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

* Dr. Jahrling, in the newly produced civil deposition, reports that “it was almost like smoke”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 30, 2014

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11 Responses to “* Dr. Jahrling, in the newly produced civil deposition, reports that “it was almost like smoke””

  1. DXer said

    Ms. Friend describes the opening of the letters in mid-October.

    Q. I understand. So — and what were you called upon to do in connection with that?

    A. From the Diagnostic Systems Division perspective, basically we had to ID that, yes, there was actually anthrax in those letters. The first one we received —

    Q. Let me stop for you for a second. I don’t mean to interrupt, but before we get into that, who was kind of directing your activities at that time?

    A. Colonel Eric Henchal was the division chief of Diagnostic Systems Division, and he delegated his authority down to EPI, so Dr. Ezzell would have received whatever needed to be done from Colonel Henchal.

    Q. So Colonel Henchal, then Dr. Ezzell, and Dr. Ezzell was directing your activities?

    A. Correct.

    Q. Go ahead.

    A. So when the letter arrived that day, of course the big question that everybody wanted to know was, what was in it. The first letter that we actually did receive was the Daschle letter, the Tom Daschle letter that was received at the Senate Hart Office Building.

    Q. Did you actually receive the envelope and he letter itself?

    A. Yes.

    Q. Go ahead.

    A. I was not the original person who opened the letter. I was present in the laboratory when the original letter was opened.

    Q. What laboratory was it opened in?

    A. AR 105.

    Q. Where is AR 105?

    A. In the middle of part of USAMRIID, AR, there
    is no designation, unfortunately, for AR, it’s just AR 105. That was the primary laboratory that the special pathogen sample test lab used.

    Q. Was that building 1425?

    A. Yes, sir.

    Q. Okay.

    A. So the SPSTL, which is the Special Pathogens Sample Test Lab at that time, they frequently received samples to be tested from the FBI, Secret Service, Department of Justice, to determine if there were any biothreats out there. So they were — that lab was stood up for that purpose. That was their main mission. And Dr. Ezzell was over top of that. And prior to the letters arrived, there were only three other technicians work as a part of team. (pp. 28-29)

    • DXer said

      In her civil deposition now produced by the ever-efficient DOJ Civil FOIA operation, Ms. Friend testified:

      Q. Who are they?
      A. Ms. Cindy Allen, Ms. Stephanie Readus —

      Q. R-E-A-D-U-S? A. — yes, sir — and Ms. Terri Abshire. And
      one soldier worked with them as well, and he would have been Sergeant Lee Spinogle.

      Q. Spinogle?

      A. Um-hmm.

      Q. And these were lab techs that were already

      A. Right. And their mission, they primarily worked in the SPSTL. They didn’t do any other type of lab research. Their primary focus was to receive samples and test them for any kind of biowarfare agents that may have affected wherever. So they had received many samples from all over the country and all over the world, at times.

      Q. I’m sure, though, that they had access to the rest of USAMRIID to call in other people in case they needed some expertise, like you said earlier.

      A. Yes, absolutely.

      Q. So you really had combined efforts in some of these things, right?

      A. Yes. Yes. (p. 30)

  2. DXer said

    In the civil deposition of Jeffrey Adamovicz produced today by DOJ Civil, Dr. A. describes the mailed anthrax:

    “It was very different than anything that we had worked with in the laboratory, and it was such that it was in suspension inside the baggie.

    I on other words, it wasn’t just lying all at the bottom like a bunch of sand. It was floating around freely in the bag, and when you moved your hand sowards it, the material would move towards your hand; it would undulate in the bag by itself. It was obviously going to be problematic getting it out and being able to quantify the material, which was what our — Bruce’s initial assignment was. We needed to know how much, what’s the concentration of this material.” (pp. 67-68)

  3. DXer said

    In the civil deposition produced by DOJ Civil last month, Dr. Jahrling at pp. 58-61 addressed a 1992 incident.

    A Um, yeah, I, I did and I’m trying to 5 recall. Um, yeah, it sort of came up when accusations were being made by former employees who were disgruntled that USAMRIID was running a loose ship and couldn’t keep track of its stuff, and these anthrax blocks were missing, was my recollection. And, um, okay. And my — okay, the story gets actually very convoluted. Turns out they, well, these were electron microscopic blocks with Epon so, you know, there’s no live agent associated with it. At one point I made a point to some Army generals about how little concern this was by sticking a couple blocks in my nose and saying here is how dangerous these things are. Okay? I mean they’re, it was whatever was in the material was like a little pinpoint of stuff at the bottom of a plastic cone that was fixed in glutaraldehyde and heated in Epon and was dead. Okay? The nature of that material, I mean so at that point there’s no need, absolutely no need whatsoever to account for Epon blocks. Okay? They — doesn’t matter. But the issue of whether they were 25 anthrax or not still seemed to be a concern. And it turns out that the —

    Q Was this a concern after 2001, is what you’re saying, or before?

    A Um, no, it was after 2001. It was when 5 everybody said, oh, you guys aren’t keeping of track of stuff, you don’t have any idea where your inventory is. Look at that, you lost all those Epon blocks. Well, my initial reaction to that was, so what if we lost the Epon blocks? They’re Epon blocks. Well, but they’re anthrax; how can you be so loose? Not my issue but went up to pathology and tried to find out, well, what are these things and where did they go and how can you lose them.
    And it turns out that the missing blocks had actually been taken by somebody and they were taken by somebody who was also a disgruntled employee who had been running a study with some collaborators at another organization on Simian immunodeficiency virus. And these, and we did not have a Simian immunodeficiency virus program at USAMRIID but to get the material, whatever it was, from this collaborative study processed, the investigator logged them in as anthrax. Okay? They were never anthrax. They were Simian immunodeficiency virus. And he was running it under the radar
    screen, which I mean is clearly unethical, and what have you. But it’s not a danger; it’s just stupid. And, and then just sort of appropriated those blocks like they don’t need them, I’ll take them. And when everything hit the fan and enough pressure was applied the, all the blocks got returned except for one. And hat one, you know, I don’t recall what it was with that one. I don’t know if that was just the 18th block in this, in this study or if it was something else. I just don’t recall. But that’s all I recall of that incident.

    Q And I’m a little bit vague on your actual connection with the incident. Were you asked to investigate by someone?
    Yeah, I was ask to do investigate.

    Q Okay. All right. And did you write any report on that?

    A Whew, if I did I’m sure you have it. I, I don’t recall writing a report. Oh, I do recall — God, amazing how you suppress this stuff. I do recall there was lots of concern about the stuff and we did a story board, I remember, some kind of like a poster or something and we, exhibits, you know, here’s what we’re talking about and here’s how we tracked it and all of that.
    And it seems to me there was, uh, maybe an executive summary or something that came out of the public affairs office by whoever was the public affairs person, Caree, maybe, Vander Linden. Um, I think, I think there was, yeah, I think there was an executive summary and there was a story board and I was sort of involved in all that.

    Q And who was the commander at the time, do you recall, that asked you to be involved?

    A I’m pretty sure it was Eitzen.

    Q Now, the, the initial memo reporting these things missing was in the early nineties, wasn’t it; it was like ’92 or ’93?

    A I don’t recall. I honestly don’t recall. I do remember it was sometime in the distant past when the allegation was first raised that I know this stuff went missing. So it could well be, and when I think about who was involved in that SIV study it could well have been the early nineties.

    Q Who would have been commander back then?

    A Oh, God. All the way back in the early nineties, okay, it was, well, okay, I was already, I’m going to say Takafuji but it could have been Takafuji’s predecessor and I don’t even remember who that was. David Huxsoll maybe. I don’t recall. It was

    Takafuji’s predecessor and I think it was Huxsoll but can’t remember these guys anymore.

    Q Did you ever get involved in any other 4 situation where there were organisms that were claimed to be missing?

    A I don’t recall. I don’t think so.

    Q And your recollection is that all of these 8 blocks were pound or were there some still missing at the end?

    A My recollection is that 17, there was one missing, is my recollection, so I don’t know if it was 17 of 18 or 16 of 17. There was one missing.

    Q And do you remember what that block 14 contained?

    A No. That’s what I’m saying, I don’t recall if it was part of the SIV study or if it was yet something else. I, I just, and the thing is I mean what was in the record was not representative of what 19 the material was. I mean somebody fabricated the record so I don’t think anybody knows what that was.

    Q Do you know who fabricated the record? I have my suspicions. Who do you suspect? A guy named [REDACTION]

    Q. Was, I think he was a military man, wasn’t he?

    A. He was.

    Q. Wasn’t he eventually let go or transferred?

    A. Um, he wasn’t around very long after this incident. I don’t know, I don’t know the circumstances of his departure. He might have been at the end of his obligation and just moved on.

    • DXer said

      Here is the background to Dr. Jahrling’s testimony:

      Fort Detrick’s anthrax mystery, by Laura Rozen, Jan. 26, 2002

      According to internal Army documents in Assaad’s own possession (and first reported about in the Hartford Courant), 27 specimens, including anthrax, Ebola and the hantavirus were lost in the early 1990s from the lab. The documents paint a chaotic picture of a poorly managed lab.

      Assaad worked for eight years, from 1989-97, at the Army-run lab, where civilian and military scientists with top security clearances handle the most lethal biological agents known. Assaad’s tenure at the lab was not a particularly happy one. He was ultimately dismissed from the lab in 1997, along with six other older scientists, when the lab announced it needed to downsize because of budget restrictions. But Assaad disputes that reason in his age discrimination suit, which is still pending. He shared with Salon copies of Army internal documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Assaad’s attorney, that are from the Army’s own investigation into allegations of racial discrimination brought by Assaad.
      But he is not alone in his concerns about his former colleagues. Another scientist who worked at the lab at the time — and who admits to having been part of a group in the lab that called itself the “Camel Club,” organized as a kind of drinking club that on the side ridiculed the Egyptian-born Assaad — said he also believes that the anthrax in the recent terror scare came from Fort Detrick’s USAMRIID.

      “As soon as it came out” about the anthrax letters, “the first thing that came to my mind was Fort Detrick,” said the scientist, who requested anonymity and is now employed in academia. “I don’t know how many labs are utilizing anthrax from Detrick. Detrick represents a repository of many organisms, and they would send it out to various other labs. A lot of people who were working on anthrax in this country got their anthrax from Fort Detrick.”

      The scientist also claimed that he understood DNA analysis being performed by a private lab in Rockville, Md., had already determined that the source of the anthrax in the letter sent to Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was from Detrick. However, the private lab has told journalists that it will be another two weeks to a month before they publicly reveal their results.

      According to interviews with Assaad and this scientist, along with additional Army investigative transcripts obtained by Salon, the Army’s biowarfare research lab in the early 1990s was an organizational disaster area. A big problem at the lab, which apparently contributed to specimens going missing, was that after the Gulf War, USAMRIID decided to phase out work some scientists had been doing on projects that the Army lab no longer considered crucial to their core mission of researching vaccines against bioweapons. Many scientists who had been engaged in other projects, such as Lt. Col. Phil Zack, who had been researching the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), were eager to continue working on projects USAMRIID said they should stop. What followed, the documents reveal, were scientists sneaking into the Army biowarfare lab to work on pet projects after-hours and on weekends, former workers like Zack, who left in 1991, still being let in to do lab work, pressure applied to technicians to help out, documents going missing, and deliberate mislabeling of specimens among other efforts to hide unsanctioned lab work.

      Lt. Col. Michael Langford, an Army scientist who became head of the USAMRIID experimental pathology division in February 1992, was interviewed by a USAMRIID investigator in the spring of 1992. The transcripts of that and other interviews reveal shocking lapses of security and resistance to oversight by USAMRIID lab scientists, including some of the same ones who engaged in harassment of Assaad.

      “At the time I took over the Experimental Pathology branch on the 3rd of February [1992] it was obvious to me that there was little or no organization of that group and little or no accountability of many things,” Langford told the Army investigator, Col. Thomas J. Taylor.

      Langford describes walking in to work one morning and seeing a group of lab scientists and technicians huddled behind closed doors in the room that houses an electron microscope. What Langford concluded was that certain scientists were covertly working on projects at night and on weekends that had been ordered halted by their division chief. He further concluded that employees were desperately trying to find old specimens of biological agents, including anthrax, they could “re-label” to cover up specimens that had gone missing in the chaos of prohibited, after-hours lab work.

      “I walked in and the lights were on, the scope was off, and they were intensely looking for these blocks [of anthrax],” Langford described. “What was indicated to me was that perhaps these specimens were bootleg so to speak, they were going to cover them with old specimens, and when the old specimens disappeared, they were going to take these old anthrax blocks and substitute them. Well, when those were unavailable then these new blocks [of anthrax] mysteriously disappeared. So of course the probability is high that there was a problem there.”

      Langford also described to the investigator strong resistance from his underlings and other scientists to his efforts to manage the group. Among those Langford considered management problems were Marian Rippy, a researcher in the experimental pathology division. (Zack and Rippy had also been reprimanded by the Army for harassing Assaad.) Langford said he considered a number of those on his staff to be “extremely difficult to deal with, would volunteer almost nothing, nearly almost always had to be given a written request to get a response, were very defiant, were very obstructive, and I also heard rumors that … Marian [Rippy] had made comments to the people in that lab basically to undermine me, you know, when I was coming in there,” according to Langford.

      “We were not to continue any work; in fact I was aware that [Pathology division commander Lt. Col. Nancy Jaax] had secured the SIV materials and people because again it appeared from many sources that Phil Zack was asking people to work basically covertly and continue his SIV work against obvious clear mandates and directives of the division chief,” Langford told the investigator. (In an interesting side note, Jaax, whom Langford refers to, is the protagonist of the Richard Preston book “The Hot Zone,” about an Ebola outbreak in lab monkeys in Reston, Va., in 1989. The real-life events were also the basis of the movie “Outbreak,” starring Dustin Hoffman.)

      It was during this period, from 1990 to early 1992, when scientists apparently pursued projects covertly at the lab, that the Army facility appears to have lost track of 27 specimens, including anthrax, Ebola and hantavirus. USAMRIID told media this week that any specimens that went missing were rendered harmless by various preservation and radiation processes — a contention Assaad says is not true. He says the specimens leave behind a residue that could be reactivated.

      Assaad’s personal experience at that lab makes him particularly skeptical. He complains of behavior from colleagues that, while certainly not necessarily that of potential terrorists, does seem like symptoms of a poorly managed lab that was out of control.

    • DXer said

      Although like the zombies of fiction writing, the theory every few years comes back from the dead — resurrected by a new poster — the issue was convincingly addressed in a debunking by DOJ as follows:

      No anthrax was “missing” in 1992

      Nor can Plaintiffs escape the unprecedented nature of the attacks by creating an inauthentic issue by asserting that anthrax was “missing” in 1992. Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges, erroneously, that the United States “failed to adequately secure” anthrax in that “as early as 1992, samples of this formidable, dangerous, and highly lethal [anthrax] organism were known to be missing from the lab at Ft. Detrick, Maryland occupied by [the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Disease (USAMRIID)] along with samples of the hanta virus and the ebola virus, pursuant to a memo” attached to the Complaint. [D.E. #1, ¶9 & Exh. F, Memorandum of Charles R. Brown, III]. In denying the United States’ motion to dismiss, filed before the beginning of discovery, the Court was, as were the appellate courts, required to accept as true these misstatements. [DE# 46, at 2 & 10]. Plaintiffs argued that the government owed a duty to the public, based in large part, on a foreseeable zone of risk created by an alleged history of dangerous materials going missing or being stolen from USAMRIID. See Stevens, 994 So.2d at 1068 (stressing the “allegations of the complaint regarding the facility’s history of missing samples of anthrax bacterium, hanta virus and ebola virus dating back to 1992, which the court must accept as true at this juncture”); Stevens, 488 F.3d at 903-04. Plaintiffs’ mistaken allegations fail for three reasons.

      First, the supposedly “missing” samples – both those designated anthrax and otherwise – posed absolutely, positively no danger to anyone. The samples, which were, in essence, slides for an electron microscope that scientists could use to study the internal structure of bacteria and viruses, “were non-viable, non-infectious, and never a hazard to the public environment.” U.S. Facts ¶9. “[A]ny material that was reported ‘missing’ was dead.” Id. ¶10. Each sample was killed twice – first killed with an overabundance of gamma radiation, then ‘killed’ with an “aldehyde fixative” and process that included “dehydration through ethanols and finally embedded in resin and cured . . .” Id. ¶11. Indeed, the absence of any danger associated with the allegedly “Missing Anthrax Blocks” and other samples of pathogens was confirmed, by implication, in the memorandum attached by to Plaintiffs’ Complaint, in which the author noted that the EM blocks “missing from the archival file system . . . are of extreme importance to ongoing research” and of “value to the Pathology Division” but made no mention, whatsoever, of any threat to human health or safety associated with the asserted loss. Id. ¶¶6-8.

      Second, the samples were not “missing from [a] lab at Ft. Detrick” [D.E. #1 ¶9] because the pertinent office, “the Pathology Division was located off-post (Frederick, MD) in leased commercial space close to Ft. Detrick” where “[o]nly inactivated materials were taken.” U.S. Facts ¶12 (emphasis added). Finally, subsequent investigation established that, in fact, no anthrax samples were missing:

      The missing electron microscopy blocks Mr. Brown refers to in his memorandum have been located or accounted for. Despite a standard operating procedure for the division allowing proper disposal of non-essential material after seven years, these samples were located in the archives or accounted for via Pathology logs in January 2002. . . . Mr. Brown’s allegation of lost samples is unfounded.
      Id. ¶13. As of the close of discovery, Plaintiffs had not identified or produced any evidence that the missing samples were unaccounted for. See id. ¶14.

      • DXer said

        Dr. Robert J. Hawley, an expert, explained why the 1992 samples were unviable — making immaterial that they were not even anthrax. I urge anyone still confused about the 1992 events to obtain the deposition under FOIA. (Being confused about who is responsible for 911 and WTC 1993 etc. is no way to go through life.)

        Even posting on the internet involves a moral and legal obligation to check facts and correct errors.

        “Those missing items that we discussed on the list from 1992, even after irradiation and formaldehyde treatment, does the DNA from those still remain?

        “A. The DNA still remains, but it was fragmented, meaning broken apart, and would not really be rearranged to form, say, a infectious material or a infectious particle. It was denatured, yes, sir.”

        Dr. Hawley’s lengthy civil deposition is important to obtain — to include the emails and other documents attached as exhibits.

        To make a FOIA request for the Robert J. Hawley deposition from Maureen Stevens v. United States, email a simple request o

        I will ask for it after I obtain the Byrnes and Welkos deposition but we need to speed things up by spreading out the requests, as broken down.

  4. richard rowley said

    Merits of the document aside, I found the line “You know, this is not your mother’s anthrax”
    to be very funny.

  5. Maserati said

    Do you guys really think that ANY document or statement from ANY government employee or licensed individual has ANY credibility anymore? You live in a dream world guys. Our government agencies and “establishment” industries did the Anthrax attack, for fear mongering and stock profit, just like 9-11. Capitalism is exploitation. Who do you think is being exploited? The moron majority, and the coerced intelligent.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      MASERATI … Your opinions are welcome, but outright statements about who did the anthrax attacks and why need to be supported with some kind of evidence. LEW

  6. DXer said

    The blog would like to thank DOJ FOIA Civil again for its expeditious processing of FOIA requests. Processing involves actually reading a deposition and I appreciate that they have many things to get done in a day.

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