Committed salafist-jihadist Ali Al-Timimi shared a suite with the leading DARPA-funded Ames anthrax researchers.
The United States Government Knew That Al Qaeda Was Seeking To Use Anthrax As A Weapon Against US Targets And So It Was Negligent To Allow Ali Al-Timimi Work Alongside the DARPA-funded Researchers
A laptop evidencing Al Qaeda’s intent on weaponizing anthrax was seized in Baku in July 1998. Two months later, Dr. Ken Alibek, then Program Manager, Battelle Memorial Institute, testified before the Joint Economic Committee on the subject of “Terrorist and Intelligence Operations: Potential Impact on the U.S. Economy” about the proliferation of know-how. Dr. Alibek noted that “[t]here are numerous ways in which Russia’s biological weapons expertise can be proliferated to other countries.” Indeed. Sometimes such proliferation is funded by DARPA and any student who wanted to apply to work in the building could submit an application. One applicant accepted was this Salafist preacher seeing signs of the coming day of judgment and the inevitable clash of civilizations. He had been mentored by the sheik named in Bin Laden’s declaration of war in 1996. In 1999, Al-Timimi had a high security clearance for work for the Navy. His father worked at the Iraqi embassy.
Dr. Alibek testified before the House Armed Services Committee Oversight Panel on Terrorism again in May 2000 about the issue of proliferation of biological weapons. He explained: “Terrorists interested in biological weapons are on the level of state-sponsored terrorist organizations such as that of Osama bin Laden; on the level of large, independent organizations such as Aum Shinrikyo; or on the level of individuals acting alone or in concert with small radical organizations.”
Dr. Alibek in 2003 told me he knew Ali was a hardliner. More recently he described Ali to me as a fanatic. Dr. Alibek explained to the Congressional Committee in May 2000: “When most people think of proliferation, they imagine weapons export. In the case of biological weapons, they picture international smuggling either of ready-made weapons material, or at least of cultures of pathogenic microorganisms. However, this area of proliferation is of the least concern. Even without such assistance, a determined organization could obtain virulent strains of microorganisms from their natural reservoirs (such as soil or animals), from culture libraries that provide such organisms for research purposes, or by stealing cultures from legitimate laboratories.” American Type Culture Collection, the largest microbiologist depository in the world, co-sponsored Ali’s bioinformatics program. Dr. Alibek explained: “The proliferation issue is particularly complex for biological weapons. In many cases, the same equipment and knowledge that can be used to produce biological weapons can also be used to produce legitimate biotechnological products.”
By 2001, Al-Timimi was allowed access to the American Type Culture Collection (“ATCC”), the most diverse microbiological repository in the world and allowed to work alongside staff at the DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense. The Center for Biodefense personnel were working under the largest biodefense award in history. Delta (avirulent) Ames was supplied by NIH and work with virulent Ames was done at Southern Research Institute in Frederick, Maryland under a subcontract.
The lead FBI scientist, Jason Bannan, was the collection scientist for the bacteriology division at ATCC to which Ali Al-TImimi had unfettered access. No vetting was done in allowing access to the largest microbiological collection in the world.
Al-Timimi had supervised Cairo-based militants writing for the Pittsburgh-based Assirat and then for IANA. One of them, Kamal Habib, was the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and a friend of Ayman Zawahiri. The Cairo-based writers Kamal Habib and Gamal Sultan approached the blind sheik Abdel Rahman about starting a political party in early 1999. On March 1 and 2, 1999, Lynne Stewart and translator Yousry visited Abdel Rahman in prison in Rochester, Minnesota and relayed the proposal. On March 6, 1999, the first press reports about anthrax appeared quoting the blind sheik’s Cairo lawyer, Montasser al-Zayat, and two key detainees in a massive trial al-Zayat was defending. Attorney Zayat and the two defendants explained that Ayman likely was going to use anthrax against US targets to retaliate against the rendering and detention of the Egyptian militants.
On March 9, 1999 following the visit in prison at which the political idea had been proposed, Abdel Rahman issued a statement rejecting a proposal that the Islamic Group form a political party in Egypt. That day, the Islamic Group military commander Mustafa Hamza spoke with the blind sheik’s liaison, US Post Office employee Abdel Sattar. The next month, the Blind Sheik’s publicist Sattar spoke with Taha, the IG head close to the Taliban and Bin Laden, in a three-way call with Cairo attorney Al-Zayat. Sattar also spoke on the telephone with Vanguards of Conquest spokesman Al Sirri (based in London). From the beginning, the weaponization of anthrax for use against US targets was inextricably linked to the detention of senior militant Egyptian leaders, including the blind sheik.
Ayman Zawahiri’s brother Muhammad was rendered to Cairo in April 1999. Mamdouh Ismail, Al-Zayat’s co-founder of a key reform party, represented the Al-Zawahiri family in connection with Muhammad’s rendition and detention. Ayman Zawahiri and Muhammad’s sister, Heba, a Pharmacology Professor at Cairo Medical, were concerned that he might be mistreated by Egyptian security services. A recent graduate from the same department, Tarek Hamouda, soon was working alongside Bruce Ivins with virulent Ames at Ft. Detrick.
Bruce Ivins had supplied the virulent Ames strain of anthrax to Ann Arbor researchers. One of the researchers, Dr. Hamouda, obtained his PhD in microbiology from Cairo Medical in 1994. He and his wife came to the United States to settle that year. By 1998, he was working on a DARPA-funded project involving nanoemulsions and a biocidal cream. In December 1999, he and two colleagues travelled to a remote military installation in Utah, Dugway, to test its effectiveness in killing aerosolized anthrax surrogates. An April 2001 report describing testing at Dugway concluded that the best performing decontamination agents were from University of Michigan, Sandia National Laboratories, and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (LLNL). The FBI first was faxed the 16 pages describing the research on March 2005.
- Published December 4, 2012 at 864 × 1073