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

* Glenn Greenwald joins the chorus … the FBI got the wrong man and we need to know why

Posted by DXer on February 16, 2011

a video of Lew’s recent interview is now available at …

** NEW ** Lew’s interview 2-7-11 … mostly about the anthrax case



Glenn Greenwald writes in Salon (2/16/11) …

  • For years, the FBI believed that it had identified the perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks — former Army researcher Steven Hatfill — only to be forced to acknowledge that he wasn’t involved and then pay him $5.8 million for the damage he suffered from those false accusations.
  • In late July, 2008, the FBI announced that, this time, it had identified the Real Perpetrator:  Army researcher Bruce Ivins, who had just committed suicide as a result of being subjected to an intense FBI investigation.
  • Ivins’ death meant that the FBI’s allegations would never be tested in a court of law.
  • From the start, it was obvious that the FBI’s case against Ivins was barely more persuasive than its case against Hatfill had been.
    • The allegations were entirely circumstantial; there was no direct evidence tying Ivins to the mailings; and there were huge, glaring holes in both the FBI’s evidentiary and scientific claims.
    • So dubious was the FBI’s case that even the nation’s most establishment media organs, which instinctively trust federal law enforcement agencies, expressed serious doubts and called for an independent investigation.
    • Doubts about the FBI’s case were fully bipartisan.
  • Despite all of this, the FBI managed to evade calls for an independent investigation by announcing that it had asked the National Academy of Sciences to convene a panel to review only the FBI’s scientific and genetic findings (but not to review its circumstantial case against Ivins or explore the possibility of other culprits).
  • The FBI believed that its genetic analysis was the strongest aspect of their case against Ivins — that it definitively linked Ivins’ research flask to the spores in the mailed anthrax — and that once the panel publicly endorsed the FBI’s scientific claims, it would vindicate the FBI’s case and end calls for a full-scale investigation into the accusations against Ivins.
  • But yesterday, the National Academy panel released its findings, and it produced a very unpleasant surprise for the FBI (though it was entirely unsurprising for those following this case).

The report, commissioned by the FBI, specifically concluded that

“the scientific link between the letter material

and [Ivins’] flask number RMR-1029

is not as conclusive as stated in the DOJ Investigative Summary.”

  • In addition to reigniting doubts, the report has also reignited calls for an independent investigation into the entire FBI case.
    • Yesterday, Rep. Holtre-introduced his legislation to create a 9/11-style Commission, complete with subpoena power, with a mandate to review the entire matter.
    • Sen. Grassley told the Post:  “There are no more excuses for avoiding an independent review.”
    • Ivins’ lawyer added that the report confirms that the case against his client is “all supposition based on conjecture based on guesswork, without any proof whatsoever.”
  • All of that has been clear for some time, and yesterday’s report merely underscored how weak is the FBI’s case.
  • It is hard to overstate the political significance of the anthrax attacks.
  • That there’s so much lingering doubt about who was responsible for this indescribably consequential attack is astonishing, and it ought to be unacceptable.

there’s no rational reason to oppose

an independent, comprehensive investigation into this matter.

read the entire article at …


CASE CLOSED is a novel about the FBI’s failed investigation

of the 2001 anthrax attacks


read the opening scene of CASE CLOSED …

* CASE CLOSED – opening scene … the DIA re-investigates the FBI’s failed case


* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *



26 Responses to “* Glenn Greenwald joins the chorus … the FBI got the wrong man and we need to know why”

  1. Old Atlantic said

    It would appear that Battelle did not grow the simulant and lyopholize in October 2001 but it was already done. Likely they already had its particle distribution. This is because they initiated the project on 10/17/01 and completed it on 10/19/01. This is much time to grow, lyopholize and measure a simulant and write the report.

    See Table 3.1

    10/17/01 10/19/01 Battelle Memorial
    Institute (BMI)
    Microbiological analyses of letter
    material identifies 2 Bacillus species:
    one non-beta-hemolytic (consistent
    with B. anthracis) and one betahemolytic
    (not further characterized)

    They appear to have misnumbered B2M13D2 is what is used in the bibliography.

  2. Old Atlantic said

    The Dugway runs reported mean size instead of the distribution. So these have to be redone and the frequency distribution measured to better rule out the alternatives to a lyophilizer.

    “The Daschle and Leahy letter samples had bimodal particle size distributions, with one
    mode around 1.5 μm in diameter, corresponding to the size of an individual B. anthracis spore,
    and another mode greater than 20 μm in diameter, corresponding to the size of clusters of large
    numbers of spores and other material (FBI Documents, B2M13D11).

    In the Daschle sample,
    0.05 percent of the total volume (mass) of particles was found in the smaller diameter mode. In
    the Leahy sample, 1 percent of the total mass was found in the smaller diameter mode.

    Several Bacillus subtilis var. niger culture preparations made using only centrifugation
    for concentration and lyophilization for drying also had bimodal size distributions, with the
    smaller (1.5 μm diameter) mode constituting approximately 1 percent of the total aerosolized
    mass (Kuhlman, 2001a,c).

    The similarity between the letter and these size distributions showed
    that powders with dispersion characteristics similar to those of the letter material could be made
    without the addition of a dispersant.

    Particle size distributions for the Dugway surrogate samples were reported as mean
    particle diameter, which unfortunately is a less informative indicator of particle size when the
    distribution is bimodal. Nonetheless, many of the Dugway preparations gave mean particle diameters in the same range as the letter samples, 2 to 4 μm, consistent with the notion that
    dispersants were not required to produce powders with these particle size distributions (DPG,

    • Old Atlantic said

      Page 64 to 65 of report, page 86 to 87 of pdf. This is the only page of the report that bimodal appears. Bi-model does not appear on any page.

    • Old Atlantic said

      The second mailing depended on the small percentage of smaller particles. Without those, it would be a dud like the first.

      Did the person who prepared the second mailing know that he needed more micron sized particles? Or was he aiming for some type of coating effect?

      If he knowingly chose a method to give more smaller particles, then he had to have that know how from some where. Did Ivins know about these bimodal particle size distributions from different preparation methods?

      Maybe the mailer did not know that much, but knew from trial and practice that a procedure would produce spores that would produce the desired effects. Such a trial and error method would require experimentation with forming powders.

      Ivins apparently never did that. Did he have access to a paper or publication with this type of experiment in 2001?

      If not, and if the person prepared the second mailing knowing their method of preparation would produce spores that would aerosol, then that was someone other than Ivins.

    • Old Atlantic said

      Kuhlman, M.R. (2001a). Preliminary SPOT Report on Particle Size Analyses. Battelle Memorial
      Institute. October 18. (B2M13D2).
      Kuhlman, M.R. (2001b). Preliminary SPOT Report on Sample Analyses. Battelle Memorial
      Institute. October 22. (B2M13D5).
      Kuhlman, M.R. (2001c). SPOT Report on Analyses of Silicon and Silica in Powder Samples:
      SEM/EDS Analysis. Battelle Memorial Institute. November 26. (B2M13D8).

      Kuhlman apparently did his study just after the mailings.
      Why didn’t Dugway measure the frequency distribution of spore size since Kuhlman did it already in October 2001. Battelle seems to have had this know-how on hand. But Dugway still didn’t understand this even years afterwards. Perhaps Dugway didn’t get the Kuhlman reports and that Dugway didn’t know about the particle size distribution issue? Battelle did already in 2001.

      • Old Atlantic said

        It would seem Battelle practically had the equipment set up already to do the frequency of particle size. But Dugway even years later thought this was too difficult to do. Battelle was tasked to do these measurements on the Senate letters because it had already done such measurements prior to the mailings?

        So Battelle was basically doing this work before the mailings. They had the know-how. They were measuring particle size distributions from different ways to prepare dried spores before the mailings were done.

        They had the know how and measurement apparatus already in place from before the mailings.

        Battelle were the ones who knew what to do to take NY Post quality preparation procedures and tune them or modify them to get the Senate ones.

        It is possible that the mailer actually measured the size distribution prior to mailing them instead of guessing.

        Perhaps for the NY Post letter they didn’t measure the spore size distribution. Then they did measure it before sending out the Senate letters. So they had the equipment and know-how to measure the size distribution.

  3. Old Atlantic said

    Maximum Likelihood is fitting the parameters of the distribution to the observed data so that the controlled probability distribution matches the sample frequency distribution. In this case, the parameters include discrete variables such as the method used, e.g. lyophilization.

    If lyophilization produces a distribution of particle size that matches that in the letters, then maximum likelihood indicates lyophilization over a method like the buchi spray dryer that produces a different distribution that does not match the letter frequency distribution.

  4. Old Atlantic said

    “DXer said
    February 17, 2011 at 5:52 am

    The NAS in no way, directly or indirectly, concludes a lyophilizer was used. Neither the NAS nor FBI knows how it was processed. Particle size in no way indicates a lyophilizer was used. By way of example, a bucchi mini-spraydryer, had been been able to make a uniform 1 micron size product for decades. At USAMRIID, the lyophilizer in Building 1412 was uncontained — it was out in the hallway.”

    The NAS reports a bimodal distribution in the letter anthrax. That indicates the bucchi mini-spraydryer was not used.

    • DXer said

      Where does the NAS conclude that a dual nozzle or other spraydryer was not used?

      • DXer said

        The NAS report states:

        “Several Bacillus subtilis var. niger culture preparations made using only centrifugation
        for concentration and lyophilization for drying also had bimodal size distributions, with the
        smaller (1.5 μm diameter) mode constituting approximately 1 percent of the total aerosolized
        mass (Kuhlman, 2001a,c).”

        There seems to be nothing in the NAS report that suggests a lyophilizer could not have been used.

        We just know, as Old Atlantic explains, that the one available to Dr. Ivins in 1425 was in the hallway and not contained.

        • DXer said

          But there is no reason that the lyophilizer in Building 1412 could not have been used. Where was one located besides the one in the lab of the FBI anthrax expert?

        • DXer said

          Was silica added to protect the biological agent during the process of lyophilization?

          I believe Dr. Kiel is the expert that the NAS panel should have heard. DOD pressed aerosol experts on the NAS panel but the suggestion was ignored.

        • Old Atlantic said

          The lyophilizer produced a bimodal together with the other conditions of their simulation.

          The Buchi according to your quote above produces a unimodal. This implies a lyophilizer over a Buchi.

          If the data is bimodal, then methods that are unimodal are ruled out in favor of the lyophilizer and the other steps that produce a bimodal.

          Particle size frequency data can be used to discriminate one method over another. This is statistical inference.

      • Old Atlantic said

        “By way of example, a bucchi mini-spraydryer, had been been able to make a uniform 1 micron size product for decades. ”

        A uniform is not bimodal. So your statement combined with the bimodal observation implies the Buchi was not used.

  5. DXer said

    The NAS report notes:

    The DOJ Amerithrax Investigative Summary indicates that, because of the extraordinary
    high spore powder concentrations and the exceptional purity of the material in the Washington,
    D.C., letters, “the anthrax mailer must have possessed significant technical skill” (USDOJ, 2010,
    p. 14).

    The NAS disagrees and concludes:

    Finding 4.1: The committee finds no scientific basis on which to accurately estimate the
    amount of time or the specific skill set needed to prepare the spore material contained in
    the letters. The time might vary from as little as 2 to 3 days to as much as several months.
    Given uncertainty about the methods used for preparation of the spore material, the
    committee could reach no significant conclusions regarding the skill set of the perpetrator.

  6. DXer said

    The NAS report explains the Canadian study:

    On September 1, 2001, Defence Research Establishment Suffield (DRES) in Canada
    released the results of a study (FBI Documents, B2M11D1) that had been designed to measure
    and better understand the dispersion of spores that might occur after the opening of an envelope
    containing B. anthracis spores. This study involved a series of experiments in which envelopes
    containing either 0.1 or 1.0 gram of B. globigii spores at a concentration of ~1 °— 1011 cfu/g (as a
    surrogate for B. anthracis spores) were opened in a DRES aerosol test chamber that was
    configured to represent a mail room or office. The chamber measured 18 °— 10 °— 10 ft (i.e., with a
    volume of 1,800 cu ft) and had a recirculating air handling system operating at 1,050 cu ft/min.
    The presence of spores at various sites in the chamber was assessed using culture-based
    approaches, not molecular detection methods. The results showed that the act of handling or
    opening these envelopes was “far more effective than initially suspected” in causing dispersion
    of spores in the chamber. Particles of respirable size were released quickly and spread
    throughout the chamber, such that after the opening of a 0.1 g spore envelope, 10 minutes of
    exposure to the air in the chamber would have provided a dose 480-fold greater than the amount
    needed to kill a human with 50 percent probability. The investigators noted that envelopes were
    more likely to cause cross contamination of the local environment, including the envelope
    handler, if the open corners of the envelope were not deliberately sealed by the preparer. The
    investigators at DRES did not seal the corners of the envelopes they used in these experiments.
    However, the corners of the envelopes mailed through the U.S. Postal System with B. anthracis
    spores in September and October 2001 apparently were sealed. This study was valuable in
    revealing the potential speed, magnitude, and spatial distribution of environmental contamination
    by spores subsequent to the handling or opening of a spore-laden envelope.

  7. Zicon said

    There are tooo many recorded traffic, and private cameras that record 24/7, so the answers Were on tape at one time from 2001, those got burned up too with the rest of the missing millions at the pentagon. No such thing as coincidence. Everything happens from some type of human reaction to something at sometime ….. so on… That was just something preemptive to something that is much larger than 99.9% of the population knows or understands about.. Imagine something that is 100% pure that regenerates on a cellular/molecular level as the same way human life is formed and just keeps spawning.. It adapts then regenerates. It would be unstoppable…

  8. DXer said

    Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has also questioned the FBI’s conclusion of Ivins’ guilt and said Tuesday’s report validates his concerns.

  9. Old Atlantic said

    The comment thread to the WaPo article yesterday contained several comments dismissing the NAS as Ph.D.’s siding with Ph.D.’s. These were unlike other comments I have read at many sites over the years. These comments came out even before the NAS news conference was over. These may represent FBI views.

  10. Old Atlantic said

    If the NAS was sending us a message between the lines it seems to have been

    1) lyophilizer consistent with all data

    2) large fermentor

    3) Dugway can fit in the morph evidence

    Dugway might have had a secret program that a very few FBI agents were read into. They then cleared Dugway using invesetigative means. This would include using mapquest to verify that it would take a long time to drive to Princeton for a lone mailer.

    Government states that other sites were ruled out by the investigation would then include programs even secret to all but a few of the DOJ and FBI teams.

    • BugMaster said


      1.) lyophilizer not needed (won’t go into details here)

      2.) garbage can with hose from air compressor. With a large enough inoculant from plates or shake flask, the growth of the anthrax would be rapid enough to minimize the effects of any contaminants that would be introduced using such a non-sterile (O.K. aseptic) method.

      Contamination by vegetative cells (pseudomonas, strep, staph epi, etc) would be eliminated by the spore purification step, yeasts and molds would be too slow growing, but the introduction of another contaminating spore former (SUBTILIS!) could show up in the final prep.

      Also, you would need lots of antifoam of some sort.

      3.) Seed material initially obtained / subcultured from RMR-1029 stolen from place of employment.

      • Old Atlantic said

        The NAS indicates that the lyophilizer produces spore size distributions matching those in one of the Senate letters. (I am going by memory.) This is why a lyophilizer is indicated.

        For Ivins as I recall the lyophilizer was stored outside the BSL3. To clean it required more than one person? It had to be put inside the door from the BSL3 and cleaned for 24 hours? I remember something like this.

        Ivins would have had to do that the first week of October for the Senate letters. Ft. Detrick had those to analyze by mid October. So if the lyophilizer had been used two weeks before and cleaned it would have been remembered.

        • DXer said

          The NAS in no way, directly or indirectly, concludes a lyophilizer was used. Neither the NAS nor FBI knows how it was processed. Particle size in no way indicates a lyophilizer was used. By way of example, a bucchi mini-spraydryer, had been been able to make a uniform 1 micron size product for decades. At USAMRIID, the lyophilizer in Building 1425 was uncontained — it was out in the hallway.

        • DXer said

          The NAS report states:

          The material in the Daschle and Leahy letters was reported to have “a high level of
          purity” and to have electrostatic properties that caused it to disperse readily upon opening of the letters. These properties should be regarded as qualitative observations since they were not based on quantitative physical measurements. The committee received testimony (Martin, 2010) stating that some Dugway preparations, particularly those utilizing lyophilization but no dispersant, gave products with similar appearance and electrostatic dispersibility as the letter samples, suggesting that these properties were not necessarily connected to an intentional effort to increase dispersibility through addition of a dispersant.

        • DXer said

          The testimony of Dugway’s Martin in 2010, in contrast to my post above, appears to suggest that lyophilization with no dispersant resulted in a similar appearance and electrostatic dispersibility as the letter samples. This appears to be the rumor that Dr. Ivins reported after attending a Christmas party. While Lew likely will correct my error above, the lyophilizer was uncontained — in the hallway — in Building 1425, not in Building 1412. Building 1412 was where the FBI’s anthrax expert made a dried aerosol out of Flask 1029 at the request of DARPA. (It had been irradiated in the slurry). But the question arises: who used the same method? Where else were DARPA aerosol experiments conducted?

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