While some scapegoats (see below) are indeed plausible, it is much more likely
that the live pathogens or agents responsible for the pandemic will likely be
dispersed via A) chemtrails by government airplanes or drones, B) by the U.S. Postal Service via Tide detergent samples, C) by the government and medical
establishment via tainted vaccines, or by D) the portable petri dish commonly
known as the Trojan condom.
Date: November 14, 2001
Abstract: Coalition intelligence agencies say they have discovered evidence of transactions involving sophisticated laboratory equipment, along with a new bioterrorism manual distributed to cells of the al Qaeda terrorist network.
The extent of al Qaeda's operational knowledge was once contained in the 10-volume Encyclopedia of Afghan Resistance, which has been the template for actual and planned terrorism attacks against a variety of targets worldwide. (View pages from the manuals)
But now Western intelligence agencies are analyzing a new volume distributed on an unknown number of CD-ROMs. It contains precise, deadly formulas for chemical and biological weapons that can be made from ingredients readily available to the public, CNN has learned.
In a chapter called Science of Explosives, for example, chemical formulas are followed by step-by-step instructions in the manufacture of deadly biological weapons. Another chapter is called "The Poisonous Letter."
Biological warfare sections give exact formulas for the production of deadly toxins botulinum and ricin, although there's no evidence of instructions on how to make or distribute anthrax.
Camp, Lab Purchases
Also drawing scrutiny is a camp outside Jalalabad, Afghanistan, that coalition intelligence sources tell CNN was bin Laden's main chemical and biological training facility.
Called abu-Khabab after the Egyptian chemical-biological weapons expert who directed it, the camp is one of seven that spies have been monitoring that once formed the heart of al Qaeda's terrorist training.
After September 11, large trucks were seen coming and going from the complex and were presumed to be moving equipment to new, unknown locations, CNN has learned. The camps are now believed to be mostly abandoned.
CNN has been told al Qaeda does have new equipment to work with: at least six new laboratories that could be used to make chemical and biological weapons, according to a coalition intelligence agency.
That agency said that three labs were purchased earlier this year by the Wafa Humanitarian Organization, whose U.S. assets were frozen after the government included it among several groups it identified as supporters of terrorism.
The laboratory equipment was shipped from the United Arab Emirates to Afghanistan, according to the coalition intelligence agency.
A second al Qaeda acquisition of sophisticated scientific equipment took place in 1999, according to the same sources. In that transaction, three labs were purchased from the Ukraine and sent to Afghanistan, the sources said.
am quite surprised at the nature and scale and scope of that intensified
activity that has gone silently without any efforts from intelligence agencies
to stop the information transfer or the acquisition of these type of
agents," said Magnus Ranstorp, director of the world-renowned
counterterrorism center located at Scotland's University of St. Andrews.
Osama Bin Laden, according to other secret
U.S.intelligence documents obtained by CNN, ordered his top lieutenants in 1997
to launch a comprehensive effort to obtain chemical, biological and nuclear
weapons. U.S. and regional intelligence agencies believe al Qaeda has achieved
some of those goals.
Still other evidence comes from a 1999 boast by a terrorism suspect alleged to be a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a radical group with links to Bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Jihad was responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
On April 19, 1999, in a chaotic Egyptian courtroom, Ahmed Salamah Mabrouk spoke before his sentencing hearing to Egyptian reporter Mohammed Salah, considered to be his country's top al Qaeda expert.
Through a caged-in section of the courtroom where defendants are kept, Mabrouk -- who was charged in a terrorism conspiracy -- admitted al Qaeda's success in obtaining chemical and biological weapons.
"He told me that Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri have access to chemical and biological weapons," Salah said.
Although Mabrouk didn't specify what those weapons were, he said they came from countries in Eastern Europe, Salah said."He also said that these chemical and biological weapons are already in the possession of some of the members of the organization, but (bin Laden lieutenant Ayman Al-Zawahiri) and bin Laden issued strict orders that they'll never be used except in extreme emergency situations," he said (CNN, 2001).
Title: U.S. Says It Found Qaeda Lab Being Built to Produce Anthrax
Date: March 23, 2002
Source: New York Times
Abstract: The United States has discovered a laboratory under construction near Kandahar, Afghanistan, where American officials believe Al Qaeda planned to develop biological agents, officials said today.
According to a confidential assessment by the United States Central Command, the laboratory was intended to produce anthrax. The assessment was presented to senior American officials in recent days and is based on documents and equipment found at the site.
No biological agents were found in the laboratory, which was still under construction when it was abandoned. American intelligence officials still believe that Al Qaeda would need assistance from foreign experts or foreign governments to mount an effective program to make weapons of mass destruction.
''There was a lab under construction in the vicinity of Kandahar,'' an American official said. ''It is another example that they had an appetite for developing biological agents.''
Throughout the conflict in Afghanistan, American officials have repeatedly asserted that Al Qaeda was trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. For months, American officials have been scouring former terrorist camps and other sites to determine the status of Al Qaeda's efforts.
There is ample evidence that the Qaeda organization wanted weapons of mass destruction, including biological agents. Osama bin Laden is said to have considered the acquisition of such weapons a religious obligation.
''Documents recovered from Al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan show that bin Laden was pursuing a sophisticated biological weapons research program,'' said George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence. ''We also believe that bin Laden was seeking to acquire or develop a nuclear device. Al Qaeda may be pursuing a radioactive dispersal device, which some call a 'dirty bomb.' ''
But there is still no indication that Al Qaeda ever succeeded in producing biological agents.
In general, Al Qaeda's goal of having an arsenal of unconventional weapons seems to have far outstripped its limited technological capabilities.
According to American officials, more than 60 sites have been investigated and more than 370 samples have been taken. In only five cases were there any apparent indications of possible biological agents and these were only tiny amounts.
Still, American experts are continuing to search Afghanistan for evidence about Al Qaeda's weapons program and to sift through evidence gathered from the sites that have already been discovered.
The latest assessment came this week in a report by the Central Command, which is directing the war in Afghanistan. It noted that in addition to documents found at the site, some unused equipment was also uncovered.
American officials did not describe the evidence in detail but said that it included medical equipment and supplies that would be useful for legitimate research but could also be used to produce biological agents.
Officials also said there was no evidence of pathogens at the Kandahar location. But the evidence, which included documents, indicated that Al Qaeda was interested in producing anthrax. If Al Qaeda had succeeded in producing biological agents in the lab and wanted to put them in missile warheads or bombs, the work would have to have been done at a different site, an American official said.
Officials declined to say whether the information was also based on human intelligence: that is, a former Al Qaeda operative, spy or resident who may have been familiar with the program. But this seemed to be a strong possibility.
An American official said the discovery of the laboratory generally reinforced the prevailing intelligence estimate about Al Qaeda's limited capabilities. Still, the discovery of the laboratory provides additional information about the extent of Al Qaeda's efforts, including the sort of agents it was interested in producing.
Earlier today, there were press reports from London that a biological weapons laboratory had been found in the mountains in the Shah-i-Kot region of Afghanistan near Gardez during the recent United States military operation there.
The reports suggested that this was the reason London had decided to dispatch 1,700 combat troops to Afghanistan.
American officials said, however, that no biological weapons laboratory had been found in that part of Afghanistan. The Central Command said an abandoned factory for making conventional explosives had been found in the area on March 13.
British officials also said that London's decision to send troops was not directly related to Al Qaeda efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. Rather, they said, the British decided to send the troops so that the Central Command would have more forces to conduct mop up operations in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan.
The British decision, the largest British deployment since the 1991 gulf war, was announced on Monday.
reference to the laboratory south of Gardez may be a garbled account of the new
assessment by the Central Command about the laboratory near Kandahar. It is
possible that the assessment was disclosed in London to strengthen the case to
the British public for sending British combat troops to Afghanistan (New York Times, 2002).
Title: Al Qaeda Near Biological, Chemical Arms
Date: March 23, 2003
Abstract: Al Qaeda leaders, long known to covet biological and chemical weapons, have reached at least the threshold of production and may already have manufactured some of them, according to a newly obtained cache of documentary evidence and interrogations recently conducted by the U.S. government.
Three people with access to written reports said the emerging picture depicts the al Qaeda biochemical weapons program as considerably more advanced than U.S. analysts knew. The picture continues to sharpen daily, one official said, because translation and analysis of the documents continues, and because the operative captured with them began divulging meaningful information about production plans only this week. Authorized government spokesmen declined to discuss the subject, saying it is classified.
Leaders at the top of al Qaeda's hierarchy, the evidence shows, completed plans and obtained the materials required to manufacture two biological toxins -- botulinum and salmonella -- and the chemical poison cyanide. They are also close to a feasible production plan for anthrax, a far more lethal weapon, which kills 90 percent of untreated victims if spread by inhalation and as many as 75 percent of those treated when the first symptoms become evident. Among the documents seized was a direction to purchase bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax disease.
Most of the new information comes from handwritten documents and computer hard drives seized during the March 1 capture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, regarded by some government analysts as al Qaeda's most important operational planner. Known inside al Qaeda as "the Brain," Mohammed has acknowledged being the principal author of the Sept. 11, 2001, plot. Significantly, one official noted, Mohammed was arrested at a Rawalpindi, Pakistan, home owned by Abdul Quddoos Khan, a bacteriologist with access to production materials and facilities who has since disappeared.
Because of Mohammed's central role in operations, one senior official said, his apparent connection to biochemical weapons is a "very scary" sign that al Qaeda's efforts reach well beyond the hypothetical. At first analysts were unsure of Mohammed's direct involvement because the documents were not written in his hand and were seized in a house that does not belong to him. But digitally scanned images of the same documents have been extracted from one of Mohammed's computer hard drives. Confronted with that evidence, a second U.S. expert said, Mohammed has begun to talk about the production program in the past two or three days.
What the documents and debriefings show, the first official said, is that "he was involved in anthrax production, and [knew] quite a bit about it."
Government experts are also filling out their picture of Ayman Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second-ranking leader, as the central figure in overseeing and funding the biological and chemical weapons effort. Investigators have known since the late 1990s that in early experiments, al Qaeda killed animals with homemade contact poisons at its Derunta camp in Afghanistan. The project there fell under the command of Midhat Mursi, an Egyptian who uses the alias of Abu Kebab and is among the most-wanted al Qaeda operatives still at large. But Mursi is not thought to have sophisticated knowledge of biology.
What is new in the recent documents is al Qaeda recruited competent scientists, including a Pakistani microbiologist whom the officials interviewed this week declined to name. The documents describe specific timelines for producing biochemical weapons and include a bar graph depicting the parallel processes that must take place between Days 1 and 31 of manufacture. Included are inventories of equipment and indications of readiness to grow seed stocks of pathogen in nutrient baths and then dry the resulting liquid slurry into a form suitable for aerosol dispersal.
U.S. officials said the evidence neither establishes nor rules out that al Qaeda completed manufacture. The documents are undated and unsigned and cryptic about essential details. They do not mention the whereabouts of actual or planned production. Because of al Qaeda's limited sophistication, the documents do not support a theory that al Qaeda had a role in the anthrax letters mailed in late 2001 to Senate and news media offices that killed five people.
Mohammed has told interrogators nothing -- "nothing yet," one official emphasized -- about the intended use of the weapons.
Analysts suspect an ambition to poison the food supplies of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which are cooked in large batches and accessible to locally hired civilians. Botulism or salmonella poisoning would kill relatively few healthy young men or women but would disable many of them for a time and render them vulnerable to other forms of attack. If used in the United States, a more difficult kind of attack for al Qaeda, the Tylenol poisoning scare of 1982 suggests it could lead to widespread fear and economic consequences.
Two officials said this month's discoveries have changed their minds about the significance of an abandoned laboratory found a year ago in Kandahar, Afghanistan's largest southern city, after U.S.-led troops drove al Qaeda and Taliban forces from the area. At the time, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there were traces of anthrax in or near what he called an unfinished laboratory facility, but in "such minute amounts they could be naturally occurring." He said U.S. troops had found "some equipment" that could be used to manufacture anthrax, but "not all the equipment you would need."
Some government analysts believe the Afghan laboratory may have been fully equipped and even operating before U.S. ground forces arrived. One knowledgeable official said it is likely that al Qaeda managed to spirit the equipment away. "It has been moved elsewhere, in another country, and we haven't been able to find it," the official said.
A second official, in the Defense Department, said "there is obviously a connection" between the documents and the evacuated lab. Al Qaeda need not have smuggled equipment out to rebuild the facility, he said, because "if you've got funding, this is equipment you can buy over the counter."
Among the consolations in the captured documents is that al Qaeda's manufacturing plans show no knowledge of advanced techniques used in the most efficient biological weapons. There is no reference, for example, to the special processing needed to produce very fine anthrax spores that resist clumping and linger in the air as free-floating particles.
Another reassuring sign, officials said, is that the strain of anthrax involved in al Qaeda's planning is not among the most virulent. The Los Alamos National Laboratory has catalogued some 1,200 varieties, some of which are better suited to be used as weapons. Officials interviewed for this article, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to name the strain that al Qaeda sought.
Some officials said the greatest danger remains that the organization will obtain advanced biological weapons or nerve agents from a state sponsor.
Though the al Qaeda plans describe valid manufacturing techniques, a defense official said, they do not indicate how long it would take to produce finished weapons.
"If I have all
this equipment and everything works, this would be a production timeline,"
the official said. "But you don't know when it's going to go online and
what is the skill level of those involved. The fact that they're obviously
recruiting sympathetic scientists is a big warning flag" (UCLA, 2003).
Title: Linking Anthrax And Al-Qaeda?
Date: May 28, 2002
Abstract: ON MARCH 23rd, the New York Times revealed that one of the September 11th hijackers could well have had anthrax. Last June, Ahmed al-Haznawi visited a doctor in Florida, Christos Tsonas, about an ugly dark lesion on his leg. Dr Tsonas, who prescribed an antibiotic, later told the FBI that, on reflection, the lesion “was consistent with cutaneous anthrax”.
This is not the first link between the hijackers and bioterrorism. Last October, a pharmacist in Florida said Mohammed Atta had come looking for treatment for suspicious-looking burns on his hands. But this time there may be more in it. A team from the Johns Hopkins Centre for Civilian Biodefence Stategies, which reviewed al-Haznawi's case, said Dr Tsonas's diagnosis was “the most probable and coherent interpretation of the data available.”“Such a conclusion,” the team argued, “raises the possibility that the hijackers were handling anthrax and were the perpetrators of the anthrax letter attacks.” Does it?
Yes to the first part. American forces recently discovered a half-finished laboratory near Kandahar, which they believe was intended to produce anthrax (though no biological agents were, in fact, found there). Captured documents also show al-Qaeda is trying to produce biological weapons. But what about the second part: that its operatives were responsible for the anthrax letters?
The letter to Tom Daschle, the leader of the Senate, contained “weaponised” anthrax. Even if al-Qaeda terrorists had been able to produce the organism itself, they would still have needed expert help to turn it into a weapon. The process of weaponisation is technologically advanced. It requires spores to be concentrated into a powder with individual grains smaller than three microns, and then mixed with chemical agents that keep the spores dry and airborne.
Any number of government laboratories around the world may be working on weaponising anthrax, but the Daschle attack seems to have originated at home. The strain used was American, the Ames strain. Either the attackers had access to an Ames strain that had already been weaponised—in which case they can only have got it from a handful of western military laboratories. Or they had access to the information necessary to weaponise anthrax, in which case the most likely explanation for the use of the Ames strain was that it was close to hand. Either way, the virulent anthrax in Mr Daschle's letter seems to have come from a domestic source.
The implication is
disturbing. There could be two terrorist anthrax-breeding operations—the
half-built affair discovered in Afghanistan, and the one that produced the
letter to Mr Daschle, which is presumably run by a disgruntled scientist in an
American laboratory. More disturbing is the possibility that the two may be
linked. For, if it was an anthrax infection, how did the American-based
al-Haznawi get infected in the first place? (Economist, 2002).
Title: Bio-Terror Strike 'Is Inevitable'
Date: November 21, 2005
Abstract: The world must face the inevitability of a bio-terror attack by al-Qaeda, the head of Interpol has warned.
Police and health authorities around the world were underprepared for such an attack, Ron Noble told a bio-terror conference in Cape Town, South Africa.
An attack could see smallpox, anthrax, botulism or Ebola-style viruses released into Western cities.
The Cape Town event is the first of three sessions to train medics and police how to deal with attacks.
Further sessions will be held in Chile and Singapore during 2006.
Patient but deadly
Addressing delegates from 41 African nations, Mr Noble said al-Qaeda's track record of deadly, unexpected terror attacks put the threat into focus.
Evidence collected from sympathetic websites also pointed to an avowed intention to stage bio-terror attacks if operatives gained the capability, he added.
"Al-Qaeda has openly claimed the right to kill four million people using biological and chemical weapons," he said.
"Al-Qaeda is willing, able and patient enough to plan and prepare to execute terrorists acts that [once] would have been considered unrealistic or fantasy."
Interpol says several pathogens and viruses most likely to be used in any bio-terror attack, Mr Noble told delegates.
Tactics could vary - as well as a traditional detonation, attackers could turn themselves into a "suicide bio-weapon", Mr Noble said, travelling around while highly infectious.
Postal services could also be used to spread disease as shown by anthrax attacks in the US in 2001.
"The potential consequences of such an attack could be so far-reaching that a lack of action in preventing bio-terrorism poses an unacceptable risk to the safety of societies around the world," he said.
The Cape Town meeting follows a conference in Lyons, France, in March, in which Interpol urged governments to back a drive against bio-terror (BBC, 2005).
Title: Al Qaeda: [Chemical] Weapons Expert Among Dead 'Heroes'
Date: August 3, 2008
Abstract: Al Qaeda ended days of speculation Sunday by confirming that one of its chemical weapons experts was killed last week along with three other "heroes," according to a statement posted on a radical Islamist Web site.
The statement, dated July 30, provided no details on how or when the al Qaeda operatives were killed. It was signed by al Qaeda's top leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid.
A senior Pakistani official said last week it was a "near certainty" that weapons expert Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar died in a U.S. airstrike Monday in Pakistan's tribal region.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that if reports of the strike were true, the U.S. violated Pakistani sovereignty.
Umar, who is also known as Sheikh Abu Khabab al-Masri, was on the U.S. State Department's list of 37 wanted terrorists, and the U.S. had offered $5 million for information leading to his death or arrest.
"Although Abu Khabab is gone, he left behind him a generation who will seek revenge and punishment with God's help," the al Qaeda
statement said. "And while the 'expert' is gone, he left behind experts
who were taught and trained under his hands throughout the years."
Umar was killed along with Abu Mohammed Ibrahim Bin Abi al-Faraj al-Masri, Abd al-Wahab al-Masri, and Abu Islam al-Masri, the statement said.
Umar, a 55-year-old Egyptian, ran a chemical-and-explosives training camp for terrorists in Derunta, Afghanistan, before the fall of the Taliban, U.S. officials said.
"Since 1999, he has distributed training manuals that contain instructions for making chemical and biological weapons," according to the U.S. Rewards for Justice program. "Some of these training manuals were recovered by U.S. forces in Afghanistan."
Rewards for Justice said Umar was believed to be in Pakistan, continuing to train al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists.He was reportedly near the site of a U.S. airstrike more than two years ago in the Pakistani mountain village of Damadola. The strike targeted a dinner gathering believed to include terrorists. Initial reports that Umar died in the January 2006 strike later proved erroneous (CNN, 2008).
Title: Al Qaeda Bungles Arms Experiment
Date: January 19, 2009
Source: Washington Post
The official, who spoke on the condition he not be named because of the sensitive nature of the issue, said he could not confirm press reports that the accident killed at least 40 al Qaeda operatives, but he said the mishap led the militant group to shut down a base in the mountains of Tizi Ouzou province in eastern Algeria.
He said authorities in the first week of January intercepted an urgent communication between the leadership of al Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal region of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan. The communication suggested that an area sealed to prevent leakage of a biological or chemical substance had been breached, according to the official.
“We don’t know if this is biological or chemical,” the official said.
The story was first reported by the British tabloid the Sun, which said the al Qaeda operatives died after being infected with a strain of bubonic plague, the disease that killed a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century. But the intelligence official dismissed that claim.
AQIM, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, maintains about a dozen bases in Algeria, where the group has waged a terrorist campaign against government forces and civilians. In 2006, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on foreign contractors. In 2007, the group said it bombed U.N. headquarters in Algiers, an attack that killed 41 people.
Al Qaeda is believed by U.S. and Western experts to have been pursuing biological weapons since at least the late 1990s. A 2005 report on unconventional weapons drafted by a commission led by former Sen. Charles Robb, Virginia Democrat, and federal appeals court Judge Laurence Silberman concluded that al Qaeda’s biological weapons program “was extensive, well organized and operated two years before the Sept. 11” terror attacks in the U.S.
Another report from the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation, released in December, warned that “terrorists are more likely to be able to obtain and use a biological weapon than a nuclear weapon.”
British authorities in January 2003 arrested seven men they accused of producing a poison from castor beans known as ricin. British officials said one of the suspects had visited an al Qaeda training camp. In the investigation into the case, British authorities found an undated al Qaeda manual on assassinations with a recipe for making the poison.
The late leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was suspected of developing ricin in northern Iraq. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell referred to the poison in his presentation to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 that sought to lay the groundwork for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Roger Cressey, a former senior counterterrorism official at the National Security Council under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, told The Washington Times that al Qaeda has had an interest in acquiring a poisons capability since the late 1990s.
“This is something that al Qaeda still aspires to do, and the infrastructure to develop it does not have to be that sophisticated,” he said.
Mr. Cressey added that he also is concerned about al Qaeda in the Land of the Maghreb, which refers to the North African countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.
“Al Qaeda in the Maghreb is
probably the most operationally capable affiliate in the organization right
now,” he said (Washington Post, 2009).
Title: Al-Qaeda Cell Killed By Black Death 'Was Developing Biological Weapons'
Date: January 20, 2009
Abstract: An al-Qaeda cell killed by the Black Death may have been developing biological weapons when it was infected, it has been reported.
The group of 40 terrorists were reported to have been killed by the plague at a training camp in Algeria earlier this month.
It was initially believed that they could have caught the disease through fleas on rats attracted by poor living conditions in their forest hideout.
But there are now claims the cell was developing the disease as a weapon to use against western cities.
Experts said that the group was developing chemical and biological weapons.
Dr Igor Khrupinov, a biological weapons expert at Georgia University, told The Sun: "Al-Qaeda is known to experiment with biological weapons. And this group has direct communication with other cells around the world.
"Contagious diseases, like ebola and anthrax, occur in northern Africa. It makes sense that people are trying to use them against Western governments."
Dr Khrupinov, who was once a weapons adviser to the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, added: "Instead of using bombs, people with infectious diseases could be walking through cities."
It was reported last year that up to 100 potential terrorists had attempted to become postgraduate students in Britain in an attempt to use laboratories.Ian Kearns, from the Institute for Public Policy Research, told the newspaper: "The biological weapons threat is not going away. We're not ready for it" (Telegraph, 2009).
Title: Al-Qaeda And The Plague
Date: January 23, 2009
Source: Human Events
Abstract: The report that
some forty al-Qaeda terrorists died after the bubonic plague swept through
their Algerian training camp has been treated with some glee in the media. But
that schadenfreude may be misplaced. One question being investigated is whether
the North African fanatics fell victim to the naturally-occurring pathogen or
the possibility the group mistakenly released the killer bug while brewing it
for terror attacks. This incident provides the Obama administration the impetus
to assess whether our nation is prepared for a bioterrorist attack.
The Algerian terrorist franchise, al-Qaeda in the land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is the largest al-Qaeda group outside the Middle East. AQIM has a deadly terrorism record and a declared intention to attack American targets which makes the potential bioterrorism threat credible but not a surprise for American experts.
Last year, Dr. Jeffrey Runge, chief medical officer at the US Department of Homeland Security, told Congress that the risk of a large-scale biological attack on the nation is significant and the US knows its terrorist enemies have sought biological weapons. Runge said al-Qaeda is the most significant threat.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has long shown an active interest in biological weapons. In the late 1990s, bin Laden set-up 19 chemical and biological weapons laboratories in Afghanistan stocking them with deadly pathogens: anthrax, plague, and botulinum toxins. He hired Ukrainian and Russian experts to train his people and, according to then-CIA director George Tenet, bin Laden trained his operatives “…to conduct attacks with toxic chemicals or biological toxins.”
The group’s biological weapons expert, Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, who was reportedly killed by a US missile in 2008, published a 5,000-page encyclopedia of jihad devoted to chemical biological warfare (CBW). Al-Sayid’s manual, which is available in print and on the Internet, provides instructions on how to manufacture rudimentary biological weapons.
The availability of al-Sayid’s CBW cookbook makes it possible for independent jihadist cells like the AQIM to attempt to manufacture rudimentary biological weapons. That’s why it shouldn’t be a surprise when there are attempts to manufacture agents by franchise groups such as the 2003 incident in London where six Algerians were charged with plotting to produce the poison ricin and the 2005 French government claim that al-Qaeda cells in the Pankisi Gorge region of Georgia are producing anthrax bacteria, ricin, and botulinum toxin.
Any bioterror attack on America will likely come from suicidal jihadists armed with small containers of toxins made in remote sites like AQIM’s training camps rather than pathogen-filled bombs launched from rockets, because weaponizing biological agents is very difficult. It requires the manufacturer to isolate the virulent strain, convert it into a weaponized form and then integrate it with a weapon system that can evenly distribute the agent in lethal doses to the intended targets.
A bioterrorist attack would go something like the following. A lone suicidal bioterrorist could cause significant suffering by spreading killer agents in a public place -- dumping a vile of anthrax spores in a ventilation system or subway -- or even more sinister, contaminate himself with the bubonic plague and then cough and sneeze the deadly plague in a closed area like an airplane or office building.
It could be 36 hours after a terrorist spreads anthrax or up to a week after someone is exposed to bubonic plague before victims become ill with classical symptoms. That’s why health care providers must be alert to identify the threat and notify public officials. Quick action will save many lives, but the cost could be high.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that an intentional release of anthrax by a bioterrorist in a major city could result in an economic impact of up to $26 billion per 100,000 persons exposed.
The AQIM incident came to light when Algerian security forces found the bubonic plague-riddled body of a known terrorist by a roadside. Reportedly, AQIM chiefs fear the highly contagious plague has spread to other terror cells because some of the nearly 1,000 Algerian insurgents abandoned the contaminated camp for others in Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria.
The Sun, a British newspaper, broke the AQIM story on January 19th. The paper reported that the epidemic began in AQIM’s camp 90 miles east of the capital Algiers. The group turned the camp’s shelters into mass graves and fled, reported the Sun.
The plague, also known as “black death,” is believed to have killed an estimated 75-200 million people in the 14th century. Today, the World Health Organization reports several thousand cases a year, mainly in southern Asia, Africa and Central America.
The killer bug is caused by a bacterial agent, yersinia pestis, which infects rodents, producing blood poisoning. Fleas that feed on the dying rodents carry the toxic bacteria to humans. This may explain how AQIM terrorists contracted the pathogen if not from a terror weapon mishap.
Left untreated by antibiotics, the plague’s symptoms begin with a headache, then chills and fever which lead to exhaustion. The condition may include nausea, vomiting, back pain, soreness in the arms and legs. Swellings, called buboes, which give the bubonic plague its name, appear around the lymph nodes -- the neck, arms and inner thighs. They are hard knobs that turn black, split open to ooze pus and blood. The survival rate among the untreated is small.
Both offensive and defensive programs must be in place to reduce the likelihood of a successful bioterrorist attack launched by groups like AQIM or homegrown radicals.
The best offensive effort is to shutdown bioterrorists at the source. That’s why the possibility that AQIM is working on deadly pathogens matters. Our special operation forces working with allies and friendly governments must eliminate threats before they mature.
But trying to stop threats at the source is insufficient. Our borders must be guarded with special biological agent sensors which are still under development. That places the burden on our border guards who must recognize clinical symptoms and deny access or quarantine suspect visitors.
Fortunately, we have in place the beginning of an effective bioterrorist response program. In 1997, Congress passed the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act which established the Chemical and Biological Incident Response Force (CBIFR) unit based in Camp Lejeune, NC. The CBIFR is the nation’s self-contained and self-sufficient unit for responding to CBW attacks. Its back-up force includes the National Guard’s 52 weapons of mass destruction civil support teams, but these 22-man units only advise first responders and that’s the nation’s CBW Achilles heel.
Most city fire departments have the responsibility to provide first response to CBW attacks but too often that capability is underfunded. Small cities and towns may have no response capability at all. Besides, few US hospitals can handle a mass casualty scenario and most hospitals have very limited capability to decontaminate patients.
The fact is that America isn’t prepared for most catastrophic disasters. Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and America’s security affairs, claims that the nation is only prepared to respond to a pandemic flu and a major hurricane.
Our preparedness for a bioterrorist attack was tested by the September 2001 anthrax contaminated letter incident. A handful of anthrax contaminated letters resulted in approximately 32,000 persons with potential exposures taking antibiotic prophylaxis to prevent anthrax infections and the attack killed five people.
That incident was quickly exposed because it involved congressional officials who are provided special protection. Likely, had the anthrax letters gone to ordinary offices, the attack would not have been exposed as early and many more people would have died.
The Algerian bubonic plague incident should be a wake-up for the Obama administration to reassess its bioterrorism preparedness. Enemies such as al Qaeda and its franchises are almost certainly producing deadly biological weapons and will use them for mass murder. America must be aggressive in defeating the bioterrorist before he attacks and should that fail our network of first responders must be prepared for a potentially catastrophic attack (Human Events, 2009).
Title: New Report Sheds Light On Al Qaeda’s
Biological Attack Capabilities
Date: January 26, 2010
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Years of work by Al Qaeda terrorists to acquire weapons of mass destruction and concoct the deadliest methods of using them have been assessed by a retired Central Intelligence Agency officer in a newly released research paper.
Rolf Mowatt-Larssen’s study, titled “Al Qaeda Weapons of Mass Destruction Threat: Hype or Reality?”, provides a detailed chronology of the terrorist group’s efforts from 1988 to 2003 to acquire biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
Mowatt-Larssen, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government, served as Director of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy. Prior to that, he served for 23 years as a CIA intelligence officer in both domestic and international posts.
According to Mowatt-Larssen’s study, Al Qaeda would not hesitate to launch attacks that could result in the deaths of tens or even hundreds of thousands of Americans if such an attack were possible for them.
Mowatt-Larssen’s report, however, in noting that no such attack has happened, questions if that is a result of counter-terrorism efforts or a tactical decision by Al Qaeda.
“There are many
plausible explanations for why the world has not experienced an al Qaeda attack
using chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, but it would be
foolish to discount the possibility that such an event will occur in the
future,” Mowatt-Larssen says. “To date, al
Qaeda’s WMD programs may have been disrupted. This is in fact one likely
explanation, given a sustained and ferocious counterterrorist response to 9/11
that largely destroyed al Qaeda as the organization that existed before the
fateful attack on the US. If so, terrorists must continue to be disrupted and
denied a safe haven to reestablish the ability to launch a major strike on the
US homeland, or elsewhere in the world (Bio Prep Watch, 2010).
Title: Al-Qaeda Sees Mexico Border As Prime Spot For Transporting Anthrax
Date: May 19, 2010
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Congress has been warned by FBI Director Robert Mueller this week that al-Qaeda has ongoing efforts to acquire weapons of mass attack for the purpose of attacking the United States.
"Al-Qaida remains committed to its goal of conducting attacks inside the United States,” Mueller told a House appropriations subcommittee, Newsmax.com reports. “Further, al Qaeda’s continued efforts to access chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material pose a serious threat to the United States.”
Mueller added that Al-Qaeda, to accomplish its goals of conducting new attacks, “seeks to infiltrate overseas operatives who have no known nexus to terrorism into the United States using both legal and illegal methods of entry.”
Sheikh Abdullah al-Nasifi, a known al-Qaeda recruiter in Kuwait, told al Jazeera television in February that the ideal infiltration point for terrorists seeking to attack America is Mexico’s border.
“Four pounds of anthrax – in a suitcase this big – carried by a fighter through tunnels from Mexico into the U.S., are guaranteed to kill 330,000 Americans within a single hour if it is properly spread in population centers there,” al-Nasifi told al Jazeera.
"There is no need for airplanes, conspiracies, timings and so on. One person, with the courage to carry four pounds of anthrax, will go to the White House lawn, and will spread this ‘confetti’ all over them, and then will do these cries of joy. It will turn into a real ‘celebration,’ al-Nasifi said. "9/11 will be small change in comparison. Am I right?"
Mueller reminded lawmakers that a 2008 National Intelligence Estimate estimated that a terrorist WMD attack remains a top priority of terrorists and noted that a December Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism report warned that “the risks are growing faster than our multilayered defenses” to prevent such an attack," and that “it was more likely than not that terrorists would attack a major city somewhere in the world with a weapon of mass destruction by 2013” (Bio Prep Watch, 2010).
Title: Russian Expert Says Terror Networks Searching For Bioweapons
Date: October 6, 2010
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: The head of Russia’s Security Council recently announced that the country’s security agencies believe international terror networks are doubling their efforts to gain access to biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction.
Nikolai Patrushev voiced his concerns during a recent security conference at the Black Sea Resort, in Sochi, Russia, MonstersAndCritics.com reports.
“We have such indications,” Patrushev said, MonstersAndCritics.com reports. “Worldwide, terrorists have also tried to buy radioactive material for a dirty bomb.”
Following the Security Council meeting, Patrushev told the press that intelligence reports indicate that energy production would be one area targeted by terrorists. He specifically named the Suez Canal in Egypt and the Strait of Gibraltar as potential targets.
Patrushev also said that he believes al-Qaeda is involved in the bloody conflict unfolding in Russia's Caucasus region, MonstersAndCritics.com reports. The region, which has seen two Chechen wars, could be of great interest to terrorists.
“Al-Qaida's main goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate spanning Central Asia, North and Central Africa and the North Caucasus,” Patrushev said, MonstersAndCritics.com reports (Bio Prep Watch, 2010).
Title: WikiLeaks: Al-Qaeda
'Is Planning A Dirty Bomb'
Date: February 2, 2011
Source: The Telegraph
Abstract: A leading atomic regulator has privately warned that the world stands on the brink of a "nuclear 9/11".
Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing "workable and efficient" biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.
Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.
At a Nato meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaeda was plotting a programme of "dirty radioactive IEDs", makeshift nuclear roadside bombs that could be used against British troops in Afghanistan.
As well as causing a large explosion, a "dirty bomb" attack would contaminate the area for many years.
An Indian national security adviser told American security personnel in June 2008 that terrorists had made a "manifest attempt to get fissile material" and "have the technical competence to manufacture an explosive device beyond a mere dirty bomb".
Alerts about the smuggling of nuclear material, sent to Washington from foreign US embassies, document how criminal and terrorist gangs were trafficking large amounts of highly radioactive material across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
The alerts explain how customs guards at remote border crossings used radiation alarms to identify and seize cargoes of uranium and plutonium.
Freight trains were found to be carrying weapons-grade nuclear material across the Kazakhstan-Russia border, highly enriched uranium was transported across Uganda by bus, and a "small-time hustler" in Lisbon offered to sell radioactive plates stolen from Chernobyl.
In one incident in September 2009, two employees at the Rossing Uranium Mine in Namibia smuggled almost half a ton of uranium concentrate powder – yellowcake – out of the compound in plastic bags.
"Acute safety and security concerns" were even raised in 2008 about the uranium and plutonium laboratory of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear safety watchdog.
Tomihiro Taniguchi, the deputy director-general of the IAEA, has privately warned America that the world faces the threat of a "nuclear 9/11" if stores of uranium and plutonium were not secured against terrorists .
But diplomats visiting the IAEA's Austrian headquarters in April 2008 said that there was "no way to provide perimeter security" to its own laboratory because it has windows that leave it vulnerable to break-ins.
Senior British defence officials have raised "deep concerns" that a rogue scientist in the Pakistani nuclear programme "could gradually smuggle enough material out to make a weapon," according to a document detailing official talks in London in February 2009.
Agricultural stores of deadly biological pathogens in Pakistan are also vulnerable to "extremists" who could use supplies of anthrax, foot and mouth disease and avian flu to develop lethal biological weapons.
Anthrax and other biological agents, including smallpox and avian flu, could be sprayed from a shop-bought aerosol can in a crowded area, leaked security briefings warn.
The security of the world's only two declared smallpox stores in Atlanta, USA, and Novosibirsk, Russia, has repeatedly been called into doubt by "a growing chorus of voices" at meetings of the World Health Assembly documented in the leaked cables.
The alarming disclosures come after President Barack Obama last year declared nuclear terrorism "the single biggest threat" to international security with the potential to cause "extraordinary loss of life" (The Telegraph, 2011).
Title: Lugar Calls For Vigilance Against Bioterror Following Bin Laden’s
Date: May 4, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Sen. Richard Lugar called for the United States to remain vigilant for an Al-Qaeda sponsored or inspired nuclear, chemical or biological counterattack in the wake of the strike that led to the death of the terrorist group’s leader Osama bin Laden.
“There is a risk that some bin Laden-inspired group may try to lash out in dramatic fashion,” Lugar wrote in an article published by the Washington Times on May 2.
Lugar, hopeful that there will be upheavals in Al-Qaeda that the U.S. can exploit as a result of its leader’s demise, urged vigilance in keeping nuclear, chemical and biological weapons materials away from terrorists.
“Our top military leaders have said that the biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Lugar wrote in the Washington Post.
Lugar recommended continuing with the Nunn-Lugar program, which conducts an effort to destroy weapons of mass destruction in Russia and the former Soviet Union states. He said that the Nunn-Lugar program recently helped to facilitate the destruction of a Soviet-era chemical weapons stockpile in Albania and led to the dismantling of Libya’s chemical weapons program in 2004.
According to Lugar, American efforts in Africa to control and contain biological weapons and dangerous pathogens need to be stepped up.
“Africa has a unique combination of naturally occurring dangerous diseases, poorly secured laboratories and research centers where those pathogens are collected for public health study, and simmering Islamist terrorist activity that thrives in the region’s many poorly governed spaces,” Lugar wrote in the Washington Post.
The next step, Lugar said, is using the Nunn-Lugar
program to address key security problems in African laboratories (Bio
Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: Al-Qaida's Food Bioterror Threat Looms Over UK
Date: June 6, 2011
Source: Times of India
Abstract: Britain is facing an emerging food "bioterrorism" threat from extremist groups like the al-Qaida, a media report said on Sunday.
The British government's security advisers have warned manufacturers
and retailers that terror groups might try to poison food, drinks supply
in the country to cause widespread casualties, 'The Sunday Telegraph'
The warning from Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), which operates as part of the security service, came in the wake of deadly E.coli outbreak in Germany which has highlighted the vulnerability of the food chain and how quickly bacteria can spread, the report said.
The highly virulent strain has already claimed some 18 lives and left more than 1,800 seriously ill in Germany.
The CPNI has, in fact, asked food and drinks producers, suppliers and supermarkets to tighten security at plants and depots.
A CPNI said, "UK suffers from a low level of malicious contamination of
food by the bad, the mad and the sad. Now it has to consider
possibility of food supplies being disrupted by politically motivated
groups" (Times of India, 2011).
Title: Bio-Terrorism The New Age Weapon Of Al Qaeda, Taliban?
Date: June 7, 2011
Source: One India
Abstract: As if terrorism has not been terrorizing us enough,
there's a new sort of terrorism looming in the horizon. According to media
reports from UK, food bioterrorism is the latest threat after scientists and
others failed to understand the sudden spread of the deadly E. Coli bacteria.
With al-Qaeda and Taliban involvement feared in the outbreak, doctors fear that killer germs may have been deliberately planted into fresh produce. With Germany as the centre of the outbreak, reports from the newspaper Daily Star ays that Britain could also be impacted by the deadly bacteria.
German scientists and health officials are zeroing in on the toxic batch of bean sprouts that may have been the root of the deadly outbreak. The chief doctor for hygiene at Germany's Vivantes Hospital in Berlin, Klaus-Dieter Zastrow was quoted as saying, “It is quite possible there's a crazy person out there who thinks: 'I'll kill a few people or make 10,000 ill.' It is a mistake not to investigate in that direction."
E Coli has already claimed 18 lives and led close to 1,800 seriously ill in Germany. The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) in London has asked the producers of food and drinks along with suppliers and supermarkets to tighten security at plants and depots.
In a statement by the CPNI, "UK suffers from a low level of malicious contamination of food by the bad, the mad and the sad. Now it has to consider possibility of food supplies being disrupted by politically motivated groups" (One India, 2011).
Title: Experts Warn That Al-Qaeda Remains A Bioterror Threat
Date: July 29, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Multiple former U.S.
counterterrorist officials announced on Thursday that a biological or chemical
attack by al-Qaeda and its offshoots is still a threat, despite the killing of
terror leader Osama bin Laden.
Michael Leiter, the recently retired director of the National Counterterrorism Center, recently spoke to an audience at the Aspen Security Forum, the Associated Press reports.
"We still have pockets of al-Qaida around the world who see this as a key way to fight us," especially the offshoot in Yemen," Leiter said, according to the AP. "The potential threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is very real. The most likely…are simple forms of chemical or biological weapons (rather than a nuclear attack). Is it going to kill many people? No. Is it going to scare people? Yes."
Leiter said that while Bin Laden was focused on a big attack, his affiliates and other offshoots like the Pakistani Taliban realize that they can affect U.S. strategy with smaller scale attacks.
Former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin predicted that new leader
Ayman al-Zawahiri will launch small scale campaigns similar to the attempted
Times Square car bombing a year ago.
"Zawahiri will probably favor smaller targets," McLaughlin told the audience, according to the AP. "Bin Laden did not."
Leiter said that one challenge for the future is to keep the staff members of intelligence and military leaders from getting bored and leaving, because while the U.S. is drawing down its military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, the anti-terror war continues on.
"Smaller scale terrorist attacks are with us for at least the foreseeable future," Leiter said, according to the AP (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: Yemen-Based Al-Qaeda May Be Trying To Acquire Ricin
Date: August 15, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: According to unnamed intelligence officials and reports, a Yemen-based al-Qaeda affiliate has been trying to acquire castor beans, which can be used to produce poisonous ricin.
The apparent intent of the organization was to pack the poison around small explosives that could use the explosions to disperse the ricin, Reuters reports. The white powdery ricin is so deadly that a speck alone can kill if inhaled or taken into the bloodstream.
The apparent targets for the plot were enclosed spaces, like an airport or shopping mall. President Barack Obama and top aides were briefed about the threat last year and while they have received updates since then, there was no indication that an attack was imminent.
There are limits on ricin's utility as a weapon because it loses its potency in sunny, dry conditions like those in Yemen, and the poison is not easily absorbed through the skin like some other nerve agents.
According to a New York Times report, a secret government task force was working with Saudi officials and the remnants of Yemen's intelligence agencies to counter the threat. With the virtual collapse of Yemen's government, al Qaeda has been able to widen its control in the county and strengthen its operational ties with al Shabab, the Islamic militancy in Somalia (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: Rep. Rogers Raises Concerns Of Al-Qaeda Acquiring Libyan Chemical
Date: September 8, 2011
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has approached the White House with concerns that al-Qaeda will acquire Libyan weapons that were once controlled by dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Rogers said that the time frame to secure loose weapons "is rapidly closing" and he has urged the White House to quickly dedicate additional resources and work with NATO allies and the Libyan National Transitional Council on the problem, Bloomberg reports.
“We need to be doing more to secure these weapons systems now,” Rogers, a former Army officer and FBI special agent, said, according to Bloomberg. "(The U.S. has) special capabilities. There is nobody better who can get their hands on this stuff, account for it and render it safe.”
Rogers said that the U.S. could have been more aggressive in safeguarding the munitions in Iraq and that Libya's "systems are even more lethal."
According to a White House fact sheet, Libya's chemical stockpiles of 11.3 metric tons of mustard agent and 845 metric tons of chemical precursors are stored in non-weapon form inside steel containers and secure bunkers in a remote part of Libya.
Rogers said that Qaddafi might not have disclosed all his chemical and biological weapons.
“We just don’t know," Rogers said, according to Bloomberg. "There had been sarin gas and other things.”
The U.S. has provided $3 million to two international humanitarian organizations – the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action in Geneva and the Manchester, U.K.-based MAG International – specializing in removing weapons and munitions. To date, the teams have cleared more than 450,000 square meters of land and destroyed 5.8 tons of munitions.
Qaddafi's vast military and industrial complex has been kept under constant surveillance by NATO aircraft since the rebellion began in February, according to U.S. officials (Bio Prep Watch, 2011).
Title: Al Qaeda Lab Lingers In Anthrax Story
Date: October 2, 2011
Source: USA Today
Abstract: Fears that al Qaeda had some role in the anthrax letter attacks that killed five and terrorized the U.S. 10 years ago surfaced early in the investigation.
"THIS IS NEXT. TAKE PENACILIN NOW. DEATH TO AMERICA. DEATH TO ISRAEL. ALLAH IS GREAT," read the anthrax-laden letter sent to NBC newsman Tom Brokaw on Sept 18, 2001, at the start of the attacks. At least five letters were sent in the attacks that autumn, all containing similar words.
Those messages likely contributed to one of the more curious endeavors of the nine-year "Amerithrax" investigation into the anthrax murders, the retrieval of a suspected terrorist lab, right down to the pipes of the kitchen sink.
The National Research Council in February delivered an evaluation of the science used by investigators to tie the anthrax used in the attacks, a mutant-laced variant of the "Ames" anthrax strain, to the infamous RMR-1029 flask at the United States Army Medical Research Institute (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Md. The flask was controlled by a researcher named Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008, days before investigators say they had intended to indict him for the crime. Based in part on the link to the RMR-1029 flask, the FBI, in its investigative summary of the case, concluded, "Ivins, alone, mailed the anthrax letters." The conclusion, though, is still disputed by some observers. Even the NRC said it was "not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the anthrax," in its evaluation.
In May of 2004, U.S. investigators weren't so sure either. They had information about al Qaeda plans to develop an anthrax program, the NRC report said. So FBI investigators and "partners from the intelligence community" then visited a suspected bioterror lab abandoned by al Qaeda and collected swabs there. Three samples tested positive for Ames strain anthrax in tests, conducted at the USAMRIID lab. They had been taken from "an unopened medicine dropper package, a sink, and a sink drain hose," according to a partly-declassified FBI report.
Subsequent tests at microbiologist Paul Keim's lab at Northern Arizona University found signs of the Ames strain of anthrax on two of the three samples, according to the same report. "As a result of these findings, a third collection mission was conducted in November 2004 and this time large portions of the site were returned intact to the United States, including the entire sink, drain, and associated plumbing," said the NRC report. The retrieved lab was "extensively sampled" for both living anthrax and anthrax DNA.
So, what did they find? According to the NRC report, "all the tests were negative" for anthrax. Further tests of samples conducted in 2007 also showed no signs of anthrax. (The first ones likely had produced false positive results, a hazard of tests primed to turn up any traces of a pathogen.)
"While it is undoubtedly true that al Qaeda was seeking to establish an offensive bioweapons program in 2001 , Task Force agents were unable to find any link between al Qaeda and the letter attacks in the United States, or even that, at the time of the attacks, any al Qaeda operatives had access to the type and quality of anthrax pathogen used in the 2001 attacks," says the FBI's investigative summary of the case.
The NRC panel, headed by Lehigh University president Alice Gast, however, "consider these data to be inconclusive regarding the possible presence of B. anthracis Ames at this undisclosed overseas site," according to their report. Echoing findings elsewhere in the report the panel complained that investigators needed to take additional steps to validate the anthrax tests used in the investigation and to understand the naturally-occurring level of anthrax in places such as Afghanistan. The differences exposed the chasm between the level of certainty required by scientists, who want very strong statistical reassurance, and those of crime investigators, who seek a weight of evidence necessary to convince a jury of murder and no more.
So, those who still voice doubts about the investigation, such as Rep. Rush Holt, D. - N.J., can point to the al Qaeda threat as a still unsettled alternative to the anthrax attacks. Scientists would like to see more basic research done on anthrax in case of another attack.
"If anthrax pops up again, we still don't know enough about what type of strains are in the environment," says former FBI investigator Bruce Budowle of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. In microbial forensics investigations, scientists are looking for assurances that results could be incorrect only 1 in 100 times, he says. But to reach that would be "almost a physical impossibility," he adds, given that microbe characteristics can shift markedly over small distances.
Another point made in the NRC report is that more research could be done on the evolution of anthrax, to verify how the mutations that marked anthrax in the RMR-1029 flask developed. "I have a model of how they evolved and it explains what happened very well," Keim says now. "But it is critical we understand the evolution of how these morphs (mutants) arise," he says.
"If terrorists released Bacillus anthracis over a large city, hundreds of thousands of people could be at risk of the deadly disease anthrax," reads the summary of an Institute of Medicine report released only Friday.
Even after a decade, "many public health authorities and policy
experts fear that the nation's current systems and plans are
insufficient to respond to the most challenging scenarios, such as a
very large-scale anthrax attack" (USA Today, 2011).
Title: Al-Qaeda’s New Playbook Counts On Chemical
Date: April 18, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: A new magazine said to be put out by an al-Qaeda explosives expert explains a detailed plan by the terrorist organization to smuggle chemicals onto airlines during the busiest air travel season.
The plan, called al-Qaeda Airlines, focuses on creating the knock-out drug chloroform and smuggling it onto airplanes. The recipe is demonstrated in five online videos supplementing the magazine, which is produced by The Global Islamic Front of Jihad and Jews and Crusaders, ABC 7 Chicago reports.
The magazine also discusses how to administer the chemical to an unsuspecting victim on an airplane.
Barry Kellman, a DePaul University terrorism expert, was surprised that al-Qaeda leaders would teach followers how to make the chemical, which has limited use.
“Chloroform is a pretty low-grade toxic chemical,” Kellman said, ABC 7 Chicago reports. “If this is the worst they are working with I would almost take that as good news. It’s never good news when someone is working with something deadly but you’re not going to be able to kill a lot of people.”
The producer of the magazine may be Abdullah Dhu al Bajadin, an al-Qaeda explosives expert. Kellman said that like chloroform, other chemical and biological agents could be brought on board a plane as well.“We’re going to be able to keep metal things off planes but we’re not going to be able to keep the sort of chemicals or especially biological agents, whether it’s a modified flu virus or a modified plague, something that catches, something they don’t have to inflict on every victim, the victims will inflict it on each other unknowingly,” Kellman said, according to ABC 7 Chicago. “The capacity for making those bugs increases every day and it’s, at some point, bad guys are going to get the capacity to come up with something that could truly be devastating” (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Al-Awlaki Posthumously Calls For U.S.
Date: May 3, 2012
Source: Bio Prep Watch
Abstract: Radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a September drone attack in Yemen, was featured in al-Qaeda’s English language magazine advising followers to launch attacks against Western countries.
The Inspire article was called “Targeting the Populations of Countries at War With Muslims,” and discussed the killing of children and women and using biological and chemical weapons to supplement gun and bombing attacks. It is not yet clear why it took so long to publish articles by al-Awlaki and former North Carolina blogger Samir Khan. Khan was also killed in the same drone attack, CNN reports.
“Muslims are allowed to target the populations of countries that are at war with Muslims by bombings or fire-arms attacks or other forms of attacks that inevitably lead to the deaths of non-combatants,” al-Awlaki said, according to CNN.
Al-Awlaki said that while children and women should not be specifically targeted, they were allowed to be attacked if they were among the combatants.
“The use of poisons of chemical and biological weapons against population centers is allowed and strongly recommended due to the effect on the enemy,” al-Awlaki said, according toCNN. “These statements of the scholars show that it is allowed to use poison or other methods of mass killing against the disbelievers who are at war with us.”There is no evidence to support that any part of al-Qaeda has developed any capability for biological or chemical weapons (Bio Prep Watch, 2012).
Title: Expert: Syrian Weapons Could Be Obtained By Al-Qaeda
Date: May 15, 2012
Abstract: In an editorial for Ground Report, a former U.S. soldier and infantryman asks if the chemical weapons cache in Syria may be used by the Assad regime or be stolen away by al-Qaeda forces.
Robert Tilford, a former soldier and a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School in Georgia, writes that al-Qaeda members have created their own brigades in an effort to take over Syria and take advantage of a dangerous chemical weapons stockpile. The chemical weapons in Syria may include mustard gas, sarin and VX nerve gas, Ground Report reports.
“U.S. officials deny al-Qaeda is part of the rebel movement it is helping to arm and equip in some cases…but that is another story,” Tilford said, according to Ground Report. “The fact is the US has no good plan on what to do if Syria collapses, the military loses control or if Al-Qaeda manages to steal chemical weapons from one or all of the more than 50 suspected sites in that country.”
Tilford spoke with some intelligence agents who said that there may be more than 50 chemical weapons sites in Syria and that to safeguard all those facilities during an invasion, the United States would need at least 50,000 to 80,000 soldiers.
According to Tilford, if the Assad regime falls, the nation and its network of chemical weapons may be likely to fall to extremists due to a lack of an identifiable group ready to take over (BioPrepWatch, 2012).
Title: Sudan: Freed Guantanamo Prisoner [Cook] Returns Home
Date: July 11, 2012
Source: Fox News
Abstract: A former al-Qaida cook released from Guantanamo was flown to his home in Sudan on Wednesday, the country's state media reported.
Ibrahim al-Qosi, in his 50s, was taken by a U.S. Air Force aircraft to Khartoum airport, Omdurman radio said. He was greeted by his father and brother on his arrival and told the station that he had a difficult time in "unfair detention in the infamous Guantanamo prison."
Al-Qosi was taken to Guantanamo in 2002, one of the first terror suspects to be sent there.
He pleaded guilty in July 2010 to supporting terrorism by providing logistical support to al-Qaida and was sentenced to 14 years, all but two of which were suspended by the Pentagon legal officer overseeing Guantanamo tribunals. The suspension was contingent on a number of conditions, including that Al-Qosi not engage in "hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
Al-Qosi did not receive credit for the more than eight years he had spent at Guantanamo before his conviction.
The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum could not be reached for comment (Fox News, 2012).