« Slow Burn

S5 Ep. 2: Terror

2021-04-28

Just hours after 9/11, American decision makers had already started thinking about attacking Iraq. When the anthrax attacks began a month later, those ideas went into overdrive. Did Iraq have anything to do with mailing anthrax letters? Did it matter?

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Season 5 of Slow Burn is produced by Noreen Malone, Jayson De Leon, and Sophie Summergrad. Mixing by Merritt Jacob.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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we'll have died. At least two thousand are infected with smallpox small. This is not a real news report. Cites throw a video that was commission for a war game in June, two thousand one- the: U S, smallpox vaccine supply continues to shrink as officials try to stretch limited stocks to cover the entire nation and efficient the guy who came up with those phony news. Videos was a we're fighter pilot- I am Randy Larsson, colonel. U S. Air force, retired Larsson told them. War college college school run by the S Department of defense. In the early odds, he had a reputation for creating really good war games. Larson had specialized.
Classic scenarios were one country attacked another, but the nature of war was changing. A group of influential think tanks and academics brought on Larsson to design a new kind of game, one that would show the government what it might be like if terrorist attack the? U S with biological weapons, the Smallpox WAR game was called dark winter. We had, I think, a dozen participants, your seated around a table and we would provide them briefings like they would get in. A meeting in the White House during a crisis, we would provide those phony newscasts that we made to give them a kind of situation. Awareness, here's what's going on, the dark winter simulation took place at Andrews AIR Force Base in Maryland, former Senator SAM none played the president,
long time. Presidential staffer, David Gorgon played the national security adviser and journalists were there to playing themselves. We had a producer from CBS, news. We had Judy Miller from New York Times. We had a reporter, from NPR. Listen. that Larsson imagined. Saddam Hussein had mobilized iraqi troops for a possible invasion of Kuwait. The United States was deploying battleships to the Gulf in response and then some unreleased smallpox at three locations across the. U S so one of the first things is in that scenario, will who would get the vaccine? How could we get it to them quickly enough, and that was one of the big debates that we want to have around the table- the participants in dark winter. realize that it would be hard for federal and local governments to work together in an epidemic. Shutting down schools and large gatherings was complicated. Contact tracing was almost impossible, theirs
away. You can convince three hundred million Americans to do something. They don't want to do that. They don't think, is in their own best interests. The media spread dangerous misinformation in the dark winter scenario, like that, in the delete, we're getting a better version of the vaccine than ordinary people. The government closed borders, the economy, tanked and they were outbreaks of mob violence. The resulting up a Democrat left a million people that the war game was designed with the idea that AL hide. It was responsible for the smallpox outbreak. They ve gotten the virus from the iraqi government, most Americans hadn't heard of Al Qaeda. This point. Even president, wasn't paying much attention to them before nine eleven. When George W Bush came an office in two thousand one, it's my opinion that they were primarily focused on more cold war, sorts of threats,
not so much non state actors and not so much things like biological weapons, the Bush, in a strange and knew the terrorism was a threat. A few weeks before the two thousand election and I'll Qaeda's suicide bomber had attacked a. U S: Navy destroyer off the coast of Yemen, killing seventy sailors, but almost no one thought the terrorism and fear of terrorism would determine us foreign policy for the next decade. In the early days, Bush thought his presidency would focus on domestic issue both parties have been talking about education reform for quite a while time to come, Gathered to get it done so that weaken If we say in America, no child will be left behind so in the summer of two thousand and one Randy Larson had a tough job. He was trying to sell half interested decisions on the dangers of Al Qaeda and biological warfare. One of the people here
if operation Dark Winter was John Warner. Thinking. Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Warner comes in he's taken off his jacket, he's taken off his tie. The on their last session, they're going on summer break and he said I'll give you ten minutes, I'm going on vacation. So I set my laptop computer and when I played that first phony clip smallpox? Symptoms are being seen in fifteen Sate also in Canada Mission promoter kind of lean forward. Looking green? Ninety minutes later Senator Warner still asking questions, and we were finished on one or said. That's the most frightening presentation. I've ever seen a little more than a month after that briefing terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda did attack the. U S now smallpox both hijacked planes in a few hours, the bushmeat
patients focused changed the searchers underway for those who are behind these evil acts, We will make no distinction between The terrorist who committed these acts and those who harbour them after nine eleven Randy Larsson, was invited to the White House, This time he spoke to a larger audience Cheney in Scooter Levy and seven or eight other people from the White House staff there and about fifteen minutes into the presentation. Vice President Cheney asked, What does a biological weapons look like, which I thought was a fascinating question. Because by this time I've been doing presentations to general officers for seven years and not wanted ever ask that question and I
not one of them had ever seen a biological weapons, but I reach into my brief case and I pulled out a test tube and I said well, sir, it looks like this and handed it to a minute was weapon eyes, bacillus, glib e g. I and I said by the way I did GIS sneak this in your office. Public officials issued warnings about possible further attacks, maybe Randy Larson had gotten through to them because they put the Dane your of biological weapons, front and centre. Here's attorney General John Ashcroft today the F b I issued a nationwide alert based on information. They received indicating the possibility of attacks using crop dusting aircraft to destroy. You'd, chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction as potential threats to Americans. We have no clear and a lot of Americans got the message and September twenty seventh, the New York Times
reported that people were stocking up on Cipro an antibiotic used to treat antix poisoning. The paper quoted in sporting that an annex attack was considered unlikely but Unlikely didn't mean impossible. We do. Yet no who sent the anthrax whether it was the same terrorists who committed the attack on September, the eleventh or whether it was the other international or domestic terrorists, we do know that anyone who would try to infect other people with anthrax is guilty of an act of terror. We will solve these crimes and punish those responsible. This is is slowburn. I'm your host Noreen Malone, it's impossible to talk about the: U S: invasion of Iraq without remembering the fear that overwhelm the United States. After nine eleven Americans learned new phrases like ground, zero weapons grade and homeland security.
We didn't want to find airplanes or go to shopping malls for fear, we'd be targeted in the next attack. The nightly news was full of reports about bombs and disease and poison, It wasn't just ordinary citizens who are afraid the people in charge of the country were afraid to. They feared for their personal safety, just like everyone else, but also they like they screwed up like they missed the warning signs before nine eleven and I had they were afraid of screwing up again every decision they made in the fall of two thousand and one was reflected without fear. A month after the towers fell, there was a new kind of terror. How did the anthrax attacks affect the nation? Still reeling from Levin had of the Bush administration, respond to a nationwide panting and wanted all that have to do the rock this episode to terror.
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thirty thirty, six gobble dot com, a slow burn. Thirty six threats were coming in by the hour. By the day. Bomb was barreling down the Baltimore Washington, Parkway and headed toward where Bush was gonna, be giving a speech that the one applying the food supply. The White House was contaminated. That's Robert Draper he's the author of a book about the lead up to the Iraq invasion called to start. War and Bush was now receiving all this information in a way over compensating for having been curious enough about the threats homely and now he was curious through a major fault, Bush understood the whole country was afraid and the he needed to do something to reassure people, but in private he was angry Bush said as much one afternoon
some faith leaders who came to the White House on September, the twentieth he said to them. Having trouble controlling my blood lust. How would that rage and fear get transformed into foreign policy? one working in my office. I felt the impasse in the explosion of American Airlines point. Seventy seven Gary Greco was a senior officer for the defense. Intelligent agency Greco was working the pan, gone on nine eleven. I stayed there in the Pentagon through next radiation worked in the command center intelligence. Shows identified the group behind the nine eleven attacks right away. It was Al Qaeda, the terrorist organisation based in Afghanistan and Pakistan on the morning of September, twelfth Greco got a request from Paul Wolf foots the deputy secretary of Defence Wolf, which wanted to know about connections between Saddam Hussein and terrorists.
The note simply ordered, provide information in paper format. The history and assessment of the rock involvement in terrorism since the Gulf WAR. By this time we had received reporting from the FAA. On the identity of the hijackers, and we knew none of them to be a rock ease or nor that we possess any evidence of their involve. Iraq did have some linked to terrorist groups, especially palestinian ones. But not really Al Qaeda Gary Gary Greco already knew that. So this was a weird request to get just hours after the planes hit. Why? Why was wood scrounging around for this very specific kind of information about a country that seemed basically, the unrelated to the crisis? I quickly surmised that a case would be built.
Against Iraq and we will be going to war with them. How do I just knew? This was gonna, be the turning voice at mentality, iraqi exile, heard from an episode. One was in California on nine eleven. He was giving a talk. There s flight home was cancelled. All the flights are cancelled immediately after the attacks. And he found himself stranded in Santa Monica while he was there Taliban. His top lieutenant got a call from some one in the administration robber Draper again What they were asked was hey we're looking for anything, we can. Sit. Arms ties to islamic extremists, and in particular Al Qaeda do you have anything? Quality didn't have anything. After all, he was mostly focused on Saddam's atrocities against the people of Iraq, but if some powerful Americans wanted to connect Saddam to Al Qaeda,
Toby was willing to get on board and very very soon. The Iraqi National Congress Charlie's group was promoting the view Viet sit on in fact it was a major actor in the nine eleven attacks, so Paul Woeful, its and other officials looking for evidence that Iraq was involved in the attacks. But what about President Bush it would appear that did the idea- Saddam might have something to do with this was articulated by Bush for the first time the day after the attack on September twelve, when he turned to his national security, terrorism, Adviser Richard Clark and said Could you look into this? Could you see if Saddam had any involvement and cart did so? and said in essence, nope. He didn't have anything to do with it. Shouldn't when the end of the search for a connection between nine eleven in Iraq
Questions have been asked by people at the highest levels of government and answered by the people who are best position to know but that was in the end three days later, Bush is national. Security team were gathered a camp David. They were talking about Afghanistan that's where you S, officials believed AL. Qaeda's leaders were hold up. Iraq was not on the agenda but Paul Woeful, its thought it should be Wolf. What's had been obsessed with Iraq for a long time, here's a pitchy made a camp David. According to Robert Draper. We need to go after Iraq. What are you going? Her sit down to dawn is, in fact the Arrest and chief has more. He is head of a snake, and we need to cut their head off what what said there is good reason to believe that Saddam had been involved in the attack.
The CIA knew that that iraqi agents have met with Osama Bin Laden and ninety. Ninety five and Wolf whats felt certain that Al Qaeda couldn't have pulled off something as complicated as nine eleven on its own. None of this one over in the room. someone pointed out that Bin Laden had actually rejected Saddam's over tourist back in then and Bush. At that point basically said: okay, In fact, you explicitly said well single rack for later Those around the table thought notable the Bush and didn't simply say forget about Iraq. But they also believed that was basic. The end of the subject, still beauforts, wouldn't let it go. They did the same day. He approached Bush and expanded on his pitch. He told the president that the U S could also download little effort. All you needed was a no fly zone and bombings that would cut sit arm off from Iraq's oil.
He said the: U S wouldn't need to send out many troops that iraqi dissidents could be trained to do the job themselves. Bush was very entreat by this and in fact said to him Secretary defense of the next day after the meeting start looking into creative options for Iraq and though nothing was decided, then a dialogue had begun to United States invaded Afghanistan on a toolbar. Second, it was a strike at the headquarters of Al Qaeda and Taliban government that supported them. Meanwhile, in the United States and other terrorist attack had begun a k
of anthrax was confirmed today in Florida the patient is a sixty three year old man from land Tallow Florida he's now hospitalized Selborne is brought. You buy neutral, take charge of your hair growth and make the next few months your time to grow. Thicker fuller, healthier hair. There is nothing worse than feeling self conscious in, for some people. Thinning hair makes himself conscious neutral, can help you can visit, neutral dot com and take their hair wellness quays for customize product recommendations that put the power to grow. Thicker stronger, hair back into your hands. When you subscribe, you'll receive monthly delivery, say you never miss a dose. Shipping is free and you can pause or cancel any time whether you are experiencing thinning or not. You deserve Harris Strong, as you are neither Falcon help you achieve your best hair growth.
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like symptoms of anthrax, can show up within twelve hours to five days after exposure but untreated. It infects the lungs and is often fatal within days at first. It wasn't clear if the case in Florida was an isolated incident, but then more letters laced with anthrax appeared in the mail address to the offices of U S. Senators and news outlets good evening. Tonight we find ourselves in the unusual and on a happy position of reporting on one of our beloved colleagues, a member of my personal staff, who has contracted a cutaneous anthrax infection. One the anthrax letters were sent to NBC, namely NEWS Anchor Tom broke off too BC. Employees contracted anthrax, poisoning broke ass, personal assistant and the staff who opened the male broke off himself was never. Supposed to anthrax, but he was now at the centre of a big story. Here's Tom, docile in two thousand one,
He was the Senate Majority leader. Just that weekend I have been in New York and Don T broke out with a friend ass Fellow South Dakota in his office. Had opened up one in there Lo and behold, just a couple days later, it happened to me grant Leslie was in turn in Senator Daniels Office after nine eleven, was a strange time to be in turning on capital hell. One day was especially strange. I absolutely remember when I was why, because it was a new outfit, that I was very excited about That was the first time a warning. It was grey wolves, skirt and then burgundy, silk blouse. The day she wore the new wool skirt. There is a huge pile of mail. It was part of her job to open it one letter and particulars. It out because of the childish handwriting on the envelope and iron,
We're thinking- oh, this is gonna, be a fun one to open, because when kids, when little kid son letters there always really cute. So I was actually excited that I had gotten a good one. I cried a little bit in to the top of the envelope. I didn't even know Then the whole way by immediately when I caught a puff of white outer, came out certain think of baby powder, like if you squeezed the baby powder bottle and it come. You know, come up in your face and a puff land on your clause and, basically that's what happened she remembers. The white powder is showing up brightly on her new dark skirt. Why fat immediately that it could be anthrax, because we had certainly briefed on it and of the news. A member sinking immediately that I didn't want to get on
anyone else so just reflexively. I held the letter down towards the floor because I d one is still any more out than what had already gone. All over me. Leslie thought it might be a hoax that it could actually be baby better, but she stood very still so wooden spread and a coworker called capital police. They had also opens the anvil the rest of the way and read the letter out loud. So I remember hearing them read the letter because I haven't read what was in the envelope and what did it say does too America, death to Israel. Allah is great, the powder was anthrax. Twenty eight people had been exposed, Leslie took Sipro to treat her exposure And she was given the option of going to the hospital or going home. She chose home a week after Leslie exposure to DC postal workers died from interacts, poisoning
One realized until it was too late that they had been exposed. We were in probably the best place it to happen too, and we got treatment right away. It's so unfair that the postal workers and and others who died were not in that position. So I think about that. Alot com dash. I wasn't in the office when great less it was exposed the anthrax and at first He wasn't allowed to come back to work. Ultimately, they did allow me to come over and I hope people in and I began calling for their families to tell him what the circumstances were. We were told the net, stay to bring the clothes that we were wearing and because I had hugged everybody here was that I anthrax on my close to bring those clothes, ended the capital building in a garbage bag, so they could be disposed ah, incredibly naive and
ill informed, but that was what we were told. So I remember, meeting with staff and giving them a pep talk with all these bags of clothes in one corner for Dasso. The antics letter in his office was a turning point. It changed the way he thought about risk and about America's place in the world where you scared. Yes, this created a new appreciation of how technology and circumstances have erased whatever sense of invulnerability. We had so many ways to deliver anthrax. You know anthrax based on the subway system, anthrax released in a football field, the stadium
There are so many different scenarios, and we we understood that term. All those were possible and frankly, they are still possible today. Get control of your business. Is energy use with my account frumpy go the my accounts will help businesses monitor and manage energy use. So you are empowered to make informed decisions that can help your organization in your bottom line. You will be able to try doing energy use and see where you could be more energy efficient, plus my account has usage alerts, payment, reminders, incentives and even severe weather alerts manage your energy used today that you can start saving tomorrow visit he Godaddy COM, Flash, my business,
you use? In total, five people died from the anthrax attacks and seventeen got sick does numbers minutes on huge, but after nine, eleven Amerika was on edge for the first time in a hundred years, american streets have become the front lines of battle with civilians facing an enemy, but visible and invisible. Checking your mail just took on a new meaning. Today's were more and more people were stockpiling, supra officials, worried that there wouldn't be enough doses for those who are actually exposed. Anthrax people are coveting prescriptions. Politicians exposed in the latest attack are exalting, it find me. I've already taken one several pill and doctors like delay, internist Samuel, think report being harassed by patients for refusing to dole out like candy, I've been met with hostility. They want to protect thirst themselves, their family, her dog or other paths. The demand for
Politicians like New York, Mare, Rudy Giuliani, had to contend with both the lethal attacks and the panic. Those attacks. Hired people should just not overreact this. They should just It's hard to say this, and I keep saying it that is to relax and and deal with it work with government. Officials knew they were at especially high risk. Dick Cheney, in particular, became fixated on the threat of bioterrorism He began to bring a doktor with him when he travelled and he carried a hazmat suit and duffel bag. In the days after nine eleven. There is so much concern about the safety of high ranking public officials. The Chinese spent weeks, an undisclosed location, the undisclosed location became a public obsession in October, Chee joke about it. In his speech at the owl Psmith dinner, an annual event or politicians play comedian
there has been a good deal of speculation about our whereabouts in recent days. I might as well addressed the rumours read here tonight. We have not actually been living in a cave No, I did not speak out for cosmetic surgery. I am not prepared to rule that out is an option. The audience at the owl Psmith dinner didn't know it but when Cheney me that joke he actually thought he might have been exposed to biological weapons attack. Whitehouse sensors had picked up what seem to be trace amounts of botulism toxin, a bacterial. Protein so lethal that a single gram could kill a million people. If the sensors were right, Cheney would have been exposed when he got the news. The vice president was on air force, two headed to New York. Was freaked out, but there is nothing you can do about it if he had been exposed. So well, scientist tested the substance on lab mice.
Genuine to visit ground zero then delivered his bad comedy routine, I'd house Carl Road was overheard, say were sending training to the owl Psmith dinner and he's gonna bomb after the dinner Cheney got word. The mice had lived, the centre you're wrong? There hasn't been any botulism toxin after all, but the anthrax added poisoned other people was real and change had some strong ideas, but who was sending it here? He is October, twelve, just five days after the: U S invaded Afghanistan. We know a number of things. We know that Osama Bin Laden and kind of organization clearly have already launched an attack that killed thousands of Americans, We know that he has over the years tried to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Both biological and chemical weapons so near restart. The peace at all
gather again. We have not completed the investigation and maybe it's coincidence but I must say I must I think the responsible than force to do is to proceed on the basis that they could be linked coming so soon after nine. Eleven. A lot of people gas that the interacts with Al Qaeda next strike in several of the letters like the one centre dashes office contain what seem to to be radical as threats. George W Bush echoed his vice president. He said that there was an at heart. And said all hide ahead on the anthrax letters, but they probably dead. There's no question that anybody who would male anthrax with the attempt to harm american citizens is a terrorist and there's no question. That Al Qaeda is a terrorist organisation, so wouldn't put it past me they're involved with this, but I have no direct evidence. That's what the Bush administration was saying in public Privately, there were making one more leap out.
Had money and manpower, but it didn't have a kind of high tech, labs, you'd, to engineer bio weapons. Iraq might have those labs it did have. As recently as the early Ninetys alot of people that Iraq might still have by a weapons capabilities Remember the scenario Randy Larsson laid out for the dark winter exercise. It was Iraq that supplied the smallpox to Al Qaeda George. W Bush believe that Saddam Hussein had probably provided the anthrax to Al Qaeda. He said as much to british Prime Minister Tony Blair is not clear how he came to the conclusion. There is an app for that kind of speculation. People were scared, they didn't want uncertainty or doubt a lot of people, Nine hundred and eleven could have been prevented if the Bush administration had connected the dots. Now they were connecting the dots they couldn't stop the anthrax attacks, but they could point fingers paint a picture, give people a concrete id
the enemy. If we knew who is behind the terror, maybe we could end it Senator John Mccain and the late showed David Letterman. How are things going in Afghanistan? Now I? think we're doing fine. I think it would be fine, the second phase, but you just made them very quickly, the second Phase is Iraq. There is some indication and I don't have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may, I say, may have come in from come from arouse if that may be the case and that that's when some tough decisions about we may investigators One main piece of evidence to help them figure out who was behind the anthrax attacks the anthrax boards themselves. So they turn to scientists. People like Paul time. How did you first learn that there is a positive case of anthrax in the United States, you're good at Call from the FBI. Time is a professor at Northern Arizona University and back in two thousand one
Running a dna lab there. His research focused on Anthrax I got the call in the afternoon maybe mid afternoon on a Thursday. And we we were fell night and by early in the morning for five. In the morning we were actually scanning our data bases to try to achieve a witch strain and our database would match up with the pattern that we saw from the Robert Stevens Sample Robert Stevens, the photo editor and first antics victim was still alive when time started working, but he died in the hour after the lab identified the anthrax, the Robert Stephen sample match a strain of anthrax called the aim strain. It was a kind of anthrax it had been developed in a lab, rather than the kind that occurs in nature, who talked about a lot of attention is being paid to the form that these sports token virulence of strain other different genetic line, sums that would make you more say more
readily and others that we, I think, we're yes, there are certainly that, but what people are talking about? The capability of the microbe, it's the grade of the for and how they will. We find and put in a way, that's what's more likely to the summit in an era specialised or airborne way, verses, one that's cruelly made and just might clung to the ground and be much less dangerous. Identifying the aims train was helpful, but it didn't sob history. There were labs all over the world that could have made the anthrax, including more than a dozen, in the U S alone, but it didn't seem likely. Al Qaeda had direct access to one of those labs. If I Qaeda did have something to do with the attacks, it would have needed help. The next possible break in the case came from a different research laboratory. Those tat showed something Paul Times. Dna lab wouldn't have.
Seen from three well place but separate sources. Tonight, ABC News has been told that initial tests on the anthrax sent a senator dashing found the Tell tale Chemical of whose name means a lot to weapons exports. It is called that night ABC News is Brian Raw said that telltale additive was a huge clue invented the spores were engineered so that they just the right size to spread through the air and to lodge and lungs. According to Ross, this meant the anthrax likely came from one particular enemy, the United States it's possible! Other countries may be using it to, but it is a train of Saddam Hussein's biological weapons programme, it does mean for me that Iraq becomes the prime suspect as the source for the anthrax used in these matters. You in a White House spokesmen told ABC that no ban tonight happen
and in the anthrax, but in the days had followed Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld said quote: serious people were still looking into the bent in question seriously. Meanwhile, the iraqi government denied having anything to do with the anthrax full stop, but they also to allow weapons inspectors into the country to confirm it. Here's a rocky deputy prime Minister, Tariq Aziz on October, twenty TH, two thousand, and one anthrax existing men in many countries in the world, including the United States, the United States is a major producer of anthrax. Singling out Erech only is biased and is not just a Iraq's refusal to play along with weapons inspectors seemed extremely suspicious. Iraq had lied about its weapons capabilities before and Sid Ahmed praised and
eleven attacks. It looked like he had something to hide. In November two thousand one, the F B, I sent the anthrax expert Paul time, a sample of sport that they collected from an iraqi lab in the nineteen nineties. This was the same kind of anthrax using the two thousand one attacks. That would mean Iraq was probably involved and we tested and it was not the same as the anthrax letters, and so that was a really important negative result. Time told the FBI that the Iraqis used the volume strain of anthrax, not the aim stream, which was the one that had showed up in all the letters. So Oh, how did government officials react when you told them? No dear, the Iraqis dont have the aim strain well. I was, of course, talking to scientists and The scientists weren't surprised. They said oh yeah, that makes sense that they were using the volume train, one of them even told me, and I
First, that the Iraqis purchase that strain from a: U S: company back and nineteen, eighty five, the American I've, culture collection, which is in a north, Virginia seldom. Strain, and I heard heard it was for twenty five dollars hand legacy. So, who is right and one side? There are the people talking about bed tonight the Tell tale additive, the men, Iraq had to be involved in the anthrax attacks, and then there was Paul time whose test showed Iraq couldn't be involved kind was right, the bent and people were wrong, the other lab misinterpreted what it found in the sample. There was no ban tonight in the anthrax. That story wasn't public at the time, though, in two thousand and one And the scientists who had made the error had gone to the White House to brief officials on October. Twenty fourth Paul comes discovery was made public, Boozer front page story in the New York Times,
Even so it didn't get much other media attention. The times published that story three days before Christmas on one of the biggest travel days of the year. That same day, a man was arrested for trying to set off a bomb on a flight Paris to Miami Robin that suspect has just been identified by the name of Richard Red he was carrying. It appeared that he was trying said. His shoes are wires attached to issues on fire and at that point the flight of the anthrax. Letters had stopped and they were something new to fear. In November two thousand one the FBI announce it had a suspect profile for the person sending the anthrax a man. So with a scientific background and access to technical equipment who had some connection to trend to New Jersey, the F B, I did not publicly Delayed about his motives or nationality for years no more n.
I was revealed about this man. No arrest was made in the case was never officially solved. Seven years later, in two thousand and eight, the FBI met with Paul time outside Washington. They had questions for him about Nan Tax researcher. He knew one of the scientists who first work with the aim screen The same type of anthrax had been sent to the male. Can you help me a little bit more about Bruce Islands where he was like you remember him, he asked you know you're asking Canada nerdy scientists ascribe another nerdy scientist, so for me, He was pretty normal. You know that my wife it we say no, he was a little nerdy. Nothing seemed offered like yeah interesting now in two thousand eight times stunned. When the F B, I told him that islands was their means aspect. I just sat there really Bruce.
Does their case makes sense to you. Does it up for you well, and so since then a course that I was the chair of the National Science Advisory Board for biosecurity. So I've seen all the evidence and their case was based, on a lot of circumstantial evidence. You know where, were you were weren't you, Were you within driving distance of the male boxes and did you have access the aim? Strain is dead, but on the other hand, there is no concern. Shouldn't you another is no fingerprints on the letters there is. Many many things it would have been definitive evidence in court that didn't exist here, some of that circumstantial evidence, kindness, talking about it. Wasn't just that islands was one of the first scientists to work with the aim strain. The FBI If I'd genetic markers knee interacts used in the letters a match, the anthrax from Evans's own lab and the FBI
I thought that I haven't had a motive to one that had nothing but she had investigators leave that islands might have been worried, that no one would care about biological weapons, any more that the funding for studying anthrax his life's work. My dry up. It wasn't a crazy thing for him to think Paul came says he had the same thought The days after nine eleven, so the FBI's theory went Even smell the anthrax boars and wrote lead Saying Allah is great to make sure One was scared of anthrax, it that was his plan. It worked, everyone was scared and that fear had far reaching consequences, not long after the F b I called came in brief Ivan died by suicide. Time still isn't quite sure what to make of the whole thing. Versus suicide was not an admission of guilt or it shouldn't be interpreted that way. Now that doesn't mean
and guilty either hit, but I'm just saying that you can't use is suicide as an admission of guilt, some experts still don't think islands was responsible for the attacks. It makes sense to them. The anthrax would have come from someone working in an american lab, but there are some technical details about the anthrax, and islands is work specifically that just don't add up for them stay a year and a half after Ivan died. The FBI closed the anthrax case. You. One of the things I regret about. The whole thing is that we weren't allowed to continue the the this is so, that evidence could be investigated much more sophisticated ways, but when they closed the case, they just cried the evidence as knave impossible to day.
If the nine eleven attacks transform the world overnight, the anthrax episode revealed what it was going to be like to live in that world. The authorities told the public. Another attack had come at any moment anywhere, but also not to panic or the terror should win in the months after nine. Eleven. The people in charge were willing to believe almost anything robber, Draper, particularly in the context of what had happened on September, eleventh every It was reluctant to rule anything out the the unimaginable had occurred, and now it was time to start imagining like crazy to me. That's the real lesson: the Iraq saga that, if some nine eleven was a failure
of the imagination is, and has been often said, and then none would happen in the run. Up to warm was an over reliance on the imagination of the White House knew there was no solid evidence connecting rocked the interacts attacks. Do I could make out x or other by weapons. It might want to use against United States some day soon for the Bush administration wasn't enough anymore, just two. Prepared they wanted to go on the offensive by Christmas. Two thousand one George W I was talking to the military's top brass. But what an invasion of Iraq might look like after the holidays the state of the Union Address Bush and his speech writers, helped Americans focus on the next enemy the iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax and gas and nuclear weapons for over a decade.
This is a regime that has already use poison gas to murder. Thousands of its own citizens in the bodies of mothers, huddled over their dead children. States like these and their terrorist allies constitute in axis of evil. Arming too, threatened. The peace of the world by sea weapons of mass destruction. These results. Next time on slow burn. The Bush administration goes all in on weapons of mass destruction. As soon as you got there, we had chemical detectors Chemical alarmed went off so do is poisonous Yes in the air. The thing about intelligence
You can find almost anything you want on a spectrum. I was told, come on Jane, it's a rough if he didn't do this than he did something else. So why not? We were just say this slow burn is a production of, say, plus sites membership programme. Say, plus members get bonus, episodes slobbering every week where will go behind the scenes into making a show, and our clips and interviews that we couldn't fit in here on this week's bonus episode, you'll be heard: from an Currie who covered the nine eleven attacks in the Iraq war for NBC had over to slay dotcom such slow burn to sign up and listen. Now it's only a dollar for your first month. We couldn't make slow burn without the support of say plus, so please sign up if you can, had over two slate coms, slow burn and one more note of business. Gary Greco, who you heard from earlier in this episode, wanted to be clear that he was speaking to us in his personal capacity.
Not on behalf of the DIA sober is produced. Me Jason De Leon and Sophie Summer grad with editorial direction by Josh, Levine and Gabriel Roth. Mix engineer is Mary, Jacob, Brendan Angel Ladys Composer theme song, the armor Chris soberness by Jim Cook, especial thanks to shared Holt awesome Benedict June Thomas Derek John, Laura Bennet, Joel Anderson, Megan, Hallstrom, Rachel, strong soft brown chow to Ashes Ilusha Katy Rayford, an obvious gentlemen. Thanks for listening.
Transcript generated on 2021-05-28.