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Anthrax Missing From Army Lab
January 20, 2002 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Anthrax Missing From Army Lab A story of lax security, missing Anthrax and anti-Arab harrassment. Quoted in the article is a Dr. Rosenberg who issued a report stating, "The FBI has surely known for several months that the anthrax attack was an inside job." Then why hasn’t anyone been arrested? Two reasons: "a fear that embarrassing details might become public, and a need for secrecy in order to acquire sufficient hard evidence to convict the perpetrator."
posted by raaka (16 comments total)

 
Hmm, no comments after almost 4 hours.

"Fort Detrick is believed to be the original source of the Ames strain of anthrax used in the mail attacks last fall, and investigators have questioned people there and at a handful of other government labs and contractors."

*sigh* I wonder why? Not black and white enough for the usual arm-chair culture warriors?

Reminds me of when Hunter Thompson offered to cover the Roxanne Pulitzer divorce for free for the National Enquirer, and they wanted nothing to do with it because it was "too grey an area for our audience".

You remember, weapons grade anthrax, Iraqi labs, Saddam's mad scientists, right? One envelope being enough for 50,000 people? The Senate offices steam cleaned again and again?

"Contrary to early speculation, there are no more than about 20 laboratories known to have the Ames strain. The names of 15 of these have been found in the open literature (see Appendix). Of these, probably only about four in the US might possibly have the capability for weaponizing anthrax. Those four include both US military laboratories and a government contractor."

Still no comments?

Why am I not surprised.
posted by dglynn at 12:06 AM on January 21, 2002


well I didn't take it!
posted by mcsweetie at 12:23 AM on January 21, 2002


I find it really that most people on MetaFilter are loathe to comment on something like this, but when it comes to Britney Spears - watch out!
posted by catatonic at 12:33 AM on January 21, 2002


I think its really of you, catatonic, to make a comment like that.
posted by Doug at 12:46 AM on January 21, 2002


This is interesting stuff. All signs in the anthrax investigation point to just the kind of backbiting, anonymous-letter-writing, disgruntled USAMRIID lab personnel described in this article.

In any case, I would rate this news link way above most of the ones that come over to MeFi straight from Drudge (the source of this link, I assume). It has the defects of excited and zealous local reporting, but it is not blather or noise or sensationalism.
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:58 AM on January 21, 2002


Are USAMRID personnel all military? I mean, are there any civilians working in sensitive positions there?
posted by dglynn at 2:06 AM on January 21, 2002


I don't read Drudge, didn't know this link was on Drudge, but am somewhat amused both he and I stumbled across the same article. If he linked the FAS report I wouldn't mind if this thread was deleted as a double.

I think I agree 100% with Rosenberg — that this case is all but wrapped up and all the perpetrators are currently being investigated until irrefutable evidence is found. This is quite like the Unabomber case, and that took Crazy Ted’s brother turning him in to prosecute it.

dglynn, judging from other military institutions, it's very likely civilians or quasi-civilians have high access. Lots of perfectly legit reasons to do so.
posted by raaka at 2:50 AM on January 21, 2002


From Dr. Rosenberg's commentary: "Even if the perpetrator did not make the anthrax himself, just filling the letters with it was a dangerous operation. The perpetrator therefore must have received the anthrax vaccine recently (it requires a yearly booster shot). The vaccine is in short supply and is not generally accessible, and vaccination records are undoubtedly available."

The anthrax vaccine was produced by a single source--Bioport--so tracking down all those who have received it should be fairly simple for investigators.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:18 AM on January 21, 2002


"Even if the perpetrator did not make the anthrax himself, just filling the letters with it was a dangerous operation. The perpetrator therefore must have received the anthrax vaccine recently (it requires a yearly booster shot)."

I don't think this follows at all, because it discounts the possibility that whoever sent the anthrax-tainted letters is fricking insane.
posted by kindall at 7:25 AM on January 21, 2002


No kidding. The letters may have stopped coming because the person who did it is now dead.
posted by Potsy at 8:33 AM on January 21, 2002


Maybe. I thought it was helpful the way they stopped just as the 'war' was turning out ok?
posted by niceness at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2002


What do you mean "just ast the 'war' was turning out ok"?
posted by amanda at 10:02 AM on January 21, 2002


This was NOT a double post, but it reminds me of:Anthrax Appears To Be Home Grown and many comments on Letter To Brokaw . Folded in with the Wen Ho Lee - his own country versus him , it looks like it has been handled, and we just havn't been told. Maybe not in custody, but on top of.
posted by Mack Twain at 10:21 AM on January 21, 2002


My first thought, when the anthrax scare started, was that it was an inside job. Then again, I'm more paranoid than most. :) It didn't make sense that it was a civilian, simply because it was done too well. Those envelopes would have to have been filled and handled at a lab where exposure was next to nothing, simply because the envelopes themselves left no trace until they were run through the sorting machines which jostled them enough for pore leakage. Ergo, someone had the tech to fill the envelopes without exposing the exterior of said envelopes...a virtual impossiblity.

I don't think whoever did it expected anyone to die. I think that was a risk they were willing to take, but I don't think death of "target X" was the goal.

I think the chronology and the targets are rather odd...note that none was sent to the Pentagon, WhiteHouse, the VP in Hiding, Justice Dept, McDill, or any other strategic military targets.

This article, published last year, puts forth the theory that the anthrax scare was the work of an insider, only because the technology to create weaponized anthrax is out the the reach of anyone without billions of dollars in equipment. It seemed fairly credible then...it seems quite credible now.

A recent report by the Congressional GAO, as well as many recent statements by military and non-governmental experts in the BW field, holds that terrorists are unlikely to be able to mount a major biological attack without substantial assistance from a government sponsor. I guess we just didn't expect it to be our own government.
posted by dejah420 at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2002


as dejah420 said it seems likely that it was done by an insider, based on the targets.

My theory is that it was done by an important, but crazy researcher. The military doesnt want the public to know how much they screwed up, and they still want the research that this guy is doing, so they will just keep him under wraps forever.
posted by Iax at 12:31 PM on January 21, 2002


A similar idea: Maybe somebody with knowledge made a unilateral decision that the only way to prepare the country for what could be coming was to do a shakedown cruise first. They probably figured they were being a responsible person by devising an attack that would get the word out to the public and convince the political opposition without doing major devastation. Naturally they wouldn't want to step forward to take the heat before the situation played itself out. If this is the scenario, I hope the person in question has figured out that it's 'ollie-ollie-oxen-free' time, he/she made the point, the game's over. The country's getting itself in gear for biodefense, and it's time to move on to other things. Or maybe this whole thing was a rather drastic method of making the point to other countries that they really don't want to mess with the US when it comes to bio warfare. Deterrence, as it were. Naturally I'm still concerned that the attack might have been an attempt to probe response capabilities by anti-US terrorists. Thanks for posting something substantive. Let's hope it helps catch the perp[s]!
posted by sheauga at 2:23 AM on January 24, 2002


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