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

* Old Atlantic highlights some of the dilemmas the FBI created for itself by first announcing its conclusions and then looking to the facts … UPDATED with more questions

Posted by DXer on March 25, 2011

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UPDATE 3/27 … Old Atlantic raises more questions

At first the FBI said Ivins went to Princeton during the day of Sep 17, 2001.

Then that was shot down by mail box times and Ivins being at Ft. Detrick.

Then they switched to overnight.

Isn’t it possible that they had the email Dxer wants showing a late evening email by Ivins from home?  That is why at first they said he went during the day?

Perhaps there is another from the next morning before he went to work?

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original post …

quoting first from Noah Schactman’s excellent overview (see http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/03/ff_anthrax_fbi/) titled … “Anthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy?”

  • “Then there’s the problem of figuring out when Ivins could have grown the spores … tt would have been nearly impossible for Ivins to do that much work without others noticing.
  • 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.
  • (the FBI says) the anthrax could have been slowly assembled and processed for months or years before that. Ivins’ alibis for those autumn days are virtually nonexistent.

Old Atlantic comments …

  • Not so fast.  The FBI said that the mailer grew a fresh batch of anthrax spores after the Sep 18, 2001 mailing and before the October 9 mailing.  That would require runs that lasted days and were running during the week days.
  • The FBI theory falls apart if it takes days to grow, centrifuge, dry and lyophilize the anthrax for the Senate letters because that would require observation during the weekdays of October 1 to 5 which were Monday to Friday in 2001.
  • The FBI was shoe horned into their theories of it only takes a day to grow anthrax because Ivins’ lab time from Sep 18, 2001 to Oct 9, 2001 is so very well known and it doesn’t correspond to the actual lab steps and times for growing and drying anthrax of the quality in the Senate letters.

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13 Responses to “* Old Atlantic highlights some of the dilemmas the FBI created for itself by first announcing its conclusions and then looking to the facts … UPDATED with more questions”

  1. DXer said

    The elephant in the room that the FBI is not talking about is that Dr. Ivins assistants report that they made a lot of anthrax — and the FBI reports that it doesn’t know what happened to it. The assistants state that they used the frozen stock as the seed stock but there is no contemporaneous documentation for much of the anthrax that was made and then used in an unknown manner. That makes it doubly important for the FBI under FOIA to produce the contemporaneous documents — such as relating to the autoclave and the lab notes made by Dr. Ivins during the period — under FOIA. Both Patricia Fellows and Mara Linscott were thanked by a former Zawahiri associate for providing technical asssitance. See INSIDE JIHAD for the account by Dr. Tarek Hamid about his recruitment by Ayman Zawahiri while at Cairo Medical School. Now a lot of internet posters, unfamiliar with the documents and armed with their other interests in life, may not comprehend the importance of establishing the timeline of what happened through the documentary records — such as autoclave records. But it is important to ground analysis in the documentary record. Given the extensive small animal work that Dr. Ivins was doing in August and September 2001, the autoclave logs will be a motherlode of insight. The GAO needs to obtain them. Those logs will indicate if and when Dr. Ivins operated the autoclave equipment and if so when. All the reports are that Dr. Ivins was extensively involved in tending to the small animals — and we are not talking about feeding them carrots. We apparently are talking about his autoclaving the dead animals. It would be nice to find the standard operating manual bearing on the issue.

  2. anonymous said

    “Isn’t it possible that they had the email Dxer wants showing a late evening email by Ivins from home? That is why at first they said he went during the day?”

    They certainly have emails – but they are apparently not releasing the ones sent around the times of the mailings – at least not the ones that would challenge their “lack of alibi” position. See extract below from the “Pyschobabble Document” written by Saathoff.

    Seems kind of bizarre that they would try to claim Ivins had cutaneous anthrax – for one he had been vaccinated against anthrax – for two how can these psychiatrists possibly conclude his hand infection was cutaneous anthrax?

    An Unreported Skin Infection
    In emails he sent Technician #2 during the period of the mailings, Dr. Ivins reported that he had acquired a skin infection on his hand. The pain, he complained, was severe enough to make it difficult to play the keyboard in church.
    According to insurance billing records, he sought help from his family doctor, who diagnosed cellulitis, a skin infection, and prescribed the antibiotic cephalexin. After about 10 days with no apparent improvement, Dr. Ivins contacted a different clinician, who treated him with a different antibiotic, doxycycline.
    Because Dr. Ivins was a microbiologist who worked around the most dangerous types of bacteria, an unusual or resistant infection requiring antibiotic treatment by a private physician mandated his report of it in his yearly medical assessment. Specifically, he was required to “list illness, accidents, surgeries, hospitalizations, physician visits or fevers” since his last Special Immunization Program physical exam. In April 2002, Dr. Ivins dutifully reported that in early 2001 he had suffered an episode of chest pain and pneumonia, and had sought medical treatment.
    Although the skin infection was an illness that required two separate antibiotic prescriptions from two different clinicians, he chose not to report either prescription or treatment. Although the first antibiotic, cephalexin, can be used to treat an anthrax skin infection, the second one, doxycycline, is the preferred treatment.

    • Old Atlantic said

      Re skin infection.

      So Ivins was secretly working with dried anthrax spores and got anthrax. He concealed this from the lab because he was guilty. Except he actually told his technician. And told her in an email through the lab email system which makes backups he can’t erase.

      Moreover, this “anthrax” infection that lasted for many days never resulted in the type of skin lesion that led one of the hijackers in Florida to go to the doctor. Ivins’ coworkers never noticed he had symptoms of anthrax infection. But he did. We know it, because only a true believer would deny it.

      So in sum, Ivins’ coworkers who are experienced in anthrax infections as their job never thought Ivins had anthrax even though he pointed out his problem in an email. Whereas the hijacker’s colleagues told him to go get treated for his lesion that looked like anthrax. Thus Ivins is guilty according to the FBIers.

  3. Old Atlantic said

    At first the FBI said Ivins went to Princeton during the day of Sep 17, 2001. Then that was shot down by mail box times and Ivins being at Ft. Detrick. Then they switched to overnight.

    Isn’t it possible that they had the email Dxer wants showing a late evening email by Ivins from home? That is why at first they said he went during the day? Perhaps there is another from the next morning before he went to work?

  4. BugMaster said

    Not sure where to find the past thread to post this:

    In regards to olive oil and the FBI’s interest in olive oil:

    One can use vegetable (or olive) oil as an antifoam in some fermentations. Its use is limited, however, because it can inhibit the culture, is limited in how effective it is, and interferes with purification.

    Perhaps olive oil was detected in the crude NYC material? Because of its use, the sporulation was poor and the purification was difficult?

    Tin: Could be from the calcium carbonate, but why proportional to silicon? Percoll still seems most likely to me, note that medical grade silicone products are platinum catalyzed, non-medical would be tin-catalyzed (wonder which one Percoll is?).

    THE OBVIOUS USE OF CALCIUM CARBONATE IS AS AN ANTACID IN A CRUDE (NOT SHAKE FLASK, NOT FERMENTOR WITH ADEQUATE AERATION, pH CONTROL) FERMENTATION PROCESS.

    It is also sometimes used as a filler in pills. So, if someone wanted to obtain trace elements and amino acid mixes from a non-lab source, just go to the health food store, buy some yeast supplement and mineral supplement and desired vitamin and amino acid supplement pills, grind them up, add to the stockpot and boil. Would this have been the source of the calcium carbonate?

    Why didn’t any NAS scientists put forth either obvious explaination?

  5. BugMaster said

    The FBI’s conclusion regarding “Greendale School” was lame enough.

    And now this “Marmot Junction” zip code nonsense?

    Sorry. Too much to swallow for me!

    • BugMaster said

      I’m going to put forth another possible simple explaination:

      As per the FBI profile, the mailer had some familiarity with the Princeton, NJ area. Perhaps the perp was a current or former Princeton resident. The letters were mailed in Princeton, yet the mailer wasn’t going to provide a REAL return address.

      So, under city, Princeton, NJ? Maybe too obvious. Pick a town just down the road, Franklin Park. Maybe Franklin Park had some significance to the mailer. Zip code? Maybe took a guess, knew something about the local zip code structure, got the next town down the road either deliberately or by mistake.

      The explaination the FBI provides for Greendale is a real stretch. Wasn’t it Mrs. Ivins who had fundamentalist beliefs, and would have been the one subscribing to and reading the fundamentalist publication that at one point describes a “Greendale Baptist Academy?” Note: “Academy”, not “School”. Was their any indication Ivins even saw or read the article? If it was so important to him, did he ever mention it in either conversation or emails? Did the magazine itself show evidence that someone had concentrated on that article (folded back pages, highlighted text, notes in the margin, FINGER PRINTS)?

      • anonymous said

        I’m going to suggest an even simpler explanation.

        The mailer wanted to make sure the letters were opened – hence he faked childish writing and put a school as the return address. What government or media officer worker would toss out a letter from a kid?

        The actual address was chosen completely at random. And presently the mailer is having a good laugh at the Monmouth “junction” somehow connecting to Bruce Ivins through ridiculous and imaginary fairy tales.

        The mailers trick worked – the letters were opened. But he had to write SOME address down – so he made it as random as possible as far as any connection to himself was concerned.

  6. Old Atlantic said

    Supposedly, he was disappointed in the low quality of the first letter anthrax of Sep 18, 2001 and then did more processing to get the second.

    Did the spores for the second mailing exist as of Sep 18, 2001?

    Did they exist in the same form as when mailed by Oct 9, 2001? Or did they require processing?

    If the same, then he would have mailed them Sep 18, 2001 since they were better and he did the Oct 9 under this hypothesis because they were disappointing.

    Were they already powdered spores on Sep 18, 2001 but of the same quality as the mailed spores of Sep 18, 2001?

    In that case, did he mill them while they were dry? Do the spores of Oct 9, 2001 bear indications of being milled?

    Also why do the Sep 18, 2001 have subtilis but not the Oct 9, 2001?

    If he centrifuged them, he had to put them in liquid. In that case, how did he dry them?

    Did he lyophilize them?

    If he lyophilized in the BSL3 was the lypohilizer there? Would it have sent spores all over the place? Would it have required decontamination? Would that all have been noticed?

    If he air dried, would it have the properties observed of how it behaved, e.g. in the Wired article when it floated in front of them at Ft. Detrick when they got the Senate letter anthrax?

    If he grew them from scratch, how did he get it done over a period of days without it being remembered 2 weeks later?

    The FBI does not want to give an explanation in one document of what he did step by step and how that links to what evidence is available of physical tests or of the behavior of the anthrax from mailing through clean up.

    To be convincing, they have to put it all in one place. All the information about the spores received, how they behaved, and their efforts to replicate them on the same timeline and with same equipment and restrictions as Ivins faced under their hypothesis. This they refuse to do. Moreover, they made an effort to do it over years and failed. Now they won’t admit that but try to cover that part up and divert us with psychology.

    • BugMaster said

      “Now they won’t admit that but try to cover that part up and divert us with psychology.”

      And far from independent and peer-reviewed psychology at that!

      What’s next? The opinions of some expert astrologists?

  7. Old Atlantic said

    Thanks for posting that. Just to be clear, I should have indicated more distinctly the quotation was from Wired. The first 3 bullet points above are quotations from the Wired article.

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