When I read about the FBI/DOJ press conference in August 2008, I was so upset by the lack of any real evidence against Dr. Ivins that, over the next 45 days, I wrote my novel to explain why the FBI had failed to solve the anthrax murders. CASE CLOSED is of course a fiction, but it has been described by many readers, including one highly respected member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, as a quite plausible scenario .
Each of the numbered items below was taken directly from the Summary of the FBI Investigation of Dr. Bruce E. Ivins released 2/19/10
The items marked “Q” are questions that arose in my mind as I read the FBI report.
Items in blue are reader comments on specific items; thanks for the addditions.
- NOTE: if you’d like your comment appended to this post, please indicate the item # to which it refers.
1. This (new DNA science) was a groundbreaking development in the investigation. It allowed the investigators to reduce drastically the number of possible suspects, because only a very limited number of individuals had ever had access to this specific spore preparation that was housed at USAMRIID.
Q: Is the more than 350 individuals who apparently had or could have had access to RMR-1029 anthrax, plus others to whom the 350 could have given the anthrax, a “very limited” number of individuals?
DXer comments … Oh, by the way, the former Zawahiri associate who was working with virulent Ames from Flask 1029 alongside Bruce Ivins is from the University of Michigan. The very first person I asked about him was the University of Michigan scientist referenced by the FBI whose correspondence and field involved the codons.
2. It was determined that Dr. Hatfill could not have been the mailer because he never had access to the particular bio-containment suites at USAMRIID that held the RMR-1029. In other words, although Dr. Hatfill had access to Ames strain anthrax while at USAMRIID, he never had access to the particular spore-batch used in the mailings.
Q: Were access and internal controls at USAMRIID so secure that those who were not supposed to be there could have gained access to RMR-1029 anthrax? Could others have received RMR-1029 anthrax from those who did have legitimate access?
3. The Task Force focused its investigation on those researchers who had access to the lab at USAMRIID where RMR-1029 was being stored between September 11 and 18, 2001, and again between October 1 and 8, 2001 – the windows of opportunity to have processed and mailed the anthrax used to commit the crime.
Q: Why was the investigation focused on these two limited time windows? What evidence proves that the attack anthrax could only have been obtained at those times?
4. Investigators learned that Dr. Ivins was alone late at night and on the weekend in the lab where RMR-1029 was stored in the days immediately preceding the dates on which the anthrax could have been mailed. Before the anthrax mailings, Dr. Ivins had never exhibited that pattern of working alone in the lab extensively during non-business hours, and he never did so after the anthrax attacks. When confronted, he was unable to give a legitimate explanation for keeping these unusual and, in the context of the investigation, suspicious hours.
Q: Since when does mere presence in a lab provide knowledge of what was done in the lab during those times? What explanation did Dr. Ivins give? When was he asked, since he apparently did not become a suspect until 2007, six years after the nights in question? Were there any emails or other written records that indicated what he might have been doing on the nights in question?
5. As investigators reviewed Dr. Ivins’s voluminous e-mails, including e-mails during the time frame of the anthrax attacks, it became clear that he was suffering from significant psychological problems, which not only further concerned the investigators, but also contributed to their increasing scrutiny and monitoring of him. Investigators obtained authorization to place open registers on Dr. Ivins’s home and work telephones and e-mail accounts, and obtainedconsent to analyze his home computer hard drives. The Task Force examined his Internet searches and postings and reviewed his e-mail communications from both his personal and USAMRIID computer (with the approval of the Commander at USAMRIID). A GPS device was installed on his car, interviews with his associates were conducted, his trash was regularly searched, and confidential sources were used to gather further information.
Q: Can it then be assumed that these aggressive investigative measures were not used with respect to Dr. Ivins prior to 2007?
6. By the fall of 2007, agents and prosecutors concluded that they had exhausted the results that could be obtained from using covert investigative tools. Increasingly persuaded that Dr. Ivins was involved in the anthrax attacks, agents obtained search warrants for his residence in Frederick, Maryland, his cars, and his office at USAMRIID, mindful that this would confirm for Dr. Ivins that he was a subject of the investigation.
Q: What specific information led investigators to become “increasingly persuaded” that Dr. Ivins was involved in the anthrax attacks?
7. Searches of his trash and e-mail accounts in the spring of 2008 produced additional evidence linking Dr. Ivins to the anthrax letters.
Q: What was this “additional evidence?” Has it all been released?
8. On July 12, 2008, Task Force agents again searched the Ivins residence, based on new evidence that he had made specific threats in a group therapy session on July 9, 2008. During the search of his residence they recovered a bullet-proof vest, together with a homemade reinforced body armor plate, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and smokeless handgun powder.
Q: What relevance do comments made in 2008 have to an action allegedly taken in 2001? What exactly did Dr. Ivins say and why does the FBI think there was a connection to the anthrax attacks? What does the FBI see as the connection between the items found at Dr. Ivins’ house in 2008 and the anthrax attacks of 2001? Did Dr. Ivins have those items in his possession in 2001?
9. Dr. Ivins was among the very few anthrax researchers nationwide with the knowledge and ability to create the highly purified spores used in the mailings.
Q: Has the FBI considered the statements of other scientists that Dr. Ivins did not in fact have such knowledge and ability, nor the equipment? What basis does the FBI have to discount such statements by respected scientists?
Bugmaster comments … BULLSHIT! I have reviewed two published papers by Ivins where he gives the protocol used to create material of such purity. If I had access to the Ames strain and the contrast agent used in the purification process, I could do it too!
10. Motive. According to his e-mails and statements to friends, in the months leading up to the anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001, Dr. Ivins was under intense personal and professional pressure. The anthrax vaccine program to which he had devoted his entire career of more than 20 years was failing. The anthrax vaccines were receiving criticism in several scientific circles, because of both potency problems and allegations that the anthrax vaccine contributed to Gulf War Syndrome. Short of some major breakthrough or intervention, he feared that the vaccine research program was going to be discontinued. Following the anthrax attacks, however, his program was suddenly rejuvenated.
Q: Regardless of the status of the vaccine research program, does the FBI have any evidence to indicate that Dr. Ivins had any reason to to fear that his livelihood was in jeopardy? Is the FBI aware that all research programs, and particularly all vaccine research programs, are speculative in nature and prone to failure? In fact, many if not most such programs do fail, and Dr. Ivins surely knew this.
11. In the month before his suicide, his homicidal tendencies became more pronounced, as he posted violent messages on the Internet regarding a reality TV star and made death threats during a group therapy session.
Q: How is Dr. Ivins behavior in 2008, even if accurately reported, relevant to his alleged actions in 2001. Is the FBI insidiously implying that the actions of a man driven almost to suicide in 2008 has anything to do with what he might have been thinking in 2001? By 2008, he had been subjected to the intense pressure of the FBI (described in this summary); did the FBI ever consider the potential impact of such pressure on a person who they knew to be quite fragile?
12. Scientific analysis by the USPIS, FBI, and United States Secret Service (“USSS”) revealed that the envelopes used in the attacks were part of a batch distributed in bulk to post offices in Maryland and Virginia, and envelopes from this same batch were sold at post offices in Frederick, Maryland, and surrounding communities.
Q: How many such envelopes were sold, near Frederick and elsewhere, in 2001 and before? Does the FBI have any evidence that Dr. Ivins actually purchased such envelopes? Did the FBI ascertain if any of the other 350 + persons with access to RMR-1029 anthrax also had access to these envelopes?
13. They (the FBI) concluded that the envelopes most similar to those used in the attacks were also distributed to the Frederick, Maryland post office, which was located just a few blocks from the home of Dr. Ivins, and where Dr. Ivins maintained a post office box at the time of the mailings.
Q: What is the meaning of the expression “envelopes most similar” to those used in the attacks? Were the envelopes identical to those used in the attacks or just similar? How many other envelopes were similar to the attack envelopes and where could they be purchased?
14. In an e-mail he sent to a colleague on September 26, 2001 – i.e., after the first anthrax letters were mailed, but before they had been discovered – Dr. Ivins wrote: “I just heard tonight that the Bin Laden terrorists for sure have anthrax and sarin gas” and “Osama Bin Laden has just decreed death to all Jews and all Americans.”
Q: DXer has already spoken to this email …
15. Dr. Ivins was particularly fond of a book dealing extensively with coded messages, including codes conveyed in bolded letters and codes involving the letters “A” and “T” – both of which letters are significant in genetics.
Q: So what? Did the FBI ascertain if any of the other 350 were also interested in codes, or perhaps really liked The DaVinci Code?
16. Dr. Ivins engaged in a series of actions and made several statements that were evidence of a guilty conscience. In the immediate aftermath of the anthrax attacks, he – one of the nation’s leading experts in anthrax – sent an e-mail to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) suggesting nonsensical explanations for why the first victim might have contracted inhalation anthrax. A few months after the anthrax attacks, he took environmental samplings for anthrax contamination in the building where he worked – an unauthorized procedure – and found it only in the area where he himself worked. He then decontaminated his office and his lab, and failed to report it. In the spring of 2002, when the Task Force undertook efforts to link known cultures of Ames anthrax to the mailed material, he submitted questionable samples of RMR-1029 to the FBI Repository.
Q: Does the FBI often present cases which rely on “evidence of a guilty conscience” rather than evidence that the accused person actually committed the crime? Why are any of the examples cited by the FBI an indication of a guilty conscience? How does the FBI define a guilty conscience? Would the FBI agree that its own complicity in the decision of scientists in Iowa to knowingly destroy the largest repository of “Ames” anthrax just days after the anthrax attacks might also be construed as evidence of a guilty conscience?
17. In the week after the first search of his residence in connection with the anthrax investigation, he (Dr. Ivins) threw out in the trash a book about secret codes that included a passage about using a series of bolded letters to disguise a message, which was strikingly similar to the technique used in the attack letters. The night he threw out the book, he went out into the street in the middle of the night in his long underwear, immediately after the garbage truck came at about 1:00 a.m., and confirmed that his trash had been picked up.
Q: Again, what does this behavior in 2007 have to do with a crime committed in 2001? One would think that 600,000 investigator work hours would produce something better than this.
18. As the investigation began to focus on him, Dr. Ivins made threatening statements related to the anthrax investigation to another scientist.
Q: So what? This was in 2008, after the FBI had been hounding the man, torturing him until finally he was driven to commit suicide.
19. Dr. Ivins had a number of habits and strange proclivities consistent with the modus operandi of the anthrax mailer. He had a penchant for going on long drives to mail letters and packages from distant post offices, often using a pseudonym when doing so, thereby disguising his identity as the mailer.
Q: Who can read such statements, after 600,000 investigator work hours, without thinking that if this wasn’t all so serious, it would be laughable.