* Stuart Jacobsen: regarding silicon content, the FBI made deliberate misrepresentations (5-12-09)
Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 12, 2009
The silicon content is perhaps the single most important piece of forensic evidence supplying a unique fingerprint and pointing directly to the lab that manufactured the mailed material. But since the FBI cannot link the silicon content to Detrick or Dr Ivins they are pretending that the silicon content is not important at all.
This goes beyond bad science – it’s simply a deliberate misrepresentation of science.
Let’s first of all make some general statements. There are many chemicals – asides from seed spores and nutrients – that are used in preparing anthrax spores. These include NH4SO4, MgSO4·7H2O, MnSO4·H2O, ZnSO4·7H2O, CuSO4·5H2O, FeSO4·7H2O, CaCl2·2H2O, K2HPO4, and glucose.
Silicon is NOT a needed element in the production of spores, and it is not usually found in appreciable amount. If EDX is carried out on spores it is likely that all the aforementioned elements will be found in some quantities. These elements are S, Mg, Mn, Zn, Cu, Fe, Ca and K.
The FBI seem to be claiming that silicon is always found “naturally” in spores – as if the chemistry of silicon is a vital component of the spore microbiology and spores could not form without it.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
There are some elements for which this IS true. For example, this is true for the element calcium. Calcium undergoes specialized biochemical reactions with dipicolinic acid – and dipicolinic acid is always found in large quantities inside Bacillus spores. Thus it is no surprise that calcium is also found in large quantities in Bacillus spores. Calcium is a metal and readily forms calcium ions (Ca+) in water solution – allowing calcium to readily react with organic molecules like dipicolinic acid.
This is NOT true for the element silicon – there are no specialized biochemical reactions for silicon in solution as the FBI appear to be claiming to support their “no surprise to find silicon” argument.
The FBI certainly don’t want to comment on this paper recently published by pacific Northwest labs. They made Bacillus spores and performed trace elemental analysis by a technique called TOF-SIMS.
They found lots of elements present – silicon was NOT one of them. This is not surprising – if you don’t add silicon to the spores in the first place you don’t find it there later.
The FBI do not appear to understand this rather simple concept – or rather since it doesn’t fit with their Detrick/Ivins theory, they would rather brush it all under the carpet.
The FBI meanwhile, seem to be selectively leaking cherry picked results from old papers that DID find silicon in spores.
They are leaking results reported in a book titled “Cytological and Chemical Structure of the Spore” in a chapter authored by W.G. Murrell, D.F. Ohye and Rosalind A. Gordon, circa 1969. This chapter by Murrell reports a number of spore preparations that show silicon content. What they conveniently fail to mention, however, is that Murrell, an Australian working in New South Wales had a certain protocol when he prepared his spores – he always did preparations in a 20L ferementer and he always used a silicone antifoam agent
So, Murrell deliberately added a silicon compound and – not surprisingly, then detected silicon.
The bottom line here is really very simple.
If there are no spores inside Detrick containing amounts of silicon similar to the mailed spores then the mailed spores were NOT made at Detrick.
The NAS team should perform a deep dive into the FBI scientists lab notebooks. The FBI labs apparently performed Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) spectroscopy to measure the silicon content of all the spores. The exact details of this need to be known. How much mass of sample was used? How was the sample prepared and diluted for ICP runs? What standards were used to calibrate for silicon? What does the raw data look like? What were the ICP results for the Daschle, NYP and Leahy powders?
Finally the NAS team should obtain the original lab notebooks from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP). AFIP performed EDX spectroscopy and it is reported by a government official that the silicon spike in the EDX spectrum peaked near the top of the screen.
This quote comes from Major General John Parker and can be read at this link: http://cryptome.info/0001/anthrax-powder.htm
Maj. Gen. John S. Parker, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at the time of the attacks, says he saw AFIP’s lab reports. “There was a huge silicon spike” consistent with the presence of silica, he says. “It peaked near the top of the screen.”
EDX can also be used for quantitative elemental analysis. These AFIP results should be reviewed by the NAS team and explained.
Dr. Stuart M. Jacobsen … whose Ph.D. is in chemistry, is a researcher in the field of solid-state electronics. Based in Dallas, Texas, he has published over fifty papers in the field of electronic materials and the preparation and properties of fine-grained powders, and holds eighteen United States patents.