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

* 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.

19 Responses to “* disturbing questions about the FBI’s anthrax investigation have been raised on this CASE CLOSED blog”

  1. DXer said

    Another distinguished FBI expert has similarly addressed the issue.

    Paul Keim on His Life With the FBI During the Anthrax Investigation, Mar. 13 SCIENCE

    Q: Do you think Ivins was guilty?
    P.K.: I don’t know.

    It is only Ed who thinks it is nearly certain that USAMRIID scientist Bruce Ivins is guilty and got a First Grader to write the anthrax letters! His previous theory was that the FBI was lying about a Battelle employee when they said they had closed the file. FBI Director emphatically called the suggestion baloney. Ed nonetheless argued for years that the Battelle employee conspired with a scientist in New Jersey (who he did not know)! Oh, and a First Grader was part of that theory too!

  2. DXer said

    The opinion of the FBI consulting experts are also powerful.

    Claire Fraser-Liggett, is professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the University of Maryland Institute for Genome Sciences and an adviser to the FBI on Amerithrax.

    She asks, “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?” It was Fraser-Liggett’s genetic analysis of the anthrax spores in the letters led to Ivins’ flask. “The part that seems still hotly debated is whether there was sufficient evidence to name Dr. Ivins as the perpetrator,” Fraser-Liggett says. “I have complete confidence in the accuracy of our data, ” Fraser-Liggett says, but she says it does not indicate Ivins is guilty.

  3. DXer said

    If you want to know what former Russian bioweaponeer Dr. Popov thinks, I solicited his very lengthy opinion, and he supplemented on more than one occasion. It is posted at Dr. Nass’ blog.

    And if you want to know what another former Russian bioweaponeer thinks, Ken Alibek has always argued that Al Qaeda was responsible. It has now been nearly a half decade when in a telephone conversation he said that the FBI suspected Ali Al-Timimi of accessing the know-how.
    Alibek Doubts FBI Claims on Hatfill

    Though not precluding the possibility the anthrax was from a domestic source, Alibek says on “Off the Record” that he has serious questions about this theeory.

    Alibek cites, among other issues:

    • The hijackers were looking for crop dusters. He says it’s hard to believe that they wanted to use crop dusters for attacking the World Trade Center.

    • The first cases of anthrax were in Florida, near where some of these hijackers lived. Also, there were reports about a strange anthrax-type ulcer on the leg of one of the hijackers before 9/11.

    • The timing of the attack in conjunction with 9/11 was “sort of a simultaneous attempt” to cause a greater fear and anxiety. “Sometimes, it seems to me, that somebody actually used this atmosphere of panic, anxiety for sending anthrax in which it could be a domestic case. There are many issues and questions that we still have unanswered, but you notice I don’t answer this question to say, ‘OK, it was a domestic war’ or ‘… a foreign case.'”

    • In one of the letters the word “penicillin” was misspelled. Hatfill, a medical doctor, would hardly have not known how to spell the word. “It’s hard for me to believe that somebody with medical background would make such a big mistake, if it’s not done intentionally, of course.”

    • The FBI failed to conduct an immediate search of the places where the hijackers lived in Florida. Alibek said that “when you do any investigation you shouldn’t get rid of any possible opportunity, any possible lead. If you took a week just to reach your conclusion, saying OK, domestic case or foreign case, you can lose some very important evidence. And specifically, if, for example, you narrow down your investigation, at the earliest stage of investigation and then you follow this path, for example, and just, in about six, eight or nine months or a year, you find out it was the wrong case, of course, it’s too late to go back to seek for some other cause … because in many cases, people have short memories.”

    • Alibek said he didn’t buy the claims of FBI profilers who think the anthrax attacks were orchestrated by a patriotic American who wanted to warn Americans about the danger of bioweapons. He said those who concocted the anthrax mail attacks were simply cold-blooded killers.

  4. Anonymous Scientist said

    What on earth has Leighton-Doi medium got to do with the element silicon?.

    There IS NO SILICON IN ANY of the materials needed to make spores. Silcion getting there by supernatural means as you are suggesting is not science.

    Science tells us that elements cannot be created or destroyed (except in nuclear reactions).

    So, the FBI have a big problem. Their case against Ivins is destroyed because they cannot link the silicon content to Detrick or Ivins.

  5. Anonymous Scientist said

    Ed lake wrote:

    “And how does Popov know it was added on purpose?”

    He knows it was added on purpose because you don’t get massive quantities of silicon in spores unless you add silicon to your preparation in the first place.

    It’s a very simple concept really.

    Pacific Northwest labs made spores without adding silicon here:

    And they detected ZERO silicon in their spores.

    Murrell made spores here

    after DELIBERATELY adding a silicone antifoam agent and he DID detect silicon in his spores (at lower levels than found in the mailed spores)

    NONE of the spores made at Detrick contained silicon in the same quantities found in the mailed spores and none of them were indistinguishable from the compound polysiloxane (as found in the mailed spores).

    It’s understandable that the FBI don’t want to talk about this much – since it totally destroys their theory that Ivins was responsible for making the spores at Detrick.

    • Anonymous Scientist said

      Joe Michael, at the Baltimore briefing, presented a slide that showed the EDX signature spectrum of the mailed spores alongside the EDX spectrum of a sample of polysiloxane. The spectra were indistinguishable and he even admitted that.

      It’s hardly a fantasy that the mailed spores contained much higher quantities of silicon than any spores from Detrick and with a unique polysiloxane-like signature. After all – the FBI said they could not reporoduce the silicon signature of the mailed spores. If there were spores from Detrick that matched the mailed spores in terms of silicon qunatitiy and unique polysiloxane signature they would presumably have said they COULD reproduce the silicon signature.

      Do you think for one minute that if spores from other flasks at Detrick (besides 1029) matched the silicon quantity and signature of the mailed spores the FBI would not be using that to claim successful conviction?

      Even the FBI’s affadvit to support a search warrant of Ivin’s locker at Detrick said they were looking for spores with a never-before-seen silicon signature. They didn’t find any of these spores at Detrick. But they’d rather just play down that little detail. Becasue it destroys their whole theory.

  6. DXer said

    Former Russian bioweaponeer Serge Popov has posted:

    “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.”

  7. Ike Solem said

    Ed Lake says:

    “To get dry spores from wet spores, you just dry them out.”

    It’s not surprising that Ed might think this, as he has no training in microbiology or any related discipline. He’s also accused me of being wrong about anthrax’s natural life cycle, which is just false. So, here are some facts:

    Dry spores and aerosolized spores are not the same thing, for starters.

    Anthrax, remember, is endemic in parts of Texas and the western United States (look up Ted Turner’s anthrax outbreak, but please, no conspiracy theories). Why is it endemic?

    Well, when anthrax infects and kills a cow, the bacteria multiply throughout the bloodstream, and then the cow falls down and bleeds out (again, think Alien – lots of them). The spore coat proteins naturally clump to one another, and clumps of spores get dispersed throughout the soil. This clumping is important to anthrax, because of the next step: along comes another cow, one or ten years later, and munches up some grass with a little dirt on it – which also has clumps of anthrax spores mixed in. This leads to the endemic situation – spores can remain viable in soil for decades.

    A successful infection requires a minimal amount of spores – and a cow that eats a big clump of spores is far more likely to be infected than one that eats a single spore. Thus, anthrax ‘likes’ to clump up (has evolved to do so) and that’s what happens when it is being dried.

    However, bioweaponeers want their victims to inhale the anthrax, so that they get the deadliest form of the disease (for humans), inhalation anthrax – formerly known only as “wool-sorters disease”. Thus, the natural clumping of the spore coat proteins is to be avoided.

    The initial uses of anthrax all involved liquid spore slurries, which avoided the clumping but introduced a new problem: very short shelf life. Thus, bioweaponeers first focused on making dry powders by milling or grinding the anthrax cake down to an aerosol size. The next top-secret advance involved a method of making spore coats non-sticky, and that involved adding silicon chemicals and using highly sophisticated ‘spray-drying equipment’ to coat individual spores with a thin silca layer. See the following quote:

    “In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I’m one of them,” said Richard O. Spertzel, chief biological inspector for the U.N. Special Commission from 1994 to 1998. “And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good.”

    “Instead, suggested Spertzel and more than a dozen experts interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks, investigators might want to reexamine the possibility of state-sponsored terrorism, or try to determine whether weaponized spores may have been stolen by the attacker from an existing, but secret, biodefense program or perhaps given to the attacker by an accomplice.”

    If Ed had ever bothered to read the two histories of the U.S. and Soviet biowarfare programs, Ed Regis and “The Biology of Doom”, as well as Ken Alibek and “Biohazard”, he would know all that. For someone who is so ardent on this issue, for many years, it’s amazing that he hasn’t.

    As far as claims about Detrick making aerosolized powders, that appears false. The two labs with that capacity were Dugway Utah and West Jefferson Ohio. The real question Ed might want to be asking is this one:

    Where and when was the following project carried out?

    Project Clear Vision, a project by Battelle Memorial Institute, under contract to the CIA, to reconstruct and test a Soviet-designed biological bomblet so as to assess its dissemination characteristics.

  8. Ike Solem said

    Thanks for writing this novel, too – at least it raises the important questions.

    Let’s also remember why we do have to talk about this. If someone had access to large amounts of the Daschle-Leahy anthrax preparation and released it in a NY subway, thousands would be killed an emergency rooms would be overwhelmed. If someone dumped an equivalent amount of the 9/18 letter preparation in a subway, the poor aerosolization characteristics would lead to low infection rates. All indications are that it is NOT easy to make aerosolized dry bioweapons, and without that step, bioweapons are not ‘effective’.

    Notice also that the only real evidence is the letters themselves and where they were mailed from – and that comes to a dead end at a Princeton mailbox, where spores from the 10/9 letter were found. No plausible scenario connects Hatfill or Ivins or any other known suspect to those letters, but the technical data rules out all but a handful of manufacturing locations. It says nothing about theft or mismanagement of material, however – but why would the DOE and private contractors be making dry anthrax powder, at all, let alone stockpiling it?

    Answer: Biological threat assessment programs promoted by the DIA and CIA in the 1990s due to the revelations over Soviet Biopreparat programs. The Soviets also concocted methods of lacing anthrax powders with smallpox – it was their ‘poor man’s atomic bomb’, the Soviet response to American nuclear weapon buildup – entirely missed by the CIA, discovered by British Intelligence in 1989. As these events show, we’re still dealing with Cold War leftovers.

    RE DX above:
    I’d have to disagree with the Murphy-Slansky assessment – these are lawyers, not microbiologists (which I am, I’m also a past member of the American Society for Microbiology, as well as a reciepient of an NSF graduate student fellowship in microbiology).

    Rather, it seems that the very early forensic and detective work was comprehensive, but that roadblocks were thrown up almost from day one.

    Let’s go back to Oct 15, 2001 when USAMRIID received the Daschle letter and initiated analysis at Fort Detrick. Their assessment was of a high-tech powder – and it was backed up by the fact that this little letter contaminated the entire Hart Senate Office Building. If a similar letter had been sent to the 9/18 targets, those buildings would have been equally contaminated.

    People involved in the AMRIID analysis:

    Arthur O. Anderson, chief of clinical pathology at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

    David Franz – U.S. Army bioweapons official who testified concerning America’s reliance on British intelligence provided by Porton Down officials regarding the development and use of the powdered Ames strain of anthrax. Affiliation uncertain.

    Peter Jahrling – the senior scientist at USAMRIID.

    John Ezzell – the civilian microbiologist at USAMRIID who accepted the Daschle letter samples from the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit.

    Tom Geisbert – microbiologist at USAMRIID

    Denise Braun – Geisbert’s assistant.

    Major General John S. Parker – Head of the U.S. Army’s Medical Research and Material Command.

    Colonel Ed Eitzen – the USAMRIID military commander.

    Colonel Arthur M. Friedlander – the senior research scientist at USAMRIID.

    Lieutenant Colonel Erik Henchal – head of USAMRIID’s Diagnostic Systems Division.

    Now, after this intial assessment, the FBI flew samples of the Daschle letter to West Jefferson, Ohio, to Battelle’s lab for a ‘second opinion’ – but why pick a private lab like Battelle? Here, the samples were autoclaved (subjected to sterilization via hot steam & pressure), which would have course destroyed the nature of the material – “turning it into a hockey puck” was the phrase used. Then, Battelle scientists loudly claimed that the material was not a high-tech aerosolizd prep – something that Battelle specializes in.

    That almost looks like a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence and enlarge the pool of possible suspects, doesn’t it?

    Sigh… here are the people at Battelle who might have to testify before Congress as to their involvement in U.S. biowarfare programs.

    Carl Kohrt – Battelle’s CEO, has a doctorate in physical chemistry

    Bill Madia – Battelle’s laboratory director, a nuclear chemist who has managed the Oakridge and Pacific Northwest national labs.

    Greg Frank – Battelle’s vice president and deputy general manger for the government market sectors.

    Steven McLaughlin – Senior Vice President and General Manager of Battelle’s Health and Life Sciences Division.

    Katy Delaney – Battelle National Media Relations Manager

    Michael Kuhlman – Battelle scientist, Vice President and Manager,
    Aerosol and Process Technologies
    , National Security Division. He initially claimed that the Daschle anthrax spores were ten to fifty times less potent than the Army estimates indicated.

    Ken Alibek – once Kanatjan Alibekov, formerly first deputy chief of research and production for the Soviet biological-weapons program, Biopreparat. Served as an outside consultant on the anthrax case, and has worked for Battelle as well as his own private company – “Hadron Advanced Biosystems Inc.”

    William C. Patrick III – chief of product development for the Army biowarfare program before it was shut down in 1969 by order of Richard Nixon. Long-time consultant for governments and contractors, including Battelle. Holds multiple top-secret patents on preparation of high-tech ‘dynamic’ bioweapon aerosols.

    It’s not okay to make high-tech biological weapons, even as part of “threat assessment” strategies. Some people still believe it is a good idea, and they are quite persistent about it – but we just can’t allow such a perversion of science to take place.

    Bottom line: This will require a complete assessment of links between the DOE and the private contractors and universities who work on biowarfare contracts, a field that has exploded in size and funding since the anthrax letters. This is not what Battelle or their cohorts at DOE want to see happen – a complete investigation of Project Bioshield contracts would be damning.

    I’m sure most people don’t know the following about the ‘chilling quote’ from Vahid Majidi, so let’s put it in context – Majidi is from the DOE public-private sphere, not an FBI agent at all, and his role seems mostly about PR, not science. There’s a huge conflict of interest involved in moving him to the FBI.

    Fact: in 2005, Majidi was Chemistry ( C ) Division Leader at Los Alamos National Labs, and before that, according to .gov:

    Prior to his career at LANL, Dr. Majidi was a tenured associate professor of chemistry at the University of Kentucky. His research activities were focused on analytical spectroscopy and gas-phase chemistry.

    FBI? This is a college professor who got a job at Los Alamos and then was ported over to the FBI, and now he’s talking about “our investigative techniques”? This guy is not a microbiologist and has never published anything on the issue – he’s a college professor with a background in gas-phase spectroscopy, posing as an FBI agent!

    This isn’t chilling – it is ridiculous. Did he actually see the AFIP extended x-ray data – with the big silicon spike – or not? Is he claiming the folks at AFIP (microbiologists and materials science experts) where incompetent or fraudulent?

    I really can’t believe how science has been tossed out the window on this one.

    • Anonymous Scientist said

      One of the key names you left out here is James Burans. He was really the guy at the FBI briefing who seemed to be in charge of orchestrating answers to the tough questions. In the briefing transcript he was referred to as “un-named FBI official”. He would interrput and give answers to some questions even when another scientist was answering.

      Note how he is described here:

      No mention of his true affiliation which is Battelle – just Google it. So we have a Battelle official basically running the show at the FBI science briefing on the Amerithrax case. Er – isn’t that just a slight conflict of interest?

      It was Burans who said “making dried spores is easy – Ivins could easily have done it with the equipment at Detrick”. I heard that the USAMRIID folks were particulary upset at that particular obviously false statement.

      • Anonymous Scientist said

        Ed Lake appears to believe James Burans when he stated that dried spores are easy to make. Mr Lake is also apparently of the belief that if he repeats the same line over and over again ad nauseum it will become true.

        Let’s look at the FACTS here. The FACTS are actually easy to obtain. If you want to know how to make dried spores – go to the people that do actually make them. That includes Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. Last year Dugway published a paper in which they made dried spores to simulate the opening of the letter in the Hart building. Here’s what they had to do to make these dried spores:

        The culture was incubated at 30◦C in a 10 L fermentation
        vessel with an agitation rate of 250 RPM and an aeration rate
        greater than 0.5 volumes min−1. Sporulationwas generally complete
        within 24 h. Spores were collected by simple centrifugation
        to remove spent media. The pelleted material was dried by
        a proprietary azeotropic method. Ten percent (by weight) of an
        amorphous silica-based flow enhancer was added to the dried
        spores. The dried material was milled using an exclusionary
        ball mill. In this process the material passed through a series
        of stages separated by increasingly finer mesh screens. In each
        stage 0.01 m diameter steel balls forced the product through the
        screen separators. A pneumatic vibrator actuated the entire mill.

        Aerosol Science and Technology
        Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:
        Development of an Aerosol System for Uniformly
        Depositing Bacillus Anthracis Spore Particles on
        Paul A. Baron a; Cherie F. Estill a; Gregory J. Deye a; Misty J. Hein a; Jeremy K.
        Beard b; Lloyd D. Larsen b; Gregory E. Dahlstrom b
        a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational
        Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
        b Dugway Proving Ground, Dugway, Utah, USA
        First Published on: 01 March 2008
        To cite this Article: Baron, Paul A., Estill, Cherie F., Deye, Gregory J., Hein, Misty
        J., Beard, Jeremy K., Larsen, Lloyd D. and Dahlstrom, Gregory E. (2008)
        ‘Development of an Aerosol System for Uniformly Depositing Bacillus Anthracis
        Spore Particles on Surfaces’, Aerosol Science and Technology, 42:3, 159 – 172


        So, first of all, the spores were centrifuged to remove spent media. A pellet was obtained that was dried using a “proprietary azeotropic method”. This is azeotrpic method is actually the method originally developed by Bill Patrick and protected under secret patents. It is NOT practicsed at Fort Detrick.

        But even after the pellet of spores had been dried by this secret azeotropic method it was still not a powder. The next step was place the dried material into a pneumatically activated ball mill. In this set-up 1 cm stainless steel balls broke up the clumped material into individual spores. Successively finer sieves were used to finally collect small powder particles. This equipment is NOT used at Fort Detrick.

        It’s not too difficult to quickly ascertain that the statement of Dr James Burans that Ivins could easily have made an aerosolizable powder is patently ridiculous.

      • Anonymous Scientist said

        Ed Lake wrote:
        “Bruce Ivins knew how to make spores and how to purify them. The weaponizing drying method you mention would have NOTHING to do with the way Dr. Ivins allegedly dried the attack spores.”

        Bruce Ivins knew how to make WET spores. Bruce Ivins NEVER made dried spores and neither did anyone else at Detrick. Making dried spores is a COMPLETELY different technology and has NOTHING to do with microbiology.

        The Dugway paper clearly demonstrates that making dried spores of any kind (weaponized with additives or not) is a highly specialized job.

        Burans would have to back up his words with actions. If the FBI claim that Ivins could “easily make a powder” inside Detrick they need to have an independent group verify this. Note that this could easily be done without revealing any methods – an independent NAS sponsored group could simply, using the equipment and time Ivins had available, see if they can create powders of the same quantity and quality as the mailed spores. If they succeed they don’t need to spell out exactly how they did it. If they fail that should also be reported.

        Why should they do this? Because, frankly, I don’t know of ANY scientist who believes the FBI fairytale that Ivins could easily have made the powder – apart from Burans, of course – who works for Battelle.

        It’s up to the FBI to earn credibility here – they are short out of it as a result of (1) Losing a $5.8M lawsuit to an innocent man (2) Draining a pond in Maryland costing $0.5M (3) Claiming a child’s turtle trap was a portable bioweapon production kit (4) Convicting over 1,000 people of crimes using junk “lead in bullets” science – and a host of other mistakes.

        Based on the above, why should anyone believe anything they claim?

      • Anonymous Scientist said

        Ed Lake wrote:
        “…………Ivins wrote an email about how the attack anthrax looked just like a preparation someone made at USAMRIID.”

        Ivins was referring to a scientist at Detrick who was looking at a series of spores made under FBI contract at Dugway and other labs in order to reproduce the mailed spores. The only trouble was – none of them matched the mailed spores. But there was a sample that this other Detrick scientist was examining that DID match the mailed spores. In fact, this sample was made at Battelle – it could have been a part of Battelle that was on the Detrick campus – but it was not a part of Detrick that Ivins ever had access to. But it was NOT a sample that the FBI had had made in order to try to reproduce the mailed spores.

        Obviously Ivin’s email revealing all of this needs to be publicly released and all the persons named in it made to testify under oath at congressional hearings. That way we’ll find out the truth.

      • Ike Solem said

        You know, I didn’t realize that about James Buran, but sure enough, he is a Battelle employee, the head of NBFAC, operated by Battelle Memorial Institute’s “National Biodefense Insitute”:

        “Battelle National Biodefense Institute 2006-2008.”

        NBACC’s National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC) conducts bioforensic analysis of evidence from a bio-crime or terrorist attack to attain a “biological fingerprint” to identify perpetrators and determine the origin and method of attack. NBFAC is designated by Presidential Directive to be the lead federal facility to conduct and facilitate the technical forensic analysis and interpretation of materials recovered following a biological attack in support of the appropriate lead federal agency.

        Notice that prior to this ‘designation’, Fort Detrick was responsible. Why did Battelle get so many contracts (in the billions) after the anthrax attacks?

        Of course, the vast post-attack expansion of government contracts for Project Bioshield relied entirely on the fear generated by the letters.

        The grim fact is that in the event of a large-scale attack with aerosolized bioweapons, there is little or no defense – but that’s only plausible with large, state-run programs. Project Bioshield is much like Star Wars in that regard – a cash cow for the industry, and not much else.

        In reality, we should have medical doctors and epidemiologists in charge of a rational bioterror response program, not the DOE and private contractors. That’s because medical experts understand that emergency rooms will be hit hardest – responding to an epidemic is a lot like responding to a bioterror event, after all, and in the first stages the two would be indistinguishable (as was the case with the 9/18 letters and Bob Stevens – CDC first assumed it was a natural outbreak).

        However, that doesn’t fit with the mindset of the biological and nuclear weapons folks, see this story:
        SC: I believe that like any institution they will fight for self-preservation. In that sense, I don’t think the DOE weapons complex is much different from the auto industry in Detroit. They want to keep their jobs, preserve their pensions, and so forth. I will never forget what the head of the local Metal Trades Council told me ahead of my tour of the Pantex facility in 1994, after the Soviet collapse, when the plant was opened to reporters in a newfound spirit of openness. He said, “The trust the government has in Russia isn’t shared here. Most of us think we’ll be back building them (warheads) in a few years…One guy summed it up for all of us: ‘Russia was a reliable enemy. As soon as we get another reliable enemy, we will go back to work.”

        That’s the mentality behind the expansion of Project Bioshield as well – more labs that grow virulent pathogens, and more technicians with expertise in their production. It’s all to easy too see how such research can be put to nefarious purposes – and it all needs to stop. The claim that such research is providing defenses or making us safer is a lie. The only thing that will do that is an international treaty banning the development of biological weapons, period.

        Put it this way: if Saddam Hussein had a similarly sized ‘dual use’ biowarfare defense project on the scale of Project Bioshield, then the claims about his biological arsenal would not have been false, but true.

    • Ike Solem said

      Ed, you seem to be dodging more than a few questions – so let’s go back to basics:

      Do you agree that the two preparations, the 9/18 and 10/9 ones, were genetically dissimilar as well as being physically dissimilar?

      Older data is not necessarily wrong, is it? In fact, if there was a deliberate cover-up, one would be more inclined to trust the earlier data presented by experienced experts in the fields of materials science and microbiology, wouldn’t one?

      I don’t think there is any way around that basic fact – and since you’re not a microbiologist and apparently know nothing about the field, why are you so sure these articles are incorrect?

      But please, stick to the facts, not innuendo and supposition.

    • DXer said

      Ike, why on earth do you think the mailings were genetically dissimilar? For example, all the 8 isolates that could be located from flask 1029 (based on “voluntary” submission of the samples) contained the same 4 morphs. The NAS review is focused on those 4 morphs.

      In terms of future scientific review, I expect the US DOJ will vigorously work to ensure that there is no conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest.

      The FBI wined and dined up to 40 scientists from mid-June to mid-July 2008 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. But I assume they did not — and will not be involved in the NAS review. Senator Grassley does not like conflict of interest among scientists supposedly rendering an independent expert opinion. Neither does the media or public.

      Dr. Philip S. Barie wrote a spirited editorial in the journal Surgical Infections in August 2008 titled “Forensic Microbiology, and the Reinterpretation of History,”
      “Were you able to get away for a few days this summer? Did you take a trashy pulp novel to read with a frosty beverage whilst inciting your melanocytes to riot at some beautiful beach? No? Didn’t get away yet?
      Or, have you just been reading important stuff, such as the trashy pulp electronic ephemera that overfills your email in-box each day?
      *** Among the “important” matters that have passed through cyberspace recently are that it appears that the Feds may have found their man in the nearly seven-year-old matter of the anthrax disseminated via postal mail, killing five and sickening perhaps scores of others.
      *** Fascinated by the emerging (and burgeoning) field of microbial forensics, I found some interesting reports in the peer reviewed literature — my summer reading, as it were.
      ***I hope everyone among the readership had a great summer, and had a chance to scratch that itch.”

      Meanwhile, Paul Keim has told the journal Science: “Scientists are committed to publishing all of the research. The goal is to package all of the papers into one journal so that the community can evaluate the quality of the science all in one place.” I think you will find that the science is not controversial and does not point to Ivins but merely to a stream of isolates from the flask (and also equally to both mailings). Where in 2002 there was a pool of 1,000 individuals known to have had access to virulent Ames, the science succeeded in winnowing the field of people known to have had access to 100-300. That’s why the FBI experts have said that the evidence does not point to Ivins but only to all those who had access to the material as distributed. In fact, Dr. Keim could explain that any large collection very might well have the same 4 morphs. Once someone has access, they can simply give the sample to someone else. That is why illegally obtained guns are so often used in crimes. They are not traceable to the individual.

    • Anonymous said

      FYI: DOE is the organisation who runs most national laboratories, which NBACC/NBFAC has now become as BNBI.

      • DXer said

        Battelle Wins Contract To Operate National Biodefense Analysis & Countermeasures Center

        (Dec. 20, 2006) The U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY announced today that Battelle National Biodefense Institute (BNBI) has been selected to manage the new National Biodefense Analysis & Countermeasures Center (NBACC), a Federally Funded Research and Development Center.

        The $250 million contract award includes a five-year period of performance, with the potential for five subsequent one-year extensions, bringing the projected award value to $500 million. The NBACC, scheduled to open in 2008, will be the nation’s premier research facility for biological threat characterization and bioforensic research. BNBI is the limited liability company formed by Battelle to manage the lab. During the two years prior to completion of the new facility, BNBI will manage ongoing NBACC work from an office in Frederick, MD.

        The lab, which will employ approximately 120 people, is under construction in Frederick, Maryland at Fort Detrick. The 160,000-square-foot facility will become part of the biodefense campus that includes the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

        Battelle, a research and technology development organization, has a long history of innovations across a wide array of scientific disciplines including research in countermeasures to chemical and biological weapons. Battelle also manages or co-manages five national laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy.

        The NBACC’s mission is to protect human health and agriculture against biological terrorism by improving understanding of potential bioterrorism threats.

        “We’re proud to have been selected to operate this lab. The NBACC mission is a critical part of our nation’s security,” said Battelle President and CEO Carl Kohrt. “The NBACC lab represents a new approach to integrating national resources for homeland security in support of public health, law enforcement, and national security.”

        The BNBI management team is led by Laboratory Director Patrick Fitch, Battelle VP for Biodefense Programs, who has more than 20 years of experience leading national defense and other scientific research programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

        Battelle is the world’s largest non-profit independent research and development organization, with 20,000 employees in more than 120 locations worldwide, including five national laboratories Battelle manages or co-manages for the U.S. Department of Energy. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle conducts $3.7 billion in R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management, and technology commercialization. Battelle provides innovative solutions to some of the world’s most important problems including global climate change, sustainable energy technologies, high performance materials, next generation healthcare diagnostics and therapeutics, and advanced security solutions for people, infrastructure, and the nation. Battelle has a long history of developing successful commercial products in collaboration with its clients, ranging from products to fight diabetes, cancer, and heart disease to the development of the office copier machine (Xerox). As a non-profit charitable trust with an eye toward the future, Battelle actively supports and promotes science and math education.

  9. DXer said


    MAY 19, 2009

    Murphy & Sklansky on the Anthrax Investigation

    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. 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. 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.


    Posted by Lawrence Solum on May 19, 2009 at 01:19 AM | Permalink

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