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

* the FBI is found to have withheld evidence in a Boston case … it happens a lot in America … is it happening in the FBI case against Dr. Bruce Ivins?

Posted by DXer on August 28, 2009

CASE CLOSEDCASE CLOSED is a novel which answers the question “Why did the FBI fail to solve the 2001 anthrax case?” … click here to … buy CASE CLOSED by Lew Weinstein

Here’s what readers say about CASE CLOSED  …

“CASE CLOSED takes headline events and weaves a credible scenario around the anthrax scare and government departments working under the radar.”

“As the facts develop, and the characters weigh in, CASE CLOSED becomes an engaging and thought provoking ride that you will want to stay on until you know the truth.”

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the FBI is found to have withheld evidence in a Boston case

… it happens a lot in America

… is it happening in the FBI case against Dr. Bruce Ivins?

There has been a lot of discussion on this blog recently about whether the FBI had a case against Dr. Bruce Ivins. Some participants seem to think that just because the FBI says it has a case, it actually does. Anyone who accepts that premise is obviously not familiar with the substantial record of not guilty verdicts and false convictions caused by prosecutor or police abuse.

The novel I wrote before CASE CLOSED, titled A GOOD CONVICTION, deals with the case of a young man in Sing Sing prison, convicted of a murder by a NYC prosecutor who knew he didn’t commit the crime and withheld evidence from the defense that would have proven his innocence.

What I wrote in A GOOD CONVICTION was fiction, but unfortunately, it happens for real every day in America.

And until the FBI comes clean in the anthrax case, the suspicion must remain high that this is exactly what is happening in the FBI’s case against Dr. Bruce Ivins.

Here’s a case in point (By AP writer Rodrique Ngowi) …

  • BOSTON, Aug 27, 2009—A federal appeals court has upheld a $101.7 million judgment against the government for withholding evidence that could have cleared four men men who spent decades in prison, including two who died there for a murder they didn’t commit. The Justice Department had appealed the 2007 award by a federal judge who found Boston FBI agents protecting informants withheld evidence they knew could prove the men were not involved in a 1965 killing. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday acknowledged the award was high, but said it was appropriate for the harm suffered. Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone were freed in 2001 after three decades in prison. Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco died in prison. A Justice Department spokesman declined immediate comment.

False convictions due to prosecutor/police/FBI misconduct happen all the time. Multi-million dollar awards like this are very rare, although more now than before.

What almost never happens is criminal prosecution of the prosecutors/police officers/FBI agents who knowingly and purposely break the law to get a conviction. If that happened more often, it would discourage such illegal behavior and go a long way toward improving our justice system.

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A Good Conviction is a novel, written by Lew Weinstein, about a young man convicted of murder by a NYC prosecutor A GOOD CONVICTIONwho knew he was innocent.

A reader comment about A Good Conviction

This gripping story demonstrates how one’s life can take a 180 degree turn in a moment. Weinstein is a great story teller and this is a very well crafted story.”

click here to … * buy A GOOD CONVICTION by Lew Weinstein

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7 Responses to “* the FBI is found to have withheld evidence in a Boston case … it happens a lot in America … is it happening in the FBI case against Dr. Bruce Ivins?”

  1. DXer said

    “Officials in the Department of Health and Human Services complained that the FBI had not passed along its finding that the Daschle sample was more lethal than first thought. Of the known forms of anthrax, the highly toxic one called the Ames strain was the culprit. … That the government agency most responsible for public health was kept in the dark, intentionally or not, demonstrated precisely what I faced in my new office. If I couldn’t get agencies to work together, the new Office of Homeland Security couldn’t possibly carry out its mission.

    In response to the interagency charges of secrecy and the lack of coordinated public messaging I called a late-night White House meeting of all relevant agencies.

    I heard that Secretary Thompson was complaining about the lack of cooperation with the FBI. The White House was clearly displeased with the lack of a coordinated public message. By 8:00 P.M., the principals of every federal department were seated in the Roosevelt Room. It was both astonishing and reassuring to see the postmaster general, the FBI director, the secretary of health and human services, the attorney general, and others at the same table on an couple of hours’ notice.

    Jack Potter, with whom I was having almost daily conversations, had thousands of postal employees and millions of customers at risk. Robert Mueller and George Tenet were scrambling to identify the source.”

  2. Ike Solem said

    I wouldn’t forget about the fact that much of the forensic evidence that the FBI relied on was generated by private contractors, not by the FBI laboratories themselves, which apparently lack the necessary expertise. Because of that lack of expertise, the FBI relied on the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick for analysis of bioterrorism events (which actually can be hard to distinguish from naturally occurring disease outbreaks). This was per the bioterror response protocols set up in the 1990s, which also involved coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

    However, much of the reported FBI evidence about the quality of the spore preparation does not come from these agencies, but rather from a handful of labs run by private contractors – for example, the claim that the Daschle anthrax was not highly aerosolized came from Battelle Memorial in West Jefferson, who also happened to be the contractor on the biological threat assessment projects ordered by the CIA and DIA (Clear Vision and Jefferson). For some reason, the FBI sought a second opinion from BMI within a few days after Fort Detrick scientists reported that the spores were highly weaponized.

    Similar issues arise with the comparison of silica results between AFIP and the Lockheed-managed Sandia National Labs.

    What the FBI really has to explain is why it chose to rely on only the private contractors, rather than on the established procedures. The most logical explanation is that this was done because it drew attention away from the U.S. biodefense establishment and allowed ‘lone wolf’ theories to be floated, i.e. the Steven Hatfill witch hunt, followed by the Bruce Ivins witch hunt.

    Similar issues arise with the genetic analysis of the spores in the letters and in the flask. Here, the FBI has distorted the evidence by trying to claim that a given flask of spores has a “unique fingerprint”, that can be traced in the same way as human DNA evidence. This is not true, since the contents of said flask were widely dispersed to biodefense agencies and anthrax vaccine manufacturers, and the flask was present in the environment where the aerosolized spores themselves were being analyzed.

    Even the collection of evidence raises questions – for example, why did it take so long to analyze all the swabs from the initial investigation? It wasn’t until August 2002 that the Princeton mailbox was identified as the point that the Daschle and Leahy letters had been mailed from – and remarkably, that was also the time that the FBI team was replaced by one lead by Richard Lambert, who focused on Steven Hatfill and Fort Detrick, while ignoring Battelle and Dugway – both of whom were heavily involved in biological threat assessment programs.

    I think that the FBI was probably acting in large part to protect the biodefense-biotechnology industry, which has indeed profited handsomely since the anthrax letters were mailed. Some years ago I recall watching the movie “The Insider” about the tobacco industry, and the FBI’s behavior in that case seems similar to this one – completely unwilling to upset powerful political interests who might attack their funding.

    The most plausible explanation for events is that there was an internal struggle within the FBI over whether to investigate the U.S. biological threat assessment program in depth or not, c.2001-2002, and (likely due to external political factors) the head honchos decided to go with the “low-tech lone wolf” theory – for the same kind of reasons that they were previously unwilling to aggressively investigate the tobacco industry.

    The fact that Fort Detrick was shut down and searched, while Jefferson and Dugway were not, is also illustrative. Detrick was not involved in biological threat assessment, unlike the others – indeed, Detrick had earlier rejected such proposals because they violated the BWC.

    It likely came down to a choice between solving the crime and embarrassing the entire U.S. ‘biodefense’ program – and with billions of dollars in Project Bioshield & BARDA funding at stake, one can only imagine the political pressures brought to bear.

    • DXer said

      Dozens of people were polygraphed at Dugway and Battelle. Ike’s suggestion that Battelle and Dugway were ignored — whether early or years later — is not supported by anything in the record and, for example, is belied by the experience of Perry Miksell, to take an example.

      The reason to turn to experts at places like Sandia is because that is where the expensive equipment and specialized expertise was found. Without knowing the field, one can appreciate that the researchers there were doing cutting-edge and important work.

      Same as to genetics. There seems no basis to fault the FBI for turning to outside experts. Now the devil may lie in the details, to be sure. But in broad outline there seems no basis to say that Battelle and Dugway were ignored or that it was wrong to turn to top experts.

      Ike writes: “For some reason, the FBI sought a second opinion from BMI within a few days after Fort Detrick scientists reported that the spores were highly weaponized.” Do you really question why the FBI would seek a second opinion? A second opinion from the military’s biodefense experts? (who, yes, are contractors).

    • DXer said

      In April 2007, the FBI sent Ivins a letter saying he was “not a target of the investigation” and said it was investigating 42 people who had access to RMR-1029 at the Battelle labs in Ohio, Kemp said. That is hardly ignoring Battelle.

  3. DXer said

    In Amerithrax, the US DOJ/FBI has actively interfered with the FOI production, preventing the disclosure of Dr. Ivins September and October 2001 emails, the Log Notebook 4010, the record relating to flask 1030 etc.

    Is the US DOJ creating grounds for a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress by its interference (provable through documentary evidence) in the USAMRIID FOIA production?

    Mass. court OKs $102M wrongful-conviction award
    By RODRIQUE NGOWI (AP) – 11 hours ago
    BOSTON — A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a $102 million judgment against the government for withholding evidence that could have cleared four men who spent decades in prison — including two who died there — for a murder they didn’t commit.
    Joseph Salvati, Peter Limone and the families of Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco sued the federal government for malicious prosecution after U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner ruled in July 2007 that Boston FBI agents withheld evidence they knew could prove the men weren’t involved in the 1965 killing of Edward “Teddy” Deegan, a small-time hoodlum who was shot in an alley.
    “While we reject its finding that the government is liable for malicious prosecution, we uphold the court’s alternate finding that the government is liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress,” the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said on Thursday

    ***
    The district court judge said FBI agents were trying to protect informants when they encouraged a witness to lie, then withheld evidence they knew could prove Limone and the three other men weren’t involved in the Deegan killing.
    She said Boston FBI agents knew mob hitman Joseph “The Animal” Barboza lied when he named Limone, Salvati, Tameleo and Greco as the killers. She said the FBI considered the four “collateral damage” in its war against the Mafia, the bureau’s top priority in the 1960s.
    A state judge found two Boston FBI agents had allowed Barboza to frame the men because Barboza and his friend Vincent “Jimmy” Flemmi, one of Deegan’s killers, were FBI informants who provided evidence in the agency’s highly publicized war against La Cosa Nostra.”
    Limone and Salvati were exonerated after FBI memos dating back to the Deegan case surfaced.”

  4. DXer said

    I think Lew makes valid points.

    I would just note that this crime seems a terribly difficult to solve and therefore any failure to solve it may be due to the fact that it is hard to solve.

    http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-cameron-ireland-innocence.artaug23,0,5784721.story
    DAVID R. CAMERON
    Exonerated Men Not the Only People Who Were Wrongly Convicted

    Kenneth Ireland walked out of the New Haven Superior Courthouse on Wednesday a free man for the first time since his arrest in 1988 for the rape and murder of Barbara Pelkey. A 30-year-old mother of four, Pelkey was attacked and beaten to death while working alone one night in September 1986 in a Wallingford office.

    Ireland was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to 50 years in prison. The charges were dismissed after new DNA tests arranged by the Connecticut Innocence Project and the New Haven state’s attorney’s office proved he didn’t commit the crime.

    Ireland’s exoneration, coupled with those of James Tillman in 2006 and Miguel Roman in April, highlights the need to search for those who were wrongfully convicted and incarcerated in an era when DNA technology was much less sophisticated and there was little awareness of the causes of wrongful convictions.

    Tillman was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to 45 years for sexual assault and kidnapping after a woman indentified him as the man who jumped her in Hartford one evening in January 1988 as she got into her car, drove it a short distance and raped her. He was exonerated when new tests proved he wasn’t the source of the DNA found on the woman’s clothing, something the earlier, less precise DNA tests couldn’t prove. The new tests revealed the DNA came from a man who bears a striking resemblance to Tillman. That man was arrested last year and awaits trial.

    The New York-based Innocence Project, which works for the exoneration of the wrongfully convicted through DNA, reports that eyewitness misidentifications are the most frequent cause of such convictions. Misidentifications occurred in 77 percent of the first 225 wrongful convictions for which there were exonerations by DNA.

    Roman was convicted in 1990 and sentenced to 60 years for the murder of 17-year-old Carmen Lopez in January 1988. An FBIanalyst testified that DNA found in her body did not match his. But rather than drawing the obvious inference, the prosecutor theorized it came from someone consensually and used the testimony of a jailhouse snitch to convict Roman. Last year, new tests matched the DNA with a New Britain man who now awaits trial for the murders of Lopez and 13-year-old Myra Cruz and the disappearance and presumed murder of another young woman.

    The Innocence Project reports that in more than 15 percent of the first 225 wrongful convictions that were thrown out after new DNA tests, prosecutors relied on an informant or jailhouse snitch.

    Ireland was convicted largely on the testimony of a man and a woman. They said Ireland and another man told them shortly after the crime that they, with a third man, beat Pelkey to death. The recent DNA tests not only proved Ireland’s innocence but also ruled out the other two men implicated by the witnesses.

    In an initial analysis of the causes of wrongful convictions, the Innocence Project found that false witness testimony has figured in roughly 20 percent of the cases.

    Tillman, Roman and Ireland may not be the only people wrongfully convicted in 1980s and 1990s. In 1992, for example, Richard Lapointe, who is mentally disabled, was convicted and sentenced to life without parole for the rape and murder of 88-year-old Bernice Martin, his then-wife’s grandmother, largely on the basis of a 9½-hour interrogation in which he confessed three times, although the confessions contradicted each other and in some cases the evidence.

    The Innocence Project reports that in almost one-quarter of the first 225 wrongful convictions for which there was an exoneration through DNA there was a false confession — either fabricated by police or voluntary.

    Tillman, Roman, Ireland and Lapointe were convicted for different reasons. But they were all convicted for crimes committed in the late 1980s, when DNA testing was rudimentary and there was little understanding of the causes of wrongful convictions. Working with the Connecticut Innocence Project, the chief state’s attorney’s office should initiate a comprehensive statewide program to retest relevant evidence, using the latest DNA technology, in the most serious crimes committed in the 1980s and early 1990s for which convictions were obtained and in which there is or may be DNA evidence.

    •David R. Cameron is a professor of political science at Yale University.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      It is indeed difficult to get honest convictions. The police, FBI and prosecutors have a tough job, and sometimes our misguided laws make things harder than they should be. Having said that, however, does not justify convicting someone by withholding or inventing evidence, even if the authorities honestly believe the person is guilty. That’s criminal behavior by those charged with upholding justice, and it should be rooted out and punished.

      Think about it. If the most miserable crook can be convicted of a crime by a prosecutor who knows he can’t prove his case or that the person is truly innocent, who among us is safe? The essence of a free society is free speech and the rule of law. Take those away and we have nothing. When those charged with running the justice system run it in a corrupt manner, they undermine the freedom of all of us.

      If the FBI charged Dr. Bruce Ivins as the SOLE perpetrator of the anthrax attacks when they knew they couldn’t prove the case, or even worse knew that he wasn’t guilty at all, that would be a terrible blow to all of us, not just Dr. Ivins. When the FBI made their August 2008 announcement, charging a dead man with mass murder, the burden of proof shifted to them, and so far they have failed to sustain that burden. They should admit they were wrong, and continue the investigation, or close the case and release the documents. To do neither leaves them in a very bad place.

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