by, Cheri Roberts
Stories have been written with headlines stating the FBI had the terrorists’ DNA long before the Sept. 11th attacks. The information behind those headlines is rooted in chapter 30 – a two and a half page chapter titled, “The Terrorists”, in the book Who They Were, Inside The World Trade Center DNA Story: The Unprecedented Effort To Identify The Missing by, Robert C. Shaler – Director of the Forensic Biology Department in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) of New York. The information in chapter 30 briefly and unceremoniously outlines the DNA identification of three of the ten alleged terrorists that flew planes into NYC’s World Trade Center buildings 1 and 2.
The truth movement took bits and pieces from the chapter and came to the conclusion that the FBI already had the terrorists’ DNA before 9-11. While this may ultimately be true, the book in no way said anything like that. Unfortunately the 9-11 Truth movement glommed on to this as if it was ironclad proof of government involvement in the attacks and by perpetuating the unsubstantiated story they harmed the movements credibility. More importantly they missed what I believe is the real smoking gun evidence of FBI involvement in the crimes against America’s citizens on Sept. 11, 2001 by way of cover–up and finger-pointing after the attacks.
I do not believe everyone within the walls of the FBI (or other government entities) are bad people and I do not believe they were all involved in a conspiracy. I do however believe there are people within the FBI that were a crucial part of the 9/11 cover–up. I would also like to say that I do not believe the NYC’s Chief Medical Examiner’s Office (OCME) or its Forensic Biology Department were knowingly involved in a conspiracy to cover–up a crime however, I do believe they are guilty of gross negligence based on emotion which makes them complicit in the misinformation that was manufactured and disseminated to the public.
Building the Case
We are going to look at DNA technology and identification, evidence protocol, terminology and public statements by both the FBI and the NYC Medical Examiner’s Office (OCME). In doing so I will show how the only known scientific evidence connecting any of the alleged 19 hijackers to the attacks of Sept. 11th in NYC would be inadmissible in any US court of law and therefore should be pulled from all public record of the attacks. Additionally, the American people should be told the truth about the evidence and it’s handling in a clear manner so that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt what they have been told is quite possibly untrue.
From the onset the US intelligence community was under fire – most predominately the CIA and FBI. Considering this, one must look at what transpired after the attacks and how the FBI played a good game in the public eye. I will not go into the planning or execution of the attacks that point to government involvement. Instead I will take the ball from the time of the attacks forward and show how the FBI took control of the minds of the public by manipulating media information and quite possibly forensic evidence.
Before I can get into the forensics, I must set up the basic timeline establishing how the FBI made their case against 19 Arab hijackers to the public:
On Sept. 11, 2001 the FBI began their investigation in the attacks – codename PENTTBOM which stands for ‘Pentagon/Twin Towers Bombing Investigation’:
“Within minutes of these attacks, the FBI’s Command Center, the Strategic Information and Operations Center (SIOC) was operational. SIOC provided analytical, logistical, and administrative support for the teams on the ground in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. A new command center in New York City had to be established because the FBI field office was too close to “ground zero.” Evidence response teams and the FBI’s Disaster Squad were deployed to the crash sites.
Efforts began as a search-and-rescue mission. As days passed, the crash sites became crime scenes, and the tedious process of evidence collection began”.
Two days later, on Sept 13, 2001 the FBI investigated a tip related to a rental car parked at Logan International Airport in Boston. It was reported the FBI found an Arabic-language flight manual and other documents inside the car. They allege they found in these documents a name that matched one name on a passenger list of one of the 9-11 flights, as well as names of other suspects.
The following day on Sept. 14th, 2001 – only three days after the horror we call 9-11, it was the FBI who provided a list of 19 names to the American people. This list was not presented as a list of suspects, innocent until proven guilty. Instead it was presented as fact through the language they used.
The FBI said they were able to identify the 19 hijackers using flight, credit card, banking, and other records.
Then, on Sept. 16, 2001 a statement from Usama bin Ladin, denying any involvement in the attacks was broadcast by Qatar’s Al-Jazeera satellite channel,
“I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to have been carried out by individuals with their own motivation.”
I find it hard to believe Usama would deny responsibility for what would have been the greatest coup in Jihad history if he were genuinely responsible for the mass murders on 9-11. The act would lift him to greater grace in the eyes of his followers and it would be a tremendous recruitment tool for Al Qaida.
Later that same, day President Bush was asked if he believed the statement made by bin Laden and the President answered,
“No question he is the prime suspect. No question about that.”
Why – only five days after the attack, was bin Ladin the prime suspect with “No question” about it?
Also on that day it was reported that a passport belonging to one of the suspected hijackers was discovered near the ruins of the World Trade Center. The Assistant Director of the FBI did not disclose the name or any other passport details to the public at that time. Very few things – including remains of victims, were found in tact at the WTC site. One has to be curious how, not only did a passport survive, but how it came to be one from an alleged hijacker and reported on the very day we received a statement from bin Ladin denying responsibility for the crimes. How many passports or drivers licenses of American citizens were found in the rubble?
Ultimately, according to the 9-11 Commission Report, a total of four passports believed to be those of suspected 9-11 hijackers were found.
A week later FBI Director Mueller acknowledged that investigators may not know the true identities of some of the 19 suspected hijackers and made this confusing statement on Sept. 21, 2001,
“We have several hijackers whose identities were those of the names on the manifests,” Mueller said. “We have several others that are still in question. The investigation is ongoing, and I am not certain as to several of the others.”
But, yet, a week later – on Sept. 27, 2001, Mueller updated his list of suspected terrorists only by including pictures to go with the original 19 names. The names themselves remained the same.
On October 10, the FBI announced a new “Most Wanted Terrorists List” and by Nov. 3, 2001 Mueller told the American public that investigators have established the true identities of all 19 of the Sept. 11 hijackers and have found places outside the United States where the plot was hatched saying,
“We at this point definitely know the 19 hijackers who were responsible.”
Mueller’s statement does not use words like “alleged”, or “suspected”, instead it emphatically says “definitely” and “those who were responsible”. Their guilt was marketed to America in sound bytes, and America gobbled it up.
On December 11, three months to the day of the attacks, then Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller announced the indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui in connection with the attacks.
It is important to note that from the very first day the names were released – a mere three days after the attacks, and amid back and forth, and then to this very day, the FBI has not once changed the names on that list of 19 suspected 9-11 hijackers. One could say that from the onset, the FBI believed they knew who the men were and built a case for the public around it. Considering how many murder cases that remain unsolved it is mind-boggling how the FBI, with minimal evidence and only three days time, were able to solve the biggest crime our country had ever faced. Lucky for them they didn’t have to go to court against any of the 19 they fingered, because their slam dunk evidence – revealed in 2003, would not have been admissible in an US court of law.
Every other piece of evidence they had been circumstantial at best and in a real trial would not have been enough to sentence any normal American citizen to prison or death. Yet, it was enough to enrage a grieving and horrified country and allow the President of the United States to declare a War on Terror – with no boundaries, killing countless innocent people, including more people of our own.
As promised, I am going to take you down the road of forensics and how they were used to identify victims in NYC as well those in DC and PA and how forensics were used to allegedly identify three of the ten suspected hijackers involved in the NYC attacks.
Forensic science is one of those mystery sciences that many people still do not understand. We know it’s used in courts and some of us have a general idea of how it’s obtained, but that’s about it. In order to make the case I am making I will need to go into some technical detail, so forgive me if at times this seems tedious or boring or if I seem to jump from one thing to another and back again. In the end, I believe you will see more clearly how the FBI was negatively involved in every aspect of the DNA identification process of the remains from WTC victims. An involvement that allowed them to acquire [or manufacture?] the one piece of scientific evidence tying any of the alleged 9-11 terrorists to the WTC crime scene.
I will be talking about DNA or STR profiles – how they are obtained, tested, and matched for identification. I will also explain how CODIS – the FBI’s DNA software, was used and by whom it was set up for the NYC Chief Medical Examiner’s Office (OCME) and maybe most importantly, I will be talking about Accession. Three very important pieces in the over all puzzle. In understanding these three things, you will then understand how the OCME -as well as the rest of America, was duped by the FBI. I would also like to note that the OCME experienced many delays in promised assistance by the FBI throughout the WTC victim identification process. Had the FBI been cooperating and coordinating as they were supposed to from the beginning many families of victims may have found closure sooner.
In the United States, the medical examiner has the statutory responsibility and authority to identify the deceased and to issue a death certificate.
On Sept. 11, 2001 the NY City Chief Medical Examiner’s Office (OCME) and its Forensic Biology Department (aka the DNA lab) went into high gear preparing for an unknown number of remains of Trade Center victims that would need to be identified. One of the most important parts of this process was setting up something called Accession. In evidence handling terms, accession is a chain of custody for any evidence, including remains. A legal way of documenting everyone that handles evidence, when and by whom it was received, where and how it was stored and when – if ever, it left the holders possession.
Remember Accession – we will get back to that later, but for now I am going to move on to DNA and STR.
First a quick primer on DNA. From Chapter 2 of the President’s DNA Initiative: How DNA Is Used to Make Identifications:
DNA analysis has a number of advantages over other identification methods and is a critical tool in associating severely fragmented remains, such as those that resulted from the World Trade Center (WTC) attacks, with victims. It is important for a laboratory to have a plan in place for using this forensic technique in a high volume situation.
DNA identifications are made by comparing DNA profiles from human remains to DNA profiles from reference samples. There are several potential sources of reference samples:
1. personal items used by the victim (e.g., toothbrush, hairbrush, razor) and banked samples from the victim (e.g., banked sperm or archival biopsy tissues stored in a medical facility);
2. biological relatives of the victim (i.e., “blood kin”); and
3. human remains previously identified through other modalities or other fragmented remains already typed by DNA.
As the day progressed, on Sept. 11, victims’ remains began to arrive at the OCME and, according to Robert C. Shaler – then Director of the Forensic Biology Dept in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) of New York, in all – the recovery effort at the WTC produced only 293 bodies that were “whole bodies” and 19,915 “remains”. He says of the condition of the remains the OCME received,
“The first batches (of remains) gave good results (for STR profile typing), but by the third week in September” the batches were degraded and allelic dropout was significant. In Phase 1 “more than 60 percent of the World Trade Center remains gave either partial STR DNA profiles or no profiles” ~ Page 77 – Who They Were, Inside The World Trade Center DNA Story: The Unprecedented Effort To Identify The Missing
“In most forensic case work, we have fresh DNA. Older cases pose similar problems to those that we encountered with the World Trade Center work. Allelic dropout complicated the interpretation of most of the DNA profiles we encountered and made confirming identifications problematic.” ~ Page 76 – Who They Were, Inside The World Trade Center DNA Story: The Unprecedented Effort To Identify The Missing
What Are STRs, Alleles and CODIS?
- STR: STR stands for Short Tandem Repeat and STR’s are biological markers inherited from our parents. STR’s vary widely among people. Testing for an STR results in a unique DNA profile and is referred to as an STR Profile. STR testing is the foundation of forensic testing word wide.
- Allele and Allelic Dropout: An Allele is a genetic marker that occupies a specific location or locus on a chromosome. We inherit one allele from each parent. Allelic Dropout is the loss of an Allele. In practice, this happens in two ways – from either degraded or limiting amounts of DNA
STR profiles are very important because, STR tests are the only US court accepted forensic DNA test available and are also used for the FBI’s national DNA database CODIS.
The OCME was technologically challenged in their task to identify victims because of the overwhelming volume of remains that had to be tested, categorized and then matched. They sought help from many sources – one of which was the FBI. The OCME needed an equivalent to the FBI’s national DNA database or CODIS:
CODIS or Combined DNA Index System operated by the FBI under the authority of the DNA Identification Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. section 14132). CODIS is implemented as a distributed database with three hierarchical levels (or tiers) of the DNA Index System – local (LDIS), state (SDIS), and national (NDIS). This tiered approach allows individual state and local agencies to operate their respective DNA databases according to applicable state law and local policy. In New York State, DCJS has administrative oversight of the DNA Databank. The New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center (NYSP FIC) maintains the State DNA Index System (SDIS). There are eight Local DNA laboratories participating in CODIS and they are each referred to as a Local DNA Index System (LDIS) lab.
According to Shaler’s accounting, he and Howard Baum – then Deputy Director of the OCME’s DNA Lab, did not want to use the existing CODIS and have DNA of 9-11 victims and their families cohabiting with the DNA of hard-core criminals. What they needed and requested on Sept. 12, 2001 from Dr. Barry Brown – the CODIS Manager for the FBI, was their own stand-alone CODIS system. However, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) – the creators of CODIS, told Shaler and Baum they would not be able to store STR profiles collected from the victims’ family members or from their personal effects in CODIS, but that is exactly what the OCME needed CODIS to do.
All the STR’s needed to be housed in the same database in order to search STR profiles derived from family members/personal effects against the WTC victims’ STR profiles so they could make identifications. Without that ability CODIS wouldn’t be very beneficial.
Later the same day Dr. Brown assured them SAIC was working overtime and would upgrade the CODIS system to accommodate their needs. The OCME never received the upgrade until late October 2001 and found out in 2004 that the FBI had refused SAIC permission to contact the OCME and offer assistance. Apparently SAIC had done additional programming on CODIS – on their own dime, programming Shaler believed would have helped during the initial days after the attacks.
In Dec. of 2001 a man contracted by the National Institute of Justice — who had come from the FBI, became the unofficial project manager and liaison for the WTC identification effort. His name is Steve Niezgoda and his name is tied to the early days of CODIS creation. Eventually he wrote additional scripts for the CODIS that was used by the OCME.
In the spring of 2002 Chuck Hirsch – Chief medical Examiner for the city of NY and Robert C. Shaler – then Director of the Forensic Biology Dept in the NY OCME, contacted the FBI asking if they had any DNA samples of the alleged terrorists. Their goal in identifying any hijackers at that time was to be able to separate any of their remains from those of the victims. According to Shaler they didn’t receive anything from the FBI until more than a year after their request.
This is where the personal account of Shaler and a single paragraph from his book comes into play. The little paragraph that somehow led the 9-11 Truth movement astray and made them miss what could be the most important piece of information. Shaler writes,
“Eventually (more than a year after the request) we received a one-page letter from the FBI containing ten coded STR profiles, presumably those of the terrorists. No names, just a K code, which is how the FBI designates “knowns,” or specimens it knows the origin of. These K’s had no names. We were certain these were the terrorists’ STR profiles, but there was nothing to identify them as such. Of course, we had no direct knowledge of how the FBI obtained the terrorists DNA.” *Page 300 – Who They Were, Inside the World Trade Center DNA Story: The Unprecedented Effort To Identify The Missing
In 2003 the OCME believed they had identified three of the ten men suspected of flying planes into the WTC. That means based on the information above, the DNA that made up the STR profiles of these three men had a 40% chance of being “fresh” non-degraded, easily matchable DNA. These STR’s were 3 profiles out of more than *52,528 STR profiles the OCME ultimately had in their CODIS. I am in no way stating these STR profile numbers as evidence of anything, I merely wish to give you a fuller grasp of the sheer volume of DNA that was involved. *Page 302 – Who They Were, Inside The World Trade Center DNA Story: The Unprecedented Effort To Identify The Missing
When questioned by the press on how the FBI had come into possession of the DNA they provided to the OCME, Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the New York Medical Examiner’s Office said on Feb. 28, 2003 that,
“The FBI had collected the DNA from tiny traces of skin on the steering wheels of vehicles hired by the hijackers and from hair samples recovered from their hotel rooms”.
And added, examiners (OCME) had requested the profiles from the FBI last summer and (the OCME) received them “a few weeks ago”
This is interesting because no DNA samples were ever provided to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology – the entity in charge of identifying remains from both the Pentagon and Pennsylvania crash sites. The hijackers’ remains from those two crime scenes were said to be identified by a “process of elimination” – in other words, DNA that did not match any samples they had of known passengers. I would say that would not be considered a positive ID by any stretch of the imagination.
“This is the first confirmation that these individuals were on those planes. Now we have their genetics, we can use this information to follow them. Perhaps we can hook them to other individuals.”
Kobilinsky’s statement is a contradiction. He states, “Now we have their genetics”, but if we are to believe the FBI provided real STR profiles to the OCME, we would also have to believe we had their “genetics” for some time.
Where’d the DNA Come From?
This begs the question, how did the FBI know the DNA they provided was really that of the alleged hijackers if the samples were collected from rental cars and hotel rooms? According to Mass Fatality, a government website setting standards for mass fatality incident handling,
“Cellular material for use as a potential reference sample may be derived from items such as hair, stamps, envelopes, toothbrushes, and razors. However, the use of personal items for reference samples can be problematic because the quantity of DNA that can be isolated is often minimal. In addition, ensuring before testing that only the victim used the item can be difficult”.
Obviously rental cars and hotel rooms are not used by one set of individuals. Anyone who has stayed in a hotel or rented a car knows that those who came before them always leave behind strands of hair along with other potential means of retrieving DNA. So with that in mind, what was the basis of comparison for the FBI against the samples they collected when they were not able to assure the samples they had were truly those of the suspected terrorists? Why did it take the FBI more than a year to provide the samples to the OCME? And what was the Accession of those samples before they were given to the OCME more than a year after they had been requested?
So, here we go, Accession. I told you I would come back to that word. Accession is a critical factor in evidence gathering. Again referencing the Mass Fatality site,
“One of the critical steps in this process is the creation of a chain-of-custody documentation system for all materials collected at the scene. This is important not only for scene reconstruction and quality control, but also in the event of any subsequent legal proceeding”.
And from the DoJ,
“Biological evidence should always be thoroughly air-dried, packaged in paper, and properly labeled, ensuring that the chain of custody—a process used to document the chronological history of the evidence is maintained”.
The FBI themselves have a policy for Accession listed here from their website,
Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Labs
7. EVIDENCE CONTROL
The laboratory shall have and follow a documented evidence control system to ensure the integrity of physical evidence. This system shall ensure that:
7.1.1 Evidence is marked for identification.
7.1.2 Chain of custody for all evidence is maintained.
7.1.3 The laboratory follows documented procedures that minimize loss, contamination, and/or deleterious change of evidence.
7.1.4 The laboratory has secure areas for evidence storage.
This is important because according to the DoJ,
“Although DNA is a powerful tool, it is useless to the criminal justice system if not properly collected, preserved, and tested”.
So again, what was the chain of custody or accession of the DNA provided to the OCME by the FBI?
Why did the FBI provide no DNA samples to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to make comparisons to the remains from the other crash sites? Why did the FBI only have DNA samples for the alleged NY ten? Why was the FBI so slow in cooperating with the OCME in any way when they were in fact under fire in the public eye of the attacks for their lack of cooperation with other government and intelligence agencies? One would think the FBI would be bending over backwards to appease. Instead it looks more like they were looking for a fix to create a distraction. They got both by way of the OCME positively identifying terrorists with DNA that has no documented accession before it arrived at the OCME.
Could the continued public distrust married to the Dec. 19, 2002 ABC Primetime News headline that boldly proclaimed “FBI Terrorist Cover Up” been the cause of the FBI’s sudden cooperation with the OCME?
Regardless of the sudden change of heart by the FBI to cooperate, we do not know the viability of any DNA they provided the OCME as there was no chain of custody provided. This alone would make the evidence null and void. For all we know the DNA they provided could have been from any victim of the WTC disaster. Are there three families – who never received remains, because the remains duly entitled to them were misidentified? With access to hundreds of thousands of STR profiles by way of CODIS, they could have chosen ten that they were able to pin WTC work locations to or a myriad of other possibilities. Were the three STR profiles also run through the FBI’s own CODIS database? One would think the FBI would have input that DNA into their system. What would have happened if the STR profiles had been cross-checked in the FBI database, whose names would have really been attached?
Sadly, we will probably never know.
We do however know – or should know, that everything said publicly with regard to the 19 alleged hijackers and Usama bin Ladin in connection to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 is possibly a lie. From statements in the press – like those in this article, to statement documentation of their own timelines and histories on the FBI website like,
“FBI investigators found letters handwritten in Arabic in three separate locations. The first was in a suitcase of hijacker Mohamed Atta, which did not make the connection to American Airlines Flight #11; the second was in a vehicle parked at Dulles International Airport belonging to hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi; and the third was at the crash site in Pennsylvania. Translations of the letters indicate an alarming willingness to die on the part of the hijackers”.
“Former federal terrorism investigators say a piece of luggage hastily checked in at the Portland, Maine, airport by a World Trade Center hijacker on the morning of Sept. 11 provided the Rosetta stone enabling FBI agents to swiftly unravel the mystery of who carried out the suicide attacks and what motivated them”.
To sworn testimony by Dale L. Watson – Executive Assistant Director, Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence Division, FBI in Feb. 2002 where he testified that,
“The evidence linking Al-Qaeda and Bin Laden to the attacks of September 11 is clear and irrefutable.”
And FBI Director Robert Mueller’s own Sept. 25, 2002 Statement for the Record for the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry.
“The consequences of a misidentification can have emotional and legal ramifications well beyond a specific case”.
On Sept. 11, 2001 our country was maimed in ways that went beyond loss of life. We were forever changed in how we thought about terrorism and government. We were ready and willing to take direction with unquestionable trust and fervent patriotism driven by fear, horror, hatred and sorrow. We needed a target for our emotions, someone to blame. Yes, the emotional and legal ramifications of all that we have been told – including the alleged DNA identifications of three accused terrorists will go and have gone well beyond this specific case.
But how do we know everything the FBI used to build their public case was a lie? That’s the easiest part of all because on April 19, 2002 Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI made a confession by way of an Executive Speech to the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco where he said,
“The hijackers also left no paper trail. In our investigation, we have not uncovered a single piece of paper – either here in the U.S. or in the treasure trove of information that has turned up in Afghanistan and elsewhere – that mentioned any aspect of the September 11th plot”.
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