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

* Tim Weiner traces a long history of FBI bungling and incompetence in its secret intelligence operations … LMW: is it any wonder the anthrax case remains unsolved?

Posted by DXer on April 11, 2012


The FBI spent $100,000,000 and 7 years on Amerithrax …

and apparently did not solve the case !!!



Enemies – A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner

… reviewed by Kevin Baker, NYT, 3-30-12 …

  • The F.B.I., as Robert Penn Warren wrote about the rest of humanity, was “conceived in sin and born in corruption.” When Theodore Roosevelt first proposed a national police force in 1908, Congress said no, fearing “a central police or spy system in the federal government.” Roosevelt simply used a “special expense fund” at the Justice Department to quietly hire 34 agents for his new “Bureau of Investigation.” To this day, the F.B.I. lacks a formal charter, and its financing has often been shrouded in secrecy.

Weiner lays bare a record of embarrassing, even stunning failure,

in which the bureau’s lawlessness was matched

only by its incompetence.

  • The F.B.I. conducted huge raids against pacifists, labor leaders and other dissidents during World War I, directing the arrest of tens of thousands of individuals. Yet it failed to uncover a single enemy spy.
  • Combating Nazi agents before and during World War II, the F.B.I. was, by its own assessment, “a laughingstock.”
  • During the cold war, a Soviet spy said its agents were “like children lost in the woods.”
  • Hoover himself derided the “gross incompetency” of his agency in failing to keep better tabs on Lee Harvey Oswald after his return from the Soviet Union.
  • by the 1960s, the F.B.I. seemed just as lost combating domestic revolutionaries as it was battling foreign spies. The bureau failed utterly to stop the lunatic amateurs of the Weather Underground, even as they planted a bomb in the Capitol.
  • The Puerto Rican terrorist group F.A.L.N. carried out a hundred bombing attacks and “pulled off the most lucrative armed robbery in the history of the United States” without a single member being apprehended.
  • Hoover’s successors were mostly clueless bunglers; save for the current director, Robert S. Mueller III, none completed their terms of office.
  • It’s infuriating to read of how F.B.I. agents investigating Al Qaeda were stymied from stopping the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, thanks to a bureau misinterpretation of a Justice Department directive about sharing evidence. One agent, trying desperately to get a search warrant for the apartment of the captured terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui through the afternoon of Sept. 10, 2001, received a final denial from the F.B.I.’s International Terrorism Operations Section telling him that the “F.B.I. does not have a dog in this fight.”

Thomas Kean, the Republican chairman of the 9/11 Commission, concluded:

“We can’t continue in this country with an intelligence agency

with the record the F.B.I. has.

You have a record of an agency that’s failed,

and it’s failed again and again and again.”


20 Responses to “* Tim Weiner traces a long history of FBI bungling and incompetence in its secret intelligence operations … LMW: is it any wonder the anthrax case remains unsolved?”

  1. DXer said

    Below are the comments on Mr. Hsu’s related “transparency” article in the Wash Po. It is important that that the Government Accountability Office err on the side of disclosure of the documents, to include the ones that the FBI has not volunteered.

    If GAO obtains the annotated index of the database maintained by the paralegals, it will see a roadmap to the documents even STILL being withheld by the FBI.

    Whistleblowers become superfluous when there is government accountability and compliance with public disclosure laws.

    At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: to know “whodunnit.” So we all are on the same team and documents are the best means of getting to the truth. IMO, contemporaneous emails and chats are the most revealing of all.

    In comparison, everything pales in importance.

    The comments:

  2. DXer said

    Mr. Wiener writes:

    “On April 12, the police in Manila turned Abdul Hakim Murad over to FBI special agents Frank Pelligrino and Tom Donlon. Their captive spoke freely to the agents as they flew to Alaska, refueled, and took off for New York. He was a Kuwaiti who had attended two flight schools in the United States; he had dreamed of hijacking a plane in Washington and crashing it into the headquarters of the CIA. Murad told the FBI agents that he had been working on the Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef for six months. He said the goal was “to make the American people and the American government suffer” for the foreign policy of the United States in the Middle East.”


    What does Agent Frank Pelligrino think of the telephone records connecting the subtilis expert from whose dorm room the reporting call after WTC 1993 was made to the Pakistani charity where KSM waited? The telephone records showed numerous calls to Ramzi Youseff’s apartment right up to the time the Blind Sheikh was arrested. The scientists’ work related to the development of mutations due to nutrient starvation.

    Why didn’t Agent Pellegrino submit questions to be asked to KSM? In a large law firm, if co-counsel took the lead at trial, that would be no reason not to contribute expertise due to hurt feelings. (He had told his supervisor that he asks questions, he doesn’t write them). That’s what being part of the team is all about. More importantly, in moving forward, what does Agent Pellegrino think now? The fact that it is not on his plate has no bearing given the ongoing anthrax threat faced by the country. The GAO should ask him.

    Dr. Majidi should be asked the extent to which labs were sampled for the genetically unique strain of subtilis — and when the samples were taken, whether they involved voluntary submission etc.

    Amerithrax represents the greatest failure in intelligence analysis in the history of the United States.

    There’s no need to find fault with the benefit of hindsight — or to lay the failure on FBI rather than the CIA or DIA or NSA — only a need to get it right.

    • DXer said

      If you want to know how importantly the Blind Sheikh factors into Dr. Ayman’s anthrax planning, all you need to do is listen to his statement this week:

      Al-Qaida chief offers swap for hostage Weinstein
      March 18, 2012
      (JTA) — Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a video that he would swap an American hostage for prisoners in the U.S. with links to the organization.

      In exchange for Warren Weinstein, Zawahiri specifically called for the release of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind cleric convicted of attempting to blow up the World Trade Center in the early 1990s; the family of Osama bin Laden, the assassinated leader of al-Qaida; and Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in 2010 in New York for attempting to murder U.S. government officials.

      • DXer said

        The incredibly difficult balance the FBI Director each day needs to strike is brought into sharp relief by today’s story about a supporter of Aafia Siddiqui.

        Mass. man convicted in plot to help al-Qaida sentenced to 17 1/2 years
        By Associated Press, Published: April 12

        Fascinating, historic First Amendment issues will be litigated for years to come — and then socratically probed by thoughtful law professors.

        These cases will be the “soapbox in the square” cases that led to key landmarks in First Amendment jurisprudence.

        But whatever resolution of the balance we might urge, we should be very slow to doubt the good faith or quality of the efforts of those whose job it is to keep the country safe.

        If we rid the influence of money over our country’s foreign policy, we might avoid pissing off so many people.

        • DXer said

          Md. man gets 25 years in prison for plotting to bomb military recruiting center near Baltimore
          By Associated Press, Published: April 6


          Of course, it makes the FBI’s job easier when there are so many idiots eager to place a bomb handed to them by someone who contacted them on Facebook a few months earlier. Its much harder to penetrate a cell of hardened supporters who have had their views since before Sadat’s assassination — as opposed to new converts or young men just coming of age. Surveillance does little good against a target who has hardened communications and operates pursuant to principles of strict cell compartmentalization.

        • DXer said

          My insights and views into how Amerithrax should be profiled came from a NYC-area FBI agent — who loved hockey — in the Fall 2001. It was after Agent John O’Neill had been killed in the attack on the towers. The Agent was afraid that there would be a failure of communication that would lead to a failure in analysis such as led up to 911. So I took his lead and uploaded a website intended to permit people to get on the same page despite differences in training, background and information.

          If Congress and GAO wants to achieve the goal of keeping the country safe, they need to interview that agent.

        • > “It’s much harder to penetrate a cell of hardened supporters who have had their views since before Sadat’s assassination.”

          The kids are dim bulbs, no question. They usually also lack a clear sense of cause and consequence — as if life’s a movie or video game. Their loosely organized networks are difficult to map, though. In the US, law enforcement would be in trouble if not for social media and the tendency of these kids to socialize online.

          A traditional cell structure, on the other hand, is initially hard to penetrate, but
          once in, things are easy. The intel service simply worms its way up and down until a portion or even the whole is under their control.

          Classic example is how French Military Intelligence took over command and control of the FLN in the late 1950s — very nearly the entire apparatus. To maintain the facade, the French chief eventually had to order the FLN to attack his own positions.

          Mubarak never had any trouble rolling up the Gama’a — when it suited his other political considerations. So to, Pakistan when pressed can usually take out ten or twelve dozen bad guys in 24 hours. The trouble is that many states like to keep their newly-acquired terror cells around, to use them to further state policy. Most middle eastern states are masters at this, as were the Soviets.

          Such takeovers were so common in late-19th and early-20th-century Europe that they prompted Chesterton’s hilarious novel, The Man who was Thursday, wherein a new agent infiltrates his way to the top of the cell and into its 7-man ruling cabal, only to find that the other six guys are also police.

        • Have you seen this: Anthrax in America: A Chronology and Analysis of the Fall 2001 Attacks —

        • DXer said

          I read once that Al-Najjar, the EIJ shura leader who in Spring of 1999 was the one of the folks announcing Dr. Ayman’s anthrax plans, worked for Egyptian security and betrayed Dr. Ayman while in Yemen. I have no way of knowing whether it is true.

          I once told a friend of mine, the brother of Egypt’s lead prosecutor at the time who grew up down the street from Dr. Ayman, that Montasser Al-Zayat must cooperate with Egyptian security given his access to Torah prison. He said no way.

  3. DXer said

    Weiner recounts the admonitions of Founding Fathers, such as Hamilton and Madison, that a free nation must be ever-vigilant; but, in conducting such vigilance, must not compromise civil liberties. President-by-President, we see a constant tension between the two tenets. The consistent thread, for the first 60 years, is J. Edgar Hoover. ****

    At the other end of the FBI Director spectrum is Robert Mueller. Weiner recounts how Mueller told G. W. Bush he and other top FBI officials would resign unless the administration ceased unconstitutional spying after September 11. Mueller prevails, and, as Weiner states, has set a crisp, above-reproach tone for the FBI this century (as the longest-serving Director after Hoover). Whereas Hoover’s mantra was, “Don’t do anything that embarrasses the Bureau” (which allowed for a lot of unsavory things), Mueller plainly has instilled a “Do the right thing” ethos.

  4. DXer said

    Faced by an array of formidable enemies such as drug cartels, urban gangs, white collar crime, computer security — the range of serious challenges faced by the FBI is huge. Trying to lead an agency with such responsibilities has been said to be like drinking from a water hose — and that just relates to analysis of domestic national security threats. Insights from the Hoover era — even COINTELPRO which sometimes seems to have parallels today — are not likely to be very illuminating. The head of the FBI DC Field Office, for example, who was the nominal head of Amerithrax, was in charge of all foreign counterintelligence relating to activities in D.C.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      The FBI spent $100,000,000 on Amerithrax and took 7 years … and APPARENTLY DID NOT SOLVE THE CASE !!!

      • DXer said

        Remind me: what is your sourcing on the $100 million figure?

        How does it break down? I vaguely recall seeing the paper in a mainstream news article but don’t know its source or support for the statement or how it might breakdown. If the FBI paid to have your graphics done, would that be such a bad thing? ; )

        We know that they did not spend it on getting DOJ FOIA office an additional personnel so that they could work down on their queue of requests. :0)

        A pending request re Jdey is something like #1500 in line.

        I still have not received a response to a request filed a full year ago.

        Have you read Mr. Wiener’s book? If so, I would prefer to discuss specifics of the book rather than Amerithrax given that the FBI disputes your views (and my views) about Amerithrax.

        For example, consider the FBI’s success with the white supremacist movement (such as the KKK). The number of diverse enemies that they have is truly staggering. They don’t need boos from the peanut gallery.

  5. DXer said

    Mr. Weiner praises Director Mueller as “at once the most successful” and “the most civil liberties minded, I would say, FBI Director in the history of the FBI which goes back 103 years.

    WEINER: Well unquestionably, Bob Mueller, who has run the bureau for the last decade and will run it for another two years is at once the most successful, the most powerful and the most civil liberties minded, I would say, FBI Director in the history of the FBI which goes back 103 years.

    Every day, Bob Mueller, who took office, God help him, on September 4, 2001, a week before this city and New York City were attacked. Everyday he has to calibrate a very difficult calculus.

  6. DXer said

    It is important to support the FBI and not make overbroad criticisms because we need a strong law enforcement agency, for example, to combat the despicable mafia in the United States.

    Chasing Radicals (and Breaking the Rule of Law)
    Tim Weiner’s ‘Enemies’ and F.B.I. Counterintelligence

    What it is not is a history of the F.B.I.

    • DXer said

      This book is not an objective study of FBI history. Instead it selects examples that bolster the contention that the FBI put its wars against anarchists, Communists, the New Left, and foreign and domestic terrorists ahead of any consideration for the Bill of Rights. Weiner concedes that proponents from all these groups actually committed acts of espionage or violence. But for the most part, he features perpetrators who were never punished.

      Weiner also oversells the role that surveillance played in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and beyond. As former foreign counterintelligence (FCI) agent Robert Lamphere noted in The FBI-KGB War, “only a small fraction of the New York field office [in the 1940s]—fifty or sixty men out of a thousand—was concerned with Soviet espionage and few agents outside the squad really knew or cared much about Soviet spies.” Add to that, foreign counterintelligence work was secret and could go on for years without resulting in any arrests or glory for its agents. That discouraged them from pursuing careers in FCI. By the post-Hoover era, foreign counterintelligence had become a backwater where one could place agents with the least ability such as Richard Miller, the first FBI agent to be accused and convicted of espionage. [2]

      At the same time, Weiner either minimizes Bureau successes or turns them into reasons for criticism. Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, for example, the FBI had identified potential Japanese, German, and Italian spies and saboteurs and secured their arrest. Hoover opposed the 1942 internment of West Coast Japanese because in Hoover’s mind, everyone who posed a danger had already been detained. Instead, Weiner chose to emphasize whatever illegal techniques the FBI used to identify some of these enemies.

      Weiner faults the Cold War FBI for not arresting more Russian spies. However, sources opened in the 1990s reveal that the Soviets had to change tactics and even recalled some spy handlers back home when FBI surveillance compromised their ability to contact their assets. As current FBI historian John Fox has noted, “Espionage is a difficult crime to prove, and prosecution for espionage, therefore, is not the standard by which to judge the success of a counterintelligence program.” [3]

      • FBI has been taking it on the chin, of late. It’s undeserved. And certainly, the current condemnation of FBI for entrapment and for being agent provocateurs — this rests on a basic misunderstanding of U.S. law. If the activists don’t like the law, they can try to change it. They oughtn’t go after those duty-bound to enforce the law.

        In my own experience, always as a member of defense teams, I’ve been impressed by the professionalism of FBI investigators. The one time I was less than impressed, FBI was subject to enormous pressure from Executive.

        If FBI’s record is not perfect, they are keen on lessons learned. Nor should one forget that FBI failings have often been due to legislative cowardliness and executive fecklessness.

        Ms. Rosenfeld is a professional historian, for whom evidence and arguments matter. And I think her review is fair.

        Mr. Weiner is something else: part activist, part journalist, he made his bones writing for Mother Jones and descrying political opponents.

        On whole, I think, Riebling’s Wedge, which covers much the same ground as Weiner, does so with greater understanding — and with a desire to do the job right.

        • DXer said

          Documents provide rare insight into FBI’s terrorism stings

        • DXer said

          While in 2001, the FBI’s bench of counterterrorism analysts was not deep, they now must have lots of very knowledgeable people helping them. It would be necessary to keep such complex facts straight. Such analysis has been said to be like peeling off the layers of an onion. For example, I once told an FBI agent that I did not understand the Albany “stinger missile” sting — and the reason for it — until I saw the sentencing memo. At the time, I pooh-poohed the passing suggestion of working for the FBI because I was under the mistaken impression I would have to be able to do all those push-ups and be able to shoot straight. :0) They at least (apparently) provided me a really cool graphic artist who may come back on line to at least keep Lew from going rogue again with another critical post. The FBI is very sensitive about this (I would think dated) notion that the intelligence responsibilities should be taken away from the FBI. (The last thing the country needs is a re-organization and even more inexperienced analysts).

          Big picture, maybe it is time we should credit the FBI and CIA with their not having been another 911. They only have to be wrong once. But it seems that they have successfully thwarted many events.

          The stings are the same way they destroyed the KKK. There came a time when 1 out of 3 members was either an informant or undercover agent. I used to say “Fat Harold”, who bought Frank Collin’s NSPA building in Chicago allegedly upon an inheritance, was an ATF undercover agent. Even if no one credited his bona fides, it caused so much confusion in the Movement that it was a hugely successful undercover operation.

          So I woud be loathe to second-guess an FBI undercover operation — because it is so difficult to get reliable information about it. It’s not like you can nag them into producing documents under FOIA — without waiting another quarter century.

          All you can do is run your own.

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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: