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

* caught between conflicting objectives in the anthrax case and the Stevens case, the DOJ/FBI end up ignoring the truth and obstructing justice in both … why should anyone believe the government in either case

Posted by DXer on July 21, 2011


IT WASN'T IVINS ... and the FBI must by now know that they drove the wrong man to suicide


GREG GORDON, STEVE ENGELBERG AND MIKE WISER write for McClatchy Newspapers, ProPublica and Frontline (7/21/11) …

  • Waffling by Justice Department lawyers in a wrongful death lawsuit that arose from the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks could boost prospects that the government will be liable for millions in damages for failing to prevent the killing of a Florida man.
  • Department lawyers created a stir in recent days, first by filing court papers that appeared to undercut the FBI’s finding that the late Army scientist Bruce Ivins was the killer. 
  • The filings said Ivins lacked access in his lab to the sophisticated equipment to produce the anthrax powder. Four days later, the lawyers abruptly retracted that assessment.
  • “I think it creates a great deal of problems for the government,” said Paul Kemp, who represented Ivins before his 2008 suicide.
  • Kemp noted that the FBI found 116 individuals who might have had access to anthrax emanating from the suspect’s flask. Assuming that it indeed originated from that beaker, he said, the Justice Department’s conflicting statements show “that the government has no idea whether it was negligent or not in supervising the maintenance of 150 different pathogens at Fort Detrick and other locations.
  • If the case goes to trial, he said, attorneys for the Stevens family likely will have an opportunity to present the conflicting government statements to a jury.
  • Richard Schuler, the lead attorney for the Stevens family, said he thought that Justice Department lawyers were “trying to pick and choose the facts that will support them in the civil case. And in attempting to do that, they’re contradicting their own investigative agency, the FBI.”
  • Now, he said, the civil lawyers are trying “to walk a tightrope of facts in this case in order to attempt to prevent the Stevens family from getting justice. 
  • It just shows how far the government will go to obstruct justice in the Stevens case, to try and win the day by misleading the court with facts that … only days later, they now claim to be inaccurate.”

(McClatchy Newspapers collaborated with the investigative newsroom ProPublica and PBS’s “Frontline” to produce this article. Engelberg works for ProPublica and Wiser is with “Frontline.” ProPublica’s Aarti Shahani and Liz Day provided research for this story.)

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5 Responses to “* caught between conflicting objectives in the anthrax case and the Stevens case, the DOJ/FBI end up ignoring the truth and obstructing justice in both … why should anyone believe the government in either case”

  1. Anonymous said
    Patrick Leahy in Big Rush to Reconfirm the Guy Who Won’t Solve Leahy’s Attempted Murder
    By: emptywheel Wednesday July 20, 2011 10:06 am
    By now, it should be clear that, contrary to their claims, the FBI has not solved the anthrax killings. Sure, Bruce Ivins can’t be ruled out as having been involved. But the FBI has offered no plausible explanation for the following:

    How a small sample of anthrax from Ivins’ flask was cultured into at least two larger samples of anthrax with a number of materials added
    How those samples were dried
    When that happened and how long that took
    How and why the anthrax got sent from Princeton (I consider the KKG story implausible)
    Why Leahy and Daschle were targeted
    The FBI hasn’t even offered an explanation for several of these questions (they’ve offered weak explanations for the Princeton mailing and the Leahy and Daschle targeting). And yet, based largely on Bruce Ivins’ long hours in a lab that was not amenable to producing the anthrax used in the attack, the FBI insists he’s the culprit (his lab hours are close to being an alibi at this point).

    Which is why Patrick Leahy’s push to reconfirm Robert Mueller–particularly Leahy’s citation of urgency surrounding the 9/11 anniversary (which after all means the 10 year anniversary of the unsolved anthrax attack is approaching as well)–is so odd. In comments on the Senate floor on Monday, Leahy pressured Rand Paul to release his hold on Mueller’s reconfirmation.

    “There is no good reason for delay. At first it was reportedly Senator Coburn who was holding up consideration of the bill, then Senator DeMint, and now apparently it is an objection by Senator Paul of Kentucky that is preventing the Senate from proceeding. This sort of delay is inexplicable and inexcusable.”

    Leahy continued, “Given the continuing threat to our Nation, especially with the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks approaching, and the need to provide continuity and stability on the President’s national security team, it is important that we respond to the President’s request and enact this necessary legislation swiftly. I urge the Senate to take up this critical legislation and pass it without further delay.”

    We’ve gotten the people behind 9/11. We have not yet gotten the people behind a government-connected terrorist attack on its own people. And yet Leahy–one target of that attack–is unquestioningly pushing the guy who refuses to solve the case (much less allow an independent review of the FBI’s investigation into it) for two more years.

    Leahy’s pressure on Paul is all the more weird considering that Leahy, with his support for PATRIOT Act improvements in the past, has basically ceded the legitimacy of a number of the questions Paul wants answered before Mueller is reconfirmed, notably those about how the PATRIOT Act is used and abused.

    I don’t often think Rand Paul is smarter than Patrick Leahy, but in this case, Leahy’s rush to reconfirm Mueller without asking any questions or getting any commitments on these issues is “inexplicable and inexcusable,” not Paul’s efforts to exercise a tiny bit of oversight.

    • DXer said

      I am informed that this is from an earlier Empty Wheel post.

      “Update: A justice department spokesperson explains that BioPort never
      got any active anthrax spores. “The only RMR-1029 spores which Bioport
      received were irradiated/dead/non-viable/harmless. Battelle is the
      only private research facility which received viable RMR-1029 spores.”

  2. DXer said

    Ralph Waldo Emerson once noted: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

    Ed Lake summarizes where we are in light of the powerful depositions by Worsham, Little, Andrews, Welkos and the others, as well as news accounts in which other scientists are interviewed making the same points.

    “1. Ivins probably did not use the lyophilizer because it was too big to move into his own BSL-3 lab, and would have contaminated the entire building if use where it was located – outside Bacteriology Suite 5.

    2. Ivins probably did not use the speed-vac, since it is capable of drying only very tiny amounts at a time, and it would have taken too many runs to produce the material in the anthrax letters.

    3. Ivins probably did not use chemicals to dry the spores, because the chemicals reportedly leave behind traces, and no such chemical traces were found in the attack powders.

    4. Ivins definitely did not use a spray dryer to dry the spores, because USAMRIID had no spray dryer, and because the media spores were definitely not dried with a spray dryer.”

  3. DXer said

    Dr. Nass –

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011
    “Oops! We hoped you wouldn’t notice”/NYT, CIDRAP, Glenn Greenwald, Marcy Wheeler
    After seriously undercutting the FBI claims about Bruce Ivins’ guilt 5 days ago, the DOJ revised its filing yesterday in the case brought by Bob Stevens’ wife against the government.

    Marcy Wheeler provides great details and links to the filing and other useful documents. Scott Shane gives us the usual FBI response when challenged: “We are confident that we would have proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at a criminal trial.” CIDRAP notes:

    The investigative reporters and other media outlets have suggested that the DOJ is likely poking holes in the case against Ivins as a strategy to defend the government in the civil suit, which claims negligence. For example, the Frederick (Md.) News Post reported yesterday that in a motion to dismiss the case, the DOJ argues that any doubt about Ivins’ guilt would make it more difficult for the victim’s family to show government negligence.
    The ProPublica group said it’s unclear how the DOJ’s civil court filings came to be so at odds with the case put forward by its prosecutors, and that the DOJ has not offered an explanation.

    Glenn Greenwald has written a polished synopsis of how the FBI case has been disputed, while also discussing the meaning of the DoJ filing.

    IMHO, Friday’s DOJ statement of facts followed the identical methods used by FBI during the past 3 years. [Ivins died on July 29, 2008 and the FBI’s (media) case was first prosecuted on Aug 1 by David Willman.]

    The FBI’s M.O. has three parts. In Part 1, the FBI strings together a complex scenario that sounds plausible as long as one isn’t knowledgeable about the details of the case. This method is designed to confound 99% of reporters and 99.99% of the public, and does so successfully. FBI avoids discussing those parts of the case that cannot be explained by the synthesized scenario, and there are many.

    FBI felt it could kill the 2011 Stevens case by challenging its earlier scenario, assuming nobody would notice. When they noticed, FBI simply repaired the brief.

    Part 2 of the M.O. is an attempt to obtain testimonials from eminent authorities, and silence any authoritative voices that might challenge FBI’s case. The National Academy of Sciences study was purchased to shut up the Judiciary Committees of Congress, and when NAS’ report was not going well for the FBI, FBI showed up with a new document dump, designed to scare the NAS committee members about the seriousness of the bioterrorism threat, and thereby coerce them to go easy on the FBI.

    When that didn’t work, and the report undercut FBI’s claims about the genetics studies conclusively linking Ivins to the letters, FBI tried to preempt the NAS report by loudly “closing the case” several months before the report was released (after an FBI review that forced its release to be delayed).

    At Fort Detrick, everyone still employed was forbidden to discuss the matter.

    Part 3 of FBI’s M.O. is to proclaim (at every possible juncture) FBI’s total conviction that the case against Ivins would prove his guilt in court. This is based on the premise that if you say it enough times, loud enough, for long enough, practically everyone will come to think it is true.

    This time the FBI M.O. will fail, because people are paying close attention, since the anthrax letters are so important to understanding recent American history. As Greenwald puts it:

    … discovering the perpetrators with confidence is so vital. As I’ve argued before, the anthrax attack was at least as important as (if not more important than) the 9/11 attack in creating a climate of fear in the U.S. that spawned the next decade’s War on Civil Liberties and Terror and posture of Endless War; multiple government officials used ABC News’ Brian Ross to convince the nation that Saddam was likely behind those attacks (as but one example, The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, in 2008, cited the anthrax attacks as his primary reason for supporting the attack on Iraq; in October, 2001, John McCain said on David Letterman’s program that there is evidence linking Iraq to the anthrax attack). Even if one believes the FBI’s case, it means that one of the most significant Terrorist attacks in American history was launched from within the U.S. military. As Alan Pearson — Director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation — put it:

    If Ivins was indeed responsible for the attacks, did he have any assistance? Did anyone else at the Army lab or elsewhere have any knowledge of his activities prior to, during, or shortly after the anthrax attacks? . . . It appears increasingly likely that the only significant bioterrorism attack in history may have originated from right within the biodefense program of our own country. The implications for our understanding of the bioterrorism threat and for our entire biodefense strategy and enterprise are potentially profound.

  4. DXer said

    The media should be encouraging the DOJ to correct mistakes (which inevitably occur) — not discouraging them.

    Focus now needs to return to developing what the facts actually are — and not lambasting the hardworking professionals dedicated at DOJ, both criminal and civil, trying to be precise in wording representations to the District Court judge.

    In the same docket this past week, DOJ has successfully avoided deposition of Amerithrax consultant Gregory Saathoff who extensively and uncritically relied on the Ivins’ accuser who claims she was granted her psychic abilities by an alien from another planet.

    The report filed in the United States District Court by Dr. Saathoff should be corrected and all reliance on the first counselor should be removed.

    In his recently published “The Mirage Man” … because Willman himself, in his publicity blurb (see below), shows just how much he relied on the psychic who says … she was granted her abilities by an extraterrestrial being … got sick in 2001 from doing astral recovery work at Ground Zero and in Afghanistan after 9/11 … and was pursued by nasty Taliban entities
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 12, 2011’s-conclusions-in-his-recently-published-“the-mirage-man”-because/

    Excerpts from David Willman’s key witness (from her book ASCENSION JOURNEY)
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 18, 2011

    David Willman relies extensively upon Dr. Ivins’ first therapist, Judith M. McLean, who writes of how she acquired her psychic abilities in her book available for sale on — from a being from another planet
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 11, 2011

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