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

* DXer compares statements made by US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor and FBI Assistant Director Joseph Persichini at their August 8, 2008 press conference to the documentary evidence so far produced (NOTE: much more is still being withheld)

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 10, 2011

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 TAYLOR: Dr. Ivins died of an overdose on July 29, 2008, and, at the time of his death, was the sole suspect in the case. Our investigation had begun to shift to a particular laboratory at USAMRIID in 2005 and began to focus on Dr. Ivins as a suspect in 2007.

DXER: WHEN AGENT MONTOOTH TOOK OVER, INVESTIGATORS WERE TOLD TO ONLY CONSIDER WHERE AMES WAS KNOWN TO EXIST AND TO DISREGARD WHERE IT MIGHT BE WITHOUT RECORD HAVING BEEN KEPT. SO ALL THOSE WHO MIGHT HAVE OBTAINED AMES SURREPTITIOUSLY WERE EXCLUDED. (HINT: SOMEONE WANTING TO MURDER SOMEONE WITH ANTHRAX WOULD WANT TO BE SURREPTITIOUS).

TAYLOR: In the weeks prior to his death, we had been in conversations with his attorneys regarding the direction of the investigation because we believed that based on the evidence we had collected, we could prove his guilt to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

DXER: THEIR MAIN EVIDENCE WAS GENETIC AND THEIR GENETIC EXPERTS SAY THAT THE EVIDENCE DOES NOT POINT TO IVINS. IT POINTS TO UP TO 377 AT USAMRIID ALONE. MORE RECENTLY, IT WAS BROADENED FAR FURTHER THAN THAT. See Wired article.

TAYLOR: First, we were able to identify in early 2005 the genetically unique parent material of the anthrax spores used in the mailings. As the court documents allege, the parent material of the anthrax spores used in the attacks was a single flask of spores, known as “RMR-1029,” that was created and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins at USAMRIID. This means that the spores used in the attacks were taken from that specific flask, regrown, purified, dried and loaded into the letters. No one received material from that flask without going through Dr. Ivins.

DXER: ANYONE COULD JUST TAKE IT OUT OF THE UNLOCKED REFRIGERATOR AND SO THIS MAKES NO SENSE.

TAYLOR: We thoroughly investigated every other person who could have had access to the flask and we were able to rule out all but Dr. Ivins.

DXER: THE FBI’S PROCESS OF ELIMINATION ASSUMED THE PROCESSOR IS THE SAME AS THE MAILER AND SO FROM THE VERY START THE REASONING IS BUILT ON A HUGE, UNPROVEN PREMISE.

TAYLOR: Second, as a renowned expert in the production and purification of anthrax spores, Dr. Ivins was one of a handful of scientists with the capability to create spores of the concentration and purity used in the attacks. The affidavits allege that, not only did Dr. Ivins create and maintain the spore batch used in the mailings, but he also had access to and experience using a lyophilizer. A lyophilizer is a sophisticated machine that is used to dry pathogens, and can be used to dry anthrax. We know others in Dr. Ivins’ lab consulted him when they needed to use this machine.

DXER: THE FORMER CHIEFS OF BACTERIOLOGY ALL SAY THAT THE LYOPHILIZER COULD NOT HAVE BEEN USED. IT WAS IN AN UNCONTAINED AREA – IN THE HALLWAY.

TAYLOR: Third, in the days leading up to each of the mailings, the documents make clear that Dr. Ivins was working inordinate hours alone at night and on the weekend in the lab where the flask of spores and production equipment were stored. A review of his access records revealed that Dr. Ivins had not spent this many “off hours” in the lab at any time before or after this period. When questioned about why he was in the lab during those off hours prior to each of the mailings, Dr. Ivins was unable to offer any satisfactory explanation.

DXER: DR. IVINS WAS RECALLING PARTICULAR NIGHTS FROM A HALF DECADE EARLIER. ONE WOULD TURN TO THE LAB NOTEBOOKS FOR WHAT HE DID. THEY SHOW THAT ON EVERY SINGLE NIGHT THAT THE DOJ SPECULATED THAT HE WAS MAKING A DRIED ANTHRAX POWDER, HIS DUTIES REQUIRED HIM TO TEND TO THE ANIMALS. THE UNCONTRADICTED EVIDENCE IS THAT IT IS A ONE-PERSON JOB THAT TAKES A COUPLE HOURS. US ATTORNEY TAYLOR NOWHERE DISCLOSES THIS AND INSTEAD ON THIS KEY ISSUE MAKES IT SEEM LIKE DR. IVINS IS SECRETLY IN THE LAB WHEN HE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE. TAYLOR NOWHERE DISCLOSES THAT THE SAME LONG HOURS CONTINUED IN NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER. AND THAT THE REASON SUCH HOURS STOPPED IN EARLY 2002 WAS A NEWLY-IMPLEMENTED TWO-PERSON RULE PREVENTED IT. LAWRENCE ALEXANDER CREATED A GRAPH OF HOURS THAT WAS HUGELY MISLEADING ONCE STRIPPED OF THE REASON IVINS WAS IN THE LAB AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2-PERSON RULE. I HAVE NOT SEEN THAT THE SAME WORK WAS DONE, FOR EXAMPLE, FOR AUGUST 1998, WHICH WOULD SHOW THE SAME HOURS WHEN SIMILAR STUDY WAS DONE. COINCIDENT WITH THE INCREASE IN HOURS, BY THE WAY, WAS INSTALLATION OF A LAPTOP COMPUTER WHICH THE FBI SAYS IT CANNOT FIND. THAT COMPUTER WOULD FURTHER CORROBORATE HOW DR. IVINS SPENT HIS TIME. HE MAY HAVE SPENT IT SURFING THE INTERNET AS THE CHIEF OF BACTERIOLOGIST GA REPEATEDLY TOLD THE FBI.

TAYLOR: Fourth, the affidavits indicate Dr. Ivins had engaged in behavior and made a number of statements that suggest consciousness of guilt. For example, one night shortly after a search warrant was executed on his house, Dr. Ivins took highly unusual steps to discard a book and article on DNA coding while under 24-7 surveillance. In addition, he had submitted a questionable sample of anthrax from his flask of parent spores to the FBI, presumably to mislead investigators.

DXER: THE INITIALS ASSOCIATED WITH SUBMISSION OF THE SAMPLE ARE “PF”. DR. IVINS REPEATEDLY SAID THAT HIS LAB TECH SUBMITTED THE SAMPLES. THIS HAS NOT BEEN ADDRESSED. SHE ALSO IS INVOLVED IN THE MATTER OF THE FBI’S CONCLUSION ON INFERENCES ABOUT THE BOOK. THE BLOODHOUNDS ALERTED TO PATRICIA FELLOWS BUT NOT IVINS. (THEY ALSO ALERTED TO HATFILL; I ARGUED VIGOROUSLY IN 2002 THAT BLOODHOUND EVIDENCE IN THIS CONTEXT WAS UNRELIABLE AND SCOTT SHANE WROTE A POWERFUL ARTICLE ON THE SUBJECT IN OCTOBER 2002).

TAYLOR: Fifth, as reflected in the court documents, Dr. Ivins had a history of mental health problems and was facing a difficult time professionally in the summer and fall of 2001 because an anthrax vaccine he was working on was failing. The affidavits describe one e-mail to a co-worker in which Dr. Ivins stated that he had “incredible paranoid, delusional thoughts at times,” and feared that he might not be able to control his behavior.

DXER: JUST BECAUSE HE WAS PARANOID DOESN’T MEAN THAT THE TWO NICE WOMEN ON THE CRUISE WERE NOT FBI AGENTS, THAT HIS GOOD FRIEND WASN’T WEARING A WIRE AND SPINNING HIM AS GUILTY ETC. AND THAT HIS TWO BEST FRIENDS WERE NOT SAYING MEAN THINGS BEHIND HIS BACK.

FELLOWS SPUN HIM AS HAVING NO REASON TO BE IN THE LAB WHEN THAT WAS NOT TRUE – IT WAS THE LARGE AMOUNT OF ANTHRAX SHE MADE THAT WAS MISSING. IVINS TOLD HIS SUPERIOR HIS RECORDS WOULDN’T SQUARE UP BECAUSE OF THE USE IT HAD BEEN PUT. DAVID WILLMAN EVIDENCED NO INTEREST IN WHERE THE DARPA AEROSOL EXPERIMENTS WERE DONE.

TAYLOR: Sixth, throughout his adult life Dr. Ivins had frequently driven to other locations to send packages in the mail under assumed names to disguise his identity as the sender. He had also admitted to using false names and aliases in writings. In addition, he was a prolific writer to Congress and the media, the targeted victims in the anthrax attacks. Law enforcement recovered 68 letters to such entities from his house in a Nov. 1, 2007, search.

DXER: EGADS. FAKE SCREEN NAMES! HE WROTE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR! HE EDITED WIKIPEDIA! HE LIKED PRETTY WOMEN! IS THIS THE STUFF OF THE FBI’S COUNTERINTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS CAPABILITY?

TAYLOR: I’ll conclude with one more point. The envelopes used in the attacks were all pre-franked envelopes, sold only at U.S. Post Offices during a nine-month window in 2001. An analysis of the envelopes revealed several print defects in the ink on the pre-printed portions of the envelopes. Based on the analysis, we were able to conclude that the envelopes used in the mailings were very likely sold at a post office in [the] Frederick, Md., area in 2001. Dr. Ivins maintained a post office box at the post office in Frederick, from which these pre-franked envelopes with print defects were sold.

DXER: YES, AND THEY WERE SOLD THROUGHOUT MARYLAND AND VIRGINIA. US ATTORNEY NEGLECTED TO MENTION THAT AND THE AP FEATURE MADE IT SEEM THAT THE STAMP WAS SOLD UNIQUELY AT IVINS’ POST OFFICE.
THE MISSTEPS MADE IN THE REPORTING OF AN IVINS THEORY MAKE THE MISSTEPS IN REGARD TO A HATFILL THEORY PALE IN COMPARISON.

TAYLOR: During the course of the seven-year investigation, Dr. Ivins was interviewed by federal authorities several times — three times in 2008 alone. His statements were inconsistent over time and failed to explain the evidence against him.

DXER: THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE AGAINST HIM AND SO IT IS HARD TO EXPLAIN IT AWAY.

TAYLOR: The points I have just gone over are only a summary of the court documents we have provided you. There are additional details in the documents, which again, we encourage you to read thoroughly. All the information contained in this statement is now public information. We are able to give you this information because the United States followed proper procedures and formally requested that a federal court unseal several search warrants in this investigation, and that court approved the request. In addition, we consulted and received express permission of the Justice Department to do so.

DXER: YES, ABOUT THOSE ADDITIONAL DETAILS. THE DOJ SHOULD PRODUCE THE FAMILY 302S WHICH ALIBI DR. IVINS, THE SEPTEMBER 17, 2001 EMAIL TO MARA LINSCOTT WHICH WAS NOT IN FACT WRITTEN FROM HIS WORK COMPUTER (ONCE PRODUCED, IT WILL HELP ESTABLISH THE TIMELINE), AND THE ADDITIONAL LAB NOTEBOOKS WITH PAGES FROM THE AUGUST-OCTOBER 2001 TIME PERIOD.

PERSICHINI: We were then able to trace that to an individual lab, a single flask, and one individual who controlled it. Further, painstaking investigation lead us to the conclusion that Dr. Bruce E. Ivins was responsible for the death, sickness and fear brought to our country by the 2001 anthrax mailing, and that it appears, based on the evidence, that he was acting alone.

DXER: CONTROLLED IT… AS IN ANY OF “UP TO 377″ COULD REACH INTO AN UNLOCKED REFRIGERATOR AT ANY TIME AND TAKE IT, INCLUDING FROM THE FBI ANTHRAX EXPERT’S REFRIGERATOR — AND HE IS THE ONE WHO DAVID WILLMAN REPORTS MADE DRIED AEROSOL AT USAMRIIF OVER 5 YEARS AT USAMRIID (FOR DARPA). IVINS HAD NEVER KNOWN SUCH WORK WAS BEING DONE AT USAMRIID.

PERSICHINI: I’ve talked already about the extensive investigation that took place from 2005 to 2007. Again, we’re talking about a large number of individuals, over 100, who potentially had access to this substance. We had to go through this laborious process to ferret out or exclude those who were not involved. With respect to the other individual you mentioned, we were able to determine that at no time could that individual be put in the presence of that flask from which these spores came.

DXER: AGENT PERSICHINI SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT THE NUMBER WAS NOT 100 BUT TWO OR THREE TIMES THAT. NEITHER TAYLOR NOR PERSICHINI CONSIDERED THAT IT COULD HAVE JUST EASILY BEEN ACCESSED FROM THE TUPPERWARE TUB OF GENETICALLY IDENTICALLY AMES MAINTAINED BY TERRY ABSHIRE, IN JOHN EZZELL’S LAB. IT WAS THAT LAB THAT MADE THE DRIED AEROSOL OUT OF AMES FROM FLASK 1029. PERSICHINI RESIGNED SHORTLY AFTER THIS CASE WAS CLOSED FOR CHEATING ON AN OPEN BOOK TEST INVOLVING HOW TO CONDUCT A NATIONAL SECURITY EXAMINATION; A LAWYER EMAILED HIM THE ANSWERS AS HE TOOK THE TEST.

LET ME REPEAT: THE ONLY PEOPLE KNOWN TO HAVE MADE A DRIED AEROSOL OUT OF AMES FROM FLASK 1029 IS THE FBI’S EXPERT AND THEY KEPT THAT A SECRET AT THIS CONFERENCE AND THEN FOR THE NEXT 3 YEARS.

Taylor was asked … Could you address the reports today that the family had been confronted at a mall in Frederick, Md., at one point by investigators?

TAYLOR: That’s categorically false. The notion that somehow these people were coerced or abused by the agents or the lawyers is categorically false. These agents handled themselves professionally, responsibly, and with great respect for Mr. Ivins and for his family. And I’d say the same thing about the prosecutors in this case. They are pros, and they handled themselves the right way.

DXER: DAVID WILLMAN REPORTS THAT THE AGENTS TOLD AMANDA THAT HER FATHER WAS A MURDERER AND THAT ANDY WAS OFFERED A SPORTS CAR. THAT IS WHAT THE NEWS STORIES AT ISSUE HAD SAID. THE ASPECT I TAKE ISSUE WITH IS TELLING HIM FALSELY THAT HEINE SAID HE DID IT — THAT THREW HIM INTO A RAGE. AND TELLING HIM THAT THEY WERE GOING TO TEST HIS DNA (TO TEST AGAINST THE SEMEN STAINED PANTIES) AND THEN CALL HIS FAMILY TO CONFIRM HE WAS UNHAPPY AT HOME.

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14 Responses to “* DXer compares statements made by US Attorney Jeffrey Taylor and FBI Assistant Director Joseph Persichini at their August 8, 2008 press conference to the documentary evidence so far produced (NOTE: much more is still being withheld)”

  1. DXer said

    US Attorney Taylor argues “in the days leading up to each of the mailings, the documents make clear that Dr. Ivins was working inordinate hours alone at night.” This was his premise of an Ivins Theory. We have previously seen that the FBI withheld the documents showing why he was in the lab immediately prior to the second mailing. Notebook 4282, with its entries on September 14, 15 and 18, may show why he was in the lab prior to the first mailing.

    Relatedly, I have explained that the short-lived two person rule was implemented in January 2002 which put an end to hours at night. And a laptop with internet service was not installed until July. So his hours from July and December is not surprising at all — and his late hours in the latter half of October, November and December do not even support Taylor’s theory.

    Note also that US Attorney Taylor’s argument that only 100 people needed to be excluded at USAMRIID — rather than 377 — hinged on Ames only being stored in Building 1425 (and not also 1412). If the withheld Notebook 4282 shows that the Ames was grown in Building 1412 on September 14 and 15, it serves as yet another ready contradiction of Attorney Taylor’s reasoning. Contemporaneous documents from the time Ivins was alleged by US Attorney to be making dried powdered anthrax is potentially exculpatory in many ways — and regardless of what the notes show, should not have been withheld all these years. The notes should have been returned to the USAMRIID as requested so that they could be uploaded to the USAMRMC Electronic Room so that people might get on the same page.

    see generally
    DXer summarizes the documentary evidence relating to Dr. Ivins work with rabbits (nowhere mentioned by the DOJ) which demolishes the FBI’s claim that Dr. Ivins had no reason to be in the lab

    Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 3, 2012

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/dxer-summarizes-the-documentary-evidence-which-demolishes-the-fbis-ivins-theory/

  2. DXer said

    In his recent 2-hour interview, Lambert thinks that the sending of 2 microbiologists to Israel to learn Arabic — depriving him of much needed help — was just part of the Washington Field Office’s attempt to stymie the investigation (to retaliate for it being taken away from them and instead being led out out
    headquarters).

    He says unless you know FBI culture, you might not appreciate how the assignment would have been perceived as a slight.

    Michael Mason took over from Van Harp, as I recall, in September 2003. Mason (and I’ve always been a big fan) once explained in the press that it would be too complicated to be political.

    He used to be a Special Agent here. Then was an assistant to Director Mueller while they were tailing a crop-duster POI out in Sacramento.

    It was a later WFO head, who took over in 2006 — the one who announced an Ivins Theory — who abruptly resigned in a scandal involved in cheating on a test about how to run a counterterrorism investigation. It was an open book test and allegedly he was being emailed the answer by the lawyer.

    Persichini resigns as head of FBI’s Washington office
    By Carrie Johnson
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, December 9, 2009
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/08/AR2009120804409.html

    The FBI official in charge of the bureau’s Washington field office attended his retirement party Tuesday. In the background is an investigation alleging that he violated rules while taking an open-book exam this fall, according to two sources familiar with the episode.

  3. DXer said

    http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20150427/PC1002/150429463/1506/solve-fbi-crime-lab-bias

    Solve FBI crime lab bias
    Apr 27 2015 12:01 am

    The use of scientific methods to solve crimes has gripped the public imagination at least since the first Sherlock Holmes stories were published more than a century ago. Their continued fascination explains the success of the several long-running television series on forensic crime investigations.

    But the idealized picture painted by these stories is shattered by the repeated assertion over the past 20 years of false evidence produced by crime labs across the country, most shockingly at the FBI’s state-of-the-art Crime Lab.
    These cases reveal a multitude of flaws, ranging from poor procedure and unqualified examiners to outright fraud. But they share one common characteristic: The examiners work for prosecutors and the government, and are subject to subtle — and not so subtle — pressure to support the government’s case.

    The latest revelations about the bias of FBI forensic reports should inspire Congress to take a hard look at the incentives built into the current system of forensic crime analysis and come up with a better model that restores balance and justice to the system.

  4. DXer said

    At the press conference announcing the FBI’s “Ivins Theory” United States Attorney Taylor, speaking for the investigation:

    “TAYLOR: Second, as a renowned expert in the production and purification of anthrax spores, Dr. Ivins was one of a handful of scientists with the capability to create spores of the concentration and purity used in the attacks. The affidavits allege that, not only did Dr. Ivins create and maintain the spore batch used in the mailings, but he also had access to and experience using a lyophilizer. A lyophilizer is a sophisticated machine that is used to dry pathogens, and can be used to dry anthrax. We know others in Dr. Ivins’ lab consulted him when they needed to use this machine.

    DXER: THE FORMER CHIEFS OF BACTERIOLOGY ALL SAY THAT THE LYOPHILIZER COULD NOT HAVE BEEN USED. IT WAS IN AN UNCONTAINED AREA – IN THE HALLWAY.”

    Proponents of an Ivins Theory immediately backpedaled when it was pointed out that the lyophililzer was not in fact available to be used — and that Ivins was in the B3, not the B5, the nights he was working with the rabbits.

    The military expert I rely on for such matters used a fluidized bed dryer for making spores like those used in the mailings — with silanizing solution in the slurry resulting in product that results in the same SEMS images in the mailed anthrax.

    Al Qaeda had a dryer at the Kandahar lab but the details have not been disclosed.

  5. DXer said

    The 2014 NRC report on “microbial forensics” notes, discussing Paul Keim’s presentation on Amerithrax in Croatia:

    “Scientific and peer-reviewed publication was limited during the entire process. To this day, critical data generated by the investigation remains unpublished.” (p. 32)

    We know GAO is restrained and delayed by the FBI’s withholding of documents on national security grounds.

    But nothing is restraining the FBI scientists from publishing, is there?

    Perhaps the FBI could publish the data showing that the ink, paper and photocopy toner forensics were exculpatory of Dr. Ivins?

  6. DXer said

    Vahid Majidi thinks the August 2008 press conference was a “big mistake.”

    “By revealing the forensic information first, the public and the media assumed that the laboratory results must have been indisputable and that is why it was released.”

    Dude, you got basic, central facts wrong — such as on the lyophilizer, two person rule, and your claim Dr. Ivins wasn’t working on an animal experiment in the lab in the last week of September 2001 and first week of October 2001. It had nothing to do with the fact that we watch NCIS. It’s because you were getting — and are STILL getting — basic, entirely dispositive facts wrong.

  7. DXer said

    Dr. Vahid Majidi and his colleagues claimed at the August 2008 conference that Dr. Ivins used a lyophilizer to process the anthrax.

    The lyophilizer was not even in the B3 where Dr. Ivins provably was at those times.

    Where does Dr. Majidi address the issue of lyophilizer in his new manuscript on the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings?

    Wasn’t his manuscript a key opportunity to correct the mistake — and acknowledge that Dr. Ivins did not use the lyophilizer as United States Attorney Taylor claimed?

    (If I missed it, I look forward to having it pointed out to me where he discusses US Attorney Taylor’s claim that the lyophilizer was used.)

  8. DXer said

    Dr. Vahid Majidi writes:

    “When the Amerithrax case was unofficially closed in 2008, the FBI chose to unveil the forensic evidence in a press conference, and much later the investigative results followed. In my opinion, this was a big mistake.”

    Dr. Majidi perhaps would have led off with the psychiatrist’s reliance on the first counselor who got her instructions each night from an alien.

    Or AUSA Lieber’s Amerithrax Investigative Summary which nowhere mentioned Dr. Ivins’ experiment with killing the 52 rabbits — which was why he was in the lab those nights.

    It is when you realize the hide-the-ball the AUSAs and investigators played as to the time in that lab that you realize that Amerithrax was totally botched. To this day, however, Dr. Majidi seems not to have read the investigative documents relating to the rabbits.

    http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

  9. DXer said

    The role of head of the DC Field Office is hugely demanding. It is like drinking from a firehose — in terms of the huge responsibilities, raw intelligence, and myriad of important counterintelligence responsibilities.

    But Mr. Persichini’s assistants were similarly caught up in the Fall 2008 matter that led to his retirement in 2009. (The NSA had and has access any texts sent to Mr. Persichini by the lawyer during the text; there are no secrets.)

    In short, everyone in the position of reviewing the “Ivins Theory” after Dr. Ivins” suicide was caught up in some other hugely distracting matter.

    Indeed, the matter distracting AUSA Lieber likely was even a greater distraction to her ability to study whether the documents were consistent with the claims being made in the Amerithrax Investigative Summary. The attorney in the office handing out assignments left DOJ as a result of that matter. It appears that the prosecutor’s office was way more dysfunctional than the USAMRIID B-3 ever was — the news report about Dr. Ivins trip with his co-workers to the DC sex shop was tame in comparison.

    On top of all the personnel issues — that other workplaces and personal lives also see — these investigators and prosecutors have vexingly difficult challenges in other mysteries involving murder and serious crimes.

    So in saying that an “Ivins Theory” is incorrect is not to say that we could do any better — just that an “Ivins Theory” is mistaken. DOJ and FBI is able to attract high caliber people because they have such cool and important jobs.

    In saying that there has been no government accountability relating to the conclusion in Amerithrax is not to say that there are not other rules that have been strictly enforced.

    It is only the importance of the anthrax threat — and the importance of getting Amerithrax right — that requires a close review.

    http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-12-09/news/36821300_1_open-book-exam-washington-field-office-internal-investigation

    “The two sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Persichini had been under internal FBI scrutiny in connection with an exam covering the bureau’s guidelines for conducting investigations. The guidelines, revised late last year at the end of the Bush administration, spell out how agents should pursue criminal and national security leads. The FBI required a 16-hour training to learn the guidelines, capped by an electronic exam in which test-takers could consult their course materials.

    Persichini, whose title is assistant director in charge of Washington, attracted management attention when he allegedly completed the open-book exam in less than 20 minutes and with a very high score, the sources said. Some test-takers required more than two hours to complete the exam, the sources said.

    The bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which conducts ethics investigations, recommended administrative disciplinary action, but the appeals process had not run its course by the time Persichini announced his retirement last month, the sources added. He is believed to have taken the test in a room by himself. Two other high-ranking officials in the Washington field office are under OPR scrutiny in connection with a separate incident involving the guidelines exam, the sources said. The matter has prompted weeks of unease in the Washington office, they said”

    • DXer said

      In his new manuscript, Dr. Vahid Majidi writes:

      “All FBI personnel involved with any aspect of investigations must take extensive training and ultimately pass an exam to show that they are well versed in the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG).”

      Does Dr. Majidi understand that there was widespread cheating on the Fall 2008 exam and that the head of Amerithrax, Persichini, resigned as a result of being sent the answers (by an attorney) by text? And that his two assistants, as I best recall, were assigned in connection with the same investigation into the cheating? And it was determined that there was widespread cheating in the DC Field Office? (I appreciate that it was a 16 hour course and these agents are very busy with important matters; but such on-the-job education is a good and necessary thing and should be a priority).

      My concern was not so much with the cheating but because it left no one free to review Dr. Majidi’s mistaken conclusions in Amerithrax — about such basic things as whether the Flask had initially been stored in Building 1412.

      Lead AUSA Ken Kohl had even more distracting problems and was lambasted by a leading federal court judge for prosecutorial misconduct in a pretty unprecedented opinion. (Ironically, Steve Hatfill’s attorney Connolly was the defendant’s attorney).

      As I’ve said, the withholding of exculpatory scientific reports constitutes prosecutorial misconduct but IMO can be cured now by their production.

      Moving forward, everyone can be part of the problem or can be part of the solution.

      But, please, spare the spin that has no connection to the reality.

    • DXer said

      Are you in or are you out?

  10. DXer said

    Some of the many FBI agents caught cheating on the open book examination on how to conduct a national security investigation justified their actions on the grounds that it was hard.

    If a crime were hard to solve, might the investigators come to feel burnt out and lower their standards on what constitutes proof of the crime? For example, note the “n” claimed to be double-lined in order to create a “code” that fits the narrative about Dr. Ivins that they had developed. “FNY” Where is the evidence is double-lined when the only expert whose opnion is provided says it was not.

    Were the same agents involved in Amerithrax the agents and officials in the DC Field Office found to have cheated on the exam?

    Did Mr. Willman not interview Mr. Persichini who as head of the DC Field Office was in charge of the investigation? Didn’t Mr. Persichini attend all the briefings just as had Michael Mason before him? Didn’t he in fact play a key role? Were the two top managers and attorney involved in the cheating scandal involved in Amerithrax? (DW mentions only a question at the press conference when he asked how they had been able to exclude Dr. Hatfill and US Attorney Taylor avoided speaking the name).

    By way of background, the IG report in September 2010 explains:

    “Once they had completed the 16.5 hours of DIOG training, FBI employees received e-mails instructing them that they could take the exam. The e-mails stated that the exam was “open book” and that employees could use the DIOG or “other information” to help them answer the questions. However, the e-mail warned employees that they could not “ask co-workers or anyone else for assistance while taking the exam.”

    In addition, when they signed on to the Virtual Academy to take the DIOG exam, the first page that appeared on the screen stated that employees could “consult the DIOG or your notes; however, you may not consult with another person to answer the questions on this exam.”
    ***

    In September 2009, the FBI Inspection Division received an anonymous complaint that three top managers from the WFO – an Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) and two Special Agents in Charge (SAC) – cheated on the DIOG exam by taking it together, and that WFO attorneys were present while they took the test.

    The Inspection Division conducted an investigation and found that the SACs had taken the exam together, in the same room, while discussing the questions and possible answers with a legal advisor, who was also present. While the ADIC was also in the room at the time, he did not take the exam that day. Instead, the ADIC wrote down the answers and later used them to complete the exam another day.

    ***
    In his defense, one SAC argued, among other things, that he did not cheat because although he had asked the legal advisor to “reference the sections in the DIOG for us to use to answer the question,” he never asked the legal advisor “what the answer was to a particular question.” The FBI Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) rejected that argument and found that the SAC’s conduct “violated basic test-taking protocols and constituted cheating.” OPR also found that both SACs violated FBI Offense Code 2.4, prohibiting false or misleading statements, by certifying on Question 51 that they had not “consulted” with anyone during the test. OPR issued a decision suspending the two SACs for 20 days without pay and demoting them from a Senior Executive Service position to a non-supervisory GS-13 pay grade. The SACs appealed OPR’s final action to the Disciplinary Review Board. Pursuant to the FBI’s procedures, the demotions and service of the suspensions have been stayed pending a final decision on appeal.
    ***
    In his defense, the legal advisor asserted that he was not aware that his conduct “facilitated cheating.” The OPR concluded that the legal advisor had exhibited an “astounding lack of judgment” by “assisting Executive Management with the DIOG exam” – and violated FBI Offense Code 5.22, which prohibits, among other things, “conduct . . . which . . . seriously calls into question the judgment . . . of the employee.” Referring to Question 51, which expressly prohibited “consulting” with others, OPR wrote that “under no circumstances can your assistance, let alone the fact that the three men openly discussed questions, be considered anything less than consultation.” OPR issued a decision suspending the legal advisor for 10 days without pay. This decision is also under appeal.

    ***
    Report: Significant cheating by FBI agents on exam
    September 28th, 2010

    The investigation already has cost one high-profile agent his career. Joseph Persichini Jr., assistant director for the Washington field office, retired in December amid questions about the test-taking in his office.

    According to the inspector general’s report, Persichini sat in the same room and took notes while his top two managers took the exam together and discussed questions and answers with a bureau attorney. Persichini later used the notes to complete the exam.

    Persichini argued that he had not cheated because the notes were permissible for the open-book exam, according to the report.

    The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility rejected that argument, and Persichini retired after learning the bureau proposed to discipline him, Fine’s report said.

    ***
    After the conclusion of the Inspection Division’s investigation of the allegations about the WFO managers’ conduct on the DIOG exam, the FBI reported to us that it subsequently received allegations that employees in addition to those in the WFO may have cheated on the exam by sharing answer keys or by receiving assistance. In addition, the FBI informed us that a high number of FBI employees had completed the exam extremely quickly and received high passing scores, which appeared to be inconsistent with the design of the exam if it was taken online without an answer key. In light of these concerns, we opened this investigation in January 2010.

    ***

    1. Field Office 1

    We interviewed 11 employees in Field Office 1 and found evidence at this office of a significant number of FBI employees who cheated on the exam. Seven of the 11 employees we interviewed – a legal advisor, who we call Attorney James; an Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC); a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA); and four special agents — acknowledged to us that they had used an answer sheet while taking the exam. Several of the seven said they also gave answer sheets to other employees in the field office. In addition, Attorney James acknowledged consulting with another agent while taking the exam.

    We also concluded that another one of the field office’s legal advisors, who we call Attorney Clark, attempted to impede the OIG investigation into this matter and lacked candor when questioned about those actions.

    a. Use of answer sheets

    The employees we interviewed at this field office told us that answer sheets for the exam were freely available within the field office. One agent, for example, said he received two different answer sheets, one of which contained more correct answers than the other. He also told us that answer sheets seemed to be “floating around” his entire (14-person) squad. Another agent said that he gave his answer sheet to 15 other FBI employees in that field office. The seven employees who told us that they used answer sheets worked in three different squads within the office, as well as in the legal advisor’s office and executive management of the field office.
    The field office employees described different types of answer sheets that were circulated. One agent told us that he saw two handwritten versions that contained both the questions and answers to the DIOG exam. He said that most of the questions and answers were in the correct order, but some were out of order and a couple of questions had the wrong answer.
    Another agent told us that he received a handwritten answer sheet from an agent and then he converted it to a typed answer sheet, which he gave to others. He provided us a copy of that typed answer sheet. It did not contain the exam questions, but instead consisted of a list numbered 1 through 50.

    Next to each number is a short phrase (such as “true” or “type 5”) giving the answer to each of the 50 exam questions.
    Attorney James admitted creating two answer sheets that consisted of the question number and the answer (for example, 1 – a, 2 – true, 3 – c, etc.) Attorney James told us that he gave the first answer sheet to an SSA who was also a trainer and the second answer sheet to an ASAC. Attorney James also said that he distributed the answer sheets because he felt that the DIOG exam was just another administrative hurdle that FBI employees had to surmount. Attorney James stated that if he had realized that the FBI considered the exam to be so important, he never would have given out the answers.6 ***

    We interviewed five of the six Field Office 1 trainers, including Attorney James, and asked them whether they were aware of or had condoned the use of answer sheets in the field office. Three trainers said they had neither used nor distributed answer sheets. They told us that they did not know that answer sheets had been circulating in the office and that, had they known, they would have considered it to be improper and would have instructed employees to stop. Attorney James told us that he had heard rumors in 2009 about other answer sheets “floating around the office,” but that he did not consider it to be his responsibility to investigate those rumors. Another trainer, the SSA who had received an answer sheet from Attorney James, said he did not know other answer sheets were available in the office.

    As described earlier, one of the agents who used an answer sheet told us that he had provided an answer sheet to 15 additional employees, and another agent said he thought that everyone in his 14-person squad had received a copy of an answer sheet. We did not interview all of these additional employees or further investigate whether or how many others in this field office had used answer sheets.
    In addition to the use of answer sheets by Field Office 1 employees, our investigation determined that at least one of the employees we interviewed directly consulted with others while taking the exam but answered Question 51 by certifying that he had not done so. We discuss this in the next section.

    b. Attempt to obstruct the investigation

    In May 2009, Attorney James, who had been selected to be one of the DIOG trainers for the office, tried to pass the DIOG exam and failed. Soon afterward, he talked to Attorney Clark and told him that he had failed the exam. According to Attorney James, Attorney Clark said something to the effect of “let’s just get this thing done,” walked into Attorney Clark’s office and signed onto the exam on his own computer. Attorney Clark then took the exam on his computer, while Attorney James sat nearby in the office. According to Attorney James, they discussed the questions and answers as Attorney Clark was taking the test and, once the correct answer had been selected, Attorney James made a note of it on a sheet of paper. Attorney James said that he then returned to his own office and retook the exam. Attorney James also told us that toward the end of his second attempt to pass the exam, he called a friend in another office to ask him about the answer to a particular question. Attorney James passed the exam on the second attempt.

    Despite consulting with a friend during the exam, Attorney James certified in response to Question 51 that he had not “consulted” with other persons while taking the exam. When asked why he had done this, Attorney James told us that he “just didn’t think about it.”

    We did not find credible Attorney Clark’s statement that he said, “don’t throw me under the bus” to encourage Attorney James to hide the fact that Attorney James had failed the exam. First, the comment “don’t throw me [Attorney Clark] under the bus” does not seem logically related to the concern that Attorney James’s credibility as a trainer would suffer if others knew that Attorney James had failed the exam. Second, Attorney James was certain that Attorney Clark made the comment in 2010, as they were discussing Attorney James’s upcoming OIG interview. Assuming it was made in 2010, the DIOG training was long over and Attorney James’s credibility as a trainer no longer was an issue.
    We credit Attorney James’s statement that Attorney Clark was encouraging Attorney James not to reveal that Attorney James had been present in Attorney Clark’s office while Attorney Clark took the exam. We conclude that Attorney Clark attempted to impede an OIG investigation and lacked candor when we asked him about his attempt to do so.

    c. OIG Analysis

    We found cheating in this field office on the DIOG exam by a significant number of FBI employees. Of the 11 employees we interviewed, 3 supervisors and 4 agents told us that they used answer sheets for the exam. These agents worked in various squads in the office, and they indicated that answer sheets were “floating around” their squads.
    We found unconvincing the employees’ arguments that it was permissible to use answer sheets because they were “notes” that were explicitly allowed under the open-book procedures established for the DIOG exam. We do not believe that any FBI employee could reasonably believe that using someone else’s answers to the exam constituted using “notes” or could be viewed as complying with the test instructions, and verbal guidance, requiring them to take the test without assistance from others.

    ***

    IV. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS A. Conclusions

    In our investigation we interviewed employees in four FBI field offices and also investigated three complaints of alleged cheating. In that limited review, we found significant abuses and cheating on the FBI DIOG exam.
    Many of the FBI employees we interviewed commented on perceived deficiencies in the DIOG training and exam, such as the amount of time consumed by the training and the exam, the difficulty of the test, and the exam’s wording and administration. The training was time-consuming, the exam was substantively harder than most FBI training exams, its administration was different from previous exams, and some of the questions were poorly phrased.

    However, we do not believe those factors excuse the cheating and improper conduct that we found that some FBI employees engaged in when taking this test. The new DIOG is a fundamental document for ensuring that FBI investigations are conducted according to law and policy, and the FBI appropriately placed a high priority on ensuring that FBI personnel learned and understood the new guidelines through training and mandatory testing. Yet, a significant number of the FBI employees we interviewed cheated on the test and did not comply with the test conditions.

    We agree, as some employees told us during this investigation, that the administration of and communication about the exam for FBI employees could have been better. The training was conducted by several hundred different trainers in scores of different classrooms, so different employees in different locations probably received different information. Because few of the training sessions were recorded, it is impossible to know exactly how the trainings differed, although some employees told us they remembered very little discussion about consulting with other employees while others said it was clearly covered. In addition, as some employees told us, there were some glitches with the electronic version of the exam. Some employees were frustrated, for example, that they took the entire exam and closed it, only to learn later that there was no record of their efforts and thus they had to retake the exam.

    Furthermore, we agree with the many employees who commented that the DIOG exam was significantly different from the typical FBI exam. It was more rigorous, did not tell employees as they selected answers whether their answers were correct or not, did not allow employees to return to a previous answer to correct it, and specifically prohibited employees from collaborating with others.

    Despite these differences, the written test instructions and most trainers effectively communicated the core instruction that although the exam was “open book” employees were not permitted to consult with others in answering the exam questions.
    Yet, as detailed in this report, we found test-taking conduct that constituted cheating and abuse, such as the use of answer sheets when taking the exam; the use of study guides that in effect gave the questions on the exam with the answers; consultation with others during the exam; false certifications in response to Question 51; and, even the use of a computer programming flaw to reveal the correct answers to the exam.

    We found distribution or use of answer sheets, particularly in Field Office 1, but also in two of the other offices we visited. Ten FBI employees we interviewed (in Field Offices 1, 2, and 4, and a resident agency) used or distributed answer sheets on the exam, and we received information that answer sheets were widely available to others in Field Office 1. We concluded that by using other people’s answers to the exam, FBI personnel “consulted” with others in violation of test-taking protocols, even though they received the answers before taking the exam. Similarly, we concluded that by providing answers to others for their use in taking the exam, those who distributed answer sheets for use by others acted improperly.
    We also found distribution and use of “study guides” that contained the questions to the test and the answers to the questions highlighted. We believe that these “study guides” served a similar purpose as answer sheets. For example, in Field Office 2, four FBI employees we interviewed used guides that contained highlighted portions of the DIOG attached to each exam question, in effect giving users the answer to each question on the exam. Another employee in Field Office 2 told us that his supervisor had told him that “everyone” in his squad was taking the exam using a copy of the DIOG in which the important parts had been highlighted.

    One particularly disturbing means of violating FBI rules occurred when four agents took advantage of “sloppy” computer programming to look at the answers to DIOG exam questions. This was clearly improper.
    In addition, in one resident agency, one FBI employee admitted to consulting with others about the answers while taking the exam, and three others admitted to helping that employee. Despite consulting others for answers to the exam, the employee who received help falsely certified in response to Question 51 that he had “only consulted the DIOG, notes, or training aides but no other person while taking this exam.”

    We were also concerned by the fact that several supervisors and trainers were involved in the abuses regarding the exam, including a legal advisor, an ASAC, and an SSA in Field Office 1, an SSRA and an SSA in a resident agency, and an ASAC in Field Office 2.

    In addition, we concluded that a legal advisor in Field Office 1 attempted to impede the OIG’s investigation by telling another legal advisor “don’t throw me under the bus” in connection with an upcoming OIG interview. We found that the legal advisor lacked candor about the legal advisor’s purpose in making this statement when we asked about it.

    We were troubled by the various justifications offered by agents and supervisors for their actions. For example, a legal advisor in Field Office 1 said he regarded the DIOG exam process as just another bureaucratic impediment, which we found to be an irresponsible attitude for someone in his position. In addition, although several agents told us they believed answer sheets constituted permissible “notes,” we do not believe that any FBI employee could reasonably believe that using someone else’s answers to the exam comported with the test instructions and verbal guidance instructing them to work alone.

    We believe the extent of the cheating related to this test was greater than the cases we detailed in this report, which is based on our limited investigation in only four FBI field offices, one resident agency, and two Headquarters components. We believe this for two main reasons.

    First, we acknowledge that our investigation was not random. Of the FBI employees that we interviewed about their conduct in taking the DIOG exam, 22 cheated or acted improperly in some manner related to the exam. We recognize that the amount of cheating that we identified in our limited interviews cannot be extrapolated to the entire population of FBI test-takers.

    However, while our sample was not random the factors we used to select field offices or some of the individuals we interviewed – short exam times and suspicious e-mails – were not necessarily indicators of cheating. Rather, we found that many persons with short exam times did not cheat, and many persons who did cheat took a long time to complete the exam. In addition, the e-mails we saw before investigating those field offices did not, in general, lead us directly to the persons who we identified as having cheated. Instead, some of the FBI employees who we found had cheated were not identified by either suspicious e-mails or short test times.

    Second, our investigation revealed evidence that other employees in the field offices we visited, and employees in other field offices, may also have used similar improper tactics in taking the test. For example, agents in Field Office 1 told us that at least 30 other FBI employees on 3 different squads in that office had access to answer sheets. An employee in Field Office 2 told us that his supervisor had told him that “everyone” in his squad was taking the exam using a copy of the DIOG in which the important parts had been highlighted.

    Employees in other FBI field offices also told us that they had sent answer sheets to other employees, and that others knew about the XML file that contained the answers to the exam. We did not investigate all of these leads or attempt to interview agents in all of the FBI’s field offices and Headquarter components.

    Thus, while we cannot extrapolate the percentage of cheating we identified in the limited sample of Field Offices and FBI employees we interviewed to the entire population of FBI test-takers, we believe there was more cheating and improper conduct than we identified through our limited interviews and investigation.”

    • DXer said

      I never mind when the head of the agency seeks to support employees and avoid undermining morale, especially when they have such important work to do. Mueller. … Mason formerly head of Amerithrax as head of the DC Field Office. Yes, even Panetta at the CIA. It wins them support and promotes their effectiveness as leaders.

      But where the investigators and prosecutors withhold the lab notes showing that the argument he had no reason to be in the lab was a crock and a fiction, there’s a problem. Such cheating undermines national security and puts the country at risk.

      Now we’ve heard first from the psychiatrist who encouraged their aggressive approach — he purported to lead an independent panel with no mention of his key role in both 2007 and 2008.

      And now a journalist who was making a request for Ivins documents before Dr. Ivins suicide.

      The test posed by Al Qaeda, however, is not one on which to cheat or take shortcuts or that will be benefit much from public spin.

      On this test, if you don’t know the answer, you lose points for guessing.

      Contact: E. R. Anderson
      (202) 224-4751
      October 8, 2010

      SENATOR COLLINS URGES FBI DIRECTOR TO IMMEDIATELY ADDRESS BROAD CHEATING ON FBI EXAM

      WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Susan Collins, Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is urging FBI Director Robert Mueller to take swift action to remedy a cheating scandal confirmed by the Department of Justice Inspector General (IG). Agents cheated on a Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) test, designed to gauge their knowledge of new counterterrorism procedures.

      Senator Collins wrote to Director Mueller, pressing him to implement all of the IG’s recommendations, “including a complete review across the FBI of whether or not other employees were engaged in cheating on the DIOG exam, implementation of immediate disciplinary action against those employees identified as cheating on the exam, and immediate retesting on the DIOG for those employees whose conduct you determine does not warrant firing.”

      “To be effective, the DIOG’s instructions and limitations must be instinctive for FBI employees,” Senator Collins said in her letter. “They must fully appreciate the nuances and legal underpinnings of the guidelines. They must understand what they can and cannot do, and when they should seek additional legal guidance. The cheating revealed by the IG’s report raises serious doubts about the commitment of many FBI employees to this level of understanding and about their fundamental integrity.”

      Senator Collins’ letter follows the IG’s stunning report, which found widespread cheating among FBI employees in taking the DIOG test. The IG identified 22 individuals, including several senior executives, who had colluded on exam answers, and FBI cyber crimes employees who had hacked into computer programming to obtain exam answers.

      Glenn Fine, the Justice Department IG, urged the FBI in his Sept. 27 report to investigate the cheating scandal further.

      • DXer said

        David Willman says that Kenneth Kohl was distracted by another major case. Mr. Willman provides no further details even though they are extremely relevant.

        That case was Blackwater. The incident occurred September 2007. A District Court wrote a lengthy opinion dismissing the murder indictments on the grounds of the prosecutorial misconduct of the lead Amerithrax prosecutor.

        Judge Cites Prosecutorial Misconduct In Blackwater Dismissal…‎
        Main Justice – Jan 1, 2010

        http://www.mainjustice.com/2010/01/01/judge-cites-prosecutorial-misconduct-in-blackwater-dismissal/

        Dr. Hatfill’s attorney, Tom Connolly, played the key role in having the prosecutor Kenneth Kohl creamed for prosecutorial misconduct and having the murder indictments dismissed.

        There was never going to be any meaningful reassessment of the evidence after Dr. Ivins committed suicide.. after falsely being told that Dr. Heine fingered him and told that his family was going to be called to testify to confirm he was at the lab because he was unhappy at home (even though they had the lab notes that showed why he was in the lab).

        After they decided to swab Dr. Ivins for DNA to test against the semen on the panties as part of pressuring him, his suicide was readily predicted. Was there a DIOG on that test governing whether such tactics were appropriate?

        David Willman says that Rachel Lieber called the hospital and told them he likely would commit suicide if released. (Why wasn’t he arrested and put on a suicide watch if they had evidence of a crime)?

        Amerithrax is far more than the tragedy of one man’s suicide. (And I’ve read many many hundreds of his emails and so I feel I have a sense of the man).

        IMO it is the greatest intelligence failure in the history of the United States. Meanwhile, our Congress stands by and debates the perils of Tweeting by horny Congressman rather than doing something as simple as picking up the phone and encouraging DOJ to give priority to responding to Amerithrax FOIA requests.

        What went on in the US Attorney’s Office during this period — leading to extreme dysfunction — would make even Rep. Wiener blush.

        It’s time to comply with FOIA and the rule of law.

        You can cheat on your own time when it does not implicate the country’s national security.

        Compliance with FOIA is all that is necessary to avoid criticism. Everyone’s good faith is presumed. Reasonable people can disagree but it will benefit everyone to get on the same page(s).

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