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

* The lead Amerithrax investigator, after leaving the investigation in 2006, continued to advocate that there is a wealth of evidence exculpatory of Bruce Ivins which the FBI continues to conceal from Congress and the American people.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 7, 2015

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7 Responses to “* The lead Amerithrax investigator, after leaving the investigation in 2006, continued to advocate that there is a wealth of evidence exculpatory of Bruce Ivins which the FBI continues to conceal from Congress and the American people.”

  1. DXer said

    I’ve long ventured that Al Qaeda is behind the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings. Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, Yazid Sufaat and Adnan El-Shukrijumah are the bad guys in my story.

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

    But given that architects of the FBI’s “Ivins Theory” tried to trash Agent Richard Lambert, the former lead investigator, because of his support for a “Hatfill Theory,” let us be clear that the “Hatfill Theory” was originated before Rick Lambert took over as head of Amerithrax. (The trashing was done in a book by David Willman — all the “Ivins Theory” agents aspoke to Willman but Lambert was ordered not to speak to him.)

    Inspector Lambert was charged with running down possible evidence in support of the theories thought viable in order to exclude hypotheses. I think a “Hatfill Theory” was just as reasonable (or unreasonable, if you like) as an “Ivins Theory” — it just was mistaken. I do not question the good faith of those who supported a Hatfill Theory — although I generally find that people tend to adhere to their predispositions rather than process new information.

    But let’s consider the origin of the Hatfill Theory as to a couple aspects of what was discussed in the press as part of a “Hatfill Theory” — to include the reference to Greendale in the address and the use of bloodhounds. The issues long predated Inspector Lambert taking the reins of Amerithrax.

    a. “Hatfill Theory” and “Ivins Theory”: Both Were Jewells In The Rough.

    “Mr. Z”: “A Person of Interest”

    The FBI official in charge of the investigation, Agent Van Harp, said in a USA Today interactive chat and elsewhere that the speculation about foot-dragging by the FBI has no basis. “Those are uninformed outsiders,” he says. As explained in a Wall Street Journal article dated March 26, 2002, which was based on information provided by the FBI, the reason for the delay has related to the many scientific, safety and security issues implicated. He emphatically denied the suggestion by one academic activist (first made in a BBC interview) that it was a CIA experiment gone awry. My friend, the learned Barbara Hatch Rosenberg had said: “There may be embarassing information connected with the entire event and that there may not be really enthusiasm about bringing this information out to the position.” Harp reported that all the names of the folks submitted had been investigated and did not pan out. (Five acquaintances in the field supposedly had reached the same conclusion, but note that on any electronic mailing list, there are bound to be people who might agree with any mistaken notion.) Stan Bedlington, a retired CIA counterterrorism analyst is one person who in the Summer of 2002 thought the “evidence is mounting.” Although not a scientist and not demonstrating any knowledge of bloodhound evidence, he mistakenly claimed says that the letters “obviously had some scent of anthrax.” (That’s not even what they would have been testing for given that biological agents such as anthrax apparently do not have a distinctive smell to bloodhounds) He used to have lunch once a week in McLean with Hatfill and others at a bistro. A former counterterrorism analyst, he retired from the CIA in 1994 and now arranges bus tours.

    Though Dr. Hatfill is sometimes made out to be — through wild conjecture — the drinking buddy of the likes of Dr. Mengele, reading his scientific writing leads one to a decidedly less sensational conclusion. (Actually, he’s just a lunch companion of Stan Bedlington.) For a real page turner, see Hatfill, S.J. et al., “Induction of Morphological Differentiation in the Human Leukemic Cell Line K562 by Exposure to Thalidomide Metabolites”, Leukemia Res., vol. 15, No. 2/3, pp. 129-136 (1991).

    Hatfill reports that Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist who made the suggestion of murder publicly, never contacted to ask him for information on the claims he was making. A journalist or other writer should always make the attempt. I wrote Anwar Awlaki a few years ago but he didn’t respond. I don’t have Ayman Zawahiri’s email. I believe everyone else I’ve written or called.

    Hatfill’s statements were very eloquent at his two press conferences, as were the comments of his attorney Victor Glasberg and his spokesperson Pat Clawson. Admittedly, repeated false statements by him regarding the past bring to mind a saying by Thurman Arnold: “Some of the things I remember most vividly never really happened.” The commentary critical of the Hatfill conjecture tends to strike a Richard Jewell theme. (Clint Eastwood is coming out with a Richard Jewell movie). Pat Clawson, Hatfill’s spokesman, is pretty direct: “Personally, I think that this is just another TV show being produced by the same company that gave us Waco and Ruby Ridge and Wen Ho Lee and Richard Jewell.”

    Long before 9/11 and the anthrax mailings, Mr. Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize winner, explained the relevant journalistic principle that applies to his series of columns: “Maybe one of the most essential principles of modern journalism is that if somebody is saying something negative about somebody else, you want to get them on-the-record with their name. You don’t want to give somebody a free shot at somebody else without going on-the-record. Indeed, that makes articles stronger; it gives them the reliability that one yearns for. … There were also a lot of occasions when we knew that we needed information and that–to serve the readers’ interest, to provide the most complete picture that we could to the public and to our readership–getting this information would endanger our sources.”

    Here, though, the remote cabin story, for example, was specious. (The story was not plausible from the start because no one would go to a cabin where they had to first take Cipro; and if it were true, the person would necessarily be complicitous and not be telling the story). More generally, he had entirely insufficient basis to not trust that the FBI was doing its job. He also might have realized the dubious value of polygraphs (whether one, two or three) — particularly when he knew there might be good, unrelated, reason that being questioned made the individual very stressed. (For example, claiming he had a PhD when he only had two Masters and an M.D.) (BTW, Ivins passed both his polygraphs). Indeed, in an interview on CNN Newsnight with Aaron Brown, Mr. Kristof says: “Some people, even within the FBI have wondered whether his personality, which is rather combative, would cause problems with his polygraph.”

    The same skepticism should have prevailed on the question of bloodhound evidence under these circumstances. Mr. Kristof told Aaron Brown: “So they took those dogs and prepared scent packets from the anthrax letters after they had been irradiated so that they would not actually be dangerous.” Under the applicable case precedent, the bloodhound evidence will not be admissible.

    In hindsight, what Mr. Kristof might have done is to call Dr. Hatfill and ask if he had access to virulent Ames or asked if he really had a PhD as he represented in gaining access to ebola.

    b. The Greendale School: Where The 4th “R” is Railroading

    On June 26, 2002, long before Inspector Rick Lambert took the lead of the investigation, ABC’s Brian Ross first reported on the Morning Show,

    “Hatfill, who has worked closely with the military and CIA anthrax experts, has frequently shocked colleagues with his statements and demonstrations of how easily terrorists could make biological weapons. In this photo in 1998, he demonstrated how a terrorist could make a deadly plague in a common kitchen.

    Investigators also are intrigued by the fact that Hatfill lived for years near a Greendale Elementary School while attending medical school in Zimbabwe. Greendale School, as you recall, was the phony return address used in the anthrax letters. Hatfill has told ABC News he had nothing to do with the deadly anthrax mailings, but he says he understands his background and comments make him a logical subject of the investigation, Claire.”

    That’s ironic. Dr. Bedlington, who reports that he came up with the Greendale point, in 1998 in a full-length interview argued that not only could anthrax be simply made, but could be dispersed aerially.

    In the Fall of 2001, political scientist and former senior CIA counterterrorism analyst, Dr. Stanley Bedlington, said: “Frankly, when I heard the news [of 9/11], I thought, ‘It’s got to be biochemical.” “This is frightening enough and yet, you could take a small plane and sprinkle anthrax over New York City and wipe out half the population.” He wrote a very insightful Op Ed piece in the Washington Post, dated October 28, 2001, in which he discusses the importance of piercing Osama Bin Laden’s myth of invincibility. He evidenced the sophistication of his knowledge by pointing to the influence of an Egyptian writer named Qutb on the Al Qaeda leaders.

    By August 2002 (in an interview with CNN’s Paula Zahn) he was talking about anthrax-smelling bloodhounds and the fact that Dr. Hatfill lived near a place (Greendale) used in the return address. He curiously said the “evidence was mounting.” Indeed, isn’t he the original source of the silly “Greendale” point (although to be fair, it was no more silly than what the FBI settled in accusing Dr. Ivins).

    From an August 4, 2002 interview:

    BLITZER: Stan Bedlington, take a look at this, I want to put it up on the

    screen, the return address of one of the letters. Look at this, fourth grade,

    Greendale School, Franklin Park, New Jersey, then the zip code. Greendale School

    — there is no Greendale School in Franklin Park, New Jersey. But, Greendale,

    as far as you know, did ring an alarm bell, when you heard that mention of that

    word.

    BEDLINGTON: Yes, it did. Steve Hatfill got his MD at what is now the

    University of Zimbabwe. It had another name in those days. And I looked it up

    on the Internet. And, in fact, it is located in Greendale, which is a suburb of

    Harare. So you have what I think is an amazing coincidence between the two

    names.

    Dr . Bedlington knew Dr. Hatfill from weekly lunches at a bistro in McClean where former work colleagues get together to swap stories, and once had been shown, privately, a scrapbook of mock pictures of Dr. Hatfill preparing plague in his kitchen (Dr. Bedlington recalls the discussion as relating to anthrax). It would be fascinating to know more about what Dr. Bedlington thinks about the current information given his knowledge and experience.

    There is no Greendale School in Zimbabwe — even though there are many in the United States. No Greendale Primary School or Greendale Elementary School. There never has been. ABC led the pack repeatedly getting it wrong in suggesting that there was a Greendale School that Hatfill lived nearby, in a neighborhood of Harare. ABC’s Brian Ross has relied on a source named Pete Velis who has spent his own money urging his biodefense insider theory. Hartford Courant followed, relying on ABC. I posted the City Atlas listing and the numbers of the two Greendale schools but it did little to stem the false reports. The closest in name is Greengrove, which was a considerable ways from the University. And if you started counting Greendales rather than Greendale Schools, then perhaps most people in the United States are just as closely connected to some Greendale. Most important of all, a perp simply has zero reason to use a name from his past. Indeed, the only reason to use the same address on both envelopes — which helped the second letter be identified before being received — is if something is being intentionally communicated.

    There are 18 Greendales in the US. 6 Greendale Elementary Schools. As well as a Greendale Elementary School in Maryland near Andrews AFB in Prince George’s County that was closed. Mohammed Ali, the US sergeant who accompanied Ayman Zawahiri on his travels in the US, lived near a Greendale School near Sacramento, but there would be no purpose in mentioning it. On coincidences what about “Franklin Park?” Franklin Park is the name of a small neighborhood in an unincorporated area next to Fort Lauderdale. It is sometimes called “Fort Lauderdale” but is not part of the city proper. At 2542 Franklin Park Drive is Masjid Al-Iman mosque. It is a mosque Jose Padilla of WMD (though radiological – as far as we know) fame worshiped at with my mailing suspect, the late Adnan El-Shukrijumah. Coincidences can be surprising. But the Greendale conjecture always just an incredibly specious point to rely on in publicly suggesting that a medical doctor was guilty of murdering people. As Richard Spertzel, who has told the Baltimore Sun that he has met Hatfill but does not know him well, said: “He’s being railroaded.”

    Once this was pointed out, some reports modified the notion based on unspecified sources that the School named Courtney Selous was informally known as the Greendale School. The suggestion was made, for example, by an anonymous internet poster named Scorpion in soc.culture.zimbabwe (who could be determined to be posting from South Africa but otherwise was using a means of untraceable and false reference to “insect.com.” (According to his posts, he had previously lived in Zimbabwe). The identity was first created on July 9, 2001 when the existence of a Greendale School was first challenged — and then was terminated on August 17, 2001 — when he was asked for support for the proposition in light of all the people from the Greendale neighborhood who said it was untrue. And so if AP or ABC or jdo.orgor any other outlet or party wanted to make the claim, they should have found someone on the record who would support that claim. The number of the head of the Courtney Selous school was online and available to contact. At the same time, the FBI on its visit to South Africa hopefully considered whether someone in South Africa (or in the US) had a grudge against Hatfill they aim to settle or some other motivation.

    Some of the more colorful theories included a notion, the subject of a full-page advertisement in the Washington Times, is that there is a 98% that the CIA was trying to frame Hatfill. It was taken out by Pete Velis — there is a Bethesda insurance man by that man. Another theory is propounded by an articulate anonymous poster whose screen name The Great Satan on The Free Republic forum over the course of two years. He argued that Project Hatfill is an elaborate psy ops program designed to distract attention from the fact that Saddam engaged in extortion by sending the anthrax, merely using Al Qaeda as mere hand-puppets (his notion extends to 9-11 event as well). Certainly, most people would immediately dismiss those ideas as provably mistaken — while totally swallowing the specious Greendale suggestion beccause it was conveyed by the eminently credible CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and ABC’s Brian Ross. On this score, Ivins Theory is just Hatfill Redux. The Greendale Theory under an Ivins theory is even stupider and more elaborately contrived.

    c. The Investigation Goes to the Dogs

    For those who believe in Tinkerbelle (one of the dogs used) , while most jurisdictions allow bloodhound evidence, courts generally retain reservations about the possibility of inaccuracy of the evidence. It is evident the dog cannot be cross-examined and there is always the possibility that the dog may make a mistake. Accordingly, there are strict foundational requirements. The notion that such evidence is of slight probative value or must be viewed with caution stems at least in part from fear that a jury will be in awe of the animal’s apparent powers and will give the evidence too much weight (as the ABC and Newsweek reports amply illustrated). Putting aside for a moment use of the scent transfer device, five specific requirements are commonly required to establish an adequate foundation for dog-tracking evidence: (1) the handler was qualified to use the dog; (2) the dog was adequately trained; (3) the dog has been found reliable; (4) the dog was placed on the track where the guilty party had been; and (5) the trail was not stale or contaminated.

    For example, a bloodhound provided with the deceased tennis shoes might very reliably lead authorities to the deceased’s body in the woods. What would have been used for the scent pack here is the human scent, if any, on the letter on which the perpetrator rested his hand in writing the letter. Tennis shoes are far more likely to carry a scent than a piece of paper on which the perp rested his hand (while possibly using gloves) to write a 28-word letter. Just ask my wife. The dogs would not have been clued to the biological agent as biological agents such as anthrax tend not to have a distinctive scent.

    Here, there would be no such log because the use of the dog would not have been the subject of testing and training showing the dog performed reliably under similar circumstances. At a minimum, the “trail” would have been contaminated by the irradiation and anthrax, and would have grown stale by the passage of time. FDA concluded that irradiation can produce small changes in the taste, smell, and sometimes texture of foods and that consumers should be informed of this. Jurors should too. Remember that scene from “Miracle on 34th Street” where the official finding of the agency of the United States’ government was deemed binding on the prosecution? Imagine Attorney Connolly, Hatfill’s defense counsel, calling FDA scientists who found irradiation caused changes in smell, no doubt amplified by the much keener sense of a bloodhound.

    The United States Post Office explains in a FAQ that “the materials in the mail are heated and may become chemically altered. Paper dries out and may become dusty, discolored, and brittle.” Some postal workers and federal agency staff have reported symptoms such as eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, headache, nausea and occasional nosebleeds. What does the USPS do under these circumstances? Their solution includes “[u]sing hypoallergenic deodorizers to eliminate any smells.” “Testing each batch of aired-out mail to ensure no detectable amoungs of gas exist before delivery.” Alas, Tinkerbelle’s lengthy log shows that perfume does not confuse her, but likely is silent on this question of irradiated paper. The prosecution witness who might testify that a bloodhound’s sense of smell is 200 times as powerful as a human’s sense of smell would merely be helping the defense argument. No amount of log keeping or experiments after the fact would serve to permit admissibility under the court precedent. The bloodhound evidence was always a bogus and hugely prejudical diversion since the first sensational Newsweek story.

    FWIW, the dog alert reports being withheld by the FBI show that the dogs did not alert to Ivins, but they did alert to his assistant Patricia Fellows, whose civil deposition the DOJ shredded.
    In any event, the perp would have worn gloves and only briefly handled the letter. More broadly, there is an article that collects cases from 40 or so states and nothing approaching the delays has ever been found admissible. In a city landscape, the time period is much more restrictive. The Leahy letter, written by the perp sometime prior to the October 9, 2001 postmark, was not discovered until mid-November, and as of November 19, 2001 a protocol was still being developed for its opening. Thus, the 40 day period that had been passed by the (likely glove-wearing) perp already would have resulted in a stale trail.

    Lucy is adorable. She’s widely known to be a people person.

    There was a separate additional issue of use of the “scent transfer unit” here. A “scent transfer unit” such as used here looks like a Dustbuster, modified with a small frame at the end to secure a piece of gauze over its intake opening. The user attaches a piece of sterile gauze to the unit, activated the unit, and holds it against the item from which the scent is to be taken (such as where the person sat the night before). Depending on the jurisdiction, the scent transfer unit, which is a new technology, may be subject to the rule regarding new scientific methodology. Under that rule, the proponent of such evidence must establish the new scientific principle or technique is sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs under the circumstances of the case. Here, there is no such general acceptance as explained by Scott Shane in an excellent article in the Baltimore Sun relying on experts in the Maryland area. The purpose of the requirement is to avoid factfinders from being misled by the `aura of infallibility’ that may surround unproved scientific methods. This would constitute a possible third independent grounds for excluding the evidence. Absent a training log showing the dog performed reliably under similar circumstances, given the time period that had passed, and in light of the use of the scent transfer unit, there is nothing the FBI or trainers would be able to do to save the admissibility of the bloodhound evidence because it will be found by a court to be unreliable.

    Both of the major police bloodhound associations howl against the reliability of the Scent Transfer Unit used by the three blood handlers. Dennis Slavin was an urban planner and reserve officer with the South Pasadena Police Department. One of the other dog handlers is a civilian who runs his own bloodhound business. Scott Shane, in his very impressive Baltimore Sun article, explained that an FBI agent, Rex Stockham, examining the technology for the FBI lab says: “It’s going to be criticized. I’m critical of it myself.” The President of the Bloodhound Association, who is critical of the technology used by these handlers, had testified 21 times, and likely will have testified 22 if the FBI attempts to rely on the evidence in a prosecution. Shane noted that a federal jury awarded $1.7 million last year to a man wrongly accused of rape after police identified him in part based on the use of Slavin’s bloodhound, TinkerBelle. Shane’s article, essential reading at the time, gave the further example of their use in the sniper investigation, where “given the scent taken from spent shell casings, followed two false trails in Montgomery County. One led to a house, for which a search warrant was obtained and which turned out not be relevant. The other led to a dog-grooming parlor, the officer said.” Phew. I wonder if Stan Bedlington knew any of this when he said on national tv that the evidence against his friend was “mounting” based on the Lucy’s and Hatfill responding to each other. He is a ladies’ man, after all. Oh, but that’s right. He lived near a neighborhood named Greendale. The trainers reportedly tested their dogs on irradiated paper — presumably before actually doing the search but after being asked to do so. That would not pass muster that past training be substantiated by a training log.

    The New York Times also had an excellent article in December 2002 surveying the field that noted the case where dogs falsely indicated the presence of explosives in the cars of three medical students bound for Miami. The country watched the drama unfold on television as the men were held and authorities closed a major highway across Florida. No trace of explosives was found. When dog handlers are excited, dogs can overreact and give a false positive. “Dogs want rewards and so they will false alerts to get them. Dogs lie. We know they do,” an expert told the Times. “One of ‘TinkerBelle’s most incredible talents,”her homepage touts, is her ability to find the person responsible for loading a gun using scent from an expended bullet casing.” Indeed, she finds the “smoking gun.” Most of all, the page notes, she too is a people person.

    With the investigation going to the dogs, nearly 100 law enforcement officers gathered to watch some of their colleagues jump in a lake near where Dr. Hatfill lived, and in late January 2003, the FBI continued searching the forest in Frederick. Locals were amused that some of the ponds had been dry earlier that year. While they may seem to enjoy their dinners at Georgetown, FBI agents and surveillance specialists do not have an easy job. The public demands that they exhaustively pursue all leads, but then there is an uproar if they cross some unpredictable line and step on — or run over someone’s toe.

    Conclusion:

    It is true that by January 2003, Rick Lambert was in charge of things and calling the shots.

    But no one should doubt that the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings were a difficult mystery to solve. No one should doubt another’s good faith and best efforts without darn good evidence.

    • DXer said

      Don’t just go muckrakin’ — go fishin’!

      AUSA Kenneth Kohl recognized that he did not have enough to go to court on in connection with a Hatfill Theory. The Hatfill Theory loomed large back in the days when in 2003 Richard Lambert oversaw the Frederick ponds being searched the second time, but not the first.

      What did the lead Amerithrax investigator think of the plastic box that was found?

      Marilyn Thompson, author of The Killer Strain, reported in the Washington Post on May 11, 2003 that in its search of the ponds, the FBI found what appears to some to be be an improvised”glove box” and also wrapped vials. She describes it as a “clear box” — other reports describe it as a plastic tub. Now, why, again, were we talking about it? There was no claim that the glove box has been tied to Dr. Hatfill or that the vials have been. The pond was located near Ft. Detrick. It certainly made me one wonder what fascinating things might lurk in the ponds of nearby parks. (All these years I’ve been wasting time with a metal detector on dry land when I perhaps instead should have taken up scuba diving).

      “If there is anthrax in the water, I am relatively sure that the water is safe,” the Mayor of Frederick said to the local paper. Yet no trace of anthrax was found.

      “[P]utting this all into perspective when asked how high of a priority this is for the FBI right now, Dougherty said that it is, “certainly not at the top of their list.” Newsweek, on the plastic tub story, reported: “While some law-enforcement officials are taking the novel theory seriously, others have dismissed it as fantasy. ‘It got a lot of giggles,’ says one FBI source.” As many schoolboy knows (or at least any schoolboy with google available to him could readily learn), a rope is used to retrieve a minnow trap from the bottom of a pond. The USA Today has reported that a rope was found attached to the plastic container.

      “While some law-enforcement officials are taking the novel theory seriously, others have dismissed it as fantasy. ‘It got a lot of giggles,’ says one FBI source.”

      Clawson relying on details from their own “sources,” reportedly said it was “like a K-Mart sweater box; like a piece of Tupperware that just happened to have a hole in it.” Then he added, “From what I understand it doesn’t have anything to do with bioweapons.” School children are even taught online to study the flow of water systems using plastic sweater boxes with a hole cut in it and take it to the pond or stream.

      TOP 10 USES OF A PLASTIC SWEATER BOX FOUND AT A POND

      1. to incubate snake or turtle eggs,

      2. breeding crickets,

      3. snake feeding room,

      4. live bait dispenser,

      5. common school project to study the flow of water systems,

      6. minnow or turtle trap,

      7. turtle transporter,

      8. breeding waxworms,

      9. RYO wet/dry filter,

      10. to ruin someone’s life while pumping up the value of his litigation claims.

      If a minnow trap, was it Old Pal? Crazy Pal? Singer? Getz em? Or Ketchmor? Or unknown? For the specifications and details of each, see

      http://www.minnowtraps.com/plastictraps.html

      Some minnow traps, like the two turtle traps above, are rectangular boxes such as illustrated by Pat No. 5,131,184 (1992) that look even more closely like a glove box (which is pictured further below). As the Baltimore Sun reported, explains, what was found was NOT a commercial glove box.

      If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit!

      My favorite suggestion that I’ve heard though is that it relates to the infestation of Maryland ponds of the Crofton snakehead, a species ruinous to ecosystems that someone released from an aquarium. Numerous traps were set to rid Maryland ponds of the creature.

      The news stories suggest the image of someone sticking their gloved hands into the box while underwater. Well, how does water not rush through the holes? Did Hatfill stick his hands into the box outside the water, walk awkwardly into the water, then submerge the box? Water would seep through. An unanswered question in this fanciful scenario imagined by some in the press and their unnamed sources: where are the “port” or “securing ring” -like devices? If this box was used as alleged, why would these devices be taken away by the perp instead of left there too?

      In the event it turns out to have been homemade, note that frugal fishermen on the internet post to each directions on how to make a homemade minnow trap:

      “Take an empty 2 liter bottle, cut off the top where it is as round athe rest. (making a funnel) invert it back into the rest of the bottle and staple it back together. Put in some food (I used bread)I also tie a string onto it by putting a small hole on the bottom and fishing the string through the funnel hole. Drop it in and wait about an hour an pull it back up. I caught about 20 per container The fish can swim in but can’t get out.”

      “A basic rule of aquatic research,” another poster explains, “is that you have to be prepared to lose anything you put in the water.”

      The way a minnow or turtle trap works is that the small fish or turtle can swim in but can’t swim out — sort of like being named a Person of Interest.

      In a Washington Post article on May 30, 2003, we are treated to characterization of the false positive due to shoddy lab work as merely a conflicting lab report and the tantalizing (albeit casually dropped) new discovery of gloves wrapped in plastic. Can you imagine the leaker gleefully seizing the issue of the gloves allegedly found, challenging detractors to a duel, and saying “Take that!”

      We are also told that investigators were “surprised” not to find traces of anthrax at the places they searched. Surprised? Wouldn’t it only be surprising if you had assumed your conclusion of a person’s guilt like the investigators speaking to David Willman did? “Some agents fear that draining the pond, estimated to cost $250,000, could prove useless and embarrassing.” The article states: “The business acquaintance’s tip offered a clue to how the bioterrorism crimes could have been carried out.” Would that be Stan Bedlington, who used to dine weekly with Hatfill and others at a bistro in McClean? If so, Mr. Bedlington went on national tv to announce that he thought the “evidence was mounting” because Hatfill lived near a place named Greendale.

      The same suggestion that a glove box could be used — or that insertion could be made outdoors — was made by numerous people in a group called anthrax_fans@coollist.com. It would occur to anyone naturally — even though it went against the suggestion that a million dollar containment facility would be needed. The statute of limitations on Dr. Hatfill’s libel claim (dating to the first week in July 2002) arguably expires next month. . Depending on the jurisdiction, te statute is tolled by the filing of suit (and service before expiration of the period is not necessary).

      If the vials and gloves journalist Thompson and her collagues says were wrapped in plastic were related to the insertion of powderized anthrax into the letters, they would test positive, right? My source of information indicates no gloves were found –with the question being asked of the law enforcement sources both before and then again after the WP story. The inventory doesn’t in fact list gloves wrapped in plastic, does it? If not, what was the basis for the report?

    • DXer said

      Handwriting on the Wall

      The FBI’s handwriting expert wrote an opinion that formally concluded that Dr. Bruce Ivins probably did not write the Fall 2001 anthrax letters. The FBI Amerithrax Investigative Summary, however, neglected to mention that fact. That was really wrong.

      Indeed, the handwriting opinion should have been disclosed by US Attorney Taylor at the August 8, 2008 press conference. AUSA Lieber in briefing superiors was free to rationalize the evidence all she wanted — but she had a professional obligation to disclose it.

      One nutter’s theory that a First Grader wrote the Fall 2001 anthrax letters because of the block lettering used is the stupidest theory or commentary out there, bar none.

      Although I am not qualified to render an expert handwriting opinion, the Purchase Orders writtten by Hatfill that I reviewed differ in all these respects from the anthrax letters.

      In the case of an Ivins Theory, the more fundamental question is why the DOJ and FBI intentionally concealed in 2008 and 2009 the handwriting opinion that held that Dr. Ivins probably did not write the anthrax letters. (“Probably did not” is a formal designation in the rendering of handwriting opinions).

      The prosecutors were at liberty to say that they think their expert was wrong — but then one would have expected them to produce a formal handwriting opinion to that effect.

      Instead, they just reassessed and rejected the earlier expert opinion — just as they did in the case of the two polygraphs Ivins passed.

      The USG Has Denied FOIA Requests For Atta’s Handwriting Since The Fall 2001 Anthrax Mailings On Grounds It Could Interfere With Enforcement Proceedings
      Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 1, 2013
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/the-usg-has-denied-foia-requests-for-attas-handwriting-since-the-fall-2001-anthrax-mailings-on-grounds-it-could-interfere-with-enforcement-proceedings/

      The List Of Comparisons Done By FBI’s Handwriting Analyst Who Found Ivins Probably DId Not Write The Anthrax Letters Is 22 Pages Long; The FBI Advises DXer That No Comparison Of Mohammed Atta’s Handwriting Is Among The Many Dozens Listed That Were Provided The Amerithrax Task Force
      Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 28, 2014
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/the-list-of-comparisons-done-by-fbis-handwriting-analyst-who-found-ivins-probably-did-not-write-the-anthrax-letters-is-22-pages-long-the-fbi-advises-dxer-that-no-comparison-of-mohammed-attas-h/

      Here is another handwriting sample of Bruce Ivins — this one discussing the planned visit by the former Zawahiri associate being supplied virulent Ames in early May 1998
      Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 7, 2011
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/here-is-another-handwriting-sample-of-bruce-ivins-this-one-discussing-the-planned-visit-by-the-former-zawahiri-associate-being-supplied-virulent-ames-in-early-may-1998/

    • DXer said

      The Task Force under lead investigator Lambert’s watch set a high and inconsistently applied bar as to an alibi. Basically, anyone they wanted to accuse — they would reason — could travel overnight. Those they wanted to exclude would be assumed to be snug in their bed asleep.

      Hatfill’s time cards showed working 13 hours on each September 17th and September 18th. The full timesheet for September 17 and September 18 was available on line as an appendix to a weighty article by David Tell of the Weekly Standard.

      DXer: The big picture may seem complicated. But, most simply, Dr. Ivins in fact had an alibi on 9/17. That was when his group therapy met.
      Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 22, 2011
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/dxer-the-big-picture-may-seem-complicated-but-most-simply-dr-ivins-in-fact-had-an-alibi-on-917-that-was-when-his-group-therapy-met/

      It was only after Dr. Ivins’ death that the FBI acknowledged and confirmed he went to his group therapy session the evening of 9/17 on 10/8 — just as he had claimed. Why didn’t they corroroborate and acknowledge such a critical fact sooner?
      Posted on January 11, 2012
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/it-was-only-after-dr-ivins-death-that-the-fbi-acknowledged-and-confirmed-he-went-to-his-group-therapy-session-the-evening-of-917-on-108-just-as-he-had-claimed-why-didnt-they-corroroborate/

      It was Adnan El-Shukrijumah who had the means, motive, modus operandi, opportunity — and not alibi.

      http://www.amerithrax.wordpress.com

  2. DXer said

    Former F.B.I. Agent Sues, Claiming Retaliation Over Misgivings in Anthrax Case
    By SCOTT SHANEAPRIL 8, 2015

    WASHINGTON — When Bruce E. Ivins, an Army microbiologist, took a fatal overdose of Tylenol in 2008, the government declared that he had been responsible for the anthrax letter attacks of 2001, which killed five people and set off a nationwide panic, and closed the case.

    Now, a former senior F.B.I. agent who ran the anthrax investigation for four years says that the bureau gathered “a staggering amount of exculpatory evidence” regarding Dr. Ivins that remains secret. The former agent, Richard L. Lambert, who spent 24 years at the F.B.I., says he believes it is possible that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer, but he does not think prosecutors could have convicted him had he lived to face criminal charges.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/09/us/ex-fbi-agent-claims-retaliation-for-dissent-in-anthrax-inquiry.html?_r=0

  3. DXer said

    http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1714250-former-fbi-special-agent-in-charge-richard.html thanks to Ross Getman. Sorry if you have already gotten a copy.–Meryl

    Excerpts:

    5. This complaint further details how Defendants’ derelict failure to perform their mandated legal duties to Plaintiff was driven by Defendants’ blinding animus toward Plaintiff for Plaintiff’s prior whistleblower reports of FBI and DOJ mismanagement of the FBI’s investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001 (code named “AMERITHRAX”).

    From pages 23 to 25:

    50. In the fall of 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, a series of anthrax mailings occurred which killed five Americans and sickened 17 others. Four anthrax-laden envelopes were recovered which were addressed to two news media outlets in New York City (the New York Post and Tom Brokaw at NBC) and two senators in Washington D.C. (Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle). The anthrax letters addressed to New York were mailed on September 18, 2001, just seven days after the 9/11 attacks. The letters addressed to the senators were mailed 21 days later on October 9, 2001. A fifth mailing of anthrax is believed to have been directed to American Media, Inc. (AMI) in Boca Raton, Florida based upon the death of one AMI employee from anthrax poisoning and heavy spore contamination in the building.

    51. Executive management at FBI Headquarters assigned responsibility for the anthrax investigation (code named “AMERITHRAX”) to the Washington Field Office (WFO), dubbing it the single most important case in the FBI at that time.

    52. In October 2002, in the wake of surging media criticism, White House impatience with a seeming lack of investigative progress by WFO, and a concerned Congress that was considering revoking the FBI’s charter to investigate terrorism cases, Defendant FBI Director Mueller reassigned Plaintiff from the FBI’s San Diego Field Office to the Inspection Division at FBI Headquarters and placed Plaintiff in charge of the AMERITHRAX case as an “Inspector.”While leading the investigation for the next four years, Plaintiff’s efforts to advance the case met with intransigence from WFO’s executive management, apathy and error from the FBI Laboratory, politically motivated communication embargos from FBI Headquarters, and yet another preceding and equally erroneous legal opinion from Defendant Kelley – all of which greatly obstructed and impeded the investigation.

    53. On July 6, 2006, Plaintiff provided a whistleblower report of mismanagement to the FBI’s Deputy Director pursuant to Title 5, United States Code, Section 2303. Reports of mismanagement conveyed in writing and orally included: (a) WFO’s persistent understaffing of the AMERITHRAX investigation; (b) the threat of WFO’s Agent in charge to retaliate if Plaintiff disclosed the understaffing to FBI Headquarters; (c) WFO’s insistence on staffing the AMERITHRAX investigation principally with new Agents recently graduated from the FBI Academy resulting in an average investigative tenure of 18 months with 12 of 20 Agents assigned to the case having no prior investigative experience at all; (d) WFO’s eviction of the AMERITHRAX Task Force from the WFO building in downtown Washington and its relegation to Tysons Corner, Virginia to free up space for Attorney General Ashcroft’s new pornography squads; (e) FBI Director’s Mueller’s mandate to Plaintiff to “compartmentalize” the AMERITHRAX investigation by stove piping the flow of case information and walling off task force members from those aspects of the case not specifically assigned to them – a move intended to stem the tide of anonymous media leaks by government officials regarding details of the investigation. This sequestration edict decimated morale and proved unnecessary in light of subsequent civil litigation which established that the media leaks were attributable to the United States Attorney for the District of the District of Columbia and to a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI’s National Press Office, not to investigators on the AMERITHRAX Task Force; (f) WFO’s diversion and transfer of two Ph.D. Microbiologist Special Agents from their key roles in the investigation to fill billets for an 18 month Arabic language training program in Israel; (g) the FBI Laboratory’s deliberate concealment from the Task Force of its discovery of human DNA on the anthrax-laden envelope addressed to Senator Leahy and the Lab’s initial refusal to perform comparison testing; (h) the FBI Laboratory’s refusal to provide timely and adequate scientific analyses and forensic examinations in support of the investigation; (i) Defendant Kelley’s erroneous and subsequently quashed legal opinion that regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) precluded the Task Force’s collection of evidence in overseas venues; (j) the FBI’s fingering of Bruce Ivins as the anthrax mailer; and, (k) the FBI’s subsequent efforts to railroad the prosecution of Ivins in the face of daunting exculpatory evidence. Following the announcement of its circumstantial case against Ivins, Defendants DOJ and FBI crafted an elaborate perception management campaign to bolster their assertion of Ivins’ guilt. These efforts included press conferences and highly selective evidentiary presentations which were replete with material omissions. Plaintiff further objected to the FBI’s ordering of Plaintiff not to speak with the staff of the CBS television news magazine 60 Minutes or
    investigative journalist David Willman, after both requested authorization to interview Plaintiff.

    54. In April 2008, some of Plaintiff’s foregoing whistleblower reports were profiled on the CBS television show 60 Minutes. This 60 Minutes segment was critical of FBI executive management’s handling of the AMERITHRAX investigation, resulting in the agency’s embarrassment and the introduction of legislative bills calling for the establishment of
    congressional inquiries and special commissions to examine these issues – a level of scrutiny the FBI’s Ivins attribution could not withstand.

    55. After leaving the AMERITHRAX investigation in 2006, Plaintiff continued to publicly opine that the quantum of circumstantial evidence against Bruce Ivins was not adequate to satisfy the proof-beyond-a-reasonable doubt threshold required to secure a criminal conviction in federal court. Plaintiff continued to advocate that while Bruce Ivins may have been the anthrax mailer, there is a wealth of exculpatory evidence to the contrary which the FBI continues to conceal from Congress and the American people. The FBI vehemently opposes Plaintiff’s position.

    • DXer said

      Let’s put the views of the former lead Amerithrax investigator in the context of my sense of Lew’s views.

      Lew has also done a huge public service with regard to the actual case. Week after week — over the course of years — he has uploaded the original documents so that the public can see for itself the astonishing lack of credible evidence supporting the FBI’s Ivins Theory.

      Here are the major points on which the FBI’s assertions fail to prove its case …

      1. The GAO concluded that the FBI’s reliance on four morphological variants was flawed.

      The FBI’s genetic analysis merely narrowed things to several hundred scientists and others who had access. Any one of them could have given the genetically matching Ames strain to someone else. Security at labs was very lax. Anyone with access to a lab could simply walk out with a pathogen. The FBI had estimated up to 377 had access required elimination — and that was just at USAMRIID. US Taylor nonetheless falsely claimed in August 2008 that only 100 needed to be eliminated. He premised his conclusion on the claim that only those with access at USAMRIID’s Building 1425 had to be eliminated — overlooking the fact that the genetically matching Ames was also stored in Building 1412.

      2. There has been broad access to the anthrax strain used in the attacks

      The potential access to Ames is not reasonably disputed. For example, a microbiologist connected to the Al Qaeda network, Ali Al-Timimi, shared a suite with the leading DARPA-funded Ames anthrax researchers at George Mason University. One, Ken Alibek, had been a former Russian bioweaponeer. The other, Charles Bailey, had been the former commander of USAMRIID.

      Indeed, one non-citizen from Sudan and then Egypt for a few days in 1998 worked alongside Bruce Ivins in the B3 with Ames anthrax. He studied at Cairo Medical where Dr. Ayman Zawahiri recruited students to jihad every Friday. Dr. Ayman’s sister Heba taught microbiology at Cairo Medical.

      David Relman, the Vice-Chairman of the National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the science relied upon in Amerithrax, explained in “Science” that Ames was detected at a lab in Afghanistan. Indeed, Ames was detected in the remains of the hijacker who came in June 2001. The hijacker had been at Kandahar, where Yazid Sufaat’s anthrax lab was located. Whenever there was a positive finding, however, the FBI concluded it was a false positive. Yet when a genetics test narrowed 700-1000 researchers to 300, the FBI closed the case.

      Yazid Sufaat told KSM that he was not at risk because he and his two assistants had been vaccinated to protect them against their work with virulent anthrax. One of those assistants was tortured and then kept in secret prisons in Jordan and Israel. He told his CIA interrogators that “I made the anthrax” but then later would recant.

      3. Dr. Ivins’ time in his lab is readily explained

      The main evidence relied upon by the FBI was Dr. Ivins’ work at night and on weekends in late September and early October 2001. The documents eventually produced by USAMRIID under FOIA and published on Lew’s blog, however, show that Dr. Ivins was working on an experiment with 52 rabbits. Checking on animals at night and on weekends was a one person job and would take a couple of hours. That is the amount of time Dr. Ivins spent in the lab. The binding and mandatory protocol required that the principal investigator conduct the observations for the first 7 days after the rabbits were injected in early October 2001. US Attorney Taylor in explaining Ivins’ overtime in Fall 2001 (including November and December) overlooked the 2-person rule first implemented in January 2002 that precluded such overtime. That is why there would have been no continuing late night hours working alone past December 2001. The FBI’s Amerithrax Investigative Summary makes no mention of the rabbits — it either was negligent for the FBI not to know of the experiment — or 52 rabbits were knowingly stuffed down into a hat.

      4. handwriting evidence is exculpatory

      Other evidence was exculpatory. For example, a handwriting report by the FBI’s handwriting expert — nowhere mentioned in the Amerithrax Investigative Summary — concluded that Dr. Ivins probably did not write the letters.

      5. a contaminant in the attack anthrax was not found in Dr. Ivins lab

      The genetically distinctive b. subtilis contaminant found in the Brokaw and New York Post anthrax letters was not found in Dr. Ivins’ lab. The FBI acknowledges it did not swab all the other suspect labs for the b. subtilis contaminant. Similarly, meglumine and diatrizoate were in Flask 1029 but not in the mailed anthrax.

      6. the psychological profile of Ivins is not reliable

      The FBI, in the case they initially touted as being established by the scientific evidence, then turned to its stock psychological profile of a lone nut. The FBI’s key witness however, was Dr. Ivins’ first counselor who has written a 2009 book explaining that when she counseled Dr. Ivins, she was receiving her instructions each night from an alien. She reports that the alien had implanted a microchip in her butt. She thought that murderous astral entities were attached to her clients in her new part-time addictions counseling gig. In her book, she explained that each night she would fly to Afghanistan and Ground Zero. The astral entities would chase her back home, and she would narrowly escape through a vortex of energy that would close up behind her. That counselor annotated the psychiatrists’ notes. Her notes and her annotations were handed to the second counselor in July 2008 — and the second counselor then sought a restraining order that day against Dr. Ivins leading up to Dr. Ivins’ suicide. She alleged he was a murderous sociopath — just as the first counselor controlled by the alien had claimed. This was part of the tragic chain of events that led to Dr. Ivins suicide.

      7. Al Qaeda had a deep involvement in anthrax over many years

      Dr. Ayman Zawahiri’s colleagues explained in 1998 that he intended to use anthrax against US targets to retaliate for the rendering of senior Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) leaders, to include Blind Sheik Abdel Rahman. Ali Mohammed, the EIJ head of intelligence, had a document on his computer seized by the FBI that outlined principles of cell security that would be followed. Ali Mohammed trained Dahab, a Cairo medical drop-out, to make deadly letters. Dahab was involved in the founding of the Blind Sheik’s Services Organization in Brooklyn.

      Zawahiri recruited Pakistan government scientist Rauf Ahmad to infiltrate Porton Down-sponsored conferences in the UK in 1999 and 2000. In 1999, after visiting a first lab that did not have pathogenic strain, Rauf Ahmad arranged to visit a second lab. He ominously began a letter to Dr. Ayman about that visit to the second lab: “I have successfully achieved the targets.” The public still does not know the identity of that second lab.

      Rauf Ahmad reported to Dr. Ayman that he had made contacts that were helpful in learning processing tricks. The official history of MI5 indicates that Ahmad was intercepted leaving with equipment and strains after the 2000 conference. At the 2000 conference, Rauf Ahmad and his co-authors presented a paper on harvesting anthrax in the wild and killing mice with 100 injected spores. That abstract is online. The FBI and CIA thus had reason to know that Al Qaeda’s anthrax scientist already had been working with virulent anthrax. The information on what he took with him from the 1999 lab continues to be suppressed. So it should be no surprise that the label of “anthrax spore concentrate” harvested in April 2001 appears to be in the handwriting of Rauf Ahmad. CIA Director Tenet reports in his book that Ahmad helped set up Yazid Sufaat’s lab in Kandahar in May 2001. Rauf Ahmad, in occasional correspondence, would not cooperate with me unless I paid him money. The Washington Post correspondent in Pakistan once arranged to conduct an interview but then the Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence backpedaled on its consent.

      8. I think Adnan El-Shukrijumah was the mailer of the letters containing anthrax in Fall 2001.

      A number of the individuals associated with Al Qaeda’s anthrax program were closely associated with Adnan El-Shukrijumah. Adnan El-Shukrijumah was the son of a salaried Saudi missionary who while the family lived in Brooklyn would translate for Blind Sheik Abdel-Rahman. Shukrijumah was at a Sarasota, FL home with his accomplice, 911 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta. Shukrijumah called his mother on or about September 11, 2001 to tell her he was coming to the United States. He insisted he was coming over her protests that he would be arrested. The FBI reported that El-Shukrijumah, traveling under an alias, entered the United States sometime after September 1, 2001. The FBI did not tell the “Joint Inquiry” about Shukrijumah even though he was known to be an associate of Mohammed Atta. Shukrijumah was with Atta and the other hijackers at a Sarasota, FL home associated with a close advisor of a key Saudi Arabian prince.

      Leaked detainee statements from Guantanamo indicate that Shukrijumah lived in safe houses in Karachi from February 2002 to April 2002. Hawsawi was KSM’s assistant and had documents explaining how to turn anthrax into a powder. Al Qaeda’s anthrax lab was equipped with a dryer, centrifuge and the other equipment the FBI deems necessary to make a dried powder out of anthrax. Shukrijumah was killed in a raid in Pakistan’s tribal area late last year. The public may learn more about Shukijumah and his association with Mohammed Atta in a litigation under FOIA .

      Separately, documents in Ali Al-Timimi’s pending case may shed some light about his possible access to the genetically matching Ames. Ali Al-Timimi shared a suite with the leading DARPA-funded Ames anthrax researchers. “911 imam” Anwar Al-Awlaki was coordinating with his fellow Falls Church imam, Al-Timimi. The daughter of the lead Amerithrax prosecutor — a prosecutor who pled the Fifth Amendment in connection with leaking hyped details that derailed the investigation with the famous “Hatfill Theory” — then came to represent Ali Al-Timimi for free. Awlaki in the Al Qaeda publication “Inspire” — from his grave — urged followers to attack using a biological weapon. Ali Al-Timimi had unfettered access to American Type Culture Collection (“ATCC”) The ATCC bacteriology collection scientist was the future head of the Amerithrax science investigation who would help guide the review by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the production of documents from the FBI to NAS.

      Who were the real perpetrators?

      I believe Adnan El-Shukrijumah, who like Yazid Sufaat stayed at the house of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Kandahar in September 2001, was the lead anthrax mailer.

      Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) was identified as “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks” by the 9/11 Commission Report.

      Adnan El-Shukrijumah was an accomplice in Florida of the 9/11 hijackers. He was formerly from Brooklyn where his father, a Saudi missionary, translated for Al Qaeda spiritual leader Blind Sheik Abdel-Rahman. The FBI reports that Adnan El-Shukrijumah travelled to the United States in September 2001. Seized documents show he was directed by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) to smuggle himself in through Mexico.

      Yazid Sufaat was head of Al Qaeda’s anthrax lab in Kandahar. In a filmed interview, he explained that previously he was part of a secret Malaysian biological weapons program. In correspondence with me, Yazid Sufaat does not deny responsibility for the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings. Instead he “pleads the Fifth.”

      The FBI’s suggested solution is not established by the evidence. Lew Weinstein’s CASE CLOSED is all-too-plausible. And, moving forward, the Al Qaeda anthrax threat remains very real.

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