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

* Sample new lab notebook pages produced this week by USAMRIID (from Lab Notebook 4000)

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 29, 2011

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12 Responses to “* Sample new lab notebook pages produced this week by USAMRIID (from Lab Notebook 4000)”

  1. DXer said

    In this notebook, for example, he explains that beginning Friday they will check the mice three times a day, to include at night, 9 p.m. – 11 p.m.

  2. BugMaster said

    Note the fill volume of the 2 liter flasks, only 250 mls, or 12.5%.

    This is even less than the 20% volume commonly used when growing cultures that have a high oxygen requirement.

    So how many flasks would Ivins have to have set up to produce the material used in the letters?

    There wasn’t room enough in the labs in Fort Detrick.

  3. DXer said

    Evil prevails when good men do nothing. David Cohen of New York City has to come to realize that Amerithrax was a hugely botched investigation and remains so.

    If things are not set on the right course and Amerithrax is not reopened, when the history of Amerithrax is written, the scandal will dwarf the Whitey Bulger disgrace.

    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/07/03/heres_to_honest_cops_who_made_a_difference/

    Kevin Cullen writes today in the Globe:

    “Whitey was able to kill with impunity and rake in the millions that fueled his 16 years on the run because he was protected by a deeply corrupted FBI. His reign was assisted by other corrupt cops – some Boston police, at least one State Police officer, and who knows how many other bent law enforcement agents.

    But that he even faced criminal charges, and will now die in custody of old age or just plain meanness, is because of a long line of honest cops, a fraternity that included Pat Greaney and Jack O’Donovan.

    Bob Fitzpatrick, a good FBI agent who tried to save his agency from the rot that was Whitey Bulger, remembers teaching a class at the FBI Academy in Quantico in the late 1970s. O’D got up and shocked the class by claiming that FBI agent John Connolly and Connolly’s supervisor John Morris were in cahoots with the Irish mob in Boston.

    It was shocking all right. And it was classic O’D. If you didn’t like the truth, too bad.

    Fitzpatrick gradually came to believe O’Donovan. When he was made assistant special agent in charge in Boston, Fitzpatrick tried to close out Whitey as an informant, but he got the runaround from his own people.”

  4. richard rowley said

    In addition, it was observed by a number of graphologists who weighed in publicly on the printing that the letter ‘G’ was written in a way identical (or nearly so) to a numberal ‘6’.

    In the samples given here, Ivins’ capital G’s are quite different: there is no curling in at the end of the stroke; instead Ivins makes a SECOND stroke to finish off the letter EVEN when he isn’t connecting it to a following letter: see especially the two instances of the abbreviation CPG given in his note of 8 June 99, but there are other examples as CPG comes up a number of times. Ivins’ second stroke on the letter is essentially two straight lines at right angles, describing a nine thirty position on a clock. Nothing like the ‘G’s of the Amerithrax texts.

  5. richard rowley said

    More:
    ————-
    2. In writing the number one, the author chooses to use a formalized, more detailed version. He writes it as “1″ instead of the simple vertical line.
    =====================================
    As can be seen from multiple examples, Ivins NORMALLY used the simple vertical line.

  6. richard rowley said

    Let’s repost a bit of the above:
    ————————————————–
    While the text in these letters is limited, there are certain distinctive characteristics in the author’s writing style. These same characteristics may be evident in other letters, greeting cards, or envelopes this person has written. We hope someone has received correspondence from this person and will recognize some of these characteristics.
    ———————————————————–
    Though the hope in 2001 was that someone would recognize the printing and provide the suspect, we can reverse the process and use the description to examine whether the suspect’s printing is a good match, or any sort of match for the printing in the Amerithrax texts (letters plus writing on outside of envelope).

    Back to the FBI’s words of November 2001:
    ——————————————————–
    4. The author writes in all upper case block-style letters. However, the first letter of the first word of each sentence is written in slightly larger upper case lettering[…]
    ———————————————————-
    This element is definitely NOT there in the samples: though most of the printing is in lower case, upper case is used sufficiently frequently to examine this point; if anything Ivins seems to have had a tendency to INCREASE the size of upper case letters further on in the sentence than the initial element.
    ——————————————————-
    Back to FBI observations of November 2001:
    ———
    1. The author uses dashes (“-”) in the writing of the date “09-11-01.” Many people use the slash (“/”) to separate the day/month/year.
    ———————————————————
    Comment: Ivins seemed to prefer a form of (numeral of day of month) (no dash) (name of month (abbreviated) (no dash) (last 2 digits of year), as in the samples in the notes above:
    (Ivins printed) 14 Mar 01. And 20 Sept 01.

    • DXer said

      It’s simple to disguise one’s handwriting in writing block writing. You just hold the pen differently. Go ahead. With two friends write 5 samples using identical pens, asking your friends to be sure to disguise their handwriting. Give them to a third friend and see if he identify who wrote which.

      • richard rowley said

        Partial post by DXer:
        ———————————-
        It’s simple to disguise one’s handwriting in writing block writing.
        ===============================
        In principle that’s true. But the running assumption of the FBI in November 2001 was that PERHAPS the perp didn’t bother, or didn’t bother much. Why else would you call on the general public to take a gander at the Amerithrax printing and try to think of someone whose printing might fit?

        (Since we Amerithrax sceptics are being constantly taxed with not being serious about/respectful of the task force/FBI/DoJ, it seems appropriate to be serious about what they did FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, ie rather than merely in the latter stages when they had already zeroed in on a suspect. Ask yourself: was the FBI trying to whitewash Ivins in November of 2001? Of course not!).

        And such things as the way that the date was written wouldn’t be about printing PER SE, but rather about a mental habit that developed over many years: even an intentionally-deceptive printer might not have thought of that particular detail as it isn’t just about printing (the graphic impression).
        ================================
        And I just remembered about another element which doesn’t fit: if you look at Ivins’ letter ‘T’ (both upper and lower case) you will find a REMARKABLY short crossbar, Same with his letter ‘F’, especially the lower case one. This vey short crossbar is a distinctive feature of
        his writing: apparently in cursive and in printing. Quite a contrast with the longish and heavy T-bars of the Brokaw/NY POST letter.

  7. richard rowley said

    Though the focus here (in the above) is (rightly) on the merits or contents of what was written, I would observe that this is another instance where we have multiple writing/printing samples from Bruce Ivins and we have some basis for comparison: the FBI own psycholinguistic analysis of November 2001, an analysis which includes the following items:
    ———————————————————

    Linguistic Assessment

    It is highly probable, bordering on certainty, that all three letters were authored by the same person. Letters 1 and 2 are identical copies. Letter 3, however, contains a somewhat different message than the other letters. The Anthrax utilized in Letter 3 was much more refined, more potent, and more easily disbursed than letters 1 and 2.

    In the past, the public has helped the FBI solve high profile investigations that involved writings by coming forward to identify the author, either by how he wrote or by what he wrote. We are asking for the public’s help here again in the same way.

    While the text in these letters is limited, there are certain distinctive characteristics in the author’s writing style. These same characteristics may be evident in other letters, greeting cards, or envelopes this person has written. We hope someone has received correspondence from this person and will recognize some of these characteristics.

    The characteristics include:

    1. The author uses dashes (“-“) in the writing of the date “09-11-01.” Many people use the slash (“/”) to separate the day/month/year.

    2. In writing the number one, the author chooses to use a formalized, more detailed version. He writes it as “1” instead of the simple vertical line.

    3. The author uses the words “can not,” when many people prefer to spell it as one word, “cannot.”

    4. The author writes in all upper case block-style letters. However, the first letter of the first word of each sentence is written in slightly larger upper case lettering. Also, the first letter of all proper nouns (like names) is slightly larger. This is apparently the author’s way of indicating a word should be capitalized in upper case lettering. For whatever reason, he may not be comfortable or practiced in writing in lower case lettering.

  8. DXer said

    McClatchy Washington Bureau
    Print This Article Print This Article

    Posted on Thu, May. 19, 2011
    FBI lab reports on anthrax attacks suggest another miscue
    Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers

    last updated: May 20, 2011 03:05:48 PM

    WASHINGTON — Buried in FBI laboratory reports about the anthrax mail attacks that killed five people in 2001 is data suggesting that a chemical may have been added to try to heighten the powder’s potency, a move that some experts say exceeded the expertise of the presumed killer.

    The lab data, contained in more than 9,000 pages of files that emerged a year after the Justice Department closed its inquiry and condemned the late Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins as the perpetrator, shows unusual levels of silicon and tin in anthrax powder from two of the five letters.

    Those elements are found in compounds that could be used to weaponize the anthrax, enabling the lethal spores to float easily so they could be readily inhaled by the intended victims, scientists say.

    [The experts such as John Kiel do not say that it would relate to floatability. They point to iron as making the anthrax more lethal. The experts to rely upon are those who have made a dried aerosol of anthrax or anthrax simulant.]

    The existence of the silicon-tin chemical signature offered investigators the possibility of tracing purchases of the more than 100 such chemical products available before the attacks, which might have produced hard evidence against Ivins or led the agency to the real culprit.

    [Each year Dr. Ivins created an inventory of chemicals in his lab; there is a sample one among his emails]

    But the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.

    The apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose.

    A McClatchy analysis of the records also shows that other key scientific questions were left unresolved and conflicting data wasn’t sorted out when the FBI declared Ivins the killer shortly after his July 29, 2008, suicide.

    One chemist at a national laboratory told McClatchy that the tin-silicone findings and the contradictory data should prompt a new round of testing on the anthrax powder.

    A senior federal law enforcement official, who was made available only on the condition of anonymity, said the FBI had ordered exhaustive tests on the possible sources of silicon in the anthrax and concluded that it wasn’t added. Instead, the lab found that it’s common for anthrax spores to incorporate environmental silicon and oxygen into their coatings as a “natural phenomenon” that doesn’t affect the spores’ behavior, the official said.

    [Yes, by “natrual phenomenon” Dr. Burans and his colleagues mean the growth process. He does not mean to disagree with Dr. Majidi who said the silica could have been in the growth medium. See transcript. This phrase “natural phenomenon” has kept commenters from getting on the same page. Dr. Majidi is right. Just as Dr. Ivins hypothesized — and then Dr. Peter Weber of Lawrence Livermore hypothesized — it could be in the growth medium. But it relates to increasing the LF (Lethal Factor) and not floatability. Now while that does relate to “weaponization” in a broad sense but the government scientists have defined “weaponization” to refer only to floatability in order to obscure the discussion. It is not their job to explain how to make a more virulent anthrax and so the withholding in this regard can be understood and excused.]

    To arrive at that position, however, the FBI had to discount its own bulk testing results showing that silicon composed an extraordinary 10.8 percent of a sample from a mailing to the New York Post and as much as 1.8 percent of the anthrax from a letter sent to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, far more than the occasional trace contamination. Tin — not usually seen in anthrax powder at all — was measured at 0.65 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, in those letters.

    [It was the good work of “Anonymous” and his counsel that forced production of the AFIP report showing the 10% which Sandia had not been told about. David Willman nowhere addresses the 10%. This supports Dr. Majidi’s gentle suggestion that it could have been in the culture medium and Dr. Burans’ suggestion that it relates to a “natural phenomenon” — i.e., growth. ]

    An FBI spokesman declined to comment on the presence of tin or to answer other questions about the silicon-tin connection.

    [The metal follows the silicon dioxide and is adsorbed by the spore. See Weber powerpoint]

    Several scientists and former colleagues of Ivins argue that he was a career biologist who probably lacked the chemistry knowledge and skills to concoct a silicon-based additive.

    “There’s no way that an individual scientist can invent a new way of making anthrax using silicon and tin,” said Stuart Jacobsen, a Texas-based analytical chemist for an electronics company who’s closely studied the FBI lab results. “It requires an institutional effort to do this, such as at a military lab.”

    [The FBI is withholding the vast majority of Dr. Ivins’ notebooks, to include 50 pages of the 80 page Lab Notebook 4010. GAO should address the breakdown of FBI’s handling of FOIA requests relating to Amerithrax.]

    Martin Hugh-Jones, a world-renowned anthrax expert who teaches veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University, called it “just bizarre” that the labs found both tin — which can be toxic to bacteria such as anthrax during lab culturing — and silicon.

    “You have two elements at abnormally high levels,” Hugh-Jones said. “That reduces your probability to a very small number that it’s an accident.”

    [Dr. Hugh-Jones seems plainly correct.]

    The silicon-tin connection wasn’t the only lead left open in one of the biggest investigations in FBI history, an inquiry that took the bureau to the cutting edge of laboratory science. In April, McClatchy reported that after locking in on Ivins in 2007, the bureau stopped searching for a match to a unique genetic bacterial strain scientists had found in the anthrax that was mailed to the Post and to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, although a senior bureau official had characterized it as the hottest clue to date.

    [When the history is written — and not the summary of the government’s Ivins Theory represented by MIRAGE MAN — Amerithax will be shown to have close parallels to the Whitey Bulger matter. Investigators and scientists might want to focus on finding safe harbor in the first draft of history being written by GAO. People need to open up their mind and do diligence as other theories. The Ivins Theory made for a nice, albeit complex and speculative theory. But it never rose to a substantial body of evidence. It passed the giggle test only because of massive number of documents still being withheld. GAO needs to press this issue of the withholding of documents and hold people accountable for all future delays in production of requested documents]

    FBI officials say it’s all a moot point, because they’re positive they got the right man in Ivins. A mentally troubled anthrax researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., Ivins overdosed on drugs not long after learning that he’d soon face five counts of capital murder.

    [Yes, and the key witness they all were relying on in early August was an astral travelling exorcist. They merely traded bloodhounds for the psychic granted her powers by an alien from another planet. There has been a great travesty at justice].

    In ending the inquiry last year, the Justice Department said that a genetic fingerprint had pointed investigators to Ivins’ lab, and gumshoe investigative techniques enabled them to compile considerable circumstantial evidence that demonstrated his guilt.

    [Yes, it pointed to up to 377 at USAMRIID — and more elsewhere. Only people unfamiliar with the case think it pointed to Ivins rather than hundreds.]

    Among these proofs, prosecutors cited Ivins’ alleged attempt to steer investigators away from a flask of anthrax in his lab that genetically matched the mailed powder — anthrax that had been shared with other researchers. [Promoters of an Ivins Theory need to ignore that the initials associated with the April 2002 submission were PF, not BI. Dr. Ivins for years explained that it was his assistant who prepared the April 2002 samples.]

    They also noted his anger over a looming congressional cut in funds for his research on a new anthrax vaccine. [The government does not profess to know his motive, or when he made the anthrax, etc.]

    However, the FBI never found hard evidence that Ivins produced the anthrax or that he scrawled threatening letters seemingly meant to resemble those of Islamic terrorists. Or that he secretly took late-night drives to Princeton, N.J., to mail them.

    [Indeed, the DOJ is withholding the 9/17 email that Bruce wrote to Mara. Ed Lake posits that he left the house at 11:30 p.m. and arrived back in time for work at 7 a.m. Meanwhile, the DOJ is withholding the 302s of family interviews that explain that is not possible.]

    The FBI declared Ivins the killer soon after paying $5.8 million to settle a suit filed by another former USAMRIID researcher, Steven Hatfill, whom the agency mistakenly had targeted earlier in its investigation.

    Anthrax is one of the deadliest and most feared biological weapons. Once inhaled, microscopic anthrax spores germinate into rapidly multiplying, highly toxic bacteria that attack human tissue. The resulting illnesses are lethal within days if untreated.

    The letters, mailed just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, not only went to the New York Post, Leahy and Brokaw, but also to American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Fla., and to Democratic then-Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Five people died, 17 were sickened and about 31,000 were forced to take powerful antibiotics for weeks. Crews wearing moon suits spent several weeks eradicating the spores from a Senate office building and a central Postal Service facility in Washington.

    The FBI guarded its laboratory’s finding of 10.8 percent silicon in the Post letter for years. New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler asked FBI Director Robert Mueller how much silicon was in the Post and Leahy letters at a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in September 2008. The Justice Department responded seven months later that silicon made up 1.4 percent of the Leahy powder (without disclosing the 1.8 percent reading) and that “a reliable quantitative measurement was not possible” for the Post letter.

    The bureau’s conclusions that silicon was absorbed naturally drew a gentle challenge in February from a panel of the National Academy of Sciences, which evaluated the investigation’s lab work.

    While finding no evidence that silicon had been added to the mailed anthrax, the panel noted deep in its report that the FBI had provided “no compelling explanation” for conflicts in silicon test results between the Sandia National Laboratories and its own lab.

    Sandia — which used electron microscopes, unlike the FBI — reported only a tenth as much silicon in the New York Post letter as the bureau’s lab did. Sandia said it was all embedded in the spore coatings, where it wasn’t harmful.

    The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology ran a third set of tests and found pockets of heavy silica concentrations, but it couldn’t say whether they were inside or outside the spores.

    Jacobsen, the Texas chemist, suspects that the silica pockets represented excess material that went through a chemical reaction and hardened before it could penetrate the spores.

    The National Academy of Sciences panel wrote that the varying composition of the powder might have accounted for the differing findings.

    While finding no evidence that silicon was added, the panel said it “cannot rule out the intentional addition of a silicon-based substance … in a failed attempt to enhance dispersion” of the New York Post powder.

    Tufts University chemistry professor David Walt, who led the panel’s analysis of the silicon issue, said in a phone interview that “there was not enough silicon in the spores that could account for the total silicon content of the bulk analysis.”

    He said it was unclear whether the “trace” levels of tin were significant.

    During the FBI’s seven-year hunt, the Department of Homeland Security commissioned a team of chemists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to grow anthrax-like spores under varying conditions to see how much silicon would end up naturally in the final product.

    They found little, if any, silicon in most cases, far less than was in the New York Post letter, said Stephan Velsko, one of the two researchers. He called the tin readings from the FBI’s anthrax data “baffling.”

    Peter Weber, Velsko’s co-researcher, said the academy panel’s focus on the conflicting data “raises a big question,” and “it’d be really helpful for closure of this case if that was resolved.”

    He suggested that further “micro-analysis” with a highly sophisticated electron microscope could “pop the question marks really quickly.”

    In a chapter in a recently updated book, “Microbial Forensics,” Velsko wrote that the anthrax “must have indeed been produced under an unusual set of conditions” to create such high silicon counts. That scenario, he cautioned, might not be “consistent with the prosecution narrative in this case.”

    About 100 tin-catalyzed silicone products are on the market, and an even wider array was available in 2000 and 2001, before the mailings, said Richie Ashburn, a vice president of one manufacturer, Silicones Inc., in High Point, N.C.

    Mike Wilson, a chemist for another silicone products maker, SiVance, in Gainesville, Fla., said that numerous silicon products could be used to make spores or other particles water-repellent. He also said that the ratios of silicon to tin found in the Post and Leahy samples would be “about right” if a tin-catalyzed silicone had been added to the spores.

    Jacobsen, a Scottish-born and -educated chemist who once experimented with silicon coatings on dust particles, said he got interested in the spore chemistry after hearing rumors in late 2001 that a U.S. military facility had made the killer potions. He called it “outrageous” that the scientific issues haven’t been addressed.

    “America, the most advanced country in the world, and the FBI have every resource available to them,” he said. “And yet they have no compelling explanation for not properly analyzing the biggest forensic clue in the most important investigation the FBI labs had ever gotten in their history.”

    As a result of Ivins’ death and the unanswered scientific issues, Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, is investigating the FBI’s handling of the anthrax inquiry.

  9. DXer said

    http://11oclocknews.typepad.com/the_11_oclock_news/2011/05/fbi-ignore-the-tin-man-behind-the-anthrax-curtain.html
    May 20, 2011

    Pay No Attention to the Wizard Behind the Anthrax Curtain
    You don’t have to be the Wizard of Oz to know the FBI’s “Scarecrow Ivins Really Did It Theory” is over the “We’re not in Kansas anymore” rainbow. McClatchy’s Greg Gordon pulls back the curtain to reveal FBI’s hidden anthrax evidence, and suggests the FBI did not have the heart to look for the Tin Man:

    “The existence of the silicon-tin chemical signature of the anthrax offered investigators the possibility of tracing purchases of the more than 100 such chemical products available before the attacks, which might have produced hard evidence against Ivins or led the agency to the real culprit. But the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.”

    A McClatchy analysis of the records also shows that other key scientific questions were left unresolved and conflicting data wasn’t sorted out when the FBI declared Ivins the killer shortly after his July 29, 2008, suicide.

    The Cowardly Lyin’: A senior federal law enforcement official, who was made available only on the condition of anonymity, said the FBI had ordered exhaustive tests on the possible sources of silicon in the anthrax and concluded that it wasn’t added. Instead, the lab found that it’s common for anthrax spores to incorporate environmental silicon and oxygen into their coatings as a “natural phenomenon” that doesn’t affect the spores’ behavior, the official said.

    Which Witch is Which? To arrive at that position, however, the FBI had to discount its own witches brew testing results showing that silicon composed an extraordinary 10.8 percent of a sample from a mailing to the New York Post and as much as 1.8 percent of the anthrax from a letter sent to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, far more than the occasional trace contamination. Tin — not usually seen in anthrax powder at all — was measured at 0.65 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, in those letters.

    The silicon-tin connection wasn’t the only lead left open in one of the biggest investigations in FBI history, an inquiry that took the bureau to the cutting edge of laboratory science. In April, McClatchy reported that after locking in on Ivins in 2007, the bureau stopped searching for a match to a unique genetic bacterial strain scientists had found in the anthrax that was mailed to the Post and to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, although a senior bureau official had characterized it as the hottest clue to date.

    “If the FBI could have identified the strain of B. subtilis detected in the attack letters as available to (Bruce) Ivins, that finding would have played a prominent role in the Investigative Summary. Even though Ivins can’t be linked to the particularB. subtilis strain used, there is a documented case of B. subtilis being used as a B. anthracis simulant at another facility where we already know that much of the material that went into RMR-1029 was produced.”

    “Surrender Dugway”: Per Ed White’s diary, an analysis of the available information about the amount of B. anthracis used in the attacks concluded it highly unlikely that Ivins could have cultured the large amount of spores used in the attacks with the equipment and time he had available and that much of the material in RMR-1029 was produced at Dugway.

    Pay no attention to the Wizard behind the anthrax curtain: FBI officials say it’s all a moot point, because they’re positive they got the right man in Ivins this time, even if he didn’t have the skills to do it…and besides, he’s dead.

    Don’t believe in fairy tales, says Maureen Stevens; Maureen Stevens has amended her lawsuit against the federal government with testimony from Ivins’ supervisors, who say Ivins could not have been a sole perpetrator of the anthrax letters, and probably was another anthrax victim.

    Why wouldn’t the FBI follow the Tin Man’s trail? Maybe because it would lead back to the heartless, cowardly, brainlesswizard behind the anthrax curtain who knew that Iraq did not have WMDs and that Congress, like scared little munchkins, would follow the Yellow Cake Road.

    OZ-TIN MAN RAZOR: “One should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain…oh hell, “Release the F-ing monkeys, DICK.”

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