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

* the CASE CLOSED blog keeps questioning the FBI’s anthrax case

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 26, 2009

WHY did the FBI fail to solve the 2001 anthrax case?CASE CLOSED

WHO had the power to divert the FBI from the truth?

CASE CLOSED offers a fictional scenario that answers those questions

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon

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the CASE CLOSED blog keeps questioning the FBI’s anthrax case

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Adam Behsudi wrote several stories about the anthrax case in today’s (7-26-09) FrederickNewsPost.com. The story excerpted below, headlined Anthrax Case: Amerithrax debate lives online, shows the important role our CASE CLOSED blog is continuing to play in raising relevant questions about the FBI’s anthrax investigation …

  • For the past year, government officials have remained quiet on the case accusing Fort Detrick scientist Bruce Ivins of the deadly anthrax letter attacks.
    • Not so on the Internet, where a handful of people have turned Amerithrax into an ongoing discussion.
    • … bloggers have been filing Freedom of Information Act requests and working sources just as any experienced reporter would.
  • “I think it’s kept it alive. Its provided a place for reporters and others to go from time to time and look for facts and opinions,” said Lew Weinstein, who wrote a fictional novel based on the Amerithrax case titled “CASE CLOSED.”
  • Weinstein said the facts, or what he perceives as a lack thereof, infuriated him to the point of writing CASE CLOSED. He maintains a blog with the same name, trying to debunk the FBI case against Ivins.
  • Weinstein, who splits his time between Key West, Fla., and Collioure, France, was once a congressional candidate, has degrees from Princeton and the Harvard Business School and retired in 2005 as the CEO of a biomedical research organization.
  • “I am amazed at the level of scientific discourse that’s taking place on the CASE CLOSED blog,” said Weinstein, who called from a trip he was taking with his wife to Lithuania. “This is not simply a crime story. There’s more to it than that,” he said.

read the entire article at … http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/news/display.htm?StoryID=93061

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6 Responses to “* the CASE CLOSED blog keeps questioning the FBI’s anthrax case”

  1. DXer said

    Here is the FoxNews report from March 2008 reporting on an email written by Bruce Ivins.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,342852,00.html
    FBI Focusing on ‘About Four’ Suspects in 2001 Anthrax Attacks

    Friday, March 28, 2008

    By Catherine Herridge and Ian McCaleb

    WASHINGTON — The FBI has narrowed its focus to “about four” suspects in the 6 1/2-year investigation of the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001, and at least three of those suspects are linked to the Army’s bioweapons research facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland, FOX News has learned.

    Among the pool of suspects are three scientists — a former deputy commander, a leading anthrax scientist and a microbiologist — linked to the research facility, known as USAMRIID.

    The FBI has collected writing samples from the three scientists in an effort to match them to the writer of anthrax-laced letters that were mailed to two U.S. senators and at least two news outlets in the fall of 2001, a law enforcement source confirmed.

    The anthrax attacks began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, further alarming a nation already reeling from the deaths of 3,000 Americans. Five people were killed and more than a dozen others were infected by the deadly spores in the fall of 2001.

    A leading theory is that the anthrax was stolen from Fort Detrick and then sealed inside the letters. A law enforcement source said the FBI is essentially engaged in a process of elimination.

    Much of the early public focus fell on a Fort Detrick scientist named Steven Hatfill, who is suing federal authorities for identifying him as a person of interest. Now the FBI is focusing on other scientists at the facility.

    “Fort Detrick is run by the United States Army. It’s the most secure biological warfare research center in the United States,” a bioterrorism expert told FOX News.

    Asked to comment on the likelihood that the anthrax originated at the facility, the expert said:

    “It’s not suprising, except that it would underscore that there was serious security deficiencies that existed at one time at Fort Detrick — the ability of researchers to smuggle out some type of very sophisticated anthrax weapon and in some quantity. And, nevertheless, it was possible.”

    In December 2001, an Army commander tried to dispel the possibility of a connection to Fort Detrick by taking the media on a rare tour of the base. The commander said the Army used only liquid anthrax, not powder, for its experiments.

    “I would say that it does not come from our stocks, because we do not use that dry material,” Maj. Gen. John Parker said. The letters that were mailed to the media and Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy all contained powdered anthrax.

    But in an e-mail obtained by FOX News, scientists at Fort Detrick openly discussed how the anthrax powder they were asked to analyze after the attacks was nearly identical to that made by one of their colleagues.

    “Then he said he had to look at a lot of samples that the FBI had prepared … to duplicate the letter material,” the e-mail reads. “Then the bombshell. He said that the best duplication of the material was the stuff made by [name redacted]. He said that it was almost exactly the same … his knees got shaky and he sputtered, ‘But I told the General we didn’t make spore powder!'”

    Asked for comment, an Army spokeswoman referred all calls to the FBI. The FBI would not comment about the pool of suspects, but a spokeswoman said the investigation clearly remains a priority.

  2. Ike Solem said

    Interesting article, but it ducks the obvious question – why aren’t the Washington Post, New York Times, and other national papers doing their job and covering the discrepancies between the FBI’s latest claims and the facts? Keep in mind as well that the initial FBI focus was on links between pharmaceutical firms that might aim to benefit from a health scare, as well – then, Hatfill was targeted.

    Almost from the first moment that Fort Detrick identified the nature of the Daschle anthrax, the FBI and the private biowarfare defense contractors have attempted to cover up the technically sophisticated nature of the Daschle-Leahy spores.

    The Battelle analysis claiming that the spore size was much larger than Detrick’s estimate was not valid, as they autoclaved their samples. The Sandia analysis claiming that the silica coating was due to growth media was not valid, as they ignored previous work by AFIP.

    The Daschle-Leahy powder appears to have been created via a kind of spray-drying process, in which anthrax spores are first purified as a liquid suspension, than mixed with a secret cocktail of chemicals and pumped through specialized drying equipment – the result being a dry powder that breaks down into individual spores when released into the atmosphere.

    Despite claims by various amateurs, anthrax spores do not do that naturally. Rather, they clump together in soil and grass, where they can persist for decades – the old Texas cattle trails are still places where anthrax survives in the soil.

    The letter powder instead looks to be something similar to the dried anthrax material produced by the Soviet biowarfare program and replicated at least once by the U.S., likely at either Dugway Utah or West Jefferson Ohio. In those cases, the spore preparation had been engineered for maximum dispersal and lung penetration characteristics, i.e. ‘weaponized’. Ivins simply did not have that capacity.

    As you might guess, doing this in a basement, or even an ordinary lab, would require a lot of unique and traceable equipment. Previous organized terrorist groups that attempted to use low-tech anthrax preparation failed and instead made chemical weapons, a simpler task (Aum Shinrikyo). Thus, the material (particularly that in the Daschle-Leahy letters) could only be produced by an organized large-scale government operation, and probably not even between the 7 days between 9/11 and 9/18, when the first set of letters was mailed.

    The strain in question, Ames, was widely used by anthrax vaccine makers as the ‘challenge strain’ and was apparently supplied to multiple locations by Fort Detrick. The ‘specific link’ to the famous Ivins flask could be a specific link to many other places, and apparently is identical to samples also found in Utah and Ohio (which, after all, came from Detrick) – and there are custody-of-sample issues involving the FBI to think about as well. None of it would have held up in court – Ivins would have been another Hatfill without his convenient suicide.

    The technical features of weaponized anthrax point towards theft of existing stockpiled material being the most logical conclusion – and there was no such stockpiled material at Fort Detrick. If you wanted to know who had such material, you’d have to ask the government agencies who were involved in contracting out the process in the late 1990s – the CIA and the DIA, in Project Clear Vision and Project Jefferson – part of the largely undiscussed U.S. biological threat assessment program, which involves making bioweapons in contravention of U.S. international biowarfare treaties “in order to understand how to defend against them.”

    Why not start epidemics as well, “in order to understand how to beat them?”

    Keep in mind, this was the worst bioterror attack to ever take place on U.S. soil, and the response involved channeling over $50 billion to the very institutions that created the menace in the first place – so that they could vastly expand their operations and facilities.

    Even now, the new HHS secretary is involved in a dispute between Kansas and Texas over who will get the latest gigantic biowarfare facility – and thanks to the intense lobbying of the pharma-health sector, that HHS secretary isn’t Daschle, but rather Sebelius, who vigorously defends such massive outlays for intrinsically dangerous ‘biodefense’ projects of very dubious value, for example:

    Sebelius defends NBAF site selection, April 2009

    The laboratory is expected to cost between $650 million and $725 million. “Kansas presented a credible pathway to jumpstart the NBAF’s critical research mission and committed funding to do so,” Sebelius said. “The Department of Homeland Security deserves commendation, not litigation, for their appropriately comprehensive, fair and unbiased selection process.”

    The GAO took a second look:
    GAO report backs concerns about infection lab, July 27 2009

    The Department of Homeland Security relied on a rushed, flawed study to justify its decision to locate a $700 million research facility for highly infectious pathogens in a tornado-prone section of Kansas, according to a government report.

    Not only is the whole program dangerous and likely to drive other countries towards expanding their own biowarfare programs, it’s a huge waste of money that could be spent on far better purposes.

    The fact is, a low-tech bioterror attack is likely to fail completely, and with a high-tech state-launched biowarfare attack – well, that’s only slightly less devastating than a nuclear attack, in reality. There isn’t any realistic defense against such things, any more than there is against full-scale nuclear missile warfare. If anything, public-health approaches (more emergency rooms, say) would make a far greater difference in the event than biowarfare research would.

    With biological warfare, the only real solutions are transparency and international cooperation, just as with nuclear warfare. Current approaches are not only expensive, but likely to do more harm than good.

    • DXer said

      Ali Al-Timimi’s eminent defense counsel, MSNB commentator and GWU Professor J. Turley, in a court filing unsealed last year said that his client was considered an anthrax weapons suspect. That was the year that FoxNews reported that the suspects had been narrowed to four — including a leading anthrax scientist and a former deputy USAMRIID Commander. Briefing in the Al-Timimi case is ongoing and subject to ex parte highly classified briefing which defense counsel and the judge’s clerk are not allowed to see. Does anyone know defense counsel’s view as to when Dr. Al-Timimi was no longer considered an anthrax suspect (if that is what he now thinks)? And who the leading anthrax scientist and the former deputy USAMRIID commander referenced by the Fox News report were? That report also reported on an email by Bruce Ivins to Patricia Fellows saying that the anthrax was closest to the dry product once made at Ft. Detrick by the FBI anthrax expert John Ezzell, who confirmed to me he made dry powdered anthrax in 1996 (that was gamma irradiated). In making its disclosures, is the FBI report going to delete the part about the closest anthrax being what had been made by their expert?

      • Ike Solem said

        “In making its disclosures, is the FBI report going to delete the part about the closest anthrax being what had been made by their expert?”

        For the record, the genesis of high-tech dry anthrax powder programs within the U.S.-British biodefense complex appears to be largely due to the defection of two Soviet biowarfare scientists, Pasechnik and Abelikov, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

        This led to a great deal of concern about the potential of such bioweapons. Alibekov was debriefed by several U.S. scientists with ties to the older biowarfare program:

        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bioterror/biow_alibek.html

        While you can argue about what the proper response to take was, what in fact was done was to expand the U.S. biological warfare/defense program, beginning in the mid-to-late 1990s.

        “What is immediately apparent is the phenomenal growth and breadth of the expanded biodefense program, a trend that began, as noted previously, during the Clinton administration. As the so-called Deutch Comission (named after former CIA director John Deutch) discovered when it reviewed the initial buildup in 1999, it is a daunting task to even trace the various funding components, not to mention analyzing the individual programs themselves. Calling it a “Gordonian knot,” the Deutch Commission found no fewer than ninety separate governmental agencies claiming some jurisdiction over the terrorist threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, including biological agents.” – Laura Reed & Seth Shulman, 2002

        As part of that process, dry anthrax powders were prepared at least several times, with Dugway or Jefferson being the sites where the work was done. Since it is classified, there is no knowledge of what strains of anthrax were used in this work – but it was probably with Ames derived from stored repositories at Fort Detrick – the same general Ames strain that is also used as the challenge strain for the traditional anthrax vaccine.

        For the details:
        U.S. Scientists Deplore Army’s Silence on Anthrax Program

        Rick Weiss Washington Post Service
        Saturday, December 15, 2001

        Several scientists and biological warfare experts say they were surprised by the revelation that a U.S. Army installation in Utah has been producing dried preparations of the Ames strain of the anthrax bacterium, the same strain found in letters to senators Thomas Daschle and Patrick Leahy.

        Most said they believed the research was justified for defense purposes. But several expressed dismay that the army had never mentioned the work publicly before Wednesday even as it spearheaded the biological and chemical analysis of the Senate letters for the FBI, a potential conflict of interest that some feared could harm the credibility of the investigation.

        So, that’s the basic point – the stuff was made in Ohio and Utah previously, not at Detrick.

        Since then, the funding for the biodefense program has shot up and spread out to a host of other agencies, including the DOE, DARPA, and Health and Human Services. For example, the new head of HHS, Karen Sebelius, has long been a vocal advocate for increased weapons-related research in Kansas:

        Sebelius signs bill to help land bio-defense facility
        Friday, March 28, 2008

        “This bill demonstrates that the NBAF continues to be our state’s top bioscience priority,” Sebelius said in a release. “The efforts to be the home of this facility have always been strengthened by our existing resources and broad support of the NBAF Task Force. We believe Kansas is the best home for the NBAF and this investment clearly demonstrates our commitment to this important homeland security issue.”

        This is probably the most high-profile ‘health issue’ that Sebelius has been involved in as Governor, and her appointment to HHS (instead of Daschle) seems to indicate a continuation of previous efforts. You even have an entrenched bureaucracy built up around the program now, as well as dozens of private firms that are almost entirely dependent on biowarfare-related contracts for their survival – truly, a mess.

        In particular, there appears to be an effort to hide the real scale of the program by splitting the funding up among multiple agencies. The new appointment to DHS, Tara O’Toole, is a very vocal advocate of biowarfare research (though she admits ‘threat assessment’ is a bad idea).

        At the very least, Congress needs to switch the funding away from bioweapons research and towards public health and basic epidemiology.

      • DXer said

        I agree, Ike. Well said.

        Pork-fueled proliferation just increases the opportunities of access by those dedicated to illicit use. If the Bush Administration had been forthcoming on the source of the anthrax, this might have been appreciated and the $50 billion spent on biodefense redirected toward basic public health and basic epidemiology. Richard Ebright has been great in pressing this theme.

  3. DXer said

    Justice Department Poised to Halt Anthrax Probe
    Doubt Remains as Officials Maintain Ivins Is Culprit
    by Jason Ditz, July 26, 2009

    Eight years into their probe of the 2001 anthrax letter killings, the Justice Department is poised to announce that it is closing the long, embarrassing case. Officials say the move could have come last week, but lawyers are still trying to decide how much information can be made public.

    Bruce Ivins

    The convoluted investigation included a massive lawsuit by initial suspect Steven Hatfill, who successfully sued the Justice Department for $5.8 million after officials identified him in the media as a “person of interest” in the investigation.

    Officials seem to have settled on the late Bruce Ivins as the culprit. Ivins, who committed suicide in 2008, has been publicly condemned, and prosecutors insist that they are confident his acted alone. Much skepticism remains, however, over the lack of concrete evidence. Plenty of questions are yet unanswered, and will likely remain so with the investigation coming to a halt.

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