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

* Greenberger at Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing … “I’ve studied the Ft. Detrick situation. I’m not at all convinced that Dr. Ivins was necessarily the perpetrator”

Posted by DXer on September 23, 2009

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Michael Greenberger

Michael Greenberger

Michael Greenberger, Director, Center for Health and Homeland Security, University of Maryland, Baltimore testified on 9/22/09 before the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D, MD) presiding.

Mr. Greenberger testified as follows …

  • I’ve studied the Ft. Detrick situation.
  • I’m not at all convinced that Dr. Ivins was necessarily the perpetrator
  • it’s unfortunate that after his suicide blame was heaped upon him.
  • But I am convinced that the source of the anthrax emanated from a flask at Ft. Detrick.
  • Somebody got access. It was an insider, one of our researchers that perpetrated the attack.

watch the entire subcommittee session at … NOTE: Mr. Greenberger was the last speaker on the agenda.

Here’s a link to the final version of Professor Greenberger’s testimony …

2 Responses to “* Greenberger at Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing … “I’ve studied the Ft. Detrick situation. I’m not at all convinced that Dr. Ivins was necessarily the perpetrator””

  1. DXer said

    Former Senior DOJ official with expertise in biodefense matters Michael Greenberger was quoted on August 8, 2008 by the Los Angeles Times saying it would have been a very very difficult case to prove.

    Doubts persist on Ivins’ guilt
    Scientists and legal experts skeptical

    A day after the Justice Department released hundreds of documents purporting to link Bruce E. Ivins to the 2001 anthrax killings, scientists and legal experts criticized the strength of the case and cast doubt on whether it could have succeeded.

    Federal investigators presented a raft of circumstantial evidence this week intended to prove Ivins’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But officials lacked direct evidence, such as hair fibers, DNA samples or handwriting analysis, that the eccentric microbiologist created the deadly powder in his Fort Detrick lab. Questions also remain about Ivins’ ability to convert the spores stored in his lab into the powder sent through the mail.

    More than half a dozen experts in law and bioterrorism pointed out yesterday what they consider major flaws in the government’s case and said they were not convinced that Ivins acted alone in mailing the letters that killed five people – or that he was involved at all. They said that the science that led the FBI to Ivins has not been explained and that the other evidence did not amount to conclusive proof.

    Because Ivins committed suicide last week, that evidence will never be tested at trial, but his attorney has repeatedly insisted that the scientist was innocent.

    The FBI said it used a sophisticated mapping technique to connect the anthrax in the letters with a flask in a Fort Detrick lab where Ivins worked. But that technique is so new that in the hands of a skilled defense lawyer, it could be “unraveled in front of a jury,” said Michael Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland Law School.

    “I thought that was a bit of a stretch,” said Jonathan D. Tucker, a biological warfare expert on a federal commission to prevent terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. “It’s such a key piece of their argument, and it’s based on inference. We don’t know which other labs had the strains with the mutations.”

    And even at Fort Detrick, the government said that more than 100 people had access to the flask, creating a lot of room for reasonable doubt.

    “There is a classic defense mechanism – to raise reasonable doubt by presenting the jury with viable options as to how the crime was perpetrated,” Greenberger said. “This case would have been a very, very difficult case to prove.”
    That’s what happened with the anthrax case, Barcella said. The FBI “eliminated every possibility until they were left with one, which is a tedious but very thorough way to do an investigation,” he said.”

    But other experts say the FBI has not shown how it cleared the 100 or more other people who had access to the flask – the kind of detail that would be forced out at trial. Lacking a trial in this case, experts said Congress should hold hearings or order an independent review of the evidence.

    “If those questions are not resolved, there will always be a residue of doubt that the perpetrator will still be at large and that an innocent man may have been accused,” said Tucker, of the federal anti-terrorism commission. “It’s very important to tie up these lingering loose ends and address the gaps.”

    Among the unresolved questions:

    •How do officials believe Ivins made the anthrax? The FBI says Ivins used his lab to convert anthrax spores into powdered anthrax, but no proof has been presented that he had the equipment or the expertise to do so.

    “I’m waiting for it to be shown that the quantity and the quality of the powders in the anthrax letters could have been produced in those suites” at Fort Detrick, said W. Russell Byrne, who retired from Fort Detrick in 2003 and was Ivins’ supervisor from 1998 to 2000. “I don’t know how to make the stuff,” he said.

    He also said that so many people were going in and out of the labs at odd hours to check on experiments that it’s unlikely Ivins would have gone undetected if he had been working on something illicit, even at night.

    The FBI said Ivins used a machine called a lyophilizer in his lab to make the anthrax. But such a machine is also used in creating anthrax vaccines.

    •Why did two of the anthrax letters include a harmless bacterial contaminant, but not the others? The FBI has not shown where that bacterium originated or if agents tried to trace it to Ivins. Nor has there been an explanation of why the first set of letters contained the bacterium but not the second set.

    Experts would also like to see more detail from the FBI on how exactly it was able to link the anthrax used in the mailings to the flask handled by Ivins.

    “So much of the FBI’s case is based on the fact they are 100 percent convinced it came out of that one container,” said Randall Larsen, national security adviser for the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Even the FBI themselves admit this is a brand-new technology they came up with.”

    •What motive would Ivins have had? The FBI suggested he wanted heighten the need for an anthrax vaccine he was working on. The FBI also released Ivins’ own e-mails that describe his mental state as depressed, delusional and paranoid.

    But does that make him a killer?

    “He’s obviously a disturbed individual, but how that disturbed behavior exhibited itself does not seem at all relevant to engaging in a bioterrorist attack,” said David Fidler, director of the Indiana University Center on American and Global Security.

    And Byrne said he never saw bizarre behavior that went beyond what might be expected from an eccentric scientist.

    “If he had mental health problems, he was taking care of them well,” Byrne said. “Could he have been so smart that he completely fooled me?

    “Yeah, it’s possible, but I doubt it.”

    Mr. Barcella, of course, is just accepting the FBI’s stated conclusion on faith and does not know how they ruled out others. In a January 2009 interview, Mr. Persichini has assured the public that they will never know either.

    Amerithrax: A Case Study Of The Infiltration of US Biodefense

  2. DXer said

    CQ Congressional Testimony

    July 12, 2005 Tuesday


    Statement of Michael Greenberger Law School Professor and Director, University of Maryland Center
    Committee on House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science, and Technology

    July 12, 2005

    My name is Michael Greenberger.

    I want to thank the subcommittee for inviting me to testify on the important issue that is the subject of today’s hearings.

    From 1999 to 2001, I served as Justice Department’s Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General. Included within my portfolio of responsibilities were several counterterrorism projects concerning both law enforcement and public health policy, including organizing the first nationwide counter terrorism field exercise, “TOPOFF I.”

    I now serve as a Law School Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and, since May 2002, as the Director of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security.

    At the School of Law, I have designed and teach two courses focused on legal and public policy issues concerning counterterrorism: (1) “Homeland Security and the Law of Counterterrorism,” which addresses the legal framework surrounding the response to the terrorist threat facing the United States, including the Project Bioshield Act of 2004; (2) “Homeland Security – The Interdisciplinary Study of Crisis and Health Consequence Management Policy in the Era of Counterterrorism” which is open to students from all of the University of Maryland professional schools and explores public health policy implications of counterterrorism strategy, including the development of a stable biodefense vaccine industry.

    The University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security (CHHS) serves as an advisor on public health emergency planning to various state and local agencies. CHHS also works closely with: (1) the Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, which is the only university vaccine center in the world engaged in the full range of vaccinology: from basic science through vaccine development, clinical evaluation and field studies, including groundbreaking work on biodefense vaccines; and (2) the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (MARCE), one of eight Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). MARCE is headed by Dr Myron Levine, the director of CVD. MARCE is now in the process of researching and developing new biodefense vaccine products to be used as prophylaxis against a broad array of biological agents.

    Through CHHS’s work with CVD and MARCE, CHHS has organized symposia1 and I have written several articles addressing the substantial economic, regulatory, and legal roadblocks to creating biodefense vaccines.

    One of the bright milestones toward the development of a vibrant biodefense vaccine industry was the passage of the Project BioShield Act of 2004. That statute was designed “to provide protections and countermeasures against chemical, radiological, or nuclear [CBRN] agents that may be used in a terrorist attack against the United States.” The most prominent parts of that legislation were its procurement provisions designed to address the key significant impediment to biodefense vaccine production, lack of a significant market. These provisions encourage the development of effective vaccine countermeasures by establishing a Special Reserve Fund of $5.6 billion to be spent over the next ten years to purchase for the Nation’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) the “next generation of countermeasures against” a broad array of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents, all of which were seen by Congress as weapons that could be deployed against the United States in the War on Terror. Due to the substantial expense and risk of bringing a vaccine to market, along with the infrequency with which these diseases occur naturally, pharmaceutical manufacturers have little to no incentive to invest without BioShield funds.

    In order for the Bioshield Special Reserve Funds to be released for the purchase of a countermeasure for SNS, a series of actions must occur. However, the first action (and the one on which all later actions are based) is that “the Homeland Security [DHS] Secretary, in consultation with the [HHS] Secretary and the heads of other agencies as appropriate,” must make a “determination” of “current and emerging threats of CBRN agents” that “present a material threat against the United States . . .” Once that “material threat assessment” is made various government agencies, up to and including, the President, through a series of decisions then determine whether promising countermeasures may be purchased with the special reserve funds to address those identified threats.

    The BioShield Act established no procedure for DHS to employ in supervising the making of the material threat determinations. Despite what was an obvious Congressional invitation to summarily determine what are the widely recognized CBRN threats to the United States, DHS has employed an opaque, highly bureaucratized, relatively lengthy process for determining material threats. Over the course of the past year, this cumbersome and poorly delineated administrative process has led to only four material threat determinations. Findings have been made that Anthrax, Smallpox, Botulinum toxin and radiological/nuclear devices pose a material threat to the United States. DHS officials have promised that by the close of this fiscal year material threat determinations will be made concerning plague, tularemia, and viral hemorrhagic fevers.

    Because there have only been material threat determinations pertaining to four CBRN agents, BioShield’s Special Reserve funds can only be used for countermeasures directed to those agents. Accordingly, three contracts have been let over this last year, two directed to the purchase of anthrax vaccines11 and one for the delivery of pediatric doses of liquid potassium iodide.12 Even if a promising countermeasure were to meet the other requirements for purchase under the statute, it would not be eligible for procurement if there were no corresponding finding that the agent to which it was directed was a “material threat.”

    DHS’s lassitude in supervising the making of material threat findings is mystifying. The legislative history of the statute is replete with references to a myriad of agents, beyond the four agents identified, posing a substantial threat to the United States.

    Moreover, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a long established and widely recognized hierarchy of highly damaging biological agents that are likely to be deployed by terrorists against the United States. CDC’s Category A agents, ranked as the most dangerous to the United States, include Anthrax, Botulism, Plague, Smallpox, Tularemia, and Viral hemorrhagic fevers. Only three of those agents have as yet been identified under the BioShield bureaucracy as posing a material threat. DHS has assured committees of Congress that it will by the end of this fiscal year make findings on the remaining three Class A agents identified by CDC.

    When you look at the Category B and C agents identified by CDC, there are total of more than 33 agents which ultimately will need to be addressed with medical countermeasures.13 At the rate the “material threat” findings have been made to date, it could be years before BioShield procurement funds can be used to purchase products designed to counter the as yet undesignated agents.

    Leaving CDC’s findings to the side, scholarship on terrorist threats abound with long standing and well recognized findings about a significant number of CBRN agents likely to be deployed against the United States. For example, Jessica Stern in her 1999 classic, The Ultimate Terrorists, lists two dozen chemical agents that have been historically deployed by terrorists going all the back to World War I.14 Not one of these chemical agents has been certified under DHS’ leadership. Nor has DHS even committed to making such designations in the future.

    Quite ironically, under other provisions of the BioShield statute concerning HHS funding for research (which does not require a “material threat” finding), grants have been made for the development of countermeasures relating to tularemia, Ebola, and plague.15 Yet, none of these agents has yet been designated as a material threat. If HHS has already commenced funding for research in this area, one would assume that there is substantial evidence available to DHS demonstrating that these agents should be so designated.

    From CHHS own experience, substantial NIH funding outside of the BioShield appropriations is being committed to the development of medical countermeasures not yet declared to be “material threats”. For example, MARCE is researching countermeasures for tularemia as part of a five-year, grant from NIAID, which is supported by funding wholly apart from monies appropriated under the BioShield statute.16 Simultaneously, plague vaccine research is being performed in the laboratories of James Nataro, M.D. at the CVD that is funded by funded by a National Institutes of Health U19 grant,17 again a project being done wholly apart from the BioShield Act.

    The BioShield Act is an impressive starting point for the creation of a vibrant biodefense vaccine industry. It has many problems that must be corrected both administratively and legislatively.18 I would be happy to address each of those issues with you today. However, only one of those problems deals directly with DHS, the agency over which you have direct oversight responsibilities. DHS bureaucratic quagmire in identifying CBRN agents posing a material threat to the United States (thereby delaying the use of procurement efforts for well recognized CBRN dangers to this country) is a matter that deserves your full attention.

    This problem does not require a legislative fix. What it requires is prodding the agency to abandon an administrative morass. It requires directing the agency to follow the well worn path already trodden through scholarship and the work of the CDC to quickly list the full panoply of CBRN agents. Such an expedited effort would be an encouragement to both researchers and the vaccine industry that a broad array of efforts might be funded over the next decade by the BioShield Special Reserve Fund.

    Footnotes omitted.

    Comment: Is spending money really the main problem? Or is what is required clear intelligence and true crime analysis by senior Department of Justice folks?

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