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

Archive for May 19th, 2009

* Second suspect arrested in Sebring anthrax hoax

Posted by DXer on May 19, 2009

Brad Dickerson writes on Tampa Bay online (5-19-09)

  • Law enforcement has arrested a second suspect in connection with April’s anthrax hoax. 
  • Cele Pete Carmona, 20, of 4125 Capri St., was arrested Monday on a warrant charging 76 counts of possession of a hoax weapon of mass destruction. 
  • He remains in the Highlands County Jail with bail set at $380,000 and is set for a June 15 court appearance. 
  • On April 2, nearly 80 envelopes containing white powder were found at Florida Hospital Heartland Division and in the Sun ‘n Lake area. The hospital was put on lockdown for more than 12 hours, and the community was high alert throughout the day. 
  • The substance tested negative for anthrax. 
  • Jerron Mario Moffitt, 20, pleaded not guilty May 4 to 76 counts of felony hoax of a weapon of mass destruction. He was jailed with bail set at $760,000. 
  • Moffitt also faces counts of violation of probation in reference to a 2006 burglary of a structure and grand theft, according to Highlands County Clerk of Courts records. 

LMW COMMENTDoes anyone think that the FBI’s abject failure to solve the anthrax case has emboldened other “copy-cat” mailers?

see the article at …

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* Murphy & Sklansky on the Anthrax Investigation (5-19-09)

Posted by DXer on May 19, 2009

 Erin Murphy and David Alan Sklansky (University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall) and University of California, Berkeley – School of Law) have posted Science, Suspects, and Systems: Lessons from the Anthrax Investigation (Issues in Legal Scholarship, Vol. 8, No. 2. 2009) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The anthrax mailings of late 2001 triggered one of the costliest and most complex criminal investigations in the history of the United States Department of Justice.

Parts of that investigation were carried out with impressive skill and creativity, but parts were not.

The seven-year history of the anthrax investigation highlights certain longstanding problems at the Department of Justice:

  • the Department’s underdeveloped interface with organized science
  • its insufficient preparation for criminal investigations conducted at the intersection of public health
  • and its lack of formalized processes for institutional learning.

This article reviews the course of the Department of Justice’s anthrax investigation and then draws two sets of lessons, one having to do with thinking systematically about science, and the other having to do with thinking scientifically about systems.

thinking systematically about science

The first set of lessons includes the need for better and clearer decision-making and communication protocols for crises arising at the intersection of law enforcement and public health, the benefits of preserving the values of transparency and neutrality in harnessing scientific expertise, and the desirability of institutional structures to bridge the culture gap between law enforcement and science.

thinking scientifically about systems

The second set of lessons centers on the advantages of developing formal procedures for institutional learning within the Department of Justice, modeled on the “after action” reviews conducted by other government agencies.


copied from …

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* disturbing questions about the FBI’s anthrax investigation have been raised on this CASE CLOSED blog

Posted by DXer on May 19, 2009

Over the past several days, as interest in this blog has sky-rocketed, a new (to me) voice has been heard. Ike Solem has posted a series of comments expressing his belief that neither Dr. Ivins nor Dr. Hatfill was the anthrax attack perpetrator, and that the FBI investigation was derailed from its good start in a very suspicious manner.

I have taken brief extracts from some of Ike Solem’s comments and brought them together in this post. There are some who disagree with Ike’s facts and his conclusions, including Ed Lake. In fact, the dialogue between Ed Lake and Ike Solem on my CASE CLOSED blog is fascinating, and I’m pleased that I have been able to provide a forum for this expression of views. If the questions raised here resonate with you, I urge you to follow that discussion, including the comments of other contributors, and reach your own conclusions as to what you think is true.

CC - front cover - small

The last of Ike’s comments below, where he quotes an FBI agent asking that we not question the FBI’s investigative approach, is particularly chilling. Because we surely must question the FBI’s performance as well as its conclusions.

This is exactly what I have done in my novel CASE CLOSED, which will be published in June 2009. I started with the facts of the actual case, and the many troubling questions the FBI investigation has raised, and have written a fictional account of what might have happened in the anthrax attacks and the failed FBI investigation. Does my story portray what actually happened? Of course not. It’s a novel! But many early readers think my story is “all too plausible.”


the bottom line

SOLEM: I think we should go ahead with what Rep Holt, D – NJ, wants to do – a complete Congressional investigation into the entire business, from start to finish.  LMW NOTE: On this point, Ike Solem and Ed Lake seem to be in full agreement. As am I. Only Congress can bring FBI agents and others to testify on these matters under oath.

two different preparations

SOLEM: The 9/18 letters go through the mail to various news outlets, and one man gets sick in Florida and dies. There is little public reaction. Then, a second set of letters is sent on 10/9, with a more potent preparation and a letter that says “anthrax” (unlike the 9/18 ones) – and they go to the Senate. Numerous people are infected, hundreds go onto antibiotics, and the entire Hart Office Building is evacuated. Mass panic ensues. Mission accomplished? Clearly, two different preparations, one far different from the other … there seems no doubt that the preparations were indeed different, and that the Daschle/Leahy letters were far more dangerous.

different preparations point away from Ivins

SOLEM: Doing this (preparing the powder) without killing yourself or contaminating everything around you is apparently very difficult, and is the kind of technology only found within leading biological warfare defense labs in just a few locations around the world. Technically, the (FBI) arguments would all have been destroyed in a court of law – and it’s very hard to see how Ivins could have made two preparations – certainly not the Daschle-Leahy preparations. Isn’t it odd that we’ve heard no results at all on the silicon content of the first round of letters? Apparently, it wasn’t tested at all – and now the FBI seems bent on claiming that the two preparations were one and the same, manufactured by Ivins at the same time – and that’s just preposterous.

FBI changes team, focuses on Hatfill; why?

SOLEM: The initial FBI case was broken into two parts, Amerithrax I and Amerithrax II, which was a reasonable decision – one group went to work on forensics, the other on classic detective work. The field agents in the anthrax case did a very good job early on, even tracking the spores back to Princeton, NJ – and that’s when the FBI appointed a new lead, Richard Lambert. Richard Lambert took over immediately after the Princeton spores were discovered, and his tenure lasted through 2006, and he made sure that Hatfill was “the sole suspect.” I think the original FBI team (who only lasted for three months or so before being transferred off the case and forced into retirement, I believe) had the right answer, and everything since then has been a cover up effort, led first by Richard Lambert, and then by the third FBI team, leadership unknown. The sacking of the original FBI team and the replacement with Richard Lambert and the “lone wolf” theory of Steven Hatfill smells rotten. Who doubts that they would have declared ‘case closed’ had Hatfill committed suicide under pressure?

FBI – don’t second guess our investigative approach

SOLEM: conventional detective work—such as checking lab notebooks and shipment records—helped rule out everyone but Ivins who had access to the spores, says Vahid Majidi, head of the agency’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate. He declined to give details. “I’m asking you not to second guess our investigative approach,” he said.

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