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

* Former New York City Police Captain of Detectives Tom Walker Summarizes Some of the Weaknesses Of An “Ivins Theory” In His New Sherlock Holmes-themed Book

Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 20, 2012

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10 Responses to “* Former New York City Police Captain of Detectives Tom Walker Summarizes Some of the Weaknesses Of An “Ivins Theory” In His New Sherlock Holmes-themed Book”

  1. DXer said

    ANTHRAX AND AL QAEDA: THE INFILTRATION OF US BIODEFENSE
    August 10, 2012
    http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3459068

  2. DXer said

    Ask yourself:

    What would Captain Furillo have done if some politicians above told him to close a case that he knew — for the reasons of public safety combined with insufficiency of proof — should not be closed?

  3. DXer said

    For beach reading, on the issue of validation that GAO has written about in its draft report on Amerithrax, consider

    “The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective’s Greatest Cases”
    E. J. Wagner (Author)
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Science-Sherlock-Holmes-Baskerville/dp/0470128232

  4. DXer said

    Tom Walker then describes how he contacted a Baker Street Irregular member, code name “Toby,” in Racine, Wisconsin. There is coded communication between the two that arranges a meeting on the streets of Manhattan with an old lady and her dog.

    His Racine correspondent writes: “If you subtract 08823 from 08852, your result is 29. If you convert that to its alphabet form, it’s B.I.”

    Ed L. is from Racine. He uses the name “Fake Detective” in ferreting out pictures of nude celebrities on the internet. (If you think Mike Failey was mad at Ed, you should hear from Sophia Loren; she filed 76 lawsuits against people doing the same thing). Partly, she was mad that anyone would mistakenly deny that those were really her boobs.

    The Racine Sherlock writes him, according to Tom Walker, “Why did the killer subtract 08823 from 08852, your result is 29. If you convert that to its alphabet form, it’s B.I.”

    The Racine correspondent writes:

    “Certainly, if the FBI had uncovered it, they would have included it in their circumstantial case against Bruce Ivins — B.I.”

    Now I may not be following Mr. Walker’s narrative here. At first I thought he was talking to dogs (and those folks write letters and emails too).

    But now I’m thinking now that maybe there is a fascinating literary license being taken here. (He once won $32,000 on a game show for knowledge of Holmesian trivia and so perhaps there is also a literary allusion being made). Certainly, I will have to re-read the several page passage. An author has succeeded when he makes you relish re-reading a passage. Over the years, I have collected used copies of Holmes stories hoping my daughter would take an interest.

    But I want to note the difference between wild speculation about codes — such as FBI Agent Steele engaged in here (which even required misstating whether a particular letter was double-lined) — and codes that are established by documentary evidence to have been used in connection with the Al Qaeda’s anthrax program.

    In KSM’s code, which he instructed operatives like Nawaf Al-Hazmi on, you subtracted a number from “5” to derive the true number.

    So for example a phone number given al-Marri in his communication with KSM and al-Hawsawi (who had anthrax spraydrying docs on the seized laptop), an “8” becomes “2.” A “4” becomes a “6”.

    So for example, to take a hypothetical, if applying the zipcode from the Daschle return address you get a P.O. Box in the Boston area that was a branch of the Blind Sheik’s charity — and it turned out that Aafia picked up the mail — then you have corroboration of the code used. It would be like when Sherlock discovered the solution to the whistling mummy — finding that it was the wind going down a pipe on the roof. It was a hypothesis that was validated. You can put that down your pipe and smoke it.

    There needs to be validation of a code, however. Mere speculation — absent validation — does not warrant closing a case. Nor does it support serving as circumstantial evidence in support of closing one. That is exactly what the FBI did here without disclosing the science establishing which lines were in fact double-lined. Circumstantial evidence, Holmes says, can be a tricky business. It should not be used just so some government workers who withheld the documents about the rabbits can cover their behind because they feel bad that some innocent guy was driven to commit suicide over some semen-stained panties.

    • DXer said

      Let’s consider the evidence in the Unabom matter which Mr. Walker addresses in a separate chapter.

      In considering the case against Ayman Zawahiri and co-conspirators, and the seeming nonexistent case against Dr. Bruce Ivins, consider the case against Theodore Kaczynski as it existed the Fall preceding the first day of trial. In the UNABOM matter, there was a plea agreement that avoided the prosecution going forward with what turned out to be massive and overwhelming evidence at least as to the UNABOM incidents actually charged. (There were detailed admissions by Kaczynski in his diary that sealed his fate, removing all doubt as to his guilt.)

      A Copy Of The Manifesto Was Found In The Cabin

      The prosecution has explained before the Court: ”In June 1995, Kaczynski sent his manuscript “Industrial Society and Its Future” to the New York Times, the Washington Post, Penthouse, and Professor Tom Tyler of the University of California at Berkeley. A copy of the manuscript was found in the cabin. That manuscript contains a lengthy description of Kaczynski’s philosophy and admits that its author ‘had to kill people’ to get it published.”

      Ayman Zawahiri’s Fall 2001 book is almost as revealing in terms of profiling the Amerithrax crimes.

      Copies Of The Letters Kaczynski Sent To Publications Were Also Found

      The prosecution has explained before the Court:”Beginning in 1985, Kaczynski sent letters, using the alias, ‘FC,’ to various publications. A copy of each letter was discovered in Kaczynski’s cabin. Like the journals, Kaczynski’s letters also contain admissions to the charged and uncharged bombings; indeed, several letters contain an admission that encompasses both a charged and an uncharged bombing.”

      Here, anthrax production documents were found on Khalid Mohammed’s laptop, he made admissions about Yazid Sufaat’s role, and Zawahiri’s right-hand man as well as another shura council member made admissions about Zawahiri’s plan. Indeed, Yazid Sufaat in email and chat with me does not deny his role in Amerithrax.

      Most Of The Letters And The Manifesto Were Typed on Kaczynski’s Typewriter

      According to the prosecution’s June 1997 memorandum, the third typewriter found in the cabin was a match with most of the letters, with the manifesto, and for all of the bombs that were mailed after 1981. Here, there seems little chance authorities will find the scotch tape that was used to seal both letters or the pen used to write the letters.

      Number Used To Identify Unabomber Communications

      The Washington Post reported that federal investigators say that the nine-digit number that was sometimes used by the Unabomber to authenticate his communications was found in Kaczynski’s cabin. (The book Mad Genius previously reported that the number used by the bomber was 553-25-4394). The number was used by the Unabomber in connection with a letter discussing the April 1995 murder of the Sacramento timber industry official Gilbert Murray, and a letter claiming responsibility for the December 1994 murder of the advertising executive Thomas Mosser at his New Jersey home. An analogous discovery would relate to the reason, if any, for the use of Greendale School. Zawahiri’s computer that showed he used “school” for Al Qaeda already is available to use in an indictment.

      DNA Evidence In the UNABOM matter

      DNA evidence was apparently obtained from saliva found on the stamp used to send a copy of the manuscript to professor Tom Tyler. An earlier press report had suggested that there was DNA evidence associated with the 1994 victim in New Jersey, Thomas Mosser (pronounced MOE-ser). As a general rule, however, the bomber was reportedly careful in avoiding such evidence based on hair or saliva. It is surprising that the bomber, after having been so careful to avoid DNA evidence for so many years, would suddenly have been careless in connection with the manuscript sent to Professor Tyler. The genetic evidence in the Amerithrax case relates to the strain of anthrax and helped narrow the number of possible labs where the strain was. The mailer was very careful in handling the envelope and would not have licked the envelope.

      The affidavit filed in support of the search warrant in the Kaczynski case explained that the DNA found in connection with the stamp used to mail the manuscript to Tom Tyler limited the pool of potentially responsible persons to 3% of the United States population — or approximately 6 million people. DNA evidence in Amerithrax would not be determinative of the prosecution given they apparently cannot further narrow the field. It narrowed things from 1000 to “up to 300” (more if you consider that it could have been accessed at places other than USAMRIID).

      Bomb And Bomb-Related Materials.

      In the UNABOM matter, tools and hardware related to bomb-making were also found. Lab technicians have compared the toolmarks left on past bombs and bomb remnants with the tools found in Kaczynski’s cabin, and according to leaks the government were going to rely on an analysis of the tool marks in its case. The Affidavit filed in support of the search of the cabin explained that identical tool marks had been left on the staples used in a couple of the devices and in some of the correspondence. In addition, 10 three-ring binders full of meticulously drawn bomb diagrams may distinguish Kaczynski from ordinary pipebombers. The UNABOMBER is thought to have experimented with his bombs, and the prosecution likely would argue in any trial that the three- ring binders document those experiments. The notebooks have sketches of boxes that could conceal the devices; handwritten notes in English and Spanish describing how chemical compounds can create explosive charges; and logs of experiments to determine the optimal design for pipe bombs in various weather conditions. The notebooks would have been extremely powerful evidence, that may be even more powerful once comparison is made by experts between the specific entries and specific bombs used in the UNABOM incidents.

      Here, all the information about the anthrax production documents on Khalid Mohammed’s computer is classified.

      Here, the plastic tub found in the Frederick park in connection with the Hatfill Theory did not pass the “giggle test” and neither does the FBI’s sorority theory in connection with Ivins.

      Witness Description.

      In 1987, a woman employed by CAAMS, a Salt Lake City computer store, noticed a man placing an object near a car. She apparently had a close, albeit brief, observation of the individual. She knocked on the window and motioned him away from the car. While distracted by a telephone call, another employee went out and kicked the material out of the way. The bomb was made to look like a road hazard and consisted of two boards with nails sticking up. Two main composites based on the witness’ description were drawn. One was done at the time, and one was done approximately 7 years later. The later composite has a squarer jaw. Some media reports published a version of the composite without glasses. The official composite relied upon by the Task Force has always included glasses.

      In the Amerithrax matter, the picture shown of Hatfill (and only Hatfill) to witnesses that some in New Jersey apparently was an older picture. In any event, a long time had passed between the time witnesses were shown his picture and any passing encounter with him if he had been the mailer. No one ever identified Dr. Ivins doing anything related to processing or mailing.

      Partial Fingerprint

      A partial fingerprint was obtained from one of the devices. It did not match with Kaczynski’s, according to the affidavit filed at the time of the search. The authorities had no way of knowing whether the partial fingerprint is that of the bomber, or someone else. Thus, the prosecution likely would have discounted the failure to match as due to the fact that the print was made by someone other than the bomber. In the Amerithrax investigation, there were no fingerprints found. Of course, if fingerprints had been found on any material found in the pond, that would have been very significant.

      Kaczynski’s Whereabouts

      Kaczynski had lived primarily in Montana since 1971. He traveled to other areas by bus — and not by airplane as initially reported. He moved to Chicago for a short while in the late Spring of 1978 until the Summer of 1979. He applied for an Illinois driver’s license in July 1978 — six weeks after the first explosion. According to one report, he returned to Montana in the Summer of 1979. Thus, the FBI was trying to establish that he returned to Chicago in connection with the mailing of a November 1979 and a May 1980 bomb. The brother and mother were uncertain on the details. According to the affidavit filed in support of the search, the brother had said that Kaczynski came to Chicago as early as 30 days before June 20. In addition, the affidavit states that although Kaczynski left Chicago in the Summer of 1979, he apparently returned after a two month stay in Saskatchewan. Thus, according to the affidavit, the statements by the family members are not inconsistent with his presence in Chicago on May 25, 1978 or November 14, 1979. With respect to the May 1980 mailing to Percy Wood from the Chicago area, the Affidavit notes the dates of hotel stays in Park Hotel, Helena, Montana, that would have allowed an opportunity for Kaczynski to travel to Chicago to make the mailing to Mr. Wood. The Affidavit similarly noted stays at the Park Hotel generally consistent with travel to Utah at the time of the placement and mailing of bombs.

      Similarly, Dr. Ivins, in fact, has an alibi established by the withheld evidence and there is no evidence of travel whatsoever.

      Psycholinguistic Analysis

      The affidavit filed in support of the search has a detailed and compelling description of comparisons between a 1971 essay written by Kaczynski and the manifesto. In requesting a warrant to conduct a search of the cabin, the FBI relied on an examination by its own experts who had access to all of TK’s writings in the family’s possession (including 100 letters), and not by the analysis done by experts retained by the family who relied on only a handful of pages provided by the family’s private investigator. The Affidavit filed in support of the search of the cabin illustrates that the content, context and writing style of Theodore Kaczynski’s 6,374, 23-page essay and the 35,000 word UNABOM manuscript are very similar. Unfortunately, although the FBI has the 23-page essay and many pages of letters written by Kaczynski to his mother and brother, it appeared unlikely that authorities would be able to locate more than a couple of the 50 or so letters that TK wrote to a Mexican man. In the government Affidavit also notes the same uncommon (and in the last case inaccurate) spellings of words : “analyse” versus “analyze”, “wilfully” instead of “willfully”, “licence” instead of “license” and “instalment” rather than “installment”.

      In the Amerithrax case, although Don Foster cuts a fine figure on BBC jogging and thinking determinedly, psycholinguistic analysis of the 20-30 words in the letters was never likely to be probative. There is a sweet woman on the internet, a true crime fan, still mad at Dr. Foster for persistently arguing that she was actually the Ramsey son, Burke, following the true crime matter and called him to ask that he stop.

      Profiling It is unlikely that profiling will be a particularly significant portion of any prosecution against Kaczynski. Kaczynski fits the profile relied upon by the Task Force in many (if not most) respects — but he differs from the profile in several important respects. His loose fit with the profile, however, would have served to support an argument, along with other evidence, that there was probable cause to search the cabin. Kaczynski was not among the top 200 suspects primarily because of his age. He was 13 years older than the age in the profile being relied upon by the Task Force. At the time of the first bomb in May 1978, he was 36. Significantly, although he may have a meticulous mind, he was very unkempt in appearance. It was thought that the serial bomber would be very neat.A detailed description of the profile being used by the Task Force in 1991 is reported in UNABOM: The University/Airline Bomber, The Police Chief, at 36-37 (October 1991). The authors were James C. Ronay, who was Chief Explosives Unit, FBI Laboratory, and Richard A. Strobel, Chief, ATF Laboratory. That profile was then substantially revised based on the writings of the bomber. The most important change was that estimates of the bomber’s intelligence were greatly increased. With the benefit of hindsight, the profilers should have realized that the bomber would walk the walk. His disdain for technology would be evidenced by a residence with no electricity — and with a nearby garden permitting him to be self-sufficient.

      Telephone Records

      The FBI no doubt checked the pay telephones that Kaczynski is thought to have used. The UNABOMBER called Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine. If a telephone call was made from one of the payphones used by Kaczynski on the date and time the call by the bomber was placed, that would have been highly probative evidence. A jury would have found such evidence easy to understand. The FBI may have checked weblogs in the Amerithrax case, for example, to determine where the mailer obtained the nine-digit zipcodes or the address for the AMI publications.

      DOJ and FBI culled the messages written and received by Dr. Ivins in instructions from a committee to J.P. who oversaw USAMRIID production. GAO has fallen down on the job if they don’t obtain evidence of the culling and force those emails to be produced. (Redactions required by FOIA can still be made).

      Books Found In The Cabin

      There were 239 books found in the cabin. Several books are of special interest in this matter. For example, VIOLENCE IN AMERICA was reportedly in his collection. Written in the 1960′s, it is a collection of dry, academically oriented articles. The book was one of the half dozen or so cited by the UNABOMBER in his manifesto. Kaczynski had evidenced awareness of the Commission’s work in a letter years ago to his family.

      Finally, although not found in the cabin, another book cited in the manifesto, ANCIENT ENGINEERS, was allegedly borrowed from a local library by Kaczynski. According to the affidavit filed in support of the search, Ted Kaczynski had cited the book in a letter to his brother. Although certainly not popular or widely-read books, none of the books are rare. All three books are commonly found in libraries. Yet, the evidence would have been very powerful before a jury.

      In the Amerithrax investigation, the book of the hour is “Emergence,” a partially completed novel by Dr. Hatfill and a co-author. Reasonable people can disagree on whether the unpublished novel “Emergence” would play a role here if a prosecution were brought against Dr. Hatfill. Under an Ivins Theory, the prosecutors seemed excited that Dr. Ivins had written some cute poems and liked one book that included a code. The only expert consulted and the author of the book find the FBI’s theory untenable. To concoct the code, it was necessary to claim a particular letter was double-lined when eyeballing indicates that it wasn’t. (And in any event there should be a related handwriting report upon magnification). Author Walker notes Ivins would have thrown it out precisely to avoid what happened to Hatfill.

      Conclusion

      In the anthrax mailings, Dr. Zawahiri appears to have accomplished the attack on the US “structure” he intended. With the planes, Al Qaeda struck the US trade dominance (World Trade Center) and its military might (Pentagon). With the anthrax he appears to have rounded out the field that he imagines provides support to Israel — the legislative branch and media. Analogous letter bombs were sent in connection with the earlier attack on the World Trade Center and the imprisonment of the militant islamists responsible for that attack and a related plot. Thus, relying on the postal service to send its deadly missives in connection with an earlier attack of the World Trade Center is not only Al Qaeda’s modus operandi, it was its signature.

      Everyone approaches a problem from their world view and what they know. Biological weapons control activists see a US biodefense insider. US-haters see a CIA conspiracy. Army Intelligence sees a conspiracy led by Ayman Zawahiri (at least they do if they are smart). Israeli intelligence and the Iraqi National Congress lobbied for Iraq as the culprit. Liberal Beltway insiders saw right-wing wackos. Fans of Sherlock Holmes describe secret rendezvous on street corners. Lawyers who feel responsible for the death in Iraq of Kurd civilians will make sure it never happens on his watch. Career-minded bureaucrats tend to see whoever those in power want them to focus on — and here the lead prosecutor was the father of the woman who came to represent “anthrax weapons suspect” Ali Al-Timimi pro bono. The key AUSA was forbidden from interviewing Ali Al-Timimi in prison and then was reprimanded when she did so. Journalists kowtow to the views of any government source in the investigation they deem reliable.

      But sometimes if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

      Information relating to the resolution of the Amerithrax matter likely will come from some place like Pakistan, not the suburbs of Maryland or Central New Jersey. Maybe it will come in a stunning confession by KSM in Guantanamo. Or in a new book by Yazid Sufaat. It likely will stem from those with a personal knowledge of Al Qaeda, and not those with an ideological or political axe to grind, whether against Iraq or the US biodefense establishment. The mailer likely will be someone personally recruited by Ayman Zawahiri. The FBI needed to do all they can to keep those agents in Pakistan supplied with Marlboros. (Ayman, that’s code for cowboys). But instead, it seems that it was 11 months before the FBI even interviewed Yazid Sufaat after he was captured. The FBI apparently didn’t even know he had been a member of Malaysia’s biological program.

      Amerithrax is the greatest intelligence analysis failure in the history of the United States.

      At home, as Professors Cole and Connell explain we need to be good boy and girl scouts and be prepared — even while growing fatigued by the countless false alarms (that IMO the media should not bother reporting).

      But y’all come back, now. Because as newspaperman Scripps once said: “The only important date on the calendar is tomorrow.”

      • DXer said

        ‘My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don’t know.’

        Sherlock Holmes Quote

        -The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

  5. DXer said

    In the book, he refers to the letter sent to Hannity. Yet there has never been a public finding that there was any connection between that letter and the anthrax letters. There presumably is no connection because it would be easy to match the paper, ink, contents etc. Thus, his email to Hannity’s representative demonstrates his earnestness but has no bearing on analysis. (OTOH, it would be nice if that return address were disclosed by Mr. Hannity’s people). The author got no response at the time.

  6. DXer said

    The author’s discussion of zip codes that contains typos that should not be repeated in a discussion of the case. Spelling “Kendall Park” “Kendell Park” likely is not material. But one cannot spell “Monmouth Junction” “Mammoth Junction” without proponents of an Ivins Theory jumping on it as causing author to miss why they speculate Dr. Ivins may have chosen that place for mailing. The consulting psychiatrist, for example, points to the fact that Bruce’s mom went to Monmouth College.

    Under any theory, the author is on solid ground, however, in quoting Sherlock Holmes in saying that circumstantial evidence is a tricky thing.

    As his general theory, like Ed L., he contacted the FBI in late 2001 or early 2002 to suggest that someone from Wisconsin was responsible. On or about December 20, 2001, in a headline by ABC News FBI Director said the suggestion was “baloney.” The lead had earlier made national headlines when a drunk Battelle worker had told police that he had an anthrax delivery system in his basement.

    The author of this Sherlock Holmes homage affably notes:

    “And might I add, a case that quickly elevated into an area of scientific knowledge that was above my paygrade.”

    • DXer said

      As for Lake’s suspect, Mr. Walker writes:

      “It was reported that on or about September 28, 2001, the FBI searched house of a scientist who lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was further reported that on or about December 1, 2001 that individual became a person of interest — that means he was a suspect (that was the last I heard of that person).”

      I have previously discussed my interview with Michael Failey, the fellow from Wisconsin being described. He was extremely exasperated at Ed L. who argued the issue for 7 years. Mr. Failey would be frustrated to know that the suggestion is being made again. There is no “there there” to the suggestion. He was not a microbiologist and did not even know that anthrax was a bacteria rather than a virus. There was no question I asked that Michael did not answer. That is one of the hallmarks of an innocent man.

      ABC News on or about December 20 or 21 ran a report quoting the FBI Director saying the suggestion was “baloney.” So publicly at least it most definitely was being dismissed. But we can give the suggestion some leeway by appreciating that the FBI isn’t in the business of communicating with the public on an ongoing investigation. Thus, while author Walker’s discussion of zipcodes (which I won’t repeat; you can read the book) is by no means grounds for getting analysis to Wisconsin, we won’t consider the ABC “baloney” headline as definitive.

      I have previously pointed out that that the date of the incident in which Michael F. had angry exchanges with a neighbor was the date of the first mailing. Having a police officer in your living room is commonly thought by reasonable people to be a pretty good alibi. One would not want to draw attention to oneself — just doing nothing you would go unnoticed, especially given that thousands of miles away. Indeed, you already have a built-in alibi that could be corroborated by a simple purchase at the local grocery store.

      By analogy, Lake once told the FBI I was a terrorist operating in New York City. Fortunately, I had (diabolically, to his way of thinking) arranged to be in the back of a police car that morning hundreds of miles away. I had run out of gas coming home from the pediatric dentist and my daughter and I had hitched a ride with a nice policeman. (Ah, those menacing fiends have bested Sherlock again!) Every time I post using Ed’s form he provides for posters designated “Anonymous” he points to it as evidence of a nefarious — when actually I am just trying to get a would-be author to read the literature so he has a snowball’s chance of getting an agent. (He hasn’t even read Laurie Garrett’s book and it took me forever to get him to read David Relman’s article.) The real “Anonymous” and I would like nothing more than to have the FBI’s “Ivins Theory” channelled through the guy who insists a First Grader wrote the letter. It would be a hoot to throw Ed onto Dr. Bannan’s and Mr. Montooth’s passing bus and watch the melee.

      On a more serious subject, I would encourage the GAO to issue as many handwriting comparisons as possible without intruding on privacy interests. Handwriting analysis is squarely within the GAO’s purview, regardless how narrowly one construes its mandate or where one falls in the debate of Daubert about whether handwriting analysis is a “science”. Courts commonly treat it as a forensic science and so getting to a discussion of its “error rate” is part of a necessary, robust discussion of the forensic methods that the FBI relies upon in sending people to jail for the rest of their lives.

  7. DXer said

    Alan Zelikoff has been making the same point to persuasive effect since 2002.

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