The FBI has deduced, based on "exacting handwriting and linguistic analyses" that all the anthrax bio-terrorism attacks are the work of a "lone wolf." Did the FBI miss any clues?


The FBI's behavioral analysis unit assumed that all the anthrax attacks were all done by one and the same person— a person who mailed anthrax-laced letters from Trenton, New Jersey. But that single-person assumption, while convenient, is not necessarily valid. There are significant differences in the anthrax attacks that occurred in Florida, New York and DC. Consider the three attacks.

The Florida Attack . The anthrax attack at the offices of American Media in Florida did not involve a letter or envelope that was ever found or recalled. There were two victims. One (fatal) was in the editorial offices, the other worked in the mail room. Since spores from the anthrax was found throughout the building, it cannot be determined if the anthrax actually arrived by a letter, by a package or by some other means (Minute traces were found in a local post office but that might have been the result of cross-contamination from American Media's outgoing mail.) In any case, since there was no letter so the "exacting handwriting and linguistic analysis" cannot apply to this attack.

But there is a clue: the absence of a letter or warning. The proverbial dog that didn't bark. If no letter warning accompanied the anthrax, it suggests that whoever sent it had a reason for not including the type of warning that was used in the September 18th attack (described below). But why? The perpetrator may have feared that a postmark would give away his proximite location, or had another reason. The lack of a warning also raises the issue of purpose. The purpose of this anthrax attack, for example, might have been to test the speed that an unalerted medical system in America would detect and identify the bacteria.

The Tuesday, Sept 18th attack. Two identical anthrax-laced letters, with no return address, were sent from Trenton to NBC and the NY Post in New York City. Unlike the Florida attack, the New York attack contained both a warning and a message in eighteen block-written words. It warned that an anthrax attack was "next" and advised the letter- openers to take "penacilin," thus alerting the medical system. The message for the media: "Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is Great."

One clue here is the photo-copying: why would a person photo-copy a brief message (18 words) rather then re-write it? One answer might be that the person who mailed these letters may have lack the language ability-- or the authority-- to compose a letter in his own block-writing, and therefore instead used a photo-copied message written by another person.

The purpose is also an issue worth considering: unlike the Florida attack, the New York attack carries a message to the media. It focuses attention on two targets— America and Israel— in the name of Allah. So the purpose may have been to focus media attention, rather than causing casualties (ergo, lower grade anthrax was used).

The Tuesday October 9 DC Attack. Two anthrax-laced letters were sent to two Democratic Senators, Senator Tom Daschle and Senator Patrick Leahy. The message was different from that of the prior attack. The Daschle letter had an added warning: "You can not stop us. We have this anthrax." The enclosed bacteria demonstrated the quality of "This anthrax. When analyzed, it proved to be the virulent Ames strain milled to between six and one micron in diameter (one-twentieth of a human hair.) This milling gave it frightening capabilities as an aerosol weapon. If distributed in the ventilator system, the dosage in this single letter would have had the capability of infecting the entire United States Congress with inhalation anthrax. The text suggests the purpose of this attack was demonstration. Unlike prior attacks, these letters demonstrated that the perpetrator had both a weapon (Ames strain anthrax bacteria) and technology (micro-milling) to inflict massive damage.

Clue #1: The return address list a non-existent "Greendale School" in Franklin, Park N.J.. This error suggests that the perpetrator may not have been familiar with the Trenton area.

Clue #2 (Not commented on by FBI) The letter uses plural pronouns "We" and "Us," which, if taken at face value, suggests that more than a single individual is involved.

The geographic fallacy. The FBI, according to the Wall Street Journal, "thinks the sender, who may tend to avoid people, has a good knowledge of Trenton, N.J." The mailer may have lived near Trenton but since no DNA or fingerprints in any of the letters, there is no reason to conclude that the mailer and preparer are a single person. A different person in a different place (or even different continent) could have prepared the letters with anthrax and sent them to the mailer in a zip-locked bag. Indeed, one letter cointaining anthrax bacteria was sent from Zurich, Switzerland to a doctor in Chile who was an expert in bio-terrorism in mid November. And for at least 2 fatal attacks— Kathy Nyguyen in New York and Ottilie Lundgren in Oxford, Connecticut— there is no evidence even of a letter. So the Trenton postmark may be a misleading clue.

. By concentrating on the handwriting of the letter-sender, The FBI appears to have missed the central clue. The crucial evidence is not the letters, but the colonies of anthrax bacteria that they contained. Specifically, the CDC analysis shows that they were a) virulent Ames-like strain b) milled to micron size and c) the contained a large volume of the anthrax bacteria.

The Strain clue. The bacteria is a variant of the virulent Ames Strain, discovered in 1931. 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. 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 researchers--22,000, according to the FBI estimate. Virulent anthrax, which was found in all the anthrax cases, is another story. Only five known labs in US have specimens of the virulent strain— the Department of Agriculture lab at Iowa State, 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. So there is a very short list of individuals with access to virulent specimens. The Size clue. The anthrax bacteria in the Daschle and Leahy letters was 1-6 microns in diameter. The specimens in laboratories are an order of magnitude larger. (The government destroyed all the smaller-sized "weaponized." anthrax 25 years ago.) So the party who conducted these anthrax attacks, not only had to have access to the virulent strain, it had to have the facilities and equipment to grow a batch from the speciman in a media, which produces a slurry, then dry the slurry into powder, freeze it, and perform micro-surgery so as to reduce its diameter by an order of magnitude without damaging the structure of the bacteria, and, in order to turn it into an aerosol, alter its electrostatic charge so it would not cling together. While such equipment exists in some pharmaceutical labs, it would be relatively easy to determine that it had been used to mill anthrax. So a party performing this operation would need a secret lab.

The Volume clue. The Daschle and Leahy letters contained over a tea spoon of anthrax, or many billion spores. All would have to be milled in an exacting process. So the secret lab would have to be organized for the continuous production of weaponized anthrax. This would also requiring protecting those do the drying, freezing, milling, altering and stock-piling with either massive anti-biotics or vaccination (if vaccination works against Ames strain).

The real issue is would any "lone wolf" in the Trenton area have access to the 5 labs in which the virulent strain specimans are kept and secret facilities to weaponize it and resources to produce billions of anthrax bacteria safely. If no US-based candidate fits these requisites then, the next clue would be a stealthed foreign state-run lab that has this strain and capability to mill it to micron size.