Tuesday, May 02, 2006

judy miller, stephen hatfill and mobile weapons labs

summary: in light of the recent media about the fraudulent claims about iraq's 'mobile weapons labs' - this post intends to shed light on the role of stephen hatfill - and i posit that there may be some nefarious intentions behind his involvement in the design of secret mobile weapons labs.
On April 12, 2006, we learned :

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true."

This sent people scurrying back to the reporting at the time - much of it focussed on Judy Miller's reporting - see emptywheel, and ron, for example.

The trailers were found in April 2003, and Judy was reporting by May 11 that the investigators
"were persuaded that it was a mobile lab for biological production"
and then on May 21:
"that two mysterious trailers found in Iraq were mobile units to produce germs for weapons, but they have found neither biological agents nor evidence that the equipment was used to make such arms"

On June 7:

" American and British intelligence analysts with direct access to the evidence are disputing claims that the mysterious trailers found in Iraq were for making deadly germs."

Here's the thing - on July 2, 2003, Judy had another scoop about mobile weapons labs - sharing a byline with William J. Broad & David Johnston (judy was mentioned last on the byline - is that odd?):

Three years ago, the United States began a secret project to train Special Operations units to detect and disarm mobile germ factories of the sort that Iraq and some other countries were suspected of building, according to administration officials and experts in germ weaponry.

The heart of the effort, these officials said, was a covert plan to construct a mobile germ plant, real in all its parts but never actually "plugged in" to make weapons. In the months before the war against Iraq, American commandos trained on this factory.


The secret trainer is similar to the mobile units that the Bush administration has accused Iraq of building to produce biological weapons.

Curiously, this article doesn't even mention the labs found in Iraq (also curious, the article repeatedly refers to 'trainers', not 'trailers' (!))

The odd thing is that Stephen Hatfill was in charge of building these secret labs. Given the NYT's history with Hatfill, and given this article is by Judy, it's difficult to know what to believe (I've always presumed that Hatfill was set-up by Ashcroft et al).

(note: for current purposes, I'm only interested in Iraq, although the unsolved/univestigated 2001 anthrax attacks are of much interest)

The following day, July 3, the WaPo followed up with their own article - and they discuss two separate issues - that Hatfill was secretly designing mobile weapons labs, and that there was much tension about his involvement (and peripherally that Hatfill was supposed to go to Iraq)

At the risk of a poor attempt to emulate emptywheel, let's go back to Judy's article first:

"Even after the F.B.I. began investigating Dr. Hatfill, the Pentagon continued to draw on his expertise. But tensions arose between the Justice Department and the Defense Department over their access to the mobile unit, the weapons experts said."

Note the headfake here. According to Judy, the tension is about access to the mobile weapons lab.

And if I can pull back a bit again here and remind you what Larisa said about Feith, Perle and Rhode etc getting security clearances:
So it’s astounding that despite the FBI's concerns, despite the concerns of the security clearance staff (each agency has their own staff which does the security background checks), despite past activities, these guys still were able to get their clearances reinstated under this administration. There's only one person who can override all of these various agencies - Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld! No one else would have the authority to override the FBI and the security staff concerns, so he must have had interesting reasons for issuing the clearances.
OK - now back to WaPo and why Hatfill's involvement in the project was causing tension:
Hatfill's involvement with the Pentagon as the anthrax investigation intensified created tension between the FBI and the Defense Department, sources close to the investigation said.

To facilitate Hatfill's involvement in the training program, the DIA had to appeal to its training contractor, Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), to allow the bioweapons expert, who had been stripped of his security clearance, to participate, Black said.

A week before the session began, the SAIC had fired Hatfill amid mounting concern over the FBI's scrutiny of him. But after the DIA's request, the SAIC agreed to allow Hatfill to volunteer in the training program, a Hatfill associate said.

The DIA was so pleased by Hatfill's performance in the specialized training that division leader Esteban Rodriguez wrote a letter of commendation on his behalf to managers at the SAIC. In the letter, dated May 1, 2002, Rodriguez said that Hatfill "consistently displayed unsurpassed technical expertise, unique resourcefulness, total dedication and consummate professionalism. I wish to express my most sincere gratitude to this ultimate biological weapons expert."

Hatfill also secured a letter praising his work for the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service. That letter referred to a "counter-measures program" Hatfill developed for State Department personnel who might encounter biological weapons threats. In another effort with the State Department, Hatfill sat in on one meeting about embassy security in the spring of 2002 but was not sent to Afghanistan on an official mission, said a spokesman for the Diplomatic Security Service.

Black said that "there is nothing to indicate that the FBI objected" to Hatfill's role in the secret training course...

But other sources said the Pentagon's insistence on using Hatfill as an instructor even as the FBI intensified its investigation of him angered and puzzled some agents on the case.

Now - I'm not Laurie Mylroie (thank god) - but why do you desperately need (to the point of over-riding security concerns) the 'ultimate biological weapons expert' involved in this stuff? Presumably the 'ultimate expert' would know how to make the stuff - but for the task at hand, all you'd need is some environmental monitoring and some ability to neutralize any dangerous situations.

Ok - now looking at Hatfill's involvement in the designing of the labs (keep in mind that by just about every account (cf Kamel) nobody actually thought that Iraq had any WMD):

"Hatfill, who once conducted research at the Army labs at Fort Detrick, Md., played an intimate role in U.S. preparations for the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, designing special equipment and countermeasures that U.S. teams could use in hostile situations. In one top-secret project, he even helped design a replica of the mobile biological weapons production laboratories that the Pentagon believed troops might encounter in Iraq.


A more sensitive part of his job was working with defense and intelligence agencies to design equipment and countermeasures that could be used in an encounter with weapons of mass destruction.

One of Hatfill's most intriguing projects at the SAIC was his design of the mock mobile lab, which was assembled for training of the Delta Force, a commando unit of the U.S. Special Forces based at Fort Bragg. The nonfunctional lab was built on an 18-wheel trailer and fitted with a fermenter and other specialized equipment.

Hatfill planned the equipment, designed the interior layout and stored construction materials in a warehouse before building began, said a source who has seen the vehicle.


The trailer, known at the SAIC as the "can," was under construction in late 2001 at a shop in Frederick, where Hatfill once lived in an apartment near Fort Detrick.


Col. Bill Darley, a spokesman for the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, said that Hatfill also designed a fixed or "static" nonfunctional bioweapons lab for use in training Special Forces in an unspecified location in the western United States.

Darley said he could not discuss details of how these labs have been used in training. The programs, he said, are at the heart of the "dark tactics, techniques and procedures" used to prepare troops for missions abroad.

it's all a bit curious huh? The narrative seems to be that they were trying to create a mock lab so that the 75th would recognize it if they stumbled across it in the Iraqi desert. Why do you need the most highly qualified expert in the world to design the thing? and why is it so uber-hush-hush?

Let's use an analogy - imagine that there's a scientist who can make the best crystal meth on the planet. Now imagine the Feds employ him/her to help local cops all over the country to recognize a basement meth lab whenever they bust into some bobo-land home. It doesn't make any sense. Something else is going on.

The expert has a set of skills - perhaps unique - to create the best 'shit' ever - but you don't need his/her refined skills to identify every generic attempt to create some home-made shit. You don't need an expert to create a 'mock' lab.

I'll also note that according to wikipedia, Curveball's nonsense about mobile weapons labs started entering the official channels in January 2000 - Curveball being an official Chalabi plant - sanctioned by Rumsfeld & Feith et al, brought to you by Wayne Downing (INC) and Francis Brooke (Rendon/BKSH, then INC) and others. And I'll further note that the judge on the Hatfill case was none other than Judge Reggie Walton - he just happens to have Libby's case, and he keeps getting assigned to Sibel Edmonds' cases.

In summary, I guess my question is this: is it possible that the egadministration was somehow planning to airlift Laurie Mylroie's wet-dream into Iraq in the shape of a perfectly-engineered anthrax-makin' mobile-weapons-lab?

What became of it? Did Brewster Jennings somehow prevent its arrival? Were they running around trying to clean up the nefariousness?

Why did Judy Miller break this story? What was she trying to pre-empt?

so many questions...

(update - hello rawstorians. you may be interested in my interview with Larisa Alexandrovna)

(update from the comments. emptywheel:
"my Judy series makes a pretty compelling case that she was sent to Iraq to make sure 75th XTF got hooked up with Chalabi so Chalabi could stage some nice intell finds.")

(update - i've written another post on this issue here)

(update - and another post here - with timeline)


Simon said...

"many dark actors playing games"

Hmmm. Dr Kelly had told the Observer (and Judy) that the labs weren't bio by early June. She would have been plugging for any lab info related to carry on with the story. This came up. Maybe Hatfill was sidelined (because he was a suspect) and found other activities doing genuine training work. If the 75th didn't have too many scientific types with them then they certainly would not have wanted to have been messing about with potentially charged biolabs without knowing what they were doing. Could they have sneaked it in there and would it have stood up to scrutiny if it had been found? Dunno, but it would have been a big 'frame Saddam' job if they'd gone ahead with it. If the CIA were given orders to 'provide the case for the finding of WMD in Iraq (or even the recent use of by)' who knows how far they might go, or even think about going. BTW Stephen Hatfill and David Kay were supposedly co-workers at SAIC. A small-world coincidence perhaps?

emptywheel said...

Great work, lukery. I'd add some data points:

First, you can't isolate this from the anthrax case. One of the reasons this team (Judy plus her minders) reported this story is she and Broad were the in-house BW experts. And Judy, of course, received fake anthrax at precisely the time a bunch of Democrats were receiving real anthrax. It gave her an opportunity to tell a really breathtaking story on the dangers of anthrax. Of course, like the real anthrax, they never discovered where Judy's fake anthrax came from.

So that's why they were covering the Hatfill story.

But there is another story Judy covered that month, even though she was on probation, because she was the in-house expert on it. It was David Kelly's death.

And of course Kelly was in Iraq looking into the bioweapons labs. I'm not sure whether he was in Iraq when Judy made her surprise, against the wishes of her editor, middle of the night trip back to Iraq. But you see, these three data points all seem to come together:

Judy as the anthrax exper

Judy as the reporter on Hatfill (going back to 2001)

Judy receives White Paper leak about mobile weapons labs just before experts leave to discredit them

Judy reports on Hatfill in July 2003, though with two minders

Judy may or may not see her buddy David Kelly while on a trip to Iraq intended, I'm sure, to resucitate the mobile weapons lab claim

Tony Blair comes to the US on a last-minute trip, conveniently putting him outside of the UK the day Kelly dies

Judy has an email exchange with Kelly on the day he dies

Also, one more. The trailer suspicions go back further, to 1998. Before they hounded Scott Ritter out of UNSCOM, Charles Duelfer (who was aware of and alright with the NSA spying of UNSCOM) sent Ritter to go chat up Chalabi, to see if he could learn anything. From Ritter's book:

In the intelligence world, one never gives away the complete picture of what you know and what you don't know; this too easily allows you to be manipulated by sources which miraculously "confirm" data you already have while filling in the gaps in the intelligence picture. However, I was under pressure from Charles Duelfer to make this new relationship work, and I proceeded to brief Chalabi on UNSCOM's understanding about what Iraq might be hiding. This included speculation about the possible existence of mobile biological laboratories and agent production facilities. ... When, several years after leaving UNSCOM, I was to read through the intelligence provided by Chalabi's "source" ("Curveball"), which formed the centerpiece of the Bush administration's case for war, I was struck by just how similar the data was to some of the speculative "intelligence gaps" I had provided to Ahmed Chalabi back in 1998.

emptywheel said...

Simon raises Kay, and it's probably worthwhile to review the timing of the "weapons search" in Iraq.

By the time Judy leaves in mid-May, it has been announced that the weapons search will switch over to ISG. But it takes at least two weeks to get the bodies changed (so from May 15 to June, I'm guessing, there was virtually no weapons inspection team. And it's not until late June that Kay arrives in Iraq. So for virtually this whole period, there is no weapons team in Iraq. I suppose the 75th XTF was still there. But they weren't taking the search seriously by that point.

Anonymous said...

May I respectfully suggest that you read the book Project Daylily by Garth and Nancy Nicolson?

Simon said...


Judy had been quoting David Kay back to at least Sept '02 so it is likely that he must have been of her regular sources:

On September 18, 2002, Miller's piece on the U.N. Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) cast doubt on its ability to uncover Iraqi WMD. She quoted David Kay as believing that U.N. inspectors were on a "mission impossible."


He had been very gung-ho about the weapons being there, as had she. By the time she realised she (and MET A, MET B and Task Force 20) could not back-up what she had been expecting it was too late for her to correct the record properly, by this time she must have realised how deeply she had been sucked into it all?

emptywheel said...


I'm not sure I understand you. Are you saying she realized in the Fall, when Kay first started backing off his gusto, that she'd been had?

My assumption has always been that Judy was a willing stager of intell. And that Kay was a willing stager of misinterpretation of intell (and he also lied about Mahdi Obeidi right in this time period, just before June 24). But I think when he had the opportunity to carry out a sustained lie, he declined. I'm also fascinated by how Duelfer's report tempers some of the BS that got told. In other words, why did Duelfer and Kay eventually STOP lying, even though they'd both been doing it for 5 years?

lukery said...

hi guys - have just rolled out of bed and the brain isnt yet fully caffeinated - but thanks for adding all the detail & observations (and i'll note that the actual post was a late nite post and perhaps isnt as clear as it should have been)

Simon - i meant to discuss that Kay & hatfill were both at SAIC - thnx for that. Wayne Downing is also a SAIC board member. (Something else that was odd in Judy's article is that she doesnt refer to them as SAIC but as 'Science Applications').

also - "In 1992, Kay was fired from UNSCOM for using "underhanded methods" to concoct false evidence of Iraq's WMD programs" - and Hatfill was a part of UNMOVIC as well.

If the CIA were given orders to 'provide the case for the finding of WMD in Iraq (or even the recent use of by)' who knows how far they might go
actually - it looks the DoD may have had this job - not the CIA - which is why (?) the pentagon was desperate to put hatfill on the job (security concerns notwithstanding)

(Blogger is in meltdown - am struggling to post comments or posts)

Simon said...


What I was wondering about is who was it that was, initially at least, pulling her strings and pushing her in the right (wrong) direction. It was the way that she seemed to take what Ahme(a)d and his band of merry men were saying at face value that got me, surely she was smart enough to realise that they all had a vested interest in digging up the dirt on Saddam for their own power-seeking reasons. Was someone else, say CIA, DoD or WHIG, acting as guarantor on these stories, or pushing the defectors on to her in order to make their case and to sway public opinion in favour of the action? David Kay would seem to be an obvious choice, being as he had experience (of Iraq and being less-than-honest) from the UNSCOM days, and being as he seemingly went out of way to try to maintain the case against Saddam, to the point where Hans Blix had to issue a qualifying contradiction to counter some of the misinformation he was purveying.

Charlie Duelfer (by Scott Ritter's account) was clearly a company man but he does strike me as having a modicum of a sense of honour as well as of duty. His account will be one of the foremost among the references to Saddam's weapons programmes, he just hasn't covered every aspect as deeply as it could (and probably should be). David Kay's on the other hand was about as good as Judy's reporting on WMD right from the very beginning.

(Maybe her little anthrax adventure was only done to make her believe in the reality of fictional WMD?)

lukery said...

simon - i'm with emptywheel. judy was a paid-up (and indispensible) member of WHIG

EW - i hadnt realised that there was a 2 week period where they effectively werent searching at all. I suspect that they 'knew' that whatever needed to be planted would have been planted and discovered by that time. The 2 week gap suggests that the ISG mobilization plan was hastily put together - i.e. it wasn't even a back-up plan (my memory about the detail of some of these events is getting hazy)

why did Duelfer and Kay eventually STOP lying, even though they'd both been doing it for 5 years?
tis indeed a mystery. Kay in particular (for mine) - he actually seemed to turn honest.

damien said...

What gets me about the anthrax attacks is the highly specific targets: Judy gets a 'safe' version and a free promo for her book, Daschle and Leahy get to fall in line on the Patriot Act and Florida Sun editor Robert Stevens gets a death sentence for publishing unflattering photos of Jena Bush. All of this is occuring in a 9/11 setting declared officially to be an 'intelligence failure'. The anthrax attackers certainly seemed to know who they were going to target. No shortage of intelligence there.

LiberalPride said...

Aaah, the anthrax scare.

In Nov./Dec. 2001, I saw a blurb on CNN at bottom of screen stating that the FBI was conducting 15,000+ investigations.

A couple of years ago, Al Gore's office in Tennessee received a fake anthrax letter. One of the first responders commented that this incident was just one of 400 in that town.

Back to Nov./Dec. 2001. An Army of God guy, an escaped convict, sent two fake anthrax mailings of about 250 letters each, targetting abortion clinics. He was caught. His trial was moved to Philadelphia from the mid-West. I contacted a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter after reading an article by him in 2002, and asked him if he knew exactly how many anthrax incidences/investigations had occurred up to that point through either fake or real anthrax letter mailings. He responded that top officials at the Inquirer, except in a case like the Army of God terrorist, had decided not to report on fake anthrax letter mailings. You know, so as not to scare the public. Like in, the Bush administration has fallen down on the job and can't seem to catch all the terrorists (whether foreign or domestic) terrorizing U.S. citizens.

In other words, a major cover-up has occurred regarding the actual scope of the anthrax terrorist mailings over the past four and a half years. In my view, the one's behind this cover-up, like so many others, is the Bush administration and the MSM corporate heads.

The key to understanding why this scandal was covered up directly relates, I believe, to who was targetted in these fake anthrax letter attacks. My guess: over 95 percent involved right-wing religious fundamentalist fanatics terrorizing NARAL, abortion clinics, family planning centers, or any other facility or group judged to be liberal.

But 95 percent of what? This was why I was wondering, as I still am, if the 15,000+ investigations total I caught a glimpse of on CNN represented 15,000+ incidences in which someone received a terrorist letter, or did it represent 15,000+ investigations involving multiple mailings by 15,000+ mailers? And this 15,000+ figure was just two months after the initial "real" anthrax terrorist attacks occurred. What is this total up to by now?

I wonder if a FOIA request would get to the truth?

Terrible said...

Sounds like we know where the anthrax came from now to me.

leftcoaster said...


Are you saying the anthrax came from Ft. Detrick via Steven Hatfill, and that he was under orders from parties in the DOD to target the 'real' and 'dummy' letters as part of a conspiracy to build up public fears of BW and form a baseline for Iraq invasion case?

emptywheel said...


Sorry to blogwhore, but my Judy series makes a pretty compelling case that she was sent to Iraq to make sure 75th XTF got hooked up with Chalabi so Chalabi could stage some nice intell finds. That would put Judy in the close proximity of Chalabi and Harold Rhode in the early investigation period.

Before that we know that James Woolsey funnelled INC exiles her way. We also know Bolton was a favorite source of hers. Basically, she was the choice outlet of the neocons. And while proving she was complicit in the early period is harder, it's hard to understand how, with her super double secret security clearance in Iraq, she wasn't complicit there.

Anonymous said...

pretty obvious the anthrax was home grown.

the lack of reporting of this "ongoing" investigation is one clue.

the particular molecular makeup of the weaponized anthrax preparation can be determined and the exact lab used to produce it, as well as specific lots of reagents used can be determined.

ICP- Mass Spec is a forensics tool that allows part per trillion detection of nearly every trace metal present. the specific amounts generate a "fingerprint" that absolutely identifies every componenet of the stuff. They can determine teh lot of sugar used to grow the anthrax, the lot of "weaponmizing reagent" used to blend the spores, etcc...

its absolute, precise, and accurate.

dig folks, dig...

lukery said...

ew - i've updated the post to give a shoutout to your judy series

Veridical said...

I knew some of what you've written. I always thought the fact that Stephen Hatfil was working on those mobile labs and then became a person of interest in the anthrax investigation was very odd. Then pictures of similar vehicles seemed to turn up in Powell's presentation to the Security Council.

I thought from the beginning that elements friendly to Cheney in the CIA sent the anthrax. After all, look who got the mail.

droogiedin said...

Some time back the name Philip Zack came up as a possible player in the anthrax scare. He had been seen in Ft. Detrick a couple of times after he was booted out after an altercation with a fellow worker(an arab) he had sent offensive items to. The story was security cameras captured him entering the area when he wasn't supposed to be there. I haven't heard anything more on this for years. Hatfill could have been set up to cover for him.

lukery said...

apparently zack was filmed there in 1992

lukery said...

i have an update here

Enzo Titolo said...

Wow! Nice work.

I always wondered why part of the US government never bothered to plant a bioweapons lab into Iraq. The involvement of world-class expert Hatfil in the 'search' for the lab now makes sense. Obviously, the Army and Intelligence could just go by Curveball and Hatfil's diagrams or 'police sketches' based on them if they wanted to search for the labs.

But, based on what we heard from the 2 former CIA officers this week (was it on 60 Minutes or MSNBC?), the highest levels of the Whitehouse and the CIA knew before the war that such labs didn't exist, according to a Saddam Regime mole on our payroll.

Therefore, the involvement of Hatfil indicates that we were going to plant a real mobile WMD lab into Iraq, and purport it to be Iraqi. A false flag operation.

But someone else in the government, through checks and balances, put a stop to this somehow... Perhaps it was Valerie Wilson Plame.

It is typical of the Bush43 regime to let the shit roll down-hill, compmentalized, letting some lower level person take the fall.

The circularity/insularity of this cast of characters: Libby, US Bioweapons Production and covert ops, false flags, Hatfil, and Judy Miller is also typical of this regime.

With regard to Plame/Wilson I would also like to point out that the top counter-terrorism experts and whistle blowers serving our government have all met opposition, attack, gag orders, or even death.

John O'Neill was hounded out of the FBI because his colleagues stole/lost his laptop during a conference when he left a meeting room for a phone call. O'Neill was asking too many questions about the Saudis. He lost his life a few weeks later during the WTC attacks/bombings.


Linda Franklin, an FBI counter-terrorism analyst died from a gunshot while she was leaving a Home Depot during the Beltway 'Sniper' Shootings spree in October 2002. She worked with distinction at the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, the only FBI division slated at the time to move to Homeland Security. Ms. Franklin was a cyber-security expert. Her murder was not tried or thoroughly investigated, since there were so many other charges against Army veteran and Nation of Islam convert John Allen Muhammad. It seems strange to me that the FBI wouldn't do their own investigation and push for a prosecution against the murderer of one of their own.


Valerie Plame Wilson was a top WMD investigator for Iran and Africa; she and her assets are blown and endangered.

Sibel Edmonds has gag orders on her.

And the guys in the DIA who discovered Mohammed Atta's cell were told that Atta was off limits nearly a year before the attacks, and they are muzzled in the Able Danger Operation affair....

I've also lately been intrigued by the fine line that exists between defense and offense, intelligence and counter-intelligence, and terrorism and counter-terrorism. Why are we making the Ames strain of Anthrax bioweapons? For defense? I suppose that this is our way around the ban on WMD that we signed a treaty for...

lukery said...

enzo - good points all

i didnt know the linda franklin story - thanks for that.

mr said...

Thanks Lukery for the info. I first heard the Zack story a long time ago and the 1992 date was not mentioned then. I had dumped it into the 'interesting, but needing further verification/debunking' pile where it sat with all the other similar stories.

A few questions I still have based on my lack of knowledge on the subject. Does anthrax have a 'shelf life'? Could it have been first procured(stolen) in 92 to be used at a later date and still have effective use? The first and most important element would be obtaining it. The spread of this stuff seemed to be timed pretty close to the chaos of the 9/11 events.

lukery said...

mr - judy reported that it's actually quite easy to make 'amateur anthrax' - hatfill wrote a paper comparing amateur to weaponized anthrax in 99

Anonymous said...

There is some discussion of Dr Kelly and the Mobile Weapons Labs here. Theres a British MP investigating if he was bumped off.
Just what was his role in the breaking of the fake mobile weapons labs story?


lukery said...

thnx anon