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

* Why did FBI Agent Darin Steele think that the “T” in NEXT was double-lined in concocting his interpretation of a code?

Posted by DXer on June 17, 2011



43 Responses to “* Why did FBI Agent Darin Steele think that the “T” in NEXT was double-lined in concocting his interpretation of a code?”

  1. DXer said

    The FBI concocted a theory based on a code divined by Darin Steele that included “FNY.” Bruce did mention the Yankees occasionally and said nothing but nice things about them in the only emails produced.
    It was the Orioles that he thought were “overpaid has-beens.”

    “The Yankees buy diamonds. The O’s buy zircons. If the O’s are that stupid about personnel, they don’t deserve to win.”

    “The O’s right now are overpaid has-beens They really need to be rebuild.”

    “The Yankees have the AL East pretty much sewn up, but the playoffs and the World Series may be a little more competitive.”

    I think Darin was trying too hard after his witness died.

    To recap the score:

    Transparency under FOIA: 1
    FBI’s counterterrorism intelligence analysis: 0

  2. DXer said

    Philip Baruth disagrees with Mr. Willman as to the imagined code — Philip thinks it refers to “Pat”, Senator Leahy, and David thinks it refers to Patricia Fellows, Bruce’s assistant. (p. 214)

    Now it is unclear to me why neither of them has ever addressed the fact that not all the letters claimed by Agent Steele to have been double-lined in fact were double-lined.

    They at least might have sought a document analysis from the FBI showing which letters can be established to have been doublelined (there is none!)— rather than merely accepting Agent Steele’s assertion.

    Neither of them has engaged in careful analysis of the code. They merely are accepting Steele’s spin and theory without examining the documentary evidence.

  3. DXer said

    Special Agent Steele’s unsupported reliance on the “T” in NEXT being double-lined is as simple as a determination of which letters were double-lined using 200Xs or 400Xs magnification. I have requested the documents relating to that determination but I expect the FBI is going to deny my request for a fee waiver. (AUSA Lieber once emailed me (in response to my request that she help me obtain the documents relating to Ivins’ work with the 52 rabbits) that I was not ever going to be given anything not already produced under FOIA). If it was important to its Ivins Theory — as it claims — one would think that the FBI would recognize that it was in the public interest to locate and produce such documents so that they could be uploaded.

    “Getting on the same page” should be an important part of maintaining the public’s confidence in the FBI’s assertions and conclusions. (When any party is shown to be mistaken based on the documentary evidence, then that party is expected to withdraw or revise an assertion).

    The assertion was an important part of the AMERITHRAX INVESTIGATIVE SUMMARY outlining the imagined evidence against Dr. Ivins.FN/ (I also have had the Godel, Escher Bach book for decades; it is a well-known book).

    Even an innocent person is highly motivated to throw out something he has reason to know the FBI is going to use to build a case based on questioning or other information.


    • The Language of the Letters is Similar to the Writings of Dr. Ivins . . . . . . . . 56
    • The literal message . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57
    • The hidden message – Codons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58
    • Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58
    • Dr. Ivins’s fascination with codes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
    c. Godel, Escher, Bach: the book that Dr. Ivins did not want
    investigators to find . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61

    • DXer said

      “While these revelations are certainly disturbing — and the implications alarming — the reality is that they represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to flawed forensics.

      In a landmark 2009 report, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that, aside from DNA, there was little, if any, meaningful scientific underpinning to many of the forensic disciplines.


      There is one thing that all troubling forensic techniques have in common: They’re all based on the idea that patterns, or impressions, are unique and can be matched to the thing, or person, who made them. But the validity of this premise has not been subjected to rigorous scientific inquiry. “The forensic science community has had little opportunity to pursue or become proficient in the research that is needed to support what it does,” the NAS report said.

      Nonetheless, courts routinely allow forensic practitioners to testify in front of jurors, anointing them “experts” in these pattern-matching fields — together dubbed forensic “sciences” despite the lack of evidence to support that — based only on their individual, practical experience. These witnesses, who are largely presented as learned and unbiased arbiters of truth, can hold great sway with jurors whose expectations are often that real life mimics the television crime lab or police procedural.”

  4. DXer said

    This FBI dog hair scandal should make us question our faith in scientific evidence, Fusion, April 26, 2015

    by Natasha Lennard

  5. DXer said

    Pseudoscience in the Witness Box
    The FBI faked an entire field of forensic science.

    By Dahlia Lithwick

    And yet hardly any crime labs have bothered to conduct audits. Nor is the problem limited to bad hair cases—much the same type of eyeballed comparison is done on bite marks, ballistics, fibers, and even fingerprints.”


    and the reign of pseudoscience in the witness box hardly stops at hair and bite marks. It sweeps in the testimony of forensic psychiatrists ….”


    These folks are supposed to be analysts who answer to the rules of science, not performance artists trotted out for the benefit of the prosecution.


    Or perhaps because nobody really cares all that much about people who’ve been sitting in jail for years and years. Says Garrett: “These victims may remain unrecognized and in prison—if they still live—and the same unscientific testimony continues to be delivered without limitation. … But hey, these are just criminal cases right?”

  6. DXer said

    The legendary Beale cipher — sometimes used by government analysts in training related to cryptography — points to the approach that should be taken in such an analysis of a code. People should not merely accept assertions serving as the premise of the analysis and proposed solution without testing them.

    Some background:

    The Mysterious Treasure of Thomas Beale

    About a century and a quarter ago, a slim pamphlet was published in Virginia, USA. Amazingly for such an unassuming little document, it has ruined numerous lives, mostly through greed and obsession. It tells the story of buried treasure, and has snared the unwary ever since it was published. It is hard to imagine a treasure more like ‘fool’s gold’ than that described in The Beale Papers. The story revolves around a set of ciphers, that have so far resisted every effort to break them. Fools, read on and become beguiled…
    In all kinds of cipher, the original plaintext is encrypted using a key to yield the ciphertext. Generally, the same key also serves to effect the reverse process and allows the original plaintext to be obtained1. In a book cipher, the key is a passage from a printed text. The encryption proceeds as follows: take the first letter of the plaintext, look up any word in the key that begins with the letter and then write down the position of the word in the key. Book ciphers are pretty secure as they prevent cryptographic attacks through frequency analysis2, providing that the same word is not used over and over again for the same letter.

    Additional doubts arise from the story itself. The words ‘stampede’ and ‘improvise’ are not recorded in general use before 1840, but were supposedly written by Beale in 1820 in his accompanying note to the ciphers.

    Yet even today, individuals spend weeks or years of their lives attempting to decipher lists of numbers, and others head for Buford’s Tavern with picks, shovels and a seemingly inexhaustible optimism. They will continue to do so as long as they believe that, instead of working for the American Dream, they can find it ready for the taking. And, as long as stories of buried treasure and secret codes continue to enthral, and there are fools enough to believe them.


    Just as the “T” in NEXT has not been shown to be double-lined, it seems not to be true, for example, that “stampede” was not in general use before 1840.FN People should not merely accept assertions without testing them.

    In Amerithrax, the burden was on the FBI to have obtained a forensic determination (using microscopy) of which letters were double-lined.

    I unsuccessfully tried to recruit the federal undercover who did my graphics ( ) to drop down the skylight and upload all of the historical society’s holdings to the internet. (The organization wanted to charge me $30 for photos I wanted to use for a local history book; the money collected just serves to pay the salary of the gatekeepers preventing access to the images). The undercover even held off on joining me in Maine to pick up a shovel to dig for the $500 million in Isabella Gardner paintings and joining me in Yonkers to dig for the $30-40 million in Dutch Schultz’s booty. (Dutch’s old residence had a tunnel and had been made into a college co-ed dormitory). It’s very hard these days to entrap an undercover with sound judgment into doing something questionable when he can recognize it as a fool’s errand.

    But undeterrred by his common sense and good judgment, I’ve told a dear friend to prepare her family’s guestroom in Lynchburg, VA without further delay. Taking a shovel into the woods with a friend on a sunny day beats standing in front of a scanner.or computer screen.

    Many historical texts that could serve as a cipher key from the early 19th Century are being scanned.

    Volunteers to scan 40000 historic titles at Onondaga County Public …
    WSYR-Aug 13, 2014
    That spirit is part of the reason Onondaga County was picked for the project, one of only a handful of public libraries in the country, according to …


    The Mysteries of the Backwoods, Or, Sketches of the … – Page 15
    Thomas Bangs Thorpe – 1816 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    A stampede sometimes seizes the herd, and then, with upturned heads and glaring eyes, the animals rush along, making the earth tremble beneath their feet. Then it is that feats of horsemanship are performed that would delight Bedouin …
    1806 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    It might be better designated, however, as a Sioux panic andstampede, for, to quote the expressive letter of McGillycuddy, writing under date of January 15, 1891, “Up to date there has been neither a Sioux outbreak or war. No citizen in …
    • Our New States and Territories: Being Notes of a Recent … – Page 29
    Albert Deane Richardson – 1806 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    The Indians came over a hill, in a sharp dash upon the animals, hoping to stampede and drive them off. The soldiers of our escort rushed to the ferry-boat, to participate in the fray ; but, for my own part, I reconciled myself Jo the decrees of …
    • The Medical Repository (And Review Of American … – Page 56
    Samuel Latham Mitchill, ‎Edward Miller, ‎Elihu Hubbard Smith – 1805 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    … our domestic literature; and this circumstance is one of the numerous obstacles which have operated to discourage literary exertions on this side of the Atlantic, and to impede our literary progress.” is Jliller’s Briefstampede; His is”: Getting,
    • The American Annual of Photography – Volume 6 – Page 138
    1802 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    At once I called to the boy to give me my rifle, which caused astampede, and I saw no more of them. Then on going to see what they had been rolling, I found it was a large stone anchor cased in withs, that the fishermen use for their nets, …
    • The Prairie Scout, Or Agatone the Renegade: A Romance of …
    Charles Wilkins Webber – 1802 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    Well, we can stampede the sheep-pen — you With a rasping chuckle …
    • Men and Events of Forty Years: Autobiographical … – Page 279
    Josiah Bushnell Grinnell – 1801 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    The Indian has few friends on the cattle-ranges, is commonly under suspicion as a cattle-thief and is a menace and terror to unprotected families. His red blanket is a convenient device for inciting a stampedeof cattle, in which he takes grim …
    • History of the United States of America: 1861-1865. The … – Page 446
    James Schouler – 1800 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    infernal roar; then headquarters disappeared, McCook’s corps broke into a stampede, followed by divisions of Crittenden, who could not check his flying troops. To Ross- ville, and next to Chattanooga, about twelve miles distant from the …
    • History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, and Forest, … – Page 166
    1800 – ‎Read
    … south of Bradford, was brought into existence during the days of the oil stampede up the east branch. Here are the works of the Rock Glycerine Company noticed in the history of the city. The bull and bear fight of July 1, 1879, took place at …
    • The Atlantic Monthly – Volume 65 – Page 378
    1800 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    But the danger was already over, and he stood staring at the cause of the stampede. Mounted on a colt, without saddle or bridle, her cap gone, her long braids hanging half unraveled down her back, Catalina galloped past in the wake of the …
    • The Deseret Weekly – Volume 41 – Page 780
    1800 – ‎Read – ‎More editions
    A stampede of 500 families to Eureka and other towns from- the east side of the river was caused by a woman, who saw Indians on the other side of the river dancing and yelling, and gave the alarm, fearing they were coming over to mass tcre.

  7. DXer said

    Part 1: Breaking Codes to Stop Crime

    Do Al Qaeda operatives send coded messages on twitter?

    For example, here is Yazid Sufaat’s twitter feed before his arrest. Were there coded messages?

    Yazid Sufaat

    Do people send coded messages using online scrabble?

    In the newly released 5th edition, EW is not a word but EEW and EEEW are acceptable.

  8. DXer said

    MUX, (-ED, -ING, -ES), a new word allowed in Scrabble, means “to transmit several messages simultaneously using a single channel.”

    GAO is tasked with assessing the science relied upon by the FBI in Amerithrax. That science would — SHOULD have included — a blind and authoritative means of determining which letters were double-lined. The method used very likely could definitively determine whether a letter was double-lined or not.

    No such examination was disclosed in the materials released by the FBI.

    If the “T” was not in fact double-lined, what likely was the message intended by the writer? A-T-T-A.

  9. DXer said

    Conoscopic holography and a 3D analysis is blocked in the absence of the original.

    Determination of the sequence of line crossings by means of 3D laser profilometry
    Giuseppe Schirripa Spagnolo␣, Carla Simonetti, Lorenzo Cozzella Dipartimento di Ingegneria Elettronica, Università degli Studi “Roma Tre”

    Click to access handwritting.pdf

    But there are other means of determining whether the “T” in NEXT was double-lined even assuming absence of an original.

  10. DXer said

    Automatic handwriting recognition and writer matching on anthrax-related handwritten mail

    Srihari, S.N. ; Center of Excellence for Document Anal. & Recognition, State Univ. of New York, Buffalo, NY, USA ; Sangjik Lee

    A handwriting recognition technique and a handwriting identification technique were combined and applied on anthrax-related handwritten mail. The HWAI (handwritten address interpretation) system interprets the address on the anthrax-related letters. The HWAI process can be modified to provide specific alphabet images which can then be used for writer identification. Micro-level feature values from segmented characters were extracted and an identification test was conducted. Preliminary results based on automatic handwriting recognition and identification are shown.

    Published in:
    Frontiers in Handwriting Recognition, 2002. Proceedings. Eighth International Workshop on
    Date of Conference:
    280 – 284


    If you are local, consider getting out to my photo exhibit that opened yesterday at Betts titled “Ophelia Unleashed!” (Ophelia is a giant Pacific octopus).

    And for summer reading, for those consumed by the Isabella Gardner mystery, see

    “Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer” (Liveright), by Matthew Gavin Frank, out July 7th. This strange, innovative book-length essay is, like the squid that serves as its emblematic center, slippery and many-armed. In part, Frank sets out to write about Reverend Moses Harvey, a minister from Newfoundland who, in 1874, became the first person to photograph the giant squid. Harvey’s story is told through a combination of historical facts and fictional reimaginings of the obsession that drove the reverend to seek out the elusive creature. … The book is a history of people who have become enthralled by the giant squid; it is also a larger exploration of the human tendency to fall into obsession and “mythologize the actual, just because it’s unusual.”—A.D.

  11. DXer said

    “They used to play Scrabble every day at lunch, and we continued to play Scrabble at lunch kind of frequently until it kind of died off, so things like that, Bruce would miss, so I know he used to send her encrypted emails like you would have to fill in what the word is, like she was playing Scrabble from far away. So sometimes that would take some time to come up with that.” (p. 105)

    This relates to the FBI’s misconceived code theory.

    Did I mention that the forensics do not support the FBI’s claim as to what was double-lined? In a field with so many microscopes, you would think that in support of a claimed theory involving double-lining they might have provided a handwriting opinion as to which letters were double-lined (as evidenced upon 200X, 400X or 800X magnification).

    I play a lot of scrabble. Am looking forward to kicking ass at yet another fun tournament this month.

    My good friend developed an App called WORD SKILL that involves the same challenge Bruce was posing to Mara in his emails. You specify 7 letters on a rack and then with a given board, the person attempts to make the highest score.

    People love the game and find it addictive.

    The challenges described by Ms. Friend do not involve codes or encryption. It involves a variation of the popular word game called SCRABBLE. It involves anagrams.

    If I am slow in uploading the Susan Welkos and Arthur Friedlander depositions, it will be because it is my move in one of 20 games of WORDS WITH FRIENDS or 20 games of EA SCRABBLE. Indeed, if the FBI had wanted to trace how he spent his time, they should have accessed his archived online scrabble games.

    It is a moral outrage that the FBI would accuse a scrabble player of murder and rely in such a botched manner on his love for the game as evidence of the crime.

    AUSA Lieber should have realized that it is the “Go” and “Chess” players who are scheming, sneaky and secretive. We scrabble players, OTOH, put our tiles on the table and are above board.

    Other people at lunchtime do a lot worse.

  12. DXer said

    Vahid Majidi says that cryptologists reviewed the letters. Okay, Vahid. Then where are their reports? Why didn’t you see that they were produced under FOIA?

  13. DXer said

    Today in History

    What a difference one letter makes, eh?

    Do you still believe Bruce Ivins was responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks?

  14. DXer said


    I have suggested that the agent concocted the FBI’s Code Theory he falsely claimed the “T” in NEXT was double-lined. (It can be proved empirically, upon magnification and measurement, that it was not and is not in fair dispute). The FBI has failed to produce any of the underlying source documents setting forth its explanation and proof of the code. Specifically, what did the agent rely upon in claiming the “T” in NEXT to be double lined? (Nothing… he just asserted it).

    Consider the legendary alleged cipher found on Oak Island in Nova Scotia. One could start with these treatises below in considering the hypothesis that the lead British Engineer John Montresor (who later was alleged to be corrupt) was responsible for the complex of tunnels. One could turn to consider whether the claimed cipher was one in use by British military in 1775 during the Siege of Boston — for which I don’t yet see that his journals or mapping and building of fortifications in Boston provide an alibi. (The tunnel would serve to secure payday upon evacuation to Halifax).

    But it seems that first one would want to focus on the evidence that the rock found in the “Money Pit” (at 90 feet below, I believe) actually contained those characters. No documentation prior to 1850 has been produced. Before being lost to history, the rock was totally smooth. Academicians were said to have translated it but where is the underlying work product?

    In Amerithrax, there is no documentation that has been produced in support of the FBI’s code theory relating to which lines were double-lined.

    Wasn’t it a prosecutor working with an agent that produced the claimed code?

    Importantly, a code only makes sense when one intends to communicate with another. Like a Hatfill Theory, an Ivins Theory was always stretched to make the fellow as crazy as needed to be to make the theory try to work.

    If two people want to communicate, here is an example. Subscribe to an RSS feed of Craigslist such as “free stuff.” Then the person contacting you can simply make a post of an item using pre-arranged coded content. It could be used to code an invitation to go out for ice cream for example. The NSA snoop would simply come to ignore the avalanche of listings and pay it no attention. Certainly, without their computers, the NSA analysts are not known to have any special ability to discern simple codes.

    Online scrabble is another example.

    But Bruce E. Ivins would have no reason to send a code. Thus, theory was always stupid from the start — in addition to being unprincipled given that the “T” in NEXT in fact could be proved not to be double-lined. Where was the FBI’s Questioned Documents Unit? Where was the USPIS Lab Director who was giving guidance on other Amerithrax issues?

    Mercury, [electronic resource] : or the secret and svvift messenger : Shewing, how a man may with privacy and speed communicate his thoughts to a friend at any distance.
    inet [Internet]
    no item information, Available via Internet

    Natural history of Nevis, [electronic resource] : And the rest of the English Leeward Charibee Islands in America. With many other Observations on nature and art; Particularly, An Introduction to The Art of Decyphering. In Eleven Letters from the Revd Mr.
    MDCCXLV [1745]
    inet [Internet]
    no item information, Available via Internet

    Essay on the art of decyphering. In which is inserted a discourse of Dr. Wallis. Now first publish’d from his original manuscript in the publick library at Oxford. By John Davys, M. A. Rector of Castle-Ashby in Northamptonshire [electronic resource].
    MDCCXXXVII. [1737]
    inet [Internet]
    no item information, Available via Internet

    Treatise on the art of decyphering, [electronic resource] : and of writing in cypher. With an harmonic alphabet.
    inet [Internet]
    no item information, Available via Internet

    New book of cyphers [electronic resource] : more compleat and regular than any yet extant. Wherein the whole alphabet (twice over) consisting of 600 cyphers, is variously changed, inter-woven, and reversed; … The whole (with the English translated into
    inet [Internet]
    no item information, Available via Internet

    • DXer said

      ‘I’d Tap That’ And Other NSA Pick-Up Lines Are All The Rage

      This was all inspired by the news reported on Friday by The Wall Street Journal that National Security Agency officers were spying on their exes or love interests, and enough of them were doing it that the practice got its own Orwellian label within the agency: “LOVEINT”.

      From twitter…

      “I bet you’re tired of women who only pretend to listen. ”

      “I know exactly where you have been all my life.”

      “You come here often”.

      “I’ve got my eye in the sky on you.”

      “Heyyyy–here’s a person of interest!”

      “I’ve just sent myself a facebook friend request. from your account.”

      “Every breath you take
      Every move you make
      Every bond you break
      Every step you take
      I’ll be watching you”

      “I would risk a long conviction
      To decipher your encryption ”


      My dear friend, an NSA analyst, picked me up after the first party we met in Arlington by shouting across the parking lot “I love you!” Like Obama, I yelled “I love ya back!”

  15. DXer said

    A nephew’s interest in Oak Island has reminded me of my theory of that treasure legend. In the following post by someone setting forth my summary of the theory, I mention the book “Masked Dispatches.” It might be an interesting summer reading in the context of Amerithrax.

    The British Sacking of Havana

    This theory was sent to us by Ross.

    I believe the treasure relates to the British sacking of Havana in 1762. Essentially, the new King George III plundered the gateway to the Spanish world. He arranged to have 3 brothers put in command – the Keppel brothers. I believe the ship that contained the treasure buried on Oak Island was the one under the command of the Keppel brother, George I believe, who had commanded the land forces.

    His whereabouts are pretty much unaccounted for in 1763. Upon leaving Havana with his gunship, he initially went to Jamaica. He supposedly stayed there for a year even though he was very anxious to get home. Then he continued home. (I think he detoured to Halifax and Oak Island; ship logs at Halifax or more likely in London are the key; I can look up in my notes the name of the ship. I believe General Amherst, who assisted the Keppels with troops, would have had to be in on it. Along with the King’s confidante who arranged the Keppels to be appointed.

    The key to proof of this theory — apart from the ship logs in London — is discovery of the ciphers that British naval intelligence used circa 1760. I believe the inscription is what David Kahn describes as a geometric cipher. The endpoints of the lines, the dots, the points of the triangles etc. determine the place on the 24 (at the time) letter alphabet. The key to the cipher is simply a string, which is easy for a seafaring man to carry. 18th and 19th century books (such as Mercury..)have a more detailed explanation than David Kahn’s book. If any one is near Washington, D.C., I recommend they go to the historical museum at Fort Meade and ask there for examples of the ciphers that British naval intelligence used during the revolutionary war (and more to the point, in 1760).

    There were good reasons for King George III not to have the treasure brought back because he had not yet consolidated his power.

    I realize that serious and careful research has gone to support the theory that it is all a hoax. And I agree that many assertions are not well founded – just unsupported assertions based on earlier magazine articles that contained unsupported assertions.

    Given the motivation of the folks over the years to raise money for digging, special care by any historian needs to be taken. But I believe the cipher affords an opportunity to nail the nature of the treasure. And the ship logs would provide objective proof.

    In addition, on the cipher, you might start with Professor Weber’s book “Masked Dispatches” which I haven’t seen but promises to be useful.

    • DXer said

      The book is “Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775-1900.”

      Late last night, my daughter and I were stumped by a puzzle in the quest to win free burritos for life from Chipotle. In hindsight, it was easy. It was a binary code using a pig or an empty space to spell out the iSBN of the book “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Each week folks at my scrabble get-together test each other with puzzles. One player is a professor and starts each class with a puzzle — as does my daughter’s math teacher in middle school. For the DOJ and FBI to argue that Dr. Ivins was guilty of the multiple murders because (Pat Fellows says) he was interested in codes and puzzles is wildly reckless. Many, if not most, educated people find puzzles and codes interesting. It remains just Agent Steele’s and the AUSA’s bald assertion — notwithstanding my longstanding FOIA request on the subject. The AUSA triumphantly emailed me and said I would never get anything more under FOIA from the FBI.

      Here, the critical forensic underpinning of Agent Steele’s perceived code is his unsupported premise that the “T” in NEXT was double-lined. No document analysis was offered in support of the claim. The author of the book relied upon by the FBI disputes the interpretation and deems it far-fetched.

      We know that KSM and Al-Hawsawi and others involved in 911 and the anthrax planning regularly used simple codes.

      Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775-1900 [Paperback]
      Ralph E. Weber (Author), Center for Cryptologic History (Author), David W. Gaddy (Foreword)

      The art and science of code-making and code-breaking is driven both by the risk inherent in an adversary’s ability to read an intercepted communication and the technology available to mitigate that threat efficiently and cost-effectively. This is true both for today’s computer-driven cryptography and cryptanalysis and the simpler, yet no less vital codes and ciphers used in the past. In “Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775-1900”, the beginnings of American cryptography are portrayed as rooted in the nation’s origin in revolutionary conspiracy. Although the technology consisted of the use of messenger and hand-written correspondence or signals (“One if by land, two if by sea”), the risks of detection and betrayal of secrets was just as great as in the present day. “Masked Dispatches” presents some of the Founding Fathers as active participants in spycraft. America’s first espionage code was devised by Benjamin Tallmadge, General George Washington’s director of secret service, for use by a spy ring set up in New York in 1778. Another chapter discusses Washington’s supplying of invisible ink to Tallmadge. Not surprisingly, Thomas Jefferson’s contribution to the world of codes and ciphers was a mechanical device – a wheel cylinder. Once America won its independence, it continued to rely on the devices and methods used in the Revolutionary period. During the Civil War, both sides employed ciphers which, although not much in advance of those used in the 18th century, generally succeeded in keeping their secrets. Spies in the field, such as the Union’s Elizabeth Van Lew in Richmond, used simple yet effective substitution systems, while even Abraham Lincoln dabbled in primitive types of encryption. Whether recounting the cryptographic efforts of prominent Americans or the more mundane role of successive diplomatic codes in keeping State Department transactions confidential, “Masked Dispatches” provides both fascinating narrative details and extensive examples of encrypted dispatches and cipher systems. This unique view of America’s early history will prove invaluable to diplomatic and military historians as well as anyone intrigued by spycraft, codes, and ciphers.
      Product Details
      Paperback: 234 pages
      Publisher: Military Bookshop (January 1, 2011)
      Language: English
      ISBN-10: 1780390084

      • DXer said

        It is never too late to be right …. Until it is.

        In the middle of rereading D’Arcy O’Connor’s wonderful 1976 book The Money Pit, I now think that a group of French Hugenots built the Oak Island vault in 1753. A key player, Louis Paysant, then was killed by Micmac Indians in 1756. Lew, I think, often lives in France. But a French translator here can use the rare books room at Cornell. The Hugenots apparently built a similar vault with water trap in Haiti that was discovered in 1947.

        The former WSJ reporter O’Connor, also wrote The Big Dig in 1988. He is still actively involved. A documentary is being made. I think O’Connor and his colleagues will solve the mystery. I wonder if they have ever considered the use of drones to go and film in small spaces.

        A descendant of the French Hugeunot is staying with us now but I don’t speak any French and so can’t share the details and I need the Cornell expert to come back to town.

        Makes me want to go to Haiti to research the other reputed Hugeunot vault.

        O’Connor himself in a 2012 discussion on YouTube was noncommittal as to any theory but his 1976 demonstrates a clear command of facts.

        One important drawback to my earlier sacking of Havana by British theory is that the activity in 1762 would have been noticed. About 300 residents lived in the area. First arrived during 1753-1755 timeframe.

        Paysant had a trading post 5 miles away on Covey Island in1755.

  16. DXer said

    Here is a piece in Slate urging that the FBI needs to do some soul searching about how expert its proffered “expert testimony” is.

    • DXer said

      This Amazon review of the 2012 “Failed Evidence” is illustrated by the assertion that the “T” is double-lined. Where is the validated scientific evidence supporting the assertion so central to the FBI’s code and its “Ivins Theory”?

      Take the FBI’s theory of the code for example.
      5.0 out of 5 stars Failed Evidence, December 26, 2012
      By massprivatei – See all my reviews
      This review is from: Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science (Hardcover)
      Readers of Failed Evidence will recognize some valid arguments about the pressing need for reform. Judges, prosecutors and police need to have scientifically valid forensic results(like DNA) to arrest and sentence people with. Not questionable junk science, like bite mark evidence or death smell evidence which was introduced in the Casey Anthony murder trial. If Judges and jurors are not made aware of the dubious nature of this unscientifically validated evidence is it any wonder our justice system is broken?

      Failed Evidence supports reform that could rigorously test forensic science techniques to see if they actually worked. Another key reform from David Harris’s book and one widely endorsed by experts, would be to establish enforceable standards and set up a mandatory certification and accreditation process for forensic science professionals and labs.

      This book is a companion to the “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward” book. Three years ago, the influential National Academy of Sciences released a scathing report broadly condemning the work of criminal labs in the U.S. Too often, the report found, forensic labs do subpar work and rely on unproven techniques such as analyzing bite marks or examining the markings on a bullet.

  17. DXer said

    “The problem at the heart of preventing the Boston bombings — the failure to share information — is being witnessed now in this very room. The information requested by this committee belongs to the American people. It does not belong solely to the FBI.” – Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas.

    See more at:

    What would possibly justify the FBI’s past delay in producing documents — and continued withholding documents relating to forensics identified and discussed on this blog — to the GAO?

    If the FBI is so inefficient at producing documents — which largely involves a skilled paralegal’s function — then why would the public expect them to be able to solve a difficult whodunnit?

    The lead Amerithrax paralegal and I were big fans of the same local folk singer. He is a highly skilled individual capable of organizing and making readily retrievable large volumes of documents. A lot of people want to work for the DOJ and FBI and so they can be selective hire top people. When I came to DC the prosecutors would do their best at keeping me from meeting up with the paralegal.

    The documents that the FBI is withholding from GAO are provably both massive and indexed. All GAO needs to do to obtain a roadmap of what the FBI is continuing to withhold is to interview the paralegal about the method of indexing and annotation and document retrieval from the database.

    In the Boston marathon case, the documents were not even voluminous.

    With the particular documents withheld identified, the GAO can then focus on the individuals who are continuing to keep the documents from being produced — and the DOJ and FBI can see that personnel who are not obstructionist take over the role.

  18. DXer said

    Why did Agent Steele arrive at a code theory inconsistent with the handwriting and document analysis documents?

    The documents were obtainable under FOIA after February 2010 upon the applicability of the law enforcement exemption.

    Upon magnification, there is no room for debate as to what is double-lined or not.

    • DXer said

      In regard to the secret codes used by Al Qaeda, we know those codes from interrogation and seized documents that permitted validation. For example, KSM’s code for numbers involved adding or subtraction from “5.” 7 became 3. 1 became 9 etc. The encoded telephone number would turn out to be another operative’s number.

      The use of “wedding” and “Jenny” as code are perhaps the most famous examples.

      On the other hand, when someone miscasts the facts in rationalizing some perceived message, as Special Agent Steele did, it is not evidence of a code. it is evidence of an overzealous prosecution where investigators and prosecutors tried to make a square peg fit a round hole.

      In Amerithrax, the underlying analysis relating to document analysis done by the Questioned Documents Unit invalidated SA Steele’s brainstormed code — and yet the prosecutors still offered it to their superiors in claimed support of their “Ivins Theory” while withholding the analysis relating to document analysis.

      If you want Chipotle burritos for 20 years, here is your secret code. Below is evidence of a code that can be validated or not.

      Because you registered early, we’re giving you a special code to unlock one puzzle hint (every puzzle has a hint). Enter this code directly on the puzzle page after clicking “Need a hint?” on the top right. Use it on the first puzzle or save it for later.
      Here’s your code:


      Keep this crucial information in a safe place. Soon, your work will begin.
      You can get another hint code by looking for instructions on any Chipotle receipt generated during Adventurrito. Text us what you see on the receipt, and we’ll send you back another one-time-use hint code. For more on hint unlock codes and other rules of the game, go here.
      Adventurrito starts on July 13th, Chipotle’s 20th anniversary. Keep an eye on and follow Chipotle on Twitter and Facebook for updates, reminders, and more. Best of luck.”

    • DXer said

      I’ve been watching YouTube videos by the sellers of various microscopes and devices used in forensic document analysis. I was a little surprised to find a maximum of 200 Xs magnification common in mobile devices. One stationery device had a maximum of 400 Xs. But even a 200 Xs it can be definitively resolved that the “T” in NEXT is not double-lined. I previously have described that when working with the original of a ballpoint pen (as distinguished from a photocopy), at 800Xs magnification on my child’s toy, the lines look like huge coarse rope and you it unmistakable where lines cross and overlap. But even at 200 Xs magnification of a photocopied line, the width and details of the image permit a definitive assessment of which letters are underlined. The document analysis was part of the science relied upon by the FBI and should be addressed by GAO. There is no reason to overemphasize cutting edge microbial forensics which merely narrowed things from 700 to 200-300 individuals (who then could have given the sample of virulent Ames to anyone covertly) — when more traditional forensics techniques shed far greater clarification and light on the subject.

  19. DXer said

    Below is a 1969 FBI training film on handwriting analysis. Document analysis here would start by magnification of the letter to 200X or 400X and have a formal finding on whether the “T” in NEXT was in fact double-lined. When I use such magnification on letters written in ink with a pen, the lines look like huge ropes and it is easy to differentiate between lines that overlap or merge. (I have never magnified xeroxed copies).

    One does not even reach interpretation as to whether — in the FBI’s contrived analysis — the perceived FNY stands for “F*CK NY” and “PAT” stands for Pat Fellows rather than Pat Leahy without the proper foundation being laid.

    If there were such a code, would it point to someone who thinks people from New York are mean? That beds in New York are lumpy? That he hates the Yankees?

    Or a committed Salafist who is saying to Pat Leahy, in charge of appropriations to Egypt and Israel, “F*CK NY.” One does not even reach speculative theorizing until the foundation is laid — and the analysis is transparent upon disclosure of the underlying handwriting and document examination reports.

    I have the same book Ivins had. The author of the book says the FBI’s code is not a viable interpretation because a reasonable observer would not understand the “T” in NEXT to be underlined. See his 302 statement.

    In Amerithrax, a speculative theory and unsupported conclusory assertions by a prosecutor were uncritically accepted by some as substitutes for admissible evidence.

    Indeed, the internet poster urging reliance on the claim thinks it is a FACT a non-existent First Grader wrote the letters!

    The investigator who came up with the theory was, in fact, not qualified as a document examiner. GAO should prod the FBI to disclose the underlying handwriting and document analysis reports. The GAO relatedly should publish the interview of the FBI scientist who came up with the code to find the basis for his claim that the “T” in NEXT was double-lined.

    If so, remind me to throw out my copy of that book.

    Finally, is there any educated person who does not have a fascination with puzzles and codes?

    ABCD goldfish?
    LMNO goldfish.

  20. DXer said

    Former New York City Captain of Police Detectives Tom Walker writes on the subject in a Sherlock Holmes-themed e-book (downloadable on your Kindle) published in July 2012:

    “As noted by many, the idea of decoding is extremely prevalent today — it’s studied by military specialists, astronomers, scientists, mathematicians, ec. Wouldn’t Ivins have known that his code would be easily broken given the publicity that it would receive? Is it possible the real killer used it as a decoy? The real message was in the return address on the Daschle envelope (discovered later).

    … “Why did he keep the book? He liked codes. He was innocent. The DNA code was on page 162 of a book that was well over 400 pages.

    Why did he get rid of it? He had been named a “person of interest”. After the November 1st search of his home, he realized that the “Hatfill juggernaut” was coming after him. Sadly, Ivins had a mental condition that couldn’t withstand such an assault.”

  21. DXer said

    If the FBI had provided its forensic analysis of the letters, the prosecutors and investigators might not have felt so free to concoct their contrived theory involving the double-lining of letters.

  22. richard rowley said

    And to get back to Agent Steele,

    1) he wrote that the second A in Allah is possibly highlighted

    2) he wrote that the H in DEATH in line 3 is possibly highlighted

    If EITHER perception is true then the surface text/ ‘framing message’ is changed and the results at the deeper level change too. Totally cancelling out a hidden code that incriminates Bruce Ivins.

    • DXer said

      Sorry for the confusion on this graphic. As I indicated earlier, those comments on the left are by someone random observer who posted on the internet. But that’s precisely the point. When viewed by some random passersby, you get a different result. Go ahead. Print a good quality of the letter at high resolution. Make 5 copies. Ask 5 people. Ask which ones are highlighted.

      People like Ed just uncritically accept whatever the government asserts — even where there is no supporting no citation to the record or support for the claim. The prosecutor Rachel was just asserting their theory — on the range of subsidiary issues — and the claim is contradicted by the documents. Then the psychiatrist who advised the investigators and assumes the allegations are true and concludes from that that Bruce is creepy.

      Amerithrax represents the greatest counterintelligence failure in the history of the United States.

      • richard rowley said

        Back in 2006-7 I myself printed out copies of the letter (Brokaw/NY POST), sometimes carried them around with me during the day so that I would get ‘fresh glances’ ——dozens to hundreds—-over the course of a week. And in the same timeframe I would ask friends and acquaintances to give their opinion as to which letters were extra-heavy and/or retraced.

        I found:
        1) people, even when warm with me personally, were reluctant to give an opinion on the highlighting.

        2)when they gave an opinion it rarely if ever matched up 100% with what I thought I saw.

        3) some subtracted letters from what I saw, some added letters. Some did both.

        4) I’d hate to see anyone’s liberty/life hanging on the judgement of those letters!

  23. richard rowley said

    Since SOMEONE still doesn’t get it about the ‘code’ and why

    1) saying that LOTS of letters could be perceived as ‘highlighted’ isn’t consistent with the government’s solution(s)*

    2) saying that ‘the average person’ might not see the T in NEXT as highlighted isn’t consistent with the government’s solution(s)*
    [Redacted] suggested that the average person might not think the ‘T’ in NEXT was highlighted.
    3) saying that the text might have been done from right to left and may reflect a printer who ‘usually’ writes from right to left isn’t consistent with the government’s claim that Bruce Ivins was the sole culprit in Amerithrax
    [Redacted] suggested that the manner in which some of the letters were formed may have been because the writer usually writes right to left.

    *Note: remember the solutions to the “amino acid code” are “FNY” AND “PAT”. But if the surface text, what Hofstadter evidently calls the “frame message”, is changed (by determining that a given ADDITIONAL letter is highlighted, and/or that a so-called highlighted letter really isn’t), then the “hidden message” (the solution(s)) is/are changed.

    I’ll try one more time: to be right at even the most elementary level of deciphering something, you have to know WHAT you’re deciphering: is it TTT AAT TAT as the government says? If NOT (ie if a single letter is added or subtracted), then the solution(s) would disappear.
    And if a person who USUALLY wrote from right to left printed the letter, then this would eliminate Bruce Ivins.

    • DXer said

      All valid points.

      GAO within the agency has sufficient expertise at document analysis to reach the question of double-lining and dismiss the agent’s theory as unsound and not supported by any forensic document examination. Alternatively, the agent is free to provide the GAO support for this theory by providing the underlying documentary analysis.

      But this mindless recitation of the government’s assertion — without testing them against the documents — has to stop. Mr. Willman, in particular, never tested any of the government’s claims. He just adopted them.

      Hint: It’s not investigative reporting to eagerly report that the suspect did not kiss his prom date. That’s just story telling.

  24. richard rowley said

    Okay, so apparently I misunderstood: I conflated the document of Agent Steele with the 302 (which I only spied the excerpt of ) of some ( likely?) outside consultant (likely a graphologist or epigrapher or some related field).

    Evidently the 302 (the second page linked) is the statement of a SINGLE consultant rather than the multiple ones I posited. I took it to be at LEAST two consultants because the second redaction space was so much shorter than the others. And the fact that there was a return to longer redaction spaces, a (posited) shift to other proper names (generally requiring more space). But now it’s clear that the second redaction space was a personal pronoun (‘he’ or ‘she’). Why they didn’t continue with that personal pronoun throughout the paragraph is rather odd to me. But that’s our bureaucrats at work, I guess.

    As to the merits: this consultant is suggesting multiple things TOTALLY inconsistent with the case against Bruce Ivins:

    1) that there’s a chance the printer was used to writing from right to left. There’s no indication that Ivins knew any writing system of that sort and certainly, having lived in the US his whole life, he would have been vastly more accustomed to our Latin alphabet (left to right).

    2)(s) he’s saying that the ‘average person’ might not see the ‘T’ of NEXT as “highlighted”. This disagrees with Agent Steele. I personally see it as highlighted but NOT VIA DOUBLE-LINING*. This consultant seems to agree with DXer on the matter.

    3) This part: “indicated that if the mailer intended to have a message in the text of the letters it would be clear which letters were part of the message. [Redacted] reiterated that it might be making too much out of trying to find a message in the letter. ” merely is expressing doubt that there even is a message in the highlighted portions.” Obviously not compatible with either the government’s case or any scenario in which there is a signature or code within the text.

    4) It’s hard to say what the consultant is saying about the letter(s) R. Is it in relation to the highlighting or something else? Perhaps (s)he is merely saying that the way the person forms the R is very distinctive in the population as a whole.

    *What I mean is: there are multiple ways to highlight something (a written character) and double/triple/quadruple/etc. lining is only one of them.

    • richard rowley said

      Said another way, if Ivins had gone to trial, the defense’s best bet to refute the ‘amino acid code’ would have been to call that consultant to the witness stand and get him to reiterate what he expressed at that time.

    • DXer said

      It seems that the best bet would be to have a document analysis expert explain the science involved in judging how many strokes were used — that is, which were in fact double-lined. I know it is incredibly easy with an original at 200X and 400X because I have a device (a kid’s toy called a BIOCAM) that does it — and such an ink link looks like a very coarse rope. And you would see the overlap of the fiber. As to something xeroxed, I don’t Know — but a document analysis expert would. For Agent Steele’s opinion to pass the giggle test, it would have to be premised, in a transparent manner, on work done by a document analyst identifying which involved more than one line. (For example, the “X” did — you can see it going in two different directions.) Such a report by a document analyst should have been produced regardless what it found. When you break down the subsidiary issues, an Ivins theory is extremely unprincipled.

      • DXer said

        Ed reasons that it is the author of the book himself which makes sense. That destroys the theory even before you get to things like the double-lined “X”.

  25. richard rowley said

    So, based on the above document:

    1) first person (redacted) seems to be saying that the T of NEXT might not be highlighted. But the amino acid code in the FINAL REPORT takes that as highlighted (and without it the whole code scenario as described falls apart).

    2) the second person (redacted) seems to be saying that if the printer intended a highlighted message it would be clear, implying, it seems to me that there MIGHT NOT BE a message there.

    3) the third person (redactee) seems to agree with person 2 and expresses explicitly the doubt that there is a message in the highlighted elements.

    4) the fourth person (redactee) says that there are letters BESIDES A’s and T’s that might be highlighted and “the more you look, the more unclear it is.”

    5) the next redactee (but possibly one of the above) returns to the letter R (apparently more than one instance) and says that THEY might be “the most telling thing in the letter.”

    6) the next redactee (but possibly one of the above) speculates that the person who did the printing may have been accustomed to writing from right to left.

    1) Naturally, 6) if true would tend to support someone from the Middle East as the printer (Arabic, Hebrew and Farsi all go from right to left)

    2) I suspect that the redactee mentioned in 5) above is a professional graphologist as he/she focussed (apparently) on what is DISTINCTIVE about the printing, rather than the which-letters-are-highlighted question.

    3) the redactee of 4) above says what many of us have been saying: OTHER letters besides A’s and T’s were highlighted, the only questions are: how many and which ones?

    4) the redactees of 3) and 2) above seem to have their doubts that there is a highlighted message AT ALL in the text.

    5) only the first redactee from 1) above has a minimalist criticism of the final product of the government: he doubts that the T in NEXT is truly highlighted. Doubts but MIGHT buy it evidently.
    So much for ‘smoking gun’ evidence: even the people involved in coming up with it don’t believe in it.

    • DXer said

      No. The 302 is of an interview of a single individual.

      A fuller graphic depiction of the 302 is here:

      This lists the source as 2/6/2008 302 interview statement, p. 4
      and then gives the pdf number as 847547 (at p.22)

      So the 302 in all its glory can be googled and found at the FBI Vault.

      But the key point is that Agent Steele took just took some letters that created a code that suited the narrative. He did not start with letters established by an objective measure and magnification to be double-lined. Indeed, for that matter, the X reveals double-lining.

      Mr. Willman just adopted all of the government’s assertions without ever checking them against the actual documents.

      Or pressing for the relevant documents. See list of Army FOIAs.

      People should not be assuming their conclusions on a matter so important.

  26. richard rowley said

    Thanks for that DXer!

    Let me copy the words from the document DXer links:
    [Redacted] suggested that the average person might not think the ‘T’ in NEXT was highlighted. [Rdcted] indicated that if the mailer intended to have a message in the text of the letters it would be clear which letters were part of the message. [Redacted] reiterated that it might be making too much out of trying to find a message in the letter. [Redacted] indicated that it was difficult to differentiate some of the hightlighted ‘A’s and ‘T’s and pointed out that there were other letters that might be interpreted as highlighted and stated “the more you look, the more unclear it is.”

    [Redacted] returned to the formation of the ‘R’s in the letters and suggested that this was the most telling thing in the letters. [Redacted] suggested that the manner in which some of the letters were formed may have been because the writer usually writes right to left.
    end of visible part of document
    Based on the way the 2nd blank (redacted element) was very much shorter than the other blanks, AND based upon the fact that rival ideas were expressed and exchanged, I would ‘guesstimate’ that 2 to 6 analysts were expressing their opinions in the above 2 paragraphs.

  27. richard rowley said

    This is a great find; I’ve been wondering what the basis was for the surface text of the ‘code’ alleged. I worked on this for some time using the blown-up samples at the UCLA epidemiology site (
    What I see as highlighted/retouched are:

    AHTO [R]*

    (Note: the R of line 3 is borderline highlighted)
    It’s nice to see that at least ONE FBI agent saw the H of line 3 (H in DEATH) as ‘possibly’ highlighted. But it throws the whole ‘amino acid code’ into a cocked hat.
    That because the only nucleotides are A, T, C, G. With U (uracil) appearing in RNA.

    • DXer said

      Let me clarify. The description of the letters that one webposter saw (I don’t know who it is offhand) is on the left.

      The 302 interview pictured on the right who said the code notion was not viable because he didn’t see the “T” in NEXT as underlined.
      In this graphic, you can read the 302 interview statement more fully.

      And the mentioned agent is the one who came up with his own letters that he thought underlined and then made it fit the Pat/Mara/paranoid guy narrative. But there is nothing in the record establshing double-lining of the letters he relied upon and not others.

      Indeed, even after Dr. Ivins’ suicide they were looking for a viable code theory to put forward and were considering musical notation!

      To constitute imagined evidence, you would want to see the letters blown up at 100X or 200X magnification with an expert opinion showing where those letters were in fact double-lined (and others were not).

      Agent Steele can be asked why he thought that the “T” in NEXT was double-lined in concocting his interpretation of a code. That is, what is the date he of the lab report on examination of the letter (and its author).

      GAO can seek this. (It was not produced among the thousands of pages produced to the NAS and it can be the FBI was tasked to produce the relevant documents.

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