Key Anthrax Plotters Have Been Captured Or Killed
Note: This is a copy of a 2004 article by upstate NY Attorney Ross Getman; reprinted with his specific permission.The article was reviewed in light of former CIA Director George Tenet's book.Opinions expressed are those of the author.
The December 15, 2004 Washington Post editorial "Anthrax Killer At Large" is basically sound and certainly well-intentioned. The editorial argues that it is worrisome that the person or persons responsible for the anthrax mailings has not been caught-- and suggests that it is a measure of our homeland security effort.
But consider an opposing view. The CIA and FBI has killed, detained or otherwise neutralized members of a provable Al Qaeda/Egyptian Islamic Jihad anthrax conspiracy and the press just has not noticed. (For example, not only was key planner Atef killed, but those captured have included KSM, Hambali, Yazid Sufaat, bacteriologist Abdul Qadus Khan, and the Blind Sheikh's son on the WMD committee -- as well as various likely US-based supporters. Indeed, one might one instead view Amerithrax as a huge though yet unheralded success -- unheralded because there is still work left to do.
Might the fact that there has been no anthrax attack be a silent testament to the effectiveness of the effort? Of course, if someone like Dr. Hatfill or Dr. Berry were responsible, there is little future threat from the same perpetrators because there would be no motive. Indeed, I'd say the FBI and CIA and Postal Inspectors are doing a thorough job notwithstanding the media's obliviousness to their not-so-secret successes related to an Al Qaeda conspiracy to use weaponized anthrax against the US.
In early June 2003, a Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") report publicly disclosed that the reason for Mohammed Atta's and Zacarias Moussaoui's inquiries into cropdusters was for the contemplated use in dispersing biological agents such as anthrax. An early September 2003 Newsweek article included a rumor by a Taliban source that at a meeting in April 2003 Bin Laden was planning an "unbelievable" biological attack, the plans for which had suffered a setback upon the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed ("KSM"). He had been captured the previous month in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. In November 2003, a report by a UN Panel of experts concluded that Al Qaeda is determined to use chemical and biological weapons and is restrained only by technical difficulties.
In a statement issued June 16, 2004, the 9/11 Commission Staff concluded that "Al Qaeda had an ambitious biological weapons program and was making advances in its ability to produce anthrax prior to September 11. According to Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet," al Qaeda’s ability to conduct an anthrax attack is one of the most immediate threats the United States is likely to face." On August 9, 2004, it was announced that in the Spring of 2001, a man named El-Shukrijumah, also known as Jafar the Pilot, who was part of a "second wave," had been casing New York City helicopters. Photographs from a seized computer disc included the controls and the locks on the door between the passengers and pilot. In a bulletin, the FBI noted that the surveillance might relate to a plot to disperse chemical or biological weapon.
The CIA reportedly has been quietly building a case that the anthrax mailings were an international plot. This is old news. It's just no longer bureaucratically impolite to openly contest the FBI's (former) theory about a lone, American scientist. Many people have argued that a US-based Al Qaeda operative is behind the earlier Fall 2001 anthrax mailings in the US, and that the mailings served as a threat and warning. Princeton islamist scholar Bernard Lewis has explained that while islamists may disagree about whether killing innocents is sanctioned by the laws of jihad, extremists like Zawahiri agree that notice must be given before biochemical weapons are used. The anthrax mailings followed the pattern of letters they sent in January 1997 to newspaper branches in Washington, D.C. and New York City, as well as symbolic targets. The letter bombs were sent in connection with the detention of the blind sheikh Abdel Rahman and those responsible for the earlier World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
Handwritten notes and files on a laptop seized upon the capture of KSM, Al Qaeda's #3, included a feasible anthrax production plan using a spray dryer and addressed the recruitment of necessary expertise. What your morning paper did not tell you, however, was that the CIA seized a similar disc from Ayman Zawahiri's right-hand, Ahmed Salama Mabruk, 5 years earlier. The computer disk was confiscated from him during his arrest by the CIA in Azerbaijan and handed over to the Egyptian authorities. Mabruk, at the time, was the head of Jihad's military operations. There is a risk that observers underestimate the time that Al Qaeda has had to make progress in such recruitment and research and development.
Some may still think that even in the final stages of the 9/11 plot, Zacarias Moussaoui was going to fly a 5th plane into the Capitol or White House. Others argue that he was to be part of a second wave of airliners directed to targets on the West Coast. There is an e-mail by Moussaoui, however, dated July 31, 2001 indicating that he sought to take a crop dusting course that was to last up to 6 months. In March 2003, Mohammed reportedly said that Moussaoui was not going to be part of 9/11 but was to be part of a "second wave." Although Ramzi Binalshibh provided him $14,000 in July, accused September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui told his trial judge that he had an al Qaeda mission that would have come after the terrorist attacks. KSM explained that Moussaoui's inquiries about crop dusters may have been related to the anthrax work being done by US-trained biochemist and Al Qaeda operative, Malaysian Yazid Sufaat. Zacarias Moussaoui, never the sharpest tool in the shed and thought by his superiors to be unreliable, has told the judge at his trial in a filing that he wants "anthrax for Jew sympathizer only." Al Qaeda's regional operative, Hambali, who was at a key January 2000 meeting and supervised Sufaat, has been captured. Hambali reportedly is cooperating to some degree. KSM and Hambali sent al-Hindi (al-Britani), along with Jafar the Pilot, to case NYC targets for a second wave. It was as part of that surveillance in early 2001 that Jafar the Pilot studied tourist helicopters in the NYC area.
Sufaat, according to both KSM and Hambali, did not have the virulent US Army Ames strain that would be used. That would require someone who had access to the strain. But if experience is any guide, nothing would stand in the way of Dr. Ayman Zawahiri's decade-long quest to weaponize and use anthrax against US targets that was described by one confidante to an Egyptian newspaper reporter. The islamist had been released from Egyptian prison and had known Zawahiri well for many years. Emails from Zawahiri to Atef in the Spring of 1999 indicate that Ayman was a close student of the USAMRIID anthrax program. He believed that the koran instructed that a jihadist should use the weapons used by the crusader. "What we know is that he's always said it was a religious obligation to have the same weapons as their enemies," former CIA OBL unit counterterrorism chief Michael Scheuer has said. The Wall Street Journal reported that a computer used by Zawahiri contains a June 1999 memo that "said the program should seek cover and talent in educational institutions, which it said were 'more beneficial to us and allow easy access to specialists, which will greatly benefit us in the first stage, God willing.''
Zawahiri was associated with a faction of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad known as the Vanguards of Conquest. Zawahiri and the Vanguards of Conquest were seeking to recreate Mohammed's taking of mecca by a small band through violent attacks on Egyptian leaders. By 1998, Zawahiri had determined that the Egyptian Islamic Jihad should focus on its struggle against the United States and hold off on further attacks against the Egyptian regime.
A key question is how they acquired the anthrax strain first isolated by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab in 1980. According to senior counterterrorism officials, both here and abroad, among the supporters of these militant islamists were people who blended into society and were available to act when another part of the network requested it.
A few days before Christmas 2003, after a renewed audiotape threat by Zawahiri of attacks, to include in the US homeland, the threat level was raised to orange or "high." After the alert condition had long since returned to yellow, Zawahiri in late February issued another audiotape. He urged the President that brigades and brigades would be coming under the banner of jihad carrying death and seeking paradise. Zawahiri said that the US should expect another 9/11 on US soil. According to some reports, Zawahiri is thought by intelligence to be somewhere near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. At one time, some thought he had been spotted in Iran. Wherever he is, authorities need to focus on the traceable connection between him and those he or Atef recruited.
In October 2001, did the FBI profilers know of the draft message Khalid Mohammed had on the seized laptop (from 1995) that was signed "Khalid Sheikh Bojinka"? The letter threatened to use biochemical weapons if the blind sheikh was not released. (Khalid Mohammed's involvement dates back to Bojinka, as does Hambali's). Use of biochemical weapons as blackmail and threatened retaliation for such detentions was an alternative scenario in the Bojinka planning.
In May 2004, Patrick Hughes, Lieutenant General (Retired), Assistant Secretary for Information Analysis, Homeland Security Department testified before the 9/11 Commission. He explained that interrogations and other evidence revealed that Al Qaeda wanted to strike the US with a nonconventional weapon, most notably anthrax. The same week, the WTC head testified that while they had not received any briefing on the use of planes, they had taken steps to prepare for an attack using anthrax based on intelligence that had been received.
Al Qaeda has had anthrax, the raw seed product in its unweaponized form, since at least 1997, when it was purchased by Bin Laden through the Moro Islamic Liberation Front ("Moro Front" or "MILF"). Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's #2, is head of Al Qaeda's biochemical program. The CIA has known of Zawahiri's plans to use anthrax for a half decade. The confidante and right-hand man of Dr. Ayman Zawahiri admitted that Zawahiri succeeded in obtaining anthrax and intended to use it against US targets. Another senior Al Qaeda member (a shura or policy-making council member no less) was working for the Egyptian intelligence services and he confirmed the report in a sworn lengthy confession. Even Zawahiri's attorney in 1999 said that Bin Laden and Zawahiri were likely to resort to the biological and chemical agents they possessed given the extradition pressure senior Al Qaeda leaders faced. A recently released islamist who had been a close associate of Zawahiri said that Zawahiri spent a decade and had made 15 separate attempts to recruit the necessary expertise to weaponize anthrax in Russia and the Middle East. The US Army recipe was not used, and obtaining the unprocessed Ames strain of anthrax used does not warrant the weight given it by some press accounts. There was lax control over the distribution of the Ames strain that was used, especially in light of the fact that transfers were not even required to be recorded prior to 1997. Significantly, the individual who isolated it nearly a quarter century ago (now retired), upon being contacted, does not even report that he necessarily sent the only copy of the strain to Ft. Detrick. Senator Patrick Leahy at a Congressional hearing in the Spring of 2002 noted that the FBI had collected the Ames strain from 20 sources. In Fall 2004, MSNBC, relying on an unnamed FBI spokesperson, reports that the FBI has narrowed the pool of labs known to have had Ames that was a match from 16 to 4 but cannot rule out that it was made overseas.
Al Qaeda's anthrax production plans on Khalid Mohammed's computer did not evidence knowledge of advanced techniques in the most efficient biological weapons. At least according to the public comments by bioweaponeer experts William Patrick and Kenneth Alibek, under the optimal method, there is no electrostatic charge. In the case of the anthrax used in the mailings, there was an electrostatic charge. Although there was a dominance of single spores and a trillion spore concentration, there were clumps as large as 40 - 100 microns. (Spores must be no bigger than 5 microns to be inhalable.) Many point to the trillion spore concentration as extraordinary. It is far simpler, however, to achieve a trillion spore concentration in the production of a few grams than in industrial processing typical of a state sponsored lab. The "trillion spore" issue was at the heart of a lot of mistaken theories of the matter concluding that state sponsorship was necessarily indicated. The reported finding at Dugway undermines the argument of both the "bomb Iraq" crowd and the liberals focused on Dr. Steve Hatfill who object to US biodefense research because they view it as being useful for offensive purposes.
USDA employee Johnelle Bryant first told us, in sensational detail, of Atta's inquiries about purchasing and retrofitting a cropduster. Khalid Mohammed then told interrogators that Zacarias Moussaoui's inquiries about crop dusting may have related to Yazid Sufaat's anthrax manufacturing plans. Although the details of the documents on Mohammed's computer may (or may not) point to possible difficulties in aerial dispersal, they are fully consistent with the product used in the anthrax mailings. Al Qaeda had both the means and opportunity.
US-trained Malaysian biochemist Yazid Sufaat met with 9/11 plotters and two hijackers in January 2000. Sufaat was a member of Al Qaeda and a member of Jemaah Islamiah ("JI"). JI has ties with the Moro Front. Sufaat used his company called Green Laboratory Medicine to buy items useful to Al Qaeda. (Green symbolizes "Islam" and Prophet Mohammed's holy war). Zacarias Moussaoui, who had a crop dusting manual when he was arrested, stayed at Sufaat's condominium in 2000 when he was trying to arrange for flight lessons in Malaysia. Yazid Sufaat provided Moussaoui with a letter indicating that he was a marketing representative for Infocus Technologies and allegedly provided him $35,000. The crop dusters were to be part of a "second wave."
After 9/11, Yazid Sufaat traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to work for the Taliban Medical Brigade and to continue his work with anthrax. As described in US News, a former reporter from the Kabul Times actually may have met Sufaat, without realizing it, while traveling near Kabul in October 2001, perceiving him as Filipino. The fellow was carrying papers from Zawahiri and bragging about his ability to manipulate anthrax. Sufaat was arrested in December 2001 upon his return to Malaysia. Newsweek reported that a "second wave" involving biological attacks had been thwarted upon the arrest of Al Qaeda members who had been intended to provide logistical support.
Various doctors, both foreign and American, are associated with Al Qaeda leaders or operatives, to include the doctors Abdul Qadoos Khan, a bacteriologist from Rawalpindi and Aafia Siddiqui, PhD, from Karachi. Microbiologist Abdul Qadoos Khan was charged along with his son, Ahmed, for harboring the fugitives. As of March 28, 2003, he was in a hospital for a cardiac problem and had been granted "pre-arrest bail." Yet all you read about at the time was the arrest of the son Ahmed Abdul Qadoos, who receives a stipend from the UN for being officially low-IQ due to lead poisoning.
It was Khalid Mohammed who told authorities about Aafia Siddiqui, who has a PhD from Brandeis in neurology. The Pakistani press reported that she was nabbed in Karachi after being spotted at the airport in late March or early April 2003. If mistaken, how did those reports first come about? Understandably, Amerithrax is a confidential investigation. The Pakistan ISI and CIA rarely grant press interviews in connection with an ongoing manhunt. The CIA did not even allow the FBI access to KSM for 10 days after his arrest. As agent Van Harp, then head of the Amerithrax investigation said, the information coming from Khalid Mohammed is classified with the authorities releasing only certain limited information. While it's not easy to separate fact from fiction, Attorney General Ashcroft and Director Mueller have publicly confirmed Aafia is still being sought. They would know.
Her mother Ismat last saw Aafia and her grandchildren before they left in a minicab at the end of March. Aafia was on her way with her children to visit and uncle and a friend in Islamabad. According to the Pakistan reports, Aafia Siddiqui was detained after being spotted at Karachi International airport (after she was followed to a relative's house). (Karachi is in the south). The reports say she is suspected of having been a member of Al Qaeda's "Chemical Wire Group." The family's lawyer advises me that Aafia did not have enough money to pay for airfare tickets for herself and the kids and called Ismat from the train station. That was the last Ismat heard from her. Aafia never reached the uncle's house. Perhaps something got lost in the translation, but the phrase "Chemical Wire Group" has appeared in all the english Pakistan and India papers. The family's attorney advises me that Aafia had no knowledge of chemicals (and that would not appear to be her training).
There still is a very hot pursuit of the "Atta-level" Floridian, Adnan El Shukrijumah, who Siddiqui is thought to have known and been assisting. His nickname is "Jafar the Pilot." A senior DOJ official reports that Adnan has experience as a commercial pilot. He is said by one FBI agent to be "very, very, very" dangerous. He allegedly was at one or more meetings in the Summer of 2001 in Pakistan at which KSM and Sufaat were present. He may have been seen in Hamilton, Canada -- along with Egyptian al-Maati, who apparently also has received pilot training. The United States truly no longer has time for faulty analysis or politically-based preconceptions. In early June 2003, a CIA report concluded that the reason for Atta's and Zacarias Moussaoui's inquiries into cropdusters was in fact for the contemplated use in dispersing biological agents such as anthrax. It has long been known Osama Bin Laden was interested in using cropdusters to disperse biological agents (since the testimony of millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam).
The hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi appears to have contracted cutaneous anthrax in Afghanistan. It is reasonable to credit his statement that he got the lesion after bumping into a suitcase he was carrying at a camp in Afghanistan. The lesion is further evidence of Al Qaeda's anthrax production program at Kandahar.
One potential lead concerned a Fort Lee New Jersey $100,000 processor possibly of a type that could have been used to weaponize the anthrax. The processor was paid for in cash after a check-kiting scheme. The processor was delivered to a business front in Ft. Lee at 215 Main St. The address was 1 mile from pilot Nawaf al-Hazmi at 96 Linwood Plaza, one of the two hijackers who had attended the January 2000 meeting with anthrax technician Yazid Sufaat. Nawaf Al-Hamzi and Khalid Almidhar stayed at Yazid Sufaat's condominium outside Kuala Lumpur. It eventually was determined that these two were on a level comparable to Atta for planning purposes.
The present evidence relating to Atta's alleged travel to Prague does not warrant a conclusion that Al Qaeda obtained the Ames strain from Iraq. Iraq, however, remains a possible source of the Ames. Former Russian bioweaponeer Ken Alibek has said that a key Russian scientist assisted Iraq and that Russia had the Ames strain. (His conclusion may have been based on the fake mobile biolab plans foisted upon the US by the Chalabi associate "Curveball", which Alibek divined to be identical to Russian mobile lab design). Zawahiri did travel to Baghdad in 1998 with an entourage to attend the birthday party of Saddam's son. The papers found at headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Iraq's secret police, show that an entourage from Al Qaeda group was sent to the Iraqi capital in March 1998 from Sudan. According to at least some reports, Bin Laden rejected the suggestion of a closer alliance -- preferring to pursue his own concept of jihad. Two top Iraqi scientists, code named Charlie and Alpha, are helping the coalition to learn more about Iraqi's anthrax program, according to Dr. David Kay, head of the Iraq survey group in charge of the hunt for WMD. He has said that the Iraqis made surprising innovations in the milling and drying processes needed to weaponize anthrax.
The media coverage has been seriously confused on the issue of motive and the reason Senators Daschle and Leahy would have been targeted -- tending to simplistically view them as "liberals." Zawahiri likely targeted Senators Daschle and Leahy to receive anthrax letters, in addition to various media outlets, because of the appropriations made pursuant to the "Leahy Law" to military and security forces. That money has prevented the militant islamists from achieving their goals. Al Qaeda members and sympathizers feel that the FBI's involvement in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines interferes with the sovereignty of those countries.
According to a post she made on the internet, Aafia Siddiqui expressed the same sentiment in connection with US appropriations sought in exchange for the extradition of WTC 1993 plotter Ramzi Yousef from Pakistan. Senator Leahy was Chairman of both the Judiciary Committee overseeing the FBI and Appropriations Subcommittee in charge of foreign aid to these countries. In late September 2001, it was announced that the President was seeking a blanket waiver that would lift all restrictions on aid to military and security units in connection with pursuing the militant islamists. This extradition and imprisonment of Al Qaeda leaders, along with US support for Israel and the Mubarak government in Egypt, remains foremost in the mind of Dr. Zawahiri. At the height of the development of his biological weapons program, his brother was extradited pursuant to a death sentence in the "Albanian returnees" case (now he faces retrial). It's hard to keep up with the stories about billion dollar appropriations, debt forgiveness, and loan guarantees to countries like Egypt and Israel and now even Pakistan. Those appropriations pale in comparison to the many tens of billions in appropriations relating to the invasion of Iraq. Al Qaeda had a motive in mind.
In his Fall 2001 book titled Knights under the Banner of the Prophet, Zawahiri argued that the secular press was telling "lies" about the militant islamists -- to include the suggestion that the militant islamists were somehow the creation of the United States in connection with expelling the Russians from Afghanistan. Zawahiri argued instead that they have been active since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in Egypt because of the Camp David Accord and the resulting peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The anthrax letters were sent on the date of the Camp David Accord and then the date Anwar Sadat was assassinated as if to underscore the point to anyone paying attention. Most of the "talking heads" on television, however, knew only that Daschle and Leahy were liberal democrats and did not know anything of Al Qaeda beyond what they read in the US newspapers. The FBI's profile includes a US-based supporter of the militant islamists. Attorney General Ashcroft explained that an "either-or" approach is not useful. The media has tended to overlook the fact that when the FBI uses the word "domestic" the word includes a US-based, highly-educated supporter of the militant islamists.
There is an emerging consensus that anthrax was contained in a letter to AMI, the publisher of the National Enquirer -- in a goofy love letter to Jennifer Lopez enclosing a Star of David and proposing marriage. A report by the Center for Disease Control of interviews with AMI employees (as well as detailed interviews by author Leonard Cole) supports the conclusion that there were not one, but two, such mailings containing anthrax. (The letters were to different AMI publications -- one to the National Enquirer and another to The Sun). (News assistant Bobby Bender recalls the letter containing the items to have been addressed to The Sun.)
This tactic of letters is not merely the modus operandi of these militant islamists inspired by Zawahiri, it is their signature. The islamists sent letter bombs in January 1997 to newspaper offices in New York City and Washington, D.C.. They were sent in connection with the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center and the imprisonment of the blind sheik, Sheik Abdel Rahman. The former leader of the Egyptian Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya ("Islamic Group"), he was also a spiritual leader of Al Qaeda. The letter bombs were sent in connection with the treatment of the Egyptian islamists imprisoned for the earlier attack on the WTC and a related plot. The purpose of the letter bombs -- which resulted in minimal casualty -- was to send a message. (There initially was an outstanding $2 million reward -- under the rewards for justice program, the reward now is up to $5 million.). There was no claim of responsibility. There was no explanation. Once one had been received, the next ten, mailed on two separate dates, were easily collected. Sound familiar? Two bombs were also sent to Leavenworth, where a key WTC 1993 defendant was imprisoned, addressed to "Parole Officer." (The position does not exist).
Abdel Rahman's son was captured in Quetta, Pakistan in mid-February 2003. That arrest in turn led to the dramatic capture of Khalid Mohammed, Al Qaeda's #3. Mohammed allegedly was hiding in the home of the Pakistani bacteriologist Dr. Abdul Qadoos Khan. Along with Zawahiri, Abdel Rahman and his two sons have had considerable influence over Bin Laden. He reportedly treated them like sons. Although while in jail in the early 1980s, Zawahiri caused considerable tension by challenging the blind sheik's ability to lead a coalition of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Egyptian Islamic Group, Zawahiri and OBL are Rahman's friends. The imprisoned WTC 1993 plotter Yousef was KSM's nephew. Thus, the leaders in charge of Al Qaeda's anthrax production program had a close connection to those imprisoned in connection with the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center. According to the controversial "Feith memo," which summarized purported intelligence showing an Iraqi/Al Qaeda connection, Osama Bin Laden had asked Iraqi intelligence for technical assistance in sending letter bombs a half year before the Al Hayat letters were sent.
Just because Al Qaeda likes its truck bombs and the like to be effective does not mean they do not see the value in a deadly missive. As Brian Jenkins once said, "terrorism is theater." A sender purporting to be islamist sent cyanide in both early 2002 and early 2003 in New Zealand and ingredients of nerve gas in Belgium in 2003. There's even a chapter titled "Poisonous Letter" in the Al Qaeda manual.
The mailer's use of "Greendale School" as the return address for the letters to the Senators is revealing. A May 2001 letter that Zawahiri sent to Egyptian Islamic Jihad members abroad establish that Zawahiri used "school" as a code word for the Egyptian militant islamists in his correspondence. Green symbolizes Islam and was the Prophet Mohammed's color. By Greendale School, the anthrax perp was being cute, just as Yazid Sufaat was being cute in naming his lab Green Laboratory Medicine. "Dale" means "river valley." Greendale likely refers to green river valley -- i.e., Cairo's Egyptian Islamic Jihad or the Islamic Group. The sender probably is announcing that he is of either Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Egyptian Islamic Group or Jihad-al Qaeda, which is actually the full name of the group after the merger of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda. At the Darunta complex where jihadis trained, recruits would wear green uniforms, except for Friday when they were washed.
As to opportunity, though seldom reported, there is a wealth of "open source" information about possible Al Qaeda or Egyptian Islamic Jihad or Egyptian Islamic Group in the United States and Canada. The public information mostly relates to those suspected sleepers who have been detained or who are at large and are being sought. Zawahiri's mission in the United States in 1995 was to do spadework for terrorism, not fundraising for charitable causes. He traveled under an alias and was accompanied by a former US Army sergeant named Ali Mohammed. What mosques exactly did they visit and who did they meet?
Whatever your political persuasion, the FBI and CIA deserve our support. We are, after all, in this together. First, the nature of such an investigation is that we lack sufficient information to second-guess (or even know) what the FBI is doing. Media reports are a poor approximation of reality because of the lack of good sources. Second, hindsight is 20/20. Third, with the "new age" Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. in charge of the investigation, it is not likely we could do better in striking the appropriate balance between due process and national security.
Finally, the "Hatfill theory" seems to have been exhausted or at least lost public favor. The "Hatfill theory" accusing Dr. Stephen Hatfill was always highly dubious. The suspicion was founded on many false premises, and there was no reliable publicly known evidence indicating his guilt. The FBI's fixation on Hatfill (at least as rumored by some reporters) may have stemmed from a warning by one Senator that careers hung in the balance. Leahy's chief of staff apparently started with the strong predisposition that some right-winger was involved because two liberal democrats had been targeted. The Hatfill theory -- to include ongoing interviews and ongoing 7/24 surveillance by 8 surveillance specialists -- is now the subject of a pending civil rights and libel claims of uncertain merit. A suit against the New York Times and columnist Nicholas Kristof was dismissed in late November 2004. The judge had agreed to delay the civil rights matter from proceeding until at least October 2004. The judge, now frustrated by the apparent lack of progress, is now encouraging that the parties reach a negotiated compromise that would permit some limited discovery to proceed (and the judge has directed that the government to file an Answer to the Complaint). The Hatfill Theory ironically might best be understood as an Al Qaeda theory, with a coincidental Malaysian connection adding to the other circumstances. Given the regrettable leaks that he was under suspicion, it is only fair that the FBI leak with equal enthusiasm the fact that Dr. Hatfill has now been dropped as a suspect if and when that proves to be the case. A seach of Dr. Ken Berry's residences likely will prove just about the last gasp of a biodefense insider theory. Senior officials have been quoted in the press as saying that the searches were for the purpose of excluding him as much as including him.