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

* tracking Dr. Ivins’ RMR-1029 anthrax; Dr. Hugh-Jones describes LSU subpoena response

Posted by DXer on June 29, 2009

why the FBI failed to solve the 2001 anthrax caseCASE CLOSED

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Dr. Bruce ivins

Dr. Bruce ivins


tracking Dr. Ivins’ RMR-1029 anthrax;

Dr. Hugh-Jones describes LSU subpoena response


Dr. Martin Hugh-Jones has responded to several questions regarding anthrax supplied by Dr. Bruce Ivns in connection with research done at Louisiana State University in 2001, indicating that there was no anthrax supplied by Dr. Ivins used in that research. Dr. Hugh Jones is Professor Emeritus, Department of Environmental Sciences, School of the Coast & Environment, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. We thank Dr. Hugh-Jones for his response, as follows …

Q: To which labs did Dr. Ivins ship the virulent Ames strains?

  • A: We obtained our Ames material from Porton, UK, labelled Asc 159. It had been in their collection for over 10 years.

Q: In which labs was research with the Ivins supplied anthrax done?

  • A: No idea.

Q: Was any sample supplied by Bruce Ivins still in existence at the time of the later subpoenas of Louisiana State University and University of Michigan?

  • A: n/a

Q: Who would have provided an isolate of that sample in response to any subpoena during the mid-October 2001 to February 2002 period?

  • A: Copies of the cultures requested in that subpoena were provided to the investigators.

8 Responses to “* tracking Dr. Ivins’ RMR-1029 anthrax; Dr. Hugh-Jones describes LSU subpoena response”

  1. DXer said

    What science is Dr. Hugh-Jones relying upon to point to the location of processing? Why does the science point to a location or likely location? Doesn’t it more basically point to access potentially to know-how? (as well as access to Ames). And isn’t know-how as easily transferred as scanned notes are emailed?

    Is it an example of American exceptionalism to think that others are not equally capable?

    The expert authors below explain the science.

    Microbial Forensics

    2011, Pages 15-25


    Microbial Forensic Investigation of the Anthrax-Letter Attacks (Chapter )

    Keim, P.S.a, Budowle, B.b, Ravel, J.c

    a Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics, Northern Arizona University and Pathogen Genomics, The Translational Genomics Research Institute, Flagstaff, AZ, United States
    b Institute of Investigative Genetics, Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX, United States
    c Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States

    View references (19)


    This chapter focuses on the microbial forensic investigations of the anthrax-letter attack in the United States in 2001. The anthrax-letter attack represented a defining moment that has dramatically shaped the biodefense infrastructure and research efforts. Spores of Bacillus anthracis contained in or on letters mailed from a New Jersey location infected 22 persons, killing 5. The responsible strain was identified as a laboratory strain that was used commonly for research and development of vaccines and therapeutics. The Federal Bureau of Investigation developed a strain repository of all known sources of the Ames strain. Distinctive morphological variants were observed among colonies grown from the spore-containing letters. DNA was isolated from each variant and then whole genome sequenced to identify the genetic basis for these phenotypes. Four polymerase chain reaction-based assays for detecting the four different variants were developed and then used to screen the Ames strain repository. Only cultures derived from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases spore stock RMR-1029 contained all four mutants associated with the morphological variants. The FBI concluded that the letter spores were derived from this source. The microbial forensics of the Amerithrax investigation relied heavily on genetics and comparative genomics to provide invaluable investigative leads, which suggested that (i) the strain of B. anthracis used in the attack was more likely obtained from a laboratory source than from the environment and (ii) that a B. anthracis spore preparation known as RMR1029 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, Maryland, was a potential source or at least a direct lineage source from which the spores in the letters originated. © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

  2. DXer said

    As I recall, Dr. Hugh-Jones/LSU was subpoenaed in late 2001 regarding access to Ames and the B3 there. I have suggested that the subpoena was limited to only the past two years. Dr. Hamouda, the fellow supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins who was taught by Heba Zawahiri, worked at LSU B3 lab prior to that window. Were documents about his research nonetheless provided to the FBI in 2001? I know the FBI was frequently calling in and there was full cooperation. In his patents, Dr. Hamouda thanked genetics expert Kimothy Smith, for the facilities at LSU — along with thanking Hugh-Jones and another scientist who had published Pat Fellows research as a chapter in her PhD thesis. The PF work was featured in the New York Times as potentially making a better bioweapon. As I recall, it involved cloning the virulence plasmids.

    Although I have had occasional contact with Dr. Hugh-Jones — most often to compliment him on the lucidity of these articles on the science — I have never felt comfortable asking questions about the research at LSU. I limited myself to having the blog bear down on the question whether the Ames there was matching — and was advised that it was not. But the records relating to the research are discoverable, I believe, under the state FOIA statute. If so, they should be obtained. In any event, Tarek was supplied Ames directly by Bruce Ivins (pursuant to the authorized DARPA research).

  3. DXer said

    GAO, Dr. Martin Hugh-Jones is available to answer the questions and provide documents to the extent the University of Michigan research was done at LSU.

  4. DXer said

    Tyson also reports on something many people may have forgotten: the anthrax attacks that occurred in the weeks after 9/11. He traces how scientists tracked the anthrax back to its apparent point of origin and identified the man most likely to have had some involvement.

    Alas, we may never know for sure, because he committed suicide.

  5. DXer said

    Maybe the initials relate to AVA info for CDC.

    On the third line I believe it says B97-05 which I believe refers to Vegetative cell/spore challenge in rabbits – Rabbits were immunized with AVA at 0 and 4 weeks, then challenged at 10 weeks subcutaneously with and LD99 of either Ames spores or Ames encapsulated, vegetative cells.

    Bruce Ivins wrote an email dated January 14, 2000 titled “AVA Info for CDC” in which he provides AVA vaccination info for an upcoming CDC meeting.

    Maybe rather than initials referring to initials or organizations, it is a similiar reference. One of his supervisors or someone else in the lab would know.

    As another example, B98-03 – involved a Challenge of rabbits with spores of highly virulent strains – Rabbits were immunized at 0 and 4 weeks, then aerosol challenged at 10 weeks with spores from one of 6 different B. anthracis strains (the equivalent of about 1,000 to 2,000 Ames spore LD50s).

    Total Survivors/Total Challenged

    One group was challenged subcutaneously with the equivalent of 1,000 Ames LD50s (Zimbabwe strain).

  6. DXer said

    To promote efficiency and avoid responding to duplicative requests, the excellent FOI person is making inquiries about making arrangement to make generally available the megabytes and megabytes of information gathered for various ongoing productions to Frederick News-Post reporter Jason Polk, NYT Scott Shane, journalist David Willman, the USA Today etc. To include anything ever produced about the anthrax breach or anthrax investigation. If he succeeds, I can forward it to anyone who likes and Lew can highlight material portions. One document of key interest will be USAMRIID Lab Notebook 4010. He says the (b)(6) redactions on the flask 1029 record are initials. He says there is a long queue for appeals (6-7 months) heard by the OGC. We owe a great debt to the folks at Frederick News-Post and other requestors who view FOI as a marathon, not a sprint, and have been running the race now for a long time. The News-Post coverage has been particularly good and their editor is to be commended for letting a journalist make it a priority.

    • BugMaster said

      Initials of what, people or locations? I am assuming the (b)(6) redactions would remain for initials of individuals, but would not be appropriate for initials or abbreviations of companies and institutions.

      • DXer said

        He didn’t say beyond using the word “initials” and I didn’t ask. We got talking about the Oswego Harborfest and I got distracted.

        They have sent many megabytes of documents in the last hour or two and will continue to make productions on an ongoing basis. Whoever would like a copies emailed, let me know.

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