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

* The FBI lab director Hassell has claimed there is not enough sample to determine quantitatively how much of the element silicon was present in the New York Post powder … a paper from Pacific Northwest Labs suggests that FBI claim is not accurate

Posted by DXer on January 20, 2011

see previous post …

* responses to Congressman Nadler’s questions of the FBI regarding the % of weight of the silicon in the powder used in the 2001 anthrax attacks


from Anonymous …

  • The FBI are set to try to persuade the NAS anthrax committee to modify their initial findings in their draft report of the FBI’s science used to accuse Bruce Ivins of the attacks.
  • This was to have taken place in a secret, closed-door session in Washington DC on Friday January 14.
  • One glaringly obvious science error the FBI have made is their claim that there was not enough sample in the New York Post powder to determine the amount of silicon present.
  • Indeed the FBI had contracted Pacific Northwest Labs (part of Battelle) for the Amerithrax investigation. Although the FBI labs never publicly revealed exactly what role they played.
  • However, Pacific Northwest Labs demonstrated in 2005 that accurate quantitative Elemental Analysis can be performed on bacillus spores with samples as small as one nanogram (one nanogram is one thousandth of one millionth of a gram).
  • The Pacific Northwest paper on this technique can be seen here: Differentiation of Spores of Bacillus subtilis Grown in Different Media by Elemental Characterization Using Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry, John B. Cliff, Kristin H. Jarman, Nancy B. Valentine, Steven L. Golledge, Daniel J. Gaspar, David S. Wunschel, and Karen L. Wahl, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, November 2005, p. 6524-6530, Vol. 71, No. 11 … see …

It is therefore ludicrous

for Dr Chris Hassell to claim

there was not enough sample to measure the silicon

in the New York Post powder.

We would like to see FULL DISCLOSURE

of ALL THE DATA collected by the FBI.




The FBI’s publicly presented case against Dr. Ivins is clearly bogus: no evidence, no witnesses, an impossible timeline, science that proves innocence instead of guilt. So what really happened? And why doesn’t the FBI offer America a credible story?

As regular readers of this blog well know, I can imagine only 3 possible “actual” scenarios …

  1. The FBI has more evidence against Dr. Ivins but is, for some undisclosed reason, withholding that evidence … POSSIBLE BUT NOT SO LIKELY
  2. The FBI, despite the most expensive and extensive investigation in its history, has not solved the case and has no idea who prepared and mailed the anthrax letters that killed 5 Americans in 2001 … EVEN LESS LIKELY
  3. The FBI knows who did it (not Dr. Ivins) but is covering up the actual perpetrators, for undisclosed reasons …THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO

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 perhaps more plausible than the FBI’s unproven assertions regarding Dr. Ivins.

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *

8 Responses to “* The FBI lab director Hassell has claimed there is not enough sample to determine quantitatively how much of the element silicon was present in the New York Post powder … a paper from Pacific Northwest Labs suggests that FBI claim is not accurate”

  1. DXer said

    The NAS report states:

    “The FBI drew a number of conclusions from its scientific investigation, which are
    summarized in Table S.1 at the end of the Summary. The committee found it challenging,
    however, to identify a definitive set of scientific conclusions drawn by the FBI investigators
    because they did not provide them in written form and because the conclusions provided publicly
    by DOJ in its briefings and Investigative Summary3 varied from those provided by FBI officials
    in presentations to the committee.”

  2. Anonymous said

    I think it’s very interesting to note that Mueller’s response to Congress claimed the NYP silicon level could not be determined by ICP-OES. And now suddenly it can – it is 10% Si bulk by weight.

    Why did Mueller not tell Congress this 2 years ago, when they specifically asked?

  3. DXer said

    Early in the investigation, AFIP performed SEM-EDX analysis of a New York Post letter sample and found regions in the sample having high silicon content but no oxygen, suggesting the presence of silicon-rich material that was not related to nanoparticulate silica. While this observation could have led to an explanation for the difference between the bulk and individual spore measurements, follow-up experiments apparently were not performed. The committee notes that this information was not made available to it or to the FBI until spring 2010.

    Was it related to the use of Percoll as a density gradient? The FBI’s anthrax expert JE who made the dried powdered aerosol out of Flask 1029 suggested that a silicon signature might arise from a density gradient.

    • DXer said

      Note that the scientist, Abshire, mentioned is FBI anthrax expert John Ezzell’s assistant. This earlier lyophilization of Ames from Flask 1029 for the DARPA research is critical to the entire enchilada and so it is remarkable that the NAS punted on the issue — bemoaning things left done, the FBI’s dilatory disclosures etc. That leaves GAO to bat clean-up.

      “Surrogate preparations by DPG, using B. anthracis from the Leahy letter as the starter
      source (FBI Documents, B1M13D3), reproduced the general physical characteristics of the letter
      samples (purity, spore concentration, dispersibility) but not the silicon chemical characteristics.
      Surrogate preparations showed that samples having bulk silicon content up to 5 percent could be
      prepared without intentional addition of silicon dispersant. However, none of the DPG surrogate
      preparations analyzed for silicon in the spore coat were similar to the New York Post, Daschle,
      and Leahy letter samples with respect to either the amount per spore of silicon incorporated in
      the coat or the fraction of spores observed to contain silicon in the coat. Furthermore, the
      committee sought, but could not obtain, a detailed explanation of the thought process that went
      into selection of the DPG methods or their relationship to the Buran and Abshire preparations.
      The committee acknowledges that there were many more possible scenarios for spore
      preparation than could have been feasibly explored with available resources and in a reasonable
      period of time. However, it was not clear to the committee how the subset of surrogate
      preparation methods was selected and whether these choices were based on an understanding
      informed by the investigation or on other assumptions about the approach taken to produce the
      evidentiary materials.”

      • Old Atlantic said

        Notice their use of dispersant. Above 5 percent is therefore dispersant?

      • Anonymous said

        “So, the NAS committee says that you can get up to 5 percent silicon without intentionally adding silicon.”

        If NAS made that statement it’s kind of nonsensical. It’s like saying a lump of lead can become a lump of gold without intentionally adding gold.

        If silicon is found at that level it has to be deliberately added.

  4. DXer said

    In August 2008, FBI laboratory director Chris Hassell anticipates a dozen or so papers related to the case, in addition to those that have already been published. However, Hassell says, some details of the investigation will remain confidential, so that potential bioterrorists won’t know exactly what they’re up against. “It’s just what we have to do for national security,” he says.

    Question from the audience for Chris: Was it necessary to keep secret that the FBI anthrax scientist collecting Ivins’ sample had made a dried powder using Ames supplied from Flask 1029? If so, why? How would that disclosure have undermined national security?

  5. Old Atlantic said

    The desire of scientists to get credit for their discoveries and of labs for their prowess is overcoming the desire of the FBI for secrecy. This is something the FBI thought they could control but they can’t. Scientific papers, especially important ones, have to tell the truth about their breakthroughs, not cover up the really big ones.

    The ability to analyze such a small amount is a major coup and the scientists and lab need to boast they are first.

    These science papers are squirting out now from the mace hand of the FBI. Its lifeless grip can not hold them in.

    Too much is known already about this investigation for the cover-up to continue working.

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