H/T rockets brain
While I value empirical evidence and investigation, sometimes you just have to ask; what do I believe?
Who did the Anthrax attack? The question has the implausible quality of being a burning, nagging question that almost never gets asked anymore. It almost seems like many Americans no longer care or even worse don’t want to know. But I want to know.
Michael Barone of US News & World Report talks about an overlooked report from the Washington Post. In summary, the Washington Post states that the FBI has begun to move away from the “lone US scientist theory” that has been the lead effort since a few months after the attack. The FBI has conducted investigations of other theories but the US scientist angle emerged as an early favorite.
The Washington Post reports that the FBI has dispelled a few commonly held beliefs about the attack. Most startlingly, the anthrax itself was not the highly advanced form made with additives and coatings to make it more effective. The FBI now says that the anthrax is cruder than that, yet advanced enough to infer that it was not cooked up in some cave by an al Qaeda agent. The FBI now states that the Ames anthrax used for the attack is not nearly as contained to super secret US military labs as the media has portrayed for years. The report says Ames stock has even been found in the former Soviet Union.
This is what I have been waiting to hear for some time now. My reasons to disbelieve the US scientist theory are not based on discovered documents or interviews, but rather reason and probability. Reading Barone’s column has reignited my passion to look at this matter with a logical eye as much as an investigative one. In other words, what makes sense?
What do we have to believe in order to conclude that an American scientist versus al Qaeda carried out the anthrax attack? Barone says that it is a bizarre coincidence that a scientist happened to have anthrax laying around to launch it against the US a few days after 9/11. I agree completely and penned that in my reasoning from about a year ago. Now that the public evidence does not make al Qaeda complicity seem impossible anymore, my thought may connect with some folks.
There are two prevailing theories. One theory is that a US scientist did it. The other is that the Saddam regime of Iraq or another rogue government with anthrax capability gave anthrax to al-Qaeda. Other theories abound but I will limit the argument to the two theories that fit the facts best.
Those who follow the news about the anthrax attack know that for years the FBI has been investigating American defense scientists. Let me be more specific. The FBI has been pursuing U.S. citizens with high level clearances, years of professional experience and demonstrated loyalty to this country. The FBI has found nothing.
As anyone working at a government facility knows, the morning of the 9/11 attack, physical security went on high alert. Military bases closed gates, people and vehicles were searched. It is not impossible that someone at a bio-weapons research facility could have smuggled out the anthrax that morning or shortly after in response to the attacks. It is highly unlikely though.
That day and for at least the week after would have been the worst time to smuggle anything out of a high security area. The key to beating any security system is to know that security system. That week security changed. The week after 9/11 brought increased security staffing levels, closer scrutiny, and a general awareness of American vulnerability. In short, the week following 9/11 would have been the absolute worst time ever to smuggle anthrax out of a U.S. research facility. Therefore, it is more than reasonable to assume that if this anthrax had been taken by an American at a US research facility, it would have to be before the attacks of 9/11.
This realization brings a severe problem to this theory. It requires us to assume that an American scientist just happened to have this stuff lying around before the attacks. The question now becomes, why? One would have to assume this scientist had a diabolical reason to have it lying around before the attacks. So now the question becomes, what were they waiting for? Why did the scientist have this anthrax lying around to attack the U.S. but hadn’t used it yet? It just becomes an endless compendium of probability versus improbability that leaves me feeling one has to be way too clever to establish a valid scenario for this theory.
Weaponized anthrax is in very short supply in the U.S. inventory. The supply we do have is most likely kept in conditions that enable inventory down to the microgram. It is surely weighed and measured anytime it is utilized for research. It is hard to imagine a condition to exist of a U.S. bio-weapons research lab not knowing that a substantial quantity of its anthrax was missing. Therefore, it would be an extremely risky proposition for a scientist to remove a quantity of anthrax and maintain it in storage for any period of time. So the unanswerable question becomes “why did this scientist just happen to have anthrax lying around knowing they were at risk of detection?”
There are more problems with this theory. There would be a very small cadre of scientists with access to this anthrax. It would not be beyond reason to assume the number at less than fifty scientists who had access to U.S. supplies of weaponized anthrax. This creates a very small pool of suspects. Under this theory the perpetrator must have not had a great concern about being identified with such a small pool of possible suspects.
Motivation is the key problem in my view. Defense scientists at this level have Top Secret clearances, usually for compartmentalized information. It takes an extreme level of vetting to be granted this clearance. The scientist would surely be a Ph.D. That’s a lot of years of demonstrated hard work to throw it all away for a bioweapons attack without a solid motivation. The real people involved with this type of research are smart, dedicated, successful and patriotic, not like a character in a bad movie who is motivated to hurt the United States because they were overlooked for a promotion or saw some sort of poetic justice at using US anthrax on the United States.
Some have stated that the sender of the anthrax intended the attack to be a warning. The sender wanted to remind the US that we were vulnerable to bio-weapons attack. The anthrax was sealed so it would not actually come in contact with anyone. Which begs the question, why use anthrax if the intent was not to harm but to scare? How about something that doesn’t kill? Compassion for the American public is incongruous with using a bio-weapon on them to warn them about bio weapons. But this is the reasoning that the leading theory of the attack has relied upon for years now.
So what about the other theory? If you suspect that al Qaeda did the anthrax attack, what do you have to believe? Most likely, that the anthrax was provided to al Qaeda by a rogue nation. You could certainly make the case for another state sponsor, but Saddam fits the profile the best with a formerly functional anthrax program.
You have to believe that al Qaeda and Saddam were motivated to do so. I think we can check this block without too much discussion. They both made animosity towards the United States readily apparent (except to the Senate Intelligence committee who recently quoted Saddam as saying he harbored no ill feelings towards Americans).
Could al-Qaeda operatives smuggle it into the country if they had the anthrax? Of course they could. Mexicans sneak in by the hundreds daily. I think people could smuggle in a few vials worth of bio-weapons.
The sticky part is did Saddam have it available? Did he give it to the terrorists? Would he give it to them and would they act as agents of Saddam? Apart from a signed confession from Saddam or Bin Laden, we may never have the proof to settle these questions. We are left with deduction.
It has been reported that Saddam’s facilities to create anthrax were destroyed in the late to mid 90s as part of UN oversight and inspections. Assuming that no covert facilities were left standing, one only has to look at the timeline.
Saddam ordered the UN inspectors out for good in 1998. The inspectors had encountered incidents of hidden nerve gas programs and equipment as late as 1997. Therefore, the conditions were present for Saddam to reinitiate some of his programs on a very limited scale from 1998 until 2002 in relative secrecy. Plenty of time for Iraq to run a small-scale anthrax program using the same scientists who had done the work before. And the Duelfer report clearly articulates Saddam’s intent to do such things in the future.
The only true stumbling block to this theory is the issue of Saddam and al Qaeda and willingness to work in concert. Many people have made up their minds on this issue and I don’t intend a full argument on the matter. I would however point out that transference of a small amount of anthrax would necessitate only the smallest amount of cooperation at low levels to make it happen. In other words, Saddam and Usama didn’t need to huddle together in dark rooms for this rather simple hand over to have taken place.
Yet with all this deduction, the main questions remain unanswerable. Did Saddam have it? Did he give it to al-Qaeda? We don’t know now. We may never know as those involved would be in legal jeopardy by admitting their complicity. In fact, some Ba’athists and al-Qaeda leaders have denied involvement. These denials provide zero value as it is very likely they would lie.
So what makes more sense? A nation and a terrorist organization that had the expertise, the opportunity, the motivation, and in the case of al Qaeda, in fact carried out a monstrous attack at nearly the same time did it? Or that an American scientist with the highest clearances, demonstrated patriotism by working in a very dangerous field to defend this nation, who would have lost years of hard work, with no seeming motivation, with a very small pool of suspects, and apparently small concern at being caught, smuggled the anthrax out of a high security facility to attack Americans?
What does your common sense tell you? Most of my friends (usually military) at the time of the attacks believed the anthrax was a continuing, near simultaneous attack with the plane hijackings of 9/11. It seemed like a combined arms attack, a fundamental of modern warfare. Could it just be so simple that al Qaeda hit us not once, but twice in a week? And what would the effect of such a scenario be on an FBI charged with the domestic counterterrorism mission? Would a second al Qaeda attack rub salt on an already horrible wound? And wouldn’t it be better for the FBI if the second attack was done by a military scientist, thus the Department of Defense’s fault and not a subsequent FBI counterterrorism failure? There are still a lot of questions and for me the answer is and always will be that until I see the proof I will never believe an American scientist did this instead of al Qaeda. I just don’t believe it.
Michael Barone takes note and expounds upon my exposition of his work. Does this constitute a vicious circle?