LMW COMMENT …
- It is almost 8 years since the 2001 anthrax attacks, and yet it is abundantly clear that the FBI has not solved the case. The FBI contention that the deceased Dr. Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator of these attacks would really be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.
- Members of Congress have been seeking to get the facts from the FBI for many years, and are frustrated by the stonewalling of FBI Director Meuller. There are several initiatives underway, however, which may yet throw some light on whatever dark secrets the FBI is intent on keeping hidden.
- It is my task this week to try to get updates on the status of various Congressional inquiries into the FBI’s anthrax investigation. As a prelude to these updates (if indeed any are forthcoming), I thought it would be helpful to summarize what has been said and written on this matter. Here is what I have found so far (readers of this blog – please send me more) …
3/3/09 – Holt introduces Anthrax Commission Legislation … Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today introduced the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act of 2009, legislation that would establish a Congressional commission to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks and the federal government’s response to and investigation of the attacks. … “All of us – but especially the families of the victims of the anthrax attacks – deserve credible answers about how the attacks happened and whether the case really is closed,” Holt said. … Under Holt’s legislation, the commission would be comprised of no more than six members of from the same political party. The commission would hold public hearings, except in situations where classified information would be discussed. … The Commission’s final report would be due 18 months after the Commission begins operations. … “Myriad questions remain about the anthrax attacks and the government’s bungled response to the attacks,” Holt said. “One of the most effective oversight mechanisms we can employ to get answers to those questions is a 9/11 style Commission.”
March 2009 – Nadler and Holt call for investigative commission:This week, two Democratic congressmen, Jerry Nadler and Rush Holt, whose districts were affected by the attacks, introduced legislation calling for the creation of a 9/11-style commission to independently investigate the attacks because they say the nation deserves to know whether the case is truly solved.
September 2008 – Congressman Rush Holt: ”I just see so many loose ends in the case that I question whether the FBI is in the right frame of mind to bring this matter to the kind of closure that the public needs.”
9/16/2008 – House Judiciary Committee (reported by Glenn Greenwald)
- House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (Mich.) and two other Democrats on the panel have signaled they will scrutinize the FBI’s work today.
- This month, they wrote FBI Director Robert Mueller asking about missteps in identifying the anthrax strain used in the attacks and tracing it back to Ivins.
- But after just an hour of the hearing, it is painfully clear that — as is true in virtually all of these hearings now before a pitifully powerless Congress —Mueller won’t provide the Committee with even a single answer of import, won’t even pretend to, and the Committee has no intent to compel him to do so.
- the hearing began with an angry statement from Chairman Conyers about the fact that the FBI, in general, simply ignores all inquiries for information and answers from the Committee for months and months and months and then shows up at these hearings unprepared to answer even the questions they are advised will be asked, knowing that each member only has five minutes and can’t actually accomplish anything.
- (Congressman Jerrold) Nadler (D-NY) than asked one of the most central questions in the anthrax case:
- he pointed out that the facilities that (unlike Ft. Detrick) actually have the equipment and personnel to prepare dry, silica-coated anthrax are the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground and the Battelle Corporation, the private CIA contractor that conducts substantial research into highly complex strains of anthrax.
- Nadler asked how the FBI had eliminated those institutions as the culprits behind the attack.
- Mueller’s response was this: I don’t know the answers to those questions as to how we eliminated Dugway and Battelle. I’ll have to get back to you at some point.
- Nadler then ended by asking whether Mueller would object to an independent commission or other body to review the FBI’s evidence and its accusations against Ivins and whether the FBI would cooperate with such an independent inquiry.
- Mueller pretended to answer by telling Nadler that the FBI intended to ask some members of the National Academy of Science to review the FBI’s scientific claims, but that didn’t answer the question as to whether the FBI opposed a full-scale independent review of the FBI’s case and whether the FBI would cooperate with it.
9/16/2008 – post by Meryl Nass, M.D:
- Eleven or twelve members attended the House Judiciary Committee’s FBI oversight hearing today.
- Repeatedly, they expressed disappointment with the FBI’s continuing failure to answer their questions, and to respond to written questions.
- (FBI Director) Mueller spoke in generalities, failing to answer specific questions.
- Only Rep. Nadler asked about anthrax, and to his credit inquired pointedly about the Silicon signature and weaponization. Mueller had no answers.
- It’s FBI’s investigation that is unsatisfactory in every way, requiring an independent appraisal.
- Don’t be fooled by an expensive and time-consuming NAS smokescreen.
September 2008 – reported by Glenn Greenwald (salon.com) … One of the two Senate targets of the attack, Sen. Pat Leahy, flatly stated at a Senate hearing last September that he does not believe the FBI’s case against Ivins, and emphatically does not believe that Ivins acted alone. … GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, at the same hearing, told the FBI they could never have obtained a conviction against Ivins in court based on their case — riddled, as it is, with so much doubt — and he also demanded an independent evaluation of the FBI’s evidence. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/03/04/anthrax/ … Grassley sent a letter to the FBI a month ago demanding answers to a whole slew of questions, and as he is asking them, Mueller — as he did yesterday — continues to say that he doesn’t have the answers and will obtain them at some point. … The Senators are indignant over this, but don’t appear to intend to do anything (just as was true for the House members yesterday), though Leahy is at least demanding that Mueller obtain these answers not at some point in the indefinite future, but today, during the breaks. The bottom line is that it is quite extraordinary that the FBI has claimed it has identified with certainty the sole culprit in the anthrax attacks, but so many key Senators, from both parties, simply don’t believe it, and are saying so explicitly. … Leahy’s rather dark suggestion that there were others involved in these attacks — likely at a U.S. Army facility or key private CIA contractor — is particularly notable. … It has been crystal clear from the beginning that the FBI’s case is filled with glaring holes, that their thuggish behavior towards their only suspect drove him to commit suicide and thus is unable to defend himself, and yet, to this day, the FBI continues to conceal the evidence in its possession and is stonewalling any and all efforts to scrutinize its claims. … It takes a lot for Senators from both parties to so openly and explicitly say they don’t believe the FBI’s definitive accusations in such a high-profile case. Perhaps that will be understood as a reflection of how dubious the FBI’s case here is. … these attacks were — as our own Government claims — ones that originated from U.S. Army facilities and perpetrated by U.S. Government employees, it ought to be understood as exactly that. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/09/17/senate_judiciary/index.html September 2008 – Last week, staff members for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) pressed U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor and two FBI officials to say when the anthrax case will be closed and why investigators had fixed on Ivins six months after notifying him in April 2007 that he was not a target. Investigators told congressional aides that they are still pursuing leads in the “Amerithrax” investigation, sources said.
September 2008 – Senator Grassley letter to FBI Director Mueller: Here are the 18 questions asked in Senator Grassley’s letter …
- What is the date (month and year) that the FBI determined that the anthrax came from a specified flask in Ivins’s lab (”RMR-1029″)?
- When (month and year) did the FBI determine that Dr. Hatfill never had access to the anthrax used in the killings?
- How did the FBI determine that Dr. Hatfill did not have access to the anthrax used in the killings? Was that because the FBI determined that Dr. Hatfill no longer worked at USAMRIID when the powder was made?
- Was Dr. Hatfill or his counsel informed that Dr. Hatfill had been cleared of any involvement in the anthrax killings before the Department of Justice offered a settlement to him? Was he informed before signing the settlement agreement with him? If not, please explain why not.
- Was Judge Walton (the judge overseeing the Privacy Act litigation) ever informed that Dr. Hatfill had been eliminated as a suspect in the anthrax killings? If so, when. If not, please explain why not.
- Was Dr. Ivins ever polygraphed in the course of the investigation? If so, please provide the dates and results of the exam(s). If not, please explain why not.
- Of the more than 100 people who had access to RMR 1029, how many were provided custody of samples sent outside Ft. Detrick? Of those, how many samples were provided to foreign laboratories?
- If those with access to samples of RMR 1029 in places other than Ft. Detrick had used the sample to produce additional quantities of anthrax, would that anthrax appear distinguishable from RMR 1029?
- How can the FBI be sure that none of the samples sent to other labs were used to create additional quantities of anthrax that would appear distinguishable from RMR 1029?
- Please describe the methodology and results of any oxygen isotope measurements taken to determine the source of water used to grow the spores used in the anthrax attacks.
- Was there video equipment which would record the activities of Dr. Ivins at Ft. Detrick on the late nights he was there on the dates surrounding the mailings? If so, please describe what examination of the video revealed.
- When did the FBI first learn of Dr. Ivins’ late-night activity in the lab around the time of the attacks? If this is powerful circumstantial evidence of his guilt, then why did this information not lead the FBI to focus attention on him, rather than Dr. Hatfill, much sooner in the investigation?
- When did the FBI first learn that Dr. Ivins was prescribed medications for various symptoms of mental illness? If this is circumstantial evidence of his guilt, then why did this information not lead the FBI to focus attention on him, rather than Dr. Hatfill, much sooner in the investigation? Of the 100 individuals who had access to RMR 1029, were any others found to suffer from mental illness, be under the care of a mental health professional, or prescribed anti-depressant/anti-psychotic medications? If so, how many?
- What role did the FBI play in conducting and updating the background examination of Dr. Ivins in order for him to have clearance and work with deadly pathogens at Ft. Detrick?
- After the FBI identified Dr. Ivins as the sole suspect, why was he not detained? Did the U.S. Attorney’s Office object to seeking an arrest or material witness warrant? If not, did anyone at FBI order a slower approach to arresting Ivins?
- Had an indictment of Dr. Ivins been drafted before his death? If so, what additional information did it contain beyond the affidavits already released to the public? If not, then when, if ever, had a decision been made to seek an indictment from the grand jury?
- According to family members, FBI agents publicly confronted and accused Dr. Ivins of the attacks, showed pictures of the victims to his daughter, and offered the $2.5 million reward to his son in the months leading up to his suicide. These aggressive, overt surveillance techniques appear similar to those used on Dr. Hatfill with the apparent purpose of intimidation rather than legitimate investigation. Please describe whether and to what degree there is any truth to these claims.
- What additional documents will be released, if any, and when will they be released?
August 2008 – Library of Congress – Senate Finance Committee – Mishandling of Anthrax Investigation Senator Grassley has continued to follow closely the FBI investigation of the mailings of letters laced with anthrax to several targets in the United States, including members of Congress and the national media. Until late 2008, the investigation had yielded no criminal charges. Senator Grassley had been critical that the FBI’s apparent mishandling of the investigation was a result of the FBI’s institutional resistance to criticism and by the misallocation of resources toward protecting the FBI’s image rather than protecting the United States. Senator Grassley also expressed dissatisfaction with the FBI’s refusal to provide Congress with periodic briefings on the status of the investigation. He requested both a briefing on the status of the investigation and a number of documents and records relating to the case. The Attorney General responded with an initial refusal to provide either the requested documents or a briefing on the status of the investigation, citing the Department of Justice’s policy against disclosing non-public information concerning pending law enforcement activities and prosecutions. However, following additional negotiations, the FBI Director provided a briefing to Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Arlen Specter, as well as Senator Grassley. The initial portion of the briefing was open to staff. However, the later portion of the briefing was Members-only. Since Dr. Ivins death, the FBI has provided several briefings for the staffs of Senator Grassley and other Members of Congress. However, given his misgivings about the FBI’s handling of the case, Senator Grassley will continue to conduct oversight of the FBI’s handling of the investigation. Significant questions remain unanswered about the scientific evidence relied upon by the FBI, why that evidence failed to lead them to Dr. Ivins much earlier in the investigation, how the FBI entrusted Dr. Ivins with samples of the attack material during the investigation, and when the FBI first learned of Dr. Ivins’ mental health issues. Senator Grassley has called for an independent inquiry to assure the public that the FBI’s decision to close its investigation is appropriate.
August 2008 – interview of Senator Grassley by Glenn Greenwald (Salon radio): Sen. Grassley reveals that the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Pat Leahy (of which Grassley is a member), will now hold hearings to investigate the FBI’s case against Bruce Ivins. Grassley demands that the FBI send officials who are able and willing to answer all questions, and also calls for full and complete public disclosure of all of the evidence in the FBI’s possession regarding its investigation. Grassley: No, and I assume one of the reasons I haven’t (received an answer to my 18 questions) is because in the meantime, the FBI has consented to a hearing that Senator Leahy’s having, and a hearing is one instrument of doing it. If this case is solved the way the FBI wants us to believe that it’s been solved, is it closed? And if it’s closed, then everything ought to be brought out into the open. One of the problems we have right now is, with the FBI, there’s just too much secrecy. Getting all the documents out, getting all the information out is important. … That information, now that the case is closed, ought to be available to the entire public. At the very least it ought to be entitled to anybody that’s got oversight of the FBI if there’s some reason that the entire public should not be notified of it. … in too many administrations, Republican or Democrat, there has been an effort to not fully cooperate with Congress on hearings. Now, that would tend to be a statement on my part, blaming the executive branch entirely, but I also, as a person who’s been very aggressive in oversight myself, feel that all of Congress has come up short of doing the proper checks and balances of government that our Constitution requires, and doing that through more aggressive oversight. see entire transcript of interview at … http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/radio/2008/08/20/grassley/index1.html
3/11/07 – 60 Minutes interviews Sen. Grassley Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has looked into the case and has concluded that there was leaking by top officials and that the purpose was not to shut Hatfill down, but to hide the lack of progress in the case. ”I believe the extent to which they wanted the public to believe that they were making great progress in this case, and the enormous pressure they had after a few years to show that, yes, that they was very much misleading the public.” http://cbs3.com/topstories/60.Minutes.anthrax.2.281289.html
10/28/06 – Grassley says FBI needs to report on anthrax investigation By Stella Shaffer RADIO IOWA … Senator Charles Grassley says the FBI’s failed investigation of a 2001 bio-terrorism attack on congress could signal bigger problems. … Grassley says he’s concerned the FBI hasn’t solved the case. But he’s even more unhappy that they refuse to brief congress on the investigation. … Grassley sees only one reason for the silence: “If there were some sort of secret thing that was bringing them close to somebody and they didn’t want to let them know they were hot on somebody’s trail.” … But Grassley says the FBI could make that clear in a report, thereby giving Congress an update and showing they were making progress. Grassley, who is a Republican, says he thinks government should be “transparent” and citizens have a right to know what’s happening particularly when FBI “headquarters is involved and trying to cover up what FBI agents at the grassroots are doing and they’re worried about the public relations of the FBI and that’s when they wind up getting egg on their faces.” … Grassley charges that the secrecy is proof that the culture of the FBI is not changing like it should be, or as he’s been promised. … Grassley’s sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting numerous documents and a full briefing on the anthrax investigation. … Grassley, who’s long been a critic of the FBI, says its refusal to submit to congressional oversight has resulted in an inability to prevent crime and terrorism, and has led to misconduct by senior staff members.
10/24/06 – Jim Popkin, NBC News Investigative Unit:
- Late Monday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a damning six-page letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting a briefing on the FBI investigation, now five years old. The letter faults the agency for its handling of the case, saying “the FBI has little in the way of results to show for its work.”
- Meanwhile, in an unusual move, the FBI’s top lobbyist has informed members of Congress that the bureau will no longer brief them on the case.
- Meanwhile, the FBI recently installed a new team of top investigators to head up the anthrax case. Sources familiar with the case tell NBC News that the new managers are looking anew at all possible suspects, with a much broader focus than before.
9/28/2006 – FBI Letter to Congressman Rush Holt: listed on FBI’s Amerithrax site but no link provided to actual letter
November 2001 – FBI Letter Addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy - listed on FBI’s Amerithrax site but no link provided to actual letter