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

* The DOJ and FBI Should Produce To GAO All Forensic Analyses and Documents Relating to Swabbing And Testing For What Is Now Known As Bacillus subtilis subsp. inaquorosum subsp. nov.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 19, 2012

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8 Responses to “* The DOJ and FBI Should Produce To GAO All Forensic Analyses and Documents Relating to Swabbing And Testing For What Is Now Known As Bacillus subtilis subsp. inaquorosum subsp. nov.”

  1. DXer said

    USAMRIID’s response to a January 2002 subpoena — produced today — says that its dried simulants were made and stored in Rm 212 in Building 1412. That was the lab of the FBI’s scientist at USAMRIID. Was it swabbed for the genetically matching subtilis?

    Bruce Ivins thought it was an “incredible coverup” that he was not allowed to swab the Diagnostic Services Division at the same time he swabbed his lab and offices

    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 10, 2012
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/bruce-ivins-thought-it-was-an-incredible-coverup-that-he-was-not-allowed-to-swab-the-diagnostic-services-division-at-the-same-time-he-swabbed-his-lab-and-offices-2/

  2. DXer said

    FBI Discounted Contaminant Clue in Anthrax Case

    April 21, 2011
    As the FBI built its case for U.S. Army microbiologist Bruce Ivins being the sole culprit behind the 2001 anthrax mailings, investigators did not pursue a potentially key piece of bacterial evidence that might have pointed them in another direction, McClatchy Newspapers reported on Wednesday (see GSN, March 25).

    A close examination by scientists of the anthrax letters that killed five people in 2001 turned up a trace amount of an innocuous bacterial contaminant called bacillus subtilis, whose uniqueness was hoped to serve as a tool in identifying the perpetrator of the biological attacks.

    In March 2007, a high-ranking FBI official said the contaminant “may be the most resolving signature found in the evidence to date,” according to a now-public memo from the investigation.
    ***
    “This was not an incidental finding,” leading anthrax expert Martin Hugh-Jones said. “The FBI had what I would call an institutional fingerprint. Whoever had that strain of (bacteria) has to answer to the investigators.”

    In the 12,000 pages of declassified FBI documents on the case, there is little indication of testing conducted on other anthrax scientists’ laboratory areas or their caches of the bacillus subtilis material. The federal investigator would not answer how many researchers’ work spaces were analyzed.
    “They’ve got thousands of samples, but were they thousands of the right samples?” Hugh-Jones said.

    – See more at: http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/fbi-discounted-contaminant-clue-in-anthrax-case/#sthash.BfCmNQBT.dpuf

    Comment:

    “The federal investigator would not answer how many researchers’ work spaces were analyzed.” Now 5 years after the case was closed the top WMD person says that suspect labs were not swabbed. The FBI was obligated to provide a summary of the investigation — it should not have been engaged in spin or playing hide-the-ball.

  3. DXer said

    If Dr. Vahid Majidi had admitted five years ago — instead of only now — that swabbing of suspect labs for the subtilis contaminant was not done subsequent discussion would have been more edifying.

    Here is a FAQ by Paul Keim.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/keim-anthrax.html

    4) Disclaimer: My lab did not work on the B. subtilis contaminant, so what I am relating is secondhand knowledge. However, it is based upon my conversations with government experts and my participation in the press conferences and the public ASM symposium. Details of the contaminant were discussed in these forums.

    Background: The question refers to the non-hemolytic (B. anthracis is hemolytic) bacterial contaminant found in some of the letters. It proved to be a spore forming Bacillus subtilis bacterium. As the name implies, this is somewhat related to Bacillus anthracis and shares many biological properties. But it is not a disease causing organism, and there are many, many different types found in the environment. It would not be surprise to me to find a novel B. subtilis on my computer keyboard.

    Answer: The government investigators thought that perhaps this contaminant could be used to trace back the spore preps to a particular laboratory. If the contaminant was a common laboratory strain of B. subtilis, this might have been possible. In the end, this apparently proved impossible because this contaminant was different from any known lab strains. Likewise, Dugway Proving Grounds labs were intensely investigated, and I would assume that any Bacillus strains at that facility would have been investigated. Again, no lab strains matched the contaminant using DNA analysis.

    Q: Did the Bacillus subtilis contaminant found in the New York Post and NBC anthrax letters raise speculation that it could have been residue from aerosol powder equipment used by military labs to manufacture bioweapon (BW) simulants? For example, Edgewood Army labs routinely produce aerosolizable Bacillus subtilis var. niger strain bioweapons simulants. See link here: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA483822&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf. Did the Bacillus subtilis found match the niger strain or any other strain associated with BW simulant production? Was this considered?
    Anonymous

    Keim: DNA analysis of the B. subtilis contaminant did not match any known strain of bacteria (see my previous answer).

    Background: The question refers to a fairly common lab strain of B. subtilis that has been used as a non-pathogenic biological weapons simulant of B. anthracis to test detector systems in environmental releases of spores. This strain forms a very identifiable colony upon plating, which is probably why it was chosen as the BW simulant.

    Everyone in the investigation is well aware of the use of this B. subtilis niger as a simulant, and many of us have this strain in our labs. Upon DNA analysis, the letter-contaminant strain was considerably different from the simulant.

    Not to belabor this point, but this BW simulant bacterium has been renamed several times as scientists have learned more about. It was originaly named Bacillus subtilis var. niger, but was then deemed distinct and different from B. subtilis and was then given its own species name,Bacillus globii. Later it was renamed again to Bacillus atrophaeus. I mention this just to re-enforce the idea that this BW simulant bacterium is very distinguishable from the B. subtilis found amongst the B. anthracis spores.

  4. DXer said

    It is only by insisting on disclosure of all the forensic reports can we pierce the untrue statements that have been told about subtilis upon Dr. Majidi’s closing of the case. He and his colleagues claimed that they had pursued all leads but they didn’t. He claimed the swabbing of suspect labs had been done but it wasn’t. How many suspect labs were not swabbed for subtilis? How much would it have cost? Dr. Majidi, what would the cost have been relative to, say, using the anthrax smelling dogs!?

  5. DXer said

    The GAO has within the subtilis issue alone a crowbar with which to show the FBI’s conclusion to be seriously flawed.

    Just as the Blind Sheik urged an individual duty to jihad, all government employees have an individual duty to keep innocents from being killed.

  6. DXer said

    What does subtilis expert Walied S. (living 20 miles from the mailbox in 2001) say about all the calls he made to the telephone number associated with WTC 1993 plotter Ramzi Youssef up to the time (to nearly the minute) of the blind sheik’s arrest? Yousef was connected and in contact in 1993 with his relative Al-balucchi, the anthrax planner who married Aafia Siddiqui. What does Walied say about the apparent reporting call made from his dorm room after WTC 1993 to a waiting KSM at a Pakistan charity? (That year he was studying mutations in subtilis).

    The major media outlets have not obtained the interviews that would be interesting. Is that because they haven’t tried? I mean, I realize that Bruce Ivins stole a book from a sorority 25 years before the anthrax mailings. But are the major reporters really so incurious what Walied would say? Or is that they have been refused an interview. Mr. Willman is a curious guy — even flying to Scandinavia to interview an angry ex-wife of a Battelle manager. Did he at least pick up the phone and put in a call to Waiied?

  7. DXer said

    Dr. Hugh-Jones has emphasized the point that the genetically distinct subtilis contaminant could be a signature for a particular lab.

  8. DXer said

    In the Amerithrax Investigative Summary, the DOJ address the subtilis in reporting that the FBI excluded:

    * A foreign-born scientist with particular expertise working with a Bacillus anthracis simulant known as Bacillus subtilis, and against whom there were allegations that s/he had connections with several individuals affiliated with the al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam terrorist networks.

    Question for Dr. Bannan: was that scientist’s lab swabbed for the genetically distinctive subtilis? Telephone records from 1993 show that he was in contact regularly with the telephone of the apartment where KSM’s nephew, the 1993 bomber, Ramzi Yousef, had been staying right up to the moment Blind Sheik Abdel Rahman was arrested. Thus, swabbing for the subtilis would have been an important lead to pursue.

    Dr. Bannan, in determining whether Yazid Sufaat used Ames, did anyone ever ask him that? As Yazid says, life may not be the party you want, but you at least should dance while you are here.

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