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

* what BL-3 lab did Abdur Rauf visit?

Posted by DXer on June 29, 2009

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what BL-3 lab did Abdur Rauf visit?


Ayman letter

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) gave DXer a copy of the correspondence between the scientist helping Ayman Zawahiri infiltrate western biodefense along with 100+ pages of documents seized in Afghanistan.

Abdur Rauf … was the subject of a 2006 article by Joby Warrick in the Washington Post, titled Suspect and A Setback In Al-Qaeda Anthrax Case … Scientist With Ties To Group Goes Free.

Here are excerpts from that article …

  • In December 2001, as the investigation into the U.S. anthrax attacks was gathering steam, coalition soldiers in Afghanistan uncovered what appeared to be an important clue: a trail of documents chronicling an attempt by al-Qaeda to create its own anthrax weapon.
  • The documents told of a singular mission by a scientist named Abdur Rauf, an obscure, middle-aged Pakistani with alleged al-Qaeda sympathies and an advanced degree in microbiology.
  • Using his membership in a prestigious scientific organization to gain access, Rauf traveled through Europe on a quest, officials say, to obtain both anthrax spores and the equipment needed to turn them into highly lethal biological weapons.
  • He reported directly to al-Qaeda’s No. 2 commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and in one document he appeared to signal a breakthrough.
  • “I successfully achieved the targets,” he wrote cryptically to Zawahiri in a note in 1999.
  • Precisely what Rauf achieved may never be known with certainty.
  • That’s because U.S. officials remain stymied in their nearly five-year quest to bring charges against a man who they say admitted serving as a top consultant to al-Qaeda on anthrax.
  • With the evidence against Rauf, some U.S. officials say they are perplexed about why Pakistani authorities have refused to further pursue him, while acknowledging that the case presents both legal and political difficulties for Pakistan.
  • The heavily redacted notes and other documents were obtained from the Defense Department through the Freedom of Information Act after they were first described in the journal Science in a 2003 article by three researchers at the National Defense University.
  • Rauf’s name was redacted, but U.S. and Pakistani officials confirmed his authorship in interviews with The Washington Post.
  • Rauf’s detention kicked off a joint U.S.-Pakistani investigation that at first was remarkably successful.
    • The FBI’s New York office took the lead U.S. role, and its agents worked closely with the CIA and bureau officials in Pakistan in carrying out interrogations.
    • Though not formally charged with any crimes, Rauf consented to questioning and provided useful leads, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.
    • But problems began when the U.S. side sought to expand the investigation with the goal of pursuing criminal charges, including possible indictment and prosecution in the United States, officials from both countries confirmed.
    • In earlier cases, the Pakistani government incurred the wrath of Islamic leaders when it sought to prosecute professionals for alleged ties to al-Qaeda.
    • In 2003, the Pakistanis shut off U.S. access to Rauf. According to Pakistani officials familiar with the case, there simply was not enough evidence showing that he succeeded in providing al-Qaeda with something useful.
  • Since then, Rauf has been allowed to resume his normal life.
  • “He was detained for questioning, and later the courts determined there was not sufficient evidence to continue detaining him,” said Tariq Azim Khan, Pakistan’s information minister. “If there was evidence that proved his role beyond a shadow of a doubt, we would have acted on it. But that kind of evidence was not available.”
read the entire article at …

12 Responses to “* what BL-3 lab did Abdur Rauf visit?”

  1. DXer said

    Headline: “Trump urges voters by mail to try to cast second ballot”

    Attorney General Barr should resign given that he has repeatedly allowed Trump to trample the rule of law and served as Trump’s toady. Under agency law (see Restatement of Agency), Trump is responsible for directing voter fraud.

    In light of his five or six bankruptcies, it is no surprise that Trump is bankrupting the United States. But for Attorney General Barr to countenance Trump’s conduct is shameful.

    Trump is simply not qualified for the position. As his sister has explained, he has no principles. As his lawyer and long-time consigliere has explained, he can’t be trusted.

    He has been like this since he first paid bribes to the mafia in connection with the demolition of Bonwit Teller and intentionally destroyed some gargoyles that were to be historically preserved. He should have gone to jail then but bought his way out.

  2. DXer said

    DHS S&T, EPA are Helping Coast Guard Prepare to Clean Up Following an Anthrax Attack
    July 30, 2020 Homeland Security Today
    The microorganism that causes anthrax, the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, has infected people and animals since ancient times. Even though anthrax is rare, it is a severe infectious disease with a death rate ranging from 25% to 80% if medical treatment is not sought early. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anthrax is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack, because the anthrax bacteria exist in the natural environment, can be easily disguised in powders, sprays, food or water, and have been previously used as a biological warfare agent.

    Anthrax spores are difficult to kill, as they can remain viable in the environment for decades. When the spores are inhaled by humans or animals, the bacteria awaken and reproduce to a disastrous effect.

    If terrorists use anthrax as a bioagent on a ship or in a harbor, the U.S. Coast Guard must decontaminate the impacted area as quickly as possible to reduce the threat to personnel and civilians, while remaining ready to do its mission. The project Analysis for Coastal Operational Resiliency (AnCOR) aims to find the best, safest methods to decontaminate Coast Guard bases, stations, and vessels. The project is a partnership of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Coast Guard. AnCOR, which started in 2018, focuses on addressing the wide-area release of a biological agent such as anthrax and uses non-pathogenic anthrax-like spores or anthrax surrogates in its studies and field demonstrations.

    “The U.S. Coast Guard is charged with protecting the nation’s coastlines and waterways, including aiding the boating public,” said Don Bansleben, S&T Program Manager for AnCOR. “It is important that the Coast Guard continues mission essential functions, even in a contaminated environment.”

    S&T, EPA and Coast Guard conduct first decontamination field test

    The first major AnCOR field test took place at the Davie campus of the University of Florida in early 2020 and involved decontaminating a Coast Guard boat contaminated with non-pathogenic, anthrax-like spores. Three types of surrogates were used: B. anthracis Sterne strain (a harmless anthrax strain used for vaccination), B. atrophaeus var. globigii and B. thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki. Before this field test, EPA developed and tested different decontamination methods in a laboratory to see how effective they are on various types of surfaces found on Coast Guard boats – marine grade aluminum, glass, seat material, marine grade carpet, anti-skid material, and bumper material. To test the methods, EPA scientists prepared one-inch-diameter samples from those materials and contaminated them with spores from the three non-pathogenic surrogate species.

    “EPA is supporting DHS S&T and the Coast Guard because of our extensive experience and knowledge in this area,” said Shannon Serre, a Chemical Engineer at EPA. “We’ve been working on decontamination of anthrax spores since 2002.”

    Over the course of three weeks, three different decontamination methods were tested on a retired 25-foot Coast Guard response boat. EPA researchers and Coast Guard teams taped squares on 11 different surfaces on the boat—marine grade aluminum, cabin windows, seating, flooring, electronics, deck, motors, etc.—where they placed spores from the two non-vaccine strains of bacteria.

    During each decontamination test, participants in protective gear followed the following steps:

    Sampled the contaminated areas and then decontaminated the whole boat using three approaches.
    Took post-decontamination samples to check for spores that survived.
    Checked if the boat electronics were still operational after the decontamination step (new electronics were installed between each test).
    Reset the boat and sent the samples for analysis.
    During each decontamination round, participants sprayed the outside of the boat with pH modified bleach. Then, they tented the boat by wrapping it in plastic for the fumigation or fogging step. Each of the three decontamination rounds had different methods:

    First round: Participants fumigated the boat with methyl bromide gas for 48 hours and then removed the gas and captured it using barrels filled with activated carbon (methyl bromide is an ozone-depleting chemical and is not safe to be released in the atmosphere).
    Second round: Participants used household humidifiers to distribute hydrogen peroxide inside the wrapped boat and let it dwell for four days.
    Third round: Participants conducted fogging with peracetic acid (a disinfectant), which was left to work for 18 hours.
    Results from this study will be published in a report later this year and will provide data on the efficacy of the decontamination approaches as well as cost considerations. The preliminary findings showed samples taken after the methyl bromide and peracetic acid decontamination rounds contained no viable spores; and after the hydrogen peroxide decontamination, some samples contained viable spores.

    History of anthrax threats underscores need for AnCOR

    “We are responsible for protecting U.S. Coastal areas,” said Dana Tulis, Director, Emergency Management at the Coast Guard. “AnCOR is important for the Coast Guard to cleanup contamination but also to ensure the Coast Guard’s assets and property are safe, so that we can keep the people we rescue safe.”

    The Coast Guard has been concerned about biological attacks since 2001, when letters with anthrax spores were sent to two U.S. senators and two news agencies. This led to 22 people getting sick and five deaths. EPA disinfected the building where one of the letters was delivered.

    “We pick anthrax because those spores are the most difficult to decontaminate, very persistent and toxic,” said Tulis. “If we can successfully decontaminate B. anthracis, we can decontaminate less toxic biological agents.”

    The Coast Guard wants to be prepared if someone releases anthrax spores near water, as many of the country’s major metropolitan areas (e.g. New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami, New Orleans) are along, or near, bodies of water.

    This isn’t the first time that S&T and EPA worked together on an anthrax decontamination project. Several years ago, the two agencies embarked on a similar effort—the Underground Transport Restoration project—for the New York City subway system, which included a field exercise involving the decontamination of the subway after a simulated anthrax attack. AnCOR is a continuation of joint S&T-EPA projects focused on recovery from attacks with chemical or biological agents.

    Future AnCOR milestones and other upcoming joint EPA and S&T projects

    S&T, EPA, and the Coast Guard are planning to conduct a wide-area decontamination field test in October 2021 at a venue with similar properties as a Coast Guard station (storage buildings, boats, vehicles, and paved and non-paved surfaces). The purpose of this test will be to test and evaluate under realistic conditions decontamination options on various types of outdoor surfaces (porous and non-porous surfaces, including vegetation).

    “We will be looking at how to sample for an event like that, what methods are suitable for decontaminating objects in outdoor areas, including grassy fields,” said Bansleben. “We hope that what we learn from these AnCOR tests will ultimately be applicable not only for an anthrax event but for decontamination after other types of biological events, including the easier-to-disinfect COVID-19 virus.”

    AnCOR is scheduled to end in 2023 with a guidance document, prepared by EPA on decontamination and recovery from a biological event.

    “We want to minimize exposure and maximize the response to a biological event quickly; and by doing all this work upfront with S&T and EPA, we will know exactly what decontamination methods work,” said Tulis. “Because a biological event is life-or-death, having the knowledge and experience upfront is critical.”

    Read more at DHS S&T

  3. DXer said

    To Your Health

    Inside the secret U.S. stockpile meant to save us all in a bioterror attack

    by Lena H. Sun April 24 at 6:00 AM

  4. DXer said

    Abdur Rauf worked for Dr. Ayman Zawahiri. Each year prior to the mailings (1999, 2000) Abdur Rauf (Rauf Ahmad) attended an international anthrax conference sponsored by the men and women working with virulent Ames anthrax. Rauf was on a mission for Dr. Ayman to obtain anthrax to use in an attack on US targets. Dr. Ayman wanted to retaliate for the rendering of senior EIJ officials, to include Dr. Ayman’s brother Mohammed. Dr. Ayman’s mother and sister understandably were very upset by Mohammed’s rendering. Heba taught Tarek, the man supplied virulent Ames by the late Bruce Ivins.

  5. DXer said

    Suspect and A Setback In Al-Qaeda Anthrax Case
    By Joby Warrick
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    • DXer said

      The former CIA Director Tenet wrote (in his book) in May 2007:

      ”Al-Qa’ida spared no effort in its attempt to obtain biological weapons. In 1999, al-Zawahiri had recruited another scientist, Pakistani national Rauf Ahmad, to set up a small lab in Khandahar, Afghanistan, to house the biological weapons effort. In December 2001, a sharp WMD analyst at CIA found the initial lead on which we would pull and, ultimately, unravel the al-Qa’ida anthrax networks. We were able to identify Rauf Ahmad from letters he had written to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Later, we uncovered Sufaat’s central role in the program. We located Rauf Ahmad’s lab in Afghanistan. We identified the building in Khandahar where Sufaat claimed he isolated anthrax. We mounted operations that resulted in the arrests and detentions of anthrax operatives in several countries.

      ”The most startling revelation from this intelligence success story was that the anthrax program had been developed in parallel to 9/11 planning. As best as we could determine, al-Zawahiri’s project had been wrapped up in the summer of 2001, when the al-Qaida deputy, along with Hambali, were briefed over a week by Sufaat on the progress he had made to isolate anthrax. The entire operation had been managed at the top of al-Qai’da with strict compartmentalization. Having completed this phase of his work, Sufaat fled Afghanistan in December 2001 and was captured by authorities trying to sneak back into Malaysia. Rauf Ahmad was detained by Pakistani authorities in December 2001. Our hope was that these and our many other actions had neutralized the anthrax threat, at least temporarily.”

  6. DXer said

    What justification is there for the FBI not to have disclosed what lab Rauf Ahmad visited? GAO should now arrange for the identify of the lab to be revealed.

  7. DXer said

    Yazid Sufaat, now available to be interviewed, should be asked about Dr. Abdur Rauf. Is it correct that Dr. Ayman kept things strictly compartmentalized and Rauf did not know about you and you did not know about him?

    Can you tell us what BL-3 Dr. Rauf visited?

    Dr. Ayman reportedly trusted you more because of your religious faithfulness whereas Dr. Rauf was perceived as more motivated by money.

  8. DXer said

    It is a common name.

    But you raise an important question: What BL-3 lab did Abdur Rauf visit? Was it USDA Iowa’s BL-3?

    We need Lew to get an answer as only Lew can do.

    We know the attack anthrax was a mix of two strains — such as found in Bruce Ivins’ flask 1029 and given to researchers, with 100-300 with access. And so we know that access would have been post-1997 when the flask was created. Rauf Ahmad (Abdur Rauf) visited some lab — in Fall 1999. What lab was it? The Rauf Ahmad / Abdur Rauf was a newly minted PhD in Spring 1999. The correspondence shows he was a post-doc and grousing about the low pay from his employer and explaining to Zawahiri that he had to act soon if he was going to be able to take the post-doc sabbatical.

    Separately, in the Mr. Coen and Nadler’s book they mention the collection at the strip mall (BL-2) at USDA Iowa was also destroyed. I don’t have a corroborating source but do know the lousy conditions at the strip mall had been the subject of a June 2001 report and so it would make sense.

    but it sharpens the question: What lab did Abdur Rauf visit? Was it USDA Iowa?

  9. DXer said

    Martin Hugh-Jones has confirmed that LSU did not provide a sample of any Bruce Ivins supplied Ames to investigators. They supplied the Ames obtained from Porton Down. He has no idea where the research by the Ann Arbor researchers using the Bruce Ivins-supplied Ames strain was done. The Ames that LSU supplied was labelled Asc 159. It had been in the Porton Down collection for over 10 years.

    Here is an article, btw. on the use of Fed Ex to ship virulent anthrax.

    Palm Beach Post, The (FL)-December 15, 2001
    Author: Sanjay Bhatt, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

    Whenever the U.S. Army wanted to ship a paste of live anthrax germs from a Utah compound to a Maryland base, it called the same shipper that millions of civilians and businesses rely on daily to get their packages on time from Point A to Point B.



    The registration and security of dangerous germs in transit between laboratories has come under closer scrutiny after a series of anthrax-by-mail attacks left five people dead, including suburban Lantana resident Bob Stevens. An Energy Department audit in February showed some of its top-security laboratories weren’t always registering shipments of lethal germs last year or receiving timely updates from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on registration requirements.

    “The containers used to ship these things are quite well tested, at least they are very secure,” said Phil Hanna, an anthrax expert at the University of Michigan. “What people are worried about is the security, whether things could be stolen.”

    The germs are vacuum-sealed in the first container. That container is wrapped in an absorbent material and put into a rigid, leakproof second container. Finally, the package is placed inside a third container, he said.

    The military crashed a plane with such a package on board just to test its strength. It also ran over a package with a forklift, Richmond said.

    Richmond, Hanna and other scientists praise FedEx’s record.

    “FedEx does a very good job at security,” said Martin Hugh-Jones, an anthrax expert at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. “We’ve never had a problem with things going sideways.”

    The problem, some say, lies in the honesty and diligence of the individuals shipping and receiving lethal germs.

    “I don’t think anyone would be combing through FedEx warehouses, pawing for pathogens,” Croddy said. “Security is awfully good at these places too. Their business is to get it where it’s supposed to be going.”

  10. DXer said

    USAMRIID released some emails by Bruce Ivins discussing the difficulties of planning the Fourth International Conference on Anthrax in Annapolis. The first of the emails was from September 1998, upon his return from the conference at Plymouth attended by Ayman Zawahiri’s scientist Abdur Rauf (Rauf Ahmad). In June 2001, the good ship anthrax sailed in Annapolis, Maryland, the “sailing capital of the world.” The 4th International Conference on Anthrax was held at St. John’s College in historic Annapolis, Maryland, June 10 – 13, 2001. The conference was organized by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and managed by the American Society for Microbiology. The 74-foot classic wooden schooner was named WOODWIND. Martin Hugh-Jones had convened the conference along with Peter Turnbull, the Porton Down scientist who had led the UK conferences attended by Ayman Zawahiri’s scientist, Rauf Ahmad. Reports of livestock and national park outbreaks were followed by a summary by Dr. Turnbull. Other anthrax notables who spoke included senior USAMRIID scientist Dr. Ezzell, who had one of the first looks at the Daschle product, and Dr. Paul Keim, who would play a key role in the genetic investigation.

    Other talks focused on cell structure and function such as the S-layer, exosporium, and germination. Theresa Koehler from the Houston Medical School gave a talk titled “The Expanding B. anthracis Toolbox” while Timothy Read from The Institute of Genome Research summarized research on The B. Anthracis Genome. Houston Medical School, the UK’s biodefense facility Porton Down, and Pasteur Institute each fielded three presenters. UK scientists presented on the characteristics of the exosporium of “the highly virulent Ames strain.” Researchers from Columbus, Ohio and Biological Defense Research Directorate (BDRD) of the Navy Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, assisted by Porton Down scientists from the UK, demonstrated that inoculated mice survived a challenge with b.anthracis spores. Researchers used b.anthracis containing a plasmid with a mutated lethal factor. The mice were “immunized via gene gun inoculation with eucaryotic expression plasmids encoding either the protective antigen (PA), a mutated form of lethal factor (LF) or a combination of the two.” Dr. Phil Hanna from University of Michigan was there and presented, as he had been in the UK at the conference attending with Rauf Ahmad.

    A Kazakhstan Ministry of Health scientist presented on the re-emergence of anthrax in Kazakhstan. (Upon the break-up of the Soviet Union the first job offer Ken Alibek fielded was the position of Minister of Health in Kazakhstan. He protested when he realized that his new employer’s job description shifted to “you know the job,” and he realized that they just wanted to do what the Soviets had been secretly doing in an illegal and massive bioweapons program he had supervised as its First Deputy. After the KGB asked to meet with him, he asked to schedule the meeting in two weeks, so that he might visit his parents, and then found a secret expedited way of coming to the United States.)

    Pakistan Rauf Ahmad had been the predator looking for the Ames strain and consulting on weaponization techniques at the UK conference. Did the Amerithrax perp attend this conference or work on any of the research presented? Ali Al-Timimi had a high security clearance for mathematical support work for the Navy. Why? When? What did his work involve? In January 2002, FBI Assistant Director Van Harp told the 40,000 members of the American Society for Microbiology that it was “very likely that one or more of you know this individual.” Martin Hugh-Jones assumes that the anthrax perp was someone they knew. They very likely did. But now given all the patents point to use of Bruce Ivins-supplied Ames at LSU, we need the LSU people (which included a scientist, Kimothy Smith, who was a key genetics consultant, to say whether a sample of the Bruce Ivins-supplied Ames was supplied in response to the subpoena — whether it still existed there at the time of the response, and if so, whether it was provided.

  11. DXer said

    Pursuant to FOIA, the Defense Intellience Agency provided 100+ pages some 1999 documents seized in Afghanistan by US forces describing the author’s visit to the special confidential room at the BL-3 facility where 1000s of pathogenic cultures were kept; his consultation with other scientists on some of technical problems associated with weaponizing anthrax; the bioreactor and laminar flows to be used in Al Qaeda’s anthrax lab; and the need for vaccination and containment. He explained that the lab director noted that he would have to take a short training course at the BL-3 lab for handling dangerous pathogens. Rauf Ahmad noted that his employer’s offer of pay during a 12-month post-doc sabbatical was wholly inadequate and was looking to Ayman to make up the difference. After an unacceptably low pay for the first 8 months, there would be no pay for last 4 months and there would be a service break. He had noted that he only had a limited time to avail himself of the post-doc sabbatical. The documents included a handwritten copy of earlier correspondence from before the lab visit described in the typed memo. 90 of the 100 pages are the photocopies of journal articles and disease handbook excerpts.

    I contacted him (the DIA knows him as Rauf Ahmad) for an interview and he said he hoped for an “optimistic” exchange — he, I think, meant “positive” exchange, with English being his second language. He emailed me a copy of his resume. But then I emailed him a copy of the correspondence with Zawahiri and he never responded further. The Pakistanis initially agreed to let the Washington Post correspondent in Pakistan interview him but then backpedaled.

    The Post, in an exclusive groundbreaking investigative report linked by Lew above, recounts that the FBI’s New York office took the lead U.S. role — and its agents worked closely with the CIA and bureau officials in Pakistan in interrogating Rauf. Though not formally charged with any crimes, Rauf agreed to questioning. While the US media focused on the spectacle of bloodhounds alerting to Dr. Steve Hatfill and the draining of Maryland ponds, this former Al Qaeda anthrax operative provided useful leads. But problems began when the U.S. officials sought to pursue criminal charges, including possible indictment and prosecution in the United States. In earlier cases, such as the othopedic surgeon Dr. Amer Aziz who treated Bin Laden in the Fall of 2001, the Pakistani government angered the Pakistani public when it sought to prosecute professionals for alleged ties to al-Qaeda. In the case of Amer Aziz, hundreds of doctors, engineers and lawyers took to the streets to demand his release. In 2003, the Pakistanis shut off U.S. access to Rauf. By then, I had noticed the reporting of his arrest in a press article about the raid of a compound of doctors named Khawaja in a public CIA news database and published it on my website. According to Pakistani officials, there was not enough evidence showing that he actually succeeded in providing al-Qaeda with something useful. Since then, the Post reports, Rauf has been allowed to return to his normal life.

    George Tenet in his May 2007 In the Center of the Storm says: “Al-Qa’ida spared no effort in its attempt to obtain biological weapons. In 1999, al-Zawahiri recruited Pakistani national Rauf Ahmad, to set up a small lab in Khandahar, Afghanistan, to house the biological weapons effort. In December 2001, a sharp WMD analyst at CIA found the initial lead on which we would pull and, ultimately, unravel the al-Qa’ida anthrax networks. We were able to identify Rauf Ahmad from letters he had written to Ayman al-Zawahiri. … We located Rauf Ahmad’s lab in Afghanistan. We identified the building in Khandahar where Sufaat claimed he isolated anthrax. We mounted operations that resulted in the arrests and detentions of anthrax operatives in several countries.”

    Delivering the James Smart Lecture, entitled “Global Terrorism: are we meeting the challenge?” at the headquarters of the City of London Police, Ms. Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, said: “Western security services have uncovered networks of individuals, sympathetic to the aims of al-Qa’ida, that blend into society, individuals who live normal, routine lives until called upon for specific tasks by another part of the network.” She concluded: “The threats of chemical, biological and radiological and suicide attacks require new responses and the Government alone will not achieve all of it; industry and even the public must take greater responsibility for their own security.”

    Milton Leitenberg wrote in a chapter on evolving threats in Wenger and Wollenmann’s 2007 Bioterrorism: Confronting A Complex Threat:

    “The first significant and meaningful information on what Al-Qaida may at some point have hoped to achieve in the area of bioweapons appeared on a single page in the journal SCIENCE in mid-December 2003, and then in declassified documents that were obtained in the last week of March 2004.

    Appended to the single page in SCIENCE via the internet address was a list of thirty-two items: eleven books and twenty-one professional journal papers nearly all dating from the 1950s and 1960s dealing with pathogens or bioweapons.”

    He explained: “They were found in Al Qaida training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December 2001. Half of the books dealt with historic or general aspects of bioweapons and would be of little practical use in an effort to produce bioweapons agents. However, at least some of the journal papers and the remaining half of the books might have been useful in such an effort. They were found only a few kilometers from the site near the Kandahar airport that confirmed the rudimentary equipment also procured by Al-Qaida.”Most important of all, the documents indicated that “al-Qaida’s BW initiative included recruitment of individuals with PhD-level expertise who supported planning and acquisition efforts by their familiarity with the scientific community.”

    Mr. Leitenberg concludes: “If it should turn out, as is currently assumed, that the Amerithrax perpetrator came from within the US government’s own biodefense program, with access to strains, laboratories, people and knowledge, then all previous conceptions about the significance of the events would be substantially altered.” He observes that “Al-Qaeda has actively recruited educated college graduates and … specifically sought individuals with particular knowledge and training. … Such recruiting patterns do not automatically translate into either an interest or capability in bioweapons, but they would be a key advantage should the interests of such a group turn in that direction, as Al-Zawahiri’s [1999] memorandum quoted above suggests they may.”

    The Sunday at the start of the Organization of the Dangerous Pathogens meeting in September 2000, which the SFAM director confirmed to me that Rauf Ahmad also attended, was gloomy. Planning had proved even more difficult than the International Conference on anthrax also held at the University of Plymouth, in September 1998. The overseas delegates included a sizable contingent from Russia. The organizers needed to address many thorny issues regarding who could attend. One of the scientists in attendance was Rauf Ahmad. The Washington Post reports: “The tall, thin and bespectacled scientist held a doctorate in microbiology but specialized in food production, according to U.S. officials familiar with the case.” Les Baillie the head of the biodefense technologies group at Porton Down ran the scientific program. Many of the delegates took an evening cruise round Plymouth harbor. The cold kept most from staying out on the deck. Later attendees visited the National Marine Aquarium — with a reception in view of a large tankful of sharks. Addresses include presentations on plagues of antiquity, showing how dangerous infectious diseases had a profound that they changed the course of history. Titles include “Magna pestilencia – Black Breath, Black Rats, Black Death”, “From Flanders to Glanders,” as well as talks on influenza, typhoid and cholera. The conference was co-sponsored by DERA, the UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.

    Les Baillie of Porton Down gave a presentation titled, “Bacillus anthracis: a bug with attitude!” He argued that anthrax was a likely pathogen to be used by terrorists. As described at the time by Phil Hanna of University of Michigan Medical School on the SFAM webpage, Baillie “presented a comprehensive overview of this model pathogen, describing its unique biology and specialized molecular mechanisms for pathogenesis and high virulence. He went on to describe modern approaches to exploit new bioinformatics for the development of potential medical counter measures to this deadly pathogen.” Bioinformatics was the field that Ali Al-Timimi, who had a security clearance for some government work and who had done work for the Navy, would enter by 2000 at George Mason University in Virginia. Despite the cold and the sharks, amidst all the camaraderie and bonhomie no one suspected that despite the best efforts, a predator was on board — on a coldly calculated mission to obtain a pathogenic anthrax strain. The conference organizer Peter Turnbull had received funding from the British defense ministry but not from public health authorities, who thought anthrax too obscure to warrant the funding. By 2001, sponsorship of the conference was assumed by USAMRIID. USAMRIID scientist Bruce Ivins had started planning the conference held in Annapolis, Maryland in June 2001 three years earlier, immediately upon his return from the September 1998 conference.

    According to the Pakistan press, a scientist named Rauf Ahmad (known here as Abdur Rauf) was picked up in December 2001 by the CIA in Karachi. The most recent of the correspondence reportedly dates back to the summer and fall of 1999. Even if Rauf Ahmad cooperated with the CIA, he apparently could only confirm the depth of Zawahiri’s interest in weaponizing anthrax and provided no “smoking gun” concerning the identity of those responsible for the anthrax mailings in the Fall 2001. His only connection with SFAM was a member of the society — he was not an employee. The Pakistan ISI, according to the Washington Post article in October 2006, stopped cooperating in regard to Rauf Ahmad in 2003.

    “He was detained for questioning, and later the courts determined there was not sufficient evidence to continue detaining him,” Pakistan’s information minister told the Post. “If there was evidence that proved his role beyond a shadow of a doubt, we would have acted on it. But that kind of evidence was not available.” Yazid Sufaat got the job handling things at the lab instead of Rauf Ahmad. More importantly, Zawahiri, if keeping with his past experience, would have kept things strictly compartmentalized — leaving the Amerithrax Task Force much to do.

    Question: Lew asks: What BL-3 lab did Rauf Ahmad visit? Who of the scientists who attended the anthrax / dangerous pathogens in 1998 and 1999 and 2000 knew Rauf Ahmad? Who from the conferences provided him technical tips about aerosolizing anthrax? Who was the lab director who advised him on the need of taking a short BL-3 training course?

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