Thursday, February 25, 2010

Doubts cloud closing of anthrax case

Asia Times Online

An investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, described by the Department of Justice as the largest investigation into a bioweapons attack in the country's history, has come to a close...
...More than eight years later, there are many critics who do not agree with the FBI's conclusions.

One is Norman Covert, public affairs officer and historian at Fort Detrick from 1977 to 1999, who wrote a column, "White Powder and 007" in 2008. Asked by Asia Times Online if this 2008 column needed updating in light of the FBI's release, Covert said: "With the FBI's latest decision, my words are still apropos."

Here is an excerpt [6]:
The government mobilized its team of Double-oh (uh-oh!) secret agents seven years ago to identify a villainous mad scientist, who, without genuine motive or opportunity, single handedly:
  • Used a Bio-Containment Level Three lab suite at Fort Detrick's US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), to develop a highly bred, weapons-grade strain of Bacillus anthracis (a scientific achievement not accomplished before, except perhaps in the biological warfare laboratories of the former Soviet Union);
  • Manipulated this super bacillus with a silica coating and a slight electrical charge so that, when opened in the containment cabinet, each particle repelled others in a brilliant display;
  • Ensured each particle was no more than five microns in size so that it would penetrate the fabric of a normal No 10 paper envelope, a product sold by the US Postal Service in the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, West Virginia and Central Maryland;
    Managed to remove the material from the laboratory with it already placed in at least one envelope, also likely encased in an impermeable container, which would be obscured from the security guard;
  • Managed to avoid leaving any evidence on his clothing, his two automobiles and van, his house, garage, office and other personal items despite the extremely "dirty" potential of the dry agent;
  • Managed, in a fashion unknown to the Department of Homeland Security and the "Double-Ohs", to have the envelopes placed in a mailbox in Princeton, NJ, with a note in a handwriting that cannot be identified with any known person;
  • Managed to obscure this cutting-edge science from a host of colleagues for the entire development period - a major feat in itself!
  • Simultaneously he managed to significantly improve an old anthrax vaccine to protect our troops during Operation Desert Storm; then was a key developer of the new recombinant DNA-based anthrax vaccine that was undergoing efficacy trials at USAMRIID.
  • By September of 2006, the FBI had 17 special agents assigned to a multi-agency task force that included 10 US Postal Service inspectors. The investigation covered six continents, logged interviews with more than 9,000 witnesses, conducted about 70 searches, and issued 6,000 grand jury subpoenas.

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