Few Credible Suspects in Anthrax Attack
There just aren't many people who could do this, who knew the
recipe, who had access to right strain of anthrax, the necessary
equipment, a Level 4 Biosafety facility and a moonsuit.
"There was nothing there except spores,"
he told Salon. "Normally, if you take a crude preparation
of anthrax spores, you see parts of degenerated bacteria. But
this stuff was highly refined." "Only a very small
group of people could have made this," said David Franz,
a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq and biodefense scientist
at USAMRIID, who now works for the Southern Research Institute,
a defense contractor. "If you look at the sample from the
standpoint of biology, it tells me this person [who made the
anthrax] was very good at what they do. And this wasn't the first
batch they've made. They've done this for
years. The concentration was a trillion spores [on anthrax]
per gram. That's incredibly concentrated."
Only a few dozen individuals in the U.S.
possess the expertise to produce the sophisticated anthrax specimen
sent to Daschle, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and at least three
media outlets last fall. There may be as many as 200
Russian scientists capable of such work, and perhaps 10 Iraqis.
But certain clues have convinced many -- though not all -- bioweapons
experts who've followed the FBI investigation closely that the
anthrax in the letters most likely came from a U.S. lab. That's
chiefly because Ames strain anthrax, the type used in the letters,
has been distributed by USAMRIID to about 20 U.S labs since 1981.
Of those, only four facilities are believed to have the ability
to produce the highly lethal, dry powder form of the Ames strain
anthrax the lethal letters contained.
narrow the list of anthrax suspects to a few dozen people.
Is a U.S. bioweapons scientist behind last
fall's anthrax attacks?
"If you want to see the intersection of the two talents
-- the microbiologic ability to obtain and safely grow lots of
anthrax, and the industrial ability to turn it into a dry powder
-- then that would suggest to me that the person did indeed have
some experience with the biological warfare program,"
says C.J. Peters, who, as a doctor specializing in hemorrhagic
fevers such as Ebola, worked at USAMRIID from 1977 to 1990, and
later at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
case homes in on unusual suspect
Dr. Rosenberg, who says she's talked with the Senate Judiciary
Committee staff, as well as FBI officials, says that early in
the investigation, several biodefense insiders told the FBI that
there were only 50 to 100 people "with the necessary expertise
and access to do the job. Of these, most could probably be
readily eliminated ... leaving, in the estimation
of knowledgeable experts, a likely pool no larger than 10."
Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted
Scientists suggested that the loner theory appeared flawed even
in the opening days of the investigation. The profile was issued
three weeks after U.S. Army scientists had examined the Daschle
spores and found them to be 1.5 to 3 microns in size and processed
to a grade of 1 trillion spores per gram -- 50 times finer than
anything produced by the now-defunct U.S. bioweapons program and
10 times finer than the finest known grade of Soviet anthrax spores.
A micron is a millionth of a meter.
"Just collecting this stuff is a trick,"
said Steven A. Lancos, executive vice president of Niro Inc.,
one of the leading manufacturers of spray dryers, viewed by several
sources as the likeliest tool needed to weaponize the anthrax
bacteria. "Even on a small scale, you still need containment.
If you're going to do it right, it could cost millions of dollars."
In all, said Niro's Lancos, "you
would need [a] chemist who is familiar with colloidal [fumed]
silica, and a material science person to put it all together,
and then some mechanical engineers to make this work . . . probably
some containment people, if you don't want to kill anybody. You
need half a dozen, I think, really smart people."
One way to assemble such a team would
be with "the knowing complicity of the government of the
state in which it [the agent] is made," Spertzel
said. Another way to acquire the agent, several sources acknowledged,
would be to steal it from a biodefense program that uses live
biological agents for research or training purposes.
and the CIA had made some recently. How recently? I have a memory
of reading an article in which they admitted making some in the
summer of 2001 but I cannot find the source. I was only bookmarking
material at that time and I haven't been able to track down the
article so I may be misremembering. Or the information may have
been scrubbed from the internet.
So not only is the anthrax out of
the US bioweapons program, that program did not end with the Germ
Warfare treaty but continued and developed even better, more deadly
forms of weaponized anthrax.
William C. Patrick III, a scientist who
made germ weapons for the United States and now consults widely
on biological defenses, told a group of American military officers
in February 1999 that he taught Dugway personnel the previous
spring how to turn wet anthrax into powders, according to a transcript
of the session.
The process, Mr. Patrick told officers
at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, was not as refined as the
one used in the heyday of the government's germ warfare program,
but it worked. "We made about a pound of material in little
less than a day," he told the officers. "It's a good
Ms. Nicholson said the dry anthrax made
in 1998 was of the strain known as Vollum 1B, which the Army used
to make anthrax weapons before the United States renounced biological
arms in 1969. She said it was used for decontamination studies.
Interestingly the anthrax sent out was the less lethal Ames strain.
To minimize the deaths? Or because that was what the CIA or the
agency instructed to produce it had?
The mailed anthrax is also astonishingly
pure and equivalent (in spore size and concentration) to the
best the American Army ever achieved. Making anthrax in a
dry powdered form of this quality is difficult, and beginning
in 1959 took 900 workers in the "hot" area of Fort Detrick
years of effort (and two accidental deaths, including that
of an unlucky electrician who changed light bulbs at the wrong
time). Thus it seems that the
murderer had access not only to the American military germs but
also to some knowledge of the American military method of preparing
it in its dry form
"In my opinion, there
are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be
able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them," said
Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special
Commission from 1994 to 1998. "And even with
a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to
come up with a product as good."
4 or 5 people in the country that could make the anthrax..and
that only in a fully equipped lab. Despite this the FBI refuses
to look at the most likely source of this material and, instead,
searches the country for a credible scapgoat.
with any responses