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

* USG’s expert Salerno testified that pathogens can be stolen from petri dishes, cell cultures, environmental samples, animal carcasses, as well as refrigerated or freeze-dried forms

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 9, 2014

Screen shot 2014-03-09 at 7.00.40 AM

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23 Responses to “* USG’s expert Salerno testified that pathogens can be stolen from petri dishes, cell cultures, environmental samples, animal carcasses, as well as refrigerated or freeze-dried forms”

  1. DXer said

    At the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing today CDC head Friedan seemed to imply that one would know when a pathogen was stolen when that totally misses the most important point. A smidgeon can be taken and then be regrown — there is no reason to think it would ever be missed.

  2. DXer said

    There’s A Simple Way To Prevent Biosecurity Leaks Like Anthrax And Smallpox
    SHARON BEGLEY, JULIE STEENHUYSEN

    “One of the things that we want to do is reduce the number of laboratories that work with dangerous agents to the absolute minimum necessary,” said CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden. “Reduce the number of people who have access to those laboratories to the absolute minimum necessary. Reduce the number of dangerous pathogens we work with.”

    His remarks may vindicate the views of a small group of biosafety and biosecurity experts who see that as the only way to protect dangerous viruses and bacteria from both lab accidents and thefts.

    ***

    “In 2001, anthrax stolen from a federal bioweapons lab killed five people and sickened 17 more. At the time, only two U.S. labs were capable of identifying anthrax in samples of mysterious powders, which “were flowing in by the thousands,” said epidemiologist D.A. Henderson, a distinguished scholar at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.”

    ***

    Henderson was tapped by the federal government to vastly increase the number of such labs, both to detect suspected pathogens like anthrax and to conduct biodefense research, such as developing vaccines.

    “We had more white powder coming out of more places than you can possibly imagine,” he said. “The number of powdered doughnuts that got subjected to testing, I’d hate to think.”

    As a result, “there was a rush to get more BSL-3 and BSL-4 facilities,” he said, referring to the highest levels of biosafety. “Universities were anxious to build them,” since the work brought millions of dollars in funding as well as prestige.

    A decade later, the country had spent $US19 billion on biodefense research. But there has been no national assessment of how many such labs are needed for security, the GAO found.”

    “Increasing the number of (such) laboratories,” it concluded, “increases the aggregate national risk” because of the chances of intentional or accidental escape.

    It also increases the number of individuals with federal approval to work with select agents. With the additional spending, the number of people with access to bioweapons agents also “increased by a factor of 20 to 40,” said Ebright.

    According to a 2012 report by CDC scientists, there were 16 incidents of lost or escaped microbes from select-agent labs in 2004, meaning everything from misplaced samples to an infected researcher walking out the door harboring a virus. That rose to 128 in 2008 and 269 in 2010.

    Comment:

    Professor Richard Ebright will be testifying.

    There’s nothing like the power of a good idea.

    http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

    • DXer said

      From a recent article:

      “Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is among several government witnesses scheduled to testify at a Wednesday hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, which released its witness list online.

      Accompanying Frieden will be Joseph Henderson, deputy director of the CDC’s Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness.

      The panel will also hear from Jere Dick, associate deputy administrator or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Nancy Kingsbury, a managing director of the watchdog U.S. Government Accountability Office.

      Two non-government experts – Behavioral-based Improvement Solutions LLC President Sean Kaufman and Rutgers University professor Richard Ebright – will also appear, the panel said.”

  3. DXer said

    In this month’s news stories about the mishaps involving anthrax, smallpox, botulism and avian flue, a treatise author always makes for an authoritative quote. On the Amerithrax front, I am hoping to get documents about USAMRIID’s pre-2001 shipments of anthrax under FOIA next week.

    Ironically, a different expert in this civil matter was making a big deal of the high biosafety standards at CDC, in his opinion, relative to USAMRIID prior to 2001.

    Laboratory Biosecurity Handbook
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 1, 2011
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/laboratory-biosecurity-handbook/

    Deposition of Reynolds M. Salerno, PhD (head of Sandia team that inspected USAMRIID)
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 16, 2014
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/deposition-of-reynolds-m-salerno-phd-head-of-sandia-team-that-inspected-usamriid/

    DXer: A motherlode of documents attached to Dr. Reynolds Salerno’s deposition!
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 8, 2014
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/dxer-a-motherlode-of-documents-attached-to-dr-reynolds-salernos-deposition/

  4. DXer said

    Virulent Ames of course can be stolen in its freeze dried form.

    JAG should produce under FOIA the attached photos of the Ames sent in 1998 to an outside researcher ; the handwriting on the vials was not Bruce Ivins’ handwriting
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 9, 2014

    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/jag-should-produce-under-foia-the-attached-photos-of-the-ames-sent-in-1998-to-an-outside-researcher-the-handwriting-on-the-vials-was-not-bruce-ivins-handwriting/

  5. DXer said

    Micriobiologist Hawley, head of the USAMRIID safety office at the time of the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings, testified at civil deposition (produced today by DOJ Civil under FOIA):

    “Q. Prior to 2001, prior to the anthrax attacks, was there any effort at all to look at anything being carried out by anybody existing the site?

    A. Outside of something visible and large, like you were stealing a computer or something, the answer is no.” (p. 100)

  6. DXer said

    Here is another new novel titled “Murder in the Lab” ( 2014 ). The author writes of Amerithrax: “Many experts still doubt the validity of the conclusion that Ivins was the perpetrator.”

    I have regularly quoted dozens of such experts from the real world but will continue my search for the perfect beach novel. Having brushed snow off the car yesterday, I still have some time.

    Looking at the cast of characters in “Murder in the Lab”, a new true crime subgenre may be developing — the laboratory procedural.

    http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

  7. DXer said

    What do you think were the three foreign laboratories known by the FBI to have the Ames strain? (Director Mueller has noted that the FBI did not have access or cooperation of some other countries and so wasn’t in a position to know about those other countries.)

    With respect to the three foreign labs that are known, do you agree with the claim in the Wall Street Journal by Richard Spertzel that “Four French government laboratories reported on studies with the Ames strain, citing the Pasteur Institute in Paris as the source of the strain they used.”

    Do you agree that the FBI visited Institut Pasteur in 2002?

    What do you think happened to the 29 boxes at Institut Pasteur with the 2300+ missing vials of SARS dna?

    Institut Pasteur anthrax researcher MM worked with the Ames researchers whose depositions this blog and USAMRIID have uploaded explaining Dr. Ivins’ innocence. (e.g., Friedlander, Welkos) What do they say about whether Institut Pasteur got Ames from USAMRIID?

    Wasn’t it Instit Pasteur that Al Qaeda anthrax lab operative Rauf Ahmad (Abdur Rauf) visited with the thousands of pathogens in its BL3?

    GAO is tasked with determining whether Al Qaeda operatives had access to Ames at either US or foreign laboratories. All of these questions are highly pertinent to its research.

    — “I do things like get in a taxi and say, “The library, and step on it.”
    David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

    • DXer said

      I’ve emailed the questions above to Dr. Mock at Institut Pasteur.

      In the meantime, turning back to the literature, in March 2001, did a group of French scientists at the Centre d’ tudes du Bouchet publish a report on experiments they’d conducted with their own Ames sample? And explain that they’d collaborated on those experiments with a second French laboratory at the University of Paris? And expressed gratitude for shipments of Ames they’d received from the Institut Pasteur?

      See

      Source: The Weekly Standard 7(32), April 29, 2002.
      Remember Anthrax?
      Despite the evidence, the FBI won’t let go of its “lone American” theory.

      by David Tell
      http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/rememberanthrax.html

      • DXer said

        David Tell wrote in 2003 that in March 2001, a group of French scientists at the Centre d’ tudes du Bouchet publish a report on experiments they’d conducted with their own Ames sample. And explained that they’d collaborated on those experiments with a second French laboratory at the University of Paris. And expressed gratitude for shipments of Ames they’d received from a third French laboratory, the Institut Pasteur. And from a fourth French laboratory at the Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments. And from one Dr. Mats Forman of Sweden, too.

        But when we turn to the literature, and the article he seems to refer, does the article support a claim that Pasteur — or any of these institutes had virulent Ames?

        Which brings us back to the question: What were the three foreign labs that the FBI knows had virulent Ames.

        A tandem repeats database for baterial genomes
        Philippe Le Flèche,1,2 Yolande Hauck,2 Lucie Onteniente,2 Agnès Prieur,1,2 France Denoeud,2 Vincent Ramisse,1Patricia Sylvestre,1 Gary Benson,3 Françoise Ramisse,1 and Gilles Vergnaud1,2
        Author information ► Article notes ► Copyright and License information ►

        This article may be the one intended but does it support the characterization?

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC31411/

        “All strains used here are part of the collection maintained by the Centre d’Etudes du Bouchet (CEB). They originate either from the CIP (Collection Institut Pasteur, http://www.pasteur.fr/) or from AFSSA (Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments, http://www.afssa.fr/, Dr Josée Vaissaire). DNA from each isolate was obtained by large-batch procedures or by the simplified procedure as described in [2]. In addition, 15 μg of DNA from the B. anthracis Ames strain were kindly provided by Dr Mats Forsman, FOA, Sweden.”

      • DXer said

        It seems that the three labs would be Suffield/DRES in Canada and CAMR and Porton Down in the UK. Did Abdur Rauf visit CAMR? He went to the UK each year.

        https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2009/07/04/abdur-raufs-i-have-successfully-achieved-letter-to-ayman-al-zawahiri-what-justification-is-there-for-not-removing-the-redactions/

        • DXer said

          The Centre for Applied Microbiology & Research (CAMR), which is a Special Health Authority responsible to the Department of Health, based at Porton Down, is to supply the vaccine to the Ministry of Defence. CAMR is the operating laboratory for The Microbiological Research Authority and is a distinct organisation from the Chemical and Biological Defence sector of DSTL Porton Down, which is responsible to the Ministry of Defence.

      • DXer said

        The author of the new novel, AMERITHRAX: John, advises me:

        “In fact I know Michelle Mock and I have personally asked her about the “Ames” strain. She answered me very frankly that she never could get it from the USAMRIID. After the amerithrax scandal she was very happy not to have been in contact with this smoking gun!”

  8. DXer said

    The DOJ Civil Division has processed the full deposition of Reynolds M. Salerno. There are many redactions. I nonetheless appreciate the time spent in processing a civil deposition that had so many documents as exhibits that raised the issue of a possible need for redaction.

    Dr. Jahrling, a high-level virologist at USAMRIID, was critical to Sandia receiving the contract.

    Q. When were you first contacted — when was the initial contact made to — either to you or to Sandia to engage you to do this report?
    A. It would have been — you know, I’m just trying to guess here. But I’m fairly sure it would have been sometime in the winter or very early spring of 2002, was when USAMRIID actually wanted a Sandia team to come and do a specific assessment of their facility.
    Q. Do you recall who first contacted you about this?
    A. Yeah. Well, I’m — so I knew Peter Jahrling quite well, or I got to know him quite well in 2000. And he was part of this meeting with — that we had in October of 2000, here in Albuquerque, with the directors of the labs of the former Soviet Union.
    Q. And who was Dr. Jahrling?
    A. Dr. Jahrling — I’m trying to remember what his title was at that particular time — but for all intents and purposes, he was like a chief scientist. He was a scientist.
    Q. At USAMRIID?
    A. At USAMRIID, right. A verologist. But very high level verologist. And, you know, he was the kind of scientist who was called to the White House, you know, in the wake of the anthrax attacks. But he didn’t actually do the contracting with Sandia.
    Q. But he may have been your first contact?
    A. Yeah — no, I’m sure that he was critical to our receiving a contract to do work for USAMRIID. (p. 25)

    • DXer said

      DOJ presumably has provided GAO an unredacted copy of this deposition. This excerpt identifies team members and their role:

      A. I’m looking at page Army02-010264. In the first paragraph the names of the individuals on the team are myself, John Milloy, Bruce Hazlewood, Susan Caskey, Richard Wayne, James Larson, Roger Showalter.
      Q. Relative to these other people, you said that you were the principal investigator; is that correct?
      A. Yeah.
      Q. And can you —
      A. I was the team lead, basically.
      Q. Team lead, okay. Can you — without getting into great detail, just explain the roles of the other folks that were assisting you.
      A. Yeah, sure. So let’s see. Everyone on the team, except for Susan Caskey and myself were from — worked in our physical protection area, okay, this group that I talked about before. And they all directly reported to Ivan Waddoups. Susan Caskey and I reported to Arian Pregenzer in what was our 2 international security work. Susan has a background in both biology and computer science, and so her role with me was to really sort of help the team understand the biological issues at play. And Susan also played a lead role on the network security issues that were addressed. The rest of them were, you know, as I said, all from the physical protection background, but with
      various expertise. John Milloy is a mechanical engineer. Bruce Hazlewood, his background — he was actually a contractor to Sandia. His background was in special forces, Delta Force. Dick Wayne and Roger Showalter, they had expertise in access control. Dick Wayne was access control. Roger Showalter was in video surveillance and video assessment. And Jim Larson, his background is — he’s — he was former Secret Service and Dallas Police Department. And so Jim Larson and Bruce were really the threat guys. Dick Wayne and Roger were the sort of access control, video assessment guys. John Milloy was sort of the structural person; he was the one crawling through all the nooks and crannies, and he was the one who could read all the building drawings. And then there was myself, who was really — the role I was playing was coordination and so on.
      Q. And the actual production of the report that we’ve marked as Plaintiffs’ 122, I assume that was a compilation of everyone’s work; is that correct?
      A. That’s true.

      pp. 29-30.

    • DXer said

      Q. And what I’m going to do now, Dr. Salerno is, I want to ask you a little bit about your findings. And preliminarily, before you’re going to USAMRIID, were you told or advised as to whether or not — or given the results of the Inspector
      General’s review of the facility that had been done some months earlier?
      A. Yes, yeah.
      Q. Did you have any conversations with a Colonel Elliott — who headed up that team — at all, or anyone that was involved with the Inspector General?
      A. No.
      Q. But you were given —
      A. We were given a copy of the report. I think that was part of the reason that we were brought in, frankly, was to help USAMRIID address the observations in that report.
      Q. Some would call them observations; some would call them deficiencies, I guess. But in either event, you sort of anticipated my next question. A review had already been done by the Inspector General, and so Sandia was being called in to take sort of a closer look and address maybe the deficiencies and how to remedy them?
      ***
      A. So I mean, point of fact, I’m not absolutely certain why Sandia was hired to do the work. They were hired. That’s not my responsibility.
      Q. Right.
      A. I was given a contract, and told to bring a team in. We were asked to do two things. We were asked to do a loanability assessment, and a — develop a conceptual design for an improved security system at USAMRIID. That was our tasking.
      You know, based on my reading of the — my recollection of my reading of the Inspector General’s report, I think what Sandia brought to the table was a lot more technical expertise and depth. And it was clear the Inspector General’s report was done at a, you know, a general high level. And we were asked to come in and provide a much more substantive technical assessment and set of recommendations.

      (pp. 31-33)

    • DXer said

      My favorite comment at the deposition — I’m not sure who said it because of the redactions — “This is pretty sensitive information, Leon, just so you know.” (p. 177) Sounds like something Gibbs would say on NCIS.

      Reynolds M. Salerno of Sandia testified at deposition:

      Q. Right. “Individuals are often” — and I’m skipping down to the third one from the end. Individuals are often given access to the facility and the network, which may include access to high-consequence pathogens and toxins and/or sensitive pathogen information prior to the completion of a National Agency Check. That was another finding?
      A. Yes.
      Q. And also another finding is, “Personnel screening does not recur,” meaning it is not periodically followed up on; correct?
      A. Correct.
      Q. And “A clear set of personnel in-processing and out-processing policies and procedures to manage facility and network access does not exist. Communication among the various USAMRIID and Garrison offices that handle personnel information has not been consistent or clear.” Was that a finding at that time?
      A. Yes. (p. 48)

      ***

      Q. So if you had a bad actor in there, it wouldn’t make too much difference how much the physical security was or how detailed the keeping 9 track of the amount of the material happened, if you had somebody inside that was not reliable and wanted to, in fact, obtain some of these pathogens for illicit purposes or aggressive purposes, that could be done?
      A. Correct.
      (p. 54)

      Q. You mentioned, “At the time of the Sandia review, 13 USAMRIID employees held a Top Secret security clearance and 168 USAMRIID employees held a Secret security clearance. Thus the overwhelming majority, 497 USAMRIID employees, held no security clearance.” Correct?
      A. Correct.

      (p. 55)

      Q. And the fifth is — although — it talks about foreign nationals, and although they are employed at USAMRIID and they must undergo an NAC, it’s not designed to screen background of foreign nationals, particularly if they spent a considerable amount of time in a foreign country; correct?
      A. (Witness nods head.)

      (p. 57)

      Not to worry. I’ll get to work on the redactions — starting with Sandia’s encrypted emails.

    • DXer said

      At page 200, Dr. Reynolds M. Salerno testified:

      A. Well, so probably the biggest change that’s occurred since 2001, was the revision of what we call the Select Agent Rule in the United States. And so, prior to December — I think it was December of 2002, the only federal regulation for security of select agents, or what the U.S. Government calls dangerous pathogens and toxins was limited to the security of the transfer of select agents from one facility to another. In the — late 2002, that regulation was revised to include the security of select agents at facilities and while they were being used. And so that was a major change that I think was at least partially prodded by the events of 2001, was a federal regulation to require certain protections of those materials in laboratories, not only in transport between laboratories. (p. 200)

    • DXer said

      Dr. Salerno continued:

      “A. Well, so, let’s say — let’s look at deter first. So, if a knowledgeable insider with technical expertise could easily remove a small amount of material from an existing inventory, from a vial within an existing inventory, return that vial to the inventory, and walk out of the facility with either a new vial or a — you know, anything that would allow him or her to transport that small amount of organism outside the laboratory. And yet from an inventory point of view, even if you — even if they had an inventory of the working stocks — and they didn’t — the number of vials, for instance, would not have changed. ” (p. 219)

    • DXer said

      From recently produced civil deposition of Reynolds M. Salerno:

      A. Yes, one of our observations was that there was no chain of custody for moving materials, dangerous materials or HCPTs, from laboratory to laboratory within USAMRIID.
      Q. Or from one building, Building 1412 to Building 1425, as well?
      A. Correct.

      (p. 64)

  9. DXer said

    I have now asked for Dr. Salerno’s deposition. Judging from the number of exhibits, it seems the most meaty of all the depositions. I have suggested that emailing the deposition would shave a day off delivery of depositions — maybe more given the big snow we are expecting.

    • DXer said

      A ’98 Vulnerability Assessment of Ft. Detrick assessed the threat by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”) and Animal Liberation Front (“ALF”) to be higher than the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (“EIJ”). Senior EIJ leaders had not yet publicly announced Zawahiri’s intention to use anthrax as a weapon against the US

  10. DXer said

    Adamovicz, Andrews, Little, Worsham, Byrne, Friend, Welkos and Friedlander powerfully explained the reasons to believe that Dr. Ivins was innocent. Their full civil depositions have now been uploaded.

    What did Reynolds M. Salerno, PhD, say as to the FBI’s Ivins Theory? He was the government’s biosecurity expert — DOJ described him as the author of the one and only authoritative treatise on biosecurity.

    He and a team went to USAMRIID after the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings to investigate the biosecurity issues.

    http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

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