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

* Der Spiegel … new leads in the anthrax case

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 20, 2011

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  • Three American medical experts express their doubt that the FBI has caught the  person responsible for the Anthrax mailings in the USA.
  • Shortly after the terrorist attack of Sept.11th, Anthrax laced letters were mailed by an unidentified person. 22 people were infected of which 5 people died.
  • Leader of the investigation, Martin Hugh-Jones and his colleagues have worked through more than 9000 pages of FBI documents related to the case.
  • According to the FBI their investigators detected the presence of tin and silicium (silicon) with the anthrax spores which leads the epidemiologists to conclude that the perpetrator covered the spores in these chemicals to make them more resistant to destruction.
  • This treatment requires high skills and a special technique. According to the scientists paper in the latest issue of the “Journal of Bioterrorism and Defense” , Bruce Irvins, accused by the FBI as the sender of the letters, hadn’t access to these techniques.
  • The scientists conclude that the suspect either had support from accomplices or in fact was completely innocent.
  • Irvins, a microbiologist working for the US army, suffered from psychological problems and committed suicide in 2008, only days after
  • learning that the FBI suspected him of sending the letters.
  • There never was a court trial.
  • There was always doubt that Irvins was the perpetrator.
  • In February the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the 2001 investigation and came to the conclusion that the FBI has overrated the evidence pointing to Irvins.
  • Whether the recent evaluation of the findings can clear Irvins is questionable. Critics of the latest paper claim that the chemicals detected are impurities that are sometimes found with Anthrax spores.
  • The FBI gave a statement that they don’t see reason to reopen the case.

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14 Responses to “* Der Spiegel … new leads in the anthrax case”

  1. DXer said

    Editorial Board Opinion

    New questions about FBI anthrax inquiry deserve scrutiny

    By Editorial, Friday, October 21, 7:55 PM
    BRUCE E. IVINS has been dead for three years, but questions still abound about whether he carried out the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and seriously sickened 17 others.

    The FBI compiled what appeared to be an overwhelming case against the former microbiologist at Maryland’s Fort Detrick. In the weeks before anthrax-laced letters were mailed, FBI affidavits claimed, Mr. Ivins stayed late nights and weekends at the Army lab that allowed him to work undetected while cultivating the deadly spores. And the FBI provided a possible motive: An anthrax vaccine program Mr. Ivins was working on had run into trouble; an attack could give the project a boost.

    But the coup de grace, according to the bureau, was provided by a cutting-edge genetic test of the anthrax spores that linked Mr. Ivins to the attack. Mr. Ivins took his own life in 2008 just as the Justice Department was preparing to charge him.

    This scientific evidence came under fire in February when the National Academy of Sciences, which was commissioned by the FBI to review the case, reported that the bureau had not performed enough tests or been precise enough to conclude definitively that Mr. Ivins was the lone culprit.

    Now three independent scientists have teamed up to publish a paper in the Journal of Bioterrorism and Biodefense that points to other alleged failings in the FBI’s testing procedures. Also this month, a joint investigation by PBS’s “Frontline” newsmagazine, the ProPublica online newsroom and McClatchy Newspapers raised additional questions about the accuracy of the FBI investigation. For example, the journalists revealed that Mr. Ivins handed over to investigators lab flasks that contained telltale markers found in the anthrax used in the attacks. This revelation appears to contradict FBI assertions that Mr. Ivins withheld or manipulated evidence.

    Doubts about the investigation were bound to linger since Mr. Ivins killed himself before he could be tried. But the uncertainty is unacceptable. Congress should convene a panel of independent law enforcement specialists and scientists to pore over the evidence collected in the course of the FBI investigation — including classified information that was withheld from the NAS panel. Such an inquiry should attempt to get to the bottom of the 2001 attacks and assess the nation’s ability to prevent a similar attack.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/new-questions-about-fbi-anthrax-inquiry-deserve-scrutiny/2011/10/21/gIQAdE4h4L_story.html

  2. One of the questions that should be answered is whether the BSL2/BSL3 and Ivins unit were a cost center that billed their time and facilities to other units or agencies.

    Is a BSL3 is like a computer center that bills its time to the rest of the facility? Ask for FOIA of any billing records for the BSL3 or for Ivins’ time.

  3. Zicon said

    This article seems “very” close to the questions that I raised with Frontline just days ago that from all the information that is available to the public and the info that is…
    Which I will reiterate to what I asked days ago to Frontline..
    Did anyone look into the weather patterns I would think in my opinion that is Highly relevant to go back for a more in depth look of 90 days prior to the mailings, and to cover all the basis, go back 6 months, at all and any locations of interest.
    In my opinion that could be plausible and makes perfect sense, that more than one and perhaps up to 3-4 people were involved with this whole tragic process that lead to many deaths…
    I believe the silicon could have been the silica gel/dry packs that were perhaps laying or mixed in the powder to only keep it dry, and after experiments, that would have had to take place over a long period of time, which could prove again that Ivins was innocent, by means of many obvious reasons from paper work, those who worked at Ft. Detrick/ USAMRIID..
    Soo… Could the powder have been shipped from the FBI’s known or public’s unknown location(s) that had been put inside some type of “Tin” container that was cheaply made, therefore given the science of “transference” from one object to another, that forensics use ALL the time to solve investigations especially murders along with many other crimes.. Seems Common Sense to me..

    Here is what was sent to Frontine days ago via email… (minus a few things not relevant to this post)

    If I were a reporter I would FOIA all the known Biological Labs Government/ Private such as Hadron Battelle Bioport etc and all Universities & any other place that had any dealings with anything above a BSL-2 cat. to a BSL-4 or 5 which is classified on the NASA end..
    added*(To which I am referring to, are all any any Silica gel packs used in any type of transit via Ground, Air, Train or any means.)
    So to me… The weather reports and procurement logs of all Silica shipments that use Silica packs or even “Has” any type of moisture capturing packs of “any” kind should be investigated….
    If it were a rainy week or month in a certain area of the world, and prior eg. months, weeks, even days up to the mailings were there any different types of shipments of silica packs small or bulk bought by certain places of interest??? Seems logical enough to me… Could some one have had silica shipped to an unusual place…
    That also would warrant obtaining logs of every silica packs mfg. shipping logs as well, especially those designated for military use…
    Since the Si signatures were different and the ppm of spores were not identical, means this was a test and the contents had to have been shipped from a location to the mailing locations and could have been placed inside a tin container which would give the Tin contents, and also who ever the maker of the powder was could have milled or used some type of silicon packages that can be bought right off the Internet and are found in many items that consumers buy each and everyday… So the question would be for me is were there silicon packets inside the Tin like container that the powder could possibly have been shipped in, which could explain the different silicon signatures that more than one person was involved and they were not using the same silicon packets perhaps, or what they were using they ran out of one type.. So I would the FOIA all the procurement of each and every lab of every type of silica gel shipping packets of any kind to see if the Genetic code matches what has been produced so far… Keep DIGGING.. The FBI is getting nervous because they know full well they are the ones that FAILED, and that an innocent man took his own life due to the pressure that was placed on him that had zero concrete basis to do so.. & along with the CIA too and all their screw-ups they should be dismantled and have someone come in and clean house… Do not stop.. Listen to those who still make valid points especially those who are on blogs that devote their lives to getting the information that needs to be gotton and persued… One question that NO ONE will even get specific answers to is from every biological lab, how many times has any of them ever been infiltrated in any way shape or form??? The CID investigated some solders at USAMRIID for using the lab for their own personal reasons that were unauthorized from what I’ve been told… Along with many of those who worked with Bruce or worked at USAMRIID, all say that there was no way he could have done what he was accused of doing.. People that worked in the lab would have known.. The only reason the FBI is using those dates is because of the classified work that was being done, and what it was about.. Since the laws protect that Intel, even if Bruce or anyone were working on a ATS/Classified project, they can’t even hint about who or what it was about, but the FBI has wrongly twisted the law to only work for them, and thus became unfair for Bruce Ivins Defense.. In my opinion
    From a civilians point of view, the FBI has lost all credibility and Trust, and is becoming what the CIA is now, just another unregulated secret agency that has no oversight on what really goes on behind the “Iron Curtain”

    Even looking back in history… Rome did fall.

    Not to mention how stupid the FBI/DOJ has made a few Congressmen look by brushing them off and lying to when asked specific questions..

    • DXer said

      FOIA of course only applies to government documents, state universities, etc. For the Center of Biodefense, under the VA FOIA statute one needs to be a state resident or University counsel will deny the request.

      Under Maryland state law, it is illegal (and exempt from production) to identify any private lab handling pathogens.

      I don’t see what the historical weather relates in any way to the silicon signature.

      But to know whether the one letter might have gotten wet (and the address blurred upon delivery), my friend RMS and I pulled up the historical weather data to see if the one letter would have gotten wet (as surmised happened). It’s a very cool website — gives historical weather data for any location.

      If ever you get in a car accident, it might prove useful. It’s free. A google for a phrase like historical weather data may turn it up.

      • DXer said

        As for the Southern Research Institute, which had the DARPA contract for working with virulent Ames for the GMU Center for Biodefense, the former head Tom Voss and the VP David F. won’t say when SRI first acquired virulent Ames. Dr. Voss was at Tulane last I emailed him.

        Bruce’s colleague, the senior lab tech Patricia F, went to head the B3 at SRI. She won’t respond to questions. She made a large amount of Ames intended to replenish RMR 1029 and the nonsense about Dr. Ivins growing the anthrax when he was dealing with the animals only fools the very gullible and uncritical — the type that confuse assertions by a prosecutor with the actual underlying documents.

        The answer, I propose, is that SRI began work with virulent Ames from RMR 1029 before 9/11 but that can’t be confirmed because no one is cooperating.

        SRI had the subcontract for Alibek and Bailey’s company. see press release by Ken’s company. Ali Al-TImimi shared a suite with them. see floor plan. They were doing research with Ames. see public USG documents. My (sole) source tells me that the AUSA was forbidden to visit Ali in prison and when she did she was reprimanded. My guess is that Ali was cooperating against Sheikh Anwar Awlaki, the former fellow Falls Church imam with whom he was coordinating. (see filed brief)

  4. DXer said

    Late October 2002: Anthrax Attacks Suspect Drinks Himself to Death

    In 2002, microbiologist Perry Mikesell came under suspicion as the anthrax attacker. Mikesell is an anthrax specialist who worked with Bruce Ivins and others at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory, in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, he had worked at the Battelle Memorial Institute, a private contractor in Ohio working on classified government bioweapons programs. According to family members, he begins drinking heavily after the FBI starts suspecting him, consuming up to a fifth of hard liquor a day. One relative will later say, “It was a shock that all of a sudden he’s a raging alcoholic.” He dies in late October 2002. The relative will say, “He drank himself to death.” His connection to the anthrax investigation will not be revealed until 2008, and it still is completely unknown why the FBI was focusing on him. Two weeks before his suicide (see July 29, 2008), Ivins will liken the pressure he is facing from the FBI to the pressure that had been put on Mikesell. He will reportedly tell a colleague, “Perry [Mikesell] drank himself to death.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 8/9/2008]

    Dr Perry Mikesell worked at USAMRIID on anthrax on the rPA 102 anthrax protective vaccine. He died in late October 2002, according to this article. When did he first start working on the project?

    • DXer said

      Attorney Schuler took a broadside against a Battelle Ohio theory in filings not too long ago and I would have to agree.

      Today I delved into some particulars — names, dates, whereabouts — and find no there there.

      The surest way to get answers is to ask. It’s the ones who won’t respond that raise the red flags.

      I find the former Battelle personnel very helpful and straightforward. BH, who was #2 at the Battelle MREF and was sent the Ames by Bruce, is a down-to-earth guy and recently retired. He could give an interview. It wouldn’t hurt to ask.

      • DXer said

        In addition to Bob Hunt, another Battelle person who could explain why Battelle can be excluded is Tim Dreier, formerly of Battelle. Another great guy, he was at USAMRIID for many, many years & then at Battelle for ~ 12 years as a senior manager in this area. He could tell you 100 X more than most others.

  5. DXer said

    I think a thoughtful expert to interview on the subject is Dr. Serge Popov. He has considered the question and is very forthright in his approach.

    • DXer said

      I think Serge might hypothesize that the silicon signature was due to use of silica as an antifoaming agent in a fermenter.

  6. Anonymous said

    Here’s the translation:

    New leads in Anthrax case

    Three American medical experts express their doubt that the FBI has caught
    the person responsible for the Anthrax mailings in the USA.
    Shortly after the terrorist attack of Sept.11th, Anthrax laced letters were
    mailed by an unidentified person. 22 people were infected of which 5 people
    died.
    Leader of the investigation, Martin Hugh-Jones and his colleagues have
    worked through more than 9000 pages of FBI documents related to the case.
    According to the FBI their investigators detected the presence of tin and
    silicium (silicon) with the anthrax spores which leads the epidemiologists
    to conclude that the perpetrator covered the spores in these chemicals to
    make them more resistant to destruction.
    This treatment requires high skills and a special technique. According to
    the scientists paper in the latest issue of the “Journal of Bioterrorism and
    Defense” , Bruce Irvins, accused by the FBI as the sender of the letters,
    hadn’t access to these techniques.
    The scientists conclude that the suspect either had support from accomplices
    or in fact was completely innocent.
    Irvins, a microbiologist working for the US army, suffered from
    psychological problems and committed suicide in 2008, only days after
    learning that the FBI suspected him of sending the letters.
    There never was a court trial.
    There was always doubt that Irvins was the perpetrator. In February the
    National Academy of Sciences reviewed the 2001 investigation and came to the
    conclusion that the FBI has overrated the evidence pointing to Irvins .
    Whether the recent evaluation of the findings can clear Irvins is
    questionable. Critics of the latest paper claim that the chemicals detected
    are impurities that are sometimes found with Anthrax spores.
    The FBI gave a statement that they don’t see reason to reopen the case.

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