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

* Stephen Embry’s 5***** review of CASE CLOSED

Posted by DXer on May 21, 2014


Well worth reading and thinking about. 

Conspiracy novels usually have suspense, plausibility and complexity. Initial unsuspected contacts are gradually revealed to be causes, and the truth is revealed. Case Closed has two of the three, plausibility and complexity, but not much suspense. However, this is intentional, since it is not really a conspiracy novel, but rather part of the indictment genre.

Indictment novels often begin with a hypothesis and develop it by logic and reason. These tools are used remarkably effectively by Mr. Weinstein to lay out the case that high placed government officials used the events of September 11, 2001 [and after that] for their own personal purposes and sacrificed the innocents to to cover up crimes that floated close to their homes.

The author jettisons suspense in the forward where the conclusion is largely revealed, and then employs plausibility and complexity to paint a fictional but credible account that is chilling.


buy CASE CLOSED in paper or kindle at …


3 Responses to “* Stephen Embry’s 5***** review of CASE CLOSED”

  1. DXer said

    In contrast, Amerithrax is rather simple. There was no evidence that Dr. Ivins was guilty and the central presmises of an Ivins Theory outlined on August 8, 2008 were a sham — to include distribution of Ames, the claim about the lyophlizer, and the claim that Dr. Ivins had no reason to be in the lab those nights and weekends.

    As explained in the filmed interview, Dr. Ivins’ attorney Paul Kemp told the prosecutor in July 2008 that Dr. Ivins was in the lab after hours and on weekends in late September and early October 2001 for the scheduled animal experiments.

    Nearly a half decade earlier, the corroborating document evidence had long ago been provided to the government.

    Attorney Kemp would have crushed any indictment brought based on the documentary evidence that showed the USG’s false premise to be a sham.

    Proponents of an Ivins Theory — who do not want to think of themselves as having driven an innocent man to commit suicide over the stained panties that they were pressurizing him about — ignore the documentary evidence even to to this day.

    October 5, 2001 email reporting on October 2, 2001 challenge confirms it was by injection (not aerosol) and that 12 rabbits had died in 3 days since injection
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 15, 2011

    • DXer said

      New Evidence Adds Doubt to FBI’s Case Against Anthrax Suspect

      This story is a joint project with ProPublica, PBS Frontline and McClatchy.

      Yet records discovered by Frontline, McClatchy and ProPublica reveal publicly for the first time that Ivins made available at least three other samples that the investigation ultimately found to contain the crucial variants, including one after he allegedly tried to deceive investigators with the April submission.


      Paul Kemp, who was Ivins’ lawyer, said the government never told him about two of the samples, a discovery he called “incredible.” The fact that the FBI had multiple samples of Ivins’ spores that genetically matched anthrax in the letters, Kemp said, debunks the charge that the biologist was trying to cover his tracks.

      Comment: t Flask 7738, stored in Building 1412, is an example.

      I don’t know how it would have been possible to convict him,” said [FBI genetics expert] Fraser-Liggett, the director of the University of Maryland’s Institute for Genome Sciences. “Should he have had access to a potential bio-weapon, given everything that’s come to light? I’d say no. Was he just totally off the wall, from everything I’ve seen and read? I’d say yes.

      “But that doesn’t mean someone is a cold-blooded killer.”

      Most of all, though, prosecutors cited the genetics tests as conclusive evidence that Ivins’ Dugway spores were the parent material to the powder.

      Yet, the FBI never could prove that Ivins manufactured the dry powder from the type of wet anthrax suspensions used at Fort Detrick. It couldn’t prove that he scrawled letters mimicking the hateful rhetoric of Islamic terrorists. And it couldn’t prove that he twice slipped away to Princeton to mail the letters to news media outlets and two U.S. senators

      Before focusing on Ivins, the FBI spent years building a case against another former Army scientist. Steven Hatfill had commissioned a study on the effectiveness of a mailed anthrax attack and had taken ciprofloxacin, a powerful antibiotic used to treat or prevent anthrax, around the dates of the mailings. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called Hatfill a “person of interest,” and the government eventually paid him a $5.8 million settlement after mistakenly targeting him.

      Ivins’ colleagues and some of the experts who worked on the case wonder: Could the FBI have made the same blunder twice?


      Kemp said prosecutors told him privately that they’d dismissed potential financial returns as a motive. That incentive wasn’t cited in the Justice Department’s final report.

      The relatively lax security precautions in place at U.S. defense labs before the mailings and Sept. 11 terrorist attacks offered many opportunities for a deranged scientist. Prosecutors said Ivins had easy access to all the tools needed to make the attack spores and letters.


      The next afternoon, Monday, Sept. 17, 2001, he took four hours of annual leave but was back at USAMRIID at 7 p.m. Because of their Sept. 18 postmarks, the anthrax-laced letters had to have been dropped sometime between 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday’s noon pickup at a mailbox at 10 Nassau St. in Princeton.

      If Ivins did make the seven-hour round-trip drive from Fort Detrick, he would’ve had to travel overnight. Investigators said he reported to USAMRIID at 7 a.m. Tuesday for a business trip to Pennsylvania.


      Did Ivins have the means?

      Colleagues who worked with Ivins in the hot suite and think that he’s innocent say he’d never worked with dried anthrax and couldn’t have made it in the lab without spreading contamination.

      Andrews, Ivins’ former boss, said Ivins didn’t know how to use the fastest process, the fermenter, which Andrews described as “indefinitely disabled,” with its motor removed. He said the freeze dryer was outside the hot suite, so using it would have exposed unprotected employees to lethal spores.

      Without a fermenter, it would have taken Ivins “30 to 50 weeks of continuous labor” to brew spores for the letters, said Henry Heine, a former fellow Fort Detrick microbiologist who’s now with the University of Florida. Prosecutors and a National Academy of Sciences panel that studied the case said the anthrax could have been grown as quickly as a few days, though they didn’t specify a method.

      FBI searches years later found no traces of the attack powder in the hot suite, lab and drying equipment.

      Fraser-Liggett, the FBI’s genetics consultant, questioned how someone who perhaps had to work “haphazardly, quickly” could have avoided leaving behind tiny pieces of forensically traceable DNA from the attack powder.


      Yet, in 2007, six years after the letters were mailed, the FBI carefully searched Ivins’ home and vehicles looking for, among other things, anthrax spores. None were found.

    • DXer said

      Anthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy?

      • 03.24.11 |


      Between the officials and the scientists, it was a convincing display. It had to be. Ivins had killed himself three weeks earlier. There would be no arrest, no trial, no sentencing. Absent a courtroom and a verdict to provide a sense of finality or some measure of catharsis, all the FBI could do was present its findings and declare the case closed.

      No one involved that day expressed any doubt about Ivins’ guilt. But things are not always as clear-cut as they may seem in an FBI presentation. Two years later, sitting in her office overlooking West Baltimore, Fraser-Liggett concedes she has reservations. “There are still some holes,” she says, staring out her window in discomfort. Nearly 2,000 miles away in Flagstaff, Arizona, Keim has his own concerns. “I don’t know if Ivins sent the letters,” he says with a hint of both irritation and sadness


      On March 31, 2005—after more than two dozen interviews [and receipt of the correspondence showing he had given virulent Ames to the former Zawahiri associate ] —investigators decided to challenge Ivins more forcefully. They asked why he hadn’t submitted all his anthrax samples to the repository; he had no good explanation. They asked him about the “cowboy” spore hunts in his office; he said he was just being careful. They told him they were copying his hard drive. He was concerned—he asked what the FBI does when they find something like child pornography on a computer.


      Meanwhile, Fraser-Liggett’s team had genetically sequenced the four telltale mutants that grew out of the killer anthrax. They were all 99.99 percent identical. But that tiny fraction of difference—less than a thousand base pairs—was enough to give each mutant a unique genomic signature. If a batch of anthrax tested positive for these four morphs, it meant that it was provably identical to the attack anthrax. Before, researchers had relied on Worsham’s discerning but still subjective eye to tell them which strains looked similar to the morphs in the killer batches. Now they had the kind of hard genetic data they could take to a judge and jury.

      Along with other labs, Fraser-Liggett’s team quickly developed streamlined tests to detect each one of the mutants. They then began the labor-intensive process of running these tests on every anthrax isolate the FBI had collected from labs around the world. In a warehouse-style lab, 75 researchers worked split shifts six days a week, testing and retesting the samples. None of them had any idea what the results meant; all the samples were coded, and all the groups were compartmentalized from one another. They toiled without any sense of progress.

      Even as they plunged ahead with the new genetic tests, they continued to search for other ways to identify the source of the killer anthrax. Fraser-Liggett’s team and others spent more than a year trying to track a contaminant found in two of the letters. The search did not yield any useful forensic information. Repeated attempts to reverse-engineer the powdered attack spores flopped. So did efforts to use trace amounts of tin and silica found in the attack powder to discern where the spores were made.

      Eventually, FBI director Robert Mueller seemed to lose patience with the whole thing.


      The investigating unit gathered in its makeshift meeting area—a training room with acoustics so bad agents had to shout to be heard. Lisi, Dellafera, and Montooth barked out the new plan: Start with RMR-1029 and its subsamples. Figure out who had access. Cross as many names off the list as you can. The person left at the end is the killer. “Don’t assume anything. Either prove to us they’re guilty—or prove to us they’re not,” Lisi said. “No more happy talk. Even for the people who helped us.”

      Investigators scoured the phone records, email accounts, and laboratory access-card records of US anthrax scientists with possible access to RMR-1029 in an effort to determine their whereabouts on the days in the fall of 2001 when the letters were mailed. They reviewed anthrax transfer records, lab notebooks, and scientific publications to get a sense of how the scientists used their anthracis. “If you knew how to grow up large quantities of bugs, the FBI was on you all the time,” Heine says. Pat Worsham—who found the telltale mutants—was among those aggressively interrogated.

      Worsham was able to exonerate herself, but other names were harder to cross off. Heine had a bunch of RMR-1029 subsamples. John Ezzell, head of USAMRIID’s Special Pathogens Sample Testing Lab, was perhaps the only scientist at USAMRIID who worked with dry spores—albeit dead ones. But it would’ve been highly unusual for Ezzell or Heine to keep a store of bugs in their freezers. One of the many lab technicians or scientists who shared cold-storage space with them would have noticed a stockpile, the agents theorized. Ivins, as a designated spore-grower, had plenty of reason to keep large quantities of anthrax.


      Around the same time, the US attorney’s office asked Ivins to testify before a grand jury about the scientific aspects of the anthrax case. In a strictly legal sense, he wasn’t an investigative target, they explained. Ivins agreed and, starting on May 7, 2007, testified for two days without a lawyer. The questions about his handling of anthracis—and about his personal life—sent him into a tailspin.

      “They accused me of diluting, altering or adulterating an important preparation of anthrax material,” he emailed a friend, almost certainly referring to his flawed RMR-1029 submission in April 2002. “Do you realize that if anybody gets indicted for even the most remote reason with respect to the anthrax letters … they face the death penalty?”

      He also began talking about leaving USAMRIID. And maybe more. “I’ve been inside, cooped up for almost all of my life, I want to spend eternity outside,” he wrote in another email. “I look like I’m 90 years old. I feel older than that … I guess I should have started on [the antidepressant drug] Celexa years earlier. Also caffeine and alcohol.” The former lightweight had become a heavy drinker.

      In August, Fraser-Liggett’s team presented its final DNA fingerprinting report to the bureau. The results were somewhat conflicting. Some samples initially tested positive for the telltale morphs, then negative in a second exam. But of the 1,059 viable samples in the FBI’s Ames anthrax repository, eight regularly produced all of the mutants. One of those eight was Ivins’ RMR-1029 flask. The other seven were its subsamples. This ruled out Hatfill, who did not have access to RMR-1029 during his time at USAMRIID. (Later, the Justice Department agreed to pay Hatfill a $5.8 million settlement and issued an official letter exonerating him. Condè Nast also agreed to an undisclosed settlement. The New York Times case was dismissed.) And while dozens of other scientists did have access to the RMR-1029 subsamples, they were being slowly crossed off the list. As each alibi and exculpatory story checked out, the investigators gravitated closer to Ivins.

      The FBI wasn’t ready to make a move, though. It had the genetics, but the DNA fingerprints went only so far. There were still those seven subsamples and those occasionally inconsistent results. If this were a more traditional murder case, investigators would now know which store sold the gun and to whom it was registered—but not who fired it. Montooth, for one, was worried. He once lost a murder case because the jury didn’t buy the DNA evidence. “Just like a gun in possession doesn’t mean homicide,” Montooth says, “science alone isn’t going to convict him.”

      Nor would a jury convict Ivins because of his unexplained hours in the lab, his suspicious office swabbing, or his botched April 2002 submission of RMR-1029 to the FBI Ames repository. The agents still had no witnesses to the mailings, no confession, no obvious motive—just complicated science, some hard-to-explain coincidences, and odd behavior.

      In a series of meetings, the agents debated whether it was finally time to search Ivins’ home. They decided to consult with outside forensic psychiatrists. The doctors said Ivins was probably the type to keep a souvenir of the crime, but they warned that he was a fragile man who had already been pushed very, very hard. On September 25, Ivins showed up at work with a black eye. He joked that he ran into something—his wife’s fist. A month later, he talked about his new favorite cocktail, tequila and Ambien.

      “The psychiatrists told us: When you go overt, you will have cut him from all his life rings. Things could get tough,” Montooth says. “So, were we concerned? Hell yeah.” But they didn’t have much choice. The search was scheduled for November 1, 2007.

      When the day came, two FBI agents caught up to Ivins at the entrance to USAMRIID. Ivins asked if he needed his lawyer. Nope, they answered. Just come into an office and listen to what we’ve got to say.

      You’ve been trying to fool us for a long time, they said. You knew as far back as early 2002 that your RMR-1029 anthrax was close, really close, to the killer spores: same strain, similar kinds of mutants. You knew back then that we were looking at those mutants, seeing if they’d lead back to the attack anthrax. You knew that we wanted to do DNA fingerprinting; heck, you even suggested we do that. And now we know that you screwed up your RMR-1029 submission.

      The genetic analysis of the mutants came in, Bruce. RMR-1029 and the attack spores: They match. Perfectly. That stuff you gave us in April of ’02? That stuff you called RMR-1029? It doesn’t match. And we know why. You were supposed to give us a full sample back then, mutants and all. Instead, you picked off single colonies so those morphs would never show.

      Ivins offered all kinds of excuses. He hadn’t understood the submission guidelines. He hadn’t gotten how important RMR-1029 was. He even absurdly claimed he wasn’t really an expert on anthrax. Each lame explanation only frustrated the agents further. To rattle Ivins, the agents asked what they call a change-up question—a deliberately provocative non sequitur. Tell us about Nancy Haigwood’s husband, an agent said.

      Ivins’ house was a microcosm of the case: lots of suspicious, freaky material but no evidence of a crime.
      Ivins pushed away from the conference room table, crossed his arms and legs, and told the investigators he was taking the Fifth. He refused to respond to any further statements.

      At about 8 pm, Ivins said he was leaving. Actually, you probably shouldn’t, the agents answered. We’ve got people talking to your wife and kids. We’ve got agents searching your office, your cars, and your house. It’s going to take a while. We’ve booked hotel rooms for you and your family. Want a ride?

      Dellafera, the postal inspector, was waiting at the institute’s entrance. He and Ivins had known each other since the beginning of the case. They drove over to the Hilton Garden Inn, with Ivins in the passenger seat. Dellafera asked Ivins: Are you worried about the searches? Yes, Ivins answered. I do things a “middle-aged man should not do.” Then Ivins told him about a bag in his house filled with the women’s clothes he liked to wear.

      The two passed a few minutes in awkward silence. Ivins still looked nervous, uncomfortable. He said he didn’t want to be labeled a mass killer. I’m not a terrorist, he said. I can’t believe you think I’m the anthrax mailer.


      A second interview, on February 13, started along similar lines. Ivins described his fascination with bondage, beginning with blindfolding his teddy bears at age 5 or 6. …

      A little over a month later, on March 19, at 2:09 pm, Diane Ivins called 911. Her husband was unconscious after too many pills and too much liquor.

      Ivins spent a few days at a local hospital. When he returned to work, he struggled. Then, in May, Ivins checked into a mental health facility in Cumberland, Maryland, and spent four weeks there. But the drinking and pill-taking continued.


      At approximately 1 am on July 27, 2008, Diane Ivins woke up to check on her husband. He wasn’t in bed. She went to the bathroom and found him on the floor, in his undershirt, lying in a pool of what looked like his own urine. “He’s unconscious. He’s breathing rapidly. He’s clammy,” she told the 911 operator. The local police and the emergency medical technicians arrived at the same time. The police and Diane counted the pills left in the medicine cabinet while the EMTs brought Ivins out on a stretcher.

      They rushed him to the hospital. The doctors thought he might have overdosed and promptly ordered that a breathing tube be put down his throat.

      Blood tests showed the acetaminophen level in Ivins’ blood was 10 times higher than what is considered safe. A massive dose of Tylenol was overloading his liver. Few ways to die are more agonizing—the abdominal pain alone is excruciating. Doctors administered an antidote, N-acetyl cysteine. But it was too late.

      At 8 o’clock, a nurse woke Ivins up and asked, “Did you intentionally try to commit suicide?” Ivins nodded and attempted to remove his tubes. The nurse had him restrained. Doctors tried to talk Diane into transferring him to another facility for a potential liver transplant. He doesn’t want to be saved, she said.


      Paul Keim, who helped assemble the FBI’s Ames collection, still wonders how much to trust an anthrax repository that relied on scientists (and potential murder suspects) submitting their own samples. “We don’t know if people did it correctly, and there’s no real way to control for that,” Keim says.

      Even if everyone was aboveboard, it’s unclear whether the FBI accounted for every last anthrax sample. Each time Ivins gave his colleague Hank Heine a batch of spores for an experiment, for example, Heine would save a milliliter or two, in case the experiment went wrong. “It’s just good scientific practice,” Heine says. “I had numerous samples of RMR-1029.” It’s hard to imagine he was the only scientist with such a collection. Because the subsamples were so small and largely undocumented, it took the FBI nearly three years to stock its repository—plenty of time for a researcher to dispose of an incriminating batch.

      Then there’s the problem of figuring out when Ivins could have grown the spores. In an email to colleagues on April 23, 2004—unrelated to the investigation and long before he became its prime suspect—Ivins estimated that it would take 60 hours to brew up 500 billion spores. Each anthrax letter contained up to four times that amount. This means that making enough spores for the mailings would have required between five and six months. It would have been nearly impossible for Ivins to do that much work without others noticing. It may be odd to rely on Ivins himself for these numbers, but his colleagues do not dispute his estimate. The National Research Council report does theorize that it could have been done more quickly, but its findings were inconclusive. “The time might vary from as little as two to three days to as much as several months,” the report reads. “Given uncertainty about the methods used for preparation of the spore material, the committee could reach no significant conclusions regarding the skill set of the perpetrator.”

      This raises another significant problem with the case. USAMRIID veterans debate whether Ivins had access to the kind of gear required to dry and mill the spores. Even if he did, some argue, he wouldn’t have known how to use it. Ivins’ wet-spore experience didn’t translate to dry stuff, Heine and others say.

      Montooth acknowledges that he isn’t sure how Ivins would have done all that growing and drying. “But it almost doesn’t matter,” he says. Investigators know which days in September and October the envelopes were mailed. That was the actual murderous act.


      There are still other problems with the case against Ivins. The killing spores were so volatile that they cross-contaminated piles and piles of mail. Yet spores were never found in Ivins’ house or his car, and only a handful were discovered in his lab. There’s no evidence of any trip to Princeton to mail the letters. And just because the killer spores were descendants of a USAMRIID flask, there’s no guarantee a USAMRIID scientist was actually the mailer. In fact, the FBI was never able to prove where the attack anthrax was cultured. “It would’ve been very easy to take the anthrax out, to steal some,” a former USAMRIID officer says. “Anybody could do that.”

      Finally, there’s the matter of motive. The Justice Department asserts in its investigative summary that Ivins mailed the letters to gin up support for an anthrax vaccine, offering a few ambiguous emails and comments to friends and investigators as proof. If there’s any further, credible evidence to support this notion, Wired couldn’t find it in the thousands of pages of case documents released by the government or in the hours of interviews conducted with the investigators. Montooth concedes it’s a placeholder rationale at best. For someone as deeply disturbed as Ivins, he argues, simple rules of cause and effect don’t apply, especially not in matters as grave as murder. “You cannot think of this in one dimension or layer. It’s not that simple,” Montooth says. “You’re never gonna know a single cause or motive for why it was done.”


      There’s still the possibility that the government was as wrong about Ivins as it was about Hatfill. If that’s the case, the anthrax mailer is still at large. And that means someone launched the deadliest biological attack in the history of the United States—and got away with it.

      Anthrax, Ayman Zawahiri and the Infiltration of US Biodefense

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