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Report Linking Anthrax and Hijackers Is Investigated
New York Times ^ | 3/23/02 | WILLIAM J. BROAD and DAVID JOHNSTON

Posted on 03/22/2002 11:41:11 PM PST by kattracks

The two men identified themselves as pilots when they came to the emergency room of Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last June. One had an ugly, dark lesion on his leg that he said he developed after bumping into a suitcase two months earlier. Dr. Christos Tsonas thought the injury was curious, but he cleaned it, prescribed an antibiotic for infection and sent the men away with hardly another thought.

But after Sept. 11, when federal investigators found the medicine among the possessions of one of the hijackers, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Dr. Tsonas reviewed the case and arrived at a new diagnosis. The lesion, he said in an interview this week, "was consistent with cutaneous anthrax."

Dr. Tsonas's assertion, first made to the F.B.I. in October but never disclosed, has added another layer of mystery to the investigation of last fall's deadly anthrax attacks, which has yet to focus on a specific suspect.

The possibility of a connection between the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent anthrax-laced letters has been explored by officials since the first anthrax cases emerged in October. But a recent memorandum, prepared by experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, and circulated among top government officials, has renewed a debate about the evidence.

The group, which interviewed Dr. Tsonas, concluded that the diagnosis of cutaneous anthrax, which causes skin lesions, was "the most probable and coherent interpretation of the data available." The memorandum added, "Such a conclusion of course raises the possibility that the hijackers were handling anthrax and were the perpetrators of the anthrax letter attacks."

A senior intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, had recently read the Hopkins memorandum and that the issue has been examined by both the C.I.A. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"No one is dismissing this," the official said. "We received the memo and are working with the bureau to insure that it continues to be pursued."

In their public comments, federal officials have said they are focusing largely on the possibility that the anthrax attacks were the work of a domestic perpetrator. They have hunted for suspects among scientists and others who work at laboratories that handle germs.

The disclosure about Mr. Alhaznawi, who died on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, sheds light on another front in the investigation. Senior law enforcement officials said that in addition to interviewing Dr. Tsonas in October and again in November, they thoroughly explored any connection between the hijackers and anthrax. They said the F.B.I. scoured the cars, apartments and personal effects of the hijackers for evidence of the germ, but found none.

Dr. Tsonas's comments add to a tantalizing array of circumstantial evidence. Some of the hijackers, including Mr. Alhaznawi, lived and attended flight school near American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla., where the first victim of the anthrax attacks worked. Some of the hijackers also rented apartments from a real estate agent who was the wife of an editor of The Sun, a publication of American Media.

In addition, in October, a pharmacist in Delray Beach, Fla., said he had told the F.B.I. that two of the hijackers, Mohamad Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, came into the pharmacy looking for something to treat irritations on Mr. Atta's hands.

If the hijackers did have anthrax, they would probably have needed an accomplice to mail the tainted letters, bioterrorism experts knowledgeable about the case said. The four recovered anthrax letters were postmarked on Sept. 18 and Oct. 9 in Trenton. It is also possible, experts added, that if the hijackers had come into contact with anthrax, it was entirely separate from the supply used by the letter sender.

For his part, Dr. Tsonas said he believed that the hijackers probably did have anthrax.

"What were they doing looking at crop-dusters?" he asked, echoing experts' fears that the hijackers may have wanted to spread lethal germs. "There are too many coincidences."

In recent interviews, Dr. Tsonas, an emergency room doctor, said Mr. Alhaznawi came into the hospital one evening in June 2001, along with a man who federal investigators believe was another hijacker, Ziad al-Jarrah, believed to have taken over the controls of United Flight 93.

They used their own names, he added, not aliases.

"They were well-dressed foreigners," he said. "I assumed they were tourists."

The men explained that Mr. Alhaznawi had developed the ulcer after hitting his leg on a suitcase two months earlier. Dr. Tsonas recalled that Mr. Alhaznawi appeared to be in good health, and that he denied having an illness like diabetes that might predispose him to such lesions. The wound, he recalled, was a little less than an inch wide and blackish, its edges raised and red.

Dr. Tsonas said he removed the dry scab over the wound, cleansed it and prescribed Keflex, an antibiotic that is widely used to combat bacterial infections but is not specifically recommended for anthrax.

The encounter lasted perhaps 10 minutes, Dr. Tsonas said.

He took no cultures and had no thoughts of anthrax, a disease at that time was extremely rare in the United States and was unfamiliar even to most doctors.

In October, amid news reports about the first anthrax victims, Dr. Tsonas, like other doctors, threw himself into learning more about the disease. An incentive was that his hospital is relatively near American Media, so victims there might come to Holy Cross for treatment.

Dr. Tsonas said he forgot entirely about the two men until federal agents in October showed him pictures of Mr. Alhaznawi and Mr. Jarrah, and he made positive identifications.

Then, agents gave Dr. Tsonas a copy of his own notes from the emergency room visit and he read them. "I said, `Oh, my God, my written description is consistent with cutaneous anthrax,' " Dr. Tsonas recalled. "I was surprised."

He discussed the disease and its symptoms with the agents, explaining what else could possibly explain the leg wound. A spider bite was unlikely, he said. As for the hijacker's explanation — a suitcase bump — he also judged that unlikely.

"That's a little unusual for a healthy guy, but not impossible," he said.

After his meetings with F.B.I., Dr. Tsonas was contacted early this year by a senior federal medical expert, who asked him detailed questions about the tentative diagnosis.

Last month, experts at Johns Hopkins also called Dr. Tsonas, saying they, too, were studying the evidence. The Hopkins analysis was done by Dr. Thomas Inglesby and Dr. Tara O'Toole, director of the center in Baltimore and an assistant secretary for health and safety at the federal Energy Department from 1993 to 1997.

In an interview, Dr. O'Toole said that after consulting with additional medical experts on the Alhaznawi case, she was "more persuaded than ever" that the diagnosis of cutaneous anthrax was correct.

She said the Florida mystery, as well as the entire anthrax inquiry, might benefit from a wider vetting.

"This is a unique investigation that has many highly technical aspects," she said. "There's legitimate concern that the F.B.I. may not have access to the kinds of expertise that could be essential in putting all these pieces together."

John E. Collingwood, an F.B.I. spokesman, said the possibility of a connection between the hijackers and the anthrax attacks had been deeply explored.

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



TOPICS: Anthrax Scare; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: alhaznawi; anthrax; anthraxscarelist; antraz; atta; bioterror; haznawi; hijackers; wmd
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1 posted on 03/22/2002 11:41:11 PM PST by kattracks
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To: kattracks
I trust the feebs about as far as I could carry a piano up a glass hill.
2 posted on 03/22/2002 11:49:42 PM PST by Zorobabel
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To: kattracks
We talked about this a lot many months ago.

This idea was all over Free Republic.

What does it take the NY Times five months for?

3 posted on 03/22/2002 11:56:40 PM PST by tallhappy
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To: Mitchell
SuperPing
4 posted on 03/22/2002 11:59:58 PM PST by Nogbad
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To: keri
superPing
5 posted on 03/23/2002 12:00:36 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: The Great Satan
superPing
6 posted on 03/23/2002 12:01:25 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: alamo-Girl
superPing
7 posted on 03/23/2002 12:02:05 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: tallhappy
I know, here we are again. The meetings between Atta and the Iraqi intelligence boss in Prague, the forgotten first death from anthrax at the tabloid building a few miles from the terrorists rented houses and the crop dusters....on and on.
8 posted on 03/23/2002 12:03:10 AM PST by Travis McGee
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To: nimdoc; Dark Wing; Black Jade; Thud; Ranger; t-shirt; John H K;
superPing

(Sorry about that, John H K)

9 posted on 03/23/2002 12:08:27 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: right_to_defend; aristeides; patriciaruth; maestro; M. Thatcher
superPing
10 posted on 03/23/2002 12:09:24 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: Fabozz; Reactionary
superPing
11 posted on 03/23/2002 12:11:58 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: Clinton's a Rapist
Are you still there?

Or have you changed your name??

12 posted on 03/23/2002 12:13:34 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: Travis McGee
Wonder if they tested any old aircraft hangars down here in Florida for anthrax. Such hangars are easy to rent, easy to secure, and quite private. If these hijackers were doing anything on the side besides learning to fly, a hangar would be a logical, airy place in which to work- much more so than an apartment. Since they were in flight school, people would be familiar enough with them to not be concerned about them being up to no good in aircraft hangers.

I still find it interesting how the copycat kid pilot's handwriting on his suicide note was written at the same extreme angle as the hijacker's letters. Where is this kid's dad again?

13 posted on 03/23/2002 12:20:35 AM PST by piasa
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To: okie01; expose
superPIng
14 posted on 03/23/2002 12:21:22 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: kattracks
RELATED LINK
15 posted on 03/23/2002 12:27:47 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: black jade
The link to the anthrax in the Czech Republic?. Atta. Full circle to the Czech Republic cases.
16 posted on 03/23/2002 12:37:35 AM PST by duck soup
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To: all
I see in this forum tonight four different threads,
relating the terrorists to anthrax.

Are we being prepared for some new revelation??

(Removing my tin-foil hat).

17 posted on 03/23/2002 12:50:02 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: Nogbad
If the FBI spoon-fed this story to Broad at the NYT, that may be a sign that the "domestic focus" stall is "no longer operative," or at least due for a slow fade. OTOH, while most of Broad's stories recently have been just recycled spin, the NYT did do some good, independent reporting on the anthrax situation early on. To my knowledge, the NYT was the first paper to suggest that "we may be at war with Iraq without knowing it," and they were also the first to debunk the spin that the Daschle anthrax wasn't truly weaponized. So it may be that this story represents genuine legwork on Broad's part. I actually hope it's regurgitated spin: that would imply that the administration is getting close to naming the real culprit (Saddam), which would in turn suggest they have evaluated the threat as manageable and we are ready to go to war. Complicated, isn't it?
18 posted on 03/23/2002 1:14:06 AM PST by The Great Satan
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To: *Anthrax_Scare_List
Indexing
19 posted on 03/23/2002 1:21:39 AM PST by Lion's Cub
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To: kattracks
Dr. Tsonas's assertion, first made to the F.B.I. in October but never disclosed, has added another layer of mystery to the investigation of last fall's deadly anthrax attacks, which has yet to focus on a specific suspect.

Well, fancy that!

20 posted on 03/23/2002 1:22:56 AM PST by The Great Satan
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To: Nogbad
Probably not, unless they were all new... I just bumped a lot of old anthrax threads up to the top tonight while trying to dig through my favorites list. I was looking for the thread about animal carcasses in Afghanistan showing up on recon photos.
21 posted on 03/23/2002 1:29:12 AM PST by piasa
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To: piasa
I don't know what you bumped,
but two of the stories
(unrelated, supposedly)
are from today's
(March 23)
New York Times.

Curious 'coincidence'?

22 posted on 03/23/2002 2:05:04 AM PST by Nogbad
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To: Nogbad
Well, if they both came from the NYTimes, they probably are related. I've no doubt that something is up.

The pucker factor is really getting up there for someone.

I bumped Osama bought a batch for 10 Gs

Scientists Confirm bin Laden Weapons Test

And here's another article in my list...

Secrets of Dr. Germ

23 posted on 03/23/2002 2:31:02 AM PST by piasa
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To: tallhappy
What does it take the NY Times five months for?
Well now that is the question isn't it. If any Freeper can figure out before their first cup of coffee that the anthrax attacks followed the hijackers' itinerary and stopped when they hit the buildings - and that the likeliest source for the anthrax was Atta's contact with Iraqi spies, you can only conclude that the NYT was being a team player in not asking questions about something this obvious.

The next question is how obvious is it - after we now know about Richard Reid - that AA587 was bombed?

24 posted on 03/23/2002 3:18:11 AM PST by eno_
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To: Travis McGee
and the crop dusters....
Thanks for the reminder! Remember: There is still a State Department owned Ayers cropduster with a armoured cockpit and long-range capbility that went missing between spraying cocoa in South America and it's return to Florida.
25 posted on 03/23/2002 3:21:33 AM PST by eno_
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To: Nogbad
This report sounds familiar. The only thing new is the added detail of the doctor's description of the lesion in his notes. Out here the first thought would have been a brown recluse spider bite. I've never seen anthrax either.

So there are really two mysteries I'd like solved before I check out, who sent the anthrax (were there two sets of perps--the terrorists in Florida and a domestic nutcase in New Jersey?) and then the most fun mystery, who is Deep Throat? I have a private bet going with my husband on that one.

26 posted on 03/23/2002 3:27:50 AM PST by patriciaruth
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To: The Great Satan
"Dr. Tsonas said he forgot entirely about the two men until federal agents in October showed him pictures of Mr. Alhaznawi and Mr. Jarrah, and he made positive identifications.

Then, agents gave Dr. Tsonas a copy of his own notes from the emergency room visit and he read them. "I said, `Oh, my God, my written description is consistent with cutaneous anthrax,' " Dr. Tsonas recalled. "I was surprised."

The FBI was apparently on top of this before this doctor even remembered it -- it doesn't seem that they could find any trace of anthrax in places where the hijackers had been, which perhaps indicates that there had to be a separate facility involved. What if these guys had anthrax that was totally unrelated to the letters? What if there were multiple agents with anthrax? That might explain the inability to connect the dots between New Jersey and Florida.

27 posted on 03/23/2002 4:52:47 AM PST by browardchad
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To: Travis McGee
The meetings between Atta and the Iraqi intelligence boss in Prague, the forgotten first death from anthrax at the tabloid building a few miles from the terrorists rented houses and the crop dusters....on and on.

It is impossible for the FBI to know where the hijackers were minute by minute for the months they were here. All they can do is check out known places. It's not also out of the realm of possibility that they could've passed on the anthrax to an associate from another al Qaeda cell or an al Qaeda operative with instructions to mail out the anthrax post-9/11 to cause more chaos and terror.

28 posted on 03/23/2002 4:58:12 AM PST by Catspaw
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To: eno_
Here's a theory on that: It was stolen, but crashed. Pilot error.
29 posted on 03/23/2002 5:02:09 AM PST by bvw
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To: kattracks
The disclosure about Mr. Alhaznawi, who died on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, sheds light on another front in the investigation.

Every one else in this article is referred to using a professional title or full name. The low life terrorist is referred to as Mister who was killed in the crash which he and his terrorist cohorts orchestrated. Only in the NY Times, and perhaps the Washington Post, the two most liberal rags in the country ... would you see such convuluted PC crap.

30 posted on 03/23/2002 5:27:16 AM PST by BluH2o
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To: The Great Satan; Clinton's a Rapist; anthrax_scare_list; mitchell; nogbad; gumbo; betty jo; bvw...
Remember that this is the week the New Yorker ran an article about Iraq's connection with genocide, poison gas, and Al Qaeda, together with suggestions that it has employed biological agents in the past. That article, by Jeffey Goldberg, is certainly not just stuff fed by the government -- Goldberg did significant legwork of his own. But I think the fact that these articles are appearing now is no coincidence.

Clinton's a Rapist (are you the same guy, Great Satan?) pretty clearly was right in his theory that the blackmailed U.S. government was unwilling to pin the blame on Iraq until we were ready to go to war with that country.

31 posted on 03/23/2002 5:56:12 AM PST by aristeides
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To: bvw
Plausible, but not neccessarily the highest probability. The cropduster was configured for a ferrying trip - using large internal and external tanks for fuel. It had a VERY long range, much much farther than any conventional light plane. It could have made it to Mexico or Central America from the island (forgot which) it started from. Then again, as you point out, the person who stole it might have not known how to switch fuel tanks and had to ditch in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Weather was mild at the time the plane disappeared.

I would also say it is likely that, just by the number of arrests made after 9/11, we messed up the schedule on at least a handful of ops under way.

32 posted on 03/23/2002 6:03:44 AM PST by eno_
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To: Nogbad
Thank you so much for the heads up!!!

IMHO, it could be - from all these breaking news items connecting anthrax to 911 - that many Freepers will be vindicated. We've been suggesting that the government already knew Iraq was the state behind the WMD attack of al Queda but were not ready to tackle them until the Afghanistan problem had been mostly resolved to free up the military and put together the battle plan.

The timing of these "leaks" supports that idea. Cheney is completing the whirlwind tour to drum up support against Iraq following Dubya's state of the union address formally equating WMD development to terrorism.

33 posted on 03/23/2002 6:15:03 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: aristeides; OKCSubmariner
Bump. This is an independent article not getting wide distribution but very curious in its delayed timing and conclusions. Shoots big holes in the domestic source theory.
34 posted on 03/23/2002 6:18:57 AM PST by flamefront
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To: aristeides
The New Yorker does not seem to have put the Jeffrey Goldberg piece, "The Great Terror," on its Web site, but here's a LINK to an interview with the author, which also contains a summary of the article:

In this week's issue, Jeffrey Goldberg reports from Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, where, in the late nineteen-eighties, Saddam Hussein waged a devastating chemical and, possibly, biological war against the Kurdish people. Today, the Kurds have achieved limited autonomy, thanks to the U.S.-British no-fly zone, but they still face the threat of ethnic cleansing. Goldberg's report also raises questions about fears of future biochemical attacks against America or Israel—as well as Iraq's possible links to Al Qaeda.

35 posted on 03/23/2002 6:19:15 AM PST by aristeides
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To: BluH2o
Mr.='British'__________!

IMHO

36 posted on 03/23/2002 6:22:14 AM PST by maestro
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To: tallhappy
We talked about this a lot many months ago. This idea was all over Free Republic.

But this story is completely new, with new information. Let's review:

Previous stories have mentioned that Two of the hijackers, Marwan Alshehhi and Saeed Alghamdi, rented an apartment from the first anthrax victim.

We also know that Mohamed Atta went to a pharmacy in late August for treatment for skin and chest irritation..

This is more than just a series of coincidences. At any rate, it is beyond dispute that the cell was involved in the Florida anthrax attacks.

37 posted on 03/23/2002 6:37:22 AM PST by denydenydeny
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To: tallhappy
What does it take the NY Times five months for?

It seems to me that any qualified journalist or media outlet out to crack the anthrax case in the early stages, after the Florida death, would have jumped all over this lead. That's the problem with reporting these days, they report these bits and pieces of stories with news flashes and no follow up. Here at FR all of the reports seem to be investigated and pieced together so well that it puts the so-called investigative reporters to shame.

38 posted on 03/23/2002 6:41:18 AM PST by freeperfromnj
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To: freeperfromnj
YOUR#38)..............................BTTT
39 posted on 03/23/2002 6:53:51 AM PST by maestro
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To: BluH2o
Every one else in this article is referred to using a professional title or full name. The low life terrorist is referred to as Mister who was killed in the crash which he and his terrorist cohorts orchestrated. Only in the NY Times, and perhaps the Washington Post, the two most liberal rags in the country ... would you see such convuluted PC crap.

It's the New York Times style; always has been -- a leftover quaintness from its beginnings as a "polite" newspaper. Nothing to do with PC and everything to do with hidebound tradition.

40 posted on 03/23/2002 7:16:20 AM PST by M. Thatcher
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To: kattracks
Hilarious. I didn't think the FBI was sophisticated enough to try to add credibility to a story by portraying themselves as clueless liars.
41 posted on 03/23/2002 7:55:37 AM PST by Thud
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To: Nogbad
Stay tuned. It's finally breaking.
42 posted on 03/23/2002 8:44:20 AM PST by keri
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To: Nogbad
Thanks for the super-ping :-). This is the first real article (in the established media) on the anthrax attack since the very early days. It's also the first article in a long time which has new information.

This may mean that we're getting closer to an attack on Iraq. On the other hand, it might just mean that the Rosenberg story was getting too firmly entrenched and, knowing that it would eventually have to be discredited, someone knowledgeable decided to feed us this tidbit. In any case, it's a welcome change.

Notice how the article even questions whether the FBI has the necessary expertise to pursue this properly.

43 posted on 03/23/2002 8:58:10 AM PST by Mitchell
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To: piasa
I still find it interesting how the copycat kid pilot's handwriting on his suicide note was written at the same extreme angle as the hijacker's letters.

Where did you see a copy of his suicide note? I didn't realize that a photograph had been released.

44 posted on 03/23/2002 9:00:21 AM PST by Mitchell
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To: The Great Satan
If the FBI spoon-fed this story to Broad at the NYT, that may be a sign that the "domestic focus" stall is "no longer operative," or at least due for a slow fade. OTOH, while most of Broad's stories recently have been just recycled spin, the NYT did do some good, independent reporting on the anthrax situation early on. To my knowledge, the NYT was the first paper to suggest that "we may be at war with Iraq without knowing it," and they were also the first to debunk the spin that the Daschle anthrax wasn't truly weaponized. So it may be that this story represents genuine legwork on Broad's part. I actually hope it's regurgitated spin: that would imply that the administration is getting close to naming the real culprit (Saddam), which would in turn suggest they have evaluated the threat as manageable and we are ready to go to war. Complicated, isn't it?

It's more than just spoon-fed from the FBI, because of the comments near the end questioning whether the FBI has the necessary expertise to pursue this. That's unlikely to have been in the FBI's spin!

45 posted on 03/23/2002 9:02:35 AM PST by Mitchell
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To: patriciaruth
This report sounds familiar. The only thing new is the added detail of the doctor's description of the lesion in his notes.

There's more new information than that. The article includes the names of two specific terrorists who are now linked to the anthrax attack (Alhaznawi and Jarrah). It also gives a time frame (June, 2001).

46 posted on 03/23/2002 9:08:00 AM PST by Mitchell
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To: Thud
Hilarious. I didn't think the FBI was sophisticated enough to try to add credibility to a story by portraying themselves as clueless liars.

I don't think the FBI would do that. That's why I don't think this article is just regurgitated FBI material. Either it's from some other source, or possibly it's from the FBI but the reporter did additional independent research (talking to the doctor, etc.).

47 posted on 03/23/2002 9:14:54 AM PST by Mitchell
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To: duck soup; aristeides; Nogbad; gumbo; Thud; aristeides; keri; Alamo-Girl; muawiyah...
The link to the anthrax in the Czech Republic?. Atta. Full circle to the Czech Republic cases.

Atta is said to have visisted Prague in April, 2001. The hospital visit mentioned in this article was in June. The timing is perfectly consistent.

48 posted on 03/23/2002 9:19:39 AM PST by Mitchell
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To: aristeides;Fred Mertz;OKC Submariner;backhoe;
Thanks for pinging me!

Isnt this info what we knew all along....that its the terrorists who did and are doing the anthrax, not Americans?

Isnt it cute that the FBI just now releases this?

On orders from what mastermind....Bush...Ashcroft,Mueller,Cheney?

I guess its time to get us all psyched up for killing Saddam!

I just wish for once in my lifetime that our government would tell us the truth from the beginning!

Right now, I'm about code red , with anger!

49 posted on 03/23/2002 9:28:20 AM PST by Betty Jo
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To: Mitchell
It is very convenient that this comes out now.
50 posted on 03/23/2002 9:40:13 AM PST by Thud
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