Monday, May 28, 2007
Technical Intelligence in Retrospect: The 2001 Anthrax Letters Powder
Technical Intelligence in Retrospect: The 2001 Anthrax Letters Powder
Authors: Dany Shoham; Stuart M. Jacobsen
Published in: International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Volume 20, Issue 1 March 2007 , pages 79 - 105
In a sense, the very fact that the late 2001 anthrax letters attack on the United States has still not been solved is no less meaningful and important than that unprecedented act of bioterrorism itself. A wide range of far-reaching implications - geopolitical, legal, strategic, technological, scientific, and medical - emanate from that failure. An attempt is made here to take an integrated look into some of these various aspects so as to gain a better understanding of this potentially colossal event. Special attention is paid to a reconstructive analysis of the sabotage spore powder (SSP) contained in the lethal letters, and its structure. The anthrax bacterium is a pathogen of major concern, whose potency is afforded by the aerial dispersibility attained through the peculiar powdery texture of the material used for this act of bioterrorism. This peculiarity constitutes a key attribute, which can be traced and deciphered through retrospective technical intelligence that may lead to the SSP's provenance. It further demonstrates the significance of technical intelligence at large as a prime tool of the intelligence services.
In contrast to the wealth of empirical data collected and published with respect to the specific anthrax Ames strain of the 2001 letter attack, the resultant medical cases, and the dispersal of the SSP, a relative paucity of information has been brought out regarding the structure and composition of the SSP itself. That still poses an enigmatic, extremely complex intelligence issue that needs to be elucidated, for numerous reasons. Consequent to the absence of definite intelligence regarding the SSP's provenance, the need to apply technical intelligence methodologies seems to be vital. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) have all been deeply involved, indeed, in an attempt to meet this need.
Discussing the outstanding, crucial, and, though not yet unlocked nature of the SSP texture, Gary Matsumoto implies - fairly prudently and in contrast to some institutional stances - that the incriminating, powdery material was of an extremely sophisticated quality, in terms of both bacterial concentration and floatability.1 In so doing, he furnishes only sporadic indications, but very important ones, as to the in-effect origin of the powder - a cardinal issue having enormous intelligence ramifications. Matsumoto accentuates "a technique used to anchor silica nanoparticles to the surface of spores , a silica dust called Aerosil and an Aerosil variant called Cab-O-Sil," which was tested by U.S. Army laboratories. He points out, as well, that "Iraq's chemical and biological warfare labs imported tons of both Cab-O-Sil and Aerosil ," and notes, referring to the benign anthrax-simulant germ Bacillus (Bacills) globigii (BG), that "the Danish company Chris-Hansen sprayed-dried the spores (along with an unidentified "additive") about 100 times more concentrated then the U.S. Army's old BG powder mixed silica into the powder - that silica being a product sold commercially under the name Sipernat D13 made by Germany's Degussa AG, the same company that makes Aerosil." Such technical footprints may latently bear invaluable intelligence.
An earlier, rather elaborate study, was appreciably more incriminating, with respect to the links between Iraq and the SSP.2 TSMID, Iraq's procurement arm for its biological weapons program, was the government agency that sought a supply of pharmaceutical grade silica. In addition, an advanced technology held by a second Danish company, Niro Atomizer, was thereupon adopted by Iraq. Yet, the technical analyses of the SSP so far conducted and made public do not provide "firm evidence to link Iraq - or any other government - to the anthrax attack," though the Iraqi regime "cannot be ruled out," according to Matsumoto. It remains unclear, however, whether this uncertainty stems from the reluctance to reveal essential analytical findings achieved by United States authorities regarding the SSP, or from an authentic lack of such findings, due to technical inadequacy. Generally speaking, this is often the case regarding various intelligence analyses at large, and may unfortunately lead to an undesirable dead end.
Hence, we here try to gauge in an integrative way, certain specifics featuring the anthrax letter powder, and thereby look into its provenance. Various information and arguments are therefore presented, including both direct and indirect data and findings in the fields of microbiology, physical chemistry, and medicine, altogether allowing for a substantial technical intelligence analysis.
THE MILITARY ESSENTIALITY OF SOPHISTICATED SPORE POWDERS
The germ Bacillus anthracis (BA) is the causative agent of anthrax, a disease primarily of animals, but one which humans occasionally acquire through contact with infected livestock or with its contaminated products. The mode of infection may be cutaneous, intestinal, or pulmonary. The latter represents, as well, a distinct form of employing BA as an inhalable biological warfare agent, either sprayed (wet aerosol) or powdered (dry aerosol). The efficacy of the aerosol thus generated is shaped by a variety of inherent attributes largely dependent on the way the aerosol material has thereby been structured. In general, the aerosol material contains anthrax germ spores - a resilient form of life typifying all the species of the genus Bacillus sp. - plus various, vital chemical additives.
The bacterial spore embodies a natural, extremely endurable presentation of dormant survival, not found in most bacterial species. It spontaneously forms under unfavorable conditions. Upon coming across a favoring substrate - i.e., the inner lung of a host - dormancy ends and the spore germinates to become an active bacterium. Sporogenesis, the natural mechanism of spore formation, can be artificially induced, yielding the very same spores produced naturally. This principle is valid with regard to any Bacillus species, whether virulent or innocent.
Spore powders are man-made products based on additional principles: engineered spore concentration, drying, and the use of additives to prevent agglomeration or clumping. The techniques through which those essentials are practiced - in conjunction with selected ingredients - facilitate the dispersibility, floatability, and inhalability of the resultant spore powder.
Highly sophisticated spray drying is one key technology. It has thus been applied for the following three germs: Bacillus anthracis (Ames strain) - the 2001 letter attack strain (plus other weaponized strains); Bacillus globigii - the noninfective aerobiological model germ; and Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) - the noninfective bioinsecticidal simulant. Notably, one major difference among those three bacterial species is that BG lacks the outermost integument surrounding the spore from its two bacterial relatives - the exosporium. This layer - a loose-fitting, balloon-like envelope - consists of two sub-layers: a basal sub-layer, which has a hexagonally ordered crystal lattice structure, and a peripheral sub-layer, consisting of a nap of fine filaments termed the hairy nap.3 Chemically, the exosporium is complex, consisting of protein, amino and neutral polysaccharides, lipids, and ash.
Overall, as the outer surface layer of spores, the exosporium - particularly its peripheral sub-layer - represents the primary contact surface between the spore and environment. The latter may embody culture media, host tissues, sister-spores, artificial ingredients, air, water, dryness, heat, other physical factors, and so on. Evidently, thus, the exosporium is involved, essentially, in the interaction of the spore with the infected host, collocated spores, or any non-biotic environment. The exosporium confers, then, particular adherence and hydrophobic (water-hating) properties. A predominant trait of bacterial spores - surface hydrophobicity - plays a role, therefore, in the process of spore drying, and has been featured in various Bacillus species, with special reference to influence attributed to the exosporium. Spores having an exosporium are significantly more hydrophobic than those lacking an exosporium.4 The exosporium then facilitates the drying processes and sustainability of spore powders. Undesirably, in that connection, it apparently increases spore aggregation,5 but it is, probably, sufficiently flexible to stand frequent volume changes without impairing spore integrity,6 as may likely be the case during induced dehydration. The exosporium may thus affect the need, course, and outcome of spray drying.
Another key technology is the use of additives to prevent spore agglomeration or clumping. Here, too, the presence of an exosporium is meaningful, and substantial technical intelligence was obtained, thanks to the defection of a masterly Russian military scientist. The gold standard additive for Russian dry powder bioweapons (BW) was silica nanoparticles. The former Soviet Union used silica at the military BW plant in the former Sverdlovsk (now called Yekaterinburg), where weaponized anthrax leaked from military Compound 19 in 1979 killing up to 100 people. Subsequent to the Sverdlovsk accident, and until he defected to the U.S. in 1992, Colonel Kanatjan Alibekov (now known as Ken Alibek) and a research team had taken the product that was leaked and made it even more deadly. He developed a process to coat each particle of anthrax spores in silica and resin. This kept the anthrax aloft four times longer, thus increasing the likelihood that it would infect people. Actually, Alibekov had paved the way, from 1975, in two other Soviet anthrax plants - ostensibly civilian ones (at Berdsk and, later, at Stepnogorsk) - that were operated parallel to the Sverdlovsk military anthrax installation, systematically using large scale processing of powdery exosporium-bearing Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) spores, for both anthrax simulation and camouflage.
Remarkable technologies permitting the formulation and construction of such bacterial spore powders were chiefly - and independently - cultivated in two countries totally distinct from each other: Russia and Denmark. The Danish firms, Niro Atomizer and Chris Hansen, mastered the technologies pertaining to benign germs and later contributed, one way or another, to ongoing efforts made by Iraq (Niro) and the U.S. (Chris Hansen) to achieve the desirable textures of first-class bacterial powders, whether innocent or infective. The ultimate usefulness of Niro Atomizers for preparing bacterial spore powders has been noticed by Iraq in the 1980s, fully adopted for spray drying BT (as stimulant), and rather perfected, in all likelihood, for BA weaponization. Apparently, the U.S. Army, after using for many years self-made BG aerosols as an aerobiological model germ, lately preferred an appreciably upgraded, spray-dried BG spore powder from Chris Hansen, for investigative purposes.
Within that context, the inefficiency of spore aerosol deposition and resuspension, as far as implied in U.S. and Canadian studies,7, 8 had been overcome, most probably, in the USSR and Iraq, as well as by the various SSP designers/constructors. Yet, apparently, in Denmark, as long as non-exosporium-bearing spores (like BG) were being worked on, such a breakthrough could not have been achieved. Altogether, this information constitutes the grounds on which an effective technical intelligence analysis of the SSP can be conducted.
THE KNOW-HOW OF WEAPONIZING ANTHRAX SPORES
Isolated for the first time in 1981 from a dead cow in Texas, the Ames strain BA was sent to USAMRIID, Fort Detrick, because it exhibited extreme virulence. The 2001 Ames attack strain (AS) - designated Florida strain - had not been modified genetically, thus retaining its 1981 authentic fingerprint. Surprisingly, yet, since 1981 the Ames strain has only once again been isolated in nature (from a goat, in 1997, in Texas). By 2000, around the time of preparing the sabotage spore powder (SSP), the Ames strain was being held, concomitantly, by an unknown number of laboratories in the U.S. (at least seven labs) and abroad (at least five).
Initially, Japan, during the 1930s, and later Britain (during the 1940s), weaponized anthrax spores in the form of liquid suspension. The British biological warfare offensive effort concentrated on anthrax, and between 1942 and 1943, anthrax bombs were tested on the Scottish island of Gruinard, off the northwest coast of Scotland.The so-called N bomb contained 106 special bomblets charged with anthrax spores suspension. The afflicted area remained contaminated for many decades.9
Notably, in 1993, in Japan, the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist cult sprayed - somewhat ineffectively - a liquid suspension of BA from its headquarters building in Kameido, near Tokyo. The isolates were consistent with strain Sterne 34F2, which is used in Japan for animal vaccination against anthrax.10
In sharp contrast, the 2001 sabotage anthrax had been technically processed to form the outstandingly floatable spore powder contained in the letters. The Daschle anthrax letter was believed to contain about 2 grams of powder comprised of 200 billion to 2 trillion spores, uniformly between 1 and 3 microns in size, and coated with fine particles of frothy silica glass. The letter was opened in the sixth floor office of Senator Thomas Daschle's Hart Senate Office Building suite. Based on nasal swabs, all 18 persons who were in the area of that floor tested positive for anthrax exposure, as did 7 of 25 (i.e, 28 percent) in the area of the Senator's fifth floor office (an open staircase connected the two offices).11 Even deadlier, the Leahy letter powder (sent to another Democrat, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, D., Vermont), had particles that were somewhat smaller and more uniform in size compared to the Daschle letter.12
Naturally, the U.S. Intelligence Community first tried to profile the SSP by technically comparing it with past weaponized anthrax powders made by the U.S. Army. But, while the dehydration-based forming of dry powder, weapon-grade, biological material conducted by William Patrick in the U.S. Army during the 1950s relied on freeze drying, and then grinding down the freeze-dried pellets with a high-speed colloid mill, the AS was probably processed by using a spray drying technology, and it certainly did not employ milling. Protected by five patents, the technical course leading to weapon-grade powders applied by the U.S. Army during the 1950s and 1960s presumably involved freeze drying, sifting, milling, and removal of impurities. But the U.S. program did not use silica in any of the anthrax powders it made during those two decades.
Since the abandonment of its offensive biological warfare program, the U.S. Army has experimented with various brands of silica nanoparticles added to germ-warfare powders or surrogates produced in small quantities. These include WR-50 and WR-51 (manufactured by Philadelphia Quartz Co.), Cab-O-Sil (Cabot Corp.), and Sipernat D 13 (Degussa AG). Various aerosols of anthrax spores - including Ames - were applied by the U.S. Army for experimental infection studies after the U.S. biological weapons arsenal had been eliminated. Even if some of those BA aerosols included spray-dried spore powders, involving silica, their fineness did not at all equal the SSP. Therefore, the need for technical intelligence pertaining to the SSP became vital.
Floatable anthrax spore powders are structured, as well, for airborne vaccination, using attenuated (avirulent or inactivated) anthrax germs. Decades after powdered inhalable anthrax vaccines were successfully developed and utilized in the USSR, and then Russia, this pharmacological principle has been applied, quite recently, in the USA.13 Also, BioSante Pharmaceuticals, a Lincolnshire, Illinois-based biotech start-up, is developing an inhalable anthrax vaccine.14 These American immunological preparations may involve spray drying and related nanotechnologies, yet they are not based, apparently, on attenuated anthrax spores, but on anthrax protective antigen. Therefore, they are much less significant for deciphering the uniqueness and, hence, the provenance of the SSP.
Another, much more expedient course has been followed by Russia. Russian vaccines have included, for many years and until the present, inhalable attenuated anthrax spore powders; probably spray-dried, fine, remarkably concentrated, dispersible, and respirable.15, 16, 17 The latter certainly contains additives of unknown identity, yet aimed at affording those desirable aerobiological traits, which can make it, inversely, a perfectly floatable weapon when non-attenuated spores are employed. Indeed, the related advanced Russian technical essentials likely evolved in parallel with the superior military-grade powdered anthrax developed by the USSR and Russia as standardized biological weaponry. This dual course has thereupon been steadily progressing and fruitful. Virulent anthrax powders are still being retained within the Russian WMD arsenal.18 All in all, then, are there any links - know-how-based or other - among the Russian anthrax powder technology, bacillary powder mastering by Danish firms, and the 2001 Senate anthrax?
In October 2002, the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology published a newsletter confirming media reports over the previous twelve months that the Senate anthrax was weaponized with silica.19 Although no quantitative details were given, giving for example the total weight percentage of silica present, the U.S. Army officially went on record confirming that the purpose of the silica was to prevent the anthrax from aggregating, making it easier to aerosolize.
A thorough analysis of the silica-coated anthrax spores has not, perhaps unsurprisingly, been made available publicly, but media reports from several sources, coupled with research on dry powder inhalational (DPI) drugs, can be used to construct a picture of how the technical intelligence relating to the silica coatings could likely provide unambiguous evidence concerning the source of the material.
What exactly is the purpose of coating a spore with silica in order to make it easy to aerosolize? Media reports and even some statements from bioweapons experts have confused this issue. General statements have been made that the silica removes the charges from the spores since charged spores will tend to clump. In fact, this is not the case at all. If spores carry a net-like charge they will repel one another, actually allowing them to aerosolize more easily.
The exact details behind the grade of silica nanoparticles employed in the Senate anthrax: how dispersed the silica was; the weight percentage of the silica used; details of the binders used; as well as the presence or absence of secondary phase silica are of paramount importance in providing clues to the ultimate origin of the weapon. Hence, one of the first pieces of technical intelligence evidence that can be directly obtained from the Senate anthrax regards the nature of the silica used. As has been pointed out20 each brand of silica nanoparticles from different companies has a slightly different chemical signature, since each is made differently. If the levels of inorganic impurities were measured, the likehood is that the original manufacturer of the silica could then be identified.
After the presence of silica in the Senate anthrax had been widely discussed in the U.S. media in November and December of 2001, another key piece of information concerning additives was leaked to the U.S. media in April 2002. Three major U.S. media outlets almost simultaneously published accounts of a new chemical that had been identified by a U.S. military laboratory.21, 22, 23 The identity of the chemical was not revealed, nor was its purpose; but it was revealed that the material in the letter to Senator Leahy contained "individually coated anthrax spores" - something that U.S. bioweapons experts had never seen before. Eventually, some 20 months later, in November 2003, the identity and purpose of the second additive was revealed for the first time.24 That second additive was polymerized glass - used to coat the silica nanoparticles before the nanoparticles were attached to the surface of the spores. Thus, it was used as a binder in order to create a more robust final product.
The Russian anthrax spore powder responsible for the 1979 Sverdlovsk incident has been thoroughly investigated in retrospect.25 Reportedly, the spores released at Sverdlovsk were weaponized with silica, but they were not yet treated with a binder, and thus were a less efficient aerosol than the subsequent anthrax developed at Sverdlovsk in the years after the accident. Matthew S. Meselson and his colleagues26 calculated contours of constant dosage from a Gaussian plume model of atmospheric dispersion. The calculated contours of constant dosage, like the zone of high human and animal risk, were long and narrow. The authors concluded that the weight of spores released as aerosol could have been as little as a few milligrams or as much as nearly a gram. This conclusion was criticized by others in the U.S. bioweapons community,27 who argued that the release must have involved pounds of anthrax.
A major issue involved with pathogenesis of anthrax spores is ID-50 (Infectious Dose to 50 percent of exposed individuals) for dry powder, weaponized spores versus non-weaponized spores aerosolized from wet slurry. Weaponized spores have had their surfaces altered by the addition of silica and binders. Does this mean they will adhere more readily to lung alveoli or that they will become active in the lung more readily? Also, if they have been deliberately electrostatically charged, will this affect the ID-50?
Cicmanec calculated, using cadmium chloride and radio-labeled polystyrene microspheres as an anthrax surrogate, that the ID-50 for the modified form of anthrax used in the SSP is at least 15 to 500 times lower than for conventional spores.28 The presence of an electrostatic charge on the SSP has already been discussed.29 The SSP was apparently deliberately charged with a net-like (negative) charge, probably with the use of a corona spray gun. This was done in order to facilitate aerosolization of the SSP. As soon as even a small amount of mechanical energy was added to the spores (the opening of the envelope) the already energetic spores formed a spontaneous aerosol, each mutually repelling one another. But, the presence of a charge may have significant consequences toward the pathogenesis of the SSP as well. Recent studies by Bailey et al.30 have shown that charged particles have a marked increase in their ability to deposit inside lungs. If the particle size and charge are optimized, an enhancement of deposition deep inside the alveoli by up to a factor of 5 can be achieved over uncharged particles. The mechanism for this enhanced deposition is the well-known phenomenon in electrodynamics of mirror charge. When a charged particle approaches a conducting surface, the particle induces on that surface an image charge of opposite polarity. The surface of the lung alveoli is uncharged but conducting. The mirror charge effect is very short range, thus when the charged anthrax spore approaches the confined spaces deep in the alveoli region it will begin to manifest itself. When the charged spore becomes adhered to the alveoli, it becomes less likely to be cleared by a normal host-clearing mechanism.
TECHNICAL INTELLIGENCE DEDUCTIONS
Technical intelligence deductions regarding the nature of the SSP could have been - and were, indeed - made through comparison with another bacillary germ - Bacillus globigii (BG). The non-infective, exosporium-lacking germ BG has long been used, mostly, in the U.S. and Britain, as a model bacterium to practice aerobiological featuring of weaponized BA spores. Notably, to start with more recent occurrences, a Canadian defense report, based on BG spore powder as a model (and published in September 2001), was produced very shortly before the anthrax attacks.31 In that study, BG-spore-contaminated envelopes, opened within an aerosol test chamber, were used to estimate the aerosol release from an "anthrax letter." The setup and protocol were an attempt to mimic what might occur in an office, mail room, or central registry environment if an envelope containing BA spores were received and opened. Slit samplers and filters were used to measure and track the aerosol release following the opening of the envelope. Although the opening of such an envelope is a very "passive" form of dissemination, the results indicated the dispersion to be far more effective than initially suspected.
Actually, BG had been regularly used during U.S. Army experiments as the ultimate simulant for anthrax outdoor aerial dissemination since 1950.32 Field tests continued during the 1960s. Widespread dispersal of bacteria was found in a May 1965 secret release of BG at Washington's National Airport and the city's Greyhound bus terminal, according to released military reports. More than 130 passengers who had been exposed to the bacteria traveled to 39 cities in seven states in the two weeks following the mock attack.
The U.S. Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, Medical Readiness, and Military Deployments (OSAGWIMRMD) released three more fact sheets on military exercises which formed part of the Project SHAD series. The sheets dealt with three separate tests: Eager Belle Phase I, Eager Belle Phase II, and Scarlet Sage. The Eager Belle tests took place in early and mid-1963 in an area west of Hawaii. In both tests, ships were exposed to an aerosol cloud of BG, dispensed from a disseminator on a tugboat in Phase I, and from Aero 14B spray tanks on an A-4 Skyhawk aircraft in Phase II. The primary purpose of Phase I was said to be to evaluate the effectiveness of selected protective devices in preventing penetration of a naval ship by a biological aerosol, while the primary purpose of Phase II was said to be to study the downwind travel of biological aerosols. The Scarlet Sage tests were conducted in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego, California during 9 February-4 March 1966. Again, the agent used was BG, and this time the primary purpose of the test was said to be to evaluate the effectiveness of the experimental Shipboard Toxicological Operational Protections System (STOPS) under operational conditions.
The British army did spray-dry BG in the early 1960s, within the Microbiological Research Establishment at Porton Down. The resultant spore powder was released in 1963 from a window of a tube train traveling in the London Underground.33 The trial concluded that the spores can be carried for several miles on the tube system, and locally can persist as an aerosol of high concentration for a considerable period. By 1966, in a similar trial in the New York City subway system, BG-powder-carrying light bulbs were dropped. On several occasions, BG was tested by the U.S. Army together with another, non-spore-forming model germ - Seratia marcescens (SM). This mixture had been used as a typical simulant for studying bacterial aerial dispersibility of biological warfare agents since the 1950s. In 1950, a Navy mine-laying vessel cruised the San Francisco coast, spraying an aerosol cocktail of those two germs from giant hoses on deck.34
From the mid 1950s, spray-drying was applied by American developers (specifically and mainly by Comings, Coldren, McLain, Bradford, and Briggs) for the manufacturing of SM (and other bacterial agents) powders. Peculiarly, yet, the most sophisticated technology of spray-drying of military-grade bacterial powders available in the U.S. until the 1970s migrated, apparently, to Saudi Arabia, together with the model germ SM, obtained from Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland.35 Freeze-dried or lyophilized cells of SM (the original lyophilized culture was received from Fort Detrick) were thereby suspended in neutralized ascorbic acid and dextrin prior to jet-spray-drying. For more than half of the drying runs, the achieved viable recovery rate (between 40 and 60 percent) compares favorably with acceptable treatments.
It follows, overall, that spray-drying technology has presumably been utilized by the U.S. Army - and, deductively, in Porton Down, England, as well - for making bacterial powders of SM, BG, and possibly BA. Yet, somehow, this key technology has lately been cultivated in Denmark and Saudi Arabia. Iraq and Russia did not lag behind, certainly - preferring, however, the exosporium-bearing bacterium BT, so as to simulate BA.
THE IRAQI-RUSSIAN NEXUS
The germ BT has for long been employed as an effective bio-insecticide. In the Soviet anthrax production plants of Berdsk and, later, Stepnogorsk - two cardinal milestones marking the evolution of Soviet anthrax technologies, aside the purely military anthrax facility at Sverslovsk - this noninfective germ served to methodically simulate and camouflage the manufacturing of anthrax powder. The Berdsk plant contained a facility representing the Soviet prototype industrial spore production line, using BT. The second, ostensibly civilian, anthrax plant, at Stepnogorsk, was built in 1982 to replace, purportedly, the Sverdlovsk factory, due to the 1979 Sverdlovsk accident. Actually, all three facilities then operated concurrently, with the Stepnogorsk facility constituting a large magnification of the BT-BA wing of the Berdsk facility. Thus, 64,000-litre fermentation vessels were being used in Stepnogorsk to produce BT biopesticide, during an ongoing "civilian" routine, while the very same biotechnology - except for the addition of containment measures and specific chemical ingredients - served, periodically, for anthrax powder production.36
The Berdsk-plus-Stepnogorsk dual, misleading design was followed by Iraq in an anthrax plant named al-Hakam, with BT being the model and masking spore of choice. For that purpose, Iraq bought from the USSR and then Russia fermentation vessels - up to 5000-liter - later causing much worry to the Russian experts participating in the United Nations (UN) inspection teams in Iraq. The related Soviet BT-plus-anthrax technologies were followed as well - yet not necessarily without upgrading, which could readily have come from Niro after being approached, in effect, for that purpose - by Iraq. Thus, when the Alibek anthrax became fully operational in 1989, Iraq ordered, as well, high grade silica, so as to replace - or be employed (for anthrax powder production) in parallel with - bentonite, the latter serving in Iraq to prepare the real - yet masking - BT bioinsecticide powder.37
In the U.S., unlike the USSR/Russia and thereafter Iraq as well, the usability of BT as a preferable exosporium-bearing simulant germ for BA powdering has, for the most part, not been recognized. Only in 1999, apparently, was BT produced, freeze-dried, and milled in the U.S. with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an arm of the Pentagon, doing the job at a test site in Nevada.38 Irrespective of that DoD effort, common commercial preparations of this insect-killer bacillus include, in the U.S., "Technical Powder BioInsecticide" and "Dipel 150 Dust."39 The commercial methods applied to the structuring of BT preparations have gradually been upgraded; during the 1990s, spray drying of commercial BT was conducted and patented in the U.S.40, 41
Long after Iraq's interface with Niro was brought out, and mostly in parallel to the actual preparation of AS spore powder, Niro Atomizer technology was applied in the U.S. by a Chicago-based company for the spray drying of BT, and then patented, shortly subsequent to that act of anthrax bioterrorism. This could certainly have been a coincidence, yet the details of the process of spray drying, using Niro Atomizer, had been published in the public press.42 In addition, silica was used to enhance the flowability of spray-dried BT powder, even when wet.43 Thus, BT culture-broth - as an active ingredient - was mixed with various adjuvants and then spray-dried. The optimum conditions for spray drying of BT were then appraised.
The presence of bentonite in BT samples from the Iraq facility at al-Hakam led to much speculation in early media reports after the anthrax attacks that the SSP also contained bentonite and thus had Iraqi fingerprints. This proved to be incorrect, however, since the SSP did not contain the element aluminum.
Richard Preston, in "The Demon in the Freezer," gives an account of a meeting held at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) building in Washington, DC on 24 October 2001.44 Attending the meeting were senior personnel from the FBI, HHS, and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRID). At this meeting, the SSP's provenance was discussed, and samples of orange-tan powders of BT from the al-Hakam facility were passed around. The Iraqi BT powder was found to be a crude and heavy product, containing large amounts of bentonite, in stark contrast to the SSP's almost gas-like behavior.
At any rate, the exosporium borne by BT chiefly embodies, within that context, its prime resemblance of BA. Whether structured with bentonite (BT) or with other, much more specific ingredients (BA), the two products were manufactured in Iraq's al-Hakam plant. The Russian path was followed, apparently with an improved formulation.
THE PROVENANCE OF THE 2001 SABOTAGE SPORE POWDER
The SSP's peculiarity and the resultant challenge to intelligence certainly reflect the need to depend upon a sophisticated combination of different disciplines: technological, strategic, and political. The mailed envelopes containing the SSP were delivered in September and October 2001. The AS was apparently cultured, at most, two years earlier, according to radiocarbon dating made at Lawrence Livermore National Institute.45 The margin of error for this estimate was not given by Livermore, but is expected to be large with such a young sample since the relative concentration of Carbon14 is not much different than the atmospheric ambient.
As mentioned, by the year 2000, apparently around the time of preparing the SSP, the Ames strain was being held, concomitantly, by an unknown number of laboratories in the U.S. (at least seven labs) and abroad (at least five). Chromosomal DNA was identical in sequences to the AS in all Ames isolates tested in 2002, whereas the notable variation detected within collateral DNA (plasmids) was not instrumental for tracing the actual origin of the AS.46 All representative isolates (totaling 42) from the SSP were determined to be of a BA genome indistinguishable from the Ames strain used in laboratories. Further, the use of high-resolution molecular subtyping determined that all AS isolates were indistinguishable by the methods used and probably originated from a single source.47 It thus turns out that the origination of the SSP can scarcely be traced by microbiological methods alone. Though bioassays relying on stable isotope ratios have been suggested, it is presently doubtful that these are practical, specifically in regards to the SSP.48
As a technical intelligence tool, then, the best clues to the provenance of the SSP are the details of the artificial spore coatings. These coatings require a team of specialists to develop. And this is a multidisciplinary effort involving microbiology, chemical engineering, materials science, aerosol physics, possibly live testing, and finally quality assurance. A highly disciplined design of experiments is required, followed by several iterations of parameter adjustment before a high quality powder like the SSP can be developed. In other words, to create a "one off" powder such as the SSP with a siloxane binder that had never been used before in such an application and achieve success on the first attempt would be impossible. A trail of evidence in some state-sponsored bioweapons laboratory somewhere in the world where all of this development work took place must exist. Russia is known to have pioneered the use of the combined silica/binder approach to dry powder BWs. The SSP producer certainly exploited this or some advanced version of this technology.
Personalizing the Quest
Biographic intelligence - in addition to technical intelligence - may furnish an essential complement; in that case, concerning perhaps two prominent figures. Who are they? Various indications do lead to Iraq being a possible Ames powder melting-pot and the provenance of the SSP; they have been presented and discussed previously.49 The likely operational involvement of al-Qaeda has thereupon been indicated as well, implying, naturally, that elements in Saudi Arabia, the cradle of al-Qaeda, could have been helpful. Within that context, Iraq - assumed to be the SSP producer - should first have procured, at any rate, the Ames strain somewhere. Principally, almost any laboratory holding the Ames strain until 2000 - or earlier - both in the U.S. and abroad (nearly twenty laboratories, on the whole - some governmental, some academic), could have been the initial Ames supplier. Still, the connections of two persons with certain laboratories arguably provide notable traces: Fuad el-Hibri, a top, well-connected Saudi Arabian businessman, and Dr. Wouter Basson, a masterly South African scientist who had strong bonds within the Arab world and beyond.
Fuad el-Hibri first worked for Citibank in Saudi Arabia, arranging investments for rich Saudis. Subsequently, he acquired the Michigan Biological Products Institute, thereby forming BioPort, Inc., the sole supplier of anthrax vaccine in the U.S. and UK.50 Through a series of holding companies, British Porton Products is also owned in part by el-Hibri. He thus gained important market access in both the U.S. and Britain. Eventually, his company managed to acquire at least one virulent Ames strain for testing on animals. Independently, Dr. Wouter Basson, then a very senior BW scientist within the South African Army, possessed the Ames strain, subsequent to several visits he made to the British Army Microbiological Research Establishment at Porton Down, and to the U.S.51 He thereafter could have handed over the Ames strain to the Iraqis, having direct contact with them at least once in Iraq. Basson has been revealed while trailed to be that type. Equally, the AS could have migrated from Basson to Libya, where Basson had solid ties, and then, readily, from Libya to Iraq. The two countries had indeed a joint anthrax project in Libya during the 1990s.
Four distinct elements are involved - though possibly taking place unconnectedly with each other, in reality - in the course leading to the anthrax letter attack: the AS supplier; the basic powder technology supplier; the origination of the subsequent powdery bacillus modeling; and the SSP producer. The first three might be completely innocent, according to the following clustering. Namely, the AS supplier (to either Basson, el-Hibri, or another "legitimate" intermediary) was a U.S./British laboratory; the basic powder technology supplier was Denmark's Niro; the origination of the powdery bacillus modeling was USSR/Russia, which preferred BT rather than BG, because the former is a much better simulant for BA spore powder; and the SSP producer - the fourth and cardinal element - was plausibly Iraq, thanks to having obtained and employed the first three elements together, thereby forming a superb integral in Iraq. Alternatively, Soviet or formerly Soviet institutions could constitute the first three elements altogether (or two of them), and al-Qaeda itself could be the intermediary (and the perpetrator, but not the SSP producer). Notably, and in spite of continuing claims that no solid connections - including the contexts of CBW at-large, as well as the 2001 Twin Towers attack - existed between al-Qaeda and Iraq, the opposite has increasingly and firmly been emerging since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.52
Processing the Materials
The Iraqi interface with Niro was formed as early as the late 1980s. At that time Baghdad purchased three spray-dryers (at $100,000 apiece) from Niro. Subsequently, in 1989, Iraq inquired about silica, as well as two other vital ingredients (drying agents): kaolin (a fine, white clay used as a filler) and maltodextrin (a soluble polysaccharide obtained from starch, serving mainly as an adhesive and thickening agent), ostensibly to be used for pharmaceutical formulations. Specifically, the Iraqi technique, uncovered by United Nations (UN) inspectors in Iraq, was a novel one-step process of drying spores. UN weapons inspectors found that Iraq had used a spray-drying technique that involved silica for anthrax powder manufacturing.53 The facilities discovered in the Iraqi al-Hakam complex were capable (and were used, mostly untraceably) far beyond just mixing BT powder with bentonite.54
Not too long before the Washington anthrax letter attack of 2001 and the preparation of the SSP (1999-2000, wherever), research on the development of biopesticides (mostly BT) - which may be used as an anthrax simulant, had been ongoing - as later acknowledged by Iraq - at the Agricultural and Biological Research Centre, Tuwaitha, since being restarted in 1998, and supervised by top Iraqi BW scientists. This appears to reflect the continuing activity of al-Hakam (which had been dismantled by the UN), being covertly carried on, at that stage, in a civilian governmental institution, overseen and directed by Iraqi intelligence. Though considerably scaled down, under UN supervision, in comparison with the al-Hakam operation the process could certainly suffice for the preparation of small amounts of the SSP. This line is compatible with even the generally non-incriminating Doulfer Iraqi Survey Group report, which states: "The Iraqi Intelligence Service provided the BW program with security and participated in biological research, probably for its own purposes, from the beginning of Iraq's BW effort in the early 1970s until the final days of Saddam Hussein's Regime."55 Preparing anthrax powder for sabotage purposes could fit that paradigm. Moreover, recently revealed tapes from the 1990s point to Iraqi intentions to conduct an act of bioterrorism against the U.S.56 This, together with the coinciding Twin Towers sabotage, plausibly embodied Saddam's pursuit of revenge.57
BT is indeed the best model for creating a fine, spray-dried anthrax spore powder, since the spore of this germ has, like BA, an exosporium, whereas the BG spore does not. The outermost surface of BG is therefore significantly different from BA and BT, chemically and structurally, appreciably diminishing its value as a powdery simulant of BA. An additional advantage is that BT powder is a commercial product (though not an inhalable one), thus providing camouflage, which doesn't apply to BG. Iraq correctly followed the USSR/Russia in using BT for that purpose, and in conjunction with Niro spray-drying technology plus further modifications, had the ability to - and probably did - produce an anthrax spore powder equivalent to the SSP (independently of whether or not Iraq was the in-effect SSP producer). The U.S. military's spray-drying technology that migrated to Saudi Arabia in the 1970s could possibly have later amplified this Iraqi capacity, considering the collaborative relationships between Saudi Arabia and Iraq until 1990.
Relying, apparently, on concrete findings, former top U.S. weapons inspector Dr. David Kay said that "the Iraqis had developed new techniques for drying anthrax - techniques that were superior to anything the United States or the old Soviet Union had. That would make the former regime of Saddam Hussein the most sophisticated manufacturer of anthrax in the world." 58 Somewhat disturbingly, Dr. Kay did not - probably intentionally - give more details about his statement, not mentioning any additive applied for the Iraqi techniques, such as silica or, possibly, siloxane binder, or any foreign contributors - Russian, Danish, or another. Yet, even independently of Kay's remarkable statement, the vitality of such an exceptional Iraqi capability may presumably lie within an effective Iraqi-made integration of the various predominant essentials presented and discussed. And beyond anthrax, a notable collateral outcome of that integration was that silica gel was indeed being used by Iraq to aid in the dispersability of wheat smut spores, an anti-cultivar fungal biological warfare agent then held by Iraq.
Comparatively, the FBI's domestically originated-SSP hypothesis turned out to be futile. Slowly and steadily, it is perishing.59 Particularly, that the view that the old U.S. Army anthrax stockpile was not silica-based, while the fineness of various aerosols of anthrax spores - including Ames - applied by the U.S. Army for experimental infection studies after the U.S. biological weapons arsenal had been eliminated - even if including spray-dried spore powders containing silica - did not at all equal the quality of the SSP. Yet theoretically, some U.S. federal institutions, after fully recognizing the anthrax technology melting pot formed in Iraq (or Russia), might possibly have covertly accomplished the imitation of such a melting pot in the U.S. during the 1990s, and hence could perhaps be in support of the FBI hypothesis. Thus far, this possibility seems to be less likely, however. As the Christian Science Monitor put it: "A recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is an ironic reminder that one of the greatest whodunits in recent history remains a threat to the safety of Americans,"60 while Steven Hatfill, the man labeled by the FBI a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation, has been allowed to go forward with his defamation suit.
ANTHRAX AS PART OF A TECHNICAL INTELLIGENCE ASSAULT AGAINST NON-ISLAMIC COUNTRIES
The anthrax file reflects but one segment of a much broader course. In a sense, it may be regarded as a probe of the exponentially increasing importance of technical intelligence at large. In its widest amplitude, technical intelligence represents an extremely multiform arena. Basically, it is derived from the exploitation of foreign military materials (weapons, equipment, documents, know-how) produced for strategic, operational, and tactical level commanders. Technical intelligence is intended primarily to allow the armed forces to avoid technological surprise. Knowledge of the characteristics and capabilities of enemy weapons allows nations to develop effective countermeasures. Occasionally, however, armed forces adopt the technology developed by foreign nations. The significance of the last option was raised remarkably during recent decades, with respect to critical technologies mastered by foreign states rather panoramically, namely for economical, industrial, and scientific purposes altogether, and for both military and civilian purposes. Many of those critical technologies inevitably bear dual usability, and are steadily being upgraded.
Weapons of mass destruction typically rely on critical technologies. The SSP is but one example, relating, primarily, to processing a given biological warfare agent into a final deliverable substance, whether by postal envelopes (bioterrorism) or by intercontinental surface-to-surface ballistic missiles (the geostrategic factor). Likewise, other critical technologies pertain to chemical weapons and nuclear weapons. Critical nanotechnologies and space technologies reckon to be the two edges of the entire spectrum. Genetic engineering and clever robots may be expected to form into unparalleled critical technologies. Nonetheless, the criticality of a certain technology does not necessarily correlate with its strategic value. Hence, the strategic value (or, inversely, its absence) chiefly shapes the position of a critical technology as a target for technical intelligence assault. Such assaults are gradually becoming common and uncontrollable, thanks to the persistent advancement of science, exploding information spread, and various accelerating globalization phenomena.
Technical intelligence assaults constitute one expression of the prevailing interface between Islamic and non-Islamic countries. Being developing countries, a notable gap marks their technological inferiority, as compared with many non-Islamic countries worldwide. This sensible occurrence regards any interface between developing countries and developed countries, but the "confrontation of civilizations" contributes an additional dimension of paramount importance. At the same time, technological espionage prevails between Islamic and friendly non-Moslem states, such as between Iran and China, for instance. Moreover, institutionalized technology transfer serves as a platform for effective technological espionage. For example, two scientists, affiliated with two collaborating nations, busy in a challenging scientific discussion related to some critical technology will often forget - rather, one of them might - the borderline lying between science and espionage. This may apply equally, however, if they meet in one country's hosting laboratory or at an international scientific conference.
Still, the complexity of the Islamic-non-Islamic interface is further ramified by three factors:
Within the Islamic block, some countries have strong bonds with Western countries, as is the case with Egypt and the United States;
Some Islamic countries have common borders with non-Islamic, critical technologies-mastering countries - as is the case of Azerbaijan-Russia - while those common borders significantly facilitate technological espionage;
Certain Islamic states expand technical intelligence so as to address the protective systems of non-Islamic enemies in order to develop superior offensive systems of their own, as is the case of Iran-Israel, particularly within the WMD sphere.
The key point serving as an apparently unavoidable working hypothesis is that once a critical technology has migrated - through whatever apparatus - onto the Islamic bloc, it is potentially obtainable all over this bloc. Though seemingly a far-reaching generalization, this principle has on many occasions proved expediently practical: Egypt-Iraq (the 1980s), Iran-Syria (up to the present day); Libya-Iran (until recently); Pakistan-Iran (hopefully cut), and so on. This pattern is apt to proliferate if pan-Islamic forces strengthen. The struggle taking place in the Islamic world between fundamentalists and modern-oriented sectors may therefore bear and exhibit remarkable implications.
The Impact of Terrorism
Technical intelligence assaults against non-Islamic countries may be amplified by terrorist organizations - foremost, Islamic ones, naturally - either for their own purposes or in conjunction with Islamic countries. Moslems having Western nationalities might be helpful. Yet, the nonidentity of individual terrorists could rather encourage technological espionage, including the stealing or smuggling of selected materials. But purely state-sponsored intelligence operations of that sort are as likely. A country such as Saudi Arabia, for instance, with its considerable scientific absorptive capacity, latent WMD orientation, and unparalleled mixture of pro-Western attitude and Islamic predisposition, could readily form affinities that would enable effective technical espionage in various Western countries. A variant role applies for the United Arab Emirates, as recently shown.61 Iran, inversely, could similarly address portions of the Russian critical technologies to which it is officially disallowed to gain access. Terrorists, on their own, would doubtfully bother to spy for critical technologies, not having the competence to exploit or duplicate them, but would likely try to obtain subcritical know-how, materials, or devices: advanced explosives, unmanned aerial vehicles, sophisticated toxicants, and other items useful to them.
Extraneous technical intelligence collection is generally conducted by foreign intelligence services, as well as by foreign corporations acting independently of their governments. At times referred to as foreign technological espionage (or spying), it is a major national concern for many non-Islamic countries. Their superiority largely depends upon leadership in high technology research and development. Moreover, they are liable to thus become vulnerable to their own superiority when the latter is military-oriented. In testimony before Congress, then-FBI Director Louis Freeh said the U.S. spends nearly $300 billion a year on basic research, making it "the test lab for the world" and a natural target of U.S. competitors, including some of the nation's former Cold War allies.62 This is true, secondarily, for various non-Islamic states, both Western and others. The foreign intelligence assault on the high technology sector of non-Islamic countries is sometimes called "economic espionage" or "industrial espionage," but these terms should be clarified in two respects:63
Espionage is always illegal, but much intelligence collection today is done by legal or quasi-legal means. Traditional espionage, the use of spies and hidden microphones, is usually only one part of a larger, coordinated intelligence collection program. The formal term now used by the U.S. National Counterintelligence Center is "foreign economic collection and industrial espionage." This term includes both legal information collection and traditional espionage, but it's a bit of a mouthful for everyday use.
Technological espionage implies technological targets and technological consequences in general, but the distinction between technological and military targets has been blurred by rapid advances in technology. Most of the military critical technologies are now dual-use technologies. That is, the same technology has both military and civilian applications. As a result, the loss or compromise of unclassified but proprietary or embargoed technology damages military security as well as civilian infrastructures.
FBI Director Freeh told the Senate committee that the U.S. counterintelligence community has specifically identified the suspicious collection and acquisition activities of foreign entities - either governmental or nongovernmental - from at least 23 countries.64 In addition, the Defense Security Service receives reports from U.S. defense industry contractors concerning suspicious intelligence collection activity by foreign entities. During 2000, defense contractors reported incidents in which representatives from more than sixty different countries displayed some type of suspicious interest in one or more of the eighteen technology categories listed in the Military Critical Technology List - a detailed compendium of information on technologies which the Department of Defense assesses as critical to maintaining superior military capabilities. Outside South America (with the exception of Argentina and Brazil) and Africa (with the exception of South Africa), most non-Islamic countries worldwide are likewise vulnerable, at least in principle. And, aside from the list of vital military technologies, multiple tangential civilian technologies - ostensibly scientific, harmless ones - are highly essential to developing nations.
Technological spying constitutes, in quantitative terms, the minimal dose of foreign technology acquisition - institutionalized, semi-institutionalized, or noninstitutionalized - needed for deciphering or enhancing certain capabilities. It takes place in the form of both hardware and data. The related modes of counterintelligence actions have been similarly categorized.65 Certainly, knowing exactly what classified, proprietary, or other sensitive information Islamic countries are trying to collect, would be helpful, so as to concentrate on protecting that information which is most at risk. Nonetheless, the assumption is that, at best, about 50 percent of the entire range of technological spying currently being conducted is uncovered - frequently only post-factum - by means of counterintelligence activities. Unfortunately, waiting for full exposure of specific espionage events before taking appropriate security measures usually means locking the barn door after the horses have already left. The Military Critical Technology List is, therefore, a basic - and definitely not the only - tool for making decisions about what technology needs to be protected.
Director Freeh reported that foreign collectors are particularly interested in "dual-use technologies and technologies which provide high profitability."66 The U.S. National Counterintelligence Center noted that the extent of foreign interest in specific categories of technology varies dramatically from country to country, and leading-edge technologies are not the only ones being targeted. Countries with less developed industrial sectors often prefer older "off-the-shelf" hardware and software that costs less and is more suitable for integration into their military programs.67
The areas on the Military Critical Technologies List targeted most frequently, according to defense industry reports to the Defense Security Service, are Information Systems Technology, Aeronautics Systems, Sensor and Laser Technology, Electronics, Armaments and Energetic Materials, Marine Systems, and Space Systems.68 Besides, certain subjects categorized as applied physics, chemistry, and biology are occasionally of prime significance.
Many non-Islamic governments, typically that of the U.S., basically support the exchange of technology to facilitate industrial and scientific development in a wide variety of foreign countries, and encourage the free exchange of most scientific and technical information. A rapid increase in foreign industrial and scientific espionage took place after the Cold War. Concomitantly, the confrontation between weapon systems proliferation and deproliferation trends sharpened, and, concurrently, Islamism and terrorism rose. Those factors markedly elevated the vulnerability of non-Islamic countries to technical intelligence assaults.
Nuclear espionage is obviously an arena of considerable concern. Iran's nuclear technological capacities reflect the fairly representative, rather crucial, manner of the technical intelligence assault upon non-Islamic countries - apart from Pakistan, by itself an important supplier of military-oriented nuclear technologies to Iran. The targeted non-Islamic countries and their resources have been Russia, Ukraine, China, North Korea, South Africa, India, Argentina, the U.S., Germany, France, and other parts of Europe. Over time Iran has succeeded in skillfully assembling an assortment of all those resources, thereby becoming very close to developing a capability for manufacturing nuclear weapons. Apparently, none of those countries really noticed what Iran was expediently doing.
Thus, between 665 and 2,000 grams of weapon-grade uranium were stolen from Georgia's Sukhumi nuclear research center around 1995, when a gruesome ethnic conflict took place there, and groups of Chechen gunmen came to support one of the sides. Moreover, the trail of several local experts who left the Sukhumi center in that period led to Teheran. These experts specialized in designing gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment, the sphere in which Iranians badly needed to advance.69
Iranians always prefer to pay experts in cash, but have always made sure there were witnesses to technical intelligence deals, in order to threaten or blackmail those involved in the future. A Russian facility from which Iranians endeavored to obtain laser and other sophisticated technologies for uranium enrichment is the Efremov Institute in Saint Petersburg. In 2003, when a contract with the Efremov Institute was canceled under U.S. pressure, Teheran left all the prepaid sums on the Institute account, for the personal use of some Institute managers. Iranians were quick to learn how to work around export limitations by procuring basic equipment from Russian institutes, and then applying it on the domestic site with cheaper assistance from Chinese scientists.70
Many years of personal contacts with top Iranian nuclear figures (members of the Teheran Nuclear Energy Commission) left a strong impression that the Iranians use shifty techniques to procure forbidden nuclear technologies from the Russians. The Russian counterintelligence apparatus does not deny that, at the beginning of the 1990s, dozens, if not hundreds, of Russian and Ukrainian specialists left, mostly covertly, their home countries to work in Iran on "physics" research. A realistic assumption is that in the chaos of 1992-1995, these specialists eluded Russia's counterintelligence services and, even more, those of Ukraine. Moving to another state of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and receiving a visa there for any Western country was quite a simple matter. But to assume that after 1995-1996 and up to the present time, the Russian counterintelligence service has been unable to plant its agents among these people, even though Iran monitors foreigners very closely, is unrealistic and illogical. The same should be true for some 1,000 students, technicians, and scientists that Teheran has sent to Russia to study nuclear technologies and nuclear physics. The capability of Russian counterintelligence was proven long ago, but its current dependability is questionable,71 because, all in all, it failed to sufficiently hinder Iranian nuclear espionage.
A technical intelligence collection has also been conducted by Iran in the domain of ballistic missiles, with Russia, China, and North Korea being the main resources. The nuclear and ballistic arenas are the cardinal consumers of the yield gained by Iran's technical intelligence assaults against non-Islamic countries. Actually, Russian elements served in some significant cases as unrecognized connecting links between German suppliers and Iran plus Syria. As a counterintelligence move, Berlin has issued a warning to several German firms that Russian criminals have transferred German missile technology to Iran and Syria. The warning identified fifteen Russian entities, including Moscow State Technical University, as being connected to the transfers: "Leading-edge [German] technology sold in a completely legal fashion to Russian enterprises and research institutes has been transmitted immediately to Iranian and Syrian workshops manufacturing missiles."72
ONLY THE BEGINNING
Returning to the anthrax file, the perfect texture of SSP achieved by its constructors thanks to sophisticated technical intelligence operations does not mean that further upgrading of the anthrax pathogen itself is irrelevant. On the contrary; two key technologies effectively practiced in non-Islamic countries are apt to assist such upgrading: genetic engineering, aimed at forming antibiotic resistance, and protein engineering, designed to undermine the regular vaccines used against anthrax. And, in conjunction with the ballistic area, the technical essentials allowing for the resistance of a missile warhead returning to the atmosphere, so that anthrax or other biological agents installed in it would not be damaged by extreme heat or drastic momentum fluctuations.
At any rate, all this is but the tip of the iceberg. Facing an increasing Iranian and Islamist technical intelligence assault, non-Islamic countries must establish effective methods to protect information and materials that are classified, concern - directly or indirectly - militarily critical technologies, are subject to export controls, or are proprietary assets that are the intellectual property of a specific firm or individual.
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61. Swoboda, Frank — “Economic Espionage Rising, FBI Director Tells Congress,” The Washington Post, 29 February 1996.
62. www.dss.mil/search-dir/training/csg/security/T1threat/Economic.htm — Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage
63. — “Threats to U.S. National Security,” Statement for the record before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 28 January 1998
64. Shoham, Dany — “Image versus Reality of Iranian Chemical and Biological Weapons,” International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 2005, pp. 89–141
65. — “Threats to U.S. National Security.”
66. — National Counterintelligence Center, Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, 2000
67. — Defense Security Service, “Technology Collection Trends in the US Defense Industry,” 2001.
68. Kobiakov, Daniil www.pircenter.org/data/news/GZReport061004.pdf — “Territories without Government Control in the Transcaucasus and the WMD Proliferation Problem” (Territorii vne gosudarstvennogo kontrolia v Zakavkazii i problema rasprostranenia OMU), www.pircenter.org/data/news/GZReport061004.pdf, October 2004, PIR Center, Moscow
69. Wolfson, Ze'ev — “The Moscow-Tehran-Damascus Axis under Construction: Nuclear, Terror and Anti-Terror Interests,” Nativ on Line, Vol. 8, October 2005
70. — Ibid
71. — Editorial, “German Firms Warned of Illegal Missile Technology Transfers to Iran, Syria via Third Parties,” Focus Magazine, 2 March 2006
72. Weis, C. P. — “Secondary Aerosolization of Viable Bacillus anthracis Spores in a Contaminated US Senate Office,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 288, No. 22, 11 December 2002, pp. 2853–2858.
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