Skip to comments.Selling the threat of bioterrorism (LA Times investigates Alibek)
Posted on 07/01/2007 8:58:07 AM PDT by TrebleRebel
click here to read article
For the 2007 perspective of someone in the field of the history of science, which by its nature is all about the context, we have this learned entry with 359 citations:
Politics and the Life Sciences
Terrorists and biological weapons
Forging the linkage in the Clinton Administration
Susan Wright, Ph.D.
Research Scientist, History of Science and International Relations, Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1290 Visiting Professorial Fellow (2007), School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
By the end of the Clinton administration, the claim that terrorists armed with biological weapons represented a huge threat to the security of the United States had achieved the status of received knowledge. How this linkage was forged, despite informed dissent not only outside the Clinton administration but also within it, and how it was used to justify a radical reframing of biological knowledge, especially in genetic engineering and genomics, in terms of military goals is the subject of this essay. My method is historical. I assume that no category is fixed but, rather, that key terms, such as “weapons of mass destruction,” “biological weapon,” and “terrorism” itself, are contingent, shaped under specific historical and political circumstances, and are therefore more fluid than often thought. This account draws on a wide variety of sources including government documents, policy papers and books, conference records, media materials, memoirs, and detailed interviews with nine subjects selected from among participants in the events examined. It shows that the nature of a linkage between terrorism and biological weaponry was debated at many levels in Washington, and it offers reasons why, ultimately, a counterbioterrorism “bandwagon” was constructed and began rolling at the end of the second Clinton administration.
This assumption of a linkage between rogues or
loose bioweaponeers on the one hand and terrorists
on the other hand does not however explain why the
Clinton administration accepted the advice that novel
genetically engineered microbes also constituted a major
threat. After all, such organisms existed mainly in the
realm of science fiction. There was no evidence that
rogues had developed such organisms, and it also
seemed unlikely that former Russian scientists would
part with whatever information they had without the
long-term guarantees and substantial rewards that a
government might be able to offer. The administrations
acceptance of a need to defend against bioterrorism
involving genetically engineered organisms was a radi-
cal turn in the history of biological warfare, one which
had been previously rejected. But with imaginations
now in overdrive, the military viewed such a threat as
In addition, there was what Bruce Hoffman at the
RAND Corporation has called the Prudence Bushnell
factor. Prudence Bushnell was the U.S. ambassador to
Kenya who had requested additional security pro-
tection for the Nairobi embassy six months before it
was blown up by al Qaeda in 1998. After the attack, her
superiors were held responsible for failing to respond to
her request. Faced with warnings of anthrax clouds
over Washington (and similar scenarios) from high-level
science and policy advisors, the President and Congress
were in a similar position. Moreover, warnings that
even though bioterrorist scenarios had a low probabil-
ity, they might if played out for real have
devastating impact were influential; this low proba-
bility/high impact argument haunted politicians, who
felt increasingly compelled to open the federal coffers
for biodefense. It was difficult for them to resist
warnings from high-powered scientists that we should
not have to wait for the biological equivalent of
Hiroshima to rally our defenses.351 Funding biode-
fense was as much an insurance policy for political
reputations as it was a protection for the nation. In the
event of a bioterrorist attack, politicians could say
that they had done their utmost to forestall the
And we have the perpective of one of the intended victims, from the Vermont Daily Briefing.
VDB: Okay, I wanted to jump to the anthrax letter, whats now known as the Leahy Letter. There was the one that was mailed to you, and the one that went out to Tom Daschle
Leahy: And people died just from touching it.
VDB: Exactly. And in a way, its like the hunt for Bin Laden: since theres no good news, theres just complete radio silence from the White House. Im wondering if youre satisfied with the progress of that investigation
Leahy: [Face a thundercloud now and voice emphatic and loud enough to turn heads at nearby tables] No! [Then again] No!
VDB: and do they keep you apprized in any way of the progress of it?
Leahy: [More quietly] Ive had discussions.
Leahy: Im a little sensitive on this one, because two people died touching an envelope I was supposed to open.
Leahy: I feel badly for them, and for their families. And we spent three years, Marcelle and I couldnt go anywhere without heavily armed people around us. Finally, I said, This guys not going to try anything, and our family wants our privacy back. [Meditatively] I wish they had turned this investigation over to some good sheriff or police chief somewhere. I think its been very badly handled.
VDB: Yeah, I dont think theres any other way to look at it. And when you call it what it is, it was biological warfare conducted against the highest levels of the US government.
Leahy: What I want to know I have a theory. But what I want to know is why me, why Tom Daschle, why Tom Brokaw?
VDB: Right. That all fits into the profile of a kind of hard-core and obviously insane ideologue on the far Right, somebody who would fixate on especially Tom Daschle, who at that point was the target of daily, vitriolic attacks on Right-wing talk radio.
Leahy: [Slowly, with a little shake of the head] I dont think its somebody insane. Id accept everything else you said. But I dont think its somebody insane. And I think there are people within our government certainly from the source of it who know where it came from. [Taps the table to let that settle in] And these people may not have had anything to do with it, but they certainly know where it came from.
Senator Leahy should consider who he trusts the most to consider a true crime matter at this point. Who would he trust to address the information that have been developed in the past half decade. I suspect it would be his good friend Charles Tetzlaff, former US Attorney of Vermont.
The Postal Mag had the best explanation of why Leahy and Daschle in an editorial last Fall.
Andrew Card is just lucky he didn’t personally write the letter of commendation Ali Al-Timimi received from the White House or else Senator Leahy would be really pissed!
“Well at least you and ZackandPook have something in common - you both believe the FBI have performed superbly in their task to solve the anthrax case.”
Consider that you come across a tribe in the woods, TrebleRebel.
The tribe consists of two squads: one is wearing is white moccasins, one is where black moccasins.
The Chief advised them to single-mindedly adopt opposite conclusions. If you asked one what the weather looked like, he’d say “Looks like rain.” If you asked the other, he’d say “Looks like sun.”
The one squad (”looks like rain”) was NOT dealing with classified information.
The other squad (”looks like sun”) was dealing with classified information.
So if the nearby settler’s farm leaks, is it likely to leak when it is raining or when it is sunny?
And why should the farmer bother to fix the leak when it’s not raining?
And so that’s why I have such a sunny disposition.
For example, what purpose would it serve to second-guess Agent Fitzgerald from the behavioral unit for his conclusion in October 2001? Everyone was on a learning curve. The profile was fine. Ari F’s limited comments were on the mark.
Is it that you wouldn’t want them to exhaustively pursue alternative theories?
As for Director Mueller’s integrity, Mrs. Ashcroft didn’t stick her tongue out at him. She stuck out at Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Card. But I’m sure even they have acted in good faith.
As for silica, as Dr. Alibek has explained in the Washington Post chat, the issue is not nearly as important as you and Ed think. Your raging debate, without the benefit of the forensic analysis, has been a distraction from the true crime facts. As was the Hatfill civil matter. Your failure to address non-silica issues is a much greater failing in analysis. Ken’s approach, on the other hand, is sound, in focusing on things like: “who was standing in front of the mailbox that day.”
As for the civil claim, I argued more mightily than anyone that there was no evidence suggesting he was guilty — thoughout 2002 and 2003. By which time, any objective observer should have abandoned the theory.
The problem is that because the FBI has been (appropriately) so secretive, the void has been filled with a lot of nonsense like the Boyle and Ed’s First Grader and Zack and bioevangelist theories. There was never a Bruce Hoffman or Cannistraro or Scheuer or Clarke who rose to the occasion and did a creditable job at the analysis. And the one published in Hoffman’s journal was by well-intentioned newbies.
The bioscare establishment was more interested in funding than in solving the crime. Their heart is true blue but their school colors are green.
And of course, as for an Iraq theory, the folks who thought Saddam was responsible rather than the Salafists perhaps contributed to the most significant foreign relations mistake in the history of mankind.
So according to you the whole case has been solved already, the terrorists all locked up, the evidence of the anthrax pointing directly at them. But they forgot to tell us, and they just pull Leahy’s leg every time they brief him.
Although I don’t have a link to the Postal Mag editorial handy, in the meantime here is the analysis that Charles Tetzlaff should study for Senate Leahy. For that matter, Senator Arlen Specter, who has Leahy’s confidence, also would be fully capable of analyzing the anthrax mailings from the point of view of an experienced prosecutor.
As for Senate office staff, in light of what came out in the trial of the blind sheik’s attorney, staff should search their old emails from the 2000 and 2001 for the word “MLAT.”
As for Leahy’s chief of staff’s predisposition in June 2002, it is perfectly understandable. Everyone has their preconceptions and worldview. That’s why the dispassionate analysis of a Tetzlaff or Specter would be so helpful, provided they have time to study the matter.
I think they should make the time for an old friend.
Why US Senator Leahy Was Targeted With Anthrax, Scoop.nz.co, April 17, 2007
I wonder why Leahy believes the FBI know where the anthrax came from?
As explained by the FBI Director Mueller about 9 months ago, he expected the matter to come to some sort of resolution in the relatively near future.
The matter is extremely complex, the FBI has said.
And the old saying is that the wheels of justice grind slowly.
The FBI told Judge Walton 3 years ago that they just needed another 6 months to wrap things up. Walton was then given a “super secret briefing with super secret information”. Walton laughed them out of court. He said he saw absolutely zero progress nor any sign that progress would be made in the forseeable future.
But of course you will just argue that Walton wasn’t shown the “super, super secrets” that only 1 or 2 people in the FBI even know about (let’s hope they never fly together).
As usual, you are failing to distinguish between “super, super secrets” and “super, super, super secrets.”
FBI’s Dwight tried to make the distinction in connection with silica and briefing the senators.
With the fate of Western Civilization and the successful resolution of the Crime of the Century hanging in the balance, the DOJ has no need to brief some judge in connection with a civil matter. The FBI certainly has no need to tell its lawyers defending the civil matter.
Besides, that affidavit likely was only from the head of the investigation.
Maybe they haven’t looped him in yet.
It was from Lambert - they transferred him to Knoxville, TN. Beecher is headed there next I think.
I only circulated the two sentences in the Beecher article because your friend Gary, author of the Science article, had pissed me off with 100 vile emails venting his spleen at me because I’m so nice to Ed.
Just goes to show you it pays to be nice, especially about small things in life such as silica nanoparticles.
Leahy, btw, is probably my favorite Senator.
On what he thinks of the prosecutors at DOJ:
“Leahy: ... . And most of the people in the DOJ are non-political, highly professional if you went in and talked to them for an hour you wouldnt know if they were Republicans or Democrats.”
On the war:
“These blank checks are a terrible mistake. Especially when were told we have to cut out the COPS [Community Policing] program here at home in the United States, because we dont have the money it has to go to the Iraqi police, so they can kill each other. We dont have the money for school loans were going to put it into an educational system over there where theyre shooting the teachers.
My whole point is that were told we dont have the money for child healthcare, we dont have the money for cancer research, because we need it for Iraq. And what do we get? We get open-ended appropriations to companies like Haliburton and others, and they do very, very well. Were basically told, Trust us.
And this from the people who handled Katrina.
This is an administration that inherited the largest surplus in the nations history, turned it into the largest deficit, tripled the national debt. The dollar has collapsed well not exactly collapsed, but sunk precipitously worldwide, and we cant speak up on human rights issues with China because they hold too much of our debt.”
On whether he is just as capable as Tetzlaff or Specter to do the “true crime” analysis based on “open source” information:
“Everywhere wed go, people would come up and say, You know, youd be the first Democrat Ive ever voted for in my life, but youve been a good prosecutor, I respect you, youve worked hard, Im gonna vote for you. “
[He surely is. Given it’s been 9 months since Director Mueller’s comments, perhaps he and Specter should hold a hearing. I’m serious.]
On rogue cops in Vermont like the rogue state trooper that US Attorney Tetzlaff , to his great credit, busted in a matter where a wiretap caught him threatening to burn down a witness’ house just as was done in an earlier case. I represented the family of a homeless person who was found dead on the northern border with Canada after being last seen in the Trooper’s car. We were trying to get Tetzlaff to prosecute. What I did learn was that given there is no state wiretapping statute in Vermont (unlike any other state), unless the wiretap application passed over the US Attorney’s desk, it was illegal. And illegal wiretapping was widespread. They just didn’t use it in the criminal prosecution.
“Leahy: *** And I found out about this guy Paul Lawrence, who was a rogue undercover cop who was operating here [setting up false drug arrests], so I cancelled what I was going to do down there, and of course I couldnt tell anyone why, but I set up a sting operation with Dave Demag who actually just retired as the Essex police chief, he was a young patrolman then and he helped out on it and caught Lawrence.”
His position on junk food:
[Reaches over to snag fries from the plate of advisor Chuck Ross, who mock-swats the hand] Sorry about that. [Eats fries, licks fingers]
It might appear so if he can say something like this:
"And people died just from touching it."
and he repeats it with this:
Im a little sensitive on this one, because two people died touching an envelope I was supposed to open.
If all you want to look at is the "fact" that he has been personally briefed by the FBI and, as a Senator, should know a lot more about anthrax than the average person, then I suppose those sentences should be accepted as gospel.
On the other hand, if you look at ALL the facts you will see that what he's saying is total crap. The two postal workers probably never touched the envelope, and even if they did, touching it did NOT kill them. And it's irresponsible to say it did. The postal workers died from inhalation anthrax. That means they breathed in spores.
Furthermore, Daschle's secretary DID touch Daschle's envelope, and she didn't even get sick, because she was quickly given antibiotics.
So, just as we saw with AFIP, sometimes people with powerful credentials and unique access can still say things that are total crap.
There’s only one bullshitter - and his name is Ed Lake.
Just repeat something often enough and hope 1 person on the planet might some day believe you.
Leahy was talking metaphorically.
See my message #519 in this thread.
While I can't PROVE that the FBI is holding back on making an arrest because the Department of Justice had no credibility, low morale, and was run by a total incompetent (who replaced a nearly total incompetent), it does make a certain amount of sense.
Even you would have to admit that this would NOT be a case the FBI and the DOJ could afford to lose in court in some debacle like the OJ trial where the jury just didn't believe the scientific evidence.
After a small plane accidentally entered restricted airspace near the White House and Capitol in 2005, the danger passed quickly, but not before bringing back frightening memories for Senator Patrick Leahy.
“Having been one of the two Senators they tried to kill with the anthrax letter— yes, I do react to that. But here I’m far more concerned about all of the other people, because whatever the threat was they thought it was enough to threaten everybody here. And there are thousands of good men and women who work on the hill, plus the tourists, the visitors and we want to keep them safe.”
That's your spin on it. But, if so (and I don't believe it for a second), then Leahy uses stupid, misleading and irresponsible metaphors when he should be talking straight facts.
BTW, do you know what a metaphor is? Why don't you explain to us how saying two people were killed by touching an envelope is a metaphor for saying they were killed by breathing in spores?
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