Are the anthrax attacks a probe of US
bio-terrorism defenses rather than an attempt to inflict
massive casualties? If so, what vulnerabilities has
the probe already demonstrated?
If the 9/11 attack was used as an opportunity (and possibly
a cover) to test the effectiveness of dry, powdered anthrax
bacteria an agent of disruption, the test established:
1) It can be delivered anonymously with a high-degree
of confidence that the sender will not be identified.
Consider the letter-laced bacteria which went to four
high-profile targets: Senators Tom Daschle and and Pat
Leahy, Tom Brokaw at NBC and the NY Post. Despite the
post-marked envelopes and block-written threat-letters
"WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX," US intelligence proved unable
to find where it came from or how it was manufactured.
(The FBI, if anything, added to the cloak of ambiguity
by allowing Iowa State to destroy the family tree of specimens
of the strain, called the Ames Collection.)
2) Even when the anthrax was delivered without an explanatory
letter, US law enforcement did not have the capabilities
to identify the delivery channel.
Consider the 6 cases of anthrax in which no letter was
found: American Media offices Governor Pataki's office,
Kathy T. Nyguyen, the child of a TV producer at ABC, CBS
News office and Mrs.O. Lundgren. All were attributed to
either a missing letter or the, deus ex machina, cross
contamination. But the concept of cross-contamination
means micron-sized bacteria can leap from one medium to
another medium in any direction. They can go not only
from a post office to a home but vice versa. And they
do not have to travel inside an envelope, the Post Office
revealed that they travel also on the outside-- jumping
onto thousands of letters.
There is no reason to assume that the proble was limited
to mail. It could have been extended, for example, to
tabloid newspapers, such as those published by American
Media. Why couldn't the bacteria that killed Nyguyen and
Lundgren, or which was found in the offices of Governor
Pataki and American media, have come from their tabloid
reading? The prober could monitor the progress of a newspaper
test by buying copies of newspapers in different places
and analyzing the spore count.
By monitoring whatever delivery channels that it used--
mail, tabloids, packages, whatever-- the attacker presumably
determined the effectiveness of different modes for future
3) Even a small quantity of spores of inhalation anthrax
can kill people with suppressed auto-immune systems, as
may have happened in the case of Mrs. Lundgren. By demonstrating
this, the prober made it necessary to defend against minute
amounts of anthrax to protect everyone.
4) So paradoxically, while small dosages of dispersed
anthrax is not a lethal threat to most of the general
population, the probe showed it is a threat buildings--
or at least their use. Once anthrax bacteria is detected,
or made manifest by a letter, buildings must be evacuated
and decontaminated to protect the most vulnerable. In
doing so, the bacteria denies vital services and communications..
5) Anthrax can closed down building (or airports, train
stations, etc) for extended time periods. Decontamination
and re-occupation of even highly-valued facilities can
take many months, as has been demonstrated by the successful
attack on the Hart Senate Office Building in October.
The headquarters of American Media, after two months,
remains shut (The RR Donnelly printing plant that prints
the north-east edition of its tablods, as well as the
Lands End catologues for that regain, has not been tested,
as far as I can determine).
6) The US has no immediate vaccine defense against the
threat of economic disruption. The vaccine the US has
developed for anthrax is designed to work against the
Vullam not the Ames strain. So the US does not have a
means of preventing panic in case of a wide scale shut
down of sites and sustained series of attacks. Mass distribution
of Cipro runs the risk of created resistant strains of
The successs of a probe is not the damage it has inflicted,
but the information it provided about US capabilities.
This probe demonstrated that a sustained anthrax attack
could disrupt the movements of goods and people without
taking a huge toll of human deaths, The attacker, moreover,
as long as he maintained his anonymity, need not expect
The probe also serves as a demonstration to the US government.
It showed that an unknown adversary has the technological
capability to mill anthrax to one micron and concentrate
one trillion spores in a single gram. Presumably, an adversary
with such advanced technology could further weaponize
the anthrax, if it choose to do so, by making it resistant
to anti-biotics (as both Russia and US succeeded in doing
four decades ago.) By doing so, it makes it a credible
threat that can be used as a future instrument of extortion