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

* UNCLASSIFIED (FORMERLY SECRET) – Technical Review Panel Meeting Summary, 14 Nov, 2001

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 27, 2011

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7 Responses to “* UNCLASSIFIED (FORMERLY SECRET) – Technical Review Panel Meeting Summary, 14 Nov, 2001”

  1. DXer said

    Perhaps Lloyd Larsen or Bruce Harper attended from Dugway Proving Ground.

    Prepared by: Laurel E. O’Connor
    BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS IMPROVED RESPONSE PROGRAM
    Dr. Bruce Harper Dr. Lloyd Larsen Dugway Proving Ground
    April 2001
    http://bioterrorism.slu.edu/bt/key_ref/DOD/decon_tech_bio_agent.pdf

    Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland 21010

    Performing best in the overall rankings were University of Michigan (U.Mich.), Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (LLNL).

    ***

    5.2 Contamination Process

    BG contamination was applied inside a chamber in Building 2026 of the LSTF [ Life Sciences Test Facility at Dugway ]. A BG aerosol spray, from a “Badger® Airbrush 100CL” with a fine nozzle, was directed from a distance of about 0.46 m (18 in) perpendicular to the surface of vertically suspended panels. Each panel received four passes with the aerosolspray. The target value for BG deposition densities was in the range of 107 to 108 colony forming units (CFU)/sample area (4 in2). The contamination level on each panel was determined as described below.
    This test evaluated surfaces contaminated by a sprayed aerosol directed at surfaces and did not consider heavier contamination that might be found in containers or in spills.

  2. DXer said

    The NAS, at page 51, discusses the Canadian study mentioned by the experts in the November 2001 Technical Summary.

    The NAS wrote:

    “On September 1, 2001, Defence Research Establishment Suffield (DRES) in Canada
    released the results of a study (FBI Documents, B2M11D1) that had been designed to measure
    and better understand the dispersion of spores that might occur after the opening of an envelope
    containing B. anthracis spores. This study involved a series of experiments in which envelopes
    containing either 0.1 or 1.0 gram of B. globigii spores at a concentration of ~1 × 1011 cfu/g (as a
    surrogate for B. anthracis spores) were opened in a DRES aerosol test chamber that was
    configured to represent a mail room or office. The chamber measured 18 × 10 × 10 ft (i.e., with a
    volume of 1,800 cu ft) and had a recirculating air handling system operating at 1,050 cu ft/min.

    The presence of spores at various sites in the chamber was assessed using culture-based
    approaches, not molecular detection methods. The results showed that the act of handling or
    opening these envelopes was “far more effective than initially suspected” in causing dispersion
    of spores in the chamber. Particles of respirable size were released quickly and spread
    throughout the chamber, such that after the opening of a 0.1 g spore envelope, 10 minutes of
    exposure to the air in the chamber would have provided a dose 480-fold greater than the amount
    needed to kill a human with 50 percent probability. The investigators noted that envelopes were
    more likely to cause cross contamination of the local environment, including the envelope
    handler, if the open corners of the envelope were not deliberately sealed by the preparer. The
    investigators at DRES did not seal the corners of the envelopes they used in these experiments.
    However, the corners of the envelopes mailed through the U.S. Postal System with B. anthracis
    spores in September and October 2001 apparently were sealed. This study was valuable in
    revealing the potential speed, magnitude, and spatial distribution of environmental contamination
    by spores subsequent to the handling or opening of a spore-laden envelope.”

    • DXer said

      September 10, 2001 “Risk Assessment of Anthrax Threat Letters”

      After the January 2001 anthrax threat, a Canadian research team undertook to assess the risk. The report titled “Risk Assessment of Anthrax Threat Letters” issued September 2001. The Canadian study found considerable exposure to those in the room resulted when such a letter was opened. Bacillus globigii spores (in dry powder form) were donated by the US Department of Defense (Dugway Proving Ground, Utah). Stock concentration powder was -1 x 10 11 cfu/gm. The anthrax sent to the Senators had a smaller particle size –tending toward a uniform 1 micron, subject to clumping that easily broke apart. Bacillus globigii (BG) spores are routinely used as a simulant for Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) spores. “The letter was prepared by putting BG spores in the center of a sheet of paper, folding it over into thirds, placing the folded sheet into the envelope and sealing using the adhesive present on the envelope. The envelope was then shaken to mimic the handling and tumbling that would occur during its passage through the postal system.” The aerosol, produced by opening the BG spore containing envelope, was not confined to the area of the desk but spread throughout the chamber. Values were almost as high at the opposite end of the chamber, shortly after opening the envelopes. 99% of the particles collected were in the 2.5 to 10 µm size range. The report explained: “In addition, the aerosol would quickly spread throughout the room so that other workers, depending on their exact locations and the directional air flow within the office, would likely inhale lethal doses. Envelopes with the open corners not specifically sealed could also pose a threat to individuals in the mail handling system.”

      More than 80% of the B anthracis particles collected on stationary monitors were within an alveolar respirable size range of 0.95 to 3.5 µm. Thus, the simulant performed very well. Those who continue to argue that the Daschle product was so advanced beyond what the US could do are mistaken. The CIA and CSIS feared that the Vanguards of Conquest would use the good stuff. The simulant used in the Canadian experiment involved mixing with silica at a Wisconsin dairy processor after it had been spraydried by the dairy processor at a different location.

      The CIA knew EIJ intended to use anthrax — from the proclamations of Jaballah’s friend, the captured military commander Mabruk and Jaballah’s brother-in-law’s former law partner Montasser al-Zayat. Authorities knew Al Qaeda was getting technical assistance from scientists — and that many of the senior Egyptian leaders had advanced or technical degrees

      Canadian officials explained they e-mailed the study to the CDC soon after reports of the discovery of anthrax at the American Media Inc. headquarters in Florida. The e-mail, however, was never opened, reports the lead CDC anthrax investigator, who regrets that he never read the email. “It is certainly relevant data, but I don’t think it would have altered the decisions that we made.” At one point, about 2,000 CDC employees were working on the anthrax matter. This Canadian report was perhaps the single most important scientific data point for the CDC to take into account. It certainly was one of the most important reports for the FBI to take into account (and now we see that by mid-November 2001 it was being cited and described as widely distributed)..

      Bail was denied by decision on October 5, 2001. Then highly potent anthrax was sent the next day just as had been promised. But Ayman apparently had returned to the target of his greatest interest — rather than a Canadian immigration minister, he and Shehata and their colleagues targeted the minister who oversaw the Department of Justice and appropriations to Egypt and Israel, and who gave his name (”the Leahy Law”) to the law that permits continuing appropriations to Egypt in the face of allegations of torture. Zawahiri never makes a threat he doesn’t intend to try to keep.

      Bill Patrick, often worked with George Mason University students in northern Virginia, had written a report in 1999 for a consultant SAIC at the request of Dr. Steve Hatfill. As one bioterrorism expert commented about the report: “Anytime you pick something up like this, and it seems to layout the whole story for you months or years before the fact, your immediate response is to step back and say ‘whoa, something may be going on here. “Our attacker may very well have used this report as something of a — if not a template, then certainly as a rule of thumb.”

      The Canadian experiments in 2001 showed that if anthrax spores were finely powdered, a letter could release thousands of lethal doses of the bacteria within minutes of being opened. Furthermore, large amounts of material leaked out of sealed envelopes even before they were opened. By then, more than two dozen federal government employees knew of the Canadian studies, which showed that a real anthrax threat letter was a far more dangerous weapon than anyone had believed. Within days, a dozen more people were informed of the now highly relevant experimental findings. Over the course of the next decade, one FBI investigative squad was focused on people who may have known of the study — such as William Patrick’s friend, Dr. Steve Hatfill. Another squad would be focused on the usual suspects and their friends. For the next seven years, the investigation would be shrouded in great secrecy.

    • DXer said

      The Reason The Canadian Study Was Done: Al Qaeda’s 2001 Threat To Use Mailed Anthrax In Connection With Jailed Vanguards Of Conquest No. 2 Leader And Former Bin Laden Sudan Farm Manager Mohammad Mahjoub

      On January 23, 2001, a Canadian court held that the Court did not have jurisdiction to decide the constitutional and Charter issues raised by detainee Mahjoub, thought to be #2 of the Vanguards of Conquest, and dismissed that part of the motion. A letter was received January 30, 2001 at the Citizenship and Immigration Office threatening to use anthrax. It was sent to Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan who had co-signed the detention certificate. Mahjoub had been sentenced in absentia to 15 years in prison in 1999 by Egyptian authorities for his involvement in Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Now, he was being detained without charges under an order co-signed by Immigration Minister Caplan and threatened with deportation. The postmark has never been publicly identified. Separately, hoax letters were also sent to American businesses and a Walmart in Saanich, British Columbia. Mahjoub had been in regular contact with a man named Marzouk, who had trained the 1998 embassy bombers and was captured in Baku, Azerbaijan in August 1998.

      Suspecting Mahjoub of being a shura member of the Vanguards of Conquest and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Canadian intelligence officials alleged Mahjoub had significant contacts with persons associated with international Islamic terrorism including Osama Bin Laden, Ahmad Khadr, Essam Marzouk, Vanguards founder Ahmed Agiza, and Osama Bin Laden’s principal procurement agent for weapons of mass destruction Mubarak Al Duri.

      When the letter was received in January 2001, the letter was sent by Department of National Defence jet to the Canadian Science Center for Human and Animal Health in Winnipeg for examination. Authorities also sent the filters from the Jean Edmonds building’s ventilation system. Authorities said they were treating it as a possible terrorist act against the department and noted that it “was the first time a government department has been targeted in this way.” The Ottawa alert came after one of the employees working in the Minister’s office opened a plain white envelope at 11:15 a.m. The employee discovered powder and a piece of paper in the envelope. Police refused to reveal from where it had been mailed. One source said the letter was unsigned and “mostly gibberish.” Indeed, the Fall 2001 letters might be described as mostly gibberish, and certainly the “JLo letter” — talking about Jennifer Lopez’ planned wedding — was. An internal government memo distributed to staff said “an initial analysis of the envelope revealed some traces of bacteria.”

      • DXer said

        Who Was The Egyptian Scientist In The Library Researching Anthrax As A Water Contaminant In The Summer of 2001?

        The Canadian government alleged that on the day of the 1998 bombing of the African embassies, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad military commander Mabruk had called Canadian Jaballah from Baku, Azerbaijan and told him to call the London cell members. Mabruk asked Jaballah to tell them they could reach him in the home of Shehata, who was in charge of Special Operations for Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Shehata was Jaballah’s brother-in-law and had been Jaballah’s lawyer in the 1980s in connection with problems with the government. (Shehata was Montasser al-Zayat’s law partner). Jaballah allegedly had been in regular contact with Mabruk, Shehata and the London cell members who faxed responsibility for the 1998 embassy bombings in which over 200 people died. Shehata’s former law partner, Montasser al-Zayat, and military commander Mabruk announced in March 1999 that Ayman Zawahiri was going to use anthrax against US targets in retaliation for the rendering of senior Egyptian Islamic Jihad leaders. Jaballah’s colleague Mahjoub was #2 in Zawahiri’s Vanguards of Conquest. When Mahjoub’s bail hearing was announced in January 2001, one of Zawahiri’s minions threatened to use anthrax if bail was denied. This was the subject of a February 2001 Presidential Daily Brief from the CIA to President Bush. Bail was denied on October 5, 2001. The potent anthrax was mailed to the US Senators the next day.

        The government alleges that at one point Jaballah reported to Mabruk that he had recruited individuals who had been members of the Muslim Brotherhood and emphasized that they had been tested and could be trusted.

        The government now publicly alleges that Jaballah was regularly in touch with Ayman Zawahiri by telephone. Zawahiri was head of Al Qaeda’s program to weaponize anthrax for use against US targets. The Globe and Mail, quoting allegations made public earlier this week, infers that “The new charges indicate CSIS targeted Mr. Jaballah almost as soon as he arrived in Canada [in 1996]. They make specific references to 1990s-era phone calls, and even include remarks about the suspect’s tone of voice. The
        documents cite code words Mr. Jaballah is alleged to have used or heard in his phone calls.”

        Was Mahmoud Jaballah the Egyptian scientist in the library in Ohio in June 2001 researching anthrax in water? The mailed anthrax was sent to the United Senators the day after bail was denied by the Canadians of his colleague, Mahmoud Mahjoub, who now is revealed to have been the #2 man in the Vanguards of Conquest under Cairo Medical alum Agiza.

        Stateside, in Ohio, there was the long-forgotten case of a mysterious Egyptian in the Summer of 2001 associated with the members of an alleged terror cell. The young men worked at a local chicken slaughterhouse and are more commonly known as the “Detroit cell.” In June 2001, they had an angry conversation about the detention of the Egyptian blind sheik Abdel-Rahman. Sometime before 9/11, an older Egyptian man with one of these young men made repeated attempts to obtain maps of the water supply system of Canton, Ohio. At the library, he studied books dealing with disease spread to human by animals such as anthrax. The Akron Beacon Journal reported that after 9/11, a librarian in Canton alerted authorities who called in the FBI. The man had visited the library as many as a half dozen times and asked for detailed maps of Canton’s water system and books concerning microbiology and animal borne diseases. Among the things the man sought were maps of waterlines running under Interstate 77 to Canton’s Mercy Medical Center. The librarian described the man as 50ish, with a slight paunch, and balding. Jaballah reports that he graduated from the University of Zagazig’s Faculty of Biology.

        Was the scientist in Ohio in June 2001 ever identified and questioned? According to the Akron Beacon Journal, the man told the librarian that he worked at Case Farms. After 9/11, Case Farms was investigated in connection with allowing illegal immigrants to work without proper identification. The Egyptian reportedly had lived with the young men in Canton for a time in the past year or so, according to the librarian. (Their names were Hanna and Koubriti). The FBI has never confirmed the story. Case Farms doesn’t confirm the story. The librarians won’t confirm the story. A reporter who went to the library in person at my request was shown the door. What news, if any, came out of the trial of members of the Detroit terror cell? Portions of the proceeding were sealed. During the same period, two of the men on trial reportedly had enrolled in a four-week truck-driving course.

        The “Detroit defendants” were arrested when the week after 9/11 authorities kicked down the door of the apartment that had the name Nabil al-Marabh on the mailbox. Knowing of his connection to Al Qaeda, the FBI had gone looking for him after 9/11. His lawyer handling a fender bender involving al-Marabh’s taxicab in Boston had a forwarding address for him. In considering how many Egyptians trained in biology taxi driver Nabil Al-Marabh knew, he knew Mahmoud Jaballah. Mahmoud Jaballah was a biology teacher and co-founder, with al-Marabh’s uncle, of an elementary school on the edge of Little Beirut in Toronto. After coming to
        Canada in 1996, Jaballah would contact Ayman regularly on Ayman’s Inmarsat satellite phone.

        Jaballah reports that he graduated at the University of Zagazig from what he described as “the Faculty of Biology.” A January 2008 decision addressed the conditions of Jaballah’s detention (such as whether his son could bring a wireless laptop home, why his apartment had DSL service etc.).

        Jaballah was rearrested in August 2001 even though an earlier security certificate was quashed. Why was he rearrested? Were authorities upset had gone off the radar for a matter of weeks? CSIS alleges Jaballah knew Mahmoud Mahjoub who the CSIS now for the first time alleges was #2 in the Vanguards of Conquest. CSIS alleges that Jaballah was in regular contact with both the Vanguards/Egyptian Islamic Jihad head of military operations and the head of special operations — with the latter being both his brother-in-law and lawyer. CSIS alleges that he has had contact for years with Hassan Farhat and Ali Hussein, whom they say were part of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Hassan Farhat was with the Ansar al-Islam. Hassan Farhat was a senior member of Ansar Al Islam, formed in 2001, and was arrested by Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq. Farhat was the Imam of the Salaheddin Mosque in Toronto, which was affiliated with the school founded by Jaballah, from 1997 to 2002. Farhat also lived in Montreal for a time where Jaballah visited him. For an organization that emphasizes cell security, Jaballah was well-connected. Did Hassan Farhat know Montrealer Jdey, who had part of the 911 plot until he pulled back for unknown reasons (that did not include cold feet)?

        After Jaballah’ s second arrest, Nabil al-Marabh’ s uncle, Ahmed Shehab, took over as principal at Jaballah’ s school. Shehab and Jaballah had shared control of the school with Jaballah as its co-founders. Was Jaballah the scientist researching anthrax in Canton, Ohio from May to July 2001? The man told the librarian that he had worked at a laboratory in Egypt where he had learned to detect pathogens otherwise not detectable. He said he wanted to help the United States detect pathogens. (The librarian said that his english was so poor, she would expect him to be asking about a green card; but she finally got the word “pathogens” out of him). Jaballah was 40 rather than 50ish. But he otherwise fit the description and from his picture looks older than his age.

        Aly Hindy, president of the affiliated Salaheddin Islamic Center, imam of its mosque and a civil engineer in Toronto, described the school to the Wall Street Journal in December 2001. “We had to take our children out” of the public-school system, which teaches about “homosexuality” and allows undue “mixing between boys and girls.” The Wall Street Journal article explains: “Mr. Jaballah helped organize the curriculum at Salaheddin during the summer of 2000 and taught Arabic for a few months. “He wanted to be principal. I told him no,” Mr. Hindy says, because his English wasn’t good enough.”

        As likely explained in the still-classified February 2001 Presidential Daily Brief (”PDB”), a threat to use anthrax was mailed to the Canadian immigration minister in late January 2001 if bail was denied. The mailed anthrax was sent to the United Senators the day after a judge denied bail to Jaballah’s colleague, Mahmoud Mahjoub, who now is revealed have once been the #2 man in Vanguards of Conquest.

        Amerithrax appears to represent the greatest intelligence failure in the history of the United States.

  3. DXer said

    The NAS concluded:

    “S.4 Silicon was present in the letter powders but there was no evidence of intentional
    addition of silicon-based dispersants.

    While any deliberate mailing of letters containing anthrax spores might be considered a
    form of spore “weaponization,” this term has been more commonly used to describe preparations
    with enhanced properties of dispersion and aerosolization. It is commonly believed that
    deliberate efforts to make a powder more dispersible through the use of additives would suggest
    a more sophisticated level of preparation expertise. Thus, the presence of dispersants, such as
    nanoparticulate silica or bentonite, was an important feature in considering whether or not the
    letters contained “weaponized” anthrax spores.

    • Although significant amounts of silicon were found in the powders from the New York
    Post, Daschle, and Leahy letters, no silicon was detected on the outside surface of spores
    where a dispersant would reside. Instead, significant amounts of silicon were detected
    within the spore coat of some samples. The bulk silicon content in the Leahy letter
    matched the silicon content per spore measured by different techniques. For the New York
    Post letter, however, there was a substantial difference between the amount of silicon
    measured in bulk and that measured in individual spores. No compelling explanation for
    this difference was provided to the committee. (Finding 4.3)

    • Surrogate preparations of B.anthracis did reproduce physical characteristics (purity,
    spore concentration, dispersibility) of the letter samples, but did not reproduce the large
    amount of silicon found in the coats of letter sample spores. (Finding 4.4)”

    • DXer said

      GAO: Were any silica / silicon products found at the OCONUS sites?

      NAS writes:

      “3.4.3 Samples from an Overseas Site Identified by Intelligence

      In December 2010-January 2011, the FBI first made available to the Committee “AMX
      Weekly Science Updates” and a newly de-classified document that described the collection and
      analysis of environmental samples from an undisclosed site outside the continental United States
      (OCONUS) for the presence of B. anthracis Ames (FBI/USDOJ, 2011, FBI Documents, WFO
      Report). This work was performed as part of the anthrax letters investigation. Few details were
      made available to the committee.

      At least three sample collection missions were conducted by the FBI and/or partners from
      the intelligence community at an overseas site because of information about efforts by Al Qaeda
      to develop an “anthrax program” (FBI/USDOJ, 2011). In May 2004, the FBI and partners from
      the intelligence community visited an overseas location at which they had been told an anthrax
      program had been operating, and brought back swab and swipe samples to the United States.
      None of the samples grew B. anthracis after incubation in culture media. However, three swab
      samples were reported as positive for B. anthracis and for B. anthracis Ames-specific sequences
      by PCR, including swabbings from the outside of an unopened medicine dropper package, a
      sink, and a sink drain hose. Repeat testing of these three positive samples as part of a group of
      15 blinded samples, including soil samples, water blanks and non-Ames Bacillus species, again
      yielded positive results for two of the three same samples (and for none of the other samples).
      However, not all replicates of the DNA extracts from the positive samples gave positive results.
      Apparently, an earlier collection mission to this site, prior to May 2004, by others in the
      intelligence community had also yielded samples with positive PCR results for B. anthracis …”

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