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[casi] Iraq and 9/11: Why anthrax is now presumed US domestic

I thought it might be helpful to continue updating the status of three public
relations campaigns that tried to link Iraq to the 9/11 attacks.  Proponents
claimed (1) Iraqi intelligence met with hijacker Mohamed Atta in Prague*; (2)
Iraq sponsored the US anthrax mailings; and (3) Al-Qaida has ties to Saddam

All three claims are proving false.  This note concerns the second, the anthrax
mailings now blamed for five US deaths.

The culprit in the anthrax mailings is now almost universally held to be an
American scientist with ties to bioweapons research.  The rationale:

(1) The genetic fingerprint of the spores is related to the stock used by the US
Army at Ft. Detrick (though this isn't conclusive due to research dissemination).
(2) The processing of the spores is equivalent (in spore size and concentration)
to the best the American Army ever achieved (and presumably beyond what could be
done in Iraq).
(3) The motive appears to have been terror, not death.  In a telling annecdote
from Nicholas Kristoff's column [1], "each of the letters that has been
recovered (in addition to being taped) announced that the substance was anthrax
and advised the recipient to take antibiotics."
(4) Links between the hijackers and anthrax have been either non-existent, or
only barely plausible (e.g., the mysterious skin lesion for which one hijacker
sought treatment).
(5) Due to the lethality of the spores, the perpetrator would have needed recent
anthrax vaccine boosters and sophisticated hazmat equipment.

The FBI investigation appears to have stalled, but following are recent
summaries of its status.

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA

*The Atta/Prague story is updated here:

January 4, 2002
Profile of a Killer
I think I know who sent out the anthrax last fall.

He is an American insider, a man working in the military bio-weapons field. He's
a skilled microbiologist who did not aim to kill anybody or even to disrupt the
postal system. Rather, he wanted to sow terror. Like many in the bio-warfare
field, he felt that the government was not sufficiently attuned to the risks of
anthrax, so he seized upon the opportunity presented by Sept. 11 to get more
attention and funding for bio-terror programs like those that have been his

How do I know all this? Well, I don't exactly. But talk to the people in the
spooky world of bio-terror awhile, sop up the gossip and theories, and as you
put the clues together -- as bio-terror experts and F.B.I. officials are now
doing -- a hazy picture seems to come into focus. It's not a certainty but an
educated guess, circulating among many who know their business.

"I think there are on the order of 100 people who could have done it, who have
the access to the spores and the technical expertise to have done it," says one
man with long experience in the shadows of the United States bio-defense
program. "I've got to admit that I could be a suspect. I've been interviewed by
the F.B.I."

The emerging image of the killer that many of the experts see (but not all;
anthrax experts agree about as much as economists do) is precisely the opposite
of the perpetrator whom we initially imagined. Our first impulse when
catastrophes happen is to look for foreigners to round up, as we did after the
Oklahoma City bombing and after the crash of Flight 800. The Bush administration
tried hard to find evidence to pin the anthrax attacks on Iraq.

In fact, many experts believe that the killer is tied to the American
bio-weapons program because the anthrax he sent out is genetically identical to
the anthrax kept by the United States Army. A microbiologist named Paul Keim is
helping the authorities compare the genetic fingerprint of the mailed anthrax,
and every indication is that it derives at least indirectly from the mother lode
of the military strain, kept at Fort Detrick, Md.

The mailed anthrax is also astonishingly pure and equivalent (in spore size and
concentration) to the best the American Army ever achieved. Making anthrax in a
dry powdered form of this quality is difficult, and beginning in 1959 took 900
workers in the "hot" area of Fort Detrick years of effort (and two accidental
deaths, including that of an unlucky electrician who changed light bulbs at the
wrong time). Thus it seems that the murderer had access not only to the American
military germs but also to some knowledge of the American military method of
preparing it in its dry form.

Why do specialists agree that the murderer was not trying to kill anybody?
Because he taped the envelopes tightly, and as of September nobody expected that
the spores could leak through envelopes. Moreover, each of the letters that has
been recovered announced that the substance was anthrax and advised the
recipient to take antibiotics.

"I don't think that he was trying to kill anybody," said Barbara Hatch
Rosenberg, a microbiologist who has studied the attacks for the Federation of
American Scientists. "I think the motive was to create public fear, to raise the
profile of biological warfare."

The F.B.I. may already have talked to the killer. There are not that many people
with the access to germs, the knowledge and an anthrax vaccine booster shot in
the last year. But the murderer showed a knowledge of forensics (apparently not
licking a stamp or envelope, for example, to avoid leaving DNA), and it may be
very difficult to move from suspicions to sufficient proof for an arrest.

Washington has been pressing Russia, Pakistan and other countries, quite
rightly, to improve their control of germs, chemicals and nuclear weapons. But
one of the lessons of the anthrax investigation is that the first thing we need
to do to feel safer is put our own house in order. It is appalling that we
cannot even determine which labs have exchanged anthrax with Fort Detrick.

Terrorism and laxity, it seems, afflict not only foreigners with different
complexions and religions, but --in exceptional cases -- perhaps also those with
white lab coats and military haircuts.


Anthrax terror remains a mystery

>From Susan Candiotti

WASHINGTON (CNN) --Almost six months after anthrax letters began turning up in
the mail, the mystery of who sent those deadly missives and why persists.

There has been some progress. Authorities have narrowed to about two dozen the
number of labs believed capable of making the deadly spores.

Scientists also have learned the anthrax spores that filled letters to Sens. Tom
Daschle, D-South Dakota, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, were even purer than
investigators thought.

The anthrax's purity and potency makes it highly unlikely the killer could have
made and treated the spores in a makeshift setting, according to officials
involved in the massive investigation.

"There are only so many people, so many places that this can be done," said Van
Harp, the assistant FBI director leading the anthrax investigation.

The culprit, Harp said, knew what he or she was doing.

"Contrary to what was initially out there at the beginning of the investigation,
this anthrax, we do not believe, was made up in a garage or a bathtub," Harp

Five people died of the inhaled form of anthrax and 13 others suffered anthrax

Four letters were recovered in connection with the incidents, and authorities
believe at least one other letter -- never found -- passed through the postal
system and led to the October 5, 2001, death of a photo editor in Florida, the
first fatality.

In addition to those sent to the two Senate offices, anthrax-laced letters were
sent to the New York Post and NBC News.

The anthrax incidents -- which subsided after the November death of an elderly
widow in Connecticut -- prompted significant changes in how the U.S. Postal
Service handles and treats the mail, including the installation of new cleaning
equipment and irradiation of mail sent to Congress.

The Postal Service is also testing high-tech sensors in an effort to detect
anthrax and other biohazards. Two of the five fatalities were postal workers.

The anthrax deaths underscored the fact that even the most powerful nation on
Earth was not immune to bioterrorism and raised the question of whether the
United States has a domestic terrorist within its midst.

Roughly 5,000 interviews have yielded no suspect, but the FBI maintains it will
find the person responsible for the fatal letters.

"Quite possibly, we've already interviewed the person once ... but we're going
to get back to him if we did," Harp said.

The FBI has said it believes the person responsible for the anthrax mailings has
"technical knowledge" and "has or had legitimate access to select biological
agents at some time."

Army connection?
One of the labs capable of producing anthrax spores is the U.S. Army Medical
Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

"When you think of where did anthrax possibly come from, you have to think of
our laboratory," said Maj. Gen. John Parker, who until his retirement last week
oversaw the team of scientists at the lab assigned to the FBI case.

Over the years, Fort Detrick shared its anthrax with others labs for research
purposes. In the 1990s, there was a series of security lapses.

It also has a long history of training highly skilled scientists, leading some
to suggest the spores or even the anthrax killer might be associated with the

Barbara Rosenberg, a microbiologist with the State University of New York at
Purchase, accuses the FBI of stalling to protect government secrets.

"There may be embarrassing information connected with the entire event and there
may not be real enthusiasm about bringing this information out to the public,"
she said.

The FBI hotly rejects such suggestions.

"Those are uninformed ... outsiders," Harp said.

No connection to Sept. 11
When the anthrax letters began turning up in the mail, many observers speculated
that they might somehow be connected to international terrorists -- coming so
soon after the September 11 attacks.

But after searching evidence left behind by the September 11 hijackers, the FBI
says there is absolutely no evidence linking them to the anthrax attacks. The
letters contained the message: "Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is

In the end, science may hold the key to the killer.

"Once the science half is done, I think we're going to solve this
investigation," said the FBI's Harp.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Kate Snow contributed to this report.


No Suspects, Few Clues
FBI Believes Anthrax Sender Could Be U.S. Scientist

By Brian Ross

April 4
Six months after the government first said a man in Florida was sick with
anthrax, which later killed five people and set off a nationwide panic, federal
investigators say they have no suspects and few clues.

But what they do have is a fear that the person responsible could be one of the
very government scientists they have relied on for help, and a concern that the
U.S. military is not telling them everything about secret anthrax research
The FBI asked for the help of Dr. Ken Alibek almost immediately because no one
in the world has made more weapons-grade anthrax than he has.

Until he defected 10 years ago, Alibek ran the secret Soviet and Russian anthrax
program and says he has the expertise to make the material that was sent in the
American anthrax letters. "Yes, it would be easy to do," he said.

Now Alibek tells ABCNEWS he and a number of other scientists were told last
month they must take lie detector tests if they wanted to continue to help the
FBI. He confirmed he had to answer questions including "Did you do it?" and "Do
you know who did it?"

Alibek said he passed the test.

FBI Believes Person Responsible Is U.S. Scientist

The FBI continues to believe the person responsible for the anthrax attacks is
likely a current or former U.S. scientist, perhaps a prominent one.

Federal investigators say Alibek is one of at least a dozen such individuals,
many who worked in the bioweapons research program at Ft. Detrick, Md., have
been given and passed lie detector tests.

"There are very few people who have this technical skill," said Dr. David Franz,
the former bioweapons commander at Ft. Detrick. "And that's, in my mind, what
makes this a very small group of potential perpetrators."

But federal investigators tell ABCNEWS that military and intelligence agencies
have withheld a full listing of all facilities and all employees dealing with
top-secret anthrax programs where important leads could be found.

"We're talking here about laboratories where, in fact, the material that we know
was in the Daschle letter and in the Leahy letter could have been produced,"
said Jeanne Guillemin, a professor of biological and weapons studies at MIT and
author of the book Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak. "And I think
that's what the FBI is still trying to find out."

Military officials have said they are fully cooperating but investigators say
the criminal investigation has come up now against some closely held military
secrets which are slowing down the pursuit for the "anthrax killer."

Wake-Up Call For Bioterrerorism Research

But there are some people connected to the U.S. bioweapons program who think the
anthrax attacks, which claimed the lives of five people, provided a much needed
wake-up call, including the former bioweapons commander Franz.

"I think a lot of good has come from it," he told ABNCEWS. "From a biological or
a medical standpoint, we've now five people who have died, but we've put about
$6 billion in our [2003] budget into defending against bioterrorism."

But for the families of the five people who died, it is cold comfort.

"It's a tragedy," said Franz. "That's true in war; that's true in any tragedy."


Find this article at:

Report raises question of anthrax, hijacker link

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) --A memorandum issued by a prestigious research
center concluded that one of the September 11 hijackers might have been infected
with cutaneous (skin) anthrax when he sought treatment at a Florida hospital
before the attacks.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies' report raised
questions about ties between Ahmed al-Haznawit -- who was treated at Holy Cross
Hospital in Fort Lauderdale in June, 2001 -- and the spate of anthrax-laced
letters sent through the U.S. mail that killed five in October and November.

But a U.S. government source said that six months of painstaking investigation
have yielded no evidence that the hijacker, who was treated for a skin lesion,
was infected with cutaneous anthrax.

"There's nothing new in this report," the source said. "We don't dismiss it, but
we have been unable to make any connection between anthrax and the September 11

Assistant FBI Director John Collingwood also downplayed any possible anthrax

"This was fully investigated and widely vetted among multiple agencies several
months ago," he said in a statement. "Exhaustive testing did not support that
anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been. While we always welcome new
information, nothing new has, in fact, developed."een anthrax and the September
11 hijackers."

On June 25, 2001, al-Haznawi was treated for a lesion on his left leg at the
hospital, the source said. He came to the emergency room with another September
11 hijacker, Ziad Jarrah.

Al-Haznawi told a doctor that the wound had not healed after he bumped into a
suitcase a couple of months before. The doctor cleaned the wound, gave him a
prescription for antibiotics and sent him on his way, the source said.

After the September 11 attacks, FBI agents found evidence in one of the
hijackers' homes that led them to question the emergency room physician, Dr.
Christos Tsonas. Tsonas remembered treating al-Haznawi.

When the doctor was questioned in October, he told authorities that he believed
the wound was "consistent with anthrax."

The first indications of anthrax appeared at the offices of a Miami tabloid
newspaper, where photo editor Robert Stevens died on October 5 and colleague
Ernesto Blanco was hospitalized with inhalation anthrax. A third employee of
American Media International contracted cutaneous anthrax.

As the anthrax reports surfaced, agents "did a thorough search" of all the
locations where the hijackers had lived, the U.S. source said, looking for any
signs of anthrax. Investigators went so far as to empty out vacuum cleaners, the
source said, but found no evidence of anthrax.

The CIA, the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were all
aware of the Holy Cross doctor's statements, the source said.

The investigation looking for any evidence connecting the hijackers with anthrax
has taken officials from the United States to Afghanistan, but so far the search
has found no connection.

The source also said the FBI found no evidence that al-Haznawi sought any
further treatment for his wound.

Officials said that even if they hijackers had some connection to the anthrax
letters, they would have had at least one confederate to post the letters.

While no letters were ever found connected to the Florida anthrax outbreak,
letters mailed to news and government agencies in New York and Washington were
postmarked September 18 and October 9 from New Jersey -- after the hijackings.

Memo on Florida Case Roils Anthrax Probe
Experts Debate Theory Hijacker Was Exposed

By Steve Fainaru and Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, March 29, 2002; Page A03

In January, outside of formal channels, an FBI official asked biodefense experts
at Johns Hopkins University to examine a curious lead in the federal
government's investigation into last fall's anthrax attacks.

The experts were to evaluate the diagnosis of a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., emergency
room physician who had treated one of the Sept. 11 hijackers last June. The
physician, Christos Tsonas, initially thought the man had a minor infection, but
after the wave of bioterrorist attacks he told the FBI that, in retrospect, he
now believed the black lesion on the suspected hijacker's lower left leg was
consistent with the skin form of anthrax.

The FBI official told the Hopkins experts, Tara O'Toole and Thomas V. Inglesby,
he was concerned the FBI had not pursued the Florida case aggressively enough.
The two-page memo they prepared is now circulating among senior government
officials, and its findings have stirred up debate over their accuracy and the
focus of the FBI's investigation, now in its sixth month.

O'Toole and Inglesby, who head the Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense
Strategies, concluded that Tsonas's diagnosis of cutaneous anthrax was "the most
probable and coherent interpretation of the data available." Since the contents
of the memo became public last week, that conclusion has been endorsed by D.A.
Henderson, the top bioterrorism official at the Department of Health and Human
Services, and Richard Spertzel, who presided over the inspection of Iraq's
bioweapons program as part of a United Nations team.

However, upon closer inspection, the Hopkins finding raises its own questions.
The hijacker, Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi, was examined days after he entered
the United States, an indication that the infection -- whatever it was --
developed before his arrival. In addition, a Florida man who said he examined
and treated Al Haznawi's calf before sending him to the hospital described the
injury last September as a "gash" -- a description that appears to vary
significantly with lesions associated with cutaneous anthrax.

Although law enforcement officials said they have not ruled out anthrax as a
possibility, they said there was not enough information to draw a specific
conclusion. That view was shared by Thomas W. McGovern, the leading authority on
anthrax for the American Academy of Dermatology's bioterrorism task force, who
said it was "highly unlikely" for someone to contract cutaneous anthrax on his
lower leg.

McGovern said Al Haznawi's infection -- described as a one-inch black lesion
with raised red edges -- could have been anything from an encrusted boil to a
common scrape that received improper medical attention.

"So far there's just no there there," said one law enforcement source involved
in the investigation.

But O'Toole and Inglesby remain concerned that the FBI is not taking the case
seriously enough. In interviews this week, both insisted that Al Haznawi's
symptoms -- in an absence of pain or underlying illness such as diabetes -- were
in fact specific to cutaneous anthrax and "should be treated with high
suspicion," Inglesby said.

"It would be reassuring and useful to know how investigators in the anthrax
investigation have determined that this is unlikely to be anthrax," he said.

The debate comes as the FBI remains stymied in its efforts to trace the source
of the anthrax attacks, which killed five, sickened 13 others and wreaked havoc
on the federal government before stopping, abruptly, in November. If true, the
findings would raise questions about the investigation's focus on a domestic
source and the FBI's publicly stated profile of the elusive suspect: an adult
male, schooled in bioweaponry, with access to the material and equipment to
manufacture the lethal spores.

The Al Haznawi memo also follows a number of other reports from South Florida
suggesting possible links between the hijackers and anthrax. In October, a
pharmacist in Delray Beach, just north of Fort Lauderdale, told the FBI that
Mohamed Atta, the suspected leader of the Sept. 11 attacks, bought medication
for his hands, both of which were red from the wrist down -- a report that law
enforcement officials said has not been confirmed. Al Haznawi and other
hijackers reportedly lived and attended flight school near the Boca Raton
headquarters of American Media Inc., where the first anthrax case surfaced.

In addition, on more than one occasion last year, Atta led a group of men
described as Middle Eastern to inquire about crop dusting at the Belle Glade
State Municipal Airport, about an hour northwest of Fort Lauderdale. Those
reports raised concerns that the hijackers might have been researching a means
to deliver biological or chemical weapons.

But like those reports, the information surrounding the hijacker's infection is
at once intriguing and inconclusive. Al Haznawi entered the United States on
June 8, records show. Sometime that month, he moved into an apartment in Delray
Beach with another suspected hijacker, Ziad Samir Jarrah, according to
statements last fall by the building's landlord, Charles Lisa.

Lisa told a Washington Post reporter that Jarrah and Al Haznawi, who spoke
little English, later came to him seeking advice about a "gash" that appeared on
Al Haznawi's left calf. Lisa said he applied some peroxide, wrapped the leg and
directed the two to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.

Law enforcement officials said Al Haznawi, accompanied by Jarrah, was examined
June 25 at Holy Cross. Tsonas declined to comment through a hospital
spokeswoman, but he recently told the New York Times that the men told him that
Al Haznawi had sustained the injury bumping into a suitcase two months earlier.
He said he treated the lesion with Keflex, an antibiotic.

Keflex is mostly ineffective against cutaneous anthrax, studies have shown, but
the illness is only 10 percent to 20 percent lethal if it remains untreated,
meaning Al Haznawi likely would have survived even if he had it.

O'Toole and Inglesby declined to name the FBI official who later contacted them
informally about the case. A government official said the individual was "not
involved in the investigation in any way and had no standing" to raise his
concerns with the Hopkins experts. Those concerns were based on "partial
information," the official said, adding that the FBI official "never voiced his
concerns internally or raised those issues from proper channels."

After the exchange, the Hopkins team interviewed Tsonas, reviewed his notes,
consulted with other experts and wrote the memo. "We wanted to make sure the
heads of the intelligence agencies knew the specificity of the diagnosis,"
O'Toole said. "I was afraid they didn't understand that almost nothing causes a
black [lesion] in an otherwise healthy young man. Apparently they didn't know
that and that's upsetting."

Law enforcement officials rejected that suggestion, saying they have consulted
not only on the Florida case but throughout the investigation with leading
experts in microbiology, analytical chemistry, pathogens and public health.

Staff writers Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus and research editor Margot Williams
contributed to this report.

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