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

* Dr. Nancy Connell (a member of the NAS panel reviewing the FBI’s anthrax science) … Brief summary of the science used by the FBI in the anthraxattacks case of 2001 … presented in Beijing, China 31 Oct – 3 Nov, 2010

Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 6, 2010

 

Dr. Nancy Connell ... a member of the NAS panel reviewing the FBI's anthrax science

Brief summary of the science

used by the FBI in the anthraxattacks case of 2001

Nancy Connell

UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School

Trends in Science and TechnologyRelevant to the BWC Institute of Biophysics

CAS Beijing, China 31 Oct – 3 Nov, 2010


******

(chronology of) the letters

• Sept 18, 2001: 5 letters postmarked and mailed to – NY: ABC, CBS, NBC, New York Post – FL: American Media (Nat’l Enquirer)

16 days later (Oct 3): diagnosis (first case in 25 yrs) – Victim died Oct 5

• Oct 9, 2001: two more letters postmarked and mailed – Senator Daschle (opened Oct 15; buildings closed) – Senator Leahy (found in storage Nov 16)

• Oct 12: NYC anthrax cases confirmed

• Oct 16-17: senate/house buildings closed (reopened 2002)

• Oct 18: NJ mail distribution center closed (reopened 2005)

• Oct 23: cases in Postal Offices confirmed (NJ and D.C.)

Victims of the attacks

• 22 cases: 11 inhalation, 11 cutaneous … • 5 deaths … • 31 “positive” for spores … • estimated 10,000 “at risk” were treated with prophylactics

• 35 postal facilities and mailrooms contaminated

(FBI) investigation

• 7 years …  600,000 person hours …  10,000 witness interviews …  6,000 items of potential evidence …  5,750 grand jury subpoenas …  5,730 environmental samples from 60 sites …  More than 1,040 individuals scrutinized, 400 in-depth …  Cooperation of 29 labs (gov’t, academic and commercial)

“In its early stages, despite the enormous amount of evidence gathered through traditional law enforcement techniques, limitations on scientific methods prevented law enforcement from determining who was responsible for the attacks. Eventually, traditional law enforcement techniques were combined with groundbreaking scientific analysis that was developed specifically for the case to trace the anthrax used in the attacks to a particular flask of material.

By 2007, investigators conclusively determined that a single spore-batch created and maintained by Dr. Bruce E. Ivins at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (“USAMRIID”) was the parent material for the letter spores. An intensive investigation of individuals with access to that material ensued.

FBI conclusion

Evidence developed from that investigation established that Dr. Ivins, alone, mailed the anthrax letters.” – From the FBI investigative summary, Feb 19, 2010 (second version with errata, Oct 22, 2010)

Genetic analysis

• November 2001: – attack strain confirmed to be Ames – morphological variants among colonies

• Nov 01-May 02: – The “Repository”: 1070 Ames samples from 15 domestic and 3 overseas labs

• 2002-2007 – Assays developed for four mutations associated with four phenotypes

• Spring 2005 – indications that the parent material was derived from a specific sample from a flask maintained by Dr. Bruce Ivins at USAMRIID

scientific investigative steps

1. Grow spores

2. Isolate colonies

3. Find rare mutants (4)

4. Sequence DNA

5. Develop tests

6. Screen 1013 samples

7. Find samples with same 4 mutants

8. Identify flask

Science, Aug 15, 2008

Summary of investigative evidence implicating Dr. Ivins

• Opportunity (RMR1029; alone in lab)

• Motive (failing vaccine program)

• Mental health struggle (“homicidal””sociopath”)

• Proximity to source of envelopes (local batch)

• Language used in the letters (emails)

• Guilty conscious (emails, trash, shifting blame)

• History of disguising identity (pseudonyms)

• Obsessive behavior (KKG sorority)

• Inability to describe/explain his own behavior

FBI case dates

• July 29, 2008 – Bruce Ivins commits suicide

• Aug 6, 2008 – Closing a chapter on Amerithrax – DoJ press conference

• August 18, 2008 – FBI science briefing

• July 30-31, 2009 – NAS committee first meeting

• Feb 19, 2010 – FOIA documents released – Case is closed

******

see … Connell-FBI investigation … and http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/bls/miscellaneous/Connell-FBI%20investigation.pdf

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One Response to “* Dr. Nancy Connell (a member of the NAS panel reviewing the FBI’s anthrax science) … Brief summary of the science used by the FBI in the anthraxattacks case of 2001 … presented in Beijing, China 31 Oct – 3 Nov, 2010”

  1. Un excellent travail d’une grande scientifique !

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