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

* DXer to David Willman: I’m troubled that your AP feature does not reflect what we now know from the production on May 11, 2011 of the lab notes showing that Dr. Ivins’ time was not at all unexplained.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 6, 2011

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see also (just below this post) …

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DXer to David Willman (6/3/11) …

  • David, I found your book immensely readable and I admire your work ethic over the past 3 years.

But I’m troubled that …

your AP feature does not reflect

what we now know from the production on May 11, 2011

of the lab notes showing that Dr. Ivins’ time

was not at all unexplained.  

  • Patricia Fellows just spun it and then AUSA Rachel Lieber did also.
  • What is needed is to have your experts describe to you what is involved each of those numerous nights when the dead animals needed to be addressed.
  • Rachel Lieber just refused to give you the lab notebook pages — or else you didn’t ask.   Many more are still being withheld.
  • Your stature as an investigative journalist and status as a media requestor would get us the many additional lab notebooks being withheld by DOJ.”
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26 Responses to “* DXer to David Willman: I’m troubled that your AP feature does not reflect what we now know from the production on May 11, 2011 of the lab notes showing that Dr. Ivins’ time was not at all unexplained.”

  1. DXer said

    Discussion is not focused on the relevant material documentary evidence.

    For starters, here are some lab notebook pages explaining why Dr. Ivins was in the lab on each of those dates.

    It is absurd that these lab notebook pages have not been addressed by either book author — or even the Frontline/ProPublica/McClatchy group.

  2. DXer said

    USAMRIID has provided a document in response to myJune 3, 2011 FOIA request for Protocol/Completion Termination form for experiments in the FY 2001. The date December 2, 2001 appears although an associated note is redacted. After some redaction, in response to the question: “Will the research result in a publication or presentation?” the response was that it would not as “far as the CpG study” absent funding.

    The USAMRC person is proceeding with the redaction of the next notebook.

  3. BugMaster said

    Didn’t Ivin’s attorney Paul Kemp recently bring up the possiblity of Battelle being the source of the attack material?

    • DXer said

      If you ask Mr. Kemp he thinks your theory is viable (and explain it), he’ll say no — because it is a simple matter to show that someone did not make the two roundtrips from Ohio. There are two entirely different questions. One is whether the Silicon Signature points, for example, to use of a fermenter by Battelle and another is whether two round trips were made by a particular individual who is easily proved to have been at work. So to continue maintain the theory without any evidence of his whereabouts is not credible.

      BTW, Battelle is also across I-95 from Edgewood.

  4. DXer said

    When you buy the full background report, you see that the Apt # with which Walied N. Samarrai is associated is #4. That is the apartment associated with WTC 1993 bomber Ramzi Yousef and fugitive Abdul Yasin ($2 million reward).

    So it seems that Ramzi Yousef, on a mission from KSM, went to live in an apartment associated with a subtilis expert who in 2001 lived 3 miles from the Princeton mailbox.

    Who does subtilis expert Walied N. Samarrai think is responsible for the mailings? Does he think Ramzi’s uncle’s group is responsible? Does Professor Samarrai have any concern that developing a remote microbiology learning course for people in Afghanistan could be used for nefarious purposes?

    Does he agree with Ed Lake that it is 99% certain a first grader wrote the letters?

    The reports in Piscataway lists addresses at 261 Hampshire Ct and at 208 Elizabeth Ave.

  5. Old Atlantic said

    Building a documented detailed timeline of Ivins’ time and the references for it would be a valuable resource.

  6. BugMaster said

    You know, you really need to keep the lines of communications open.

    You know whom I am talking of, BTW.

    • BugMaster said

      Correction:

      You know who I am referring to.

      • DXer said

        Note that absence evidence of travel or proximity to the mailbox, any theory is pretty much dead in the water. So David points out a Battelle theory based on mailing by someone at that location sinks immediately given it would not be possible to travel from West Jefferson, Ohio. Alibis are easy to establish by email, phone calls, receipts etc. So at least as to a given known person, it is possible to ascertain their whereabouts if not too much time is passed. And even after time, the geographic distance from West Jefferson, Ohio tends to rule all those people out. It would be a simple matter to prove that someone travelled on those dates by asking co-workers and checking work records.

        • DXer said

          David explains iat p. 408 n. 17:

          “Commercial flights from Columbus, Ohio, nearest to Battelle, and Philadelphia or Newark would require about four hours of flying time. The round-trip drives from either of those destination airports to Princeton and back would take nearly two hours. Considering time spent getting to the first airport, going through security twice, renting a car — and waiting for the return flight elapse time of such a trip could span from eight to twelve hours or longer.”

          This is pretty much all it takes to rule out the suggestion a Battelle employee from Ohio is the mailer. Mr. Willman and Agent Montooth are on solid ground and having just these broad outlines weigh strongly against a mailer from West Jefferson. But of course the FBI would have much more available to them than these broad outlines in terms of alibi evidence that narrows the window and rules folks out. Softball games, bowling leagues, dentist appointments — there is a wide range of items that can rule out people at Battelle/Ohio given the long travel required.

          BTW, flights had barely begun flying on September 17, 2001. All flights had been suspended throughout the country. Local news reports would be worth checking to see if there was even flight service on 9/17 from Ohio to Philadelphia or Newark. It is totally unrealistic, though, to think that someone would make the long drive after the first drive — given a second absence would be even that much more conspicuous. Especially in Ohio, married folks are among the first that can be easily ruled out.

          Relevant documentary evidence as to other theories that anyone should want to see include the September 17, 2001 email from Bruce Ivins to Mara Linscott so that we can see what time it was sent. This is relevant to the period within which he could have travelled. Dr. Saathoff confirms that Dr. Ivins had his group therapy meeting in the early evening and everyone agrees he arrived at work at 7 a.m. the next day. Ed Lake has suggested that Dr. Ivins could have left at 11:30 p.m. and gotten back just before 7 a.m. in time to make it to work. This is implausible. There were three adults in the small houses. They all insist on his innocence. See the 302 interview statements being withheld.

          Mr. Willman and Mr. Lake’s apparently are comfortable in not seeking the 302 interview statements of Dr. Ivins’ alibi witnesses. They shouldn’t be. A failure to test a hypothesis is a weakness with respect to any theory. (The GAO will have access to the family’s 302 interview statements).

          For example, I’ve asked how Agent Bradley Garrett was able to exclude the subtilis expert, Walied Samarrai, who was in regular touch with the phone number of KSM’s nephew Ramzi Yousef throughout the month leading up to WTC 1993. It has been claimed that a skip tracer’s research showed he lived in Piscataway in 2001, which is about 3 miles from the mailbox. That information needed to be tested before I mentioned the theory. So I emailed him and asked. (I had emailed him years ago about the Silicon Signature but he didn’t respond). Mr. Miniters’ new book on KSM at your local bookstore describes how KSM went to school at North Carolina with another Yousef relative. What explanation does Ramzi Yousef (he’s at Colorado’s SuperMax) give for all the calls by Walied Samarrai the subtilis expert, to the Kensington Avenue apartment? If GAO were to ask Agent Montooth, he likely wouldn’t know.

        • BugMaster said

          Travel times don’t mean a damn thing if someone was already in the neighborhood.

        • DXer said

          BugMaster looks right past the documentary evidence showing that it was Dr. Ayman planned to develop anthrax to use against US targets.

          She had no information whatsoever about the travel of the individual from Battelle on 9/17 from 5 p.m. – 9/18.

          Sometimes when people don’t cite evidence it is because there is none.

        • BugMaster said

          A field trip to Covance in Denver, PA for Fort Detrick personnel could also have been a field trip for individuals from Battelle.

          The rabbits at Covance were used in a study of rpa-102.

          Battelle was the subcontractor for producing the rpa-102 clinical trials material at the time.

          Procedures that were in use at Covance would therefore have to be employed (at least in some manner) at Battelle at a later time.

          So it isn’t a real stretch to speculate that one or more Battelle employees was in Denver, PA on September 17th and 18th, 2001.

          If the FBI did inquire about specific itinerarys, do you think they realized if the answer was “Denver”, it meant Denver, PA (1 1/2 hours from Princeton) and not Denver, CO (a bit longer drive)?

        • DXer said

          The most rudimentary checking of your theory could have shown that the person of your interest reported for work in Ohio on both 9/17 and 10/8, 10/9. Indeed, it would have been a simple matter for you to email him and ask. You say absence of alibi “isn’t a real stretch.” Well, 2011 is not a time for speculation. The FBI’s withholding of highly material documents pales relative to your it “isn’t a real stretch” approach when you don’t even have means, motive or modus operandi nailed. And the “weaponization” schtick fails to understand that the simulant made for the Canadian study in early 2001 immediately dispersed across the room. That was made by mixing with silica in a dairy processor in Wisconsin. Microencapsulation is indicated but not “weaponization” (as the FBI scientists define it) for the purpose of floatability. This was just the Amerithrax scientists “straw man” argument that allowed things to be obfuscated (given it doesn’t make sense to explain the dual purpose served by microencapulation in this context). The importance of the Silicon Signature issue relates to its probativeness. The FBI anthrax expert had been making dried aerosols at Ft. Detrick for several years in the late 1990s, according to David W. The literature shows he regularly dealt with silica/ soil suspensions and Ames. Indeed, there was a tupperware of Ames in his unlocked refrigerator labeled as such. So David Willman, the FBI and others are fully justified in being dismissive (subject to checking, polygraphs and everything else that was done in an extensive investigation) of a Battelle theory positing a mailer from Ohio.

  7. DXer said

    No reporter or blogger bothered to request the autoclave ticker tape and instead they just made unsupported assumptions without having seen relevant documentary evidence.

  8. DXer said

    From a quick reading, I believe the Sacramento Bee, omits the claim about the hours and false sample. Maybe the error was caught while Dr. Willman has a chance to consult with experts on the new documents. (All we can ever ask is that DW address the issue — he certainly is not required to agree.)

    Mr. Willman’s copious notes establish an impressive range of interviews. Certain interviews that eluded him like the much-criticized FBI Director Mueller (who DW says was fixated on Hatfill), Senator Leahy and Diane and Andy Bevins would be difficult for anyone to obtain. He did not conduct any interviews relevant to Al Qaeda’s anthrax program.

    I read the book in reverse — I read the Appendix and footnotes where the merits are addressed first because that is the priority. There are lots of people who seem creepy to others. Here, a sounder analysis would have addressed whether his rage in July 2008 was due to the investigators falsely telling him Dr. Heine had said he did it. It would have considered the extent to which his rage was over the threatened humiliation about testing his DNA to compare against the panties and the threat to call him family to confirm he was unhappy. It was the psychiatrist Saathoff who later said Dr. Ivins was likely responsible who signed off on the tactics used against Dr. Ivins. Yet Dr. Saathoff never saw the lab notebook pages withheld until May 2011.

    People should always seek the best evidence relating to how someone spent his time on a particular night before making inferences based on events a quarter-century earlier.

  9. Lew Weinstein said

    In my experience, in labs I was once responsible for, each experiment had its own special protocol, prepared by the lead investigator, detailing all of the objectives and the steps that would be taken to achieve those objectives. These protocols had to be approved before the experiments could go forward. In our case, the review and pre-approval was by a standing faculty committee.

    At USAMRIID … was there a comparable process? … if so, who reviewed and approved Dr. Ivins’ experiments performed on 8/14, 8/21, 8/23, 9/4, 9/6, 9/18, 9/20, and 10/2/2001? … who was responsible to determine that the experiments were conducted in accordance with the approved protocol? … where are the records of such approvals before and after the experiments? … and … very important … why were the experiments suddenly postponed indefinitely on Oct 3rd?

  10. anonymous said

    http://www.fredericknewspost.com/sections/opinion/display_columnist.htm?StoryID=122028
    Barry Kissin
    Lessons from Amerithrax
    Originally published June 04, 2011

    According to the official account of the anthrax attacks of 2001, Bruce Ivins, senior biodefense researcher at Fort Detrick, single-handedly grew the trillions of anthrax spores involved, processed these spores into a dispersible dry powder, loaded the anthrax letters, then drove to Princeton, N.J., and deposited the letters in the same mailbox on two separate occasions about 20 days apart, all without anyone noticing anything out of the ordinary.
    As a result, the mute Army at Fort Detrick continues to face these kinds of questions: How could Ivins have maintained his clearance to work in high-containment military biolabs all the way into 2008? How could Ivins have managed to grow all the spores and processed them without drawing attention?

    Questions more deserving of answers, questions that our community’s biolab safety committee should pursue, include: As of 2001, did the Army at Fort Detrick have the equipment and expertise necessary to create the attack anthrax — anthrax powder of unprecedented purity and as dispersible as a gas? If not, who did have such equipment and expertise? Is there a legitimate purpose for such equipment and expertise? Has the program involving such equipment and expertise been terminated, or is the program being expanded as a part of the ongoing expansion taking place at Detrick?

    This past Wednesday, Paul Kemp, attorney for Ivins, gave a presentation to the lunchtime Rotary Club at Dutch’s Daughter. This is not the first time I have heard Kemp demolish the case against Ivins. Kemp describes in detail item after item in the government’s case, which clearly amounts to fabrication, distortion and flagrant illogic.

    But Kemp covered ground on Wednesday that I had not heard him focus on before. For example, he referred to the company Battelle as the operator of biolabs for the CIA that had access to the very same anthrax variety that incriminated his client, and he pointedly questioned how the FBI managed to exclude Battelle personnel as suspects in the case. Battelle is the company contracted by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institutes of Health to operate the new biolab facilities at Detrick, whose construction is complete.

    Amerithrax breakthroughs continue to occur. Kemp referred to a McClatchy Newspapers article published May 19 that focuses on lab data that did not emerge until the National Academy of Sciences report on Amerithrax was released, one year after the Justice Department formally closed the case against Ivins. This lab data shows “unusual levels of silicon and tin in [the] anthrax powder … that could be used to weaponize the anthrax … so [the lethal spores] could be readily inhaled …

    “‘There’s no way that an individual scientist [like Ivins could] invent a new way of making anthrax using silicon and tin … It requires an institutional effort to do this …'”

    The emergence of this lab data led Congressman Jerrold Nadler 10 days ago to send a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller demanding an explanation for why, when the congressman requested the data back in September 2008, the FBI provided “incomplete and misleading” information.

    Proof of an FBI cover-up continues to mount. This is the cover-up of an “institutional effort” from within to weaponize anthrax …

    • DXer said

      Mr. Willman writes that the day of Dr. Ivins’ suicide, Mr. Kemp nonetheless keeps the appointment at which the prosecutors were going to explain why they were going to indict Dr. Ivins. (This is where they would have unveiled the evidence we’ve seen — semen stained panties, acts of vendetta, fantasies of violence etc.) Upon leaving, in his folksy charm (see November 29, 2011 videotape of his 15 minute presentation), he says something like “You would have cooked my goose.” Great ending to a book, right? But then Mr. Willman drops in a footnote after the appendix after the epilogue the explanation that Paul notes that he was saying it to Rachel as a false compliment.

      No one doubts for a second that Rachel did not compile a case — once the District Court judge in February 2008 said there was not a scintilla of evidence against Dr. Hatfill — sufficient to drive any man to suicide. The problem is that the approach avoided and misstated the merits. See US Attorney’s false claim for example, that only 100 others needed to be excluded rather than two or three times that. Or his false claim that the Federal Eagle stamp was sold uniquely at Dr. Ivins post office rather than through Maryland and Virginia (see related AP article picking up the false claim). US Attorney Taylor’s case and Rachel Lieber and Ken Kohl’s case was enough to drive a man to suicide regardless whether he was innocent or guilty. But Rachel should have not refused the contemporaneous notes showing what Dr. Ivins was doing in the lab on those nights — and there are still MORE being withheld. I specifically asked Rachel to produce the lab notes from the time showing what Dr. Ivins was doing in the lab at the time and she refused.

      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/fbi-doj-slam-the-door-you-cannot-have-dr-bruce-ivins-lab-notebook-4010-in-fact-you-cannot-have-anything-more-than-has-already-been-released/

      The GAO needs to probe further withholding if the DOJ does not release those notebooks along with the unsealed documents in the Stevens litigation.

      The DOJ is refusing to produce the unsealed documents requested by the Plaintiff from the Stevens litigation on the grounds that the documents would not further the public’s understanding.

      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/the-department-of-justice-attorney-james-m-kovakas-today-did-not-think-that-production-of-this-document-would-further-the-publics-understanding-and-wanted-to-charge-me-2500-00/

      As another example of the games being played, Rachel and David focus on the “tracks” issue relating to photocopier rather than the mass spec on the toner. David Willman claims that the FBI did not bother to test the photocopy machines for photocopy “tracks” (from the gripper on the paper) until February 2002. (The comparison can just be made against papers copied from September.) The more important issue relates to Dr. Bartick’s work on the photocopy toner that nowhere was disclosed to the National Academy of Sciences. There is relevant admissible evidence and that evidence, being withheld by the FBI, shows that there is no basis for the DOJ’s innuendo that the USAMRIID photocopiers were used. They can be excluded. There has been a travesty at justice.
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/photocopy-toner-at-usamriid/

      It’s time that the USG focuses on the merits rather than irrelevant sex stuff. See Federal Rule of Evidence 404. By the way, that was Patricia — whose initials are associated with the April 2002 sample — at the sex toy shop in DC when she was filming a blindfolded Mara. When they say that lady justice is blindfolded, that’s not what they meant.

    • DXer said

      Those who seek to show an Ivins Theory is incorrect would do well to understand the difference between “weaponization” (as the Amerithrax scientists have defined it) and “microencapsulation”. There is no reason to doubt that the source of the silicon and tin was the broth. There is no reason to doubt that it was in the culture medium (see Dr. Majidi’s comment) such as done in the “Microdroplet Cell Culture” method co-invented by Ali Al-Timimi’s DARPA-funded, Ames researching suitemates, in Spring 2001. (Although the Amerithrax scientists candidly acknowledge that they do not know the origin of the Silicon Signature.) Mr. Willman interviewed Charles Bailey more than once but never addresses the patent or Dr. Al-Timimi’s presence in Dr. Bailey’s suite.

      • DXer said

        It is a mistake to be commenting on the Silicon Signature (beyond relying on Dr. Velsko and Dr. Weber pointing to the usefulness of further testing) if one has not requested under FOIA a copy of the article that Bruce Ivins gave the FBI onthe subject of adding silicon to the spore coat.

        Someone had given Dr. Ivins the article in 2004.

        Bruce Ivins to the FBI regarding silica and Bacillus spore suspensions
        Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 31, 2011
        https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/the-doj-should-disclose-under-foia-the-2004-article-provided-by-dr-bruce-ivins-to-the-fbi-regarding-silica-and-bacillus-spore-suspensions/

        How many times will we have to hear Dick Destiny address the subject without him having taken the 60 seconds that it would take to request a copy?

        How many times will we have to hear Barry Kissin address the subject without him having taken the 60 seconds that it would take to request a copy?

        Surely an experienced journalist like Gary Matsumoto will see the wisdom of knowing what others know about the article — and who gave it to Bruce.

        For starters, that person may know about adding silicon to a spore coat (even though Bruce did not until provided the article).

        Mr. Willman should have obtained the article that addresses the subject of the Silicon Signature in the Appendix.

        The article — and Dr. Ivins unawareness of how to add Silicon to the spore coat — demolishes the FBI’s position on the subject.

    • DXer said

      Barry and Attorney Kemp may not appreciate that the DARPA-funded researchers at Hadron in Falls Church, who shared a suite with Ali Al-Timimi, were Battelle consultants. One was the former head of the secret Russian bioweapons program and the other was the former USAMRIID Commander. Charles Bailey in Fall 2001 said he did not want to discuss silica because he did not want to give terrorists any ideas — perhaps without appreciating that a scientist coordinating with Anwar Aulaqi was a few feet away from him as he spoke those words to the reporter.

      The virulent work was done at Southern Research Institute, which is not managed by Battelle.

  11. Lew Weinstein said

    It was one thing for Willman to miss the cruicial lab notes when he wrote his book The Mirage Man, since they were not then available.

    It is something else, and quite misleading, for Willman to ignore those notes in his later writings promoting the book.

    • BugMaster said

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but based on the “FOIAs of FOIAs” that DXer posted previously, David was only interested in information about the so-called “Stealth Bleaching Incident” and Ivin’s mental health issues.

      Overall, a rather narrow focus.

      • DXer said

        Mr. Willman sought as I recall access to the B3. Access to the B3, stripped of the reason for being in the lab, is hugely misleading. The US government’s position was always — from August 2008 through January 2010 — that he had no reason to be in the lab those nights in late September 2001 and October 2001. That was an utter fabrication. The government is still withholding a massive amount of relevant information.

        Not a single reporter that I recall sought any hard copy files. All bacteriology scientists, according to a chief I consulted today, also kept hard copies in addition to the emails we’ve seen. Scott S. of the NYT made an early request for Dr. Ivins’ emails which proved to be very useful and important. Now a reporter should also ask for hard copies dating to August, September and October 2001.

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