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

* “MONDAY PREVIEW: Mishap reports reveal lost and forgotten vials at Fort Detrick. Read the next part of the series in Tuesday’s Frederick News-Post.”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 4, 2015

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10 Responses to “* “MONDAY PREVIEW: Mishap reports reveal lost and forgotten vials at Fort Detrick. Read the next part of the series in Tuesday’s Frederick News-Post.””

  1. DXer said

    Memories of Anthrax

    01.01.15 – 12:00 AM | by John Podhoretz
    https://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/memories-of-anthrax/

    “The FBI immediately declared Ivins the perpetrator and closed the case. Three years later, a study by the National Academy of Sciences raised profound questions about the FBI’s accusation—and given its disgraceful handling of the Hatfill case, there’s every reason to consider the matter still open.”

    Comment:

    For years, I wrote extensively and in detail opposing a Hatfill Theory. I then stopped — and I pretty much deleted it all once the consensus was that the Hatfill Theory was mistaken. (The FBI’s basis for ruling out a Hatfill Theory, ironically, was unsound given that the genetically matching strain was provably stored in Building 1412; there was just an absence of evidence in support of the theory.)

    I even had two FBI agents visit who asked why I was deleting material.

    But I don’t think of the theory as disgraceful. Theories can be wrong and yet not disgraceful. (I do think NK’s July 4, 2002 column was over the top and crossed a line but that is a narrower issue). We don’t want to make it harder for people like Vahid and Rachel and Ken to roll up their sleeves one day at the kitchen table and review the rabbit documents, and say, “You know what? It turns out Ivins DID have a reason to be in the lab.”

    We don’t want to make it harder for them to look at the documents and say, “You know what?” The code theory is not viable upon magnification of the individuals letters such as the “X” in NEXT.

    Or “You know what? The FBI threw out more critical evidence than Ivins ever did.”

    Or “Yikes, no reliance on the first counselor could ever reasonably be made in an investigation or legal proceeding — let alone a report by psychiatrists marketed on amazon to the public.”

    There’s no disgrace at all in having a theory that didn’t pan out when additional facts are known.

    There’s only disgrace in not seeking out the best evidence on which to form an opinion — and then not correcting mistakes.

    In Amerithrax, if you don’t know the second lab that Rauf Ahmad visited in 1999 on his mission to acquire the right laboratory strain of b.anthracis, then you don’t know enough about Amerithrax to support an Ivins Theory.

    In Amerithrax, if you don’t know the strain that Rauf Ahmad harvested in April 2001, then you don’t know enough about Amerithrax to support an Ivins Theory.

    In Amerithrax, if you don’t know what Yazid Sufaat has recently told his interrogators, then you don’t know enough about Amerithrax to support an Ivins Theory.

  2. DXer said

    Note the Frederick News-Post follows the commendable practice of linking actual reports.

    Frederick News-Post: “Detrick labs address forgotten vials”
    http://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/science_and_technology/research/detrick-labs-address-forgotten-vials/article_116676b6-3ec3-5d8b-b22c-ec40ef40a49b.html
    Posted: Monday, January 5, 2015 2:00 am
    By Sylvia Carignan News-Post Staff |

    USAMRIID reports that it has misplaced its copy of the inventory of its anthrax that it provided the FBI in February 2002. The wonderful USMRMC FOIA officer writes:

    “Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
    Caveats: NONE

    Ross,

    We can’t find the requested anthrax inventory.

    The FOIA request is for the “Anthrax Inventory” that is the third listed enclosure to the February 2002 subpoena response.

    The Feb 2002 subpoena response discusses the requested inventory, and states that it is included at enclosure 3. There is a handwritten note that suggests that the inventory is a 2 page document.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have copies of the enclosures with the response.

    We found a document from the RIID Chief of Staff at the time that said it was attached, but unable to locate the attachment. It was sent to DOJ (Mr. Kohl). I suggest contacting DOJ (Mr. Kohl if he is still there), and asking DOJ to forward to you a copy of the inventories that USAMRIID provided to them back in 2002. The number that was listed for him is 202 xxx-xxxx..

    v/r
    Sandra”

    There is no statute of limitation on a murder investigation. Failure to preserve the USAMRIID inventory from the time of the murders constitutes spoliation of evidence during the pendency of a civil suit against the United States for the murders. USAMRIID should go back and find the inventory from the time of the murders that was transmitted to AUSA Kohl. USAMRIID’s attorneys have a copy.

    Some background:

    USAMRIID provides this response about the lack of documentation associated with the missing 98 vials of Ames anthrax from Flask 1029 under the DARPA-funded JHU-APL project under which USAMRIID was required to provide unidentified contractors virulent Ames anthrax
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 20, 2014
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/usamriid-provides-this-response-about-the-lack-of-documentation-associated-with-the-missing-98-vials-of-ames-anthrax-from-flask-1029-under-the-darpa-funded-jhu-apl-project-under-which-usamriid-was/comment-page-1/#comment-37716

    Under the Agreement between JHU/APL and USAMRIID’s DSD, USAMRIID was to include work with virulent strains, and not just the Ames from Flask 1029 (Dugway Spores) that had been irradiated. 98 vials of Dugway spores are missing — claimed to have been destroyed the previous year.
    Posted by Lew Weinstein on October 27, 2014
    https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/under-the-agreement-between-jhuapl-and-usamriids-dsd-usamriid-was-to-include-work-with-powderized-virulent-strains-and-not-just-the-ames-from-flask-1029-dugway-spores-that-had-been-irradiated/comment-page-1/#comment-37714

    • DXer said

      Who was the Porton Down Ames anthrax researcher working with DARPA researchers John Ezzell and Terry Abshire who went back to Porton Down? (Dr. Ezzell and Dr. Abshire then collected the samples for Amerithrax)

      Didn’t that Ames anthrax researcher from Porton Down then also consult on Amerithrax? (Les Baillie describes himself as the sole Amerithrax advisor; but at least as of November 2001, Peter Turnbull was providing important technical advice – see November 2001 declassified technical report suggesting the mailed anthrax had been treated with hydrophilic silica). Both then came to work long-term in the US. For his part, Dr. Turnbull in the press said he had given Ames to four trusted researchers. Dr. Baillie has never been quoted saying who he gave Ames.

      Did Rauf Ahmad get the genetically matching Ames from that Porton Down researcher with the access to the Flask 1029 virulent Ames? What strains did Rauf Ahmad get at the second unidentified lab he visited in 1999?
      What strains did MI5 intercept him leaving with in 2000, after the conference that Dr. Baillie had organized. (I believe Dr. Turnbull was associated with and reported on the 1999 Porton Down Dangerous Pathogens conference.)

      Did Rauf Ahmad get genetically matching Ames from a Porton Down researcher who had worked with Ames alongside John Ezzell?

      With John having received VIRULENT AMES from Bruce Ivins’ Flask 1029 — under a MOA that required that USAMRIID give unidentified DARPA subcontractors VIRULENT AMES (and not merely irradiated Ames) as they required?

      What were the dates that the Porton Down scientist was at USAMRIID working with the virulent Ames?

      Isn’t this conflict of interest so acute that the FBI’s Ivins Theory does not withstand scrutiny?

      Vahid Majidi and James Burans and their colleagues have seen to it — by truncating the NAS review — that there was no meaningful “lessons learned” of Amerithrax. The GAO report was equally narrowly circumscribed on two narrow issues relating to microbial forensics.

      Congress should order a probe along the lines in what Rush Holt had proposed. That is the only way to get the exculpatory traditional tests being withheld released.

      http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

      At the Porton Down-sponsored Dangerous Pathogens 2000 Conference, Dr. Zawahiri’s infiltrating scientist Rauf Ahmad, in addition to presenting on the isolation of Bacillus Anthracis, presented on the detection of bacterial contamination in water.
      Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 15, 2014
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/at-the-porton-down-sponsored-dangerous-pathogens-2000-conference-dr-zawahiris-infiltrating-scientist-rauf-ahmad-in-addition-to-presenting-on-the-isolation-of-bacillus-anthracis-presente/

      • DXer said

        Deadly Anthrax Strain Leaves a Muddy Trail

        By Steve Fainaru and Joby Warrick, Washington Post Staff Writers

        http://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/bioter/anthraxmuddytrail.html

        Martin Hugh-Jones, an anthrax expert at Louisiana State University who maintains a global database of anthrax outbreaks for the World Health Organization, concurred that it was relatively simple in the past to obtain anthrax cultures from USAMRIID.

        “They kept the stuff there, and if you needed a culture, you called up Art” — Col. Arthur Friedlander, USAMRIID’s senior military research scientist, Hugh-Jones said.

        Other researchers received the bug in its virulent form. One such recipient was at Fort Detrick’s British counterpart, the Chemical Defense Establishment at Porton Down, near Salisbury, England. Peter Turnbull, a former Porton Down microbiologist, said the institute also was testing vaccines that would protect troops against various anthrax strains.

        British scientists in turn shared the Ames strain with other researchers. In the mid-1990s, Porton Down sent a packet containing Ames spores to Hugh-Jones, and also to a “very few” others, said Turnbull, who declined to name them.

        “It wasn’t random,” said Turnbull. “We would know the other person’s bona fides. It was not spread around promiscuously.”

    • DXer said

      Or instead was it another esteemed Porton Down b. anthracis researcher A.P. Phillips who co-authored a number of b.anthracis articles with Dr. Ezzell?

      https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=%22A.P.+Phillips%22++Ezzell

      • DXer said

        So this may to A.P. Phillips. I’ve confirmed with someone who worked at USAMRIID that Dr. Phillips was stationed at USAMRIID for a 1-2 year appointment as Porton Down’s representative. Given the co-authorship of papers with John, that makes sense to me.

    • DXer said

      The owner of the Frederick News-Post graciously emailed the blog years ago to ask that we not trample the copyright of the Frederick News-Post. So please only cut-and-paste brief passages consistent with “fair use” doctrine and then provide a link to the article. 100 words seems a good rough guideline. If Amerithrax is ever going to be solved, it will require investigative reporting by reporters and authors who have a financial incentive to do good work.

      http://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/science_and_technology/research/detrick-labs-safety-rules-evolve-after-potential-exposures/article_3a0b290c-e957-5469-ba72-2a15ca36fbfc.html

      Detrick labs’ safety rules evolve after potential exposures

      Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2015

      By Sylvia Carignan News-Post Staff

      ***

      A culture of caution

      Joe Mangiafico, a member of the city of Frederick’s Containment Lab Community Advisory Committee and retired USAMRIID researcher, spent much of his career working in biosafety level 3 labs.

      ***

      “As we progressed, we generally formed a culture among us of being super vigilant because none of us wanted to take this home to our families,” he said.

      ***

      But a mishap report filed from USAMRIID in 2013 suggests that a fear of reporting mistakes has not completely disappeared from the lab’s safety culture.

      In July of that year, a lab technician was working with the infectious anthrax bacteria under a microscope when the slide’s cover slipped, all about a foot away from the technician’s face.

      The incident occurred in Building 1412, where the FBI searched the locker of the late USAMRIID researcher Dr. Bruce Ivins in relation to the anthrax letters of 2001.

      On the mishap report for the potential exposure incident, a supervisor notes the technician’s “fear of reporting.” The incident was reported two days after it happened.

      The technician was counseled about proper reporting procedures.

      This year, NBACC added accountability as a competency its researchers will be evaluated against, which Fitch said is necessary for the lab. Part of its job is to collaborate with the FBI on bioforensic testing and analyze suspected bioterrorism evidence.

      “We have all kinds of constraints that other labs don’t,” he said. “If we contaminate a sample, we might be sending someone to jail who shouldn’t be in jail.”

      Follow Sylvia Carignan on Twitter: @SylviaCarignan.

      [ ABOUT THIS SERIES: The Frederick News-Post obtained copies of the mishap and occupational hazard reports from the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick through Freedom of Information Act requests filed in 2014.

      The names of the people involved in reporting the incidents, some locations and names of toxins were redacted.

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