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

* The Department of Justice attorney James M. Kovakas yesterday did not think that production of this document (* see footnote) would further the public’s understanding and wanted to charge DXer $2,500.00

Posted by DXer on May 12, 2011


*This document … showing why Dr. Ivins was in the B3 on the specific nights was first produced by the US Army yesterday after being withheld by the DOJ for over 2 1/2 years.




18 Responses to “* The Department of Justice attorney James M. Kovakas yesterday did not think that production of this document (* see footnote) would further the public’s understanding and wanted to charge DXer $2,500.00”

  1. DXer said

    It’s not enough that DOJ thought that producing the documents to me under FOIA (those not subject to protective orders) would not further the public understanding and thus wanted to charge me $2500.

    Now see today’s docket entry — you can’t even see the filing if you are willing to pay.

    Stevens v. United States – filing today in docket, 7/21/2011 , SYSTEM ENTRY – Docket Entry 163 restricted/sealed until further notice.

    And yet you pay these folks’ salary — and it involves a matter of public policy and the safety of your loved ones.

    If not at least produced to a media requestor, we need a nonprofit to bring suit under FOIA for the documents produced in Stevens (those not subject to protective order).

  2. Anonymous said

    Looks like no new FBI director anytime soon:

    Obama to keep Mueller at FBI for ‘continuity,’ as other security chiefs shift
    Christian Science Monitor – Warren Richey – ‎1 hour ago‎
    President Obama will seek to extend Robert Mueller’s tenure as FBI director for two more years. His decision comes amid changes at the top of the CIA and Defense Department. In this April 28, 2009 file photo, President Obama meets with FBI Director …

  3. DXer said

    The wonderful FOIA person at USAMRC and the webmaster have uploaded Notebook 3919. We owe them profound thanks for their continued help.

    By way of comparison, it would have been a simple matter to put the unprivileged documents at the Department of Justice from the Stevens litigation in the photocopier tray and press push — or alternatively make them available for inspection.

    The Al Qaeda anthrax threat is not an issue on which to play hide-the-ball.

  4. DXer said

    The DOJ attorney’s suggestion that the public would not benefit about disclosure relating to anthrax mailings is specious. For example, this learning came about as the result of the DIA’s compliance with FOIA on these issues. (Rauf Ahmad was attending conferences with Bruce Ivins).


    October 31, 2006 Tuesday 3:56 AM GMT

    Suspect and A Setback In Al-Qaeda Anthrax Case;
    Scientist With Ties To Group Goes Free

    BYLINE: By Joby Warrick, Washington Post Staff Writer

    SECTION: NATION; Nationalsecurity; Pg. A01

    LENGTH: 1977 words

    In December 2001, as the investigation into the U.S. anthrax attacks was gathering steam, coalition soldiers in Afghanistan uncovered what appeared to be an important clue: a trail of documents chronicling an attempt by al-Qaeda to create its own anthrax weapon.

    The documents told of a singular mission by a scientist named Abdur Rauf, an obscure, middle-aged Pakistani with alleged al-Qaeda sympathies and an advanced degree in microbiology.

    Using his membership in a prestigious scientific organization to gain access, Rauf traveled through Europe on a quest, officials say, to obtain both anthrax spores and the equipment needed to turn them into highly lethal biological weapons. He reported directly to al-Qaeda’s No. 2 commander, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and in one document he appeared to signal a breakthrough.

    “I successfully achieved the targets,” he wrote cryptically to Zawahiri in a note in 1999.

    Precisely what Rauf achieved may never be known with certainty. That’s because U.S. officials remain stymied in their nearly five-year quest to bring charges against a man who they say admitted serving as a top consultant to al-Qaeda on anthrax — a claim that makes him one of a handful of people linked publicly to the group’s effort to wage biological warfare against Western targets.

    Rauf, 47, has been under scrutiny in Pakistan since he was detained there for questioning in late 2001, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials who agreed to talk about the case for the first time. But officially he remains free, and Pakistan now says it has no grounds for arrest. Last year, in an acknowledgment of the impasse in its four-year joint investigation with Pakistan, the FBI officially put the case on inactive status.

    “We will never close the door, but the chances of getting him into the United States are slim to none,” said one U.S. intelligence official, who, like others, agreed to discuss the case on the condition that he not be identified by name.

    The documents that first revealed Rauf’s role were part of a large stack of papers discovered in a house after coalition forces overran an al-Qaeda base in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan. He emerges from documents and interviews as one of the most intriguing, and in some ways most troubling, figures in an international investigation into al-Qaeda’s biological weapons program.

    With the evidence against Rauf, some U.S. officials say they are perplexed about why Pakistani authorities have refused to further pursue him, while acknowledging that the case presents both legal and political difficulties for Pakistan.

    To terrorism experts, Rauf is a symbol of a dangerous convergence: a marriage of militancy and technical expertise that could someday yield new kinds of highly lethal weapons to be used against civilians.

    “He was someone who at least understood the professional procedures and methods,” said Milton Leitenberg, an expert on biological weapons with the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies who reviewed the seized documents. “In theory, if he went in the laboratory and tried and tried, maybe he could have gotten it right.”

    Exactly how far al-Qaeda progressed with Rauf’s help is not publicly known. No one has turned up any links between his work and the U.S. anthrax attacks, in which spores were mailed in letters to news organizations and U.S. Senate offices. Coalition forces discovered rudimentary laboratories in Kandahar but no evidence of bioweapons production. Yet both the White House and a presidential commission have hinted at additional findings suggesting that the terrorists were much further along than was first thought.

    Last year’s presidential commission on intelligence failures, led by retired judge Laurence H. Silberman and former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.), described al-Qaeda’s biological program as “extensive” and “well-organized,” particularly with regard to “Agent X,” a pathogen that terrorism experts say was almost certainly anthrax.

    “Al-Qaeda had acquired several biological agents possibly as early as 1999, and the necessary equipment to enable limited, basic production of Agent X,” the commission said.

    U.S. officials are even more reticent in discussing possible links between al-Qaeda’s anthrax program and the 2001 U.S. attacks, which killed five people and briefly shut down the U.S. Capitol. Privately, FBI officials doubt that such a link exists. They note that the attacks came with an explicit warning — a letter advising the victims to take penicillin, resulting in a far lower death toll — but without an explicit claim of responsibility. “It doesn’t fit with al-Qaeda’s modus operandi,” one intelligence official said.

    Yet U.S. officials have been unable to rule out al-Qaeda or any other group as a suspect. Earlier this month, FBI officials acknowledged that the ultra-fine powder mailed five years ago was simply made and could have been produced by a well-trained microbiologist anywhere in the world.

    Several leading bioterrorism experts still contend that the evidence points to al-Qaeda or possibly an allied group that coordinated its attack with the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. These experts point to hijacker Mohamed Atta’s inquiries into renting a crop-duster aircraft and to an unexplained emergency-room visit by another hijacker, Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi, for treatment of an unusual skin lesion that resembled cutaneous anthrax.

    Whether or not al-Qaeda was involved, U.S. officials and bioterrorism experts agree on this: The alliance between the terrorist group and a little-known Pakistani scientist could have yielded disastrous results in time.

    For all his expertise, Rauf was hardly the ideal candidate for helping al-Qaeda realize its ambition of making biological weapons.

    The tall, thin and bespectacled scientist held a doctorate in microbiology but specialized in food production, according to U.S. officials familiar with the case. He had to learn about anthrax and other bioterrorism agents as he went along, slowing his progress considerably.

    “He could potentially do a great deal of harm because of his knowledge and skills,” said one U.S. intelligence expert connected with the case. “On the other hand, he lacked the specific knowledge and training al-Qaeda needed most.”

    Exactly how he became acquainted with Zawahiri remains unclear. Rauf worked at the prestigious Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in his home town of Lahore, and officials speculate that he may have crossed paths professionally with Zawahiri, a physician.

    In any case, captured documents suggest a close collaboration between the two men as they sought equipment for a bioweapons lab.

    “I hope my letter will find you in the best of health and circumstances by the God Almighty,” Rauf writes to Zawahiri in one of three intercepted notes.

    The heavily redacted notes and other documents were obtained from the Defense Department through the Freedom of Information Act after they were first described in the journal Science in a 2003 article by three researchers at the National Defense University. Rauf’s name was redacted, but U.S. and Pakistani officials confirmed his authorship in interviews with The Washington Post. Rauf’s name was first publicly associated with the documents by Ross Getman, a New York lawyer who maintains a Web site devoted to the 2001 anthrax attacks.

    Rauf was a member of the Society for Applied Microbiology, an international professional organization based in Britain, and he appears to have used his membership to make contacts and arrange visits related to his quest. One note from Rauf was handwritten on the group’s stationery, apparently while he was attending a 1999 scientific conference at Porton Down, Britain’s premier biodefense research center in the southern city of Wiltshire.

    Rauf, who writes to Zawahiri in occasionally faltering English, admits in one note to several setbacks. For starters, he had found a supplier who could sell him Bacillus anthracis — the bacterium that causes anthrax — but it was a harmless strain incapable of killing anyone.

    “Unfortunately, I did not find the required culture of B. anthrax — i.e., pathogenic,” he writes to Zawahiri. He then describes a new attempt to acquire a lethal strain from a different lab.

    In a later note he is more upbeat, telling his patron he had “successfully achieved the targets” and had “tried to solve technical problems of our work.” He ticked off a list of items he had acquired or arranged to purchase, including respirators, a fermenter used for growing bacteria and vaccines to protect lab workers against accidental exposure.

    Rauf also describes an unusual visit — apparently as the guest of another scientist — to a high-containment biological lab where dangerous pathogens such as anthrax are kept.

    “I visited along with [the host] all the units . . . including the special confidential room in which thousands of cultures are placed,” the note reads.

    Another handwritten note includes a crude diagram of a biological lab, identifying how space should be allocated for major tasks such as animal testing and growing bacteria.

    A recurring theme in the notes is money, or Rauf’s apparent lack of it. He complains in one note that his salary was cut while he was on leave from his job for postdoctoral research. “This is highly objectionable, unaffordable and unpracticable with me,” he writes.

    Rauf’s money demands may have led to a falling-out with Zawahiri, who appears to have decided to explore other options for obtaining bacteria and lab equipment, said Rohan Gunaratna, an al-Qaeda expert with the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore.

    Gunaratna said al-Qaeda leaders also collaborated with Yazid Sufaat, a member of an allied Southeast Asian group called Jemaah Islamiyah, in purchasing equipment for the Kandahar lab. Sufaat, who once studied chemistry at California State University at Sacramento, has been in custody since late 2001.

    “Rauf was financially driven, and al-Qaeda didn’t entirely trust him,” Gunaratna said.

    Rauf’s detention kicked off a joint U.S.-Pakistani investigation that at first was remarkably successful.

    “There was great cooperation at the start,” said one U.S. intelligence official who closely followed the case.

    The FBI’s New York office took the lead U.S. role, and its agents worked closely with the CIA and bureau officials in Pakistan in carrying out interrogations. Though not formally charged with any crimes, Rauf consented to questioning and provided useful leads, U.S. and Pakistani officials said. But problems began when the U.S. side sought to expand the investigation with the goal of pursuing criminal charges, including possible indictment and prosecution in the United States, officials from both countries confirmed.

    In earlier cases, the Pakistani government incurred the wrath of Islamic leaders when it sought to prosecute professionals for alleged ties to al-Qaeda.

    In 2003, the Pakistanis shut off U.S. access to Rauf. According to Pakistani officials familiar with the case, there simply was not enough evidence showing that he succeeded in providing al-Qaeda with something useful.

    Since then, Rauf has been allowed to resume his normal life. Whether he has returned to his former workplace is unclear; officials at the research council declined to respond to requests for information about the scientist. Attempts to contact Rauf in Lahore were unsuccessful.

    “He was detained for questioning, and later the courts determined there was not sufficient evidence to continue detaining him,” said Tariq Azim Khan, Pakistan’s information minister. “If there was evidence that proved his role beyond a shadow of a doubt, we would have acted on it. But that kind of evidence was not available.”

    Special correspondent Kamran Khan in Karachi, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

  5. Old Atlantic said

    Broader issues also relating to this case are

    1) Relation of professors, scientists, Ph.D.’s to government, government funding, and government control of information.

    2) The efforts of foreign governments or terrorist organizations to get their people into the academic, government and industry networks to get a) technical information b) personal information.

    3) Joel Brenner was a trial lawyer in the Antitrust Division promoted to eventually head of counter-intelligence who said Russia was devoting its resources at cold war levels not to technical information but to personal information. Antitrust Division of DOJ employs over 50 Ph.D.’s and the EAG is run by an econ prof Deputy Assistant Attorney General. Econ profs are extensively involved in IMF, World Bank, and aid to foreign countries such as Russia in the 1990’s, India and Pakistan.

    4) The government was lax in allowing access to weapons labs and even anthrax to foreign nationals who had little to offer from their own country’s know how in comparison to the US with the exception of a few from Russia or Ukraine or states of the former Soviet Union in the Soviet anthrax program.

    • Old Atlantic said

      Instead of admitting their mistake in allowing access, the government prosecuted biology and prof types who had nothing to do with any weapons labs such as SUNY Buffalo art prof Steven Kurtz who used harmless bacteria in his art. Bacteria is in the environment and the human stomach but DOJ acted hysterically after 9/11 and prosecuted people out of its hysteria.

    • Old Atlantic said

      When people are prosecuted for their personal characteristics, there are two victims. Those prosecuted and a broader group who match those personal characteristics and are victims of other crimes and are reluctant to come forward on those because of the risk of being targeted themselves.

      • Old Atlantic said

        FOIA is meant to help both of these groups and to force government to focus prosecution on those for whom it has solid evidence. This is something it lacks in the Bruce Ivins case which is part of this pattern of cases.

        Not only does FOIA help the public analyze this, but helps the judge in this trial.

        The judge in the Thomas C. Butler trial was skeptical of the prosecution and probably wishes he had thrown it out. Then came the Kurtz trial and the judge did throw it out. Now we have this trial in Florida and the judge is skeptical of DOJ there as well. FOIA assists these judges by getting the information out on this pattern of serial prosecution out of hysteria based on the personal characteristics of those charged or hounded in the case of Bruce Ivins.

  6. Old Atlantic said

    The FOIA act was also intended to help prevent serial prosecutions of people because of their personal characteristics. After 9/11, the government did that in the case of biology and medical types.

    Texas Tech Professor Thomas C. Butler

    Steven Kurtz “Steve Kurtz is a professor of art at the SUNY Buffalo, former professor of art history at Carnegie Mellon University and a founding member of the performance art group, Critical Art Ensemble. He is known for his work in BioArt, and Electronic Civil Disobedience, and because of his arrest by the FBI in May 2004. ”

    Dr. Robert Ferrell, Professor of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

    There are other cases in this line of post 9/11 biology or medical or prof types linked to disease, pathogens, etc. subjected to hysterical prosecution by DOJ.

    Bruce Ivins falls into that category. This is the first trial in his case and can help expose this pattern of hysterical serial prosecutions post 9/11 of biology, medical, or prof types who work in this area.

    All the records relating to these cases at DOJ should be released under FOIA so we can find out who was approving or pushing these cases at the higher levels in the DOJ.

  7. DXer said

    The FOIA requires agencies to comply with requests to make their records available to the public, unless information is exempted by clear statutory language. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a), (b); Oglesby v. U.S. Dep’t of Army, 79 F.3d 1172, 1176, 316 U.S. App. D.C. 372 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Although there is a “strong presumption in favor of disclosure[,]” U.S. Dep’t of State v. Ray, 502 U.S. 164, 173, 112 S. Ct. 541, 116 L. Ed.2d 526 (1991), there are nine exemptions to disclosure set forth in 5 U.S.C. § 552(b). These exemptions are to be construed as narrowly as possible to maximize access to agency information, which is one of the overall purposes of the FOIA. Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820, 823, 157 U.S. App. D.C. 340 (D.C. Cir. 1973).

    Because the party requesting disclosure cannot know the precise contents of the documents withheld, it is at a disadvantage to claim misapplication of an exemption, and a factual dispute may arise regarding whether the documents actually fit within the cited exemptions. Id. at 823-24. To provide an effective opportunity for the requesting [*4] party to challenge the applicability of an exemption and for the court to assess the exemption’s validity, the agency must explain the specific reason for nondisclosure. Id. at 826-27; see also Oglesby, 79 F.3d at 1176 (“The description and explanation the agency offers should reveal as much detail as possible as to the nature of the document, without actually disclosing information that deserves protection.”). Conclusory statements and generalized claims of exemption are insufficient to justify withholding. Vaughn, 484 F.2d at 826; see also Mead Data Cent., Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Air Force, 566 F.2d 242, 251, 184 U.S. App. D.C. 350 (D.C. Cir. 1977) (noting that “the burden which the FOIA specifically places on the Government to show that the information withheld is exempt from disclosure cannot be satisfied by the sweeping and conclusory citation of an exemption” (footnote omitted)).

    • DXer said

      I am not interested in any document that is stamped pursuant to the entered protective orders. Nor am I interested in any document covered by an applicable statutory exemption.

      The FOIA permits the government to withhold from requestors many types of documents that are not classified. The FOIA provides that every federal agency shall make available upon request records reasonably described, 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A), unless the documents fall within enumerated exemptions, id. § 552(b), or exclusions, id. § 552(c). Section 552(b) contains nine enumerated exemptions allowing the government to withhold documents or portions of documents. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(1)-(b)(9). Subsection (b)(2) permits the government to withhold documents that are “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(2). Subsection (b)(4) permits the government to withhold from disclosure “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(4). Subsection (b)(6) [*17] protects “personnel and medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6).

      Subsection (b)(7) deals with law enforcement. It renders exempt from disclosure “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes” where the production of such law enforcement records would impede a valid government purpose or harm an individual’s interest. Specifically, subsection (b)(7) allows the government to withhold:

      records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by criminal law [*18] enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, or (F) could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual. 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7).

      In addition, Congress added section 552(c) to the FOIA in 1986 to allow an agency to “treat the records as not subject to the [FOIA] requirements” in three specific categories involving: (1) ongoing criminal investigations; (2) informant identities; and (3) classified foreign intelligence or international terrorism information. 5 U.S.C. § 552(c)(1)-(c)(3) 4; see Benavides v. Drug Enforcement Admin., 968 F.2d 1243, 1246-47, 296 U.S. App. D.C. 372 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (discussing the legislative history of the “three exclusions of § 552(c)”). Only subsection (c)(3) deals with classified information, while subsections (c)(1) and (c)(2) apply to law enforcement [*19] records. Therefore, plaintiffs’ contention that only classified information can be withheld under the FOIA is belied by the statute.

  8. Old Atlantic said

    Release of the records will help the judge and the trial. Public trials are not simply to sell newspapers or for voyeurs. A public trial assists the court by people coming forward with information or better insights into the information. This can also happen post the first trial and on appeal.

    This case is particularly complex and the judge has to work through evidence motions on complex matters while still working on his other cases.

    This blog and the applicant for the FOIA have produced vital new information concerning the animal records, and concerning the growth times for anthrax, such as the paper referenced and discussed many times. That paper is somewhat hard to read the first time like much in this case. So the public discussion helps the trial as well as public policy by promoting that understanding.

    UCLA hosted a discussion at which the applicant and others attended to discuss the case. That advanced the public understanding and has helped lead to the disclosures made.

    The FOIA applicant has worked with Ft. Detrick in getting FOIA requests written to promote this understanding and has advanced substantially public understanding. This has included information on the case new to US government employees including microbiologists who blog here.

    Furthermore, it is clear that the knowledge of anthrax and bacillus prior to 9/11/2001 was much less than what might have been thought. Its properties are better understood from this discussion. This impacts not just counter-terrorism but vaccines and the public interest in vaccine trials. The DOJ claims that this is one of the factors causing the attack, this public debate.

  9. Old Atlantic said

    It would advance the public interest to release the records. This is because this is the first proceeding where the government’s claims are being tested.

    The government wants to say that Ivins did it so they are not responsible. However, the government has refused to provide an analysis of the growing time and yields for growing anthrax in the BSL3 given the equipment Ivins had. This is because all their efforts to replicate the growth and produce its numerical characteristics have failed.

    They have likewise withheld records related to the animal experiments.

    The government should be barred at the trial from introducing Ivins’ hours in the lab because it has failed in its efforts to reproduce the anthrax in that time and those conditions and because it refuses to analyze the time needed to grow in a document.

    The government should be barred from saying during argument in the trial that Ivins did it. This is because there are holes in their argument and information they have which tends to show that Ivins did not do it.

    Further release of that information helps the public interest.

    Pakistan’s role in promoting terrorism has been exposed more from Wikileak releases as well as been caught harboring bin Laden.

    There is a widespread belief including in Congress that the 20 billion in aid to Pakistan over the last 10 years was wasted. David Frum is a major Bush era figure who has now basically admitted that the appease and pay Pakistan policy was a mistake.

    LeT and al Qaeda are both linked to Directorate S of the Pakistan ISI that the US has requested to know the names of but has never met with. Directorate S manages relations with militant groups, ie terrorists.

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