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Posted on PROMED by Stuart Jacobsen …
Subject: 6 unanswered questions
NOTE: ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases
(1) The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) published a Newsletter in October 2002 in which they stated: “Fort Detrick sought our assistance to determine the specific components of the anthrax found in the Daschle letter,” said Florabel G. Mullick, MD, ScD, SES, AFIP Principal Deputy Director and department chair. AFIP experts utilized an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (an instrument used to detect the presence of otherwise-unseen chemicals through characteristic wavelengths of X-ray light) to confirm the previously unidentifiable substance as silica. “This was a key component,” Mullick said. “Silica prevents the anthrax from aggregating, making it easier to aerosolize.” <http://www.anthraxinvestigation.com/AFIP.html>
In their Newsletter AFIP also included an EDX spectrum of a reference sample of silica titled “Silicon Dioxide (Silica), as it appears
through energy dispersive X-ray analysis”
1.1: What was in the AFIP EDX data that allowed them to conclude that silica was a deliberate additive?
1.2: The complete set of EDX spectra and scanning electron microscope pictures for all of the attack powder samples measured by AFIP need to be published in order for independent experts in EDX spectroscopy to assess the validity of AFIP’s conclusion that silica was a deliberate additive.
(2) In April 2002 information that an “unusual chemical” had been found coating the attack powders was provided by senior government officials to Newsweek, CNN and the Washington Post. Later on it was revealed by the FBI that this “unusual chemical” was “polymerized glass.”
Source: Newsweek, 8 Apr 2002.
A Sophisticated Strain of Anthrax
By: Mark Hosenball, John Barry and Daniel Klaidman
“Government sources tell Newsweek that the secret new analysis shows anthrax found in a letter addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy was ground to a microscopic fineness not achieved by U.S. biological-weapons experts. The Leahy anthrax – mailed in an envelope that was recovered unopened from a Washington post office last November  — also was coated with a chemical compound unknown to experts who have worked in the field for years; the coating matches no known anthrax samples ever recovered from biological-weapons producers anywhere in the world, including Iraq and the former Soviet Union. The combination of the intense milling of the bacteria and the unusual coating produced an anthrax powder so fine and fluffy that individually coated anthrax spores were found in the Leahy envelope, something that U.S. bioweapons experts had never seen.”
Source: Washington Post, 9 Apr 2002.
Powder Used in Anthrax Attacks ‘Was Not Routine’
By: Joby Warrick, Washington Post Staff Writer
“Whoever concocted the wispy white powder used in last fall’s  anthrax attacks followed a recipe markedly different from the ones commonly used by scientists in the United States or any other country known to have biological weapons, law enforcement sources said yesterday.
“Extensive lab tests of the anthrax powder have revealed new details about how the powder was made, including the identity of a chemical used to coat the trillions of microscopic spores to keep them from clumping together. Sources close to the investigation declined to name the chemical but said its presence was something of a surprise.
“The powder’s formulation ‘was not routine,’ said one law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. ‘Somebody had to have special knowledge and experience to do this,’ the official said.”
Source: CNN, 11 Apr 2002.
Official: Unusual coating in anthrax mailings
By: Kelli Arena, CNN Washington Bureau
“Scientists have found a new chemical in the coating on the anthrax spores mailed to journalists and politicians last fall, a
high-ranking government official said Wednesday.
“The discovery of the unnamed chemical, something scientists are familiar with, was surprising, the official said.
“Previously, officials had reported that the coating on the anthrax included silica, which helped the spores not to clump.”
“Apparently, the spores were coated with a polyglass which tightly bound hydrophilic silica to each particle. That’s what was briefed (according to one of my former weapons inspectors at the United Nations Special Commission) by the FBI to the German Foreign Ministry at the time.”
2.1: What laboratory results were performed in order for the FBI to conclude that “polymerized glass” was individually coating the spores?
2.2: The complete set of laboratory data, including any and all spectroscopic results, that led to this conclusion needs to be published in order for independent experts in the chemistry of silanes, siloxanes and polysiloxanes to assess the conclusion that polymerized glass was present as a spore coating.
(3) Quantitative elemental silicon analysis results released by the FBI: FBI lab director Dr Hassell made the following statement to the
National Academy of Science in July of 2009:
“There has been a great deal written regarding the presence of silicon in the samples and the location of that silicon. The FBI
Laboratory used Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) to quantify silicon, as well as other
elements, in the Leahy letter spore powder. The results indicated the Leahy spores contained 1.45 percent by weight. The New York Post letter spore powder was qualitatively analyzed using ICP-OES and was found to have Silicon present in the sample. However, the limited quantity of recovered material precluded a reliable numerical measurement of any elements present within this powder. Insufficient quantities ofboth the Daschle and Brokaw letters spore powders precluded the analysis of these samples using this elemental analysis technique.”
3.1: What is the minimum amount of sample needed to perform accurate quantitative elemental analysis on spore samples?
3.2: All of the FBI’s ICP-OES data for all of the spore powders they measured needs to be released and published for independent verification by experts in analytical chemistry.
(4) Role of Pacific Northwest National Labs in the Amerithrax investigation: In his slide presentation to NAS in July 2008, FBI lab director Dr Hassell acknowledged the involvement of Pacific Northwest National Labs. This can be seen in slide 14 here:
4.1: What role did Pacific Northwest National Labs serve in the Amerithrax investigation?
Pacific Northwest Labs demonstrated in 2005 that accurate quantitative Elemental Analysis can be performed on bacillus spores with samples as small as one nanogram. The Pacific Northwest paper on this technique can be seen here: Differentiation of Spores of Bacillus subtilis Grown in Different Media by Elemental Characterization Using Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry, John B. Cliff, Kristin H. Jarman, Nancy B. Valentine, Steven L. Golledge, Daniel J. Gaspar, David S. Wunschel, and Karen L. Wahl, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, November 2005, p. 6524-6530, Vol. 71, No. 11
4.2: Did Pacific Northwest National Labs determine the elemental quantities of silicon and other elements in the attack powders? What was the quantity of silicon they determined for each powder?
(5) Amount of spores needed for all of the attack letters: The single flask of RMR-1029 consisted at its origination date of 30g of Ames anthrax spores in a slurry of 1 liter of water. The resources needed to make this 30g of spores consisted of a combination of 12 x 10 liter fermentor runs at Dugway Proving Ground and 22 flask culture lots made at USAMRIID. Dr Bruce Ivins had calculated that to make 30g of spores at USAMRIID it would take approximately one year of work, which is why USAMRIID contracted the large fermentor runs at Dugway in order to fulfill their need for spores for animal vaccine challenge studies.
5.1: What calculations did the FBI labs perform that allowed them to conclude that the total quantity of spores needed for all the mailed letters could be made by a single person over a few evenings?
(6) Dugway researchers publish in 2008 that the Daschle spores were “fluidized.” In March 2008 authors from Dugway Proving Ground and the CDC published a paper titled: Development of an Aerosol System for Uniformly Depositing Bacillus anthracis Spore Particles on Surfaces. Paul A. Baron1, Cherie F. Estill1, Gregory J. Deye1, Misty J. Hein1, Jeremy K. Beard2, Lloyd D. Larsen2, and Gregory E. Dahlstrom2, 1_Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA 2_Dugway Proving Ground, Dugway, Utah, USA
In this paper, which was concerned with manufacturing a powder that would display similar aerosol and dispersability behavior to the Daschle powder, the authors make the following statement: “In the anthrax attack of 2001, some of the material was believed to be in a “fluidized” form (defined here as having fumed silica added).”
6.1: Were the authors from Dugway Proving Ground privy to the nature of the powder used in the attacks? What led the authors to conclude that the spores used in the attacks were “fluidized?”
posted by Stuart Jacobsen PhD, Analytical Chemist