Anthrax revisited: Too many coincidences

Published 13 years ago -  - 13y ago 451

Saddam Hussein did have at least one deadly weapon of mass destruction, and in at least one instance it may well have used in an attack on the United States.

If the FBI had paid attention to the evidence staring them in the face instead of sneering papa-knows-best and going off on a wild goose chase the current Democrat attack on President Bush’s credibility and honesty would never have got off the ground.

The sordid tale of what is now beginning to look like a cover-up involving the FBI and the Justice Department began on October 2, 2002, just days after 9/11, when my friend and former colleague Bob Stevens collapsed and died hours later of anthrax poisoning that afflicted him while at work at the offices of America Media Inc. (AMI) in Boca Raton, Florida.

He was the first victim of a series of attacks by anthrax-loaded letters the source of which is yet to be discovered despite years of investigations by the FBI and millions of dollars spent to pinpoint the culprits behind the attacks.

From the very beginning I have insisted that the Bureau’s wrongheaded fixation on a man they called a “person of interest” – Dr. Steven Hatfill – as their obvious target was a blind alley that could lead nowhere. They couldn’t call him a suspect because they didn’t have a shred of evidence connecting him to the attacks than and they don’t have any now.

The FBI’s stubborn insistence that they were on the right path while studiously ignoring information and clues that were right under their noses all the while baffled me – until now. It is now becoming clear that the Bureau didn’t dare to go looking where all the evidence should have led them Had they done so, they would have exposed not only their own utter incompetence, but that of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence gathering groups.

The FBI’s probe of the anthrax attacks appears not to have been an investigation but instead a blatant cover-up and in some cases a Keystone Kops saga. (They once spent $250,000 to drain a Maryland pond Dr Hatfill could have visited and came up with a load of such “evidence” as a bicycle some logs, a street sign, coins, fishing lures, and a handgun. They even took soil samples from the bottom of the pond for testing. No anthrax was found.)

Had the Bureau done their job George Bush would not be the target of the vicious lies and slanders being aimed at him today by his Democrat enemies.

I am led to revisit the case partly by the disclosures by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa) of the Able Danger affair which suggests that 9/11 mastermind Mohamed Atta either ran circles around the U.S. intelligence community or they were simply asleep at the switch. In any event, it now appears that Atta scattered false clues about his whereabouts in the run-up to 9/11 and the FBI continues to swallow them whole.

If the Able Danger operatives are right, and everything points to that conclusion, starting in 2000 Atta was all over the place, evading detection of his whereabouts by the FBI which to this day insists it has the evidence to back up their claims that they can pinpoint his locations prior to 9/11 when he piloted a highjacked jet into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

In a five-part series I wrote in the summer of 2002, “The Crucifixion of Steven Hatfill” I laid out the case for Atta’s very probable involvement in the Anthrax attacks and the probable involvement of Iraq in the incidents.

The evidence, though circumstantial, was all but overwhelming. In every case the Bureau sniffed dismissively that they had deeply probed that evidence and found it baseless. So off they went charging down a blind alley and wrecking the career of Dr. Steven Hatfill, a loyal American, while they were at it.

Here, very much encapsulated, is a summary of that evidence.

Was Iraq the source of the anthrax used in the attacks?

Dr. Khidhir Hamza, a former top official in Iraq’s program on weapons of mass destruction disagreed with the FBI’s fixation on a domestic rather than foreign terrorist

“This Is Saddam “This is Iraq,” Hamza told CNBC at the time of the attacks. This is Iraq’s work.

“Nobody [else] has the expertise outside the U.S. and outside the major powers who work on germ warfare. Nobody has the expertise and has any motive to attack the U.S. except Saddam to do this. This is Iraq. This is Saddam.”

The Iraqi weapons expert told CNBC that his homeland had developed the capability to weaponize anthrax even before he defected to the U.S. in 1995, and had continued to maintain that capability.

“I have absolutely no doubt,” he said. “Iraq worked actually even before the Gulf War on perfecting the process of getting anthrax in the particle size needed in powder form to disseminate the way it is being disseminated now.”

According to an analysis by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, U.N documents from UNSCOM disclosed the following:

-Iraq developed several biological weapons agents, according to U.N. documents: anthrax, aflatoxin (causes liver cancer), clostridium botulinum toxin, clostridium perfringens spores, ricin, and wheat smut (for destroying crops).

-In its final report to the Security Council, UNSCOM determined that Iraq had not accounted for 520 kilograms of yeast extract growth medium specifically for anthrax. This amount of growth medium is sufficient for the production of 26,000 liters of anthrax spores – more than three times the amount that Iraq declared before the U.N.

-Iraq’s planned storage capacity for all its biological agents reached 80 000 to 100,000 liters.

-Anthrax spores were not developed for laboratory use alone, but were weaponized on a large scale by Iraq. UNSCOM inspectors found traces of anthrax spores in seven warheads from long-range al-Hussein missiles, with a range of 400 miles and thus capable of reaching Israel.

-About 200 biological aerial bombs were additionally produced. However, according to the U.N., Iraq’s most effective biological weapons platform was a helicopter-borne aerosol generator that worked like an insecticide disseminator.

The disseminator was successfully field tested. Dispersal research for biological weapons was conducted by Salman Pak Technical Research Center. Iraq engaged in genetic engineering research to produce antibiotic resistant strains of anthrax spores.

What evidence implicates Atta and his associates in the anthrax attacks?

One of the most intriguing aspects of the FBI’s anthrax investigation was the bureau’s apparent disinterest at the presence of al-Qaeda’s Sept. 11 terrorists in the immediate vicinity of American Media Inc. (AMI) headquarters. The bureau rejected out of hand the idea that these terrorists may well have been the source of the attack on AMI that killed Bob Stevens, almost killed another, and sickened a third.

Despite the FBI’s insistence that it could find no connection between the hijackers and the anthrax attack on AMI, the indisputable fact remains that the area around AMI headquarters had a large concentration of hijackers whose actions showed their determination to harm the United States and its citizens. To cavalierly reject the idea that they could have been responsible for the anthrax attack on AMI and the subsequent attacks as the Bureau maintained makes no sense at all.

At least 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers had Florida connections. Of the 19, three were in the country on expired visas, including Satam Al Suqami, who had a Florida driver’s license listing a Boynton Beach address. Boynton Beach is a few miles north of Boca Raton and AMI.

In the summer, five suspected hijackers on the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center – Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Wail M. Alshehri, Waleed M. Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami – bought one-month memberships at Woolard’s gyms. Atta and Al-Shehhi paid to work out at the Delray Beach gym, the others in Boynton Beach. Delray Beach adjoins Boca Raton.

Four of the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, also lived in Florida for several months. Two shared a condominium in Delray Beach. They left suddenly Labor Day weekend, the same weekend a group of suspected hijackers living in Vero Beach disappeared.

Seven of the hijackers got Florida driver’s licenses or state identification cards. Investigators believe the hijackers were in Florida because of its numerous flight training schools, all of which have mainly foreigners as students.

Three of the hijackers, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami and Hamza al Ghamdi lived for several months in the Delray Racquet Club, a condominium complex a couple of miles from AMI’s headquarters.

Several of the hijackers rented an apartment from a real estate agent who is the wife of the Sun’s editor, Mike Irish.

Was there evidence that connected these terrorists to anthrax? Plenty.

There is, for example, the extraordinary account by a Florida doctor revealed by the New York Times, which reported that the physician believes a man he treated in June had skin anthrax. That man was one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, suggesting a link between Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group and the anthrax mailings. According to the Times, two men identified themselves as pilots when they came to the emergency room of Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale in June 2001. One, Dr. Christos Tsonas recalled, had an ugly, dark lesion on his leg that he claimed he got from bumping into a suitcase two months earlier. The doctor said at the time he thought the injury was curious, but he cleaned it and prescribed an antibiotic for infection.

In the wake of 9-11, however, when federal investigators found the medicine among the possessions of one of the hijackers, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Dr. Tsonas reviewed the case and arrived at a new diagnosis. The lesion, he told the Times, “was consistent with cutaneous [skin] anthrax.” In a memo prepared by experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, and circulated among top government officials the group, which interviewed Dr. Tsonas, concluded that the anthrax diagnosis raises the possibility that the hijackers were handling anthrax and were the perpetrators of the anthrax letter attacks.”

Assistant FBI Director John Collingwood played down the possible anthrax connection claiming “This was fully investigated and widely vetted among multiple agencies several months ago. Exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been. ” The problem here is that the Bureau seems not to have any idea where they were akk the time. Alhaznawi died on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. Federal officials believe the man who accompanied him to the hospital in June was another hijacker, Ziad al-Jarrah, thought to have taken over the controls of United Flight 93, the Times said.

In addition, the Times reported, in October a pharmacist in Delray Beach said he had told the FBI that two of the hijackers, Mohamad Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, came into the pharmacy looking for something to treat irritations on Atta’s hands.

If the hijackers did have anthrax, they would probably have needed an accomplice to mail the tainted letters, bioterrorism experts knowledgeable about the case told the Times. Dr. Tsonas told the Times he believed that the hijackers probably did have anthrax.

Remember that UNSCOM report that “Iraq’s most effective biological weapons platform was a helicopter-borne aerosol generator that worked like an insecticide disseminator”?

What was being said here was that Iraq had plans to spread biological agents such as anthrax by air, as you would using a crop duster plane equipped with an “aerosol generator that worked like an insecticide disseminator” . That’s enormously significant when you consider that in Florida Atta went looking for money to buy a crop duster plane.

Asked Dr. Tsonas “What were they doing looking at crop dusters?” echoing experts’ fears that the hijackers might have wanted to spread lethal germs. There are too many coincidences.”

Four of the hijackers who attacked America on Sept. 11 tried to get government loans to finance their plots, including ringleader Mohamed Atta, who sought $650,000 to modify a crop duster, Johnelle Bryant, a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan officer, told ABC News.

First Atta, then Marwan Al-Shehhi, Ahmed Alghamdi and Fayez Rashid Ahmed Hassan al Qadi Banihammad, all of whom died in the September attacks, tried to get loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bryant said.

In April or May of 2000, Atta paid a visit to Bryant, who described him as most persistent and frightening.”

According to Bryant, employed at the government agency for 16 years, Atta arrived in her office sometime between the end of April and the middle of May 2000, inquiring about a loan to finance an aircraft.

“At first, he refused to speak with me,” Bryant told ABC. She remembered that Atta called her “but a female.” Bryant explained that she was the manager, but he still refused to conduct business with her.

Ultimately, she said, “I told him that if he was interested in getting a farm-service agency loan in my servicing area, then he would need to deal with me.”

During the initial applicant interview, Bryant was taking notes. “I wrote his name down, and I spelled it A-T-T-A-H, and he told me, ‘No, A-T-T-A, as in Atta boy!'”

He said he had just arrived in the United States from Afghanistan “to start his dream, which was to go flight school and get his pilot’s license, and work both as a charter pilot and a crop duster too,” she said. He was seeking $650,000 for a crop-dusting business.

“He wanted to finance a twin-engine six-passenger aircraft … and remove the seats,” said Bryant. “He said he was an engineer, and he wanted to build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up every available square inch of the aircraft except for where the pilot would be sitting.”

Iraq was also known to have field-tested anthrax not only in aerial bombs but also in sprayers of the kind used in crop dusting attached to helicopters, fighter aircraft and possibly unmanned drones. To sum up:

Saddam had lots of weaponized anthrax. Weoponized anthrax is a Weapon of Mass Destruction. He had developed the means of spreading the toxin by aircraft specially altered to disseminate anthrax.

In all probability the anthrax used in the later attacks originated in Iraq and could easily have been passed to Atta by the Iraqi intelligence service which was in charge of Saddam’s anthrax arsenal.

Atta and his co-conspirators were concentrated in the area where the first target AMI was located, and had every opportunity to be familiar with the company.

AMI’s Steve Coz, then a top editor suspected a connection, particularly to Atta. At the time he told ABC “We know Mohamed Atta was within three miles of the [American Media] building. We know he was within a mile of Bob Stevens’ house. We know that the FBI is now going to local pharmacies to see if he did in fact get Cipro. We know that he showed up at a pharmacy with red hands.

“There are people in this area who have very direct recollection of seeing him. He worked out in a gym where some of our employees were.”

Speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Coz also noted that Atta had lived only a few miles from the company building. He said the circumstances of the outbreak left little doubt.

“If you just look at the incredible coincidences, you cannot arrive at any other conclusion in my mind other than that this is a bioterrorist attack,” he said.

AMI Chief Executive David Pecker told CNN he thought his company was targeted because of its name.

“I think this is an attack against America. The World Trade Center was attacked, the Pentagon was attacked, and American Media was attacked, and I think this was the first bioterrorism attack in the United States,” Pecker said.

“If you just look at the incredible coincidences, you cannot arrive at any other conclusion in my mind other than that this is a bioterrorist attack.” One of the terrorists had symptoms of anthrax poisoning. Atta sought funds to buy a crop duster plane he said he would equip with “a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft.”

Too many coincidences, indeed. Too bad the FBI doesn’t believe in coincidences. They could have saved George Bush a lot of grief. To read the entire series go to
http://www.newsmax com/archives/articles/2002/8/18/94733.shtml for links.


Published originally at : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”

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