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

* Remembering Jonathan Tucker, a humble giant of biological and chemical weapons control

Posted by DXer on August 16, 2011


Jonathan Tucker


Remembering a humble giant of biological and chemical weapons control

“Jonathan was perfectly described by his close friend and fellow Yale graduate, Jonathan Winer, who said, “One thing important about Jonathan beyond reciting his wide-ranging academic, literary, and public policy achievements is a recognition of his importance to the community overall, because of his commitment to the truth, scrupulous approach to fact and information, and rigorous standard for making judgments.”

His intellectual and academic vigor, together with his journalistic instincts, were also stimulated by the 2001 anthrax attacks in Washington and elsewhere; he was skeptical of the FBI’s pursuit of both Steven Hatfill and Bruce Ivins as lone culprits. Hatfill was eventually found innocent and won a lawsuit against the FBI; a recent National Academy of Sciences analysis of the FBI probe has raised serious doubts about Ivins’s guilt. Finding Ivins’s case to be circumstantial and too thin to base firm judgments on, Jonathan wanted more evidence to reach a conclusion about what really took place. In fact, before his death Jonathan was considering writing a book on the anthrax affair. “

6 Responses to “* Remembering Jonathan Tucker, a humble giant of biological and chemical weapons control”

  1. DXer said

    Christina Wilkie
    Pentagon monitoring reports of possible Russian chemical weapons attack in Mariupol

    • A Pentagon spokesperson said the reports were not confirmed, but they reflect U.S. concerns about Russia’s “potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine.”

    [UK spokesman]: “We cannot confirm at this time and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

  2. DXer said

    Burning Eyes, Foaming Mouths: Years of Suspected Chemical Attacks in Syria


  3. DXer said

    Dr. Guillemin is experienced in biodefense matters.

    Solving the Sverdlovsk Mystery
    Jonathan B. Tucker*

    Guillemin blends epidemiology, Russian history, and the scientific method in her account of the 1992 investigation by U.S. scientists (in which she played a major role) into the cause of the anthrax epidemic that struck Sverdlovsk in 1979.


    Anthrax Hunting
    Published: January 16, 2000
    To the Editor:

    Paul Goldberg’s review of ”Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak,” by Jeanne Guillemin (Dec. 19), faults the author for not having written either a detective story or a scientific study. Guillemin wrote ”Anthrax” after she, as one of a team of scientists headed by Matthew Meselson of Harvard, went to Russia in 1992 to investigate a 1979 outbreak of anthrax-related deaths in the town of Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg).

    Guillemin reviewed countless official documents and personal records. She trudged from door to door to interview relatives of the deceased and survivors of the event. She overcame resistance at the government level as well as from many citizens. She scoured every imaginable place, including local graveyards, where she might find clues. Her goal was to try to determine if the anthrax-related deaths resulted from eating contaminated meat or were caused by a leak at a nearby military installation. I have witnessed firsthand the terrible effect that chemical and biological (CB) agents have on living things. Death from CB weapons is gruesome. Whether or not Meselson’s group nailed down the cause of the anthrax deaths is not as important as the fact that they, and in particular Guillemin, have sounded a call to the world about the dangers of CB weapons. For this everyone owes them gratitude.

  4. DXer said

    The same view is echoed by the FBI’s own experts.

    Nearly 2,000 miles away in Flagstaff, Arizona, Keim has his own concerns. “I don’t know if Ivins sent the letters,” he says with a hint of both irritation and sadness.

  5. Anonymous said

    Jonathan B. Tucker, 56, one of the country’s foremost experts on biological and chemical weapons and an influential nonproliferation advocate, was found dead July 31 at his home in the District.

    A spokeswoman in the District’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said determination of the cause of death was pending further investigation.


    Weigh In Corrections?

    (Jonathan Winer) – Jonathan B. Tucker, 56, an expert on biological and chemical weapons and an influential nonproliferation advocate, was known as much for his scholarship as for being a policy wonk.

    Last year, Dr. Tucker stepped down after nearly 15 years as a research fellow in Washington at what is now the Monterey Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. At his death, he was awaiting a security clearance for a new job at the Department of Homeland Security.

  6. DXer said

    Jonathan Tucker thought the dog experiment that was filmed involved hydrogen cyanide rather than a nerve agent.

    Disturbing scenes of death show capability with chemical gas

    August 19, 2002 Posted: 3:46 PM EDT (1946 GMT)

    From Nic Robertson
    ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) – Possibly the saddest and scariest tape of all those included in the archive of 64 al Qaeda tapes obtained by CNN is the one that shows the killing of three dogs.

    Coalition intelligence sources who have examined this tape said it appears to be an al Qaeda experiment with lethal chemicals at the terrorist group’s former Darunta camp in remote Afghanistan. The coalition sources said no intelligence agency is believed to have seen such poison-gas experiments before this tape, which is part of a large archive that sheds new light on Osama bin Laden’s terror network, with images of lessons on making explosives, terrorist training tactics and previously unseen images of bin Laden and his top aides. (Full story)

    The disturbing tape begins with several men, some wearing Afghan style sandals, rushing from a room, shouting to each other to hurry. A dog is left behind in the enclosure, and after the men leave, a white liquid that gives off a gas is seen seeping from the left. The men’s identity is never revealed.

    Soon, the dog begins reacting to the gas, licking his lips in a sign of increased salivation – a sign, say some of the experts who were shown the tape by CNN, of a nerve agent.

    “The first impression I had is that it’s a test or a demonstration of a very powerful and quick-acting chemical that behaves like a nerve agent…such as sarin, which was used in the Tokyo subway terrorist attacks in the 1990s,” said John Gilbert, a chemical weapons specialist for Science Applications International Corporation who advises the U.S. government.

    David Kay, formerly a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, watched the tapes along with Gilbert. For Kay, the tapes raise the specter of weapons of mass destruction.

    “It’s a powerful segment of tape, first of all, and the emotional response to seeing it is there,” Kay said, adding that his second reaction was one of “horror”. “Here again is another group that has managed to open the door to serious WMD capability.”

    Kay said he was convinced “above a reasonable doubt” that the gas on the tape is a nerve agent, possibly an improvised nerve agent or possibly sarin.

    Al Qaeda documents examined by CNN last fall in the bombed out ruins of the Darunta camp showed chemical formulas for sarin. Other documents connect the Darunta camp, a series of mud and stone buildings, to chemical testing.

    “You’re looking at the classical symptoms that the dog demonstrates,” Kay said, such as the loss of muscle control, leading to the loss of the ability to breathe and then to death.

    A senior Bush administration official, who was shown the tape by CNN, said he was “very troubled” by the implications. The official, who has knowledge of chemical weapons issues, said the video of the chemical tests on the dogs suggest a very strong desire to acquire the capability to use such weapons “obviously against humans.”

    “This tape,” said the official, “is unquestionable documentation that he [bin Laden] has some capability.”

    Until now, he said, he had seen nothing that indicated bin Laden or al Qaeda had chemical weapons capability.

    CNN also asked Jonathan Tucker, a chemical and bio-weapons specialist from the Monterey Institute, to examine the tape. He, too, said he was shocked by what he saw. But Tucker believes that the dog’s reaction to the gas indicate a form of cyanide, not a nerve agent.

    “We saw visible fumes from the material that you would not see from a nerve agent, but it is consistent with production of crude hydrogen cyanide gas,” Tucker said, adding that it appears to be a very crude binary weapon that terrorists would be attracted to because it is low-tech and safe to use.

    Frederick Sidell, another expert consulted by CNN who is retired from the U.S. Army’s Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, said evaluation of the chemical is very difficult.

    “The most common medical agent is something called mustard, which is a blister agent. And it’s certainly not that,” he said, adding that it also did not seem to him to be a nerve agent or cyanide.

    “The implication is that al Qaeda, or another terrorist group, could create a number of different ways of attacking people, for example, in an enclosed area, such as an airport lobby, or in a theater or a train or a bus,” Gilbert said. “Another is that it could be used against individuals selectively, who are targeted for assassination.”Whatever the substance may be, the implication of the laboratory tests was unmistakable for the experts consulted by CNN.

    Gilbert said the tape is highly significant. “I know there’s been a lot of speculation about the state of technology, and how far they may have advanced toward having a usable chemical weapon,” he said. “The fact that they were able to repeat tests or demonstrations on this tape indicates that they clearly have a way to produce a predictably lethal chemical.”

    Still, the tapes hide as much as they reveal.

    “Only in one instance do you actually see the liquid, which appears to be either poured or pumped out, going out,” Kay said. “You don’t see it the rest of the time. So, you really don’t know at what level they are – in terms of weaponizing it.

    “There are a lot more questions this tape leaves than answers, unfortunately,” he said. “Well, the questions are really bad questions.”

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