Skip to comments.The Anthrax Fiasco
Posted on 06/30/2008 10:49:42 AM PDT by ZACKandPOOK
Steven Hatfill finally has his life back. Thanks to FBI incompetence, he also has $5.8 million. ...
It's worse because it is a virtual confession that the anthrax case is cold. Throughout one of the largest investigations in law-enforcement history, agents were fixated on a "lone wolf" theory that Director Robert Mueller's FBI, for all intents and purposes, now admits was wrong. Helped along by a sympathetic press corps, the obsession with a domestic perpetrator has ended up in a dead end.
So the FBI needed to cast a wider net all along which still remains urgent. In 2007, 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told a military tribunal he was "directly in charge" of "managing and following up on the Cell for the Production of Biological Weapons, such as anthrax and others." The 9/11 Commission reported that al Qaeda has had an "ambitious" bioweapons program. Though there's no evidence that al Qaeda operatives succeeded in manufacturing weapons-grade agents, the anthrax case proves that such high-level production isn't necessary for an attack. And there's no telling what's floating around out there.
(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...
There were several indirect connections to the 9/11 hijackers and other Muslim terrorists, in New Jersey and Florida. It’s one more instance of the FBI not wanting to find Muslim terrorists at the bottom of any such incident.
In fact, it’s a pattern. Whenever anything happens like the Norman, Oklahoma stadium bomber or someone shoots people in a Mall, such as the one in Salt Lake City, the first thing that the FBI says is that it was NOT terrorism.
Mueller is probably the single worst appointment Bush made. Why he is still in office is a mystery to me.
these were isolated incidents of terrorism, but the FBI wanted to make sure that people did not freak out because they thought they were connected in a larger way to a terrorist conspiracy
“EXCLUSIVE: How the FBI Botched the Anthrax Case: Former Agent Explains What Went Wrong in the Investigation,” ABC News, June 30, 2008
Personally, I have a lot of confidence in Mueller but I think he would agree that results matter. He is giving a speech today in Hartford to campus law enforcement personnel. Given that the microbiologist who accessed the anthrax know-how (his lawyer says the FBI suspects) was 15 feet away from the leading anthrax scientist and former deputy USAMRIID commander at the DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense at George Mason University, Director Mueller perhaps will warn on the risk of infiltration. He previously has warned against the danger of access to biochemical information by PhD students who mean the country harm. In the Summer of 2001, Ali Al-Timimi was speaking on the end of times alongside the 911 imam and having threats from Bin Laden’s sheik hand-delivered to every member of Congress on the first anniversary of the anthrax to the Senators.
Looking back now it seems the anthrax attacks were another prong of the 9-11 attack.
The possibility remains that they had a fairly good idea of who did it and where it came from, but didn’t want to go there because it was someone who was friendly to us, like China or Pakistan, and it was better to spend the next five years making sure that they would never be able to find out the actual truth.
Solving cases interferes with obtaining additional funding.
Alberto Gonzales is a contender.
The lawyer for Ali Al-Timimi says they suspect him. Ali was at the building housing the DOD (DARPA) funded Center for Biodefense led by the leading anthrax scientist and former deputy commander of USAMRIID. The microbiologist Al-Timimi had a high security clearance doing mathematical support work for the Navy. He worked for 2 months as Andrew Card’s assistant when he was Secretary of the Department of Transportation in 1996. So yes, it would have been awkward for the truth to come out. Confounding and complicated also. Although Ali, his lawyer says, was in telephone contact on September 16, 2001 and September 19, 2001 with Bin Laden’s sheik and was coordinating with the “911 imam”, he was an Iraqi whose father worked at the embassy.
Ali was a US citizen.
Agreed. And—almost, but thank God not quite—Harriet Miers.
The only good thing about the Gonzalez AG appointment is that I think it was meant to groom him for SCOTUS, but instead it succeeded in permanently disqualifying him, since he is now equally disliked by left and right.
Well, but part of the problem is do-it-yourself terrorists, isn’t it? There is a concentration of Muslims in Oklahoma, because of the oil business there, and courses in that field at the university. The attempted bomber attended the mosque and moved among a circle of Islamists.
I’d rather think that the FBI was keeping an eye on it, but they brushed over the Iraqi connections to the OKC bombing, too, and lied at the trial.
Americans don’t need to be “protected” from knowing the true nature of the threat. They need to be educated.
That is one logic explanation. The other is that we have traitors sympathetic to these muslim terorrist working within the FBI.
The leaks were by someone born in Haifa in 1948 who moved to the CIA on September 29, 2001 to the US Attorney’s office. His wife says she is a Palestinian activisit in her private life but maintains her neutrality as head of a Georgetown center for contemporary Arab affairs. The leaker’s sister-in-law and brother spoke on attributing terrorism to Bin Laden in 2002 (and his sister-in-law wrote on it). His daughter represents Ali Al-Timimi, the microbiologist suspected by the FBI of accessing the know-how for the anthrax. The judge recently restricted the classified information to the one main counsel and excluded the two pro bono counsel. Ali’s attorney recently explained the FBI’s suspicion but the MSM and all the Freepers have overlooked it.
“His wife says” should be “His sister-in-law says”
In a filing unsealed this Spring, Dr. Ali Al-Timimi’s lawyer explained that his client, a microbiologist who had worked in the building housing the “Center for Biodefense” funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (”DARPA”): Al-Timimi “was considered an anthrax weapons suspect.” Dr. Al-Timimi’s counsel summarizes:
“we know Dr. Al-Timimi:
* was interviewed in 1994 by the FBI and Secret Service regarding his ties to the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing;
* was referenced in the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing (”Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”) as one of seventy individuals regarding whom the FBI is conducting full field investigations on a national basis;
* was described to his brother by the FBI within days of the 9-11 attacks as an immediate suspect in the Al Qaeda conspiracy;
* was contacted by the FBI only nine days after 9-11 and asked about the attacks and its perpetrators;
* was considered an anthrax weapons suspect;
* was described during his trial by FBI agent John Wyman as having “extensive ties” with the “broader al-Qaeda network”;
* was described in the indictment and superseding indictment as being associated with terrorists seeking harm to the United States;
* was a participant in dozens of international overseas calls to individuals known to have been under suspicion of Al-Qaeda ties like Al-Hawali; and
* was associated with the long investigation of the Virginia Jihad Group.
The conversation with Al-Hawali on September 19, 2001 was central to the indictment and raised at trial. Al-Timimi called Dr. Hawali after the dinner with Kwon on September 16, 2001 and just two hours before he met with Kwon and Hassan for the last time on September 19, 2001.
[911 imam] Anwar Al-Aulaqi goes directly to Dr. Al-Timimi’s state of mind and his role in the alleged conspiracy. The 9-11 Report indicates that Special Agent Ammerman interviewed Al-Aulaqi just before or shortly after his October 2002 visit to Dr. Al-Timimi’s home to discuss the attacks and his efforts to reach out to the U.S. government.
[IANA head] Bassem Khafagi was questioned about Dr. Al-Timimi before 9-11 in Jordan, purportedly at the behest of American intelligence. [redacted ] He was specifically asked about Dr. Al-Timimi’s connection to Bin Laden prior to Dr. Al-Timimi’s arrest. He was later interviewed by the FBI about Dr. Al-Timimi. Clearly, such early investigations go directly to the allegations of Dr. Al-Timimi’s connections to terrorists and Bin Laden — [redacted]”
The letter by Al-Timimi’s counsel attached as an exhibit is equally meaty. An example of an additional detail is that in March 2002, Dr. Al-Timimi spoke with Dr. Al-Hawali (Bin Laden’s sheik who was the subject of OBL’s “Declaration of War”) about assisting Moussaoui in his defense.
The filing and the letter exhibit each copy defense co-counsel, the daughter of the lead prosecutor in Amerithrax. That prosecutor has pled the Fifth Amendment concerning all the leaks hyping a “POI” of the other Amerithrax squad, Dr. Steve Hatfill.
In an e-mail obtained by FOX News, scientists at Fort Detrick openly discussed how the anthrax powder they were asked to analyze after the attacks was nearly identical to that made by one of their colleagues.
“Then he said he had to look at a lot of samples that the FBI had prepared ... to duplicate the letter material.” “Then the bombshell. He said that the best duplication of the material was the stuff made by [name redacted]. He said that it was almost exactly the same — his knees got shaky and he sputtered, ‘But I told the General we didn’t make spore powder!’”
FOX News reports:
“The FBI has narrowed its focus to ‘about four’ suspects in the 6 1/2-year investigation of the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001, and at least three of those suspects are linked to the Armys bioweapons research facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland, FOX News has learned.
Among the pool of suspects are three scientists a former deputy commander, a leading anthrax scientist and a microbiologist linked to the research facility, known as USAMRIID.”
It was more than a happy coincidence for Ayman Zawahiri and Mohammed Islambouli that an active supporter of the Taliban and supporter of jihad was a US biodefense insider. Microbiologist Al-Timimi worked in the same building as famed Russian bioweapons scientist Ken Alibek and former USAMRIID Deputy Commander and Acting Commander Charles Bailey, who would publish a lot of research with the Ames strain of anthrax. Al-Timimi was a current associate and former student of Bin Ladens spiritual advisor, dissident Saudi Sheik al-Hawali. Ali would speak along with the blind sheiks son at charity conferences the blind sheiks son served on Al Qaedas WMD committee. Al-Timimis mentor Bilal Philips was known for recruiting members of the military to jihad. The first week after 9/11, FBI agents questioned Al-Timimi. He was a microbiology graduate student in a program jointly run by George Mason University and the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC). Ali, according to his lawyer, had been questioned by an FBI agent and Secret Service agent in 1994 after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He had a high security clearance for work for the Navy in he late 1990s and in 1996 for two months had worked for the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card when he was Secretary of Transportation. As time off from his university studies permitted, Ali was an active speaker with the charity Islamic Assembly of North America.
jpl and TrebleRebel,
There are several developments this past week that bear on the Al-Timimi prosecution. There also was an NPR story about how surveillance teams operate — an indirect effort by the FBI to recover from a disastrous week of PR.
Appeal denied (Albany imam Stinger sting)
By Carl Strock
“For legal beagles, of greatest interest, perhaps, is the Court of Appeals agreement that it was OK for the trial court to keep classified information away from Aref and his lawyer, since that information was not used as evidence against him in the trial.
It was in all likelihood transcripts of phone calls that were wiretapped by the National Security Agency in defiance of federal law, though well never know for sure. All we know is that Judge Thomas McAvoy, at the trial, assured the jurors the government had good and valid reasons for going after Aref and the jurors were not to concern themselves with what those reasons were.
Suit accusing Bush of acting illegally tossed (wiretapping)”
“Suit accusing Bush of acting illegally tossed,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 3, 2008
3. Dr. Sami Al-Arian Indicted on Two Counts of Criminal Contempt
4. Dina Temple-Raston, “FBI Surveillance Team Reveals Tricks Of The Trade,” July 5, 2008
Yesterday, al-Hawsawi, KSM’s assistant who was the 911 logistics person who had anthrax spraydrying documents on his laptop (although it is commonly referred to as KSM’s laptop, yesterday asked to be represented by an Egyptian attorney and a London attorney. The Egyptian attorney is presumed to be the prominent islamist defender, Montasser Al-Zayat, who has represented blind sheik Abdel-Rahman and was among the first to announce in March 1999 that Ayman Zawahiri intended to use weaponized anthrax against US targets in retaliation for the rendering of EIJ leaders. Al-Zayat at the time was defending key defendants in the trial of the Albanian returnees.
The CIA has known of Zawahiris plans to use anthrax since July 1998, when the CIA seized a disc from Ayman Zawahiris right-hand, Ahmed Mabruk, during his arrest outside a restaurant in Baku, Azerbaijan. At the time, Mabruk was the head of Jihads military operations. Mabruk was handed over to Egyptian authorities. A close associate and former cellmate in Dagestan in 1996, Mabruk was at Aymans side while Ayman would fall to his knees during trial and weep and invoke Allah. Their captors reportedly did not know the true identity of the prisoners.
After Mabruks capture in Baku, Azerbaijan, the CIA refused to give the FBI Mabruks laptop. FBIs Bin Laden expert John ONeill, head of the FBIs New York office, tried to get around this by sending an agent to Azerbaijan to get copies of the computer files from the Azerbaijan government. The FBI finally got the files after ONeill persuaded President Clinton to personally appeal to the president of Azerbaijan for the computer files. FBI Special Agent Dan Coleman would later describe the laptop as the Rosetta Stone of Al Qaeda. ONeill died on 9/11 in his role as head of World Trade Center security. He died with the knowledge that Ayman Zawahiri planned to attack US targets with anthrax and that Zawahiri does not make a threat that he does not intend to try to keep.
Mabruk claimed that Zawahiri intended to use anthrax against US targets. At the time, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) set up a program at Lawrence Livermore to combat the Bin Laden anthrax threat. The CIA also snatched Egyptian Al-Najjar, another senior Al Qaeda member (a shura or policy-making council member no less) who had been working for the Egyptian intelligence services. Al-Najjar confirmed Aymans intent to use weaponized anthrax against US targets in connection with the detention of militant islamists in a sworn lengthy confession. Even Zawahiris friend, Cairo lawyer Montasser al-Zayat, who was the blind sheiks attorney, in March 1999 said that Bin Laden and Zawahiri were likely to resort to the biological and chemical agents they possessed given the extradition pressure senior Al Qaeda leaders faced. That week, and thoughout that year, Al-Zayat was in touch by telephone with US Post Office employee Sattar and Islamic Group leaders about the groups strategy to free the blind sheik. An islamist who had been a close associate of Zawahiri later would explain that Zawahiri spent a decade and had made 15 separate attempts to recruit the necessary expertise to weaponize anthrax in Russia and the Middle East.
Mabruk was in regular contact with Mahmoud Jaballah, who was in Toronto beginning May 1996. Although Mabruk changed his location every few months, Jaballah kept aware of his whereabouts through his contacts with Jaballah’s brother-in-law Shehata. Shehata was in charge of EIJs special operations. When Mabruk was arrested and imprisoned in Dagestan along with Zawahiri, Jaballah was told, on December 13, 1996 that Mabruk was hospitalized. That is established code for in jail and, for example, is the code used by Zawahiri in emails on the same subject. Jaballah raised funds for Mabruks release and coordinated these collection efforts with Shehata. Indeed, it was Jaballahs brother-in-law Shehata who brought the money to Dagestan to arrange for Zawahiris and Mabruks release. Correspondence between Mabruk and Jaballah in 1997 reports on Jaballahs recruitment efforts. Mabruk, EIJs military commander, was pleased. Jaballah confirmed with Shehata and Mabruk his view of the reliability of the individuals he had recruited. His recruits were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Zawahiri and the Vanguards of Conquest were seeking to recreate Mohammeds taking of mecca by a small band through violent attacks on Egyptian leaders. By the late 1990s, Zawahiri had determined that the Egyptian Islamic Jihad should focus on its struggle against the United States and hold off on further attacks against the Egyptian regime.
While I don’t think he could ever be allowed access to classified evidence (not presented to the jury), I hope they allow Attorney Al-Zayat to participate in Al-Hawsawi’s defense, notwithstanding his regular contact with IG and EIJ leaders.
Thanks for the info. It’s always hard to tell whether the FBI is incompetent, or whether there are people at high levels who don’t want to find out these things, or whether they are rather foolishly trying to protect the public from getting scared, or whether they are waiting for a change of administrations to someone friendlier to them, or . . . .
There are still a lot of clintonoids at the top levels, and Mueller seems to be on good terms with them, having given some of them medals early in his tenure. Now that hillary seems to be relegated to the background, I wonder what they are thinking. If they are half-way smart, maybe it’s wait and see.
“Microbial forensics: DNA fingerprinting of Bacillus anthracis (anthrax),” Analytical Chemistry, 2008 Jul; 80 (13): 4791-9
“Microbial forensics: DNA fingerprinting of Bacillus anthracis (anthrax),” Analytical Chemistry, 2008 Jul; 80 (13): 4791-9
Although mathematical confidence limits are intrinsic to statistical analyses, they are somewhat tangential to logical phylogenetic approaches. However, several methods have been suggested. Lenski and Keim suggested that random matching across polymorphic sites was highly improbable (34). Indeed, when highly mutable loci are used, perfect matches may be elusive even from closely related isolates. Near matches are always problematic, especially when scientists and investigators try to explain relatedness to a jury!
Comparisons of whole-genome sequences from multiple isolates of a single species can increase our knowledge of the evolutionary pathway that separates the sequenced genomes. Although many types of genetic differences may accumulate among isolates as a result of mutation, some happen relatively quickly such that two unrelated isolates may contain the same mutation by chance alone. To reduce the confusion caused by such independent mutations that are not the result of inheritance, we search for marker types that have a low probability of change and thus can be assumed to have mutated only once during the evolutionary history of the organism. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have very low mutation rates in the B. anthracis genome and thus provide a very stable evolutionary signal.
Unfortunately, this important characteristic means that SNPs are very rare, requiring whole-genome comparisons for their discovery. A comparison of five whole-genome B. anthracis sequences predicted ~3500 SNPs, 990 of which were used for genotyping 26 diverse strains of anthrax (32). The resulting phylogenetic analysis yielded only a single example of the same mutation occurring more than once, that is, 1 in 25,000 measurements. Therefore, when a mutation arose in a lineage, the new state was passed along to all the descendants of that isolate. Descendants from other lineages did not contain the novel state but rather retained the ancestral state. These results suggest that once B. anthracis was established as a species, its genotype was inherited in a completely clonal manner, with no evidence that DNA has been exchanged between individuals or acquired from the environment. This is in opposition to what has been observed in many other bacterial species.
The clonality of this species, coupled with the extreme evolutionary stability of SNPs, means that any single synapomorphic SNP can be used to define an entire lineage (35, 36).
Similarly, particular strains, such as the Ames strain (used in the 2001 anthrax letter attacks in the U.S.), can be identified by single or sets of autapomorphic canSNPs (38).
These studies demonstrate a whole-genome sequencing approach to the discovery and application of highly specific, forensic-quality SNP signatures for any B. anthracis isolate. The hierarchical approach can place any isolate into phylogenetically correct subgroups and can provide significant resolution among the isolates that belong to 1 of the 12 original canSNP subgroups. But the ultimate DNA signature may be in the comparative analysis of the entire genome sequence of a target isolate with its closest known relative.
The article seems to be about what CAN be done. The questions are: What HAS been done. Were they able to determine (beyond any reasonable doubt) which lab the attack anthrax came from? If so, which lab was it?
It seems very clear that the science of microbial forensics is now ready for court -- as far as the authors of this article are concerned.
Is everything and everyone else ready?
Thanks for bringing this article to our attention, ZACKandPOOK.
Of course, that would only let them point at a lab. They would still need solid evidence of other types to point at an individual in that lab.
Anyway, you guys have websites. How about this—tell Holt’s people to ask for microscope photos of the attack anthrax. It’s only photos. If released this can finally end the “additive or not” argument you guys have running on very long.
EVERONE has been trying to get a look at those photos for years. No luck. The FBI considers them to be "evidence."
The closest anyone has gotten is the photo in Richard Preston's book "The Demon In the Freezer." Here it is:
However, some new information about the anthrax and the photos was recently released somewhere, since people were talking about who saw the photos and the fact that the media powder contained more silicon and oxygen than the senate powder. That's new information. It could mean that more new information is coming.
Or maybe not.
You mean TrebleRebel and Ed have been running.
I have no part in the debate except to report it.
IMHO, this needs to be published so that it can be referred to in the future. When they announce that the theft occurred at ISU in 1990, the liberal media will ask for proof. This article sets the stage for discussion of mutations and replication of the mutations.
It is a necessary step between Hatfill did it and Hatfill didn't do it.
Even when they publish peer-reviewed scholarly articles written in careful English people either don’t read the article or don’t read it carefully.
They have no reason to publish the SEMS. None at all.
Moreover, there are national security reasons to withhold information that might affect the capability of current biodetection devices. Special Agent Lambert and Director Mueller (one or both) have talked about how disclosure of information might allow bad guys to “spoof” such equipment.
Battle Axe, a fax to an Iowa State Professor enclosing the mailing label showed a Navy research lab. That is where the USAMRIID scientist Knudsen who collected Ames went. There is a Navy article from June 2008 on this general subject.
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