Tags: Anthrax: | FBI | Ignoring | the | Obvious

Anthrax: FBI Ignoring the Obvious

Thursday, 16 August 2007 12:00 AM

The anthrax attacks are one of those enduring mysteries that fade but never go away. Only in this case, there are plenty of leads that have been carefully ignored.

The case keeps popping up from time to time, mainly because a key figure, Dr. Steven Hatfill, refuses to let it die. That's understandable, because Dr. Hatfill is one of the principal victims of the attack that killed five Americans.

He watched his distinguished scientific career go up in smoke, lost all sources of income and was the target of some of the most vicious allegations.

The Washington Post reported on August 11, 2002 "Reporters bang on Steven J. Hatfill's door at all hours. An Internet Web site labels him Steven 'Mengele' Hatfill, Nazi swine. Cable talk shows routinely discuss whether he is last fall's anthrax mailer. And twice, the FBI has very publicly swept into Hatfill's Frederick apartment."

Hatfill is now seeking the identities of those officials who leaked misinformation about him to five members of the media, A judge has now ordered five journalists to provide the names of their sources in the case.

In August 2002, as part of a five-part series on the anthrax case, I wrote "FBI Rejects Link Between Anthrax, 9/11 Terrorists." I focused on the failure of the FBI to accept the convincing evidence that the attacks were linked to the 9/11 hijackers.

Here are some excerpts:

The bureau seems to reject out of hand the idea that these terrorists may well have been the source of the attack on AMI that killed one employee, almost killed another and sickened a third.

Yet there are a number of reasons why this theory could prove to be the answer to a puzzle the FBI has been unable to solve despite the most massive investigation in the bureau's history.

At least 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers had Florida connections. Of the 19, three were in the country on expired visas, including Satam Al Suqami, who had a Florida driver's license listing a Boynton Beach address. Boynton Beach is a few miles north of Boca Raton and AMI.

In the summer, five suspected hijackers on the two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center – Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Wail M. Alshehri, Waleed M. Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami – bought one-month memberships at World's gyms. Atta and Al-Shehhi paid to work out at the Delray Beach gym, the others in Boynton Beach. Delray Beach adjoins Boca Raton.

According to news reports five of the hijackers who seized United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, spent time in Florida. One was Marwan Al-Shehhi, Atta's roommate. A few days before 9-11, they both got drunk in a Hollywood, Fla., bar.

Four of the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, also lived in Florida for several months. Two shared a condominium in Delray Beach. They left suddenly Labor Day weekend, the same weekend a group of suspected hijackers living in Vero Beach disappeared.

Seven of the hijackers got Florida driver's licenses or state identification cards. Investigators believe the hijackers were in Florida because of its numerous flight training schools, all of which have mainly foreigners as students.

Three of the hijackers, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami and Hamza al Ghamdi, lived for several months in the Delray Racquet Club, a condominium complex a couple of miles from AMI's headquarters.

None seemed to have jobs, but several were said to be airplane mechanics, students or tourists. Some said they worked for the Saudi government-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines, a claim the Saudi government denied.

In April, Atta was stopped by a Broward Country sheriff deputy, according to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. Atta could not produce a driver's license.

Following normal procedure, the newspaper reported, the deputy wrote him a ticket. Atta never paid, and deputies never learned that Atta was on a U.S. government "watch list" of people tied to terrorism. Although none of the hijackers had jobs, some paid as much as $10,000 each for flight lessons. Condos in the Delray Beach complex rented for up to $3,000 a month.

What seemed most important to them was their privacy. For three months in the summer of 2001, Charlie Lisa's home in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, about 20 miles south of Boca Raton, was occupied by two of the hijackers, Amad Al Haznawi, 20, and Ziad Samir Jarrah, 26, who moved out in late August.

Several of the hijackers rented an apartment from a real estate agent who is the wife of the Sun's editor, Mike Irish. Four of the hijackers who attacked America on Sept. 11 tried to get government loans to finance their plots, including ringleader Mohamed Atta, who sought $650,000 to modify a crop duster, Johnelle Bryant, a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan officer, told ABC News.

First Atta, then Marwan Al-Shehhi, Ahmed Alghamdi and Fayez Rashid Ahmed Hassan al Qadi Banihammad, all of whom died in the September attacks, tried to get loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bryant said.

In April or May of 2000, Atta paid a visit to Bryant, who described him as "most persistent and frightening."

According to Bryant, employed at the government agency for 16 years, Atta arrived in her office sometime between the end of April and the middle of May 2000, inquiring about a loan to finance an aircraft.

"At first, he refused to speak with me," Bryant told ABC. She remembered that Atta called her "but a female." Bryant explained that she was the manager, but he still refused to conduct business with her. Ultimately, she said, "I told him that if he was interested in getting a farm-service agency loan in my servicing area, then he would need to deal with me."

During the initial applicant interview, Bryant was taking notes. "I wrote his name down, and I spelled it A-T-T-A-H, and he told me, 'No, A-T-T-A, as in Atta boy!'"

He said he had just arrived in the United States from Afghanistan "to start his dream, which was to go flight school and get his pilot's license, and work both as a charter pilot and a crop duster too," she said. He was seeking $650,000 for a crop-dusting business.

"He wanted to finance a twin-engine six-passenger aircraft … and remove the seats," said Bryant. "He said he was an engineer, and he wanted to build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up every available square inch of the aircraft except for where the pilot would be sitting."

This last takes on significance in view of a U.N. inspection report that Iraq's most effective bioweapons platform was a helicopter-borne aerosol generator that worked like an insecticide disseminator (perhaps this was intended for domestic use or against Iranian troops close to the Iraqi border). The disseminator was successfully field tested.

Iraq was also known to have field-tested anthrax not only in aerial bombs but also in sprayers of the kind used in crop dusting attached to helicopters, fighter aircraft and possibly unmanned drones.

There is, for example, the extraordinary account by a Florida doctor revealed by the New York Times, which reported that the physician believes a man he treated in June had skin anthrax. That man was one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, suggesting a link between Osama bin Laden's terrorist group and the mailings.

According to the Times, two men identified themselves as pilots when they came to the emergency room of Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale in June 2001. One, Dr. Christos Tsonas recalled, had an ugly, dark lesion on his leg that he claimed he got from bumping into a suitcase two months earlier. The doctor said at the time he thought the injury was curious, but he cleaned it and prescribed an antibiotic for infection.

In the wake of 9/11, however, when federal investigators found the medicine among the possessions of one of the hijackers, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Dr. Tsonas reviewed the case and arrived at a new diagnosis. The lesion, he told the Times, "was consistent with cutaneous [skin] anthrax."

In a memo prepared by experts at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, and circulated among top government officials the group, which interviewed Dr. Tsonas, concluded that the anthrax diagnosis "raises the possibility that the hijackers were handling anthrax and were the perpetrators of the anthrax letter attacks."

Assistant FBI Director John Collingwood played down the possible anthrax connection. "This was fully investigated and widely vetted among multiple agencies several months ago," he said in a written statement. "Exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been. While we always welcome new information, nothing new has, in fact, developed."

Alhaznawi died on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. Federal officials believe the man who accompanied him to the hospital in June was another hijacker, Ziad al-Jarrah, thought to have taken over the controls of United Flight 93, the Times said.

Law enforcement officials told the Times that in addition to interviewing Dr. Tsonas in October and again in November, they thoroughly explored any connection between the hijackers and anthrax. They said the FBI scoured the cars, apartments and personal effects of the hijackers for evidence of the spores, but found none.

The FBI discounts these facts, insisting that they have eliminated any connection between the the hijackers and the anthrax letter attacks but fail to explain why they have.

The full series is available on NewsMax.com: FBI and Anthrax: Another TWA 800 in the Making? Part two: FBI Ignored Letter in Anthrax Probe. Part three: FBI Rejects Link Between Anthrax, 9-11 Terrorists. Part four: FBI Overlooks Iraq's Connection to Anthrax Attacks. Part five: The FBI and Dr. Hatfill – A New Richard Jewell Case?

For al-Qaida's connection to the anthrax attacks, see Ross Getman's blockbuster NewsMax.com report at https://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2007/6/6/163931.shtml?s=lh.

Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist and World War II Marine who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s.

He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska.

He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers. He can be reached at pvb@pvbr.com.

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The anthrax attacks are one of those enduring mysteries that fade but never go away. Only in this case, there are plenty of leads that have been carefully ignored. The case keeps popping up from time to time, mainlybecause a key figure, Dr. Steven Hatfill, refuses...
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Thursday, 16 August 2007 12:00 AM
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