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

* Tara O’Toole, the undersecretary for biosecurity at Homeland Security Department, says that the FBI did not establish that the anthrax came from USAMRIID but that it was merely the FBI’s “working hypothesis” and a “supposition”; she mentioned other active hypotheses.

Posted by DXer on October 13, 2011


Tara O’Toole


 Tara O’Toole is the Undersecretary for Biosecurity at Homeland Security Department.  

Toward at the end of a seminar (10/13/11) sponsored by the Center for American Progress,  in response to a question about the dangers posed by proliferation of labs, O’Toole said that …

  • the FBI has not proven that the mailed anthrax came from USAMRIID.
  • She says that is “a working hypothesis.”
  • She says that the NAS report is the place to go to get behind the FBI’s “supposition.”


Anthrax Revisited: The Outlook for Biopreparedness in the United States



28 Responses to “* Tara O’Toole, the undersecretary for biosecurity at Homeland Security Department, says that the FBI did not establish that the anthrax came from USAMRIID but that it was merely the FBI’s “working hypothesis” and a “supposition”; she mentioned other active hypotheses.”

  1. DXer said

    Joe Lieberman, who is now said by President Trump to be the frontfunner for the FBI Director position, questioned Tara O’Toole in this C-SPAN video.

    Clip: U.S. Bioterrorism Threats Clip: U.S. Bioterrorism Threats

    Joe Lieberman
    All told, five people died from anthrax inhalation. Two were postal workers. And one, close to my home, was a 94-year-old woman from Connecticut. Twenty-two others were sickened. And thousands, including a lot of members of Congress and our staffs, took a course of powerful antibiotics to ward off possible infection.

    Joe Lieberman
    We remember those days well around here, because one of the letters was sent to Senator Daschle’s office in the Hart Building, where my office was and is located. The building was evacuated and closed for months while haz-mat teams secured it.

    Joe Lieberman
    Three years ago, the Graham-Talent commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism concluded that a biological weapon was more likely than any other weapon of mass destruction to be used in an attack against our country. The commission predicted that such an attack would probably occur somewhere in the world within the five years after its report, which was three years ago. They concluded then that the federal government was not prepared to respond adequately.

    Joe Lieberman
    At the Department of Homeland Security, the National Bioforensics Analysis Center studies new bioforensic methods and identifies the DNA of biological agents so criminal investigators can pinpoint their source. The Obama administration is also tightening security at laboratories that use the most dangerous pathogens and those most likely to be capable of being weaponized. I’m pleased to note that legislation which this committee produced in October of 2009 has helped to facilitate this administration action.

  2. DXer said

    As between Steven Salzberg’s spin and Tara O’Toole’s remarks, I favor Dr. O’Toole’s remarks. Although I think both have been associated with JHU, Dr. Salzberg does a disservice to truth with his narrow sound bytes. If he was involved in Amerithrax or left any footprint, I missed it (and I’ve read tens of thousands of pages on the subject.)

    • DXer said

      Now as to Dr. Salzberg’s advice on having to do the math on the SAT quickly, as he advises as a science blogger for Forbes, I credit that. And I credit his focus on the actual past tests and the value of his hands-on work with his daughter. I envy him the rapport. (I don’t think my daughter would go for that.) (Unlike Dr. Salzberg, I also likely would find the math hard if I tried it. We don’t give our kids enough credit — they are learning a lot). I got an 800 on my LSAT but I was wearing my lucky socks and took a No-Doz during the pee break. After changing a bunch of answers after the No-Doz, I could have missed 13 and still gotten an 800. (This, of course, was before the anti-doping problems that the Russians face). My answers were perfect before being curved. Just like they were in Amerithrax. I know lots of people who knew Dr. Ayman Zawahiri well and my information is extremely good.

      As a man of science, if Steve Salzberg thinks the science excludes an Al Qaeda theory, he is seriously wrong. (I don’t know that is what he thinks, but that is the company he is keeping … he beamed on twitter at having been quoted by Mr. WIllman whose key witness wrote a book about her psychotic break with reality during the time of her part-time gig where she met Dr. Ivins a couple of times as an addictions counselor). I hope as a man of science Steve will study relevant documents as they are produced.

      Because what is going to happen soon — and the documents that are going to be produced — will not bode well for the career of the people who were not well-informed by the documents and the dispassionate pursuit of truth.

      Tests in real life are not graded on a curve.

  3. DXer said

    No, America’s terror threat is not coming from ‘Latinos’
    Raw Story‎ – 14 hours ago

    Unknown perpetrators caused five deaths in the anthrax attacks of 2001.

  4. DXer said

    Please go and vote for my daughter’s emergency preparedness video. You just select her name and then click to submit.

    RedCross wants you be prepared for an emergency with things like food and water, flashlight, first aid kit.

    In many parts of the country, extreme weather regularly proves it a good idea.

  5. DXer said

    Tara O’Toole’s successor is West Point graduate Dan Gerstein, author of the book “National Security and Arms Control in the Age of Biotechnology” (Rowman & Littlefield, May 2013). He has a PhD in Biodefense from George Mason University. He has wide-ranging and deep experience, to include, for example, serving on the Holbrooke Delegation that negotiated the peace settlement in Bosnia.

    He addressed these general issues in “Bioterror in the 21st Century: Emerging Threats in a New Global Environment,” (Naval Institute Press 2009).

    In a very readable 2010 article, he wrote “Bioterror in the 21st Century: Emerging Threats in a New Global Environment,”

    “An important note is that during
    combat operations in Afghanistan in 2001,
    documents were seized indicating al Qaeda’s
    interest in developing a BW capability; few
    details have emerged concerning the intended
    purpose of the weapons or how far their
    developmental effort have progressed.”

    In a review of his 2010 meaty substantive and scholarly book, one reviewer writes:

    “He points to a chilling autobiography by one of Osama bin Laden’s sons, in which the son notes the anguish he and his brothers and sisters felt at watching their pets used for biological weapons experiments. This is a very real threat.”

    “Mr. Gerstein begins with a history of biological warfare and takes us through the tangled world that finally led to the anthrax attacks of 2001.”


    “In one scenario that Mr. Gerstein postulates, innocent biotechnical researchers are conned by terrorists posing as colleagues to give up secrets pertaining to peaceful purposes in order to speed the terrorists’ development of a very serious biological weapon.”


    “Perhaps the most frightening thing about this subject is that the most likely terrorists in the near future are not near illiterate peasants. They are generally well educated but disaffected young Muslim men whose job and marital ambitions seem limited in their parent societies. Some are trained biochemists and biotechnical experts, exactly the kind of people bin Laden is looking to let loose on his next batch of pups.”

    I once had a colleague who was a West Point graduate. His name was Jack Cleland. Occasionally I have a daydream where I’m in trouble and I only have one phone call: In the daydream, it’s always Jack who I would call.

    Anthrax, Al Qaeda and Ayman Zawahiri: The Infiltration Of US Biodefense

    • DXer said

      Coincidentally, it was the late Richard Holbrooke who headed the DC venture fund that financed NanoBio. And it was at GMU where Ali Al-Timimi, who was coordinating with Anwar Awlaki, shared a suite with the leading DARPA-funded Ames anthrax researchers.

      Judging by Ayman Zawahiri’s global success over the last 14 years, it seems that the wrong school ties have proved dominant.

  6. DXer said

    In the video,

    Anthrax Revisited: The Outlook for Biopreparedness in the United States
    October 13, 2011

    Tara O’Toole says it was just the FBI’s “working hypothesis” that the anthrax originated at USAMRIID — it was the FBI’s supposition. (See video starting at 2:34:05.) She says that there are other “active hypotheses.” She gives her answer on the stage while sitting along with Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security Director at the time of the attacks and Senator Tom Daschle, who was one of the Senators who received the mail. Senator Daschle referred the question to her. (Someone from MIT, Jean G., asked the question).

    Note that Dr. O’Toole explains that NBACC does the science these days for the FBI. She explains that NBACC is under her purview — at the time was suggesting that the FBI pay for the NBACC’s work on these issues.

    I have corresponded with Dr. O’Toole extensively but rely only on the linked video.

    • DXer said

      The program was sponsored by the Center for American Progress. Tom Daschle is the Chair of the CPA’s Board of Directors and a Distinguished Senior Fellow there.

  7. DXer said

    Anthrax Revisited: The Outlook for Biopreparedness in the United States
    October 13, 2011

    A full video of the event is here:

    • DXer said

      “1 dead, dozens hurt after Metro car fills with smoke,” Washington Post, January 13, 2015

      “Rogers estimated that it was 40 minutes before the rescue teams reached the stranded train cars. Using flashlights, rescuers led coughing passengers from the train, through a tunnel that had the stink of a chemical fire combined with the smell of burning wood.”

      Comment: What if it had been anthrax?

      By its withholding of key traditional forensic tests, all of which tended to be exculpatory of Dr. Ivins, the FBI failed to clear the air in connection with the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings.

      In the video below, Daschle says that if a 1 kilogram were released over Manhattan, it would take 44 years to decontaminate. (Daschle, 1:22)

      “I believe the threat has increased and is increasing.”

      Politicians and lobbyists are focused on spending money when they instead should be focused on transparency and accountability and analysis that costs next to nothing.

      Inside the beltway, it’s all about money and CYA — while the American people get taken for a ride and gag.

    • DXer said

      With regard to the smoke now also filling New York City subways, note that it is both New York City and Washington, D.C. that Dr. Ayman Zawahiri is targeting to kill in a mass attack.

      Anthrax, Al Qaeda and Ayman Zawahiri: The Infiltration of US Biodefense

      It would cost nothing for Tara O’Toole to pick up the phone and ask that the FBI have a paralegal scan and upload the traditional forensic tests that tended to be exculpatory of Dr. Ivins.

      In the haze that surrounded the dog and pony show of the morphs, these traditional tests were overlooked and not produced.

      Updated 7 mins ago
      NEW YORK (WABC) –A third-alarm fire is burning underneath Penn Station in Midtown.

      The blaze is moving through construction sheds two floors beneath Eighth Avenue and West 33rd Street. It broke out just after 2:30 a.m. but Penn Station remained open.

      The construction area is two floors below grade in Penn Station under the West End Concourse. The main body of fire has been knocked down, and small pockets of fire are being extinguished.

      Heavy smoke filled the subway station on the A, C and E subway lines. A and E subway trains are bypassing the 34th Street station. The subway station has been evacuated of all MTA employees.

      Firefighters also cut off power to some Long Island Rail Road tracks, which did not immediately affect service. LIRR reports no service disruptions. All train traffic on the above mentioned tracks have been moved tracks 13-17.

      More than 100 firefighters were battling the underground blaze.

      • DXer said

        Last week was the 100th anniversary of a New York City fire.

        by David Shedden
        Published Jan. 6, 2015 8:00 am
        Updated Jan. 5, 2015 1:48 pm

        A fire spread smoke into New York’s subway system 100 years ago today. One person died.

        It took place early enough for afternoon newspapers to publish the news on their front pages. Morning papers across the country reported the story the next day.

        Details about the fire were featured in this 2012 Daily Mail story:

        “On January 6, 1915, an electrical short in a manhole sparked a fire that pumped smoke into the subway line under Broadway at West 55th Street, resulting in chaos for a quarter-million commuters, claiming the life of one passenger….
        ….’Crowded in seats and on platforms and hanging to straps, they had no warning of the disaster until the lights in the trains suddenly went out and the cars gradually stopped,’ the (New York) Times wrote.
        ‘Even then, amid the dim light from the two emergency lamps in each car, there was little suspicion of the gravity of the trouble.’
        But when the fumes reached the carriages, guards refused to let passengers out, insisting it was against company rules to open doors between stations. Even when they themselves became sick, they remained stubborn.
        ‘The panic spread until there was a frantic fight in the darkness,’ the Times reported. ‘Windows were broken, seats torn up and smashed against the panes, and crowds rushed against the end and side doors.
        ….Although the fire never reached the trains, passengers were overcome with smoke. A 39-year-old woman, Ella Grady, lost her life, and more than 210 people were ‘overcome by smoke or trampled upon’.”

      • DXer said

        Fire beneath Penn Station causing subway service changes, January 13, 2015

        Firefighters are fighting a 3-alarm fire below Penn Station that may severely affect the morning commute.

        The blaze was reported 2:19 a.m. for a fire below ground at Penn Station, FDNY says. Most of the fire has been taken care of but there’s a heavy smoke condition at the transit hub.

        They said it started beneath Penn Station at a construction site for the LIRR.

      • DXer said

        Train Service Resumes After “Suspicious” Fire at Penn Station: FDNY

      • DXer said

        There was a small debris fire at the L-Enfant Plaza Metro last week that was put out. The fire was in a light fixture (under the grate).

        I love riding DC Metros. It made commuting so incredibly easy. I also love riding the New York subway. People in both cities are very nice to tourists on their subway system.

        VIDEO: L’Enfant Plaza Metro track fire
        11:11 a.m. EST January 7, 2015

  8. DXer said

    Thought question: If Ayman Zawahiri attacks New York City and DC with aerosolized anthrax and 37,000 people die, what would be the consequence career-wise for the people who didn’t correct their mistake?

  9. DXer said

    Graeme MacQueen’s libel of Tara O’Tooleat page 129 is wrong. Clarity Press should excise that portion in the Discussion of the “Dark WInter” exercise.

    MacQueen wrote:

    “In any case, foreknowledge of the anthrax attacks, widely accepted in the fall of 2001 as deriving from a valid process of intelligence gathering, is today a highly visible sign of fraud. The foreknowledge did not derive from valid intelligence gathering, and because we now know this, we are justified in assuming it derived from the perpetrators of the attacks.”

    We do NOT now know this. Indeed, Graeme hasn’t demonstrated squat about Al Qaeda’s anthrax program or planning. I haven’t even seen him mention the names Rauf Ahmad or Yazid Sufaat.

    Nothing like folks who know how to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory — not angry about 9/11 and yet content with thinking from 2002.

  10. DXer said

    In formal parlance, Tara O’Toole is the Big Kahuna. She is both expert and important, a potent combination.

    JAG should produce under FOIA the attached photos of the Ames sent in 1998 to an outside researcher ; the handwriting on the vials was not Bruce Ivins’ handwriting
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 9, 2014

    • richard rowley said

      I agree: O’Toole is, aside from a few politicians, the single most important person to have cast doubt on the Amerithrax investigation. Precisely because she wasn’t a friend of Ivins, had/has no axe to grind, and is a microbiologist of distinction, familiar with so many of the scientific aspects of the case.

  11. DXer said

    Dr. Vahid Majidi dismisses the opinion of this scientist who is in charge of biosecurity at the Homeland Security Department of the United States. Now she doesn’t think the moon landing was faked. And she did not know Dr. Ivins. And so his basis for dismissing the independent opinion of the scientist is unclear to me.

    Could it be that he is just engaged in CYA in light of Dr. Bruce Ivins’ suicide? Might he have instead in writing the book delved deeper into the documents to question his hypothesis and conclusions? To kick the tires?

    Might he have done more to ensure a production of the numerous forensic reports still being withheld by the FBI THAT ARE EXCULPATORY OF DR. IVINS?


  12. Old Atlantic said

    Supposition v ready to indict Ivins when he died. At the point of getting an indictment they should be ready to go to trial. That would include:

    1) Being able to replicate the silicon and tin in the letter anthrax.

    2) Show that the processing steps could be done in the BSL3 without detection in the times stated.

    3) Account for all records of his activity in the lab during the times stated he was processing letter anthrax.

    They were going to indict him without any of this being done?

  13. richard rowley said

    Holy smoke! It seems that the whole case is crashing down around them. Why did it take so long?!?

    • DXer said

      Because of the withholding document. For example, each of those 88 batches of emails would take weeks — due to DOJ putting on the brakes.

      DOJ still has failed to produce the lab notebooks relating to the Covance study.

      Indeed, they are not producing anything.

  14. They can try to work out a comprehensive DNA lineage for Ames from the cow to every flask of it in the world.

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