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

* more questions about the Amerithrax Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel’s “independent” psychological report on Dr. Ivins

Posted by DXer on March 24, 2011


Congressman Holt is Dr. Bruce Ivins best chance for a deserved posthumous exoneration


empty wheel (Marcy Wheeler?) writes (3/23/11) …

  • the report (of the Amerithrax Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel) basically paints Bruce Ivins was a stalker which therefore makes him a possible bioterrorist.
  • Unfortunately for the shrinks who did the report, they start by endorsing the FBI’s now questionable anthrax theory.
    • The National Academy of Science said … the flask designated RMR-1029 was not the immediate, most proximate source of the letter material.
    • 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.
  • In other words, because the shrinks based their entire report on the claim that Ivins had the “means and opportunity” to commit the attack based on the scientific claims about the anthrax, they pretty much undermine their entire argument from the start (and undermine their claim that they had “no predispositions regarding Ivins’ guilt or innocence”).
  • at least in this summary, it appears the shrinks’ report doesn’t answer some of the most basic questions raised about the attack.

read the entire article at …


It appears that the psychological evaluation of the Amerithrax Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel was based entirely on the FBI’s statement of its case, which has been documented again and again on this blog as incomplete and uncompelling.

From such a starting point, with no independent information or evaluation, how could any conclusions from a group of “consultants” apparently well under the FBI’s thumb be considered as independent or well supported?

As I have said before, the only hope Bruce Ivins has for a posthumous exoneration comes from Congressman Rush Holt, the GAO review underway, and the Anthrax Commission currently going nowhere in the House of Representatives.

13 Responses to “* more questions about the Amerithrax Expert Behavioral Analysis Panel’s “independent” psychological report on Dr. Ivins”

  1. anonymous said

    Thursday, March 24, 2011
    Pushing the envelope: Psychobabble “solves” FBI’s case/ NYT
    A group of psychiatrists offered their forensic expertise in solving the anthrax criminal investigation, by using their insight into the criminal mind. Somehow DC Judge Royce E. Lamberth blessed them, and FBI paid the $38,000 bill. The group only had one suspect, whose confidential medical records were supplied by the FBI. The Executive Summary makes clear that the panels’ conclusions were built into its charge:
    …the Panel was asked to offer, based on the available materials, a better understanding of Dr. Ivins’ mental state before and after the anthrax mailings, his possible motives — and the connections, if any, between his mental state and the commission of the crimes.
    If the group’s trove of documents resembled that of the National Academy of Sciences panel, then it was carefully cherry-picked, designed to elicit a single conclusion. The NY Times’ Scott Shane notes their conclusion:
    “Dr. Ivins was psychologically disposed to undertake the mailings; his behavioral history demonstrated his potential for carrying them out; and he had the motivation and the means,” the panel wrote in its 285-page report, released at a news conference on Wednesday… It also found that Dr. Ivins, who was 62 when he died, was “homicidal” in the last weeks of his life. Only his involuntary commitment for psychiatric treatment, the panel wrote, “prevented a mass shooting and fulfillment of his promise to go out in a ‘blaze of glory,’ “ the report said.
    How much of their evidence is derived from Ivins’ alcohol abuse counselor, who was under house arrest at the time and working with the FBI in the final months of Ivins’ life? Was her profound conflict of interest clear to these experts?

    How could these experts possibly know Ivins had the motivation and means, when the FBI failed to produce a logical motive or provide evidence of means?

    From the report’s executive summary:
    The key themes were revenge, a desperate need for personal validation, career reservation and professional redemption, and loss. These themes guided him not only in making the attacks, but in choosing his targets and shaping his methods…
    The [mail]box thus appears to have represented to him the two key reservoirs of his obsession and rage. Dr. Ivins’ statements to therapists and the FBI suggest that KKG represented authority and all the successful, talented, attractive people who had rejected him and inspired his rage. Princeton represented his father and perhaps his unmet college aspirations and the humiliation and rage wrapped up in these concepts for him. For him, dropping anthrax in this [mail]box appears to have represented both a conquest and a desecration — in short, payback.
    Is psychobabble too strong a word to describe this outpouring of gibberish?

    This report was completed last August, but was pulled out of the deep freeze yesterday in a last-ditch attempt to trump the NAS report. The website that offers this report for sale, provides the Executive Summary and bios of the authors ends with the following, in a clear attempt to link this psychiatric report to the NAS report, and presumably give it equal weight in future discussions of the case.
    National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Panel
    Investigators in this case relied on new microbial forensic techniques developed by government, academic, and private-sector scientists to address these specific attacks. Because these techniques were new, the FBI requested the formation of a separate commission through the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate “the reliability of the principles and methods used by the FBI, and whether the principles and methods were applied appropriately to the facts.” At the time of this report’s submission to Chief Judge Lamberth in August 2010, that report had not yet been released. The report was released on February 15, 2011.

  2. Old Atlantic said

    Wired also:

    “ohn Ezzell, the bearded, Harley-driving head of the institute’s Special Pathogens Sample Testing Lab, was waiting to meet the agents. He spent a day studying the package, then sent it to the lab of Bruce Ivins, one of the institute’s most experienced anthrax researchers. As his fellow microbiologists watched from the hallway, Ivins shoved his double-gloved hands inside a biosafety cabinet containing the sample. He opened the bag and held it up with one hand. When he moved his free hand closer to it, the granules in the bag began moving toward his glove, drawn by a slight electrostatic charge. The microbiologists gasped; they were used to working with wet spores, which fell to the ground easily. But this anthrax was dry and ionized—it would stay aloft and spread like a gas. It was potentially lethal to anyone in the vicinity. “It’s unbelievable,” a colleague remembers Ivins saying. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

    So if Ivins had made it under a hood in BSL3, then it would have left more than just a few spores in the BSL3?

  3. anonymous said

    No one involved that day expressed any doubt about Ivins’ guilt. But things are not always as clear-cut as they may seem in an FBI presentation. Two years later, sitting in her office overlooking West Baltimore, Fraser-Liggett concedes she has reservations. “There are still some holes,” she says, staring out her window in discomfort. Nearly 2,000 miles away in Flagstaff, Arizona, Keim has his own concerns. “I don’t know if Ivins sent the letters,” he says with a hint of both irritation and sadness. Even agent Edward Montooth, who ran the FBI’s hunt for the anthrax killer, says that—while he’s still convinced Ivins was the mailer—he’s unsure of many things, from Ivins’ motivation to when he brewed up the lethal spores. “We still have a difficult time nailing down the time frame,” he says. “We don’t know when he made or dried the spores.” In other words, it’s been 10 years since the deadliest biological terror attack in US history launched a manhunt that ruined one scientist’s reputation and saw a second driven to suicide, yet nagging problems remain. Problems that add up to an unsettling reality: Despite the FBI’s assurances, it’s not at all certain that the government could have ever convicted Ivins of a crime.

    Over the next year and a half, the Justice Department produced a 92-page “investigative summary” of its case against Bruce Ivins, released thousands of pages of documents, agreed to independent reviews by both the National Research Council and the Government Accountability Office, and officially declared the case closed. It was an extraordinary and unprecedented effort to prove the guilt of a man who was never arrested for any crime. But the document dump is in many ways unsatisfying, since it covers a single suspect—Ivins. Even the people who worked on the case acknowledge it has holes.

    Fraser-Liggett and her team of geneticists have a new suite of offices and labs in a recently opened West Baltimore biotechnology complex. Hanging on her office wall, near pictures of her prized poodles, are framed copies of her articles in the prestigious science journal Nature. She’s proud of her colleagues, like Jacques Ravel and David Rasko, who, while working on her team, helped pioneer this new science of microbial forensics during the anthrax investigation. As she talks about the case, however, Fraser-Liggett becomes uneasy. “It’s as if somehow we—meaning those of us here who were involved in doing all this work on genetic mutants—were somehow fully supportive of the FBI’s conclusions,” she says.

    The cross-dressing, the sorority obsession, the bondage—”it would be very easy to get sucked into all of this because, you know, it makes for a great tabloid-type story,” she says. “Ivins was a bit peculiar. But one of our civil liberties is to be peculiar.”

    There are still unresolved scientific issues surrounding the case, she points out. RMR-1029 was a witches’ brew of 35 different production runs. Maybe the mutants came from one or more of those original component batches and therefore showed up only on particular tests.

    Nobody knows for sure, because RMR-1029 was never reverse- engineered. “It raises some very important questions,” Fraser-Liggett says. “Let’s repeat this experiment. Let’s go back and see if we can re-create what was in RMR-1029.”

    The National Research Council report also casts doubt on whether the killer spores really were descendants of Ivins’ RMR-1029 flask. The FBI resampled RMR-1029 a total of 30 different times, the report found. They could get all four telltale morphs on only 16 occasions.

    Further, the FBI says that only eight samples in its Ames repository were genetic matches to all four morphs of the killer spores—and that the scientists with access to those isolates were thoroughly scrutinized. But the National Research Council found that the FBI’s collection can’t be fully trusted: Too many of the samples were intermingled or descended from other labs’ anthracis to provide a truly representative cross-section of Ames anthrax. This may also be a reason why nearly one in 10 samples in the repository tested positive for at least one mutant.

    Paul Keim, who helped assemble the FBI’s Ames collection, still wonders how much to trust an anthrax repository that relied on scientists (and potential murder suspects) submitting their own samples. “We don’t know if people did it correctly, and there’s no real way to control for that,” Keim says.

    Even if everyone was aboveboard, it’s unclear whether the FBI accounted for every last anthrax sample. Each time Ivins gave his colleague Hank Heine a batch of spores for an experiment, for example, Heine would save a milliliter or two, in case the experiment went wrong. “It’s just good scientific practice,” Heine says. “I had numerous samples of RMR-1029.” It’s hard to imagine he was the only scientist with such a collection. Because the subsamples were so small and largely undocumented, it took the FBI nearly three years to stock its repository—plenty of time for a researcher to dispose of an incriminating batch.

    Then there’s the problem of figuring out when Ivins could have grown the spores. In an email to colleagues on April 23, 2004—unrelated to the investigation and long before he became its prime suspect—Ivins estimated that it would take 60 hours to brew up 500 billion spores. Each anthrax letter contained up to four times that amount. This means that making enough spores for the mailings would have required between five and six months. It would have been nearly impossible for Ivins to do that much work without others noticing. It may be odd to rely on Ivins himself for these numbers, but his colleagues do not dispute his estimate. The National Research Council report does theorize that it could have been done more quickly, but its findings were inconclusive. “The time might vary from as little as two to three days to as much as several months,” the report reads. “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.”

    This raises another significant problem with the case. USAMRIID veterans debate whether Ivins had access to the kind of gear required to dry and mill the spores. Even if he did, some argue, he wouldn’t have known how to use it. Ivins’ wet-spore experience didn’t translate to dry stuff, Heine and others say.

    Montooth acknowledges that he isn’t sure how Ivins would have done all that growing and drying. “But it almost doesn’t matter,” he says. Investigators know which days in September and October the envelopes were mailed. That was the actual murderous act. The anthrax could have been slowly assembled and processed for months or years before that. Ivins’ alibis for those autumn days are virtually nonexistent.

    There are still other problems with the case against Ivins. The killing spores were so volatile that they cross-contaminated piles and piles of mail. Yet spores were never found in Ivins’ house or his car, and only a handful were discovered in his lab. There’s no evidence of any trip to Princeton to mail the letters. And just because the killer spores were descendants of a USAMRIID flask, there’s no guarantee a USAMRIID scientist was actually the mailer. In fact, the FBI was never able to prove where the attack anthrax was cultured. “It would’ve been very easy to take the anthrax out, to steal some,” a former USAMRIID officer says. “Anybody could do that.”

    Finally, there’s the matter of motive. The Justice Department asserts in its investigative summary that Ivins mailed the letters to gin up support for an anthrax vaccine, offering a few ambiguous emails and comments to friends and investigators as proof. If there’s any further, credible evidence to support this notion, Wired couldn’t find it in the thousands of pages of case documents released by the government or in the hours of interviews conducted with the investigators. Montooth concedes it’s a placeholder rationale at best. For someone as deeply disturbed as Ivins, he argues, simple rules of cause and effect don’t apply, especially not in matters as grave as murder. “You cannot think of this in one dimension or layer. It’s not that simple,” Montooth says. “You’re never gonna know a single cause or motive for why it was done.”

    But despite all these flaws, the circumstantial evidence remains compelling. It could just be a coincidence that the killer spores were ultimately traced back to a single parent flask and that this flask just happened to be overseen by a depressed scientist with occasional violent fantasies. It could just be a coincidence that this same scientist screwed up his anthrax submission to the FBI—even though he helped develop the submission protocols. It could just be a coincidence that his after-hours work spiked right before the mailings. But put all of those coincidences together and something stronger than happenstance emerges. For the Justice Department, it’s enough to prove Ivins was the anthrax mailer.

    There’s an irony in the fact that the culprit was likely a top government anthrax expert: Since 2001, the US has built dozens of labs, spent just under $62 billion, and hired an army of researchers to prevent a second bioterror attack. In effect, Washington has devoted the past decade to training and equipping hundreds of people like Ivins.

    It’s an unnerving scenario. But there’s something much scarier to contemplate. There’s still the possibility that the government was as wrong about Ivins as it was about Hatfill. If that’s the case, the anthrax mailer is still at large. And that means someone launched the deadliest biological attack in the history of the United States—and got away with it.

    • Old Atlantic said

      Even scarier to contemplate for DOJ and FBI is that the lab note pages from August to October 2001 may one day be released, along with autoclave records, possibly internal billing records, and emails from Ivins home machine which are still owned by his family, who can request copies. They own the copyright.

      Not to mention info on the subtilis that might let it be matched to some other place.

      Not to mention the St. Petersburg letters.

      • richard rowley said

        “Not to mention the St. Petersburg letters.”

        Yes, and it’s the (likely) future impact the St Pete letters, the
        Quantico letter, and perhaps some other (hitherto)peripheral matters in the case that’s likely to prove embarassing down the road…

  4. Old Atlantic said

    The more the places named change, the more Battelle stays in range.

    # Aberdeen, MD
    # Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD
    Atlantic City, NJ
    Arlington, VA
    Baltimore, MD
    # Bethesda, MD
    # Blacksburg, VA
    College Park, MD

    Crystal City, VA (Quantico letter from there)

    # Dugway Proving Ground, UT
    Edgewood, MD

    # Falls Church, VA
    # Frederick, MD
    # Ft. Belvoir, VA
    # Ft. Bragg, NC
    # Ft. Detrick, MD

    Germantown, MD
    Indian Head, MD
    Jacksonville, FL
    Lorton, VA

    New York City, NY

    # Philadelphia, PA
    # Picatinny Arsenal, NJ

    # Quantico, VA
    Rockville, MD

    # Stafford, VA
    # Sterling, VA
    Tampa, FL

    Washington, DC

    Havant, United Kingdom
    (hoax letter from UK fall 2001)

    Ongar, United Kingdom

    Is there a message in all the places that keep turning up?

    • Old Atlantic said

      Missed a couple.

      Daytona Beach, FL
      West Palm Beach, FL

      Battelle the single strand through every geographic name in the case.

  5. Anonymous said

    A word of caution to anyone who happens to be interested in their own family tree. You might want to be cautious about what you keep in your filing cabinets. Apparently it can be used in the future to “connect dots” and lead to accusations of bioterrorism. 😉

    Exerpt (page 45):


    The youngest of three boys, Bruce Edwards Ivins was born April 22,

    1946 and reared in southwest Ohio, in Lebanon, where his father,

    Randall, owned and managed the Ivins-Jameson Pharmacy. The Ivins

    family traces its American roots to 17th century New Jersey. Bruce

    Ivins’ great-great-grandfather Thomas Ivins was born in what was

    then known as Monmouth, N.J., before moving to Ohio in the

    19th century.

    For reasons whose signifi cance will become clear later in this

    narrative, it is important to note that Bruce Ivins was aware of this

    family genealogy. In a fi le where he kept important papers, he saved

    a letter, dated August 26, 1986, from a paternal relative. This letter

    specifi cally related the genealogy of the Ivins family, and listed

    Thomas Ivins and his father, Barzillai, whose ancestors had also

    been born in Monmouth, N.J.

    Exerpt (page 130 ):

    By using the ZIP code of Monmouth Junction, Dr. Ivins may have been

    portraying in code the connection between KKG and his own identity.

    Monmouth Junction may have represented the union of father

    (Monmouth, N.J.) and mother (Monmouth College, KKG), i.e., himself.

    And it also represented his entanglement, his obsession with KKG.

    In other words, in two inter-related ways, the Monmouth Junction may

    have represented Dr. Ivins himself. With the return address on his

    Senatorial letters, he appears to have revealed the identity — at the

    deepest level — of the mailer. Dr. Ivins, in short, signed his letters.

    • richard rowley said

      “With the return address on his

      Senatorial letters, he appears to have revealed the identity — at the

      deepest level — of the mailer. Dr. Ivins, in short, signed his letters.”

      1)Note how the ‘narrative’ goes from the ‘tentative’ “appears to have revealed” to the definitive “Dr Ivins…signed his letters”. Mission creep? Let’s call it certainty creep based on speculation.

      2) Recall that around 9 years ago ‘Greendale’ was explained by some in terms of a neighborhood of Harare(?) Zimbabwe that Dr Hatfill would likely have known about. Give me a suspect, and I’ll connect him to Greenfield/Monmouth/whatever.

      3) I’m sure some psychiatrists are psychic, I’m just not sure that there are any on the panel.

      • Old Atlantic said

        Actually, it is the first hit in Google for Battelle Monmouth.

        Battelle Memorial Inst,
        Battelle Corp
        621 Shrewsbury Avenue
        Shrewsbury, NJ 07702-4153 map
        Monmouth-Ocean, NJ Metro Area

      • Old Atlantic said

        Retired Army Brigadier General Dean Ertwine recently joined Battelle to serve as Vice President for Army Science and Technology, Business Development. He’s charged with using his many years of Army R&D experience to develop new business opportunities for Battelle’s Defense Systems group.

        Ertwine will focus on the Army Materiel Command, and its components, as Battelle assists in the role of transforming the military.

        Ertwine, 52, most recently served as Commanding General for the U.S. Army Developmental Test Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

        Additional R&D assignments during Ertwine’s military career include: Deputy Commander for Systems Acquisition at U.S Army Communications and Electronics Command at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey; Executive Officer to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Research, Development & Acquisition) at the Pentagon; Commander, Cold Regions Test Center at Ft. Greely, Alaska; and Commander, Fire Support Armaments Center, U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.

        Ertwine is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and holds an M.S. in physical chemistry and a Doctor of Arts in chemistry from Lehigh University.

        Battelle serves industry and government in the areas of technology development, laboratory management, and technology commercialization. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle has annual revenues of $1 billion, has operations at more than 100 locations and clients in 30 countries. It counts as its successes the development of the office copier machine (Xerox), pioneering work on the compact disc, medical technology breakthroughs, and fiber optic advancements for telecommunications.

        For more information visit, or contact Media Relations Manager Katy Delaney at (614) 424-5544 or at

        Aberdeen MD and Monmouth NJ and Battelle. Ph.D. chemistry.

        • Old Atlantic said

          Battelle even claims credit for the copy machine.

          The developments by Battelle are well in the past. They did not sequence DNA. Battelle is worried for its job and its career.

  6. Old Atlantic said

    Click to access EBAP_Report_ExSum_Redacted_Version.pdf

    “Career preservation” page 7 to page 9 of the pdf is given as one of the motives.
    This mixes concern for the anthrax vaccine program, concern for employment and career. Wasn’t this discredited previously on this blog? Ivins was not at risk for losing his job prior to September 18, 2001?

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