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

Archive for April 17th, 2009

* anthrax lawsuit by mailroom worker is dismissed

Posted by DXer on April 17, 2009




March 31, 2009

Judge dismisses lawsuit over anthrax letter

David Hose was exposed to anthrax spores in October 2001 while working as a contract supervisor in a State Department mail facility in Sterling, Va., and he spent more than two weeks in intensive care.

The letter he handled was addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and it was mistakenly delivered to the Sterling facility because of a zip code error.

Hose argued that the exposure resulted from the federal government’s negligent handling of its anthrax supply and its failure to protect adequately the State Department mail room workers after learning that anthrax was traveling through the nation’s postal network. He sued the United States for compensation for his pain, disfigurement, and his inability to work since the exposure.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman agreed with the government that Hose could not sue because Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Act prohibited a lawsuit over his injuries.

Posted in * recent anthrax news | Leave a Comment »

* a continuing flood of anthrax hoaxes

Posted by DXer on April 17, 2009

Since the deadly mailings in 2001, the U.S. has spent $50 billion to bolster biological defenses. The cost is raised by a flood of threats that ultimately prove harmless.

By Bob Drogin, LA Times, March 8, 2009

In the 7 1/2 years since America’s worst bioterrorist attack — when letters laced with anthrax spores killed five people, closed Congress and the Supreme Court, and crippled mail service for months — U.S. agencies have spent more than $50 billion to beef up biological defenses.

No other anthrax attacks have occurred.

But a flood of anthrax hoaxes and false alarms have raised the cost considerably through lost work, emergency evacuations, decontamination efforts, first-responders’ time and the emotional distress of the victims.

That, experts say, is often the hoaxer’s goal.

“It’s easy, it’s cheap, and very few perpetrators get caught,” said Leonard Cole, a political scientist at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., who studies bioterrorism. “People do it for a sense of power.”

Among the recent targets: nearly all 50 governors’ offices; about 100 U.S. embassies abroad; 52 banks; 36 news organizations; ticket booths at Disneyland; Mormon temples in Salt Lake City and Los Angeles; town halls in Batavia, Ohio, and Ellenville, N.Y.; a funeral home and day-care center in Ocala, Fla.; a sheriff’s office in Eagle, Colo.; and homes in Ely River, N.M.

The FBI has investigated about 1,000 such “white powder events” as possible terrorist threats since the start of 2007, spokesman Richard Kolko said. The bureau responds if a letter contains a written threat or is mailed to a federal official.

“Some of these knuckleheads think because they’re not sending a dangerous substance, it’s not a crime,” Kolko said. “But it is a crime. We don’t treat a hoax as a joke.”

In one recent case, emergency crews cleared and sealed a Department of Homeland Security office in Washington after a senior official, who had received a package at home containing white powder and a dead fish, brought it to work for inspection.

The contents proved harmless, and the official, who collects intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, remains a department employee, a spokeswoman said.

Other cases, however, are more worrisome.

The FBI is trying to figure out who mailed about 150 letters late last year that contained powder and threatening notes. The envelopes were sent from the Dallas area to U.S. embassies in various countries and to most U.S. governors.

“It’s possible that the final two or three letters went to governors who are no longer in office,” said Mark White, an FBI spokesman in Dallas. “They may still trickle in.”

One letter, for example, was addressed to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who left office two years ago. When it arrived in Boston, someone marked “return to sender” on the envelope and popped it back in the mail. The return address was the FBI office in El Paso.

White powder spilled out when an FBI clerk there opened it Feb. 12. Anxious officials emptied the Federal Justice Center, sending more than 300 FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement personnel home. The powder proved to be baking soda, White said.

The Justice Department was able to bring criminal charges in two other high-profile cases.

Richard L. Goyette, 47, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Amarillo, Texas, to charges of mailing 65 threatening letters to banks and other financial institutions in October. The envelopes contained white powder and a warning that the recipient would die within 10 days.

According to prosecutors, Goyette was distraught after losing $63,525 when federal regulators seized Washington Mutual Bank and placed it in receivership. The FBI said it traced him through angry e-mails that he sent to the banks.

If convicted, Goyette would face a maximum five-year prison term on each charge, although sentencing guidelines would lower the total.

The powder was identified as calcium carbonate, which is used in antacids and blackboard chalk.

In the second case, a federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted Marc M. Keyser, 66, in November for allegedly mailing hoax letters; 120 of them went to newspapers, a member of Congress, a McDonald’s, a Starbucks and other targets.

Each contained a CD labeled “Anthrax Shock and Awe Terror,” and a packet of granular material bearing a biohazard symbol and the words “Anthrax Sample,” the FBI said. The substance was harmless.

Keyser’s home address was on several mailings. After his arrest, prosecutors told a judge that Keyser had hoped the publicity would raise concern about anthrax and draw attention to his blog and novel. He has pleaded not guilty.

Cases that result in charges are the exception, however.

In the last two fiscal years, records show, U.S. postal inspectors responded to more than 5,800 reports of letters and packages containing suspicious substances. Only a few dozen cases have resulted in arrests.

“We try to use common sense,” said Peter Rendina, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “We know there are cases where Grandma is sending her favorite muffin recipe and doesn’t mean to be a threat.”

Scientists disagree over whether the nation is more vulnerable to an anthrax attack today than it was in 2001. (The FBI blames that attack on Bruce E. Ivins, an anthrax researcher at a federal biodefense facility who committed suicide in July.)

The U.S. Postal Service in 2003 installed devices to check for airborne pathogens or poisons at the nation’s 271 mail processing and distribution centers. They have yet to detect a threat, Rendina said.

But the boom in biodefense spending carries a danger. Some experts fear that a tenfold increase in laboratories authorized to work with dangerous bioagents increases the risk of leaks. More than 7,200 scientists now are approved to work with anthrax, far more than in the past, creating security risks.

“I think all our screaming about bioterrorism has been counterproductive,” said Milton Leitenberg, a University of Maryland scholar who has written extensively about biological weapons. “It’s a hard balance to strike.”

Boston police felt the same way after the incident at Symphony Hall last month.

An address label on the DHL tube led detectives to a local man, who said he had tossed it in a Dumpster. Police never figured out who picked it up and wrote “Anthrax Beware” on it, or why.

“Happily, there was nothing to it,” said Jill McLaughlin, a police spokeswoman. “We’ve got enough problems without an anthrax scare.”

Posted in * recent anthrax news | 18 Comments »

* widow of anthrax victim continues $50 million lawsuit

Posted by DXer on April 17, 2009





Posted on Fri, Mar. 06, 2009

Ruling lets anthrax suit go forward 3-6-09

A federal appeals court ruling will allow the widow of an anthrax victim to continue a $50 million lawsuit claiming that the federal government was ultimately responsible for her husband’s death.


Maureen Stevens’ husband, Robert, was a photo editor who was exposed to anthrax mailed to the Boca Raton office of American Media Inc., a supermarket tabloid publisher, in 2001. He was the first of five people killed and 17 others sickened in a series of similar attacks.

U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley in Florida refused to dismiss Stevens’ suit against the federal government and Battelle Memorial Institute, a private laboratory. The government appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which asked the Florida Supreme Court to clarify state law position on the issue.

The state high court ruled 4-1 Oct. 30 that the defendants had a duty under Florida law to protect the public against the unauthorized release of lethal materials.

Friday’s ruling by a three-judge appellate panel sends the case back to U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach.

Posted in * recent anthrax news | Leave a Comment »

* Fox News … FBI’s Evidence in Anthrax Attacks Case Leaves Puzzling Scientific Questions

Posted by DXer on April 17, 2009





FOX NEWS … Saturday , March 07, 2009 by Catherine Herridge


The FBI used science to make its case that Bruce Ivins was behind the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001 — but FOX News has learned that the scientific evidence in the case isn’t as straight-forward as it first appeared.


When the FBI told reporters in August that its investigation had led to only one suspect, Ivins, the federal prosecutor in the case backed up the evidence against the defense researcher.

“We have a flask that’s effectively the murder weapon from which those spores were taken that was controlled by Dr. Ivins,” U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said. “Anthrax in that flask was created by Dr. Ivins.”

The science clearly is the backbone of the FBI case against Ivins, who committed suicide last year as investigators closed in, and much of the evidence is based on highly sophisticated and specialized research by people like Joe Michael, who works at the Sandia National Labs in New Mexico.

But when Michael compared the bacterial spores in three letters, sent to the New York Post and Sens. Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle on Capitol Hill, with the bacteria found in Ivins’ flask, he reached a striking conclusion: They do not share the same chemical fingerprint.

“I don’t think this exonerates (Ivins) at all,” Michael told FOX News, adding, “I don’t think it’s not enough to say that he did it, as well.”

Michael said the powder in the letters contains silicon, oxygen, iron and tin; the flask does not. But there is a good explanation for the lack of a chemical match, he said.

“What the FBI believes happened, and I think the evidence helps support them, is that this material was taken out of that flask and then re-grown before it was put in the letters,” Michael said.

FBI investigators think there were at least two “re-growths” by Ivins. This, they say, accounts for the difference between the New York Post powder, which was darker and more granular than the batch sent to Capitol Hill. But the exact recipe or method used remains a mystery.

The FBI case centers on Ivins and his work as a military bio-defense researcher at Fort Detrick in Maryland. Some skeptics still question whether Ivins, as the FBI maintains, was the only person who created the anthrax and controlled access to the flask. Five people died in the attacks.

“When you do an investigation, you have what is called a chain of custody,” terrorism expert Neil Livingstone told FOX News. “And the evidence always has to be in that chain of custody. You have to be able to explain it. And it doesn’t appear that the FBI has an iron-clad chain of custody here.”

At Quantico, Va., home to the FBI Laboratory’s Chemical-Biological Sciences Unit , a bureau microbiologist told FOX that the chemical mismatch is of no consequence because the powder and the spores share the same DNA.

“There is no expectation they should have the same chemical profile,” Jason Bannan, the FBI forensic examiner , told FOX News, adding, “we don’t know what method was used to grow the spores.”

The FBI has promised an independent review of their findings by the National Academy of Sciences, though, according to some reports, it has not yet begun. This week, two Democratic congressmen, Jerry Nadler and Rush Holt, whose districts were affected by the attacks, introduced legislation calling for the creation of a 9/11-style commission to independently investigate the attacks because they say the nation deserves to know whether the case is truly solved.

“All of us — but especially the families of the victims of the anthrax attacks — deserve credible answers about how the attacks happened and whether the case really is closed,” Holt said in a written statement. “The commission, like the 9/11 Commission, would do that, and it would help American families know that the government is better prepared to protect them and their children from future bioterrorism attacks.”

Posted in * questioning the FBI's anthrax investigation, * recent anthrax news | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

* Congressman Holt again seeks to establish a commission to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks

Posted by DXer on April 17, 2009

see Congressman Holt’s 6 minute talk to Congress at …

* Congr. Rush Holt wants to investigate the FBI’s anthrax case

By Lauren Otis, Staff Writer, the Packet, Thursday, March 5, 2009 

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt has reintroduced legislation to establish a commission to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks.


The Anthrax Commission legislation would set up a 9/11-style commission to look into the 2001 anthrax attacks and the federal government’s response to and investigation into them. The FBI has tied the attacks to senior Army microbiologist Bruce Edwards Ivins, who killed himself last July when he was aware he was a prime suspect in the attacks.

The lethal anthrax letters in the attack were mailed from a single mailbox at 10 Nassau St. in Princeton, the FBI has said. But the FBI never presented any evidence placing Mr. Ivins in Princeton at the time the anthrax letters were mailed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It only detailed an “obsession” Mr. Ivins had with a college sorority, which had a presence in Princeton. Mr. Ivins’ father also attended Princeton University. In the past, Rep. Holt has been critical of the FBI, calling its case against Mr. Ivins “circumstantial.”

”Some people want to forget. Others think I am doing this to poke at the FBI. That is not the case,” Rep. Holt said. “I do think the FBI has botched this from the beginning, but that is not a reason to establish a commission for every botched investigation. This is a case of major importance with major policy implications that we still don’t understand and still haven’t drawn all the lessons from.”

He added, “The work of this commission will be helpful in moving forward,” acknowledging “it is going to be a challenge” to convince Congress the commission is not looking back and “settling scores.”

Posted in * questioning the FBI's anthrax investigation, * recent anthrax news | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »