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

Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Claire Fraser-Liggett’

* FBI genetics expert Claire Fraser-Liggett … I think that the (FBI’s use of the) evidence on science probably was misleading … I have no way to know whether or not Bruce Ivins was really the perpetrator

Posted by DXer on October 13, 2011

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Dr. Claire Fraser-Liggett

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Director of the Institute for Genome Sciences, Fraser-Liggett was brought into the investigation to try to trace the DNA found in the anthrax attack letters back to its source material. Based on her team’s research, the FBI zeroed in on a flask controlled by Dr. Bruce Ivins. But while Fraser-Liggett believes the scientific evidence is “very solid,” she is not convinced the government has made its case against Ivins. Below are points extracted from an interview conducted on June 14, 2011.

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  • The idea behind all of this was that the application of molecular genetics approaches might provide the kind of information that would help to link the material that was sent in the mail back to a source and back to the perpetrator.
  • the people within the FBI that were put in charge of this investigation were really scrambling to figure out how to put a master plan together that would guide this investigation. …
  • The pressure was enormous.
  • we were working in partnership with the FBI but doing a very specific part of this, carrying out a very specific part of this overall investigation. We did not ever know any more than we needed to know to do our job.
  • We never directly dealt with Bruce Ivins.
  • If we could find molecular differences that held up and could be traced back to a potential source, that would potentially provide the smoking gun and say, “This is where the material came from.”

LMW: why does no one ever mention the huge stockpile of Ames samples in Iowa that were destroyed immediately after the anthrax attacks in 2001, apparently with the concurrence of the FBI if not its direction?

  • Once we identified the genetic mutations, we spent a fair amount of time developing assays to target in specifically to those regions that differed.
  • What they found in looking at these eight samples that contained all four mutations was that they could all be traced back to a single source flask of Bacillus anthracis spores that had been named RMR-1029 and that had been developed and kept at USAMRIID dating back to either 1997 or 1998.

there were perhaps 200 or 300 people at USAMRIID

who had potentially had access to that material 

  • One of the puzzling aspects of the investigation was that there appeared to be two different sources of material … One source that was sent in the letters to New York, to Tom Brokaw and the New York Post, and a second preparation of spores that was sent to Sens. [Tom] Daschle [D-Iowa] and [Patrick] Leahy [D-Vt.].

that suggested that the material that was sent through the mail

didn’t come directly from the 1029 flask

… there had to have been a subsequent preparation step

  • I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

I think there are still a lot of holes,

and I think the FBI is the first to admit that’s the case.

LMW: Not so! The FBI continues to assert that Dr. Ivins was the sole perpetrator

I have no way to know whether or not Bruce Ivins was really the perpetrator.

  • I think it’s unfortunate in that there were aspects of his personality that made it very easy to cast him as the eccentric, psychologically disturbed scientist with a possible motive. But that doesn’t mean that he’s guilty. …
  • I absolutely believe that the eight samples that were identified contained the four mutations that were consistent with these samples having been derived from the 1029 flask. It’s consistent with having come from 1029, but that’s different than saying this material absolutely came from 1029.
  • There probably should have been some more statistical analysis done, looking to see how frequently these kinds of mutations arise when large preparations of Bacillus anthracis are grown up in fermenters.
  • That was actually an item that was noted in the National Academy’s report. And I can’t say why that work wasn’t done. …
  • Then there are all sorts of holes in the more traditional aspect of the investigation:
    • there was no information that ever linked Dr. Ivins to the mailboxes in New Jersey at the times that these letters were presumably sent out;
    • the fact that it’s known that there were perhaps 200 or more individuals that had access to this material at any point after this flask, this witch’s brew of spores was created. …

the FBI overemphasized the role of science in proving their case. 

I think that the (FBI’s use of the) evidence on science

probably was misleading.

  • The science was very solid, but the science alone could never provide the answers.
  • There are days when I think there are just still so many unanswered questions that it is absolutely unfair to place guilt on Ivins.

this was not an airtight case, by any means.

  • no spores were found in (Ivins’) car
  •  think about all the efforts that had to go into decontaminating the postal facilities, and the volatility of these spores, and the fact that they were around for so long, and they went everywhere — to me, that seems like an enormous inconsistency.
  • I would find it surprising that you could take a piece of equipment in which you had grown any bacterial organism, whether it be anthrax or anything else, and get it completely clean, where there was no trace.

There is absolutely a sense that

there was so much pressure coming from the top,

… that there almost wasn’t time to really think critically

  • Does that mean that some mistakes were made? Probably, but not with any malicious intent. I don’t think they were ever made with the intent to not get at the truth.
  • It was always a scramble, and everybody was always reacting to a need for information yesterday rather than tomorrow. Tomorrow was always too late. …

read all of this remarkable interview at … http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/anthrax-files/claire-fraser-liggett-this-is-not-an-airtight-case-by-any-means/

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* What’s wrong with this equation: no witnesses + no physical evidence + no conclusive science = we’re convinced it was Dr. Ivins

Posted by DXer on July 1, 2009

why the FBI failed to solve the 2001 anthrax caseCASE CLOSED

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon

* see CASE CLOSED VIDEO on YouTube

* win a free copy of CASE CLOSED (until July 6)


What’s wrong with this equation:

no witnesses + no physical evidence + no conclusive science

= we’re convinced it was Dr. Ivins

Last night’s presentation from Nova Science Now on PBS contained a segment about how researchers determined the source of the anthrax used in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Here are two quotes from that show …

Dr. Fraser-Liggett

Dr. Fraser-Liggett

  • Thomas Dellafera, U.S. Postal Inspector … “Every member of the task force is convinced it was Dr. Ivins.”
  • Dr. Claire Fraser-Liggett, University of Maryland Medical School … “I don’t think the science will ever be able to say who the perpetrator was. The best the science can do is to lead investigators to a potential source.”

Let’s follow the logic …

  • There seems to be no doubt that the FBI has no witnesses and no physical evidence to link Dr. Ivins to the anthrax attacks.
  • Dr. Fraser-Liggett says the science cannot pin the crime on Dr. Ivins.
  • The anthrax from flask RMR-1029 was distributed widely, to perhaps 100 to 300 different researchers.
  • The FBI has never explained how all of the other labs which had RMR-1029 were excluded as suspects, nor how they are sure none of these many anthrax sources were ever lost or stolen.

With no witnesses, no physical evidence, and no science, how in the world can the FBI be convinced that Dr. Ivins was the sole perpetrator?

It makes no sense. I wrote CASE CLOSED to try to explain the inexplicable.

see the entire NOVA show at … http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/0401/02.html (thanks to DXer)

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