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

Archive for May 19th, 2011

* Greg Gordon (McClatchy): the apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose … Stuart Jacobsen: it is “outrageous” that the scientific issues haven’t been addressed.

Posted by DXer on May 19, 2011

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the FBI has produced NO EVIDENCE that Dr. Bruce Ivins prepared the anthrax or mailed this letter

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 Greg Gordon writes for McClatchy Newspapers (5/19/11) …

  • Buried in FBI laboratory reports about the anthrax mail attacks that killed five people in 2001 is data suggesting that a chemical may have been added to try to heighten the powder’s potency, a move that some experts say exceeded the expertise of the presumed killer.
  • The lab data shows unusual levels of silicon and tin in anthrax powder from two of the five letters.
  • Those elements are found in compounds that could be used to weaponize the anthrax, enabling the lethal spores to float easily so they could be readily inhaled by the intended victims, scientists say.
  • The existence of the silicon-tin chemical signature offered investigators the possibility of tracing purchases of the more than 100 such chemical products available before the attacks, which might have produced hard evidence against Ivins or led the agency to the real culprit.
  • But the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.
  • The apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose.
  • A McClatchy analysis of the records also shows that other key scientific questions were left unresolved and conflicting data wasn’t sorted out when the FBI declared Ivins the killer shortly after his July 29, 2008, suicide.
  • Several scientists and former colleagues of Ivins argue that he was a career biologist who probably lacked the chemistry knowledge and skills to concoct a silicon-based additive.
    • “There’s no way that an individual scientist can invent a new way of making anthrax using silicon and tin,” said Stuart Jacobsen, a Texas-based analytical chemist for an electronics company who’s closely studied the FBI lab results. “It requires an institutional effort to do this, such as at a military lab.”
    • Martin Hugh-Jones, a world-renowned anthrax expert who teaches veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University, called it “just bizarre” that the labs found both tin and silicon.
    • “You have two elements at abnormally high levels,” Hugh-Jones said. “That reduces your probability to a very small number that it’s an accident.”
  • FBI officials say it’s all a moot point, because they’re positive they got the right man in Ivins.
  • However, the FBI never found hard evidence that Ivins produced the anthrax or that he scrawled threatening letters seemingly meant to resemble those of Islamic terrorists. Or that he secretly took late-night drives to Princeton, N.J., to mail them.
  • Jacobsen, the Texas chemist, suspects that the silica pockets represented excess material that went through a chemical reaction and hardened before it could penetrate the spores.
  • Tufts University chemistry professor David Walt, who led the panel’s analysis of the silicon issue, said in a phone interview that “there was not enough silicon in the spores that could account for the total silicon content of the bulk analysis.”
  • Jacobsen called it “outrageous” that the scientific issues haven’t been addressed … the FBI have every resource available to them,” he said.

“And yet they have no compelling explanation

for not properly analyzing the biggest forensic clue

in the most important investigation

the FBI labs had ever gotten in their history.”

  • As a result of Ivins’ death and the unanswered scientific issues, Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, is investigating the FBI’s handling of the anthrax inquiry.
  • In a chapter in a recently updated book, “Microbial Forensics,” Velsko wrote that the anthrax “must have indeed been produced under an unusual set of conditions” to create such high silicon counts. That scenario, he cautioned, might not be “consistent with the prosecution narrative in this case.”
  • Peter Weber, Velsko’s co-researcher, said the academy panel’s focus on the conflicting data “raises a big question,” and “it’d be really helpful for closure of this case if that was resolved.” He suggested that further “micro-analysis” with a highly sophisticated electron microscope could “pop the question marks really quickly.”

read the entire article at … http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/05/19/114467/fbi-lab-reports-on-anthrax-attacks.html#ixzz1MpvbxjeN

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see also …

* the GAO review of the FBI’s anthrax investigation has begun … a report is expected to be issued by September 20, 2011 … *** UPDATE: a series of fascinating comments to this post suggest many pertinent questions that GAO might want to consider

* a recent article by Greg Gordon raises the potentially critical importance of b. subtilis contaminant found in the Brokaw and New York Post anthrax letters … not connected to Dr. Ivins … and substantially ignored by the FBI

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LMW COMMENT … 

Over two years ago, I proposed three possible scenarios to explain the FBI’s failure to make a compelling case against Dr. Bruce Ivins. Since then, nothing has changed. There are still these three 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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* AP: statements by scientists in Florida court case raise doubts regarding the FBI conclusion that Dr. Bruce Ivins prepared the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks

Posted by DXer on May 19, 2011

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has the FBI told the whole truth about their case against Dr. Ivins?

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Curt Anderson writes for AP (5/19/11) …

  • The widow of a Florida tabloid photo editor who died in the 2001 anthrax mailings is casting fresh doubt on the FBI’s conclusion that a lone federal scientist staged the attacks, according to new documents filed in her lawsuit against the government.
  • Maureen Stevens’ change of position is based on sworn statements made by two of the scientist’s superiors who said they don’t believe Bruce Ivins was solely to blame for the attacks that killed five people, including her husband Robert Stevens, and sickened 17 others in fall 2001.
  • The statements raising questions about the FBI’s conclusions were made in depositions earlier this year by W. Russell Byrne and Gerard Andrews, who oversaw Ivins’ work at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. Byrne was chief of bacteriology at the biodefense lab from 1998 to early 2000 and Andrews held the post from 2000 to 2003.
  • According to court documents, Byrne told Stevens’ attorneys
    • that Ivins “did not have the lab skills to make the fine powdered anthrax used in the letters”
    • and that it would have been difficult for Ivins to do the work at night undetected.
    • Byrne said others would have noticed the unusual use of equipment and supplies because of the hazardous microbes involved in their work.
  • Andrews, the other superior, told lawyers
    • it would have taken Ivins six months to a year to refine the anthrax spores used in the deadly mailings, instead of the roughly 20 hours the FBI found he spent at night in the lab.
    • Andrews also said Ivins did not have the expertise to do the work and some of the necessary equipment wasn’t available at Fort Detrick at the time.
  • The FBI has repeatedly insisted that Ivins is responsible for the deadly anthrax. “The Amerithrax investigation found that the late Dr. Bruce Ivins acted alone in planning and executing these attacks,” the FBI statement said.
  • Trial is currently scheduled for Dec. 5 before Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley in West Palm Beach. Hurley has refused U.S. government attempts to get the case dismissed, and his rulings were upheld by an appeals court.

read the entire article at … http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/nation/7571742.html#ixzz1MoxdwCNy

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