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

* Washington Post editorial (10/21/11) calls for independent review of FBI investigation of Dr. Bruce Ivins in 2001 anthrax attacks … LMW: it is long past time to hold FBI Director Mueller accountable for the pathetically botched Amerithrax investigation

Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 22, 2011

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it is long past time to hold FBI Director Mueller accountable for the pathetically botched FBI Amerithrax investigation and also for the withholding of documents in violation of FOIA

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a Washington Post editorial (10/21/11) …

  • 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.
  • Mr. Ivins took his own life in 2008 just as the Justice Department was preparing to charge him.

serious questions about the accuracy of the FBI investigation

have been raised

  • 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.

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.

read the entire editorial at … http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/new-questions-about-fbi-anthrax-inquiry-deserve-scrutiny/2011/10/21/gIQAdE4h4L_story.html

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18 Responses to “* Washington Post editorial (10/21/11) calls for independent review of FBI investigation of Dr. Bruce Ivins in 2001 anthrax attacks … LMW: it is long past time to hold FBI Director Mueller accountable for the pathetically botched Amerithrax investigation”

  1. DXer said

    Aren’t Lew and Ken too hard on Robert Mueller? It seems that it was a difficult case — could anyone else have done better in real time?

  2. DXer said

    Dr. Vahid Majidi dismisses the opinion of the Washington Post. Now the Wash Po doesn’t think the moon landing was faked. And the editorial board did not know Dr. Ivins. And so his basis for dismissing the independent opinion of the Editorial Board is unclear to me.

  3. DXer said

    The Washington Post agrees with the New York Times and editorialized on the subject the last time these authors weighed in on the subject.

  4. DXer said

    Today I requested under FOIA the attachment to the August 29, 2001 email by Bruce Ivins. The attachments are titled “NGAV Meeting Minutes Final – 28 September.doc” and “NGAV Read Ahead-Oct 01.ppt”

  5. DXer said

    The hunt for America’s anthrax killer

    Federal agents took years to finger Army scientist Bruce Ivins as the man behind the attacks

    By Stephen Engelberg, Greg Gordon and Jim Gilmore And Mike Wiser, Vancouver Sun October 24, 2011 2:07 AM

    They found guns, a shooting range in his basement and Tasers. But swab after swab taken from every conceivable nook and cranny found not a single spore from the attack powder.

    Claire Fraser-Liggett, a key genetics consultant for investigators, found such a dismissal troubling. “You think about all the efforts that had to go into decontaminating postal facilities, and the volatility of those spores and the fact that they were around for so long,” she said. “I think it represents a big hole, really gives me pause to think: How strong was this case against Dr. Ivins?”

    Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/hunt+America+anthrax+killer/5596021/story.html#ixzz1bgrAoi6r

    Comment:

    They found a silencer in Dr. Hatfill’s residence.

    Once FBI agents interviewed me about Ed (there was concern he had done something stupid after being dropped from an email group) and I had forgotten that there was a blow gun (with poison darts neatly displayed) hanging right over their head in the kitchen. I likely got that at the same time I got a dozen cool canes with a sword hidden inside. Flying from Bangkok to Hanoi, I had forgotten that I had them in my luggage and I stood next to the customs official at the Hanoi airport and watched as they went through the x-ray machine.

    Dr. Ivins had been accosted by a man with a gun and robbed. See police report.

    Pity the poor bastard that tries to rob me. :0)

    • DXer said

      I think guns are abhorrent. But 1 out of every 2 men own one including all FBI agents.

      Gun Ownership: The Numbers
      Their Aim is True: Taking stock of America’s real gun

      From the May 2001 issue

      According to widely varying estimates, there are between 77 million and 90 million gun owners in the United States. Here are some of their characteristics.

      47 Percentage of men reporting a gun in their home

  6. Old Atlantic said

    In this case, where does the FBI get credit for working well with scientists? The morph discovery by Terry Abshire led to a project. Who approved and funded that project? Was that the FBI? Then later they would not listen to the Red Team proposal for more testing. That was the FBI, but a different person?

    • DXer said

      The FBI did not fund the morph project. Although much ado has been made about it, it only narrowed things from 700 to “up to 377.” Big whoop. The mass spec on the photocopier toner — not even yet disclosed — was more probative (and exculpatory).

      Returning to Director Mueller, I haven’t seen any evidence that anyone could do better than any of these prosecutors or investigators.

      As for GAO’s statutory mandate to explain how conflict of interest principles apply, the prosecutors and investigators would be the first to explain that it was a central and difficult issue.

      The fellow asking Director Mueller “How’s the anthrax investigation going?” each day was Ali Al-Timimi’s old boss, Andrew Card. Ali had been given a security clearance at SRA to work on a classified project involving the Navy. He was there in 1999 along with Charles Bailey who was a Battelle consultant along with Ken Alibek in 1999. Then they both went to the DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense at GMU. In the spring 2001 there were classified aerosol exercises involving ships that have yet to be discussed.

      The fact that someone has a conflict of interest does not bear on their good faith, which is presumed. For example, given the FBI scientists made a dried powder out of the largest collection of virulent Ames in the country, they should have been disqualified from collecting samples. They were disqualified from throwing out Dr. Ivins samples. They were disqualified from being a key witness in claiming that Dr. Ivins had submitted a false sample. etc. This was especially true that even to this day the FBI has never acknowledged that its experts made a dried powder out of RMR 1029. (And that is because a microencapsulated powder was also made for DARPA).

      The key FBI genetics person at NAU, Kimothy S., had given the former Zawahiri associate a B3 lab to work with virulent labs. Is he the one who threw out the sample or was it someone else? (Dr. Abshire says that they passed it on to an FBI scientist who threw it out. Or did Jason B. from ATCC throw it out).

      Given that someone coordinating with the “911 imam” had been given unrestricted access to the confidential patent repository at ATCC (by Jason B. who then would lead the FBI science investigation), JB was disqualified, despite his good faith, from withholding from the NAS key information.

      Given that the lead prosecutor, came over from the CIA on September 19, 2001 and was from a family of Palestinian activists, he was disqualified from speaking to reporters arguing that the bloodhounds had persuasively pointed (or could even) to Dr. Hatfill — especially when the prosecutor’s daughter then came to represent Al-Al-Timimi for free. (The family are Palestinian activists dating to his sister-in-law’s explanation to the Washington Post in 1982 that to be born in Palestine is necessarily to be political. (The prosecutor was born in Haifa in 1948).

      Now Director Mueller knew all of this and was trying to conduct a principled investigation despite all of this — along with his many other massive responsibilities.

      So it’s not that Director Mueller “should be held accountable” — it is that it is now GAO’s institutional role to explain the conflict of interest principles that apply so that prosecutors and investigators in the future can have guidelines to follow in avoid conflicts that derail an investigation.

      If I had to fault things “big picture” I would say that the postal inspectors should have had a lesser role because they were not qualified to do the necessary intelligence analysis. The fault lies more with people like Jennifer Smith whose job it was to protect us from Dr. Ayman’s planning to use anthrax using the cover of universities and charities. The fault likes with the media who doesn’t dig deep enough by getting answers to questions — such as an authoritative account by Anthony Bassett of the animal experiments. Instead, they think reading the documents produced by the FBI to the NAS and interviewing the witnesses who have offered themselves up to the press suffices. It doesn’t. The best investigative reporting lies in getting the people not inclined to speak to address the hard issues.

      • DXer said

        I was mistaken to say that the 4 morphs limited things from 700 (worldwide, to the extent known) to “up to 377”. The 377 figure was just at USAMRIID. There was another 42, for example at Battelle.

        The 4 morphs analysis really did not limit the field hardly at all — and for US Attorney Taylor to not appreciate that the genetic match had also been in Building 1412 is a monumentally large mistake.

        For the media to be so confused and think that the Amerithrax could be closed on — or even was much advanced by the 4 morphs analysis — is part of the problem.

        That sets up the ridiculous situation where the DOJ can just shrug their shoulders when pointing out that a large amount of Ames made by the Ivins lab assistants is missing.

        Dr. Ivins had written an email explaining that some of his inventory would be missing because, well. er.. you know… He was told to shut up and that everything with the FBI “was under control.” That related to the Ames used in the DARPA microencapsulation experiments — experiments were done for both the mass spec detector and the former Zawahiri associate’s decontamination agent. The man who came to be in charge of Pakistan and Afghanistan invested $30 million in the project while head of Perseus (then another $20 million was invested). So the funding was $12 million by DARPA, and then $50 million by Perseus.

        Follow the money.

        Oh, and ask hard questions. Start with lab tech Anthony Bassett at USAMRIID who can explain the animal experiments involving mice (known as the passive mouse study) and a different one involving rabbits (the Covance formaldehyde study). Then at University of Michigan the lab tech who came to work alongside Bruce, Pat, Mara and Tarek can explain the details of that research.

      • Lew Weinstein said

        Failure is failure, whether there was lack of good intent or not. The FBI Amerithrax investigation was, and is, a failure, and for this Director Mueller must be held accountable. He has compounded the investigative failure by continuing to insist that the publicly disclosed case against Dr. Ivins is compelling, when it is obviously not.

        • DXer said

          I don’t know what you have read so I don’t know if we are on the same page.

          Have you read Mr. Willman’s book? Have you read the investigative summary?

          Do you think the Director of the FBI has the opportunity to learn that AUSA Lieber and Agent Ed Montooth were misrepresenting the documents relating to the small animal studies?

          Do you think the Director of the FBI was aware that the first counselor whose descriptions serve as the basis for the “homicidal plot” thought she had been granted psychic powers by an alien who had implanted a device in her butt? That she thought murderous entities attached themselves to her patients (for the months she actually worked as a counselor) and that nasty astral entities would chase her back from Afghanistan each night trying to kill her? Even major news outlets like the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have not stepped back from their reliance on that counselor’s descriptions –even after the Washington Post’s ombudsman was contacted. Not even the psychiatrists on the EBAP panel have advised Director Mueller of their mistake or advised federal district court judge Lamberth of their mistake. So why given Director Mueller’s massive responsibilities in keeping this country safe would he be expected to know about the first counselor unless he is told by the professionals he needs to rely upon in informing him of such things?

          The people who should be fired are the ones who try to stuff 52 rabbits down the hat or keep the device-implanting-alien in the closet. Go listen to Agent Montooth’s description (see transcript) with the actual documents relating to the rabbits. And then fault the lame questioning by the Frontline interviewers who should have been questioning him on the documents.

          Even that pornographer who regularly blogs on Amerithrax scrupulously avoids the fact that the keypad at B301 corroborates perfectly the animal work with mice and rabbits. He doesn’t even realize that the passive mouse study testing the potency of what was going to be used on the rabbits was entirely separate from the subcutaneous challenge then commenced on the 52 rabbits, with dozens dying and then needing to be autoclaved. The FBI had taken the only copy of the Covance notebook from USAMRIID and still has not produced it.

          Given the Senators love Director Mueller for the important and good work he does, all you are doing is making it harder to get Director Mueller to reopen the case.

        • Lew Weinstein said

          The anthrax attacks were not some minor crime, one of thousands investigated by the FBI every day. It was a major attack on the US and it led to the largest FBI investigation in history.

          Yes, the FBI Director should be expected to know what is going on in such an investigation, and where there is abundant reason to believe the investigation is not going well, it is his duty to get involved and make it right. Mueller failed terribly in that respect, and he is rightly held accountable for that failure.

          I think it is unlikely that anyone will persuade Director Mueller to re-open the case. It will happen only if he is forced to do so, or replaced with an FBI Director who will.

        • DXer said

          According to the investigators and prosecutors, you’ll recall that the Director never thanked the investigators or prosecutors for their work. Maybe they should have taken the hint.

        • DXer said

          An Ivins Theory, for example, is far more plausible than a Battelle Ohio theory – which has always been flatly contradicted by the documents in the particulars advanced by some and known to be baseless.

  7. Dxer said

    An FBI director is not responsible just because a crime is difficult to solve.

    There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the Director’s part.

    Such stridency just interferes with the dispassionate analysis of the documents that is needed.

    • anonymous said

      Well, actually he is. He’s responsible for admitting that his agency is powerless to solve the crime. That’s what the whole Hafill lawsuit was about – the director of the FBI pretended to have solved the crime when he hadn’t.

      Now he’s pretending a dead man, Bruce Ivins, perpetrated the crime.

      It’s not strident to ask our leading law enforcement agency not to pretend they have solved crimes.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      The FBI Director is responsible for telling the truth to the American people. He is responsible for the compartmentalized investigative procedure that kept everyone (especially the scientists) in the dark. He is responsible for claiming there is a case against Ivins when what he presents as evidence is pathetically inadequate. He is responsible for withholding vital information under FOIA. He is responsible for not answering Congress’ questions, and perhaps for outright lies to Congress (which is a prosecutable offense – just ask Roger Clemens). And he is no doubt responsible for lots of other aspects of this case we don’t yet know about.

      There is nothing strident about calling Robert Mueller to account for these failures.

  8. DXer said

    In Vancouver Sun today –

    Was this man the anthrax killer?

    Ten years after five people were killed by deadly powder in envelopes delivered by mail, new questions are emerging about whether Bruce Ivins was really responsible for the mayhem

    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/this+anthrax+killer/5591796/story.html

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