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

* Ike Solem on FBI cover-up and deliberate targeting of innocent suspects

Posted by DXer on May 20, 2009

 The quote below, taken from a recent comment on this blog by Ike Solem, is so on target I wanted to highlight it further.

 SOLEM: 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, as reported in Science.

 Ike has added this comment in an email to me.

SOLEM: As to who did it?  I have no idea, other than that the range of plausible suspects and labs is far smaller than the FBI will admit, and doesn’t include either Bruce Ivins or Steven Hatfill, who appear to have been deliberately targeted by the FBI in an effort to find a scapegoat for the anthrax attacks.

LMW COMMENT … Is there anyone out there who is fully convinced that the FBI has finally, after their last-minute switch from Hatfill to Ivins, solved the case? Certainly not me. Only a full-scale Congressional investigation, with FBI agents testifying under oath, has a chance to bring forward the truth. Senator Grassley and Congressman Holt have proposed such hearings, and I urge everyone in their respective districts to write to them encouraging them to press forward.

3 Responses to “* Ike Solem on FBI cover-up and deliberate targeting of innocent suspects”

  1. Ike Solem said

    Let me add, also, that when I say “coverup” I am not implying that the FBI has any better idea of who did it than I do. There are really two coverups in operation, I believe:

    1) The Amerithrax I and Amerithrax II cases, the initial FBI forensic and detective work, seemed to be progressing in the right direction, as of Dec 21 2001 reports in the Washington Post and elsewhere. The FBI for some reason won’t discuss why they dumped that entire investigation (or precisely when they dumped it, either) and instead focused on an low-tech, lone-wolf theory.

    That would be something for an inspector general or a congressional commission to look into. That would be all FBI, but that’s not the coverup I’m concerned about.

    2) The USAMRIID / AFIP analysis of the Daschle letters, along with the widespread mail route contamination and the Hart Senate Office Building contamination, point towards a high-tech silca-coated anthrax preparation that could only have been produced by a sophisticated biowarfare lab.

    There has been a massive propaganda effort to deny this, but all the facts point to it being true. If the FBI relied on DOE/Battelle “science”, it may very well be that the FBI itself was deliberately misled – I have no idea.

    One thing is certain: Battelle and the DOE do not want any big bright lights shining down on government biowarfare contracting programs, or onto DOE national security contracting in general. Yes, they call it biodefense – but the research programs in use could easily be seen as ‘dual use technology’. In the worst case scenario, this could spark a secret biological warfare arms race involving other nations – and that’s just not okay.

    Getting back to the specific case, I’d guess that theft, diversion or unauthorized manufacture took place somewhere within the national laboratories complex, or at a lab run by a private contractor involved with the national laboratories complex. Notice that security lapses at the DOE are legendary – and recall how the FBI treated Wen Ho Lee, who was eventually found innocent?

    I’m starting to see a pattern here of individuals being scapegoated by the FBI, in cases where the real failures were institutional in nature – and that needs to end. It is also a bit reminiscent of the tobacco industry-FBI associations portrayed in the film, “The Insider”.

    The obvious conclusion is that the Department of Energy should have nothing to do with classified weapons work, period – they’re sloppy, they can’t maintain security, and their contractor relationships are a marvel of non-competitive cronyism – all relics of the Cold War mentality.

    That also goes for the Department of Health and Human Services, who has been administering many of the Project Bioshield contracts with Battelle and other private firms… and in case you don’t know who Battelle is, just check the biowarfare job listings:

    Battelle is a global leader in science and technology that serves in the operations and management of five leading-edge national laboratories and conducts over $3 billion in annual research and development. Our 20,000 employees team with government agencies and commercial customers to provide cost-effective solutions in the areas on national security, homeland defense, energy and environment, health and life sciences, transportation and space.

    Now, see the job listing:

    1. The candidate must possess an advanced degree in the life sciences, preferably a Ph.D.
    2. Knowledge of biosafety, toxicology, and biosurveillance
    3. Familiarity with the different types of diagnostics available for infectious diseases
    4. Knowledge of human and animal high containment biological facilities
    5. At least one year of experience working bio-defense issues (three or more years is preferred)
    6. Practical experience in a laboratory environment

    Security Clearance: Applicants must possess a current, active DHS clearance or a DoD Secret clearance.

    If the anthrax letters were due to theft or diversion, that was only made possible because of the so-called “biological threat assessment program”, in which Battelle played the starring role – and that is a clear violation of the biological weapons convention, just as testing nuclear weapons is a clear violation of the test ban treaty.

    Now, if someone wants to come up with a theory such as “Al Qaeda placed a mole inside the DOE” or “Aum Shrinikyo placed a mole inside Battelle”, and that’s how it all happened – that could be a good story, but as far as the evidence goes, that evidence begins with the 9/18 and 10/9 letters and ends in a Princeton mailbox. I’m certainly not claiming any conspiratorial plot inside Battelle or the DOE to terrorize the U.S. public with anthrax in order to boost biodefense contracts, although that is similar to one initial FBI speculation, as reported Dec 21 2001.

    Looking at the makeup of the final FBI team (full of DOE and Battelle people), I think it’s fairly clear that it’s not really the FBI calling the shots. In fact, I’d bet quite a bit that serious pressure was exerted on the FBI in order to get them to drop that line of inquiry.

    Let me put it this way: the DOE National Security Division is a Cold War dinosaur that serves no useful function in the modern world. If we have to maintain a basic level of expertise regarding nuclear and biological weaponry, that knowledge should be retained within the military, overseen by DIA or similar agencies, and not farmed out to the DOE or to private contractors – and we certainly should not be doing biowarfare research in our public or private universities.

    So, please attach that as a footnote when you write Congress on the anthrax investigation – tell them to put an end to all biological threat assessment progams and to overhaul Project Bioshield – either cancel it or put real medical epidemiologists in charge of it, not biowarfare contractors.

  2. DXer said

    If the case is solved, why isn’t it solved? It’s all very suspicious, and you wonder whether or not the F.B.I. doesn’t have something to cover up and that they don’t want to come clean.” — Senator Grassley

    “I believe there are others involved, either as accessories before or accessories after the fact. I believe there are others who can be charged with murder.” — Senator Leahy

    “In this country, we prosecute people, not beakers.” — Defense counsel Paul Kemp

    … neither the conclusions drawn from the scientific analysis, nor such crucial legal elements as the veracity of the provenance and handling of samples, have been tested in court. So far only one side of the story has been heard: that of the prosecution.

    Certainly Ivins’s behaviour in the crucial autumn months of 2001 raises questions about his emotional stability, but mental illness does not necessarily a murderer make.

    The FBI should explain why it thinks the scientific evidence implicates Ivins himself, and not just the flask. As Kemp aptly puts it: “In this country, we prosecute people, not beakers.” The absence of such a full disclosure can only feed suspicions that the FBI has again targeted an innocent man in this case — as it did with former Fort Detrick researcher Steven Hatfill.

    This case is too important to be brushed under the carpet. The anthrax attacks killed five people, infected several others, paralysed the United States with fear and shaped the nation’s bioterrorism policy. Science and law share a conviction that conclusions require evidence, and that the evidence be debated openly. The FBI says it regrets that Ivins’s untimely death has denied it the chance to have its day in court. So presumably the bureau would welcome a full congressional or independent enquiry into this case, as has been called for by Senator Chuck Grassley (Republican, Iowa) and several other lawmakers. It is essential that such an enquiry takes place.
    — “Case Not Closed,” Nature

    “Whatever we have to do to get to the bottom of this anthrax issue, we need to do it.” — U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ Washington, D.C

    “Serious missteps throughout the investigation — including the original identification of a different Fort Detrick scientist as the FBI’s top suspect — demand that all of the bureau’s work be examined by an independent commission or the Justice Department’s inspector general.

    The FBI does not do itself or the public any favors by rolling out its evidence in the anthrax matter in a piecemeal fashion. If anything, its attempts to share pieces of information and justify its conclusion have raised more questions than they have answered. The FBI may very well be right that Bruce Ivins was the anthrax killer and that he acted alone. But the only way to ensure confidence is to subject its work to a comprehensive outside review. That is the right approach for victims, survivors and would-be victims such as Mr. Leahy; for Mr. Ivins’s family; and for the public.” — “Anthrax Suspicions,” Editorial, Washington Post

    “Bruce Ivins was a victim of a vicious plot.” –Ayaad Assaad, a toxicologist and former colleague of Ivins at the Fort Detrick facility

    “The facts say: A child wrote the anthrax letters.” — Ed Lake

    • Anonymous Scientist said

      That is hilarious. I almost fell off my chair when I read the last line.

      Not to take away from the seriousness of this matter.

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