CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

* a continuing flood of anthrax hoaxes

Posted by DXer on April 17, 2009

Since the deadly mailings in 2001, the U.S. has spent $50 billion to bolster biological defenses. The cost is raised by a flood of threats that ultimately prove harmless.

By Bob Drogin, LA Times, March 8, 2009

In the 7 1/2 years since America’s worst bioterrorist attack — when letters laced with anthrax spores killed five people, closed Congress and the Supreme Court, and crippled mail service for months — U.S. agencies have spent more than $50 billion to beef up biological defenses.

No other anthrax attacks have occurred.

But a flood of anthrax hoaxes and false alarms have raised the cost considerably through lost work, emergency evacuations, decontamination efforts, first-responders’ time and the emotional distress of the victims.

That, experts say, is often the hoaxer’s goal.

“It’s easy, it’s cheap, and very few perpetrators get caught,” said Leonard Cole, a political scientist at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., who studies bioterrorism. “People do it for a sense of power.”

Among the recent targets: nearly all 50 governors’ offices; about 100 U.S. embassies abroad; 52 banks; 36 news organizations; ticket booths at Disneyland; Mormon temples in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles; town halls in Batavia, Ohio, and Ellenville, N.Y.; a funeral home and day-care center in Ocala, Fla.; a sheriff’s office in Eagle, Colo.; and homes in Ely River, N.M.

The FBI has investigated about 1,000 such “white powder events” as possible terrorist threats since the start of 2007, spokesman Richard Kolko said. The bureau responds if a letter contains a written threat or is mailed to a federal official.

“Some of these knuckleheads think because they’re not sending a dangerous substance, it’s not a crime,” Kolko said. “But it is a crime. We don’t treat a hoax as a joke.”

In one recent case, emergency crews cleared and sealed a Department of Homeland Security office in Washington after a senior official, who had received a package at home containing white powder and a dead fish, brought it to work for inspection.

The contents proved harmless, and the official, who collects intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, remains a department employee, a spokeswoman said.

Other cases, however, are more worrisome.

The FBI is trying to figure out who mailed about 150 letters late last year that contained powder and threatening notes. The envelopes were sent from the Dallas area to U.S. embassies in various countries and to most U.S. governors.

“It’s possible that the final two or three letters went to governors who are no longer in office,” said Mark White, an FBI spokesman in Dallas. “They may still trickle in.”

One letter, for example, was addressed to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who left office two years ago. When it arrived in Boston, someone marked “return to sender” on the envelope and popped it back in the mail. The return address was the FBI office in El Paso.

White powder spilled out when an FBI clerk there opened it Feb. 12. Anxious officials emptied the Federal Justice Center, sending more than 300 FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement personnel home. The powder proved to be baking soda, White said.

The Justice Department was able to bring criminal charges in two other high-profile cases.

Richard L. Goyette, 47, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Amarillo, Texas, to charges of mailing 65 threatening letters to banks and other financial institutions in October. The envelopes contained white powder and a warning that the recipient would die within 10 days.

According to prosecutors, Goyette was distraught after losing $63,525 when federal regulators seized Washington Mutual Bank and placed it in receivership. The FBI said it traced him through angry e-mails that he sent to the banks.

If convicted, Goyette would face a maximum five-year prison term on each charge, although sentencing guidelines would lower the total.

The powder was identified as calcium carbonate, which is used in antacids and blackboard chalk.

In the second case, a federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted Marc M. Keyser, 66, in November for allegedly mailing hoax letters; 120 of them went to newspapers, a member of Congress, a McDonald’s, a Starbucks and other targets.

Each contained a CD labeled “Anthrax Shock and Awe Terror,” and a packet of granular material bearing a biohazard symbol and the words “Anthrax Sample,” the FBI said. The substance was harmless.

Keyser’s home address was on several mailings. After his arrest, prosecutors told a judge that Keyser had hoped the publicity would raise concern about anthrax and draw attention to his blog and novel. He has pleaded not guilty.

Cases that result in charges are the exception, however.

In the last two fiscal years, records show, U.S. postal inspectors responded to more than 5,800 reports of letters and packages containing suspicious substances. Only a few dozen cases have resulted in arrests.

“We try to use common sense,” said Peter Rendina, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “We know there are cases where Grandma is sending her favorite muffin recipe and doesn’t mean to be a threat.”

Scientists disagree over whether the nation is more vulnerable to an anthrax attack today than it was in 2001. (The FBI blames that attack on Bruce E. Ivins, an anthrax researcher at a federal biodefense facility who committed suicide in July.)

The U.S. Postal Service in 2003 installed devices to check for airborne pathogens or poisons at the nation’s 271 mail processing and distribution centers. They have yet to detect a threat, Rendina said.

But the boom in biodefense spending carries a danger. Some experts fear that a tenfold increase in laboratories authorized to work with dangerous bioagents increases the risk of leaks. More than 7,200 scientists now are approved to work with anthrax, far more than in the past, creating security risks.

“I think all our screaming about bioterrorism has been counterproductive,” said Milton Leitenberg, a University of Maryland scholar who has written extensively about biological weapons. “It’s a hard balance to strike.”

Boston police felt the same way after the incident at Symphony Hall last month.

An address label on the DHL tube led detectives to a local man, who said he had tossed it in a Dumpster. Police never figured out who picked it up and wrote “Anthrax Beware” on it, or why.

“Happily, there was nothing to it,” said Jill McLaughlin, a police spokeswoman. “We’ve got enough problems without an anthrax scare.”

18 Responses to “* a continuing flood of anthrax hoaxes”

  1. DXer said

    It was powderized? What color was the powder?

    Tunisia: 31 Sentenced to Death for Terrorist Attack
    Thursday, 7 March, 2019

    In other news, 19 letters containing potentially deadly toxins addressed to prominent journalists, politicians and trade unionists, have been intercepted by police at the central Post Office in Tunis and taken for testing.

    The National Unit of Investigation for Terrorist Affairs and Organized Crime revealed that the toxic substance was made in Tunisia inside a laboratory.

    The Ministry of Interior indicated that it is monitoring the movements of the terrorist cells that plotted the attack, especially that the deadly poison was made with local Tunisian expertise and required huge financial support.

  2. DXer said

    Tunisia’s mysterious poison letters spark concern of new terror tactic
    A spate of letters have been intercepted containing a potentially deadly substance

    Comment: I’m still expecting this to prove to have just been a hoax. In many countries, they do not have the testing facilities that exist in the US. Moreover, I am skeptical of international media reporting of white powder incidents given their relative inexperience with them.

    • DXer said

      Some additional articles:

      Tunisia: 19 ‘toxic’ letters addressed to public figures, seized
      March 2, 2019 at 12:11 pm | Published in: Africa, News, Tunisia
      The statement added that the necessary technical tests have confirmed that the letters contained toxic substances.

      “The Tunisian Ministry of the Interior pledged to look into this issue to determine who was behind the attack in order to take the necessary security and judicial measures.
      After analysis, the specialized services confirmed that the 19 letters contained toxic substances,” it said.
      The Interior Ministry said that Tunisia’s National Unit of Investigation for Terrorist Affairs and Organized Crime started the investigations in this case.”

      19 letters containing toxic substances intercepted in Tunisia
      Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-01 15:50:24|Editor: xuxin

      The ministry has called on politicians, media professionals, trade unionists and other public personalities to inform the security services about all suspicious objects.

  3. DXer said

    Suspicious Packages Found at Several Military Installations in D.C. Area

    FBI is examining the packages

    By NBC Washington Staff

    Published 3 hours ago | Updated 15 minutes ago

    The FBI is investigating suspicious packages with apparent explosive components at several U.S. military installations and intelligence facilities in the Washington, D.C., area Monday, a law enforcement official said.

    The National Defense University at Fort McNair in D.C. received a suspicious package about 8:30 a.m., and the building was evacuated.

    The package tested positive for black powder, which can be used to make explosives, according to Fort McNair. An X-ray showed what appeared to be GPS and a fuse. It was rendered safe and the building was cleared about 1:15 p.m. The components are being investigated.

    Suspicious packages were sent to two sites at Fort Belvoir in Virginia Monday afternoon: The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and another defense university. One contained liquid in a vial and a circuit board, the law enforcement official said. It also was rendered safe.

    Similar suspicious packages were found at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in D.C., a CIA mail processing facility, a White House mail processing facility and Dahlgren Naval Air Station in Virginia, NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams reported. Those were all cleared as well.

    It’s not clear if any of the packages was an actual working explosive device that could have been detonated.

    Some included rambling letters and official described as disturbing.

    It’s not clear if the packages are linked to each other, but officials said they do not believe they are linked to the recent bombings in Austin, Texas.

    The FBI is examining all of the packages.

  4. DXer said

    Austin package bombs draw parallels to the ‘Unabomber’ hours ago


    There were quite a few powder hoaxes this week — but more disturbing were some package bombs recently left in Austin, Texas. There’s a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

    The fact that packages have been exploding has drawn comparison to the Unabomber. (He didn’t always mail his bombs — for example, he left one in Utah).

    Although some aspects of Kaczynski’s thinking have been left unaddressed — specifically, his statement that nordicist anarchists were an essential part of his hoped for revolution, para. 222, 227, 229 — his packages always had an anti-technology bent. These don’t.

    Donald Sacthleben, who submitted the key affidavit in search of Ted Kacynski’s cabin in the UNABOM matter, has agreed to spend 12 years in jail on unrelated charges.

    But we can compare that affidavit with the Dellefera affidavit in the search of Bruce Ivins’ residence — which quotes the emails being withheld.

    We can compare the UNABOM case to the evidence in the Amerithrax case for perspective of what probative evidence looks like.

    We can compare the evidence in the Unabom matter and Amerithrax on the merits:

    At the outset, I can note that the FBI never made a serious investigation about the leaks in the Amerithrax matter that derailed the investigation for 7 years. If anyone had asked, the lead prosecutor might have confirmed he was the source of the leaks that continued throughout 2002 and 2003. Inevitable inaccuracies in the reporting of news in connection with a rapidly developing story, particularly when anonymous sources are used. As Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern commented in the Unabom case: “There are times when we try informally to prevent something which is grossly untrue from being published or broadcast, but in this case I felt I couldn’t do even that.”

    1. A Copy Of The Manifesto Was Found In The Cabin

    The prosecution has explained before the Court:”In June 1995, Kaczynski sent his manuscript “Industrial Society and Its Future” to the New York Times, the Washington Post, Penthouse, and Professor Tom Tyler of the University of California at Berkeley. A copy of the manuscript was found in the cabin. That manuscript contains a lengthy description of Kaczynski’s philosophy and admits that its author ‘had to kill people’ to get it published.” Ayman Zawahiri’s Fall 2001 book is almost as revealing in terms of profiling the Amerithrax crimes but even those who have closely followed the matter for months have never read it. Ask any FBI agent you know on the investigation whether they have read it and see for yourself.

    2. Copies Of The Letters Kaczynski Sent To Publications Were Also Found

    The prosecution has explained before the Court:”Beginning in 1985, Kaczynski sent letters, using the alias, ‘FC,’ to various publications. A copy of each letter was discovered in Kaczynski’s cabin. Like the journals, Kaczynski’s letters also contain admissions to the charged and uncharged bombings; indeed, several letters contain an admission that encompasses both a charged and an uncharged bombing.” Here, anthrax production documents were found on Khalid Mohammed’s laptop, he made admissions about Yazid Sufaat’s role, and Zawahiri’s right-hand man as well as another shura council member made admissions about Zawahiri’s plan. Yet inexplicably no attention is paid to these stories because it is far easier to get some clerk, deputy sheriff or junior lawyer in the Department of Justice Public Affairs Office to share some gossip about some discarded junk pulled from the nearby park or some stained panties found in someone’s garbage. At the time of the Hatfill leaks by Mr. Seikaly, he at the same time was keeping mum about the statement signed by Rauf Ahmad over tea and cookies.

    3. Most Of The Letters And The Manifesto Were Typed on Kaczynski’s Typewriter

    According to the prosecution’s June 1997 memorandum, the third typewriter found in the cabin was a match with most of the letters, with the manifesto, and for all of the bombs that were mailed after 1981. Here, there seems little chance authorities will find the scotch tape that was used to seal both letters or the pen used to write the letters.

    4. Number Used To Identify Unabomber Communications

    The Washington Post reported that federal investigators say that the nine-digit number that was sometimes used by the Unabomber to authenticate his communications was found in Kaczynski’s cabin. (The book Mad Genius previously reported that the number used by the bomber was 553-25-4394). The number was used by the Unabomber in connection with a letter discussing the April 1995 murder of the Sacramento timber industry official Gilbert Murray, and a letter claiming responsibility for the December 1994 murder of the advertising executive Thomas Mosser at his New Jersey home. An analogous discovery would relate to the reason, if any, for the use of Greendale School. Zawahiri’s computer that showed he used “school” for Al Qaeda already is available to use in an indictment.

    5. DNA Evidence In the UNABOM matter

    DNA evidence was apparently obtained from saliva found on the stamp used to send a copy of the manuscript to professor Tom Tyler. An earlier press report had suggested that there was DNA evidence associated with the 1994 victim in New Jersey, Thomas Mosser (pronounced MOE-ser). As a general rule, however, the bomber was reportedly careful in avoiding such evidence based on hair or saliva. It is surprising that the bomber, after having been so careful to avoid DNA evidence for so many years, would suddenly have been careless in connection with the manuscript sent to Professor Tyler. The genetic evidence in the Amerithrax case relates to the strain of anthrax and will help narrow the number of possible labs where the strain was. The mailer was very careful in handling the envelope and would not have licked the envelope. The cutting edge science of water isotope ratios would be dramatic if the degree of confidence can be rise to a high level.

    The affidavit filed in support of the search warrant in the Kaczynski case explained that the DNA found in connection with the stamp used to mail the manuscript to Tom Tyler limited the pool of potentially responsible persons to 3% of the United States population — or approximately 6 million people. DNA evidence would not be determinative of the prosecution given they apparently cannot further narrow the field. The evidence relating to water isotope ratios (discussed above) similarly will not be determinative. The ratios are often the same for different locations. Moreover, the water isotope ratio may very well turn out to be exculpatory of any defendant charged.

    6. Bomb And Bomb-Related Materials.

    According to press reports, one completed bomb and one partially completed bomb had been found. The completed bomb had been described as similar to either the 1994 or 1995 bomb. The importance of this evidence would have depended — if the matter had gone to trial — on the strength of the forensic comparisons. Both the 1994 and 1995 bombs were sophisticated, and so if the reports by the anonymous federal officials proved to be accurate, then the finding would have been very significant. The government would have argued, through expert testimony, that the run-of-the-mill pipebomber could not have made the 1994 or 1995 bombs. (The serial bomber known as the UNABOMBER, which turned out to be Kacyznksi, was thought to have improved his bomb-making during the 1987-1993 hiatus). Here, a similar argument would be made as to the individual or individuals who could make the relatively sophisticated anthrax here. The sophistication greatly increased between the two mailings — marked by a difference of about 20 days.

    The significance of the particular chemicals found in Kaczynski’s cabin would have needed to await the reports on the forensic tests. The chemicals would be compared to the residue left in the UNABOM explosions. Agents searching the cabin found containers of potassium chlorate, sodium chlorate, sugar, zinc, aluminum, lead and silver oxide, which can serve as fuels or oxidizers in an explosive device. Here, comparison would be made with any silica powder or other additive found to be associated with the anthrax. Relatedly, there is the issue of the water isotope ratios.

    In the UNABOM matter, tools and hardware related to bomb-making were also found. Lab technicians have compared the toolmarks left on past bombs and bomb remnants with the tools found in Kaczynski’s cabin, and according to leaks the government were going to rely on an analysis of the tool marks in its case. The Affidavit filed in support of the search of the cabin explained that identical tool marks had been left on the staples used in a couple of the devices and in some of the correspondence. In addition, 10 three-ring binders full of meticulously drawn bomb diagrams may distinguish Kaczynski from ordinary pipebombers. The UNABOMBER is thought to have experimented with his bombs, and the prosecution likely would argue in any trial that the three- ring binders document those experiments. The notebooks have sketches of boxes that could conceal the devices; handwritten notes in English and Spanish describing how chemical compounds can create explosive charges; and logs of experiments to determine the optimal design for pipe bombs in various weather conditions. The notebooks would have been extremely powerful evidence, that may be even more powerful once comparison is made by experts between the specific entries and specific bombs used in the UNABOM incidents.

    Here, all the information about the anthrax production documents on Khalid Mohammed’s computer is classifed. As for Dr. Hatfill’s comments to acquaintances, they likely would not even be admissible, as no exception to the hearsay doctrine would seem to apply.

    Here, the plastic tub found in the Frederick park in connection with the Hatfill Theory did not pass the “giggle test” and neither does the FBI’s sorority theory as motivation.

    7. Witness Description.

    In 1987, a woman employed by CAAMS, a Salt Lake City computer store, noticed a man placing an object near a car. She apparently had a close, albeit brief, observation of the individual. She knocked on the window and motioned him away from the car. While distracted by a telephone call, another employee went out and kicked the material out of the way. The bomb was made to look like a road hazard and consisted of two boards with nails sticking up. Two main composites based on the witness’ description were drawn. One was done at the time, and one was done approximately 7 years later. The later composite has a squarer jaw. Some media reports published a version of the composite without glasses. The official composite relied upon by the Task Force has always included glasses. Extrapolating to a man pictured without glasses would be pretending to know something we don’t — did not represent a description of what the witness saw. In the Amerithrax investigation, if Hatfill were the defendant, the witness identification likely would not be admissible because witnesses were only shown Dr. Hatfill’s picture. No announcement was ever made as to whether the witness has positively identified Kaczynski as the individual she saw. The witness likely had difficulty in doing so given that Kaczynski then came to have a beard. It is unclear whether TK had a beard in 1987. He applied for a drivers license in Montana in 1986 and it may be important whether his photograph in connection with that license showed a beard. In addition, Kaczynski mother visited in the mid-1980s, and yet there has been no article reporting her recollection as to whether he had a beard.

    In the Amerithrax matter, the picture shown of Hatfill (and only Hatfill) to witnesses that some in New Jersey apparently was an older picture. In any event, a long time had passed between the time witnesses were shown his picture and any passing encounter with him if he had been the mailer. No one ever identified Dr. Ivins doing anything related to processing or mailing.

    In 1987, Kaczynski was significantly older than in the witness’ description. The individual was estimated by the witness to be between the age of 25 and 30 years old. At the time of the sighting, Kaczynski was 43 years old. The witness described the individual as young and athletic. Witness descriptions are one of the weakest forms of evidence. Moreover, Kaczynski was likely unkempt in his appearance — as generally reported — while the witness apparently described someone with a well-trimmed mustache. Finally, at 5′ 9″, Kaczynski was 1″-3″ shorter than the man described by the witness. Thus, given the importance of the forensic evidence, it is not likely that the witness description would have been particularly significant in any trial of the UNABOM matter, as it raised too many questions. The defense likely would have been able to present other suspects that were much closer to the witness’ description. Importantly, in the affidavit filed in support of the search, the government did not claim that the witness could positively identify Kaczynski.

    A blue hooded sweatshirt and a green sweatshirt were found in Kaczynski’s cabin. Although much ado has been made of the discovery of the sweatshirt, and papers featured headlines of the discovery throughout the country, none of the press accounts have addressed the color of the sweatshirt described by the witness in 1987. None of the articles mentioned that the sweatshirt described by the witness was white (or light gray). One report by a television network indicated that Kaczynski had broken his nose several times. The suggestion apparently was that he broke his nose to disguise his appearance. It is unclear how the television network, in early April, had determined Kaczynski’s intent, and there has been no further mention of the report.

    8. Materials On Which Names Of Some Victims Appear

    The names of the some victims allegedly appears on some written material. The reports are both conflicting or unclear on the nature of the materials, but the majority of reports indicate that the names of the actual victims were not in handwriting. The significance of this evidence would depend on the specifics. There were a variety of reports of individuals who have been contacted by FBI agents and told that their names were on materials found in the cabin. One widely reported story that was mistaken was that there was a handwritten list of faculty in the math department. The list had been written by an FBI agent for the purposes of contacting the individuals, and was not found in the cabin. Some reports also indicate that a handwritten sheet was found saying “hit list” — airlines, geneticists, and computers. (This may have been one of the “grossly inaccurate” items mentioned by the DOJ spokesman — it’s been a long time and I’ve forgotten.) Certainly, if this report had been true, it would have been very dramatic evidence.

    9. Partial Fingerprint

    A partial fingerprint was obtained from one of the devices. It did not match with Kaczynski’s, according to the affidavit filed at the time of the search. The authorities had no way of knowing whether the partial fingerprint is that of the bomber, or someone else. Thus, the prosecution likely would have discounted the failure to match as due to the fact that the print was made by someone other than the bomber. In the Amerithrax investigation, there were no fingerprints found. Of course, if fingerprints had been found on any material found in the pond, that would have been very significant.

    10. Kaczynski’s Whereabouts

    Kaczynski had lived primarily in Montana since 1971. He traveled to other areas by bus — and not by airplane as initially reported. He moved to Chicago for a short while in the late Spring of 1978 until the Summer of 1979. He applied for an Illinois driver’s license in July 1978 — six weeks after the first explosion. According to one report, he returned to Montana in the Summer of 1979. Thus, the FBI was trying to establish that he returned to Chicago in connection with the mailing of a November 1979 and a May 1980 bomb. The brother and mother were uncertain on the details. According to the affidavit filed in support of the search, the brother had said that Kaczynski came to Chicago as early as 30 days before June 20. In addition, the affidavit states that although Kaczynski left Chicago in the Summer of 1979, he apparently returned after a two month stay in Saskatchewan. Thus, according to the affidavit, the statements by the family members are not inconsistent with his presence in Chicago on May 25, 1978 or November 14, 1979. With respect to the May 1980 mailing to Percy Wood from the Chicago area, the Affidavit notes the dates of hotel stays in Park Hotel, Helena, Montana, that would have allowed an opportunity for Kaczynski to travel to Chicago to make the mailing to Mr. Wood. The Affidavit similarly noted stays at the Park Hotel generally consistent with travel to Utah at the time of the placement and mailing of bombs.

    With respect to his travels to California, the potentially most significant lead was totally false. It concerned a report by a Sacramento hotel owner that he had stayed there — the clerk in fact had not worked there at the time. Absent corroborating hotel registration records, such testimony would not have been significant. For example, reports by a Burger King manager and a guard at a bus terminal in Sacramento would have been met by the incredulous question by defense counsel: you specifically remember this guy over all the other hundreds of bearded unkempt men that you see each year?

    In the Amerithrax case, Dr. Hatfill has offered timesheets that, for example, on September 17, 2001 and September 18, 2001 have him working 13 hour days. Kaczynski similarly had offered a bank deposit slip that the government, through an investigator, was able to explain was not in conflict, with the date of the weekend deposit not registered as processed until the next Monday.Packages were placed in Salt Lake City in October 1981 and February 1987, and mailed from Salt Lake in May 1982 and November 1985. The FBI checked homeless shelters and inexpensive hotels looking for evidence that Kaczynski visited the area. In the Amerithrax case, authorities apparently have no evidence that Dr. Hatfill travelled to the Trenton or Princeton area on the dates of mailing. Dr. Hatfill claims that he has never been to Princeton and would not know where it was on a map. Similarly, Dr. Ivins, in fact, has an alibi established by the withheld evidence and there is no evidence of travel whatsoever.

    11. Psycholinguistic Analysis

    The affidavit filed in support of the search has a detailed and compelling description of comparisons between a 1971 essay written by Kaczynski and the manifesto. In requesting a warrant to conduct a search of the cabin, the FBI relied on an examination by its own experts who had access to all of TK’s writings in the family’s possession (including 100 letters), and not by the analysis done by experts retained by the family who relied on only a handful of pages provided by the family’s private investigator. The Affidavit filed in support of the search of the cabin illustrates that the content, context and writing style of Theodore Kaczynski’s 6,374, 23-page essay and the 35,000 word UNABOM manuscript are very similar. Unfortunately, although the FBI has the 23-page essay and many pages of letters written by Kaczynski to his mother and brother, it appeared unlikely that authorities would be able to locate more than a couple of the 50 or so letters that TK wrote to a Mexican man. In the government Affidavit also notes the same uncommon (and in the last case inaccurate) spellings of words : “analyse” versus “analyze”, “wilfully” instead of “willfully”, “licence” instead of “license” and “instalment” rather than “installment”.

    In the Amerithrax case, although Don Foster cuts a fine figure on BBC jogging and thinking determinedly, psycholinguistic analysis of the 20-30 words in the letters was never likely to be probative. There is a sweet woman on the internet, a true crime fan, still mad at Dr. Foster for persistently arguing that she was actually the Ramsey son, Burke, following the true crime matter and called him to ask that he stop.

    Profiling It is unlikely that profiling will be a particularly significant portion of any prosecution against Kaczynski. Kaczynski fits the profile relied upon by the Task Force in many (if not most) respects — but he differs from the profile in several important respects. His loose fit with the profile, however, would have served to support an argument, along with other evidence, that there was probable cause to search the cabin. Kaczynski was not among the top 200 suspects primarily because of his age. He was 13 years older than the age in the profile being relied upon by the Task Force. At the time of the first bomb in May 1978, he was 36. Significantly, although he may have a meticulous mind, he was very unkempt in appearance. It was thought that the serial bomber would be very neat.A detailed description of the profile being used by the Task Force in 1991 is reported in UNABOM: The University/Airline Bomber, The Police Chief, at 36-37 (October 1991). The authors were James C. Ronay, who was Chief Explosives Unit, FBI Laboratory, and Richard A. Strobel, Chief, ATF Laboratory. That profile was then substantially revised based on the writings of the bomber. The most important change was that estimates of the bomber’s intelligence were greatly increased. With the benefit of hindsight, the profilers should have realized that the bomber would walk the walk. His disdain for technology would be evidenced by a residence with no electricity — and with a nearby garden permitting him to be self-sufficient.

    12. Telephone Records

    The FBI no doubt checked the pay telephones that Kaczynski is thought to have used. The UNABOMBER called Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine. If a telephone call was made from one of the payphones used by Kaczynski on the date and time the call by the bomber was placed, that would have been highly probative evidence. A jury would have found such evidence easy to understand. The FBI may have checked weblogs in the Amerithrax case, for example, to determine where the mailer obtained the nine-digit zipcodes or the address for the AMI publications.

    13. Books Found In The Cabin

    There were 239 books found in the cabin. Several books are of special interest in this matter. For example, VIOLENCE IN AMERICA was reportedly in his collection. Written in the 1960′s, it is a collection of dry, academically oriented articles. The book was one of the half dozen or so cited by the UNABOMBER in his manifesto. Kaczynski had evidenced awareness of the Commission’s work in a letter years ago to his family.

    Finally, although not found in the cabin, another book cited in the manifesto, ANCIENT ENGINEERS, was allegedly borrowed from a local library by Kaczynski. According to the affidavit filed in support of the search, Ted Kaczynski had cited the book in a letter to his brother. Although certainly not popular or widely-read books, none of the books are rare. All three books are commonly found in libraries. Yet, the evidence would have been very powerful before a jury.

    In the Amerithrax investigation, the book of the hour is “Emergence,” a partially completed novel by Dr. Hatfill and a co-author. Reasonable people can disagree on whether the unpublished novel “Emergence” would play a role here if a prosecution were brought against Dr. Hatfill. Under an Ivins Theory, the prosecutors seemed excited that Dr. Ivins had written some cute poems and liked one book that included a code. The only expert consulted and the author of the book find the FBI’s theory untenable.

    14. Additional Circumstantial Evidence

    There is a variety of additional circumstantial evidence that the prosecution could have relied on. For example, the prosecution could argue that Kaczynski, despite his poverty, had the necessary resources as a result of small contributions from his family. Kaczynski reportedly received a $1,000 money order from his brother shortly before the December 1994 bombing of Mr. Mosser, and another $2,000 money order from his brother before the April 1995 bombing of Gilbert Murray. Much of the circumstantial evidence, however, being reported by the press is so tenuous that it may not be legally relevant evidence at all. Moreover, many of the reports — such as the report by a Sacramento hotel owner that TK stayed at the hotel or the alleged existence of a handwritten list of Berkeley math faculty — were apparently mistaken. One misguided report suggested a connection between the bombing in early May 1978 and an unsuccessful and brief dating relationship. He went on a couple of dates with the woman in the Summer of 1978 — after the first bombing. Other reports about Kaczynski, while apparently true, are not particularly probative. For example, it was not surprising that as a bright high school student, he liked model rockets and knew how to mix chemicals (such as iodine and ammonia) so that they would go “pop.” We may all know bright high school students who were good in chemistry and had similar interests. In any event, these incidents related to a time period 20 years before the first UNABOM incident in May 1978. (In 1958, during Kaczynski’s senior year, a cow bell was used to signal the end of class periods.)

    That pretty much describes all the “circumstantial evidence” alleged to exist against Dr. Hatfill or Dr. Ivins. The mistakes in the understanding of the circumstances of Dr. Hatfill’s life have been detailed elsewhere. Here, much of the imagined “circumstantial evidence” against Dr. Hatfill relates to irrelevant matters nearly a quarter century ago and would simply have no bearing on an attempted criminal prosecution. There mere fact that both R. Scott Decker and Nancy Haigwood were relying so heavily on their “gut” feeling is very notable. Neither do the irrelevant matters relating to Dr. Ivins that involves things a quarter century earlier — such as his theft of a book from sororities. It is evidence not “gut feelings” that count. (Columbo may have seemed like he was relying on gut feeling but he actually was relying on the evidence).


    There was massive and overwhelming evidence against Kacynski. There has not been a convincing resolution of Amerithrax.

    In the anthrax mailings, Dr. Zawahiri appears to have accomplished the attack on the US “structure” he intended. With the planes, Al Qaeda struck the US trade dominance (World Trade Center) and its military might (Pentagon). With the anthrax he appears to have rounded out the field that he imagines provides support to Israel — the legislative branch and media. Analogous letter bombs were sent in connection with the earlier attack on the World Trade Center and the imprisonment of the militant islamists responsible for that attack and a related plot. Thus, relying on the postal service to send its deadly missives in connection with an earlier attack of the World Trade Center is not only Al Qaeda’s modus operandi, it is its signature.

    Everyone approaches a problem from their world view and what they know. Biological weapons control activists see a US biodefense insider. Anti-semites see Zionist perpetrators. US-haters see a CIA conspiracy. The CIA’s Zawahiri Task Force should have seen an Al Qaeda conspiracy. Israeli intelligence and the Iraqi National Congress lobbied for Iraq as the culprit. The men focused on sex and inexplicably the handwriting of children — and now time dilation — follow their own unfathomable compass. Liberal Beltway insiders saw right-wing wackos. Journalists kowtowed to the views of any government source in the investigation they deem reliable.Career-minded bureaucrats, always focused on CYA, tend to see whoever those in power want them to focus on — and here the lead prosecutor was the father of the woman who came to represent “anthrax weapons suspect” Ali Al-Timimi pro bono.

    But sometimes if the evidence shows that it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

    In my opinion, Amerithrax is the greatest failure of counterintelligence analysis in the history of the United States. And the problem is that Zawahiri tends to try to finish what he starts.

    Someday information relating to a convincing resolution of the Amerithrax matter may come from Pakistan rather than the suburbs of Maryland or Central New Jersey. It may stem from those with a personal knowledge of Al Qaeda, and not those with an ideological or political axe to grind. The mailer likely will be someone personally recruited by Ayman Zawahiri and KSM — and someone who knew Yazid Sufaat. For example, Adnan El-Shukrijumah. The FBI needed to do all they can to keep those agents in Pakistan supplied with Marlboros but instead relied upon profilers from Quantico — and then put blinders on. (Ayman, that’s code for cowboys) The well-intentioned (I presume) compartmentalization of the investigation due to conflicts of interest (given the small field) is what, in my opinion, caused the investigation to fail.

    Agent Borelli politely accepted tea and cookies from Ayman Zawahiri’s infiltration Rauf Ahmad and then came to head the FBI’s New York Field Office. Not solving a case is justified by prevention, not prosecution, is the new agency mantra. That’s as convenient a justification as they come when an investigation of a whodunnit falls on its face.

    At the end of the day, someone told AUSA Lieber not to visit the jihadi in jail — but she did any way and then was reprimanded. She then quite contentedly and determinedly spun the cotton candy Ivins Theory aided by the dogged and earnest investigators. The people who put those blinders and reprimanded her for going to visit the jihadi with whom a deal had been cut led to the present mess and the unconvincing resolution of Amerithrax.

    See, the State will decide what secrets can be kept — thank you very much. Government accountability be damned. The FBI won’t even provide copies of the emails that it extensively quotes and relied upon in closing the case. Thousands of emails were produced — but DOJ and FBI officials had USAMRMC official John Peterson cull the relevant ones (all the ones quoted and relied upon) from production.

    At home, we need to be good boy and girl scouts and be prepared — even while growing fatigued by the countless false alarms and growing nostalgic for anthrax, in a sense, in light of the work the Russia did for fun with aerosolized Marburg — all the while keeping its secret. Oh, and now its apparent and likely recent use of nerve gas in a recent assassination of a former Russian spy.

    But y’all come back, now. Because as newspaperman Scripps once said: “The only important date on the calendar is tomorrow.”

  5. DXer said

    Man Sentenced for Sending Hoax Powder Letters
    67-year old Hong Minh Truong was sentenced to five years in prison
    POSTED: 07:41 AM CST Dec 19, 2015

  6. DXer said

    Muslim group evacuates U.S. headquarters after getting white powder in mail, Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:55pm EST

    • DXer said

      Santa Clara office as well as DC.

      Hoax letters are a dime a dozen (and IMO a yawner). It’s got to be just about the stupid crime around. But the solve of this one is worth prioritizing. Hopefully, the FBI will catch a break on the forensics.

      “Suspicious substance prompts evacuations at Santa Clara CAIR Muslim civil rights offices,” Dec 10, 2015

      SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KTVU) – A suspicious white substance has prompted evacuations at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) offices in Santa Clara located at 3000 Scott Blvd #101, Santa Clara, CA 95054

  7. DXer said

    Flour Triggers Anthrax Alert at Brussels Mosque

    Specialist units rushed to the city’s Grand Mosque after the envelopes were discovered there, fire brigade spokeswoman Malika Abbad told NBC News.

    But Abbad later said the white substance was “obviously flour,” adding: “There is no risk to anyone.”

    • DXer said

      (CNN) Ten envelopes with white powder were found, and analysts are examining the substance, said Christian De Coninck, spokesman for Brussels police.

  8. DXer said

    Brussels mosque evacuated over ‘anthrax’ fears after envelopes containing ‘suspicious white powder’ found
    • 13:34, 26 NOV 2015
    • UPDATED 14:09, 26 NOV 2015

    At least 11 people have reportedly been taken to hospital for chemical screening while the mosque is examined, according to local media.

    Pierre Meys, spokesman for the Brussels fire fighters, told the newspaper those found inside have not suffered any symptoms, La Libre reported.

    A number of envelopes containing white powder were found and a public health laboratory is currently analysing them to see if they are anthrax, it’s reported.

    The fire service said it received a call from a member of the mosque, saying they believed they had found anthrax powder.

    Since the Paris attacks on November 13 by French and Belgian Islamic State militants, there have been reports of threats against mosques used by Belgium’s half million Muslims, among them some from an unknown group calling itself Christian State.

  9. DXer said

    Brussels mosque ‘suspicious powder’: Evacuation after envelopes …
    The Independent-56 minutes ago

    Brussels oldest mosque has been evacuated and decontamination units called to the scene after envelopes reportedly containing a “suspicious powder” were found inside.

    The city’s fire brigade spokesperson Meys Stone told local newspaper Le Libre several envelopes containing “white powder” had been discovered inside the building, which is nearby to the European Parliament, but that the contents of the envelopes had not yet been determined.

  10. DXer said

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013
    Geroncio C. Fajardo, MD, MBA, MS(Bio), MS(Epi), TC(NRCC) , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emergency Preparedness and Response Branch, Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, Atlanta, GA
    Joseph Posid, MPH , DPEI/OD, US CDC, Atlanta, GA
    Stephen Papagiotas, MPH , DPEI/EPRB, US CDC, Atlanta, GA
    Luis Lowe, MS, MPH, CPH , DPEI/LRB, US CDC, Atlanta, GA

    The primary objective of this study is to review potential bioterrorism-related incidents involving unknown white powder reported to three sources: electronic news media, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in order to infer concordance and completeness among these sources of information for appropriate preparedness and response activities. These incidents are presumed to be potential anthrax-related threats because of how anthrax spores were disseminated as a bioterrorism agent in 2001. Using various search engines, the authors performed internet searches for “unknown white powder” that were reported from June 1, 2009 and May 31, 2011. They then reviewed the white powder incidents that were reported online by news media and compared them with white powder incidents reported to CDC and FBI during the same time period. Results showed that there were 297 electronic news media reports, 538 incidents reported to CDC, and 384 incidents reported to the FBI. A detailed evaluation of these reports indicated that 241 white powder incidents reported to CDC were not covered by the news media, and 154 incidents reported to CDC were not reported to the FBI. In conclusion, this study showed that there is no complete reporting of all white powder incidents in any of the three entities; the public health implications of an incomplete dataset are unknown. Findings also compound the need to enhance public health and law enforcement partnerships and agreements in sharing information about these potential bioterrorism-related incidents involving unknown white powder for appropriate preparedness and response activities.

    Comment: It is not important (or even desirable) that such incidents are reported in the media. Media coverage likely leads to additional incidents. It is important that all incidents reported to CDC are reported to law enforcement, however, as there otherwise opportunities for forensics might be lost.

  11. DXer said

    Although the news today is of the arrest of Robert Cepeda in connection with letters sent in April 2007 to federal district courts, he was arrested in 2007 in connection with an incident at Cape Vincent Correctional Facility in December 2007.

    *Arrest in anthrax scare in Cape Vincent [New York]

    “An arrest is made after an anthrax scare earlier this month at the Cape Vincent Correctional Facility. State police say an inmate sent a letter containing a white powdery substance to a female employee at the prison. The letter, allegedly from Robert Cepeda, 42, read ‘This is Anthrax.’ […] Cepeda is charged with Placing a False Bomb or Hazardous Substance in the First Degree.” (News 10 Now, 18Dec07)

    • DXer said

      I read somewhere that often hoaxes are sent by prisoners who want to be removed to a federal facility.

      The man accused is an artist.

      • DXer said

        No biological agents found in suspicious package sent to DA’s office, Fitzpatrick says


        I’m reminded now that it was John Ezzell who made that comment at the conference in DC Lew moderated.

        I posted an excerpt of his Q and A on YouTube after the conference.

      • DXer said

        Ordinarily, hoax letters to a prosecutor are the ultimate stupid crime by a stupid criminal. And we have plenty of those around here. Sometimes such letters are even sent from jail.

        But what was the content of the letter to the local DA here?

        Is the powder letter to the DA related to the trial of the drone protesters?

        Trial starts tonight in Dewitt for protesters who demonstrated against drones

        Was the graffiti on SU campus? The graffiti was coincident with a recent separate protest about drones.

        Vandals target Syracuse University buildings in cryptic graffiti spree

        If so, I would profile those who came into town — both at the time of the recent protest (which was coincident with the graffiti) and for the trial at Dewitt.

        And I would encourage the FBI and Postal Service inspectors to use the best forensics — including paper composition, ink, handwriting (or computer font), mass spec on the photocopy toner (if applicable), and DNA from saliva and otherwise etc.

        It is important to show justice. Empathy can best begin after catching the bad guy and understanding the nature of the crime.

        If the letter was in handwriting used in the graffiti it could be compared to the hoax letters.

        It’s about now that Ed, the blogger from Wisconsin best known for exchanging nude photos of unidentified females (of unknown age) with strangers, calls the FBI and tells them I’m responsible. My alibi is usually that I spent the day explaining to him that he’s an uninformed idiot. :0)

        On powder letters generally, while I realize that first responders and law enforcement have to take them very seriously, a recipient who is playing the odds can just triple bag the letter and get back to work while awaiting testing.

        Ed’s theory expressed to the FBI is that I’m trying to draw attention to these graphics, which coincidentally were done by a federal undercover.

        If I’m involved in PR, Ed is my witless assistant.

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