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2001 October letter-bombs

A brief historical review of the 2001 events in the United States and the Anthrax letter-bombs sent to Senator Daschle and Leahy.

On October 4, 2001, the Palm Beach County Health Department in Florida announced the death of Robert Stevens, 63, a photographer working for the English tabloid Sun. The strangest thing is that his death is due to the pulmonary form of the anthrax ! a very rare form of the disease.


It seems that Robert Stevens was contaminated just before his departure on vacation on September 26, 2001. The first signs appeared on September 30 and he fell into a coma 4 hours after his admission to the Palm Beach JFK Medical Center on October 2. The following days, 4 other people died in New York and Washington.


All these people were victims of 11 letters containing {Bacillus anthracis} spores sent on September 18 (7 days after the attacks) and on October 8. They were all posted from Trenton, New Jersey. Sorted by automatic postal machines they contaminated thousands of employees of the post office and, after opening, hundreds of other people. Indeed, {Bacillus} spores have been spread into the atmosphere during the sorting and have thus caused airborne contamination of the people who inhaled them. This route of contamination is formidable because without treatment it causes the death of 95% of the patients in 1 to 5 days.
This type of contamination is almost identical to that in Sverdlovsk [1]  with an aerosol while here it occurred with a contaminated powder.


The September letters were intended for New York media (television channels and daily newspapers). Those of October were addressed, one to Senator Leahy and the other to Senator Daschle. When she opened this letter, the young individual contractor saw a fine white powder escaping and immediately alerted the authorities. The diagnosis was formal: “{Bacillus} {anthracis}”. The spores were spread throughout the building “Hart building” which was massively contaminated by the air conditioning system! All employees were preventively treated with ciprofloxacin for 60 days, a highly efficient treatment.


The received messages were confusing. “09-11-01, this is the next, take penacilin (sic) now, death to America, death to Israel, Allah is great”. Why should suspected Islamic terrorists warn of the danger and recommend to take antibiotics?”


Then, everything becomes complicated; cutaneous cases of anthrax appeared in postal workers handling mail, followed by other cases of pulmonary forms. Two thousand postmen working at the Brentwood post office must take antibiotics and the building was heavily contaminated. A total of 33,000 people received preventive antibiotics from national stocks. A total of 22 people were victims of anthrax (11 cutaneous cases, 11 pulmonary cases). Five people died.


Experts showed that the Anthrax powder was “militarized” and that it could not have been developed by amateur terrorists. In addition, genetic studies showed that the strain had a “American” origin. It is obvious that such a weapon came from an American military laboratory: exit the Islamist hypothesis.
The suspicions have fallen on Dr. Steven Jay Hatfill, a Fort Detrick specialist, described as a rather nice storyteller. He was later exonerated and received compensation of $ 5.8 million in March 2008.

On July 29, 2008, Dr. Bruce Edwards Ivins died after he committed suicide when he learned that he was summoned by justice. This Fort Detrick specialist was in charge of the investigation for several years until the investigators realized that the letters could come from his own laboratory …
With a fragile character, he tried several times to slow the investigation. One day the FBI fond in his laboratory a bacterial strain with the same DNA fingerprinting that this used for the attacks.
There are still grey areas in this case: the mobile, the means of manufacture of the powder, the possible accomplices … Act of an isolated imbalance? Plot? Scapegoat ? True guilty?


In any case, these attacks have made the general public and the authorities realize the threats of bioterrorism.
The cost of decontamination of the Hart Building was estimated at $ 26 million after being closed several 6 months. It took 2 years to decontaminate the Brentwood Post for a cost of $ 30 million.
What can be done to decontaminate large areas affected by biological agents as resistant as Bacillus anthracis spores?
We recall here that the spores are extremely resistant and that few chemicals are able to destroy them.
The deep decontamination product[ DESDEC R2D4->https://www.ouvry.com/CBRNe/-decontamination-approfondie-des-.html#content], used in aerosol, foam or liquid form, can destroy all bacterial vegetative forms as well as the most resistant spores.(It is also efficient on chemicals.)
This example, which caused a panic never seen before in the US and all around the world just after the events of September 11, shows us that it is imperative to be able to respond quickly to the threat to – avoid contamination and 2 – secure populations and avoid anxiety.

Reference can be made to the following two works:

Microbes at war: from antiquity to September 11, 2001. Jean Freney and François Renaud Editions ESKA  [2]

L’histoire secrète des guerres biologiques : mensonges et crimes d’états Robert Laffont [3]