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

* FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team (CART) agents set up a work area in 2004 in Bruce Ivins office to copy his electronic files created September 2001 and October 2001 but the FBI has refused to provide the documents obtained by FBI’s CART agents in response to Ken Dillon’s FOIA request

Posted by DXer on May 23, 2016


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It wasn't Ivins

9 Responses to “* FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team (CART) agents set up a work area in 2004 in Bruce Ivins office to copy his electronic files created September 2001 and October 2001 but the FBI has refused to provide the documents obtained by FBI’s CART agents in response to Ken Dillon’s FOIA request”

  1. DXer said

    Judge: Wilber Ross’s Personal Email Account is Subject to FOIA Requests Because He Used It For Government Business
    Jerry Lambe 12 hrs ago

    A federal judge on Wednesday said that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated federal recordkeeping laws by using his personal email account to conduct government business. As such, the judge ruled that Ross’s nongovernmental email account would be subject to discovery in a lawsuit over his agency’s records.

  2. DXer said

    Judges Turn Up Heat on Feds Over Stalled Records Requests
    October 10, 2019

    WASHINGTON (CN) — Tired and frustrated, federal judges are strategically ordering government agencies to pick up the pace in responding to Freedom of Information Act requests to pressure Congress into allocating more funding to offices tasked with releasing records to the public.

    “There is this constant tension of wanting to pressure the agencies more … because it is the only way they will allocate the resources,” U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said in court Thursday.

    The frustration Moss admitted — during a status conference to discuss a FOIA request for documents on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in a lawsuit filed by Senate Democrats during his confirmation process — was similarly shared last week by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.


    The judge closed the hearing Thursday by saying he hopes that Congress will allocate more funding for agencies to fulfill the “significant obligation” imposed under the federal public-records law.


    FOIA head David Hardy appears to never had his staff access FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team (CART) that had reviewed Ivins’ computer records.

    It wasn’t a lack of staffing that resulted in the failure to produce documents — it was the negligent (if not willful) failure to look in the obvious place.

  3. DXer said

    FBI’s Dave Hardy — although today announcing in an Affidavit submitted to the federal district court yesterday that he would produce 102 additional pages — says he is refusing to produce 241 more because they are “duplicative.”

    Can you imagine a computer forensic person accepting some lay person’s claim “Don’t worry… these computer records are just duplicative of other material. It is too much bother to give you a copy on the same CD.” Hardy doesn’t even identify what they duplicate.

  4. DXer said

    If FBI wants help locating the documents, you may want to check for the phrase “server archive” in Part 9 of the Amerithrax documents. Also, you will see the discussion in September 2004 about the documents in that Part 9 of 59 in the Amerithrax documents at the Vault.

  5. DXer said

    CIA Gets Sued Over Documents Withheld In Freedom Of Information Request

    Ethan Barton

    Read more:

    A non-profit government accountability group is suing the CIA for withholding records regarding political appointees’ manipulation of official responses to public information requests.

    The suit is being filed by the Cause of Action Institute, which had sought copies of CIA inspector general reports detailing political influence over how agencies respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The intelligence agency has refused to provide the requested documents “without sufficient explanation,” the group said in a statement. (RELATED: New Data Shows Obama Least Transparent President Ever)

    Read more:

  6. DXer said

    Twin Cities ERs on “Anthrax Alert” – ‎12 hours ago‎
    The detection of the anthrax bacteria in the Twin Cities spurred the Minnesota Department of Health to issue an alert to emergency rooms in the seven-county metro area this week. “One of our monitors was positive (for anthrax) two days ago,” Dr. Ruth …

    Minnesota chief epidemiologist: No cause for concern after anthrax detection

    Minneapolis Star Tribune – ‎7 hours ago‎
    The Minnesota Department of Health says there’s no cause for public concern after a Twin Cities monitoring system detected anthrax bacteria this week. After the detection at an unspecified site in northern Ramsey County in midweek, the department …

    Anthrax detected in initial air testing in the Twin Cities metro area: ‘Does not appear to present a threat’

    Outbreak News Today – ‎11 hours ago‎
    Testing at one location in suburban Ramsey County Wednesday yielded a result consistent with the bacteria that can cause anthrax infection (Bacillus anthracis). However, there are no reports of human or animal illness and extensive additional sampling …

    • DXer said

      Anthrax detected in Twin Cities area, prompts investigation

      “The department of health says that whenever a substance is detected at one of the monitoring stations – which are in secret locations, KSTP says – officials investigate to see whether it might be naturally occurring or part of a terrorism scheme.

      KSTP says the program was launched to protect major cities after anthrax attacks in 2001.

      According to the CDC, 22 people contracted the disease in 2001 when spores were put into mail. Five of those people died.”


      An FBI Special Agent in the Minneapolis, MN Field Office, Harry Samit unsuccessfully appealed to his superiors for a FISA warrant that would permit him to view the contents of Moussaoui’s computer in the weeks leading up to 9/11. Samit’s memo had explained that Moussaoui was connected to a radical fundamentalist group in Chechnya, whose leader Ibn Khattab had ties to Bin Laden. “For this reason, it is imperative that his effects be searched in order to gather intelligence relating to these connections and to any plans for terrorist attacks against the United States or United States Persons to which he may be a party.” He wrote: “I am so desperate to get into his computer, I’ll take anything.” A colleague emailed Samit: “ thanks for the update. Very sorry that this matter was handled the way it was, but you fought the good fight. God Help us all if the next terrorist incident involves the same type of plane. take care Cathy.”

      The emails were dated September 10, 2001. If we don’t learn from history, we are bound to repeat it.

      Quoted in a June 2002 Wall Street Journal column titled “The “lone wolf” theory is evidence of the Bureau’s ineptitude,” FBI Special Agent Rowley was highly critical of the FBI in “chalking this all up to the ’20-20 hindsight is perfect’ problem.” The Minneapolis agents who arrested Zacarias Moussaoui before September 11 had quickly identified him as a terrorist threat and identified the legal grounds on which he has since been indicted. Agents in Phoenix had sounded an alarm about suspicious Arabs taking flight training. So she argues that “this is not a case of everyone in the FBI failing to appreciate the potential consequences.”

      The FBI’s stock profile concerning a biological agent was a lone, unstable individual. In October 2001, the profilers pretty much just reached into the filing cabinet. One Special Agent involved in profiling such incidents explained in a conference, at which Dr. Steve Hatfill was also a presenter: “The closest I’ve ever come to biological-chemical issues is when the toilet on the 37th floor gets backed up *** It isn’t the Middle Eastern people. It isn’t white supremacists. It is the lone individual, lone unstable individual. That statistically, from the cases that we have, is the biggest threat right now.”

      FBI Special Agent Fitzgerald, who had some early involvement in Amerithrax in issuing the “profile,” years earlier had special responsibility for scrutinizing the language of the manifesto in UNABOM. In late September 2001, his colleague from UNABOM, Kathleen Puckett, turned in her study of “lone wolves” to include Kaczynski and others. Dr. Puckett sees “howling loneliness” as the key characteristic of a “lone wolf.” Before turning to work on domestic terror cases of the 1990s, her counterintelligence work typically involved Soviet spies. She would go and kibbitz the local agents on what she perceived as the personality of the subject. She retired on September 30, 2001 and handed in her study on lone wolves on her way out the door. By October, her colleague Fitzgerald was turning in a “lone wolf” profile for his assignment in Amerithrax. Judging from his comments to the media, he was one of those who was swayed that Daschle and Leahy were Democrats.

      Hunting the American Terrorist (2007), by History Publishing is dedicated in part to the victims of the anthrax mailings. Dr. Terry Turchie and Dr. Kathleen Purkett appear to agree with the Special Agent Fitzgerald’s profile from October 2001. (Fitzgerald was their former team member) They write:

      “Then, right on the heels of 9/11, another wave of attacks paralyzed the east cost of the United States. During the week of September 18, 2001, five letters containing micronized anthrax were mailed to addresses between New York and Florida. They targeted journalists, U.S. Senators, and news magazines. As in the case of Kaczynski and Rudolph cases, the envelopes had fictional return addresses.

      Notes accompanying the mailings were supposedly from Islamic fundamentalists, and almost everyone in the government and the media quickly cast blame in that direction.

      For those of us who were involved in the domestic terror campaigns of the 1990s, however, the anthrax mailings had all the earmarks of a lone wolf.”

      One person’s lonely lone wolf is another man’s US-based dedicated islamist operating under strict principles of cell security. Adnan El-Shukrimah to be precise. It seems that the FBI was making the same mistake it made in the case of the assassination of Rabbi Kahane 10 years earlier by the blind sheik’s bodyguard Nosair.

      Inexplicably, the profilers do not seem to have been persuaded after 9/11 by the open source intelligence that Zawahiri had obtained anthrax for the purpose of weaponizing it for use against US targets. If intelligence analysis is an art, criminal profiling is drawing with crayons. A “profile” in connection to a person’s facial features might refer to what they look like in the dark. But, here, war had been declared. A weapon had been used by the enemy it had previously said it would use that specific weapon. Intelligence analysis, not profiling, was what was needed. The profilers apparently did not take to heart or learn the lesson of the al Hayat letter bombs in December 1996. James R. Fitzgerald, head of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, told an interviewer: “The attacker appears to be an opportunist [who] took advantage [of the terrorist attacks].” He continued “The rhetoric [in the letters] is made to sound like what a nonterrorist thinks a terrorist sounds like. The perpetrator was probably a right-winger with an ax to grind. It’s no secret that they [the intended recipients] are Democrats. People, including the Unabomber, have used representational targets for years.” Alluding to the mistaken notion that security guard Richard Jewell was responsible for the Olympic Park bombing, Vincent Cannistraro, formerly of the CIA, explained of the profile that the FBI are “intellectually convinced they’re on the right track, but they don’t want to come up with a janitor theory that’s wrong again.” The vague profile was fine but Agent Fitzgerald’s expanded comments to the press about the profile missed the mark. FBI profiler Fitzgerald, however, can be forgiven his early miscalculations. Such a profile likely was useful in supporting warrants in the US in connection with a variety of leads that prudently needed to be pursued. The forensics, without more, tended to point to a “domestic” source.

      Victims and targets were highly skeptical of the FBI’s profile. David Pecker, the AMI publisher commented:

      “I don’t believe in coincidences. I still think it was tied to al-Qaida. I don’t believe it was domestic.”

      The emphasis in the press reports has always, however, been on the suggestion that the mailer likely is “domestic” rather than foreign — a lone, male scientist who works in a lab. The profile was issued shortly after the White House meeting where it was agreed that Al Qaeda was the likely culprit, but that the theory and the possibility of a state sponsor would not be discussed. Vice President Cheney was not at all impressed by the FBI’s profile and went on television to express his skepticism. Although the FBI profile was widely criticized by experts and in editorials in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and other newspapers and magazines, it was more flexible than its critics imagined. The Amerithrax profile of a loner with a grudge permits a variety of motivations. The FBI uses the word “domestic” to include Americans sympathetic with an extremist islamic cause. The Washington Post explained in late October: “The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are considering a wide range of domestic possibilities, including associates of right-wing hate groups and U.S. residents sympathetic to the causes of Islamic extremists.” FBI profiler James R. Fitzgerald, head of FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, argued that the product could have been made for equipment costing as little as $2,500. Profilers were not actually part of Amerithrax Task Force and it is not clear how steeped they were in the historical evidence of Zawahiri’s intent to use weaponized anthrax, relying on the cover of charities and universities. Fitzgerald testified at civil deposition that on first hearing term “person of interest” had never heard Hatfill’s name.

      An interesting article in MIT Technology Review in March/April 2006 is based on interviews with Sergei Popov (an expert at GMU who had worked as a Russian bioweaponeer), University of Maryland researcher Milton Leitenberg, Harvard’s Matthew Meselson, Rutger’s Richard Ebright and others:

      “’There are now more than 300 U.S. institutions with access to live bioweapons agents and 16,500 individuals approved to handle them,” Ebright told me. While all of those people have undergone some form of background check — to verify, for instance, that they aren’t named on a terrorist watch list and aren’t illegal aliens — it’s also true, Ebright noted, that ‘Mohammed Atta would have passed those tests without difficulty.’ “
      ‘That’s the most significant concern,’ Ebright agreed. ‘If al-Qaeda wished to carry out a bioweapons attack in the U.S., their simplest means of acquiring access to the materials and the knowledge would be to send individuals to train within programs involved in biodefense research.’ Ebright paused. ‘And today, every university and corporate press office is trumpeting its success in securing research funding as part of this biodefense expansion, describing exactly what’s available and where.’”

      The analytical problem is that researchers tend only to focus on their narrow field. So an analyst focused on Al Qaeda may not know anything about US biodefense programs. An analyst knowledgeable about US biodefense programs may not know anything about Egyptian Islamic Jihad. To knowledgeably address the issue of infiltration and the use of universities and charities as cover — which the documentary evidence shows Zawahiri planned to do and did in his anthrax weaponization program — requires a willingness to become knowledgeable and investigate the different substantive areas.

      More fundamentally, all the really interesting stuff is classified. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (”FISA”) unit in the Department of Justice has traditionally been known as the “Dark Side.” Everything coming from Khalid Mohammed, according to Agent Van Harp, is classified. To understand the matter, journalists would have to have the cooperation of someone coming over from the Dark Side — which would be a felony. The solution to the Amerithrax case did not likely lie at the intersection of Bin Laden and Saddam streets among those cubicles at Langley with desktop PCs, not unlike any other office. Instead, it likely lies with the Zawahiri Task Force at Langley (if it still exists) which hopefully has an intersection of Ayman Avenue and Rahman Road. If not, we might be looking at a different crossroads altogether.

      The Report of the Joint Inquiry Into the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001— by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, addresses strategic analysis, training and staffing. Did the agents and analysts in the basement of Quantico who came up with the FBI’s profile have relevant training or input from analysts expert in Al Qaeda? Assuming they did, did an investigative bias creep into their approach to the anthrax mailings that should instead have been informed by a strategic understanding of Zawahiri’s Vanguards of Conquest and its modus operandi? Did the profilers know of the al Hayat letter bombs (related to the imprisonment of the blind sheik) and KSM’s threat to use biochemical weapons in retaliation for the detention of the blind sheik and other militant islamists? Did the profilers know of the role of Islambouli, the brother of Sadat’s assassin, in working with KSM in planning the attacks on the United States? Just as with 9/11, the correct understanding of the anthrax mailings begins with a trail that leads back to Malaysia, Khalid Mohammed, Hambali, Yazid Sufaat, Rauf Ahmad, Zacarias Moussaoui, various charities, the Albanian returnees trial, Bojinka, and even the assassination of Anwar Sadat. As George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

      One intelligence official has suggested that one reason that the FBI has not emphasized the possibility of a foreign source is that it might require UN involvement in the investigation pursuant to certain biological weapons protocols. The US specifically rejected France’s suggestion in October 2001 that there be a UN resolution condemning the attacks on the grounds that the Security Council had no role to play unless there was clear proof that the perpetrator was foreign. Bob Woodward quotes Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, in explaining why the administration did not acknowledge an al Qaeda link, even though it thought there was one: “If we say it’s al Qaeda, a state sponsor may feel safe and then hit us, thinking they will have a bye, because we’ll blame it on al Qaeda.”

      Whatever your political persuasion, and whatever disagreements about individual issues relating to due process and civil liberties, the FBI and CIA deserve some latitude on this issue. We are, after all, facing this threat together. First, during the investigation, the nature of such an investigation was that we lacked sufficient information to second-guess (or even know) what the FBI and Postal Inspectors on the Amerithrax Task Force were doing. According to the former lead investigator Richard L. Lambert, we still don’t know because a staggering amount of evidence exculpatory of Dr. Bruce Ivins is being withheld. Media reports — and even the FBI’s claims they have “solved the case” and expect to close it — are a poor substitute for any sort of evidencing establishing someone’s guilt. Indeed, there was been compartmentalization and divergent views even within the Task Force. Second, hindsight is 20/20. Amerithrax was a difficult mystery and regardless of what the solution turns out to be, there is no indication that we could have done better than the FBI in real time. Third, after the leaks relating to consideration of US scientist Dr. Steve Hatfill as a “person of interest” were plugged, it is not likely we could do better in striking the appropriate balance between due process and national security. As for the FBI not complying with FOIA, that’s just old-fashioned violation of the statute.

      The FBI’s profile included a US-based supporter of the militant islamists. Attorney General Ashcroft once explained that an “either-or” approach is not useful. The media tended to overlook the fact that when the FBI uses the word “domestic” the word includes a US-based, highly-educated supporter of the militant islamists. As Ali Al-Timimi’s counsel notes in a late 2007 court filing unsealed (except for certain redacted passages) in April 2008, Al-Timimi “was considered an anthrax weapons suspect.”

      I’ve interviewed the former director of Al Qaeda’s anthrax lab director Yazid Sufaat, and he does not deny responsibility for the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings. As for infiltrating scientist Abdur Rauf’s interrogation by the CIA, by the second day, he was proved to be big liar. He still is. Finally, as for mailing suspect Adnan el-Shukrijumah, he was known to have entered the United States after 911. He even called his mom to tell her he was coming.

      Anthrax, Al Qaeda and Ayman Zawahiri: The Infiltration of US Biodefense

  7. DXer said

  8. DXer said

    Four steps to rebuild trust in biology

    The US military mistakenly sent shipments of live anthrax from its highly restricted 800,000-acre site in the Utah desert to nearly 200 labs around the world, including labs in the UK.

    These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg, according to experts who monitor lab safety. Lesser breaches don’t usually make it into newspapers, but their sheer volume led one daily to publish a series of reports documenting hundreds of accidents, safety violations and near misses at public and private research facilities in America. A thorough investigation in the UK revealed more than 100 accidents or near-misses at the high-security labs that handle the most dangerous viruses and bacteria here. One can only imagine how many incidents go unreported elsewhere.

    The lack of oversight is, in some ways, more troubling than the releases themselves. The fridge with the ‘forgotten’ smallpox vials turned out to have been inspected no less than four times by NIH safety personnel.

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