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

* National Research Council issues report identifying needs for microbial forensics of sufficient quality to support legal proceedings and inform government decisions

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 8, 2014

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18737

Science Needs for Microbial Forensics:

Initial International Research Priorities (2014)

 

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18737-0309302455-covers450

Authors

Committee on Science Needs for Microbial Forensics: Developing an Initial International Roadmap; Board on Life Sciences (BLS); Division on Earth and Life Studies (DELS); National Research Council

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30 Responses to “* National Research Council issues report identifying needs for microbial forensics of sufficient quality to support legal proceedings and inform government decisions”

  1. DXer said

    The Watchopinion
    When Obama wouldn’t fight for science

    By Radley Balko January 4
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2017/01/04/when-obama-wouldnt-fight-for-science/?utm_term=.a783fa156bb3

    In September, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a scathing report on the use of forensic analysis and expertise in the criminal-justice system. The report, “Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods,” looked at pattern matching forensic disciplines such as bite mark matching, shoe print matching, blood spatter analysis, fingerprint matching and hair fiber analysis. It also looked at DNA testing when investigators find biological material from multiple sources, a scenario that can bring human subjectivity into the testing. With the exception of single-source DNA testing, the report found serious deficiencies in all areas of forensics it studied.

    The PCAST report was damning, but if you’ve been following these issues with any regularity, it wasn’t at all surprising. That was in September. It’s now January. And not only has the Obama administration done nothing about the report, the Justice Department has publicly denounced it.

    https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/PCAST/pcast_forensic_science_report_final.pdf

  2. DXer said

    Microbial Forensic Investigation of the Anthrax-Letter Attacks (Book Chapter)
    Keim, P.S.a, Budowle, B.b, Ravel, J.c
    a Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics, Northern Arizona University and Pathogen Genomics, The Translational Genomics Research Institute, Flagstaff, AZ, United States
    b Institute of Investigative Genetics, Department of Forensic and Investigative Genetics, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX, United States
    c Institute for Genome Sciences, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, United States
    View references (19)
    Abstract
    This chapter focuses on the microbial forensic investigations of the anthrax-letter attack in the United States in 2001. The anthrax-letter attack represented a defining moment that has dramatically shaped the biodefense infrastructure and research efforts. Spores of Bacillus anthracis contained in or on letters mailed from a New Jersey location infected 22 persons, killing 5. The responsible strain was identified as a laboratory strain that was used commonly for research and development of vaccines and therapeutics. The Federal Bureau of Investigation developed a strain repository of all known sources of the Ames strain. Distinctive morphological variants were observed among colonies grown from the spore-containing letters. DNA was isolated from each variant and then whole genome sequenced to identify the genetic basis for these phenotypes. Four polymerase chain reaction-based assays for detecting the four different variants were developed and then used to screen the Ames strain repository. Only cultures derived from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases spore stock RMR-1029 contained all four mutants associated with the morphological variants. The FBI concluded that the letter spores were derived from this source. The microbial forensics of the Amerithrax investigation relied heavily on genetics and comparative genomics to provide invaluable investigative leads, which suggested that (i) the strain of B. anthracis used in the attack was more likely obtained from a laboratory source than from the environment and (ii) that a B. anthracis spore preparation known as RMR1029 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, Fort Detrick, Maryland, was a potential source or at least a direct lineage source from which the spores in the letters originated. © 2011

    Comment:

    Did Dr. Randall Murch explain to investigators in 2002 and 2003 that it was known that Russia had virulent Ames? In 1999, in an FBI forensic communications newsletter Dr. Murch once explained that he took a “holistic” approach to quality assurance at the FBI Laboratory. (There was great controversy over issues of quality assurance due to a whistleblower who had come forward — just this past month the IG issued a report on the DOJ’s failure to appropriately deal with the issue relating to hair fiber.). There were delays– and cases were not reopened when they should have been. People died. History has now repeated itself in Amerithrax.

    Now Dr. Murch tells me that he hopes that the FBI does not reopen the Amerithrax investigation.

    Wouldn’t any sort of holistic approach want to acknowledge from the start this severe limitation on the probativeness of any sort of genetic analysis under these circumstances — to include reliance on the four morphs? For example, the false positives at the Richmond lab in 2004 or so — and their implications for the work done by the lab — pale in comparison to this straightforward limitation on the usefulness of the analysis that the FBI faced from the very start. This limitation was not anything of the FBI’s own making — the dropping of the ball only comes into play when the results are overstated and the limitations are overlooked or ignored. When the science is then misleadingly used to fit the investigators’ hypothesis.

    Isn’t a process-of-elimination approach relying on scientists being willing to send in samples of virulent Ames — (that they very likely were not supposed to have — going to be fatally flawed from the start? For example, isn’t it like tracing intentional use of smallpox and excluding Russia? Russia surreptitiously obtained virulent Ames from USAMRIID, according to Aliibek and Popov and Popov personally used it.

    Dr. Murch tells me he is not impressed with what I report on my correspondence with Al Qaeda anthrax lab director Yazid Sufaat. Does he at least credit what Dr. Alibek and Dr. Popov both told me and said publicly about their work with virulent Ames in Russia?

    Dr. Murch does not want Amerithrax reopened and is not interested in sharing his powerpoints. So we may never know why he thinks that the fact that Russia had virulent Ames from USAMRIID — without more — made it clear that any analysis relating to distribution of Ames (to include the four morphs) was going to have very severe limitations.

    In short : We don’t know what we don’t know and the four morphs analysis/distribution of Ames analysis does not take that into account. The validation of assays relating to the four morphs — notwithstanding the false positives at the FBI’s lab — may have led to a “holistic” sense of confidence… but was it ever warranted? Despite the learned specialization of these hardworking and well-meaning professionals, at the end of the day isn’t it more about business development than about actually providing probative evidence that can give anyone any confidence in the analysis of the Amerithrax investigation?

    • DXer said

      You want bang for the buck? How much did the genetics investigation cost?

      Now compare that to how much it would have cost to understand that the lyophilizer was unavailable to use. Compare FBI press conference on August 8, 2008.

  3. DXer said

    Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis
    © L. Hirszfeld Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, Wroclaw, Poland 2014
    10.1007/s00005-014-0296-8
    Conference Proceedings

    Biological Threat Detection in the Air and on the Surface: How to Define the Risk
    Elżbieta Anna Trafny1 , Rafał Lewandowski1, Małgorzata Stępińska1 and Miron Kaliszewski2

    (1)Department of Microbiology, Military Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Kozielska 4, 01-163 Warsaw, Poland
    (2)Institute of Optoelectronics, Military University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland

    Elżbieta Anna Trafny
    Email: trafny.elzbieta@gmail.com
    Received: 28 February 2014
    Accepted: 22 May 2014
    Published online: 11 June 2014

    ***

    The bioterrorist event that occurred in autumn 2001 in the United States has serious worldwide implications, received a lot of attention and increased the public perception of risk and danger that might occur in the immediate vicinity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2001; Sanderson et al. 2002). It was also an unexpected event for federal government agencies, which that time had to face the real threat to public health (Ho and Duncan 2005). This threat occurred when letters containing Bacillus anthracis endospores (~1–2 g) were sent through the United States mail system. The letters were received and opened by final recipients and then, the deadly B. anthracis endospores were aerosolized and inhaled. This has led to serious infections, which finally caused the death of five persons. The most striking case of exposure to anthrax endospores in fall 2001 was the episode of the retired 94-year-old woman in Connecticut, who received a letter without B. anthracis spores inside, but which was previously unfortunately cross-contaminated in the sorting mail facility in Washington, DC (Day 2003).
    The anthrax infections in fall 2001 (some cases were of an unknown source) posed once again a question to the public health authorities about the infectious dose of B. anthracis endospores for humans. For obvious and legitimate reasons there were not experimental data on the response of humans to bioaerosols containing B. anthracis endospores. The scarce data that are currently available came from analysis of the putative lethal dose of B. anthracis endospores in industrial employees working with the products of infected animals (1900’s), non-human primate’s data, surveys of endemic anthrax in Turkey, human data collected from the Sverdlovsk outbreak in Russia, and recently, from the bioterroristic attack in the USA (Wilkening 2006). The final conclusion from the above considerations is that many previously held assumptions regarding the infectious dose for humans may not be actually correct, and that even one hundred endospores may be lethal for a person with weakened immune response.

  4. Nitrogen said

    I see Paul Keim is no longer the chairman of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB). Mr. Keim and 10 other members of the biosafety panel lost their positions as of Sunday evening when they were Notified via email.

    • DXer said

      Dr. Stanley recently has been Chair. As for membership, there is an ongoing rotation of membership.

      The website had explained:

      “The NSABB has up to 25 voting members with a broad range of expertise including molecular biology, microbiology, infectious diseases, biosafety, public health, veterinary medicine, plant health, national security, biodefense, law enforcement, scientific publishing, and other related fields. The NSABB also includes non-voting ex officio members from 15 federal agencies and departments.”

      Its role:

      “The NSABB advises on and recommends specific strategies for the efficient and effective oversight of federally conducted or supported dual use biological research, taking into consideration national security concerns and the needs of the research community.”

      “How long do members serve?”

      “The NSABB has up to 25 voting members who serve for overlapping terms of up to four years. ”

      “How has the NSABB contributed to advising the United States Government on biosecurity concerns related to dual use research?”

      “The NSABB has submitted a series of reports advising the United States Government (USG) on dual use research:
      • Criteria for identifying dual use research and guidance for the responsible oversight, conduct and communication of dual use research (i.e. Oversight Framework)
      • Biosecurity concerns related to the synthesis of select agents
      • A strategic plan for outreach and education on dual use research issues
      • Strategies for enhancing personnel reliability among individuals with access to select agents
      • Biosecurity concerns related to synthetic biology
      In addition the NSABB has hosted a series of international meetings on dual use research, with the aim of raising awareness of the dual use research issues, and to facilitate international engagement and information sharing on strategies for managing risk(s) posed by dual use life science research.”

      http://osp.od.nih.gov/sites/default/files/resources/NSABB%20Voting%20Members%20Roster%20_June%202014_WEB_0.pdf

  5. DXer said

    “Justice Dept. unit did not warn of flawed evidence,” USA Today
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/16/fbi-lab-evidence/12728483/

    WASHINGTON —

    “Federal authorities harshly criticized a Justice Department unit for failing to immediately notify states that convictions, including some 64 cases involving defendants already on death row, could be at risk because of faulty analysis and overstated evidence from the FBI crime laboratory.”

    ***

    “An independent scientist who later reviewed the case found the FBI lab analysis to be scientifically unsupportable and the testimony overstated and incorrect,” the report stated. And, according to the report, the prosecutor in the case also told task force authorities that without the flawed testimony of a former FBI lab examiner, the defendant “would not have been convicted of the capital offense that rendered him eligible for the death penalty.”

    ***

    “The new inspector general’s review concluded one examiner’s “faulty analysis and scientifically unsupportable testimony contributed to the conviction of an innocent defendant who was exonerated 27 years later and the reversal of at least five other defendants’ convictions,” and the review team should have taken more notice of those flaws.”

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

  6. DXer said

    Some aspects of microbial forensics — like understanding that in determining probability the variables must be independent (and they weren’t) — require specialized training. Other aspects are more basic.

    For example, I have pointed out that we know that the 20 labs known to have virulent Ames was not in fact the universe. Russia is a prime example. Russia had Ames. The USG knows that or had reason to know that. Yet the fact was ignored in forming the premise of its analysis that purported to narrow those known to have access to virulent Ames from 1000 to several hundred. It was as if the FBI premised an investigation into a smallpox outbreak by positing that it was only held by the US.

    But let’s take the FBI’s posited 20 known labs as a given. (BHR’s list in 12/2001 was up to 15). We still need to ascertain what additional labs are on the list. The FBI claims that there was no other lab in Virginia that had virulent Ames.

    Question: Didn’t FBI contractor CBI have virulent Ames?

    “Commonwealth Biotechnologies, Inc.; Commonwealth Biotechnologies Identified as Key Lab in the Amerithrax Investigation
    Anonymous. Food & Drug Law Weekly (Oct 10, 2008):

    At the time of the Anthrax attacks in September and October 2001, CBI scientists were already actively engaged in research to detect and analyze biothreat agents in environmental and biodefense samples. CBI held several contracts with Government Sponsors, including the FBI, to detect and analyze microbial agents by DNA sequence analysis and other methods. This included work to identify isolates of the Ames and other strains of Anthrax. Shortly after the start of the FBI Amerithrax investigation, CBI Scientists began working with scientists from the FBI to find suitable forensic markers that could differentiate laboratory Ames strains from the Ames anthrax used in the 2001 mailings. CBI and FBI scientists worked closely together and evaluated numerous genetic markers generated by research efforts from a consortium of government and private labs involved in the investigation. Through this effort, the FBI selected several suitable markers for forensic assay development by CBI. Selection criteria for these assays were based on forensic methods already well established at CBI and centered on whether the assay could be highly specific, sensitive, robust, reproducible, and pass through blinded validation studies and stringent quality review. Two of the assays developed and validated at CBI were selected by the FBI to be used by CBI for screening the FBI repository of samples collected through subpoena during the Amerithrax investigation. The results from these analyses were key to the overall direction of the FBI investigation.

    [The] “contract research organization providing outsourced services in the area of biotechnology discovery and development to companies worldwide, today disclosed that it was a key laboratory in developing the DNA forensics methods used to identify the source of the 2001 anthrax letter attacks that killed five, sickened 17 and caused widespread panic in the days following Sept. 11. CBI carried out thousands of tests over the course of the investigation spanning from early 2002 until the abrupt end in 2008. Since the beginning of the investigation CBI has been under a Non-Disclosure agreement with the FBI and could not disclose its involvement in the case. Recently CBI received notice that the FBI has lifted certain clauses in the agreement and CBI is now able to disclose it’s role in the investigation, in particular the science developed and used at CBI..

    At the time of the Anthrax attacks in September and October 2001, CBI scientists were already actively engaged in research to detect and analyze biothreat agents in environmental and biodefense samples. CBI held several contracts with Government Sponsors, including the FBI, to detect and analyze microbial agents by DNA sequence analysis and other methods. This included work to identify isolates of the Ames and other strains of Anthrax. Shortly after the start of the FBI Amerithrax investigation, CBI Scientists began working with scientists from the FBI to find suitable forensic markers that could differentiate laboratory Ames strains from the Ames anthrax used in the 2001 mailings. CBI and FBI scientists worked closely together and evaluated numerous genetic markers generated by research efforts from a consortium of government and private labs involved in the investigation. Through this effort, the FBI selected several suitable markers for forensic assay development by CBI. Selection criteria for these assays were based on forensic methods already well established at CBI and centered on whether the assay could be highly specific, sensitive, robust, reproducible, and pass through blinded validation studies and stringent quality review. Two of the assays developed and validated at CBI were selected by the FBI to be used by CBI for screening the FBI repository of samples collected through subpoena during the Amerithrax investigation. The results from these analyses were key to the overall direction of the FBI investigation.

    “We at CBI are pleased and proud to have played a key role in developing the technologies and providing the testing for these forensic samples. This is the culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work coupled with the innovative insights of the highly skilled talent here at CBI and at the FBI. We look forward to sharing these insights with the scientific community as soon as possible. Going forward, we believe this will set the standard for this type of microbial forensics investigations.” said Richard J. Freer, COO of CBI.

    “The FBI needed a laboratory they could trust to do the sample analysis as they fully expected to have to defend the data in court. So they really required a lab that already had experience processing samples following forensic chain of custody and QA standards.” said Thomas R. Reynolds, Executive Vice President and head of the CBI Amerithrax team. “CBI was in a unique situation to help the FBI with this investigation because we had expertise in both anthrax and forensic standards for DNA analysis already in place. Working closely with the FBI, CBI was able to successfully meld these fields into one, creating one of the first microbial forensic labs in the country. This took the efforts of a team comprised of CBI and FBI scientists and quality assurance professionals. This team worked tirelessly to produce innovative science and validated methods capable of producing data which could be held to the highest forensics quality standards.” Continued Reynolds, “We would like to thank all of the people who worked in this investigation over the years and acknowledge their hard work and dedication.”

    “We at CBI extend our sympathy to the families and friends of the victims of these attacks. We hope our efforts will help to provide some closure to these tragic events.” added Freer.

    • DXer said

      The Science Behind The ‘Anthrax Letter’ Attack Investigation
      Date:
      February 26, 2009
      Source:
      American Society for Microbiology

      Excerpt:

      “Tom Reynolds of Commonwealth Biotechnologies, Inc., Richmond, Virginia, described his team’s development of two assays to detect the genetic signatures associated with the morphological variants from the letters. This included a description of the forensic analysis standards that were applied to the work.”

      Question: Did the lab that developed of two assays detect the genetic signatures have virulent Ames prior to 2001?

    • DXer said

      Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

      March 22, 2005 Tuesday
      City Edition

      PENTAGON ANTHRAX MATCHES 2001 STRAIN CHESTERFIELD LAB: FINDING IS NOT SURPRISING BECAUSE STRAIN IS COMMON IN LABS

      A.J. Hostetler Times-Dispatch Staff Writer Contact A.J. Hostetl
      Pg. B-1

      The anthrax that a private Richmond-area laboratory says it found at a Pentagon mail facility is the same strain used in the 2001 mail attacks that killed five people and injured 17 others.

      The possibility that the Pentagon was tainted with anthrax arose when one of four swabs taken daily from sensor filters by a military subcontractor lab in Chesterfield County on March 11 tested positive. Commonwealth Biotechnologies Inc. President and CEO Robert Harris said yesterday that the strain his company says it found at the Pentagon was Ames, the strain used in the unsolved 2001 attacks.

      Harris said it was not surprising because Ames is the strain typically used by labs studying bacillus anthracis.

      The initial finding by Commonwealth Biotechnologies was confirmed by a more accurate polymerase chain-reaction test by an Army biodefense lab at Fort Detrick, Md., but later disputed when further environmental tests proved negative.

      The mail facility was closed after the Defense Department learned of the positive test the following Monday and was reopened two days later. Two other related facilities – one in Fairfax County, the other in Washington – also were closed until they could be cleared. Hundreds of government workers were initially told to take antibiotics as a precaution.

      ***.

      Federal officials say an investigation is getting under way into the possibility that Commonwealth Biotechnologies was the inadvertent source of the anthrax, either through improper testing procedures or contamination within the lab. The Defense Department has labeled the initial tests a “false positive,” but Harris said his firm stands by its work.

      Harris said Commonwealth Biotechnologies has conducted a “rigorous internal investigation” that included a quality assurance audit of its lab and administrative processes to look at the issue of contamination.

      He refused to release any additional test results, but said, “the ball’s back over the net,” meaning that investigators would take any further steps in the probe.

      ***

    • DXer said

      Biosafety Facilities: War on terror gives rise to new “clean” facilities

      Work in progress

      A 45-person company, CBI was established in 1992. The company built its first BSL-3 laboratory in 1997, and began working with pathogenic agents in 2000.

      http://electroiq.com/blog/2004/09/biosafety-facilities-war-on-terror-gives-rise-to-new-clean-facilities/

    • DXer said

      At CBI, Tom Reynolds was the Director and Technical leader for the FBI Amerithrax case — so I’ve emailed him to ask.

      He now is Executive Vice President/Co-Founder of the related AI Biotech and Fairfax Identity Labs in Richmond.

      My friend from the area who worked in the field — visiting at the time of the tornado here — just got a horse. Virginia horse country is beautiful. A resident for 15 years, I miss it.

      http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

    • DXer said

      Dr. Reynolds reports no — CBI did not have virulent Ames prior to 9/11.

  7. DXer said

    Attaque a ‘lanthrax 2001 remise en cause
    http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Amerithrax&go=&qs=n&form=VBREQY&pq=amerithrax&sc=2-9&sp=-1&sk=#view=detail&mid=C84ABC2BF00AE4C33E96C84ABC2BF00AE4C33E96

  8. DXer said

    “Forensic Science Isn’t Science: Why juries hear — and trust — so much biased, unreliable, inaccurate evidence,” June 11, 2014
    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/06/forensic_science_is_biased_and_inaccurate_but_juries_believe_it_and_convict.html

    • DXer said

      http://zebra.bookslive.co.za/blog/2014/07/03/justice-denied-david-klatzow-explores-the-role-of-forensic-science-in-the-miscarriage-of-justice/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BOOKSA+(Books+LIVE)
      Press release:

      Justice Denied: David Klatzow Explores the Role of Forensic Science in the Miscarriage of Justice
      by Amanda on Jul 3rd, 2014

      New from Zebra Press this month, Justice Denied by David Klatzow:
      If you are accused of a crime you did not commit, do you believe that justice will prevail in a court of law? Perhaps you should think again…
      • An innocent woman is almost sent to prison for eight years because of a mistaken fingerprint identification by so-called forensic experts;
      • a chicken farmer is hanged for a brutal murder he did not commit due to incorrect analysis of post-mortem bruising; and
      • a mother is sent to prison for murdering her baby daughter when a substance is falsely identified as blood…
      These are just some of the major forensic disasters that have occurred over the past 100 years, and which are exposed in Justice Denied.
      Contrary to what television series like CSI and NCIS would have one believe, forensic science does not provide instant answers to impenetrable crimes; in reality, forensic science is neither clearcut nor easy to interpret, and practitioners are not all competent – as renowned forensic scientist Dr David Klatzow proves in this book. In Justice Denied, he exposes the miscarriages of justice resulting from the faulty courtroom testimony of corrupt or incompetent forensic pathologists and unscrupulous public prosecutors who seek convictions at all costs.
      From the infamous Dr Crippen case in 19th-century England to the dingo–baby trial in Australia and the unsolved murder of Inge Lotz, Justice Denied reveals the incalculable damage done both to people’s lives and to justice across the globe. Justice, while age-old, is not always served when bad science plays a hand.

      About the author
      Dr David Klatzow is an internationally recognised forensic scientist. He is an expert in the field of pyroforensics and an authority on blood alcohol. Before branching out into the world of forensic science, he was a lecturer in biochemistr

      “All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” — Sophocles

    • DXer said

      https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=26641

      Title: Innocence Crisis and Forensic Science Reform (From Wrongful Conviction and Criminal Justice Reform: Making Justice, 2014, Marvin Zalman and Julia Carrano, eds., See NCJ-244328)
      Author(s): Simon A. Cole
      Date Published: 2014
      Page Count: 20
      Document: PDF
      Publisher: http://www.routledge.com

      Annotation: The DNA revolution created a crisis in forensic science. In recent years, the forensic sciences have generated many reform proposals. Instead of relying on an externally generated crisis, the author argues that forensic science needs regular existing mechanisms and institutiions to detect when future reforms are nescessary.
      Abstract: Wrongful Conviction and Criminal Justice Reform: Making Justice, details the current issues of “innocence reform” and wrongful convictions, offering potential reforms that would enhance the criminal justice system and alleviate the problem of wrongful convictions. The work consists of 16 chapters detailing research and scholarship on innocence reform — change in the justice system designed to reduce error and help exonerees, and represent the latest thinking on the subject. It is not a compendium of what has been learned about wrongful convictions since serious scholarship began in the 1980’s, rather it examines the issues and processes related to wrongful conviction in the light of the policy reform process. The work is parsed into four discrete sections: Part I – Prelude: Approaches to Innocence Reform; Part II – Institutions of Innocence Reform; Part III – Changing the Criminal Justice System, that looks at issues concerning Police Investigation and Wrongful Convictions, Forensic Science’s Reform Agenda, Prosecution Reactions to Innocence, Defense Counsel, New Models of Adjudication and Appeal, New Models for Establishing Innocence Post-Conviction, Death Penalty Directions, and Exoneree Compensation; and, finally, PART IV – Summation, in which the editors offer thoughts on the role played by actual innocence in stimulating reforms of the criminal justice system. Throughout the work, the authors stress that innocence reform is a vital aspect of wrongful conviction scholarship, the goal of which must be the continuous examination, and renewal, of the criminal justice system as it undertakes one of the most momentous actions of government—determining guilt or innocence.

      I believe it was Lew Weinstein’s concern that an injustice was being done that brought him to the party. See his novel “A Good Conviction.”

      A Good Conviction Paperback – March 29, 2012
      by Lewis M. Weinstein (Author)

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1475119798/ref=s9_psimh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0JSEP56RQ81R6JD6K4EY&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846

    • DXer said

      This is a nice entry into the subject, with references listed after each chapter.

      Kevin J. Strom, and Matthew J. Hickman, Forensic Science and the Administrationof Justice: Critical Issues and Directions (2014)

      http://books.google.com/books?id=Xzt1AwAAQBAJ&pg=PA244&dq=forensic+science+and+the+Administration+of+Justice&hl=en&sa=X&ei=NTa_U_myJIqgyAT5oYHIDw&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=forensic%20science%20and%20the%20Administration%20of%20Justice&f=false

  9. DXer said

    It is the audio of the plenary on Amerithrax forensics that is a key source of material.

    Meanwhile, here is audio from Travel Channel.

    Travel Channel
    ANTHRAX CULPRIT: The culprit behind the anthrax scare of 2001 remains a mystery.

    The segment interviews book author Leonard Cole, who was one of the panel members at the conference moderated by Lew.

    http://www.travelchannel.com/video/anthrax-culprit

  10. DXer said

    BWC Experts will be briefed in early August in Geneva.

    “Questions?”

    http://www.nps.edu/Academics/Centers/CCC/Events/recent/WMD%20and%20Strategic%20Stability%20June%202014/Panel_3_1_Sharples_Microbial_Forensics.pdf

  11. DXer said

    “Science Needs for Microbial Forensics: Developing an International Science Roadmap
    http://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/A698A18CECF07859C1257C4A004DC365/$file/BWC+MSP+2013+-+Side+Event+-+Bath+-+Alemka+Markotic.pdf

    From the October 2013 conference, you can see the “Plenary: Technologies and Approaches for Identifying Microbes for Law Enforcement — The 2001 Anthrax Letters” under the graphic for “House”.

    Now you can watch the trailer for House from Hungary if you want. But you instead might more productively listen to the audio from the plenary.

  12. DXer said

    http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=18737

    Date: June 9, 2014

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Science and Technology Advances in Microbial Forensics Needed to Better Prepare for and Respond to Global Biological Outbreaks

    WASHINGTON – Much as human DNA can be used as evidence in criminal trials, genetic information about microorganisms can be analyzed to identify pathogens or other biological agents in the event of a suspicious disease outbreak. The tools and methods used to investigate such outbreaks belong to an emerging discipline known as microbial forensics, but the field faces substantial scientific and technical challenges, says a new report from the National Research Council.

  13. DXer said

    The event in Croatia — the majority of 40 attendees were from other countries — was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency via the Naval Postgraduate School under the auspices of the U.S. National Academies in collaboration with the Croatian Academy of Sciences.

    In the keynote address, former senior FBI scientist Randall Murch, who led the FBI’s early Amerithrax science efforts, discussed how successful investigation and prosecution of bioterrorism and investigations requires the availability of highly informative, validated, high confidence science, preferably on a timely basis. He described how investigative leads and decisions, legal actions, process and outcomes, and national policy-driven actions and decisions are informed and can hinge on the quality, value, and weight of the science provided.

    Dr. Murch joined Virgnia Tech in 2004 and oversaw the science deemed to underlie the FBI’s “Hatfill Theory” in the Amerithrax investigation.

    The FBI in the end switched horses and rode in on its “Ivins Theory.”

    The “Hatfill Theory” was part of the same unstoppable train wreck as the “Ivins Theory.” There was a change of cars (investigators), but it was the same flawed train of reasoning and the investigators never overcame the earlier truncated emphasis of the investigation.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 10, 2011
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/the-hatfill-theory-was-part-of-the-same-unstoppable-train-wreck-as-the-ivins-theory-there-was-a-change-of-cars-investigators-but-it-was-the-same-flawed-train-of-reasoning-and-the-inve/

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

    • DXer said

      “was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency via the Naval Postgraduate School ”

      A very learned thesis from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California is titiled “Biological Weapons Attribution: A Primer.”
      Elizabeth L. Stone Bahr (Author)

      Section III is titled “Sverdlosk and Amerithrax: Epidemiology of Two Outbreaks.” $2.99 on Kindle.

      From Amazon:

      Book Description
      Publication Date: April 13, 2012

      The possibility of an enemy attack using biological weapons (BW) remains one of the biggest threats to U.S. and global security. U.S. defense and deterrence policies are based on the assumption that the perpetrator can be quickly and reliably identified. If perpetrators can conduct attacks without the fear of attribution or punishment, they can act with impunity. The ability to punish, therefore, rests on the ability to identify the perpetrator. Thus, the goal of attribution is at the root of all national security strategies. Unfortunately, there are three reasons why the attribution of BW attacks are very difficult: (1) the nature of biological weapons, (2) the unique restrictions the international environment places on BW attribution, and (3) the bureaucratic constraints and organizational overlap that domestic political environments can impose if a BW attack occurs. This thesis thus provides a basic epistemological framework for analysis for successful BW attribution, detailing the nature, methods, and limits of current BW attribution capabilities.

      Product Details
      File Size: 680 KB
      Print Length: 121 pages
      Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
      Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
      Language: English
      ASIN: B007U8GJAK

    • DXer said

      Relying on an official involved in the Amerithrax investigation, the author writes:

      “The forensics community places the highest amount of emphasis on sample collection and analysis. The community has repeatedly cautioned that one of the biggest short-comings in BW investigations is that there remains no uniform evidence collection standards among the many agencies involved in the investigation.”

      The author continues:

      “Scientists have emphasized that the ultimate goal of source attribution is to be able to individualize a sample so that it can be traced to a unique source, but this is unlikely with current capabilities. Forensic specialists used the Amerithrax case as an example of both the successes as well the limits of microbial forensics.”

      “In fact, one

      “State Department official has insisted what when came to standards of evidence for BW attribution, the policy community has decided against a “beyond a reasonable doubt” and has instead decided on a “reasonable man standard.”

      By shifting their standard of evidence to only a “reasonable man standard,” the policy community puts themselves in a stronger position to respond to a BW attack, but in a very precarious position when it comes to actually solving and prosecuting the crime, and does little to gain interational credibility and support.”

      She writes:

      “An FBI official speaking on condition of anonymity told this author that this Amerithrax investigation has been perpetually plagued by something of an organizational zeitgeist, referencing the Hegelian concept of having one’s perception of reality being directly influenced by one’s limited environment. Due to this organizational zietgeist and the differing methods and goals of attribution among the public health, forensic, and policy communities, the Amerithrax attacks have highlighted the dangers of not having a cohesive, agreed-upon BW attribution policy, and having a limited perception of reality due to one’s own organizational goals can prevent the resolution of one of the largest BW attacks on the United States.”

      [Editor’s note: See SPYING BLIND. Also see Laurie Garrett’s reporting on the subject. FWIW, Dr. Murch was on the author’s very short initial distribution list.]

      [Note, a key disagreement between the FBI and CDC was that CDC did not appreciate how floatable the mailed anthrax was, such that it could escape from a sealed envelope in Brentwood and pose a threat].

      “[governments “need to act when there’s smoke, because once there is a fire, people will die.” — Paula DeSutter. Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation. Keynote Speech. “Identification, Characterization, and Attribution of Biological Weapons Use Conference,” London, UK: July 2006.

      http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

  14. DXer said

    A recent 2014 NRC report on microbial forensics, describing a presentation by Paul Keim on the Amerithrax investigation in Croatia, summarizes:

    “Keim provided two strong suggestions for improving the forensic approach to microbial attribution. The first that investigators should define a specific hypothesis or hypotheses. Hypothesis building before obtaining results can reduce bias by averting any tendency to try to fit the results to a desired interpretation. If investigators focus their questions around hypotheses to be tested, it is possible to develop yes/no or include/ exclusion criteria in an investigation. The second recommendation is that investigators define a relevant reference population for genetic analyses . Early in the anthrax investigation, there was inadequate information about both North American and worldwide B. anthracis strains.” (p. 32)

    FBI genetics expert Claire Fraser-Liggett … I think that the (FBI’s use of the) evidence on science probably was misleading … I have no way to know whether or not Bruce Ivins was really the perpetrator
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 13, 2011
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/fbi-genetics-expert-claire-fraser-liggett-this-is-not-an-airtight-case-by-any-means/

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

    • DXer said

      Although I think only 40 were expected, 60 participated.

      http://www.un.org/en/sc/1540/pdf/Information%20Note%20Zagreb%20Microbial%20Meeting%202013-63.pdf

      Excerpts:

      The international workshop on Science Needs for Microbial Forensics: Developing an Initial International Roadmap brought together over 60 participants from 20 different countries, representing various government, industry, academia, research and international organizations and other entities.

      The workshop created a greater international understanding of the current capabilities and limitations of microbial forensics to support the prevention, deterrence and response to biological weapons proliferation and terrorism threats. Participants also discussed the future needs of microbial forensics field in order to develop it as an effective tool in this regard, addressing basic science, public health, and science policy requirements. A report of the workshop, including conclusions and recommendations will be produced by a committee under the auspices of the US National Academy of Sciences.

      The workshop was organized in plenary sessions followed by breakout group discussions and a concluding plenary session. A poster session and reception organized by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts allowed participants to discuss their research in an informal setting, and featured welcome remarks by Dr. Pavao Rudan, FCA, Secretary General of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

      Opening remarks were provided on behalf of the sponsoring organizations (Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, US National Academy of Sciences, UK Royal Society, and the International Union of Microbiological Societies).

      The workshop also featured plenary sessions on:
      – Microbial Ecology and Diversity—Microbial Forensics in the Context of Population Genetics, chaired by Dr. Paul Keim, Northern Arizona University (US), with discussions on what is known, in general, about the ecology of pathogens globally and issues on microbial ecology and diversity in the context of microbial forensics; – Clinical and Forensic Approaches to Microbial Identification, chaired by Dr. Dragan Primorac, Pennsylvania State University (US), University of New Haven (US), University of Split (Croatia), University of Osijek (Croatia), which discussed technologies and techniques for forensics and relevant clinical diagnostic practices;

      – Technologies and Approaches for Identifying Microbes in Public Health—The E. coli O104 Case and other relevant cases and perspectives, chaired by Dr. Munirul Alam, International Center for Diarrheal Diseases Research (Bangladesh); – Sampling and Preservation Methods, addressing public health versus criminal investigation, transportation and storage, and accepted protocols and practices, and the more general question of whether there is a need for standardized methods that are shared internationally; this session was chaired by Dr. Bruce Budowle, University of North Texas Health Science Center (US);

      – Validation and Reference Materials for Microbial Forensics, which addressed guidelines and components for validation, transportation and storage, test materials, and whether there is a need for internationally accepted standards for validation, chaired by Dr. Cindi Corbett, Public Health Agency of Canada; – Bioinformatics and Data, chaired by Dr. Habib Bukhari, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology (Pakistan), with discussions on the role and importance of bioinformatics and computational genomics in microbial forensics and managing large data sets;

      – Technologies and Approaches for Identifying Microbes for Law Enforcement-, chaired by Gilles Vergnaud, Institut de Génétique et Microbiologie UFR des Sciences – Université Paris-Sud 11 (France), which discussed the 2001 US anthrax letters case, the anthrax-contaminated heroin in Scotland and Germany, the cases of Hepatitis C caused by anesthesiologist in Spain, and international perspectives: i) inspections for biological weapons capabilities – Dr. Rocco Casagrande (former
      Dr. Piers Millet (BWC ISU) discussed the BWC States Parties’ agreement at the Seventh Review Conference to include inter alia, in the current intersessional program 2012-2015, the following topics to be addressed under the Standing Agenda Item on review of developments in the field of science and technology related to the Convention: “new science and technology developments that have potential for uses contrary to the provisions of the Convention” and “possible measures for strengthening national biological risk management” as well as “

      The 1540 Committee expert noted that microbial forensics (bio-forensics) is an essential element of a national and international biosecurity infrastructure, as a deterrent and support tool, and that, similar to nuclear forensics, it may be used as a tool to detect, prevent and deter acts of terrorism and illicit trafficking or use of biological materials. The potential applications of microbial forensics thus may contribute to strengthening biosecurity in the context of resolution 1540 (2004) and to achieving cooperation and synergy among various international security frameworks. She addressed broad topics such as: the legally binding obligations on all States under resolution 1540 (2004); Security Council definitions for the purpose of resolution 1540 (2004); the 1540 Committee architecture and work process; and the Security Council decision that “Member States shall inform immediately the Security Council of any violation of resolution 1540 (2004)…” per resolution 2118 (2013). The 1540 Committee expert discussed the similarities between BWC and resolution 1540 (2004) – neither have a
      UN MOVIC Biological Weapons Inspector) and ii) the relevance of microbial forensics to resolution 1540 (2004) by Dr. Dana Perkins, 1540 Committee expert.

    • DXer said

      “Keim provided two strong suggestions for improving the forensic approach to microbial attribution. The first that investigators should define a specific hypothesis or hypotheses. Hypothesis building before obtaining results can reduce bias by averting any tendency to try to fit the results to a desired interpretation. If investigators focus their questions around hypotheses to be tested, it is possible to develop yes/no or include/ exclusion criteria in an investigation.” (p. 32)

      On this question of desired interpretation, a study by my nephew,

      “How Much Do Our Genes Influence Our Political Beliefs?,” New York Times, July 8, 2014
      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/09/opinion/thomas-edsall-how-much-do-our-genes-influence-our-political-beliefs.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=0

      and a new book by my former roommate,

      Liberating the Holy Name: A Free-Thinker Grapples with the Meaning of Divinity Paperback – August 1, 2014
      by Daniel Spiro (Author)
      • Paperback
      http://www.amazon.com/Liberating-Holy-Name-Free-Thinker-Grapples/dp/1625646305/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404991699&sr=8-1&keywords=Daniel+Spiro

      shine light from their different perspectives on the origins of beliefs.

      • DXer said

        For example, how is the hypothesis that Russia had Ames tested by merely testing the strains leaked from the Sverdlosk drain pipe? Was that pooch screwed because of a desired interpretation resulting from the profile coming from the profilers in early October 2001?

        http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

  15. DXer said

    In his presentation in Croatia reported in this recent 2014 report on microbial forensics, Dr. Paul Keim explained that one of the challenges of the Amerithrax investigaton was that

    “Subject-area experts were also criminal suspects. Those performing analyses were simultaneously being investigated.”

    FBI anthrax expert John Ezzell had made a dried powder aerosol out of Flask 1029 for DARPA.

    His lab did not submit a sample in 2002. Differing explanations were given by his assistant collecting the samples — one explanation was that Dr. Ivins had submitted a sample and so she didn’t think it was necessary.

    USAMRIID and the FBI had kept the dried powder program secret for almost a decade.

    When I called Dr. Ezzell in July 2009, he courageously explained that the telephone was likely wiretapped and he was still under a gag order, but that he would answer any question I had.

    Through no fault of John’s, there was a huge conflict of interest given that a leading candidate for suspicion — by reason of having made a dried powder out of Ames with 4 morphs. (The Ames, he explains, was irradiated).

    He had worked for the FBI’s hazardous materials unit since 2006 and was leading the collection of samples — and had worked alongside the scientists planning the scientific approach to be used for years.

    The conflict of interest was made more acute by the FBI’s failure to forthrightly deal with the throwing out of the sample submitted in February 2002 submitted by Ivins.

    Although the Amerithrax Investigative Summary in February 2010 noted that it had been thrown out by Dr. Ezzell’s lab, it nonetheless did acrobatics in relying on the FebrSpring 2002 submissions as proof of Bruce Ivins’ guilt.

    The person who wrote the summary had made a silk purse out of sow’s ear.

    The day in court, as imagine it, would have ended with a federal district court yelling loudly at the federal prosecutor, outraged at what was being passed off as support for an Ivins Theory.

    Instead, the issue more simply constituted destruction of evidence that should have been preserved — and a conflict of interest that should have been resolved more effectively.

    With destruction of evidence, the inference is drawn against the party responsible for its destruction.

    DXer: John Ezzell forthrightly (to my way of thinking, heroically) answered all my questions relating to the DARPA research in which Flask 1029 (the “murder weapon” to borrow US Attorney Taylor’s term) was used to make a dried powder Ames aerosol.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 10, 2010
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/john-ezzell-forthrightly-to-my-way-of-thinking-heroically-answered-all-my-dxers-questions-relating-to-the-darpa-research-in-which-flask-1029-the-“murder-weapon”-to-borrow-us/

    Terry Abshire in a document produced this week under FOIA explains that the genetically matching sample she had in her lab was not submitted in the initial set ; instead, wasn’t her lab provided genetically matching material in August 2000 for DARPA research in which Dr. Ezzell made a dried powder out of the Ames and gave it to the DARPA researchers?
    Posted on October 6, 2011
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/terry-abshire-in-a-document-produced-this-week-under-foia-explains-that-the-genetically-matching-sample-she-had-in-her-lab-was-not-submitted-in-the-initial-set-instead-wasnt-her-lab-provided-ge/

    This is an interview of a scientist who had been working on the DARPA research while at USAMRIID; did Joany Jackman leave the remaining Ames from Flask 1029 with Terry Abshire or John Ezzell when she left?
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 12, 2011
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/his-is-an-interview-of-a-scientist-who-had-been-working-on-the-darpa-research-while-at-usamriid-did-joany-jackman-leave-the-remaining-ames-from-flask-1029-with-terry-abshire-or-john-ezzell-when-she/

    Who in Dr. Ezzell’s lab threw out Ivins’ February 2002 sample which contained the 4 morphs?
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 22, 2011
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/who-in-dr-ezzells-lab-threw-out-ivins-february-2002-sample-which-contained-the-4-morphs/

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