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

* Dr. Weber’s powerpoints at September 25, 2009 NAS presentation on Fe-Si relationship

Posted by DXer on September 30, 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  …

“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?”


Dr. Weber’s powerpoints

at September 25, 2009 NAS presentation on Fe-Si relationship


Weber 1

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73 Responses to “* Dr. Weber’s powerpoints at September 25, 2009 NAS presentation on Fe-Si relationship”

  1. DXer said

    Siderophore-mediated iron acquisition in Bacillus anthracis and related strains
    Kinya Hotta,1 Chu-Young Kim,1 David T. Fox2 and Andrew T. Koppisch2

    1Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore 2Bioscience Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545, USA

    Click to access 1918.full.pdf

    Siderophores have long been recognized to be both critically important metabolites and compounds with intriguing metal-binding abilities. In pathogenic bacteria, siderophores themselves are often key virulence mediators. Bacillibactin and petrobactin together provide an interest- ing example of how iron acquisition not only mediates virulence in a family of pathogens but also influences the development of the organism through its life cycle.


    The head of a US military lab that made aerosols for biodefense purposes told me that iron in the mailed anthrax served to make the anthrax more deadly in the lung.

    This linked 2010 article (based on my lay understanding and reading the conclusion) explains, to the same effect, that iron mediates the virulence of the anthrax.

    As I recall, Dr. Weber from Lawrence Livermore, (as I vaguely recall his presentation) said there was high Si in spores correlated with high Fe.

    Dr. Weber’s powerpoints at September 25, 2009 NAS presentation on Fe-Si relationship
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 30, 2009

    Today I took a tour of water treatment that explained how ammonia and phosphorous was taken out of the water. There was also a lot of talking about the binding of metals to remove them. It’s amazing that in counties throughout the United States, there are such complicated processes treating our wastewater.

  2. DXer said

    In his new manuscript, Dr. Majidi writes:

    “Soon after, the subject matter experts at meeting were divided into four breakout groups to brainstorm and propose unique analytical procedures. Each group was assigned a team leader and I became the lead for the Inorganic Analysis Group. I have to emphasize that the team lead was merely an administrative means of keeping track of the proceedings within each group and was not based on any other merit (i.e., I was not necessarily the smartest or best known dude in our group). Other groups were focused on organic chemical characterization, physical characterization, and genetics/molecular biology.”

  3. DXer said

    The absorption of iron made the mailed anthrax more virulent — more deadly in the lung.

    Siderophore-mediated iron acquisition in Bacillus anthracis and related strains

    The paucity of iron in serum has driven many pathogenic bacteria to evolve sophisticated means to acquire iron from the host, including the use of high-affinity iron chelates termed siderophores (Boukhalfa & Crumbliss, 2002; Miethke & Marahiel, 2007; Neilands, 1974; Payne & Crosa, 2004;Raymond & Carrano, 1979; Winkelmann, 2002). The efficiency with which this is accomplished by pathogenic bacteria generally parallels their virulence (Byers & Arceneaux, 1998; Griffiths, 1999; Koehler, 2000). As such, the interplay between iron sequestration by the host and acquisition by the pathogen is an important determinant in the establishment of infection. Siderophore biosynthesis by itself is not a de factodeterminant of virulence but can certainly play a pivotal role in augmenting the pathogenicity of a given microbe (Cendrowski et al., 2004; Dale et al., 2004; De Vosset al., 2000).

  4. DXer said

    Doesn’t iron make the anthrax more deadly? A military army aerosol expert told me that it does. He says that the FBI scientists were not receptive to receiving this point.

    Studies by Dr. Anthony Maresso investigate iron acquisition by B. anthracis. Iron is an essential nutrient used by almost all organisms. Bacterial pathogens must acquire iron in order to grow inside mammalian hosts. The host, however, limits the availability of free iron, thereby providing an effective defense strategy against infection. In response, bacteria have evolved clever ways to subvert host sequestration of iron. Dr. Maresso has uncovered secreted proteins produced by B. anthracis which specifically bind and transport the body’s prominent iron-carrier molecule, heme. The acquisition of mammalian heme may allow B. anthracis to attain enough iron to grow to very high densities during infection. Dr. Maresso has also uncovered a group of small molecule inhibitors which specifically target and inactivate enzymes in the pathway of iron acquisition in pathogens like B. anthracis. An understanding of the mechanisms of iron uptake in B. anthracis will allow for the development of therapeutic agents to combat infections by related Gram-positive bacteria.

  5. DXer said

    McClatchy Washington Bureau
    , May. 19, 2011
    FBI lab reports on anthrax attacks suggest another miscue
    Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers

    WASHINGTON — Buried in FBI laboratory reports about the anthrax mail attacks that killed five people in 2001 is data suggesting that a chemical may have been added to try to heighten the powder’s potency, a move that some experts say exceeded the expertise of the presumed killer.

    The lab data, contained in more than 9,000 pages of files that emerged a year after the Justice Department closed its inquiry and condemned the late Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins as the perpetrator, shows unusual levels of silicon and tin in anthrax powder from two of the five letters.

    [The experts such as John Kiel do not say that it would relate to floatability. They point to iron as making the anthrax more lethal. The experts to rely upon are those who have made a dried aerosol of anthrax or anthrax simulant.]

    The existence of the silicon-tin chemical signature offered investigators the possibility of tracing purchases of the more than 100 such chemical products available before the attacks, which might have produced hard evidence against Ivins or led the agency to the real culprit.

    [Each year Dr. Ivins created an inventory of chemicals in his lab; there is a sample one among his emails]

    But the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.

    The apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose.

    • DXer said

      A McClatchy analysis of the records also shows that other key scientific questions were left unresolved and conflicting data wasn’t sorted out when the FBI declared Ivins the killer shortly after his July 29, 2008, suicide.

      One chemist at a national laboratory told McClatchy that the tin-silicone findings and the contradictory data should prompt a new round of testing on the anthrax powder.

      A senior federal law enforcement official, who was made available only on the condition of anonymity, said the FBI had ordered exhaustive tests on the possible sources of silicon in the anthrax and concluded that it wasn’t added. Instead, the lab found that it’s common for anthrax spores to incorporate environmental silicon and oxygen into their coatings as a “natural phenomenon” that doesn’t affect the spores’ behavior, the official said.

      [Yes, by “natrual phenomenon” Dr. Burans and his colleagues mean the growth process. He does not mean to disagree with Dr. Majidi who said the silica could have been in the growth medium. See transcript. This phrase “natural phenomenon” has kept commenters from getting on the same page. Dr. Majidi is right. Just as Dr. Ivins hypothesized — and then Dr. Peter Weber of Lawrence Livermore hypothesized — it could be in the growth medium. But it relates to increasing the LF (Lethal Factor) and not floatability. Now while that does relate to “weaponization” in a broad sense but the government scientists have defined “weaponization” to refer only to floatability in order to obscure the discussion. It is not their job to explain how to make a more virulent anthrax and so the withholding in this regard can be understood and excused.]

      • DXer said

        To arrive at that position, however, the FBI had to discount its own bulk testing results showing that silicon composed an extraordinary 10.8 percent of a sample from a mailing to the New York Post and as much as 1.8 percent of the anthrax from a letter sent to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, far more than the occasional trace contamination. Tin — not usually seen in anthrax powder at all — was measured at 0.65 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, in those letters.

        [It was the good work of “Anonymous” and his counsel that forced production of the AFIP report showing the 10% which Sandia had not been told about. David Willman nowhere addresses the 10%. This supports Dr. Majidi’s gentle suggestion that it could have been in the culture medium and Dr. Burans’ suggestion that it relates to a “natural phenomenon” — i.e., growth. ]

        An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the presence of tin or to answer other questions about the silicon-tin connection.

        [The metal follows the silicon dioxide and is adsorbed by the spore. See Weber powerpoint]

        Several scientists and former colleagues of Ivins argue that he was a career biologist who probably lacked the chemistry knowledge and skills to concoct a silicon-based additive.

        “There’s no way that an individual scientist can invent a new way of making anthrax using silicon and tin,” said Stuart Jacobsen, a Texas-based analytical chemist for an electronics company who’s closely studied the FBI lab results. “It requires an institutional effort to do this, such as at a military lab.”

        [The FBI is withholding the vast majority of Dr. Ivins’ notebooks, to include 50 pages of the 80 page Lab Notebook 4010. GAO should address the breakdown of FBI’s handling of FOIA requests relating to Amerithrax.]

        • DXer said

          Martin Hugh-Jones, a world-renowned anthrax expert who teaches veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University, called it “just bizarre” that the labs found both tin — which can be toxic to bacteria such as anthrax during lab culturing — and silicon.

          “You have two elements at abnormally high levels,” Hugh-Jones said. “That reduces your probability to a very small number that it’s an accident.”

          [Dr. Hugh-Jones seems plainly correct.]

          The silicon-tin connection wasn’t the only lead left open in one of the biggest investigations in FBI history, an inquiry that took the bureau to the cutting edge of laboratory science. In April, McClatchy reported that after locking in on Ivins in 2007, the bureau stopped searching for a match to a unique genetic bacterial strain scientists had found in the anthrax that was mailed to the Post and to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, although a senior bureau official had characterized it as the hottest clue to date.

          [When the history is written — and not the summary of the government’s Ivins Theory represented by MIRAGE MAN — Amerithax will be shown to have close parallels to the Whitey Bulger matter. Investigators and scientists might want to focus on finding safe harbor in the first draft of history being written by GAO. People need to open up their mind and do diligence as other theories. The Ivins Theory made for a nice, albeit complex and speculative theory. But it never rose to a substantial body of evidence. It passed the giggle test only because of massive number of documents still being withheld. GAO needs to press this issue of the withholding of documents and hold people accountable for all future delays in production of requested documents]

          FBI officials say it’s all a moot point, because they’re positive they got the right man in Ivins. A mentally troubled anthrax researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., Ivins overdosed on drugs not long after learning that he’d soon face five counts of capital murder.

          [Yes, and the key witness they all were relying on in early August was an astral travelling exorcist. They merely traded bloodhounds for the psychic granted her powers by an alien from another planet. There has been a great travesty at justice].

        • DXer said

          Tufts University chemistry professor David Walt, who led the panel’s analysis of the silicon issue, said in a phone interview that “there was not enough silicon in the spores that could account for the total silicon content of the bulk analysis.”

          He said it was unclear whether the “trace” levels of tin were significant.

          During the FBI’s seven-year hunt, the Department of Homeland Security commissioned a team of chemists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to grow anthrax-like spores under varying conditions to see how much silicon would end up naturally in the final product.

          They found little, if any, silicon in most cases, far less than was in the New York Post letter, said Stephan Velsko, one of the two researchers. He called the tin readings from the FBI’s anthrax data “baffling.”

          Peter Weber, Velsko’s co-researcher, said the academy panel’s focus on the conflicting data “raises a big question,” and “it’d be really helpful for closure of this case if that was resolved.”

          He suggested that further “micro-analysis” with a highly sophisticated electron microscope could “pop the question marks really quickly.”

          In a chapter in a recently updated book, “Microbial Forensics,” Velsko wrote that the anthrax “must have indeed been produced under an unusual set of conditions” to create such high silicon counts. That scenario, he cautioned, might not be “consistent with the prosecution narrative in this case.”

          About 100 tin-catalyzed silicone products are on the market, and an even wider array was available in 2000 and 2001, before the mailings, said Richie Ashburn, a vice president of one manufacturer, Silicones Inc., in High Point, N.C.

          Mike Wilson, a chemist for another silicone products maker, SiVance, in Gainesville, Fla., said that numerous silicon products could be used to make spores or other particles water-repellent. He also said that the ratios of silicon to tin found in the Post and Leahy samples would be “about right” if a tin-catalyzed silicone had been added to the spores.

          Jacobsen, a Scottish-born and -educated chemist who once experimented with silicon coatings on dust particles, said he got interested in the spore chemistry after hearing rumors in late 2001 that a U.S. military facility had made the killer potions. He called it “outrageous” that the scientific issues haven’t been addressed.

          “America, the most advanced country in the world, and the FBI have every resource available to them,” he said. “And yet they have no compelling explanation for not properly analyzing the biggest forensic clue in the most important investigation the FBI labs had ever gotten in their history.”

          As a result of Ivins’ death and the unanswered scientific issues, Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, is investigating the FBI’s handling of the anthrax inquiry.

  6. DXer said

    Lab notebook 4000 has been produced. At one point, the lab notebook discusses Dr. Ivins research in early May 1998 to increase the lethal factor — he posited that increasing the iron or other metal would have that effect. LF is the primary virulence factor of Bacillus anthracis. Dr. Ivins was doing this research the week he was visited by the former Zawahiri associate who was a non-citizen, unbeknownst to Dr. Ivins until his arrival at USAMRIID to work in the B3.

    It is my lay understanding that one wants to increase the lethal factor so as to make a better vaccine. For example, that was the same reason proffered by Patricia Fellows for inserting duplicates of the x101 and x102 plasmids. As Pamala Coker of LSU explained to the NYT, it could both serve to make a more effective vaccine and make a more effective bioweapon.

    Keeping in mind I have no scientific training, I understand from Dr. Weber’s powerpoints below before the NAS that the silica follows the metal oxides.

    Dr. Weber’s powerpoints at September 25, 2009 NAS presentation on Fe-Si relationship

    The iron makes it more deadly — it increases the LF or lethal factor. Dr. Weber explains one hypothetical mechanism to achieve high Fe (and Si) in spores in his last powerpoint.

    Dr. Weber hypothesizes about the mechanism (just as Ivins did in his lab notebook pages dated May 11, 1998 –

    Heterogeneous inoculum placed in sporulation media, growth to exhaustion of media, sporulation starts in one variant, growth continues in other and related Fe chelation?, Fe kept in solution by chelation; spores released; Fe-R adsorbs to spores? —> SiO2 absorbs to Fe after Fe-R degradation.

  7. anonymous scientist said

    Some interesting discussion of the Livermore slides over here:

  8. We can use this framework to ask questions about what Dr. Weber’s team did. For each way to prepare simulant, we can ask the following.

    1. They had what number of spores produced? How do they estimate that?

    2. Did they apply separation methods?

    3. Did they separate without realizing it? For example, they centrifuge spores several times and each time kept the denser and discarded the lighter. An example of how this might happen. In their lab, they called this drying. But actually they were also separating by density of silicon in the spores and didn’t even realize they were doing that.

    4. What was the step by step procedure? They need to go back over what they did using this mathematical framework of the state of the sample at each stage of the process.

    5. They may not have understood what they were doing at the time. Their results may be much narrower in interpretation than they realized.

    6. They may have to do new experiments using this framework for experimental design.

    7. The goal is to understand the two way table of number of spores where each cell has a range of allowed weights of the spores and weights of silicon in each spore.

    8. They need to try to estimate back to what was the situation after production and before separation and the impact of separation.

    9. They need to realize they may call a lab step drying by centrifuging and do it multiple times and they are actually separating the spores by weight of spore and weight of silicon in each spore.

    10. Their interpretation may be wrong because they use words for lab steps like drying and centrifuging and don’t realize this changes the state of the sample.

    11. The state of the sample is the two way table of number of spores of each type in the sample at that stage. This is the number of spores in a cell where the cell is defined by the allowed range of spore weight in the cell and the allowed range of silicon in each spore.

    12. The lab process may also introduce the requirement to conceptualize additional variables that influence the results. These may be observed or not, but all of them must be at least modeled conceptually.

    13. The ratio from stage to stage in each cell may depend on a factor. If that factor varies it expands the size of the state space. So if another factor is operating and it is variable, we may have a cube with the other dimension being that factor.

    14. The team may have followed different procedures or number of times to centrifuge to dry etc with different samples and never understood they were also separating by density. So their results may not be directly comparable across growth media or the starting samples they used.

    • The two way table is the state of the system where the system is a separated sample after some path of steps. If they are keeping only one set of material after each stage of lab process, then they are tracking a single path out of a many path process. They need to conceptualize this to understand it and interpret their results.

      They need to think of the state of the system at each stage. That is key to understanding any experiment. That means the set of mathematical numbers that characterize the system, even if you can’t observe them directly.

      Those numbers exist and they change each time a lab step is done. If some material is discarded after a lab step, it needs to be understood that a path of materials is being tracked, which means inferences on the original set of material are limited.

  9. We can think of the following sequence of tables.

    1. Anthrax is grown and we have a 2 way table. One dimension is weight of spore. The other is weight of silicon in the spore. For each cell in the table we have the number of spores of that weight of spore and weight of silicon in the spore.

    2. We do first separation. We have a new table of the above form.

    3. We iteratively separate.

    4. We get to the final set and we have the final table of the above form.

    Track the number of spores in the tables as well as separate tables with frequencies. The reason to track numbers of spores is there is a yield factor in each stage that differs between cells.

    Now separate out each cell and give its sequence of total numbers of spores from after production to final values including each stage of separation.

    This is the framework to understand the arithmetic.

    • Obviously, its hard to imagine observing this all directly. So we have to have methods and make assumptions. Those should be explained in terms of this framework.

      At each stage of separation, we don’t throw away the different separated results. Suppose at each stage of separation we got denser and less dense. Then the less dense we also separate. So if we did 4 separation stages, each of which gave higher and lower density, we would have 2 to the 4th or 16 subsets after the 4 stages of separation.

      Suppose we had an original table with 16 cells and at the end we had reached complete separation so that the the 16 subsets after 4 stages were each homogeneous and corresponded to the 16 cells of the original table. This is a simplification.

      We have to make assumptions, maybe even cruder than this to estimate the arithmetic.

      We have to model the math as it is in the process. Then we have to think about what we can actually measure. Then we have to make simplifying assumptions.

      We can think of a type of separation efficiency at each stage. We can assume this is a constant the same for the different cells at first. Later we can vary that. We may be able to do some of this by iterative numerical calculation or Monte Carlo simulation.

      We have to think of it as it is, then model what is happening, measure what we can, and make assumptions as we have to. Using this framework also gives us new ideas on what to measure and how to vary the experiments.

  10. Some more basic questions. For any run, anthrax letters or simulant, we want to know the following.

    1. How many total spores produced in that run. A number like 10 trillion.

    2. How many had any silicon at all? Say 1 trillion.

    3. Of the spores that had silicon, what is the weight of the spore? What is the weight of the silicon? Obviously, its a 2 way table.

    4. How much total weight of the sample? For example 10 grams. How much of that weight is silicon? Say its 1/10 gram.

    5. Then we can think of the production table of each segment of silicon spores. We can work out starting liters of anthrax growth solution and then work out a table for each category of spore. If we have two indices for spores, weight of spore and weight of silicon in the spore, then we have a production table from starting liters to final yield in the sample of that particular category of spore. Obviously, they are produced together, but we can still work out the numbers for each category separately.

    6. How do they determine all the numbers?

    7. They can simplify to make it easier. Have just 4 to 10 categories of spores and work out sample calculations for each.

  11. Questions for Dr. Weber.

    1. How many liters of growth solution did you start with?

    2. How many square feet of plates and other data on the plates?

    3. How many total spores did you produce?

    4. What steps did you take to get the 700 spores containing silicon?

    5. How many separate runs?

    6. What was the calendar date you started? What was the calendar date you finished?

    7. How much lab space? Was it dedicated during that time?

    8. How many people worked on it?

    9. Of all the spores produced in the first place, how many had silicon? Give the total numbers. Produced 10 trillion, 1 trillion had silicon.

    10. How did you determine your ratios?

    11. Did your yield go up at the end of your work from the start? Did you have a learning curve? What was that from?

    12. Given the methods used to estimate the percentage of spores produced that had silicon, how reliable are your estimates?

    13. If you detected 700 spores with silicon out of a production of 10 trillion spores, where does the idea come from that every spore had silicon?

    14. Other basic questions like these.

  12. Anthrax Production Table.

    1. 100,000 liters
    2. produce 10,000 grams spores.
    3. 100 grams contain the high density silicon.
    4. 1/16 of those are separated to produce dried spores in the letters. That gives 7 grams.

    If it was 14 grams in the letters then you need 200,000 liters.

    Where is the government’s table?

    • This is somewhat simplified of course. But we need to see the simple version before we complicate it. We may need only some of the spores to contain silicon. So we can cut down by 1/10 or 1/100. The NAS should do this calculation. So should the government. So should Sandia if they have scientific integrity.

      • There can be factors in the other direction. If we only need 1 percent of the spores to contain silicon then those have to contain a lot. The slides above were vague on how many orders of magnitude variation in silicon density. It might be 1000 instead of 100 so we get back to the same numbers as above.

        Moreover, in scaled up production, we may get different factors then in the setup at Sandia. Sandia had it easier than Ivins would have. Ivins had a single glove box and had to work at night and conceal it from his co-workers.

        One slide above talks of weeks of work I thought though I couldn’t find it just looking now. But this represented likely months of work of multiple people in a lab area where this was set up and kept set up for weeks and months. Ivins had to take his set up apart each night and put it back together again or maybe a whole weekend. Those conditions would reduce the yield at each stage substantially. Adverse lab conditions working with anthrax not simulant would reduce the yield by orders of magnitude.

  13. How did he get the 700 spores containing silicon that he analyzed? He made 700 spores exactly and all 700 had silicon? How do you make exactly 700 spores?

    Each letter had 1 trillion spores or maybe 2 trillion. That corresponds to a gram of spores depending on their size. That can take 10 liters of liquid growth solution to produce. They are using simulant so there is no reason for them to produce tiny quantities.

    Suppose that they started with 10 liters of liquid growth media solution and produced 1 trillion spores. Not all trillion contained silicon. Then they did iterative separation until they got 700 spores separated that were all silicon. Then they analyzed those 700.

    No one would start out saying I only want to have 700 spores with silicon to study. If you could have a gram of separated spores with silicon all dried, you would want them. If someone handed you a test tube of harmless simulant with 1 gram of pure silicon spores you would take it. They didn’t produce that because they couldn’t.

    The slides appear to be informative, but when we put a frame of calculations to analyze production of the silicon in the letters its not put together in the slides. Why? Why didn’t they work out the production calculations to show how you go from starting ingredients to the contents of the letters? If the results were in their favor, they would explain it the way that these comments have but it would come out easy. Instead, they present slides that are not in the context of calculating the production of the material in the actual letters sent.

    The slides are very hard to put together. It looks impressive, but you can’t tell from them what it means. They don’t put it together in a calculation of the contents of the letters sent. Because they didn’t think to? Because its beyond the grasp of the government to do it? Or because the government did it and the results were 88,000 liters or some such number.

    So they present slides that have little bits of results but they don’t make sense as a whole because they are not intended to. If they put it all together to calculate the requirements to produce the anthrax in the letters they get huge numbers and so they presented little bits of results that you can’t understand what they mean as part of the calculation of the letter production. This fits with their whole pattern in this case.

  14. The current situation is that simple lab setups don’t produce enough high density silicon spores that are separated from others to form the content of the letter anthrax which had high density silicon spores.

    Cascade Separation Model for spores containing high silicon. The spores with high levels of silicon may have been separated by a multiple stage cascade of separation means. Separation can be by


    There does not seem to be a chemical method available for separation of spores with low silicon and those with high silicon.

    Electromagnetic would depend on using electric and magnetic fields and that silicon acts as a dielectric so that the em properties of high silicon spores are different. Ivins couldn’t use em fields in his glove box without anyone noticing.

    Mechanical separation uses the difference in density of high silicon spores and low silicon spores. This is typically low efficiency and requires multiple iterations, i.e. a cascade with losses in each round of the good, i.e. high silicon spores.

    Suppose that the final spores sent in the first batch of letters would have taken 55 liters to produce if there was no silicon issue. (This is a number suggested somewhere and which is consistent with calculations based on the paper released in 2004 for production of bacillus subtilis.)

    Assume that when silicon is added in preparation that 1 percent of the spores are high density silicon spores.

    Then to get the spores needed with no losses requires 5,500 liters to start with.

    If we have 4 separation stages in the cascade, and each stage loses 1/2 of the good spores, ie high density spores, then we get a yield of 1/16. So we need 88,000 liters to start with.

    One can plug in different numbers and assumptions. However, one does it, cascade separation as the method to prepare the high silicon spores in the letters would require a facility designed and built to produce and separate anthrax spores.

    That means you have to start with and handle 88,000 liters of anthrax prep material and anthrax production without harming the humans producing it. This requires a manufacturing separation facility.

    Even if the factors work out to be a lower quantity, cascade separation is inherently big scale compared to the Ivins glove box. You can’t produce and do cascade separation without your co-workers knowing you are doing it.

    You can read about isotope separation at Wiki and the Manhattan project. The Manhattan project cost 2 billion. US annual GDP in 1944 was somewhat over 200 billion. A major part of the Manhattan project cost was cascade separation of uranium. It simply gives a framework. Cascade separation is an industrial process, its not something you do in a glove box without anyone noticing while working 2 hours and 15 minutes in the evening only for 3 days.

    Alternatively, one has to find a chemical method that is high efficiency. But that would require experiments to do. Developing such a method would require that you produce spores and dry them and do elemental analysis of the density of the spores. You have to dry them because to do elemental analysis you have to separate your produced spores from everything else, which includes whatever liquid they are in.

    So the alternative to cascade separation is chemical experimentation that requires drying spores to do elemental analysis to determine if your method has the efficiency required. Either way, Ivins couldn’t do it in his glove box without anyone noticing.

    Cascade separation would have required a major government like Pakistan to do. A chemical breakthrough method would also require a national lab to do. So we are looking for a major country that devoted production level facilities or extensive lab time to this purpose. That is a small list. Ivins is not on it.

    • The slides above discuss analysis of 700 spores. The anthrax letters contained trillions of spores. The letters combined contained at least 7 trillion spores is a reasonable minimum.

      The production of 700 spores is different in kind from the production of 7 trillion spores, even apart from silicon.

      The production of 7 trillion high density silicon spores is different in kind than the production of 700 low density silicon spores. That is what the lab results above are about, production of 700 low silicon density spores.

      Production of 7 trillion high density silicon spores requires a production separation technology and facility. It requires a project to develop it and build it and then do it. It can’t be done in a glove box with no one noticing.

      In one slide (What are the Forensic Implications) he mentions that there are 2 orders of magnitude at least in silicon in the spores in the sample. That is at least a factor of 100, which was used in the above calculation.

      Also see the Passive Accumulation is Unlikely slide. This implies its a big process to get the spores you want.

      The reason our guys have not replicated the silicon in the spores in the letters is that you have to build a production high density silicon spore separation facility with a capacity of 100,000 liters. It has to be able to process anthrax to do the letters, but one could do subtilis for testing.

    • The 2 orders of magnitude in the What are the Forensic Implications slide in high density silicon gives us the 100 factor. Applied to 55 liters that gives us 5,500 liters. That disproves Ivins. Even 10 liters to produce the spores with no silicon times 100 gives 1000 liters. This rules out Ivins. We are starting to see the types of numbers needed. Those lead away from Ivins.

  15. DXer said

    Michael Callahan addressed these issues in July 2005 — he worked with biological terrorism working groups from the National Academy of Science, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security. His focus areas are risk analysis of small scale biological weapon production. Given that Michael Callahan has worked with NAS biological weapon subcommittees and now works for the Homeland Security, the NAS panel should avail themselves of his obvious expertise. NAS panel members like D.A. Henderson have received classified briefing on Pasechnik’s work but Dr. Callahan would be an invaluable source of insights.

    “Mr. Chairman, distinguished Members, it is an honor to appear before you to present information on the threat of traditional and next-generation biological weapons. My perspective is derived from experiences as a tropical medicine physician who studies and treats the diseases caused by these agents, from experiences working with former biological weapon scientists in Russia, and threat assessment activities on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Bioterrorism Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC).

    This subcommittee has asked that I provide some perspective on the threat of engineered biological weapons. As there is considerable debate about several aspects of biological weapons, I have attempted to support this testimony with photographs from the field and from laboratory modeling activities.

    Biological Weapons and Terrorism

    Unfortunately, several disquieting observations of the October 2001 anthrax attack using the U.S. mail system merit emphasis. First, the attack illustrated that advanced expertise had readily been exploited by a bioterrorist; the preparation in the Daschle letter contained extraordinarily high concentrations of purified endospores. Second, the spore preparation was coated with an incipient which helped retard electrostatic attraction, thus increasing aerosolization of the agent. Third, the choice of the near-ubiquitous Ames strain, combined with the absence of forensic details in either the agent or the letters, indicate that the terrorist is scientifically informed, wary of detection and extremely dangerous.

    I use this well-publicized case to demonstrate that from the perspective of the terrorist, biological weapons are likely to be the optimal choice for inducing terror. As a practical point, the terrorist is likely to be attracted to any means which causes maximal disruption, terror and loss of confidence while using the minimal amount of skilled personnel, specialized resources and financial investment. For example, the skills required for bioweapon manufacture may be derived from manufacturing practices that use similar technologies such as the fermentative and agricultural sciences, vaccine manufacture, potable water treatment and environmental microbiology.
    Next-generation Biological Weapons

    Next-generation biological weapons are those that benefit from new technologies, those made from previously unknown infectious agents or biological toxins, and those where a traditional agent is dramatically altered by the addition of a high-tech capability. One concept that is central to discussions of enhanced virulence biological weapons is that the same open source methodologies that advance our ability to improve upon human health may also be commandeered for nefarious purposes. A second point is that traditional biological weapons such as those produced in military weapons programs can be modernized to achieve new levels of lethality. The following case is used to illustrate this point.

    In the former U.S. weapons program, estimates were made about the number of anthrax spores required for an LD50 (dose required to kill 50% of a population) and LD90 (dose required to kill 90% of a population). Extrapolations from these estimates indicate that between 8,000-10,000 spores would be required for infection. These estimates are likely accurate for the anthrax strains used in the pre-1971 program. Unfortunately, in recent years there have been dramatic advances in the modeling of airflow in the human lung which in turn has driven the field of aerosolized drug and vaccine delivery. In the last 8 years, particle physicists and pulmonary scientists have worked together to improve the efficiency with which drugs reach the alveoli of the lung, which is also the preferred target for the aerosolized anthrax spore. A parallel advancement has occurred in the field of immunology where new organic coatings have been invented which dramatically increase the uptake of particles by the specialized cells in the alveoli. Unfortunately these cells are also responsible for providing the anthrax bacillus with a protected beachhead for replication. The result is that two unrelated technologies, a method for generating small drug and vaccine aerosols, and the development of a specialized coating, are responsible for dramatically reducing the number of spores required to produce a successful infection.

    I will summarize this written testimony by reaffirming the concept that the dark science of biological weapon design and manufacture parallels that of the health sciences and the cross mixed disciplines of modern technology. Potential advances in biological weapon lethality will in part be the byproduct of peaceful scientific progress. So, until the time when there are no more terrorists, the U.S. Government and the American people will depend on the scientific leaders of their field to identify any potential dark side aspect to every achievement

    Again, I appreciate the opportunity to present this information before the Committee. I shall be happy to answer your questions and to provide additional documentation supporting the material presented.

    ENGINEERING BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS, in CAPITOL HILL HEARING TESTIMONY, Statement of Michael V. Callahan, MD, DTM&H Director, Biological Threat Defense & Mass-Casualty Care Center For Integration Of Medicine & Innovative Technology (CIMIT) addressed the issue before the Committee on House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack on July 13, 2005:

    Returning to the general issue of semantics you raise again in your post, Andrew Card perhaps said it best in October 2001 on “Meet the Press:

    “MR. CARD: Well, first of all, the weaponization of anthrax was done when the terrorists put it into a letter and mailed it. The traditional definition of weaponized means you put it on the top of a missile or on the top of something that’s going to be shot from a gun. Terrorists have taken this highly refined anthrax and put it into a letter, and that weaponized the anthrax, as far as I’m concerned. But the technical definition of what’s weaponized or what’s not, to me, is irrelevant.”

    “Andrew Card discusses the war on terror,” “SHOW: Meet the Press (10:00 AM ET) – NBC,” October 28, 2001

  16. “August 21, 2008
    FBI unveils science of anthrax investigation
    Sandia’s work demonstrated anthrax letters contained non-weaponized form”

    “Sandia’s work demonstrated to the FBI that the form of bacillus anthracis contained in those letters was not a weaponized form, a form of the bacteria prepared to disperse more readily. The possibility of a weaponized form was of great concern to investigators, says Joseph Michael, the principal investigator for the project. This information was crucial in ruling out state-sponsored terrorism.”

    The above is Sandia’s own webpage. This statement was likely vetted by the FBI, which can certainly comment on it if it thinks it isn’t the message they want to send.

    Sandia and the FBI are reaching a conclusion that it was not state sponsored.

    “This information was crucial in ruling out state-sponsored terrorism.”

    I used the blog DickDestinty as reference. “IMMUNITY TO ANTHRAX FACT: A continuing story” September 16, 2008.

    The FBI in 2008 was pushing hard to make the public believe the anthrax was “not weaponized” in the way this press release does. The press release is not saying a particular manner of weaponization is ruled out. The press release is saying that Sandia proved the anthrax is “not weaponized” period. They don’t say they ruled out one way of many to weaponize anthrax.

    The press release above defines weaponized in behavior terms, “weaponized form, a form of the bacteria prepared to disperse more readily.” Even this broad definition is not comprehensive, but it is closer to one.

    The FBI, Sandia and others can comment on this press release if they want to and say its conclusion is wrong or that it is inoperative. Even Ziegler as press secretary at the Nixon White House would admit when a press release was inoperative. “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.” Search Ziegler inoperative.

    The DOJ and FBI were engaged in a publicity campaign last year to convince the public. That is the context in which their statements and use of terms should be judged.

  17. DXer said

    In December 2001, the CIA obtained the record of a request by Ayman Zawahiri to Al Qaeda’s military commander, Egyptian Mohammed Atef, for a book that extensively featured Dr. Ken Alibek and discussed the method of microencapsulation, the method that may have been used in aerosolizing the Daschle and Leahy anthrax. The FBI and CIA very likely were motivated to continue wiretapping Ali Al-Timimi’s phone and email to pursue this lead. According to Ali’s lawyer, he was in contact with folks associated with Al Qaeda’s network including Bin Laden’s sheik (the subject of Bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of war) immediately before and after the first anthrax mailing. According to his lawyer, Ali even met with the “911 imam” to discuss a planned hand delivery of a warning to every member of Congress on the first anniversary of the anthrax letters to the Senators.

    The book that Ayman asked Atef to get (and it is sold by Amazon) explains:

    “This coating process – called microencapsulation – is also considered evidence of possible Soviet assistance, since only the Soviets and Americans (before 1969) managed to coat…” The authors interviewed both Dr. Alibek and Dr. Bailey (and specifically acknowledged their help). The authors explained:

    “Dr. Malcolm Dando, the distinguished biologist and Professor of International Security at the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, Englad, talks of microencapsulation, a process by which BW agents can be coated and protected against a variety of harmful outside factors… This process also allows agents to survive longer and to be inhaled more easily, which increases the likelihood of infection and death. Currently, the detection and identification of microencapsulated BW agents is more difficult than for non-encapsulated materials. The Soviets crossed this scientific threshold years ago and were able to ‘spray’ their bacterial and viral agents that were resistant to the sun’s rays.)”

    They continued:

    “In fact, microencapsulation can already be tailored for the mission. For example, you can apply one coating for added protection from heat, and then another one for the effects of sunlight. A germ would need both coatings if it were packed inside a missile warhead and then had to survive explosive decompression at its target, together with sudden exposure to sunlight.”

    Such a coating is used in pharmaceuticals and functional animal feedstuffs, for example, to avoid the destruction by enzymes before reaching the target organ.

    A thesis written by Dr. Alibek’s assistant — who the directory from 2002 shows was a couple doors away from Ali Al-Timimi — says if silica was detected it would have been used for this purpose of encapsulation. The author, Dr. Crockett, also acknowledges the help of FBI’s Amerithrax consultant, William Patrick. There was more than one bioweapons thesis by an assistant to Dr. Alibek at GMU’s Center for Biodefense that thanked Dr. Patrick.

    The forensic finding set the respective squads off in alternative investigative directions. One squad focused on, for example, Hatfill, friend of William Patrick who might have learned a trick or two. Another squad focused on Al-Timimi, who also might have learned a trick or two from the same fount of knowledge — given he shared the same water fountain with Dr. Alibek and Dr. Bailey. In fact, curiously, it now appears that both Al-Timimi and Dr. Bailey worked at SRA. I spoke to Ali’s wife, who was very gracious, but until and unless cleared by counsel, she is not able to discuss why Ali had a high security clearance for mathematical support work for the Navy while at SRA.

  18. The search General Parker weaponized energetic picks up

    My name is Major General John S. Parker and I represent the outstanding … term “weaponized” and decided the terms “professionally done” and “energetic” as …

    Although the link no longer works.

    DXer’s point about how the meaning of not weaponized has drifted is the correct summary. I was mistaken on the FBI switching to not weaponized after the clean up. That happened already in 2001 and came from Fort Detrick in particular General Parker. But they wanted descriptive words used like energetic. Over time as the memory of the clean up faded the FBI faded out that energetic was the substitute for weaponized.

    Detrick didn’t say in 2001 it was not weaponized. They said use descriptive words. This is in line with DXer’s suggested usage. Detrick didn’t say that as a conclusion or observation the anthrax was not weaponized. They said stop using weaponized, in essence because as DXer pointed out, its ambiguous.

    In an operationalism logical positivism sense, Detrick was saying weaponized is not observable from the anthrax, but its behavior is. So use a word descriptive of the behavior seen. That word was energetic to Detrick. That didn’t mean the anthrax was produced in someone’s garage using a mail order chemistry kit.

    The FBI then took advantage of the fading memories of the cleanup to drop the descriptive words like energetic and just say not weaponized. This twisted what Detrick had intended in 2001. Detrick wasn’t saying in 2001, this was not weaponized. They were saying use different words that are observational and don’t use weaponized or not weaponized at all. This is line with DXer’s suggestion and with an operationlist logical positivist approach to science.

    So energetic and professionally done were dropped by the FBI later and they converted don’t use the word weaponized into it was not weaponized.

    • DXer said

      More to the point, it is WMD Chief Majidi who says the term “weaponized” is ambiguous. He is within his right to use it in the manner he defines it — and the issue just needs to be understood accordingly. He defines it as meaning silica on the outside added post-production for the purpose of aiding dispersability. This points away from Dugway and toward the microencapsulation patent (given that Dugway’s Harper and Larsen, for example, apparently used the method historically used by Dugway).

      Senator Graham uses “weaponized” in the broader sense as recently as an October 9 OpEd essay on his personal blog. Microencapsulation does not involve adding silica post-production for the purpose of aiding dispersability. The military lab that did controlled experiments (and shared their results) used a siliconizing solution in the slurry BEFORE drying– is not post-production. The head of the military lab described the Microdroplet Cell Culture Technique patent to me as a “Wow!” microencapsulation patent that increases the viability of a wide variety of pathogens. The international application illustrates its application to inhaled vaccines — on its term, it relates to an aerosol.

      David Hoffman’s excellent recent DEAD HAND book has Dr. Alibek explaining the background of Pasechnik’s work on the issue. Dr. Alibek was Al-Timimi’s suitemate and co-invented the process with the former deputy USAMRIID commander. Although Dr. Alibek left the country abruptly and will not address the issue, Dr. Bailey would be able to explain this (through his counsel). Dr. Popov, who arrived after Al-Timimi’s time could also address the issue now that Dr. Michael has said anti-foaming agent was not the source of the silicon. (We can presume that other controlled experiments, not yet disclosed, ruled that prospect out). Dr. Michael should not be faulted for his use of weaponization because he in fact does define the term in the narrow sense and has no experience in making dry aerosols powder and there is no reason to think he knew anything about Pasechnik’s work.

      Dr. Michael’s wonderful testimony should be understood to establish the location of the silicon observed. A conclusion beyond that goes beyond both his experience and data == but given he has defined the term “weaponized” in the same manner as WMD Chief Majidi, he has thus expressly limited his testimony. It is perfectly acceptable for the national security division of the Department of Justice to use definitions in this manner. Dr. Hassell said that some things would be obscured to avoid bad guys from learning what countermeasures are being taken. It would be contrary to sound policy for weaponization to be too openly discussed.

      Last year I obtained a lengthy written decision from Dr. Alibek’s and Dr. Bailey’s colleague Serge Popov — quoted in Hoffman’s new book — precisely to advance things on this specific issue. He is now the best expert to approach for a formal opinion on whether microencapsulation is indicated now that we have heard the FBI’s opinion on antifoam not being the source.

      Dr. Michael and Dr. Kotula can now be asked about microencapsulation to see if they know anything about silica being added pre-production. None of the questions were directed at this issue in open session Such questions should be raised in closed session. There are no aerosolization experts on the NAS panel but as expert scientists in related fields there is no need they cannot follow along and understand the definitions being used.

      The highly classified Al-Timimi briefing is still pending and so the US DOJ is striking a sound balance in their approach. Caught by surprise by Dr. Ivins’ suicide, they have done the best possible under all the circumstances — balancing all the considerations..

  19. Click to access Jama_anthrax.pdf

    “The risk that anthrax spores might
    pose to public health after the period of primary aerosolization can be inferred from the Sverdlovsk experience, investigations in animal hair processing plants, and modeling analyses by the US Army. At Sverdlovsk, new cases of inhalational anthrax developed as late as 43 days after the presumed date of release, but none occurred during the months and years afterward. Some have questioned whether any of those cases with onset of disease beyond 7 days might have represented illness following resuspension of spores from the ground or other surfaces, a process that has been called secondary aerosolization. While it is impossible to state with
    certainty that secondary aerosolizations did not occur, it appears unlikely. It should be noted that few efforts were made to decontaminate the environment after the accident and only 47 000 of the city’s 1 million inhabitants were vaccinated.8 The epidemic curve (FIGURE 4) is typical for a common- source epidemic, and it is possible to account for virtually all patients having been within the area of the plume on the day of the accident. Moreover, if secondary aerosolization had been important, new cases almost certainly would have continued for a period well beyond the observed 43 days.

    Although persons working with animal
    hair or hides are known to be at increased risk of developing inhalational or cutaneous anthrax, surprisingly few of those exposed in the United States have developed disease. During the first half of this century, a significant number of goat hair mill workers were likely exposed to aerosolized spores. Mandatory vaccination became a requirement
    for working in goat hair mills only in the 1960s. Meanwhile, many unvaccinated
    person-years of high-risk exposure
    had occurred, but only 13 cases of
    inhalational anthrax were reported.19,44 One study of environmental exposure
    was conducted at a Pennsylvania goat
    hair mill at which workers were shown
    to inhale up to 510 B anthracis particles of at least 5 μmin diameter per person per 8-hour shift. These concentrations of spores were constantly present
    in the environment during the time of
    this study,44 but no cases of inhalational anthrax occurred.

    Thomas V. Inglesby, MD
    Donald A. Henderson, MD, MPH
    John G. Bartlett, MD
    Michael S. Ascher, MD
    Edward Eitzen, MD, MPH
    Arthur M. Friedlander, MD
    Jerome Hauer, MPH
    Joseph McDade, PhD
    Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH
    Tara O’Toole, MD, MPH
    Gerald Parker, PhD, DVM
    Trish M. Perl, MD, MSc
    Philip K. Russell, MD
    Kevin Tonat, PhD
    for the Working Group
    on Civilian Biodefense

    It doesn’t sound like people in Moscow were dying from anthrax in the mail. That has only ever happened in the US case.

    Search reaerosolization sverdlovsk anthrax. See also

    “Sverdlovsk revisited: Modeling human inhalation anthrax”

    Dean A. Wilkening*

    “The Sverdlovsk accident, on the other hand, does allow one to
    determine the low-dose incubation period because the time of
    exposure has been estimated to within a fraction of a day (assuming
    that spore reaerosolization did not occur to an appreciable extent),
    the B. anthracis strains, possibly including up to four, released at
    Sverdlovsk were virulent strains used in the Soviet biological
    weapons program at the time (25), their particle size must have
    been5–10 microns for the cloud to have reached victims located
    several kilometers down wind, and the dose to which people were
    exposed can be estimated by simulating the release by using an
    atmospheric dispersion model, as discussed above.”

    Worth reading in full at

    Resuspension is also a good term to add to searches along with inhalation.

    • DXer said

      On Sverdlosk the best source is the new 592-page book DEAD HAND. Washington Post correspondent David Hoffman had access to Russian archives on Sverdlosk. He explains that the pathologist working so secretly would ride home reeking of chlorine and people would flee her. NPR had an interview and article yesterday.

  20. Searches on Anthrax spores clump pull up many hits. By using etc. very high quality hits can be found.

    anthrax spores clump

    and try also .gov, .edu, .org, .uk, .fr, .ch, .de, a little in .cn and .ru.

    anthrax spores clump,

    Over and over authoritative sources say that anthrax tends to clump.

    • One way to understand the change by the FBI of weaponized or not. At first, there was a cleanup under way. The cleanup found that the anthrax was weaponized. Add Secondary Aerosolization
      re-aerosolization, static charge, stick, etc. to find hits. Ed Lake’s page comes up with documents on this.

      The FBI couldn’t say during the cleanup that the anthrax was not weaponized. The clean up people knew it was. There would have been a huge reaction if the FBI was claiming it wasn’t weaponized while the clean up people were finding how hard it was to clean up and how it was easily reaerosolized.

      Once the clean up was one and fading into memory, the FBI could come out and give its discovery that the anthrax had not been aerosolized. The government employees and contractors involved in the clean up wanted to move on and not make waves so at that point they let it go.

      As you read articles from 2001 and 2002 with the clean up going on or recent, it stands out how stupid the FBI would have sounded to claim no weaponization at that point. The experts and the literature were all about how anthrax clumps and doesn’t come back into the air once it settles, etc. but that the clean up was difficult because this anthrax was not like that.

      Hart Senate Office building article at Wiki “The building was decontaminated using chlorine gas in December 2001,[1] and the building reopened January 23, 2002.[2]”.

      So during that period the FBI couldn’t say it was not weaponized.

    • DXer said

      You should not use the term or discuss the issue of “weaponization” without defining it. Dr. Majidi and Dr. Michael are using it in a very specific way.

      At the briefing of the science media, Dr. Majidi explained:

      “DR. MAJIDI: You know, this is a — if you look, ultimately what we’re saying is that that is not a postproduction additive to make the anthrax more dispersible. That’s what the whole concept or methodology of weaponization comes from, is to weaponize. That’s really — that’s an ambiguous word, but what people mean by weaponize is that postproduction of the spores was silica added to it to make it more dispersible.”

      They use it to refer to post-production treatment resulting in silica on the outside for the purpose of aiding dispersability. See Majidi briefing to science media. Dugway in 2001 was doing that at a dairy processor in Wisconsin using a mixer. The only reason I’ve been pressing Dr. Michael for his powerpoint was to confirm he defined his terms.

      That is where the confusion has resulted — people are disagreeing when actually often the disagreement just relates to using the term in the same way. For example, if it is not “post-production” treatment where silica was added for the purpose of dispersability — but instead a silicate was added during processing for the purpose of microencapsulation — it is not within the scope of how Dr. Majidi is using the term. See Microdroplet Cell Culture Technique. Dr. Crockett, co-author with Dr. Alibek and 2 doors down from Dr. Al-Timimi, has explained that microencapsulation using silica was developed in the pharamaceutical field and reduces the need for milling equipment.

      Those who have actually made aerosolized anthrax simulant and have done controlled experiments on the subject (e.g., Air Force lab) have concluded that the Silicon Signal resulted from the intentional addition of the silica-related substance. The expert who presented in the open session at the NAS as the FBI’s expert on “weaponization”, Dr. MIchael, has never made an aerosol anthrax simulant and has never made aerosolized anthrax. But it is totally understandable, as Dr. Hassell has explained in the briefing to the science media, that there will be some things that go unexplained because it not appropriate to let our enemies know what countermeasures are being taken. (I uploaded his quote from the transcript last week).

      EPA is currently processing a request under FOIA for clean-up documents and there have been numerous emails and calls. It appears they are working hard and will not be charging.
      But progress has been slow, the reports contradictory, and there has been no formal response yet. The clean-up people would typically have no way of knowing why it so readily re-aerosolized. The documents nonetheless are worth obtaining under a “no rock unturned” approach because they may include references to scientific work on the spores.

      Some of the documents relate to an EPA contractor who was a former Zawahiri associate who was supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins. His nanoemulsion was tested at the Capitol in the clean-up. The firm collected $80 million in investment — the vast bulk post-911.

      • “You should not use the term or discuss the issue of “weaponization” without defining it. ” Disagree.

        In 2001 and 2002 while the clean up was under way, those doing or observing or commenting on it described the anthrax as weaponized. It is allowed to do a search to find people at the time using that word and to say so.

        My discussion was of the statements being made. Which of my sentences is not about that? You are saying we can not look at the contemporary assessment and statements made in the period 2001 without using a single definition of the term weaponization?

        It is not required to have a specific unvarying definition of a term in order to discuss it. This is particularly where others use the term without using that single definition.

        The comments of those at the time constitute evidence. They found that the anthrax re-aerosolized. They said that was evidence of weaponization.

        Those at the time described the way the anthrax was behaving. Based on that they said it was weaponized.

        Definition in terms of behavior is a valid logical method of definition. Logical positivism is a system based on that principle, although in practice even Wittgenstein admitted it couldn’t work completely.

        Weaponization does not refer to a specific single method of preparation. The word itself is about a general process. The Greeks and Romans had weapons and weaponized. Every age has weaponized. The word weapon was not invented by Vahid Majidi. The meaning of weaponization is not restricted to a specific method to prepare anthrax.

        Weapon is an old word and weaponization is not restricted to the field of anthrax nor a specific method.

        What method was used at Sverdlorsk? At Stepnogorsk? Right now by the Russians with genetic alterations?

        Its possible for Russia to attack us with weaponized anthrax even though we don’t know the details of the process used. If ICBM’s full of anthrax hit the US and disperse anthrax killing millions, you say we can’t say its weaponized because the Russians didn’t disclose the recipe used to prepare it?

        That is precisely the analog to this situation. People in 2001 and 2002 reacted to what they were observing. They observed its behavior. They characterized the behavior as weaponized. This is consistent with Logical Positivism and operationlism in science.

        One can observe anthrax behave in ways it does not and describe the anthrax as weaponized on that basis without knowing the manner it was prepared. The word weaponization is not specific to anthrax science or a specific method of treatment but is a general term.

        We have a comparison between the behavior of the anthrax at Sverdlorsk and that in the 2001 attacks. There are documents I found that conclude that the Sverdlorsk anthrax did not re-aerosolize while other documents say that the anthrax in 2001 did. This is evidence that the anthrax in 2001 was weaponized better in that respect than at the Sverdlorsk plant, a facility that most people would agree was weaponizing anthrax even without knowing the processes used.

        In terms of observed behavior at Sverdorsk and the Senate office building and the mail transmission to people in other states the anthrax in 2001 was behaving more weaponized than the Soviet 1979 anthrax at Sverdorsk. That observed behavior is evidence of weaponization where weaponization is described in terms of the behavior.

        If one used weaponization to refer to a specific process of manufacture and no other, then that process might produce anthrax less lethal than another process. That would result in the more lethal anthrax being said to be not weaponized even though it was prepared by humans after experimentation by a method to kill more people. To say that a preparation of anthrax that kills more people is not weaponized because its not some specific method is to depart from the meaning of weaponized as a general term. If you want to define a specific process and restrict to that you should not use a general term like weaponization but a specific term for that process not a general purpose word like weaponization. The public and scientists are right to use weaponization as a general purpose word to describe human activity to make something into a weapon. Anthrax that is more lethal because of its behavior which is artificial is accurately described as weaponized.

      • ITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113B > § 2332a
        Prev | Next
        § 2332a. Use of weapons of mass destruction
        How Current is This?
        (a) Offense Against a National of the United States or Within the United States.— A person who, without lawful authority, uses, threatens, or attempts or conspires to use, a weapon of mass destruction—
        (1) against a national of the United States while such national is outside of the United States;
        (2) against any person or property within the United States, and

        From Cornell website.

        Weaponization under the statute is not restricted to a specific means of preparing anthrax. The statute uses weaponization the same way the dictionary does.

        Merriam Webster:

        “Main Entry: 1weap·on
        Pronunciation: \ˈwe-pən\
        Function: noun
        Etymology: Middle English wepen, from Old English wǣpen; akin to Old High German wāffan weapon, Old Norse vāpn
        Date: before 12th century

        1 : something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy
        2 : a means of contending against another”

      • DXer said

        I think you’ve done a great job Old Atlantic at making clear that Dr. Majidi and Dr. Michael — neither of whom have ever weaponized anthrax — are misleading through word games. In legal briefs, an attorney might describe their approach “Alice in Wonderland.” With words having the meaning they give them. All Dr. Michael’s study really accomplished was to identify the location of the Silicon. He then should have sat down.

        My point is that by defining terms everyone can get on the same page and you’ve done a great job in explaining things.

      • DXer, thanks for your kind words. You got my keyboard humming this morning. I am glad it came out productively. We help sharpen each other’s arguments I sense, although I don’t compare my efforts in this case to yours. I learn a great deal from your comments including much science and have much more to learn from them. I look forward to studying your book.

        I see your point on defining weaponize. I agree and as you point out I in effect followed your advice in my comment.

  21. DXer said

    Here is an example of an FBI FOIA log reflecting requests for FOIA documents relating to Amerithrax. The request is by an investigative reporter who has written for many major news organizations and has published a book on a related subject. (#1036973, dated January 26, 2006 withdrawn January 27, 2006).

    Click to access FOIA_logs_FBI_2006.pdf

    Requests from other years, including 2009 requests, are even far more interesting.

    This 2006 request was withdrawn the next day and the matter closed pursuant to (b)(5).

    “Inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.”


    “Inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.”

    Documents such as the Sandia powerpoint presentation that Sandia Public Relations refused to provide is not such a document. For example, it is not “normally privileged in civil discovery.”





    • Deliberate process privilege
    • Attorney work product privilege
    • Attorney client privilege
















  22. DXer said

    Closed Session Summary Posted After the Meeting

    The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the meeting:
    Alice Gast
    David Relman
    Arturo Casadevall
    Nancy Connell
    Thomas Inglesby
    Murray Johnston
    Karen Kafadar
    Richard Lenski
    Richard Losick
    Alice Mignerey
    David Popham
    Jed Rakoff
    Robert Shaler
    Elizabeth Thompson
    Kasthuri Venkateswaran
    David Walt

    The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:
    The committee reviewed its charge, discussed speaker presentations, and discussed a draft report outline.

    The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:
    The committee reviewed documents made available to it.

  23. Page 1
    Surface Electrical Properties of Bacillus subtilis Cells
    and the Effect of Interaction with Silicon Dioxide Particles
    A. S. Gordienko and I. K. Kurdish
    Zabolotny Institute of Microbiology and Virology, National Academy of Sciences, Kiev, D 03680 Ukraine
    Received December 15, 2005; in final form, June 20, 2006
    Abstract—Depending on the amount of phosphate in the growth medium, the surface layer of the Bacillus
    subtilis cell wall may be composed mainly of either teichoic or teichuronic acids. Only in the former case the
    negative charge of the cell surface increases upon addition of silicon dioxide particles into the cell suspension.
    DOI: 10.1134/S0006350907020121
    Key words: surface charge, contact interaction, silicon dioxide, Bacillus subtilis

    Click to access biophys0217_abstract.pdf

    silicon bacillus

    This is the type of science that Ivins didn’t know presumably. It points to a different source for this know-how. This abstract shows you have to do experimentation. Its not just drop some silicon in a growth medium with no experimentation and everything just works without testing, measurement of absorption amounts, etc. That takes time and a budget. You don’t do it on weekends and at night and clean your lab every day for years and no one notices and you figure out more than this paper knows for example. That is fairy tale science.

    • DXer said


      An FBI expert, D. Smalls, has concluded that the Silicon Signal was due to the use of a silicate to control electrical charges. That research needs to be provided to the NAS. The lead FBI scientist controlling the flow of information is Dr. Bannan. Although I don’t doubt Dr. Bannan’s good faith, he was the collections scientist at the American Type Culture Collection, which co-sponsored the program of “anthrax weapons suspect” Ali Al-Timimi. He has a conflict of interest and should step aside on all issues relating to the FBI’s document production to NAS. He was the “go-to” guy at the Bacteriology Division of the ATCC in 2001 — if you wanted a bacteria you would go to a collections scientist. And so given that Ali’s defense counsel says that his client was an “anthrax weapons suspect,” the person who kept the virulent anthrax at ATCC should not be controlling the flow of information to the NAS, directly or indirectly. A DARPA Program Manager privately said in Fall 2001 that they even knew the machine it was made on.

      By way of familiar background, the August 2006 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology contained an article written by Dr. Douglas Beecher of the FBI labs in Quantico, VA. The article, titled “Forensic Application of Microbiological Culture Analysis to Identify Mail Intentionally Contaminated with Bacillus anthracis spores ,” states “Individuals familiar with the compositions of the powders in the letters have indicated that they were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents.” The article also specifically criticizes “a widely circulated misconception” “that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production.” The harm done by such things is described this way: “This idea is usually the basis for implying that the powders were inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone. The persistent credence given to this impression fosters erroneous preconceptions, which may misguide research and preparedness efforts and generally detract from the magnitude of hazards posed by simple spore preparations.” However, after this article had appeared the editor of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, L. Nicholas Ornston, stated that he was uncomfortable with Beecher’s statement in the article since it had no evidence to back it up and contained no citation.

      In August 2007 Dr. Kay Mereish, UN Chief, Biological Planning and Operations, published a letter in Applied and Environmental Microbiology titled “Unsupported Conclusions on the Bacillus anthracis Spores”. This letter, published in the same journal as FBI scientist Douglas Beecher (see paragraph above), points out that the statements made by Dr. Beecher in his article on the lack of additives were not backed up with any data. She suggested that Dr. Beecher publish a paper with analytical data showing the absence of silica or other additives. Such data would include SEM images of the pure spores as well as EDX spectra and EDX images showing the absence of any foreign additives such as silica or the elements silicon and oxygen. DR. MEREISH REFERENCED A 2006 CBRN, COUNTER-PROLIFERATION AND RESPONSE MEETING IN PARIS WHERE A PRESENTER, FBI’S CONSULTING EXPERT D. SMALLS, ANNOUNCED THAT AN ADDITIVE WAS PRESENT IN THE ATTACK ANTHRAX THAT AFFECTED THE SPORE’S ELECTRICAL CHARGES.

      The NAS should have long ago received a copy of Dr. Smalls presentation from Dr. Bannan. The NAS should have had D. Smalls present on the 25th after Dr. Weber.

    • BugMaster said

      Bacillus grown in limited phosphate produce mostly teichoic teichuronic acids. So, it is very likely that high phosphate concentrations result in higher teichoic acid content, and higher silicon dioxide binding.

      Article describing the effect of phosphate levels on teichoic and teichuronic acid:

      Teichoic and Teichuronic Acids: Biosynthesis, Assembly, and
      Location, J. B. WARD, National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, NW7 IA

      Ivin’s RA media formulation contains the highest level of phosphate I have ever seen.

      And the highest level of yeast extract, which contains a lot of iron, and would also be a good source of trace amounts of silica. (yeast is grown using sugar, google “cane sugar” and “silicon” together and see what you find!)

      • BugMaster said


        “Bacillus grown in limited phosphate produce mostly TEICHURONIC acids.”

      • BugMaster said


        Should read:

        “Bacillus grown in limited phosphate produce mostly teichuronic acids. So, it is very likely that high phosphate concentrations result in higher teichoic acid content, and higher silicon dioxide binding.”

      • BugMaster said

        Also note that limestone is used in the processing of cane sugar.

        And associated with limestone formations in many tropical regions:

        Mining of ore for tin.


    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1975 November; 72(11): 4211–4215.

    PMCID: PMC388689

    The extraordinary dielectric properties of biological materials and the action of enzymes.
    H Fröhlich

    This is not too technical and worth skimming.

    A search related to this

    dielectric silicon bacillus

  25. Soviet era research

    Miteva, A, Karshikov, A, Atanasov, B, Zhdanov, AA & Andreeva, NS (1988) Molekuliarnaia Biologiia 22, 1456-1463. Theoretical studies of electrostatic interactions in aspartic proteinases. Intramolecular interactions in pepsin and penicillopepsin.

    4. Bode, W, Engh, R, Musil, D, Thiele, U, Huber, R, Karshikov, A, Brzin, J, Kos, J & Turk, V (1988) EMBO J. 7, 2593-2599. The 2.0 Å X-ray crystal structure of chicken egg white cystatin and its possible mode of interaction with cysteine proteinases.

    3. Karshikov, A & Atanasov, BP (1985) Stud. Biophys. 105, 23-28. Determination of chloride-binding sites of horse ferry cytochrome c interactions in proteins.

    2. Atanasov, BP & Karshikov, A (1985) Stud. Biophys. 105, 11-22. Electrostatic interactions in proteins: A possible mechanism of semi-empirical method for calculation of the electrostatic interactions in proteins.

    1. Karshikov, A & Atanasov, BP (1984) Stud. Biophys. 100, 15-21. Electrostatic interactions in proteins: A possible mechanism of a-g isomerization of the hem in monomeric chironomus hemoglobin.

    Molekuliarnaia Biologiia

    “Molekuliarnaia biologiia”
    Language: Russian

    LC: QR360 M57

    From Medcat

    NB= LAST ISSUE: V.140N2, 1991

    So the Soviets were working on electrostatic properties of biomolecules and processes. This is the type of research environment that doping anthrax spores with silicon came out of. Not saying any particular person was involved in the anthrax mailings.

  26. “An ER fluid is a suspension of particles
    with high dielectric constant (conductivity) in a host medium of low dielectric constant
    (conductivity). The ER effect originates from the induced interaction between the polarized
    particles in an ER fluid. Upon the application of an external electric field, polarization
    charges are induced on the particle surfaces, leading to anisotropic forces between the par-
    ticles. Under the influence of the ER effect, the particles in an ER fluid initially aggregate
    rapidly into chains within milliseconds and then the chains aggregate into columns within
    seconds [3,4]. The rapid field-induced transition between the fluid and solid phase makes this
    material both important for wide industrial applications such as shock absorbers, dampers
    and clutches, as well as for experimental and theoretical investigations.”

    In deriving the induced forces between the particles, existing theories assume that the
    particles are at rest [6–10]. In a realistic situation, the fluid flow exerts force and torque
    on the particles, setting the particles in both translational and rotational motions. For
    instance, the shear flow in an ER suspension exerts a toque on the particles, which leads
    to the rotation of particles about their centers [11]. Recent experiments showed that the
    induced forces between the rotating particles are markedly different from the values predicted
    by the existing theories which have not taken the motion of particles into account [12].

    “Dynamic electrorheological effects and interparticle force
    between a pair of rotating spheres
    Jones T. K. Wan1, K. W. Yu1 and G. Q. Gu1,2
    1Department of Physics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong,
    Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong, China
    2College of Computer Engineering, University of Shanghai for Science and Technology,
    Shanghai 200 093, China

    So putting silicon into spores to change the fluid, electromagnetic, etc. properties is complicated. The Soviet Union had the math physics people and investment into anthrax to do this type of analysis. It would require extensive experimental work. This was the work of many years with a combined team of biologists, chemists, and experimental and theoretical physicists. Its likely much bigger in scope than the US team trying to figure it out. Some of the top theoretical talent and experimental talent the Soviets had was likely put onto this problem.

    Search “Dynamic electrorheological effects” for more on this type of approach.

    Click to access 0101362v1.pdf

    From the article above, they found the experimental results differed from simpler theoretical calculations. That is complicated experimental work. Ivins didn’t do that in his glove box.

    • DXer said

      Ali Al-Timimi had the same telephone number that Dr. Victor Morozov of the Center for Biodefense would later first have when he joined the faculty. Dr. Morozov focuses on the development of new bioassay methods for express analysis, high-throughput screening and proteomics. He has recently developed a new electrospray-based technology for mass fabrication of protein microarrays. Dr. Morozov, the last time I accessed the webpage, was supervising a DOE-funded research project directed at the development of ultra-sensitive express methods for detection of pathogens in which slow diffusion of analytes is replaced by their active transport controlled and powered by external forces (electric, magnetic, gravitational or hydrodynamic). His homepage explains that: “A variety of projects are available for students to participate in 1. Develop methods for active capturing of viruses and cells. 2. AFM imaging of macromolecules, viruses and cells. 3. Develop active immunoassay. 4. Analyze forces operating in the active assay of biomolecules and viral particles. 5. Develop immobilization techniques for antibodies and other biospecific molecules. 6. Study crystallization dynamics and morphology of organic and inorganic crystals in the presence of protein impurities. 7. Develop software to analyze motion of beads. 8. Develop software to analyze patterns in drying droplets. 9. Develop an electrostatic collector for airborne particles.”

      Ali was mixed in with Hadron and DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense people — even though immediately after the planes hit the twin towers, the FBI suspected him of being part of the Al Qaeda conspiracy (according to what he told his brother that week). Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. But you would think that hindsight by now would have kicked in as to Amerithrax.

      • Very interesting.

        PhD, DSc: Moscow State University

        Top mathematics and physics is done there.

        “Biophysics: physical properties of globular proteins and protein solids (crystals, films); functional biomechanics on a molecular level; mechano-chemistry; effects of mechanical forces on bio-specific reactions.”

        Just an indication of the Russian level, not saying he was involved, of course, as for any others linked or mentioned.

      • DXer said

        He did not arrive until much later. 2004 perhaps.

  27. Didn’t the amount of work to develop the method that the silicon got in the spores exceed that of the study above? That rules Ivins out.

    We see physics, put silicon into spores to change their properties,
    chemistry, use iron in solution to get the silicon to follow the iron so to speak, and we see biology.

    This looks like the effort over years to develop methods of weaponizing anthrax. Its not Ivins. This is many scientists who think from different perspectives working on weaponizing anthrax. That sounds like the Soviet Union’s program.

    The Soviets had a major facility in Stepnogorsk Kazakhstan. They had many scientists there.

    Search Judy Miller Stepnogorsk for many interesting discussions. Page 165 of her book talks about Stepnogorsk. Those pages are available on line.

    At a minimum, someone tried experiments, prepared spores, separated them, and then determined their chemical composition by weight to find out how much silicon was in them. Ivins couldn’t do that in secret in his glove box it seems likely. For Ivins to have developed some sort of treatment using Iron to get silicon to go into anthrax spores he would have had to do many experiments through to separating the spores and finding their chemical composition. If the experiments used imaging to look at the silicon in the spores, then it was not Ivins.

    He would have to vary the proportions and try different recipes. This is not really possible for him alone. This is more the work of the Soviet system or another national program that tried many things over years and found some recipes like this.

    Note that Ken Alibek was from Kazakhstan and at a high level in their program could have viewed files of experiments that were done. However, many others might have learned of this. Popov says the Soviet program was compartmentalized. But even so, there were many scientists in it.

    It seems the most likely is that the anthrax attack was done by a group with sophisticated know-how from a major government program that tried many techniques of weaponization, and that the group had advanced knowledge of 9/11. That points in the direction of al Qaeda or Pakistan.

    Pakistan was under sanctions on its nuclear program. (Search Pakistan sanctions unjust to see articles on its feelings on that.) Pakistan might have to give up its nukes while India didn’t.

    One of the scientists from Stepnogorsk in Kazakhstan who identified with the people of Central Asia and knew this method could have helped Pakistan or al Qaeda.

    • DXer said

      I like Dr. Alibek immensely and although I only know him from brief telephone conversation or email correspondence, I would not suspect him for a microsecond. Have lots of confidence in him and have never found him to say anything that was inaccurate. He made the $12 million or whatever in DARPA investment BEFORE the mailing. The patent that he co-invented with the deputy USAMRIID Commander using silica to concentrate things was unclassified and related to a wide range of things, to include fertilizer, decontaminating agents, and inhalational vaccines (as I am remembering the international patent without pulling it up).

      Do processes have dual purpose? Sure. He would vote for the silica as being due to an old USAMRIID drying technique involving sol gel. Initially he thought a spraydryer was likely used (a mini-spraydryer, for example) but then in a draft of Biohazard 2 he came to favor drying using a fluidized bed dryer. His main point would be that a sophisticated result can be achieved using a relatively unsophisticated method. Heck, Dugway contracted with a dairy processor to make its “weaponized” simulant. Used a spraydryer and mixer.

      Given he tells me knew Ali Al-Timimi was a hard-liner, should Ali have been walking the halls with access to lab computers and the ATCC repository? absolutely not. But it’s hard to argue with Ali’s letter of commendation from the White House he received for work for the Navy. Ali was at SRA in 1999, which is where Dr. Bailey was at. 1999 was the year Dr. Alibek and Dr. Bailey were consultants for Battelle. At SRA, Ali had a high security clearance according to his defense committee.

      Was Battelle involved in the CIA’s project CLEAR VISION? If so, was that in 1999?

      • I appreciate your thoughtful reply. I don’t insist its Alibek. I just think that putting silicon into spheres to change their properties is something a physicist would think of trying.

        Landau Lifschitz vol 8 Electrodynamics of Continuous Media was published in Russian in 1959 and was part of every physicist’s education. Its full of problems of the type of the properties of a sphere with a dieletric with static and dynamic fields, while moving or not. There are also other possible impacts on the diffusion characteristics, fluid characteristics, etc.

        Results 1 – 100 of about 11,400 for “two dielectric spheres”.

        This is something physicists do.

        Search silicon dielectric

        “Silicon dioxide (SiO2), the oxide of silicon, is the most widely used dielectric in wafer fabrication.”

        So the Soviets were thinking about its dielectric properties to produce their own wafers.

        As I hold the Landau Lifschitz book in my hand and page through it, it seems to me likely that whoever thought of the silicon in sphere method to change some property was also looking at the exact same book. The English edition was published in 1960.

        Results 1 – 100 of about 716,000 for Landau Lifschitz.

        Every physicist is familiar with LL books.

        It seems to me a likely scenario that the Soviets were trying to figure out how to control the properties of anthrax and make it disperse and physicists familiar with LL Vol 8 helped think up this method. Then they tried many experiments, measured the results, did imaging, thought about the physics and math. The math can get quite complicated and so would be something valuable for the theoretical types to contribute.

        The Stepnogorsk anthrax facility was enormous. Some of the Soviets best minds likely worked on the properties of anthrax spores when airborne. That included theoretical physicists familiar with LL vol 8 published 1959. My hunch is that is the milieu where the idea to put silicon into the inside of anthrax spores came from. Maybe its wrong. But the reaction of the biologists in the US after the silicon was found was not, of course, why wouldn’t you put silicon into an anthrax sphere spore.

        If you do the search Results 1 – 4 of 4 for “two dielectric spheres” anthrax. Of these, 3 are me posting comments on the same search.

    • DXer said

      “Alibek Doubts FBI Claims on Hatfill,”, October 3, 2002

      Alibek Doubts FBI Claims on Hatfill
      Phil Brennan,
      Thursday, Oct. 3, 2002
      Dr. Ken Alibek, one the world’s leading authorities on biowarfare, has cast significant doubt on the claims of the FBI that Dr. Steven Hatfill or another American may have been behind last years mail anthrax attacks.
      Alibek, former head of the Soviet Union’s bioweapons program and now executive director for George Mason University’s Center for Bio-Defense and a distinguished professor at GMU, offered his candid comments about the Hatfill case on NewsMax’s exclusive “Off The Record” Club audioprogram.

      Alibek, who has been consulted by the FBI on the anthrax attacks, said that an analysis of available evidence suggests that there is reason to believe that the source of the anthrax attack was foreign, not domestic, as claimed by the FBI.

      Though not precluding the possibility the anthrax was from a domestic source, Alibek says on “Off the Record” that he has serious questions about this theory.

      Alibek cites, among other issues:

      • The hijackers were looking for crop dusters. He says it’s hard to believe that they wanted to use crop dusters for attacking the World Trade Center.

      • The first cases of anthrax were in Florida, near where some of these hijackers lived. Also, there were reports about a strange anthrax-type ulcer on the leg of one of the hijackers before 9/11.

      • The timing of the attack in conjunction with 9/11 was “sort of a simultaneous attempt” to cause a greater fear and anxiety. “Sometimes, it seems to me, that somebody actually used this atmosphere of panic, anxiety for sending anthrax in which it could be a domestic case. There are many issues and questions that we still have unanswered, but you notice I don’t answer this question to say, ‘OK, it was a domestic war’ or ‘… a foreign case.'”

      Comment: Privately, he told me that the FBI suspected his Department colleague Ali Al-Timimi. Now Ali was a US citizen living here. Would that make him foreign or domestic? It would make him domestic. He had a high security clearance for work for the Navy and briefly had been Andrew Cards’ former assistant at the DOT.

    • BugMaster said

      Old Atlantic:

      Based on the information presented here by Dr. Weber, and his hypothetical discussion as to how silica levels found in the attack material could have been attained, I would expect:

      If Ames strain anthrax was plated out onto the extremely rich FA media (on agar plates, and no kanamycin)described in Ivin’s rpa-102 (new vaccine) patent, the material produced would match that found the NYC mailings.

      Not a lot of work at all.

      • I think the square feet of plates comes to be quite large. I estimated 15 square feet based on a paper published in 2004 by the US, after a correction. (Ref to paper and calculations below.)

        Popov subsequently himself abandoned plates in another column at the Nass blog.

      • Also the Friday Sep 14, 2001 to Sunday Sep 16, 2001 period Ivins was in the lab, he was only there 2 hours 15 minutes each evening. If he was doing a big plate job, then he likely would have taken more time and been in during the day as well. It doesn’t make sense to do a big production run that weekend and only come to the lab in the evening and only for a little over 2 hours each time.

        No one has tried to prepare a timeline of what he did in the labs those 3 evening that is restricted to the amount of time, gets the job done and makes sense. Why wait until Sunday night to come in Sunday if you have a big operation to produce a large mailing? Wouldn’t you come in Sunday morning to try to get some of it done then? Why wait until Sunday night? That makes no sense.

      • They had to find the recipe of using iron to get silicon to go into the spores. Then they had to find how much silicon was going in which required separating the silicon. Then they had to figure out why this was useful and what amounts. That would take years of work. Plus having the ideas which come from physics and chemistry and even math.

        Because plates would take feet of plates it could not go unnoticed in the lab. That means Ivins had to do it over a weekend, Sep 14 Friday night to Sunday night Sep 16, 2001. That isn’t much time to grow. If he gave it 48 hours to grow, he had to do all the work in 2 hours 15 minutes Sunday night.

        It doesn’t make sense he spent the same amount of time, 2 hours 15 min, each night and none during the day. If he let it grow 48 hours, then he had a huge amount of work to do Sunday. He would have come in early to scrape at least some off and do one letter just to see how long it was taking. He wouldn’t wait until Sunday night to do everything and not even look at how it was going.

        With plates he couldn’t hide it during the week. This is why Popov abandoned plates at the Meryl Nass blog last year when the numbers were calculated based on the dtic download paper. I link to in another reply.

      • DXer said

        It seems like there’s no reason to speculate how he might have spent his time when the FBI has failed to disclose his Lab Notebook 4010 and emails from the period. Those records are a far better guide than the conclusory claim he couldn’t justify how he spent his time in an interview in 2005.

  28. BugMaster said

    Actually, Ed:

    This explains everything regarding the silica signature.

    Including how the high concentrations in the attack material spore coats were attained.

    They didn’t duplicate the high silica concentrations found in the attack anthrax because they didn’t use the same agar plate media formulation used to produce the NYC material.

    (At this point, it isn’t too hard to guess which formulation that would have been!)

    No further questions.

  29. Anonymous Scientist said

    Slide 34 seems to agree with the hypothesis being thrown around often in this blog. That small molecules would penetrate the exosporium and and get into the volume between the coat and the exosporium, then, when the spore is dried the silicon stays on the spore coat. This is, of course, what wold happen if a species such as polymerized glass was used – only it would lead to a much higher silicon concentration than was found by the author in his reverse engineering studies.

  30. Anonymous Scientist said

    I would like to have seen the author include the wt% of the mailed spores in his graphs in Figures 13 and 14. This is a log chart and he would have needed to add an extra order of magnitude on the Y-axis. The mailed spores data point would be sitting on the graph totally solitary – by far the highest Si concentration of all the samples.
    I guess that was a picture that, for some reason, he didn’t want to bring to people’s attention.

  31. DXer said

    S.P. Velsko address the anthrax letters in “Analysis: A Component of Bioforensics”

    Click to access 316652.pdf

  32. DXer said

    Infiltration by spies limiting al-Qaeda’s ability to attack, US says
    October 1, 2009

    WASHINGTON: US and international intelligence officials say the improved recruitment of spies inside the al-Qaeda network, increased use of targeted airstrikes and enhanced assistance from governments has significantly reduced the terrorist organisation’s effectiveness.
    A US counterterrorism official said the combined advances have led to the deaths of more than a dozen senior figures in al-Qaeda and allied groups in Pakistan and elsewhere over the past year, most of them in 2009. Officials described the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, and his main lieutenants as isolated and unable to co-ordinate high-profile attacks.

    The most important new weapon in the Western arsenal is said to be the recruitment of spies inside al-Qaeda and affiliated organisations.
    ”Human sources have begun to produce results,” said Richard Barrett, the head of the UN’s al-Qaeda and Taliban monitoring team. Mr Barrett is the former chief of Britain’s overseas counterterrorism operations.

    Current and former senior US officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, confirmed what one former CIA official called ”our penetration of al-Qaeda”. A senior Obama Administration official said success had come ”because of, first of all, very good intelligence capabilities … to locate and identify individuals who are part of the al-Qaeda organisation”.

    The Infiltration of US Biodefense

  33. DXer said

    Lawrence Livermore has sent 38 powerpoints. Lew is 6 hour ahead of EST so give him tomorrow to get them up.

    The Infiltration of US Biodefense

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