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

* Silicon evidence cannot be linked to Detrick or Ivins, so the FBI just ignores it … will they get away with this? (5-14-09)

Posted by DXer on May 14, 2009

a scientist who chooses to remain anonymous has written to me as follows

The FBI have admitted that they FAILED to reproduce the level of silicon in the mailed spores.

In other words, with everything at their disposal, they could still not make spores containing the same amount of silicon as the mailed spores. In other words – they do not even understand how the mailed spores were made. And yet they are claiming that Ivins must have managed this somehow – they just don’t know how. But they just know he must have.

Sandia detected silicon on the spore coat – not INSIDE the spores as Lake would like to believe.

The spore coat is located underneath a loose, permeable layer called the exosporium. Previous studies have clearly shown that even large molecules can penetrate the exosporium. Thus the Sandia results cannot rule out that the spores were treated with a siloxane monomer molecule which penetrated the exosporium and polymerized, coating the spores, but underneath an exosporium which collapsed on the coiat once dried.

The Sandia results showed that the spectrum of the silicon on the spore coat was INDISTINGUISHABLE from the chemcial polysiloxane. Given the large silicon concentration present this is the most likely explanation for the silicon content. Whoever made these spores deliberately added a silicon compound to make the spore surafces hydrophobic so they would not clump.

Indeed – the FBI themselves leaked information to the media back in April 2002 indicating that an unusual chemical was found in the spores – later on that chemical was revealed to be polymerized glass. Polymerized glass is polysiloxane.

But since none of this can be linked to Detrick or Ivins, the FBI have apparently decided to pretend none of this silicon fingerprint forensic evidence is really that important.

It’s all just some unexplained coincidence. Ivins must have managed it somehow.

The question is – are the FBI going to get away with it?


References for the FBI leaks on the unusual chemical:

Reference for that unusual chemical being polymerized glass:

7 Responses to “* Silicon evidence cannot be linked to Detrick or Ivins, so the FBI just ignores it … will they get away with this? (5-14-09)”

  1. DXer said

                In questioning at the ASM Biodefense presentation, Dr. Bannan explained that the isotope analysis of the water did not support Dr. Ivins guilt given the wide range of isotopes and given that the isotopes are affected by culture medium used. He explained that the New York Times report that there was a unique chemical signature of the water was mistaken. A New York Times “Postscript” dated February 28, 2009 states:  

    “A front-page article on Jan. 4 about Bruce E. Ivins, the late Army scientist who the Federal Bureau of Investigation says was responsible for the anthrax letter attacks of 2001, reported that F.B.I. scientists had concluded in 2004 that out of 60 domestic and foreign water samples, only water from near Fort Detrick, Md., where Dr. Ivins worked, had the same chemical signature as the water that had been used to grow the mailed anthrax. That information, provided by a former senior law enforcement official who did not want to be named in the article, suggested that the anthrax could not have come from military and intelligence research programs in Utah and Ohio, as some defenders of Dr. Ivins’s innocence had speculated. The F.B.I. declined to answer questions for that article, which said that the evidence against Dr. Ivins was circumstantial and that many of his colleagues believed the F.B.I.’s conclusion was wrong. At an American Society for Microbiology conference in Baltimore, an F.B.I. scientist, Jason D. Bannan, said the water research ultimately was inconclusive about where the anthrax was grown. An F.B.I. spokeswoman, Ann Todd, said the next day that the bureau “stands by the statements” of Dr. Bannan. The case will be reviewed this year by the National Academy of Sciences.”

    In a March 6, 2009 press release, the FBI explained:

    “The second item involves isotopic analysis of the mailed anthrax. Media reports indicated that FBI scientists had concluded in 2004 that out of many domestic and foreign water samples analyzed only water from near Fort Detrick, Maryland, where Dr. Ivins worked, had the same isotopic signature as the water used to grow the mailed anthrax. This statement is incorrect. While water isotopic analysis was researched, the FBI concluded that there were too many confounding variables to precisely match bacteria that were grown using different materials and recipes. This technique was not relevant to the investigation.”

    But before the issue that had been used in the court of public opinion to convict Dr. Ivins is passed by, let’s review the science that had been done on the subject.

                 The FBI scientists have been able to distinguish between water isotopes ratios in the anthrax. Brian Williams reports that investigators have told NBC that the water used to make the spores came from the Northeastern United States. Researchers have been able to establish that anthrax grown in water in the Northeastern United States is distinguishable from anthrax grown in water from the Southeast and Pacific Northwest. In one published anthrax study, researchers grew Bacillus subtilis, a harmless bacteria that resembles Bacillus anthracis, using local water from five different U.S. cities. The scientists were able to distinguish those grown in various cities. The method can be used to narrow the number of possible origins of the water based on the number of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes. Ft. Detrick made its own de-ionized water (as do all military labs apparently). The FBI’s expert James Ehleringer advises me that “there are regional stable isotope ratios for drinking water, including many locally-bottled waters. If de-ionization is completed by a reverse-osmosis process, then the isotope ratios of the de-ionized and pre-de-ionized waters should be the same.” Dr. Ehrlinger explained the research in an NPR interview in 2004. Interviewer Kestenbaum said: “Ehleringer is now creating a map showing how the isotope ratios of water vary anthrax was grown, it may rule some places out.”  In January 2009, the New York Times claimed without naming or describing a source that of 60 waters tested only one had the unique chemical signature of the mailed anthrax — that of Frederick, Maryland. But Dr. Bannan at the ASM Biodefense Conference confirms that dramatic report was false. 

              The authors of one of the key articles specifically noted that they couldn’t distinguish between North Carolina and Ohio — the dark green. Similarly, they can’t distinguish between Central New Jersey and North Carolina (again, the dark green). The key studies in the peer reviewed literature indicate that they were funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.       

             Ehleringer  and his colleagues published a March 2007 article titled “Stable isotope ratios of tap water in the contiguous United States” in “Water Resources Research.” The study was funded by the “federal government.” The raw data survey results have been embargoed by the federal government.” (The agency would usually be identified). In other water isotope ratio studies the funding agency was identified as the CIA or whatever agency it was — it varied. Perhaps this March 2007 study was funded by the Department of Justice/Federal Bureau of Investigation and was done specifically for the purpose of laying the scientific groundwork of a prosecution in Amerithrax.  

             Separately, a press release announced in September 2003 that University of Maryland researchers have developed a technique to help the FBI track the origins of deadly anthrax spores by identifying the medium used to grow it. The FBI asked Maryland professor Catherine Fenselau to turn her mass spectrometry lab to the forensic task of sleuthing how bacillus spores, such as anthrax, are prepared. While the Utah scientist in this study was looking at the tap water, Helen W. Kreuzer-Martin, the Maryland scientist in a study published in April 2007 titled “Stable Isotope Ratios and the Forensic Analysis of Microorganisms,” was looking at the nutrients in the culture. The DOJ/FBI likely hoped to put all the data together with the more familiar reasons to suspect someone (means, motive, modus operandi and opportunity), and put on a case that to a moral certainty proves it was committed by the perp(s). By looking at the oxygen, hydrogen and deuterium geospatial distribution, authorities can more precisely identify where the water came from. For example, the deuterium map might be relied upon to narrow an ambiguity left by the range indicated by the oxygen and hydrogen maps. The FBI scientist Dr. Bannan at the ASM Biodefense, however, made clear that the isotope analysis in this case was not able to lead to a smoking petri dish. 

              Why hasn’t the Task Force released the isotope ratio analysis? Why hasn’t it lifted the embargo on on the raw data from the survey results?  This should be part of any review by the National Academy of Sciences even if it did not support its “Ivins Theory.”

  2. DXer said

                 The attack anthrax was contaminated with a distinctive B. subtilus strain. No matching subtilis was found in swabbing of the USAMRIID labs were Dr. Ivins worked. The affidavit in support of a search warrant explained:

    “Both of the anthrax spore powders recovered from the Post and Brokaw letters contain low levels of a bacterial contaminant identified as a strain of Bacillus subtilis. The Bacillus subtilis contaminant has not been detected in the anthrax spore powders recovered from the envelopes mailed to either Senator Leahy or Senator Daschle. Bacillus subtillus is a non-pathogenic bacterium found ubiquitously in the environment. However, genomic DNA sequencing of the specific isolate of Bacillus subtilus discovered within the Post and Brokaw powders reveals that it is genetically distinct from other known isolates of Bacillus subtilis. Analysis of the Bacillus subtilis from the Post and Brokaw envelopes revealed that these two isolates are identical.

    Phenotypic and genotypic analyses demonstrate that the RMR-1029 does not have the Bacillus subtilis contaminant found in the evidentiary spore powders, which suggests that the anthrax used in the letter attacks was grown from the material contained in RMR-1029 and not taken directly from the flask and placed in the envelopes. Since RMR-1029 is the genetic parent to the evidentiary spore powders, and it is not known how the Bacillus subtilis contaminant came to be in the Post and Brokaw spore powders, the contaminant must have been introduced during the production of the Post and Brokaw spores. Taken together, the postmark dates, the Silicon signature, the Bacillus subtilis contaminant, the phenotypic, and the genotypic comparisons, it can be concluded that, on at least two separate occasions, a sample of RMR-1029 was used to grow spores, dried to a powder, packaged in an envelope with a threat letter, and mailed to the victims.”

    “Why wasn’t this unique B. subtilis strain looked for in Bruce’s lab — or any other lab in the BSL-3 suite?” Ivins’ former boss Andrews. “It may, in fact, serve as a marker for where those preparations were really made.” At the ASM Biodefense presentation in February 2009, the FBI scientists explained that no subtilis found in any of Dr. Ivins samples was the genetically distinct subtilis.

  3. Anonymous Scientist said

    Ed Lake writes:

    “The fact that they “failed” to reproduce the silicon signature doesn’t mean they couldn’t do it if they had a reason to do nothing but reproduce the silicon signature.”

    Like I said, the fact that in your imagination when Mason said “we failed to reproduce the powder” he really meant “we could have reproduced it easily, we know how to reporoduce the silicon, but we didn’t try so we failed” is totally irrelevant to the upcoming NAS auditing of scientific FACTS.

    If and when NAS obtain ALL OF THE FACTS, it will become clear just how easy or difficult it is to reproduce the silicon signature and why Michael Mason characterized this is a failure.

    I would further note that the FBI labs do not exactly have a enviable history when it comes to NAS reviews. The last time NAS reviewed the FBI science labs it was in connection with the FBI “lead in bullets” theory that had been used to convict over 1,000 people in gun related crimes. NAS officially found that the FBI had been relying on junk science for decades with their “lead in bullets” analysis. All of these cases are now being re-tried. Were all the FBI scientists lying and covering up for decades? Maybe some of them were – but it was probably mostly total incompetence. The reality is that the FBI science labs don’t exactly attract the sharpest tools in the shed to go work for them. The FACTS are that this all happened and the competence of the FBI science labs surrounding the Amerithrax investigation looks to be in the same category of junk science.

    Reference for FBI “lead in bullets” junk science:

  4. Anonymous Scientist said

    Ed Lake wrote:

    “That’s not entirely true. There would be no serious problem in producing spores with the same amount of silicon as the spores from the attacks, but it would be a pointless exercise. It would NOT prove that the culprit created the spores that way.”

    Oh, but it is entirely true. It’s all on record. The director of the FBI himself announced the intention to reverse engineer the spores. He was quite clear in his use of the phrase “reverse engineer” – no room for any ambiguity there.

    Eighteen months later the head of the Amerithrax investigation, Michael Mason, admitted that they had failed to reproduce the spores. Later on it was confirmed that failure was the failure to reproduce the silicon signature.

    The fact that your imagination allows you to believe that the official on record statements made by Director Mueller and Mason mean just the opposite of what they said is irrelevant to reality.

    The reality is that, if NAS decide to do a thorough auditing of the FBI’s science, they will have access to all the lab reports of this failed reverse engineering and they will be able to draw appropriate conclusions.

    References for Mueller’s Reverse engineering statement and mason’s failure statement are here:

  5. DXer said

    The aim is to publish in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases. It will be online long before in hard copy. The hold up relates to the FBI’s lack of responsiveness.

    The silica in the NYP product — not heretofore disclosed — is a bit of an obstacle.

  6. Lew Weinstein said

    For the record, I am an author of novels, including one soon to be published about the anthrax investigation, but I am not a source on any of the science details. I do have many questions about the FBI investigation and do not believe they have solved the case; they surely have not demonstrated that they solved it. But, I am not a scientist and I have no direct knowledge of issues like the one above. I will post on this blog the comments of those who say they do know the details, on all sides of every issue, so long as the comments remain polite and not personal. LEW WEINSTEIN

  7. DXer said

    After the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology detected silica, [USAMRIID Major General John] Parker reported that the anthrax in question contained silica, a common substance found in sand and quartz. At the August 18, 2008 Science Briefing On The Anthrax Investigation, in his opening statement Dr. Vahid Majidi explained “First of all, let me dispel some frequently repeated erroneous information. For example: There were no intentional additives combined with the bacillus anthracis spores to make them any more dispersible.” He noted that the Silicon Signature may have been due to a silica-based substance in the culture medium used to grow the anthrax. Another department colleague of Bin Laden’s sheik’s protege — Dr. Alibek’s co-director of the Center for Biodefense at GMU — told a reporter that the presence of silica is significant, but he declined to say why, citing national security concerns. “I don’t think I want to give people — terrorists — any information to help them, said Dr. Charles Bailey, a scientist at Advanced Biosystems Inc. at George Mason University and former commander of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).” The problem was that a microbiologist trained in computer science and actively communicating with Bin Laden’s sheik and the 911 imam was working just feet away from both famed Russian anthrax bioweaponeer Ken Alibek and Dr. Bailey. Bin Laden’s supporters already had access to the information. Bailey and Alibek in mid-March 2001 filed a confidential patent application relating to the concentration of anthrax using silicon dioxide.

    Ari Fleischer discusses the silica in the anthrax in his book Taking Heat. He reports that he had argued at length with ABC News over its story that the additive was bentonite (which arguably was characteristic of the Iraq program). He explained that from the start he had told ABC that it was silica, not bentonite, that had been detected. The suggestion that AFIP experts did not know the difference between silica and silicon is not very well founded, and the now-deceased scientist who performed the EDX specifically told the journalist that oxygen was also detected in ratios consistent with silicon dioxide. One of the two applicants for the international patent was a leading aerosol scientist and innovator in dry powder inhalations used in the pharmaceutical industry and the founder of Aerosol Techniques in 1955.

    A PhD student supervised by Matthias Frank, a big star at Livermore in developing the biosensor, addressed these issues in 2004. Lawrence Livermore lab was tasked with combating the Bin Laden anthrax threat in 1998 and is steeped in biodetection, the subject of the PhD thesis. LLNL researchers have developed advanced technologies to rapidly detect the airborne release of biological threat agents. The student cites Gary Matsumoto’s Science article and says:

    “In the case of anthrax, it is known that Van der Waals forces cause unprocessed spores to clump together. Large particles are not deposited efficiently in human lungs and also settle rapidly from the air. Both are undesirable properties if maximal lethality is desired. Silica powders and nanoparticles have long been used to prevent agent particles from coming close enough together for Van der Waals forces to become significant.” *** Military scientists have stated that the ‘weaponized’ anthrax letters sent to Senator Daschle’s office contained silica. In the Senate anthrax letter, there is also evidence that the bond between the silica nanoparticles and spores was further enhanced by the use of sol-gel or polymerized glass. Some believe that the spores may have even been electrostatically charged to aid their dispersal. At any rate, the end result of the processing was a powder far more potent than a simple combination of anthrax spores, cells and residual growth medium.”

    Former Russian bioweaponeer Ken Alibek and Harvard biologist Matthew Meselson, however, have opined that there was no special silica coating observable in the Scanning Electron Microscope (“SEM”) images they saw. The FBI’s scientist at Sandia confirms that no silica was observed on the exosporium and that instead it was below the exosporium, absorbed in the coats. The presence of any silica, Drs. Meselson and Alibek say, may have come from the environment because of the special tendency of anthrax spore coats to attract silicon. (The lead FBI scientist Dwight Adams relied on the study provided the FBI by Meselson in briefing the Congress in November 2002.) Indeed, the silica may have been in the culture medium and then removed as described by a mid-March 2001 and related patent filed by researchers at Dr. Alibek’s Center for Biodefense at GMU.

    “The silicon is probably the most important scientific evidence that would lead anybody to question whether Bruce was capable of making these spores,” says Gerald P. Andrews, Bruce Ivins’ former boss. Andrews and George Mason University professor and former Soviet bioweapons researcher Sergei Popov believe the silicon was purposely added, due to unnaturally high levels of the mineral in the spores. Sandia made a video on YouTube explaining its research on behalf of the FBI.

    A scientist from the FBI Laboratory, Dr. Doug Beecher, in a July 2006 issue of “Applied and Environmental Microbiology” provided me a copy of his article that reports that:

    “a widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production. The issue is usually the basis for implying that the powders were inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone. The persistent credence given to this impression fosters erroneous preconceptions, which may misguide research and preparedness efforts and generally detract from the magnitude of hazards posed by simple spore preparations.”

    Harvard University Matthew Meselson reviewed the language in the FBI scientist’s article before publication. “The statement should have had a reference,” editor-in-chief of the microbiology journal told a trade periodical. “An unsupported sentence being cited as fact is uncomfortable to me. Any statement in a scientific article should be supported by a reference or by documentation.” The two passages, footnoted or not, essentially said what Dr. Alibek had been saying: “‘[J]ust because you have a sophisticated product doesn’t mean the technique has to be sophisticated.’ ” Silica in the culture medium would not be a sophisticated “additive” that aided dispersability but would permit the agent to be concentrated.

    In a Letter to the Editor in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Aug. 2007, p. 5074, titled “Unsupported Conclusions on the Bacillus anthracis Spores,” Kay A. Mereish, at the United Nations, reports:

    “In a meeting I attended in September 2006, a presentation was made by a scientist who had worked on samples of anthrax collected from letters involved in the [anthrax letters] incident in October 2001; that scientist described the anthrax spore as uncoated but said it contained an additive that affected the spore’s electrical charges. (D. Small, CBRN Counter-Proliferation and Response, Paris, France, 18-20 September 2006; organized by SMi [”

    Dr. Mereish tells me that her letter to the editor was not intended to agree or disagree with the FBI scientist. She merely notes that his two sentences that related to this issue of additive were not supported by the scientific experiment and data that he published. She relies on Dr. Small who made her statement based on her scientific research finding in connection with her work on the anthrax samples. Dr. Mereish’s letter, however, is another example where the use of “electrical charges” scientists as Dr. Patrick and Dr. Alibek are failing to distinguish between electrostatic charges and Van der Waals forces, thus resulting in some of the confusion in the press reports.

    Kathryn Crockett, Ken Alibek’s assistant — just a couple doors down from Ali Al-Timimi — addressed these issues in her 2006 thesis, “A historical analysis of Bacillus anthracis as a biological weapon and its application to the development of nonproliferation and defense strategies.” She expressed her special thanks to Dr. Ken Alibek and Dr. Bill Patrick. Dr. Patrick consulted with the FBI and so the FBI credits his expertise. “I don’t want to appear arrogant. I don’t think anyone knows more about anthrax powder in this country,” William Patrick told an interviewer. Dr. Alibek’s access to know-how, regarding anthrax weaponization, similarly, seems beyond reasonable dispute. Dr. Crockett successfully defended the thesis before a panel that included USAMRIID head and Ames strain researcher Charles Bailey, Ali Al-Timimi’s other Department colleague. She says that scientists who analyzed the powder through viewing micrographs or actual contact are divided over the quality of the powder. She cites Gary Matsumoto’s “Science” article in summarizing the debate. She says the FBI has vacillated on silica. “Regarding the specific issue of weaponization,” Dr. Alibek’s assistant concluded in her PhD thesis, “according to several scientists at USAMRIID who examined the material, the powder created a significant cloud when agitated meaning that the adhesion of the particles had been reduced. Reducing the adhesion of the particles meant that the powder would fly better.” She explains that “The most common way to reduce electrostatic charge is to add a substance to the mixture, usually a silica based substance.”

    On the issue of encapsulation, she reports that “many experts who examined the powder stated the spores were encapsulated. Encapsulation involves coating bacteria with a polymer which is usually done to protect fragile bacteria from harsh conditions such as extreme heat and pressure that occurs at the time of detonation (if in a bomb), as well as from moisture and ultraviolet light. The process was not originally developed for biological weapons purposes but rather to improve the delivery of various drugs to target organs or systems before they were destroyed by enzymes in the circulatory system” (citing Alibek and Crockett, 2005). “The US and Soviet Union, however, ” she explains, “used this technique in their biological weapons programs for pathogens that were not stable in aerosol form… Since spores have hardy shells that provide the same protection as encapsulation would, there is no need to cover them with a polymer.” She explains that one “possible explanation is that the spore was in fact encapsulated but not for protective purpose. Encapsulation also reduces the need for milling when producing a dry formulation.” She wrote: “If the perpetrator was knowledgeable of the use of encapsulation for this purpose, then he or she may have employed it because sophisticated equipment was not at his disposal.”

    One military scientist who has made anthrax simulants described the GMU patents as relating to an encapsulation technique which serves to increase the viability of a wide range of pathogens. More broadly, a DIA analyst once commented to me that the internal debate seemed relatively inconsequential given the circumstantial evidence — overlooked by so many people — that US-based supporters of Al Qaeda are responsible for the mailings. Most of Dr. Ivins’ colleagues have thought Al Qaeda was responsible.

    Clarifying the matter — or not — Michael told FOX News, “I don’t think this exonerates (Ivins) at all.” He added, “I don’t think it’s not enough to say that he did it, as well.”

    Posts following Sandia’s YouTube video illustrate the ongoing debate:

    Sandia should have announced the location of the silica and sat down. The implications it drew went far beyond their training and field.

    The FBI’s WMD head explained that the silica could have been in the culture medium. This finding can be credited. No silica was found in the Ivins flask. There is no indication that Ivins used silica in the culture medium. Thus, unless explained, the Silicon Signature tends to be exculpatory of Ivins.

    When you grow bugs in a fermenter with a vigorous stirring for a good aeration, in contrast to flasks on a shaker you have to suppress a formation of foam. Siloxanes are widely used for this purpose, but they are chemically reactive. Therefore, the presence of silicon is a signature of a fermenter, but not a routine lab prep. The presence of silica in the core of the spore is another indication that it has been incorporated in the process of growth, but not simply added afterwards.

    I agree with all scientific conclusions of the Analytical Chemistry article except for the one that the silicon in the spore coat excludes its artificial origin. Sandia people think about the exosporium as an absolute barrier for small molecules but it is a diffuse, loosely-bound, and permeable layer. We can think about the spores as impregnated with the silicon compound. It may be true that the silicon did not help make the spores more dispersable, but it was added on purpose.

    Sandia found some vegetative cells that were going through the sporulation process and the spore within the mother cell had this same Silicon Signature. The dry weight percentage was of the silicon was high. As found both by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in the course of its bulk analysis and by Sandia, it was a significant peak in the x-ray spectra.

    The important part of the evidence presented was merely “that the materials of the letter with the genetic mutations could exclusively be related only to RMR-1029.” Depending on who you credit, that means from 100 to 300 people are known to have had access. The one with whom the Ames strain was associated (the “go-to” guy) would be the least likely to use the strain. Someone who had access and strong motivation but is not known to have taken it from the lab is the most likely.

    The FBI offers only speculation as to a possible motive. There are no facts implicating Ivins: (1) they have no evidence as to the means of drying or means of growing additional spores, (2) no explanation linking him to the Silicon Signature, (3) no evidence linking him to the Subtilus (which was genetically distinctive), and (4) the isotope ratio analysis does not support an Ivins theory.

    An adviser to the FBI, Claire Fraser-Liggett, director of the University of Maryland Institute for Genome Sciences, recently was quoted in the press asking: What would have happened in this investigation had Dr. Hatfill not been so forceful in his response to being named a person of interest. What if he, instead of fighting back, had committed suicide because of the pressure? Would that have been the end of the investigation? She says the investigation is by no means closed.

    But he used fake screen names! He edited Wikipedia chrissakes. He must be guilty of multiple murders. Then he got enraged after his career was ruined by the accusations and the constant hounding of his friends and family! Who cares if the FBI had his lab swabbed for subtilus 7 years ago and did not disclose to the judge in application for a search that there was no match.

    GMU professor and former Soviet bioweapons researcher Serge Popov said: This number of plates is impossible to handle inconspicuously. It would be impossible to cover up these activities. W. Russell Byrne, who preceded Andrews as the divisions director, said nearly 1 gram per contaminated letter would have hundreds of agar plates, on which the spores are grown.

    The FBI had wined and dined up to 40 scientists from mid-June to mid-July at a beachfront retreat in Naples, Florida. The scientists were paid well and worked 8 hours a day. It is not yet known whether any of those same scientists have had a role in formulating the task and charge of the National Academy of Sciences which was asked by the FBI to provide an independent check on its work.

    Sandia clearly do not understand biological samples. They are metallurgists and material scientists. It’ odd that they would have been asked to determine if a bioweapon contained weaponization additives since they had no experience in this arena .They are way off base making a 100% conclusion that the location of the silicon meant the powder was not weaponized.

    Nick, Bact. Div.’s was broken down since at least ’99 (possibly a year prior to that). It was never repaired. Even aside from this, a fermenter is a difficult instrument to operate. Only a couple folks knew how to run the one at RIID — Bruce wasn’t one of them.

    Cold1, You should study the contributions of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg (Sept. 9). I find quite intriguing Dr. Rosenberg’s reference in footnotes 21 and 22 of her analysis to U.S. Pat. App. # 09/805,464 by Charles Bailey and Ken Alibek, March 14, 2001. The patent (#6,649,408) was issued on Nov. 18, 2003. The patent addresses silica used in the culture medium to achieve greater concentration of the anthrax or biocide or other bacteria.

    According to the patent, cells are cultivated in individual microdroplets of liquid media. These microdroplets are created by aerosolizing liquid media that has been inoculated with the cells of interest and coating the aerosolized droplets with hydrophobic particles of silicon dioxide. The individual microdroplets are stabilized within the hydrophobic solid particles. Silica dioxide is removed from the surface by repeated centrifugation. But the absorbed silicon is still detectectable.

    The “quasi-governmental” lab that had Ames at more than one location is Battelle Memorial Institute. Is there any Battelle employee guiding the forensics who should recuse himself … who should have recused himself prior to the August 2008 briefing? The mere fact that the FBI has refused to disclose the distribution of the matching isolates — while urging that they have excluded all other sources — would add to the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    My friend is head of a military lab that as part of its biodefense research makes anthrax simulants. His lab, in a controlled study, made anthrax with siliconizing solution in the slurry and without. When it was made with the siliconizing solution, the simulant showed the high spike for silicon as in the Daschle product. The product without the siliconizing solution did not. Thus, Sandia lab actually does not offer up the most pertinent data.

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