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

* the NAS needs to explain its decision to sequester FBI-submitted documents in apparent violation of FOIA law

Posted by DXer on September 18, 2009


click here to … buy CASE CLOSED by Lew Weinstein

one reader says …

“The whole Anthrax episode is unquestionably a dark moment in American history.

But what makes it fascinating is how it was handled (or should I say mishandled) by the administration and the various agencies involved.

CASE CLOSED is a must read for anyone who wondered … what really happened? … Who did it? … why?” … and finally, why didn’t they tell us the truth?”


NAS needs to explain its decision to sequester FBI-submitted documents in apparent violation of FOIA law

It is now over a week since my email to NAS asking for the specific legal authority they are citing to permit them to sequester FBI-submitted documents until the end of their study (perhaps 17 months from now). I have received no response, which is unusual since all of my other emails were answered almost immediately.

Accordingly, I sent the following email to NAS today … BILL … I wonder if you could let me know the status of any response to my 9/10/09 email. Are you in the process of preparing a response? When can I expect to receive a response? … LEW

Here’s the essence of the email I sent to the NAS on 9/10/09 …

  • You say that much of the FBI material is exempt from release under the FOIA law, but you do not cite the specific legal authority under which such exemptions are claimed.
  • It is my understanding that there are several reasons for possible exemption from release. Which reasons do you specifically cite for each category of FBI material you claim is exempt?
  • Also … I note that you say “much” of the FBI material is exempt, which means that some is not exempt.
  • Could you please advise which FBI material you believe is not exempt, and how the non-exempt FBI material differs from the FBI material which you say is exempt?
  • Finally, how does one go about requesting the FBI material which you say is not exempt?

It is hard to avoid concluding that the FBI is engaged in a very conscious effort to restrict information about its Amerithrax investigation. Here’s a brief review of the known chronology …

  • September & October 2001 … anthrax letters were mailed; 5 people died, 17 others were infected, an attempt was made to murder Congressman Daschle and Senator Leahy.
  • August 8, 2008 … after a 7 year investigation, the FBI announced that Dr. Bruce Ivins (recently deceased) was the SOLE PERPETRATOR of the 2001 anthrax attacks, and that, after completing a few administrative details, they would close the case.
  • August 2009 … the FBI announced it was “on the verge” of closing the Amerithrax case.
  • September 2009 … the FBI refused to answer my questions as to whether the Amerithrax investigation is still ongoing.
  • September 2009 … the NAS stated (in an email to me) that, by terms of its undisclosed contract with the FBI, most materials submitted by the FBI will not be subject to FOIA requests until the conclusion of their review.
  • September 17, 2009Senator Charles Grassley called the FBI refusal to answer his questions as “beyond unacceptable,” asked if the FBI has “something to hide.”

What might the FBI have to hide?

  • If the FBI is still investigating the Amerithrax case, then that suggests they no longer believe Dr. Bruce Ivins was the SOLE PERPETRATOR, an admission that would open serious questions as to why they said so in the first place.
  • If Dr. Ivins was indeed the SOLE PERPETRATOR, what else is there to investigate?
  • If the FBI is not still investigating the Amerithrax case, but yet has not officially closed the case, what are they waiting for?
  • One possible (likely?) answer is that once the case is officially closed, many investigative documents will become available under the FOIA law.

What’s going on between the FBI and the NAS?

  • What sort of arrangement did the FBI impose on the NAS regarding documents the FBI has and will turn over to the NAS during the course of the NAS review of the FBI’s anthrax science?
  • The NAS has said (in an email to me) that they will turn over the FBI submitted documents at the conclusion of their review.
  • DXer asserts (in a prior comment on this blog) that the FOIA law does not provide for such delayed disclosure, that if the documents are subject to FOIA requests at the end of the study, they must be subject to such requests now.
  • Will the NAS make available the FBI-submitted material it said (in the email to me) was not subject to any FOIA exemption?
  • Why hasn’t the NAS cited the specific FOIA exemptions it claims apply to the FBI submitted material?
  • And, if there are such exemptions, by what provision of the FOIA law do the exemptions apply now but not at the end of the review period?

America needs Congressman Holt’s Anthrax Review Commission

Congressman Rush Holt has submitted legislation for an Anthrax Review Commission to look into what really happened in the attacks and what the FBI has been doing for the past eight years to solve the case. That legislation, which still sits in the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Congressman Conyers, needs to become law. And the questions raised above about the FBI/NAS relationship need to be added to the inquiry agenda.

12 Responses to “* the NAS needs to explain its decision to sequester FBI-submitted documents in apparent violation of FOIA law”

  1. DXer said

    As I recall, James (who is great and highly intelligent) was the lead (only, I believe) analyst for the DIA on anthrax. I was in frequent contact with him until about August 2003 sharing information about news articles on the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information System (“FBIS”) system and other public domain “open source” information. One of the reasons he applied for the job with the DOD (when it became impossible for him to continue at Yale) was because of what he perceived as the unfairness to Dr. Hatfill of the leaks (that were coming from Daniel Seikaly). I’ve always found it surprising that the DOD would hire someone publicly accused as the POI in a high profile murder of a coed as the analyst in an investigation involving anthrax/murder (despite his expertise and experience in intelligence analysis). His last emailed news item concerned Yazid Sufaat going “whereabouts unknown” shortly after his release, with Pakistan intelligence believing him to have come to Pakistan.

    Suspect in ’98 Yale murder says he’s still scarred 9/18/2009 2:19:00 PM
    Associated Press/AP Online

    This time, the suspect wasn’t called a suspect until he was arrested. But the last time a Yale student was killed near campus, James Van de Velde wasn’t so fortunate.

    From the start, he was the favorite candidate of Connecticut’s New Haven police for the frenzied stabbing death of a young woman 11 years ago. Though the Yale lecturer was never charged and the case is still unsolved, the attention ruined his reputation, he says, and got him fired.

    He says there’s a reason investigators have been so tightlipped about the killing of Annie Le: They’re afraid of making the same mistake twice.

    “We don’t want to destroy people’s reputations,” Police Chief James Lewis said earlier this week.

    Lewis, who was hired last year and not involved in the 1998 case, was explaining why officers had put a lid on the murder investigation of Le, a 24-year-old doctoral student in pharmacology. On Thursday, police arrested co-worker Raymond Clark but said little about motive or evidence.

    “Clearly, the chief was admitting that calling me and only me a suspect in the 1998 crime was a terrible mistake,” Van de Velde (Van-duh-VELD) wrote this week in response to questions e-mailed by The Associated Press.

    In 1998, Suzanne Jovin, a 21-year-old political science major from Germany, died after being attacked in a prosperous neighborhood north of the campus. No arrests have ever been made.

    A second casualty of that case was the good name of Van de Velde, then an unmarried, 38-year-old former naval intelligence officer who, besides teaching, also served as Jovin’s thesis adviser. Her subject was Osama bin Laden. Early on, authorities identified him as a suspect, though they never said what evidence, if any, fueled that belief.

    He was hounded by national and local media. He had no alibi. He told police he had been home alone when Jovin was stabbed 17 times in the back and neck on a cold December night and left slumped on the curb of a residential street, three-fifths of a mile from Jovin’s home.

    “I wasn’t a boyfriend, ex-husband, a work colleague. I had no argument with her,” wrote Van de Velde. “My DNA was not at the scene. I was not seen at the scene.”

    Calls to Yale President Richard Levin and the campus public affairs office were not returned. Lewis said Friday that he had no knowledge of the previous investigation because he’s only been on the job for a year.

    Van de Velde has been fighting to redeem his reputation for years. What angers him most is that police apparently did not conduct DNA tests on evidence found on Jovin’s body during the initial investigation.

    Police have never commented on why they may have waited nearly three years to conduct DNA tests. Famed criminologist Dr. Henry Lee, at the time a Connecticut commissioner of public safety, immediately volunteered to send state forensics experts. The department declined his offer.

    In 2000, at the insistence of Van de Velde and the Jovin family, Yale hired outsiders to review the case.

    Private investigators pressed local police to test fingernail scrapings taken from Jovin’s left hand. They also sought fingerprint testing for a Fresca bottle found near her body, which contained her fingerprint and a partial palm print from an unknown person. Neither results matched Van de Velde.

    A match for the DNA under her nails has not been found.

    After the probe, investigator Patrick Harnett, former commanding officer of the New York Police Department’s major crime squad, called Van de Velde “Richard Jewell with a Ph.D.” He was referring to the Georgia man whose life was scarred by police publicity linking him, incorrectly, to the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta.

    The university has not commented on its private investigation, or the results.

    The only public mention of DNA analysis in the Jovin case came in 2001, when police asked friends and acquaintances to submit genetic samples for comparison against the unmatched DNA found in Jovin’s nail scrapings.

    Jovin’s case was reopened in 2007 and assigned to four retired detectives in New Haven. No new evidence or leads have been reported. Assistant State’s Attorney James Clark said neither he nor his investigators would comment.

    A month after Jovin’s murder, Van de Velde says Yale fired him – canceling his classes, refusing to renew his contract and telling him to stay away from students.

    Angry and demoralized, he eventually left town and went to Washington, where he worked for three years as an analyst of weapons of mass destruction for the Defense Intelligence Agency. Later, he served in the State Department’s diplomatic corps. He now works for a private firm, analyzing WMD and counterterrorism data.

    “I was destroyed,” Van de Velde wrote to the AP. “Naming someone Jovin knew served the interests of Yale, which wanted to dissuade the public that (she) was perhaps killed by a random act of violence,” which would have raised controversial questions about security on campus and neighboring areas, he said.

    He has filed a civil suit against the university and New Haven police, alleging his civil rights were violated.

    Investigators said little when Le vanished two weeks ago. They said less after her body was found five days later, stuffed behind a basement wall in the campus laboratory where she worked. They said nothing about who crushed her throat.

    Until Wednesday, when investigators called 24-year-old Raymond Clark “a person of interest.” Detectives took DNA samples from the lab technician who worked with Le, and they noted he had scratches on his arms. He was questioned, then released.

    “We don’t want to be accused of tunnel vision,” Lewis told reporters.

    On Thursday, Clark officially became a suspect – he was arrested on murder charges and jailed on $3 million bail. The only hint at a motive came from a police statement describing Le’s death as an act of “workplace violence.”

    A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

    • DXer said

      As a profiler of the anthrax crimes, DIA analyst Van de Velde had a unique perspective on being accused of a crime without being charged.
      (Disclaimer: I really like James; we had lunch in Arlington, VA across where I lived once).

      “VAN DE VELDE WAS CERTAINLY an anomaly: if you are familiar with the TV series Alias, I would suspect that Victor Garber’s all-business, no-BS Jack Bristow character was a caricature of Van de Velde, though Bristow lacked Van de Velde’s dry humor. VdV’s military bearing (he was a lieutenant commander in Naval Intelligence) and pragmatic focus set him apart, and as Rubin suggests, probably generated some friction among his colleagues.
      Students loved him, though. He was one of few faculty members we talked about in any depth, because here was a guy with a Mysterious Past who did who knows what for The Government in exotic places like Panama. We speculated on whether he was the CIA’s talent scout, the guy who could put you in touch with Langley if that appealed to you. (Though I’m sure he knew folks in that line of work, I’m told the scout was actually another professor.) I’ve got a few great anecdotes about Van de Velde, which I will spare you, but suffice to say he was a quietly subversive force, a very adult presence in a frequently childish institution.

      I’m not drawing this comparison to perpetuate stereotypes of academics; scholarship is an honorable profession with its own culture. But I do wish to point out that for an institution with such an all-fired lust for diversity that they welcome even Mullah Omar’s personal adviser as a special student, Yale’s tolerance for someone who was so genuinely different as Van de Velde was awfully brittle. When the chips were down, Yale didn’t treat him as a colleague, but as a PR problem.

      If Yale approves of you, Yale will close ranks to defend you. That’s why almost all of the discussion on campus of the Taliban Man, Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, was a defense of one of their own against a threat from “outsiders” — like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. And that was why, when it emerged that a Comparative Literature professor named Paul de Man, a prime mover behind the postmodern, nihilistic technique of “deconstruction,” had been a Nazi collaborator and propagandist during World War II, his colleagues closed ranks to defend him and keep his past a secret.
      But rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt, Yale cut James Van de Velde loose.

      I WAS SHOCKED TO HEAR he was a suspect in a murder, but I never felt it was possible that he did it. I’ve been wrong about that sort of thing before, though; two people I knew from high school turned out to be murderers. I learned back then that what I feel is irrelevant to how things actually are. But here’s what I think:

      DNA evidence under Jovin’s fingernails in 2000 was found not to match Van de Velde’s. But physical evidence aside, there was no credible motive offered for James Van de Velde to murder Jovin. There was some talk that the two had had an affair, but that was never substantiated and appears to be nothing but speculation. Even if that were the case, a student’s consensual relationship with a professor is only an embarrassment, not the sort of thing that justifies a rational man taking the extreme measures Van de Velde (then single; family concerns were not at issue) was accused of. After all, feminist author Naomi Wolf recently accused Yale Professor Harold Bloom of groping her during an undergraduate tutoring session, and the result was…nothing.
      Furthermore, the sloppiness of the murder itself tends to exonerate Van de Velde. Jovin was stabbed several times, and found screaming by an eyewitness who saw a van at the scene (not Van de Velde’s Jeep). But VdV is, as I said, a man of a precise and military mind. He was also in good shape and knew martial arts — one of those anecdotes I alluded to above involves a quite impressive nunchuk demonstration. If he seriously wanted someone dead, she would not have been found alive.

      Van de Velde once offered a bit of advice in one class that stuck with me: “Never put anything in writing you wouldn’t want to see someday on the front page of the New York Times.” This was a careful man. If he had planned and carried out a murder, I doubt suspicion would ever have fallen on him. But of course, there is absolutely no reason to think he would commit a murder in the first place.”

    • DXer said

      The reward in the Joven case I think was increased to $150,000 in 2007 upon release of the composite.

      In 2001, at the time of the anthrax mailings, the reward was $100,000.

      Given that I think the key to Amerithrax DOD’s DARPA, I find it fascinating that the DOD hired someone to profile Amerithrax who was the subject of speculation in a case involving a $100,000 reward. Not wrong or inappropriate, mind you. Just fascinating.

      I would have loved to be a spy in the wall in that meeting.

      For much of the time of his work on Amerithrax, he had libel litigation pending against the Chief.

      New team looks into Jovin death
      Yale Daily News – Dec 3, 2007
      As a result of the team’s blank-slate approach, former political science professor James Van de Velde ’82 — Jovin’s senior-thesis advisor and the only …

      For Yale, new chapter opens in Jovin case
      Yale Daily News – Dec 7, 2007
      The “educator” was later identified as political-science lecturer and former Saybrook College Dean James Van de Velde ’82, Jovin’s senior-thesis advisor. …

      Pay-Per-View – Hartford Courant – ProQuest Archiver – Dec 1, 2007
      “The problem is James Van de Velde can’t hit a magic reset button and go back and … They both mentioned the $150000 reward for information leading to the …

      Pay-Per-View – Hartford Courant – ProQuest Archiver – Nov 29, 2007
      The private investigators did obtain a DNA sample from James Van de Velde, Jovin’s senior thesis adviser and the only named suspect in the case, …

      Pay-Per-View – Hartford Courant – ProQuest Archiver – Dec 4, 2005
      James Van de Velde knew nothing of my background when he called on me at my … In addition, the university added $100000 to the $50000 reward already …

      Pay-Per-View – Hartford Courant – ProQuest Archiver – Oct 27, 2001
      New Haven State’s Attorney Michael Dearington revealed Friday that DNA obtained from [James Van de Velde], who has long proclaimed his innocence, …

      Pay-Per-View – Hartford Courant – ProQuest Archiver – Mar 27, 2001
      The reward would supplement $50000 already set aside by the state to help … James Van de Velde, Jovin’s former lecturer and senior thesis adviser, …

      Pay-Per-View – Hartford Courant – ProQuest Archiver – May 4, 1999
      New Haven police have confirmed that Yale lecturer James Van de Velde, … Will increasing the reward to $50000 help? What would you like to say to anyone …

      JOVIN CASE INVESTIGATORS SEEK OCCUPANTS OF VAN – Hartford Courant – ProQuest Archiver (Pay-Per-View)
      Yale adds $100K to Jovin case reward – Yale Daily News
      Yale Daily News – All 4 related – Related web pages

      HAS CASE GOTTEN COLDER? – Hartford Courant – ProQuest Archiver (Pay-Per-View)
      State announces formation of new team to investiga… – Yale Daily News

      Stalled Jovin case looks to van, DNA for leads
      Yale Herald – The Yale Herald – Nov 9, 2001
      This latest development came just one day after James Van de Velde, … established a $150000 reward last March to solicit information leading to the arrest …

      Pay-Per-View – Hartford Courant – ProQuest Archiver – Apr 1, 2001
      COVER COVER ON THE COVER James [Jim Van de Velde] believes the police never properly … James Van de Velde needs us. Inevitably, the two adjectives used in …

      Reward may draw renewed attention
      Yale Daily News – Mar 29, 2001
      The problem, experts say, is that a reward is rarely effective in drawing out … Then there is the status of James Van de Velde ’82, a former Yale lecturer …

  2. DXer said

    Consider that colloidal silicon dioxide was used to distribute the decontaminating agent developed by Los Alamos that was in competition in testing of the decontamination product developed by the Ann Arbor researchers:

    “Hoffman chose colloidal amorphous silica as the carrier material for several reasons. First, unlike crystalline silica, which is toxic, colloidal amorphous silica is safe to use and is found in many household paint formulations. Also,silicon dioxide colloidal particles are commercially available, don’t require manufacturing in a special facility, and, because they are chemically inert, are compatible with oxidant solutions. When mixed with the oxidizer, the gel can be applied with simple delivery systems, such as paint sprayers. After application, it thickens and tends not to sag or flow down walls or drip from ceilings. Finally, silica gel materials can be easily vacuumed up after they have dried.


    Hoffman selected Cab-O-Sil EH-5 fumed silica as the gelling agent. The final formulation was named L-Gel 115, which is a formulation of aqueous Oxone solution gelled with 15 percent EH-5 silica gel. The viscosity can be varied, depending on the application. Under development is a second formulation, called L-Gel 200, which contains 10 percent t-butanol cosolvent to promote penetration on surfaces with heavily coated paint or varnish.

    “In December 1999, researchers Krauter and Tina Carlsen participated in biological warfare field tests that were conducted by the Soldier Biological and Chemical Command at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The tests compared the ability of several decontamination materials to inactivate surrogate organisms placed on six 40-square-centimeter panels of acoustic ceiling tile, tightly woven carpet, fabric-covered office partition, painted wallboard, concrete slab, and painted metal. Each panel was contaminated with about 10 billion spores per square meter.
    After L-Gel was applied, the panels were swabbed about 24 hours later. The number of live spores on most test panels was reduced by an average of 99.988 percent.

    [The former Zawahiri associate who was supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins participated in the same tests]

    In October 2000, Krauter and Hoffman participated in a biological warfare agent room-decontamination exercise that was conducted again at the Dugway Proving Ground. The tests used full-scale, mock offices constructed in an abandoned building. Flooring was divided into quarters consisting of carpet, vinyl tile, varnished oak, and painted concrete. Walls consisted of stucco, wood paneling, plasterboard, and carpet, and the ceiling was constructed of suspended ceiling tile. The room was contaminated with 4 grams of spores. After application of L-Gel, about 400 samples were collected from multiple locations in the room. L-Gel reduced the number of spores by about five orders of magnitude and, in these experiments, did not damage office surfaces, with the exception of bleaching some rust on ceiling supports.”

    Dugway is known to have virulent Ames genetically identical to the Ames from flask 1029.

    • DXer said

      It is public record that some of the testing of decontamination agents was done with live spores.

      ANTHRAX PROBE WIDENS, Deseret News, May 12, 2002

      “Most testing at Dugway Proving Ground is conducted using biological simulants, not live anthrax spores, according to the Army. But the base is charged with developing methods of detecting and destroying live anthrax, so some of that material also must be used.

      ‘The production of biological pathogens, to include bacillus anthracis [anthrax], is conducted to support this and decontamination testing,’ the note said. That has to be performed with live agents in order to evaluate the usefulness of decontamination solutions.”

  3. DXer said

    Let’s return to the merits and consider the hypothetical that access to Ames was obtained as the result of the ineffective gamma irradiation of live Ames bacteria or spores.

    A 2008 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory study used eight genetically distinct strains of B. anthracis, including virulent Ames strain spores. It was the first study to report the gamma radiation dose for inactivating live virulent spores. Prior to that, more than one shipment was made in 2001 that contained live spores when it was thought only inactivated spores had been sent.

    Sometimes the military used live spores in powdered form because they reasoned that irradiating or killing the spores would have messed up the experiment. For example, in testing a decontamination agent, you may want to know the kill ratio when live virulent Ames spores are used.

    National Public Radio – NewsBank – Dec 13, 2001
    The military used live spores in powdered form, he says. Irradiating or killing the spores would have messed up the experiment. Mr. KURT KLIMPEL (Biologist, …

    But apart from authorized access established by the documentary evidence, let’s consider whether access have been obtained where it was thought that the Ames spores had been irradiated.

    The genetics scientist, Kimothy L. Smith, who provided the space for the former Zawahiri associate, Tarek Hamouda, to work with live virulent anthrax at LSU (and Tarek worked separately with Bruce Ivins using virulent Ames) consulted with the FBI. He was at NAU with Dr. Keim when NAU shipped live spores thinking that they were inactive upon being irradiated.

    And so when FBI anthrax expert John Ezzell says that he understood testing to show the live aerosolized Ames powder he sent to John Hopkins to have been irradiated for testing (JHAPL was where Dr. TH did additional research), might Dr. Ezzell have been mistaken? Might live spores been sent instead accidentally?

    I have seen in the context of Baxter and bird flu the unsupported assumption that because a lab is BL3 any shipment of live pathogen must be intentional. There is no sound basis for the suggestion. To err is human.

    We won’t know because the FBI is not responding to requests for information or documents and has kept scientists under gag orders where it suited their purpose of avoiding embarrassment. The embarrassment relates to the outrageous negligence in allowing Ali Al-Timimi to have a position of trust and access at the DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense. The USG’s alleged negligence in dealing with Ali Mohammed, Bin Laden’s chief of intelligence, pales in comparison. If the facts had been known, the Bush Administration would have lost the 2004 election.


    (For use by N.Y. Times News Service clients)(a)


    c.2002 The Arizona Republic(a)

    (PHOENIX) – Late last October, at the height of the nation’s anthrax scare, biogenetic-lab workers at Northern Arizona University shipped 20 spores of virulent bacteria to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

    It might have gone unnoticed, just a minor event in the post-Sept. 11 terrorism probe, but a watchdog group known as Project on Government Oversight declared that Los Alamos was unauthorized to handle the deadly bacteria.

    Then a key member of Congress demanded an explanation from NAU, and reporters began asking officials about the security of deadly biological shipments. Some even wondered whether anthrax spores used in attacks against politicians and the media might have come from the school in Flagstaff.

    On Wednesday, university President John D. Haeger moved to settle matters definitively: NAU “violated no laws or regulations” in handling anthrax spores, he declared, and school researchers are helping the FBI track down terrorists.

    In a letter to Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., Haeger explained that NAU is working under a contract with the FBI to identify anthrax strains as part of Operation Amerithrax, the investigation into bioterrorism. Haeger’s letter says the university shipped live bacillus to Los Alamos on Oct. 26 after receiving a certification from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    I am happy to report that Northern Arizona University is in full compliance with all federal regulations,” Haeger added.NAU has never shipped Bacillus anthracis to any non-authorized persons or institutions. Any persons or organizations that state otherwise are incorrect.”

    Haeger said he could not provide a more detailed account of the October shipment because university scientists have signed a “non-disclosure agreement” with the FBI.

    NAU has the nation’s largest repository of anthrax bacillus, and scientist Paul Keim is considered an expert at identifying DNA fingerprints of the bacteria. The Bioscience Division at Los Alamos is also assisting federal agents with that research. Spores sent to New Mexico were from the “Ames” strain used in attacks in Florida and Washington, D.C.

    In contrast to Haeger’s letter, an internal report done at Los Alamos admits that the facility was not qualified to accept live anthrax spores. That report says one of three samples from NAU failed a sterility test, and workers in New Mexico were told the shipment contained live spores.

    The report claims the shipment never posed a threat to lab workers or public safety. It says Los Alamos sought the bacteria “in direct support of law enforcement efforts.” CDC officials eventually determined that the shipment was exempt from federal regulations because of that.
    Gamma Irradiation Can Be Used To Inactivate Bacillus anthracisSpores without Compromising the Sensitivity of Diagnostic Assays 2008

    • DXer said

      Dr. Ezzell worked for the FBI’s federal hazardous materials unit. The CDC found that Los Alamos sought the bacteria “in direct support of law enforcement efforts” and thus the shipment was exempt from federal regulations because of that.

      That is, so long as you are working for the FBI, you don’t have to comply with the rules that apply to others in this regard. That, of course, is a very dangerous precedent to set. How does one distinguish between the FBI and DTRA, DARPA, and CIA in determining compliance with the transfer of pathogens?

      Ayman Zawahiri felt religiously obligated to use the weapons of his enemy. Up to the present point, the man is a strategic genius who made the US DOJ and FBI look like fools.

  4. Lew Weinstein said

    DXer said … the contract should be produced so that if the NAS is claiming that it is under a contractual restriction (an obligation it incurred it taking the money) the public can see that.

    to which LMW responds … And suppose it turns out that the FBI and NAS entered into a contract which is, in itself, a violation of the FOIA law?

    • DXer said

      Then we thank them for having provided a copy of the contract and ask nicely if they could upload the pdfs of the powerpoint presentations. The audio is nice but they should upload the pretty pictures.

  5. DXer said

    The public had an opportunity to vet panel members for conflicts of interest and none were raised (and research revealed none). (The rules distinguish between “point of view” and “conflict of interest” ; some very likely have a point of view by reason of being informed and accomplished experts in the field.)

    The problem is not with the independence of the panel members but with the narrow issue of compliance with FOIA by NAS staff. The FOIA process contemplates invocation of particular exemptions — not Section 554 but Section (b)(6) or (b)(7) or some combination of subsections. It is only if the particular exemption is referenced that its application can be considered. Here, the General Counsel has never addressed the issue and it was left to the public relations person.

    It is not surprising the public relations person made the general reference to NAS general policy rather than complying with FOI. The General Counsel should now do so. Relatedly, the contract should be produced so that if the NAS is claiming that it is under a contractual restriction (an obligation it incurred it taking the money) the public can see that.

    Pendency of a law enforcement investigation pursuant to the relevant FOIA exemption? Will the consultation be “utilized” by the CIA (see FACA exclusion)? The NAS present position that the documents are exempt now but will not be upon issuance of a report does not seem to square with the Shelby Amendment applying to “data” with respect to most documents. But this is something for the General Counsel, after consulting with the US DOJ FOIA people, to address.

  6. Ike Solem said

    You know, this needs to be brought before the entire National Academy of Sciences – it looks like that was never done and this was put in as a side project on behalf of political interests.

    All in all, the NAS effort looks like a coverup attempt, and for the nation’s leading scientific body to participate in this without asking any questions is highly troubling, on a serious level.

    If you don’t have independent science overseeing these issues, than you are walking down a very dangerous path indeed. If political interests are able to distort science for their own personal benefit, than one of the fundamental pillars of American success – scientific integrity in science and technology – is at risk.

    If that’s the case, then we are looking at something like the rise of Lysenkoism in the U.S. academic and scientific communities – I really do believe matters have gotten that serious.

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