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

* Dr. Saathoff’s opinion as government’s expert witness in Aafia Siddiqui’s prosecution

Posted by DXer on March 22, 2011


Aafia Siddiqui



46 more pages follow

23 Responses to “* Dr. Saathoff’s opinion as government’s expert witness in Aafia Siddiqui’s prosecution”

  1. DXer said

    Dr. Saathoff did better in his opinion on Aafia than he did with Bruce Ivins.

  2. DXer said

    Baluchi said he told Siddiqui, who has a biology degree from MIT, biological weapons. Siddiqui replied that she “was willing to participate in a biological weapons (BW) project if al-Qaida tasked her to do so”.

    After that conversation, Baluchi said, “he never tasked Siddiqui to participate in the BW project and never considered to let her work in the laboratory”.

    Al-Qaida has a biological weapons programme based in Afghanistan stretching back to the late 1990s.

    Guantánamo files paint Aafia Siddiqui as top al-Qaida operative

    Documents claim neuroscientist – jailed in US for attempted murder – aided al-Qaida bombing, poisoning and hijacking plots

    • DXer said

      I’ve been smitten by Aafia’s radiant smile since even before her family’s ACLU lawyer Annette L. at the time described her as a volvo-driving soccer mom.

      We’ve heard from the FBI Quantico long-time partner who he thinks is responsible for the anthrax mailings.

      Who does Aafia think is responsible?

  3. DXer said

    The press conference was sparsely attended. Scott Shane and the fellow working on the book who submitted the special to LA Times asked most of the questions. The panel members couldn’t divulge information that FBI had redacted, so there wasn’t much to say about anything of sensitivity.

    They said it would be put online for free but haven’t yet (and the link doesn’t work).

    I don’t think there is much new here, but it will require a careful read to know.

    It seems pretty meretricious to me and not likely to change anyone’s mind.

    The panel members should be asked whether they have seen the documents from late September and early October that the DOJ has refused to produce. (The answer is no).

  4. Old Atlantic said

    The most powerful bit of evidence against Ivins for the true believers in his guilt are the hours in the lab. Dxer, if you are still taking graphic suggestions, taking the two calendars with mouse check hours at 8 PM and adding the lab hours onto them would be the most powerful antidote. The days he was in the lab according to the FBI are exactly the days the calendar lists for September and October for mouse or other checks at 8 PM. For the weekend dates, I would make the margin slightly larger and put the lab hours in the margin next to the date.

    This and RMR-1029 are what it keeps coming back to for their side.

    • DXer said


      The focus on everyone should remain on obtaining the lab notes that Dr. Ivins made on September 28, September 29, September 30, October 1, and October 2; the September 17, 2001 to Mara Linscott to show the time it was mailed; and documents relating to the October 2 challenge that resulted in the deaths of 12 rabbits that required autoclaving.

      If they are not produced this week, the GAO should investigate and everyone responsible for the failure to produce them should be fired.

      • DXer said

        Think of it. Rachel Lieber refuses to produce the contemporaneous notes that Dr. Ivins made about why he was in the lab — and yet she asserts his time in the lab was unjustified. Meanwhile, over 10,000 other pages have been produced.

        What sort of bullshit is that?

        Produce the September 28, September 29, September 30, October 1, and October 2 contemporaneous notes by Dr. Ivins or leave for private practice.

  5. DXer said

    In addition to consulting with the FBI on Amerithrax/Ivins, Dr. Saathoff has been working with the FBI closely this year on the issue of Somali piracy.

  6. DXer said

    [S]ince 1972, the University [of Virignia] has worked in partnership with the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., U.Va.’s partnership with the FBI isn’t limited to the FBI Academy. The Critical Incident Analysis Group that Saathoff heads supports FBI agents in the middle of crisis situations with quick and relevant academic expertise. The CIAG has in recent years helped solve medical mysteries for the FBI, provided information about emerging religions and even decoded a tarot card left by the “Beltway Snipers,” John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.

    • DXer said

      Dr. Saathoff speculated about Dr. Ivins’ motive in his chapter about biosecurity after 9/11 in MICROBIAL FORENSICS (September 2010), edited by FBI Amerithrax scientist Budowie.

  7. DXer said

    In his book about poisoners, Dr. Saathoff and his co-authors once wrote:

    “Like many poisoners, these biologic attacks exploit intimacy to exact revenge and fulfill fantasies of rage. In doing so, they are able to transform themselves psychologically from a state of illness to omnipotence. It is striking that some of these perpetrators fantasize about and a are equally comfortable with the use of poison and biologic weapons. Preliminary understanding would suggest that people who attack with poisons or biologic weapons have psychological similarities. After all, the road of stealth, intimacy, and duplicity leads to the same final destination — the human body.”

    So if tomorrow we are going to hear about the 2000 fantasy of poisoning Dr. Linscott, can we at least expect to be given a copy of the September 17, 2001 email that Dr. Ivins wrote to Dr. Linscott on the date he allegedly traveled to Princeton to mail the anthrax? And can we be given the lab notebook pages he wrote at the precise time he allegedly was processing the anthrax?

    We need less prose — less assertion — and more proof.

    The prose we got from US Attorney Taylor was contradicted in many critical respects with the documents that it took the USG months and years to produce.

    • BugMaster said

      Well put, Dx’er. Thanks for posting!

    • anonymous said

      “We need less prose — less assertion — and more proof.”

      Agree -Dr. Saathoff’s quote above sounds dangerously like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      If they really do report on REAL SOLID evidence that Dr Ivins was obsessed with poisoning people they better come up with something more then that.

      Every email he wrote at the times they claim he was preparing and mailing anthrax powders along with every entry he made in every one of his lab notebooks.

      I doubt they have anything – or else they would have released it years ago.

      This new report may be a genuine independent review – or may be a bought and paid for work of Psychobabble designed to support the FBI’s case.

    • Old Atlantic said

      Do some patients invent for their therapist? Is this a game for them? Would Ivins have found such a game funny? Is this game funnier, the more functional and productive the patient is in actual life? The more controlled, humane and civil they are?

    • DXer said

      Years ago, Dr. S. wrote about the concept of “shielding” in the event of a mass anthrax attack.

      There’s no place like home in bioterror attack

      By By Mike Layfield

      Imagine, for a second, that the grim predictions of bioterror come true. Imagine that somehow, somewhere, a terrorist group plants a lethal virus on American soil, and now it’s only a matter of time before the contagion finds a path to your doorstep. Would you flee, hoping to stay a step ahead of infection? Or would you retreat to the confines of your home, while a plague rages outside?

      In a recent study, the Critical Incident Analysis Group — a University think tank dedicated to helping the public respond to potential crises — proposes the answer. The group found that in the event of a bioterror outbreak, the public would be better off staying put than engaging in a mass exodus.

      “While it is prudent to run from a burning house, it’s not prudent to leave a house during a blizzard,” said CIAG Director Greg Saathoff, one of several authors of the report.

      Shielding, as the stay-at-home strategy is called, would decrease the threat of infection among the population and thus lower the body count. By hunkering down in their own homes, families would reduce their exposure to a contagion and also prevent it from spreading to other parts of the country.

      Saathoff said that smallpox, the virus experts expect will be used against the United States in the event of an attack, is not contagious beyond a radius of 8 feet — thus, a family is safer staying at home than leaving town.

      Additionally, by monitoring their body temperatures, the family can determine if one of them has been infected. A body temperature in excess of 100 degrees would indicate infection.

      “Shielding would break the back of any virus that was released. It’s not only the safest thing for a family to do, but it is also the most patriotic in a sense,” Saathoff said.

      But appeals to patriotism aside, Saathoff said that if given enough information, the general public will embrace the shielding strategy and check the impulse to flee.

      “The logic of shielding is pretty clear when you think about it. But the thinking must be done in advance because people make the most rational decisions in a stable evironment. Clearly, a bioterror attack is not the ideal place for careful thought,” Saathoff said.

      Saathoff also points out that self-imposed shielding offers the public more transparency than a governmental response.

      “In the event of an attack, things could become catastrophic if we moved to government-enforced quarantines. The image of National Guard troops cordoning off neighborhoods is very painful, perhaps as painful as the attack itself. You need trust in government, and a quarantine would help unravel that trust.”

      An important component of the CIAG’s proposal is public involvement in the planning of community response strategies.

      “The anthrax episode teaches us that it is very important to engage the public in this effort rather than doing it behind closed doors,” Law Prof. Richard Bonnie said. “This way of thinking is not typical of national security policy, which is top down. This is exactly opposite. It’s bottom up.”

      Bonnie also emphasizes that a response plan should be in place before an attack. Without one, “important decisions would be made under incredible uncertainty. Very careful advanced thinking is critical.”

      “In order to have an effective policy, there will have to be cooperation among all kinds of community institutions,” Bonnie added.

      • DXer said

        In 2002, Dr. S. wrote a 60-page report on “shielding” as the preferred response to a mass anthrax attack.

        There is an interesting interplay between the concept of shielding and the recent shift from testing roadside dispensers (as people exit an area) from tests last year or so of delivery by the mail carrier.

        I’ve always wondered how many mail carriers would just prefer to stay home that day. :0) (It seems difficult to predict what percentage of carriers would show up for work).

        The logistical problems associated with a mass evacuation are real. As I recall, recent testing this month involved dispensing antibiotics at a local gymnasium. I call dibs on shacking up with Bugmaster.

        • DXer said

          A few months ago, Dr. Saathoff examined a high-profile detainee Ghailani for the government.

          Report Shows Detainee’s Insight Into Legal Process
          New York Times
          September 27, 2010


          But a declassified summary of the psychiatrist’s report suggests that he has been a model prisoner, whose journey through C.I.A. custody, where his lawyers say he was tortured, then Guantánamo and finally the federal courts seems to have left him with unusual insight into the legal process. “I understand the charges,” he told the psychiatrist. “They make sense to me.” Later, he explained: “There will be a jury who will listen to the crime itself. The jury will make the decision, guilty or not guilty.”

          Indeed, last week, a judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, began overseeing the screening of prospective jurors for Mr. Ghailani’s trial, in which opening arguments are expected to be held next Monday. For more than a year, the judge has been deciding important legal issues raised by the case, and it was while considering one such question – whether Mr. Ghailani was mentally competent for trial in light of allegations he was tortured in C.I.A. custody – that Judge Kaplan ordered him evaluated last spring. Dr. Gregory B. Saathoff, a psychiatry professor at the University of Virginia, saw Mr. Ghailani four times in May and June at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the jail where he is being held pending trial.

          They sat across from each other, separated by a plexiglass and screen divider during their sessions, Dr. Saathoff noted. He described Mr. Ghailani, a Tanzanian in his mid-30s, as generally relaxed, drinking soda and eating a Snickers bar and nachos. He said the inmate also appreciated humor, and smiled or laughed appropriately at humorous comments by a defense lawyer, Steve Zissou, who attended the sessions. But other times, Mr. Ghailani turned somber, withdrawn, even tearful, the psychiatrist wrote. “Mr. Ghailani was most distressed, and appeared unable to speak or show any eye contact when discussing a period when …,” Dr. Saathoff wrote, but the rest of the sentence was blacked out, still classified.

          In the sessions, Mr. Ghailani, who speaks English and Swahili, offered vivid accounts of his childhood in Zanzibar, his schooling, his family history and his life after the 1998 bombings, when the authorities say he fled to Afghanistan, trained with Al Qaeda and worked for Osama bin Laden as his bodyguard. He told the psychiatrist that he had barely survived two United States missile attacks in Afghanistan, at least one on a Qaeda training camp. In an attack a few months after 9/11, he said, he recalled bombs falling around him. “I knew people who died,” he said. “I saw their bodies later. I saw pieces of children’s bodies.”

          After he was captured in a gun battle in Pakistan in 2004, he was held for two years in the agency’s so-called black sites, where prosecutors say he provided significant intelligence about terrorist plots. In 2006, Mr. Ghailani was moved to Guantánamo, where he remained until he was brought to Manhattan last year and arraigned in June 2009 on the federal charges; he has pleaded not guilty.

          He found Guantánamo “more pleasant” and “more relaxed” than the jail, known as the M.C.C., where he is now being held in solitary confinement in a high-security section, Dr. Saathoff wrote. At Guantánamo, prisoners were not strip-searched and could join for recreational activities, even watch movies together on DVD, he told the psychiatrist.

          But he did not like the military’s legal process. “The rules at Gitmo favor the government,” Mr. Ghailani said. “Here they are more fair.” Mr. Ghailani made clear that he objected strenuously to the repeated strip-searches he had to undergo in the civilian system, up to four times on a single trip to and from court, Dr. Saathoff noted. A psychologist retained by the defense had concluded that Mr. Ghailani suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder set off by the searches, which she said stemmed from his treatment in C.I.A. custody. Still, he spoke favorably of jail officials he encountered at the M.C.C., Dr. Saathoff wrote.

          In citing Mr. Ghailani’s extensive knowledge of the legal system, Dr. Saathoff quoted what he called “verbatim and unprompted statements” the prisoner made to him. Mr. Ghailani, for example, said accurately that prospective jurors would be selected from voter lists. “My lawyers and the prosecutor will select the ones that they don’t want to be there,” he said. “Then they have to ask them questions, what do they call that – voir dire?” He knew about alternate jurors, who were picked “in case one of the jurors gets sick.” He repeatedly praised his lawyers. “I feel good about my attorneys,” he said. “They listen to me.” It is clear they have also educated him about the legal process.

          But so has his voracious reading. “I learned this,” Mr. Ghailani said, “from Grisham’s books.” He listed half a dozen titles: “The Brethren,” “The Summons,” “The Runaway Jury,” “Playing for Pizza,” “The Street Lawyer” and “The King of Torts,” as well as the “Time to Kill” movie. “He may be the most steadfast reader” in the jail, one M.C.C. official was quoted as saying. Mr. Ghailani told the psychiatrist that judges at Guantánamo and in Manhattan “seemed the same.”

          “The judge here is all right,” he added, saying the judge’s role was “to make sure that everyone is following the law.” Mr. Ghailani said he felt nervous when he was inside the courtroom. “No one trusts me,” he said. “There are two marshals on my back. If I make a move, they will try to stop me.” But he said he felt prepared for trial. The timing was fair, he said, adding, “I feel that I will be ready by September.”

        • DXer said

          Last September, Dr. Saathoff was the government expert arguing against a Dr. Porterfield’s conclusion that defendant Ghailani was not competent to stand trial. While I agree with his opinion, an expert’s opinion on such an issue seems impossible to distinguish from the same argument by the prosecutor. (I can email an opinion to anyone who likes; Mr. Ghailani is a Grisham fan).

          It is cool that Dr. Saathoff was able to develop a rapport with Mr. Ghailani. Did he talk to Bruce in July 2008 while he was at the hospital?

        • DXer said

          Dr. Saathoff’s 60-page description of “shielding” is titled:

          “What Is to Be Done? Emerging Perspectives on Public Responses to

          “Our modern society is geared toward the fantasy of evacuation,” says
          Dr. Saathoff. “There’s a belief in the automobile as the savior that will
          lead you to some kind of security — when, in fact, that might actually be
          doing the bidding of the terrorists, because you’re of course going to be
          spreading the epidemic. … Staying home is a bit counterintuitive — ”

          The shielding concept has another unusual personal source. Another
          participant in the April 2002 conference was Stephen D. Prior, research
          director of the National Security Health Policy Center of the Potomac
          Institute for Policy Studies, in Arlington, Va. In a late-evening
          conversation at the conference, he told Dr. Saathoff about the history of
          his hometown, the English village of Whiteparish, which successfully
          enacted self-isolation during a medieval plague. “That was the kernel of
          the idea that we then pursued,” says Mr. Prior.

          But others agree with Mr. Annas and question the country’s capacity to
          sustain long-term shielding. “It’s one thing for the Foreign Service,”
          says Jonathan D. Moreno, a professor of biomedical ethics at Virginia
          who is editor of the forthcoming book In the Wake of Terror: Medicine
          and Morality in a Time of Crisis (MIT Press, April). “What are you
          going to do with my 16-year-old son, and my lawyer neighbors up the
          street? I guess I’d be much happier if I knew of a cross-section
          population where something like this had been done for even a week.
          I’m a great admirer of Greg [Saathoff], but I wouldn’t want to put too
          much in the bank with that model.”

          Comment: Perhaps they should distribute Scrabble games rather than Cipro.
          Given a 20% vacancy rate of homes in Florida, perhaps they could just direct
          displaced persons to Florida.

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