Anthrax, Assaad, Terror & the Timeline
Ed Lake
March 3, 2002
Revised slightly on March 6 to add mailing date info from
The Toronto Globe And Mail

The Hartford Courant, The Washington Times, and most recently the February 28, 2002, edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, have all written articles mentioning Dr. Ayaad Assaad, a former researcher at Fort Detrick, the Army lab in Frederick, Md., and how he was asked to come to the FBIís Washington D.C. Field Office on Oct. 3, 2001, to answer some questions prompted by an anonymous letter that accused Assaad of "planning to mount a biological attack".  The letter also described how Assaad "had the motive and means to succeed".

The letter had apparently been sent to the military police in Quantico, Va.  The postmark date has not been given, but The Toronto Globe and Mail says it was mailed on around September 25, 2001.

To The Philadelphia Inquirer and many others, the timing of the letter poses this question: How did anyone know that a biological attack was imminent at that time when the first news about the first anthrax case in Florida did not break until Oct. 4?

Both Dr. Assaad and Barbara Hatch Rosenburg speculate that the individual who mailed the anthrax letters may have been behind the Assaad letter ... because of the timing.

The Assaad letter was apparently typed (single spaced) and included a lot of detailed information about Assaad, plus it stated it was written by "a former colleague of Assaad's".  Virtually everything about the letters is different from the anthrax letters.  So, why do they think it may have been sent by the anthrax mailer?

Because of the timing.

The Philadelphia Inquirer said: "But who sent the anonymous letter? The first anthrax letters were postmarked Sept. 18. The nation's anthrax scare began Oct. 4. So Assaad was fingered falsely at a time when only the culprit knew that a crime had been committed."

But does that really make sense?  Is that really true?

The letter apparently doesnít even mention anthrax.  It only mentions a "possible biological attack".

So, everything about the letter is different, plus it doesnít mention anthrax.  Whatís left to make it suspicious?  Only the timing.

Timing isnít everything.

If you really want to understand the timing, you have to look at the time - and the times.

What was happening around that time?  What else was going on?  Was it totally unlikely for anyone to mention a "possible biological attack" at that particular time unless they were involved in planning one?  Here's a quote from Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer":

"[David Lee] Wilson was head of the [FBI's] HMRU [Hazardous Materials Response Unit] between 1997 and 2000, and during those years the number of credible bioterror threats or incidents rose dramatically, up to roughly 200 per year, or one biological threat every couple of days.  Most of them were anthrax hoaxes."
To examine what was happening during that time, I analyzed messages posted to Internet discussion groups for the 30 day period beginning Sept. 8, 2001, and ending Oct. 7, 2001.  Specifically, I looked for messages containing the word "anthrax".  Was anyone thinking about anthrax prior to the first news that someone had fallen ill from anthrax, which happened on Oct. 3rd or 4th ?  (It appears that the diagnosis was made on the 3rd and the news broke on the 4th.)

Hereís a chart of the number of messages containing the word "anthrax" during each of those 30 days:

Sept. 8, 2001:  Many of the 90 messages using the word "anthrax" on this day were about the band "Anthrax", but some people were also discussing the vaccine, and others were talking about the possibilities of someone using anthrax as a weapon.  The number of messages about the band remains fairly constant over this period, so the changes are about anthrax as a weapon and are primarily the result of September 11 and the discovery on Oct. 4 that someone had become affected with anthrax.

Sept. 9, 2001: 71 messages.  Sept. 10, 2001: 74 messages.  All similar to those of the 8th.

Sept. 11, 2001 changed everything, including the discussions of anthrax.  On this day there were 173 messages using the word, most of which were speculating on whether anthrax would be the next weapon used by the terrorists who had just struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Example message:"Imagine if every one of those terrorists who blew themselves up today was carrying a quart of anthrax in his turban.   We would have outbreaks in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania... it would be all across the country before anyone knew they were contagious.  Shades of The Stand!"

Another:  "I wouldn't be at all surprised if a next attack were biological, something along the lines of anthrax in reservoirs."

Another: "In ĎExecutive Ordersí, terrorists are trying to spread the ebola virus in the States, which threat occurred later with anthrax. Is that where terrorists get their ideas? I would never blame Clancy for all this, he's just a writer. After all, if people are crazy enough to act on his ideas, it's not his problem."

Another: "I remember a couple of years ago when that Bin Laden bloke was threatening to put anthrax in the London water supply. It's scary to think that he actually could, and thousands of people would be affected before they traced it."

Another:  "Imagine if 1 Kilogram of BIOLOGICAL stuff was on the plane or bombed out the entire NEW YORK area would be in danger... I hear on News a guy took his antibiotic for his Anthrax and Malaria... or some sort.  I read in the news that it takes: 800$ - to blow 1 mile radius with atomic weapons.  60$  - to blow up or eliminate chemically.  2$ - to do it biologically."

Another: "For all we know, Anthrax could have been disbursed in this explosion. I am amazed how unprepared our professional fireman etc. are running around without masks"

Another: "What if they had anthrax in their baggage?"

Sept. 12, 2001: There were 210 messages using the word "anthrax".  An example "How long before they put anthrax in our reseviors."

Another: "Do you suppose any of the airliners were contaminated with anthrax before detonating? If so we wont know for about three more days due to incubation periods. The worry has been on me since yesterday"

Another: "Coverage of the theoretical biologicals will depend greatly on the selected gestation period. Anthrax is around one week. If these terrorists were smart, they would have realized that a plane is a perfect delivery vehicle since recovery teams rush in, and spread the desease upon return.  We then rush the first victims to the hospital and add nauseum."

Another: "If not this time, then perhaps the next terrorist attack will be biological. There is absolutely nothing anyone can do either. That's the funny thing about terrorism...  I guess that's why it pisses so many people off."

Sept. 13, 2001: 250 messages.  Example "what would stop the terrorists from releasing anthrax in a sports stadium?"

Another: "They can sneak in anthrax from the mexican border and cultured it here."

Another: "We've not seen anything yet. Suppose they decide to anthrax NY, LA, and Chicago simultaneously?"

Sept. 14, 2001: 216 messages.  "Rent a Cessna and fly over a city and release anthrax or other bio weapon. No need for suicide or violence"

"Is the next stage that they release anthrax into the New York water supply?"

Sept. 15, 2001: 223 messages.  "I just thank God that none of the terrorists had Anthrax vials with them, or some other horrifying chemical weopons."

Sept. 16, 2001: 265 messages.  "The next instrument of mass destruction in the USA, if there is a next time, could likely be the highly lethal AMTHRAX.  Remember, the Chairman of the Joint Chief's of Staff named anthrax as the #1 biological threat.  Conversely, former Director of the CIA James Woolsey referred to it as the single most dangerous threat to our national security in the foreseeable future."

"Anthrax can kill hundreds of millions."

"Let's just hope the subsequent attacks do not involve germ warfare."

"The thought of an anthrax scare is highly disturbing.  A drum of it opened into mid city could kill a hundred thousand in days.  We don't have the capability of treating that many people as it currently stands.  It's odorless and invisible and it's one of the most deadly toxins known to man."

Sept. 17, 2001: 241 messages.  "If Hysteria Rules, then the Terrorists Have Won" is the subject of a thread which contained 252 messages: "How about some hutcase who gets some Anthrax and kills (say) a couple of million NYC residents. You think that is war?"


Sept. 18, 2001:  228 messages.  "SEC. OF DEFENSE DOES NOT RULE OUT NUKES AS LAST RESORT"

"There is a real  possibility of further terrorist attacks on the United States that would make September 11th look minor.  Instead of four airlines being hijacked, imagine anthrax being released in 4 of our largest cities, with death tolls in the millions rather than thousands."

"Salt Lake residents fear terrorist attacks during Games"

Sept. 19, 2001:  274 messages.

One message included this article from AP:
Shortage of Anthrax Vaccine

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The prospect of a major U.S. military campaign against terrorism comes as the Pentagon grows closer to running out vaccine for the deadly anthrax virus.

Pentagon officials declined Tuesday to say how many doses of the vaccine they have left following cutbacks ordered last year to conserve supplies.

``I'm not going to talk about it,'' said Pentagon spokesman Jim Turner.

With the sole manufacturer awaiting federal license approval, the supply problem has remained unresolved for well over a year.

The Pentagon originally wanted to immunize all 2.4 million members of the active and reserve military against anthrax bacteria that, when inhaled, can cause death within a few days.

The Pentagon believes Iraq and other nations hostile to the United States have produced anthrax weapons. When the program began in 1998 the first U.S. troops to get the vaccinations were those deployed in Korea and the Middle East.

As supplies dwindled, the program was cut back. Last December, announcing they had only 60,000 doses left, officials began limiting shots to those would be deployed to the Persian Gulf for 30 days, then again in June to only troops on ``special missions'' they declined to identify and to those involved in research.

A commander of Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s Taliban told The Associated Press last year that Osama bin Laden - described by administration officials as the prime suspect in Tuesday's terrorist attacks - was training his fighters in the use of chemical weapons. The New York Times reported Sunday that satellite photos show dead animals at a terrorist training camp in eastern Afghanistan operated by bin Laden.

The use of biological or chemical weapons is a more sensitive topic now, following last week's jetliner attacks.

Production of anthrax vaccine in the United States has focused on supplies needed for the American military. There is no U.S. manufacturer for supplies for the population at large, officials said.

More than 500,000 service members have received anywhere from one to six shots in the six-shot regime.

The Defense Department's only vaccine supplier, Bioport of Lansing, Mich., has experienced delays in obtaining certification for its renovated manufacturing plant.

The company hopes to provide the Food and Drug Administration additional information required for its license by Oct. 15, Bioport spokeswoman Kim Brennen Root said Tuesday. Under the law, the FDA has four to six months to review the information in deciding whether to grant the license.

Bioport has been trying to get a license for the facility since 1998 when it renovated a manufacturing plant formerly run by the State of Michigan.

There are lots of the vaccine that were produced by the state before the facility was taken over by Bioport, but there are various problems with them, Pentagon officials have said. For instance, some of the stock has expired and there was a problem with test procedures used to determine potency and other issues needed to extend
expiration dates.

It was unclear whether any consideration was being given to releasing some stocks already produced or speeding up Bioport's licensing process.

FDA spokesman Brad Stone refused to comment Tuesday.

Another problem that the Pentagon faces with the vaccine is that a relatively small but vocal number of soldiers have declined to take it because they believe it is unsafe.

After the war, some troops with symptoms of the still-unexplained Gulf War syndrome pointed a finger at the vaccinations, saying they might have caused their problems.

Scientists have repeatedly said the vaccine is not linked to Gulf War syndrome, and it has had FDA approval for use since 1970.

Sept. 20, 2001: 234 messages.

One message included this article from Reuters:
US Orders 40 Million Doses Of Smallpox Vaccine For $343 Million

UK biotech firm could take up to 20 years to fill order...

LONDON (Reuters) - Acambis Plc, the British biotechnology company charged with developing a new smallpox vaccine for the United States, said on Thursday it expected to begin clinical trials on the drug early next year.

Attention has focused on U.S. vulnerability to biological attack since hijackers slammed passenger aircraft into New York and Washington last week, killing thousands.

The atrocity has given new urgency to Acambis's work to make a smallpox vaccine that meets modern safety standards, more than 20 years after the deadly disease was officially eradicated.

"A major effort is underway on this contract, with around one-fifth of our 100 research and development staff committed to the project," said Acambis Chief Executive John Brown.

Later this year the firm will apply to U.S. regulators for permission to start clinical trials in early 2002. Acambis had aimed to deliver the first doses of vaccine in 2004, but Brown said the process could now be speeded up.

"We will do anything we can to meet this important requirement," he told Reuters in an interview.

Scientists say smallpox and anthrax pose the biggest germ- warfare threats, but only the highly contagious smallpox virus has the potential to blow up into a worldwide plague.

The disease -- a deadly blistering of the skin accompanied by pain and fever -- was wiped out in 1979 after a vaccination programme, but military strategists are concerned that virus samples produced in the Soviet Union during the Cold War could fall into the hands of militant groups or rogue states.

The original smallpox vaccine, which has its origins in the 18th century, was simply a dose of the cattle disease cowpox that appeared to give smallpox immunity to dairy maids who contracted the lesser pox from infected cows.

Cultivated in calves, the old vaccine hardly meets modern safety requirements, and could be kept for only 18 months. The Acambis vaccine should have a shelf-life of five years.

Under the 20-year contract with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Acambis will deliver an initial 40 million doses of the vaccine. The deal is worth an estimated $343 million to the small, Cambridge-based firm.

Andrew Forsyth, biotechnology analyst at stockbroker Williams de Broe, said the U.S. government may decide to buy in more vaccine to protect its people against attack.

Acambis shares have defied stock market gloom since the attacks on the United States. On Thursday they were 4.84 percent higher at 128-3/4 pence, compared with 113 pence on September 11.

Sept. 21, 2001: 203 messages.  "URGENT! GET READY FOR AN ANTHRAX  ATTACK!!!"

"Numerous people are appearing on tv talking about a smallpox attack.  Now why would they be doing that?  There is only a small sample of that virus kept in one place in the United States.  And besides, we have been vaccinated against this disease.  Obviously, they are trying to divert our attention from anthrax, a bacillus that our military was vaccinated against, and that bombs containing this germ are being developed at a previously secret location.  And remember those aerial sprayings?"

"Anthrax is Trivial.

"Here's the truth of the matter. Anthrax will never be used successfully as a terrorist weapon, and probably never as a military weapon. It has to be converted to spores suspended in the air, which is technically very difficult; and the lethality is nowheres near the terror that it is made out to be. It is not 100% lethal as often claimed. Wool sorters inhale anthrax spores in small quantities continually (150-700 per hour), and only if they get a large dose does an infection get started."

And one message included this excerpt from a Reuters article:
New Anthrax Vaccine Supply Likely to Be Delayed

by Kate Fodor

(EXCERPT) NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The sole US manufacturer of the anthrax vaccine will not be able to release new doses of the product until well into next year unless the US Food and Drug Administration speeds up its review of the company's facilities, a spokeswoman for the firm said on Wednesday.

Lansing, Michigan-based Bioport has been cited by the FDA for a number of manufacturing infractions. Partly in response to the agency's complaints, the firm recently completed a top-to-bottom, multimillion-dollar renovation of its manufacturing plant. Under government regulations, the overhauled facility must be inspected and cleared by the FDA before lots produced there can be released for use.

Before last week's terrorist attacks, Bioport's inability to release new doses of the vaccine had caused some concern and led to cutbacks in the military's vaccination program. But in light of the US's...

Sept. 22, 2001: 205 messages.  "At least Anthrax isn't contagious"

"Anthrax is treatable using penicillin"

"I know this is really off-topic but I was wondering if someone could  comment on the chances of our water supply being poisoned (anthrax for example) by terrorists.  I heard this on the news tonight and quite frankly am getting really paranoid.  Any comments?"

Sept. 23, 2001: 267 messages.  "Anthrax is always a favorite when people talk about bio weapons."

"I think the risks of other types of terrorist activity are very real -- infecting the water supply is one possibility. Frankly, I'm glad America has waked up to this possibility. It's not as though our media hasn't been discussing it. Nightline even even presented a 10-day report on anthrax terrorism in the last year or so. Ten days! And we were still shocked when we were attacked on our own soil?"

from the newsgroup alt.rush-limbaugh
"U.S. Warns of Chance of More Terrorist Attacks This Week"

And someone posted this article from Reuters:
Sunday September 23 5:45 AM ET

Report: U.S. Warns of Chance of Attack This Week

TOKYO (Reuters) - The United States has warned its allies of a possible second round of attacks by the end of this week following the deadly strikes on New York and Washington, Jiji news agency quoted Japanese government sources as saying.

The next round of attacks could be on a greater scale than the assaults by hijacked aircraft on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, according to information provided to Japan by Washington, Jiji reported.

The news agency quoted the sources as saying on Saturday that the ``means of terrorism'' would be ``more cruel and shocking'' than the September 11 carnage, which left more than 6,800 either dead or missing.

The report could not be confirmed by the U.S. embassy in Tokyo, which said it was not aware of any new information regarding the possibility of another attack.

``We have no further information beyond what was in the last State Department worldwide caution,'' U.S. embassy spokesman Patrick Linehan said.

The State Department's worldwide travel caution issued after the September 11 attacks said the government remained concerned about information it received in May that Americans may be the target of a ``terrorist threat'' from groups with links to Osama bin Laden, who the U.S. government says is the prime suspect in the attacks in New York and Washington.


Washington suspects that a group led by fugitive Saudi-born millionaire bin Laden has been contemplating attacks using biological and chemical weapons, such as sarin nerve gas, for years, according to the sources quoted by Jiji.

The United States has information that the group has already acquired small airplanes to spray bacteria causing smallpox or anthrax from the air, Jiji quoted the sources as saying.

The targets of the possible attacks were unknown but possibilities included members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Pakistan, Jiji said.

Time magazine reported on Saturday that investigators had found a crop-dusting manual during a search for those responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington, triggering concern that crop-dusting planes might be used for chemical or biological assaults.

The FBI in Washington said it had not seen the report and had no comment on it.

The government sources said attacks on Japan could not be ruled out since Tokyo has expressed support for U.S. retaliation against the September 11 strikes.

Japan's public security authorities have gone on heightened alert since receiving the information from the United States.

``The government of Japan is firmly resolved to strive for the eradication of terrorism. At the same time, Japan strongly supports the United States and is determined to do its utmost to offer assistance and cooperation,'' Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said on Sunday at a memorial ceremony for the victims of the

Koizumi, who leaves for Washington on Monday for a meeting with President Bush the next day, said Japan would contribute $10 million to support rescue and relief efforts.

Koizumi has also said his government would take steps to allow Japan to provide logistical support in any military retaliation against the attacks, by dispatching troops to provide medical services as well as supplying and transporting unspecified items to support U.S. forces.

Sept. 24, 2001:  275 messages.  "Next round this week? Biological?"

"Remember the anthrax hysteria a few years ago?  All the propaganda said that Saddam Hussein was going to use anthrax against American cities and that everyone was going to die a horrible death.  The hysteria culminated with the arrest of an individual who possessed an anthrax VACCINE.   He was caught up in the hysteria and was just trying to protect people that the U.S. government was ignoring."

"What else are we going to do, bunker down and wait for the anthrax?"

And someone posted this article from Time:
"Bioterrorism: The Next Threat?"

Should we be concerned about biological, chemical or nuclear attacks?
Not yet, say the experts. But we should be prepared


Monday, Sep. 24, 2001

It was the ultimate war game for armchair strategists. A dozen experts gathered at Andrews Air Force Base for two days in June for a germ-warfare assault on America's heartland. The exercise was called Dark Winter. The scenario: Oklahoma, Georgia and Pennsylvania have been deliberately targeted with smallpox virus. The mission: to marshal the full resources of the Federal Government and limit the damage. But even though the players included seasoned leaders--former Senator Sam Nunn acting as the President, former presidential adviser David Gergen as National Security Adviser, Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating playing himself--the situation got quickly out of hand. Within two weeks, 16,000 Americans were infected, and 6,000 were dead or dying.

Dismal as that performance was, it all seemed rather theoretical at the time. Not anymore. In the aftermath of the attack two weeks ago, the idea that weapons of mass destruction might be trained on the U.S.--not by such rogue nations as Iraq but by rogues like Osama bin Laden--suddenly seems a lot less unthinkable. Ordinary Americans are waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares about poisoned water supplies and miniature nuclear weapons set off in city streets.

But the chances of such an attack happening anytime soon are remote, most of the terrorism experts consulted by TIME agree. For starters, it takes a lot more money to build, research or steal a weapon of mass destruction than to hijack a plane or unleash a truck bomb. It also takes a lot more brainpower. Says Amy Smithson, a chemical and biological weapons expert at the Henry Stimson Center in Washington: "I can sit here and dream up thousands of nightmare scenarios, but there are a lot of technical and logistical hurdles that stand between us and
those scenarios."

The experts also agree, however, that they must rethink their assumptions. The Sept. 11 attacks took patient planning and training; no terrorist group had ever carried out so complex a mission. "I was not at all alarmist about this threat based on the historical record," says Jonathan Tucker of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Washington, "but given what happened, we need to reassess the threat."

Of the three major types of weapons of mass destruction, biological agents may pose the greatest potential threat, followed by nuclear bombs and chemical weapons. Here's how our experts gauge the relative dangers:

Chemical Weapons

Ranging in sophistication from rat poison to powerful nerve toxins, chemical weapons are by far the most popular among terrorists. That's because the raw materials are relatively easy to get, and the finished products don't have to be kept alive. But chemical weapons aren't well suited for inflicting widespread damage. Unlike germs, chemical agents can't reproduce, observes Tucker. "You have to generate a lethal concentration in the air, which means you need very large quantities."  To kill a sizable number of people with sarin, for example, which can be
absorbed through the skin as a liquid or inhaled as a vapor, you would need something like a crop-dusting plane--which is why investigators last week were so alarmed to find a manual for operating crop-dusting
equipment while searching suspected terrorist hideouts. Still, to attack a city with sarin, you would probably have to fly thousands of pounds back and forth over heavily populated areas--not something easily done, especially now.

Indeed, the most devastating nonmilitary chemical attack ever, by the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Tokyo in 1995, killed only a dozen people. One reason is that the delivery method was crude: cultists dropped plastic bags of sarin (smuggled in lunch boxes and soft-drink containers) on a subway platform and pierced them with umbrella tips. Also the amounts were relatively small. Says Smithson: "Any bozo can make a chemical agent in a beaker, but producing tons and tons is difficult." Aum Shinrikyo tried to make the stuff in bulk, recruiting scientists and
spending at least $10 million, but it failed.

Terrorists could try to tap into the more ample supplies of chemical arms believed to be stockpiled by Iraq and other outlaw states. But Tucker points out that the leaders of such countries would probably be reluctant to let weapons banned by international treaty out of their direct control; if they were traced back it could lead to swift
retaliation. "We know Saddam Hussein is ruthless," he says, "but generally he is not reckless."

Nuclear Weapons

More than 25 years ago, in an eerie foreshadowing of the World Trade Center attack, the writer John McPhee explored with nuclear physicist Ted Taylor the question of how you could topple the Twin Towers with a small atomic bomb. Positioned correctly, McPhee reported, a nuke a tenth as powerful as Hiroshima's could knock a tower into the Hudson River.

But that assumes you could manufacture the bomb and put it into position. A terrorist would first have to get hold of some sort of fissionable material--ideally, says Princeton University nuclear proliferation expert Frank von Hippel, enriched uranium. North Korea, Iraq and Libya are believed to have uranium stockpiles but would probably be loath to let them go. A more likely source is the former Soviet Union, where bombmaking supplies are plentiful, the economy is in upheaval, and security has collapsed.

Bin Laden reportedly tried to obtain uranium from the breakaway Soviet states, but his sources bilked him, offering instead low-grade reactor fuel and radioactive garbage. Even if he had been successful, says von Hippel, it would take at least 150 lbs. of uranium plus hundreds of pounds of casing and machinery to make a weapon. "Nobody's going to be carrying a bomb around in a suitcase," he says.

Far likelier is an attack on a nuclear power plant with conventional explosives--a fact recognized by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has staged mock commando raids on U.S. plants for years.  Alarmingly, these war-game assaults have often succeeded, sometimes "releasing" more radiation than Chernobyl (an accident, it's worth remembering, that by some estimates caused 30,000 deaths).

Biological Weapons

Germ warfare has been around since at least the Middle Ages, when armies besieging a city would catapult corpses infected with the black plague over the walls. Today the bugs authorities most fear are anthrax (a bacterium) and smallpox (a virus). Both are highly lethal: the former kills nearly 90% of its victims, the latter some 30%. Anthrax is not communicable; smallpox, on the other hand, can be transmitted with horrifying ease from one person to another. "The feelings of uncertainty, of who is infected, of who will get infected, are the main
advantages of biowarfare," says Stephen Morse of the Columbia University School of Public Health.

During the cold war, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union began developing anthrax as a biological weapon. Today 17 nations are believed to have biological weapons programs, many of which involve anthrax. Officially, the only sources of smallpox are small quantities in the labs of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and at Vector in Koltsovo, Russia. But experts believe that Russia, Iraq and North Korea have all experimented with the virus and that significant secret stashes remain.  Even more worrisome are reports that Russia used genetic engineering to try to make anthrax and smallpox more lethal and resistant to antibiotics and vaccines. (The U.S. put a similar program on hold.)

Whatever form the next attack takes, all evidence suggests that the nation is still largely unprepared. That's beginning to change. The NRC has plans to beef up already heightened security at power plants, and public health officials are beginning to get serious about staving off biological assaults. Last year, for example, the CDC authorized a private company to cook up 40 million additional doses of smallpox vaccine to add to the U.S. stockpile--a job that will take several years. "We also need to develop new drugs and vaccines against other organisms that might be a threat," says Dr. Margaret Hamburg of the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative. "And we need to do research to better understand how some of these organisms cause disease."

Why not just vaccinate every American against every possible germ-warfare agent? That would be impractical, if not impossible, and the side effects of the inoculations would pose a significant health risk. Instead, says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota,
we should strengthen the country's public health system. After Sept. 11, hospitals in New York City were asked to report any outbreaks of unusual symptoms. Health experts know that in the event of biological attack, the earlier an epidemic is detected, the easier it is to contain.

Experts in antiterrorism share their concern. At the turn of the past century, says Brian Jenkins of the Rand Corp., epidemics of diseases like yellow fever and cholera kept health workers on their toes. Now, after a decade of cutbacks, "our ability to treat large numbers of casualties has been reduced," he says. "The notion of reinvesting to create a muscular public health system is not a bad idea, even if there is no terrorism."


Sept. 25, 2001: 274 messages.  "The Apocalypse, courtesy of Osama bin Laden"

"At The End Of The World"

 "So this scruffy c[**]t Osama Bin Liner says he's gonna start germ warfare, does he? What a twat. Well, according to us brainy c[**]ts in the Western world, that's what he's going to do. What a load of arse that is. If he's as mad and insane and f[**]king fruitloop as we say he is, why hasn't he already started spreading his germs all over us? Answer me that. If he's the f[**]king nutty bastard that we all reckon he is, he'd have sent over a plane load of deadly nerve gas to New York the other week, instead of merely crashing a couple of jumbo jets into some f[**]king building. He could have wiped out millions and not just a few thousand red-brace-wearing money-grabbing yuppies from f[**]king Wall Street."

On this day, September 25,  it is believed that the letter accusing Dr. Assaad was mailed.


"Why not Anthrax shots for civilians?"

"Is there still hope left?"

Sept. 26, 2001:  236 messages.

"Sooner or later sombody is going to release Anthrax, or Smallpox, or nuclear weapons"
Bin Laden terror group tries to acquire chemical arms

Bill Gertz

Published 9/26/2001


Thinking beyond the unthinkable

Officials mull ways to prevent biological or chemical terrorism

By Robert Windrem
and Michael Moran

       NEW YORK, Sept. 24 -  At a time when the unthinkable became reality, the U.S. government is examining the possibility that an attack of an ever greater scale might be launched against America - possibly using biological or chemical weapons. U.S. officials insist no evidence exists to suggest that such an attack is inevitable. However, for years a handful of intelligence officials and military and civil defense experts have been warning that America is titanically unprepared for even relatively unsophisticated attacks involving biological agents.

          NBC NEWS HAS obtained an unclassified copy of a 1998 CIA publication called "The Biological and Chemical Warfare Threat," a compendium of information, warnings and possible scenarios for the kinds of attacks that a determined group might devise.
       The report, one of dozens in recent years stressing the need to increase disaster preparedness, research and pre-emptive intelligence-gathering, focuses on the difficulty in actually detecting the use of some of these weapons before it is too late.
       In general, the CIA reports, "one advantage of biological weapons over chemical or nuclear weapons is that there are no reliable BW detection devices currently available nor are there any recognizable signals to the human senses. The delay in onset of symptoms could make it difficult to identify the time and place of attack. Moreover, a biological warfare attack might be readily attributable to a natural outbreak."

       Despite those alarming findings, experts and politicians are quick to stem any rising panic. In a recent interview with "Dateline NBC," Dr. Jonathan Tucker of the Monterey Institute admitted Americans are "probably at greater risk on the highway than of being infected with anthrax" and pointed out that terrorists who somehow commandeered a crop-duster would need to acquire "one metric ton" of a chemical like sarin just to poison a two-square-mile area. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. - who chaired a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on biological weapons just six days before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - tells "Dateline NBC" that a simple $6 paper mask can stop 98 percent of airborne pathogens from entering the human body.

 An Israeli gas mask on sale for $39.95 at the Alameda Discount Store in Alameda, Calif. There has been a surge in gas mask sales since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C.


          Biological weapons and their close kin, chemical weapons, are products of the tremendous arms race of the Cold War as the United States, the Soviet Union and other states raced to create weapons so terrible that their very existence in one's own arsenal and the arsenal of one's enemy would mean no one dared use them. Indeed, with few exceptions, none of the most sophisticated chemical or biological agents in the U.S. or Soviet arsenal has ever been used. In the past century, European powers experimented with mustard gas in World War I and so frightened each other that their use was banned by international convention after the war.  Read an excerpt from the book "Germs":  Japan used chemical agents and some biological weapons on parts of China in World War II, and Iraq employed them against its rebellious Kurdish population in the late 1980s. By and large, however, the difficulty involved in controlling these weapons and the stigma attached to them kept them on the shelf. At the end of the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia agreed to a gradual destruction of all such arms, and both were supposed to stop all research and production.

       But the increasing sophistication of international terrorist movements led some to fear that ridding the world of such weapons would not be that easy. U.S. officials say they are aware of no instances where any state has provided biological or chemical weapons technology to a terrorist group. But at least one group, the Japanese doomsday cult Aum Shinryko, managed to create and use the chemical agent sarin in its 1995 attack on the
Tokyo subway system. Ten people died and more than 5,000 were injured in that attack. Japanese police later noted that the cult had experimented unsuccessfully with even more deadly biological weapons - including anthrax
and botulinum - before turning to sarin. Tucker says Aum Shinryko's use of sarin likely diminished the deadliness of the attack, as the agent requires skilled chemistry to create in large quantities and can easily kill an untrained terrorist in the lab.

       Besides the United States and Russia, the list of nations currently regarded as "Bio-Chem" capable is fairly small: China, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Taiwan, Egypt, Syria, North Korea, India, Pakistan and possibly Libya, Cuba and South Korea. Of that group, six are on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. A 1994 congressional report concluded that 100 nations could develop biological weapons using their civilian biotech
industries and noted that the Biological Weapons Convention banning such weapons, while more comprehensive than treaties banning chemical or nuclear weapons, has the fewest and weakest enforcement measures. The United States recently refused to take part in negotiations to strengthen it.


       Biological warfare essentially depends on a perversion of nature; in effect, a scientific manipulation of existing viruses, diseases or other organisms to make them more virulent, less detectable and far stronger than
anything nature itself unleashes. A sophisticated attack using such an agent - the kind of attack imagined by U.S. and Soviet strategic warfare units - involved loading the agents into artillery shells, bombs or even missiles. The CIA has 39 organisms on its "core list of organisms having potential BW applications," along with 10 toxins. There are 14 animal viruses - things like cholera, plague and anthrax - and one animal pathogen on its list of "animal pathogens with potential BW application." On its "warning list" of other organisms that could be used for BW, the CIA lists eight viruses, five bacteria and four toxins. Most are rare and difficult to deal with, let alone use as weapons.


       The Aum Shinryko attack in 1995 on Tokyo's subway system is viewed as a warning by many who study biological and chemical weapons. Since then, the FBI and other agencies have raised their awareness of any moves that could suggest a plot to do something similar in the United States.
       About three months after that attack, President Bill Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive #39, ordering federal agencies to prepare a plan for dealing with biological or chemical terrorist incidents in the
United States. The order laid out priorities for countering terrorism both in the United States and overseas. Each administration since the first Reagan administration has issued an order dealing with the possibility of terrorist attacks, but Clinton was the first to make biological and chemical weapons terrorism a specific priority.
       A working group composed of representatives from at least seven federal agencies meets regularly at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, which is the lead agency for consequence management. The FBI is designated the lead agency for crisis management, including investigation.  The Army is designated lead agency for training local "first responders." The agencies involved are the CIA; the State Department; the Justice Department, including the FBI; the Department of Health and Human Services, including the U.S. Public Health Service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the Defense Department, including the Army and Navy Special Operations Forces and various chemical and biological response units at places like Fort Dietrick, the Aberdeen Proving Ground and Edgewood Arsenal, all in Maryland; the Department of Energy, including the national weapons laboratories and the Environmental Protection Agency.
       Over the past seven years, the FBI has quietly arrested and prosecuted six right-wing activists for obtaining such agents. Four of them were members of a right-wing group in Minnesota called the Patriots' Council. Another was a member of the Aryan Nation in Ohio, and a sixth man was a survivalist from Arkansas. All were arrested under the Biological Weapons Terrorism Act. The Minnesota men as well as the Arkansas activist were charged with possession of ricin, a deadly toxin, while the man from Ohio was charged with mail fraud in obtaining bubonic plague, which he had ordered from a Rockville, Md., laboratory. All but the Arkansas activist have been jailed, with the four Minnesota men being convicted and the Ohio man pleading guilty.
       In recent days, following the New York and Washington, D.C. attacks, the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control have stepped up their surveillance, asking local authorities to be alert to threats to water supplies and to clusters of patients arriving at hospitals with similar, unusual symptoms. And the Federal Aviation Administration has grounded the nation's crop-duster airplanes amid concerns that hijackers may have planned to use them for chemical or biological attacks.

Sept. 27, 2001: 205 messages.

Sept. 28, 2001:  157 messages.  "Next round this week? Biological?"

"Because I guarantee you, if the terrorists unleash something like smallpox or anthrax upon millions of our citizens, a nuclear response would be the only response.   It would be horrific on all sides.  Everyone would die."

"2nd Attack coming soon...."

"Washington suspects that a group led by fugitive Saudi-born millionaire bin Laden has been contemplating attacks using biological and chemical weapons, such as sarin nerve gas, for years, according to the sources quoted by Jiji.  The United States has information that the group has already acquired small airplanes to spray bacteria causing smallpox or anthrax from the air, Jiji quoted the sources as saying.

"Time magazine reported on Saturday that investigators had found a crop-dusting manual during a search for those responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington, triggering concern that crop-dusting planes might be used for chemical or biological assaults."

"The U.S. Mail, another worry...

"A biological virus could be sent through the mail infecting millions.  Anthrax for instance looks like cake flour, one billionth of a gram is deadly if breathed in.  A well financed terrorist group could prepare the diabolical deliveries under lab conditions, or, as we all know they want to die for Allah, infect themselves and prepare them in their apartments or the back bedroom.

"Is that envelope with a missing child on it real, or does it contain invisible botulism spores (another deadly, yet easily made substance)?  And don't forget, mail touches other mail from the time you drop it in the mailbox until until the time the mail carrier delivers it.

[rebuttal] "Yea, but wouldn't the mailman die first??????????????????"

Sept. 29, 2001:  144 messages.  "Making Bio-Weapons Is Easy"

"The USA's failure to sign the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention and its role as a leading advocate and developer of biological fungi and viruses aimed at narcotics eradication is, according to opponents of Washington's policies, the beginning of the end of the worldwide ban on bioweapons.

"In that case, why bother signing a Biological Weapons treaty anyway? They wouldn't trust us if we did sign it. So f[**]k them."

"Bin Laden and any other terrorists will never adhere to any international protocols."

Sept. 30, 2001: 153 messages.  "Get Your Anthrax Vaccination Now!"

On stands now!

Oct. 1, 2001:  135 messages.
Time To Get Tough With The Biotech Firms Over Germ Warfare

Published on Thursday, September 27, 2001 in the Guardian of London

Now For GM Weapons
It's Time To Get Tough With The Biotech Firms Over Germ Warfare
by Jeremy Rifkin

For the first 10 days we worried about commercial airplanes being hijacked and used as missiles. Now, the American people are worried about a new, even more deadly threat: bacteria and viruses raining from the sky over populated areas, infecting and killing millions of people. The FBI reports that several of the World Trade Center hijackers had made a number of visits to a facility in Florida housing crop-duster planes. According to the proprietors, the hijackers asked questions about the load capacity and range of the planes.

The FBI has subsequently ordered all 3,500 of the nation's privately owned crop dusters grounded, pending further investigation. Meanwhile, universities, including the University of Michigan, Penn State, Clemson and Alabama, have barred aircraft from flying over their stadiums during football games, for fear of a biowarfare attack. Policy makers are scurrying to catch up, by allocating funds to stockpile antibiotics and vaccines, and upgrading emergency procedures at hospitals and clinics.  Unfortunately, to date, the politicians, military experts and media have skirted a far more troubling reality about bio-terrorism. The fact is, the new genomic information being discovered and used for commercial genetic engineering in the fields of agriculture, animal husbandry and
medicine is potentially convertible to the development of a wide range of novel pathogens that can attack plant, animal and human populations.  Moreover, unlike nuclear bombs, the materials and tools required to create biological warfare agents are easily accessible and cheap, which is why this kind of weapon is often referred to as the "poor man's nuclear bomb". A state-of-the-art biological laboratory could be built and made operational with as little as $10,000-worth of off-the-shelf equipment and could be housed in a room as small as 15ft by 15ft. All
you really need is a beer fermenter, a protein-based culture, plastic clothing and a gas mask.

Equally frightening, thousands of graduate students in laboratories around the world are knowledgeable enough in the rudimentary uses of recombinant DNA and cloning technology to design and mass-produce such weapons.

Ironically, while the Bush administration is now expressing deep concern over bioterrorism, just this summer the White House stunned the world community by rejecting new proposals to strengthen the biological weapons convention. The stumbling block came around verification procedures that would allow governments to inspect US biotech company laboratories. The companies made it clear that they would not tolerate monitoring of their facilities for fear of theft of commercial secrets. Biological warfare involves the use of living organisms for military purposes. Biological weapons can be viral, bacterial, fungal, rickettsial, and protozoan. Biological agents can mutate, reproduce, multiply, and spread over a large geographic terrain by wind, water, insect, animal, and human transmission.

Once released, many biological pathogens are capable of developing viable niches and maintaining themselves in the environment indefinitely. Conventional biological agents include Yersinia pestis (plague), tularemia, rift valley fever, Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), eastern equine encephalitis, anthrax and smallpox.

Biological weapons have never been widely used because of the danger and expense involved in processing and stockpiling large volumes of toxic materials and the difficulty in targeting the dissemination of biological agents. Advances in genetic engineering technologies over the past decade, however, have made biological warfare viable for the first time. Recombinant DNA "designer weapons" can be created in many ways. The new technologies can be used to program genes into infectious micro-organisms to increase their antibiotic resistance, virulence and environmental stability.

Scientists say they may be able to clone selective toxins to eliminate specific racial or ethnic groups whose genotypic makeup predisposes them to certain disease patterns. Genetic engineering can also be used to destroy specific strains or species of agricultural plants or domestic animals.

The new genetic engineering technologies provide a versatile form of weaponry that can be used for a wide variety of military purposes, ranging from terrorism and counterinsurgency operations to large-scale warfare aimed at entire populations.

Most governments, including the US, claim that their biological warfare work is only defensive in nature and point out that the existing biological weapons treaty allows for defensive research. Yet it is widely acknowledged that it is virtually impossible to distinguish between defensive and offensive research in the field. Professional
military observers are not sanguine about the prospect of keeping the genetics revolution out of the hands of the war planners. As a tool of mass destruction, genetic weaponry rivals nuclear weaponry, and it can be developed at a fraction of the cost.

The revelation that Iraq had stockpiled massive amounts of germ warfare agents and was preparing to use them during the Gulf war renewed Pentagon interest in defensive research to counter the prospect of an escalating biological arms race.

Saddam Hussein's government had prepared what it called the "great equalizer", an arsenal of 25 missile warheads carrying more than 11,000lb of biological agents, including deadly botulism poison and anthrax germs. An additional 33,000lb of germ agents were placed in bombs to be dropped from military aircraft. Had the germ warfare agents been deployed, the results would have been as catastrophic as those visited on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A study conducted by the US government in 1993 found that the release of just 200lb of anthrax
spores from a plane over Washington DC could kill as many as 3m people.  Iraq is not alone in its interest in developing a new generation of biological weapons. In a 1995 study, the CIA reported that 17 countries were suspected of researching and stockpiling germ warfare agents, including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, North Korea, Taiwan, Israel, Egypt, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, Bulgaria, India, South Korea, South Africa, China and Russia.

In the 20th century, modern science reached its apex with the splitting of the atom, followed shortly thereafter by the discovery of the DNA double helix. The first discovery led immediately to the development of the atomic bomb, leaving humanity to ponder, for the first time in history, the prospect of an end to its own future on Earth. Now, a growing number of military observers are wondering if the other great scientific breakthrough of our time will soon be used in a comparable manner, posing a similar threat to our very existence as a species. No laboratory, however contained and secure, is fail-safe. Natural disasters such as floods and fires, and security breaches are possible.  It is equally likely that terrorists will turn to the new genetic weapons.

In November, 143 nations will assemble in Geneva to review the 1972 biological weapons convention, a treaty designed to "prohibit the development, production and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons". Negotiators, including the US representatives to the talks, need to address the serious loophole in the existing treaty that allows governments to engage in defensive research when, in fact, much of that research is potentially convertible to offensive purposes.

And the commercial concerns of US and other biotech companies around the world to protect trade secrets and other commercial information should not be allowed to derail protocols designed to verify and enforce the provisions of the biological weapons convention. It is time to get tough and do the right thing. One would think that the welfare of human civilization would be more important than the parochial interests of a handful of life science companies.

Jeremy Rifkin is the author of The Biotech Century (Penguin, 1998) and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, DC

Oct. 2, 2001:  200 messages.

Oct. 3, 2001: 191 messages.

"OT: Anthrax scare today

"Just heard on the news that they found a box and letter in a mail box very close to us.  Letter indicated that it was anthrax. Won't know exactly what it is until tommorow sometime."
From Channel 8, Eyewitness News, Lincoln, Nebraska:

A Lincoln postal employee got quite a scare Wednesday night when he found a package labeled Anthrax near 14th and Superior. Emergency officials don't want everyone to be alarmed because many times these cases are just a hoax.  Firefighters are not labeling it Anthrax, just a suspicious substance until it can be analyzed at the lab. The postal worker discovered the package inside a drop off box.. Firefighters used special equipment to try to figure out what was inside without removing the box. What they did find was very suspicious. 

Neighbors are passing the incident off as a hoax but emergency officials say this is no time to be careless. They're taking it very seriously. Many people say what happened on September 11th has everyone on edge. Officials removed the package and transported it to a lab in Omaha. They're not sure how long it will take to name the substance. 

If this is a hoax and the person who mailed it is caught, they could get up to one year in prison. It it turns out to really be Anthrax, they could get up to life in prison. 

Oct. 4, 2001:  617 messages.  "Lantana man hospitalized with anthrax"

From here on it's all familiar history.

Oct. 5, 2001: 842 messages.

Oct. 6, 2001: 745 messages.

Oct. 7, 2001: 544 messages.

So, does it really seem so strange that someone during this time sent a letter to the authorities naming Assaad as a possible terrorist planning a biological attack.  Or is it a miracle that thousands of such letters weren't sent naming every suspicious person in the country?

While itís certainly possible that the person who sent the Assaad letter also sent the anthrax letters, it seems much more likely that the former Ft. Detrick employee who sent the Assaad letter was prompted into action by years of festering resentment and the tensions of the times, not by any devious plan to point the blame elsewhere.

But that's just my opinion.

© 2002 by Ed Lake
All Rights Reserved