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

* al-Qaeda was seeking anthrax; in Ames, Iowa, anthrax samples were destroyed; is there a connection? text of the new YouTube video

Posted by DXer on July 5, 2009

why the FBI failed to solve the 2001 anthrax caseCASE CLOSED

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bin-laden-2al-Qaeda was seeking anthrax; in Ames, Iowa, anthrax samples were destroyed; is there a connection?

Before the anthrax attacks, Al-Qaeda was looking for anthrax. Immediately after the anthrax attacks, in Ames Iowa, samples of anthrax perhaps related to the attack anthrax were destroyed. Is there a connection between those two events? Lew Weinstein, author of CASE CLOSED, a fictional account which explains why the FBI failed to solve the anthrax case, maintains a blog which has become a vibrant form for discussion of the actual anthrax case.

Here is the text of the video posted on YouTube …

Hi. My name is Lew Weinstein. I’m the author of a novel called CASE CLOSED, which presents a fictional scenario to explain why the FBI failed to solve the 2001 anthrax case. To promote my novel, I started a blog, and the CASE CLOSED blog has become a host for vibrant discussion and argument over the anthrax attacks and the FBI’s subsequent investigation.

This video suggests a possible connection between two major topics that have been discussed on our blog in the past week or so.

  • in 1999 al-Qaeda was looking for anthrax spores and the means to weaponize them.
  • in 2001, in Ames Iowa, just days after the first anthrax victim died, hundreds of samples of anthrax were suddenly destroyed.
  • is there a connection between those two events?

Jobi Warrick, in an article in the Washington Post, wrote of a man name Abdur Rauf, an al-Qaeda operative who reported to the #2 al-Qaeda Commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

  • In December 2001, a set of documents was found by coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. Highly redacted portions of these documents were provided by the DIA – Defense Intelligence Agency, were recently published on the CASE CLOSED blog.
  • The documents provide evidence of Abdur Rauf’s mission and his possible success. “I have successfully achieved the targets,” Rauf chillingly stated in a letter to al-Zawahiri.

These documents are tantalizing … but there’s much more to be revealed … many questions to be answered.

Now let’s switch our attention to Ames Iowa.

  • In October 2001, literally days after the death of the first anthrax victim, a large number of anthrax samplesUSDA Lab Allegationswere destroyed in Ames Iowa.
  • Some of these samples belonged to Iowa State University
  • others, according to a report in Coen and Nadler’s recently published Dead Silence, belonged to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which operated labs near the university and interacted frequently with university scientists and students.
  • The destroyed anthrax probably included samples of what has become known as Ames strain RMR-1029 which was the very strain the FBI says was used in the anthrax attack letters.

The destruction of anthrax in Ames Iowa is unique

  • there are no other known instances of post-attack destruction of anthrax samples in any other research lab in the U.S.
  • The people who directed the Ames Iowa autoclave destruction were presumably scientists who presumably understood the forensic value of the DNA in those samples for tracing of the origin of the anthrax used in the attack letters.
  • the FBI was aware of the intended Ames destruction and did not object
  • although claims that the FBI actually ordered the destruction have not been confirmed.

Is there a connection between Abdur Rauf and Ames Iowa? Well … there could be.

  • Suppose one of the locations redacted in the Abdur Rauf materials turns out to be Iowa State University or theUSDA lab strip mall storage nearby USDA labs in Ames Iowa.
  • Suppose … in the midst of the nationwide panic after the anthrax attacks, scientists in Ames Iowa realized that Abdur Rauf had visited their labs. Suppose these scientists knew or suspected … or at least feared that anthrax spores were received or stolen by Rauf during the course of such a visit.
  • Suppose … the inventory records in Ames Iowa were so poor it was impossible to tell if any lethal anthrax had gone missing.
  • and finally … suppose the physical and personnel security at the Ames lab locations, including the strip mall location — yes, the leased strip mall storefront location — used as a laboratory by the USDA, suppose security was so inadequate that transfer or theft of anthrax spores would not have been difficult to accomplish.
  • In the absence of full disclosure of where Abdul Rauf went and why the Ames anthrax was destroyed, all of the above suppositions must be considered open questions.

In fact, despite the FBI’s claim that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator of the anthrax attacks, the CASE is definitely not CLOSED.

These open questions, and many more, are what prompted me to write my novel CASE CLOSED which presents one fictional scenario to explain why the FBI failed to solve the anthrax case.

And it’s why the participants of the CASE CLOSED blog are continuing their efforts to extract and publish information relevant to the 2001 anthrax attacks.

You’re welcome to join us.

  • Just do a simple three word web search — case … closed … Weinstein — and click on any of the blog articles you will find.
  • watch … or participate … as we seek to learn the truth about America’s unsolved case of mass murder by anthrax
  • Welcome to our blog.

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to see the video click >>>

* VIDEO – Al-Qaeda seeks anthrax; Ames Iowa destroys it

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11 Responses to “* al-Qaeda was seeking anthrax; in Ames, Iowa, anthrax samples were destroyed; is there a connection? text of the new YouTube video”

  1. DXer said

    In the new book, The FBI: They Eat Their Young,” at page 209, former FBI Agent William Alan Larsh described how he almost got in trouble when he contacted a Dean at Penn State because the professor who was his contact was late in getting a list of all those who worked with anthrax. The professor was angry that the Agent had gone over his head. The professor reported the agent to his supervisor.

    I once had a similar experience — some medical school professor, in Iowa as I recall, was not cooperating and it took a call to the Dean to get the information flowing. I was always very appreciative of people who responded promptly to requests for information.

    It is the FBI that, by far, is the slowest.

    • DXer said

      It took a while before requests were made.

      A NATION CHALLENGED: THE INQUIRY; Experts See F.B.I. Missteps Hampering Anthrax Inquiry
      This article was reported and written by WILLIAM J. BROAD, DAVID JOHNSTON, JUDITH MILLER and PAUL ZIELBAUER.NOV. 9, 2001

      ”We want to know what you have for anthrax, we want to see the documentation, we want to know who has access to it, where it’s shipped from, who works with it, we want to know the protocols,” said a senior F.B.I. official. ”We’re not going to leave these facilities until every question is answered.”
      Many university laboratories in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York have not been contacted in the investigation.
      ”I haven’t seen neither hide nor hair of them,” said Dr. John E. Lennox, a professor at Penn State University’s microbiology department, though anyone interested in producing anthrax could find what they need in his laboratory. ”There isn’t anything they would require that isn’t in my lab,” he said.

  2. DXer said

    In an “Official Use Only” briefing, an FBI scientist says that the Ames was sent from Texas to Ames, Iowa. What is his sourcing?

    http://aseanregionalforum.asean.org/files/Archive/8%20Amerithrax%20Investigation%20Case%20Study%5BMr_%20William%20So%5D.pdf

    • DXer said

      By way of some background, I obtained the mailing labels many years ago corroborating that there was no postmark confirming a reporter’s assumption at the time.

      I then had the Texas scientist interviewed in Montana who did the actual mailing — something the FBI and journalitst had not done.

      I obtained the mailing labels from an ISU professor (James D) who had obtained them from Greg K. Dr. K was the Ames researcher who received the strain and then went to work for the CIA. There were two slants sent. Where did the other slant go? Did Greg take one with him when he left for NMRC?

      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/there-were-two-slants-of-ames-sent-from-texas-and-ivins-only-had-one/

      Although I interviewed all the ISU professors involved with the destruction of an inventory at ISU (as distinguished from Ames USDA), I was unsuccessful in obtaining an interview of Thomas Bunn at the USDA Ag B3 lab in Iowa. Getting the interview of one of the ISU professors had required intervention of a vet or med school dean, as I vaguely recall.

      There are a lot of learned and hardworking people who have been very helpful on their own initiative. Others come around with a little encouragement.

      I submitted a FOIA to USDA and a terrorism committee reviewed the request — the helpful fellow emphasized the issue that it was not known as Ames at the time of the mailing.

      Once I submitted a FOIA request to a Montana school following up on the NMRC lead. They fedexed a detailed response.

      In volleyball, even while a ball is being dropped, there often are a lot of players working to keep the ball up in the air.

      http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

    • richard rowley said

      Perhaps DXer can straighten out a datum given in that slide show:
      —————-
      •Hence the Ames strain
      •Only in 15 U.S. and 3 international laboratories
      —————————–

      Yet Paul Keim said:
      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/anthrax-files/paul-keim-we-were-surprised-it-was-the-ames-strain/
      ———–
      At that point, … what do you assume this might lead to?

      At this point, certainly, a foreign source or Al Qaeda was still a very real possibility. The fact there’s a laboratory strain just meant that a person had done it. This strain was widely distributed around the United States. Sixteen or 17 different U.S. laboratories had this strain. We didn’t know this at that time. This was something that the FBI discovered later on. But the fact that it was in multiple laboratories, and even in international laboratories, we knew that. We knew that lots of laboratories had this strain.
      —————————–
      So which is it, 15? or 16? or 17?
      And what’s the ‘official’ claim in that regard?
      And regardless of the number, are those labs listed in an official document?

  3. Anonymous scientist said

    “Despite that painstaking analysis and the unequivocal conclusions put forth by FBI officials, doubts linger over some matters that are mainly scientific as well as others that intersect with the broader thrust of the investigation. For instance, none of the microbiologists, including Bannan and similar specialists at FBI, was privy to other evidence, including lab records from USAMRIID, that their FBI colleagues collected. “I know nothing of that information,” he says. “I’m a microbiologist, and was not involved in the seizure of evidence.””

    This is perhaps the most pathetic quote from the entire article. We have FBI “microbiologist” Jason Bannan stating “I’m a microbiologist”. What’s next? Will we have Joe Michael from Sandia National Labs saying “I’m just a metallurgist who never before examined a biological sample until the FBI gave me a nice juicy grant to examine the the spores that were used to terrorize the nation in 2001?” It really is pathetic. Either we have one of the most incompetent and brainless investigations ever conducted by the US government or we have a cover-up.

    Dr Joe Michael of Sandia National Labs has now resorted to swapping email gossip with internet pornographer Ed Lake:
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.11/fakers_pr.html

    That just shows you how far the level of our National Labs has fallen. Sandia should be ashamed of themselves.

    I wonder what will happen when the real adults at NAS find out just how much the FBI have been hiding information?

    Clue: read this carefully ” For instance, none of the microbiologists, including Bannan and similar specialists at FBI, was privy to other evidence, including lab records from USAMRIID”

    Yes, that means the FBI are now back-peddling big time. I wonder what will happen when NAS ask AFIP for the EDX data on the New York Post powder? I bet there’s a few FBI senior folks planning their next career move. Most of them are already out of there. Jason, there could be a nice position at a university for you down the horizon. Ask Dwight Adams, he worked a nice deal.

  4. DXer said

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/0401/02-ask.html

    Ask the Expert
    Paul Keim

    Paul Keim, Ph.D., is a Regents Professor of Biology at Northern Arizona University and the Division Director of Pathogen Genomics at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). He works on the integration of population genetics and genomics for many diverse organisms, including Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax. Keim initially became interested in how genetics could be used in forensic investigations when he was called upon to provide testimony in a murder trial, and he subsequently has worked on cases involving wildlife and crop plant DNA testing. Keim serves on the Scientific Working Group for Microbial Forensics (FBI) and the National Science Advisory Board for Biodefense to advise the U.S. government on issues of science and policy.

    On July 6, 2009, Paul Keim answered selected viewer questions about the anthrax letter attacks and microbial forensics in general. Please note we are no longer accepting questions, but see our Links & Books section and History of Biowarfare for additional information.
    Introductory Note from Paul Keim

    Anthrax is a disease that is caused by a bacterial pathogen called Bacillus anthracis. It is important to note that the word “anthrax” is commonly misused in the popular media, where it is substituted for the pathogen name. If you listened closely, I misused the word “anthrax” in a similar way during the show.

    Several of my answers below are based upon second-hand information. While I believe that my sources are credible, I have indicated this aspect where appropriate.

    “Amerithrax 184” is the case name assigned by the FBI to the investigation of the anthrax letter attacks.

    The National Academy of Science will be reviewing the scientific evidence developed in the anthrax-letter investigation. At this time, they have tentatively assigned a committee to investigate the investigation and issue a report to the government. This NAS report should be of great interest, as it will examine the validity of a very unique criminal investigation. It is unlikely that this committee will examine other investigative efforts aimed at attribution to a particular individual. This will be disappointing to many, but it is really beyond the scope of a scientific forum. This URL will link you the NAS website: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/projectview.aspx?key=49105

    Q: What are the limitations of using microbial forensics for attribution purposes? Are policymakers fully aware of these limitations?
    Jonathan B. Tucker, Washington, D.C.

    A: Limitations to Attribution: The conclusions drawn from any forensic evidence are very dependent upon the actual events. We frequently hear about the incredible odds against a human DNA profile (“fingerprint”) matching another by random chance. This is probably the most powerful evidence that is currently admitted in criminal prosecutions. But even here, the conclusions are dependent upon the actual events. The level of certainty provided with a DNA match between a semen stain and sexual assault suspect is amazingly high and almost always leads to a conviction or exoneration. However, if there is an identical twin involved, the probabilities are not overwhelming, and you might just have to flip a coin (50:50) to decide who did it. Thus, making an accurate general statement about limitations to microbial attribution is hard to do because the specific details are critical.

    However, there are some powerful specific conclusions in the Amerithrax case. These would include, for example, “The laboratory Ames strain can be precisely identified and differentiated from all other types of Bacillus anthracis, including those very close relatives isolated from the same geographic region of Texas.” This is a long ways from concluding that letter spores came from USAMRIID, but it is a start and eliminates a lot of possibilities. “Exclusion” due to a lack of a match is one of the most powerful conclusions that can be drawn in DNA fingerprinting analysis.

    In the Amerithrax case, the scientific evidence (morph typing) tying the letter spores to the RMR-1029 appears strong. (Disclaimer: My lab did not do this analysis, and my knowledge is secondhand.) The FBI repository of Ames cultures was extensive, and only cultures derived from RMR1029 or that culture itself have all four morphs. While this scientific conclusion excludes a very large number of possible perpetrators (including myself), it still doesn’t directly attribute the crime to an individual. I understand that there was more than one person with access to RMR-1029 spore preparation. I don’t know how many individuals had access, and I can only speculate that it could have been quite a few (10? 50? 100?). This limitation is well understood by the scientists involved but may or may not be understood by the public or policymakers.

    Policymakers’ Awareness: In general, I would say that the limitations of any technology and science are not well understood by either the public or policymakers. Scientific results almost always get simplified when communicated to a non-scientific audience, and many nuances to the conclusions get lost as well. In the end, even a jury has to decide which scientific expert is the most credible. I and other experts struggle continuously to communicate with the public and with policymakers in an effective manner. It is typical that laboratory results get communicated to a low-level policy person; who then communicates it to the next level; then to next; etc.

    In the Amerithrax case, many of our scientific results were eventually communicated to President Bush. Long before he was briefed on the results, someone below him interpreted and massaged whatever report I filed with the FBI. Any U.S. president is going to be smart enough to understand the limitations, if they have the time learn them. I would guess that they never have enough time do this and that the subtleties are lost.

    On the positive side, there are some very intelligent scientists and analysts in the government who do appreciate the limitations of scientific evidence. I believe that they sincerely try to communicate the shortcomings, as well as the power of a result. I get the sense that policymaking is a very adversarial endeavor and that someone will be willing to argue against any conclusion!

    Q: Did any lab using electron microscopes find bentonite, or did they see silica and thought it was bentonite because they saw a brown ring?
    Anonymous

    A: This is a bit outside my expertise, but I’ll relate what I have heard from the other experts: At the ASM [American Society for Microbiology] Biodefense meetings, Dr. Joseph Michael from Sandia National Laboratories reported that there were high levels of the element silicon within the spore itself. His high-resolution microscopic elemental analysis did not detect any silica or bentonite on the outside of the spores. The internal silicon signal is thought to be due to biological incorporation during the formation of the spore by the mother cell. As per Dr. Michael’s talk, there was no evidence that silica or bentonite was added to the spore preps. How the silicon is incorporated inside the spore coat is not well understood but has been observed in other Bacillus spore-forming bacteria.

    There is also a bonus video on the NOVA scienceNOW website involving Dr. Michael’s work. [See Was It Weaponized?] Here is a good press release from Sandia National Laboratories on this topic: http://www.sandia.gov/news/resources/releases/2008/anthrax.html

    Note that there has been great confusion on this topic. A very early report by Dr. Peter Jahrling (a friend of mine) with a lower-resolution technology also detect silicon in the letter spores. This silicon signal was then reported “as probably silica,” which lead to speculation that bentonite was added to the letter spores to “weaponize” them. Again, this is outside my field of expertise, but so-called experts claim that bentonite can be added to spores to make them more readily dispersed. This resulted in extensive speculation that the spores were from a “state-sponsored” source and that they were of a very high “weapons grade” production. All this speculation now appears unfounded due to the over-interpretation of the early silicon signature data.

    Additional Commentary: ”Weaponization” is a tricky term. Most people use the term to indicate some special additive or a manufacturing process that increases the dispersion and lethality of the spores. I frequently get asked if the spores in the letters were “weaponsized.” The answer has to be yes! But recognize that a brick is a weapon as soon as someone throws it at another person. That act of throwing is, in essence, “weaponizing” the brick. From what I have heard, I don’t believe that the spores in the letters were “weaponized” through special milling or the additional of chemicals to increase their dispersal. I think that these are just plain purified spores that were dried and put in an envelope. Unfortunately, five people died from these “bricks.” But these letters were not weapons of mass destruction. What they did, instead, was to create a major terrorism event.

    Q: Did the FBI or U.S. Department of Justice consult with any genetics expert when they were asked in October 2001 whether it was okay for the [B. anthracis strains held at] Iowa State University and USDA Ames (at the strip mall) to be destroyed?
    Ross Getman, Syracuse, New York

    A: I was not consulted nor am I familiar with the actual steps that lead to the destruction of these materials. During that time period (late 2001), I was doubtlessly the most engaged microbial geneticist working with the FBI. If I wasn’t consulted, then probably none others were either.

    Background: This question refers to the destruction of archival B. anthracis strains held at Iowa State University during the early weeks following my lab’s identification of the Ames strain from the first victim. B. anthracis cultures were fairly common in veterinary teaching colleges (ISU is a good one), and their presence at ISU is not surprising. It is a real disease, and veterinarians need to know how to diagnose and treat it. Educators would need to have examples available for teaching and reference purposes.

    As we now know, the Ames strain was not from Ames, Iowa but rather from a cow that died in Texas in 1981. Even I didn’t know this in October 2001 and mistakenly thought it had been a part of the U.S. bioweapons program from the 1950’s. Since 1981, the Ames strain has been used for vaccine testing and, as such, is commonly used in research laboratories. Its wide use for vaccine challenges lead to the misconception that it had been used previously as a part of the weapons program. Martin Hugh-Jones and I wrote a paper in 2000 (J. Bacteriology. 182:2928-2936) where we mistakenly stated this. Martin had worked at USAMRIID and thought that this was the case when we wrote the paper. We now know that this is false.

    The misnaming of the “Ames” strain was due to confusion over its original source. Dr. Greg Knudson, who was at USAMRIID at the time, has stated that it was named “Ames” because of recycled packing material used by the Texas veterinarian to ship the 1981 isolate to USAMRIID. The packaging material had originally come from Ames, Iowa, where Iowa State University and the USDA Animal Disease lab reside. This is a credible report, and we have confirmed that other B. anthracis isolates from parts of Texas are very closely related to the laboratory Ames strain (Kenefic et al, Emerging Infectious Disease 14:1494-6; Simonson et al, BMC Microbiology. 9:71doi:10.1186/1471-2180-9-71). So, we now know that the Ames strain originally came from Texas, not Iowa.

    Additional Commentary: It is hard to understand why this destruction was done and why it was allowed to occur. Clearly someone in Iowa panicked at being in the media bright lights and wanted to get rid of the material. If this was really authorized by the FBI, who that authority was has not been released, to my knowledge. If the investigation had eventually lead back to Iowa, this would have been viewed as destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice. Now that would have been a public relations nightmare!

    I used to work at Iowa State University, and I lived in Ames, Iowa. I still have many friends there. So that they don’t get too mad at me, I would like to point out that this criticism is in hindsight, and I imagine the pressure was intense. I wasn’t there in October 2001. (I had my own stress at the time.) But I hope that I would have made a different decision.

    Q: The following are several of the many questions proposed at my CASE CLOSED blog, where a vibrant discussion of issues related to the anthrax investigation is active every day:

    1) Did the 1,070 samples examined by the morphotype analysis accurately reflect the actual number of anthrax samples held in the U.S. in the 2001 timeframe?

    2) Did the process of self-submission of anthrax samples by labs and individuals (per the FBI methodology) result in a reliable representation of the Ames samples that may or may not have existed prior to 2001?

    3) Did the FBI use any type of proficiency testing for their genetic analysis?

    4) Was the Bacillus subtilis contaminant found in the first batch of letters genetically identical to any forensic evidence collected from any lab? Also, was that contaminant tested against strains from Dugway Proving Grounds?
    Lew Weinstein, Collioure, France

    A: [Editor’s Note: The questions above have been numbered to match the corresponding answers below.]

    1) This would not be representative of all the Bacillus anthracis samples, but rather Ames strain stocks. I don’t know how many B. anthracis cultures existed in the U.S. in 2001, but many more than this. The Ames strain is only one of many different identifiable strains.

    2) Presumably, the 1,070 collection represents all the Ames cultures in the U.S. plus some from around the world. First, the Department of Justice subpoenaed all the U.S. anthrax labs for our inventory records with special attention to the Ames strain cultures. Next, the DOJ subpoenaed all U.S. laboratories that had the Ames strain to provide a sampling (a portion) of their Ames cultures. For example, my lab had only seven different Ames stocks, which we sampled and sent in duplicate to the FBI.

    3) Definitely yes. Extensive proficiency testing was performed both prior to and during the genetic analysis at Northern Arizona University. The initial determination from the first Florida sample was done using normal research controls and standards, but soon afterwards very rigorous forensic-level protocols were implemented. There was no time for proficiency testing for the first analysis on the Robert Stevens isolate, as we had only a few hours notification. Immediately afterwards, the FBI forensic scientists began to review our procedures and help us to institute forensic-level operating protocols, including proficiency testing. Once these were in place, original analyses were repeated with the same result.

    Note that there were no forensic standards for microbes and that we had to adapt the ones developed for human DNA testing to our new anthrax tests. This is a topic of great debate as to what the standards should be for a new technology.

    4) Disclaimer: My lab did not work on the B. subtilis contaminant, so what I am relating is secondhand knowledge. However, it is based upon my conversations with government experts and my participation in the press conferences and the public ASM symposium. Details of the contaminant were discussed in these forums.

    Background: The question refers to the non-hemolytic (B. anthracis is hemolytic) bacterial contaminant found in some of the letters. It proved to be a spore forming Bacillus subtilis bacterium. As the name implies, this is somewhat related to Bacillus anthracis and shares many biological properties. But it is not a disease causing organism, and there are many, many different types found in the environment. It would not be surprise to me to find a novel B. subtilis on my computer keyboard.

    Answer: The government investigators thought that perhaps this contaminant could be used to trace back the spore preps to a particular laboratory. If the contaminant was a common laboratory strain of B. subtilis, this might have been possible. In the end, this apparently proved impossible because this contaminant was different from any known lab strains. Likewise, Dugway Proving Grounds labs were intensely investigated, and I would assume that any Bacillus strains at that facility would have been investigated. Again, no lab strains matched the contaminant using DNA analysis.

    Q: Did the Bacillus subtilis contaminant found in the New York Post and NBC anthrax letters raise speculation that it could have been residue from aerosol powder equipment used by military labs to manufacture bioweapon (BW) simulants? For example, Edgewood Army labs routinely produce aerosolizable Bacillus subtilis var. niger strain bioweapons simulants. See link here: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA483822&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf. Did the Bacillus subtilis found match the niger strain or any other strain associated with BW simulant production? Was this considered?
    Anonymous

    A: DNA analysis of the B. subtilis contaminant did not match any known strain of bacteria (see my previous answer).

    Background: The question refers to a fairly common lab strain of B. subtilis that has been used as a non-pathogenic biological weapons simulant of B. anthracis to test detector systems in environmental releases of spores. This strain forms a very identifiable colony upon plating, which is probably why it was chosen as the BW simulant.

    Everyone in the investigation is well aware of the use of this B. subtilis niger as a simulant, and many of us have this strain in our labs. Upon DNA analysis, the letter-contaminant strain was considerably different from the simulant.

    Not to belabor this point, but this BW simulant bacterium has been renamed several times as scientists have learned more about. It was originaly named Bacillus subtilis var. niger, but was then deemed distinct and different from B. subtilis and was then given its own species name, Bacillus globii. Later it was renamed again to Bacillus atrophaeus. I mention this just to re-enforce the idea that this BW simulant bacterium is very distinguishable from the B. subtilis found amongst the B. anthracis spores.

    Q: [Editor’s note: The following questions have been numbered to correspond with the answers below them.]

    1) The mailed spores were compared to ancestral Ames (genotype62) and determined to be identical to it. In what lab and under what circumstances was the ancestral Ames stored? 2) When testing other sources to compare to the mailed spores, did you look for colony morphology differences? 3) If Iowa State University destroyed its entire collection of anthrax, how can it be eliminated as a source for flask RMR-1029?
    Marcia Ann Chambers, Topeka, Indiana

    A: 1) The ancestral Ames culture was stored at USAMRIID until it was discovered during the Amerithrax investigation. It is the oldest known archival Ames culture discovered in the investigation and dates from early 1981 (see: Ravel et al. 2009 J. Bacteriology 191:445-6.). 2) The morphs themselves were useful for identifying minor genetic differences in the letter spores, but it would have been very tedious and unreliable to depend upon visual analysis of colony morphology across the entire repository or across all the evidence. In addition, the colony morphological differences can be subtle and subjective. (A lot of credit should be extended to the skilled microbiologists who originally spotted the morphs.) So, the final repository analysis was of the genetic differences controlling the morphological differences. These were genetic tests (PCR) developed after the full genomes of each morph were determined by TIGR [The Institute for Genomic Research]. These tests are rapid, sensitive, and highly reproducible. The entire process was done in a blinded fashion where the labs used anonymous samples.

    3) It is regrettable that ISU destroyed their archival B. anthracis isolates (see my commentary above), as this could have exonerated them. Our DNA analyses would have quickly determined whether they even had the Ames strain in their collection. The reason they were under such scrutiny was due to the misnaming of the Ames strain (see my discussion on this topic above).

    Commentary: This is an opinion, but given the mailing location in New Jersey, it is unlikely that an ISU employee could have driven that far to mail the letters without being detected. It is also unlikely that ISU even had the Ames strain, let alone RMR1029. They did not have a vaccine development program, and there were no notable anthrax research teams there at that time. After all the unwarranted media attention, I’m guessing that the government investigated activities at ISU with great diligence and ruled out potential suspects.

    Q: Dr. Keim,

    In the segment on microbial forensics June 30th, the morphs were eventually found, which distinguished eight of the original 99 lab samples as being identical to the Ames strain RMR-10-20-9. When the initial comparison of the >5 M nt were done, comparing the anthrax in the dead journalist and the original cow anthrax, why was the original verdict that they were exact matches? Why were the morphs not detected in early 2002? Had the one scientist not seen a slight color variation, would the morphs never have been found? Were all the morphs found in the same petri dish together? Using today’s technology, would we be able to find the morphs via the sequencing matches?

    Also, can you tell me what minimum undergraduate and/or graduate courses would have to be completed in order to be considered as a graduate student candidate in microbial forensics? I believe yours is the closest university that offers such a program in the Southwest U.S. Thanks.
    Diana, Albuquerque, New Mexico

    A: [Addressing the first paragraph:] The morphs were observed very early in the investigative process. I wasn’t there when it happened but probably in 2001 and 2002, the morphs had been observed. The observation probably occurred when a microbiologist was plating for single spore colonies on a blood agar petri dish. Hundreds of colonies could be grown in this fashion, side by side. Subtle difference in a few colony morphology were spotted at this time. We are told that they were in low frequency (1%?), so a fairly large number of spore must have been platted (grown) in order to see the few that were different.

    With today’s genomic technology, it might be able to identify minor component genetic differences without first spotting the morphological mutants. The morphs themselves are of little value other than pointing to genomics differences that could be used for characterizing the samples. Today we could simply sequence a large number of colonies to find differences.

    [Addressing the second paragraph:] Microbial forensics is a new scientific field but closely related to the field of epidemiology. In particular, forensic analysis similar to molecular epidemiology analysis was important in the Amerithrax investigation. A graduate program that covers infectious diseases, microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, genomics, epidemiology, evolution, statistics, and public health would be excellent training for a budding microbial forensic scientist. There is a great need for molecular epidemiologists to understand and solve public health problems. I am hoping that there will not be a great need for microbial forensics in the future. If so, some of the talent pool will come from epidemiology.

    Q: Something did not make sense in the documentary. You narrowed the source to a particular bottle, but also stated that about 10 labs had tapped it. Why then was Bruce Ivins, the keeper of the master bottle, the only suspect? Why not one of those other labs or Ivins’ superior or coworker?

    Also, the NOVA piece did not speculate about motives for the attacks. Surely that would also be a way to narrow down culprits. As Seneca put it: Cui prodest scelus, is fecit (The one who derives advantage from the crime is the one most likely to have committed it).
    Roedy Green, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

    A: The scientific evidence from the morphs only narrows the search to RMR1029 and cultures derived from it. In the 1,070 FBI repository samples, there were eight samples that contained all four morph signatures, most of which were at USAMRIID. It is my understanding that there was only one other lab, besides USAMRIID. This is secondhand knowledge, on my part.

    I have no special information concerning the attribution to a particular individual and can’t answer the second two questions.

    I have no special information concerning the motives of any individual and can’t answer the final question.

  5. DXer said

    Alternatively, did the PhD neurologist Aafia Siddiqui have potential access to the virulent Ames strain at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston? She reports she was tasked by someone named “Abu Luaba” to research germ warfare. When was that? When did she first get the assignment?

    Veterinarian and anthrax expert Martin Hugh-Jones, a professor at Louisiana State University, has said: “It was like trading baseball cards.” Hugh-Jones reports he got most of his anthrax from Peter Turnbull at the Porton Down lab in Great Britain, one of those that had received the Ames strain directly from Ft. Detrick. Dr. Theresa Koehler at Houston and Hugh-Jones discussed the distribution of Ames on NPR in January 2002:

    Ms. KOEHLER: Because Ames is used by investigators all over the world, does it matter if originally the strain came from Texas or came from Iowa? I don’t think so.
    ***

    Mr. MARTIN HUGH-JONES (Louisiana State University): I think the most important point is that we didn’t have Ames in this country in anybody’s collection prior to 1980. I think that’s very, very clear. And I think that limits the list of possible suspects quite considerably.
    ***

    KESTENBAUM: Martin Hugh-Jones also has an answer to the mystery of why one paper listed the Ames strain as dating back to 1932. He was an author on that paper. When his team got the Ames sample, it was labeled `10/32,’ which turns out to have meant `Sample number 10 out of 32.’ But they interpreted it as October 1932. David Kestenbaum, NPR News, Washington.

    Dr. Theresa M Koehler holds a faculty appointment at the UT Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She is Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. She has had grants from the CIA, the National Institutes of Health, and others for her work on virulence. Her office was in the same complex, in the connected John Freeman Building. Aafia’s sister-in-law, Dr. Lubna Khawaja, had an office there. In Fall 2001, Dr. Koehler said she had taken the anthrax vaccine and that she got anthrax strains from Porton Down. In the Spring of 2003, Dr. Koehler explained that “It’s critical to use a genetically complete strain of the [anthrax] bacterium in experiments involving virulence.” A government study reported in April 2003 found that all of the labs that had received grants from the National Institutes of Health had unobstructed access to the floors with critical labs.

    Ten million gallons of water were unleashed on the UT Medical School at Houston June 9, 2001 by Tropical Storm Allison. The basement, where the anthrax lab was located, was the hardest hit. More than 400  emergency personnel (internal and contracted) attempted to address the devastation. Throughout June, no equipment could be removed or powered up. Stairwell doors needed to be kept closed. By the first week of July 2001, the basement and ground floor was still off limits, and only one entrance was available. Ground floor occupants needed to continue to work at their temporary sites. Gross mold spore counts continued to be beyond acceptable limits in the basement, which was ventilated separately from the rest of the building.

    The building was opened for business on July 11, 2001 but the ground floor and basement were construction remediation sites  and off-limits except to access elevators to upper levels. Two entrances to the building were available: on the Webber Plaza side of the building near the circle drive and at the breezeway near the guard’s desk. Occupants were reminded in an employee newsletter not to block open  stair well doors on any floor.  The newsletter Scoop reported that in 2007, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new six-story research space completed in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison, “[m]any in the crowd were moved to tears as they recalled that day in June 2001. ‘All of the animals were drowned and there were $165 million in structural damages,’ President Willerson said. ‘It was a daunting task, but we didn’t give up.'”

    Did the anthrax lab in the basement have virulent Ames anthrax strain, to include Ames? If so, what was done with the isolates during the devastation caused in the basement by the flood? At the time it was lawful to have virulent anthrax in its liquid form in a BL-2 facility, contrary to the occasional misperception; a hood is used in handling such isolates. A University President explained as much in a letter in connection with the incident when some live Ames spores were sent by Northern Arizona to Los Alamos in Fall 2001.

    Members of the lab brought out the champagne at the lab in late 2001 when a special visa was granted to a research team member, who without it would have had to return to China. “We knew it was going to be risky,” said Dr. Koehler, a microbiologist at the school who for the past 20 years has studied the anthrax bacterium now being used as a terrorist weapon. “The question was whether current events would convince federal officials that [the researcher’s] skills are in the national interest or make them restrict workers from certain countries.”

    “It is a horrible feeling to think that it could be someone I know, that the perpetrator is a microbiologist among us,” said Dr. Koehler. In September 2001, Dr. Koehler explained her anthrax research, how terrorists might deploy anthrax as a biological weapon and how physicians would treat it.

    Aafia’s brother in 2001 was associated with addresses in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Canton, Michigan — and even Harrison, NJ — in 2001. The ACLU attorney representing Aafia’s family advised me that it had been years since she was Houston — certainly before 2001 and maybe not since she was married.  She added that if Aafia was there, it was to visit her brother, who has nothing to do with the med center.”  The attorney reports: “there is no way they could have helped her get access to the necessary labs at the med center.”

    On Research Day in 2003, the award winners for Biomedical Excellence included a graduate student working in Dr. Koehler’s lab, Melissa Drysdale, who worked on gene regulation in a virulent strain of bacillus anthracis.

    Dr. Koehler received, for example, the Weybridge strain from Porton Down prior to the Fall of 2001. Did Dr. Koehler have virulent Ames from either Porton Down or somewhere else? (Her mentor was the eminent vaccine researcher Dr. Curtis Thorne who got samples directly from Ft. Detrick). Co-researcher Rick Lyons at UNM was fedexed virulent Ames from flask 1029 in March 2001 at the same time the Houston lab upgraded.

    Remember: Khalid Mohammed, who told authorities about Aafia, had anthrax production documents on his assistant’s laptop (the guy working with Aafia’s future husband in UAE in the summer of 2001). She allegedly was associated with both KSM and “Jafar the Pilot” who is at large. She later married an Al Qaeda operative al-Baluchi who, like al-Hawsawi, had been listed as a contact for the hijackers and took over plots upon the arrest of KSM. Authorities have said that a Pakistani scientist , who they refused to name was helping Al Qaeda with its anthrax production program. Were they referring to bacteriologist Abdul Qudus Khan in whose home the Pakistan authorities claim KSM was captured? Was it Rauf Ahmad who Zawahiri sent to infiltrate UK biodefense? Was it the chemistry professor who met with Uzair Paracha in February 2003? Or was it Aafia who was alleged to be a “facilitator” who handled logistics. “Logistics” is handling an operation that involves providing labor and materials as needed. One government psychiatrist affidavit reports that she claims to have been tasked by an “Abu Luaba” to research germ warfare. According to a UN dossier reviewed by a journalist at the Wall Street Journal, in June 2001 she traveled to Liberia to meet Al Qaeda’s military commander, Atef, who had been head of the anthrax planning. One important mystery to resolve analysis is to determine whether the chauffeur who claims the lady was Aafia is lying or mistaken. A FBI memo from 2003 titled “Allegations Relating to al Qaeda’s Trafficking in Conflict Diamonds,” and a related 2004 presentation to the intelligence community, debunking the allegations relating to trafficking in conflict diamonds. The memo was declassified in 2006 and provided under FOIA in February 2008 to intelwire.com. If those documents represent the FBI’s current thinking, there is reason to think Aafia never went to Liberia in June 2001 — or atleast that the FBI does not think she did.

    The ACLU in a February 2004 publication called “Sanctioned Bias: Racial Profiling Since 9/11” described Aafia’s brother first encounter with the FBI. Muhammad A. Siddiqui is an architect in Houston and father of two young children. Someone with the same common name, as mentioned in the court record relating to Project Bojinka. United States of America v. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef et al, (August 26, 1996), page 5118. A letter was read into the record
    “To: Brother Mohammad Alsiddiqi. We are facing a lot of problems because of you. Fear Allah. Mr. Siddiqi, there is a day of judgment. You will be asked, if you are very busy with something more important, don’t give promises to other people. See you in the day of judgment. Still waiting, Khalid Shaikh, and Bojinka.”

    In addition to many people having this very common name, people often used aliases. The attorney, Dietrich Snell, at the time was under the impression it related to a solicitation for money. Attorney Snell was from the US Attorney’s Office. More recently, Snell acted as counsel for the 9/11 Commission. He served as Deputy Attorney General for Public Advocacy under Eliot Spitzer. What was the address of the recipient? Who was Muhammad Siddiqui with whom KSM corresponded?

    Attorney General Ashcroft and Director Mueller made an on-the-record renewed push to find Aafia Siddiqui in a press conference on May 26, 2004 shortly after ACLU Attorney Annette Lamoreaux responded to my emailed inquiries about Aafia. Three days after the Pakistan Ministry of Interior claimed she had been handed over to US authorities in late March 2003.

    There are the many questions surrounding the mystery of the disappearance of the lovely, intelligent and pious — and it turns out occasionally quite chatty — Aafia Siddiqui. Aafia once had an MIT alumni email account forwarded to umaisha@yahoo.com — which under one translation means lively mom. Aisha was the Prophet’s favorite wife. Maybe correspondence in that email account held the answers.

    In a Pakistan news account, Attorney Whitfield Sharp says she doesn’t know of any police report filed by the mom. In the same account, she reports that Aafia received job offer at both John Hopkins and the State University of New York (SUNY). It likely was SUNY downstate in Brooklyn where her sister had gone to school and lived. (Her mother Ismat is associated with addresses in Brooklyn, as well as Massachusetts, in Houston, and in Ann Arbor where Mohammad’s wife had a medical practice. Mohammad is associated with some Ann Arbor and Detroit-area addresses. Ann Arbor, coincidentally, was where IANA was located, as well as the President of Global Relief.

    When he was captured, Al-Baluchi, Khalid Mohammed’s nephew and Aafia Siddiqui’s husband, “was in possession of a perfume spray bottle which contained a low concentration of cyanide when he was arrested.” He was the fellow who met with Majid Khan about using a textiles shipping container to smuggle an unidentified chemical into the country. Cyanide in perfume bottles had been suggested for use in nightclubs in Indonesia but Bin Laden reportedly nixed the plan as ineffectual.

    The transcript from the Combatant Status Review Tribunal explains:
    MEMBER [AL-BALUCHI]: While you were in Pakistan you describe the cyanide…
    DETAINEE: [Interrupting the Member]
    MEMBER: … you had in your possession, a small amount, as being textile, chemical-oriented.
    DETAINEE: Yes.
    MEMBER: Why would you have that on your person?
    DETAINEE: Just I have. Wasn’t for specific purpose but I have. It’s ah…
    MEMBER: Did you have an intent to use it once you got there? What were you going to do with it?
    DETAINEE: No, no. Just ah, it’s use for clothing to remove the color. And something in Pakistan it’s something that they do. It’s bleach like kinda bleach but industrial bleach so.”  

    According to the DOD formal charges issued in February 2008, KSM would give the hijackers a chemical in an eye dropper to remove Pakistan visas from their passport. Perhaps the low concentration of cyanide in the perfume bottle used to remove stains just related to that — rather than consideration of a plot to spray cyanide in a nightclub that had been vetoed by Bin Laden.

    But here’s a Helpful Heloise Tip. Before attempting to get that damn spot out, first get rid of that incriminating pocket litter. The transcript from the hearing on al-Baluchi’s status as an “unlawful combatant” continues: “The Detainee’s pocket litter included a letter from unidentified Saudi Arabian scholars to Usama bin Laden. The letter discussed al Qaida’s strategy in the War on Terror.” Upon her arrest in the summer of 2008, Aafia’s pocket litter included both documents about biological weapons and correspondencing referencing cells and attacks.

    Will Aafia Siddiqui cooperate about other US-based operatives?

  6. DXer said

       Did Aafia have potential access to any Ivins-supplied virulent Ames in the collection of anthrax strains at Brandeis and did that long-held collection include Ames? On March 11, 2002, the Brandeis General Counsel sent an email advising that the federal authorities had subpoenaed records in connection with the investigation of the anthrax crimes.

        In November 2001, the Hazmat Team and the State Department of Health was called after three researchers were doing research with anthrax and Administration officials were concerned there might be contamination. The scientists were confident all scientific protocols had been followed but Hazmat was called nonetheless. The research had been done after the anthrax mailings seeking means to detect anthrax spores. The anthrax used had been at Brandeis a long time, acquired at a time before federal regulations in 1997 required that transfers be recorded. The lab was in the Kalman Building, part of the complex of buildings adjoining the Volen Center. Brandeis researchers Daniel Perlman and Inga Mahler had “decided to focus on developing a solid growth medium for cultivating B. anthracis that might be usable in the field with a minimum of equipment. They further developed the growth medium for use at room temperature thereby obviating the need for equipment such as incubators for sustaining an elevated temperature.” The pair obtained a patent issued March 2004 titled “Selective growth medium for Bacillus anthracis and methods of use.”

        Dr. Perlman has been innovative on a wide range of consumer products; Dr. Mahler had published on the subject of gram positive and gram negative bacteria (the subject underlying the patent) in the Journal of Bacteriology in 1989. Dr. Mahler advises me that the strain of Bacillus anthracis they used in December 2001 was ordered by her group at Brandeis almost 40 years ago. It came from the American Type Culture Collection and was kept viable, together with other stock strains.  She explains that before 9/11 you could simply obtain the organism from culture collections or colleagues. Their offices are in Abelson-Bass-Yalem, adjoining the Volen Center where Aafia’s lab was located. The strain used, Dr. Mahler advises (referred to in the paper as MC 607) — MC stands for Rosenstiel Center — was Vollum, not Ames. Vollum is a strain that like Ames is used to challenge vaccines. It is less lethal but was used by the US in the 1950s in making anthrax weapons. Dr. Mahler reports she knows of no Ames on campus. Dr. Perlman did not respond to an email query. The anthrax was autoclaved, or inactivated in a pressure cooker, before the inspectors arrived at the scene.

        Aafia obtained her PhD from Brandeis in 2001, having graduated from MIT with a degree in biology in 1994. The Visual Lab at which Aafia worked had rules: “No Hitting, No Punching, No Pushing, No Grabbing, No Biting.” Judging from its internet page, the lab seems to have been a pleasant place to work. The operating manual instructed that if you don’t know “ask.” The lab’s work under Robert Sekuler, mainly funded by a grant from the NIH, related to how we remember, forget, or misremember things. Aafia’s 2001 183-page thesis “Separating the components of imitation,” which concerns visual learning and visual discrimination, was very far removed from questions like the Palestinian conflict or creating a fine powder using a mini-spraydryer.

        In the first year of their Ph.D. program, students do 4 nine-week rotations in different laboratories of their choosing. First-year course work includes a core class in principles of neuroscience, and intensive graduate level seminars that give students experience in reading original research literature and making oral presentations. Graduate research advisors are typically chosen at the end of the first year. So one question is: what different labs did Aafia work in during her first year? It is related to the question: what is the origin of the anthrax spraydrying documents on the laptop of the colleague of Aafia’s future husband al-Balucchi?

        “Aafia Siddiqui was here (Boston) in June 2001— when some press reports suggest she was in Liberia meeting with Atef — says the family’s attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp. “And I can prove it.” When her attorney proposed to the family that they obtain her credit card records by subpoena, the family vetoed the idea. Although it should have been easy to check, no members of a play group were brought forward to say that Aafia was in Boston in June. Counsel for the family succeeded at preventing Ismat, the mom, from having to testify before a grand jury in Boston on the grounds that she was too distraught over the disappearance of her daughter.

  7. DXer said

    The affidavit by a Dr. Sally Johnson, a professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill filed July 2, 2009 sheds light on the continuing mysterious saga of Aafia Siddiqui, one Al Qaeda biochem operative.

    “She does admit to a short period of employment as a lab technician at the Karachi Institute of Technology in Pakistan, although she did not share her background with her employer, and allegedly had a lower level job than she could have been capable of holding. [redacted] she claims she was tasked with providing information on germ warfare and translating documents. She minimizes her expertise in the research area.
    ***
    Various accounts are suggested as to what transpired approximately 2003, when she went into hiding,until Ms. Siddiqui was taken into custody in Afghanistan on 07/17/08. Accounts range from her disappearing in a taxi with her children, to possibly being taken into custody, detained and tortured, to her hiding her children with her sister in Pakistan, and heading off to comply with a Fatwa, join and Islamic radical group and serve a religious cause. In one account, she describes being recruited, because of her background in biology and neuroscience, to conduct research on germs and bacteria warfare. It appears that at least part
    of that time she remained in Pakistan. She described conducting research through books and the internet, and translating documents. She tended to downplay her knowledge or usefulness to any cause and claimed she was unaware of the al-Qaeda affilliation of her associates.

    ***
    Collateral information indicates that on or about 07/17/08, Ms. Siddiqui was detained by the Afghan National Police in Ghazni, Afghanistan. She was accompanied by a young boy, whom she originally described as a war orphan that she had taken care of for the preceding two years, but who ultimate turned out to be related to her (through DNA testing) and is thought to be her oldest son. In her possession at the time she was detained, were various documents, chemicals and a computer thumb drive. Included in the documents were handwritten notes that referred to a mass casualty attack listing various locations in the United States. Other
    notes referred to construction of dirty bombs, chemical and biological weapons, and other explosives, and noted mortality rates associated with these. Electronic documents available on the thumb drive included correspondence that referred to specific cells and attacks by certain cells, referred to enemies including the United States and discussed recruitment and training.”

    Who were the members of the other cells? What attacks were referenced?

    The earlier indictment filed on September 2, 2008 alleges:

    “On or about July 17, 2008, AAFIA SIDDIQUI, the defendant, was detained by the Afghan National Police in Ghazni, Afghanistan.

    “At that time, a number of items were in SIDDIQUI’S possession, including various documents, various chemicals, and a computer thumb drive, among other things.

    “Among the documents in the possession of AAFIA SIDDIQUI, the defendant, were handwritten notes that referred to a “mass casualty attack” and that listed various locations in the United States, including Plum Island, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge. In addition, certain notes referred to the construction of ‘dirty bombs,’ chemical and biological weapons, and other explosives. These notes also discussed mortality rates associated with certain of these weapons and explosives. Other notes referred to various ways to attack “enemies,” including by destroying reconnaissance drones, using underwater bombs, and using gliders.

    The computer thumb drive in the possession of AAFIA SIDDIQUI, the defendant, contained various electronic documents. a number of these documents consisted of correspondence that referred to specific ‘ cells’ and ‘attacks’ by certain ‘cells.’ Other documents referred to ‘enemies,’ including the United States, and discussed recruitment and training.”

    When various non-pilot hijackers purchased their tickets in late May 2001 and June 2001, they listed the phone number of Al-Baluchi, the future husband of Brandeis PhD Aafia Siddiqui, as their contact number. He was in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Later in June 2001, other hijackers listed al Hawsawi. Al-Hawsawi was KSM’s assistant. KSM says it was al-Hawsawi’s computer that had the anthrax spraydrying documents. Al-Hawsawi was also in Dubai. In the formal charges, the Department of Defense alleges that Al Hawsawi and Al-Baluchi (Ali Abdul Aziz Ali) both assisted the non-pilot hijackers by buying clothes, food, lodging, rental cars, traveler’s checks and making travel arrangements. Al-Baluchi returned to Karachi from Dubai on June 26, 2001. Al-Baluchi told KSM, who was his uncle, that he was willing to do anything to help the Planes Operation. KSM advised him to apply for a visa. In late August 2001, he applied for travel to the US on September 4, 2001 but his visa was rejected. With his plan to enter the US thwarted, on September 10, 2001, al-Baluchi flew from Dubai, United Arab Emirates to Karachi. If his travel visa for travel to the US had been accepted, what would have been his role?

    Al-Balucchi later married Aafia Siddiqui, a Brandeis PhD, in the spring of 2003, shortly before his capture. Al-Hawsawi had taken over for KSM upon KSM’s capture a couple months earlier. Had al-Baluchi known Aafia Siddiqui prior to 9/11? Did the lovely and pious Aafia have foreknowledge of 9/11? Is it true she met anthrax planning head Atef in June 2001 in Liberia? Aafia’s attorney once said she could prove Aafia was in the US in June 2001. Aafia’s family, however, prevailed upon the attorney not to subpoena Aafia’s credit card records as she had planned. Aafia left the US for Pakistan in a hurry on September 19, 2001, booking the first available flight.

    Perhaps the forensic evidence most useful in proving the source of the acquisition of the Ames strain used in the mailings will be an inverted plasmid. Dr. Read, a scientist helping with the Amerithrax investigation in the DNA sequencing, long ago published the news that the anthrax was a 50/50 mixture of genotype 62 (Ames) and genotype 62 with an inversion on the plasmid. At Houston, where Aafia has a connection, graduate student Melissa Drysdale at Theresa Koehler’s lab in Houston in Spring 2001 — just as the lab was ramping up to BL-3 — rendered a strain virulent from avirulent by inserting the virulent plasmid into an avirulent strain. Did Aafia visit Houston in June 2001 after she finished her PhD? There was a massive flood at the lab then and the doors were left propped open.

    In early November 2005, an Assistant United States Attorney said in his opening argument in the prosecution of Uzair Paracha, that an unnamed woman, if asked would “help carry out a deadly Anthrax attack against the United States.’” It earlier had been reported that the defendant, Uzair Paracha, had agreed to help KSM and an operative in connection with some ID documents. The AUSA was referring to Al Qaeda supporter Aafia Siddiqui. One ACLU lawyer representing the family described the doe-eyed Aafia as a soccer mom driving a Volvo.

    In early 2002, Aafia Siddiqui had opened up the Post Office box that was to be used in connection with the documents. In January 2002, she was still married to her husband when she came back to the US, interviewed at SUNY and John Hopkins, and opened up a PO Box in Maryland for operative Majid Khan. She says, according to a psychiatrist’s report, that Majid Khan had asked her to open the P.O. Box box. She filed for divorce from her husband in 2002 — her divorce came through in August 2002. At the Paracha trial, an employee at the Gaithersburg post office, testified that Aafia Siddiqui opened a PO box for Majid Khan on December 30, 2002. Uzair Paracha had never met Aafia but he told detectives that he believed she was the kind of person who would be willing to receive anthrax at a PO Box. The jury saw that as evidence that he was willing to help dangerous terrorists.

    In a statement to the court, Majid Khan said that he wanted to come to the US because he had a plan to attack gas stations in Baltimore. However, Uzair told detectives that he suspected that Khan, al-Baluch and his father were planning some sort of attack involving chemical weapons. He said al-Baluchi and his father had been meeting in Karachi with an 80-year-old chemistry professor whom he said was helping al-Qaeda develop chemical weapons. Later he recanted everything he had said about chemical weapons. The jury didn’t believe him.

    Aafia studied for a time at the University of Houston in 1990-91 after moving to Houston in 1990. (Her brother lived and worked in the Houston area beginning in 2001). Aafia Siddiqui then transferred to MIT and went on to Brandeis to get her PhD in neuroscience. The Wall Street Journal has reported that according to witnesses discussed in a UN dossier, Aafia Siddiqui reportedly met with Al Qaeda’s military commander, Atef, in Liberia in June 2001. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the key witness is credible. Although he drove the woman around, perhaps the man’s desire for a visa to the US influenced his recollection when he saw Aafia’s picture in the paper. Aafia’s attorney emphasizes that witness identifications are inherently unreliable.

    In Maryland, Aafia visited a cousin in Gaithersburg and helped Majid Khan in connection with possible attacks by opening a mailbox in his and her name. Her family argues that it is her husband, Mohammed Ahmad Khan, who has made her look guilty — for example, by using her e-mail account to buy night goggles and a book on how to make explosives. According to one report, Aafia left for Pakistan on September 19 and so was not in the country at the time of the second mailing. She returned from Pakistan with her husband in January 2002. At last report, she had 3 children. In 2009, her ex-husband broke his silence to convincingly argue that Aafia and her family have been lying. Prosecutors and government psychiatrists now have similarly argued to the court that she had been faking mental illness. She apparently thinks that if declared incompetent she will be repatriated to Pakistan.

    Aafia and her ex-husband, a Harvard-trained anesthesiologist at last report living in Karachi, were officers of Institute of Islamic Research and Teaching Inc. In the mid-1990s, she worked for the United Islamic Organization (”UIO”), an education and relief organization. Her mother was President and her sister also volunteered. Through the group, for example, Siddiqui raised money for Bosnian refugees and the widows and orphans from that conflict. The organization was founded in Zambia in 1974 by Ismat Siddiqui. Its head office is in Karachi, Pakistan and on paper has branches in the United States, Canada, and Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the reality is as the family’s first attorney described to me: Aafia’s father set up the charity as something for the mom to do, who ran it out of her home. Any branch offices were run out of residences. In addition, Siddiqui was found to be active with the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, the Boston branch of an Islamic charity that was ostensibly raising funds for Bosnian orphans. Federal prosecutors allege it is a front for Al Qaeda associated with the Blind Sheikh.

    In April 2003, Aafia’s mom, Ismat, said she last saw her daughter on March 30, 2003 before Aafia left in a minicab along with her three children to go to the capital Islamabad. She was going to visit a friend and uncle. She called her mom from the train station — she did not have money for plane tickets. (Rail by far is the easiest and most efficient means of traveling to Islamabad, far in the north). She would later report that she had a fight with her mom and it had been decided she would go live with her uncle. She never made it to see her uncle. Pakistani government officials tried to calm her fears — telling her to be “patient and not rely on media reports” about Aafia’s fate. The authorities have denied having Siddiqui in custody.

    Ismat Siddiqui, Aafia’s mother, reports that a stranger came to her house and told her that her daughter was safe and that she should not raise a “hue and cry” for her release. She says he told her not “make too much noise about Aafia if you want her to return safely.” He also threatened her that if she made the matter public, her daughter would meet the “same fate as Asif Bhuja met.” (Bhuja was a suspect in the murder of Danny Pearl but was found dead when police arrived to question him; Saud Memon, the man who owned the property where Pearl was kept, was later reported to have been involved in financing Al Qaeda’s anthrax efforts and years after being captured was left for dead on his family’s doorstep.)

    The affidavit by Dr. Leslie Powers, psychiatrist for the government, addresses her whereabouts for the 5 years before her 2008 arrest.

    “Since the last report, collateral information was reviewed that clarifies some of Ms. Siddiqui’s reports from 2003 until her arrest for the instant offense in 2008. Ms. Siddiqui gave some indication of her whereabouts during this time when she was interviewed by the FBI. In 2005, she reported living with the Khawaja family and working at the Karachi Institute of Technology. In the Winter of 2007, she reported an attempt to look for her husband in Afghanistan and staying in Quetta. Mohammad Amjad Khan, Ms. Siddiqui’s ex-husband, reporting seeing either Ms. Siddiqui or their children on several occasions in 2003, 2004, and 2005. In July 2008, Mr. Khan claims to have seen his daughter Miriam in the care of the Siddiqui family even though Ms. Siddiqui has stated that her daughter is missing and is likely dead. While her accounts of her time are incomplete, her statements and other facts gathered seem to corroborate that she was not held captive from 2003 until 2008.”

    A family member in the US hired an attorney who inquired of the FBI as to Aafia’s whereabouts but the FBI reported that they did not have her in custody. Aafia Siddiqui’s family has long-standing ties with the family of Pakistan religious affairs minister Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq. Ul-Haq’s late father — Gen. Zia ul-Haq — gave Izmat Siddiqui, Aafia’s mother, a government post after he seized power in 1977 and set up a new court system to enforce sharia. The religious affairs minister Ijaz ul-Haq told The New Yorker that his family respected Aafia’s mother because she “is a religious scholar.”

    An Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed in late May 2004 that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, allegedly involved in terrorist activities, had been arrested in 2003 from Karachi and handed over to the US authorities. Just three days later on May 26, 2004, Director Mueller and Attorney General Ashcroft held a press conference announcing she was an Al Qaeda operative and they were looking for her (even though some were suggest the ISI or CIA already had her in custody for over a year). In October 2008, a Pakistani news account relays Aafia’s description of her whereabouts for 5 years:

    “She remembers being given an injection and when she came to she was in a cell. She said she was being brainwashed by men who spoke perfect English. They could be Afghan or others. She did not think they were Pakistanis. She said she was being forced to admit things she had allegedly done. She was made to sign statements, some of which included information on phone calls she was said to have made. She also stated that she had been tortured but she provided no details. She was told by her captors that if she did not co-operate, her children would suffer. Her account of the five years she had been missing remained incoherent, unsequenced and extremely vague. Her visitors did not press her hard but they returned unsatisfied with what they had been told. She said she did not know where her children were. Her son, allegedly arrested with her in Ghazni, has since been returned to Pakistan. She was vague about her other two children and it was not clear if they had been with her during her captivity.”

    Her Uncle provides a detailed and fascinating account that does not seem inconsistent.

    In the Fall of 2003, Fowzia left her position at John Hopkins in neurology to return to Pakistan. Fowzia’s phone reportedly was wiretapped under an NSA program codenamed “Stellar Wind.” In the Spring, she inquired of a government official as to Aafia’s whereabouts and was told she had already been released and should go home and wait for a call — but the call never came.

    In 1995, Aafia wrote this:

    “Pakistani govt. has officially joined the gang of our typical contemporary govts. of Muslim countries. I mean Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and the likes of them… Here’s what I read in this Friday’s issue of the “Muslim News,” something that was confirmed a few days earlier by some articles in local papers like The Boston Globe and the New York Times etc: “BENAZIR ASKS FOR THE WEST’S HELP AGAINST ‘EXTREMISM’. Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s prime minister, called on the west to help eradicate religious opposition. She said that Pakistan is a “moderate” Islamic country and it is the first defense line against “terrorism,” and hence needs international support. She added that the arrest of Ramzi Yousef and giving him to the United States is a simple proof. [Ramzi Yousef was the mentor of al-Baluchi, Aafia’s future husband].

    “That was before she became a house frau,” the family’s ACLU attorney pointed out to me. But is it accurate to suggest that just because someone has primary responsibility for child care that they suddenly are no longer political? She certainly remained both very political and highly anti-semitic.

    Aafia’s sister Fowzia, a respected neurologist involved in diagnosing and treating epilepsy, was at John Hopkins until her concern for Aafia’s welfare became too pressing a matter. She too, along with her mom, for a time was locked inside the family home incommunicado even as to a distraught uncle. The Pakistan Interior Minister once said at a press conference: “You will be astonished to know about the activities of Dr Aafia (Siddiqui).” Her uncle wrote two informative letters to the editor at a Pakistan paper. His sister and niece were not under house arrest as he speculated — which leaves the inference they just didn’t hear the knocking at the door, weren’t at home, or just weren’t interested in communicating on the subject.

    In December 2008, Aafia’s former husband made an impassioned plea for information relating to his children and their welfare. The ACLU Attorney Lamoreaux advised me that she knows of no basis to the suggestion, first made by a Southern Florida television station, that Aafia knew “Jafar the Pilot.” (In contrast, the Pakistan press has said she was a member of the “Chemical Wire Group” and we later learned that someone known as “Abu Luaba” had tasked her with studying biological and chemical weapons while she worked at a lab technican at the Karachi Technology Institute.

    In US News & World Report, attorney Lamoreaux is quoted as saying that Siddiqui doesn’t fit the profile. “A woman with children, wearing a hijab, driving a Volvo,” scoffs Lamoreaux. “Is that how al Qaeda is recruiting, now, at playgrounds?” To know how Al Qaeda is recruiting, it seems a good source would be the thumb drive in her possession which contained correspondence involving cells and previous attacks — and to understand her relationship with this “Abu Luaba.” The story noted “The FBI says the information from those early investigations is classified.” Lamoreaux adds: “The FBI often fans sparks into flames. But it looks to me like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed knew enough about her to know her name. It wasn’t Jane Doe or Jane Smith. That does strike me as odd.”

    The ACLU in a February 2004 publication called “Sanctioned Bias: Racial Profiling Since 9/11” described Aafia’s brother first encounter with the FBI. Muhammad A. Siddiqui is an architect in Houston and father of two young children. When his mom and sister called him to say the FBI had questioned him, he called ACLU attorney Annette Lamoreaux. It was a Monday evening when two FBI agents came to visit. “I’d be happy to talk to you, but I’d like to have my attorney present.” Borrowing a page from your favorite television show, one of the FBI agents suggested he didn’t need an attorney. He said that asking for an attorney only made him look guilty. The FBI agent again said that he wanted to speak to him now, greatly emphasizing the word “now.”

    Following the advice of his civil rights attorney, he repeated: “I’d be happy to talk to you, but I’d like to have my attorney present.” In response to the FBI’s continuing pressure, he called Attorney Lamoreaux on his cell phone. She told the FBI agent that the agent could call her office during the day and set up an appointment. He screamed at Lamoreaux that Siddiqui did not have a right to counsel (as he was not in custody). Repeating her earlier suggestion that the agent call her on Monday, she told the agent “and you are to leave the house immediately.” The FBI agent handed the cell phone back to Siddiqui. Muhammad did not feel comfortable telling the agents to leave and so he kept politely repeating his attorney’s advice. “Turn off that cell phone!” the agent demanded.

    Mr. Siddiqui reasonably refused, at least wanting to permit his attorney to serve as a witness to the questioning. From Siddiqui’s point of view, at least, the FBI agent pulled back his coat to reveal a gun. Siddiqui repeats that he was afraid — his children were inside and his wife, Dr. Lubna Khawaja, a busy doctor who worked at the local medical center, was not at home. Aafia lived with the Khawaja family in Pakistan, according to one government psychiatrist, while working at the Karachi Technology Institute and studying germ and chemical warfare, but it is a common name.

    “I do this all the time. As soon as there is a lawyer in the picture, they have to play by the rules,” Lamoreaux explains. The agents — thwarted — turned away. One of them said upon leaving: “We will talk to you. We are watching you. Don’t leave town.”

    When the agent called on Monday, Attorney Lamoreaux suggested that they meet on Thursday when Siddiqui was free from work and child care responsibilities. The agent insisted on meeting that day and said he would stand outside of Siddiqui’s home until he came out and spoke to them. At the 15 minute meeting held that day at Lamoreaux’s office, the agent confirmed he had never been a criminal target. Mr. Siddiqui says, “Once there was counsel involved, attitudes changed dramatically. Laws started to mean something.” Before 9/11, Mr. Siddiqui had lived in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan, where his wife was an MD. Aafia Siddiqui is associated with the Ann Arbor addresses, perhaps as the result of visits. Ann Arbor is the location of the nanobiotechnology researchers supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins were located but it is not known whether the head of the DARPA project there, Tarek Hamouda, knew any of Aafia’s relatives.

    A Boston blogger recently arrested in mid-November 2008 was a big supporter of Aafia Siddiqui. He apparently travelled from Boston to NYC for her bail hearing. He allegedly used as code words “school” and “peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

    Aafia Siddiqui’s musings and brainstorming about bioweapons that would kill only certain ethnic groups etc. was actually what Dr. Basson has said he was working on in an interview with Coen and Nadler in their recent documentary online.

    ABC News yesterday reported on a hearing on her competency:

    “The defense witness, Dr. L. Thomas Kucharski, however, testified that some of the written materials found in her possession revealed a delusional woman. Kucharski noted that her notes also described viruses that could only hurt adults and not children, others that would kill only certain ethnic groups, and a plot to infect U.S. poultry supply with an antibody that made the animals resistant to salmonella, and thereby sicken Americans who consumed chickens. For a woman with a degree from MIT and a PhD in neuroscience, Kucharski testified, these theories and fantasies were not the product of a healthy mind.”

    The fellow in the Canton, Ohio library researching anthrax worked at a chicken farm. So she may be totally unrealistic and an anti-semitic religious zealot, but she does not seem psychotic. At a July 2009 hearing on her competency, while psychiatrists were testifying, Aafia called out to the gallery that the US has been framed to look bad and that the wars were just due to misunderstandings.

    What is the FBI’s Ivins Theory other than one gigantic misunderstanding?

    Dr. Bannan, at the same time he focuses on Amerithrax, needs to bear down on the activities of Aafia Siddiqui — as needed to be done these past years including the time she worked at the Karachi Institute of Technology researching germ warfare even though she had up to a $5 million reward on her head.

    • DXer said

      In a matter swirling with conflicting versions and positions, I find Aafia’s uncle to be a good source for information and insights. He previously has submitted this account for your consideration. Where it departs from what a psychiatrist (representing whichever party) has reported in any of the recent filings, I would tend to credit Mr. Faruqi’s account.

      “Salient Features of the visit of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui at the residence of her uncle Mr. S. H. Faruqi at Islamabad, Pakistan On 22nd to 24th of January, 2008.

      My door bell rang up on 22nd January in the evening about half an hour after the sun set. I personally went out. A gentleman in plain Pakistani clothes (shalwar qameez) said that he had brought a lady in his car (white Suzuki car) from Karachi Company bus stand (Sector G-9, Islamabad) who wanted to see me. I went near the car. A lady in black ‘burqa’ (Muslim women’s dress to hide the body contours) came out saying “O uncle I am Aafia”. Her complete body and face (except eyes) were hidden under the ‘burqa’ but I recognized the voice to my complete satisfaction. She was Aafia. I was greatly surprised and perplexed too but soon regained my normalcy and welcomed her and embraced her. I asked her to enter my house but she refused and instead requested me to take her to some isolated and peaceful place where she could talk to me in privacy. When I insisted on her entry to my house, she screamed and asked me not to insist on that as it would simply result in the destruction of my house as well as herself. On this I asked the same car driver (an employee of Ministry of Foreign Affairs using his car as a taxi after office hours) to drop us at the nearby located Taj Mahal restaurant in the Jinnah Super Market. He did it.

      Dr. Aafia and myself sat at Taj Mahal restaurant for about one hour and later at Captain Cook fast food restaurant (also located in the Jinnah Super Market) for about 1? hour and talked on Dr. Aafia’s circumstances. Later I accommodated her in room no. 29 of ‘Islamabad Inn’, Street no. 44, F-7/1, Islamabad declaring her as my daughter. She passed one night at this guest house and the following day and the night between 23rd and 24th January at my house. I also called my sister Mrs. Ismat Siddiqui (Dr. Aafia’s mother) from Karachi on 23.1.08 early morning. Myself and my wife had quite detailed talks with Dr. Aafia about her last 5 years, about her captors, places of captivity and about the possibilities of her further staying at my house etc. The gist of these talks is summarized in the following points:
      1. Throughout her stay at Islamabad Dr. Aafia did not show her face to anybody except to me (intentionally or un-intentionally) for a glimpse at Taj Mahal restaurant. She also did not put of her ‘burqa’ for even a minute.
      2. When I had a glimpse of her face at Taj Mahal restaurant I noted that her face was not her normal face but has been changed apparently through plastic surgery especially at her nose which was totally changed. Her eyes were of course unchanged. When I questioned Dr. Aafia as to who and where changed her face through plastic surgery? she simply said:
      “Nobody”
      3. Dr. Aafia had a national identity card issued by the relevant department of the govt. of Pakistan in which there was a photograph which was not of the ‘original’ Aafia. It was quite different. Also it was of some Research Scholar of the Karachi University. The name of the lady was also different.
      4. Dr. Aafia said she was then kept at some place in Lahore. She was released temporarily to collect data regarding some Al-Quaida suspects. But she slipped from there, took an Islamabad bound bus from some bus stand and came over to Islamabad.
      5. Dr. Aafia told that since her abduction in 2003 she has not seen her 3 children and does not know any thing about them.
      6. Throughout her stay at Islamabad Dr. Aafia insisted that arrangements may be made to send her to Taliban in Afghanistan as according to her they would not hand her over to her “enemies”.
      7. She told that her American captors were more well behaved than the non-American ones.
      8. She told that she did not know as to which different places she has been kept over the past years. Whatever she remembered was that she had remained in complete isolation. Those supplying her food were using hand gloves and face masks. They never spoke to her.
      9. Her mother tried to give her an amount of Rs. 5,000/- while she was departing for Lahore on the morning of 24th January. At first she refused to accept but later accepted the same.
      10. Almost whole of the night of 23rd and 24th January 2008 which she passed at my residence in a bed room she was found praying or reading Quran on the prayer rug at the floor of the room and not on the sleeping bed.
      11. When told that we were calling some journalists for her interview, she very seriously opposed it and remarked that it will be simply killing her.
      12. She earnestly appealed that we should not try to detain her then rather wait till the ouster of president Pervaiz Musharraf when she hopes to be released.
      13. Dr. Aafia told us that of lately there had been a change and she had been transferred to a new place and to a new agency. She said that the new people were much better than the previous ones. They were looking after her well and had granted freedom of ‘outing’ from time to time.
      14. Throughout her stay with us I felt that she had been ‘bugged’ and somebody sitting at Lahore or Islamabad was listening what she and we were speaking. I felt it from her behaviour (trying to keep, at times, her voice very low and her praises for Americans).
      15. Dr. Aafia was carrying a large size black coloured parachute cloth made hand bag which was weighing about 5 to 7 kg. She never allowed anybody at my house to open it and see its contents. When asked about the contents by me she told that these were some books which her captors had allowed her to keep.”

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