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Anthrax: Details of Possible US Biodefense Insider Connection

Anthrax: Details of Possible US Biodefense Insider Connection

The civil rights suit by US scientist Dr. Steve Hatfill in a Virginia federal district court hit a road bump today as individual government defendants were dismissed insofar as they were sued in their individual capacity. But along with Khalid Mohammed's confession about supervising a cell to weaponize anthrax for use against the US this week, the court's dismissal provides a reminder that there is still no answer to the mystery of the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings in the US. There may be lots of reason that the United States government finds itself in an awkward situation both in the pending civil rights litigation and the anthrax investigation generally.

It was 1 a.m. in the morning on October 23, 2001. Parts of the airport runway were pitch black. Masked Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence ("ISI") agents in a rented white Toyota sedan sped up with a shackled and blindfolded man. In the empty corner of the Karachi airport, a soldier with his face covered filmed the transfer of Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, age 27. Two weeks earlier a postal worker had died in the US from exposure to mailed anthrax. Authorities were rounding up the usual suspects -- using a Gulfstream V jet registered to people in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. who existed only on paper. Mohammed had first come to Karachi in 1993 from Yemen's capital city, Sana'a, and had recently been studying microbiology at the University of Karachi.

     After the September 11 attacks, Pakistani intelligence agents started checking on Arab university students in the area. Mohammed's teachers told investigators that they had not seen him on campus since late August. Agents staked out his apartment in Karachi and nabbed him upon his return. Mohammed was wanted in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole. In 1996, Pakistani authorities officials had arrested Mohammed in connection with the November 1995 bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad. That attack was financed by the Canadian islamist and charity worker, Khadr and his charity Mercy International, a charity funded by Osama Bin Laden's late brother-in-law Khalifa and founded by Saudi dissident Sheik Al-Hawali. Ayman Zawahiri, speaking for the military wing of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, known as the Vanguards of Conquest, claimed responsibility for the bombing. Mohammed was released without being charged. Mohammed re-enrolled at university in 1999.   He was one of at least two microbiologist lab technicians who were rendered by the CIA. Saeed Mohammed was not particularly expert -- and spent most of his time in Karachi procuring equipment. Washington announced Saeed had been rendered, but senior Pakistani officials continued to deny that the transfer had taken place.

     The scene would repeat itself at a different airport two months later with the rendition of Ahmed Agiza, former head of the Vanguards of Conquest before Zawahiri. Swedish officials prepared an expulsion order at 4 p.m. on December 18. Agiza, a 39-year old physician, was picked up on the street by 6 p.m. and he was in the air by 10 p.m. In a small room at the airport, six-hooded figures took Agiza and another prisoner and changed them into dark red overalls. The men cut off his clothes, without having to remove his handcuffs and leg irons. They inserted a suppository containing a sedative while putting on diapers. Then they hung him, blindfolded and hooded, in a harness in the plane. Dr. Agiza had been convicted in his absence in 1999, together with 106 others, by a military court in Cairo for membership in the Vanguards of Conquest ("Talal al-Fateh"). The crew of the plane did not use the term "extraordinary rendition" -- they just referred to the process as "snatches." The Egyptian government had promised not to torture the suspects, but Agiza claims that they applied electric shocks through electrodes fastened to sensitive parts of his body -- to his genitals, nipples, tongue, ear lobes, and underarms.

     These renditions were just two of the opening volleys in what would prove to be a 5 year effort to find the parties responsible for the letters containing anthrax sent to US Senators and media outlets. The anthrax was mailed shortly after the planes attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In 1999, captured leaders of Zawahiri's Vanguards of Conquest had said that Ayman was going to use weaponized anthrax against US targets in retaliation for the rendering of EIJ leaders and supporters to places like Cairo and Amman. The letter to the Senator Leahy, author of the "Leahy Law" that permitted continued appropriations to security units under "extraordinary circumstances", read: "We have this anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid?"

     The tactic of lethal letters was not merely the modus operandi of the militant islamists inspired by Ayman Zawahiri, it was their signature. The islamists sent letter bombs in late December 1996 from Alexandria, Egypt to newspaper offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. and people in symbolic positions. Musical Christmas cards apparently postmarked in Alexandria, Egypt on December 21, 1996, (which is Laylat al-Qadr, literally the Night of Decree or Night of Measures), contained improvised explosive devices. The letters were sent in connection with the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center and the imprisonment of the blind sheik, Sheik Abdel Rahman. The former leader of the Egyptian Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya ("Islamic Group"), Abdel-Rahman was also a spiritual leader of Al Qaeda. The letter bombs were sent in connection with the treatment of the Egyptian islamists imprisoned for the earlier attack on the WTC and a related plot. The purpose of the letter bombs -- which resulted in minimal casualty -- was to send a message. (There initially was an outstanding $2 million reward -- under the rewards for justice program, the reward now is up to $5 million.) There was no claim of responsibility. There was no explanation. Once one had been received, the next ten, mailed on two separate dates, were easily collected. Sound familiar? Two bombs were also sent to Leavenworth, where a key WTC 1993 defendant was imprisoned, addressed to "Parole Officer." (The position does not exist). The FBI suspected the Vanguards of Conquest, a mysterious group led by Egyptian Islamic Jihad head Ayman Zawahiri. The group can be thought of as either the military wing of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad or perhaps just EIJ by another name. It is sometimes known as the New Jihad.

      Zawahiri was head of Al Qaeda's biochemical program. Ayman named it Zabadi or "Curdled Milk." The CIA has known of Zawahiri's plans to use anthrax since July 1998, when the CIA seized a disc from Ayman Zawahiri's right-hand, Ahmed Mabruk during his arrest outside a restaurant by the CIA in Baku, Azerbaijan. Mabruk, at the time, was the head of Jihad's military operations. Mabruk was handed over to Egyptian authorities. Mabruk was a close associate and had been his former cellmate in Dagestan in 1996. Mabruk would be at Ayman's side while Ayman would fall to his knees during trial and weep and invoke Allah. Their captors reportedly did not know the true identity of the prisoners. The CIA refused to give the FBI Mabruk's laptop. FBI's Bin Laden expert John O’Neill, head of the FBI’s New York office, tried to get around this by sending an agent to Azerbaijan to get copies of the computer files from the Azerbaijan government. The FBI finally got the files after O'Neill persuaded President Clinton to personally appeal to the president of Azerbaijan for the computer files. FBI Special Agent Dan Coleman would later describe the laptop as the "Rosetta Stone of Al Qaeda." O'Neill died on 9/11 in his role as head of World Trade Center security. He died with the knowledge that Ayman Zawahiri planned to attack US targets with anthrax -- and that Zawahiri does not make a threat that he does not intend to try to keep.       

      Mabruk claimed that Zawahiri intended to use anthrax against US targets. At the time, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency ("DTRA") set up a program at Lawrence Livermore to combat the Bin Laden anthrax threat. The CIA also snatched Egyptian Al-Najjar, another senior Al Qaeda member (a shura or policy-making council member no less) who had been working for the Egyptian intelligence services. Al-Najjar confirmed Ayman's intent to use weaponized anthrax against US targets in connection with the detention of militant islamists in a sworn lengthy confession. Even Zawahiri's friend, Cairo lawyer al-Zayat, who was the blind sheik's attorney, in March 1999 said that Bin Laden and Zawahiri were likely to resort to the biological and chemical agents they possessed given the extradition pressure senior Al Qaeda leaders faced. An islamist who had been a close associate of Zawahiri later would explain that Zawahiri spent a decade and had made 15 separate attempts to recruit the necessary expertise to weaponize anthrax in Russia and the Middle East.     

   Zawahiri was associated with a faction of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad known as the Vanguards of Conquest. Zawahiri and the Vanguards of Conquest were seeking to recreate Mohammed's taking of mecca by a small band through violent attacks on Egyptian leaders. By the late 1990s, Zawahiri had determined that the Egyptian Islamic Jihad should focus on its struggle against the United States and hold off on further attacks against the Egyptian regime.

     A February 1999 letter signed by "Army of Suicidals Group 66, Bin Laden Militant Wing" threatened anthrax attacks against Westerners if they stayed in Yemen beyond a 11-day ultimatum ending February 27, 1999. Investigators considered a possible connection to the attempted extradition to Yemen of the London-based Egyptian Islamic preacher Abu Hamza al-Masri.

   Emails in the Spring of 1999 from Zawahiri to Egyptian Mohammed Atef, Al Qaeda's military commander, and former Cairo police sergeant, indicate that Ayman was a close student of the USAMRIID anthrax program. He believed that the Koran instructed that a jihadist should use the weapons used by the crusader. "What we know is that he's always said it was a religious obligation to have the same weapons as their enemies," former CIA Bin Laden unit counter terrorism chief Michael Scheuer said.

     It likely was a happy coincidence for Ayman, then, that an active supporter of the Taliban -- and associate of Bin Laden's spiritual advisor, dissident Saudi Sheik al-Hawali -- was a graduate student in the same building where famed Russian bioweapon Ken Alibek and former USAMRIID head Charles Bailey worked at George Mason University's Discovery Hall in a biodefense program funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ("DARPA"). In 2000 and 2001, Timimi was a graduate student in computational sciences. His field was bioinformatics. Al-Timimi tended to travel to give speeches on interpretation of the koran only during semester breaks. He spoke in very moderate, measured tones in the UK, Canada, and Australia -- once even in China -- against feminism, about the unfavorable treatment of islam in the secular media, about judgment day and the correct interpretation of the koran and hadiths, and the destruction of the Buddha statutes by the Taliban. Locally, he spoke regularly at the Falls Church center that also housed offices of the charity, the Muslim World League. Timimi was associated with the charity Islamic Assembly of North America ("IANA"), based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His speeches are widely distributed on the internet and focus on religious rather than political issues.

      After a bombing raid at a Qaeda camp in Darunta, Afghanistan US forces found 100+ pages of typed and handwritten pages of documents that shed light on Al Qaeda's early anthrax planning. It was not clear whether or not they had yet acquired virulent anthrax or weaponized it, but it was clear that the planning was well along. When Cheney was briefed on the documents in late 2001, he immediately called a meeting of FBI and CIA. "I'll be very blunt," the Vice President started. "There is no priority of this government more important than finding out if there is a link between what's happened here and what we've found over there with Qaeda." A June 1999 memo from Ayman to military commander Atef said that "said the program should seek cover and talent in educational institutions, which it said were 'more beneficial to us and allow easy access to specialists, which will greatly benefit us in the first stage, God willing.' '' Thus, in determining whether Al Qaeda was responsible for the anthrax mailings in the Fall of 2001, the FBI and CIA knew based on the growing documentary evidence available by December, that Al Qaeda operatives were likely associated with non-governmental organizations and working under the cover of universities. From early on, the CIA and FBI knew that charity is as charity does.

     Among the supporters of these militant islamists were people who blended into society and were available to act when another part of the network requested it.   Two letters -- one typed and an earlier handwritten one -- written by a microbiologist named Rauf detail his efforts to obtain a pathogenic strain of anthrax. He attended conferences on anthrax and dangerous pathogens such as one in September 2000 at the University of Plymouth cosponsored by DERA, the UK Defense Evaluation and Research Agency. A handwritten letter from 1999 is written on the letterhead of the oldest microbiology society in Great Britain.  The 1999 documents seized in Afghanistan by US forces by Rauf describe the author's visit to the special confidential room at the BL-3 facility where 1000s of pathogenic cultures were kept; his consultation with other scientists on some of technical problems associated with weaponizing anthrax; the bioreactor and laminar flows to be used in Al Qaeda's anthrax lab; a conference on dangerous pathogens cosponsored by UK's Porton Down and Society for Applied Microbiology he attended, and the need for vaccination and containment. Rauf had arranged to take a lengthy post-doc leave from his employer and was grousing that what the employer would be paying during that 12-month period was inadequate. Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, who told his wife he was working for a Taliban medical brigade, got the job instead of Rauf.

    I have uploaded a scanned copy of a typed memo reporting on a lab visit, which included tour of a BioLevel 3 facility, where there were 1000s of pathogenic samples. The memo mentioned the pending paperwork relating to export of the pathogens. The documents were provided to me by the Defense Intelligence Agency ("DIA") under the Freedom of Information Act. I also have uploaded a copy of earlier correspondence between Dr. Rauf and Dr. Zawahiri from before the lab visit described in the typed memo.  The handwritten letter was reporting on a different, earlier visit, where the anthrax had been nonpathogenic. Finally, on the same linked page, there are handwritten notes about the plan to use non-governmental-organizations (NGOs), technical institutes and medical labs as cover for aspects of the work, and training requirements for the various personnel at the lab in Afghanistan.

    US-trained Malaysian biochemist Yazid Sufaat met with 9/11 plotters and two hijackers in January 2000. Sufaat was a member of Al Qaeda and a member of Jemaah Islamiah ("JI"). JI has ties with the Moro Front. Sufaat used his company called Green Laboratory Medicine to buy items useful to Al Qaeda. Zacarias Moussaoui, who had a crop dusting manual when he was arrested, stayed at Sufaat's condominium in 2000 when he was trying to arrange for flight lessons in Malaysia. Yazid Sufaat provided Moussaoui with a letter indicating that he was a marketing representative for Infocus Technologies signed "Yazid Sufaat, Managing Director." Sufaat had given Moussaoui an e-mail that was accessed by authorities shortly after 9/11. The crop dusters were to be part of a "second wave." Al Qaeda's regional operative, Hambali, was at the key January 2000 meeting and supervised Sufaat. Khalid Mohammed's involvement dates back to Bojinka, as did Hambali's. The money for Bojinka, a plot to simultaneously bomb airliners and to assassinate the Pope, went from Bin Laden's brother-in-law Khalifa to the Abu Sayyaf Group, Al Qaeda's primary Philippine affiliate, and then on to the cell that included KSM.

    When 9/11 hijacker Saeed Al-Ghamdi videotaped his will in 2000, he praised Saudi Sheik Al-Hawali. Telephone records for Mounir el-Mottasedeq, a Moroccan convicted in Germany of helping Mohammed Atta and other members of the “Hamburg cell” that planned 9/11 show that, in the months prior to the attacks, he made repeated calls to Al-Hawali’s Riyadh offices.  

       In late January 2001, the Immigration Minister in Canada and Justice minister received an anthrax threat in the form of anthrax hoax letters. The letters were sent upon the announcement of bail hearing for a detained Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader who had managed Bin Laden's farm in Sudan. Canada announced on January 18, 2001 that an Egyptian Islamic Jihad Shura member, Mahmoud Mahjoub, would have a January 30 bail hearing. The court dismissed a motion directed to the constitutionality of his detention on January 23. Soon after, someone sent an anthrax threat letter to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Minister Caplan had signed the security certificate authorizing Mahjoub's detention. After arriving in Canada in 1996, Mahjoub continued to be in contact with high level militants, including his former supervisor, al-Duri, an Iraqi reputed to be Bin Laden's chief procurer or weapons of mass destruction. In the early 1990s, al-Duri lived in Phoenix and then in the late 1990s lived in British Columbia. In the intervening years, he had worked for Bin Laden's businesses in Sudan and had been involved in an attempt to buy uranium for Bin Laden.

        In February 2001, the CIA briefed the President in a "Presidential Daily Bulletin "("PDB") on "Bin Laden's Interest in Biological and Radiological Weapons" in a still-classified briefing memorandum. Like the PDB on Bin Laden's threat to use planes to free the blind sheik, the February 2001 would illustrate the wisdom that most intelligence is open source. There was little about Ayman' s plan to use anthrax against US targets in retaliation for rendering of EIJ leaders that was not available to anyone paying attention.

        On March 14, 2001, former USAMRIID head and Ames researcher Charles L. Bailey and famed Russian bioweaponeer Ken Alibek filed a patent application for a process to treat cell culture with hydrophobic silicon dioxide so as to permit greater concentration upon drying. Dr. Bailey was in Room 156B of GMU's Discovery Hall. at the Center for Biodefense. Ali Al-Timimi, an associate of radical Saudi sheik al-Hawali, considered to be Bin Laden's spiritual mentor, was a graduate student who worked in the same building.    

         The website of the Islamic Assembly of North America ("IANA") contained "Provision of Suicide Operations," dated June 19, 2001, that stated: "The mujahid [or warrior] must kill himself if he knows this will lead to killing a great number of the enemies ... or demolishing a center vital to the enemy or its military forces. ... In this new era, this can be accomplished with the modern means of bombing or bringing down an airplane on an important location that will cause the enemy great losses." On August 26, 2001, IANA's website published a propaganda statement that encouraged individuals to join arms against the West titled "An Invitation to Jihad," stating that "t]he mujahid brothers will accept you with open arms and within a period of two weeks you will be given commando training and will be sent to the frontline." Whatever the debate on whether nonconventional weapons were forbidden (haram), some of the sheiks whose fatwas were appearing on the IANA website were likely to take a more permissive view.

    A week after 9/11, someone mailed some newspapers letters containing anthrax and a message urging the destruction of the US and Israel. Then, on or about October 6, 2001, someone sent very fine powderized anthrax to US Senators Leahy and Daschle with a similar message. An infant visiting ABC was one of the first affected, which should have been haram in anyone's book. Five people died.

      One of the first things FBI Special Agent Jack Cloonan from the FBI's New York Office did after the anthrax mailings was to fly down to Sudan with CIA agents and meet with al-Duri, Mahjoub's former supervisor at Bin Laden's farm in Sudan. After 9/11, FBI agents questioned Ali Al-Timimi, a microbiology graduate student in a program jointly run by George Mason University and the American Type Culture Collection ("ATCC"). An undercover operation was run at the Falls Church islamic center.

    By spring of 2002, Ali Al-Timimi was on GMU staff and paid $70,000 a year. At sometime in 2002, officials learned of communications between Al-Timimi and Bin Laden's spiritual adviser, radical Saudi sheik al-Hawali.

    In March 2002, a crude biological weapons site was found. U.S. forces discovered a site near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar that appeared to be an Al Qaeda biological weapons lab under construction. Zawahiri's plan, evidenced in the documents found previous in the Fall, was to move the location of the lab every 3 months.

      In August 2002, Afghan police found a store of chemicals in a house in Kabul formerly occupied by a Saudi non-governmental organization, the WAFA Humanitarian Organization. Local media reports called it a terrorist laboratory. "Some containers and documents have been found by the police authorities," a spokesman for international peacekeepers said. One local report said that the discovery included 36 types of chemicals, explosive materials, fuses, laboratory equipment and some "terroristic guide books." It said the laboratory was found in a residence in the diplomatic area of Kabul in a building that had been used by an Arab national who headed the group prior to 9/11. WAFA was a militant supporter of the Taliban. Documents found in WAFA’s offices in Afghanistan revealed that the charity was intimately involved in assassination plots against U.S. citizens as well as the distribution of “how to” manuals on chemical and biological warfare. U.S. officials have described WAFA as a key component of Bin Laden’s organization.

      In 2002, a man Singh tried to purchase over the internet a wireless video module and a control module for use in an unmanned aerial vehicle ("UAV"). He chose an airborne video system with a camera and transmitter able to transmit video images from a UAV back to a receiver from as far as 15 miles away. The video camera could be used in military reconnaissance and in helping aim artillery and other weaponry across enemy lines. Singh placed his order from England, but the company was unable to confirm Singh's overseas credit card. Two young men from Northern Virginia, among the group later known as the "Virginia Paintball Defendants," Chapman and Khan, assisted him in completing the purchases. In the summer of 2002, Singh visited Virginia, staying first with one of them and then with another. Ali Timimi was unindicted co-conspirator number 1 in the Virginia Paintball Case, and was only later identified by Prosecutors (and then separately indicted). As the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals later explained, the pair "attended the Dar al Arqam Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia where Ali Timimi, a primary lecturer, spoke of the necessity to engage in violent jihad against the enemies of Islam and the "end of time" battle between Muslims and non-Muslims."

      Ali Al-Timimi drafted a letter from dissident Saudi sheik Hawali dated October 6, 2002 and had it hand delivered it to every member of the US Congress just before their vote authorizing the use of force against Iraq. The letter was from al-Hawali (not Timimi), and warned of the disastrous consequences that would follow an invasion of Iraq. Dr. Timimi's defense committee explained on their website:
"Prior to the Iraq war authorization vote, Dr. Al-Timimi drafted a letter to the US Congress cautioning the disasterous consequences that would follow a pre-emptive strike. Because Dr. Al-Timimi felt that he did not have enough stature to send a letter in his name on behalf of Muslims, he contacted Dr. Al-Hawali among others to send the letter. Dr. Al-Hawali agreed and sent a revised version which Dr. Al-Timimi then edited and had hand delivered to every member of Congress."

     Rm 154A in George Mason's Discovery Hall (down from Dr. Bailley in Rm 156B) would be Victor Morozov's room number when he first assumed Timimi's phone number in 2004 (and before he moved to the newly constructed, adjacent Bull Run Hall). Morozov was the co-inventor with Dr. Bailey of the related cell culture process under which the silica was removed from the spore surface -- but with the silicon still detectable by an EDX (Energy Dispersive X-ray Analysis) by reason of having been absorbed in the spore coat. (Compare 2003 and 2004 GMU Directories at Wayback Machine at     

      Later that year, the head of the wing of the Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya (Egyptian Islamic Group) summarized the Amerithrax investigation, dedicating the treatise on American intelligence and law enforcement to: "To the pious and the hidden who are not known when they come and who are not missed when they disappear -- To those whom their God will answer when they pray to Him. To all the eyes that are vigilant late at night to bring victory to this religion."  It was publicized by a former EIJ member who had been detained in London in 1999 and then released, and now was an oft-quoted expert on Zawahiri and his followers.

      In mid-February 2003, Abdel Rahman's son, who was on the WMD committed with Egyptian Midhat Mursi, was captured in Quetta, Pakistan. That month, a chemistry professor tasked with working on biological and chemical weapons met with Uzair Paracha and others at an ice cream parlor. The plan was to smuggle a chemical into New York City using a large shipping container controlled by Paracha's father. In connection with that prosecution, the Assistant United States Attorney would later say that MIT-graduate Aafia Siddiqui was prepared to participate in an anthrax attack if asked. In the Spring of 2003, Aafia Siddiqui married Amar al-Baluchi, who had been a key lieutenant for KSM during the 9/11 planes operation.

      In late February 2003, authorities searched the townhouse of Ali Al-Timimi, a graduate student and employee in bioinformatics at George Mason University who shared a fax with famed Russian bioweaponeer Ken Alibek and former USAMRIID head and anthrax researcher Charles Bailey. Al-Timimi was a celebrated speaker and religious scholar associated with the Islamic Assembly of North America ("IANA"), an Ann Arbor-based charity. The Washington Post later summarized: "The agents reached an alarming conclusion: 'Timimi is an Islamist supporter of Bin Laden' who was leading a group 'training for jihad,' the agent wrote in the affidavit. The FBI even came to speculate that Timimi, a doctoral candidate pursuing cancer gene research, might have been involved in the anthrax attacks."

       A walk-in to the CIA then led to the dramatic capture of Khalid Mohammed, Al Qaeda's #3, on March 23, 2003. Mohammed allegedly was hiding in the home of the Pakistani bacteriologist Dr. Abdul Qadoos Khan. Along with Zawahiri, Abdel Rahman and his two sons have had considerable influence over Bin Laden. He reportedly treated them like sons. Although while in jail in the early 1980s, Zawahiri caused considerable tension by challenging the blind sheik's ability to lead a coalition of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Egyptian Islamic Group, Zawahiri and Bin Laden are Rahman's friends. The imprisoned WTC 1993 plotter Yousef was KSM's nephew. Indeed, KSM claims to have been responsible for the planning of WTC 1993. The leaders in charge of Al Qaeda's anthrax production program thus had a close connection to those imprisoned in connection with the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center. WTC 1993 mastermind Ramzi Yousef had been the mentor of the new husband of MIT-graduate Aafia Siddiqui.

       In March 2003, handwritten notes and files on a laptop seized upon the capture of KSM, Al Qaeda's #3, included a feasible anthrax production plan using a spray dryer and addressed the recruitment of necessary expertise. Although the details of the documents on Mohammed's computer may (or may not) point to possible difficulties in aerial dispersal, they are fully consistent with the product used in the anthrax mailings. Al Qaeda had both the means and opportunity. Mohammed told his interrogators that Moussaoui was not going to be part of 9/11 but was to be part of a "second wave."  KSM explained that Moussaoui's inquiries about crop dusters may have been related to the anthrax work being done by US-trained biochemist and Al Qaeda operative, Malaysian Yazid Sufaat. Zacarias Moussaoui once told the judge at his trial in a filing that he wants "anthrax for Jew sympathizer only."

      Microbiologist Abdul Qadoos Khan was charged along with his son, Ahmed, for allegedly harboring KSM. As of March 28, 2003, he was in a hospital for a cardiac problem and had been granted "pre-arrest bail."

       A man named Muklis Yunos, who reportedly received training on use of anthrax as a biological weapon in Afghanistan according to Philippine intelligence reports, was arrested on May 25, 2003, and cooperated with authorities over a bucket of spicy Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yunos had been Hambali's right-hand man and was in charge of special operations of Moro Islamic Liberation Front ("MILF").

       In early June 2003, a Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") report publicly concluded that the reason for Mohammed Atta's and Zacarias Moussaoui's inquiries into cropdusters was for the contemplated use in dispersing biological agents such as anthrax. It had long been known Osama Bin Laden was interested in using cropdusters to disperse biological agents (since the testimony of millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam). An early September 2003 Newsweek article included a rumor by a Taliban source that at a meeting in April 2003 Bin Laden was planning an "unbelievable" biological attack, the plans for which had suffered a setback upon the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He had been captured the previous month in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.  

       The attorney for White House staffer Scooter Libby would reveal that Libby in July 2003 was preoccupied with many national security issues, including the possibility al-Qaida had brought anthrax into the United States. He met more than once with Germs author Judy Miller in DC. Libby's attorney read about these threats from a court-approved summary of classified information in arguing that Libby had honestly forgotten what he told reporters about Valerie Plame being a CIA operative. (When Libby's attorneys announced that Libby in fact was not going to testify, the Judge excluded any testimony about terrorist matters in July 2003 that Libby may have addressed.)

      Anthrax lab coordinator Hambali was arrested in August 2003 in the quiet city of Ayuttullah, Thailand, which is about half way between Bangkok and Chang Mai. He was sent to Jordan. In Autumn 2003, extremely virulent anthrax was found at a house in Kandahar -- after regional operative Hambali was harshly interrogated. Al Qaeda had the extremely virulent anthrax before 9/11. Sufaat's two principal assistants -- and Egyptian and a Sudanese man -- were also captured and are in custody. They had been assisting Sufaat prior to 9/11. The FBI dropped the continuous conspicuous surveillance of Dr. Steve Hatfill in early Fall 2003, after extremely virulent anthrax that they knew could be readily weaponized -- i.e., treated under this process so as to permit greater concentration -- was found at a house in Kandahar pointed out by Hambali. Prior to that, the "Hatfill theory" had been an alternative hypothesis pursued by one of the squads within Amerithrax.

      In connection with defending a civil rights claim by former USAMRIID scientist Steve Hatfill, the FBI described the anthrax probe as "unprecedented in the FBI's 95-year history." Agents had spent 231,000 hours up to that date. The head of the investigation explained that the investigation as "active and ongoing" and said agents' time was divided between checking into individuals who might be connected to the attacks and a scientific effort to determine how the spores themselves were made using "cutting-edge forensic techniques and analysis."  The court papers did not indicate that Dr. Hatfill was still among those being investigated.  Hatfill was labeled a "person of interest" in the probe in August 2002 by Attorney General John Ashcroft in responding to press inquiries for the reason for searches and surveillance that Dr. Hatfill had reported. By late 2003, all conspicuous surveillance had ended, according two unnamed federal law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The head of the investigation cautioned that Hatfill's lawsuit could force the FBI to divulge its "interest in specific individuals," who could flee the country, destroy evidence, intimidate witnesses, or concoct alibis.

       In mid-December 2003, two brothers, Michael Ray and James Stubbs, were arrested in a Manila suburb where they were fundraising for a charity that supported the militant islamists and allegedly in contact with militant brothers. Michael Ray, an American, had been a HVAC technician at Lawrence Livermore near San Francisco -- until March 2000 -- where the Defense Threat Reduction Agency had launched a program to combat the Bin Laden anthrax threat in 1998. His brother, James, Jr., also known as Jamil Daud Mujahid. James reportedly was monitored saying that he had been a classmate of bin Laden and had named his son Osama. James once was a policeman in California and a teacher in Missouri. James allegedly met with members of Abu Sayyef and Moro Islamic Liberation Front while in the Philippines doing charity fundraising. The brothers had been under surveillance at the time of their arrest. James Stubbs, according to some reports, had recently left a job as a teacher in California to study Arabic in Sudan. Other reports suggested that his recent work instead involved training dogs. Authorities allege that the brothers in May 2003 had met with several charity groups suspected of being al-Qaida fronts, founded by Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law Khalifa.

      In mid-April 2004, Patrick Hughes, Lieutenant General (Retired), Assistant Secretary for Information Analysis, Homeland Security Department testified before the 9/11 Commission. He explained that interrogations and other evidence revealed that Al Qaeda wanted to strike the US with a nonconventional weapon, most notably anthrax.

 In May 2004, Palestinian Marwan Jabour was arrested by authorities in Lahore, Pakistan. "He was in touch with top Al Qaeda operational figures and was strongly linked to Al Qaeda chemical and biological efforts and had provided some funding for an Al Qaeda [biological weapons lab," one anonymous counterintelligence official was quoted in the press as saying.  After dinner with a Professor at Lahore University, some men on the street approached him and asked him about his friend, before forcing him into a car. The men also arrested the Professor and another friend who had joined them for dinner. The men took him to the local station of the Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence ("ISI") When finally released two years later, he gave a rare glimpse into the conditions in which detainees have been secretly held.  He first was held for a month at a secret detention facility operated by the U.S. and Pakistan, as described in detail in the report "Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention."  He was flown to a CIA secret prison, that he believes was in Afghanistan, before finally being flown to Jordan last summer, transferred to Israel and eventually released in the Gaza Strip.  He admits having trained in Afghanistan in 1998 and then fighting with the Taliban.  He  acknowledges helping some Al Qaeda figures escape to Pakistan in 2003.  Jabour denies any ties to terrorism. He says the mujahideen he helped relocate to Pakistan in 2003, because of his familiarity with the area and his fluency in Urdu, were "unaffiliated" and had not sworn an oath of loyalty to Al Qaeda.

    In a statement issued June 16, 2004, the 9/11 Commission Staff concluded that "Al Qaeda had an ambitious biological weapons program and was making advances in its ability to produce anthrax prior to September 11. According to Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, al Qaeda’s ability to conduct an anthrax attack is one of the most immediate threats the United States is likely to face."   On August 9, 2004, it was announced that in the Spring of 2001, a man named El-Shukrijumah, also known as Jafar the Pilot, who was part of a "second wave," had been casing New York City helicopters. Photographs from a seized computer disc included the controls and the locks on the door between the passengers and pilot. In a bulletin, the FBI noted that the surveillance might relate to a plot to disperse a chemical or biological weapon.

    MSNBC, relying on an unnamed FBI spokesperson, reported that the FBI has narrowed the pool of labs known to have had the US Army anthrax strain known as the " Ames strain" that was a match from 16 to 4 but could not rule out that it was obtained overseas. Thus, not only was it likely that an Al Qaeda perpetrator was associated with an NGO and university, but there had to have been access to a virulent anthrax strain that was only in a score or so of known labs, most of which were affiliated in some way with the US government. Although sometimes reports referred to its "ubiquitous" distribution, the major revelation on the subject came in 2005 when pursuant to two treaties, samples of anthrax was evaluated from Georgia and Azerbaijan and it was determined that former Republics of Russia also had Ames. Just as former bioweaponeer Ken Alibek had said in 2001, Russia had obtained Ames years earlier through a spy at Ft. Detrick.

    Authorities had received information, for example, from at least one detainee at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that there was an anthrax storage facility in the Kabul area. Amerithrax Agents checked the Kabul area in May 2004 but came up empty. Then in November 2004, on further information, agents had spent several weeks unsuccessfully searching an area in the Kandahar mountains, several hundred miles outside of Kabul. In 2005, an internal report was prepared summarizing the status of the investigation.

    On March 31, 2005, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, in its "Report to the President of the United States," concluded "al-Qai'da's biological program was further along, particularly with regard to Agent X [anthrax], than pre-War intelligence indicated. The program was extensive, well-organized, and operated for two years before September 11, but intelligence insights into the program were limited. The program involved several sites around Afghanistan. Two of these sites contained commercial equipment and were operated by individuals with special training." One technician was named Barq. Another was named Wahdan.

      In a court filing dated May 20, 2005, an attorney for the United States Department of Justice wrote: "The investigation into the anthrax attacks is one of the largest and most complex investigations in law enforcement history. To bring those responsible to justice, the investigation remains intensely active."

    In June 2005, President of Pakistan Gen. Pervez Musharraf told CNN in a filmed interview:  "These people were involved in the .. production of anthrax."  

      After a small plane accidentally entered restricted airspace near the White House and Capitol in 2005, the danger passed quickly, but not before bringing back frightening memories for Senator Patrick Leahy.

"Having been one of the two Senators they tried to kill with the anthrax letter-- yes, I do react to that. But here I'm far more concerned about all of the other people, because whatever the threat was they thought it was enough to threaten everybody here. And there are thousands of good men and women who work on the hill, plus the tourists, the visitors and we want to keep them safe."

      In a press conference in October 2005, Director Mueller said that the FBI was pursuing all domestic and international leads. He said "remember Oklahoma City. Remember 9/11." He declined to say if they had a suspect. That year, FBI agents visited Asia, Africa and Afghanistan in the course of the Amerithrax investigation.

       In the opening argument of the Uzair Paracha trial in November 2005, the Assistant United States Attorney claimed that MIT graduate Aafia Siddiqui was willing to help with an anthrax attack. Any evidence supporting the dramatic statement was later excluded from evidence on the grounds that it would be unduly prejudicial.

       That month, Interpol head Ronald Noble urged: "Al Qaeda's global network, its proven capabilities, its deadly history, its desire to do the unthinkable and the evidence collected about its bio-terrorist ambitions, ominously portend a clear and present danger of the highest order." Henry Crumpton, the U.S. State Department's counterterrorism coordinator agreed: "The threat is real. But what really concerns me is weapons of mass destruction," Crumpton said, pointing to this evidence U.S. officials said they found in Afghanistan that al-Qaeda was working on anthrax weapons. From 1999 to 2001, Crumpton was deputy chief of operations for the CIA's Counterterrorist Center. He led the CIA's counterterrorism campaign in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2002.

    The CIA has been quietly building a case that the anthrax mailings were an international plot. This is old news. It's just no longer bureaucratically impolite to openly contest the FBI's early theory about a lone, American scientist. Many people have argued that a US-based Al Qaeda operative is behind the earlier Fall 2001 anthrax mailings in the US, and that the mailings served as a threat and warning. Princeton islamist scholar Bernard Lewis has explained that while islamists may disagree about whether killing innocents is sanctioned by the laws of jihad, extremists like Zawahiri agree that notice must be given before biochemical weapons are used. "The Prophet's guidance," says Michael Scheuer, an al-Qaeda analyst retired from the CIA who once headed its Bin Laden unit, "was always, Before you attack someone, warn them very clearly." The anthrax mailings followed the pattern of letters they sent in January 1997 to newspaper branches in Washington, D.C. and New York City, as well as symbolic targets. The letter bombs were sent in connection with the detention of the blind sheik Abdel Rahman and those responsible for the earlier World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

    A key question is how they acquired the anthrax strain -- the "Ames strain" first isolated by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab in 1980. The US Army recipe from the 1950s was not used, and obtaining the unprocessed Ames strain of anthrax does not warrant the weight given it by some press accounts. Although coveted as the "gold standard" in vaccine research, it is known to have been at about a score of labs and over the years an estimated 1,000 people may have had access.

    Al Qaeda's anthrax production plans on Khalid Mohammed's computer, according to an unnamed source relied upon by the Washington Post, did not evidence knowledge of advanced techniques in the most efficient biological weapons. At least according to the public comments by bioweaponeer experts William Patrick and Kenneth Alibek, under the optimal method, there is no electrostatic charge. In the case of the anthrax used in the mailings, there was an electrostatic charge. (According to the technical representative for Bucchi, a static charge is unavoidable with their mini-spraydryer). Although there was a dominance of single spores and a trillion spore concentration, there were clumps as large as 40 - 100 microns. (Spores must be no bigger than 5 microns to be inhalable.) The sophistication and effectiveness of the product perhaps lay not in just its concentration, but in its crumbliness and how it floated right out of the envelope. The "trillion spore" issue was an aspect of the mistaken theory that state sponsorship was necessarily indicated. Many point to the trillion spore concentration as extraordinary. It is far simpler, however, to achieve a trillion spore concentration in the production of a few grams than in industrial processing typical of a state sponsored lab.

    An FBI Lab scientist on composition of powders from the Hazardous Materials Response Unit published the comment in 2006: "Individuals familiar with the composition of the powders in the letters have indicated that they were were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents. However, a widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production. The issue is usually the basis for implying that the powders were inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone. The persistent credence given to this impression fosters erroneous preconceptions, which may misguide research and preparedness efforts and generally detract from the magnitude of hazards posed by simple spore preparations."

     In January 2007, Muhammad Hanif, a spokesman for the Taliban, spoke quietly to the camera. Taliban leader Mullah Omar, he said, was living in Quetta under the protection of the Pakistan ISI. In a press conference, the governor of the province on the border of Afghanistan and Pakisan reported that they had found packets of powdered anthrax in his home upon his arrest. As reported by Afghan Islamic Press news agency and translated by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, the Governor said: "A biological substance, anthrax, was also seized from those arrested. They planned to send the substance in envelopes addressed to government officials...."

    In March 2007, Khalid Mohammed confessed before a military tribunal that "I was directly in charge, after the death of Sheikh Abu Hafs [Atef] of managing and following up on “the cell for the production of biological weapons, such as anthrax and others, and following up on dirty-bomb operations on American soil.”

    On the issue of motive and the reason Senators Daschle and Leahy would have been targeted -- they are commonly simplistically viewed as "liberals." Zawahiri likely targeted Senators Daschle and Leahy to receive anthrax letters, in addition to various media outlets, because of the appropriations made pursuant to the "Leahy Law" to military and security forces. That money has prevented the militant islamists from achieving their goals. Al Qaeda members and sympathizers feel that the FBI's involvement in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines undermines their prospects of establishing a worldwide Caliphate. The Fall 2001 letter from Al Qaeda spokesman al- Kuwaiti, directed to the American public -- but which was not released until 2006 -- claimed that the green light had been given for a US -bio attack (1) from folks that were US-based, (2) above suspicion, and (3) with access to US government and intelligence information. He explained: "There is no animosity between us. You involved yourselves in this battle. The war is between us and the Jews. You interfered in our countries and influenced our governments to strike against the Moslems."

    Senator Leahy was Chairman of both the Judiciary Committee overseeing the FBI and Appropriations Subcommittee in charge of foreign aid to these countries. In late September 2001, it was announced that the President was seeking a blanket waiver that would lift all restrictions on aid to military and security units in connection with pursuing the militant islamists. This extradition and imprisonment of Al Qaeda leaders, along with US support for Israel and the Mubarak government in Egypt, remains foremost in the mind of Dr. Zawahiri. At the height of the development of his biological weapons program, his brother was extradited pursuant to a death sentence in the "Albanian returnees" case. It's hard to keep up with the stories about billion dollar appropriations, debt forgiveness, and loan guarantees to countries like Egypt and Israel and now even Pakistan. Those appropriations pale in comparison to the many tens of billions in appropriations relating to the invasion of Iraq. Al Qaeda had a motive in mind.

    The anthrax that infected the first victim, Bob Stevens, was contained in a letter to AMI, the publisher of tabloids -- in a goofy love letter to Jennifer Lopez enclosing a Star of David and proposing marriage. A report by the Center for Disease Control of interviews with AMI employees (as well as detailed interviews by author Leonard Cole) supports the conclusion that there were not one, but two, such mailings containing anthrax. (The letters were to different AMI publications -- one to the National Enquirer and another to The Sun).

    Just because Al Qaeda likes its truck bombs and the like to be effective does not mean they do not see the value in a deadly missive. As Brian Jenkins once said, "terrorism is theater." A sender purporting to be islamist sent cyanide in both early 2002 and early 2003 in New Zealand and ingredients of nerve gas in Belgium in 2003. There's even a chapter titled "Poisonous Letter" in the Al Qaeda manual.

    The "Federal Eagle" stamp used in the anthrax mailings was a blue-green.  It was widely published among the militant islamists that martyrs go to paradise "in the hearts of green birds." In the very interview in which they admitted 9/11, and described the codes used for the four targets for the planes, the masterminds admitted to the Jenny code, the code for representing the date 9/11, and used the symbolism of the "Green Birds." Osama Bin Laden later invoked the symbolism in his video "The 19 Martyrs."  A FAQ on the Azzam Publications website explained that "In the Hearts of Green Birds" refers to what is inside.

    The mailer's use of "Greendale School" as the return address for the letters to the Senators is also revealing. A May 2001 letter that Zawahiri sent to Egyptian Islamic Jihad members abroad establish that Zawahiri used "school" as a code word for the Egyptian militant islamists. Green symbolizes Islam and was the Prophet Mohammed's color. By Greendale School, the anthrax perp was being cute, just as Yazid Sufaat was being cute in naming his lab Green Laboratory Medicine. "Dale" means "river valley." Greendale likely refers to green river valley -- i.e., Cairo's Egyptian Islamic Jihad or the Islamic Group. The mailer probably is announcing that the anthrax is from either Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Egyptian Islamic Group or Jihad-al Qaeda, which is actually the full name of the group after the merger of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda. At the Darunta complex where jihadis trained, recruits would wear green uniforms, except for Friday when they were washed. In a Hadith the Messenger of Allah explains that the souls of the martyrs are in the hearts of green birds that fly wherever they please in the Paradise. The "4th grade" in the return address "4th Grade, Greendale School, is American slang for "sergeant" -- the rank of the head of Al Qaeda's military commander Mohammed Atef, who along with Zawahiri had overseen Project Zabadi, Al Qaeda's biochemical program.

     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's laptop, for example, as Agent Van Harp, the former (now retired) Amerithrax head, once explained, 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 FBI and CIA counterterrorism analysts working on the Dark Side in trying to avoid the next 9/11 are not even allowed to tell their spouses about their work. Based, however, only on the "open source" material readily available through databases such as "google news" and the CIA's "Foreign Broadcast Internet Service ("FBIS"), it appears that the solution to the Amerithrax case does not likely lie at the intersection of Bin Laden and Saddam streets among those cubicles at Langley with desktop PCs. Instead, it lies with the Zawahiri Task Force at Langley which hopefully has an intersection of Ayman Avenue and Rahman Road. If not, we might be looking at a different crossroads altogether.

     Whatever your political persuasion, and whatever disagreements about individual issues relating to due process and civil liberties, the FBI and CIA deserve our support on this issue. We are, after all, facing this threat together. First, the nature of such an investigation is that we lack sufficient information to second-guess (or even know) what the FBI, CIA and Postal Inspectors on the Amerithrax Task Force are doing. Media reports are a poor approximation of reality because of the lack of good sources. Indeed, there has been compartmentalization and divergent views even within the Task Force. Second, hindsight is 20/20. Third, now that the leaks relating to US scientist Dr. Steve Hatfill seem to have long since been plugged, it is not likely we could do better in striking the appropriate balance between due process and national security. The FBI's profile includes a US-based supporter of the militant islamists. Attorney General Ashcroft once explained that an "either-or" approach is not useful. The media has 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.