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

* were aerosol experiments done with the irradiated dry powder that Dr. Ezzell reports he made at the request of DARPA?

Posted by DXer on April 9, 2010

The FBI’s case against Dr. Ivins is clearly bogus: no evidence, no witnesses, an impossible timeline. The real question is why the FBI persists in sticking to such a pathetic story. What are they hiding? I offer one “fictional” scenario in my novel CASE CLOSED, judged by many readers, including a highly respected official in the U.S. Intelligence Community, as “quite plausible.”

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *


5 Responses to “* were aerosol experiments done with the irradiated dry powder that Dr. Ezzell reports he made at the request of DARPA?”

  1. DXer said

    JE advises me that Ba was stored in numerous locations. In reference to the pictured email, it probably refers to storage of B. anthracis in the refigerator in room 212 of Building 1412 which was one of JE’s labs. His personnel along with scientists from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Labs collected aerosoled threat agents on special tapes that fed into mass spectrometer located in Rm 212 (BL3 Lab). Much of the work was with the avirulent Sterne strain B. anthracis. The refrigerator had sliding glass doors.

    The lab was registered for work with all strains of B. anthracis. There was nothing odd about storage of B. anthracis in this location.

  2. DXer said

    Turning back to that email from Bruce to Patricia Fellows that USAMRIID is dragging its feet in producing, is it correct that Bruce told Pat that he had heard that Tom Geisbert had said the best match to the powder was JE? As the story goes, Commander Eitzen’s knees got shaky when told by the Dr. Geisbert that the best match was JE’s powder. While we wait for confirmation that is the correct understanding of the redacted email, let’s review Wash Po author Marilyn T.’s wonderful chronology quoted by Barry K.

    JE is being very forthright on all these issues. Having spoken to him, I can vouch for his bona fides (if you can trust your instincts). It is the ones who refuse to answer questions or stop answering questions that leave the outstanding questions.

    Dr. Ivins’ email points to an important issue:

    Might there have been access to Flask 1029 through that DARPA program and might the legitimate biodefense work done in connection with that work been a portal for infiltration? One researcher who tested his decontamination agent at John Hopkins and was head of a DARPA project had his decontamination agent tested at Johns Hopkins, USAMRIID (alongside Bruce Ivins), Dugway, (and apparently Edgewood in 2001). His lifelong friend has published on his experience of being recruited by Ayman Zawahiri while the three were at Cairo Medical School and head of intelligence Ali Mohammed was also recruiting Dahab and others. Another Salafist shared a suite with other DARPA researchers, who included a former deputy commander and Russian defector who co-invented a process using silica in the culture medium.

    It seems that one obstacle to the true crime analysis has been the awkwardness of overcoming this initial misapprehension about whether dry powder was used at Ft. Detrick.
    It wasn’t generally. Neither Commander Eitzen or General Parker making those statements need be embarrassed. It was a broad statement and if in the context of a confidential criminal investigation, there came to be a qualification, that’s just the nature of things. There often has to be a footnote to be dropped so as to be accurate or clear on all specifics. In the instance that a dried powder was made, it was made using Ames from Bruce Ivins’ Flask 1029. There was left-over Ames. The works was to test a mass detector spectrometer and used Ames from Flask 1029 that had been gamma irradiated. If there were other classified studies being done, such studies are generally understood by experts (like Milton L) to be consistent with treaty obligations where small amounts are used. But the FBI should release Dr. Heine of any confidentiality agreement as it relates to things that occurred a decade ago.

    “October 16, 2001

    On the morning of the 16th, the day after it was delivered to USAMRIID, the powder in the letter mailed to Senator Daschle was being studied by John Ezzell, the civilian microbiologist who accepted it from the agents of the FBI’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit [HMRU]. But, Jahrling wanted Tom Geisbert to get the sample under an electron microscope… [Geisbert] shoved it into one of the electron microscopes, a transmission scope, which is eight feet tall. The scope cost a quarter-million dollars. Geisbert sat down at the eye pieces and focused. The view was wall-to-wall anthrax spores. . . .The material seemed to be absolutely pure spores. . . [USAMRMC Chief] General Parker and Peter Jahrling went by the office of the USAMRIID Commander, Colonel Ed Eitzen, then the three men went upstairs to the scope room, where Tom Geisbert was staring at the anthrax. ‘It’s okay, I used to run an electron microscopy lab,’ Parker said. Parker sat down at the scope and looked. Pure spores. That was all he needed to see. He went out into the hallway and started issuing instructions to Eitzen and Jahrling in a rapid fire way: ‘We’re going to put USAMRIID into emergency operations . . .’

    “October 17, 2001

    . . . Major General John Parker went to the US Senate, where he met with a caucus of the Senate leadership and their staff. He told them that he looked at the anthrax himself in the microscope and that it was essentially pure spores. He would later say, ‘The letter was a missile …’ The FBI decided, sensibly, to get a second opinion on the Daschle anthrax. The HMRU dispatched a Huey to Fort Detrick…The helicopter took off with the sample and thupped westward over Maryland. It touched down in West Jefferson, Ohio near Columbus at the Hazardous Materials Research Center of the Batelle Memorial Institute. Batelle scientists took the [sample] into the lab. . . . Their tests showed that the anthrax was not nearly as refined or powerful as the Army people believed.

    “October 18, 2001

    . . . [During an Interagency Conference Call with individuals from National Security Council, FBI, CDC, and Army], Peter Jahrling replied that USAMRIID’s data indicated that the Daschle anthrax was ten times more concentrated and potent than any form of anthrax that had been made by the old American bio-warfare program at Fort Detrick in the 1960s. He said that the anthrax consisted of pure spores, and that it was ‘highly aerogenic’ . . . The spores of anthrax went straight through the paper of the Daschle envelope and other anthrax envelopes full of ultra-fine powder that were mailed, though they had been sealed tightly with tape.

    “October 19, 2001

    . . . Before dawn on Friday morning, four days after the Daschle letter was opened, Peter Jahrling put on a space suit and went into the Submarine and got a tiny sample of live, dry Daschle anthrax. He gave the sample to Tom Geisbert so that he could look at the dry anthrax in a scanning electron microscope. Geisbert carried the tube of dry anthrax into his microscope lab . . . [Geisbert] stared at the bone-colored particles. Now he saw them climbing the wall of the tube, dancing along the wall of the tube heading upward. His assistant, Denise Braun, was working near by. ‘Denise, you’ll never believe this.’ The anthrax was like jumping beans; it seemed to have a life of its own. He began preparing a sample for the scope. He opened the tube and tapped a little bit of the anthrax onto a piece of sticky black tape that would hold the powder in place. But the anthrax bounced off the tape. The particles wouldn’t stick. Eighty percent of the Daschle particles flittered away in air currents up into the hood. That was when he understood that the Hart Building was utterly contaminated . . . [Geisbert] had a national-security clearance, and he knew something about anthrax, but he could not imagine how this weapon had been made. It looked extremely sinister. He started feeling shaky. He called Jahrling. ‘Pete, I’m in the scope room. Can you come up here, like right now?’ Jahrling ran upstairs, closed the door, and stared at the skull anthrax for a long time. He didn’t say much. Geisbert’s security clearance was rated secret, and the details of how this material could have been made might be more highly classified. Not long afterward, Jahrling apparently went to the Secure Room and had the classified safe opened. He studied a document or documents with red-slashed borders that would appear to contain exact technical formulas for various kinds of weapons-grade anthrax. … Jahrling refers to the secret of scull anthrax as the Anthrax Trick although he won’t discuss it . . . [Geisbert] was afraid that his findings about the skull quality of the anthrax meant that it had come from a military biowarfare lab . . . Meanwhile in Washington , the FBI laboratory was trying to evaluate the anthrax. On the same day that the two Brentwood workers died, a meeting was held at FBI headquarters involving the FBI laboratory, scientists from the Battelle Memorial Institute and scientists from the Army. Battelle and the Army people were doing what scientists do best; disagreeing totally with one another. The Army scientists were telling the FBI that the powder was extremely refined and dangerous. While a Battelle scientist named Michael Kuhlman was allegedly saying that the anthrax was ten to fifty times less potent than the Army was claiming . . . The Department of Health and Human Services was not getting briefed about the anthrax to its satisfaction by the FBI. An HHS official who was close to the situation but who did not want her name used had this to say about the Battelle analysis of the Daschle anthrax: ‘It was one of the most screwed-up situations I’ve ever heard of. The people at Battelle took the anthrax and heated it in an autoclave, and this caused the material to clump up, and then they told the FBI it looked like puppy chow. It was like a used- car dealer offering a car for sale that’s been in an accident and is covered with dents, and the dealer is trying to claim this is the way the car looked when it was new.’

    “October 24, 2001

    Early in the morning, nine days after the Daschle letter was opened, Major General John Parker got a call from Tommy Thompson at Health and Human Services. Thompson had been hearing rumors that the Daschle anthrax was really bad stuff, but he still hadn’t heard much about it from the FBI laboratory . . . [At the White House, that evening:] John Ashcroft led off the meeting. He didn’t mince words. There was an obvious lack of communication between the Army, the FBI, and the CDC, he said, and the purpose of this meeting was to determine why the CDC hadn’t realized that the anthrax was weapons–grade material and hadn’t taken action faster on the Brentwood mail facility . . . Ashcroft was Robert Mueller’s boss and he looked straight at the FBI director. Mueller turned his gaze to General Parker. Mueller thanked the Army for bringing the nature of the anthrax to the FBI’s attention. He said that the FBI had received conflicting data on the anthrax. The FBI had been trying to sort this issue through, but Mueller now acknowledged that the Army had been right: the Daschle anthrax was a weapon.

    “October 25, 2001

    Tom Geisbert drove his beat-up station wagon to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, in northwest Washington, carrying a whiff of sterilized dry Daschle anthrax mounted in special cassette. He spent the day with a group of technicians running tests with an X-ray machine to find out if the powder contained any metals or elements. By lunchtime, the machine had shown that there were two extra elements in the spores, silicone and oxygen. Silicone oxide. Silicone dioxide is glass . . . The glass was slippery and smooth, and it may have been treated so that it would repel water. It caused the spores to crumble apart, to pass more easily through the holes in the envelopes, and fly everywhere, filling the Hart Senate Office Building and the Brentwood and Hamilton mail-sorting facilities like a gas.”

    (Pages 200-234).

    “One day, I [author Richard Preston] spoke with a scientist who is an expert in forensic evidence, knows a lot about biology, and until recently was an influential executive in the FBI. ‘We just don’t know who these perpetrators are, and it could be years before we get a break. I’m saying ‘they.’ I personally find it hard to believe it was done by only one person . . . If I wanted to keep tight operational security…I would do it with opsec. Opsec—operational security. It’s a standard security approach for making yourself as invisible as possible. There is a leader who organizes and directs an operation, and a different person carries it out.’ The person who does the operation is expendable.”

    (Pages 246-247).

    • DXer said

      See generally “Anthrax Detectors are coming”, Office of Naval Research, Oct. 29, 2001

    • DXer said

      JE in the past, too, has shared many insights about the matter that helpfully round out a consistent picture.


      SEIGENTHALER: So, is it possible that this is purely domestic or could
      al-Qaeda or the Iraqis or someone else be involved?

      Ms. THOMPSON: I think the prevalent theory is that this is a domestic
      incident because of the strain, which I call in the title, “The Killer Strain.”
      The Ames strain of anthrax which was almost exclusively used in US government
      military research labs. As far as we know, Iraq never possessed the Ames
      strain. Although we know they made several failed efforts to get it.

      SEIGENTHALER: Let’s talk about some of the characters in this book. You have
      a real attachment to John Ezzell. Tell us about him and why–why is he so

      Ms. THOMPSON: John Ezzell is a senior scientist at the US Army Medical
      Research Lab at Fort Dietrick. And he’s an absolutely fascinating man who
      devoted almost of all of his life to studying pathogens. He was the scientist
      who was called upon by the FBI to do the initial analysis of the anthrax in the
      letters that showed up on Capitol Hill. And he walked into the lab and opened
      the envelope and had never seen anything like it. He was horrified. He said he
      felt like he had looked in the face of Satan. He came out of the lab, mixed a
      solution of bleach and water, and sniffed it because he was so afraid that in
      doing the lab work, he could somehow have been exposed to this highly virulent
      form of anthrax. Then he went home and–and tried to work on a formula for
      cooking anthrax in the kitchen oven so that the average American would have some
      way to protect themselves from this if it showed up in their mail.


      Dr. John Ezzell, the scientist who opened the anthrax-laced letter addressed
      to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, confirmed that he had taken a polygraph test.

      “It’s a standard procedure for anyone handling evidence,” he said.


      In the investigation, FBI agents have already administered a round of
      polygraphs at Fort Detrick, focused on those who have handled evidence related
      to the anthrax probe, said Dr. John Ezzell, an anthrax expert there who is
      participating in the investigation.

      The FBI maintains a presence to observe laboratory work related to the
      investigation, but agents who interviewed workers last fall and winter have been
      less active lately, Ezzell said.

      The investigation has rattled workers, said Norman Covert, who is retired
      from Fort Detrick and stays in close touch with many of his former colleagues.

      “They’re a little bit intimidated by the attention they’re getting by the
      FBI,” he said.

      The next round of polygraph tests, which could top 200, will be given to
      current and former employees at Fort Detrick and Dugway Proving Ground in Utah,
      a law enforcement official said Tuesday. The tests are voluntary, though some
      workers who are typically subject to the tests for security reasons could be
      compelled, he said.


      “The Leahy letter is the most intact piece of evidence we have,” an FBI
      spokeswoman said.

      “It may be the only complete opportunity we have to study this stuff in

      “Even anthrax experts have no experience in this,” said one investigator.
      “We’re writing the book as we go along.”

      Just how difficult the operation would be became apparent when the
      scientists tried to examine the Daschle letter on October 15.

      The potentially deadly spores, each less than one-twentieth the diameter of
      a human hair, kept wafting off the glass microscope slide.

      Some had to be transferred to the US Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in
      Washington, where an X-ray spectroscope detected tiny particles of silica that
      made the anthrax lighter and much more dangerous. Soon the scientists ran out of

      The new operation is taking place in a sealed laboratory known as BL-3.

      John Ezzell, the US army’s leading anthrax expert, is in charge. He has been
      vaccinated against anthrax so many times he can wear a surgical mask rather than
      a complete protective suit. Only two or three other people, including an FBI
      forensic scientist, will be in the room, all wearing protective clothing. Other
      agents will watch through windows.

      Senator Leahy said last Sunday the letter was so lethal it could have killed
      100,000 people had it been opened. Without it, the FBI stands little chance of
      tracking down the bioterrorist who has killed up to five people.


      John Ezzell, a civilian anthrax expert at Fort Detrick, said that in nature,
      anthrax spores released when infected animals die near watering holes tend to
      sink to the bottom of the pond.

      Ezzell said he had never heard of anyone using a submerged glove box as
      protection from anthrax spores.


      When he applied to Fort Detrick in the late 1980s, he had “an impressive
      resume,” said John Ezzell, a former top scientist there who was part of a
      hiring committee that selected Ivins to work on the human anthrax vaccine. “We
      thought he worked out really well. He was a critical part of our vaccine
      studies.” Ezzell said Ivins participated in numerous animal experiments testing
      how the vaccine protected against various types of anthrax exposure.

      Ezzell considered Ivins a friend and said they sometimes shared hotel rooms
      when they traveled to professional conferences. “Most of the time, he was very
      happy and outgoing,” he said. “He did good work. He was very conscientious, and
      he worked long hours to get the work done.”

      Ezzell said the experiments did not involve anthrax in its dried form, the
      type found in the letter to then-Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle
      (D-S.D.) that was so finely ground it could immediately become airborne. Ivins
      worked with small teams of scientists; their findings had global significance in
      the field of anthrax studies and were later used by opponents of a mandatory
      vaccination program instituted by the Pentagon that has been highly


      Nevertheless, USAMRIID scientist John Ezzell spent three weeks going to
      meetings, visiting companies and consulting various experts before opening the
      spore-laden envelope sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy.

      “[T]his was the first time we had ever received a real impression that this is
      something to be very concerned about,” said Col. Erik Henchal, chief of the
      diagnostics systems division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of
      Infectious Diseases, which is home to the lab.

      The letter and its surrounding bags were placed inside a third plastic bag
      and whisked from the biosafety level two (BL-2) facility where the package had
      first been brought to a more secure BL-3 lab. (The highest level is BL-4.)

      That is where the Army’s premier anthrax expert, John Ezzell, tried in
      frustration to look at the powder under a microscope. As spores drifted about,
      Ezzell began to worry — about the level of expertise that had apparently been
      brought to bear in the powder’s production, and about the number of spores

      So after transferring a few spores to a microbial culture dish where they
      could germinate and grow into colonies for genetic analysis, the team put most
      of the powder away and restricted further inspection to samples immersed in
      special fluid or embedded in thin slices of paraffin.

      A battery of biological assays followed. Tests for antibiotic sensitivity
      indicated the bugs were not resistant to standard antibiotics. DNA tests
      confirmed they belonged to the Ames strain, as have all of the terrorism-related
      specimens. And electron microscope studies of the powder in paraffin showed that
      the particles were remarkably small — just 1.5 to 3 microns in diameter — and
      consisted almost entirely of purified spores, a perfect recipe for inhalational

      But there was something else in there, too, and it would require analysis by
      others to say what. That job fell to a laboratory on the campus of the Armed
      Forces Institute of Pathology in Northwest Washington. An aging building there
      is home to a device called an energy dispersive X-ray spectroscope, which can
      detect the presence of extremely tiny quantities of chemicals.

      That device found that silica, but not aluminum, was mixed with the Daschle
      spores — an important finding that differentiated the sample from known Iraqi
      specimens in which spores were combined with bentonite, a mixture of silica and

      Three or four people will probably be in the BL-3 facility when the Leahy
      letter is opened, Henchal said. Ezzell will be among them, he predicted, and he
      will probably not wear a protective suit but simply don a surgical mask because
      he has been vaccinated against anthrax many times. An FBI forensic expert will
      also attend, while other agents look on through the few windows.

      The FBI generally likes to photograph evidence, Henchal added, but that
      won’t be easy. “How do you lay out the material so you can adequately photograph
      it? It’s a real problem with something so lightweight and so fragile.”

      It is just one of the many ironies of the anthrax murder mystery that
      something so consequential can be so light.


      MAJ. GEN. JOHN PARKER, U.S. ARMY (RET): We’re looking for the original
      ownership of a bacteria and then who stole it to use it for this illicit,
      immoral purpose.

      Until his retirement, Major General John Parker oversaw the team of
      scientists at the Army’s Medical Research Lab here assigned to the FBI’s anthrax

      PARKER: When you think of well where did anthrax possibly come from, you have
      to think of our laboratory.

      CANDIOTTI: Fort Detrick is where the FBI opened the intercepted anthrax
      stuffed letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy. Dr. John Ezzell is the
      gloved scientist seen here, gingerly pulling the letter and deadly spores out of
      the envelope. What was going through your mind, knowing that the world was
      watching really?

      DR. JOHN EZZELL, SCIENTIST: Not to make mistakes, but no, we just felt very
      good afterwards that we were very successful in removing the material and
      protecting the properties of the material.

      • DXer said

        General Parker’s testimony, the month of Dr. Stevens’ death, also has stood up remarkably well against the test of time:

        Federal News Service

        October 31, 2001, Wednesday





        LENGTH: 829 words

        Good morning, Mr. Chairman and other distinguished members of this committee
        and subcommittee. Thank you for the invitation to testify before you today. My
        name is Major General John S. Parker and I represent the outstanding scientists
        and professionals of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and my
        biocontainment laboratory, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of
        Infectious Diseases, also known as USAMRIID. USAMRIID’s mission is to develop
        the medical products, strategies, procedures, information, and training for
        medical defense of our service members against biological warfare and endemic
        infectious diseases that require biocontainment. In recent years this mission
        has expanded to include helping defend our nation against biological terrorism.
        Since September 11th, USAMRIID has been fully engaged in supporting DOD, FBI,
        HHS, Congress, and the interagency community with round-the- clock, cutting-edge
        reference diagnostic capabilities. A large number of samples have been processed
        requiring over 31,750 laboratory assays. The results of these tests are reported
        to our customers upon full confirmation of the laboratory findings.

        I am here today to discuss USAMRIID’s support to the FBI in analyzing the
        powdery material contained in the letter sent to Senator Daschle. I present the
        following timeline to document the chronology of our response.

        On the afternoon of 15 October, USAMRIID received samples from the FBI and
        the Capitol Police, which included letters addressed to Senator Daschle. The
        initial observation of the material in one of the letters, performed under
        biosafety level 3 containment conditions, revealed a fine, light tan powder that
        was easily dispersed into the air. Preliminary laboratory results including
        polymerase chain reaction and fluorescent antibody stain indicated Bacillus
        anthracis spores. USAMRIID reported to the FBI on the afternoon of the 15th the
        preliminary results indicating that the material was anthrax spores. Further,
        one of our technicians/scientists made a statement that this material grossly
        had some attributes consistent with “weaponized” anthrax. On the evening of 15
        October, USAMRIID completed the initial battery of confirmatory tests verifying
        positive results for anthrax. This additional information was relayed to the FBI
        that evening and was subsequently re-iterated to the FBI and others in an
        interagency conference call the morning of 16 October. At that time, USAMRIID
        revisited the term “weaponized” and decided the terms “professionally done” and
        “energetic” as more appropriate descriptions in lieu of any real familiarity
        with weaponized materials.

        On 16 October, USAMRIID began to examine the samples further via transmission
        electron microscopy (TEM). Initial TEM analysis was performed on hydrated
        powder. This study revealed that the material was comprised solely of a high
        concentration of spores without debris or vegetative forms, suggesting this
        material was refined or processed.

        USAMRIID participated in an interagency conference call on the morning of 17
        October, updating participants on the results of the antibiotic susceptibility
        profile. Statistical analyses for the spore dimensions from the TEM micrographs
        were begun on the 17th. On the same day, USAMRIID provided the FBI samples of
        the powder from the Daschle letter to send to another laboratory for analysis of
        the material. The results from TEM of the hydrated powder were reported to the
        interagency phone conference by the 18th.

        On 17 October, I briefed the full Senate Caucus, Senator Daschle’s staff and
        the assembled Senate staff, in addition to participating in a news conference
        with Senators Daschle and Lott, on preliminary characterization of the sample.
        USAMRIID next began investigating the dry powder on 18 October by scanning
        electron microscopy (SEM). This method revealed particle aggregates of varying
        sizes comprised solely of spores without a visible binding matrix. The material
        seen under SEM ranged in size from single spores to aggregates of spores up to
        100 microns or more. The spores within the aggregate were uniform in appearance.
        The aggregates had a propensity to pulverize. We first relayed these
        observations to our customer, the FBI, on the evening of 19 October. A written
        progress report was hand-carded to the FBI on 22 October for a discussion of
        USAMRIID data in comparison with that of other laboratories contributing to the
        ongoing analysis and investigation. USAMRIID’s data were briefed to the
        Secretary, HHS, on 23 October, at his request.

        USAMRIID continues to support the FBI in the ongoing investigation and any
        related analysis we can perform with our biocontainment capability and
        scientific expertise. We are proud to be an integral component in our Nation’s
        defense and response to this tragic situation and I am especially grateful for
        the opportunity to address this august body today. I will now entertain your

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