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

* SBI, FBI … the temptation to hide information and to convict innocent people too often seems to be overwhelming … a recent NC case is not unrelated to the FBI’s fervent desire to hide information about its investigation of the 2001 anthrax case

Posted by DXer on October 2, 2009

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this recent NC case is not unrelated to the FBI’s fervent desire to hide information about its investigation of the 2001 anthrax case

Joseph Neff writes for (10/2/09) …

  • The (North Carolina) State Bureau of Investigation has agreed to a $3.9 million settlement with former death row inmate Alan Gell to end his lawsuit accusing the SBI of fabricating evidence and obstructing justice, according to documents made public Thursday. The state also spent $731,062.40 to defend the lawsuit.
  • The settlement was made on behalf of SBI special agent Dwight Ransome. He was the lead investigator into the 1995 killing of Allen Ray Jenkins, a retired truck driver in Aulander, about 120 miles east of Raleigh.
  • According to a case summary by the agent’s own lawyer, Ransome had decided that Gell was guilty early on, despite having statements from 17 independent witnesses who saw Jenkins alive after Gell was jailed on unrelated charges.
  • Ransome recommended Gell be charged with murder while failing to inform the prosecutor of a host of evidence favorable to Gell: taped telephone calls, a failed polygraph test and the 17 witness statements.
  • SBI Director Robin Pendergraft said Thursday that Ransome has been transferred to an administrative job in Raleigh and will not conduct any more investigations. His salary, $72,849, is unchanged.
  • Gell spent four of his nine years behind bars on death row.
  • The prosecutors were dismissed from the case because they enjoy absolute immunity from prosecution or lawsuits stemming from their official actions.

read the entire story at …


As I have said before (and written a novel about), police and prosecutorial abuse is a national disgrace and a plague on our criminal justice system.

Withholding information that is relevant to the defense is against the law, but those who do so are rarely punished. In this North Carolina case, the police officer who lied in court and sent an innocent man to death row, still has his job and salary, and the prosecutors (did they know? were they in collusion with the officer?) were, as almost always, excused from the case.

You will recall that a federal judge recently awarded $101.7 million in a Boston case because the FBI withheld evidence in violation of the law, thus knowingly convicting innocent men who spent decades in prison…

see related posts …

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

* more details about the FBI hiding evidence to convict the innocent in Boston case … who is safe when those responsible for upholding the law can break it to gain a conviction?

Is the NC case of withheld information related to the FBI’s anthrax investigation?

Not directly, of course, but it is not hard to see the pattern …

When the same FBI found to have illegally withheld information in the above cited Boston case uses every possible strategy to avoid turning over information related to its 2001 anthrax case investigation …

  • accusing a dead man (Dr. Ivins) and thus never having to present its case in court under oath
  • hounding another USAMRIID scientist (Dr. Hatfil) for years and then paying $5.8 million to avoid going to court to defend their actions
  • still not closing the case against Dr. Ivins 13 months after stating in August 2008 that Dr. Ivins was the sole perpetrator, and more than two months after repeating that the closing of the case was imminent, thus avoiding FOIA requests for documents that should now be part of the public record
  • agreeing with NAS not to turn over documents until the conclusion of the NAS study, in apparent violation of FOIA regulations
  • limiting the scope of the NAS study in ways that seem to hinder an effort to learn the truth as to whether or not the FBI’s science points to Dr. Ivins or merely to the scores of scientists who had access to flask RMR-1029
  • refusing to make public the contract between the NAS and the FBI so that the restrictions of NAS in that contract could be clearly known
  • failing (for almost two years now) to answer direct questions about the anthrax case posed by U.S. Congressmen and Senators

… then there is a loss of confidence in the FBI’s willingness to stay within the law and behave according to the rules of our justice system.

This inability to have faith in the FBI is, in my judgment, a major national issue.


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3 Responses to “* SBI, FBI … the temptation to hide information and to convict innocent people too often seems to be overwhelming … a recent NC case is not unrelated to the FBI’s fervent desire to hide information about its investigation of the 2001 anthrax case”

  1. DXer said

    The earlier NAS work on Sverdlosk provides an interesting historical example. Were tough questions asked by the NAS regarding the explanation in the Sverdlosk matter?

    A Declassified Directorate of Intelligence memo dated 12 May 1988 titled “SOVIET EXPLANATION OF ANTHRAX IN SVERDLOSK: THE DECEPTION CONTINUES” states:

    “During discussions at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington Bugasov identified Agafonov as from the Urals Military District but later during the same meeting he was identified as a member of the Ministry of Health team from Moscow investigating the epidemic. Bugasov did not refute this military connection, but he again emphasized that there was no military involvement in the epidemic.”

    What did the NAS conclude at the time? Did it ask the tough questions?

    The same question whether scientists were asking the tough questions arose in a declassified Secret Cable titled “Sverdlosk — Visit to Professor Meselson, ” September 17, 1986. The cable states:


    The declassified Sverdlosk files, including the NAS role, are voluminous.

    In Amerithrax, NAS has not yet provided a report a description of the Closed Meeting as required by the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Nor has the NAS responded to email or telephone inquiry to Amanda Cline concerning the documents that should have been put in the Public Access File the day of the meeting (such as Joe Michael’s powerpoint). Lawrence Livermore advised me that they were refusing to put Dr. Weber’s powerpoint in the Public Access File but then I persuaded them to comply with the law — which requires that a powerpoint presented in open session be made available. Sandia, on the other hand, through its Public Affairs person, and after checking with Dr. Michael, has refused to provide me a copy. Sandia’s FOIA person has not even provided or responded to a FOIA request directed to the powerpoint from June.

    If these scientists cannot read and comply with the plainly worded statute, it does not bode well for the prospects that the NAS panel will ask the tough questions or succeed in obtaining meaningful documents. The volunteers have no experience or leverage in obtaining documents. A federal district court judge ruled this week that the FBI’s interview notes of Vice President Cheney regarding who leaked Valerie Plame’s name as a CIA operative have to be provided under FOIA. If Vice President Cheney has to comply with FOIA, Sandia should rethink its position (at least the one from September presented in open session) given that they were funded by taxpayer money. The Sandia powerpoints are the subject of YouTube videos in which they spin the science to accuse the dead guy by using undefined terms like “weaponization” and “natural” in order to create an impression that the silicates were not added intentionally for a reason.

    Now, Joe Michael’s email correspondence with Dr. Meselson would be even more interesting but the chances that the NAS will succeed in pressing for meaningful documents (as former FBI agent Jennifer Smith and Dr. Budowie urged) are slim. NAS will not succeed in obtaining full document discovery because they have no mechanism by which to make it happen. They are staffed by well-meaning volunteers with limited time who, although expert in their particular narrow field, have no means of enforcing a request for documents. The FBI has proven that it does not like producing documents. The DOJ will be appealing the court order to release the Cheney interview.

    But let’s consider the historical example: What did the NAS conclude about Sverdlosk? And did they ask the tough questions?

    • Anonymous Scientist said

      The parallels between Sverdlovsk and the 2001 anthrax attacks are interesting. Matthew Meselson was the person who suggested that the silicon in the 2001 spores was “naturally occurring”. That’s the conclusion Sandia stand by today. As you can see below, Meselson had a high profile in injecting his opinions into the Sverdlovsk incident.

      CHAPTER NINE Incident at Sverdlovsk

      Page 76:

      The Soviets now went to extraordinary lengths to buttress their lies and make them supportable and credible worldwide. What had begun as a local cover-up in Sverdlovsk, now became an international fairy tale, a fiction of breathtaking audacity.

      Page 77:

      Throughout the rest of the 1980s, Matthew Meselson, a respected Harvard professor of microbiology and longtime arms control activist, unwittingly helped the Soviet caravan of deception and disinformation gain acceptance in the West.
      Meselson emerged as the leading scientific expert to oppose his own government’s interpretation of Sverdlovsk in favour of the Soviets’ old tainted-meat cover-up. He defended the Soviets’ case publicly and doubtless from the most honest of beliefs. President Reagan was now in the White House and, no matter how forcefully his administration complained about Sverdlovsk, Meselson remained utterly convinced that there had been an accident with bad meat and it had nothing to do with any secret biological weapons plant.
      With his well-deserved and impressive academic/scientific credentials, his views were usually sought and carefully listened to. He also became an important figure for the US media to consult. His opinions about Sverdlovsk were widely quoted in the serious press, books, and prestigious scientific journals. The record shows that after 1980 his publicly stated views on Sverdlovsk broadly agreed with the explanations issued by the Soviets themselves.

      Page 81:

      But the guilty involvement reached even higher. Next, it emerged that Boris Yelstin himself also must have known about the cover-up. In May 1992, Yeltsin’s new Russian government formally acknowledged what was now well known, but still had no official imprimatur. The man who had been the powerful communist party chief of the Sverdlovsk region in 1979 was none other than President Boris Yeltsin. He now admitted that the outbreak had been caused by an accident at the biological weapons facility, and not by natural causes. This presumably correct version became the official position of the Russian government, and remains so to this day.
      Meselson, however, remained unfazed. In the face of Yeltsin’s admission and the Russian and US press disclosures, the professor assembled a team of expert American scientists and went with them to Sverdlovsk in June 1992 to see for himself. They interviewed two outstanding Sverdlovsk doctors Faina Abramova and Lev Grinberg who participated in the 1979 autopsies at Hospital 40. For thirteen years, these brave pathologists had secretly hidden incontrovertible medial evidence from the KGB including preserved tissue samples, slides, and autopsy reports which proved that the victims had died from breathing in the anthrax.
      Meselson later claimed that he and his team had made the discovery of the new truth from these important witnesses, but again, the facts were against him. The two Russian doctors had previously spoken to Soviet reporters and the Wall Street Journal, so Meselson was simply taking credit for being the final arbiter who had authenticated the evidence.
      After making a second trip to Sverdlovsk, Mesleson finally published his results in 1994 in the journal Science; the article accepted that the tainted-meat story was bogus. But, perversely, he still would not admit that the US government had been right for fifteen years, or that he had been wrong. Rather, he trumpeted the fact that he anf his team had finally uncovered the “defenitive proof” that the true cause of the outbreak was pulmonary anthrax.
      “This should end the argument about where the outbreak came from,” Meselson somewhat pompously told the New York Times “Right up until now, people have still been debating the matter.”
      Yet, to the bitter end, Meselson still clung to a benign interpretation of Soviet motives. He noted that the cause of the accident was still not determined, which implied that it may have involved only a Soviet research centre, one for finding an antidote to an anthrax attack, and not a military production centre for biological weapons. By clinging to this position, he could still argue that the Soviets were not violating the BWC, but were conducting permissable research under the treaty.

  2. DXer said

    This is a new article in the journals on unanswered questions and ethical issues concerning US biodefence research, and the Ivins matter in particular.

    1: J Med Ethics. 2009 Oct;35(10):594-8.
    Unanswered questions and ethical issues concerning US biodefence research.

    Schumm WR, Nazarinia RR, Bosch KR.
    Kansas State University, Manhattan,

    Unanswered questions and ethical issues associated with US biodefence medical research over the past five decades are discussed. Objective scientific standards are essential for making policy decisions that can stand the test of time. For decades, scholars have reported that the human anthrax vaccine field trials conducted in the 1950s by Brachman and his colleagues were single-blind rather than double-blind. Nevertheless, in March 2005, Dr Philip S Brachman reported in a letter to the US Food and Drug Administration that his study had been double-blind. It is here argued that, rather, the field trial of a human anthrax vaccine should continue to be deemed as single-blind unless more detailed information is provided to explain exactly how the investigators were kept unaware of which subjects were in the treatment and control groups. Moreover, a number of other questions about the details of this critically important study have remained unanswered and are discussed. More recently, similar concerns have arisen with respect to more contemporary biodefence research, especially with reference to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s allegations that Dr Bruce Ivins, a US government biodefence researcher, was responsible for the anthrax letter attacks of fall 2001. The medical ethics and related issues involved with continuing to base national biodefence and public health policy on unclear, if not contradictory, research are discussed.

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