CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

* Deposition Excerpt of Patricia Worsham in Stevens v. United States: Product Could Not Have Been Made At USAMRIID With Equipment She Has Seen At USAMRIID

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 16, 2011

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22 Responses to “* Deposition Excerpt of Patricia Worsham in Stevens v. United States: Product Could Not Have Been Made At USAMRIID With Equipment She Has Seen At USAMRIID”

  1. DXer said

    In his civil deposition produced today, Dr. Byrne testified:

    Q. And as far as, again, you own personal observations and what you have gleaned after the fact over the last almost ten years, here, we’re talking about, do you believe Bruce Ivins was the perpetrator?”

    A. No.

    Q. Why not?

    A. It just wasn’t the person I knew, number one, and number two, the equipment used to produce the powder — has not been identified. They talk about lyophilizers and the speed vac. That speed vac wasn’t in the suites. And I don’t see how iwould be possible to not have evidence that it was used to lyophilize that powder. And thirdly, I think it would have been — bacteriology is very close quarters. It’s not a large area. It’s hard to do thinkgs on — unobserved, to be honest with you. People are coming and going in different labs and stuff like that. It’s a small area. There’s not — it would — to produce that volume, it would have been very, very difficult to not be observed.” (p. 76)

    My main reason — well, two things. One is just the person I knew, and the second is, I never [have] seen a plausible explanation for the equipment used to lyophilze the powder. (p. 76)

  2. DXer said

    Dr. Jahrling, in the newly produced civil deposition, reports that “it was almost like smoke.”

  3. DXer said

    Dr. Worsham describes that she had set in motion the chain of events leading to Dr. Ivins’ being focused on contamination in the lab.

    “A I think I started that whole event. I went into the laboratory. There were two of our junior scientists in the lab. They had a culture of bacillus anthracis that they had been growing. … [T]hey had been fully trained and imbedded, but I thought of them as being young.”

    A… “They had started a culture and incubated it in Dr. Welkos’ incubator, which was down the hall, and that they had brought to my safety cabinet to process. That was the laboratory where I was already doing some work for the FBI on anthrax, so I was not happy to see that the culture looks like it had been leaking a little bit, and there was a potential for contamination of anthrax into this laboratory that I was trying to keep pristine.”

    “So I did swabbing in my laboratory, Dr. Welkos’ laboratory, the hallway, and I also looked in places where historically we would sometimes find a few spores, usually because someone had not changed their gloves often enough. Not huge numbers of things, but still, I needed to know where things were.”

    “Dr. Ivins expressed some interest in the situation. He historically had an interest in where anthrax might be found, and he was curious as to whether we might it it in the soil, since the old BW program was at Fort Detrick. It didn’t surprise me that he was interested, because he was a busybody and he liked to be in the middle of everything.”

    “He subsequently decided to do some culturing himself, and he actually expressed to me that he was planning on doing this, and I told him he should not do it without permission of the division chief. But he did, anyway.”

    “And he found some other places of contamination, and when I talked to him subsequently, he told me that one of his technicians who had been assigned to Diagnostic Systems Division during the time of the anthrax letters had expressed concern to him about their methods fo operation, and that she was afraid that that laboratory that they were working in the institute might become contaminated. And she was apparently concerned enough that it worried not just Bruce, but Pat Fellows, who is another technician…” (p. 43)

    • DXer said

      Dr. Worsham continued to explain:

      “And that [Bruce] was concerned in general of the practices in DSD, not because they were not competent, but because none of us had ever seen anything like this before. None of us had seen powdered anthrax, none of us knew how to work with powdered anthrax. It was a learning experience for everyone, and I think he was concerned that we needed to be exceedingly cautious in how we handled it, especially since it was initially handled in BLS 2, like more forensic samples. They were all brought in that way.”

      Q Was his lab technician, was Christie Friend?

      A Yes.

      Q. And she shared an office space with hijm?

      A. And with Pat Fellows too.

      Q. And it was on her desk, I think, that he found the residue of some anthrax?

      A. I remember he told me he found it in that office. I don’t recall exactly where it was.” (p. 44)

  4. DXer said

    From Worsham civil deposition, page 35-37:

    Q “Now, another piece in the puzzle in the FBI’s case against Dr. Ivins had to do with the the — as they put in their report, the suspicious lab hours he kept in the months before the attacks, and specifically they said that he worked at night and on the weekends when no one else was around, and that this was a deviation from his normal work habits that had existed going back significant.”

    “Do you think that that’s accurate?”

    A. “It’s not my recollection.”

    Q. “What’s your recollection?”

    A. “First of all, I think you need to understand that you can’t do science between nine and five. Any decent scientist is going to spend a significant amount of time after hours, either writing or doing experiments or checking on animals, so I think the idea that a scientist can operate normal 40-hour work weeks is not realistic, not if they’re a good scientist and not if they expect to retain their position.”

    “We, scientists, are usually encouraged to work after hours. I know that the FBI has said in their report that Dr. Ivins worked more off hours during that time period, but over the time that I knew him, he spent a signfiicant amount of time working after hours, either in his office or in the lab.”

    “And part of it was because he loved his work and he loved the lab. And in fact, we all used to love the lab. It used to be a place for camaraderie and creativity, so I don’t find it suspicous that he had a few off hours during that time, and I don’t believe that the time that I have read about is sufficient to produced that material.”

    http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

    • DXer said

      Q “When you do work in the biocontainment suites, do you keep lab notebooks to chronicle the experiments and — what you’re doing there?”

      A “We keep notes. Oftentimes people don’t keep their actual notebooks in containment, because they can’t ever come back out. So when we do notebook inventory, it’s much easier to have the notebooks outside containment and then your notes inside, because you can’t fax out your bound laboratory notebook.”

      Q “But in any event, there usually is a track record of what you’re working on in a notebook outside the containment suite, though, correct?”

      A “People keep different kinds of records. It’s gone more electronic in the last decade or so.

      Q. Well, I’m giong back now to 2001.

      A. “Well even then it was pretty electronic.” (p. 38-39)

  5. DXer said

    Risk modeling to detect weapon production in biological laboratories
    http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/login.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6549510&url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fxpls%2Fabs_all.jsp%3Farnumber%3D6549510

    The 2001 United States anthrax attacks raise issues regarding U.S. national security. These attacks bring into question the risk of biological laboratory misuse. This capstone project developed a model that determines whether a given facility could be involved in the production of a biological weapon. The proposed model centers around five laboratory factors that comprehensively evaluate a laboratory and provide insight concerning potential resource exploitation. These factors include materials in the lab, equipment in the lab, electricity usage, abnormal contents in wastewater, and background of laboratory personnel. Each of these factors has an individual model that detects suspicious behavior. A final model combines the results of the individual models above to produce an overall evaluation of the laboratory’s threat level.

    Published in:
    Systems and Information Engineering Design Symposium (SIEDS), 2013 IEEE

    Date of Conference: 26-26 April 2013

  6. DXer said

    This deposition — and not merely this brief excerpt — is available to any requester under FOIA directed to USAMRIID.

  7. DXer said

    Dr. Vahid Majidi dismisses Patricia Worsham’s opinion because she knew him. (And of course, she knew the equipment, the process, and indeed, shared the space with him).

  8. DXer said

    This is the FBI’s expert saying this. Case closed.

    • DXer said

      Co-Workers Praise Ivins as Top Researcher, Mentor to Young Scientists

      By Anne Hull
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Thursday, August 7, 2008

      Bruce E. Ivins was the type of colleague who would leave a package of M&Ms on the desk of his frazzled boss. He was a “Survivor” junkie who loved deconstructing the latest episode at work. He was known for his groundbreaking development of new-generation vaccines for anthrax but he also kept a flatulence machine in his office that he mischievously operated by remote control with unsuspecting co-workers.

      On the same day the FBI released hundreds of pages of chilling investigative documents to support its conclusion that Ivins was responsible for the anthrax attacks in 2001 that killed five people, a starkly different version of the scientist was remembered and celebrated yesterday at a private memorial service at Fort Detrick, the Army base in Frederick where he worked.

      More than 200 mourners filled a small chapel not far from the lab Ivins used for nearly three decades. The tone of the service was one of unmitigated support and loyalty for the researcher, and there was no mention of the accusations against him or the darkness that enveloped the final months of his life before he died on July 29. Many in the chapel wept as a singer stood at a piano next to the altar and sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

      Five eulogists, all of whom worked closely with Ivins, praised him as a scientist and friend. Col. John Skvorak, the commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, said that Ivins was a top-notch researcher and generous mentor to younger scientists, always full of questions. Lt. Col. Bret Purcell, another Army scientist, struggled to maintain composure as he spoke of Ivins’s unyielding dedication to the lab where he worked and the people who worked with him.

      Ivins’s wife, Diane, and their two children, Amanda and Andrew, both 24, sat in the front row and were greeted by Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, the commander of Fort Detrick. The family was presented with a dozen red roses by a tearful lab technician who worked alongside Ivins.

      Ivins came to USAMRIID in 1980, specializing in the genetics and immunology ofBacillus anthracis. He was a recipient of the Defense Department’s highest honor given to a civilian. But at the service he was remembered for the joy he brought others: his juggling; teaching another scientist’s son how to ride a unicycle; and giving Patricia Worsham, the deputy chief of the bacteriology division, a purple T-shirt that said, “The Queen Is Not Amused.” Mourners laughed as Worsham held up the T-shirt.

      Many soldiers and Ivins’s fellow researchers filled the pews, including those who found the allegations against him inconceivable. “I’m so angry,” one of them said to another, waiting for the service to begin. “I’m so angry.” A statement issued later in the day by Ivins’s attorneys concluded: “No one who attended [the] service could believe that Dr. Ivins committed any crime.”

      According to the program, “Ivins mentored a number of young scientists during his career. He was known for his patience and enthusiasm for science.” He also ate strange concoctions for lunch at his desk, a memory that brought laughter at the service, as did the mention of the time he wore military camouflage and went to a Halloween party as a member of the Village People. But a quiet sadness ended the funeral as those gathered softly sang “Amazing Grace.”

      Leaving the sanctuary, mourners passed a photo collage of Ivins, posing with his fellow researchers or playfully wearing a sombrero. In almost every picture, he was smiling and surrounded by people.

      Comment: We should all be so lucky to have such friends. For example, Patricia Worsham, the deputy chief of the bacteriology division, a purple T-shirt that said, “The Queen Is Not Amused.” Mourners laughed as Worsham held up the T-shirt.

      On one of the nights that the FBI speciously claimed he had no reason to be in the lab, Dr. Ivins wrote Dr. Worsham an email along the same theme explaining that he had cleaned the lab as she had directed.

      The FBI withheld the email for years.

  9. DXer said

    Microbial Forensics: A Powerful Tool for Pursuing Bioterrorism Perpetrators and the Need for an International Database
    Ruifu Yang1* and Paul Keim2
    1Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology, No.20, Dongdajie, Fengtai, Beijing 100071, P.R. of China
    2Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
    *Corresponding author: Ruifu Yang
    Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology
    No.20, Dongdajie, Fengtai, Beijing 100071, P.R. of China
    E-mail: ruifuyang followed by ***@***[ gmail.com ]

    Received November 04, 2011; Accepted January 07, 2012; Published January 13, 2012

    Citation: Yang R, Keim P (2012) Microbial Forensics: A Powerful Tool for Pursuing Bioterrorism Perpetrators and the Need for an International Database. J Bioterr Biodef S3:007. doi:10.4172/2157-2526.S3-007

    Copyright: © 2012 Yang R, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

    Abstract

    The threat of bioterrorism has attracted a great deal of attention after the nightmare of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent days when letters containing anthrax spores attacked the USA. The urgent need for source-tracing of the anthrax spores promoted the rapid birth of microbial forensics, which includes the reliable identification of molecular variation (biomarkers) between related microbial strains for inferring the origin of a particular isolate. The critical step in the development of microbial forensics is to establish a comprehensive database for microbial source tracing. In addition, the development of a series of standardized protocols for this new discipline is essential as has been shown by the human forensics community. Genetic variations within Yersinia pestis, Bacillus anthracis and Vibrio cholera are given as examples for illustrating their use for source tracing. It is certainly easier for scientists within a single country to collaborate for establishing a genetic database for a given pathogen, but such a limited regional database will restrict the ability to track, or even exclude, international perpetrators. To overcome these limitations, an international collaboration mechanism needs to be developed by coordinating scientific, political and regulatory aspects.

    Full-text:

    http://www.omicsonline.org/2157-2526/2157-2526-S3-007.php

  10. DXer … anyone in this picture who looks familiar?

    http://twitpic.com/98elh5

  11. > dosage lethal at seven pills

    I didn’t know that it was just seven pills.

    3,500mg of acetaminophen alone falls short of sure lethality. It might cause some liver damage, but it won’t kill a healthy person. With his weight, 3x that dose might have done it. Nasty way to commit suicide — very, very painful, too. Course, he’d have know that.

    Does the diphenhydramine make a difference? It doesn’t seem it’d be significant factor in an otherwise healthy person.

    Did he already have liver problems, perhaps? Was there a medical reason for his low weight? Was he a heavy drinker?

    > “The police report indicates that he confirmed that he had attempted suicide (before passing).”

    Interesting. Do you recall the sourcing? Is it something PD actually heard him say?

    Aggressive prosecution is one thing. Hounding a man so as to break him, in hopes of fixing a failed case — that’s another matter entirely, especially if it induces the suicide of an innocent man. I’d say that applies even when some find that man eccentric or even creepy.

    I still try to believe FBI are the good guys, but dang, they do sometimes make it hard.

    • DXer said

      I definitely think the FBI and the prosecutors are the good guys, do incredibly important work, and have a dream job. One can disagree with someone’s conclusion with regard to analysis of a particular mystery without it undermining one’s high regard. Personally, I think the key players in Dr. Ayman’s anthrax planning and operation were supporters of the salafist-jihadis dating back to the time of Sadat’s assassination. I think the motive of the mailings was as had been announced by Montasser Al-Zayat, EIJ military commander Mabruk, and EIJ shura member al-Najjar — the retaliation for the rendering of senior EIJ leaders. Those leaders included Dr. Ayman’s brother and the Blind Sheikh Abdel-Rahman to name just two.

      I think the high caliber of the FBI agents and prosecutors is beyond question — one need only pause to consider the number of applicants from which they have to choose. … and the rigorous standards that they have to meet. Blaming the FBI for a difficult crime to solve and prove would be tantamount to blaming a doctor if a patient with a terminal illness dies. As for issues like communication/ compartmentalization, conflict of interest, the probativeness of forensic science etc. — reasonable people can disagree. It’s a lot easier to criticize, second-guess or find fault than to do the job successfully.

      Yes, Dr. Ivins tried to commit suicide a few months earlier. Even apart from depression and other personal issues, if he altered any of the documentations, he would have had been indictable for that reason alone.

      Of course, if you withhold documents from me that I was due under FOIA, then I am duty bound as an advocate for whistleblowers to see that the GAO hold you accountable.

  12. DXer said

    The local newspaper just confirmed to me that my daughter won the top prize in the Peeps contest. Thanks to all those who took a moment to vote from faraway places — like Meryl, Barry and Old Atlantic. A lot of voices can make for a chorus — whether it concerns the FBI’s Ivins Theory or anything else. I bought a pancake maker for $3 at a thrift store this week — and so now it’s mad scientist time.to see what my daughter can do with $100 worth of Peeps rather than $1. My daughter advises me that the pancake maker will turn a Peep to goo — and so if there is a chemist who can advise how to flatten a Peep for the purpose of a large M.C. Escher-type mural, let me know.

  13. DXer said

    “These genotypes were identified only in B. anthracis morphotypes isolated from the letters, indicating that the variants were not prevalent in the environment, not even the environments associated with the investigation.”

    Title: Bacillus anthracis comparative genome analysis in support of the Amerithrax investigation
    Author: Rasko, David A.
    Worsham, Patricia L.
    Abshire, Terry G.
    Citation: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America v. 108 no. 12 (March 22 2011) p. 5027-32
    Year: 2011

    Abstract: Before the anthrax letter attacks of 2001, the developing field of microbial forensics relied on microbial genotyping schemes based on a small portion of a genome sequence. Amerithrax, the investigation into the anthrax letter attacks, applied high-resolution whole-genome sequencing and comparative genomics to identify key genetic features of the letters’ Bacillus anthracis Ames strain. During systematic microbiological analysis of the spore material from the letters, we identified a number of morphological variants based on phenotypic characteristics and the ability to sporulate. The genomes of these morphological variants were sequenced and compared with that of the B. anthracis Ames ancestor, the progenitor of all B. anthracis Ames strains. Through comparative genomics, we identified four distinct loci with verifiable genetic mutations. Three of the four mutations could be directly linked to sporulation pathways in B. anthracis and more specifically to the regulation of the phosphorylation state of Spo0F, a key regulatory protein in the initiation of the sporulation cascade, thus linking phenotype to genotype. None of these variant genotypes were identified in single-colony environmental B. anthracis Ames isolates associated with the investigation. These genotypes were identified only in B. anthracis morphotypes isolated from the letters, indicating that the variants were not prevalent in the environment, not even the environments associated with the investigation. This study demonstrates the forensic value of systematic microbiological analysis combined with whole-genome sequencing and comparative genomics.

  14. Ralph said

    This video always makes me think of Ivins, and Hatfill to a lesser degree.

    Maybe get a blister on your little finger
    Maybe get a blister on yout thumb

    I guess anthrax blisters are a hazard of working in a lab too.

    The thin guy in the video wears overalls like Ivins, and is frightfully thin too. It’s sort of funny that in the video, the thin guy has another man to help him carry the refrigerator, but in the deposition, someone says Ivins couldn’t haul a piece of equipment by himself because it was as big as a refrigerator. Anyway, this video was made in 1985, which was more than 15 years before the 2001 anthrax attacks, so there’s no way they’re linked. Just coincidence. And apologies if anyone is offended by any other lyrics, but the video was MTV video of the year that year.

    To me, it looked like Ivins used his knowledge of the inner workings of the sorority to trick the women into mailing an anthrax letter. At least one letter was placed into a letterbox across the street from a sorority house in New Jersey. Ivins had somehow obtained the secret protocols on their inner workings and he could have duped them into mailing a letter that they did not know was harmful. But I do not believe his death was suicide. It appears accidental because Tylenol PM is a combination of sleep medication and pain reliever. The sleep medication isn’t lethal at small doses, but the pain reliever is leathal at the dosage he took, which was seven pills.

    • DXer said

      There is no reason to doubt that Dr. Ivins committed suicide.

      He had attempted suicide a few months earlier.

      Authorities had taken semen stained panties from his garbage and submitted it for DNA testing. They swabbed him for DNA. They told him that they were going to call his family before the grand jury to confirm he was unhappy at home. His daughter had attempted suicide. He was hugely protective of his kids.

      A superior had ordered people not to communicate with him.

      His new friends on the cruise, he learned, were FBI agents.

      He had just been escorted off the base after being driven into a rage by falsely being told that Dr. Heine had said he did it.

      So in addition to losing lab privileges, he now faced humiliation and continued alienation from his peers.

      He had every reason to commit suicide—and he had started out depressive having had an unhappy childhood due to an abusive mother.

      But there is zero reason to think he did not commit suicide. The police report indicates that he confirmed that he had attempted suicide (before passing).

      We all should have such wonderful friends and colleagues as him.

      The most ridiculous aspect of the telling of David W.‘s version is that Nancy Haigwood immediately knew he did it when he sent her a Christmas greeting. Now THAT is not evidence of anything other than the fact she hated him.

      The same elaborate narrative was developed to make Dr. Hatfill seem “creepy” … The DOJ should instead focus on material evidence and should not have withheld the lab notes from the days in question which flatly contradict DOJ’s claim that he had no reason to be in the lab. Their entire argument based on hours is crock. A new rule in January 2002 prevented continued long hours—such as the long hours in November and December 2001.

      The sorority was just a storage unit. He could not have possibly tricked any sorority sister into mailing from that Princeton mailbox.

      But thanks for the video!

      While waiting for Dr. Ayman’s mass attack, we might all have a little more fun, be happy, and take things a little less seriously.

  15. DXer said

    At ProPublica –
    Justice Department Filing Casts Doubt on Guilt of Bruce Ivins, Accused in Anthrax Case
    http://www.propublica.org/article/justice-department-filing-casts-doubt-on-guilt-of-bruce-ivins-accused-in-an

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