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

* DXer … questions about Dr. Assaad and the “Ivins Theory”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 10, 2010

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16 Responses to “* DXer … questions about Dr. Assaad and the “Ivins Theory””

  1. DXer said

    Doubts Persist About FBI’s Anthrax Investigation 10 Years Later Amid New Bio-Terror Concerns

    By Catherine Herridge

    Published October 18, 2011

    | FoxNews.com

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/10/18/doubts-persist-about-fbis-anthrax-investigation-10-years-later-amid-new-bio/#ixzz1bDTUBVfI

    Sen. Susan Collins, the committee’s ranking Republican, said the new head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had the right background to wage a biological attack in the coming years.

    Al-Zawahiri “has a medical background that raises concerns that he may have an even greater interest in pursuing chemical and biological terrorism,” Collins told the witnesses.

    The sobering assessment was part of the committee’s series of investigations into the aftermath of 9/11 and the anthrax attacks. In fall 2001, less than a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as many as seven anthrax-laced letters were sent, killing five Americans, paralyzing the postal system and prompting thousands to take the antibiotic cipro.

    In 2008, Army scientist Bruce Ivins was identified by the FBI as the lead and only suspect in their investigation. That same summer, Ivins died from an apparent suicide. A Tylenol overdose was publicly blamed. More recently, court filings have cast more doubt on the strength of the FBI’s case against Ivins, when it was shown his lab did not have the equipment needed to make the anthrax powder. Nor was Ivins the only army scientist with access to the source of anthrax believed to be a flask at Fort Detrick in Maryland.

    Rep. Rush Holt saw the FBI investigation up close because the letters were mailed from his New Jersey district. In a recent opinion piece published in the Asbury Park Press, Holt said the bureau’s investigation did not inspire confidence.

    “As FBI Director Robert Mueller ultimately acknowledged to me, the case against Ivins was almost entirely circumstantial. … The FBI has said it does not have any direct, physical evidence tying Ivins to the attack,” Holt wrote.

    One of the lingering mysteries of the case is the “Quantico letter,” an anonymous letter was sent on Sept. 21, 2001 – the same time week anthrax was mailed to the New York Post and NBC. The letter, first obtained by Fox News, appeared to be an effort to frame an Arab-American scientist at Fort Detrick for the anthrax attacks.

    “This guy is a potential terrorist,” it warned. “He believes strongly that the U.S. Government needs to be taught a lesson…This guy has access to many dangerous biological poisons.”

    The scientist implicated in the letter, Ayaad Assaad, was interviewed by the FBI in 2001 and cleared of any connection to the anthrax, but a decade later, Assaad told Fox News he remains convinced the letter is connected to the Anthrax case.

    “I showed (the FBI) statement by statement how they (the letters) are similar and how they might be coming from the same source,” Assaad told Fox.

    Asked about Quantico letter and whether it was sent by the same person who sent the anthrax — the FBI told Fox quote

    “The Quantico letter was thoroughly investigated both with regard to who sent it as well as the allegations contained in it. The person mentioned in the letter did not mail the anthrax, and we were unable to determine who sent the anonymous Quantico letter.”

    Rep. Holt wants a special committee to investigate whether the U.S. is better prepared to handle similar bio-attacks in the future and why the FBI seemed to pursue the wrong leads in the anthrax case for so long — including scientist Steven Hatfill, who earned a $5.8 million settlement because the feds publicly identified him as a person of interest.

    National Correspondent Catherine Herridge’s bestselling book “The Next Wave: On the Hunt for al Qaeda’s American Recruits” was published by Crown on June 21st. It draws on her reporting for Fox News into al-Awlaki and his new generation of recruits – al Qaeda 2.0. It is the first book to fully investigate al-Awlaki, an American citizen, who was killed by a CIA-led operation in Yemen last month.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/10/18/doubts-persist-about-fbis-anthrax-investigation-10-years-later-amid-new-bio/#ixzz1bDTJgHlG

    Background note: The blind sheik’s group persecuted Coptic Christians. Dr. Assaad, mentioned in article, is a Coptic Christian. (For this not to be noted in news accounts always obscures analysis of the issue). A friend of Dr. Ivins, he thinks the letter he describes was part of a vicious plot by the real perpetrator(s). (And his point makes perfect sense). Did the letter have fingerprints? Alternatively, was the letter wiped clean? (If so, why would the sender have done that?) What does mass spec of the typing show? Typewriter? Computer? If computer, what was the brand and model of the toner? Was the letter original or a copy? Although you would not know it from Rachel Lieber’s Investigative Summary, mass spec can now determine such things up to a 99% degree of certainty and could exclude the USAMRIID photocopiers. Expert: former FBI expert Dr. Bartick. Was their DNA from saliva used to lick stamp?

    see Coptic Christians Under Siege in Egypt

    Read more on Newsmax.com: Coptic Christians Under Siege in Egypt
    Important: Do You Support Pres. Obama’s Re-Election? Vote Here Now!
    http://www.newsmax.com/TawfikHamid/Coptic-Christians-Egypt-Mubarak/2011/10/11/id/413960

    • DXer said

      Dr. Majidi this week explained:

      “Domestic and international terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda and its affiliates, have shown unwavering interest in using biological agents and toxins,” Majidi said during the hearing before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “The FBI is dedicated to protecting our nation and will continue to collaborate with the scientific community to proactively address new biological threats on the horizon.”

      But he was not asked nor did he volunteer that the mass spec of the photocopier toner excludes the USAMRIID oopies — contradicting the innuendo of the Amerithrax Investigative Summary.

      That science was his responsibility (and indeed lies, I think, within his expertise) and thus the failure of Amerithrax lies in his in-box until the FBI releases under FOIA the reports (including all by Dr. Bartick) regarding examination of the photocopier toner to GAO.

      http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/october/anthrax_101811/anthrax_101811

    • DXer said

      Dr. Hamid is an expert on Dr. Ayman and writes lucidly. His humanist values are matched only by his keen historical insights.

      Jihadists Hide Deadly Intent in Phony Language

      Monday, 14 Dec 2009 11:17 AM

      By Tawfik Hamid

      http://www.newsmax.com/TawfikHamid/alQaida-jihad-Muslim-Azzam/2009/12/14/id/342392

      Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of “Inside Jihad.” A former associate of Dr. al-Zawahiri (second in command of al-Qaida), he now is a reformer of Islam. For information, visit http://www.tawfikhamid.com.

  2. DXer said

    Catherine Herridge, the reporter holding up the email from Dr. Ivins about the FBI anthrax expert who secretly made a dried powder out of Flask 1029 prior to 9/11 as part of authorized DARPA research, reported in September 2008 on the letter about Bruce’s friend, Coptic Christian Dr. Assaad. (Coptic Christians are persecuted by the Egyptian Islamic Group in Egypt.)

    She writes:

    “Assaad, who worked alongside Ivins for 18 years, said his late colleague is unlikely to be a source of the letter.

    “Bruce Ivins is an honorable man. We’re good friends. That is not the writing of Bruce Ivins,” Assaad said.

    After Ivins’ suicide, the FBI alleged that the scientist stole the anthrax powder from the base and mailed it. But some scientists at Ft. Detrick, a major Army bioweapons research facility, still question whether Ivins could have been solely responsible for the attack.

    FOX News has learned that an independent analysis done for the FBI shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks concluded that the most likely writer of the Quantico letter was a female scientist at Ft. Detrick.

    The similarities between the typed Quantico letter and handwritten anthrax letters are also striking beyond the obvious connection to Ft. Detrick.

    Both warn of biological attacks in fall of 2001. Both express hatred for Israel. Both begin with the word “This,” which investigators say is a highly unusual stylistic quality.

    The letters also contain prominent spelling mistakes. In the Quantico letter, the spelling of the Jewish state is “Isreal.” In the anthrax letters, Penicillin is spelled “Penacilin.”

    One source says the spelling mistakes were an effort to obscure the writer’s identity. But the addresses on the envelopes to both the Quantico letter as well as the anthrax letters do not have a comma between the city and state, another potential clue.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,423081,00.html#ixzz1D4w9HjOx

    Comment: I am highly dubious of the probativeness of psycholinguistics in such a short communication — as distinguished from a case like the UNABOM manifesto where there is a 26,000 word document and copious other writings available. More pertinent would be the issue of fingerprints and DNA from the Assaad letter. Regardless of the sender, it may just be irrelevant. But it would be highly curious and notable if it was forensically clean because you would not expect it to be. There should be fingerprints on the letter inside the envelope that identify the sender. A sender mailing the letter in good faith would have no reason to wipe it of fingerprints.

  3. DXer said

    Did the same person write the powder-containing hoax letters to Howard Troxler of the St. Petersburg paper, Judith Miller of the New York Times (author of Germs), and to NBC’s Tom Brokaw as wrote the letters containing anthrax spores? The three all received a letter postmarked October 5, 2001 from St. Petersburg. The Troxler letter read: “Howard Troxler .. 1st case of disease now blow away this dust so you see how the real thing flys. Oklahoma-Ryder Truck! Skyway bridge-18 wheels.” Judith Miller is the author of the pre-9/11 book Germs.

    Was the hoaxer upset at Troxler for coverage of local professor who was detained and at Judy Miller, who knows the neo-cons on a first name basis? The professor Troxler had written about had been a friend of KSM while at North Carolina.

    Another letter that was closely considered is an anonymous letter sent to Quantico military police suggesting that Ayaad Assaad, a Coptic Christian Egyptian at Ft. Detrick was a potential bioterrorist — even though he was part of a group long persecuted by the Egyptian Salafist-Jihadis, rather than muslim. Under one view, that would appear to be an over-reported red herring and irrelevant to the correct Amerithrax analysis. Alternatively, it bears analysis because it may have been sent by the perpetrator to deflect suspicion. Dr. Assaad holds graduate degrees from Iowa State University and has lived in the United States since the mid-1970s. He is a Coptic Christian, a sect that has been frequently attacked by militant islamists in Egypt. Dr. Assaad’s attorney found it probative that such a letter about Egyptian scientist would be written claiming to warn about a potential bioterrorist (before the anthrax letters were known to have been sent). Dr. Assaad has commented, “My theory is, whoever this person is knew in advance what was going to happen [and named me as a] scapegoat for this action. You do not need to be a Nobel laureate to put two and two together.”

    Dr. Assad is confident Dr. Ivins, his friend, is innocent. Dr. Assad thinks the accusations against Dr. Ivins are the result of a “vicious plot.” Given that Assaad was a non-muslim Egyptian working for Ft. Detrick, was the letter an attempt by someone with information about US biodefense insiders to lay a false trail even more directly to Ft. Detrick?

    Anthrax experts, such as Dr. Koehler in Texas, already were publicly speaking on the subject as of September 20, 2001. A man in a biohazard suit was on the front cover of TIME magazine that week. Reuters, Associated Press, TIME and others all had stories about Atta’s crop duster inquiries and the possibility of an imminent anthrax attack before the Dr. Assaad letter was sent. It therefore is not at all surprising such a letter would be sent after Atta’s inquiries about cropdusters had been reported. Without more, it is not at all probative. The Assaad letter was sent to Quantico Military Police. There was nothing improper about the letter to the extent it was conveying factual information. It is regrettable that the letter writer has chosen to remain anonymous. The issue may be emotionally charged for Dr. Assaad because of unsuccessful employment litigation he may think related. Dr. Assaad, a Coptic Christian, explained: “Whoever sent the anthrax letters did this to divert attention. They knew the attacks would be eventually traced back to USAMRIID, and they used me as a scapegoat.”

    • Old Atlantic said

      It is possible to determine using the Internet with some reasonable probability the most likely sender(s) of the Quantico Letter.

      • DXer said

        I respectfully disagree short of fingerprints on the letter or DNA under the flap of the envelope. And if there were neither of those, that makes the letter especially curious.

    • Old Atlantic said

      The Quantico Letter is here:

      http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,423081,00.html

      It gives itself away.

      • richard rowley said

        Looks like the only persons interested long-term in the Quantico letter are: Old Atlantic, me, and Don Foster. Speaking of whom, here’s the tail end of what he wrote about it years ago in his Vanity Fair ariticle:
        ————————
        It was now December 2001, yet Dolan and Altimari’s Hartford Courant story was the first I had heard of the Quantico letter. S.S.A. Fitzgerald had not heard of it, either. In fact, there were quite a few critical documents that Fitzgerald had not yet seen. What, I wondered, has the anthrax task force been doing” Hoping that the Quantico letter might lead, if not to the killer, at least to a suspect, I offered to examine the document. My photocopy arrived by FedEx not from the task force but from F.B.I. headquarters in Washington. Searching through documents by some 40 USAMRIID employees, I found writings by a female officer that looked like a perfect match. I wrote a detailed report on the evidence, but the anthrax task force declined to follow through: the Quantico letter had already been declared a hoax and zero-filed as part of the 9/11 investigation.

        When Assaad’s attorney sought, under the Freedom of Information Act, to obtain a copy, the Justice Department denied her request: releasing the document “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of third parties” and “disclose the identities of confidential sources.”
        ———————–
        So, it WAS a bit like looking at Bruce Ivins’ medical files post mortem to confirm the ‘diagnosis’ claimed by his ‘group therapist’ in her request for a restraining order: streng verboten! Ya know, confidentiality and all that!

        (By the way, I think Foster’s overarching criticism of the ‘zero-filing’ of so much material will prove warranted)

        Luckily, it (the text) was eventually released publicly.

        Someone—–I think it was Robert Graysmith—-said that the J-Lo letter was the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of Amerithrax. I agree, but with the stipulation that the AVERAGE person is no more able to ‘read’ the J-Lo letter than he/she is able to read real Egyptian hieroglyphics. It, the deciphering of THAT (detergent, pendant etc), is only for quasi-Monks (and perhaps quasi-monks): persons who are willing to go over it relentlessly, loading up the continuously revving machine of their brain with the J-Lo contents until something (a lucky “chaaarm”?) falls into place.

        The Quantico letter is vastly easier. But only for those who think outside the bum……I mean bun!

        • DXer said

          I’ve contacted both Dr. A and the woman to ask who they thought it but neither responded. I also researched all the pleadings in the employment litigation and read the opinions. So it was not that I am not interested. I just come at it from a different perspective given that the media, without exception, did not realize he was Coptic Christian, a group persecuted by blind sheik Abdel-Rahman’s group. So either the person who wrote it was ignorant in that regard or informed in that regard — making either alternative potentially a clue.

          The letter, without more, certainly is not evidence of the sender’s wrongdoing. But the curious thing about the letter would be if it did not have fingerprints on the inside (on the letter) or if DNA was not found to lick the stamp. If the letter were not a red herring sent by the anthrax mailer, then one would not expect it to be forensically clean by someone conscious of guilt.

          I think as a result it caused folks to be PC. Suddenly it became un-PC to discuss the former Zawahiri associate who had received virulent Ames from Bruce Ivins. I have a totally open mind on such things culturally and intellectually — indeed, I have nothing but respect for the Zawahiri associates I know.

  4. richard rowley said

    And what was the postmark of the letter (Date and place)??????

    • DXer said

      I don’t know if the postmark has been disclosed. At least I don’t recall. It was sent to Quantico. The date (I don’t recall) would have been post-911 and prior to October 4, 2001. Although I’ve never spoken to Dr. Assaad, I think he’s right and his letter was actually part of a calculated operation.

      • DXer said

        An interesting thing to consider is whether it was wiped clean of fingerprints.

        • DXer said

          DOJ/FBI sees no connection and of course it may be right. But it made it politically incorrect to ask the other Egyptian working alongside with Bruce Ivins with virulent about his lifelong Egyptian Islamic Jihad friend(s). He had just come from Ayman Zawahiri’s sister Heba, the pharmacology professor, three years prior.

          And the press missed entirely that Dr. A was actually part of the group persecuted by the blind sheik Abdel-Rahman’s Egyptian Islamic Group.

  5. DXer said

    The Coptic Christians in Egypt are one of the principal subjects of attacks by Egyptian Islamic Group.

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