Posts Tagged ‘** NAS anthrax study’
* a selection of posts from the CASE CLOSED blog making the case AGAINST the FBI’s assertions that Dr. Bruce ivins was the anthrax attacker
Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 30, 2013
* Courtney Grafft’s “A Legal Analysis of the Search Warrants of the Amerithrax Investigation”, Journal of Biosecurity, Biosafety and Biodefense Law *(July 2012) : Excerpt
Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 14, 2012
* Tara O’Toole, the undersecretary for biosecurity at Homeland Security Department, says that the FBI did not establish that the anthrax came from USAMRIID but that it was merely the FBI’s “working hypothesis” and a “supposition”
Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 13, 2011
Tara O’Toole is the Undersecretary for Biosecurity at Homeland Security Department.
Toward at the end of a seminar (10/13/11) sponsored by the Center for American Progress, in response to a question about the dangers posed by proliferation of labs, O’Toole said that …
- the FBI has not proven that the mailed anthrax came from USAMRIID.
- She says that is “a working hypothesis.”
- She says that the NAS report is the place to go to get behind the FBI’s “supposition.”
Anthrax Revisited: The Outlook for Biopreparedness in the United States
* International anthrax expert Dr. Hugh Martin-Jones challenges the government to test his team’s hypothesis in a lab instead of with “lawyer talk” … “I hope [the findings] will add to the pressure that the investigation be actively reopened.”
Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 12, 2011
Henry Rome writes in The Daily Princetonian (10/12/11) …
- International anthrax expert Martin Hugh-Jones, molecular biologist Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and chemist Stuart Jacobsen assert …
the Army microbiologist accused of mailing anthrax-laden letters
did not, in fact, have the technical skill needed to manufacture the spores.
- In response to a statement issued by Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd dismissing the team’s claims, Dr. Hugh-Jones said in an email to The Daily Princetonian that he challenged the government to test his team’s hypothesis in a lab in order to take the discussion “out of the realm of lawyer talk of you said/we say nonsense.”
- “The DOJ forgets that we are scientists and all ‘speculation’ are hypotheses which are subject to testing to see if they have any basis in hard fact,” he said. “I hope [the findings] will add to the pressure that the investigation be actively reopened.”
- The team claims that the particles of tin and silicone found in the anthrax spores are not random contaminants. Instead, they argue, the particles are indicators of the complex coating used in the mass production of pharmaceutical products.
- These recent findings come less than a year after the National Academy of Sciences issued a review that criticized the FBI’s scientific analysis of the anthrax spores.
- New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt has also condemned the FBI’s handling of the investigation … Holt has called for a commission, styled after the 9/11 commission, to investigate the mailings.
read the entire article at … http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2011/10/12/29020/
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: * Congressman Holt & anthrax, ** NAS anthrax study, *** 2001 anthrax attacks, *** Amerithrax, *** Dr. Bruce Ivins, *** FBI anthrax investigation, dean boyd, Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Dr. Martin Hugh-Jones, Dr. Stuart Jacobsen | 7 Comments »
* NYT report … analysis by scientists Hugh-Jones, Rosenberg and Jacobsen disputes FBI closing of anthrax case … Dr. Alice Gast, the head of the NAS panel that reviewed the FBI’s scientific work in the anthrax investigation, says … the paper points out connections that deserve further consideration … the potential value of chemical signatures has not been fully explored … she urges a full review of classified government research on anthrax, which her panel never saw
Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 10, 2011
William Broad and Scott Shane write in the NYT (10/9/11) …
- biologists and chemists still disagree on whether federal investigators got the right man and whether the FBI’s long inquiry brushed aside important clues.
- three scientists argue that distinctive chemicals found in the dried anthrax spores — including the unexpected presence of tin — point to a high degree of manufacturing skill, contrary to federal reassurances that the attack germs were unsophisticated. The scientists make their case in a coming issue of the Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense.
Both the chairwoman of a National Academy of Science (NAS) panel
that spent a year and a half reviewing the F.B.I.’s scientific work
and the director of a new review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO)
said the paper raised important questions that should be addressed.
- Alice P. Gast, president of Lehigh University and the head of the academy panel, said that the paper “points out connections that deserve further consideration.”
Dr. Gast, a chemical engineer, said the “chemical signatures”
in the mailed anthrax and their potential value to the criminal investigation
had not been fully explored.
She also noted that the academy panel suggested a full review
of classified government research on anthrax,
which her panel never saw.
- In interviews, the three authors said their analysis suggested that the F.B.I. might have pursued the wrong suspect and that the case should be reopened.
- Their position may embolden calls for a national commission to investigate the first major bioterrorist attack in American history.
- Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said the paper provided “no evidence whatsoever that the spores used in the mailings were produced” at a location other than Fort Detrick. He said investigators believe Dr. Ivins grew and dried the anthrax spores himself. “We stand by our conclusion.”
- In addition to Dr. Hugh-Jones, the authors of the new paper are Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a biologist, and Stuart Jacobsen, a chemist; both have speculated publicly about the case and criticized the F.B.I. for years.
- In 2008, days after Dr. Ivins’s suicide, the bureau made public a sweeping but circumstantial case against him. Last year, the bureau formally closed the case, acknowledging that some scientific questions were unanswered but asserting that the evidence against Dr. Ivins was overwhelming.
Yet no evidence directly tied Dr. Ivins to the crime.
- Some of the scientist’s former colleagues have argued that he could not have made the anthrax and that investigators hounded a troubled man to death.
- In its report last February, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel sharply criticized some of the F.B.I.’s scientific work, saying the genetic link between the attack anthrax and a supply in Dr. Ivins’s lab was “not as conclusive” as the bureau asserted.
- If the authors of the new paper are correct about the silicon-tin coating, it appears likely that Dr. Ivins could not have made the anthrax powder alone with the equipment he possessed, as the F.B.I. maintains.
That would mean either that he got the powder from elsewhere
or that he was not the perpetrator.
- If Dr. Ivins did not make the powder, one conceivable source might be classified government research on anthrax, carried out for years by the military and the Central Intelligence Agency. Dr. Ivins had ties to several researchers who did such secret work.
- The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is conducting its own review (still ongoing) of the anthrax evidence. Nancy Kingsbury, the official overseeing the project, said the agency had spoken with the paper’s authors and judged that “their questions are reasonable.”
- Several anthrax scientists who reviewed the new paper at the request of The Times said they believed it neglected the possibility that the tin and silicon were meaningless contaminants rather than sophisticated additives.
- Dr. Gast, the head of the National Academy of Sciences panel, noted that her group strongly recommended that future investigations of the attacks examine the government’s classified work on anthrax.
- She called access to secret records “an important aspect of providing more clarity on what we know and what we don’t know.”
read the entire article at … http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/science/10anthrax.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss
LMW COMMENT …
I have long held that the FBI’s publicly presented case against Dr. Ivins is clearly bogus: no evidence, no witnesses, an impossible timeline, science that proves innocence instead of guilt. So what really happened? And why doesn’t the FBI offer America a credible story?
As regular readers of this blog well know, I can imagine only 3 possible “actual” scenarios …
- The FBI has more evidence against Dr. Ivins but is, for some undisclosed reason, withholding that evidence … POSSIBLE BUT NOT SO LIKELY
- The FBI, despite the most expensive and extensive investigation in its history, has not solved the case and has no idea who prepared and mailed the anthrax letters that killed 5 Americans in 2001 … EVEN LESS LIKELY
- The FBI knows who did it (not Dr. Ivins) but is covering up the actual perpetrators, for undisclosed reasons …THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: ** CASE CLOSED by Lew Weinstein, ** NAS anthrax study, Dr. Alice Gast, Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Dr. Hugh-Jones, Dr. Stuart Jacobsen, GAO review of FBI anthrax investigation, Journal of Bioterrorism & Biodefense, New York Magazine, New York Times, presence of tin in anthrax, Scott Shane, washington post, William Broad | 28 Comments »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 27, 2011
Excerpts from “I Heard The Sirens Scream”
by Pulitzer Prize winning author Laurie Garrett
(sub-headings by LMW) …
FBI’s misuse of non-FBI labs …
Twenty-nine non-FBI laboratories across America were engaged in the effort, with no direct communication or knowledge of each other’s findings permitted. The FBI investigators changed their strategies and notions of appropriate science fairly regularly, never allowing the academic, private or government laboratories that comprised the “team” to either provide guidance in plotting the scientific inquiry, or frankly clueing the researchers in on why any particular avenue of study was being pursued.
investigation by public humiliation …
for years the key tactic used to elicit statements or confessions was public humiliation.
intense scrutiny of Ivins – until he took his own life …
The scrutiny of Ivins grew so intense, featuring overt 24-hour surveillance of his suburban Maryland home and questioning of his children, that Ivins’ already delicate psychological state rapidly deteriorated, until the microbiologist took his own life by swallowing a massive quantity of the headache remedy, acetaminophen.
strange circumstantial evidence …
The bulk of the evidence against Ivins was circumstantial, and every bit as strange as that the FBI had leveled against Hatfill and other persons of the agency’s interest.
destruction of Iowa Ames …
the University of Iowa and the State’s troopers had, with much fanfare, destroyed the original samples during the fall of 2001. Amazingly, the Justice Department had raised no objections at the time, failing then to appreciate how critically important the samples would prove to be for Amerithrax forensics.
silicate signature …
When the so-called “silicate signature” on anthrax samples obtained from other sources was compared to the 2001 envelope spores there were two critical differences: There was far less silicate, and none of the comparable samples had silicon inside the spores, as the Amerithrax samples did. The Sandia researchers had proved all of this before the spring of 2002, and experimentally demonstrated that the only way silicate got inside the spores was if the chemical was in the medium used to grow the bacilli.
silicon and tin …
During the 2001 early investigation the FBI tested samples from the letters and found both silicon and tin in the mailings to the New York Post and Senator Leahy, in both cases constituting less than 1 percent of the bulk weight of the samples. The early FBI silicon/tin findings were contradicted by the Sandia work, as well as testing at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. The early silicon/tin data from the FBI would not be disclosed to Congress or outside researchers for many years, and its significance or accuracy remained controversial ten years later.
no connection with Saddam … known before Colin Powell UN speech …
This 2002 Sandia finding, if accurate, had two profound implications: First, it disproved any alleged connection between chemicals on the anthrax spores and their purported production as WMD by Saddam Hussein or any other country. While the finding did not rule out the possibility that a foreign state actor grew the spores, there was no evidence that silicon, bentonite or any other chemical was used in the process to make the spores stay fluffy, un-clumped and therefore “weaponized.” The second implication was critical to the forensics, as the Sandia group basically told the FBI, “Find a guy that uses silicate in his bacterial growth medium, and you’ve got your culprit.”
Sadly, this information was kept secret until July 2008. There is no evidence in the public record that the FBI allowed the finding to be conveyed to those individuals inside the Bush Administration or CIA that were searching for links between the anthrax and the government of Iraq, nor does it appear the Justice Department allowed the information to be incorporated in any manner in the 2003 United Nations Security Council debate at which Secretary of State Colin Powell conveyed the case for war on Baghdad.
FBI investigation focused in wrong directions …
For years the FBI inquiry continued focusing on one incorrect suspect or lead after another.
RMR-1029 flasks …
In 2004 the FBI seized Ivins’ RMR-1029 flasks, having remarkably allowed them to remain in his possession for more than two years, while he was simultaneously on a list of some 200 anthrax scientists considered to be possible culprits. Those RMR-1029 samples were sent to Worsham, Keim and Fraser-Liggett to be submitted to their respective forms of analysis.
April 2007 … Ivins “not a target” … and then he is …
Though Ivins was questioned many times and underwent a lie detector test, he remained an active part of the investigation into 2007, and in April of that year received a formal letter from the Justice Department informing him that he was “not a target” of the Amerithrax search. … But just one month after receiving that “not a target” reassurance Ivins was called to testify for two days before a federal grand jury, where his handling of RMR-1029 was parsed in detail. Shaken by the proceedings, Ivins told colleagues he feared that he was being fingered as the murderer. He began to drink alcohol heavily and went on back on the anti-depressant Celexa, which he had ceased using years before.
FBI’s belligerent scrutiny of Ivins …
For the next eight months Bruce Ivins, his family and his closest colleagues at USAMRIID were subjected to increasingly overt and belligerent scrutiny by the FBI and eventually the media.
On June 9th the FBI questioned Ivins again, in the presence of his attorney, and the scientist appears to have been deeply shaken by the interrogation. Throughout the following month the FBI conducted undisguised surveillance of his home, and followed him wherever he drove or walked, spoke with his wife and children, and made their watchdog presence known. For Ivins – a man who was under psychiatric treatment for paranoia – the federal vehicles parked outside his suburban home must have left him unhinged.
Spertzel – “The FBI needs to explain” …
Richard Spertzel, who headed the biological weapons inspections for UNSCOM during the lead-up to the Persian Gulf War, wrote in the Wall Street Journal just days after the FBI named Ivins as the culprit, “The FBI needs to explain why it zeroed in on Ivins, how he could have made the anthrax mailed to lawmakers and the media, and how he (or anyone else) could have pulled off the attacks, acting alone. I believe this is another mistake in the [Amerithrax] investigation.”
Ivins’ group therapy with Jean Duley …
One month later, on July 9th Ivins allegedly made statements in his weekly group therapy session that were so alarming that the session convener feared he either intended to kill others, or himself. According to the counselor that chaired the session, Jean Duley (who was not trained in psychology) Ivins told the group he was angry about how the FBI and the government were treating him, and had become convinced that he faced the death penalty.
Would FBI case have led to conviction? …
Would all of this have resulted in conviction had Bruce Ivins lived to see his day in court? His lawyer, Paul Kemp doesn’t think so, and other legal experts have vouched that all the FBI evidence shows is that Ivins was a disturbed, paranoid individual, probably bona fide mentally ill. A case could be made that his mental illness preceded 9/11, but that still doesn’t prove that Bruce Ivins made, and mailed, the anthrax letters.
Weaknesses and omissions in FBI case …
- the FBI cannot prove that Ivins was in the State of New Jersey on the two days when the deadly letters were dropped in Trenton-area mailboxes.
- The FBI also failed to offer evidence that Ivins could produce handwriting, using either hand that resembled that penned on the letters and envelopes.
- the FBI couldn’t prove that Bruce Ivins managed to remove samples of wet bacilli from that flask, and turn them into dry, fluffy spores.
- whoever created the batch of dry spores must have contaminated the space in which he, or they, worked. But there was no evidence of such contamination at USAMRIID, or on any of the property owned by the Ivins family.
- Even if the RMR-1029 matched every one of the Amerithrax letters, there was still no proof that Bruce Ivins was the person that converted samples into dry spores, stuffed them into envelopes and mailed the deadly postage.
yet FBI Director Mueller insists Ivins acted alone …
18 months later, with the NRC conclusions still not reached, FBI Director Robert Mueller declared case closed, officially shutting down the Amerithrax investigation. Dr. Bruce E. Ivins acted alone, and was the anthrax killer, Mueller insisted.
the NRC’s damning report …
- In November 2010 the NRC completed its investigation, based on 9,600 pages of documents and hundreds of hours of testimony and oral evidence, drafting a damning report that was submitted to the FBI for security review prior to publication.
- The FBI was not pleased with the scientists’ findings, and produced 641 pages of previously withheld documents for additional NRC scrutiny.
- The exhausted 16 scientists and judicial experts on the NRC panel had little interest in poring over additional evidence, but agreements were reached, the Department of Justice agreed to add funds to the NRC budget. The panel reconvened until February 2011.
- The FBI’s mysteriously withheld 641 pages of evidence did little to sway the NRC, which issued its damning and final conclusions on February 15, 2011.
- The NRC was not convinced by the FBI’s primary evidence against Bruce Ivins, the RMR-1029 flask of Ames strain anthrax.
- Two assertions are in the FBI version of events:
- Ivins was in possession of the culprit anthrax, contained in flask RMR-1029.
- And he behaved in a manner that showed he was trying to hide the incriminating evidence from Special Agents.
- The NRC disputed both assertions.
- “It is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion about the origins of the B.anthracis in the mailings based on the available scientific evidence alone,” the NRC concluded. “The results of the genetic analyses of the repository samples were consistent with the finding that the spores in the attack letters were derived from RMR-1029, but the analyses did not definitely demonstrate such a relationship.”
- the NRC panel was never convinced that the FBI’s registry truly contained every sample of Ames strain in the world.
- And none of the panel members could shake the hunch that the evil-doer would never have turned over sample to the FBI.
two al-Qaeda blockbusters in the NRC report …
- First, among the bodies recovered from the United Flight 93 crash site were those of Ziad Jarrah, Ahmad Al Haznawi and the two other al-Qaeda hijackers thwarted by brave passengers in their attempts to crash the jet into the White House. PCR analysis was performed in 2001 on the hijackers’ tissues, testing positive for Bacillus anthracis. This possible anthrax finding was especially interesting because Ahmad Al Haznawi was the al-Qaeda member that sought medical help in the emergency room of the Ft. Lauderdale Holy Cross Hospital on June 22, 2001. Dr. Christos Tsonas treated Al Haznawi with antibiotics for a black crusty sore on his hand, which was after 9/11 retrospectively diagnosed as a possible case of cutaneous anthrax infection.
- The other revelation in the 641 pages was evidence related to three 2004 searches for anthrax spores carried out by the FBI and “other intelligence partners” in an “overseas location” used in 2001 by al-Qaeda. Though the location is classified, it appears to have been in Afghanistan, where U.S. Special Forces found two al-Qaeda related laboratories, one in Kabul and the other in Tora Bora, where Osama bin Laden successfully dodged American capture in December 2001. The three different rounds of swabbing, soil sampling and testing yielded contradictory results, some positive for anthracis, some negative. Adding to the confusion, another unnamed U.S. intelligence agency scoured the location before the FBI first reached the site, not only finding anthrax, but the Ames strain. The Ames-type Bacillus anthracis is a form of the bacterium never previously found in Asia. Further details of the possible al-Qaeda role in Amerithrax remain classified, and were not provided to the NRC.
possible al-Qaeda involvement deserves a more thorough review …
The entire issue of possible al-Qaeda involvement in the 2001 anthrax attacks “deserves a more thorough scientific review,” the NRC said.
attack anthrax was made on at least two separate occasions …
- Whoever made the Ames anthrax apparently did so, on at least two separate occasions. Though the samples mailed in September to media outlets in Florida and New York were generally the same as those found in the October letters to Leahy and Daschle, the appearance of the samples are clearly different.
- There were subtle genetic differences among the anthracis spores, from letter to letter, giving further support to the notion that the culprit(s) manufactured two separate quantities of anthrax, possibly in two different locations.
- Far from providing a “smoking gun” linking the Amerithrax letters to RMR-1029, the mutants could have arisen from years of growing the bacilli in various types of fluids, in a variety of settings.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: ** NAS anthrax study, *** 2001 anthrax attacks, *** Amerithrax, *** Dr. Bruce Ivins, *** FBI anthrax investigation, Ahmad Al Haznawi, al Qaeda and anthrax, Al Qaeda anthrax program, al qaeda lab in Afghanistan, anthrax and Iraq, FBI has no case, FBI's belligerent scrutiny, I Heard the Sirens Scream by Laurie Garrett, Iowa Ames destroyed, Jean Duley, lies about Iraq, Mueller insists Ivins acted alone, mutants no smoking gun, NAS damning report, NAS review of FBI anthrax science, paul kemp, Richard Spertzel, RMR-1029, silicate signature, silicon and tin, Ziad Jarrah | 2 Comments »
* FBI Director Mueller gets two more years to do the right thing in the Amerithrax investigation. President Obama should direct Mueller to do what needs to be done.
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 14, 2011
CNN reports …
It will take an act of Congress to keep Robert Mueller at the helm of the FBI, and all signs indicate that’s precisely what lawmakers will do. No sooner had President Barack Obama announced plans to extend Mueller’s statutorily limited 10-year term to 12 years than Democrats and Republicans alike began to smartly salute the decorated Marine and declare the move a grand idea.
LMW COMMENT …
As far as the public can know with such a secretive organization, Robert Mueller has done an excellent job as FBI Director.
But, like the rest of us, he is not perfect. The Amerithrax investigation is one area where the FBI has fallen far short of an acceptable mark, and Mueller must take responsibility.
- The original structure of the investigation, with its changing teams and firewalls to prevent the flow of information, must have had Mueller’s approval, if indeed not his actual direction.
- The August 2008 announcement that Ivins was the sole perpetrator was a farce, especially when the FBI offered no evidence that Dr. Ivins was even involved.
- The FBI’s stonewalling response to Congress and others who have questioned the FBI’s conclusions must lay right at Mueller’s doorstep.
Director Mueller now has another two years
to do what should have been done long ago.
He has several choices …
- Cooperate fully with the GAO investigation initiated by Congressman Rush Holt
- Provide the improperly withheld information to the NAS and ask them to do a proper review
- Re-open the FBI investigation with a fresh team and no restrictions (much like I did in my novel CASE CLOSED)
President Obama should direct FBI Director Mueller
to do the right thing.
America deserves a better answer
than the FBI has so far provided.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: * Congressman Holt & anthrax, ** NAS anthrax study, FBI Director Mueller, GAO review of FBI anthrax investigation, President Obama and the FBI's failed anthrax investigation | 57 Comments »
* Wikileaks / Guantanamo : Doesn’t the United States know the strain of the virulent anthrax used in one or more of the Al Qaeda labs, for which Sufaat and his assistants were vaccinated, based on interrogation of the individuals? Why didn’t the FBI simply provide the NAS with the answers to its question about the strain of the anthrax based on interrogation of Yazid Sufaat or his anthrax lab assistants? Will it answer the same questions for GAO?
Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 27, 2011
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: ** NAS anthrax study, *** 2001 anthrax attacks, *** Amerithrax, *** FBI anthrax investigation, al Qaeda and anthrax, GAO review of FBI anthrax investigation, Yazid Sufaat | 13 Comments »
Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 20, 2011
Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 20, 2011