[Last update: 23 October 2001]

What is the Reason Behind the Anthrax Attacks?

by douglas foxvog

The more i tried to figure out what was going on with the anthrax attacks the less sense it made. So i started analyzing what the possible reasons would be for the sort of attacks that have been occurring. I have been extremely surprised with the direction the analysis has turned.

So what do we know so far? We know that militarized anthrax spores (those milled to 1-5 microns and prepared so as not to clump together) have been mailed initially to the media and then, after there has been a lot of media play, to politicians. The letters may all have come from New Jersey. [One envelope was originally reported being sent to a Microsoft office in Nevada in a letter postmarked Malaysia. This envelope was later reported as not containing anthrax.]

We know that the letter to Senator Daschle's office exposed many people, but that which was received by the Sun exposed few, even though both contained militarized spores of the same strain.

We know that the disease caused by the common anthrax bacterium is easily prevented and treated by common antibiotics. We know that if treatment is started in time, there is no danger to the exposed person. We know that all of the spore samples are from the same treatable strain of anthrax. We know that forms of anthrax have been bioengineered to be unaffected by common antibiotics. We know that the US government says it has not produced such strains. We know that the US has been concerned that the USSR and Iraq had worked on such strains. We know that such strains were not used. We know that anthrax is not contagious.

We know that militarized anthrax has been publicly recognized as having been produced only by the US, the Soviet Union, and Iraq. We know that it is a difficult procedure to produce militarized anthrax.

We know that many copy-cat letters have been received, posted in many different locations, which contain powder, but not anthrax.

We know that the Bush administration is being very careful not to accuse al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, or even Iraq of these attacks, while it makes accusations about the September 11 attacks without providing evidence.

It is immediately obvious upon opening one of the letters that the sender is indicating to the recipient that the letter may be a bio-attack. This is especially so to the media which had been reporting on the possibility of bioterrorism even before the anthrax started being disseminated, and who, after the first cases were announcing what sort of mail to be suspicious about. The first recipient did not have the knowledge of other recent attacks, but did work for a tabloid that probably had printed previous bio-terror articles. Unfortunately he ignored the suspicious letter that powder dumped out of. Apparently that letter had far fewer spores than that delivered to the Senate at the height of the Anthrax scare, since only one other person was evidently exposed, while near 30 were exposed in the Senate.

Whomever is sending out these spores is using high-tech spores but distributing them in a low tech way that is easy to detect. The letter to Senator Daschle's office even said "anthrax". If the senders wanted to kill people, they could have put the anthrax in a subway station such that each passing train would keep the spores in the air, and the hundreds or thousands of people who passed through that station would inhale the spores. Symptoms would pop up in a wide variety of places, and by the time it was determined that the disease was anthrax, it would be too late to treat.

So whoever is distributing the anthrax is not trying to kill anyone (other than possibly the first victim). By attacking the media, it was assured that a lot of the news coverage and analysis presented by the media would spend a large amount of time on bioterrorism. Since a lot of time would also be spent on the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, particularly the US overseas response and New York City topics, that leaves hardly any time for any other subject to be analyzed in a news show.

Copy-cat letters were to be expected. The media has been covering them as well.

The heavy media coverage of the anthrax attacks has caused many citizens to be scared and more supportive of striking back at terrorists.

My analysis is that there are two possible reasons for the ongoing anthrax attack.

  • The first attack was an intended murder, while the other attacks are designed to throw the investigators off the personal murder angle.

  • The point of the anthrax attacks is to have the media focused on bioterrorism -- as well as the external US response -- while avoiding any casualties in the US. This focus could be intended to keep coverage off of other matters; it could be intended to make bioterrorism a major issue; it could be intended to keep the US public scared and therefore more supportive of the US Government; or it could be intended for a combination of these reasons.
  • I note that neither of these reasons would be those of the al Qaeda network, their sympathizers in this country, nor of Iraq. I note that these attacks are far from the standard modus operendi of al Qaeda. I see no motive for Iraq to attack in this way -- upsetting, but not harming the US public.

    Things get worse if one tries to determine who might stage an attack with militarized anthrax in order to focus the debate in the US media. If the three (four?) nations that have the stuff are considered, is seems obvious that neither Russia nor Iraq would use anthrax against the US in such a way. Neither would al Qaeda, it it managed to get a hold of such a product.

    This leaves the US government as the only known possessor of militarized anthrax that has a strong motive for focusing the media coverage in such a fashion. It seems possible that elements within our government might be behind such distribution for that reason. I hope not.

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