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

Posts Tagged ‘Stuart Jacobsen’

* an article by Drs. Hugh-Jones, Rosenberg & Jacobsen highlights key unanswered questions in the FBI anthrax investigation … such as where and how were the anthrax spores in the attack letters prepared?

Posted by DXer on June 13, 2011


anthrax spores


The 2001 Attack Anthrax:  Key Questions, Potential Answers

Martin E. Hugh-Jones, PhD, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, PhD, Stuart Jacobsen, PhD



Ten years after the anthrax attacks, almost three years after the FBI accused a dead man of perpetrating the 2001 anthrax attacks singlehandedly, and more than a year since they closed the case without further investigation, indictment or trial, the FBI has produced no concrete evidence on key questions:

1. Where and how were the anthrax spores in the attack letters prepared?  

  • The FBI has ignored the most likely laboratories, on the basis of unwarranted assumptions that the spores were made covertly, by the perpetrator(s) of the attack, and during the interval between 9/11 and the mailing of the letters.

2. How and why did the spore powders acquire the extraordinarily high levels of  Silicon and Tin found in them?  

  • The FBI has repeatedly insisted that the powders in the letters contained no additives, and that the Silicon in the powders was incorporated naturally during growth.  
  • But they also claim that they have  not been able to reproduce the high Silicon content in the powders.  
  • They have not admitted to any  attempt to determine the chemical form of the Silicon; and they have avoided mentioning the Tin content.  
  • We present a likely explanation for the elements and the properties of the spore preparations that have been observed.

3. Where did the anthrax spores become contaminated by a rare strain of B. subtilis?  

  • The FBI has never located the source of the strain, but they never searched in the most likely places.


Next Steps

  • Concerns about the validity of the FBI’s conclusions will persist until these questions are addressed.  
  • Further scientific investigation may be the only way to bring the facts of the case to light.
  • That will require scientific expertise and political neutrality, ideally with full access to all that the FBI knows, and with the resources to commission additional work if the existing scientific information is inadequate.  


read the entire article at …


posted on BWPP forum …  … subscription required

The BioWeapons Prevention Project (BWPP) is a global network dedicated to the permanent elimination of biological weapons and of the possibility of their re-emergence. It was launched in 2003 by a group of non-governmental organizations concerned at the failure of governments to fortify the norm against the weaponization of disease. BWPP monitors governmental and other activities relevant to the treaties that codify that norm.


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* Greg Gordon (McClatchy): the apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose … Stuart Jacobsen: it is “outrageous” that the scientific issues haven’t been addressed.

Posted by DXer on May 19, 2011


the FBI has produced NO EVIDENCE that Dr. Bruce Ivins prepared the anthrax or mailed this letter


 Greg Gordon writes for McClatchy Newspapers (5/19/11) …

  • Buried in FBI laboratory reports about the anthrax mail attacks that killed five people in 2001 is data suggesting that a chemical may have been added to try to heighten the powder’s potency, a move that some experts say exceeded the expertise of the presumed killer.
  • The lab data shows unusual levels of silicon and tin in anthrax powder from two of the five letters.
  • Those elements are found in compounds that could be used to weaponize the anthrax, enabling the lethal spores to float easily so they could be readily inhaled by the intended victims, scientists say.
  • The existence of the silicon-tin chemical signature offered investigators the possibility of tracing purchases of the more than 100 such chemical products available before the attacks, which might have produced hard evidence against Ivins or led the agency to the real culprit.
  • But the FBI lab reports released in late February give no hint that bureau agents tried to find the buyers of additives such as tin-catalyzed silicone polymers.
  • The apparent failure of the FBI to pursue this avenue of investigation raises the ominous possibility that the killer is still on the loose.
  • A McClatchy analysis of the records also shows that other key scientific questions were left unresolved and conflicting data wasn’t sorted out when the FBI declared Ivins the killer shortly after his July 29, 2008, suicide.
  • Several scientists and former colleagues of Ivins argue that he was a career biologist who probably lacked the chemistry knowledge and skills to concoct a silicon-based additive.
    • “There’s no way that an individual scientist can invent a new way of making anthrax using silicon and tin,” said Stuart Jacobsen, a Texas-based analytical chemist for an electronics company who’s closely studied the FBI lab results. “It requires an institutional effort to do this, such as at a military lab.”
    • Martin Hugh-Jones, a world-renowned anthrax expert who teaches veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University, called it “just bizarre” that the labs found both tin and silicon.
    • “You have two elements at abnormally high levels,” Hugh-Jones said. “That reduces your probability to a very small number that it’s an accident.”
  • FBI officials say it’s all a moot point, because they’re positive they got the right man in Ivins.
  • However, the FBI never found hard evidence that Ivins produced the anthrax or that he scrawled threatening letters seemingly meant to resemble those of Islamic terrorists. Or that he secretly took late-night drives to Princeton, N.J., to mail them.
  • Jacobsen, the Texas chemist, suspects that the silica pockets represented excess material that went through a chemical reaction and hardened before it could penetrate the spores.
  • Tufts University chemistry professor David Walt, who led the panel’s analysis of the silicon issue, said in a phone interview that “there was not enough silicon in the spores that could account for the total silicon content of the bulk analysis.”
  • Jacobsen called it “outrageous” that the scientific issues haven’t been addressed … the FBI have every resource available to them,” he said.

“And yet they have no compelling explanation

for not properly analyzing the biggest forensic clue

in the most important investigation

the FBI labs had ever gotten in their history.”

  • As a result of Ivins’ death and the unanswered scientific issues, Congress’ investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, is investigating the FBI’s handling of the anthrax inquiry.
  • In a chapter in a recently updated book, “Microbial Forensics,” Velsko wrote that the anthrax “must have indeed been produced under an unusual set of conditions” to create such high silicon counts. That scenario, he cautioned, might not be “consistent with the prosecution narrative in this case.”
  • Peter Weber, Velsko’s co-researcher, said the academy panel’s focus on the conflicting data “raises a big question,” and “it’d be really helpful for closure of this case if that was resolved.” He suggested that further “micro-analysis” with a highly sophisticated electron microscope could “pop the question marks really quickly.”

read the entire article at …


see also …

* the GAO review of the FBI’s anthrax investigation has begun … a report is expected to be issued by September 20, 2011 … *** UPDATE: a series of fascinating comments to this post suggest many pertinent questions that GAO might want to consider

* a recent article by Greg Gordon raises the potentially critical importance of b. subtilis contaminant found in the Brokaw and New York Post anthrax letters … not connected to Dr. Ivins … and substantially ignored by the FBI



Over two years ago, I proposed three possible scenarios to explain the FBI’s failure to make a compelling case against Dr. Bruce Ivins. Since then, nothing has changed. There are still these three 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

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* Richard Bernstein … some of the F.B.I.’s arguments in support of their case against Dr. Bruce Ivins seem like “conclusions in search of arguments”

Posted by DXer on February 24, 2010

Richard Bernstein writes (in a letter to the NYT) …

  • Aerosol Science and Technology reported on an attempt by a group of scientists at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah … that to create anthrax in a dry aerosol form of the sort that can be dispersed through the air is a long and difficult process involving a lot of highly specialized machinery.
    • The point blows a large hole through the 92-page summary of the investigation released last week by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department.
    • “Note that the proprietary azeotropic drying technique and the pneumatic mill are both superspecialized pieces of equipment, neither of which is at Detrick,” the specialist in fine particles, Stuart Jacobsen, said in an e-mail message.
  • the F.B.I.’s entire case against Mr. Ivins is that he was able to manufacture the anthrax used in the attacks at his Fort Detrick lab, working late at night on the days before the actual anthrax mailings so nobody would see what he was doing.
    • But according to Jeffrey Adamovicz, Mr. Ivins’s supervisor at UAMRIID, the F.B.I.’s claim that Mr. Ivins rarely worked at night — and only did so in the days before the anthrax was mailed — is simply untrue.
  • But most important is the failure of the F.B.I. to demonstrate that the anthrax used in the attack was actually produced in Mr. Ivins’s lab at Fort Detrick, or even that it could have been produced there.
    • Mr. Adamovicz said in his e-mail message: “This is very strong evidence that a process more sophisticated than Bruce Ivins or USAMRIID possessed was used in making the spore preparations. I and others have calculated that it would take several weeks to months to grow the 5-10 grams of spores required for the letters using common lab protocols and laboratory capabilities present in USAMRIID for growing spores. The F.B.I. to date has provided no information on how this could be done.”
  • The point is not that Mr. Ivins wasn’t the anthrax mailer.
    • Perhaps he was.
    • But some of the F.B.I.’s arguments seem like conclusions in search of arguments,
    • while other aspects of the report — notably its failure to deal with the silicon question — are conspicuously incomplete.

Read the entire letter at …


The weakness of the FBI’s case against Dr. Ivins raises the following questions:

  • Is that really all the evidence the FBI was able to put together after the most extensive investigation in their entire history?
  • If not, what else do they know and why are they not telling us?

My novel CASE CLOSED addresses these questions and provides answers, which while fictional, have struck many readers, including one member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, as quite plausible.

You can check out reader comments and

* buy CASE CLOSED at amazon *

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