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

* Microbial Forensics … Chapter 30 … Nonbiological measurements on Biological Agents … Stephan P. Velsko

Posted by DXer on December 11, 2010


if the estimated silicon concentrations in the Amerithrax spores are correct,
they are not consistent with our current understanding of silica deposition
or those materials must have indeed been produced under an unusual set
of conditions. If the latter were true, the silica evidence might provide a significant
bound on the credible growth and production scenarios that would be
consistent with the prosecution narrative in this case


27 Responses to “* Microbial Forensics … Chapter 30 … Nonbiological measurements on Biological Agents … Stephan P. Velsko”

  1. DXer said

    Chapter 9 – Forensic analysis in bacterial pathogens

    Author links open overlay panelPaulKeimJason W.SahlTalimaPearsonAmyVoglerCharles H.WilliamsonDawnBirdsellRichard T.OkinakaJeffrey T.FosterDavid M.Wagner
    Show more

  2. DXer said

    Former senior FBI scientist Dr. Randall S. Murch, in a June 2001 article explained in an article on microbial forensics:

    ” As America learned with the anthrax letter mailing cases in 2001, scientific support for investigations and prosecutions of this sort should not routinely take years to develop and validate, because of this and unreasonably delay and negatively impact investigations.”

    Translation: Provide more funding.

    Personally, I don’t think correct analysis is expensive — it is very often solved by people doing more reading. In this case, the scientists in the unit Dr. Murch founded were responsible for reading Dr. Ivins’ emails and gleaning the information that would have put an end to the FBI’s finely spun cotton-candy Ivins Theory. It needn’t have cost more than one day’s time of an FBI scientist or analyst.

    The FBI in interview analysts should focus on how much they read outside of work.

    And don’t have the folks best at undercover drug buys doing the analysis requiring lots of reading.

  3. DXer said

    David Relman, in an interview with in response to the question:

    “Was it weaponized?” responded

    “Depends on what you mean by weaponized.”

    As I’ve often said, microencapsulation serves purposes other than floatability.

    As described in the 2000 book by Michael Osterholm that was on Ayman Zawahiri’s reading list, one purpose served over a range of pathogens is resistance to sunlight and heat.

    As Dr. Crockett explained in her PhD thesis — advised by Ken Alibek and William Patrick — it also may help avoid the need for more expensive equipment.

    Iron, by the way, makes the anthrax more lethal.

    • DXer said

      Bioterrorism — Preparing to Fight the Next War

      David A. Relman, M.D.

      N Engl J Med 2006; 354:113-115January 12, 2006

      “Even our traditional concept of “weaponization” is misleading: nature provides mechanisms for packaging and preserving many infectious agents that can be manipulated through biologic and genetic engineering — for example, by enhancing the virulence of naturally sporulating organisms. Materials science and nanoscale science — advances in encapsulation technology, for instance — will provide new ways to package such agents.”

      • DXer said

        David Relman co-authored the wonderful and groundbreaking SCIENCE article, “Understanding threats to scientific openness” with JB Petro. Those authors drafted a FOIA request that readers could in turn submit requesting from the DIA the articles that Ayman Zawahiri read and requested on the use of anthrax.

        David Relman and his co-author provided an appendix listing all the documents that were found or requested by Ayman Zawahiri and the DIA sent out redacted copies to FOIA requestors. All for free — all one needed to do was take what they had drafted and email to the DIA FOIA officer who was waiting to send out the package.

        You can download that list of materials for free here.

        You’ll see on the list an article in which Ayman Zawahiri read about growing anthrax in silica.

        Many years ago, at the time I requested these materials from DIA under FOIA, I contacted Dr. Relman’s co-author JB Petro and relatedly urged that he help me obtain the handwritten correspondence between Ayman Zawahiri and infiltrating scientist Rauf Ahmad — and that they be included with the packet of published materials.

        They were (within a very short time) and I promptly uploaded that correspondence. This was perhaps in March 2005 although the New York Times and Joby Warrick’s Washington Post article would be a better guide.

        Bottom-line: Dr. Relman is not merely an ivory tower scientist. Even as of 2003 he was informed of Dr. Zawahiri’s reading list. Whatever the details of the correct solution to Amerithrax, JB Petro and David Relman seem to me to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

        And so when he talks about “It depends on what you mean by ‘weaponization’… and discusses microencapsulation, pay attention. Microencapsulation can also separately just relate to protecting medicine delivered to cattle from being destroyed by enzymes before being delivered to the target organ.

        • DXer said

          Dr. Relman and Dr. Petro appended this draft FOIA request to their 2003 SCIENCE article.

          Robert Richardson
          Defense Intelligence Agency
          ISM-1 (FOIA)
          Washington, DC 20340-5100
          Re: Freedom of Information Act Request

          Dear Mr. Richardson:

          This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552.
          I request that a copy of the following documents [or documents containing the following
          information] be provided to me: al-Qaida documents discovered by U.S. forces in
          Afghanistan that pertain to the research materials referenced in the Petro and Relman
          article “Understanding Threats to Scientific Openness” published in the 12 December
          2003 issue of Science. Should portions of these documents be deemed too sensitive to be
          released, I am requesting all releasable materials to be appropriately appended and

          In order to help determine my status to assess fees, you should know that I am xxx
          (Requestors should indicate their professional status and reason for requesting the

          I am aware that I am entitled to make this request under the Freedom of Information Act,
          and if your agency response is not satisfactory, I am prepared to make an administrative
          appeal. Please indicate to me the name of the official to whom such an appeal should be

          I am aware that if my request is denied I am entitled to know the grounds for this denial.
          I request a waiver of all fees for this request. Disclosure of the requested information to
          me is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public
          understanding of the operations or activities of terrorist exploiters and is not primarily in
          my commercial interest.

          City, State, ZIP
          Phone number (optional)
          Science Supporting Online Material
          Petro and Relman, p. 2

          Selected Document References:

          Darlow, HM, and Pride, NB. (1969). Serological diagnosis of anthrax. Lancet

          Doi, H, et al. (1996). Hepatitis C virus (HCV) subtype prevalence in Chiang Mai,
          Thailand, and identification of novel subtypes of HCV major type 6. J. Clin. Microbiol.

          Green, DM, and Jamieson, WM. (1958). Anthrax and bone-meal fertilizer. Lancet ii:153-

          Hobbs, G, Roberts, TA, and Walker, PD. (1965). Some observations on OS variants of
          Clostridium botulinum type E. J. Appl. Bacteriol. 28(1):147-152.

          Mangold, T, and Goldberg, J. (1999). Plague Wars: The Terrifying Reality of Biological
          Warfare. MacMillan, Great Britain.

          Morris, EJ. (1955). A selective medium for Bacillus anthracis. J. Gen. Microbiol.

          Pearce, TW, and Powell, EO. (1951). A selective medium for Bacillus anthracis. J. Gen.
          Microbiol. 5:387-390

          Roberts, TA. (1965). Sporulation of Clostridium botulinum type E in different culture
          media. J. Appl. Bacteriol 28(1):142-146.

          Roberts, TA, and Ingram, M. (1965). The resistance of spores of Clostridium botulinum
          type E to heat and radiation. J. Appl. Bacteriol. 28:125.

          Semple, AB, and Hobday, TL. (1959). Control of anthrax: Suggestions based on survey
          of imported hides. Lancet ii (3 October): 507-508

          Stanley, JL, and Smith H (1961). Purification of factor I and recognition of a third factor
          of the anthrax toxin. J. Gen. Microbiol. 26:49-66.

          Thorne, CB, and Belton, FC. (1957). An agar-diffusion method for titrating Bacillus
          anthracis immunizing antigen and its application to a study of antigen production. J. Gen.
          Microbiol. 17:505-516.

          Wang, CH, et al. (1996). Immune response to hepatitis A virus capsid proteins after
          infection. J. Clin. Microbiol. 34(3):707-713.

          Science Supporting Online Material
          Petro and Relman, p. 3

          Selected Supplementary References from Handwritten Notes Recovered on Site:

          Ajl, SJ, Kadis, S, and Montie, TC. (1970) Microbial Toxins. Academic Press, New York.
          Anderson, RM, and May, RM. (1991). Infectious Diseases of Humans: Dynamics and
          Control. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

          Batty, I and Walker, PD. (1965). Colonial morphology and fluorescent labelled antibody
          staining in the identification of species of the genus Clostridium. J. Appl. Bacteriol.

          Brachman, PS, Plotkin, SA, Bumford, FH, and Atchison, MM. (1960). An epidemic of
          inhalation anthrax: The first in the twentieth century. II. Epidemiology. Am. J. Hyg. 72:6-

          Clarke, R. (1968). We All Fall Down: The Prospects of Biological and Chemical
          Warfare. Penguin Books, London.

          Hodgkiss, W, and Ordal, ZJ. (1966). The morphology of the spore of some strains of
          Clostridium botulinum type E. J. Bacteriol. 91:2031-2036.

          Keppie, J, Cocking, EC, Witt, K, and Smith, H. (1960). The chemical basis of the
          virulence of Pasteurella pestis. III. An immunogenic product obtained from Past. pestis
          that protects both guinea pigs and mice. Br. J. Exp. Pathol. 41:577-585.

          Knisley, RF. (1966). Selective medium for Bacillus anthracis. J. Gen. Microbiol. 13:456.

          Knisely, RF, Swaney, LM, and Friedlander, H. (1964). Selective media for the isolation
          of Pasteurella pestis. J. Bacteriol. 88:491-496.

          Miller, JK. Human anthrax in New York state. N.Z. Med. J. 61:2046-2053.

          Murphy, S, Hay, A, and Rose, S. (1986). No Fire, No Thunder: The Threat of Chemical
          and Biological Weapons. Pluto Press, London.

          Proceedings of the Conference on Airborne Infection. (1961). Bacteriol. Rev. 25:173-

          Riemann, H. (1969). Botulism Types A, B, and F in Foodborne Infections and
          Intoxications. Edited by H Rieman. Academic Press, New York.

          Roberts, B. (1993). Biological Weapons: Weapons of the Future. Significant Issues
          Series XV(1). Center for Strategic and International Studies. Washington, DC.

          Rothschild, JH. (1964). Tomorrow’s Weapons. McGraw-Hill, New York.
          Science Supporting Online Material

          Smith, H (1988). The development of studies on the determinants of bacterial
          pathogenicity. J. Comp. Pathol. 98:253-73.

          Walgate, R. (1990). Miracle of Menace? Biotechnology and the Third World. The Panas
          Institute, London.

          William, P, and Wallace, D. (1989). Unit 731: The Japanese Army’s Secret of Secrets.
          Hodder and Stoughton, London.

          World Health Organization (1970) Expert Committee on Plague, 4th Report. World
          Health Org. Tech. Rep. Ser. (no. 447).

        • DXer said

          Building on Dr. Relman and Dr. Petro’s good work in terms of furthering public understanding, Lew Weinstein then has helped distribute copies of the correspondence between Ayman Zawahiri and infiltrating scientist Rauf Ahmad.

        • DXer said

          Lew reported on an early first visit by Rauf Ahmad that did not result in obtaining virulent anthrax.

    • DXer said

      September 10, 2001 “Risk Assessment of Anthrax Threat Letters”

      After the January 2001 anthrax threat, a Canadian research team undertook to assess the risk. The report titled “Risk Assessment of Anthrax Threat Letters” issued September 2001. The Canadian study found considerable exposure to those in the room resulted when such a letter was opened. Bacillus globigii spores (in dry powder form) were donated by the US Department of Defense (Dugway Proving Ground, Utah). Stock concentration powder was -1 x 10 11 cfu/gm. The anthrax sent to the Senators had a smaller particle size –tending toward a uniform 1 micron, subject to clumping that easily broke apart. Bacillus globigii (BG) spores are routinely used as a simulant for Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) spores. “The letter was prepared by putting BG spores in the center of a sheet of paper, folding it over into thirds, placing the folded sheet into the envelope and sealing using the adhesive present on the envelope. The envelope was then shaken to mimic the handling and tumbling that would occur during its passage through the postal system.” The aerosol, produced by opening the BG spore containing envelope, was not confined to the area of the desk but spread throughout the chamber. Values were almost as high at the opposite end of the chamber, shortly after opening the envelopes. 99% of the particles collected were in the 2.5 to 10 µm size range. The report explained: “In addition, the aerosol would quickly spread throughout the room so that other workers, depending on their exact locations and the directional air flow within the office, would likely inhale lethal doses. Envelopes with the open corners not specifically sealed could also pose a threat to individuals in the mail handling system.”

      More than 80% of the B anthracis particles collected on stationary monitors were within an alveolar respirable size range of 0.95 to 3.5 µm. Thus, the simulant performed very well. Those who continue to argue that the Daschle product was so advanced beyond what the US could do are mistaken. The CIA and CSIS apparently feared that the Vanguards of Conquest would use the good stuff.

      The CIA knew EIJ intended to use anthrax — from the proclamations of Jaballah’s friend, the captured military commander Mabruk and Jaballah’s brother-in-law’s former law partner al-Zayat. Authorities knew Al Qaeda was getting technical assistance from scientists — and that many of the senior Egyptian leaders had advanced or technical degrees. The specifications provided by Dugway perhaps involved treated fumed silica and a spraydryer (with a last critical step reserved to be done at Dugway) may have been based on what Al Qaeda might send with a little help from their friends.

      Canadian officials explained they e-mailed the study to the CDC soon after reports of the discovery of anthrax at the American Media Inc. headquarters in Florida. The e-mail, however, was never opened, reports the lead CDC anthrax investigator, who regrets that he never read the email. “It is certainly relevant data, but I don’t think it would have altered the decisions that we made.” At one point, about 2,000 CDC employees were working on the anthrax matter. This Canadian report was perhaps the single most important scientific data point for the CDC to take into account. It certainly was one of the most important reports for the FBI to take into account.

      Bail was denied by decision on October 5, 2001. Then highly potent anthrax was sent the next day just as had been promised. But Ayman apparently had returned to the target of his greatest interest — rather than a Canadian immigration minister, he and Shehata and their colleagues targeted the minister who oversaw the Department of Justice and appropriations to Egypt and Israel, and who gave his name (”the Leahy Law”) to the law that permits continuing appropriations to Egypt in the face of allegations of torture. Zawahiri never makes a threat he doesn’t intend to try to keep.

      Bill Patrick, who often worked with George Mason University students in northern Virginia, had written a report in 1999 for a consultant SAIC at the request of Dr. Steve Hatfill. As one bioterrorism expert commented about the report: “Anytime you pick something up like this, and it seems to layout the whole story for you months or years before the fact, your immediate response is to step back and say ‘whoa, something may be going on here. “Our attacker may very well have used this report as something of a — if not a template, then certainly as a rule of thumb.”

      The Canadian experiments in 2001 showed that if anthrax spores were finely powdered, a letter could release thousands of lethal doses of the bacteria within minutes of being opened. Furthermore, large amounts of material leaked out of sealed envelopes even before they were opened. By then, more than two dozen federal government employees knew of the Canadian studies, which showed that a real anthrax threat letter was a far more dangerous weapon than anyone had believed. Within days, a dozen more people were informed of the now highly relevant experimental findings. Over the course of the next decade, one FBI investigative squad was focused on people who may have known of the study — such as William Patrick’s friend, Dr. Steve Hatfill. Another squad would be focused on the usual suspects and their friends. For the next seven years, the investigation would be shrouded in great secrecy.

  4. anonymous said

    You have got no idea what caused the delay of the report. NAS are going to keep the first report confidential – for now that is.

    You remain clueless about what zero ppm tin and silicon means in normal spore preparations versus six thousand ppm tin and one hundred thousand ppm silicon the NYP spores.

    But qualified people will be soon be looking at these issues, after the FBI botched it.

    • anonymous said

      “they did just as I had expected – they confirmed the FBI’s findings that the silicon came from natural sources.”

      False. The NAS stated the FBI offered no compelling explanation for the hundred thousand ppm (10%) of silicon the NYP spores.

      Instead of spouting nonsense you should consult expert opinions. The leading expert on non-microbial analysis is Stephen Velsko at Livermore. This is what he had to say BEFORE the information about the 10% silicon was finally released – after having been withheld for 8 years from the very scientists contracted by the FBI:

      If the estimated silicon concentrations in the Amerithrax spores are correct,
      they are not consistent with our current understanding of silica deposition
      or those materials must have indeed been produced under an unusual set
      of conditions. If the latter were true, the silica evidence might provide a significant
      bound on the credible growth and production scenarios that would be
      consistent with the prosecution narrative in this case

    • anonymous said

      “I consult with experts every time I have a question. I’ve consulted MANY times with Steve Velsko.”

      And its pretty clear he didn’t provide you with any answers you want to hear.

    • anonymous said

      Exactly, the FBI provided no compelling explanation.

      I realize that when you read these English words, you see something written in Swahil that means the exact opposite.

    • anonymous said

      How do you believe the spores were “weaponized” with tin? What does the tin do? Why does the presence of tin mean something sinister to you? What is your theory?

      I previously had no idea that the tin concentration was 6000 ppm – I thought is probably 100ppm and interesting but not a major finding.

      This is because the FBI withheld the information. Even from Sandia and Livermore.

      6000ppm is astonishing – and it tracks the silicon – the more silicon, the more tin

      Had that information been made available to Livermore 8 years ago, as it should have been – the Livermore scientists would immediately have suspected a connection between silicon and tin. The most obvious one is that a tin catalyst was used to cure the silicone (polymerized glass). Tin is commonly used for this purpose.

      That the FBI deliberately withheld the silicon concentrations from Congress is beyond dispute, That’s what they did – no ifs ands or buts about it. When the FBI mislead, that simply exposes that they have something to hide.

    • anonymous said
      Broadly speaking, Silicones, Inc.’s RTV products can be separated into two categories. These are Condensation Cure and Addition Cure. Each involves two-parts that are combined to begin the curing process. Further, Silicones, Inc. identifies its Condensation Cure products in this manner… “GI” Series (tin catalyzed).

    • anonymous said

      “On the other hand, the ICP-EOS and SEM-EDX measurements of the New York Post material differed by an order of magnitude. Further complicating the comparison, the 2001 AFIP SEM-EDX images of the New York Post material (obtained by the FBI during the course of this study) showed regions enriched with silicon but not oxygen, suggesting the presence of a reduced form of silicon (FBI Documents, AFIP, 2001).”

      The FBI are still playing games and not fully disclosing information. The FBI have at their disposal a software called “SLICE”. It is specifically designed to identify materials found at crime scenes. It compares EDX spectra to a database of thousands of materials.

      The FBI do not mention in their reports that they have this tool. Naturally they would have used it in the anthrax investigation.

      SLICE (the Spectral Library Identification and Classification Explorer) is a software program developed by xk, Incorporated, in collaboration with the FBI. It is designed to archive, query and compare x-ray spectra acquired with both SEM and XRF instruments, and represents a revolutionary new approach to materials analysis. Its versatile capabilities result in reduced analysis times and improved accuracy of sample identification.

      SLICE is ideally suited to researchers who wish to use EDX or XRF not merely to find out what elements are present, but to answer the ultimate question in materials analysis: “what is it?”.

    • anonymous said

      “How did they do that? By taking tin out of the spores before giving them to Sandia to examine?”

      You remain clueless – Sandia found tin but only reported its presence – not the quantity.

      You also don’t understand how micro encapsulation works with polymerized glass.

      The NAS simply accepted Battelle’s analysis on spore average particles and clumps size. Apparently they forgot something:

      On the same day that two Brentwood workers died, a meeting was held at FBI headquarters involving the Laboratory, scientists from the Battelle Memorial Insitute, and scientists from the Army… The Army scientists were telling the FBI that the powder was extremely rarified 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. Allyson Simons, the head of the Laboratory, was having trouble sorting through the disagreement, and she was apparently not telling the CDC leadership much about the powder, while waiting for more data to come in.
      One Army official is said to have blown up at Simons and Kuhlman at the meeting, saying to the Battelle man, “Goddamn it, you stuck your anthrax in an autoclave, and you turned it into hockey pucks.”

  5. DXer said

    I have previously shared what Dr. Velso emailed me about the conclusion that the silica could have been in the culture medium — and whether this qualified as unusual set of conditions that might have resulted in the Silicon Signature.

    But on the issue of validation, let’s start with his September 30 2010 treatise discussion in a different chapter by Dr. Velsko in MICROBIAL FORENSICS titled: “The Need to Validate the Interpretation of Microbial Forensic Evidence.”

    As a rule of thumb: hide what Ed Lake publishes under your mattress.

    But keep what the authors like Dr. Velsko publishes in the Fall 2010 MICROBIAL FORENSICS on your bookshelf as helpful background in understanding the issues being addressed by the NAS panel.

    As I previously offered, I can provide anyone who would like a copy of the Fall 2010 treatise for their personal use free of charge.

    “The field of microbial forensics is being created at a time when forensic
    science in general faces unprecedented skepticism. The foundations of many
    long-accepted forensic science methods have been questioned, and recent
    National Research Council studies have supported these criticisms (1,2). It
    is likely that both the admissibility and the evidentiary weight of microbial
    forensic evidence in future cases will be scrutinized closely and that Daubert
    challenges will occur. Thus, it is imperative that this new area of forensic science
    build sound, Daubert-resistant foundations by carefully considering both
    the framework for validation and the way in which microbial forensic evidence
    is conveyed in reports, hearings, and trials.

    This concern is generally appreciated by the community of scientists engaged
    in microbial forensic research and operations, who have addressed certain
    important aspects of validation. In particular, guidelines for quality assurance
    have been formulated and published widely (3). It is also possible to
    find clear and useful guidance for establishing the precision and accuracy of
    a variety of assays of use in microbial forensics. However, as shown later, this
    addresses only one aspect of validation, and by itself cannot impart Daubert
    resistance to microbial forensic evidence. This is because the most salient criticisms
    that have been leveled at forensic science do not question data quality,
    but rather interpretation. This issue is best illustrated by two quotations that
    clearly differentiate between the validity of data and the validity of the interpretation
    of that data in forensic science testimony:

    Even if an instrument yields exquisitely precise measurements,
    the witness’s inferences from the measurements may be badly
    flawed. As Justice Blackmun stressed in Daubert, it is the expert’s
    ultimate inference which “must be derived by the scientific method 
    [and] supported by appropriate validation.”

    Edward J. Imwinkelried in
    “The Methods of Attacking Scientific Evidence” (4)

    The committee found the analytical technique used is suitable and
    reliable for use in court, as long as FBI examiners apply it uniformly
    as recommended. [] However, for legal proceedings, the probative
    value of these findings and how the probative value is conveyed to
    a jury remains a critical issue.

    From the NRC report “Forensic Analysis:
    Weighing Bullet Lead Evidence”

    Dr. Velsko continues:

    “The composition and morphology of a bioagent such as Bacillus anthracis are
    end results of the end-to-end process used to produce it. Certain steps influence
    the overall composition of the agent through the addition or removal of
    certain substances, and certain steps influence the physical form of the material.
    The relevant population for evaluating and validating chemical and physical
    analysis methods is therefore the set of materials that could be generated
    by any growth and preparation method that may be used to generate a bioagent,
    using starting materials from any potential sources. Thus, the population
    of biological agents is an imaginary construct, and the problem is how to generate
    a set of real samples that adequately provides a statistically representative
    sample of this imaginary space of possibilities. Moreover, this population
    must be sampled in an unbiased way, capturing all sources of possible variation:
    batch-to-batch variation in the same laboratory, laboratory–laboratory
    variation in executing the same nominal process, and vendor-to-vendor variation
    in starting material properties.

    An alternative to the unit process frame is based on the observation that
    methods for making bacterial preparations are usually communicated as
    end-to-end recipes. Thus, a valid frame would be a list of all known end-to-end
    processes that have been used in the past. This is clearly a subset of the possible
    processes generated by the unit process frame, but arguably captures the
    most probable processes. Note that both unit process and end-to-end process
    frames explicitly connect the validation process with intelligence about terrorist
    interests and state program practice. Biological agent manufacturing information
    that a criminal or terrorist might use can come from many sources.
    This includes material derived from open sources such as recipes provided by
    underground cookbooks and Internet sites, relevant knowledge from the open
    scientific literature, and inadvertent leaks of sensitive (but often inaccurate)
    information published in the news media. In some instances, intelligence collection
    efforts may uncover information about the technical knowledge possessed
    by particular terrorist groups or foreign BW programs. Both of the frames
    discussed here require periodic updating and always leave open the question of
    whether there may be important but unknown subpopulations that have not
    been sampled.”

  6. anonymous said

    Another 2006 artcle by Velsko is here:

    Click to access 333118.pdf

    It shows very interesting data on the elemental composition of 9 different samples of Bt prepared differently. ICP-OES was used. This is the technique the FBI claimed they “did not have enough sample for” not analyze the NYP powder.

    But someone, somewhere has all that data – maybe this is part of what the FBI have now turned over.

  7. anonymous said

    Joe Michael’s chapter is also very interesting. Not for what it says but for what it doesn’t say. He seems to have completely backed off from his position that the silicon got their accidentally.
    Velsko, of course, outright states that the spores must have been made under unusual conditions.

    I am convinced that the NAS report delay is centered around silicon.

    If the maximum concentration of silicon achievable by “accidentally” adding saturated SiO2 to the growth medium is 0.3%, then the obvious conclusion is that SiO2 was not used at all – but instead a different silicon species was used. It is not antifoam (that was tried also).

    The obvious candidate is polymerized glass (siloxane). Without a doubt the NAS will also have reached this rather obvious conclusion. The uncomfortable part of the conclusion is that it is not accidental and immediately rules out Ivins and Fort Detrick.

  8. DXer said

    I’ve read the 722 pages of MICROBIAL FORENSICS (2d ed.) and it contains no support for an IVINS Theory.

    • DXer said

      In MICROBIAL FORENSICS, 2d ed. (Sept. 30, 2010), Rockne Harmon has a chapter on expert witnesses. He writes:

      Grant Solicitations/Applications
      Many scientists, forensic and otherwise, rely on research funding to further
      their scientific pursuits. Usually grants are rewarded in response to solicitations
      that outline the criteria that need to be addressed or what is sought to be
      accomplished by the research. Sometimes the solicitations include existing deficiencies
      or gaps in the scientific knowledge that are to be addressed. Seldom
      will there be a grant funded for research that is unnecessary. It is conceivable
      that the existence of a solicitation in general, or an application by a prosecution
      witness, may fall into the realm of discoverable information. Such was the
      case in some highly charged fingerprint identification challenges several years
      ago. During the peak of the fingerprint admissibility litigation, a National
      Institute of Justice solicitation was discovered, titled “Solicitation, Nat’l Inst. of
      Justice, Forensic Friction Ridge (Fingerprint) Examination Validation Studies
      (March 2000).” One of the challenged issues involving fingerprint identification
      testimony concerned whether it had been demonstrated scientifically
      that fingerprint identity could be established to the level of individualization.
      When it was learned that the solicitation declared that “the theoretical basis
      for [fingerprint] individuality has had limited study and needs additional
      work to demonstrate the statistical basis for identifications,” those challenging
      fingerprint identification testimony thought they had found a pot of gold.
      Unfortunately for them, the solicitation had negligible impact in challenging
      fingerprint testimony. However, it seems clear that the document contained
      discoverable information that should have been disclosed, had the prosecutor
      been made aware of its existence. While this may seem to be an onerous
      burden to place on the government, it can probably be dealt with easily by
      a careful review of the expert’s curriculum vitae, which normally lists such
      endeavors. One can also imagine that had any of the experts for either party
      submitted proposals for this solicitation, they would have provided grounds
      for cross examination by the opposing attorney.

      Peer Review Articles/Comments

      The role of the peer review process is well understood in the legal setting—it
      is one of the critical criteria in deciding the admissibility of scientific evidence
      under any admissibility standard. Attorneys have also begun to recognize that
      the peer review process itself may contain important relevant information
      that should be disclosed, if requested, in the discovery process. The following
      excerpt from cross examination in a recent murder prosecution demonstrates
      the point. The proffered expert, Dr. Lawrence Mueller, had submitted an article
      that received scathing reviewer comments and he never revised and resubmitted
      the article:
      Q. Over the years you’ve been rejected for publications specifically in the
      area of DNA forensic statistical analysis. Am I right about that?
      A. That’s happened twice, yes.
      Q. One article that you submitted in the area of DNA forensic statistical
      analysis was entitled—I’m going to take a deep breath before I say this—
      “Methods of multilocus genotype frequency estimation hypervariable
      DNA in the application to forensic science.” Is that true, sir?
      A. Yes, that’s the title of the paper.
      Q. You endeavored to have that publication published in the journal
      Genetics. Am I correct about that, sir?
      A. Back in 1990, that’s correct.
      Q. And that article dealt with DNA in a forensic setting and the
      calculation of DNA profiles and the like. Am I right?
      A. In a very general sense, yes.
      Q. Now, as we discussed earlier, in order to have these publications
      submitted to journals like Genetics, as you well know, you’ve got to submit
      them to referees who in turn make comments about your articles and
      your submissions; correct?
      A. Well, the editor sends them to referees, I don’t, but that’s part of the
      process, that’s correct.
      Q. Part of the process is when the editor sends it out to these referees, the
      referees have to pass on it and recommend that it be published or not
      published, correct?
      A. Right, and give reasoning behind their recommendation, that’s correct.
      Q. The reasoning that’s given by some of these referees who reviewed your
      article in your effort to be published in Genetics made comments in regard
      to your submission, right?
      A. Right, they wrote reviews, that’s correct.
      Q. Some of the comments included that your submission was, quote,
      “naive and unintelligible”; am I right?
      A. That’s one referee’s comment.

      • DXer said

        In his MICROBIAL FORENSICS chapter on expert witness, Rockne Harmon summarized this issue of submission to peer reviewed journals:

        While it might seem that this is an intrusive inquiry into the sanctuary of the peer review process, under the
        proper circumstances and showing peer review comments like these are not
        privileged information and are likely to be ordered to be provided. In the case
        of an expert such as [the above example], they served a legitimate purpose in unmasking
        his credibility.”

      • Old Atlantic said

        Aren’t negative comments routine in peer review?

        You would need to compare published papers with unpublished ones. and similar preprint servers arose out of frustration with peer review at least in part.

        The following are preprint archives in various fields of harder science.

        SSRN does this in social sciences.

  9. DXer said

    Ronald Schouten and Gregory B. Saathoff in the chapter “Biosecurity in the Post-911 Era,” write

    “Bruce Ivins was a respected researcher, widely viewed as highly intelligent and skilled, and an anthrax expert whose security clearance allowed him to work on biodefense projects. Dr. Ivins’s motivations for the mailings have yet to be determined and may never be known with certainty. Many who knew him, as well as those who are skeptical of the government’s procedures and motives, have doubted the FBI’s conclusion. For some, the false accusation against Dr. Hatfill and the government’s settlement of that case fueled skepticism and doubt about the investigation as a whole.”

    I propose that every time someone posits a motive for Bruce Ivins, or support for any theory, you ask them whether they have read the 302 interviews and emails.

    I find many people whose confidence in their opinion is not warranted by their familiarity with the record.

    There is no support for an Ivins Theory in the record — and the February 2010 Investigative Summary, unsupported by citations to the record, bears scant resemblance to the facts.

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