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

* Congress tries to scrutinize the FBI’s anthrax investigation … so far with little success

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 2, 2009

 

LMW COMMENT

  • It is almost 8 years since the 2001 anthrax attacks, and yet it is abundantly clear that the FBI has not solved the case. The FBI contention that the deceased Dr. Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator of these attacks would really be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.
  • Members of Congress have been seeking to get the facts from the FBI for many years, and are frustrated by the stonewalling of FBI Director Meuller. There are several initiatives underway, however, which may yet throw some light on whatever dark secrets the FBI is intent on keeping hidden.
  • It is my task this week to try to get updates on the status of various Congressional inquiries into the FBI’s anthrax investigation. As a prelude to these updates (if indeed any are forthcoming), I thought it would be helpful to summarize what has been said and written on this matter. Here is what I have found so far (readers of this blog – please send me more) …

3/3/09 – Holt introduces Anthrax Commission Legislation … Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today introduced the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act of 2009, legislation that would establish a Congressional commission to investigate the 2001 anthrax attacks and the federal government’s response to and investigation of the attacks. … “All of us – but especially the families of the victims of the anthrax attacks – deserve credible answers about how the attacks happened and whether the case really is closed,” Holt said. … Under Holt’s legislation, the commission would be comprised of no more than six members of from the same political party. The commission would hold public hearings, except in situations where classified information would be discussed. … The Commission’s final report would be due 18 months after the Commission begins operations. … “Myriad questions remain about the anthrax attacks and the government’s bungled response to the attacks,” Holt said. “One of the most effective oversight mechanisms we can employ to get answers to those questions is a 9/11 style Commission.”

March 2009 – Nadler and Holt call for investigative commission:This week, two Democratic congressmen, Jerry Nadler and Rush Holt, whose districts were affected by the attacks, introduced legislation calling for the creation of a 9/11-style commission to independently investigate the attacks because they say the nation deserves to know whether the case is truly solved.

September 2008 – Congressman Rush Holt: ”I just see so many loose ends in the case that I question whether the FBI is in the right frame of mind to bring this matter to the kind of closure that the public needs.”

9/16/2008 – House Judiciary Committee (reported by Glenn Greenwald)

  • House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (Mich.) and two other Democrats on the panel have signaled they will scrutinize the FBI’s work today.
  • This month, they wrote FBI Director Robert Mueller asking about missteps in identifying the anthrax strain used in the attacks and tracing it back to Ivins.
  • But after just an hour of the hearing, it is painfully clear that — as is true in virtually all of these hearings now before a pitifully powerless Congress —Mueller won’t provide the Committee with even a single answer of import, won’t even pretend to, and the Committee has no intent to compel him to do so.
  • the hearing began with an angry statement from Chairman Conyers about the fact that the FBI, in general, simply ignores all inquiries for information and answers from the Committee for months and months and months and then shows up at these hearings unprepared to answer even the questions they are advised will be asked, knowing that each member only has five minutes and can’t actually accomplish anything.
  • (Congressman Jerrold) Nadler (D-NY) than asked one of the most central questions in the anthrax case:
    • he pointed out that the facilities that (unlike Ft. Detrick) actually have the equipment and personnel to prepare dry, silica-coated anthrax are the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Ground and the Battelle Corporation, the private CIA contractor that conducts substantial research into highly complex strains of anthrax.
    • Nadler asked how the FBI had eliminated those institutions as the culprits behind the attack.
    • Mueller’s response was this: I don’t know the answers to those questions as to how we eliminated Dugway and Battelle. I’ll have to get back to you at some point.
  • Nadler then ended by asking whether Mueller would object to an independent commission or other body to review the FBI’s evidence and its accusations against Ivins and whether the FBI would cooperate with such an independent inquiry.
    • Mueller pretended to answer by telling Nadler that the FBI intended to ask some members of the National Academy of Science to review the FBI’s scientific claims, but that didn’t answer the question as to whether the FBI opposed a full-scale independent review of the FBI’s case and whether the FBI would cooperate with it.

9/16/2008 – post by Meryl Nass, M.D: 

  • Eleven or twelve members attended the House Judiciary Committee’s FBI oversight hearing today.
  • Repeatedly, they expressed disappointment with the FBI’s continuing failure to answer their questions, and to respond to written questions.
  • (FBI Director) Mueller spoke in generalities, failing to answer specific questions.
  • Only Rep. Nadler asked about anthrax, and to his credit inquired pointedly about the Silicon signature and weaponization. Mueller had no answers.
  • It’s FBI’s investigation that is unsatisfactory in every way, requiring an independent appraisal.
  • Don’t be fooled by an expensive and time-consuming NAS smokescreen.

September 2008 – reported by Glenn Greenwald (salon.com) One of the two Senate targets of the attack, Sen. Pat Leahy, flatly stated at a Senate hearing last September that he does not believe the FBI’s case against Ivins, and emphatically does not believe that Ivins acted alone.  … GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, at the same hearing, told the FBI they could never have obtained a conviction against Ivins in court based on their case — riddled, as it is, with so much doubt — and he also demanded an independent evaluation of the FBI’s evidence. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/03/04/anthrax/ … Grassley sent a letter to the FBI a month ago demanding answers to a whole slew of questions, and as he is asking them, Mueller — as he did yesterday — continues to say that he doesn’t have the answers and will obtain them at some point. … The Senators are indignant over this, but don’t appear to intend to do anything (just as was true for the House members yesterday), though Leahy is at least demanding that Mueller obtain these answers not at some point in the indefinite future, but today, during the breaks. The bottom line is that it is quite extraordinary that the FBI has claimed it has identified with certainty the sole culprit in the anthrax attacks, but so many key Senators, from both parties, simply don’t believe it, and are saying so explicitly. … Leahy’s rather dark suggestion that there were others involved in these attacks — likely at a U.S. Army facility or key private CIA contractor — is particularly notable. … It has been crystal clear from the beginning that the FBI’s case is filled with glaring holes, that their thuggish behavior towards their only suspect drove him to commit suicide and thus is unable to defend himself, and yet, to this day, the FBI continues to conceal the evidence in its possession and is stonewalling any and all efforts to scrutinize its claims. … It takes a lot for Senators from both parties to so openly and explicitly say they don’t believe the FBI’s definitive accusations in such a high-profile case. Perhaps that will be understood as a reflection of how dubious the FBI’s case here is. … these attacks were — as our own Government claims — ones that originated from U.S. Army facilities and perpetrated by U.S. Government employees, it ought to be understood as exactly that. http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/09/17/senate_judiciary/index.html  September 2008 – Last week, staff members for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) pressed U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor and two FBI officials to say when the anthrax case will be closed and why investigators had fixed on Ivins six months after notifying him in April 2007 that he was not a target. Investigators told congressional aides that they are still pursuing leads in the “Amerithrax” investigation, sources said.

September 2008 – Senator Grassley letter to FBI Director Mueller: Here are the 18 questions asked in Senator Grassley’s letter …

  1. What is the date (month and year) that the FBI determined that the anthrax came from a specified flask in Ivins’s lab (”RMR-1029″)?
  2. When (month and year) did the FBI determine that Dr. Hatfill never had access to the anthrax used in the killings?
  3. How did the FBI determine that Dr. Hatfill did not have access to the anthrax used in the killings?  Was that because the FBI determined that Dr. Hatfill no longer worked at USAMRIID when the powder was made?
  4. Was Dr. Hatfill or his counsel informed that Dr. Hatfill had been cleared of any involvement in the anthrax killings before the Department of Justice offered a settlement to him?  Was he informed before signing the settlement agreement with him?  If not, please explain why not.
  5. Was Judge Walton (the judge overseeing the Privacy Act litigation) ever informed that Dr. Hatfill had been eliminated as a suspect in the anthrax killings?  If so, when.  If not, please explain why not.
  6. Was Dr. Ivins ever polygraphed in the course of the investigation?  If so, please provide the dates and results of the exam(s).  If not, please explain why not.
  7. Of the more than 100 people who had access to RMR 1029, how many were provided custody of samples sent outside Ft. Detrick?  Of those, how many samples were provided to foreign laboratories?
  8. If those with access to samples of RMR 1029 in places other than Ft. Detrick had used the sample to produce additional quantities of anthrax, would that anthrax appear distinguishable from RMR 1029?
  9. How can the FBI be sure that none of the samples sent to other labs were used to create additional quantities of anthrax that would appear distinguishable from RMR 1029?
  10. Please describe the methodology and results of any oxygen isotope measurements taken to determine the source of water used to grow the spores used in the anthrax attacks.
  11. Was there video equipment which would record the activities of Dr. Ivins at Ft. Detrick on the late nights he was there on the dates surrounding the mailings?  If so, please describe what examination of the video revealed.
  12. When did the FBI first learn of Dr. Ivins’ late-night activity in the lab around the time of the attacks?  If this is powerful circumstantial evidence of his guilt, then why did this information not lead the FBI to focus attention on him, rather than Dr. Hatfill, much sooner in the investigation?
  13. When did the FBI first learn that Dr. Ivins was prescribed medications for various symptoms of mental illness?  If this is circumstantial evidence of his guilt, then why did this information not lead the FBI to focus attention on him, rather than Dr. Hatfill, much sooner in the investigation? Of the 100 individuals who had access to RMR 1029, were any others found to suffer from mental illness, be under the care of a mental health professional, or prescribed anti-depressant/anti-psychotic medications?   If so, how many?
  14. What role did the FBI play in conducting and updating the background examination of Dr. Ivins in order for him to have clearance and work with deadly pathogens at Ft. Detrick?
  15. After the FBI identified Dr. Ivins as the sole suspect, why was he not detained?  Did the U.S. Attorney’s Office object to seeking an arrest or material witness warrant?  If not, did anyone at FBI order a slower approach to arresting Ivins?
  16. Had an indictment of Dr. Ivins been drafted before his death?  If so, what additional information did it contain beyond the affidavits already released to the public?  If not, then when, if ever, had a decision been made to seek an indictment from the grand jury?
  17. According to family members, FBI agents publicly confronted and accused Dr. Ivins of the attacks, showed pictures of the victims to his daughter, and offered the $2.5 million reward to his son in the months leading up to his suicide.  These aggressive, overt surveillance techniques appear similar to those used on Dr. Hatfill with the apparent purpose of intimidation rather than legitimate investigation.  Please describe whether and to what degree there is any truth to these claims.
  18. What additional documents will be released, if any, and when will they be released?

August 2008 – Library of Congress – Senate Finance Committee – Mishandling of Anthrax Investigation  Senator Grassley has continued to follow closely the FBI investigation of the mailings of letters laced with anthrax to several targets in the United States, including members of Congress and the national media. Until late 2008, the investigation had yielded no criminal charges. Senator Grassley had been critical that the FBI’s apparent mishandling of the investigation was a result of the FBI’s institutional resistance to criticism and by the misallocation of resources toward protecting the FBI’s image rather than protecting the United States. Senator Grassley also expressed dissatisfaction with the FBI’s refusal to provide Congress with periodic briefings on the status of the investigation. He requested both a briefing on the status of the investigation and a number of documents and records relating to the case. The Attorney General responded with an initial refusal to provide either the requested documents or a briefing on the status of the investigation, citing the Department of Justice’s policy against disclosing non-public information concerning pending law enforcement activities and prosecutions. However, following additional negotiations, the FBI Director provided a briefing to Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Member Arlen Specter, as well as Senator Grassley. The initial portion of the briefing was open to staff. However, the later portion of the briefing was Members-only. Since Dr. Ivins death, the FBI has provided several briefings for the staffs of Senator Grassley and other Members of Congress. However, given his misgivings about the FBI’s handling of the case, Senator Grassley will continue to conduct oversight of the FBI’s handling of the investigation. Significant questions remain unanswered about the scientific evidence relied upon by the FBI, why that evidence failed to lead them to Dr. Ivins much earlier in the investigation, how the FBI entrusted Dr. Ivins with samples of the attack material during the investigation, and when the FBI first learned of Dr. Ivins’ mental health issues. Senator Grassley has called for an independent inquiry to assure the public that the FBI’s decision to close its investigation is appropriate.

August 2008 – interview of Senator Grassley by Glenn Greenwald (Salon radio):    Sen. Grassley reveals that the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Pat Leahy (of which Grassley is a member), will now hold hearings to investigate the FBI’s case against Bruce Ivins. Grassley demands that the FBI send officials who are able and willing to answer all questions, and also calls for full and complete public disclosure of all of the evidence in the FBI’s possession regarding its investigation.  Grassley: No, and I assume one of the reasons I haven’t (received an answer to my 18 questions) is because in the meantime, the FBI has consented to a hearing that Senator Leahy’s having, and a hearing is one instrument of doing it. If this case is solved the way the FBI wants us to believe that it’s been solved, is it closed? And if it’s closed, then everything ought to be brought out into the open. One of the problems we have right now is, with the FBI, there’s just too much secrecy. Getting all the documents out, getting all the information out is important. … That information, now that the case is closed, ought to be available to the entire public. At the very least it ought to be entitled to anybody that’s got oversight of the FBI if there’s some reason that the entire public should not be notified of it.  … in too many administrations, Republican or Democrat, there has been an effort to not fully cooperate with Congress on hearings. Now, that would tend to be a statement on my part, blaming the executive branch entirely, but I also, as a person who’s been very aggressive in oversight myself, feel that all of Congress has come up short of doing the proper checks and balances of government that our Constitution requires, and doing that through more aggressive oversight. see entire transcript of interview at … http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/radio/2008/08/20/grassley/index1.html

3/11/07 – 60 Minutes interviews Sen. Grassley Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has looked into the case and has concluded that there was leaking by top officials and that the purpose was not to shut Hatfill down, but to hide the lack of progress in the case. “I believe the extent to which they wanted the public to believe that they were making great progress in this case, and the enormous pressure they had after a few years to show that, yes, that they was very much misleading the public.” http://cbs3.com/topstories/60.Minutes.anthrax.2.281289.html

10/28/06 – Grassley says FBI needs to report on anthrax investigation  By Stella Shaffer RADIO IOWA   Senator Charles Grassley says the FBI’s failed investigation of a 2001 bio-terrorism attack on congress could signal bigger problems.  … Grassley says he’s concerned the FBI hasn’t solved the case. But he’s even more unhappy that they refuse to brief congress on the investigation. … Grassley sees only one reason for the silence: “If there were some sort of secret thing that was bringing them close to somebody and they didn’t want to let them know they were hot on somebody’s trail.”  … But Grassley says the FBI could make that clear in a report, thereby giving Congress an update and showing they were making progress. Grassley, who is a Republican, says he thinks government should be “transparent” and citizens have a right to know what’s happening particularly when FBI “headquarters is involved and trying to cover up what FBI agents at the grassroots are doing and they’re worried about the public relations of the FBI and that’s when they wind up getting egg on their faces.”  … Grassley charges that the secrecy is proof that the culture of the FBI is not changing like it should be, or as he’s been promised. … Grassley’s sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting numerous documents and a full briefing on the anthrax investigation. … Grassley, who’s long been a critic of the FBI, says its refusal to submit to congressional oversight has resulted in an inability to prevent crime and terrorism, and has led to misconduct by senior staff members.

10/24/06 – Jim Popkin, NBC News Investigative Unit: 

  • Late Monday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a damning six-page letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting a briefing on the FBI investigation, now five years old.  The letter faults the agency for its handling of the case, saying “the FBI has little in the way of results to show for its work.”
  • Meanwhile, in an unusual move, the FBI’s top lobbyist has informed members of Congress that the bureau will no longer brief them on the case.
  • Meanwhile, the FBI recently installed a new team of top investigators to head up the anthrax case. Sources familiar with the case tell NBC News that the new managers are looking anew at all possible suspects, with a much broader focus than before.

9/28/2006 – FBI Letter to Congressman Rush Holt: listed on FBI’s Amerithrax site but no link provided to actual letter

November 2001 – FBI Letter Addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy listed on FBI’s Amerithrax site but no link provided to actual letter

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10 Responses to “* Congress tries to scrutinize the FBI’s anthrax investigation … so far with little success”

  1. A couple more questions.

    1. Spores with silicon had to be grown fresh and that means from spores to vegetative cells back to spores?

    2. Which letters does this apply to?

    3. How many such spores combined in the first mailing?

    4. In the second?

    5. Any silicon found in spores in Florida?

    6. To go from spores to vegetative cells to spores that are fine and will travel in the air easily, how many days and what equipment are needed?

    7. Does this fit with the time from Sep 14 to Sep 16?

    8. The last weekend in September?

    9. The weekday nights in the first week in October?

    10. If he worked the weekday nights in the first weekday in October doing this, where was his equipment and the materials hidden during the weekdays?

    11. Did he move it out of his glove box in his lab?

    12. Is the photo of Ivins working a glove box, of his glove box in his lab? Is that the entire size of the glove box he had to work with?

    13. What were the largest runs Ivins did in that glove box in grams of spores produced and in liters in flasks while processing?

    14. In all those runs, did Ivins ever produce spores in powder? What amount total? What amount at what time?

    15. Of all runs Ivins is known to have done, which used plates and which used flasks?

    16. What was the time to process in those runs from spores to vegetative cells to spores? Time in each run with indication of start and stop date, time spent in lab with glove box, growth media used, average yield, etc?

    17. Did the Ivins runs in his glove box correspond in yield and time and uncertainty of yield and time to the 2004 paper released by US government on subtilis growth?

    http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?&verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA426293

    Title : Production of Bacillus Spores as a Simulant for Biological Warfare Agents

    Descriptive Note : Final rept. Sep 2002-Sep 2003

    Corporate Author : EDGEWOOD CHEMICAL BIOLOGICAL CENTER ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND MD

    Personal Author(s) : Carey, Laurie F. ; St. Amant, Diane C. ; Guelta, Mark A.

    Is the above paper accurate for time, uncertainty, average yield and volume of liters in flasks needed to produce anthrax for Ivins lab? That is 3 to 14 days, average yield of .2 grams per liter, so 2 grams needs 10 liters for second mailing. First mailing had how much total of anthrax as vegetative cells and as spores? 5 grams? So needed 25 liters in flasks to produce and 3 to 14 days?

    • DXer said

      Old Atlantic said
      June 3, 2009 at 10:12 pm

      A couple more questions.

      1. Spores with silicon had to be grown fresh and that means from spores to vegetative cells back to spores?

      I think I’m missing something. But the difference between the first batch and second batch can be thought of in terms of repeated centrifugation.

      3. How many such spores combined in the first mailing?
      If you are referring to clumping, it was like purina dog chow. May have gotten wet. Largely vegetative debris.

      4. In the second?
      Floated like a butterfly, stung like a bee. To use technical jargon.

      5. Any silicon found in spores in Florida?
      The Florida letter, having been mailed at the same time as the NYP Post letter, presumably had the same Silicon Signature. They went back, I believe, in August 2002, they said to focus on this question of the chemical signature.

      6. To go from spores to vegetative cells to spores that are fine and will travel in the air easily, how many days and what equipment are needed?

      A centrifuge will do according to the March 14, 2001 “Microdroplet Cell Culture” patent which was referenced by BHR.

      I recommend emailing Dr. Andrews or any of the folks who were so knowledgeable and helpful on the Nass board.

      • Structural Details of Anthrax Spores During Stages of …
        Structural details of anthrax spores during stages of transformation into vegetative cells. J. Bacteriol. 92:220–228. 1966.—Anthrax spores in stages of …
        http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=276219

        Spores can’t produce daughter cells. First spores have a change of state from spores which are dormant to non-dormant cells. They call anthrax that is alive and not a spore a vegetative cell. It means it can grow and create daughter spells directly from that state, which spores can not do.

        RMR 1029 was a flask with spores in it and no vegetative cells in it, as far as we know. Ivins or some other had to convert the spores into vegetative cells as a first step. This can take hours or possibly days or possibly longer. In the paper cited and linked to above, some runs are duds after 14 days, i.e. there was no growth at all.

        Vegetative cells have to be turned into spores. That takes time.

        There were reports that the 5 (to 10?) grams of matter in the Sep 18 letters contained vegetative cells not just anthrax spores. The FBI experts used this phrase vegetative cells to describe some of the matter in the Sep 18 letters. If vegetative cells means anthrax not converted to spores, it means that there were 5 grams or more of anthrax grown in the first mailing. That would imply it took 25 liters of flasks based on the DTIC paper above, because it had an average yield of .2 grams per liter. This would have been impossible for Ivins to organize in the week after 9/11 and to grow from Sep 14 to Sep 16.

        In fact, Ed Lake makes comments indicating he believes Ivins grew the anthrax in the 9/18 letters in his lab during the week after he had time to review the above paper on threads at Meryl Nass.

        Ed also believes that it was far less than 5 grams of anthrax in the first letters. But his reference only tends towards saying less than 5 grams of spores. It said that the rest were vegetative cells. He thought this meant the growth media. The idea was Ivins took .5 grams from RMR 1029, put it in growth media, got nothing, but still put the .5 grams of anthrax and the growth media in the 9/18 letters. But the wording from the government was vegetative cells for the remaining 4.5 grams. If that means anthrax and no growth media at all, plus .5 grams of spores that is 5 grams of anthrax grown. We know its fresh because it had subtilis not in Ivins’ flask or at the lab. That means a full growth run of 5 grams of anthrax cells and that only .5 grams were converted to spores. But 5 grams of growth was beyond Ivins’ capacity in that lab from Sep 14 to Sep 16 when the FBI said he grew it.

        Thus the inquiry into the FBI inquiry has to nail down whether there were 5 grams of anthrax in the 9/18 letters of which 4.5 grams were vegetative cells of anthrax and .5 grams were spores of anthrax. If you search anthrax vegetative cells you will find its standard to call non spore anthrax vegetative cells, but no references refer to growth media that way that I found. Growth media is like dry powdered milk. Powdered milk doesn’t grow more powdered milk, cows do that. Anthrax grows on powdered milk when added to it and the spores shift state to vegetative cells. So the comments from the government on vegetative cells as the rest of the 9/18 letters that Ed Lake quoted at Meryl Nass to refute that Ivins would have had to grow 5 grams of anthrax for the first letter appear to be incorrect. Ed Lake admitted at Meryl Nass that its impossible for Ivins to have grown 5 grams of anthrax from 9/14 to 9/16 starting from spores and ending with the material in the letters.

  2. 1. Which letters had silicon in the anthrax?

    2. How much silicon in each letter?

    3. What was the total weight of anthrax spores in each letter?

    4. Total weight of anthrax vegetative cells (live or dead) that were not spores in each letter? You can search anthrax vegetative cells for the difference.

    5. What was the average size of the anthrax spores in each letter?

    6. Was there growth media in any of the anthrax letters? How much in each? If so, what was it and what was the source of it?

    7. There was subtilis in the first letters but silicon in the Senate letters? But not in RMR 1029?

    8. Thus none of the letters could have been prepared directly from RMR 1029 without some growth?

    9. What was the total weight of anthrax spores and anthrax vegetative cells in each letter?

    10. Did Ivins have time to grow the anthrax, spores or vegetative cells, in the first set of letters mailed on or before Sep 18, 2001?

    12. Do answers to the prior questions allow it to be determined if Ivins had time starting the evening of Friday Sep 14 to Sunday Sep 16 to grow the anthrax sent in the letters? Take into account the growth times of subtilis found in the paper released by the government in 2004 finding it takes 3 to 14 days to grow apart from time to form spores or prepare media or equipment.

    13. What equipment did Ivins have in his lab?

    14. What size was the glove box in Ivins lab?

    15. Was it sufficient size to grow the anthrax found in the two sets of letters?

    16. Did he use a large number of 1 liter flasks, like 25? Or 5 5-liter flasks?

    17. Could he have grown the second set of anthrax on a single weekend at the end of September without any growth time during the weekdays for the second batch?

    18. Where did he keep the material from that growth run from the last weekend in September to work on it at night in his lab in his glove box?

    19. Where did he keep it each weekday night while doing work in his glovebox during those nights?

    20. When did Ivins dry the anthrax for the second batch, if he made it the last weekend in September?

    21. Did he dry it that weekend? With what? How?

    22. If he didn’t dry it that weekend, did he store it in liquid form?

    23. How many liters did he need to use to grow it in 2 days that last weekend in September if he did?

    24. Did he need 10 liters if his average yield was .2 grams per liter?

    25. Where did he hide 10 liters
    if he did the drying and sporulation Wed and Thur night of that week?

    • DXer said

      1. Which letters had silicon in the anthrax?
      All of them. NYP, Daschle, Leahy.

      2. How much silicon in each letter?
      The NYP data had not been given to Sandia at last report. Here, you are asking “in each letter” which includes vegetative debris.

      3. What was the total weight of anthrax spores in each letter?
      Ditto. 1.4% in one to the Senators where the product was pure spores.

      4. Total weight of anthrax vegetative cells (live or dead) that were not spores in each letter? You can search anthrax vegetative cells for the difference.
      Yes, this is a key point. Which is why it will be interesting to see the EID articles. No need to think too hard before the articles are published. But if there was a lot in the debris (and you say silicon but it was silicon that was detected which may indicate silica, the scientists say
      )
      5. What was the average size of the anthrax spores in each letter?
      Dr. Mohr and others have said they were down to a 1 micron size, which is overkill in terms of inhalability but the concentration may increase lethality and floatability.

      6. Was there growth media in any of the anthrax letters? How much in each? If so, what was it and what was the source of it?
      Kreuzer-Martin did a lot of work on this. Look for them to conclude that sheep blood agar was used based on the presence of heme. But I’m not a scientist and so I would refer you to the actual peer reviewed articles I hyperlinked recently. Also, there was a suggestion that L-D was used.

      7. There was subtilis in the first letters but silicon in the Senate letters? But not in RMR 1029?
      Yes, and it was a genetically distinctive subtilis. This may be hugely significant.

      8. Thus none of the letters could have been prepared directly from RMR 1029 without some growth?
      Yes, even apart from the subtilis this is the conclusion.

      9. What was the total weight of anthrax spores and anthrax vegetative cells in each letter?
      Ed can tell you — a very high percentage of the NYP mailing was vegetative cells.

      10. Did Ivins have time to grow the anthrax, spores or vegetative cells, in the first set of letters mailed on or before Sep 18, 2001?

      Bruce had 19 projects he was working. As I recall, he was putting a correction to the Syrian hamster study to bed, Co-authored by Patricia Fellows. Mara Linscott had worked on it. Serge Popov and GP Andrews have described the timetables and find that it was not doable because of the quantities involved.

      12. Do answers to the prior questions allow it to be determined if Ivins had time starting the evening of Friday Sep 14 to Sunday Sep 16 to grow the anthrax sent in the letters? Take into account the growth times of subtilis found in the paper released by the government in 2004 finding it takes 3 to 14 days to grow apart from time to form spores or prepare media or equipment.

      On this point, let me know the highly misleading mischaracterization of the former US Attorney. He made it seem that Ivins late hours were unique to this period when the letters had to be prepared. Instead, the long hours began in August when he had to work hard on the Bioport problems and continued through December. US Attorney Taylor made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear when he made it seem that staying late was unique to the narrow period in September and October. Ed has an excellent bar chart on this which I recommend to everyone.

      13. What equipment did Ivins have in his lab?
      He had a lyophilizer signed out for a DARPA project — the drying related to making vaccines and not spores. It did not have a hood and was too big to fit under a hood. It was actually a Speed-Vac.

      14. What size was the glove box in Ivins lab?
      There is an article from Pennsylvania that addresses the Speed-Vac size and glove box issue that has been posted here but I don’t have it handy. GP Andrews or Jeff A. might be able to estimate dimensions.

      15. Was it sufficient size to grow the anthrax found in the two sets of letters?
      I was referring to freeze drying. In terms of growing, the plate method and its inviability has been described by Dr. Popov and Dr. Andrews. Not being a microbiologist, I defer all these issues to them and merely offer my best lay recollections of their views.

      16. Did he use a large number of 1 liter flasks, like 25? Or 5 5-liter flasks?
      GP Andrews is the best source on this and he does discuss it. I’ll grab an article summarizing his explanation.

      17. Could he have grown the second set of anthrax on a single weekend at the end of September without any growth time during the weekdays for the second batch?
      Ditto.

      18. Where did he keep the material from that growth run from the last weekend in September to work on it at night in his lab in his glove box?
      Ditto.

      19. Where did he keep it each weekday night while doing work in his glovebox during those nights?
      Ditto.

      Let me go get an article summarizing GP Andrews’ take on these issue.

      • DXer said

        Here is Ed’s excellent bar graph representation over Overtime hours in the BL-3. In September and October, he was working on his Syrian golden hamster study.

        Received 26 June 2001;
        revised 26 October 2001;
        accepted 30 October 2001.
        Available online 22 January 2002.
        http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TD4-45001H0-B&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=98622e778c2172877964e97da6fb9c61

        _____
        (Ed Ode)
        Rats Live On No Evil Star
        (A palindrome reads the same forwards and backwards)

        Stop, Syrian! I start at rats in airy spots.
        Stop! Murder us not, tonsured rumpots.

        Oh who was it I saw, oh who?
        Oozy rat in a sanitary zoo?

        Was it a car or a cat I saw?
        War! I saw ‘Nam — man was I raw.

        We panic in a pew.
        We’ll let Mom tell Lew.

        ‘Tis in a DeSoto sedan I sit.
        To Idi Amin I am an idiot.

        Race fast, safe car.
        Rats live on no evil star.

        Toot! Toot!
        Too hot to hoot.

        Trap a rat! Stare, piper, at star apart!
        Trade ye no mere moneyed art.

        If I had a hi-fi!? If I had a hi-fi!?
        I, madam, I made radio. So I dared! Am I mad? Am I?

        Ah! A mop, a man, a map: Omaha!
        Was it felt? I had a hit left, I saw.

        Solo gigolos.
        So many dynamos.

        Ten animals I slam in a net.
        Pets, Ed, I sidestep.

        Nurse, save rare vases, run!
        Now, sir, a war is won.

        Mad? Am I, madam?
        Madam, in Eden, I’m Adam!

        Reviled did I live, said I, as evil did I deliver.
        Revered now I live on. O did I no evil, I wonder ever?

        Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas.
        Are we not drawn onwards, we few, drawn on to new era?

  3. Ike Solem said

    There is something that people should pay attention to – the FBI commission ($800,000) for the National Academy of Sciences to do a very narrow review of the genetic analysis of the flask in question:

    By DAVID DISHNEAU , Associated Press
    HAGERSTOWN, Md. – The National Academy of Sciences said Friday it will review the lab work behind the FBI’s conclusion that Army scientist Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax mailings that killed five people in 2001.

    The FBI will pay the Washington-based society nearly $880,000 for the independent, 15-month committee review of the genetic and chemical studies investigators used to link Ivins to the attacks, academy spokeswoman Jennifer Walsh said.

    The review, which was requested by the FBI, won’t assess the evidentiary value of the bureau’s detective work or the FBI’s conclusion that Ivins acted alone, the academy said.

    If the question is narrow, i.e. “do the contents of the flask match the letter spores”, then that’s just more coverup – anthrax, recall, is slow to mutate (clonal only), so there is no “fingerprint” – or, that “fingerprint” could likely be found in many places where the FBI did not collect samples – Battelle Memorial Institute’s West Jefferson “micro-aero-biology” lab, or the Dugway Utah facility – and then, you have the British biowarfare lab, Porton Down, which has close ties to Emergent Biosolutions, the recipient of the latest half-billion HHS anthrax vaccine grant.

    So, if the FBI asks the NAS to narrowly focus on the validity of the link between spores in one flask (a flask with serious chain-of-custody issues) and spores in a letter, and then claims that validates them – understand that that would be a dishonest claim that any lawyer with any knowledge of forensics could demolish in a court of law.

    Bruce Ivins could have settled up for $5.8 million, just as Steven Hatfill did.

    I think we should also pay very close attention to who the reporters and news outlets covering this story are, and to their previous coverage – much of it simply repeats FBI talking points, and does zero investigation.

    One other thing – government-financed propaganda is illegal under 1948 Smith-Mundt laws:

    The Smith-Mundt ban on domestic propaganda has been broadened over the years by subsequent legislation. The Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1972 amended the Smith-Mundt Act to include a ban on disseminating within the United States any “information about the United States, its people, and its policies” prepared for dissemination abroad.

    Thus, if the FBI is also telling foreign police and intelligence service that “they got their man”, that’s probably a serious violation. Why would they do that?

    Well, there is the tricky little issue of U.S. refusal to enter into the Biological Warfare Convention, isn’t there? That doesn’t look so good, especially when the main justification is “protection of intellectual property rights”. Like, we don’t want to share our bioweapon designs? What?

    I imagine that Robert Mueller will be forced to resign if the full scale of this coverup becomes public, and protecting his job is surely worth $800,000…

    Unbelievable.

    • DXer said

      In the FBI’s defense, Dr. Ivins suicide certainly put the DOJ in an awkward position. If you had been US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor, what would you have done?

      True crime analysis, rather than a broader political lense, requires that one focuses much more narrowly on questions like the distribution of Ames from RMR-1029. Basically, if it sounds like a political statement, it likely has no place in true crime analysis. Ayman Zawahiri’s planning documents from 1999 show that he planned on using universities and charities in developing anthrax as a weapon to retaliate against the rendering and torture of senior Egyptian jihad leaders. And so when you see a guy in a charity (Al-Timimi) with the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (Kamal Habib) who shares a fax and maildrop with the leading anthrax scientist and former deputy USAMRIID Commander, and the WMD Chief says that the forensics indicate silica-based substance in the culture medium such as under the process they patented that year, then serious analysts take note. They especially should take note when the scientist (Al-Timimi) is actively coordinating with the 911 imam and Bin Laden’s sheik and arranges to have hand-delivered to US Senators a letter from Bin Laden’s Sheik threatening dire consequences if Iraq is invaded. So leave your politics and dirty magazines at the door.
      This is time for serious, objective, true crime and intelligence analysis. To start, it needs to be determined where the Ann Arbor researchers did their DARPA-funded work for which Bruce Ivins supplied virulent Ames.

      Dr. Al-Timimi’s counsel summarizes some of the detailed facts made relevance by the forensic findings that the Silicon Signature may have resulted from silica in the culture medium (such as Al-Timimi’s colleagues sought to patent in a confidential patent filed March 14, 2001) :

      “we know Dr. Al-Timimi:

      * was interviewed in 1994 by the FBI and Secret Service regarding his ties to the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing;

      * was referenced in the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”) as one of seventy individuals regarding whom the FBI is conducting full field investigations on a national basis;

      * was described to his brother by the FBI within days of the 9-11 attacks as an immediate suspect in the Al Qaeda conspiracy;

      * was contacted by the FBI only nine days after 9-11 and asked about the attacks and its perpetrators;

      * was considered an anthrax weapons suspect;
      [redacted]

      * was described during his trial by FBI agent John Wyman as having “extensive ties” with the “broader al-Qaeda network”;

      * was described in the indictment and superseding indictment as being associated with terrorists seeking harm to the United States;

      * was a participant in dozens of international overseas calls to individuals known to have been under suspicion of Al-Qaeda ties like Al-Hawali; and

      * was associated with the long investigation of the Virginia Jihad Group.
      ***

      The conversation with [Bin Laden’s sheik] Al-Hawali on September 19, 2001 was central to the indictment and raised at trial. ***

      [911 imam] Anwar Al-Aulaqi goes directly to Dr. Al-Timimi’s state of mind and his role in the alleged conspiracy. The 9-11 Report indicates that Special Agent Ammerman interviewed Al-Aulaqi just before or shortly after his October 2002 visit to Dr. Al-Timimi’s home to discuss the attacks and his efforts to reach out to the U.S. government.
      [IANA head] Bassem Khafagi was questioned about Dr. Al-Timimi before 9-11 in Jordan, purportedly at the behest of American intelligence. [redacted ] He was specifically asked about Dr. Al-Timimi’s connection to Bin Laden prior to Dr. Al-Timimi’s arrest. He was later interviewed by the FBI about Dr. Al-Timimi. Clearly, such early investigations go directly to the allegations of Dr. Al-Timimi’s connections to terrorists and Bin Laden — [redacted]”

      A local First Grader teacher summarizes:

      “Ed’s theory is that it is nearly certain that a First Grader wrote the anthrax letters. If I had him in my class, I would have held him back a year.”

  4. Anonymous scientist said

    Brothers in Arms. It always helps to have connections on Capitol Hill — especially when you’ve got a documentary to promote.

    Filmmaker Eric Nadler, brother of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), will screen his latest documentary, “Anthrax War,” on Wednesday afternoon in the Cannon House Office Building. The 90-minute film analyzes the 2001 anthrax attacks and its aftermath, studying the subsequent FBI investigation and the growing bio-defense industry.

    Eric Nadler and his documentary partner, Bob Coen, will be at the screening to answer questions and also discuss their companion book, “Dead Silence: Fear and Terror on the Anthrax Trail.”

    Nadler spokesman Ilan Kayatsky told HOH that the Congressman arranged for the documentary to be shown on Capitol Hill and will attend Wednesday’s screening — but it turns out brotherly support only goes so far. Kayatsky cautioned that the New York Democrat has yet to see the film himself.

    “We’re not endorsing the views of the film,” he added, explaining that the Congressman “thought it would be a good, thoughtful, educational film for Members of Congress” and staffers to watch.

    Eric Nadler invited guests to the screening, and the Congressman asked Members and their staff to attend via a “Dear Colleague” letter, Kayatsky said.

    Even though Nadler hasn’t yet seen his brother’s movie, he has been involved in the anthrax debate, Kayatsky noted. Nadler is a co-sponsor of legislation introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) that would establish the National Commission on the Anthrax Attacks, and he’s taken part in several Congressional hearings on the issue.

  5. DXer said

    On July 9, 2008, there was this exchange between Senator Leahy and Attorney General Mukasey:

    “Leahy: I almost hate to get into the case of Steven Hatfill. I’ve refrained from discussing this, I’ve refused to discuss it with the press. I’ve told them some aspects of it I was aware of were classified so of course I could not discuss it but also, considering the fact that my life was threatened by an anthrax letter, two people died who touched a letter addressed to me I was supposed to open, I’m somewhat concerned.
    What happened?

    Mukasey: That case …

    Leahy: We’re paying Hatfill millions of dollars, the indication being the guy who committed the crime went free.

    Mukasey: Well, um, I don’t understand, quote, the guy who committed the crime, unquote, to have gone free. What I do understand is…

    Leahy: Nobody’s been convicted.

    Mukasey: Not yet.

    Leahy: And five people are dead.

    Mukasey: Yes, um…

    Leahy: And hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.

    Mukasey: That case is under active investigation and I need to be very careful about what I say.

    Leahy: We won’t go any further. As I say, I feel somewhat reluctant because I was one of the targets. But I gotta say, what families of the people who died went through, what families of the people who were crippled went through, even what my family went through. A lot of people are concerned and I won’t say more because we are in open session but I think you and I probably should have a private talk about this sometime.

    Mukasey: That’s fine.”

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