- On February 5 I raised the question "Is the FBI
Dragging Its Feet?" Nearly four months later, the question is more
urgent than ever. In the interim I have largely avoided commenting on the
situation, not wishing to interfere with investigation of promising leads
the FBI had received. Now, however, nearly everyone who has followed the
situation closely-knowledgeable biodefense insiders, investigative reporters
(who have turned up a great many pertinent facts that have not yet been
reported), and interested outsiders like myself--knows who a likely perpetrator
is. The FBI continues to claim that it has no suspects and few clues, but
it continues to focus on biodefense scientists with anthrax experience.
- The Available Evidence
- All the information below has been in the hands of the
FBI for a long time. Some of it-but perhaps not all-is widely known. It
has been necessary, for obvious reasons, to describe some pieces of evidence
in attenuated form, and to omit some altogether.
- 1. The Anthrax Strain-All the genetic evidence presently
available points to the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious
Diseases (USAMRIID) as the source of the Ames strain anthrax in the letters.
Additional analyses may implicate some additional laboratories (that were
originally supplied with the Ames strain by USAMRIID) as possible sources.
- [Why did the FBI wait until March before collecting samples
from all laboratories possessing the Ames strain, and why have they still
not been analysed? Was it inefficiency or did the FBI have reason to believe
from the start that USAMRIID was the source?]
- 2. Properties and Composition of the Anthrax Samples-A
biodefense insider who has hands-on experience in weaponizing anthrax says
the Daschle sample corresponds to state-of-the-art US anthrax preparations.
A number of other inside experts concur. The perpetrator may well be one
of those who helped perfect the US technique. No other country is known
to have comparable capability.
- 3. US Official Statements-Ever since late October, soon
after the anthrax letters were first recognized (Oct. 12), US officials
have stated their belief that the attack was domestic. [Either that belief
was based entirely on the nature of the anthrax, or something more, not
yet revealed, was known early on by officials. The longer the investigation
drags on without results, the more plausible becomes the question of a
- 4. The Pool of Possible Suspects-Biodefense scientists
have estimated that there are between 50-100 persons with the necessary
expertise and access to do the job. Of these, most could probably be readily
eliminated on the basis of circumstances, current immunization, personality,
etc., leaving, in the estimation of knowledgeable experts, a likely pool
no larger than 10.
- [Why has the FBI continued to cast a very broad net?]
- 5. The Likely Suspect--Early in the investigation, a
number of inside experts (at least five that I know about) gave the FBI
the name of one specific person as the most likely suspect. That person
fits the FBI profile in most respects. He has the right skills, experience
with anthrax, up-to-date anthrax vaccination, forensic training, and access
to USAMRIID and its biological agents through 2001.
- 6. The Anthrax Letters-According to experts the handwriting
is disguised, the text is intentionally "foreign," the letters
show evidence of forensic expertise.
- [An FBI consultant who was asked to analyse the letters
months ago has not yet been supplied with writing examples by possible
suspects, for purposes of comparison.]
- 7. Relevant False-Anthrax (Hoax) Letters-Following the
anthrax letters, at least three of the five anthrax letter targets (NBC,
NY Post, Sen. Daschle) were sent letters similar in handwriting and text
to the anthrax letters but containing an innocuous powder. (It is possible
that the other two targets (National Observer, Sen. Leahy) were also sent
hoax letters that were lost because of mail complications.) Additional,
similar hoax letters were also sent to two other media: the NY Times and
the St. Petersburg Times. All but one of these five hoax letters were mailed
BEFORE anything was known about the anthrax letters. The likelihood that
the hoax letters were coincidental is therefore small.
- [But these hoax letters were assigned to a separate FBI
task force, presumably investigating a large number of other, mostly irrelevant
hoax letters, rather than to the anthrax task force. The anthrax document
analyst has not yet been given all the relevant hoax letters. Even an FBI
agent on the anthrax case has been unable to access some possibly relevant
- 8. The London Hoax Letter-The exceptional hoax letter,
to Senator Daschle, was mailed from London in mid-November. This could
be an important piece of evidence, depending on the whereabouts and activities
of likely suspects at that time.
- [Whether there has been any follow-up on this clue is
not known. At the least, however, there is ancillary evidence that has
not been pursued. Furthermore, the FBI has not given this letter to the
anthrax letter analysts.]
- 9. The Accusatory Letter-On Sept. 21, three days after
the first anthrax mailing and before any letters or anthrax cases were
in the news, an anonymous typed letter was mailed to Quantico accusing
an Egyptian-American scientist, formerly of USAMRIID, of plotting biological
terrorism. The accused scientist was quickly exonerated by the FBI. The
letter's writer displayed familiarity with work at USAMRIID and claimed
to have formerly worked with the accused scientist.
- [This letter is not part of the anthrax investigation!
Because it was received before the anthrax attacks were known, it was assigned
to the Sept. 11 investigation, and the anthrax investigators have displayed
no interest in it. But whether it was sent by the anthrax perpetrator,
a colleague of his, or someone else, the letter may constitute a significant
piece of evidence. The odds are high that it was written by a Federal scientist.
Admittedly, an anonymous letter of accusation is not a capital offense;
is the FBI therefore squeamish about investigating an official?]
- 10. The Suspect's Home and Computer-The FBI was warned
early on that the Suspect probably prepared the anthrax on his own and
that he might have cultures or equipment at his home. Moreover, his computer/copier/fax
may have been used to make the photocopied letters that were mailed with
- [Although there was a "reasonable indication of
criminal activity" when the FBI was advised to search, they did not
do so until months later, with the permission of the Suspect.]
- 11. Preparation of Anthrax Simulant-Did the Suspect prepare
and provide certain government officials with powdered spores of B. globigii,
an anthrax simulant?
- [If so, did the FBI investigate the properties of this
material and the place where it was prepared?]
- 12. Remote Location-The Suspect had access to a conveniently-located
but remote location where activities could have been conducted without
risk of observation. According to insider experts, there are methods by
which the perpetrator alone could have made the anthrax and filled the
letters in such a location. Details of the methods have been communicated
to the FBI.
- Recent information obtained by the NY Times (3 May 02)
that the NBC and NY Post anthrax samples contained vegetative cells suggests
that the perpetrator made two anthrax preparations: one of lower quality,
made hurriedly after Sept. 11 and mailed on Sept. 18; and another, more
refined, mailed on Oct. 9. The finding that the tape used to seal all the
letters came from the same roll indicates that the containment set-up used
for making the anthrax and filling the letters must have remained accessible
from before Sept. 18 until close to Oct. 9 (otherwise the roll used in
the first instance would have been destroyed in decontaminating the first
set-up). This suggests the perpetrator had confidence in his clandestine
- There is also evidence,which can't be cited publicly
at this time, that the Suspect knew in October that the remote site was
contaminated with anthrax.
- [Did the FBI search this site as soon as they learned
- 13. The Suspect's Whereabouts-Where was he between Sept.
11 and Oct. 9?
- [There is reason to doubt that the Suspect's employer/colleagues
were asked about this before the facts had faded from memory.]
- 14. Bioterror Scenarios-It has been part of the Suspect's
job to devise bioterror scenarios. Some of these are on record. He is known
to have acted out at least one of them (in hoax form), perhaps as part
of an assignment to test responses. Some hoax events that have never been
solved, including several hoax-anthrax events, also correspond to his scenarios
and are consistent with his whereabouts.
- [Are any of these past hoaxes being investigated in the
context of the anthrax investigation? The lack of access by anthrax investigators
to hoax information suggests that the answer is no.]
- 15. Secret Projects-The Suspect worked at USAMRIID at
one time, probably in a secret project, with access to top secret agents.
He has also had other interesting connections.
- [Has the FBI asked USAMRIID for his lab notebook from
that period? Did he have one? Is there fear that the Suspect might divulge
secret information, or even threaten to release a biological agent, if
he were threatened with arrest? Are DOD and CIA withholding information
from the FBI about his relevant activities? According to ABC News (Apr.
4) and The American Prospect (May 20), FBI investigators are concerned
that the US military is not telling them all they need to know about secret
biodefense programs. There is also a rumor that DOD has conducted an internal
investigation at USAMRIID to prevent leaks to the FBI.]
- 16. Clique of Colleagues-The Suspect is part of a clique
that includes high-level former USAMRIID scientists and high-level former
FBI officials. Some of these people may wish to conceal any suspicions
they may have about the identity of the perpetrator, in order to protect
programs and sensitive information. This group very likely agreed with
David Franz, former Commander of USAMRIID, when he said "I think a
lot of good has come from it. From a biological or a medical standpoint,
we've now five people who have died, but we've put about $6 billion in
our budget into defending against bioterrorism" (ABC News, 4 Apr.
- [By the end of May, not all of these people had been
questioned by the FBI. Will they be polygraphed? Are the polygraph questions
specific and tough?]
- 17. Motivation-Late last summer the Suspect had a career
setback that challenged his high ambitions and left him angry and depressed.
Quite possibly he interpreted the event as indicating lack of appreciation
both for him and for the magnitude of the biological weapons threat. Perhaps
he decided to mount an anthrax attack that would kill few people, if any,
but would wake up the country and prove that he was right. Or perhaps the
letters were actually an official assignment (after all, in the '60s DOD
sprayed our own service men with nerve gas to test their protective equipment,
according to Pentagon documents made public on May 23).
- 18. Containment of the Suspect-Not long ago, actions
were taken that could curtail the Suspect's career and separate him from
sensitive matters; but there is also evidence for efforts by some officials
to reverse the situation.
- [Will the Suspect gradually fade from sight? Has a deal
been made? Or will he be rehabilitated and rewarded for his service? Will
there be no prosecution, no public notice, no deterrence of similar acts
by others in the future?]
- 19. The FBI-The anthrax attack was a crime by an American
against Americans. Solving such crimes has been the FBI's mission. Failure
cannot be blamed on lack of foreign intelligence.
- [In the face of hundreds of domestic anthrax hoaxes in
recent years, the FBI told the Wall St. Journal (25 Mar. 02) that it was
ready for other modes of bioattack, but never anticipated delivery by mail!
However, the FBI's behavioral analysis of the perpetrator, released in
November 2001, indicated that he may have utilized the mail (without actual
anthrax) for harassment on previous occasions. Meanwhile, before Sept.
11 the Canadians carried out two studies of anthrax delivery by mail, and
their results may have been available to Fort Detrick in advance of the
- The FBI has stated more than once that it insists upon
100% proof before making an arrest in this case-a very stringent requirement.
Why? --Either the FBI is under pressure from DOD or CIA not to proceed
because the Suspect knows too much and must be controlled forever from
the moment of arrest; [For the good of the country, is it really more important
to hide what he knows than to let justice be served?] --or the FBI is sympathetic
to the views of the biodefense clique; --or the FBI really is as incompetent
as it seems.
- Fragmentation of investigative activities and undue control
of investigators by a less-informed hierarchy seem to be the hallmarks
of the anthrax investigation. This profoundly unscientific approach eliminates
the cross-fertilization that can occur when seemingly isolated facts are
brought together. There has been a tendency to write off a direction of
inquiry, or to swing radically in the opposite direction, on the basis
of superficial results or incomplete data. The likely outcome for the investigation
is continued stalemate, marking time on the off-chance that an unknown
informer will turn up with a smoking gun. Maybe time is not a factor in
the typical FBI case, but in the anthrax case, rapid resolution is critical.
The significance of the anthrax attacks and our response to it cannot be
overstated. By breaking the taboo on the use of bioweapons, this event
has engendered a future threat that could dwarf 9/11.
- Barbara Hatch Rosenberg is Chair of the Federation of
American Scientists Working Group On Biological Weapons. She is a professor