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

Posts Tagged ‘McClatchy Newspapers’

* THE ANTHRAX FILES: Congratulations to FRONTLINE, ProPublica and McClatchy For Their Much Deserved Emmy Nomination For “Outstanding Investigative Journalism”

Posted by DXer on July 24, 2012



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* FRONTLINE, ProPublica and McClatchy Newspapers release photos of Ivins’ lab, office and equipment (lyophilizer), obtained from FOIA requests

Posted by DXer on January 31, 2012


Last fall, FRONTLINE, ProPublica and McClatchy Newspapers raised a number of questions about the strength of the Justice Department’s case against microbiologist Dr. Bruce Ivins, whom they named as the killer after he committed suicide in 2008.

As part of our reporting, we filed more than 30 FOIA requests and recently received a CD from the FBI with a number of rarely seen photos of Ivins’ lab, including the machine the FBI claims he used to make the deadly attack anthrax powder.


The lyophilizer, or freeze dryer, which the FBI says Ivins could have used to make the attack anthrax.


Ivins' secured BSL-3 hot suite lab at USAMRIID


Ivins' office


Ivins’ secure BSL-3 hot suite lab at USAMRIID



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* ProPublica, McClatchy Newspapers and PBS’ Frontline … the FBI’s case against anthrax suspect rife with questions

Posted by DXer on October 11, 2011


Watch FRONTLINE TUES OCT 11 at 9:00 pm



  • In December 2001, long before he became the prime suspect in the anthrax mailings that had terrorized the nation, Army biologist Bruce Ivins sent his superiors an email offering to help scientists trace the killer.
  • Ivins said he had several variants of Ames anthrax – the rare strain that an FBI science consultant concluded was used in the attack – that could be tested to find the origins of the powder that had killed five people.
  • To many of Ivins’ former colleagues at the U.S. Army germ research center in Fort Detrick, Md., his invitation to test anthrax in his own inventory is among numerous indications that the FBI got the wrong man.
  • What kind of murderer, they wonder, would ask the cops to test his own gun for ballistics?

Ten years after the attack, an in-depth examination of the case against Ivins

by PBS’ “Frontline,” McClatchy Newspapers and ProPublica

raises fresh doubts about the government’s evidence

and questions whether – despite a $100 million investigation –

the real anthrax killer remains on the loose.

  • The news organizations conducted dozens of interviews and reviewed thousands of pages of FBI files over the past year.
  • While not exonerating Ivins, a gifted but tortured scientist with a history of obsessive behavior, the documents and accounts are at odds with some of the science and circumstantial evidence that the government said would have led to his conviction for capital crimes:
  • Prosecutors continue to vehemently defend their case, arguing that the inconsistencies and unanswered questions are trumped by a long chain of evidence that they think would have convinced a jury that Ivins prepared the lethal powder that was mailed to news media outlets and two U.S. senators.
  • One week after Ivins died following an overdose of over-the-counter medication in July 2008, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor proclaimed at a news conference: “Based on the totality of the evidence we had gathered against him, we are confident that Dr. Ivins was the only person responsible for these attacks.”

(This is a condensed story summarizing a three-part series produced jointly by McClatchy, the investigative newsroom ProPublica and PBS’ “Frontline.” The full series is online at Gordon works for McClatchy. Engelberg works for ProPublica, and Wiser and Gilmore are with “Frontline.” Gary Matsumoto of ProPublica contributed to this report.)

read the entire story at …

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* Baltimore Sun/Frontline … if Ivins was not the person who sent the anthrax, then that killer is still on the loose … and we are left with an FBI that not only failed to solve such a huge case, but overstated and maybe lied about what it did accomplish.

Posted by DXer on October 10, 2011


Is it possible that Director Mueller, an intelligent man, doesn't know the FBI has failed to make its case against Dr. Ivins? And what does it mean if he knows but won't admit it?


“The Anthrax Files’ premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday October 11, 2011.


David Zurawik writes in The Baltimore Sun (10/9/11) …

  • Nobody does investigative journalism on TV like Public Television’s “Frontline”
  • And Tuesday night at 9, the venerable series revisits Ft. Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, and the case of anthrax researcher Bruce Ivins who killed himself in 2008 as the FBI zeroed in on him as its prime suspect in the case of deadly envelopes of anthrax sent through the mail.
  • According to this hard-edged report done in partnership with McClatchy Newspapers and Propublica, the FBI did more than zero in.
  • Under tremendous pressure to solve the case that started in 2001 with anthrax mailed to U.S. senators and network anchors, the agency squeezed Ivins hard — using every trick in the book to get a confession out of him even as he insisted on his innocence to the end.
  • Ivins was a troubled guy with some distinctive kinks, the report acknowledges, but …

even FBI consultants in the case now admit

that the agency overstated its evidence

and never found a smoking gun to prove the researcher’s guilt.

  • In fact, evidence was revealed last summer that shows

Ivins did not have the equipment needed

to make the powdery kind of anthrax sent through the mail.

  • That didn’t stop the FBI then — or now — in acting like it found its man.
  • “The Anthrax Files” suggests that anyone with the psychological issues Ivins had might have cracked under the weight of the FBI invading his privacy, exposing his secrets and ultimately getting him kicked out of the community of researchers that he called home at Ft. Detrick.
  • This is a chilling report, because if Ivins was not the person who sent the anthrax, then that killer is still on the loose …

and we are left with an FBI that not only failed to solve such a huge case,

but overstated and maybe lied about what it did accomplish.

read the entire story at …–fbi-suicide-fort-detrick-scientist-20111009,0,4090742.story



I have long held that the FBI’s publicly presented case against Dr. Ivins is clearly bogus: no evidence, no witnesses, an impossible timeline, science that proves innocence instead of guilt. So what really happened? And why doesn’t the FBI offer America a credible story?

As regular readers of this blog well know, I can imagine only 3 possible “actual” scenarios …

  1. The FBI has more evidence against Dr. Ivins but is, for some undisclosed reason, withholding that evidence … POSSIBLE BUT NOT SO LIKELY
  2. The FBI, despite the most expensive and extensive investigation in its history, has not solved the case and has no idea who prepared and mailed the anthrax letters that killed 5 Americans in 2001 … EVEN LESS LIKELY
  3. The FBI knows who did it (not Dr. Ivins) but is covering up the actual perpetrators, for undisclosed reasons …THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO
When I first heard the FBI/DOJ August 2008 press conference, I was infuriated. It was obvious to me even then that the FBI had no case, or at least no case they chose to make publicly known. Since I’m a novelist, I focused my anger and wrote CASE CLOSED, a fictional account of what might have happened in the anthrax attacks and subsequent FBI investigation. The novel has been published and is available at amazon …

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *

Here is the first scene in CASE CLOSED, where I have the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) institute its own re-examination of the FBI’s obviously flawed investigation …

this is the opening scene of Lew Weinstein's novel CASE CLOSED


* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *


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* Jonathan Tucker … New Questions About the FBI’s Anthrax Case: Valid Concerns or Red Herring?

Posted by DXer on August 23, 2011

Jonathan Tucker



Dr. Tucker looked at the DOJ’s claims and credited the DOJ view that Dr. Ivins could have done it — relying on the DOJ’s claim that he had no reason to be the lab  

Yet nowhere did he address the argument that the DOJ’s claim is directly contradicted by the documentary evidence that was withheld by the DOJ and only produced by USAMRIID 3 years after Dr. Ivins’ death.

Clearly the aim, then, should be to obtain the evidence that shows what he was doing on the nights that the DOJ mistakenly said he had no reason to be in the lab.

The documents have been uploaded to the website and the media and authors just haven’t addressed the issue.

… and by the way, when did evidence that something was possible

become a substitute for evidence that something was done?


New Questions About the FBI’s Anthrax Case:

Valid Concerns or Red Herring?

BY JONATHAN B. TUCKER   •   22 AUGUST 2011 … posted at WMD Junction, a new online forum brought to you by the editors of The Nonproliferation Review.

  • The latest challenge to the FBI’s case against Ivins comes from depositions given by some of his former USAMRIID colleagues in a suit against the US government filed by Maureen Stevens, whose late husband, Robert Stevens, was the first victim of the anthrax letter attacks.
  • Although at first glance the court documents appear to raise serious doubts about the FBI’s case against Ivins, the scientists’ claims are based on assumptions that may well be false.
  •  because no spores were ever found in Ivins’s home or car, and no eyewitness saw him mail the letters from a mailbox in downtown Princeton, New Jersey, the FBI’s case was entirely circumstantial.

Questions Raised in the Depositions

  • The depositions taken from USAMRIID scientists and technicians as part of the lawsuit by Maureen Stevens were first disclosed on July 18 in a joint article by three news organizations: PBS Frontline, ProPublica, and McClatchy Newspapers.[1]
  • According to the article, testimony in the court documents suggests that Ivins did not have access to the specialized equipment and know-how he presumably would have needed to dry the spores into the high-quality powder sent through the mail, raising doubts about whether he was technically capable of committing the crime.
  • While the scientists’ depositions appear compelling at first glance, many of the statements are misleading.
  • First, much has been made of the specialized knowledge needed to prepare dry powders of B. anthracis spores, yet this factor may have been exaggerated.
  • Early reports that the spores contained a high level of silicon suggested that they could have been deliberately “weaponized” by coating them with silica to reduce static clumping and facilitate their delivery as a fine-particle aerosol.
  • FBI scientists later determined, however, that the silicon was not on the surface of the spores but had been incorporated into an inner layer called the endosporium when the anthrax bacteria were grown and induced to sporulate. Thus, Ivins would not have needed weapons-related expertise to process the spores.
  • Second, the depositions by Worsham and Little imply that the only way to produce significant quantities of dried B. anthracis is by using a lyophilizer, yet lower-tech approaches may also be feasible.
  • The fact that the B. anthracis powder mailed to the two senators was so buoyant and dispersed so readily led many observers to conclude that it had been deliberately weaponized.
  • Dr. Vahid Majidi, the assistant director of the FBI’s WMD Directorate, said that this false belief resulted from the fact that very few scientists have experience with preparations of dried bacteria.
  • in response to the question whether the equipment in Ivins’s lab would have been sufficient to grow and dry the spores, Majidi said, “It would have been easy to make these samples at RID [USAMRIID].”[4]
  • During the press briefing, FBI officials estimated that making the preparation of powdered B. anthracis spores could have taken one person between three and seven days of work.[5]
  • They also corrected false reports that the FBI had been unable to reverse-engineer the highly refined B. anthracis powder mailed to the two senators.[6]
  • When asked if the FBI’s powder behaved the same as the material in the letters, Majidi replied, “as far as our preparation goes, we were able to repeat almost everything except the silicant signal [the high silicon content of the spores]. … Can we make the same spore purity? Yes. Can we make the spore dry? Yes.”[7]
  • Based on this information, it appears that Ivins could have dried the spores without the need for a lyophilizer by using a low-tech method, such as heat-drying the concentrated slurry on glass plates and then harvesting the dried material inside a sealed glove box.
  • In sum, public statements by Majidi and other senior FBI officials suggest that the assumption underlying the more recent statements of the USAMRIID scientists—that specialized equipment, expertise, and tacit knowledge are required to produce a lethal preparation of dry anthrax spores—may be incorrect or at least exaggerated.


  • Although the FBI’s circumstantial case against Bruce Ivins will never satisfy hard-core skeptics and conspiracy theorists, the mosaic of evidence is fairly convincing when viewed as a whole.
  • At the same time, it is far from certain that a federal prosecutor could have persuaded a jury of Ivins’ guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

[Editor’s note: Jonathan Tucker died suddenly in late July, just days after submitting this article for publication.


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