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

* a NYT editorial, showing no confidence in the FBI’s unraveling case against Dr. Bruce Ivins, calls for an independent review of the FBI’s anthrax investigation to assure that the culprits are not still at large … LMW: it is long past time to hold Director Mueller accountable for the FBI’s investigative failures and for the FBI’s purposeful withholding of documents that are required to be released by FOIA

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 18, 2011

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Is it possible that Director Mueller, an intelligent man, doesn't know the FBI has failed to make its case against Dr. Ivins? And what does it mean if he knows but won't admit it?

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NYT Editorial (10/17/11) …

  • There was a strong sense of relief when the federal government concluded that a lone psychologically troubled government scientist mailed anthrax-laced letters in 2001, killing five people and terrorizing the nation.
  • Now its evidence is looking increasingly shaky. There needs to be a new independent evaluation of the findings.
  • Independent inquiries this year have raised questions both about the genetic analyses that traced the anthrax to Dr. Ivins’s laboratory and a web of circumstantial evidence.
  • The government’s scientific case has been weakening for months.
    • In February, the National Academy of Sciences warned that the genetic analysis “did not definitively demonstrate” that the mailed anthrax was derived from spores grown in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory.
    • Last week, The Times reported that one of the leading anthrax authorities and two colleagues believe that distinctive chemicals in the mailed anthrax suggest it was produced by sophisticated manufacturing, which the scientists deemed far beyond Dr. Ivins’s capabilities.
  • As for the circumstantial evidence, an investigation by PBS Frontline, assisted by ProPublica and the McClatchy newspapers, cast doubt on two elements that prosecutors had declared important.
    • A contention that Dr. Ivins worked extraordinarily long hours alone at night in his laboratory just before the mailings looked less suspicious after the journalists found that he regularly worked late hours in other labs and offices.
    • And a contention that Dr. Ivins tried to mislead investigators by submitting an anthrax sample free of genetic markers looked questionable after the journalists found that he had submitted other samples that contained the markers.
  • Federal investigators insist that there is a vast amount of evidence supporting their conclusion of Dr. Ivins’s guilt.
  • The Government Accountability Office needs to dig deeply into classified materials to judge how well the evidence holds up.
  • Otherwise, Congress ought to commission an independent assessment to be sure there are no culprits still at large.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/18/opinion/who-mailed-the-anthrax-letters.html?_r=1&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y

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LMW COMMENT …

The Times is right that the FBI’s pathetic case against Dr. Ivins is beginning to publicly unravel, both as to the science and the circumstantial evidence.

What the Times does not say is that this case has always been perceived as weak to non-existent by those who refused to simply take the FBI’s assertions at face value. 

What also needs to be said is that the FBI has purposely stonewalled all efforts to get at the facts, failing to answer Congress’s questions, withholding key documents (still!) despite FOIA laws which call for their release, and blatantly misrepresenting the evidence they have made public.

It seems increasingly clear that the FBI, desperate for a conviction after millions spent on its 7 year investigation, drove an innocent man to suicide.

For these failures, FBI Director Mueller

must be called on the carpet and held accountable.

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 (written in 2008), 

where I have the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

begin a re-do of the FBI’s failed investigation … something that now even the NYT is calling for

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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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11 Responses to “* a NYT editorial, showing no confidence in the FBI’s unraveling case against Dr. Bruce Ivins, calls for an independent review of the FBI’s anthrax investigation to assure that the culprits are not still at large … LMW: it is long past time to hold Director Mueller accountable for the FBI’s investigative failures and for the FBI’s purposeful withholding of documents that are required to be released by FOIA”

  1. DXer said

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/05/18/donald-trump-robert-mueller-special-counsel-russia-hillary-clinton/101822748/

    With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!” Trump tweeted, misspelling the word “counsel.”

    Trump followed up with another tweet denouncing the ongoing FBI counterintelligence probe examining possible collusion between his campaign and Russia as “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

    ***
    As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity,” Trump said in a brief statement Wednesday. “I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”

    ***

    Asked about Trump’s new tweets on Mueller’s appointment, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Trump would be making a mistake to start a rhetorical war with the new investigator. “I know of no one who doesn’t have the highest regard for Robert Mueller,” McCain told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  2. DXer said

    Five years later, the FBI still has not produced Dr. Ivins’ contemporaneous notes from the day of mailing and the week prior (contained in the Notebook 4282 being withheld).

    And now FBI Director Mueller is back on the job as Special Prosecutor in what the President calls that “Russia thing.” It was a brilliant and very sound decision by the DOJ #2 — “as good as you possibly can get,” as one MSNBC commentator just said on the news as I type this.

    Attorney Richard Lambert, the former lead Amerithrax investigator who reported to Mueller, says he is about the smartest man he ever met and has high praise.

    (Attorney Lambert has agreed to answer the questions he can relating to Amerithrax.)

    Anthrax, Al Qaeda and Ayman Zawahiri: The Infiltration of US Biodefense
    http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

  3. DXer said

    Mike Rogers, under consideration to replace FBI Director Comey, speaks about bioterrorism in this 2016 panel discussion.

    Discussion Focuses Bioterrorism | Video | C-SPAN.org
    https://www.c-span.org/video/?416864-1/discussion-focuses-bioterrorism
    Oct 13, 2016
    Panelists, including former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI …

  4. DXer said

    And the New York TImes found the FBI’s “Ivins Theory” unconvincing in late 2011. So did McClatchy, Frontline, ProPublica and numerous notable scientists, to include the NAS Vice-Chair David Relman in SCIENCE. But, hey, the lady who thought she was controlled by a microchip implanted by an alien made for dramatic press that first week in August 2008 by making Dr. Ivins out to be a murderous fiend. In her 2009 book, she says she had a break with reality and thought there were murderous astral entities attached to her patients.

  5. DXer said

    Tara O’Toole, Homeland biodefense undersecretay, said at the hearing this week (and at a seminar last week) that all members of Congress should get a classified briefing so they know the biothreat that the country faces.

    A highly expert fellow named Kardlec recounted the estimated (by the woman now FDA Chairman, I believe) that if one of the contents of the senate letters was released in the air duct, more people would have died than in 9/11. In June 2011, he testified and mentioned Dr. Ayman’s plotting to use anthrax. It is fashionable to say Dr. Ayman is a mediocre leader (as this expert does) but I don’t see it. Dr. Ayman was always the brain behind Osama Bin Laden. Judging him by results, I don’t see how one can so superficially distinguish between his role as strategist and role as “leader.” Was Vice President Cheney a poor leader because he was abrasive? Judging him by Dick Cheney’s ability to accomplish his aims, the fact that Mr. Bush was more amiable seems a bit beside the point.

    It would seem that Mr. Kardlec had a key role in the failure to take note that Ali Al-Timimi was coordinating with Anwar Awlaki and shared as suite with Ken Alibek and Charles Bailey. Ali had been Andrew Card’s former assistant in another life and so it would have been Mr. Kardlec’s role to overcome any conflict of interest in the White House, which was overseeing FBI Director’s inquiry. With the head of the amerithrax prosecution Daniel Seikaly being the father of Ali’s attorney and pleading the Fifth Amendent regarding the Hatfill leaks it was up to Mr. Kardlec to see that focus was not diverted away from Al-Timimi’s infiltration of DARPA’s biodefense program. What did he do to accomplish and why should lip-service to the threat Dr. Ayman’s anthrax planning be enough to make things right? More is needed if these people want to make things right and have everything end up the way it needs to end up..

    June 23, 2011

    House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies and Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications Hearing;
    “WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2011.”;
    Testimony by Robert Kadlec, Former Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense

    SECTION: U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES DOCUMENTS

    LENGTH: 2569 words

    Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members, I am speaking today as a private citizen having had the privilege and opportunity to be one of the three individuals who served as the Special Assistant and Senior Director for Biodefense Policy during President George W. Bush’s
    Enhanced Coverage LinkingGeorge W. Bush’s -Search using:

    He testified:

    “The recent announcement of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri as the replacement to Osama Bin Laden, by all accounts a less than mediocre leader at best but one who has and likely still aspires to attack the United States with anthrax.”

  6. DXer said

    http://english.cri.cn/6966/2011/10/19/2021s663350.htm

    On the 10th anniversary of the anthrax attacks that followed 9/11, a senior U.S. official warned on Tuesday that the threat of a biological terror attack is still “real and challenging,” although a large amount of money has been spent on countermeasures over the last decade.

    “A wide-area attack using aerosolized Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most serious mass casualty threats facing the U.S.,” Alexander G. Garza, Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, said before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

    The hearing, titled “Ten Years After 9/11 and the Anthrax Attacks: Protecting Against Biological Threats,” was attended by top officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services and the FBI.

    “A successful anthrax attack could potentially expose hundreds of thousands of people, and cause illness, death, fear, societal disruption and economic damage,” Garza said.

    Ten years ago, a series of letters containing anthrax spores were sent to some congressional offices and the offices of several news outlets, killing 5 and sickening 17.

    The hearing was held after the WMD Terrorism Research Center recently unveiled a new report examining the nation’s preparedness for a biological attack. The U.S. government has spent more than 65 billion dollars on biodefense since 2001, and yet it has done so without an end-to-end, strategic assessment of the nation’s bioresponse capabilities, the report said.

    Comment: If Garza thinks that then he should upload for the uploading of all documents produced by FBI under FOIA and ask that pending requests be expedited. DOJ has refused to waive fees on the grounds that the issue isn’t of public important. Mr. Garza should call the FOIA office and explain that view is mistaken. What we have is a dysfunctional government that is extremely eager to spend large sums of taxpayer money rather than spend a few hundreds of dollars producing documents required to be produced under FOIA. If there is an attack and the FBI documents were not produced this week, Mr. Garza will share in responsibility given he is someone who could arrange for their production.

  7. Old Atlantic said

    The Ivins case is one of investigator hunch that this is the guy. Some might even call forming an antagonism to Ivins. However, that may be, the feeling of the investigators is not a complete case ready for indictment.

    They didn’t even know Ivins time card after they announced he was the mailer. They thought he went to Princeton on Sep 17, 2001 Monday during the day, and then found out later his time card excluded that. This shows their excluding other people is not reliable.

    The inability to replicate the physical, chemical and characteristics of the letter anthrax means they don’t have a case. They also need to keep pursuing the strange subtilis. This does indicate two runs.

    They need to disclose the rabbit etc activity completely and interview those involved with that work, giving them docs to refresh their memory.

    Everyone at other labs that had one or more morphs show up in tests needs to be carefully revetted. At this point, this should be done in public hearings as well. The right to privacy in such an investigation has to give way to the need for public hearings.

    • Roberto said

      The entire Amerithrax effort is based on the premise that the anthrax creator/thief/mailer/letter writer/etc is a single person acting alone.

      I’ve never understood this assumption.

      • Ruby Ridge, Waco, OK City, Atlantic Olympics. FBI wanted to pin it on a loner to justify its actions in these prior cases. The head of Amerithrax who decided a loner was part of Ruby Ridge. Search Ruby ridge Amerithrax to see a list of comments on this connection.

      • DXer said

        I think Roberto’s point lies at the crux of the failure in intelligence analysis represented by Amerithrax.

        Roberto said

        October 18, 2011 at 10:42 am
        The entire Amerithrax effort is based on the premise that the anthrax creator/thief/mailer/letter writer/etc is a single person acting alone.

        I’ve never understood this assumption.

        • richard rowley said

          There are a number of reasons for the ‘single person acting alone’ trope:

          1) their analysis has always centered on the central events (Sept 18th and Oct 9th batches of letters), rather than seeing the big picture: the Quantico letter, the St Petersburg hoax letters, taking into consideration the theme of the J-Lo letter etc. (Therefore they routinely ignore the distribution question)

          2) this is because they are better at analyzing external features (‘clues’) like paper type used, postmarks, finger-prints, DNA analysis etc. since those things are more readily institutionalized, bureaucratized.

          3) take those things away from them (by mixing up stationery, changing mailing locations, changing THEMES (from the J-Lo ‘love letter’ to the sloganeering radical Muslim) etc. and they aren’t able to see the underlying consistency.

          4) people and institutions tend to think in terms of past experience and Amerithrax was somewhat unprecedented: their nearest institutional-memory equivalent was Unabom(b) and that was a lone perp.
          So they go with that.

          5) their biggest failing in my view is: lack of imagination, but hierarchies tend to put the kibosh on imagination.

          6) once they were stuck on Hatfill, then Ivins, they had to match the personal style (flamboyantly individualistic in the case of Hatfill, personally secretive in the case of Ivins) to the nature of the crime.
          So they changed (without realizing they changed) the picture of the nature of the crime.

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