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

Archive for June 23rd, 2009

* letter to NAS with additional questions … and the NAS response received within one hour

Posted by DXer on June 23, 2009

CASE CLOSED by Lewis WeinsteinCC - front cover - small

explores the FBI’s failed investigation of the 2001 anthrax case …

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Mr. Kearney of the NAS Office of News & Public Information

responded to the questions below within one hour, as follows …

Lew, again, I’ll try to reply in general, and more specific answers may be available when project starts this summer.  I’d note that this study will be carried out no differently than any other study we do.  Yes, the names and bios of those nominated to the provisional committee will be posted in our Current Projects web site and there is a 20-day public comment period on the committee makeup.  As far as conflict of interest, here’s a link to our policy  The committee will be made up of members with appropriate expertise to carry out charge.  We never issue “progress reports” although we sometimes issue interim reports if those are called for in a statement of task that is approved by our governing board before the study starts; there is no interim report planned for this study.  A public report will be issued by committee.  We’ll let you know when committee gets posted and when first meeting will be as soon as that information is available.  I’ll be on travel for a bit, so my colleage Jennifer Walsh will let you know if I’m not around.  Bill.


letter to NAS with additional questions

The following letter was emailed this morning to Mr. William Kearney in the NAS Office of News & Public Information, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC. I want to thank all of the readers of this CASE CLOSED blog who contributed to shaping and refining the questions asked. These are all procedural questions. As I indicated in the letter, there are more questions related to the science, all of which came from readers of this blog, which will be organized and sent in a separate letter …


Dear Mr. Kearney,

Thank you very much for your prompt reply to my questions of June 19, 2009.

Along with many readers and contributors to my CASE CLOSED blog, I truly appreciate that the NAS has undertaken this difficult task, one which is vital to our understanding of what really happened in the anthrax attacks and in the ensuing FBI investigation. In fact, many are looking to the NAS as the chief hope for an impartial resolution of this now eight year old mass murder. Not many accept the FBI’s conclusion that Dr. Ivins was the sole perpetrator, at least not on the basis of the evidence thus far made known.

Your answers have of course generated more questions.

I want to emphasize that the skepticism expressed in these questions is not related to the NAS, which is highly respected by all, but rather to the FBI, which is generally regarded as not fully forthcoming in this whole anthrax business.

Here are the additional questions …

  1. NAS-FBI contractHas NAS ever made a contract public? Will NAS consider doing so in this case? Is NAS prohibited from doing so by the provisions of the contract?
  2. Chair and Committee to perform studyWill the names and academic affiliations of the study chair and team be made public when they are appointed? Will the study team consist of a broad range of scientists from the physical sciences as well as life sciences, including chemical engineers, aerosol specialists, and analytical chemists?
  3. Chair and Committee – Conflict of interest (1) Will employment at a Battelle-managed lab constitute a disqualifying conflict of interest? Will any scientist who works for or at a lab managed by a corporation or other party that had virulent Ames be disqualified? Will any scientist who works for or at a lab managed by a corporation or other party supplied Ames by Bruce Ivins be disqualified?
  4. Chair and Committee – Conflict of interest (2) … One commenter on this CASE CLOSED blog points to a gathering arranged by the FBI and CIA at a resort in Naples, Florida … in which he says 40 biodefense or emerging disease scientists were paid to work full-time for 30 days from mid-June and mid-July 2008. Participation in the conference was kept confidential … it may even have been classified “secret.” … an FBI scientist presented the FBI’s Amerithrax genetics findings at the gathering. The government personnel socialized with the gathered scientists throughout the 30-day period and one purpose of the conference was so that their assistance could be recruited on such matters. Under NAS conflict of interest policy, will scientists who participated in that conference be allowed? If so, will those scientists be required to disclose that participation so that it can be taken into account by the public?
  5. Coordination with FBIWhat rights, if any, does the FBI have by contract to prohibit, delay or modify specific study tasks or the publication of study findings and conclusions? Is the FBI point person specified in the contract? Doesn’t NAS know who the FBI coordinator will be, or are you prohibited from releasing that information?
  6. Final ReportWill the report which is eventually released to the public be the complete report? Does the contract with the FBI allow them or anyone else to limit which portions of the report can be made public? Will all supporting findings be made public in addition to the conclusions based on those findings?
  7. Progress Reports … Has NAS issued progress reports in other studies? Is the absence of a progress report in this study the result of a specific provision of this contract with the FBI?
  8. Questions from the public … Will the study team be made available to answer the public’s and the media’s questions? Is the policy regarding public and media interaction in this study consistent with NAS policy in other studies or is it the result of specific provisions/restrictions in the contract for this study? Will NAS encourage agencies from whom it receives information to upload and make available to the public all relevant FOIA eligible documents of which NAS has become aware? Will NAS identify such relevant FOIA eligible documents, whether uploaded or not, as soon as it becomes aware of them?

Many other questions were proposed by readers and contributors to the CASE CLOSED blog. These additional questions are of a scientific rather than procedural nature. It will take longer to sort through the very substantial material submitted to the blog in the past several days and to summarize specific questions for the NAS from this material, but I will communicate again with you when this has been done.

Yours very truly,

Lewis M. Weinstein

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