Wednesday, April 18, 2007

THE LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN

INSTANT POWDERED TERROR - PART I
Adam Larson
Caustic Logic/They Let It Happen
Posted April 18 2007


After the day of 9/11 with its climate of nationwide crisis, confused reports of a dozen hijackings, thwarted attacks elsewhere, the scope and scale of the threat unclear, came a sequence of vulnerable days. The US was still reeling as the death toll solidified, and waiting for a possible second phase of attacks, with experts warning it could be perhaps even deadlier, involving chemical, radiological, or biological weapons But in the weeks after September 11th, nothing that wicked our way came. Things kept making more and more sense, the stock market re-opened, and the fear subsided to a manageable level. As the leaves turned to rusty hues, Americans had just enough time to feel that all was under control if on high alert, the expected retaliation was imminent over Afghanistan, and we had that special post-9/11 familial unity to fill in the gaps and bind the wounds that were just beginning to heal.

Yet it was only days after the devastating attacks that someone somewhere decided it was time to raise the fear level again, and set a chain reaction in motion by dropping deadly samples of weaponized Ames-strain anthrax into several envelopes and sending them through the mail to targets all along the East Coast. The first letter was post-marked September 18, the last, September 25, all headed “9-11-01,” an obvious reference to the days-old attack.

On October 2nd the first victim of the ‘thrax, a photo editor for American Media Inc. named Robert Stevens, was hospitalized in Boca Raton, Florida, his symptoms unknown. (American Media, Inc. is the nation’s leading tabloid publisher, responsible for the National Enquirer, the National Examiner, the Sun, the Star, and Stevens’ paper the Globe.) His diagnosis of inhalation anthrax was made public the following day, and he died on the fifth. As the Florida-shaped “Terrorland” map grew another dot of oddity, the nation at large gasped – no one had died in the U.S. from anthrax in over twenty years.

The cause was uncertain, and the CDC seemed baffled, but less than a month after Al Qaeda’s masterpiece, it didn’t look good. There was speculation as to whether al Qaeda was involved, and investigators checked “materials left behind” by the 9/11 hijackers for traces of Anthrax. (We’ll retirn to hijacker/Anthrax crossover evidence in another post and after some more research). While no such direct link was reported, it was noted by CNN that “Stevens lived about a mile from an air strip where Mohamed Atta […] rented planes,” with the vague implication that he was perhaps exposed to anthrax through his glancing proximity to the plot’s ringleader and lead pilot. [1] Perhaps his living near Atta’s airfield was a factor in his demise and not simply a bizarre coincidence. There are certainly some things that “inquiring minds want to know” that the either the hijackers or the powers behind Shadow 9/11 don’t want them to know. As much of a stretch as that is, If the 9/11 hijackers had been messing with anthrax too, people reasoned, that was scary. It was later proven that Stevens was instead exposed in his workplace, through a piece of mail that would soon be just a point in the emerging pattern of attacks.

From Boca Raton, the chaos rapidly spread to the more reputable media, with anthrax turning up in the offices of CBS News, where an assistant to Dan Rather was exposed. Spores turned up at ABC News, where an employee’s baby was infected, but treated early. Anthrax was sent to NBC News, where an intern for Tom Brokaw was infected. Brokaw was composed but visibly quite pissed on the news that night. The press was targeted also; spores turned up at the Washington Post and the New York Post.

In all several dozen were infected or exposed, and five people in the general public died; Stevens in Florida, a New York hospital worker, an elderly woman in Connecticut, and two Washington-area letter carriers. As October wore on, with these deaths along with dozens of infections reported one by one, Cipro became a household word, anthrax a nation-wide concern – every white powder or any unknown substance at all was suddenly reason for a 911 call. Susan Watts, science editor for the BBC program Newsnight, summed it up that the anthrax attack “was second only to that on the Twin Towers in the degree of shock and anxiety it caused...Some even say the anthrax letters triggered sub-clinical hysteria in the American people.” [2]

The attack also hit home in Congress. On October 15, Tom Daschle, the South Dakota Democrat recently named Senate Majority Leader, received a crudely written letter packed with white powder that tested positive for anthrax. One of his staffers was exposed, but not infected. Daschle’s letter had announced an anthrax attack on the Senate, the only part of the government no longer under Republican control. Parts of eight floors of the Hart Senate office building were evacuated for cleanup. A government source told CNN the anthrax in Daschle’s letter was "high grade, very virulent and sophisticated." [3] These sophisticated terrorists then wrote, apparently in Cray-on, “9-11-01. YOU CANNOT STOP US. WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX. YOU DIE NOW. ARE YOU AFRAID?” The crudely-written, caps-locked letter closed with the lines “DEATH TO AMERICA. DEATH TO ISRAEL. ALLAH IS GREAT.” “Clearly, they were trying to kill somebody,” Daschle told CNN of the unknown sender(s). “What this says to me is that there is an orchestrated effort under way, and that it may hit again. So we need to be ready for it.” [4] Mail in the Senate mail room was sequestered in barrels for inspection, which eventually turned up a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, another Democratic powerbroker, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in charge of approving the President’s judicial nominees. The anthrax in it, the handwriting (TAKE PENACILIN NOW), the closing, and the return address (Greendale School 4th Grade) were identical to the Daschle letter.

The letter to Leahy (D-VT)
The House of Representatives closed its doors on October 17th for a precautionary environmental inspection. Two days later, the Senate closed its doors also. Everyone was evacuated out of their familiar surroundings, as Representative “Butch” Otter (R-Idaho) described it, and the House completely suspended proceedings for this time. It was an unexpected and unsettling, half-week vacation that gave them perhaps a unique perspective on the next task on their agenda.

The Congress came back in when the House and Senate buildings were deemed safe and re-opened on October 22nd. The USA PATRIOT Act was first proposed by Rep James Sensenbrenner the following day. Under fear of germ death, the Congress quickly and overwhelmingly approved the sweeping grant of power to the Justice Department the same day. Objections were lodged, but overruled and passed by yhe House of the 24th, the Senate on the 25th, and was signed into law by President Bush on the 26th. The New York Times reported that “members rose to say that almost no one had read the new bill, and pleaded for more time and more deliberation.... the chairman of the Rules Committee, Representative David Dreier (R – CA) replied jokingly that voting out of ignorance was “not unprecedented.” [5] The vote stood, just a month and a half after 9/11.

It’s clear, then, who benefited from the anthrax attack on the congressional end, but the obvious conclusion was simply too dark to look at. So speculation began, its breathless intensity compensating for its lack of logic.

2 comments:

THE ALL-SEEING i said...

More great analysis, CL. I think there's potentially much more to this (see u2u at ATS).

Robert Stevens may not have been a random target but the primary target, based upon knowledge he had acquired a short while before he died.

What did sort of journalism he specialise in...?

Caustic Logic said...

Thanks for the comment, it's been a while...

From what I gather he was just a photo editor. So he wouldn't directly break stories.
Maybe he knew people - I'm not sure this connects back or not. It seems it might - why target randomly? Dems in Congress, the media, and then Stevens and that old lady? Did either of them harbor secrets? If so they're still secret from me...