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

* Neither the FBI nor USAMRIID have produced these three notebooks even though they relate to use, storage and/or transfer of virulent Ames matching the anthrax mailed in the Fall of 2001.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 17, 2015

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15 Responses to “* Neither the FBI nor USAMRIID have produced these three notebooks even though they relate to use, storage and/or transfer of virulent Ames matching the anthrax mailed in the Fall of 2001.”

  1. DXer said

    Notebook #3655 was entitled “Anthrax”, issued 1994 Notebook #3945 was entitled “Anthrax: surrogate markers of immunity”, issued 1996.

    Who at DOJ/ FBI is responsible and accountable for not having returned them to Bruce Ivins?

    Who at DOJ/ FBI is responsible and accountable for refusing to produce them to requestor Ken Dillon?

    • DXer said

      The ever helpful and professional USMRMC official whose responsibilities include overseeing FOIA (to include USAMRIID) will refer the request to DOJ/FBI.

      I realize how busy DOJ/FBI is and how many requests they handle each year.

      But this request is very targeted. It relates to highly relevant material (transfer of the Ames strain) and the USMRMC person has a very high degree of credibility.

      And so lets see if this cuts through DOJ/FBI’s nonsense boilerplate response that it is has produced everything in “The Vault.”

      Some day the FBI is going to be tagged with attorneys fees for its responses under FOIA that do not at all square with the facts or law.

      I try to be understanding because the FBI’s primary mission is to keep the country safe. Dave Hardy can only do what he can do with the resources available to him (which includes a staff of 60).

      The person looking for documents is often someone who does not understand the documents available to be produced given the wide range of requests they handle.

    • DXer said

      With regard to Notebook 3945, is the FBI going to tell USAMRIID that the dog ate the homework? Or did the DOJ shred the notebook about this experiment with the rabbits like it (provably) did Patricia Fellows’ civil deposition testimony?

      Pitt ML, Little S, Ivins BE, Fellows P, Boles J, Barth J, Hewetson J, Friedlander
      AM. In vitro correlate of immunity in an animal model of inhalational anthrax. J Appl Microbiol. 87(2):304, 1999.

      Abstract: The incidence of anthrax in humans is extremely low. Human vaccine efficacy studies for inhalational anthrax cannot be conducted. The identification of a correlate of protection that predicts vaccine efficacy is crucial for determining the immune status of immunized humans. This surrogate marker of immunity can only be established by using an appropriate animal model. Numerous studies showed that protective antigen (PA) is the principle protective antigen in naturally- or vaccine-induced immunity. However, attempts to correlate the quantity of anti-PA antibodies with protective immunity in the guinea pig model for anthrax and various vaccine formulations have failed. In these studies, we used the licensed anthrax vaccine adsorbed (AVA) in rabbits. Groups of New Zealand white rabbits, 10 or 20 per group, were immunized intramuscularly (two doses, 4 weeks apart) with varying doses of AVA, ranging from a human dose to 1:256 dilution in sterile phosphate-buffered saline (PBS). Control rabbits received PBS/Alhydrogel according to the same schedule. Each rabbit was bled 2 weeks after the second dose, and antibody levels to PA measured by both the quantitative anti-PA IgG ELISA and the toxin-neutralizing antibody (TNA) assay. Rabbits were aerosol-challenged 10 weeks from day 0 with a lethal dose of Ames spores. All the rabbits that received the undiluted and 1:4 dilution of vaccine survived, whereas those receiving the higher dilutions of vaccine (1:16, 1:64 and 1:256) had deaths in their groups. All the controls died. Rabbit survival was compared with the antibody response. Statistical models were used to test for significance of the peak antibody responses to predict survival. Results showed that both the amount of anti-PA IgG and TNA titres present in the sera at the time of the peak antibody response were significant (P < 0.0001) predictors of survival. These results demonstrate that the humoral immune response to AVA can predict protection in the rabbit model of inhalational anthrax.

    • DXer said

      Notebook 3945, being wrongfully withheld by the FBI in what appears to constitute an obstruction of justice, relates to the evidence of what Dr. Ivins was doing in the lab those nights and weekends when the US Attorney falsely and speciously claimed Dr. Ivins had no reason to be in the lab.

      see, e.g.,

      Under The Mouse Protocol (As Under The Rabbit Protocol), Dr. Ivins Was Tasked With Taking Part In Immunization, Bleeding, Challenge And Observation Of The Animals
      Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 1, 2012
      https://caseclosedbylewweinstein.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/under-the-mouse-protocol-as-under-the-rabbit-protocol-dr-ivins-was-tasked-with-taking-part-in-immunization-bleeding-challenge-and-observation-of-the-animals/

    • DXer said

      How The FBI’s Dysfunctional Search Systems Keep Information Out Of FOIA Requesters’ Hands
      from the what-part-of-‘search-your-records’-are-you-purposefully-not-understandin dept

      Thanks to yet another FOIA lawsuit, more evidence is being produced that suggests certain federal agencies employ labyrinthine systems that seem deliberately designed to keep requesters as far away as possible from responsive documents.

      Trentadue v. FBI deals with the release (or lack thereof) of videotapes containing footage of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Four days of oral testimony has at least partially exposed the search methods used by the FBI, which the agency uses as convenient information silos, rather than treat their central database as a cohesive whole. Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press points out that this “system” often leads to unfulfilled or partially-filled requests. FOIA requesters are often not aware that the FBI will do a half-assed job unless led by the nose through each of its databases and document systems. (via Unredacted)

      https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20150626/09583531469/how-fbis-dysfunctional-search-systems-keep-information-out-foia-requesters-hands.shtml

  2. DXer said

    Take Notebook 3655, for example. It was never returned by the FBI. (see email below)

    Notebook 3665 relates to Flask 1030 and the aerobiology experiment being conducted. That Ames was genetically matching and had a silicon signature. It was leftovers from aerobiology experiments conducted in Building 1412.

    The wonderful USMRMC officer whose duties include USAMRIID FOIA advises me that they have not been able to find it.

    A recent request directed to the FBI gave a BS boilerplate response that everything was uploaded to the FBI Vault. (See denial of Ken Dillon’s FOIA request currently being appealed specifically addressing Notebook 3655).
    (Actually none of the notebooks appear to have been uploaded to the FBI’s Vault.) Washington Field Notes discuss what different notebooks say — but the numbers redacted and notes are very vague summaries. Document analysis requires the documents.

    Submitting any FOIA request to FBI is a black hole. The AUSA (Rachel Lieber) specifically told me I would never get anything under FOIA from them.

    I watched “A Few Good Men” recently. Someone working for the Army needs to go get the log books just like Tom Cruise did.

    A Congressional or IG or CDC probe should include determining who at DOJ or FBI played a game of hide the ball with Notebook 3655. At the very least, a request should be made to DOJ and FBI that forces production of the notebook under FOIA.

    Emails:

    (1)

    “Bruce,

    (b) need to see the part of the subpoena that (6)

    Per (b) (6) request, please copy anything you might need from the following notebooks and bring

    the original notebooks to the (b) (6)

    #1511 1748 1844 1914 2013 2064 3080 3114b 3167 3209 3233 3234 3269 3464 3465 3563 3655 3685 3716 3745 3760 3921 3945 4000 4010 4037 4103 4237 4240 4241

    by noon on Mon., 4/9/07.”

    On April 20, 2007, Dr. Ivins wrote:

    (2)

    “RE: Returned notebooks (UNCLASSIFIED) Friday, April 20, 2007 10:17:43 AM

    Classification: UNCLASSIFIED Caveats: FOUO

    Thanks, (b) (6) I’m still missing 3655, 3716, 3760, 3945, 4010, 4037, 4240, 4241 and 4282. -bruce”

    • DXer said

      The USMRMC has raised the issue whether my reference to 4251 was a typo.

      The two lab notebooks were indicated by the FBI in the link provided to involve “noted transfers of material.” (The entry does not reveal whose notebook it was and I do not assume it to be Dr. Ivins).

      (Separately, Dr. Ivins did have a Notebook 4241 which is online at the exceptional USAMRMC Electronic Reading Room).

      Source:

      “On 09/21/2006 and 9/22/2006 SAs ________________________ conducted a detailed review of inventory for RMR-1029, provided by Bruce Ivins, FD-3-2s, electronic communications, and subpoenaed material such as scientific notebooks and 11t material transfer paperwork in order to substantiate from the time of its inception on 10/22/1997 through the window of opportunity for the second anthrax mailing in October. 2001.”

      “Noted transfers of material were substantiated using laboratory notebooks 3745, 3945, 4000, 4010, 4237, and 4251.”

      https://vault.fbi.gov/Amerithrax/Amerithrax%20%20Part%2024%20of%2059

      It simply is not possible that there is not a means of identifying the subject and owner/author of a notebook with a particular number.

      Such a lack of control would make record-keeping meaningless.

      By way of example, Dr. John Ezzell transferred Ames rendered into a powder to DARPA. For all I know, that is the “noted transfer of material” from Ames referenced. His transfer of the Ames from Flask 1029 from Ivins must be recorded in a notebook, right?

      Oh, but wait. That was reported by JE to be irradiated Ames. And we all know that irradiated Ames is dead, right? Like the (not successfully) irradiated Ames sent to the 78 labs?

      USAMRIID should contact a can-do person at DOJ/FBI and get them to cough up the notebooks that were taken from Ivins and never returned to him — such as 3655.

      I appreciate that the FBI FOIA operation is overworked and understaffed even at 60 people managed by Mr. Hardy. But if you don’t know the significance of Lab Notebook 3655 with the silicon signature and matching genetics, you simply are not paying attention.

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

    • DXer said

      Notebook 3655 and 3945 are known to have been taken by FBI from USAMRIID and thus USAMRIID should get them from FBI.

      I know of the man, reputed to be an excellent paralegal, who created the very detailed database of Amerithrax documents at DOJ. I assure you that they have a database that will allow them to locate the notebooks.

    • DXer said

      The notebooks are subject to this June 19, 2015 by scholar Kenneth Dillon.

      “Laboratory Notebooks: FBI needs to release Notebook 4010 regarding Ivins’s Flask 1029 as well as relevant pages from Notebooks 3655, 3945, and 4251. To be fully responsive to the need of the American people to understand this important case, all pages of all relevant notebooks for all dates should be released.”

      4115 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W. #306
      Washington, D.C. 20016
      June 19, 2015
      Director
      Office of Information Policy (OIP)
      U.S. Department of Justice
      1425 New York Avenue, N.W., Suite 11050
      Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
      RE: Freedom of Information Appeal
      Dear Sir/Madam:

      This is an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act.
      On April 18, 2015, I requested all records from September and October, 2001 related to Dr. Bruce Ivins, USAMRIID. My request was assigned identification number 1327397-000.
      In response, FBI sent me a letter dated April 27, 2015 informing me that “Records responsive to your request were previously processed for another requester.” It referred me to digital copies in FBI’s public website, http://vault.fbi.gov. However, FBI has never released many records responsive to my request, so this reply is misleading and unresponsive.
      Here are the records that FBI needs to release in order to be responsive.
      Emails: FBI has never released Ivins’s emails to or from Patricia Fellows, Mara Linscott, Nancy Haigwood, or other individuals, even though it selectively used them in its Investigative Summary. Such emails include those to and from Ivins’s work email account and those to and from his personal accounts.
      Laboratory Notebooks: FBI needs to release Notebook 4010 regarding Ivins’s Flask 1029 as well as relevant pages from Notebooks 3655, 3945, and 4251. To be fully responsive to the need of the American people to understand this important case, all pages of all relevant notebooks for all dates should be released.
      Paper and Computer Files: These include all records for September and October, 2001 related to the computer installed in Ivins’s B3 suite in summer, 2001: Macintosh MMCN E7380. They also include all paper and computer files, including on other work and personal computers used by Ivins.
      Information about Meetings: All relevant records related to meetings Ivins attended during September and October, 2001 form part of this request.
      Telephone and credit card records, etc.: These are important for determining Ivins’s activities and whereabouts. In regard to activities and whereabouts, entry and exit records for Building 1412 at USAMRIID, where genetically matching anthrax was stored, would also be responsive. Lastly, records relating to Ivins’s animal experiments, including with 52 rabbits, in September and October, 2001 show his activities and whereabouts and so should be released.
      There are good reasons to think that FBI, knowing that the anthrax had been mailed by an al Qaeda operative, falsely accused Bruce Ivins after his suicide of having mailed the anthrax letters. Former head of the Amerithrax investigation Richard Lambert, an authoritative source, has stated that FBI suppressed a great deal of exculpatory evidence regarding Ivins. Thus the American people have an undeniable and compelling interest in learning what all FBI records responsive to this request contain.
      Thank you for your consideration of this appeal.

      Sincerely,

      Kenneth J. Dillon

  3. DXer said

    This is a must-read article on the subject of the Dugway irradiation difficulties and the relevance of Bruce Ivins’ emails.

    “Army lab lacked effective anthrax-killing procedures for 10 years”
    Alison Young, USA Today, June 17, 2015
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/06/17/anthrax-shipments-bruce-ivins-emails/28883603/

  4. DXer said

    I don’t know Alison Young but if she keeps it up, she’ll have a Pulitzer locked up. USA Today has done some standout work on the issue of labs with its report — comparable to the work ProPublica, McClatchy and Frontline did on Amerithrax.

    But if Alison were to bear down on these issues as they relate to the distribution of Ames genetically identical to the anthrax mailed in Fall 2001, she will make history.

    Army lab lacked effective anthrax-killing procedures for 10 years
    Alison Young, USA Today, June 17, 2015

    The report, dated June 5, cites the Dugway Proving Ground’s Life Science Test Facility in Utah with three violations of federal regulations for working with potential bioterror agents and orders the facility to immediately cease all shipments of “inactivated” anthrax specimens.

    ***

    But Dugway’s standard procedures for irradiating anthrax “did not account for the variable amounts of spores treated in the gamma cell irradiator,” the report noted. The method used “was not validated using standardized control spore samples at varying concentrations, volumes, and levels of irradiation.”

    As a result, anthrax bacteria were shipped out at least 74 times to dozens of labs in the U.S. and at least five foreign countries from January 2005 to May 2015. Anthrax spores can be potentially fatal if inhaled.

    ***

    The new CDC report about Dugway’s anthrax mishaps, which is only three pages long, provides little detail about radiation dosages and durations, and exactly how Dugway’s scientists were verifying that each batch was fully killed. The report addresses the problems in general terms.

    ***

    The emails from accused anthrax letter terrorist Bruce Ivins — a microbiologist at the Army’s elite infectious disease laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. — offer possible clues about what may have happened at Dugway.

    Emails sent by Ivins during the normal course of his work with anthrax at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, often called USAMRIID, provide a window into the difficulties scientists face killing the bacterium and its hardy spores. They also indicate that scientists did not follow a universal, standardized protocol for what percentage of anthrax specimens in an irradiated batch needed to undergo verification tests before the batch was considered sterile and safe for shipment and use without significant safety precautions.

    The emails are among a massive trove of Ivins’ correspondence released in 2010 and posted online in a Freedom of Information Act reading room of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command after federal officials formally closed their investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks. Ivins, 62, died from an intentional overdose of acetaminophen in July 2008 as prosecutors prepared to charge him with sending the anthrax-filled letters that killed five and sickened 17 others.

    In a March 2008 email about the planned shipment of some irradiated anthrax spores, Ivins references a recent division meeting and wrote: “As discussed at the meeting, 50% (5 ml) of the material was checked for sterility on SBA, and there was no growth at all. You may have seen [redacted] insistence that we need only check 10% of the material for sterility, but I think that a 50% check for B. anthracis samples is a good idea. We’ve had in the past some samples that failed sterility checks, so 50% leaves us ‘better safe than sorry.’ ”

    The email indicates that to verify that the irradiated spores were killed, samples were being put on a sheep blood agar plate to see if the bacteria would grow.

    It is unclear whom Ivins was writing to in the email or where the specimens were going to be sent. The Army has redacted all other names, including that of the person or organization Ivins said was advocating only testing 10% of the irradiated samples. Over the years, Ivins’ emails show he did work with anthrax researchers at Dugway Proving Ground and that USAMRIID had an anthrax spore production contract with Dugway.

    In 2006 and early 2007, Ivins’ emails indicate that he did verification tests only on 10% of irradiated anthrax specimens. “The spores were irradiated on October 30. On November 2, [redacted] plated out 10% of each of the preps onto SBA plates. All were negative for growth 24 hours later. They will be incubated over the weekend,” Ivins wrote in a Nov. 3, 2006, email.

    By the summer of 2007, however, Ivins and his colleagues ran into a concerning series of irradiation failures, the emails show.

    “The 27 spore samples that were irradiated on 30 MAY 07 (see enclosed file) came back still ‘hot,’ ” Ivins wrote in a June 7, 2007, email sent to eight other people whose names are redacted. The specimens, he wrote, would be sent back for another irradiation dose of 1 million rads “which should kill the remaining viable spores.” Emails in the string show the May irradiation dose was 5 megarads.

    But Ivins had bad news to report on June 13, 2007: “Irradiation sterilization failure … again,” said the subject line of his email, which said that even with the additional radiation dose, the spores could still grow. His email said that verification tests were done on 18 of the 27 samples — and 12 of the 18 were still “hot.” And so they were again going to be sent back to receive an additional 2 megarads of radiation. “Hopefully this will work. Stay tuned … – bruce,” wrote Ivins

    An unidentified recipient of the email replied: “What is going on with the irradiator? Is it not working properly? These things are going to be fried to a crisp!”

    Ivins was puzzled, too. “In the past, 4 megarads would do the job. This is 2 million rads over that, and still no sterility,” he replied.

    The next morning, June 14, 2007, Ivins emailed with more bad news: “After recheck of the 6 samples that appeared to pass sterility check after a total of 6 million rads, only two samples remained negative.” The other four, it turned out, weren’t dead and needed more radiation, he wrote.

    It’s unclear what may have caused the repeated irradiation failures. Issues relating to irradiation are again mentioned in the publicly available emails in August 2007, when an unidentified person wrote to Ivins asking for the paperwork on the 27 spore samples. In his reply, Ivins wrote that “several rounds of irradiation had to be done to finally get all of the spores sterile. It seems as though the new irradiator isn’t as reliable as the old one for some reason.”

    Military officials didn’t answer USA TODAY’s questions about the radiation doses used at the Dugway Proving Ground lab, which is the focus of the current international investigation of live anthrax shipments. They also didn’t answer questions about what percentage of anthrax specimens in each irradiated batch were undergoing verification tests for sterility at Dugway. They did, however, email a statement on Wednesday about Ivins’ emails detailing the 2007 irradiation failures:

    “It is clear from these emails that the investigators did their due diligence to determine what was causing the failure and that no live material was used in the lab or sent to other labs,” said the statement emailed by Maj. Eric Badger, a Defense Department spokesman. As part of the department’s comprehensive review of Dugway’s mishaps, investigators are “examining, among other things, the failure rates of gamma irradiation for killing anthrax.”

    Follow USA TODAY investigative reporter Alison Young: @alisonannyoung

  5. DXer said

    I think the blog’s graphic artist often just stumbles into greatness. For example, the bubble suggests the fact that Notebook 3665 relates to Flask 1030 and the aerobiology experiment being conducted. That Ames was genetically matching and had a silicon signature. It was leftovers from aerobiology experiments conducted in Building 1412. For all I know, it is PF’s notebook rather than Ivins.

    The rabbits foot — in addition to connoting these as lucky numbers — alludes to the rabbit experiment that Ivins was working on those nights.

    There was an experiment called off on about October 3 or 4.

    There is a lot of information that should be produced so that people can get “on the same page” in connection with the FBI’s “Ivins Theory.”

    As the former lead Amerithrax investigator Richard Lambert has said, it is still possible that Ivins was in fact the mailer. We will have a better sense when these three notebooks are produced under FOIA.

    Congress is getting a little testy on these issues. FOIA operations at the FBI, CDC and USAMRIID do not want to get on the wrong side of things. Up until now, I would give USAMRIID an A-.

    • DXer said

      So if USAMRIID gets an A-, I would give EPA, University of Michigan, GMU and the Army an F. I would give CDC a C. I would give the FBI a C-. I would give University of Montana (if I am remembering the name correctly) an A+. I would give DIA an A+ — though they owe the excellent grade due to the helpful tutoring of David Relman’s co-author JB Petro. CIA cuts class so often that the don’t get a grade.

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