|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Sunday, December 31, 2006
December 31, 2006 - Wow! I survived another year! And what a year it was! I feel like I've been slogging through a jungle for 365 days, being attacked left and right by all sorts of insects and beasts, and suddenly I'm seeing open space ahead.
But it could be lion country! Are those vultures I see circling in the distance?
The year began badly. In January I received the first of many threats from a conspiracy theorist who said he was going to sue me just to punish me for spreading what he considered to be false information about the attack anthrax. Later in the year, he and another conspiracy theorist began contacting scientists I knew to threaten them with being called as witnesses in the lawsuit if they continued to talk with me. It all started around the time I began trying to get Science Magazine to retract the infamous anthrax article they had printed in November of 2003.
But that all ended in September when Dr. Douglas Beecher's anthax article was circulated. It showed that at least one scientist at the FBI was confirming my analysis and debunking what the conspiracy theorists believed about the attack anthrax. And the nonsensical Science magazine article was specifically mentioned by Dr. Beecher as being inaccurate and misleading. Suddenly, what I'd been saying for 5 years and what I'd written in my book about the nature of the attack anthrax was being accepted as fact by the media. I was contacted by at least a dozen people in the media, but only William Broad of The New York Times wrote about what I'd written in my book.
On January 1, 2006, I was hoping that the various lawsuits filed by Dr. Hatfill would be resolved or would go to trial before the end of 2006. That didn't happen. But it now seems it will happen in early 2007. Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against The New York Times is scheduled to go to trial on January 29, 2007. His lawsuit against Don Foster, Vanity Fair magazine, Readers' Digest and Vassar College, which went into "mediation" on October 5, 2006, now has some sort of decision date set for February 5, 2007. Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against John Ashcroft, the FBI, the DOJ et al has been in some kind of hold status since September when everything seemed to come to a sudden and inexplicable halt, a halt which (hopefully) can't last forever, since a lot of interesting information came from reading the snippets of depositions which were made public in that case.
During 2006 we also learned that the Ames stain of anthrax was more widely distributed than previously believed, and that the powder in the envelopes may have been proven scientifically to have been made in the "northeastern U.S," a finding which, if true, would trash all the theories that the 9/11 terrorists were making anthrax in Florida or brought it with them from overseas.
During 2006, we learned a bit about how dangerous natural and unrefined anthrax can be when two drum makers on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean were infected by breathing in naturally aerosolized anthrax spores from animal hides. The one from Brooklyn survived. The one in Scotland did not.
The year 2006 was also the year that the "Professors of Paranoia" began preaching their beliefs to the public about government conspiracies related to 9/11, totally ignoring facts as they collected countless followers. Late in the year, a Left Wing law professor began telling everyone who would listen that "the FBI knows exactly who was behind these terrorist anthrax attacks upon the United States Congress in the Fall of 2001, and that the culprits were US government-related scientists involved in a criminal US government biowarfare program." His facts were mostly wrong, but that apparently didn't matter.
And 2006 was the year that Right Wing politicians like Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa tried to second guess the FBI and push them to provide detailed briefings on the anthrax investigation, evidently with the goal of convincing the FBI that they should be following the Right Wing Republican political agenda to blame al Qaeda and/or Saddam Hussein's Iraq for the attacks.
It appears that, if it cannot be proven who actually did sent the anthrax letters, some in the far Right will believe it's in America's best interests to blame al Qaeda or Iraq -- even if the facts say otherwise, and some in the far Left will believe it's in America's best interests to blame the Bush administration -- even if the facts say otherwise.
It was a busy year with lots to write comments about. I did a word count of my comments for 2006, and, including this comment, I wrote 87,291 words. (A typical novel is 60,000 words.) And I probably wrote at least that amount in emails during the year. (I archived approximately 4,150 emails last year, probably a third of which are emails I wrote.)
There were 161,000 visitors to this web site in 2006. That compares with about 133,000 visitors in 2005, about 95,000 in 2004, about 55,000 in 2003, and about 40,000 in 2002.
However, those statistics don't necessarily mean that 4 times as many people are interested in the anthrax investigation today as where in 2002, it most likely just means that 4 times as many people know about my web site now than knew about it back in 2002. But there is also a lot more information on the site, and that means that search engines have more words to put into their indexes. As a result, a person can do a search for renew colon cleaner or for novasibirsk city map and get search results which show that specific pages on my site contain those words, and, if they decide to actually look at that page, it will be logged as a "visit" in the web site statistics.
2006 was an interesting year, but I'm glad it's over. I'm really looking forward to 2007. It could be an extraordinary year. I certainly wish everyone a happy New Year.
December 24, 2006 - Most of the discussion during the past week was about Dr. Boyle's conspiracy theories. They seem to have been pulled from a time capsule, as if he developed his theories in late 2001 and hasn't learned a thing since.
In the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, the Times withdrew a Motion to depose a former vice president at SAIC who worked with Dr. Hatfill to hire William Patrick III to study the potential dangers of anthrax sent through the mail. But Judge O'Grady denied the motion anyway. It was apparently "a fishing expedition", as lawyers say, i.e., an attempt to question someone who has nothing to do with anything, but who might still say something that can be used in court some way.
The Times continued to file documents, and Dr. Hatfill's lawyers responded by filing 9 bound volumes of exhibits, all of which are "under seal." That should give the Times' lawyers plenty to read over the holidays.
Presumably, there won't be much news next week about the anthrax investigation or the Hatfill lawsuits, but I'll be checking anyway.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, December 23, 2006
December 22, 2006 - Finally, there has been an update to the Docket in the Hatfill v Don Foster, Vanity Fair magazine, Readers' Digest and Vassar College lawsuit. Unfortunately, it just says we still have a long time to wait:
December 21, 2006 - I've said before that, when you get far enough away from reality, it's hard to tell the difference between the Radical Right and the Lunatic Left. One conspiracy theorist on the far far Left is currently making his beliefs known to anyone who will listen. This is from today's Free Market News:
Dr. Francis A Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois-Champaign, and the man who wrote the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, is convinced that "9/11 was allowed to happen, the war on terror is facilitating the downfall of The Republic, and concentration camps are in place, with U.S. citizens as the targets." He also reportedly declared, during an appearance on the Alex Jones program, that the purpose of the anthrax attack was "to foment a police state by killing off opposition to hardline post-9/11 legislation."The title of the article is: "BOYLE: FEDS WERE BEHIND ANTHRAX ATTACKS."
Today, a lengthy article with many more details appeared on a Canadian web site GlobalResearch.ca. It was titled "Impending Police State in America."
Earlier in the week, there were similar articles in the Middle East Times, on a web site which advertises itself as "Marxist Thought On Line," on a German site and on a site from "Occupied Iraq". While I don't plan to help spread this line of thinking any further, it is important to know that there are people out there who think this way -- and, evidently, people who want to help them spread "the word".
December 18, 2006 - In yesterday's comment, I neglected to mention that, while the media and conspiracy theorists keep claiming that the FBI has no suspects, or that they are looking in the wrong place for suspects, or that they are covering up for the real suspect(s), the FBI has been saying something very different: They've been generally saying they have too many suspects. A Washington Post article said they had "as many as 20 people who are under scrutiny at any time." A Baltimore Sun article quotes Ari Fleischer as saying "there are still several suspects." An Associated Press article said Dr. Hatfill was "one of about 30 people being scrutinized." Those articles were all written years ago, but that doesn't mean all those people turned out to be innocent. It just means that we don't know how many people are currently "under scrutiny".
December 17, 2006 - During the past week, a documentary film maker asked me if I planned to print a revised version of my book with all the "corrections" mentioned on this web site. My responses were: (1) There are no "corrections" to the book on this web site, there are only additions and confirmations. As far as I know, nothing I've written about the anthrax investigation in my book has been proven wrong. (2) No, I do not have any plans to print a revised version. Books about the anthrax investigation evidently only sell well if they promote some conspiracy theory or expose real or imagined government misdeeds in some way, and they need to be written by people with impressive credentials. I'm just a "guy on the Internet", and all my book does is analyze the facts to see what they tell us about the culprit and the investigation. Most of the published copies of my book are still sitting in my garage.
Coincidentally, during the past week I also discussed a review of a book which is in the news and which points to the U.S. government as being responsible for the anthrax attacks. The book was written by a college professor with multiple doctorates and impressive credentials who is considered by some to be an "authority". I tried to get him to defend this paragraph from the review:
Although only a "handful" of scientists had the ability to perpetrate the crime, the culprit among them may never be identified as the FBI ordered the destruction of the anthrax culture collection at Ames, IA., from which the Ft. Detrick lab got its pathogens, the authority said.I pointed out a few facts to him: (1) The labs in Ames, Iowa, did not supply Ft. Detrick with the Ames strain. (2) The "anthrax culture collection" at Iowa State University never had a sample of the Ames strain. (3) The FBI did not order the destruction of that collection.
I cited known facts from The Washington Post, The New York Times, and from the Iowa State Daily which show that the Ames strain went directly from Texas A&M to Ft. Detrick and was misnamed "The Ames Strain" simply because Texas A&M used a prepaid government mailing label which had the USDA at Ames as the return address. According to those facts, the FBI did not order the destruction of that collection. Iowa State officials decided on their own to destroy the collection, checking with the USDA, the CDC and the FBI first, to make sure the collection had no evidentiary value. It did not. These facts have been known for almost 5 years. Yet, it appears that an "authority" can just ignore the facts and say what he wants to say. His facts might be shown to be absolute nonsense, but he can still claim that his beliefs are true. And, because he's an "authority", his book promoting an absurd conspiracy theory will sell better than any book which just analyzes the facts.
And while this was going on, I also had a discussion about beliefs expressed in a column in the Florida Sun-Sentinel titled "Anthrax investigation has no answers, but secrecy abounds." While others in the discussion agreed with the beliefs expressed in the column, I had to disagree. It appears to me that the columnist, Mr. Goodman, is wrong on many points:
1. Mr. Goodman wrote:
The five-year-old investigation is all too representative of how this administration conducts business. In secret. Giving its reasons as national security.FBI Director Mueller said nothing about "national security" when he recently explained why the FBI wasn't briefing Congress. He said it was because Grand Jury matters are secret. And Grand Jury matters are secret. And it's for good reason: So a case won't be tried in the media before it gets to court. Director Mueller simply can't talk about details of an on-going criminal investigation. There's no "national security" involved in that.
2. Mr. Goodman wrote:
For all we know, [The FBI is] simply hiding its ineffectiveness or incompetence.Yes, and for all we know, the FBI is simply keeping details of an on-going criminal investigation secret the way it is supposed to. The FBI is accused of revealing details of their investigation of Dr. Hatfill -- and destroying his life. Does the media also want the FBI to reveal details about actual suspects? Why? So they can be investigated and tried in the media and their lives can be destroyed, too?
3. Mr. Goodman wrote:
it was the FBI that leaked the name of Stephen Hatfield, the scientist who is suing the government for being identified in the case in 2002 as "a person of interest.The FBI did NOT leak the name of Dr. Hatfill. He was being pointed at by conspiracy theorists for six months before his name became publicly known. After listening to these conspiracy theorists, media outlets like the New York Times wanted Dr. Hatfill (a.k.a. "Mr. Z") to be publicly investigated, and it was SENATE staffers who further applied pressure to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill. The facts say that the FBI had checked out Dr. Hatfill the first time his name came up, and apparently they found no reason to suspect him. However, to conspiracy theorists, if you are not investigated publicly, then you have not been truly investigated. They claimed the FBI was covering up for Dr. Hatfill. When the FBI did finally bow to the pressure to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill after more than six months of resisting the pressure, suddenly it was all the FBI's idea. And now people in the media like Mr. Goodman are talking about how the FBI "leaked" Dr. Hatfill's name. It's a load of pure crap.
4. Mr. Goodman also wrote:
I guess it's just too shameful for the G-Men to have to look the country in the eye and say, "Hey, we've tried and tried, but we don't know who sent the anthrax.So, is Mr. Goodman saying the FBI should give up? How does he know the FBI doesn't know who did it? Because they haven't made an arrest?
What if the FBI knows who sent the anthrax but cannot yet prove it in court? What is the FBI suppose to do then? Are they supposed to tell the country that they think Dr. Joe Blow did it, but they cannot prove it? What would that accomplish besides setting up Dr. Joe Blow for a public lynching? If they did that, it would be so prejudicial to the legal case that it could never go to trial. The culprit would go free forever. And he'd probably sue for millions.
Or should the FBI and the DOJ go to court anyway, knowing they do not have enough evidence to be reasonably certain of a conviction? What would that accomplish? If Dr. Blow was acquitted, he could never be tried again. He'd go free forever. Is that justice? Is that what the public wants?
Is there any alternative that does not let the culprit go free forever? Yes, there is. The FBI can pursue the case, collecting facts and scientific evidence, UNTIL they have enough to be reasonably assured of a conviction in court. Who can state with certainty that that is not what the FBI is currently doing? And, if true, isn't that the best option?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, December 16, 2006
December 12, 2006 (B) - In an article in today's Houston Chronicle titled "Congress demands answers on anthrax", the Associated Press is reporting that
Thirty-three members of Congress have written Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanding that the FBI update lawmakers on the investigation into the anthrax attacks five years ago that paralyzed the nation with bio-terror fears.A copy of the letter can be found by clicking HERE.
December 12, 2006 (A) - People seem to be wondering if there is any significance to the fact that FBI Director Mueller refused to discuss the anthrax attacks with the Senate Judiciary Committee last week because "a grand jury investigation" is in progress. Beats me. It appears there has been a "grand jury investigation" underway since the very beginning. I've seen media mentions as far back as February, 2002, and in September 2003 there was even an article which said,
A federal grand jury has been empaneled in the anthrax case under the supervision of Roscoe C. Howard Jr., U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.Federal Grand Juries have terms that last up to 2 years for a "regular" grand jury and up to 3 years for a "special" grand jury. So, in theory, the grand jury mentioned in the September 2003 article is no longer in session. But that would just mean a new one was assembled at some point in time. Is it working to prepare an indictment or is it just "investigating" the anthrax killings? Who knows? I've been expecting an indictment in the case for years, but -- other than an unexplained delay in Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against the government, which could have no significance whatsoever -- I'm picking up no "vibes" at the moment which indicate that an indictment is currently in the works.
December 11, 2006 - Another American scientist has joined the ever growing mob of fact- and logic-challenged conspiracy theorists who see the anthrax attacks as being the work of the U.S. government. The article describing his theory and his new book was printed in the Middle East Times using the title "Anthrax attack on US Congress made by scientists and covered up by FBI, expert says."
December 10, 2006 - So far I haven't been able to find any copies of any of the FBI documents which The New York Times said were "made public for the first time." Perhaps no reporter has bothered to go to the court house to view them; perhaps no reporter found anything of interest in them; or perhaps they just need time to digest.
I also haven't been able to find Attorney General Gonzales' October 31 response to Senator Grassley's nasty letter of October 23.
The year end holidays are coming up. I'm not expecting much new information until the new year. There will be hearings in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit right up to the Friday before Christmas, but I don't expect anything dramatic to happen. And while it seems inexplicable that a "mediation session" could go on for three months, there's no indication that anything will happen in the Hatfill v Don Foster, Vanity Fair et al lawsuit until after the first of the year, either. Plus, I have absolutely no idea what's going on in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, December 9, 2006
December 8, 2006 - Someone sent me the link to the C-Span video of the grilling of FBI Director Mueller. I found it HERE, but sometimes it seems to disappear from the list. The entire video titled "Senate Judiciary Cmte. FBI Oversight Hearing" runs for over 2 hours, but the 11-minute section beginning at 1:21:48 and ending at 1:32:40 is the relevant part. In that section, Senator Grassley and Senator Spector grill Mueller on the subject of the anthrax attacks. At 1:30:05 Senator Spector asks, "Director Mueller, what is the problem with getting a briefing on this issue?"
Here's my transcription of Mueller's response:
"As set forth in the letter from the Attorney General, there are aspects of the investigation that are grand jury matters at this point. There are aspects of the information that can't and should not be disclosed -- even to the victims. Yes, we can give an over-arching briefing as to how many people we have at it, but you are asking for something more. And it's the Department's policy that where you have an on-going investigation such as this -- a grand jury investigation -- that such a thorough briefing should not be given."Director Mueller was speaking of a letter dated October 31, 2006, which Attorney General Gonzales evidently sent in response to Senator Grassley's nasty letter of October 23. I don't think Gonzales' response has been made public. I'll check.
Although Senator Grassley never mentioned Gonzales' response, he was clearly not satisfied by it, since he's circulating another letter to various senators to get them all to ask for (or demand) a briefing. Senator Spector referred to their legal authority to get oversight briefings on such cases.
Mueller said 17 FBI agents and 10 Postal Inspectors are still working full time on the case.
Mueller also expressed frustration at not being able to identify the FBI agents who leaked information to the New York Times, so there have been no reprimands for those leaks.
December 7, 2006 - As part of a news summary, CNN provided the reason why FBI Director Mueller refused to provide details about the anthrax investigation to the Senate Judiciary Committee:
Mueller cited long-standing policy against disclosing sensitive criminal and grand jury investigations. "Yes, we could give you an over-arching briefing as to how many people we have at it, but you're asking for something more," Mueller said.December 6, 2006 - The article titled "Science aids a nettlesome FBI criminal probe" in the December 4, 2006, issue of Chemical & Engineering News contains a great deal of information worth reviewing and studying. Early in the article it says this:
This September, Joseph Persichini Jr., acting assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, acknowledged the major, if unheralded, role science is playing in the probe. Yet the FBI has said little about what science has revealed, citing the criminal nature of the case as its reason. What scientific tidbits the public has been fed come from media reports, and most of these have been incorrect or incomplete.and
the FBI has clamped down on information on the probe. The embargo has been so tight that a former top military scientist who now works for a government contractor tells C&EN that he was consulted before the Leahy letter, but afterward, he could get no updates on progress being made even from friends in the FBI.Does the fact that leaks have been stopped mean that the case is stalled? Or does it just mean that the leaks have been stopped? The article goes into great detail about how the Beecher article was viewed by outsiders.
It took the media a month to publish accounts of Beecher's article, which they generally interpreted as indicating that the FBI initially had misunderstood the nature of the anthrax used in the attacks.The above statement describes the "incorrect" media reports very well.
Given how easily the powder in the Daschle letter aerosolized, government officials, military scientists, and academic anthrax experts were quoted in the media as claiming the anthrax spores in the letter had to have been "weaponized." That is, the spores had to have been specially treated or processed—milled and coated with an additive such as silica—to make them float in the air. But in his article, Beecher, almost as an aside, dismisses this possibility.The paragraph above is incorrect. Generally speaking, the "anthrax experts" who actually saw the powder said it was "ordinary". It was mostly non-experts and others who never saw the anthrax who said the powder must have been "weaponized."
The article tries to explain what caused the disagreements.
At an Oct. 29, 2001, White House press briefing, Maj. Gen. John S. Parker, then-commanding general of the Army's Medical Research & Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, said silica had been found in the Daschle letter. Tom Ridge, then-director of the White House Office of Homeland Security, at a briefing a few days earlier said a binding agent had been used to make the anthrax powders.This is the first time anyone (besides me) has suggested that AFIP "misspoke". However, the paragraph above is incorrect because the spectra which AFIP released as part of their newsletter shows a sample of pure silica (silicon dioxide) producing peaks for silicon and oxygen, although the oxygen peak is much smaller. What's important, however, is that the spectra shown may or may not be representative of what was actually detected in the anthrax powder from the Daschle letter. It's a totally different sample simply used to make a point which may or may not be valid. The matter is somewhat cleared up in the next paragraph:
Harvard University molecular biologist Matthew S. Meselson, who has consulted for the FBI on the anthrax probe, dismisses these early statements as misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the scientific studies conducted on the Daschle powder. "I don't know of anybody with spore expertise who actually worked on the stuff who said the spores were coated," he says. The FBI has never publicly claimed the spores were coated with silica and, in fact, told members of Congress at classified briefings that the spores were not coated, he says.An unnamed "expert" tries to explain how the mistakes I covered in the chapter called "To Err Is Human" in my book were made:
The explanation for mischaracterizing the attack material is really quite simple, one of the former government officials says. When the attacks occurred, "there was no systematic methodology in place to evaluate a biological powder forensically." Initially, he says, the studies were "done on the fly." And quite frankly, he says, "a lot of people didn't know what they were looking for.The article describes how various "experts" had misconceptions about powdered anthrax before the attacks and how they learned the facts. Some "experts", however, seem to be still ignorant of the facts. One expert seems to continue to believe that "the Ames strain 'was narrowly distributed,' probably to 'no more than a dozen, certainly no more than 20 laboratories' worldwide" even though other, better informed experts who have received FBI briefings on the case now state very clearly that the Ames strain was widely distributed in unofficial ways to become nearly "ubiquitous".
Of great interest to me in the C&EN article was the fact that for the first time someone in the media has discussed the NBC report which stated that the attack anthrax was made in the "northeastern U.S.". But the discussion perpetuates the misconception that there were only "20 labs worldwide" which had the Ames strain and inexplicably includes Ohio as being in the "northeastern U.S., " probably so The University of Scranton wouldn't be the only "suspect" lab.
Then the article goes into the subject of "reverse engineering". This is one place where the article does truly provide some new information. The article makes it very clear that Dugway did not truly try to "reverse engineer" the attack powder and did not prove that it must have been super-sophisticated as the infamous article in Science magazine suggested:
Daniel Martin, a microbiologist in Dugway's Life Sciences Division, tells C&EN that Dugway was asked "to produce materials to see how they compared with the materials the FBI had in its possession." But, Martin says, Dugway did not reverse or back engineer the attack powder. "Back engineering implies that you know exactly what the material is and can replicate the material exactly, step by step." That isn't what Dugway did, he says.These two paragraphs alone make the article a worthwhile read, since it quashes a big argument from the conspiracy theorists who interpreted earlier reports and indicating that the powder was so sophisticated that Dugway could not reverse engineer it.
Why is the FBI now allowing the release of information like that in the Beecher report, the information about reverse engineering and the information about the water used to make the spores? Here's one suggestion from the article:
A former FBI laboratory official says the FBI may have realized that the scientific evidence is pointing to a different conclusion than initial speculation that the perpetrator had to be associated with a national program. If so, "then it is very valuable for a number of reasons to have the evidence published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, which gives it a measure of acceptance and credibility," he says.This also agrees with what I've been saying on this site for years. However, the article tries but fails to hit home the point that the "initial speculation" was mostly inaccurate and the inaccuracies were perpetuated by the media talking with non-experts. The final paragraph of the article should have included what I've added below in red.
The FBI is not talking about the perpetrator and is saying very little publicly about the science it has called upon in trying to solve the five-year-old case. What the public has been told [by the media and by non-experts with a political agenda] points to a U.S. biodefense facility as the source of the attack strain of anthrax spores that were not specially treated or engineered but were very pure—and very deadly.Nevertheless, the article is a worthwhile read about an investigation which is now in its sixth year and which definitely needs some new discussion and new facts.
Meanwhile, in today's Houston Chronicle it says that a Senate committee grilled FBI Director Mueller today about various matters. They were anxious to find out about the Amerithrax investigation, but Mueller declined to comment on specifics of the case.
December 5, 2006 (C) - The Docket in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit contains a whole batch of new entries involving motions, declarations, objections, memorandums and orders. Some of it is about "motions in limine" which seem to be an attempt to exclude the Kristof colums from being used as evidence. Others seem to be about using declarations from lawyers in the Don Foster lawsuit in this case. And there are also objections because the Judge did not fine The New York Time for failing to identify their sources. It seems like both parties are playing hardball.
December 5, 2006 (B) - An article in yesterday's Chemical & Engineering News titled "Science aids a nettlesome FBI criminal probe" contains so much information that it may take me until tomorrow to write a detailed comment about it. All I can say after first reading is that the author seems to have been reading this web site -- and possibly my book, too.
December 5, 2006 (A) - An article in yesterday's New York Sun tells how a reporter won a legal battle to get information on what kind of punishment was given to people in the government who were found to have leaked "classified information" to the media.
The case wasn't about the anthrax investigation, but if the FBI employees who gave out confidential information in the anthrax investigation are identified and punished, it seems certain there will be MAJOR news stories about every aspect of it.
December 3, 2006 - There's nothing in the Court Docket yet about the Motion filed by The New York Times to dismiss Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit. The key issue appears to be whether or not Dr. Hatfill was a "public figure" before Nicholas Kristof's columns helped make him a public figure. There doesn't seem to be any clear definition of what makes a person a "public figure." Does doing a magazine interview make a person a "public figure"? Does lecturing on a subject make a person a "public figure"? As I, understand it, if Dr. Hatfill was a public figure before the Times made him one, then Dr. Hatfill must prove that the Times attacked him with malice. I.e., he must prove they intended to do him harm by making statements they knew were false. That would be extremely difficult to do. However, it seems very unlikely to me (a non-lawyer) that, at this stage of the game, Judge Hilton would rule that Dr. Hatfill was a public figure.
According to the schedule laid down on November 16, Dr. Hatfill has until December 15 to respond. The New York Times then has until December 22 to reply to the response. And the Motion hearing before Judge O'Grady will be held on January 5, 2007.
Meanwhile, let's hope there is something interesting and worthwhile in the "internal F.B.I. memorandums about the inquiry" and the "e-mail messages sent to and from Mr. Kristof" which the Times could release this week (presumably with the names of the "FBI employees" deleted or blacked out).
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, December 2, 2006
December 2, 2006 - According to today's New York Times, yesterday the Times filed a Motion with Judge Claude Hilton to dismiss Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit:
The motion said Dr. Hatfill was a public figure because of his role in administering bioterrorism programs and speaking publicly about the issue.Such a motion was expected, and Friday was the date set in the schedule as a matter of routine for the filing of motions for summary judgments by either side.
The article also says
The case was initially dismissed by a trial judge who said the columns did not defame Dr. Hatfill but merely reported on the investigation. An appeals court reversed that ruling, saying a jury should decide the issue of defamation.but what it doesn't say is that "trial judge" was Judge Hilton. Judge Hilton dismissed the case on November 24, 2004, but he was overruled by the Court of Appeals on that decision. It would seem doubtful that Judge Hilton would dismiss the case again. But, I'm no lawyer, so we'll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, the article also says
The legal papers filed by The Times included dozens of exhibits that made public for the first time internal F.B.I. memorandums about the inquiry, along with e-mail messages sent to and from Mr. Kristof.It says some of the exhibits could be made public as early as Monday. Since the Court Docket doesn't normally provide access to such documents in this case, we may have to wait until they become available through the media or some other source.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, November 25, 2006
November 19-20, 2006 - I can't help but wonder if Dr. Hatfill's other two lawsuits haven't been deliberately stalled while everyone waited to see how the confrontation with The New York Times played out.
Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against Don Foster, Vanity Fair Magazine, Readers' Digest and Vassar College has been "in mediation" since October 5. That lawsuit might have been affected if the Judge had agreed to fine the Times $25,000 per day for not naming their confidential sources, or if the Times had tried to settle. The fact that Dr. Hatfill seems fully prepared to go to trial could have a very sobering effect on the defendants.
And there's been no information at all about Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against John Ashcroft, the FBI, the DOJ et al since early September. If the Times had named the two FBI employees who supplied confidential information about Dr. Hatfill, that could have been solid evidence that the FBI violated the Privacy Act and could have destroyed the government's case in the FBI/DOJ lawsuit. In that lawsuit there is an even greater need to compel reporters to name their FBI sources, although it's the government who wants the media to name names. Memorandums have been filed. The media has argued against any motion to compel. Perhaps, there will be a resolution of those arguments now that The New York Times has refused to name its FBI sources. The situation seems to indicate that, before the media can be compelled to name their confidential sources, it needs to be shown that all alternatives have been explored, and it appears that all alternatives have been explored. The situation is very different in this lawsuit, however. The media is not a party. So, if they refuse to indentify confidential sources it would be a very different legal situation -- at least that's the way it seems to me, a non-lawyer.
It could be interesting to see what happens next in those two other lawsuits.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, November 18, 2006
November 18, 2006 - According to an article in this morning's New York Times titled "Judge’s Ruling Bars The Times From Using Sources’ Information in Defense Against Suit", Judge O'Grady denied Dr. Hatfill's Motion to fine the Times and instead ruled that the Times could not rely in any way upon the information the Times may have obtained from two FBI employees. An article in yesterday's New York Observer explained the implications of this ruling this way:
If the Times will not name the sources, then the newspaper "will not be able to rely on their FBI sources" in their defense, according to Charles Kimmett, an attorney for Mr. Hatfill.The Times' article also says that Dr. Hatfill was deposed by the Times on Friday, clearing the way for the start of the trial on January 29.
According to the Associated Press in today's Newsday,
It's unclear how much of a setback the ruling is for the Times. That would likely depend on how much other substantiation the newspaper presents to counter Hatfill's claim.November 16, 2006 (B) - The final pre-trial conference was held on schedule today, and an entry placed in The Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit says that the trial will begin on January 29, 2007.
November 16, 2006 (A) - This morning the New York Sun has an article titled "Steven Hatfill Demands Fines for N.Y. Times" which explains what has been happening in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit lately. The Times refused to comply with Judge O'Grady's order that it divulge the names of the two FBI sources used in the Kristoff columns, so Dr. Hatfill is asking that the judge "fine the newspaper $25,000 a day for refusing to disclose its confidential sources and to increase the fine amount by $25,000 each month in an attempt to encourage the paper to comply." The article also indicates that one of the three confidential sources in the Order was identified, although we still don't know who it was:
The Times also noted that 10 of the 12 sources Mr. Kristof relied on are known to Mr. Hatfill, either because they were not granted confidentiality or agreed to waive it. As a result, the names of only two sources are being withheld. Mr. Kristof has said both were FBI employees.And there's also this bit of information:
The Times’s lawyers also said Mr. Hatfill deliberately delayed giving his deposition in the case and that his attorneys’ bid to block further discovery by the Times is part of “a ruse designed to insulate plaintiff from giving any testimony under oath at all.”A court hearing on the proposed sanctions is set for tomorrow, but it'll probably be another one of those situations where we won't learn what happened until Monday at the earliest.
November 14, 2006 - Another pile of Motions, Notices, Memorandums, Replies and an Order appeared on the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit yesterday.
I'm no lawyer, but it seems that The Times will be allowed to depose people from SAIC, Dr. Hatfill's former employer.
The legal term "De Bene Esse" means "conditionally" or "provisionally". It means the depositions cannot be used IF the witness is available to testify at the trial. The judge also allowed "one discovery deposition out of time", which presumably means that the Times will be allowed to take a deposition even though the time for such things has passed.
Strangely, there is NOTHING in these Docket entries which says anything about what happened when Judge O'Grady's ORDER for the Times to name its sources came due on November 8. Was the Times charged with "Contempt of Court"? Did they name names? It doesn't say.
November 12, 2006 - A couple weeks ago, I was sent a transcript of comments made on NBC News on October 5, 2006. I'd seen the broadcast, and the next day I had mentioned an error I noticed in it. But people who believe that al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters have focused on another part of the broadcast and have been wondering why I haven't told the world about what they seem to consider an extremely significant piece of scientific information. The piece of information is highlighted in red in these statements by NBC's Pete Williams:
The anthrax spores themselves, recovered from one of the letters found before it was opened, have yielded a surprising amount of information. Investigators tell NBC News that the water used to make them came from a northeastern U.S., not a foreign, source. Traces of chemicals found inside the spores revealed the materials used to grow them. And scientists have also mapped the entire DNA chain of the anthrax hoping to narrow down the laboratories where it came from.I've been saying all along that the anthrax powders were made in Central New Jersey, so it wasn't significant news to me that isotope ratios in the purified spores confirmed that the spores were made in the Northeastern U.S. (which includes Central New Jersey). And since there was no scientific source given for the NBC information, and since it was just a comment in a single news report which couldn't be verified, I didn't pay much attention to it. But, to others it appears to be almost like a Burning Bush revelation. One such person, Kenneth Dillon, "a former State Department intelligence analyst," even wrote a letter to the Editor of the Los Angeles Times in which he mentioned how the information changed his thinking:
I have previously suggested that the anthrax used in the attacks originated in a clandestine British biowarfare program. But NBC News reported on Oct. 5 that the water used in preparing the anthrax came from the Northeastern United States, which rules out a British source.Someone else sent me an email describing how those who believe that al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters are concerned that this information was only being gathered for the United States and that investigators may be ignoring the possibility that identical isotope ratios could be present in spores made in Afghanistan. I was asked to mention their concerns here in hopes that a comment from me might prompt someone to clarify what this means to the Amerithrax investigation. Did NBC oversimplify their report on the findings? Did investigators somehow neglect to check sources outside of the United States? Or can it be truly scientifically proven that the attack spores were made in the Northeastern United States ... say, Central New Jersey, for example?
Thinking about it, I can see how this information might be very important to others. If the anthrax powder was made in the Northeastern United States, that poses a serious problem for those who have claimed for years that the lesion on the leg of 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi was cutaneous anthrax and proof that the 9/11 terrorists were involved in the anthrax attacks. The date of Al Haznawi's arrival in the U.S. says the infection started before he arrived in America. So, if he was overseas when he got infected, how did he get infected by spores made in the Northeastern United States? And this finding would also complicate the belief that Mohamed Atta's "red hands" had something to do with anthrax. Whatever Atta was doing, he was doing it in Florida, which is definitely NOT in the Northeastern U.S.
It would take a lot of rationalizing to explain how the 9/11 hijackers could have had contact with the attack anthrax if the anthrax can be proven to have been made in the Northeastern U.S.
If there is a scientific report somewhere which proves that the anthrax was made in the Northeastern United States, I haven't seen it. But, the idea of examining isotopes in the spores to determine where the spores were made has been discussed for a long time. The subject came up on Feb. 4, 2003, when I was sent a link to an article titled "Microbe forensics: Oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope ratios in Bacillus subtilis cells and spores." The abstract says,
stable isotope ratio analyses may be a powerful tool for tracing the geographic point-of-origin for microbial products.And I mentioned another aspect of isotope ratios as part of a list of facts back in March 10, 2004:
Fact #11: There is no way that Bacillus anthracis can MAKE silicon. That would require nuclear fusion. So, the silicon and oxygen which were detected in the spores had to be either deliberately added or it had to come from the environment.So, it isn't just isotope ratios in water which would provide forensic information, but also isotope ratios in the nutrients and in trace elements absorbed from lab equipment. But, that kind of forensic information isn't easy to obtain. This is the next "fact" I listed:
Fact #14: Utilizing specific ratios of isotopes to determine a source for anthrax (or almost anything else) would be totally new to the FBI and would require a lot of time and effort.A 2004 report titled "Stable Isotope Ratios as a Tool in Microbial Forensics" is available via a site about "Microbial Forensics" from the University of Utah.
I now realize I should probably have mentioned the NBC information earlier, but whether or not it can be scientifically proven changes nothing in my analysis. If it cannot be proven, absolutely nothing changes. If it can be scientifically proven, at most it would just mean another entry in the "New Information" section of this web site confirming my analysis that the spores were made in Central New Jersey.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, November 11, 2006
November 8, 2006 - When I saw there was an update to the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit today, I hoped it would be about the Motion to compel the Times to name their confidential sources. But it wasn't about that. Instead, I found a whole list of Motions, Declarations, Memoranda and Notices where the Times is attempting to compel discovery from non-parties The Department of Defense and SAIC. (They previously tried the same thing with the Department of Justice and the CIA and failed.) And there was also one Order by Judge O'Grady which denied Dr. Hatfill's motion to obtain documents stored at home by Times' employees.
If there was any news about Judge O'Grady's Order that the Times name their sources by today, that news wasn't in the docket as of 6 p.m. Eastern time. Like prior news on the subject, apparently it will be made public when they are ready to make it public.
November 7, 2006 - An entry posted yesterday in the Docket for the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit says that the parties asked Judge Colleen McMahon to allow the status quo situation to continue during the on-going mediation session. Judge McMahon replied, "OK - I would like to see this case settle[d] but I won't let mediation go on forever."
November 5, 2006 - During the past month, people on the Left and Right have been attacking the FBI for failure to bring anyone to justice in the anthrax killings. Since their reasoning seems to be based upon total ignorance of the facts, it is evidently just posturing for political purposes. Meanwhile, the media also continues to twist the facts for political purposes, repeating the absolute nonsense about when the FBI knew that the anthrax wasn't a super-sophisticated powder and how it affected the investigation.
The anthrax case has been a political football from almost the beginning. Hopefully, it finally touched bottom during the past few weeks.
Today marks one month that the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit has been "in mediation," and it appears there won't be any news until after election day. Likewise, the next deadline in the Hatfill v The York Times lawsuit is after election day.
It might be too much to hope for, but it would be nice for a change to see some facts and information which are not distorted by political points of view.
I know I'm always overly optimistic, but that's part of my nature. I can't help it. The whole investigation may have been buried under a layer of political crap during the past month, but I've got my fingers crossed that the crap may turn out to be fertilizer from which some truly interesting facts might sprout into the sunlight and blossom into actual news that might enlighten us all. (Or maybe I've been beaten on the head so often during the past five years that I've started putting just too many metaphors in one sentence to make any sense at all.)
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, November 4, 2006
November 3, 2006 (C) - Now that Judge Hilton has ruled on the appeal, the Docket in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit says that Judge Liam O'Grady has given The New York Times until next Wednesday (the day after election day) to "reveal the identity of Confidential Sources #2, #3 and #4" to Dr. Hatfill.
November 3, 2006 (B) - Today's Los Angeles Times contains a very interesting article titled "Many fear FBI's anthrax case is cold." It shows how political agendas and speculation can be used to second guess a very complicated criminal investigation. One comment nicely sums up the situation:
[Stephen] Freccero[, a former federal prosecutor], who prosecuted Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, said that centering the anthrax probe in Washington politicized the case, making it difficult for investigators to independently pursue leads.The article also continues to spread the absolute nonsense about the FBI only recently realizing that the anthrax powder was not super-sophisticated.
The case also has been slowed by the bureau's changing understanding of the quality of the anthrax used. Investigators originally believed the powder was highly refined and could only have been produced by experts with state-of-the-art technology. But the FBI eventually abandoned that idea.The entire article mixes speculation from outsiders with statements from insiders as if both are equally valid. And that's been the problem with the media's reporting of this case since the very beginning. If they didn't like or don't believe what was officially being reported, they simply find someone with credentials with a different idea and describe his pure speculation as if it is fact.
Here's an example from the article showing ex-Senator Tom Daschle giving his opinion as if it were fact:
"Their public pronouncements about their confidence levels were obviously way off the mark all the way along," said Tom Daschle, the former Democratic senator from South Dakota whose Capitol Hill office was one of the targets of the attacks. "It has sort of been the domestic version of Iraq. They made a lot of assumptions that turned out not to be accurate."It seems that everything is very "clear" to those who do not have access to the facts. And they claim that those who have the facts cannot be trusted. Why? Could it be because "knowledge is power"? In politics, the best way to defeat someone who has more knowledge (and thus more power) is with a barrage of misleading and confusing nonsense. Experience has shown that, when that happens, the public will generally rely on the authority who tells them what they want to hear. And, best of all, it puts your opponent on the defensive.
The article seeks to put the FBI on the defensive. It begins this way,
Five years after a series of deadly anthrax-laced letters rattled the nation, the FBI has offered no indication that it is any closer to solving the first major act of bioterrorism on U.S. soil, leading critics to speculate the probe has stalled and to question how well federal officials would handle future attacks.In other words, if the FBI cannot solve the anthrax case quickly, can they be trusted to solve any future attack quickly? Here's the next paragraph from the article:
Members of Congress and targets of the attacks — which killed five people between Oct. 5 and Nov. 21, 2001, sickened 17 and exposed thousands of others — increasingly are expressing concern that the FBI-led federal investigation, code-named Amerithrax, has been mismanaged.So, people who do not have inside information about the case believe that the reason the case hasn't been solved quickly is because it has been "mismanaged."
And the only way the FBI can prove that the case has not been "mismanaged" is to reveal details of the investigation, which would clearly be mismanaging the case. They will be damned if they do and damned if they don't. That's politics.
November 3, 2006 (A) - An Associated Press article in The Washington Post and an article in this morning's New York Times don't add much to yesterday's report in the New York Sun which stated that the Times' appeals to Judge Hilton were denied (i.e., Judge O'Grady's rulings last week were upheld and affirmed). The entries which appeared late yesterday in the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit don't add much, either. Here are the latest two entries:
November 2, 2006 - According to today's New York Sun, Judge Hilton upheld the Order by Judge O'Grady compeling The New York Times to name its confidential sources in the Hatfill lawsuit and, in effect, put The New York Times in contempt of court. The Times is expected to continue to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court.
November 1, 2006 (B) - More new entries just appeared in the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit which indicate that there is now a transcript of Friday's proceedings available from the court reporter. Hopefully, some reporter will obtain that transcript and clear up the mysteries. The Docket also contains a new "mystery". It says "order to follow". So, there's a new order by Judge O'Grady being prepared, but no real clue as to what the order will be about.
November 1, 2006 (A) - A new entry appeared in the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit yesterday. But it's about something that happened on Friday:
PraecipeI don't like to speculate about what this means, but it probably relates to the Motion filed by Dr. Hatfill to compel some New York Times employees to produce documents which they had stored at home. But, I could be totally wrong about that. And I'd better not even try to speculate on what that implies.
October 31, 2006 - Today's Washington Post contains an article which describes one al Qaeda trail the FBI has been following in its hunt for the anthrax mailer. While there isn't any evidence of any kind which points to Abdur Rauf as being the anthrax mailer, the fact that he wanted to make an anthrax biological weapon and the fact that he was an al Qaeda sympathizer were enough to have the FBI investigating him for years. The FBI and other agencies have been following every trail which might lead to some al Qaeda bioweapons program because such leads might connect to some actual bioweapons plot that might be in the works somewhere in the world. But that apparently isn't enough for people who also want the FBI to believe that al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters. If you don't believe al Qaeda did it, you can't be trusted to prove that al Qaeda did it.
October 30, 2006 (B) - As of 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time, there were no new entries in the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit. I have no idea what happened on Friday or why there wouldn't be some news about what happened when deadline passed for The New York Times to disclose their confidential sources.
Meanwhile, the Journal-News which serves White Plains, NY, where the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit is being tried by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York State, reports that the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit is still "in mediation":
The White Plains case is currently in mediation, according to court records. If that fails, it will head toward trial. Foster declined to comment on the case. Hassan A. Zavareei, a lawyer for Hatfill, also declined to comment. Lawyers for the other parties did not return calls seeking comment.October 30, 2006 (A) - The answer to why Richard Lambert was transferred to become Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI's Knoxville Field Office is answered in today's Knoxville News Sentinel. And the answer was apparently learned with a simple phone call, which Senator Grassley evidently didn't consider. And it directly contradicts what NBC News reported about Richard Lambert. Here's what the News Sentinel learned:
Lambert, 45, in a phone interview with the News Sentinel, said he heard of the opening in the top management job at the Knoxville field office, remembered fondly the 10 years he had spent in the Nashville area as a child, and decided to try to win the Knoxville slot.and
Lambert said he could not discuss details of the anthrax investigation that he supervised during the last four years but said he is optimistic that the culprit or culprits will be identified and caught.and
He competed for the Knoxville job and won selection to the post, he said.The position of Special Agent in Charge of a Field Office is the top position for an FBI agent who wants to remain involved in field work. Above that position, everything is politics and desk work. It's easy to understand why Richard Lambert would try for such a position. And those who were looking for proof that his transfer was part of some vast FBI conspiracy to mislead the American public will have to look elsewhere.
October 29, 2006 - While waiting for further news about Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits against the media, I'm tempted to write a few thousand words about Senator Grassley's letter to Attorney General Gonzales in which the Senator tries to second-guess the FBI's investigation of the anthrax mailings. But maybe just a few hundred words on some key points will suffice:
1. The letter says on the first page,
There have been suggestions in the press that scientific advances have shown that the anthrax spores were less-sophisticated than was originally believed, and that this may have caused the focus on potential suspects to be too narrow for too long.How many people have to believe nonsense printed in the media before the nonsense becomes true? Any unbiased examination of the facts will show it was the media that believed that the anthax powder in the Senate envelopes was super-sophisticated. The FBI knew from the very beginning that it wasn't.
2. At the top of the 3rd page, Senator Grassley's letter says,
The failure of the FBI to treat the case as both a criminal and intelligence matter illustrates how far the FBI is from understanding its core post-9/11 mission.When does a criminal case become an "intelligence matter"? Is it when a Senator believes it's an "intelligence matter"? Does that mean that the FBI must prove that it is not an "intelligence matter"? How does one prove the negative?
3. Item #10 on page 4 says,
10. (a) Other than the FBI's Amerithrax investigative team, is there anyone else in the U.S. Government tasked with examining the attack anthrax and making a judgment about their likely origin? (b) If so, please explain. If not, why not?This seems like the same reasoning used to start the war in Iraq. The FBI isn't finding what Senator Grassley believes to exist, so the Senator wants some other investigators to start looking. Is Senator Grassley still looking for Iraqi WMD's? Does he want some new group of "investigators" (hopefully, something other than the U.S. military) to start looking for proof that the anthrax attacks came from some foreign source? Items #5, #6, #7, #8 and #9 seem to be all about starting some new investigation to prove that al Qaeda and/or Iraq could have been behind the attacks. What would be the point of that? Why not start an investigation to prove that aliens from outer space could have been behind the attacks. No one can prove they weren't. How could such an investigation be considered a productive use of the FBI's resources?
In reality, the FBI has been looking for bioweapons everywhere al Qaeda could have been or could have made the stuff. But, it appears that Senator Grassley believes the FBI hasn't been looking hard enough, since they haven't found what he believes to exist.
The anthrax investigation has been a political football since nearly the very beginning, and nothing has changed after five long years. The Left wants to blame the Bush administration and the Right wants to blame foreigners. And both sides believe the only the true facts are the facts which support their political beliefs.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, October 28, 2006
October 27, 2006 - The first entries in the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit for today show that Judge O'Grady is pushing to get the trial started fairly soon, probably after the first of the year. He's still ordering that the Final Pre-Trial Conference be held on November 16. He's extended deadlines for various final legal matters for short periods. The Witness and Exhibit lists must be finalized by November 29, and the parties have until December 6 to file objections to those lists.
Another entry posted later in the day is simply confusing. Here's the latest and final entry for today:
It seems to be saying the same thing as was previously said, that The New York Times has until today to name its confidential sources, except this time it's being said by Judge Hilton instead of Magistrate Judge O'Grady. Maybe that has some great significance. Maybe it's just a way of saying the order requiring The New York Times to identify its confidential sources is upheld. Or maybe it's a typo. Or maybe there'll be other entries later. Or maybe we'll just have to wait until someone with more legal knowledge than I've got interprets this entry. Beats me.
But, the Order to compel The New York Times to divulge its confidential sources was issued on a Friday and not made public until the following Monday. That may explain what's happening today.
October 26, 2006 - A flurry of legal documents were filed today in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit. They seem to indicate a big showdown coming tomorrow.
October 25, 2006 (B) - If I'm reading things correctly, according to an entry just made in the Court Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, the Times has only until Friday to get their appeal through the system. Otherwise, on Friday they must name names. Also, a Motion by The New York Times to delay the lawsuit until the Amerithrax criminal investigation is completed was DENIED. No surprise there.
October 25, 2006 (A) - If you need an example of how an attempt to pressure the FBI into doing something is done, just note how Senator Grassley would do it. This is from today's New York Sun:
Mr. Grassley said that if Mr. Gonzales does not respond, Congress could consider other approaches, such as subpoenaing the information. "I also think holding up nominations for the Justice Department is a possibility," the senator said.What threats did Senate staffers make to cause the FBI to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill in spite of the fact that the FBI evidently had no solid reason to suspect Dr. Hatfill? Time may tell.
October 24, 2006 (B) - NBC News is reporting that, yesterday, Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley sent "a damning six-page letter" letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales which criticizes the FBI for the lack of progress in the anthrax investigation. The NBC article suggests that Richard L. Lambert was removed from the investigation because "he had focused too much on Hatfill." I find that interesting, since the facts would seem to indicate that Lambert replaced Van Harp because Van Harp had spent too much time on Dr. Hatfill. After all, it was Van Harp who began all the searches and in-your-face surveillance of Dr. Hatfill. The facts indicate that Lambert was focused on the scientific investigation. Maybe Senator Grassley's letter will prompt some clarification. He includes 14 multi-part demands for answers. But he also repeats the nonsense that the FBI didn't realize until recently that the anthax was created with a less-sophisticated process than originally believed. So, he seems as clueless as Congressman Rush Holt.
October 24, 2006 (A) - This morning there are several new newspaper articles about Judge O'Grady's Order. They give some additional details about the confidential sources The New York Times has been ordered to identify.
An article in The New York Times says,
At a deposition on July 13, Mr. Kristof declined to name five of his sources for the columns, but two have subsequently agreed to release him from his pledge of confidentiality. Judge O’Grady’s ruling identifies the remaining unnamed sources as two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and a former colleague or friend of Dr. Hatfill at Fort Detrick.The Washington Post says.
Hatfill's attorneys are seeking to compel [Nicholas] Kristof to reveal his sources, arguing that questioning them is vital to their case. Kristof has refused. U.S. Magistrate Judge Liam O'Grady in Alexandria sided with Hatfill and ordered the journalist to disclose the identity of the three sources by tomorrow.and
Legal experts said it is relatively common for judges to order journalists to reveal confidential sources in a libel lawsuit, but the journalist is rarely jailed for resisting.and
When Kristof was deposed in July, two of his sources were identified -- although not by name -- as FBI employees involved in the anthrax investigation, court papers said. A third was a colleague or friend of Hatfill's. Two other sources agreed to release Kristof from his pledge of confidentiality and reveal their identities, the papers said.However, The New York Sun seems to have by far the best and most information about this matter. They say,
If Judge Hilton upholds the order and the Times refuses to comply, the judge could fine the newspaper, take some punitive measure if the libel suit goes to trial, or jail an employee or officer of the Times for contempt.and
Magistrate O'Grady said one reason testimony from the sources was needed is that discrepancies have arisen between sources Mr. Hatfill's legal team has been able to identify and Mr. Kristof's accounts of his conversations with those sources. According to Mr. Hatfill's lawyers, a SUNY Purchase biologist who served as a source for the columnist, Barbara Rosenberg, denied Mr. Kristof's claim that she said Mr. Hatfill was certain to have the ability to make "first-rate anthrax."While Judge O'Grady's Order requires that the names of two "FBI employees" be identified, those sources appear to have merely provided Kristof with information about lie detector tests and searches. That might have little to do with this particular lawsuit, but it has everything to do with Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against the FBI and the DOJ.
October 23, 2006 - As expected, Dr. Hatfill's motion to compel The New York Times to name their confidential sources has been GRANTED. The Docket entries filed this morning indicate the motion was granted on Friday. The Docket entry is as follows:
So, three sources must be identified and they must be identified no later than the day after tomorrow. It's possible that the Times might file some sort of an appeal, but it's difficult to see what legal basis they have for an appeal.
On Friday, Dr. Hatfill also filed a Motion asking that New York Times employees who have stored relevant documents at home be compelled to produce those documents in court. Judge Liam O'Grady will hear arguments on that Motion on Friday.
I would think that an order compelling The New York Times to name confidential sources would be BIG news, yet it seems I'm the one who is "breaking" this story.
Later in the day today, AP released a story about this Order which was printed in The Washington Post. The article says that the Times will appeal the Order. That will delay things for awhile. The article also says that two of the "confidential sources" were in the FBI. Here's what the article says,
The order issued Friday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Liam O'Grady requires the newspaper to disclose the identities of three of Kristof's sources, including two FBI sources who allegedly provided some of the most incriminating information in Kristof's columns. The order was made public Monday.
Hatfill's lawyers said they need to question the sources to see if Kristof's reporting was accurate. The FBI sources told the Times that Hatfill was one of a limited number of people with the access and technical expertise to manufacture the anthrax and that he failed several lie-detector tests.Interestingly, another version of the Associated Press's article was found on another web and includes additional information.
Since Kristof's columns were about the lack of progress by the FBI, it doesn't seem logical that the "confidential sources" would be in the FBI, but evidently two were.
October 22, 2006 - The "mediation session" which began on October 5 in the Hatfill v Don Foster et al lawsuit is evidently still going on. I was anticipating definition #1 for the length of the "session" when I probably should have been looking at definition #2:
session: n. 1) a meeting (or "sitting") of a court for a particular period of time. "Session"technically means one day's business (as in "today's session"). 2) the term of an appeals court covering several months (as in the "Spring Term" or the "October Term").Likewise, in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, I was hoping that when the Docket reported "ORDER TO FOLLOW" in all capitals on October 13, the Order would follow quickly behind the Hearing. I thought it would be more like Tuesday following Monday than like winter following autumn.
Meanwhile, Douglas Beecher's article which said the anthrax powders mailed in the attacks of 2001 "were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents" and which mentioned the "widely circulated misconception" that the Daschle and Leahy anthrax "spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering" is being totally dismissed on at least one discussion forum in favor of the AFIP newsletter which stated that silica was a "key component" of the Daschle anthrax because “Silica prevents the anthrax from aggregating, making it easier to aerosolize." They also remind everyone that General Parker of USAMRIID said in a news briefing, "We do know that we found silica in the samples."
Although Chapter 15 in my book fully clarifies this misunderstanding about additives, it seems clear that no amount of facts or reasoning will change any minds until the conflict is officially explained and resolved by someone in authority with impeccable credentials -- and maybe not even then.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, October 21, 2006
October 19, 2006 - Entries which appeared this morning in the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit indicate more maneuvering by the Times, this time it's a Motion to change a pretrial order, which presumably means they are looking for more time to maneuver and argue before the actual trial starts.
October 17-18, 2006 - The entries which appeared in the Docket report for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit late on Tuesday, describe some legal machinations involving a "sur-reply". A "sur-reply" is apparently just a supplemental reply to a motion. In other words, The New York Times replied to Dr. Hatfill's motion, and then decided it had something else to add. The judge agreed that they could add to their reply. Evidently, the motion to compel The New York Times to identify their confidential sources is still pending a decision from Judge Liam O'Grady.
1. Hatfill v. Don Foster, Vanity Fair, Readers' Digest and Vassar College.
As a result of a change of venue, this lawsuit is now under the jurisdiction of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (White Plains).
According to the Docket, on August 22, 2006, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers who were working on this case withdrew. Dr. Hatfill is acting as his own lawyer. He has a couple lawyers from a small, newly established law firm assisting him.
(Correction made to above on Oct. 16, 2006: I originally wrote that Dr. Hatfill is "now" acting as his own lawyer. After looking back through the Docket, it seems quite possible that Dr. Hatfill has been acting as his own lawyer since April. Acting as your own lawyer, appears to be a way around the requirement that a lawyer licensed to practice in the State of New York be the lead attorney on any case tried in New York State. That issue was raised in February and apparently somehow settled in April.)
About the only legal matter Dr. Hatfill would appear to be qualified to handle acting as his own attorney is a settlement.
On October 5, 2006, the parties in this lawsuit entered into a "mediation session" which could lead to such a settlement. At last word, that "mediation session" was still in progress and Judge Colleen McMahon has agreed that the case should remain in status quo until the "mediation session" is concluded.
Since this lawsuit appears the easiest for Dr. Hatfill to win, the facts seem to indicate that Dr. Hatfill's original attorneys from Harris Wiltshire & Grannis LLP didn't want to settle with Don Foster et al, and wanted to go to court instead. Evidently, however, Dr. Hatfill wanted to settle, so Harris Wiltshire & Grannis LLP withdrew as his lawyers on this lawsuit rather than agree to a settlement.
The law firm handing Dr. Hatfill's other two lawsuits is still Harris Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. The decision to withdraw from the Foster lawsuit indicates that Harris Wiltshire & Grannis LLP were not willing to settle any of the three lawsuits, and would rather lose the settlement money on the Foster lawsuit than settle. The Foster libel lawsuit is about an article Don Foster wrote for the October 2003 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, a full year after Dr. Hatfill's career had been destroyed. The other two cases are much more important to the issue of Dr. Hatfill's guilt or innocence in the anthrax mailings.
And it appears that Dr. Hatfill is still willing to go to court on the other two lawsuits to get the facts regarding his guilt or innocence presented in court and before the world.
2. Hatfill v. The New York Times
This lawsuit is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court of Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).
According to the Docket, on Friday October 13, 2006, Judge Liam O'Grady heard a Motion by Dr. Hatfill requesting that the New York Times be compelled to identify the confidential sources used in the columns written by Nicholas Kristof.
This case is very important because the columns written by Kristof suggested that the FBI was not doing an adequate investigation of the anthrax killings, since they were not properly investigating an unnamed scientist ("Mr. Z") who was later identified as Dr. Hatfill. Depositions in the lawsuit indicate that the FBI had investigated Dr. Hatfill in November of 2001 and found no reason to suspect him.
However, conspiracy theorists claimed that the FBI was covering up for Dr. Hatfill, and they evidently convinced people in the media and in Congress that that could be true. The Nicholas Kristof columns in The New York Times were part of the pressure put upon the FBI to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill.
The Motion filed by Dr. Hatfill was not denied. Judge O'Grady temporarily withheld his ruling and indicated on Friday that an Order would be forthcoming.
There is no mention in the latest Docket entries about the New York Times' Motion to STAY the case. Nor do we know why they wanted to STAY the case or for how long. Presumably, it was some effort to avoid being compelled to name confidential sources.
Don Foster could be one of the "confidential sources".
3. Hatfill v John Ashcroft, the FBI, the DOJ, et al
This lawsuit is under the juridiction of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Washington, DC).
Based upon what I see in the Docket, this case is also going very well for Dr. Hatfill. Judge Reggie B. Walton recently ruled that Dr. Hatfill can collect for emotional damages as well as monetary damages. The government fought against that for years. They not only lost, they lost as a result of a decision in the appeals court in the same district, which means they won't be able to appeal such a decision in their case.
The latest news was that the government was going to have a psychologist examine Dr. Hatfill to determine just how much emotional damage he suffered. Evidently, the idea is that the psychologist might somehow be able to persuade a jury to reduce the amount of emotional damages.
At no time in the depositions or anywhere else, did the FBI indicate that it had any kind of case against Dr. Hatfill in the anthrax mailings.
However, the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit is not about whether or not Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer, it's about whether the government violated Dr. Hatfill's civil rights (specifically the Privacy Act) by revealing information about Dr. Hatfill from confidential FBI files to people who were not authorized to receive such information.
The government has virtually admitted that they did violate Dr. Hatfill's rights when they gave the staffs of Senators Daschle and Leahy confidential reports on the searches of Dr. Hatfill's apartment, their surveillance of Dr. Hatfill, the results of lie detector tests, the details of search warrants, etc. Hatfill's lawyers further indicate they are confident that they can also show that the FBI gave newspaper reporters and others confidential information from confidential files protected by the Privacy Act.
At one time, I thought it would be best for the Ashcroft et al lawsuit to be concluded first. It could establish Dr. Hatfill's innocence, which could then destroy any defense the defendants might try to conjure up in the lawsuits against The New York Times and Don Foster, Vanity Fair, Readers' Digest, and Vassar College.
Now, it seems clear that it would be best to resolve the lawsuits against The New York Times and Don Foster first. The New York Times lawsuit, in particular, will help show that the FBI was under a great deal of pressure to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill. That pressure had been applied by conspiracy theorists, the media and politicians for at least eight months before the staffs of Senators Daschle and Leahy added their weight and the public investigation by the FBI finally began in June of 2002.
Somehow, everything that happened before the first search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment on June 25, 2002, has been forgotten by the public and the media and they only recall that the FBI suddenly and inexplicably began to look at Dr. Hatfill as the anthrax mailer at that time. Without understanding what went on before that first search and what led up to that search, the anthrax investigation cannot be truly understood. The Amerithrax investigation was never about Dr. Hatfill. The Dr. Hatfill "investigation" was pure politics. That was obvious when I first stated it in August of 2002, and it's even more obvious today.
But there could be a light at the end of this bizarre tunnel through a mountain of bad information and misunderstandings. If the facts aren't further distorted by the media, resolutions of the Hatfill lawsuits could make it clear to everyone that the Dr. Hatfill "investigation" had nothing to do with the anthrax investigation and that Dr. Hatfill was never really a suspect. And that might be a step in the right direction toward helping clear the way for the arrest of the real culprit(s) behind the anthrax attacks of 2001.
October 15, 2006 (A) - An opinion piece by former Senator Tom Daschle in today's Washington Post demonstrates just how difficult it will be to dig through the mountain of bad information and misunderstandings about the anthrax attacks. The key phrase in the article is "if a recent article in The Post is any guide, questions remain in the scientific community about the composition of the anthrax and the level of technological expertise required to manufacture it". That "recent article in The Post" is only a guide to spreading misinformation. A dedicated effort by the media to obscure the facts due to their beliefs in conspiracy theories will undermine any new facts which come to light. And, as long as the facts are ignored in favor of fiction and political agendas, it will be extremely difficult to bring the anthrax culprit(s) to justice.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, October 14, 2006
October 13, 2006 - Here's the
entry which just appeared in the Hatfill v The
York Times lawsuit:
I'm no lawyer, but I don't think judges issue orders to deny motions. The motion is to compel The New York Times to name their confidential sources.
So far, there is no mention of the New York Times' motion to STAY proceedings.
October 12, 2006 - A whole bunch of new entries were on the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit when I checked it today. The Motion filed by the Times to compel discovery from the CIA and the Department of Justice was denied. The Times filed a motion to STAY proceedings for some unspecified reason for some unspecified time. Dr. Hatfill opposed the motion. Judge Hilton will hear arguments on the motion tomorrow at 10 a.m., which is the same time scheduled for the hearing on Dr. Hatfill's motion to compel The New York Times to identify its confidential sources.
October 11, 2006 - According to the Docket for the lawsuit Dr. Hatfill filed against Don Foster, Vassar College, Vanity Fair Magazine and Readers' Digest magazine, the "mediation session" which began on Thursday was still going on on Friday. Since the docket entry was made today, presumably it's still going on today, too. The two parties requested that the case remain in Status Quo while the mediations sessions continue. Judge McMahon responded, "Fine. Fine with me."
Meanwhile, in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, a hearing is still set for the day after tomorrow to determine if Dr. Hatfill can compel The New York Times to name their confidential sources.
October 10, 2006 - While media outlets on the Left argue that innocent Muslims are being harassed by the FBI in the anthrax investigation, media outlets on the Right complain that the FBI is totally ignoring Muslims as potential suspects in the anthrax investigation. Yesterday's Investors Business Daily had an editorial titled "How FBI Blew The Anthrax Case By Profiling Everyone But Muslims" which illustrates just how mindless people can get when their thinking is entirely dominated by politics.
And, speaking of media outlets on the Right, someone pointed out a recent comment from U.S. News & World Report which contains this hilarious bit of bad information:
The FBI evidently put great stock in a profile developed by one Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, who said the perpetrator was a CIA contact worker and an expert in biowarfare: the lone-scientist theory.However, I shouldn't be surprised by such absolute nonsense. After all, I started this web site to sort out fact from fiction. But one would think that as more information becomes available, more people will see what is fact and what is fiction. Wrong.
October 9, 2006 - The courts are closed today to observe Columbus Day.
There's an article titled "Questions on anthrax swirl anew for the FBI" in today's Newark Star-Ledger. It contains quotes from a number of experts:
"A clever high school student" could make such a preparation, according to Ronald Atlas, former president of the American Society for Microbiology and co-director of the Center for Health Hazards Preparedness at the University of Louisville.and
Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University microbiologist, still thinks the anthrax attacks were an inside job because they used a virulent form of the Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis, which only a few biodefense- or intelligence-related labs were thought to possess.and
"Whoever did it is an insider," said Ayaad Assaad, a toxicologist with the Environmental Protection Agency, who formerly worked at an Army biodefense center at Fort Detrick, Md. "It started with anthrax. Now it's ricin, and God knows what's coming."but, I like this one best:
Ed Lake has tracked the case closely, self-publishing a book, "Analyzing the Anthrax Attacks, The First Three Years" and moderating a Web site. Lake is convinced the FBI knows the perpetrator but lacks evidence to prosecute. He believes the killer is a scientist from central New Jersey who wanted America to gird for an al Qaeda bioterror attack in the wake of Sept. 11.It's only the third mention of my book by the media since it was published in March of 2005.
October 8, 2006 - I hate to keep picking on The Washington Post, but yesterday they had an article titled "Probe of Anthrax Attacks Casts Shadow on Brothers" which seems to have been written to accuse the government of ruining more people's lives. To accomplish that task, the article brings up an incident from nearly 5 years ago, which most people cannot even remember, and which appears to put some innocent Muslims into the media spotlight once again. I spent most of yesterday discussing this article with various people who saw all sorts of sinister things in it.
The most interesting comment I saw in the article is this one:
But few suspects so unequivocally lack any connection to anthrax research as do the Shaikh brothers. They have never done biowarfare research. Their attorney, former prosecutor Anthony F. List, describes a Kafkaesque maze in which federal officials argue that they cannot be expected to "clear" men who, officially, are accused of nothing.That's a reoccurring problem. The FBI hasn't really "cleared" anyone they've checked out. Can you really "clear" anyone if you can't prove someone else actually did it? Dr. Hatfill should have been "cleared" long ago, but everyone who believes he did it can always figure out ways he could have done it regardless of any proof to the contrary.
Meanwhile, today's Hartford Courant has an article titled "Security Fears At Anthrax Labs" which contains some interesting tidbits of information:
CDC officials said there are now more than 100 university laboratories using live anthrax. Before the anthrax attacks, experts say, the total number of U.S. labs performing significant research with live anthrax was only a dozen or so.and
Laws regulating laboratories were passed in June 2002 to, among other things, keep track of the transfer of pathogens between institutions. Federal officials have acknowledged that, before 2002, there was no tracking of which laboratories were working with dangerous materials such as anthrax or who had access to them.But the most interesting paragraph may be is this one:
FBI officials have said the anthrax might have been mailed by one or more U.S. scientists who had access to the Ames strain and wanted to throw a scare into the country and force authorities to make bioterrorism a top priority.Over four years ago, my analysis indicated that that was the culprit's motivation for the anthrax attacks. I think this may be the first time the media has reported that some "FBI officials" may also believe it to be the motivation behind the attacks. However, while the anthrax mailer almost certainly wanted to awaken America to the dangers of a biological weapons attack from Muslim terrorists immediately after 9/11, I very seriously doubt that the anthrax mailer ever wanted to have hundreds of labs with minimal security to start working with anthrax and other dangerous pathogens.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, October 7, 2006
October 6, 2006 - So far, there has been no news of what happened in yesterday's mediation session in the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit. The session was almost certainly held in some conference room, and not in any courtroom. So, the judge will be awaiting results just as we are.
The Washington Post reported last month that federal investigators have determined that the anthrax used was not as sophisticated as the FBI originally thought, and that that discovery had widened the list of potential source labs for the deadly bacteria beyond initial suspicions. It is unclear whether that has lessened the likelihood of finding the source of the anthrax or debunked the theory that the attacks were from homegrown terrorism.NBC News last night said that Bob Stevens was infected by a letter he opened, which is pure speculation and not supported by the facts.
And today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel contains a Timeline for the anthrax attacks which contains a few dubious bits of information, but it's still interesting.
October 3, 2006 (B) - Congressman Rush Holt has responded to the letter written by Assistant Director of the FBI Eleini P. Kalisch with another letter. As one would expect from a politician, the new letter admits no wrong and tries to put the FBI on the defensive again. I like this statement, though:
There is another audience that also deserves your attention: the public. For years, their only information about his matter has come from the news reports, the accuracy of which you call into question.Unfortunately, whatever the FBI says is generally filtered through the media.
Congressman Holt also asks that the FBI "provide an unclassified update on the status of the investigation" to the postal workers and others in New Jersey. That could be interesting ... if it happens. There probably isn't much unclassified information that can be said that hasn't been said in the past. But it would be nice to have a lot of old information that the media ignored or distorted get repeated formally. Maybe people will be willing to listen carefully this time.
Meanwhile, the Richard Jewell lawsuit against the Atlanta Constitution is in the news again. That is another case where the FBI is generally blamed for everything, but, in reality, the media played a major role in pointing the finger at Jewell. Jewell previously collected more than a half million dollars from NBC.
October 3, 2006 (A) - Someone sent me a copy of the letter which Assistant Director of the FBI Eleni P. Kalisch sent to Congressman Rush Holt in response to his letter wrongly accusing the FBI of various misdeeds. Among other things, the letter says,
Contrary to your assertions in your letter, the investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001 has made significant progress and has been one of the largest and most complex investigations ever conducted.Unfortunately, to many people, no arrest means no progress. The letters also says,
The information that has been developed as a result of these investigative efforts is not appropriate for disclosure at this time because the investigation remains active. I can advise you, however, that the FBI and its partners in this investigation have never been under any misconceptions about the character of the anthrax used in the attacks. On the contrary, since the earliest months of this investigation, we have consulted with the world's foremost scientific experts on anthrax and relevant bio-forensic sciences, both inside and outside the FBI. While there have been erroneous media reports about the character of the 2001 anthrax, the FBI's investigation has never been guided by such reports.And the letter ends with this:
In closing, I believe it is important to note that many complex investigations, such as the Unabomber case and the Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta, often take years to resolve. Like those, we intend to pursue this investigation to its conclusion and support the successful prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for these attacks.People in the media seem to be looking for some "hidden meaning" in this letter. It seems to me the meaning isn't hidden. It's there for all to see: It's a complex case, progess has been made, but it could take a long time to bring the culprit(s) to justice. I would put it another way, there is a BIG difference between knowing who did it and proving who did it in a court of law.
October 1, 2006 - As far as information about the anthrax attacks of 2001 is concerned, the past week was the most interesting week in years. And it may be just the start. The month of October could turn out to be the most interesting month in years. On October 5 (the 5th anniversary of the first fatality in the attacks of 2001), Dr. Hatfill is scheduled to have a "mediation session" with the lawyers for Donald Foster, Vanity Fair Magazine and Readers' Digest Magazine. There's no way to tell what will come out of that session, but it seems extremely unlikely that that particular lawsuit will ever go to trial. According to an entry in the Docket dated Dec. 7, 2005, a final pre-trail order must be submitted on or before October 27, 2006. So, the stage is set for a settlement. And Dr. Hatfill's two other lawsuits could also make news in some way during October.
October is also the month which the media seems to consider the anniversary of the anthrax attacks, since the news first broke in early October, 2001. The media has already done some 5th anniversary stories, but there could be a lot more to come. Maybe some reporter will actually report some new information.
It may be too much to hope that some other scientist at the FBI, or some scientist who assisted the FBI with the investigation, will publish another peer-reviewed scientific article attacking the wall of nonsense and misconceptions that politically motivated scientists, politicians and the media have been built around the actual facts of the case. But it could happen. Dr. Beecher's article set the stage. And a lot of attention is being focused on the AFIP newsletter which directly contradicts what Dr. Beecher wrote.
As was seen last week, some in the media along with unthinking politicians may try to shore up the wall of nonsense and misconceptions with more baseless nonsense. But, it only takes a few truly solid hits to bring down a wall of nonsense. Those hits could be coming. If so, that wall of nonsense will soon collapse and everyone will see just how many facts have always been available -- if people just hadn't been misdirected by conspiracy theorists, the media, and some politicians to look in the wrong direction.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, September 30, 2006
September 29, 2006 - Yesterday, The International Herald Tribune printed an AP article titled "FBI denies it misunderstood the quality of anthrax used in 2001 attacks in U.S." The title says it all, except that the FBI denied Congressman Holt's request for a briefing because "the FBI and Justice Department decided to stop briefing members of Congress after sensitive investigative information was reported in the media citing congressional sources." The version of the AP article on Yahoo News is titled "FBI denies overestimating anthrax power" and includes a couple paragraphs not in the Herald Tribune version:
In an interview, Holt responded, "The inference that any member of the intelligence committee was the source of previous leaks is outrageous, irresponsible and without foundation."If there's anything more distasteful than a politician making false accusations based upon an unquestioning acceptance of something he read in a newspaper, it's a politician getting huffy when his false accusations are shown to be false.
Meanwhile, a British publication called "The Register" has a very interesting article subtitled "'Weaponised' theory undermined." It's worth a read.
September 28, 2006 - I've been told that Congressman Rush Holt is actually a very intelligent guy. But what he's proving with his letter to FBI Director Mueller is that even very intelligent guys are sometimes sadly misinformed and sometimes make really silly mistakes. He evidently fell hook, line and sinker for the misinformation printed in The Washington Post indicating that the FBI just recently realized that the 2001 anthrax was not "weaponized". So, instead of doing something constructive like finding out why the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) stated that they found silica in the Daschle anthrax and that it was a "key component," Congressman Holt is attacking the FBI for doing something the FBI never did. AFIP's newsletter is on my site HERE. It even includes a picture of the individuals who came to the conclusion that there was silica in the Daschle anthrax. It also includes their names. Even the conspiracy theorists want Congressman Holt to find out why AFIP wrote what they wrote and reported what they reported. They've contacted Congressman Holt via his web site. His phone and fax numbers are on his web site. Hopefully, someone will get through to Congressman Holt and tell him to stop being led around by the nose by misleading information printed in The Washington Post.
September 27, 2006 (B) - Demonstrating that some politicians have absolutely no idea what is going on, the Associated Press reports via The Seattle Post-Intelligencer that New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt has asked for a confidential briefing about the Beecher report from FBI Director Mueller. Here's some of the AP article:
A New Jersey congressman said Wednesday it should have taken the FBI days, not years, to determine the anthrax used in 2001 that killed five people was much less sophisticated than believed.(It did take days.) More from the article:
In his letter to Mueller, Holt said the FBI's failure to determine what kind of anthrax was used meant that "resources were diverted and countless agents wasted their time investigating a small pool of suspects, instead of the broader search we now know was needed."(How absolutely clueless can a Congressman be!?) More from the article:
Holt asked Mueller to have Douglas Beecher, a scientist in the FBI's Hazardous Materials Response Unit, testify before the House Intelligence Committee.Congressman Holt is definitely in need of information, but it's information which has been available to him for 5 years. The article also says that FBI spokesman Bill Carter did not know if Mueller had received Holt's letter. Congressman Holt should read this web site. Or, better yet, he should buy a copy of my book.
Checking further into this, I find that Congressman Holt was briefed by the FBI once before. It's reported about at the end of a Baltimore Sun article from April 11, 2003. That article just happens to also include this information:
As part of the scientific sleuthing, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III announced in November that investigators were trying to "reverse engineer" the mailed anthrax.If Congressman Holt wants to investigate someone, I would suggest he investigate why AFIP seemed to believe there was silica in the anthrax. Answering that one question could answer a hundred others.
September 27, 2006(A) - I was contacted by a couple science reporters yesterday, both looking for some sinister and hidden meaning behind Dr. Beecher's article. One of the reporters pumped me on the phone for about 15 minutes, trying to get my feelings as to why the FBI would release such information. My answer was just a guess: The media has built a wall of nonsense and misconceptions around the true facts of the anthrax attacks, and the FBI is most likely trying to break down at least some of that wall. I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't more such articles. The wall of nonsense and misconceptions created by the media is pretty tall and solid.
Why would the FBI want to break down such a wall? My answer is just another guess: To create a public and scientific atmosphere where facts instead of fiction can prevail.
September 26, 2006 - The list of news articles about Dr. Beecher's report is continuing to grow. This morning's New York Times contains an article titled "Anthrax Not Weapons-Grade, Official Says". It begins with this:
Seeking to clear up public confusion, an F.B.I. official has reiterated the bureau’s judgment that the anthrax in the letter attacks five years ago bore no special coatings to increase its deadliness and no hallmarks of a military weapon.Unlike earlier articles in the Washington Post and the Hartford Courant, it doesn't attempt to blame the FBI for everything:
The misconceptions in the case began early, reinforced by edgy public officials and federal scientists struggling to assess an unfamiliar threat quickly. In Washington, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology studied the anthrax and found what it believed to be added silica, a signature of military anthrax.This mention of my book is the first by the media since the review in New Scientist on April 30, 2005.
Meanwhile, Slate Magazine has an article titled "Anthrax for the Memories - The Washington Post's 'rowback,'" which rakes the Washington Post over the coals for not taking some of the blame for all the misconceptions.
And for those who do not believe what they read, NPR has an audio feature about all this. In it, several scientists including General Parker from USAMRID, Matthew Meselson from Harvard and Michael Stebbins from the American Federation of Scientists talk about the spores being "pure," about how easily they would float, etc.
September 25, 2006 - This morning's Washington Post contains an article with the misleading title "FBI Is Casting A Wider Net in Anthrax Attacks." The article begins this way,
Five years after the anthrax attacks that killed five people, the FBI is now convinced that the lethal powder sent to the Senate was far less sophisticated than originally believed, widening the pool of possible suspects in a frustratingly slow investigation.It looks like the FBI will forever be blamed for mistakes which were actually made by the media -- and very specifically by The Washington Post. The FBI has known from day-one that the attack anthrax had no additives. Government and other scientists said so repeatedly. I've been saying so on this web site for years, and I even made it absolutely clear in my book, which was written over a year and a half ago. Yet, the Post suggests the FBI only "now" became convinced.
The article has one piece of actual "news". The man who replaced Richard Lambert is Special Agent Ed Montooth, who retains a full-time investigative force of 17 agents and 10 postal inspectors.
It ends with a statement from one of the politicians who believed the conspiracy theorists and helped mislead the country about the nature of the attack anthrax:
"If the FBI's investigation has become a cold case, then it's time for [FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III] to acknowledge that and take steps to deal with it," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), a frequent critic of the FBI. "I'm concerned that the FBI may have spent too much time focusing [on] one theory of what happened and too little effort on the other possibilities."The FBI has repeatedly stated very clearly that it is NOT a "cold case". Even the Post article tells of ongoing work being done. But, there's just no way to convince people who refuse to look at facts and go with their beliefs instead.
September 24, 2006 - The past several days were spent arguing about Dr. Beecher's article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. In addition to stating that articles such as those in Science Magazine, The Washington Post and The Washington Times misled scientists (and the public) about how dangerous pure spores are even without additives or coatings, Dr. Beecher's article also addresses misconceptions about van der Waals forces without ever mentioning van der Waals forces (probably because they are of no real concern to dried spores).
From page 5309 of Dr. Beecher's article:
Purification of spores may exacerbate their dissemination to some extent by removing adhesive contaminants and maximizing spore concentration.However, even in a crude state, dried microbial agents have been long considered especially hazardous. Experiments mimicking laboratory accidents have demonstrated that simply breaking vials of lyophilized bacterial cultures creates concentrated and persistent aerosols (4, 8).and
While size analysis of freshly prepared powders may bear signatures of the production process and predict some of their performance characteristics, size determinations for material recovered after it has been deployed must be viewed with circumspection. Particle size distributions are dynamic (13), changing as a powder experiences different conditions upon handling, such as compaction, friction, and humidity among other factors.and
Particles aerosolized from purified powdered spores consist either of individual spores or aggregates of individual spores. The great majority of particles are generally the smallest particles in the population (2), which are single spores in spore powders.and particularly this statement:
In essence, even if most of a spore powder is bound in relatively few large particles, some fraction is composed of particles that are precisely in the size range that is most hazardous for transmission of disease by inhalation.So, even without a sophisticated coating or silica particles to separate the spores, the great majority of particles are generally the smallest particles in the population, which are single spores in spore powders.
That says van der Waals forces have negligible effect on dry spores. I.e., spores are NOT bound together by van der Waals forces in any significant way.
The article makes it clear that the "crude" powder in the media letters could cause inhalation anthrax. The only difference between such a "crude" powder and a refined powder like that in the senate letters is that fewer spores would be aerosolized from the "crude" powder, meaning hundreds of billions of spores are released instead of trillions. Having fewer spores in the air reduces but does not eliminate the danger of inhalation anthrax. So, the theories that Kathy Nguyen must have been infected by the senate mailing and that the AMI anthrax must have come from a third batch are unsupported by any facts of any kind. Such theories are believed and get repeated because no one can prove that it is impossible for Nguyen to have been infected by the senate mailing or that it is impossible for there to have been a third batch of anthrax and more than one letter sent to Florida. For some people, if you cannot prove that what they believe is totally impossible, then they'll just continue to believe what they want to believe even if all the facts say they are almost certainly wrong.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, September 23, 2006
September 22, 2006 - Today's Hartford Courant contains an article about Douglas Beecher's article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The Courant article has the misleading title "New Anthrax Theory Offered", and it is subtitled "FBI Scientist Says Little Expertise Needed." It adds a lot to what Dr. Beecher wrote, including comments from some experts, and this:
Contrary to a widely held theory among anthrax experts, the killer needed no sophisticated equipment or intimate knowledge to produce the anthrax mailed to two U.S. congressmen, Douglas Beecher wrote recently in a trade magazine for microbiologists.Unfortunately, the Courant article also contains a MAJOR error:
Shortly after the first letters were sent, Beecher debunked reports suggesting that the strain of anthrax found in Florida came from a particular lab or was manmade. Beecher noted that the point of modifying anthrax to make it more deadly would be to make it resistant to antibiotics, but that the anthrax found in Florida was not drug-resistant. The anthrax sent to the senators was drug-resistant.It is absolutely untrue that the anthrax sent to the senators was drug-resistant. In fact, fewer people were infected by the much more dangerous powder in the second mailing because they had time to take antibiotics.
A malicious bioweapons maker intent upon inflicting maximum casualties might develop a new strain of anthrax which is drug-resistant so that antibiotics will have no effect, but that was NOT done with the anthrax sent to two senators. All the anthrax refiner/mailer did was PURIFY the spores. That meant they were more deadly than what was sent in the media mailing because there were more spores per gram, meaning that there would be more spores floating around to cause infection. The average person needs to inhale thousands of spores before his or her immune system will be overcome and infection will take hold. Therefore, the more spores in the air, the deadlier the situation.
I say the title of the Hartford Courant article is "misleading" because what Dr. Beecher wrote was NOT a "new theory". It is not even a "theory". It is fact. And it was stated as fact by General Parker of USAMRIID back in October of 2001 and by many other true experts later. (It's also stated in my book.) On October 31, 2001, General Parker told a Senate committee:
Initial TEM analysis was performed on hydrated powder. This study revealed that the material was comprised solely of a high concentration of spores without debris or vegetative forms, suggesting this material was refined or processed.A solid fact does not become a theory just because the media doesn't believe it and they dream up their own theories about coatings and additives and a government coverup.
September 21, 2006 - Finally there is a scientific report from an expert at the FBI which indicates that my analysis of the nature of the attack anthrax is correct. It should also put an end to the lawsuit threats I was receiving from a conspiracy theorist who claimed that I was misleading the public by saying there was no coating on the spores.
The August 2006 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology contains an article on pages 5304-5310 titled "Forensic Application of Microbiological Culture Analysis to Identify Mail Intentionally Contaminated with Bacillus anthracis spores". It was authored by Douglas J. Beecher of the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia. The article is still available only to subscribers, but I was sent a copy. It discusses the anthrax powders used in the attacks of 2001.
In the third paragraph on page 5309, it says,
Individuals familiar with the compositions of the powders in the letters have indicated that they were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents (6). However, a widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production. This idea is usually the basis for implying that the powders were inordinately dangerous compared to spores alone (3, 6, 12; J. Kelly, Washington Times, 21 October 2003; G. Gugliotta and G. Matsumoto, The Washington Post, 28 October 2002). The persistent credence given to this impression fosters erroneous preconceptions, which may misguide research and preparedness efforts and generally detract from the magnitude of hazards posed by simple spore preparations.Reference #6 is the infamous Gary Matsumoto article in Science magazine.
Unfortunately, the article inexplicably uses the Science article as a reference for saying the powders "were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents." The conspiracy theorists are using this to suggest that Dr. Beecher is simply reporting information that is second or third hand. Plus, there is this perfunctory statment at the end of the article:
Opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not represent official positions of the FBI or any other entity.So, while the article eliminates the claim by conspiracy theorists that no one at the FBI has ever made any statements about the presence or absence of coatings and additives in the attack anthrax, technically, it is just the expert opinion of one scientist at the FBI. But the author makes it clear he believes that the media people who reported all that nonsense about spore coatings and sophisticated additives were wrong. That also makes it very clear that the AFIP article which suggested that the attack anthrax was weaponized with silica was just an mistaken assumption. Best of all, it seems to verify what I wrote in Chapter 15 of my book about how all the nonsense in the media about additives and coatings began.
Hopefully, someone in the media will pick up on this article and interview Dr. Beecher for more details. Some of the information seems too important to be dismissed as just an opinion from some guy at the FBI who got his facts third hand from news articles.
September 20, 2006(B) - Yesterday there was a batch of new updates to the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit. Most of them relate to a Motion by Dr. Hatfill to compel The New York Times to identify the "confidential sources" behind the columns which suggested that Dr. Hatfill was the anthrax mailer. Unfortunately, none of the actual documents are available to me, but the Docket says that a Hearing has been set for 10:00 AM on October 6 before Magistrate Judge Liam O'Grady in Alexandria, VA. I'm no lawyer, but an earlier document in the Wen Ho Lee lawsuit mentioned the precedent setting Garland v Torre case which seems to cover the issues.
If the Motion is granted, it will be very interesting to see how those "confidential sources" convinced The New York Times (and Vanity Fair and Reader's Digest) that the FBI was covering up for Dr. Hatfill as part of some vast conspiracy.
September 20, 2006(A) - Today's San Francisco Chronicle contains an article which basically repeats what was in the Houston Chronicle on the 17th, except that this information is added:
There are currently 17 FBI agents and 10 postal inspectors working the investigation, and two additional FBI agents are being added next month, [FBI spokesperson Debbie Weireman] said.So those are the current official numbers: 17 FBI agents and 10 postal inspectors, with 2 more FBI agents being added next month.
And who was transferred to Knoxville? The Chronicle doesn't say. But, checking further, I found that MSNBC.com had an article a couple days ago which didn't show up in my normal daily search. The article was titled "FBI official leading anthrax probe off the case". The official is Inspector Richard L. Lambert, who had been running the Amerithrax investigation for the past 4 years (since September 2002). According to the MSNBC article,
an FBI official tells NBC it's unfair to read too much into his transfer. The case "is not stuck in the mud," the FBI official says, adding that it's standard practice in the FBI to rotate senior officials on and off major cases. (A series of senior FBI agents ran other high-profile investigations, including the hunts for serial bomber Eric Rudolph and the Unabomber, "Ted" Kaczynski.)Although it may be true that senior officials are routinely rotated "on and off major cases", the fact that Richard Lambert has been transferred off definitely seems to mean what is said in the article:
no criminal charges are expected to be filed anytime soon.A check of the FBI's web site shows they had a press release about Lambert's transfer on August 25, 2006. There's also a "FBI Statement on the Status of the Investigation into the 2001 Anthrax Mailings" dated yesterday, but it contains nothing new.
September 19, 2006 - A CBS News article dated yesterday has this title: "Anthrax Investigation A 'Cold Case?'" The subtitle is "5 Years, 53,000 Leads, 5,000 Subpoenas Later, FBI Is Empty-Handed". Again the media presents opinion as fact. The article has this quote from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff:
"There are times that we may know a lot about a crime or an event that occurred, but we may not have the admissible evidence that we need to prove it in court"Does that mean they are "empty handed"? It doesn't mean that to me. There is a BIG difference between knowing who committed a crime and proving in a court of law who committed the crime. Why is that so difficult to understand?
The media may prefer to tell the world that the FBI as clueless on the case, but the facts say that it is really the media which is clueless. For years, the media pointed the finger at an innocent man. Meanwhile, the FBI is almost certainly trying to gather evidence against the real culprit(s) who are innocent until proven guilty according to the law. But, it appears that the media believes that if it isn't happening in the media, then it isn't happening at all. So, they say the "FBI is Empty-Handed".
September 18, 2006 - Today, Michelle Malkin has an article titled "Anthrax attacks: 5 years later" on her web site. She repeats the same total nonsense about betonite being in the attack anthrax that Joseph Farah wrote about last week. Doesn't anyone check their facts anymore?
September 17, 2006 - The first batch of letters in the anthrax attacks of 2001 were postmarked 5 years ago tomorrow - on September 18, 2001. Evidence indicates 5 letters were mailed somewhere in Central New Jersey near Trenton, one each to ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Post and the National Enquirer. Only the letters to Tom Brokaw at NBC and to the New York Post were recovered, but people were infected at the other media offices, too, so we know there were at least 5 letters. (The letter to the Enquirer was sent to an obsolete address and was forwarded to AMI.) Although he was the fifth person to show symptoms of the disease, a photo editor at AMI named Bob Stevens was the first to be officially diagnosed with anthrax. Stevens was very ill when he went to a Florida hospital on the morning of October 2, and three days later he died.
The letters sent to those media offices contained a relatively crude anthrax powder, but it was still dangerous enough to infect 12 people, killing 2 of them.
The speculation, opinions, conspiracy theories and erroneous reporting by the media wouldn't begin until after the Bob Stevens case made news, but it continues to this day.
Today's Houston Chronicle contains another in what will probably be a long list of 5th anniversary articles about the attacks. Their article is titled, "5 years after terror of anthrax, case grows colder." As with nearly all the articles printed in the media during the past 5 years, it's part fiction, part fact, part dubious, and part just opinion.
the anthrax used in the attacks had been finely milled to make it more easily inhaledThat is fiction. The spores were NOT milled. It may have been a fine powder, but there was no milling involved. The mechanical process of milling leaves clear traces (chips and flat surfaces) which were not seen in the attack anthrax.
The headline for the article says the "case grows colder." That seems to be the opinion of the news service which distributed the article and of many others. The article says,
FBI agents and U.S. postal inspectors have pursued hundreds of leads and interviewed scores of scientists who work with the deadly anthrax bacteria, but the investigation now appears to be languishing.However, there is another point of view. The article also contains this:
A senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation insisted that "the investigation is still ongoing and intensely active." The official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said there "are a number of pending and very important leads that are being pursued."An article in the Palm Beach Post just a few days ago claimed that FBI spokesperson Debra Weierman said there were "about 20 investigators working on it full-time." So, which is correct? Is it 20 or 35? Or are 20 working on it full time and 15 part time?
The Houston Chronicle article also says,
The FBI has spent much of the ensuing five years in efforts to identify the laboratory where the anthrax — dubbed the Ames strain — originated. This is a challenging task because the Ames strain has been widely studied in research centers.It now appears to be a fact that the Ames strain "has been widely studied in research centers", even though early in the case it was believed that Ames was closely held and access was limited to just a few labs.
And the article concludes with this:
The FBI has enlisted the help of 29 government, commercial and university laboratories to develop a profile of the anthrax used in the attacks. They are looking for a microbial fingerprint based on the theory that different scientists use different production techniques to make anthrax spores, and these varied production techniques impart different chemical and physical signatures.That appears to be a fact, but it's a fact we've known for a long time.
There's really nothing dramatically new in the Houston Chronicle article. But something may turn up in one of these 5th anniversary articles that could be truly "new". That's why I have to read and evaluate them all. Doing an accurate analysis of such articles can be tedious work. Finding facts and evidence amid speculation, rumor and opinion is hard work. It's definitely a lot easier to just produce a jumble of fact and fiction and leave it to others to sort things out. And it's easiest of all to just voice an opinion without facts and ignore all facts which conflict with that opinion.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, September 16, 2006
September 16, 2006 -
on the Docket for the Hatfill v Foster, Vanity
Readers' Digest lawsuit generates a lot of questions. But so
does the one before that. And the one before that. Here are
the last three entries:
Laura Handman is the lawyer for the Readers' Digest Association ("RDA"). The actual documents aren't available on-line for this lawsuit, so I don't have any information other than what appears in the Docket entries. What kind of "immediate litigation" is Laura Handman talking about? Since there isn't a Docket entry about the "privilege log accompanying RDA's production of documents on September 8, 2006," that could mean it's part of some deposition. Or Dr. Hatfill may have subpoenaed some documents from Reader's Digest. There's no way for a non-lawyer like me to tell. Maybe the only important phrase in the most recent entry is the one which relates to the third entry:
Plaintiff shall notify Court of outcome of Mediation.The middle entry about "Withdrawal of Counsel" might be interesting if we had details, but, as it stands, all it is saying is that the female member of Dr. Hatfill's new 3-person legal team has withdrawn from the case.
September 15, 2006 - David Hose, a victim of the second anthrax attack voiced his opinions for an article in today's Winchester (VA) Star:
Hose filed a $12 million lawsuit in 2003 against the federal government for his health problems and the disruption to his life, but he has seen little progress.After 5 years of misleading and inaccurate newspaper stories about the nature of the attack anthrax - stories which promoted various conspiracy theories -- it's easy to understand how a victim of the anthrax attacks can seem "a little paranoid."
September 14, 2006 - An article in today's Palm Beach Post titled "Anthrax victim's widow wants answers" was titled "Anthrax victim's widow says government may know who killed husband" in an earlier edition. Both versions begin the way:
Maureen Stevens says the federal government probably knows who killed her husband.The later version, however, contains some information which wasn't in the first version:
Debra Weierman, spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office, said the "Amerithrax" task force is still active, with about 20 investigators working on it full-time.The last time they told us how many "investigators" were working on the case was on March 9, 2006, when they said "there are currently 18 FBI Special Agents and 10 Postal Inspectors working full time on the investigation."
The later version also has an explanation of why there has been no update to the Dockets for the 2 lawsuits filed by Maureen Stevens. But a slightly better explanation can be found in today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
[Maureen] Stevens was frustrated enough over the lack of information to file a $50 million wrongful death suit against the government in February 2003, alleging the anthrax was most likely taken from a U.S. Army laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland.September 11, 2006 - If you want something else to shake your head in dismay over on this somber day of remembrance, you might check out an article titled "Remember the anthrax attacks?" which appeared today on the WorldNetDaily.com web site. In it, a reporter with "30 years in the news business" attempts to use the totally debunked ABC news story about finding bentonite in the attack anthrax to create a new conspiracy theory. Here's the capper for his theory:
Remember bentonite? It turns out one of the largest manufacturers is (get ready for this, Michael Moore) a subsidiary of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer.This article demonstrates how old, inaccurate news stories can be dredged up and used to "verify" beliefs. All you need to do is forget about checking the facts.
September 10, 2006 - With the Hatfill v Foster, Vanity Fair, Reader's Digest lawsuit heading for a "mediation session" in early October, and the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit now focusing on how much Dr. Hatfill should be compensated for the damage done to him and his reputation, it should be really difficult for those who still believe Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer to hold onto their beliefs.
It's important to remember that a conspiracy theorist was behind Dr. Hatfill's troubles. She managed to get millions to believe as she believed, including many in the media and even some in government.
And that same conspiracy theorist appears to be the direct cause of the government's violation of the Privacy Act.
Although I check the Dockets every day (except Sunday) I somehow missed a key entry dated July 17, 2006. I noticed the omission when the Docket entry on Friday referred to the documents from that date. Plus, in his Order on Friday, Judge Walton wrote:
ORDERED that the Court defers issuing a ruling on the plaintiff's motion to compel. To assist the Court in resolving this motion, the defendants shall submit an ex-parte declaration and unredacted materials referenced by defense counsel during the hearing to the Court for its in camera review.Dr. Hatfill's memorandum of July 17, 2006, is titled "Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery and Overrule Defendants' Assertion of Law Enforcement Privilege Over Information Disclosed to the Press".
The theme behind the memorandum is that the government claims "law enforcement privilege" when refusing to provide documents they have already disclosed to people outside of law enforcement - specifically the media. But there is also one section of the memorandum where the media is not involved. And Dr. Hatfill asks that the documents in question be shown to Judge Walton to confirm that the Privacy Act was violated by the government. On page 35 and 36 of Dr. Hatfill's memorandum, it says,
... in the course of discovery, the defendants produced nine documents demonstrating that the FBI disclosed information about Dr. Hatfill to various Senate staffers. Those documents were heavily redacted such that Dr. Hatfill cannot determine the full extent to which information was disclosed in violation of the Privacy Act. The documents themselves and related deposition testimony reveal that at least some information about Dr. Hatfill was disclosed to Senate staffers in violation of the Act.The memorandum goes on to list occasion after occasion where the FBI gave confidential law enforcement information about Dr. Hatfill to Senate staffers, including FBI plans to polygraph Dr. Hatfill, the results of the polygraphs, the details of search warrants, etc., all in violation of the Privacy Act. On page 37 it says that a
"Congressional Contact Record" dated July 24, 2002 (again redacted in significant part) reveals that FBI official Tom Carey, in briefing eight Senatorial staffers on an "Anthrax Case Update," planned the following update: "Call Ken Johnson [Senatorial staffer] w/results of Hatfield's [sic] record polygraph." The documents reveal that the FBI, when subjected to Senatorial scrutiny, did not hesitate to disclose information about Dr. Hatfill in violation of the Privacy Act.And a footnote for that paragraph adds this:
Indeed, this was not the only example of the FBI disclosing Privacy Act information in an attempt to insulate itself from critical news publications. On November 1, 2002, Ann Todd of the FBI sent an e-mail to other FBI personnel noting that the staffs of Senators Daschle and Leahy had requested a follow up briefing on the Anthrax investigation because they were "disturbed by recent media accounts regarding the progress and focus of the Amerithrax investigation," and they "specifically requested that [FBI Assistant Director In-Charge] Mr. Harp attend this briefing."And it was all the result of the relentless pressure Dr. Rosenberg managed to put on the FBI through her six-month campaign accusing the FBI of covering up for Dr. Hatfill as part of some grand conspiracy. The FBI's public searches and in-your-face surveillance of Dr. Hatfill began one week after Dr. Rosenberg briefed those Senate staffers.
The facts are all thoroughly documented on this web site and summarized in my book, but what Dr. Hatfill's memorandum adds is details of exactly how the FBI caved in to the pressure and how, as a result, they broke laws they were sworn to enforce. Evidently, they saw breaking the law as the only way to escape the relentless pressure and baseless accusations that they were covering up for Dr. Hatfill.
And, it was all because someone with impressive credentials turned the confusion after 9/11, the erroneous reporting by the media about anthrax, and a lack of instant, perfect understanding of an extremely complex criminal act into a conspiracy theory which preyed upon the distrust some people have of the FBI, the CIA and the government -- specifically the Bush administration.
The growing numbers of conspiracy theorists who claim the World Trade Center was brought down by exposives planted by the CIA, and that a military missile hit the Pentagon on 9/11 instead of an airliner are simply extreme versions of the same kind of thinking. Facts are ignored, and only beliefs matter.
Along that same vein, during the past week, someone advised me that the new book "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War" by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, tells how another conspiracy theorist helped lead the Bush administration into the Iraq war. The Amazon.com editorial review says,
Filled with new revelations, Hubris is a gripping narrative of intrigue that connects the dots between George W. Bush’s expletive-laden outbursts at Saddam Hussein, the bitter battles between the CIA and the White House, the fights within the intelligence community over Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, the startling influence of an obscure academic on top government officials, the real reason Valerie Plame was outed, and a top reporter’s ties to wily Iraqi exiles trying to start a war.There are clearly lots of people who simply aren't swayed by facts of any kind and instead rely totally on beliefs. Are their numbers growing, or is it just that the Internet and 24-hour news channels have made them more visible than ever before?
Whatever the answer, the biggest danger from such thinking was demonstrated by the anthrax case: It's a situation where premature and invalid information about the anthrax was leaked to the media which reported it as fact, which prompted conspiracy theorists with impressive credentials to use the media to lead the country in the wrong direction. They pointed their collective finger at an innocent man, they promoted nonsensical scientific theories at the expense of scientific facts, and they created a political environment which may have made it extremely difficult to make a legal case against the actual culprit that wouldn't be buried under a mountain of reasonable doubt.
How would the conspiracy theorists and all their supporters in the media and in Congress have reacted if the FBI had arrested a respected scientist who the conspiracy theorists and their followers knew nothing about? Would some magical switch be thrown which would suddenly change their thinking? Or would they see it as just another part of the same grand conspiracy to cover up for Dr. Hatfill? Would facts be accepted or would alternative explanations be found and believed? Would the case be dominated by facts or by doubt? Would it be tried in the courts or in the media?
Hopefully, the passage of time will help create a level playing field. If Dr. Hatfill is somehow shown to be innocent and to have been unfairly persecuted, it might be a beginning -- except that the FBI will probably be blamed for everything. After all, who can believe that a bunch of politically motivated conspiracy theorists could get enough support from the media and from politicians to force the FBI to harass an innocent man? That shouldn't even be possible. And, if it is possible, it's wrong. But conspiracy theorists seem incapable of ever accepting blame for anything.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, September 9, 2006
September 9, 2006 - Yesterday, Judge Walton issued an Order which contained some important rulings in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit. As expected after Dr. Hatfill's "Notice" regarding a very recent Appeals Court ruling in another case, Judge Walton denied the government's request to prevent Dr. Hatfill from "seeking the recovery of non-pecuniary damages." So, Dr. Hatfill can seek payment for "emotional damage". However, Judge Walton also ruled that Dr. Hatfill must "submit to an independent medical examination" so the government can argue the extent of such "emotional damage", and he told the parties to confer on the extent of the examination. Judge Walton further ordered the parties to submit declarations and unredacted documents to assist him in ruling on whether or not to compel the government to stop using "law enforcement privilege" to avoid answering questions about leaks to the media.
September 7, 2006 - The Docket for the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit shows that two lead lawyers from Tycko, Zavareei & Spiva LLP are evidently now assisting Dr. Hatfill with the lawsuit, and a mediation session has been scheduled for October 5, 2006. It's unknown whether the parties agreed to mediation or if it's just a regular part of the process -- to see if they can mediate.
Also, a key hearing took place in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit yesterday, but there's no indication on that Docket about what was resolved, if anything.
September 3, 2006 - Yesterday, The New York Times published an interesting article titled "2 U.S. Reports Seek to Counter Conspiracy Theories About 9/11" which shows how prevalent the conspiracy theories have become. And, according to a poll described in a Scripps Howard News service report titled "Anti-government anger spurs 9/11 conspiracy belief":
Conspiracy groups for at least two years have also questioned why the World Trade Center collapsed when fires that heavily damaged similar skyscrapers around the world did not cause such destruction. Sixteen percent said it's "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that "the collapse of the twin towers in New York was aided by explosives secretly planted in the two buildings."What caused the conspiracy theories to start about 2 years ago? I found a New York Times article from October 19, 2004, titled "Study Suggests Design Flaws Didn't Doom Towers." After reading and rereading this article several times, it seems to me that the title of the article is deliberately misleading and probably feeds the conspiracy theorists. The text appears to say that the design was okay, but the buildings collapsed anyway - due to the effects of the intense heat generated by burning jet fuel. (TWO buildings built the same way both collapsed for the same reasons - and very quickly - yet there was no design flaw?) This is how the lack of a "design flaw" is defined:
the investigators say that without the plane impact - which weakened the structure and knocked fireproofing off the floor trusses and columns- if a typical office fire had occurred, "it is likely that burnout would have occurred without collapse."Duh?
What is a "typical office fire"? A fire started in a waste basket by a discarded cigarette?
When a "study" says there was no "design flaw," but the buildings collapsed anyway, people want answers. If answers aren't provided, people will make them up. Would all other building designs collapse the same way? No? Why not? It may be easier to imagine a conspiracy than to understand that a "flawless design" can fail so horrifically twice while many other "flawless designs" wouldn't have failed.
The "study" cited in the Times article is from The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the findings are described as tentative, but evidently final enough for The New York Times. The final report seems to be more about the causes of the loss of life, blaming the number and placement of staircases (a design flaw?) and the lack of adequate communications between firefighters.
While this doesn't have anything directly to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001, it does show how supposely "scientific" reports can help conspiracy theorists. I encountered that exact problem last week while discussing a May-June 2006 NIST report titled "Requirements for the Development of Bacillus Anthracis Spore Reference Materials Used to Test Detection Systems." Here's what the report uses as its #1 reference:
5. ReferencesThe NIST report cites the article in Science magazine this way:
The spores of Bacillus anthracis (BA) are particularly dangerous because they persist in the environment, and relatively small numbers can cause death. In addition, research has been done to prepare spore samples so that they are readily dispersed in the environment .and
2.4 Spore Surface Properties and Interaction ForcesWhat does "modified" mean in this context? Does "altering" mean increasing or decreasing? Using vague terms helps conspiracy theorists justify their beliefs. Also, while there's nothing technically wrong with what is described in this text, the fact that the Science article is used as a reference could mean that people will look up the article and accept the unscientific nonsense described in it as "endorsed by the NIST". It and all the many other references to the Science article which can be found on the Internet are certainly used by conspiracy theorists as proof that the article is "accepted" as fact by countless "knowledgeable" scientists.
Nevertheless, setting aside that reference to look at facts, the NIST report about anthrax does contain some interesting passages. This one stands out:
Clumping of spores is a serious problem and additional work needs to be done on the conditions for preparation and storage that will minimize clumping. We have used a dried preparation of B. globigii (more recently classified as B. atrophaeus). Large clumps of this material are observed under phase microscopy (Fig. 2). Mechanical or chemical treatment (detergents or enzymes) of the spore suspensions has been proposed to reduce the level of clumping. These treatments to reduce clumping may be useful for analysis (to obtain a better plate count), but their use to prepare standards runs the risk of changing the nature of the materials and may interfere with some detection methods.Interestingly, Fig. 2 seems to show only two "clumps", one consisting of about 5 spores and another consisting of about 3 spores, which are certainly not "large clumps".
Even more interestingly, it says that "Mechanical or chemical treatment (detergents or enzymes) of the spore suspensions has been proposed to reduce the level of clumping." Whoever "proposed" the use of chemical treatments was proposing that surfactants be used to reduce clumping. That's evidently what the anthrax culprit used.
The NIST article on anthax also contains this:
Imaging using atomic force microscopy has revealed the details of the exosporium under dry and fully hydrated conditions . The exosporium appeared as a large envelope (25 nm to 40 nm thick) surrounding the spore with hair-like projections and additional tubular appendages .Here is Reference #9 (with the link added):
 M. Plomb, T. J. Leighton, K. E. Wheeler, and A. J. Malkin, The high-resolution architecture and structural dynamics of bacillus spores, Biophys. J. 88, 603-608 (2005).And that led me into some detailed discussions with scientists on the exact function of the exosporium on Bacillus anthracis. Does the wrinkled and bumpy outer surface of a dry spore help overcome the binding effects of van der Waals forces? Do the "Fine Filaments on the Outside of the Exosporium of Bacillus anthracis Spores" also help? It seems to be an idea which has never been fully studied.
That led me into a discussion with top veterinarians in American and Canada over how spores in nature can or cannot "migrate" away from the location of the dead animal. Exactly what causes anthrax to suddenly appear in pastures where it was not previously encountered? Heavy rains seem to play an important role, since all the outbreaks seem to follow heavy rains. But what are the exact mechanics involved? It's the subject of scientific debate. Anthrax is a disease found in normally DRY areas around the world. It's virtually unknown in wet areas. And Bacillus anthracis has an exposporium layer over its primary natural coat, which many other spore-creating bacteria do not have. Is there some property in the exposporium which Mother Nature has provided to anthrax spores which helps them not only survive dry periods but also helps them to utilize wet periods to "migrate" to and accumulate in areas where they can be more effective in infecting a new host? Does this property cause them to attach to other objects when conditions are wet and de-attach when conditions turn dry? If so, it would explain a lot.
Does this same "property" help make anthrax a particularly dangerous bioweapon when used as a dry powder? If so, it would explain a lot.
Looking for answers to basic questions about the attack anthrax has led me into all sorts of areas where the answers might not be expected to be found, but which seem to contain clues. And those "clues" might also help explain a lot of unknown things about natural anthrax which can be of use to scientists and veterinarians.
Following clues is what criminal investigation and science is all about. There's no telling where the clues might lead. That's very different from the way conspiracy theorists do their "investigations" and utilize science. They only use the facts which fit their beliefs, and, as a scientist said about such methods in a CNN article a month ago:
"It's science, but it's politically motivated. It's science with an ax to grind, and therefore it's not really science."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, September 2, 2006
September 2, 2006 - According to the Docket in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit, yesterday, Dr. Hatfill filed a "Plaintiff's Notice of Intervening Decision by the Courts of Appeals" which is about a DECISION passed down last week by the Appeals Court in the same District as the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit. The Appeals Court decision seems to settle an outstanding issue in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit. It appears to say that Dr. Hatfill CAN recover damages for emotional distress and harm to his reputation.
The "Notice" includes this on page 2:
The Court of Appeals cited dozens of cases in support of these observations about the recoverability of damages for non-physical injury, but of particular interest is Taylor v Hearst, [...] which the Court cited for the proposition that "actual damages embraces recovery for loss of reputation, shame, mortification, injury to feelings, etc."And it adds this on page 3:
The implications for [the Hatfill v Ashcroft] case are clear enough. The Privacy Act of 1974 permits recovery of "actual damages." If emotional-distress damages were common enough to be considered a normal and unexceptional type of personal injury damages in 1913, and a type of "actual damages" in 1895, this Court need not tarry long over the contention that Congress would not have considered such damages to be actual damages in 1974. Dr. Hatfill therefore asks the Court to consider the recent Murphy opinion in connection with the government's motion to preclude recovery of non-pecuniary damages, and to deny that motion for all the reasons appearing in the pleadings.This is almost like something out of the book and movie "Anatomy Of A Murder", where some legal precedent was found at the last minute which virtually destroyed the other side's arguments. In this case, the Appeals Court has evidently decided an issue which Judge Walton was asked to decide. That seems to say that if Judge Walton disagrees, the Appeals Court will be certain to overrule him.
We'll have to wait and see how Judge Walton views it, but it certainly looks like Dr. Hatfill will be able to recover damages for emotional distress.
August 31, 2006 - I'm not sure what it's all about, but there are TEN new entries since the last time I checked the Docket in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit. The lawyers on both sides have evidently been VERY busy. Both sides seem to have filed a Consent Motion for a "Protective Order with sealing provisions", whatever that is. And the New York Times wants to compel discovery from the CIA. Back in February, the lawyers in the Hatfill v Don Foster et al lawsuit also wanted to depose the CIA, and all those docket entries were removed from the official docket.
August 28, 2006 - According to the Docketin the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit, a key hearing set for Wednesday, Aug. 30, has been postponed one week to Wednesday September 6, 2006.
August 27, 2006 - As predicted last week, the conspiracy theorists threw a "hissy fit", but it wasn't just over the subject of surfactants. It was also because a leading expert in the area of surface adhesion advised me of two things: (1) his extensive experience aerosolizing particles (although he has never actually worked with anthrax) indicated that a skilled microbiologist could probably create the attack anthrax with about $20,000 worth of equipment, and (2) the expert felt fairly certain that the natural roughness of a dry anthrax spore is sufficient to defeat any binding effect from van der Waals forces. If true, the second point by itself totally destroys the argument that the attack anthrax must have been "the state of the art" in bioweapons.
When I mentioned the scientist's statements on an anthrax discussion forum, one conspiracy theorist sent me four e-mails threatening to sue me for various misdeeds, including "malicious disregard for the facts."
But, much worse, it appears I can no longer mention the names of any scientists I talk with because the scientists may be contacted by the conspiracy theorists and warned that they could be party to a lawsuit being prepared against me. That is generally enough to get almost any scientist to discontinue discussions.
But, in spite of that, a lot of time was spent last week researching the surface properties of various kinds of Bacillus spores, primarily Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and Bacillus thuringiensis. It's been long known that van der Waals forces do indeed bind spores together when they are dried together. The weaponization technique used in the 1950's by the U.S. Government involved drying masses of spores together, which formed a "pellet" or "brick" of spores (held together by van der Waals forces) which then had to be ground down to release the individual spores. (Interestingly, the spores from that process have flat sides, as one might expect. It's uncertain whether the flat sides are the result of grinding or the result of the spores being pressed together when they were wet, but the latter explanation seems much more likely. The flat sides provide a much greater surface contact area for binding due to van der Waals forces.)
However, that problem with van der Waals forces can be wholly or partially avoided with spray drying and other drying techniques, where each spore is dried individually. As mentioned last week, it's done routinely in the manufacturing of Bacillus thuringiensis pesticides. However, spray drying and grinding can leave an electrostatic charge on the spores. Surfactants and other methods are typically employed to remove the static charge so that spores won't stick to surfaces or to each other.
The discussion of the roughness of spore surfaces led to the finding of an article titled "The High-Resolution Architecture and Structural Dynamics of Bacillus Spores". The article includes some very detailed micrographs of the rough surfaces of various kinds of spores. One picture - b on page 605 - even shows the "hair-like appendages" which can also be found on anthrax spores, and which may also help defeat van der Waals forces.
Research continues, but, as stated above, I won't be able to quote or name any more scientists who discuss things with me directly. The conspiracy theorists who believe the attack anthrax could only have come from some super-sophisticated U.S. government bioweapons lab, and who want to prevent any evidence disproving their conspiracy theory from being made public, have made that a problem for everyone.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, August 26, 2006
August 25, 2006 - According to the Docket in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, The New York Times has withdrawn its motion to compel the government to complete its "Touhy Review". There's no way to tell if that means the review has been completed or if the government somehow rejected the motion.
On Wednesday, Judge Liam O'Grady ordered:
Affirmative expert disclosures shall be made on or before 09/20/06 and rebuttal expert disclosures shall be made on or before 10/16/06. No other deadline in this case is changed by this Order.The case seems to be plodding along slowly. According to one source, affirmative experts are used to provide testimony on those factual issues for which you bear the burden of proof. Rebuttal experts testify for the other side. These experts testify that, based upon their knowledge and expertise, something could have happened, or could not have happened.
August 23, 2006 - According to
in the Hatfill v Foster, The Readers Digest and Vanity Fair magazine
Dr. Hatfill is now representing himself. Although I can't
be totally certain from just looking at the Docket entries, it
that Kathleen R. Hartnett may be working pro bono to assist him.
She's from the lawfirm of Tycko, Zavareei & Spiva LLP. Here
the two most recent entries in the Docket:
I have no idea what the significance of this may be.
August 20, 2006 - I've long complained that the FBI should be informing scientists about the details of the attack anthrax so they won't continue to be misled by unscientific nonsense printed in The Washington Post and Science magazine. Now, it's beginning to look like the FBI has been talking with groups of scientists for over a year and has been giving the scientists details about the attack anthrax which disprove the conspiracy theory that the FBI is covering up the "truth" that the attack anthrax must have been a "state of the art" bioweapon that could only have been made in some super-sophisticated U.S. government bioweapons lab.
The past week produced a third "knowledgeable source" stating that the Ames strain was widely distributed around the world by scientists exchanging samples of interesting biological specimens. So, we now have a statement made at a Congressional hearing, a quote from Barbara Seiders, and a passage in a book on microbial threats. Of course, that means, while the strain of anthrax may have come from a government lab, it could also have come from many non-government labs.
All three of those same sources indicate that the techniques for making a spore powder like that found in the anthrax letters is widely known -- particularly in the insecticide industry. It was not some "state of the art" bioweapons product that must be from some government bioweapons lab.
I've also got three "knowledgeable sources" saying that there was a coating of some kind on the spores, but the key source - that statement at the Congressional hearing - indicates it was in the form of a surfactant applied prior to drying and that the information came from an intelligence briefing. Dr. Callahan said,
Second, the spore preparation was coated with an [excipient] which helped retard electrostatic attraction, thus increasing aerosolization of the agent.That's what a surfactant does. You apply it to the "preparation" before drying and it retards the static charge which would be induced by fast drying, thus increasing aerosolization of the agent.
The term surfactant is a contraction of "Surface active agent". Checking out how surfactants are used, we find that surfactants are produced in many forms to solve many different problems and combinations of problems. One scientific paper on the subject says on page 77,
It's no wonder no one saw any "coating"! Such a "coating" is of atoms or molecules or particles far too small to be seen by any electron microscope, and they are clinging to the surface in a way that could make them appear to be part of the surface!
That finding led discussions to an article from the Department of Agriculture titled "Product Harvesting and Formulation of Microbial Insecticides". It contains this:
Harvesting microorganisms from submerged fermentation is often difficult due to the low concentration of the products, their thermolabile nature and in some cases their poor stability. Stabilizing adjuvants may have to be incorporated immediately post-harvest to prevent spore death and/or germination. Rapid drying or the addition of specific biocidal chemicals may be required to prevent growth of microbial contamination in the broth or centrifuge slurry (Soper and Ward, 1981).and this:
Following concentration, one of the technique mixes the crystal/spores slurry with lactose, adjuvants such as wetting agents, spreader-stickers or dispersing agents, and the whole product is spray-dried at 175oCand this:
184.108.40.206 StabilizationThe end product is a dry powder consisting of spores - possibly "pure spores" which flows almost like water. Many manufactured insecticides and other products use spores which come as such a dry powder. In fact, some of these powders are used as harmless "simulants" for lethal anthrax in various kinds of bioweapons tests.
According to Oregon State University, industrial quantities of powdered Bt insecticides have a quarter-trillion viable spores per gram (2.5 x 10^11). That's far more viable spores per gram than the old bioweapons programs, but still not the purity that can be achieved in small quantities in a laboratory using the same basic techniques, which is how the attack anthrax was made. (The heat involved in spray drying can kill a large percentage of the spores, so the count of viable spores may be only a fraction of the count of actual spores in a Bt insecticide powder.)
A lot of pieces are falling together. But the conspiracy theorists are still finding ways to argue that none of this applies to the attack anthrax because the attack anthrax must have come from some super-sophisticated U.S. government bioweapons lab. Period.
If simple insisting they are right doesn't work, the next step for the conspiracy theorists will probably be to call people names and have a hissy fit.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, August 19, 2006
August 19, 2006 -
companies have filed a "Response" to a
by Steven Hatfill to compel discovery from the media companies in the
v John Ashcroft et al lawsuit. I don't see that Motion from Dr.
on the Docket anywhere. The court
seems to have started keeping documents off the web. Up to
#129 there don't appear to be any missing documents, but there are no
#130 and #131 mentioned on the Docket. Here is the docket entry
showed up yesterday:
Meanwhile, in the Hatfill v The New York Times Lawsuit, that Docket shows that The New York Times' motion has been granted, and the Times will be deposing various people regarding Dr. Hatfill's background, particularly his efforts to get a Ph.D certificate. The depositions will be done in the countries where the people live. I'm not going to comment on how investigating things which have nothing to do with the anthrax attacks appear to be a "fishing expedition". Oops. I just did comment.
August 16, 2006 (B) - Someone sent me a link to a podcast of an interview with David Dunbar and Brad Reagan, editors of Popular Mechanics' new book, "Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts". I don't know how long the links will remain active, but you can try clicking HERE or HERE to listen to the interview. One of the people doing the interview is a forensic psychologist, so they go into a lot of details about how conspiracy theorists think and how they react to solid proof that their theories are wrong. In one comment they talk about how the conspiracy theorists will pick out a sentence or a phrase to support their theory while ignoring everything else being said which debunks their argument. I've certainly seen that done countless times with the conspiracy theorists who believe the attack anthrax came from some super-sophisticated U.S. government bioweapons lab.
August 16, 2006 (A) - This morning, the BBC has an article titled "Man dies from 'rare anthrax bug', and Reuters' has an article titled "Man dies from anthrax". The victim is another person who worked with animal hides to make drums, but this time the incident occurred in Scotland and the man actually died of the disease. There's no connection to the anthrax attacks of 2001, of course, but it is another example of how spores can float around and kill even if they do not have a silica coating.
August 15, 2006 - Yesterday, a someone found another reference about silica coatings on the anthrax spores. This time it is from a book, "The Impact of Globalization on Infectious Disease Emergence and Control: Exploring the Consequences and Opportunities, Workshop Summary - Forum on Microbial Threats (2006)" by The Board On Global Health. They found this piece of a sentence on page 66 and used it as further "proof" of the conspiracy theory that the silica-coated attack anthrax came from some secret and super-sophisticated U.S. government bioweapons lab:
In addition, although the spores were coated with silica ...............It's really weird the way they pick a few words out of a book to hold up as proof of their beliefs and ignore everything which disproves what they say. Here's the entire paragraph from page 66 of the book:
Although investigation of the anthrax attacks has consumed a tremendous number of person-hours and although the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working closely with health officials, has done an extraordinary job, what is known about the attacks is still less than what is unknown, according to one participant. The Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis used in the attacks is distributed throughout the world, making it difficult to track down a potential source. In addition, although the spores were coated with silica, which neither Russia nor the United States has used in its domestic programs, this is not necessarily a very helpful clue given the accessibility of modern biochemical components and techniques. Thus the country still does not know whether the source of the anthrax spores was domestic or foreign. Nor is it known whether there is a connection between the person or persons responsible for the attacks and those responsible for the attacks of September 11. To make matters more difficult, the investigation is encumbered by a culture clash between law enforcement officials and scientists. The former prefer to move forward in a lockstep fashion, whereas the latter tend to ask more questions and engage in more discussion.This paragraph from the book appears to be someone's interpretation of what was heard at some intelligence briefing, possibly the same briefing which Dr. Michael Gallagher attended (see my "comment" dated July 30, 2006(A)).
Once again someone with credentials is saying "The Ames strain of Bacillus anthracis used in the attacks is distributed throughout the world, making it difficult to track down a potential source." I don't know how things changed from a restricted distribution to a world-wide distribution, but I'm going to have to take "world-wide distribution" as most likely being true, since it's being repeated by people "in the know". It changes nothing except to show even more clearly that the anthrax culprit certainly didn't have to work in any bioweapons lab to get his hands on the Ames strain of anthrax.
The book definitely does say "the spores were coated with silica". But, Dr. Gallagher didn't say that. And a third source received via e-mails didn't say that. All they said was that some kind of coating was applied - most likely to the wet spores before drying. Did it include some form of silica? I think more information is needed since there are multiple sources which say no silica particles were visible under an TEM or SEM. That doesn't mean they weren't there, it just means they weren't there in any known bioweapons form.
The book seems to confirm that by saying, "although the spores were coated with silica, which neither Russia nor the United States has used in its domestic programs". Although it's disputed by conspiracy theoriests, it's known that neither Russia nor the United States put silica coatings on spores in their bioweapons programs. They simply MIXED silica with spores to reduce the static charge or to protect the dry spores from moisture during storage.
And the book definitely confirms what nearly all microbiologists have been saying, "given the accessibility of modern biochemical components and techniques," the attack spores could have been made in almost any hospital lab, almost any well-equipped college microbiology lab or almost any commercial lab involved in making pesticides. Combined with other statements from other sources, that makes it fairly clear that the "coating" was most likely a surfactant applied to the wet spores before drying to reduce the surface static charge which would result during normal drying (like putting a capful of Snuggle in the final rinse water when washing laundry).
So, although the book says the spores were coated with silica, it indicates the coating was not something from some super-sophisticated U.S. government bioweapons lab, as the conspiracy theorists believe. It was a technique known to many people in many fields.
These tiny pieces of information are starting to accumulate. But it's very difficult to put them together without knowing what kind of coating was on the spores if no one actually saw any coating or additive under an electron microscope. The technique may be "common knowledge" to microbiologists, but it's not something they're describing in detail in any documents -- probably for good reason.
August 14, 2006 - While searching the Internet for something else, I found this an article titled "Bioterrorism: Implications for the Clinical Microbiologist" on the web site of The American Society for Microbiology:
The most efficient method of delivering biological agents is thought to be the air-borne route, with agents dispersed in aerosols. Wide dissemination of infectious agents and even toxins can be achieved with this method. Low-cost, easily obtainable equipment (as employed in the agricultural industry) can be used to produce aerosols with particle sizes of 1 to 10 µm. Under ideal conditions these particles may remain suspended for hours and are sufficiently small to make their way into the distal bronchioles and terminal alveoli after inhalation.What better authority can there be than The American Society for Microbiology to support the indisputable fact that anthrax aerosols do not require a super-sophisticated government bioweapons lab?
August 13, 2006 - Conspiracy theorists who believe that the attack anthrax had a sophisticated silica coating that came from a super-sophisticated U.S. government bioweapons lab have become more aggressive lately. Like the moon hoax conspiracy theorist who confronted astronaut Buzz Aldrin, silica coating conspiracy theorists are now confronting and challenging scientists who have made statements that they saw no coatings on the attack anthrax. However, in this case the confrontations are - so far - just via e-mails, and they are sending me copies of the e-mails. The intensely hostile letters twist and distort facts in an attempt to provoke the scientists into a response.
Unlike the moon hoax or 9/11 conspiracy theorists, the silica coating conspiracy theorists feel they have media support. They specifically cite conspiracy theory articles which were printed in The Washington Post ("FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted") and Science Magazine ("Anthrax Powder: State Of The Art?") which were never officially retracted. Plus, those articles were cited many times by many other organizations on many web sites, which the conspiracy theorists see as proof that the information is true -- even if it is speculation, and even if the Post article speculates about a different kind of coating than the Science article, and even if two respected scientists sent a letter to the editor of the Washington Post contradicting what was printed in the Post.
I'm not sure what is behind this sudden aggressive attitude, but it also involves numerous threats to sue me because I see the facts differently and, evidently, because I interviewed scientists who contradict the beliefs of the conspiracy theorists. I have been openly and repeatedly threated with a SLAPP-type lawsuit which would be filed "for sport" and which would be intended to punish me and destroy me financially as a demonstration of their determination to have their theories prevail.
So far, it's just threats sent to me and described in e-mails sent to respected scientists, but the threats include information about how they have researched my finances and assets to see how much financial harm they can inflict. (Much of the information is detailed on an anthrax discussion forum where at least 20 people in the news media participate, so what I'm stating here is no secret. And it's all in writing.)
Why are all these attacks and threats happening now? I can only guess that it either has something do to with the upcoming 5th anniversary of the anthrax attacks of 2001, or the conspiracy theorists simply want to make news headlines by demonstrating their power, or both.
Although it probably wouldn't change any minds among the conspiracy theorists, I've been saying for years that the government (specifically the FBI) needs to make some definitive statements about the physical characteristics of the attack anthrax in order to get scientists to focus on the right potential suspects. As long as thousands of scientists believe the media's conspiracy theories suggesting that the spores must have come from some secret and illegal bioweapons program being covered up by the Bush administration, many scientists won't be looking in their own ranks for the culprit.
The 5th anniversary of the anthrax attacks would be a perfect time for such definitive statements. Without such statements from the government, we are largely dependent upon the media to look at the attack anthrax objectively and to get objective and knowledgeable scientific viewpoints. And, somehow, that seems even less likely to happen.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
August 6, 2006,
thru Saturday, August 12, 2006
August 11, 2006 - If I'm reading the legalese correctly, according to recent entries in the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, the issue of the motions and response "to Compel nonparty The United States Department of Justice to complete its touhy review" has been continued until August 25. The Docket also says, "If the Department of Justice does not complete and serve its response before that time, the Court shall hear argument regarding this motion at 10:00 a.m. 08/25/06 and resolve the motion on the merits at that time."
August 10, 2006 - I've been
the Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times
lawsuit to see if they explain something about the motions and
"to Compel nonparty The United States Department of Justice to complete
its touhy review". So far, they haven't. But this morning
clerk posted this entry:
Stephen Fourie? James O'D. Mcgee? Professor Lothar Bohm? Instead of being about the "motion to compel", this is evidently about Hatfill's allegedly falsified Ph.D. certificate. Stephen Fourie is the Rhodes University Registrar, James O'D. Mcgee is a "distinguished Oxford Professor", and Professor Lothar Bohm is professor of medicine at Stellenbosch who leads the Department of Radiation Oncology.
Evidently, The New York Times wants to take depositions from these people in the countries where they live, and Dr. Hatfill opposes that.
August 7, 2006(B) - Someone just sent me a link to an article from www.wired.com dated March 15, 2005, and titled "Bioterror CSIs Target Germs". It contains a few tidbits of information which may help explain why it's taking so long to arrest the anthrax mailer. The first tidbit of interest is from Barbara Seiders, manager of chemical and biological defense programs at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.
"It was clear that even though we knew what the strain was, we came to understand that scientists had been exchanging it all over the world," Seiders said. "Trying to track it only knowing the strain wasn't enough."The next tidbits are from forensics specialist Abigail A. Salyers, professor of microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
According to Salyers, researchers are currently decoding the genome of 10 to 15 strains of anthrax. It's not clear if the results will be released publicly. At the same time, scientists are trying to figure out how quickly the germs mutate. According to Murch, researchers are also exploring the makeup of single anthrax spores, exploring the levels of elements like sulfur, fluorine, chlorine and phosphorus.August 7, 2006(A) - It's beginning to look like the 5th anniversary of 9/11 will bring a flood of news articles about 9/11 conspiracy theories. On page 57 of the August 7 issue of Newsweek it says "public-opinion surveys show that many Americans (42 percent in a recent Zogby poll) believe America must be covering up something about 9/11." And yesterday, CNN had a very interesting article about 9/11 conspiracy theorists which contained this:
Kevin Barrett believes the U.S. government might have destroyed the World Trade Center. Steven Jones is researching what he calls evidence that the twin towers were brought down by explosives detonated inside them, not by hijacked airliners."Science with an ax to grind." Hmmm. That certainly seems like something which could apply to many so-called "scientific articles" about the anthrax powder used in the anthrax attacks of 2001.
August 6, 2006 - Last week, someone provided me with samples of the handwriting of terrorists Zacarias Moussaoui and Marwan Al-Shehhi. That person did not claim that the handwriting of either terrorist matched the handwriting on the anthrax letters. Nevertheless, while it's a near certainty that neither terrorist wrote the anthrax letters, some people would translate that to meaning it is "definitely possible", even though Moussaoui was in jail and Al-Shehhi was dead in the ruins of the World Trade Center at the time of the anthrax attacks. To examine the handwriting samples in detail, I created a new supplemental web page titled "Analyzing the Handwriting of 2 Terrorists" which can be viewed by clicking HERE.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, August 5, 2006
August 4, 2006 - I've been trying to think about what comment I should make about The Washington Post article from Wednesday titled "9/11 Panel Suspected Deception by Pentagon." The article isn't about the anthrax attacks, but, just as with the anthrax attacks, it is about how people react in times of emergency, and how others will try to gain some political points if anyone screws up -- no matter how understandably.
The headline certainly sensationalizes a fairly minor story. And the first paragraph seems to try very hard to establish yet another conspiracy theory. Check this out:
Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon's initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.And this:
Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, according to several commission sources. Staff members and some commissioners thought that e-mails and other evidence provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and to the commission, hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings, these sources said.The text repeatedly refers to "some" unnamed "staff members and commissioners" while all the named sources in the article either deny any deception or are simply puzzled by the differences between NORAD's records and other records produced in other ways. Only John F. Lehman, a Republican commission member and former Navy secretary, supposedly (he's not directly quoted) suggests NORAD may have lied, but even he acknowledges that there's no evidence to support a "criminal referral". When directly quoted, Lehman said this:
"My view of that was that whether it was willful or just the fog of stupid bureaucracy, I don't know," Lehman said. "But in the order of magnitude of things, going after bureaucrats because they misled the commission didn't seem to make sense to me."So, they debated the idea of "referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation" and decided against it.
In the end, the panel agreed to a compromise, turning over the allegations to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments, who can make criminal referrals if they believe they are warranted, officials said.So, there's really no story here. Some people were upset by some testimony, but others weren't. The cited "errors" include these telling examples:
For more than two years after the attacks, officials with NORAD and the FAA provided inaccurate information about the response to the hijackings in testimony and media appearances. Authorities suggested that U.S. air defenses had reacted quickly, that jets had been scrambled in response to the last two hijackings and that fighters were prepared to shoot down United Airlines Flight 93 if it threatened Washington.Are these statements really contradictory? Reacting quickly is not the same as reacting correctly. Scrambling jets in response is not the same as getting an aircraft in one's gunsights. Being prepared to shoot down an airliner is not the same as knowing where that airliner is located. They arepoints of view! It's the "Rashomon" effect!
Here are two more paragraphs from the article:
Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold and Col. Alan Scott told the commission that NORAD had begun tracking United 93 at 9:16 a.m., but the commission determined that the airliner was not hijacked until 12 minutes later. The military was not aware of the flight until after it had crashed in Pennsylvania.NORAD said they began tracking United 93 at 9:16 a.m., but a thorough examination of all records indicated that that couldn't be true, so ... it must be a conspiracy?
"I was shocked at how different the truth was from the way it was described," John Farmer, a former New Jersey attorney general who led the staff inquiry into events on Sept. 11, said in a recent interview. "The tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public for two years. . . . This is not spin. This is not true."Not spin and not true. Is there no third option other than a conspiracy? What about human error? What about points of view? Cops know that witnesses to a crime rarely agree on what exactly happened. It's up to the detectives to determine exactly what the facts are. In reality, if all the witnesses say exactly the same thing about what they saw, that would probably be an indication of a conspiracy.
Is it really that difficult to understand that in times of extreme pressure resulting from unexpected and horrific events, people do not always do everything right, they do not always keep totally accurate records of what they did, and, when confronted with evidence of mistakes they made while trying to do their best in an unexpected situation, they may not always immediately admit to them?
In all of recorded history there are countless examples of surprise attacks wreaking havoc upon an unsuspecting people. Was there ever any significant suprise attack where everyone acted in exactly the correct way in response to the surprise? I don't know of any.
In this day and age, conspiracy theories may sell newspapers, build Nielson ratings and gain votes, but there are times when it is just plain wrong to look for criminal plots and to hunt for people who can be charged with crimes because they made understandable mistakes. It seems to me that there's little advantage to replacing a bureaucrat who hopefully learned from a bad mistake with another bureaucrat who thinks mistakes are something made only by others.
August 2, 2006(B) - After days of searching, I can't find anything to help clarify the subject of surfactants. I'm stuck with 4 basic facts:
1. No one saw any additives or coatings in the dry attack anthrax under a TEM or SEM.As a result, I went through this web page again and changed things to indicate that the use of a surfactant is just one possible explanation for what caused the elements silicon and oxygen to show up in the Daschle anthrax spores. It could be the remains of a surfactant or lab contamination, or even both or neither. It's something the science of microbial forensics would figure out.
August 2, 2006(A) - Entries on the Hatfill v The New York Times Docket indicate that the Times is trying to compel the U.S. government to do something, the government has responded, and a meeting is scheduled for Friday to review various motions. It's all very mysterious, since they don't provide a look at actual documents.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, The New York Times has received another hoax letter containing a white powder.
July 31, 2006 - This morning, I was trying to focus on the implications of the new information about surfactants described in yesterday's comment, when a totally different bit of "new information" appeared in my e-mail inbox. It was a link to an article from yesterday's Baltimore Sun titled "A Spy Among Us?". The article says the Soviet Union had a spy working at Ft. Detrick in the 1980s and includes this:
Serguei Popov, a scientist once based in a Soviet bioweapons lab in Obolensk, south of Moscow, said that by the early 1980s his colleagues had obtained at least two strains of anthrax commonly studied in Detrick and affiliated labs. They included the Ames strain, first identified at Detrick in the early 1980s. It became the standard used for testing U.S. military vaccines, and it was the strain contained in the 2001 anthrax letters that killed five people and infected 23 in the U.S.So, what is the significance of this information? It seems to mean there is another possible source for the attack anthrax. But who would be the "suspect"? What would be the motive? I'm not sure what conspiracy theorists would make of this information, but for me it's just further proof of how difficult it is to make a solid legal case against the anthrax mailer.
July 30, 2006(B) - The subject of surfactants mentioned in the New Scientist article quoted in this morning's comment came up again this afternoon in a discussion about a statement in an e-mail from a scientist to someone else where the scientist talked about a coating process use to simplify drying the spores. That caused a question to pop into my mind: Is there silicon in the fabric softeners like Bounce and Snuggle? I didn't have any Snuggle, but I examined the ingredients list on the side of a box of Bounce and it said, "Bounce contains biodegradable cationic softeners and perfume."
Looking up "cationic softeners", I find that some are made with SILICONE.
A textile softener is a chemical or chemical mixture, intended to give fabric a soft hand. Softeners act primarily as lubricants for fibers, allowing them to slide over each other more easily, giving a softer feel. Some also help reduce static electric charge build up and some are anti-microbial. Many softeners are surfactants and they may be Cationic, Anionic or non-ionic. Household laundry softeners are often based on Cationic Surfactants. Softeners can interfere with dyeing, so they should be removed by scouring. Some, such as Silicones, can be quite difficult to remove.
Americos Leather Soft 750 is a blend of silicone softener and polymer resins.I have no idea what kind of "various molecules" are added to the wet spores to remove the static charge that would result during drying, but it now seems quite possible that they included silicone or some other compound of silicon.
I'm still researching the subject, but it appears that the "various molecules" would cling to the spores or imbed themselves into spores after drying, and they might appear to be part of a spore when the spore is examined under a TEM or SEM. That could explain why AFIP detected silicon and oxygen even though no one saw any additives in the attack anthrax!
I think this is a VERY significant find. It's like I've been arguing something is white, while others have been arguing that it's black, and suddenly a new fact appears which indicates that it's really red. Huh?
This is why I LOVE debating this subject. When questions are raised, finding the answers can lead to facts which suddenly EXPLAIN EVERYTHING OR CONFUSE EVERYTHING.
Either way, of course, it makes the Science article more ridiculous than ever.
And, so far, it changes nothing in my book, although I certainly wish I knew back then what I know now. It is definitely an important discovery, and it definitely required changes in parts of this web page, particularly in the "New Information Section" where I now have a topic called "Silica vs Polymerized Glass vs Surfactants".
There could be a hundred places on this web site where I mention that the silicon and oxygen was "most likely" from contamination absorbed from lab equipment. That all now seems like it could be wrong. It seems it could be trace amounts of a surfactant applied to the spores prior to drying them.
Unfortunately, if the surfactant is commonly used in many industries and sciences, it would be less valuable as evidence in court than lab contamination might have been.
On the other hand, there is no reason why this must be an either/or situation. It seems quite possible that there could be both traces of a surfactant and lab contamination.
July 30, 2006(A)
- My comments last week about conspiracy theorists and True
evidently prompted some people to perform new searches for information
which would disprove my findings that there were no silica coatings on
the attack spores.
On Thursday, the conspiracy theorists and True Believers found a single sentence in testimony from a JULY 13, 2005, "Hearing before the Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack of the Committee on Homeland Security [in the] House of Representatives". The finding prompted some rather bizarre name calling and four people representing three different theories all demanded that I correct my web site because the lengthy hearing contained this one sentence from Dr. Michael V. Callahan who was Director of Biological Threat Defense at the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT):
Second, the spore preparation was coated with an incipient which helped retard electrostatic attraction, thus increasing aerosolization of the agent.Evidently, all they saw was the word "coated". It was enough. It didn't seem to matter to them that the "incipient" helped retard electrostatic attraction, while the theory proposed in Science Magazine claimed that an electrostatic charge was added to the spores so they would fly out of the envelope like an escaping gas. It didn't matter that Dr. Callahan's statement confirmed what I've been saying and what William Patrick III said in an AP article:
To make the mailed spores suitable for military weapons, the electrical charge would have to be removed.They didn't even seem to care what the word "incipient" meant in this context. The only thing of importance was that Dr. Callahan said the "spore preparation was coated with an incipient". For conspiracy theorists, anything they can find which seems to prove them right about anything, means they are right about everything. But, an examination of the text of the entire hearing indicates that they are still not right about anything.
(Later, everyone agreed that the word "incipient" should have been "excipient" (an inactive ingredient added to a drug (ie, in pill form) to dilute it or to give it form or consistency). Dr. Callahan's prepared statment was either transcribed incorrectly, or Dr. Callahan simply used the wrong word.)
The first thing of importance I noticed while reading the entire text of the hearing was this statement in the verbal testimony from Dr. Callahan:
We have over 200 laboratories in Subsaharan Africa from where we have documented anthrax and plague from humans. And these are laboratories which have the capability to isolate, to purify and to amplify to these agents from all the background infectious organisms.So, just as there are thousands of labs in America where a powder like the attack anthrax of 2001 could have been made, and 200 in Central New Jersey alone, there are also over 200 in Subsaharan Africa. (However, the fact that they do not have the Ames strain means they cannot produce the attack anthrax exactly.)
I particularly liked this statement from Dr. Callahan:
In our laboratory modeling exercises of small-scale biological weapons, we can produce 14 million lethal doses of anthrax as a model agent for a reagent cost of 36 pounds British Sterling. That is the reagent cost, that is not salaries. And this is done. It is not a theoretical laboratory modeling exercise, it has been done with the surrogates. It was mapped very carefully. It has an Excel spreadsheet that goes with it, and a list of reagents and inventories.So, Dr. Callahan has personal experience at making surrogate powders similar to the attack powder in a small lab. That would certainly seem to confirm what Peter Jahrling told a White House meeting about the Daschle anthrax on October 24, 2001 (according to Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer"):
"This anthrax could have come from a hospital lab or from any reasonably equipped college microbiology lab."And it certainly disputes what others have been saying about how sophisticated the powder was and how it could ONLY come from some supersophisticated government bioweapons lab.
Dr. Callahan hammers that point even more clearly in the next paragraph:
It is also important to note that the people who participated in that exercise used all open source information, they used the U.S. Patent Office and they used out of print microbiology textbooks. It is a scary incredible thing, and it is not just theoretical, it has already been capitalized both in laboratory modeling and in actual experience. I refer you back to the intelligence community's information on the American anthrax attack in 2001, which we won't discuss here.So, Dr. Callahan is confirming at some point in time, people working for him made a powder like the attack anthrax using information readily available to anyone who is interested. AND he implies that this agrees with what is in "the intelligence community's information on the American anthrax attack in 2001."
And Dr. Callahan was not finished speaking. He also said this,
The laboratory model that was used to produce that anthrax biological weapon was 200 square feet, had a capital infrastructure cost of about $220,000, and the graduate students were not salaried, so there were some cost benefits in there as well.He was saying once again and very clearly that the powder could have been made in a hospital lab or any reasonably well-equipped college microbiology lab, and certainly in any modern industrial lab which works with microbiology.
In his prepared statement he stated much the same thing:
For example, the skills required for bioweapon manufacture may be derived from manufacturing practices that use similar technologies such as the fermentative and agricultural sciences, vaccine manufacture, potable water treatment and environmental microbiology. In this regard, bioweapons offer specific advantages for covert manufacture by the terrorist:How much clearer does he have to be to state that the attack powder could have been made in any one of thousands of labs across America? It did NOT have to come from some supersophisticated government bioweapons lab.
The single sentence that others felt confirmed their beliefs appears earlier in his prepared statement. Here it is in context:
Many of the characteristics that make biological weapons attractive to past military programs also make them desirable to the terrorist. Fortunately, the convening of biological weapon capability and terrorist intent has not as yet resulted in a mass-casualty incident. Unfortunately, several disquieting observations of the October 2001 anthrax attack using the U.S. mail system merit emphasis. First, the attack illustrated that advanced expertise had readily been exploited by a bioterrorist; the preparation in the Daschle letter contained extraordinarily high concentrations of purified endospores. Second, the spore preparation was coated with an incipient which helped retard electrostatic attraction, thus increasing aerosolization of the agent. Third, the choice of the near-ubiquitous Ames strain, combined with the absence of forensic details in either the agent or the letters, indicate that the terrorist is scientifically informed, wary of detection and extremely dangerous.It's important to note that Dr. Callahan is talking about "the spore preparation" being coated with an excipient. Later in this comment, I'll go into the significance of that.
The statement that the Ames strain is "near-ubiquitous" is strange and may be another misused word, since all published reports say Ames had a very limited distribution back in 2001, and it certainly was not nearly omnipresent and found nearly everywhere. Anthrax may be "near-ubiquitous", but the Ames strain of anthrax definitely isn't.
Further down in his prepared statement, Dr. Callahan goes into detail about what would be needed to create the anthrax powder in almost any lab anywhere in the world:
From the perspective of the threat analyst, there are 7 overlapping conditions that need to be present for a terrorist group to produce an effective biological weapon. Failure to meet any of the following conditions can thwart an attempt at weapons production. These conditions are consolidated from consensus opinion of different U.S. Government working groups, by CIMIT's modeling activities and from field experiences working with over one hundred laboratories in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa [...] the seven conditions for biological weapon production are:So, an "incipient" could be some chemical to stabilize the anthrax and/or to improve purity. That definitely makes the correct word "excipient". So, let's look again at the sentence which initiated all the e-mails:
the spore preparation was coated with an [excipient] which helped retard electrostatic attractionThat seems to confirm something I've discussed many times with scientists and others but have not discussed much on this web site because it gets into actual technicalities of how to make a deadly anthrax powder. However, the information is known to most microbiology students and is described on the Net in an article in New Scientist Magazine dated 29 October, 2001. The New Scientist article says this:
The actual bacterial spore is ovoid and around half a micron wide. The whole trick to making anthrax weapons, says Ken Alibek, the former deputy head of the Soviet Union's bioweapons programme, is to turn wet cultures of bacteria into dry clumps of spores that are each between one and five microns wide, the optimal size to penetrate a human lung and stay there.One might conclude from Dr. Callahan's statement that the "chemical tests" showed that such an "additive" was present. But how would it appear? No one saw any additives under electron microscopes.
The "various molecules" are not identified, but they were added to the wet spores BEFORE drying. I first heard about this from a microbiology student who said it was common knowledge and much like adding a capful of Snuggle to the final rinse water for a load of laundry. The wet laundry is coated with the Snuggle when it comes out of the washing machine, and when the clothes go into the dryer the Snuggle molecules evaporate along with the water, but the process removes the static charge that would build up while drying laundry in hot, dry air without the Snuggle.
So, that would seem to confirm that "the spore preparation was coated with an excipient", and it would indicate that the "excipient" is a substance added to a final rinse to remove the static charge that occurs during drying. The excipent coating on the wet spores would evaporate during drying and the final product would be dry and uncoated, just like the attack anthrax. (Processing the anthrax letters through postal equipment later put a static charge into some of the spores.) It's important to note that a very careful scientific examination like the tests utilized in the new science of microbial forensics certainly might find traces of the excipient in the attack spores. If found, it would be valuable evidence in court.
Summing up: It was amazing to me that the word "coating" could be taken out of the context of Dr. Callahan's prepared statment and be used to argue that the the reports of sophisticated silica coatings on the attack anthrax were correct. A full reading of his words indicates just the opposite: The media reports of silica coatings on the attack spores and the need for a supersophisticated lab were absolute nonsense.
Of course, none of the people who were arguing with me would agree. They'll just continue hunting for something which will prove their theories to be correct.
If what they find is as good as what they found on Thursday, I look forward to seeing it.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 29, 2006
July 23, 2006 - While the only "anthrax news" last week seemed to be about cattle ranches in Manitoba and Minnesota being quarantined (in addition to those already quarantined in Saskatchewan) because cattle were dropping dead of the disease, I was inundated with e-mails from a conspiracy theorist who began his tirade as a result of the FBI scientist Dwight Adams deposition material I posted last week, where Adams said,
As I've already stated there was specific information that I did not feel appropriate to share with either the media or to the Hill because it was too sensitive of the information to do so. It would show too much of where we were going and what we hoped to accomplish.Any time a government official says there is information which cannot be released to the media, conspiracy theorists use it as proof that the government is doing secret things (which is true) and those secret things are not in the best interest of the American people (which is usually not true). Keeping certain facts about an ongoing criminal investigation out of the media is generally in the best interests of the American people, since it is generally bad for everyone if information is released prematurely. And, as illustrated in Chapter 15 of my book, the anthrax case is a prime example of that.
The deposition of Dwight Adams contained some information about his background. He was deposed by Dr. Hatfill's lawyer Tom Connolly:
Connolly: Have you testified under oath in the past?The controversy over Dwight Adams begins with that infamous article in Science Magazine which promoted the idea that the attack spores were deliberately coated with silica and "polymerized glass" in some sophisticated bioweapons laboratory, even though Dwight Adams suggested otherwise:
Sources on Capitol Hill say that in an FBI background briefing given in late 2002, Dwight Adams, one of the FBI's top- ranking scientists, suggested that the silica discovered in the Senate anthrax was, in fact, silicon that occurred naturally in the organism's subsurface spore coats. To support his thesis, Adams cited a 1980 paper published by the Journal of Bacteriology-- a paper that Matthew Meselson, a molecular biologist at Harvard University, says he sent to the FBI. The authors reported that they found silicon, the element, in the spore coats of a bacterium called B. cereus, a close cousin of anthrax.The author of the Science article seems to have totally failed to realize the importance of two things: (1) the fact that something is rare means it is more valuable as evidence, and (2) "contamination" is extremely valuable when analyzing the source of a bioweapon.
But, I don't want to go into the endless debates I had last week about coatings on spores. I've discussed that subject in detail on this web site many many times already. What I thought was most interesting about the debate was the thinking of this conspiracy theorist versus the thinking of the True Believer who inundated me with e-mails the previous week. I saw a very clear distinction between the thinking of these two individuals, and I feel it may be applicable across the board to define how nearly all conspiracy theorists and True Believers think.
While True Believers seem to be defined by what they thoroughly believe without any shadow of a doubt, conspiracy theorists seem to be defined by what they cannot believe.
Some conspiracy theorists just cannot believe that all the people who claim to have seen flying saucers were simply seeing such things as weather balloons, spotlights shining on clouds or swamp gas, or they were just dreaming or they were perpetrating hoaxes, and the conspiracy theorists feel there must be some massive government plot to cover up the truth about flying saucers visiting Earth.
Some conspiracy theorists just cannot believe that a single gunman could not have killed President Kennedy and feel there must have been some massive conspiracy to cover up the truth about some government plot to kill the President.
Some conspiracy theorists just cannot believe that it's possible for a human to travel to the moon, and they feel that all the mountains of evidence showing that it really happened must be part of some vast government conspiracy to perpetrate a hoax.
Some conspiracy theorists just cannot believe that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed because of airplane strikes and faulty design and feel that explosives must have been planted and the government was behind it in some vast conspiracy.
Some conspiracy theorists just cannot believe that a lone scientist can manufacture pure and deadly anthrax spores in a small lab in spite of all the available evidence, and they feel that there must be some vast government conspiracy to cover up the truth.
Admittedly, I have much more experience discussing things with conspiracy theorists than with True Believers who scare me and who I try to avoid like the plague. But even my limited experience with True Believers has shown that they will preach their gospel to you until you either convert or escape and set up walls to keep them away. They not only want to covert you, they also want you to help them convert others. The True Believer I've been dealing with has filled my e-mail inbox with demands and pleadings that I post on my web site his findings about al Qaeda's plots and plans because, evidently in his mind, plots and plans are the same as proof of guilt. Al Qaeda plotted to kill Americans with anthrax, therefore they must have been behind the anthrax attacks. He has researched al Qaeda thoroughly, and he can quote his "gospel" to explain any fact which disputes his beliefs. If I say it makes no sense that al Qaeda would send medical advice ("TAKE PENECILIN NOW") as part of an anthrax attack, he can quote from some Muslim source which appears to recommend or justify such a warning. If I say there is no evidence that al Qaeda had access to the Ames strain, he can bury me in facts about Muslim students in America and England who could have obtained Ames somehow. He can rationalize anything, even a belief that the FBI has already captured the al Qaeda terrorist who sent the e-mails but is keeping it secret from the American people for some reason involving "national security" and some need to prevent al Qaeda terrorists in America from learning that they are being investigated by the FBI.
But, the point I wanted to make is that a True Believer truly believes. And it's unimportant what he does not believe. He doesn't believe Dr. Hatfill sent the anthrax letters because he believes al Qaeda did. He doesn't have any strong feelings about coatings on the attack spores because he believes al Qaeda could do it either way, with or without coatings. It's all about what he believes.
With conspiracy theorists it's just the opposite. The people who feel there was an American government conspiracy behind the collapse of the Twin Towers don't appear to have any strong feelings or even a consensus about motivation. They suggest that maybe "the government" wanted to gain control of the oil in the Middle East. Maybe the Bush administration wanted to guarantee that Bush would be reelected. Maybe Jews in the government wanted a war against Muslims. Who knows? Who cares? The only important point to the conspiracy theorists is that they do not believe that the Twin Towers could be brought down so easily without the help of well-planted explosives.
Where do the conspiracy theorists who think the government is hiding evidence of flying saucers believe the aliens came from? Who cares? Why do they believe the aliens are visiting us? Who cares? Why do they believe the government is hiding the truth? Who knows? The only important fact is that they do not believe that so many people can be mistaken about having seen flying saucers. It all must be some massive government conspiracy to cover up the truth.
Why do the conspiracy theorists think America concocted the huge "hoax" about America travelling to the moon? Who knows? It was probably to get public support behind a costly program to compete with the Russians during the Cold War. Or maybe it was just a big show put on to con the American people into paying more taxes. Whatever the reason, the only important fact is that the conspiracy theorists do not believe it is possible for a human to travel to the moon and survive, so it must all have been a gigantic U.S. government conspiracy to delude the world.
Why do conspiracy theorists believe that the U. S. government is covering up the "fact" that the attack anthrax spores had a sophisticated coating of silica? They don't really have an answer. They don't even want to say. They aren't concerned with motives. They simply do not believe that a lone scientist could create such a deadly powder, therefore it must be some sophisticated government lab involved.
I'll cringe when an e-mail from a True Believer appears in my in-box, and I thoroughly dislike arguing with True Believers, but I often enjoy discussing ideas with conspiracy theorists - as long as they aren't just playing "follow the leader" and repeating the words of others. Their efforts to find new proof which supports their conclusions can sometimes be very informative. The 50 or more e-mails of last week were worth the effort to read and answer because one contained a link to this document which I 'd never seen before: Aeration of Bacillus anthacis in Submerged Fermentation. It led to a lively discussion about whether spores form in the water or in the air in the water.
While these observations about True Believers and conspiracy theorists mainly illustrate differences, there are also some areas where they seem to think very much alike. They both think they know the truth. They both think they are supported by the facts. They both rationalize or dismiss facts which show them to be wrong. They both think the majority of Americans agree with them. They both think people who disagree with them are "closed-minded". And the one true common trait I encounter nearly every day is that they both hate being analyzed and labeled. True Believers hate being called True Believers. Conspiracy theorists hate being called conspiracy theorists.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 22, 2006
July 16, 2006 - Digging through the 199 pages of the latest motion by Dr. Hatfill in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit, I found many mildly interesting tidbits and one or two very interesting tidbits about a variety of subjects, but nothing of a headline making nature. (Because of the size of the document, I can't put it on this web site without incurring bandwidth costs I cannot afford.) The purpose of the motion is summed up on page 6 of of the "Reply Brief" under the heading "The Names of the Agency Personnel Who Committed the Violations Need Not Be Discovered for Dr. Hatfill To Prove his Case". It says:
No one would be happier than Steven Hatfill to have the names of his tormentors publicly revealed. As a practical matter, Dr. Hatfill is acutely aware that the reporters and news organizations are likely to resist any such motion to compel, perhaps even to the point of being held in contempt. There is every reason to expect extensive motions practice before this Court and then appeals, which would significantly delay the vindication of Dr. Hatfill's rights. If this were necessary for Dr. Hatfill to prove his claims, he would follow this course. However, he need not do so because the evidence already assembled, even without individual names, is sufficient to establish his claims at trial. Dr. Hatfill's own decision to avoid unnecessary collateral litigation with the press does not prevent the Agency Defendants from moving to compel disclosure of confidential sources should they choose to do so; but the Agency Defendants have no right to insist the Dr. Hatfill move to compel these disclosures if they are not necessary to prove his case.The supporting documents do a good job of showing that it truly was FBI and DOJ personnel who were leaking information to the media, and it was not all just baloney the media made up, nor was it all false information from local law enforcement officials and people who were not part of the FBI or DOJ. It is abundantly clear that FBI and DOJ personnel were leaking information to the media, although, except for one Van Harp situation, no one seems to know who did the leaking. But, nevertheless, the argument hits a legal snag - in my non-lawyer opinion - starting on page 19 under the heading "The Facts Established in Discovery Are Sufficient to Show That There Can Be No 'Independent knowledge' Defense For These Disclosures":
The leaks at issue in this case could only have come from the Anthrax Investigation; none could conceivably have come from personal knowledge.My non-lawyer response to that argument would be, "Yeah, but ... but ... but ... it's not that simple." And the depositions seem to show it is not that "simple".
There are clear indications that government employees said things about Dr. Hatfill that they should not have said, and it seems like everyone in the FBI pretty much agrees that Attorney General John Ashcroft was acting improperly and being carelessly unethical when he called Dr. Hatfill a "person of interest" on national TV. But, the bulk of the "leaks" to the media about Dr. Hatfill do not seem to have come from people who were actually involved in the anthrax investigation. The information comes from officials who got their information from discussions "around the water cooler" or from similar sources.
One of the new documents contains tidbits of deposition from Arthur R. Eberhart, the retired Special Agent formerly in Charge of the Washington Field Office of the FBI. In the late spring of 2002 he was about to retire but was still had "day to day involvement in the anthrax investigation" at a high-supervisory level. Dr. Hatfill's lawyer Tom Connolly questioned him about the concern the FBI and Director Mueller had regarding leaks to the media. Here are snippets of those questions and answers:
Eberhart: ... a lot of times there were articles in the newspaper that were just totally wrong, and it would cause us issues in the investigation. And, you know, we would spend days trying to resolve those.Eberhart's transcribed testimony picks up in the middle of a discussion and contains this tidbit which begins page 30 of the 100 page "Exhibits A-J".
Connolly: So you left the FBI knowing Dr. Hatfill was the primary focus of the investigation. That was what your belief was when you left; correct?So, when Eberhart left the FBI he believed that Dr. Hatfill was the "primary focus" of the FBI's investigation. But he knew that Dr. Hatfill was not the only person being investigated, and there some key facts which must be understood: Arthur B. Eberhart was not in charge of the Washington Field Office at the time of the anthrax attacks and was never in charge of the Amerithrax investigation. Van Harp had taken over as head of the Washington Field Office in July of 2001. Eberhart apparently just sat in on some briefings prior to his retirement. It was Van Harp who was behind the "investigation" of Dr. Hatfill. (Van Harp is being sued along with John Ashcroft in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit.)
What this shows very clearly, however, is that there were people within the FBI who thought that Dr. Hatfill could be the culprit. And it's known from elsewhere that there were also people in the FBI who thought that al Qaeda was behind the attacks. All this really shows is that the FBI is not a Borg Collective where everyone knows what everyone else knows and all think alike.
Therein lies the "problem". And the "problem" becomes much more clear in the depositions of various reporters. What the reporters say again and again is that their sources were FBI and DOJ agents or other FBI or DOJ personnel who the reporters knew before the anthrax attacks - often years before the attacks. What reporters do when they want "inside" information is contact people they already know in the FBI or DOJ. There's a problem with that.
According to the October 1, 2002–March 31, 2003 Semiannual Report to Congress by the Office of the Inspector General, "The FBI has approximately 27,800 employees: 11,400 special agents and more than 16,400 employees who perform professional, administrative, technical, or clerical operations." At the time of the anthrax attacks of 2001, there were 700 agents working at the Washington Field Office (which was second only to the New York Field Office with 1,100 agents). It appears that even at its peak, there were about 50 FBI agents working on the Amerithrax investigation - and it's not known exactly how may of those were from the Washington Field Office. The Newark Field Office also appears to have some involvement.
So, in many or most instances, the reporters were almost certainly talking with agents who were not part of the Amerithrax investigation. Yet, those agents would still comment about the investigation to reporters they'd known for years.
The deposition of Toni Loci of USA Today covers the subject very well. She was questioned by Dr. Hatfill's attorney Patrick O'Donnell:
O'Donnell: Did anyone at FBI tell you that he or she believed that Dr. Hatfill committed the anthrax attacks?She couldn't remember the reasons people believed what they did, but she said the reasons were given in the "stories" she wrote.
Checking her "stories", I found only one that seemed relevant. It's from May 28, 2003, and was titled "Anthrax investigators tail scientist '24/7'." It contains this:
The FBI's tactics appear to be designed to put pressure on Hatfill, a former researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. But four law enforcement sources familiar with the anthrax probe say the real reason for the round-the-clock surveillance is rooted in the FBI's new mission of preventing terrorism. FBI officials believe they can't risk the embarrassment of losing track of Hatfill, even for a few hours, and then being confronted with more anthrax attacks.Alan Lengel of the Washington Post had some things to say on the subject in his deposition. He was being deposed by another one of Dr. Hatfill's lawyers, Mark A. Grannis, Esq.
Grannis: Did any FBI or DOJ sources ever tell you they believed Dr. Hatfill committed the anthrax attacks?The deposition of FBI Special Agent Bradley Garrett contains some comments about how leaks complicate the investigation. He was deposed by Tom Connolly who once worked cases with Garrett when Connolly was a federal prosecutor:
Garrett: Well, when you are investigating a case, the last thing you want is for the people that you are interested in or focusing on in a case to -- to raise their profile, because when you raise their profile, they change their routine, and you don't want them to change their routine. If they are doing bad things, they are doing bad things. If they aren't, they aren't. But you want them to keep doing how they normally do things, because, in reality, it makes it easier to solve the case than it does once you spin them and they start altering their behavior.They go further into that line of questioning later:
Connelly: Could it provide the perpetrators of the offense and opportunity to thwart the investigation?Bob Roth was evidently in charge of the group which investigated Dr. Hatfill, and he is one of the "lead case agents" handling the Amerithrax investigation. At one point, Richard L. Lambert, who was put is in charge over them after Van Harp's retirement and who now heads up the Amerithrax investigation, wanted to polygraph everyone on the case to see who was leaking to the media. But Director Mueller nixed that idea as bad for morale. Roth states somewhat emphatically but awkwardly:
I have not been the source knowingly of any leak in this matter. And I've tried to review it carefully and I tried -- I can't find all the documents that I wrote up with press contacts. There were -- I had press contacts. I typically wrote them up as a 302 or an insert and I submitted them -- we -- they were searching for one I couldn't find yesterday but I generally had an agent in the office or in that room when there was someone -- a member of the press but --The depositions indicate that an actual criminal investigation was or is underway within the FBI to track down the source of some information which was leaked to Newsweek about the bloodhounds. Connolly asked Roth about the Newsweek article:
Connolly: You remember this article. Why do you remember this article?The snippets of the deposition of Van Harp do not cover his talk with Eleanor Clift of Newsweek. But the fact that he confirmed information that is almost certainly totally wrong could be enough to end the lawsuit in Dr. Hatfill's favor. But we'd first need solid testimony that the information is indeed totally wrong and that Van Harp knew it.
At some point in time, an attempt was made to stop the leaks, although it's never made clear if they were concerned about leaks regarding the general investigation or leaks regarding Dr. Hatfill.
Connolly: Did you ever see an e-mail or an electronic or any other sort of communcation arising out of Director Mueller's office that said words to the effect that these leaks are killing us, they must stop, anyone caught leaking on the anthrax case, there will be severe consequences, anything at all on those lines?The term "compartmentalization" actually comes up when Tom Connolly deposed Inspector Richard L. Lambert, who was and still is in direct charge of the Amerithrax investigation.
Lambert: ... the Director did order actions to be taken to stop the leaks.What's somewhat intriguing about this piece of the deposition is that it says there are "three squads" working on the Amerithrax investigation. Elsewhere, in the deposition of Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Kohl, Kohl says there were initially two:
Connolly: Now, who is David Dawson?The mission or function of the "third squad" is never given.
Also intriguing is a snippet of the deposition of FBI scientist Dwight E. Adams on January 11, 2006, that begins in mid-sentence:
... a weekly basis so I know the progress that we're making. I think the director appreciates the progress that we're making and, therefore, no, sir, I've not had anyone that I supervise express that.It seems pretty clear from that that whatever "progress" that is being made in the Amerithrax investigation, it is being made in Dwight Adams' area of expertise.
Adams briefed Senate staffers on the progress of the Amerithrax investigation, and facts from one confidential briefing were evidently leaked to the media, ending up a bit distorted in the infamous Science article by Gary Matusmoto and in a Washington Post article by Dan Eggert and Guy Gugliotta. The deposition goes into the difficulties of talking about the science of the anthrax investigation:
Connolly: Earlier you testified that regarding the scientific aspect of the investigation there was information that was simply in your view too sensitive to share to the public about the particular characteristics of the organism sent in the mail. Is that correct?The snippet of the deposition of Dwight Adams ends with another incomplete sentence, but this time ending half way through the sentence. Tom Connolly questioned him about whether any scientific briefing to senate staffers which Adams may have given might have resulted in a leak about Dr. Hatfill. Adams begins:
No, I don't recall that and your question about whether it was related to Mr. Hatfill, I don't think that would have been possible because we didn't talk about that to ...So, what does all this mean?
Among other things, it seems to make it absolutely clear that, as stated before, the FBI is not a Borg Collective, and any sentence that begins with "The FBI believes ..." is probably in need of qualification. There could very well be people in the FBI who do not believe whatever is being stated.
It appears that there were some within the FBI who thought Dr. Hatfill could be the culprit, but many were "skeptical". And it appears that some were concerned that the FBI would be "embarrassed" if there was an attack during a time when Dr. Hatfill was not under 24-hour surveillance.
It appears that Van Harp was personally responsible for the release of some of the bad information connecting Dr. Hatfill to the anthrax attacks. He claims to have been misquoted, but he still seems to be the "main man". And, it's somewhat understandable, since, as head of the Washington Field Office at the time, he would have been the person feeling virtually all the pressure piled upon the FBI by the amateur investigators, the conspiracy theorists, the media, the politicians and the general public who in late 2001 and early 2002 were openly demanding that Dr. Hatfill be investigated and that the supposed "cover up" of his involvement in the attacks be ended. Even if he wasn't responsible for bad information leaked to the media, he was still fully responsible for the so-called "investigation" of Dr. Hatfill and 24-7 "in your face" surveillance.
And putting that much effort into investigating Dr. Hatfill would certainly convince some people within the FBI that Dr. Hatfill was the "focus of the investigation", even if their computer files showed no real evidence of Dr. Hatfill's guilt.
But, as far as the lawsuit is concerned, I'll leave it to Judge Walton to decide just how this deposition material meets the requirements of a violation of the Privacy Act.
As for me, it seems just more confirmation of what I wrote in my book and what I've been saying for years on this web site: The harassment of Dr. Hatfill was a political matter and had nothing to do with the actual investigation, except that it was another "lead" that investigators were obligated to check out because of the amount of pressure being applied to the FBI to investigate Dr. Hatfill and to stop "covering up" for him. Furthermore, it is the scientific investigation which is causing the delays in closing the case. And at least some people in the FBI feel that the FBI is still making progress on that part of the investigation.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 15, 2006
July 15, 2006 - As expected, according to The New York Times, the letter they received yesterday containing a white or beige powder turned out to be a routine hoax.
July 14, 2006 - According to the Reuters News Service, The New York Times today received a letter containing a suspicious white powder. An investigation is underway, and the odds are that it's just another hoax. There have been so many hoaxes over the years that they hardly seem worthy of mention anymore. And that holds true with the actual anthrax outbreak currently killing cattle in Saskatchewan. There are outbreaks among cattle every summer somewhere and around the world all the time, but his one is the worst outbreak ever seen in Saskatchewan. Not only that, but CBC News is reporting that a man in Saskatchewan is recovering from contracting cutaneous anthrax. Presumably, none of this has anything to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001, of course, but it's probably worth mentioning anyway to keep things in perspective.
July 12, 2006 - I just finished printing out a document filed in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit, that is titled "Plaintiff's Reply Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery and Overrule Defendant's Assertion of Law Enforcement Privilege". The document is in 4 parts and consists of around 200 pages, many with two or three columns of fine print giving deposition dialog. Most of it seems new, and it all seems to relate to the claim by Dr. Hatfill's lawyers that they do NOT need to compel reporters to reveal sources because the depositions already show that the government is at fault and Dr. Hatfill just needs Judge Walton to compel the government to stop asserting "Law Enforcement Privilege" where such privilege doesn't apply.
I haven't yet gone through the document with a highlighter to be certain of exactly what it says, but that's the impression I get after a quick skim-through.
Of course, we've seen in previous documents that the government claims that the media is simply making some of the stuff up. And they even showed a few minor examples where this was proven to be true. (The CBS web site incident I commented about on July 3 being the prime example.) And it is now made very clear that the government wants Judge Walton to compel reporters to testify and name their sources in order to show that Dr. Hatfill has no claim.
So, it looks to me that Judge Walton will be asked to rule on this on or shortly after August 30. Although I'm no lawyer, it seems to me that when the DEFENDANT says that proof of "innocence" is available IF the judge just compels witnesses to provide the information, the Judge has no choice but to do so - as long as it doesn't involve national security, and it doesn't.
Right now, I'm not certain if I'll put the new documents on my web site. The largest is 11.4 MB in size (11,400,000 bytes). That's a LOT of bandwidth, which is an expense to me. However, it appears that only lawyers and the media look at such documents. I plan to upload them IF they contain interesting stuff. But first I have to read them. That may take days.
July 11, 2006 - I asked Ron Suskind if he could clarify what he wrote in his book "The One Percent Doctrine" about how the "CIA and FBI had been focused on determining whether al Qaeda was involved in the anthrax letter attacks in 2001" and how the answer was NO. He responded, but I'm not sure if his response will change any minds:
Ed,I'm certain a True Believer will still be able to find something in that e-mail which they can twist to mean that Ron Suskind was saying the opposite of what he said.
July 9, 2006(B) - Although in this morning's "comment" I mentioned Ron Suskind's book "The One Percent Doctrine," I didn't mention the information about the anthrax attacks of 2001 that is included in that book. The information has been the subject of some angry e-mail messages I received during the past couple weeks, but I didn't have time to get to a book store to examine the book nor to focus on what the book said about the anthrax attacks. I did finally manage to examine the book yesterday, and, somewhat in line with this morning's comment, I discovered that the angry e-mail messages were really all about how different people analyze the same facts. And I needed time to think about that (a.k.a. "paralysis by analysis"). I've done the necessary thinking, and I'm adding a new "comment" now:
The e-mails I received during the past weeks contained re-typed passages from Suskind's book, and that's what I'm using here.
The anthrax attacks of 2001 are first mentioned on page 70 of "The One Percent Doctrine" just before this paragraph:
The age-old killer had been formally introduced to the American psyche two months before. On September 18, four letters containing anthrax were mailed to NBC, the New York Post, and other news organizations. Letters to Democratic senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy were mailed on October 9. The words "Death to America, Death to Israel, Allah is Great" were written on a note in two letters to the U.S. Senate. The nation -- just a few weeks after 9/11 -- was stunned. Five people died, twenty-three others were infected; the Senate office buildings were shut down on October 17, after thirty-one congressional staffers tested positive for exposure. While al Qaeda was initially suspected, by mid-November, FBI investigators were pointing toward a domestic source. They thought the culprit might be a disgruntled scientist with anthrax experience, but they had nothing definitive.As an analyst, what I noticed first was that known facts are contradicted by the information I highlighted in red. But the "new" information comes from a journalist not an investigator, so there's almost no chance that they are truly "new" or "revised" facts. They are definitely errors. The facts say there were almost certainly five letters (NBC, ABC, CBS, AMI and The New York Post) mailed on September 18, not four. The facts say there were twenty-two people in total who were infected by the anthrax spores from the two mailings. The book may say that five died plus "twenty-three others were infected", bringing the number of infections to a total of 28, but that contradicts the known facts from more reliable sources and is therefore an error. To err is human.
In early 2002, American military actions in Afghanistan turned up indications that al Qaeda was looking to make bioweapons - particularly anthrax weapons. (Click HERE for a CNN report on this.) Suskind's book goes on to say that during one raid on an al Qaeda camp in Durunda, Afghanistan, some documents were found and shipped to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. A CIA analyst there ...
... a woman with particular expertise in biological agents, happened across something that startled her. The documents were plans for a biological-processing facility. There were detailed manuals pertaining to the handling of a variety of biological agents. The special focus was on anthrax. Zawahiri, the documents indicated, was heading up the bio program himself, joined by Mohammed Atef, al Qaeda's military commander and the key allocator of resources. Though it was not clear whether or not they had yet obtained or manufactured anthrax, the al Qaeda program was well along.The information was brought to Vice President Cheney:
The years weighed on Cheney -- the frustrations with analysts offering their balanced assessments, their caveats and disclaimers, the wearying decades of intramural combat inside the federal behemoth. The one percent rule freed him from that. It was all about identifying an probable enemy, a suspect -- and getting to that enemy before he got to us. If, in fact, the anthrax letters were born of plans and possibly materials in Afghanistan, it would mean that the enemy - an al Qaeda bio-attack team -- was currently operating in the United States.The middle of the book includes the mention of various searches for anthrax in Iraq and Afghanistan. None of the searches produced anything truly worthwhile ... until one search in 2003. A description of that finding begins on page 251.
The United States -- essentially the consumer of the intelligence -- directed the affair [of Hambali's interrogation beginning in August 2003]. Hambali was long thought to be tightly connected to the biological operations by al Qaeda. Yazid Sufaat, a Hambali association who had a degree in chemistry and laboratory science from the California State University in Sacramento, was picked up by the Malaysian police in December 2001 on a trip from Afghanistan. The Malaysians -- who have mixed feeling about cooperating with the United States -- granted the U.S. access to Sufaat in late 2002. That questioning, and intelligence gathered in the ensuing months, helped the Jordanians focus Hambali's interrogations.And that's what generated the e-mails. Some who continue to believe that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks look at this and see two things: (1) A sample of "extremely virulent" anthrax was found in an al Qaeda facility in Afghanistan, and (2) it was produced in the months before 9/11.
They ignore the fact that the text clearly states that the CIA and FBI had been focusing on determining if the anthrax attacks of 2001 were the work of al Qaeda, and the answer to that question turned out to be NO.
The other information is about the other question - whether al Qaeda could produce a lethal bioweapon. But, they ignore that and, instead, they see ways to make this information fit their beliefs: The Ames strain is a "extremely virulent" strain. Could the strain found in Afghanistan be Ames? Ron Suskind doesn't name the strain. Therefore it could be Ames! Maybe Suskind didn't realize the importance of the Ames strain and just failed to mention it!
Of course, that would imply that the CIA and the FBI also failed to realize that if it was the Ames strain that would help PROVE that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks. Since the name of the stain is not mentioned, some believe that's "possible", too.
It doesn't make any difference that anthrax is endemic in Afghanistan and epidemic in neighboring countries, and that there are MANY "extremely virulent" stains of anthrax, including some which are far more virulent than Ames. The only thing that matters is that the strain was not named, therefore it could be Ames. Or, to put it another way, to them it WAS Ames until proven otherwise. And that is proof that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001 -- until proven otherwise.
Furthermore, the e-mails indicated that the people who believe this way also believe that the FBI has arrested the al Qaeda agent who sent the anthrax, he's been locked up for years, and the FBI is evidently covering up that fact for some unknown reason. (Although I'm sure a reason can be quickly dreamed up if necessary.)
The people who believe this are angry with me because I don't see the obvious. I'm "closed-minded", they have declared. They are amazed. How can I be so blind as to not see that the fact that Ron Suskind failed to name the "extremely virulent" strain found in Afhganistan means that al Qaeda was behind the anthrax attacks?
I guess it's just because I analyze the facts differently.
These same people were upset with me on June 25 when I decided that the label on the package and letter in the package which contained the original Ames strain showed it was originally sent to USAMRIID from Texas. The letter in the package was written by someone at the TEXAS Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), a part of Texas A&M University, the reason for using a USDA label was given, and there was no reason to first send it to Iowa. To me, the image clears up all open questions and proves that the package went from Texas directly to USAMRIID and did not first go to the USDA labs in Ames, Iowa. As far as the people upset with me are concerned, however, the fact that there is no cancellation stamp on the package indicating from where it was shipped still leaves the question open. And, until someone locates the typewriter used to type the label back in 1981 and confirms that it was typed in Texas, then it has not been proven that the Ames strain did not first go to Ames, Iowa. And that means they can still believe it's still possible that someone at the USDA labs gave a sample to someone at Iowa State University, and that somehow an al Qaeda member got it from an ISU lab.
Again, we just analyze the facts differently.
July 9, 2006 (A) - During the past couple weeks, there was some discussion about news articles not directly related to the anthrax attacks, but which might still provide insights into how people view the attacks. The three items under discussion were: (1) Time Magazine's excerpt from the new book "The One Percent Doctrine" by Ron Suskind, (2) the Newsweek column titled "Why We Don't Get No Respect" by Fareed Zakaria, and (3) an article about the FBI in the Congressional Quarterly Weekly titled "FBI - Under the Gun" written by Jeff Stein. All three are directly or indirectly about the problem of dealing with intelligence analyses and intelligence analysts - a favorite subject of mine.
The "One Percent Doctrine" implemented by Vice President Dick Cheney appears to be the "doctrine" better known as "Shoot First and Ask Questions Later." After 9/11, Cheney was concerned with "a new type of threat -- what he called a 'low-probability, high-impact event'." Cheney defined it further: "If there's a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It's not about our analysis ... It's about our response."
So, evidently this means if you think there's a 1% chance that Iraq is a threat to your safety, start a war and take over that country to eliminate that threat. If it turns out you were mistaken and there was no real threat at all, well that's just the way things work sometimes. No problem.
When I was in the systems analysis field, the term used by people who refused to spend time analyzing facts was that it was "paralysis by analysis". The term used by analysts who were confronted by this refusal to analyze facts was "Never enough time to do it right, always enough time to do it over."
The Fareed Zakaria article "Why We Don't Get No Respect" uses the term "product of failure" to describe how managers can fail again and again and again until they are forced to try something different - things others have been asking and pleading with them to try. Then, when the new approach works, it gives them confidence, they decide it shows they were always doing things right, and they return to the same methodology which produced failure after failure. In other words, they don't learn from their mistakes, and the only time they do something right is when it is the "product of failure".
When I was in the systems analysis field, I encountered many people who would fail time and time again in their efforts, and yet they'd succeed as managers because they always seemed able to blame the failures on someone else -- or they had friends in high places. Some call it "politics".
The article "FBI - Under the Gun" describes some of the problems the FBI is having incorporating intelligence analysts into the "FBI culture" which primarily rewards people for making arrests. A veteran of the NSA described the suituation this way, "At the FBI, there's agents, and there's furniture." By this definition, intelligence analysts would be considered "furniture" at the FBI. But they are trying to change that.
The CIA has a much better understanding of the need for intelligence analysts. (When the Bush administration installed Porter Goss as the head of the CIA, it was immediately clear that Goss was another one of those people who don't like "paralysis by analysis" and who want to speed things up by getting rid of people who don't tell you what you want to hear. The motto for such people may be: Never let facts cloud the issue.)
Here's a section from "Under the Gun" which attempts to describe the main difference between the FBI and the CIA:
Congress may have acquiesced in the FBI's troubled performance as the government's lead counterterrorism agency, but that hasn't quelled the complaints of other influential critics off the Hill.The problem with this passage is that an intelligence analyst fits neither role. They aren't field personnel. They're not Boy Scouts or scallywags. They work at a desk. They read printed material and examine pictures and analyze what they've read and examined, i.e., they think about what it all means. They produce reports, not arrests. Movie examples are Robert Redford in "Three Days Of The Condor", Tyne Daly in "Telefon", George Dzundza in "No Way Out" and the various actors playing CIA analyst Jack Ryan in movies made from Tom Clancy novels. It's not uncommon to see an analyst who is in a wheelchair. They work with their minds, not their bodies.
Sitting at a desk doesn't generate much drama, so movies often have the analyst get out into the field where he's a "fish out of water" and gets shot at. But in real life the analyst typically just remains behind a desk, and if information is needed from the field, he tells his Section Head why the information is needed. If his Section Head agrees that there is a need, the Section Head requests that a officer in the field should try to get the information. Or he asks for a spy satellite view or a spy plane flyover or whatever will get the needed information. All that takes time. To some that becomes an example of "paralysis by analysis" and they'd rather "shoot first and ask questions later."
In the FBI, that might require that a field agent become a "gofer" who must "go for" information for an analyst. I can see that would be a cultural problem. It's too much like being sent out to fetch coffee.
However, the biggest problem I've seen in my experience in the business systems analysis field is that analysis is largely a natural ability, doing it well requires a specific aptitude, and very few people have that specific aptitude. The most common analogy is the 10 year old chess player who can easily beat experts who have been playing for decades. The problem is: if intelligence analysis is a good paying job, people will want to get into it whether they have the natural ability or not. That's where the right "culture" becomes important. It has to be a culture where a truly good analyst can survive and be recognized, even if there are hundreds around him who have been analysts a lot longer but just don't have the same ability to put things together in their minds.
But making the culture work means nothing if the managers at the top only listen to those who tell them what they want to hear or if they can't wait for facts to be analyzed and prefer to shoot first and ask questions later.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, July
thru Saturday, July 8, 2006
July 8, 2006 - On Wednesday, a
of the June 28 Status Conference in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al
was produced, but unfortunately you can only read it by going to the
of Judge Walton's clerk. Here's the Docket
July 3, 2006 - The Goverment submitted a new "filing" today in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit. Basically, it's just an expanded version of a previous document with some new sections of the government's deposition of Allan Lengel of the Washington Post and James Stewart of CBS News.
The first of the two new tidbits from the deposition of Allan Lengel seems to be some questions about whether or not Lengel was aware that some of the information in his article in the Washington Post may have come from a confidential sealed affidavit that was submitted to Judge Walton. Lengel responded that he wasn't aware of that. The questions related to this paragraph in the article:
Investigators have narrowed the likely source to a short list of labs, including Fort Detrick, the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and Louisiana State University, according to law enforcement sources who spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing government rules.One could interpret the questioning as a suggestion to Judge Walton that the reporter be compelled to name his sources, since the reporter may have somehow learned about confidential information provided to Judge Walton. The sources were identified by Allan Lengel as "Source 10" and "DOJ 1". Here's part of the questioning:
Q: [...] Did your reporting provide, in whole or in part, any basis for the statement that investigators had narrowed the likely source of the anthrax to the three labs listed in the article?The second of the new tidbits of deposition from Allan Lengel primarily relates to arguments about the government's attempts to phrase questions in a way which might reveal the identity of the source identified as "DOJ 1". That might also be a suggestion to Judge Walton that the reporter be compelled to idenfity his sources.
The new tidbits of the deposition of James Stewart of CBS News begin with this exchange relating to a May 8, 2003, story titled "FBI Still Watching Hatfill":
Q: Do you know what the question is that he was responding to?The rest is a discussion about how the CBS web site gets its information from CBS News (which is involved only with the TV broadcast). Looking up the quotes in question, I find that the original article from the CBS web site is no longer available, but I'm not the only one to have saved a copy. UCLA also saved a copy of the story titled "FBI Still Watching Hatfill". It's comforting to know that I'm not the only source on that.
The deposition shows that James Stewart just worked for the TV version of CBS News had no control over what went on the CBS.com web site. And it's only the web site which had the incorrect information about Dr. Hatfill:
Q: Do you know, does the Web broadcast reports on the Web or post reports on the web that have previously aired on CBS News?The testimony then leads into the same information I mentioned in my June 25, 2006(B) comment, but in my comment I simply quoted from the government's summary. The actual deposition gives a somewhat different picture of what happened:
Q: [...] The next sentence says, "'I think we've made progress,' said Harp of the case against Hatfill." Where did that come from, to your knowledge?So, someone who modifies the CBS News TV broadcast for use on the Web changed things to indicate that the FBI had made progress in the case against Hatfill, but in reality Van Harp merely said they had made progress in the anthrax investigation.
The key phrase in all this seems to be: "we should be a little more careful in the future."
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, July 1, 2006
June 29-30, 2006 - Well, something did indeed come out of Wednesday's status meeting after all. On Thursday, according to the Docket in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit, Judge Walton issued an ORDER that reads as follows:
Pursuant to the plaintiff's ore tenus motions and the Court's oral rulings issued during the status conference held on June 28, 2006, it is herebyOkay. So, what the hell does it mean? "Ore tenus" doesn't appear in either of my law dictionaries. However, a search with Google indicates is that it simply means an "oral motion". So it was all verbal and not in writing.
And the remainder of the Scheduling Order from June 6, 2005, is "vacated". That term is in my law dictionaries. It means Judge Walton set aside or nullified "the remainder" of that order. The only remaining items are that dispositive motions (a.k.a Summary Judgment motions) be filed by August 1, oppositions by September 1, and replies by September 15. The deadline for depositions evidently still remains at May 31, 2006.
And, instead, on August 30, 2006, the court will hear oral arguments on various motions that have been filed over the past year.
I'm not sure what it all means, but it sure seems like yesterday's status conference was important to how things will proceed from here on forward.
June 28-29, 2006 - I'm learning that it's probably a bad idea to try to figure out what's happening in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit by looking at entries in the Docket.
On Tuesday, Judge Walton denied a motion that had been pending since September 30, 2005, declaring that the motion by John Ashcroft, Van Harp et al, asking for a more "definite statment" from Dr. Hatfill was "moot". Why the long-delayed motion had suddenly become "moot" isn't explained.
And the entry regarding the status conference held on Wednesday just sets up what appears to be a routine "motion hearing" for August 30, 2006. The parties agreed in a "Meet and Confer Statement" back on May 20, 2005, that "Motions for Summary Judgment and Supporting Memoranda shall be filed by August 1, 2006." So, the "motion hearing" set for August 30 would appear to be nothing more than the time when either of the two parties can request a "summary judgment" by the judge. My legal dictionary defines "summary judgment" this way:
Summary Judgment: n. a court order ruling that no factual issues remain to be tried and therefore a cause of action or all causes of action in a complaint can be decided upon certain facts without going to trial. A summary judgment is based upon a motion be one of the parties that contends that all necessary factual issues are settled or so one-sided they need not be tried. [...] The theory behind the summary judgment process is to eliminate the need to try settled factual issues and to decide without trial one or more causes of action in the complaint. The pleading procedures are extremely technical and complicated and are particularly dangerous to the party against whom the motion is made.To me, it seems extremely unlikely that such a summary judgment will be made in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit since very few "necessary factual issues" have been settled. But, given the past history of this case, it's possible that both sides may request a summary judgment because they feel the evidence is so one-sided for their side. But ...there I go again ... trying to figure out what's happening in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit by looking at the entries in the Docket.
June 25, 2006(B) - A status conference originally scheduled to be held on June 2, 2006, in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit was rescheduled for June 15 and then rescheduled again for Wednesday June 28, 2006. There doesn't appear to be any reason to believe that anything significant will come from that status conference, but Judge Walton indicated on May 30 that he will soon rule on at least one motion. It seems to me that much of what is going on in the case would be resolved by ruling on motions. The endless motions are all about interpreting the law, which is not something that a jury would handle.
The "Defendant's Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Motion to Compel Discovery and Overrule Defendant's Assertion of Law Enforcement Privilege and to The Accompanying Motion" filed on Friday shows the need for rulings on the law.
However, on page 2 it also points out a question about Dr. Hatfill's strategy:
While Plaintiff has deposed some reporters who he claims published information from Department of Justice ("DOJ") and Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI) sources, the reporters have refused to identify their sources, and have testified only to their sources' place of employment. Despite the fact that the law of this Circuit clears the way for Plaintiff to compel the identification of sources, he has inexplicably failed to do so.It appears that the DOJ and the FBI would also like to know who the media's informants were. That takes us back to the Amicus Curiae Brief filed in the Wen Ho Lee case. The informants (if they truly exist) broke the law, the DOJ would evidently like to prosecute, but the media is "covering up" for these "lawbreakers".
Page 2 goes on to say,
Without the names of sources, Plaintiff cannot sustain his burden of proof on any of the threshold elements necessary for him to prove a Privacy Act violation for each of the "disclosures" he alleges.and as a result,
Plaintiff's motion is thus, at best, premature.In other words, the reporters should be forced to name their sources before going further with the lawsuit.
A ruling on this could be extremely interesting since it appears that the Wen Ho Lee case was settled so that no such ruling would be laid down and no new precedent created. Setting a legal precedent to force reporters to reveal sources is clearly seen as a big BIG problem by the media.
The government's Memorandum makes a very good case for not releasing privileged information to confirm what unidentified sources told the media. Although I'm not a lawyer, it doesn't seem to me that Dr. Hatfill will get very far with that tactic. But that may be the strategy: to show that he can't get very far with that tactic, so the only remaining tactic is to have a judge force reporters to reveal sources.
The Memorandum repeatedly states that the request for privileged information is "premature at best". Without identification of "unnamed sources" there can be no proof that the Privacy Act was truly violated. And only the media can supply the names.
On page 9 it says,
Even if Plaintiff could establish that a DOJ or FBI employee disclosed information contained in a Privacy Act-protected record, he could not succeed on his claim without also establishing that the disclosure occurred with the requisite level of intent. Thus, to sustain his burden of proof, Plaintiff must introduce evidence concerning the state of mind of the particular individual(s) who actually disclosed the information. And, of course, an essential predicate for establishing the individual's state of mind is to identify that individual.In other words, get the media to identify sources or you don't have a case. And on page 10 they cite the Wen Ho Lee case as not resolving the issue of whether a reporter can be forced to reveal the names of sources in a Privacy Act case.
The Memorandum then goes into discovery disclosures where the accuracy of media reporting is questioned. The cited discovery statements are in an Attachment to the Memorandum. I like these statements from pages 14 & 15 of the Memorandum:
With respect to Brian Ross of ABC News, Plaintiff's own spokesperson, Patrick Clawson, levied serious "criticisms about the accuracy of information in some of [Mr. Ross's] reports." ... Mr. Clawson claimed that his own "involvement in [a] particular piece was misidentified, and deliberately "misidentified" by Mr. Ross. [...] Mr. Clawson's criticisms went so deep that he testified that he had "serious ethical issues" with Mr. Ross's reporting....
Allan Lengel of the Washington Post, for example, testified that his editors attributed a statement to an anonymous federal law enforcement source that the source never made. [...] Although Mr. Lengel believes he brought the error to his editor's attention, the Washington Post did not run a correction....
CBS.com, meanwhile, reported that during an interview with CBS News correspondent James Stewart, former Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office Van Harp stated that the FBI had "made progress", said Harp of the case against Hatfill. Upon reviewing this report, Mr. Stewart conceded that this was inaccurate. [...] Mr. Stewart testified that Mr. Harp never made this statement, and that he had never even asked Mr. Harp about Plaintiff. [...] Mr. Harp stated merely that the FBI had made progess in the anthrax investigation.And in the actual depositions in the attachment there is an exchange with Toni Locy of USA Today that I really really like:
Q: Did you get the impression that your sources were giving you information in order to implicate Dr. Hatfill?The government's Memorandum sums things up this way on page 15:
In short, Plaintiff's entire case turns on what unknown FBI and DOJ sources allegedly told reporters. Unless those sources are identified, questioned, and cross-examined, however, the Court is left to rely on the uncorroborated testimony of the very reporters whom Plaintiff has accused of inaccuracy and misattribution, and who have themselves admitted to inaccurate reporting.And again on page 16 it shows that the govenment wants to force the media to name their sources, and the government is saying that Dr. Hatfill's case rests on it:
[R]eporters should be compelled to disclose their sources only after the litigant has shown he has exhausted every reasonable alternative source of information.And on page 17:
Accordingly, Plaintiff has exhausted his obligation under Zerilli and Lee to seek discovery from the government and may proceed to compel testimony from reporters.The Memorandum goes on and on about the need to compel reporters to name their sources in violations of the Privacy Act.
The only question is why Dr. Hatfill isn't doing so. Could it be because he wants the government to state the necessity? It certainly carries more weight than if Dr. Hatfill made the demand.
June 25, 2006(A) - I'm not sure what's causing the flood of documents and discussion which have been occupying my time for the past week, but one of the most interesting bits of information I received was solid evidence showing how the Ames strain got to the labs at USAMRIID. Lawyer Ross E. Getman, Esq. sent me a copy of a FAX of the label that was on the package USAMRIID received and the letter that was enclosed. Here it is:
As a result of this, the question of whether the Ames was shipped directly from Texas to USAMRIID is in dispute once again among some people. To me, it now appears that the media was right in saying that the Ames went directly from Texas to USAMRIID, and the sources which suggested that the Ames first went to the USDA in Iowa were wrong. Check my December 5-7, 2005, "comment" for details.
There is a lot of information in the FAX, but first we have to go back to what was printed in the Washington Post:
A search of long-forgotten Army documents finally resolved the mystery. The strain, it turns out, had come from Texas, which did experience anthrax outbreaks around 1980. The Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostics Laboratory at Texas A&M University isolated the microbe and shipped it to USAMRIID in May 1981.and The New York Times:
The new history of Ames, some of which was reported yesterday in The Washington Post, is being investigated by the F.B.I. along with the National Intelligence Council, which does federal threat assessments, and the Central Intelligence Agency.We can now examine that prepaid label for ourselves.
It is a prepaid label from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Ames, Iowa. And, as the New York Times said, there is another label pasted over the to-address portion of the prepaid label. It addressed the package to Gregory B. Knudson at USAMRIID.
If you were to only look at that, it would indicate that the package went from Iowa to USAMRIID. And that is how the Ames strain got its name.
BUT, there is also a letter. Although not completely legible, the letter appears to say:
Enclosed are 2 frozen[?] slant cultures of B. anthracis taken from a primary isolation on Blood agar.The letter is signed by the "TVMDL Bacteriology Dept." which is the TEXAS Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, a part of Texas A&M University.
So, as the media reported, the package went directly from Texas to USAMRIID.
But it also indicates that the TVMDL kept some of the sample for themselves, since they say "if the samples are not in viable condition [...] we can send more." That's an interesting tidbit of information - but probably of no real significance.
This seems to totally debunk any notion that the Ames strain was ever at any lab in Ames, Iowa. It was at neither the USDA labs nor at any lab at Iowa State University.
But those who believe that labs in Ames had the Ames strain, and that some terrorist got the sample from Iowa State University (ISU), argue that someone should do an analysis of the typing on the label to verify that the label wasn't typed by the USDA in Ames and that the samples weren't first sent to Ames and then on to USAMRIID.
However, based upon the frozen nature of the samples and the fact that the package also included a section of spleen, a Case History and a letter which clearly appears to be a response to Gregory Knudson's request, there doesn't seem any reason at all to believe that the samples would first go to Iowa and then to USAMRIID.
The problem I have with all this is that it has absolutely nothing to do with anything except a theory held by a few people that terrorists got a sample of Ames from Iowa State University. The people believing that theory have been digging for some facts which would prove they are right. To my embarrassment, although they didn't convince me that their theory was valid, on December 5 of 2005, they did convince me that the Ames strain did go first to Ames, Iowa. I even indicated in the "New Information" section of this site that I'd learned something new which I hadn't known before, changing my view of how the anthrax got to USAMRIID. Wrong! I was right in the first place. I had been swayed by a press release, by an article written in the ISU newspaper and by unverified statements which came from "Molly" via e-mail that the USDA labs in Ames may have had the Ames strain there for awhile. So, I've deleted that "new information".
This real new information says the Ames strain almost certainly did not get sent to Ames, Iowa. And, as before, even if they can find proof that the label was typed by the USDA in Iowa, it wouldn't prove that any of the Ames strain ever got to ISU.
It's nice to have a picture instead of opinions and reports. In this case, a picture is definitely worth more than a thousand words. (Technically, about 1,248 words.)
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 24, 2006
June 24, 2006(B) - Yesterday, some new documents were filed in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit which look very interesting, but I'm becoming overwhelmed with all the discussion and material that is suddenly coming to me, and I won't have time to read it for awhile, much less comment on it.
June 24, 2006(A) - According to the Washington Times, Michael Mason, who was once head of the FBI's Washington Field Office "has been named the bureau's executive assistant director for investigations, where he will oversee criminal and cyberspace probes, coordination with law enforcement, international operations and crisis response." I guess that means he once again has some connection to Amerithrax.
June 23, 2006 - Today, someone brought to my attention a passage in a 1999 book called "Plague Wars: The Terrifying Reality of Biological Warfare" by Tom Mangold and Jeff Goldberg. The passage begins on page 367:
According to Renaldo Campana, chief of the FBI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Countermeasures Unit, the Bureau sees the biggest terrorist threat as the "lone unstable individual". In the past, these oddballs were restricted in the damage they could cause. Nuclear and chemical weapons are simply too large and impractical for one man to employ, but biological weaponry is now down to the size of a can of hairspray. These violent, fanatical loners are the most unpredictable. FBI agents fear that a terrorist with technical proficiencies like the Unibomber, Theodore Kaczynski, will try to send their enemies packages or letter bombs armed with anthrax instead of explosives. The truth is that just one person with an aerosol can and a few grams of anthrax has the potential to infect an entire skyscraper. As Hauer knows only too well, the threats and hoaxes have already started -- against abortion clinics, government agencies, and even President Clinton. FBI officials also concede it will be it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to detect a skilled biological criminal cum terrorist.With today's arrest of 7 suspected al Qaeda terrorist wannabees in Miami, the logic behind the FBI's concern seems a bit more clear. The fewer people involved in some plot to kill a large number of people or to make some dramatic statement involving bioweapons, the more difficult it is to detect the culprits before they act. Kaczynski is the model of a "lone unstable individual," but we've also seen two people work together without detection before they struck: Oklahoma City, Columbine and the DC snipers.
It's definitely not easy to detect groups like the one in Miami before they strike, but it's next to impossible to stop the dedicated "lone unstable individual". They typically just don't set off any type of alarm or early warning system. The FBI recognized the danger of an anthrax attack like that which occurred in 2001 because of all the hoaxes which were taking place. But how do you identify a lone scientist on a silent mission before he strikes --- or even after he strikes?
June 19, 2006 - Someone who read the "comment" I wrote yesterday sent me an article from the Chronicle for Higher Education titled "Professors of Paranoia?". Apparently, he wanted to show me that arguing with scientists who believe there is a massive government conspiacy to cover up evidence that the anthrax spores used in the anthrax mailings of 2001 were coated with silica as part of some massive illegal U.S. goverment bioweapons program can be just as hopeless as arguing with college professors who think the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 was a massive government conspiracy. And someone else sent me an article about the "scientific dispute" over global warming which has scientists with impressive credentials arguing on both sides, but only one side seems to be concerned with facts.
It made me think back to my arguments with people who believe the landings on the moon where all a government hoax. I hope there is more that can be done besides pounding your head against the wall and saying, "I simply cannot believe the unbelievable things some people believe."
June 18, 2006 - There was no significant news about the anthrax investigation or the Hatfill lawsuits last week, yet I was inundated with e-mails about the investigation. It's been at least a year since I've had so many e-mails in one week.
Nearly all of the e-mails came from a scientist with whom I've argued the case for years. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, he once again began using a discussion forum to argue the same things he's argued endlessly before - almost as if it were the first time he's addressed the subjects. As always, he argued that the attack spores were coated with silica, citing erroneous newspaper reports and the false assumptions made by AFIP as proof of his beliefs, even though a careful analysis shows exactly how those early erroneous reports happened. He argued that the spores were given an electrical charge to make them burst out of the envelope when it is opened, even though we actually have pictures of FBI scientists opening the Leahy envelope, and no spores burst from it. Plus, the top bioweapons experts agree that you weaponize spores by neutralizing any electrical charge, and we even have scientific articles about how it's done. You do not weaponize spores by adding an electrical charge -- even if a blatantly political article in Science Magazine says so.
The problem once again exposed by these discussions is that the media has buried us in vast amounts of totally inaccurate information about the attack anthrax, and none of it has ever been corrected. So, people continuously cite old news articles as gospel even though those articles make no scientific sense.
But, that's why I got interested in the anthrax investigation in the first place: there were so many people stating beliefs which needed to be checked against facts in order to get an accurate picture of the situation. I just wish some of those facts would be publicly repeated by the FBI in a way that would require the news media to print them.
The new science of microbial forensics is apparently now established, and evidence based upon that science can now be used in court. What public benefit is being served by letting countless scientists continue to believe total nonsense about coatings on the spores?
Experts who have actually seen the attack anthrax have stated again and again that the Daschle powder consisted of "pure spores", which implies no additives and no coatings. But implied meanings clearly aren't enough to convince conspiracy theorists who believe the spores were given sophisticated silica coatings in some secret and illegal U.S. government bioweapons lab.
FBI Inspector Richard L. Lambert's deposition in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit indicates that the FBI gave classified briefings about the nature of the Daschle anthrax to Senate and National Security committees in mid-2002, and some of the classified information was promptly leaked to the media. Those committees were evidently told that the trace elements silicon and oxygen which AFIP detected in the spores came from some non-deliberate source such as lab contamination, and scientific details about such lab contamination could provide solid legal evidence about the sources, processes and the lab used to create the spores -- once the science of microbial forensics was firmly established and available for use in court.
That script was written four years ago. Although it's all still highly secret, there have been vague hints printed in scientific papers about what's going on, plus there have been endless delays in the Hatfill lawsuits because they can't talk about investigative work being done behind the scenes. In the past few months there have apparently even been orders and rulings which are being withheld from the public.
The theater is hushed. The stage appears set. The critics have all sharpened their knives. The audience is fidgety but waiting patiently. I even think I can hear noises backstage. But will the curtain ever go up?
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 17, 2006
June 13&15, 2006 - Have you ever had the feeling that people are keeping secrets from you? I definitely have that feeling with the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit. Last week, I checked the status of the docket and there was a notification that it had been updated on June 6. So, I paid my 8 cents and looked at the actual docket. There hadn't been any entries since April 7. The next day, I paid another 8 cents, but there was still no entry for June 6.
On Tuesday, I again checked the status of the docket, and
there was an entry posted Monday, June 12. I paid my 8 cents and
looked at all the entries for April, May and June. Here they are:
The mystery of the "endorsed letter" dated April 6 still remains a mystery. The endorsed opinion of March 27 which was filed under seal is also still a mystery. And the "Order to follow" has not yet followed.
Plus, there are two missing documents, #71 and #72. And there isn't even a docket entry for them, which makes me suspect that those documents could have been filed on June 6.
And then there's yesterday's entry. It says that attorney Laura Handman wants Judge McMahon to send any mail to her at her address in Washington DC. Handman works for the law firm of Davis Wright Tremainen LLP, which has offices in both New York City and Washington DC, and they represent Readers' Digest Magazine in the lawsuit. But, evidently, Laura Handman expects to be in her home base, Washington DC for awhile. (She's the wife of Harold Ickes, who was President Clinton's deputy chief of staff.)
I could speculate wildly here and suggest that perhaps some intense negotiations are underway in Washington, possibly something along the line of what led to the Wen Ho Lee settlement. But there isn't really enough evidence to go that far. All the evidence indicates is that something is going on, and it's not being made public ... yet. On the other hand, maybe the fact that Laura Handman is returning home just indicates that nothing is happening in the lawsuit that requires her to be in New York.
June 11, 2006 - After going through the sections of the depositions made public in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit, I spotted only one item of "new" information about the actual Amerithrax investigation.
The provided section of FBI Inspector Richard L. Lambert's August 3, 2005 deposition begins with questions about leaks to the media which may have come from a "classified" briefing. It begins with this exchange between Dr. Hatfill's lawyer Thomas G. Connolly and Inspector Lambert:
Connolly: Is there any passage in any of those articles that when you read it, you said to yourself, "Boy, this information may have come from the disclosures I made to Senator Daschle and Leahy?"They continue referring to the "scientific investigation" and how classified details of the scientific investigation may have leaked out of a meeting with Senators Daschle and Leahy. (I'm told that there were also other classified briefings from where the information may also have been leaked.) Although it isn't explained in the deposition, other sources of information have stated in the past that the FBI was upset about the leak of the fact that the silicon and oxygen found in the attack anthrax was "naturally occurring", i.e. it was absorbed from lab equipment. The deposition indicates that the Science Magazine article was of particular interest, probably because it was the first (and only) to specifically mention "polymerized glass".
Later in the deposition, the same subject seems to come up in a slightly different way:
Lambert: .... In each of those cases where I talked with a reporter, it was for the purpose of disclosing information about administrative details in the case in terms of providing information to the press about the FBI's level of commitment to the investigation; in terms of the number of FBI agents and postal inspectors that were assigned to the case; in terms of the number of man-hours or direct agent work-years the Bureau had devoted to the case; and in terms of outlining the competencies and specialties of the special agents that we had brought to bear on the investigation, such as the number of those who possessed a Ph.D in some scientific disciplines that were relevant to the investigation; and to simply characterize the FBI's level of commitment to the investigation and to point out that it remains an intensely active investigation. In each one of my cases, except for the Guy Gugliotta contact, my comments were limited to those thing I've just described.The discussions I had about this during the past week focused on a November 2, 2002 article by Washington Post staff writers Dan Eggen and Guy Gugliotta titled "FBI Secretly Trying to Re-Create Anthrax From Mail Attacks." The word I'm getting from forum discussions is that that article prompted the briefings of Senators Daschle and Leahy, possibly because the article points out that the FBI was still looking for a lone attacker who might work in an ordinary lab instead of someone with expertise in making sophisticated bioweapons which only a government lab could make. That article contains this sentence:
Investigators and experts have said the spores in the Daschle and Leahy letters were uniformly between 1 and 3 microns in size, and were coated with fine particles of frothy silica glass. The weaponized product was astonishingly pure -- 1 trillion spores per gram -- and so light that it simply floated into the air, ready to be inhaled, as soon as the envelope was opened.Less than a week prior to that article, Guy Gugliotta and Gary Matsumoto had written another article titled "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted". In that article, the reporters had conjured up an absurd theory (supported by "experts" who knew nothing about bioweapons but who knew about coating medicines) that the attack spores were coated with fumed silica.
That, of course, brought us back to the question of whether or not the spores were coated with silica. As the conspiracy theorists saw it, the FBI is covering up the fact that spores were coated in a way that could only be done by a massive, secret (and probably illegal) government bioweapons facility. As I saw it, Guy Gugilotta and Dan Eggen simply misinterpreted things the same way Gary Matsumoto misinterpreted them in the Science magazine article.
The spores weren't "coated with fine particle of frothy silica glass". They had fine particles of "polymerized glass" absorbed from lab equipment imbedded in the natural coating on the spores.
But, the fact that these reporters misinterpreted the information doesn't change the fact that it was classified information from a classified briefing, possibly the one given to Senators Daschle and Leahy (and probably their staffs) about the scientific investigation of the anthrax attacks.
So, when Guy Gugliotta was contacted as a "witness", it was evidently as a witness to a leak of confidential information, not as a witness to the anthrax attacks.
The deposition also mentions that Inspector Lambert talked with Gary Matsumoto, but doesn't go into the nature of their discussions. Lambert also talked with Marilyn Thompson. But, interestingly, he seemed most upset with Scott Shane who was then a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Lambert says of Scott Shane:
I believe that some of what Mr. Shane has reported in -- concerning this case has been inaccurate, yes.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, June
thru Saturday, June 10, 2006
June 9, 2006 - Looking over the depositions of FBI personnel Richard Lambert, Debra Weireman, Robert Roth and Bradley Garrett and former Attorney General John Ashcroft, I can't help but put some pieces together.
1. According to Robert Roth's deposition, a list of "persons of interest" was widely distributed around the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
2. Roth also says that FBI divisions complained that it was too risky and too much work to maintain the list. That would seem to be solid proof that Dr. Hatfill was not the only "person of interest" in the Amerithrax investigation.
3. It would also seem to indicate that the list of "persons of interest" was a DOJ idea, since it doesn't seem like something the FBI would share with the DOJ on their own, and FBI divisions complained about maintaining list.
4. The first person to publicly describe Dr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" was apparently Attorney General John Ashcroft, head of the DOJ.
5. FBI spokesperson Debra Weireman's deposition states that it is her understanding that the FBI did not "coin" Dr. Hatfill as a "person of interest" and that the FBI did not even call Dr. Hatfill a "person of interest", although unnamed sources in the media and writings by reporters cast some doubt on whether this is totally true or not.
6. Former head of the FBI's Washington Field Office, Michael Mason, stated in the media that he didn't like the term "person of interest", which also indicates it was a DOJ idea.
7. FBI Special Agent Bradley Garrett's deposition says Michael Mason was rumored to have been chewed out by Mueller for saying he didn't like the term, which would seem to indicate that a demand that Mason be chewed out came down from the DOJ. (If it was just between Mueller and Mason, we wouldn't have heard about it.)
8. In John Ashcroft's deposition he seems to defend the use of the term, but the documents attached to his deposition indicate he just makes things worse for Dr. Hatfill when he does use the term.
Also of interest in Debra Weireman's deposition is a series of questions and answers about a August 2, 2002, article in the Los Angeles Times (which I don't have in my collection) where reporter Josh Meyer quotes an unidentified FBI official who said "the bureau has within the last several days become far more suspicious of Hatfill" (those are the reporter's words, not a direct quote from the FBI official).
Then there's this exchange (slightly edited for clarity) between Dr. Hatfill's lawyer Tom Connolly and Debra Weireman:
Connolly: Do you have any doubt when Josh Meyer writes that another FBI official quoted here that in fact it was an FBI official who said that?Although this specific "FBI official" is not named, and without a name the information would have no value in court, it still seems to confirm that agents of the government violated the Privacy Act and have no legal defense for doing so. So, if some names are known (and that seems very likely), the only remaining debate would be to find a basis for settlement (as the government did with Wen Ho Lee). Any actual trial would only be for the purpose of getting a jury to decide the amount the government would have to pay to Dr. Hatfill, an event which the government would certainly want to avoid.
Meanwhile, a basis for settlement is being sought. It all depends upon whether or not the government will have to pay "non-pecuniary damages" (damages other than loss of wages and legal fees). That's a matter which Judge Walton will decide, not a jury.
Looking over the government's recent "Reply in Support of Motion to Preclude Non-Pecuniary Damages or, in the alternative, for an Independent Mental Examination", it's all too legally technical for me to determine whether they have a good case for avoiding any damage payment to Dr. Hatfill for mental distress and the like. For all I know, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers may have a better written argument, but the government's lawyers may have a better legal case. But looking at the brief snippets of depositions from Dr. Hatfill and his girlfriend, it seems like a very weak case for claiming that there is need to have an independent mental examination to determine the degree of Dr. Hatfill's anguish and suffering.
June 7, 2006 - The government's response to Dr. Hatfill's memorandum of May 18 was released on schedule yesterday, but I haven't had time to read it, since I'm still going through the depositions recently made available in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit documents. Going through the August 5, 2005, deposition of FBI Inspector Richard L. Lambert, I noticed these three questions by Dr. Hatfill's lawyers and the three answers by Inspector Lambert:
Q: What is a person of interest?That appears to be the definitive definition of a "person of interest", but, unfortunately, the term has been totally distorted by the media and even some law enforcement officials to mean almost the same as "suspect", and there is no other term which would define only the people in the "universe" of experts with specialized skill sets and knowledge. And, if anyone dreamt up a new term, there seems little doubt that new term would also soon be distorted to mean "suspect". It seems that most people just aren't accustomed to being extremely precise in their use of words.
The November 4, 2005 deposition by Robert Roth of the FBI contains an interesting related comment extracted from an FBI internal Electronic Communication:
The [FBI] divisions are reluctant to add names to [the list of] persons of interest for many reasons. Compiling and disseminating information required for the list on a daily basis is time consuming and reduces the resource which could be more effectively used elsewhere in the investigation. In addition, the list is widely disseminated in the FBI and DOJ and based upon past experience there's a probability that it will be leaked to actually fall into the hands of the national media.These two depositions contain interesting information, but so far I've seen nothing which alters anything previously stated in my analysis. However, I've got a LOT of reading left to do.
June 5-6, 2006 - Last week, Dr. Hatfill filed a "Motion to Compel Discovery and overrule Defendant's assertion of Law Enforcement Privilege over information DISCLOSED TO THE PRESS". It was followed on Monday by a request for "extention of time to file an opposition to plaintiff's motion".
From what I gather, this gets into the area of what the FBI is actually doing in the Amerithrax investigation. Getting the FBI to talk about those kind of details of an "active" investigation is a critical issue in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit that they have been arguing about for 18 months and can come to no agreement. (It doesn't seem likely that Dr. Hatfill will get his way on this one.)
There are 33 attachments to Dr. Hatfill's motion, totalling well over 200 pages. I downloaded the 41 page "Memorandum in Support of Motion to Compel" and a few other documents, including those with parts of depositions by Richard L. Lambert, John Ashcroft and Debra Weierman. I haven't yet had a chance to study them to see what information they may contain.
June 4, 2006 - While there was no single event last week which gave insights into the anthrax investigation, there were vaguely related events which could have meaning.
First, of course, is the resolution of Wen Ho Lee's lawsuit against the U.S. government.
It would appear from the media statement that the only important issue was the fact that the media agreed to pay less than half of the settlement -- $750,000 out of a total of $1,645,000. According to the Associated Press in a article on Newsweek's web site titled "News organizations agree to pay Wen Ho Lee":
The payment by AP, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and ABC is the only one of its kind in recent memory, and perhaps ever, legal and media experts said.According to an article from The Boston Globe, which originated at The Washington Post and which was copyrighted by The New York Times:
[Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit group that provides legal advice to reporters and media organizations] said such a settlement potentially exposes the news media in other Privacy Act lawsuits, such as one brought by Stephen Hatfield, a federal employee who sued the government after he was identified in news media accounts as ``a person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax poisonings. ``I'm very troubled by the results but I'm not sure I could have negotiated anything better," Dalglish said.You'd think that by now at least one of those three newspapers would know how to spell Dr. Steven J. Hatfill's name.
The New York Times, which paid part of the settlement, headlined the story yesterday this way "News Media Pay in Scientist Suit". According to The Times, Lee agreed to a settlement of $1,645,000 in his lawsuit charging the government with invasion of privacy, which is the same charge being argued in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit. In fact, I just learned that Dr. Hatfill filed a Amicus Curiae brief in the Wen Ho Lee case over a year ago because the legal issues were similar to his case - particularly "reporter's privilege" which the brief shows does not exist in Federal Court. It quotes a Supreme Court ruling in Branzburg v Hayes on page 10:
"[T]he common law recognized no such privilege, and the constitutional argument was not even asserted until 1958. From the beginning of our country, the press has operated without constitutional protection for press informants, and the press has flourished."And on page 12:
No Supreme Court decision supports a "reporter's priviledge" in any setting, and Branzburg is far from the only Supreme Court decision to reject such a special privilege for journalists.The Amicus Curiae brief was concerned with a legal precedent which might have been laid down if Wen Ho Lee won or lost in court. But the out-of-court settlement means there is no legal precedent -- only a precedent for settlement, if that means anything.
From page 25 of the Amicus Curiae brief:
The press knows who violated the Privacy Act in the Lee and Hatfill cases, yet stories linking Dr. Hatfill to the anthrax attacks currently outnumber exposés about the illegal leaks by approximately 2,100 to zero. Our "constitutionally chosen means" of keeping the government on the staight and narrow has in this case consciously decided to conceal malfeasance rather than expose it. It is no slight to the vital role of the media in society, or to the role they have played in certain chapters of our history, to note that they are the worst imaginable watchdogs in Privacy Act cases.While the media seems to be claiming that they helped pay the settlement in the Wen Ho Lee case so that their reporters wouldn't have to go to jail, it really looks like they wanted the case settled so that no NEW ruling would be laid down declaring that the media does not have any "reporter's privilege" to cover up a crime.
If a federal employee leaks confidential information covered by the Privacy Act, he or she is breaking a law. If the media refuses to disclose who gave them the confidential information and thereby broke the law, the media is covering up a crime. It couldn't be more simple. Yet the media is trying to say that "a leak is a leak is a leak" and covering up a crime is no different for them than protecting a "whistleblower" where a confidential source exposes a crime. It's a ridiculous argument, and they probably know it. But they'll argue it anyway, since, as the Amicus Curiae brief says, being held accountable for helping someone break the law might "prove embarrassing to reporters who trade in anonymous gossip."
There are BIG legal issues involved here.
Another event "vaguely related" to the anthrax investigation was the abandonment of the search of the farm near Detroit where the FBI had evidently hoped to find the remains of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa. According to The Chicago Sun-Times, that search was "expected to cost less than $250,000," which coincidentally(?) means it was about the same cost assigned to the draining of that pond in Maryland three years ago this week when they were looking to find clues in the anthrax investigation. And both searches were the result of tips which didn't pan out.
Meanwhile, even though the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit seems to be on hold for some undisclosed reason, last week five out-of-state lawyers are being brought in to fight the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit. In the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit, a status conference originally set for June 2 but delayed for unknown reasons until June 15, has been delayed once again until June 28, 2006. Plus, Judge Walton has denied a request for a hearing for a motion for a "More Definite Statement" filed last September and has decided to rule on the motion instead -- probably very soon. And the government's delayed written response to Dr. Hatfill's "memorandum" of May 18 is due on Tuesday of this week, June 6, 2006.
I'm not sure if there is any real significance to the anthrax investigation in any of this, but it sure kept me busy studying and evaluating it all.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, June 3, 2006
June 1, 2006 - I'm not getting very far with page 6 of the "comic strip". Hours of research have failed to uncover any scientific papers about long-term storage of anthrax (or any bacterial) cultures which don't involve freezing. Yet, it's clear that the "liquid anthrax" cultures stored and then misplaced by the New Jersey state lab (link) were not frozen. I can work out the process logically, but I prefer to have my logic verified by scientific documents before putting the information on this site. So, it will probably be awhile before I complete page 6 ... if ever.
May 28, 2006 - With the planned completion of discovery in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit scheduled for this week, we could be in "the calm before the storm," or it might be "the calm before the dead calm". Either way, since it appears that nothing much is happening at the moment in the lawsuits or the investigation, I decided to put together a "comic strip" illustrating how an anthrax spore germinates, reproduces and then sporulates. The "comic strip" uses a spore found in a postal facility as an example. It's all about what happens in a lab, although the culturing procedure also illustrates how Bacillus anthracis attacks the human body - particularly the cutaneous form of anthrax infection. The five page "comic strip" can be viewed by clicking HERE. The link is also in the "Supplemental Pages" section of the table of contents.
The "comic strip" came about after digging into the details of lab procedures as a result of the recent event where the New Jersey State lab accidently misplaced or mislabeled an anthrax culture. "The Story of Suzy the Spore" would probably be a better "story" if I drew 6 more panels showing how the final culture was put into a test tube for storage, then it was mislabeled and "lost", then found again, then tested again, and finally ends with Suzy getting millions more spores to join her for another nap, spores which also require storage. I just need to muster the ambition to draw the 6 additional panels. Maybe next week.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 27, 2006
May 24, 2006 - Yesterday, the government filed a motion asking for more time to prepare a response to Dr. Hatfill's memorandum in response to the government's previous motion. Time is running out. Discovery is expected to conclude next week. According to the Docket entry made today, the time extension was granted, giving the government until June 6 to respond to Dr. Hatfill's memorandum.
May 21, 2006 - Some people seem to be trying very hard to continue to believe that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer, in spite of Thursday's memorandum from Dr. Hatfill which indicated that discovery proceedings showed such beliefs to be "baseless".
Others have "suspects" of their own, and they seem to believe that any proof showing Dr. Hatfill to be innocent is somehow proof that they are right in their own beliefs about who did it. Dr. Hatfill's innocence proves no such thing. It doesn't mean al Qaeda did it; it doesn't mean Iraq did it; it doesn't mean some big pharmaceutical company did it; it doesn't mean the CIA did it; it doesn't mean the Bush administration did it; it doesn't mean Jews or neo-Nazis did it, it doesn't mean some neighbor or local politician or co-worker or local doctor did it; and it certainly doesn't mean I know who did it. Since we don't know all the facts, we could all be wrong.
The FBI's investigation into the anthrax attacks is compartmentalized for good reason. I'm not the only one analyzing every leak, checking every fact, evaluating every rumor, and scrutinizing every media report to see if any clue can be found to what's happening. Unlike most others, however, I do not feel that a lack of news indicates that the case is inactive or that the FBI is hopelessly lost.
A few events during the past week caused me to think a lot about that.
The hunt for Jimmy Hoffa's burial site near Detroit was a reminder that the FBI will continue to investigate leads in a case even 30 years after the case seems to have gone cold. However, I found it rather odd that, according to some reports, they seem to be looking in the same place they looked in the 1970s.
During the week, the government also made a big deal of releasing videos of flight 77 hitting the Pentagon, even though key images from the videos have been on the Internet for years. They said they released the parking lot surveillance videos to shut up some of the conspiracy theorists. (Fat chance of that happening!)
They also said they delayed releasing the surveillance videos because the videos were used as evidence in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial.
That made me wonder: if they had arrested the anthrax mailer years ago, what effect would the trial of the anthrax mailer have had on the Moussaoui trial? Or vice versa? I can't imagine both trials happening at the same time. So, which would the government want to go first ... and why? Best guess: They'd try the easiest case first, i.e., the Zacarias Moussaoui case.
The NSA getting access to domestic phone records also prompted some thinking.
In my working hypothesis for the anthrax attacks, the "refiner/mailer" notified the "supplier" shortly before or immediately after the letters were mailed, and since it was an unplanned call, the "refiner/mailer" probably contacted the "supplier" at home. It's my understanding that phone records only show billing data. They show what number a phone customer dialed to contact another phone and the duration of the call. Incoming calls aren't usually billed, so they aren't usually recorded -- unless they are collect calls. Therefore, looking at the "supplier's" home phone records wouldn't show any calls. Investigators would have to find what phone the "refiner/mailer" used. The police typically do that by getting a court order to check the records for every phone a "suspect" uses at home or in his office and every other phone he's known to use from time to time. If the NSA had a complete database for that time period, a simple search for the anthrax "supplier's" phone number should find any calls to his number during the time in question -- even if it's from a remote gas station pay phone the anthrax "refiner/mailer" never used before. But such a search is probably illegal -- if done by the NSA.
But, what would it prove? It would only prove that someone called the "supplier" during the time in question. That wouldn't mean much if both the "refiner/mailer" and the "supplier" lived in the same general area. But what would it mean if they lived in different states hundreds of miles apart?
Lots of things to think about last week.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 20, 2006
May 19, 2006 - Yesterday, in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et all lawsuit, Dr. Hatfill filed a memorandum in opposition to the government's May 4, 2006, motion to preclude non-pecuniary damages or to compel an independent mental examination.
The memorandum expresses the point of view of Dr. Hatfill and his lawyers, of course, but the first few pages contain some interesting information:
As we approach the May 31, 2006 discovery cut-off date set by this Court, there is no longer any question that the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation violated the Privacy Act by revealing to the news media sensitive investigative information -- information that pertained to Dr. Steven J. Hatfill and the anthrax investigation. Defendants' disclosures not only resulted in the loss of Dr. Hatfill's job, but also subjected him to humiliation, anguish, emotional distress, and public opprobrium. Thanks to the defendants, Dr. Hatfill has been forced to endure baseless speculation that he masterminded one of the most vile terrorist attacks on American soil.While we might have to look up the word "opprobrium" to learn it means "scorn", everone should know what the word "baseless" means. Among other things, it clearly indicates that NOTHING learned by either side during discovery indicated that Dr. Hatfill was the anthrax mailer.
The memorandum goes on to say:
Numerous witnesses have testified under oath that many of the most damaging leaks about Dr. Hatfill came from employees of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Over 100 such disclosures have already been laid to the defendants' account by uncontradicted testimony.and
Faced with incontrovertible evidence of their own wrongdoing, the defendants are now reduced to caviling about whether they must pay Dr. Hatfill for all of the actual damage they caused him, or only some.The word "caviling" means "to object unnecessarily".
Most of the memorandum involves citing legal precedents, and from my non-lawyer point of view, Dr. Hatfill seems to have a very good case for collecting "non-pecuniary damages" for emotional distress, etc.. And he also seems to have a good case for denying the government's request to have their own psychiatrist examine Dr. Hatfill to see if he really and truly suffered emotional distress, etc.
the defendants simply have not shown any "good cause" for an order compelling an involuntary mental examination...
at the most basic level, the defendants do not explain what material question they believe an independent mental examination of Dr. Hatfill will answer. Their request makes no sense unless a 2006 examination will be able to show whether or not Dr. Hatfill experienced emotional distress in 2002, 2003, or 2004. However, they never actually say in so many words that this is possible ......
The defendants' principal expert, Dr. Phillips, is unquestionably a man of great skill and learning, but his qualifications seem to be in the field of science -- not the occult.The memorandum also notes that "the courts" have made this point:
there is a difference between more serious emotional distress that might be diagnosed and treated as a disorder by a psychiatrist and the less serious grief, anxiety, anger and frustration that everyone experiences when bad things happen.The memorandum also explains that most juries do not need help in understanding the ordinary grief, anxiety, anger, and frustration that any person feels when something bad happens. Most jury members are already experts in that.
May 14-15, 2006 - Last week, a question popped into my mind that I couldn't answer and should have asked long ago: If the FBI is truly awaiting the "formalization" of the new science of microbial forensics to complete its case against the anthrax mailer, what would indicate that such a "formalization" is complete?
Is there something that must be finished before they can say: "Okay, we're done. The science will now be accepted as valid when we make an arrest and go into court."?
It's known that scientists have been building the databases which will allow the government's forensic experts to make statements in court indicating degrees of certainty. As examples, they might be able to say they are X-percent certain that the polymerized glass found in the coatings of the spores was absorbed from the same brand of Petri dish or bioreactor used in the suspect's lab; and/or that they're X-percent certain that the nutrients used to grow the spores are identical to the nutrients used in the suspect's lab; and/or that they know the drying technique used is the same technique used in the suspect's lab and 7 other labs, but the 7 other labs don't use the same brand of nutrients or Petri dishes; and/or that the DNA of the attack spores does not match the DNA for any anthrax legitimately obtained for use in the suspect's lab. And/or that there's only one chance if 436 kazillion that any other lab would have all the same findings and employ a different scientist with means, motive and opportunity. Or something like that.
(A paper titled "Physical and Chemical Analytical Analysis: A Key Component of Bioforensics" by Stephan P. Velsko of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was published on February 15, 2005, and described what developing data bases involves.)
But what would indicate that they have finished building the databases specifically needed to provide the base of data for the required calculations in the Amerithrax investigation? Would they ever be finished with such a thing? Wouldn't new data be constantly added to the databases as new scientists entered the field, new labs were built and new manufacturers starting making different equipment and materials?
They didn't have to have the DNA of every human on earth to calculate the percentages for a match on DNA between two unrelated humans. It's done with a "representative sampling". So, they certainly don't need to investigate every lab and every scientist in the world. They just need agreement by top scientists that they have a representative base of data to calculate such percentages.
They could already have that. It's a judgement call. It's not a specific number.
If they have sufficient databases to make a case in the Amerithrax investigation, what else is needed to get microbial forensic evidence into court?
For an answer to that question, I went to the most authoritative source I could think of: Chapter 18 of the book "Microbial Forensics" by Roger G. Breeze, Bruce Budowle and Steven E. Schutzer. The book is a collection of articles by many scientists and experts and covers all aspects of microbial forensics. Chapter 18, titled "Admissibility Standards for Scientific Evidence", was authored by Rockne Harmon, a recognized expert on the legal aspects of the scientific evidence, who has been a Deputy District Attorney in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office in Oakland, California, since 1974.
As Harmon states (and as I state in my own book), the Supreme Court Decision in the case of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals defines the legal standards for utilizing a new science in court. Among other things, such standards demand that the evidence be tested and testable, to show that the results were not falsified. The testing techniques must be defined and published in scientific journals where they can be reviewed by other experts in the field. The testing techniques must have a known error rate, which is a result of actually utilizing the techniques to do tests. The testing techniques must be used by a significant number of scientists in the field as a "standard". The testing techniques and the standards must have "widespread acceptance" in the scientific field ... but not necessarily general acceptance by the majority (which might still be behind the times and unfamiliar with the techniques and/or which may use other techniques).
The issue of getting acceptance of the new science of microbial forensics by top experts in the scientific community was addressed about 8 months after the attacks when the FBI helped set up a "working group" of experts in related fields to define the requirements for formalizing the new science. That effort alone took over a year, from June of 2002 until September of 2003. Getting agreement from top scientists before you start building a database goes a long, long way toward making certain there is little or no scientific disagreement about the validity of the data when you've finished.
However, on page 384 of "Microbial Forensics", Harmon gives one final requirement for formalizing a new science. Under the sub-heading "Peer Review" he writes:
The Daubert opinion recognizes that publication is but one element of peer review, but that "... submission to the scrutiny of the scientific community is a component of good science, in part because it increases the likelihood that substantive flaws in the methodology will be detected" [...] The fact of publication is described as relevant, though not dispositive. The factor also recognizes that some passage of time after publication is appropriate.Interestingly, the authoritative book "Microbial Forensics" was published on May 16, 2005, ... one year ago this week.
If a "passage of time" was needed to help validate the new science, hopefully a year is enough time. But all that it really means is that a judge should now allow microbial forensic evidence to be presented in his or her court.
Whether the FBI and the DOJ actually have enough evidence to take to court is another matter. And so is the question of whether or not a jury will find such evidence compelling.
The lengthy validation process for microbial forensics and its acceptance by top scientists will, however, definitely make it a lot more difficult for the defense to raise "reasonable doubt" about the accuracy and validity of such scientific evidence ... if there ever is a trial.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, May
thru Saturday, May 13, 2006
May 7, 2006 - Although I can't name names or go into details, the key event of last week was contact from a frustrated former government employee with impressive credentials who has been unable to get the FBI to act upon his theory about who was behind the anthrax attacks, and he wanted to talk to me about his theory.
Like nearly all the other theories I've heard, his theory consisted almost entirely of motive. But this theory had something extra: In the early 1990s, his "suspect" (another former government employee) had talked about doing something similar to the anthrax attacks to get attention for his cause. That made it a bit more interesting than most such theories, since most such theories don't implicate anyone who actually voiced a motive and a plan. Most such theories only implicate individuals or organizations who can be imagined to have a motive.
But, like all such theories, it didn't stand up very well to questions regarding the facts.
His theory assumed that the attack anthrax was obtained from a government lab (not USAMRIID) in the early 1990s when his suspect worked at that lab. When I pointed out the reports that the attack spores were no more than 2 years old at the time they were mailed, that was news to him, and he quickly altered his theory to simply assume that the spores must have been made much later somehow, since the only important fact in this theory was that the suspect had a motive.
Did this suspect have access to a lab in 2000 or 2001 to
He wasn't the right kind of expert, so did he have the
Wouldn't his unauthorized work in such a lab be noticed?
Did he have the use of a biosafety cabinet for preparing
Was he in New Jersey at the time of the mailings?
On and on it went. His suspect must have had means and opportunity, because he had motive, and the caller felt having a motive made it a virtual certainty that his suspect was behind the anthrax attacks.
I told him that was called "rationalizing". But he was undeterred and still seemed 100% convinced he knew the person who sent the anthrax letters.
When I suggested he take his theory to the media, he told me he'd tried, but the media was assisting in a coverup in exchange for access to some other story. That was taking rationalizing to a whole new level. I simply couldn't imagine everyone in the media agreeing to keep silent about the murders of five innocent Americans by a former government employee. It was difficult to imagine even one reporter keeping silent. They certainly didn't keep quiet when another frustrated theorist who couldn't get the FBI to act voiced her theory about who did it.
A couple months ago, a different impressively-credentialled person contacted me with a theory he couldn't get the FBI to act upon. He felt he had a "suspect" with both motive and opportunity. The motive was to make money, and the "suspect" was a resident of New Jersey, which gave him the opportunity to mail the letters. But, other than taking some science courses in college, this "suspect" wasn't a scientist. He just knew some scientists. Those scientists must have given him the means, i.e., the anthrax, the expertise, the access to the equipment, etc. He also seemed 100% convinced he was right about who sent the anthrax letters.
Although putting this "comment" on this web site will probably make them both consider me to be just another person who refuses to listen, I actually listened very hard to both of them. I listened hard for any new fact which would challenge or confirm my analysis. A theory about yet another person or organization with a motive doesn't do either.
I spent years putting together my facts. They evidently spent years putting together theirs. One difference seems to be: I'm constantly looking for new facts which will confirm or challenge my analysis. They seem to have all the facts they need. They just need people to listen to and agree with their analysis of the facts. And they want the FBI to act upon their theory.
Another difference: They seem 100% certain they are right, just as others seem to be 100% certain they are right in believing that al Qaeda did it, or that Iraq did it, or that Dr. Hatfill did it, or that a pharmaceutical company did it, or that Jews or neo-Nazis did it. I'm only about 30% certain that my analysis of the known facts points to the right individual(s). That points out yet another BIG difference: I seem to be the only one to acknowledge that, because I know I don't have all the facts, I could be totally wrong.
(While I'm only about 30% certain that my analysis of the facts is correct regarding who sent the anthrax letters, facts can work for or against a potential "suspect", and the facts make me 95% certain that al Qaeda did not send the anthrax letters, 95% certain that Iraq did not send them, and 95% certain that Dr. Hatfill did not send them.)
One final BIG difference: I'm not trying to convince anyone or get people to agree with me. I don't even care if people agree with me. I'm just an analyst on this. I only care about being right in my analysis of the facts. New facts will tell me if I'm right or wrong, not new theories or finding new readers or listeners who will agree with me.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, May 6, 2006
May 5, 2006 - The government filed a new motion yesterday in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit to attempt to stop Dr. Hatfill from collecting any damages beyond what monetary losses he has suffered. The legal precedents the government cites seem unclear, so, if Judge Walton disagrees with that motion, the government wants to have their psychiatrist examine Dr. Hatfill to see if his claims of "emotional distress, psychological injuries, and pain and suffering" are real. And they want a stay on discovery into this issue until it the motion is resolved.
The government's motion begins this way:
After more than a year of discovery, the parties to this Privacy Act and tort action are approaching the end of the discovery period. During this time, the parties have engaged in extensive written discovery, including 836 requests for admissions, 230 interrogatories and 61 document requests by the plaintiff alone. Plaintiff also has taken approximately 30 depositions, and several more are scheduled over the next several weeks. In addition to fact discovery, the parties have designated experts to speak on the question of damages. Among Dr. Hatfill's claimed damages are certain "non-monetary injuries including, without limitation, damage to his personal and professional reputations, the eradication of his privacy, the deprivation of his liberty to work in his chosen field, emotional distress, psychological injuries, and pain and suffering."The motion contains Dr. Hatfill's response at the bottom of page 2:
Plaintiff has represented that, while he does not oppose the request for a stay pending resolution of this motion, he does oppose the agency defendants' alternative request for an independent mental examination.Attached to the motion is part of a document in which Dr. Hatfill lists some of the non-monetary damage he has suffered.
With so much legal maneuvering still unfinished, it's easy to see why they didn't plan to have a final pre-trial conference until September 29.
May 3, 2006 - As expected, the two vials of "liquid anthrax" misplaced by a New Jersey state lab turned out to have been mislabled. They were located when the numbers on the two vials appeared to out of sequence among the more than 19,000 negative samples. According today's Newark Star-Ledger,
"There was a transcription error in the numbers when labeling them for storage," said Eddy Bresnitz, the state epidemiologist and deputy health commissioner. "We pulled the two samples from the negative racks and retested them. Those two were positive, confirming our suspicions that they were mislabeled."So, it appears they now have the original two vials of "liquid anthrax" back. Plus, they probably also have an extra two vials resulting from the culture tests they had to do to verify that they had indeed found the two missing vials. Those two new culture tests will probably be retained in the same way (as "liquid anthrax") and for the same reasons -- in case their findings are ever questioned or challenged in court.
April 30, 2006 - The fact that dates have been set in the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit for the completion of discovery and the final pre-trial conference means we can now look at the dates for all three of Dr. Steven Hatfill's lawsuits:
In the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit, discovery is still scheduled for completion on Wednesday, May 31, 2006. And the final pre-trial conference is scheduled for Friday, September 29, 2006. (That's 4 months between the completion of discovery and the final pre-trial conference, with a deadline for summary judgement and supporting memoranda set for August 1, 2006. But it's a very complicated case.)
According to the Docket in the Hatfill v Foster, Vanity Fair et al lawsuit, discovery must be completed on or before Saturday, September 30, 2006, and "a joint pre-trial order shall be submitted on or before" Friday, October 27, 2006, which is presumably the result of a pre-trial conference. (That's 1 month between completion of discovery and the final pre-trial conference.)
According to the Docket in the
v The New York Times lawsuit, discovery is scheduled to be completed by
Friday, October 27, 2006, and the final pre-trial conference is
for Thursday, November 16, 2006.
less than 3 weeks between completion of discovery and the final
Should any or all of these lawsuits actually go to trial, they would all be happening one right after the other beginning in October. The first trial would be in Washington, DC, the second would be in White Plains, NY, and the third would be in Alexandria, VA.
It makes a great amount of sense for the Hatfill v Ashcroft trial to be first, since it could very well determine what would happen in the other two trials. A settlement in that case could also have a domino effect.
But I'm still puzzled by what's happening in the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit. Everything seems to have stopped dead with an "endorsed" letter about an opinion on March 27 which was "filed under seal" and an "order to follow" which hasn't yet followed.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 29, 2006
April 28, 2006 - The Docket for the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit indicates that a conference was held today, and they set a couple dates: Discovery will be finished by October 27, 2006, and the pre-trial conference will be held on November 16, 2006. The start of the trial (if the case hasn't been settled) should follow soon after.
April 25, 2006- Today's Newark Star-Ledger contains another article about the two test tubes containing anthrax cultures which went "missing" from a New Jersey state lab. There seems to be no reason to believe that it isn't simply a counting error.
The missing test tubes certainly have no real meaning to the investigation of the anthrax attacks of 2001 other than to provide legal proof that a crime actually took place. The inventory error probably only shows that humans make mistakes. And the same holds true with the report in NewsDay last week about USAMRIID having "multiple episodes of anthrax contamination as workers strove to process a flood of samples sent there for testing in 2001 and 2002." To err is human. We all know that. It's only news because people seem to want to eliminate all risk, and when someone makes a mistake which creates a risk, they want someone held accountable. And the media loves to jump on such errors and look for someone to hang.
However, it's all about errors which happened after the anthrax attacks of 2001. What significance do such errors have to the investigation of the anthrax attacks of 2001?
I see little significance to inventory errors which are probably just accounting errors. When humans are involved, there are always such inventory errors. That's one reason why they have to take periodic inventories in virtually every factory, store, warehouse and lab in the world. To err is human.
But what about contamination? Certainly there were lab contaminations before 9/11. Back then, however, we probably wouldn't have learned about them unless someone died, and maybe not even then.
Who makes inspections of labs to look for contamination where anthrax is used? It doesn't seem reasonable that it would be done by the people who actually work in the lab, since they would tend to cover up any negative findings. Is it done by OSHA? Is it done by inspectors who are part of the organization? Someone else?
Whoever it is, one thing seems certain: If an inspector (or anyone) swabs a corner of a lab and the sample tests positive for anthrax, they have access to that anthrax without being someone who officially "works with anthrax." They didn't open up a biological freezer and log the removal of an anthrax sample. There would be no inventory error. Yet, they have possession of an anthrax culture. And if it's put into a test tube with a liquid to hold as evidence of contamination, they have the same kind of "liquid anthrax" which went missing from the New Jersey state lab. And such a sample could be used by someone with the right knowledge and equipment to create the same kinds of powders used in the anthrax attacks of 2001.
For me, it's as if a lot of pieces suddenly fell together. Assumptions are confirmed. Problems are cleared up. Facts are made more clear. And my analysis stands firm.
Meanwhile, I'm banging my head against the wall in realization that I actually visited a garden shop a couple years ago and examined a container of insecticide made from Bt spores which had probably been setting on a shelf for months or years. The spores inside were suspended in a liquid. Yet, I failed to put two and two together and realize that anthrax spores could be suspended in a liquid for long periods of time just as easily, and there might be plenty of reasons for doing so. And I never even wondered what happens to positive anthrax cultures after they've been recorded.
Ah, well. To err is human.
April 23, 2006 - The numerous news articles about the two anthrax samples which went "missing" from a New Jersey state laboratory last week point out how difficult it is to get a complete story from the media when science is involved. But doing some thinking and research to fill in the blanks can be very enlightening.
According to the Newark Star-Ledger:
The FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were notified Wednesday, after a three-week inventory at the state Public Health Environmental Laboratory in downtown Trenton only accounted for 350 of 352 positive samples listed in lab records.And
Health officials are searching for a pair of capped 2-inch-long test tubes containing liquid meant to prevent the spores from being inhaled.And
One of the missing samples dates to December 2001. The other is from June 2002. No discrepancies turned up during less-rigorous inventories in January 2004 and September 2005, state health officials said. They speculated the two samples in question might have gotten confused with negative samples -- those containing no anthrax.And
While the anthrax samples could be "weaponized," the CDC's [spokeswoman Bernadette] Burden said "it is not something that could be done easily. It takes a great deal of intelligence and knowledge for that to occur."So, it appears that the lab had a total of 19,251 samples, of which 352 tested positive, and 2 of the positive samples are missing. Most likely, it's a counting or clerical error.
The Courier-Post adds this:
The state is obliged by the FBI to store the positive samples as potential evidence if a suspect is charged in connection to the unsolved anthrax attacks that killed five and harmed at least 17 in October 2001. The U.S. Postal Service requires the state to store the thousands of negative samples as well, officials said.And comments from state epidemiologist Eddy Bresnitz are phrased this way:
In its current liquid form, the unaccounted for anthrax spores are "not in a mode that we think could be used for weapons," Bresnitz said. The spores would have to be put into an aerosol form to be used as a weapon, which would take a high level of technical sophistication, Bresnitz said.What seems to be missing is exactly what the "liquid form" of spores is in this context. It's alluded to in an article on NewJersey.com which contains this phrase:
The two anthrax cultures were reported "unaccounted for" ...Ah! The "liquid anthrax" in this context was stored test cultures. That's something I had never thought about before.
culture, n. 1. the cultivating of land, plants, etc. 2. the raising or development of some plant or animal. 3. a growth of bacteria, etc. in a specially prepared nourishing substance (growth medium).
As I understand it, when you take a sample from a crime scene to test for the presence of anthrax spores, the sample can be taken with a swab or with a special vacuum cleaner or with other methods. To test if a sample contains anthrax spores, you transfer the sample into a growth medium (nutrients) and wait for about 24 hours. I.e., you culture it. If there are spores in the sample, they will germinate and turn into living bacteria eating away at the nutrients and multiplying. (You can't simply use an electron microscope to hunt for spores, since they would be much too hard to find in a sample taken from a crime scene, and just finding something that looks like a spore won't tell you if it truly is an anthrax spore, nor will you be able to tell if a spore is dormant or dead.)
After about 24 hours, what you would end up with is either a positive sample, i.e., a Petri dish which has or had living anthrax bacteria growing in it and eating the nutrients (a "culture"), or a negative sample, i.e., a Petri dish with just uneaten nutrients (no culture).
What a positive result does is to make a few tiny spores which cannot be seen with the naked eye "visible" by increasing their numbers to millions.
Since I have no actual lab experience, I'd never thought about what happens to the Petri dishes with the cultured bacteria after the test is shown to be positive.
I still don't know exactly what happens next, but since the samples ended up in test tubes, presumably a positive sample is then covered with liquid (to prevent the spores from aerosolizing) and scraped off the Petri Dish into a test tube for storage.
The "positive" test tubes therefore contain the storage liquid, possibly some remnants of the growth medium, dead bacteria which failed to sporulate, carcasses of "mother germs" which managed to sporulate, and the millions of new spores. This is the so-called "liquid anthrax" which is stored in case it is someday needed as evidence.
The new anthrax spores in the liquid have - presumably - the exact or nearly the exact same DNA as the attack anthrax.
Although the experts apparently all agree that it takes "a high level of technical sophistication" to turn the spores into a weaponized powder as was found in the Daschle and Leahy letters, the basic process of culturing shows it clearly doesn't take much "sophistication" to turn spores into living bacteria and then back into spores again. It happens naturally. Robert Koch discovered that in 1877.
Up until now, I hadn't even thought about what happens to a cultured sample after it tests positive for anthrax.
Now I see they can't just throw it away, since it's potential evidence. If I had thought about it, I would probably have guessed that they'd freeze the sample. But apparently not. Storing frozen bacteria is probably much more expensive than storing spores in a liquid filled test tube at room temperature. There might be other reasons for doing things that way, too.
And there are probably similar collections of stored positive cultures in other states where postal facilities were contaminated by the anthrax attacks of 2001. And maybe even in many many veterinary labs around the world.
And there could also be good reasons for storing cultures in labs which make vaccines. Or facilities which test anthrax detection equipment.
On page 45 of my book, I suggest that the anthrax was probably in frozen bacteria form when it was stolen. I'd thought that was the most common method of storage. I'd never even thought about storing cultures. Now, I have no opinon about what form of anthrax was "most likely" stolen.
On the other hand, since each "missing" test tube contained everything scraped out of the Petri dish, if it wasn't for the liquid and growth medium, it should be almost identical to what was in the media letters. It's just that you'd probably need to steal dozens or hundreds of stored culture samples to get the quantity in the media letters.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 22, 2006
April 22, 2006 - The reports in the media about anthrax being "missing" from the New Jersey State Labs are interesting, but they mostly just show how difficult it is to keep humans from making mistakes. The most informative report I've seen so far is in the Newark Star-Ledger.
April 18, 2006 - Today I got a lesson in how difficult it is to get any news about the anthrax investigation. Back on January 26, 2006, I noticed a legal document which said that Michael Mason was the former Assistant Director In-Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office. It was the first I'd heard that he was no longer in charge of that office which controls the Amerithrax investigation. Today, while trying to find out if he'd been replaced, I learned that Joseph Persichini Jr. is currently the "Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office" and apparently has been since at least May 11, of 2005. I found two articles from that day which mention his position: HERE and HERE. Doing further research, it appears Joseph Persichini Jr. was slated to take over the Washington Field Office back in January of 2003, but Van Harp stayed on until Michael Mason took over in October of 2003. The changes don't imply anything about the Amerithrax investigation other than that the FBI's practice of playing musical chairs in such positions doesn't affect the actual investigation, which (as far as I know) is still directly led by Richard L. Lambert.
April 16-17, 2006 - It was a very slow week for news about the anthrax investigation. Something appears to be happening in the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit, but so far the Docket doesn't say what it is. It's all "under seal".
While Googling around, looking for something to comment about, I stumbled across a conversation about me from October 24, 2002. Evidently, it was prompted by the article about me in Time magazine which appeared at about that time. The comments pointed out to me a couple facts: (1) I don't feel the same way about certain things as I did back then, and (2) there are "holes" in what is presented on this web site, i.e., I state conclusions without fully stating what caused me to come to those conclusions. However, that doesn't mean I don't have support for my conclusions, it just means that the missing information would point the finger at a specific individual, and I don't want to do that.
Looking for something else to comment about, I spent a lot of time thinking it would be fun to draw a comic strip showing how analyzing data works, how you put all the facts you can find into an "analyzer" (i.e., a brain), the facts get sorted by weight and relevance and "truthiness", and a "result" plops out. The "result" is nothing more than a mental computation of facts and variables. It doesn't mean I believe it. And it has a "reliability factor" or "certainty factor" associated with it. Because of all the available evidence, a result stating that the anthrax letters were written by a child might have a "reliability factor" of 95%, while a result using far less available evidence which names the "most likely" culprit may be only 30% reliable or less. (A reliability factor of 30% is "good" when there is no other "likely" culprit with a reliablity factor greater than 5%. But I certainly wouldn't publicly name anyone when the reliability factor is only 30%.) I wanted to show the difference between believing and getting a result of an analysis which has a "reliability factor" or "certainty factor" associated with it. I just didn't have the time to draw the comic strip, and the more I thought about it, the more it looked like a graphic novel instead of a comic strip.
Today, someone on a discussion forum posted a message titled "official US government description of Daschle anthrax" and provided a link to a Powerpoint presentation by the Louisiana Office of Public Health. Someone immediately argued that the title of the message was false, since it was not something official from the US Government. I don't seem to have software for reading Powerpoint files anymore. (I had it before my hard drive crash last September.) Somewhere in the presentation it evidently says that the Daschle anthrax "used fumed silica grains 0.012 – 0.3 µm adhering to spores". Those are exactly the same numbers used in an infamous Washington Post article which presented arguments by so-called "experts" who knew nothing about spores to refute arguments by microbiologists who are true experts on spores:
Fumed silica grains are between 0.012 and 0.300 of a micron in size, and will readily adhere to the surface of any larger particle, such as an anthrax spore.I can't even tell how old the presentation is, but the other person argued that it appears to be nothing more than the repeating of false information printed in the media.
Nevertheless, it was nice to have someone else present the same arguments I would have presented. Maybe progress is being made.
NOTE added April 17, 2006 - I can't help but feel that I should have made a bigger deal of the fact that someone at the Louisiana Office of Public Health was fooled by the false information about fumed silica on the attack anthrax which was printed in the Washington Post and evidently went about lecturing other public health people using the false information in the lectures. While it's difficult to imagine anyone being harmed by the spreading of false information about fumed silica coatings on anthrax spores, it still seems like someone - besides me - should be making people aware of what's happening.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 15, 2006
April 12, 2006 - Articles in Forbes and The Washington Post make a big deal of the fact that reporters have been summoned to give depostions in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit, and the reporters are all declining to answer questions about sources, citing "reporter's privilege". The questions are most likely about the apparently false media reports that bloodhounds got Dr. Hatfill's scent off the anthax letters (which the FBI is known to have told other people such as William Patrick III and his wife), and about how the media learned that Dr. Hatfill's apartment would be searched by the FBI on June 25, 2002.
April 10, 2006 - This entry
up on the Docket for the Hatfill v Foster
I don't see any public record of any "opinion" dated March 27, 2006. But that's probably because it was just now "filed under seal".
An "order" is evidently forthcoming. Presumably, it has something to do with the problem of Dr. Hatfill not having a lawyer licensed to practice law in the state of New York. On February 17, 2006, Dr. Hatfill was given 60 days to resolve that problem, and those 60 days are almost up. I would guess that the two possible resolutions are: (1) getting a lawyer who can practice in New York State or (2) dropping the lawsuit. Best guess, they've brought in a lawyer licensed in New York State, and an order will be filed to acknowledge that he or she is technically on the case.
The "opinion" could be that Dr. Hatfill MUST have a NY lawyer. Why that would be "under seal" is anyone's guess. Lawyer stuff, I guess.
Or I could be totally wrong, and this could be about something else entirely.
April 9, 2006 - Last week began with very little news about the anthrax investigation. A motion filed on Thursday in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit indicated that FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has given his deposition. The motion prevents his video taped deposition from being released to the public, but a transcript may someday be made available.
At about the same time, The Villager printed a slightly different description of the possible source of Vado Diomande's inhalation anthrax:
Diomande purchased four goatskin hides for djembe drum making when he was visiting his home village in the Ivory Coast after 13 years of living abroad. The goatskins were transported in the cargo of the plane in a roll, wrapped in a plastic bag. Diomande carried them through U.S. customs, where they were inspected by officials and released back to him. In addition, Diomande acquired cowhides from a local New York supplier a few days prior to becoming ill. He and a co-worker recall that one of these hides was full of dander and dust, which rose in the air when he tossed it on the floor of his sixth-floor workspace on Prince St. in Brooklyn.That still isn't much in the way of "news". Neither is the fact that the recent media reports about "Dr. Doom" and his apparent advocacy of having the world's population reduced by 90 percent via "airborne Ebola" are being followed by a CBS 2-part mini-series titled "Covert One: The Hades Factor" starting today. Here's part of the description of the show:
When three US soldiers stationed in Afghanistan succumb to an unknown Ebola-like virus, the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) moves into action. As the death toll mounts and the virus spreads, Smith's fiancée, Dr. Sophie Amsden, succumbs to the illness. Smith soon discovers evidence that Sophie's death was not an accident. The pandemic was planned.Maybe that coincidence can be chalked up to "great minds think alike", but it's still kind of creepy, although it has nothing to do with the anthrax investigation.
But then yesterday, I found that another unopposed motion had been filed in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit on Friday which moves the date on which the plaintiff, Dr. Hatfill, will be deposed to May 5, 2006, (a Friday) "to accomodate plaintiff's employment." There's a bit of "news" in that, and I'm hoping it doesn't set off the conspiracy theorists and amateur detectives into another round of attacks upon Dr. Hatfill. The motion also says the defendants are deposing Dr. Hatfill because his "testimony may well be relevant to our expert's opinions concerning damages." While it can be argued that it's just a "contingency" that must be prepared for, it's rather interesting that the Agency Defendants are apparently getting expert opinions on how much damage Hatfill has suffered so they can attempt to limit the amount of damages they'll have to pay.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, April
thru Saturday, April 8, 2006
April 8, 2006 - A discussion I had today about "global warming" made me wish I'd phrased my April 3, 2006, comment on the subject differently. I shouldn't have suggested it was a debate between "chemists" and "climatologists". It's really a debate between the Left and the Right. Here's what I wrote in an e-mail:
But when I look at the arguments I see two things: (1) the Left is often exaggerating and often uses the worst case scenario, and (2) the Right ignores the facts entirely and just points out that the left is exaggerating and often uses the worst case scenario, so they are attacking the Left in order to avoid examining the issue.April 3, 2006 - Checking further into the comments I mentioned yesterday by Professor Pianka (a.k.a. "Dr. Doom"), where he seemingly advocated the death of 90 percent of the world's population, I found an article in the Seguin (Texas) Gazette titled "UT professor says death is imminent" which contains this information:
Joining the crusade, James Pitts, who recieved a Ph.D. in physics from UT-Austin, became the second to publicly chastise Pianka when he filed a complaint Saturday with the UT board of regents. He insists a state university is no place to disseminate such views.While I generally admire scientists, many of them clearly enjoy preaching outside their own area of expertise, and most of them seem to have strong political views. As a result, and as was seen in the anthrax case, reporters have no problem finding scientists in other scientific areas - like chemistry - who will dispute findings about anthrax by true experts in a scientific field like microbiology.
That phenomenon also seems to be behind a lot of the "dispute" over global warming. If 100 climatologists have evidence that the earth's climate is warming significantly, and 1,000 chemists don't believe it, who should non-scientists believe? What should we think of a news organization which produces a headline like this: "Scientists who dispute global warming outnumber alarmists 10 to 1"? Personally, I'd like to look at the evidence myself, but for the typical American who probably doesn't know the difference between a paleontologist and a proctologist, going with the majority might make sense.
April 2, 2006(C) - I don't know what to make of a situation in Texas where a scientist seemingly advocating extermination of 90 percent of the world's population by airborne Ebola was wildly applauded by other scientists. I'm hoping there's a lot more to it, but it certainly makes movies like "12 Monkeys" (which depicts a world deliberately destroyed by man-made disease) look less like science fiction.
If a scientist speaks "glowingly of the police state in China that enforces their one-child policy", does that make him a Right Wing lunatic for liking a police state? or a Left Wing lunatic for liking a Communist state? or just a lunatic? I've often wondered if the Far Right and Far Left don't eventually arc around and meet somewhere, forming a huge ring as large in concept as the earth is in distance, with "normal" people on the near side of the ring and the lunatics together on the far side.
If a few hundred scientists can applaud the idea of destroying the world in order to save it, is it really that difficult to believe that a lone scientist would send anthrax through the mails in order to awaken America to the dangers of bioterrorism?
April 2, 2006(B) - Last week, I saw the ABC News report that the public is being deliberately misled by special interest groups who want to make people believe that there is some dispute over whether global warming is actually taking place or not.
It reminded me of the arguments about coatings on the anthrax spores. It's really a disagreement between people who have the facts, and people who do not believe the facts because they do not like the facts. So, they rationalize to create doubt.
While this has been the subject of argument for many years, and there are probably many excellent web sites about the subject, I prepared a lengthy "comment" about the global warming issue with extensive quotes from recent articles by The Seattle Times, The Palm Beach Post, Fox News and George F. Will, but then I deleted it all. From what I've seen over the years, the global warming "dispute" really boils down to this:
One side is concerned with money, the other side is concerned with facts and with the future of mankind.
And the anthrax coating issue boils down to this: One side is looking to find political blame, and the other side is interested in the truth.
April 2, 2006(A) - Last week, I learned that Eye Spy magazine had an article about the anthrax attacks of 2001, and I posted a comment in hopes that someone would send me a copy of the article. Someone did. It's HERE. I'd hoped that the article might contain something new. It didn't. All it did was set a new record for how many errors can be contained in a single article about the anthrax attacks of 2001.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, April 1, 2006
March 27, 2006(B) - As expected, today the Supreme Court refused to block Dr. Steven Hatfill's defamation lawsuit against The New York Times over columns that linked Dr. Hatfill to the 2001 anthrax killings. Reports by the Associated Press and Reuters say the refusal was without comment. The lawsuit now goes back to the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA, for resolution.
The oral argument presented to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit before the Times appealed the matter to the Supreme Court can be heard by clicking HERE. It confirms what I've always suspected: Dr. Hatfill was investigated by the FBI and his home was searched in 2001 as soon as he was pointed to by the scientists/amateur detectives as being a possible suspect. That was more than six months before the public searches of mid-2002. The FBI evidently didn't find anything in those early, non-public searches which would point to Hatfill as a suspect, but that wasn't acceptable to the scientists/amateur detectives. And it evidently wasn't acceptable to Kristof, either. So, the scientists/amateur detectives started claiming that the FBI was covering up for Dr. Hatfill, and Kristof started complaining that the FBI was incompetent for not investigating Dr. Hatfill to his satisfaction.
To me, it seems absolutely clear that Nicholas Kristof was complaining that Dr. Hatfill wasn't being investigated to his satisfaction, and the only investigation that would satisfy Kristof was an investigation that ended in an arrest of Dr. Hatfill. That's the same as accusing Dr. Hatfill.
Interestingly, the judges hearing the appeal came up with some good arguments which they felt that Dr. Hatfill should have used to help his case. It's worth a listen.
March 27, 2006(A) - Thinking about my comments yesterday about people who literally cannot change their minds, I realize that the same "symptoms" would appear in people who simply have no reason to change their minds. Facts simply aren't important for some people. There are countless people in this world who believe that facts can be found to support any theory, so, to them, no theory is any better than any other, and they simply believe what they want to believe. Talking with such people is the same as talking with people who physically cannot change their minds. An article in The Wall Street Journal about the bird flu scare shows what kind of thinking is going on out there.
March 26, 2006 - During the past week I was bombarded with arguments which were the same old arguments I'd been bombarded with and had debunked many times in the past. So, I decided to number these old arguments and maintain a list of them. That enables me to simply say, "Ah! That's your argument #8 once again. Here's the response to your argument #8." Lots of time can be saved that way, and it can be made clear to everyone participating in the discussions that it is the same old argument they've heard many times before and that such an argument has already been thoroughly debunked many times before.
Here's a general idea of what the argument list looks like:
#1 - Arguments that the "fried
which oozed out of the "hydrated" Daschle spores was a coating on the
(It can't be a coating if it oozed out of the spores.)
Argument #10 was also used last week by conspiracy theorists who believe that the Twin Towers and WTC #7 were brought down on 9/11 by explosives planted by people working for the Bush administration. They also believe the Bush administration was responsible for the anthrax attacks of 2001 and the "missile attack" upon the Pentagon.
Last week, actor Charlie Sheen made public his beliefs and joined this group. And every time someone joins their group, they feel it further proves they are right, i.e, they use "argument #10".
According to these people, the Pentagon was hit by a missile and not by American Airlines flight 77. Evidently there is no theory so preposterous that it won't be believed by countless people - including some with impressive credentials. They believe all the aircraft wreckage must have been trucked to the scene somehow. Flight 77 probably never existed, they say. It's all made up as part of some grand conspiracy theory.
Some of them believe the explosives in the Twin Towers might even have been placed there when the towers were built. Who can prove otherwise?
It's easy to dismiss these people as being "nuts". But their numbers are growing, and as the web site HERE shows, they have lots of people with impressive credentials on their side. But, as seen in the anthrax investigation, there can be scientists with impressive credentials on both sides. Here are some links to people with impressive credentials who use science and facts to show why the towers collapsed: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Credentials mean nothing. The difference seems to boil down to this: One side uses solid facts, and the other side doesn't believe those facts. That other side has what they consider to be "facts" of their own, "facts" which are mostly bizarre rationalizations.
They remind me of the conspiracy theorists who continue to believe that the American manned voyages to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s were all a sham and never really happened. I've argued science with many of them many times, and they have "experts" on their side, too. I would show them proof, but they'd just shrug and claim it's faked. (It's pretty frustrating for someone who is also internationally known as an "expert" in detecting fakes to be unable to convince people that something is not faked.)
Science and logistics don't impress them. A single sentence - or even a couple words - can be twisted to mean something which they feel overrides all arguments involving science and logistics. There's a very good example of that in their beliefs about how WTC #7 was destroyed. They believe that because Larry Silverstein, the owner of the WTC complex, used the term "pull it" when deciding not to continue fighting the fires within the building, that term is "proof" that WTC #7 was brought down by explosives. How people got the explosives to the scene, how they got the explosives into the burning building, how they rigged them and detonated them in such a short time doesn't matter. They have the only "fact" they need: Silverstein used the term "pull it", and "The word 'pull' is industry jargon for taking a building down with explosives." And, if that isn't enough, they know of another tall building which burned for awhile and did not collapse.
As I've probably said a hundred times before, their whole belief system is based upon the fact that they cannot be proven wrong -- to their satisfaction. If they cannot be proven wrong to their satisfaction, then they feel that proves they are right. I cannot prove that aliens from outer space didn't send the anthrax letters, but that doesn't mean the anthrax letters were sent by aliens from outer space. Some days, I think the idea that aliens from outer space sent the anthrax letters is a bit more reasonable than that the Twin Towers were brought down by explosives.
But I often also think there's more to it. It's not that simple. I've discussed these subjects endlessly with some of them. At times it seems clear to me that they literallycannot believe the facts. It's like their first impression was "This can't be true" and nothing that comes afterward can shake that impression. In computer terms, their first impression becomes "hardwired" into their brains. It's fixed. It literally cannot be altered. You can present evidence forever, and it will alter nothing in their beliefs.
This isn't anything new. It's one aspect of paranoia and schizophrenia. The great mathematical genius John Nash suffered from such an inability to change a belief. His story was dramatized in the movie "A Beautiful Mind". The only way he was able to control his "hardwired" beliefs was to understand what was going on in his mind. That enabled him to understand that when he remembered certain things, those things weren't real. And he could compensate and adjust his actions accordingly. In computer terms, he could create new software to work around the glitch in the hardware.
But, I have no solid evidence that these people have somehow gotten such beliefs "hardwired" into their brains. I know it's possible. I know it's even remotely possible that some may be right. Of course, some may just be stupid. And some may have devious motives for saying they believe such things when they don't really believe them. But it appears that for some, no amount of evidence can change their beliefs. I just wish there were more "experts" looking into this phenomenon. If I'm wrong, I would have no problem being convinced by solid facts -- or so I believe.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 25, 2006
March 23, 2006 - It's interesting to note that while Newsday used this headline "Anthrax victim released from Pa. hospital, thanks doctors" for an article about the drum maker who contracted anthrax. At the same time, the Sayre PA Morning Times used this headline: "Vado Diomande to be released from RPH ‘in near future'" and says,
Walsh did not put a timetable on when Diomande will be released from Robert Packer Hospital, noting that it will be sometime in “the near future.”The Morning Times also says:
Diomande contracted the disease while handling cow skins that he brought back with him from a trip to the Ivory Coast.Diomande uses raw animal hides to make drums.While Newsday says,
Diomande, 44, of New York City, said he believes he contracted the disease while working with a large cowhide to make drums about a week before his Feb. 16 collapse. Previously he had told health officials he had been working with goatskin.And The New York Times says,
Mr. Diomande said on Wednesday, however, that he had been working with a cowhide he purchased in New York about a week before he fell ill. While cutting the hide to make a bass drum, Mr. Diomande said, he noticed "powder" fall from the skin to the floor. Within a few days, he said, he was having trouble breathing and felt fatigued.and
Mr. Diomande has spent more than four weeks in the hospital, and though he has lost 45 pounds, his condition has steadily improved. He was released late Wednesday evening.So far, it's two to one in favor of Mr. Diomande having been released from the hospital. But there are other articles which agree with both sides. One article, from WABC titled "Anthrax victim released from hospital" includes this information:
And changing what he has said in the past months, Diomande insisted today that he believes is was not untreated goat hides from Africa that got him sick, instead skins from cows, he said, and where they came from is anyone's guess.Another article from the Towanda, PA, Daily Review titled "Anthrax victim awaits release from Robert Packer Hospital" contains this comment:
Diomande traced the illness back to Feb. 9, when he said he cut a large cow skin into smaller sections, and noticed a powder on the floor. He had previously told health officials he believed the material was a goat skin, and said Wednesday he was not sure whether it originated in the United States or Africa.And The New York Post's report on the event contains this:
Yesterday, Diomande said he finally realized Monday night that a large cow skin - not goat skins, as earlier suspected - that he had been cutting on Feb. 9 was the probable source of the anthrax.And while the reports all seem to agree he was working with a cow hide and not a goat skin, there's no agreement on where the cow hide came from, nor whether Mr. Diomande saw a powder fall to the floor, noticed a powder on the floor, or dropped a skin to the floor and powder fell off of it, even though the reporters all attended the same press conference and heard the same statements.
My understanding of how spores would be released from a diseased hide is that it would look like dust released into the air. But, who knows? What these reports show once again is that even when you have multiple reporters at the same press conference hearing the same things, they don't all come away with the same understandings, nor do they report the same things, and the statements they are reporting on may not be entirely accurate because the person being interviewed may not remember correctly.
March 19, 2006 - Much of the past week was spent thinking about and discussing the lengthy cover story in the latest issue of Technology Review. It's an article about bioweapons technology titled "The Knowledge". Technology Review is published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The article consisted of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and an editor's comment titled "The Loss of Biological Innocence".
The editor's comment written by Jason Pontin includes this totally unbelievable statement:
Most security experts believe that creating any bioweapon -- let alone a recombinant pathogen -- is difficult, and “weaponizing” those agents is nearly impossible.Which "security experts" believe such nonsense? And what kind of absurd definition of "weaponizing" is being used? When I told Jason Pontin that General Parker, the head of USAMRIID, once told Congress: "The term 'weaponization' has no real scientific or medical meaning," he responded by saying, "I completely agree that 'weaponization' is a word without much real meaning (and our cover story explains why at some length)."
The article by Mark Williams isn't about the anthrax attacks of 2001; it's about making bioweapons via gene-splicing technology, but many of the people interviewed for the article are the same people who I interviewed in my investigation of the anthrax attacks.
What concerns me is how and where the editor of Technology Review got his bizarre belief that "weaponizing" biological agents is "nearly impossible". It seems to me that such a belief could only come from the vast amount of total nonsense printed in the media about biological weapons after the anthrax attacks of 2001, and from scientists promoting a political agenda about governments making biological weapons.
If you falsely believe that making ordinary bioweapons is "nearly impossible," then making bioengineered recombinant weapons might seem "easier".
Williams' article is mostly about the development of recombinant pathogens and bioweapons in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Some of those Cold War projects involved bioweapons which could alter behavior, inducing such things as memory loss, depression and fear.
Why does the author believe such things matter today? It's his stated premise:
They matter because the Russians' achievements tell us what is possible. At least some of what the Soviet bioweaponeers did with difficulty and expense can now be done easily and cheaply.and
There is growing scientific consensus that biotechnology -- especially, the technology to synthesize ever larger DNA sequences -- has advanced to the point that terrorists and rogue states could engineer dangerous novel pathogens.A "growing scientific consensus"? Really? Is this a consensus of the unnamed "security experts" who think "weaponizing" biological agents is "nearly impossible"? Are these the same "experts" who falsely believed that the attack anthrax of 2001 must have been mixed with bentonite? Are they the same "experts" who falsely believed the anthrax must have been coated with fumed silica. Are they the same "experts" who simply made up a total nonsense theory about the anthrax being coated with silica and "polymerized glass"?
I certainly can't even suggest there is no danger of terrorists making "recombinant biological weapons". But I wonder how concerned we should be that terrorists are going to get into such things instead of more conventional forms of terror. The author of the article seems to think it's a very serious danger. To me, it seems the author starts with a false premise and ignores what can be learned from history and psychology.
Yes, the Soviets made these horrible biological weapons during the Cold War, but they never used them. Why? For the same reason they never used the atomic bomb on the United States: Mutually Assured Destruction. Launching bioweapons against an enemy who also has bioweapons will mean that you may be totally destroyed in retaliation. So, why do it?
Two of the experts cited in the main article (but who do not necessarily agree with the author's premise) are Richard Ebright and Milton Leitenberg.
As for the threat of next-generation bioweapons agents, Ebright was dismissive: "To make an antibiotic-resistant bacterial strain is frighteningly straightforward, within reach of anyone with access to the material and knowledge of how to grow it." However, he continued, further engineering -- to increase virulence, to provide escape from vaccines, to increase environmental stability -- requires considerable skill and a far greater investment of effort and time. "It's clearly possible to engineer next-generation enhanced pathogens, as the former Soviet Union did. That there's been no bioweapons attack in the United States except for the 2001 anthrax attacks -- which bore the earmarks of a U.S. biodefense community insider -- means ipso facto that no substate adversary of the U.S. has access to the basic means of carrying it out. If al-Qaeda had biological weapons, they would release them."How can any expert believe that "substate groups" (i.e., groups smaller than a country) have "not used biological weapons in the past". Are they letting their political beliefs control their thinking about facts? Don't they know history?
All the biological weapons attacks of the past 65 years have been by "substate groups".
Fortunately, there haven't been very many:
1. In the fall of 1984, followers of the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh spiked salad bars at 10 restaurants in an Oregon town with salmonella and sickened about 750 people.
2. In July 1993, a liquid suspension of Bacillus anthracis was aerosolized from the roof of an eight-story building in Kameido, Tokyo, Japan, by the religious group Aum Shinrikyo. (On March 20, 1995, members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult entered the Tokyo subway system and released sarin, a deadly nerve agent. That's a "weapon of mass destruction", but it's not a biological weapon. It's a chemical substance.)
3. The anthrax attacks of 2001.
4. The ricin letters of early 2004 could be considered a bioweapons attack, since ricin is derived from plants.
Aum Shinrikyo and the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh are "substate groups". And unless you believe that the Bush Administration was involved in some massive conspiracy to kill innocent Americans for political reasons, or that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001 even though an invasion of Iraq found absolutely nothing to confirm that, then the anthrax attacks of 2001 was also the work of a "substate group" or individual.
To find the most recent biological attack by one country upon another, you have to go back to 1940, when the Japanese military released plague bacteria on several Chinese cities, killing about 120 people.
And what may be most important to remember about that attack is the fact that there was no fear of retaliation. Mutually Assured Destruction was not a concern of the Japanese. It also wasn't an American concern when another Weapon of Mass Destruction was used 5 years later upon the Japanese: The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It wasn't a concern when Saddam Hussein gassed his own people. The Nazis produced tons of sarin gas during World War II but never used it for fear of retaliation. Saddam Hussein didn't use his weapons of mass destruction upon the United States for fear of retaliation.
As insane as the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction is, it works -- for countries. But it has no meaning to "substate groups" who think like criminals, never expecting to be caught, or terrorists who plan to kill themselves along with their enemies.
The psychology of terrorism is almost totally ignored by the author of "The Knowledge". Instead, he raises concerns about dangers which may be possible but are almost in the area of science fiction. Part 2 contains this example:
Microbiologist Mark Wheelis at the University of California, Davis, who works with the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, notes in an article for Arms Control Today, "Engineering an ethnic-specific weapon targeting humans is...difficult, as human genetic variability is very high both within and between ethnic groups...but there is no reason to believe that it will not eventually be possible."So, we're talking about a bioweapon which will target a specific race or genetic trait? Is there a real danger of brown-eyed terrorists developing a bioweapon which will make everyone with blue eyes sterile? How concerned should we be?
I don't know if any of the experts cited by the author are in agreement with his premise. Professor Richard Ebright of Rutgers doesn't seem to be:
I suggested to Ebright that synthetic biology offered low-hanging fruit for a knowledgeable bioterrorist. He granted that there were scenarios with sinister potential. He allowed that biotechnology could make BioShield, which focuses on conventional select agents such as smallpox, anthrax, and Ebola, less relevant. Still, he maintained, "a conventional bioweapons agent can potentially be massively disruptive in economic costs, fear, panic, and casualties. The need to go to the next level is outside the incentive structure of any substate organization."Ah! At last we get into psychology. There is no incentive for terrorists to use such exotic weapons when they can create terror with Improvised Explosive Devices made from old cannon shells or by turning commercial airliners into flying bombs.
The real goal when scientists bring up concerns about such things is to stop all bioweapons development by all governments and to verify that it's been stopped. It's a worthy goal. But the article describes problems with accomplishing that goal:
More fundamentally, arresting the progress of biological-weapons research is probably impractical. Biological knowledge is all one, and therapies cannot be easily distinguished from weapons. For example, a general trend in biomedicine is to use viral vectors in gene therapy.In other words, when you learn how anthrax kills people and cattle so you can develop cures and vaccines, you also learn how anthrax can be used to kill cattle and people.
The article concludes with this:
[Former Soviet bioweaponeer] Serguei Popov has lived with these questions longer than most. When I asked him what could be done, he told me, "I don't know what kind of behavior or scientific or political measures would guarantee that the new biology won't hurt us." But the vital first step, Popov said, was for scientists to overcome their reluctance to discuss biological weapons. "Public awareness is very important. I can't say it's a solution to this problem. Frankly, I don't see any solution right now. Yet first we have to be aware."And the first thing we should be aware of is that there is a tremendous amount of false information in the media about how "bioweapons" like the powders used in the anthrax attacks of 2001 are made. The false information is believed because it fits a political agenda to stop all government-sponsored bioweapons development. The goal is good, but it's false information, and when you believe false information you are probably not truly aware of the real problem or the real solution.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 18, 2006
March 12, 2006 - Last week, I was asked by someone in the media if I thought the FBI is trying to make a legal case against the culprit by using microbial forensics.
It's a tricky question. My personal feeling is that under normal conditions, they would already have enough evidence to convict the culprit(s). But nothing's been "normal" since 9/11. And certainly it isn't normal to have thousands of scientists believing total hogwash and ready and anxious to state their total hogwash opinions in court to make sure that their political views are validated.
The case can almost be viewed as a battle between scientists with hogwash beliefs and scientists with solid facts. And the media is mostly on the side of the scientists with hogwash beliefs, since those hogwash beliefs came from the media in the first place. Plus, beliefs and politics draw a larger audience than dry and boring scientific facts.
The way to Truth and Justice seems to be to lay down a path of solid scientific facts which the scientists governed by beliefs must traverse before they can enter court.
That's one reason why so much time and effort is being expended to establish a database of microbial forensics information and scientific statistics as a foundation for presenting microbial forensic evidence in court. After all, a "working group" of scientists spent more than a year - June 2002 to September 2003 - just getting scientific agreement on what databases they needed and how such databases would be developed.
And now they're working on building databases. The problem is: They can't just build a scientific methodology and database designed to convict the anthrax mailer. The science must be neutral and unbiased. Just as DNA can be used to prove a person's innocence as well as guilt, so must microbial forensics be impartial. The facts will indicate guilt or innocence. Such a database is vastly larger than a database focused upon convicting a single culprit.
So, is the FBI trying to make a legal case against the culprit by using microbial forensics? Yes, but ... what I think they're really trying to do is make an airtight case which the defense cannot shatter by bringing in a parade of scientists with different opinions about who was responsible for the anthrax attacks of 2001. Their trying to make a legal case where contrary opinions and beliefs will not even get in the door. Only solid proven neutral and unbiased facts will be allowed to enter the courtroom to prove guilt or innocence.
This case is under a political thunderstorm the size of Hurricane Katrina. It is not a case the Department of Justice can afford to lose.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday, March
thru Saturday, March 11, 2006
March 9, 2006 - The "Anderson Cooper 360" show on CNN last night turned out to be two hours of news segments about many current news stories, with only about 9 minutes spent on anthrax - and of that, about 3 minutes was on the recent Vado Diomande case, leaving less than 6 minutes for "news" about the attacks of 2001.
The only new information I noticed was that the FBI says that there are currently 18 FBI Special Agents and 10 Postal Inspectors working full time on the investigation. The last report back on Sept. 16, 2005 was that there were 21 FBI Special Agents and 9 postal inspectors on the case full time. A minor change - but downward.
The two interviews on the show were a postal postal employee and Marilyn Thompson of the Washington Post. Thompson repeated her belief that the FBI is "lost" and that the case is "going nowhere". The postal employee talked about the way postal employees were treated after the attacks, which was also the theme of Thompson's book.
A big disappointment, considering how much we now know that wasn't mentioned.
March 8, 2006 - According to CNN's web site, Anderson Cooper 360 will have this on tonight (Wednesday):
A new and mysterious case of anthrax. How did it happen? Plus, who's behind deadly anthrax letters from 2001? Tune in at 10 p.m. ET.I was told this show was going to be on last night, but evidently Anderson Cooper was ill and they did a show about lung cancer instead.
I've never seen Anderson Cooper's show, but I'll watch it tonight - and tape it. It's two hours long. In a two hour show they just might have something worthwhile.
March 5, 2006 - One year ago this past week, on March 2, 2005, I was informed that a pallet containing 1,000 copies of my self-published book "Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks - The First Three Years" had arrived at a trucking terminal about 20 miles from where I live. That afternoon, I was signing copies and sending them out to scientists and people in the media I knew from three years of e-mail discussions about the anthrax investigation. On March 7, 2005, Amazon.com placed their first order.
I'd hoped that my book would generate some media reviews, but most responses from the media were just e-mail comments that they were committed to their own findings and weren't about to comment on some book which disputed the findings of their prestigious news organizations. The only actual media review of my book was in the April 30, 2005, issue of New Scientist magazine. Since that review didn't mention my web site or where the book could be purchased, as far as I could tell, it generated few sales. It often seems the only people who are even aware that my book exists are those who visit this web site - plus the few who happen to stumble upon it while browsing around Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com.
Meanwhile, all the new information uncovered during the past year confirms the findings in my book. The recent events regarding the drum maker generated a spike in visits to my site, which in turn generated a sale or two, but I've got a long way to go before I'll be out of stock. (I paid 14 cents a copy to have each book individually wrapped in plastic just in case it took a long time to sell them.)
Nevertheless, I keep thinking about an updated version, even though I'd have to sell out the current version before I'd actually consider self-publishing a new version. It would be nice if a regular publisher became interested, but this probably isn't the right time for that. While there's no indication that the case will be solved soon, the Hatfill lawsuits could be going to trial or could result in newsworthy settlements before the end of 2006. There's no way of telling whether any critical information might be made public.
So, I press forward, arguing daily with the same people about the same things while always hunting for new information - or new ways to view old information. It's good mental excercise. As long as you don't just mindlessly repeat the same words over and over, even if you are just responding to the same arguments you've heard many times before, it means you have to rephrase and rework counterarguments. And that usually results in finding much more effective counterarguments.
People who firmly believe they are right are not easily swayed by facts, since they can always rationalize some way to dismiss or ignore facts they don't like. What an effective counterargument accomplishes is to make them realize they'll just make total fools of themselves if they again use the same old argument in the same forum, because they know there's an effective counterargument just waiting to shoot them down in flames.
That means they'll have to think about a new way to present their argument. And any time you can get the other party in a debate to do some actual thinking, there's a very good chance thatboth sides might benefit from it.
Plus, effective arguments can make an effective book and and effective website.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, March 4, 2006
February 27, 2006 - According to the FBI and the Houston Chronicle, the "ricin" in the roll of quarters in Austin was NOT actually ricin but just another harmless powder.
February 26, 2006 - Last week seems to have been a week of "lessons".
The first lesson was in religion: A guy who claims to talk with God stated his belief that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001.
The next lesson was in law. We learned that Dr. Hatfill's lawyers probably can't practice law in New York State where the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit is in pretrial activities.
Then lessons in microbiology, medicine and history: We had the first known case of inhalation anthrax from natural sources in America in about 30 years.
Then lessons in botany and toxicology. A student in a dorm at the University of Texas in Austin opened a roll of quarters to use a washing machine and reportedly found the deadly poison ricin inside, which generated a string of alarming news reports and a flood of theories about who might have been responsible.
The final lessons for the week were in journalism and psychology. Late on Saturday, CNN was reporting that the "Powder in dorm likely not ricin" This morning, The Houston Chronicle confirmed the doubt:
Mike Elliott, senior district commander for Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services, special operations, said late Saturday that he does not think the white powder was ricin.I thought I was on the "leading edge" in distrusting first reports about "suspicious powders". I thought the media was fully aware of "false positives," too. Wrong! Is it really that difficult to simply ask: "Has this finding been confirmed?"
But, to be fair, it's not totally the fault of the media. As this week's anthrax "lesson" involving the drum maker showed, the authorities need to state repeatedly the exact nature of the danger and the significance and reliablility of test results. If they don't, we'll just get what happened in Austin with the "ricin" finding. We didn't get that in New York and Pennsylvania. That "lesson" is a good one to remember.
On the other hand, delaying the reporting of findings until testing is complete will set off conspiracy theorists. The first e-mail I received about the anthrax case contained one of the very first news reports along with this note:
What's interesting here is how long it took to to come out. They waited until they had a history (ie. travel to Africa, drummer) before announcing there was a guy with inhalational anthrax in hospital. Was it diagnosed a week ago? Yesterday?Before I had a chance to reply, there were new news reports that the media and the public were informed as soon as the test results were confirmed. And that particular conspiracy theorist just slunk away grumbling.
It's not easy to decide what the public should know and how soon they should know it, but it seems that last week we saw examples of both good decisions and bad decisions.
But there's a fine line between "being reponsible" and "manipulating the news".
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, February 25, 2006
February 25, 2006 - The ricin found in a roll of quarters by a student of the University of Texas in Austin was reportedly "chunky", which seems to indicate that the roll was opened, some coins were removed, the ricin added, some but not all of the coins were put back, and the roll was then reclosed.
Ricin articles are HERE. There's no room in a full roll of quarters for anything "chunky". Rolls of quarters seem to come in two basic types: the ones which are machine rolled with machine closed ends, and those which are hand rolled and have an ends where the paper is just folded over.
It's easy to speculate about this, but the fact that it happened at the University of Texas in Austin, and the University of Texas in Dallas was in the news a couple weeks ago, is probably not a coincidence: "A scientific discovery in North Texas could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in bioterrorism in years." I'm not suggesting a conspiracy. I'm suggesting that it doesn't take much to set off some nutcase.
That "nutcase" wouldn't have to go onto the Internet to find out how to make ricin poison. The University of Texas at Austin does a lot of work with ricin. Click HERE to see all the Google links.
February 23, 2006 - A few new facts have come out about the case of natural inhalation anthrax which made the news yesterday. The New York Daily News says:
anthrax also could have been at the root of a severe skin infection that attacked Diomande's thigh during a 2003 tour of Europe and Africa and landed him in the hospital for six weeks.And Newsday has an AP story which says:
That year , a woman was hospitalized in Vancouver, British Columbia, with skin anthrax on her palm, which she contracted while handling animal hides during a drum-making class.All the cases related to making drums appear to also involve goat hides.
Last night on NBC News, this was described as a "textbook case". That it is. It's exactly what was happening in the 1870's when Robert Koch first discovered that "woolsorter's disease" was caused by a bacterium. Having a new "textbook case" is a good lesson for those who seem to think that if it hasn't happened recently, "it doesn't happen anymore."
And, according to The New York Times, the public was informed that there was a new anthrax case within hours of it being confirmed:
Last Thursday, after Mr. Diomande and other members of his dance company performed at the Steadman Theater at Mansfield University, he collapsed and was taken to the nearby Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital in Wellsboro, Pa., with chills, fever and fluid in his lungs. On Friday, doctors took samples to identify a possible infectious cause. The next day, he was transferred to Packer, a larger hospital about 60 miles away.This paragraph explains how the infection almost certainly happened:
He made the drums by "soaking the hide and then stretching and scraping it to remove the hair, which is potentially a scenario where he could aerosolize any spores," said Dr. Lisa Rotz, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta.If it weren't for the anthrax attacks of 2001, this entire story probably wouldn't even have been noticed by most of the media.
February 22, 2006 - The accidential case of natural inhalation anthrax in Pennsylvania reported today by The New York Times, CNN, Reuters and AP (among others) is vaguely similar to some cutaneous anthrax cases in 1974. Those also involved skins used to make drums. The recall notice is still on-line HERE. Back in October of 2004, the TV series "Medical Investigation" based an episode on the case, and, of course, the fictional episode had everyone getting inhalation anthrax.
Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), this once again proves that you do not need a massive government operation to create spores which will float around and give people inhalation anthrax. So, the argument will now be about why the government didn't warn everyone in the country (and generate panic) as soon as the case was diagnosed.
According to AP via Newsday, the man became ill while performing with his dance company the Steadman Theatre in Mansfield, PA. And,
the 44-year-old man had been working with the unprocessed animal hides at a work space in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn before he became sick last week.
On Friday, blood tests were taken and by Monday, the tests began to indicate the possible presence of anthrax.The victim is in "stable condition". Doctors know a lot more about diagnosing and treating anthrax today than they did in 2001.
The Newsday (AP) article also says that, just to be safe,
Teams of federal and city officials planned to search the man's workspace in Brooklyn and his West Village apartment to test for additional traces of anthrax.Everything I see so far says this case was handled correctly.
February 21, 2006 - From what
determine from the docket entry made last
in the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit, one or all of Dr. Hatfill's lawyers
be in danger of having her/his "pro hac vice" status
"Pro hac vice" means the lawyer is from another State but is
to practice in this State on this one case. All of Dr.
lawyers are practicing pro hac vice in this case. They're
all from Washington, DC, and the case is being tried in White Plains,
There's no indication of what caused this to suddenly come up.
is the complete docket entry:
As can be seen, the "Decision and Order" was filed last Friday, but it wasn't entered onto the docket until today. (Unfortunately, the actual document (#68) is not available on-line.)
The key phrase seems to be "IF pro hac vice is revoked ..."
The phase "revisiting choice of substantive law" seems to indicate that some basic problem has popped up regarding a pro hac vice status. The judge may need time to check the law books. Here's some information about "substantive law":
What is the difference between procedural and substantive law?Since all of Dr. Hatfill's lawyers are pro hac vice, the stumbling block may be the New York State Court of Appeals rule highlighted in red below:
§ 520.11 Admission Pro Hac ViceI'm no lawyer, but this makes sense ... except that I don't see how such a rule could have be overlooked by everyone until now.
When viewing the docket this morning, I also found another
dated Feb. 10 but not entered until Feb. 15:
So, on Feb. 10, the CIA, USAMRIID and the Postal Inspection Service filed a "Memorandum of Law" in opposition to the motions to compel them to participate in discovery. That was certainly expected. (Document #67 is also not available on-line.)
February 20, 2006 - In case you've been wondering who God says sent the anthrax letters, that question seems to be answered in an article in today's on-line issue of The National Review titled "He Shall Direct Thy Paths to the Weapons of Mass Destruction." In the article, "William Tierney, the former United Nations weapons inspector who unveiled the so-called 'Saddam Tapes' at a conference in Arlington, Virginia, Saturday, told National Review Online that God directed him to weapons sites in Iraq." And, if that's not enough, there is also this:
Tierney also said that he believes Iraq orchestrated the 2001 anthrax attacks, with Saddam Hussein using American scientist Steven Hatfill as a "proxy" to carry out the mission.February 19, 2006 - Last week's debates over the significance of the "Saddam tapes" released by ABC News showed once again how information can be twisted to support almost any point of view. While nearly everyone (including ABC News, apparently) found the tapes to contain "nothing new", Right Wing outlets like the Cybercast News Service and The Conservative Voice seemed to see otherwise, generating headlines like "Interpreter of 'Saddam Tapes' Disagrees With ABC's 'Take' on the Story" and "ABC Saddam Tapes Translation Said to be Wrong".
Although ABC News seems to have taken a neutral point of view this time, the debate made me curious about the bentonite episode of October of 2001. I'd never thoroughly researched those events.
The bentonite episode was over and largely forgotten before I truly started collecting articles about the anthrax attacks, so I never had the articles on this web site. It was the story which Ari Fleischer said in his book "Taking The Heat" was "the most worrisome, inaccurate story of [his] time in the White House."
That story was also all about Iraq.
The ABC bentonite article was no longer on ABC News' web site, but last week I found copies on Kurd.org and elsewhere. www.kurd.org, which is run by the Washington Kurdish Institute, contained copies of several articles I didn't have on my web site. I've corrected that oversight.
The ABC bentonite story evidently created quite a commotion at the time. It was discussed on many Internet forums and reported in many media outlets, including NewsMax.com which had this headline: "Mylroie: Evidence Shows Saddam Is Behind Anthrax Attacks".
The ABC News bentonite article which started the fuss was titled "Troubling Anthrax Additive Found" begins this way:
Despite a last-minute denial from the White House, sources tell ABCNEWSI found two things about the article to be particularly interesting: (1) the list of authors at the end of the article, and (2) the date of the article: October 26, 2001.
The date was interesting because it fell into the time period I studied for the chapter titled "To Err Is Human" in my book. We know the dates of certain key events of that time because author Richard Preston was able to interview key scientists at USAMRIID shortly afterward, and his book "The Demon In The Freezer" shows how mistakes were made which were then leaked to the media as facts.
The first key event occured on October 24, 2001, when Peter Jahrling gave a briefing at the White House where he showed around pictures of spores oozing "goop" which he still assumed might be an "additive" put into the anthrax by the attacker, but which we now know was the result of soaking the spores in chemicals liquids before putting them into the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) for viewing (and picture taking).
That White House briefing resulted in leaks to the media, specifically to the New York Times which printed an article the next day titled "Contradicting Some U.S. Officials, 3 Scientists Call Anthrax Powder High-Grade - Two Experts say the anthrax was altered to produce a more deadly weapon". The "3 scientists" and "two experts" were using erroneous information about assumed additives as a basis for their speculation. The result was "Garbage in, Garbage out," as they say in the computer business.
The day the New York Times article was printed, October 25, 2001, was the same day of the next key event. It was the day Tom Geisbert took a sample of the Daschle anthrax to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) for examination via an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDX).
The EDX produces a graph which shows which atomic elements are in the sample. The graph showed that, in addition to what would be normally expected to be in typical anthrax spores, the elements silicon and oxygen were also present. This resulted in another false assumption. Nearly everyone assumed that the silicon and oxygen indicated the presence of silica, a substance frequently used to "weaponize" anthrax by absorbing moisture which might otherwise cause the spores to clump together.
Somehow, as a result of (or in spite of) these findings, ABC News had determined for their article dated the next day, October 26, 2001, that there was bentonite in the Daschle anthrax. (Under an EDX, bentonite would be indicated by the presence of the element aluminum. Aluminum wasn't detected, so there was no bentonite in the anthrax.)
In spite of denials from the White House, ABC News continued to insist that the Daschle Powder contained bentonite. Two days later, on Sunday, October 28, 2001, Brian Ross of ABC was on ABC's "This Week," hosted by Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts. Ross was still claiming that the Daschle anthrax contained bentonite:
... despite continued White House denials, now four well-placed and separate sources have told ABC News that initial tests on the anthrax by the U.S. Army at Fort Dietrich, Maryland, have detected trace amounts of the chemical additives bentonite and silica, which many experts say are trademarks, although from hard evidence, of the Iraqi biological weapons program.The transcript of this TV show and interview were also missing from my web site until last week. (It provides nothing new about the actual investigation, but it does say a lot about the thinking of the time.)
The next day, Tuesday, October 29, 2001, in a briefing at the State Department, some unidentified reporter grilled General Parker of USAMRIID about bentonite. The grilling seemed to end with this exchange (it would be interesting to learn which reporter was asking these questions):
Question: Would further tests show whether bentonite was there? Ari earlier suggested there may be other tests would identify it. Does this, what you're doing rule out bentonite, in your opinion?A few days later, on October 31, 2001, General Parker appeared before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services to explain that
Initial TEM analysis was performed on hydrated powder. This study revealed that the material was comprised solely of a high concentration of spores without debris or vegetative forms, suggesting this material was refined or processed.There was never any retraction of the bentonite story by ABC, of course. The "final word" on the subject seems to be the Nov. 1, 2001, ABC News article titled "Additive Search Requires More Study" where Gary Matsumoto seemed to attempt to explain that there was such a thing as "aluminum-free bentonite", so
mineralogists suggest the matter of the bentonite may not be closedThat article ends with a "followup" from ABC News which strongly suggests that "aluminum-free bentonite" might just be a figment of someone's imagination.
And that was the end of the ABC News bentonite episode.
A year later, at a "Breakfast Forum" at the The Columbia School of Journalism in New York, Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Shane mentioned the bentonite fiasco. His comments were reported on by Brigid Glanville of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's radio network in a feature titled "Anthrax: a Political Whodunit":
Scott Shane: There have been major erroneous stories, even apart from Hatfill. For example, it was reported by major publications and networks quite definitively that the anthrax powder in the envelopes contained bentonite and that pointed the finger at Iraq. This is going back a ways, now everyone’s focused on Stephen Hatfill, no-one remembers Iraq, but for a while there, Iraq was the culprit and the proof was bentonite and then the guy who was then head of the army’s Biodefence Centre in Frederick at Fort Detrick came out and said that the samples didn’t have aluminium in them and therefore it couldn’t have bentonite, and that story died. Another example was a major network led the evening news one day in December by saying the FBI had identified a leading suspect and the suggestion was they were about to put the cuffs on him. And that too was wrong and disappeared pretty much without a trace.How ABC got the story so totally wrong is still a "political whodunit", but, unlike most errors, the erroneous reporting about bentonite doesn't seem to have any easily understood explanation. Where did the bad information come from? Who were those "four well-placed and separate sources"? What source could be so "credible" that ABC would stick with it in spite of flatout denials by the White House? Didn't the ABC reporters realize that it was a matter of scientific evidence and not just a matter of opinions?
It's also important to remember that the incident didn't only involve a claim that there was bentonite in the Daschle anthrax, it also suggested the White House denials were lies -- i.e., there was an implication of some sort of coverup or conspiracy.
One thing seems certain: Someone who believed or wanted people to believe there was bentonite in the Daschle anthrax forgot the primary rule for getting people to believe a theory: Don't create a theory which can be scientifically disproven. The only theories which go on forever are those which no one can disprove.
We saw an example of that last week: If Weapons of Mass Destruction weren't found in Iraq, it's because they were hidden or moved or because the searchers didn't search hard enough or in the right places. And no one can prove otherwise.
The only problem with that theory is laying blame for not finding the WMDs. The responsibility must fall on the Bush administration. But that makes no sense. More than anyone, the Bush administration wants and needs to find those WMDs.
So, as last week indicated, the only people to blame are the "Left Wing Media". It's no longer a matter of "proof", it's a matter of belief. And they don't believe.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, February 18, 2006
February 12, 2006 - New documents were filed on Friday in both the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit and the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit.
While the latest documents mentioned in the Docket for the Hatfill v Foster lawsuit are not available on-line, the Docket seems to indicate there was some sort of application by Condé Nast Publications to "take evidence abroad". (Condé Nast Publications is a privately owned company.)
Far more interesting, however, is the fact that the official Docket no longer contains seven entries which were previously there. The missing entries included motions to compel depositions from the CIA and USAMRIID. I could speculate about why those entries have been removed, but instead of doing that, I just made a note on my version of the Docket that those entries were removed, and I highlighted the seven missing entries in red.
If I were a lawyer, I would probably have realized back in September that the lawsuit no longer calls for monetary damages against individuals. (It was ruled on Sept. 16, 2005, that it isn't a Bivens case, which evidently means that monetary damages don't apply, even though the government's motion to dismiss seemed to indicate the defendants were being sued for monetary damages.) On page 2 of this new document it states that the "specific relief requested by Dr. Hatfill" of the individual plaintiffs is non-monetary:
... the allegations of Dr. Hatfill's First Amended Complaint clearly establish that the individual defendants named here are being sued for their personal misconduct, not as mere representatives of federal agencies or the federal goverment as a whole. That conclusion is not altered by the fact that their personal misconduct consists largely of abusing their official power. The specific relief requested by Dr. Hatfill -- declarations that their past conduct was unconstitutional combined with injunctions to prohibit them from violiating Dr. Hatfill's rights in the future -- applies to the defendants personally as well, hardly implicating the rights and interests of the United States.So, it appears that Dr. Hatfill isn't asking for money or damages from the individual defendants. He's only asking that the defendants declare that what they did to him was unconstitutional and that the court enjoin the defendants from ever doing it again.
And he cites a Supreme Court ruling:
where the officer's powers are limited by statute, his actions beyond those limitations are considered individual and not sovereign actions. The officer is not doing the business which the sovereign has empowered him to do or he is doing it in a way which the sovereign has forbidden. His actions are ultra vires his authority and therefore may be the subject of specific relief.In other words, if you break the law while in office, you can't claim were simply doing your job when you broke the law. You acted as an individual outside of your authority and you can be sued for relief as an individual.
There's a lot of legal argument to back that up. And it says on page 9:
Defendants Ashcroft and Harp personally made illegal disclosures to the press that stigmatized Dr. Hatfill in a manner prohibited by the Fifth Amendment. [...] Defendants Darnell, Beres, and Henke saw the leaks reported on television and personally instructed LSU to terminate Dr. Hatfill's work on the first-responder training program he was then conducting -- an order that they all understood as barring him from any DOJ funded program.It also says on page 8 that "discovery in the case is fairly well advanced by now", which is good to know.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, February 11, 2006
February 9, 2006 - Evidently, no amount of evidence can change some people's beliefs.
An article dated yesterday in Front Page Magazine indicates that Laurie Mylroie still thinks Iraq had WMDs, and she still thinks the anthrax attacks were the work of Saddam Hussein.
It has been over four years since high quality, weapons-grade anthrax was sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy. That material was more lethal than the anthrax produced by the U.S. and Soviet biological weapons programs. The FBI’s claim that it was produced by a lone scientist was always a stretch; indeed, it is much more likely that it was produced by an enemy state. Notably, the FBI has provided no explanation of who was responsible.It doesn't seem to bother her one bit that she's making contradictory statements. She says the powder was "high quality, weapons-grade" but then says it was "more lethal than the anthrax produced by the U.S. and Soviet biological weapons programs".
Is it really so difficult to understand that "weapons grade" does NOT mean pure?
Is it so difficult to understand that pure spores are commonly made in microbiology laboratories but are NOT commonly made in bioweapons factories - where QUANTITY is more important than QUALITY?
The fact that the Senate spores were "absolutely pure" should be viewed as proof that the spores did NOT come from a bioweapons program. Instead, people like Laurie Mylroie twist the facts to fit their theories: Since the powder doesn't match any known bioweapons product, they simply suggest the powder must have come from some "new" or "secret" bioweapons program which DOES make pure spores. The fact that it was a small quantity which could easily have been made in almost any microbiology lab is something they simply cannot even consider -- evidently because they consider beliefs to be more important than facts or evidence.
If Weapons of Mass Destruction cannot be found, then they must be well-hidden. If you can't prove them wrong, then they must be right.
February 5, 2006 - I corrected an oversight and obtained a copy of the Docket for the Hatfill vs The New York Times lawsuit. My version can now be found HERE.
The Docket shows that on November 8, 2005, the case was "STAYED until (1) the Supreme Court denies the defts petition for a writ of certiorari (or the deft fails to timely file such a petition), or (2) if said petition is granted, the Supreme Court disposes of the case on the merits, whichever is earlier."
Unfortunately, the docket doesn't allow access to any actual documents filed thus far.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, February 4, 2006
February 3, 2006 - Evidently, The New York Times didn't accept the fact that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit. According to an AP article filed Tuesday:
The New York Times has an appeal pending at the Supreme Court seeking to throw out a defamation lawsuit brought by Hatfill.February 2, 2006 - The Docket in the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit shows that a lot of motions to compel discovery were filed yesterday. Condé Nast Publications wants to compel discovery from the CIA, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and USAMRIID. Plus, Don Foster and the Readers Digest are joining Condé Nast in the motion to compel discovery from the Department of Justice.
I wonder what the odds are for the CIA to go along with this.
February 1, 2006 - After studying the goverment's response to Dr. Hatfills' amended complaint more thoroughly, there are a few admissions and denials which might be worth mentioning. On page 5 it says this:
The Agency Defendants admit that the FBI released a "Linquistic/Behavioral Analysis of Anthrax Letters" on November 9, 2001. The Agency Defendants admit that the cumulative characteristics contained in that analysis would amount to a profile, but deny that the FBI commonly referred to it as a "profile". The Agency Defendants deny that the analysis assumed that there was only one anthrax killer.From page 8:
The Agency Defendants admit that Professor Foster provided information and theories to the FBI of his own volition, but otherwise unable to reveal the content of Professor Foster's submission pursuant to the law enforcement privilege.From page 52:
The Agency Defendants admit that they are aware the Steven Hatfill has claimed that, during an incident in Georgetown, an FBI employee ran over his foot with a vehicle. The Agency Defendants deny that the FBI engaged in a campaign of harassment.The goverment's response cannot be understood without going through the amended complaint line by line. The amended complaint can be accessed by clicking HERE.
January 31, 2006 - The government's response to Dr. Hatfill's amended complaint was filed today. It's 61 pages long. Click HERE to access it. Looking through it, I find little "news". About the only point of interest I see is that the following "boiler plate" statement is repeated 113 times:
The Agency Defendants can neither admit nor deny that this information is contained within a system of records because to do so would require the disclosure of sensitive information concerning an ongoing criminal investigation and protected by the law enforcement privilege.And variations on that statement are repeated dozens more times. The last statement on page 60 probably sums up the whole 61 pages very well:
The Agency Defendants specifically deny each allegation of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint to which they have not otherwise responded.January 29, 2006 - I received another e-mail from Science magazine last week:
Dear Mr. Lake:Hmmm. So, the article printed in Science magazine was a "News article" and not a science article? And "it didn't report original research"? And it was just "views of the science"? And retracting the article would be "censoring"? Ooooooookay.
Evidently, that's as close to a retraction as we're going to see.
And if retraction means "censoring", it's also as close as we're going to get to an acknowledgement that it was a political article and not a science article.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, January 28, 2006
January 28, 2006 - Yesterday, the government once again filed a motion to dismiss the parts of the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit which apply to individuals. (Dr. Hatfill is not only suing the FBI and the Department of Justice, he is also suing John Ashcroft, Van Harp and others as individuals, meaning they would have to pay damages out of their own pockets if they are found liable.) I'm no lawyer, but I believe this is separate from the response to the lawsuit which the government will probably file on Tuesday.
January 27, 2006 - Yesterday, the government filed a request for more time in the Hatfill v Ashcroft lawsuit, saying they need until next week Tuesday to prepare their response to Dr. Hatfill's amended lawsuit. It was due today.
The government's response could be interesting.
January 26, 2006 - It continues to look like the only sources of "new" information about the anthrax investigation are the Hatfill lawsuits. These comments are in a new document filed by the government two days ago in the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit:
The declaration contains information revealing of the on-going investigation into the anthrax mailings of 2001 and related grand jury proceedings, and thus cannot be filed publicly.So, Michael Mason is no longer in charge of the Washington Field Office? Since when? Inspector Richard L. Lambert was put in direct charge of Amerithrax specifically so that changes in the administration of that field office wouldn't affect the investigation, but it's still a surprise to see such a change go unannounced, without any press release or any news reports. A look around the Net shows that on December 29, 2005, less than a month ago, Mason was still in charge of the Washington Field Office. Another article dated January 8, 2006, indicates the same thing. So, this might be classified as "breaking news".
Michael Mason evidently replaces Jonathan I. Solomon and his new "executive" position makes him "responsible for managing FBI administrative programs worldwide and for directing the FBI's re-engineering initiatives." Clearly, he'll no longer have any direct supervision of the Amerithrax investigation.
January 25, 2006 - While poking around the Internet looking for information about exactly when the media started talking about "additives" in the Daschle anthrax, I confirmed what is said in my book and in Richard Preston's book "The Demon In The Freezer": The leaks about "additives" resulted from the White House briefing on Oct. 24, 2001. On page 184, Preston writes about the White House briefing:
Jahrling cleared his throat and directed everyone's attention to Geisbert's pictures of the anthrax skulls. (Staffers had passed them around.) He pointed out the fried-egg goop flowing off the spores in some photographs. This, he said, was probably an additive.So, eight days after first seeing the "goop" oozing out of the spores under high magnification under a Transmission Electron Microscope, people at USAMRIID still thought is was an "additive" and hadn't yet realized it was just the effect of heating spores which had been soaked in chemicals.
But it was known exactly a week later, on Oct. 31, when General Parker (the head of USAMRIID) told congressional committees that the spores had been "hydrated" and that his people lacked "any real familiarity with weaponized materials."
Preston says this about the leaks which resulted from the White House briefing:
A security official informed everyone that the meeting was secret. (The next morning, the meetings events were described in a front page story in The New York Times. The White House officials later concluded that the leak had come from a source in the FBI.)The New York Times article by William Broad is the first actual mention I can find of "additives" being seen or detected in the anthrax.
But, it's not the first mention of a possibility that tell-tale additives might be found in the attack anthrax.
A week earlier, Gary Matsumoto wrote an ABC News article dated October 16, 2001, titled "State Sponsor? Anthrax Suggests Government Expertise," and he speculated about additives.
October 16, 2001, is the day after the Daschle letter was opened, and it's days before any details were publicly known about the Daschle anthrax. In fact, there's nothing in the article about the Daschle letter, so the author evidently didn't even know it existed when he wrote this article. Instead, the article uses what was known from the Bob Stevens' case to draw conclusions. The article opens this way:
Oct. 16 — Some of America's top biological warfare scientists are edging closer to a conclusion they've resisted since receiving word of the first anthrax infection in Florida — that the recent germ attacks involved an expertise only a government could provide.The article also says:
But if the agents used in the attack are found to contain the telltale presence of certain compounds used in a professional drying process, this could be a very revealing clue. For instance, the presence of aluminum clay, an anti-clumping agent employed in an air-drying process for anthrax, would point to professionals rather than amateurs, and narrow the field of possible suppliers.So, the author seems to have already drawn conclusions that making the powder "involved an expertise only a government could provide," and he just needed to find "proof" of additives to verify his conclusions.
Between Oct. 16 and Nov. 1, Peter Jennings and Brian Ross of ABC released totally inaccurate stories about bentonite being found in the attack anthrax. In his book "Taking the Heat", Ari Fleischer says the ABC reporting was "what I view as the most worrisome, inaccurate story of my time in the White House."
In Matsumoto's Nov. 1 article, he has no doubt there is an additive in the powder. It's just a question of what kind of additive:
Contained in the deadly sample that arrived in Daschle's office on Oct. 15 are additives used to make the normally inert bacteria a better killer, and exactly which additives they are could point investigators in the direction of the anthrax's source, and from there, perhaps, to who sent it.So, here we have the same "dispute" between people who have the facts and people who do not believe the facts. Evidently, Matsumoto couldn't accept the fact that bentonite was NOT found in the anthrax. The article goes on to say this:
The government's top labs have run the Daschle anthrax sample through a series of tests. An electron microscope study found the Daschle spores looked "virtually identical" to those found in Iraq by U.N. weapons inspectors in 1994. But after subjecting it to a sophisticated X-ray test last week, the Army concluded it contained no bentonite, a clay comprised of several minerals, including aluminum.So, Gary Matusmoto found a source who knows a source which reportedly makes bentonite without aluminum.
But more important is the fact that in this article Gary Matsumoto is already finding outside "experts" who have not seen the attack anthrax but who will "dispute" what is said by people who have actually seen the anthrax:
But federal officials say even the level of purity in the Daschle sample is no proof that a foreign state is connected to the attacks. Instead, a theory favored by some federal investigators might be described as "Ted Kaczynski with a petri dish." According to this view, "a disgruntled Ph.D." here in America could have launched this wave of bioterror with a "well-equipped laboratory" and a tiny speck of virulent anthrax, which is quite simple to nurture into large colonies. That is, if he get his hands on the right strain. America's biowarfare scientists remain divided on this point. The trick is still making an effective powder, which requires more than an advanced degree in microbiology. Bill Patrick, former chief of "product development" at Fort Detrick in the waning days of the U.S. offensive biological weapons program, believes the small amount of anthrax recovered so far, apparently just 2 grams in the Daschle letter, points to "a small operation."Clearly, Matsumoto hadn't given up on the idea that bentonite would be found in the attack anthrax, even if it had to be some kind of aluminum-free bentonite.
But ABC News added a "followup" to the end of the article. It's not included in their current version of the article, but the copy I saved has this footnote:
On Nov. 1, 2001, ABCNEWS.com ran the report above regarding the U.S. Army's analysis of the anthrax material sent to the office of Sen. Thomas Daschle. The report included the U.S. Army's statement that the sample had been found to contain no aluminum and therefore could be concluded to contain no bentonite.So, it appears that Gary Matsumoto's first conclusion that the powder contained bentonite and required "expertise only a government could provide" was a failure.
I find no more ABC News articles by Gary Matsumoto.
The next article I find from him is the one dated almost a year later, October 28, 2002, which he co-authored for The Washington Post. In that article, titled "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted", he uses more "experts" with no knowledge of the attack anthrax to lay out his "evidence" that the attack spores were coated with fumed silica.
Of course, actual experts with actual knowledge of the attack anthrax later declared in a letter to the editor of The Washington Post that that theory was total bunk, too, since fumed silica would be easily seen. And fumed silica was not visible in micrographs.
And, as we all know, Gary Matsumoto's next theory is the one published in Science Magazine on November 28, 2003, where the spores were supposedly coated with some concoction of polymerized glass and silica which no actual bioweapons expert ever heard of and which is not confirmed by anyone who has actually seen the attack anthrax.
Three theories about coatings and additives. And all can be shown to be false.
It's interesting what FACTS can be found by doing a little research.
January 22, 2006 - The e-mail I sent to Donald Kennedy at Science Magazine last week suggesting that he retract the article titled "Anthrax Powder: State of The Art?", resulted in him suggesting that, if I was concerned about the science in the Matsumoto article, I should write a letter to Science that focuses on the science in the article.
Here's my response to that:
Dear Mr. Kennedy,While I'm complaining about the damage being done by the Science article, I suppose I should also express my feeling that the whole matter could be made so much simpler by the release of two things: (1) clear images of the Daschle anthrax (Pure spores are pure spores, so what "evidence" would be prematurely exposed by providing images of pure anthrax spores to the public?) and (2) information about exactly what AFIP saw. (Was AFIP making assumptions when they told the world there was silica in the powder as an "additive" or did they actually see something that no one else saw?)
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, January 21, 2006
January 20, 2006 - The PACER site for the Hatfill v Foster et al lawsuit was "down" for about a week. It's now working again, and the Docket mentions a very interesting new document filed yesterday by the U.S. Government. The document says this on page 1 (which follows page viii):
The anthrax attacks of October 2001 were the worst incidents of bioterrorism in American History. Twenty-two persons were infected; five died. In response to the attacks, the government launched one of the largest and most complex criminal investigations ever undertaken. Over four years later, that investigation remains open and active, and one of the DOJ's highest priorities. CNP [Condé Nast Publications] now seeks access to essentially the entirety of the Federal Bureau of Investigations ("FBI") investigative files for the purpose of defending itself in civil litigation to which the government is not a party. Recognizing that such access would unacceptably compromise the integrity of this massive and ungoing criminal investigation, the Deputy Attorney General denied CNP's request. The Court should uphold that decision.At the bottom of page 10 and continuing onto page 11 of the document it indicates that Condé Nast Publications wants to see the FBI's files to defend itself against the claim that Don Foster's Vanity Fair article was incorrect.
The entire purpose of CNP's Touhy request is to obtain information "essential to answer the basic question of truth or falsity" of the alleged defamation suggestions and statements in the Vanity Fair article - principally, that "Steven J. Hatfill ... is, in fact, guilty of being the 'anthrax mailer.'" [...] To that end, CNP specifically sought testimony on, for example, actions taken to investigate Hatfill and the results of those investigative actions, information conveyed by DOJ to Congress concerning the investigation in the anthrax mailings and the scientific analysis of the anthrax contained in the letters.The section in red was phrased differently on page 3:
The subpoena sought testimony relating to investigative actions taken against Hatfill, the results of those actions, the scientific analysis and conclusions regarding the type of anthrax used in the mailings, and investigatory findings relayed to Congress.It appears to me that the "information conveyed by DOJ to Congress" and the "investigatory findings relayed to Congress" are what was described in Matsumoto's article for Science magazine:
According to sources on Capitol Hill, FBI scientists now reported that there was "no additive" in the Senate anthrax at all.and
Sources on Capitol Hill say that in an FBI background briefing given in late 2002, Dwight Adams, of the FBI's top ranking scientists, suggested that the silica discovered in the Senate anthrax was, in fact, silicon that occurred naturally in the organism's subsurface spore coats. To support his thesis, Adams cited a 1980 paper published by the Journal of Bacteriology -- a paper that Matthew Meselson, a molecular biologist at Harvard University, says he sent to the FBI.It would be interesting to see a transcription of that Capitol Hill briefing, but what Dwight Adam's said certainly would not help Don Foster's conspiracy theory that the FBI was covering up for Dr. Hatfill. What Foster's lawyers may be hoping to do, instead, is utilize Gary Matsumoto's conspiracy theory to show that the Adams was not telling the truth when he briefed politicians on Capitol Hill. After all, Matsumoto's conspiracy theory was printed in Science magazine. So, how could it be wrong?
January 15, 2006 - Last week, Science magazine published it's retraction of the fraudulent scientific papers they published in the South Korean cloning fiasco. The retraction can be viewed by clicking HERE. The retraction contains an e-mail address for Donald Kennedy, Editor in Chief of Science magazine. It's email@example.com.
Since Science magazine may be in retracting mode, I sent them an e-mail suggesting another article should also be retracted. Here's the text of that e-mail:
Dear Mr. Kennedy,Since the article in Science may be more about politics than science, they may prefer to leave people with wrong information until some political objective is reached.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, January 14, 2006
January 11, 2006 - According to today's New York Times:
Science magazine, the leading scientific journal that published Dr. Hwang Woo Suk's two now-discredited reports on cloning human cells, said yesterday that it would evaluate how the articles had been reviewed and search for ways to improve its procedures.If Science magazine is serious about retracting fraudulent papers published in their magazine, there's another one I can suggest retracting. For details click HERE.
January 9, 2006 - There was apparently some kind of "sealed document" (#34) filed in the Hatfill v Foster/Vanity Fair/Reader's Digest lawsuit by someone some time between December 19 and December 29, 2005. No mention of it appeared in the Docket until today. I gather it was some kind of dispute about whether the case belongs in the New York courts or in the District of Columbia courts, but why that would require a "sealed document" is anyone's guess.
Plus, the Docket shows a memorandum, a declaration and a motion were filed on Friday by the defendants to "Compel discovery from Nonparty United States Department of Justice". I can only guess what that is all about. I really wish they had the actual documents on line.
Here are the latest Docket entries which appeared today
errors are the clerk's, not mine):
Meanwhile, in an article published today by the New Yorker Magazine titled "Why are the courts leaning on journalists?", it says:
Steven J. Hatfill, a former government scientist who was identified in the press as a possible suspect in the anthrax investigation, has filed a similar lawsuit against the government, in connection with leaks in his case, and in December, 2004, his lawyers subpoenaed thirteen news organizations for testimony. The lawyers have since withdrawn the subpoenas, while they interview government officials they suspect could be responsible for the leaks, but the subpoenas are widely expected to be reissued.If those subpoenas are widely expected to be reissued, it's news to me.
The article also says,
Steven Hatfill’s lawyers are pursuing a strategy similar to [Wen ho] Lee’s, first deposing the government officials who are suspected leakers in his case, and then, presumably, going after the reporters. The best hope for the subpoenaed journalists in both cases is that the government settles the lawsuits before the contempt rulings are affirmed.January 8, 2006 - A few minor pieces of The Great Puzzle fell into place last week.
It always seemed to me that it was a great stroke of luck that Richard Preston had access to key scientists at USAMRIID around the time the anthrax letters were first discovered and brought in for testing. He was able to interview those scientists and get their thoughts on what they were seeing at a time when tensions were extremely high. And, without realizing it, he also recorded in his book "The Demon In The Freezer" how those key scientists could misunderstand what they were seeing.
(If you can't imagine people making such mistakes in such a critical time, try thinking about the mistakes made during the coal mine disaster last week. There's a good reason the chapter in my book which describes the mistakes at USAMRIID is titled "To Err Is Human".)
Last week, while poking through Preston's 1994 bestselling book "The Hot Zone" to see if it might contain something about anthrax, I noticed a few things I hadn't known before: (1) Preston's first book was "First Light", an astronomy book which I read and thoroughly enjoyed when it first came out in 1987, (2) Peter Jahrling and Tom Geisbert of USAMRIID are "Main Characters" in "The Hot Zone", and (3) Preston's research methodology is described in the "To The Reader" page in "The Hot Zone". Here is what he says:
The dialog is reconstructed from the recollections of the participants. At certain moments in the story, I describe the stream of a person's thoughts. In such instances, I am basing my narrative on interviews with the subjects in which they have recalled their thoughts, often repeatedly, followed by fact-checking sessions in which the subjects confirmed their recollections. If you ask a person, "What were you thinking?" you may get an answer that is richer and more revealing of the human condition than any stream of thoughts a novelist could invent. I try to see through people's faces into their minds and listen through their words into their lives, and what I find is beyond imagining.So, what "The Demon In The Freezer" provides is another look inside the minds of scientists who are in an extremely tense situation, and we can understand how Richard Preston obtained the detailed, inside information. The scientists knew him from previous interviews and were accustomed to describing their thought processes to him.
It also appears that Preston's access to those scientists was shut down before Peter Jahrling and Tom Geisbert realized that they'd misunderstood what they were seeing in the Daschle anthrax. One can almost pinpoint the date access was shut down: Preston was told about the White House briefing on Oct. 24, 2001, and the trip to AFIP on Oct. 25, 2001. And that's it. The next bit of information comes from General Parker's testimony on October 31, 2001, six days later, when he was before the Committee on Governmental Affairs and the Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Service and where General Parker stated that his scientists were looking at "hydrated powder". Jahrling and Geisbert saw "goop" oozing from the spores because they were looking at a sample which had been hydrated by the HazMat team which brought the spores from Senator Daschle's office. The milky liquid in which they'd been soaking was evidently some testing liquid used by the HazMat team.
Since I've read a lot of books related to the anthrax attacks over the years and made a lot of comments about them, I put together a new supplemental page of links to such comments. It can be accessed by clicking HERE.
|Updates & Changes: Sunday,
2006, thru Saturday, January 7, 2006
January 1, 2006 - The new year promises to be a bit different than the old year if the Dr. Hatfill lawsuits go to trial before the end of 2006. (My reading of various documents indicates that trial dates should be set by September 29, 2006, in the Hatfill v Ashcroft et al lawsuit and by October 27, 2006, in the Hatfill v Foster et all lawsuit.) While it's always possible that these lawsuits (plus Hatfill v The New York Times) could be settled instead of going to trial, my readings of these situations indicate that the lawsuits will most likely not be settled unless the plaintiffs admit wrongdoing and fully explain their actions to the public, thereby (in theory) clearing Dr. Hatfill's name.
2006 may also be different in that a key argument may have ended. Ignorance is not a point of view, so scientific arguments about coating spores by scientists who know nothing about spores will now be automatically discounted unless they specifically address facts about spores. (Up until last month, some scientists falsely argued that coating chemical substances could be directly related to coating spores. That argument has been shown to be largely false.) The bulk of the debates during the past year were about how coating other substances related (or did not relate) to coating spores. Without those debates, it's uncertain how much discussion will be taking place, making it uncertain how much "new" information will be uncovered.
Disproving strongly held beliefs is still a good way of uncovering new data. But for that to happen, the people who hold the beliefs have to be willing to discuss their beliefs and attempt to show evidence - instead of just writing me off as "closed-minded" because I question their beliefs. On the other hand, not much can be learned if a discussion of "evidence" is really a discussion of whether the "evidence" really is "evidence". (If someone once lived a few blocks away from Greendale Avenue somewhere, is it really "too much of a coincidence" that Greendale was used in the return address on the Senate letters? If two people once met, does that really mean it's "evidence" that they were plotting a bioweapons attack? If a person once did a job interview at USAMRIID, does that reallymean he could easily have stolen a sample of Ames anthrax? If a person once took chemistry in school, does that really mean he knows how to make powdered anthrax using nothing more than common dirt, two empty soda bottles and duct tape?)
Digging through old material is also becoming less fruitful as a way of uncovering "new" information that was missed on the first (or second or third or fourth) reading.
But, I don't know exactly what I don't know. So, tomorrow I could stumble across something or someone could point out something to me that I never noticed before, and that could start another four years of intense debate. Or, something actually new might be made public by experts actually involved in the Amerithrax investigation. I think that is possible, but plenty might argue that it isn't.