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

* summary of the FBI’s case … extracted from Roberto’s comment

Posted by DXer on April 20, 2010

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The FBI’s case against Dr. Ivins is bogus: no evidence, no witnesses, an impossible timeline, science that proves innocence instead of guilt. So what really happened? And why? The “fictional” scenario in my novel CASE CLOSED has been judged by many readers, including a highly respected official in the U.S. Intelligence Community, as “quite plausible.”

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *

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summary of the FBI’s case extracted from Roberto’s comment …

The FBI assumes, as I infer from the summary, several basic things that seemingly have no evidential basis:

  1. that the mailings were the work of an individual and not a group,
  2. that their universe of people who had *access* to genetically identical anthrax identical to what was contained in RMR1029 is a certain size,
  3. that the anthrax was made mail-ready only after 911.

Seems to me the FBI is the one with the theory to which they are trying to attach facts. That’s how we wound up with Hatfill.  The sum total of their case only leaves us with the mere possibility that Ivins *could* have done it, especially if one allows for the incredible.

The techniques the FBI used are ones that are used when there is no evidence:  Psyche profiles, handwriting analysis (codes!), witnesses out of jail, constant pressure, selective data, hyperbolic language, leaks, etc.

There are myriad lost opportunities for hyperlinking and/or footnotes in that summary. Why? With the lack of citations, it wouldn’t even pass as a senior college thesis.  The FBI describes this as the biggest, most expensive, intensive investigation ever, but the lack of rigor is remarkable.

Instead of telling me Ivins had a kinky side, tell me how he did it and when he did it.

  • What equipment did he use exactly?
  • What technique?
  • Where’s the photocopier?
  • How long did it take to make it?
  • When did he plan it?
  • Where are the artifacts that show he did some research specific to the mailed anthrax?

This appears to be their case:

  1. RMR1029 originated in his lab,
  2. everyone else interviewed by the FBI couldn’t have done it,
  3. Ivins was weird,
  4. he did it.

I have a hard time believing a lawyer could go into a courtroom with THAT narrative and prevail.

LMW COMMENT …

My thoughts exactly. Also Senators Specter and Grassley, Congressmen Holt and Nadler, and many others, plus many competent scientists.

What’s really disturbing is that the FBI sticks to its pathetic case while offering no substantive evidence to support it.

Why does the U.S. Attorney General allow this travesty to continue?

  • Did the FBI fail to solve the case, and Ivins is just their conveniently deceased dupe?
  • Or did the FBI solve the case but they’re hiding the true perpetrators?

These are both frightening questions, especially since there does not seem to be a third option.

******

15 Responses to “* summary of the FBI’s case … extracted from Roberto’s comment”

  1. Anonymous said

    Dr. Heine has done a second interview on WFMD (Frederick, MD) Bobcast show. See also NYT and News-Post articles.

    http://anthraxvaccine.blogspot.com/2010/04/microbiologist-henry-heine-2nd.html

  2. DXer said

    Outside View: Anthrax letters: Was Bruce Ivins hounded to death?
    Published: April 22, 2010
    By LAWRENCE SELLIN, UPI Outside View

    Feds close case in 2001 anthrax attacks

    HELSINKI, Finland, April 22 (UPI) — In the weeks following the airliner attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States was subjected to a biological weapons attack.

    Two sets of letters containing dried, powdered anthrax spores were mailed to journalists and politicians, eventually killing five people and infecting dozens of others.

    The FBI investigation, which would become known as “Amerithrax,” initially focused on foreign terrorists as the source of the attack. Later, after the anthrax in the letters was identified as a strain originating in the United States the focus of the investigation shifted to domestic terrorism.

    It has been postulated by the FBI that the source of the anthrax spores was the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. It doesn’t preclude the possibility that the anthrax used in the letters was obtained from Army stock but grown elsewhere.

    In my March 2004 UPI article “FBI behind the anthrax curve,” I wrote that the initial FBI investigation was based on a false assumption, which stated that investigators were dealing with a single suspect who fits a profile similar to serial bombers such as “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski.

    Reinforced by a number of armchair detectives from academia, the FBI produced a profile of the anthrax mailer who was described as a lone person living within the United States, who had experience working in labs and was smart enough to produce a highly refined and deadly product.

    He is a non-confrontational person, at least in his public life. He lacks the personal skills necessary to confront others. He chooses to confront his problems “long distance” and not face-to-face. He may hold grudges for a long time, vowing that he will get even with “them”

    one day and prefers being by himself more often than not.

    In other words, Ted Kaczynski with germs.

    All this allegedly led to Steven Hatfill, who, we soon learned, had worked at Fort Detrick, had a shady past involving Rhodesia and South Africa, behaved suspiciously and had a questionable resume.

    Lacking sufficient evidence to name Hatfill as a suspect, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft anointed him with the freshly minted label of “person of interest.”

    At the time, I wrote, “The most concrete result of the FBI’s efforts will likely be a lawsuit against the U.S. government.”

    In June 2008 Hatfill accepted $5.82 million from the government to settle his claim that the Justice Department and the FBI invaded his privacy and ruined his career.

    As described by David Freed in the May 2010 issue of The Atlantic Magazine:

    “His story provides a cautionary tale about how federal authorities, fueled by the general panic over terrorism, embraced conjecture and coincidence as evidence and blindly pursued one suspect while the real anthrax killer roamed free for more than six years. Hatfill’s experience is also the wrenching saga of how an American citizen who saw himself as a patriot came to be vilified and presumed guilty, as his country turned against him.”

    Hatfill was eventually exonerated when the FBI announced that another Fort Detrick researcher, Bruce E. Ivins, was the prime suspect. Ivins commited suicide in July 2008 and the FBI concluded in August 2008 that he was the sole perpetrator of the anthrax mailings.

    It has been reported that Ivins underwent a similar degree of harassment and subjected to an equivalent amount of leaking of confidential information as Hatfill, before the case was officially closed in February 2010. The FBI allegedly told Ivins’ children that he was a murderer, showed them photos of the victims and offered his son cash and a sports car if he turned against his father.

    Perhaps the only difference between the two was Hatfill’s ability to withstand the pressure.

    I knew Bruce Ivins, although not well. During my time at Fort Detrick I worked with botulinum toxin, while Ivins worked with anthrax. So, our paths didn’t cross in the laboratories. As others have described him, I found Ivins eccentric, geeky and a bit socially inept. He didn’t strike me as being dangerous and I was, therefore, both surprised and shocked that the FBI concluded that he was the anthrax mailer.

    I have also learned that the FBI case against Ivins may not be rock solid as they seem to indicate. Jeff Adamovicz, chief of bacteriology at Fort Detrick and Ivins’ supervisor stated that more than two samples taken from laboratories and tested by the FBI, Fort Detrick being one of them, possessed the anthrax strain linked to the mailings. What about the other samples?

    Adamovicz also noted that the first anthrax mailing, which presumably occurred six days after 9/11, contained a unique bacterial contaminant, which could have provided an additional forensic marker.

    Was this investigated?

    Finally, as Adamovicz has noted and which has been reported by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in the March 2010 issue of Science magazine, the issue of the high levels of silicon present in the second, far more dangerous mailing hasn’t been resolved.

    Apparently, equivalent levels of silicon in the anthrax spore coats weren’t found at Fort Detrick. If true, then the anthrax in the second mailing may not have come from there. Silicon isn’t required to grow anthrax but must be added. It isn’t only a common constituent of anti-foaming agents used during the fermentation process in anthrax production but it can help make a better anthrax aerosol to generate greater lethal effects.

    Is it reasonable to presume that in the days and weeks after 9/11 that Ivins had the time and expertise to carry out the attacks alone and without any witnesses? Furthermore, a number of anthrax experts claim that at the time Fort Detrick didn’t have the equipment necessary to produce anthrax of the type found in the anthrax letters.

    It is interesting to note that the second more lethal anthrax letters were likely mailed between Oct. 6 and Oct. 9, 2001. The coalition attack on Afghanistan began Oct. 7, 2001.

    Could the phrase “We have this anthrax” have referred to the high potency anthrax in the second mailing and meant, not only to instill panic, but also as a mutually assured destruction-type threat to limit or prevent effective action against Taliban and al-Qaida targets in Afghanistan?

    Was Bruce Ivins the sole perpetrator of the anthrax mailings as the FBI claims or did his suicide result from the pressure of the investigation and the possible revelation of damaging personal information as occurred in the Hatfill case? Did Ivins, like Hatfill before him, simply fit the profile?

    In the opinion of many, the Amerithrax investigation still appears far from conclusive.

    (Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D., is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and a veteran of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army or government.)

    (United Press International’s “Outside View” commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues.)

  3. DXer said

    Why doesn’t it point to microencapsulation — a means of engineering a pathogen that makes it harder to detect and, for example, resistant to ultraviolet light, acid and more.

  4. DXer said

    Why doesn’t in point to use of a silanizing solution in the slurry before drying? In April 2007 the air force lab did controlled experiments in this regard and sent SEMS that look like the Daschle / Leahy product.

  5. DXer said

    Why doesn’t point to contamination from the use of a silicone sealant on the inside of the envelope — as is instructed in the Al Qaeda section on mailing poisonous letters. (The purpose is to avoid killing the postman).

  6. DXer said

    Why doesn’t it point to the processing by a dual nozzle spraydryer customarily used for processing rice hulls (which consist of silicon)?

  7. DXer said

    Why doesn’t it point to the microdroplet cell culture method which used silanized silica powder would be used in the cultivated medium? With the excess silica then removed by repeated centrifugation? Serge disfavors the suggestion because it would draw attention and a perp would want to keep a low profile.

  8. DXer said

    Why doesn’t it point to the Ames in a soil suspension that Dr. Ezzell provided Edgewood?

  9. Roberto said

    Not only does it look like some of the evidence contradicts the implications of the narrative, at times the narrative is seemingly inconsistent with itself.

    pg25 – “The evidence gathered in this seven-year investigation establishes that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer – both direct evidence that anthrax spores under his sole and exclusive control were the parent material to the anthrax spores used in the attack…”

    pg26 – “Distilled to its essence, this means that whoever mailed the letters had access at some point to RMR-1029. That person must have either had direct access to the source flask, created and controlled by Dr. Ivins and maintained in the walk-in refrigerator in his lab, or to a sample of RMR-1029 provided by Dr. Ivins

    pg28 – “The investigation also revealed that all subsequent derivations obtained from the 15 domestic and three international laboratories that possessed the Ames strain have USAMRIID as their origin, either directly or indirectly. Second, the FBI determined that of the 1,070 FBIR samples screened for the morphological variants, only eight samples contained the four genetic mutations found in the anthrax letter spores.”

    pg29 – “…everyone agreed that no one at USAMRIID legitimately used quantities of RMR-1029 without the authorization and knowledge of Dr. Ivins.”

    (my emphasis)

    I would have to have to have a pretty tortured understanding of “sole and exclusive control” to accept that this all adds up to “Ivins Did It.”

    I’m willing to believe Ivins did it (and the the FBI really believe he did it), but the connection the summary attempts to establish from the mailed anthrax to Dr. Ivins feels arbitrary.

    He clearly had a legitimate relationship with the mailed anthrax, whether he did it or not. It doesn’t look good that he submitted a bad sample or two, and that he swabbed/cleaned some spaces on his own. Those are the most damning bits of evidence (IMO), but they’re only circumstantial (ambiguous). I.E., that’s the kind of information police agencies look to for narrowing down suspects – but once narrowed down, they need to find non-ambiguous evidence.

    I believe there’s little doubt that whoever created the anthrax for the mailings had a physical connection to one of the following: 1) the original RMR1029 flask in Ivins’ lab, 2)one of the eight samples in other labs matching the original, or 3) to another person who did have access to the above. I accept that the science can prove this.

    • DXer said

      Roberto is right. Rather than being within his “exclusive control” up to 377 at Ft. Detrick alone had access. And all one needs to do is one spore.

      As an example of the speciousness of the non-evidence Ed points to take a single example: The email that Ed characterizes as being that Bruce can’t remember sending the anthrax. What a hoot! Look at the full email and one can see it in no way supports an Ivins Theory.

      Or how about the “menacing” phone call Ivins made — how, pray tell, is that evidence of the anthrax mailings? What he explained is that she falsely claimed that he would not have admitted himself voluntarily.

      On the occasion that Ed actually gets the facts right (and correctly characterizes the documents), it only constitutes speculation, not evidence.

      He thought it dispositive evidence that the attack anthrax was the “daughter” — he thought for 6 months the genetics evidence pointed uniquely to Ivins rather than to hundreds. All of his arguments just constitute rationalizing and speculation. He studiously avoids pointing out that the contemporaneous notes Ivins made when he allegedly was making an anthrax powder should be produced. An incurious mind that does not seek the relevant documents is one not taking an evidence-based approach.

      He made a big deal of the overtime without even realizing that after 2001 overtime alone was prohibited. His assistant worked 377 hours of overtime during the same period. They were working on OPERATION NOBLE EAGLE.

      Ed made a big deal of the overtime without even realizing he was scheduled to work at those times.

      He made a big deal of the overtime and argues the time spent was not justified when interviews statements say that it was. (And Patricia Fellows will have time enough to explain her statements). Ed expresses no interest in the actual relevant evidence — the documentary evidence that Rachel Carlson Lieber refuses to provide under FOIA… the handwritten observations he made at the lab.

      Ed evidences no interest in the actual evidence — the photocopy toner examination that excludes the photocopier the DOJ speciously says he used. A principled true crime sleuth would urge the production of the relevant documents that would constitute evidence at trial — and not engage in speculation such as claiming that the decedent was “slippery” (as Ed does). Ed didn’t know him and his opinion of Dr. Ivins is contrary to those who have known him for years.

    • Roberto said

      The Jury would indeed look at all the evidence.

      As this is America and we have a Constitution, the Jury would also be required to consider the Defense and not just the Prosecution. The Defense would have an answer for everyone one of your points. Since Ivins is dead, there will be no defense. There is no answer. The FBI gets their conviction without a trial. I agree, the Investigative Summary points to and condemns Ivins. My inclination is to point out that the Summary is weak and sophomoric, not something I would anticipate from the largest, most expensive, intensive police investigation in the history of mankind.

      • Roberto said

        I don’t believe *dead* people to be necessarily innocent, just people in general – until proven otherwise in a court of law. That’s what they taught me in all those corny movies: Innocent Until Proven Guilty. This is not invalid. It’s not a default to be ashamed of. Like I’ve stated before: I’m willing to believe he did it, but this needs to be proven. The only real point, the sum total, of anything I’ve posted is that the FBI has not done a complete job of this. That they have yet to do a complete job of that can only be true, to my mind, for 1 of 3 reasons. They are incompetent (probably not), or, they don’t have a case (maybe), or, they weren’t done and they just quit when he died (maybe).

        Even you, an dude in his pajamas, does a better job of putting together a narrative than they did – and I doubt you have their budget or manpower…

        I believe dead people have no defense, which is what I meant to imply in my earlier post.

        • Lew Weinstein said

          or (4) they did solve the case, but for whatever reason do not want to reveal the true perpetrators.

        • Anonymous said

          Roberto,

          How can this matter be resolved? Obviously, it can only be resolved if a dead man is PROVEN guilty. But a dead man cannot be put on trial and cannot testify in his own behalf. So, what can be done?

          If people are just going to close their eyes and put their hands over their ears and declare that Ivins MUST be considered totally innocent because he cannot be brought to trial, that would be STUPID BEYOND BELIEF. Dying does NOT make a person innocent of a crime he is known to have committed.

          In court, Ivins probably would NOT have testified in his own behalf. If he took the stand, he’d be asked to explain all of his lies, his destruction of evidence and the false evidence he submitted. His lawyer would more likely recommend that he remain silent and make the DOJ prove their case without his help.

          It’s clear that no conspiracy theorist or True Believer is going to accept ANY verdict that conflicts with their beliefs, no matter how much evidence is presented. They’ll just chant that Ivins cannot be proven guilty because he is dead, and a dead man cannot be put on trial.

          I suspect that the “government” is waiting for the findings from the National Academies of Science. When those findings are produced, they’ll provide a solid foundation for further discussion of the case. Anything they say now will just have to be said again after the NAS publishes its findings.

          As you can see if you read this web site, the conspiracy theorists and True Believers are already making a case for ignoring the findings of the NAS. But, I think those findings (and new published data about the silicon in the spores) will provide all the facts needed to convince all but the most rabid conspiracy theorists and True Believers that Dr. Ivins was indeed the anthrax killer.

          Ivins was clearly guilty even though a jury never got to say so.

          Ed

  10. DXer said

    Keen insights, Roberto. To take just one of your excellent points: The standard is for the attorney to provide citations in such a memorandum. If AUSA Rachel had actually been required to cite the evidence, entire sections would have imploded given that the characterizations were contradicted by the record. (See, e.g., discussion of the October 4, 2001 email).

    The DOJ and/or FBI has interfered with production of the documentary evidence of the USAMRIID emails — and kept emails from being produced until after issuance of this report. Source: Emails to me from Mr. Peterson and Mr. Ferrara. Whoever was involved in delaying and preventing production should be identified and be required to explain their actions before a Congressional Committee hearing. (The obstruction and delay is continuing). Mr. Peterson and Mr. Ferrara could explain to a probe the interference they faced.

    It can’t all be laid on the inefficiency of USAMRIID FOIA people in producing a simple stack of emails — there was (and continues to be) active interference by numerous DOJ and FBI people who obstructed production at the micro level.

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