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

* Intelligence Agencies Are Told to Cooperate with GAO … how will this apply to the ongoing GAO review of the FBI’s anthrax investigation (Amerithrax)?

Posted by DXer on May 17, 2011


see also …

* the GAO review of the FBI’s anthrax investigation has begun … a report is expected to be issued by September 20, 2011 … *** UPDATE: a series of fascinating comments to this post suggest many pertinent questions that GAO might want to consider


This case needs to be re-opened !!!


Steven Aftergood writes in Secrecy News from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy (5/16/11) …

  • An expanded role for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in oversight of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) may soon become a reality as the result of an official directive that requires intelligence agencies to work with auditors from the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress.
  • “It is IC policy to cooperate with the Comptroller General, through the GAO, to the fullest extent possible, and to provide timely responses to requests for information,” affirmed Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper in the new Intelligence Community Directive 114 on“Comptroller General Access to Intelligence Community Information” (pdf). The Comptroller General is the director of the GAO.
  • There is also a loosely defined provision that would exclude GAO from access to information on “core” intelligence capabilities:  
    • “Information that falls within the purview of the congressional intelligence oversight committees generally shall not be made available to GAO to support a GAO audit or review of core national intelligence capabilities or activities, which include intelligence collection operations, intelligence analyses and analytical techniques, counterintelligence operations, and intelligence funding,” the directive says.
  • That language in the directive, “if interpreted broadly, could significantly hinder GAO’s ability to conduct related work that we are routinely requested by the Congress to do,” wrote Gene L. Dodaro, the Comptroller General.
  • The final version of the directive “is better than the horrible first cut,” a congressional official said. An initial draft of the directive last March was deemed to be “shockingly bad” from a congressional perspective. (“DNI Drags Heels on GAO Access to Intelligence,” Secrecy News, March 30, 2011.)
  • “It will be very interesting to see how the new protocols are actually implemented.  GAO’s moribund FBI counter-terrorism job is going to be the first test case.”  He was referring to a pending review of counterterrorism programs at FBI that was scuttled due to the FBI’s refusal to cooperate with GAO auditors.

read the entire article at …


10 Responses to “* Intelligence Agencies Are Told to Cooperate with GAO … how will this apply to the ongoing GAO review of the FBI’s anthrax investigation (Amerithrax)?”

  1. DXer said

    In its forthcoming report, the GAO investigation will seek to answer three main questions:

    — What forensic methods did the FBI use to conclude Ivins was the sole perpetrator, and how reliable are those methods?

    — What scientific concerns and uncertainties still remain regarding the FBI’s conclusion?

    — What agencies monitor foreign containment labs, and how do they monitor those labs?

    In assessing the report, questions include:

    What documents did the GAO obtain? Did the GAO at least obtain all the documents processed and released under FOIA and could the GAO promptly make them available? Did GAO obtain all of Dr. Ivins’ laboratory notebooks from the August 2001 – December 2001 period and could it make them available online?

    • anonymous said

      Expected issuance–9/30/2011

      Background / Key Questions:
      In February 2010, the FBI closed its eight-year investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks and released a report concluding that the attacks were carried out by Bruce Ivins, an Army biodefense scientist. The FBI’s conclusion rested on new 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, and other circumstantial evidence. Questions, however, have been raised about the FBI’s scientific evidence. The FBI has funded the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate its scientific methods. We will perform independent gap analyses of the scientific and technical methods used by the FBI to identify the source of anthrax in the anthrax letters.
      Scope and Methodology:
      We will review documentation related to the case released by the FBI. We will meet with scientists who assisted the FBI in its investigation. We will also meet with the staff of the NAS panel evaluating the FBI’s scientific work to determine the scope of their work. We will convene a panel of experts to review our findings.

      • DXer said

        It would be unsound for the GAO to only rely on the evidence that the FBI provided GAO without asking for the evidence that underly the stated assertions in its Amerithrax Investigative Summary. For example, AUSA Rachel Lieber creates an innuendo that Dr. Ivins used the photocopy in the library because of his presence there at particular times. I believe the scientific evidence, in contrast, that was NOT provided to the NAS shows that the FBI experts could exclude those photocopies based on mass spectroscopy of the toner. (Unlike the issue of “tracks” the delay in testing the photocopiers at USAMRIID did not prejudice mass spec of the toner and I believe it could be excluded at a high level of confidence).

        As another example, the FBI’s theory based on the code is specious because it relies on a letter that in fact was not double-lined. Thus, one does not begin with Agent Steele’s suggested interpretation of the code, one starts with the document examiner’s report — which has not been released — identifying which letters were double-lined.

        On the issue of submission of the Spring 2002 sample, it hugely misses the point to credit the unsupported conclusion that Dr. Ivins submitted the sample instead of his assistant (as he repeatedly explained for many years). The chain of custody records have been uploaded showing that it was not Dr. Ivins’ initials associated with the submission and this should be understood to be within the GAO’s task.

        Some of the most important material are the contemporaneous documents from September and October 2001. It is foolish to speak of scientific uncertainties and not appreciate that the laboratory notes — the contemporaneous evidence of how he spent his time — bears directly on the scientific evidence relating to whether he made and mailed the dried powdered anthrax.

        In addition to the material provided to the NAS, the FBI hopefully will provide the GAO the 9,000 pages released to Marc Gold.

        The “documentation related to the case released by the FBI” includes the 3,599 pages released to Dan Vergano (Request # 117985 dated August 8, 2008) and even the 35 pages in connection with a request by Morris M. Goldings in a response dated July 30, 2009.

        There was 100 pages provided to another requestor that they should see — as well as responses to requests fulfilled after the FBI gave me the list of responses to all FOIAs.

        For example, the pending requests that the FBI has taken months to address include the September 17, 2001 email sent to Mara Linscott (showing the time it was sent)

        The forensic examination of his computer is hard-core forensic evidence and identifies when the electronic message was sent.

        If the GAO would make available of that material it would overcome the long delays associated with the majority of FBI FOIA responses — a matter currently being addressed in a pending bill called the Faster FOIA Act.

  2. DXer said

    an earlier hand-written note from Abdur Rauf to Ayman al-Zawahiri: “Unfortunately, I did not find the required culture of B. anthrax …”

    Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 4, 2009

  3. DXer said

    Sailing The Good Ship Anthrax

    For start, the FBI should confirm what I am saying: the lab Rauf Ahmad visited in his second visit — in which he announced that he had achieved the targets — was Porton Down.

    USAMRIID released some emails by Bruce Ivins discussing the difficulties of planning the Fourth International Conference on Anthrax in Annapolis. The first of the emails was from September 1998, upon his return from the conference at Plymouth. In June 2001, the good ship anthrax sailed in Annapolis, Maryland, the “sailing capital of the world.” The 4th International Conference on Anthrax was held at St. John’s College in historic Annapolis, Maryland, June 10 – 13, 2001. The conference was organized by the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and managed by the American Society for Microbiology. The 74-foot classic wooden schooner was named WOODWIND. Martin Hugh-Jones had convened the conference along with Peter Turnbull, the Porton Down scientist who had led the UK conferences attended by Ayman Zawahiri’s scientist, Rauf Ahmad. Reports of livestock and national park outbreaks were followed by a summary by Dr. Turnbull. Other anthrax notables who spoke included senior USAMRIID scientist Dr. Ezzell, who had one of the first looks at the Daschle product, and Dr. Paul Keim, who would play a key role in the genetic investigation.

    Theresa Koehler from the Houston Medical School gave a talk titled “The Expanding B. anthracis Toolbox” while Timothy Read from The Institute of Genome Research summarized research on The B. Anthracis Genome. Houston Medical School, the UK’s biodefense facility Porton Down, and Pasteur Institute each fielded three presenters. UK scientists presented on the characteristics of the exosporium of “the highly virulent Ames strain.” Researchers from Columbus, Ohio and Biological Defense Research Directorate (BDRD) of the Navy Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, assisted by Porton Down scientists from the UK, demonstrated that inoculated mice survived a challenge with b.anthracis spores. Researchers used b.anthracis containing a plasmid with a mutated lethal factor.” Dr. Phil Hanna from University of Michigan presented, as he did at the conference attending with Rauf Ahmad.

    A Kazakhstan Ministry of Health scientist presented on the re-emergence of anthrax in Kazakhstan. Upon the break-up of the Soviet Union the first job offer Ken Alibek fielded was the position of Minister of Health in Kazakhstan. He protested when he realized that his new employer just wanted to do what the Soviets had been secretly doing in an illegal and massive bioweapons program he had supervised as its First Deputy. After the KGB asked to meet with him, he asked to schedule the meeting in two weeks, so that he might visit his parents, and then found a secret expedited way of coming to the United States.

    Pakistan Rauf Ahmad had been the predator looking for the Ames strain and consulting on weaponization techniques at the UK conference. Did the Amerithrax perp attend this conference or work on any of the research presented? Ali Al-Timimi had a high security clearance for mathematical support work for the Navy. Why? When? What did his work involve? In January 2002, FBI Assistant Director Van Harp told the 40,000 members of the American Society for Microbiology that it was “very likely that one or more of you know this individual.” They very likely did.

    • DXer said

      “I Successfully Achieved The Targets”: Assistance Of Pakistan Scientist Rauf Ahmad In 1999 And 2000

      The Porton Down scientist Peter Turnbull worked with the FBI scientist John Ezzell, who made a dried aerosol out of Flask 1029. Then he returned to Porton Down. The details of Dr. Turnbull’s work with Dr. Ezzell needs to be understood so that the significance of Rauf Ahmad’s access to Porton Down — and the implications of the positive tests in Kandahar for Ames anthrax — can be fully understood.

      George Tenet in his May 2007 In the Center of the Storm says: “Al-Qa’ida spared no effort in its attempt to obtain biological weapons. In 1999, al-Zawahiri recruited Pakistani national Rauf Ahmad, to set up a small lab in Khandahar, Afghanistan, to house the biological weapons effort. In December 2001, a sharp WMD analyst at CIA found the initial lead on which we would pull and, ultimately, unravel the al-Qa’ida anthrax networks. We were able to identify Rauf Ahmad from letters he had written to Ayman al-Zawahiri. … We located Rauf Ahmad’s lab in Afghanistan. We identified the building in Khandahar where Sufaat claimed he isolated anthrax. We mounted operations that resulted in the arrests and detentions of anthrax operatives in several countries.”

      Delivering the James Smart Lecture, entitled “Global Terrorism: are we meeting the challenge?” at the headquarters of the City of London Police, Ms. Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, said: “Western security services have uncovered networks of individuals, sympathetic to the aims of al-Qa’ida, that blend into society, individuals who live normal, routine lives until called upon for specific tasks by another part of the network.” She concluded: “The threats of chemical, biological and radiological and suicide attacks require new responses and the Government alone will not achieve all of it; industry and even the public must take greater responsibility for their own security.”

      Milton Leitenberg wrote in a chapter on evolving threats in Wenger and Wollenmann’s 2007 Bioterrorism: Confronting A Complex Threat: “The first significant and meaningful information on what Al-Qaida may at some point have hoped to achieve in the area of bioweapons appeared on a single page in the journal SCIENCE in mid-December 2003, and then in declassified documents that were obtained in the last week of March 2004. … Appended to the single page in SCIENCE via the internet address was a list of thirty-two items: eleven books and twenty-one professional journal papers nearly all dating from the 1950s and 1960s dealing with pathogens or bioweapons.” He explained: “They were found in Al Qaida training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in December 2001. Half of the books dealt with historic or general aspects of bioweapons and would be of little practical use in an effort to produce bioweapons agents. However, at least some of the journal papers and the remaining half of the books might have been useful in such an effort. They were found only a few kilometers from the site near the Kandahar airport that confirmed the rudimentary equipment also procured by Al-Qaida.”Most important of all, the documents indicated that “al-Qaida’s BW initiative included recruitment of individuals with PhD-level expertise who supported planning and acquisition efforts by their familiarity with the scientific community.” Mr. Leitenberg concludes: “If it should turn out, as is currently assumed, that the Amerithrax perpetrator came from within the US government’s own biodefense program, with access to strains, laboratories, people and knowledge, then all previous conceptions about the significance of the events would be substantially altered.” He observes that “Al-Qaeda has actively recruited educated college graduates and … specifically sought individuals with particular knowledge and training. … Such recruiting patterns do not automatically translate into either an interest or capability in bioweapons, but they would be a key advantage should the interests of such a group turn in that direction, as Al-Zawahiri’s [1999] memorandum quoted above suggests they may.”

      In 1999, a scientist from Porton Down had reported to sfam members on a conference in Taos, New Mexico in August that included a talk by Tim Read, (TIGR, Rockville, USA) and concerned the whole genome sequencing of the Bacillus anthracis Ames strain. The Ames strain may have been a mystery to many after the Fall 2001 mailings, but not to motivated Society for Applied Microbiology (“SFAM”) members, one of whom was part of Ayman Zawahiri’s “Project Zabadi.” As described by Dr. Peter Turnbull’s Conference report for SFAM on “the First European Dangerous Pathogens Conference” (held in Winchester), at the September 1999 conference, the lecture theater only averaged about 75 at peak times by his head count. There had been a problem of defining “dangerous pathogen” and a “disappointing representation from important institutions in the world of hazard levels 3 and 4 organisms.” Papers included a summary of plague in Madagascar and another on the outbreak management of hemorrhagic fevers. Dr Paul Keim of Northern Arizona University presented a paper on multilocus VNTR typing, for example, of Bacillus anthracis and Yersinia pestis. There were more than the usual no-show presenters and fill-in speakers. In his report, Dr. Turnbull looked forward to a second, fully international conference in 2000 focused on the ever increasing problems surrounding hazard levels 3 and 4 organisms and aimed at international agreement on the related issues. University of Maryland researcher Milton Leitenberg reports that the conferences described in the correspondence had been in July and September 1999.

      The Sunday at the start of the Organization of the Dangerous Pathogens meeting in September 2000, which the SFAM director confirmed to me that Rauf Ahmad also attended, was gloomy. Planning had proved even more difficult than the International Conference on anthrax also held at the University of Plymouth, in September 1998. The overseas delegates included a sizable contingent from Russia. The organizers needed to address many thorny issues regarding who could attend. One of the scientists in attendance was Rauf Ahmad. The Washington Post reports: “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.” Les Baillie the head of the biodefense technologies group at Porton Down ran the scientific program. Many of the delegates took an evening cruise round Plymouth harbor. The cold kept most from staying out on the deck. Later attendees visited the National Marine Aquarium — with a reception in view of a large tankful of sharks. Addresses include presentations on plagues of antiquity, showing how dangerous infectious diseases had a profound that they changed the course of history. Titles include “Magna pestilencia – Black Breath, Black Rats, Black Death”, “From Flanders to Glanders,” as well as talks on influenza, typhoid and cholera. The conference was co-sponsored by DERA, the UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.

      Les Baillie of Porton Down gave a presentation titled, “Bacillus anthracis: a bug with attitude!” He argued that anthrax was a likely pathogen to be used by terrorists. As described at the time by Phil Hanna of University of Michigan Medical School on the SFAM webpage, Baillie “presented a comprehensive overview of this model pathogen, describing its unique biology and specialized molecular mechanisms for pathogenesis and high virulence. He went on to describe modern approaches to exploit new bioinformatics for the development of potential medical counter measures to this deadly pathogen.” Bioinformatics was the field that Ali Al-Timimi, who had a security clearance for some government work and who had done work for the Navy, would enter by 2000 at George Mason University in Virginia. Despite the cold and the sharks, amidst all the camaraderie and bonhomie no one suspected that despite the best efforts, a predator was on board — on a coldly calculated mission to obtain a pathogenic anthrax strain. The conference organizer Peter Turnbull had received funding from the British defense ministry but not from public health authorities, who thought anthrax too obscure to warrant the funding. By 2001, sponsorship of the conference was assumed by USAMRIID. USAMRIID scientist Bruce Ivins had started planning the conference held in Annapolis, Maryland in June 2001 three years earlier, immediately upon his return from the September 1998 conference.

      According to the Pakistan press, a scientist named Rauf Ahmad was picked up in December 2001 by the CIA in Karachi. The most recent of the correspondence reportedly dates back to the summer and fall of 1999. Even if Rauf Ahmad cooperated with the CIA, he apparently only confirmed the depth of Zawahiri’s interest in weaponizing anthrax and provided no “smoking gun” concerning the identity of those responsible for the anthrax mailings in the Fall 2001. Years ago the new sfam director emphasized to me that Ahmad’s only connection with SFAM was a member of the society — he was not an employee. The Pakistan ISI, according to the Washington Post article in October 2006, stopped cooperating in regard to Rauf Ahmad in 2003. In 2006, Pakistan was going to allow a Washington Post correspondent to interview Rauf Ahmad but then changed its mind.

      With the help of globe trotting Lew, I have uploaded scanned copies of some 1999 documents seized in Afghanistan by US forces describing the author’s visit to the special confidential room at the BL-3 facility where 1000s of pathogenic cultures were kept; his consultation with other scientists on some of technical problems associated with weaponizing anthrax; the bioreactor and laminar flows to be used in Al Qaeda’s anthrax lab; and the need for vaccination and containment. He explained that the lab director noted that he would have to take a short training course at the BL-3 lab for handling dangerous pathogens. Rauf Ahmad noted that his employer’s offer of pay during a 12-month post-doc sabbatical was wholly inadequate and was looking to Ayman to make up the difference. After an unacceptably low pay for the first 8 months, there would be no pay for last 4 months and there would be a service break. He had noted that he only had a limited time to avail himself of the post-doc sabbatical. I also have uploaded a handwritten copy of earlier correspondence from before the lab visit described in the typed memo. The Defense Intelligence Agency provided the documents to me, along with 100+ pages more, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). 90 of the 100 pages are the photocopies of journal articles and disease handbook excerpts.

      The Post, in an exclusive groundbreaking investigative report, recounts that 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 interrogating Rauf. Though not formally charged with any crimes, Rauf agreed to questioning. While the US media focused on the spectacle of bloodhounds alerting to Dr. Steve Hatfill and the draining of Maryland ponds, this former Al Qaeda anthrax operative provided useful leads. But problems began when the U.S. officials sought to pursue criminal charges, including possible indictment and prosecution in the United States. In earlier cases, such as the othopedic surgeon Dr. Amer Aziz who treated Bin Laden in the Fall of 2001, the Pakistani government angered the Pakistani public when it sought to prosecute professionals for alleged ties to al-Qaeda. In the case of Amer Aziz (Dr. Batarfi’s mentor), hundreds of doctors, engineers and lawyers took to the streets to demand his release. In 2003, the Pakistanis shut off U.S. access to Rauf. By then, I had noticed the reporting of his arrest in a press article about the raid of a compound of doctors named Khawaja and published it on my website. According to Pakistani officials, there was not enough evidence showing that he actually succeeded in providing al-Qaeda with something useful. Since then, the Post reports, Rauf has been allowed to return to his normal life. Attempts by the Post to contact Rauf in Lahore were unsuccessful. Initially the government agency had said an interview would be possible but then backpedaled.

      “He was detained for questioning, and later the courts determined there was not sufficient evidence to continue detaining him,” Pakistan’s information minister told the Post. “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.” Yazid Sufaat got the job handling things at the lab instead of Rauf Ahmad. More importantly, Zawahiri, if keeping with his past experience, would have kept things strictly compartmentalized — leaving the Amerithrax Task Force much to do. The Task Force was not up to the job and after recovering from the missteps made in pursuing a “Hatfill Theory” merely made some missteps in an entirely different direction. A GAO review needs to establish for the record the lab that Rauf Ahmad visited so that the implications can be fully understood.

      • DXer said

        MI5 investigating Al-Qaeda attempt to infiltrate British labs, get killer viruses

        Watch for the howls of protest to come, in which the possibility of Al-Qaeda’s actually obtaining such viruses will be lost amid cries of “racism” and infringement of privacy, etc. “M15 in terrorist checks on 800 killer virus labs,” by Jason Lewis in the Daily Mail (thanks to Sr. Soph):

        MI5 and anti-terrorist police are carrying out secret background checks on thousands of scientists amid fears that Al Qaeda is trying to infiltrate British research laboratories to obtain deadly viruses.

        The vetting, which includes checks on family backgrounds, political views and associates, is part of a review of some 800 laboratories in hospitals, universities and private firms where staff have access to incurable viruses such as ebola.

        Last night, Whitehall sources confirmed the crackdown by MI5 and the police’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office.

        A series of spot checks and detailed inspections are also being led by experts from the Health and Safety Executive.

        Last week one of the HSE’s top inspectors revealed details of its investigation, which until now has been highly secret.

        Dr Paul Logan, of its Biological Agents Unit, told a Commons sub-committee on biosecurity: “We work very closely with the security services. We advise them on toxins and pathogens.

        “They are looking at very different things at the moment in terms of vetting of staff, looking at physical security and how easy it is to break into premises and the wider security issues.”…

      • DXer said

        GAO: What was the lab that Rauf Ahmad visited in which he reported to Dr. Ayman that the targets had been acquired? Rauf is a Chatty Cathy and so if the FBI is too embarrassed to say, just ask Rauf directly by email.

        Vaccine. 1998 May;16(8):810-7.
        Protective efficacy of a recombinant protective antigen against Bacillus anthracis challenge and assessment of immunological markers.
        McBride BW, Mogg A, Telfer JL, Lever MS, Miller J, Turnbull PC, Baillie L.
        SourceCentre for Applied Microbiology and Research, Porton Down, Salisbury, UK.

        The efficacy of recombinant Bacillus anthracis Protective Antigen (rPA) produced in Bacillus subtilis and formulated in Alhydrogel or MPL-TDM-CWS (Ribi adjuvant) has been tested and compared to the licensed UK human vaccine in guinea pigs challenged by the aerosol route with the Ames strain of B. anthracis. rPA combined with the Ribi adjuvant was found to be the only formulation to provide 100% protection from challenge. Analysis of immunological parameters in the individual animals revealed significant differences between the rPA/Ribi vaccine group and rPA/Alhydrogel and human vaccine groups for antigen specific lymphocyte proliferation, PA neutralisation and antigen specific IgG2 levels, but indicated no significant differences in PA-specific IgG1 levels. rPA formulated in Alhydrogel induced a mainly IgG1 response whilst the rPA/Ribi vaccine produced a predominantly IgG2 response.

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