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

* Laurie Garrett … the FRONTLINE program has convinced me that Dr. Bruce Ivins is innocent of the 2001 anthrax mailings

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 13, 2011

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Laurie Garrett writes for the Council on Foreign Relations (10/13/11) …

  • FRONTLINE, the Public Broadcasting System’s premiere documentary program, aired “The Anthrax Letters” this week. It is a breakthrough piece of journalism
  • Their primary take-home message …

the FBI blew the Amerithrax investigation,

and Dr. Bruce Ivins was most likely innocent of the crime.

  • According to the FBI a flask of wet slurry containing anthrax bacteria was the source of all of the spores mailed in 2001.
  • The FBI claimed that Ivins lied about the flask, deliberately deceived investigators by sending different anthrax samples for genetic analysis, and used these wet bacteria, through an elaborate set of drying and processing procedures, to produce the fatal spores.

But FRONTLINE discovered that

Ivins had provided RMR-1029 samples properly

on more than one occasion prior to his apparent error

in giving the FBI a sample from a different flask.

  • The FBI also used time cards to demonstrate that Ivins worked unusually long hours inside his lab on the very September 2001 dates when  the agency believes the wet slurry of bacteria were dried and converted to the toxic spore form, then stuffed into envelopes.
    • The implication was that Ivins performed all these homicidal activities inside his USAMRID lab during those specific hours.
    • But USAMRIID did not have the sort of drying equipment Ivins would need,
    • not a single spore has ever been found on any of the lab equipment,
    • and Ivins’ work habits that September were not in the least bit unusual.

The revelation in the FRONTLINE program is

that the FBI focused on time in/out logs for just one location

… The reporting team obtained records for all the facilities Ivins worked in,

demonstrating that such long nighttime work hours were his norm,

and there was nothing unusual in his September 2001 schedule.

I am prepared to declare Dr. Bruce Ivins

innocent of the 2001 anthrax mailings.

read the entire article at … http://www.cfr.org/terrorist-attacks/anthrax-letters/p26175

 

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10 Responses to “* Laurie Garrett … the FRONTLINE program has convinced me that Dr. Bruce Ivins is innocent of the 2001 anthrax mailings”

  1. NYPD cops testify in court they planted drugs on innocent people routinely.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2011/10/13/2011-10-13_excop_we_fabricated_drug_raps_for_quotas.html?google_editors_picks=true

  2. DXer said

    In her taped interview, FBI genetics expert Fraser-Liggett explains:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/anthrax-files/claire-fraser-liggett-this-is-not-an-airtight-case-by-any-means/

    “I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions. I think there are still a lot of holes, and I think the FBI is the first to admit that’s the case.

    There is likely some information that might have come out if this had gone to trial that will never see the light of day now that the case has been deemed to be closed. …

    I have no way to know whether or not Bruce Ivins was really the perpetrator. I think it’s unfortunate in that there were aspects of his personality that made it very easy to cast him as the eccentric, psychologically disturbed scientist with a possible motive. But that doesn’t mean that he’s guilty. …”

    ***
    I think there were holes both in terms of the science and in terms of the more traditional investigation.

    In terms of the science, I have absolute confidence in the information that we generated. I absolutely believe that the eight samples that were identified contained the four mutations that were consistent with these samples having been derived from the 1029 flask.

    But there is still that doubt. Was it from the 1029 flask or something else? It’s consistent with having come from 1029, but that’s different than saying this material absolutely came from 1029.

    There probably should have been some more statistical analysis done, looking to see how frequently these kinds of mutations arise when large preparations of Bacillus anthracis are grown up in fermenters.

    That was actually an item that was noted in the National Academy’s report. And I can’t say why that work wasn’t done. …

    Then there are all sorts of holes in the more traditional aspect of the investigation: the fact that, as far as I know, there was no information that ever linked Dr. Ivins to the mailboxes in New Jersey at the times that these letters were presumably sent out; the fact that it’s known that there were perhaps 200 or more individuals that had access to this material at any point after this flask, this witch’s brew of spores was created. …

    ***

    Probably the most important conclusion that came from the National Academy’s report was that there probably should have been some additional science done to fill in around the work that we did, to help provide some additional statistical validation to some of these conclusions. …

    I think that the evidence on science probably was misleading.

    The science that we had done was above reproach. The interpretation of that science will always be a question that we have to deal with.

    Then to go from that to make the link to Bruce Ivins, it all happened so quickly. … So I personally was taken a little bit by surprise by all of this. …

    … There are days when I think there are just still so many unanswered questions that it is absolutely unfair to place guilt on Ivins. That’s not the way the U.S. system works.

    Then there are other days when I think, well, maybe it does make sense. But, what I keep trying to come back to, is … I think we should be doing everything to give him the benefit of the doubt. Because this was not an airtight case, by any means.

    I think that for an awful lot of people there is a desire to really want to say that yes, Ivins was the perpetrator; this case can reasonably be closed, and we can put this tragic chapter in U.S. history behind us.

    But I think part of what’s driving that is the fact that if he wasn’t the perpetrator, then it means that person is still out there. And that is a truly unnerving thought.

    ***

    I think that the inconsistencies with regard to Ivins, and the fact that no spores were found in his car, you know, the sort of the smoking guns that you would have expected to see if he had been the perpetrator, weren’t there. And yet, on the flip side, you think about all the efforts that had to go into decontaminating the postal facilities, and the volatility of these spores, and the fact that they were around for so long, and they went everywhere — to me, that seems like an enormous inconsistency.

    I don’t know what to make of that. That’s an aspect of the investigation that I think represents a big hole and really gives me pause to think about how strong was this case against Dr. Ivins. …

    But I can tell you, from the work that we do here in the lab — and we work with DNA from a lot of different bacterial organisms — one of our biggest challenges is contamination. It’s DNA that’s left over from the prep that you did previously. … Can we ever get things entirely clean? My sense, the answer is no.

    So I would find it surprising that you could take a piece of equipment in which you had grown any bacterial organism, whether it be anthrax or anything else, and get it completely clean, where there was no trace.

    Now, does that mean it’s impossible? No. But the amount of time and effort that would likely need to be put in to making that happen would be enormous. …

    There is absolutely a sense that there was so much pressure coming from the top, and from so many different areas, that there almost wasn’t time to really think critically; that everybody was in a reactive mode most of the time, which is not a good thing. …

    Does that mean that some mistakes were made? Probably, but not with any malicious intent. I don’t think they were ever made with the intent to not get at the truth.

    It was always a scramble, and everybody was always reacting to a need for information yesterday rather than tomorrow. Tomorrow was always too late. …

  3. Right away, they should have scientists at one lab question those at another. The FBI can’t learn science to the level of asking hard questions of other scientists on science and lab practice issues. This is like a medical board examining a doctor. Lay people can’t do it and definitely can’t do it quickly.

    If you can’t be an examiner at a qualifications exam, you can’t be an examiner at an inquiry into lab practice in a crisis on short notice. Much time was lost because of this mistake. Even now they should do it for this case.

  4. If one accepts that the FBI knowingly fabricated a case against Ivins, it seems likely this is because they believed that they would not be allowed to make a case against the real culprits.

    This is consistent with the replication experiments being stopped because of some sort of pressure.

    • Fabricated after he died that is.

    • DXer said

      There is no basis that I know of to suggest that the FBI knowingly fabricated a case against Ivins.

      Lawyers, to include prosecutors, frame arguments in a way that advocates the conclusion.

      The fact that one is able to eventually press for and obtain documents that contradict a prosecutor’s and investigator’s narrative, then while that helps to reconstruct what actually happened, it does not go to the prosecutor’s good faith.

      So I urge that people press on and understand the importance of documents that are being withheld.

      But at the same time I urge that people urge the good faith and high degree of competence of those involved in the investigation, both as prosecutors and investigators.

      Reasonable people can disagree — and while disagreeing, reasonable people should work together to upload all documents that are not exempt from production under FOIA.

      • After I made my post, I realized someone had been pointing this scenario out for some time and that I had seen it over and over.

        The hours in the lab framing of the case is an example of intentional distortion as Front Line et al have shown.

        Concealing the other submissions is another.

        Concealing that there were known RMR-1029 daughters that did not produce the 4 morphs consistent
        with the experiments tried of it and consistent with the Red Team and later NAS panel skepticism on the 4 morph trigger.

        Moreover, the cheapness of DNA testing as pointed out by one of the scientists means they could retest and redo all the lineage of Ames work more accurately. In fact, they could do a comprehensive Ames lineage from the cow to every flask in the world. Given the 65 billion spent so far, this sounds like a good project.

        • richard rowley said

          I’ll say this: recently I took to thinking about what the strongest elements of the case AGAINST Ivins were, and the ‘false submission’ of the 1029 flask was, after Ivins’ background and access to Ames, the strongest single strand of evidence (since it implied a PURPOSEFUL effort to mislead investigators). So this latest revelation about Ivins’ submissions all but deletes one of the 2 or 3 evidentiary skeins against him.

    • DXer said

      Well, in point of fact, Rachel was forbidden from visiting Ali Al-Timimi in prison because a deal had been cut with him in another case — but she went anyway.

      She got reprimanded for her trouble but it is to her credit and an example of good faith to have gone. There was a lot of turmoil in that office about that time in regards to an unrelated very stressful matter.

      So I think GAO should get the name of her superiors who forbade her from going to visit Ali in prison and then they might have something to sink their teeth into.

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