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

* the withholding of information by various federal agencies has led to many complaints; here are examples of information withheld by the FBI, NAS, EPA and FAA.

Posted by DXer on October 19, 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  …

“Responsible Americans who believe in holding our government accountable for its actions should read CASE CLOSED to be more informed of the facts of the case, regardless of whether they come to agree with the author’s theory. More investigation is needed.”

“You will not want to stop reading … Lew Weinstein addresses the 2001 anthrax case with the pen of a highly skilled investigator.”

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the withholding of information by various federal agencies

has led to many complaints; here are examples of information

withheld by the FBI, NAS, EPA and FAA

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It has become commonplace for the public to complain that federal agencies refuse to comply with FOIA requirements and other legitimate requests for information. How can a democracy work, critics say, when its government officials refuse to obey the law and provide the information essential to public debate?

The Amerithrax investigation is of course the prime concern of the CASE CLOSED blog, and many are frustrated that more information has not been forthcoming regarding this matter.

However, since it is the correct solution of Amerithrax that we all desire, perhaps the best approach is for everyone (the agencies and those requesting information) to conscientiously review the standards that control and apply them to the facts.

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Politicians charged with oversight are aghast when the FBI refuses to answer direct questions from Congressmen and Senators … see related post … * Sen. Grassley says he will hold nominees at the DOJ until he receives long overdue answers from the FBI

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I am frustrated when the FBI will not respond to my questions as to why the Amerithrax investigation is still open more than a year after the FBI accused Dr. Ivins of being the sole perpetrator and 3 months since they emphatically repeated that the closing of the case was imminent … see related post … * Is the FBI’s anthrax case ongoing or not? … I’ve been asking for two months … the FBI refuses to answer … here’s the email trail

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I am surprised when the NAS won’t even answer my questions regarding the basis for sequestering FBI-submitted documents in apparent violation of FOIA requirements … see related post … * It’s well past time for the NAS to be frank and honest about what it has agreed with the FBI regarding the sequestering of FBI-submitted documents in apparent violation of FOIA requirements

NOTE: the day after this post was published, the NAS reversed its previously stated position … see related post …

* the NAS will provide FBI-submitted documents and the NAS/FBI anthrax study contract

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In addition, DXer reports that the EPA refuses to waive the fee for FOIA documents he has requested, in apparent violation of its own policies and his plainly demonstrated commitment to disseminate the information to the public which was their basis for denying the request…

Fee Waivers and Reductions (from the EPA webpage):

  • The Freedom of Information Reform Act of 1986 provides that documents shall be furnished without any charge or at a  reduced charge if disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to general public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester.
  • A fee waiver or reduction of fees must be requested and justified by supporting documentation.  If you request a fee waiver, explain how the information will be used in the public interest and to what extent, if any, use of the information will be in your commercial interest.  Include statements on how you plan to disseminate the information, as well as your qualifications that are relevant to any specialized use of the documents.

DXer comments … This was a simple easy standard for the EPA to understand and apply.  Why should we expect the FBI to solve a difficult crime when FOIA officers cannot even comply with simple documents requests and apply simple standards?

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This frustration over not being provided information is not new, as evidenced by the FAA withholding from 9/11 Commission, as described in John Farmer’s new book GROUND TRUTH …

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tells the 9/11 Commission it has already given the Commission all the documents it asked the FAA for.
  • John Farmer, head of the Commission team investigating what happened on the day of 9/11, finds this hard to believe, as the boxes of material the FAA has provided do not contain many tapes or transcripts of FAA communications on the day of the attacks. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 201]
  • Later interviews of FAA staff will reveal there is a mountain of evidence the FAA is withholding from the  Commission (see September 2003).

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8 Responses to “* the withholding of information by various federal agencies has led to many complaints; here are examples of information withheld by the FBI, NAS, EPA and FAA.”

  1. DXer said

    The clock is ticking.

    EPA’s failure in this regard is a dramatic example of issues discussed in today’s report in the sections on “Government Organization and Culture” and the “Role of the Citizen.”

    http://www.preventwmd.gov/the_clock_is_ticking_a_progress_report_on_americas_preparedness/

    “In January 2010, the Commission will be releasing a report card grading the Administration and Congress on their progress in implementing the recommendations of the Commission. This interim report highlights the areas that we are assessing and identifies both the successes and items that are in most urgent need of attention. Those areas are (1) Biological Weapons Proliferation and Terrorism; (2) Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Terrorism; (3) Government Organization and Culture; and (4) The Role of the Citizen. Successes, needed improvements, and concerns for each of the four substantive areas are detailed in the sections below.”

  2. Anonymous scientist said

    This old article from August 3 2008 is quite interesting.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/02/AR2008080201632.html

    Is states:

    “Investigators are so confident of Ivins’s involvement that they have been debating since Friday whether and how to close the seven-year-old anthrax investigation. That would involve disbanding a grand jury in the District and unsealing scores of documents that form the basis of the government’s case against Ivins.

    Negotiations over the legal issues continue, but a government source said that the probe could be shuttered as early as tomorrow. The move would amount to a strong signal that the FBI and Justice Department think they got their man — and that he is dead, foreclosing the possibility of a prosecution. No charges are likely against others, that source added.

    Once the case is closed, the FBI and Justice Department will face questions — and possibly public hearings — from congressional oversight committees, which have been largely shut out of the case the past five years. The investigators have cited the ongoing nature of the case, as well as accusations of leaks to the media, for the information blackout to Capitol Hill.”

    Hmmm – so an anonymous FBI source leaked on August 3 2008 that the case could be closed as early as “tomorrow”. That would have been August 4 2008. 442 days have passed since then – and the case is still not closed. I wonder if the “grand jury in the District” is still active? And, if so, what on earth they are hearing evidence on?

    The article also uses an anonymous FBI source to state:

    “One bioweapons expert familiar with the FBI investigation said Ivins indeed possessed the skills needed to create the dust-fine powder used in the attacks. At the Army lab where he worked, Ivins specialized in making sophisticated preparations of anthrax bacteria spores for use in animal tests, said the expert, who requested anonymity because the investigation remains active.

    Ivins’s daily routine included the use of processes and equipment the anthrax terrorist likely used in making his weapons. He also is known to have had ready access to the specific strain of Bacillus anthracis used in the attack — a strain found to match samples found in Ivins’s lab, he said.

    “You could make it in a week,” the expert said. “And you could leave USAMRIID with nothing more than a couple of vials. Bear in mind, they weren’t exactly doing body searches of scientists back then.”

    But others, including former colleagues and scientists with backgrounds in biological weapons defense, disagreed that Ivins could have created the anthrax powder, even if he were motivated to do so.”

    I’m not surprised this was from a leaker who wanted anonymity. It has already been demonstrated in this blog that it would be impossible to make the mailed material in one week:

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/55-flasks-of-anthrax-now-where-can-i-hide-these/

    • DXer said

      Yesterday, I was given 6 minutes to explain that I had a specific intent to publicize the documents relating to the provision of virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins to an EPA contractor who was a former Zawahiri associate — failing that I would have to pay the hourly rate. I had never even received a response to the request for all documents already processed — in contrast to numerous agencies that promptly and intelligently responded. It was approaching lunchtime and the EPA “National FOIA Officer” had to go off in 6 minutes, he said. The solution is not to spend more money as the Senators urge today in the USA Today article below. The solution is to permit people funded by taxpayers to do their job and connect the available dots by sharing information as urged by the Homeland Security head earlier this month.

      I had cited articles like the front page article in the Washington Post explaining that I first publicly identified Rauf Ahmad as the scientist helping Ayman Zawahiri — and I gave the URL of the very heavily trafficked website (thousands of hits per day) where the US Army documents were immediately uploaded in full.

      Suspect and A Setback In Al-Qaeda Anthrax Case
      Scientist With Ties To Group Goes Free

      By Joby Warrick
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Tuesday, October 31, 2006
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/30/AR2006103001250.html

      Bruce Ivins Anthrax Emails
      Ross Getman sends emails obtained by FOIA request of Dr. Bruce Ivins, a US Army anthrax research scientist suspected by the FBI of mailing anthrax to public …
      cryptome.org/ivins/ivins-email.htm

      Thus, the denial of the fee waiver request by Mr. Gottesman was frivolous and had no basis in law or fact. And he quite smugly said that assuming he was reversed in an administrative appeal he would just then find some other basis and start the process all over again.

      To solve Amerithrax will require the gatekeepers otherwise unfamiliar with the anthrax threat to be late for lunch. It is time for a top down direction from the White House and Homeland Security to give substance to the Homeland Security head’s argument that it was critical to share intel on the issue so that dots can be connected. Codename Veritas.

      I accept that the government was not able to solve Amerithrax. Now the government employees should suppress their usual CYA — and “it’s 6 minutes to lunch” — instincts and comply with the Freedom of Information Act in a zealous matter. When Ayman Zawahiri has threatened to use aerosolized anthrax in an aerosolized attack (e.g., on Washington, D.C.) by using universities and charities as cover, this is not a time to suffer fools lightly.

      Suspect and A Setback In Al-Qaeda Anthrax Case
      Scientist With Ties To Group Goes Free

      Report: White House neglecting bioterrorism
      By Susan Walsh, AP

      Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham, second from left, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 8 to discuss legislation to protect against terrorist weapons of mass destruction attacks. From left are, former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, Graham, Homeland Security Ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Homeland Security Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.

      By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY
      WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is working hard to curb nuclear threats but failing to address the more urgent and immediate threat of biological terrorism, a bipartisan commission created by Congress is reporting today.

      The report obtained by USA TODAY cites failures on biosecurity policy by the White House, which the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction says has left the country vulnerable. The commission, created last year to address concerns raised by post-9/11 investigations, warns that anthrax spores released by a crop-duster could “kill more Americans than died in World War II” and the economic impact could exceed $1.8 trillion in cleanup and other costs.

      • DXer said

        With this software at blurb, I would be able to upload the documents immediately and make them fully viewable by a click. (At national papers like the Wash Po, you will get a page or two at most as a graphic).

        Public Pets: good advice for everyday living

        The real reason EPA does not want to produce the documents is because of past criticism that it screwed up the clean-up by not appreciating how easily the mailed anthrax re-aerosolized. (Although that is not the purpose of my request and I expressed a willingness to narrow the request to its intended focus). The basis for the denial is disengenuous. The last thing the EPA wants is for the documents to be publicized which is why it defaulted on its obligation to respond within the statutory 20 days to the request for documents already processed.

      • DXer said

        Here is another example showing EPA’s fee waiver denial on the grounds of a lack of intent to publicize to be totally incompetent

        Qaeda Letters Are Said to Show Pre-9/11 Anthrax Plans – New York Times
        May 21, 2005 … Qaeda Letters Are Said to Show Pre-9/11 Anthrax Plans … the names on the letters are blacked out on the copies that were released to Ross Getman, a lawyer from Syracuse who filed the Freedom of Information Act request. …
        http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9806E0D61439F932A15756C0A9639C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all

  3. DXer said

    Although it is posted on the other thread, let me also post here that the National Academy of Sciences and we now appear to have the same interpretation of FACA,

    DXer said

    October 20, 2009 at 5:16 pm
    The wonderful public access person at NAS has explained they will provide all materials submitted by external sources — not connected in any way to NAS. But to avoid me introducing confusion, let me quote:

    From: Public Access Records Office
    Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 9:46 AM
    To: ‘Ross Getman’
    Subject: BLSX-K-08-10-A

    The public access file contains materials submitted by external sources
    – sources not connected in any way to NAS.
    ***
    We comply with Section 15 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act:

    This project is subject to Section 15 of the Federal Advisory Committe
    Act (FACA); which states that all written materials presented to the
    committee (at data-gathering meeting, between such meetings, or at any
    other time in the course of the project) by any organization (whether
    government or private) or by individuals who are not officials, agents,
    or employees of the institution are subject to public disclosure and
    must be listed in the Public Access File.”

    [Now the contract, which was negotiated by NAS rather than submitted by a third party, is being produced voluntarily.]

    Thanks again to the Public Affairs Office for their hard work in juggling many important matters on a wide range of issues.

  4. Anonymous Scientist said

    We are now at T+ 86 days since the FBI announced they were ‘on the verge’ of closing the anthrax case.

  5. DXer said

    Given I appreciate the important substantive work the EPA does on a wide range of issues, I simultaneously first focused on and asked for documents ALREADY PROCESSED (and it’s been months and I never even received a consistent response – or any written response – as to whether there are any such documents.) That could have been determined by a simple search of the computerized log and the response should have been made within the 20 day statutory period for a response. (Upon a failiure to meet the statutory deadlines, a plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies and may bring suit directly in federal district court). Here is a June 2009 decision by the District of Columbia federal district court stating the controlling law both on the fee waiver issue and this exhaustion issue. EPA would have to pay attorneys fees if they require me to file suit.

    http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=cache:YbFtOMSkIiQJ:https://ecf.dcd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc%3F2008cv1429-16+%22Environmental+Protection+Agency%22+%22fee+waiver%22+%22District+Court%22&hl=en&gl=us&sig=AFQjCNHa3IK2ZGDudAljsdlma6

    Then I sought a narrower category of documents — trying to prioritize matters and minimize the burden to the agency. I focused on the work done by the EPA contractor who was supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins. The scientist has a lifetime family friend and former medical schoolmate, Tarek Hamid, who tells me Zawahiri recruited him into the Egyptian Islamic Jihad at medical school in a room set aside for the purpose. (Now Dr. Hamid consults with intelligence agencies and has published on his experience; he left the group when his colleagues started talking about burying a security officer alive near the mosque). The requested EPA documents likely detail the earlier research which Bruce Ivins assisted and for which he supplied virulent Ames. The details would have been submitted in support of a request to EPA for money funding the testing of the decontamination product — which was in fact tested at the Capitol in cleaning up the mailed anthrax. EPA will only be faulted if it refuses to promptly provide the documents.

    If EPA has any sense at all, they’ll provide these documents yesterday voluntarily and not require a Congressional or federal court subpoena.

    As I explained to the National FOIA office when someone wrote about the fee waiver issue, I have promptly made available all FOIA responses in the past — such as from the DIA and USAMRIID. For example, I had the production of hundreds of pages by USAMRIID uploaded within a day or so of receiving the documents (and the day prior had emailed them to dozens of people following the matter.

    http://cryptome.org/ivins/ivins-email.htm

    And when an agency provides altered documents, I provide copies (when I have them) of the document before the alteration so that the public can consider who altered them and when they were altered.
    http://cryptome.org/ivins/ivins-docs.htm

    The EPA of course should make a full and accurate production.

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