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

* MOST WANTED BOOK: “Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror”

Posted by DXer on January 19, 2012



“gripping and finely textured double biography” — Economist



MSNBC has an excerpt from a new book published Tuesday about the war on terror, “Wanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui,” by Deborah Scroggins.

“Wanted Women” tells the story of two extraordinary women catapulted to fame by the war on terror.

  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the Somali-born activist and author of the bestselling autobiography “Infidel,” whose life was threatened for her criticism of Islam.
  • Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani neuroscientist and mother of three serving an 86-year prison sentence for firing on United States personnel who came to question her in Afghanistan.
  • Siddiqui disappeared in 2003, shortly after the FBI listed her as wanted for questioning about her ties to al-Qaeda. Many Pakistanis believe she was kidnapped and spent the missing years leading up to her capture in 2008 in a secret US or Pakistani prison.
  • But as author Deborah Scroggins describes in this excerpt from her new book, CIA officials say that they were still hunting for Siddiqui during that period.

Excerpt from “Wanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui,” (c) Deborah Scroggins.  Except printed courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Deborah Scroggins’ book “Emma’s War” was translated into ten languages and won the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize. Scroggins has written for The Sunday Times Magazine, The Nation, Vogue, Granta, and many other publications. She won two Overseas Press Club awards and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award as a foreign correspondent for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.


11 Responses to “* MOST WANTED BOOK: “Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror””

  1. DXer said

    Deborah Scroggin’s book is a very high quality book. I don’t know the field but I think it will win major awards.


    “Abu Zubaydah named Adnan Shukrijumah as the person al-Qaeda was most likely to use as an operative in a future attack on the United States.”

    Excerpt describing an interview where FBI agents questioned Aafia and her first husband (who were represented by counsel):

    “What about Adnan Shukrijumah? Was he a friend of theirs?

    Amjad said no, he didn’t know anyone named Shukrijumah. Aafia also shook her head.

    The agent asked Aafia if she was sure she didn’t know Shukrijumah.

    She repeated that she didn’t.

    The agent gave her a long stare. In that case, he said, why had she e-mailed him?

    Aafia was silent. “May I see this e-mail?” their lawyer interjected.

    The agent just looked at them. The e-mails are classified, he said. But we have them and more like them. Then he asked about some other people that Amjad had never heard of.”

    • DXer said

      Email correspondence with US-based operatives was seized on her thumb drive when she was picked up in Afghanistan.

    • DXer said

      [After the first meeting with FBI agents, Aafia’s brother and her husband urged her to go to the second interview that had been planned]

      “He and Amjad begged Aafia to go to the meeting. But she told them she couldn’t.

      “Do you want to kill me?” she screamed at Amjad. “Do you want to kill the children!” If you make me stay here, that is what you be doing!”

      Amjad couldn’t understand why she was so frightened. ***

      The Tufts New England Medical Center granted him a one-year leave of absence, and the family left for Karachi on June 26, 2002.

  2. DXer said


    “There should be ten more 9/11’s if that is what it takes to wake Americans up to what their government is doing.”

    She said it with so little affect that I had to remind myself that she and Khawaja were friends of Obama bin Laden and that Daniel Pearl, as Khawaja kept reminding me, had been kidnapped and murdered not long after he had visited this very apartment. I began to notice that every time I steered the conversations back to Aafia, Khawaja returned to Pearl’s kidnapping.”

    • DXer said


      “On March 10, the FBI appeared at the door of Aafia’s sister [a neurologist who worked at Johns Hopkins ] in Baltimore. …

      “The news [in March 2003] that the FBI for her evidently sent Aafia into a panic. …

      It seems that rather than going to her uncle’s home Aafia went into hiding with the al-Baluchi clan… …

      Her intimacy with KSM’s family did not end there. …

      She said she and Ali [KSM’s nephew who facilitated the entry of the hijackers into the US] in the inner courtyard of the family’s house. ”

      …Ali later himself told U.S. investigators that he told Aafia that al-Qaeda had set up a biological weapon lab. He had asked her advice on how long it would take develop such weapons and whether the man in charge was capable of it. He said she had been willing to participate but that he had never asked or considered allowing her to work in the laboratory.” (p. 246)

      “Uzair said that he had never met Aafia SIddiqui. But when the agents asked him if he thought she was the kind of person who would agree to receive anthrax through the mail, he told them he thought she was.” (p. 248)

      “His admission seemed to shock the agents. He was arrested and taken to New York Metropolitan’s Detention Center.” (p. 248).

      The very next day, March 29, 2003, Pakistan and U.S. news media began airing a confusing series of on-again, off-again reports that Aafia had been arrested — reports that to this day have led some people to believe that she was captured during that period, handed over to the Americans, and then held in a secret prison for the next five years. Others (and I count myself in this group) believe that she may have been arrested but was probably released soon afterward.” (p. 248)

      Comment: The BOLO issued included a notice for Jdey who had biology textbooks when he was detained along with Moussaoui. What books did he have?

      • DXer said

        The ACLU in a February 2004 publication called “Sanctioned Bias: Racial Profiling Since 9/11” described Aafia’s brother first encounter with the FBI. Muhammad A. Siddiqui is an architect in Houston and father of two young children. Someone with the same common name, as mentioned in the court record relating to Project Bojinka. United States of America v. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef et al, (August 26, 1996), page 5118. A letter was read into the record

        “To: Brother Mohammad Alsiddiqi. We are facing a lot of problems because of you. Fear Allah. Mr. Siddiqi, there is a day of judgment. You will be asked, if you are very busy with something more important, don’t give promises to other people. See you in the day of judgment. Still waiting, Khalid Shaikh, and Bojinka.”

        In addition to many people having this very common name, people often used aliases. The attorney, Dietrich Snell, at the time was under the impression it related to a solicitation for money. Attorney Snell was from the US Attorney’s Office. More recently, Snell acted as counsel for the 9/11 Commission. He served as Deputy Attorney General for Public Advocacy under Eliot Spitzer. What was the address of the recipient? Who was Muhammad Siddiqui with whom KSM corresponded?

        Attorney General Ashcroft and Director Mueller made an on-the-record renewed push to find Aafia Siddiqui in a press conference on May 26, 2004 shortly after ACLU Attorney Annette Lamoreaux responded to my emailed inquiries about Aafia. Three days after the Pakistan Ministry of Interior claimed she had been handed over to US authorities in late March 2003.

        There are the many questions surrounding the mystery of the disappearance of the lovely, intelligent and pious — and it turns out occasionally quite chatty — Aafia Siddiqui. Aafia once had an MIT alumni email account forwarded to — which under one translation means lively mom. Aisha was the Prophet’s favorite wife. Maybe correspondence in that email account held the answers.

        In a Pakistan news account, Attorney Whitfield Sharp said she doesn’t know of any police report filed by the mom. In the same account, she reports that Aafia received job offer at both Johns Hopkins and the State University of New York (SUNY). It likely was SUNY downstate in Brooklyn where her sister had gone to school and lived. (Her mother Ismat is associated with addresses in Brooklyn, as well as Massachusetts, in Houston, and in Ann Arbor where Mohammad’s wife had a medical practice. Mohammad is associated with some Ann Arbor and Detroit-area addresses. Ann Arbor, coincidentally, was where IANA was located, as well as the President of Global Relief.

        When he was captured, Al-Baluchi, Khalid Mohammed’s nephew and Aafia Siddiqui’s husband, “was in possession of a perfume spray bottle which contained a low concentration of cyanide when he was arrested.” He was the fellow who met with Majid Khan about using a textiles shipping container to smuggle an unidentified chemical into the country. Cyanide in perfume bottles had been suggested for use in nightclubs in Indonesia but Bin Laden reportedly nixed the plan as ineffectual.

        The transcript from the Combatant Status Review Tribunal explains:
        MEMBER [AL-BALUCHI]: While you were in Pakistan you describe the cyanide…
        DETAINEE: [Interrupting the Member]
        MEMBER: … you had in your possession, a small amount, as being textile, chemical-oriented.
        DETAINEE: Yes.
        MEMBER: Why would you have that on your person?
        DETAINEE: Just I have. Wasn’t for specific purpose but I have. It’s ah…
        MEMBER: Did you have an intent to use it once you got there? What were you going to do with it?
        DETAINEE: No, no. Just ah, it’s use for clothing to remove the color. And something in Pakistan it’s something that they do. It’s bleach like kinda bleach but industrial bleach so.”

        According to the DOD formal charges issued in February 2008, KSM would give the hijackers a chemical in an eye dropper to remove Pakistan visas from their passport. Perhaps the low concentration of cyanide in the perfume bottle used to remove stains just related to that — rather than consideration of a plot to spray cyanide in a nightclub that had been vetoed by Bin Laden.

        But here’s a Helpful Heloise Tip. Before attempting to get that damn spot out, first get rid of that incriminating pocket litter. The transcript from the hearing on al-Baluchi’s status as an “unlawful combatant” continues: “The Detainee’s pocket litter included a letter from unidentified Saudi Arabian scholars to Usama bin Laden. The letter discussed al Qaida’s strategy in the War on Terror.” Upon her arrest in the summer of 2008, Aafia’s pocket litter included both documents about biological weapons and correspondencing referencing cells and attacks.

        Will Aafia Siddiqui cooperate about other US-based operatives?

      • DXer said

        GAO, did the PhD neurologist Aafia Siddiqui have potential access to the virulent Ames strain at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston? She reports she was tasked by someone named “Abu Lubaba” to research germ warfare. When was that? When did she first get the assignment? Was it from the JI fatwa issued by the fellow with that name.

        As to distribution of virulent Ames, veterinarian and anthrax expert Martin Hugh-Jones, a professor at Louisiana State University, has said: “It was like trading baseball cards.” Hugh-Jones reports he got most of his anthrax from Peter Turnbull at the Porton Down lab in Great Britain, one of those that had received the Ames strain directly from Ft. Detrick. Dr. Theresa Koehler at Houston and Hugh-Jones discussed the distribution of Ames on NPR in January 2002:

        Ms. KOEHLER: Because Ames is used by investigators all over the world, does it matter if originally the strain came from Texas or came from Iowa? I don’t think so.

        Mr. MARTIN HUGH-JONES (Louisiana State University): I think the most important point is that we didn’t have Ames in this country in anybody’s collection prior to 1980. I think that’s very, very clear. And I think that limits the list of possible suspects quite considerably.

        KESTENBAUM: Martin Hugh-Jones also has an answer to the mystery of why one paper listed the Ames strain as dating back to 1932. He was an author on that paper. When his team got the Ames sample, it was labeled `10/32,’ which turns out to have meant `Sample number 10 out of 32.’ But they interpreted it as October 1932. David Kestenbaum, NPR News, Washington.

        Dr. Theresa M Koehler holds a faculty appointment at the UT Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She is Associate Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. She has had grants from the CIA, the National Institutes of Health, and others for her work on virulence. Her office was in the same complex, in the connected John Freeman Building. Aafia’s sister-in-law, Dr. Lubna Khawaja, had an office there. In Fall 2001, Dr. Koehler said she had taken the anthrax vaccine and that she got anthrax strains from Porton Down. In the Spring of 2003, Dr. Koehler explained that “It’s critical to use a genetically complete strain of the [anthrax] bacterium in experiments involving virulence.” A government study reported in April 2003 found that all of the labs that had received grants from the National Institutes of Health had unobstructed access to the floors with critical labs.

        Ten million gallons of water were unleashed on the UT Medical School at Houston June 9, 2001 by Tropical Storm Allison. The basement, where the anthrax lab was located, was the hardest hit. More than 400 emergency personnel (internal and contracted) attempted to address the devastation. Throughout June, no equipment could be removed or powered up. Stairwell doors needed to be kept closed. By the first week of July 2001, the basement and ground floor was still off limits, and only one entrance was available. Ground floor occupants needed to continue to work at their temporary sites. Gross mold spore counts continued to be beyond acceptable limits in the basement, which was ventilated separately from the rest of the building.

        The building was opened for business on July 11, 2001 but the ground floor and basement were construction remediation sites and off-limits except to access elevators to upper levels. Two entrances to the building were available: on the Webber Plaza side of the building near the circle drive and at the breezeway near the guard’s desk. Occupants were reminded in an employee newsletter not to block open stair well doors on any floor. The newsletter Scoop reported that in 2007, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new six-story research space completed in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison, “[m]any in the crowd were moved to tears as they recalled that day in June 2001. ‘All of the animals were drowned and there were $165 million in structural damages,’ President Willerson said. ‘It was a daunting task, but we didn’t give up.’”

        Did the anthrax lab in the basement have virulent Ames anthrax strain, to include Ames? If so, what was done with the isolates during the devastation caused in the basement by the flood? At the time it was lawful to have virulent anthrax in its liquid form in a BL-2 facility, contrary to the occasional misperception; a hood is used in handling such isolates. A University President explained as much in a letter in connection with the incident when some live Ames spores were sent by Northern Arizona to Los Alamos in Fall 2001.

        Members of the lab brought out the champagne at the lab in late 2001 when a special visa was granted to a research team member, who without it would have had to return to China. “We knew it was going to be risky,” said Dr. Koehler, a microbiologist at the school who for the past 20 years has studied the anthrax bacterium now being used as a terrorist weapon. “The question was whether current events would convince federal officials that [the researcher’s] skills are in the national interest or make them restrict workers from certain countries.”

        “It is a horrible feeling to think that it could be someone I know, that the perpetrator is a microbiologist among us,” said Dr. Koehler. In September 2001, Dr. Koehler explained her anthrax research, how terrorists might deploy anthrax as a biological weapon and how physicians would treat it.

        Aafia’s brother in 2001 was associated with addresses in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Canton, Michigan — and even Harrison, NJ — in 2001. The ACLU attorney representing Aafia’s family advised me that it had been years since she was Houston — certainly before 2001 and maybe not since she was married. She added that if Aafia was there, it was to visit her brother, who has nothing to do with the med center.” The attorney reports: “there is no way they could have helped her get access to the necessary labs at the med center.”

        On Research Day in 2003, the award winners for Biomedical Excellence included a graduate student working in Dr. Koehler’s lab, Melissa Drysdale, who worked on gene regulation in a virulent strain of bacillus anthracis.

        Dr. Koehler received, for example, the Weybridge strain from Porton Down prior to the Fall of 2001. Did Dr. Koehler have virulent Ames from either Porton Down or somewhere else? (Her mentor was the eminent vaccine researcher Dr. Curtis Thorne who got samples directly from Ft. Detrick). Co-researcher Rick Lyons at UNM was fedexed virulent Ames from flask 1029 in March 2001 at the same time the Houston lab upgraded.

        Remember: Khalid Mohammed, who told authorities about Aafia, had anthrax production documents on his assistant’s laptop (the guy working with Aafia’s future husband in UAE in the summer of 2001). She allegedly was associated with both KSM and “Jafar the Pilot” who is at large. She later married an Al Qaeda operative al-Baluchi who, like al-Hawsawi, had been listed as a contact for the hijackers and took over plots upon the arrest of KSM. Authorities have said that a Pakistani scientist , who they refused to name was helping Al Qaeda with its anthrax production program. Were they referring to bacteriologist Abdul Qudus Khan in whose home the Pakistan authorities claim KSM was captured? Was it Rauf Ahmad who Zawahiri sent to infiltrate UK biodefense? Was it the chemistry professor who met with Uzair Paracha in February 2003? Or was it Aafia who was alleged to be a “facilitator” who handled logistics. “Logistics” is handling an operation that involves providing labor and materials as needed. One government psychiatrist affidavit reports that she claims to have been tasked by an “Abu Lubaba” to research germ warfare.

  3. DXer said

    Deborah says we can post the MSNBC excerpt:

    “To the outside world, Aafia seemed forgotten. Many wondered by the end of 2005 if she was locked in a secret CIA prison. But the silver-haired former head of the weapons of mass destruction unit at the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, told me after he retired that, far from being under arrest, Aafia remained for him the stuff of nightmares.

    Mowatt-Larssen had a special deck of fifty-two playing cards made up. Each carried the face of a suspected terrorist he feared might be planning the next big attack. Aafia was the queen of spades, the only woman in the deck. Mowatt-Larssen wouldn’t have put her at the top of his list of potential mass murderers, but he couldn’t rule her out. She was his wild card.

    As an intelligence officer, Mowatt-Larssen tried to put himself in the place of al-Qaeda’s leaders and to think as they would. He believed that they had been close, several times, to obtaining weap ons that could have caused huge casualties. In 2003, for example, the CIA heard that al-Qaeda had devised a small handheld weapon that could disperse hydrogen cyanide throughout an enclosed area, killing dozens or even hundreds of people. Al-Qaeda called it the mubtakkar, Arabic for “invention.” Around the time KSM was cap tured and Aafia went missing, the United States received information that an al-Qaeda cell in Bahrain had been ready to mount a mubtakkar attack on New York City’s subways but that Zawahiri had canceled the plan. Why did he cancel? Mowatt-Larssen feared that al-Qaeda’s number two had pulled back to work on a more spectacular strike.

    The group’s biological and chemical weapons expert, an Egyptian named Abu Khabab al-Masri, was still at large.

    Mowatt-Larssen believed that if al-Qaeda used Aafia properly, she could be of huge value. His hope was that, whether because she was a woman or because her bossy manner got on the nerves of its male leaders, al-Qaeda wouldn’t be able to exploit her full potential.
    It wasn’t Aafia’s prowess as a scientist that worried Mowatt-Larssen the most. The FBI had gone through her records from MIT and Brandeis. She had not taken any notably advanced biology and chemistry courses, and there was no obvious application to jihad in her neuroscience Ph.D. What set her apart in his eyes was her combination of high intelligence (including general scientific know-how), religious zeal, and years of experience in the United States. “So far they have had very few people who have been able to come to the U.S. and thrive,” he said. “Aafia is different. She knows about U.S. immigration procedures and visas. She knows how to enroll in American educational institutions. She can open bank accounts and transfer money. She knows how things work here. She could have been very useful to them simply for her understanding of the U.S.”

    Mowatt-Larssen and his team had not forgotten the documents found in the Qadoos house at the time of KSM’s arrest. They had shown that Abu Khabab al-Masri, the Egyptian weapons expert, was ready to produce botulinum, salmonella, and cyanide, and was close to producing anthrax. They believed Aafia had a connection both to the Qadoos family and to Amir Aziz, the Lahore orthopedic surgeon who had been accused of helping al-Qaeda obtain anthrax. They also thought she was better equipped than any of them to be creative in using such poisons against the United States. “She had the imagi nation to come up with the next 9/11,” Mowatt-Larssen said. “The question was whether they would listen to her.”

    He felt they might take some of her suggestions but might leave her out of the loop when it came to operational planning. He had heard what detainees such as Aafia’s second husband, Ali, had said about her. (Alas, the reports of these interrogations are still deeply secret.) Even with the hardest core of al-Qaeda operatives, she had a reputation for being headstrong. “I remember thinking at the time, ‘She must drive them crazy,’” Mowatt-Larsson told me. But he couldn’t be sure. The CIA had never pinned down her exact role. They just knew that “she was always in the picture. Connections between her and other people the FBI was looking at surfaced in just about every al-Qaeda investigation with a U.S. angle. She was always on our radar.”

    At the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Aafia’s name was prominent on a different list, another former official in the Bush administration told me. This was a list of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists whom the U.S. government had authorized the CIA to “kill or capture” on sight. Once again, Aafia wasn’t at the top of the list. But she was on it and she stayed there.

    Unfortunately from the U.S. point of view, the CIA could not easily operate by itself in Pakistan. Thus, when it came to finding Aafia or anyone else on the list, it usually had to rely on the ISI. And most of the time the ISI gave the Americans nothing. Despite the millions of dollars in rewards that Washington was offering, the ISI seldom, on its own initiative, arrested even foreign al-Qaeda sus pects, much less Pakistanis.
    So the CIA wasn’t surprised that its Pakistani counterparts showed little interest in finding a fellow Pakistani who was also a woman. “Everyone has patrons and protectors,” Mowatt-Larssen said. And Aafia, as a female and a member of a respected Deobandi family, was even more sheltered than most from the prying of U.S. investigators.

    The Americans tried to escape their dependence on Pakistani intelligence by playing from an American strength: technology. The phones and e-mails of Pakistanis suspected of links to people on the target list were tapped by the National Security Agency. Ismat and Fowzia no doubt fell into that suspect category, as did some senior politicians and generals who the United States believed were shield ing militants. The former official in the Bush administration said that if the Americans happened to overhear the whereabouts of one of their targets, they would go to President Musharraf with the in formation. They would ask him for permission to capture the person and take “lethal action” if they failed to capture him.

    But Musharraf didn’t always agree. If he didn’t want to go along, he might say, and in some cases he might be telling the truth, that the targeted person was actually an ISI asset whom the Pakistanis were using to infiltrate al-Qaeda. (Later it would be widely rumored that the ISI used Aafia to gather information on militant circles.) In that case, the United States refrained from action. In the years before the Americans began using drones to attack suspected mili tants (and eventually a Navy SEAL team to kill Osama bin Laden) in Pakistan, there was nothing else they could do.”

  4. DXer said

    Question that GAO should have asked Dr. Majidi:

    How was the FBI able to exclude Abderraouf Yousef Jdey as the mailer if the FBI doesn’t know where he was and, according to former top CIA analyst Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Jdey was released before the mailings? Did Jdey know Aafia? Did Jdey know Al-Timimi? Did Jdey know Slahi?

    Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 27, 2011

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: