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

Archive for April 17th, 2011

* DXer: a Washington Post story does not take into account that the genetics experts — Dr. Fraser-Liggett and Dr. Keim — say there are major holes in the genetics case

Posted by DXer on April 17, 2011


 Daniel de Vise writes in the Washington Post (4/16/11) …

  • Inside a Rockville laboratory, a team of scientists labored in round-the-clock shifts to do something many colleagues thought impossible: decode the genetic “fingerprint” of a deadly anthrax sample to help the FBI solve a case.
  • The researchers had been swept into Amerithrax, the massive federal investigation into the 2001 anthrax mailings, and they yearned for a breakthrough. But finding unique markers in the organism’s vast genetic code was a long shot.
  • The FBI closed Amerithrax last year with a report that linked the attacks to a broth of spores stored in a flask in the Fort Detrick lab of Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins.
  • On Oct. 17, 2001, just days after the anthrax letters were mailed, Abshire, a lab technician at Fort Detrick, was growing bacteria to confirm that the powder in the letters was, indeed, anthrax.
  • Science had linked Ivins to the attacks as early as spring 2005, although even the compartmentalized FBI scientists didn’t know it at the time.

By 2007, every other anthrax sample had been ruled out

and the bureau could conclude that “Dr. Ivins, alone,

mailed the anthrax letters.”


Many have since questioned that conclusion.

  • A review published this year by the National Academy of Sciences found loose ends in the case — but not in the work of the Rockville and Fort Detrick scientists.

to read entire article …



  • The Washington Post has addressed again the story it told in January 2009 about discovering the 4 morphs — with no new information and without mentioning the key elements that were necessary to tell the story in context.
  • I love the Washington Post.  But heck, this story does not even take into account that the genetics experts — referring to the genetics — Dr. Fraser-Liggett and Dr. Keim — say there are major holes in the genetics case and the specifc reasons.
    • See recent article by Noah Schachtman in which involved interviews of the genetics experts.  To wit:  There would be mutations in any large collection, for example, grown at Dugway, they explain.   I first reported this a couple years ago after Paul Keim explained it over lunch to a mutual friend and distinguished scientist David Franz.
  •  It is not to fault Terry Abshire’s or Jacque Ravel’s excellent work — or the excellent work by the many other experts working on the genetics.  It just bears on the conclusions one draws from the genetic findings.
  •  It is very important to understand — but always overlooked — that the 4 morphs only narrowed things from 700 known to have Ames to “up to 377.”  (see powerpoint for the 700 figure from the NAS materials provided by the FBI and uploaded by Lew) and the Amerithrax Investigative Summary for the “up to 377” figure.

  •  So even the major holes pointed out by genetics expert Fraser-Liggett and Paul Keim are pretty unimportant.  It is like the FBI first reporting that there were a couple hundred in Jon Benet Ramsey’s house that night — and then the genetics experts saying “wait,” there may have been hundreds more.
  • The “up to 377” in the Amerithrax Investigative Summary refers those with access at both Building 1425 and 1412.  Agents were telling Dr. Ivins lawyer, that left an estimated 200 with access. You get an estimated 200 when you eliminate those with access to the Ames at both buildings.
  • Indeed, even Terry Abshire, who discovered the morphs, had the matching Ames in her unlocked refrigerator.  She mistakenly thought it must have been from Bruce but actually it had been left by Joany Jackman when she left USAMRIID.  See Joany Jackman’s 302.
  • That Ames was from Flask 1029 and had been used to make a dried powder.
  • Here are Ivins video about the ezzell/abshire making the dried Ames out of Ivins’ flask.

  •  It had been irradiated in the slurry which is a very important point that should never be overlooked in reporting.
  •  Dr. Ezzell, who I first called about this in July 2009, was very courageous in forthrightly addressing all this.
  •  No one at the November 29 could watch how distinguished he was — dressed in all black and wearing a white beard –without deeply appreciating his willingness to address these issues.  When he had a heart attack minutes after he finished, everyone was genuinely concerned as they would be for a new friend.
  •  It was okay that the FBI did not disclose this making a dried powder out of Flask 1029 to the NAS — with DARPA thanking both Terry Abshire and John Ezzell in the literature for their assay work — because  that is what we have reporters to do.

 They just haven’t done it yet.

  •  The key facts relating to the DARPA project involving making the dried powder does not bear on the fact that the mutations could be observed.
  •  But it is the sort of context that is a necessary part of the story.
  •  Especially given that the Ezzell/Ashire lab then threw out Dr. Ivins February 2002 lab (which had the 4 morphs).
  •  Here is the inventory sheet showing that the dried powder for DARPA was made from Flask 1029.   The expanded inventory was made by the FBI.

  •  I think the FBI and its scientists and the NAS panel members have done a lot of excellent work.

 But we need reporters to interview

Former Colleague #1 (Patricia Fellows),

Former Colleague #2 (Mara Linscott),

… about both the DARPA research for which they were thanked and for the many points that they have made about Dr. Ivins to the FBI which underlie the FBI’s “Ivins Theory”.

 We also need interviews of Joany Jackman

and Terry Abshire and John Ezzell

about the DARPA research.

  •  Of course, for the interviews of Dr. Ezzell, we have the filmed question and answer that were made on these precise issues.
  • The documentary evidence points to these questions as some of the outstanding issue relating to this issue of the genetics and the Ames strain.
  •  Prior to 9/11, when did USAMRIID’s John Ezzell, the FBI’s anthrax expert who was assisted by Terry Abshire, who made a dried aerosol using Ames supplied by Bruce Ivins, send the dried spores to Johns-Hopkins Applied Physics he had made at the request of DARPA?  Did those spores show a silicon signature?

  •  The FBI removed the original of Lab Notebook 4010 and other notebooks from USAMRIID without leaving a copy.   Reporters should obtain the remaining 58 pages of Lab Notebook 4010 (relating to Flask1029)

  •  An email withheld for 2 years after Dr. Ivins death that shows Dr. Ivins knew that 5 ml of virulent Ames had been taken from Building 1412

  •  Why did the FBI let USAMRIID General John Parker falsely claim that USAMRIID did not make dried powder stand when the FBI and the scientists overseeing the investigation knew its own expert had made dried powdered aerosol using Ames?

  •  Will it take Congressional subpoena power to fill in the blanks in the email asking about weaponized anthrax that came to Detrick and then was shipped out and some was missing?

  •  Given that the FBI estimates that up to 377 had access required elimination (allowing for some duplication who had access in both 1425 and 1412), why did US Taylor think and falsely claim that only 100 needed to be eliminated — only those with access at Building 1425?  For him not to know that those with access only in Building 1412 had to be eliminated also leaves a gaping hole one could drive a cropduster through.

  •  When was the location of the flasks (initially there were two flasks) carefully whited out so as to change its location from Building 1412 to Building 1425?

  •  Who was Dr. Ivins writing about the Ames missing from building 1412 and the autoclaving of samples there?

  •  What happened to the other slant sent from Texas?

  •  Ivins notes that the original researcher who obtained the slants from Texas came to work for the CIA. When did he start working for the CIA?

  •  When did SRI first obtain virulent Ames and from whom?

  •  Where was the research on the effect of the corona plasma discharge and sonicator on Ames spores supplied by Bruce Ivins conducted for DARPA? Anywhere else? Where were aerosol studies done using dried powder?


Additional documentary sources:


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