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

* DXer points to numerous flaws in Dr. Majidi’s new analysis of the FBI’s investigation of the 2001 anthrax case

Posted by DXer on October 10, 2013

Majidi - cover


In dozens of posts over the past week or so, DXer has commented on Dr. Majidi’s book, and found numerous significant flaws.

The FBI has utterly failed to make a coherent case against Dr. Ivins, who it implausibly accuses of being the sole perpetrator of the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Meanwhile, the GAO, which is reviewing the FBI’s investigation and is the last hope for the truth in this matter, a truth which the FBI has worked hard to keep hidden, has yet to issue its report or even a progress report with a date when the report can be expected.

Here are some of DXer’s comments (all of which are found in their entirety on this blog) …

  • Although Dr. Majidi claims that the FBI produced all scientific reports, to the contrary, Dr. Majidi WITHHELD all forensic reports on the photocopy toner, ink, paper etc. Why? They were exculpatory of Dr. Ivins. Such selective production of documents is totally inexcusable.
  •  Dr. Majidi’s nonsensical approach to the distribution of Ames is right up there with his failure to address the 52 rabbits explaining why Dr. Ivins was in the lab — which is nowhere mentioned in the Amerithrax Investigative Summary or by Dr. Majidi. His manuscript unintentionally serves as a clear road-map of how Amerithrax was so badly botched.
  •  Vahid Majid in his new manuscript attempting to defend the FBI’s investigation of the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings — and falling far short — he says that the FBI selectively culled documents that it did not think needed to be provided to the NAS. In addition to the documents that he considered “owned” by other agencies, for example, they withheld anything that they found to be “hyperbole.” In producing documents, it is not for the party producing the documents to do such culling. Such selective production in civil discovery would be sanctionable and subject to an award of monetary damages.
  •  In failing to swab suspect labs for the contaminating subtilis — which Vahid Majidi admits in his new manuscript — the FBI relied upon on-the-book labs and formally retained and archived strains voluntarily submitted by the institutions. By its nature, the approach pretty much excluded off-the-books, surreptitious production. The approach assumed that the perpetrator would cooperate.
  •  In the 12,000 pages of declassified FBI documents on the case, there is little indication of testing conducted on other anthrax scientists’ laboratory areas or their caches of the bacillus subtilis material. The federal investigator would not answer how many researchers’ work spaces were analyzed.
  •  Subpoenas went out early — in 2001 — to LSU and Michigan…. well in advance of the subpoenas sent more widely several months later. There is every reason to think that others were not as clueless as Dr. Majidi seems to be in his book.
  •  Dr. Majidi was relying on self-submission of samples — which is curious. Why would a perp send in something that might incriminate him or her?
  •  Dr. Majidi should have swabbed the labs of the scientists supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins. That was a no-brainer. In comparison, Dr. Majidi’s reliance on an interview of a brother who had not spoken to his brother in a quarter century (and was resentful of Bruce’s education) is an embarrassment to all forensic science.

10 Responses to “* DXer points to numerous flaws in Dr. Majidi’s new analysis of the FBI’s investigation of the 2001 anthrax case”

  1. DXer said

    The animal protocol B1-11 produced to me on November 14, 2013 explains how the rabbit cages were to be handled:

    “Rabbits utillized in this protocol will be housed in an appropriate study room and infected with virulent B anthracis, the etiologic agent of anthrax. These rabbits cannot be removed from the room and euthanized without the risk of infecting other personnel in the suite. The rabbits are housed in individual cages. Animals will be handled only by persons wearing protective clothing as designated on the biohazard signs on the animal room doors. Rabbits surviving challenge will be deeply anesthetized and euthanized by i.v. injection of Euthasol. Rabbits that become moribund after challenge will be sedated with ketamine and zylazine and euthanized with Euthasol via i.v. injection. Based on the stated safety concerns, it is necessary to euthanize rabbits in the same room where other rabbits are present. The potential impact on the other rabbits in the room is greatly minimized by the deep anesthesia preceding euthanasia. Also, while the animals are housed in biocontainment areas which do not allow routine cage changing as recommended by the NIH guide, cages and racks will be cleaned in place. Cages will be removed from the biocontainment suite and replaced with clean cages when they can no longer be satisfactorily sanitized or when deemed necessary by the animal caretaker in consultation with the Chief, Department of Animal Husbandry.”

    Dr. Vahid Majidi based his Ivins Theory on the fact that it was a hassle to put on a biohazard suit and that Dr. Ivins had no reason to be in the lab. (see his September 2013 e-book). He was wrong. It’s that simple. This isn’t rocket science. Dr. Ivins was working with 52 rabbits pursuant to Animal Protocol B01-11.

    Once Dr. Ivins committed suicide, rather than admit the mistake, prosecutors and investigators engaged in CYA and the withholding of documents, and the suppression and mischaracterization of information — even the shredding of civil depositions and the destruction of documents. For those people who still don’t understand that the two animal rooms where the rabbits were housed were within the B3 suite in Building 1425, they can start with Dr. Worsham’s deposition. She shared that B3 suite. She advised me this week that JAG would have a copy of her civil deposition in the United States v. Stevens. As I best recall, JAG Attorney Jeffrey Miller attended depositions.

    The uncontradicted testimony (see, e.g., 302 statement) is that checking animals on nights and weekends was a one person, two hour job.

    Making mistakes is human. Failing to correct mistakes or withholding information on a matter this important is really wrong. People need to spend less time expressing their opinion and more time obtaining and disclosing the contemporaneous documents and sworn testimony about those documents.

  2. DXer said

    The Trentonian today quotes Congressman Holt:

    “The FBI ‘arbitrarily’ closed the case based on evidence that “would not, I think, stand up in court,” he adds.

    “In 2011, after reviewing the anthrax analyses in the case, the National Academy of Sciences reported that it was “impossible to reach any definite conclusion about the origins of anthrax in the letters based solely on the available scientific evidence.”

    I would link the URL to the Trentonian article once an apparent internet problem resolves itself. Presently from my computer using safari it is not possible to stay on the page more than a few seconds.

  3. DXer said

    In his first sit-down interview about anthrax suspect Bruce E. Ivins, attorney Paul Kemp explains why he thinks the Justice Department’s case against the late Army microbiologist is weak.

    Ivins, who committed suicide July 29, 2008, was a prime suspect in the 2001 anthrax mailings that killed five people.

    Laura Sullivan, NPR correspondent: The main piece of evidence seems to be this idea that they could link the anthrax specifically to government microbiologist Bruce E. Ivins. What are your thoughts on that, do you think that’s possible?

    Paul Kemp, attorney for Bruce Ivins: I think it’s certainly possible. If it was done, it apparently was done in 2005, and that’s my understanding, both from the affidavits that were released [Wednesday, Aug. 6] and I think implied from the news conference in which [Jeff Taylor, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia] spoke.

    The issue it raises is, all that does is establish that the anthrax that originally was in that beaker, excepting the science, and I’m not challenging that now, I would if I were in court.

    It doesn’t change the fact that it was virtually an open-access facility. There’s no security. It had a key-entry pass the way that we have in this commercial office building. That’s the extent of their security. No security guard, no guest registration, no surveillance cameras, this is as of 2001. That’s all changed now. So that the scientists who would use it, dozens of them at Fort Detrick, they could withdraw samples, use it for their experiments. They may not use it all. What happened to the spare portions of that beaker, RMR-1029, the specimens that were used that weren’t done if there had been, God forbid, someone up there who was planning to do this, then they have ready access to it for legitimate purposes, the development of anthrax vaccine.

    So Wednesday, Taylor called the flask, the tube that contained the anthrax, the murder weapon. Do you believe that?

    I believe that he has reasonable evidence, assuming the science is right, to show that the anthrax in question came from the beaker. I can’t say that that anthrax that’s ultimately used in the anthrax attacks wasn’t subsequently changed, or that it didn’t come from places that had received portions of that anthrax around the country — the University of New Mexico, Battelle Labs in Ohio. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scientists, contractors, students, professors, who used that same anthrax, the very anthrax that would have the same genetic components as RMR-1029

    They say he was the “custodian” of the parent anthrax.

    He was responsible for mixing the batch that became known as RMR-1029. He was one of the primary scientists, and had, since 1977, dozens of people working for him, all of whom had access to it. Plus, other people from other labs at Fort Detrick requested samples of it. Plus, these contractors off the base got samples of it. And nobody knows the quantities, how much, when they took it, what they did with what that they didn’t use. So what is the significance, in terms of identifying the killer of these people from 2001, if all you’ve done is establish the beaker from an unspecified time, some sample that may have been withdrawn to prepare the anthrax that was done? You have no idea who did it. And in this country, we prosecute people, not beakers.

    One of the things that came out of this idea that they can link the spore sample exactly to Ivins was that he also misled the FBI. There was this big thing in Wednesday’s press conference about how they had asked for a sample from him, and that when they went out themselves and took the sample, that in fact it was different from what Ivins had given them.

    So many problems with that statement. It’s hard to know where to begin. No. 1, I’ll try and be organized in this, he provided a sample in 2002, the month of February of 2002. He provided it in a way that he thought matched their directions that at that point were orally given.

    There really were, I believe, two different vials or preparations, slides, I think they’re called, and he did it in a way that ultimately matches their written protocol for the preparation of these slides. One of them is delivered to the government, and they either lose it or destroy it. The second one is sent to a well-known scientist, somebody on a caliber with Dr. Ivins, in terms of this kind of thing. Paul Keim is his name, now at the Northern Arizona State University, at that point from the University of New Mexico. And he has it, maintains it. It’s available for analysis, and when the government loses their slide or destroys it, they do go to the slide that Dr. Keim has, and are able to make the analysis from that.

    So, that’s the story, as to the February one. Not only did he not falsify the submission of samples, this is a government screw-up, for the February sample.

    In the April sample, here’s what they contend is wrong. They contend that the nature of the slide he prepared was improperly taken from RMR-1029, that they wanted him to prepare a smear sample of the entire set of cultures in the beaker. What they say he submitted is what’s called a “pure culture” sample. And to understand that, you have to know what these things look like.

    If you examine grossly, meaning with the naked eye, the anthrax that is prepared in a petri dish, an open glass petri dish, you might extract some of this stuff from the beaker — you can’t really work with the beaker because it has a narrow top — so you take it out and put it in a wide petri dish and you let it grow in an agar substance.

    And it ferments and grows upon itself. There will be little globules of anthrax in a harmless form, it’s like wet oatmeal or something like that, and you can dip down and take each globule, or a representative set of globules — that’s called taking a “pure culture” sample.

    What they wanted him to do with that open petri dish was to take a smear across them all. And that’s what he did the first time. He submitted a smear sample, it was properly done.

    The second time, he did the pure culture sample and sent it in. That should have been readily apparent to them, as soon as it was received. They don’t get to it for a long time. RMR-1029 was there. It has never been adulterated. It has never been tampered with. Why didn’t they go back and say, “You took a pure culture sample, can you take a smear sample?” Why didn’t they go back and take a smear sample themselves? So that’s a long-winded way to the first point.

    Second point, he’s polygraphed twice, during the same year. They ask him, you know, “Have you told us all you know about this? Are you hiding any evidence?” as part of these normal polygraphs, but also that are directed by the investigators here.

    They now discount the reliability of his passing in the polygraphs because it was conducted by the Defense Department, not by the Justice Department. And so we’re left with this disparagement of the Defense Department, the same way Mr. Taylor disparaged the Defense Department yesterday during his news conference, saying, in a backhanded way, “Well, that’s a matter for the Defense Department,” namely, why was he allowed to continue working at the lab, with full access to these pathogens, right up to the end of the investigation?

    So in your mind, this idea that the FBI came to him and said, “We need this specific sample,” and that it was some kind of test and that he sent in something different, it just has no credence?

    It is unbelievable to me that in, I guess the second-highest-profile case going on at the time, the first highest-profile case being the Sept. 11 attacks, in this time frame, that they wouldn’t go take the sample themselves or direct him to do it while one of their agents watch him.

    The final point, the biggest point: He doesn’t get the written protocol as to how to submit the samples until May 24 of 2002. The sample was submitted at their direction on April 10 of 2002. They’ll say, in defense of that screw-up, that he was present at a meeting at which they think it was discussed, that, “We want you to take smear samples.”

    That to me is inconceivable. It’s part of an investigation of a case of this significance. All of that is beside the point. He’d already submitted a proper sample at the beginning of February, I forget the exact date, in February of 2002. And they lost the slide, or destroyed it. I don’t know which. But [U.S. Attorney Ken] Kohl can tell you.

    Was Ivins aware that the anthrax that he possessed in his own particular area in the lab was the same as the anthrax that was used in the letters?

    He contended, and I’m not telling you what he discussed with me because that’s privileged material and I can’t discuss that, but if you look at the search warrant affidavits, he contended he was told by agents that they thought it was the same anthrax. And that’s as of mid-, late 2002, I believe. The affidavit will correct me on that. So they have information six years before he’s represented by me, that he was aware of the fact, and was told by an agent.

    Now this agent doesn’t have a recollection of telling him that, or disputes it. I forget which.

    And I can understand how the agent might forget since the affidavit’s not even prepared until Oct. 31 of 2007, again that’s from memory, but I think that’s right. So that’s five years later, and I can’t expect the agent to remember those kind of details. He doesn’t say that Ivins is lying. He’s saying, “I just don’t remember having said that to him.” OK, that’s reasonable to me.

    The passage of time, especially where my client has partnered with the FBI, is directed by them to review the ([ormer Senate Majority Leader Tom] Daschle spores, and other forensic evidence that’s submitted, is helping them all along, passing polygraphs, doing everything they direct, submitting slides, not adulterating RMR-1029, not taking a portion of it. …

    You know, I mean, if you’re the anthrax killer, and you’re this evil genius that knows all about anthrax, and know that some sort of forensic testing can be done, why would you leave it in precisely the same genetic state one year later, one month later, seven years later, as it was in at the time of the killings, that makes no sense.

    When did he go from being someone who was helping in the investigation to being the target of the investigation? When was he aware of that?

    Well those are two different questions. In the FBI’s mind, or, it’s not just the FBI, it’s the postal inspectors and others, but in law enforcement’s mind, and this is repeated yesterday, they say what keys them to him is their ascertainment with this breakthrough science that the anthrax at least came from RMR-1029. Whether it was removed from it and made from that or removed from another set of anthrax, they don’t know, but that is [what] was parented from that beaker. That’s in March of 2005. He is brought before the grand jury and goes down there willingly without a lawyer and testifies in May of 2007, and I wasn’t there.

    And I could not have gone into the grand jury even if I were there because lawyers, no one’s permitted into the grand jury. But he testified, he didn’t take immunity, he didn’t even invoke the Fifth Amendment, as he had done dozens of times beforehand, [he] answered every question they had.

    Now they’re saying, even though they have had their suspicions about him and attach all of this cosmic significance to the fact that it comes from RMR-1029, they’ve known that for two years and two months. He nevertheless goes there and answers all of their questions. And I think it’s fair to say by then they had fully focused on him as a suspect.

    At that point, how did he start reacting to the idea that he was the suspect in this case?

    With me? I would never tell you that. That’s a privileged matter.

    When did he learn that he was the target?

    To this date, a target letter has never been issued.

    They make a big deal about what they call a “spike” in his late-night work, in the weeks before the anthrax letters were sent, that he was in the office at suspicious times, alone, in a particular part of the lab, that they questioned. They say this is not characteristic of his long-time work patterns. Is that true?

    My understanding of it is different, that it was characteristic of his long-time work patterns and that he often went there. They’re saying that he went more often at this time, at the times leading up to the two different mailings.

    No. 1, they never verified for us the exact date of the mailings. No. 2, we never knew what the exact records were, but he’d been questioned about this, was questioned about it in the grand jury, gave them his best recollection, that he was having various family problems, both in his marriage, and concerning one of his children, at the time. And because of that, was having trouble getting work done during the day, went over there, was doing work at night, as he always did. And they had a chart showing he was always going in there, he just went more frequently during September and October, and then continued to do so right through the end of the year.

    So it wasn’t that he was in there like a mad scientist, whipping up an anthrax concoction, late at night?

    To them, he certainly denied that, and presumably that would’ve come up on the polygraph test, and I don’t know what the questions are. They refused to show me the polygraph questions and the polygraph protocols, meaning the response tapes. But I would assume the operator asked him a question something like, “Have you told law enforcement the truth concerning your activities around this time?” and that that would have generated a negative response.

    In terms of the envelopes, they make a big deal about being able to tie defects in the envelopes that were used in the attacks to envelopes that they believe were sent to a post office box belonging to Ivins. Do you believe that the envelopes that Ivins purchased matched the envelopes in the anthrax attacks?

    I have no information and I don’t think there is any information of Ivins’ purchasing envelopes. They didn’t talk about that. They’re saying, it was misstated yesterday, I guess it was properly stated in the affidavits, the person, [U.S. Attorney] Taylor, who spoke yesterday, garbled it or just got it wrong, and I’m not saying that’s malicious, I think he just had a lot of detail to learn and didn’t learn this detail.

    They have a Secret Service document examiner who examined the stamps on these pre-franked envelopes [envelopes with prepaid postage] that contained the anthrax in the anthrax attacks. And because of microscopic defects, you’re correct, he was able to tie those to lots or a set of envelopes that were mailed to three post offices that are listed in the search warrant affidavits, that are listed in all three search warrant affidavits: Elkton, Md., Cumberland, Md., and Fairfax, Va., the main post office in Fairfax, post offices that service the entire width of the state of Maryland and then the biggest post office in the state of Virginia.

    Yesterday, Mr. Taylor says they came from a post office in Frederick, and that’s just, if that’s true, then maybe they misrepresented something to three different federal judges in obtaining these search warrants, or he just got it wrong, and I choose to believe it’s the latter.

    And so there’s no connection to any post office that Ivins has ever had an account with and there’s no evidence he ever purchased these envelopes in the search warrants that they executed.

    They don’t find anything incriminating, and in particular, they don’t find any envelopes or tape that’s used in his house, that are similar or have anything to do with this case, or even similar in the sense that they’re pre-franked.

    So they’re just saying the envelopes that were used in the anthrax attacks were sold in Maryland. That’s the extent of it?

    They were sold in Maryland or Virginia. If you read the search warrant affidavits, the stuff that was released yesterday, it’s Fairfax, you know, a jurisdiction of a million people, that anybody in the Washington metropolitan area could use. Or Cumberland, or Elkton, and Elkton is 10 miles from Wilmington, Del.

    I don’t know why I had it in my head from somewhere that he had purchased these envelopes and they were mailed to his post office box.

    I think you had it in your head because it is something that was implied by Mr. Taylor yesterday when he said that they think these envelopes were purchased in Frederick, and he just got that wrong. And no reporter picked it up and no one asked him about it.

    Speaking of post office boxes, he had a couple of post office boxes that he used under different names, two, that he used under different names?

    I don’t know about two. I know about one, and it was in a name they say, of Carl Scandella, and this is not privileged because he talked about this with me, but in front of the agents — and he readily admitted that to them.

    And he did, he was very open with that?

    Absolutely, told them about that, told them about the stuff concerning Kappa Kappa Gamma, and this other embarrassing information, personally embarrassing but totally irrelevant information.

    So he offered that up to them, this isn’t something that they stumbled upon?

    No, no. I think they had information enough to question him about it without consulting with me and saying, “I think I better talk to you outside. We need to go over this.” He went, “Yeah, that’s correct, I had a post office box there and I had received this kind of information.”

    They say he was using this post office box to pepper 68 letters to the media and to Congress about issues that he was concerned about?

    That’s not quite correct, because 68 letters were the letters that were unmailed, they found in his house. I think other letters were letters they contended he had sent going back 30 years.

    I see. So he was a prolific letter writer. They paint this very darkly, that he had real issues with the media, and with Congress, and that this was a dark side of him, that he was angry and he was using these to send, to fire off letters.

    It is frightening to me, as a citizen, and certainly as a defense attorney, for people to characterize citizens who have trouble or questions or disputes with members of Congress or public officials, as having a dark side. That’s the only thing I can comment to that. That does not prove a thing.

    So he would write letters, but they were not in any way angry or targeted toward specific people, or he didn’t fire off any letters to [Sen. Patrick] Leahy saying, you know, “Look out”?

    To my knowledge, there is no threatening letter sent, there is no troubling letter sent, there are letters that may have taken issue with positions that individual legislators have had over the years.

    But these post office boxes weren’t to hide that, weren’t to hide behind some other identity?

    No, no. Not at all.

    They brought up this idea that he had some sort of obsession with the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma, what is this about? Was this something that was in some way dark?

    Again, as he readily admitted, at a time ending, up from like 1978 to 1981, he had had this obsession with the rites and rituals of a particular sorority and had visited several sorority houses at different campuses, never Princeton — Princeton doesn’t have any sorority houses, as you probably know — and admitted to having this preoccupation with Kappa Kappa Gamma.

    He contended that it had come from the fact he had attempted to date a young lady, in his undergraduate time at the University of Cincinnati, and that she had rejected him ultimately, and so that was the springboard for his sort of preoccupation with Kappa Kappa Gamma. But nothing about that had occurred since 1981.

    It hadn’t come up at all? They posted something online that I guess he had written about his knowledge of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

    But he never visited any chapters of Kappa Kappa Gamma or anything like that. It had been a subject of therapy for him, as he explained to the FBI and to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, readily, fully. And had gone over that with them, and what he may or may not have written about that, I think is in line with what he readily disclosed to the law enforcement officers over the last seven years.

    One of the things that comes up in this is his mental state. They make a point of saying that he was troubled, that he wrote e-mails that suggested he may even have a split personality, that he wrote poems that were disturbing in some way. What can you say about his mental state and the actions that he was taking?

    Anything that I would say would inevitably be based on my impressions of him, as his lawyer, or therefore would be based on his communications with me and mine with him, so I can’t comment on that.

    I will say that based on the evidence that existed, and then what is known externally, apart from any such communications, it’s clear he had a history of it. It’s clear he was forthright with them about it. It’s clear they knew about it when they were questioning him, and that it is not something he ever lied about, tried to hide, mischaracterized, or withheld from them.

    Was it something that he was seeking help for?

    Absolutely. Absolutely, repeatedly, just this year.

    What was his relationship with psychiatrist Jean Duley? And is she the one who ended up getting him committed? And do you know if the FBI pressured Duley into getting him committed?

    I have no knowledge of the FBI pressuring Duley. I think Duley, according to press accounts, I only know this part from press accounts, that Duley was cooperating with the FBI and had provided them with statements. Ms. Duley — I believe that’s her name now, that did not used to be her name apparently — is training to become a social worker or some sort of a counselor. She is not certified. And she worked for a counseling firm that’s based in Frederick, to whom Dr. Ivins was referred to after his discharge from the Massey Center at the state hospital in Cumberland, for alcohol abuse in May of this year, and that’s how their relationship began.

    That was when she was saying he wasn’t one of her group therapy patients?

    Correct. And there was follow-up treatment for that which he attended regularly, in which he was encouraged to talk about problems he was having, feelings of anger, feelings of rage, this kind of stuff. And I had no idea about her identity, her problems with addiction, her own personal problems, and the fact that she was not credentialed. And that’s all come out since then.

    She got up on the stand and gave this whole thing about how she knows, from other people, that he threatened, that he was going to be charged with five capital murders, and that she knows that he had some psychiatrist by the name of Dr. Irwin. Does any of this ring any bells with you?

    Well, I know he was treated by a Dr. Irwin nine years ago, and I don’t know if he had discussed that with her in their sessions or not. I wasn’t there.

    And I guess we were wondering if maybe she had sat down with the FBI and they said, “This guy has done this, this, this and this, and we need you to get up there and ask for a restraining order.”

    I would only be speculating on that. I can’t give you any hard data on that, they’re not going to tell me about it. When I had learned of this, he had already died.

    Do you have any information about the idea that the FBI is coming down really hard on him. Has it been tough on the family? Was it tough on him to have the FBI putting him under constant surveillance?

    P: Yes. It was very difficult for him, but again there I’d be getting into relating to you things he had told me, and I’m not going to do that.

    But I know from the family they were very upset about their description of what occurred at the execution of the search warrant. And on November 1 of 2007, they were all taken from their homes and taken by the FBI to a hotel in the Frederick area.

    I do want to add that [authorities] had called me and said they were doing it after they had removed the Ivins family from the home. So it’s not as if they removed him incognito. And this was at the direction of Mr. Kohl and [U.S. Attorney Rachel] Lieber, that they contacted me so that I could go there, at 10 o’clock at night, on the first of November. And I did go there, and went there and met with them and calmed them down, and things of that sort. And the FBI was in the process of really a 24-hour search of the house and all the cars of the family.

    And they split the family up?

    They did. They put them in different rooms so that they couldn’t, I suppose, get some statement together. But then while I was there, they let him consult with his wife and talk with his wife.

    Did you find out anything about how the interview went with the kids?

    I did, from the children. And they complained of their treatment from the agents. And I understand from the statement from Mr. Taylor that the agents denied that there were any problems, whatsoever. And I can’t comment on the credibility of the agents vs. the children. I only know what I was told by the children.

    What did they tell you?

    The daughter indicated that the agents who came to see her and got her at her apartment in Hagerstown, Md., indicated that her father had killed five people and had tried to kill many more, and that they wanted to make sure that he could not kill anybody, anymore.

    And she had a terrible reaction to that. And this is the same daughter who was upset in 2001, at the time he was under stress, Dr. Ivins was under stress, and, as he contended, was going and visiting the office, staying in the office at that time, just so he could do some work there because he was dealing with the problems with the daughter who, at that point, was in high school.

    The son was told by the agents that there was a $2.5 million reward and that he could purchase a really nice car with that, and that’s what the son had contended to me.

    That’s what the son told you?


    And how were the two of them — were they upset by these interrogations?

    Yes, extremely.

    How did they feel? What did they tell you they felt?

    “How can they say that about our father? What do they think we are?” And, you know, “This is just wrong.” They were very upset and angry.

    The big motive in the case, according to the Justice Department, is that on the one hand, NBC had sent a FOIA to him that upset him greatly, in 2000, and that that’s why he fired off an anthrax letter to NBC. And then the other motive was that he was trying to raise alarm, somehow, about the threat of anthrax because one of the private companies manufacturing an anthrax vaccine with the military was losing its FDA approval for the vaccine. The theory is Ivins wanted to drum up some anthrax interest in the world and get the contracts back in action.

    All I can say is it sounds like mere speculation. They don’t have anything that ties that to anything that Dr. Ivins actually did when he is under the tutelage and eye of the base commander, the scientist at Fort Detrick, continuing to work on these projects. Nobody there thought he should be stopped from working on it, as was testified to yesterday, or not testified, but given testament to yesterday, by the base commander and his supervisors, and the lieutenant colonel, who runs the program at Fort Detrick, that he, that Dr. Ivins was in charge of research for.

    He was a model scientist who always had good humor, who was open and candid and did his work. All I know is that the FDA approved the extension of an already existing vaccine. And this speculation about the vaccine’s license being terminated, the first I’ve heard about this is since the death of Dr. Ivins, so I’ve never checked that out and I’ve never had the opportunity to discuss it with him.

    Do you think that Dr. Ivins had a motive to send anthrax through the mail and kill five people?

    There is no motive that has been suggested to me that makes any sense. The answer to that is no.

    Do you think he had a problem with NBC?

    No. I don’t think he had a problem with NBC.

    What were your impressions of Ivins, personally? What kind of man was he?

    My impressions of him were based on my communications with him so I can’t give you that.

    Have you heard from his colleagues at all at the memorial service? How was he described?

    Absolutely. He was described in just very praiseworthy tones, and terms as being a “model scientist,” “a great father,” “a wonderful co-worker,” and in particular, “a mentor of young scientists.” One of whom gave a very eloquent and emotional eulogy for him after the base commander and after both civilian supervisor and military supervisor, all of whom got up and spoke, all of whom broke down crying. These were all soldiers and scientists. And it’s held at the same time that the FBI is doing this release of these search warrant affidavits.

    Is it troubling to you at all that in his death he’s going to be painted as sort of this mad scientist killer?

    Yeah, very much so. I know one of the New York tabloids calls him “Dr. Doom,” like it’s a joke, like it’s funny. And the last thing it is is funny, for the families that suffered this, for the people who were injured by the anthrax, and certainly for the Ivins family. It’s the last thing it is.

    It seems like it must be difficult to try to defend him, at this point.

    Well, I believe in what I’m saying. That’s not difficult. But it’s difficult because I don’t have the ability to do what I can do for any other client, which is to test this case and to show the absence of any evidence that he did this, in a court of law, with all the rules of our Constitution and the rules our country holds dear. And now, I’ve lost that opportunity.

    The Justice Department says that they feel like, without a doubt, they have found the anthrax killer. How do you feel? What does that make you think?

    Based on what? Can they point to any evidence that shows he actually did anything that constitutes these anthrax attacks? Was present at the place where these letters were mailed? Ever admitted it to any single person, or to himself in a journal or diary entry? Or discussed it with another person?

    We don’t convict people on the idea that they may demonstrate eccentric behavior. Or that they had the opportunity to commit a crime, or had the knowledge to commit a crime, and that’s what the government is saying.

    They don’t know what he did. He’s never confronted by the FBI about what [he was] doing. The first question that the police ask in any case: “Where were you on Oct. 7 or 8?” He’s never been asked that question by any law enforcement agent in the world, at any time. Or on the date of the September mailing, which, I frankly forget right now, whatever date that is.

    So, at a time when he might remember it and get a restaurant receipt or a gas receipt or something that shows he was in Maryland or North Carolina, they say he was in New Jersey. Nobody saw him in New Jersey. They don’t have any restaurant receipts or gas receipts or surveillance tapes or witnesses.

    You know, where is a witness that can put him in New Jersey or put him on the way to New Jersey or put him on the way back from New Jersey, or having in his car a New Jersey Turnpike toll receipt?

    They can show that the envelopes came from Maryland or Virginia. They can show that the anthrax came from Fort Detrick or from Battelle Labs in Ohio, or from the University of New Mexico, and that hundreds of people had access to it. That’s what they can show. And that’s all they can show.

    So where was he on those dates that he could’ve been up in New Jersey?

    I didn’t learn of the dates until after he had died. So I never got a chance to ask him.

    But there’s no proof that he was up there at all, that you’ve seen?

    The government admitted yesterday, they have no proof that ever at any time places him in the state of New Jersey, or in the state of Pennsylvania or the state of Delaware on the way to New Jersey, or however you can drive up there, you can go a couple of different ways.

    So I can’t; it is nothing but speculation in the government’s case. And Mr. Taylor, for those portions of it that he got correct, yesterday, in terms of the details, didn’t offer any evidence.

    The most important thing the government did yesterday was show that there were three search warrants issued, and then what they offered as a result of those search warrants being issued, which are intended to get evidence, search warrants are not evidence. They are intended to obtain or procure evidence.

    They didn’t offer one single thing that came from those search warrants being executed. Not a single thing. Not one. They offered 68 letters that were not mailed, in Albert Camus’ book, The Plague, that’s what he chose to comment on, that’s supposed to be significant.

    That’s supposed to be proof that a citizen is guilty of mass murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Something that we didn’t hear at the press conference is that a possible motive could have been that he was a fanatic, a pro-life person, and that he was angry, and he was using his mailboxes to fire off pro-life letters and that he was angry with Daschle and Leahy for their stance. Have you seen anything like that?

    No, ma’am. They questioned him about that and he denied that that had ever been something that he was ardently involved with.

    If that were going to actually be a part of his case, would you have ever have expected to see it in these documents yesterday?

    I certainly would’ve expected to see it yesterday. And I certainly would’ve expected them to be able to develop it through people who know him, who would’ve engaged in similar activities. But they have had seven years to question and bring forth one human being to substantiate their theorizing.

    OK, final question: Is there any part of you at any time, during this, that thought Ivins could’ve mailed these letters?

    My job, in this case, is to serve as his defense attorney. And in that regard, it’s not appropriate for me to ever comment on how I feel about any client and I never would. And I’m certainly not going to do it for Dr. Ivins.

    Having said that, you know, the best way to answer that is this example. I went to this memorial service yesterday with 250 or 300 people that really know him a lot better than I do and have known him for a lot longer than I have in a normal setting, in a work place, a personal place. These are military people and scientists, people who don’t take the word of somebody. They require proof. They’re tough people, good people, and successful people. These are great scientists and medical people.

    And they, to a person, they just, were in support of him. It was a very moving experience. And that’s the best way I can respond to that question. If anyone had been at that memorial service and had seen it, they could not believe Bruce Ivins had engaged in this conduct.

    Sounds like you liked him.

    Well, that’s immaterial.

    Thank you so much.

  4. DXer said

    I did not post in this thread until after I had corresponded with Dr. Vahid Majidi. He confirmed in writing that his speculation about what Dr. Ivins was doing in the lab was based on his (mistaken) supposition that the experiment with the 52 rabbits was done “at some other facility.”

    The proof that Amerithrax was screwed up is established by two simple factually verifiable issues.

    First, Vahid Majidi did not understand that the two person rule was not implemented at USAMRIID until January 2002. Thus his analysis in closing the Amerithrax investigation was inexcusable crock. He relied on his experience at Los Alamos rather than bothering to inform himself about the timing of a 2-person rule at USAMRIID, which was first implemented in January 2002.

    Second, if as a reporter you were to ask him, you will find that Dr. Majidi cannot provide or cite any document indicating that the 52 rabbits experiment was done any place other than in Bruce Ivins’ B3 suite. There are thousands of pages uploaded and yet he cannot cite a single contemporaneous document in support.

    Those two things alone demolish the FBI’s Amerithrax theory. There was no reason to convene the NAS review or even GAO review. All that was needed was for AUSA Lieber or FBI Official Majidi to be pressed for the documents on the 52 rabbits. Reporters haven’t done that and it is time that they do.

    AUSA Lieber told me — in a written email — that I would never be getting any documents under FOIA on the subject.

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

    Failure is not an option.

  5. DXer said

    When you spend as much time as I do googling about Amerithrax and badgering and cajoling overworked FOIA officers, it is easy to look track of the numerous other important responsibilities someone like Dr. Majidi had while heading the new WMD Division. He had a very senior and responsible position and only knew what he was briefed — he could only read the documents made available to him. While his importance to the Amerithrax “Ivins Theory” cannot be doubted, it was only part of his vast responsibilities. The public should appreciate the public service of these officials even while disagreeing with them on the merits of their theory of the vexing anthrax whodunit. Even on the Division’s slow days the FBI’s WMD Division likely has thwarted mass events, as illustrated by the list of the Division’s highlights below. So even though I get overstrident in my tone (and am not able to edit), I have the utmost respect for all the investigators, prosecutors and officials. I don’t mean to suggest I could do better — just that I think an Ivins Theory is mistaken.

    FBI Doesn’t Consider Amerithrax among Its WMD “Highlights”
    Posted on July 29, 2011 by emptywheel

    The FBI’s WMD Center turned 5 on Tuesday and to celebrate, DOJ has released an interview with Dr. Vahid Majidi. (Part One, Part Two)

    The interview is not all that interesting. I’m much more interested in the list of WMD cases Majidi offers as the successes the Directorate has had in the last five years. They are:

    •Jirair Avanessian, Farhoud Masoumian, and Amirhossein Sairafi, conspired to ship certain prohibited technologies–notably, vacuum pumps and pump-related equipment–to Iran.

    •Jeffrey Don Detrixhe, for possessing 62 pounds of sodium cyanide he intended to sell to “Fat Bob,” a member of the Aryan brotherhood; Detrixhe was captured using an informant, though he did obtain the sodium cyanide on his own.

    •Bechtel Jacobs employee Ron Lynn Oakley, for trying to sell uranium enrichment fuel rods to a person he thought was a foreign agent.

    •Roger Von Bergendorff, for possessing ricin (and an Anarchist Cookbook to learn to make it).

    •The “Newburgh Four,” for plotting to attack synogogues in NY; the plot was hatched by a notorious FBI informant who offered $250,000 for their involvement in the plot.

    •Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, for obtaining materials to make explosives to use against American targets.

    •Michael Finton (aka Talid Islam), for attempting to bomb an Illinois Courthouse; the plot was a sting set up by an FBI informant, and the bomb was never live.

    •Hosam Smadi, for attempting to bomb a Dallas skyscraper; the plot was a sting set up by FBI undercover agents, and the bomb was never live.

    •Michael Crooker, for possessing ricin and threatening a Federal prosecutor (including by invoking Tim Mcveigh); an earlier prosecution on firearms possession was overturned.

    •Najibullah Zazi, for attempting to use TATP to attack the NYC subway.

    •The Hutaree, for attempting to use explosives to attack the government.

    Just about all these cases were plead. And, as the list makes clear, a number of the cases (with the exception of the Zazi and Aldawsari, those involving Islamic terrorists) were stings built by informants and/or undercover agents. The “real” plots were just as likely to be launched by right wing terrorists as by Islamic terrorists.

    Notice what’s not on this list, though. In addition to Mohammed Osman Mohamud (another plot created by an FBI sting) and Kevin William Harpham (the alleged MLK bomber) and a number of others, these WMD successes don’t include Amerithrax, by far the biggest investigation into WMD in the last five years.

    The interview makes just one reference to a potential anthrax attack:

    Q. What about all those white powder letters?

    Dr. Majidi: Most turn out to be hoaxes, and they require a lot of investigative resources, but we have to investigate each and every incident. You never know when one of them will be real.

    In a different inteview, Majidi points to the FBI’s investigation of hoax letters–but not the real ones–among the Directorates’ work.

    If you remember, after 9/11 there was a rash of hoax letters that contained white powder sent to various recipients including to U.S. legislators. People were worried about the spread of anthrax and other disastrous outcomes. Because of our work at the WMD Directorate, we realized a high rate of success in prosecuting those who sent the letters.

    These threats were insidious because they terrorized people, closed down businesses, and essentially stopped the business of governing the United States until the FBI could investigate. It involved a tremendous amount of local and federal resources, and at the same time took those resources away from other critical law enforcement and investigative needs. It cost taxpayers money, harmed businesses, essentially slowed down our society, and created measurable panic and insecurity.

    No mention–in this interview or the earlier one–of the letters that didn’t end up being a hoax.

    And it’s not that the WMD Directorate wasn’t involved in Amerithrax. Indeed, when Majidi, then the WMD Directorate’s Assistant Director, conducted the briefings to explain why FBI believed Ivins was the anthrax culprit, he attributed part of the “success” to the WMD Directorate.

    The creation of the Weapon of Mass Destruction Directorate is another example of FBI’s progressive approach focusing on prevention as well as investigations on all issues involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials.

    In terms of time, cost, and attack severity, the anthrax attack has been the most important thing the WMD Directorate has worked on since its inception. So why is Majidi so reluctant to talk about it?

    – See more at:

    Comment on EmptyWheel’s blog post above: To his great credit, Dr. Majidi is not reluctant to talk about it. I only hope he cites contrary evidence on the subject of the rabbits issue. Given that there is nothing in the FBI’s record on the subject, I don’t believe he will. It simply is not Vahid’s fault that he was never given the documents about the rabbit experiment.

    • DXer said

      Let’s take a further peek of the science relied upon in Amerithrax during Dr. Majidi’s tenure at the FBI.

      Here is its science on the Scent Transfer Unit and use of Tinkerbelle and Lucy in the investigation. The dogs and unit were used to support the FBI’s Hatfill Theory, which Dr. Majidi argues was reasonable — although in hindsight, he says, a Hatfill Theory was clearly mistaken.

      In 2006, what view did Dr. Majidi express about the science relating to the bloodhounds?;jsessionid=F8EC53D21E31C3E7DEA4218B4BC92D66.f03t02?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false
      Performance Evaluation of the Scent Transfer Unit™ (STU-100) for Organic Compound Collection and Release
      Article first published online: 11 JUL 2006

      I had argued at the time that use of the Scent Transfer Unit and bloodhounds in connection with the anthrax letters was not sound. What does Dr. Majidi think? He was the DOJ Science Guy in 2003. In defending the Hatfill Theory as having been reasonable — he says Hatfill was a “prime suspect” — he conspicuously omits discussion of the science relating to use of the bloodhounds.

      The Investigation Goes to the Dogs

      For those who believe in Tinkerbelle (one of the dogs used) , while most jurisdictions allow bloodhound evidence, courts generally retain reservations about the possibility of inaccuracy of the evidence. It is evident the dog cannot be cross-examined and there is always the possibility that the dog may make a mistake. Accordingly, there are strict foundational requirements. The notion that such evidence is of slight probative value or must be viewed with caution stems at least in part from fear that a jury will be in awe of the animal’s apparent powers and will give the evidence too much weight (as the ABC and Newsweek reports amply illustrated). Putting aside for a moment use of the scent transfer device, five specific requirements are commonly required to establish an adequate foundation for dog-tracking evidence: (1) the handler was qualified to use the dog; (2) the dog was adequately trained; (3) the dog has been found reliable; (4) the dog was placed on the track where the guilty party had been; and (5) the trail was not stale or contaminated.

      For example, a bloodhound provided with the deceased tennis shoes might very reliably lead authorities to the deceased’s body in the woods. What would have been used for the scent pack here is the human scent, if any, on the letter on which the perpetrator rested his hand in writing the letter. Tennis shoes are far more likely to carry a scent than a piece of paper on which the perp rested his hand (while possibly using gloves) to write a 28-word letter. Just ask my wife. The dogs would not have been clued to the biological agent as biological agents such as anthrax tend not to have a distinctive scent.

      Here, there would be no such log because the use of the dog would not have been the subject of testing and training showing the dog performed reliably under similar circumstances. At a minimum, the “trail” would have been contaminated by the irradiation and anthrax, and would have grown stale by the passage of time. FDA concluded that irradiation can produce small changes in the taste, smell, and sometimes texture of foods and that consumers should be informed of this. Jurors should too. Remember that scene from “Miracle on 34th Street” where the official finding of the agency of the United States’ government was deemed binding on the prosecution? Imagine Attorney Connolly calling FDA scientists who found irradiation caused changes in smell, no doubt amplified by the much keener sense of a bloodhound.

      The United States Post Office explains in a FAQ that “the materials in the mail are heated and may become chemically altered. Paper dries out and may become dusty, discolored, and brittle.” Some postal workers and federal agency staff have reported symptoms such as eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, headache, nausea and occasional nosebleeds. What does the USPS do under these circumstances? Their solution includes “[u]sing hypoallergenic deodorizers to eliminate any smells.” “Testing each batch of aired-out mail to ensure no detectable amoungs of gas exist before delivery.” Alas, Tinkerbelle’s lengthy log shows that perfume does not confuse her, but likely is silent on this question of irradiated paper. The prosecution witness who might testify that a bloodhound’s sense of smell is 200 times as powerful as a human’s sense of smell would merely be helping the defense argument. No amount of log keeping or experiments after the fact would serve to permit admissibility under the court precedent. The bloodhound evidence was always a bogus and hugely prejudical diversion since the first sensational Newsweek story.

      In any event, the perp would have worn gloves and only briefly handled the letter. More broadly, there is an article that collects cases from 40 or so states and nothing approaching the delays has ever been found admissible. In a city landscape, the time period is much more restrictive. The Leahy letter, written by the perp sometime prior to the October 9, 2001 postmark, was not discovered until mid-November, and as of November 19, 2001 a protocol was still being developed for its opening. Thus, the 40 day period that had been passed by the (likely glove-wearing) perp already would have resulted in a stale trail.

      Lucy is adorable. She’s widely known to be a people person.

      There is a separate additional issue of use of the “scent transfer unit” here. A “scent transfer unit” such as used here looks like a Dustbuster, modified with a small frame at the end to secure a piece of gauze over its intake opening. The user attaches a piece of sterile gauze to the unit, activated the unit, and holds it against the item from which the scent is to be taken (such as where the person sat the night before). Depending on the jurisdiction, the scent transfer unit, which is a new technology, may be subject to the rule regarding new scientific methodology. Under that rule, the proponent of such evidence must establish the new scientific principle or technique is sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs under the circumstances of the case. Here, there is no such general acceptance as explained by Scott Shane in an excellent article in the Baltimore Sun relying on experts in the Maryland area. The purpose of the requirement is to avoid factfinders from being misled by the `aura of infallibility’ that may surround unproved scientific methods. This would constitute a possible third independent grounds for excluding the evidence. Absent a training log showing the dog performed reliably under similar circumstances, given the time period that had passed, and in light of the use of the scent transfer unit, there is nothing the FBI or trainers would be able to do to save the admissibility of the bloodhound evidence because it will be found by a court to be unreliable.

      Both of the major police bloodhound associations howl against the reliability of the Scent Transfer Unit used by the three blood handlers. Dennis Slavin is an urban planner and reserve officer with the South Pasadena Police Department. One of the other dog handlers is a civilian who runs his own bloodhound business. Shane, in his very impressive Baltimore Sun article, explained that an FBI agent, Rex Stockham, examining the technology for the FBI lab says: “It’s going to be criticized. I’m critical of it myself.” The President of the Bloodhound Association, who is critical of the technology used by these handlers, had testified 21 times, and likely will have testified 22 if the FBI attempts to rely on the evidence in a prosecution. Shane notes that a federal jury awarded $1.7 million last year to a man wrongly accused of rape after police identified him in part based on the use of Slavin’s bloodhound, TinkerBelle. Shane’s article, essential reading, gives the further example of their use in the sniper investigation, where “given the scent taken from spent shell casings, followed two false trails in Montgomery County. One led to a house, for which a search warrant was obtained and which turned out not be relevant. The other led to a dog-grooming parlor, the officer said.” Phew. I wonder if Stan Bedlington knew any of this when he said on national tv that the evidence against his friend was “mounting” based on the Lucy’s and Hatfill responding to each other. He is a ladies’ man, after all. Oh, but that’s right. He lived near a neighborhood named Greendale. The trainers reportedly tested their dogs on irradiated paper — presumably before actually doing the search but after being asked to do so. That would not pass muster that past training be substantiated by a training log.

      The New York Times also had an excellent article in December 2002 surveying the field that noted the case where dogs falsely indicated the presence of explosives in the cars of three medical students bound for Miami. The country watched the drama unfold on television as the men were held and authorities closed a major highway across Florida. No trace of explosives was found. When dog handlers are excited, dogs can overreact and give a false positive. “Dogs want rewards and so they will false alerts to get them. Dogs lie. We know they do,” an expert told the Times. “One of ‘TinkerBelle’s most incredible talents,”her homepage touts, is her ability to find the person responsible for loading a gun using scent from an expended bullet casing.” Indeed, she finds the “smoking gun.” Most of all, the page notes, she too is a people person.

      With the investigation going to the dogs, nearly 100 law enforcement officers gathered to watch some of their colleagues jump in a lake near where Dr. Hatfill lived, and in late January 2003, the FBI continued searching the forest in Frederick. Locals were amused that some of the ponds had been dry earlier that year. While they may seem to enjoy their dinners at Georgetown, FBI agents and surveillance specialists do not have an easy job. The public demands that they exhaustively pursue all leads, but then there is an uproar if they cross some unpredictable line and step on — or run over someone’s toe.

    • DXer said

      Dr. Vahid Majid reports that he was the DOJ Science Guy in 2003. He says his jobs at DOJ and FBI were entirely due to the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings case. He argues that a Hatfill Theory was reasonable and that Dr. Hatfill was a “prime suspect.”

      Now Bill Nye the Science Guy is one of my all-time personal heros — and so I am always interested in hearing scientific explanations. Vahid, what did you advise the DOJ on the “glove box” found in the pond? If you think a Hatfill Theory was reasonable, does that mean you were you a supporter of the glove box theory?

      In your book, you make it clear you know your way around a glove box. But the glove box theory was not sound, was it? The news stories suggest the image of someone sticking their gloved hands into the box while underwater. Well, how does water not rush through the holes? Did investigators and DOJ/FBI scientists imagine that Hatfill stuck his hands into the box outside the water, walk awkwardly into the water, then submerge the box? Water would seep through. An unanswered question in this fanciful scenario imagined by some in the press and their unnamed sources: where are the “port” or “securing ring” -like devices? If this box was used as alleged, why would these devices be taken away by the perp instead of left there too?

      Marilyn Thompson, author of The Killer Strain, reported in the Washington Post on May 11, 2003 that in its search of the ponds, the FBI found what appears to some to be be an improvised ”glove box” and also wrapped vials. She describes it as a “clear box” — other reports describe it as a plastic tub.

      Are there pictures of Dr. Majidi at the draining of the Maryland ponds?

      As many schoolboy knows (or at least any schoolboy with google available to him could readily learn), a rope is used to retrieve a minnow trap from the bottom of a pond. The USA Today has reported that a rope was found attached to the plastic container.

      Newsweek, on the plastic tub story, reported: “While some law-enforcement officials are taking the novel theory seriously, others have dismissed it as fantasy. ‘It got a lot of giggles,’ says one FBI source.”

      The photo in Newsweek of the diver in the wetsuit from last December or January might best be captioned, as Brer Fox once asked Brer Rabbit, “Did you catch minnows or a cold?”

      Hatfill’s spokesman, Pat Clawson, relying on details from their own “sources,” reportedly said it was “like a K-Mart sweater box; like a piece of Tupperware that just happened to have a hole in it.” Then he added, “From what I understand it doesn’t have anything to do with bioweapons.” School children are even taught online to study the flow of water systems using plastic sweater boxes with a hole cut in it and take it to the pond or stream.


      1. to incubate snake or turtle eggs,

      2. breeding crickets,

      3. snake feeding room,

      4. live bait dispenser ,

      5. common school project to study the flow of water systems,

      6. minnow or turtle trap,

      7. turtle transporter,

      8. breeding waxworms,

      9. RYO wet/dry filter,

      10. to ruin someone’s life while pumping up the value of his litigation claims.

      If a minnow trap, was it Old Pal? Crazy Pal? Singer? Getz em? Or Ketchmor? Or unknown? For the specifications and details of each, see

      Yes, some minnow traps, like the two turtle traps above, are rectangular boxes such as illustrated by Pat No. 5,131,184 (1992) that look even more closely like a glove box (which is pictured further below). As the Baltimore Sun reported, explains, what was found was NOT a commercial glove box.

      If the glove box doesn’t fit, you must acquit!

      My favorite suggestion that I’ve heard though is that it relates to the infestation of Maryland ponds of the Crofton snakehead, a species ruinous to ecosystems that someone released from an aquarium. Numerous traps were set to rid Maryland ponds of the creature.

      The way a minnow or turtle trap works is that the small fish or turtle can swim in but can’t swim out — sort of like being named a Person of Interest or “prime suspect” driven to suicide.

      What if Dr. Hatfill had committed suicide? Would you have closed the case or would you have focused on the gaps in proof.

      In a Washington Post article on May 30, 2003, we are treated to characterization of the false positive due to shoddy lab work as merely a conflicting lab report. We learn of the tantalizing (albeit casually dropped) new discovery of gloves wrapped in plastic. Can you imagine the leaker gleefully seizing the issue of the gloves allegedly found, challenging detractors to a duel, and saying “Take that!”

      We are also told that investigators were “surprised” not to find traces of anthrax at the places they searched. Surprised? Wouldn’t it only be surprising if you had assumed your conclusion of a person’s guilt as investigators later did under an Ivins Theory? “Some agents fear that draining the pond, estimated to cost $250,000, could prove useless and embarrassing.”

      Dr. Majidi says that the reason that the FBI did not swab suspect labs for subtilis was due to a lack of money. $100 million only goes so far in conducting an investigation.

      Where’s Bill Nye the Science Guy when you need him?

  6. DXer said

    1. In his book about letters containing anthrax, where does the former head WMD fellow for the FBI disclose that an FBI handwriting expert concluded that Bruce E. Ivins probably did not write the letters or envelopes?

    2. Dr. Majidi of course has left the FBI and now works for a defense contractor. He is not in a position to have documents produced under FOIA. But he shouldn’t claim all the scientific reports were produced when pretty much NONE of the traditional forensic reports (photocopy, toner, paper, ink) were produced. I have the paper record and letters from David Hardy that disproves any suggestion that FBI responds to FOIA requests within a few months. Mr. Hardy takes months and years on the subject of Amerithrax. More to the point, AUSA Rachel Lieber specifically, in an email, advised me that I would not get another page from the FBI under FOIA!

    3. Lyophilizer

    Dr. Vahid Majidi and his colleagues claimed at the August 2008 conference that Dr. Ivins used a lyophilizer to process the anthrax. The lyophilizer was not even in the B3 where Dr. Ivins provably was at those times. Where does Dr. Majidi address the issue of lyophilizer in his new manuscript on the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings? Wasn’t his manuscript a key opportunity to correct the mistake — and acknowledge that Dr. Ivins did not use the lyophilizer as United States Attorney Taylor claimed? (If I missed it, I look forward to having it pointed out to me where he discusses US Attorney Taylor’s claim that the lyophilizer was used.) He professes a willingness to correct mistakes but then doesn’t do so.

    4. FBI’s selective production to the NAS.

    The FBI culled the production of Al Qaeda-anthrax documents provided to the NAS and public (Dr. Majidi explains) — providing only what they wanted. Documents from abroad, in any event, were under the control of other agencies and so weren’t the FBI’s to give. For example, Yazid Sufaat explained to KSM that he and his assistants were vaccinated to work with the virulent anthrax they were using. Yet Dr. Majidi withheld the documents relating to that information from NAS. What was Dr. Majidi’s juistification for not informing the NAS and the public that Yazid Sufaat was vaccinated to protection against his work with virulent anthrax? The fact that Sufaat was working with virulent anthrax should remain classified? Nonsense. The American people had a right to know. He cites the 911 Report (which cites a December 2001 interrogation report) on Sufaat’s training — but Sufaat has explained that he was lying in December and not admitting he had worked as part of Malaysian’s biological weapons program. It took a “friend” to tell his interrogators about his past.

    5. He nowhere even mentions Rauf Ahmad so far as I can see!

    6. The FBI never disclosed to the NAS or public the email withheld for years that shows Dr. Ivins knew that 5 ml of virulent Ames was missing. Dr. Ivins was writing to Pat Fellows about this 5 ml. She was the one who is curiously silent on the rabbit documents — which Dr. Ivins was working on in late September and early October 2001. Her deposition testimony on the subject was shredded!

    7. In Dr. Majidi’s new manuscript attempting to defend the FBI’s investigation of the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings, he does not explain why the FBI withheld from the NAS news that DARPA researcher Dr. Ezzell had made dried powder out of Ivins’ Ames that was genetically matching. Dr. Ezzell’s assistant doing the work then went to Johns Hopkins where the former Zawahiri associate supplied virulent Ames by Bruce Ivins had his decontaminant tested (in addition to the testing done at LSU, Dugway and USAMRIID).

    8. Dr. Majidi explains that Dr. Hatfill was a prime suspect and that the theory was reasonable — although in the end he agrees it was clearly mistaken and that Dr. Hatfill was innocent.

    9. Dr. Majidi says that not all labs were swabbed for subtilis. IMO, all suspect labs should have been swabbed for subtilis no later than 2003.

    10. Dr. Majidi dismisses the opinion of the top Homeland Security Department on the leg lesion.

    see also
    Tara O’Toole, the undersecretary for biosecurity at Homeland Security Department, says that the FBI did not establish that the anthrax came from USAMRIID but that it was merely the FBI’s “working hypothesis” and a “supposition”
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 13, 2011’toole-the-undersecretary-for-biosecurity-at-homeland-security-department-says-that-the-fbi-did-not-establish-that-the-anthrax-came-from-usamriid-but-that-it-was-merely-the-fbis/

    11. Dr. Majidi argues that a USAMRIID employee necessarily stole the Ames because no one else was there — that is, a man on the street could not just walk in to the lab.

    That’s specious nonsense and contradicted even by the documents produced by the FBI. For example, Bruce Ames was required to give virulent Ames to a non-citizen taught by Heba Zawahiri whose friends were visited by Ayman Zawahiri to the medical school on Fridays to recruit the medical school students to jihad. Indeed, as Henry Heine and others have explained, the genetically matching Ames was all over Building 1412 — and not just in Building 1425 as Dr. Majidi wants you to think. So the number who needed to be excuded — just at USAMRIID — was always 200-300, not 100 as was claimed at the press conference.

    12. VM, although no doubt a very thoughtful scientist acting in good faith, may content himself with the thought: “Well, I don’t expect to persuade anyone who has already formed their views.” Instead, he should be reading the new documentary material pointed out to them and point out documentary material to the contrary. That’s the nature of an objective approach that is so important in approaching a matter such as this. To argue that the rabbit experiment didn’t happen is just incredibly uninformed and the mistake on that issue, without more, explains why Amerithrax was botched. When I raised this issue with AUSA Lieber she said I would never get anything more from under FOIA. The FBI withheld all the rabbit documents — I needed to get them from USAMRIID (from among those not removed and not returned by the FBI).

    An approach on a matter such as this — where conclusory assertions substitute for a review of the contemporary documentary evidence — was really wrongheaded.

  7. DXer said

    Sometimes the only way to get people on the same page is to have them read the same pages. That’s why I have been urging that the FBI produce the traditional forensic reports (such as on the photocopier toner, ink, paper and tape).

    But the issue of very central importance relates to the failure to be on the same page relating to what I claim was Dr. Ivins work with 52 rabbits. I urge Dr. Majidi to take the minutes it will take to read the linked documents relating to the rabbit study. It related to formaldehyde. It involved an Ames challenge to 52 rabbits. It was done in Building 1425. B3. Where the FBI claimed Ivins powderized the anthrax.

    The claim that he did not have such an experiment is not true. The claim that if he had such an experiment, it was done somewhere else, is not true. The claim that if he had such experiment, any claim of night checks (and the other procedures) would be contrary to protocols, is not true. Indeed, they are REQUIRED by the protocols. I have uploaded the protocols, emails etc. Norm Covert, on the animal protocol committee, can explain the evolving nature of the protocols. He can explain that the protocols were mandatory and that Dr. Ivins followed them.

    I realize the central importance of showing that the challenge was done in Building 1425 rather than Building 1412.

    I realize the importance of showing that Dr. Ivins personally worked on the experiment, doing the specified procedures.

    I have obtained and uploaded all the documents.

    In the rush of events in Summer of 2008, these hardworking FBI agents and officials did not have time to obtain these documents.

    They counted on the target or his counsel to provide the records. But it was Pat Fellows’ experiment. Ivins sought the documents years later but the FBI had taken the notebooks, animal care cards had been thrown out etc.

    But the documents eventually produced by USAMRIID. Because of the persistent work by a FOIA officer Sanda and the blogger Lew who uploaded them — we now don’t have to make assumptions.

    We can now study the documentary evidence.

    Not only do I presume the good faith of all the FBI officials and investigators and DOJ prosecutors involved, but I know them to recognize a patriotic duty to assess the documentary evidence to see if they are persuaded that in fact Dr. Bruce E. Ivins was keeping company with those 52 rabbits on the night that the FBI claimed he was powderizing anthrax.

    Of course, with the laptop installed in early summer, he could have been just surfing porn before the 2-person rule was implemented in January 2002, precluding night work in the B3 without a buddy.

    But I think these documents speak for themselves.

    Of course, if the DOJ had not shredded Pat Fellows’ deposition, we also would have the benefit of her sworn testimony.

    1. In a Sept 23, 2011 letter to Senator Grassley, the DOJ says that Dr. Ivins made the dried powder in B5 using the lyophilizer even though the DOJ has proved he was in B3 tending to the rabbits, not B5 (the BL-2 lab), at the time the DOJ alleges he made the dried powder. THAT is the contradiction.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 16, 2011

    2. AMERITHRAX prosecutors and investigators have never discussed what the newly released documents show about Dr. Ivins work with rabbits involved and those same documents were available to the FBI before Dr. Ivins’ killed himself.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 14, 2011

    3. Document produced today to DXer discussing shipment of 52 rabbits week of September 24, 2001 for formaldehyde study
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on August 31, 2011

    4. The lyophilizer in Building 1425 was in Suite B5, not Suite B3 where Dr. Ivins was on the nights in question (where he was doing the study with the 52 rabbits)
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 11, 2011

    5. In an Oct 5, ’01 email among the materials provided by USAMRIID this week, Dr. Ivins explains the results 3 days after the challenge of rabbits in the formaldehyde experiment; the word “rabbits” has never passed the prosecutor’s lips
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 24, 2011

    6. In Advance Of The October 1, 2001 Rabbit Challenge, The 52 Rabbits Nowhere Mentioned By Prosecutors Needed To Be Moved Into The B3 Suite 7 Days Earlier (And Documents Establish That They Were)
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 13, 2012

    7. As Dr. Ivins often explained, conducting a rabbit study such as the one involving 52 rabbits in early October 2001 always depended on the availability of hot suite space.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 1, 2011

    8. Handwritten notes produced by USAMRIID this week summarizing rabbit contract with Covance involving formaldehyde
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 24, 2011

    9. In response to Dr. Ivins’ October 5, 2001 email discussing the rabbit deaths over the last three days, the participants in the study that day discussed by email the implications for further study
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 4, 2012

    10. NOT FOR PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION: 10 days after the rabbits had been challenged on October 1, 2001, Dr. Ivins presented preliminary results from the Battelle study involving the 5 year old preps of rPA vaccine w/ and w/o formaldehyde.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 24, 2011

    11. Under The Protocol Involving Rabbits and Formaldehyde Implemented in Late September 2001 and Early October 2001, Dr. Ivins Was Tasked With Monitoring The Animals After Challenge
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 1, 2012

    12. Hickory Dickory Doc: The mice ran up the clock and Dr. Ivins time in the BL-3 lab in late September 2001 but not as much as the rabbits did in early October 2001.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 4, 2012

    13. Under The Mouse Protocol (As Under The Rabbit Protocol), Dr. Ivins Was Tasked With Taking Part In Immunization, Bleeding, Challenge And Observation Of The Animals
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 1, 2012

    14. Under The Protocol Involving Rabbits and Formaldehyde Relating To The Early October 2001 Challenge, The Rabbits Were To Be Euthanized By Injection Of Euthasol By Animal Tech Lab Anthony Bassett, Who Can Describe The Experiment
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 1, 2012

    15. Did AUSA Lieber and Agent Montooth understand Dr. Ivins’ trips to the “AR” from the hot suites as trips to a locked cabinet in “Animal Resources” to get the Ketamine and Euthasol needed to anesthesize and euthanize moribund mice and rabbits? See DEA (part of DOJ) Controlled Substance log.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 11, 2011

    16. 12 rabbits then died on day 3 and 4 and more on day 5; Ivins time then spent the extra time on those nights; AUSA Rachel Lieber got her facts seriously wrong in the investigative summary; DOJ should have required citations to the record.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 3, 2012

    17. Standard Operating Procedures for Animal Assessment and Monitoring: the beautiful Amerithrax AUSA did not appreciate that Dr. Ivins was tasked to do this the first week of October with 52 rabbits.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 4, 2012

    18. In Week 9, the week (September 24th, 2001) the rabbits were shipped from Covance to USAMRIID Building 1425, Suite B3, how long did it take to bleed the 52 rabbits involved in the formaldehyde study?
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 4, 2012

    19, GAO: With respect to the rabbit formaldehyde study in late Sep and early Oct 2001 involving Bruce Ivins and Patricia Fellows — nowhere mentioned by AUSA Lieber in her investigative summary — did Dr. Fellows address the study in the deposition that the Department of Justice required to be shredded?
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 4, 2012

    20. GAO should obtain the very best contemporaneous documentation relating to Dr. Ivins specific activities with the guinea pigs, mice and rabbits on the nights that DOJ claimed, without evidence, that he was making a dried powder to mail.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 6, 2012

    21. After Challenge On About Oct 1, 2001, One Of The Investigators On Rabbit/Formaldehyde Study Were Required To Observe The Control Rabbits For The First 7 Days After Challenge ; The AUSA and Investigators Never Mention The Rabbits
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 2, 2012

    22. FBI interview statement: If someone came in off hours it was to work on the animal experiments – this could take approximately two hours and was usually a one-person job.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 1, 2012

    23. June 14, 2001 LACUS Subcommittee Meeting notice to consider Dr. Ivins’ proposal regarding formadehyde and rabbits.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 2, 2012

    24. Before Issuing Its Report, GAO Should Seek To Obtain “Animal Room Environment Report” for B310 and B305 in Suite B3, Building 1425 for September – October (for the guinea pigs, mice and rabbits attended to by Dr. Ivins in the B3 under the various protocols implemented those months); Used for each animal room, the forms provide space to record animal observations, cage sanitation schedules, and more.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 2, 2012

    25. Justice Department Is Said To Be Arguing Against Itself But AUSA Rachel Lieber Has Not Even Yet Addressed The Issue Of The Rabbits Or Produced The Pertinent Contemporaneous Documents Relating To Dr. Ivins’ Work With The Rabbits.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 29, 2012

    26. Each of the 52 rabbits shipped the week of September 24, 2001 to USAMRIID Building 1425 to join Dr. Ivins in the Biolevel 3 lab had a unique identifying microchip.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 26, 2011

    28. Like the rabbits shipped to USAMRIID Building 1425 the week of September 24th and acclimated to biolevel 3 for one week before being challenged, the mice similarly were housed in building 1425, not building 1412
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 26, 2011

    29. The Animal Technician Shot Out The Cage Cards For The Rabbit Experiment Prior to 2004; the NCOIC, Small Animal Section Was Responsible For Retaining The Used Cards
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 13, 2012

    30. By January 2003, the animal caretaker had thrown away the individual cage cards on the formaldehyde experiment with the 52 rabbits that Dr. Ivins was doing those nights in the lab in B3 in early October 2001
    Posted on November 1, 2011

    see also

    31. Of The 52 Rabbits In The Early October 2001 Formaldehyde Experiment, How Many Were Exsanguinated Pursuant To This Procedure? All Of Them?
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 13, 2012

    32. In an earlier experiment under the rabbit Protocol B00-03, the assistance of Dr. Ivins and two others was offered in connection with the bleeds over the two day period.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 4, 2012

    33. Numerous USAMRIID Standard Operating Procedures (all mandatory) controlled the animal husbandry baseline services rendered the rabbits, guinea pigs and mice involved in Dr. Ivins’ experiments in Sep-Oct 2001
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 3, 2012

    34. Even in Later Protocols Involving Aerosol Challenges Conducted In Building 1412, the Rabbits Would Be Kept In Building 1425, Suite B3 Before And After Aerosol Challenge In 1412 (Where Monitoring Would Continue 21 Days)
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 30, 2011

    35. Dr. Ivins explained that “what’s acceptable as a [rabbit animal protocol is constantly changing]” ; thus it is important that the GAO rely on the rabbit formaldehyde protocol as executed and not earlier draft versions.
    Posted on December 9, 2011

    36. After rabbits are challenged on the hot side, as many as three autoclaves are needed just processing cages and other items from the hotside, and it takes time to disinfect, decon and re-set up a room
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 8, 2011

    37. produced today by USAMRIID to the blog under FOIA: June 21, 2001 “PROTOCOL TITLE: Effect of formaldehyde on the potency stability of a candidate human anthrax vaccine in rabbits”
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 17, 2011

    38. In a rabbit protocol provided by USAMRIID today, there is familiar discussion of drugs to be administered to the rabbits – for the Sept/Oct 2001 period, is there a contemporaneous log relating to the administration of drugs such as there is in a hospital?
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 15, 2011

    39. The scientist who made the large amount of virulent Ames that is missing, who was thanked by the former Zawahiri associate for providing technical assistance re the Ames, is the person who could explain about the rabbits ; but she’s not talking.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 9, 2011

    40. Bruce Ivins’ co-authors can explain the rabbit and other animal protocols that applied to the subcutaneous challenges in B3 in Building 1425 conducted in September and October 2001.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 9, 2011

    41. Dr. Ivins preferred a parenteral (subcutaneous) challenge because you could fit 60 rabbits in one room whereas an aerosol challenge would require 4 rooms (1 for animals, 2 hood lines, and 1 spore and bacterial plating)
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 31, 2011

    42. It would take 1 hour and 50 minutes to autoclave animal pans and cages (90 minute steam cycle and 20 minute drying cycle)
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 31, 2011

    • richard rowley said

      Wow, that’s an awful lot of good stuff, and I read this site fairly regularly. Alas, I fear that for the general public this stuff is too much the criminological equivalent of ‘inside baseball’ and that the more general
      ‘summaries’ of the Case, more accessible via general-reader books, will prevail (or have already prevailed) in the public mind.

      Most pernicious of all, in my view, is that the title “Spore on the Grassy Knoll” (an expression which Majidi used as early as 2008) will itself succeed in marginalizing those who see how weak the case is against Ivins.

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