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

* GAO: What strain of anthrax was this anthrax powder reportedly in possession of detainee who had been in Kandahar?

Posted by DXer on June 10, 2012

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29 Responses to “* GAO: What strain of anthrax was this anthrax powder reportedly in possession of detainee who had been in Kandahar?”

  1. DXer said

    GAO should obtain if possible all forensic reports relating to this powder.

  2. DXer said

    In this chat with Yazid about his skill level, he says “I can do magic Ross-” (he publicly has said he was part of since abandoned Malaysian biological weapons program)

    Here is some of the discussion:

    [DXer] “After the bombing, Boston Globe once published a picture of a large brown bottle that indicated it had been harvested on about June 7, 2001. Would that have been Sterne? Or would that have been in sutbilis? Were you involved with Abu Khabab’s research in August/September 2001 involving rabbits or was that at a different location?”

    [DXer] “Did you go to Pakistan after your release as reported by local Pakistan newspapers? If so, when did you get back?”

    [Yazid Sufaat] “I can do magic Ross~”

    [DXer] “In southern Lombok, the Nyale worm festival was very special. Lots of good laughs. Even apart from religious faith, smiles and laughs are a good thing, I think.”

    [DXer] “The authors JB Petro and David Relman in Perils of Scientific Openness in the journal, SCIENCE, listed an article taken after the bombing that discussed growing anthrax in silica. DId you grow your anthrax in silica? I’m not a scientist and so any question I ask about science may very well be poorly asked.”

    [DXer] “Was your Kandahar project called Zabadi? If so, why?”

    [DXer] “Yazid, the interrogation reports provided by Wikileaks provide many details of the project at Omar Hospital and Kandahar for which you, Barq and al-Sudani were vaccinated. And the US Government Accountability Office will be coming out with a report soon about the science relating to the tests that showed the Ames strain of anthrax being used. Can you confirm that it was the Ames strain of anthrax?”

    Published interview as part of background:

    “A biological warfare programme

    Among the longest-serving ISA detainees in history, Yazid, currently under travel, asset and arms deals sanctions imposed by the United Nations, believes his incarceration has to do with his “expertise”.
    Trained as a biochemist on a government scholarship in the United States, this top student of the Royal Military College who retired as a captain with the army was part of a biological warfare programme under the Defence Ministry.
    While mostly candid about his involvement with infamous characters such as Osama Laden, Yazid was hesitant to reveal details about the government’s “secret” programme which was later scrapped, describing it “a long story”.
    “When they (the police) first took me in, I didn’t tell them (about the government programme). I didn’t want them to know, didn’t want the liability to fall on the government, to pass the buck to someone else.
    “Finally, they managed to get a report from their ‘friend’ and they wanted me to clear things up. I didn’t want to clarify (anything), so they took my wife in,” said the father of four.
    His wife, Sejahratul Dursina @ Chomel Mohamed, was held under ISA for two months and after this was placed under a movement restriction order for six years.
    “If you want to be released from ISA, just follow what they say and admit to all the charges… I refused to do so and they kept me for seven years… because I don’t want to sing (Negara-ku).
    “I don’t want to sing. Why should I (when) the country had betrayed me?” Yazid asked.”

  3. DXer said

    KSM’s Plan To Poison A Reservoir In Upstate New York

    The document above refers to the seized anthrax as intended to poison water supplies, including reservoirs.

    By way of some background, young Canadian Mohamed Mansour Jabarah was the courier and connection between Karachi and Kuala Lumpur. In 2002, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) delivered the former St. Catharines man to U.S. authorities, upon his written consent. St. Catherines is near Niagara Falls. He had been arrested in Oman, Jordan in June 2002, after being implicated in the plot to bomb American and Israeli embassies in Singapore. He was first taken to Brooklyn where he has been questioned by the FBI. Khalid Mohammed reports that Bin Laden was reportedly said to value Jabarah’s fluent English and his clean Canadian passport. He served as a go-between between the leaders in Karachi and operatives in Kuala Lumpur, and had a leadership role in a bombing plot there. He was let out of jail and while cooperating, lived with some FBI agents.

    After he learned that a childhood friend was killed in an attack on US Marines in Kuwait, he vowed to kill his captors. In a search of his room, agents found he had a plan for a steak knife that did not involve cutting his porterhouse. Authorities also found pictures of bin Laden, maps of Fort Dix, documents about New York’s drinking water supply and letters that lamented the fall of the Taliban and railed against America. The reference to New York’s drinking water supply brings to mind KSM’s plot to poison a reservoir in Upstate New York. Bloomberg explains: “He also had a U.S. Army memo describing New York City’s drinking water system, a map of the city’s water supply and testing results.”

    Jabarah spent 3 weeks living with KSM in August 2001. KSM taught him how to travel and conduct surveillance in stealth mode. Jabarah was a go-between Khalid Mohammed in Karachi and Hambali in Kuala Lumpur. He delivered the money for the bombing attacks planned for Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. Arrested in March 2002, he had joined Al Qaeda in May 2001. In his interrogation, the Catholic-schooled youth said that KSM had asked him to “go to Malaysia to meet with individuals who were planning an operation against the US and Israeli embassies in the Philippines.” KSM told the young man that he must leave Karachi to deliver the money to Hambali, Al Qaeda’s point man in Southeast Asia and the military chief for Jemiah Islamiyah, before September 11. He flew out to deliver the money on September 10, 2001. In January 2008, Jabarah was sentenced to life in prison.

    KSM identified Majid Khan and Aafia Siddiqui as Al Qaeda operatives. KSM allegedly asked former Maryland resident Majid Khan to research contaminating a reservoir. What contaminant would have been used? Anthrax?
    Cyanide? Was it cyanide such as the thwarted attack against the US embassy in Rome in 2002? Some unidentified chemical intended to be smuggled in using the Paracha shipping container? Would the koran permit such indiscriminate murder of innocents? A recent study shows that anthrax is resistant to chlorine, but the officials typically think anthrax would be ineffective given the dilution.

    In February 2003, Majid Khan had met with Uzair Paracha and someone described as a “chemistry professor.” Paracha and his father Saifullah had meetings with al-Qaeda members Majid Khan and senior operative Ammar al-Baluchi, who about that time married Aafia. In the prosecution of Uzair Paracha, the AUSA said Aafia Siddiqui was willing to participate in an anthrax attack if asked. She opened up a P.O. Box to facilitate Majid Khan’s reentry into the country.

    New water-surveillance systems are being tested that promise to detect biological attacks more quickly and accurately than is possible today. Ever since the anthrax mailings, the Homeland Security Department has been concerned about the risk that public water supplies will be poisoned. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, the University of Cincinnati, and Argonne National Laboratory have paired up with the Environmental Protection Agency to develop the Water Sentinel Program: software that monitors municipal water systems. It was being tested in Albuquerque.

    I once had a local certified lab do a lot of testing of water as an unrelated interest. Albuquerque is an interesting choice given the high levels of arsenic there. (With arsenic, it is very difficult to get the levels down short of dilution or incurring substantial capital costs). Arsenic occurs due to naturally occurring geothermal springs. I tested a bottled water from a major soda company’s distributor in Northern Mexico that I picked up in Phoenix and it tested above the 10 parts per billion (“ppb”) limit — 13 ppb and 26 ppb. The company gave me a single test showing that they tested it at 9 ppb. Its NYC law firm told me that they weren’t willing to do any further testing in the US because it would be against his client’s interest. Indeed. The FDA did nothing. The company did not notice a recall.

    Separately, the DOJ and United States Attorney even let FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford off the hook without it coming out that he resigned immediately after I emailed his office of a massive problem with benzene in soda. How was that a proper allocution related to his guilty plea to the misdemeanors? I had not realized he was a drinking water expert who already knew about the problem.

    I had asked a friend at the DOJ who had prosecuted an adulterated orange juice case for an email that would be sure to get the message to him. I wrote the FDA’s CFSAN Director the same day (on September 21, 2005), and she later acknowledged she got the email. After I wrote Wednesday afternoon, he did the right thing in resigning Friday morning given the $62,000 in Pepsi stock he owned. By just dropping an email to all employees Friday morning and walking out the building, however — and not admitting why he was resigning — the benzene problem almost got swept under the rug like the arsenic problem.

    The day after he sent his email out announcing his resignation, I stridently complained before the FDA’s Assistant General Counsel on Saturday in front of 30 witnesses at a conference in Boston on soda and childhood obesity. I asked why I had not received a response. Of course, I don’t mean to complain too much because he did resign and the FDA finally acted after I got Germany and others to act. But if the United States government is no more effective than the FDA and the state agencies in testing water, then we will just have to count on the militants appreciating that it is haram (forbidden) to poison innocents, particularly children.

    The late Anwar Aulaqi, in hiding in Yemen, in May 2010 announced that islamic law permitted killing one million U.S. civilians. The same US Attorney in fact had the key role in Amerithrax and made very basic and central mistakes in his prepared remarks.

  4. DXer said

    “And then after 9/18, I was responsible for the public health of all Americans, responsible for preventing any attack using weaponized medicines like the plague, like smallpox, like anthrax, like tellurium,” Thompson said. “And I was responsible for all that. So there’s hardly anybody that has the knowledge or the base of knowledge that I do.”

    “And you want a United States senator that is not going to have to go there and find out where the bathrooms are and learn on the job. I’ve been there, I ran one of the largest departments in the federal government.
    I’ll give you how big my department was: We have all the children programs, all the elderly programs, all the welfare programs, all the social services programs, all the drug production programs, we run FDA which regulates 25 percent of the gross national product, run CDC which is the organization that determines what an infectious disease is, ran the National Institutes of Health which is the greatest research center in the world, responsible for all the Native Americans and Alaskan Natives’ health, responsible for all the international health of anybody that’s coming to the United States.

    And then after 9/18, I was responsible for the public health of all Americans, responsible for preventing any attack using weaponized medicines like the plague, like smallpox, like anthrax, like tellurium. And I was responsible for all that. So there’s hardly anybody that has the knowledge or the base of knowledge that I do. If you want a conservative that can change things around, that is going to make the tough decisions right now, you want me, and I make no bones about it.”

    • DXer said

      The use of the word “medicine” of course is inapt.

      The word tellurium is a mistake or a mistranscription. The word would be tularemia.

  5. DXer said

    The DOJ is withholding the documents in “Fast and Furious” relating to when they first learned about problems with the investigation.

    What is missing about the Attorney General’s invocation of Executive Privilege is the legal precedent.

    That what should guide things — not partisan politics.

    In connection with Amerithrax, of course, the documents about when they first learned about problems with the investigation goes to the heart of GAO’s inquiry.

    And DOJ has made public the fact that it does not think they need to be produced.

    But it nonetheless is important to keep in mind that privileges from production are as much as part of the law regarding production — whether statutory or common law — as the duty to disclose.

    Under the rule of law, the debate should center on the most appropriate application of precedent.

    GWU Professor Alan Morrison is the type of commentator who likely now has researched the most relevant precedent and would be a great interview.

    Issa predicts ‘bipartisan’ contempt vote against Holder this week

    Published June 24, 2012
    Read more:

  6. DXer said

    Reduction Focus Shifts From Nukes to Bio Threats

    By Cheryl Pellerin
    American Forces Press Service

    WASHINGTON, June 13, 2012 – The 21-year-old program to reduce weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union is shifting focus from nuclear to biological threats and from Russia to Southeast Asia and Africa, the assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs told a Senate panel yesterday.

    Madelyn R. Creedon said the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, established in 1991, is gradually shifting to more of a biological threat reduction effort as the program adapts to take on emerging weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, threats in other regions. …

  7. DXer said

    Here is an article reporting the anthrax mailed to Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani.

    The last sentence reads something like

    Before in 2001 in the United States different people were targeted with anthrax and five people were killed in these incidents.

    The AUSAs in their Amerithrax Investigative Summary did a lot of complex rationalizing and engaged in a lot of conjecture.

    But when are reporters going to ask the AUSAs or Agent Ed Montooth or some other representative really basic straightforward questions like:

    Can you tell us whether the anthrax powder reportedly sent to Prime Minister Gilani was Ames? Did it have the 4 morphs?

    Can you tell us whether the powder reported by the US government in possession of the detainee at Guantanamo was Ames? Did it have the 4 morphs?

  8. DXer said

    The Sky-High Price of Sniffing Out Anthrax
    By Carol Wolf on June 21, 2012

  9. DXer said


    To put in context of the timeline and geography, the detainee explained that Supreme Commander in Kabul, Afghanistan. He says he defended Kabul against any group that attacked and that he had shifting alliances with the Northern Alliance and the Taliban.

    As of November, he was on the senior staff in the Taliban’s Minister of Defense as the Commander of the Tagah, Kabul Province front-line division in Afghanistan. He was the Taliban’s National Guard Commander and was deployed to the frontlines in June 2000. The detainee became director of the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin cell operations in Kandahar, Afghanistan in November 2002. That group has long-established ties to Bin Laden and had engaged in small attacks against US troops to force it to withdraw from Afghanistan and establish a Caliphate. Although reportedly once a Taliban leader in charge of 500 Taliban soldiers in Kabul, he then became part of a 40-man unit targeting US troops.

    Government documents say that “The detainee was planning biological and poison attacks on United States and Coalition forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan.”

    The detainee says “he knows he must cooperate.”

    I believe he was transferred to Afghanistan in April 2008.

    When was he first detained?

    The “House of Anthrax” I mention below was in Kabul. Yazid, as I recall, moved his anthrax lab from Omar Hospital in Kabul to Kandahar.

    “Intelligence failures

    In the house of anthrax

    Chilling evidence in the ruins of Kabul

    Nov 22nd 2001 | kabul | from the print edition

    AMERICAN officials increasingly believe the anthrax attacks since September 11th were not carried out by people connected to al-Qaeda, but may have been the work of a lone American madman. To avert future attacks, though, perhaps they should look harder.

    They might start, for example, in a nondescript house in the wealthiest district of Kabul, where a Pakistani NGO called Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN) once had its offices. UTN’s president is Bashiruddin Mahmood, one of Pakistan’s leading nuclear scientists and a specialist in plutonium technology. Last month Mr Mahmood was arrested by the Pakistani authorities and interrogated on his links to the Taliban, with whom he has had frequent contact for, he insists, humanitarian reasons. Mr Mahmood was released again soon afterwards. The Taliban has denied any “abnormal” links between Mr Mahmood and Mr bin Laden, and he himself says he has never met the man.

    In public, UTN helped Afghans with flourmills, school textbooks and road-upgrading schemes. But its offices suggest that this may have been a cover for something far more sinister. According to their neighbours, the Pakistanis who lived and worked there fled Kabul along with the Taliban, but the evidence they left behind suggests that they were working on a plan to build an anthrax bomb.

    An upstairs room of the house had been used as a workshop. What appeared to be a Russian rocket had been disassembled, and a canister labelled “helium” had been left on the worktop. On the floor were multiple copies of documents about anthrax downloaded from the Internet, and details about the American army’s vaccination plans for its troops. The number of copies suggests that seminars were also taking place there.

    One of the downloaded documents featured a small picture of the former American defence secretary, William Cohen, holding a five-pound bag of sugar. It noted that he was doing this “to show the amount of the biological weapon anthrax that could destroy half the population of Washington, DC.”

    On the floor was a small bag of white powder, which this correspondent decided not to inspect. It may have contained nothing more deadly than icing sugar, but that could be useful for experiments in how to scatter powder containing anthrax spores from a great height over a city, or to show students how to do this. The living room contained two boxes of gas masks and filters.

    On a desk was a cassette box labelled “Jihad”, with the name of Osama bin Laden hand-written along the spine. Most chilling of all, however, were the mass of calculations and drawings in felt pen that filled up a white board of the sort used in classrooms. There were several designs for a long thin balloon, something like a weather balloon, with lines and arrows indicating a suggested height of 10km (33,000 feet). There was also a sketch of a jet fighter flying towards the balloon alongside the words: “Your days are limited! Bang.” This, like the documents, was written in English.

    Since UTN was run by one of Pakistan’s top scientists, a man with close links to the Taliban and, it is said, close ideological affinities with Mr bin Laden, the circumstantial evidence points to only one conclusion. Whoever fled this house when the Taliban fell was working on a plan to build a helium-powered balloon bomb carrying anthrax. Whether it was detonated with a timer or shot down by a fighter, the result would have been the same: the showering of deadly airborne anthrax spores over an area as wide as half of New York city or Washington, DC.

    After the September 11th attacks, it was generally agreed that western intelligence agencies had failed through lack of “human intelligence”—men on the ground, as opposed to spy satellites and computers monitoring phone calls and e-mails. This failure was to be rectified. Yet since the fall of Kabul on November 13th, journalists have been fanning out across the city. They have stripped houses such as this one, and others directly connected to the al-Qaeda network, of all sorts of documents and other valuable evidence. These have included the names and addresses of al-Qaeda contacts in the West. For the West’s intelligence agencies, September 11th was Black Tuesday. There may be no words with which to describe their failure in the week since the fall of Kabul. “

    • DXer said

      I believe that back in 2001, among the papers found at the “House of Anthrax” was the name of New York City pharmacist Nazmut Tariq.

      So dating back to Fall 2001, any lead coming in about Amerithrax associated to the New York City area should have been cross-checked with the information about Nazmut Tariq — but that required that the information be shared by the CIA with the FBI.

      Is Nazmut on Facebook? Who does he think is responsible for the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings in the United States?

      What insight does he have about the anthrax reportedly that the Pakistan government reports was mailed to Prime Minister Gilani?
      Pakistani Terrorists Seek WMD from al-Qaida

      by IPT News • May 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm

      A top leader of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), who was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department along with two other Lashkar operatives and an al-Qaida leader in July 2009, is helping the Pakistan terror group obtain biological weapons and anthrax through his al-Qaida connections, the Times of India reports.

      The information was revealed in interrogations with Pakistani businessman and Guantanamo detainee, Saifullah Paracha, who said that the LeT was in contact with a U.S. based “al-Qaida anthrax operative” as part of its efforts to gain access to weapons of mass destruction.

      LeT leaders Arif Qasmani, Mohammed Yahya Mujahid, and Nasir Javaid, and al-Qaida operative Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al Peshawari, were designated by the U.S. Treasury for their active support for the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Lashkar in India.

      Qasmani has been described in the Treasury press release as “the chief coordinator for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s dealings with outside organizations” and is also alleged to provide financial support to al-Qaida operations. He has been directly tied to the July 2006 commuter train bombings in Mumbai and is reported to have received funds from Indian gangster Dawood Ibrahim who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

      Paracha, a businessman based in the Pakistani city of Sargodha, told U.S. interrogators in 2008 that Qasmani was in communication with Nazmut Tariq, described as a U.S.-based al-Qaida pharmacist, to discuss ways to obtain biological weapons and anthrax for the LeT. Paracha also disclosed that he had known Tariq since 1969 and both men are from the same village, Nazimabad, in Pakistan. Tariq was also described as a member of the radical Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party in Pakistan.

      His current whereabouts are unclear, but his name was referenced in a document seized from an al-Qaida safe house in Pakistan alongside an entry for anthrax vaccine, the Times of India report said.

  10. Sangaryar strikes me as one of the more likeable of the Gitmo detainees, and more honest. The anthrax didn’t come up again at his hearings, did it? Odd. Especially as the reporting suggested there was a significant amount of it — or at least, enough to distribute to AQ and Taliban fighters around Kandahar.

    Where does one buy anthrax in Kandahar and Quetta?


    In re that anthrax …

    From the report on another Gitmo detainee (US9AF-000899DP), also alleged to be a member of the same HIG cell as Sangaryar, reasons for continued detention, include:

    — “(S//NF) Between 13 and 22 November 2002, Mullah Dadallah, Akhtar Muhammad Osmani and Zabit Jalil held a meeting in Quetta, PK. The subject of the meeting was detainee’s capture by US and Coalition forces. The attendees believed that Noor Agha, the cell leader in Kandahar was compromised and would soon be captured. The leaders decided to replace Noor Agha with {{{ Mullah Rahmatallah Sangaryar }}}, ISN US9AF-000890DP (AF-890, transferred),19 as the leader of the HIG cell in Kandahar.20 (Analyst Note: It is assessed these individuals believed detainee would compromise Agha and his operations due to detainee’s subordination to Agha.)

    [Friends of Sangaryar…]

    — “(S//NF) An al-Qaida training manual covering topics such as surveillance, assassination, and interrogation techniques, which is similar to other al-Qaida training manuals found in Afghanistan. There was also a reference to a plan that included the kidnapping of the American president using nine men, a car, and a truck.21 (Analyst Note: {{{ Handwritten notes found in the margin concerning traditional and untraditional wars included the use of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) weapons. }}} It is unknown if the details of the kidnap plan were in preparation for an actual attempt or, more likely, simply training scenarios.)

    [Have been thinking about CBR…]

    — “(S//NF) During mid-2002, Iran gave $2,000,000 US and 3,000 AK-47 rifles to ACM elements in Afghanistan. Iran has also provided explosives, computer-controlled mines, {{{ unidentified poisons, and unidentified chemical capsules to make bombs. }}}27 (Analyst Note: It is assessed {{{ detainee’s cell received some }}} of the supplies received from Iran.) (S//NF) As of March 2007, Jalil and other ACM commanders had purchased and cached various rockets, RPGs, PK machine gun ammunition, and AK-47s. They intended to smuggle the weapons into Afghanistan to conduct attacks.28”

    [And may have Iranian poisons and chemicals, for the making of bombs… Sangaryar, coincidentally, had both anthrax and unspecified poisons.]


    And about those Iranian planes full of IRGC guys … curious how they keep crashing under mysterious circumstances right there on the border between Iran and Afghanistan. Poor maintenance?

    I do hope I live long enough to read a real history of the last decade. One suspects it may be rather more interesting than has been suggested.

    And for the record, and under oath: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a neocon.

    • DXer said

      Hi Ali!

      “June 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm
      Sangaryar strikes me as one of the more likeable of the Gitmo detainees, and more honest.”

      He definitely had a polished story and was fluent. He seemed very likable. (Though Yazid Sufaat seems likable to me too I’m a sucker for a romantic who puts his wife on a pedestal and aims to please his mother-in-law). Story was that he was just fixing up his house and at most at one point was collecting weapons for the Taliban (as a way of avoiding violence). Was pitching himself as a civic-minded member of the community who came to oppose the Taliban because they dug up a tribal leader and refused to put the bones back. I do credit that he was head of the security force though — and precisely because of his leadership ability, had an important position locally. On the anthrax, he pointed to the school next door. That is, he was suggesting the powder was not his. But certainly it is all something for GAO to confirm and sort out. The nature of the processing and the strain is more important than his complicity. Sufaat pulled up stakes in Fall 2001 and so this would have been made before that.

      The FBI withheld all documents about overseas testing until 9 months after the last presentation to the NAS — and then most never got produced because the FBI said it was classified. There is no basis, I don’t think, to classify these facts — such as lab testing of the powder — nearly a decade later.

      I believe most experts would say that anthrax would be diluted and/or killed by chlorine. There have been specific studies done on the subject, though, and I will have to pull them to remember what they say. Certainly, Leitenberg in 2002-2003 would emphasize dilution to me and I think DIA also would point to chlorine being effective. But let me pull the studies. I’ve always argued that it would violate the hadiths to poison water or foodstuffs — although Anwar Awlaki disagrees with me.

      The detainee may have lived next door to the “House of Anthrax” (Economist). He referred to it as a school.

      If you can figure more out about this alleged powder, I would be fascinated.

      Do you know Urdu or someone who does? It would be useful to search local reports in Pakistan (those not in English) for any news of the powder sent to Gilani.

      • Ali H. Haider said

        > “diluted and/or killed by chlorine”

        I wonder if any attempt was made to clean up the accidental anthrax emissions in Russia? The work at Gruinard Island suggests decontamination is not at all easy.

        October 18, 2001
        Special Report: Aftermath of Terror
        Anthrax’s Deadly Persistence Can Be Seen in Bomb Experiment From World War II
        By GAUTAM NAIK 

        Gazing at Gruinard Island across a stretch of blue water, Bill Richardson says dreamily: “It’s bathed in sunshine and is quite lovely. It’s not at all foreboding or evil.”
        Just a decade ago, though, the tiny Scottish isle was probably the most dangerous place in Britain. During World War II, British scientists secretly detonated several anthrax-laden bombs on Gruinard to study their potential for biological warfare against the Germans. Scores of sheep died after inhaling the bacteria.
        Amid an expanding number of cases of anthrax exposure in the U.S., the Gruinard experiment may hold valuable lessons. It showed that a carefully calibrated explosion could turn liquid anthrax into a deadly inhalable form, the same type that killed a man in Florida and has been found in the U.S. Senate’s offices. The British test also demonstrated that once anthrax is unleashed, it has amazing staying power: Gruinard was off-limits to people for more than 40 years because its soil continued to harbor vast amounts of highly infective anthrax spores.
        It took an unprecedented four-year effort — and vast quantities of formaldehyde mixed in seawater — before the island was rid of the deadly bacteria. “It was possible to decontaminate an area of limited size,” says Richard Manchee, the British microbiologist who led the cleanup, “but a large area would be very expensive and difficult.”
        Today, Gruinard is a lot like it was before the war — an idyllic and remote 500-acre island, home to rabbits, birds and seals but no people. There probably is still some anthrax lying around, but not enough to cause harm, say scientists. Sheep were recently allowed to graze there, and none contracted the disease. Signs that once warned people to “Keep Off” have been pulled down.
        Still, few locals venture there. “There’s very little reason to go,” says Mr. Richardson, who runs a post office on the mainland a mile away and has never set foot on Gruinard.
        Britain began its tests on the island in October 1940 in response to rumors that Germany had launched a bioweapons program. British scientists had already tested anthrax in sheep and guinea pigs at a military lab called Porton Down, but to test the bacteria’s effectiveness in the open air, they needed a remote location.
        Gruinard Island, in the northwest of Scotland, was perfect. Owned by a local family, it sat in the middle of a blue bay and was surrounded by craggy mountains. For security reasons, it was given a new name: X Base.
        The anthrax project was led by Dr. Paul Fildes, a microbiologist who had also been a naval surgeon in World War I. In July 1942, Dr. Fildes and his team placed a “wet culture” of anthrax in a bomb and used a gantry to suspend the device six feet above the ground. Several sheep were placed in open wooden crates downwind, and the bomb was exploded electrically. Within three days, the sheep began to die from inhaling the anthrax spores. Even animals placed 250 feet away succumbed.
        “The reality of bioterror warfare had been proven,” says an official at Porton Down familiar with the tests.
        Emboldened by the results, the British team tried alternative methods. They fired anthrax bombs from mortar guns into the ground. One was dropped from an airplane, but it was badly aimed and fell harmlessly into a marsh. In October 1942, a similar device dropped from a Blenheim bomber on a seashore in South Wales did detonate; several sheep died of anthrax.
        The data collected from such experiments were clear-cut. “On a weight for weight basis, [anthrax] was 100 to 1,000 times more potent than any then known chemical agent,” writes Graden Carter, a historian at the Porton Down lab, in a book about the lab’s various activities. “It was deduced that death in personnel were certain to follow an exposure.”
        By this time British scientists had also successfully carried out experiments with “cluster bombs,” devices that carried 100 four-pound individual bombs. Gruinard was too small to test such devices, but other countries were willing to help. Under a project known as N bomb, the U.S. agreed to produce anthrax at a plant in Terre Haute, Ind., while Canada agreed to test cluster bombs loaded with the deadly bacteria.
        But the war ended, and the N bomb plan was abandoned. The Porton Down scientists now faced a problem. To preserve the secrecy of their project, and because the island was heavily contaminated with anthrax, they couldn’t return Gruinard to its original owners. So in 1946 Britain acquired it for 500 pounds (about $725 at today’s rate of exchange), with the promise that the owners could eventually reacquire it for the same amount.
        >>>>> The scientists were in for a surprise. While many expected that the anthrax spores would die away or disappear in the wind, they didn’t. Scientists measuring the contamination each year between 1947 and 1979 found that the infestation levels stayed the same. Puzzled members of Parliament began to ask why Britain continued to own the island — and why it remained off limits. There were few answers.
        >>>>> Finally, in 1986, the British government decided to undertake a large-scale cleanup of Gruinard. After testing various chemical agents, the scientists hit upon the best one — formaldehyde. They built an entire irrigation system on the island, an intricate network of spray tubes, and soaked the ground in 280 tons of formaldehyde, diluted in 2,000 tons of seawater, for about one year. Soil samples were tested at various distances away from the center of the anthrax bomb explosions. “When we got three samples that weren’t contaminated, we stopped,” says Mr. Manchee, the cleanup leader.
        In April 1990, a junior defense minister was taken by boat to the island, where he declared Gruinard safe and removed the warning signs. The next month, “Anthrax Island,” as it had come to be called, was returned to its original owners.
        These days, few people visit this remote bit of Scotland. Occasionally, bird-watchers show up to seek a pair of white-tailed eagles that make their nest on Gruinard. But they don’t row across.
        Says Mr. Richardson, the local postmaster: “They prefer to see the birds from the shore.”


        • DXer said

          Isn’t it amusing that when they test the lyophilizer for evidence of anthrax and find none, they argue it could have been decontaminated.

          But when they test Al Qaeda labs, and find inconclusive and conflicting results, they dismiss the positive finding without noting that the written correspondence with Dr. Zawahiri expressly explains the plan to decontaminate the labs regularly so as to avoid detection.

      • Ali H. Haider said

        > If you can figure more out about this alleged powder, I would be fascinated.

        The only other information I’ve seen that may be related is the chapter near the end of Chris Mackey’s
        The Interrogators: Inside the Secret War Against al Qaeda, recounting events set near the end of the first year in Afghanistan. The names and locations have all been changed, so it’s hard to know if it’s the same incident. A raid on a high-level Taliban farm turns up a large stash of something terribly nasty. One gets the sense that we’re talking many kilos, at least. Everyone from the WH down is hanging of the results of the interrogation. The chapter highlights, I think, the extent to which the domestic anthrax attacks had a lot of people really, really rattled. At any rate, initial tests determine the stash was anthrax. The next set of tests came back with insecticide. The two men who had been captured revealed it was ricin, and that it had been purchased in Pakistan. Mackey’s account is leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

        • DXer said

          Dr. Zawahiri’s correspondence contemplated decontaminating the labs with insecticide. That’s why they painted the walls so as to wash down the place periodically with insecticide. I’ll have to find the document and link it.

        • DXer said

          Yes, over four different pages, the chrnology I think is

          anthrax… no insecticide

          further testing… anthrax after all

          wait, anthrax for use in the US

          no, wait, it’s ricin…. no specific plan yet for deployment because their expert went missing in December [2001]

          Michael Scheuer describes an experiment at the camp for Ansar Al-Islam where they poisoned a fellow at the market with aerosolized ricin and then watched as he went home and died.

          When you read the emails recently released to the National Security Archives, you can appreciate what a central role Mr. Scheuer had.

          His first book greatly informed my understanding of the Egyptian groups.

        • DXer said

          In connection with the Dirksen Building ricin letter incident, the FBI lab mistakenly concluded that the positive finding for ricin was a false positive.

          Dirksen Building contamination

          Immediately following the incident in Frist’s office, both the FBI and the United States Capitol Police were tasked to the investigation;[11] like in the Fallen Angel investigation, the FBI was the lead agency.[16] Detectives and agents focused on the possibility that the individual responsible for the 2003 letters was also responsible for the contamination at the Dirksen building.[11] Within two weeks of the incident, investigators were questioning the validity of the positive ricin tests at the Senate building. The results raised suspicion because no source (e.g. a letter) was ever found for the ricin. It was possible that the “contamination” was from paper by-products and not ricin.[21]

          However, later tests confirmed that the initial tests did not indicate a false positive and the substance was indeed ricin.[22] By the end of March 2005, there were no suspects and no confirmed source for the ricin found in Senator Frist’s office.[22] Investigators also found no connection to the Fallen Angel case as of the same date.[22] Despite those developments, investigators were not yet ready to declare a dead end to the investigation.[22] As of 2008, no direct connection has yet been found between the Frist case and the Fallen Angel case and no explanation found for the origin of the ricin in Frist’s office.[23]

      • Ali H. Haider said

        > Do you know Urdu or someone who does? It would be useful to search local reports in Pakistan (those not in English) for any news of the powder sent to Gilani.

        I’m afraid I’m an Arabist. I do keep a close eye on the Pakistani English press, though — enough to distrust much that I read therein. The PK press often makes Saudi papers look positively sane.

        Ms. Garrett well described the rules of the game:

        “Before going further, we should in fairness note that top
        Pakistan-watchers in the US intelligence and think-tank communities
        warn that wild conspiracy allegations are common features of both
        Pakistani media and political affairs. It is possible, they warn, that
        none of this is true. It is also possible that the reason all news
        coverage of this incident suddenly came to a full stop in Pakistan a
        couple of weeks ago is because there is, indeed, a great deal of truth
        to this tale and powerful individuals in the country have a stake in
        hushing it up. Given the near-impossibility of sifting fact and
        fiction in Islamabad these days I would probably have shrugged this
        off myself, had I not written a book about anthrax and 9/11.”

        Is there any news beyond what’s reported here?

        • DXer said

          No news beyond they say the lady professor at the university did it.

          As for the 2001 powder incidents in Pakistan, I think related to technical questions of testing done by a private hospital who was not turning it over to the government. See hospital press conference. If it was a false positive (and numerous others in Pakistan were authoritatively established as hoaxes), I don’t have any reason to doubt that the hospital was acting in good faith or with political motive. The reporting of the 2001 powder incidents similarly just died on the vine. It is ironic that while noting that Ms. Garrett’s comments were speculative his comments MHJ’s comments also were highly speculative. The more basic point is that it is crazy to give a country billions of dollars and not get basic cooperation on a matter such as authoritative laboratory testing done with respect to the reported powder. GAO should inquire about and then disclose the laboratory testing of the strain of the powder.

          On the value of local reporting generally, it was a local Pakistan account that first reported the capture of Rauf — several years before reported in the New York Times and Washington Post.

          Suspect and A Setback In Al-Qaeda Anthrax Case
          By Joby Warrick
          Washington Post Staff Writer
          Tuesday, October 31, 2006

          And it was foreign press that earlier had reported the announcement in Spring 1999 that Dr. Zawahiri intended to use anthrax against US targets.

          The CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information System describes the source. Considering the source (and the same applies to US and UK papers) is of course very important. But for factual leads, I’ll choose local foreign press accounts over punditry by talking heads any day. (Most famously, I am thinking of the former FBI profilers, with no experience with Egyptian Islamic Jihad at all, proclaiming that Al Qaeda went for the “big bang” and not mailed lethal letters. To the contrary, mailed lethal letters were not merely the modus operandi of the Vanguards of Conquest, they were its signature. And they had expressly announced in the foreign press that they intended to use anthrax against US targets to retaliate for the rendering of senior EIJ leaders.

        • DXer said

          As for the 2001 powder incidents, in November 2002, I summarized the Pakistan anthrax on Cryptome. The links to sources may still work.

          “The Pakistan anthrax

          The three reported “confirmed cases” in Karachi, Pakistan also are worthy of note. Although there were 100 other hoaxes, including hoax letters sent to other Jang newspaper branches, there was no report about the retesting of letters at the main branch of Jang, Habib International bank and Dell Computer. As of a November 12, 2001, the well-regarded private hospital that had done the lab testing had not yet provided the samples to the Pakistan government for retesting. (114)


          Hannah Bloch, “Some More Spores?: Suspicious packages raise prospect that Pakistan may be the latest target of bioterrorists”, TIME, November 12, 2001.

          “Pakistan, other US allies grapple with anthrax scares,” Christian Science Monitor, November 5, 2001.

          “Anthrax attacks in Pakistan as US strikes raise tensions,” Middle East Times November 2, 2001.

          “Anthrax Found in Pakistan News Office, ” ABCNews, November 2, 2001.

          “US Firm in Pakistan Gets Anthrax Letter,” October 24, 2001.

          “Pakistan reports anthrax exposures,” CNN, November 2, 2001.

          “Pakistan to test 3 people for anthrax exposure, ” CNN, November 3, 2001.

          Ghulam Hasnain, “Lethal Weapon: With three confirmed cases of anthrax exposure so far, offices in Karachi begin to gear up to face the new threat” Newsline (November 2001).

          “No anthrax in Pakistan: minister,” (reporting on 100 hoaxes and confirming that three cases at issue had not yet been retested; urging no need to panic).

        • Ali M. Haider said

          Very helpful summary, esp for one such as myself who was unable closely to follow developments at the time.

          Re the PK press, it’s not that it’s all crazy. I didn’t mean to give that impression, though the quotient of conspiracy theories is relatively high. There are many, first-rate journalists. And many who are also heroic and quite dead as a result of their work…. It’s just that one also finds things that just don’t fit, but seem crafted in a deliberate and systematic fashion. As an example, the stories about the return of KSM’s body to his family. Or KSM’s arrest six months before his arrest. Very frustrating.

        • Ali M. Haider said

          > went for the “big bang”

          I think such a theory entirely misses the benefit of even relatively crude WMD. They up the threshold for military intervention. If Iran, e.g., has even a single, low-yield nuke, the entire calculus changes.

          Could the timing of our own anthrax attacks have been designed with this end in view?

          And besides, AQ and its franchisees have a feel for the theatrical as much as the body count. Especially EIJ …

        • DXer said

          Documents concerning assassination of US citizens were found along with the anthrax documents.

          But one doesn’t have to look past the day’s headlines to know that sending a lethal letter to the Majority Leader is not merely consistent with Dr. Zawahiri’s modus operandi, a long series of assassinations lies in his wake.

          Zawahiri Orders Assassination of Speaker Berri, Gen. Qahwaji‎
          Al-Manar TV – 1 day ago
          Zawahiri Orders Assassination of Speaker Berri, Gen. Qahwaji.

        • Ali M. Haider said

          EIJ does like its lethal letters …

  11. DXer said

    Simulated anthrax attack tests local police

    By Melanie Patterson North Jefferson News
    June 7, 2012

  12. DXer said

    Anthrax alert system at risk as cost estimate hits $5.7 billion‎
    Washington Post – 2 days ago
    Letters laced with anthrax were sent through the mail and resulted in five … No one has been charged in the attacks, Chris Allen, a Federal …

  13. DXer said

    Tokyo Gas Attack Arrest Reawakens National Trauma

    Published: June 7, 2012


    Long before Al Qaeda’s assault on the United States on Sept. 11, the mysterious anthrax attacks that followed and the increased fears of biological or chemical weapons, the subway attack was a sign of the havoc a small group could unleash when armed with a deadly chemical. …’

    The attack — and the news that the cult had attracted students from Japan’s elite universities — at first caused nationwide hand-wringing about the country’s narrow, education-driven path to success, which demands extreme conformity while offering few outlets for individual expression. …

    But in the end, the police said, she was caught after someone recognized her and tipped off the police to claim the roughly $125,000 reward.


    Japanese are still baffled at how Mr. Asahara, whose real name was Chizuo Matsumoto, was able to persuade some of the nation’s brightest students to put their faith in him — and attempt mass murder. He adopted the long hair and white robes of an Indian guru, and claimed he could levitate and read minds.

    Hiroyuki Nagaoka, the leader of a group of families trying to get their children out of Aum and its successor, Aleph, said he worried that, without societal soul-searching and change, more young people would fall victim to such men.

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