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

* What was done to locate the Apple laptop that had been in Dr. Ivins’ lab?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 13, 2011




19 Responses to “* What was done to locate the Apple laptop that had been in Dr. Ivins’ lab?”

  1. DXer said

    Vahid Majidi, in his new book about Amerithrax, describes how they studied IPs to see who visited the sites containing the addresses of the recipients. My friend Richard, a computer security person, was eagerly contacting webmasters on that over a decade ago. But it is important to note the dog that didn’t bark. Left unsaid by Dr. Majidi is that the FBI knew Dr. Ivins IPs and found that he didn’t visit the websites containing the addresses.

  2. DXer said

    Is the remote activation of GPS locator only a new thing? It seems that it should be available in all government issued laptops.

    Man gets 14 years for spreading mercry in Albany Med
    WXXA-Sep 19, 2013
    ALBANY, N.Y. – A man who admitted to spreading toxic mercury throughout Albany … An FBI search of his computer showed that he engaged in

  3. DXer said

    Of course, finding the Apple laptop from that B3 that Ivins says Patricia Fellows took home with her when she left was more important than spending a lot of taxpayer money narrowing the pool at USAMRIID from 700 to 300. She is the chief accuser who falsely suggested he had no reason to be in the lab. The DOJ outrageously shredded her civil deposition. Too many people are focused on business development and making money off such a case — and CYA — rather locating and disclosing the most probative evidence. Barry Scheck is right: the DOJ and FBI have a duty to correct and a duty to disclose.

  4. DXer said

    If the FBI withheld Dr. Ivins notebook — had the US Attorney give a press conference inconsistent with the notebook and then an AUSA write a lengthy report nowhere mentioning the rabbits (and then Rachel gave a filmed interview inconsistent with it) … does FBI have the laptop from the B3 that was installed earlier that summer? The only way they could pretend the notebook didn’t exist is if they also lost that laptop.

  5. DXer said

    None of the so-called scientific evidence pointed to Dr. Ivins. The genetics narrowed things from 700 to half that even under the government’s view.

    The FBI should provide GAO a thorough briefing and findings of its use of computer forensics in Amerithrax, particularly as to September/October 2001 period. That sort of evidence — such as Dr. Ivins description of how he was spending his times that night and the related forensics — is far more probative. Indeed, it is definitive in debunking the FBI’s “Ivins Theory.”

    Albert Barsocchini has a good powerpoint “Computer Forensics: What Every Lawyer Should Know”.

    Albert Barsocchini is an internationally recognized expert in e-Discovery (patent litigation), international and national privacy and protection, compliance, audit and corporate investigations. He writes and lectures frequently on these topics.

    His colleague, Brent Botta, is a Senior Computer Forensic Investigator for Guidance Software. In 1999, Brent was employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s CART Team as a full time computer forensic examiner in which he was the forensic lead on more than 100 state and federal search warrants.

    Both are available for questions and have done a two-hour long video to go along with the powerpoint.

    The late Dr. Ivins’ defense counsel, Attorney Kemp, is schooled on such issues — indeed, he is a former prosecutor and DOJ’s experts use the EnCase software.

    Fortunately, anthrax mailers and hoaxers and traffickers in pornography — to this day — greatly underestimate the FBI’s ability to recover deleted data.

    Basically, if you come onto the FBI’s radar and are guilty, depending on the nature of the crime, you likely are screwed.

    Most information nowadays — and in 2001 — is in digital form. And even as to emails there is much data that can be viewed by the Forensic Examiner which cannot be seen by the user or merely using commercial off-the-shelf software.

    Here, Attorney Kemp explained in a video that is online that after Dr. Ivins computers were searched, there was no evidence on Dr. Ivins’ computers that was incriminatory. Nor had the computers been scrubbed. Paul Kemp’s entire excellent presentation was filmed by Cliff Kincaid, who had a front-row seat, and has been available on YouTube for the past years.

    OTOH, it is critical that the missing Apple laptop, which was used by Pat Fellows in that B3 — but not Bruce — be located and examined forensically.

  6. DXer said

    Tossing out a laptop with relevant evidence constitutes a basis for an obstruction of justice charge. The GAO should press for the whereabouts of the laptop.

    Rebekah Brooks, five others to be charged in phone-hacking case
    May 15, 2012 | 3:29 am

    • DXer said

      According to the lead investigator, the WFO Field head Van Harp did not meet with investigators for several months after start of the investigation. Given it was known that Bruce Ivins had, by far, the largest repository of Ames in the world, not cloning his computers from the B3 (including this laptop) constituted a huge missed opportunity. It was a government computer. USAMRIID, the employer, owned the computer.

  7. DXer said

    If GAO is not focusing on emails, then it is not applying current standards of civil discovery in complex litigations. Electronic discovery — particularly in this context emails — is the method most likely to result in informed insights. It is almost impossible to delete anything. It is all there until it is written over.

    This morning I am listening to a lecture by another computer forensics person who is speaking about the product “Workhare”. It works to scrub metadata but at the same time would work as a viewer — showing much more information that Microsoft sets forth in its “Properties.” Armed with someone trained in computer forensics, GAO could readily know lots about the history of various documents created by USAMRIID, DOJ, and FBI employees — as well as outside consultants.

    GAO should make finding this missing laptop from B3 a priority.

  8. DXer said

    GAO should interview Patricia Fellows and ask her what happened to this laptop. It was in the B3 and has most important evidence of what did what when in that B3. Wasn’t there what in a civil context is a litigation hold? How could USAMRIID let a laptop in a B3 of the custodian of the largest repository of virulent Ames go missing? GAO should obtain a copy of the FBI and USAMRIID correspondence instructing on the preservation of evidence and should obtain the evidence on the USAMRIID server relating to use of the computers in the B3. 90% of law enforcement uses a program called ENCASE in its computer forensics. That laptop could hold a motherlode including the date and time that documents were accessed.

  9. DXer said

    In terms of tracking down the Apple computer that had been in B3 we should be able to study the inventory of items sent to be decontaminated (I think to AFRRI) to see if it was sent there… or if it went missing there. AFRRI was where the other scientist who got the Ames slant from Texas worked. .. where they worked with the FBI samples collected.

    He wrote former assistant/colleague on February 6, 2004 “RE: Missing computer”

    “I sent this around to people in our division. I’m wondering if the computer was lost or misplaced during the decontamination of my office, when everything in it had to be removed and deconned, either autoclaved, pulled out and bleached off, or shipped down ____________________________________________ for gamma irradiation sterilization. If I am unable to find it it, is there a way to find out what it is worth at present? Thanks for all of your help. As I told you, this is the only hand receipt item that still remains missing. Everything else has been accounted for. Thanks.”

    – Bruce

  10. DXer said

    Grassley Wants to Know Why DOJ Attorney Wasn’t Prosecuted for Watching Porn
    By David Baumann | October 14, 2011 4:35 pm

    Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) still wants to know why the Justice Department hasn’t prosecuted an assistant U.S. attorney who spent hours viewing online adult content, including child pornography, during work hours.

    Grassley said Friday that 100 days after he asked DOJ officials about the Inspector General’s report, he has not received a response. In a July letter, Grassley asked Attorney General Eric Holder the types of cases the attorney worked on and what steps the department has taken to update its technology to keep pornography off its computers. He said the lack of severe punishment represented “an inexcusable mishandling of serious allegations.”

    Comment: Did Dr. Ivins watch adult movies on the missing Apple laptop?

  11. DXer said

    In October 2001, the FBI knew that by far the largest repository of the Ames strain was in Dr. Ivins’ lab. Why didn’t they clone the laptop that was there in the lab where the Ames was stored? Might they have avoided a 10 year, multi-million dollar investigation? Is the failure to obtain the record of that computer investigative negligence? It was US government property and no privacy issues are raised — the computer belonged to the US Army.

    The head of the DC Field Office, according to investigators, did not meet with the Task Force for the first 6 months. Why not?

  12. DXer said

    A 302 interview of Ivins from 2005 (March, perhaps) notes that USAMRIID Command asked people to back up their computer and take a copy home (as a precaution after 9/11).

    Was inquiry made whether someone brought home a back-up of the Apple?

  13. DXer said

    Planning relating to the Covance study indicates “The rabbits will be held and immunized at Covance, then shipped to USAMRIID for challenge.”

    What do the shipment or other records show relating to the date of shipment to USAMRIID of the rabbits for challenge.

    GAO should be provided the details.

    While AUSAs Rachel and Ken judging from the Amerithrax Summary, were under the impression that Dr. Ivins only dealt with mice, the documents suggest that the subcutaneous challenge and the 12 dead rabbits (requiring autoclaving) occurred on Dr. Ivins’ watch.

    Ken and Rachel’s “Ivins Theory” was premised on what she deemed unexplained time in the BL-3.

    But they cite no documents in support for her characterizations of the facts and the documents provided under FOIA do not support their characterization.

    Rachel and Ken should be questioned by GAO on these facts after they have been provided all documents relating to the rabbit and guinea pig and mice in the various studies, to include the subcutaneous challenge of the rabbits that appears to have required the autoclaving of 12 abbits over the course of 3 days (October 3, October 4, and October 5). See October 5, 2001 email in which Dr. Ivins reports that in the 3 days since challenge, 12 rabbits had died.

    From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
    Subject: rPA meeting – 6 AUG 01
    Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2001 2:59:52 PM
    Here is what I have for the rPA meeting yesterday:
    1) Every other week there will be rPA product development team meetings.
    2) discussed the progress on his mouse potency assay studies. The rPA/Alhydrogel vaccines
    he has been formulating immediately prior to injection do not contain formaldehyde. The A/j mice in his
    first study were immunized intramuscularly with a single dose of vaccine containing 1, 3.162, 10, 31.62
    or 100 micrograms of PA. Four weeks after immunization, the mice were challenged subcutaneously
    with 10 LD50 of Sterne spores. There was little difference among the doses with respect to antibody
    titers or protection, although the titers appeared to rise weekly. No information was available on the
    rabbit dose titrations. The next experiment will look at doses of 3.162, 1, .3, 0.1, and 0.03 micrograms
    of PA in the vaccines.
    3) Bruce talked about the status of stability studies (rPA vaccine with and without formaldehyde) in the
    rabbit. The rabbits will be held and immunized at Covance, then shipped to USAMRIID for challenge.
    The survival data should be in by the end of October. If there is enough available, some the the
    vaccines will be given to o physically characterize. He will try to present the data at the next
    meeting. will identify other items, such as sucrose, which would be acceptable as stabilizers
    in a new rPA vaccine. It was emphasized that we need to look at both physical stability and potency
    stability in a new rPA vaccine. The use of formaldehyde as a stabilizer in vaccines is discouraged by the
    4) is writing up an animal protocol to look at the potency of rPA vaccines containing different
    isoforms. He will talk to Bruce about the protocol.

    • DXer said

      In an August 2001 email, in discussing the planning, Dr. Ivins explained that it would be parenteral challenge (i.e., subcutaneous injection) rather than aerosol challenge. This was why it could be done Building 1425 rather than in Building 1412.

      From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
      Subject: RE: Isoform studies
      Date: Wednesday, August 08, 2001 9:56:44 AM
      We haven’t set the challenge yet. For screening different vaccine candidates, we frequently use
      parenteral challenge, since we can tightly control the dose, do more animals at a time, and require
      fewer people and less labor to accomplish the task. In one day, we can do an aerosol challenge of 30
      rabbits, employing about 8-10 people and 4 rooms (1 for animals, 2 hood lines, 1 spore and bacterial
      plating). In 1/2 day we can do a parenteral challenge of 60 rabbits, employing 2 people and 1 room.
      We use aerosol challenge when we have advanced our candidates along, as we are currently doing in
      protocol with the rPA/Alhydrogel/PBS.
      My preference at this stage would be a parenteral challenge, since it would give us the information we
      are looking for with respect to titers and protection differences.
      – Bruce
      >—–Original Message—–
      >Sent: Wednesday, August 08, 2001 8:34 AM
      >To: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
      >Subject: RE: Isoform studies
      >Will it be an aerosol challenge?

  14. DXer said

    The image above with the labeled labs reflects the transfer of materials between labs — as I recall, it was provided the FBI to the NAS on the subject of chain-of-custody, and the FBI noted that key to the letters was available if NAS wanted.

    On this issue of the laptop as with other issues, there are a number of possibilities that arise. Did Dr. Ivins use a work computer to view pornographic websites? Although there is no indication that he is responsible for its loss, if he had used it to view porn, then losing it could be motivated to avoid being fired for viewing porn during work hours. (The discipline of the FBI supervisor comes to mind; but I imagine discipline for viewing porn in a BL-3 suite would be especially swift).

    What do his assistants in 2001 say about the computer? As I vaguely recall it was installed in the summer of 2001 when his time spent in the BL-3 escalated. (I would have to check the work order for the date it was installed). If it was NOT used for work, then it is extremely important (in establishing an alibi). It would be in the nature of the man who was with his mistress at the time of the murder but he doesn’t want to name her.

    On the other hand, if it WAS used for work, then it also is very important. In either event, some computer sleuthing was warranted to try to determine, for example, precisely who used it, for what purpose, and when it went missing. A computer expert might be able to tell us whether it can be determined what websites were visited.

    • DXer said

      For example, at about 10 p.m. he was using his work computer to send an email. Do computer forensics permit authorities to learn what internet surfing he did? He reports that he was reading “internet news.”

      From: Ivins, Bruce E Dr USAMRIID
      Subject: Florida case(?)
      Date: Thursday, October 04, 2001 9:57:19 PM
      I just heard this evening (and read over internet news) that a case of pulmonary anthrax may
      have been identified in Florida. Is this true, or is this just hysteria? The only Florida strain of B.
      anthracis that I am familiar with is V770, which is the parent of V770-NP1-R, the strain used in
      production of the human anthrax vaccine. (I believe that V770 was originally isolated from a cow in
      Florida in the early 1950s.) The article said that this person was an “Outdoorsman,” and had drunk
      water from a creek in North Carolina. If he really does have anthrax, could he have gotten it this way,
      or did he get it by tromping around some dusty field area. (Has North Carolina been dry this summer?)
      I know that in the wild in Africa, animals are supposed to be able to get it from water holes by stirring
      up spores and presumably ingesting and possibly inhaling them as an aerosol. Could this have
      happened? What if an animal had died upstream and the stream was contaminated? (Drinking from a
      stream or creek without boiling or purifying the water first is an invitation to intestinal disease or
      parasites, but have any other human anthrax cases been documented from people drinking
      contaminated water?)
      You called me several times in the recent past with regards to another anthrax
      issue. If there’s anything I can help with here (if you or coworkers are involved) please let me know. I
      don’t know if there’s anything I can do, but I’m certainly willing to provide whatever informational
      assistance I can. (I would have been less surprised if the Florida man had been hunting deer in Texas,
      where there is identifiable anthrax. I don’t recall North Carolina as having ideal soil for preservation of
      anthrax spores or for anthrax cycling of spore-vegetative cell-spore-vegetative cell etc., but I suppose
      there could be areas of higher soil calcium and alkalinity.)
      Anyway, please don’t hesitate to give me a call if there’s anything I can do. We are currently
      testing the virulence (in immunized and unimmunized guinea pigs) of B. anthracis strains from all over
      the world, including China, and we’ve come up with some very interesting differences in virulence
      among the strains.
      Take care of yourself,
      – Bruce

      • DXer said

        This was a time period when a lot of people were spending more time than usual reading internet news.

        For example, after the Japanese earthquake, many people kept their tv on watching the coverage.

        Given that his field was anthrax, surely he was going to be glued to the news once the first report of anthrax came out.

        • DXer said

          There were two offices – one in B-3 and another in B-4. Both conatainment suites are interconnected. I’m pretty sure there were computers in both. Source: former chief of bacteriology GA.

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