questions over its commitment to treaties designed to limit the spread of biological weapons.
A series of contracts have been uncovered that relate to the US army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. They ask companies to tender for the production of bulk quantities of a non-virulent strain of anthrax, and for equipment to produce significant volumes of other biological agents.
Issued earlier this year, the contracts were discovered by Edward Hammond, director of the Sunshine Project, a US-German organisation that campaigns against the use of biological and chemical weapons.
One "biological services" contract
specifies: "The company must have the ability and be willing to grow Bacillus
anthracis Sterne strain at 1500-litre quantities." Other contracts are
for fermentation equipment for producing 3000-litre batches of an unspecified
biological agent, and sheep carcasses to test the efficiency of an incinerator
for the disposal of infected livestock.
Although the Sterne strain is not thought to be harmful to humans and is used for vaccination, the contracts have caused major concern.
"It raises a serious question over how the US is going to demonstrate its compliance with obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention if it brings these tanks online," says Alan Pearson, programme director for biological and chemical weapons at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington DC. "If one can grow the Sterne strain in these units, one could also grow the Ames strain, which is quite lethal."
The US renounced biological weapons in 1969, but small quantities of lethal anthrax were still being produced at Dugway as recently as 1998.
It is not known what use the biological
agents will be put to. They could be used to test procedures to decontaminate
vehicles or buildings, or to test an "agent defeat" warhead designed to
destroy stores of chemical and biological weapons.
There are even fears that they could be used to determine how effectively anthrax is dispersed when released from bombs or crop-spraying aircraft. "I can definitely see them testing biological weapons delivery systems for threat assessment," says Hammond.
Whatever use it is put to, however, the move could be seen as highly provocative by other nations, he says. "What would happen to the Biological Weapons Convention if other countries followed suit and built large biological production facilities at secretive military bases known for weapons testing?"
A spokesperson for Dugway said the anthrax contract is still at the pre-solicitation stage, and the base has not yet acquired the agent. They refused to say what it will be used for.
labs help national center create plan to fight bioterrorism
By Sue Vorenberg
You can tell a lot about a biological terrorist by looking at their garbage.
Problem is, their garbage is much smaller than most people's. Typically it's made up of chunks of metal, chemicals and organisms that are 10 times smaller than a red blood cell.
Getting useful tips from such biochemical soup left over from an anthrax, plague or botulism toxin attack might sound like an impossible task, but scientists at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories are able to find many of them.
Both labs have started creating groups of expert scientists and unique technologies to help the federal government build its abilities in the relatively new field of bioforensics. The goal is to be prepared for an attack so terrorists can be captured quickly, said Luke Brewer, a Sandia bioforensic scientist.
"The idea is to create a tool kit for any future bioterror incidents," Brewer said. "We want to answer questions about how a weapon was made, where it was made, how it was used."
Sandia and Los Alamos are working with other labs in the Department of Energy complex to help create the Department of Homeland Security's new $4 million National Bioforensic Analysis Center in Maryland. The labs are pooling resources to create a battle plan and strategy for the center to fight biological attackers.
"We have several unique capabilities in specialty areas that aren't ready to be transferred to the national center because all of this is so new," said Babetta Marrone, a bioforensic scientist at Los Alamos. "There are a lot of approaches we can use to track information about a sample. For example, we can analyze the DNA of a strain of anthrax, get a genetic signature - like a fingerprint - and tell what part of the world that strain came from."
Los Alamos has a database full of genetic maps of different types of anthrax that can be quickly referenced through a lab supercomputer, she added.
If an attack were to happen, samples could be sent to New Mexico to take advantage of the technology and expertise at the state's two labs, Marrone said.
"Some samples could be sent here, although we can't take certain types of biological agents because we don't have a high enough level bio safety lab," she said.
Still that doesn't necessarily rule out samples of the leftover junk coming to the labs, Marrone and Brewer said.
Both Sandia and Los Alamos have several instruments that can look at tiny chemical components and shapes inside tiny samples.
"If I see a stainless steel particle in the garbage that comes with the sample, then that tells me something about the kind of containers it was processed in," Brewer said. "It's not just about the main organism used in an attack - it's about all the other stuff that comes with it. If you look through that stuff you can find a lot of clues that can lead you back to the attacker."
One way to tease information from a sample is by firing a stream of electrons at it and reading the information that bounces back, Brewer explained.
"We drag our beam back and forth like someone would drag their finger over braille writing," Brewer said. "Then we feed that into a computer and it pulls out what's in the sample just like pulling a needle out of a haystack."
With the increasing risk of global terrorism, pooling resources into a new department makes sense, although ultimately the technologies might move completely into the new Maryland-based Analysis Center, Brewer said.
"The idea is not to be caught off-guard," Brewer said. "We want to have tools set in place so if we have an incident we can quickly find the people that did this, apprehend them and prosecute them."
by Karen Fleming-Michael
The Center for Aerobiological Sciences will allow researchers to test the effectiveness of biodefense vaccines, drugs and diagnostics by permitting aerosol, or inhalation, challenges on animals. The center's design boasts the latest in technology.
A dozen community and media members had a chance to see the newest lab and the inner workings of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases Sept. 20.
Expected to open in a month, the Center for Aerobiological Sciences will allow researchers to test the effectiveness of biodefense vaccines, drugs and diagnostics by permitting aerosol, or inhalation, challenges on animals.
"The new laboratory is designed as a state-of-the-art facility with ideas that were generated from decades' worth of hands-on experience," said Col. George Korch, commander since June of the institute, better known by its acronym, USAMRIID.
The aerobiology center will help prove to the Food and Drug Administration that the medical countermeasures the institute's researchers create really work. Inside the metal and glass chambers, researchers will help develop animal models so medical countermeasures against bioterrorism agents can earn approval under the FDA's animal rule. In effect since 2002, the rule permits the FDA to approve vaccines and drugs that can't ethically be tested in humans if they're shown safe and effective in two relevant animal models.
"This is the unique challenge that we have: to develop animal models that are relevant, that are similar to the disease that we find in humans and to challenge with aerosols... This lab has been custom designed with that mission in mind," said Dr. Louise Pitt, the center's director and one of its designers.
When working with aerosols, there needs to be "dedicated laboratories and trained personnel to conduct these types of experiments. (This lab is) the U.S.'s most valuable laboratory for performing this type of work," Korch said. "The nation is depending on USAMRIID to be able to continue its outstanding record of aerobiology work because it is essential to product development."
In creating the aerobiology center, the designers were "pushing the boundaries of science, product development and facility design," the colonel said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluated the facility the week of Sept. 12. In fact before the facility opens, it will have undergone two rigorous, independent safety inspections, one from the CDC and the other from the Department of the Army.
The center's design boasts the latest in technology. A new autoclave cuts the chore of decontaminating cages from three days to three hours.
Designers also adapted the newest technology being used in other labs, "but this is the first time it's been incorporated for biocontainment," Pitt said.
The lab design will change lab processes for the better, said Roger Williams, a biological sciences technician who has worked in aerobiology for six years.
"Most of the time you have to bring the animal out of the Class III biosafety cabinet or hood covered by a decontamination cloth, and then we carry them to the animal room," he said. "With these transporters, they're going to come right into and off the hood line and ... whoever is in the animal room will be able to take the animal out" of the transporter and back to the cage. For researchers on the experiment side of the house, this means they won't handle the exposed animals at all.
"It'll be a really nice lab to be working in. We'll be able to work smarter and safer," Williams said.
The center, Korch said, will continue the legacy of USAMRIID's safety record, which is a result of engineering controls, laboratory controls and equipment and the mandatory training personnel must undergo before working with biological agents.
"The safety record for 35 years, when you (have) anywhere from 200 to 300 people working in the suites over the course of a year times the number of hours times the years, you can see that the safety record here is outstanding," he said.
Before arriving at the aerobiology center, the Tuesday morning tour visited the institute's "slammer," where laboratory personnel are quarantined for observation after a possible accidental exposure to a dangerous pathogen, for example, by a needle stick. The crowd also made a stop outside the Department of Homeland Security's National Bioforensics Analysis Center as well as a high-containment laboratory where researchers work on viruses like Ebola and Marburg.
The institute's scientists, Korch said, have generated at least one new medical countermeasure or candidate countermeasure each year over the past 15 years and routinely partner with industry, academia, government agencies and foreign governments to develop countermeasures.
Because of its reputation for excellence in biodefense research, the institute will serve as the cornerstone for the National Interagency Biodefense Campus. The campus will co-locate laboratories from four cabinet-level organizations at Fort Detrick "to pool the research to protect the nation," said Col. Mary Deutsch, commander of Fort Detrick's garrison. "The dirt moving on Fort Detrick is bringing the other labs to life now. The bulldozers are moving every day to bring to fruition (that) dream that was crafted" in 2001.
Having the group visit the institute also provided an opportunity to recognize the unsung heroes and years of work that go into the eventual products, said Brig. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick.
"By the time you get a chance to see the results, no one can see or celebrate the intermediary heroes who worked for decades to bring them to fruition," he said.
out of work since anthrax probe
By Tony LaRussa
A former doctor at a McKeesport hospital whose homes were searched in the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks is living on unemployment in New Jersey, according to a longtime friend.
Dr. Kenneth Berry, 48, who once claimed to have powerful connections in the federal government and founded a company advocating training of medical professionals for a bioterror attack, had worked as an emergency room physician at UPMC McKeesport. He was put on leave shortly after the search, and his employment ended Nov. 8, 2004. Hospital officials would not elaborate.
"Life has not been very easy for Dr. Berry during the past year," said the Rev. Richard Helms, of Wellsville, N.Y., an independent evangelical pastor who ministers over the Internet and has known Berry for about 10 years. "Let's face it: His life was turned upside down.
"Who's going to hire him with this thing hanging over his head? It's a very unfair situation," Helms said.
Berry, who could not be reached for comment, has not been charged, and the FBI has made no arrests in the attacks. Berry's lawyer has said the doctor had nothing to do with the anthrax mailings.
Michael A. Mason, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office, wrote last week in the Washington Post that the agency and the Postal Inspection Service believe the case will be solved. Mason wrote that agents "go the extra mile in pursuit of every lead" and described the effort as one of the largest, most complex investigations in law enforcement history.
Beginning Sept. 18, 2001, letters containing anthrax-laced powder were mailed to several prominent politicians and media outlets over several weeks. The mailings killed five people, caused serious illnesses to 17 others and led to the closing of congressional and other federal offices, including several postal facilities, in Washington, New York and New Jersey.
Berry received three patents related to bioterrorism. One involves a system that would detect a biological attack through a sensor system, which would seal a building. Another was for a system that would identify attacks over a wide area. That patent application was filed only days after the first anthrax letters were processed.
Berry founded PREEMPT Medical Counter-Terrorism, an organization that trains medical professionals to respond to chemical and biological attacks.
At UPMC McKeesport, Berry typically worked four or five shifts in a row, then spent five days at home in Wellsville, N.Y. Berry, who obtained his medical degree at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, also worked at Jones Memorial Hospital, a 70-bed hospital south of Buffalo, from November 1996 until October 2001.
In August 2004, dozens of FBI agents and postal inspectors -- many dressed in protective suits -- searched Berry's Wellsville home as part of the anthrax investigation. Federal agents also searched Berry's car parked at the Connellsville Airport in Fayette County, where his former wife and two children live, and questioned his former neighbors there. Agents also searched his parents' vacation home in Ocean City, N.J.
Helms said he speaks with Berry regularly and provides him with spiritual counseling. He said the doctor is cooperating with the FBI and hopes to be cleared of any suspicion.
"I don't know that anything they (the FBI) do will give him back what he lost, but that would be a start. That would be nice," Helms said.
The FBI has conducted more than 5,200 interviews in connection with its investigation, dubbed Amerithrax.
Berry is one of two doctors to lose their jobs after becoming entangled in the anthrax investigation.
Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a bioterrorism expert, was fired from his job at Louisiana State University in September 2004 after the FBI called him "a person of interest" in the anthrax probe.
After his dismissal, Hatfill filed a defamation lawsuit against the government, claiming that several employees, including then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, violated his civil rights by publicly naming him in connection with the anthrax case.
Like Berry, Hatfill has not been charged.
Tony LaRussa can be reached at email@example.com
Politics With a Disaster
By Cliff Kincaid | October 4, 2005
The media Bush-bashing on the matter of Hurricane Katrina was somewhat to be expected. But we were shocked to read the "respected" Washington Post columnist David Broder giving readers a history lesson of how other presidents bounced back from disasters. "We have seen this before," said Broder. "Bill Clinton was foundering in his third year in office when the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City shocked the nation and set the stage for his flawless performance of the symbolic rites of healing and comfort for the victims."
Flawless performance? First of all, Clinton went around the country trying to blame the bombing on conservative talk radio. He shamelessly politicized the event so that he could politically profit from it. Clinton had charged that there are "purveyors of hate and division" on U.S. airwaves who "leave the impression, by their very words, that violence is acceptable."
Bryant Gumbel, then co-host on the NBC News Today show, reported that "The bombing in Oklahoma City has focused renewed attention on the rhetoric that's been coming from the right and those who cater to angry white men. While no one's suggesting right-wing radio jocks approve of violence, the extent to which their approach fosters violence is being questioned by many observers, including the president…"
Gumbel said that "Right-wing talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Bob Grant, Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy, Michael Reagan and others take to the air every day with basically the same format: Detail a problem, blame the government or a group, and invite invective from like-minded people."
That approach-detail a problem, blame the government, and invite invective from like-minded people, sounds like what the media are trying to do to President Bush in the wake of the Katrina disaster. But this approach to Bush is deemed perfectly acceptable.
The twist in the Oklahoma City case is that the "angry white men" blamed for the bombing, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, are seen by many as part of a much larger conspiracy. The best book on this subject is The Third Terrorist, by Jayna Davis.
The FBI also used the "white guy did it" profile in going after the Washington, D.C.-area sniper. It turned out it was two black guys. The "white guy did it" profile is also why the FBI pursued Steven Hatfill in the anthrax case, despite evidence implicating al Qaeda.
Broder's praise of Clinton's shameful performance after Oklahoma City demonstrates how a major figure in American journalism can completely get the facts wrong. Or else he decided to ignore the facts. Either way, he ought to retire.
Holds the Media Accountable?
By Cliff Kincaid | October 5, 2005
NBC Today Show host Tim Russert says that the media's tough questioning of federal officials about the Katrina disaster reflects the need for government accountability. After all, he says, the federal government is supposed to protect people from things like this. Oh really? Then why have there been no media demands for accountability from the FBI for not having solved the post-9/11 anthrax attacks? It's been four years and the case is still unsolved.
The answer is that the FBI used the media to mislead the public into thinking that the case was being solved when the bureau publicly and falsely fingered former scientist Steven Hatfill as a "person of interest" or possible suspect. Hatfill has sued the government and the media for their role in destroying his life and career and letting the real perpetrators of the attacks go free. So, in this case, there are no demands for government accountability from the media because the media were complicit in the government misconduct.
The difference between the anthrax case and the Katrina disaster is that the media can use the latter for obvious political purposes to damage President Bush. In the anthrax case, a Bush appointee to run the FBI, Robert Mueller, had been on the job for only a few days when 9/11 occurred.
The media's complicity in the FBI's misconduct in the Hatfill case demonstrates why reporters are not entitled to a special federal media shield law to protect their government sources. Such a law would enable the media to protect the identities of the government agents who were behind the false accusations against Hatfill. Shouldn't these agents be identified and held accountable? Or isn't Tim Russert concerned about government accountability in this case? If not, why not?
The notion that reporters have suddenly become concerned about government accountability in the Katrina disaster doesn't ring true. And in this case it doesn't make a lot of sense.
Insisting that he was trying to hold officials accountable, Russert was anxious on his September 4 program to blame the federal government alone for the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff appeared on the show only to be badgered by Russert about resigning and "accountability."
But one has to wonder what the impact would be if the federal official directing the relief effort were to suddenly quit, in response to Russert's demand. Then the media would have something else to complain about. Then the media would charge that Chertoff had left the department short-handed at a time of crisis when he should be helping people.
Speaking of accountability, no heads rolled after NBC put on a September 2nd Hurricane relief program that itself turned into a disaster. The program, designed to raise money for victims, showed a rapper named Kanye West making the reckless and absurd charge that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." NBC dismissed the inflammatory and racially polarizing comments by saying that he didn't follow the script and was giving viewers his "opinion."
Speaking of accountability, a better use of time might be to ask local and state officials why dozens of city school buses weren't used to evacuate poor blacks and whites from the city. An AP photo showed the buses partly underwater after the levee broke. Was this supposed to be Bush's fault, too?
Russert's background as a Democratic Party operative is showing through.
Russert did bring up the matter of the unused busses when he interviewed New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on September 11. Nagin said he didn't have any drivers. The interview was decidedly different than the one he had conducted on September 11 with Michael Chertoff. While Russert asked Chertoff if he would resign over alleged federal lapses, he didn't ask Nagin to resign. Nagin, you see, is a Democrat.
Article published Friday, October 14, 2005
Toledo postal center installs biohazard-detection system
By KARAMAGI RUJUMBA
A biohazard detection system that could quickly identify anthrax or another deadly chemical agent has been installed at the U.S. Postal Service's Toledo Processing and Distribution Center.
"Before the 2001 anthrax attacks, we never envisioned that we would need to become biohazard experts," said Ray Jacobs, a postal service spokesman.
But he said the federal government has spent more than $971 million since 2002 to install biohazard detection systems in distribution and mail processing centers nationwide.
The filter system, a three-stage pump on the processing floor of the distribution center at 435 South St. Clair St., is designed for a detection-and-containment approach, said Gary Schultz, the facility's emergency manager.
Mr. Schultz said samples of air are collected as mail moves through a canceling machine, and airborne particles are absorbed into a sterile water base, which creates a liquid sample that can be tested. The liquid sample is injected into a cartridge, and an automated test for a DNA match is performed.
He said the Toledo mail processing and distribution center handles 1.8 million to 2 million pieces of mail a day.
While the automated process is not designed to identify a particular piece of contaminated mail, it can make a positive match for the presence of anthrax or other chemical agents in the plant within 38 minutes of contamination, said Bruce Connor, a postal service inspector.
Mr. Connor said all the mail going through the screening process is local mail because "the theory of this system is to test the mail as early in the processing system" as possible.
Once a positive match is made, what follows is a series of laboratory tests to confirm the results, at which time the federal Department of Homeland Security is notified, and steps are taken to secure the plant and notify the public and emergency responders, Mr. Jacobs said.
"I feel a lot safer now," said Peter Fisher, a mail handler who has worked at the Toledo processing and distribution center for 19 years.
"This greatly minimizes the risk when you consider the capability of putting a chemical weapon through our mail system," said Michael Wolever, Toledo's assistant fire chief.
Also at yesterday's unveiling of the biohazard detection system were Lucas County Sheriff James Telb, Toledo Fire Chief Mike Bell, and Dr. David Grossman, Lucas County health commissioner.
Postal Service has new anthrax watchdog
By JIM SABIN
LIMA — The U.S. Postal Service has installed a new technology to detect anthrax, but it’s not the same technology the service first used four years ago in Lima to destroy the toxin.
Service representatives unveiled the new Biohazard Detection System at the Lima distribution center, demonstrating a technology that will be installed in every distribution center around the nation by the end of next month. Most of the centers already have the system, said Ray Jacobs, communications programs specialist for the Postal Service.
“The strategy was to reduce the risk,” added Jan Bruns, plant manager for the distribution center. “We actually have two different systems.”
One of the systems checks each piece of envelope-sized mail generated in the center’s cover-age area for anthrax by taking air samples just after the mail is processed. Pieces of mail run through high-speed “pinch points,” in which they were fired through the system by fast-spinning rollers.
Those rollers would force any powder, such as anthrax, from the envelope into the air, where it can now be detected early, Bruns said. A separate system is dedicated to containing the mail if an alert is sounded.
“This was all developed in 2001 to prevent or contain anthrax spores,” Bruns said.
Anthrax made national news when several letters were mailed to Washington, D.C., and New York City, causing the deaths of postal workers. One Washington-area mail center shut down and sent all of its mail to Lima, where it was irradiated by a sterilization process at Titan Scan Technologies, on Fourth Street.
At the time, Titan Scan sold eight $40 million machines to the government for use directly at post offices, but the technology provided by Titan and other companies proved too expensive and dangerous, said Postal Inspector Bruce Conner.
“We found that was not practical, and it was even dangerous,” Conner said. A scanner from another company actually ignited some 200 pieces of mail, he said. “The practical side of that was terrible, it was expensive, and it was dangerous to employees.”
Instead, the entire national system was installed for $48 million, he said.
Some 125 truckloads of mail were treated in Lima, but few remain at the little plant that handled them. The Lima facility was bought by Beam One earlier this year.
The new process doesn’t have any adverse effect on the mail, and it can be tweaked to detect up to nine other substances, Conner said.
“We have our guardian at the gate, so to speak,” he said.
The system only works on envelopes; larger packages would be damaged by the types of rollers used, Conner said. The Lima system will only be used on mail generated locally; mail coming in from the outside will be checked at its original distribution center.
Comment by Laura Rosen
When I was a cub investigative reporter chasing the anthrax investigation story several years ago, I remember being confused about one aspect of the coverage of that still unsolved case. At one point in the winter/spring of 2002, it was becoming evident that the FBI was shifting its focus of investigation from foreign sources as the likely perpetrators of the anthrax attacks that killed five people in the fall of 2001, to US domestic sources, in particular those with a connection to the US government biodefense program (for a variety of reasons I won't go into here). But the NYT's Judith Miller, who was perhaps the country's leading journalistic authority on bioweapons, and who had recently won a Pulitzer prize for her book Germs, and who had established close ties with several members of the US government bioweapons and biodefense community for research for her book, simply wouldn't report out what was really happening with the investigation, e.g. that players in the highly secretive and compartmentalized US government biodefense program were becoming a main focus of the investigation. It was hard at the time to not wonder if her close relationship to her sources in the US government program hadn't steered her away from what the rest of us were finding and reporting.
As it happens, the story isn't as neat as that, because now the FBI is reportedly being interviewed by lawyers for a person who accuses former Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI of outing him as a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation to the media. And strangely enough, who is one journalist who the FBI agents are reportedly being interviewed about whether they leaked to? That would be Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, who had written a column about the "person of interest" (using a pseudonym for the person, Z).
Fast forward a year. Kristof writes a column in May 2003 sourced anonymously by Joe Wilson that alleges Wilson checked out the Iraq-Niger yellowcake allegations and found them to be likely false. And Cheney's office orchestrates its retaliation. Miller is appealed to when she appears for an interview on the missing WMD with Libby.
There's a history here... It's kind of interesting. I think it's simply very hard for institutions to investigate themselves, given the hundreds of small personal histories such as this one that form any work place. Think about it. Do any of us think George Bush can launch an honest investigation of his administration's Katrina response failures? Of course not. No preaching here, just pointing out the human relationships that make up an institution as complex as the Times are not likely much different than those at any other institution that we wouldn't expect to tear itself apart investigating itself. Heck, the Republican-led Congress can't even seem to bring itself to investigate the GOP-led executive branch on matters of life and death, war and peace, its party loyalties being stronger than its Constitutional mandate to serve as a check and balance on executive authority.
But there's another element worth exploring here. And it is that it was genuinely disturbing to even someone like myself pretty early along in their career back then that Miller's relationship with her US government sources was a big determining issue in what she chose to share with Times' readers. I mean, whether or not she agreed with the focus of the investigation, the fact of what was being investigated by the US government in terms of a WMD attack that killed Americans for the first time in history was a story. And there was just very little from someone who had extraordinary access.
But the relationship was not all
one way. Judy Miller did favors for her US government sources. But she
expected something in return. A status different from the rest of her colleagues.
Access far beyond anything afforded her colleagues. Whether or not a top
Pentagon official actually granted her a "Secret" security clearance, and
I am persuaded to believe that someone high up did, Miller was trying to
forge just that kind of situation, which of course, was an impossible one.
Wanted, dead or alive: Where's bin Laden now?
By Peter S. Canellos, Globe Columnist | October 18, 2005
WASHINGTON -- It's been four years since President Bush, in the first days after the worst terrorist attack on US soil, declared: ''I want justice. And there's an old poster out West . . . I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.' "
That ringing call referred to Osama bin Laden, whose desire to destroy the United States has now been the basis for billions of dollars in security planning, a war in Afghanistan, and nuclear nightmares that continue to disturb the sleep of millions of Americans.
Bin Laden, of course, has not been caught. Nor has Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan, who harbored bin Laden as he plotted the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nor has Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden's top lieutenant. Nor has the anthrax terrorist who paralyzed Washington in 2001. Nor has Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man responsible for beheadings in Iraq.
The United States, of course, has captured many other Al Qaeda leaders, the most important being Khalid Sheik Muhammad, the leading 9/11 plotter, who was widely considered to be Al Qaeda's third-ranking leader. The United States also has tracked down most of the Iraqi leaders pictured on playing cards distributed everywhere from Tikrit to gas stations on I-95.
Tomorrow, the former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, is scheduled to go on trial, in an event that is considered crucial to healing Iraq's wounds.
But the failure to capture so many of the people responsible for attacks on Americans has to be considered a disappointment. As years have passed, with few reports of progress in the inquiries involving bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, and the anthrax killer, high-ranking officials largely have stopped talking about them. And the public, from talk-radio shouters to the most devout Internet conspiracy theorists, has been strangely muted as well.
It's as if all of America recognizes the stakes in capturing these terrorist leaders, yet it doesn't want to confront the fact that so many hunts have been fruitless.
But as Hussein's trial proves yet again the cathartic effect of bringing a wrongdoer to justice, Americans will no doubt have occasion to wish for the capture of other demons.
And it may be useful to bring the manhunt for bin Laden and others back into the spotlight, since specific factors seem to be undermining each case.
Dan Benjamin, a former National Security Council official in the Clinton Administration and a coauthor of the new book ''The Next Attack," argues that the search for bin Laden has been hampered by a diversion of resources to Iraq, and by some measure of deference to Pakistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding. ''Given the diversion of resources early in 2002, given the way we've played the relationship with Pakistan, it's not surprising that we haven't found bin Laden," Benjamin said in an interview.
The same factors would have hampered the search for al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar.
The anthrax attacker, however, is now believed by most authorities to be unrelated to Islamic fundamentalism, a domestic terrorist who sought to capitalize on the wave of fear following Sept. 11, 2001.
That fact puts him or her in a different category -- one made all the more mysterious as the attacks have stopped, and as the trail, apparently, has grown cold.
The failure to capture Zarqawi is less a mystery than proof of the difficulty of tracking down a stealth warrior.
Back when Hussein was in charge of Iraq, Zarqawi traveled to Baghdad for two months of medical treatment.
Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell has cited Zarqawi's visit to Baghdad as proof of Iraq's complicity with Al Qaeda, presumably because Hussein's regime could easily have captured him, if it weren't secretly cooperating with terrorists.
''Iraq officials deny accusations of ties with Al Qaeda," Powell told the United Nations, referring to Zarqawi. ''These denials are simply not credible."
But the United States has been in Iraq for 2 1/2 years and still hasn't been able to collar Zarqawi, who, far from hiding out, has been conducting brazen attacks on Iraqi citizens and coalition forces.
His continued ability to menace US and Iraqi citizens reveals how badly Americans underestimated the difficulty of capturing terror leaders.
But the difficulty, and the discomfort it causes to all Americans, are not reasons to allow these manhunts to fade into the fringes of national debate: One way to celebrate Hussein's coming to justice would be to redouble efforts to capture other mass murderers.
Dead or alive.
Peter S. Canellos is the Globe's Washington bureau chief. National Perspective is his weekly analysis of events in the capital and beyond.
Libel suit against Times in anthrax case to proceed
4th Circuit refuses to rehear appeal, sending matter to lower court
BY TOM CAMPBELL
Oct 19, 2005
A 6-6 vote by the federal appeals court in Richmond yesterday allowed a former Army scientist to proceed with a libel lawsuit claiming The New York Times defamed him by falsely insinuating he was responsible for deadly anthrax mailings in 2001.
The decision, with one judge not participating, of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means the case will go back to the U.S. District Court in Alexandria for further proceedings. Dr. Steven J. Hatfill's suit was filed in July 2004 and was dismissed by Judge Claude M. Hilton before trial.
Hilton ruled that the columns in question, by Nicholas Kristof, were not defamatory under Virginia law. He said also that statements at issue in the columns did not support Hatfill's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Hatfill appealed, and on July 28 a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 to reverse Hilton. Judge Dennis W. Shedd and Chief Judge William W. Wilkins voted in the majority, while Judge Paul V. Niemeyer dissented. The Times sought a rehearing by the panel or by the full court.
The narrow decision against rehearing came with a strong dissenting opinion by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, who wrote that the panel majority "has read Virginia law aggressively to permit a wide array of defamation suits against news organizations."
The panel opinion is binding in federal courts in the 4th Circuit, which includes Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Maryland.
The Kristof columns at issue, which ran in 2002, expressed opinions that the FBI investigation into the anthrax mailings was going too slowly and reported assertions that pointed to Hatfill.
"These columns were hard-hitting, to be sure, but they did not forsake the essential balance that our law requires," Wilkinson wrote.
Wilkinson, who spent three years as editorial-page editor at The Virginian-Pilot newspaper, worried about the chilling effect this decision may have on the press. "The consequences of this decision for the First Amendment run deep," he warned.
"[The Times] may well possess the resources necessary for protracted litigation, but smaller dailies and weeklies in our circuit most assuredly do not," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson said columnists should be able to "comment and comment vigorously -- on whether law enforcement is properly carrying out those responsibilities with which it is charged. Bureaucracies have been known to be both sluggish and inept, and it is not only the prerogative, but the duty, of news organizations to insist that those agencies get off the dime."
Judges M. Blane Michael and Robert B. King joined Wilkinson's dissent.
Contact Tom Campbell at (804) 649-6416 or firstname.lastname@example.org
October 19, 2005
Appeals court denies to rehear libel lawsuit against NY Times
RICHMOND, Va. A federal appeals court has denied to rehear a libel lawsuit against the New York Times filed by a former Army scientist who claims one of the paper's columnists unfairly linked him to the 2001 anthrax killings.
Steven Hatfill sued the Times for a series of columns written in 2002 by Nicholas Kristof that faulted the F-B-I for failing to thoroughly investigate Hatfill for the 2001 anthrax mailings that left five people dead.
The initial columns identified Hatfill only as "Mister Z," but subsequent columns named him after Hatfill stepped forward to deny any role in the killings. Federal authorities labeled Hatfill "a person of interest" in their investigation.
In a six-to-six decision, with one judge not participating, the Fourth U-S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond today denied to rehear the case.
Volume: 5 Number: 397_law
October 20, 2005
By DANIEL OSTROVSKY
Scientist Steven J. Hatfill’s libel suit against the New York Times will likely be adjudicated by the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., after the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals split down the middle on whether to rehear the case.
Reacting to the 6-6 vote by the 4th Circuit, with Judge Karen J. Williams not participating, Times’ lawyer David E. McCraw said the paper is leaning against asking the Supreme Court to review the case.
“We haven’t made that decision,” he cautioned, but “at this point it appears that we are going to pursue this through the district court.”
Hatfill’s defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress complaint revolves around a series of 2002 pieces by Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, urging the FBI to take a closer look at the former Fort Detrick bioweapons researcher in the agency’s investigation of anthrax-laced mailings that killed five people in 2001.
At the district court level, discovery, depositions and the exchange of documents will be completed, McCraw said.
“They talk about a very short time period of three months to finish discovery” in Alexandria, he stated. “I would not be surprised to see this one take longer.”
Gregg Leslie, legal defense director of Alexandria, Va.-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said that not taking the case further up the legal ladder could be a good practical decision for the Times.
“The Supreme Court might not take the case, might not do anything for you if they take it, or might make bad law nationwide if they take it and decide against you,” he said.
Hatfill’s attorney, Thomas G. Connolly of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis in Washington, D.C., said his firm is litigating the case, in part, to make precedent.
“We took this case knowing that plaintiffs who sue for defamation often times have an uphill battle,” Connolly said. “But as a matter of principle we nonetheless have prosecuted this action.”
In a strongly worded dissent from the court’s decision not to rehear the case, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III called July’s majority panel opinion written “both factually and legally incorrect.”
Wilkinson, a former editor of a Virginia newspaper, emphasized the First Amendment implications of the earlier holding by a split three-judge panel.
“The defendant in this case may well possess the resources necessary for protracted litigation, but smaller dailies and weeklies in our circuit most assuredly do not,” he wrote. “The prospect of legal bills, court appearances, and settlement conferences means that all but the most fearless will pull their punches even where robust comment might check the worst impulses of the government and serve the community well.”
Wilkinson was joined by Judges M. Blane Michael and Robert B. King.
In his columns, Kristof noted that circumstantial evidence linked a “Mr. Z,” whom he later identified as Hatfill, to the anthrax attacks. But he pleaded with his readers not to prejudge the scientist, pointing out there was no physical evidence against him.
The district court dismissed Hatfill’s complaint but the 4th Circuit panel reversed. In an opinion written by Judge Dennis W. Shedd, it found sufficient facts for a jury to conclude the Times defamed Hatfill under Virginia law.
“The columns expressly avoid premature accusation by repeatedly reminding readers that the burden of the government’s failure falls not only upon the public, who seek the safety of identifying the true culprit, but also upon plaintiff, who deserves an end to the ‘unseemly limbo’ of being a suspect,” responded Wilkinson in Tuesday’s dissent.
While Williams did not disclose her rationale for not taking part in the vote, Leslie, of the Reporters Committee, said it was most probably a matter of scheduling or a personal conflict.
“She wouldn’t have stayed out because of her feelings about the First Amendment,” he said.
If the case does end up in front of the high court, the votes of the nine justices might not fall along traditional liberal-conservative lines.
“There no obvious political posture to take on a libel case,” explained the Times’ McCraw.
researchers determine that common anthrax sampling methods need improvement
More deadly spores may remain after decontamination than current sampling methods show.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A research team from the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Sandia National Laboratories has discovered that common anthrax sampling methods need improvement. The research shows that more deadly spores remain after decontamination than previously believed.
The team, led by researcher Gary Brown, spent a year looking at sampling processes used to determine the number of viable organisms existing on surfaces following a biological attack with agents such as anthrax. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded the study.
“We evaluated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for sampling methods and discovered that all current methods underestimated the number of spores, such as Bacillus anthracis, the organism causing anthrax, actually present on surfaces,” Brown says. “The sampling methods are much less effective than anyone realized.”
Miscalculating the number of spores present following an attack could potentially be lethal.
The idea for the sampling study dates back to the fall of 2001 when letters containing anthrax bacteria were mailed to the offices of several news media and two U.S. senators, contaminating numerous postal facilities and killing five people. Critical questions became 1) how efficient are the various methods used to sample amounts of spores, 2) what minimum amounts of spores have to be present if anthrax is to be detected by these methods, and 3) how effective are the various methods for extracting material from samples for analysis.
Brown became involved in the study as part of a DHS-funded Domestic Demonstration and Application Program that was investigating the restoration of major transportation facilities in case of a bio attack.
“If a bio attack occurs, we need to be aware of how many anthrax spores exist initially and how many remain after a cleanup,” Brown says. “No one knows how effective these cleanup methods really are, and you don’t want to leave material around after a building cleanup in concentrations capable of causing infection.”
The question of “how clean is clean” is important for many biological and chemical agents, not just for anthrax. The issue has received congressional attention and is an area in need of significantly greater study, he adds.
The study’s objective was to provide a robust scientific and statistical evaluation of current swab, wipe, and vacuum surface sample collection methods. The investigation was intended to empirically determine recovery efficiency and extraction efficiency, calculate collection efficiency, and determine each method’s limit of detection.
Reference surfaces of coupons were seeded by dry deposition with a mixture containing Bacillus atrophaeus spores (a bacteria similar to anthrax but not toxic) and silicon dioxide particles. Forty-eight coupons, each measuring 1.25 cm x 5 cm and made from stainless steel or painted wallboard, were used as the reference surfaces.
After seeding, the surfaces were sampled using traditional collection methods — swabbing, wiping, and vacuuming.
The sampling team found that none of the sampling methods was very efficient.
The swab system collected 40 percent of the spores, leaving 60 percent behind. The wipes collected 28 percent, leaving 72 percent on the coupons.
The biggest surprise was that the vacuum method collected only 20 percent of the spores, leaving 80 percent on the surface.
“Before this study, the vacuum method was the most highly recommended sampling method by the CDC,” Brown says. “As the result of our study CDC no longer recommends that method.”
The study also showed that each collection method has its own detection limit. Through the swabbing technique, 125 spores must be present on the surface to obtain a positive culture. Five hundred spores must exist before a positive culture is observed in both the wiping and vacuuming methods. The current EPA clean-up criterion is no positive cultures from environmental samples — meaning a site may be cleared because no samples were positive, but viable spores may still remain.
The most widely accepted estimate of inhaled spores required to produce a lethal dose in 50 percent of the population is 8,000. However, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Center using “probit” models, estimate that only 98 inhaled spores may cause lethal infection in 10 percent of the population.
Brown says the study will probably result in significant changes in the interpretation of environmental sampling data following another anthrax or similar bioagent event. It will also be useful in determining if a facility has been decontaminated following a natural disaster, such as ongoing efforts associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita where naturally occurring coliform bacteria and pathogenic mold, like Aspergillus and Stachybotrys species, are of concern.
“If there is a future release of anthrax, the current sampling methods would still be used, but they would be interpreted differently,” he says. “In the past if no spores were detected, it was generally considered that the surface was decontaminated. But now we realize that spores may still be present in numbers capable of causing infection, resulting in a public health response that would most likely be cautious.”
Also, if the analysis is positive, the probability of a public health threat with potentially large numbers of infection is high, and the public health response would be more aggressive.
“Either way, with current surface sampling methods, a public health threat following release of bio-threat agents cannot be ruled out,” Brown says.
Concerns about sample collection method efficiency were first raised in 2003 by a Government Accounting Office report (GAO 2003a, “U.S. Postal Service: Issues Associated with Anthrax Testing at the Wallingford Facility,” GAO-03-787T, May 2003) and during hearings by the House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations. The subcommittee commissioned research efforts at that time to fill the data gaps and provide better interpretation tools in advance of another bio attack. At recent hearings held by the same subcommittee to assess progress of the research, the surface sample collection method evaluation work conducted at Sandia was referenced by the CDC, EPA, and DHS as a significant ongoing effort.
Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
I. Lewis Libby: The Plight of a Disciplined Risk-Taker
by Alex Markels
Consider I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Despite a reputation as a daredevil with a penchant for skiing headlong down the steepest slopes, "one thing Scooter is not is careless," says Jackson Hogen, a lifelong friend and occasional ski coach to Libby since the days when they roomed together as freshmen at Yale University in the late-1960s. "He's a risk-taker. But like everything else in his life, he's disciplined about it."
Yet in a realm in which risk-taking is alternately rewarded either with chest-beating pride or pummeling humiliation, those who push skiing's limits inevitably find that the limits push back. The 55-year-old Libby may be learning a similarly painful lesson now that he's been indicted on charges that he lied to prosecutors investigating the leak of C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame's name.
If proven in court, the alleged crimes would mark a stark departure from a life defined by a keen ability to assess risk and avoid the very sort of imbroglio in which he now finds himself. Likened by some friends to Talleyrand, the witty, cynical French diplomat renowned for his chameleon-like wherewithal amid the political tumult of 17th-century France, Libby's ability to make most any point of view his own helped him become an agile debater at Phillips Andover. He earned the prestigious title of president of the prep school's debate team. "Scooter was the ultimate pragmatist," notes Hogen, who attended Andover with Libby. "He could argue any point of view and win."
Despite a political start as a "Bobby Kennedy Democrat" during the 1968 presidential election, Libby's move toward conservative politics began when he enrolled in a political science class taught by Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary (and now World Bank president), who was then a Yale professor. Wolfowitz was so impressed by his student's writing skills that he later he coaxed Libby -- by then a Columbia University-trained attorney -- to leave private practice and become his speechwriter when he joined the Reagan Administration as the head of policy planning in 1981.
Wolfowitz and Libby were later asked to work on Asia policy issues, an area of expertise that Libby would go on to use as fodder for The Apprentice, a novel he published in 1996 that was set in rural Japan. After another stint in private practice, Libby was again called on by his political mentor when Wolfowitz was asked to join the first Bush administration as undersecretary to then-defense secretary Dick Cheney in 1989.
Wolfowitz has publicly credited Libby with a variety of initiatives, such as the successful effort to back Ukrainian independence from Russia after the Soviet Union broke apart.
But Libby's greatest claim to fame at the time was his role in helping Wolfowitz draft the 1992 "Defense Planning Guidance." The 46-page document spelled out a post-Cold War strategy that emphasized the notion of preemption "to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival" to the United States and stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction before they became a direct threat. The highly controversial report was later leaked to the New York Times, and it was subsequently revised to tone down some of its outsized rhetoric.
That didn't stop Libby, Wolfowitz and others worried about the threat posed by nuclear and biological weapons, especially those that might be possessed by Saddam Hussein.
Libby had expressed disillusionment that the Iraqi dictator hadn't been removed from power after the Gulf War. He and his associates grew increasingly concerned that the CIA and other government agencies had failed to adequately assess the threat from Iraq's allegedly renewed weapons programs.
Long worried about the potentially calamitous effects of biological weapons like anthrax, Libby didn't hesitate in making his concerns known to his superiors. "I was hounded by Scooter about what we were doing about things like anthrax," Wolfowitz recently told the Washington Post about the period following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "He was very concerned about what he saw as a general lack of preparedness."
Such concerns proved a common point of interest between Libby and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who mentioned him by name in a book she co-authored in 2001, Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War. In it, she notes Libby's frustrations with the tentative language some intelligence analysts used to describe Iraq's weapons programs. "Libby told colleagues that intelligence analysts had an unfortunate habit," she writes in the book. "If they did not see a report on something, they assumed it did not exist."
The seeming lack of information eventually led Libby, who was named Cheney's chief of staff in 2001, to help the vice president push the CIA to find better sources and analysis of Iraq's suspected efforts to restart its nuclear weapons program. The CIA soon dispatched Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger -- at least, in part, at the suggestion of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame -- to confirm allegations that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from that African country. (Cheney has since denied any role in sending Wilson to Niger.)
To Libby's chagrin, Wilson not only didn't confirm the allegations, he spoke out publicly about his trip after President Bush mentioned the Niger-Iraq connection (which the president attributed to a British government intelligence) in his 2003 State of the Union speech. News reports have since quoted former aides of Libby's as saying that their boss was incensed by Wilson's criticisms. And Libby soon set about trying to combat Wilson's assertions that the Bush administration, and Cheney in particular, hadn't leveled with the American public.
Whether Libby's anger at Wilson
caused him to expose the identity of Wilson's wife -- and risk getting
caught for it -- lies at the heart of the case pending against him. Regardless
of the outcome, he has already resigned from his job and is expected to
leave public service, something he has told friends he looks forward to,
in part, so he can once again test his mettle on the ski slopes.
Timeline of Libby's role in the CIA leak case
June 12, 2003: Notes of a meeting on this day suggest vice president Dick Cheney told Libby that Mr. Wilson's wife was a CIA officer, according to lawyers involved in the case. (Libby later testifies that he learned the information from journalists.)
June 23: Libby meets with New York Times reporter Judith Miller and tells her about Wilson's trip to Niger and Plame's work with the CIA, according to Miller's later account of the meeting.
July 6: In a New York Times op-ed piece, Wilson writes that he could not verify that Niger sold uranium yellowcake to Iraq.
July 8 and 12: Libby meets again with Miller and "played down the importance of Mr. Wilson's mission and questioned his performance," according to Miller. "My notes indicate that well before Mr. Wilson published his [July] critique, Mr. Libby told me that Mr. Wilson's wife may have worked on unconventional weapons at the CIA. My notes do not show that Mr. Libby identified Mr. Wilson's wife [Valerie Plame] by name."
Aug. 24, 2004: Time Magazine writer Matthew Cooper agrees to give a deposition after Libby personally releases Cooper from a promise of confidentiality.
Sept. 29, 2005: After 85 days behind bars, Miller is released from the city jail in Alexandria, Va., after agreeing to testify before a grand jury. She says in a statement that her source has "voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality."
Sept. 30: The Times identifies Miller's source as I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. In Washington, Miller testifies before the grand jury. Afterwards, she declines to confirm that Libby was her source, but says the source sent her a letter and called her in prison.
Oct. 16: In a New York Times article recounting her testimony before the grand jury, Judith Miller writes that notes of her conversations with Lewis Libby suggested that the two had discussed Plame's job at the CIA but not her name. Miller wrote the words "Valerie Flame" in the same notebook she used when taking notes during her interviews with Libby, but said she cannot remember who gave her the CIA operative's name.
Oct. 28: I. Lewis Libby is indicted on obstruction of justice, false statment and perjury charges in connection with his testimony in the Plame leak investigation.
Sources: NPR research, news reports, Facts on File
Saturday, October 29, 2005 · Last updated 8:51 p.m. PT
Some experts scoff at terror WMD threat
By CHARLES J. HANLEY
AMMAN, Jordan -- After the warehouse raid in northern Jordan, the word from authorities horrified the people of Amman. Terrorists linked to al-Qaida had assembled a fearsome array of chemicals and planned a bombing that would send a 2-mile-wide "poison cloud" over this Middle East capital, killing as many as 80,000 people, military prosecutors said.
Osama bin Laden's foot soldiers had finally concocted a weapon of mass destruction.
A year later, in the hard light of scientific scrutiny, that sinister scenario looks more fictional than factual.
"Eighty thousand! That would have been like Hiroshima. And that was an atomic bomb," says Samih Khreis, one of the alleged plotters' lawyers.
The defense attorneys aren't alone in scoffing at the "WMD" claim. International experts checking the suspects' supposed list of chemicals - from the industrial compound ammonium to the explosive nitroglycerin - say either the defendants or the Jordanian authorities, or both, had little inkling about the makings of a chemical weapon.
The compounds "may generate some toxic byproducts, but they're unlikely to result in significant deaths by poisoning," said Ron G. Manley of Britain, a former senior U.N. adviser on chemical weapons.
The poison cloud of Amman is one more dubious episode in the story of the terrorist quest for doomsday arms, a dark vision that has become an axiom of today's counterterrorist strategy. Four years into the "global war on terror," half the Americans surveyed this summer said they worry "a lot" about the possibility of such a WMD attack, according to the U.S. polling firm Public Agenda.
Concerns emerged in the 1990s when the Soviet Union's collapse left nuclear and other arms vulnerable to theft. Worries grew as "recipes" for mass-casualty weapons flashed around the Internet. In 1998, al-Qaida leader bin Laden told Time magazine that acquiring such arms to defend Muslims "is a religious duty." Three years later in Afghanistan, the U.S. military found al-Qaida documents, crude equipment and other evidence of chemical and biological experimentation.
Al-Qaida's intent is clear, says a key U.S. intelligence analyst.
"The intent is there and you can see it in the 'fatwas' justifying the use" of WMD, Donald Van Duyn of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division said in a Washington interview.
One fatwa, or Muslim religious decree, issued by radical Saudi cleric Nasser al-Fahd in 2003 at bin Laden's request, "authorized" the use of ultimate weapons "if the infidels can be repelled from the Muslims only by using such weapons."
"It may be only a matter of time before al-Qaida or another group attempts to use chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons," CIA Director Porter Goss advised U.S. senators earlier this year.
Amid all the warnings, boasts and chilling tales, however, the daunting difficulties of fielding such weapons usually go unmentioned - along with al-Qaida's glaring lack of expertise and stable home base, the unreliability of Internet "formulas," and the progress made worldwide in locking down the raw materials of the most destructive arms.
Amman's is one of many stories of exaggerated threats or ill-conceived plans. Others include:
-British police last year arrested eight people on suspicion of plotting a bombing that would spread osmium tetroxide, a dangerous corrosive compound. But this volatile chemical would have burned up in any explosion, scientists say.
-The long-jailed Jose Padilla, an American al-Qaida member accused of planning a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States, is said by U.S. officials to have hoped to use uranium. But uranium has low radioactivity, and would have had no more impact than lead in a bomb, scientists note.
-Eight Algerian and Libyan defendants accused of "conspiracy to manufacture chemical weapons" were freed in London last April after authorities acknowledged tests showed a substance found in one of their apartments was not highly lethal ricin, as earlier alleged. The plant extract, effective as a poison dealt to individuals, was long ago dismissed by military arms-makers as an impractical mass-casualty weapon.
-American WMD specialists in Iraq reported that insurgents there last year recruited a Baghdad chemist to make the blistering agent mustard, a chemical weapon developed in World War I. They said he had the right ingredients, but he couldn't produce the compound.
The only known terrorist use of a chemical weapon occurred in 1995 in the Tokyo subway system, when Aum Shinrikyo cult members punctured plastic bags of sarin, unleashing nerve-agent vapor that felled thousands of commuters.
The cult, including scientists, is believed to have spent millions of dollars on the demanding, dangerous production process, but came up with only impure sarin. It killed 12 people - hardly a mass-fatality terror attack, specialists point out.
"Regardless of what people say, this is very difficult to do, to inflict mass casualties with chemical or biological weapons," said Jonathan Tucker, an authority on unconventional arms with California's Monterey Institute of International Studies. "One really needs large quantities."
Oregon toxicologist Dr. Robert Hendrickson calculates that terrorists would need 1,900 pounds of sarin - more than 200 gallons - to kill half the people in a typical open-air baseball stadium. So much liquid, with dispersal devices, would be extremely difficult to conceal and to produce, probably taking 10 years in a basement-sized operation, experts say.
Thousands of tons of sarin and VX nerve agent already exist, in old U.S., Russian and other military arsenals. But those weapons' potency has degraded and they're being destroyed under the 1997 treaty banning them. Security around the storage sites has been tightened since the Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. terror attacks.
If true chemical weapons prove beyond their reach, experts say, terrorists may turn to far less lethal but more available pesticides and caustic compounds. Large amounts of sulfuric acid, the "battery acid" for sale at $2 a gallon on the Internet, were among the Jordanian group's chemicals.
"Terrorists are opportunistic," Tucker said of that group's motley collection. "They apparently figured it would produce some toxic mess that would do some harm."
The prime target in Amman was Jordan's General Intelligence Department, prosecutors said. Defense attorneys said the men admit planning a bombing, but their cache didn't include ammonium, potassium nitrate and some other compounds mentioned by prosecutors.
A televised "confession" to a chemical plot by alleged bombmaker Azmi al-Jayousi was coerced, said lawyer Khreis, who contended Jordan's U.S.-aligned government was exaggerating the threat because "they want approval of people in the street and of Parliament for their antiterror actions."
Military prosecutors, who wouldn't discuss the case on the record, claim a toxic cloud killed rabbits in the desert in a test explosion of the purported chemical cache. A Jordanian army chemical expert recently testified, however, that only considerable expertise and equipment could produce a mass killer from the mix.
"A chemical bomb needs a qualified chemist," Khreis said. "Al-Jayousi has a 6th-grade education."
Some analysts say the facts of chemistry may mean little in the end for those who want to terrorize populations, as long as the word "chemical" is heard on air or seen in headlines.
"One needs only to look at the adjectives used by the media to describe chemicals to understand why the general public is frightened: toxic, killer, lethal, deadly," said Hendrickson, of the Oregon Health and Science University.
Whether Internet "recipes" work or not, said the FBI's Van Duyn, "I'm not sure they need to be very effective."
NEXT: Part II - Biological terrorism.
Daily News (Japan)
October 30, 2005
In a world full of microbes, will billions of dollars build biodefenses?
CAIRO, Egypt -- The bacteria lie dormant, freeze-dried in sealed ampules, in a refrigerator on a teeming university campus beside the Nile.
They're among Earth's most common germs -- clostridia perfringens, a cause of food poisoning, a specimen for research. But this pathogen can also be a weapon: Iraqi scientists worked for years to mobilize this "Agent G" for Saddam Hussein's wars.
With fears of disease agents being used by terrorists growing around the world -- and many labs that could be sources of toxins insecure -- the World Health Organization plans a "guidance document" next year promoting laboratory biosecurity. In the United States, where terrorism fears are particularly strong, new laws clamp controls on clostridia and other "select agents," demanding registrations, reporting, background checks on scientists.
But Egypt, in a region roiled by terrorism, has no such laws, although the bacteria at Ain Shams University are kept in a locked refrigerator, accessible by one authorized technician, in a laboratory protected by foolproof electronic keys, said Nabil Magdoub, microbe collection director.
"We have to be alert," he said, but not "unreasonable."
After all, Magdoub said, any hospital is also rife with dangerous microorganisms. "The American people have become so sensitive toward a lot of normal, ordinary matters," he said, echoing a sentiment heard increasingly in America, where microbiologists fear that ever-stricter controls might stifle their ability to exchange samples and conduct research.
Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, terrorist use of disease agents to inflict mass casualties looms more and more as the bottom line of America's sum of all fears. Tom Ridge, former homeland security secretary, has said authorities don't believe terror groups can build nuclear bombs, and so bioweapons become the greater threat.
"Anthrax is a concern," said Donald Van Duyn of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division. "You could do as much damage with anthrax and other substances" as with a nuclear bomb, the FBI analyst said in a Washington interview.
One attack scenario now used in U.S. planning sees more than 300,000 people in an American city exposed to aerosolized anthrax bacteria spread by terrorists via a truck sprayer, with more than 13,000 dying.
The fear is reflected in the U.S. budget's bottom line as well: Spending on civilian "biodefense" has leaped 18-fold since 2001, to US$7.6 billion this year. Project Bioshield, to develop bioterrorism countermeasures, awarded its first contract last November, US$877 million for 75 million doses of a new anthrax vaccine.
The anthrax scare began when someone mailed anthrax powder through the U.S. postal system in late 2001 and five people died. As a result, "I'd say we get five white-powder threats a week, people calling saying, 'I found white powder. What do I do?"' said Van Duyn.
Because of the high quality of those 2001 anthrax spores, however, experts believe the perpetrator, still at large, was not linked to foreign terrorists, but possibly to the U.S. government's own anthrax program. That research began decades back as an offensive weapons program, but is now considered defensive.
Even a terror group as well-financed and educated as Japan's Aum Shinrikyo, whose homemade sarin chemical agent killed 12 people in 1995, failed to isolate a virulent strain in four years' work on anthrax.
Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida also pursued anthrax in Afghanistan, captured documents showed. But it turned the job over to a Malaysian with a mere bachelor's degree in biology, U.S. investigators found. He, too, apparently failed to find a virulent strain -- let alone a workable way to "weaponize" anthrax -- before being arrested in 2001.
Drying and refining anthrax spores into particles readily inhaled, and then engineering equipment to spread them extensively, is a formidable challenge, U.S. congressional researchers noted in a 2004 study. "Even a Ph.D. microbiologist doesn't know the dark arts of putting microbes into weapons," said Jonathan Tucker, a bioweapons expert with California's Monterey Institute for International Studies.
It took Iraqi scientists five years to weaponize anthrax in the 1980s. Meanwhile, others in Saddam's secret program were working on "Agent G," U.N. arms inspectors later learned. The toxin-spewing clostridium perfringens, applied to shrapnel, would kill the wounded by spreading virulent gas gangrene in their shrapnel wounds.
The Iraqis apparently never weaponized Agent G, however, and eventually reported to inspectors they had destroyed all 900 gallons they made.
Today clostridium perfringens is one of 49 microbes on the U.S. list of "select agents" considered potential "severe threats." American laboratories handling the germ must register with the government, their personnel must undergo background checks, and transfers of cultures must be reported.
That list's length, from the toxin abrin to the plague bacteria yersinia pestis, tells some that billions of U.S. dollars won't go far, since only three on the list -- anthrax, smallpox and botulinum toxin -- are being addressed so far in stepped-up biodefense research programs. And that's not counting any new genetically re-engineered microbes.
"What's going to come at you is impossible to predict," molecular biologist Roger Brent told a U.S. House panel in July.
Others question whether anything will come, in view of what Tucker calls al-Qaida's "gap in technical sophistication." Milton Leitenberg, a bioweapons authority at the University of Maryland, contends the threat has been "systematically exaggerated."
Few question the need, however, to tighten security at microbe collections worldwide. Only 500 of the estimated 1,500 major repositories -- which maintain, exchange and sell samples for research and diagnostics -- subscribe to the World Federation for Culture Collections' voluntary security guidelines.
Magdoub's Egypt Microbial Culture Collection is one. But a team of Egyptian microbiologists noted in a recent study that smaller collections have proliferated in Egypt, which has no "biosecurity" laws. Team member Youssef Hamdi told The Associated Press all such resources should be combined in a single "National Culture Collection" to "insure purity, conservation and security."
Internationally, "the problem is the ones you don't know about," said Barry Kellman, director of the International Weapons Control Center at Chicago's DePaul University. Perhaps one-third of the world's microbe collections are poorly protected, he estimated.
Kellman, meanwhile, agrees with those who doubt that al-Qaida, "in a cave in Afghanistan," poses a bioterrorism threat. He worries more about a homegrown menace, asking, "What if Ted Kaczynski" -- America's notorious Unabomber -- "had been a biology professor instead of a math professor?"
victim's widow breaks four-year silence
By Tania Valdemoro
Saturday, November 05, 2005
WEST PALM BEACH — Four years after the FBI launched the largest investigation in its history to unmask whoever sent anthrax-laced letters that killed five people and sickened 17 others, the widow of the nation's first anthrax-attack victim said the federal government has kept her in the dark.
Breaking her four-year silence, Maureen Stevens said Friday that the agency has told her "pretty much nothing" and that if the FBI does find out who killed her husband, tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens, "I don't know if they will tell me."
The FBI asked to meet with her next week, although she did not know what would be discussed, Stevens said. It would be her second meeting with FBI agents since her husband's death. "I'm not expecting too much from (the meeting)," she said.
The slim redhead, originally from England, has lived "day to day" and coped with the proverbial British "stiff upper lip" since her husband's death.
Family, friends, her faith and a strong desire for justice have kept her going, she said, speaking to reporters at the West Palm Beach office of her lawyer, Richard Schuler.
Robert Stevens, also known as Bob, was a photo editor at the Sun, a tabloid owned by American Media Inc. of Boca Raton, when he opened an anthrax-tainted letter on Sept. 19, 2001. The suburban Lantana resident died Oct. 5 of anthrax inhalation. He was 63.
Twenty-one others were exposed to the deadly bacterium during the 2001 attacks, and four of them, all in the Northeast, died.
When Maureen Stevens' attorney was asked Friday if he believed there was a government coverup of the attacks and the subsequent investigation, he said he could not comment.
Debra Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI field office in Washington, could not be reached for comment despite several phone calls.
Upon the fourth anniversary of the anthrax attacks, The Washington Post reported in September the number of people working on the anthrax investigation had dropped. At the FBI, the number of agents went from 31 to 21. At the U.S. Postal Service, the number of investigating inspectors fell from 13 to nine.
Thus far, no one has been charged in the anthrax attacks. However, in August 2002, federal officials named scientist Steven Hatfill as a person of interest. Hatfill sued the federal government, alleging federal officials harassed and defamed him and later ruined his job prospects.
Maureen Stevens sued the federal government in December 2003, alleging that security lapses at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md., ultimately brought her husband in contact with anthrax.
Paul Bresson, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said he could not comment on the lawsuit or Stevens' allegation that government lawyers were preventing her from proceeding with her lawsuit through a series of legal delays.
"But the investigation is very much ongoing," Bresson said. "Certainly, we all wish it were a solved case. There have been cases in the past that took time, such as the Unabomber case, which lasted 17 years. We have to get it right when we go into a courtroom and prosecute. The facts and the law have to be on our side."
Stevens' lawsuit is now before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, where a new set of judges will determine whether to dismiss it. In April, U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley refused to dismiss it.
According to Schuler, the appellate court can do one of three things: dismiss the lawsuit; send it back to Hurley to decide, which would allow Schuler to gather evidence from the anthrax investigation and proceed with the case; or send the lawsuit to the Florida Supreme Court.
Robert Stevens "never deserved this," his widow said. "I can't just sit and do nothing."
Staff researcher Melanie Mena contributed to this story.
victim's widow frustrated with 'pattern of delay'
Four years later, battle ongoing over inquiry
By John Coté
Four years after her husband became the first victim to die in a string of anthrax bioterrorism attacks, Maureen Stevens can still hear his voice.
"I still have his voice on my answering machine -- I want to keep that," Stevens said Friday at her attorney's West Palm Beach office in a rare interview. "I call my phone sometimes."
The voice of her late husband, American Media Inc. tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens, comforts her as she wages a protracted legal battle against the U.S. government in part to find out about its anthrax investigation.
No one has been arrested since five people were killed from inhalation of anthrax in the fall of 2001 in the largest biological attack in U.S. history, which came on the heels of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Anthrax-laced letters were sent to news media offices in Boca Raton and New York City, and the offices of then-Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The Department of Justice earlier this week filed documents with a federal appeals court in Atlanta calling for Stevens' lawsuit to be thrown out as baseless and a threat to "an ongoing nationwide criminal investigation." The court has yet to rule.
She spoke publicly to reporters Friday for the first time in more than two years -- moved by senseless loss and struggling to understand the apparent lack of progress in the investigation. She was critical of the government's unwillingness to provide information.
"Four years. Nothing. Not a crumb," Stevens said. "No one has ever explained anything to me very much. It's been like a merry-go-round that just doesn't stop."
Stevens said she feels frustration with the U.S. government, not betrayal.
The government has engaged in a "pattern of delay" since Stevens first lodged a formal complaint in February 2003, said her attorney, Richard Schuler. The government never addressed the complaint and twice successfully argued for six-month delays in a lawsuit Stevens filed in December 2003, Schuler said.
In calling to put the lawsuit on hold, Justice attorney Jeffrey Bucholtz in March 2004 said the suit could jeopardize the FBI's "very intensive investigation." Justice Department attorneys also have cited national security concerns.
A department spokesman said court filings outlined the government's position.
Stevens' lawsuit alleges the government was negligent because the anthrax came from a government bio-weapons lab, likely the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md.
Robert Stevens, known to many as "Bob," worked as a photo editor at the Sun, a tabloid owned by AMI, whose other publications include the National Enquirer.
The 63-year-old died on Oct. 5, 2001, from anthrax he contracted after breathing in spores from an anthrax-laden envelope mailed to AMI's Boca Raton offices.
John Coté can be reached at email@example.com or 561-832-6550.
8 November 2005
ANTHRAX WIDOW'S OUTBURST
By Andy Lines
THE widow of the Briton murdered in the US anthrax attacks last night spoke for the first time of her anger that no one has been arrested.
Maureen Stevens is taking the US government to court over its handling of the investigation.
Her husband Bob was the first of five people who died four years ago after inhaling anthrax following the 9/11 terror attacks.
Maureen married Bob in Berkshire and moved to the States in 1974.
She said: "Four years... nothing. Not a crumb. It's been like a merry-go-round that doesn't stop!"
Bob, 63, was a picture editor on a Florida-based magazine. He opened an anthrax-laced letter and died on October 5, 2001.
Maureen alleges that security lapses at a US Army Institute allowed the killer access to the bug.
She is furious with government attempts to block her lawsuit. She said: "This he did not deserve - especially what's been happening since."
Goes Forward in Anthrax Mailing Case
Articles in Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest that pointed to a former Army bioweapons researcher as the perpetrator behind the 2001 mailings of anthrax that led to the deaths of five people are per se defamatory, a federal judge has ruled.
Southern District of New York Judge Colleen McMahon refused to dismiss claims brought against the magazines and author Donald Foster for his 2003 articles on Dr. Steven Hatfill of Virginia, a researcher in the field of hematology and emerging viral diseases.
Foster, a specialist in literary forensics who has analyzed writings in high-profile investigations, including the Unabomber case, wrote an article for Vanity Fair, "The Message in the Anthrax," which looked at Dr. Hatfill's history and movements alongside the dates when letters containing anthrax were sent to two U.S. Senate offices, the New York Post and NBC News.
The Vanity Fair article complained that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had asked Foster to discern who the author of the letters might be, but that the FBI had taken many of the documents in the case and "zero-filed" them -- or placed them in a file cabinet and ignored them.
His theory in the article was that Hatfill sent the anthrax to raise public awareness of the bioterror threat and spur the government to action.
One particularly egregious line, Hatfill said, was delivered when Foster stated: "Steven Hatfill was now looking to me like a suspect ... When I lined up Hatfill's known movements with the postmark locations of reported biothreats, those hoax anthrax attacks appeared to trail him like a vapor cloud."
But Hatfill, who was declared a person of interest in the investigation but not a suspect, was never charged in the mailings and the investigation remains ongoing.
Judge McMahon first ruled in Hatfill v. Foster, 04 Civ. 9577, that the law of Virginia, where Hatfill also has sued The New York Times and columnist Nicholas D. Kristof for naming him in the investigation, governs the claims against Foster and the magazines.
The magazines and Foster had offered several defenses, including that the articles could not be considered defamatory because they were reports on an official investigation and that they were opinion pieces.
"The Message in the Anthrax," McMahon said, "does contain references to the fact that the FBI was conducting an investigation into the anthrax mailings that occurred in the autumn of 2001."
"And the article criticizes the FBI," she said. "But it does not take a literary forensicist to figure out that the focus of the article is Foster's investigation, not the FBI's. And to the extent the article is critical of the FBI, it is because the FBI has yet to reach Foster's conclusions about Hatfill."
In the end, she said, "No reasonable reader could conclude that 'The Message in the Anthrax' qualifies as a report of an official investigation."
Nor could the article be read as pure opinion under Virginia law.
"At the end of the article, Foster inserts a disclaimer: 'It is not my job to indict or to try my own suspect for the anthrax murders ... Even if the FBI should find hard evidence linking Hatfill to a crime, he will remain innocent until proven guilty,'" McMahon said. "But that does not transform this article into opinion."
from the November 10, 2005 edition
whodunit: Is it a cold case file?
SAN FRANCISCO - A recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is an ironic reminder that one of the greatest whodunits in recent history remains a threat to the safety of Americans. Steven Hatfill, the man labeled a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation, has been allowed to go forward with his defamation suit against The New York Times. Clearly the anthrax investigation still weighs on Mr. Hatfill far more than it does on anyone else - and that's a shame.
The anthrax attacks were not only our first national experience with mass bioterrorism, they represent the greatest unsolved act of terrorism our country has faced since 9/11. Yet, while the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington continue to color national discourse, the anthrax mailings seem to have retreated from memory. The failure to apprehend or even identify a suspect represents a major failing for law enforcement and points out a serious problem in the investigation.
It is worth remembering that for all the horror of 9/11, the question of culpability has been little in doubt. Within days, our government determined who the responsible parties were. The anthrax killings, however, remain unsolved. Indeed, despite the attacks having been leveled at the country's political and economic nerve centers, and an unprecedented response by federal and state agencies, investigators seem no closer today to identifying the guilty than they were when the first envelopes showed up at NBC, the New York Post, and other news outlets four years ago.
Coming on the heels of 9/11, each new reported case of white powder fed a growing perception that the entire nation was under siege. By the time the deadly mailings mysteriously stopped, more than 22 cases of anthrax infection had been reported from New York to Florida. Five of the individuals exposed died. Two federal mail processing centers were completely shut down, and at least 21 additional facilities were contaminated. Anthrax-laden envelopes also caused the evacuation of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., and set off a massive public health and safety response from multiple agencies. The attacks prompted a series of government reports analyzing our vulnerability to this new specter of biological terrorism.
What can be gleaned from the press reports of the anthrax investigation is not reassuring. There was the initial stream of conflicting theories and tantalizing clues, followed by disturbing accounts of missed investigative opportunities, and then mounting public pressure. This was compounded by an almost surreal television spectacle: the live broadcast of federal agents executing a search warrant on the home of the hapless Hatfill.
In the three years since, scant progress has been reported. In 2003, a pond in Maryland was drained and searched, but no anthrax was found. In 2004, a doctor's home was searched, but nothing came of it. There have been no arrests or indictments. In September, the Washington Post reported that the investigation, dubbed "Amerithrax," has actually been downsized. Investigators are now busy compiling a report summarizing their efforts. As the months pass, one might conclude that an investigation of vital national significance is adrift, or worse, relegated to the cold case file.
Large investigations often require new developments to sustain them. The Unabom investigation, to which I was assigned as a prosecutor, had been languishing for years. It was only after the bombings resumed and a core group of new investigators was assembled, that progress was made. Even then, it took the publication of Theodore Kaczynski's manifesto to set the climax in motion.
But it seems that the anthrax investigation has never recovered from its early missteps. This is partly because then-Attorney General John Ashcroft openly targeted Hatfill as a "person of interest," signaling early on that politicians were in charge. Valuable investigative resources had to be committed to meet expectations, regardless of whether it made sense. Opportunities were undoubtedly lost as a result. Stung by the ensuing criticism, the government retreated into a defensive posture. Unlike the Unabom investigation, where field agents were able to retain some measure of control, the anthrax investigation has become more centralized; investigators receive assignments and compile reports for their superiors in Washington. A subtle shift from proactive investigation to damage control has taken place.
So as we watch the progress of Hatfill's effort to restore his reputation, we should use the unfolding of Hatfill v. The New York Times as an opportunity to renew the public debate about the anthrax investigation, including the proper role of the press. We should ask our government what it is doing to identify and apprehend those responsible for this horrific and unsolved act. We might ask how we can be expected to fight a war on terror if we have not yet identified all our enemies.
Let us just hope we will not have to wait to see what information comes out of the defamation lawsuit to get some answers. Or shall we rely on Hatfill's lawyers to do our government's work for us?
• Stephen P. Freccero is a lawyer and former federal prosecutor in private practice in San Francisco. From 1993 to 1998 he was assigned to the Unabom task force and served as Special Attorney to US Attorney General Janet Reno in the prosecution of Theodore Kaczynski.
51, aliens and anthrax? Dugway boss dismisses rumors
"Dugway is not a closed, super-secret operation. You can get in," Dugway Commander Col. Greg Olson said during a speech Wednesday.
In an age of instant information via the Internet, misconceptions and misinformation can spread quickly.
"There are a couple of Web sites out there that like to provide information about what they think is going on at Dugway," the colonel told members of the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce.
Olson spoke at the chamber's weekly luncheon. He has been in charge of operations at Dugway Proving Ground since July.
At Wednesday's meeting he invited Tooele area business owners to visit the military facility. "If you have the proper documentation including registration and driver's license we will let you in. We will even let you drive around. All it will cost you is the price of gas to get you to the gate and up to $10 bucks so you can buy lunch," he said.
The colonel said a good tour of Dugway would take one-half to two-thirds of the day, and he would prefer that chamber members visit in a small group instead of coming out one or two at a time.
Dugway's commander presented slides of various new facilities at Dugway; he also reviewed Dugway's mission.
"Dugway is not the new Area 51," Olson said. "We are not examining aliens and their spacecraft which have been secretly shipped in from Nevada."
The commander said Dugway's air and water is purer than any place in Tooele County, and the facility is currently building an arsenic removal facility to remove any additional traces of arsenic from the water.
With monitoring from state and federal agencies, Dugway's soil is becoming cleaner each year. "We had 216 hazardous waste management sites to clean up and we have cleaned up 156 & only 60 remain. We will start the cleanup process of 22 more sites in December," Olson said.
Dugway Proving Ground has been an economical boon to Tooele County since the 1940s and continues to provide jobs, pump money into the county and enhance business opportunities.
"We're still the largest employer in the county. Wal-Mart Distribution Center is catching up however," Olson said. Total workforce at Dugway tallies 1,465 with 629 civilian employees and 623 contractor employees, plus full-time military personnel. Dugway's annual operating budget hits $144.7 million.
Olson said the most important asset at Dugway is the highly-skilled and respected workforce. "We have 54 PhDs, more than any other military facility in Utah," he said.
"Seventy percent of our workforce commutes and 50 percent of those commuters live in Tooele County supporting Tooele County businesses," the commander said.
New developments at Dugway include training firefighters and first responders from throughout the nation to protect U.S. citizens as part of Homeland Security developments. These groups train in an area known as Mustang Village.
Dugway is also heavily involved with NASA. "We have had the Genesis mission at Dugway and will have Stardust in January. They use Dugway and the Utah Test Range because of the vast area," Olson said.
The commander said Dugway is not toxic and offers the cleanest air in the state of Utah. Because of that feature, the University of Utah operates the world's largest cosmic ray detector at Dugway Proving Ground. Dugway is also testing an advanced gun system for the U.S. Navy which can shoot 100 miles with uncanny accuracy. "The gun could hit this room from 100 miles away," he told chamber members.
Dugway's main mission is to test equipment to make sure Join Service members (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines) have adequate protection against chemical/biological agents.
Its secondary mission is protecting U.S. citizens against chemical/biological threats.
All agent testing is performed inside laboratories. The air that comes out of labs is cleaner than the air that goes in due to extensive filtering systems. Testing outdoors is performed with stimulants that are safe for humans and the environment.
"We do not produce anthrax, we do work with anthrax," the colonel said.
shot in the dark?
BY THOMAS MAIER
November 20, 2005
America's homeland defense program is spending more than $1 billion on anthrax vaccines earmarked for wide civilian use despite uncertainty about their effectiveness and an ongoing debate about potential health problems, Newsday has found.
The vaccine stockpiling is a key element of the federal Project BioShield program, which was awarded $5.6 billion in funding in 2004 to develop drugs and vaccines to protect Americans against biological and chemical attacks. It constitutes the largest federal effort ever to protect civilians from an anthrax attack.
In May, BioPort Corp., the only manufacturer currently licensed in the United States to produce an anthrax vaccine, won a $123-million contract to make 5 million new doses for the public. And earlier this month, federal officials doubled their request, saying they wanted to buy another 5 million doses for approximately the same amount.
Last November, another firm, California-based VaxGen, received an $877-million contract, plus up to $69 million in other potential fees, to manufacture 75 million doses of an updated vaccine. The product, which still lacks approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, will not be available until 2007, company officials say.
Federal officials say an airborne anthrax attack could kill thousands of people in an urban setting like New York and tout the vaccines as key parts of the civilian defense program.
But while a body of scientific research shows that the current vaccine is effective if administered before skin exposure to anthrax - and the rate of serious side effects is comparable to other common vaccines - several public health experts have raised questions about the vaccine's safety and whether it would work following an airborne attack.
David Ozonoff, a professor at Boston University's School of Public Health, said there was "scant" evidence the vaccine will work to treat people who inhale the airborne spores. He said studies show antibiotics as the most effective treatment, and that the vaccine could cause potentially serious health problems among civilians.
"The number of doses they are amassing is wildly out of proportion to any possible threat from anthrax," Ozonoff said. "What the benefits are is very unclear and there are always [health] risks ... when you vaccinate a whole lot of people."
Hillel W. Cohen, an epidemiologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, agreed.
"The only possible benefit of a vaccine is if there's a danger of exposure and that danger is small because of the technological hurdles of weaponizing anthrax," Cohen said. " ... It's not something you can do in your basement."
If an anthrax attack were to occur today, the nation would rely on stocks of the BioPort vaccine, which, like the VaxGen product, would be provided in combination with antibiotics.
The only major study of the use of the BioPort vaccine following inhalation exposure found it ineffective on laboratory animals unless used in conjunction with antibiotics.
VaxGen also is conducting animal studies of its vaccine, but company officials say they are not yet certain it will work safely and effectively on humans exposed to airborne anthrax attacks.
"We'd hopefully achieve a high level of protection, and the alternative is severe disease," said Harry Keyserling, a pediatrics professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and a key researcher in early VaxGen trials.
Still, several prominent members of Congress are skeptical of the amount of federal money going to VaxGen.
"I do question the BioShield acquisition strategy being pursued that bets 800 million dollars on an untested vaccine ... ," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations.
"In the event of an attack, we need to know the vaccines and medicines in the national stockpile are the best modern science can produce," Shays said.
The issue of whether the vaccines themselves may cause health problems, and even death, also remains in dispute.
In documents of the FDA, Newsday found reports of more deaths and serious health problems among anthrax vaccine takers than previously reported.
Until late last year, the FDA had listed reports of six deaths and 1,850 "adverse" reactions since 1990, ranging from minor redness at the inoculation site to severe cardiovascular and respiratory system problems, that "possibly" were caused by the BioPort vaccine. The government's monitoring system collects voluntary reports of illness, but does not determine exact causes.
But in a little-noticed report issued in December, the FDA said 16 deaths were possibly linked to the BioPort vaccine. After Newsday asked about other fatalities cited in FDA filings, the agency upped the total number of fatalities possibly linked to the vaccine to 21 - including one the agency said had been "incorrectly coded" in its database.
The same report tallied more than 4,100 illnesses, including 347 it characterized as "serious," as possibly associated with the vaccine.
Government officials say the rate of serious illness associated with anthrax injections is lower than that for other common vaccines such as influenza, smallpox, tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis.
About 9 percent of all health problems tied to the BioPort vaccine are considered "serious," compared to 14 percent for the other vaccines combined, said the FDA.
"This vaccine is as safe as any," said Kim Brennen Root, a spokeswoman for BioPort, of Lansing, Mich.
Although humans can contract anthrax poisoning through breaks in the skin or the gastrointestinal system, the civilian vaccine program is focused on post-exposure treatment of the deadliest form, inhaled anthrax. Initial symptoms of inhalation anthrax include mild fever and muscle aches, but shock, severe breathing problems and often meningitis then develop, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The BioPort vaccine contains proteins from the anthrax bacteria called "protective antigen," and once in the bloodstream the vaccine makes the body produce antibodies to the antigen, so the bacteria can't produce the anthrax disease. The VaxGen product would work in a similar manner but with technology utilizing new combinations of genetic material.
Under current plans, contaminated civilians, along with others who suspect they were exposed, would be offered a regimen of antibiotics followed by several injections of vaccine.
But while BioPort's FDA license authorizes the vaccine as a preventative against anthrax contracted through skin exposure, federal officials have begun efforts to expand that authorization to cover inhalation anthrax suffered by civilians.
Under the expanded powers in Project BioShield, the BioPort vaccine could be used following an airborne anthrax attack, even without a federal license for that use. The VaxGen product also could be administered to civilians, even if it were still unlicensed.
Federal officials say the catastrophic potential of an anthrax attack would justify any available medical weapon.
"We know that the consequences of such use could be very grave," the Department of Homeland Security said of the possibility of an anthrax attack. But data about whether either of the vaccines would be effective in treating inhalation anthrax victims are scarce.
As the primary evidence that its vaccine would work for post-exposure, BioPort cited a 1993 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases that was sparked by concerns about anthrax attacks during the Persian Gulf War.
Tested on monkeys
The researchers, led by Arthur Friedlander of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., exposed six groups of 10 Rhesus monkeys each to anthrax contained in a spray. Subsequent treatment included the BioPort vaccine by itself, the vaccine in combination with antibiotics or antibiotics alone. Members of a control group received only saline.
The untreated monkeys had a death rate of 90 percent, while 80 percent of the monkeys given only the anthrax vaccine died. The groups treated with the antibiotics Ciprofloxacin or Doxycycline showed death rates of 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Another group of animals took a combination of Doxycycline and the vaccine. All survived.
"This suggests that antibiotic treatment, begun early after exposure, prevented the infection from fully developing," the study said, adding that the vaccine "may provide an additional degree of protection against relapse" by killing spores remaining in the body after antibiotic treatment.
"We know that antibiotics treat the symptoms of anthrax, but antibiotics don't kill the spores," said Root, the BioPort spokeswoman.
Beyond that, Friedlander said, the vaccine's effectiveness in treating humans already exposed to anthrax spores remains uncertain.
The vaccine was "not meant to be given after exposure," Friedlander said in an interview. "The vaccine alone doesn't protect and we wouldn't expect it to protect" those contaminated with anthrax.
In touting their vaccine, VaxGen officials also note the limits of antibiotics.
Lance Ignon, VaxGen's vice president of corporate affairs, noted CDC recommendations that anthrax patients take antibiotics for only up to 60 days. He said patients often don't follow the prescribed schedule, while others develop resistance to antibiotics over time or cannot tolerate them long-term.
Beyond the unanswered questions about efficacy, there is debate about whether the vaccines themselves are dangerous. Some activists and military personnel argue that the government is moving too quickly with plans for a civilian vaccination program, without assurances that the BioPort and VaxGen vaccines won't cause serious health problems.
"There's been a tremendous amount of spin by the government," said Meryl Nass, a physician in Maine and director of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, an advocacy group that has been a long-time critic of the anthrax vaccine program.
Several deaths reported
The BioPort vaccine was first licensed in 1970, primarily for use by agricultural workers in danger of skin exposure to anthrax from animals. The vaccine's health effects have been studied extensively in recent years, beginning with the 1991 Gulf War when thousands of U.S. troops rolled up their sleeves for injections.
Most studies have found low levels of serious illness, although allegations of severe health problems, including several deaths, are detailed in at least one federal report and in several lawsuits.
A 2002 study by the National Academies' Institute of Medicine examined the cases of people who took a total of nearly 2 million doses of the vaccine, primarily in the late 1990s.
Researchers pored over illness reports in examining possible patterns of long-term health problems and gender differences in reactions to the vaccine. They said "limited scientific data" suggested that the vaccine with antibiotics "could provide post-exposure protection" from inhaled anthrax spores. The vaccine, they said, was "sufficiently safe and effective."
In 2003, a study by academics from universities including George Washington in Washington, D.C., and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore reviewed health problems reported by some of the 500,000 military personnel who took the vaccine between 1998 and 2001.
The lead researcher, John Sever of George Washington, said in an interview that the inquiry could find no "unexpectedly high rate" of serious adverse reaction to the vaccine. The study found six known deaths at that time were either "unrelated" to the vaccine or "unclassifiable."
In 2002, however, a U.S. General Accounting Office study of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members who took the vaccine revealed that 84 percent reported some adverse reaction - more than double the approximately 30 percent rate reported to the FDA and included in BioPort's packaging at the time. The preponderance were minor, but almost 20 percent were considered serious - chills, fever, nausea and dizziness, with some symptoms lasting more than seven days, the GAO said.
"The implications were that the vaccine was part of the problem of getting sick, and we recommended that they should be following up," said Nancy Kingsbury, who oversaw the GAO study.
The Army rejected the GAO's call for more active surveillance, saying it already kept track of and studied health problems linked to anthrax vaccinations.
Defense Department records show that Army Reservist Spc. Rachel Lacy took vaccinations for anthrax and smallpox at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, while preparing in March 2003 for overseas deployment. Subsequently, Lacy developed pulmonary and neurological problems that led to inflammation of her lungs. She died the following month.
Lacy's father, Moses, said he believes the combination of vaccinations overwhelmed his daughter. "I do think the anthrax vaccine contributed to my daughter's death," he said.
After reviewing Lacy's case, two federal panels said the evidence "favored a causal relationship" between her death and the vaccines, although they could not establish a conclusive link.
Root, the BioPort spokeswoman, denied any link between Lacy's death and the vaccine.
Other U.S. service members have cited the vaccine's alleged ill effects in lawsuits challenging the military's compulsory use of the BioPort vaccine. Hundreds of troops have refused to undergo the vaccine regimen, and some have faced court-martial.
Three advocacy groups have filed court papers contending that the FDA improperly granted "emergency authorization" for the military to use the vaccine against possible airborne anthrax attacks, and ignored evidence it was unsafe.
Last year, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, of Washington, D.C., temporarily halted the military program, questioning the FDA's approval of the vaccine for inhalation anthrax cases. Sullivan later allowed the revival of the inoculation program, after the military made it voluntary.
Some health problems, including headaches and fatigue, also have cropped up in early trials of the VaxGen vaccine, company officials said. However, VaxGen chief executive Lance Gordon called the reported health problems "not significant" because of the small initial testing sample.
But BioPort's vice president of medical affairs, Tom Waytes, emphasized VaxGen's early difficulties and said it was time for them "to go back to the drawing board."
Despite the safety debate, BioPort and VaxGen continue to vie for the $5.6 billion in Project BioShield money.
This year, BioPort said it has used Jerome Hauer, former acting assistant secretary of the HHS Office of Public Health and Emergency Preparedness, as a lobbyist in Washington.
Last year, BioPort hired Louis Sullivan, the former HHS secretary under President George H.W. Bush, as a consultant to help land a new federal contract for its anthrax vaccine.
Sullivan said he set up a meeting for the company with government scientists in October 2004. The following month, BioPort announced it would be manufacturing 5 million anthrax vaccine doses for the civilian stockpile.
How the vaccine works: In general, the anthrax vaccine works the same way as tetanus, rabies and other inoculations.
(A) A vaccine is made from an antigen isolated or produced from the disease-causing organism. In the case of anthrax, the existing vaccine is culled from proteins in the bacteria and (B) injected into the bloodstream. (C) Once it recognizes the antigen, T cells in the immune system trigger B cells to neutralize it and another type of T cells to kill it.
The process produces memory cells that remain ready to mount a quick response against subsequent infection from the same agent. That's why, for example, a childhood vaccination generally protects against a disease for a lifetime.
How it's taken
As a preventative, it is taken in six does of 0.5 milliliters each over an 18-month period. For those already exposed, treatment is antibiotics with three doses of vaccine.
Mild: Soreness, muscle and joint aches, headaches, chills, fever, fatigue and nausea.
Severe: May range from serious allergic reaction to rarely, death.
Anthrax, in brief
Anthrax spores exist all over the world and become dangerous only when they make contact with human blood, organs and tissues. There are three types of anthrax exposure:
· Bacteria enter through a break in the skin.
· Handling contaminated animal products, such as meat, wool or hides.
Death is rare if antibiotic therapy is given.
· Eating raw, undercooked, contaminated meat.*
Death in 25% to 60% of cases.
· Inhaling at least a deep breath of anthrax spores.
If left untreated, death rate is almost 100%; even when treated, 45% to 80% of patient's die.
1.3 million Number of military personnel who have taken vaccines for anthrax since 1990
5 million+ Number of individual doses supplied since 1990
$123 million Amount BioPort Corp. of Lansing, Mich., is being paid to make 5 million new doses of its vaccine.
$877 million+ Amount VaxGen, Inc., of Brisbane, Calif., is being paid to develop 75 million doses of an updated vaccine.
SOURCES: National Health Museum, Department of Defense, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program
Researched by J. Stephen Smith
Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.
Cleaning Millions of Celebrity Photos on File
BOCA RATON, Fla., Nov. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- MARCOR Remediation, Inc. a national environmental contractor, is decontaminating more than 8,500 boxes of anthrax-laden archival photos, clippings, and other files stored here at the former home of the National Enquirer, Star, and other tabloid newspapers and magazines.
In what may be the final chapter of the cleanup of the former headquarters of the publishing firm, American Media, Inc. (AMI), MARCOR Remediation is painstakingly disinfecting the exterior of the boxes and then transporting them offsite to be sterilized. The boxes contain millions of photos of celebrities taken over decades, which will be returned to the building's owner after cleaning.
The AMI building was the first target in a series of anthrax attacks in the weeks following the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Soon afterward, the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. was also attacked. MARCOR Remediation is the firm that helped clean up the Senate Building anthrax, and now brings its expertise to Boca Raton. The AMI building was vacated several days after its photo editor died from inhaling anthrax.
A crew of technicians garbed in protective suits is first disinfecting the exterior of the boxes. They will be transported off-site, where they will be sterilized through high pressure and heat in an autoclave. MARCOR Remediation will then return to the parking garage where the boxes were stored and decontaminate that area, as well. The focus is getting the boxes, treated, and either properly disposed or returned to the owner to take over possession of them. The process should take about three months.
MARCOR, marking its 25th anniversary, was the first contractor in the U.S. to be licensed to perform asbestos abatement, and the first contractor to be licensed to perform mold remediation. Currently, the company - with 16 offices - is providing a wide variety of environmental services resulting from the ravages of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the South. Other services include industrial cleaning, building decontamination, gun range cleanup, plant/process decommissioning and demolition, emergency spill response, and storage tank management.
Clients include industrial and commercial concerns and government agencies, as well as industrial hygienists, environmental consultants, real estate development and property management firms, the hospitality industry, educational institutions, and health care facilities. The website is http://www.marcor.com.
Giuliani Firm Anthrax Work Ends in a Feud
BY JOSH GERSTEIN - Staff Reporter
of the Sun
An anthrax decontamination project in Florida that Mayor Giuliani showcased as one of his highest-profile ventures after joining the private sector has fizzled out at cost of millions of dollars to his firm.
The project was an effort of Bio-One Solutions LLC, a joint venture between the former mayor's consulting firm, Giuliani Partners LLC, and Sabre Technical Services LLC, an Albany-based environmental company. Bio-One Solutions had planned to place its offices in a Boca Raton, Fla., building and to have Mr. Giuliani be one of the first to cross the threshold after the firm eliminated the deadly spores from the complex, which once housed the offices of a company that published supermarket tabloids.
Boca Raton's mayor, Steven Abrams, boasted to local residents that, in terms of the building's tenants, the city was trading up. "It used to be home of the National Enquirer and now it's the home of a national hero," Mr. Abrams said last fall as he and Mr. Giuliani campaigned for President Bush.
Now, more than 16 months after Bio-One declared that the offices were anthrax free, there are no plans for the firm, or Mr. Giuliani, to return to the site. In fact, the building remains closed and under quarantine.
Mr. Giuliani's firm stopped work after its contract with the building's owner expired in May. The owner hired a rival decontamination company, Marcor Remediation Incorporated, which began work at the three-story office complex yesterday, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County health department, Timothy O'Connor, said.
No one has challenged the quality of the work Bio-One performed at the site, which involved pumping chlorine dioxide gas through the building's workspaces. "There's a pretty good satisfaction that they got 100% kill in that building," Mr. O'Connor said.
However, the ensuing contract dispute, and the fact that Bio-One has never been paid for its efforts, could contribute to questions about Mr. Giuliani's management of his business endeavors since leaving office at the end of 2001. If Mr. Giuliani goes ahead with a possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, his business ventures, which are far flung and include legal and consulting work, are likely to come under increased scrutiny. Already, he has drawn critical press attention for his consulting work on anti-crime initiatives in Mexico City and his ties to a for-profit vocational college in Kentucky that recently shut down due to financial difficulties.
In the Bio-One episode, it was photos of celebrities like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Diana that became the point of contention that ultimately soured the firm's involvement in the widely touted anthrax cleanup project. The photos were among archives of the Enquirer, the Star, and other publications stored in the parking garage at American Media Inc. The wax-lined cardboard containers were doused in a chemical rinse while being moved, but most were never fully decontaminated. Bio-One's chief operating officer and general counsel, Karen Cavanagh, said in an interview yesterday that company officials were not pleased when they felt forced to walk away from the project earlier this year. "It was a very frustrating time for us," she said. "There was the issue of the contents and the photographs and who owned those and who was responsible for them."
Ms. Cavanagh said both her firm and the real estate investor who bought the contaminated building from American Media for $40,000, David Rustine, assumed at the outset that all the boxed up materials would be destroyed. "You can see where the crux of the contract dispute goes back to," she said.
Freelance photographers have objected to the plan to incinerate the photos, saying they still own the pictures. In September, a Virginia-based photographer, Greg Mathieson, filed a $2 million federal lawsuit against American Media, alleging that it failed to safeguard more than 1400 of his photographs, or to compensate him for their loss. Last month, attorneys for the company asked a judge to throw the case out. They argued that the anthrax contamination was an "unforeseeable criminal event" for which the company could not be held liable.
The photo files could be among the most hazardous items ever on the site. It was a photo editor for American Media, Robert Stevens, who died after being exposed to anthrax at the tabloid publisher's offices in October 2001. Two postal workers and a Bronx woman also died of anthrax later that month, and employees at the New York offices of CBS, NBC, and the New York Post also fell ill. Investigators said the anthrax was sent through the mail. No one has been publicly charged in the case.
Once the issue of preserving the photographs arose, Bio-One and Mr. Rustine could not reach agreement on who would pay for the decontamination work, and how much. "It was a 'you go your way, we go our way,'" Ms. Cavanagh said.
Ms. Cavanagh said Bio-One was never paid for the anthrax-killing project, which Mr. Giuliani told reporters would cost more than $5 million. "It cost us quite a bit," she said. "We were never compensated for the work we did there."
A secretary at Mr. Rustine's real estate firm, Crown Companies, said Mr. Rustine would not agree to be interviewed for this story. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Giuliani also declined to be interviewed.
Asked if Bio-One might take legal action to recoup its losses, Ms. Cavanagh said the firm may still have some leverage to resolve the dispute because the company's data may be needed to convince public health authorities that the site is truly clean. "At the end of the day, we'd like to work something out that's fair and will get the quarantine lifted," she said.
Bio-One now says it has no plans to move into the tabloid publisher's former offices. "We really were committed to making the building itself into a symbol that we can handle these types of issues," Ms. Cavanagh said. "Because of what occurred with the owner, obviously that didn't work out."
Mr. Abrams, the Boca Raton mayor, said in an interview yesterday that the drawn-out saga has been disconcerting to local residents, but he stressed that the delays were not the fault of Mr. Giuliani's firm. "It's been an ongoing frustration for the city literally from the day of the first anthrax attack," Mr. Abrams said. "Our view is Bio-One was really a savior for us because we were at a dead end with the federal government."
In May, the Palm Beach Post reported that two medical waste treatment companies declined to work with Bio-One because of concerns about the autoclaving process the company planned to use to decontaminate the disputed boxes. Ms. Cavanagh said those worries were unfounded.
The health department spokesman, Mr. O'Connor, said the authorities agreed. "Everybody, including the Environmental Protection Agency, felt it was adequate," he said. Bio-One returned to the site briefly after concerns were raised that hurricane-related flooding could again propagate the deadly anthrax spores.
The new contractor, Marcor, said in a statement yesterday that it hopes to complete the remaining work within three months.
"This has taken a lot longer than we expected," Mr. O'Connor said.
Ms. Cavanagh said Bio-One has "moved on" and now has the vast majority of its personnel cleaning up mold damage from the recent hurricanes. "We've been extremely busy in the Gulf region and we expect to be for the foreseeable future," she said.
cleanup starts again on Boca Raton office building
By Luis F. Perez
The on again, off again anthrax cleanup of the former American Media Inc. building in Boca Raton is on again starting this week with a new company taking over the long-delayed decontamination process.
Representatives from Marcor Remediation Inc. are meeting with county public health and federal environmental officials today to finalize the plans, said Marc Brody, project manager for building owner Crown Companies.
Brody expects work to begin this week and said they would have a better idea of how long the cleanup will take after the meeting. There are people interested in moving into the building -- the site of the first anthrax attack in the country, he added.
"Our plans are to open the building," he said.
But before any tenants call the building home, Marcor has to rid anthrax spores from the thousands of boxes holding a treasure trove of tabloid pictures and other mundane office items that remain in the building's basement on Broken Sound Boulevard. The original plan calls for work to be completed in seven weeks, said Tim O'Connor, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County Health Department.
Marcor took over the cleanup in June after David Rustine, who owns Crown Companies, and Bio-ONE, the first company he hired for the job, split in a contract dispute.
Bio-ONE fumigated the building's interior in July 2004 with much fanfare, bringing in former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a partner in the company, to announce the start of the decontamination. Company and health department officials have said fumigation was successful.
However, a claim that the building's boxed-up contents that Bio-ONE planned to incinerate didn't belong to Rustine stopped the cleanup. After months of hand wringing about what to do with the boxes, Bio-ONE decided to decontaminate them instead of destroying them. But as they came close to finishing the job, Rustine and Bio-ONE couldn't come to terms on a new contract so they allowed it to expire.
In September, freelance photographer Greg Mathieson sued AMI, claiming that it owes him at least $2 million for more than 1,400 images that have yet to be returned to him after the building was contaminated with anthrax. He claimed that the company has his images of numerous celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Bruce Willis, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Princess Diana and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Last year, Rustine told Mathieson that cleaning the pictures would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and probably wouldn't work anyway.
Nonetheless, Rustine moved forward with plans to decontaminate the 12,000 boxes containing the building's contents.
Marcor took over in June and it took several months for regulators to approve the plan, which was approved earlier this month, O'Connor said.
The former tabloid headquarters in the Arvida Park of Commerce, where AMI put together the Star, National Enquirer and Weekly World News was attacked with anthrax in 2001. That attack resulted in the death of a photo editor, Bob Stevens, who died Oct. 5, 2001, and sickened mailroom worker Ernesto Blanco, who survived. No one has been charged in connection with the attacks.
The Health Department quarantined the building after Stevens died and it has remained sealed with a chain link fence and patrolled by security guards. On Tuesday, there seemed to be little or no activity on the property.
Federal, state and local government officials struggled for two years over how to rid the privately owned building of the deadly toxin. Their answer seemed to be Rustine, a Boca Raton businessman who bought the building and its contents for $40,000 in 2003. He hired Bio-ONE. But he has failed to complete the decontamination, frustrating public health officials.
"There are no real test results from Bio-ONE," O'Connor said. "So they're going to do all the boxes again."
Luis F. Perez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6641.
veterinarian discusses anthrax threat during 2005 Bovine Connection
by Ellen Robinson
During the 2005 Bovine Connection event in Sidney Friday, local veterinarian Gary Schieber presented the program, “Anthrax in the MonDak Area.”
In light of the tragic loss of 37 cattle in Roosevelt County earlier this fall, Schieber felt it was prudent to inform the large group about the potential risks of anthrax epidemics.
“Anthrax is not new, it’s been here for hundreds of years. There typically is an outbreak every five to 10 years. It is something that is here to stay,” Schieber said.
He explained the anthrax spores live in the soil. Anthrax can live for many years and is very resilient to both heat and cold. Prime conditions for an Anthrax outbreak exists when periods of rain follow prolonged drought conditions.
“In the summertime if you suddenly notice a cow death, you have to suspect anthrax,” Schieber said.
Typical areas for the presence of anthrax in the soil include low lying and alkaline areas in pastures. Herbivores that are affected most by anthrax are cattle and sheep, however all grazing animals are susceptible.
Once the anthrax spores are hatched, the incubation period ranges from three to seven days. Symptoms of infected animals include fever, initial aggression, depression, muscle trimmers, seizures, breathing difficulty and mild bloating. Death occurs rapidly.
Referring to the major cattle loss north of Culbertson, Schieber said, “He called me Sunday. He already had five dead. By the time we picked out the ones that had it, there were 20 more dead in an hour.”
Schieber said decomposition occurs quickly. There is no stiffness nor blood blotting of the anthrax infected corpses.
When an anthrax infected carcass is discovered, Schieber recommends not performing necropsy because anthrax spores will be exposed. Most of the anthrax will be destroyed during the decomposition process if the carcass is left unopened.
All secretions and excretions should be considered infective. One drop of blood could be fatal to other animals on the farm.
“Any of the blood that seeps out contains the spores. The human concern comes in around the carcass. Keep exposure at a minimum by not opening the carcass,” Schieber said.
The proper method of disposing of an anthrax infected carcass includes completely burning the carcass to ashes in a deep burn pit lined with lye. Covering the burn pit sufficiently is also very important.
Burn pits for carcass suspected of having suffered from an anthrax infection should be at a minimum of six feet deep.
Anthrax is a reportable disease in Montana. If anthrax is suspected, individuals should contact a local veterinarian immediately.
on Fri, Dec. 09, 2005
How a company cashed in on anthrax
BY BOB EVANS
Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - In a two-year span, the nation's only licensed anthrax vaccine maker went from pleading poverty to announcing $100 million in acquisitions, including other pharmaceutical companies and a new manufacturing plant near Washington, D.C.
It's a pattern that's worked well for BioPort Corp.: Tell the Pentagon or Congress that it doesn't have the money to keep going, negotiate a new deal, then count the extra cash rolling in.
During the past seven years, it's transformed an initial investment of less than $4.5 million into an international biotech firm, with contracts worth more than $450 million. During that time, the company has capitalized on its monopoly over the vaccine and on fears that opposing armies and terrorists will unleash tiny anthrax spores somewhere.
BioPort is an example of how a sole-source government contract can become a gold mine - especially if you spend wisely on the right lobbyists and public relations professionals.
BioPort counts a former Cabinet member and assistant secretary of health and human services among those it pays to gain favor with government agencies.
"You always pay a higher price when you're stuck with a sole-source," says Philip Coyle, a former assistant secretary of defense for procurement. "The government has nowhere else to go if it wants what you have to sell."
He says Pentagon officials talked about taking over the anthrax vaccine plant and operations - especially after the government held the license for the vaccine as collateral for a series of loans and payments that kept the company afloat.
"What I never heard in those discussions was why nothing ever came of it," he says.
The Pentagon isn't telling that story, and neither is BioPort.
Troops and veterans who've been asked to put BioPort's products in their bodies often point to the company's problems getting a clean bill of health for its manufacturing plant, as well as to the company's ability to always get its way with government officials. They wonder whether BioPort's connections - not its scientific and medical prowess - are behind the company's success.
BioPort is a privately held company that doesn't make its stock available for public sale. As a result, most aspects of its finances and management aren't open to public scrutiny.
The company declined to provide its officers for interviews with the Daily Press. Six weeks after receiving a list of detailed questions - and promising answers - it sent a box containing two books and some news releases. None of the questions was answered.
BioPort's approach to veterans is similar: It sends substitutes to speak for it, often without disclosing that those sources were paid by the company. Those surrogates disregard evidence of deaths or severe health problems from the vaccine, and they provide testimony to government regulators and the public.
Meanwhile, the veterans who think that they've been harmed by the vaccine live on disability payments or suffer in silence.
No government grants support research into their questions about the shot.
Until 1998, the nation's only manufacturing plant for anthrax vaccine was owned and operated by the state of Michigan. The state agency that ran the plant was losing money, so the state put the operation and its license for making the anthrax vaccine up for bid.
Fuad El-Hibri, a 40-year-old German businessman with a Yale University management degree, formed a team of investors to buy the business, which included a $100 million contract with the Pentagon.
His bid faced a problem, though: He and his father, Ibrahim El-Hibri, a wealthy international financier from Lebanon, dominated ownership of the company, which they named BioPort.
Both were considered friendly to the United States. Father and son had directed a company involved in Britain's anthrax vaccine program and they had worldwide interests in cell phone networks and other ventures.
But the U.S. government was not keen on letting a foreign-owned company control its anthrax vaccine. The only other bidder was also based overseas.
So Fuad El-Hibri played a trump card: A family friend, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. William Crowe, was made a director.
Crowe put no money into BioPort but got about 10 percent of the stock, government records show. El-Hibri says Crowe immediately advised him to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Crowe's advice was good, El-Hibri said. But Crowe's connections were better: He was the military's top officer during the Reagan administration, then endorsed Bill Clinton for president in 1992. Clinton made him U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, and while serving there, Crowe was close to the El-Hibri family, congressional testimony shows.
Crowe has persistently declined comment on his investment or role with the company, except for congressional testimony in 1999, when BioPort was seeking its second government bailout. During that testimony, he was asked whether he'd lobbied Pentagon officials for BioPort. Crowe vehemently denied it.
At that point, BioPort had all the leverage over the Pentagon that it needed - if the military wanted to continue its year-old program of inoculating every service member against anthrax.
Even though the Pentagon gave Michigan more than $20 million for new equipment and repairs and $100 million in guaranteed contracts the previous decade, the plant had several problems. It was shut for renovations in March 1998, six months before BioPort bought all operations and licenses in a $25 million package of cash, loans and promises of future payments.
Food and Drug Administration inspections found repeated problems before and after BioPort took over. BioPort brought in more, and better-paid, consultants and employees to fix things up - even though its minor partners included managers who had run the plant that provided millions of doses of vaccine to U.S. troops, congressional records show.
As part of the sale, BioPort assumed the right to sell about $7.9 million of vaccines already made and promised to the U.S. military. Within weeks, it signed a new contract with the Pentagon providing for $45.1 million more, including $16 million in immediate cash for plant renovations. The deal required the government to pay for vaccine even if the drugs weren't licensed for use.
That wasn't enough for BioPort: Nine months later, in June 1999, it was still struggling to get FDA approval of its manufacturing plant. The company said it was running out of money and needed more help.
Pentagon auditors looked at BioPort's books and concluded that millions of dollars were unaccounted for. BioPort didn't even know the cost of making a dose of vaccine, the auditors reported.
It was clear that $1 million had been spent to renovate and furnish offices, as well as $1.28 million more on bonuses for "senior management."
One unnamed former manager got $10,000 a month for as much as 40 months - whether he worked or not, records show.
And $1 million more had been spent on items unrelated to anthrax production, the auditors said.
They concluded that BioPort's request for extra money didn't meet legal requirements.
But Pentagon contract officers, citing "the interests of national security," overruled them and approved a $24.1 million bailout in September 1999.
The contract addition that they blessed paid all the company's debts and provided a 144 percent increase in payment for each anthrax vaccine dose, from $4.36 to $10.64.
It was $2 million less than BioPort sought. Pentagon officers wrote that by chopping the amount, they didn't have to notify Congress about the new deal.
Congress found out anyway, but did nothing to stop the deal.
Hearings were held, including one by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. His session involved only BioPort officials and others who supported the bailout.
A second hearing involving critics of the company and the renegotiated contract was promised but never held.
More aggressive questioning took place in the House of Representatives. It was determined that El-Hibri and his partners had invested only $4.5 million of their own money, in cash and loan guarantees.
All that money and the cash the Pentagon had chipped in was gone, spent on renovations, consultants' fees and physical improvements, congressional investigators found.
Further, the original $25 million deal with Michigan had become $14.45 million.
"The message seems clear: If a company wants to make millions without providing a product or service, enter into a sole-source contract with the Department of Defense to produce vaccines," Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said in a written statement. "BioPort appears to have the government over a barrel."
Louis J. Rodrigues of the Government Accountability Office - a congressional oversight agency that's frequently criticized BioPort and the Pentagon's management of the vaccine program - told Congress that it "had no option" but to pay up if it wanted anthrax vaccine.
The Pentagon contractors who made the original deal with BioPort should have known there was no way that the company could stay in business, Rodrigues said.
"We did nothing to force BioPort's hand and make them come up with a cost-control system," he said.
Or, he added, a realistic business model.
Pentagon officials promised Congress that they'd do a better job - in part by assigning government employees to oversee the company's bookkeeping and quality-control systems.
They denied that they'd been patsies for the well-connected company.
"All I am trying to say is that this is not a sweetheart deal," David R. Oliver, then principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition technologies, told Congress.
BioPort struggled for more than three years to get licensing for its plant and product. Meanwhile, batches of vaccine were made and the Pentagon paid for each - including money for storage of unusable vaccine.
Vaccine made before the plant renovation kept going into the arms of thousands of troops. Dozens of them came to Congress, complaining that the drug made them permanently ill, giving them headaches, joint pain, loss of memory and more severe symptoms.
By 2000, even the Pentagon had lost patience and told BioPort to stop making vaccine until the plant regained its license. But the military agreed to keep making payments anyway, to keep the company afloat.
Those payments meant that BioPort's owners didn't have to borrow money elsewhere and didn't have to risk their personal finances, a congressional auditor testified in 2000.
By January 2002 - when federal drug regulators finally agreed that the plant and company could resume licensed operations - the Pentagon had paid BioPort $126 million for drugs that were stored and unlicensed, congressional records show. It also paid $33.5 million during that time for vaccine given to 525,000 troops.
The months before the licensing approval were tumultuous for the company and the nation.
In August 2001, Congress and the Pentagon publicly said they were considering giving up on BioPort and its failures in getting operations up to snuff.
Meanwhile, BioPort brought in more business partners and consultants from established vaccine companies and government contractors to figure out how to regain its license.
Then came Sept. 11, 2001, followed the next month by deadly anthrax-laden letters to members of Congress and others in Washington, D.C.; Connecticut; and Florida.
Instead of asking questions about the vaccine's safety, many members of Congress began asking why more doses weren't available.
Tommy Thompson, then secretary of health and human services and the Bush administration official responsible for vaccine and drug licensing, was caught between a Congress that wanted action and critics who feared political pressure would hasten licensure.
"I can assure you nobody is pressuring FDA to approve this," he said in October 2001.
Three months later, BioPort had its license back.
A few months after that, it was back to pleading poverty.
This time, BioPort was after a bigger prize: a contract to supply millions of doses of anthrax vaccine for use by civilians, postal workers, police, firefighters and others who might encounter domestic terrorism.
A $1 billion contract was being waved in front of vaccine and pharmaceutical makers, the largest in government history.
BioPort responded as it had in the past.
In a series of interviews, company officials said their business was "at risk" and in financial jeopardy if the government did not quickly give it the contract for a domestic vaccine stockpile - or a new Pentagon deal.
If BioPort was on the ropes financially, its biggest stockholders didn't seem to feel it.
During the same week the president of BioPort pronounced it "at risk," the chairman of the board and biggest stockholders - El-Hibri and his wife, Nancy - were in the news because neighbors were complaining about their plans to build an 88-acre commercial equestrian and polo center near their home in Gaithersburg, Md., near Washington, D.C.
The El-Hibris had never moved to Michigan to oversee the daily struggle over licensing at the vaccine plant there.
Washington, D.C., was the focus of much of BioPort's attention anyway.
In 2002, records show, the company increased spending for lobbyists in Congress, from $30,000 to $110,000. The amount doubled the following year.
BioPort also hired Ruder Finn and Fleishman-Hillard, high-powered public relations firms staffed by many former government officials.
BioPort, still the nation's only licensed anthrax vaccine manufacturer, began sponsoring "public education seminars" and studies to build support for a bigger government stockpile of the drug.
On the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, six doctors, scientists and former military officers - described as a "panel of bioterrorism experts" by BioPort - announced the need for preparedness. Their primary recommendation was to not rely on a new anthrax vaccine but to purchase millions of doses of BioPort's product.
BioPort paid several of the people on that panel to review and endorse the report, including former military officers who only a year before told Congress how safe and effective the company's vaccine was.
They included Marine Maj. Gen. Randy West and Lt. Gen. Ronald Blanck, a former Army surgeon general.
West said he was paid $5,000 for reviewing the report, which was written by either BioPort or its public relations agent - not the experts on the panel.
Even though the ghost writing wasn't known at the time, a critic from the conservative Cato Institute publicly dismissed the panel's work as "just BioPort trying to make some money."
After that, the company's efforts became less obvious.
Muhiuddm Haider, an unpaid member of the panel and a professor in the school of public health at George Washington University, started operating a Web site for BioPort in support of the anthrax vaccine.
BioPort's name doesn't appear anywhere on the site, but the company supplies all the money to operate it, $40,000 a year, Haider said.
The Web site says it's sponsored by the Partnership for Anthrax Vaccination Education, or P.A.V.E., a group of medical organizations that includes the prestigious American Medical Association.
Earlier this year, Haider and P.A.V.E. petitioned the FDA to license the anthrax vaccine for use against inhaled spores of the bacteria.
The ties to BioPort were not disclosed then, either.
P.A.V.E.'s Web site and the organization's publications extol the need for vaccine and say the vaccine is safe. They mention none of the side effects, even the minor ones that the Pentagon acknowledges are suffered by a third or more of those who get the shots.
"I am not marketing for BioPort," Haider says. "I am marketing for public safety."
P.A.V.E.'s public safety efforts began with a series of forums. Featured speakers were West, officials from BioPort, Haider and others connected to BioPort.
People who question the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine aren't on the agenda for those forums.
A frequent speaker is Jerome Hauer, former assistant secretary of health and human services for emergency preparedness. He was a leading proponent of stockpiling anthrax vaccine for civilian use while he was on the government payroll.
In his first few appearances at P.A.V.E. events, Hauer's connections to BioPort weren't disclosed. He'd become a paid consultant.
Later, he took over a new bioterrorism institute at Haider's university.
He was named to BioPort's board of directors in June and has been lobbying for the company's products.
As BioPort's board expanded, so did its business.
By September 2003, the Pentagon was paying $22 a dose - more than double the price negotiated in the 1999 bailout.
Cash was coming in fast. The company could make a million more doses a year than the military demanded, El-Hibri told TWST, a Web site that runs verbatim interviews with business leaders.
"We are debt-free and profitable," he said.
BioPort was now a subsidiary of Emergent BioSolutions, led by El-Hibri and his business partners.
By the end of 2003, Emergent announced the purchase of a Maryland drug maker for more than $3 million and signed a new contract with the Pentagon, worth from $29.7 million to $245 million, depending on the doses sold.
The following year, it began building a second, $95 million, anthrax vaccine plant in Frederick, Md.
In January of this year, Emergent signed a deal with the British government to work cooperatively on toxoid and botulism vaccines, including a pledge to spend at least $2 million during the next two years. Purchase of a British company working on five vaccines, including an oral anthrax vaccine, followed weeks later.
But BioPort and its parent still hadn't landed the big prize: supplying anthrax vaccine for the U.S. domestic stockpile.
BioPort and other companies received seed money to research a new-generation anthrax vaccine. But when the $1 billion contract was awarded in November 2004, it went to VaxGen Inc., a California company without a licensed product and in trouble for misreporting financial results to Wall Street.
VaxGen's vaccine isn't ready for use yet and is in early trials, years away from licensing. Government grants finance at least 11 other efforts to provide alternatives to BioPort's vaccine, aiming for a safer, more effective product.
When BioPort couldn't win in the lab, it doubled its efforts in Congress and other branches of government, adding more and better lobbyists.
It had hired Louis Sullivan, secretary of health and human services under President George H.W. Bush - the current president's father. But higher-powered help was needed.
McKenna Long & Aldridge, a powerful Washington, D.C., law and lobbying firm also known as "MLA," was hired Jan. 1 of this year, U.S. Senate lobbying records show.
Within six months, it reported $140,000 in lobbying fees and helped bring BioPort a $122.7 million contract to supply 5 million doses of the vaccine to the Department of Health and Human Services, the second-largest award under BioShield, the federal law that created a domestic stockpile of antiterror vaccines.
The lobbyist's news release was headlined, "MLA Helps Client Secure BioShield Contract for AVA Anthrax Vaccine."
MLA had supplied several lawyers, including one who'd helped write the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and two who'd been tapped by Congress for help in creating the BioShield law.
But they couldn't do it alone.
Four days before the big contract award, BioPort added lobbyist John Hishta to the team. A few weeks later, he filed a U.S. Senate lobbyist report saying BioPort had paid him $30,000 for "procuring a government contract for anthrax vaccine."
Hishta was executive director of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee during its successful 2002 election campaign. The committee is the main strategy and fund-raising organization for Republican candidates in the House of Representatives.
Hishta also managed a re-election campaign for Virginia Sen. John Warner. Warner is an important ally of the Pentagon in the anthrax vaccination program.
BioPort is still delivering those 5 million doses for the BioShield contract.
But the company didn't wait to resume its well-practiced, well-rewarded strategy for success: threatening to stop vaccine production, then reaping a new contract.
On July 14, BioPort President Robert Kramer told Congress that if the government didn't promise to buy even more vaccine for the domestic stockpile, the company might have to stop producing anthrax vaccine altogether.
"We'll have to make a very simple business decision," he testified.
Whether it was the renewed threat - or just coincidence - BioPort once again got the desired result.
Last month, Health and Human Services posted a notice that it would enter private negotiations with BioPort to supply an additional 5 million doses of anthrax vaccine for the domestic stockpile.
The price to taxpayers hasn't been determined yet.
students face lab limits
By Jessica A. Smith
Foreign students signing up for science lab courses at the University could potentially run into problems.
Since the passing of the USA Patriot Act in October 2001, some foreign students are not permitted to work with certain toxins in labs.
The law deals with foreign students - other than ones lawfully admitted for permanent residence - who are nationals of a country the Secretary of State considers as supporting terrorism.
The countries specified as supporting terrorism in the USA PATRIOT Act are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
Other countries can be added to the list as deemed appropriate by the State Department.
The act created major changes, in regards to who is permitted to work with certain biological agents and toxins, called select agents that could be used by terrorists.
It requires background checks by the FBI on all students, who are slated to be working with the materials.
Those who do not meet the criteria of the background checks listed in the act are classified as restricted individuals and are unable to work with any of the 68 select agents specified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some of the select agents and toxins listed in the act include anthrax, tick-borne viruses, the foot-and-mouth disease virus, the agent that causes mad-cow disease, the herpes b virus, botulism and the Ebola virus.
After the anthrax deaths following the Sept. 11 attacks, the government began to address biological and chemical terrorism as a very real possibility.
"You have an agency that doesn't know anything about what we're doing in labs, and they're blindly making these regulations," said Yves Chabal, a University biomedical engineering professor. It really can be a serious problem."
While the regulations have the potential to affect all of those working in labs, their most profound impact is on foreign students from the countries listed by the government in support of terrorism.
The issue of citizenship is the first criteria considered by the FBI, when deciding whether a student is considered a restricted individual, said Greg Lupinski, the manager of Health and Safety Services at the University.
Other restricted persons include those indicted for or convicted of a crime with a prison term of over one year, fugitives from justice, those who have been adjudicated as mentally defective or have been committed to a mental institution and those who have been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military.
Chabal cited the large number of students from other countries as an example of how the regulations could present problems in research facilities.
He said these students could encounter setbacks if waiting to get a visa or - if they are from the Middle East or another country - seen as a threat.
Section 817 of the USA Patriot Act expands the Biological Weapons Statute, prohibiting the possession of "any biological agent, toxin or delivery system" without the purpose of "prophylactic, protective, bona fide research or other peaceful purpose."
Penalties for violations include fines and imprisonment for up to 10 years.
Faculty knows best about the trustworthiness of their own students, Chabal said. While the government has legitimate reasons for concern, discerning who can and cannot work with select agents should be left to the discretion of faculty.
The regulations can also pose problems for faculty members doing research.
Thomas G. Hartman, manager of the Mass Spectrometry and Chromatography Support Facility at Cook College, said he has been unable to continue to do certain types of testing, because he can no longer purchase standards of agents - such as ricin - since the passage of the act.
"It's very difficult to do business," Hartman said. "In a few ways, I feel it's a hindrance. I can't get some of the things I need."
Several faculty members in the chemistry and biology departments were unaware of the act's regulations on select agents.
Others in these departments don't see a problem with the regulations.
"The impact on the University is effectively, zero," said Richard Ebright, University professor of microbiology.
To his knowledge, there is only one lab at the University that actually works with any of the select agents outlined in the act, and it is in the Department of Food Science at Cook, Ebright said.
Lupinski would not divulge any specifics, regarding which labs use select agents.
The regulations haven't had a major impact at the University, because the agents used in labs are mainly under the categories of Biosafety Level 1 or 2, which are not regulated by the act, Lupinski said.
Lupinski cited Boston University as an institution that would be strongly impacted by the regulations, as workers are building a BL 4 facility there - which does include select agents and toxins.
Lupinski is in charge of compliance with the regulations, regarding select agents and toxins in labs. He said those working with select agents and toxins fall into two categories: registered users and exempt users.
A user is exempt from background checks, if the quantity of the agent in question is below a certain amount.
If the quantity is above the specified amount, the user must become registered, which means filling out various forms, being fingerprinted and having a background check performed by the FBI.
If the background check finds that a student does not meet any one of the criteria, administration is informed on which criteria the person failed to meet, without being given specifics concerning the restricted individual, Lupinski said.
If an undergraduate were to be deemed restricted, it would not hinder them, because they could alter their research, so it would exclude select agents and toxins, Lupinski said.
On the other hand, he said it could potentially hinder a graduate student.
Lupinski said he takes the regulations in stride, because thus far, there have been no restricted students.
Despite this, there remains a potential for research at the University to be hindered, if a student fails to meet the criteria set forth.
While the regulations have not had an effect on research at the University, there's a waiting period of one to three months for a new student to gain approval as a registered user, Ebright said.
"It's just a nuisance," Ebright said.
Chabal, however, sees it as a more serious issue, although he hasn't been personally affected; so far, he has not used any of the restricted substances.
"A lot of people have been [affected] - it's the principle of it," Chabal said.
Detection program for anthrax criticized
Expert: Is $750 million system for mail worth it?
By PAM ZUBECK
The government’s $750 million anthrax detection system for mail hasn’t found a single piece of tainted mail.
But the Government Accountability Office warned in a report last year that negative test results may be unreliable, and a homeland security expert questioned if there are better ways to spend money.
The U.S. Postal Service system was completed in early December when the last of nearly 300 mailsorting facilities was equipped.
The system was authorized after letters laced with anthrax spores were sent through the mail in September and October 2001 to members of Congress and the media, killing five and sickening 17 in four states.
No arrests have been made in the case.
“The good news is we haven’t detected any anthrax-tainted mail at any of our facilities in the U.S. mail system,” said Al De-Sarro, spokesman for the Postal Service’s western region.
Since officials launched the Northrop Grumman system in 2002, machines have scanned roughly 22 billion pieces of mail, DeSarro said.
The equipment, which tests air quality around mail as it moves at 100 mph through the sorting system, was installed in October 2004 at the Denver Mail Processing and Distribution Center, the largest postal facility in the Rocky Mountain area where 9 million pieces of mail are processed a day.
The Colorado Springs center in the 3600 block of East Fountain Boulevard, where anthrax detection equipment was installed in July, handles an average of 1.6 million pieces of mail a day for more than 180 post offices in southern and western Colorado.
The two Colorado systems have screened about 500 million pieces of mail, 180 million of those in Colorado Springs.
Without impeding delivery time, the machines screen most first-class mail sent within Colorado. Mail coming from outside Colorado likely is screened at other points, De-Sarro said.
A gap lies in screening items mailed in rural areas to other nearby rural areas. Although some mail may be routed through detection systems in Colorado Springs and Denver, some may not, he said.
“Not all mail is screened,” he said. “We had to take the majority of where the population centers and the mail are, and so there are parts of the mail that don’t (get screened), and it depends on the state.”
He said tests are conducted periodically to verify the equipment’s effectiveness; exercises allow officials to practice reacting to a positive test.
“Everyone is grilled on this stuff,” DeSarro said.
If anthrax were detected, an alarm would sound, triggering an emergency plan that includes evacuating and treating employees and isolating and testing suspicious pieces of mail. In addition, the incident is immediately reported to other mail centers nationwide.
DeSarro credited the new system with re-establishing confidence in the mail system.
But the GAO criticized the Postal Service for not using a scientific validation method to ensure sample tests are accurate. Without that, the March GAO report said, “There can be little confidence in negative results.”
The Postal Service disputed the finding in a written response, saying it uses best available scientific knowledge and practices and relies on experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“There is still no consensus among experts concerning the best sampling method to utilize,” wrote Patrick Donahoe, the service’s chief operating officer and executive vice president.
Donahoe recommended an interagency task force consider creating validated test methods for biological, chemical and radiological threats, not just anthrax.
Agencies are studying the testing issue and looking into retooling the system to sense other pathogens, which DeSarro declined to name.
For homeland security expert Charles Peña, the system raises questions about homeland security spending.
First, anthrax is extremely difficult to obtain and there’s little indication terrorists are interested in it. Second, it’s doubtful massive numbers of people would be killed.
“You don’t mean to be insensitive, but when you’re looking at the expenditure of dollars, that’s one factor that needs to be looked at,” said Peña, a senior fellow at the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy in Washington, D.C.
He believes shoulder-fired rocket launchers aimed at commercial airliners pose a greater threat, as do hazards that could enter the nation’s largely unguarded ports.
Still, the anthrax episode was a “real event” and it threatened lawmakers, so it’s no mystery why the project was funded, he said.
“We tend to respond to what we know, whether anthrax attacks or bombs on subways. An event happens and you respond to that,” Peña said.
“When you’re playing defense like that, you’re always playing catch-up,” he added. “It is harder for government to be forward-looking.”
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Why are the courts leaning on journalists?
by JEFFREY TOOBIN
Issue of 2006-01-16
The New Yorker Magazine
On December 16th, the Times, citing anonymous government officials, reported that the National Security Agency has engaged in extensive, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens in a secret program authorized by President Bush in 2002. At a press conference three days later, the President defended the eavesdropping. “We’re at war, and we must protect America’s secrets,” he said, adding that the Times’ sources, by disclosing the program, had committed a “shameful act” that had undermined American security. By the end of December, the Justice Department had begun a criminal investigation of possible leaks of classified information to the Times. As part of the inquiry, the leaders of the investigation will almost certainly seek to interview the reporters who wrote the story, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau. The reporters may receive grand-jury subpoenas demanding their coöperation, and may face contempt charges and jail time if they refuse to comply. Thus the N.S.A. leak investigation may join a growing list of cases in which journalists, under threat of legal sanction, are being asked to identify their sources.
In the best known of these cases, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel investigating the leak of the name of Valerie Plame Wilson, a former C.I.A. agent, subpoenaed at least six Washington journalists to appear before a grand jury last year; one, Judith Miller, who was then a reporter for the Times, was jailed on contempt charges for eighty-five days before agreeing to testify. Reporters are also being subpoenaed to testify in civil cases. Wen Ho Lee, a nuclear physicist who formerly worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, has sued the government for improperly disclosing his name and other confidential information in the course of an espionage investigation in 1999, and in the past two years the judges in the case have issued contempt findings against Risen and Jeff Gerth, of the Times; Walter Pincus, of the Washington Post; Bob Drogin, of the Los Angeles Times; Pierre Thomas, formerly of CNN and now with ABC News; and H. Josef Hebert, of the Associated Press, all of whom have refused to testify, and ordered them to pay fines of five hundred dollars a day. An appeals court affirmed the judgment against all the reporters except Gerth, who was found to be too peripherally involved to be cited, and the journalists have asked the Supreme Court to intervene. (The fines are stayed pending the appeals.)
Steven J. Hatfill, a former government scientist who was identified in the press as a possible suspect in the anthrax investigation, has filed a similar lawsuit against the government, in connection with leaks in his case, and in December, 2004, his lawyers subpoenaed thirteen news organizations for testimony. The lawyers have since withdrawn the subpoenas, while they interview government officials they suspect could be responsible for the leaks, but the subpoenas are widely expected to be reissued.
In October, Patrick Fitzgerald charged I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Vice-President Cheney’s chief of staff, with lying to the grand jury about his conversations with reporters, including Miller, Tim Russert, of NBC, and Matthew Cooper, of Time. (Libby immediately resigned.) As Libby’s lawyers prepare for his trial, which will probably take place this year, they are expected to ask to see the journalists’ notes, and they may subpoena other reporters who covered the investigation. At the trial, Libby’s team will try to undermine the journalists’ credibility by challenging them on everything from sloppy note-taking to evidence of bias. “This guy is on trial for his freedom, and it’s not his job to be worried about the rights of the witnesses against him,” a person close to Libby’s defense team said. “There are going to be fights over access to the reporters’ notes, their prior history and credibility, and their interviews with other people. By the time this trial is over, the press is going to regret that this case was ever brought.”
Media lawyers and journalism advocacy groups are alarmed by the increase in demands for reporter testimony. “Thirty-five years or so ago, reporters started getting a lot of subpoenas, and then there was a long lull,” Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told me. “But starting about two years ago we got this sudden pop. There are more grand-jury leak investigations, not just with Fitzgerald but in Rhode Island and other places.” (Last year, Jim Taricani, a local television reporter in Providence, served four months under house arrest for failing to reveal a source of a leak in a criminal investigation.) “The civil cases are maybe the scariest of all,” Dalglish continued. “You’re talking about daily fines for contempt that last the length of a case, which could be years. That’s what’s really giving editors and publishers indigestion.”
The subpoenas are coming at a time when the legal status of reporters is as unsettled as it has been in more than two decades. Public esteem for the media is low, and neither Congress nor the courts seem inclined to grant special protection to journalists. As Robin Bierstedt, the chief lawyer for Time, put it, “There is certainly an atmosphere out there that says it’s O.K. to subpoena journalists.” As a legal matter, the question is whether a reporter should be treated like any other citizen who is asked to testify.
The last time journalists received subpoenas in significant numbers was during the early seventies. Protests against the Vietnam War were at a peak, and government officials were increasingly anxious about domestic unrest and national security. In 1972, for the first time, the Supreme Court addressed the right of journalists to protect their sources, when it decided Branzburg v. Hayes, a combination of four cases in which reporters had received grand-jury subpoenas. (Two of the cases involved the Black Panthers; the two others concerned drug dealers.)
Justice Byron White’s opinion for the five-to-four majority began, “The issue in these cases is whether requiring newsmen to appear and testify before state or federal grand juries abridges the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment. We hold that it does not.” White’s opinion was a scathing dismissal of the journalists’ position. “The preference for anonymity of those confidential informants involved in actual criminal conduct is presumably a desire to escape criminal prosecution, and this preference, while understandable, is hardly deserving of constitutional protection,” he wrote. In short, he held for the Court that the First Amendment provides no “exemption from the ordinary duty of all other citizens to furnish relevant information to a grand jury performing an important public function.” In a brief concurring opinion, Justice Lewis Powell suggested that under certain circumstances—which he defined vaguely as criminal investigations that were “not being conducted in good faith”—journalists might be justified in refusing to testify.
The reaction of lower-court judges to Branzburg was unprecedented in American legal history. Many federal courts simply ignored the Supreme Court’s opinion. “There were some extremely capable First Amendment and mass-media lawyers who were able to spin a win out of a loss, by persuading courts to follow Powell’s concurring opinion instead of White’s majority opinion,” Rodney Smolla, the dean of the University of Richmond School of Law and the author of “Free Speech in an Open Society,” said. “Instead of citing White’s rejection of the privilege, many lower courts used the Powell opinion to create a balancing test. These judges would evaluate, on a case-by-case basis, whether they thought a subpoena to a journalist was legitimate, and they wound up quashing a lot of them.”
Branzburg was decided only a few months before Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, in breaking the story of the Watergate scandal, demonstrated the importance of protecting government whistle-blowers, and judges became reluctant to impose limits on journalists. “After Branzburg, you had the romance of Woodward and Bernstein, and judges saw how important confidential sources had been to uncovering Watergate,” Smolla said. “They were just a lot more sympathetic to the press.” Many states created shield laws, which ban or restrict subpoenas to journalists for information about their confidential sources. (The District of Columbia and all states except Wyoming now have shield laws or some form of protection for reporters, but these don’t apply in federal criminal investigations or in civil lawsuits filed under federal law.) In the three decades after Branzburg, on the rare occasions when journalists were called into court, their lawyers, brandishing their peculiar readings of Branzburg, typically managed to protect them from testifying.
In 2003, however, an opinion by Judge Richard A. Posner transformed the debate over the so-called “reporter’s privilege.” A prolific scholar and perhaps the nation’s best-known federal appeals-court judge, Posner wields singular authority from his chambers, in Chicago. In McKevitt v. Pallasch, a case that grew out of the prosecution in Ireland of an alleged I.R.A. terrorist named Michael McKevitt, Posner took a fresh look at the Supreme Court’s decision in Branzburg. A key government witness in the case was David Rupert, an F.B.I. informant who was widely reviled among supporters of the I.R.A.’s cause. Abdon Pallasch, a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, and several colleagues were writing a biography of Rupert, and they had tape-recorded interviews with him. McKevitt wanted his lawyers to have access to the tapes, and Rupert did not object. But the reporters wanted to keep the tapes secret, because, as Posner put it, “the biography of him that they are planning to write will be less marketable the more information in it that has already been made public.”
Posner ruled that the journalists had to turn the tapes over to the defense. Reviewing interpretations of the law since 1972, Posner wrote, “A large number of cases conclude, rather surprisingly, that there is a reporter’s privilege.” He added dryly, “These courts may be skating on thin ice.” According to Dalglish, of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, “Prosecutors and civil litigants who want reporters to testify have really felt empowered, largely, I think, because of Judge Posner. He said, ‘Everybody go back and reread this case. Branzburg is just not there as a decision that helps the press.’ ”
Judicial conservatives like Posner have never held the press in especially high regard; witness his essay in the Times Book Review in July, in which he argued that the news media have become “more sensational, more prone to scandal and possibly less accurate.” But the Fitzgerald investigation revealed a less obvious corollary: a festering hostility toward the traditional news media from the left. The role of the press in the events preceding the investigation amounted to an almost precise inversion of the whistle-blower model. In a column on July 14, 2003, the conservative commentator Robert Novak revealed that Valerie Plame was a C.I.A. operative, citing as his sources “senior administration officials.” The leak may have been a politically motivated attack on Plame’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had published an Op-Ed piece in the Times a week earlier questioning the Bush Administration’s assertion that Saddam Hussein’s government had tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons in Africa. As the investigation has unfolded, it has come to seem likely that several senior Administration officials, including Libby and Karl Rove, the President’s top political aide, disclosed Plame’s status to reporters. To some liberal critics of the Administration, and of the journalists who reported the White House officials’ charges, this kind of transaction between reporter and source deserves little protection from the First Amendment.
“What I am concerned about is the way in which the powerful have learned to game the system,” Martin Kaplan, the associate dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, at the University of Southern California, said. “What they did in the Plame case was to use the press’s requirements for observing ground rules with sources as a way of making reporters enablers of a smear campaign. Anonymous sourcing in Washington exists today much more to protect government spinners than it does actual whistle-blowers. It’s reasonable to separate the whistle-blower from the garden-variety attempt to float anonymous charges.” The fact that the Plame leaks followed the general failure of the press to uncover the Bush Administration’s misstatements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—and that some of the Plame leaks went to reporters like Miller, of the Times, who had been especially credulous of the Administration’s claims—has given complaints from the left a special intensity.
But criticism from the left and the right may not be the worst problem for reporters at the moment. Their loss of public esteem has been accompanied by the rise of a new and potentially lucrative kind of lawsuit, which is also based on news leaks. In these cases, the subject of the leak sues the federal government, and journalists are forced to testify as witnesses. So it may not be just good politics to pick fights with journalists these days; there may be money in it, too.
The greatest threat to journalists’ ability to protect their sources may be a legacy of Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky’s former confidante. Shortly after the Lewinsky scandal broke, in 1998, there were reports in news publications (including two articles in The New Yorker, by Jane Mayer) about Tripp’s background. In one of the lesser-known tangents of the Lewinsky saga, Tripp sued the Pentagon, where she then worked, arguing that the release of information about her violated an obscure federal statute known as the Privacy Act. That law, which was passed in 1974, was designed to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of government records, but it is an unusually vague and complex statute. “To bring a case under the Privacy Act, there are complicated requirements like showing that the records were part of a ‘system of records,’ and that the disclosures were ‘willful,’ so the law hadn’t really been used to bring many cases,” David Colapinto, Tripp’s lawyer, told me. In 2003, the government decided to settle with her on favorable terms, which included a payment of five hundred and ninety-five thousand dollars. (Tripp, who is recovering from breast cancer, now runs a year-round Christmas shop, called the Christmas Sleigh, in Middleburg, Virginia.)
“I followed the Tripp case very closely,” Brian Sun, a Los Angeles attorney who represents Wen Ho Lee, said. The first account of a potential scandal at the Los Alamos laboratory appeared in the Wall Street Journal on January 7, 1999, and Walter Pincus, of the Washington Post, published his first piece about the case on February 17th. In the article, headlined “U.S. CRACKING DOWN ON CHINESE DESIGNS ON NUCLEAR DATA,” Pincus wrote that an F.B.I. investigation had come “to focus on an Asian American scientist at Los Alamos who had contacts with the Chinese and has since been transferred to a job outside the national security area.” In a story on March 9th, Pincus identified Lee by name, as the “weapons designer . . . who was under suspicion of handing nuclear secrets to China.” As with the other reporters subpoenaed in the case, Pincus’s references to Lee were attributed to unidentified sources. (The Times also identified Lee by name in a story the same day.)
In December, 1999, Lee filed his case against the federal government, making an argument analogous to Tripp’s—and seeking similar damages—that the leaks to Pincus and the others constituted repeated violations by government officials of Lee’s rights under the Privacy Act. In such a case, the plaintiff must establish that government officials improperly disclosed information. At the time, the District of Columbia was one of the jurisdictions in which judges had interpreted the Branzburg case in a way favorable to journalists. Based on a 1981 ruling, plaintiffs in D.C. had an “obligation to exhaust possible alternative sources” of information—in other words, to interview possible leakers—before they could subpoena a reporter. In the past, this requirement has discouraged some litigants from pursuing journalists, or even from filing cases.
But Lee’s lawyers were dogged. “We made every effort to find out the leakers without going to the journalists,” Sun said. He took depositions from six employees of the Department of Energy (including Bill Richardson, the former Secretary), eight F.B.I. officials (including the former director Louis Freeh), and six officials at the Justice Department. “We came up with bubkes,” Sun said. In August, 2002, he started issuing subpoenas to the reporters.
Lawyers for the journalists moved to overturn the subpoenas, and, in a decision rendered on October 9, 2003, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issued what amounted to a cry of revulsion at cozy journalistic-source relationships in Washington: “The deposition transcripts [of the government officials] generally reveal a pattern of denials, vague or evasive answers, and stonewalling. None of the deponents, plaintiff says, has admitted to having personal knowledge of the source of any disclosures. Thus, in the absence of the serendipitous, last-minute appearance of a willing independent witness with personal knowledge of the facts, at the moment only the journalists can testify as to whether defendants were the sources for the various news stories.”
Jackson ordered the journalists to testify, and last June his ruling was upheld by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision that was even more dismissive of the journalists’ concerns. Accusing lawyers for the Times reporters of being “inaccurate to a point approaching deceptiveness,” the appeals court ordered the journalists (except Jeff Gerth) to identify their sources or start paying the fines. (For procedural reasons, the contempt proceedings against Pincus trailed some months behind those of the other reporters, but the ruling in his case was the same.) Steven Hatfill’s lawyers are pursuing a strategy similar to Lee’s, first deposing the government officials who are suspected leakers in his case, and then, presumably, going after the reporters. The best hope for the subpoenaed journalists in both cases is that the government settles the lawsuits before the contempt rulings are affirmed.
The First Amendment instructs Congress to “make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” but the Supreme Court historically has been reluctant to treat the press clause as meaningfully distinct from the speech clause. As Rodney Smolla says, “The Court has generally been unwilling to say that journalists have more rights than other citizens. Whenever the Court has had cases about access to courtrooms or disaster sites, it talks about the right of the public to be there, and journalists are just part of the public. The idea behind the cases is that everyone should be treated the same.”
This principle has made it difficult for journalists to persuade courts to recognize a special privilege to protect them from testifying. “When you look at other privileges, like attorney-client or doctor-patient, they arise out of confidential relationships that have a formal quality to them, and there is a powerful and ancient interest in promoting candor,” Smolla said. “If you have a journalistic privilege, it might apply to everyone a journalist meets in reporting a story, even if he has no preëxisting relationship with them. The journalist can make the promise of confidentiality on the spot, as needed. The courts are loath to hand that kind of power to journalists to put information off limits.”
The converse argument—that journalists should be allowed to promise confidentiality to their sources, and the courts should honor those promises—was made by Justice William O. Douglas, in a dissenting opinion in the Branzburg case. “A reporter is no better than his source of information,” Douglas wrote. “Unless he has a privilege to withhold the identity of his source, he will be the victim of governmental intrigue or aggression. If he can be summoned to testify in secret before a grand jury, his sources will dry up and the attempted exposure, the effort to enlighten the public, will be ended. If what the Court sanctions today becomes settled law, then the reporter’s main function in American society will be to pass on to the public the press releases which the various departments of government issue.” A modern version of this argument was elaborated in a series of editorials in the Times defending Judith Miller. “Inside sources trust reporters to protect their identities so they can reveal more than the official line,” one of these editorials stated. “Without that agreement and that trust between reporter and source, the real news simply dries up, and the whole truth steadily recedes behind a wall of image-mongering, denial and even outright lies.”
This argument didn’t command a majority of the Supreme Court in 1972, and, in the current political and legal environment, the most the press can probably hope for is a compromise, like the one proposed last April by Judge David S. Tatel. A Clinton appointee to the D.C. Circuit, Tatel sat on the three-judge panel that rejected Judith Miller’s appeal of the contempt order against her for refusing to testify before Fitzgerald’s grand jury. Like Posner, Tatel recognized that the decision in Branzburg essentially foreclosed the claim that the First Amendment protects journalists from grand-jury subpoenas. But Tatel went on to note that the Federal Rules of Evidence give the courts broad latitude to develop evidentiary privileges “in the light of reason and experience.” It was on the basis of these rules that federal courts came to recognize privileges for clergy and attorneys. Tatel sought to determine whether journalists were also entitled to a common-law privilege, as the D.C. Circuit had recently found for psychotherapists regarding their confidential communications with their patients. “In sum,” he concluded, “ ‘reason and experience,’ as evidenced by the laws of forty-nine states and the District of Columbia . . . support recognition of a privilege for reporters’ confidential sources.”
But what Tatel gave Judith Miller with one hand he took away with the other. He stressed that the privilege “cannot be absolute,” and, based on the evidence in her case, she was not entitled to its protection. The leak of Valerie Plame’s name was a “serious matter,” he argued, but the disclosure “had marginal news value. . . . Considering the gravity of the suspected crime and the low value of the leaked information, no privilege bars the subpoenas.” But Tatel did cite several examples of leaks that might justify a reporter in protecting his sources. One was a 2004 story in the Washington Post about a “budget controversy regarding a supersecret satellite program.” The story was co-written by Walter Pincus.
Pincus joined the staff of the Post in 1966, and ten years ago he turned sixty-three, an age at which many people start contemplating retirement. “But both my parents lived to be ninety-five, and I thought I needed something to do when I turned seventy, so I went to law school part time,” he told me. It took him six years, but in 2001 he graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center. Pincus has never practiced law, however, and he remains an investigative reporter in the national-security field. He has a full head of snow-white hair, bushy eyebrows, and a slightly distracted air that is common to investigative reporters. When he bought me a soda in the Post’s decrepit employee cafeteria, coffee from a broken machine was spewing onto the floor, but he stepped around the torrent without comment. When we sat down, I asked him why he had never practiced law. He replied that Katharine Graham, the longtime chairman of the Washington Post Company, had been a close friend. “She died right before the bar exam,” he said. “I was with her and her family. I didn’t study, so I failed.”
Pincus has an idiosyncratic view of his legal predicament. He’s skeptical of the notion that subpoenas to journalists necessarily have a chilling effect on sources. “My sources are not drying up,” he told me. “It hasn’t hurt me. There is a misconception generally about sources. When you talk about a leak, you are usually not talking about a single person handing you something. You get a little bit here, and a little bit there, and often you can’t even identify the single source of a story. Anyway, most of my confidential sources are people I know extremely well. I’ve built up these sources over the years. Reporting in the intelligence field is talking to a lot of people. The idea that sources are people who come to you over the transom is not true in my case. And those people who come to you over the transom are often trying to plant things that turn out not to be true. My experience is that most sources you don’t know personally will give you bad information.”
Pincus believes that reporters are facing more subpoenas as much because of bad habits that the profession has acquired as because of an unsympathetic public and judiciary. He thinks, for example, that reporters are often too ready to grant confidentiality to their sources. “The whole subject of confidential sources has gotten mixed up between gossip, opinion, and fact,” he said. “I cover intelligence, and people are really risking their jobs and perhaps their freedom by telling me information that they know is classified. That’s very different from people going on background to tell you that Britney Spears is pregnant, or that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t run for the Senate because it will hurt her chances of running for President. Just because someone asks for confidentiality doesn’t mean you have to give it to them. And just because someone tells you something, even if it’s true, doesn’t mean you have to put it in the paper.”
Two days before Novak revealed Valerie Plame’s name in his column, an Administration official had discussed her husband’s trip to Africa with Pincus. The official, to whom Pincus promised confidentiality, said that Wilson’s trip had been arranged by his wife. (The official told Pincus that Wilson’s wife worked at the C.I.A. but did not identify her by name.)
Miller chose to go to jail rather than coöperate with Fitzgerald; Pincus took a different tack. Rather than defy the prosecutors, as Miller did for so long, Pincus and his lawyers made a deal that would allow him both to honor his agreement with his source and to give Fitzgerald the information he requested. First, Pincus received a waiver from his source to talk to Fitzgerald, but only for the purpose of letting him answer Fitzgerald’s questions. (Pincus will not identify the source publicly, except to say that it wasn’t Lewis Libby.) Pincus’s lawyers established that Fitzgerald’s team would ask a limited number of questions about the timing and content of his interview with the source, and Pincus testified with little fanfare. (Ultimately, Miller also accepted a waiver from her source, Libby, and testified before the grand jury.) “A lot of reporters are egomaniacs,” Pincus said. “Some people want a confrontation. They want us to be above the law. We’re not.”
The risk, of course, is that successful subpoenas of reporters will lead to more such subpoenas. As the federal appeals court in New York observed in 1999, in upholding a privilege claim by reporters for NBC, “If the parties to any lawsuit were free to subpoena the press at will, it would likely become standard operating procedure for those litigating against an entity that had been the subject of press attention to sift through press files in search of information supporting their claims.” The burden of subpoenas on journalists’ time, and on their employers’ budgets, would be bad enough, but there would also be, as the New York court put it, “the symbolic harm of making journalists appear to be an investigative arm of the judicial system, the government, or private parties.”
Pincus’s accommodating approach goes only so far. With one exception, his sources in the Wen Ho Lee case have not waived confidentiality, and Pincus will continue to honor his agreement with the remaining sources, the contempt order notwithstanding. (If Pincus and the other reporters continue to defy Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, who took over the case after Jackson retired, she could order them jailed.) Today, Lee is remembered by many as a victim, who served nine months in solitary confinement after his indictment on fifty-nine counts of mishandling classified information, and was the subject of a lengthy editor’s note in the Times, apologizing for the paper’s harsh coverage of his case. But Pincus has little sympathy for Lee, arguing that the Privacy Act does not cover the kind of information that was disclosed to him, and that the substance of what he was told was made public anyway when Lee was indicted. He maintains that Lee suffered no legal damage from the news reports; although the government eventually dropped most of the charges against him, Lee did plead guilty to a felony count of copying classified documents onto computer tapes without authorization. In an opinion by Judge Collyer on November 16th, she wrote that Pincus was free to make these arguments, but only after he answers questions from Lee’s lawyers in a deposition.
Pincus might be able to avoid testifying if the D.C. Circuit created a common-law journalistic privilege along the lines suggested by Tatel. If the court applies Tatel’s balancing test—weighing the public benefit of the leak against the harm that the leak caused—then Pincus might not have to name his sources. “Walter accurately reported news about an important espionage investigation, with major foreign-policy implications,” Kevin Baine, Pincus’s lawyer, said. “That’s a major benefit to the country. And there’s no harm, because all the information was released by the government in a matter of weeks anyway, when Lee was indicted.”
Tatel’s reasoning could also help Risen and Lichtblau protect the confidentiality of their sources in the N.S.A. wiretapping story. “In the current N.S.A. situation, I think Judge Tatel’s test would clearly be struck in favor of our reporters,” George Freeman, the assistant general counsel at the New York Times Company, said. “This was a leak to determine whether the law was broken, and that is something that ought to be brought to the public’s attention, so there can be public debate about it.” (Risen and Lichtblau declined to comment.) At the moment, however, Tatel’s rule is not the law of the federal courts in Washington, D.C., much less of the United States, so the reporters have little reason to be optimistic.
Journos Want Supreme Court To Block Secret Sources Order
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
WASHINGTON — Three journalists asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to block an order requiring them to reveal confidential sources in their reporting on a criminal probe of a nuclear scientist.
If justices accept it, the case sets the stage for a landmark free-speech ruling at a time reporters are under increasing pressure to break source confidentiality pledges — or risk jail time and huge fines.
"The issues presented here go to the heart of the press's function in a democracy," justices were told in an appeal being filed Tuesday by lawyers for H. Josef Hebert of The Associated Press, James Risen of The New York Times and Robert Drogin of the Los Angeles Times.
The three reporters have been held in contempt of court for refusing to divulge the identify of sources for stories about Wen Ho Lee, who in 1999 was suspected of spying while he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Lee was never charged with espionage. He was held in solitary confinement for nine months, then released in 2000 after pleading guilty to a single count of mishandling computer files. A judge apologized for Lee's treatment.
Lee wants the reporters' sources for his civil lawsuit against the government, which he contends improperly disclosed personal information about him in violation of a federal privacy law. Justices could use the case to clarify how courts should deal with subpoena requests and decide if journalists are protected by the First Amendment in keeping sources private.
Reporters have been pressed to testify in criminal cases as well. Last summer, several reporters were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury investigating the leak of CIA officer's identity. New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to discuss her source.
"Resolution by this court of this important question is particularly necessary because reporters across the country are now experiencing an ever-growing wave of federal subpoenas demanding the disclosure of their confidential sources, particularly in civil proceedings," justices were told in the appeal by Washington lawyer Lee Levine.
Levine said that about 20 reporters have recently faced subpoenas to testify in two cases that involve the federal Privacy Act, six in the Lee case and another dozen in a lawsuit brought by Steven Hatfill, a former Army scientist who claims journalists unfairly linked him to the 2001 anthrax killings.
The New York Times has an appeal pending at the Supreme Court seeking to throw out a defamation lawsuit brought by Hatfill.
A separate appeal was expected to be filed on behalf of a fourth reporter also ordered to testify about confidential sources involving Lee — Pierre Thomas, formerly of CNN and now of ABC.
The case is Drogin v. Lee.
February/March 2006 Preview
Dilemma of Interest
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Many law enforcement officials now use the vague term “person of interest” to describe people caught up in their investigations. That poses a challenge for journalists, who must try to convey a situation accurately without unfairly tarring someone’s reputation.
By Donna Shaw
When Robert Lutner saw on the news that two close friends, Brenda Groene and her boyfriend, Mark McKenzie, had been bound and bludgeoned to death along with Groene's 13-year-old son, Slade, he broke down and wept. Frantic, he began calling other friends, trying to get more information. What had happened? Who could have done such a thing? And where were two other Groene children — Shasta, 8, and Dylan, 9 — both reported missing?
Lutner, who had been at Groene's Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, home on May 15, 2005, the day before the bodies were found, called the hotline set up by the local sheriff to offer any information he could. He says no one called him back. So he and some friends drove around the area, searching for the children. They found nothing.
Shocked and emotionally drained — Brenda Groene and McKenzie "were like family," Lutner says — he went home and did something he knew he shouldn't: He got drunk. Lutner, 33, is on probation for unemployment fraud and is forbidden to drink. So when his probation officer called that evening and said he needed to see him immediately, Lutner ignored him and turned off his phone.
"The next thing I know, I turn on the TV and see that I'm a 'person of interest,'" says Lutner, a concrete worker and father of two. "It was like I was in a dream world."
Like a growing number of people caught up in such investigations, Lutner wasn't being called a suspect — or even a target, witness or subject, terms often used by prosecutors. And since he wasn't charged with a crime, he certainly wasn't a defendant. But police were handing out his mug shot and descriptions of his vehicles, telling reporters that Lutner might know the whereabouts of the two missing children.
Once heard primarily in connection with federal cases involving terrorism and national security, many local police departments now use "person of interest" routinely in investigations ranging from murders to brush fires.
Journalists — confronted with high-profile cases and competitors hot on their heels — must decide how to handle the vague term to describe what could be the central figure in their stories. A "person of interest" hasn't been charged, much less convicted, of a crime. But the term clearly casts suspicion, even when police insist they "just want to talk" to the person in question.
Last year, news reporters used the term to describe dozens of people in more than 40 cases in 19 states, according to news database searches. The media referred by name to the vast majority of these people, even though at AJR's deadline at least half had not been charged with any crimes. In most instances, reporters appeared to use the term without pressing police to define it, leaving the interpretation up to the audience.
From that list, Lutner was one of at least seven who were exonerated, including three in a single case. One "person of interest" killed himself. Like Lutner, many "persons of interest" have previous criminal records — raising the additional question of whether they ever can escape their pasts.
Officially, "person of interest" means..well, nothing. No one has ever formally defined it — not police, not prosecutors, not journalists. The terms "accused," "allege," "arrest" and "indict" all are dealt with in the Associated Press Stylebook, but there is no listing for "person of interest." Similarly, the U.S. Attorneys' Manual — the official guide to federal criminal prosecution — uses the terms "suspect," "subject," "target" and "material witness," but "person of interest" gets no mention. So what are reporters to do?
"The reporter should be on notice that it is a vague term that has no real understandable definition," says Gerald B. Lefcourt, a New York defense attorney and past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. His advice to journalists: "You have to ask the police what they mean."
Kristin Gazlay, the AP's deputy managing editor for national news, says that before naming anyone, "we need to look at why this person is a 'person of interest'..also we have to recognize that police sometimes use this as a technique to pressure people to talk." She says that "in cases high profile and low profile," AP editors routinely discuss whether to use the names.
"Obviously, 'person of interest' is a number of steps from someone who has been charged," Gazlay says.
Jim Kouri, a spokesman for the National Association of Chiefs of Police, says "person of interest" often is a euphemism for "suspect."
"If it's a suspect and you say 'person of interest,' you're using the euphemism to avoid problems down the line," says Kouri, a former New York housing police officer. What problems? Police sometimes "try to maintain that the person really isn't a suspect" in order to get him to agree to questioning without Miranda warnings, Kouri says. "You don't want the guy to lawyer up."
Kouri says across the country, "it's the legal counsel telling police chiefs that they should instruct their officers and train them to use that term."
Although the Justice Department has said it does not know who coined the phrase, it came into prominent use after the July 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta. The FBI leaked the name of security guard Richard A. Jewell, who for nearly three months was the unofficial but primary suspect in the case (see "Going to Extremes," October 1996).
During that period, Jewell was the subject of numerous news stories that strongly suggested he was the bomber. Eventually the real culprit was apprehended, tried and convicted. Jewell sued several news organizations, most of which reached out-of-court settlements with him, and eventually got an apology from then-Attorney General Janet Reno.
But judging by the increasing numbers of people identified as "persons of interest" since then, neither the authorities nor the media have resolved how or whether to use the term.
In September 2002, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking him to produce any policies or other written materials that defined "person of interest" as used by the FBI to describe scientist Steven J. Hatfill in connection with the anthrax mailings that killed five people in late 2001. (See "Into the Spotlight," November 2002.) The Justice Department responded three months later, prompting a press release from Grassley.
"There is no formal policy, level of evidentiary standard, procedure, or formal definition for the term 'person of interest,'" the release stated. "Government agencies need to be mindful of the power they wield over individual citizens, and should exercise caution and good judgment when they use that power."
Whether calling someone a "person of interest" is illegal remains to be seen; Hatfill has sued the Justice Department, Ashcroft and the FBI, alleging they violated his constitutional rights by publicly implicating him "without formally naming him as a suspect or charging him with any wrongdoing." Hatfill says the government unconstitutionally deprived him of earning a living by leaking false information to divert media attention from the fact that the government has failed to solve the case.
In October 2005, a federal appeals court declined to reconsider a ruling that allowed Hatfill to proceed with a defamation lawsuit against the New York Times Co. The suit involves Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who identified Hatfill only as "Mr. Z" until an FBI search of Hatfill's apartment was broadcast on TV, prompting the scientist to hold a news conference and proclaim his innocence.
Kristof had criticized the FBI for what he saw as its slow pace in investigating the researcher's background and activities. Although he didn't name Hatfill, the details he served up in his columns could only have described one man.
Kate Nelson, managing editor of the Albuquerque Tribune, says it's important for reporters to remember that they are constitutionally empowered watchdogs whose job is to hold government officials to task — and not to be seduced by their power or position.
The Tribune wrestled with that issue in January 2005, when Albuquerque police labeled local resident Hubert Hauser a "person of interest" in the beating death of his estranged wife, Kathryn. Working from divorce records involving Hauser's earlier marriage, the Tribune wrote of his alleged "significant violent behavior" and use of illegal drugs. Hauser, an employee of a Christian radio station, disconnected his phone and left town; later, DNA tests linked the killing to a homeless man, who was arrested and charged with the crime.
"What interim damage have we done to the notion of innocent until proven guilty?" Nelson wrote in a February 2005 column. "What other constitutional safeguards governing crime and justice might we have frayed? What have we done to a suspect who's not really a suspect but is still..suspect?"
Hauser, she wrote, "became a sudden 'person of interest,' so declared by the public safety officials we rely on to deliver us from evil. At The Tribune, we did what good journalists do: dug into Hauser's background, where we found messy details of a previous divorce, wrote them up and published them."
Nelson told me that after the Hauser case, "definitely our awareness was heightened on this issue..and how easily we are used" by police. When police call someone a "person of interest," you should ask yourself, "Why are the cops telling us this?" Nelson says. "If you aren't satisfied with the answer, you may have to put the brakes on the great headline."
A month after the arrest in the Hauser case, Darren White — sheriff of Bernalillo County, where Albuquerque is located — issued a memo directing his staff to avoid using "person of interest" in any investigation. "While I believe it was with good intentions that the law enforcement community coined this phrase, the effect has been confusion as to the actual status of a person relating to an investigation," wrote White, a former television reporter. "While seeking to locate individuals whom we believe are suspects, we should call them suspects," the memo states. And people who "may have information relating to a crime should be referred to as people with whom we would like to speak or question."
In a telephone interview, sheriff's spokeswoman Erin Kinnard said the memo wasn't a direct result of the Hauser case but that the sheriff had grown uncomfortable with the terminology. Hauser was one of several people named as "persons of interest" in cases investigated by the Albuquerque Police Department between December 2004 and May 2005, a database search found.
"Generally speaking, that term is used so as not to implicate somebody," Kinnard says. Noting that it gained broader use after Jewell was wrongly accused, she adds: "Now we call everybody a 'person of interest' because we don't want to be sued. But in reality, they are our suspects."
In Coeur d'Alene, the Groene-McKenzie slayings and kidnappings immediately drew coverage from across the country. The drama continued for the next six weeks, until July 2, when employees at a local Denny's restaurant spotted Shasta with her alleged kidnapper, and she was rescued.
The suspect, convicted sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan III, faces multiple charges in the abduction of Shasta and Dylan, who was found dead at a Montana campsite. Duncan also is charged with first-degree murder in the three killings at the Groene home.
Police say Duncan acted alone. They cleared Lutner within days of the initial crimes.
In the coverage of the Groene-McKenzie murders and kidnappings, Lutner was named in every news story before he was cleared by authorities. Some reports attempted to explain that "person of interest" did not necessarily mean "suspect." Others weren't as circumspect: Morsels of information were divulged, analyzed and sometimes given undue significance.
In a report from the AP before Lutner went to see his probation officer, a spokesman for the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office was quoted as saying that he "seems to have just disappeared," even though, at 6-feet-2 and 240 pounds, he was "a big guy to hide."
CNN Radio drew an admission from Lutner's stepmother that she hadn't heard from him in several days, which was unusual.
On May 18 — two days after the bodies were found and the day that Lutner came forward — CNN legal analyst Nancy Grace and her guests speculated about what information he might have. While agreeing that Lutner probably wasn't a suspect, like others in the media they still hypothesized that the murders probably were drug related and that "this guy has a drug issue." (Lutner adamantly denies that he, Brenda Groene or McKenzie had drug problems.)
On the same day, MSNBC anchor Dan Abrams introduced a segment on the case by announcing that authorities had "track[ed] down" Lutner — when in fact it was Lutner who had contacted them.
Reporters who covered the story say using Lutner's name involved a difficult balancing act. Shasta Groene was recognized by Denny's employees because police provided information that was widely publicized on a daily — and on cable news, hourly — basis. That information included an "Amber Alert" bulletin featuring the missing children's photos, accompanied by a photo and description of Lutner and his vehicles. But it turned out that Lutner had no involvement in her abduction, and Denny's employees recognized the little girl without any photos of her real captor.
Dave Turner, a veteran police reporter with the Coeur d'Alene Press, notes that Shasta and her brother were missing from a home in which, according to police, a triple murder had occurred — and that Lutner was one of the last people to see them at the home. But Turner says that, given the way in which police used the term, he hadn't seen Lutner as a suspect.
"They called him a 'person of interest' because they wanted the public's help in trying to locate him," Turner says. "The thought was, if you find Lutner you might find the kids — not that he had them but he might know where they were."
Susan Drumheller, who covered the Groene story for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, says the horrific nature of the crime meant that reporters were frantically striving "to get every bit of information we could."
"I think we were anxious to follow any kind of leads," says Drumheller, who left the paper in December. "I'm not sure we were overly concerned with his privacy rights, frankly. We weren't getting a lot of information out of the [authorities], so any little crumb we just ran with."
Drumheller says she was uncomfortable adopting the "person of interest" language to describe Lutner, but the crime was too horrible to ignore such a potentially important lead.
"We tried to play it as straight as we could," she says. "We tried not to make any assumptions while telling people everything we could."
Drumheller's struggle to balance her reporting was perhaps most evident in a May 19 story, after Lutner turned himself in but before the missing children were located. Drumheller wrote that 18-year-old Jesse Groene had speculated that his mother, Brenda Groene, may have been pressuring Lutner to repay money he had borrowed from her. But Jesse Groene also was quoted as saying, "I never saw him hostile toward my family at all."
Drumheller's story continued: "Even though authorities have not accused Lutner of murder, Groene can't help wondering. 'I can see him being that ruthless, but at the same time I'm not putting that on anyone,' Groene said."
The story then offered details of Lutner's "lengthy criminal record."
Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute and a former Spokesman-Review staffer, says that given the grisly facts of the Groene crimes, this "might be one of the cases that passes the extenuating-circumstances test." With three people dead and two children missing, it made sense for reporters to use the information on Lutner, says McBride, who used to live in Coeur D'Alene.
At the same time, she says, reporters need to make sure they are using "person of interest" with some context, keeping in mind that police and journalists "have a different mission and purpose and set of obligations."
When police call someone a "person of interest," they often "are trying to scare the person into confessing, drum up more information about the person and kind of otherwise smooth over cracks in their case," McBride says. "As journalists, we have to treat that term with increased skepticism."
She adds that journalists need to guard two very important principles. "The first is the principle of watchdog journalism — we should be pressing authorities to say why this is a 'person of interest,' why hasn't he been charged, what is the evidence, and what are their motives in having us publish this."
"Number two, we have an obligation to fairness, so in a newsroom, when someone is labeled a 'person of interest,' there has to be an additional threshold..including, if possible, independent reporting that somehow verifies what the police are telling us."
Bob Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, says the news media shouldn't feel obligated to use the language of law enforcement.
"You could say that somebody is under investigation, that they are a suspect, that they've been brought in for questioning," he says. "You're trying to give accurate information about a crime..that conveys information the public ought to have — and 'person of interest' doesn't do that."
"You start to ask the officer questions — is he being held, is he being questioned, does he have a lawyer — the normal questions you would ask in any case. You can ask, do you suspect him of the crime?"
Lutner, for his part, felt very much like a suspect. On May 18, he woke up sober, showered and shaved, and went to see his probation officer. "I figured I was going to jail" for violating probation, he says. By this time, his name and photo had been all over the national news for two days. "My PO treated me like I had something to do with it," he says. "He said I could be a hero if I helped find the kids."
The FBI arrived and took Lutner to the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office, where he agreed to take a polygraph test. Then, for the next 17 days, he sat in jail on the probation violation.
By then, Lutner says, the coverage was overwhelming. "Every time I saw my name flashed on TV, I was frightened."
There were photos of his parents' home. His stepmother fielded repeated interview requests from reporters. The mother of Lutner's two children got calls from "America's Most Wanted," which aired a story on the case. His children were afraid to leave their house. In Placerville, California, where his aunt had died just before the Groene-McKenzie killings, Lutner says he saw this headline: "Murder comes to Placerville." Reporters went to his high school and interviewed his former teachers, even though they hadn't seen him in 15 years. And then there was the hate mail, which he says he didn't read. "It was just a melee," Lutner says. "People were pointing fingers at me."
Although cleared by police, Lutner's notoriety lives on, thanks in large part to the Internet. Long after Shasta was rescued, one Web site continued to exhort people to pray for the abducted Groene children while still referring to Lutner as being sought by police.
He wasn't the only one implicated. A blog called The Dark Side noted that the sheriff had discounted Steven Groene — the children's father and Brenda's ex-husband — as a suspect, yet went on to say: "At this point, speculations could run rampant; lack of police suspicion notwithstanding, maybe Steve Groene was nowhere near the home but had cronies do the deed, and his youngest are in safe hiding."
Similarly, the Jewish Defense Organization — a self-described militant group that trains Jews to defend themselves against "Nazi scum," according to its Web site — refers to Hatfill on its site as "Dr. Steven 'Mengele' Hatfill" and dares him to sue the group.
One could argue that journalists aren't to blame for these postings. But do they bear some responsibility? The AP's Gazlay thinks they might. The advent of the Internet, she says, means "you can't just scrub the world of these references."
"They're using media reports to fuel what they're writing," she says. "It magnifies any decision to use a name to the point that it just has to be factored into your discussion."
Gazlay notes that before Dennis Rader was charged as the "BTK killer" in Kansas, police brought in several people for questioning and "we did not use any of those names." (She says at least one of those people is suing another news organization that did name him.)
But in the Hatfill case, "How do you not use his name?" Gazlay asks. "His lawyer went public to denounce the government, and he held press conferences."
"It really is a slippery slope."
What if the worst happens — and, like Lutner, the "person of interest" turns out to be completely innocent after you've written extensively about him?
"You do a really big front-page story afterward to explain what happened," says the Poynter Institute's McBride, including "bigger headlines and more prominent play."
And to Lutner, "you say to him that I have done everything I can to make this right, including a very big front-page story that says you are not the guy, and it was a horrible mistake. And hopefully you say, 'Is there anything else we can do to make this right?' But I'm sure it's incredibly inadequate to him."
The follow-up coverage received prominent, front-page play and made it clear that Lutner had been exonerated. But to him, the damage had been done. Now out of jail and back at work, Lutner says he's trying to put the incident behind him. But it isn't easy. For one thing, there are bills to pay. And his ex is suing for full custody of their children, saying he endangered them by taking them to the Groene house to play. She came to that conclusion, he says, from watching the news.
What would he like to say to all the reporters who did stories about him? Lutner thinks for a minute. "I just don't think that journalists realize they were putting my family in danger over this," he says. "If people really thought I did it, what if somebody kidnapped my kids or hurt my parents? What if someone decided to take revenge?
"What if something like this happened to them? What if the shoe was on the other foot?"
Donna Shaw (firstname.lastname@example.org), a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, teaches journalism at the College of New Jersey outside Trenton.