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

* Newly produced Andrews deposition: In June 2001, someone caught a civilian contractor exiting the USAMRIID biocontainment who had no authorization to be there

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 2, 2014

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8 Responses to “* Newly produced Andrews deposition: In June 2001, someone caught a civilian contractor exiting the USAMRIID biocontainment who had no authorization to be there”

  1. DXer said

    CDC Photos: “Duct Tape on Space Shuttle”
    http://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/i-team/93621461-story

    “Last month, the company fired Jack Turner, the man who shot all those late-night pictures and videos.

    In recent years, the CDC has had to explain a string of embarrassing safety mishaps, including potentially exposing unprotected staff in Building 18 to live anthrax. Last October, an outside review of the CDC found “apprehension about the possibility of retribution if staff, especially contractors, report accidents or safety concerns.” It encouraged the CDC to “work on building trust…”

    But consultant Kaufman said not wanting to look at a worker’s evidence… is a bad sign for progress.

    “If the CDC is in this active state of improving its safety programs, and they get a call from someone who says we have some images that we think are of great concern…. you may be interested in them. And they say we’re not interested in seeing them, that to me is an indicator that yet again the Agency is not necessarily wanting to take steps forward to address safety concerns.””

    Comment:

    Many years ago, a BL-3 and BL-4 experienced PhD who had worked briefly at the DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense called me to tell me that when she complained of lax security, she was promptly let go. (She also had a JD). She was within her 2 week probationary period. For example, she said that Ali Al-Timimi, a grad student at GMU, had unfettered access to the ATCC repository there — the largest in the world. Jason Bannan, who was the collection scientist at the ATCC Bacteriology Collection (there at the GMU-shared facilities) before taking the reins of the FBI Amerithrax science investigation, could describe access to the collection.

    The FBI contractor photo issue indirectly raises the issue of the access that HVAC and other contractors routinely had at levels where Ames anthrax was known to have been kept or may have been kept.

    None of these are easy issues. The main problem is when someone is over confident of their proposed solution to a difficult whodunnit — a stealth crime that is by its nature rife with uncertainties.

    The FBI scientists like Vahid Majidi and Jason Bannan who claimed a confidence level that was not warranted by the limitations of their analysis — which rested on self-submission of samples and potential access by numerous unidentified personnel — should have had (and now should have) a little more self-awareness. They should have acted more like scientists and less like advocates interested in advancing their careers. In the same vein, consider the self-congratulatory book manuscript by another FBI microbiologist that you have not read yet. It has the same “my friend Jim Comey has my back, thank goodness” tone that Dr. Majidi’s book (which he has promoted to his former colleagues on Linked-In) has.

    When ISIS attacks DC and NYC, the American public, fairly or not, is going to look back at Amerithrax and wonder why the FBI withheld documents — and will be curious about who has continued to stand in the way and delay production of those documents, like two or three key notebooks being withheld.

    Some people may find it is too late to empty their electronic mailbox.

  2. Anonymous said

    Excerpt from Andrew’s deposition:
    Q. And this first one hearkens back to a discussion that we had earlier on in the deposition. in looking back at the — what — the published FBI report. they mention that — tests that were done initially and the physical findings regarding the anthrax spores used in the letter attacks. And they talk about the size – the micron silt: of the spore particles, and they talk about the fact that they exhibited an electro — electrostatic charge. And that’s one of the reasons I want to ask you this question, because I know your expertise in – in this area.
    And they mentioned that they exhibited an electrostatic charge and showed no signs of genetic engineering and were non-hemolytic gamma phage-susceptible antibiotic and vaccine sensitive and devoid of aerosolizing enhancers; e.g., fumed silica, bentonite, or other inert material.
    is that your eonsis — is that consistent with — tvith your knowledge about that, that they were devoid of these aerosolizing enhancers?
    MS. BROWN: l’m going to just object to form. You might want to take those one at a time or not. It’s up to you.
    A. Well, first ofall, I’ll qualify my answer by saying l’m by no means an expert in Bacillus anthracis. Although from — tiom experience in handling Bacillus
    species, as well as gram negative bacterial pathogens, I don’t believe that accurately reflects what was observed in terms of the physical characteristics.
    The way it was worded. fumed silica specifically – or addresses a specific methodology of coating the spores with silica. And the silie – the sil — there – there is no doubt that there was a silica signature. but it wasn’t in the form of fumed silica, I believe.
    As far as the rest of the biology goes –I question whether or not those spores were not manipulated in terms of neutralizing electrostatic charge, which l think the FBI indicated that they had an electrostatic charge.
    Q. Okay.
    A. I’m not sure how they determined that in terms
    ot‘– specifically in terms of the Daschle and the Leahy
    materials.
    As far as the rest 0|” the – the biologic properties of the organism, I believe you mentioned gamma phage sensitivity, which is — is a bacterial virus that specifically invades Bacillus anthraeis and possibly Other Bacillus species.
    So they were implying that these were not manipulated to be resistant to the bacteria phage.
    Additionally. there was no other genetic manipulation apparent in terms of the sensitivity of the material to common antibiotics and, also, to tlte vaccine — protection
    afforded by the vaccine.
    Q. What – and — and from your knowledge and your review, is it your opinion that these spores were weaponized at some point‘?
    A. Yes.
    Q. Okay. New –
    A. That’s my opinion.
    Q. Okay.
    A. Yeah.
    Q. And when you say — when we say “weaponi2ed.” what are you referring to?
    A. Changing the surface properties or physi – or other physical properties of the spore to make them more easily dispersible, nonclumping, possibly to protect the
    spore from detection. which the way the silica was deposited on the spore, l believe, would completely mask the spore coat. And a lot of detectlon methods are being
    evaluated based on the composition of the spore coat. Well, if the spore coat was – was covered with polymerized silica, glass, then the spore coat would essentially be protected or hidden from detection.
    So that would be another potential motive for treating these spores with silica. in addition to changing the — the natural surface property of the spore.
    Q. Yeah.
    A. And – and also the — the — you know. l believe that there was some milling process or something involved that would reduce clumping or, basically, declump these
    spores, basically, by making the preparation a lot more uniform.
    As l said before, there’s a big difference between the physical characteristics and properties of the spores in the — in the media letters versus the spores in

  3. DXer said

    The ever-efficient, multi-tasking USMRMC FOIA officer has forwarded this email. It appears that the incident occurred June 6, 2001 and is reflected in a memo ID MED 01-11. I hope to get the memo on the subject and a related email by Dr. Andrews.

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Worsham, Patricia L Dr USAMRIID
    Sent: Friday, June 15, 2001 2:16 PM
    To: Kortepeter, Mark G LTC USAMRIID
    Cc: Andrews, Gerry P LTC USAMRIID
    Subject:

    Dear LTC Kortepeter,

    Upon reading the memorandum regarding ID MED 01-11, dated 6 June 2001, I would like to offer a few comments. (This memorandum addresses the incident involving the DIS civilian who entered an animal room in suite B3 without appropriate protective clothing.)

    1. I realize that this is not a safety report, but perhaps the memorandum should address the issue of contractors entering BL-3 areas without the knowledge of division personnel. In this case, no one in Bacteriology, including the division chief, was aware that a sink installation had been requested. If any division personnel had been notified, the incident would not have taken place.

    2. The second problem was when the DIS civilian ignored a large red sign stating Special Entry Procedures Required. This sign was prominently displayed. Since scrubs are required for entry into any part of the suite, this sign should have been an obvious indication of the requirement in that particular room for additional protective measures. It should be emphasized to individuals entering the suites that signage of any type should be noted carefully.

    3. The third contributing factor to this potential exposure was the lack of signage detailing the specific entry procedures required, although the sign did list the investigators involved, along with the agent, strain and animal species. This was a lapse on the part of these investigators.

    4. Just to clarify things, I did not call to tell him that he may have been exposed to anthrax. I was the individual who saw him come out of the animal room without protective clothing. I discussed the appropriate procedures with him and told him that our policy was to report to the ward whenever a breach of safety procedures took place.

    Thank you,

    Patricia L. Worsham, Ph.D.
    Bacteriology Division

  4. Maserati said

    Battelle made the anthrax, and our government was behind the attack as usual. It’s plain as the nose on your face. They made a lot of money, end of story. No Middle East connections, no real investigation, blamed it on a patsy…and they moved on to the mortgage scam. Get over it, because anything short of this country growing a set of gonads and hanging ALL of them…nothing is going to change.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      Again you are making assertions while providing no evidence of any kind. If you continue to do this, I will have no choice but to delete you from this blog.

  5. DXer said

    There are many depositions to the Andrews civil deposition. Over 25. In an oversight, I did not request them. This June 15, 2001 email is Plaintiff’s Exhibit 118 of Dr. Andrews’ deposition. And is available through request to
    the ever-efficient Civil.Routing.FOIA@USDOJ.gov.

    I’ve submitted a request to USMRMC only because it may turn out that they have related documents, in addition to the two emails and memo by Colonel Korpeter mentioned in the civil deposition.

    HVAC technicians have similar access. In fact, such technicians are needed to decontaminate the HEPA filters.

    In mid-December 2003, two brothers, Michael Ray and James Stubbs, were arrested in a Manila suburb where they were fundraising for a charity that supported the militant islamists and allegedly in contact with militant brothers. Michael Ray, an American, had been a HVAC technician at Lawrence Livermore near San Francisco — until March 2000 — where the Defense Threat Reduction Agency had launched a program to combat the Bin Laden anthrax threat in 1998. He had a high security pass that he permitted him to go to labs throughout Lawrence Livermore, including those combatting the Bin Laden anthrax threat.

    His brother, James, Jr., also known as Jamil Daud Mujahid. James reportedly was monitored saying that he had been a classmate of bin Laden and had named his son Osama. James once was a policeman in California and a teacher in Missouri. James allegedly met with members of Abu Sayyef and Moro Islamic Liberation Front while in the Philippines doing charity fundraising. The brothers had been under surveillance at the time of their arrest. James Stubbs, according to some reports, had recently left a job as a teacher in California to study Arabic in Sudan. Other reports suggested that his recent work instead involved training dogs. Authorities allege that the brothers in May 2003 had met with several charity groups suspected of being al-Qaida fronts, founded by Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law Khalifa.

    In mid-April 2004, Patrick Hughes, Lieutenant General (Retired), Assistant Secretary for information Analysis, Homeland Security Department testified before the 9/11 Commission. He explained that interrogations and other evidence revealed that Al Qaeda wanted to strike the US with a nonconventional weapon, most notably anthrax.

    In advance of any attack, it would be nice if the public had a chance to see the documents relating to this example of unauthorized access.

    • DXer said

      In addition to Exhibit 118, Exhibit 109 contains 6/15/01 email string ARMY03-006662 TO 006663.

    • DXer said

      At Lawrence Livermore, this is an example of the research that Lawrence Livermore was doing while had high security access in his role as an HVAC technician.

      A Minisonicator To Rapidly Disrupt Bacterial Spores for DNA Analysis

      Phillip Belgrader ,*† Derek Hansford ,‡ Gregory T. A. Kovacs ,‡ Kodumudi Venkateswaran ,† Raymond Mariella, Jr.,† Fred Milanovich ,† Shanavaz Nasarabadi ,† Margaret Okuzumi ,‡ Farzad Pourahmadi ,‡ and M. Allen Northrup ‡
      Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 7000 East Avenue, Livermore, California 94551, and Cepheid, 1190 Borregas Avenue, Sunnyvale, California 94089
      Anal. Chem., 1999, 71 (19), pp 4232–4236
      DOI: 10.1021/ac990347o
      Publication Date (Web): August 31, 1999

      Abstract
      Concerns about the use of anthrax spores as a weapon of mass destruction have motivated the development of portable instruments capable of detecting and monitoring a suspected release of the agent. Optimal detection of bacterial spores by PCR requires that the spores be disrupted to make the endogenous DNA available for amplification. The entire process of spore lysis, PCR, and detection can take several hours using conventional methods and instruments. In this report, a minisonicator and prototype spore lysis cartridge were built to disrupt Bacillus spores in 30 s for rapid, real-time PCR analysis. Utilization of the minisonicator improved PCR analysis by decreasing the limit of detection, reducing the time of detection, and increasing the signal amplitude. Total time of spore disruption and detection using the minisonicator and a microchip PCR instrument was less than 15 min.

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