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

* Did the FBI Scientist Throw Out The Other Slants That Did Not Use Specified TSA Remel Slant Or Only Dr. Ivins’ February 2002 Submission From RMR 1029 From Which Its Scientists Had Made A Dried Powder? Who Threw It Out?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 7, 2012

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19 Responses to “* Did the FBI Scientist Throw Out The Other Slants That Did Not Use Specified TSA Remel Slant Or Only Dr. Ivins’ February 2002 Submission From RMR 1029 From Which Its Scientists Had Made A Dried Powder? Who Threw It Out?”

  1. DXer said

    FBI had, then tossed anthrax type
    The Associated Press
    POSTED: 08/19/2008 03:02:44 AM EDT# COMMENTS| UPDATED: 6 YEARS AGO

    Tuesday, August 19
    WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI scientists early on had — but destroyed — the unique strain of anthrax used in the deadly 2001 attacks that years later would lead them to Dr. Bruce Ivins, the government’s top suspect in the nation’s biggest bioterror case.
    FBI Assistant Director Vahid Majidi said Monday the initial anthrax sample that Ivins took from his Army lab in February 2002 and gave investigators did not meet court-ordered conditions for its preparation and collection.

    In a briefing for reporters, Majidi said the sample kept at the FBI lab was destroyed because the bureau believed it might not have been allowed as evidence at trial.

    “Looking at hindsight, obviously we would do things differently today,” Majidi said.

  2. DXer said

    It was the lab that threw out Dr. Ivins’ slant that admits to having made a dried powder out of RMR 1029. Ivins didn’t. The expert working for the FBI did. All of Amerithrax “Ivins Theory” was a crock. And the FBI says Ivins acted deceptively? It was the FBI that never disclosed its expert had made a dried powder out of RMR 1029.

  3. DXer said

    Did Ms. Friend, Ivins’ assistant, prepare the February 2002 submission?

    “Notes on submission & Kristi Friend directions to Kristie Friend.” Room K.

    Results of Search Warrant for Residence of Anthrax Suspect Bruce …
    news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/amerithrax/08-430SWReturn.pdfFindLaw
    Jul 12, 2008 – ITEMS SEIZED FROM 7/12/2008 SEARCH OF IVINS RESIDENCE. ….”Notes on submission & Kristi Friend directions to Kristie Friend.”

  4. DXer said

    BugMaster was correct. The instructions specifically state that “Remel catalog #05932, or equivalent) is to be used. The instructions EXPRESSLY STATE that an EQUIVALENT can be used — just as BugMaster said.

    I was misled by relying on what AUSA Lieber said in her Amerithrax investigative summary — illustrating once again that her errors in analysis arose by not accurately characterizing the documents and making those documents available for peer review by her colleagues.

    Bugmaster specifically referenced the instructions provided the NAS and I should have turned to that document rather than the AUSA’s characterization of the instructions.

  5. DXer said

    IIT Research Institute, which submitted samples using homemade slant, was contracted to develop assays for Morphs B and D (Morph B assay rejected, Morph D assay accepted).

    Lawrence Livermore, which submitted samples using BBL Nutrient Agar slant rather than a a TSA slant, had already been working as a consultant to the FBI regarding carbon dating by accelerator mass spectrometry. (FBI document B1M8). Nutrient Agar consists of peptone, beef extract and agar.

    The newly disclosed documents demonstrate that the unnamed spokesman claim at the science conference that only Dr. Ivins did not use the specified agar is incorrect.

    • DXer said

      Indeed, AUSA Lieber is contradicted not only by the documents as to whether others had submitted on other slants (that were not discarded) but was contradicted by Dr. Majidi on the spot. She was contradicted by Dr. Majidi as to whether Dr. Ivins submitted before or after the subpoena issued.

      BACKGROUND OFFICIAL: Just to clarify the timeline, the first subpoena was dated February 22, 2002. Dr. Ivins submitted his first samples February 27th of 2002. We have reason to believe, based on conversations with other scientists — other FBI scientists — that he actually submitted them in response to the subpoena, based on notations of the conversation that he had, that a scientist had with Dr. Ivins, that he actually did comply. You know, he had the subpoena in hand and he submitted the first samples. They were rejected because they were submitted on the wrong type of slant. He was told to resubmit them in April of 2002. That he did, according to the protocol on the appropriate commercially available slant, though that second sample lacked all four genetic mutations.

      QUESTION: Thank you. Can you identify yourself?

      COMMENT: What is the evidence he had the subpoena in hand? The Amerithrax Summary explains that the FBI scientist who spoke to Dr. Ivins in February 2002 (but does not recall the conversation) did not remember whether he faxed the instructions and the May 24, 2002 email indicates that he had not.

      BACKGROUND OFFICIAL: I’m one of the prosecutors on the case.

      QUESTION: Unless I’m mistaken here, I was told, in fact it turned out, that that second sample was the RMR-1029. How did that get screwed up? You didn’t realize for three years that he had submitted the correct sample that you were looking for; right?

      DR. MAJIDI: No. Okay, so — well, let me repeat this again. The first sample we got, which was submitted ad hoc prior to the issuance of subpoena, that sample, because it was on a wrong slant –

      QUESTION: She just said it was after the subpoena –

      DR. MAJIDI: The very first sample that was submitted –

  6. BugMaster said

    The FBI considers any media prepared in a laboratory as being “homemade”?

    BTW: The protocol for slant submissions stated “Remel slants OR EQUIVALENT”

    Media properly prepared in a laboratory would be EQUIVALENT.

    Perhaps the FBI should have stated in their protocol:

    “No laboratory prepared media, and nothing homemade as well”

    Idiots!

    • DXer said

      Here are the instructions. It doesn’t use your phrase “Remel slants or equivalent” in so many words. FN 1 But nor does it say “commercially available Remel slants” to borrow AUSA Lieber’s phrasing. FN2 Instead, it says TSA [tryptic soy agar] slant.

      So for us laypersons, we need to be advised by the scientists whether his slant was a TSA slant.

      FN 1 The instructions state:

      1. Collect each B. anthracis Ames strain stock as per your institutional inventory and personal knowledge.

      2. Prepare a minimum of two TSA [tryptic soy agar] slant tubes per stock by prelabeling with permanent waterproof labels. Include the following information on the label: “B. anthracis Ames strain,” with other designators used by your laboratory, date and your lab name. Additional information for each stock shall be provided separately.

      3. A representative sample of each stock shall be used for inoculation of the TSA slants. If the stock is an agar culture, do not use a single colony, but rather use an inoculum taken across multiple colonies. Thawed frozen stocks or other liquid suspensions shall be well mixed prior to transfer of inoculum to the TSA.

      4. Inoculate each TSA slant in a zig zag manner over the surface of the agar.”

      FN2 AUSA Lieber argues at page 78 of the Amerithrax Investigative Summary:

      “On or before March 28, 2002 – the date the FBIR was officially up and running and had received its first sample, FBIR001 – Dr. Ezzell’s lab technician advised Dr. Ivins and his lab technician that their submissions were not prepared according to the protocol. Specifically, Dr. Ivins and his lab technician used homemade slants as opposed to the commercially available Remel slants specified by the protocol, so the four slants prepared on February 27, 2002 were rejected by the FBIR, and Dr. Ivins was told to resubmit his culture samples on the appropriate slants.”

      But question: If they were clearly wrong, why did “Special Pathogens Laboratory” use them in May 2002? Does a TSA slant have to be store-bought from Remel?

      • DXer said

        Terry Abshire she didn’t submit her sample from RMR 1029 because she knew Ivins did. But that makes no sense because under the FBI’s narrative, she knew by March that it was to be thrown out.

      • BugMaster said

        DXer:

        The document I recall was part of the information on the CD from the NAS, in one of the sections you emailed me. What I remember varied somewhat from what you have presented here, there were additional instructions to incubate for 24 hours to make sure the cultures were viable, for example.

        Also note:

        “If the stock is an agar culture, do not use a single colony, but rather use an inoculum taken across multiple colonies.”

        What they don’t say is how many colonies would be needed to be a representative sample! From what we know now (and Ivins would not have known) is that a hundred or so would be needed. A liquid spore sample should have been representative, but if a growing culture is needed (?), then couldn’t someone have streaked some spore material on a plate, then transferred that to the slants? It would have followed the protocol, but would not have been representative.

        The fact is: The protocol was not correct. It is too vague and not specifically written to address the issue of what constitutes a representative sample.

        A very poor effort on the part of the FBI indeed.

        BTW: It is lab-prepared media, not home made. (Unless you pour your plates at home, which I haven’t done for years, since I have access to a fully equipped lab).

        • DXer said

          Yes, there is a step 5 and 6. (see below) But nothing has been established that indicates that it is not a fine instruction of what constitutes a representative sample. (And in any event the point is not germane).

          The question is: what does the phrase ” TSA [tryptic soy agar] slant tubes” mean and what is the citable authority that it includes what Dr. Ivins submitted, (This is assuming for the sake of argument that he in fact prepared the samples and assuming for the sake of argument that the person who prepared the sample saw the subpoena.)

          The documentary evidence shows that the specifications had not been communicated to the person actually preparing the slants submitted as of May 2002.

          https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/who-wrote-this-email-who-submitted-the-slants-to-the-fbi/

          Steps 5 and 6:

          “5. Incubate the slants at 35oC – 37oC for 12-18 hr to confirm culture growth.

          6. Individually wrap the slants in packaging materials approved for shipment of infectious select agents in accordance with regulations for the shipment of such materials.”

          The phrase “home-made” can be understood as noncommercial.

        • BugMaster said

          A lab usually purchases tryptic soy agar in dried form, then adds water according to the instructions, then autoclaves the material and pours the liquid into screw top test tubes that are set on a slant to increase the surface area.

          Thus the term “slant”.

          One can, of course, order them pre-prepared from Remel and others, but large labs with limited resources usually pour their own.

        • DXer said

          It seems then the FBI is complaining that Ivins did not use a commercially-available slant when in fact that is not what was specified. What was specified simply was a TSA slant, not a store-bought in liquid rather than powder form. After the subpoena went out, they perhaps realized this and wanted a commercially prepared one in liquid form. GAO could usefully bear down on this question of whether what someone in Dr. Ivins lab submitted in February 2002 was a lab prepared TSA slant — just as the in May 2002 by “Special Pathogen Laboratory” submitted in May 2002.

          The issue can most reliably be approached, as a start, by obtaining the contemporaneous documentation relating to his February 2002’s sample’s destruction. One would want the form that the person filled out in destroying that explained the reason. One also would want the emails between the scientists at USAMRIID at the Special Pathogen Laboratory with the outside FBI scientists.

          https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/dxer-says-the-fbis-narrative-will-never-withstand-the-production-of-emails-of-john-ezzell-james-burans-and-david-wilson/

          AUSA Rachel in her investigative summary says someone at JE’s lab at USAMRIID threw it out. But somewhere the folks said it was another scientist elsewhere who threw it out. I don’t know who threw it out. (But it matters and at least three FBI scientists had conflicts of interest on this issue).

          The Amerithrax Investigative Summary makes numerous unsupported factual assertions and contains major omissions relevant to analysis. NOWHERE had the FBI EVER disclosed that the people collecting the samples and throwing out Ivins sample had made a dried powder out of RMR 1029 and then not submitted a sample themselves initially. GAO should obtain and make available the best contemporaneous documentation while addressing conflict of interest principles — a subject on which GAO has great in-house expertise.

        • DXer said

          This explains how to make a TSA slant.

          http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Tryptic-Soy-Agar-(TSA)

          If the FBI had wanted it to have to be commercially available, already made, it should have said that in the instructions.

        • DXer said

          I wrote:

          “Yes, there is a step 5 and 6. (see below) But nothing has been established that indicates that it is not a fine instruction of what constitutes a representative sample. (And in any event the point is not germane).”

          My use of “germane” is inapt. Rather, it does not bear directly on the narrow, separate issue whether Dr. Ivins was reasonably criticized for his lab using a TSA slant made in the lab.

          But the issue you raise is an important one and does bear on the issue of 4 morphs.

          That issue, I would think, was already squarely in front of NAS and something they could reach given the wealth of relevant expertise on the panel regarding both growing bacteria and statistics. Given that the genetics does not significantly point to Dr. Ivins (as distinguished to a couple of hundreds with access just at USAMRIID alone), I am hoping that GAO prioritizes issues that bear more directly on whether Dr. Ivins was making a dried powder those nights as the DOJ speculates. The same people had access to anthrax with and without the 4 morphs, so who cares. The NAS was specifically prevented from addressing issues of Dr. Ivins innocence or guilt.

          I find the DOJ’s claim that he had no reason to be in the lab a huge unsupported and specious claim — while at the same I understand the appeal of an Ivins Theory. A Hatfill Theory, in all its glory, had a very similar appeal. An Ivins Theory may have seemed compelling given that they did not realize that the first counselor on whom they relied thought she was being controlled by an alien who had implanted a device in her butt. (see her 2009 book downloadable at amazon.com for $10.) The counselor feared that nasty astral entities were trying to kill her. Each night she would get her instructions and then astral travel to far away places, being chased back and protecting herself with a vortex of light. So when the second counselor was given the first counselor’s notes in mid-July 2008 (including her annotations of the notes by psychiatrists) it was understandable that they thought Dr. Ivins was a murderous fiend. Actually, he strikes me as a guy who was in a rage at these unfair contortions of logic and reasoning. (Events at the US Attorney’s office involving sexual matters were far more dysfunctional to the workplace than anything involved in the allegations against Dr. Ivins; in fact, there are some close parallels except that Dr. Ivins limited himself to fun with PF and ML at a DC sex shop on ML’s last day of work).

          The AUSA was threatening to try to put him to death after having the only copy of his lab notebook removed from USAMRIID and not permitting it to be produced under FOIA. His rage was understandable. The AUSA was testing the semen on panties and threatening to call his family before the grand jury. His suicide was understandable. (At the same time, they were doing their job and Dr. Ivins’ attorney has said that, in his opinion, the prosecutors and investigators acted appropriately).

          As to figuring out whether their speculative charges are correct, by all means, let’s have GAO press USAMRIID for the very best contemporaneous documents — which FBI nowhere cites.

          For example, if FBI is making claims about use of the B3 in Building 1425, then it should have obtained and uploaded the “Animal Room Environment Reports.” If they say space was used to make dried powder anthrax, then they should provided the contemporaneous documents showing the reason Dr. Ivins would have to go to the lab. The AUSA and investigators never mentioned rabbits. See investigative summary and their interviews. Why not? My sense is that in the rush of events Rachel truly had no time to master the voluminous documents. (And remember, the documents relating to Amerithrax as a whole are even far more voluminous than we’ve seen). After his death, she should at least have seen to it that the remaining lab notebooks and other documents sought under FOIA were produced. For example, the FBI has not produced the 9/17/2001 email to Dr. Linscott so that the time of mailing can be added to the timeline. Rachel says he sent it from his work computer but USAMRIID denies it (after carefully double-checking).

          DOJ should require that such memos as the investigative summary be supported by an appendix with the supporting documentation. At large DC law firms the standard is to provide citation and an appendix. Why are DOJ prosecutors allowed to make factual assertions unsupported by the record in such an important matter? It greatly increases the likelihood of a flawed analysis. For example, the code based on double-lining theory was crock — and rested on a letter that in fact was not double-lined.

          It is embarrassing that the FBI investigators based their decision importantly on the EBAP report, written by the psychiatrist who advised on the aggressive approach to take against Ivins. That psychiatrist extensively relied on the first counselor’s claims (the one who says she was controlled by an alien while combatting murderous astral entities). That psychiatrist never withdrew that reliance and continued to sell the report which was written based on the psychiatric files created by the first counselor. Amerithrax presented a difficult challenge — and the good faith and high caliber of the investigators and prosecutors is presumed — but the FBI has not been forthright in correcting missteps. And missteps don’t mean that you were not headed in the right direction — that remains to be seen.

          CYA mentality dominates inside the beltway and FOIA is a citizen’s most useful tool to cut through the bullshit.

          Documents, including computer forensics we have not yet seen, are key to reconstructing events from September and October 2001.

        • DXer said

          On the missing page 10 showing who visited USAMRIID in late September and early October 2001, note that sometimes the purpose of a FOIA request is to prove the destruction rather than obtain the document.

          Similarly, the request for the documents relating to the visit by University of Michigan researchers served to prove the destruction of those 16 pages of documents that the Bacteriology Division provably had in 2005.

          Spoliation of documents or evidence during the pendency of a criminal investigation and pending multimillion dollar lawsuit is a very serious matter.

        • DXer said

          I now see that the NAS shares Bugmaster’s criticism about the procedure under the subpoena to get at whether a sample was “representative.” In its report, the panel writes:

          In general, stocks of B. anthracis are stored in different ways depending on the physiological state of the bacteria (spores or vegetative cells) as well as the procedures used in a particular laboratory. For example, some microbiological stocks are isolated from single colonies, cultured for only a few additional generations, and then stored in freezers; these stocks are expected to be genetically quite homogeneous. Other stocks exist as confluent lawns of cells on slants or as multiple colonies on agar plates; such stocks have the potential to accumulate genetic diversity if they are kept in these states for long periods. Still other stocks, including the one designated RMR-1029, are mixtures of several independent large-scale culture preparations; such mixtures may also harbor genetic diversity. The sampling protocol in the subpoena directed that a “representative sample” of each stock be provided. It specified different methods for obtaining the sample, depending on how the stock was kept in the laboratory. For agar-based stocks, the submitters were told to take an inoculum from multiple colonies (“do not use a single colony”, see Box 6.1), although a precise number was not specified. Samples taken from thawed frozen stocks or liquid suspensions were required to be “well mixed” prior to inoculating the slant that was to be delivered to the FBIR. The submitters were apparently not asked, however, to provide information about which methods they had used to make the inocula for submission nor in what form the stocks were stored. In addition, there was no effort to standardize the number of spores or cells that were submitted. These omissions limit the committee’s knowledge (and that of the investigators) about the quality of the samples submitted and, in particular, how well each submission met the requirement of being a “representative sample.”

        • DXer said

          The point raised by Bugmaster about the subpoena was recently explained as well in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, in the article describing the “Amerithrax Review::

          “The academy questioned how the FBI’s repository was established and populated. Because the Ames strain was widely used and exchanged among laboratories in the United States and overseas before 2001, the academy could not document that the FBI had identified all laboratories housing samples of the Ames strain. In addition, the academy found, the bureau did not provide the subpoenaed laboratories sufficiently precise instructions on how to prepare the samples or on the number of spores or cells required, and it did not supervise the preparation of the samples in these laboratories. Such methods suggested to the academy that the laboratories might not have used procedures consistent enough with one another to allow comparison, nor was there sufficient certainty that the subpoenaed laboratories produced samples of all the Ames strains in their possession.”

  7. DXer said

    What is the “Special Pathogens Lab” that submitted samples on home-made in May 2002? Was that the Special Pathogens Laboratory at USAMRIID (where the scientists assisting and working for the FBI were located?)

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