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

* DXer asks Vice President Pence: Who at the FBI is responsible for withholding Ivins’ Notebook 4282, containing the notes from the time of the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings?

Posted by Lew Weinstein on February 17, 2017

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8 Responses to “* DXer asks Vice President Pence: Who at the FBI is responsible for withholding Ivins’ Notebook 4282, containing the notes from the time of the Fall 2001 anthrax mailings?”

  1. DXer said

    The FBI’s “Ivins Theory” was premised on the notion that someone surreptitiously or accidentally acquiring or being provided virulent Ames would sign it out — or that records would confirm he was given it.

    Is there anything that the government has done in the biodefense field — or simple logic or the practical realities — that would have made the premise a sound one?

    FEMA countererrorism training center suspected lethal toxin mix-up …
    USA TODAY‎ – 13 hours ago

    Officials at a federal training facility that mistakenly exposed thousands of first responders to deadly ricin toxin were worried five years ago that their vendor had shipped the wrong type of powder, records obtained by USA TODAY show.

    The vial of powder contained ricin “greater than 90% pure,” according to its certificate of analysis. The certificate also warned: “Extremely toxic! … May be lethal if injected, inhaled, or ingested – use caution when handling.” Ricin, made from castor beans, is regulated as a potential bioterror agent. There is no antidote for ricin poisoning.

    But the vendor assured staff at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Center for Domestic Preparedness that the powder was a safer, inactivated form of the poison, according to a December 2011 email.

    So FEMA went ahead and used the powder in its training programs – and for five years kept buying more of it for use in classes — despite the vials continuing to arrive with certificates declaring that the powder was lethal, nearly pure ricin, the records show.

    FEMA has blamed its vendor for the mix-up – the latest known high-profile mishandling of bioterror pathogens and toxins by a federal agency. But the newly released documents raise questions about why FEMA didn’t catch the problem sooner.

    The agency and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General are investigating the incident, which was revealed last fall by The Anniston Star.

    “The FEMA review and OIG investigation are ongoing,” the agency said in a statement to USA TODAY. FEMA said it is taking actions improve how it procures and verifies biological materials in the future. In the meantime, since Nov. 8, the agency has suspended use of biological and chemical agents in training programs at its Center for Domestic Preparedness facility in Anniston, Ala., until sometime in March.

    FEMA has refused to identify its vendor and blacked out the vendor’s name from the newly-released documents. USA TODAY has previously reported it was Toxin Technology in Sarasota, Fla. Company officials could not be reached Monday, but have previously said all of its ricin products were accurately labeled as “RCA60” — a scientific name for the whole ricin toxin, which can be deadly.

    Nearly 10,000 firefighters, paramedics and other responders participated in simulated bioterrorism response sessions where the deadly form of ricin was used in detection equipment classes instead of the safer form that FEMA thought it had purchased. All of the trainees wore protective equipment and nobody was sickened, FEMA has said.

    The FEMA mistakes follow several other high-profile safety lapses at federal biodefense facilities that have prompted ongoing congressional investigations. In 2015, the Pentagon discovered that an Army lab had been mistakenly shipping specimens of live anthrax – labeled as killed – to labs and defense contractors around the world for a decade. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention potentially exposed workers to live anthrax and the Ebola virus.

    The newly released documents indicate that the FEMA mix-up began with an email exchange in December 2011 – after the training center had made some initial purchases of what it thought was the inactivated form of ricin, called “chain A” because it contained only one of the two parts of the whole ricin toxin.

    “Can you please confirm that you shipped Ricin chain A and not Ricin. The question has arose that there is a possibility we could have received Ricin instead of the chain A,” a training center employee wrote to the vendor that supplied the powder in a Dec. 6, 2011 email. FEMA blacked out the employee’s name from the records.

    The next morning, a representative from the supply company replied: “The only Ricin we have is chain A. So yes, the product we shipped you is Ricin chain A.” The company and employee’s name were also redacted.

    An October 31, 2011 invoice sent by the company to the training center showed that the item shipped was catalog item “RCA-1” and “LOT#20510RCA” and it was described as “Ricin Toxin (RCA 60).” RCA60 is the scientific name for the lethal whole ricin toxin. And the “Certificate of Analysis” for the specific lot that was shipped also stated that it was Ricin (RCA60) “greater than 90% pure” and it warned that it was extremely toxic.

    Over the next five years, the records show that FEMA placed several more orders with the company that indicate the training center intended to buy inactivated, chain A ricin. FEMA repeatedly submitted “Intended Use Declaration” forms to the vendor that state the agency was requesting “Ricin chain A” and not the more highly regulated whole toxin.

    Yet repeatedly over the years, the company sent back to FEMA invoices and certificates of analyses that said the vials being shipped were “RCA60” — the lethal form of ricin, the records show. Despite the conflicting documentation coming in from the vendor, when the vials would arrive at the Alabama training center, FEMA staff would log the product received as Ricin Chain A – the inactivated form.

    FEMA has said the ricin mix-up was discovered in November after training center staff “recognized a discrepancy in the documentation related to the type of ricin being provided.”

    According to the newly released records, a training center staffer was seeking an updated price quote in October 2016 to purchase the vendor’s catalog item “RCA-1” and during the discussions had specified that the center wanted just the “chain A” form of ricin. The request raised concerns from a worker at the supply company, who in an email told the FEMA worker to note “that RCA-1 is both ‘chain A & B. [Redacted] mentioned that you were referring to ‘chain A’ only?”

    Unsaid in the email is that when both chains are present, the ricin is a whole toxin – and capable of being fully lethal, unlike the partial toxin FEMA thought it had been ordering.

    In a statement to USA TODAY, FEMA said the supply firm told the training center biologist requesting the price quote that the company only sold ricin holotoxin. “This response was the opposite from what the vendor had originally told (the training center) in 2011 (that they only sold ricin A-chain).”

  2. DXer said

    Bill Gates: Bioterrorism could kill more than nuclear war — but no no one is ready to deal with it. Washington Post‎ – 46 minutes ago

    Gates, who founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife in 2000, has been worrying about the world’s ability to stop a deadly …
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/02/18/bill-gates-bioterrorism-could-kill-more-than-nuclear-war-but-no-one-is-ready-to-deal-with-it/

    Comment:

    If the FBI cannot even retrieve basic documents from their files, do you think they are going to be able to stop a planned massive attack?

    It’s a lot easier to find a document in your own files than it is to find the relevant proof relating to a clandestine bioweapons program.

    Moreover, the FBI’s failure to provide expedited treatment of Dillon’s requests was, on its face, misfeasant.

    • DXer said

      Bioterrorists a bigger threat than nuclear weapons, warns Gates
      Ben Farmer in Munich
      PUBLISHED
      18/02/2017
      http://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/bioterrorists-a-bigger-threat-than-nuclear-weapons-warns-gates-35461383.html

      the defence and security establishment “have not been following biology and I’m here to bring them a little bit of bad news”.

      “With nuclear weapons you’d think you would probably stop after killing 100 million. Smallpox won’t stop. Because the population is naive, there are no real preparations. That, if it got out and spread, would kill a larger number.”

    • DXer said

      Bill Gates Warns of an Intentional Biological Attack

      By Zoe McAlister February 19, 2017

      Microsoft founder estimates a 30 million people could die in a year due to a deadly virus attack that could happen within the next 15 years.

      Gates’ speech at the Munich conference came as no surprise. In almost every public appearance in the last decade, he voiced a concern about bio-terrorism.

      https://newswire.net/newsroom/news/00095282-bill-gates-warns-of-an-intentional-biological-attack.html

      Comment:

      I rhink Mr. Gates, to his great credit, is more focused on the risk of natural epidemics. Although he definitely touches on the threat of intentional bioterrorism, his main emphasis remains natural epidemics. See Business Insider piece he authored.

      Personally, I think jihadists would not choose to use a bioweapon that could blow back on them. Many muslim countries have poor health systems and might be disproportionately affected.

      And, who knows … if they have attempted to weaponize, for example, the plague, maybe the reports are true that it did precisely that and wiped out the camp.

      (That’s not to say that I don’t keep a pair of rowboat oars locked in my car).

      If his emphasis, indeed, was intentional bioterrorism, then surely someone with his influence could have obtained Notebook 4282 so as to get people on the same page with the FBI’s controversial Ivins theory.

      But I can’t help but like and admire any bridge player who has the realistic means of making a bid to save millions.

  3. Lew Weinstein said

    Progress? Your persistence is remarkable.

    • DXer said

      I spoke with Kris Weart this morning at the FBI. Whether there is progress will be up to him.

    • DXer said

      And just to clarify, for a long while, the FOIA requests are solely due to the persistence of former intelligence analysis, Dr. Dillon. Another request by Dr. Dillon that is pending and long overdue is his request for the lengthy memo written by former lead Amerithrax investigator Richard L. Lambert. The delay associated with that request illustrates how broken FOIA is at the FBI. If government were a business, it would have not have survived the marketplace because it is too inefficient, too slow in getting tasks done.

  4. DXer said

    I just got off the phone with the FBI’s Kris Weart. He was patient as I sought to explain, in substance:

    To locate the notes, one would go to 279A-WF-222936-SCI18-11. The memo was declassified on January 6, 2009. A redacted copy in produced in Part 55 of 59 parts of Amerithrax documents in the FBI’s FOIA Vault. ( https://vault.fbi.gov/Amerithrax/amerithrax-part-55-of/view )

    The memo explains that between April 10, 2007 and April 29, 2007, Special Agents reviewed laboratory notebooks of Dr. Ivins that had been collected pursuant to a Federal Grand Jury subpoena number 5429, issued in the District of Columbia on March 20, 2007. The memo attached an inventory of the laboratory notebooks reviewed with notations indicating: date received, date reviewed, date returned, reviewer, comments on the the notebook, and 1B numbers (if applicable).

    [redaction]
    *************The memo explains that “Notebook 4282, IVINS/ __________, Pages 65 through 70, contain experiments conducted between 08/23/2001 and 09/18/2001, including the growth of Ba Ames. [redaction]**************

    When you turn to the Excel spreadsheet, RIID NOTEBOOKS.xls, you see that the column indicating the date returned is redacted, as is the column indicating Location.
    But although much of the entry is redacted, it states “Copied several pages from time of mailings. See 1A GJ 1100.”

    Disclosure of the fact that the notebook was not returned in April 2007 along with others is hidden by the redaction.

    All the FBI need do to comply with the statute is to go 1A GJ 1100 and provide those pages. Should it really be so hard to keep track of Dr. Ivins’ contemporaneous notes at the time of mailing — which may either alibi him or prove his guilt?

    ************(The FBI’s entire Ivins Theory was predicated on him having no reason to be in the lab and so notes showing otherwise would destroy an Ivins Theory).*************

    Dr. Ivins complained bitterly that the FBI had not returned key notebooks that he needed to reconstruct his time.

    If the OGIS had been effective, an explanation of the meaning 1A GJ 1100 would have been provided — and an explanation why those pages could not now be produced.

    Is it because they were destroyed? Or because the FOIA system at DOJ is broken and the new Administration needs to bring in experts experienced with data storage and data retrieval.

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