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

* Holt demands Obama administration support further Amerithrax investigation … says FBI has stonewalled for a decade

Posted by DXer on March 19, 2010


The New York Times says the FBI’s anthrax case has “too many loose ends.” Find out where some of those looses ends might have originated in my novel CASE CLOSED. Sure it’s fiction, but many readers, including a highly respected member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, think my premise is actually “quite plausible.”

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *



UPDATE (3/19/10) … President Obama warned House Democrats this week that he will veto the intelligence authorization bill if it includes provisions intended to increase transparency within the CIA. It is the second time the White House has told the House Intelligence Committee that it will not support a version of the legislation that increases Congressional oversight of intelligence activities. The current draft of the bill would give the Government Accountability Office greater authority to review intelligence operations, require the executive branch to provide information about intelligence activities to the full House and Senate Intelligence committees and lay the groundwork for videotaping the interrogation of detainees in CIA custody.

LMW COMMENT … I tend to agree with the President regarding CIA transparency. The CIA is supposed to be a secret organization, doing secret and covert work on behalf of the American people. Congress has proven itself totally incapable of keeing secrets, even legitimate national security secrets. This issue, however, has nothing to do with the need to investigate the FBI’s failed anthrax investigation.

Congressman Holt’s Press Release  …

March 18, 2010
Contact: Zach Goldberg
202-225-5801 (office)

  • (Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), Chair of the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, today responded to the Obama Administration’s concerns about two provisions he included in the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill that passed the House.
  • One provision would require the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to examine the possibility of a foreign connection to the 2001 anthrax attacks.
  • Another provision would require the videorecording of all pertinent interactions between CIA officers and detainees arrested in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“I am not surprised at the FBI’s opposition to [a Congressional investigation], given the fact that they have stonewalled every House and Senate member who has sought information on this investigation over last decade,” Holt wrote.

“What surprises me is that an Administration that has pledged to be transparent and accountable would seek to block any review of the investigation in this matter.”

A copy of Holt’s letter to Peter Orzag,

Director of the Office of Management and Budget …

March 18, 2010
Peter Orzag
Office of Management and Budget
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20503

Dear. Mr. Orzag,

I am in receipt of your letter of March 15 to Chairman Reyes regarding the Administration’s concerns over two provisions I included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2701). Let me begin by addressing the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s claims regarding my provision on the “Amerithrax” investigation.

As you may know, the 2001 anthrax attacks evidently originated from a postal box in my Congressional district, and they disrupted the lives of people throughout the region and the country. For months, Central New Jersey residents lived in fear of a future attack and the possibility of receiving cross-contaminated mail. Mail service was delayed and people wondered whether there was a murderer at large in their midst. Further, my own Congressional office in Washington, D.C. was shut down after it was found to be contaminated with anthrax. Therefore I have followed closely the case and the investigation.

In the wake of the attacks and at a number of points thereafter, a number of media reports—citing government officials, usually anonymously—suggested a possible link between the attacks and foreign entities. Most of these stories attempted to link Iraq to the attacks, but questions have also been raised about whether the strain of anthrax used in the attacks had been supplied to foreign laboratories.

My provision in H.R. 2701 is designed to have the DNI IG address those issues, to determine whether, in fact, all available intelligence on this topic was supplied to investigators. The provision itself is unremarkable in its scope and does not, contrary to the Bureau’s assertion, constitute Congress directing the Inspector General of the intelligence community to “replicate” a criminal investigation.

However, I am not surprised at the FBI’s opposition to it, given the fact that they have stonewalled every House and Senate member who has sought information on this investigation over last decade. What surprises me is that an Administration that has pledged to be transparent and accountable would seek to block any review of the investigation in this matter.

The Bureau has asserted repeatedly and with confidence that the “Amerithrax” investigation is the most thorough they have ever conducted—claims they made even as they were erroneously pursuing Dr. Steven Hatfill. Instructing the DNI IG to ensure that all intelligence information was in fact passed to the FBI would not “undermine public confidence” in the investigation.

Many critical questions in this case remain unanswered, and there are many reason why there is not, nor ever has been, public confidence in the investigation or the FBI’s conclusions, precisely because it was botched at multiple points over more than eight years.

Indeed, opposing an independent examination of any aspect of the investigation will only fuel the public’s belief that the FBI’s case could not hold up in court, and that in fact the real killer may still be at large.

However, that is not the primary purpose of this provision in H.R. 2701. It is appropriate that the Intelligence Community contemplate whether it did consider this case and would consider a similar case properly to protect Americans from bioterrorist attacks. The people of central New Jersey, the Congress, and the Administration need to know that every lead—foreign and domestic—was supplied to the FBI and investigated thoroughly. My provision in H.R. 2701 would help ensure this goal is achieved, and I urge the Administration to support this provision.

Thank you for your distinguished service to our nation.



14 Responses to “* Holt demands Obama administration support further Amerithrax investigation … says FBI has stonewalled for a decade”

  1. DXer said

    Dean Boyd in the Frederick News-Post says the FBI’s findings are public but once again he has his facts wrong.

    The FBI alleges that Bruce Ivins used the copier in 1425 on the specific dates immediately preceding the mailing.

    Yet the FBI’s findings relating to whether that was the photocopier used — based on toner, paper and “trash marks” — have not been made public.

    Under FOIA, the Secret Service this week did not even provide the documents relating to its work on the Federal Eagle stamp, let alone the photocopier toner.

    Dean Boyd says the FBI will cooperate with anyone and yet if you call his office to give him facts that correct what he is saying (and are not a reporter), the switchboard/receptionist won’t put you through.

    If you email the AUSA Rachel Carlson Lieber and ask if DOJ could upload the contemporaneous lab notebook pages on the dates they speculate Dr. Ivins was making the powderized anthrax you get routed to the public affairs person who then says the documents will not be released.

    The National Academy of Sciences is in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and that referral just proved a means of stalling production of documents for a couple of years (and proved irrelevant to the case against Ivins except that all the issues (subtilis contamination, iron signature, tin signature, silicon signature, etc.) tended to be exculpatory).

    Similarly, USAMRIID has failed to produce 7 years of emails now under FOIA for the past 2 years.

    The wheels have fallen off the administration of justice and the suggestion that the Obama Administration and Attorney General are committed to the Freedom of Information Act has proven to be a crock.

    • Roberto said

      From the FBI Amerithrax summary:

      All four of the recovered anthrax envelopes contained a white, photocopied letter on paper cut to irregular size by trimming one to three edges of the page. The letters to the New York Post and Brokaw contain identical handwritten text, and the letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy likewise contain the same handprinted text. Three “trash marks,” or copy imperfections, of forensic value were found on the letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy, but not on the letters to the New York Post and Brokaw. These trash markings were compared to letters maintained in the FBI Anonymous Threat Letter File and to 1,014 photocopier exemplar sets collected from copy machines located inside or near the vicinity of every known biological laboratory that possessed virulent Ames anthrax in 2001. No matches were found.

      Looks like they checked the one he used and determined it did not match the letters they had. Or am I missing something?

      • DXer said

        Roberto raises one of the most central issues that exposes the heap of innuendo in the report — the DOJ mischaracterizes the documentary evidence that was withheld until after the issuance of the report and is flatly contradicted by the expert report on the photocopier toner, paper and “trash marks.”

        The FBI made photocopy exemplars on the Ft. Detrick photocopy and 1,000 other machines soon after the mailings.

        The most probative aspect of the photocopy evidence relates to toner. It was not a match.

        And the copies made during that week and month continued to be proof that allowed for an exclusion of that photcopier at the 99% level.

        I have posted numerous FBI-authored peer reviewed articles on the subject and posted the abstracts of Washington Field Office photocopy toner analyst opinions from the 2001 period.

        Ed Lake’s suggestion that the FBI did not test the copy machine of the building that was the source of the “U.S. Army Ames” strain has no factual basis.

        • DXer said

          Indeed, the 302 interview statement of the person in charge of the library in 1425 is one of the documents the FBI is withholding.

        • DXer said

          Dr. FBI, for example, had the benefit of the deep experience on the issue of photocopy toner identification of Dr. Bartick.

        • DXer said

          The science of photocopy toner identification is shown to be done at 99% confidence level and the same result follows just from a comparison of copies made at the time — even if a photocopy exemplar was not made at the time (which it was).

          This is entirely unlike the nonsense Ed spouts about the handwriting.

          In United States v. Lewis, the defendant was charged with mailing threatening communications to the President and others, by mailing them envelopes containing white powder after the well-known anthrax powder mailings had killed several people and disrupted many federal agencies as well as Congress. Although there was apparently overwhelming evidence from multiple sources showing that defendant Lewis had sent the envelopes in question, the prosecution desired to gild this lily with the testimony of John W. Cawley, a “questioned documents analyst” trained by the U.S. Postal Service Crime Laboratory between 1977 and 1980. Mr. Cawley would have testified that he had compared the known writings of the defendant with the writing on the envelopes, and that the defendant had written the addresses on the envelopes.

          The district court excluded Mr. Cawley’s proposed testimony. In so doing, however, it did not base its decision on any affirmative conclusion of the limits of handwriting identification expertise (though it seemed at times fairly skeptical, nor did it concentrate on the weaknesses of such expertise in regard to the task at hand (there was never any discussion of the amount of writing on the envelopes, whether it was cursive or printing, presence of disguise, etc.). Instead, having ruled that the defendant’s challenge to the reliability of handwriting identification in general was sufficient to trigger a Rule 702 hearing and place the burden of production and persuasion during that hearing on the prosecution, the court concluded that the prosecution had failed to produce the required proof of reliability. The prosecution relied entirely on the testimony of Mr. Cawley, whose lack of knowledge demonstrated during cross examination concerning the research record on reliability and error rates doomed the proffer.

        • DXer said

          So let’s consider learning on toner that was published by the Laboratory Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2003. Two of the scientists are in the Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit.

          Forensic discrimination of photocopy and printer toners.
          II. Discriminant analysis applied to infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy
          Anal Bioanal Chem (2003) 376 : 1279–1285
          DOI 10.1007/s00216-003-2074-z
          Received: 14 March 2003 / Revised: 19 May 2003 / Accepted: 20 May 2003 / Published online: 9 July 2003
          This is publication number 03–03 of the Laboratory Division
          of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Names of commercial
          manufacturers are provided for identification only, and inclusion
          does not imply endorsement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
          W. J. Egan · S. L. Morgan
          Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry,
          The University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA
          E. G. Bartick (✉) · R. A. Merrill
          Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit,
          FBI Laboratory, FBI Academy, Quantico, VA 22135, USA

          If contacted, Dr. Bartick will not deny that the photocopier at Building 1425 the photocopy was tested and was excluded. He likely would be as responsive to you as he was to me last week.

          The abstract of the published study:

          Abstract Copy toner samples were analyzed using reflection-absorption infrared microscopy (R-A IR). The grouping of copy toners into distinguishable classes achieved by visual comparison and computer-assisted spectral matching was compared to that achieved by multivariate discriminant analysis. For a data set containing spectra of 430 copy
          toners, 90% (388/430) of the spectra were initially correctly grouped into the classifications previously established by spectral matching. Three groups of samples that did not classify well contained too few samples to allow reliable classification. Samples from two other pairs of groups were similar and often misclassified. Closer examination of spectra from these groups revealed discriminating features that could be used in separate discriminant analyses to improve classification. For one pair of groups, the classification accuracy improved to 91% (81/89) and 97% (28/29), for the two groups, respectively. The other pair of groups were completely distinguishable from one another. With these additional tests, multivariate discriminant analysis correctly classified 96% of the 430 R-A IR toner spectra into the toner groups found previously by spectral matching.

          The use of office and personal photocopying machines has increased dramatically over the last 20 years. As a result, photocopying documents has become simple, fast, and inexpensive. A major disadvantage of photocopy machines is that they are now more accessible for illegal activities such as counterfeiting, fraud, false documents, anonymous
          letters, confidential materials, and acts of terrorism [1, 2,3]. Identification of the source of photocopied documents is not an easy task for forensic examiners since chemical and physical characteristics are very similar and numerous manufacturers of photocopy instruments and toner cartridges exist. The ability to match the chemical fingerprints
          of questioned toner samples to standards could be a valuable tool in questioned document investigations. Toner analysis methods that are useful in forensic investigations must be rapidly performed and possess a known degree of accuracy. Totty [4] reviewed analytical techniques that have been used to characterize toners: visual
          examination, optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), magnetic viewers, infrared spectroscopy (IR), pyrolysis gas chromatography and/or mass spectrometry (Py-GC, Py-GC/MS, Py-MS), and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). Early work by Kemp and Totty [5] found that 79 toners from various models of
          photocopier machines could be separated into 10 groups based on their IR spectra. Williams [6] identified numerous resins and the pigment Prussian blue based on characteristic IR absorptions. The possibilities of toner analysis and classification by IR spectroscopy and by diffuse reflection infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS)
          have been described by other researchers [7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14]. Merrill et al. [15] conducted a comparative study of three microscope-based IR techniques and DRIFTS for the analysis of toner samples.

          Samples of dry photocopier and printer toners on paper were collected by the FBI Laboratory from verified sources that include original manufacturers. The R-A IR data set used in this study (430 spectra classified into 27 groups) is a subset of the complete library of 807 toner samples categorized into 98 groups previously
          described [22]. The entire set of 807 samples was not available at the time of this study. Toners were transferred from documents to reflective media (heavy duty aluminum foil affixed to standard glass slides with double-sided tape) using a temperature-regulated soldering iron set at 288 °C [15, 22, 24]. The soldering iron was
          equipped with a screwdriver tip that had been ground off, leaving a flattened round head with a 4.8-mm diameter. Although other materials provide a suitable reflective surface for the reflection-absorption technique, aluminum foil is readily available, inexpensive, and permits the sample to be stored for further studies. The
          sample preparation is simple, fast, and essentially nondestructive. The document is still legible after transferring the toner sample and only minimal destruction is visible microscopically. Samples were analyzed by R-A IR using a Spectra-Tech IRPlan microscope with a medium-band MCT detector (Shelton,
          CT). The instrument collected 256 scans at 4-cm–1 resolution over the 650–4,000 cm–1 range for a total of 1,039 data points per spectrum.

          Now, judging by what the DOJ/FBI has characterized as circumstantial evidence in Amerithrax, AUSA Rachel’s failure to disclose the photocopier was excluded while including the footnote on photocopying she did, is circumstantial evidence she was President of Kappa Kappa Gamma at Villanova.

  2. Ike Solem said

    Here’s the FBI on the anthrax case during a 2002 CNN press conference. More specifically, this is Kevin Donovan, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Newark Division, Jan 23 202:

    “…As we conduct this investigation, locally and follow leads wherever they may take us throughout the United States and the world, we must remember the unsuspecting victims.”

    Indeed! Here’s what the FBI said back then:

    “To date, five individuals have lost their lives to anthrax. We keep them in our hearts, and we work hard to make sure that there are no more victims of this tragedy. Robert Stevens, a newspaperman, a grandfather, an avid outdoors-man, Joseph E. Kersen Jr., a postal worker, who was the president of the Neighborhood Community Association. He helped to build playgrounds and a park. He was a loving husband. Thomas L. Morris Jr., a postal worker, who was a loving husband, a father and a son, and two stepchildren. Mr. Morris was the president of the Tuesday Morning Bowling League. Kathy Nguyen, a quiet lady, who won the hearts of her neighbors and coworkers. Ottilie Lundgren, 94 years old, was very active in the Manuel Lutheran Church. She is described as a gracious lady who fancied lobster, and never missed a Saturday hair appointment.”

    “In addition, 13 people have been personality affected by anthrax, including a 7-month-old baby. These people were indiscriminately exposed to anthrax. It invaded our workspace, it invaded our homes, it invaded our lives without warning. We are reaching out to you to make sure that there are no more victims. We want to make sure our children, our families, our homes and businesses are not innocently exposed to anthrax.”

    P.S. does this offer still stand?

    “The standing reward has been increased to $2.5 million for the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible for the mailing of the four anthrax-laced letters from the Trenton, New Jersey area.”

    Soon afterwards, that FBI anthrax team was replaced and Kevin Donovan retired after 25-year tenure, as did Van Harp and the other initial lead agents.

    Hence, by the time the Princeton mailbox had been found to test positive for anthrax spores, the “lone wolf” theory had replaced any notion of a coordinated assault, and Hatfill had already been selected as this putative “lone wolf”.

    The exact manner in which Hatfill was tarred and labeled as a bioterrorist is worth a whole book in itself, but it involved covert leaks to gullible journalists, the advocacy of Barbara Rosenberg who pressed for a Hatfill investigation, and (apparently) the removal of the initial FBI team, who had told Washington Post sources that they suspected pharmaceutical involvement.

    They sure weren’t running out the “lone wolf” theme in Dec 2001:

    FBI Investigates Possible Financial Motive in Anthrax Attacks
    By Susan Schmidt and Joby Warrick
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Friday, December 21, 2001; Page A21

    The FBI is pursuing the possibility that financial gain was the motive behind the mailing of letters containing deadly anthrax bacteria and has conducted extensive interviews of personnel at two laboratories and possibly more, according to government officials.

    Although investigators have not ruled out other possible motives, they have conducted dozens of interviews in at least two labs to determine whether potential profit from the sale of anthrax medications or cleanup efforts may have motivated the bioterrorist believed responsible for the attacks, the officials said.

    It always seemed to me that more than one person would have to be involved in manufacturing and mailing this stuff, unless theft was involved – but again, even theft points back to the same biological threat assessment programs run by CIA and DIA – who else would be making it?

    Notice that theme being pursued by the first FBI team didn’t go along with the White House talking points, either:

    BBC Saturday, 13 October, 2001
    Anthrax ‘may be linked to Bin Laden’

    US Vice President Dick Cheney has said there could be a connection between the recent anthrax cases in the country and Osama Bin Laden’s terror network.

    “I think the only responsible thing for us to do is proceed on the basis that it could be linked,” said Mr Cheney.

    There was zero evidence for any link at all at that point – so why was Cheney front-running the story? The Daschle letter had been mailed Oct 9 and didn’t get opened until Oct 15th, and when the Senate staffer opened that one, “ALLAH” and “ANTHRAX” were right there in boldface. Did Cheney know something?

    Now, that’s exactly the kind of “conspiracy theory” that this anonymous NYT editorial (Feb 28) wants to head off:

    ….We are inclined to agree with Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, who is calling for an independent assessment to validate the findings. Americans need to be sure that the real culprit or possible accomplices are not still at large, waiting to do damage again. And we need to head off conspiracy theories that are apt to be fostered if the only judgment available comes from an agency eager to clear its books.

    However, that was preceded by one of strangest paragraphs I’ve ever seen in commentary on this issue:

    The F.B.I.’s conclusion rests in large part on pioneering laboratory techniques that matched genetic mutations in the anthrax that was mailed with identical mutations in a batch of anthrax created and maintained by Dr. Ivins. The National Academy of Sciences will complete a review of that lab work in coming months. But the techniques were devised with the aid of some of the country’s most sophisticated scientists, so they are presumably reliable.

    Does this mean that if the NAS Committee finds the methodology flawed – then the FBI will throw out their conclusions and reopen the case?

    • DXer said

      Ike keeps saying that the Amerithrax investigation team has replaced without citing any evidence.

      “Soon afterwards, that FBI anthrax team was replaced and Kevin Donovan retired after 25-year tenure, as did Van Harp and the other initial lead agents.”

      What is your evidence for this? Van Harp retired after 32 years when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 57 in May 2003, right?

    • DXer said

      Ike says:

      “They sure weren’t running out the “lone wolf” theme in Dec 2001”

      Those of us who were following the matter know that they sure were. See their profile and numerous newspaper editorials faulting the profile. See also the book by Dr. Turchie describing development of the “lone wolf” profile.

      • DXer said

        FBI profilers say anthrax attacker is lone wolf.(The Dallas Morning…
        Free with registration – Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service – – Nov 9, 2001

        WASHINGTON _ The perpetrator of the deadly anthrax mail attacks is probably a lone wolf _ a man with a grudge who is unconnected to terrorist networks or …
        Anthrax investigation at impasse. – Miami Herald – (Free with registration)

        Article: FBI profilers say anthrax attacker is lone wolf.(The Dallas…
        Pay-Per-View – Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service – HighBeam Research – Nov 9, 2001

        FBI profilers say anthrax attacker is lone wolf.(The Dallas Morning News) … find Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service articles. WASHINGTON _ The perpetrator …

        • DXer said

          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.”

          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. He wrote an August 18, 2001 email: “What does everyone think of calling in the NSDA Behavioral Assessment quacks? They probably have a psyche profile for an Islamic Martyr and could tell us if our 747 guys fit.”

          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.

          Authors John Schwartz and Minnesota University Professor Michael Osterholm in a book Living Terror published in December 2000 explain that bioweaponeer Ken Alibek and William Patrick each believed “he was working to match a threat from a resourceful and brilliant enemy. I keep that in mind when people ask me how anyone could do such a terrible thing: how anyone could contemplating creating chances that you could kill so many. The answer makes me terribly uncomfortable — it could be anyone, even the nicest guy you ever met.”

          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 based on the fact 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 did not seem to have been persuaded after 9/11 by the open source intelligence that Zawahiri had obtained anthrax for the purpose of using it as a weapon 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 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.

          The official published profile was very vague and spoke of a nonconfrontational loner carrying a grudge. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the acclaimed Blink, in his New Yorker article concludes that criminal profiling is no different than a parlor trick known by astrologers for years.

          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.

          Outside pundits covered the entire range. Jason Pate, of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said of the numerous private anthrax theories that have arisen:
          “We all have our pet theories. But none seems to fit the facts exactly. Dr. Rosenberg thinks it’s a disgruntled worker conspiracy. Drs. O’Toole and Inglesby think it’s Sept. 11 accomplices. I think it’s some right-wing extremists. But maybe it’s a disgruntled right-wing extremist scientist accomplice.”

          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. 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.

          Brian Levin, a domestic terrorism expert at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, once reasoned that “the people committing these acts are foreign-based or have foreign sympathies. It would seem to me to be improbable that a domestic extremist would be able to put together such an attack in such a short period.” Was there something forensically about the anthrax that the FBI was not disclosing relating to the detection of silicon dioxide (silica) that in addition to the strain used, pointed to someone with access to US biodefense information? Was the FBI truly fixated on U.S. scientist Steve Hatfill? Or was the 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.”

          In its March 31, 2005 Report to the President, the Commission on Intelligence Capabilities said: “competing analysis is of no use, even counterproductive, if there is no attempt at constructive dialogue and collaboration.”

          In September 2005, Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office said that this “globe-spanning investigation 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.”

          In its March 31, 2005 Report to the President, the Commission on Intelligence Capabilities said: “competing analysis is of no use, even counterproductive, if there is no attempt at constructive dialogue and collaboration.”

          It was not until about that month that the FBI even obtained the documents that Bruce Ivins relating to the research done alongside him by the former Zawahiri associate.

          Garbage in, garbage out. The profile was garbage.

          The FBI’s failure of intelligence began in the basement of Quantico in October 2001 when “profilers” issued their general profile — evidencing no awareness of what was known about Ayman Zawahiri’s plan to use anthrax against US targets using the cover of charities and universities in infiltrating US biodefense.

  3. DXer said

    Oh, wait. This is just another flagrant violation of the Freedom of Information Act. The Department of Justice explains:

    “Scientific analysis by the … United States Secret Service (“USSS”) revealed that the envelopes used in the attacks were part of a batch distributed in bulk to post offices in Maryland and Virginia, and envelopes from this same batch were sold at post offices in Frederick, Maryland and Virginia, and envelopes from this same batch were sold at post offices in Maryland and Virgnia, and envelopes ….
    USSS experts identified certain exploitable print defects in the envelopes used in the mailings and compared these defects to envelopes collected from identified post offices throughout the country.

    Now, no telephone number or email is provided for the FOIA person. You need to write using snail mail.

    If the federal government is so inefficient at sharing information, then the country is unsafe and always will be. As it is, this request took 6 months.

    The federal government will continue to fail to provide documents to show that they are wrong on Amerithrax.

    The federal government has time and time again proven itself unable to share information with an efficiency that would make the country safe.

    The federal government has only shown itself time and time again expert at spending taxpayer money.

  4. DXer said

    I received documents from Secret Service about the anthrax mailings.

    Remember what I said about the FBI likely having the benefit of the Secret Service’s forensic expertise on photocopy toner and paper? Apparently not. According to the document production under FOIA by Craig W. Ulmer, Special Agent in Charge (File Number 20090712), Secret Service contributed nothing at all to the investigation except for some testing on October 23, 2001 and October 24, 2001 of those involved in mail processing and passing out some Cipro on October 26, 2001.

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