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

* LMW’s notes taken while watching Frontline’s 10/11/11 show about the FBI’s anthrax investigation

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 12, 2011

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FBI Director Mueller must be so embarrassed ... but will he do the right thing and re-open the investigation? ... and if not, why not?

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watch the entire show at this link …

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/anthrax-files/

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Here are my notes taken while watching the Frontline Oct 11, 2011 show. Where it is my opinion, or I’m adding something that was not in the show, I have added LMW. Otherwise, the notes are taken from the show itself

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… draining the pond looking for Hatfill’s underwater anthrax lab … desperation under pressure to solve the crime

… later the FBI/DOJ paid $5.8 million to Hatfill to settle his “invasion of privacy” lawsuit

LMW: the FBI gives no indication they have ever had a clue as to how to investigate this case … the management approach, compartmentalization, lack of scientific understanding, unwillingness to ask for help … this is ultimately Mueller’s mismanagement for which he should be held accountable.

… pressure from Bush/Cheney … LMW: the impression that Bush/Cheney were pressing for a solution to the crime is at odds with their evident willingness to have an unsolved anthrax case so they could blame Saddam Hussein (with no basis) and use that as one more wedge to conduct their war of choice in Iraq.

… FBI had no competence to deal with the science … LMW: the FBI should not be faulted for their lack of preparation for an event which had never happened before … however, they should be roundly faulted for failing to get up to speed and make use of the available scientific resources in a coherent intelligent manner.

LMW: a question never answered (and rarely even asked) – why was the largest store of Ames anthrax (in Iowa) destroyed? what role did the FBI play in that decision? what would have been different if those samples had been available?

… RMR 1029 … > 100 people had access … LMW … the FBI later acknowledged that “up to 377” actually had access

… FBI: Ivins controlled the flask … LMW: what control did Ivins have if 377 labs had access … and through those 377 we know about, who else might have gotten their hands on RMR-1029 anthrax? … the FBI’s assertion that only Ivins could be the source of the attack anthrax is simply nonsense

… FBI: time in lab at night peaked only once … just before attacks LMW: Ivins lab notebooks from Sept-Oct 2001 have been taken by FBI and not made public under FOIA … the FBI is clearly hiding this evidence … one suspects that if it proved their case, it would have been released long ago

… at the time the FBI asserts Ivins was preparing the anthrax, he was apparently working on vaccine challenge experiments … LMW: the missing lab notebooks would confirm or deny this. What right does the FBI/DOJ have to deny access to those notebooks under FOIA?

… USAMRIID colleagues: Ivins could not have produced the powder in the time period … nor did he have the equipment to do so … no evidence of anthrax powder work … no trace … we would have noticed … LMW: these guys (Adamowicz and Andrews) were there … they would know 

… Saathoff … psychological evaluation … based on emails … apparently Saathoff had no personal interaction with Dr. Ivins … LMW: what basis can a psychological evaluation have if the people making it never met the person being analyzed … nonsense!

… KKG connection led to return to Princeton mailbox … only years later … LMW: more indication of the FBI reaching for straws

… FBI: Ivins misled us regarding a sample he provided … FRONTLINE: actually … Ivins had submitted other samples that did match ... the FBI knew about other samples … a redacted document was released BUT the un-redacted document shows the truth … LMW: is this a mistake or is the redacted document and statements contrary to what was redacted direct evidence of an FBI lie to coverup the truth?

… FBI never found anthrax spores in Ivins environment … at lab, home, car … nowhere!

… FBI psychiatrist warned too much pressure could make Ivins suicidal … FBI knew this but increased the pressure anyway … 11/1/2007 … search warrants issued … interviewed family … sealed his house … took his car … never found a single anthrax spore

FBI genetics expert Fraser-Liggett:  no spores were found … this is a big hole in the FBI’s case … how strong was this case?

LMW: the FBI has offered no physical evidence, no witnesses, no science … all they have is circumstantial … flimsy innuendo … Ivins’ strange behavior which they continually harp on has not been shown to be related to the alleged crime

… FBI sought a confession by pressuring and humiliating Ivins … Ivins’ world is collapsing … FBI admits it knew Ivins was “decomposing” and “losing control” … but they kept up pressure anyway … Ivins a troubled man … FBI un-dressing him in public humiliation … police forcibly removed Ivins from his lab of 25 years … soon after … Ivins took an overdose of Tylenol PM … Garrett: a slow agonizing death … Kemp (Ivins’ attorney): he was hounded to death … he never admitted anything … instead he committed suicide

… after Ivins’ suicide, the FBI had lost their man … hastily organized press conference (Aug 2008) … we have the person … would have made case if trial … Arlen Specter (an experienced prosecutor) thought they had no case … LMW: it appears the FBI panicked and called the press conference in an effort to make the case go away

… US Attorney Taylor at press conference: based on the totality of the evidence … “Ivins was the only person responsible for these attacks” … Lieber (prosecutor): it’s not just the science … it’s not just strange behavior … it’s not just the mailbox  … it’s the confluence of all these things taken together … when you look at the totality you realize this is the right person

LMW: actually, each piece of evidence must stand on its own merit … an infinite number of flimsy innuendos doesn’t add up to anything worth having … endlessly repeating unfounded assertions is unconvincing … solid evidence is needed, and the FBI hasn’t got it … or if they do, they haven’t told anyone. Talking about a “confluence of evidence” and a “totality” is utter nonsense.

… Congress’ questions have never been answered … LMW: will Congressman Holt ever get the anthrax commission he has been seeking for years? Why doesn’t Congress (and President Obama) seem to care that the truth remains hidden?

… NAS study asked by FBI … unexpected result … LMW: even after FBI tried to quash the initial NAS report … kudos to the independent scientists!

… Dr. Gast (NAS panel chairwoman):  it is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion based on the scientific evidence alone … there is no certain link between the attack letters and Dr. ivins’ RMR-1029 flask

… FBI genetics expert Fraser-Liggett:  this is not an air-tight case by any means … and if Ivins wasn’t the perpetrator, that means that person is still out there

LMW:  if it wasn’t so serious, the FBI’s incompetent and unprofessional behavior would be comical … FBI Director Mueller must be so embarrassed

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LMW COMMENT …

I have been furious about the FBI’s behavior ever since watching the August 2008 press conference where they asserted, with no physical evidence, no witnesses, and (it turns out) no science, that Bruce Ivins was the sole perpetrator of the anthrax attacks. It was clear to me the FBI had not even proven that Ivins was involved, let alone that he was the sole perpetrator.

It seemed to me then, and still seems so today, that there are only 3 possible “actual” scenarios …

  1. The FBI has more evidence against Dr. Ivins but is, for some undisclosed reason, withholding that evidence … POSSIBLE BUT NOT SO LIKELY
  2. The FBI, despite the most expensive and extensive investigation in its history, has not solved the case and has no idea who prepared and mailed the anthrax letters that killed 5 Americans in 2001 … EVEN LESS LIKELY
  3. The FBI knows who did it (not Dr. Ivins) but is covering up the actual perpetrators, for undisclosed reasons …THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO

Being a novelist, I wrote a novel, presenting what I (and others, including a respected representative of the U.S. Intelligence Community) thought was a plausible scenario of what might have happened. My novel CASE CLOSED has been published and is available in paperback and kindle formats on amazon.

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* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *

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Here is the first scene from CASE CLOSED,

where I have the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

begin a re-do of the FBI’s failed investigation …

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this is the opening scene of Lew Weinstein's novel CASE CLOSED

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* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *

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13 Responses to “* LMW’s notes taken while watching Frontline’s 10/11/11 show about the FBI’s anthrax investigation”

  1. anonymous said

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/think-tanked/post/anthrax-revisited-with-tom-daschle-tom-ridge-at-cap-and-other-think-tank-events-daybook/2011/10/12/gIQAacESgL_blog.html

    9:00 Anthrax Revisited: The Outlook for Biopreparedness in the United States with Rudy deLeon, Center for American Progress; Senator Tom Daschle, Center for American Progress; Dr. Tara O’Toole, Department of Homeland Security; Governor Tom Ridge, Department of Homeland Security; James H. Davis, Human Genome Sciences; Thomas V. Inglesby, Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; Jeff Levi, Trust for America’s Health; Ken Gude, Center for American Progress (Center for American Progress)

    • anonymous said

      Watch it live:

      http://www.americanprogress.org/events/2011/10/anthraxrevisited.html
      Anthrax Revisited: The Outlook for Biopreparedness in the United States
      October 13, 2011, 9:00am – 12:00pm

      EMAIL TEXT-SIZE: A A A SHARE:
      Streaming Video
      Watch the event live.

      About This Event
      This October marks another solemn 10-year anniversary, as a decade has passed since a series of letters containing anthrax spores infected 17 Americans and killed 5, and introduced the United States to the dangers of a biological attack. The anthrax was sent to news outlets and two congressional offices, including Sen. Tom Daschle’s office in Washington.

      Much has changed in U.S. preparedness—including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security with primary responsibility for responding to biological threats—but many questions that Americans faced for the first time ten years ago still linger and require meaningful action. Policymakers need to ask: Are we better prepared today?

      Opening Remarks:
      Rudy deLeon, Senior Vice President for National Security, Center for American Progress; former Deputy Secretary of Defense

      Featured panelists: Panel I:
      Senator Tom Daschle, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress; former Senate Majority Leader
      Dr. Tara O’Toole, Under Secretary for Science and Technology, Department of Homeland Security
      Governor Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security, Department of Homeland Security

      Featured panelists: Panel II:
      James H. Davis , Executive Vice President, Human Genome Sciences
      Thomas V. Inglesby, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
      Jeff Levi, Executive Director, Trust for America’s Health

      Moderator:
      Ken Gude, Managing Director for National Security, Center for American Progress

      RSVP
      RSVP for this event
      For more information, call 202-682-1611

      • DXer said

        Tara O’Toole toward at the end of the seminar in response to a question by a question about the dangers posed by proliferation of labs, says that the FBI has not been proven that the mailed anthrax came from USAMRIID.

        She says that is a working hypothesis.

        She says that the NAS report is the place to go to get behind the FBI’s supposition.

        Dr. Tara O’Toole is the undersecretary for biosecurity at Homeland Security Department.

  2. DXer said

    The Anthrax Files Chat (excerpts)
    (10/11/2011)

    2:01

    FRONTLINE:
    Thanks for joining us everyone. We’re here today with Stephen Engleberg from ProPublica, Mike Wiser from FRONTLINE and Greg Gordon from McClatchy newspapers.

    2:02

    Greg Gordon:
    Hi everyone. Thanks for your interest!

    2:02

    Mike Wiser:
    Thanks. I’m glad to be here.

    2:02

    Steve Engleberg:
    Good afternoon
    2:03
    Comment From Tom
    Thank you for the excellent documentary. While you doubt cast on the ‘scientific evidence’ employed by the FBI, no mention was ever made of the possible motives for both Dr. Hatfill (who has since sued the government successfully) and then Dr. Ivins. Did they have any motive whatsoever for this sort of attack?

    2:06

    Greg Gordon:
    This is a major bone of contention between Dr. Ivins’ former bosses at Ft. Detrick and the FBI. The bureau would assert that the existing anthrax vaccine program was under a barrage of criticism at the time and that Dr. Ivins’ career work was thus under siege. Dr. Ivins’ former bosses say that he was not so invested in the existing vaccine program and was working on a next generation vaccine, which arguably stood to benefit if the existing vaccine was scrapped. Others say that Dr. Ivins’ “secret” life was all about welled-up anger and that somehow this figured into his alleged decision to turn loose the deadly weapon to which he had devoted his career.

    ***

    2:12
    Comment From Prid
    If Ivins was not the perpetrator, where are the other leads? Is it still a valid assumption that it originated domestically? or is it impossible to know?

    2:19

    Mike Wiser:
    It’s hard to know what other leads there might be in the case. The FBI spent more than 600,000 man hours investigating the case. However, we only have a fraction of the records from that investigation and most of those records relate to the case against Dr. Ivins.

    There were other labs that had both Ames and material from Ivins’ RMR-1029 flask. The FBI says that they have ruled out possible perpetrators at those labs, although since we cannot review those records it is hard to evaluate how they did that.

    ***

    Comment From Guest
    Kudos for your great work. And I get that my questions are too controversial. But look at the funding levels for bio-defense from before 2001 until today. The money going into these programs is off the chart. Follow the money.

    2:36

    steve engelberg:
    There is no question that the government money invested in bio-defense exploded in the wake of the anthrax letters. If that was the perpetrator’s goal, he/she certainly accomplished it. What is less clear is that Ivins was the sole or obvious beneficiary. On the FBI’s long list of scientists they looked at and cleared, there are a large number of people who saw their research funded as a result of the letters. As my colleague Greg Gordon pointed out above, the evidence that Ivins had a professional or financial motivation to send the letter is less than airtight.

    ***

    Mike Wiser:
    According to the FBI and Department of Justice, investigators ruled out the hundreds of other scientists who had access to RMR-1029–Ivins flask that contained the key genetic markers that seemed to match the attack anthrax. It’s unclear how complete their investigation was, because the records of their investigation of the hundreds of other suspects have not been released.

    As far as other upstream sources, much of the Ames strain in RMR-1029 was grown at Dugway in Utah. The NAS says that is the most likely place where the genetic mutations originated. The FBI apparently concluded that Dugway was not a possible source of the anthrax in the letters, but again it is impossible to evaluate how they reached that conclusion based on the public record and files released so far.

    Something else to consider is that when the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the genetic evidence in the case they questioned whether RMR-1029 was the only possible source for the anthrax in the letters. They said that the genetic signature could have arisen independently through a process knowne that genetically matched the letters but that were not part of the FBI’s repository of samples. as “parallel mutation.” As Steve said in the film last night, once you are not sure that RMR-1029 was the only possible parent of the anthrax in the investigation then you are back to a much larger world of suspects.

    The question that remains unanswered is whether there were other samples of Ames anthrax out there.

    ***

    3:10
    Comment From Paul
    Mueller was asked “why laboratories that have been publicly identified as having the equipment and personnel to make anthrax powder, such as the U.S. Army’s Dugway Proving Grounds in Dugway, Utah and the Battelle Memorial Institute in Jefferson, Ohio, were excluded as possible sources.”
    3:10

    Greg Gordon:

    If this is a follow to the question as to why Director Mueller has not faced perjury charges, unfortunately, I don’t recall how he answered that question on Capitol Hill. But I do know how the FBI eliminated folks at Dugway and Battelle as suspects. Researchers at Battelle did receive anthrax from Ivins’ now-famous flask. The FBI concluded that 42 researchers at Battelle had access to the spores shared by Dr. Ivins, but concluded that none could have made the powder because of the buddy system there. No one could work in a “hot suite,” a biocontainment lab where the anthrax was kept and studied, without a partner.

    • BugMaster said

      “No one could work in a “hot suite,” a biocontainment lab where the anthrax was kept and studied, without a partner.”

      This is according to Battelle, right? And specifically how does the use of a buddy system keep one of the two individuals present from sneaking a inoculation loop, test tube, plate, swab, etc. out of the lab?

      Are we to believe that the buddy system consists of two lab workers constantly surveying the other’s every move, without anyone blinking?

      How the hell did anyone get any work done under those conditions?

      • BugMaster said

        Oh, and of course the individual who obtained the material and used it in an unauthorized manner had authorized access.

        But of course!

        • DXer said

          The reported science appears to indicate that the pre-stamped envelope was bought in Maryland or Virginia — and not Ohio.

        • BugMaster said

          The envelopes were available from March 2001 until they were pulled after the anthrax attacks.

          If you had to mail off a check or letter to someone while traveling, and hadn’t packed any stamps or envelopes, wouldn’t it be more convenient to purchase a stack of postage-paid envelopes, and toss them in your laptop case?

          Are you saying that over a period of more than six months, no one had cause to travel from Ohio to Maryland, perhaps to visit Fort Detrick?

          Ivins was reported to be a rather prolific letter writer. My experience with visiting local Post Offices, when I had a P.O. box and made frequent visits, is that I got to know, and certainly be recognized by every counter clerk there (They are a very professional and friendly bunch). Yet there is no account of any P.O. employee noting Ivins occasional purchases of pre-paid envelopes. Admittedly, this may be a detail that one may not remember, but still…

        • DXer said

          I think it tends to make it more likely the mailer bought the stamp in the state where those of tens of millions of people lived — and if the FBI is correct in its genetic analysis, then that limits things to along with the 377 had access to Ames at USAMRIID (along with anyone who was given it by someone). Given that only 700 had access to Ames in the first place, narrowing it to “up to 377” was no great hoo-hah.

          And this is all crediting the FBI’s 4 morphs analysis … which its expert now says likely would not be admissible by reason of not having been validated, with the FBI rejecting the Red Team’s recommendation.

          People keep talking about the importance of the 4 morph analysis without realizing that it only limited things from 700 to “up to 377″…. and even then it didn’t stand a chance given what Jennifer Smith and Paul Keim are explaining. The 100 figure mistakenly mentioned in the Frontline report pertained only to 1425. The documentary evidence confirms now that it was also in 1412, in which event the FBI concedes another 277 needed to be excluded. Of course, this is all based on the baseless assumption that the acquirer was the same as the mailer… but that was the FBI’s reckless premise.

          As a practical matter, it would be easy to alibi someone from Ohio based on phone calls and emails. The FBI would identify “windows” in number of hours.

  3. Speculation on Ivin’s guilt is just that speculation. The DOJ stands by its speculation.

    And DOJ speculation leaves out speculation about tin, silicon, and other characteristics of the attack anthrax not replicated.

    • anonymous said

      “And DOJ speculation leaves out speculation about tin, silicon, and other characteristics of the attack anthrax not replicated.”

      Of course the presence of silicon and tin is not speculation. It is also not speculation that anthrax preparations never contain silicon or tin if made under normal lab conditions as the FBI appear to claim is the case for the attack spores.

      It is also not speculation that the FBI were unable to reproduce these silicon and tin signatures. Neither is it speculation that the FBI withheld the % of silicon in the NYP powder from Congress after being asked the question directly at a Congressional Hearing.

      Finally it is not speculation that pretending the %’s of silicon and tin in the attack powders is not an important forensic clue goes against every grain of the established scientific method.

  4. DXer said

    http://leisureguy.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/the-fbis-feeble-case-against-bruce-ivins/

    The FBI’s feeble case against Bruce Ivins

    The FBI has a dynamite reputation for breaking up terrorist plots they instigated and pushed along, but perhaps in solving actual crimes they are not quite so splendid. The problems with their case against Ivins continue to mount, and I am totally unpersuaded by the prosecutors’ statements that, sure, they would have convinced a jury. Easy to say, and I think EVERY prosecutor enters a case convinced that s/he can convince the jury. What determines whether that conviction is accurate is actually going to trial and convincing the jury by being able to refute the arguments and issues raised by the defense. Sometimes a prosecutor’s belief that he can convict the defendant turns out to be a false belief, which is exactly why we have trials and defense attorneys. Otherwise, we could save a lot of time simply by asking the prosecutors whether the defendant is guilty or not, and then sentencing him or setting him free.

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