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

* The genetically matching sample from CDC7738 was obtained from Building 1412, and not Building 1425 ; a key false premise of the FBI’s “Ivins Theory” Announced in early August 2008 was that only 100 at USAMRIID needed to be eliminated rather than up to 300 (and that was just considering those with access at USAMRIID)

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 19, 2014

It wasn't Ivins

***

Screen shot 2014-05-18 at 6.15.30 PM

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2 Responses to “* The genetically matching sample from CDC7738 was obtained from Building 1412, and not Building 1425 ; a key false premise of the FBI’s “Ivins Theory” Announced in early August 2008 was that only 100 at USAMRIID needed to be eliminated rather than up to 300 (and that was just considering those with access at USAMRIID)”

  1. DXer said

    The FBI obtained the inventory control sheet from Flask 1030 in a November 2007 search and has not disclosed it.

  2. DXer said

    There were up to 300 that needed to be eliminated — and that was just at USAMRIID IF the four morphs analysis was solid.

    But even the FBI’s genetic experts doubt that it was on a sufficiently sound footing to be admissible.

    A far simpler (and less expensive) means of knowing that the highly speculative Ivins Theory was incorrect was to understand that Dr. Ivins’ time in the lab after hours and weekends was due to his observations and plating in the animal experiments. It took 2 hours a night and on Saturday and Sunday — which is what he spent.

    Was FBI’s Science Good Enough to ID Anthrax Killer?
    October 10, 2011, 11:58 pm ET by Stephen Engelberg and Gary Matsumoto, ProPublica; Greg Gordon, McClatchy; Mike Wiser, FRONTLINE
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/anthrax-files/was-fbis-science-good-enough-to-id-anthrax-killer/

    “The admissibility hearing would have been very difficult,” Smith recalled in an interview. “They had some good science, but they also had some holes that would have been very difficult to fill.”

    Jenifer Smith, a senior manager at the FBI’s laboratory, shared the team’s concerns. Smith recalled that she was worried the FBI didn’t have a full understanding of the mutations and might see a trial judge throw out the key evidence.

    “The admissibility hearing would have been very difficult,” Smith recalled in an interview. “They had some good science, but they also had some holes that would have been very difficult to fill.”

    The FBI rebuffed the Red Team’s suggestion, describing it as “an academic question with little probative value to the investigation.”

    Ivins committed suicide in July 2008 as prosecutors were preparing to charge him with capital murder in the cases of the five people killed by the anthrax mailings. Prosecutors announced that Ivins was the sole perpetrator and the parent material for the letters had come from his flask.

    Three years later, that assertion remains an open question. A separate panel, from the National Academy of Sciences, found that prosecutors had overstated the certainty of their finding. Committee members said newly available testing methods could prove the FBI’s case much more definitively or lead to other potential suspects. But federal investigators, who closed the case more than a year ago, have expressed no interest in further scientific study of the evidence.

    A re-examination of the anthrax case by FRONTLINE, McClatchy and ProPublica has raised new questions about some of the evidence against Ivins. The reporting uncovered previously undisclosed tensions between researchers who were trying to create a new form of forensic science and criminal investigators whose boss was under intense pressure from the president of the United States to crack a case that had few leads and hundreds of plausible suspects.

    Paul Keim, an anthrax expert at Northern Arizona University who assisted in the FBI investigation, said he had qualms about whether the bureau’s groundbreaking laboratory method would have survived a rigorous legal review.

    “I don’t think that it was ready for the courtroom at the time Bruce committed suicide,” Keim said.

    If Ivins hadn’t killed himself, he said, the FBI would have launched a “hard push” for additional data that showed the method was reliable. Such research, he said, also could have shown it wasn’t valid.

    Keim, a member of the Red Team who attended the March 2007 meeting in Quantico, Va., said he didn’t find out that its call for further research had been rejected until a year later, after Ivins had committed suicide and prosecutors were hastily organizing a news conference to describe the science.

    Keim and other scientists involved in the case said the strictures of a criminal investigation prevented them from talking to one another or sharing information as they would on a typical research effort.

    “The investigation was being driven by a small group of bureau scientists and investigators,” Keim said. “Broader engagement with an expert panel sworn to secrecy would have been good. Having the best scientific consultants embedded would have been good.”

    ***

    The FBI’s own records show that the tests didn’t always deliver reliable results. In trying to prove that a sample Ivins provided from his flask in April 2002 was deceptive because it contained none of the morphs from the attack powder, investigators sampled the flask 30 times. All came back with at least one morph, and 16 came back with all four. Six of them showed only two or fewer, even though they were grown directly from the Ivins culture.

    The National Academy of Sciences panel’s report raised the possibility that some of the morphs could arise through the process of “parallel evolution,” in which identical mutations occur in separately growing colonies of bacteria.

    ***

    David A. Relman, vice chairman of the National Academy study committee and a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said the scientific picture remained incomplete.

    Relman said, for example, that the high level of silicon measured in the letter sent to the New York Post remained a “big discrepancy,” one for which the panel received no explanation. None of the spores in Ivins’ now-infamous flask contained any silicon.

    Relman said the panel questioned FBI officials about whether the high silicon measurement had arisen from an anomaly in the testing.

    “We asked: Is it nonrepresentative sampling?” he said.

    “And they said, ‘No, we don’t think that’s the answer.’”

    “There is no answer,” Relman said, “That’s why we said it’s not resolved.”

    ***

    t’s worth considering whether an independent panel should evaluate the full case against Ivins, looking at the science, the evidence investigators gathered and all other relevant material, Relman said.

    Fraser-Liggett and Lenski said it would be valuable to continue testing the anthrax samples in the case as new, more sensitive technologies come on line.

    “Speaking as an individual citizen,” Lenski wrote in an email, “I think it would benefit the public. Even if it didn’t resolve the Amerithrax case with respect to criminal culpability, it would be a valuable test run of what science could contribute if a similar terrorist event were to occur.”

    Anthrax, Al Qaeda and Ayman Zawahiri: The Infiltration of US Biodefense
    http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

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