What we don't know about the Anthrax attack (but think we know)?

We don't know:

1) When it began. Was it before or after September 11th?

The first Anthrax victim (and fatality) was Robert Stevens, a photo editor at the Sun tabloid owned by American Media. He was admitted to a Florida Hospital on Oct 2, 2001. But since the period between exposure and symptoms can be up to eight weeks, he could have been exposed anytime between August 2 and October 1st, or, even earlier if he delayed opening whatever letter or container the anthrax was in.

2) The Proximate Location. Where did the anthrax in first attack come from?

Robert Stevens was exposed to anthrax, as were at least eight other employees, in the offices of America Media in Florida. No letter was found there containing either anthrax or a warning. So there is no tell-tale post-mark.

3) Means of delivery.

The issue of how the anthrax got to the offices of American Media is unresolved. Anthrax spores were found in the entire building, not just the mail room, so it could have been delivered anywhere in the building. Not do we know that it came by letter. The microscopic traces found at local post office could have come as easily from cross- contamination of out-going mail as ingoing mail. It could have come by any parcel— letter, Fedex— or been brought there, wittingly or unwittingly, by a person from another location (including another facility of American Media).

It is also unknown how the anthrax was delivered to the news offices of CBS in NY, the state troopers' room at Governor George Pataki's secure office in NY, the child of an ABC producer in NY, Kathy T. Nyguyen in NY and Mrs. Ottilie Lundgren in Oxford, Connecticut. No letter was found. Nor was any trace of anthrax in their mail boxes, offices or homes. They could have encountered anthrax from a contaminated tabloid newspaper or other carrier as easily from a letter.

4) Where the five envelopes containing Anthrax were prepared.

Envelopes containing anthrax colonies were recovered from 5 anthrax attacks: they were addressed to Tom Brokaw at NBC in NY, the editor of the NY Post in NY, Senator Tom Daschle in Washington, Senator Patrick Leahy in Washington and Dr. Antonio Banfi in Santiago, Chile. Four were postmarked Trenton, New Jersey, the fifth, though postmarked Zurich, was sent from New York City. But there is no reason to assume that they were sent from the same location as they were prepared. The envelopes could have been filled with anthrax in a laboratory anywhere in the world and sent, with the letter, in sealed sip-lock bags to a sender or senders who re-mailed them in Trenton and New York.

5) Who wrote the 2 photo-copied letters found in 4 of the 5 envelopes.

One set of photo-copied letters was sent on Sept 18th attack, with no return address, were sent to NBC and the NY Post in New York City. It was written in block letters warning about the anthrax, advising letter-openers to take "penacilin" and ending, "Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is Great." A second set of letters on October to Senators, Senator Tom Daschle and Senator Patrick Leahy, with a fictive return address, were also written in block letters. They warned: "You can not stop us. We have this anthrax." They ended, like first set, "Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is Great." That they carried the same message does not mean they were sent by the same person. No matching DNA, fingerprints or other unique identifiers were found on the letters so they could have been sent by any number of persons relaying a prepared and photo-copied message.

6) The proximate origin of the anthrax bacteria itself.

At least two strains of anthrax bacteria were used in the attacks. The bacteria accompanied by warning letters was all consistent with the virulent Ames strain, as was the bacteria that killed Stevens, Nyguyen and Lundgren. The bacteria found in the letter to Dr. Antonio Banfi in Santiago was a different strain that has not yet been identified by the CDC. So either the attacker had access to two different strains or their are at least two different attackers. Even with the virulent Ames strain, there are many sub-varieties. Homeland Security director Tom Ridge said that the strains used in the Florida, New York and Washington attacks, while "indistinguishable," were not identical. And Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, described the strains only as "Ames-like."When the bacteria reproduces, it makes slight errors in copying itself, and therefore there are variants. The catalogue of variants, or "family tree" was kept by the Department of Agriculture facility until mid October 2001 when, with FBI approval, it was incinerated. So it cannot be more precisely placed.

7) The lab from which the anthrax was obtained.

The Ames strain comes in two forms: non-virulent and virulent. The difference between them is that the virulent anthrax produces toxin proteins and encapsulates itself with a protective layer, which means it can survive. The non-virulent, which has been mutated to make it non-infectious, does not produce toxin proteins or protect itself. It is the latter form that has been made available to most researchers. But only five known labs in US have specimens of the virulent strain— the Department of Agriculture lab at Iowa State (which now destroyed its specimens), the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, the US Army Medical Research Institute at Fort Detrick in Maryland, the lab at Louisiana State University and the lab Northern Arizona University. At each lab, the specimens are kept under lock and key, and everyone who uses them is recorded. But the FBI has not been able to find any source in these known repositories. This suggest that the anthrax came from a foreign or unknown repository.

8) How the anthrax was weaponized so it turned into an aerosol.

The bacteria spores in the Daschle and Leahy letters were as small as one micron and concentrated to a density estimated to be a trillion spores per gram. This meant that the larger spores found in a wet slurry form had been dried and miniaturized in a process that had not destroyed their protective coats. To be sure, military labs in the US had achieved these results by drying, freezing and cascading spores through computer-controlled mills of super-hard ball bearings, but these CBW factories were dismantled in the 1970s. Where such stealthed equipment exists today is unknown.

9) The purpose.

We do not know whether the purpose of the anthrax was:

a) to inflict physical or psychic damage on America.
b) to probe our bio-terrorism defenses in preparation for a larger-scale attack.
c) as a demonstration to set the stage for a future ultimatum or ransom demand.

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