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

* Congressman Rush Holt meets with NAS panel, says their work is important but their mandate is too narrow; calls for passage of Anthrax Investigation Commission legislation he introduced in March 09

Posted by DXer on July 31, 2009

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Congressman Holt

Congressman Holt

Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today met with a committee of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) and asked them to conduct a thorough, wide-ranging investigation of the FBI’s scientific methods in response to the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Holt has consistently raised questions about the federal investigation into the attacks.

Earlier this year, Holt introduced the Anthrax Attacks Investigation Act of 2009, legislation that would establish a Congressional commission to investigate the attacks and the federal government’s response to and investigation of the attacks. The bipartisan commission would make recommendations to the President and Congress on how the country can best prevent and respond to any future bioterrorism attack.

“Simply stated, our government – and specifically, the FBI – suffers from a credibility gap on this issue,” Holt said.

“Answering all the doubts and questions about the handling of this case is beyond the purview of this panel, which is why I’ve introduced legislation that would create a national commission to ‘investigate the investigation.’

In the meantime, this (NAS) panel has an opportunity to answer some of the key questions that I and so many other Americans have about the science behind the FBI’s investigation.”

Holt reiterated his belief that the questions posed by the FBI in calling for an independent review were narrowly focused and do not test the FBI’s conclusions in the case.

In a previous letter to the NAS, Holt listed a number of questions he recommended be answered as part of review of the Bureau’s scientific methods and conclusions in the Amerithrax case, including its assertion that the spores used in the attacks could only have come from the flask used by Dr. Bruce Ivins, the Army biological warfare researcher who committed suicide shortly before the FBI planned to charge him as the perpetrator of the attacks.

“Collectively, my questions are designed to determine whether the FBI has taken every opportunity to challenge their hypothesis rather than pursuing reasoning and collection of evidence intended to confirm their hypothesis,” Holt said.

see related post * LMW: The end of the NAS trail, I suspect, will be that the FBI’s anthrax science was a mess that couldn’t convict anyone


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7 Responses to “* Congressman Rush Holt meets with NAS panel, says their work is important but their mandate is too narrow; calls for passage of Anthrax Investigation Commission legislation he introduced in March 09”

  1. DXer said
    Science panel wraps up second day of anthrax investigation probe
    Originally published July 31, 2009, 6:19 PM July 31, 2009

    By Adam Behsudi
    News-Post Staff

    WASHINGTON — A panel of experts convened for a second day on Friday to probe the scientific process used by the FBI to identify used to identify the anthrax used in the deadly, 2001 mailings.

    The meeting featured presentations from three experts who worked on the case. Scientific methods were explained, and the 15-member panel was asked to use the study as a means to prepare for future attacks. A lawmaker also addressed the group, criticizing the FBI’s handling of the country’s first, widespread bioterrorism event.

    “If the technical and scientific procedures are as flawed as the non-technical procedures, they certainly deserve a look,” said Rep. Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat from whose district the letters were mailed.

    Holt said the study sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences would be useful for answering some key questions but too narrow in scope.

    “Simply stated, the government suffers from a credibility gap on this issue,” he said.

    The FBI has not yet formally closed the case.

    For more on this story read Saturday’s edition of The Frederick News-Post.

  2. BugMaster said

    “Collectively, my questions are designed to determine whether the FBI has taken every opportunity to challenge their hypothesis rather than pursuing reasoning and collection of evidence intended to confirm their hypothesis,” Holt said.

    Good advice. We should constantly be challenging our hypothesis, especially when new information comes out, rather than immediately fitting the new information to confirm our hypothesis.

    • DXer said

      What are the implications of the findings detection by Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (“AFIP”) AFIP’s of silicon and oxygen and conclusion it was silica?

      The FBIh as made it clear that the silica detected by the AFIP was not an additive used for the purpose of weaponization. A couple years ago, I gave the press a copy of the article I got from the FBI lab scientist in an attempt to resolve the debate as to silica as an additive once and for all. While the press just focused on the fact that there was no “additive,” does the AFIP conclusion that silica was strongly indicated shed critical light on the investigation of the anthrax mailings in the Fall of 2001? The surface of the anthrax spores showed silicon and oxygen on the EDX and General Parker, head of USAMRIID, reported that silica was detected (though at the time he stated that they did not know the reason). Assuming for the sake of argument it was silica as officially reported by the AFIP, why?

      Hypothesis #1:

      It related to the DARPA-funded patent filed March 14, 2001 by the leading anthrax scientist and deputy USAMRIID relating to use of silica in the culture medium to concentrate anthrax. At one point, they both were about 15 feet from the man described by his lawyer as the FBI’s “anthrax weapons suspect.”

      Hypothesis #2:

      Use of sol-gel as a drying agent. Russian bioweaponeer Ken Alibek has explained that: “There is an old microbiology or chemical technique to dry out some stuff.  Actually it involves silica gel. That’s what you need to keep in mind.  Because, if you remember when you buy shoes what you got inside shoes is silica gel. So, you got silica gel. It was put in there for a specific purpose – to remove moisture.”

      Hypothesis #3:
           In 2003, I had speculated that the silica on the spore surface was due instead to a silicone sealant spray on the inside of the envelope (rather than as a coating). The standard manual instructions on poison letters advise using such a spray or sealant so as to avoid killing the mailman. In “Target: Terrorism: Look at Al Qaeda’s Dreadful Recipe Book,” CNN on November 15, 2001 quoted the manual: “Write a letter to the victim mentioning very exciting and very interesting news.” Wipe the envelope from the inside with silicone sealant”) The FBI seized a Gatorade bottle filled with glue in its first search in November 2001) The owner of the home searched said: “Then they took away our Elmer’s glue for testing. I told them, ‘You’ve been surveilling this house for weeks, and this is what you do?”

      Hypothesis #4:
           But in the event a silicone sealant is not the reason, then as an alternative hypothesis perhaps the FBI is looking for someone coming from some place with very high levels of silica in the water. Water is used both in culturing the anthrax spores and can be used in purifying them. Silicon does not occur as a free element in nature, but it occurs as silicates and silicon dioxide. Silica, like arsenic, is found in the makeup of water from regions of high volcanic activity. Parts of California, New Mexico, Mexico, and other regions contain silica concentrations in excess of 30 mg/L.
           The Senior Scientist, Directorate of Science and Technology, Central Intelligence Agency, has been one of those involved in determining whether stable isotopes of elements in the water used as a culture medium can identify the geographic origin or water used in culturing the anthrax used in the mailings. The published journal articles indicates that the CIA funded the research. “Stable isotope ratios as a tool in microbial forensics–Part 1. Microbial isotopic composition as a function of growth medium.” “Stable isotope ratios as a tool in microbial forensics: Part 2. Isotopic variation among different growth media as a tool for sourcing origins of bacterial cells or spores”; “Stable isotope ratios as a tool in microbial forensics–part 3. Effect of culturing on agar-containing growth media.” Coincidentally, I recently tested a number of Russian mineral waters and elsewhere associated with geothermal springs that had very high TDS (or Total Dissolved Solids).
          As one possible solution to the Amerithrax puzzle, the Balkans have extremely high levels. the US-based Al Qaeda operative Elzahabi came from the Balkans to the Twin Cities where Zacarias Moussaoui was located in mid-August 2001. He lived at a house in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota that also served as a mosque. He should be asked if he brought anthrax that had been cultured in water with high silica content.
          In 1998, Al Qaeda operative Zubaydah had asked Elzahabi, who was living in New York City at the time, to come to Khalden camp to act as a trainer. Elzahabi was a former Boston cab driver who had been investigated for a possible connection to 9/11. (“FBI probes ‘sleeper cell’ possibiliity: Investigation of ex-Boston cabdriver extends to 9/11,” Boston Globe, June 27, 2004) Elzahabi knew both Zarqawi and Khalid Mohammed from years together in Afghanistan. Instead of going to Khalden in Afghanistan (where Ayman Zawahiri was involved in his quest to recruit scientists to develop biological weapons), Elzahabi evemtually went to fight with Ibn Khattab, an Arab leader fighting in Chechnya. Khattab was a close friend of Bin Laden’s and has been intimately involved in Al Qaeda’s plans to weaponize biological agents since 1998 according to intelligence provided at the time by a foreign government. (Ibn Khattab himself was killed by a poison letter in 2002).
          Elzahabi was arrested in 2004 after months (if not more likely years) of surveillance, to include both electronic surveillance and “trashing” of the house near the University where he and housemate lived. Communications with Elzahabi now are not possible. Proceedings in the case is classified — any lawyer involved, for example, has to go through a national security check thus greatly slowing the matter.
           According to what investigators tell NBC, however, the hypothesis that the anthrax was made abroad has been rejected by the FBI. A study of the water shows that the water came not from a foreign source, but from the Northeastern United States. See NBC NIGHTLY NEWS, NBC TV, 7 PM, October 5, 2006 reported: “Investigators tell NBC News that the water used to make them came from a northeastern U.S., not a foreign, source.”

      Hypothesis #5:
           If the silica detected by AFIP is due to some other sort of lab contamination generally, lots of things contain silica that may have leached, put the hypothesis I would have drawn Jennifer Smith’s attention to based on investigative facts is rice hull ash.

      Hypothesis #6
          For example, the example cited in a November FBI 2001 memo was leaching from glassware, presumably they mean silanized glassware.

      Hypothesis #7
      Antifoaming agent (e.g., aerogel) in a dual-nozzle mini-spraydryer

      Hypothesis #8
      Antifoaming agent in a fermenter.

      Hypothesis #9
      Advancement on method used to dampen vander waals forces by whereby silica nanoparticles go inside.

      • DXer said

        #10 FBI anthrax scientist John Ezzell made dry powdered anthrax at Ft. Detrick for DARPA. In 1996, he provided gamma irradiated Ames to Edgewood in a Soil Suspension #1 and Soil Suspension 2. The product perhaps used this know-how or was stolen from subsequent follow-up research.

  3. DXer said

    “speakers included…retired FBI Special Agent Jennifer Smith, who urged the panel to “continue to probe” and push the FBI to release all the relevant documentation.”

    Anthrax investigation probe underway – July 31, 2009

    FBI: You can start by please let the hardworking US Army FOI personnel comply with the Freedom of Information Act statute. Stop intermeddling with the production, delaying it and shaping it in ways that go beyond the stated exemptions from production.

    Please allow them to send the AFIP report, the 1030 flask record, the Log Notebook 4010, and the September and October 2001 emails without further delay.

    The Infiltration of US Biodefense

  4. DXer said

    Here is a link to the NAS boradcast.

  5. DXer said

    There are a wide range of non-microbial issues that should be addressed.

    For example, why did the investigators want the human DNA? This should be disclosed. We know it was not a match with the DNA of the hair in the mailbox.

    There has not been any report that fiber matched what was collected at Ivins residence or vehicles.

    In support of a search in support of its theory that Ivins was the culprit, the FBI stated:

    “Forensic analysis of the tape attached to the four envelopes has identified eight different types of fiber attached to the tape: black cotton, black wool, black nylon, brown polyester, blue wool, yellow acrylic, red cotton, and red acrylic.”

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