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

* it’s well past time for the Congress and President Obama to insist that the FBI tell the truth about the 2001 anthrax attacks

Posted by DXer on January 6, 2010

CASE CLOSED is a novel which answers the question … Why did the FBI fail to solve the 2001 anthrax case? Here’s an early discussion by the (fictional) DIA team investigating the FBI anthrax investigation …

“Let’s start with the assumption the Bureau is not dumb,” Sowickey began. “So that can’t be the excuse for the lamebrain way they conducted this supposedly high priority investigation. Nor can it explain the way they failed to establish links between pieces of information they clearly had. Nor why they hinted for years that Farmer was the perp and then gave him $5.8 mil to go away. There was, by the way, even less evidence implicating Dr. Farmer than there was on Dr. Ingram, which is close to nothing … after seven years.”

Click here to buy CASE CLOSED by Lew Weinstein

in paperback or kindle


it’s well past time for the Congress and President Obama

to insist that the FBI tell the truth

about the 2001 anthrax attacks


DXer comments …

FBI Director Mueller

  • Didn’t FBI Director Mueller’s well-intentioned order compartmentalizing the Task Force not merely prevent the “connecting the dots” but also exercising such personal responsibility?
  • An early internal FBI memo talked about how only creative and self-starting investigators should be assigned to Amerithrax.  But lead Investigator Lambert appears to have been right in objecting in a written memo to Director Mueller’s order of compartmentalization.
  • Director Mueller strikes me as a stand-up and very smart guy who, despite his numerous and overwhelming responsibilities, will do all he can to reach a successful and correct Amerithrax resolution — despite the obstacles.   He no doubt understands that dozens of scientists, attorneys, intelligence analysts, and prosecutors have cast serious skepticism about the FBI’s characterization of its evidence against Dr. Ivins.  The validation of the science by the NAS is an irrelevant sideshow given the nature of the gaps in the evidence presented thus far by the FBI.
  • Their characterization of the proof of Ivins’ guilt profoundly undermined the public’s confidence.  It is as if the investigators and officials were motivated by a fear of being sued for Dr. Ivins’ death.
  • There is something worse than being sued. That’s getting the Crime of the Century wrong — when a threatened aerosol attack of a major city using anthrax may be at stake.

Anonymous Scientist comments …

FBI announces - August 8, 2008 - that Dr. Bruce Ivins is the sole perpetrator and the case will soon be closed

  • I think the situation for the FBI/DOJ is very complex. They were clearly hoping that the Taylor/Persichini presentation of August 2008 was not going to met with such skepticism from elected officials, scientists, the media and the public.
  • Since August 2009, their position has gotten worse – there is even more skepticism as the details of the science are looked at deeply – the impossibility of one person making the spores, one person creating the powder, presence of silicon etc.
  • If it were not for the huge skepticism, unusually bipartisan with high-profile senators even openly accusing the FBI of a cover-up, the case would likely have been closed last year.
  • But it wasn’t. It’s very interesting that the two likely main architects of the “Ivins dead-man” resolution to Amerithrax are the DOJ’s Jeffrey Taylor and the FBI’s Washington DC head Joseph Persichini. These guys seem to be at the heart of the joint DOJ/FBI decision to accuse Ivins. They staked their reputations on it – and you would think they would have been keen to formally close the case. Clearly something happened to ensure that the case was not closed in a timely manner (of course we’ve heard the usual feeble excuses like “tying up loose ends” etc. – but clearly something major happened.
  • Taylor resigned in May of last year – about 2 months before the supposed July 24 2009 date for closing the case (which never happened). Persichini was removed from his position has FBI DC head in December 2009 (purportedly for cheating at an exam).
  • Thus the two architects of the “Ivins dead man” resolution are no longer there. So what will happen now with closing the case? Will Taylor and Persichini’s replacements embrace the “Ivins dead man” resolution? How could anybody in good conscience buy into this?
  • More importantly, what does Mueller do? Let’s start with the premise that if the DOJ/FBI are forced to change their minds that Ivins did it alone – that Mueller could not survive and would have to resign. Surely there could be no other path left for Mueller if that turns out to be the case.
  • With this premise in mind, Mueller’s future tenure may be at stake on the entire Amerithrax resolution. Will Mueller gamble that some new narrative that Ivins acted alone be bought by the same senators, scientists, media and public that are today so skeptical. Or will he feel this is too much of a gamble and would only make him and the FBI look worse if they try it?
  • On the other hand if the FBI change their mind about Ivins acting alone – isn’t that still enough to force Mueller to resign?
  • Is the above the reason why nothing is happening?
  • Because any outcome has a bad ending?


Either the FBI

  • has in fact solved the 2001 anthrax case and is covering up the real perpetrators by putting forth its pathetic “Ivins did it all” theory,
  • or they didn’t solve the case and are using the “Ivins did it all” theory to cover their own failure.

Which is worse?

And isn’t it well past time for the Congress and President Obama to insist that the FBI tell the American people the truth?


76 Responses to “* it’s well past time for the Congress and President Obama to insist that the FBI tell the truth about the 2001 anthrax attacks”

  1. DXer said

    January 8, 2010, Friday

    Heroin contaminated with anthrax could kill fifty addicts in Scotland

    BYLINE: Mark Smith

    SECTION: Pg. 23

    LENGTH: 476 words

    HEALTH officials fear that a deadly anthrax outbreak could kill up to 50 heroin addicts across Scotland after the epidemic claimed its sixth victim.

    The outbreak began in Glasgow but doctors now believe contaminated heroin is circulating all over Scotland. They fear the death toll could match that of a similar case among Scottish heroin addicts in 2000 that claimed 43 lives.

    It was confirmed yesterday that the sixth person to die was a 49-year-old man whose body was found in Stirling city centre. He is the first fatality in the NHS Forth Valley area.

    There has also been a single death in Tayside, another in Lanarkshire, and four fatalities in Glasgow.

    Dr Colin Ramsay, consultant epidemiologist at Health Protection Scotland, which is leading a major inquiry to establish the source of the anthrax in the heroin, said contaminated drugs now appeared to be spreading all over the country.

    Dr Ramsay said: “The death of this patient in NHS Forth Valley indicates further geographical spread of the cases, meaning that heroin users all across Scotland need to be aware of the risks of a potentially contaminated supply.”

    He added: “I would urge all users to stop using heroin immediately and contact local drug support services for help in stopping. If any heroin users do notice signs of infection, for example marked redness and swelling around an injection site or other signs of serious infection such as a high fever, they should seek urgent medical advice.”

    In total, 11 addicts have taken ill with anthrax infections in Scotland in recent weeks.

    Dozens more people could be killed by the anthrax-contaminated heroin, drug experts warned last night.

    Andrew Horne, director of operations at drug and alcohol charity Addaction, said: “It is very worrying and I suppose it shows that we have no clear understanding of how the drug market works in terms of supply routes.”

    Heroin contaminated with the flesh-eating bug necrotising fasciitis killed 43 addicts in Scotland in 2000.

    Mr Horne said the number of deaths caused by the anthrax- infected heroin could reach these numbers.

    He said: “The outbreak in 2000 lasted about six weeks and then we never heard of it again, but because it is all illegal there is no way of knowing.”

    Gordon Meldrum, Director General of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, who leads on drugs for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said: “The deaths associated with anthrax are disturbing and are being treated very seriously by all the relevant authorities.

    “The Scottish Police Service is now coordinating the investigation into a number of drug related deaths across the country in order to gather as much information as possible about possible links and causes.”

  2. DXer said

    How does President Obama’s concept of personal responsibility for incoming leads apply to issues and information already in the hopper?

    For example, who is responsible on the issue of the declassification of the February 2001 PDB from the CIA to President Bush titled “Bin Laden’s Interest in Biological and Radiological Weapons”. It concerned the the late January 2001 threat to use mailed anthrax in retaliation for the detention of senior Egyptian Islamic Jihad/ Vanguards of Conquest Leader Mahjoub. Who decides whether that is declassified? John Brennan? President Obama? Do we really need to listen to narratives about the editing of Wikipedia and the use of false screen names on the internet while there is speculation about motive that pales in comparison to the announced plans of Ayman Zawahiri? The buck stops at President Obama’s desk. So did that PDB. If the Administration makes the lowly analyst on a Task Force turn over his emails so as to be judged on what in hindsight should have been done, then do the same for that PDB, which is now over 8 years old.

    In late January 2001, the Immigration Minister in Canada and the Justice Minister received an anthrax threat in the form of anthrax hoax letters. The letters were sent upon the announcement of bail hearing for a detained Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader Mohammad Mahjoub. Mahjoub had managed Bin Laden’s farm in Sudan. Minister Caplan had signed the security certificate authorizing Mahjoub’s detention. After arriving in Canada in 1996, Mahjoub continued to be in contact with high level militants, including his former supervisor, an Iraqi reputed to be Bin Laden’s chief procurer of weapons of mass destruction. In February 2001, the CIA briefed the President in a Presidential Daily Brief (“PDB”) on “Bin Laden’s Interest in Biological and Radiological Weapons” in a still-classified briefing memorandum. Like the PDB on Bin Laden’s threat to use planes to free the blind sheik, the February 2001 PDB illustrated Richard Clarke’s suggestion that most intelligence is open source. The PDB likely will be found to address the detention of Mohammad Mahjoub, his status in the Vanguards of Conquest/ Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and threats of revenge relating to the conviction and sentencing of senior militant Egyptians. There was little about Ayman’s plan to use anthrax against US targets in retaliation for rendering of EIJ leaders that was not available to anyone paying attention. On October 5, 2001, Mahjoub’s bail was denied. Someone then rushed to carry out the earlier threat. They mailed a finely powdered anthrax to the two United States Senators they deemed most responsible for the rendition of Egyptian Islamic Jihad leaders and appropriations to Egypt and Israel. President Obama and the House Intelligence Committee now needs to ask for the CIA’s February 2001 PDB to President Bush on the planned use of anthrax in retaliation of rendering and detention of IG and EIJ leaders. Amerithrax would be seen with entirely new eyes.

  3. DXer said

    Before it becomes any more fashionable to bash the FBI and CIA, let’s step back and consider that the media pundits are no more astute. They are just free to level charges that the FBI is not in a position to rebut. Let’s take the example of Keith Olbermann’s commentary. His influence in opposing an Ivins Theory cannot be disputed and yet he does not have time to do necessary reading or analysis.

    Relying on an unnamed DOJ source who was a key part of the failure to successfully resolved Amerithrax, Mr. Olbermann attacked the Bush Administration for pressing the FBI for proof that the anthrax mailings were the result of a suspected sleeper cell. Andrew Card knew precisely the prioirities given that the POI was his former assistant. In contrast to relying on a self-interested former DOJ official who was involved in a major CYA exercise, Keith should have turned to the pertinent facts in an on-the-orecord interview of his frequent legal commentator, Professor Turley, who is Al-Timimi’s defense counsel and a frequest guest on both the Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann show.

    Olbermann has never discussed that in a filing unsealed in United States v. Al-Timimi, Dr. Ali Al-Timimi’s lawyer, Professor and MSNBC commentator Jonathan Turley, explained that his client “was considered an anthrax weapons suspect.” Al-Timimi was a computational biologist who came to have an office 15 feet from the leading anthrax scientist and the former deputy commander of USAMRIID. A motion filed in early August 2008 seeking to unseal additional information in federal district court was denied. The ongoing proceedings are highly classified.

    Dr. Al-Timimi’s counsel summarizes:

    “we know Dr. Al-Timimi:

    * was interviewed in 1994 by the FBI and Secret Service regarding his ties to the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing;
    * was referenced in the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”) as one of seventy individuals regarding whom the FBI is conducting full field investigations on a national basis;
    * was described to his brother by the FBI within days of the 9-11 attacks as an immediate suspect in the Al Qaeda conspiracy;
    * was contacted by the FBI only nine days after 9-11 and asked about the attacks and its perpetrators;
    *was considered an anthrax weapons suspect;
    * was described during his trial by FBI agent John Wyman as having “extensive ties” with the “broader al-Qaeda network”;
    * was described in the indictment and superseding indictment as being associated with terrorists seeking harm to the United States;
    * was a participant in dozens of international overseas calls to individuals known to have been under suspicion of Al-Qaeda ties like Al-Hawali; and
    * was associated with the long investigation of the Virginia Jihad Group.
    The conversation with [Bin Laden’s sheik] Al-Hawali on September 19, 2001 was central to the indictment and raised at trial. ***
    [911 imam] Anwar Al-Aulaqi goes directly to Dr. Al-Timimi’s state of mind and his role in the alleged conspiracy. The 9-11 Report indicates that Special Agent Ammerman interviewed Al-Aulaqi just before or shortly after his October 2002 visit to Dr. Al-Timimi’s home to discuss the attacks and his efforts to reach out to the U.S. government.

    [IANA head] Bassem Khafagi was questioned about Dr. Al-Timimi before 9-11 in Jordan, purportedly at the behest of American intelligence. [redacted ] He was specifically asked about Dr. Al-Timimi’s connection to Bin Laden prior to Dr. Al-Timimi’s arrest. He was later interviewed by the FBI about Dr. Al-Timimi. Clearly, such early investigations go directly to the allegations of Dr. Al-Timimi’s connections to terrorists and Bin Laden [redacted]”

    The letter attached as an exhibit notes that in March 2002 Al-Timimi spoke with Al-Hawali about assisting Moussaoui in his defense. Al-Hawali was Bin Laden’s sheik who was the subject of OBL’s “Declaration of War.” Moussaoui was the operative sent by Bin Laden to be part of a “second wave” who had been inquiring about crop dusters. The filing and the letter exhibit each copy defense co-counsel, the daughter of the lead prosecutor in Amerithrax. That prosecutor pled the Fifth Amendment concerning all the leaks hyping a “POI” of the other Amerithrax squad, Dr. Steve Hatfill. His daughter withdrew as Al-Timimi’s pro bono counsel on February 27, 2009.

    ‘Dr. Ali Al-Timimi’s Support Committee’ in an email to supporters dated April 5, 2005 explained: “This is a summary of the court proceedings that took place yesterday April 4th 2005. We will send a summary everyday inshallah. *** “In his opening statement, Defense attorney Edward B. MacMahon Jr. said that Al-Timimi was born and raised in Washington DC. He has a degree in Biology and he is also a computer scientist, and a mathematician. He worked for Andrew Card, who’s now the White House chief of staff, at the Transportation Department in the early 1990s.”

    Bruce Ivins had supplied the virulent Ames strain of anthrax to Ann Arbor researchers. One of the researchers, Dr. Hamouda, obtained his PhD in microbiology from Cairo Medical in 1994. He and his wife came to the United States to settle that year. By 1998, he was working on a DARPA-funded project involving nanoemulsions and a biocidal cream. In December 1999, he and two colleagues travelled to a remote military installation in Utah, Dugway, to test its effectiveness in killing aerosolized anthrax surrogates. An April 2001 report describing testing at Dugway concluded that the best performing decontamination agents were from University of Michigan, Sandia National Laboratories, and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (LLNL).

    The FBI and CIA may have been concerned that there might have been unauthorized access to the Ames strain. That would explain their aggressive prosecution of various matters related to Al-Timimi’s charity, IANA, which was based in Ann Arbor 1 mile from the NanoBio office. IANA promoted the views of Bin Laden’s sheiks. Al-Timimi was IANA’s most celebrated speaker. He was in active contact with one of those sheiks, who had been Ali’s religious mentor at university in Saudi Arabia.

    Al-Timimi was a current associate and former student of Bin Laden’s spiritual advisor, dissident Saudi Sheik al-Hawali. Ali Al-Timimi preached on the end of times and the inevitability of the clash of civilizations. He was in active contact with al-Hawali whose detention had been the express subject of Bin Laden’s 1996 Declaration of War. At GMU, Dr. Bailey would publish a lot of research with the “Ames strain” of anthrax. The anthrax used in the anthrax mailings was traced to Bruce Ivins’ lab at USAMRIID, where Ivins, according to a former colleague, had done some work for DARPA. Al-Timimi would speak along with the blind sheik’s son at charity conferences. The blind sheik’s son served on Al Qaeda’s WMD committee. Al-Timimi’s mentor Bilal Philips was known for recruiting members of the military to jihad.

    The first week after 9/11, FBI agents questioned Al-Timimi. He was a graduate student in a program jointly run by George Mason University and the American Type Culture Collection (”ATCC”). Ali, according to his lawyer, had been questioned by an FBI agent and Secret Service agent in 1994 after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He had a high security clearance for work for the Navy in the late 1990s. The defense webpage reported he had once served as the assistant for the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. (Mr. Card had been Secretary of Transportation in 1992-1993; from 1993 to 1998, Mr. Card later was President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.) As time off from his university studies permitted, Ali was an active speaker with the Ann Arbor-based charity Islamic Assembly of North America.

    A laptop evidencing Al Qaeda’s intent on weaponizing anthrax was seized in Baku in July 1998. Two months later, Dr. Ken Alibek, then Program Manager, Battelle Memorial Institute, testified before the Joint Economic Committee on the subject of “Terrorist and Intelligence Operations: Potential Impact on the U.S. Economy” about the proliferation of know-how. Dr. Alibek noted that “[t]here are numerous ways in which Russia’s biological weapons expertise can be proliferated to other countries.” Indeed. Sometimes such proliferation is funded by DARPA and any student who wanted to apply to work in the building could submit an application. One applicant accepted was this Salafist preacher seeing signs of the coming day of judgment and the inevitable clash of civilizations. He had been mentored by the sheik named in Bin Laden’s declaration of war in 1996. In 1999, Al-Timimi had a high security clearance for work for the Navy. His father worked at the Iraqi embassy.

    Dr. Alibek testified before the House Armed Services Committee Oversight Panel on Terrorism again in May 2000 about the issue of proliferation of biological weapons. He explained: “Terrorists interested in biological weapons are on the level of state-sponsored terrorist organizations such as that of Osama bin Laden; on the level of large, independent organizations such as Aum Shinrikyo; or on the level of individuals acting alone or in concert with small radical organizations.” Dr. Alibek in 2003 told me he knew Ali was a hardliner. More from its online category, had Ames, but we can assume government scientists would have ensured that the patent repository was considered at the same time as the online catalog and, to the best of their ability, excluded as a source of the Ames.

    Al-Timimi had supervised Cairo-based militants writing for the Pittsburgh-based Assirat and then for IANA. One of them, Kamal Habib, was the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and a friend of Ayman Zawahiri. The Cairo-based writers Kamal Habib and Gamal Sultan approached the blind sheik Abdel Rahman about starting a political party in early 1999. On March 1 and 2, 1999, Lynne Stewart and translator Yousry visited Abdel Rahman in prison in Rochester, Minnesota and relayed the proposal. On March 6, 1999, the first press reports about anthrax appeared quoting the blind sheik’s Cairo lawyer, Montasser al-Zayat, and detainees in a massive trial al-Zayat was defending. He explained that Ayman likely was going to use anthrax against US targets to retaliate against the rendering and detention of the Egyptian militants.

    On March 9, 1999 following the visit in prison at which the political idea had been proposed, Abdel Rahman issued a statement rejecting a proposal that the Islamic Group form a political party in Egypt. That day, the Islamic Group military commander Mustafa Hamza spoke with the blind sheik’s liaison, US Post Office employee Abdel Sattar. The next month, the Blind Sheik’s publicist Sattar spoke with Taha, the IG head close to the Taliban and Bin Laden, in a three-way call with Cairo attorney Al-Zayat.

    Sattar also spoke on the telephone with Vanguards of Conquest spokesman Al Sirri (based in London). From the beginning, the weaponization of anthrax for use against US targets was inextricably linked to the detention of senior militant Egyptian leaders, including the blind sheik. It was in the March-April 1999 period that Ayman Zawahiri’s brother was rendered to Cairo. It had become very personal. Mamdouh Ismail, Al-Zayat’s co-founder of a key reform party, came to represent the Al-Zawahiri family in connection with Muhammad’s rendition and detention. Muhammad’s sister, Heba, a Pharmacology Professor at Cairo Medical, had a special concern that he might be mistreated by Egyptian security services.

  4. DXer said

    If the head of your office is going to repeatedly argue that the approach of your office is to leave no stone unturned, that includes leaving no transmitted email involving the 911 imam unread. In today’s news there is an example being shown as to why the FBI’s Washington Field Office did not read the 18 emails between the Ft. Hood shooter and Aulaki, the so-called “911 imam.” The excuse in one report was differing interpretations what “comm.” meant. The sender intended “communication” and the FBi understood it to mean “commissioned officer.” (I have no idea why that should make a difference.)

    Let’s consider some of the explanations we’ve seen in Amerithrax for a failure to connect the dots.

    For example, at the CDC, the lead investigator says he did not see the email to him about the scientific study just done involving a simulant from Dugway which immediately dispersed across the room upon opening. He reports that he was too busy. Too busy to read his email about a study on the threat of mailed anthrax? Does that make any sense? He says it would not have made a difference as to whether they decided to close Brentwood? Does that make any sense? The issue of how readily anthrax from a mailed envelope and whether it would leak was precisely the issue presented. The Canadian study found that the anthrax leaked even before opening the envelope. The point is not to find fault with the CDC investigator with the benefit of hindsight, it is to find fault with those who argue that the anthrax was of a nature that could not be made at a dairy processor using a spraydryer — without finding time to read the study or address the merits using cited authority.

    As an example, I cited the study about silicon and spore coats a few days ago but no one bothered to pull it and it was necessary to spoonfeed it. Similarly, Ed has never addressed an Al Qaeda theory except to argue that the hijackers are dead. That’s just stupid.

    Why bother to comment on a matter of such importance without being motivated to read material presented? For example, why comment dismissively an article about silicon and a spore coat without reading it?

    Ike, have you read the September 10, 2001 once-classified report titled “Risk Assessment of Anthrax Threat Letters”? If so, how does the study with your argument?

    After a January 2001 anthrax threat, Canadian defense research team undertook to assess the risk. The report titled “Risk Assessment of Anthrax Threat Letters” issued September 10, 2001. In contrast to a 1998 study by William Patrick that had been requested by Dr. Hatfill’s employer SAIC, the Canadian study found considerable exposure to those in the room resulted when such a letter was opened. Bacillus globigii spores (in dry powder form) were donated by the US Department of Defense (Dugway Proving Ground, Utah). “The letter was prepared by putting BG spores in the center of a sheet of paper, folding it over into thirds, placing the folded sheet into the envelope and sealing using the adhesive present on the envelope. The envelope was then shaken to mimic the handling and tumbling that would occur during its passage through the postal system.” The aerosol, produced by opening the BG spore containing envelope, was not confined to the area of the desk but spread throughout the chamber. Values were almost as high at the opposite end of the chamber, shortly after opening the envelopes. 99% of the particles collected were in the 2.5 to 10 mm size range. The report explained: “In addition, the aerosol would quickly spread throughout the room so that other workers, depending on their exact locations and the directional air flow within the office, would likely inhale lethal doses. Envelopes with the open corners not specifically sealed could also pose a threat to individuals in the mail handling system.”

    More than 80% of the B anthracis particles collected on stationary monitors were within an alveolar respirable size range of 0.95 to 3.5 µm. Thus, the simulant performed very well. Those who continue to argue that the Daschle product was so advanced beyond what the US could do are mistaken. Indeed, the more notable question is why such a good product was prepared in response to a threat letter sent to an immigration minister. The reason perhaps is that authorities suspected that it was Al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad that sent the letter. The CIA and CSIS apparently feared that the Vanguards of Conquest would use good stuff.

    The CIA knew EIJ intended to use anthrax — from the proclamations of Jaballah’s friend, the captured military commander Mabruk and Jaballah’s brother-in-law’s former law partner al-Zayat. Authorities knew Al Qaeda was getting technical assistance from scientists — and that many of the senior Egyptian leaders had advanced or technical degrees.

    Canadian officials explained they e-mailed the study to the CDC soon after reports of the discovery of anthrax at the American Media Inc. headquarters in Florida. The e-mail, however, was never opened, reports the lead CDC anthrax investigator, who regrets that he never read the email. “It is certainly relevant data, but I don’t think it would have altered the decisions that we made.” At one point, about 2,000 CDC employees were working on the anthrax matter. This Canadian report was perhaps the single most important scientific data point for the CDC to take into account. It certainly was one of the most important reports for the FBI to take into account. Bail was denied by decision on October 5, 2001. Then highly potent anthrax was sent the next day just as had been promised. But Ayman had returned to the target of his greatest interest — rather than a Canadian immigration minister, he and Shehata and their colleagues targeted the minister who oversaw the Department of Justice and appropriations to Egypt and Israel, and who gave his name (”the Leahy Law”) to the law that permits continuing appropriations to Egypt in the face of allegations of torture. Zawahiri never makes a threat he doesn’t intend to try to keep.

    Bill Patrick, who often worked with George Mason University students in northern Virginia, had written a report in 1999 for a consultant SAIC at the request of Dr. Steve Hatfill. As one bioterrorism expert commented about the report: “Anytime you pick something up like this, and it seems to layout the whole story for you months or years before the fact, your immediate response is to step back and say ‘whoa, something may be going on here. “Our attacker may very well have used this report as something of a — if not a template, then certainly as a rule of thumb.”

    The Canadian experiments in 2001 showed that if anthrax spores were finely powdered, a letter could release thousands of lethal doses of the bacteria within minutes of being opened. Furthermore, large amounts of material leaked out of sealed envelopes even before they were opened. By then, more than two dozen federal government employees knew of the Canadian studies, which showed that a real anthrax threat letter was a far more dangerous weapon than anyone had believed. Within days, a dozen more people were informed of the now highly relevant experimental findings. One FBI squad was focused on people who may have known of the study — such as William Patrick’s friend, Dr. Steve Hatfill. Another squad would be focused on the usual suspects and their friends. For the next seven years, the investigation would be shrouded in great secrecy. Five months after the FBI announced that Amerithrax had been solved, the case remains open.

    The February 2001 PDB to President Bush should be the first and foremost document sought in any Congressional any review of Amerithrax. For that matter, it should be declassified and made part of the 4,200 pages of 911 Commission documents to be made available on January 14, 2008 at the national archives.

    On January 23, 2001, Mr. Justice Nadon issued an order holding that the Court did not have jurisdiction to decide the constitutional and Charter issues raised by detainee and dismissed that part of the motion. A letter was received January 30, 2001 at the Citizenship and Immigration Office threatening to use anthrax. It was sent to Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan who had co-signed the detention certificate. Authorities suspected that the letter was sent by militant islamists in protest over the detention of Mahjoub, who ran Bin Laden’s farm in Sudan. Mahjoub had been sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in 1999 by Egyptian authorities for his involvement in Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Now, he was being detained without charges under an order cosigned by Immigration Minister Caplan and threatened with deportation.

    Suspecting Mahjoub of being a shura member of the Vanguards of Conquest and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Canadian intelligence officials alleged Mahjoub had significant contacts with persons associated with international Islamic terrorism including Osama Bin Laden, Ahmad Khadr, Essam Marzouk, Vanguards founder Ahmed Agiza, and Osama Bin Laden’s principal procurement agent for weapons of mass destruction Mubarak Al Duri.

    When the letter was received in January 2001, the letter was sent by Department of National Defence jet to the Canadian Science Center for Human and Animal Health in Winnipeg for examination. Authorities also sent the filters from the Jean Edmonds building’s ventilation system. Authorities said they were treating it as a possible terrorist act against the department and noted that it “was the first time a government department has been targeted in this way.” The Ottawa alert came after one of the employees working in the Minister’s office opened a plain white envelope at 11:15 a.m. The employee discovered powder and a piece of paper in the envelope. Police refused to reveal from where it had been mailed. An internal government memo distributed to staff said “an initial analysis of the envelope revealed some traces of bacteria.”

    The question now is: who else is on Jaballah’s or Mahjoub’s Friends and Family Calling Plan?

    A sound-the-alarm theory is only plausible to the extent that the person had access to classified threat intel information and was intentionally making it look like Zawahiri was responsible (for example, by patterning the Al Hayat letter bombs). It’s my impression that Dr. Ivins did not know more about Zawahiri’s Zabadi program than what he read in the newspapers. I doubt he had ever heard of the Al Hayat letter bombs or even knew about the threat to use anthrax relating to EIJ #2 Mahjoub’s detention.

    Bail was denied on October 5 and the mailer immediately rushed to mail the potent stuff to the two Senators most responsible for appropriations to Egypt and Israel.

    • DXer said

      Let’s consider Ed’s other Al Qaeda argument. Al Qaeda likes the “big bang.” He got that from a talking head on the television (like John Douglas) and journalists with no learning on Salafist-Jihadis. The analysis informed by reading shows that the letters were not only the modus operandi of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, they were its signature. Indeed, the plan was expressly announced in March/April 1999. That was the month when the pharmacology professor Heba Zawahiri, working with antimicrobials working in the department with Tarek Hamouda received virulent Ames from Bruce Ivins, was fretting about the rendition and mistreatment about her brother Muhammad. It was announced publicly by the blind sheik’s brother that Ayman was going to use anthrax against US targets in retaliation for the rendering.

      If you combine compartmentalization with the Task Force with leaking from just the one squad, and then add to the mix a bunch of commentators who don’t do any deep reading (including a pornographer who is more comfortable in dealing with pictures), then the argument continues unchallenged for the next decade. So to argue that “big bang” was Zawahiri’s modus operandi is simply very uninformed. Targeted assassination was Ayman Zawahiri’s modus operandi and using anthrax made by specialists using the cover of universities and charities was his plan.

      There is no bigger history lesson than 911 and the failure to connect the dots that led to that. A memo seized in the 1995 arrest proposed flying an explosive laden plane into CIA headquarters. Anyone reading the Washington Post in the mid-1990s read about the plan to fly a plane into CIA headquarters over their morning coffee. The earlier plot to fly an airliner into the Eiffel tower by some Algerians connected to Bin Laden was also notable. Condi Rice professes not to have imagined the threat even though it was publicly known and even a threat at the G-8 conference. It’s important that as a country we learn from our mistakes and not pay short shrift to the evidence on the issue of modus operandi relating to Zawahiri’s planned use of anthrax.

      This was not the first time the Egyptian islamists sent letter bombs to newspaper offices in connection with an attack on the World Trade Center. NPR set the scene. It was January 2, 1997, at 9:15 a.m. at the National Press Building in Washington, D.C. The employee of the Saudi-owned newspaper Al Hayat began to open a letter. It was a Christmas card — the kind that plays a musical tune. It was white envelope, five and a half inches by six and a half inches, with a computer-generated address label attached. It had foreign postage and a post mark — a postmark appearing to be from Alexandria, Egypt. It looked suspiciously bulky, so he set it down and called the police. Minutes later they found a similar envelope. These were the first two of four letter bombs that would arrive at Al Hayat during the day. A fifth letter bomb addressed to the paper was intercepted at a nearby post office. They all looked the same. Two similar letter bombs addressed to the “parole officer” (a position that does not exist) arrived at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth. It seemed evident how some Grinch had spent the holidays in Alexandria, Egypt.

      Egyptian Saif Adel (Makawwi), thought to be in Iran, was involved in military planning. Adel was a colonel in the Egyptian Army’s Special Forces before joining Al Qaeda. He helped plan the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Africa. He was also a planner in the attack on the USS Cole and has served as the liaison officer between Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. Adel assisted Atef, who had overall responsibility for Al Qaeda’s operations. According to Cairo Attorney Al-Zayyat, Makkawi had many times claimed responsibility for operations that were carried out inside Egypt but when the perpetrators were arrested, it would be al-Zawahiri’s name whose name they shouted loyalty to from the docks. After the letter al-Hayat letter bombs were sent in January 1997, Saif Adel (Makawwi) gave a statement denying responsibility on behalf of the Vanguards of Conquest.

      On January 7, 1997 Saif Adel purporting to be speaking for the Egyptian Vanguards of Islamic Conquest said: “Those are messages of admonishment. There is no flirtation between us and the Americans in order for us to send them such alarming messages in such a manner.” Adel said that “the Vanguards of Conquest “are heavyweight and would not embark on such childish actions.” US press and political commentaries had hinted at the Vanguards of Conquest organization’s involvement in these attempts. In his statement to Al-Hayat, perhaps referring to the Egyptian Islamic Group, Adel added “I am surprised that we in particular, and not other parties, should be accused of such an operation.”

      He got admonished by the unnamed but official spokesman for the Vanguards organization. This other spokesmanchastisied him as not being authorized to speak for the organization (or even being a member). “We welcome any Muslim who wants to join us, and if Makkawi wants to [join us], he will be welcomed to the Vanguards march, but through the organizational channels. But if words are not coupled with actions, we tell him: Fear God, and you can use a different name other than the Vanguards to speak on its behalf.” The spokesman denounced Makkawi’s authority to speak for the group, referring to the January 5th statement it had made denying responsibility. The spokesperson for the Vanguards of Conquest apparently was Post Office employee Sattar’s friend, Al-Sirri, based in London.

      The FBI would not speculate as to who sent the letters or why. But this was your classic “duck that walks like a duck” situation. As NPR reported at the time, “analysts say that letter bombs are rarely sent in batches, and when they are it’s generally prompted by politics, not personal animus.” Al Hayat was a well respected and moderate newspaper. It was friendly to moderate Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. That, without more, was accurately discerned by observers at the time as sufficient to make the newspaper outlet a target of the militant islamists. The newspaper, its editor explained, does not avoid criticizing militant islamists. The Al Hayat Editor-in-Chief explained: “We’ve been opposed to all extremists in the Arab world, especially the fundamentalists.” Mohammed Salameh, a central defendant in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was sent to Leavenworth in 1994. The other three Egyptian extremists convicted in the bombing were sent to prisons in California, Indiana and Colorado. Like the blind sheik Abdel-Rahman, Salameh had complained of his conditions and asked to be avenged. The Blind Sheik was particularly irked that the prison officials did not cut his fingernails.

      Abdel-Rahman was convicted in 1995 of seditious conspiracy, bombing conspiracy, soliciting an attack on an U.S. military installation, and soliciting the murder of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. His followers were indicted for plotting to bomb bridges, tunnels and landmarks in New York for which Rahman allegedly had given his blessings. The mailing of deadly letters in connection with an earlier attack on the World Trade Center was not merely the modus operandi of militant islamists, it was the group’s signature. It’s their calling card. Khaled Abu el-Dahab, a naturalized American, from Silicon Valley, in a confession detailed in an Egyptian defense ministry document dated October 28, 1998, explained that he was trained to make booby-trapped letters to send to important people, as well as asked to enroll in American aviation schools to learn how to fly gliders and helicopters. He was a friend of Ali Mohammed, the former special forces officer in the Egyptian army and former US Army Sergeant. The modus operandi of these militant supporters of the blind sheik was known to be planes and booby-trapped letters.

      The Al Hayat reporters and editor were not expressing an opinion — though the owner did lay out various possibilities (e.g., Iraq, Iran etc.). The owner of the paper had commanded Saudi forces during the Persian Gulf War, when Bin Laden was so upset about American troops on the Arabian peninsula. Moreover, al Hayat had recently opened up a Bureau in Jerusalem, giving it a dateline of Jerusalem rather than al Quds, which some thought blasphemous. But none of the possibilities would plausibly explain why the letter bomb was sent to Leavensworth where three of the WTC 1993 defendants were imprisoned, including Ramzi Yousef’s lieutenant who had asked that his mistreatment be avenged. (That was the criminal genius who returned to Ryder to reclaim his deposit after blowing up the truck at WTC). Egyptian security officials argued that the letters were sent from outside of Egypt, the stamps were not available in Egypt, and that the postmark was not Alexandria as reported. Whatever the place of mailing, the sender likely was someone who was upset that KSM’s and Ramzi Yousef’s associates had been imprisoned, to include, most notably, the blind sheik. Whoever is responsible for the anthrax mailings, it is a very good bet that they are upset the blind sheik is detained. That should be at the center of any classified profile of the crime.

      On December 31, 1996 Mohammed Youssef was in Egypt — having gone to Egypt months before. The al Hayat letter bombs related to the detention and alleged mistreatment of the blind sheikh and the WTC bombers were sent 10 days earlier — on the Day of Measures. In 2006, he was named as co-defendant with Hassoun, Daher, Padilla and Jayyousi. Youssef was born in Alexandria. Do authorities suspect the “Florida cell” of being involved in the al Hayat letter bombs? Kifah Jayyousi’s “Islam Report” over the years — distributed by Adham Hassoun in Florida and Kassem Daher in Canada — expressed outrage at detention/extradition due to terrorism law and also what he perceived as attacks on his religion by some newspapers. His headlines on the internet groups blazed “Just In! First Muslim Victim of New Terrorism Law!: US Agents Arrest Paralegal Of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman Without Charge Prepares To Hand Him To Egyptian Regime,” soc.religion.islam, dated April 27, 1996 and “Islam Report (Newspaper Attacks Our Religion! Act Now!,” soc.religion.islam, Apr. 16, 1996

      In connection with the January 1997 letter bombs, Ayman got the know-how to send sophisticated electronic letter bombs from Iraqi intelligence according to one item from the highly controversial Feith memo. In the al Hayat letter bombings, Ayman allowed the finger to be pointed at Libya. In the Amerithrax letters, he allowed the finger to be pointed to a United States biodefense insider by the prosecutor who would have presented to any indictment to the grand jury. Born in Haifa in 1948, the man’s daughter then came to represent microbiologist Al-Timimi pro bono.

      After the Al Hayat letter bombs to newspapers in DC and NYC and people in symbolic positions, in January 1997, both the Blind Sheikh and his paralegal, Sattar, were quoted in separate articles in Al Hayat (in Arabic) denying that they or their supporters were responsible. The Blind Sheikh commented that al Hayat was fair and balanced in its coverage and his supporters would have no reason to “hit” them. The same sort of counterintuitive theory was raised in connection with the earlier letter bombing of newspapers to DC and New York City and people in symbolic positions. Sattar noted that the bombs were mailed on December 20, one day before the brief in support of the blind sheik on appeal. He questioned whether someone (like the FBI) was trying to undermine the appeal’s prospects. This time, Mr. Sattar did not need any help making the argument with respect to the anthrax letters. Numerous people with political agendas rushed to do it for him to include counsel for Bosnia and Herzogovina and legal advisor to the PLO, professor Francis Boyle. In accusing Dr. Ivins on the occasion of his death, the FBI embraced the same sort of theory — that is, when it was not grasping at other untenable theories relating to college sororities, incorrectly perceived anti-abortion news, or perceived financial motive.

      In September 2006, in a Sahab Media production called “Knowledge is for acting,” there is a clip in which Al Quds editor Atwan refers to his visit with Bin Laden in 1996 (see also his 2006 book The Secret History of al Qaeda). He says that Bin Laden was planning to attack America “and America prisons in particular.” That was an apparent reference to the Al Hayat letter bombs sent to newspapers and prisons in January 1997. There were recurrent references to Abdel-Rahman in the tape.

  5. DXer said

    ‘A Failure to Connect the Dots’, JANUARY 8, 2010
    A lesson in the lack of bureaucratic intelligence.

    “Translating from the Esperanto, the point is that a pair of agencies were supposed to figure this out, but neither one did, perhaps because each thought the other one was responsible, or perhaps because the “dots” didn’t find their way into the right person’s computer inbox. To put it another way, if everyone is responsible, then no one is. This is the tao of modern bureaucracies, and there is nothing larger, more complex or harder to attach responsibility to than America’s intelligence labyrinth. Jack Bauer exists only on TV.”

    Based on what is in the public domain, the person who has responsibility for Amerithrax is AUSA Kenneth Kohl. If there is to be personal accountability for its success or failure, it lies with him and has for the past 8-9 years. Bill B. once wrote Ken by email: “It looks like we still have our jobs.”

    Well, President Obama’s speech emphasized that with each lead, there should be a name associated with it. Someone who is personally responsible to see that it was appropriately followed up. It is Ken’s name on those leads.

  6. Ike Solem said

    DXer, I think the “fact” that you cite is highly disputable:

    “the fact that the process involving silica in the culture medium was co-invented by two leading Battelle consultants…”

    No such process exists. The only plausible way to coat individual spores seems to be to purify the spores away from the culture medium and vegetative debris, and then resuspend them in some novel solution laced with silica and probably a host of other chemicals, and then pump the mixture through a electrospray apparatus under highly controlled (i.e. BSL-4 with sterile containment) conditions.

    That would account for the remarkable purity and concentrion (*a trillion spores per gram) as well as for the unique appearance and behavior of the material.

    As noted previously, the only known group with that capability is the private contractor that worked with the CIA and the DIA on their “biological threat assessment programs” in the late 1990s, aimed at replicating and apparently “improving” on the Soviet efforts, as revealed by the Soviet defectors – and this is almost certainly the actual source of the material used in the letters. Yes, that is a contravention of the BWC – but let’s quote Ken Abelik on that:

    Growing fears of a biological attack by a hostile neighbor or a terrorist group have created a booming mini-industry of biodefense consultants. Biodefense requires a knowledge of the capabilities of pathogenic agents, their means of delivery, and potential effects. This knowledge is also key to developing offensive weapons.


    Arms treaties are important. They set standards of international behavior regarding the acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction. But they are almost invariably ignored when countries believe their national security is at stake.

    In reality, the lines of defense against nefarious biowarfare attacks are the same as those against natural epidemics and outbreaks – first, a robust public health system with the resources needed to monitor, analyze and respond immediately to outbreaks (like the recent case of the anthrax-contaminated drum-skins imported from Africa). Vaccine stockpiles are of little use after the fact, especially if there is no existing public health infrastructure to deliver them – but they are quite lucrative for the contractors charged with making those vaccines – and of course, for an offensive biowarfare program, vaccines are almost a fundamental requirement for use by the weapon-makers in their production lines.

    This is why the BARDA approach is fundamentally flawed, and that’s also why the multi-billion dollar biodefense budget should be eliminated, with most funds instead going to CDC’s epidemiologial monitoring and public health response programs.

    The CIA and the DIA should of course be permanently banned from any involvement whatsoever in this business, given their atrocious track record, from every angle – whether it be cooking up bioweapons at home or cooking up claims about Iraqi bioweapons abroad.

    • DXer said

      “the fact that the process involving silica in the culture medium was co-invented by two leading Battelle consultants…”

      No such process exists.

      I am referring to the process described in the “Microdroplet Cell Culture” patent and a related patent. I am guided in my understanding of the patent by the lead scientist at a military lab that makes aerosols. who has done controlled experiments making anthrax simulants using a silanizing solution in the slurry.

  7. DXer said

    There is a $100,000 reward if you provide relevant information relating to apprehension of the sender of the hoax letters in Alamba. The FBI says the 9 letters had different postmarks, but were all postmarked in the state of Alabama. The writer appears to have spelled the wrong “HONORABLE” as “HONORIBLE” initially.

    A full-text search could be made of any electronic full-text court filings in Alabama.

  8. DXer said

    If you want an expert opinion on microencapsulation as it relates to acid resistance and biological weapons, contact Andy Page or Kelly Brown at the Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City.

    “Biological Particulate Matter Analogue”

    Solicit and report expert opinions from named, qualified experts and report them.

    • Ike Solem said

      The Midwest Research Institute is a Battelle Memorial partnership – possibly involving Bechtel, another main DOE contractor.

      Again, referring to one of the main suspects in this event for advice and opinioneering on said issue seems a bit misguided. Truly independent analysis is clearly needed – and you won’t find that within the DOE-DHHS-CIA-DIA contractor database, I don’t think.

      • DXer said

        Politics has no place in true crime analysis or intelligence analysis. True crime analysis and intelligence analysis requires a dispassionate approach and reliance on probative evidence such as documentary evidence of means, motive, modus operandi and motive. Ike, I like and respect you. But admit it. You are a socially aware, political activist. Which is a good thing. I try to be. But it is not helpful to be wearing that hat when the matter at hand involves solving a “whodunnit.”

        As for relying on the opinion on Dr. Alibek, you could instead interpret me as getting on-the-record statements by him on issues. Given that I have argued that the FBI considers Ali Al-Timimi an “anthrax weapons suspect”, I went out of my way to get Ken and Serge (also from GMU) on record given that Dr. Bailey would not even answer questions informally. (Serge and Dr. B work closely together). Ali’s charity has a spin-off here. 100 agents came and interviewed 150 people simultaneously. So the first thing I did was to email Dr. Alibek and ask if he knew Ali. It was only later research that showed Ali 15 feet from Ken.

        On such matters generally, it greatly weighs in favor of someone in analysis if they freely respond to questions. When Michael Hayes and Tarek Hamouda refuse to provide the ICAAC and ASM presentation — or answer questions specifying where and when the research with the virulent Ames supplied by Dr. Ivins was done — that is when alarm bells went off for me. Then given our mutual friend Tarek Hamid had been recruited by Ayman Zawahiri into the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, I say: does the fear of civil liability, political correctness, due process, and even cognitive dissonance combine so that necessary questions are not asked? That might be okay in the usual case, but see, there are people I love in DC and NYC and not asking the relevant questions has never been an option for me. Nor do I plan to suffer fools like Ed Lake gladly.

        As for Dr. Alibek, he and Dr. B had already received $12 million in funding from DARPA prior to 9/11. The profile of someone sounding the alarm was not viable in light of the CIA’s PDB to Bush in early February 2001.

        Ken Kohl should be fired from the case.

        People are going to be fired and indicted if they continue the present course.

      • DXer said

        The top scientist there is my good friend of mine. I think it useful to network with people who have led the bioweaponeering efforts of major countries like Ken and the fellow at Midwest in understanding bioweapons. At the very least, by corresponding with people down the hall from people like Burans, they can help you obtain documents, get answers questioned, and get your arguments and facts in front of decision-makers.

        • DXer said

          As an aside, my friend from Kansas was at NAS last month, when my book “The Infiltration of US Biodefense” didn’t catch up to him at his hotel until he left for Geneva. Then when they located the book, he had them Fed Ex it to Kansas. But Fed Ex has no record even though the hotel swears they sent it (using MIdwest’s fed ex #). I ordinarily would assume that the clerk just mistranscribed the number if the same thing hadn’t happen to me — with the package from the publisher torn open, arriving over a week late, plastered with stickers saying “No tracking ID” on file. As a rule of thumb, if you can have an expert focus on an issue, it is a good thing. Even if you have to hand-deliver the book to them in a brown paper bag on a street corner as I did more than once. The founder of the CIA advised that the most effective means of gaining intelligence is to go to the person and ask.

          I would not have been able to get Dr. Ezzell confirm that he had aerosolized Ames without networking If something caused Ken to leave the country abruptly, so be it. That’s more straightforward and honest than failing to comply with FOIA while purporting to comply with the rule of law.

  9. DXer said

    After the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology detected silica, [USAMRIID Major General John] Parker reported that the anthrax in question contained silica, a common substance found in sand and quartz. At the August 18, 2008 Science Briefing On The Anthrax Investigation, in his opening statement Dr. Vahid Majidi explained “First of all, let me dispel some frequently repeated erroneous information. For example: There were no intentional additives combined with the bacillus anthracis spores to make them any more dispersible.” He noted that the Silicon Signature may have been due to a silica-based substance in the culture medium used to grow the anthrax. Another department colleague of Bin Laden’s sheik’s protege — Dr. Alibek’s co-director of the Center for Biodefense at GMU — told a reporter that the presence of silica is significant, but he declined to say why, citing national security concerns. “I don’t think I want to give people — terrorists — any information to help them, said Dr. Charles Bailey, a scientist at Advanced Biosystems Inc. at George Mason University and former deputy USAMRIID commander. The problem was that a microbiologist trained in computer science and actively communicating with Bin Laden’s sheik and the 911 imam was working just feet away from both famed Russian anthrax bioweaponeer Ken Alibek and Dr. Bailey. Bin Laden’s supporters already had access to the information. Dr. Bailey and Dr. Alibek in mid-March 2001 filed a confidential patent application relating to the concentration of anthrax using silicon dioxide. One of the two applicants for the international patent was a leading aerosol scientist and innovator in dry powder inhalations used in the pharmaceutical industry and the founder of Aerosol Techniques in 1955.

    Former Russian bioweaponeer Ken Alibek and Harvard biologist Matthew Meselson have reported that they saw no special silica coating observable in the Scanning Electron Microscope (“SEM”) images they were given. The FBI’s scientist at Sandia confirms that no silica was observed on the exosporium and that instead it was below the exosporium, absorbed in the coats. The presence of any silica, Drs. Meselson and Alibek say, may have come from the environment because of the special tendency of anthrax spore coats to attract silicon. (The lead FBI scientist Dwight Adams relied on the study provided the FBI by Meselson in briefing the Congress in November 2002.) Indeed, the silica may have been in the culture medium and then removed as described by a mid-March 2001 and related patent filed by researchers at Dr. Alibek’s Center for Biodefense at GMU.

    Ayman Zawahiri had numerous Salafist supporters who were highly educated, including an expert on polymerization who studied in North Carolina and had the keys to the apartment where the 7/7 London bomb was made. His field was the use of functional polymers to protect drugs until they reach the intended organ.

    Montasser Al-Zayat was the lawyer in the Spring of 1999 who said that Ayman Zawahiri planned to use anthrax against US targets to retaliation for the rendering and mistreatment of senior Movement leaders. “Montasser al-Zayat, a lawyer and a former cellmate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s No. 2 leader, said Mr. Zawahiri excels at finding recruits with no previous records who can be easily planted in the West.”

    Kathryn Crockett, Ken Alibek’s assistant — just a couple doors down from Ali Al-Timimi — addressed these issues in her 2006 thesis, “A historical analysis of Bacillus anthracis as a biological weapon and its application to the development of nonproliferation and defense strategies.” She expressed her special thanks to Dr. Ken Alibek and Dr. Bill Patrick. Dr. Patrick consulted with the FBI and so the FBI credits his expertise. “I don’t want to appear arrogant. I don’t think anyone knows more about anthrax powder in this country,” William Patrick told an interviewer. Dr. Alibek’s access to know-how regarding anthrax weaponization, similarly, seems beyond reasonable dispute.

    On the issue of encapsulation, she reports that “many experts who examined the powder stated the spores were encapsulated. Encapsulation involves coating bacteria with a polymer which is usually done to protect fragile bacteria from harsh conditions such as extreme heat and pressure that occurs at the time of detonation (if in a bomb), as well as from moisture and ultraviolet light. The process was not originally developed for biological weapons purposes but rather to improve the delivery of various drugs to target organs or systems before they were destroyed by enzymes in the circulatory system.”

    “The US and Soviet Union, however, ” she explains, “used this technique in their biological weapons programs for pathogens that were not stable in aerosol form… Since spores have hardy shells that provide the same protection as encapsulation would, there is no need to cover them with a polymer.“ She explains that one “possible explanation is that the spore was in fact encapsulated but not for protective purpose. Encapsulation also reduces the need for milling when producing a dry formulation.” She wrote: “If the perpetrator was knowledgeable of the use of encapsulation for this purpose, then he or she may have employed it because sophisticated equipment was not at his disposal.”

    One military scientist who has made anthrax simulants described the GMU patents as relating to an encapsulation technique which serves to increase the viability of a wide range of pathogens. More broadly, a DIA analyst once commented to me that the internal debate seemed relatively inconsequential given the circumstantial evidence — overlooked by so many people — that US-based supporters of Al Qaeda are responsible for the mailings. Most of Dr. Ivins’ colleagues have thought Al Qaeda was responsible.

    For years, Dr. Alibek’s theme has been:

    “‘[J]ust because you have a sophisticated product doesn’t mean the technique has to be sophisticated.’ ” Silica in the culture medium would not be a sophisticated “additive” added post-production that aided dispersability (Majidi’s definition of “weaponization”). But apparently it would permit the agent to be concentrated.

  10. DXer said

    Obama just gave a really excellent speech today about “connecting the dots.” He may be really smart — but he’s a great speaker too.

  11. Ike Solem said

    Also, note that a concentrated solution of anthracis spores looks like a brown slurry, the color of coffee. However, if you add in a silica coating, you get a grayish-white result – which is what was observed in the anthrax letters.

    Let’s consider the Preston description of the powder – and as the author of the Hot Zone, Preston is the one reporter/author who had the most access and knowledge of what goes on at USAMRIID:

    John Ezzell took up a metal spatula – a sort of metal knife – and slid it very slowly inside the envelope. He took up a small amount of the powder on the tip of the spatula, lifted it out, and held it up inside the hood. He wanted to get the powder into a test tube, but it started flying off the spatula, the particles dancing up and away into the hood, pulled by the current of air in the hood. The powder had a pale, uniform, light tan color. It had tested positive in the rapid field test for anthrax, and it had the appearance of a biological weapon. “Oh, my God,” Ezzell said aloud, staring at the particles flying off his knife.

    That’s not a basement prep, by any means – that’s a high-tech weaponized material consisting of highly purified spores that had been treated for maximum dispersal. The only projects in the U.S. known to have produced such materials were the CIA and DIA contracted “biological threat assessment projects” known as Clear Vision and Project Jefferson, which would seem to refer to the West Jefferson, Ohio BSL-4 labs of Battelle Memorial Institute, which has a “one-of-a-kind” micro-aerosol-biological facility.

    This Dr. Strangelovian institute is at the heart of U.S. WMD programs and has been for decades – and yet the FBI apparently never investigated or searched the facility – which is pretty shocking, all things considered. If any outfit should be put under a microscope, Battelle should. As far as why they weren’t – well, the did appoint the general who oversaw the U.S. military space weapons program to a lead executive position, which might explain a lot of their political pull. These are the children of Edward Teller, you know – political activists with an obsession with nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry who rely entirely on U.S. government contracts for their bread-and-butter.

    Incidentally, they are also the primary subcontractors for the manufacturers of the anthrax vaccine, Emergent Biosolutions (a result of the merger of Bioport and Vaxgen).

    This is big business, and there’s nothing that motivates like greed, is there?

    Elusys Wins $143M BARDA Pact to Advance its Anthrax Antitoxin

    By Donna Young

    Washington Editor

    WASHINGTON – Elusys Therapeutics Inc. won a five-year contract potentially worth $143 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to advance the development of the company’s inhalational anthrax antitoxin Anthim, a high-affinity deimmunized monoclonal antibody.

    Anthim, which has received fast-track status and orphan drug designation from the FDA, targets the protective antigen of Bacillus anthracis and neutralizes the lethal effects of anthrax toxins.

    The drug is expected to compete with Human Genome Sciences Inc.’s inhalational anthrax antitoxin raxibacumab, whose biologics license application (BLA) was rebuffed last month by the FDA after agency reviewers questioned whether the animal model used in that company’s studies had adequately reflected the antimicrobial response from U.S. patients attacked in fall 2001 by spores sent through the mail.

    HGS said it was working to respond to the FDA’s complete response letter. (See BioWorld Today, Oct. 26, 2009, and Nov. 17, 2009.)

    Annapolis, Md.-based PharmAthene Inc., Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Cangene Corp. and Rockville, Md.-based Emergent BioSolutions Inc. also are developing anthrax therapies with BARDA funds.

    Who is the private contractor with the most BARDA (DHHS subsection) contracts?

    COLUMBUS OH 432012696 USA
    Phone: 3016826312 Contracts and Grants, Manufacturer of Goods, Nonprofit Organization, Research and Development, Service Provider 927110, 928110, 561210, 611430, 562910, 541330, 334418, 541380, 333319, 334511, 541511, 541512, 541513, 334516, 541519, 541611, 541614, 336992, 541618, 541620, 541690, 541711, 541712, 541720, 541990

    This thing seems to be all about the money, doesn’t it? If so, the original FBI assessment, as reported Dec 21, 2001, seems to be right on target – the goal was to induce a panic and so gain new biowarfare/biodefense contracts.

    Even more astonishingly, Emergent Biosolutions has been allowed to export their technology to all kinds of countries, from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia. Since any effort to set up a anthrax-based biowarfare program requires access to anthrax vaccines, this is truly insane – even more so considering that until 1997, all anthrax vaccine production was strictly controlled by the U.S. government, and was only manufactured as needed – until Bioport agreed to put Admiral William Crowe on their board, after which they were allowed to take over production of anthrax vaccine for the U.S. military.

    It looks like the military-industrial complex has gone out of control again, doesn’t it?

    • DXer said

      On the question of charge, the authors of the study I posted explained that under the method they used no charge resulted. And you would not expect it to have a charge.

      Using a Bucci mini-spraydryer 290B inevitably results in a charge, however. The Bucchi technical representative explained to me that the bench top unit, which has long been able to achieve a uniform 1 micron product, inevitably results in a highly charged particle because of the speed it goes through the nozzle.

      Bill Patrick explained in the 2007 audio I linked that a charge would be undesirable when loading munitions but served the purpose of the envelopes very well given even the low-energy event of opening the letters resulted in dispersal of the product immediately across the room. He explained that sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation was the central consideration in determining whether a pathogen is suitable as a weapon. Which is why anthrax and other pathogen were deemed most suitable. Encapsulation causes resistance to ultraviolet radiation. And so the iron increases the Si uptake and the Si encapsulates the pathogen. As the lead military scientist at the aerosol lab explained to me, the microdroplet cell culture patent is an encapsulation patent that increases the viability of a wide range of pathogens.

      So it’s not that you are too far off. But you are focused on 1990s thinking that does not take into account the purpose served by Si in the coating. You have to understand that microencapsulation — Si in the coating — serves purposes that make a more effective bioweapon that go beyond floatability. As Alibek’s assistant Dr. Crockett explained in her thesis, it was first developed as a method to protect the drug from destruction by enzymes while being delivered to the target organ.

      Here, given the 1 micron size of the highly purified anthrax used, a simple drying method sufficed. The lead FBI scientist credits that one a half dozen could have made something so pure. But after you get access to what was in the flask 1029, the actual drying is relatively easy.

      But the unipolar charge points, IMO, to use of the mini-spray dryer 290B as explained by the technical representative.

      Small scale production is indicated, as Patrick and others have explained.

      Dr. Alibek, in his Biohazard 2 draft on his computer, opines that contrary to his initial view that a spraydryer was used (and it would be a mini-spraydryer), a fluidized bed dryer may have been used. The lead scientist at a military aerosol lab does not disagree that such a method could have been used. Under that theory, the charge results from mail-processing machines.

      Bottom-line: Si in the coating in no way points away from the use of silica in the culture medium that was accidental. It does not point to what Ed calls “lab contamination.” It points to use of silicates in the culture medium that serves to make pathogens more lethal. And the iron signal is related because high level of iron increases the Si uptake.

      • DXer said

        “Bottom-line: Si in the coating in no way points away from the use of silica in the culture medium that was accidental.”

        I meant, it does not point away from it being intentional. Quite the opposite. It points to microencapsulation.

        • DXer said

          If testifying in Court, I believe Dr. Michael and Dr. Kotula would have been expected by the Judge to sit down after identifying the location of the Si as the coat.
          Their expertise does not extend beyond that. Its purpose is beyond their field and data.

          Of course, US biodefense necessarily has to study and understand these things. People who because of political orientation who think that US scientists would have reason to waste their time developing a lethal pathogen — for other than defensive purposes (i.e., research) — are being unrealistic. And, of course, it only makes sense for the government not to want to talk about it. And in fact it doesn’t make sense to talk about it. I have no idea why a bunch of emergency preparedness doctors needed to hear Dr. Patrick’s talk, for example.

          Even though I constantly talk about compliance with FOIA, it is to be expected that some things are not subject to FOIA and should not be. There are exemptions for that. I just regularly see FOIA flouted without regard to applicable exemptions.

      • Ike Solem said

        1) Patrick and Alibek were not directly involved in any aspect of the investigation and their opinions don’t seem based on any primary evidence. Alibek said he was shown electron microscope photos, but didn’t know their provenance – I’m guess that these were photographs of the autoclaved Battelle samples, you know the “hockey pucks” that Battelle made for the FBI after the USAMRIID team determined that the material was highly weaponized.

        2) I’m not sure what is meant by “charge” in relation to spore powder preparations. A mass of dried spores clumps together for the same reason that dried eggs clump together – protein-protein associations as water is removed. Most naked bacteria are rapidly killed via dehydration; the entire point of the spore is to create a waterproof layer around the spore coat so that the little critter can maintain a liquid interior. Like attracts like, correct? Two hydrophobic protein coats, when placed in proximity, will adhere to one another, which will lead to clumping. Large clumps of spores are not as active as inhalation agents, they don’t penetrate deep into the lungs (likewise, ultrafine air pollution is particularly dangerous because of its penetrating ability).

        Now, to reduce this clumping, the hydrophobic surface of the spore must be somehow coated with polar material (not charged! just polar). Powdered silica particles will not clump together, however – and neither will spores coated with a thin layer of silica – in fact, they’d behave just like the Daschle powder.

        Now, consider the material in question:

        Geisbert turned a knob and zoomed in. An anthrax spore is five times larger than a smallpox particle. He was looking for bricks of pox, so he was looking for little objects, searing spore by spore. The task of finding a few particles of smallpox mixed into a million anthrax spores was like walking over a mile of stony gravel looking for a few diamonds in the rough. He saw no bricks of pox. But he noticed some sort of goop clinging to the spores. It made the spores look like fried eggs – the spores were the yolks, and the goop was the white. It was a kind of splatty stuff.

        Geisbert twisted the knob and turned up the power of the beam to get a more crisp image. As he did, he saw the goop begin to spread out of the spores. Those spores were sweating something.

        Notice that if Sandia Labs prepared their samples using an ion beam slicer instead of a simple microtome, the same effect would have occurred – they likely blasted off the surface silica layer, in other words. There is some other evidence that this is what they did, as well.

        After all that was done and the information had been passed on , all of a sudden someone decides a second opinion is needed:

        The helicopter took off with the sample and thupped westward over Maryland. It touched down in West Jefferson, Ohio, near Columbus, at the Hazardous Materials Research Center of the Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit scientific research and consulting organization. Battelle scientists took the hatbox into a lab. They heated the anthrax powder in an autoclave to sterilize it, and they began looking at it under microscopes.

        Clearly, autoclaving the stuff resulted in a heavily doctored sample – simple inactivation with gamma ray radiation (which damages DNA enough to prevent replication, but which is far less destructive than autoclaving or ion beaming) would have made it safe to work with.

        Furthermore, there is zero reliable peer-reviewed evidence that Bacillus spore-forms incorporate silica into their spore coat at such levels – and it would probably be very counterproductive for Bacillus species like cereus, thuringensis and anthracis – because of their life cycle. The animal that munches a big clump of anthrax spores is the one likely to get infected with enough anthrax to cause death.

        Finally, basic chemistry again, sticking a hydrophilic particle like silica into a hydrophobic spore coat would probably defeat the purpose of the spore coat, which is to form a waterproof, dessication-proof barrier that keeps the spore viable. All in all, the argument that the silica was “natural” or even due to an unusual culture medium is pretty silly.

        Rather, it’s most likely that silica compounds / treatments are added after the spores are purified and harvested – which is itself a difficult step. Getting an absolutely pure preparation of spores, free of vegetative cells and other debris, is no mean feat – but coating them individually with silica and creating a highly aerosolized preparation?

        At the very least, you would need high-tech containment, meaning complete control of airflow and sterilization of airflow – and that means something like a BSL-4 laboratory equipped with millions of dollars in highly specialized equipment. I don’t think anyone will be doing that in their basement.

        You would also need some people with technical experience in this area of research:

        Drug Delivery Technology
        Issue Date: Vol. 2 No. 6 September 2002

        BattellePharma: Setting the Standard for Delivery Devices

        BattellePharma began operations in April 2000 as a spinout of Battelle Memorial Institute, the world’s largest private research and development organization. The company is currently focusing on the development of inhaled therapies and drug delivery devices for lung cancer, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), respiratory infections, and systemic diseases. Because of its many strong pharmaceutical partners, including Abbott Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer Inc, Corus Pharma, Viasys Healthcare, and ViroPharma Inc, BattellePharma is able to develop new drug products with novel approaches to treating conditions via inhalation. Our product portfolio, with nine products in development (the first three in clinical development showing positive results), is rare for such a young company. BattellePharma has built a strong intellectual property portfolio….

        …The first platform is our MysticTM drug inhalation technology. It uses electrostatic energy to form a uniform fine particle spray superior to any other products on the market.

        Hence, the spores contain no electrostatic charge, they just don’t stick together – and the “uniform fine particle spray” ensures that as the spores are pumped out, each one gets a nice little individual coating. This information is all available in the public domain, and it’s quite likely that countries that have evidenced an interest in biowarfare – from South Korea to Israel to India to Syria to who knows who (at least 20 others are suspected) – are trying to develop the same thing.

        Talk about reckless commercialization of extremely sensitive and dangerous technology – it’s as if they were selling laser-based uranium enrichment platforms on the open market. Only Dr. Strangelove could approve of this.

        • DXer said

          Ike Solem said

          January 7, 2010 at 8:48 pm
          “1) Patrick and Alibek were not directly involved in any aspect of the investigation”

          Dr. Patrick was a leading FBI expert. In June 2002 reported that he had been polygraphed for the purpose of consulting with the FBI. A year or two ago, he expressed anger at the FBI, or at least consternation, over having been misled.

          “and their opinions don’t seem based on any primary evidence.”

          As Dr. Alibek explained, he offered his services and was told by letter in response that they had already assembled a large team. When the letter arrived, a Salafist-Jihadist was 15 feet away and shared a mailbox and fax number with Ken. He is described by his defense counsel as an “anthrax weapons suspect” and the Washington Post described the FBI’s interest some years ago in an article titled “Hardball Tactics in an Era of Threats.” Dr. Alibek abruptly left the country for reasons he will not disclose. It had been years since he had had any contact with an FBI agent — he presumes some were in the audience in a lecture he gave on the forensics of the mailed anthrax. As a general matter, he is very forthright and while very busy, is very responsive to inquiries. Dr. Bailey defers inquiries to University Counsel. See March 2008 FoxNews report. But maybe that is just organizational protocol.

        • Ike Solem said

          Bill Patrick holds multiple classified patents related to anthrax weaponization technology, and he has repeatedly and publicly stated that the cancellation of the U.S. biowarfare program by Nixon in 1969 was a “mistake” – that was a PBS interview, I believe – and last time I heard, he was refusing to talk to reporters because he said he had been “misquoted”.

          Not exactly the most reliable source of information, I’m afraid. As far as what Abelik said and didn’t say, he only really knows about what was done in the Soviet Union prior to the 1990s, correct?

        • DXer said

          You are correct. Dr. Patrick said:

          “NOVA: You started working on defensive measures at Detrick after Nixon closed down the offensive program in 1969. Was your heart in it or were you still basically a weaponeer at heart?

          “I had to rethink my mission.”
          Patrick: Well, I was basically a weaponeer. I had to rethink my mission.
          Broad: Did President Nixon do the right thing?
          Patrick: I don’t know. I’ve often wondered about that question. At the time I felt very strongly that he was doing the wrong thing. I think one of the best defenses that this country can have is to have an offensive capability so that if someone uses BW on us, that we can return in kind.
          Broad: That was the policy, right? No first use?
          Patrick: No first use. Let them know that it is there. It is a big stick, basically.”

          On this question of experts, the expert I rely on is John Kiel, who I consulted on the Silicon Signature a long time ago and who did controlled experiments. Rather than finding reason to challenge all the experts I rely on, let’s both focus on citing and linking authority for the factual statements made that we expect to be credited. As for the factual evidence I rely on, the most probative consists of documentary evidence expressing intent and motive and evidencing means and modus operandi. As for evidence relating to Ayman Zawahiri, it primarily comes from what people who knew him well tell me to include a good friend who grew up down the street from him.

        • DXer said

          As for what I mean when I discuss “charge”, I solicited the opinion of Dr. Serge Popov on these issues. He discusses in a September 12, 2008 expert opinion he graciously provided the issue of charge and addressed points raised by Dr. Rosenberg:

          “Prof. Rosenberg
          As discussed above, (26) silica particles were used to decrease van der Waals attractions in a 2008 Dugway/CDC study of aerosol deposition; in the same study, electrostatic effects were reduced by using ion sources to neutralize the BG aerosol as it was generated. According to the New York Times, (27) experts on germ weaponry agree that the removal of electrostatic charges is a major step toward making an effective munition. Both the Soviet Union and United States developed sophisticated ways of diminishing this attraction and helping the particles float more freely, increasing their ease of dissemination.

          [SP] Comment
          From this point on the discussion does not distinguish between apples and oranges, although all basic facts seem to be correct. The point is that the military requirements to BWs are very different from what we may expect in the case of the terrorist use of biological agents. The BW experts talk about effective munitions, meaning a controlled dispersal with a maximal efficacy. They would never accept Florida anthrax for their munitions. A survived witness who happened to open one of the letters described that the brownish particles reminded a sand, which easily dropped down from the envelope. Bill Patrick would be ashamed with this spore quality: he always wanted his anthrax to flow like a gas. Nevertheless, this consideration did not stop the perpetrator. The first letter attack was a failure by military standards but a success for a terrorist.

          Prof. Rosenberg
          BW expert William Patrick (28) told the Journal of the Electrostatic Discharge Association in March, 2002 that “Electrostatically charged materials are very hard to disseminate.” The charge must be removed with a secret combination of chemicals, otherwise, “some of it can still get up in the air, but it’s not predictable.”
          [SP] Comment
          The key word of Bill is “not predictable”. It is a good property for terrorists.

          Prof. Rosenberg
          FBI briefers said that dry spores [generally] readily take up static charge, making them stick to the walls of plastic tubes. A questioner at the briefing replied “We were told for example that when they went in to clean up the Senate offices, it [spores] was only on the horizontal surfaces, and that they found that unusual. In other words, that it was not attracted to other things. Is that not true, by the way?” No answer to that question was given by the briefers.

          [SP] Comment
          The point is that the particles may have discharged in the air, aggregated, and sedimented onto the horizontal surface in the empty building with a minimal turbulence. Sticking to the walls of the building is not the same as sticking to the walls of a tube. The tube has a charge opposite to the powder because overall the tube and its content are neutral. That is why they stick together. The walls of the building may not be charged at all.

          Prof. Rosenberg
          At a scientific meeting in September 2006, a scientist who had worked under government contract on samples of anthrax from the letter attack described the spores in the letters as “uncoated, but containing an additive that affected the spore’s electrical charges” (as reported in a publication by Dr. Kay Mereish, Chief of Biological Planning and Operations at the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), (29) who was present at the meeting).
          [SP] Comment
          It very well could be the case. However, we have a semantic problem here. The additive affecting electrical charge well may be at the spore surface, and therefore the spores may be considered coated.

          Prof. Rosenberg
          According to William Patrick, removing the charge from spores is a black art, few details of which are known publicly. (30) Patrick said that from 1959 to1961 the US BW program examined 67 chemicals and compounds with potential antistatic properties, some better than others. He declined to discuss one particular combination that proved to excel in making dry, static-free powders. (31) Ken Alibek, the former Soviet anthrax expert, said it’s not difficult, if you know the right chemicals. “Not everybody can do it. But if you have some knowledge, you can do it. (32)

          As we discussed, the removal of charge is not necessary. The spores from letters seemed to be charged, and all discussion about difficulty of charge removal is pointless.”

  12. Ike Solem said

    NAS has patently NOT validated the science, by the way – if they were going to do that, they should have called Tom Geisbert and Peter Jahrling of USAMRIID as key witnesses. There are numerous severe problems with the Sandia Labs analysis of the spore powder as well.

    Secondly, even the genetic data on the “unique” morphs is highly suspect and was apparently not subjected to peer review, quite unlike the initial work used to develop genetic screens for the Ames strain itself.

    Hence, any claim that the conflict-of-interest laden NAS committee “has validated the science” is utter nonsense.

    • DXer said


      You say “conflict-of-interest laden NAS committee” and yet cannot point to any conflict of interest. So you shouldn’t say it. Note that “conflict of interest” has a specific meaning under NAS procedure. A point of view is not disqualifying. The NAS seeks a range of points of view. My fault of the panel membership is that there is no one with aerosol science expertise that I see.

      My fault of the NAS beyond that is that they are not in compliance with FACA. Why would President Obama expect the US to be able to respond with alacrity on issues such as anthrax when it takes NAS staff, already paid $890,000 by US taxpayers, 20 days to distribute powerpoints? And then NAS staff charges the public for the privilege of seeing what they were paid $890,000 to facilitate public review of? How is that efficient sharing of information?

    • Ike Solem said

      Oh please Ed – I know you’ve scrubbed your web site of your previous attacks on Steven Hatfill, but all you seem to be doing is repeating the latest PR line out of the FBI office – first you said it was Hatfill, now you say it was Ivins, etc. etc.

      As far as anthrax incorporating silica into its protein spore coat, why would that ever happen? There’s no silica to speak of within the mammalian hosts of Bacillus anthracis, is there? It would require an active uptake and concentration mechanism. This requires the expenditure of energy – and why would the bacteria ever evolve such a mechanism? Is there a silica-pump protein that does this? No – the whole genome of anthracis has been sequenced, too, so it really wouldn’t be hiding anywhere.

      The spore coat is a highly durable protein coat – and if the bacteria incorporated silica into that protein structure, it would probably weaken the spore. Here, for your benefit, is a complete 1976 review of spore coat formation and function – I’d read it before further embarrassing yourself with uninformed amateur arguments:

      Click to access 360.pdf

      The problem with the Sandia National Labs results is largely related to their sample preparation methods – for example, they used an ion beam to carve up their spore powder – but was does an ion beam do, as compared to a microtome? It’s a hot beam, and so it boils off a surface layer – this is widely noted in electron microscopy journals, as “artifacts due to ion beam sample preparation.”

      The morph studies are highly suspect as well, because such morphs might arise in ANY large-scale preparation of anthracis spores in culture – and isn’t that precisely what was done as part of the CIA’s “Clear Vision” project, aimed at creating a copy of Soviet-era anthrax bombs?

      The “FBI science” is really just a pathetic attempt to hide the high-tech weaponized nature of the spore preparation and find a scapegoat for an extremely problematic event, I think.

      • DXer said

        What are you talking about, Ike? When did Ed ever say it was Hatfill? He has always said it was a First Grader working with a guy named Mike, who thought anthrax was a virus.

        “Ike Solem said
        January 7, 2010 at 7:11 pm
        Oh please Ed – I know you’ve scrubbed your web site of your previous attacks on Steven Hatfill, but all you seem to be doing is repeating the latest PR line out of the FBI office – first you said it was Hatfill, now you say it was Ivins, etc. etc.”

      • DXer said

        “As far as anthrax incorporating silica into its protein spore coat, why would that ever happen?”

        Ike, have you read the article I posted above? I refer you to their references or to the scientist listed for correspondence. Asking the guy who is 99% sure a First Grader wrote the letters is not the best person to whom to address these issues.

        And if you think Ed ever accused Hatfill, you need to check your facts and information before posting. And limit your assertions to things supported by cited authority.

    • Anonymous Scientist said

      I figured you’d be sick enough to interpret the Japanese paper as supporting the FBI’s theories – when in fact it does JUST THE OPPOSITE.

      For starters the Japanese conclude “Our findings also strongly indicate that the anthrax spores [used in the attacks] were harvested from culture on a silicate-containing medium.”

      That is obvious of course, but is something the FBI still do not like to directly talk about. It should also be obvious that a “silicate-containing medium” means a DELIBERATE silicate-containing medium. Something else the FBI are extremely uncomfortable addresing (Majdi – “maybe it was absorbed from the media” – uum – why would silicon in huge amounts be in the medium?)

      Only when the Japense added silicon the preparations did they find silicon in the spores (unsurprisingly). They did not do ANY studes with anthrax spores. There was ONE unusual species they used, called YH64, that contained 15 TIMES as much silicon as any other spore species in their study. In other words, any others that did contain silicon (many did not take up silicon at all) had no more silicon in them than the Somlyo paper for B Cereus.

      They tried some crude aerosol experiments where they attempted to create a powder. Notice that they used a mortise and pestle to grind up large chunks of solid obtained from freeze-drying wet spores. So much for the notion that Ivins put a wet slurry in a freeze-dryer and out popped a magical weaponized powder all by itself. That’s what happens when you freeze dry spores – you obtain solid chunks of glued together spores. That’s why the FBI don’t like to talk in detail about how Ivins made the powder – they know he couldn’t have done it.

      Their mortise and pestle preparation would have given then still huge particles that, even if the silica would have aided in dispersion of single spores, would not have made any discernable difference at that particle size. The Japanese state their ground up powders showed no dispersability – they just fell right back down to the bottom of the tube.

      The Livermore study ON ANTHRAX spores used similar techniques of trying to add silica in solution to see if ANTHRAX spores would take any up. Out of 56 attempts none got even REMOTELY close to the attack spores in silicon content.

      That’s because the attack spores used a different form of silicon post-sporulation – namely silicon in the form of an organic silanizing agent.

      • DXer said

        Anonymous Scientist, Dr. Majidi quite plainly said that it could have been in the culture medium.

        Ed just can’t wrap his head around the fact that the process involving silica in the culture medium was co-invented by two leading Battelle consultants who were 15 feet away from scientist coordinating with the 911 imam and mentored by Bin Laden’s sheik and another fellow, Bilal P., who says his job was to recruit people to jihad from among the US military.
        Why should the FBI and CIA take any flak when you folks are even more clueless?

        The reason Ed cannot address the theory because without his meaningless labels — when the substance is addressed — it causes an Ivins Theory to melt and supports the FBI view of Al-Timimi as an “anthrax weapons suspect.” Perhaps a decision in that matter will be issued later this month but the timing is uncertain.

        What was really stupid was Dr. Majidi’s claim that they could exclude everyone else. As an example, WTF does Dr. Majidi or spokesman know about the whereabouts of Jdey? And why would you assume that only was involved? So that an alibi for someone with access suffices to exclude them? Assuming Ivins did it based on such reasoning is fallacious and reckless under the circumstances. Oh, did I say Bruce gave virulent Ames to a former Zawahiri associate? What does that say about the state of investigative journalism?

        (Majdi – “maybe it was absorbed from the media” – uum

      • BugMaster said

        “Silicon is accumulated in spore coats to provide acid resistance.”

        Bullsh*t, Ed, total bullsh*t!

        I don’t think much of this Japanese publication. From what I gather from the abstract, it isn’t worth wasting my time to read the entire article.

        Oh, and Ed, may I remind you:

        I am a microbiologist.

        • BugMaster said

          Ed, they have proven nothing. And even they stated that their conclusion that the silicon had a functional role (acid resistance) is pure speculation.

          Speculation that you are now claiming as an absolute truth, because it fits in with your beliefs.

        • BugMaster said

          You have repeatedly stated that bacteria “utilize” silicon and have specific physiological methods by which they accumulate it.

          Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!

          Nor does this article back up your erroneous conclusoins.

          But, seeing as you are a True Believer, there is no point wasting any pixels in continuing to argue with you.

  13. DXer said

    The Journal of Bacteriology article I cited a few days ago summarized:

    “When the anthrax powder sent to the U.S. Senate in 2001 was found to be coated with unusual silica, it was discussed whether the silica was related to spore dispersion. We concluded that Si encapsulation is not sufficient to make spores dispersible but does contribute to survival under acidic conditions. Our findings also strongly indicate that the anthrax spores were harvested from culture on a silicate-containing medium.”

    • DXer said

      Journal of Bacteriology, January 2010, p. 111-116, Vol. 192, No. 1
      0021-9193/10/$08.00+0 doi:10.1128/JB.00954-09
      Copyright © 2010, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

      The Silicon Layer Supports Acid Resistance of Bacillus cereus Spores
      Ryuichi Hirota,¶ Yumehiro Hata,¶ Takeshi Ikeda, Takenori Ishida, and Akio Kuroda*
      Department of Molecular Biotechnology, Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter, Hiroshima University, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima 739-8530, Japan

      Received 21 July 2009/ Accepted 20 October 2009

      Silicon (Si) is considered to be a “quasiessential” element for most living organisms. However, silicate uptake in bacteria and its physiological functions have remained obscure. We observed that Si is deposited in a spore coat layer of nanometer-sized particles in Bacillus cereus and that the Si layer enhances acid resistance. The novel acid resistance of the spore mediated by Si encapsulation was also observed in other Bacillus strains, representing a general adaptation enhancing survival under acidic conditions.

      Silicon (Si), the second-most-abundant element in the earth’s crust, is an important mineral for living organisms; it acts as a component of the outer skeleton of diatomaceous protozoans (1), as a trace element to help animal bone and tooth development (5), and as an element in plants that enhances their tissue strength and disease resistance (8, 9). These organisms take up silicate from the environment and accumulate it as silica that is formed from highly concentrated silicate (27). In 1980, relatively high concentrations of Si were observed at the spore coat region of Bacillus cereus and Bacillus megaterium spores by an analysis using scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) (14, 23). However, due to the low resolution and relatively weak signal, the precise localization of Si was not determined. On the other hand, the Si contents of Bacillus coagulans and Bacillus subtilis spores were reported to be almost absent or under the detection limit (4, 24). Some bacteriologists familiar with these data consider the presence of Si an anomaly (17). The presence of Si in bacterial spores (specifically, the spores of Bacillus anthracis) again became the focus of attention when anthrax spores were mailed to U.S. senators in the fall of 2001 (17). The Senate anthrax spores could be easily dispersed as single spores when the container was opened. The investigators considered that coating spores with silica might be involved in preventing spores from sticking to each other (17). Thus, if silica is normally absent from spores, its presence in B. anthracis spores suggested that they had been weaponized (17). Subsequent analysis convinced the investigators that the Si was a natural occurrence (3). However, since silica-rich and -poor spores of the same bacterial strain have never been compared, any relationship between naturally accumulated silica and spore dispersion remained hypothetical.

      In the present study, we screened for the bacterium that takes up the largest amount of silicate from among a number of strains isolated from paddy field soil in order to study Si uptake, clarify the localization of Si, and reveal the roles of Si in bacteria. The effect of silica on spore dispersion was also discussed.

      Screening of bacteria that take up silicate. Half of a gram of soil that was collected in a paddy field (Higashi-Hiroshima, Japan) was suspended in 10 ml of sterilized water and mixed well. After serial dilution, the suspensions were spread on an mR2A agar medium (an R2A agar medium [21] supplemented with 0.2 mM CaCl2, 0.01 mM MnCl2, 0.05 mM ZnCl2, 0.05 mM FeSO4) and incubated at 28°C for 48 h. Then, each of the colonies was transferred to a liquid mR2A medium containing 10 µg/ml silicate, and the silicate concentrations after 24 and 48 h of incubation were measured by the molybdenum blue assay method (7).
      16S rRNA gene analysis. Universal bacterial 16S rRNA gene PCR primers 27F (forward primer, 5′-AGAGTTTGATCCTGGCTCAG-3′) and 1510R (reverse primer, 5′-GTCCCGCAACGAGCGCAAC-3′) were used to amplify the 16S rRNA genes (28). DNA sequences were determined with an automated laser fluorescence sequencer (ABI310; Amersham Biosciences) by using the following primers: 27f, 5′-AGAGTTTGATCCTGGCTCAG-3′; rlL, 5′-GTATTACCGCGGCTGG-3′; r2L, 5′-CATCGTTTACGGCGTGGAC-3′; r3L, 5′-TTGCGCTCGTTGCGGGACT-3′; and r4L, 5′-ACGGGCGGTGTGTACAAG-3′. The 16S rRNA gene sequences were aligned by using the ClustalW program (25), using default parameters. The program TreeView (20) was used to generate the phylogenetic tree.

      Electron microscopy. For scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM-EDX) analysis, spores were fixed with 2.5% glutaraldehyde for 6 h at 4°C and dehydrated with ethanol, followed by substitution of tert-butyl alcohol. After freeze-drying, the spores were analyzed with SEM-EDX (JSM-5900; JEOL, Japan). For both TEM and STEM analysis, spores were prepared by a procedure similar to that used for SEM-EDX, except that spores were fixed by using cold 2.5% glutaraldehyde, 0.1% MgSO4 in 0.1 M cacodylate buffer (pH 7.2) for 2 h at 4°C and stained by using 1% osmium tetraoxide in 0.2 M cacodylate buffer (pH 7.4) for 36 h at 4°C. These spores were suspended in molten 2% agarose. After solidification, part of the agarose containing spores was cut into small cubes, which were dehydrated in ethanol and embedded in epoxy resin. Serial thin sections were prepared and stained with uranyl acetate and lead citrate for structural analysis with TEM (H-9000UHR; Hitachi, Japan). Unstained ultrathin sections were used for STEM-EDX analysis (HD-2000; Hitachi, Japan).

      Assays of spore resistance. Bacterial cells were cultured in 100 ml of the mR2A medium for 50 h at 28°C with or without 100 µg/ml silicate. The cultures were centrifuged at 6,000 x g for 15 min at 4°C, and each spore pellet was washed twice using an equal volume of cold, sterile distilled water. The spores were suspended in a final volume of 10-ml sterile water and kept at 4°C for 1 to 7 days. Microscopic observation indicated that more than 99.8% of cells were refractile spores. The spore solution was diluted to an optical density at 600 nm of 1.0 for the viability tests. The titer in this solution was approximately 108 CFU/ml. For testing wet-heat resistance, spores were incubated in water at 80°C. For testing UV resistance, spores were irradiated under the UV lamp of a FASIII system (Toyobo, Shiga, Japan), with a maximum output at 254 nm. For hydrogen peroxide resistance, spores were incubated at 28°C in 50 mM K2HPO4 buffer (pH 7.5) with 0.5% H2O2. For alkaline and acid resistance, spores were centrifuged and resuspended in equal volumes of 0.5 N sodium hydroxide (NaOH), 0.4 N hydrochloric acid (HCl), and 0.1 N nitric acid (HNO3), respectively. At the times indicated in figures, samples were diluted with cold water and spread on the R2A agar medium. Spore viability was determined by counting the colonies after a 24-h incubation at 28°C.

      HF treatment. Hydrogen fluoride (HF) was used to dissolve silica of the spore layer. The spore solution, diluted to an optical density at 600 nm of 1.0, was centrifuged, and the pellet was suspended in equal volumes of 50 mM HF. Silicate released from the spore was measured as described above.

      Electrostatic charge. To investigate the physical properties of the spores, we prepared spore powder by grinding freeze-dried spores in a mortar. Spore density, which is required for the calculation of electrostatic charge value, was measured with a gas displacement pycnometer (Ultrapycnometer 1000; Quantachrome Instruments, FL). The electrostatic charge distribution and diameter of spores were determined by using an electrical single-particle aerodynamic relaxation time (E-SPART) analyzer (18) (Hosokawa Micron, Osaka, Japan). About 100 mg of the spore powder was shaken in a plastic bag, and then the charges and diameters of individual spores were measured with the E-SPART analyzer. The number of particles counted for each experiment was 3,000.

      Nucleotide sequence accession numbers. The 16S rRNA gene sequence data for YH64 and YH221 have been deposited in the GenBank database under the respective accession nos. GQ855295 and GQ855296.

      Screening of bacteria that take up silicate. A total of 240 bacterial colonies were obtained from paddy field soil and transferred to an mR2A medium (an R2A medium supplemented with trace amounts of CaCl2, MnCl2, ZnCl2, and FeSO4) in the presence or absence of 10 µg/ml silicate. Of the 240 isolates, 29 were capable of taking up more than 75% of the silicate from the medium after a 48-h incubation (data not shown). The 16S rRNA gene sequences of these 29 bacteria showed maximum homology to sequences of the genus Bacillus, and 21 of these 29 bacteria were homologous to the B. cereus group, a very homogenous cluster of six species: B. cereus, Bacillus thuringiensis, B. anthracis, Bacillus mycoides, Bacillus pseudomycoides, and Bacillus weihenstephanensis (26). The other eight bacterial isolates showed maximum homology to Bacillus shandongensis or Bacillus megaterium. The bacteria that take up silicate were all phylogenetically classified as belonging to the genus Bacillus. The strain that takes up the largest amount of silicate among the isolated strains was classified as B. cereus based on its 16S rRNA gene sequence (Fig. 1) and designated B. cereus strain YH64.

      FIG. 1. Phylogenetic tree of the bacteria isolated (YH64 and YH221) and their related strains based on 16S rRNA gene sequences. Distances were calculated from nucleic acid sequences by using the ClustalW program. The 16S rRNA gene sequences were obtained from the NCBI GenBank database (B. cereus [AB247137.1], B. thuringiensis [EF537013.1], B. anthracis [AY138382.1], B. subtilis [AY833569.1], B. samanii [EF036537.1], B. mycoides [AF65957.1], B. pseudomycoides [AM747227.1], B. megaterium [AB271751.1], B. haldurans [EF113314.1], B. shandongensis [EU046267.1], B. luciferensis [DQ870692.1], B. clausii [AY960115.1], B. licheniformis [AY017347], B. simplex [D78478], B. fastidiosus [X60615], and B. coagulans [AB116143.1]). The scale bar indicates the number of substitutions per site.

      To analyze the silicate uptake along with the cell growth, the silicate concentration and cellular morphology of the YH64 strain were monitored during incubation on the mR2A medium containing 100 µg/ml silicate (Fig. 2A). After the late-logarithmic growth phase (20 to 40 h), the silicate concentration in the medium decreased drastically. The silicate concentration dropped to 0.05 µg/ml after 40 h, followed by a slight increase, indicating that a portion of the incorporated silicate was released (Fig. 2A). After 48 h, almost all cells had formed matured spores just after the silicate concentration reached its minimum (Fig. 2B). On the R2A medium, which does not contain trace minerals, YH64 did not take up silicate (Fig. 2A) and showed impaired sporulation (approximately 10% of the sporulation efficiency observed in the mR2A medium) (Fig. 2B), indicating that silicate uptake is related to spore formation.

      FIG. 2. Silicate uptake during growth of B. cereus YH64. (A) Growth of YH64 (closed circles) on mR2A (left) and R2A (right) media containing 100 µg/ml silicate and silicate concentrations in the medium (open squares) were measured at different time points. (B) Phase-contrast microscopic images of YH64 that grew on mR2A and R2A media. Scale bar, 10 µm. (C) Silicate concentrations (open squares) and the numbers of heat-resistant spores (closed triangles) of YH64 culture containing 100 µg/ml silicate. The cell suspension was heated at 65°C for 30 min, and the number of heat-resistant spores that formed colonies on an R2A agar plate was determined. (D) EDX spectrum of YH64 spores. The EDX signal of silicon is indicated by an arrowhead. Insets are the SEM images of the spores. Scale bars, 1 µm.

      To determine the relationship between silicate uptake and spore formation, we measured silicate concentration and the number of heat-resistant spores and confirmed the timing of the appearance of refractile spores during sporulation in the mR2A medium containing 100 µg/ml silicate from 12 to 36 h. Refractile spores appeared at around 16 h (data not shown). Heat-resistant spores appeared between 16 h and 18 h (Fig. 2C). Silicate uptake started at around 22 h, and more than 90% of silicate was taken up by 36 h. Mother cells still remained at 36 h (data not shown). These results indicated that silicate uptake occurs after the spores acquire heat resistance in their maturing process.

      Electron microscopic analysis of the spores. We prepared YH64 spores from the culture using mR2A with or without silicate and then analyzed them by SEM-EDX. The EDX signal of Si was not observed in the YH64 spores harvested from the culture without silicate; these spores contained almost no or a very small amount of silicate (Fig. 2D) and were denoted as low-Si spores. On the other hand, the Si signal was clearly observed in spores from the culture with silicate (Fig. 2D), and these spores were denoted as high-Si spores. We added silicate to the low-Si spores. The low-Si spores could not take up silicate (data not shown), indicating that silicate was first incorporated in the mother cell and then accumulated in the spore during maturation.

      Previous studies have revealed the presence of Si in the spore coat region of B. cereus and B. megaterium spores by using STEM (14, 23). Since YH64 took up 10-fold more silicate than did a type strain of B. cereus (data shown below), we expected that a relatively strong Si signal should enable us to precisely determine the location of Si. Ultrathin sections of the low- and high-Si YH64 spores were prepared and then analyzed by TEM and STEM-EDX. The spore layer structure (from the outside to the inside of the spore) consists of the exosporium (EX), coat (CT), undercoat (UC), cortex, and core (2, 6, 11, 12). The EX and UC in the two types of spores appeared the same. However, the CT was thicker in the high-Si spore, and novel nanometer sized-particles (SX) accumulated around the outer side of the CT in the high-Si spore (Fig. 3A and B). SX might correspond to the outer coat layer, using the B. subtilis analogy (12). Si signal mapping revealed that Si is present in the CT layer and SX particles but not in other regions (Fig. 3C). EDX analysis of the CT gave an intense Si signal but no signals for other minerals, such as Mn, Zn, Ca, and Fe (data not shown).

      FIG. 3. Layer structure and Si localization of the YH64 spore. (A) TEM images of ultrathin section of low- and high-Si spores stained with uranium and lead. SX were observed around the outer side of the CT layer of the high-Si spore. The rectangular region was enlarged, and a schematic illustration of the layer structure is shown below the individual images. A red line indicates an edge of the CT layer. Scale bars, 100 nm. (B) The thickness of the CT layer of low- and high-Si spores was measured by using three spore images. The data represent the means and standard deviations of the results. (C) Si localization in the high-Si spore. Unstained ultrathin sections of the high-Si spore were used for STEM-EDX analysis to identify the location of Si in the spores. TEM image, Si map (green), and a merged picture are shown. Scale bar, 100 nm. CX, cortex; CR, core.

      Comparison of low- and high-Si spores. To investigate the role of Si in spore dispersion, we prepared spore powder by grinding freeze-dried spores in a mortar. Then, we placed 10-mg samples of spore powder into clear 30-ml glass vials and shook them for a few seconds. However, unlike the Senate anthrax spores that floated freely (17), both low- and high-Si spores fell quickly to the bottom of the vials and stayed there (data not shown). This result indicated that Si accumulation alone did not make spores dispersible. The electrostatic charge of spores could make them repel one another and thus create self-dispersing spores (17). To test the electrostatic charges of spores, we shook the spores in a plastic bag and then applied them to an E-SPART analyzer (18). The average electrostatic charges of low- and high-Si spores were almost the same, and the individual spore charges showed similar distributions (data not shown). Furthermore, the zeta potentials of the low- and high-Si spores dispersed into water were not significantly different (data not shown). Therefore, the function of Si in bacterial spores had to be reconsidered.

      The Si layer supports acid resistance of the spores. Spores can survive under conditions unsuitable for growth and resist various kinds of stress. The spore coat is related to the impermeability to the spore’s inner membrane; thus, the spore coat is thought to confer resistance to toxic chemicals (19). We compared the sensitivity of YH64 low- and high-Si spores to wet heat, UV irradiation, 5.0% H2O2, 0.5 N NaOH, and 0.4 N HCl. Only under the acidic condition was the viability of the high-Si spores increased compared to that of the low-Si spores (Fig. 4A to E). The viability of high-Si spores treated with a different acid solution (0.1 N HNO3) was also higher than that of low-Si spores (Fig. 4F), indicating that the Si layer confers general acid resistance.
      FIG. 4. Viability of YH64 spores under various stress conditions. Rates of resistance of low- and high-Si spores to wet heat (A), UV (B), hydrogen peroxide (C), alkalinity (D), and acid (E, F) were assayed as described in Materials and Methods. Symbols: closed circles, high-Si spores; open circles, low-Si spores. Data represent the means and standard deviations of the results of at least three independent experiments.

      Next, we examined the acid resistance of another isolated strain, YH221, whose 16S rRNA gene sequence shared 99% identity with that of B. shandongensis (Fig. 1). YH221 took up 1/7 of the amount of silicate taken up by YH64 (Fig. 5). Surprisingly, high-Si YH221 spores had 1,000 times the survival rate of the low-Si spores after a 3-h incubation in 0.2 N HCl (Fig. 6A). Then, we prepared YH221 spores in various silicate concentrations and examined their acid resistance. The acid resistance increased with increasing amounts of Si uptake (Fig. 6B). We examined silicate uptake in Bacillus type strains deposited in the NITE Biological Resource Center (NBRC, Japan). B. cereus NBRC15305, B. thuringiensis NBRC101235, and B. megaterium NBRC15308 took up approximately 0.03, 0.10, and 0.05 pg of silicate per spore, respectively (Fig. 5). However, almost no silicate uptake was observed in B. subtilis 168 and B. mycoides NBRC101228 under these conditions (Fig. 5). The YH64 strain took up 15 times as much silicate (0.49 pg Si/spore, corresponding to approximately 6.3% dry weight) as its closest relative, B. cereus NBRC15305, in spite of more than 99% 16S rRNA gene identity between these two strains. Indeed, the morphological characteristics of the cells as observed under microscopy and the characteristics of the colony forms of B. cereus YH64 and NBRC15305 were different. We examined the HCl resistance of B. cereus NBRC15305 and B. thuringiensis NBRC101235 spores. As expected, the high-Si spores were more resistant to HCl than the low-Si spores (data not shown). Not all Bacillus strains take up silicate. However, it seems highly likely that the acid resistance conferred by Si encapsulation is a general phenomenon of Bacillus strains that take up silicate.

      FIG. 5. Si content of various Bacillus spores. The amounts of silicate per spore were measured for B. subtilis 168, B. cereus NBRC15305, B. thuringiensis NBRC101235, B. mycoides NBRC101228, B. megaterium NBRC15308, and the bacteria isolated in this study (YH64 and YH221). Data represent the means and standard deviations of the results of three independent experiments.

      FIG. 6. HCl resistance of YH221 spores. (A) Low- and high-Si spores were prepared from 50-h cultures, washed two times with sterilized water, and suspended in 0.2 N HCl. Viability was determined as described in the text. Symbols: closed circles, high-Si spores; open circles, low-Si spores. Data represent the means and standard deviations of the results of at least three independent experiments. (B) Effect of Si content in YH221 spores on survival rate after HCl treatment. YH221 spores containing different amounts of silicate were prepared. The viability of the spores after a 2-h incubation in 0.2 N HCl was determined.

      Strong mineral acids rupture Bacillus spores by breaking down spore permeability barriers (22). Most acidophilic organisms have evolved extremely efficient mechanisms to pump protons out of the intracellular space to maintain the cytoplasm at near neutral pH (15). However, the spore is metabolically inactive before germination. The Si encapsulation, probably as silica (discussed below), which is resistant to most acids, may decrease the proton permeability of the spore coat and confer acid resistance to the spores. Interestingly, Si encapsulation of an inorganic pigment, ultramarine blue, enhances acid resistance and overcomes the limitations on the use of the pigment (10).

      As far as we know, diatoms, plants, and animals accumulate silicate as silica (13). Silica can be dissolved in HF (16). Accordingly, if the Si layer of spores contains silica, it could be removed from the high-Si spores with HF treatment. Approximately 75% of Si that was accumulated in the spores was released as silicate after treatment with 50 mM HF (data not shown). We compared the acid resistance of HF-treated high Si- and low-Si spores (Fig. 7). After HF treatment, the viability of the high-Si spores was no longer higher than that of the low-Si spores. These results indicated that the Si layer mainly contains silica and supports acid resistance.

      FIG. 7. HCl resistance of low- and high-Si spores after HF treatment. Low- and high-Si YH64 spores treated with 50 mM HF for 10 min were suspended in 0.4 N HCl. Symbols: closed circles, high-Si spores; open circles, low-Si spores. Data represent the means and standard deviations of the results of three independent experiments.

      Si is naturally available in soil and water. The silicate concentration in soil ranges from 0.1 to 0.6 mM (9.6 to 57.7 µg/ml) (8). Therefore, the acid resistance conferred by Si encapsulation may occur in nature. Spores may encounter strong acids in environments such as the digestive conditions in animal stomachs (around 0.1 N HCl), indicating that a physiological function of Si in bacteria may be to aid survival under these conditions. When the anthrax powder sent to the U.S. Senate in 2001 was found to be coated with unusual silica, it was discussed whether the silica was related to spore dispersion. We concluded that Si encapsulation is not sufficient to make spores dispersible but does contribute to survival under acidic conditions. Our findings also strongly indicate that the anthrax spores were harvested from culture on a silicate-containing medium.

      This work was supported in part by the Solution Oriented Research for Science and Technology Program (PREST-SORST) of the Japan Science and Technology Agency.

      * Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Molecular Biotechnology, Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter, Hiroshima University, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima 739-8530, Japan. Phone: 81-82-424-7758. Fax: 81-82-424-7047. E-mail:

      Published ahead of print on 30 October 2009.

      ¶ These authors made equal contributions to this work.

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      • DXer said

        Silica and soil is involved in the DARPA-funded research involving the Ames in soil suspension provided by FBI anthrax weapons expert John Ezzell.

        It also is involved in the patent involving using silica in the culture medium co-invented by the co-founders of the DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense where a scientist mentored by Bin Laden’s sheik and coordinating with the 911 imam Anwar Aulaqi shared a suite with those co-inventors.

        But it also is even involved in the CIA funded ($100,000 in 2001) research at T. Koehler’s lab in Texas.

        While I’ve explored the hypotheses relating to the DARPA research most often, let’s consider the CIA’s 2001 research relating to the persistence of anthrax in soil before Ed starts arguing it came from some First Grader’s sandbox or was accidental and unintentional lab contamination (which the study shows to be a crock suggestion).

        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 Lubaba” to research germ warfare. Was that only beginning in 2003? 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. She was studying the persistence of anthrax in soil for the CIA under a $100,000 grant.

        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.

        At the time, when I asked her whether her lab had virulent Ames, Dr. Koehler had written me to say that it was not necessary to work with the virulent strain and so I was surprised to later see her article.

        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 ofTropical 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 onr uncorroborated 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 If those documents represent the FBI’s current thinking, there is reason to think Aafia never went to Liberia in June 2001 — or at least 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 and rebellious — Aafia Siddiqui. Aafia once had an MIT alumni email account forwarded to — 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, her Attorney Whitfield Sharp at the time said she doesn’t know of any police report filed by the mom. Her ex-husband now says the mother and sister Fowzia are lying and that Aafia sometimes was even staying at their home (according to people who he had sent to watch the home). 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 and where the researchers supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins were located. 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.

        Did Aafia Siddiqui cooperate about other US-based operatives? If not in 2003 onward, in 2009?

      • DXer said

        FBI anthrax expert John Ezzell once provided Delta Ames to Edgewood in a soil suspension. It was for the purpose of a study on detection in soil as I recall.

    • DXer said

      Selective Adhesion of Bacillus cereus Spores on Heterogeneously Wetted Silicon Nanowires

      Elisabeth Galopin†, Gaelle Piret†, Sabine Szunerits†, Yannick Lequette‡, Christine Faille‡ and Rabah Boukherroub*†
      † Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire (IRI, CNRS-USR 3078), Parc de la Haute Borne, 50 Avenue de Halley, BP 70478, 59658 Villeneuve d’Ascq, and Institut d’Electronique, de Microlectronique et de Nanotechnologie (IEMN, UMR CNRS 8520), Cit Scientifique, Avenue Poincar − BP 60069, 59652 Villeneuve d’Ascq, France
      ‡ INRA-UR638, 369 rue Jules Guesde, BP 20039, F-59651 Villeneuve d’Ascq Cedex, France
      Publication Date (Web): November 5, 2009

      The article reports on the selective adhesion of Bacillus cereus spores on patterned and heterogeneously wetted superhydrophobic silicon nanowires surfaces. Superhydrophilic patterns on superhydrophobic silicon nanowire (SiNW) surfaces were prepared by a standard optical lithography technique. Exposure of the patterned surface to a suspension of B. cereus spores in water led to their specific adsorption in superhydrophobic areas. Comparable results were obtained on a patterned hydrophobic/hydrophilic flat silicon (Si) surface even though a higher concentration of spores was observed on the hydrophobic areas, as compared to the superhydrophobic regions of the SiNW substrate. The surfaces were characterized using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), fluorescence spectroscopy, and contact angle measurements.

  14. DXer said

    Here is an OpEd by former Attorney General Mukasey. The Amerithrax press conference occurred under his watch. Did he attend? If not, why not? Did Director Mueller attend? If not, why not? Doesn’t Attorney General Mukasey bear ultimate the-buck-stops-here responsibility for the Ivins Theory press conference?

    What Does the Detroit Bomber Know?, January 6, 2009
    The president’s job is not detecting bombs at the airport but neutralizing terrorists before they get there.

    What did Attorney General Mukasey about anthrax after Ivins’ suicide? If he said nothing, why is that? He’s not been shy about expressing opinions in ongoing matters.

    • DXer said

      What were Mukasey’s views on Amerithrax? Did he find that the Department of Justice had allowed the administration of justice in Amerithrax to have been politicized?

      Biden to Mukasey: “You Act Like You Float… in the Ether”

      • DXer said

        Here Attorney General is explaining that he hopes that this Administration upon reviewing decisions that national security lawyers made under the Bush Administration will agree that they were made in good faith when he collapsed.

        Assuming for the sake of argument that such decisions as NSA warrantless wiretapping of “anthrax weapons suspect” beginning Ali Al-Timimi on or about October 7, 2001 were made in good faith (and I try to always limit myself narrowly to the anthrax whodunnit), there still is the question:

        Did Attorney General Mukasey support the representations by US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor and WFO head Persichini at the August 6, 2008 press conference?

        Was Attorney General Mukasey aware, for example, that “anthrax weapons suspect” Ali Al-Timimi had been Andrew Card’s former assistant and had received a letter of commendation from the White House at the same time he was coordinating with the 911 imam Anwar Aulaqi?

        Can he appreciate that the fact had political implications, even though they have gone totally unnoticed by the media and public?

        As an experienced, accomplished and well-regarded federal district court judge highly expert in assessing evidence in criminal matters, did he think the United States Department of Justice had established their case? On what evidence?

        • DXer said

          Let us look at the exchange between Senator Leahy and Attorney General Mukasey about Amerithrax.

          Leahy uses the $5.8 million settlement between Hatfill and DOJ to raise the issue. As he raises it, he notes that he is privy to classified information about the anthrax killer, and because of that he has refrained from even discussing the case.

          “Leahy: I almost hate to get into the case of Steven Hatfill. I’ve refrained from discussing this, I’ve refused to discuss it with the press. I’ve told them some aspects of it I was aware of were classified so of course I could not discuss it but also, considering the fact that my life was threatened by an anthrax letter, two people died who touched a letter addressed to me I was supposed to open, I’m somewhat concerned.

          What happened?

          Mukasey: That case …

          Leahy: We’re paying Hatfill millions of dollars, the indication being the guy who committed the crime went free.

          Mukasey: Well, um, I don’t understand, quote, the guy who committed the crime, unquote, to have gone free. What I do understand is…

          Leahy: Nobody’s been convicted.

          Mukasey: Not yet.

          Leahy: And five people are dead.

          Mukasey: Yes, um…

          Leahy: And hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.

          Mukasey: That case is under active investigation and I need to be very careful about what I say.

          Leahy: We won’t go any further. As I say, I feel somewhat reluctant because I was one of the targets. But I gotta say, what families of the people who died went through, what families of the people who were crippled went throug, even what my family went through. A lot of people are concerned and I won’t say more because we are in open session but I think you and I probably should have a private talk about this sometime.

          Mukasey: That’s fine.”

          As you know, later that month, when Bruce Ivins committed suicide, Senator Leahy angrily insisted that he had no doubt that Ivins, if he was involved at all, did not act alone.

          So… what did Attorney General Mukasey think and why wasn’t he up at the podium at the August 6, 2008 press conference?

        • DXer said

          Leahy does not believe in any shape, manner or form the FBI’s “Ivins Theory.”

        • DXer said

          In late August 2008:

          emptywheel: Do you think Ivins acted alone? Are you convinced Ivins sent the anthrax letters?
          Leahy: No, I’m not satisfied.

  15. DXer said

    Today’s news –
    ‘Anthrax heroin’ cases spreading

    A total of 11 people have tested positive for anthrax

    Health officials believe contaminated heroin – thought to be responsible for cases of anthrax in Glasgow – may be circulating elsewhere in Scotland.
    It comes after the death of two more drug users with the infection in Glasgow and Tayside.

    A total of 11 cases have now been confirmed in Tayside, Glasgow and Lanarkshire with five fatalities.

    • DXer said
      January 6, 2010
      Five heroin users die from anthrax, six more infected

      The present spread of anthrax poses one of the greatest dangers to addicts since 23 injecting users in Glasgow died ten years ago during an outbreak linked to heroin contaminated with the Clostridium novyi bacterium. A fatal accident Inquiry in 2001 led to Sheriff Edward Bowen criticising communications between public health and accident and emergency staff on information about the outbreak.

      Comment: In 1999, the documents provided under FOIA by DIA show that Ayman was researching both anthrax and clostridium. I previously provided the citations to a number of articles of clostridium among the materials seized along with the correspondence to Ayman about the infiltration of the biodefense conferences and western labs. Was the Clostridium novyi bacterium seized in Afghanistan in 2001?

      • DXer said

        Drugs – Taliban’s new weapon against U.S. army (Gerald Posner about Taliban’s heroin)

        • DXer said

          Authorities have said that the anthrax deaths may be due to use of a cutting agent, noting that bone-meal was used as fertilizer in Afghanistan.

          Ayman Zawahiri was studying bone-meal fertilizer and anthrax. Why? The DIA provided me a copy of the seized
          Green, DM, and Jamieson, WM. (1958). Anthrax and bone-meal fertilizer. Lancet ii:153-154.

          Now as for the type of clostridium he was studying, we have
          Hobbs, G, Roberts, TA, and Walker, PD. (1965). Some observations on OS variants of Clostridium botulinum type E. J. Appl. Bacteriol. 28(1):147-152. Roberts, TA. (1965). Sporulation of Clostridium botulinum type E in different culture media. J. Appl. Bacteriol 28(1):142-146.
          Roberts, TA, and Ingram, M. (1965). The resistance of spores of Clostridium botulinum
          type E to heat and radiation. J. Appl. Bacteriol. 28:125.

          Yazid Sufaat, who went missing after being released in December 2008, told his wife in 2001 that he was going to work for the Taliban.

          What strain of anthrax is being isolated from those who have died and been infected?

        • DXer said

          Sixth drug user dies from anthrax

          A total of 12 people have tested positive for anthrax

          A sixth heroin user in Scotland has died from anthrax with the total number of cases now at 12.
          The death occurred in a man in the NHS Forth Valley area, marking a further geographical spread of the infection.
          The other cases are in Tayside, where there has been one fatality, Glasgow, where there have been four deaths and in Lanarkshire.
          Health officials believe contaminated heroin or a contaminated cutting agent may be responsible for the infections.

        • DXer said

          Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2009 Dec;38(12):1026-30.

          Preparedness for terrorism: managing nuclear, biological and chemical threats.
          Koenig KL.
          Emergency Medicine, University of California at Irvine, USA.

          The management of nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) terrorism events is critical to reducing morbidity and mortality in the next decade; however, initial patient care considerations and protective actions for staff are unfamiliar to most front-line clinicians. High explosive events (bomb and blast) remain the most common type of terrorism and are easy to detect. Conversely, some types of terrorist attacks are more likely to be unsuspected or covert. This paper explains the current threat of terrorism and describes clues for detection that an event has occurred. Specific criteria that should lead to a high suspicion for terrorism are illustrated. The manuscript outlines initial actions and clinical priorities for management and treatment of patients exposed to nuclear/radiological, biological, chemical and combined agents (for example an explosion involving a chemical agent). Examples of terrorist events include: a nuclear explosion, an aerosolised release of anthrax (biological), dissemination of sarin in a subway (chemical), and the detonation of a radiologic dispersion device or “dirty bomb” (combined explosive and radiological). Basic principles of decontamination include potential risks to healthcare providers from secondary exposure and contamination. Unique issues may hinder clinical actions. These include coordination with law enforcement for a crime scene, public health entities for surveillance and monitoring, hazardous materials teams for decontamination, and the media for risk communications. Finally, the importance of personal preparedness is discussed.

  16. DXer said

    Al-Qaeda’s Plan to Kill Us by Crossing our Mexican Border – Anthrax and 330,000 Dead Americans

    • DXer said

      “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” Elzahabi told Colin Freeze in an interview reported last September. (I just love it when journalists get such fascinating on-the-record interviews).

      “From inside the El Paso prison, Mr. Elzahabi mocked the court-filed allegations describing him as an “terrorist trainer” or a “cash courier.” “Wow,” he said. “I’m a dangerous guy – look out!”

      But to FBI agent Harry Samit, the case was no laughing matter. The detective who arrested Mr. Elzahabi was the same agent who arrested Zacarias Moussaoui at a Minnesota flight school in August of 2001 – the only case the U.S. government has ever prosecuted involving an al-Qaeda 9/11 conspirator. ”

      These questions and hundreds more were put to Mr. Elzahabi when he consented to the 17 days of questioning.

      The FBI never really figured out what to do with Mr. Elzahabi. He spoke at length, until he was shown a photograph of three men, whose identities have never been revealed. At that point he clammed up and the FBI arrested him.

      He was held as an alleged material witness, but he refused to testify. “They wanted to send me to New York for two weeks,” he said. “I had nothing to say.”

      He says he represented himself at this deportation hearing. Prosecutors fared better. “This might be the best presented case over my 16 years on the bench,” Judge Abbott ruled, as he dismissed the torture concerns and ordered deportation.

      Mr. Elzahabi fears his fate on Earth. But “God, he is the ultimate judge,” he said. Before the interviews wrapped up, he talked of Heaven and hellfire.

      The detainee confided he still thinks he has an outside chance of getting the Islamic martyrs’ Heavenly reward – even if he dies in jail and not on any battlefield. “Seventy-two virgins are nothing to God,” he said. “God created Heaven and Earth.”


      Whose pictures did the FBI show him — prompting his arrest when he refused to answer?

      An FBI Special Agent in the Minneapolis, MN Field Office, Harry Samit unsuccessfully appealed to his superiors for a FISA warrant that would permit him to view the contents of Moussaoui’s computer in the weeks leading up to 9/11. Samit’s memo had explained that Moussaoui was connected to a radical fundamentalist group in Chechnya, whose leader Ibn Khattab had ties to Bin Laden. “For this reason, it is imperative that his effects be searched in order to gather intelligence relating to these connections and to any plans for terrorist attacks against the United States or United States Persons to which he may be a party.” He wrote: “I am so desperate to get into his computer, I’ll take anything.” A colleague emailed Samit: “ thanks for the update. Very sorry that this matter was handled the way it was, but you fought the good fight. God Help us all if the next terrorist incident involves the same type of plane. take care Cathy.”

      The emails were dated September 10, 2001. If we don’t learn from history, we are bound to repeat it.

      Quoted in a June 2002 Wall Street Journal column titled “The “lone wolf” theory is evidence of the Bureau’s ineptitude,” FBI Special Agent Rowley was highly critical of the FBI in “chalking this all up to the ‘20-20 hindsight is perfect’ problem.” The Minneapolis agents who arrested Zacarias Moussaoui before September 11 had quickly identified him as a terrorist threat and identified the legal grounds on which he has since been indicted. Agents in Phoenix had sounded an alarm about suspicious Arabs taking flight training. So she argues that “this is not a case of everyone in the FBI failing to appreciate the potential consequences.”

      The FBI’s stock profile concerning a biological agent was a lone, unstable individual. In October 2001, the profilers pretty much just reached into the filing cabinet. One Special Agent involved in profiling such incidents explained in a conference, at which Dr. Steve Hatfill was also a presenter: “The closest I’ve ever come to biological-chemical issues is when the toilet on the 37th floor gets backed up *** It isn’t the Middle Eastern people. It isn’t white supremacists. It is the lone individual, lone unstable individual. That statistically, from the cases that we have, is the biggest threat right now.”

      FBI Special Agent Fitzgerald, who had some early involvement in Amerithrax in issuing the “profile,” years earlier had special responsibility for scrutinizing the language of the manifesto in UNABOM. In late September 2001, his colleague from UNABOM, Kathleen Puckett turned in her study of “lone wolves” to include Kaczynski and others. Dr. Puckett sees “howling loneliness” as the key characteristic of a “lone wolf.” Before turning to work on domestic terror cases of the 1990s, her counterintelligence work typically involved Soviet spies. She would go and kibbitz the local agents on what she perceived as the personality of the subject. She retired on September 30, 2001 and handed in her study on lone wolves on her way out the door. By October, her colleague Fitzgerald was turning in a “lone wolf” profile for his assignment in Amerithrax. Judging from his comments to the media, he was one of those who was swayed that Daschle and Leahy were Democrats.

      Hunting the American Terrorist (2007), by History Publishing is dedicated in part to the victims of the anthrax mailings. Dr. Terry Turchie and Dr. Kathleen Purkett appear to agree with the Special Agent Fitzgerald’s profile from October 2001. (Fitzgerald was their former team member) They write:

      “Then, right on the heels of 9/11, another wave of attacks paralyzed the east cost of the United States. During the week of September 18, 2001, five letters containing micronized anthrax were mailed to addresses between New York and Florida. They targeted journalists, U.S. Senators, and news magazines. As in the case of Kaczynski and Rudolph cases, the envelopes had fictional return addresses.

      Notes accompanying the mailings were supposedly from Islamic fundamentalists, and almost everyone in the government and the media quickly cast blame in that direction.

      For those of us who were involved in the domestic terror campaigns of the 1990s, however, the anthrax mailings had all the earmarks of a lone wolf.”

      One person’s lonely lone wolf is another man’s US-based dedicated islamist operating under strict principles of cell security. It seems that the FBI was making the same mistake it made in the case of the assassination of Rabbi Kahane 10 years earlier by the blind sheik’s bodyguard Nosair.

      Inexplicably, the profilers do not seem to have been persuaded after 9/11 by the open source intelligence that Zawahiri had obtained anthrax for the purpose of weaponizing it for use against US targets. If intelligence analysis is an art, criminal profiling is drawing with crayons. A “profile” in connection to a person’s facial features might refer to what they look like in the dark. But, here, war had been declared. A weapon had been used by the enemy it had previously said it would use that specific weapon. Intelligence analysis, not profiling, was what was needed. The profilers apparently did not take to heart or learn the lesson of the al Hayat letter bombs in December 1996. James R. Fitzgerald, head of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, told an interviewer: “The attacker appears to be an opportunist [who] took advantage [of the terrorist attacks].” He continued “The rhetoric [in the letters] is made to sound like what a nonterrorist thinks a terrorist sounds like. The perpetrator was probably a right-winger with an ax to grind. It’s no secret that they [the intended recipients] are Democrats. People, including the Unabomber, have used representational targets for years.” Alluding to the mistaken notion that security guard Richard Jewell was responsible for the Olympic Park bombing, Vincent Cannistraro, formerly of the CIA, explained of the profile that the FBI are “intellectually convinced they’re on the right track, but they don’t want to come up with a janitor theory that’s wrong again.” The vague profile was fine but Agent Fitzgerald’s expanded comments to the press about the profile missed the mark. FBI profiler Fitzgerald, however, can be forgiven his early miscalculations. Such a profile likely was useful in supporting warrants in the US in connection with a variety of leads that prudently needed to be pursued. The forensics, without more, tended to point to a “domestic” source.

      Victims and targets were highly skeptical of the FBI’s profile. David Pecker, the AMI publisher commented:

      “I don’t believe in coincidences. I still think it was tied to al-Qaida. I don’t believe it was domestic.”

      The emphasis in the press reports has always, however, been on the suggestion that the mailer likely is “domestic” rather than foreign — a lone, male scientist who works in a lab. The profile was issued shortly after the White House meeting where it was agreed that Al Qaeda was the likely culprit, but that the theory and the possibility of a state sponsor would not be discussed. Vice President Cheney was not at all impressed by the FBI’s profile and went on television to express his skepticism. Although the FBI profile was widely criticized by experts and in editorials in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and other newspapers and magazines, it was more flexible than its critics imagined. The Amerithrax profile of a loner with a grudge permits a variety of motivations. The FBI uses the word “domestic” to include Americans sympathetic with an extremist islamic cause. The Washington Post explained in late October: “The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are considering a wide range of domestic possibilities, including associates of right-wing hate groups and U.S. residents sympathetic to the causes of Islamic extremists.” FBI profiler James R. Fitzgerald, head of FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, argued that the product could have been made for equipment costing as little as $2,500. Profilers were not actually part of Amerithrax Task Force and it is not clear how steeped they were in the historical evidence of Zawahiri’s intent to use weaponized anthrax, relying on the cover of charities and universities. Fitzgerald testified at civil deposition that on first hearing term “person of interest” had never heard Hatfill’s name.

      An interesting article in MIT Technology Review in March/April 2006 is based on interviews with Sergei Popov (an expert at GMU who had worked as a Russian bioweaponeer), University of Maryland researcher Milton Leitenberg, Harvard’s Matthew Meselson, Rutger’s Richard Ebright and others:

      “’There are now more than 300 U.S. institutions with access to live bioweapons agents and 16,500 individuals approved to handle them,” Ebright told me. While all of those people have undergone some form of background check — to verify, for instance, that they aren’t named on a terrorist watch list and aren’t illegal aliens — it’s also true, Ebright noted, that ‘Mohammed Atta would have passed those tests without difficulty.’ “
      ‘That’s the most significant concern,’ Ebright agreed. ‘If al-Qaeda wished to carry out a bioweapons attack in the U.S., their simplest means of acquiring access to the materials and the knowledge would be to send individuals to train within programs involved in biodefense research.’ Ebright paused. ‘And today, every university and corporate press office is trumpeting its success in securing research funding as part of this biodefense expansion, describing exactly what’s available and where.’”

      The analytical problem is that researchers tend only to focus on their narrow field. So an analyst focused on Al Qaeda may not know anything about US biodefense programs. An analyst knowledgeable about US biodefense programs may not know anything about Egyptian Islamic Jihad. To knowledgeably address the issue of infiltration and the use of universities and charities as cover — which the documentary evidence shows Zawahiri planned to do and did in his anthrax weaponization program — requires a willingness to become knowledgeable and investigate the different substantive areas.

      More fundamentally, all the really interesting stuff is classified. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (”FISA”) unit in the Department of Justice has traditionally been known as the “Dark Side.” Everything coming from Khalid Mohammed, according to Agent Van Harp, is classified. To understand the matter, journalists would have to have the cooperation of someone coming over from the Dark Side — which would be a felony. The solution to the Amerithrax case did not likely lie at the intersection of Bin Laden and Saddam streets among those cubicles at Langley with desktop PCs, not unlike any other office. Instead, it likely lies with the Zawahiri Task Force at Langley (if it still exists) which hopefully has an intersection of Ayman Avenue and Rahman Road. If not, we might be looking at a different crossroads altogether.

      The Report of the Joint Inquiry Into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001— by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, addresses strategic analysis, training and staffing. Did the agents and analysts in the basement of Quantico who came up with the FBI’s profile have relevant training or input from analysts expert in Al Qaeda? Assuming they did, did an investigative bias creep into their approach to the anthrax mailings that should instead have been informed by a strategic understanding of Zawahiri’s Vanguards of Conquest and its modus operandi? Did the profilers know of the al Hayat letter bombs (related to the imprisonment of the blind sheik) and KSM’s threat to use biochemical weapons in retaliation for the detention of the blind sheik and other militant islamists? Did the profilers know of the role of Islambouli, the brother of Sadat’s assassin, in working with KSM in planning the attacks on the United States? Just as with 9/11, the correct understanding of the anthrax mailings begins with a trail that leads back to Malaysia, Khalid Mohammed, Hambali, Yazid Sufaat, Rauf Ahmad, Zacarias Moussaoui, various charities, the Albanian returnees trial, Bojinka, and even the assassination of Anwar Sadat. As George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

      One intelligence official has suggested that one reason that the FBI has not emphasized the possibility of a foreign source is that it might require UN involvement in the investigation pursuant to certain biological weapons protocols. The US specifically rejected France’s suggestion in October 2001 that there be a UN resolution condemning the attacks on the grounds that the Security Council had no role to play unless there was clear proof that the perpetrator was foreign. Bob Woodward quotes Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, in explaining why the administration did not acknowledge an al Qaeda link, even though it thought there was one: “If we say it’s al Qaeda, a state sponsor may feel safe and then hit us, thinking they will have a bye, because we’ll blame it on al Qaeda.”

      Whatever your political persuasion, and whatever disagreements about individual issues relating to due process and civil liberties, the FBI and CIA deserve some latitude on this issue. We are, after all, facing this threat together. First, the nature of such an investigation is that we lack sufficient information to second-guess (or even know) what the FBI and Postal Inspectors on the Amerithrax Task Force are doing. Media reports — and even the FBI’s claims they have “solved the case” and expect to close it — are a poor substitute for any sort of evidencing establishing someone’s guilt. Indeed, there has been compartmentalization and divergent views even within the Task Force. Second, hindsight is 20/20. Third, now that the leaks relating to US scientist Dr. Steve Hatfill seem to have long since been plugged, it is not likely we could do better in striking the appropriate balance between due process and national security. The FBI’s profile includes a US-based supporter of the militant islamists. Attorney General Ashcroft once explained that an “either-or” approach is not useful. The media has tended to overlook the fact that when the FBI uses the word “domestic” the word includes a US-based, highly-educated supporter of the militant islamists. As Ali Al-Timimi’s counsel notes in a late 2007 court filing unsealed (except for certain redacted passages) in April 2008, Al-Timimi “was considered an anthrax weapons suspect.”

  17. Anonymous Scientist said

    I think the situation for the FBI/DOJ is very complex. They were clearly hoping that the Taylor/Perischini presentation of August 2008 was not going to met with such skepticism from elected officials, scientists, the media and the public.

    Since August 2009, their position has gotten worse – there is even more skepticism as the details of the science are looked at deeply – the impossibility of one person making the spores, one person creating the powder, presence of silcion etc.

    If it were not for the huge skepticism, unusually bipartisan with high-profile senators even openly accusing the FBI of a cover-up, the case would likely have been closed last year.

    But it wasn’t. It’s very interesting that the two likely main architects of the “Ivins dead-man” resolution to Amerithrax are the DOJ’s Jeffrey Taylor and the FBI’s Washington DC head Jospeh Perischini. These guys seem to be at the heart of the joint DOJ/FBI decision to accuse Ivins. They staked their reputations on it – and you would think they would have been keen to formally close the case. Clearly something happened to ensure that the case was not closed in a timely manner (of course we’ve heard the usual feeble excuses like “tying up loose ends” etc. – but clearly something major happened.

    Taylor resigned in May of last year – about 2 months before the supposed July 24 2009 date for closing the case (which never happened). Persichini was removed from his position has FBI DC head in December 2009 (purportedly for cheating at an exam).

    Thus the two architects of the “Ivins dead man” resolution are no longer there. So what will happen now with closing the case? Will Taylor and Perischini’s replacements embrace the “Ivins dead man” resolution? How could anybody in good consceince buy into this?

    More importantly, what does Mueller do? Let’s start with the premise that if the DOJ/FBI are forced to change their minds that Ivins did it alone – that Mueller could not survide and would have to resign. Surely there could be no other path left for Mueller if that turns out to be the case.

    With this premise in mind, Mueller’s future tenure may be at stake on the entire Amerithrax resolution. Will Mueller gamble that some new narrative that Ivins acted alone be bought by the same senators, scientists, media and public that are today so skeptical. Or will he feel this is too much of a gamble and would only make him and the FBI look worse if they try it?

    On the other hand if the FBI change their mind about Ivins acting alone – isn’t that still enough to force Mueller to resign?

    Is the above the reason why nothing is happening? Becasue any outcome has a bad ending?

    • BugMaster said

      Or Mueller is doing everything he can to redeem himself and the FBI’s reputation.

      Simply resigning would be the coward’s way out.

  18. DXer said

    My friend tells me he is the brother of the chief Egyptian prosecutor. When I told the CIA’s Zawahiri Task Force nearly a decade ago that Ayman was responsible for the anthrax mailings, they should have promptly told the FBI. My other friend was recruited by Ayman Zawahiri into the Egyptian Islamic Jihad — and his childhood friend and Cairo Medical school classmate was supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins. That scientist’s small company’s product was tested in cleaning up the Capitol building and the company pitched hand cream to postal workers. There’s been $80 million in investment without a product — almost all of it post-911. His wife was on the faculty there in Cairo for 10 years and he got his PhD just three years before heading the DARPA project. When I asked University of Michigan when and where the research using the virulent Ames was done, the University should have provided the documents relating to the taxpayer-funded (DARPA) research under FOIA.

    I recommend AUSA Ken Kohl get this one right because President Obama has said it is important to put together the bits and pieces.

    And I recommend agency heads understand that they are responsible for the failure of their agency to comply with FOIA.

    • DXer said

      CIA analysts need to appreciate the importance of the rendering of Muhammad Zawahiri.

      Liev Schreiber Performs “Zawahiri’s Head”

    • DXer said

      The Lone Scientist Fallacy

      • DXer said

        Charlie Rose interview of Brian Ross

        • DXer said

          In the August 12, 2002 interview, Brian Ross says investigators are unimpressed by his press conference denials and that “he’d like to be the next Richard Jewell.” Brian Ross is talking about 1412 where the anthrax research was done. That is where flask 1029 had been stored initially and would be taken regularly for research. (Bldg 1412 was whited out and Bldg 1425 was carefully substituted on the document that USAMRIID (with FBI’s approval) produced under FOIA.) Brian Ross says the FBI investigators expected the pressure would cause Hatfill to do something — they expected him to confess upon search of his apartment, he says.

          The neighbor in an interview in this thread said she knew that they had been on the street (they apparently came to be living on the street) for a year. The FBI perhaps expected that the pressure would cause Ivins to do something.

      • DXer said

        Washington Times
        Number of hoax anthrax letters in Alabama now at 11


        900 hoax letters in the past year or two. None deserving any special attention. The media should not bother reporting a hoax letter unless it is confirmed. Otherwise, it just tends to lead to others. While an easy story to write, it is not newsworthy. Triple-bag it. Pick it up. Get test results quickly. Investigate and prosecute instances. If Amerithrax had been better profiled, the usual prisoner or wingnut white powder letter would have been put in the proper context. The anthrax letters were patterned after and done by the people responsible for the Al Hayat letter bombs, sent to newspapers in NYC and DC and people in symbolic positions relating to the detention of the WTC 1993 plotters.

    • DXer said

      Rep. Holt Reintroduces Anthrax Commission Bill

    • DXer said

      Amerithrax Investigation Closure: Frankenstein or Scapegoat

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