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

* Jim White: I remain unconvinced of the guilt of Bruce Ivins and strongly suspect a [non-USAMRIID] Defense Department, or a [non-USAMRIID] Defense Department-contracted source for the attack material.

Posted by DXer on February 26, 2010

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Jim White writes (2/25/10) …

  • The Investigative Summary published by the FBI in closing the Amerithrax investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001 is curiously silent on the presence of a second species of bacteria found in theNew York Post and Brokaw letters.
    • Clearly, if the FBI could have identified the strain of B. subtilis detected in the attack letters as available to Ivins, that finding would have played a prominent role in the Investigative Summary.
  • I analyzed the available information about the amount of B. anthracis used in the attacks and found it highly unlikely that Ivins could have cultured the large amount of spores used in the attacks with the equipment and time he had available.
    • Much of the material in RMR-1029 was produced at Dugway.
    • On December 13, 2001, Judith Miller published an article in the New York Times, where she disclosed that “government officials have acknowledged that Army scientists in recent years have made anthrax in a powdered form that could be used as a weapon.” She further pointed out that this work occurred at Dugway in 1998. It should be noted that the anthrax produced at Dugway for Ivins that went into RMR-1029 was cultured in 1997.
  • Given what we know about the scientific analysis of the spores used in the attacks, culturing the spores is much more likely to have occurred at Dugway or Batelle than in Ivins’ lab.
  • I fail to see how the FBI has eliminated the possibility that the spores used in the attacks were cultured and dried at Dugway or Batelle, with the Dugway “demonstration” facility being the most likely because of its remote location and secret status.
  • We may never know what really happened …  discerning what is true in the various leaked reports on anthrax culturing and processing technology at the facilities at Dugway and Batelle will be difficult without Congressional hearings conducted under oath and threat of prosecution for perjury.
  • I remain unconvinced of the guilt of Bruce Ivins and strongly suspect a [non-USAMRIID] Defense Department, or a [non-USAMRIID] Defense Department-contracted source for the attack material.

Read the entire post at … http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/31691

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When I read about the FBI/DOJ press conference in August 2008, I was so upset by the lack of any real evidence against Dr. Ivins that, over the next 45 days, I wrote my novel to explain why  the FBI had failed to solve the anthrax murders. CASE CLOSED is of course a fiction, but it has been described by many readers, including one respected member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, as a quite plausible scenario .

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *

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17 Responses to “* Jim White: I remain unconvinced of the guilt of Bruce Ivins and strongly suspect a [non-USAMRIID] Defense Department, or a [non-USAMRIID] Defense Department-contracted source for the attack material.”

  1. https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/weber-powerpoint/

    The power points show that subtilis and anthrax both have variable uptake of silicon and that these are similar in order of magnitude terms. This would allow anyone including Al Qaeda to have done experiments with subtilis to study uptake of silicon. Or it would allow their proxies at institutes in the West or Pakistan or even India or the Middle East to do such experiments.

    Expertise in this and the idea for silicon had to come from somewhere. This could have come from info from the Soviet program that might have made its way to al Qaeda, Pakistan, India, someone in the West, etc. and thence to al Qaeda or Pakistan.

    It seems likely that the idea for using silicon came out of some larger program. This is true even if one looks for a domestic US source.

    Pakistan’s ISI has Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers just as ISI has informants in al Qaeda. Tracing that idea is another path to identifying the anthrax mailers.

    One of the issues in dispute is whether subtilis or anthrax grown in a flask and then centifuged and dried with or without a lyophilizer will behave as the Daschle Leahy anthrax did when examined in the lab.

    The experimenters said it crawled up the test tube and flew off slides they intended to use under a microscope. Does that happen to subtilis powder or anthrax powder made by ordinary lab procedures without silicon?

  2. Reply to DXer on RMR-1030.

    You are saying that someone should argue:

    1) RMR-1030 contains silicon but a small amount that can be taken up naturally during growth. The amount of silicon measured in RMR-1030 has been replicated in experiments that simply grow anthrax as well as subtilis where silicon is added to the growth media prior to growth.

    2) In contrast, the Leahy letter contains 1.45 percent silicon by weight. This weight of silicon is far greater than in RMR-1030. This amount of silicon has not been replicated in experiments at all despite it being tried.

    Is this what you are saying?

  3. DXer said

    What the record statements show (see, e.g., 1/25/2007 302 of a scientist) was that if someone came on the weekend it was to look at the animals/count the dead animals. This would take approximately two hours and was usually a one-person job. That is about how long Dr. Ivins spent, right?

    The US DOJ has totally mischaracterized the evidence and nowhere discloses the explanation that it would take 2 hours to make observations on the animals, that he came in to use the shower etc.

    The US DOJ, so far as my review of the 2700 pages indicates, has withheld production of Ivins’ Lab Notebook 4010 pages giving his observation of the health of the animals on the first 3 days that US Taylor and this authorless Summary falsely claims he had no reason to be in the lab.

    Who is responsible for the DOJ’s failure to provide the pages showing his observations on the health of the animals on those dates of B3 usage?

    Who is responsible for the gross mischaracterization of the evidence relating to why he was in the B3, accompanied by the willful failure to provide those Lab Notebook 4010 pages?

    Isn’t it AUSA Ken Kohl, who was lambasted a month or two ago for mischaracterizing the evidence in the Blackwater case and then testifying implausibly about what he had done?

  4. DXer said

    In addition to the instances noted in the literature where Ames was provided in a soil suspension (for example, by FBI expert JE), it was also subject of 2001 experiments funded by the CIA aimed at studying the persistence of Ames in soil.

  5. USG presumably tries to learn the signatures of foreign countries’ wmd and biological weapons. That would also apply to domestic parties. So USG should be interested in identifying this subtilis and matching it to who uses it.

    Maybe it has, but this is defined as not part of the case. USG protects Pakistan and this may be another example of it. Linking subtilis to Pakistan is defined as not part of the investigation, so its not reported.

    Or it can be linked to a domestic source and that is defined as not part of the investigation. FOIA for documents identifying the subtilis strain and who has used it or been linked to it.

    • BugMaster said

      More likely: What is referred to as a “laboratory contaminant”. Meaning, not something from the lab, but rather, a contaminant introduced from the outside.

      A soil-dwelling contaminanting like b. subtilis most likely came from dirt tracked into the laboratory or room the material was prepared in.

      Thus, the inability of the FBI to isolate a genetically similar organism from Fort Detrick is another example of the kind of physical evidence they were unable to obtain against Ivins.

  6. BugMaster said

    Now that the case is closed, clearly the FBI will have no problem making all the genetic information regarding the b. subtilis contaminant available (after all, it could hardly be considered classified).

    Perhaps then some amateur-sleth / bioprospectors could determine where it originated by isolating a genetically identical or closely related strain from the environment in the vicinity of where the contaminant was introduced.

  7. The FBI genomic typing was used for a big search. Now that they have the RMR-1029 flask and the mailed anthrax, they should try to prove that there is DNA in the mailed anthrax not in the RMR-1029 flask.

    • I.e. test for that. If its negative, that has some information. Of course, if they find different Ba DNA, that has a lot of information.

    • Also there is the possibility that the RMR-1029 flask picked up something new from Ivins added runs not in Dugway’s original production. If there is Ba DNA in the RMR-1029 not in the letters, that might be from what Ivins added after Dugway sent them theirs.

      Now that they have specific samples, they should not stop with the 4 things they looked for as part of the big search with testing many samples. Now they have few samples so they can afford to test more than they did in the big search that processed many samples. That search had to limit what was tested for based on cost and time. The cost and time parameters have changed now.

  8. Type the search

    silicon anthrax site:fbi.gov

    In Google

    Instead of opening the affidavit, click on view as html. Now type your search word in the hmtl page, e.g. silicon.

    “In order to fully characterize the threat letters and their contents, the Task Force has
    conducted numerous physical (phenotypic) and genetic (genotypic) analyses. Physical
    comparison of the spore powders taken from the Post and Brokaw letters versus the Senator
    Leahy and Senator Daschle letters reveals obvious differences. The spore powders recovered
    from the Post and Brokaw letters were granular and multicolored in consistency, while the
    Senator Leahy and Senator Daschle letters contained fine spore powders that were uniform in
    color.
    Microscopic examination of the evidentiary spore powders recovered from all four letters
    identified an elemental signature of Silicon within the spores. This Silicon signature had not
    been previously described for Bacillus anthracis organisms.”

    The html Google has is searchable whereas the FBI affidavit PDF is not. Google presumably needs a searchable form of documents so its geared to work this way.

    Note the affidavit confirms silicon in the 4 recovered letters.

    • You can cut and paste from the html but not the pdf when its a scanned document. The cut and paste may be difficult. I went in one letter from the start and end, so I started my cut and paste by selecting n as the first letter and ending before the period. Now you can find passages in the FBI affidavits, and cut and paste them without retyping.

    • DXer said

      And silicon is confirmed to have been recovered in the coat of the anthrax in Flask 1030. What was its source? Anyone who doesn’t understand the source of the Silicon Signature in Flask 1030, with citation to the record, might best the usual argument about the Silicon Signature.

      • To best them they would have to explain it. To have a better argument and hide it is to lose it.

        • DXer said

          I’m sorry – I meant “might best avoid”.

          For example, Barry in the memo linked by Lew above does not address the Silicon Signature in Flask 1030.

          This sets up counterarguments like the USA Today column about persistent myths.

          The origin of the Slicon Signature in Flask 1030 needs to be understood — and at a minimum for an argument on the subject to be persuasive and sophisticated the argument has to evidence awareness that the Si and O signal was found in the anthrax in Flask 1030.

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