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

* In the formal handwriting examination conducted in the Amerithrax investigation, it was concluded that “Bruce E. Ivins probably did not write the writings appearing on the ‘anthrax’ envelopes and letters.” The Assistant US Attorney did not disclose that fact in the Amerithrax Investigative Summary.

Posted by DXer on August 13, 2013

The FBI has no case against this man ... but meanwhile he is dead and the real perpetrators are still out there.

The FBI has no case against this man … but meanwhile he is dead and the real perpetrators are still out there.

Forensic Laboratory Examination Report … United States Postal inspection Service … Forensic Laboratory Services … March 08, 2007

USPlS\RJMuehlberger … Case No. – Lab File No. 9-957-002016

Type of Examination: Questioned Documents
Request Date(s) 1/2007

SA FBI Washington Field Office
7799 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22043


DATE dlciil

Determine whether or not the questioned entries appearing in the printed digital images (also contained on CD) of three labels; one depicting the writing “Ames strain RMR from Dugway Bruce Ivins (1997) 2/27/02” and two depicting the writing “Dugway Ames spores – 1997” were written by Bruce E. Ivins, whose known writings are depicted in the photocopies of various course of business documents.

Determine whether or not the questioned entries appearing on the “anthrax” envelopes and letters (photographic copies retained in the laboratory) were written by Bruce E. lvins, whose known writings are depicted in the photocopies of various course of business documents.


Bruce E. Ivins probably wrote the original of the questioned entries appearing in the printed digital images of the three labels described above.

Bruce E. Ivins probably wrote the original of the questioned address entries appearing in the printed digital images of the two parcels.

Bruce E. Ivins probably did not write the writings appearing on the “anthrax” envelopes and letters.


The qualified findings expressed above are due to the lack of original documents from which the examination and comparisons were conducted. The submission of the original questioned and known writings could provide for more definitive findings. In addition, the
submission of known exemplars reflecting the writings appearing on the “anthrax” envelopes and letters would need to be examined prior to fully eliminating Bruce E. Ivins as the writer of these questioned writings.

The request for examination was submitted by FBI Special Agent (name redacted) under their File Nos. 279A–WF-222936-LAB and 279A-WF-222936-SC 24. This examination is also in reference to U. 8. Inspection Service Case No. I.

EXHIBITS: The exhibits described in this report of examination, with the exception of the photographic copies of the letters, were hand carried to the laboratory by FBI Special Agent on January 11, 2007. All submitted exhibits are returned with this report.

Robert Muehlberger, Laborator Director



56 Responses to “* In the formal handwriting examination conducted in the Amerithrax investigation, it was concluded that “Bruce E. Ivins probably did not write the writings appearing on the ‘anthrax’ envelopes and letters.” The Assistant US Attorney did not disclose that fact in the Amerithrax Investigative Summary.”

  1. DXer said

    It is amusing the importance placed on handwriting in the Zodiac case, with one suspect (“Lee”) known to be ambidextrous. Yet in Amerithrax, AUSA Lieber didn’t even think to disclose in her Amerithrax Summary that the FBI’s handwriting expert found that Bruce Ivins probably did not write the letters. In recent (presumably) hoax letters from the “Chinese Zodiac Killer” to television stations in Upstate New York, I don’t think we’ve been told if the letters were handwritten or typed. (If typed, the sender is totally screwed; if written in ink, the sender is totally screwed). The technology has advanced a lot since 2001, for example, in connection with printer’s ink and xerox machines. The smart money is on an arrest in the near term.

  2. DXer said

    Letters From ‘Chinese Zodiac Killer’ to Albany Outlets Put FBI on Alert
    A series of letters to local media outlets in upstate New York from someone purporting to be the “Chinese Zodiac Killer” are dredging up old fears.

    Barbie Latza Nadeau
    Updated Dec. 10, 2021 10:16AM ET / Published Dec. 10, 2021 7:33AM ET

  3. DXer said

    A correspondent yesterday noted that Atta, in contrast to the letters, curved the slower stroke of his “E”. And did his “Y’s” in two strokes rather than three. I’m less interested in making independent examination than in obtaining the FBI’s expert examination of Atta’s handwriting attached to the Richard Lambert memo sought in Ken Dillon’s lawsuit. (Also, I would want to see additional handwriting exemplars; most any handwriting expert would want at least five).

  4. DXer said

    Now we don’t need the wrongfully withheld Notebook 4282 for further writing exemplars corroborating the FBI’s expert opinion that Bruce Ivins probably did not write the Fall 2001 anthrax letters. But, interestingly, FBI memorandum indicates that the Notebook was used, in part, to test against paper samples and tape — such as was used in the anthrax letters. No match was found and the tape and paper could be excluded as having been like what was used in the mailings.

  5. DXer said

    Any suggestion that the FBI’s only expert handwriting comparison of Dr. Ivins’ handwiritng with the Fall 2001 anthrax letters would not have been admissible is remarkably uninformed.

    Like the issues of subtilis, meglumine and diatriazoate, silicon, the lyophilizer, the continuing storage of Ames sample in Building 1412, isotope ratios relating to the water used to grow the anthrax, anthrax smelling dogs etc., when you raise the issue supporters of an Ivins Theory take their personal agenda like a teddy bear and run and hide under a blanket of schtick. They refuse to address the substantive issues and refuse to apply the science developed in the peer reviewed literature. They comfort themselves that their former supervisor, the current FBI Director, will keep their behind covered.

    Handwriting Examination: Meeting the Challenges of Science and the Law (October 2009)
    Diana Harrison
    Questioned Documents Unit
    FBI Laboratory
    Quantico, Virginia

    Ted M. Burkes
    Document Analyst/Forensic Examiner
    Questioned Documents Unit
    FBI Laboratory
    Quantico, Virginia

    Danielle P. Seiger
    Supervisory Document Analyst/Forensic Examiner
    Questioned Documents Unit
    FBI Laboratory
    Quantico, Virginia

  6. DXer said

    Handwriting Evidence Admissible
    Published on Forensic Magazine
    Handwriting Evidence Admissible

    The D.C. Court of Appeals held—in a case fueled by the National Research Council’s report on the state of forensic science—that handwriting comparison and identification, as practiced by FBI examiners, passes the Frye test for admissibility.

    The 2009 NRC report [1]concluded, “With the exception of nuclear DNA analysis, . . . no forensic method [of ‘matching’] has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”

    The court, however, found that while the report was hardly an unqualified endorsement of handwriting analysis, it also did not provide evidence that the science community opposes it as a whole. Handwriting analysis has been generally accepted under D.C. law for nearly a century. As such, it is presumptively reliable and, thus, generally admissible.

    Source: JD Supra [2] Read the full decision: Robert E. Pettus, Appellant, v. United States, Appellee [3]

    Source URL (retrieved on 10/22/2014 – 11:35am):

    additional links omitted

    • DXer said

      The following cases are from Federal Circuit Appellate Courts where Daubert motions to exclude forensic handwriting analysis testimony were denied:

      1. U.S. v. Jawara, No. 05-30266 (9th Cir. Sept 2006).
      2. U.S. v. Tunde Adeyi, No. 05-1722-cr (2nd Cir. 2006).
      3. U.S. v. Al James Smith, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 23798 (4th Cir. 2005).
      4. U.S. v. Judson Brown, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 22703 (2nd Cir. April 2003).
      5. U.S. v. Christopher Mornan, No. 04-1319 (3rd Cir. 2005).
      6. U.S. v. Chris Rutland and Barbara Grams, Crim. No. 02-494(DRD) (3rd Cir. 2004).
      7. U.S. v. Demanjuk, 1:99 CV1193, U.S. District Court, Cleveland, Ohio (6th Cir. 2004).
      8. U.S. v. Prime, 02-30375, D.C. No. CR-01-00310- RSL (9th Cir. 2004).
      9. U.S. v. Crisp, 324 F.3d 261, 271 (4th Cir. 2003) (fingerprints and handwriting).
      10. U.S. v. Martha Elena Gonzales, aka Marta Gonzales, 95-3261; U.S. v. Jose Ramiro Valenzuela-Obeso, aka Ramiro Valenzuela, 95-3263; U.S. v. Juan Manuel Valenzuela- Obeso, aka Kiki and aka Miti, 95-3370; U.S. v. Patricia Camerina Lopez (8th Cir. 2003).
      11. U.S. v. Dennis J. Mooney, 315 F.3d 54, 520-63 (1st Cir. 2002).
      12. U.S. v. Hernandez, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 12153; 89 A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) 3049 (10th Cir. 2002).
      13. U.S. v. Kehoe, 310 F. 3d 579, 593 (8th Cir. 2002). 14. U.S. v. Johnson, 39 Fed, Appx. 685, 2002 WL
      44242 (9th Cir. 2002) (unpublished op).
      15. U.S. v. Elmore, 56 M.J. 533 (Navy-Marine Ct. App 2001).
      16. U.S. v. Jeremiah Bryant Och, U.S. App. LEXIS 17077;16 Fed. Appx. 666, No. 00-10351 (9th Cir. 2001).
      17. U.S. v. Jolivet, 224 F.3d 902, 905-06 (8th Cir. 2000). 18. U.S. v. Battle, 188 F.3d 519, 1999 WL 596966 (10th
      Cir. 1999) (unpublished).
      19. U.S. v. Paul, 175 F.3d 906, 910-11 (11th Cir. 1999).
      20. U.S. v. Mohamed Ijaz Chohan, U.S. App. LEXIS 17487, No. 97-1010 (2nd Cir. 1997).
      21. U.S. v. Jones, 107 F.2d 1147, 1156-60 (6th Cir. 1997).
      22. U.S. v. Rosario, 118 F.3d 160, 163-64 (3rd Cir. 1997).
      23. U.S. v. Ruth, 46 M.J. 1 (Armed Forces Ct. App. 1997).
      24. U.S. v. Velasquez, 64 F.3d 844, 848-50 (3rd Cir. 1995).

      The following cases are from U.S. District Courts where Daubert motions to exclude forensic handwriting analysis testimony were denied (Singer, 2013):

      1. U.S. v. David H. Brooks and Sandra Hatfield, EDNY No. 06-CR-550 (S-1)(JS) (2nd Cir. Jan 2010).
      2. United States of America v. Anthony Pendle- ton, U.S. District Court, Los Angeles, California (9th Cir. Aug 2009).
      3. U.S. v. Robert Gaulden, D.C. Superior Court 2008 CF2-20509.
      4. U.S. V. Isaac Yass and Robert A. Blechman, No. 08040008-JAR. Hearing 11-10-08.
      5. U.S. v. Raymond Yono, (Eastern District Michi- gan) Criminal Co. 06-CR-20479, Judge Patrick Duggan (June 2008, examiner Rich Dusak).
      6. U.S. v. Hanner, HW, Pr Pro (3rd Cir. June 2007).
      7. U.S. v. Stephen Yagman (9th Cir. May 2007).
      8. U.S. v. Weiss, Criminal Case No. 05cr00179LTB (10th Cir. April 2007).
      9. U.S. v. David Lin, Case No. CR 01-20071 RMW (9th Cir. Jan 2007).
      10. U.S. v. Juan Pena and Maria D. Pena (5th Cir. Aug 2006).
      11. U.S. v. William C. Campbell, Civil Action No. 1:04-CV-0424-RWS, 2006 U.S. Dist LEXIS 7442 (11th Cir. Feb 2006).
      12. U.S. v Ramon Fashola, Crim No 1:04-CR-372-JEC, NDGA (11th Cir. Feb 2006).
      13. U.S. v. Ferguson, Case No. 3:03cr019 (6th Cir. Aug 2004).
      25. U.S. v. Chris Rutland and Barbara Grams, Feb 2003, Crim. No. 02-494(DRD), District of New Jersey, Judge Debevoise.
      26. U.S. v Judson Brown, 3:02CR302(JCH) (2nd Cir. April 2003).
      27. U.S. v. Giorgies, 29 Fed. Appx. 472, 2002 WL 89728 (9th Cir. 2002) (unpublished).
      28. U.S. v. Gricco, 2002 WL 746037 (3rd Cir. 2002).
      29. U.S. v. Broten, NY, Case No. 01-CR-411 (DNH) (2nd Cir. 2002).
      30. U.S. v. Frank M. Patti, Sr. and Alice G. Guy, Judge Lacey Collier (based in part on U.S. v. Paul) (11th Cir. 2002).
      31. U.S. v. Lindsey, U.S. District CR No. 00-00482DAE (9th Cir. 2002).
      32. U.S. v. Laphonse Akilo Young, Criminal No. 02-0075-CB (11th Cir. 2002).
      33. U.S. v. Ramos, EDNY 01 CR 0015 (ARR), Sept 2002.
      34. U.S. v. Michael Prime, 220 F. Supp. 2d 1203 (W.D Wash. 2002) (9th Cir. 2002).

    • DXer said

      Turning to the 4th Circuit, we have this Crisp decision.

      U.S. v. CRISP
      NO. 01-4953.
      324 F.3d 261 (2003)
      UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Patrick Leroy CRISP, Defendant-Appellant.
      United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.
      Decided: March 31, 2003.

      The Federal Rules of Evidence provide that “[i]f scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise….” Fed.R.Evid. 702. The Supreme Court has made clear that it is the trial court’s duty to play a gatekeeping function in deciding whether to admit expert testimony: “[T]he trial judge must ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 589, 113 S.Ct. 2786, 125 L.Ed.2d 469 (1993).

      In Daubert, the Court announced five factors that may be used in assessing the relevancy and reliability of expert testimony:
      (1) whether the particular scientific theory “can be (and has been) tested”; (2) whether the theory “has been subjected to peer review and publication”; (3) the “known or potential rate of error”; (4) the “existence and maintenance of standards controlling the technique’s operation”; and (5) whether the technique has achieved “general acceptance” in the relevant scientific or expert community. Id. at 593-94, 113 S.Ct. 2786. Rather than providing a definitive or exhaustive list, Daubert merely illustrates the types of factors that will “bear on the inquiry.” Id. As Daubert emphasized, the analysis must be “a flexible one.” Id.; see also Kumho, 526 U.S. at 141-42, 119 S.Ct. 1167 (concluding that testing of reliability should be flexible and that Daubert’s five factors neither necessarily nor exclusively apply to every expert).


      The touchstones for admissibility under Daubert are two: reliability and relevancy. See id. at 589, 597, 113 S.Ct. 2786; see also Kumho, 526 U.S. at 152, 119 S.Ct. 1167 (“The objective of [Daubert’s gatekeeping] requirement is to ensure the reliability and relevancy of expert testimony.”). Under Daubert, a trial judge need not expend scarce judicial resources reexamining a familiar form of expertise every time opinion evidence is offered. In fact, if a given theory or technique is “so firmly established as to have attained the status of scientific law,” then it need not be examined at all, but instead may properly be subject to judicial notice. Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592 n. 11, 113 S.Ct. 2786.


      While the admissibility of handwriting evidence in the post-Daubert world appears to be a matter of first impression for our Court, every circuit to have addressed the issue has concluded, as on the fingerprint issue, that such evidence is properly admissible. See United States v. Jolivet, 224 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir.2000) (citing Eleventh Circuit’s Paul decision and upholding admission of expert handwriting testimony);United States v. Paul, 175 F.3d 906, 911 (11th Cir.1999) (emphasizing “flexible” nature of district court’s gatekeeping function, and noting that “the ability of the jury to perform the same visual comparisons as the experts cuts against the danger of undue prejudice from the mystique attached to experts” (internal quotation omitted)); United States v. Jones, 107 F.3d 1147, 1161 (6th Cir.1997) (upholding admission of expert handwriting testimony and observing that “just because the threshold for admissibility [of expert testimony] under Rule 702 has been crossed, a party is not prevented from challenging the reliability of the admitted evidence”); United States v. Velasquez, 64 F.3d 844 (3rd Cir.1995) (discussing standard methodology applied by handwriting analysts, and upholding admission of expert handwriting testimony).


      Our analysis of Daubert in the context of fingerprint identification applies with equal force here: like fingerprint analysis, handwriting comparison testimony has a long history of admissibility in the courts of this country. See, e.g., Robinson v. Mandell, 20 F. Cas. 1027 (D.Mass.1868). The fact that handwriting comparison analysis has achieved widespread and lasting acceptance in the expert community gives us the assurance of reliability that Daubert requires. Furthermore, as with expert testimony on fingerprints, the role of the handwriting expert is primarily to draw the jury’s attention to similarities between a known exemplar and a contested sample. Here, Currin merely pointed out certain unique characteristics shared by the two writings. Though he opined that Crisp authored the Note in question, the jury was nonetheless left to examine the Note and decide for itself whether it agreed with the expert.

      To the extent that a given handwriting analysis is flawed or flimsy, an able defense lawyer will bring that fact to the jury’s attention, both through skillful cross-examination and by presenting expert testimony of his own. But in light of Crisp’s failure to offer us any reason today to doubt the reliability of handwriting analysis evidence in general, we must decline to deny our courts and juries such insights as it can offer.

    • DXer said

      The characteristics of disguised handwriting, of course, is also suitably the subject of expert testimony and cross-examination.FN/

      If the FBI wanted to argue that its expert in the above opinion was wrong, it was free to do so. But what was not acceptable was for it to fail to disclose the opinion at the press conference in August 2008 or in the Amerithrax Investigative Summary — and to misreprsent the written opinion that had been rendered.

      An Examination of the Characteristics of DIsguised and Traced Handwriting, by Kate Alison Lafone.

      Click to access Lafone-Ward14PhD.pdf

      “Any claims and observations made in the literature have been reviewed and empirically tested. A body of controlled data was collected from sixty volunteers who produced samples of disguised handwriting and traced signatures. A rigorous examination of these samples has been described and quantitative evidence found to support the conclusion that the act of disguising or tracing handwriting will have a negative influence upon the appearance and structure of that writing. Results have shown that disguised and traced writings are intimately related in that they share common characteristics that are indicative of the artificial manner by which they have been produced. Other features are also identified that can be directly associated with specific types of deviant writing to allow for distinctions to be made between them.”

  7. DXer said

    Handwriting Evidence Admissible
    Published on Forensic Magazine (
    Handwriting Evidence Admissible

    The D.C. Court of Appeals held—in a case fueled by the National Research Council’s report on the state of forensic science—that handwriting comparison and identification, as practiced by FBI examiners, passes the Frye test for admissibility.

    The 2009 NRC report [1]concluded, “With the exception of nuclear DNA analysis, . . . no forensic method [of ‘matching’] has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”

    The court, however, found that while the report was hardly an unqualified endorsement of handwriting analysis, it also did not provide evidence that the science community opposes it as a whole. Handwriting analysis has been generally accepted under D.C. law for nearly a century. As such, it is presumptively reliable and, thus, generally admissible.

    Source: JD Supra [2] Read the full decision: Robert E. Pettus, Appellant, v. United States, Appellee [3]

    Source URL (retrieved on 10/22/2014 – 11:35am):


    [2] 36-5aeab33d6ad5


  8. DXer said

    This opinion by the FBI’s expert on Dr. Ivins’ handwriting — the only one produced under FOIA — would have been admissible in Dr. Ivins’ defense. It would have constituted powerful evidence. Below is the decision in Pettus v. US which describes the work of Dr. Srihari here in Upstate New York. Dr. Srihari consulted with the FBI on Amerithrax.

    Here is a sample of Dr. Bruce Ivins’ handwriting – note the distinctive “f’s” and the varying way he makes his “a’s”.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 6, 2011

    Dr. Ivins did not write the date similar to the writer of the anthrax letters ; the FBI should stop withholding its expert’s handwriting comparison
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 13, 2013

    DXer: In no handwritten exemplar, out of the many dozens of uploaded handwriting exemplars from lab notebooks in which a “4” was written, did Bruce Ivins ever use the closed “4” such as was used in the Fall 2001 anthrax letters ; moreover, Ivins in the exemplars used a single stroke to make a “1”
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 13, 2013


    Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (FEL-5721-04)

    Click to access 08-cf-1361_mtd.pdf

    “The government nonetheless concedes that, as this court has never decided whether handwriting identification meets Frye’s general acceptance standard, it is proper for us to do so here — especially given the trial court’s lengthy consideration of the issue — whether or not handwriting identification is a “novel” forensic science. See Br. for Appellee at 15 n.15. We therefore proceed to the merits of appellant’s challenge …


    The government’s main witness at the admissibility hearing was FBI supervisory document analyst Diana Harrison, a certified forensic document examiner. Besides her experience of ten years as an FBI document analyst, Harrison was a member of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists, ASTM International (ASTM standing for the
    American Standards for Testing and Materials), and the Scientific Working Group for Documents (SWGDOC), an organization of forensic document examiners from federal, state, and private document examination laboratories that develops standards for the document examination field.

    Harrison testified that professional standards for forensic document examiners are published through ASTM International and subject to peer review.5 The eighteen current standards include such guides as “standard terminology relating to examination of questioned documents,” a “standard guide for examination of handwritten items,” and one setting forth the minimum training requirements for forensic document examination candidates. The specialty is one recognized by universities offering such courses through their forensic science programs, by professional organizations such as the American Academy for Forensic Sciences, and by multiple-discipline professional bodies such as the American Academy of Sciences, which has a questioned document section. Document examiners conduct peer review through these organizations as well as the American Society of Questioned Document

    According to Harrison, document examiners operate on the principle that handwriting is unique, meaning that “no two people share the same writing characteristics,” although “some of the handwriting” of twins has been shown to be “very similar.” Further, since no one writes “with machine[-]like precision,” variations are seen within a person’s own handwriting even within the same document. But “given [a] sufficient quantity and quality of writing” to analyze, a trained forensic document examiner can discriminate between natural variations in a writer’s own handwriting (intra-writer variation) and significant differences denoting different writers (inter-writer variation), and so can determine whether the writer of a known writing also wrote a questioned document.

    Harrison described the four-step process followed generally (and by FBI document examiners) in expert comparison of handwriting. The procedure, known as the ACE-V method (Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation, and Verification), begins with the examiner analyzing the known writing to decide whether it was “freely and naturally prepared” rather than a simulation or tracing of other writing. Using magnification, the examiner also

    “In the District of Columbia,” we explained recently,

    before expert testimony about a new scientific principle [may] be admitted, the testing methodology must have become sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs. The issue is consensus versus controversy over a particular technique, not its validity. Moreover, general acceptance does not require unanimous approval. Once a technique has gained such general acceptance, we will accept it as presumptively reliable and thus generally admissible into evidence. The party opposing the evidence, of course, may challenge the weight the jury ought to give it.

    (Ricardo) Jones v. United States, 27 A.3d 1130, 1136 (D.C. 2011) (alteration in original; citations and internal quotation marks omitted). These principles ultimately derive from Frye v. United States, supra. Notably, however, “Frye only applies to ‘a novel scientific test or a unique controversial methodology or technique.’” (Ricardo) Jones, 27 A.3d at 1137 (quoting Drevenak v. Abendschein, 773 A.2d 396, 418 (D.C. 2001)). Thus, the question arises initially whether the Frye inquiry must be conducted as to handwriting comparison, when expert opinion testimony of this kind has been admitted in the courts of the District for establishes “a range of variation” on the known writer’s part, i.e., “deviations [from a person’s] repetitive handwriting characteristics . . . expected in natural, normal writing.” Once the known and questioned writings are studied separately, the examiner “compare[s them] to determine if there are similarities present between the two writings, if there are differences present . . . and . . . if the [range of] variation that was observed in the one writing is also observed in the [other] writing.”7 In evaluating or “assess[ing] the characteristics . . . observed in common or not between the two writings,” examiners consider both “pictorial”
    or “gross” features and more detailed ones, including “the beginning and ending strokes, . . . how the writing sits on the [hypothetical] baseline or ruled line of writing,” “spacing [and height relationships] between words and letters,”8 the “number of [strokes] used to prepare
    9 aletter,” shading(“ifyou’regoingupstrokeonaletter,doyouhaveheavier…inkdeposit . . . than you would on the downstroke”), and the side-slant of letters. All told, examiners look at both documents “to determine if there are characteristics present . . . that would stray from what we call the copybook style of writing, the writing you learn[ed] when you learned writing in school,” for which Harrison gave this example:

    [I]f you would write the word “the” usually in copybook, the T is shorter than the H and it all sits nice and evenly on the baseline. It’s evenly spaced. Straying from that, the T would be taller than the H. The E would slant down below the baseline. The T crossing wouldn’t be centered on the T. It would be heavy to the right or to the left and crossing through the H. These are significant characteristics.

    [I]f you would write the word “the” usually in copybook, the T is shorter than the H and it all sits nice and evenly on the baseline. It’s evenly spaced. Straying from that, the T would be taller than the H. The E would slant down below the baseline. The T crossing wouldn’t be centered on the T. It would be heavy to the right or to the left and crossing through the H. These are significant characteristics.

    The final phase of the process, “common practice” both for the FBI and in “the field” generally, is verification, whereby (in the FBI’s laboratory) “the handwriting is given . . . to another examiner who goes through the same process to . . . evaluate . . . the conclusion of the [first] examiner,” though the repetition is not “blind” since the second examiner will have the work product of the first. Unlike other laboratories which permit a broader or narrower range of conclusions, FBI examiners may reach one of four conclusions: identification (a “definite determination” of authorship), elimination (a definite determination of no authorship), no conclusion, and a qualified (“may have” or “may not have”) opinion.

    Harrison admitted that the analytic method she described left the decision whether two handwritings were done by the same person ultimately to the trained judgment of individual examiners.11 But she maintained that the method is generally accepted in the community of forensic scientists, and beyond, as grounded in objective, testable identification criteria yielding consistently accurate results when applied by competent examiners. To buttress this opinion, the government introduced published studies and testimony by scientists outside the practice of forensic document examination, who had tested the performance of expert examiners or experimented with features used in writing comparison to see if their procedures, and correspondingly accurate results, could be replicated.

    The first of these was a series of studies done by Dr. Moshe Kam, a professor of electronic and computer engineering at Drexel University. Over a decade starting in 1994, Kam did five studies examining the error rates of professional document examiners as compared to lay persons. In the first study, 86 handwriting samples from twenty different writers were analyzed by seven document examiners and ten laymen; the document examiners made a total of four errors in identifying a document’s author, the laymen 247.
    Kam thus concluded that “professional document examiners . . . are significantly better in performing writer identification than college-educated nonexperts” and that, based on this study, “the probability [is] less than 0.001” that “professionals and nonprofessionals are equally proficient at performing writer identification.”12

    Kam later compared the accuracy rates of 105 professional document examiners, eight document examiner trainees, and 41 laymen in determining the authorship of a particular writing.13 The professional examiners incorrectly matched unknown writings with the wrong writer 6.5 percent of the time, while the lay persons’ corresponding error rate was 38.3 percent.14 Kam published a fourth study in 2001, comparing the error rates of professional document examiners and laymen who examined six known signatures generated by the same person and compared them with six unknown signatures to determine if they could declare a match. Once again, Kam found that professional document examiners had “much smaller” error rates than laymen. Non-genuine signatures were erroneously identified as genuine 0.49
    percent of the time by document examiners, compared to 6.47 percent of the time by laymen, while authentic signatures were erroneously declared to be non-genuine 7.05 percent of the time by the document examiners and 26.1 percent of the time by laymen.15

    Beyond such performance studies,16 the government presented the testimony of, and recent studies authored by, Dr. Sargur N. Srihari, a professor of computer science and energy at the State University of New York, and director of the Center of Excellence for Document Analysis and Recognition. Testifying as an expert in the field of pattern recognition and computational forensics related to handwriting recognition, he explained the method and results of studies he had conducted to examine whether “each individual has consistent handwriting that is distinct from the handwriting of another individual.”17 Srihari collected three handwritten samples of the same letter prepared by each of 1500 people representative
    of the U.S. population in gender, age and ethnicity. The samples were all scanned into a computer (yielding a digitalized image), and the computer was programmed to extract certain individual handwriting features from each, ranging from the “global level of the document” to the paragraph, word, and character levels. Whereas forensic document examiners have compiled some twenty-one discriminating elements of handwriting,18 Dr. Srihari was able to program the computer to recognize just “a small subset of the features that document examiners would use” to compare a known writing with a questioned one. Some of the collected samples were used to teach the computer (“using a machine-learning approach”) to recognize an individual writer’s characteristics; others were used to determine if the computer, by comparison with other samples, could recognize and accurately identify those individual writers. “Based on a few macro-features . . . and micro-features at the character level from a few characters,” the computer was able to identify individual writers with 96 to
    98 percent accuracy.19 Dr. Srihari concluded that, “[t]aking an approach that the results are statistically inferable over the entire population of the U.S., we were able to validate handwriting individuality with a 95% confidence.” He anticipated that, once programmers can teach the computer to recognize additional “finer features” of handwriting now discernible only by “the human analyst,” the computer’s accuracy level could be expected to reach 100 percent.20 On cross-examination, Dr. Srihari conceded that in the current “state of . . . computer program[ming]” and given that his studies “do [show] an error rate,” computer scientists could not say that “a person’s handwriting is absolutely unique.”

    The defense’s lone witness at the Frye hearing was Mark Denbeaux, an evidence professor at Seton Hall University Law School, whom the trial judge let testify as “an expert on the general acceptance of forensic document examination in the relevant scientific fields,” while commenting that this was “not dissimilar from qualifying [Denbeaux] as an expert on a legal question.”21 Professor Denbeaux’s expertise had been acquired from (1) reading forensic document publications, (2) interviewing document examiners and studying their reports, (3) visiting forensic document laboratories, and (4) reading transcripts of document examiners’ testimony.22 He “testif[ies] generally” and, “as . . . some courts have said, as a critic” who is “committed to the proposition that there is no expertise” involved when forensic document examiners make handwriting identifications.

    In 1989, Professor Denbeaux had co-authored a law review article urging courts to “cease to admit” expert testimony on handwriting comparison, primarily because proficiency tests conducted by the Forensic Science Foundation (FSF) in the 1970s and 1980s showed that document examiners were wrong at least 43 percent of the time.23 But in a footnote the article acknowledged that the FSF’s Proficiency Advisory Committee had since “disavow[ed] these tests,” deeming them “not representative of the level of performance of any of the fields being tested.” In any event, Denbeaux admitted that since 1989 more testing had been done on handwriting identification and that he had been “persuaded by some of it,” noting that, according to the Kam studies, document examiners avoid false positives more frequently than laymen.


    Carefully evaluating the testimony and studies presented to him, Judge Kravitz first found “uncontradicted” FBI examiner Harrison’s testimony that the forensic document examiner community accepts two points: that no two people write exactly alike, and that a document examiner can determine if the writer of a known writing also wrote a questioned writing given sufficient samples for comparison. Further, the judge found the FBI’s laboratory method for making comparisons to be “generally accepted in the relevant scientific community” because it “follows the steps recommended by ASTM [International], . . . a voluntary standards development organization with [30,000] members which publishes standards for materials, products, systems, and services in many technological, engineering and testing fields including standards of forensic document analysis.”

    Further, the judge reasoned, the methodology had been tested and shown to be sound in two ways by scientists outside the field of forensic science. Dr. Kam’s studies (particularly II and V) showed that document examiners using the method “are skilled in such a way that they can identify matches more accurately than lay persons are able to, with a lower rate of false positives.” And Dr. Srihari’s tests using computerized equivalents of features employed by examiners to make comparisons confirmed Srihari’s belief that “the methodology . . . is capable of comparing writings and drawing conclusions of a match.” By contrast, the defense had “failed to present any evidence of a genuine and public dispute within the relevant scientific community” about handwriting identification methodology. Professor Denbeaux did “not identif[y] any handwriting scientists, . . . forensic or non- forensic, who have publicly disputed the validity of the FBI laboratory’s methodology.” Denbeaux and other non-scientists cited by the defense were “not part of the relevant scientific community for the purposes of . . . Frye analysis”; they “do not have any scientific background or training in any of the relevant fields, . . . they are not specialists in pattern recognition, . . . not analysts of motor skills, [and] . . . not scholars from any other scientific field that could lend its expertise to the evaluation of handwriting.”

    The judge thus concluded that the FBI’s methodology for handwriting identification “meets a baseline standard of reliability” and general acceptance in the relevant field, even though it “leaves much room for subjective analysis,” “lacks standards and guidelines for determining significance,” and suffers from an inability of the FBI to “mak[e its] error rate []known.”24 But the “doubts about the ability of forensic document examiners to make reliable conclusions of absolute authorship,” in the judge’s view, stemmed from “shortcomings [that could] be exposed on cross-examination of the [g]overnment’s expert witness” at trial and went “to the weight of the testimony of [the witness], not its admissibility.”

    On the basis of the record before the trial judge, we agree that handwriting comparison and identification as practiced by FBI examiners passes the Frye test for admissibility. “[S]cientists significant either in number or experience [must] public[ly] oppose a new technique or method as unreliable” before that “technique or method does not pass muster under Frye.” United States v. Jenkins, 887 A.2d 1013, 1022 (D.C. 2005) (internal brackets omitted). In opposition to the combined testimony and studies of Harrison, Kam and Srihari, appellant furnished the trial judge with virtually no testimony or conclusions by scientists “public[ly] opposing . . . as unreliable” the FBI’s method for determining authorship of handwriting, and certainly none approaching a “consensus,” id., against either the guiding principle among document examiners that no two people write exactly alike25 or the technique for making handwriting comparisons described by Harrison.
    FBI document examiners, as Harrison testified, are trained according to and employ national standards recommended by ASTM International, a body of forensic scientists, academics, and lawyers who vote on the adoption and revision of professional standards for
    numerous disciplines, including handwriting analysis. The FBI laboratory is accredited and its analysts, like forensic document examiners generally, undergo peer review through organizations including the American Academy of Science, which has a questioned document section. FBI examiners follow the general four-step (ACE-V) procedure used in the forensic science community, and at each step look for multiple handwriting characteristics that conform to standards recognized by ASTM International and published in recognized questioned document texts. In accordance with scientific procedures generally, the examiners (as Judge Kravitz found) use “microscopic observations and other technical procedures to enhance their analysis”; they “are required to support their conclusions with documentation as required by the FBI’s standard operating procedures”; and they verify each analysis (though not “blindly”) through repetition of the process by a second examiner.

    Thus, the FBI’s methodology for handwriting comparison is well-established and accepted in the forensic science community generally. Moreover, evidence showed that in recent years the method’s adherence to objective, replicable standards and its capacity to reach accurate conclusions of identification have been tested outside the forensic science community in two ways. First, Dr. Kam’s controlled studies beginning in 1994 have shown that trained document examiners consistently have lower error rates, by a wide margin, than lay persons attempting handwriter identification. Dr. Srihari’s computer experiments, in turn,

    have shown that multiple features of handwriting regularly used by examiners can be
    converted to quantitative measurements26 and employed by computers to make highly accurate handwriting comparisons and identification. While the purpose of those computer simulations, as Srihari admitted, was not to prove the accuracy of handwriting identification by human examiners, they nonetheless support the judgment of the forensic science community that handwriting analysis (in the trial judge’s words) “meets a baseline standard of reliability.”
    All told, then, the government’s evidence at the hearing, rebutted only by the testimony of a non-scientist, Professor Denbeaux,27 demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that handwriting comparison leading to conclusions of (or against) identification rests on a methodology “sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.” (Ricardo) Jones, 27 A.3d at 1136.

    It remains for us to consider, however, appellant’s and amicus’s argument that the 2009 NRC Report,28 published after Judge Kravitz’s ruling, reveals a fundamental re- evaluation by the science community of forensic pattern-matching disciplines such as handwriting analysis, and requires a similar revision of the courts’ traditional liberality in admitting such expert opinion. At oral argument amicus (who, as stated earlier, carried the laboring oar for appellant on this issue) clarified its position to be that in the wake of the NRC Report, a handwriting expert such as Hector Maldonado should continue to be able to describe the procedure he followed and the “significant” similarities and differences he observed in the writings he compared — testimony amicus concedes can provide assistance to jurors in a matter beyond their ken. But what the Report repudiates, in its view, is permitting a conclusion of identification or match by any forensic specialist (DNA experts excluded) based on pattern-matching techniques too unscientific in their present state to allow such identification. Even as thus qualified, however, we reject appellant’s argument that the NRC Report represents a scientific consensus as to handwriting identification materially different from that established at the evidentiary hearing.

    The NRC Report was the end-product of a comprehensive, congressionally-
    commissioned study of the forensic sciences by a Committee of the National Academy of Sciences, which Congress instructed (among other things) to “assess the present and future resource needs of the forensic science community,” “make recommendations for maximizing the use of forensic technologies and techniques to solve crimes,” and “disseminate best practices and guidelines concerning the collection and analysis of forensic evidence to help ensure quality and consistency in [its] use.” NRC Report at 1-2. The Committee was made up of “members of the forensic science community, members of the legal community, and a diverse group of scientists.” Id. at 2. Its Report numbers 286 pages, excluding appendices. Notably, however, of these many pages only five concern “Questioned Document Examination,” and just four paragraphs discuss handwriting comparison en route to the following “Summary Assessment” (minus footnotes):
    The scientific basis for handwriting comparisons needs to be strengthened. Recent studies have increased our understanding of the individuality and consistency of handwriting[,] and computer studies . . . suggest that there may be a scientific basis for handwriting comparison, at least in the absence of intentional obfuscation or forgery. Although there has been only limited research to quantify the reliability and replicability of the practices used by trained document examiners, the committee agrees that there may be some value in handwriting analysis.
    Id. at 166-67 (footnotes omitted). That assessment, while hardly an unqualified endorsement of “a scientific basis for handwriting comparison,” just as clearly does not spell “public[]
    oppos[ition] by the science community,” Jenkins, supra, to the reliability and hence admissibility of expert handwriting identification.

    Appellant and amicus do not appear to argue otherwise. Instead, they argue that the Report taken as a whole amounts to a critique, and repudiation, of the supposed science underlying all forensic analysis based on pattern-matching, except for DNA. See Reply Br. for Amicus at 12 (the Report “concluded that none of the pattern-matching disciplines, including handwriting identification, satisfied [the basic requirements of science].”) They rely especially on the Report’s statement in Summary that, “[w]ith the exception of nuclear DNA analysis, . . . no forensic method [of ‘matching’] has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.” NRC Report at 7. In our view, however, it exaggerates the measured conclusions and recommendations of the Report to read them as a rejection of the scientific basis for all pattern-matching analysis, including handwriting identification.
    The Report is much more nuanced than that. It ranges over a wide variety of forensic science disciplines and identifies weaknesses (and some strengths) of varying degrees in each. Thus, while pointing to the “simple reality . . . that the interpretation of forensic evidence is not always based on scientific studies to determine its validity,” it finds
    “important variations [in terms of validity] among the disciplines relying on expert interpretation [of observed patterns].” Id. at 7-8. At one end of the spectrum (almost by itself) is DNA analysis, but “[t]he goal is not to hold other disciplines to DNA’s high standards,” since “it is unlikely that most other current forensic methods will ever produce evidence as discriminating as DNA.” Id. at 101. Closer to the other end (and discussed under the heading “Questionable or Questioned Science”) may be disciplines such as toolmark or bitemark identification, which “have never been exposed to stringent scientific inquiry” and thus “have yet to establish either the validity of their approach or the accuracy of their conclusions.” Id. at 42, 53. Yet, in virtually no instance — and certainly not as to handwriting analysis, which ultimately is all that concerns us here — does the Report imply that evidence of forensic expert identifications should be excluded from judicial proceedings until the particular methodology has been better validated.29 Rather, the Report states more modestly that “we must limit the risk of having the reliability of certain forensic methodologies judicially certified before the techniques have been properly studied and their accuracy verified,” and that, accordingly, “the least that courts should insist upon from any
    forensic discipline is certainty that practitioners in the field adhere to enforceable standards, ensuring that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.” Id. at 12, 101 (emphasis added). This encapsulates, we believe, the showing the trial judge required of the government in this case.
    Appellant argues, however, that the Report takes direct aim at a key aspect of the methodology the FBI employs in handwriting analysis, as described by Harrison. Discussing friction ridge analysis (exemplified by fingerprint comparison), the Report comments on the ACE-V or four-step process of analysis, comparison, evaluation, and verification that document examiners typically follow:
    ACE-V provides a broadly stated framework for conducting friction ridge analyses. However, this framework is not specific enough to qualify as a validated method for this type of analysis. ACE-V does not guard against bias; is too broad to ensure repeatability and transparency; and does not guarantee that two analysts following it will obtain the same results. For these reasons, merely following the steps of ACE-V does not imply that one is proceeding in a scientific manner producing reliable results.
    Id. at 142. This criticism is unanswerable, we think, if the methodology in question is no more concrete in practice than a four-step sequence. Even to a lay observer, a technique defined only as saying, “first we analyze, then we compare, etc.,” can scarcely lay claim to
    scientific reliability — to yielding consistently accurate and confirmable results. But, as the trial judge recognized, the FBI’s method of analyzing handwriting goes beyond those four sequential steps: Harrison’s testimony, supported by the studies of Srihari, showed that at each of the four ACE-V steps document examiners descend to the specific by using multiple standard (and published) handwriting characteristics to reach conclusions of or against identification. Although this still leaves considerable room for the examiner’s subjective judgment as to significance, that is very different from saying that the process employed is no more than a skeletal ACE-V set of steps.
    In sum, the NRC Report, while it finds “a tremendous need for the forensic science community to improve” generally and identifies flaws in the methodology of “a number of forensic science disciplines,” expressly “avoid[s] being too prescriptive in its recommendations,”30 and as to handwriting comparison in particular it states nothing to imply that identification of authorship by trained examiners in the field is based on no “reliable methodology for making the inquiry.” Ibn-Tamas, 407 A.2d at 638; NRC Report at 12, 14, 18. The Report thus does not supply the scientific consensus opposing forensic handwriting identification that appellant seeks. That is all we need decide here; future challenges under Frye to other forensic pattern-matching disciplines may, and may be expected to, rely on the NRC Report as part of the relevant expression of scientific opinion.31

    We therefore uphold Judge Kravitz’s ruling on admissibility. As in all such cases, however, it is important — and is reflected in the preponderance of the evidence standard — that appellant was not denied a second opportunity to challenge FBI examiner Malonado’s expert opinion, this time before the jury. Rejecting the view of those “overly pessimistic about the capabilities of the jury and of the adversary system generally,” the Supreme Court has reminded us that “[v]igorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence.” Daubert, supra note 5, 509 U.S. at 596. As the trial judge said in concluding his exemplary analysis here:

    I fully expect the defense to conduct a thorough cross- examination that will expose any and all inadequacies and points of unreliability of the ACE-V method as a general matter, as well as the . . . inadequacies and points of . . . unreliability in the application of that method in this case.
    In consultation with its own experts the defense has fully investigated the points of weakness of the FBI laboratory’s approach to handwriting analysis, including its underlying theoretical premises, its general methodology and the methodology as applied in this case. If defense counsel exposes those weaknesses to the jury with the same thoroughness and clarity with which it exposed them at the Frye hearing, then in my view there is no reason for any concern that the jury in this case will give undue weight to the FBI document examiner’s testimony.

  9. DXer said

    This September 2014 article discusses gender differences and right-hand and left-handedness. Note that gender and right-hand and left handedness lends itself particularly well to controlled, repeatable studies using large samples. (My daughter once did a science project in her elementary school on the gender differences for color blindedness — and was thrilled with the results.)

    But leaving the field to the FBI’s handwriting experts, we know this: the FBI handwriting expert determined that Bruce Ivins probably did not write the letters. There is no superseding opinion that has been disclosed — just a prosecutor’s assertion.

    The handwriting Ivins used, for example, in an anonymous letter about fatophobia, his handwriting was very similar to the printing in his notebooks. There are no exemplars in the hundreds of printing exemplars seized that were a match.

    No paper was a match.

    No ink was a match.

    No photocopy toner was a match.

    Not only did the nontraditional forensic methods (like the anthrax smelling bloodhounds) not implicate Ivins, but the traditional forensic methods didn’t either. Indeed, they were strongly exculpatory.

    Forensic Sci Int. 2014 Sep;242:266-73. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2014.07.012. Epub 2014 Jul 23.
    Bayes factor for investigative assessment of selected handwriting features.
    Taroni F1, Marquis R2, Schmittbuhl M3, Biedermann A2, Thiéry A2, Bozza S4.

    Author information


    This paper extends previous research [1] on the use of multivariate continuous data in comparative handwriting examinations, notably for gender classification. A database has been constructed by analyzing the contour shape of loop characters of type a and d by means of Fourier analysis, which allows characters to be described in a global way by a set of variables (e.g., Fourier descriptors). Sample handwritings were collected from right- and left-handed female and male writers. The results reported in this paper provide further arguments in support of the view that investigative settings in forensic science represent an area of application for which the Bayesian approach offers a logical framework. In particular, the Bayes factor is computed for settings that focus on inference of gender and handedness of the author of an incriminated handwritten text. An emphasis is placed on comparing the efficiency for investigative purposes of characters a and d.

    Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

    • DXer said

      While obtaining exemplars of the printing of Adnan El-Shukrijumah, Jdey and Atta is my priority, it relatedly would be interesting to learn of the FBI’s handwriting expert’s assessment, if one was made, of (1) gender and (2) left-handedness or right-handedness.

      Note that the Amerithrax Investigative Summary totally misrepresents the formal opinion of the FBI’s handwriting expert that was produced.

      Here are some references cited by “Bayes factor” article.

      1.Taroni, F., Marquis, R., Schmittbuhl, M., Biedermann, A., Thiéry, A., and Bozza, S. The use of the likelihood ratio for evaluative and investigative purposes in comparative forensic handwriting examination. Forensic Sci. Int. 2012; 214: 189–194Abstract

      2.Marquis, R., Schmittbuhl, M., Mazzella, W., and Taroni, F. Quantification of the shape of handwritten characters: a step to objective discrimination between writers based on the study of the capital character o. Forensic Sci. Int. 2005; 150: 23–32Abstract

      3.Marquis, R., Taroni, F., Bozza, S., and Schmittbuhl, M. Quantitative characterization of morphological polymorphism of handwritten characters loops. Forensic Sci. Int. 2006; 164: 211

      4.Marquis, R., Bozza, S., Schmittbuhl, M., and Taroni, F. Handwriting evidence evaluation based on the shape of characters: application of multivariate likelihood ratios. J. Forensic Sci. 2011; 56: S238

      5.Bernardo, J.M. and Smith, A.F.M. Bayesian Theory. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester; 1994CrossRef

      7.Aitken, C.G.G. and Lucy, D. Evaluation of trace evidence in the form of multivariate data. Appl. Stat. 2004; 53: 109–122CrossRef

      8.Huber, R. and Headrick, A. Handwriting Identification: Facts and Fundamentals. 1st ed. CRC Press, Boca Raton; 1999CrossRef

      9.Hecker, M.R. The scientific examination of sex differences in handwriting. in: 44th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners. ; 1996
      10.Conrad, M. Left-hand writing vs. right-hand writing. J. Am. Soc. Quest. Doc. Exam. 2008; 11: 19–27

      11.Shanon, B. Graphological patterns as a function of handedness and culture. Neuropsychologia. 1979; 17: 457–465CrossRef

      12.Franks, J., Davis, T., Totty, R., Hardcastle, R., and Grove, D. Variability of stroke direction between left and right-hand writers. J. Forensic Sci. Soc. 1985; 25: 353–370

      13.Bozza, S., Taroni, F., Marquis, R., and Schmittbuhl, M. Probabilistic evaluation of handwriting evidence: likelihood ratio for authorship. Appl. Stat. 2008; 57: 329–341

      14.Nordgaard, A., Hedell, R., and Ansell, R. Assessment of forensic findings when alternative explanations have different likelihoods: Blame-the-brother-syndrome. Sci. Just. 2012; 52: 226–236

    • DXer said

      The head of the FBI’s DC Field Office falsely claimed on national tv that no comparison had been made.

      “QUESTION: Did you take handwriting samples from Dr. Ivins?

      PERISCHINI: We examined handwriting samples, but then there was no comparison made or a specification identification of the handwriting.”

      Telling the truth would have been easy. We had the handwriting expert, who was head of the lab, to examine the handwriting and he formally issued a written opinion that concluded that Dr. Bruce Ivins probably did not write the anthrax letters.

  10. DXer said

    The GAO’s assignment, of course, involves tremendous amount of judgment and discretion.

    For example, in assessing uncertainty, does one focus on the fact that the handwriting forensic expert concluded that Bruce Ivins probably did not write the letters — or the fact that it is 100% certain that the prosecutors did not disclose the existence of the handwriting report in 2008 and 2009.

    Which bears most importantly on government accountability?

    Of course, the question can be avoided simply by making both points.

  11. DXer said

    The Charles Smith Blog reports on the handwriting examination section of the Oregon State Police Crime Laboratory closing

  12. DXer said

    J Forensic Sci. 2011 Sep;56(5):1180-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01777.x. Epub 2011 Apr 19.
    Forensic identification science evidence since Daubert: Part I–A quantitative analysis of the exclusion of forensicidentification science evidence.
    Page M1, Taylor J, Blenkin M.
    Author information

    The U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. v. Carmichael transformed the way scientific expert evidence was reviewed in courts across the United States. To gauge the impact of these rulings on the admission of forensicidentification evidence, the authors analyzed 548 judicial opinions from cases where admission of such evidence was challenged. Eighty-one cases (15%) involved exclusion or limitation of identification evidence, with 50 (65.7%) of these failing to meet the “reliability” threshold. This was largely because of a failure to demonstrate a sufficient scientific foundation for either the technique (27 cases) or the expert’s conclusions (17 cases). The incidence of exclusion/limitation because of a lack of demonstrable reliability suggests that there is a continuing need for the forensic sciences to pursue research validating their underlying theories and techniques of identification to ensure their continued acceptance by the courts.
    © 2011 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
    Comment in
    Commentary on: Page M, Taylor J, Blenkin M. Forensic identification science evidence since Daubert: Part I–a quantitative analysis of the exclusion of forensic identification science evidence. J Forensic Sci 2011;56(5):1180-4. [J Forensic Sci. 2012]

  13. DXer said

    Three of these authors are from GMU. JoAnn Buscaglia, PhD, is FBI Laboratory, Counterterrorism & Forensic Science Research Unit, Quantico, VA 22135, USA.

    Forensic Sci Int. 2012 Jun 10;219(1-3):129-40. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2011.12.009. Epub 2012 Jan 31.
    Score-based likelihood ratios for handwriting evidence.
    Hepler AB1, Saunders CP, Davis LJ, Buscaglia J.
    Author information

    Score-based approaches for computing forensic likelihood ratios are becoming more prevalent in the forensic literature. When two items of evidential value are entangled via a scorefunction, several nuances arise when attempting to model the score behavior under the competing source-level propositions. Specific assumptions must be made in order to appropriately model the numerator and denominator probability distributions. This process is fairly straightforward for the numerator of the score-based likelihood ratio, entailing the generation of a database of scores obtained by pairing items of evidence from the same source. However, this process presents ambiguities for the denominator database generation – in particular, how best to generate a database of scores between two items of different sources. Many alternatives have appeared in the literature, three of which we will consider in detail. They differ in their approach to generating denominator databases, by pairing (1) the item of known source with randomly selected items from a relevant database; (2) the item of unknown source with randomly generated items from a relevant database; or (3) two randomly generated items. When the two items differ in type, perhaps one having higher information content, these three alternatives can produce very different denominator databases. While each of these alternatives has appeared in the literature, the decision of how to generate the denominator database is often made without calling attention to the subjective nature of this process. In this paper, we compare each of the three methods (and the resulting score-based likelihood ratios), which can be thought of as three distinct interpretations of the denominator proposition. Our goal in performing these comparisons is to illustrate the effect that subtle modifications of these propositions can have on inferences drawn from the evidence evaluation procedure. The study was performed using a data set composed of cursive writing samples from over 400 writers. We found that, when provided with the same two items of evidence, the three methods often would lead to differing conclusions (with rates of disagreement ranging from 0.005 to 0.48). Rates of misleading evidence and Tippet plots are both used to characterize the range of behavior for the methods over varying sized questioned documents. The appendix shows that the three score-based likelihood ratios are theoretically very different not only from each other, but also from the likelihood ratio, and as a consequence each display drastically different behavior.
    Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

  14. DXer said

    Something like 11 of the Amerithrax investigators at one point were from the USPIS.

    Kenneth E. Melson, Professional Lecturer in Law, George Washington University Law School and Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Postal Service, described

    Presenting Quantitative Techniques and Conclusions in Court

    Click to access Kenneth-Melson-NIST-Presentation-5-31-13.pdf

  15. DXer said

    June 4, 2013 – AGENDA

    “Introduction to Quantitative Systems for Forensic Handwriting Comparisons”
    -JoAnn Buscaglia, PhD, Research Chemist, FBI

    “Statistical Basis to Determine Probabilities of Occurrence of Handwriting Charcterisics

    … Sargur Srihari, PhD, Professor, SUNY – Buffalo


    There is a court date in Wednesday in Buffalo in a case involving a handwriting crime on campus — graffiti in the underpass. According to police reports that have not yet been released, two signature tags were done by unknown members of an off-campus fraternity that is deemed rogue.

    It would be in furtherance of the public interest to identify the individuals and identify the location of all the tags by the same individuals.

    Professor Srihari, put on your cape. Your university and the cause of justice needs you.

    • DXer said

      NIST Hosts Forensic Handwriting Analysis Conference
      The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is offering a conference on forensic handwriting analysis for forensic science professionals. The events will be free to attend and viewable via live webcasts.

      “The Measurement Science and Standards in Forensic Handwriting Analysis Conference will take place on June 4-5, 2013 at NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The purpose of this free conference is to enhance the current state of forensic handwriting analysis through the use of advancements in measurement science and the latest research investments in quantitative analysis capabilities. NIST is coordinating the event in collaboration with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences – Questioned Document Section, the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, the FBI Laboratory, the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice, and the Scientific Working Group for Forensic Document Examination.

      The objectives of the conference are:

      • Discuss the current state of handwriting examination techniques and limitations
      • Discuss research advancements supporting quantitative measurements in handwriting examinations
      • Develop a roadmap to incorporate quantitative measurement techniques in analysis procedures
      • Document the potential barriers to achieving the future state of quantitative analysis

      The conference at the NIST campus is open to registered attendees. Registration for the free webcast of the event is not required…”

      ” After completing their examination, handwriting examiners typically draw one of nine possible conclusions regarding authorship or source: identification, strong probability, probable, indications, no conclusion, indications did not, probably did not, strong probability did not, or elimination.”

      In Amerithrax, the handwriting examiner found that Dr. Ivins probably did not write the anthrax letters. That handwriting opinion was concealed for years.

      “According to the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners’ (ABFDE’s) website, “Forensic document examiners (FDEs) help lawyers by examining and offering written opinions on a variety of disputed document problems …”

      The written opinion finding that there was a strong probability that Dr. Ivins did not write the Fall 2001 anthrax letters is the only handwriting opinion on the issue.

      “The conference was webcast live, for free, to ensure maximum participation for interested stakeholders. Interested individuals were encouraged to attend the conference in order to interact with the presenters and contribute to the conference dialogue and roadmap discussion.”

      • DXer said

        errata – I inadvertently mischaracterized the opinion. It was not found that there was a “strong probability” that Dr. Ivins did not write the Fall 2001 anthrax letters. It was found that there was probable that he did not. Under the standards, that means

        “7. Probably did not (evidence is quite strong).”

        That was the expert opinion. There was no other opinion. The prosecutor and investigators just chose to mischaracterize and conceal the opinion — substituting a claim and rationalization for an actual handwriting opinion. The prosecutors are entitled to venture whatever rationalizations they like — but not to claim there was a handwriting examination other than the one that has been produced under FOIA.

      • DXer said

        The FBI was one of the sponsors of the free webcast. You can view the webcast conference presentations here now.

        The handwriting forensics did not support the FBI’s Ivins Theory.

        National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
        Law Enforcement Standards Office

        American Academy of Forensic Sciences – Questioned Document Section

        American Board of Forensic Document Examiners (ABFDE)

        American Society of Questioned Document Examiners (ASQDE)

        Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory
        National Institute of Justice (NIJ)
        Scientific Working Group for Forensic Document Examination (SWGDOC)

      • DXer said

        NIJ has provided about $2 million for questioned documents research. (Heather Waltke Intro)

        NIJ funded, for example, Sargur Srihari’s research, for example. Here is a 22 minute presentation he gave June 2013.

        Professor Srihari wrote the piece on the Fall 2001 anthrax letters.

  16. DXer said

    Guidelines for Forensic Document Examination

    “Probably Did Not: A qualified opinion in which the evidence points rather strongly against two or more handwritten items as having been written by the same person; however, this opinion falls short of the virtually certain degree of confidence.”

  17. DXer said

    The Amerithrax Investigative Summary did not merely fail to disclose the official handwriting opinion — it expressly mischaracterized it. That was really wrong and served to mislead DOJ superiors.

    Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
    Committee on Identifying the Needs of the Forensic Sciences Community, National Research Council
    228091 August 2009

    Click to access 228091.pdf

    “Scientific Interpretation and Reporting of Results
    Terminology has been developed for expressing the subjective conclu- sions of handwriting comparison and identification, taking into account that there are an infinite number of gradations or opinions toward an identification or elimination. Several scales, such as a five-point scale and a nine-point scale, are used by questioned document examiners worldwide. The nine-point scale is as follows:
    1. Identification (a definite conclusion that the questioned writing matches another sample)
    2. Strong probability (evidence is persuasive, yet some critical quality is missing)
    3. Probable (points strongly towards identification)
    4. Indications [that the same person] did [create both samples] (there
    are a few significant features)
    5. No conclusion (used when there are limiting factors such as dis-
    guise, or lack of comparable writing)
    6. Indications [that the same person] did not [create both samples]
    (same weight as indications with a weak opinion)
    7. Probably did not (evidence is quite strong)
    8. Strong probably did not (virtual certainty)
    9. Elimination (highest degree of confidence)97”

  18. DXer said

    Consider this conviction this month in a case where the sender’s handwriting was matched to that in the letters.

    Here, although the Amerithrax Investigative Summary claimed that the opinion found that the the handwriting was inconclusive, there is no such opinion that was produced.

    Instead, it was found that he probably did NOT write the letters.

    A proper characterization of the handwriting opinion would have disclosed that the formal handwriting opinion held that he probably did NOT write the letters. The opinion was withheld through 2008 and 2009 while prosecutors and investigators channeled their accusations to the press.

    Forensic examination is rendered meaningless when the prosecutors falsely characterize the expert opinion.

    In the many hundreds of handwriting exemplars seized, there was not a single page of printing offered up or disclosed through FOIA that looks similar.

    Woman pleads guilty to sending hoax anthrax letters to Rubio, Nelson
    By Amy Pavuk, Orlando Sentinel
    12:32 p.m. EDT, May 19, 2014

    A North Florida woman pleaded guilty to sending hoax anthrax letters to U.S. senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, the U.S. Attorney’s Office reported Monday.

    Prosecutors say Kathryn Cohen Allen, 47, of Jasper mailed threatening letters that contained a white powder to Rubio and Nelson’s respective offices in June 2011.

    Laboratory tests eventually determined the powder was not hazardous.

    The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Allen was implicated in the case when her handwriting matched that in the letters.

    Allen admitted she mailed the letters in an attempt to frame her neighbor, whom she thought was having an interracial relationship, prosecutors said.

    She faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine. Allen’s sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

  19. DXer said

    Where did Dr. Majidi disclose this in the August 2008 press conferences?

    Who is responsible for the failure to disclose this in the February 2010 Amerithrax Investigative Summary?

    Where are any written formal opinions by a handwriting expert that supersedes this? The Amerithrax Investigative Summary should have summarized the forensic analysis or analyses — not the argument of a zealous prosecutor or investigator or senior FBI official.

  20. DXer said

    Vahid Majidi writes, in his new manuscript on Amerithrax, that:

    “The text in letters and on envelopes was analyzed by an army of specialists, including handwriting experts, psychiatric experts, cryptologists and pretty much everything else short of psychics.”

    Although I’ve pointed out that Dr. Majidi is mistaken that the FBI did not rely on a psychic, in regard to his claim all forensic reports were produced note that the only handwriting report produced concluded that Dr. Ivins probably did not write the letters.

  21. DXer said

    The Washington Post, Nov 10, 2001 pA10

    Anthrax Letters Likely Sent by Angry Male Loner, FBI Says; Author Believed Probably Not a Native English Speaker; Experts Unsure of Association With Bin Laden or al Qaeda.(A Section) Susan Schmidt

    • DXer said


      The FBI has not yet publicly produced Jim Fitzgerald’s opinion on clues gleaned from studying the writing mentioned in this Washington Post article or the related documents from Fall 2001 relating to its profile or handwriting analysis.

      “We are assuming we have a lone individual operating in these incidents,” said FBI behaviorist Jim Fitzgerald. Along with other bureau officials, he briefed the media on clues gleaned from studying the writing …

  22. DXer said

    Some background on the handwriting analyses done and how it figured in analysis.

    CLOSING IN ON ANTHRAX FIEND Source: New York Post (New York, NY). (Mar. 29, 2008): News: p07. Document

    Federal investigators have focused their attention on “about four suspects” at an Army research facility in the terrifying 2001 anthrax letter attacks that showed up in the offices of two senators and several newsrooms – including The Post.

    The suspects include three scientists – a former deputy commander, a leading anthrax specialist and a microbiologist – at the bioweapons research facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland, sources told Fox News.

    As part of the investigation, the FBI has collected writing samples from the three scientists to compare them to handwriting on the letters containing the biological weapon that appeared in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

    Lukas I. Alpert

    • DXer said

      Title: Baffled F.B.I. asks for aid in solving riddle of anthrax; no suspects in a month; public and scientists are told to study handwriting and report suspicious labs Author(s): David Johnston Source: The New York Times. (Nov. 3, 2001): L, News: pA1.

      The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said today that after weeks of investigation, the government had no idea who was behind the anthrax attacks, and he appealed to the public for help in solving the case.

      The director, Robert S. Mueller III, said the F.B.I. had been unable to determine the source of the microbes that have killed four people.

      ”We have not said it’s domestic, we have not said it is international,” Mr. Mueller said. ”We have not precluded any possibility.”

      His comments were unusually frank and the strongest indication yet of the frustration that senior F.B.I. officials feel at the agency’s inability to make tangible progress in one of the highest priority investigations in its history.


      Mr. Mueller said that the government’s offer of a $1 million reward had produced little of value. ”We have not received as many tips or leads under that program as we would have liked,” he said.

      Mr. Mueller appealed to the public to engage in their own amateur detective work. ”I also ask you to closely study the images of the anthrax envelopes,” he said, urging Americans to compare the handwriting on the envelopes and letters to the handwriting of anyone they know.

  23. DXer said

    Aug 19, 2013, 7:12am EDT
    FBI to host biosecurity workshop at Wright State

    The FBI will provide a biosecurity overview and breakout group discussions, as well as seminars and a group discussion panel to share information and training. The program, which will be open to Wright State staff and students as well as biotech and health care companies, government employees and public safety professionals.


    In Amerithrax, the FBI shared the only handwriting examination of Bruce E. Ivins and the qualified expert concluded Bruce E. Ivins probably did not write the Fall 2001 anthrax letters and envelopes. The DOJ and FBI then merely proceeded to mischaracterize the opinion of its expert — withholding that opinion from production throughout 2008 and 2009.

    At the same time, the same federal court qualified-expert addressed whether Mohammed Atta probably DID write the Fall 2001 anthrax letters. The DOJ/FBI has withheld that opinion for years even though no exemption applied given that Mohammed Atta was dead.

    There are NO contradictory opinions of any government expert or qualified expert that were produced pursuant to the FOIA requests.

    Thus, PR about the “sharing of information” is bullshit PR when the pertinent information is in fact withheld.

    • richard rowley said

      Yes, they certainly want to give the impression they are “sharing” more than they actually are.
      Recently I discovered the correct(?) term for what my document (below,
      this thread) actually consists of. Apparently it is partaking of the field
      of graphemics.
      A bit of it:
      Graphemics or graphematics is the linguistic study of writing systems and their basic components, i.e. graphemes.

      At the beginning of the development of this area of linguistics, Ignace Gelb coined the term grammatology for this discipline; later some scholars suggested calling it graphology[1] to match phonology, but that name is traditionally used for a pseudo-science. Others therefore suggested renaming the study of language-dependent pronunciation phonemics or phonematics instead, but this did not gain widespread acceptance either, so the terms graphemics and graphematics became more frequent.
      Graphemics examines the specifics of written texts in a certain language and their correspondence to the spoken language. One major task is the descriptive analysis of implicit regularities in written words and texts (graphotactics) to formulate explicit rules (orthography) for the writing system that can be used in prescriptive education or in computer linguistics, e.g. for speech synthesis.

      In analogy to phoneme and (allo)phone in phonology, the graphic units of language are graphemes, i.e. language-specific characters, and graphs, i.e. language-specific glyphs. Different schools of thought consider different entities to be graphemes; major points of divergence are the handling of punctuation, diacritic marks, digraphs or other multigraphs and non-alphabetic scripts.

      Analoguous to phonetics, the “etic” counterpart of graphemics is called graphetics and deals with the material side only (including paleography, typography and graphology).
      So my analysis partakes of graphemics and uses graphemics in order to
      determine 1) what the writer (printer) is trying to do (what impression he
      is trying to make, in this case introducing red herrings via other alphabetic
      elements) 2) what this tells us about the writer (his familiarity with other writing systems etc.).

  24. DXer said

    The USPIS handwriting expert/Lab Director who formally concluded that Bruce E. Ivins probably did not write the anthrax letters is not contradicted by the handwriting examination of any other expert. See FBI’s “Vault.”

    We live in an age of media illiteracy when some people do not know the difference between astrologer and astronomer — or a graphologist and a handwriting expert who is qualified to testify in court as to a comparison conducted of exemplars. The USPIS expert gave talks in 2002 on the application of Daubert to handwriting analysis and its admissibility under the federal rules. He lamented the lack of statistics.

    Seeking to validate and improve the reliability of methods used to send people to jail and ruin their reputation and lives is an ongoing process.

    Here is a hard-hitting essay on fingerprints in the publication Counterpunch. It discusses the Brandon Mayfield case. The FBI Agent ignored and buried the Spanish expert’s opinion just as was done with the opinion of the USPIS Lab DIrector here. The FBI announced the case was solved and Ivins was the culprit and withheld the key opinion throughout 2008 and 2009.

    The Real Crime is in the Crime Lab
    The FBI and the Myth of the Fingerprint

  25. richard rowley said

    Since I recently redid my document dealing with this sub-issue (what the writing STYLE tells us about the printer), I present that document here:
    Pseudo-Hebrew and other deceptive ‘foreign’ elements in Amerithrax printing(s). (copyright Richard Rowley)
    This document examines the Hebrew alphabet elements in the ‘Amerithrax
    letters’ as well as other elements which point toward efforts on the part
    of the printer to appear ‘foreign’.
    To see the Brokaw text, go here:

    In the Brokaw/NY POST text (letter proper) certain letters/parts of
    letters(strokes) are done in an extra thick/heavy way and/or redone. But this
    is not done in a haphazard fashion.

    1) Overall, horizontal lines tend to be the ones done extra heavy/thick, especially the crossbars on the letter ‘T’ ( 6 of 8 instances of the letter); vertical letters/strokes of letters tend to NOT be extra thick/redone. This is in accord with the most common style of the Hebrew alphabet (Aleph-Beth) when it is printed.
    (See, for
    example: )

    Diagonal strokes tend to follow the extra heavy/thick forms of the horizontal

    2) But just as significant as the 6 heavily done crossbars of the T’s are
    the two (2) T’s which are NOT heavily/thickly done and/or redone: one, in
    the fourth line of the Brokaw text in the word “DEATH” is identical
    in form to a printed Hebrew ‘daleth’ (4th letter of Aleph-Beth). The other,
    in the 3rd line of the same text, also in the word ‘DEATH’,
    is printed in such a way as to be mid-way between an ordinary
    capital T and a Daleth.

    3)The two letters “IC” (ic) in “AMERICA” in the third line
    are written closer together than the other letters of the word are. This
    strongly suggests the script/cursive version of the letter “aleph” in Hebrew.
    (See: 2nd line here, first letter on extreme RIGHT side of line:
    Also see:

    4) The “G” in GREAT of the last line resembles a script version of
    the letter ‘Tet’ in Hebrew. The same is true in the Daschle/Leahy text.
    (See: 2nd line here, 9th letter from RIGHT
    In doing the Daschle text some 3 weeks later, the printer dropped most of these features*, and the only arguably NEW pseudo-Hebrew element in the Daschle text is the question mark at the end of line 4 (ie ARE YOU AFRAID?); this question mark, described as “labored” by one graphologist, resembles some versions of the script/cursive letter Kaf in its “sofit” or word-final form.
    (See first line, second letter-form from left:

    *”dropped most of these features”= a sign of how unnatural and contrived
    those features were.
    fourth column from left here, in row of “Final Kaf”:
    (copyright Richard Rowley)

    In addition, there are two non-Hebrew elements in the overall printings
    (ie in BOTH texts and in the addresses printed on the outside of
    envelopes), elements which suggest further efforts at using graphic ‘foreign’ red herrings in the case.

    These are:

    a)the forms of the letter ‘R’ (all three instances in the Brokaw text;
    all six instances in the Daschle text; all four instances of the letter
    on the envelope of the Brokaw letter; all four instances of the letter on

    the NY POST envelope; all six instances on the Leahy envelope; all six instances on the envelope of the Daschle envelope): the printer first printed a letter ‘P’, and only then (likely after lifting pen)put in the last stroke.
    This suggests either the Cyrillic or Greek alphabets since the “r” sound
    is conveyed in those alphabets via ‘rho’, a letter that looks like
    a Latin alphabet ‘p’. See Cyrillic alphabet(s): (Russian version)
    Greek alphabet:

    (Though it must be admitted that the users of certain OTHER alphabets sometimes ALSO exhibit awkward letter “R”s when writing in English)

    b)in addition, multiple instances of the letter “S” are done in
    an extra-sinuous style. This suggests the Arabic letter ‘ya’ in its
    isolated/end-of-word form.See: (last letter of alphabet)

    1) The above indicates that there is a STRONG likelihood that the writer
    has a good familiarity with/facility for the Hebrew alphabet in
    both its printed and script forms.

    2) This is useful eliminatively as probably no more than 2-3% of the US
    population has such a familiarity/facility. Bruce Ivins left no sign of
    familiarity with Hebrew.

    3) The ‘mistakes’ (ie interpolations of Hebrew forms) however are NOT likely to have been made accidently. Rather they seem to be embedded in the text(s) to produce a red herring for investigators: the possibility that a Mossad agent or other native Israeli wrote the Amerithrax letters.

    4) Because the ‘Hebrew elements’ are very much analogous to the (fewer)
    Russian Cyrillic elements of one or more ‘St Petersburg hoax letter(s)’,
    this makes very likely the possibility that the same person(s) wrote both.

    (To recap the St Petersburg hoax-letter features referred to in point 4):
    use of ‘open quotes’ at the BOTTOM of the line: substitution of ‘backwards
    letter ‘N’, which is pronounced “ee” in Russian, for a normal letter ‘N’)
    5)The familiarity exhibited in the Cyrillic and Arabic interpolations/red
    herrings is of a far more modest sort than that for Hebrew, and those
    interpolations/red herrings in themselves do not make certain the
    printer’s in-depth knowledge of either Cyrillic or Arabic.

    (copyright Richard Rowley)

  26. DXer said

    One person who weighed in the handwriting was a consultant for the Saudi government and the FBI’s Amerithrax Task Force. Vince Cannistraro had been the former head of CIA’s operation when the CIA used the Blind Sheik to recruit fighters to Afghanistan. Vince and a colleague or two from Maryland, as I recall, set up a website on the handwriting and their profile that was to serve as a “honey trap” — collecting IPs. They helped promote the lone, unstable guy profile.

    Adnan El-Shukrijumah was a big supporter of the Blind Sheik, with whom Vince Cannistraro had worked. Adnan’s father was the Blind Sheik’s interpreter. I previously pointed out that the Blind Sheik’s lawyer had wanted to call Vince as an expert witness to explain the relationship between the Blind Sheik, his Brooklyn Services organization and the CIA.

    I have previously archived links to Vince Cannistraro’s website that was to serve as the “honey trap” for the Task Force.

    GAO: Wasn’t it a conflict of interest for Vince to take money from the Saudis at the time he was offering his free consultancy services to the FBI’s Amerithrax Task Force? Adnan’s father was also paid by the Saudis. He was a contract missionary.

    The Blind Sheik’s lawyer has been indicted here in Syracuse.

    • DXer said

      While I look for the links in support of my assertions above, I will simply paste my phrasing on this issue from last May in my connection of discussing AQUSA and Zazi:

      “Some websites are designed by the FBI as honey pots such as the one Vince Cannistraro set up for Amerithrax with a couple of his Maryland buddies in 2002. (He was on the Saudi payroll and urging to the FBI an unstable lone America such as the Quantico profilers in their naivete had profiled). But no one visited the website. (Pssst. Hey, Vince, it is a conflict of interest to advise the FBI on Amerithrax while being paid by the Saudis. Given your work with the Blind Sheik you should have known your theory was crock).

      For example, the FBI gamed the same approach with the recent overblown announcement in the Gardner art heist matter. The FBI announced that they had solved the case and there would be a press conference in a few hours. They said they had identified the robbers. Please just click this link.

      But it is easier to take an ongoing website and arrange things so they know who visits on a real-time basis — one way or the other. For example, in the case of this blog, it was an actual federal undercover who did the graphics. And I think he did a damn good job.”

      • DXer said

        Back when Vince was running things for CIA operations, Prince Bandar was meeting with Sarkis Soghanalian at a Beni Hanas restaurant arranging to pay for deliving of a 100 helicopters to Saddam equipped with TOW and quick release pesticide mechanism. If Vince doesn’t think I have the transcript and audio then maybe his intel isn’t as good as he thinks. The foreign minister Tariq Aziz claimed it was for agricultural spraydrying missions — even though it was at the height of the Iraq-Iran war. I didn’t approve of that deal and I don’t approve of the proffered solution in Amerithrax. 800,000 Iranian soldiers died. The Saudis didn’t care so long as Iraq and Iran beat each other’s heads in. War is bad. Peace is good. Killing is bad. Living with our differences is good. Democracy and the rule of law is good. Corruption is bad. Bribes are bad. Honesty and doing one’s job with integrity is good. Lack of government accountability andthe revolving door between government national security positions and defense contractors is bad.

        The influence of money is bad. Protecting innocents is the primary directive.

        Most of all, the truth is unstoppable. History takes no prisoners.

    • DXer said

      Vince Cannistraro’s colleague in the project on the “handwriting analyst” was Mark Smith.

      By way of some history, Pat Clawson, Dr. Hatfill’s friend, recommended that Dr. Hatfill’s attorney get in touch with handwriting analyst Mark Smith. He said he had insights on the Task Force investigators.

      Mark Smith believes in paranormal auras, which have no scientific basis and are easily debunked in simply conducted experiments. Thus, I have to say that the 302 interview statements, in comparison, demonstrate very solid work product.

      “From: “Pat Clawson” [email redacted]
      To: “Vic Glasberg” [email redacted]
      Sent: Tuesday, September I0, 2002 8:33 PM
      Subject: Clawson’s Last Posting Before Leaving for Seattle ….


      Aiso, you need to phone Mark Smith, the handwriting expert who has offered his services.

      Interesting guy – and he’s been in touch with the FBI agents working Steve’s case. He has some insight at to their ineptness that you might find helpfu!. His phone is 301 xxx xxxx

      Pat Clawson”

      From the face of the website still on the Wayback Machine — even without a backdoor to the relevant servers — that former CIA honcho Vince Cannistraro was involved.

      The Pursuit of Steven Hatfill.

      By Marilyn W. Thompson
      Sunday, September 14, 2003; Page W06

      But this case posed an entirely new set of challenges, and Roth was willing to try almost anything to solve it. At one point, he held a meeting with Mark Smith, a veteran Maryland handwriting analyst, and two associates, who proposed setting up a computer sting operation in an effort to identify the killer. Smith would try to lure the perpetrator to two Web sites, and, by making provocative comments about the killer’s handwriting and publicizing the sites in interviews and on TV’s “America’s Most Wanted.”

      Roth encouraged the men to try the plan. If it worked, they might be eligible for the FBI reward for information leading to a conviction — a sum that began at $1 million and eventually ballooned to the current $2.5 million. The sting operation lasted a few months and attracted at least two people on the bureau’s watch list, but it apparently produced no breakthroughs.

      Smith says the FBI’s frustrations with the case were palpable. At one meeting at the Washington field office, agents talked candidly about the toll the long hours were exacting on their families. Roth vented, too, groaning to no one in particular, “Get me out of this!”

      Mark Smith, according to the Washington Post, when he was not lecturing about interpreting personalities based on a person’s aura, helped set up websites “ and” and “making provocative comments about the killer’s handwriting and publicizing the sites in interviews and on TV’s “America’s Most Wanted.””

      How did this FBI’s strategy of provoking a suspect by talking about sexual dysfunction, being bi-polar, and having a martyr complex work?

      Didn’t it in fact allow the agents to close the case? Wouldn’t the FBI and its experts have been creamed at trial given that the handwriting expert not known for his belief in the paranormal had flatly opined that Bruce E. Ivins probably did NOT write the letters.

      If the FBI and CIA want more credible fronts, they should avoid anthrax smelling dogs and folks touting the paranormal. The FBI should stop withholding exculpatory documents and spinning bullshit. Instead, they should avoid conflicts of interest governing the conduct of a criminal and national security investigation and focus on the interrogation statements from Yazid Sufaat.

      • DXer said

        Vahid Majidi writes, in his new manuscript on Amerithrax, that:

        “The text in letters and on envelopes was analyzed by an army of specialists, including handwriting experts, psychiatric experts, cryptologists and pretty much everything else short of psychics.”

        To the contrary, it was the author of a book on paranormal auras who had the widely publicized website — used as a “sting” to collect IPS — that gave the crock, stock sexual dysfunction profile.

    • DXer said

      Mark Smith’s book Auras is at “Auras. See them in only 60 Seconds.” This author was the author of the website suggested by Vince, the former CIA head in charge of operations when the Blind Sheik’s Services Organization in Brooklyn was used to recruit fighters in Afghanistan.

      Key Blind Sheik supporter and former Brooklynite Adnan El-Shukrijumah called from KSM’s home on 9/13/2001 — where my sometimes Facebook Friend and now detainee anthrax lab director Yazid Sufaat also stayed. Adnan told his mom that he was coming to the US. He insisted over his mom’s protests. She objected that he would be arrested. This has been known by the CIA for many years.

      Adnan and his father were strong supporters of the Blind Sheik. His father was the Blind Sheik’s interpreter in Brooklyn.

      It is important to rely on validated science in an important national security and criminal investigation and not self-interested CYA spin.

      The idea of a “honey pot”, however, was a fine idea. But the handwriting analysis in 2002 was merely offered as a ruse to provoke the sender. It seems to have served to confuse analysis even by Rachel Lieber and Ed Montooth — who seem not to have understood that the entire profile was made up. Sometimes sexual dysfunction is irrelevant to analysis even if it walks through your door and is handed to you with a smile.

      Use of a website as a “honey pot” still is a good idea and still bears fruit. (Although it is a simple matter for a prankster to have some harmless fun with Ed spoofing IPs). But it important to understand the background of the decision-making in this matter. Here, the FBI’s methods included anthrax smelling bloodhounds that led the FBI to Steve Hatfill and an unsupported, bullshit profile that led to Bruce E. Ivins.

      Again, the extended profile involving sexual dysfunction was something developed merely to provoke a reaction and visits and maybe even a response from the perp.

      Mr. Smith should be asked to compare Atta’s handwriting to the letters and envelopes — and should be asked to compare Bruce Ivins handwriting to the letters and envelopes. You will find that Mr. Smith is a man of reason, intellect and good faith as is Vince. His handwriting analysis can be judged on the merits by qualified experts.

      We can put aside issues of one’s belief in the paranormal or business relationship with the Saudis and simply focus on the admissible evidence — the expert opinions of the USPIS Lab Director with regard to Hatfill, Ivins and Atta.

      Byline: Guy Taylor, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

      A handwriting analyst familiar with the anthrax-laced letters sent last fall to Capitol Hill says the sender is a white, middle-age man who suffers from bipolar disorder, a sexual dysfunction and a martyr complex.

      These details, which do not appear in the FBI’s profile of the sender, could sharpen the focus of the 6-month-old investigation into who sent the lethal letters, says Mark Smith, a handwriting analyst based in Virginia.

  27. DXer said

    Resolved QuestionShow me another»
    Government Case Against Bruce E. Ivins Falling apart??

    Best Answer – Chosen by Asker

    That would appear to be the case. The whole thing is fishy. Why would they not do a handwriting analysis? I live in Frederick about 3 miles from Fort Detrick and I can tell you that the local sentiment, especially among people who knew him from work, church, etc., is that he is not the guy.
    • 5 years ago

    As recently as this past month, a poll shows that 60% of responses indicated “no” — he was not responsible for the anthrax mailings — and 20% were not sure. This was without the FBI disclosing the conclusion of its handwriting expert. Imagine the polling results if the FBI had not withheld the evidence that directly contradicted its conclusory assertions?

    • DXer said

      The United States Attorney Jeffrey Taylor did not mention the official conclusion and instead spun a cotton candy and provably false spin:

      QUESTION: You didn’t take handwriting samples from Dr. Ivins?

      MR. TAYLOR: We examined handwriting samples but then there was no comparison made or a specific identification of the handwriting. It appears that when the analysts would look at it, that there was an attempt to disguise the handwriting. So it was unable to make a comparison.”

      Mr. Taylor’s statement is a flat out misrepresentation of the conclusion in the official analysis.

      Mr. Taylor continued:

      “With respect to handwriting samples, we did have indications from individuals with whom we spoke that there appeared to be some similarities in handwriting that were apparent. That said, we did not have a scientifically valid conclusion that we thought would lead us to be able to admit that in evidence.”

      Exactly. The opinion by the USPIS expert, however, WOULD be admissible in evidence. See Court of Appeals precedent I’ve posted.

      United States Attorney Taylor then promptly went to a high-paying job upon his unsupported and hotly disputed claim he had solved Amerithrax. Thus, he never needed to reconsider the matter. The head of the WFO resigned in December 2008 after being found to have cheated on an open book exam on how to conduct an investigation. The lead AUSA was the subject of an unprecedented District Court opinion lambasting him for prosecutorial misconduct and immersed in the Blackwater case. And the USPIS expert who rendered the opinion retired after a distinguished career testifying as to handwriting examinations. Thus, everyone just walked away from the matter leaving Mr. Taylor’s false claims uncorrected.

      The USPIS should be interviewed by the GAO and that interview released.

      • richard rowley said

        DXers wrote:
        The United States Attorney Jeffrey Taylor did not mention the official conclusion and instead spun a cotton candy and provably false spin:

        QUESTION: You didn’t take handwriting samples from Dr. Ivins?

        MR. TAYLOR: We examined handwriting samples but then there was no comparison made or a specific identification of the handwriting. It appears that when the analysts would look at it, that there was an attempt to disguise the handwriting. So it was unable to make a comparison.”

        Mr. Taylor’s statement is a flat out misrepresentation of the conclusion in the official analysis.
        What he’s doing there is anticipating the FOLLOW-UP question:

        1) if he admits there WERE comparisons done, he would then be asked what the results were. Something
        directly undermining of the government’s case against Ivins.

        2) if he flat out states that the last and only suspect’s printing was never compared to the Amerithrax texts,
        the obvious and embarassing follow-up question is: why not?!?!?

        So, he uses the old flood-of-words trick to make it SOUND as if he’s already answered both the question put
        and the 1)/2) follow-up questions, but without any sort of references to entities (organizations/consultants) used
        to do the printing examination.

        In PLACE of that we get the Amerithrax Investigative Summary referring to two unnamed amateur “witnesses”
        (ie informants) who give THEIR opinion, this because it’s more congenial to the government’s case against Ivins.

        • Lew Weinstein said

          RICHARD … I think you have that exactly correct. The FBI has lied and side-stepped and avoided facing the truth, which is that they have not made any case against Dr. Ivins. I think it is a disgrace that Director Mueller will be allowed to retire next month without ever being held accountable for this performance.

        • DXer said

          Consider Mr. Willman’s treatment. David notes that the expert found that Dr. Hatfill probably did not write the letters — but fails to note the same expert’s opinion that Dr. Ivins probably did not write the letters. (I will presume that DW was unaware of the opinion — being selectively channeled info and documents by investigators in CYA mode; alternatively, I will presume that DW’s failure to mention the opinion was an oversight.

          And, most important of all, note that no one bothered to ask the expert about his conclusion re Atta probably wrote the letters.

          The small minority of people who speculate that Dr. Ivins might have been guilty have not sought, obtained and shared a handwriting opinion from an expert based on samples of Mohammed Atta’s handwriting. Instead, they have relied extensively on his first counselor who thought she was being controlled by an alien who had implanted a microchip in her butt.

          Amerithrax represents the greatest failure in counterintelligence analysis in the history of the United States.

          The head of Amerithrax then went to head FBI countintelligence. Thus, any mistaken conclusion in Amerithrax was not going to be corrected.

          As hundreds are killed daily in fighting in Egypt, too much is at stake — passions are too high and access to know-how too easy — to risk missteps in analysis. Decision-making must be based on the very best information.

    • DXer said

      Robert Muehlberger’s opinion with regard to Dr. Hatfill’s handwriting reached the same conclusion.

  28. DXer said

    RJ Muehlberger has been testifying in federal court as a handwriting expert for decades.

    United States v. Fearwell
    No. 78-1242

    595 F.2d 771; 193 U.S. App. D.C. 386; 1978 U.S. App. LEXIS 6747

    … [*774] [**7] A handwriting expert for the prosecution testified that the similarity on many of the cards was attributable to a single person’s having supplied the various signatures, and …

    […*778] […**23] See Tr. 101-117 (testimony of Robert J. Muehlberger, Document Analyst, United States Postal Inspectors Crime Laboratory, Washington, D.C.)….

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    • DXer said

      United States v. Burnett
      NO. 91-6128
      1992 U.S. App. LEXIS 5509
      March 23, 1992, Filed

      OVERVIEW: Defendant’s conviction was based on his alleged fraudulent use of a certain tax-exempt business name in an attempt to obtain a license to operate a bingo establishment. In Tennessee at the time of the alleged offense, bingo games operated for fundraising purposes by organizations exempt from federal taxes were not covered by Tennessee’s statutory ban on gambling.

      OUTCOME: The court affirmed defendant’s conviction.

      OPINION … ***

      Mr. Burnett next argues that the district court erred in allowing witness Muehlberger, a handwriting and documents expert, to compare the minutes of a non-profit organization known as the Mid-South Association for Retarded Children with the minutes of …

      … [*7] Yourself, Inc. Mr. Burnett claims that he was unaware that the minutes [*8] were part of the government’s case, that there was no foundation for Mr. Muehlberger’s testimony, and that the evidence was more prejudicial than probative under Fed. R. Evid 403. …

      … The district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting Mr. Muehlberger’s testimony.

  29. Lew Weinstein said

    DXer may assume honest intentions in the FBI’s withholding of masses of documentation, but I make no such assumption. There has been, IMO, a purposeful cover-up since Day 1.

  30. Lew Weinstein said

    What conclusions can be drawn from the DOJ/FBI failure to include evidence exculpatory to Dr. Ivins, which has happened often since the 2008 press conference where it was claimed that Dr. Ivins was the “sole perpetrator” of the 2001 anthrax attacks? … obviously, he could not be the “sole perpetrator” if he did not address the envelopes.

    Is it reasonable to think there is a DOJ/FBI coverup of the real facts behind their untenable conclusion?

    Will the long-delayed GAO report on the FBI investigation have any answers?

    Will there be a change in the FBI attitude when Director Mueller completes his term next month?

    • DXer said

      Lawyers and investigators often try to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. In the case of high-profile DOJ investigations, being able to claim a successful resolution leads to promotions and high-paying jobs in the private sector.

      An “Ivins Theory” can be assumed to have been held in good faith (in advocacy, the other party’s good faith should be presumed). The theory, though, can be characterized as overzealous and speculative.

      Under a principled approach that recognized the uncertainties relating to an “Ivins Theory,” the DOJ and FBI should not have withheld the warehouse of documents that they still are withholding from GAO that contradict claims and inferences used to cobble together an Ivins Theory.

      The same withholding and selective production that occurred with NAS has continued with GAO. The GAO as an institution did not “bust balls” as, say, Dr. Hatfill’s attorney would have done.

      There are very wide differences in the thoroughness in obtaining documents.

      DOJ prosecutors privately are contemptuous at Congressional oversight and snicker at the thought that Congressional oversight is effective (despite polite and respectful demeanor at hearings).

      IMO, there will not be a change of FBI attitude when Director Mueller completes his term.

      By analogy, it took decades for the history of Whitey Bulger to be written.

      (FBI Director Mueller was the AUSA in that case. See Weld’s notes when Susan Murray called to report that the FBI was letting Whitey get away with murder.)

      The lesson is that hide-the-ball leads to promotion and high-paying jobs and then the people in power typically get to write the history.

      If ever there was an occasion we needed GAO to rise to the challenge through personal suasion — given the ineffective tools available to it — this is it.

  31. DXer said

    “Bob Muehlberger was the 25th president of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners.

    After serving as a Captain in the Military Police Corps in Vietnam, Mr. Muehlberger returned to the United States and trained as a forensic document examiner with the United States Postal Inspection Service. He later became the Laboratory Director of the Postal Inspection Service Laboratory in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2008, he retired from the position of Laboratory Director for the Postal Inspection Service Laboratory in Dulles, VA.

    Mr. Muehlberger served as treasurer and vice president of the Society prior to his election as president. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and has also served as the Chairman of the Questioned Documents Section of that organization. In 2000, he received the Ordway Hilton Award (Questioned Documents Section Award) from the AAFS. Mr. Muehlberger is a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners. He is the author of a number of published articles and professional papers, such as “Identifying Simulations: Practical Considerations,” published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.”

    RJ Muehlberger has written publications on the subject such as:

    “Establishing Forensic Handwriting Examination as a Science,” RC Hanlen, RJ Muehlberger, PA Manzolillo, G Sperry – … , Reliability, Performance and …, (2002)

    “Survey of Handwriting Habit Areas Used by Forensic Document Examiners: Degree of Use and Discriminatory Power.” Journal of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners 2(1):45-50. (1999)

    “A Statistical Examination of Selected Handwriting Characteristics,” 22 J.Forensic Sci. 206 (1977).

    R.J. Muehlberger et al., “Class Characteristics of Hispanic Writing in the Southeastern United States,” 371-376 (1989)

    “Identifying Simulations: Practical Considerations,” 368-374, 1990 #: JFS9003

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