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

* GAO … questions about Al-Timini that need to be answered

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 23, 2012

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Alibek, Bush et al, Al-Timini, Bailey and Card

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GAO …

  • Ali Al-Timini was coordinating with Anwar Awlaki.
  • Ali Al-TImini’s colleagues in the Spring of 2001 co-invented a process by which anthrax was grown in silica.
  • A Red Team then recommended the Task Force not pursue the so-called “Silicon Signature.”
  • Aren’t the documents identifying the Red Team scientists who advised against pursuing the Silicon Signature subject to FOIA?
  • How else can the public ensure that there was no conflict of interest?

DXer

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6 Responses to “* GAO … questions about Al-Timini that need to be answered”

  1. DXer said

    Book details Soviet plans to wage germ warfare with lethal ‘designer’ strains
    by Joby Warrick
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/book-details-soviet-plans-to-wage-germ-warfare-with-lethal-designer-strains/2012/08/08/7d69b8b8-e0b1-11e1-a421-8bf0f0e5aa11_story.html

    Anything Joby Warrick writes on the general subject is a priority to read. Currently writing on intelligence, national security and Middle East for the Washington Post, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for Public Service. Condi Rice is famously quoted bringing George Bush the good news that the anthrax used was not genetically designed.

    • DXer said

      The Soviet Biological Weapons Program: A Hist…(Hardcover)by Milton Leitenberg,Raymond A. Zilinskas

      Page 675

      “The United States offered Russian authorities the opportunity to cooperate in the investigation of the Amerithrax events in 2001, and several Russian officials did visit Washington. The group included Aleksey Stepanov, a scientist who had worked on B. anthracis at SRCAM for many years. In exchange the DOD asked the RF-MOD for the epidemiological data for the 1979 anthrax outbreak in Sverdlosk. General Yuri Baluevsky (then chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff, and also chief of the International Cooperation Directorate) replied to Douglas Feith that the information would be of no use to the United States because the 1979 outbreak involved only intestinal anthrax and not the airborne variety.”

      Note: I am just posting the excerpt because it mentions Amerithrax. I don’t mean to revisit Sverdlosk except to note my understanding that General Yuri Baluevsky is lying here. See peer-reviewed literature and DIA documents on Sverdlosk uploaded by national security archive. One DIA meeting memo notes the surprise of analysts that Dr. Meselson was so willing to accept the Soviet position. I believe there is a former Russian General willing to publish on the subject of the Russian program. I will leave the subject to expert researchers like ML and RZ and to participants like the Russian General. But it seems that the Russians should just stop lying in that regard as it never serves someone well to be a known liar.

      I have not yet read this weighty new book by these two expert researchers on the Russian program. My first contact with ML was when he called me in 2002 or so and asked me if I worked for the Mossad. I have had a high regard for the directness and effectiveness of his research methods ever since. Indeed, he obtained the correspondence between Rauf Ahmad and Dr. Zawahiri before I ever did. I only obtained the DIA correspondence because I insisted as a matter of FOIA law that they couldn’t be given to ML (who was not sharing with me) without also being given to me.

      I know the extensive research that has gone into this book over many years and am always educated by ML’s views and analysis even though I disagreed with him on Amerithrax on all counts. For example, I objected to his omission in his 2005 book of the sentence in Rauf’s letter to Dr. Ayman: “I successfully achieved the targets.” I felt that regardless of ML’s private interpretation, the sentence needed to be disclosed to the reader. It would underscore the need now that GAO identify the second lab that Rauf visited in 1999 after the first lab did not have pathogenic anthrax. Did Rauf visit Porton Down? I relatedly thought it important to understand that the undated typed letter came second (after the handwritten letter). The NYT reversed the order of the handwritten and typed letters. NYT quoted ML and may have been influenced by his general conclusions relating to Al Qaeda and anthrax.

      Joby Warrick set things in their proper context in a later article in the Washington Post.

      Suspect and A Setback In Al-Qaeda Anthrax Case
      By Joby Warrick
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Tuesday, October 31, 2006
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/30/AR2006103001250.html

      But given ML and RZ are such influential and oft-quoted researchers on bioweapons, I encourage them to contact Yazid Sufaat who is available for an interview. Although Yazid pleads the Fifth to me on matters related to the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings, he likely would be willing to describe his work with the Malaysian biological weapons program to such esteemed chroniclers of the history of bioweapons. A friend had told his Malaysians interrogators about Yazid’s involvement in the program in 2002. But being as stubborn as he is affable and romantic, Yazid did not cooperate with his interrogators. He felt he had been betrayed by his country. The FBI did not interview him until November 2002 even though he had been captured in December 2001. Amerithrax fell on its face from the very start partly because of the failure to interview Sufaat. He was pleading the Fifth then too. Then analysts and researchers assumed that the Dr. Ayman was not capable of surrounding himself with skilled personnel. (To the contrary, everything about Dr. Ayman suggested that the 40 doctors in his family were just the start of the amount of sophisticated knowledge that he could bring to bear in launching attacks).

      ML cut off contact when I contacted RZ to confirm that he now understands that the Russians had a spy at Ft. Detrick. This departed from an earlier view published by ML and RZ in a review of a book by a former KGB handler. At the same time ML suggested I did not maintain skepticism toward sources claiming that AQ had anthrax, he was offended that I also double-checked everything he told me. (Serge Popov says that all they needed to do was put in a request and whatever they wanted from USAMRIID would be obtained).

      So I of course don’t know whether the Russians had a spy at Ft. Detrick and mean only to note that RZ, William Patrick and Serge Popov suggest that one can reasonably conclude that they did.

      The FBI didn’t catch that guy either.

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

  2. DXer said

    According to his defense counsel, Ali Al-TImimi was immediately suspected to be part of the Al Qaeda conspiracy. He was thought to be an “anthrax weapons suspect.” This was awkward because coincidentially he had been the assistant of the former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, to whom FBI Director Mueller would dutifully report the progress on the anthrax investigation. He had spoken in Toronto and London in July and August 2001 alongside fellow Falls Church imam Anwar Awlaki.

    see, e.g.,

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/attorney-jonathan-turley-regarding-his-client-al-timini-is-this-the-kind-of-connection-it-is-critical-for-the-house-committee-to-investigate/

    The White House proceeded with NSA wiretapping of Al-TImimi and his network and cut the DOJ out of the loop. The wiretapping was extensive but, as an example, included Aafia Fowzia’s sister at Johns-Hopkins. FBI Director Mueller threatened to resign if the warrantless wiretapping continued in a heated conversation with Andrew Card.

    Ali Al-TImimi was just a few feet from the DARPA-funded researchers Ames researchers who co-invented the process involving anthrax being grown in silica.

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/floor-plan-of-suite-at-gmus-discovery-hall-in-2001-with-ali-al-timimi-and-leading-anthrax-scientists/

    Anwar Aulaqi, who was coordinating with Ali Al-Timimi, was interviewed by 9/15/2001 by the FBI

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/anwar-aulaqi-who-was-coordinating-with-ali-al-timimi-was-interviewed-by-9152001-by-the-fbi/

    A letter by Al-Timimi’s counsel attached as an exhibit i states that in March 2002, Dr. Al-Timimi spoke with Dr. Al-Hawali (Bin Laden’s sheik who was the subject of OBL’s “Declaration of War”) about assisting Moussaoui in his defense.

    Moussaoui was the friend of Al Qaeda anthrax lab director Yazid Sufaat. Yazid has explained that Zacarias was determined to learn to fly like the other hijackers. He gave him a letter of introduction from the company he and his wife founded.

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/al-qaeda-anthrax-lab-tech-yazid-sufaat-discusses-zacarias-moussaoui-in-this-2001-french-language-television-interview/

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/anthrax-lab-director-yazid-sufaat-wrote-this-letter-of-introduction-for-zacarias-moussaoui-who-made-the-cropduster-inquiries/

    The filing and the letter exhibit each copy defense co-counsel, the daughter of the lead prosecutor in Amerithrax. She worked for Ali Al-Timimi pro bono.

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/the-head-of-the-amerithrax-prosecution-daniel-seikaly-pled-the-fifth-amendment-about-leaking-the-hyped-hatfill-stories-that-derailed-the-amerithrax-investigation-for-7-years-his-daughter-later-ca/

    Born in Haifa in 1948, the father had moved over from the CIA in mid-September to head criminal prosecutions in D.C. See bio.

    That prosecutor has pled the Fifth Amendment concerning all the leaks hyping a “POI” of the other Amerithrax squad, Dr. Steve Hatfill.

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/who-does-former-prosecutor-daniel-seikaly-and-his-daughter-ali-al-timimis-former-defense-counsel-think-is-responsible-for-the-anthrax-mailings-of-fall-2001/

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

    Failure is not an option.

  3. DXer said

    In Fall 2001, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (”AFIP”) had detected silicon dioxide (silica) and silicon in the attack anthrax — with a characteristic big spike for the silicon. No silica was observable on the SEMs images that Dr. Alibek and Dr. Matthew Meselson saw. The Daschle product was “pure spores.” Was silicon dioxide used as part of a microdroplet cell culture process used prior to drying to permit greater concentration? As explained in a later related patent, the silica could be removed from the surface of the spore through repeated centrifugaton or an air chamber.

    Dr. Alibek and Dr. Bailey had filed a patent application in mid-March 2001 involving a microdroplet cell culture technique that used silicon dioxide in a method for concentrating growth of cells. The patent was granted and the application first publicly disclosed in the Spring of 2002. Weren’t the SEMS images and AFIP EDX finding both consistent with use of this process in growing the culture? It’s been suggested informally to me that perhaps the silicon analytical peak was due to silanol from hydrolysis of a silane, used in siliconizing glassware. But didn’t the AFIP in fact also detect oxygen in ratios characteristic of silicon dioxide? Wasn’t the scientist, now deceased, who performed the EDX highly experienced and expert in detecting silica? Hasn’t the AFIP always stood by its report. In its report, AFIP explained: “AFIP experts utilized an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (an instrument used to detect the presence of otherwise-unseen chemicals through characteristic wavelengths of X-ray light) to confirm the previously unidentifiable substance as silica.” Perhaps the nuance that was lost — or just never publicly explained for very sound reasons — was that silica was used in the cell culture process and then removed from the spores through a process such as centrifugation. The applicants in March 2001 for an international patent relating to vaccines were a leading aerosol expert, Herman R. Shepherd, and a lonstanding anthrax biodefense expert, Philip Russell.

    Dr. Morozov is co-inventor along with Dr. Bailey for a patent “Cell Culture” that explains how the silicon dioxide can be removed from the surface. Perhaps it is precisely this AFIP finding of silicon dioxide (without silica on the SEMs) that is why the FBI came to suspect Al-Timimi in 2003 (rightly or wrongly, we don’t know). The FBI would have kept these scientific findings secret to protect the integrity of the confidential criminal/national security investigation. There was still a processor and mailer to catch — still a case to prove. After 9/11, intelligence collection takes precedence over arrests. As Ron Kessler explains in the new book, Terrorist Watch, many FBI officials feel that they are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. Outside observers are constantly second-guessing them about how to proceed rather than trusting that they are in the best position to balance the competing considerations of national security, intelligence gathering, the pursuit of justice, and the safeguarding of civil liberties. Above all, in disclosing the theory of access to know-how, the FBI has needed to protect the due process rights of Al-Timimi while he defended himself on other charges.

    An example from October 2006 of equipment that went missing from GMU’s Discovery Hall was a rotissery hybridization oven belonging to the Center for Biomedical Genomics. “This equipment can be used to manufacture biological agents and genetically modified agents, which could potentially be used as biological weapons,” Corinne Verzoni explained in her PhD 2007 thesis. “Upon hearing about instances or missing equipment in Discovery Hall, the author contacted campus security who was unaware of instances of missing equipment. Missing equipment should be reported to the equipment liaison. Missing equipment may not be reported to campus security because labs tend to share equipment. Equipment also goes missing because it is not inventoried if it is under $2,000.”

    One of her other examples was equally dramatic:

    “A DI system is a de-ionized water system, which removes the ions that are found in normal tap water. The assistant director for operations noticed the DI system in Discovery Hall was using the entire 100 gallons in two days, which is an enormous amount of water for the four DI taps in the whole building. According to the assistant director for operations, it is difficult to calculate the reason for that much water since no leak was found. A large amount of water used over a short period of time for unknown reasons could indicate that the research is being conducted covertly.”

    “A student with legitimate access to Discovery Hall,” she explained, “has easy accessibility to equipment. A student with access to the loading dock could steal equipment on the weekend when campus security is not present in Discovery Hall. A
    student could also walk out of the entrance with equipment on the weekend without security present.” She concluded: “The events at GMU demonstrate opportunity to create a clandestine lab, the ability to sell items illegally, or the ability to exploit school equipment.” In a late September 2001 interview on NPR on the anthrax threat, Dr. Alibek said: “When we talk and deal with, for example, nuclear weapons, it’s not really difficult to count how much of one or another substance we’ve got in the hands. When you talk about biological agents, in this case it’s absolutely impossible to say whether or not something has been stolen.”

    Al-Timimi’s prosecution was emand so that the defense could be given an opportunity to discover any documents that existed prior to 9/11 about al-Timimi and to address an issue relating to NSA intercepts after 9/11. Ali’s defense counsel explained to the federal district court, upon a remand by the appeals court, that Mr. Timimi was interviewed by an FBI agent and a Secret Service agent as early as February 1994 in connection with the first World Trade Center attack. The agents left their business cards which the family kept. Defense counsel Johnathan Turley further explained that “We have people that were contacted by the FBI and told soon after 9/11 that they believed that Dr. Al-Timimi was either connected to 9/11 or certainly had information about Al Qaeda.”

    Al-Timimi worked for SRA in 1999 where he had a high security clearance for work for the Navy. At a conference on countering biological terrorism in 1999 sponsored by the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Dr. Alibek was
    introduced by a former colleague of Dr. Bailey:

    “Dr. Llewellyn: This is rather strange because I just met Dr. Alibek today. He was introduced to me by Dr. Charlie Bailey, who now works for SRA. But Charlie and I were associated with the Army Medical Research and Development Command Defense Program for over 20 years.”

    When I emailed Dr. Bailey in December 2007 to confirm Ali had the room right near his at Discovery Hall and whether he had worked with Al-Timimi at SRA he politely referred me to counsel and took no questions. Dr. Alibek and Dr. Popov have told me that Ali is not known to have worked on any biodefense project. Dr. Popova told me I should direct any such questions to Dr. Bailey. Dr. Bailey told me I should direct any questions to University counsel. University counsel declined to answer any questions.

    Dr. Bailey and Dr. Alibek had the work with virulent Ames subcontracted out to Southern Research Institute (“SRI”) in Frederick, Maryland. See press releases at time using Wayback machine; 2003 telephone interview of Ken Alibek. Its President at the time, Tom Voss, and Vice-President, the influential and personable David Franz, refuse to tell me when SRI first acquired virulent Ames. True to an earlier warning, DF stopped responding to inquiries when I pressed the point.

    Dr. Keim should focus not only on the issue of the 4 morphs but he should appreciate that the genetics inquiry is built on quicksand — depending on self-reporting as Dr. Relman pointed out in his SCIENCE piece titled “Have We Met The Enemy?” Science can be hugely misleading if the validation focuses only on statistics and implications are drawn without understanding the true crime context in which the question is framed. Until we know the distribution of Ames and what happened to the large amount of virulent Ames made by Dr. Ivins’ assistants, for example, the genetics inquiry is especially meaningless.

    We can’t know from where virulent Ames might have been stolen without having confidence as to where it was.

    That requires that people stop refusing to answer questions. They need to show the same courage and forthrightness that Dr. Ezzell showed in explaining that he made dried powder out of Ames from Flask 1029 for the DARPA researchers after it had been irradiated.

    • DXer said

      Ali Al-Timimi had talked on the telephone with Bin Laden’s sheik, Al-Hawali, about helping with the defense of Yazid Sufaat’s friend, Zacarias Moussaoui. Yazid has said in an interview that his friend Zacarias wanted to learn to fly planes like the others (and could be quite determined).

      Al Qaeda anthrax lab tech Yazid Sufaat now has explained that he was part of the former Malaysian biological weapons program. He tells me that his work for Dr. Ayman in the anthrax program was for the “love of Allah.” He says he can perform magic. He says the “plan is on the way.” On Facebook and on chat, he says that he realizes that by coming forward he may jam himself up. He pleads the Fifth Amendment as to all particulars, to include an early June 2001 harvesting and all other technical issues (to include microencapsulation).

      The FBI did not get around to interview Yazid Sufaat until November 2002 even though I had been posting about him in the context of Amerithrax and pointing to him since February 2002. Yazid in the mid-1980s used to live at 1500 Howe Ave in Sacramento. Our paths nearly crossed. He was leaving Sacramento about the time I was donning a hardhat to tour the Sacramento nuclear reactor at Rancho Seco. At the time, I marveled at what dangerous technologies even a municipal utility can be charged with keeping out of the hands of those who gleefully celebrate the murder of innocents. FBI Director Mueller, as I recall, travelled to Malaysia in Spring 2002 and unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to Sufaat. Then again, Sufaat was not even telling his Malaysian interrogators about his use of microencapsulation in his work for the biological program early on. He figured that he had been betrayed by his government and so was not going to cooperate. Only later did a “friend” tell his interrogators about his work. His wife was picked up for 2 months to try to persuade Yazid to open up. But he is as stubborn as he is amiable.

      “The silicon is probably the most important scientific evidence that would lead anybody to question whether Bruce was capable of making these spores,” says Gerald P. Andrews, Bruce Ivins’ former boss. Andrews and George Mason University professor and former Soviet bioweapons researcher Sergei Popov believe — whatever its function or purpose — the silicon was intentionally added, due to unnaturally high levels of the mineral in the spores. The government’s obfuscation of the issue by use of the undefined phrase “naturally occurring” is not helping matters.

      Kathryn Crockett, Ken Alibek’s assistant — just a couple doors down from Ali Al-Timimi — addressed these issues in her 2006 thesis, “A historical analysis of Bacillus anthracis as a biological weapon and its application to the development of nonproliferation and defense strategies.” She expressed her special thanks to bioweaponeering experts Dr. Ken Alibek and Dr. Bill Patrick. Dr. Patrick consulted with the FBI. Dr. Crockett successfully defended the thesis before a panel that included USAMRIID head and Ames strain researcher Charles Bailey, Ali Al-Timimi’s other Department colleague. In 2001 he said he did not want to discuss silica because he did not want to give terrorists any ideas. Oops! Too late. The scientist coordinating with the 911 imam and Bin Laden’s Sheik was 15 feet away.

      Dr. Crockett in her PhD thesis says that scientists who analyzed the powder through viewing micrographs or actual contact are divided over the quality of the powder. She cites Gary Matsumoto’s “Science” article in summarizing the debate. She says the FBI has vacillated on silica. The AFIP data, when it finally was released, confirmed the high level of silica in the first batch of letters.

      On the issue of microencapsulation, Crockett reports that “many experts who examined the powder stated the spores were encapsulated. Encapsulation involves coating bacteria with a polymer which is usually done to protect fragile bacteria from harsh conditions such as extreme heat and pressure that occurs at the time of detonation (if in a bomb), as well as from moisture and ultraviolet light. The process was not originally developed for biological weapons purposes but rather to improve the delivery of various drugs to target organs or systems before they were destroyed by enzymes in the circulatory system” (citing Alibek and Crockett, 2005). “The US and Soviet Union, however, ” she explains, “used this technique in their biological weapons programs for pathogens that were not stable in aerosol form… Since spores have hardy shells that provide the same protection as encapsulation would, there is no need to cover them with a polymer.“ She explains that one “possible explanation is that the spore was in fact encapsulated but not for protective purpose. Encapsulation also reduces the need for milling when producing a dry formulation.” She wrote: “If the perpetrator was knowledgeable of the use of encapsulation for this purpose, then he or she may have employed it because sophisticated equipment was not at his disposal.”

      Or as Dr. Michael told National Geographic (using the word “weaponized” to narrowly refer to aiding dispersability) he does not think the silica was used for that purpose of “weaponization”, whether under the historical Dugway method from the 1990s or otherwise. Michael told FOX News, “I don’t think this exonerates (Ivins) at all.” He added, “I don’t think it’s not enough to say that he did it, as well.”

      One military scientist who has made anthrax simulants described the GMU patents to me as relating to a silicon encapsulation technique which serves to increase the viability of a wide range of pathogens. More broadly, a DIA analyst once commented to me that the internal debate seemed relatively inconsequential given the circumstantial evidence — overlooked by so many people — that US-based supporters of Al Qaeda are responsible for the mailings.

      Experts like Peter Setlow can consider the source of the reason for the silica. Experts can consider the reason for putting virulent Ames soil (silica) suspension such as the FBI scientist John Ezzell did in 1996 for DARPA. Or we can turn to the “Microdroplet Cell Culture” patent filed by Ali Al-Timimi’s Discovery Hall colleagues at the DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense and see if there is a connection. The silica would be in the culture medium used to concentrate the anthrax and then would be removed by repeated centrifugation.

      Or we can explore the other hypotheses relating to the reason for the Silicon Signature.

      But presently, the Silicon Signature is hugely exculpatory of Dr. Ivins just based on the disclosures already made.

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