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

* the FBI’s answers to questions posed by members of the House Judiciary Committee in September 2008 as to certain aspects of the FBI’s investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks are insulting and demeaning to the U.S. Congress and to the American people

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 12, 2009


* the FBI’s answers …

Congressman Conyers’ office referred me to Renata Strauss at the House Judiciary Committee of which Congressman Conyers is Chairman. Ms. Strauss provided a copy of the FBI’s answers, dated April 17, 2009, to questions posed by members of the Committee during testimony of FBI Director Robert Mueller on September 16, 2008. Three of those questions had to do with the FBI’s anthrax investigation.

Rep. Conyers

Rep. Conyers

Question Posed bv Chairman Conyers …

When did the FBI originally inform the Defense Department that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the prime suspect in the Amerithrax investigation?

This is the FBI’s complete verbatim response:

  • In October 2007, when Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors and FBI SAs (Special Agents) accumulated sufficient evidence to demonstrate probable cause to believe Ivins was involved in the mailings, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) was notified of this possible involvement.
  • USAMRIID was additionally notified when a United States District Judge approved search warrants for Ivins’ home, office, and vehicles, and it is the FBI’s understanding that USAMRIID immediately restricted Ivins’ access to areas containing biological agents and toxins.
  • The Department of Defense (DoD) was notified when the FBI began the anthrax investigation, well before Ivins was identified as the main suspect, and worked cooperatively with FBI investigators throughout the investigation.
  • From 2002 through 2005, the FBI had numerous contacts with USAMRIID regarding those who had access to the Ames strain of anthrax.
  • In November 2006, the focus of the anthrax investigation was on the universe of employees who had access to a flask of Bacillis anthracis spores at USAMRIID.
  • As the investigation continued, senior personnel at USAMRIID were informed in January 2007 that the spores in the letter attacks genetically matched spores at USAMRIID and that the FBI believed someone from USAMRIID was the mailer.
  • Senior officials at USAMRIID offered continued cooperation in the investigation and took steps both to increase operational security and to assist the investigation.
Nadler

Rep. Nadler

Questions Posed by Representative Nadler …

Rep. Nadler: What is the percentage of weight of the silicon in the powder used in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

This is the FBI’s complete verbatim response:

  • FBI Laboratory results indicated that the spore powder on the Leahy letter contained 14,479 ppm of silicon (1.4%).
  • The spore powder on the New York Post letter was found to have silicon present in the sample; however, due to the limited amount of material, a reliable quantitative measurement was not possible.
  • Insufficient quantities of spore powder on both the Daschle and Brokaw letters precluded analysis of those samples.

Rep. Nadler: How, on what basis, and using what evidence did the FBI conclude that none of the laboratories it investigated were in any way the sources of the powder used in the 2001 anthrax attacks, except the U.S. Army Laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland? Please include in your answer why laboratories that have publicly identified as having the equipment and personnel to make anthrax powder, such as the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Dugway, Utah and the Battelle Memorial Institute in Jefferson, Ohio, were excluded as possible sources.

This is the FBI’s complete verbatim response:

  • Initially, the spores contained in the envelopes could only be identified as Bacillus Anthracis (Anthrax).
  • They were then sent to an expert, who “strain typed” the spores as Ames.
  • Once the strain type was identified, the FBI began to look at what facilities had access to the Ames strain.
  • At the same time, science experts began to develop the ability to identify morphological variances contained in the mailed anthrax.
  • Over the next six years, new scientific developments allowed experts from the FBI Laboratory and other nationally recognized scientific experts to advance microbial science.
  • This advancement allowed the FBI to positively link specific morphs found in the mailed anthrax to morphs in a single flask at USAMRIID.
  • Using records associated with the flask, the FBI was able to track the transfer of sub samples from the flask located at USAMRIID to two other facilities.
  • Using various methods, the FBI investigated the two facilities that received samples from the parent flask and eliminated individuals from those facilities as suspects because, even if a laboratory facility had the equipment and personnel to make anthrax powder, this powder would not match the spores in the mailed envelopes if that lab had never received a transfer of anthrax from the parent flask.

LMW COMMENT

If you carefully parse the answers to Congressman Conyers’ question, you will see that the FBI said essentially nothing. The words “prime suspect” which were the essence of the question appear nowhere in the answer. Instead there is reference to “probable cause to believe Ivins was involved in the mailings” and “numerous contacts with USAMRIID regarding those who had access to the Ames strain of anthrax” and that (in January 2007!) “the FBI believed someone from USAMRIID was the mailer.” No mention is made of the fact that Dr. Hatfill, also of USAMRIID, was considered a “person of interest” right up until the FBI paid him $5.8 to settle his lawsuit, in the summer of 2008, shortly after which Dr. Ivins is alleged to have committed suicide.

These are not answers to the simple question that Congressman Conyers asked.

Regarding the first of Representative Nadler’s question, the FBI mentions only four letters, and of those, the percentage of silicon is indicated just once. The other anthrax letters are not even mentioned, so the FBI doesn’t tell the Congressman if they knew what the silicon content was in those letters.

The FBI never answered Rep. Nadler’s question as to how other laboratories were excluded as possible sources, never mentioned any other laboratories which were investigated and then excluded, and totally ignored Rep. Nadler’s specific question regarding the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Dugway, Utah and the Battelle Memorial Institute in Jefferson, Ohio.

If I was a U.S. Congressman asking the questions posed by Representatives Conyers and Nadler and receiving the answers given by the FBI, after six full months had elapsed, I would be absolutely furious. It is insulting and demeaning for the FBI to answer in such an incomplete and unforthcoming manner. How is the Congress to perform its constitutional oversight role in the face of such intransigence?

It is impossible not to believe that, even in these simple questions dealing with relatively small parts of the FBI’s enormously extensive and expensive anthrax investigation, the FBI is purposely refusing to tell Congress what went on.

Why does Congress, and why should the American people, put up with this refusal of the FBI to answer straightforward questions about an investigation that cost the American taxpayers millions of dollars and has failed to produce conclusions which are acceptable to almost anyone?

What dark secrets is the FBI hiding?  Why didn’t the FBI solve the case?

It is terrifying to think that the answer I proposed in my novel CASE CLOSED, a fictional scenario I invented in my imagination, with no access to any secret documents or witnesses, might indeed include elements of what actually happened.  Did the FBI fail to solve the case, and does the FBI still to this day refuse to reveal what they learned and when they learned it, because they were told not to solve the case?

That is so frightening I hope with all my heart that it is not true.

I have again asked the person I was referred to in Congressman Holt’s office (Patrick Eddington), by voice mail and email, the status of the legislation which would establish a Commission to investigate the anthrax case and the FBI investigation. But why should we believe that the FBI would be any more forthcoming at a Commission investigation than they have been so far before various committees of Congress?

******

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7 Responses to “* the FBI’s answers to questions posed by members of the House Judiciary Committee in September 2008 as to certain aspects of the FBI’s investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks are insulting and demeaning to the U.S. Congress and to the American people”

  1. DXer said

    The limited records I have available to me (but don’t have possession of) indicate that samples from RMR1029 were shipped to UNM and Battelle. The UNM shipment would have been in March 2001. By Federal Express. That was when the Koehler lab upgraded to BL-3. TK was a researcher specialized in virulence. She had a $100,000 grant from the CIA that year to work with anthrax in soil.

    There are some indications that Dugway received some anthrax transfer but I don’t know if it is RMR1029.

    If his lab good practices notebook confirms that what was shipped to Dugway in the Summer 2001 was from RMR1029, it would be nice if someone came forward now and confirmed it.

    • DXer said

      University of New Mexico, like University of Michigan, was doing DARPA doing vaccine work when Bruce Ivins supplied them with virulent anthrax from flask 1029 in March 2001 (see shipping records and inventory that the US DOJ has been provided). It was sent by federal express.

      http://hsc.unm.edu/som/research/lyons/microarray/lyonshome.html

      3. Defense Advanced Research Program Agency (DARPA) – Development of a genetic vaccine;
      testing center (7/99- 6/2002) (PI Johnston)

      Given that the documentary evidence establishes UNM received virulent Ames from flask 1029 in March 2001, why is UNM not on the list of places that received Ames from 1029? (as distinguished from 1028 and 1030). Why isn’t University of MIchigan?

      Why is the UNM sample not among those deemed to have the same genetic profile?

      Relatedly, why did University of MIchigan DARPA researchers not provide a sample of the virulent Ames that Bruce Ivins supplied them. See Michael Hayes presentation.

      In October 2001, LSU and University of Michigan were subpoenaed. A DARPA Program Manager at the time privately told a friend of mine that they knew where the attack Ames came from and even the machine used to make it. That is why LSU and University of Michigan were subpoenaed out of the gate.

  2. DXer said

    Consider the Critical Reagents Program.

    “Posted On: June 8, 2009 by Field Agent C

    Is There an Anthrax Conspiracy?

    Conspiracy • noun (pl. conspiracies) 1 a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful. 2 the action of conspiring.

    On Wednesday June 3, 2009, Anthrax was back on Capitol Hill. We organized a special Congressional screening of “Anthrax War” for Members of Congress and staff, policy-makers and interested members of the public. The event was well attended. Included in the audience were Congressmen Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), co-sponsors of the “Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act of 2009″ which calls for the establishment of a 9-11 style commission to look into the matter. It is quite clear this is the only way that the public will ever get to the bottom of the many troubling questions surrounding the FBI’s handling of its investigation into the anthrax attacks.
    Anthrax back on the hill

    Anthrax back on the hill

    We urged the hill to consider the following:

    On August 1st 2008 the FBI announced that it had found the culprit – U.S. Army scientist Bruce Ivins, who had worked at the very heart of the U.S. military ‘bio-defense’ forces… but authorities announced that he had just killed himeslf with an overdose of prescription Tylenol before criminal charges could be brought against him. Richard Spertzel, the former Deputy Commander of Fort Detrick – the germ war lab where Ivins worked, summed it up pretty nicely in our film. “Nice and convenient isn’t it” he tolds us, because with Ivins dead the FBI’s case would never have to be proven in a court of law.

    In fact, Spertzel and many other experts we spoke with said that it was impossible for Ivins to have manufactured the very sophisticated
    “weaponized” anthrax used in the attacks. To “weaponize” anthrax the spores have to be milled and refined into microscopic single spores which are tiny enough to be breathed into the lungs, making it a deadly killer. The anthrax powder used in the 2001 Anthrax Attacks is considered by many experts to be the most sophisticated and refined ever seen. Detrick does not have the equipment to weaponize anthrax, nor did Ivins have the skill set to produce this kind of sophisticated powder.

    So is there an anthrax conspiracy? It would seem that high ranking members of government believe there is.

    At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in September 2008 Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the targets of the anthrax laced letters sent to Congress, blasted FBI Director Robert Mueller saying he believed there were others, besides Ivins, who could be charged with MURDER!

    We are confident that in our reporting we have found a smoking gun – a dagger to the heart of the FBI’s case.”

    There is a cool logo for Critical Reagents Group that I hope Lew can display.

  3. Lew Weinstein said

    Anonymous Scientist” says: “The REAL reason that the NYP analysis is not being provided is because it is massive. The % of silicon is more than 10% – in fact it’s above to 50%. The NYP sample is actually MOSTLY silicon.”

    If “Anonymous Scientist” is correct, then the FBI’s withholding of that information in response to a direct question from Congressman Nadler is scandalous. Someone needs to ask the FBI if the the NYP silicon content is as alleged, and if so, why they withheld that information.

  4. Anonymous scientist said

    On the silicon content:

    The FBI used Inductively Coupled Plasma mass spectrometry (ICP) to determine the silicon content of the Leahy spores. They admitted that they found the record breaking level of 1.45% silicon. They apparently don’t believe this is significant at all (especially since it doesn’t provide any link whatsover to Ivins or Detrick).
    But lets consider what it means when they claim the NYP analysis by ICP was somehow “unreliable”.
    When ICP is performed a tiny fraction (less than 1ml) of sample is nebulized in a chamber:
    ——————————————
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICP-MS

    The first step in analysis is the introduction of the sample. This has been achieved in ICP-MS through a variety of means.
    The most common method is the use of a nebulizer. This is a device which converts liquids into an aerosol, and that aerosol can then be swept into the plasma to create the ions. Nebulizers work best with simple liquid samples (i.e. solutions).
    ——————————————-

    So, if they are claiming in their response that ICP DID provide the result that there WAS silicon in the NYP sample, then they must have a number for this. ICP is not a “yes or no” analysis. It provides a number. The record breaking number of 1.45% was provided for the Leahy sample – but for some reason the NYP number was NOT given.

    It is no excuse to say that they ran out of sample. As described above – once a sample of solution is made up it can be used to provide HUNDREDS of small volume nebulized aliquots into the ICP machine.

    The REAL reason that the NYP analysis is not being provided is because it is massive. The % of silicon is more than 10% – in fact it’s above to 50%. The NYP sample is actually MOSTLY silicon.

    The AFIP lab results (the results that the FBI refused to provide to Sandia) clearly demonstrate this.

    The FBI labs were uncomfortable enough releasing the record breaking 1.45% silicon in the Leahy sample. But to try to claim that the NYP powder contained “natural” levels of silicon is beyond even the bounds of the fairy-tale nonsense coming up the mouths of Majidi, Bannen et al.

  5. DXer said

    Does anyone speak gobbledygook?

    “Using various methods, the FBI investigated the two facilities that received samples from the parent flask and eliminated individuals from those facilities as suspects because, even if a laboratory facility had the equipment and personnel to make anthrax powder, this powder would not match the spores in the mailed envelopes if that lab had never received a transfer of anthrax from the parent flask.”

    Remember when senior FBI officials spoke plain English?

    FEBRUARY 7, 2002
    FBI’s New Approach in Its Search For Anthrax Mailer Focuses on Labs

    By MARK SCHOOFS and GARY FIELDS | Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

    ***
    Investigators acknowledge their approach may not work. Access to anthrax was “absolutely so lax,” as one senior FBI agent puts it, that even if the lab is identified, it may not be possible to discover where the terror strain was sent or who had access to it. At Dugway Proving Ground, a large military facility in Utah currently under investigation, a former scientist said security was slipshod. “Somebody could have walked out of a hot area with a couple of spores in a briefcase or lunch pail,” he said. Officials at Dugway declined to comment.

    Biological thievery can be a problem no matter how tight the security. Chemical or nuclear stockpiles can be accurately inventoried. But biological agents grow, so a thief could steal a few spores of anthrax and they would never be recorded as missing. The terrorist could then use those stolen spores to grow huge colonies of the bacterium.

    — Antonio Regalado contributed to this article.

  6. Ike Solem said

    Yes, that is problematic. There are quite a few factual errors in that FBI statement, as well – i.e. the Daschle letter was analyzed for silica content at AFIP, by all accounts.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the Senate, the White House and the biodefense contractors (especially Battelle Memorial Institute and Emergent Biosolutions) linked to DOE and HHS together leaned on the FBI to cover up the facts of the matter in order to avoid embarrassment and the elimination of their budget.

    That’s almost certainly why the first FBI team was fired and replaced with team “Smear Steven Hatfill”, and when that failed, replaced with team “Smear Bruce Ivins”. This last team appears to consist of FBI agents with no microbial forensics experience who relied heavily on the FBI’s new “Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate”, run by Vahid Majidi – a Kentucky professor with deep ties to the DOE and zero FBI law enforcement background.

    That’s definitely a cover-up, but thanks to scientific analysis, it can easily be exposed as such. From there, the trail leads inexorably back to the biological warfare complex which has seen such growth (to $6 billion a year in taxpayer dollars) since the anthrax attacks.

    There are far better ‘national security purposes’ for those funds, such as building infrastructure for a better public health care system – which really would be the first line of defense in any real biological warfare event. Instead, the money is going into ‘biological threat assessment’, i.e. making bioweapons and studying their characteristics, as well as making vaccines against them.

    People who use bioweapons need to be vaccinated against them, so you can see how this is easily dual-use technology that is more likely to increase the spread of bioweapons than to limit them. Furthermore, it risks spawning a biological arms race on the international level.

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