In 1942, during the Second World War, Dr. Stanley Lovell toured a number of facilities on behalf of the O.S.S. , to weigh the risk of sabotage and attacks on the public. He identified a number of weak areas, including water reservoirs and oil refineries. In many ways, his report 62 years ago reads like a DHS briefing today. One idea rejected early on, was the possibility of using the mail to deliver an attack. Codes and message were, of course, to be considered, but it seemed outlandish to believe anyone could or would use the mail to attack the United States. Unfortunately, in the weeks following the September 11th attacks, America found out that this assumption was invalid.
On October 2, 2001, a photo editor for American Media Inc. (who publish weekly newspapers like the National Enquirer and the Sun) named Bob Stevens was admitted to the JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Florida. Three days later he died, from Anthrax inhalation. Stevens was the first documented case of a wave of 23 Anthrax victims, who touched or inhaled spores from Anthrax-laced letters. Five people died from Anthrax inhalation during this wave of attacks, which abruptly ceased in October. Targets for the letters included the weekly newspapers published by AMI, New York media ABC, CBS, NBC and the New York Post, and two letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy. There appear to have been three waves to the attacks:
The letter to AMI (and possibly others not discovered) was received sometime prior to September 25, with no notice about the Anthrax poison. Witnesses reported a “soapy” odor and texture to the powder, indicating the sender intended for the Anthrax to kill without warning.
The letters to the New York television networks and the New York Post, were postmarked September 18 with no return address, and included the following text in block letters:
YOU CANNOT STOP US.
WE HAVE THIS ANTHAX.
YOU DIE NOW.
ARE YOU AFRAID?
DEATH TO AMERICA.
DEATH TO ISRAEL.
ALLAH IS GREAT.
The letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy were postmarked October 9 and included the same fictitious return address in New Jersey, and included the following text, again in block letters:
THIS IS NEXT
TAKE PENACILIN NOW
DEATH TO AMERICA
DEATH TO ISRAEL
ALLAH IS GREAT
The FBI says all the letters appear to have been written by the same person, and all the letters were a photocopy. One oddity is that the paper size differed from letter to letter; the letter to the New York Post, for example, was printed on a paper size not normally found in the U.S., with a height-to-width ration of about 1.41 to 1, which Erich Speckin (who runs a private forensic lab) says is common to European business letters. Another possibility is that the letters were trimmed to remove gripper marks from a copier, which would help confirm the machine used to make the copies, or some other identifying marks.
There were differences in the Anthrax sent, as well. While the FBI contends that all of the Anthrax was from the same batch, some of it appeared to be more finely milled than others, indicating that the Anthrax was either processed by the letter sender himself, or that it was more finely milled between the first and second wave, for better sporulation.
After the October 9 letters, they stopped, and never started again.
This makes for an interesting detective story, but it also sheds light on part of the decision to invade Iraq. Why?
Following the loss to Coalition forces in 1991, Saddam Hussein’s military was forced to open their bases to inspectors, and in the course of those inspections, it was discovered that Saddam’s WMD programs had progressed much further than expected. Accordingly, the cease-fire was conditional on, among other things, the supervised destruction of all WMD stockpiles, tools, and research. As we know, that requirement was never met.
Fast forward to 2001. Iraq is on the desk of everyone concerned with National Security, because of their continuing interesting in acquiring/developing WMD, their support for a number of terrorist groups, and the law making regime change in Iraq official U.S. policy. Invading Iraq is on the back burner, but it’s on the burner.
September 11 hits, and all hell breaks loose. In addition to fighting Al Qaeda and bin Laden, all major threats to U.S. National Security move up the ladder. A dictator who has already attempted to assassinate a U.S. President, who is known to hate America generally and the Bush family in particular, who is also known to support terrorists and who is seeking WMD if he does not already have them, yeah he gets attention.
Early October, letters with Anthrax are showing up in Florida, in the same community where the 9/11 hijackers lived, in New York, and at the Senate. The Anthrax is a strain known to be in Iraqi hands as recently as 1998, and the best intelligence indicates they have kept it and are making more. Hans Blix admits privately that he believes Iraq has about 10,000 liters of weaponized Anthrax, on the basis of the intelligence he sees, and Dr. Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, or ‘Mrs. Anthrax’, has been photographed spending time in Saddam’s council recently. When the Anthrax is discovered to be more refined or ‘sporulated’ than any known samples in U.S. possession, additional speculation and concern is evident.
A private question went out about the consequences of the terrorist use of weaponized Anthrax. The answer received, is that the deliberate use of Anthrax as an attack on the U.S. population would constitute a WMD attack, and any response, up to and including nuclear strikes, would be legitimate.
In that light, President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq seems not only very reasonable, but also remarkably restrained. Also, I find it very interesting that the letters abruptly stopped in October, just after there success as a weapon and as a terror device began to become evident. I have no proof, but suspect that if a U.S. force were to discover and intercept a foreign group dispersing such a disease as Anthrax, that deadly force would readily be authorized.
Just something to think about.