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

* Here is chart of FOIA requests to USAMRIID regarding Amerithrax – no one has asked for the handwritten notes he made on the nights that the DOJ speculates he was making powdered anthrax

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 11, 2011

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17 Responses to “* Here is chart of FOIA requests to USAMRIID regarding Amerithrax – no one has asked for the handwritten notes he made on the nights that the DOJ speculates he was making powdered anthrax”

  1. DXer said

    FBI FOI Update #1 Today: A separate FOIA was filed for the family 302s.

    We know from a note that Mrs. Ivins wrote on the day of his passing that she believes he is innocent — that he had nothing to do with the anthrax mailings.

    The three adults were all in the small house at the time with Dr. Ivins. Don’t they say that they would know if he had travelled all night? Even after appropriate redactions on privacy grounds under the statutory exemptions, the 302s likely have important basic information that is an important aspect of the timeline for the mailing window from September 17 5 p.m. and September 18 8 a.m. They should have been produced under FOIA already.

  2. DXer said

    In response to my FOIA emailed last night, the FBI FOIA person writes from Winchester, VA:

    “The FBI has received your Freedom of Information Act/Privacy (FOI/PA) request and it will be forwarded to the Work Process Unit or a Single Station Team for review. Your request will be processed under the provisions of FOI/PA and a response will be mailed to you at a later date.

    Requests for fee waivers and expedited processing will be addressed once your request has been assigned an FOI/PA request number. You will receive written notification of the FBI’s decision.

    Information regarding the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy is available at http://www.fbi.gov or http://www.fbi.gov/foia/. You can now check the status of your request online at: http://www.fbi.gov/foia/, and click on the ‘Check Status of Your FOI/PA Request’ link under the (Records Available Now) section. If you require additional assistance please contact the Public Information Officer.

    Thank you,”

    The key to an effective request is to be very precise in what is being sought. You need to ask yourself: Am I helping the person tasked with filling the request know exactly how to pull the record?

  3. DXer said

    Freedom of Information Center
    FOIA the FOIAs

    http://www.nfoic.org/foia-the-foias

    Let’s face it. Although the Freedom of Information Act is a great tool for revealing government information, getting the results of a FOIA request can often be a dismal experience. The types of official responses can range from “No records fit request” to “This information is being withheld under the authority of (an exemption du jour of the Freedom of Information Act).” If you have received the latter response, you probably will receive pages spackled with large black marks to hide information. Or it could be worse: the entire document may be withheld, with the agency or department letting you know that exemptions apply to every comma and period in the record.

    Getting such a result after weeks, if not months (and sometimes, years) of waiting can produce a “Why bother?” attitude to the thought of filing other FOIA requests.

    But one type of FOIA request produces results time after time — with less of a wait. With these requests, you can see what others persons are requesting from federal agencies or departments, and you can request the same information they have received. This technique is commonly used by attorneys and businesses, and is gaining in popularity with journalists.

    As we tell everyone: “FOIA the FOIAs!” (The exclamation mark is optional.)

    FOIA the FOIAs

    • What is it?
    • Why make such a request?
    • Should I request the log in an electronic format?

    To “FOIA the FOIAs,” you file a Freedom of Information Act request for the log or index of FOIA requests that have been received by a government agency.

    Information from these logs, also called FOIA case logs, normally include:

    • The log or file number
    • The date the request was received
    • The name of the person or organization making the request
    • A description of the information sought
    • The date the response was sent
    • The type of response sent (granted, denied or partial release)
    The request can be narrowed by time length, although using a time length of a year or more is the most effective way to retrieve the information. You can also limit other elements of the log. For example, you could file a request for all requests on the subject of the Branch Davidians or the Persian Gulf War.

    See an example from the Persian Gulf War

    However, keeping the request as broad as possible, limited by date only, gives researchers an advantage in discovering information on various subjects. This is true particularly if the logs can be obtained in an electronic format, which we discuss below.

    Back to top

    Why make such a request?

    A FOIA log is a treasure trove of information, invaluable for seeing: (1) What information is requested from agencies (2) Whether multiple requests for the same information are being received — indicating a hot issue that may merit further investigation and (3) Who is requesting the information.

    The key benefit is that any information previously released under a FOIA request is, in most instances, available for you to request immediately. With the information from the log, you can pinpoint requested material down to the case log file. These specifics reduce guesswork on your part and possible footdragging by officials processing your request.

    Back to top

    Should I request the log in an electronic format?

    If the log is available in an electronic format, request it. You are allowed to request an electronic copy, if it exists in that format, under the 1996 amendments to the FOIA, also known as the Electronic Freedom of Information Amendments.

    Once you have the electronic document, you can use a variety of computer programs to explore patterns. For instance, a database program such as Access can find all the occurrences of certain words under the “Subject” heading or field. Or the program can find the number of times a particular requestor made requests. Any of these sets of entries could prove useful for further research.

    Back to top

    What right do I have to access these logs?

    The Freedom of Information Act’s generalized description of government records covers FOIA logs. However, exemptions one through nine of the FOIA may be used to prevent release of certain entries or material, such as material that would jeopardize personal privacy.

    The logs’ status as open records has been strengthened by federal departments selling their logs to commercial providers. The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission have sold copies of their logs to Newsnet of Bryn Mawr, Pa., which resells the material to online database providers like Dialog.

    Access to FOIA logs is not limited to those maintained at the federal level. Unless otherwise exempted, logs of state records can be obtained under state open records laws.

    ***
    To summarize: In a better world, no one would need to resort to the tradecraft of reporters and attorneys to find information. It isn’t a better world, so thank your lucky stars that you can FOIA the FOIAs.

    • DXer said

      I have FOIAed the FOIAs for the FBI and for USAMRIID. From the FBI, I asked for requests relating to “anthrax” or “Bruce Ivins” or “Amerithrax” or “USAMRIID” from October 1, 2001 to the present and asked that, if possible, I be provided an electronic copy. For USAMRIID, I did not restrict the request.

      I think there is a wealth of information that has already been provided that just needs to be located. For example, take the subject of vaccine research generally. Or the proliferation of biodefense labs. The use of small animals in animal research. Or the testing of decontamination agents.

      I have 2,000 pages from the CDC that anyone can have.

      The Post Office is another agency that would be fruitful to FOIA. (The quickest way to proceed is, again, to FOIA the FOIAs.)

      It seems to be postal inspectors and psychiatrists who are doing this country’s counterintelligence analysis these days — instead of being moved by the fact that Ayman Zawahiri used “school” in 2001 as code for Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Saif Adel was made head of the “Green Team” by Atef (head of the anthrax planning), we have some consulting psychiatrists tell us that a newsletter account of some litigation involving an elementary school was for some reason used by Dr. Ivins as the return address.

  4. DXer said

    FOIA Update #3 Today:

    The USMRC person is focusing my attention on clarifying my request for notebooks. I have clarified that on 12/12/2003, BRUCE IVINS, scientist at USAMRIID provided the FBI laboratory notebooks he had in his possession. On 4/19/2004, the FBI made copies of the following notebooks and then returned the original notebooks to Dr. Ivins.

    3921
    3655
    3945
    3209
    3545
    4383
    4037
    3270
    3303
    3472
    3302
    3716
    4000
    4282
    4010

    One way I can think of narrowing the request — and I greatly appreciate the Army’s efficiency in working with the requestor in an attempt to focus on what is really sought — is to ask only for the notebook pages from January 1, 1997 to January 1, 2002.

    I noted that I definitely seek all pages of Lab Notebook 4010 — only 30 pages of the 88 pages of the notebook have been produced. Lab Notebook 4010 is extremely important under any theory of the case.

    Finally, I definitely am urgently seeking the lab notebook pages referenced by the DOJ in their Amerithrax study relating to the Covance study that includes animal observations on September 28, 29, 30, October 1, October 2.

    I was hoping AUSA Rachel Lieber could help us by identifying the notebook (but I realize she has no obligation to do so in connection with this FOIA request to USAMRIID and it may require litigation against DOJ).

    My thought is that Lab Notebook 4010 and these lab notebook pages references in the Amerithrax Investigation Summary are so important that perhaps these requests could be considered separately from the broader request so as not to be delayed by consideration of the far more burdeonsome request.

    I have tried to convey my profound thanks for the Army’s efficiency in processing the requests. The FOIA personnel seem very experienced and expert at making the FOIA process work.

  5. DXer said

    FOIA update today:

    The JAG office does not have the lab notebooks and they have not been in USAMRIID’s possession. JAG, however, is trying to find out where they are.

    Many thanks again to the good efforts of USAMRC FOIA (and now JAG) in trying to help people get on the same page — by literally helping folks see the same pages.

    I view one importance of the lab notebook pages as relating to the chief pillar of an Ivins Theory — that he could not explain his time in the lab during the August – December 2001 period. I have ventured that the starting point in analysis of how he spent his time in the lab is to obtain the contemporaneous notes on wrote on those dates while in the lab. It would be possible to create a chronology from August 2001 – December 2001 of all notations he made in any of his lab notebooks in reconstructing what he did in the lab. At a DC law firm, this would be one of the key things done in assessing the matter (and then the self-reported account can be compared to the access records).

  6. DXer said

    Here is Dr. Henry Heine making the same points a full year ago. he gave a full-length interview.

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/army-microbiologist-dr-henry-heine-until-now-forbidden-to-speak-says-ivins-is-absolutely-not-the-anthrax-attacker-it-was-impossible-that-the-deadly-spores-had-been-produced-undetected-in-dr/

    • DXer said

      We need actual investigative reporting and not merely a retread of what we know. That requires document discovery through FOIA and interview of people like Patricia Fellows, Mara Linscott, Terry Abshire and Joany Jackman about the DARPA research in which they all participated. Holes pointed out by genetics experts is meaningless when the genetics only narrowed things to an estimated “up to 377” between Building 1412 and Building 1425 in the first place.

      For example, perhaps USAMRIID has the documents relating to the necropsies conducted on the mice in late September 2001 and the rabbits in early October 2001. It boggles my mind that no reporter has even bothered to obtain the 302 interview statements of the family members or the September 17, 2001 email to Mara Linscott (so as to be able to see the time it was sent). I realize these journalists are overworked as it is (and handle a wide range of important matters) but it only takes minutes to submit a FOIA request.

  7. Dxer said

    There actually was no investigative reporting at all…or original analysis. The genetics people had been saying the same thing for two years. Noah read the 3500 pages produced by the FBI but submitted no FOIA. He does not seem to have read the nas materials. I was sitting in front of him when he spoke to ezzell and that is not exactly how it went. The fellow talking to him when he had his heart attack is connected to homeland security today. I first got John to open up in July 2009. Noah seems not to know anything about the DARPA research, to have interviewed joany jackman or Terry abshire. I am very disappointed at the lack of investigative reporting in amerithrax

    • Dxer said

      Did Mr. Schactman even attempt to interview former colleague 1 and 2. iinterviewing dr.heine and the genetics experts is the stuff of 2008, 2009, 2010 articles. A reporter should have at least attempted to get Mara and Pat to speak to the fbi’s Ivins theory.

    • Dxer said

      As for the Noah and john ezzell exchange, it is on film. The camera kept rolling during the break and they happened to be standing in front of the room.
      Will upload it later today if I can get my main computer working.

  8. Dxer said

    See new wired article Inside the Hunt.

    • anonymous said

      http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/04/storyboard-anthrax/
      Ten years ago, letters laced with anthrax killed five people. The FBI says it traced the spores to a single U.S. scientist. But could the feds have gotten the wrong man?

      Storyboard Podcast:
      Episode 46
      Subscribe to RSS feed
      Subscribe on iTunes »
      That’s the question Noah Shachtman investigates in his story “The Strain,” featured in the April issue of Wired magazine.

      “There are giant holes at the center of the case,” Shachtman says. Though the FBI claims to have unraveled the mystery, the agency still can’t say when, where, how or why its prime suspect, Bruce Ivins, would have cooked up and mailed the deadly spores. “As a reporter,” Shachtman says, “those are questions we’re trained to answer first, before we write anything.”

      In this edition of the Storyboard podcast, Shachtman joins host Adam Rogers and articles editor Rob Capps to discuss the ins and outs of this epic story, the writing of which involved a 1,500-row spreadsheet and a whole team

      • DXer said

        Here is Dr. Keim making the same points in 2009.

        https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/dr-paul-keim-answers-questions-about-the-anthrax-investigation-some-from-case-closed-blog-participants/

        • DXer said

          Dr. Paul Keim explained two years ago:

          Q: What are the limitations of using microbial forensics for attribution purposes? Are policymakers fully aware of these limitations? Jonathan B. Tucker, Washington, D.C.

          A: … “The laboratory Ames strain can be precisely identified and differentiated from all other types of Bacillus anthracis, including those very close relatives isolated from the same geographic region of Texas.” This is a long ways from concluding that letter spores came from USAMRIID, but it is a start and eliminates a lot of possibilities…. While this scientific conclusion excludes a very large number of possible perpetrators, it still doesn’t directly attribute the crime to an individual. I understand that there was more than one person with access to RMR-1029 spore preparation. … This limitation is well understood by the scientists involved but may or may not be understood by the public or policymakers.
          ***

      • DXer said

        The correct URL for Clair Fraser Liggett’s position that the genetic analysis of the spores in Ivins flask do not indicate Ivins is guilty — from 2009 — is here:

        https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/clair-fraser-liggett-the-genetic-analysis-of-the-spores-in-ivins-flask-do-not-indicate-ivins-is-guilty/

      • DXer said

        In 2009, Lew summarized lead FBI anthrax expert Fraser-Liggett’s position in this matter:

        She asks, “What would have happened in this investigation had Dr. Hatfill not been so forceful in his response to being named a person of interest. What if he, instead of fighting back, had committed suicide because of the pressure? Would that have been the end of the investigation?”

        It was Fraser-Liggett’s genetic analysis of the anthrax spores in the letters led to Ivins’ flask.

        “The part that seems still hotly debated is whether there was sufficient evidence to name Dr. Ivins as the perpetrator,” Fraser-Liggett says. “I have complete confidence in the accuracy of our data, ” Fraser-Liggett says, but she says it does not indicate Ivins is guilty.

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