Skip to comments.FBI Overlooks Iraq's Connection to Anthrax Attacks
Posted on 08/17/2002 3:30:47 AM PDT by Mohammed El-Shahawi
FBI Overlooks Iraq's Connection to Anthrax Attacks Phil Brennan, NewsMax.com Saturday, Aug. 17, 2002 Editor's note: Part one of series: FBI and Anthrax: Another TWA 800 in the Making? Part two: FBI Ignored Letter in Anthrax Probe. Part three: FBI Rejects Link Between Anthrax, 9-11 Terrorists.
BOCA RATON, Fla. Plenty of evidence implicates Iraq in the anthrax attacks on America. But the FBI doesn't seem interested.
Creating, or weaponizing, deadly inhalation anthrax spores is a highly sophisticated process. Some say that the spores involved in the attacks had all the earmarks of having been produced in some government's facility because the job would have been beyond the capability of a lone wolf working in a basement lab.
According to the Weekly Standard's opinion editor, David Tell: "In order to produce inhalation anthrax, bacterial spore-particles must be small enough no more than a couple or three microns wide to reach a victim's lower respiratory mucosa. And for decades, until very recently, scientists believed that the mechanical milling required to produce such fine dust artificially would also produce a charge of static electricity sufficient to bind anthrax spores together into oversized, harmless clumps.
"To prevent this from happening to keep the spores separate, 'floaty,' and therefore deadly bioweapons specialists in the United States and elsewhere went to considerable lengths to identify a chemical additive that would, like throwing a sheet of Bounce into your clothes dryer, remove the static.
"It has been widely reported, but never confirmed, that American scientists eventually settled on silica. It has been just as widely reported, and more or less confirmed, that the Soviet and Iraqi biowarfare programs each at some point used a substance called bentonite, instead."
Thus Iraq is ruled out. Right?
Writes Tell: "Before they were kicked out of Iraq for good, U.N. weapons inspectors concluded that Saddam's military biologists were no longer relying on mechanical milling machines to render dried-out paste-colonies of anthracis bacteria into fine dust, but had instead refined a spray drying technique that produced the dust in a single step. And the suspected key ingredient in this Iraqi innovation, interestingly enough: pharmaceutical-grade silica, a common industrial drying agent."
Moreover, Tell explains that Silica, or silicon dioxide, is simple quartz or sand, the most abundant solid material on Earth. "Bentonite" is the generic term for a class of natural or processed clays derived from volcanic ash, all of which are themselves mineral compounds of silica and not all of which necessarily contain aluminum.
In other words: Trace amounts of silica in an anthrax powder are consistent with the presence of bentonite. And the absence of aluminum from that powder is not enough to exculpate any foreign germ-warfare factory thought to have used bentonite in the past.
Tell is far from alone in believing that the anthrax used in the AMI and subsequentt attacks originated in Iraq.
Most convincing is the contention of Dr. Khidhir Hamza, a former top official in Iraq's program on weapons of mass destruction. He disagrees with the FBI's domestic terrorism hunch.
'This Is Saddam'
"This is Iraq," Hamza told CNBC. "This is Iraq's work.
"Nobody [else] has the expertise outside the U.S. and outside the major powers who work on germ warfare. Nobody has the expertise and has any motive to attack the U.S. except Saddam to do this. This is Iraq. This is Saddam."
The Iraqi weapons expert told CNBC that his homeland had developed the capability to weaponize anthrax even before he defected to the U.S. seven years ago, and continues to maintain that capability.
"I have absolutely no doubt," he said. "Iraq worked actually even before the Gulf War on perfecting the process of getting anthrax in the particle size needed in powder form to disseminate the way it is being disseminated now."
After linking the Iraqi dictator to the U.S. anthrax attacks, the man familiar with Saddam's secret doomsday strategy said he thought the anthrax contamination of America's postal system was just the opening salvo in Saddam's bioterror war on the U.S.
"Probaby this is the first wave," Dr. Hamza told CNBC. "I'm not trying to frighten everybody in this, but probably this is the first wave."
Whats Known About Iraqs Bioweapons
According to an analysis by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, U.N. documents from UNSCOM disclosed the following:
Iraq's anthrax surplus: Iraq developed several biological weapons agents, according to U.N. documents: anthrax, aflatoxin (causes liver cancer), clostridium botulinum toxin, clostridium perfringens spores, ricin, and wheat smut (for destroying crops). In its final report to the Security Council, UNSCOM determined that Iraq had not accounted for 520 kilograms of yeast extract growth medium specifically for anthrax. This amount of growth medium is sufficient for the production of 26,000 liters of anthrax spores more than three times the amount that Iraq declared before the UN.
Iraq's planned storage capacity for all its biological agents reached 80,000 to 100,000 liters.
Weaponized anthrax in Iraq: Anthrax spores were not developed for laboratory use alone, but were weaponized on a large scale by Iraq. UNSCOM inspectors found traces of anthrax spores in seven warheads from long-range al-Hussein missiles, with a range of 400 miles and thus capable of reaching Israel. About 200 biological aerial bombs were additionally produced. However, according to the U.N., Iraq's most effective biological weapons platform was a helicopter-borne aerosol generator that worked like an insecticide disseminator (perhaps intended for domestic use or against Iranian troops close to the Iraqi border).
The disseminator was successfully field tested. Dispersal research for biological weapons was conducted by Salman Pak Technical Research Center. Iraq engaged in genetic engineering research to produce antibiotic resistant strains of anthrax spores.
The success of this research is unknown.
Iraq possessed drying technologies for biological weapons: The Iraqis began working with drying technologies as early as 1974 to extend the shelf-life of these biological weapons. Iraq conducted drying studies for anthrax in 1989-90. Nonetheless, it formally denied having a drying capability in documents it submitted to the U.N. Security Council dated February 1999.
According to Baghdad's National Monitoring Directorate, Iraq was blocked from importing a special spray dryer for anthrax from a Danish company, Niro Atomizer. Claiming that its biological weapons were kept only in a wet slurry form, and thereby possessed a limited shelf life, Iraq argued that any remaining biological materials were no longer toxic, as it sought the lifting of U.N. sanctions.
Butler wrote that Iraq was trying to refine its crude anthrax "to the more potent, longer-living form of dry, small particles," but UNSCOM was not able to ascertain what level of proficiency had been achieved. Butler's former weapons inspectors told ABC News on Oct. 26 that Iraq had used bentonite as an additive to keep anthrax particles small.
Assessing Iraqi Connection to the U.S. Anthrax Attacks
Before 1995, when Iraq first admitted that it possessed an active biological weapons program, it is highly unlikely that Baghdad would have shared any details of its highly secretive program with any external terrorist group. From 1995 through 1998, when UNSCOM was still monitoring Iraq, any information leaks about its clandestine biological program would have endangered Baghdad's hopes of removing U.N. sanctions.
After 1998, with U.N. inspectors removed, Iraqi cooperation with international terrorist groups in the biological field cannot be ruled out. Salman Pak, outside of Baghdad, has been a notorious training ground for terrorists for years. Iraqi defectors have reported that "Islamicists" trained on a Boeing 707 in Salman Pak during 2000 (William Safire, New York Times, Oct. 22, 2001).
As noted, Salman Pak had also been one of the main Iraqi biological weapons centers as well. Thus, equipping international terrorists with biological agents and training them could be accomplished in one location.
Iraq could have supplied weapons-grade anthrax powder to international terrorist groups. Iraq probably possesses large amounts of anthrax growth medium for continuing production. Though the Soviet Union developed an antibiotic-resistant anthrax strain, Iraqi progress in the field is less certain. The anthrax used in the U.S. is responsive to antibiotic treatment. According to ABC News, the additive that Iraq characteristically put into its dried anthrax, bentonite, was found by a Maryland laboratory in the anthrax sent to Senate plurality leader Tom Daschle. Still, a White House official called this determination "an opinionated analysis."
Iraq has an interest in employing international bioterrorism. Iraq has no means of deterring a massive American-led attack on Baghdad. Using international terrorist cells planted in the U.S., Iraq could be sending a message that it possesses the ability to retaliate against a decapitation strike against the Iraqi regime. In this context, it is important to note that UNSCOM discovered the involvement of Iraq's Special Security Organization in its bioweapons program. This is the military unit that protects Saddam Hussein.
Biological weapons are potentially as destructive as small nuclear weapons. During the period of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq, Hussein demonstrated more determination to hide his bioweapons capability than all of his other non-conventional and missile programs. Biological weapons are Hussein's preferred weapons, in the near term. But these are political weapons, useful against the enemies of the Iraqi regime: Aflatoxin does not work on the battlefield but rather causes liver cancer over many years.
Butler told the Jerusalem Center last year that Tariq Aziz, Iraq's prime minister, admitted privately that Iraq's biological weapons were for "the Zionist entity."
It is premature to conclude at this point that Iraq stands behind the anthrax attacks in the United States. But the evidence from the U.N. weapons inspections of the 1990s makes Iraq a prime suspect.
Should Iraq become a target of the U.S. war on terrorism and Hussein feels his regime threatened, adequate domestic preparations need to be made in the U.S. and Israel in the event that Iraq decides to retaliate with bioweapons. Even if U.S. officials decide that Iraq is not the source of the anthrax attack, but nonetheless Iraq is attacked for other reasons, a biological response by Iraq cannot be ruled out. 
Iraq's Link to Atta
The Czech government has confirmed meetings between Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and a top Iraqi intelligence official in Prague last June. Reports that Osama bin Laden was able to buy anthrax from a factory in the Czech Republic add further legitimacy to suspicions of a foreign bioterror tie. Iraqs intelligence service is in charge of Iraqs anthrax program.
In spite of previous denials that the meeting ever took place, and deep doubts by the CIA and FBI, the White House later backed claims that Atta secretly met five months earlier with an Iraqi agent in Prague, a possible indication that Hussein's regime was involved in the terror attacks, according to the Washington Post.
Some knowledgeable sources have suggested that Atta was given anthrax during that meeting.
A new and startling piece of information has now been brought to light by David Tell. Writing in the Weekly Standard on July 17, Tell revealed that a Pakistani named Syed Athar Abbas had agreed to plead guilty to check-kiting charges.
"Abbas, it appears, "from on or about June 7, 2001, through on or about July 10, 2001," defrauded two banks, a Wells Fargo branch in Woodland Hills, California, and a Fleet Bank branch in Fort Lee, New Jersey, of slightly more than $100,000 by manipulating three checking accounts he'd opened for a bogus Fort Lee business alternately known as "Dot Com Computer" and "Cards.Com."
So what did he have to do with anthrax? A lot.
Tell reports that the FBI, "pursuing some thus far undisclosed lead, originally went looking for Abbas in the first few days after September 11 at his presumed address on the top floor of a commercial building in Fort Lee." That city, Tell notes, "is thought to have been home at some point to Nawaq and Salem Alhamzi, both of whom helped fly American Airlines Flight 77 into the side of the Pentagon."
The bureau couldnt find Abbas. His former landlord told the FBI that the man had suddenly abandoned his Fort Lee lease more than a month before and had disappeared without a trace. It turned out hed gone home to Pakistan to care for his dying father. All in all, it would appear that Syed Athar Abbas is not that big a deal.
He is. Thanks to a reporter named Rocco Parascandola, who covers law enforcement and the courts for Newsday in New York, we know why hes a big deal.
On Dec. 27, Parascandola noticed something very interesting about Abbas. When the FBI first sought to interview Abbas back in September, it did not discover that he was a run-of-the-mill check-kiting scam artist. What it did learn was Abbas was "an abruptly vanished fugitive who, using an alias, had recently "arranged to pay $100,000 in cash" roughly the amount he'd stolen from Wells Fargo and Fleet for the purchase and shipment of a "fine-food particulate mixer," a "sophisticated machine used commercially" to do various things you wouldn't expect an outfit called Computers Dot Com to do.
Such as "mix chemicals," for example," Tell writes.
Parascandola reported that it's been established Abbas did take possession of this machine at the "Computers Dot Com" offices in Fort Lee last summer, but had the thing "immediately transported elsewhere" before leaving for Pakistan.
Federal investigators "have not been able to locate the industrial food mixer" in question, which problem continues to be of some "concern," he reported. All the more so because, despite his guilty plea and promise of restitution to the banks he bilked, Abbas has "refused to cooperate with investigators trying to find out more about his accomplices or the mixer."
"The $100,000 particulate mixer Parascandola describes, incidentally, is the exact same technology commonly employed by major food and pharmaceutical manufacturers to process fluid-form organic and inorganic compounds into powder: first to dry those compounds; next to grind the resulting mixture into tiny specks of dust, as small as a single micron in diameter; then to coat those dust specks with a chemical additive, if necessary, to maximize their motility or 'floatiness'; and finally to aerate the stuff for end-use packaging. In other words, this is how you'd put Aunt Jemima pancake mix in its box. Or place concentrations of individual anthrax spores into letters addressed to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy."
Now this is dynamite, but it seems that the FBI is ignoring another explosive piece to the anthrax puzzle. Writes Tell: "I know of no hard evidence to suggest that Syed Athar Abbas is 'the' anthrax terrorist or any kind of anthrax terrorist, for that matter." What he does know, he says, is that "Mr. Abbas has been ignored."
Next: the FBI and Dr. Hatfill: another Richard Jewell case?
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) toasts senior Russian officers as they meet in Moscow's Kremlin, July 29, 2002. Putin took part in a military awards ceremony. REUTERS/ITAR-TASS/KREMLIN PRESS SERVICE
1 The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
Israel Beloved of God
2 "I have loved you," says the LORD.
"Yet you say, "In what way have You loved us?'
Was not Esau Jacob's brother?"
Says the LORD.
"Yet Jacob I have loved;
3But Esau I have hated,
And laid waste his mountains and his heritage
For the jackals of the wilderness."
4Even though Edom has said,
"We have been impoverished,
But we will return and build the desolate places,"
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
"They may build, but I will throw down;
They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness,
And the people against whom the LORD will have indignation forever.
5Your eyes shall see,
And you shall say,
"The LORD is magnified beyond the border of Israel.'
Edom: Literally Red
Edom has said, we are impoverished [give us wheat, IMF money]
We will return, and build the desolate places [Ancient Babylon/Iraq]
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