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

* PHOTOCOPIER TONER: In the hundreds of pages of photocopied exemplars taken from Dr. Bruce Ivins’ home and office, FBI Laboratory Experts determined that there was not a single piece of paper photocopied by him in which the same photocopy toner was used as in the letters containing the mailed anthrax. FBI should produce the laboratory reports to GAO on the photocopy toner used by the machine used to copy the letters without further delay.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 9, 2012

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22 Responses to “* PHOTOCOPIER TONER: In the hundreds of pages of photocopied exemplars taken from Dr. Bruce Ivins’ home and office, FBI Laboratory Experts determined that there was not a single piece of paper photocopied by him in which the same photocopy toner was used as in the letters containing the mailed anthrax. FBI should produce the laboratory reports to GAO on the photocopy toner used by the machine used to copy the letters without further delay.”

  1. DXer said

    I believe the Fall 2001 anthrax letters gave rise to the use of microdots. Very cool stuff.

    Many colour printers add the dots to documents without people ever knowing they’re there

    http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170607-why-printers-add-secret-tracking-dots#

    At that point, experts began taking a closer look at the document, now publicly available on the web. They discovered something else of interest: yellow dots in a roughly rectangular pattern repeated throughout the page. They were barely visible to the naked eye, but formed a coded design. After some quick analysis, they seemed to reveal the exact date and time that the pages in question were printed: 06:20 on 9 May, 2017 – at least, this is likely to be the time on the printer’s internal clock at that moment. The dots also encode a serial number for the printer.

    These “microdots” are well known to security researchers and civil liberties campaigners. Many colour printers add them to documents without people ever knowing they’re there.

    Microdots have existed for many years. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) maintains a list of colour printers known to use them. The images below, captured by the EFF, demonstrate how to decode them:

  2. DXer said

    Proceedings Article
    Photocopier forensics based on arbitrary text characters
    Changyou Wang ; Xiangwei Kong ; Shize Shang ; Xin’gang You
    [+] Author Affiliations
    Proc. SPIE 8665, Media Watermarking, Security, and Forensics 2013, 86650G (March 22, 2013); doi:10.1117/12.2005524 Text Size: A A A
    From Conference Volume 8665

    Media Watermarking, Security, and Forensics 2013
    Adnan M. Alattar; Nasir D. Memon; Chad D. Heitzenrater
    Burlingame, California, USA | February 03, 2013
    Abstract
    References
    abstract
    A photocopied document can expose the photocopier characteristics to identify the source photocopier, so how to extract the optimal intrinsic features is critical for photocopier forensics. In this paper, a photocopier forensics method based on the texture features analysis for arbitrary characters is proposed and the features are considered as the intrinsic features. Firstly, an image preprocessing process is practiced to get individual character images. Secondly, three sets of features are extracted from each individual character image, including the gray level features, the gradient differential matrix (GDM) features and the gray level gradient co-occurrence matrix (GLGCM) features. Last, each individual character in a document is classified using a Fisher classifier and a majority vote is performed on the character classification results to identify the source photocopier. Experimental results on seven photocopiers prove the effectiveness of our proposed method and an average character classification accuracy of 88.47% can be achieved. © (2013) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.

  3. DXer said

    Gerald Richards, a retired document examiner, can explain to the GAO that when the USAMRIID photocopiers were examined 5 months after the mailings, there were no photocopier tracks. But he should also be able to explain that the mass spec on the photocopy toner is not affected by the passage of time in the same way.

    To the extent Gerald is not a science guy, well, then Ed Bartick can share with the nature the extent of the FBI’s learning and testing of the toner.

    Mass spec on the photocopy toner is the type of science that the FBI should have been focused on — not DNA testing on semen stained panties.

    • DXer said

      http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/study_leaders/geraldrichards/

      Gerald B. “Jerry” Richards is a retired FBI Special Agent and currently works as an examiner of questioned documents and photographs for Richards’ Forensic Services. He began his FBI career as an investigator and later worked as Chief of the Document Operations and Research Unit and the Special Photograph Unit at the FBI Laboratory. He is an expert in the Foreign Espionage Tradecraft, Examination of Questioned Documents, and Forensic Photographic Examinations. In 1991, Jerry received the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement from the National Foreign Intelligence Community for especially meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service by a member of the intelligence community. Jerry has testified in many cases in federal, state, local, and foreign courts and court martial proceedings. He has worked and/or testified on many notable cases, including the John Walker and Jerry Whitworth espionage case, Bell/Zacharski espionage case, Rick Ames espionage case, Jonathan Pollard espionage case, Ronald Pelton espionage case, the O. J. Simpson civil case, the JFK/Marilyn Monroe forgery case, and the Twilight Zone (movie) case.

      Jerry may not know about the advances of mass spec on photocopy toner in identifying a photocopier machine but as Chief of the Document Operations and Research Unit and the Special Photograph Unit at the FBI Laboratory he can point GAO in the right direction to where the reports that were done are filed.

      • DXer said

        In terms of understanding the science, it is important that the finding that there were no matching “tracks” on the USAMRIID copiers is totally different from the finding that the photcopier toner did not match and thus those photocopiers could be excluded.

        The lack of a match of “tracks” can be due to the passage of time — although this would require scientific validation.

        The mass spec on the toner, however, is not similarly affected by the passage of time.

        Gerald Richards is the guy to call on the “tracks” issue. If FBI had produced his report, you would find that the “tracks” did not match — but the mass spec on the toner was not within his field and was not the subject of his examination..

        It is the mass spec on the toner that you call the next witness, Ed Bartick.

        http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/lester/writings/experts.html

        In the late 1990s, retired Agent Richards was working as a private consultant, assistant professor at George Washington University, and under contract with the FBI in the field of questioned documents and photographic examinations. He has a BS in photography, MS in secondary education,taken graduate courses at GW University, and took a forensic photography course with FBI

        As FBI Special Agent, he worked for the FBI for 23 years and chief of the special photographic unit for six.

        By 1997 or so, he had testified in between 100 to 200 cases.

        In the OJ Simpson case he explained:

        http://walraven.org/simpson/jan14-97.html

        A. I’m currently a private consultant, and lecture in the field of
        questioned document and photographic examinations. In addition to
        that, I’m currently under contract to the FBI laboratory to assist
        in training new examiners in the special photographic unit and also
        assist with various case work on a one- or two-day a week basis. I’m
        also assistant professorial lecturer at George Washington University
        graduate school where I teach two forensic courses; one in the field
        of questioned document examination and one in the field of forensic
        photography, which as a matter of fact is going as we speak.

    • DXer said

      Vahid Majidi incorrectly claimed that all the forensic reports had been produced when in fact pretty much NONE of the traditional forensic reports were produced.

      I believe the only traditional forensic report produced was the handwriting report that found Dr. Ivins probably did not write the letters.

      The FBI should also have produced the traditional forensic report that found that the USAMRIID photocopiers were not used — which leaves one scratching one’s head over the innuendo that Bruce Ivins photocopied the letters in the USAMRIID library.

  4. DXer said

    Although Dr. Majidi claims that the FBI produced all scientific reports, to the contrary, Dr. Majidi WITHHELD all forensic reports on the photocopy toner, ink, paper etc. Why? They were exculpatory of Dr. Ivins. Such selective production of documents is totally inexcusable.

  5. DXer said

    In a new manuscript, Dr. Vahid Majidi claims that “all case information, including the investigative reports, were released to the public through the Freedom of Information Act.”

    Isn’t Dr. Majidi mistaken? Where are the forensic reports, for example, relating to the photocopy toner? Does he appreciate the importance of a scientific examination of the photocopy toner in the case of deadly mailed letters that were xeroxed?

    Are we to assume that scientific reports that were not produced were not done?

    Did he reach his conclusions based on “all case information” relating to the mailed xerox letter — not including the scientific examination of the photocopy toner??

    Could he please ask his former colleagues to now release the scientific reports relating to the photocopy toner?

    • DXer said

      Dr. Majidi writes that the FBI has provided a list of scientists who worked on Amerithrax and “consented to revoke the confidentiality agreements.”

      What scientist is listed who worked on the photocopy toner? Is Dr. Bartick listed? The former head FBI WMD scientist Majidi confirms that there is no obligation of confidentiality and so let’s answered what study of the photocopy toner was done. The last I checked, Dr. Bartick, who has longstanding expertise on the subject, was in Boston. He wrote a seminal work on the subject and there have been great advances in recent years.

    • DXer said

      In his new manuscript, Dr. Majidi writes:

      “we were given assignments. We were told not to bother with the traditional forensic studies because the Bureau had a well-planned procedure to obtain as much as information from the collected evidence.”

      Comment:

      Call me old-fashioned but let’s see the scientific reports relating to the traditional forensic studies done on the collected evidence such as the examination of the photocopy toner.

    • DXer said

      We haven’t seen the reports using the traditional methods — because the FBI wrongfully withheld them under FOIA while its WMD head incorrectly claimed all reports were being disclosed.

      Dr. Majidi says of the new approaches that were developed:

      “Even today, if one looks at the body of technical questions posed by individuals on the Amerithrax case, very of the questions and the recommended approaches actually yield an actionable lead for the case.”

  6. DXer said

    As a father, I’m a big fan of Quizlet. GAO, did the DOJ and FBI’s failure to produce its forensic reports on the toner and paper — whatever they concluded — cause it to fail? Who decided that they should be withheld under FOIA?

    Or should the DOJ and FBI just receive an incomplete and have to take the test again.

    Card 13/22 in a set of flashcards on forensics:

    Name five characteristics of a printer etc. that an examiner can use if suspect machine is not available
    printing technology, type of paper, type of toner/ink, chemical comp of toner, toner to paper fusing

    Card 14/22 states:

    What two processes typically are involved in the examination of toner
    microscopic analysis to characterize its surface morphology and identification of organic or inorganic comp

    Card 22/22
    List the most common features associated with paper examination
    general appearance, color, weight and watermarks

    A first step would be if GAO were to interview the former FBI experts such as Dr. Bartick and upload his interview — and FBI should disclose the forensic reports on the photocopy toner and paper.

  7. DXer said

    The FBI already had samples of photocopy toner from KINKOS of the paper from August-September of a Florida KINKOS used by Atta to buy his ticket. Copies were made by an FBI undercover informant who made copies of “Requirement for Jihad” being distributed to local men at the mosque. The undercover operation also involved the attempted recruitment of El-Shukriumah — who for whatever reason did not come to be involved in the plot to blow up South Florida targets. After 9/11, the FBI for unknown reasons did not use the undercover.

    Can Mr. Gilbert tell us anything about the whereabouts of Adnan El-Shukrijumah throughout 2001? I have suggested Adnan as the mailer of the Fall 2001 anthrax letters. El-Shukrimah was casing targets in in NYC, DC and NJ at the instruction of KSM — and then in the Spring of 2002 was hiding in Karachi safehouses with KSM’s assistant Al-Hawsawi, who had the anthrax spraydrying documents on his laptop. Then it was in March 2003 that the laptop was seized at the home of a bacteriologist.

    http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

    Source:

    http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=howard_gilbert_1

    [After FBI informant-undercover] Gilbert and Mandhai develop a series of courses for potential recruits entitled “Skills Necessary for Jihad” in the spring of 2001, Mandhai prints them at the same Kinko’s copy shop in Hollywood that is used by Mohamed Atta and Hamza Alghamdi to buy their tickets for 9/11 (see August 25-September 5, 2001). [BROWARD HERALD, 5/29/2002;SALON, 12/3/2002; USA TODAY, 6/15/2003]

  8. DXer said

    Whenever a perp photocopies something nowadays, there typically is a record of it on a machine he doesn’t own or control.

    April 20, 2010 9:35 PM

    Digital Photocopiers Loaded With Secrets
    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-6412439.html

    ***

    This past February, CBS News went with Juntunen to a warehouse in New Jersey, one of 25 across the country, to see how hard it would be to buy a used copier loaded with documents. It turns out … it’s pretty easy.

    Juntunen picked four machines based on price and the number of pages printed. In less than two hours his selections were packed and loaded onto a truck. The cost? About $300 each.

    Until we unpacked and plugged them in, we had no idea where the copiers came from or what we’d find.

    We didn’t even have to wait for the first one to warm up. One of the copiers had documents still on the copier glass, from the Buffalo, N.Y., Police Sex Crimes Division.

    It took Juntunen just 30 minutes to pull the hard drives out of the copiers. Then, using a forensic software program available for free on the Internet, he ran a scan – downloading tens of thousands of documents in less than 12 hours.

    The results were stunning: from the sex crimes unit there were detailed domestic violence complaints and a list of wanted sex offenders. On a second machine from the Buffalo Police Narcotics Unit we found a list of targets in a major drug raid.

    The third machine, from a New York construction company, spit out design plans for a building near Ground Zero in Manhattan; 95 pages of pay stubs with names, addresses and social security numbers; and $40,000 in copied checks.

    But it wasn’t until hitting “print” on the fourth machine – from Affinity Health Plan, a New York insurance company, that we obtained the most disturbing documents: 300 pages of individual medical records. They included everything from drug prescriptions, to blood test results, to a cancer diagnosis. A potentially serious breach of federal privacy law.

    “You’re talking about potentially ruining someone’s life,” said Ira Winkler. “Where they could suffer serious social repercussions.”

    Winkler is a former analyst for the National Security Agency and a leading expert on digital security.

    “You have to take some basic responsibility and know that these copiers are actually computers that need to be cleaned up,” Winkler said.

    The Buffalo Police Department and the New York construction company declined comment on our story. As for Affinity Health Plan, they issued a statement that said, in part, “we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that none of our customers’ personal information remains on other previously leased copiers, and that no personal information will be released inadvertently in the future.”

  9. DXer said

    With respect to determining the machine used to photocopy the Dallas hoax letters (see $150,000 reward), it was in the news this week that DHS had handed its forensic database of toner data to ICE.

    NONE of the photocopies seized from Dr. Ivins’ work or home were a match with the mailed letters.

    DHS hands forensic library of ink and toner data to ICE

    http://www.gsnmagazine.com/node/28577?c=access_control_identification

    By: Mark Rockwell

    In a move that ICE officials said will help federal and local governments better identify fake documents and perform other forensic operations, DHS has handed a database of toner and ink information over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    The Searchable Toner and Printing Ink Library database system was created in partnership between Science and Technology Directorate and the Ames Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy. It provides the HSI Forensic Laboratory and other federal, state, local, tribal and international law enforcement agencies with the capability to identify and analyze printed evidence by matching them with an archive of known print media samples, said ICE.

    “The casework associated with printing inks and toners continues to expand, and this library makes forensic document analysis possible across law enforcement laboratories,” said Dr. Kai-Dee Chu, program manager of the Resilient Systems Division of DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate. “It will assist law enforcement officers to rapidly identify suspected fraudulent documents and link such items with comparable documents associated with other criminal incidents, locations, materials or individuals.”

    The transition to ICE is the first step in rollout of the database to the broader law enforcement community.”

    “The Searchable Toner and Printing Ink Library … enables identification of suspected samples with much higher confidence.”

    Chu explained that the capability that the library brings to ICE fills a very important technology gap that has been identified by the general forensic community. He went on to explain that the HSI Forensic Laboratory has already started to field inquiries about the technology.

    “The Homeland Security Investigations Forensic Laboratory is already receiving inquiries and requests from state and local law enforcement to help analyze suspected documents,” he said.

    In addition to attendees from ICE, forensic scientists from the U.S. Secret Service, National Institute of Justice and FBI participated in the ceremonial handover of the database, said ICE.

    “There is a very high interest from the forensic community wanting to collaborate and further mature this technology,” Chu said.

    • DXer said

      http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20041011/printer.html

      Computer Printers Can Catch Terrorists
      By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

      Oct. 18, 2004

      Dusak did reveal that similar signatures within copiers have helped agents to solve cases. In one instance, an individual was utilizing a full color copier to make some extra money after hours.

      The copier’s signature enabled agents to trace the money back to the machine. The individual’s fingerprints were found on the notes, and he was caught.

      Dusak added, “In one typical ongoing case, researchers were able to read the codes of suspect financial documents. The codes were traced to a large color copier within a business.”

      In other cases, he said printers have been found in places such as prisons and mobile homes that have been linked to suspects. Once the unique signature of these printers is determined, agents could then try to match questionable documents to the printers.

      “The criminals are a step ahead of us one day, and we’re ahead on another,” Dusak said. “We’re working hard and looking at new methods to effectively adapt to the changes in technology and to stay ahead of the computer savvy criminals.”

  10. DXer said

    The FBI Laboratory Director for Amerithrax writes:

    “Traditional forensic science (DNA, fingerprints, handwriting, trace evidence, etc.) played little to no role in the outcome of this seven‐year investigation.”

    The photocopier toner was not in fact a match with the photocopy machines in the library and thus the prosecutor’s statement in the Amerithrax Investigation Summary about the time he spent there is misleading. GAO should arrange for the FBI to disclose the reports on the testing of the photocopier toner and the lack of a match. It is very significant given the hundreds of pages of exemplars that they took from Dr. Ivins home that had for comparison.

  11. DXer said

    The false innuendo in the Amerithrax Investigative Summary is that Dr. Ivins copied the letters at USAMRIID. That report should have been disclosed under FOIA and I venture that it excludes the USAMRIID copiers. That is the sort of science that the GAO should review — at least to the extent of obtaining the documents and determining the consistency with the innuendo in the report…. focusing on the mass spec or other examination of the toner (rather than track marks).

  12. DXer said

    I am listening to a lecture by an FBI computer forensics person describing how photocopiers nowadays keep scanned copies of everything photocopied. The FBI expert says he pulled his own photocopier hard drive to see the format the info was stored. Even though stored in a proprietary format, the FBI likely works with companies to get what they need to read the data. That might have unearthed interesting evidence. I don’t believe that USAMRIID would have had such photocopiers in Fall 2001. Photocopiers started storing the data of the documents stored about that time — beginning after 2001.

    • DXer said

      He says if it is on your screen, it may be on the hard drive regardless of having been saved. Thus, for example, chat logs. GAO should obtain and disclose the key emails that Dr. Ivins wrote to Pat Fellows and Mara Linscott. The FBI quotes the emails in their affidavits and Amerithrax Investigation Summary. They should be produced. They can be redacted as necessary.

  13. DXer said

    DOJ review of flawed FBI forensics processes lacked transparency
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/doj-review-of-flawed-fbi-forensics-processes-lacked-transparency/2012/04/17/gIQAFegIPT_story.html?tid=pm_pop

    The bombshell came at the most inopportune time.

    An FBI special agent was testifying in the government’s high-profile terrorism trial against Omar Abdel Rahman, the “blind sheik” suspected of plotting the first attack on

    Frederic Whitehurst, a chemist and lawyer who worked in the FBI’s crime lab, testified that he was told by his superiors to ignore findings that did not support the prosecution’s theory of the bombing.

    “There was a great deal of pressure put upon me to bias my interpretation,” Whitehurst said in U.S. District Court in New York in 1995.

    Even before the Internet, Whitehurst’s extraordinary claim went viral. It turned out he had written or passed along scores of memos over the years warning of a lack of impartiality and scientific standards at the famed lab that did the forensic work after the World Trade Center attack and in other cases.

    ***

    After the Justice Department’s inspector general began a review of Whitehurst’s claims, Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh decided to launch a task force to dig through thousands of cases involving discredited agents, to ensure that “no defendant’s right to a fair trial was jeopardized,” as one FBI official promised at a congressional hearing.

    The task force took nine years to complete its work and never publicly released its findings. Not the results of its case reviews of suspect lab work. Not the names of the defendants who were convicted as a result. And not the nature or scope of the forensic problems it found.

    Those decisions more than a decade ago remain relevant today for hundreds of people still in the U.S. court system, because officials never notified many defendants of the forensic flaws in their cases and never expanded their review to catch similar mistakes.

    ***

    “It was not open,” said a person who worked closely with the task force and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the bureau and Justice Department maintain a strong influence in forensic science. “Maybe [a coverup] wasn’t the intent, but it did seem to look that way. . . . It was too controlled by the FBI.”

    A Washington Post review of the department’s actions shows an agency struggling to balance its goal of defending convictions in court with its responsibility to protect the innocent. The Justice Department’s decision to allow prosecutors to decide what to disclose to defendants was criticized at the time and allowed most of the process to remain secret. But by cloaking cases in anonymity, failing to ensure that defendants were notified of troubles with their cases and neglecting to publicly report problems or recommend solutions, the task force obscured problems from further study.

    Scathing report

    If the Justice Department was secretive, the agency’s independent inspector general was not. Michael R. Bromwich’s probe culminated in a devastating 517-page report in April 1997on misconduct at the FBI lab.

    His findings stopped short of accusing agents of perjury or of fabricating results, but he concluded that FBI managers failed — in some cases for years — to respond to warnings about the scientific integrity and competence of agents.

    The chief of the lab’s explosives unit, for example, “repeatedly reached conclusions that incriminated the defendants without a scientific basis” in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Bromwich wrote. The head of toxicology lacked judgment and credibility and overstated results in the 1994 Simpson investigation. After the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the key FBI witness “worked backward,” tailoring his testimony to reach the result he wanted. Other agents “spruced up” notes for trial, altered reports without the author’s permission or failed to document or confirm their findings.

    The investigation led to wide-ranging changes, including higher laboratory standards and requirements for examiners.

    Meanwhile, the Justice Department set out to evaluate discredited agents’ work in thousands of cases that had gone to trial.

    Jim Maddock, the FBI’s assistant general counsel, told reporters that the goal of the new task force was to identify any potentially exculpatory information that had arisen in any criminal case involving agents criticized in the report.

    “We are undertaking that review,” Maddock said at an April 15, 1997, news conference. “And when it is done, we will give a full accounting of our findings.”

    Interviews and documents show that key decisions about the task force’s work were made at the highest levels, including the decisions to exclude defense lawyers from the review and not publicly release the findings.

  14. DXer said

    GAO can compare the forensics used in identifying Mr. Carlson.

    Arrest in threatening letters sent to Congress
    Published March 09, 2012
    | Associated Press

    PORTLAND, Ore. – A 39-year-old man charged in connection with threatening letters containing white powder that were sent to members of Congress and some media organizations was arrested Friday.
    Investigators said Christopher Lee Carlson was indicted on two criminal counts arising out of an investigation into the mailing of about 100 envelopes containing white power.

    The letters, postmarked in Portland, Ore., so far have all tested negative for toxic substances, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Portland said.

    ***

    The threats raised memories of post-9/11 incidents that rattled Washington. In mid-November 2001, authorities closed two Senate office buildings after anthrax attacks on Congress. Those attacks came after four people — two postal workers in Washington, a New York City hospital worker and a Florida photo editor — died from exposure to anthrax.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/03/09/arrest-in-threatening-letters-sent-to-congress/#ixzz1oiQMZ1F2

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