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

* Former Amerithrax lead investigator Richard Lambert set to retire and become Senior Counterintelligence Officer at Oak Ridge National Lab; Agent Lambert advised FBI Director “compartmentalization within the Amerithrax task force would inhibit our ability to connect the dots … among the three squads investigating the case.”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 22, 2012

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Richard Lambert

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17 Responses to “* Former Amerithrax lead investigator Richard Lambert set to retire and become Senior Counterintelligence Officer at Oak Ridge National Lab; Agent Lambert advised FBI Director “compartmentalization within the Amerithrax task force would inhibit our ability to connect the dots … among the three squads investigating the case.””

  1. DXer said

    Richard Lambert made a very sound point — but wasn’t Robert Mueller’s decision to compartmentalize the investigation understandable?

    The decision to compartmentalize the investigation was a judgment call — and reasonable people can disagree.

    And wasn’t his decision not to use polygraphs to try to ferret out the leaker? (He thought it would be bad for morale, and note that polygraphs, in fact, have not been validated)

  2. DXer said

    I’m listening to a lengthy Q and A with Richard Lambert.

    He says it has been his “contention all along that there is a wealth of exculpatory evidence regarding Bruce Ivins that would have precluded a conviction of him.”

    By way of background, he starts out by noting that his whistleblower complaint never intended to become public. It was filed within the DOJ.

    It was intended as lessons learned in case of next biological attack. The fact that it came to light unintended on his part.

    He notes that most of media on his federal lawsuit was confused, due to trying to reduce to sound bite. He says reason for discharge, he thinks, was due to his internal complaint in 2006.

    CBS was able to get hold of complaint and published it on “60 Minutes.”

    He notes his intention of the memo was to serve as a lessons learned. (He notes — and I agree — that lack of information sharing and lack of connecting dots led to 9/11.)

    The day after he was fired, armed agents showed up at office. Agent Lambert views the investigation as having been politically motivated.

    He says routine for FBI agents to take these sorts of positions and act as liaison, and gives the example of one taking a position at Los Alamos.

    He says everyone knows he was investigated for criminal investigation of ethics violation — and it is stigmatizing even though he was cleared.

    The internal memo, that CBS obtained, included his claim that compartmentalization proved a big problem. That directive stemmed from the problem of leaks.

    As to how CBS got the memo, he notes that the memo was turned over to plaintiff’s lawyers — and he speculates that the plaintiff’s lawyers turned it over to the media.

    Attorney Lambert, says, that according to the FBI, yes, it is a closed case. “and if Congress is satisfied with that, fine.”

    But he says it has been his “contention all along that there is a wealth of exculpatory evidence regarding Bruce Ivins that would have precluded a conviction of him.”

    ——

    To be fair to the FBI, although it was the accepted practice of FBI agents to go to work at Oak Ridge, aspect of Battelle in Amerithrax was the factor that FBI, I think, would point to as the differentiating factor that resulted in a conflict of interest.

    But even though I can see the FBI’s point, there’s no denying that Attorney Lambert is likable and well-spoken and was a good choice by Director Mueller, it seems, to have headed Amerithrax.

    And, without it being necessary for outsiders to consider whether there was a conflict of interest due to Battelle’s management of that facility, it is notable that it his “contention all along that there is a wealth of exculpatory evidence regarding Bruce Ivins that would have precluded a conviction of him.”

    • DXer said

      At 16.04 of a 2 hour interview (that I’m listening to now), Agent Lambert, the former head of Amerithrax, says he doesn’t believe the FBI has shared the evidence probative of Dr. Ivins’ innocence.

      FBI FOIA head Dave Hardy’s lengthy affidavits are routinely well-done. But given his experience in litigation and general sophistication, he perhaps will appreciate that a FOIA plaintiff armed with a great sound bite like this can be expected to be awarded attorneys fees.

      The FBI’s unexplained failure to provide Bruce Ivins’ contemporaneous notes explaining why he was the in the lab on the date of mailing (and week prior) is very disturbing.

    • DXer said

      The former head of Amerithrax says:

      “The information that the American people have been treated to is a highly selective presentation of the facts. It contains a lot of material omissions. They don’t have the full story” (16.24)

      He says it is in Congress’ lap as to what they want to do.”

      He is “concerned that we don’t have the full story about what happened.” He says there is a “wealth of exculpatory evidence.”

      He says “At this point, I would not consider the case to be closed.”

      He says he understands that the FBI has closed it but “in my mind, it certainly is not solved.”

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

    • DXer said

      The former head of Amerithrax explained in a recent two hour interview on the subject (I’m about 16 minutes into it):

      “I left the case after 3 years — in 2006 — because the lack of urgency became exceptionally frustrating.”

      “And it was apparent to me that things were not going to move any more quickly than they had been.”

      “At that point, I had invested 4 years of my life, 7 days a week.”

      “The Director was immensely interested in it.”

      “The Vice President [Cheney] was immensely interested in it.”

      “But essentially that is where the interest stopped.”

      Comment:

      Huh. Wasn’t the lead Amerithrax prosecutor, whose daughter came to represent anthrax suspect Al-Timimi pro bono [see classified pending proceeding], interested?

      The head of the Amerithrax prosecution Daniel Seikaly pled the Fifth Amendment about leaking the hyped Hatfill stories that derailed the Amerithrax investigation for 7 years. His daughter later came to represent “anthrax weapons suspect” (to borrow defense counsel’s phrase) Ali Al-Timimi pro bono. GAO: Was an apparent conflict of interest avoided on the grounds that her representation began after her father left DOJ? Or was there a continuing appearance of a conflict of interest?
      Posted by Lew Weinstein on September 3, 2011
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/the-head-of-the-amerithrax-prosecution-daniel-seikaly-pled-the-fifth-amendment-about-leaking-the-hyped-hatfill-stories-that-derailed-the-amerithrax-investigation-for-7-years-his-daughter-later-ca/

      Who does former lead Amerithrax prosecutor Daniel Seikaly and his daughter, Ali Al-Timimi’s former defense counsel, think is responsible for the anthrax mailings of Fall 2001?
      Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 22, 2011
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/who-does-former-prosecutor-daniel-seikaly-and-his-daughter-ali-al-timimis-former-defense-counsel-think-is-responsible-for-the-anthrax-mailings-of-fall-2001/

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

      • DXer said

        Former lead Amerithrax investigator explains:

        “The public has a misperception that even early on the investigation was focused on one particular individual or group of individuals. Nothing could be further from the truth” (20.44)

        • DXer said

          In his recent 2-hour intervew, the former lead Amerithrax investigator says that “the reason people have that perception is the leaks.” (20.48)

          Question: Was the effect of Mr. Seikaly’s leaks relating to Hatfill to to divert attention from Al Qaeda anthrax suspects? (FWIW, he had joined the office from the CIA in mid-September).

      • DXer said

        In a recent 2 hour interview, former lead Amerithrax investigator explains (21.–:

        “Of course we had to consider that the attacks had been perpetrated by Al Qaeda or another extremist islamist group.”

        “But we also had to consider whether it part of some domestic terrorist group.”

        “We also had to think about whether it was a lone wolf attack….”

        “We even had to consider whether it was some sort of test by some foreign adversary, whether North Korea or Iran coming at us… as a government, testing our defenses.”

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

    • DXer said

      The former lead investigator of Amerithrax, Richard Lambert explained:

      “It was very difficult to get resources for the case. The FBI at the time had 9 microbiologists who had a PhD. I was unable … to get those agents who were in other Field Offices assigned to Washington DC even on a temporary basis, to assist in the investigation.” (19.00)

      “The FBI laboratory was moving very slowly with regard to forensic and scientific analyses.”

      “And those scientific analyses that HAD been done to date were NOT going to be admissible in federal court.” (19.15)

  3. richard rowley said

    Worth mentioning about the interview:

    1) Lambert says he has ‘genuine doubts’ that Ivins was the sole perpetrator and that the case against him was not of the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ sort. He says the case was not “solved” (his word).

    2) Lambert adduces no alternative personally-preferred suspect(s) for the crimes.

    3) Lambert notes Brady vs Maryland precedent for providing exculpatory evidence:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brady_v._Maryland

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/brady_rule

  4. Interview of Richard Lambert on FOX NEWS with Shepard Smith:
    http://video.foxnews.com/v/4184909385001/former-agent-claims-fbi-concealing-evidence-in-anthrax-case/?#sp=show-clips

  5. DXer said

    http://www.knoxnews.com/news/watchful-eye/former-oak-ridge-counterintelligence-chief-suing-fbi-doj_98276582

    Former Oak Ridge counterintelligence chief suing FBI, DOJ
    Jamie Satterfield
    5:30 AM, Apr 7, 2015
    1 hour ago

    The former chief of the Knoxville FBI office says a fellow FBI attorney’s “phone a friend” method of legal analysis cost him his job as Oak Ridge counterintelligence chief and his reputation.

    Former Knoxville FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Lambert has filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI in U.S. District Court.

    Lambert, an attorney with three master’s degrees, filed the 42-page lawsuit on his own behalf. In it, he contends an FBI ethics attorney falsely accused him of violating the law when he took a job upon retirement as the senior counterintelligence officer for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence Oak Ridge field office.

    The lawsuit also alleges that Lambert’s office at Oak Ridge National Laboratory was raided, false rumors of a pending criminal indictment spread and a case against him was presented to a federal grand jury, which declined to indict.

    “Due to the notoriety and stigma surrounding defendants’ erroneous legal opinion and its plain implication that he is a federal felon, Mr. Lambert is currently unemployed and unemployable,” Lambert wrote.

    ORNL spokesman David Keim said Monday that the agency does not “comment on employment matters” and would not address why Lambert was fired in June 2013 as counterintelligence chief. UT-Battelle manages ORNL and other related facilities for the DOE.

    Although the interplay between UT-Battelle and DOE is key in Lambert’s lawsuit, neither are named as defendants. Instead, Lambert is suing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, FBI attorney Patrick Kelley and “an unknown number of unknown employees” at the Department of Justice and the FBI.

    Attempts to reach representatives of the DOJ and FBI were not immediately successful Monday.

    Lambert, a 24-year veteran of the FBI, retired in March 2012. He was then hired by DOE to head the counterintelligence unit at Oak Ridge. Although UT-Battelle, a federal contractor, issued Lambert’s paycheck, he contends in the lawsuit that it was DOE money that funded both his job and the counterintelligence field office.

    That’s key because a federal law makes it a crime for a former government worker to “communicate” with his or her former co-workers for one year after leaving his or her post “with the intent to influence official action.” The law is designed to prevent a government worker from using his former agency ties to garner government contracts or otherwise financially benefit from status as a former insider.

    There were at least two FBI agents assigned to the counterintelligence field office in Oak Ridge, and the office worked closely with the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office. In November 2012, Lambert’s successor at the Knoxville FBI office, Kenneth Moore, was at a conference and asked DOJ ethics attorney Kelley “whether that means that he could not talk to” Lambert, according to an email by Kelley cited in the lawsuit. Moore has since retired.

    “I told Ken that it might but I would have to dig into it,” Kelley wrote. “I found that, notwithstanding his title, Rick is not a DOE employee but, rather, works for a contractor who runs the lab for the government. Even though Rick’s salary can be traced to government funds and his work is on behalf of DOE, I thought the restrictions applied because of that fact.”

    He said he asked both DOE and DOJ officials for a second opinion.

    “DOE advised that it was an FBI/DOJ responsibility to advise Rick but said that, if he was a former DOE employee, then he would be bound by (those) restrictions, which I took to mean that they thought the statute applied to Rick’s situation. DOJ concurs,” Kelley wrote. “So, I will send an email to both Ken and Rick today delivering the determination. That will mean that Rick cannot talk directly to any FBI employee, which will be problematic since we have two agents embedded in the lab.”

    He said he advised Lambert’s boss, too.

    “I know this will prove disruptive but I see no way around it and the statute is a criminal prohibition so we can’t very well ignore it,” Kelley concluded.

    Lambert challenged Kelley’s conclusion with a detailed legal analysis.

    “Kelley’s ‘phone-a-friend’ approach to the practice of law was bereft of facing finding and devoid of legal analysis, constituting little more than off-the-cuff conjecture and a best guess,” he explained in the lawsuit.

    Lambert said he “self reported” Kelley’s conclusion to the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, both of which deemed it to be “meritless.”

    Yet, he alleged, federal officials “launched and sensationalized massive criminal probes, which included the dispatch of teams of agents and attorneys to East Tennessee who raided and searched (Lambert’s) office at ORNL, seized and analyzed (his) personal documents and effects and interrogated dozens of (his) co-workers and associates in a wild fishing expedition festooned with prurient inquisitions into the intimate and irrelevant details of (his) private life and marital status.”

    He accused Moore of spreading rumors Lambert’s indictment was imminent. Lambert alleges in the lawsuit a case was indeed presented to a federal grand jury against him, although he does not say where.

    “After expending a full year in the throes of sleuthing at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. taxpayers, the Department of Justice concluded its imbroglio with a whimper, appearing at the altar of the grand jury without even so much as the proverbial ham sandwich, flat-footed, empty-handed and as dead in the water as the Ancient Mariner,” he wrote.

    However, in June 2013, he said, DOE essentially fired him by ending his contract. He said he also lost a job as an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee.

  6. richard rowley said

    I just realized something: Oak Ridge is ANOTHER Battelle facility. (much frowning, squinting of eyes, rolling of eyes, wiggling of nose, etc.) Don’t like this, AT ALL.

  7. DXer said

    Meet John Kiriakou
    by Kelley B. Vlahos, January 31, 2012

    http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2012/01/30/kiriakou-ivins/

    Of course this administration is not to the first to persecute and ruin the lives of people before they are ever convicted of a crime. Just last weekend, The Washington Post reported that “deep” in the government’s files relating to its case against Bruce Ivins, the military scientist accused of single-handedly pulling off the 2001 anthrax attacks, are the justice department’s own doubts the man really did it.

    Bruce Ivins
    The unusual spectacle of one arm of the Justice Department publicly questioning another has the potential to undermine one of the most high-profile investigations in years, according to critics and independent experts who reviewed the court filings.

    “I cannot think of another case in which the government has done such an egregious about-face. It destroys confidence in the criminal findings,” said Paul Rothstein, a law professor at Georgetown University.

    Of course, Ivins will never be really vindicated, no matter what, because he committed suicide in July 2008, before any formal charges were filed but at the height of speculation and character assassination, all generated by the FBI, which openly fingered him as the lone anthrax killer. By the time he took his own life at 62, Ivins was known as a pill-popping neurotic gadfly who stalked women and therapists and held dangerous grudges.

    Before that, in June 2008, the government paid Dr. Steven J. Hatfill $5.8 million dollars in a settlement over charges the FBI invaded his privacy and ruined his career. He, too, had been publicly targeted as the anthrax killer, and subjected to the same kind of media witch hunt and 24-hour surveillance for months before the charges were dropped.

    “If anybody in the country really knew what it was like to be Steven Hatfill for the past six years, nobody would trade places with him,” said one of Hatfill’s attorneys, Mark Grannis, at the time. He faulted “a handful of credulous reporters,” who he said published or broadcast government leaks of “gossip, speculation and misinformation.”

    A good policy when you see a whistle-blower like Kiriakou on the wrong side of the Justice Department: be incredulous.

    Nevertheless, it’s examples like these, and of recent post-9/11 whistle-blowers, that serve as chilling reminders for anyone else thinking of coming forward against government wrongdoing or negligence, says Van Buren.

    “The bureaucracies know this intimidation keeps people in line. Other employees watch and say, not me, not my mortgage, not my family and remain silent. Creative, thoughtful people see this and decide, correctly, to avoid government service,” said Van Buren.

    “What’s that quote, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to remain silent? That in fact is what the government’s aim is, for make good people remain silent, out of fear. They might as well translate that into Latin and carve it into the stone walls at Foggy Bottom, or at Langley, or out at Fort Meade.”

  8. r. rowley said

    This is a VERY interesting find. I’ve been curious as to whether everyone was in the same rowboat, so to speak, on the Task Force. I see the decision (or maybe it was SOP long before Amerithrax) to file away and basically ignore “hoax letters” to be one of the biggest errors of those early days/weeks/months of the investigation.

    • DXer said

      I don’t know what Agent Lambert thinks in 2012. In September 2008 I don’t doubt that he was under the impression that they had the responsible person though he noted the case wasn’t airtight. He would have to be asked by reporters what he thinks in light of the NAS report and all the facts that have come out. Moreover, he of course is more free to speak once he retires.

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