proof of Iraqi contamination
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
October 29, 2001
The White House yesterday disputed reports that the anthrax sent to the Senate contained bentonite, an additive that has been used in Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program.
"Based on the test results we have, no bentonite has been found," White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said in an interview. "As always, there will be continuing tests."
Mr. Stanzel was responding to reports by ABC News and others that bentonite had been detected in the anthrax that was mailed to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. The reports cited anonymous sources in the administration.
But White House press secretary Ari Fleischer later told the network that tests had found no bentonite, which is used to prevent anthrax particles from sticking together so they can become airborne. He also noted that the tests detected no aluminum, which would normally be present in bentonite-enhanced anthrax.
But even if bentonite is found in the anthrax, that would not necessarily mean it came from Saddam. In fact, some experts believe Iraq has developed a different strain of anthrax. And while bentonite has previously been used in Saddam's biological weapons program, it has also been used elsewhere.
"Bentonite was used by the Iraqis in producing the anthrax that they produced," said Dr. David Franz, former commander of the U.S. Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. "However, bentonite is found throughout the world.
Bentonite is found in the United States. It's found wherever there was ever an active volcano, probably."
Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Mr. Franz added: "Bentonite is available from chemical companies, a number of them in the United States and throughout the world."
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said the administration does not know whether there are still anthrax-laced letters at large.
"We're asking people to be very
careful," Mr. Card said on "Fox News Sunday." "We note that there are some
680 million letters a day that move through the Postal Service."
"The one thing I can say: It's not naturally occurring," he explained. "This anthrax has been milled. It may have additives to it. It is not something that you would find in a normal veterinarian's office, where they deal with anthrax more regularly."
He added: "And we don't know the source of this. All of our scientists are working to try to find out what it is. But we've only had two very, very small samples that we have for analysis. And I just don't think we have all the answers yet."
On Friday, Mr. Fleischer said tests on the anthrax sent to Mr. Daschle proved that the poison could have been produced in a small laboratory by someone with a Ph.D. in microbiology. That expanded the possible perpetrators of the anthrax attacks to individuals or groups not linked to foreign governments.
The presence of bentonite would not shrink the list of possible perpetrators dramatically, although the specific strain of bentonite might provide clues to investigators.
"There are some interesting characteristics of bentonite," Mr. Franz said. "It's made up typically of silicon dioxide and some metal oxides. And they're in various formulations and various ratios in bentonite from various parts of the world. So there's possibly another clue."
But he cautioned that even if investigators link the anthrax to a particular region of the world, that does not preclude the possibility that the anthrax was moved before being mailed to Mr. Daschle.
"It's not like the bullet and rifling relationship in ballistic forensics," Mr. Franz explained. "It's not like when you have a bullet with the marks on it from a specific barrel, you've got a definitive answer. That's not the way biology works."
He added: "Even if we have definitive proof that we have bentonite in a sample from the Daschle letter, in my mind, that's just another piece of the puzzle. It's not the final piece of the puzzle."
Meanwhile, speculation of Iraq's involvement in the anthrax scare has prompted leading officials in Baghdad to lash out at the United States and its allies.
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said in an interview to the Sunday Telegraph that his country expects to be attacked by the United States and Britain. He said that the Baghdad regime was aware of plans by Washington and London to strike "300 targets with 1,000 missiles."
Mr. Aziz accused America and Britain of trying to remove Saddam under the pretext of waging war against terrorism.
"We know that they are preparing for such an attack," he said. "We are watching what is being said and what is being done in the United States and in Britain, and we know that it is just a matter of time before such an attack."
Suspect worked in U.S. lab
By Jerry Seper
The FBI's search for the person who mailed anthrax-laced letters that killed five persons has focused on a former U.S. scientist who worked at a government laboratory where he learned how to make a weapons-grade strain of the deadly bacteria.
Law enforcement authorities and leading biochemical experts familiar with the FBI's five-month investigation said agents targeted the unidentified scientist after extensive interviews with more than 300 persons associated with the government's anthrax program, although no charges have yet been filed.
The scientist was identified from a pool of about 50 researchers known to have the technical ability to produce the sophisticated weapons-grade anthrax strain found in the letters sent to Florida, New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., the sources said.
The FBI has known for more than three months that the person responsible for sending the letters was a U.S. citizen and, according to the sources, probably a former scientist connected to the government's biodefense program.
The government's chief suspect, the sources said, is believed to have worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., which has maintained stores of weapons-grade anthrax — commonly known as the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis.
The sources said the former scientist is now employed as a contractor in the Washington area.
The unidentified scientist, according to the sources, was twice fired from government jobs and, after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed more than 3,000 people, reportedly made a threat to use anthrax.
He has been interviewed by FBI agents on several occasions, according to the sources, and his house has been searched.
The sources said that while numerous chemicals were located inside the house, no anthrax was found.
The FBI investigation, according to the sources, began to focus on current and former U.S. scientists after the anthrax found in letters sent to the Capitol Hill offices of Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont matched a finely powdered strain of the bacteria held at Fort Detrick.
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a microbiologist at State University of New York who heads the biological arms-control panel for the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), said that the FBI has been working on a "short list of suspects" for some time, and that agents had narrowed the list to "a particular person ... a member of the biochemical community."
"It has taken a long time for the FBI to identify any suspects in this case, and I don't know why, considering that the person responsible for this comes from a very narrow list of people who have the necessary skill to do what was done," she said. "But there is a common suspect, and the FBI has questioned that person more than once."
Mrs. Rosenberg said she and several colleagues have wondered whether the FBI's failure to bring charges in the case is related to government reluctance to publicly acknowledge its biochemical operation.
"Is the FBI dragging its feet? I just don't know. And, if so, I don't know why," she said.
The FBI has consistently maintained that the anthrax investigation is on track, and that thousands of leads have been pursued by a task force of investigators under the direction of FBI Assistant Director Van Harp, who heads the bureau's D.C. field office, and Chief Postal Inspector Kenneth C. Weaver.
Neither the FBI nor the U.S. Postal Service has identified any potential suspects.
In a letter last month to the 40,000 members of the American Society for Microbiology, Mr. Harp said it was "very likely that one or more of you know this individual."
probe focuses on letter
A former U.S. scientist identified as a focus of the FBI's investigation into the mailing of anthrax-laced letters that killed five persons is believed to be the author of an anonymous letter falsely accusing another biochemist of the crime.
Law-enforcement authorities, microbiology specialists and others familiar with the FBI's anthrax probe said the unsigned letter to military police at the Quantico Marine Base identifying Egyptian-born scientist Ayaad Assaad as the anthrax mailer was an attempt by the unnamed co-worker to deflect the bureau's investigation from himself.
"There is a connection between the person who sent that letter and the person who sent the anthrax," said Rosemary A. McDermott, attorney for Mr. Assaad, a former scientist at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md.
"The person who wrote that letter knew intimate details of my client's life and his professional history, and about the Fort Detrick operation," she said. "I don't think that is a coincidence."
Mr. Assaad, a U.S. citizen, was interviewed Oct. 2 by the FBI concerning accusations outlined in the anonymous letter and was cleared of any connection to the anthrax attacks.
The Washington Times reported yesterday that the FBI's five-month search for the person who mailed anthrax-filled letters to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat; Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat; and others had focused on a former U.S. scientist who worked at the Fort Detrick facility.
The unnamed scientist was identified from among 50 government researchers known to have the technical ability to produce the sophisticated weapons-grade anthrax strain found in the letters that went to Florida, New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C.
The FBI yesterday, however, vigorously denied that its agents had targeted a specific suspect in the anthrax probe, saying the investigation had yet to identify the person responsible for sending the anthrax-laced letters.
"There is no prime suspect in this case at this time," FBI spokesman Bill Carter said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer also said that several individuals were under investigation and that the FBI had not narrowed that list to one. "I wish it were that easy and that simple right now," he said, adding that President Bush wants the matter resolved quickly but also wants the FBI to take its time to "build a case that would stand in court."
The FBI generally considers someone a "suspect" when he has been advised formally that he is the target of an investigation.
But the law-enforcement sources and others, including biochemical specialists whom the FBI had questioned, said the bureau's probe began to focus on the unidentified Fort Detrick scientist after extensive interviews with more than 300 people associated with the government's anthrax program. The former scientist has been interviewed, they said, and his house has been searched.
The Fort Detrick facility has maintained stores of weapons-grade anthrax, commonly known as the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis.
The sources said the anonymous letter writer would have been among a narrow population to know that Mr. Assaad had been laid off at Fort Detrick or to have knowledge of his areas of chemical and biological expertise.
The letter also mentioned Mr. Assaad's two sons, identified the floor on which he worked, noted his security clearance, named the train he took to work and where he lived, and recounted a pending discrimination lawsuit he filed against the U.S. Army.
"Dr. Assaad is a potential biological terrorist," the letter said, according to Mrs. McDermott, who was allowed to read but not make a copy of the document. "I have worked with Dr. Assaad, and I heard him say that he has a vendetta against the U.S. government and that if anything happens to him, he told his sons to carry on."
The letter was sent after the September 11 terrorist attacks but before the threat of anthrax-laced letters became public. On Oct. 5, more than a week after the anonymous letter was mailed, Florida photo editor Robert Stevens, 63, became the first of five individuals to die from anthrax inhalation.
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a microbiologist at State University of New York who heads the biological arms-control panel for the Federation of American Scientists, tells The Times that the FBI has been working on a "short list" of those who could have been involved, and that agents have narrowed that list to "a particular person ... a member of the biochemical community."
Mrs. Rosenberg also said she did not understand why the FBI had not yet made an arrest "considering that the person responsible for this comes from a very narrow list of people who have the necessary skill to do what was done." But, she said, there is "a common suspect."
In a letter last month to the 40,000 members of the American Society for Microbiology, FBI Assistant Director Van A. Harp, who heads the bureau's anthrax task force, said the person responsible for mailing the deadly bacteria had experience working in a laboratory, had legitimate access to select biological agents and had the technical expertise to produce a "highly refined and deadly product."
In the letter, Mr. Harp said: "It is very likely that one or more of you know this individual."
In addition to Mr. Stevens, the others who died as a result of anthrax infection were U.S. postal workers Thomas Lee Morris, 55, and Joseph P. Curseen, 47, both of whom worked at the Brentwood facility in Northeast; Kathy Nyugen, a 61-year-old hospital stockroom employee in New York; and Ottilie W. Lundgren, a 94-year-old woman from Connecticut.
All the deaths were traced to the Ames strain of the bacteria, first isolated in Iowa and maintained by the U.S. Army since 1980 for testing purposes.
FBI subpoenas anthrax research samples
By Jerry Seper
Federal investigators have subpoenaed samples of anthrax stored at the nation's research laboratories to compare with traces of the bacteria found in letters sent in the fall that killed five persons.
The subpoenas, sent Monday by fax to a dozen research labs nationwide, demanded that small samples of anthrax, specifically the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis, be returned in test tubes — or "isolates" — from each of the research labs' stock.
The FBI, which has pursued thousands of leads and interviewed hundreds of people in its five-month anthrax investigation, hopes to narrow the source of the deadly bacteria through a sophisticated genetic analysis of the samples. Investigators say they believe the anthrax used in the letters came from one of the labs.
All of the deaths were traced to the Ames strain of the bacteria, first isolated in Iowa and maintained by the U.S. Army since 1980 for testing purposes. The Ames strain has been used by the government for more than 20 years in biological warfare testing.
The subpoenas, issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, asked for information "regarding the origin of each isolate" and instructed researchers on what to collect and how. They requested the samples be sent to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., via "appropriate priority overnight delivery."
The first anthrax-laced letter surfaced Oct. 2 and killed Florida photo editor Robert Stevens, 63.
The FBI said the delay until Monday in issuing the subpoenas was due to its efforts to ensure that the samples could be safely collected, sent and received. Bureau officials said the subpoenas went forward "only after several months of diligent planning."
Law-enforcement authorities and microbiology experts familiar with the FBI probe said investigators determined three months ago that the person responsible for sending the letters was a U.S. citizen and, according to the sources, probably a current or former scientist at one of the nation's research labs.
On Monday, The Washington Times reported that the FBI's five-month search for the person who mailed anthrax-laced letters to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and others had focused on a former U.S. scientist who worked at one of the research labs.
The unnamed scientist, according to the sources, was identified from among 50 government researchers known to have the technical ability to produce the sophisticated weapons-grade anthrax found in the letters.
The FBI has denied it has focused on a specific scientist, saying the investigation had yet to identify the person responsible for sending the anthrax letters. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer also said several individuals were under investigation and the FBI had not narrowed its list to a single person.
Generally, the FBI considers someone a "suspect" when he has been advised formally that he is the target of an investigation.
The sources, some of whom have been interviewed by the FBI, said the bureau probe began to focus on current and former U.S. scientists after the purity and the unmilled nature of the anthrax found in the letters sent to Mr. Daschle, Mr. Leahy and members of the media matched the finely powdered Ames strain of the bacteria.
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, who heads the biological arms-control panel for the Federation of American Scientists, said the FBI has been working on a "short list of suspects" for some time and had narrowed that list to "a particular person ... a member of the biochemical community."
Mrs. Rosenberg, a microbiologist at State University of New York, said at least three research scientists have identified a former scientist at the Fort Detrick facility as the person who mailed the anthrax-laced letters, adding that several people "inside and outside the government ... are pointing to a specific suspect in the case."
In a letter last month to the 40,000 members of the American Society for Microbiology, FBI Assistant Director Van A. Harp, who heads the bureau's anthrax task force, said it was "very likely that one or more of you know this individual." He said a "single person ... with legitimate access to select biological agents" was most likely responsible for the mailings.
In addition to Mr. Stevens, others who died from anthrax were U.S. postal workers Thomas Lee Morris, 55, and Joseph P. Curseen, 47, both of whom worked at the Brentwood facility in Northeast; Kathy Nyugen, a 61-year-old hospital stockroom employee in New York; and Ottilie W. Lundgren, a 94-year-old woman from Connecticut.
says FBI asked about setup
A top microbiologist in New York says FBI agents interviewing her Thursday asked whether a team of government scientists could be trying to frame Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army researcher whose apartment in Frederick, Md., was searched for a second time by FBI agents on Thursday.
"They kept asking me did I think there might be a group in the biodefense community that was trying to land the blame on Hatfill," said Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a microbiologist at State University of New York.
Mrs. Rosenberg said agents visited her hours before she learned Dr. Hatfill's apartment was being searched. The FBI would neither confirm or deny her account.
Dr. Hatfill, who has not been named a suspect in the fatal anthrax-letter attacks of last autumn, was put on 30-days paid administrative leave from his post as head of Louisiana State University's new National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
LSU put him on leave because of the FBI investigation and will re-evaluate his status after that, school spokesman Gene Sands said.
Mrs. Rosenberg, chairman of the biological arms-control panel for the Federation of American Scientists, told The Washington Times she had been expecting a visit from the FBI since June, when she briefed staffers with the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
A day after the briefings, Van A. Harp, assistant director for the FBI's Washington Field Office, told her that agents wanted to meet with her, said Mrs. Rosenberg.
"Maybe [Dr. Hatfill] was being set up. That's my speculation of what [the agents] thought," she said.
Mr. Harp said he would advise anyone who is interviewed by the FBI to be careful about drawing conclusions from a particular question. "It's the nature of any investigation to ask a broad spectrum of questions to cover all or as many issues as possible," he said.
Mrs. Rosenberg has been involved in tracking the person who sent five anthrax-laced letters to media outlets in Florida and New York and two senators in the District last October.
"I just cannot imagine that it was a bona fide conspiracy," she said, adding that she told the FBI she had heard nothing to suggest a group was trying to frame Dr. Hatfill.
"On the other hand, I've heard a lot of support for him from prominent friends in the biodefense community," she said.
In January Mrs. Rosenberg told The Times the FBI was working on a "short list of suspects" who could have mailed the anthrax spores. She said at least three research scientists had identified the culprit as a former scientist at Fort Detrick, the Pentagon's top biodefense research center in Frederick, Md.
Bringing a search warrant, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service investigators wore protective gloves when they entered Dr. Hatfill's apartment for the second time in six months. Dr. Hatfill, who once was involved with bacterial-warfare studies at Fort Detrick and had access to anthrax spores, invited agents to search the apartment in February after they questioned him and he reportedly had passed a lie detector test.
The FBI's interest in him apparently stems from a report he commissioned in 1999 with William C. Patrick III, an authority on bioterrorism. The report includes a description of how anthrax could be sent in the mail.
second-guessed in anthrax probe
Some in scientific and law enforcement communities are asking whether the FBI intentionally put bioweapons expert Steven J. Hatfill in the spotlight in the anthrax investigation — casting suspicion on him through leaks and innuendo without formally naming him as a suspect.
Still others wonder if Mr. Hatfill, who publicly declared his innocence on Sunday, isn't getting the same treatment that former security guard, Richard Jewell, got in the months after a bomb went off at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
"There's a tremendous demand for results at this point in the investigation," said a former justice department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The former official, who has worked with the FBI in the past, said: "It could be that they really do have somebody that they're actually focusing on and they're using Hatfill as a way to take the heat off. But that's a very callous way of operating."
The FBI does not make a practice out of saying to themselves, "We're continuing our investigation and we're not getting anything, so let's go roast some guy like a hot dog," the former official said.
David Franz, a former U.N. weapons inspector who knows Mr. Hatfill, said, "There have been reports that the FBI has a list of persons of interest. I find it interesting that Hatfill is the only one that anyone is talking about." Mr. Franz also worked at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases.
Now a vice president at the Southern Research Institute, a defense contractor, Mr. Franz said he worked with Mr. Hatfill for a short time in 1997 and 1998 at Fort Detrick, the Pentagon's top biodefense research center in Frederick, Md.
In the anthrax case, the FBI has "never named any suspects," said Chris Murray, a spokesman for the bureau's Washington Field Office, which is leading the probe into who mailed the anthrax-laced letters to media outlets in Florida and New York and to two senators in Washington in October. The letters killed five persons, including two postal employees, and sickened more than a dozen others.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that "a law enforcement official" said investigators are still not prepared to clear Mr. Hatfill's name, although they have no physical evidence linking him to the crime.
It is not the first time that a "media feeding frenzy" — as Mr. Hatfill called it — has been sparked by the FBI's apparent interest in a particular person. After the Olympics bombing in Atlanta, investigators hadn't gone so far as to search Mr. Jewell's apartment before newspaper reports said they were interested in the man.
At first, Mr. Jewell was called a hero for noticing a suspicious-looking knapsack in Centennial Olympic Park and helping to clear the area before a bomb exploded, killing two persons and injuring 111. Three days later the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported he was "the focus" of a federal probe into who planted the bomb.
It didn't take long before his name was used in newspapers nationwide. Not until he endured the heat of an intense media spotlight for more than two months did federal authorities suddenly clear Mr. Jewell of any suspicion.
While a similar snowball effect has surrounded Mr. Hatfill, it did not evolve so quickly. Investigators have twice searched Mr. Hatfill's apartment in Frederick — first in February and most recently on Aug. 1, when investigators went in wearing protective gloves.
The interest in Mr. Hatfill is also being fueled by certain elements of his past, including his graduation in 1984 from a medical school in Zimbabwe. The anthrax-filled letters sent to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy bore return addresses of a "Greendale School" in New Jersey. There is no such school in that state, but in Harare, Zimbabwe — not far from where Mr. Hatfill obtained his degree — there is a Greendale School.
Copyright © 2002 News World Communications
to undergo blood test for FBI
The attorney for Steven J. Hatfill says the FBI has asked the former Army researcher, who has been named a "person of interest" in the government's anthrax probe, to submit blood and handwriting samples to investigators.
"The FBI has asked for a handwriting sample and a blood sample. The neat thing is that Hatfill is the one who had to tell them the kind of [blood] test that they need to be doing," Mr. Hatfill's attorney, Victor M. Glasberg, told The Washington Times yesterday.
Mr. Glasberg said he expects the FBI will be able to determine by tomorrow whether Mr. Hatfill's handwriting matches that on the anthrax letters sent in the fall to media outlets in Florida and New York and to two senators on Capitol Hill. The anthrax attacks killed five persons.
Mr. Glasberg said that if the bureau does not make public its analysis of Mr. Hatfill's handwriting within "about five days," Mr. Hatfill will submit samples to a private handwriting analyst who has offered to examine them.
The FBI declined to confirm whether blood or handwriting samples have been sought. "Any handwriting samples and results of any scientific or forensic examinations are evidence, which we don't discuss," said Chris Murray, spokesman for the bureau's Washington field office, which is leading the government's anthrax probe.
A new suspicious letter appeared this week at the Nashville, Tenn., offices of former Vice President Al Gore.
Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for Mr. Gore, said the letter was received in the mail Monday. It was opened yesterday by office manager Mary Patterson, and white powder spilled when the letter was opened. The room where the letter was opened has been quarantined, and a hazardous-materials team is investigating.
The envelope was postmarked from Tennessee and was stamped on the back with "This letter has not been inspected by the corrections department."
Steve Hayes, Tennessee Department of Correction spokesman, said it is regular policy to stamp letters that haven't been inspected as being sent from a correctional facility. He said the wording the department uses is different from that on the letter.
On Sunday, Mr. Hatfill said he would voluntarily submit a blood test to the FBI to confirm whether he had been exposed or inoculated against anthrax. It was not clear at that time whether the FBI would accept the offer.
Mr. Hatfill told reporters the blood test was his idea and the fact that the FBI had not yet asked him to submit samples indicated the government's unfamiliarity with conducting such a scientific investigation.
Mr. Glasberg said yesterday he wanted the results of any blood work or handwriting analysis to be widely publicized to help exonerate his client. He said he was considering an offer made by Virginia-based handwriting analyst Mark Smith to examine Mr. Hatfill's handwriting.
Mr. Smith in April told The Times that federal law enforcement authorities had solicited his services immediately after October's anthrax attacks. Upon analyzing the letters, he said the person sending them was a white, middle-aged man who suffers from bipolar disorder, a sexual dysfunction and a martyr complex.
is the text of a full page advertisement printed in the Washington
Times in late August - probably Aug. 26. It cost someone approximately
Who Mailed The Anthrax?
This is a story about the power of brave, open-minded newsmen. In May, 2002 I approached Brian Ross of ABC Nightly News with each chain of logic that proceeded from each piece of evidence thus far public. Each chain inexorably pointed to one main perpetrator source. No matter where the start, the conclusion was the same - that one source had a 95% probability of guilt. Mr. Ross did great work that produced pressure on the FBI. I then approached Guy Taylor of the Washington Times, who did the same. The FBI is an agency with many officers of integrity. Yet they are caught in a VISE: one half is their strong desire to catch the culprit(s), and the other their perceived need to protect our “national security” front in the “War on Terror.” I knew that only brave newsmen had the power to turn the vise handle to increase the pressure, and the results of their inquiry and news reports produced huge new evidence on the anthrax case - and which so far fully support my conclusions.
- Very soon after the September 11(th)mass murder, a test letter containing anthrax and a drawing of the “Star of David” was sent to a Florida tabloid distributor company. Successful, with death and World attention.
- Mailer(s) waited until confirmed to World it was anthrax through the mail, which was over a week after the death of employee announced. Disciplined patience with a larger plan in mind.
- Major mailing of anthrax letters with fake al Qaeda-like war messages sent to Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, NY Post, Sen. Tom Daschle (Senate Majority leader), and Patrick Leahy. While obviously designed to give the impression of unity with al Qaeda’s horrorshow by “attacking” the “top, most famous parts of America,”, none were sent to Bush, Powell, Tenet, Ashcroft, Rummy, Speaker Hastert, IRS, FBI, etc. Plus, too few were sent for a real attack on America by a coordinated enemy.
- Yet one of the precious few sent was to Sen. Leahy. This is a crucial clue, since he is nobody’s main target, especially not al Queda’s. Even a nut with an “anti-Democrat” grudge would pick the top, like Senators Kennedy, Lieberman or Hillary, not the background. Leahy is, however, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has great influence over any Executive Branch push for Wartime Powers expansions in the USA. Now, the other recipients are all very partisan anti-Bush people in positions to greatly interfere with Executive Branch power success. Could they have been sent real anthrax to scare them on board some kind of new Security Train? Read on.
- The anthrax mailing was overwhelmingly successful at inducing the illusion of the USA under an ascending set of attacks in a Terrorist Grand War Strategy. Like a new Tojo or Hitler with a set of military actions all ready to be launched, and the Sept. 11(th)mass murder and the anthrax “attack” only the first set in a series.
- One effect of the anthrax mailing was that we went on a complete wartime footing with an incredible host of domestic security/control initiatives cemented into place, including new Justice Dept. wartime powers.
- The letters were sent from across the river from the smoldering WTC, showing a 110% commitment to the illusion of a coordinated alQueda attack, and coupled with the slick sophistication discussed above demonstrates that the mailing was a careful and professionalized “direct mail spectacular”, as such is called in the business, with World History impact produced by one test letter followed by main group - total 6 to 8.
- This tiny mailing shut down Congress, induced the illusion of WW III, turned America upside down, and caused incredibly expensive chaos nationwide. YET NOT A SINGLE EXTRA ANTHRAX LETTER WAS SENT AFTERWARD. Not even for the infidel Christmas mailing season while we were attacking al Qaeda in Afghanistan. What nut with a grudge could possibly have resisted? This shows instead an extreme self-discipline, perhaps the discipline of “mission accomplished.” What mission could be construed to have been accomplished? Read on.
- FBI lab reveals anthrax sent was US MILITARY ANTHRAX derived originally from Ft. Detrick, and sent to a number of US biolabs for “research.” This finding virtually proves what the FBI had said within a week of the mailing; that it was probably not done by al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, or any Islamic terrorist group. So, it shows that there was no bin Laden/al Qaeda Grand War Strategy being unleashed. Is that significant?
- Anthrax was established early on to have been “SUPERMILITARIZED” well beyond the US military quality of the culture used. Why superduper-ize US military-grade anthrax when such anthrax would have done the job without any further refinement? Such was considered the best of all acknowledged types. If stolen, a lab nut with a grudge would have sent what he/she stole.
- Brian Ross of ABC Nightly News , a highly intelligent and open-minded newsman, considers the logic chain which I presented to him in late May, and pursues the equipment problems of supermilitarized US anthrax. He crafts a report for Peter Jennings, presented nationally. He showed us that the equipment needed is both expensive and elaborate, requiring heavy dollars and especially the SPACE to install and secretly operate. The importance can not be overstated:
1. Anybody who stole the milgrade
anthrax from a biolab and had the intense commitment to go so much further
in lethalizing it would have made more than the small test tube-full total
- As if all that weren’t enough, the ABC report of Brian Ross told us that since the list of lab scientists whom the FBI had thoroughly investigated and found to be totally clean, the FBI received unofficial recommendations that if they wanted to find other scientists who had access to the anthrax, they would have to go to the “off-budget” - secret - US biolabs to find others who may have stolen it. This door was slammed shut to the FBI, according to Brian’s report.
- As a direct result of the pressure generated, the FBI admitted in early July (about 4 weeks ago) that the anthrax was probably supermilitarized in one of the US biolabs , “possibly Ft. Detrick.” This was one of the most important predictions of the logical chain I presented to Mr. Ross. This points, again, towards the US military as having a small group who made the decision to have the mailing done, but as mentioned, two weeks later (July 29) we find the FBI realizing the value of the “Goldfinger option” and pursuing that low probability to the utter max, resulting in a huge amount of wasteable time and avoiding the true implications.
- The value of brave, intelligent, open-minded newsmen and newswomen cannot be exaggerated. In June, I approached Guy Taylor of the Washington Times with the logic on the evidence, and the result was that he found out from a top UN weapons inspector that it only takes ONE MONTH to turn one gram of anthrax into “a truckload.” SO, EVEN IF THE ANTHRAX HAD BEEN STOLEN AFTER 9/11, THE EQUIPMENT AT HIS/THEIR DISPOSAL WOULD HAVE PROVIDED ENOUGH TO KILL A CITY. Yet all that was sent was barely enough to fill a small test tube. This returns us to the awesome discipline to stop at 6 to 8 letters, a discipline unthinkable to a single nut with the 1,000% commitment to equipment, professionalized direct mail plan, quality, and “sympathy” with ultimate evil mass murderers. Shortly after Guy Taylor‘s story, the FBI announced that its lab found that the supermilitarized anthrax was 2 YEARS OLD. How much could the death mailer(s) have made in 2 years? Enough to totally bury, say, the Capitol.
- THEREFORE WE NOW HAVE A 99%
CERTAINTY THAT THE ANTHRAX MAILING WAS NOT AN ATTACK ON AMERICA BUT PURELY
AND ONLY AN ACT OF POLICY MANIPULATION.
- Via pressure generated by Brian Ross and Guy Taylor, the FBI put on a show -search of the apartment of a previously investigated and cleared scientist at Ft Detrick, claiming they were looking for anthrax even as they said “he is not a suspect.” His name is Dr. Steven Hatfill. This was a direct follow-up from the FBI admission that the anthrax was probably supermilled inside a biolab. Of course nothing was found, but Brian Ross discovered the most astounding facts yet, you will agree. (These were confirmed in an AP story 6/28/02.)
1. Dr. Hatfill previously worked
for Science Applications International Corp, “SAIC” which prepares in-depth
reports for the Defense Department.
- THIS PROVES BEYOND ANY SHADOW OF A DOUBT THAT WHOEVER SENT THE ANTHRAX WAS EITHER AFFILIATED WITH SAIC, OR WITH WHOEVER RECEIVED (OR STOLE) THE REPORT.
- SAIC spokesman Ben Haddad told AP that “he did not know how SAIC used the Report.” Then, he said he would not release the Report, and that “it was prepared for SAIC, not the federal government.” In other words, he does not know where it went, and he was given a line to mouth. As unlikely as it may seem, let’s assume it was kept internal. Then either the anthrax mailer was an employee of SAIC or a group of corporate profiteers who are officers of SAIC - a most unlikely “Goldfinger” group - or, some other group had a mole inside SAIC, who saw the Report, recognized its value; copy to his group. Sure, maybe there is some “Goldfinger” corporate scheme team that placed the mole, and did the dirty deed. That is where the FBI is currently “focusing” investigation. (Time 7/29/02) Still, ALL evidence considered, the PROBABILITY of that is about 2%. It is far, far more likely some Defense agency would have inserted such a “special employee” who could provide them with vital reports not made available to them by SAIC. They do it the time, all over the place. So do our Intelligence agencies, including DIA. Bush/Rummy are out, of course, but there is evidence of someone close to the Halls of Power who had final say authority on the mailing, and perhaps in the agency which had control over the US military biolab system . This is evidenced in the letter to Senator Leahy - which shows a subtle and mature knowledge of the levers of power, chosen over more visible “natural” targets for attack. There is other evidence, but space here is too limited to include it all.
- Thus, ALL EVIDENCE CONSIDERED, the PROBABILITY of a group of US MILITARY officers putting the whole mailing together, starting 2 years ago and to be placed into action after we were attacked by Islamic terrorists using weapons of MASS DESTRUCTION, is about 98%. Go back and look at all the aspects of the mailing. Only such a group could have put all that into action, and they had the motive and every means necessary. I’m sure they told themselves they even had the sacred duty. They yet retained some conscience, shown by warning letter recipients - fellow Americans - to take penicillin, minimizing “collateral damage.” I call it OPERATION ASP, as in “Anthrax Security Program”. Designed and justified to force the USA into all the security powers she needs if ever attacked by Weapons of Mass Destruction, like on Sept.11(th).
On Dr. Steven Hatfill, research scientist
Coupled with the direct mail professionalism, its careful choice of high visibility targets who were also the strongest potential opponents to Executive Branch/Homeland Security Wartime Powers expansions (scaring them into willing compliance), the warning in the letters to avoid collateral damage (death) to the recipients, the 1,000% commitment to equipment, super quality, and plan execution, and the incredible discipline to stop at 6 to 8 letters when 10,000 could have been sent or hundreds of gallons sprayed on Pennsylvania Avenue, the SAIC report detailing the exact specifications of the anthrax mailed would obviously implicate a group of military national security freaks. Except for one tiny detail that stands weakly in the way: Dr. Hatfill just happened to “lose” his SECURITY CLEARANCE one month before September 11(th). The SAIC report puts beyond any doubt that the culprit was connected to the SAIC project. Dr. Hatfill is the only one who may have had any grounds for a grudge. Therefore we find that the mailer(s) were either:
1. Dr. Hatfill with his security clearance loss “rage”, thus fitting the FBI’s “profile” of a scientist with a “nut’s grudge” plus his SAIC report “How Best to Mail Anthrax.”
2. A group of military officers who received the SAIC report detailing the very best way to mail anthrax, who had the desire to protect America in the long run should she ever be attacked by terrorists using WEAPONS OF MASS
DESTRUCTION, which is what Sept. 11(th)was. Obviously, these officers would be connected in some way to the US biolab system, and probably the “off budget” secret lab(s) which Brian Ross reported the FBI discovered.
Dr. Hatfill has been checked out many times by the FBI and has come out totally clean. He passed the FBI lie detector polygraph. The anthrax letters had a fake return address that subtly related to Hatfill‘s past, yet there was no DNA from saliva on stamps or envelope seals, so if Dr. Hatfill were smart enough not to incriminate himself this way, he most surely would not have tipped off investigators by using such a return address. The anthrax mailing was far too sophisticated, slick, and totally planned out for Dr. Hatfill to have created it in the few weeks after September 11(th). And even as I sit here setting up this page (8/01), comes news that Dr. Hatfill’s home as well as a “storage shed” in Florida (shades of McVeigh/Nichols) have been searched AGAIN. Again the helicopters and the big white moving van, all the while the FBI says “he is not a suspect.” He’s now being “Jewelled.” I call up Guy Taylor. On 8/03 his report is printed, “Scientist says FBI asked about setup.” As I have said, the FBI has many men and women of integrity, and the situation around Hatfill screams “frame job.” They are finally realizing what I’ve been telling you. But they don’t know what to do, so they’re asking the microbiologist Barbara Rosenberg if she heard anything about people in biodefense “trying to frame Dr. Hatfill.” It’s a bit pathetic. It shows the VISE on the FBI - they have to solve the crime, which grows daily more obvious, but they don’t dare. Guy Taylor also commented in his report on the Richard Jewell aspect. Soon, reputable conservative writers are finally bringing the odious matter up, it having occurred to them earlier - but not until Mr. Taylor said it out did they summon the courage to criticize.
Another week passes and the FBI claims a scent hound has scented “anthrax scent residue” on Hatfill, in his apartment, his girlfriend’s, his previous girlfriend’s, and even restaurants he recently visited. If the chemical residue could have gotten out in such volume that it would linger on him for 10 months, then the spores would have gotten out, too, and everyone would be dead, including Hatfill, whose vaccination had expired a year prior to the mailings. If he really had the anthrax which “contaminated” his earlier girlfriend’s apartment, then he would have stolen and super milled the anthrax well prior to his 8/01 “grudge” inception, when he only had a vague “resentment” against the government. Well, since his expertise, lab skills, and security access was with viruses, is it not far more likely he would have gone for the gold and stockpiled, say, smallpox rather than carcass bacteria? Why would he risk stealing an anthrax sample from a lab he wasn’t supposed to be in, then sneak back in to use the equipment to supermilita-rize it, a skill the FBI has said he doesn’t even possess?
Finally, some have made much of a hoax letter sent Daschle from England on the same day Hatfill was there. He was there with a whole lot of other people in biodefense, and if he were so small-minded to send a hoax to Daschle when he has turned USA upside down, shut down Congress, etc., HE WOULD HAVE SENT A HOAX LETTER TO EVERYONE WHO HAD RECEIVED THE REAL STUFF. No, as Guy Taylor himself observed, it really looks like he was being tagged again, by someone sent to go along on the convention.
As of this date, these crucial pieces of evidence have not been resolved:
1. In February, FBI obtained samples of the Ames strain anthrax from the acknowledged US bio-labs to genetically match with the anthrax sent, to determine which lab it came from. It has been over one half of a year, and no match has been found. No match would be further proof that the anthrax was from a secret US. biolab, and supermilitarized there.
2. Did the SAIC report give equally clear instructions for delivering viruses?
3. Where did the SAIC report, which is the PROVEN basis of the anthrax mailing, really go?
And who am I? Some American who bothered to use his head. My name is Pete. Pete Velis. My hope is that all newspeople will read this and realize that courage and applied reason that rises above the customary mainstream mediocrity can solve this Crime - and thus truly protect us.
says Baghdad is hiding anthrax
U.S. intelligence agencies have told U.N. weapons inspectors that Iraq has hidden 7,000 liters of anthrax, but chief inspector Hans Blix never reported the information to the U.N. Security Council, The Washington Times has learned.
The failure to inform the council has raised questions about whether Mr. Blix will report accurately on anticipated Iraqi obstruction of weapons inspections, which could begin again later this month, said administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The recent intelligence assessment of the anthrax — about 1,800 gallons — is based on sensitive information, including data provided by Iraqi defectors and other U.S. intelligence-gathering means, the officials said.
U.S. intelligence officials said the anthrax stockpile is believed to be part of the 8,500 liters of anthrax that Iraq's government, after initial denials, admitted in 1995 to producing but told U.N. inspectors that it destroyed.
The intelligence was reported to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known as Unmovic, within the past several months. However, Mr. Blix, the executive chairman of Unmovic, has not reported the information to the members of the Security Council, the officials said.
Ewen Buchanan, a spokesman for Mr. Blix, would not address the issue of reporting the intelligence directly.
"Anthrax production in Iraq is clearly an open question," Mr. Buchanan said. "We don't know how much they've produced and whether they've destroyed all that they claimed."
Mr. Buchanan said previous assessments by the U.N. Special Commission said the Iraqis could have produced three times the 8,500 liters they admitted to having made.
"This is just the sort of question we would pursue," Mr. Buchanan said of the Iraqi anthrax cache.
Mr. Blix could not be reached for comment, but he said in a recent television interview that although he respects U.S. and British intelligence agency reports on Iraq's weapons, Unmovic cannot report the intelligence to the Security Council because spy agencies will not disclose their sources.
Mr. Blix said in an interview with talk-show host Charlie Rose that "the problem is that they will not give you evidence."
"They will say, 'We are convinced for various reasons that they have one thing or another,' but they will not say where it is," he said on the Oct. 31 broadcast.
"They will say that, 'Well, we have to protect our sources, so we will not give you evidence,'" he said. "And if some people ask me am I sure that they have weapons of mass destruction, I say, 'If I had that, I would take it to the Security Council straight away.'"
U.S. intelligence agencies also reported unusual activity at a suspected biological-weapons facility in Iraq, the officials said.
A CIA report made public last month stated that "Iraq admitted producing thousands of liters of the [biological-warfare] agents anthrax, botulinum toxin and aflatoxin" and had prepared missile warheads and bombs to deliver the weapons.
"Baghdad did not provide persuasive evidence to support its claims that it unilaterally destroyed its [biological-warfare] agents and munitions," the report said.
U.N. weapons inspectors said Baghdad's production figures for biological-warfare agents "vastly understated" its actual production and that it could have made two to four times the amount it said it produced, the report said.
The report said that about 8,000 anthrax spores, or less than one-millionth of a gram, is enough to cause a person to become infected and that inhaled anthrax is "100 percent fatal within five to seven days, although in recent cases, aggressive medical treatment has reduced the fatality rate."
The disclosure that Unmovic has not reported the intelligence to the Security Council follows the recent approval by the United Nations of Iraq's purchase of a specialty chemical that could be used to enhance Iraq's chemical and biological arms.
The sale of a shipment of a fine powder known as colloidal silicon dioxide was approved by the U.N. oil-for-food program for Iraq despite objections from the U.S. government amid concerns that the chemical could be used for weapons.
According to intelligence officials, reports about Iraq's hidden anthrax were bolstered by a former Iraqi government official who defected two years ago but only recently came forward with new information, U.S. officials said.
The former Iraqi official, who is part of an opposition group of ex-military officers, provided new details about storage sites where Iraq is keeping chemical and biological weapons, the U.S. officials said.
The defector's accounts have been verified by other intelligence, the officials said.
The failure to alert the Security Council to the anthrax stockpile has upset some Bush administration officials, who said the information might have helped persuade some members of the council to support tougher U.S. action.
"If Blix won't report this, what will he do when Iraq obstructs weapons inspectors?" one official asked.
Representatives of Russia, China and France have opposed U.S. efforts to win council approval of military action against Iraq and the ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein.
The issue of Iraq's hidden anthrax is likely to emerge in the next month as the United Nations begins a new round of inspections inside Iraq.
Weapons inspections were halted in 1998 after the Clinton administration began military strikes on Iraq aimed at knocking out suspected chemical-, biological- and nuclear-weapons development sites.
Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. forces that would lead any attack on Iraq, said the issue of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is a key area of concern.
"The linkages between the government of Iraq and other transnational terrorist organizations like al Qaeda is not the issue with me," Gen. Franks told reporters Oct. 29. "The issue is the potential of a state with weapons of mass destruction passing those weapons of mass destruction to proven terrorist capability. And I believe that that risk exists."
Anthrax answer due in weeks
By Guy Taylor
Local and federal authorities say they will know by the middle of this month if the fumigation of anthrax spores in the District's mail processing center on Brentwood Road NE has been a success.
Analysts are conducting tests on thousands of anthrax spore strips left inside the Brentwood building during the fumigation two weeks ago, said U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Kristin Krathwohl.
Cleaning and reopening Brentwood, which closed in October 2001 after two postal employees who worked there died of anthrax infection, could help to bring a slice of closure to the biological attacks.
Federal law enforcement authorities have chased thousands of leads in the 15-month-old investigation into the origin of the anthrax-tainted letters, but no suspects have been named.
The attacks left five persons dead along the East Coast, including the two Brentwood workers, who contracted inhalation anthrax after the center processed two contaminated letters bound for senators on Capitol Hill.
Brentwood has been renamed in honor of the two fallen postal workers, Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr.
On Dec. 14, the Postal Service pumped 2 tons of chlorine dioxide through the 17.5-million-cubic-foot building. Once the gas was removed, cleanup crews began removing the more than 8,000 anthrax spore strips.
Mrs. Krathwohl said the strips have been sent to laboratories certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine whether the anthrax on them experienced any growth after the fumigation.
The test results will be reviewed by a scientific committee led by Dr. Vincent R. Nathan of the D.C. Department of Health and Jack Kelly of the Environmental Protection Agency. The committee then will make a recommendation on whether Brentwood is safe to be reopened.
The Postal Service has estimated that the total cost of cleaning Brentwood and other postal facilities in Trenton, N.J., where the anthrax-tainted letters were sent, has exceeded $100 million.
Meanwhile, federal law enforcement authorities on Dec. 20 completed a search of a pond and a small wooded area in Frederick, Md., believed to be related to the ongoing investigation of the attacks.
The FBI has declined to comment on the search, beyond issuing a statement confirming that it had taken place within the city of Frederick.
The Frederick News-Post reported that the search was prompted by a tip to law enforcement officials that lab equipment used in the anthrax attacks might have been dumped into the pond.
The Justice Department and FBI declined to comment on whether any evidence was gleaned from the search, during which agents reportedly carved large rectangular holes in the surface of the frozen pond before climbing into the icy water and dredging for clues.
The search briefly renewed interest in Stephen J. Hatfill, a former scientist at the Army Medical Research Institute at Fort Detrick, whose apartment in Frederick was searched by FBI agents several times last year.
Mr. Hatfill, a self-proclaimed anthrax expert who has written a novel about an anthrax attack on Washington, repeatedly has denied any involvement in the attacks.
On two occasions last year, he held news conferences during which he criticized the FBI's treatment of him, saying the agency had "ruined" his life.
Justice Department officials yesterday said Mr. Hatfill remains a "person of interest" in the investigation.
buried for good
By Christopher Pala
ALMATY, Kazakhstan — When Soviet troops hastily buried hundreds of tons of weaponized anthrax on a remote island in the Aral Sea in 1988, they had no idea the site would be dug up by Americans, or that the lessons they would learn would be useful in the search for buried anthrax that is expected to begin after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Brian Hayes, who led the expedition to Vozrozhdeniye island last summer, is a biochemical engineer with the U.S. Threat Reduction Agency. During two long interviews, one in Washington, the other by telephone, he asked that his title not be disclosed, nor his role in the U.N. inspections of Iraq, in which he said he had participated.
He also declined to discuss what future role he might play in analyzing Iraqi soil samples.
Under difficult conditions, the American group dug up, tested, killed and reburied the anthrax over a three-month period. While not secret, the operation was not publicized by the U.S. government and, until now, no account of it has been published.
The island in the Aral Sea, called Vozrozhdeniye (Renaissance), was the site of the main testing ground for the Soviet biological-weapons program. Anthrax, plague, smallpox and a half-dozen other diseases, in addition to vaccines against them, were tested on the island, whose summer heat of 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit, dry climate and distance from population centers made it ideal to test deadly germs on animals.
First used in 1936, the island was abandoned by the Soviet army when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. It become the property of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. But because of its remoteness, neither country sent forces to guard it, and scavengers have been picking it of valuable materials every summer since 1996.
The anthrax was buried there after Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev became concerned that the stockpile — produced and stocked at Zima, near Irkutsk — would be an embarrassment if Western countries asked to inspect the plant.
Suspicions had been raised that the Soviet Union might be violating a 1972 treaty banning biological weapons after an accidental release in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) of anthrax spores killed some 70 people.
So the Soviets sent the spores by train to Aralsk, then by ship to the island, according to Kazakhstan officials. Russia hasn't said how much anthrax was moved, and Mr. Hayes said it was hard to guess. Estimates vary between 100 and 200 tons.
The anthrax was buried at a depth of 5 to 8 feet, Mr. Hayes said.
"The purpose of the expedition [by the American team in 2002] was to prevent potential adversaries from acquiring biochemical materials that could pose a significant risk and danger to Uzbekistan and the United States," Mr. Hayes said.
Gennady Lepyoshkin, who during the Soviet period ran a huge anthrax-production facility in Stepnogorsk, northern Kazakhstan, and spent 18 summers on the island, disputed the proliferation risk.
"It's much easier to get anthrax spores from laboratories than from the island," he said in an interview. "It's very remote and not many people know where the anthrax was buried."
Mr. Lepyoshkin said the anthrax used for the late 2001 attacks in Washington did not come from Vozrozhdeniye.
[Published accounts in the United States say the anthrax spores used in the 2001 attacks that killed five persons on the East Coast, including two postal workers in Washington, and contaminated government sites on Capitol Hill, were of the Ames strain, developed in a secret U.S. Army program. The person or persons behind those attacks have not been identified.]
Vozrozhdeniye island's remoteness was very much on Mr. Hayes' mind when he and a handful of Americans assembled in Nukus, Uzbekistan, for one of the most challenging expeditions in the history of biological weapons.
Nukus is one of the poorest towns in the former Soviet Union. Yet that is where Mr. Hayes procured five backhoes, four dump trucks, six water trucks, various four-wheel-drive vehicles and a crane, along with a work force of nearly 100 Uzbeks.
"We went door-to-door looking for the personnel and equipment," he said. "Most of the equipment was in pretty bad shape so, for instance, we needed five backhoes to have three working simultaneously."
Men and materiel were flown 100 miles to Moynak, once a prosperous fishing port on the Aral Sea, now a dying town 50 miles from its receding coast, in a creaking, single-engine Antonov An-2 biplane, the workhorse of the Soviet hinterlands.
From there, three Mi-8 helicopters carried the equipment another 100 miles to Kantubek, the town on Vozrozhdeniye island built for the 2,000 people who once staffed the top-secret testing ground.
Mr. Hayes bought a cement mixer in Nukus to mix the contaminated earth with calcium hydrochloride, which would kill the spores.
"It was too heavy for the helicopter to lift, so we disassembled it into two parts," he said. "That was such a complicated process that once we finished, we realized that we probably couldn't reassemble it."
So Mr. Hayes devised another way to kill the anthrax: He used the backhoes to dig trenches in the vicinity of each of the 11 pits where the anthrax had been buried. The trench was lined with thick plastic, filled with calcium hydrochloride, and the contaminated earth was covered with water there for six days and then re-buried after testing found no live spores.
When the team — which at its peak would total 113 persons — arrived on the island, the challenges continued.
Not far from the pits were warehouses still containing standard laboratory equipment. The warehouses had become overgrown with weeds which, in the semi-desert environment, provided shelter for snakes and rodents.
"The first night, we found a 6-foot pit viper inside the camp," he said. On another occasion, an 8-foot cobra was shot near the tents where the staff lived. "In all, we had run-ins with about 25 poisonous snakes."
Water proved to be another problem. "We needed a lot of water because we sprayed the work area constantly so none of the anthrax spores could become airborne," he said. "Basically, we worked in mud all the time. And in addition, we wore 'hot zone' suits any time we went within 300 yards of the pits. Everybody wore them."
In Nukus, he was told he could drill for water on the island, but the equipment provided was useless. "We found a group of large cisterns in the town," he said, "and we helicoptered the six water trucks so they could carry the water from the town to the pits" — about 2 miles.
The Soviets had apparently mixed the anthrax with the calcium hydrochloride in what Mr. Hayes called "a smaller version of the 55-gallon drum" and then emptied the mixture into the pits, taking nearly all of the drums back with them.
"We did some testing, and when we found that some spores were alive, we didn't go any further," he said. "We just went on the assumption that all the earth in the sample area contained live spores."
They brought high-tech lab equipment that was used to test more than 1,000 samples for live anthrax spores.
Without the lab, Mr. Hayes said, the team would not have been able to test the effectiveness of their work.
"We left everything looking the way it looked before," he said. This correspondent, who spent five days in the area three months after the expedition and looked for the pits, failed to detect any sign of them.
The operation cost somewhere between $4 million and $5 million. "That's a bargain. You couldn't do it for that kind of money in the States," Mr. Hayes said.
Near the laboratory complex was the unmarked grave of a woman who died of an infection she got handling germs several decades ago. "I used to drive up there every day and say a prayer for her," he said.
Officials call water safe from anthrax
By S.A. Miller
The mayor of Frederick today will reassure the city that its water supply is not threatened by anthrax, despite reports the FBI is searching a pond in the city watershed for evidence of a makeshift biowarfare lab used in the 2001 anthrax mail attacks.
Mayor Jennifer Dougherty told The Washington Times that the FBI assured her that the pond did not pose a public health threat, and that she wanted to pass that information on to the public today at a 10 a.m. news conference.
She will be joined at the news conference by Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine, who receives regular updates from the FBI about its activity in and around the city.
"They have informed me that they have not uncovered anything yet that poses any threat to anyone here or any body of water," Chief Dine said yesterday.
The FBI is considering draining the spring-fed pond in the Frederick Municipal Forest to search the muck for more clues to the anthrax attacks nearly 19 months ago that killed five persons and sickened 13 others.
The pond under FBI scrutiny is roughly an acre in size and 10 feet deep. It is the largest pond in a cluster of five located about eight miles from the city limits in the Frederick Municipal Forest, a stretch of woods in the Catoctin Mountains that serves as the city's watershed.
Mrs. Dougherty said FBI divers began searching the pond in December and January. The searches were aided by scientists from nearby Fort Detrick, home to the Army's germ-warfare lab, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).
At that time, when the divers uncovered evidence anthrax may have been handled in or near the pond, the FBI and USAMRIID scientist advised Mrs. Dougherty the city was safe.
"They assured me that there was nothing found that would threaten the water supply," Mrs. Dougherty told The Times. "Since the USAMRIID scientists live here, I have no reason to believe they would mislead us."
FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman confirmed yesterday that Frederick did not appear to be at risk.
"Based on water testing already conducted, there is no indication of a threat to public health or safety associated with our search activities," she said. She declined to comment on the status of the searches or reports of evidence already uncovered at the pond.
Frederick's more than 52,000 residents — people used to living in the shadow of the nation's premier germ-warfare lab at Fort Detrick — appear to be taking in stride this latest hometown twist in the anthrax investigation.
Stephen Johnson, manager of the Safeway supermarket in Frederick, said he hasn't seen a spike in sales of bottled water. "It's not like we've had a run on it," he said. "Our shelves are completely full."
The Washington Post reported over the weekend that this winter the divers found instruments that could have been used to pack the deadly spores into envelopes without infecting the culprit or leaving traces in homes, buildings or on open land.
Two sources familiar with the items recovered from one of the ponds described a clear box, with holes that could accommodate gloves to protect the user during work. So-called glove boxes are commonly used to handle dangerous pathogens. Vials wrapped in plastic also were recovered.
For protection against airborne bacteria that might be released, a person could put envelopes and secured anthrax powder into the box, then wade into shallow water and submerge it to put the bacteria into the envelopes underwater, some involved in the case believe, the newspaper reported.
Afterward, the envelopes could have been sealed inside plastic bags to be removed from the underwater chamber.
The newspaper story reignited media interest in Frederick, which often has been at the center of the anthrax investigation.
Fort Detrick's germ-warfare experts played a leading role in analyzing the anthrax-laced letters sent to then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and others. The FBI later focused on Fort Detrick as a potential source of the weaponized anthrax and also on former USAMRIID workers as potential bioterror suspects.
"It is not a surprise to me that they are here or that they keep coming back," Miss Dougherty said of the FBI's continued interest in Frederick and the pond. "I don't know that they found anything, but I know that they keep looking."
In June 2002, the FBI and U.S. Postal Service agents searched the Frederick apartment of Steven J. Hatfill, a former USAMRIID worker and the only individual named as a "person of interest" in the anthrax case.
Mr. Hatfill has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence.
The FBI returned at least two more times to Mr. Hatfill's old apartment located just outside Fort Detrick's main gate. Agents searched it in August and June of 2002.
Some investigators said the pond theory is the result of the FBI's interest in Mr. Hatfill, according to the Post story. The pond findings offer physical evidence in a case that so far has been built almost exclusively on circumstantial clues, the newspaper quoted sources as saying.
Ms. Weierman, the FBI spokeswoman, declined to give details about the investigation beyond saying, "We have a significant investigation that is continuing, and we are making progress."
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
scientist says letter links to anthrax mailers
By Guy Taylor
The FBI won't release an anonymous letter, which in the days before the 2001 fatal anthrax mailings, accused an Egyptian-born scientist of plotting biowarfare against the United States, saying it would divulge secret sources in the continuing investigation.
In a July 7 note citing the sources, the FBI denied Ayaad Assaad, the letter's subject, access to the evidence. Mr. Assaad said he's convinced it is linked to a person or a group responsible for the anthrax mailings that killed five persons.
"They know damn well that this letter is connected to the anthrax sender," he said, adding that the FBI's refusal to provide a copy suggests "they're trying to protect whoever sent it."
He said he suspects it led investigators to the Army's biodefense lab at Fort Detrick.
Asked about the anonymous letter Friday, a spokeswoman at the FBI's Washington field office said it is "unrelated to the anthrax mailings."
However, that assertion hasn't stopped the bureau from withholding it for nearly two years from Mr. Assaad. According to the July 7 note to him, in which the Justice Department denied his latest request for a copy of the letter, releasing it "could reasonably be expected to disclose the identities of confidential sources and information by such sources."
About two weeks before the anthrax mailings became known, the FBI was given the unsigned letter describing Mr. Assaad, who once worked at Fort Detrick, as an anti-American religious fanatic with the means and expertise to unleash a bioweapons attack.
He has been seeking a copy of the letter ever since agents with the FBI's Washington field office questioned him about it on Oct. 3, 2001.
The Hartford Courant first reported the FBI's continued refusal to release it last month. During an interview with The Washington Times on Thursday, Mr. Assaad said he's baffled by what he calls the FBI's contradictory actions.
"They're trying to protect someone who hurt me," he said, explaining that from what he saw of the letter it was laden with false and negative statements about him. While it didn't specify his religion, he said it called him a "religious fanatic."
Mr. Assaad, who holds graduate degrees from Iowa State University and has lived in the United States since the mid-1970s, claims he was discriminated against when he worked at the Army's Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick. He now works as a toxicologist for the Environmental Protection Agency.
He said when the FBI questioned him about the anonymous letter, agents told him he could file a Freedom of Information-Privacy Acts request to get a copy of it. When the interview was completed, the agents cleared him and said he was free to go.
However, he said when he made repeated calls to the FBI asking if agents wanted to speak with him again or if his past work with bioweapons could assist in their investigation, he was turned away.
Meanwhile, he said, the FBI had given him a wrong case number for filing the request to obtain a copy of the letter.
FBI agents recently were seen near Fort Detrick unsuccessfully squishing through the muck at the bottom of a drained pond in search of evidence in the anthrax mailings. They reportedly were hunting for something tangible to connect the anthrax mailings to scientist Steven Hatfill, whom authorities have called a "person of interest" in the case.
No charges have been filed against Mr. Hatfill, but investigators who searched his apartment twice last year are said to have him under 24-hour surveillance.
Mr. Hatfill denies involvement in the anthrax mailings. He worked at Fort Detrick for two years, until 1999, before taking a job with defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., where he worked as a senior scientist until March 2002.
According to a report last month in The New York Times, he was involved in building mock biological weapons labs to train special operations personnel on what to look for in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
probes routine for FBI
By Matthew Cella
FBI officials say an envelope containing a suspicious white powder discovered Monday at the U.S. State Department was one of at least four that had been sent from a San Diego address by someone identifying themselves as the "French Chef."
The letter, addressed to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, was discovered at about 9:40 a.m. in the Office of Public Communications.
The FBI quickly determined that the powder was harmless, but the investigation closed part of the second floor of the department for about two hours.
FBI officials with the Washington Field Office say they respond to at least a half-dozen such hoax letters each week, including one received yesterday at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That letter was traced quickly to a Michigan prisoner who had sent more than two dozen others.
"We get a half a dozen of these things at a minimum each week," said Jim Rice, the supervisory special agent in charge of the National Capital Response Squad for the FBI's D.C. Field Office.
John Perren, assistant special agent in charge for domestic terrorism at the FBI's D.C. Field Office, said the bureau responds to every call.
"We cannot afford not to respond to every incident we get a call about," he said. "We respond to these presuming it's an act of terrorism."
Mr. Rice said the most common contents of such envelopes are salt, sugar, yeast and talcum powder.
"Even if it's not anthrax, even if it's just talcum powder, it's still a crime," he said, adding that the suspicious contents of one envelope turned out to be a dietary fiber supplement. "That was my favorite."
Mr. Rice said agents responding to such calls determine whether the threat is critical, if any other suspicious items had been sent to the recipient, and what action to take.
"Our job is to investigate, to go to the scene and process the evidence," Mr. Perren said.
Officials say the proper response to receiving an envelope with suspicious contents is to call 911. The FBI field office works closely with the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services, whose hazardous materials team handles decontamination operations.
Mr. Rice said the fire department was not called about the incident Monday because the envelope was intercepted by the State Department's internal hazardous materials team and FBI agents were able to determine that the letter was not a threat.
"We knew from intelligence that we were going in to pick up something we had seen at least four times," Mr. Rice said.
He said the fire department's special-operations unit is briefed weekly on threatening situations and frequently participates in tabletop exercises and live drills.
"We never want to meet our partners for the first time in a crisis," Mr. Rice said, adding that federal and local coordination of response capabilities in the D.C. area is five to 10 years ahead of other jurisdictions.
The level of reports about suspicious mail is nowhere near that of a three-day period in 2001 when agents responded to 1,435 calls.
In October that year, several letters containing anthrax spores were mailed through a New Jersey postal center to news outlets and political offices in New York, Florida and the District. Anthrax-laced letters also were sent to the offices of Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, both Democrats.
The attacks killed five persons, including two workers at the Brentwood mail facility in Northeast that handled the letters. Anthrax infections sickened 23 others.
Times, October 21, 2003
Unresolved anthrax enigma
By Jack Kelly
In July, the FBI drained a pond in Gambrill State Park near Frederick, Md., searching for materials that former military scientist Steven Hatfill may have used in whipping up the anthrax contained in letters sent to a tabloid in Florida, ABC, CBS and NBC news, the New York Post, and two U.S. senators.
In an earlier foray into the pond in December, FBI divers found a plastic box with two holes cut into it that some investigators speculated Mr. Hatfill could have used to fill envelopes with powdered anthrax while submerged.
Locals said it was a turtle trap. No traces of anthrax were found.
In September, a senior FBI official acknowledged that after two years of trying, the FBI and defense scientists have been unable to recreate the sophisticated, weaponized form of anthrax found in the letters sent to Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, making it all the more unlikely a lone rogue scientist was able to whip it up in a plastic box while under water in a Maryland pond.
By far the best short history of the anthrax attacks and their import is in Laurie Mylroie's new book, "Bush vs. the Beltway." Miss Mylroie is an Iraq expert who was an adviser to Bill Clinton in his 1992 run for president. She thinks Saddam Hussein was behind the anthrax letters. Let's hope she's right, because if she is, we may be a good deal safer than we were before Operation Iraqi Freedom began.
The letters to the news organizations and to the senators bore the same handwriting, and were mailed from the same place (Trenton, N.J.). But the anthrax in the letters sent to the senators was vastly more sophisticated.
Miss Mylroie explains: "Ordinarily, anthrax spores contain an electrostatic charge that makes the microscopic spores stick together in clumps that are too big to be inhaled into the lungs. But these spores had been coated with a Teflon-like substance containing silica. ... When U.S. Army experts tried to examine them, the spores refused to stay put on the glass microscope slide. ... It behaved like no sample the Army scientists had ever seen. ...
"The weightless, almost gaseous quality made this batch of anthrax particularly effective as a weapon. ... The Army's premier anthrax expert, John Ezzell, was especially worried. The evident level of expertise involved in the production of this weaponized anthrax powder suggested that the United States had been attacked by a sophisticated, ruthless and formidable foe."
Had the anthrax in either of those envelopes been put into the ventilation system at the World Trade Center, it would have killed more people than the hijacked airliners did.
On Oct. 25, 2001, an article in The Washington Post said only the U.S., Russia and Iraq were capable of weaponizing anthrax in the form found in the letters to the senators. And as we have seen, the FBI has been unable to duplicate it.
The Washington Post's editor Bob Woodward wrote in his book, "Bush at War," that CIA Director George Tenet believed the anthrax attacks were made by al Qaeda, with the backing of a state. Vice President Dick Cheney agreed, but said it was important not to talk about state sponsorship, "because we're not ready to do anything about it."
Miss Mylroie deftly summarizes evidence linking 9/11 hijackers to the anthrax letters. Mr. Woodward quotes Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Mr. Cheney's chief of staff, in explaining why the administration did not acknowledge an al Qaeda link, even though it thought there was one: "If we say it's al Qaeda, a state sponsor may feel safe and then hit us, thinking they will have a bye, because we'll blame it on al Qaeda."
The FBI's bizarre focus on Mr. Hatfill — against whom not a shred of evidence has been found — may be less political correctness run amok than a deliberate deception, a means of calming Americans until the real source of the problem can be dealt with. If al Qaeda could all by its lonesome have produced the anthrax in the letters to the senators, surely they would have attacked us again by now.
But if the anthrax were manufactured by Iraq, we apparently have yet to find evidence of where and how. If Saddam didn't do it, we need — urgently — to find out who did.
Jack Kelly, a syndicated columnist, is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.
By Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough
The CIA has been quietly building a case that the anthrax attacks of 2001 were in fact the result of an international terrorist plot.
U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports tell us the information showing a terrorist link to the anthrax-filled letters sent by mail in the weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks is not conclusive. But it is persuasive.
Asked to comment, a U.S. official said, "There is no evidence at this point to suggest a foreign terrorist link or connection. But the matter is still under investigation and we're not ruling anything out."
Some officials think the intelligence is at least as valid as the FBI's "mad scientist" theory, which has produced dead ends so far for the G-men after more than two years of investigation. This theory says a U.S. biological weapons scientist with access to highly refined anthrax powder stole some and used it to awaken the U.S. government to the threat of deadly anthrax.
Former weapons scientist Stephen Hatfill was identified by the Justice Department as a "person of interest" in the probe. Mr. Hatfill has stated repeatedly that he had nothing to do with the anthrax mailings. He is suing the federal government for investigating him.
The deadly letters were sent to two U.S. senators and several news outlets in October and November 2001. They ended with the phrases, "death to America, death to Israel, Allah is great." Five persons were killed after inhaling anthrax spores and 22 others were sickened but survived.
The spores were analyzed and found to be a virulent form known as the Ames strain. Also, the spores were milled into extremely fine powder, making it easier to disperse in the air.
Investigators were hoping the Iraq Survey Group would come up with documents or evidence indicating that Iraq might have acquired the Ames strain. But U.S. officials said so far there are no signs of Ames-type anthrax in Iraq, either from samples or documents recovered from the Iraqi intelligence service. The service was in charge of weapons of mass destruction development.
A report last month to the U.N. Security Council by its Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission concluded that traces of anthrax recovered from a bomb in early 2003 were of the same strain Iraq declared in 1991 it had weaponized. Those were not the Ames strain, U.S. officials said.
discovery recalls anthrax
By Guy Taylor
The discovery of the deadly poison ricin on Capitol Hill brought a chilling reminder yesterday of the October 2001 anthrax attacks, which remain unsolved to this day.
The massive investigation of who mailed the anthrax to Sens. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and to news outlets in Florida and New York, killing five persons, has not produced a single arrest and has produced few substantial leads.
Headed by the FBI's Washington field office, the probe appears to be at a standstill, although FBI officials say it remains "intensely active."
"Currently, there are 28 FBI special agents and 12 U.S. postal inspectors working full time on the investigation," said Debbie Weierman, spokeswoman for the Washington field office.
"The group has conducted 15 searches, interviewed more than 5,000 people and served more than 4,000 subpoenas," she said, adding that FBI agents have spent about 251,000 man-hours on the investigation.
Although progress has been kept secret, multiple developments have been made public during the more than two years since the anthrax mailings ramped up fears of biological terrorism just a month after the September 11 attacks.
Last summer, investigators combed through the mud at the bottom of a Frederick, Md., pond that the FBI had drained in an apparent search for tangible evidence to connect the anthrax mailings to scientist Steven Hatfill.
Although Mr. Hatfill has not been named officially as a suspect in the anthrax probe, Attorney General John Ashcroft has called him a "person of interest."
Interest in Mr. Hatfill, 49, stems from work he did at the Army's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md., for two years until 1999, and another job he took afterward with defense contractor Science Applications International Corp. in McLean.
As a senior scientist with SAIC until March 2002, Mr. Hatfill built mock biological weapons labs to train special operations personnel on searches in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. He also commissioned a report about anthrax uses, two pages of which describe how the poison could be sent through the mail in standard business envelopes.
Investigators twice searched a Frederick apartment once kept by Mr. Hatfill, who repeatedly has declared his innocence. In August, he filed a lawsuit against Mr. Ashcroft, the Justice Department and the FBI, claiming they had ruined his life by unfairly singling him out.
In September, Michael A. Mason, the new head of the FBI's Washington field office and anthrax investigation said it was troubling that Mr. Hatfill was labeled a person of interest and called it "unfortunate" that the investigation had been "beset by a number of leaks."
The anthrax attacks left five persons dead and more than a dozen injured. Among the dead were two workers at the central mail processing center in the District, which sorted the anthrax-contaminated letters sent to Capitol Hill.
The center was rededicated to honor the workers, Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr., when it reopened for business in December after being closed by the anthrax contamination.
attacks stump FBI, but remain priority
By Matthew Cella and Guy Taylor
The FBI official in charge of the probe into the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings said the investigation still has top priority among the bureau's unsolved cases, but he acknowledged the anthrax sender may never be caught.
"Despite our very, very, very best efforts, we still might not be able to bring it home," said Assistant Director Michael A. Mason, who heads the FBI's Washington field office, which is investigating the case.
"This would not be the first case in the FBI's history that remained unsolved," he said. "It simply happens to be the first case that has received this level of publicity that has not yet been solved."
Mr. Mason said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III continues to receive weekly briefings on the probe 28 months after the mailings. "I would say the anthrax case is the director's number one priority," he said. "This is a case the director feels we must solve — period."
In a meeting Friday with reporters from The Washington Times, Mr. Mason discussed the anthrax probe as well as the investigation into this month's discovery of poisonous ricin in the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican.
Investigators continue to sort through letters from Mr. Frist's mailroom, he said. He dismissed reports that the substance had not been ricin but rather a harmless paper byproduct.
"That's not the case," Mr. Mason said, adding that he had received confirmation from the chief FBI scientist Friday that the substance was ricin. "We did not shut down the whole of government for envelope droppings."
Although the ricin case "remains a mystery," Mr. Mason said, there was "no apparent linkage" to the anthrax attacks, in which deadly spores of the bacteria were mailed to senators on Capitol Hill and to news outlets in Florida and New York in the weeks after the September 11 hijackings.
Mr. Mason has said leaks to reporters about the anthrax case were damaging. He spoke cautiously about the investigation into the poisoned letters, which caused five deaths in October and November 2001.
"We have strict instructions as far as what not to talk about as far as anthrax goes," said Mr. Mason, who took over the investigation last year after Van A. Harp retired as head of the Washington field office.
Mr. Mason said he couldn't discuss an anonymous letter received by the FBI in the weeks before the anthrax attacks, which accused an Egyptian-born scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency of plotting biological warfare against the United States.
The Times reported last week that the FBI recently had questioned at least one other EPA scientist about the anonymous letter, which accused EPA toxicologist Ayaad Assaad of being a religious fanatic with the means to use bioterrorism weapons.
Asked whether the FBI was investigating any connection between the anthrax mailings and the anonymous letter, Mr. Mason told The Times: "I just can't talk about that. I can't talk about that letter."
Pressed about the significance of the anonymous letter, given to the FBI after it had been sent to police in Quantico, Va., in October 2001, Mr. Mason said flatly that "the letter is not a priority."
Mr. Assaad developed a ricin vaccine at Fort Detrick, Md., and is regarded as one of the top U.S. authorities on ricin. Mr. Mason said the leading theory in the ricin probe is that the toxin — which is derived from the castor bean plant — was mailed to Mr. Frist's office, although investigators have yet to identify an envelope in which it might have been mailed.
He said FBI agents working jointly with U.S. Capitol Police still are searching for any connection between the ricin found in the Senate leader's office and other letters containing ricin discovered last year, one at a Greenville, S.C., postal facility in October and another sent to the White House in November.
Those letters were signed by "Fallen Angel," who said he was angry about new federal laws regulating truckers' driving hours.
staff queried in bioterror probe
By Guy Taylor
More than a dozen Environmental Protection Agency scientists have been interviewed by FBI agents investigating the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks and the more recent discovery of the bacteria ricin on Capitol Hill, The Washington Times has learned.
The bulk of the interviews, conducted March 17, focused on an anonymous letter accusing an Egyptian-born EPA scientist of plotting biological warfare against the United States in the days before the anthrax attacks, EPA sources said.
Meanwhile, in a separate development linked to the anthrax attacks, a federal judge yesterday granted the government's request to delay until October a lawsuit by bioweapons expert Steven J. Hatfill against Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI.
In the suit, filed in August in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Mr. Hatfill said his reputation and life were destroyed when Mr. Ashcroft publicly named him a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation.
Five persons were killed by the anthrax mailings, which increased fears of bioterrorism after the September 11 attacks. The probe into who mailed anthrax to media outlets in Florida and New York and to offices on Capitol Hill has yet to yield arrests or indictments.
The Times reported last month that the FBI had questioned one unnamed EPA scientist about the anonymous letter sent in early October 2001 to police in Quantico, Va. The letter identified EPA scientist Ayaad Assaad as a "religious fanatic" with the means and intent to unleash a bioweapons attack.
The FBI has declined to discuss the letter or the EPA interviews. One EPA employee, who met with the FBI, said the latest round of interviews focused on 14 scientists who worked closely with Mr. Assaad.
The interviews were "low-key and relaxed," involving questions about the anonymous letter that implicated Mr. Assaad in the anthrax and the recent ricin letters, the EPA employee said, adding that the FBI agents told the scientists that they were trying to find out who had written the letter.
The agents told the scientists that Mr. Assaad was not a suspect in the investigation, the EPA employee said.
Mr. Assaad, who has graduate degrees from Iowa State University, has lived in the United States since the mid-1970s. Before working for the EPA, he was contracted by the U.S. Army to conduct research to develop a ricin vaccine.
Dismissed from Fort Detrick, Md., in 1997, Mr. Assaad has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Army, in which he says others at Fort Detrick ridiculed him by forming a group called the "Camel Club."
Fort Detrick, a facility known to have had access to the Ames strain of anthrax used in the 2001 attacks, has been a focus of the anthrax probe. Like Mr. Assaad, Mr. Hatfill worked at Fort Detrick during the 1990s, although the two men did not work there during the same period.
The FBI has not named any suspects in the anthrax probe. Government lawyers said Mr. Ashcroft's reference to Mr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" during an August 2002 news conference was an attempt to make clear that the bioweapons expert was not a suspect.
Mr. Hatfill's lawyers said Mr. Ashcroft and others violated their client's constitutional rights. The lawsuit accuses the government of singling out Mr. Hatfill to deflect attention from a lack of progress in the anthrax probe.
Mr. Hatfill has denied involvement in the anthrax attacks. The government wants his suit dismissed on the grounds that allowing it to go forward "will compromise and frustrate" the anthrax probe and could give Mr. Hatfill and others "a voyeur's window" into the probe's workings.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said he would rule later on whether to dismiss the Hatfill suit entirely.
Anthrax response spread toxin
The Washington Times
Washington, DC, Jun. 28 (UPI) -- Contamination from the October 2001 anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill appear to have been more widespread than originally reported, a new report indicates.
Roll Call reports a recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report suggests the Capitol Police accidentally spread the bacteria from the anthrax-laced envelope beyond the Hart Senate Office Building where the letters containing the deadly toxin were first discovered.
The revelations the disease was spread to vehicles and other offices were announced as part of a series of recommendations for future response to the detection of environmental toxins at the Capitol.
An August 2002 Environmental Protection Agency report found that the Capitol Police Bomb Squad inadvertently contaminated gear bags and other equipment by placing them in the hallway outside contaminated offices in the Hart Building and then transferred to the House's Ford Office Building, which then required decontamination.
To detect any more efforts to transfer anthrax through the mail, 283 automatic detection systems are being installed in major postal distribution systems around the country.
deaths remain a mystery
March 17, 2005
By Guy Taylor
Monday's false alarm anthrax scare at three Pentagon letter-processing centers served as a reminder of the October 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five persons and remain unsolved.
Investigators have made no arrests and have named no suspects in the 31/2-year-old probe into who sent the anthrax letters to senate offices on Capitol Hill and media outlets in Florida and New York.
But authorities, who say they are still devoting more than 1,000 man-hours per week to the investigation, said there's no statute of limitations on murder so it's unlikely the probe will end because of a lack of leads.
"We will proceed with this investigation to its end," said Debbie Weierman, spokeswoman at the FBI's Washington field office, which is leading the still "intensely active" probe called "Amerithrax."
"We have 30 FBI special agents and 15 postal inspectors dedicated full time to this case," she said, adding that a separate team is investigating last year's discovery of poisonous ricin on Capitol Hill.No one died in that incident, which also remains unsolved.
The Postal Service, meanwhile, said its V Street annex in Northeast reopened yesterday after Monday's false alarm. Officials don't think the scare was a hoax, but rather the result of mistaken initial testing.
Several people have faced serious charges in anthrax hoaxes since 2001. Last week, a man who mailed powder and death threats to British officials pleaded guilty in Miami to threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.
If caught, those behind the 2001 attacks could be charged with murder and using a weapon of mass destruction.
The FBI says more than 5,000 federal grand jury subpoenas have been served during the Amerithrax probe, but declined to give specifics, including about how much the investigation has cost.
Investigators have appeared hot on leads surrounding the U.S. military's biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick. In 2003, they drained a pond near the fort in an apparent search for evidence tying the attacks to scientist Steven Hatfill, who once worked at the laboratory. Trailed by FBI agents for months, Mr. Hatfill has sworn his innocence and has a lawsuit pending against the FBI.
Last March, agents interviewed more than a dozen Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists. The FBI declined to comment, but EPA sources said the focus was an anonymous letter accusing an Egyptian-born scientist of plotting biological warfare against the United States in the days before the anthrax attacks.
Investigators continue to follow "any and all leads," Mrs. Weierman said yesterday.
"We are following up on all domestic leads and continue to partner with the intelligence community to address indications of international terrorist or state sponsor involvement in the attacks."
The FBI and the Postal Service are offering $2 million for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
dumped near Saddam palace
By Charles J. Hanley
Published March 29, 2005
An Iraqi scientist has told U.S. interrogators that her team destroyed Iraq's stock of anthrax in 1991 by dumping it practically at the gates of one of Saddam's main palaces, but never told U.N. inspectors for fear of angering the dictator.
Rihab Rashid Taha's decision in 2003 to remain silent stoked suspicions of those who contended Iraq still harbored biological weapons, contributing to the U.S. decision to invade Iraq two years ago this month.
"Whether those involved understood the significance and disastrous consequences of their actions is unclear," the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group says of Mrs. Taha and colleagues in its final report on the search for Iraq weapons. "These efforts demonstrate the problems that existed on both sides in establishing the truth."
The anthrax mystery had bedeviled U.N. inspectors since the 1990s, when Iraqis said that they had made 2,191 gallons of the bacterial substance before the 1991 Gulf War.
Anthrax is considered highly suited for biowarfare because its spores are easily produced, durable and deadly when inhaled.
The Iraqis said they destroyed all of the anthrax in mid-1991 at their bioweapons center at Hakam, 50 miles southwest of Baghdad.
The U.N. specialists, who scoured Iraq for banned arms from 1991 to 1998 and again in 2002 and 2003, confirmed anthrax had been dumped at Hakam. But they also found indications that Iraq had produced an additional, undeclared 1,800 gallons of anthrax.
In early 2003, chief inspector Hans Blix put the seeming discrepancy high on his list of Iraq's "unresolved disarmament issues," complaining that Iraqis must be withholding information. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell dwelled on an anthrax threat in his February 2003 speech seeking U.N. Security Council authority for war.
But the mystery of the missing anthrax appears to have been resolved in a little-noted section of the Iraq Survey Group report, a 350,000-word document issued Oct. 6.
The British-educated Mrs. Taha, who ran the Hakam complex in the 1980s, told interrogators her staff carted off anthrax from Hakam in April 1991 and stored it in a bungalow near the presidential palace at Radwaniyah, 20 miles west of Baghdad, the U.S. teams report.
Later that year, the crew dumped the chemically deactivated anthrax on grounds surrounded by a Special Republican Guard barracks near the palace, the report says.
Australian microbiologist Rod Barton, who took part in Iraq Survey Group interrogations, said in a recent Australian Broadcasting Corp. interview that the disposal was carried out in July 1991, when Iraqi orders were issued to destroy all bioweapons agents immediately.
Then, through the years, Mrs. Taha and other Iraqi officials denied the "missing" anthrax ever existed.
"The members of the program were too fearful to tell the regime that they had dumped deactivated anthrax within sight of one of the principal presidential palaces," the Iraq Survey Group says.
defends directive limiting supervisors' terms
By Jerry Seper
A top FBI official yesterday defended a much-criticized directive requiring field supervisors to move to the bureau's Washington headquarters after five years or step down, saying "highly experienced" managers are needed to fight the war on terror and other crime here and abroad.
"The program was borne out of an acknowledgement by the director, his senior staff and others that the bureau's need for a highly experienced management cadre and an increasingly large footprint overseas would require a management staff willing to move, relocate and exploit that knowledge across the bureau," FBI Executive Assistant Director Michael Mason told The Washington Times.
"We have a fairly young FBI," Mr. Mason said, noting that a third of the bureau's 11,000 agents were hired after the September 11 attacks. "There was a lot of vigorous debate concerning this directive. You always design these programs with an eye to what's best for the FBI ... and to do it in a way to provide a softer landing for those impacted."
Mr. Mason, who formerly led the FBI's Washington field office, said that although some veteran supervisors have criticized the program, the directive seeks to "realize the hope that their experience will not be lost but exploited by the FBI to the benefit of many more agents."
The program, instituting a five-year term limit on field supervisors, was ordered in June 2004 by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to fill vacancies at headquarters and broaden the expertise of FBI managers as the agency reorganized. It targeted 980 supervisors in the bureau's 56 field offices, of whom 233 have since been promoted or retired.
Several FBI supervisors have said the directive will hurt the bureau's effectiveness by assigning veteran agents who should be managing critical, long-term investigations to desk jobs in Washington. The order requires GS-14 supervisors to compete for positions at FBI headquarters, qualify and compete for positions as assistant special agents in charge, give up their supervisory duties or retire.
The directive is known to the agents as "five years up or out."
Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and a former FBI agent, has asked Mr. Mueller to reconsider the order, saying it will make the prosecution of terrorists, organized crime figures and others more difficult if field supervisors opt to retire in lieu of moving to headquarters. The lawmaker said the directive should be modified to exclude those named as supervisors before 2004.
"It takes time for agents in the field to gain the experience and understanding required to go after mobsters and terrorists and to build the network necessary to work what are intelligence-based investigations," Mr. Rogers said. "These supervisors work these cases and stay in the field because they want to, and America is better off for it."
Mr. Mason said supervisors who took jobs before the 2004 directive were given "sufficient lead time to deal with this initiative." He said that although all new programs have "growing pains" and there could be an adverse effect on those who do not want to or can't relocate, it was "time to move forward."
Mason to head investigations
By Jerry Seper
FBI veteran Michael A. Mason, who formerly headed the bureau's Washington field office, has been named the bureau's executive assistant director for investigations, where he will oversee criminal and cyberspace probes, coordination with law enforcement, international operations and crisis response.
The appointment was announced this week by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, who said Mr. Mason has "the knowledge and experience" with both criminal investigations and administrative matters "to ensure that the criminal programs receive strategic guidance and support."
"Under his leadership, I have no doubt the FBI will maintain its unparalleled level of excellence in criminal investigations," Mr. Mueller said.
Mr. Mason, who has served as acting chief of criminal investigations since January, played a key role in several high-profile investigations after taking over the Washington field office in 2003, including follow-ups in the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings and the investigation into the 2004 discovery of poisonous ricin in the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican.
After joining the FBI in January 1985, he initially was assigned to the Hartford, Conn., office, where he worked on narcotics investigations and bank robbery cases. He also served on a SWAT team as a sniper/observer. He later was assigned to the Washington field office, where he served on a white-collar crime/public corruption squad.
Mr. Mason came to FBI Headquarters in 1990 as a member of the director's security detail, and subsequently served as a supervisor in the personnel resources unit and then as an assistant inspector in the inspection division. Beginning in 1994, he served as supervisor at the bureau's Syracuse, N.Y., office, and was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Buffalo division in 1998.
He served as a chief at the FBI's applicant processing section, where he was responsible for, among other things, overseeing the background investigations conducted on all FBI employees and presidential appointees. He served as special assistant to the director from December 2001 to April 2002, and was the special agent in charge of the Sacramento, Calif., division from 2002 until his appointment as assistant director in charge of the Washington field office in September 2003.
Mr. Mason was born in Chicago. He has a degree in accounting from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington and achieved the rank of captain in the U.S. Marine Corps before his discharge in December 1984. He is married and has two sons.
Anthrax in review
By Bill Frist
Five years ago this week, a mysterious package unleashed anthrax spores in a U.S. Senate building where I have offices. Around the country, 22 people became ill and seven died in connection with the mail-borne anthrax attacks over six weeks. Who launched the attacks, and for what purpose, remains unknown.
Working with health officials, I spent weeks working to help the public understand the anthrax attacks. In their wake, I published a book on the threat of bioterrorism, and made combating major pandemic disease one of my top legislative priorities.
Congress has made significant progress since then: We've passed two major pieces of legislation and have vastly increased spending on measures to better prepare us for biological threats. I'm convinced, however, that we still haven't done enough. Taking biological threats seriously will require continued strong leadership at the top, a federal office specifically designed to anticipate biological threats, and a flexible all-hazard response capability.
History reveals that pandemic disease has killed far more people than all the pitched battles all the world's armies have ever fought. And with our speedy, efficient modern transportation networks, we can be virtually certain the next outbreak will hit many communities at the same time, plunging our country into chaos. This cries out for a federally led, ready response. We still don't have one.
While the government has spent the last five years building drug stockpiles and specially trained biological hazard teams, I've seen little evidence we can successfully pre-empt or combat a major pandemic.
Under existing plans, efforts to treat the sick and stop the contagion will depend on the competence of local governments and health departments. While many local health departments do excellent work, some don't. Right now, it is unclear who will be accountable if one poorly run health department allows a pandemic to spiral out of control. This needs to change.
We need a flexible, high powered federal government capacity that can coordinate all resources to confront threats of biological disease. Right now, major biological threats float in and out of the public consciousness: Avian flu got a lot of attention earlier this year but vanished from the public's radar screen when it failed to spread to the United States. Sens. Richard Burr, Mike Enzi and I have written a bill to fill an important gap in our current capacity -- a new Biological Advanced Research and Development Agency -- to increase resources devoted to pandemic threats and speed new treatments to market. Along with this new agency, the bill would also make important changes to existing programs to ensure accountability and improve our response capability.
We need to increase the resources we devote to threats that have only begun to emerge. Right now, the great bulk of the defenses we've built are oriented toward known threats: pathogens we've dealt with before and think we might deal with again. But we have very little in the way of the advanced research and response capacity that would let scientists and public health workers quickly respond to a threat nobody predicted. We need to move towardsbuilding what those who deal with natural disasters call "all hazard" response capacity -- the ability to deal with any type of threat ,including an unexpected one.
We might, for example, work on developing a broad-spectrum antiviral drug that interferes with the way all viruses replicate. Such a drug could defeat a great many different viruses with one pill the same way antibiotics can defeat almost all bacteria. Unless we begin developing a more flexible capacity, we will always live in the shadow of pandemic.
Five years after the anthrax attacks, we've taken some very important steps toward preparing ourselves for biological threats. But the most important step, the fundamental rethinking of our response, remains ahead of us.
Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, is majority leader of the U.S. Senate.
hit for anthrax 'dead-ends'
By Jerry Seper
A senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee wants Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to explain why the FBI has not made an arrest in its anthrax investigation, citing five years of "dead-ends and a lack of progress."
"There are numerous and serious questions that need to be answered about both the investigation itself and how the FBI has handled it," Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, said in a letter yesterday to Mr. Gonzales.
"The FBI's refusal to brief Congress over the last several years is an outrageous response to reasonable requests at getting to the bottom of the attacks."
The FBI's anthrax investigation began in October 2001 after Congress became one of the targets in the first bioterrorist attack on the United States. A letter laced with the deadly bacterium was addressed to Tom Daschle, the South Dakota Democrat serving as Senate majority leader.
Anthrax-tainted letters ultimately killed five persons in the U.S. and infected 17 others.
The FBI took primary responsibility for investigating the attacks and has described its "Amerithrax" probe as one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement. The FBI said recently that it was determined to solve the case, had conducted 9,000 interviews and had issued 6,000 subpoenas.
Nearly 20 FBI agents, working with inspectors from the U.S. Postal Service, continue to pursue the case.
FBI Assistant Director Joseph Persichini Jr., who heads the Washington field office, said last month that FBI and U.S. Postal Service investigators were "fully committed to bringing the perpetrators of these murderous attacks to justice."
Mr. Persichini said the scientific advances gained from the investigation were unprecedented and had strengthened the government's ability to prepare for and prevent biological attacks.
Mr. Grassley said a detailed examination of the probe may reveal the FBI's "institutional resistance to criticism and dissent."
Mr. Grassley, who also serves as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said many of the resources devoted to the anthrax probe since 2001 were aimed at attempting to prove that former Army scientist Steven Hatfill, once identified as a "person of interest" in the investigation, was involved in the attacks.
The Justice Department has since said that the strain of anthrax used in the attacks was available to a wider circle of people than initially thought.
Mr. Grassley called "outrageous" the FBI's prohibition of further anthrax briefings to Congress and the suggestion that lawmakers were leaking sensitive information.
"Given the allegations about FBI leaks related to [Steven] Hatfill and its similar leaks related to Richard Jewell in the Centennial Park Bombing Case, for the FBI to withhold information from Congress for fear of leaks seems a bit hypocritical, to say the least," he said.
Mr. Grassley asked, among other things, whether the FBI has been able to narrow the number of "persons of interest" and labs.
Hill group seeks briefing by FBI
By Jerry Seper
A bipartisan coalition of Senate and House members yesterday demanded that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales order the FBI to brief Congress on its five-year anthrax investigation, saying its refusal to do so is "unprecedented and inexcusable."
In a letter signed by 33 members of Congress, the coalition described as "inappropriate" a decision by the FBI to refuse congressional requests for information on the investigation and criticized the bureau for a blanket prohibition on anthrax briefings because of concerns over the potential disclosure of sensitive information.
"We're seeing more and more agencies thwart the constitutional responsibility of Congress," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and outgoing chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He has led the effort to get FBI briefings on the probe. "Unfortunately, the FBI's refusal to provide briefings to Congress following the 2001 anthrax attacks appears to be the rule rather than the exception."
Rep. Rush D. Holt, New Jersey Democrat who also has been at the forefront of efforts to get information on the anthrax probe, said the attacks had harmed the "heath and livelihoods of my constituents and paralyzed the government and national commerce."
"All Americans deserve to know why this five-year investigation has made so little progress," he said.
The letter comes in the wake of two other attempts by Mr. Grassley and Mr. Holt to get information about the handling of the inquiry, formally known as the "Amerithrax investigation." In response, the Justice Department and the FBI announced a policy against all congressional briefings on the matter.
The FBI's anthrax investigation began in October 2001 after Congress became one of the targets in the first bioterrorist attack on the United States. A letter laced with the deadly bacterium was addressed to Tom Daschle, the South Dakota Democrat who served as Senate majority leader.
Anthrax-tainted letters ultimately killed five persons in the United States and infected 17 others.
The FBI took primary responsibility in the case and has described its probe as one of the largest and most complex in the history of law enforcement. It said recently it has conducted 9,000 interviews and issued 6,000 subpoenas in the case. Nearly 20 FBI agents, working with inspectors from the U.S. Postal Service, continue to pursue the case.
Mr. Grassley, also a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the FBI, said a detailed examination of the probe may reveal the FBI's "institutional resistance to criticism and dissent." He said many of the resources devoted to the probe were aimed at proving that former Army scientist Steven Hatfill, once identified as a "person of interest" in the investigation, was involved.
The Justice Department has since said that the strain of anthrax used in the attacks was available to a wider circle of people than initially thought.
Among those who signed the letter were Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Trent Lott of Mississippi; and Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York, Dianne Feinstein of California, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, all of whom serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Terrorism is not rocket science
By Fred Reed
I see in an ABC News story that the FBI is concerned about weapons, such as peroxide-based bombs that can be made from chemicals found in the home. You don't need TNT. You can make your own explosives.
Here we encounter a disturbing truth about terrorism: While the level of technological expertise needed is often quite low, the level of such knowledge spread through the general population is quite high, and most of it is available on the Internet.
I don't like to use anonymous sources, but here I'm going to do it. A friend of mine is an organic chemist who has, for legitimate reasons, an interest in terrorism and weaponry. Years ago he told me of the various "kitchen-sink" explosives and how to make them. They go well beyond those mentioned by ABC and include nasty stuff that can be made, if not literally from things in the kitchen, at least from chemicals readily available.
He says, "You can't control access to dangerous ingredients. It's not doable. Modern countries are chemistry-intensive. All sorts of businesses depend on them, fertilizers, plastics, paint, pharmaceuticals, printing, insecticides.
"All use lots of processing agents. University labs have anything you would need to do just about anything at all," he said, giving a list of examples, which I told him I wasn't going to publish. He responded, "Probably a good idea. No point in encouraging amateurs. But anybody good would know it anyway."
He asserted that any decent graduate student in organic chemistry could make nerve agents (usually called "nerve gases," though many aren't gases).
"The syntheses aren't that difficult. You can find them on the Internet. Of course, you'd have to be careful if you wanted to survive the synthesis," he said. I don't think most people realize how much technical knowledge is readily available on improvised explosives, poisons, remote detonators and such.
Militaries have detailed manuals on such things. A problem is that much of this involves "dual use" technology. For example, cell phones with a little tinkering make good detonators. You can't outlaw cell phones. Ammonium nitrate, an explosive, is a fertilizer, used by the ton.
Search on "sarin" (a deadly nerve agent) and "synthesis." You find, for example, a site that gives a rotatable 3-D model of the simple molecule.
Bioterrorism is almost as easy for anyone of reasonable IQ. Remember that a terrorist doesn't have to kill people, just terrify them. Most Washingtonians remember when in 1997 some practical joker put a package of phony anthrax outside B'nai B'rith and shut the city for a day.
Years ago I talked to bioresearcher Steve Hatfill, the fellow on whom the FBI keeps trying to pin the deaths from the mailings of anthrax. He was worried because the United States, he said, didn't have the medical infrastructure to deal with a large number of people dying from diseases used as weapons by terrorists.
He pointed out that various dangerous pathogens, most of which we won't list here, are easily found in certain places. Anthrax for example is common in the ground around stables. Any competent microbiologist, he said, could grow most of these things in culture.
For instance, in plastic milk bottles in a basement.
One case of plague in an office building would probably shut it down for weeks.
Given that microbiologists, chemists, electronic engineers and so on are common, and particularly in the advanced world, one wonders why there is so little terrorism. I don't know. I do know that sophomore science majors could figure out a dozen ways to go about it.