Thursday, August 7, 2008
The Kappa Fatwa
You knew all along that the mysterious anthrax attacks on The National Enquirer, the U.S. Senate, and leading broadcasters that made you afraid to open your mail in the days after 9/11 were the home-grown product of some media-addled American mind acting out from some obscure private workspace. This one is so made-for-TV ready, it even includes these nutty limericks that you can't help but imagine Bruce Dern singing with his crazy eyes in the denouement of some ABC special movie presentation:
I'm a little dream-self, short and stout.
I'm the other half of Bruce - when he lets me out.
When I get all steamed up, I don't pout.
I push Bruce aside, them I'm Free to run about!
Hickory dickory Doc - Doc Bruce ran up the clock.
But something then happened in very strange rhythm.
His other self went and exchanged places with him.
So now, please guess who
Is conversing with you.
Hickory dickory Doc!
Bruce and this other guy, sitting by some trees,
It's like having two in one.
Actually it's rather fun!"
Most amazingly, though, is the revelation that much of the trigger was the scientist's lifelong obsession with the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma, which he believed had issued a fatwa against him.
Dr. Ivins provided CW-4 one of his alternate e-mail addresses as email@example.com. A search of the internet for postings under goldenphoenix111 identified the following posting dated February 20,2007, on a website at www.abovetopesecret.com:
"Wildswan, you are quite right about what you said about KKG. If people look hard enough and dig hard enough, have friends, relatives, perhaps financial resources, etc., then they can pretty much find out about whatever GLO they want. Kappas are noted for being lovely, highly intelligent campus leaders. Unfortunately, they labeled me as an enemy decades ago, and I can only abide by their "Fatwah" on me. I like individual Kappas enormously, and love being around them. I never choose an enemy, but they've been after me since the 1960s, and REALLY after me since the late 1970s. At one time in my life, I knew more about KKG than any non-Kappa that had ever lived. Unfortunately I've forgotten a lot. I've read the history of KKG that was written several decades ago about its founding. Question for you: Did your chapter use the combined service, or did you separate your services into the "RedRoom and WhiteRoom"? did you use special blue or white blindfolds? You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org ... as a phoenix rises from its ashes ..."
This posting is significant in that in his own words, Dr. Ivins defines the depths of his obsession and knowledge in the sorority KKG. Additionally, as previously described above, the letters used in the 2001 anthrax mailings were mailed from a blue collection box located at 10 Nassau Street, Princeton, New Jersey. The sorority, KKG, has an office at 20 Nassau Street, Princeton, New Jersey, located on the same side of the street and 60 feet to the right from the blue collection box.
How many other dream warriors do you suppose are out there, cruising the frontage roads, swiping their building access cards, playing back the cut-up narratives of their televisually informed lives against the insides of their foreheads? Fortunately, not so many of them have access to weapons of mass destruction.
For the full story, check out this masterpiece of invisible literature: the affidavit of the joint FBI-Postal Inspector Task Force in support of its application for a search warrant. Revealing, among other things, that if you are going to send letter bombs, you should not use envelopes swiped from the stationery supply closet at your day job:
Envelopes used in the anthrax attacks
In the 2001 anthrax attacks, four envelopes were recovered. The four envelopes were all 6 3/4 inch federal eagle envelopes. The "federal eagle" designation is derived from the postage frank in the upper right-hand comer on the envelope which consists of the image of an eagle perched on a bar bearing the initials "USA." Underneath the lettering is the number "34," which denotes the postage value of 346. The eagle, lettering, and denomination are referred to as the indicia. The eagle and the bar are stamped in blue ink, while the denomination is stamped in grey ink. Approximately 45 million Federal eagle 6 3/4" envelopes were manufactured by Westvaco Corporation (now known as MeadWestvaco Corporation) of Williamsburg,
Pennsylvania, between December 6,2000 and March 2002. These Federal eagle 6 3/4" envelopes were manufactured exclusively for and sold solely by the U.S. Postal Service between January 8, 2001 and June 2002.
Subsequent to the attacks, an effort was made to collect all such envelopes for possible forensic examination, including the identification of defects that occur during the envelope manufacturing process. As a result of this collection, envelopes with printing defects identical to printing defects identified on the envelopes utilized in the anthrax attacks during the fall of 2001 were collected fiom the Fairfax Main post office in Fairfax, Virginia and the Cumberland and Elkton post offices in Maryland. The Fairfax Main, Cumberland, Maryland, and Elkton, Maryland post offices are supplied by the Dulles Stamp Distribution Office (SDO), located in Dulles, Virginia. The Dulles SDO distributed "federal eagle" envelopes to post offices throughout Maryland and Virginia. Given that the printing defects identified on the envelopes used in the attacks are transient, thereby being present on only a small population of the federal eagle envelopes produced, and that envelopes with identical printing defects to those identified on the envelopes used in the attacks were recovered fiom post offices serviced by the Dulles SDO, it is reasonable to conclude that the federal eagle envelopes utilized in the attacks were purchased from a post office in Maryland or Virginia.
Of the sixteen domestic government, commercial, and university laboratories that had virulent RMR- 1029 Ames strain Bacillus anthracis material in their inventory prior to the attacks, only one lab was located in Maryland or Virginia, where the relevant federal eagle envelopes were distributed and sold by the U.S. Postal Service: the USAMRID facility at Fort
Casting call: the dogged postal inspector who, against all odds, tracks his man over a period of eight years, swabbing mailboxes, tracing envelope manufacturing, and interviewing befuddled Kappas.