Anthrax Letters: Made in the USA

Revolutionary Worker #1145, April 7, 2002, posted at

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg is a widely recognized expert on anthrax and biological warfare. She is making some shocking charges against the U.S. government, its military and its FBI investigators.

Dr. Rosenberg insists that the anthrax attacks of last fall were clearly done by someone working within the U.S. government biowarfare projects. She says the FBI quite likely knows who mailed the anthrax letters and asks why the government is afraid to arrest the suspects they have identified. She suggests that the government is holding back because the true story behind these anthrax letters could then become public--damaging powerful forces within the government and the military.

The evidence from the anthrax attacks of last fall leads to the doorsteps of U.S. military laboratories and the CIA. And the FBI appears to be waist deep in a cover- up.

On September 18, a few days after the World Trade Center attacks, someone started mailing letters containing anthrax spores. The spores can infect people with a deadly disease.

Ultimately, four anthrax letters were recovered. Two had been sent to the Senate offices of leading Democratic senators, Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. Two had been sent to media offices in New York-- the Post newspaper and Tom Brokaw at NBC News.

The letters did not kill their intended targets, but the anthrax material was so sophisticated that the spores passed through the envelopes and infected people all along their path--including secretaries and postal workers. Five people are known to have died from inhaling spores from these letters, and 13 others were infected but survived. Authorities believe a fifth letter killed a photo editor in Florida, but the letter was never found.

President Bush quickly suggested on TV that the Islamist al-Qaida organization might be behind the anthrax attack. The Wall Street Journal wrote (Oct .18): "By far the likeliest supplier is Saddam Hussein." Everyone remembers how these anthrax attacks were used to fan support for the U.S. war against Afghanistan and Iraq. And this has continued: As recently as March 23 the New York Times ran a front-page story blaring, "U.S. Says it Found Qaeda Lab Being Built to Produce Anthrax." Such reports have repeatedly proven to be false--no evidence has ever connected these attacks to foreign forces.

Evidence gathered by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and her colleagues reveals that the anthrax used in these attacks came from U.S. military stockpiles --and U.S. officials must have known this, almost from the beginning.


"The weaponized anthrax is made by a highly secret process belonging to the United States, and the material seems to fit that recipe. Their best lead at present is the contractor that worked for the CIA."

Professor Barbara Hatch Rosenberg,
reported by the BBC, December 19, 2001

"If you want to see the intersection of two talents--the microbiologic ability to obtain and safely grow lots of anthrax, and the industrial capacity to turn it into dry powder--then that would suggest to me that the person did indeed have some experience with the biological warfare program."

USAMRIID, 1977-1990
, February 8, 2002

"From the moment one saw that it was highly concentrated Ames strain anthrax, the first lead candidate should have been a U.S. laboratory with a military contract."

Jonathan A. King,
professor of microbiology, MIT
, February 8, 2002

Dr. Rosenberg is a molecular biologist and research professor of environmental science at the State University of New York. For more than a decade she has been involved in the Federation of American Scientists' (FAS) Chemical and Biological Weapons Program, where she now serves as director.

On December 10, Rosenberg's FAS working group released "A Compilation of Evidence and Comments on the Source of the Mailed Anthrax." In this report, Rosenberg documents that all the features of the anthrax used in the attacks point to U.S. military stockpiles.

First, the anthrax used was the Ames strain (named after the U.S. government labs in Ames, Iowa). This Ames strain is the form of anthrax central to the U.S. government biological warfare development--going as far back as the 1960s.

Second, for anthrax to be a weapon, it has to be prepared into a dust so fine that it floats in the air and is inhaled. This requires complicated processes that separate the spores and prevent "clumping" from moisture or static electricity. All of this has to be done under elaborate laboratory conditions so the technicians themselves don't die from the spores.

All the techniques used to develop the anthrax letter material point to U.S. government labs: The sample was extremely concentrated (one trillion spores per gram) and highly pure in ways "characteristic of material made by the U.S. process."

Four different labs reportedly documented that the anthrax letter samples were "unmilled anthrax spores." Most governments use milling techniques to weaponize the spores. The U.S. does not.

The U.S. military uses a special combination of chemicals for its weaponization. And when the letter anthrax samples were analyzed using an energy dispersive X-ray spectroscope, traces of several chemicals have been found. The anthrax in the "Senate sample" used a silica additive -- the kind used in U.S. military projects.

The person (or team) who created the anthrax letters also needed an annual anti-anthrax booster shot, which is only available for people with government connections.

In short, the anthrax attacks almost certainly come from U.S. military or CIA labs. It could not have been done by amateurs or by foreign governments. Scientists and FBI investigators knew this very quickly after the October attacks. For example, it is known that Iraq's military research uses bentonite, not silica, as an additive, but this did not prevent the government from continuing to blame Iraq.

Because the anthrax comes from a known strain of anthrax -- it is possible to determine with great precision which laboratory the letter attacks came from. The Ames strain has "substrains" that develop over time during research, and only a small number of labs are capable of weaponization.

The Rosenberg report writes, "Contrary to early speculation, there are no more than about 20 laboratories known to have obtained the Ames strain from Fort Detrick.... Of these, probably only about four in the U.S. might possibly have the capability for weaponizing anthrax. These include both U.S. military laboratories and government contractors."

Rosenberg clearly believes that the FBI knows who sent the anthrax letters -- or, at the very least, has a very small number of suspects. Only about 50 people had the know-how to do this. Rosenberg says that, based on discussion with people in the government, she believes that the FBI had a prime suspect in mind since October.

Despite this, no one has been arrested in this case. And the public has been deliberately kept in the dark about the most basic facts. The next question is " Why?"


"Does he [the mailer] know something that he believes to be sufficiently damaging to the United States to make him untouchable by the FBI?"

Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg,
Federation of American Scientists

In November at the Review Conference of the Biological Weapons Convention, John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, was asked about the anthrax letter attacks. He said: "We don't know, as I say in the statement, at the moment, in a way that we could make public , where the anthrax attacks came from." The meaningful words in Bolton's statement are " in a way that we could make public ."

Rosenberg writes: "At first, U.S. officials provided miscellaneous bits of information, some conflicting; then denied some of the earlier information, then clammed up. They now have a great deal of information that has not been made public. ... The Secretary of Health and Human Services said in October that some of the relevant information is classified, and some is restricted by the FBI."

The U.S. has talked for years about "Sadaam Hussein killing his own people." Now it turns out that U.S. biological "weapons of mass destruction" were somehow turned against the people within its own borders--including an attempt to assassinate leading Democratic politicians.

If this was widely understood, it would have a profound impact--weakening the credibility of the government and the military at exactly the time when the government wants support for its war moves and domestic security.

In addition, whoever put the anthrax in the mail might have information on the U.S. government's secret anthrax program --and these details could trigger a huge international scandal.

For 30 years, the U.S. government has bragged that it "unilaterally" stopped U.S. biological weapons development in 1969. The U.S. signed the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972, renouncing biological weapons together with 144 other countries.

But now, in December, a spokesman for the Army labs at Utah's Dugway Proving Ground had to announce that all their stocks of weaponized anthrax are "well protected" and entirely accounted for. (Dugway is where 6,000 sheep died in 1968 after a nerve gas experiment got out of control.)

Less than a week later, the CIA admitted publicly that they have their own secret program to make anthrax weapons. The CIA claims their bioweapons don't use the Ames strain, and that all their weapons stocks are accounted for.

These shocking public announcements are the first admission by any government in 30 years that they still have germ weapons material.

A front-page Washington Post report (Dec. 16) said: "The FBI's investigation into the anthrax attacks is increasingly focusing on whether U.S. government bioweapons research programs, including one conducted by the CIA, may have been the source of deadly anthrax powder sent through the mail, according to sources with knowledge of the probe. The results of the genetic tests strengthen that possibility. The FBI is focusing on a contractor that worked with the CIA, one source said."

The arrest and public trial of biowarfare weapons operatives could bring much more damaging information into the light of day.

Rosenberg told the Trenton Times that this is why the FBI has declined to arrest the person responsible for mailing the letters: "We know that the FBI is looking at this person, and it's likely that he participated in the past in secret activities that the government would not like to see disclosed... I know that there are insiders, working for the government, who know this person and who are worried that it could happen that some kind of quiet deal is made that he just disappears from view."


It is remarkable how strictly the discussions of the anthrax attacks avoid any mention of domestic groups, political forces and intelligence networks who could have been involved. The BBC news in Britain (March 14) raised the possibility that a covert CIA operation was involved -- but no similar reports have appeared in the U.S. media.

Even people who are exposing the FBI cover-ups and military involvement speak as if this must have been some lone individual taking advantage of "lax security" without the knowledge of his military and CIA superiors.

However there is no reason to assume this "lone individual" theory is true.

The targets of the anthrax letters were leading liberals and representatives of the media-- both deeply hated by reactionary forces. The military is riddled with rightwing groups who might want to trigger a war climate and intensified domestic crackdown. The CIA, which admits to having weapons anthrax, is well known to conduct covert operations to influence policy and public opinion.

There has been a massive investigation into these anthrax attacks--involving over 5,000 FBI interviews over six months. The U.S. government has mailed letters to 40,000 scientists asking for information and offering a $2.5 million reward. They have gathered anthrax samples from laboratories across the U.S. And after six months of this, there is a clampdown on the evidence.

Courageous people, like Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, have fought to get some basic facts into the public view--but these facts have always appeared surrounded by the stone-wall denials and disinformation of government agencies.

The evidence shows that the U.S. government conducted an anthrax weaponization program in violation of international treaty, and that anthrax from there was almost certainly used in these attempts to assassinate prominent liberal Democrats.

Now the question becomes what else are the government agents hiding? Who exactly was involved in the anthrax attacks? What were their motives? And how high up in the military establishment and CIA did this operation go?

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