Anthrax Attacks

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The Anthrax Conspiracy Theories Page


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By Richard M. Smith of
Updated June 9, 2002

Have employees in the U.S. biodefense program already identified a former coworker as the anthrax perp? That's an extraordinary claim that was recently made in a New York Times editorial:
Connecting Deadly Dots, By Nicholas D. Kristof

"These experts point, for example, to one middle-aged American who has worked for the United States military bio-defense program and had access to the labs at Fort Detrick, Md. His anthrax vaccinations are up to date, he unquestionably had the ability to make first-rate anthrax, and he was upset at the United States government in the period preceding the anthrax attack."
Does this person have a name? What's his beef with the U.S. Government? What kind of follow-up is the FBI doing on this lead? [6/8/02]

Does the FBI already know that the anthrax used in the anthrax attacks had to come from either Fort Detrick in Maryland or the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah? Is that why the FBI is subjecting 200 employees at these two U.S. biodefense labs to polygraph tests? Although the FBI refuses to say why they are polygraphing so many biodefense researchers, Debora MacKenzie writing in New Scientist magazine connected the dots between the attack anthrax and the Detrick and Dugway labs. She based here findings on the DNA fingerprinting work being conducted by the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) of Rockville, Maryland. Using cutting-edge techniques, TIGR found that the anthrax used in the attacks does not match an anthrax sample from the biodefense research lab at Porton Down, UK, nor a sample recovered from a Texas goat that died in 1997. However, the attack anthrax was an exact match for two other anthrax samples which TIGR refuses to identify. Using previously published data and some detective work, Ms. MacKenzie believes that these unidentified samples came from the Detrick and Dugway labs. [6/8/02]

Why did some White House staffers start taking Cipro, a powerful antibiotic used as a treatment against anthrax, on September 11th? These precautionary measures were taken by the White House a full three weeks before the first evidence of the U.S. anthrax attacks surfaced. The watchdog group, Judicial Watch, is trying to find out what the White House knew and when. They have filed a lawsuit under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") to force the U.S. Government to say why they might have suspect anthrax attacks on Washington, DC. Will their FOIA requests and lawsuit spring loose new clues about the anthrax attacks that have not been made public before? [6/8/02]

Was the anthrax perp looking to start a war between the United States and Iraq? By tying the anthrax letters to the 9/11 attacks, the anthrax perp had to know that Iraq would be at the top of the many people's list of countries where professional-grade anthrax could have come from. If a war was the perp's goal, did he act alone or was he part of a larger conspiracy? Even after forensic evidence appears to point back to a U.S. biodefense lab as the source of the anthrax, editorial writers at the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal continue to try to pin the blame on Iraq. [6/8/02]

Who and why did someone try to frame Dr. Ayaad Assaad? In late September, an unknown person sent an anonymous letter to the FBI claiming that Dr. Assaad was a potential bioterrorist. Dr. Assaad is an Egyptian-born former employee of the USAMRIID labs at Fort Detrick, Maryland. According to press reports, Dr. Assaad was interviewed on October 3 by the FBI and quickly cleared. Dr. Assaad now wonders if the sender of the anonymous letter was trying to make him the patsy for the anthrax letters. The timing of the anonymous letter is extremely curious because the letter was received by the FBI before there were any media reports of any anthrax infections or letters. Perhaps the sender of this anonymous letter and the perp are the same person. On the other hand, the sender of the anonymous letter might have been inspired by press reports of some of the 9/11 hijackers being interested in crop-dusters. In this case, the anonymous letter is most likely a red herring. Either way, Dr. Assaad wouldn’t be too surprised if the perp does turn out to be a former USAMRIID employee. Dr. Assaad along with two other research scientists are also now suing the US Government for age discrimination when they were laid off from USAMRIID in 1997 as part of a 30% downsizing at the lab. [2/13/02]

Will Saddam Hussein become America’s whipping boy for the anthrax letters? Richard Perle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration, suggested just this in PBS interview from last November. Mr. Perle is concerned that Iraq will be inspired by the anthrax letters and will become a copy-cat bioterrorist by sponsoring future anthrax attacks against the U.S. A second Gulf war to oust Saddam from power is Mr. Perle’s insurance policy against these hypothetical Iraqi anthrax attacks. What Mr. Perle doesn’t discuss is how the US will stop the biological and chemical attacks from Iraq against Israel and the U.S. when Saddam’s back is against the wall in a US-lead war. Even though the mainstream press pretty much ignore this "whipping boy" issue, it was hotly debated by politically publications on both the left and right such as The Weekly Standard, NewsMax, The Progressive, and the World Socialist Web Site. [2/13/02]

Turning the Saddam Hussein "whipping boy" issue on its head, a newsgroup poster wondered out loud if the anthrax letters are part of a right-wing plot to start a war against Iraq. This plot could be modeled on Operation Northwoods, an alleged plan in the early 1960’s by the US Joint Chief of Staffs to carry out terrorist attacks against US targets and blame them on Cuba. The goal of this alleged operation was to sway American and world public opinion to support a war against Cuba to eliminate Fidel Castro. James Bamford’s book, Body of Secrets, detailed this operation for the first time in 2001. [2/13/02]

Were the anthrax letters sent by an insider who either works for or is associated with the U.S. biodefense research program? That’s the theory that Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg the chair of Working Group on Biological Weapons Verification of Federation of American Scientists has been pushing since November 2001. Her story has started getting traction in the mainstream media during the month of December. Particularly after the US Army admitted for the first time that some of its research labs have been making small quantities of weaponized anthrax for research purposes. Also, the White House has now confirmed that the anthrax used in the anthrax letters is likely the same Ames strain as used by US biodefense labs. No direct smoking gun has been found yet, but the FBI is now focusing more of its investigation on U.S. biodefense labs. Barbara’s theory does have its critics who worry that it may lead investigator astray because it is too speculative. In particular, the genetic data about the anthrax used in anthrax letters is still being debated by scientists. [12/17/01]

Is the Iraqi bioweapons program the source of the anthrax used in the anthrax letters? Iraq is the top of many people’s list of suspects. Dr. Richard Spertzel, former head of biological weapons inspection team for the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq, believes that the anthrax used in the anthrax letters had to be a product of a national bioweapons program according to his testimony before the Committee on International Relations. His short list of countries that have the capabilities to make weapons-grade anthrax is the United States, Russia, and Iraq, but clearly Iraq is his favorite according to press reports. Ironically, anthrax and other biological agents were purchased by Iraq from the American Type Culture Collection in 1986. A key figure in the Iraqi program, Rihab Taha (AKA, “Dr. Germ”), has degree in biology from the University of East Anglia in the UK. [12/17/01]

Was Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda cronies behind the Anthrax letters? Certainly the person sending out the letters tried to tie the anthrax attacks into the 9/11 attacks with references to 9/11 and Allah. However, many investigators see these references as crude misdirections. On the other hand, why where print-outs found of Web pages from the BioPort Web site in Kabul, Afghanistan? [1/18/02]

Which biodefense research labs have been experimenting with the same Ames strain which was used in the anthrax letters? According to an article in Washington Post, the labs are:

U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Maryland
Battelle Memorial Institute
Dugway Proving Ground
Louisiana State University
Northern Arizona University
University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center
Defence Research Establishment Suffield in Canada
Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research at Porton Down, UK

All of these labs had the Ames strain, but it is unclear which labs have access to weaponized anthrax or know how to make it. The Washington Post was only able to get this information after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. [12/16/01]

The Dr. Larry C. Ford story has it all: An attempted murder by a hired hit man, suicide, biological agents in the fridge, a cache of buried weapons in the back yard and germ warfare experiments in South Africa. The plot sounds right out a mystery novel, but this one is all true. The whole sordid tale was chronicled by the Orange County Register in series of more than 40 articles which span almost two years. Dr. Ford was a part owner in BioFem, a medical products company that was developing a vaginal suppository designed to stop the spread of AIDS. [12/15/01]

The DOD’s anthrax vaccination program got its start when U.S. military officials became concerned that Iraq would attack Allied troops with biological and chemical weapons in the Gulf War. The program has been controversial from the beginning with many Web sites and groups dedicated to getting the program shutdown due to possible negative health side-effects from the anthrax vaccines. Here is a sampling of the anti-vaccination Web sites: Anthrax Vaccine Home Page, Anthrax Vaccine Network, and National Gulf War Resource Center. The CDC is now interested also in acquiring anthrax vaccines from the military to protect civilians. [12/15/01]

BioPort, the only company licensed by the US Government to produce anthrax vaccine, had a key research employee die under during the summer of 2000. The company said the cause of death was a heart attack, but the local medical examiner linked the death instead to anthrax vaccine. More than 50 articles can be found on the Internet about this story. The company also has a checkered history and has been unable for more than 2 years to get FDA approval to start up its anthrax vaccine production lines because of safety concerns. And exactly who is Intervac LLC and how did Admiral William J. Crowe become a part owner in BioPort without investing any money? [12/15/01]

Dr. Leonard G. Horowitz, president of the Tetrahedron Publishing Group, has put together the mother-of-all-conspiracy theories about the anthrax letters and who is behind them. Click here for the graphics showing all the players and here for the blow-by-blow account. [12/17/01]

Who exactly is the former senior Battelle scientist who is alleged to have made anthrax threats against a Milwaukee neighbor back in September? Why was he fired twice from Battelle, once in 1996 and then again in 1999? Does he know the magic formula for making professional-grade anthrax? How come ABC News is reporting this story as new news in December, when it is actually old news from October? After the ABC story, the FBI is denying that they have a particular suspect in their sites. But why is Battelle coming under increasing scrutiny from all sides? [12/20/01]

According to a December 20th article in the New York Times, an Iraqi defector, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, personally worked on renovations of 20 secret facilities in Iraqi engaged in biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons research. While working at any of these sites, did Mr. al-Haideri see any Petri dishes marked “Anthrax – Ames strain”? In spite of a big push by the FBI, there have been no direct connections found yet between the anthrax letters and the Iraqi biological weapons program. However, fear of the Iraqi biological weapons program continues to be used as a marketing vehicle to sell products, services, and technology to the U.S. Department of Defense. [1/18/02]

On December 21st, British anti-terrorist police boarded at cargo ship off the English coast in what was described as a major security operation. How come a Scotland Yard spokesperson said that the police weren’t specifically looking for anthrax when no one ever asked about anthrax? [1/18/02]

Did someone send out the anthrax letters for financial gain? This apparently is one theory that the FBI is investigating according to an article in the Washington Post. The FBI wants to know if someone hoped their company would make money off the anthrax cleanup or off medicines used to treat anthrax. Many companies do stand to benefit financially from the anthrax cleanup, but would someone really commit mass-murder to make a buck or is this something that only happens in the movies? [1/18/02]

Anthrax hoaxes are no laughing matter at the FBI. They have arrested more than 40 people for sending out hoax anthrax threats according to a December 20th press release. One guy even wished his mom a happy birthday by including a white powder in her birthday card! Other alleged anthrax hoaxers include a white supremacist, two Philadelphia cops, a D.C. copy, and a troubled teenager. [1/18/02]

How secure are America’s stock of anthrax at U.S. Army and university research labs? Not very secure according to a recent Wall Street Journal story. Perhaps the perp stole the anthrax he used in the anthrax letters. If so, how did he know where to steal the anthrax from and how to handle it once he got it? Also which major biological research lab looked to hire a security person after the anthrax stories broke in the press? [1/18/02]

Why is the Japanese Olympic team bringing their own gas masks to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City? Are they perhaps worried that the Dugway Proving Ground is less than 2 hours away from the Games? Dugway is one of the few places in the United States which is capable of making the particular type of weaponized anthrax used in the anthrax letters. [1/18/02].

How many “degrees of separation” is there between the perp and the USAMRIID researchers at Fort Detrick, Maryland who are testing unknown samples to see if they are anthrax or not. We certainly hope the number is not zero! However, if a “deep insider” is behind the anthrax letters, then it shouldn’t be too surprising that there is only 1 or 2 degrees of separation. [1/18/02]

Why was the FBI recently testing copying machines at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology of Rutgers University? Were they attempting to match distinctive drum marks from a copying machine at the Institute with the marks left on the anthrax letters which were produced on a copying machine? The Institute is located less than 30 miles from where the anthrax letters where likely mailed. Why isn’t the FBI testing copy machines from other area universities such as Fairleigh Dickinson, Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rider University and Rowan University? [1/18/02]

How much can handwriting analysis help profile the perp? Probably not much, because there is too few writing samples to go on. CNN however was very interested on this take on the story. [1/18/02]

Even the opinion pages of U.S. newspapers are getting into anthrax conspiracy theories. Some recent examples: New York Times (the perp is domestic), Wall Street Journal (the perp is foreign), and the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (the anagrams say its Bin Laden). Also the Baltimore Sun and the New York Post are now covering the amateur anthrax sleuthing story. [1/18/02]

How easy is it to get recipes to make bioweapons like anthrax? According to a recent New York Times article it is pretty easy. If you know what to ask for, the U.S. Government will sell you a cook book on this Web site. Did the perp make his own anthrax in homemade lab by following a U.S. government recipe? Probably not. The anthrax used in the attacks was just too good of quality to be home brew. [1/18/02]

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FBI is in the process of interviewing more than 300 current and former employees who work at government labs where anthrax is produced. They are looking for a deep insider who just might be the perp. However, is there a danger that the insider theory could turn into one big witch hunt with people turning over their quirky coworkers to the FBI for questioning? [1/18/02]

In 1999 and 2000, students at Princeton University were showing a real interest in anthrax and anthrax vaccines as part of the course Biotechnology and Its Social Impact. Princeton University is in the same general area of New Jersey where the anthrax letters were sent from. In fact, the local Princeton post office had to be shut down to clean up an anthrax contamination from the anthrax letters. The University has also put together an anthrax threat page and an FAQ page. [1/18/02]

Between the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI, and major junk mailers, more than $2 million in reward money is being offered to help catch the person or persons who sent out the anthrax letters. Will this be enough reward money for someone to step forward with key information to make an arrest or will someone hold out for even more money. Current estimates put the damages to the U.S. economy at multiple billions of dollars due to clean-up efforts and disruptions from the anthrax letters. [1/18/02]

Is it possible that are tests for anthrax infections are not accurate enough to catch all cases? That’s an interesting question raised in a recent Baltimore Sun article. If there are problems with the testing procedures, has crucial evidence in the investigation been missed because addition anthrax infections have not been detected? [1/18/02]

Are right-wing hate groups behind anthrax terror? That’s the question Anthony York asked in a Salon article in November 2001. He feels the DOJ and FBI aren’t looking careful enough at far right groups from the U.S. as being the source of the anthrax letters. How these groups would have got their hands on weaponized anthrax, he doesn’t say however. [1/18/02]

On December 10th, Stephen P. Dresch of Forensic Intelligence International, LLC wrote a letter to the Committee on International Relations of the
U.S. House of Representatives suggesting that investigators take a closer look at previous bioweapons-related cases for possible connections to the anthrax letters. His statement was sent to the committee in response to a December 5th meeting that looked at possible sources of the anthrax letters. In the letter, Mr. Dresch talks about the cases of Larry C. Ford, Wouter Basson, BioPort, and Vladimir Pasechnik. According to his Web site, Mr. Dresch is a former member of the Michigan House of Representatives and the former dean of economics at Michigan Technological University. [12/17/01]

Why are some of the world’s leading microbiologists now disappearing, being murdered, or dying in strange industrial accidents? That’s the question that is being asked on the misc.survivalism newsgroup. [12/17/01]

Why in late 2000 was an employee of a leading US biodefense research lab trolling at work on USENET newsgroups for information about how to grow the anthrax bacteria? Was his trolling efforts an official part of his job description or was he just trying to win an innocent bar bet with his coworkers to see if amateurs actually know how to make anthrax? [12/15/01]

A leading microbiologist from the former Soviet Union, Vladimir Pasechnik, died of a stroke on November 2001. He was only 64. His defection in 1989 to the UK provided first-hand accounts of the Soviet Union’s massive biological warfare program to the West. This program was in direct violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and is documented in Ken Alibek’s chilling book “Biohazard”. Ken is another former Russian biowarrior who now works for the American company, Hadron Advanced Biosystems Inc. Hadron does biodefense work for the U.S. Government. [12/17/01]

How come the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah forgot to tell the scientific community they were making professional-grade anthrax? They ‘fessed up only after a nosey Baltimore Sun reporter started asking the tough questions. Also, why have they been removing Web pages from their site? [12/17/01]

The thousands of anthrax hoax letters which have been sent out since the first real anthrax letter found have been a real time waster for police departments, research labs, and investigators. However, did the sender of the real anthrax letters start off by sending hoax letters before September? That’s a possibility that the FBI is looking into. [12/17/01]

Clayton Lee Waagner, a fugitive on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list, who is also suspected of sending out more than 450 hoax anthrax letters to abortion clinics around the U.S., was arrested at a Kinko’s copy shop in Springdale, Ohio on December 6. He was caught when a sharp-eyed Kinko’s employee recognized Mr. Waagner from a wanted poster distributed by the FBI. Mr. Waagner was checking his email on a computer at Kinko’s which he did on a regular basis while on the run. [12/17/01]

Is there an underground hobby for folks interesting in making anthrax? Timothy W. Tobiason sure thinks so. His self-published book “Scientific Principles of Improvised Warfare and Home Defense” has sold more than 2,000 copies at gun shows held in the Western part of the U.S. The book contains a recipe for growing the anthrax bacteria that some professional microbiologists think is just a tad too good. [12/17/01]

And what exactly is Larry Wayne Harris up to? You can order his book “Biological Civil Defense: A Civilian's Civil Defense Manual on Biological Warfare” on the Internet for $29.50. If he really is a biodefender, why he was convicted of mail fraud in 1995 for illegally buying freeze-dried bubonic plague from the American Type Culture Collection? His plague order got Congress in 1997 to tighten up the rules which regulate who can purchase dangerous biological agents. In 1998 he was arrested again by the FBI for possession of anthrax. Charges were dropped only a week later after the “anthrax” turned out to be harmless anthrax vaccine. Mr. Harris is also convinced that Iraq will mount a massive attack against the U.S. with biological weapons. Right after September 11th, his Iraqi story then got picked up by an Internet wellness Web site. This site has continued to follow the anthrax issue very closely. [12/17/01]

Another bioweapons “hobbyist” is Thomas C. Leahy of Janesville, Wisconsin. In 1998, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for possession of ricin, a deadly poison made from castor beans. His defense lawyer, David Mandell, claimed that the ricin was simply a home-made rat poison. Mr. Leahy also attempted to make anthrax, but was not successful. [12/18/01]

The anthrax scare has lead to many new innovative products and services. Here’s a sampling of a few: 2DoTrade, Inc., Proton Labs, Alfa Medical, Spectrum Brands Corporation, and Vital Living Products. [12/17/01]

How come a 26-year old University of Connecticut graduate student decided to keep around anthrax samples in his personal lab freezer after being told to destroy the samples? [12/17/01]

Is the media and the public overreacting to the dangers of anthrax? Farmers in Texas think so. Ditto for people in Tuva. [12/17/01]

The U.S. Congress is getting ready to spend $3 billion on biodefense after the anthrax letter attacks. What companies and government agencies will benefit from all this money being given out? Here is a list of some of the players: Battelle Memorial Institute, Bayer, BioPort, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CDC, Cepheid, FDA, Hadron, Intellitec, Ion Beam Applications, Motorola Life Sciences, Nanosphere, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), U.S. Public Health Service, and Versar. [12/17/01]

Did the anthrax used in the anthrax letters come from CIA experiments? They say no. [12/17/01]

Why is the FBI raiding the houses and apartments of Pakistanis in Trenton, New Jersey and Chester, Pennsylvania? [12/17/01]

Why is the U.S. Government overpaying for Cipro when less-expensive alternatives are available? Are there downsides to Cipro being overused? How easy is to find Cipro on the Internet? [12/17/01]

Did something go wrong with Project Bacchus and someone involved with the project make real anthrax? Project Bacchus was a secret DOD experiment conducted at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada during the summer of 2000 to see if off-the-shelf equipment could be used to make bioweapons. The project was successful in making 2 pounds of “simulated” anthrax bacteria. The project was conducted by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. [12/17/01]

How come the investigation of the anthrax-laced letter to Santiago pediatrician Antonio Banfi was dropped like a hot potato? The letter was sent in early November and had a return address for Mosby Inc. of Orlando, Florida. Mosby, a division of Harcourt, publishes health science books. Even though the letter had a Zurich postmark, it was sent from Florida via the New York office of Swiss Post International. The anthrax used in the Banfi letter did not match the anthrax used in earlier U.S. letters. U.S. officials suspect laboratory contamination in Chile for the positive anthrax test results in the letter, but apparently have not been able to verify the contamination. [12/18/01]

Why is Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, formerly of the Pakistani nuclear program, now interested in bioweapons like anthrax? [12/17/01]

How come Iowa State University of Ames, Iowa destroyed its collection of anthrax samples in late September 2001 with the blessings of the FBI? Would this collection have provided valuable genetic information about anthrax used in the anthrax letters? [12/18/01]

In 1993, the Aum Shinri Kyo cult of Japan sprayed home-grown anthrax spores from a Tokyo high-rise building for four days. No one was hurt because the cult used a non-lethal form of anthrax. Click here for the cult’s own “explanation” of this episode. In 1995, the cult switched to chemical weapons and launched the now infamous terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway system with Sarin gas in which 12 people died and thousands of people were injured. [12/18/01]

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