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

* links? Dr. Bruce Ivins … University of Michigan researcher … Ayman Zawahiri

Posted by DXer on March 16, 2010


The New York Times says the FBI’s anthrax case has “too many loose ends.” Find out where some of those looses ends might have originated in my novel CASE CLOSED. Sure it’s fiction, but many readers, including a highly respected member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, think my premise is actually “quite plausible.”

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9 Responses to “* links? Dr. Bruce Ivins … University of Michigan researcher … Ayman Zawahiri”

  1. DXer said

    “Prior to his capture in 1999, the younger Zawahiri managed the EIJ’s international clandestine terrorist operations.”

    Now I’m sure Mohamed Zawahiri had many friends and supporters, but it was his mom and microbiologist sister Heba most deeply affected by his rendition and cried themselves to sleep at night.

    They were frantic that they had not had any confirmation that Mohammed was okay and they feared the worst.

    Who does Dr. Heba think was responsible for the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings intended to free senior EIJ leaders that had been rendered?

    It is true that al-Qaeda did not start the Arab Spring. Al-Qaeda and its ideology are not the dominant force throughout the Middle East. Nor should we conflate all Islamist groups under the al-Qaeda banner. But the terror network bin Laden founded has capitalized on the political unrest in a variety of ways.

    Senior al-Qaeda operatives who were once imprisoned have been freed, breathing new life into the terrorist organization’s operations. And, just as bin Laden recommended, al-Qaeda-affiliated groups are pressuring Islamist governments to adopt more radical policies, often under the banner of Ansar al Sharia (“Partisans of Islamic Law”).

    Consider this brief survey of the Arab Spring nations.

    Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden’s successor as al-Qaeda’s emir, has thick roots inside Egypt. Before his merger with bin Laden prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Zawahiri headed a group called the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which sought to overthrow Hosni Mubarak’s regime. The EIJ failed in that regard and Mubarak’s crackdown crippled the organization’s infrastructure. Most of the group’s leadership either fled Egypt or was imprisoned.

    In the wake of the Egyptian revolution, however, the EIJ has experienced something of a revival. Numerous EIJ leaders have been freed from Mubarak’s notorious prisons and others have returned from their safe havens abroad. None of these EIJ leaders is more conspicuous than Ayman al Zawahiri’s younger brother, Mohammed al Zawahiri.

    Prior to his capture in 1999, the younger Zawahiri managed the EIJ’s international clandestine terrorist operations. By then, the EIJ had already been working closely with bin Laden’s operation for years. Subsequent to his release from prison, Mohammed al Zawahiri has become something of a media star, going on Egyptian television to push his radical agenda, urging the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government to implement an especially harsh version of sharia (Islamic law).

    Mohammed al Zawahiri’s EIJ allies have founded new political groups, including Ansar al Sharia Egypt, to accomplish the same. While being coy about his ties to al-Qaeda the organization, the younger Zawahiri has defiantly proclaimed his allegiance to al-Qaeda’s ideology.

  2. DXer said

    Lab Notebook 4010 entry –
    GLP Ames spores (RMR 1029) plasmid screen of 3 colonies by Pat Fellows, using protocol 073 procedure. Bruce Ivins – 4/27/98

  3. DXer said

    The fellow pictured is Ayman Zawahiri or “Dr. Ayman” as he was called when he would visit his alma mater at Cairo Medical in the early 1980s to recruit young medical students.

    Dr. Tarek Hamouda at NanoBio in Ann Arbor, who graduated from Cairo Medical in 1982 and then with a PhD in microbiology in 1994, thanked Bruce Ivins for supplying virulent Ames and worked alongside him in the B3. He also thanked Louisiana State University researchers for making space available at their B3 for related research. The LSU researchers had provided four characterized strains while Bruce Ivins had provided virulent Ames. After the anthrax mailings, “We’ve had subpoenas left, right and center. We were inspected twice by the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. Hugh-Jones told a reporter. “The FBI is frequently calling in. We’re cooperating closely.” “It very quickly became clear that we have good control over it, and it didn’t come from here,” Martin Hugh-Jones said. “We handle a lot of deadly items very frequently as a matter of routine.” But it was not until 2005 that the FBI obtained the documents about Dr. Hamouda’s visit with Dr. Ivins. Dr. Ivins did not know before his arrival that he was not a US citizen and his name was spelled wrong in the B3 access records.

    The Ann Arbor researchers in December 1999 went to Dugway, a military installation in the remote Utah desert to demonstrate the effectiveness of their biocidal cream on an aerosolized anthrax surrogate.

    In late August 2001, NanoBio moved in to its new offices from less impressive digs in the basement of a bank. Bruce Ivins had first supplied its University of Michigan researchers Ames strain a couple years earlier for DARPA-funded biodefense research.

    The DOJ also has provided a December 5, 1997 letter from a University of Michigan Medical Center scientist to Bruce Ivins. It states:

    “Dear Dr. Ivins:
    It was a pleasure speaking with you the other day. I much appreciate your willingness to work with us concerning our new anti-sporicidal material. We are looking forward to doing it in vitro evaluating or not whether this material against anthrax spores given its efficacy against other species of bacillus spores. These studies would involve mixing the material with the spores for varying lengths of time and then either separating the spores or culturing them directly to determine the viability. We might also do fixation of the spore preparations to determine if there are any ultrastructural changes in the spores that can be oberved with electron microscopy.

    My technicians are fully trained in the contagious pathogen handling and have experience with level 3 biosafety requirements. They, as I, are willing to undergo the anthrax and plague immunizations, although I was hoping that they might be able to administer the vaccines at the University of Michigan. This might allow us to only make one trip to USAMRID before we begin the studies. If we could either purchase the vaccine from you or from a commercial distributor, we would be happy to administer it and document titers in any way you feel appropriate.

    I look forward to the initiation of this work. I believe it could be a very interesting collaboration that could eventually lead to animal studies. On December 19, commensurate with the filing of patents on this material, I will send you additional data on the formulations and our studies concerning the ability of these materials to inactivate spores both in vitro and in vivo.


    _____ Division of Allergy

    The FBI did not ask for documents from Bruce Ivins relating to the correspondence with the University of Michigan researchers until 2005 — four years after the mailings. At that time, he forwarded, for example, evidence that Dr. Hamouda and lab tech Michael Hayes had received anthrax and plague vaccinations in advance of coming to work alongside Dr. ivins in the BL-3 laboratory using virulent Ames.

    The University of Michigan Medical Center letter dated May 10 [1998] to Bruce Ivin

    “My colleagues and I would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to both you and Dr. Ivins for the opportunity to work at USAMRIID. Dr. Ivins _______________________ were very helpful and cooperative in facilitating our studies as well as providing excellent technical assistance. Their efforts made our stay at USAMRIID both pleasant and highly productive. In particular, our discussions with Dr. Ivins provided valuable insights which will enable to better define and develop our technology.

    The data generated in these studies serves to clarify and validate the results which we have seen in our model systems (see attachments). We were able to block growth of both strains of B. anthracis with emulsion incorporated media (Table 1). We also were successful in reducing both Vollum and Ames spore counts by 95% (as assessed by CFU of viable organisms). These reductions were observed at spore concentrations of up to 1 X 10 6/ ml (Figure 1) and were seen even in conditions which limited germination (room temperature incubation). Decreased numbers of spores also were identified microscopically in the media after treatment. In contrast, no reduction in counts was noted with an initial spore innoculation of 1 X 10 8 / ml (Figure 2). These conditions probably overwhelm the emulsion given the concentration of spores in approaching the concentration of lipid vesicles. However, extremely high spore concentrations may alter the effect of the lipid in other ways and we are designing experiments with inhibitors of germination used at lower spore densities to clarify this result

    We were pleased with this outcome and the personal interaction that produced them. Given the non-toxic nature of these emulsions, we feel that they may have a role in the decontamination and treatment of agents such as anthrax and alphavirus. We look forward to future collaborative efforts with Dr. Ivins and his laboratory staff. With the diverse nature of our respective programs, we believe that a cooperative approach will serve to accelerate the development of these compounds.”

    In a number of patents by University of Michigan researchers in Ann Arbor, Tarek Hamouda and James R. Baker, Jr., including some filed before 9/11, the inventors thank Bruce Ivins of Ft. Detrick for supplying them with virulent Ames. The University of Michigan patents stated: “B. anthracis spores, Ames and Vollum 1 B strains, were kindly supplied by Dr. Bruce Ivins (USAMRIID, Fort Detrick, Frederick, Md.), and prepared as previously described (Ivins et al., 1995). Dr. Hamouda served as group leader on the DARPA Anti-infective project. A patent application filed April 2000 by the University of Michigan inventors explained:

    “The release of such agents as biological weapons could be catastrophic in light of the fact that such diseases will readily spread the air.
    In light of the foregoing discussion, it becomes increasingly clear that cheap, fast and effective methods of killing bacterial spores are needed for decontaminating purposes. The inventive compounds have great potential as environmental decontamination agents and for treatments of casualties in both military and terrorist attacks. The inactivation of a broad range of pathogens … and bacterial spores (Hamouda et al., 1999), combined with low toxicity in experimental animals, make them (i.e., the inventive compounds) particularly well suited for use as general decontamination agents before a specific pathogen is identified.”

    In late August 2001, NanoBio relocated from a small office with 12 year-old furniture to an expanded office on Green Road located at Plymouth Park. After the mailings, DARPA reportedly asked for some of their product them to decontaminate some of the Senate offices. The company pitched hand cream to postal workers. The inventors company, NanoBio, is funded by DARPA. NanoBio received a $3,150,000 defense contract in 2003. Dr. Hamouda graduated Cairo Medical in December 1982. He married in 1986. His wife was on the Cairo University dental faculty for 10 years. Upon coming to the United States in 1994 after finishing his microbiology PhD at Cairo Medical, Dr. Hamouda was a post-doctoral fellow at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in downtown Detroit. His immunology department biography at Wayne indicates that he then came to the University of Michigan and began work on the DARPA-funded work with anthrax bio-defense applications with James R. Baker at their company NanoBio.

    The University of Michigan researchers presented in part at various listed meetings and conferences in 1998 and 1999. The December 1999 article titled “A Novel Surfactant Nanoemulsion with Broad-Spectrum Sporicidal Activity of against Bacillus Species” in the Journal for Infectious Diseases states: “B. anthracis spores, Ames and Vollum 1B strains, were supplied by Bruce Ivins (US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases [USAMRIID], Fort Detrick, Frederick, MD) and were prepared as described elsewhere. Four other strains of B. anthracis were provided by Martin Hugh-Jones (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge).” Dr. Baker reports the work NanoBio’s research with virulent Ames was “done at USAMRIID by a microbiologist under Dr. Ivins’ direct supervision and at LSU under the direction of Dr. Hugh Jones.” A copy of the article has been provided by the DOJ in its recent disclosures.

    In the acknowledgements section, the University of Michigan authors thank:

    Shaun B. Jones, Jane Alexander, and Lawrence DuBois (Defense Science Office, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) for their support.
    Bruce Ivins, Patricia Fellows, Mara Linscott, Arthur Friedlander, and the staff of USAMRIID for their technical support and helpful suggestions in the performance of the initial anthrax studies.
    Martin-Hugh-Jones, Kimothy Smith, and Pamela Coker for supplying the characterized B. anthracis strains and the space at Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge).
    Robin Kunkel (Department of Pathology, University of Michigan) for her help with electron microscopy and a couple of others for technical assistance and manuscript preparation.
    The researchers found that their nanoemulsion incorporated into the growth medium completely inhibited the growth of the spores. Transmission electron microscope was used to examine the spores.

    The patent explained that “The nanoemulsions can be rapidly produced in large quantities and are stable for many months *** Undiluted, they have the texture of a semisolid cream and can be applied topically by hand or mixed with water. Diluted, they have a consistency and appearance similar to skim milk and can be sprayed to decontaminate surfaces or potentially interact with aerosolized spores before inhalation.”

    A March 18, 1998 press release had provided some background to the novel DARPA-funded work. It was titled “Novavax Microbicides Undergoing Testing at University of Michigan Against Biological Warfare Agents; Novavax Technology Being Supplied to U.S. Military Program At University of Michigan as Possible Defense Against Germ Warfare.” The release stated that “The Novavax Biologics Division has designed several potent microbicides and is supplying these materials to the University of Michigan for testing under a subcontract. Various formulations are being tested as topical creams or sprays for nasal and environmental usage. The biocidal agent’s detergent degrades and then explodes the interior of the spore. Funding, the press release explains, was provided by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense.

    In a presentation at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) on September 26, 1998, Michael Hayes, a research associate in the U-Michigan Medical School, presented experimental evidence of BCTP’s ability to destroy anthrax spores both in a culture dish and in mice exposed to anthrax through a skin incision. “In his conference presentation, Hayes described how even low concentrations of BCTP killed more than 90 percent of virulent strains of Bacillus anthracis spores in a culture dish.” Its website explains that the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy is the “[p]remier meeting on infectious diseases and antimicrobial agents, organized by the American Society for Microbiology.”

    In 1999, LSU researcher Dr.Kimothy Smith moved to the Arizona lab, bringing with him the lab’s first samples of anthrax.”

    An University of Michigan Medical school, Medicine at Michigan, (Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1999) explained:
    “In studies with rats and mice in the U-M Medical School under the direction of James R. Baker, Jr., M.D., professor of internal medicine and director of the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology, the mixture, known as BCTP, attacked anthrax spores and healed wounds caused by a closely related species of bacteria, Bacillus cereus. (The letters BCTP stand for Bi-Component, Triton X-100 n-tributyl Phosphate.)
    Baker describes the process as follows: “The tiny lipid droplets in BCTP fuse with anthrax spores, causing the spores to revert to their active bacterial state. During this process, which takes 4-5 hours, the spore’s tough outer membrane changes, allowing BCTP’s solvent to strip away the exterior membrane. The detergent then degrades the spores’ interior contents. In scanning electron microscope images, the spores appear to explode.” The rapid inactivation of anthrax bacteria and spores combined with BCTP’s low toxicity thus make the emulsion a promising candidate for use as a broad-spectrum, post-exposure decontamination agent.

    The research is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the central research and development organization for the U.S. Department of Defense.”

    Dr. Baker, by email, advises me that Ivins did the studies involving Ames for them at USAMRIID. He reports: “We never had Ames and could not have it at our UM facilities.” Before September 2001, it’s office was described as in the basement of a downtown bank which seems to describe 912 N. Main St., Ann Arbor, just west of the University of Michigan campus.

    An article in the Summer of 2000 in Medicine at Michigan explains:

    “Victory Site: Last December [December 1999] Tarek Hamouda, Amy Shih and Jim Baker traveled to a remote military station in the Utah desert. There they demonstrated for the U.S. Army Research and Development Command the amazing ability of non-toxic nanoemulsions (petite droplets of fat mixed with water and detergent) developed at Michigan to wipe out deadly anthrax-like bacterial spores. The square vertical surfaces shown here were covered with bacterial spores; Michigan’s innocuous nanoemulsion was most effective in killing the spores even when compared to highly toxic chemicals.”

    An EPA report explains:

    “In December 1999, the U.S. Army tested a broad spectrum nanoemulsion and nine other biodecontamination technologies in Dugway, Utah, against an anthrax surrogate, Bacillus globigii. Nanoemulsion was one of four technologies that proved effective and was the only nontoxic formulation available. Other tests against the vaccine strain of B. anthracis (Sterne strain) were conducted by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and by the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research.”

    As Fortune magazine explained in November 2001 about NanoBio: “Then bioterror struck…. It moved to a bland corporate park where its office has no name on the door. It yanked its street address off its Website, whose hit rate jumped from 350 a month to 1,000 a day.” NanoBio was part of the solution: “in the back of NanoBio’s office sit two dozen empty white 55-gallon barrels. A few days before, DARPA had asked Annis and Baker if they could make enough decontaminant to clean several anthrax-tainted offices in the Senate. NanoBio’s small lab mixers will have to run day and night to fill the barrels. ‘This is not the way we want to do this,’ sighs [its key investor], shaking his head. ‘This is all a duct-tape solution.’ ” James Baker, founder of Ann Arbor’s NanoBio’s likes to quote a Chinese proverb: “When there are no lions and tigers in the jungle, the monkeys rule.”

    It’s naive to think that Al Qaeda could not have obtained Ames just because it tended to be in labs associated with or funded by the US military. US Army Al Qaeda operative Sgt. Ali Mohammed accompanied Zawahiri in his travels in the US. (Ali Mohamed had been a major in the same unit of the Egyptian Army that produced Sadat’s assassin, Khaled Islambouli). Ali Al-Timimi was working in the building housing the Center for Biodefense funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (“DARPA”) and had access to the facilities at both the Center for Biodefense and the adjacent American Type Culture Collection. For example, Michael Ray Stubbs was an HVAC system technician at Lawrence Livermore Lab with a high-level security clearance permitting access; that was where the effort to combat the perceived Bin Laden anthrax threat was launched in 1998. Aafia Siddiqui, who attended classes at a building with the virulent Vollum strain. She later married a 9/11 plotter al-Balucchi, who was in UAE with al-Hawsawi, whose laptop, when seized at the home of a bacteriologist, had anthrax spraydrying documents on it. The reality is that a lab technician, researcher, or other person similarly situated might simply have walked out of some lab that had it.

    Among the documents found in Afghanistan in 2001 were letters and notes written in English to Ayman Zawahiri by a scientist about his attempts to obtain an anthrax sample. One handwritten letter was on the letterhead of the Society for Applied Microbiology, the UK’s oldest microbiological society. The Society for Applied Microbiology of Bedford, UK, recognizes that “the development and exploitation of Applied Microbiology requires the maintenance and improvement of the microbiological resources in the UK, such as culture collections and other specialized facilities.” Thus, Zawahiri’s access to the Ames strain is still yet to be proved, but there was no shortage of possibilities or recruitment attempts by Ayman.

    Now that the fellow in Afghanistan at Tora Bora is reported this week to be lacing bombs with anthrax — and given the FBI did not request documents relating to the visit with Bruce Ivins until 2005 — it’s time to get answers to relevant questions. Given the provable mischaracterization of numerous emails and other documents in the Amerithrax Investigative Summary, the DOJ could stand to have its work checked.

    • DXer said

      At Cairo Medical School, while a postgraduate, Ayman spoke fervently to members ofEgyptian Islamic Group, which operated openly within the school and had great influence among the students. A former student there, Tawfiq Hamid, explains that Jamaah Islamiyah, then approved by both the Egyptian government and the university, was not classified as a terrorist organization until a few years later. The group “built a small prayer room in our medical school that later developed into a mosque with an associated library.” He reports that “The mosque was behind the physiology and biochemistry departments, and members of Jamaah came there daily before science classes to lecture us on Islam. They warned us about the punishments awaiting us after death if we did not follow Islam strictly and were effective in advancing Islamism among many of the students, including me. He continued: “Our fear of being punished after death was exacerbated by our work in the cadaver room, where we dissected dead bodies. Seeing death regularly during anatomy and physiology courses made us feel that the life of this world was meaningless compared to ‘real’ life after death.”

      One of Dr. Hamid’s schoolmates and childhood friends was Tarek Hamouda, who Bruce Ivins supplied virulent Ames for a DARPA project on nanoemulsions.microencapsulation. Hamouda was actually classmates with Dr. Hamid’s older brother, and they graduated in December 1982. But Hamouda as a child would go with both Hamid brothers to the comic store when he visited Khartoum, Sudan, where his mother was an accounting professor. The older brother, an MD in St. Louis, will now not talk with his brother given his consultation with US government agencies. When Dr. Hamid called Dr. Hamouda once from abroad to ask him about patents (before 911), Dr. Hamouda said it was all in the marketing. The first name “Tawfik” is an alias used for security reasons — but this man has the courage to state the truth and urge nonviolence.

      Dr. Hamid met Zawahiri, “Dr. Ayman” as he was known, at an afternoon prayer session. He was one of the fiercest speakers he had ever heard. Ayman fervently condemned the West for the freedom of its women. Ayman, Dr. Hamid explains, was exceptionally bright, one of the top postgraduate students in the medical school. When they met him, Zawahiri greeted him warmly through his coke bottle glasses.

      Dr. Hamid explains that one of Ayman’s achievements was to personalize jihad—that is, to have transformed it from a responsibility of the Umma, the Islamic collective, to an individual duty of Muslims. Within several months of meeting Dr. Ayman, he was invited to travel to Afghanistan to join other young Muslims in training for jihad. It was fairly common, he said, to be recruited after the end of Friday prayers. Dr. Hamid explains: “We viewed both the Soviets and the Americans as enemies.” “The Soviets were considered infidels because they did not believe in the existence of God, while the Americans did not follow Islam. Although we planned to fight the Soviets first, our ultimate objective was to destroy the United States—the greatest symbol of the infidel’s freedom. ” Prophet Mohammed served as their role model. The harshest edicts of the koranic verses were to be followed and criticism of those verses was punishable by death. Dr. Hamid explains: “I passed through three psychological stages to reach this level of comfort with death: hatred of non-Muslims or dissenting Muslims, suppression of my conscience, and acceptance of violence in the service of Allah.”

  4. DXer said

    Militant Claims Work on Anthrax Bomb in Afghanistan, Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    A suspected Taliban operative in Afghanistan claimed recently that the group was working on a bomb that would disperse anthrax, the London Daily Express reported Sunday (see GSN, Jan. 26).

    While we wait to see if this claim by the fellow at Tora Bora is confirmed, it is worth considering the book that in 1999 Ayman Zawahiri requested that Atef obtain. It was called PLAGUE WARS by Mangold and Goldberg and discussed microencapsulation.

    It explained the treatment needed for anthrax to be used in a bomb. Bomb-maker Yuklis Munos, Hambali’s assistant, upon his capture, boasted of his anthrax training. Yazid Sufaat boasted of his skill at manipulating anthrax before his capture but then got reticent once detained.

    PLAGUE WARS explained in 1999:

    “There are already effective ways in which to protect deployed BW agents, Dr. Malcolm Dando, the distinguished biologist and Professor of International Security at the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, talks of microencapsulation, a process by which BW agents can be coated and protected against a variety of harmful outside factors, particularly their natural enemies light and heat. 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 for non-encapsulated materials. (The Soviets crossed this scientific threshold years ago and were able to ’spray’ their offensive bacterial and viral agents that were resistant to sun’s rays.)

    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 decompression at its target, together with sudden exposure to sunlight.”

    As I’ve been explaining for years now, Kathryn Crockett, Ken Alibek’s assistant — just a couple doors down from Ali Al-Timimi — addressed the microencapsulation in her 2006 thesis, “A historical analysis of Bacillus anthracis as a biological weapon and its application to the development of nonproliferation and defense strategies.” She expressed her special thanks to bioweaponeering experts Dr. Ken Alibek and Dr. Bill Patrick. Dr. Patrick consulted with the FBI. Dr. Crockett successfully defended the thesis before a panel that included USAMRIID head and Ames strain researcher Charles Bailey, Ali Al-Timimi’s other Department colleague. In 2001 he said he did not want to discuss silica because he did not want to give terrorists any ideas. Oops! Too late. The scientist coordinating with the 911 imam and Bin Laden’s Sheik was 15 feet away.
    Dr. Crockett in her PhD thesis says that scientists who analyzed the powder through viewing micrographs or actual contact are divided over the quality of the powder. She cites Gary Matsumoto’s “Science” article in summarizing the debate. She says the FBI has vacillated on silica. The AFIP data, if released, would point to the high level of silica in the first batch of letters.

    On the issue of encapsulation, Crockett reports that “many experts who examined the powder stated the spores were encapsulated. Encapsulation involves coating bacteria with a polymer which is usually done to protect fragile bacteria from harsh conditions such as extreme heat and pressure that occurs at the time of detonation (if in a bomb), as well as from moisture and ultraviolet light. The process was not originally developed for biological weapons purposes but rather to improve the delivery of various drugs to target organs or systems before they were destroyed by enzymes in the circulatory system” (citing Alibek and Crockett, 2005). “The US and Soviet Union, however, ” she explains, “used this technique in their biological weapons programs for pathogens that were not stable in aerosol form… Since spores have hardy shells that provide the same protection as encapsulation would, there is no need to cover them with a polymer.“ She explains that one “possible explanation is that the spore was in fact encapsulated but not for protective purpose. Encapsulation also reduces the need for milling when producing a dry formulation.” She wrote: “If the perpetrator was knowledgeable of the use of encapsulation for this purpose, then he or she may have employed it because sophisticated equipment was not at his disposal.”

    Dr. Michael told National Geographic (using the word “weaponized” to narrowly refer to aiding dispersability) he does not think the silica was used for that purpose of “weaponization”, whether under the historical Dugway method from the 1990s or otherwise. Michael told FOX News, “I don’t think this exonerates (Ivins) at all.” He added, “I don’t think it’s not enough to say that he did it, as well.”

    One military scientist who has made anthrax simulants described the GMU patents to me as relating to a silicon encapsulation technique which serves to increase the viability of a wide range of pathogens. More broadly, a DIA analyst once commented to me that the internal debate seemed relatively inconsequential given the circumstantial evidence — overlooked by so many people — that US-based supporters of Al Qaeda are responsible for the mailings.

    In the past, the Sandia scientists in their public comments seemed to be making inferences and conclusions about whether the silica would be useful in making mailed anthrax — and whether it would be highly probative — that went beyond both their field of expertise and the data apparently available to them. But their powerpoints seemed solid and conservatively framed in the conclusion drawn. I find Peter Setlow’s commentary on the recent Japanese article about silicon encapsulation to be thoughtful and would have preferred that he address the issue before the NAS. But I appreciate that Sandia’s powerpoint and presentation was sound given that it was limited to the narrow issue of the location of the silicon and did not address the issue of silicon in the New York Post material.

    I respect the government view, if it is the government’s view, that these are not issues that should be discussed public necessarily. To my way of thinking, outsiders, in my opinion, need only enough information to know whether “they got the right guy.” Presently, most people think the FBI did not — and the FBI’s interference with USAMRIID’s FOIA production in the past has only served as Exhibit A in that argument.

    From where I sit, for all I know, it is the FBI’s Dr. Bannan, formerly the collections scientist at the American Type Culture Collection (“ATCC”) at GMU which sponsored Al-Timimi’s program, who is supporting the decision to withhold the AFIP data. Given the government assures us that it does not relate to “weaponization,” then it would seem that there is no reason not to release it. The only previous reasons related to the fact that the investigation was ongoing and it would reveal the test that was done. (But of course the AFIP newsletter disclosed the test that was done and so that is not justification for withholding).

    Once it is released, experts like Peter Setlow can consider the source of the reason for the silica such as whether it was putting virulent Ames soil (silica) suspension such as the FBI scientist John Ezzell did in 1996 for DARPA when he made dry powdered anthrax at Ft. Detrick. Or we can turn to the “Microdroplet Cell Culture” patent filed by Ali Al-Timimi’s Discovery Hall colleagues at the DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense and see if there is a connection. The silica would be in the culture medium and then would be removed by repeated centrifugation.

    Alternatively, experts can consider that if Flask 1030 has 6 % of spores (versus 30% in Leahy product) containing the silicon signal, and flask 1030 constitute leftovers from aerosol experiments, perhaps the attack anthrax was stolen leftovers from animal aerosol challenge experiments which were left unguarded in the basement of 1412 in garbage bags until someone got around to using the autoclave. Antifoam sometimes would be used to unclog the nebulizer.

    Or we can explore the other hypotheses relating to the reason for the Silicon Signature, such as it being due to rice hull contamination (silicon) in a spraydryer or due to use of a silicone sealant sprayed on the inside of the envelope such as the Al Qaeda chapter on “poisonous letters” instructs be used (to avoid killing the mailman).

    I’m not a scientist which is why it seems that the data and pictures need to be released so that we can have experts like the Center for Biodefense’s Sergeui Popov and the government’s John Kiel review it. If we learned anything from 9/11, it is that there are times that information needs to be shared so that people can connect the dots. This is such a time. Any one with a conflict of interest should recuse himself from the particular aspect of Amerithrax.

    As for the defenders of Dr. Ivins (such as myself), I have to focus their attention again on the record of flask 1029. Dr. Ivins says he altered the record but does not remember doing it. If he did, wouldn’t he be indictable as an accessory after the fact and for obstruction of justice? And might alteration be motivated simply by a failure to keep proper records, or record a transfer as required by mid-1997 regulations? He specifically emailed his superior and said that he was concerned that his records would not square up with the inventory. He was told to shut up, not to repeat what he had heard at a party about the FBI’s line of inquiry — that everything was under control. Well, we’re not interested in whether someone with something to hide had everything under control. It certainly proved not to be under control for Dr. Ivins.

    So whodunnit? Let’s start with an easy question. Who told Dr. Ivins to shut up about it — that everything was under control? And why was Dr. Ivins concerned that there would be material missing from his inventory — to which his superior advised there would then be reason or justification for the missing Ames.

  5. DXer said

    There’s about 20 pages material on this issue in the record.

  6. DXer said

    “Would Obama Issue First Veto to Protect Anthrax Whitewash?
    By: emptywheel Tuesday March 16, 2010 5:28 am

    Bloomberg is reporting that Office of Management and Budget head Peter Orszag has told the intelligence committees Obama will veto the intelligence authorization because–among other reasons–it calls for re-examining the FBI’s conspiracy theory-as-investigation summary finding that Bruce Ivins acted alone. (h/t fatster)

    President Barack Obama probably would veto legislation authorizing the next budget for U.S. intelligence agencies if it calls for a new investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks, an administration official said.A proposed probe by the intelligence agencies’ inspector general “would undermine public confidence” in an FBI probe of the attacks “and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions,” Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees.


    To sustain its claim that Ivins, rather than an accomplice, mailed the anthrax from Princeton, FBI engaged in addled speculation worthy of the Kennedy assassination. And now Obama is worried about “public confidence” in those addled speculations?

    And shouldn’t there be an investigation of the investigation, at the least, because of the way FBI botched the investigation and framed Steven Hatfill?

    If the investigation can’t bear any scrutiny, then I’d say there’s probably a good reason, and therefore a good reason to do an Inspector General investigation.

    But I guess the President who advocates transparency is against that.

    RawStory has a good summary of both this issue and the other targets of Obama’s veto threat: Congressional notification and GAO oversight of intelligence.”

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