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2001 Anthrax Attacks

Other Suspects

Project: 2001 Anthrax Attacks
Open-Content project managed by Paul, KJF, paxvector

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A package containing a petri dish mislabeled “anthracks” is received at the B’nai B’rith headquarters in Washington, DC. The choice of B’nai B’rith may be meant to suggest Arab terrorists, because the building had once been the target of an assault by Muslim gunmen. The letter is signed, “The Counter Holocaust Lobbyists of Hillel,” which is similar wording to a known Holocaust denier. The dish does not contain anthrax but does contain bacillus cereus, a very close, non-toxic cousin of anthrax used by the US Defense Department. There are similarities to the later real anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), such as misspelled words—“penacilin,” in the case of the post-9/11 attacks. In July 2002, B’nai B’rith will say the FBI still has not asked it about this hoax anthrax attack. [New York Times, 8/13/2002; Vanity Fair, 9/15/2003]

Entity Tags: B’nai B’rith, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Category Tags: Anthrax Letters & Hoax Letters, Other Suspects, Fraudulent Anthrax Attacks

A classified report discusses responses to an anthrax attack through the mail. The report, precipitated by a series of false anthrax mailings, is written by William Patrick, inventor of the US anthrax weaponization process, under a CIA contract. [New York Times, 12/3/2001] The report was commissioned by Steven Hatfill, a good friend of Patrick. [Baltimore Sun, 6/27/2002] The report describes what the US military could do and what a terrorist might be able to achieve. [New York Times, 12/3/2001] The similarities between what the report predicts and the anthrax attacks that eventually happen after 9/11 are startling (see October 5-November 21, 2001). The BBC later suggests the “possibility that there was a secret CIA project to investigate methods of sending anthrax through the mail which went madly out of control” and that the anthrax attacker knew of this study or took part in it. The CIA and William Patrick will deny the existence of this report, even though copies have been leaked to the media. [BBC, 3/14/2002; Baltimore Sun, 6/27/2002]

Entity Tags: William C. Patrick III, Steven Hatfill, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Other Suspects, Steven Hatfill

On September 18, 2001, a scientist in Milwaukee tells police that he is building an anthrax delivery system in his basement. The unnamed scientist is drunk and having a dispute with a neighbor when he makes the comments to the police. On September 28, FBI agents arrive with a search warrant but find no anthrax or any sign of an anthrax delivery system. The man is said to work in a bowling alley, but had worked as a senior research scientist at Battelle Memorial Institute, a private contractor working with the US government on bioweapons programs including anthrax. He was fired from Battelle in 1996 and again in 1999. He is said to have specialties “in the areas of radio chemistry, military ordnance and munitions, and decontamination.” After being fired in 1999, his house was searched and chemicals were found in his basement that were not illegal to possess but which could have been used to make a lethal concoction. The story will first be reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on October 5, 2001, right when the real anthrax attacks are first becoming public (see October 4, 2001 and Shortly Afterwards). [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/5/2001] ABC News will revive the story on December 20, 2001, and say the unnamed scientist is under investigation for a role in the anthrax attacks. ABC will claim the FBI did find suspicious chemicals in his basement, but not anthrax. [ABC News, 12/20/2001] However, the next day it will be reported that the ABC story was wrong. US Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) will say he talked to FBI Director Robert Mueller after hearing the ABC New report, and Mueller “said the ABC News report was not true, that ‘The network did not check with us, we have no investigation and no one with or formerly with Battelle is a suspect.’” [Columbus Dispatch, 12/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Battelle Memorial Institute, Mike DeWine, Robert S. Mueller III

Category Tags: Other Suspects, Battelle Memorial Institute

In a speech, President Bush refers to the 9/11 attacks as the “first attack,” and then discusses the recent anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). “The second attack against America came in the mail. We do not know whether this attack came from the same terrorists. We don’t know the origin of the anthrax. But whoever did this unprecedented and uncivilized act is a terrorist.” [New York Times, 11/8/2001]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda, Other Suspects, Other Entries

Asif Kasi.Asif Kasi. [Source: New York Times / Jessica Kourkounis]The FBI investigates three Pakistani-born city officials in Chester, Pennsylvania, for possible roles in the recent anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). The three are Asif Kazi, an accountant in the city’s finance department, Dr. Irshad Shaikh, the city’s health commissioner, and his brother Dr. Masood Shaikh, who runs the city’s lead-abatement program. Kazi is in his city hall office when FBI agents burst in and interrogate him. He is questioned for hours about an unknown liquid he had been seen carrying out of his house. In fact, the dishwasher had broken down and he was bailing out his kitchen. Meanwhile, agents with drawn guns knock down the front door to his house while his wife is cooking in the kitchen. Dozens of boxes are carried out of the house. Agents in bioprotection suits also search the Shaikh brothers’ house and carry away their computers. None of the three ever had any connection to anthrax and none of them are arrested. The searches are national news for several days, severely damaging their reputations. Three days after the raid, an FBI agent tells the Washington Post that the raid did not pan out. The FBI learns that a disgruntled employee had called in a bogus tip. But the FBI never publicly clears them. [Washington Post, 11/15/2001; Newsweek, 8/4/2002; New York Times, 8/9/2008] Even a year later, an FBI spokesperson says the raids are still “a pending matter.” [Associated Press, 9/5/2002] Trouble for the three men will continue. The Shaikh brothers’ applications for US citizenship is blocked, their visas run out, and they both eventually have to leave the US. Kazi is already a US citizen, but he is put on a no-fly watch list. He is searched and interrogated for a couple of hours every time he travels in or out of the US. His name will finally be taken off the list in 2007. [New York Times, 8/9/2008]

Entity Tags: Asif Kazi, Masood Shaikh, Irshad Shaikh, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Category Tags: Other Suspects, FBI Investigation

After investigators discover in mid-October 2001 that the anthrax used in the anthrax attacks comes from the Ames strain (see October 10-11, 2001), the FBI investigation largely discards theories that al-Qaeda or Iraq was behind the attacks and begins to focus on domestic suspects. Within weeks, FBI investigators draw up lists of thousands of suspects who have access to anthrax or the scientific knowledge to work with it. Much of the initial investigation focuses on the US military’s bioweapons program, and especially the two US Army bioweapons laboratories, USAMRIID (in Maryland) and the Dugway Proving Ground (in Utah) which have heavily used the Ames strain. Mark Smith, a veteran handwriting analyst, studies the anthrax letters and speculates that the suspect has worked for or had close ties to US military intelligence or the CIA. An FBI agent who is also a microbiologist is sent to the Dugway Proving Ground and spends weeks questioning more than 100 employees there. Scientists there are repeatedly asked who they think could have committed the attacks. Several people suggest Steven Hatfill. There is no actual evidence against Hatfill, but he is a larger than life figure with a curious background. The Washington Post will later comment: “Hatfill was not some mild-mannered, white-coated researcher who’d spent his career quietly immersed in scientific minutiae. With his thick black mustache, intense eyes and muscular, stocky build, he looked—and behaved—more like a character in a Hollywood action flick.” He is a serious scientist, but colleagues call him “flamboyant,” “raunchy,” and “abrasive.” He has worked with a number of US agencies, including the CIA, FBI, DIA, and Defense Department, on classified bioweapons projects. He has a mysterious background working and studying in South Africa and Zimbabwe for a number of years. For instance, a South African newspaper will report that he carried a gun into South African medical laboratories and boasted to colleagues that he had trained bodyguards for a white separatist leader. He is one of a core group of about 50 to 100 people that the FBI begins focusing on. [Washington Post, 9/14/2003]

Entity Tags: United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Dugway Proving Ground, Mark Smith, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Steven Hatfill

Category Tags: Steven Hatfill, Other Suspects, Dugway Proving Ground, USAMRIID, FBI Investigation, US Military Bioweapons

On October 3, 2001, Ayaad Assaad was questioned by the FBI because a letter written by an unnamed former colleague of his said he was a potential biological terrorist who could attack the US (see October 3, 2001). Just days later, the anthrax attacks became publicly known, and there is speculation that the letter may have been an attempt to frame Assaad for the attacks. Assaad worked at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory where many believe the anthrax used in the attacks originated. Before Assaad left USAMRIID in 1997, some of his colleagues in an informal group called the Camel Club harassed him due to his Middle Eastern background (even though he is Christian and a US citizen—see 1991-1992). In the early 1990s, some members of the Camel Club were found to be working on unauthorized projects at USAMRIID even after no longer being employed there, at a time when anthrax and other deadly germs went missing from the lab (see Early 1992). On December 4, 2001, a military spokesman says that FBI investigators are seeking to question current and former USAMRIID employees. However, on December 9, the Hartford Courant reports that most of the members of the (apparently defunct) Camel Club say they have yet to be questioned by the FBI. An FBI spokesman also says that the FBI is not tracking the source of the anonymous letter blaming Assaad. [Hartford Courant, 12/9/2001] Don Foster is a professor and linguistic analyst helping with the FBI’s anthrax investigation. Foster will only find out about the letter after the Courant publishes their December 9 article. He will also discover that many others in the FBI’s investigation know nothing of it, either. For instance, top FBI profiler and threat-assessment expert James Fitzgerald, who hired Foster to work on the investigation, has never heard of it. Foster will later comment, “What, I wondered, has the anthrax task force been doing?” [Vanity Fair, 9/15/2003] The FBI will not question some of Assaad’s co-workers until 2004 (see February 11-March 17, 2004), and will not question him again until 2004 as well, even though officials say off the record that the Assaad letter remains intriguing (see May 11, 2004).

Entity Tags: Don Foster, Ayaad Assaad, Camel Club, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Fitzgerald, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

Category Tags: Author of Ayaad Assaad Letter, Other Suspects, USAMRIID, FBI Investigation

The FBI is now investigating “whether potential profit from the sale of anthrax medications or cleanup efforts may have motivated” the anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). Battelle, a company doing anthrax work for the CIA, mostly at the Battelle Memorial Institute in Ohio, is the company most discussed in a Washington Post story about this. Dozens of scientists at Battelle have been interviewed by the FBI already because it is one of only a few places where weaponized anthrax has been made. [Washington Post, 12/21/2001] The story comes one day after ABC News reported a Battelle scientist is under investigation for the anthrax attacks, but that story is quickly denied (see September 18-28, 2001).

Entity Tags: Battelle, Battelle Memorial Institute, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Category Tags: Other Suspects, USAMRIID, FBI Investigation, Battelle Memorial Institute

Salon exposes details about the FBI’s anthrax investigation. The FBI appears to be casting a very wide net, for instance approaching all 40,000 members of the American Society of Microbiologists and putting out flyers all over New Jersey asking for information. Yet nearly all the evidence so far suggests that the Ames strain of anthrax used in the attacks was only given to about 20 laboratories in the US, and most likely only four US laboratories have the capability for “weaponizing” dry anthrax. Two of these labs are the US Army’s USAMRIID in Fort Detrick, Maryland, or the US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. There are probably less than 50 scientists in the US with the necessary skills. Meanwhile, the FBI has not yet subpoenaed employee records of the few labs that used the strain of anthrax used in the attacks. Numerous anthrax experts express puzzlement. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a professor and biological arms control expert, believes the FBI is dragging its heels for political reasons. She is convinced the FBI knows who mailed the anthrax letters, but is not arresting him, because he has been involved in secret biological weapons research that the US does not want revealed. “This guy knows too much, and knows things the US isn’t very anxious to publicize. Therefore, they don’t want to get too close.” It will later turn out that she is referring to anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill (see February-June 2002). [Salon, 2/8/2002]

Entity Tags: United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: FBI Investigation, Other Suspects, USAMRIID, Dugway Proving Ground

In an article titled, “Anthrax: the Noose Widens,” Time magazine reports, “Despite recent claims by some in the bioterrorism community that the investigation should be homing in on one particular American bioweapons expert, the FBI appears to be moving in the opposite direction. US government officials say the investigation is still ranging far and wide and that the FBI has not ruled out a foreign connection.” [Time, 7/21/2002] The unnamed expert is a clear reference to Steven Hatfill. The FBI will name him a “person of interest” in the investigation days later (see August 1, 2002).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: FBI Investigation, Other Suspects

An FBI forensic linguistics expert says the anthrax mailer was probably someone with high-ranking US military and intelligence connections. He says he has identified two suspects who both worked for the CIA, USAMRIID, and other classified military operations. He expresses frustration about accessing evidence. “My two suspects both appear to have CIA connections. These two agencies, the CIA and the FBI, are sometimes seen as rivals. My anxiety is that the FBI agents assigned to this case are not getting full and complete cooperation from the US military, CIA, and witnesses who might have information about this case.” He also says the killer seems to have tried implicating two former USAMRIID scientists who had left the laboratory in unhappy circumstances by posting the letters from near their homes in New Jersey. [BBC, 8/18/2002]

Entity Tags: United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: USAMRIID, FBI Investigation, Other Suspects, US Military Bioweapons

In 2002, microbiologist Perry Mikesell came under suspicion as the anthrax attacker. Mikesell is an anthrax specialist who worked with Bruce Ivins and others at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory, in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, he had worked at the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private contractor in Ohio working on classified government bioweapons programs. According to family members, he begins drinking heavily after the FBI starts suspecting him, consuming up to a fifth of hard liquor a day. One relative will later say, “It was a shock that all of a sudden he’s a raging alcoholic.” He dies in late October 2002. The relative will say, “He drank himself to death.” His connection to the anthrax investigation will not be revealed until 2008, and it still is completely unknown why the FBI was focusing on him. Two weeks before his suicide (see July 29, 2008), Ivins will liken the pressure he is facing from the FBI to the pressure that had been put on Mikesell. He will reportedly tell a colleague, “Perry [Mikesell] drank himself to death.” [New York Times, 8/9/2008]

Entity Tags: United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Battelle Memorial Institute, Bruce Ivins, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Perry Mikesell

Category Tags: Bruce Ivins, Other Suspects, Battelle Memorial Institute, USAMRIID, FBI Investigation

Kenneth Berry.Kenneth Berry. [Source: Public domain]On August 5, 2004, FBI agents target Dr. Kenneth Berry for a role in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). Agents raid his home and former apartment in Wellsville, New York, as well as his parents’ apartment in New Jersey. Agents cordon off streets and search the residences wearing biochemical protective suits. This becomes a highly publicized media spectacle. But Berry is not charged or arrested. The raids are the culmination of an 18-month investigation. For instance, in July, dozens of his associates were interviewed. Berry apparently panics and gets in a fight with his wife and stepchildren. A restraining order prevents him from returning home and he is eventually divorced. He also loses his job. By October 2004, government officials say their investigation has uncovered nothing that would implicate him in the anthrax attacks, but he is not officially cleared of suspicion.
Unusual Background as WMD Expert - Berry is a licensed physician working in a hospital. But in 1997, he formed an organization named Preempt, which promoted training for first responders to protect against a WMD attack. By 1999, Berry had risen in prominence and was meeting with prominent experts and politicians about WMD threats, including some US senators and former CIA Director James Woolsey. He was also working on inventions for systems to detect the release of germ weapons, but none of his inventions are successfully developed. In late 2000, he attended a two-day course on using anthrax and other germs as weapons, taught by bioweapons expert William Patrick. His organization Preempt slowly fizzled in importance, but he continued to consider himself a freelance WMD expert. [New York Times, 10/3/2004]
Investigators Lose Interest, but Name is Never Cleared - The Associated Press will comment in 2008, “investigators seemed to lose interest in Berry quickly,” but he lost his job and his wife in the process. He has never spoken about the experience, but a friend will say, “Since things quieted down, he’s put his life back together again and he’s in a stable environment right now.… As far as I know, he just wants his name cleared as publicly as it was smeared.” [Associated Press, 8/7/2008]

Entity Tags: Kenneth Berry, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Other Suspects, FBI Investigation

Fox News reports that the FBI has narrowed its focus to “about four” suspects in its investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). At least three of them are said to be scientists linked to USAMRIID, the US Army’s bioweapons lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland. One is said to be a former deputy commander, another is a leading anthrax scientist, and another is a microbiologist. None of them are said to be Steven Hatfill, a scientist who once worked at USAMRIID and was previously suspected. Fox News reports that the attacks came from a USAMRIID scientist or scientists, and, “A law enforcement source said the FBI is essentially engaged in a process of elimination.” Fox News also claims to have obtained an e-mail of USAMRIID scientists discussing how the anthrax powder they had been asked to analyze after the attacks was nearly identical to that made by one of their colleagues. The undated e-mail reads: “Then he said he had to look at a lot of samples that the FBI had prepared… to duplicate the letter material. Then the bombshell. He said that the best duplication of the material was the stuff made by [name redacted]. He said that it was almost exactly the same… his knees got shaky and he sputtered, ‘But I told the general we didn’t make spore powder!’” [Fox News, 3/28/2008] In August 2008, one of the authors of the Fox News story will say that one of the four suspects was Bruce Ivins, and the e-mail was from 2005 and forwarded by Ivins, but not written by him. [Fox News, 8/4/2008]

Entity Tags: Bruce Ivins, Steven Hatfill

Category Tags: Bruce Ivins, FBI Investigation, USAMRIID, Other Suspects


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