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

* Do the newly released Wikileaks materials have any emails commenting on Al Qaeda’s anthrax planning or on the FBI’s “Ivins Theory” regarding the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 28, 2012

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14 Responses to “* Do the newly released Wikileaks materials have any emails commenting on Al Qaeda’s anthrax planning or on the FBI’s “Ivins Theory” regarding the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings?”

  1. DXer said

    Apart from this suggestion that OBL’s corpse brought to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology — an incredibly incendiary and uncorroborated suggestion — a related question arises.

    Did they draw a sample of blood to test whether Mr. Bin Laden had been vaccinated against anthrax?

    WikiLeaks emails suggest Bin Laden corpse ‘brought to America’

    http://www.thejournal.ie/wikileaks-emails-suggest-bin-laden-corpse-brought-to-america-371301-Mar2012/

    Another, 25 minutes later – with the subject ‘Body bound for Dover, DE on CIA plane’ adds: “Than [sic] onward to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Bethesda”.

    ‘Dover, DE’ refers to Dover in Delawere, the site of a major air force base around 175km from Washington.

    In another email sent an hour later, Burton – who is considered a leading expert on terrorism and security, and who previously served as the second-in-command at the Department of State’s counterterrorism division – adds:

    If body dumped at sea, which I doubt, the touch is very Adolph Eichman [sic] like. The Tribe did the same thing with the Nazi’s ashes.

    We would want to photograph, DNA, fingerprint, etc.

    His body is a crime scene and I don’t see the FBI nor DOJ letting that happen.

    ***

    While it is not clear whether Burton is relying on any internal military source, or merely making an educated guess – and while it should be noted that the email exchanges begin with the word ‘reportedly’ – the emails, if true, would undermine the US claim that bin Laden’s body was buried at sea within hours of his death.

    • DXer said

      FBI says that the remains of the hijacker tested positive for Ames anthrax but concluded it was due to cross-contamination at the lab. Where was that testing done? They still have the remains? Was a retest done by a different lab?

      New reports of remains cloud legacy of Flight 93
      Wednesday, February 29, 2012
      By Sally Kalson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

      Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller was mystified on Tuesday by reports out of Washington, D.C., that unidentified human remains recovered from the Flight 93 crash site had been incinerated and dumped in a landfill.

      “Where they would have gotten those remains, I have no idea,” said Mr. Miller. “The only remains that left Somerset County were samples sent for DNA testing to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Quantico, Va.”

      ***

      Mr. Miller oversaw the retrieval, identification, storage and return of all human remains from the Flight 93 crash in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001.

      All identified remains of passengers and crew were returned to the families, he said, and those that could not be identified were put in three caskets and buried on Sept. 12, 2011, at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

      The DNA testing at Quantico produced 44 separate profiles, Mr. Miller said. “Forty were positively identified as passengers and crew and returned to the families.”

      As for the other four, presumably belonging to the four terrorists, “They were taken into custody by the FBI as part of a criminal investigation, which is ongoing,” he said.

      In September, FBI spokesman Paul Bresson told the Post-Gazette that the FBI still held the remains of all nine of the terrorists who were aboard the planes that crashed into the Pentagon and Stonycreek.

      The report about the remains being disposed of in a landfill prompted a letter from U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, seeking clarification of whether any Flight 93 remains were, in fact, cremated and sent to a landfill.

      Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12060/1213320-84.stm#ixzz1nxmaScAd

      • DXer said

        What are the details. Did they test the Shankville passengers for exposure to Ames? Any positives? No? Only a positive for the remains of the hijacker who had the lesion that the Dr. has said was consistent with having been caused by anthrax? The one recently arrived from Kandahar where the Al Qaeda anthrax lab was located?

  2. DXer said

    DOJ for 4 years withheld “Message 0438″ written by Bruce Ivins on the date of alleged mailing of deadly anthrax. He wrote it to Mara Linscott. GAO should obtain a full set of emails from DOJ, including those that DOJ and USAMRIID have still failed to produce. I asked for this 9/17/01 from USAMRIID but the agency claimed that they could not find it (and I presume good faith given I know how diligent the multi-tasking FOIA officer has been). This morning, however, when I suggested that armed with the information on the email and file location, perhaps the IT person (or JAG person) could locate this email and others (not produced) , the USAMRIID FOIA officer said she was unconcerned whether GAO has a full set of emails.

    Congressional investigators will want to ensure that they have a full set of emails. Getting the fullest and most complete and accurate story is precisely what investigators are tasked by Congress with doing. Congress is exercising its oversight function.

    The GAO investigators will be able to readily identify the identifying number of the emails still being withheld now that it knows the formatting and computer location. Indeed, GAO likely has some of the top computer forensics people in the business.

  3. DXer said

    I wrote Professor Guillemin (author of American Anthrax) to ask her for the best support for her statement in a Prague Post blog:

    “I think the real point with him was that he was looking at the end of his career. He found out in August 2001 that he was going to be taken off developing anthrax vaccines. I think Ivans’ frustration with the end of career and his obvious dual personality and his anger were really contributing factors, but 9/11 was a precipitating event that pushed him.”

    She in turn referred me to Dr. Ivins’ supervisor as the relevant authority on the point. (She always is as pleasant and responsive as she is elegant and erudite).

    Dr. Andrews, who had been copied in my email to Professor G, replied:

    “Wow. …news to me! Bruce was written into the DTO (Defense Technology Objective) to move the next-generation anthrax vaccine into advanced development, with a 5-year, earmarked budget of millions of dollars. I assigned him as alternate product development team leader for the efforts ….way before Aug., 01.”

    This issue has been previously addressed here:

    http://www.propublica.org/article/new-evidence-disputes-case-against-bruce-e-ivins

    “Dr. Ivins’ life’s work appeared destined for failure, absent an unexpected event,” said the Justice Department’s final report on the anthrax investigation, called Amerithrax. Told by a supervisor that he might have to work on other germs, prosecutors say Ivins replied: “I am an anthrax researcher. This is what I do.”

    Ivins’ former bosses at Fort Detrick call that Justice Department characterization wrong. Ivins had little to do with the existing vaccine; rather, he was working to replace it with a better, second-generation version, they say.

    In the summer of 2001, Ivins shouldn’t have had any worries about his future, said Gerard Andrews, who was then his boss as the head of USAMRIID’s Bacteriology Division. “I believe the timeline has been distorted by the FBI,” Andrews said. “It’s not accurate.”

    Months earlier, Andrews said, the Pentagon had approved a full year’s funding for research on the new vaccine and was mapping out a five-year plan to invest well over $15 million.”

    By all means, if AUSA Lieber and Professor Guillemin are relying on private emails between Dr. Ivins and confidante Patricia Fellows, those emails should be produced under FOIA. The DOJ has failed to produce the email to another confidante, Mara, that Bruce sent the day the AUSA speculates he was travelling to Princeton.

    AUSA Lieber, more than most, can appreciate how revealing emails can be.

    • DXer said

      Turning to footnote 26 in the Amerithrax Summary, you can see that AUSA’s Lieber’s characterization (which Professor G apparently relies upon) is not tied to documents or date at all. The comment about glanders by a manager is not put into the timeline and the former Chief of Bacteriology has quite plainly explained that the prosecutor misunderstood or distorted the timeline.

      http://books.google.com/books?id=VlhRVMN-E2cC&pg=PA39&lpg=PA39&dq=%22I+am+an+anthrax+researcher!++This+is+what+I+do.%22++Amerithrax+Investigative+Summary&source=bl&ots=bGR9HHheZX&sig=apHsf4L_n8GcNw2TysQo-qC_big&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rCFNT5G1Gujk0QHX4pX0Ag&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

      Absent support for the claim, it should not be repeated. I have asked that Professor G ask that the passage on the Prague Post be deleted because I am sick and tired of these errors being perpetuated.

      The one making the assertion either has support or they don’t. And AUSA Lieber and Professor G offer none. I am amazed that such a DOJ memo does not cite supporting citation. But there is no reason to perpetuate her errors.

      I have pressed USAMRIID for every shred of paper in Bruce’s office from that period and know of no support — and it is contradicted by the planning documents to include the one I obtained and uploaded from September 11, 2001.

      Dr. Andrews was the Chief of Bacteriology Division from March 2000 and January 2003 and if people want to contradict the documents and the on-point account by the Chief of Bacteriology then they damn better get their authority lined up.

      • DXer said

        Here is the Strategic Plan dated September 11, 2001 that USAMRIID produced to this blog on August 11, 2011 at which time it was uploaded.

        http://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/september-11-2001-strategic-plan-anthrax-produced-today-to-dxer-under-foia/

        By all means, if someone wants to publicize their speculation about a motive Dr. Ivins had for murder — and thinks there is support — they should obtain and cite it.

        • DXer said

          David A. Relman (vice-chair of the NAS committee) reviewed Professor Guillemin’s book “American Anthrax” in a book review titled “Have We ‘Met the Enemy'” in the February 3, 2012 issue of SCIENCE. I haven’t had the opportunity to read the review yet but have great admiration for Dr. Relman’s article in Science about the perils of scientific openness (co-authored with JB Petro) and also his observations about Amerithrax.

        • DXer said

          Science 3 February 2012:
          Vol. 335 no. 6068 pp. 540-541
          DOI: 10.1126/science.1213942
          BOOKS ET AL.

          Have We “Met the Enemy”?
          David A. Relman
          American Anthrax Fear, Crime, and the Investigation of the Nation’s
          Deadliest Bioterror Attack by Jeanne GuilleminTimes Books, New York, 2011.

          ***

          We learned at least two critical lessons from the aftermath of the 2001
          anthrax mailings: Microbial forensic science, if deployed in a careful,
          well-controlled, and creative manner, can generate important, novel, useful
          leads in criminal cases involving the deliberate use of a biological agent.
          However, science can only get us so far; alone, it cannot reveal
          attribution. Our expectations about the value of microbial forensics were
          not well defined or managed in the so-called Amerithrax investigation. To
          this day and in this book, the formulation of scientific conclusions
          continues to be misleading.

          By 2010, when the Amerithrax investigation was closed by the U.S. Department
          of Justice, there were two components of the case: the possible linkage
          between the material in the letters and a flask of B. anthracis spores at the
          U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in
          Fort Detrick, Maryland, and the assessment about who might have used the
          contents of the flask to prepare and send the letters. Had the case gone to
          trial, the strengths of the two components would have been weighed and
          integrated by the prosecution and then challenged by the defense. But
          because the lead suspect, Bruce Ivins (a microbiologist at USAMRIID),
          committed suicide, we do not have the benefit of court proceedings. Without
          such, we must refrain from trying this man in the courtroom of public
          opinion.

          ***

          In early 2011, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released the results of
          a 20-month review of the science used to build the first component of the
          case along with nearly 10,000 pages of supporting documents previously held
          by the Department of Justice (1). The National Research Council (NRC)
          committee found that it is impossible to arrive at a definitive conclusion
          about the origin of the letter spores based on the available scientific
          evidence alone. The scientific data generated by and on behalf of the
          Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) provided leads as to a possible source
          (flask RMR-1029) but did not rule out other sources. In contrast, the
          Department of Justice’s Amerithrax Investigative Summary states conclusively
          that the flask was the source of the spores in the letters. Likewise,
          Guillemin refers to “solid scientific proof that the spores in the anthrax
          letters matched those in a flask” and fails to acknowledge all of the major
          criticisms of the science. There were problems with the representativeness
          of the FBI repository of B. anthracis samples against which the letter
          material was compared. The FBI failed to aggressively pursue an alternative
          explanation: that some of the mutations in the letters might have arisen by
          parallel evolution rather than by derivation from the flask. Similar kinds
          of mutations are known to occur with large-scale production of anthrax
          spores using bulk serial passaging (1). Guillemin also ignores other NRC
          criticisms, including questions about the reliability of the genetic assays
          used to look in the repository for the mutations found in the letters. In
          addition, she describes some of the details of the science-based
          investigation incorrectly, such as the number of positive samples from a
          clandestine effort to assess a possible overseas source of the spores and
          the number of collection missions that yielded positive samples. Although
          seemingly minor, these incorrect descriptions of the scientific findings may
          lend credence to the Department of Justice’s overstated conclusions, which
          in the long run will harm public trust in the U.S. government, an outcome
          that Guillemin rightfully bemoans.

          Her limited treatment of the science and presumption of guilt lead Guillemin
          to focus on the insider threat, the role of USAMRIID, and what she sees as
          an associated problem: the U.S. biodefense agenda. While there is merit in
          some of her claims, I worry that undue emphasis on physical control measures
          and bean (cell) counting for work with naturally occurring, self-replicating
          pathogens distracts from more important efforts, such as establishing a
          culture of responsibility among scientists. There are many other potential
          enemies besides the biodefense establishment insider and a short list of
          known biological agents (2).

    • DXer said

      The mistaken sentence was omitted.

      http://www.praguepost.com/blogs/blog/2012/02/28/author-interview-jeanne-guillemin-author-of-american-anthrax/

      If ever support develops for the statement, then it would be a fair point to make. Presently, it is unsupported by anything in the record and was appropriately deleted.

      Now if only the Department of Justice had appreciated that it should correct its mistakes — and was not so motivated by CYA considerations after Dr. Ivins’ suicide.

      • DXer said

        And as for whether he was angry and frustrated and motivated to commit murder, his hundreds of emails produced under FOIA speak for themselves and offer no support for the theory.

        Instead, he was up to his eyeballs in small animal studies in September-October 2001. If DOJ had produced the documents relating to the rabbit studies and AUSA Lieber had summarized them (or even acknowledged them) in her lengthy memo to her superiors, the DOJ would not have so botched Amerithrax.

        It may have taken a couple decades to get Sverdlosk right, but let’s try for a quicker turnaround on Amerithrax.

        • DXer said

          As for spelling his name Ivans, David L. Bolduc also spells it “Ivans” in his GMU PhD thesis “Development on Algorithm Predicting “Relative Risk of a Terrorist” CBW” last year. I find it startling how many GMU PhDs can discuss microencapsulation and cite 1999 (Alibek and Handelmann) and Smithson and Levy (2000) without noting that Ali Al-Timimi shared a suite at GMU with Alibek and Bailey, co-inventors of the patent application in Spring 2001 that concentrated anthrax by using silica in the culture medium. Get your facts wrong about Dr. Ivins if you must — but let’s all spell the poor man’s name right.

        • DXer said

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22372894

          Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2012 Mar;136(3):235.
          Sverdlovsk Revisited: Pulmonary Pathology of Inhalational Anthrax Versus Anthraxlike Bacillus cereus Pneumonia.
          Walker D.
          Source
          Department of Pathology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555-0609.
          PMID: 22372894 [PubMed - in process]

  4. DXer said

    Everyone should approach Amerithrax from the point of view and assumption that the emails you thought you deleted were in fact not successfully deleted from the server — and that the emails have long since left the building.

    An accurate reconstruction of history is the only safe harbor for any career.

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