Skip to comments.Selling the threat of bioterrorism (LA Times investigates Alibek)
Posted on 07/01/2007 8:58:07 AM PDT by TrebleRebel
WASHINGTON In the fall of 1992, Kanatjan Alibekov defected from Russia to the United States, bringing detailed, and chilling, descriptions of his role in making biological weapons for the former Soviet Union.
----------- Officials still value his seminal depictions of the Soviet program. But recent events have propelled questions about Alibek's reliability:
No biological weapon of mass destruction has been found in Iraq. His most sensational research findings, with U.S. colleagues, have not withstood peer review by scientific specialists. His promotion of nonprescription pills sold in his name over the Internet and claiming to bolster the immune system was ridiculed by some scientists. He resigned as executive director of a Virginia university's biodefense center 10 months ago while facing internal strife over his stewardship.
And, as Alibek raised fear of bioterrorism in the United States, he also has sought to profit from that fear.
By his count, Alibek has won about $28 million in federal grants or contracts for himself or entities that hired him.
The Los Angeles Times explored Alibek's public pronouncements, research and business activities as part of a series that will examine companies and government officials central to the U.S. war on terrorism -----------------------
(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...
Hmmm... is right.
The Strange Case of the Missing Silica
It continues to bemuse us here at anthrax2001 blogspot why so many people see so many different things when they claim to have been shown the electron micrographs of the Daschle anthrax spores. At anthrax2001 we tend to believe that the actual scientists with first hand access to the samples and who are controlling the Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM) and X-Ray analysis tools know what they are talking about. That’s why when the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology report that they found silica on the surface of the Daschle anthrax we have no reason to believe they are making this up.
Also, we have no reason to believe that Drs. Tom Geisbert and Peter Jahrling of Fort Detrick are being anything other than totally professional and honest when they relay their story of finding this silica to author Richard Preston in his book “Demon in the Freezer”
The passage below is an exerpt from “Demon in the Freezer”:
10/25/01 Geisbert tests a sterilized sample of the Daschle anthrax. X-rays, and other tests show two materials present: silica and oxygen...glass.
“The silicon was powdered so finely that under Geisbert’s electron microscope it had looked like fried-egg gunk dripping off the spores.” Geisbert calls his boss, Peter Jahrling on a secure STU phone and says: “Pete ! There’s glass in the anthrax.”
...superfine powdered glass,known as silica nanopowder,which has industrial uses.The grains of this type of glass are very small.If an anthrax spore was an orange,then these particles of glass would be grains of sand clinging to the orange.The glass was slippery and smooth,and it might have been treated so that it would repel water.It caused the spores to crumble apart,to pass more easily through the holes in the envelopes and fly everywhere, filling the Hart Senate office building and the Brentwood and Hamilton mail-sorting facilities like a gas.”
On the other hand, certain other inividuals, whose motives remain fuzzy and unclear, seem to like to make mischief by pretending that there was no silica present on the Daschle anthrax.
It seems Professor Meselson and Dr Alibek are desperate to tell any newsman or camera that points in their direction just the complete opposite. Let’s have some fun by looking at some direct quotes from these two bioweapons “experts”.
Dateline June 1 2002:
Meselson concurs that the anthrax evinces no sign of special coating or processing. “There is no evidence that I know of,” he told me, “that it was treated in any special way.”
Dateline March 31 2003:
Ken Alibek: To talk about silica, when I’ve looked at micrographs, I haven’t seen any silica in the samples. We shouldn’t forget that silica could be contained in an outer shell of an anthrax spore. Based on this information its hard to see if it is foreign or domestic. What you can see is that there was a lot of incorrect info published in the media. This anthrax wasn’t sophisticated, didn’t have coatings, had electric charge and many other things.
Dateline November 5 2002:
Both of us have examined electron micrographs of the material in the anthrax letter sent to Sen. Tom Daschle, but we saw no evidence of such balls or strands. In July 1980, the Journal of Bacteriology reported an “unexpectedly high concentration of silicon” to be naturally present in the outer spore coat of bacillus cereus, a close relative of bacillus anthracis. Is it possible that the unnamed sources misinterpreted silicon naturally concentrated in spore coats as something that was artificially added?
Can anyone understand why Professor Meselson and Dr Alibek would go to such extraordinary lengths to deny the official position of the US government? Of course we all know that the anthrax investigation is packed with misinformation, innuendo and politics. Professor Meselson already has a meaningful reputation when it comes to denying hard facts about anthrax bioweapons and if you read Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg’s Plague Wars you’ll see what we mean.
But what about Dr Ken Alibek, the Soviet defector? What motivation could he have to deny that the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks was bioweapons grade material?
Uh oh, Ed Lake is going to get really steamed at the L.A. Times now for attacking one of his most cherished sources of information about the anthrax.
One thing I’ve learned reading msm spin, if they add “said quietly” for dramatic effect, dig deeper.
The article reads like the writer wants to put his head back into the 9/10 sand. He wants the message to be “All scares about mass casualty foreign biothreats are false and Alibek is the source of them.”
Yet reading between the lines, All I get is Alibek probably lied merely about the smallpox. He had bureaucratic problems? Big deal. He wants to make a buck off the bioterr mandates? Why not?
The writer really, really wanted an expert to say “Don’t worry, It was all Alibek, you can go back to worrying about Evangelicals”, but can’t find one to say that. The “he only lied about smallpox” isn’t worth a big article like this, which is intended to serve as a foundation to an anti-terr war narrative.
It almost pained the writer to have to mention the actual anthrax attacks. And the biggest crime of this article will not be apparent to 99.9% of people. So the writer gets to talk to Alibek, crucial to the actual attacks, and doesn’t ask him anything about that??? Or even mention his involvement at all?
The smallpox isn't the only thing Alibekov has been lying about though.
I tend to think pretty much the same way you do. It's important to remember that the anthrax attacks actually happened immediately following the 9/11 attack even though most media seem to want all that to go down the memory hole. It's also pretty certain that they were not the work of disgruntled domestic right-wingers who haven't done any such thing before or since. It's totally certain that Ken Alibek really was the director of an enormous Soviet biowar facility, and that the Soviets pumped an enormous amount of conventional weapons into Iraq, and that Iraq really did have a biowar lab headed by "Dr. Germ", and that Saddam really did use chemical weapons on the Iranians and the Kurds. Those are all alarming things that the L.A. Times doesn't want anybody to be alarmed about.
At the end of April 2007, George Mason University made another decision that was felt by the biodefense students to severely impact the quality of their educational program. In response, a former university student who previously had access to and had retained copies of important documents decided to release some of those documents to the students. Since they are interesting, I am sending them to you so that the world can see more of this fascinating story.
Letter from Ken Alibek resigning as Program Director
George Mason University
National Center for Biodefense
10900 University Blvd. MSN 4E3
Manassas, VA 20110
Tel. (703) 993-8545
Fax (703) 993-4288
June 17, 2005
Dr. Daniele Struppa
Dean - College of Arts and Sciences
George Mason University
4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
Dear Dr. Struppa,
Just over a month ago, you, Dr. Chandhoke, Dr. Bailey and I met to discuss the future of the Graduate Programs in Biodefense. The result of that meeting was that significant changes were to be made to the program beginning in the Fall 2005 semester. At the time a follow-up meeting was scheduled for a week later (then canceled) so that as a group we could finalize the changes that needed to be made. For weeks I have anxiously awaited the follow up to that meeting but I have heard nothing (I have not even received the courtesy of a response to my emails outlining my suggestions). I can only interpret this lack of attention as a lack of interest in the improvement of the program. The fall semester is two months away and there has been no word on exactly what the changes are and how they are to be implemented.
When the Graduate Programs in Biodefense were created they were based on what I believed to be a shared vision of what biodefense meant. For reasons still unclear to me, the College has decided to turn the program into something fundamentally different than what was originally intended and planned.
Over the past month I have tried to reconcile myself to these changes. As time passes, however, I am increasingly uncomfortable with the direction the program is taking and I am not comfortable directing the program. I can not jeopardize my credibility in order to appease those who have no understanding of what biothreat and biodefense are.
I have several specific concerns, the first of which is that the majority of our students already work in the fields of national and homeland security and/or chem/biodefense. These are experienced professionals who will neither be well served by, nor satisfied with a program that offers only a superficial survey of the field. In fact, these professionals already know much in the area of biodefense and came to this program to make their knowledge more sophisticated.
The issue of having a large number of appropriately trained experts in biodefense is more pressing than ever. The asymmetrical threat of bioterrorism is increasingly recognized by the U.S. government. The fact that 5-7 grams of anthrax powder sent through the mail in 2001 resulted in over $1 billion in decontamination costs alone clearly demonstrates how important this issue is.
My second concern is that dissolving the four concentrations completely does a great disservice to our current and future students. A microbiologist interested in medical biodefense has little interest in nonproliferation issues and vice versa. Weve already witnessed such frustration when students take the core courses. The students with a life sciences background want more sophisticated scientific knowledge in the field of medical and engineering defense; while students with a policy background are more interested in biological warfare, bioterrorism threat, biodefense, and nonproliferation. At the very least, two concentrations a science/technical and a science/non-technical should be offered. Having the same course of study for these two diverse groups is not a good idea. I am deeply concerned about the viability of a program without at least these concentrations.
The third area of concern is regarding the decision to stop all admissions until the fall of 2006 -even though initially the decision was made to allow the continued admission of MS students. This inability to make decisions reflects poorly on the program, the College, and the University. Staff in the biodefense graduate program is bombarded daily by frustrated and even angry potential students some in upper level positions within various government agencies and departments, asking for an explanation of such a hasty and unprofessional decision, but we have nothing to tell them because we have been told nothing.
There has been a complete shutdown in communication between the College, the NCBD administration, and the administration of the graduate programs in biodefense that I find both perplexing and frustrating. I am trying to resist the urge to assume that this lack of communication is indicative of the Colleges level of commitment to the program and its 250+ students, but it is difficult find an alternative explanation.
Decisions are being made behind closed doors, leaving the programs administration and staff increasingly worried. There is great concern over the fact that these decisions are being made without input from either the staff or from the students. Students were attracted to this program for specific reasons, to substantively change the program without their input is irresponsible and will be detrimental to the program. Our students came here to receive an education on how to best protect the country against a bioterrorist attack, which could cost many thousands of lives.
Unfortunately under such circumstances, I can no longer remain as the programs director. I have chosen to step down as the director of the program effective July 1, 2005. I am deeply committed (and will continue to be) to the students and will continue to teach classes, advise students, and serve on committees but I can not continue as the programs director and allow students to believe that I have either initiated or support these changes. In addition, I will gladly help the newly appointed director in whatever capacity my expertise is relevant.
I fully understand that as the program grows, changes will need to be made to keep it a thriving, productive, and profitable entity at George Mason University . However, the extreme nature of the changes that have been suggested severely damages the program to the point where I consider it irreparable. It is impossible for me to understand why someone would want to destroy this program when it distinguished George Mason University in this field from any other university in the world. This program is very close to my heart and I have dedicated several years working 12-16 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure the success of the program. I am still committed to its success, but I cannot stand idly by and watch it degrade into mediocrity.
Sincerely, Ken Alibek MD, PhD, ScD
Distinguished Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology
Dr. Peter Sterns
Dr. Vikas Chandhoke
Dr. Charles Bailey
Letter from Ken Alibek resigning his tenured faculty position
In addition to my official letter of resignation, a copy of this letter I wrote for the students will be sent to President Merten, Provost Stearns, Dean Struppa, Dr. Chandhoke, and Dr. Bailey.
As you recall, last summer there were changes to the Biodefense program that I believe impacted the quality of your education and the security of the nation. As I could not support these changes (removal of courses necessary for in-depth education, loss of legitimate medical and engineering concentrations for students with catalogue rights, loss of concentrations for all students admitted Fall 2005 and later, termination of your educational support staff, and reduction of new admissions), I stepped down as Director but retained my faculty position at your request. Despite my strenuous objections over the last year, I have been unable to convince the administration of the importance of these classes that are so vital to an effective and proper Biodefense education. I know many students also complained to the administration about the changes however their efforts yielded the same null results as mine.
The seriousness of certain events (events of which you are unaware) that occurred after I protested the changes to your academic program last summer prompted me to seek resolution through the department administration, college administration, university administration, grievance committee, and the Board of Visitors but without any visible response. More recently I informed you that there were further changes within the administration that I couldnt support and that I would begin negotiating the end of my employment with George Mason University . Though I kept the needs of the students foremost in my mind during these negotiations, the administration and I never agreed on terms. For example, I could not agree to the universitys request that I no longer permit students to seek my help as an advisor on Biodefense related matters.
Three long months ago, I filed a grievance concerning the changes to the academic program and the serious events that occurred after I protested those changes and the effects I believed they would have on the students and on national security. A couple of weeks ago, I received a belated reply that the grievance committee was scheduling a meeting for March 22nd however yesterday I received a new email from the grievance committee. The message essentially was that they were postponing the date of the meeting indefinitely and that the students planning to observe the proceedings were not welcome. I find the postponement of the meeting and the interference with students wishing to attend proceedings about their own educational program and futures unacceptable but not surprising.
It is with sadness that I must now inform you that I have decided to relinquish my position as tenured professor at George Mason University . I will continue teaching this semester however will be on vacation throughout the summer and will not be returning for classes in the Fall. My official date of resignation is August 27, 2006. Though I understand my absence will have some affect on the students, the Provost recently assured everyone of the Universitys commitment and ability to provide education and dissertation support for all students. When I responded to the Provost about the letter he sent to the students, he said that I was free to set up a meeting of (my) own, outside of class time, and discuss whatever (I) want to discuss (with the students). As your education and your futures are at stake, I would encourage all of you to attend the meeting with the Provost on March 20th to ensure that he is able to provide you with satisfactory answers to at least the following questions:
From what perspective is the program that existed from Fall of 2005 to current the same academic program that previously admitted students agreed to purchase?
In consideration of the numerous courses that have been cancelled, if there were sufficient courses remaining to satisfy student requirements, why are there so many students taking directed studies or directed research type classes?
How can the administration say that students admitted prior to Fall 2005 still have the option of legitimately obtaining a medical or engineering concentration when there is an insufficient number of units available to do so without having to substitute unrelated courses?
How come no new qualified faculty have been hired to teach essential Biodefense courses in the areas of:
Advanced Bacterial and Viral Threat Analysis
Advanced Response Training
Advanced Toxin, Chemical and Radiological Weapons DefenseTraining
Principles of Toxicology and Toxinology
Advanced Crisis and Consequence Management
Anti-crop and Anti-livestock Weapons Defense
Dispersal Patterns of BW Threat Agents in a Field Environment
Working within a Hot Zone
Regulations for Working Within the BSL3/BSL4 Environments
Advanced Epidemiology of a Bioterror Attack
Prophylaxis and Therapeutic Methods and Approaches to Development
Detection and Diagnostic Methods and Approaches to Development
Disinfection, Disinsection, and Deratization Methods and Approaches to Development
Table Top Exercises and Organization of Drills
Investigational Microbial Forensics
Principles and Methods of Nonproliferation of Chemical and Biological Weapons
Open Source and All Source Analysis of Biological Weapons and Related Technologies
Principles of Biological and Chemical Weapon Attack Surveillance
Medical Response to Large Scale Chemical and biological Weapons Attacks
And many others
How will the current faculty who are trained in laboratory based sciences be able to assist students with their non lab-based dissertations in a field outside their expertise
If I am a member of your committee and you will not be graduating this semester, I encourage you to actively seek those individuals who will now assist you through what remains of your education and dissertations. I am sorry that all of my efforts on your behalf over the last year have been unsuccessful and regret to inform you that I have exhausted all options open to me through the university. Though there is nothing left I can do for you, do take notice that you were able to attract the attention of the Provost when you united to defend your education. It has been a pleasure working with you and I wish you every success in the future.
Excerpts from student letter prepared for Grievance Committee hearing
Dear Grievance Committee;
This composition will serve two functions: an elaboration of detail that I will present verbally and a written complaint from a Biodefense student. I have excluded names of students to protect their identities however will furnish them to the members of the committee in exchange for a written, actionable, personal guarantee of confidentiality from all members of the committee. Before providing the names of the students, my attorney will draft the appropriate agreement to be signed by all members of the committee.
In order for you to truly appreciate the depth of my conviction as I appear before you today, you must understand the personal cost I will incur as a result I knowingly yield this award to serve the principles of justice and to give voice to my fellow students long silenced by fear of retaliation from members of the faculty and the administration.
For me, today represents the culmination of a long fight to preserve what was a very unique and necessary educational program. I started fighting for my contractual rights last summer when I spent thirteen hours carefully drafting my letter of concern before providing a signed copy to Dr. Alibek and another to a member of the administration I will just call administrator
It is important for you to know what events took place after I submitted the letter The administrator who received a copy of my letter of concern had a closed door meeting with a member of the faculty (Ill just call this person faculty) in a very thin-walled office adjacent to mine. I could hear their conversation through the wall... I could also hear them discussing how best to approach me.
Faculty came into my office about one hour later (Having overheard the conversation, I had been waiting). Faculty wanted to discuss my work in the laboratory and said that it wasnt acceptable. Faculty then said that if I wanted to stay in the lab that I would need to stop taking courses and stop working with Dr. Alibek...This manipulative attempt was completely expected after overhearing the conversation.
Students have seen some bewildering occurrences:
Students became suspicious when the education staff that was so vital to the students was eliminated for an unannounced reason.
One of Dr. Alibeks students dissertation was jeopardized when the student didnt request a human subject research waiver even though he wasnt doing research on human subjects. Since the situation was so preposterous, suspicion of targeting Dr. Alibeks students was further aroused
I have been approached on two different occasions with warnings from a student:
First warning was not to get too close to Dr. Alibek as he has really made some people angry and retribution was coming
Second warning was that I had really angered some people. I said that I wasnt worried about a few angry students because they didnt have the power to hurt me. The individual then indicated to me that it wasnt the students, that these people had the power to hurt me. I responded that individual was then talking about administrators or faculty but even they lacked sufficient power. The individuals parting comment was for me to be careful.
Excerpts of letter submitted by Ken Alibek to Board of Visitors (regulatory body above the University President) requesting internal investigation of university practices
Dear members of the Board of Visitors;
My name is Dr. Ken Alibek. I am currently a distinguished and tenured professor at George Mason University where I have worked to establish a number of biodefense activities for the benefit of the university and the nation. Specific benefits include a new biodefense graduate program with more than 250 students, millions of dollars in new contracts with the federal government, and development of the Regional Biocontainment Lab concept. Unfortunately I must inform you that I am now considering the terms of my resignation from the university because I have witnessed a highly disturbing lack of scientific, educational, and moral values, values that are integral to the credibility of any university.
I have been diligently working since July 2005 to bring my very serious concerns to the highest levels within the university but they have yet to be officially addressed by the President, Provost, or Dean of the College of Arts and Science. The irregularities I have extensively described previously pose a serious threat to the reputation and credibility of the university and need to be addressed by the Board of Visitors as soon as possible. The most serious threats to the university include
Esteemed members of the Board, the items listed above are only a few examples of the irregularities I have brought to the attention of university officials I strongly encourage the Board of Visitors to open an internal investigation as soon as possible to prevent George Mason University from enduring the public embarrassment experienced by some other universities recently.
Mason has discord with another leading scientist regarding questionable practices at the University
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2007 13:39:31 -0400
Subject: NCBID issue
Dear Dr. Alan Merten,
In an email from December 14th, 2006, sent to Dr. Bailey with a copy to you, I have described my concerns about the questionable practices and conduct of experiments at the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Diseases (NCBID), some of which where ordered by the US government.
I have experienced these problems firsthand and I feel that it is my duty to see that this problem is resolved. It is not my concern that speaking up against this conduct prevented me from receiving a position at NCBID, but the fact that concealment of this information from the clients is fraudulent and unethical. I have not received a response from either you or Dr. Bailey as of yet. Please, let me know what actions were taken or you are planning to take to address these problems, and if the customers were informed of this situation.
The original letter written by Vladimir Vinnitsky 14th December, 2006:
Dear Dr. Bailey:
It has been to my great disappointment, to be asked to leave NCBID. Yet it is not the fact itself, but the fashion in which it has been done and the surrounding circumstances, that are the greatest source of my discontent. In this letter I will share my perspective on the true nature of factors which ultimately led to my dismissal. There were three reasons which moved me to do so. First of all, I was referred to you by Dr. Lance Liotta, M.D., Ph.D. and Dr. Emanuel Petricoin, Ph.D., whom I have been honored to have successfully worked with at the NIH and whose opinions I value greatly. Secondly, as a renowned published scientist, with vast experience I simply cannot silently accept false accusation of professional incompetence. Finally, as a professional I feel obligated to bring to your attentions the questionable practices which I have faced while working at NCBID, and which in my honest opinion may ultimately compromise the success of your organization.
September 2006, you have offered me to join NCBID, first as an expert in the field of in vivo studies, then within a year move on to oversee a temporary animal facility Biosafety Level-2 Laboratory, and going forward Regional Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory. I gladly accepted your offer and submitted the necessary paperwork, which I was told would take about three weeks to process. In the mean while, Dr. Popov asked me to assist him with the execution of an already designed experiment, as per lack of in vivo experts on his team. Even though I had previous commitments, I agreed to provide my expertise as a part-time contractor. I carried out my part of project strictly adhering to the protocol.
After 8 days of working at NCBID I was given three days to design a new experiment titled Role of Syndecan1 in B. anthracis (Sterne) infection of DBA/2 mice even though I made it very clear that I had no previous experience in this field. I worked 14-hour days including Saturday and Sunday studying publications on anthrax and pathogenic role of syndecan1 in B. anthracis infection to produce the design of new experiment on time and in accordance with the title of the project. Dr. Popov never discussed or even mentioned my design and instead proposed and approved his own design on investigation focused mainly on toxic effect of heparin. Even though I had limited expertise in this specific area of study, relying on my vast experience with in vivo experiments I pointed out the following flaws of the approved design: 1) since heparin is not a shed syndecan1 the design would not adhere to the title of the project or tell us anything about the role of shed syndecan1 in pathogens is of anthrax infectious; 2) the experiment would produce no new information on heparins toxic effect in toxic doses, since it was already thoroughly researched by other scientists in the past; 3) as part of the experiment design mice would be injected with B. anthracis preincubated with heparin and protamine sulfate, however the bacteria would not be tested for viability in vitro, thus the experiment could not produce valid data. 4) a limited number of mice (95) and a large number of groups (15) could not produce statistically significant data. Considering all these flaw of the experiment design I suggested that the experiment would produce no new or useful information and would be a waste of time and funds. Dr. Popov disregarded my comments and approved his own design. As I predicted the experiment failed. I was dismissed 5 days before I was scheduled to present on the findings of this experiment.
Even though I was initially invited to only assist on a single in vivo project and at that time had not even been officially hired as a full time employee, I was assigned 3 other major projects:
1. Design of a commercial project on the investigation of Effectiveness of Olive Leaf Extract /Oleuropein for treatment of B. anthracis infectious.
2. Design of in vivo experiments in accordance with the project Use toll-like receptors as potential targets for specific and broad-spectrum protection against several biological weapons.
3. Development of animal model for gastro-intestinal anthrax infectious.
I was given three days to research and prepare a design for the project on using the Oleuropein for treatment of the B. anthracis infectious. I was working to present the project on time, but did not get a chance to do so as I was dismissed the day before the presentation was due.
Concurrently, I was working on the design of the experiments for the project titled Use toll-like receptors as potential targets for specific and broad-spectrum protection against several biological weapons. I was instructed by Dr. Popov to design the experiment to be biased to produce a conclusion that toll-like receptors are ineffective against anthrax, as the project had already been paid for by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and he needed to close it as quickly as possible with minimal expenses. I made it clear to him that I could not accept such instructions and that I would proceed to design the experiment properly. Again I was fired before I had a chance to present my work.
To summarize, I successfully completed my part of the project that I was initially invited to participate in. I agreed to design 4 additional projects, before I had even been officially hired, which were never acknowledged, discussed or reviewed. I was dismissed before I had a chance to present any of the projects that I had been assigned and worked extremely hard on, on very tight deadlines. So, you dismissed me on the grounds of insufficient performance, yet did not even bother to verify Dr. Popovs accusations to discover that none of my work had ever been reviewed allowing to make any sort of conclusion about my performance. At the same time Im led to realize that Dr. Popov had alternate motivations in getting rid of me.
I would also like to bring to your attention blatant disregard for animal facility safety SOP which I observed during my work under Dr. Popovs supervision. One of PIs direct responsibilities is to provide training to his personnel involved in their projects using animals. Dr. Popov failed to do so completely. Considering the fact that the laboratory deals with experiments on infected animals, lack of SOP safety training puts the staff in real danger. Infected animal necropsy had often been performed outside of a laminar flow hood risking contamination. An incident took place when one of the untrained staff a member was bitten by a B. anthracis (Sterne) infected mouse. Fortunately in this case the mouse was infected with a benign strain. In contrast, when working at NIH, even my 30-year experience of working in animal testing facilities did not exempt me from taking a test on animal safety Emanuel, before I was cleared to work with animals.
In conclusion, I believe that it is obvious that my professional incompetence had nothing to do with my dismissal from NCBID. I hope that this incident will not reflect poorly on my reputation in Dr. Lance Liottas and Dr. Petricoins eyes. I also hope that my comments will be useful in uncovering and dealing with the problems present at your Laboratory.
Finally, I would like to express my deepest regrets that I did not get the opportunity to apply my knowledge, experience and effort to establish a temporary animal facility Biosafety Level-2 Laboratory and in perspective Regional Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory, which is what I had primarily been hired for. On the completion of my hiring process, I was ready to present to you a plan of implementation for establishing temporary animal facility, including paper work in compliance with Animal care and Use Regulations and Policies, Animal Care and Use Guidelines, Animal Care and Use training, SOPs, and other regulations to establish topnotch facilities.
Vladimir Vinnitsky, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc.
And a bunch of pointy headed over educated losers in Academia fell for it and showered him with taxpayer money in the form of 'research grants'.
Color me shocked.
I’ve spoken and corresponded with Alibek about Amerithrax and spoken to a lot of GMU faculty and past employees.
Ken says the FBI suspected GMU graduate student Ali Al-Timimi of accessing the know-how used in the anthrax mailings. But he says Ali was more of a “numbers guy.” Timimi had a security clearance for mathematical support work for the Navy. His work was bioinformatics which Les Baillie explained to Rauf Ahmad in a lecture in the UK was important in understanding anthrax.
Timimi was known to be an islamic hardliner but most of the faculty I’ve spoken to about him rarely saw him around. Sergei Popov tells me he did not know him to ever have been involved in a biodefense project. Anna Popova says she rarely saw him. Dr. Alibek says he would see him occasionally in the hall. Victor Morozov who inherited Timimi’s phone number after Timimi left (and VM arrived), was just a few doors from Dr. Alibek and Dr. Bailey. Dr. Bailey referred me to counsel when I asked him to confirm Dr. Timimi’s room number. GMU Assistant General Counsel declined to confirm the room number. Virginia state FOIA requires the request be submitted by a state resident so I haven’t pursued it. But no one would dispute that Dr. Timimi had access to Center for Biodefense facilities and also the inventory of American Type Culture Collection. That had always been the hallmark of the program Timimi was in. Beginning in 2002, he was on the GMU payroll at $70k and had access to the computer system.
I contacted ATTC and they do not deny they had Ames in their patent repository, as distinguished from their online catalog. (Their information officer wrote by email) Dr. Bailey is a prolific researcher with the Ames strain. And of course Dr. Alibek is very knowledge about anthrax. Dr. A & B filed a March 2001 patent involving the concentration of biological agents using siliica. Then the fellow who inherited Timimi’s phone number co-invented the process with Dr. Bailey of removing the silica from the surface. This is what the forensics showed. The presence of sliica — on the EDX. But that detected silica was said by Alibek and Meselson, who saw some of the SEMS, not to be observable on the SEMS. The FBI has known this for a half decade. Timimi was raided on February 26, 2003 after intercepts showed in 2002 he was communicating with Bin Laden’s sheik al-Hawali.
Timimi drafted a letter for OBL’s sheik al-Hawali and had it hand-delivered to all members of Congress on the first anniversary of the anthrax letters to Daschle and Leahy. The strains put on the GMU program are illustrated by the limitations on technical education and training that were imposed without the reasons being communicated.
While I think the proliferation of know-how poses a great danger, and policy-making should not be guided by pork-fueled, revolving door practices typifying our government, it seems that all Ken is guilty of is becoming too adept at working within the American system.
I think your post was meant for new member Ann
Here are Dr. Alibek’s published views from October 2002 compared with his views from June 2005. In 2005, he was doing research funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency relating to treating anthrax infection. After these 2005 renarks, he told me that the FBI suspected Ali al-Timimi at GMU of accessing the know-how, so the reference to one of his students is especially telling.
1. Alibek Doubts FBI Claims on Hatfill
Phil Brennan, NewsMax.com
Thursday, Oct. 3, 2002
Dr. Ken Alibek, one the world’s leading authorities on biowarfare, has cast significant doubt on the claims of the FBI that Dr. Steven Hatfill or another American may have been behind last years mail anthrax attacks.
Alibek, former head of the Soviet Union’s bioweapons program and now executive director for George Mason University’s Center for Bio-Defense and a distinguished professor at GMU, offered his candid comments about the Hatfill case on NewsMax’s exclusive “Off The Record” Club audioprogram. Click Here for more info.
Alibek, who has been consulted by the FBI on the anthrax attacks, said that an analysis of available evidence suggests that there is reason to believe that the source of the anthrax attack was foreign, not domestic, as claimed by the FBI.
Though not precluding the possibility the anthrax was from a domestic source, Alibek says on “Off the Record” that he has serious questions about this theeory.
Alibek cites, among other issues:
The hijackers were looking for crop dusters. He says it’s hard to believe that they wanted to use crop dusters for attacking the World Trade Center.
The first cases of anthrax were in Florida, near where some of these hijackers lived. Also, there were reports about a strange anthrax-type ulcer on the leg of one of the hijackers before 9/11.
The timing of the attack in conjunction with 9/11 was “sort of a simultaneous attempt” to cause a greater fear and anxiety. “Sometimes, it seems to me, that somebody actually used this atmosphere of panic, anxiety for sending anthrax in which it could be a domestic case. There are many issues and questions that we still have unanswered, but you notice I don’t answer this question to say, ‘OK, it was a domestic war’ or ‘... a foreign case.’”
In one of the letters the word “penicillin” was misspelled. Hatfill, a medical doctor, would hardly have not known how to spell the word. “It’s hard for me to believe that somebody with medical background would make such a big mistake, if it’s not done intentionally, of course.”
The FBI failed to conduct an immediate search of the places where the hijackers lived in Florida. Alibek said that “when you do any investigation you shouldn’t get rid of any possible opportunity, any possible lead. If you took a week just to reach your conclusion, saying OK, domestic case or foreign case, you can lose some very important evidence. And specifically, if, for example, you narrow down your investigation, at the earliest stage of investigation and then you follow this path, for example, and just, in about six, eight or nine months or a year, you find out it was the wrong case, of course, it’s too late to go back to seek for some other cause ... because in many cases, people have short memories.”
Alibek said he didn’t buy the claims of FBI profilers who think the anthrax attacks were orchestrated by a patriotic American who wanted to warn Americans about the danger of bioweapons. He said those who concocted the anthrax mail attacks were simply cold-blooded killers.
Noting that the FBI early on devoted most of its energies and resources to tracking a domestic perpetrator, Alibek said: “For example, if you investigate something immediately after it happened, people still have something in mind, what they saw, what they knew, and so on and so forth.
“In my opinion, in each case when you do an investigation, of course, you need to keep in mind all possible situations until you have ... very strong opinion or very strong proof that some of the leads are appropriate, I would say. In this case, you shouldn’t have done domestic investigation at early stage of this investigation.”
2. In a June 2005 interview in a Swiss (German language) weekly news magazine, Neue Zurcher Zeitung, Ken Alibek addresses the anthrax mailings:
A. “...What if I told you Swiss scientists are paid by Al Qaeda? You could believe it or not. It has become somewhat fashionable to disparage Russian scientists. Americans, Iraqis, or whoever could just as well be involved with Al Qaeda. Why doesn’t anyone speculate about that?”
Q. “But could one of your students build a biological weapon in the garage?”
A. “Let me reply philosophically: Two hundred years ago, it was unthinkable to believe that people would be using mobile telephones, wasn’t it? Everything changes. Our knowledge grows, and technology develops incredibly quickly. These days even high-school kids can breed recombinant microbial strains. I am not saying that a student is in a position to build a biological weapon all by himself. But the knowledge needed to do it is certainly there.”
Thank you for your additions to this conversation. Timimi was no longer at Mason when I arrived on scene but I know everyone else you mentioned as I used to work with them and was a student of and assistant to Dr. Alibek. There are two points I wish to address:
1. Re: The limitations on technical education and training that were imposed without being communicated. There were no such limitations imposed. Students could do research alongside the Molecular and Microbiology Faculty at the Center if they had the appropriate biology backgrounds (many didn’t but I did) and they could take advantage of internships and other employment opportunities offsite. Additionally, Dr. Alibek worked hard to provide his students with a variety of important opportunities both inside the laboratory and outside the laboratory. Though he did these types of things for many students, I’ll give you just a few personal examples to illustrate then get back on point: He offered me and other students challenging jobs within his company; He used his contacts to help others find jobs in other companies; He took half a day to meet with an associate of his to try and help me get a position in his associate’s organization; He arranged for me to help him teach biodefense courses (he declined most of the compensation and arranged for it to be given to me instead); He has asked me to stand in for him at some professional events; He introduced me as an expert at a national conference and gave me his speaking time so that I could present my work and establish my career; He arranged for me to provide the background material and to be interviewed for a Discovery Channel special on biological weapons; He arranged for me and some other students to jointly write a series of books for publication (he declined all compensation); When I ran out of money, he offered me a summertime position in his company (I declined because the wages were too high for the amount of work...he knew I was in financial trouble); And the new animal research facility to be built was intended to be staffed by students and graduates of the biodefense program.
From personal experience and knowledge from working both at the Center in the labs and from working for Dr. Alibek, there were no limitations on technical knowledge and training imposed upon the biodefense students who had backgrounds appropriate to the type of work you describe. It is absolutely vital to remember that laboratory based science is but a small (yet critical) part of the eclectic science of biodefense but many opportunities were definitely available to the students. It is also important to mention that the Center did not have highly pathogenic agents nor did we have access to them through ATCC, a secure facility.
2. Re: Capability of his students to build a biological weapon in the garage. Dr. Alibek is an extremely educated and experienced individual with an extraordinarily high degree of expertise in medicine, biotechnology, microbiology, and immunology as well as other areas less pertinent to this discussion (his knowledge of history is amazing). While he is sufficiently skilled to produce anti-cancer and cardiovascular disease drugs without any effort, his students lack such capability.
He did provide his students with the very sophisticated knowledge required to understand biological weapons (much more complex than biological agents) however he withheld a sufficient amount of information to make it extremely difficult for us to “build biological weapons in our garages”. When he says the information is available, he means that the information is available to all members of the public willing to sift through a large number of publications to assemble a variety of details important to the process. Once all of the details are collected, the interested parties would still have to devote all of the time required to assemble what can be a very complicated puzzle depending upon the type of weapon and attack they had in mind. It could take many, many years of trial and error for a group to develop an effective biological weapon useful for a sophisticated, mass casualty attack or it could take a few weeks to months to develop a biological dispersion device capable of achieving fewer casualties but still terrorizing the public.
Dr. Alibek trained us to understand and defend against biological weapons, not to build them. As probably one of the most educated of his students, having helped him with his courses on numerous occasions and having helped him teach some of his courses elsewhere, even I lack sufficient capability, not to mention I completely lack the motivation, to build a sophisticated biological weapon. But I do understand them and the threat exceptionally well thanks to amazing mentors (Ken Alibek and Peter Leitner) who worked tirelessly to raise awareness and to prepare a generation of defense experts trained to understand the differences between biological agents and biological weapons, the threats posed by biological weapons, and how to mount a comprehensive and multi-layered defense against them.
Now graduated and working in national security, seeing first hand what little knowledge about biological weapons (again, more complex than biological agents) remains in the community and how this dilemma is driving misplanning, I can promise you that loss of the unique education program Ken Alibek and Peter Leitner developed at Mason isn’t helpful (to put it mildly). In order to fix the problem, I need the assistance of other people who have been trained by these experts in a program that was dovetailed to provide comprehensive knowledge yet there are only a handful of graduates. It is a tremendous amount of work for so few people, even with the crucial cooperation of the many fine experts in microbiology, medicine, public health, etc. The situation is in serious and immediate need of resolution.
Thanks so much for the authoritative information. I like Ken and have always found his authoritative expertise equalled only by his approachability and willingness to educate the public on the policy issues. Same with others like Sergei P.
Can you help me with additional factual details?
Ken told me the FBI suspected Ali Timimi of accessing know how. But he said he thought of Timimi as more of a “numbers guy”, without hands-on drying expertise and in any event, did not know the non-technical aspects of the investigation such as al-Timimi’s work with OBL’s spiritual godfather al-Hawali. Al-Hawali’s detention was repeatedly invoked by OBL as the reason for his attacks. The Washington Post reported that the FBI suspected al-Timimi of involvement in the anthrax mailings in an October 2006 article titled “Hardball Tactics in an Era of Threats.” His lawyer too at the time of the search of his townyhouse noted their suspicion and alluded to the warrant.
The GMU webpage said that the bioinformatics people had access to the ATCC facilities. What facilities would have been involved? The bioinformatics program was jointly sponsored by ATCC.
Dr. Alibek used the phrase “catalog rights” — which some students had and some did not. What did that involve?
One former employee called me — after she was terminated shortly upon her hire — after she says she complained of lax security. She said that the media was failing to distinguish between the ATCC catalog and the patent repository, which she said would have had virulent Ames.
Dr. Alibek had a security clearance for mathematical support work for the Navy relating to bioinformatics. Would a security clearance allow access not available to students generally?
Who owned and operated the BL-3 lab at the location? When was that built? What pathogenic organisms required a BL-3?
Are you familiar with the March 2001 patent filed by Ken and Charles relating to concentrating biological agents using silica? And the related patent co-invented by Charles and Victor relating to removal of the silica from the surface by repeated centrifugation or an air chamber? It was a “bio-friendly” patent that was publicly disclosed sometime after 9/11, after 6 or more months of confidentiality. It was not classified, and left many details to be known only by those skilled in the art.
Serge says he never knew Ali to have any role in a biodefense project. Do you know what al-Timimi’s room number was? Do you know what Victor’s room number was when he first arrived? He inherited Ali’s telephone number when Ali left and Victor arrived and so I was wondering if he moved into that office in Discovery Hall (before taking an office in Bull Run when it was completed). That room was a few doors from both Ken and Charles which is why I ask. Neither Charles nor GMU will confirm Ali Al-Timimi’s room number — the lack of transparency is not good under the circumstances.
Thanks so much for your informed perspective. I think Ken is great and want to avoid misunderstanding of the facts. Ken was polygraphed as were 200, as I recall, who worked in the field. Were a number of people at GMU polygraphed?
Did you have a security clearance?
From the directory online, it is my understanding that Ali shared a department fax with Ken and Charles and the others in the department. Is that accurate?
BD, you describe ATCC as a secure facility.
Was Discovery Hall’s Center for Biodefense a secure facility?
Pardon the typo.
I had written:
“Dr. Alibek had a security clearance for mathematical support work for the Navy relating to bioinformatics. Would a security clearance allow access not available to students generally?”
I meant Ali Al-Timimi had a security clearance for mathematical support work for the Navy relating to bioinformatics.” Source: Milton Viorst’s fascinating “The Education of Ali Al-Timimi.”
MV knew Ali as a child. He tells me that he doesn’t think Ali should have to spend 15 minutes for exhorting some young men to go abroad if they felt so compelled by their faith. I tend to agree (so long as they surrender their citizenship upon leaving). It is merely serendipity that the state makes the rules which prevented the young men from exalting their religion over their nation state. Ali’s work for the Navy was for the SRA International which does biodefense work. I don’t know the nature of the work Ali did.
You ask a lot of questions, most of which I can’t answer. I didn’t arrive at Mason until 2004 so have no direct knowledge regarding Timimi nor do I believe everything I read or hear. I only like to deal in facts which is why I despise the bag of lies and omissions written by David Willman.
So here are some facts for you. ATCC is across the street from George Mason University however they do have some additional space in Discovery Hall. I imagine they lease that space from either the University or the State but couldn’t tell you for sure.
Discovery Hall is a secure building but then again so is my apartment complex and my apartment. During business hours, the entry doors are unlocked and there is a security person at the front desk to check badges or student ID’s. After hours, people that have been granted authorized access by the Mason Police Dept (upon receipt of the appropriate documents) can use their card at the card reader to unlock the door and gain access to the building. It is not easy to establish one’s need to enter the building after hours however was granted such access due to the experiments I was conducting and my school schedule.
Once inside the building, there are additional security measures in place however it would be irresponsible for me to describe them in detail. What I will say is this...just because you have access to the building does not mean you have access to the Mason labs and certainly we had no access to the ATCC section. If we needed something from ATCC, we would order it just like any other company and it would actually be sent through UPS/FedEx just like for any other customer. I always thought that was very funny as it would have taken less time to walk across the street but we had no special access.
Now, why the security? The university has absolutely nothing of interest in the building except the standard lab supplies and equipment that could be found in any university laboratory. The bottom floor doesn’t even have any labs...just offices. I believe the security was mostly for theft control and such measures can be found even in a department store. You give the Center for Biodefense far too much mystery...it was just ordinary faculty offices and some BSL-2 labs...that’s it. The building was designed to have a BSL-3 lab suite however it was not used for that purpose...it wasn’t even completely set up for use at that level. I did general microbiology work on a vaccine strain (non pathogenic) of Francisella tularensis in that very suit and when I left, it was being used for extra storage space. I wouldn’t know if ATCC had a BSL-3 lab as we had no access to that area.
When talking about catalog rights in regards to students, we would be talking about a contract between the university and the students when the students are admitted to the program. Students agree to pay for the training specified in the catalog however were extremely displeased when the university changed things to the point where students could obtain the education for which they were paying. For my personal example, I was to earn a concentration in medical biodefense however they removed the courses I needed to take in order to do that other than “in name only”. There are many examples but they are not for this format. Suffice to say, students stopped receiving the education for which they were paying.
As far as security clearances go, it was just a standard university lab facility undeserving of such mystery and intrigue. Possession of security clearances were irrelevant. And as for access to the computer system, I had access too. It was nothing except access to the internet (just like at home) and whatever files you cared to save on your computer at work. Again, no mystery involved. Not even an intranet system.
I don’t wish to discuss my knowledge of any patents or publications having to do with Dr. Alibek, Dr. Bailey, or Dr. Morozov not because there is any intrigue about them but because I don’t have the full story regarding ownership or authorship. Without Dr. Bailey’s side of the story, I will keep my knowledge to myself as it is the responsible thing to do. You would have to ask Dr. Bailey for his level of involvement (contributions) regarding the patents and publications just as Mr. Willman should have asked Dr. Alibek for his side of the story.
I don’t understand what the big fuss is about regarding fax machines but at the time that I was there, I know of two different fax machines. One was in Occoquan Hall and one was in Discovery Hall. There may have been more but I know there were at least two of them.
In closing, don’t think about the Center like a small version of USAMRIID with classified work being executed and mysterious characters lurking about. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was just the regular university lab space complete with lack of supplies, broken equipment, and hardworking faculty and students. Nothing special.
Hope this helps.
In fact, after a few minutes consideration, I know there are a number of other fax machines distributed between at least the two buildings if not all three of the buildings.
I have absolutely no knowledge about Timimi or to what he had access.
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