Monday, August 21, 2006

steven hatfill makes me dizzy.

steven hatfill makes me dizzy.

I recently wrote a series of posts discussing Mobile Weapons Labs, anthrax, Judy Miller, Curveball, Steven Hatfill and David Kelly (among other things) with the help of Simon and emptywheel and mamayaga and others.

Hatfill designed two secret weapons labs - and we pondered whether the intention might have been to plant one or both in Iraq to 'prove' that Saddam was making biological weapons. There are a whole bunch of weird questions about the official story.

The Mobile Weapons Labs (MWL's) are back in the news because bioweapons expert Milton Leitenberg of the University of Maryland recently wrote a paper (pdf) asking some questions. Milton has just released a follow-up piece in which he describes some answers.
"The illustration of the set of three vehicles that purportedly portrayed Iraq's mobile BW production vehicles and which first appeared in US Secretary of State Powell's address to the United Nations in February 20031 and then in the CIA/DIA-released report on May 28, 2003,2 were produced by graphic artists working at Battelle under a CIA contract.

Contrary to the prevalent assumptions, the illustrations apparently were not made following any detailed descriptions provided by the Iraqi informant codenamed "Curveball," but rather on the basis of specifications made by CIA staff and its contractor as to the equipment that such a vehicle or set of vehicles would require. It does not appear that the original purpose of the CIA contracted drawings was for use in Sec. Powell's UN presentation, but that they later were used for that purpose as well. Once prepared, they were given to President Bush in one of the "President's Daily Briefs" (PDBs). The same information was later included in the CIA/DIA report on May 28, 2003. Apparently the drawings were all that was ever prepared. No mock-up containing the pieces of equipment shown in the drawings appears to have been produced, and no biological agent or simulant was produced. The drawings therefore appear to be what DDCI McLaughlin referred to as "the processes he [Curveball] described had been assessed by an independent laboratory as workable engineering designs.""
His summary:
In summary, these self-conceived and self-imagined illustrations were all the "evidence" that the United States government had to give to Secretary of State Powell to place before the United Nations and the world to support the claim that Iraq had mobile biological weapon production platforms which had been hidden from UNSCOM and UNMOVIC, in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687. This was one of the prime justifications for the US and the UK to invade Iraq.

Whether the responsibility for this deception belongs to Vice President Cheney's office or to the CIA alone still remains to be determined. One day after the US Defense Intelligence Agency had in its hands a draft report from a mission that it had dispatched to Iraq which definitively reported that the Iraqi vehicles were for hydrogen production, the CIA and DIA released their May 28, 2003 report which stated the contrary and repeated Secretary Powell's UN testimony regarding the alleged vehicles.3 One should also remember that nine months after the two vehicles recovered in Iraq in 2003 were independently determined by US and by British teams as absolutely not being for BW production, George Tenet still portrayed the issue as an open question in a speech at Georgetown University in February 2004.

The earlier analysis also discussed a BW production mock-up truck platform being constructed under a CIA contract to SAIC Corporation and being carried out in Frederick, Maryland, beginning in September 2001 by Dr. Steven Hatfill. This vehicle almost certainly had another purpose, to be used for training US Special Forces personnel who might encounter and capture such vehicles, presumably in Iraq if not elsewhere. Nevertheless, it cannot be excluded that CIA officials also used knowledge of this construction to reassure themselves about the relevance of the drawings made at Battelle to their false preconception of the existence of mobile BW production vehicles in Iraq.
got that?

Apart from that, I'm the bearer of bad news. I've got nothing else. I've been going around in circles for two days on this story and all i've got is dizzy.

emptywheel is promising a new post on the matter, so hopefully she has some more insight than me. (update, here it is)

here's all I can offer.
1. It appears that the purpose of Judy's July 2 article was to pre-empt the WaPo article of the following day. Specifically, at a minimum, to a) give the impression that the SAIC/Hatfill trailer was in response to either 911 or the anthrax attacks. - and b) focus on the SAIC/Hatfill trailer, and not the other spooky mysterious one which also gets buried in the final two paras at Wapo:
"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."
We have no idea when this lab was built. And if anyone can explain to me why someone would refer to a non-mobile training lab as 'static,' I'd really appreciate it. And if anyone can offer any insight into that second paragraph, that'd be great too. c) to paint the tensions between the Justice Department and the Defense Department over Hatfill's role as being related to the access to the 'trainer' - rather than the fact that "the Pentagon's insistence on using Hatfill as an instructor even as the FBI intensified its investigation of him angered and puzzled some agents"

2. Special Forces in the field need to a) identify a possible bio-weapons lab (mobile or otherwise) b) take control of the lab c) contain any possible fallout/damage (e.g. dont turn off the power) until the pointyheads come in for verification and clean-up. It's not obvious to me why they need a full working demonstration model for any of these tasks, not least a mobile one - particularly because there are probably hundreds of variations of how any such lab might be put together. The Special Forces need to be able to recognize all configurations and act appropriately. They don't need to know the finest details of one possible configuration.

3. Given the task at hand, and given that Hatfill was a 'person of interest' in multiple homicides and terrorism, why did the pentagon step in and 'unrevoke' his security clearance, and unfire him, causing much anger and puzzlement at the FBI, so that they could continue to use him? (Judy trivialized it thusly: " tensions arose between the Justice Department and the Defense Department over their access to the mobile unit")

All that aside, for a bit of background and context, here's Laura Rozen:
"Hatfill's longer biography is riddled with gaps where classified projects presumably belong... From 1975 to 1978, he served with the U.S. Army Institute for Military Assistance, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while simultaneously, his resume says, serving in the Special Air Squadron (SAS) of the white supremacist regime in Rhodesia. He attended medical school in Rhodesia from 1978 to 1984, and then moved to South Africa, where he completed various military-medical assignments while obtaining three master's degrees, studying for a doctoral degree, and practicing in a South African clinic.

His military background includes the United States Army's Institute for Military Assistance, the Rhodesian SAS, and Selous Scouts [Rhodesian counterinsurgency forces]."

There is something curious about Hatfill's claim, on his resume, to have worked concurrently with the U.S. Army Institute for Military Assistance in Fort Bragg and with the Rhodesian Special Air Squadron. Indeed, several of his associates have told the Prospect that Hatfill bragged of having been a double agent in South Africa -- which raises some intriguing questions. Was the U.S. military biowarfare program willing to hire and give sensitive security clearances to someone who had served in the apartheid-era South African military medical corps, and with white-led Rhodesian paramilitary units in Zimbabwe's civil war two decades earlier? Or did Hatfill serve in the Rhodesian SAS, and later in the South African military medical corps, at the behest of the U.S. government?"
and if you want more, there's this Vanity Fair piece which is long, but very interesting, and quite damning re his involvement in a whole bunch of stuff, not least the 2001 anthrax attacks. Here's one curious element:
No less interesting to me, as a professor of English literature, was Hatfill's unpublished novel, Emergence, which I examined in Washington at the U.S. Copyright Office. In the book, an Iraqi virologist launches a bioterror attack on behalf of an unnamed sponsor, using an identity acquired from the Irish Republican Army and a homemade sprayer like the one Steven J. Hatfill demonstrated for The Washington Times. A fictional scientist named Steven J. Roberts comes to the rescue, tracing the outbreak to Iraq. The Strangelovean novel ends with America nuking Baghdad. As the warheads fall, the pilot remarks, "Beautiful . . . just beautiful. Welcome to Fuck City, Ragheads! Let"s get the hell out of Dodge."
Hatfill's novel, however, has a surprise ending. In a three-page epilogue, the narrator, a Russian mobster, reveals that his own organization, not Iraq, is responsible for the bioterror attack:

"The reaction was as great as we had hoped for the entire focus of the American F.B.I. has now shifted towards combating chemical/ biological terrorism and this is allowing us to formulate the unprecedented expansion of our organization."
The ink was hardly dry on Emergence when the government hired Hatfill, now working for S.A.I.C., to commission a paper from Bill Patrick focusing on how to respond to a biological terror event.


Simon said...

Maybe Steven Hatfill is the modern-day equivalent of Doctor Strangelove??

"Deterrence is the art of producing in the mind of the enemy the fear to attack."

mamayaga said...

I know nothing about the manufacture of bioweapons, but I do know a little about the laboratories that are needed to handle biological agents that can be "weaponized."

I'm assuming that the difference between a research lab using such agents and a laboratory production facility to weaponize those agents would primarily be one of scale and specialized equipment, not essential containment characteristics. That is, you'd need certain air handling and filtering capabilities in the physical structure, certain equipment to actually handle the agents and certain "PPE" -- personal protective equipment such as respirators, gloves, etc. You can see the guidelines for such labs in this standard reference:

Look under BSL-3 and BSL-4 laboratories. These types of labs are designed to handle the same biological agents that can be turned into weapons, as can be seen by comparing the lists in this reference with the lists of "select agents and toxins" for which possession and use in this country is tightly regulated because of their potential use as weapons (see the list here:

That said, it's a mystery to me why training on the common features of labs designed to handle such agents required one or two FUNCTIONAL models, stationary or mobile. As you said, different labs achieve the standard barriers and protections in different ways, but the principles are clear and commonplace. Any smart commando could be oriented quite adequately without a functional lab; a non-functioning mockup and some book learning would do, at a fraction of the cost.

In fact, you can get functional mobile labs at BSL-3 or BSL-4 off the shelf -- there are companies that rent them to research institutions with short-term projects that don't justify the expense of retrofitting a building for this use.

We may just be looking at yet another earmark boondoggle here in the building of these labs. Wasn't it SAIC, after all, that just blew through $170 mil to develop a non-functional computer system for the FBI? Wonder what they charge for something that actually works?

lukery said...

thnx mamayaga. perhaps you are correct and it was all just a boondoggle.

that wouldnt quite explain the DoD desperation to have Hatfill on the team.

i'll email Milton and ask him some of these questions.

ew's related post is now up

simon - he sure is a mystery.

lukery said...

btw mamayaga. "Wonder what they charge for something that actually works?" was funny :-)

Simon said...

Emptywheel's new piece is v v good, my only comment would be is that is does well and truly state the obvious, that Bushmin wanted it their way no matter where the real truth lay. What I don't get is how they thought that the early floating of the white paper would help put the matter to rest once-and-for-all.

There were Brits who were first-on-the-scene, and their findings got reported back to London and to Dr Kelly. It is fairly obvious that Judy was talking to him prior to June 7 ("I have no great confidence that it's a fermenter.."). I think this does allow Judy some credibility as she was accurately reporting the only dissent she was hearing.

Another point I would like to make is that there has been an assumption that the bogus labs would have been used to produce anthrax. This is a piss poor explanation of their purpose, even if they were real, Saddam could not have failed to have known that the US/UK forces who were likely to have faced him were full equipped, both by innoculation and with full NBC individual personal equipment, so as to counter the threat. Besides which anthrax is pretty unsuitable as a battlefield weapon in a defensive situation as it contaminates the defending side's land for generations to come. It's a shot-in-the-foot, esp. considering the other side has already had a shot-in-the-arm.

(I do think that Bushmin rely on the stupidity of the general public when it comes to NBC matters, and then turn to compliant journalists to do their dirty work for them. Either that or they are terminally stupid themselves for believing their own hype.)

Simon said...

(Is does? It does, me thinks!!)