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

* The 2010 Amerithrax Investigative Summary only mentions subtilis in connection with a foreign born scientist alleged to be affiliated with the al-Qaeda and Answer al-Islam anthrax program. Given that the Summary was supposed to summarize the investigation for decision-makers, why didn’t the summary address the potentially crucial issue of this bacteriological contaminant and detail the extent of searches conducted?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 22, 2011

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LMW COMMENT … 

The FBI has, appropriately throughout the course of its investigation, released only that information it chose to release, in furtherance of its investigative objectives.

However, the rules should change once the FBI has reached a conclusion and closed the case, which it did beginning in August 2008. At this point, Americans deserve answers to all of the open questions that reduce confidence in the FBI’s assertion that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator of the anthrax attacks, or even proof that he was involved at all.

All of the questions raised on this blog and elsewhere which raise serious doubts as to whether Ivins could have or did prepare the anthrax, and whether he could have or did mail the letters, need to be answered.

It is my view, shared by many on this blog, that the FBI’s publicly presented case against Dr. Ivins is clearly bogus:

  • no evidence, 
  • no witnesses, 
  • an impossible timeline, 
  • science that proves innocence instead of guilt. 

So what really happened? And why doesn’t the FBI offer America a credible story?

As regular readers of this blog well know, I can imagine only 3 possible “actual” scenarios …

  1. The FBI has more evidence against Dr. Ivins but is, for some undisclosed reason, withholding that evidence … POSSIBLE BUT NOT SO LIKELY
  2. The FBI, despite the most expensive and extensive investigation in its history, has not solved the case and has no idea who prepared and mailed the anthrax letters that killed 5 Americans in 2001 … EVEN LESS LIKELY
  3. The FBI knows who did it (not Dr. Ivins) but is covering up the actual perpetrators, for undisclosed reasons …THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO
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38 Responses to “* The 2010 Amerithrax Investigative Summary only mentions subtilis in connection with a foreign born scientist alleged to be affiliated with the al-Qaeda and Answer al-Islam anthrax program. Given that the Summary was supposed to summarize the investigation for decision-makers, why didn’t the summary address the potentially crucial issue of this bacteriological contaminant and detail the extent of searches conducted?”

  1. DXer said

    We now know that the reason that the Amerithrax Investigative Summary did not discuss whether swabbing of suspect labs for the subtilis contaminant was done is because it was NOT done. This was held secret for the past half decade.

    Dr. Ivins is still dead. In June 2008, knowing that he had recently attempted suicide, they swabbed him for DNA to test against the semen on panties that they found he had thrown out. They told him they were going to call his wife and children to testify. No need to do the scientific analysis so long as the guy you are accusing kills himself so you don’t actually have to support for your theory.

    It is time for Dr. Majidi to urge the FBI disclose all the scientific reports — including traditional forensic analyses that were exculpatory of Dr. ivins. Because his claim that the FBI has done so is provably untrue.

    • DXer said

      The FBI already had Dr. Ivins’ DNA from a cup Bruce had used. The swabbing of him in June served only to pressurize a fragile, troubled and very depressed man.

  2. Old Atlantic said

    Shoe theory. Suppose the strange subitils was on Ivins’ shoes and when he took off his shoes to enter the BSL3 he rubbed some on his hands. If it was on his shoes, then he would have tracked it all over the lab, his car and his home.

    • Old Atlantic said

      Also, do they wash their hands at some point coming into the BSL3?

    • Old Atlantic said

      Have they thought about tracking in microbes in as well as tracking out? Is that part of their thinking in designing the protocol for the BSL3?

    • Old Atlantic said

      Strange Subtilis Strain Shoe String Theory.

      If Ivins got it on his shoes on the bottom it would rub off long before he got to the BSL3. It would be in his car and Ft. Detrick outside the BSL3.

      In Shoe String Theory, the strange subtilis strain landed on the strings of Ivins’ shoes. There it stayed until Ivins untied his shoe laces before going into the BSL3.

      Of course, Ivins had to be careful not to rub it off of the lab shoes he put on so it didn’t end up being transferred from those lab shoes to the floor of the lab.

  3. Old Atlantic said

    What medicines was Ivins taking? Lithium for bipolar disorder for example makes the person thirsty and they drink more water and urinate more frequently.

    http://www.psycheducation.org/depression/meds/lithium.html

    “Because lithium is very similar to sodium (a “salt”), taking lithium is like taking small salt tablets: it makes you thirsty. If you don�t drink more water than usual, you can have dry mouth. But when you do drink more, you will also urinate more. During the day this is usually not a problem, but some people have to get up at night to urinate when they did not need to before. Most people taking lithium will notice these effects somewhat, more so at higher doses.”

    Whatever he was on, did it cause thirst and drinking more liquids?

  4. Old Atlantic said

    If Ivins himself didn’t bring the strange subtilis spore on his hands into the BSL3 and into the growth flask of the letter anthrax how did it get there?

    How could strange subtilis waft through the air through all of Ft. Detrick, into the BSL3 in 1425 and then in there deposit itself only on the growth flask used for the letter anthrax?

    If someone else carried in that subtilis it would have ended up in other places than just the specific flask used to grow the anthrax that went into the letters.

    Thus the FBI is reduced to Ivins bringing it in. Since had to change clothes before entering that reduces him to bringing in a few spores on his hands. That requires that he not have washed his hands from the time he got the strange subtilis on them somewhere outside Ft. Detrick and then drove and entered Ft. Detrick and that he then didn’t use a rest room or wash his hands from the time he got the subtilis on his hands outside Ft. Detrick to the time he prepared the flask for growing the anthrax spores, a period of hours.

  5. Old Atlantic said

    If you start with 1000 spores subtilis contamination in the growth flask, and 1 ml of anthrax, 1 billion spores, and grow by a factor of 1000, you get 1 million subtilis spores and 1 trillion anthrax spores, a ratio of 1 part per million of subtilis.

    The FBI scenario is that Ivins went out into the woods and put his finger on the strange subtilis strain. Let us say at that point he had 10,000 spores on his finger.

    Then he held his finger in the air and walked back to his car, opened the door without touching his subtilis finger to it, and then carefully avoided putting his finger on the steering wheel where it would rub the subtilis off and deplete his precious store of 10,000 strange subtilis strain. So he drove back to Ft. Detrick with one of his fingers in the air off the steering wheel. (Presumably he has standard transmission.)

    Ivins drove to Ft. Detrick straight away, not home to use the rest room and wash his hands. Then he got to Ft. Detrick and didn’t use the rest room but instead he went directly to the BS301 changing room. Then he took off his ordinary clothes and put on the lab clothes without touching his finger to anything. This included taking off his shoes without touching his finger on the shoes.

    Then he entered the B301 with his finger in the air and carefully touched and rubbed the bottom of the empty growth flask to make sure it got all the spores left after all this. Ivins had succeeded in putting the strange subtilis from the woods into the beaker and not getting any into the BSL3. Of course, after he grew it and it increased by 1000 times, he had to avoid leaving any in the BSL3. (But that is another story.)

    At this point, he could go to the bathroom and wash his hands. What a relief.

  6. P.NJ said

    The FBI says there was B. Anthracis and B. Subtilis in the attack letters. Well, where is the report on the genetic breakdown of the Subtilis? They went to great lengths to genetically decode Antracis, but if Subtilis has a unique DNA signature, combining that with the Anthracis genetics would drastically narrow down the lab source. Plus, it’s pretty clear that laboratories such as Battelle, which use Ames Anthracis and B. Subtilis routinely for defensive purposes (testing equipment, etc) would be the sole source of the anthrax – ie, Battelle uses the same vials to store Anthracis after they’ve made Subtilis. Both substances are produced routinely at Battelle in W Jefferson OH for constant testing purposes, and it’s clear that the subtilis would be in the anthrax letters only by mistake. B Subtilis is the greatest evidence pointing to the Battelle lab and the tubes used interchangeably to store both products for testing purposes. Also, NAS concluded RMR 1029 is not the proximate source of the anthrax.

  7. Nitrogen said

    Old Atlantic

    Regarding the Subtilis found in the media letters but not found in the senators letters.

    The following links to research on Bacillus spores shows 2 things. The first is that that subtilis spores are smaller than anthracis spores. The second is that subtilis spores do change their size by shedding moisture and absorbing moisture. The more moisture the larger the subtilis spore.

    The first article was published in 2006 titled “Difference between the spore sizes of Bacillus anthracis and other Bacillus species”, show that Subtilis spores are considerably smaller than anthrax spores. The full article can be downloaded at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.03111.x/pdf

    The second article was published in 2003 titled “Size changes of Bacillus spores could lead to simpler faster anthrax detector”, shows that subtilis spores can change their size by shedding moisture.
    http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2003/02/10_spores.shtml

    Since centrifugation sorts molecules by the factors of size, shape, density, and mass any subtilis spores contaminating a batch of anthrax spores would likely end up in the darker end of the pellet produced by centrifugation.

    This could help explain why only the media letters were contaminated with subtilis spores.

    Also several things that are very interesting to note in the first study “Difference between the spore sizes of Bacillus anthracis and other Bacillus species”.

    1. In the Materials and Methods section they list the strains of anthrax and subtilis used in the study. They list one of the strains of anthrax used as

    “(ii) B. anthracis USAMRIID ba 1029, isolated in 1963 in Albia, Iowa;”

    Which raises the question is USAMRIID ba 1029 the same as RMR-1029 and if so how did it get to Texas in the 1980s and how many people had access to USAMRIID ba 1029.

    They also list one of the strains of subtilis used as B. subtilis 1031.

    2. The work was completed at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

    • DXer said

      All science stuff goes over my head but I find your post fascinating, especially as to the subtilis 1031.

      From reading the 302s, I am advised that in fact there is no overarching label for designating samples — but that each researcher is responsible for his own system and will be quite rigorous within their own labeling. (As Dr. Ivins was).

      For example, Dr. Ivins had Flask 1029 and Flask 1030. Both Ames. Did he have a Flask 1031 that was subtilis? Arthur F, thanked by the researchers, is a highly respected and experienced anthrax researcher in Bacteriology and worked on the DARPA project that is described in numerous pages among the FBI production including the peer-reviewed article on nanoemulsions. He was the one from whom the 16-pages involving the research with Tarek was faxed in February 2005. (The memo notes that he had obtained the correspondence with the Michigan university researchers from Bruce Ivins).

      I have emailed the corresponding author of the Edgewood study to ask the source of the Ames 1029 and the 1031 subtilis.

      Decontamination agents were tested at Edgewood, I believe, in 2001.

    • Old Atlantic said

      Thanks for the information.

    • Old Atlantic said

      One scenario (smuggle scenario)

      a) 1 ml was smuggled out

      b) they first ran subtilis by itself,

      c) then they grew from the 1ml a flask worth

      d) the first letters were partly centrifuged and contained subtilis

      e) the second letters were centrifuged more.

      scenario two (subtilis contaminated work area)

      a) The work area was totally contaminated with subtilis from prior runs, etc.

      b) the first run they did picked up subtilis from this contaminated work area.

      c) insufficient centrifuging didn’t remove the subtilis from the letter runs.

      d) the second run also picked up subtilis from the contaminated work area.

      e) but the second run was centrifuged more and eliminated it, or the amounts there would require more samplings to find them.

      Both scenarios one and two would rule out Ivins. We know the BSL3 was not a work area contaminated with that strain of subtilis.

    • Nitrogen said

      Following the finding of anthrax at the University at Storrs Ct. the anthrax found was ruled out as being connected to the mailings because it came from a cow that died in 1963 and the Ames Strain was found in 1981.

      Got to wonder what the tests showed for the anthrax found at the University. Was it B. anthracis USAMRIID ba 1029, isolated in 1963 in Albia, Iowa.

      • DXer said

        Where did the other Ames slant go? Ivins only had 1 but two were sent to GBK.

        http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/2001/11/29/2001-11-29_uconn_lab_anthrax_probe.html

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

        When Dr. Knudsen faxed a copy of his file to an ISU microbiology professor (JD) in Fall 2001 — while people were figuring out the origin — the fax line read AFRRI (JD provided me a copy of the fax). Which I understood to be NMRC in Bethesda, Maryland.)

        Nitrogen, is there a source that shows that the cow was thought to have died in 1963 — rather than merely the 1960s? Who does GBK was responsible for the anthrax mailings of Fall 2001?

        What was the source of the Connecticut anthrax? Was the Connecticut anthrax really 1029 Ames provided by the Navy? Did it really derive from the cow in Texas?

        What did the testing show? Was it tested for the 4 morphs?

        UCONN LAB ANTHRAX PROBE

        By GREG B. SMITH DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

        Thursday, November 29th 2001, 2:24AM

        The FBI has opened a criminal investigation into whether cow blood samples believed to contain anthrax were mishandled at a college lab in Connecticut.

        Investigators want to know why the University of Connecticut at Storrs did not destroy two sealed vials containing blood from a cow that died of anthrax in the 1960s.

        Someone tipped the FBI to the presence of the vials at the school’s pathobiology lab Monday, a month after university officials said they believed they’d destroyed all anthrax samples on campus.

        To date, investigators have no reason to believe the anthrax samples at UConn-Storrs have anything to do with the Nov. 21 anthrax death of 94-year-old widow Ottilie Lundgren in Oxford, Conn.

        The college is some 70 miles east of Oxford.

        “It does appear to be a side issue,” said FBI Connecticut spokeswoman Lisa Bull, who confirmed that the bureau was looking into the handling of the vials but declined further comment.

        The FBI, state police and UConn police sealed off the lab, sent the vials off for testing and began questioning lab workers, including Herbert Van Kruiningen, acting head of the university’s pathobiology and veterinary science program.

        School officials emphasized that the vials do not contain anthrax spores that could be inhaled and that any anthrax that might be found would be of the less dangerous cutaneous, or skin, variety.

        But officials wanted to know why the vials hadn’t been destroyed.

        On Oct. 31, after visiting a conference where federal health officials recommended destroying all samples of anthrax and other deadly diseases, a university official issued a memo ordering that all such samples on campus be destroyed.

        University spokeswoman Karen Grava said that some samples at the lab were destroyed, but not the two vials.

        “The criminal investigation is going to tell us exactly what happened. We don’t have the results of that yet,” she said. “We don’t think the vials have ever been opened, but we just want to make sure.”

        • DXer said

          How does that work. Destroy all anthrax samples first. Then a few months later buy a refrigerator and start collecting all the samples that weren’t destroyed?

          WAR ON TERRORISM; UConn dean says test tubes don’t contain anthrax spores
          [All Editions]
          Boston Herald – Boston, Mass.
          Author: Michael Lasalandra
          Date: Nov 29, 2001

          All anthrax samples at the university were destroyed on Oct. 1 at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, [Dean Kirklyn Kerr] said. Test results are due back today to find out for sure if they contain anthrax and, if so, whether the anthrax is still viable.

        • DXer said

          Author: MICHAEL P. MAYKO
          Date: December 1, 2001
          Publication: Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, CT)

          Two vials seized from the refrigerator of a University of Connecticut graduate student have tested positive for anthrax.

          Michael J. Wolf, who heads FBI operations in Connecticut, said that additional tests on the bacteria will be performed by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases Laboratories at Fort Dietrich, Md.

          Wolf said the purpose of those tests will be to determine if the samples match the deadly anthrax spores being sent

          Question: What did the testing show? What strain was it?

        • DXer said

          This refers to “the late 1960s” and blood samples from “an animal, most likely an anthrax-infected cow that had died.” What strain did testing reveal it to be?

          UConn anthrax eluded 1st sweep

          Author: KEN DIXON
          Date: November 29, 2001
          Publication: Connecticut Post (Bridgeport, CT)
          Article ID: 1229230

          Dixon.connpost@snet.net

          STORRS — University of Connecticut officials overlooked two test tubes labeled “anthrax” last month during a search-and-destroy mission to rid campus laboratories of potentially dangerous material, they admitted Wednesday.

          University officials said the two vials date back to at least the late 1960s and contain blood samples taken during a necropsy of an animal, most likely an anthrax-infected cow that had died.

        • DXer said

          The Connecticut anthrax appears to have collected by Herbert Van Kruiningen, who had collected the samples of anthrax-infected cow tissue in 1968.

          But thanks for raising another thought-provoking question.

          More broadly, it is bizarre that the USG bases its accusations against Ivins substantially on a genetic analysis narrowing the field to “up to 377” (at USAMRIID). The USG had been behind the national destruction of anthrax samples in Fall 2001. If Ivins had supplied university researchers Ames in 2001 — which he provably did — wouldn’t the USG have directed it to be destroyed?

          ANOTHER SIDE TO ANTHRAX ; EXPERTS: DESTROYING SAMPLES MAY HAMPER RESEARCH
          [7 SPORTS FINAL Edition]
          Hartford Courant – Hartford, Conn.
          Author: WILLIAM HATHAWAY; Courant Staff Writer
          Date: Dec 3, 2001
          Start Page: A.1
          Section: MAIN (A)
          Text Word Count: 998
          Abstract (Document Summary)

          [Herbert Van Kruiningen], who had collected the samples of anthrax-infected cow tissue himself in 1968, apparently was not required to tell school officials that he had destroyed the specimens; it is unclear whether he did so. Saturday he declined to comment because of an ongoing investigation into why two vials of anthrax found at UConn last week escaped destruction.

          Microbiologists say researchers at Iowa State University in Ames overreacted when they destroyed their stock of anthrax in October, apparently with the blessing of the FBI. Investigators had identified the strain of anthrax used in the recent attacks as the “Ames” strain — a particularly virulent strain isolated in Ames, Iowa, decades earlier. Iowa State administrators feared that their anthrax might be stolen by terrorists.

          [Martin Hugh-Jones] notes that researchers such as Paul Keim at the University of Northern Arizona have identified segments of the anthrax genetic code that mutate at certain rates. Knowing the mutation rates on segments of anthrax DNA, investigators could reconstruct the origins of a strain of anthrax bacteria used in terrorist attacks — but only if they have access to reference specimens from laboratories with which to compare them.

        • Nitrogen said

          The day that they found the anthrax at the University is the day they assigned RED Team. Taken the local FBI agents out of the loop.

          http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/newFBIteamanthrax.html

        • DXer said

          No harm in having fresh eyes on a matter. The question is what strain it tested to be. The doctor who obtained it from the dead cow in 1968 might be able to say. No reason to think it was a genetic match to what was mailed — or was Ames.

      • DXer said

        It turns out that the CDC had not ordered the destruction. This was something he thought to do himself.

        What strains did he have?

        Note that Martin Hugh-Jones is making very sound points 10 years ago — as he is today.

        Another Side To Anthrax
        Experts: Destroying Samples May Hamper Research
        December 03, 2001|By WILLIAM HATHAWAY; Courant Staff Writer

        The uproar over the handling of anthrax samples at the University of Connecticut in Storrs may accelerate the destruction of anthrax specimens across the country, jeopardizing future research and hindering the search for clues to the recent anthrax attacks.

        Even before a graduate student apparently stashed vials of anthrax slated for destruction, university and laboratory administrators had a strong incentive to destroy stocks of anthrax, which are becoming major regulatory liabilities and security headaches, they say.

        But the wholesale destruction of anthrax specimens, particularly older samples such as the 1968 blood specimen discovered at UConn, “would be an immense blunder,” said Martin Hugh-Jones, a professor of epidemiology and a specialist in anthrax at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
        Locked within bacteria in old samples such as those discovered at a UConn lab are the genetic histories of anthrax bacteria, said Hugh-Jones, whose laboratory works with the notorious Ames strain implicated in the bioterrorist attacks.

        Specimens such as the frozen UConn sample taken from the blood of an infected cow in 1968 are genetic “time machines” that could help pinpoint the origins of the anthrax that killed 94-year old Ottilie Lundgren of Oxford and four other victims of inhalation anthrax, he said.

        Law enforcement officials say they do not suspect anyone at UConn revived the 30-year-old bacterial samples at UConn to produce anthrax spores that have been used to kill five people since October.

        But what happened at UConn illustrates the pressures to get rid of specimens, even if they may have future value.

        An Old Freezer

        In early October, Herbert Van Kruiningen, director of UConn’s pathobiology laboratory, ordered the destruction of the lab’s anthrax samples, found in an old malfunctioning freezer. Van Kruiningen’s directive did not come at the recommendation of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as university officials originally reported.

        Van Kruiningen, who had collected the samples of anthrax-infected cow tissue himself in 1968, apparently was not required to tell school officials that he had destroyed the specimens; it is unclear whether he did so. Saturday he declined to comment because of an ongoing investigation into why two vials of anthrax found at UConn last week escaped destruction.

  8. Old Atlantic said

    If 1 liter = 1 trillion spores, then 1 milliliter equals 1 billion spores.

    A person might pick up how many spores of subtilis on their hands or clothes? 10,000? 1 million?

    If growth is started with 1 ml of anthrax and 10,000 spores of subtilis, and each grow by a factor of 1000, one has 1 liter of anthrax and 10 million spores of subtilis. The 10 million spores would be 1/100 of 1 ml.

    If someone grew subtilis and did not wash the equipment, and left 1 ml of subtilis in it, and added 1 ml of anthrax, then they would get 50/50 subtilis and anthrax.

    ==

    Suppose someone takes out a tiny sample of anthrax from a US lab and brings it to your terrorist garage/barn setup.

    That anthrax is precious. It is not like you have a liter flask to use and other production coming along on a regular basis each year like Ivins would have.

    So you don’t want to mess up with your anthrax. So you use part of it to grow. But first you test out your procedure with subtilis. You don’t want to waste your chance to grow the tiny bit of anthrax that someone smuggled out to you.

    So you use part of your 1 ml of anthrax and you first do your subtilis run because you want to be sure you don’t lose this precious anthrax that was smuggled out.

    Are you going to clean your equipment off with anti-bacterial soap? Do you want to put your precious anthrax onto a surface you just cleaned with anti-bacterial soap? Won’t it start killing your precious fraction of 1 ml of anthrax? You can’t just go to the storeroom to get more anthrax.

    So you don’t clean off the prior run at all. You dump it out, but you don’t even want to wash it with chlorinated water. You are superstitious. People can be like this after a trial run of something they don’t know will work.

    After your first run of anthrax growth, you have a liter of anthrax. Now you can clean your equipment, who cares. You now have the liter flask in the storeroom. So you can clean the equipment if you want to. Make it shine that a US marine would be proud.

    • Old Atlantic said

      If you are a lab tech for al Qaeda and you waste the smuggled out 1 ml of anthrax, you may find yourself volunteered to be a suicide bomber.

  9. Old Atlantic said

    How fast do subtilis and anthrax grow in comparison to each other? I thought I saw anthrax grew faster or was more reliable in growth rate? Also they claim short time period runs by Ivins.

    Subtilis takes longer to get started from paper linked to by Dxer?

    If someone had subtilis on their clothes how much add?

    Ivins had to change clothes to get to BSL3. How did Ivins keep subtilis on his clothes to contaminate the beaker it was grown in?

    If Ivins changed to lab clothes before entering he could not have very much subtilis on his clothes or shoes. Shoes seem most likely place to have any amount of subtilis. Of course, he would have to stick his foot into the beaker.

    Do these guys wash their hands before they enter the suite?

    How does the person pick up subtilis on outside? At their sink at home? On a door knob?

    So this subtilis just stays on your hand for hours until you touch the flask? The inside of the flask?

    If you put in a milliliter of anthrax to start the growth, that is how much more than subtilis transferred from your hand? After you have been in the base for a while and after you change clothes to enter BSL3?

    If it was from environment, isn’t it more likely to be outside a BSL3 it was grown? Like in some barn in Florida? Or in Afghanistan?

    If someone left subtilis from a prior run wouldn’t they leave a lot more than what a person’s hand transfers?

    So isn’t a prior run from stock of subtilis more likely?

    The linked paper shows subtilis accumulates in significant amounts only after 3 days.

    So as a ratio to anthrax won’t that be too slow if Ivins was growing for a single day or two in the BSL3?

    So it seems more likely it was subtilis from a prior run with no clean up at all between runs or if environment it was not in a BSL3 but in a garage or barn and no one put on different clothes, etc. Instead the subtilis was right in the garage/barn with the anthrax growth flask.

  10. Old Atlantic said

    At what stage did this subtilis have to be added? During growth? Or after growth?

    The amount of subtilis in the letters is more than post growth contamination would produce? So it had to be added as a contaminant before growth? So that the subtilis grew along with the anthrax to produce the amount of subtilis in the letters?

    I would conjecture it had to be there before growth of the anthrax. That means any saving by Ivins of Dugway materials not discarded would not explain the subtilis in the first letters.

    If you centrifuged already grown anthrax in a flask that had subtilis contamination from your hand touching it, it would not be enough subtilis to account for the letters (under this hypothesis). Thus the subtilis was on the equipment used to grow the anthrax before the anthrax in the first letters was grown.

    This implies two separate growths and separate storage if they existed both together prior to the first mailing.

    However, what makes the most sense is that the second one was grown after the first and likely grown after the first mailing on the same equipment.

    This appears to rule Ivins out because the second mailings would have required running growth of anthrax during week days during the business day for a week or more and that would have been remembered when the letter anthrax came in to the same lab a few weeks later.

    • DXer said

      No purpose is served by conjecture of any sort.

      The task at hand is for documents to be produced.

    • Old Atlantic said

      The morphs and subtilis work together against the FBI theory. That is why they keep one of them but not the other. The logic of them both combined works against the FBI theory.

      The morphs show, according to the FBI, that the letter anthrax was not partial runs that went into RMR-1029 but instead were from runs done after RMR-1029 was assembled.

      The subtilis whether from a prior run or from the environment shows it was not done at Ft. Detrick, because such subtilis is not stored there nor does it contaminate other runs or flasks that have been tested for it.

      Thus the subtilis and morphs together show that the letter anthrax was grown after RMR-1029 was assembled, and then grown some place other than Ft. Detrick. Either a place with that subtilis as a stock or a place where that subtilis could contaminate the equipment from the environment before growth.

  11. DXer said

    Was Edgewood swabbed for the genetically distinctive subtilis? I believe decontamination agents were tested there in 2001.

    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:8R3uNBaNOy8J:www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc%3FLocation%3DU2%26doc%3DGetTRDoc.pdf%26AD%3DADA483822+%22particle+sizer%22+Detrick+powder&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESj1U3vT84ATICAssn_jRcGrKHjcp-ceHzgUlg5vBfsVWvvPSQXvWhQ4rVuFQ1nB1Jj767SklOJUPnzquz3pGLAWJm4_rGZFv7KVzWyVD4t4bRWJpHQ_du0KTsX9MgiybKOmhb_R&sig=AHIEtbSJSwl3RMBf59p1JZT4-3uMiNjiaA

    AN IMPROVED METHOD FOR THE PRODUCTION OF Bacillus subtilis var. niger SPORES FOR
    USE AS A SIMULANT FOR BIOLOGICAL WARFARE AGENTS- QUALITY ANALYSIS

    U.S. Army, Edgewood Chemical and Biological Command, APGEA, MD.

    ABSTRACT

    Standards for proliferation of Biological Warfare (BW) agent simulants for use in development of
    detection and identification equipment are essential. Lack of standardized protocols for growth,
    processing, and product characterization will likely lead to variances in growth parameters and could
    induce changes in simulant characteristics that may affect instruments being developed. We have
    evaluated thirteen media purported to grow spores against several criteria, including growth time, ease of
    processing, reproducibility, and component definition. The goal is to have a chemically defined medium
    that will produce whole bacillus spores in the least amount of time. Three media were selected for further
    testing. Spores produced from each medium were tested for viability counts, purity, particle size, identity,
    and appearance under electron microscope. The spores exhibited similar viability counts per dry weight,
    do not contain extraneous organisms, and are virtually free of debris. Particle size is comparable when
    grown on each medium and spores are easily aerosolized and measured by an Aerodynamic Particle Sizer
    (APS). Identity testing using infrared spectroscopy and PCR indicate positive identity with no major
    interference factors. Data indicates suitability for use in BW agent detector development.

    Bioterrorism is a real and deadly threat in today’s society. The proven use of microorganisms as
    weapons has lead to a much greater awareness of a constant, until recently, solely Joint Forces mission;
    Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Defense Preparedness. The deadliest method of anthrax
    infection is through inhalation of aerosolized spores1 and the most useful way to test for this type of threat
    is through the use of simulant non-pathogenic spores. Bacillus subtilis var. niger (formerly Bacillus
    globigii, a.k.a. BG) is the simulant of choice used to model anthrax.

    It is essential that the R & D community have a quality, reproducible, standardized simulant spore organism at their disposal in order to establish efficacy of emerging and existing protection, detection and decontamination technologies.

    • Old Atlantic said

      They should try to identify the strains of subtilis they used, maybe they know one already in that work and compare it to that in the NY Post and Brokaw letter. Does this subtilis strain have a name? The strain is different not just some DNA within a strain?

  12. Old Atlantic said

    Suppose an FBIer tries to explain the subtilis in the first mailing but not the second as follows.

    1] (Review) Ivins grew both batches at Ft. Detrick quickly and the first had environmental subtilis but the other didn’t.

    Then the odds are 50/50 each time at Ft. Detrick and so it should be in other batches of subtilis and anthrax but it has never shown up.

    2] The first and second letters were grown separately but before 9/11. The first ones sent were grown somewhere else.

    Refutation: That would mean they were grown at Dugway. But the Dugway only batch don’t have all 4 morphs.

    3] OK, the second batch were from Dugway and the first batch with subtilis were from a regrowth by Ivins at Ft. Detrick.

    Refutation: The Dugway still don’t have all 4 morphs. This is the FBI theory that Dugway can’t be the source.

    4] So back to Ivins grew both after RMR-1029 was created and one got the subtilis and one didn’t.

    But then it is a 50/50 chance to get this subtilis at Ft. Detrick and it has never shown up.

    ==

    What does work? Someone got the anthrax from RMR-1029 at Ft. Detrick or another site it was sent to, and they grew the batch that contains the foreign subtilis. Likely they grew both batches.

  13. Old Atlantic said

    The subtilis tends to be a problem for any scenario for the FBI.

    Scenario 1: The person grew the anthrax in the second batch from scratch. The subtilis came from environment onto the equipment. For Ivins that is difficult between Sep 18 and Oct 9 2001.

    Scenario 2: All the anthrax was grown prior to Sep 1 2001 say. None of it contained subtilis. All they had to do was centrifuge and lyophilize it. The first batch the equipment had subtilis on it from environment. The second time it didn’t. But then he had to centrifuge and lyopholize in the lab. The former maybe, the latter is unlikely.

    Suppose scenario 2 was true. That shows there is a 1 out of 2 chance at Ft. Detrick to pick up this subtilis.

    So if scenario 2 is true, half the time you sample at Ft. Detrick you will get his strain of subtilis.

    Problem is, no time ever after many tries has any one ever found this strain of subtilis at Ft. Detrick. Therefore scenario 2 is rejected.

    Problem is that scenario 1 is also rejected.

    Either way it is a 50 percent chance to get subtilis each time at the Ft. Detrick environment for FBI theory and that probability is rejected by the multiple testing since for that strain of subtilis. FBI loses.

    • Old Atlantic said

      Wayne State is where Vahid got his Ph.D. in chemistry. They had people doing research in computational chemistry but Vahid chose analytic. Not saying analytic is bad, but its not the same as computational chemistry for the job of evaluating other people’s lab results.

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