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

* In Trial Testimony, Dr. Basson of South Africa’s “Project Coast” Reports He Visited Both Porton Down and USAMRIID; GAO, Did The Project Coast Virulent Ames, Which Was Being Offered For Cash, Have 4 Morphs? Dr. Ivins Reports That The Former USAMRIID Scientist Who Went To Work For The CIA Had The Other Slant Of The Ames Strain Sent From Texas.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 26, 2012

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5 Responses to “* In Trial Testimony, Dr. Basson of South Africa’s “Project Coast” Reports He Visited Both Porton Down and USAMRIID; GAO, Did The Project Coast Virulent Ames, Which Was Being Offered For Cash, Have 4 Morphs? Dr. Ivins Reports That The Former USAMRIID Scientist Who Went To Work For The CIA Had The Other Slant Of The Ames Strain Sent From Texas.”

  1. DXer said

    Dr. Alibek mentioned the hundreds of strains held in the South Africa program. As I recall the public reports, the CIA offered a lot of money in 2002 or so to try to get at that issue. But someone like the documentary maker and book author Nadler would be the one to be more likely up on those details.

  2. DXer said

    “Minnaar, who was fired from the South African Defence Force for his involvement in the failed coup attempt in the Ciskei in the 1980s, died in mysterious circumstances in 2002 while involved in a shady deal with a former scientist from Dr Wouter Basson’s Project Coast and a CIA agent involving the sale of anthrax.”
    Apr 23 2012 2:25PM
    http://www.thenewage.co.za/49152-1007-53-Botha_vs_Botha_spy_saga

    Botha vs Botha spy saga

    GAO should ask the FBI the basis for its assumption that the virulent Ames being offered for sale from South Africa was not a match.

    If the FBI was not able to obtain a full collection of samples that might contain the 4 morphs — because submission to the repository was voluntary — then immediately the conclusions drawn are thrown into doubt. The match could have come from a lab outside the FBI’s control. For example, Yazid Sufaat declined to cooperate with the FBI when they finally got around to asking him questions nearly a year after he had been captured.

    The PhD thesis “Biological weapons attribution : a primer” by Elizabeth L Stone Bahr of the Naval Postgraduate School (U.S.), discusses the difficulties inherent in BW attribution due to bureaucratic and international constraints.

    “Summary:
    The possibility of an enemy attack using biological weapons (BW) remains one of the biggest threats to U.S. and global security. U.S. defense and deterrence policies are based on the assumption that the perpetrator can be quickly and reliably identified. If perpetrators can conduct attacks without the fear of attribution or punishment, they can act with impunity. The ability to punish, therefore, rests on the ability to identify the perpetrator. Thus, the goal of attribution is at the root of all national security strategies. Unfortunately, there are three reasons why the attribution of BW attacks are very difficult: (1) the nature of biological weapons, (2) the unique restrictions the international environment places on BW attribution, and (3) the bureaucratic constraints and organizational overlap that domestic political environments can impose if a BW attack occurs. …”

    • DXer said

      The New York Times explains some relevant history:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/30/national/30AMES.html?pagewanted=all

      The new history of Ames, some of which was reported yesterday in The Washington Post , is being investigated by the F.B.I. along with the National Intelligence Council, which does federal threat assessments, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

      “This one is the true Ames,” a C.I.A. analyst said of the Texas germ. He added that the anthrax that panicked the nation last fall “all came from Texas.”

      That history starts in late 1980 when Gregory B. Knudson, a biologist working at the Army’s biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., was searching for new anthrax strains to use in tests of the military’s vaccine. In December 1980, he wrote Texas A&M veterinary officials, according to documents obtained from Dr. Knudson.

      “Unfortunately, I have discarded all my pathogenic cultures,” Howard W. Whitford replied in January 1981. But he said warmer weather would probably bring new outbreaks.

      Indeed, in May 1981, the disease struck a herd of 900 cows at a ranch near the Mexican border.

      “This heifer in excellent flesh was found in the morning unable to rise,” Michael L. Vickers, a veterinarian in Falfurrias, Tex., wrote in his case report. “By noon she was dead.”

      In an interview, Dr. Vickers said: “This is a very lethal strain of anthrax we have down here. It’s nothing to play with. I’ve seen as many as 30 head of cattle die a day until they’re inoculated.”

      Dr. Vickers sent anthrax specimens to the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Laboratory, an arm of Texas A&M. The Texas laboratory, remembering Dr. Knudson’s request, sent a sample along to Fort Detrick.

      That is where the mix-up began. The Texas lab sent the iced specimens to Fort Detrick with a prepaid mailing label that Dr. Knudson has carefully preserved among his papers. Its return address is not Texas A&M at College Station but rather the National Veterinary Services Laboratories, in Ames, Iowa, an arm of the federal Agriculture Department that does diagnostic tests for state and foreign veterinary labs.

      Comment: I obtained the mailing label from an ISU professor that Dr. Knudson had faxed it from the Maryland lab where he worked. (The fax number appears). There is no postmark cancellation on the mailing lab and so one is required to make inferences/ an assumption as to from where it was mailed. If GAO is going to address the issue, it should obtain the actual mailing label.

      Dr. GK did not respond to my inquiry years ago.

      Dr. Ivins in an email produced by USAMRIID explained that Dr. Knudson went to work for the CIA and presumably had the second slant.

      Dr. Knudson supply Project Coast with the virulent Ames? Did David Kelly? If not, who did?

      • DXer said

        When my friend called Dr. Whitford in retirement, he reported that he had not been contacted by the FBI. GAO should obtain his 302 statement, if one exists. If not, GAO should inquire of the FBI why he was not interviewed. It made no sense for them to rely instead on the supervisor’s understanding given he lacked personal knowledge.

    • DXer said

      Here is Joby Warrick’s second in the series of his landmark articles on the subject. Do these journalists have a cool job or what?

      Source: Washington Post, April 21, 2003

      Biotoxins Fall Into Private Hands

      Global Risk Seen In S. African Poisons

      By Joby Warrick, Washington Post Staff Writer

      Second of two articles.

      PRETORIA, South Africa — In three days of secret meetings last July, the man known throughout South Africa as “Doctor Death” astounded U.S. law enforcement officials with tales of how the former white-minority government carried out unique experiments with chemical and biological weapons.

      Wouter Basson, the bearded ex-commander of South Africa’s notorious 7th Medical Battalion, spoke candidly of global shopping sprees for pathogens and equipment, of plans for epidemics to be sown in black communities and of cigarettes and letters that were laced with anthrax. He revealed the development of a novel anthrax strain unknown to the U.S. officials, a kind of “stealth” anthrax that Basson claimed could fool tests used to detect the disease.

      But most disturbing was the question Basson could not answer: Who controls the microbes now?

      Nearly a decade has passed since the last South African president under apartheid, Frederik W. de Klerk, dismantled the top-secret biological and chemical weapons program known as Project Coast, of which Basson was the director. In 1993, South Africa declared all the weapons, pathogen strains and documents destroyed. Since then, South Africa has been held up as a model — an example for Iraq and other nations of “what real disarmament looks like,” as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said in a speech in January.

      But in reality, Project Coast’s legacy continues to haunt South Africa in ways that bode poorly for countries seeking to roll back programs for weapons of mass destruction, according to government officials and weapons experts. South Africa is still struggling to answer basic questions about the kinds of weapons developed in the program, how they were used and what happened to them, the officials said. Bacterial strains that supposedly were destroyed continue to turn up in private hands. Law enforcement officials remain concerned that former weapons scientists may share secrets with extremist groups or foreign governments.

      ***

      A 1989 sales list released by the government provided a partial inventory: sugar cubes laced with salmonella, beer bottles and peppermint candies poisoned with pesticide, cigarettes and letter-size envelopes sprinkled with anthrax spores.

      More sinister were the attempts — ordered by Basson — to use science against the country’s black majority population. Daan Goosen, former director of Project Coast’s biological research division, said he was ordered by Basson to develop ways to suppress population growth among blacks, perhaps by secretly applying contraceptives to drinking water. Basson also urged scientists to search for a “black bomb,” a biological weapon that would select targets based on skin color, he said.

      ***

      Reconstructing what happened to Project Coast materials is made more difficult because of uncertainties over the identities of outside companies and institutes that may have provided assistance. Most of Project Coast’s scientists worked for one of two front companies, Roodeplaat Research Laboratories and Delta G Scientific But based on interviews with former South African military leaders, some U.S. researchers have concluded that other entities were deeply involved.

      “There were a number of different research and testing centers at universities and companies, and scientists in various parts of South Africa assisted,” professors Helen E. Purkitt and Stephen F. Burgess wrote in a June 2002 article in the Journal of Southern African Studies.

      ***

      Officials knowledgeable of the meeting agreed to discuss some of the revelations on the condition they not be identified. They recalled Basson had requested the meeting, saying he wanted to clear his record with U.S. law enforcement officials who had tracked his movements in recent years to determine whether he was trying to sell biological agents or secrets to other countries. During three days of questioning, Basson answered questions and told stories with the assurance that none of his statements could be used against him in any criminal or civil court, the officials said.

      Comment: In his 2003 publication on Microbial Forensics, what does Paul Keim say about the critical importance of working with a comprehensive set of samples? How do probability analyses apply if other genetically matching material is not submitted for analysis?

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