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

Archive for August 4th, 2009

* DXer proposes … get those FOIA requests moving … and here’s how …

Posted by DXer on August 4, 2009

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DXer tells us all we need to know

about FOIA requests …

Former FBI agent/CIA lead WMD analyst Jennifer Smith was quite wonderful in her talk to the NAS panel.  She urged the NAS panel to press the FBI for documents.

Given the score of labs, both government and private, that helped the FBI, we should take Dr. Smith’s advice and press for documents.

We should then share the documents for efficiency’s sake and so as to avoid duplicative requests.

Perhaps the first request should be to the US DOJ to ask for a copy of all documents provided to the National Academies of Sciences.

LMW NOTE: In order to keep track, if you submit cc’s of your FOIA requests to the CASE CLOSED blog, I’ll figure out some way to keep them organized and updated.

Here is a list of US DOJ subcomponents to which FOI requests should be addressed.  It includes other agencies.

Here are instructions for submitting DARPA FOIA requests online.

Don’t overlook state FOI statutes.  There are many state universities where labs are located that are subject to state FOI statutes for which the FOI Form Letter generator will quickly make your FOI request shine by referencing the particular state statutory provisions.

Here is FOIA Form Letter Generator

Here is the electronic form for DOE HQ.

The email for the FOI officer for Sandia National Laboratories is

Here is the website where USAMRIID responses to date are located.
USAMRMC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Army has done an excellent job in making the processed documents available at a central location.  Despite pressing them for the documents currently not produced, they are demonstrating through their actions how the Freedom of Information Act should work and deserve praise for their hard and conscientious work.

Search costs are avoidable if as a non-media requester you commit to sharing the documents and making them generally available.  Under the federal statute, the first 100 pages are free.  Beyond that, there is the cost of copying.  But to date the fee has been waived given the public interest in the matter.

For more from Dxer, check out his web site at …

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* perhaps the NAS needs to pursue its mandate more broadly than the FBI wishes

Posted by DXer on August 4, 2009

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Dan Vergano writes in USA Today (8-3-09) …

  • “The committee will only review and assess the scientific information,” said Alice Gast of Lehigh University, head of the review panel. “We will offer no view on the guilt or innocence of any person or persons.”
  • US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor stated … The first evidence listed against Ivins was the genetically unique RMR-1029 flask of Ames strain anthrax spores, created and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins at USAMRIID.
  • “We thoroughly investigated every other person who could have had access to the flask, and we were able to rule out all but Dr. Ivins,” Taylor said.

read the entire article at …


The NAS, according to its contract with the FBI, is not permitted to render any view on the guilt or innocence of Dr. Bruce Ivins, who the FBI has charged (in a press conference, not a court of law) as the sole perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

But since there is no physical evidence linking Dr. Ivins to the crime and no witnesses against Dr. Ivins, the FBI’s entire case therefore rests on their conclusion that the attack anthrax came from flask RMR-1029, and that no other individual who had access to the contents of that flask, besides Dr. Ivins, could have been the perpetrator.

It is the primary task of the NAS to determine the validity of that conclusion.

Here are some questions I think the NAS should consider at the most detailed level …

  • How did the FBI determine that the attack anthrax had to come from flask RMR-1029, and was this a valid determination?
  • Was the process of identifying specific markers from the attack anthrax and linking these markers to the RMR-1029 flask in Ivins’ possession a valid process?
  • Was the science carried out in a manner that insured proper validation of the results?
  • Was the science uniformly applied to all of the samples tested?
  • Were all possible samples tested?
  • How many people had access to the contents of flask RMR-1029 and who were they?
  • How did the FBI determine who had access, was this a thorough and reliable process, and did any potential suspects remain off the list?
  • Did the FBI systematically account for the use of all RMR-1029 anthrax in the hands of all those who had it legitimately in order to assure that none was stolen or lost or in some other way passed into the hands of persons not on the primary list?
  • Were the inventory records and physical control procedures of all those who had legitimate access to RMR-1029 anthrax thoroughly checked and what did those checks reveal?
  • How exactly did the FBI eliminate each of the potential suspects other than Ivins?

The NAS should also pursue the rather obvious hints in the first two days’ testimony, all of which by the way came from FBI scientists who worked on the anthrax case, that suggest the answers to the above questions will not support the FBI’s conclusion regarding Ivins’ culpability …

  • we may have missed mutations
  • test methods may not have been validated before the test was applied to the evidence
  • there is a great likelihood of false positives and false negatives
  • there may not be a clear and provable chain of custody
  • samples may have been contaminated
  • did anything change as data moved? (that is a fascinating question; is the implication that there was accidental change in data due to sloppy handling, or purposeful change in data for some more sinister purpose?)
  • did intel needs override the protocols of science, thus invalidating any scientific conclusions based on hurriedly prepared, incomplete or otherwise inadequate protocols?
  • Brady material in use of the science by the FBI should be sought (suggesting that there is evidence in the FBI’s science that either supports  Dr. Ivins’ innocence or damages the FBI’s case against him)

On a more general level …

  • The NAS committee has already shown it recognizes the inextricable links between the science and the traditional investigative approaches; the committee needs to insist that it be allowed to explore those links thoroughly.
  • The NAS has the authority to get whatever materials it needs to pursue its tasks; it needs to exercise that authority broadly.
  • The NAS committee needs to resist being bullied by the FBI and needs to go in whatever directions their perceptive and inquiring minds point them
Dr. Bruce Ivins

Dr. Bruce Ivins


As I have stated before, I suspect that complete answers from the NAS will demonstrate clearly that the FBI has not made its case against Dr. Ivins.

Which will then lead to the questions of “why the FBI failed” that I raise in my novel CASE CLOSED.





* Dr. Bruce Ivins RMR-1029 inventory records, from 1997 to 2003, pursuant to a FOIA request

* USAMRIID RMR records – Dr. Bruce Ivins’ flask 1029 – two documents don’t match

* LMW: The end of the NAS trail, I suspect, will be that the FBI’s anthrax science was a mess that couldn’t convict Bruce Ivins or anyone else

* What does a novel have to do with the real anthrax case?


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