Skip to comments.FBI and Anthrax: Another TWA 800 in the Making?
Posted on 08/14/2002 10:20:03 AM PDT by Mohammed El-Shahawi
Phil Brennan, NewsMax.com Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2002 The FBI's anthrax probe is looking like a repeat of its bungled "investigation" into the crash of TWA Flight 800. The bureau locked itself into a theory that an exploding fuel tank caused the crash. It strained to ignore hundreds of credible eyewitness accounts that showed that in all probability a missile had destroyed the aircraft in midflight.
In the fruitless attempt to locate the perpetrators of the anthrax attacks that took place in the U.S. after the Sept. 11 hijackings, the FBI is once again ignoring evidence that conflicts with its predetermined and wrongheaded theory of who was behind this biowarfare.
The FBI's almost year-long investigation of the anthrax attacks that killed five Americans is all but stalled, with the only new information being that the deadly spores were newly made, and not from old batches as originally thought.
And by fixating on the theory that the perpetrator was a lone wolf, mad bomber-type who probably worked in a government biowarfare laboratory, the bureau has scampered down a blind alley, ignoring or discounting out-of-hand evidence that indicates the anthrax-through-mail attacks may well have been the work of foreign terrorists.
In pursuit of this theory the bureau has zeroed in on a respected scientist. With no credible evidence it has all but accused Dr. Steven Hatfill of mailing the deadly anthrax letters, and it has leaked damaging information to the media about the man all the while saying he is not a suspect.
The Florida Connection
A meticulous examination of the anthrax case has led NewsMax.com to conclude that the most likely answer to the puzzle can be found by taking a careful look at the first target of the attack: American Media Inc. (AMI) in Boca Raton, Fla. It has all the elements needed to piece together a credible account of what took place there and supply numerous clues as to the identities of the attackers.
We begin this first of a six-part series with a recapitulation of what is known about that tragic incident which cost the life of one innocent victim and almost killed another.
On Oct. 2, 2001, Bob Stevens, a 63-year-old photo editor at the Sun, an AMI tabloid, awoke in his Lantana home around 2:30 a.m. He was so disoriented that he tried to get up and get dressed to go to work, alerting his wife that something was terribly wrong with her husband.
The couple had returned early from a vacation in North Carolina because Stevens had begun to feel ill on Sept. 30. Now, two days later, he was feverish and in a confused mental state.
His wife bundled him in their car and drove him to the emergency room at the JFK Medical Center in nearby Atlantis. At the hospital, he soon lost consciousness. Confused by the symptoms, the medical staff scrambled to diagnose and treat his strange illness.
The first tentative diagnosis was classic meningitis, but a specialist in infectious disease noted that Stevens spinal fluid specimen contained unusual bacteria that are not the typical cause of meningitis. Ominously, the bacteria he was looking at had not been seen clinically in the United States in almost 25 years.
Within 48 hours, more tests at specialized laboratories confirmed his suspicions that he was dealing with a case of inhalation anthrax, the first such case in the U.S. in a quarter-century. Stevens went into a coma and died Oct. 5, apparently the first victim of anthrax spores sent through the U.S. mail.
On Oct. 1, the day before Stevens was hospitalized, Ernesto Blanco, 73, an American Media Inc. mailroom employee, was hospitalized in Miami with what was thought to be pneumonia.
On Oct. 7 the federal Centers for Disease Control, called in as a result of the Stevens case, sealed off the AMI building because test samples revealed anthrax spores on Stevens' computer keyboard and in Blancos nasal passages.
The next day Blancos family was told he had tested positive for anthrax exposure. He did not yet, however, show signs of having an anthrax infection.
Aware that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers had lived nearby, the FBI checked places where they had stayed and found no traces of anthrax. It concluded that the AMI case was an isolated case of "foul play."
Quickly Proved Wrong
On Oct. 10 the FBI announced that a third AMI employee has tested positive for anthrax exposure. The case was now a full-blown criminal investigation.
The next day they reported finding additional anthrax spores in the AMI mailroom. The third AMI employee to test positive for anthrax exposure, Stephanie Dailey, 36, said she was at home, taking antibiotics and feeling well.
By Oct. 13, five more AMI employees tested positive for the presence of anthrax bacteria. The employees were put on antibiotics, and authorities reported that they were not expected to develop the disease.
That same day, health officials announced that Ernesto Blanco was suffering from inhalation anthrax. In the meantime, anthrax-laced letters had begun to turn up in Washington and New York. Blanco was finally released from the hospital, miraculously cured of the usually fatal disease after 23 days at deaths door.
By the end of October the anthrax death toll had risen to four with the death of New York City hospital worker Kathy Nguyen, 61. Significantly, she had worked in a medical supply room in the basement of Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, in an area that once housed a mailroom.
According to ABC News, all told there were 17 cases of infections nationwide. Those felled by inhalation were:
Florida: Robert Stevens, photo editor at American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, died of inhalation anthrax.
Washington: Postal workers Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr. died of inhalation anthrax. Both worked at the Brentwood mail processing center.
New York: Kathy Nguyen, hospital supply room worker, died of inhalation anthrax.
Washington: Two other Brentwood workers, also inhalation anthrax.
Washington area: State Department mailroom employee, inhalation anthrax.
Florida: Ernesto Blanco, who worked in same building as Robert Stevens, diagnosed with inhalation anthrax; released from hospital on Oct. 24.
New Jersey: Two Hamilton Township postal workers, inhalation anthrax. Those afflicted by cutaneous (skin) infection:
New York: "NBC Nightly News," assistant to anchorman Tom Brokaw; ABC News, infant son of producer; CBS News, female assistant to anchorman Dan Rather; New York Post employee.
New Jersey: West Trenton postal worker; Hamilton Township mail processing employee; Hamilton Township bookkeeper. There were four suspected cases:
Two in New York: a New York Post employee suspected case of cutaneous anthrax, and an ABC employee, suspected case of cutaneous anthrax.
Two in New Jersey: a Hamilton Township mail processing employee suspected case of cutaneous anthrax, and a Camden County postal worker suspected case of cutaneous anthrax. Also in Pakistan
Spores were also found in the workplace mail bin for a New Jersey bookkeeper who had skin anthrax. The bacteria spores also showed up overseas: on letters sent to several locations in Pakistan and on at least one mailbag at the U.S. embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania.
An Environmental Protection Agency sampling of the three-story AMI building revealed that of 462 swab samples taken in late October and early November from floors, desks and air ducts, 84 came back positive. The EPA sampling found the first floor held the most spores, specifically near the mailroom, library and security area.
Investigators assumed the bacteria showed up in a letter or letters, but no piece of tainted mail was ever found.
Spores also were found on 10 carpet samples from the second-floor carpet and in eight spots on the third floor, where Stevens worked.
Significantly, anthrax spores were also found in the post office in Boca Raton that serviced AMI.
On Nov. 2, FBI director Robert Mueller admitted that after weeks of investigation, the government had no idea who was behind the anthrax attacks. He appealed to the public for help.
But a mere seven days later, on Nov. 9, the bureau said it was becoming more and more convinced that the person behind the anthrax attacks was a lone wolf within the United States who had no links to terrorist groups but was an "opportunist" using the Sept. 11 hijackings to vent his rage.
A mere two months after the AMI attack, with abundant evidence suggesting a terrorist link, which will be revealed in coming installments of this series, the FBI turned its back on the AMI terrorist connection and began its hopeless journey down the blind alley.
Sigh. Tinfoil alert! Actually the FBI presumed it was a bomb or missile and the NTSB had to convince them there was no evidence of a bomb or missile.
I eagerly await Mr. Brennan's follow-up articles.
The past couple of weeks have provided us additional reason to consider the possibility that the Olympic Park bombings in Atlanta, simultaneous with TWA 800, were also Middle Eastern: the bomb that was recently set off at Hebrew University in Jerusalem was in a backpack and contained nails. That sounds just like the bombs in Atlanta.
If TWA 800 was downed to disrupt the '96 Olympics in Atlanta, what does that tell us about the bombings in Atlanta? Steve Hatfill may have more in common with Richard Jewell than one realizes at first blush.
And it soon became obvious that the one constant in the US "investigation" was that, whatever else we were supposed to think -- that the anthrax came from a mountain stream, or a pissed-off celebrity, or the Wiccans, or Idaho militiamen, or a rogue government scientist -- the one constant is we weren't supposed to make the connection with Atta.
Hey, blackmail victims usually don't run around trumpeting that they are being blackmailed, do they? So why should we be surprised?
There is ample reason to be suspicious about TW 800.
But I'm initially skeptical about the Olympic Park bombing having a Middle East connection. There is nothing particularly mysterious about the bomb's construction. And, as successful as it was in disrupting and disconcerting the country and the administration, one would think it would've been repeated, were there a terrorist link. It's possible but, to my mind, unlikely.
Frankly, I'm a little perplexed that the garden-variety suicide bomber technique hasn't been employed in the US...as yet.
The media, I fear, would be delighted by the story opp.
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