UPDATE HISTORY
2008
A log of comments and changes made to the main pages.
www.anthraxinvestigation.com
Updates & Changes: Sunday, December 28, 2008, thru Wednesday, December 31, 2008

December 31, 2008 - If there's anyone out there who thinks that no one any longer believes that Dr. Hatfill was the anthrax mailer, check out the posting on December 30th, 2008 at 7:54 pm by "AnthraxSleuth" on The Blogger News Network.  He writes:

I have facts and evidence, Physical evidence that Steven Hatfill is the Anthrax Mailer.
 [...]  I have facts and more physical evidence that the FBI, one agent in particular, have fallen all over themselves to not investigate the real culprits. [...] 
the truth is coming out, I’m making damn sure of it.
Maybe he's writing a book or starting a web site.  Let's hope it's nothing crazier than that.

December 30, 2008 - This morning, Dr. Meryl Nass's blog contains a correction to her earlier comments about mutants found in the attack anthrax.  The correction also contains errors, but it is a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the long discussion on The Blogger News Network shows why I like arguing with conspiracy theorists so much.  They sometimes try to argue science.  And, when pressed, they will describe the science that they feel supports their argument.

One current scientific argument boils down to this:

The FBI stated that they used four key DNA mutations to find the source of the attack anthrax.  The source was determined to be the flask known as RMR-1029, which was controlled by Dr. Bruce Ivins.

The search identified eight samples with the key four mutations from the attack anthrax.  A total of about 1,070 samples from over 15 labs were tested. 

The FBI states that RMR-1029 was one of those eight samples, and RMR-1029 was the "parent" of the attack anthrax and the "parent" of the other seven samples.

It can undoubtedly be proven via documents and paper trails that RMR-1029 was the "parent" of the other seven samples.

However, in the discussion, "BugMaster" argues that it is impossible to prove that one of the other seven samples couldn't be the "parent" of the attack anthrax instead of RMR-1029.  The argument is evidently based upon a belief that Bacillus anthracis does not mutate fast enough to allow anyone to distinguish DNA differences between RMR-1029 and any sample grown from spores in RMR-1029.

In the roundtable discussion on August 18, however, Dr. Paul Keim made statements which seem to suggest that when using the entire DNA, it is now possible to distinquish which batch is the parent and which is the descendant.  I pointed that out to "BugMaster," but she/he claimed that if that is indeed what Dr. Keim said, then he is WRONG.

Ah!  Love it! Love it!  Love it!  A dispute between scientists that can seemingly be easily resolved by getting more information!  I'm attempting to do so.

Meanwhile, the discussion has been taken over by a True Believer who posts endless and irrelevant messages which he wants everyone to read.  And, if they don't, that is proof to him that others don't have all the information about the case that he has, and they don't care about the "truth" as he sees it.  That's why I avoid (whenever possible) arguing with True Believers.  But some things he says are interesting.  Consider the statement he made on December 28th, 2008 at 8:08 p.m.   It begins this way:

I’ve had a long heart-to-heart with the anthrax mailer. He’s convinced me that the US DOJ has problems that are far more difficult to resolve than the embarrassment over ...
That looks like it may have come from some Book of Revelations, Chapter 1, Verse 1.

December 29, 2008 - On Christmas, I mentioned a discussion on The Blogger News Network  where some people were arguing that comments on Dr. Nass's web site about an unclear statement in a slide presentation by Dr. Jacques Ravel somehow indicated that the FBI was in error and

the morphologic variations in spore colonies were not entirely identical between the NY Post and Leahy letters 
Checking with Dr. Ravel, he tells me that the slides referred to a list of morphotypes/wild type isolates (a.k.a mutants) that were sequenced.  It didn't refer to the number of mutants in the NY Post and Leahy letters nor whether they were identical or not.   So, it was just another example of people assuming that any discrepancy found anywhere shows the FBI was wrong, when, in reality, it just shows that people misunderstood what they were seeing and didn't bother to find out why things didn't agree. 

As a bonus, Dr. Ravel confirmed that the four identical mutations were present in each of the anthrax letters and in flask RMR1029.

BTW, if you want to see an extremely lively discussion of the current status of the anthrax investigation, click on that Blogger News Network link above.

December 28, 2008 - Although there are still a few days left in 2008, this seems a good time to summarize certain facts for the past year.  A chart showing activity for this web site explains a lot:

Clearly, August was an unusual month.  It was on August 1 that the news broke about Dr. Ivins allegedly being the anthrax mailer.  As I recall, there were days during that month when I had over 400 unread emails in my inbox.  I'm still trying to absorb all the new information that came out that month.

I wrote about 115,000 words of comments during 2008, far more than in any previous year.   Add in another 14,000 words in the new supplemental sections I wrote, and the total comes to well over the number of words that would be in 2 novels.

Things have quieted down significantly since August, however.  The conspiracy theorists and True Believers rarely send me emails these days, although they still discuss their beliefs on public forums such a Dr. Meryl Nass's blog, FreeRepublic.com and as added comments to articles on The Blogger News Network and elsewhere.

2009 looks like it should be the wrap-up year.  The promised scientific reports detailing facts about the scientific elements of the Amerithrax investigation should be published.  The promised Congressional hearings into the processes and findings of the Amerithrax investigation should take place.  We may even see a book or two from insiders in the case.  And each of those activities should spur heated reactions from people with contrary beliefs and opinions.

Personally, I'm looking forward to 2009 very much. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, December 21, 2008, thru Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 25, 2008 - How did I spend my Christmas, you ask?  I spent it enjoying myself.  What I enjoy most these days - and for most of the past seven years - is arguing about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  And things get particularly enjoyable when something new is learned or when some complex issue is clarified.

The discussions which greatly clarified for me the issue of the mutants in the attack spores took place HERE, but some of the discussion by "anonymous" was carried over from Dr. Meryl Nass's web blog, where Dr. Nass recently made this comment:

To make a big deal about 4 morphologic findings that were present in the anthrax letters--and then to learn one sample had 3 and the other 5, MEANING THEY WERE NOT IDENTICAL--defies understanding.

IS FBI simply practicing its own version of Hitler's Big Lie? As paraphrased by the OSS: "People will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it."

And "anonymous" commented:
One sample having 5 and the other 3 must mean that the first had all 4 of the morphological varients plus the orginal (for a total of 5), while the second had only 2 plus the original (for a total of 3).

So one had all four, but the other only 2.

....
Hey guys, this is FBI science we're talking about here, not real science. The FBI invented their own laws of science a long time ago

Looking at my copy of the roundtable discussion of August 18, 2008, the facts appear to be as follows:

1.  There were "well over a dozen" mutations or "morphological varients" in the attack anthrax.  That was noticed almost immediately.

2.  Using scientific procedures which had never before been applied to microbial forensics, scientists selected four of those mutants as key search criteria when they went through the approximately 1,070 samples of the Ames strain the FBI collected from over 15 different labs around the world.

3.  They found only eight samples from among the 1,070 which had all four mutants.  All eight samples came from just two labs: USAMRIID and one other (presumably Battelle).

4.  None of the other samples contained 3 of the key mutations.  Some contained 1 or 2.

5.  DNA testing showed that seven of the eight matching samples were "daughters" of the "mother" spores in the eighth sample, the RMR-1029 flask controlled by Dr. Ivins.

6.  The attack spores were also "daughters" of the mother spores in the RMR-1029 flask.

The above facts say that the attack anthrax could not possibly have come from any of the other 1,062 sources.  And since "daughter" spores can presumably only produce "granddaughter" spores, the only possible known source is RMR-1029.

The information on Dr. Nass's web page needs clarification, but no valid interpretation will change the fact that the attack anthrax was grown from spores in flask RMR-1029.  The seven samples of daughter spores couldn't produce it, and no other known source had the three mutants found in the media anthrax, much less the five in the senate anthrax.

Mutations are random, although certain types of mutations are more common than others.  If a viable mutation occurs early in the growing process, there should be many of that mutation in the final product.  If a viable mutation occurs late in the growing process, there should be very few of that mutation in the final product.  The four key mutations were probably picked because there were many of them in the attack anthrax (but still far less than 1% of the total), and they were specific mutations which would be easily and reliably identified. 

And since mutations are random, the chances of three mutations exactly matching those in the attack anthrax growing spontanously in new growth is virtually nonexsistant. 

We all need to wait for the scientific papers which will go into the details. Two quotes from the roundtable discussion seem to make that very clear:

It is important to emphasize that the science used in this case is highly validated and well accepted throughout the scientific community. The novelty is in the application of these techniques for forensic microbiology.
And
One other aspect of this is that we’re trying to preserve the peer reviewed scientific publishing process, so we’ve identified a number of papers that will come out of this also, so again, these are multiple layers of validation. We talked about the various ways that — we had the working groups that advised on the approach, how we develop the process; we had many people work on the actual samples themselves and on the repository. There were so many people involved in this that participated we want allow them another layer of validation, which is the peer review process. So this will be made public. We have more than 10 papers that we have tentatively identified to be published on this. We’re just preserving the ability to do that. If we disclose everything here then we will not be able to publish those papers.
Unfortunately, every day that passes before these scientific papers are published is another day when conspiracy theorists can distort or misinterpret the known facts in order to dream up a dozen or more new theories.

December 24, 2008 - FWIW, I took the chart of Dr. Ivins' overtime hours in lab B3 that was in search warrant applications and re-did it to show year 2000 and 2001 separately, instead of as overlapping graphs.  Here is the result: 

While the chart makes it clear that Ivins spent a LOT of time in lab B3 at the time the culprit would have been preparing the attack anthrax, far far more than at any other time in the two years, the most curious thing the graph shows is that he began working long hours in lab B3 in August of 2001, the month before 9/11.

That seems to indicate that whatever he was doing, it wasn't entirely connected to the events of 9/11.

But, then again, if he was worried about a possible anthrax attack and/or the lack of available anthrax vaccines and/or the future of his work, there's no reason to believe that those worries would have suddenly popped into his head on 9/11.

One could conclude that he was experimenting or practicing in August.  The fact that he had no explanation for what he was doing suggests that whatever it was, it wasn't something he wanted the authorities to know about. 

December 22, 2008 - This morning, on NPR's "Morning Edition," they have a story titled "Survey Reports Scientists 'Suspicious' Of FBI."  I can testify to that.  Many of the scientists with whom I talk are suspicious of the FBI.  But that's mainly because I often talk with conspiracy theorists, and there seem to be a large number of conspiracy theorists among scientists.  Some even have downright hatreds for the FBI and just about every department in every branch of the government. 

Interestingly, the article says:

Only 15 percent of scientists who responded to the survey had ever had any professional contact with law enforcement agents.
So, it isn't direct contact with the FBI that causes the suspicions.  It's what they read in the media or see on TV.  The article also says:
[Michael] Stebbins [the director of biology policy at the Federation of American Scientists]  is surprised though, by what he sees as an "unhealthy level of paranoia" among scientists. Researchers worried that the FBI would inhibit their ability to conduct research, or would want to classify their work, read their personal e-mails, or ask them to monitor the work of their colleagues.
And
Daniel Cloyd, who runs the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, says misconceptions about law enforcement are widespread.

"In movies, we tend to run the gamut," he says. "We're either supermen and women who can do no wrong, or we're bumbling fools who can do nothing right." Neither is accurate, he adds.

On the positive side, 
the vast majority of scientists seemed open to helping the FBI under certain circumstances. Just over 90 percent reported that requesting technical expertise in a specific area was a "good or excellent" reason to be consulted by the FBI. Eighty percent said helping with an ongoing investigation would be a "good or excellent" reason to help.
So, one might conclude that scientists are suspicious of the FBI because the FBI asks other scientists about scientific matters and not them.  By nature, scientists tend to be suspicious of anything they haven't tested and checked out for themselves.

December 21, 2008 - I've been so busy arguing for the past week that I didn't have any time to think about what I'd write for today's comment.  I awoke this morning thinking I'd write about how Internet archivers are recording arguments that in the past would have purely oral and lost forever, but today they are in a visual format and are recorded forever.  I was particularly fascinated by the ongoing conversations HERE and HERE which seemed to hit home on one of my main themes: Some people will argue beliefs as if they were facts and dismiss facts as absurd beliefs - no matter how much evidence there is to support the facts. 

Back in 2001 or 2002, when I first heard the suggestion that a six-year-old child might have written the anthrax letters, I just dismissed the idea.  It didn't seem logical that anyone would use a child that way.  It seemed too risky.  But, as arguments about the handwriting continued, with some claiming it was disguised and others claiming it was an Arab who was just learning to write with Roman characters, facts started piling up which truly pointed toward a child having written the letters.  I changed from dismissing the idea to saying it was "possible," to saying it was "likely," to saying it was "very likely," and finally when some key evidence appeared, to saying it was "a near certainty."  When the FBI identified Bruce Ivins as the culprit, and it turned out that Bruce Ivins' wife ran a day care center and he had a lot of contact with children of the right age, it was just icing on the cake.  However, I can't go beyond "a near certainty," since without sworn statements from the writer or the culprit or other solid evidence, there is always the possibility of another explanation, and I need to keep an open mind for that.  But, some will argue that just shows that I have a "closed mind," since anyone with an "open mind" would immediately see that the whole idea is foolish and would dismiss the idea completely without even looking at the evidence. 

But, this morning the argument changed.  Suddenly, the person I was arguing with seemed to accept the possibility that I might be right.  What happened?  The only thing I can see is that I mentioned that what we were arguing about was not my original idea.  It came from someone else.  My web site says I got the idea from someone on a news discussion group.   Later I learned the idea may have originally come from Brother Jonathan.  Did the fact that it wasn't my idea change things?  Did that somehow change it from one person's screwball idea to a possibly valid idea shared by other people? 

This morning, there was an email in my inbox from a law enforcement official in another country who regularly reads this web site, and he was impressed by the discussion, but he felt there was still the unanswered question of how the culprit avoided getting the child's fingerprints all over the envelopes.  I don't know.  I  don't know that fingerprints can't simply be wiped off a letter.  I don't know that a scientist wouldn't have ways to get rid of fingerprints.  I don't know that the culprit didn't simply show the child how to avoid getting the letter "messy" by putting a piece of paper under the hand that was holding the envelope in place.   I remember doing that when I was a kid.  The hand holding the pen wouldn't leave fingerprints if the adult was on hand to make sure it didn't.  And there could be other answers as well. 

And I certainly don't know why the culprit chose to use a child instead of one of the hundred other methods of disguising handwriting that have been suggested over the years.  Maybe he just thought it was a different way that had never been done before and no one would expect it.  Maybe he figured they'd assume one of the other routine methods was used.  Or they'd believe that an actual Muslim terrorist wrote the letters.

Last week I also discussed other things with other people, but as I write these words a new idea has occurred to me.  If Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer, how would he have reacted when he saw on my web site I was claiming that a child wrote the letters?  We know he was at least an occasional visitor to this site.  He paid a visit a few days before he committed suicide.  And he used a method that regular visitors use to get to my site: He typed my name into Google.  It requires fewer key strokes than typing in my web site name or almost any other search argument.   With all the records that are kept of what people do on the Internet, I wonder what information is out there about Ivins' searches that hasn't yet been found.  And how much can be solidly connected to Ivins? 

If more people were thinking of ways to find evidence related to Bruce Ivins instead of looking for ways to prove the FBI was wrong about him, I wonder what would turn up.   I've been discussing an idea with the FBI that might produce a "smoking gun" if proper records are kept by the right people for long periods.

For nearly seven years, the debate was over who did it.  Now that the culprit has been identified, I'd like to see some debate over ways to confirm it was Ivins.  Discussing theories about how the FBI is totally wrong and part of some conspiracy seems much more a waste of time today than it did before the facts about Ivins became known. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, December 14, 2008, thru Saturday, December 20, 2008

December 17, 2008 - It's strange that over seven years after the anthrax attacks of 2001, a question that has never been asked before can still generate a very interesting finding.  In an on-line discussion HERE, I was asked, “Ed: Do you think that it is likely that the mailer waited until the FBI was looking at the mail before they mailed the Senator letters?”

The person asking the question had a theory that the culprit decided to send the Senate anthrax letters after seeing a CNN report on the 8th of October which mentioned that the FBI was on the case.  I couldn't see any reason for that being a factor.  Besides, it took at least a week to prepare the letters.  How could he get a motive on the 8th and mail the letters that same night? 

My previous thinking was that the letters were prompted by reports in the media that Bob Stevens' infection may have come from natural sources.  But, that was also pushing the time needed to prepare the anthrax.  Those stories came out on the 4th and 5th.

So, I took a look at the headlines for around the time when the facts say that Dr. Ivins would have had the minimum time needed to prepare the anthrax - 7 to 10 days prior to the mailing.  Suddenly, boom.  There was a headline on page 16 of The Washington Post on September 29, 2001, that said:

Demand Growing for Anthrax Vaccine 
Fear of Bioterrorism Attack Spurs Requests for Controversial Shot
The article describes how there was a great demand for the vaccine by the public, but there were very few stocks of the vaccine around.  The article says:
More than 1,000 people in the past two weeks have tried to get shots directly from the vaccine's maker, BioPort of Lansing, Mich. Callers there are being shunted to a recorded message that reflects what doctors everywhere are saying: 

   "All the stockpile that currently exists is owned by the Department of Defense. At this time there is no opportunity for any commercial sales." 

That reality has infuriated some. 

I can easily imagine that that article would be very interesting reading for a scientist whose whole life was built around the creating of anthrax vaccines!  Particularly at a time when there was a demand for commercial sales and the program was in jeopardy of being shut down!  And even more particularly more than ten days after the first anthrax mailing and there had been absolutely no news about it in the media. 

I believe The Post's issue for the 29th actually comes out on the evening of the 28th.  Plus, for an article like that, Dr. Ivins may even have been called - although his name isn't mentioned in the article.  I began to wonder: What was Dr. Ivins doing on the evening of the 28th?  We have a source that tells us:

Beginning on September 28, Dr. Ivins worked eight consecutive nights which consisted of the following times in building 1425 with time spent in Suite B3:
Day Date Time in Building 1425 Total Time in B3
Friday September 28 7:16 p.m. to 10:59 p.m. 1 hour 42 minutes
Saturday September 29 8:02 p.m. to 11:18 p.m. 1 hour 20 minutes
Sunday September 30 9:53 p.m. to 12:04 a.m. 1 hour 18 minutes
Monday October 1 9:14 p.m. to 10:43 p.m. 20 minutes
Tuesday October 2 7:24 p.m. to 9:39 p.m. 23 minutes
Wednesday October 3 7:25 p.m. to 10:55 p.m. 2 hours 59 minutes
Thursday October 4 6:10 p.m. to 10:12 p.m. 3 hours 33 minutes
Friday October 5 7:40 p.m. to 12:43 a.m. 3 hours 42 minutes

I suppose some will argue that he was working hard on perfecting a new vaccine.  But, wasn't he working hard on that before?  And how come nothing new came from his sudden hard work on a new vaccine?  And why didn't he tell FBI investigators that is what he was doing?  Instead, the facts seem to indicate he was working hard to generate further interest in putting more effort into vaccine development.  And one way to do that would be to send the anthrax filled letters to Senators Daschle and Leahy. 

December 15, 2008 - According to The Associated Press this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected Dr. Hatfill's appeal in his lawsuit against the New York Times.  I think that ends the last of Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits.  The court decided that Dr. Hatfill was a celebrity at the time of the articles and would therefore have to prove actual malice, which the court felt he hadn't proved.  More details HERE and HERE

December 14, 2008 - While there was absolutely nothing new about the Amerithrax investigation in the main stream media last week, it was a week of many discussions of the subject, including the lengthy ones on-line HERE and HERE.  Even when I'm just arguing with the same people I've been arguing with for seven years, sometimes bits of new and worthwhile information come to the surface.   Or new questions are asked. 

In one conversation, it occurred to me that a critical factor in making the attack anthrax would have been speed.  The culprit would almost certainly have made the powders using the fastest method he could use.  That poses a basic question: Does Bacillus anthracis grow fastest in a fermenter, in shaking flasks, in solid medium on plates, or some other way?  I think I know the answer, but I'm trying to confirm it.  The answer might also say something about the source of the silicon found in the spores.

In another conversation, or maybe it was the same one, a scientist mentioned a bizarre interpretation of what he'd read in the news.  He seemed to be saying that he and some other scientists were sitting around chuckling to themselves while awaiting the FBI's publication of a scientific paper where the FBI would try to argue that the rate of mutant generation in Bacillus anthracis can be used to precisely determine the exact time that a spore was made.   It's a crazy idea, since growth rate and mutation rates are easily slowed down or speeded up by adjusting the environment.  Plus, mutation rates are only averages, like one per billion replications.  Plus, many mutations are not viable, and the mutant does not reproduce.  But then I realized that the scientist mistakenly believed that FBI scientists were trying to use such a ridiculous method, and he and other scientists were just waiting around for the FBI scientists to publish their findings so they could tear them apart.  Wow. 

In another part of the discussions, an interesting question was brought up: Should we all stop discussing Adolph Hitler?  After all, Hitler committed suicide before he could be tried for his crimes.  And isn't everyone innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?

In an email conversation, I learned that it is only in the movies where scientists are absolute masters of precise wording.  I had to use very precise questions to make absolutely certain that a scientist who repeatedly uses "on" when he really means "in" really meant "in."  It would be funny if it wasn't so frustrating.

Clearly, it is also only in the movies where scientists always insist on discussing facts instead of beliefs.  Trying to discuss facts with some scientists last week just resulted in them leaving the conversation.  They would only discuss beliefs. 

Lastly, in the on-line discussions, it was again demonstrated that those who think that Bruce Ivins is innocent may all agree that the FBI is wrong, but each has his own personal theory about who sent the antrhax letters.  And their theories are based entirely on beliefs, not facts.   While there is a clear distinction between the ways True Believers and conspiracy theorists think, if the only way a True Believer can justify his belief that the FBI is wrong about Bruce Ivins is to conjure up a conspiracy by the government to cover up crimes by al Qaeda, then so be it.  Try to prove it isn't  possible.

Fascinating stuff, but when you argue with the same people year after year, they soon learn how to end a conversation when it's clear they aren't making any progress.   Most just disappear.  But one person endlessly reminds me of Matthew Harrison Brady, the True Believer role played by Frederick March in the movie "Inherit The Wind."  When Brady found that arguments based upon his beliefs were in a losing fight, he simply began reciting (or preaching) endlessly from his gospel.  The Internet equivalent is to start cutting and pasting endless irrelevant material, until, as in the movie, everyone just gets up and leaves.  It turns what could be a very good and enlightening discussion into something mind-numblingly tiresome and meaningless. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, December 7, 2008, thru Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 12, 2008 - While a debate rages HERE about whether or not the Bush administration was framing Dr. Ivins in order to cover up for al Qaeda (!!!!), and another debate rages HERE about whether the FBI has any real evidence against Dr. Ivins or not, someone notified me about a brief radio segment from the National Academy of Engineering where the questions about the silicon found in the anthrax spores are raised once again.  The segment raises more questions than it answers and seems to take things out of context.  I'll try to contact the people who were interviewed to see what they actually said and meant. 

December 11, 2008 - A Blogger News Network post titled "Leading Theories of the Anthrax Mailings Case" generated some comments which have caused me to think a bit about the handwriting on the anthrax letters.

For years I've been stating that the facts seem to make it a near certainty that a child of about 6 did the actual writing on the anthrax letters (except, perhaps, the date on the media letter) and the anthrax envelopes.  The "person of interest" I had in New Jersey didn't have any access to children, as far as I knew.  But, facts are facts.  So, either he had some access I didn't know about, or the handwriting was evidence that the scientist in New Jersey was innocent

The situation with Bruce Ivins is very different.  Ivins' wife ran a daycare center in their home.  Daycare centers mainly take care of pre-schoolers younger than 5 or 6, but they also routinely take care of older children for short periods before and after school when their parents have to work and the children are still too young to be at home alone, e.g., kindergarteners and first graders - children who are 5 or 6. 

In addition, there are reports that Ivins sometimes played piano in a "humble little school auditorium" and that his eulogy praised him for "His Devotion to Children."  So, if a child of about 6 did write the letters and address the envelopes, it appears Dr. Ivins would definitely have had access to children of that age. 

None of this conclusively proves anything, of course, but when people say they find it "impossible to believe" that the FBI "could persuasively rule out the other 99 (or perhaps as many as 299) scientists who had access to the virulent strain of anthrax from the flask Ivins kept" or they find it "impossible to believe" that anyone would use a child to write the anthrax letters, they are saying the facts have no meaning to them because the facts are "impossible to believe."  That makes me wonder: 

When someone finds something is "impossible to believe" in spite of what the facts say, does that say something about the facts or about the person?  Or both?

If both, and, if many people find using a child to write terrorism letters "impossible to believe," would presenting such evidence to a jury do more harm than good?  Could any evidence be good enough if many people would always find the evidence "impossible to believe?"  Testimony might work.  But, would a jury believe the testimony of a 13 year old recalling what he says he believes he did when he was 6?  Or might that, too, be "impossible to believe?" 

December 7, 2008 - Because the anthrax murder case has been solved, I've been mulling over creating a new first page for this web site, which would be implemented on January 1, 2009.  The whodunnit mystery is over.  The only real question remaining is: Can anything convince the conspiracy theorists and True Believers that the case is solved?

Here the facts of the case against Dr. Bruce Ivins, as I see them:

1.  He was in charge of the RMR-1029 flask containing the "mother" spores which produced the attack anthrax "daughter" spores.

2.  He had worked with Bacillus anthracis for over 20 years and had all the necessary expertise and equipment to prepare the spores in the anthrax letters.

3.  He accessed the locked room where the RMR-1029 flask of spores was stored at the times the attack anthrax would have been prepared.

4.  He worked alone and unsupervised in his lab for long hours at night and on weekends during the time the attack anthrax would have been prepared.

5.  He had no scientific reason or verifiable explanation for working those hours or at those times.

6.  He had multiple motives for sending the anthrax letters.

7.  He tried various ways to mislead investigators when they started to suspect him.

8.  He had no alibi for either of the times when he could have driven to New Jersey to mail the letters.

9.  He was known to drive long distances and to use various methods to mail letters and packages so they could not be traced back to him.

10.  He had multiple connections to the New Jersey area where the anthrax letters were mailed.

11.  He had serious mental problems, which appear to include murderous impulses.

12.  The pre-stamped envelopes which were used in the attacks had print defects, and one of the post offices which sold the envelopes with those print defects was a post office which Dr. Ivins used.

13.  His wife ran a day care center at the time of the attacks, and the facts indicate that a child of about 6 was used to do the actual writing on the anthrax letters.

14.  Investigations found no evidence that someone other than Dr. Ivins sent the letters.

15.  There is no evidence that Dr. Ivins could not possibly have sent the anthrax letters.

There may also be other facts pointing to Dr. Ivins which have not yet been disclosed by the FBI.  The case has not been officially closed.  And it is known that many scientific reports with details of the scientific investigation are being written, are going through the peer-review process and/or are awaiting a publication date in scientific journals.

Meanwhile, those who cannot accept the FBI's findings continue to use every tactic they can to cast doubt upon the FBI's findings.  They have no proof of Dr. Ivins' innocence, so all they can do is try to make it appear that, if there is any doubt - reasonable or not - about Dr. Ivins' guilt, then he must be innocent.  After all, if Bruce Ivins is guilty as the evidence clearly indicates, then the conspiracy theorists and True Believers must be wrong in what they are trying to get people to believe.  And they can never accept that.

And, because they cannot accept it, for years to come there may be an ongoing need to disprove the myths and nonsense being spread by the conspiracy theorists and True Believers.

An alternative idea for the future of this web site was to continue with the evaluation of where I was right and where I was wrong in my analysis.  But that seems of limited value.  When a case or project or investigation is complete, there can be great value in looking back at all the missteps and wrong paths that were taken, so that lessons can be learned which might help make future cases, projects or investigations go more smoothly.  But only investigations which are complete in about 48 hours tend to be similar to other investigations.  Investigations which go on for years are usually different from all prior investigations, and that is one key reason they go on for years. 

The facts now say that the FBI had "persons of interest" in November and December of 2001, but their investigations could not find solid proof that any of them were the anthrax mailer.  In fact, that's what they repeatedly old us: They had a list of 12 to 20 "persons of interest," with names being added and removed as facts were collected, but none could be solidly proven to be responsible for the attacks.

Prior to Bruce Ivins' suicide, the facts indicated to me that the FBI knew as early as November or December of 2001 who had sent the anthrax letters, but they just couldn't prove it.  And they were working on the new science of "microbial forensics" in hopes that the would be able to use that science to prove who sent the letters.

I was right about what they hoped to get from "microbial forensics."  But I was wrong in believing that it would prove some already known suspect to be guilty.

The facts now indicate that they had no viable suspects for several years after the attacks, as the science of microbial forensics was being validated.   It was during that time that Dr. Hatfill appeared to be the focus of the FBI's attention as a result of "tips" from scientists and pressures from the media, politicians and the public.  With no true viable suspects, it's quite possible that even some FBI agents felt that Dr. Hatfill might be the anthrax mailer.  After all, respected scientists were pointing at him. 

The first item of microbial  forensic evidence they were hoping to use to narrow down the search for the killer -- the "silicon signature" -- proved to be of little or no value.  My thinking was that it could have come from the glass container used to grow the bacteria.   I thought they might be able to trace the "polymerized glass" back to a manufacturer and then to a specific lab.  But, the silicon evidently turned out to be just silicon that was in the nutrients or water used to grow the bacteria.  The silicon got into the spores the same way iron gets into a human body if you eat raisins, or zinc gets into a human body if you eat peanuts.  It comes from what you eat or drink.

That might have been proof of something if it could have been shown that no one else working with anthrax used nutrients or water or food additives with that form of silicon.  But, no one could show that.  Plus, the crime happened years ago, and criminals do not keep accurate records of every detail of their crimes. 

The same with the Bacillus subtilis bacteria found in the media letters.  They might examine ten thousand samples from a thousand different labs today, but what would those samples prove about what was happening in September and October of 2001?

Then, in late 2003 or early 2004, came the breakthrough.  A scientist at Ft. Detrick noticed that there were viable mutants of the Ames strain bacteria in the attack anthrax.  And those mutants appeared in only a few of the many Ames samples collected from labs around the world.

Eventually, the investigation found that the lengthy production runs which created the spores in the RMR-1029 flask had produced those viable mutant bacteria.  And of the 1,072 samples of the Ames strain that were tested from 16 or more labs, the key mutants found in the attack anthrax only showed up in 8 other samples.  Those 8 samples came from only 2 sources. And one of those 2 sources was Ft. Detrick.  And it could be shown that the bacteria in the 7 of the 8 samples and the anthrax letters were all "daughter" bacteria grown from the source of the 8th sample: the "mother" spores in the RMR-1029 flask controlled by Dr. Bruce Ivins.  That flask was the "smoking gun."

True, there were others who had access to the RMR-1029 flask.  But it is standard police work to check out and eliminate people from a list of "possible suspects."  It's a routine matter of checking out alibis (opportunity), of checking out capabilities (means), and of looking for possible motives.   It took years to check out the hundreds of people who might have had access to RMR-1029.  And when all but one of those "possibles" were eliminated as suspects (along with all the others whose names had come up in the past years), the investigators were left with only one viable suspect: Dr. Bruce Ivins.  And, as seen in the 15 facts listed above, there is an abundance of circumstantial evidence that Dr. Ivins was indeed the one and only anthrax mailer. 

So, instead of looking for facts about who committed the crime, which we now have, it appears the future will be mostly about disproving the junk science that conspiracy theorists will continue to use to argue that the case is not solved.  The True Believers will continue to claim that anyone who disagrees with them is "closed minded," but they've already been doing that for seven years, so nothing is different there.

Hopefully, in 2009 there will be hearings and investigations into the Amerithrax findings which will help clarify everything - as will all the scientific reports that are in the works.  None of it will change the minds of True Believers and determined conspiracy theorists, of course.  But, like what happened with those who insist that the moon landings were some vast government hoax, in time their arguments will almost certainly be viewed as they should be viewed: The arguments from the ever-present Lunatic Fringe.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, November 30, 2008, thru Saturday, December 6, 2008

December 6, 2008 - CNN's web site has a nutty commentary by Peter Bergen titled "Commentary: WMD terrorism fears are overblown."  Bergen writes,

Terrorists have already used weapons of mass destruction in the past decade in attacks around the world, and they have proven to be something of a dud.

In the fall of 2001, the anthrax attacks in the United States that targeted politicians and journalists caused considerable panic but did not lead to many deaths. Five people were killed.

The alleged author of that attack, Bruce E. Ivins, was one of the leading biological weapons researchers in the United States. Even this brilliant scientist could only "weaponize" anthrax to the point that it killed a handful of people. Imagine then how difficult it would be for the average terrorist, or even the above-average terrorist, to replicate such efforts.

Imagine how difficult it would be for the "average terrorist?"  What kind of idiotic logic is that?  The "average terrorist" in the 9/11 attacks didn't know how to fly a plane, so the "average terrorist" couldn't have pulled off the attacks.  Does that mean that 9/11 didn't really happen?

The "average terrorist" in the 9/11 attacks didn't even know he was on a suicide mission.  Terrorists attacks aren't generally planned by the "average terrorist." 

And the idea that a "brilliant scientist" like Bruce Ivins could only manage to kill a "handful of people" with his "weaponized" anthrax is stupidity of unbelievable proportions.  The fact that the anthrax mailer took many precautions to avoid killing anyone is evidently lost on Mr. Bergen.  Using the anthrax attacks as an example of ineffective WMD terrorism is pure stupidity.  If the anthrax mailer had wanted to kill as many people as possible -- as an "average terrorist" might be expected to do, -- he could have killed hundreds, maybe even thousands, with the tiny batches of anthrax powders he had created all by himself

"WMD terrorism fears" may indeed be "overblown."  But Mr. Bergen needs to find better reasoning than to argue that "a brilliant scientist" who was apparently trying to avoid killing anyone with his use of a WMD accidentally killed only five people

December 2, 2008 - The Associated Press just released a new article titled "Security refresher ordered for Army labs."  According to the article,

An Army spokesman said the training was recommended by a task force that was formed as a result of the FBI's conclusions about Ivins, who killed himself last summer before he could be charged in the attacks.
That seems like a step in the right direction.  Evidently, someone at Ft. Detrick has realized that there are risks associated with letting people work unsupervised with deadly pathogens at night and on weekends, entering and leaving the labs in the middle of the night, even if they are getting psychiatric help for their murderous impulses. 

November 30, 2008 - Last week, I neglected to mention that November 22nd was the seventh anniversary of the start of my analysis of the facts about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  I'm now in my eighth year of collecting and analyzing data about those attacks. 

I began this web site because, in October and November of 2001, people were endlessly arguing opinions and beliefs about the attacks without bothering to study the facts.  Because I had worked for many years as a systems analyst, and because I'm analytical by nature, I wanted to see what the facts had to say about who sent the anthrax letters ... and why.  So, I started collecting and analyzing.

One fact has remained abundantly clear thoughout the past seven years: Some people will endlessly argue opinions and beliefs, regardless of what the facts say.  The facts we've recently learned about Dr. Bruce Ivins appear to have changed very few beliefs. 

The facts now say that Dr. Bruce Ivins was almost certainly the anthrax mailer, and he almost certainly acted alone.

Since I analyze facts, I find no difficulty in adjusting to new facts.  The facts I had in 2001 which seemingly pointed toward a scientist who lived and worked in Central New Jersey were nothing compared to the evidence I now see against Dr. Ivins.  Plus, the new facts about the contents of RMR-1029 eliminate the scientist in New Jersey as a potential suspect.  And, everything I had -- all the motivation factors and scientific abilities I knew about the scientist in New Jersey -- apply ten-fold to Bruce Ivins. 

Christopher Columbus believed he'd reached Asia when he set foot on an island in the Bahamas in 1492.  All the facts he was aware of told him he'd landed in Asia.  He went to his grave in 1506 still thinking he'd reached Asia.  But new facts learned 14 years after his death - by the 18 men who survived Ferdinand Magellan's attempt to  circumnavigate the globe - made it very clear that Columbus' just didn't have enough facts.  If Columbus had known the facts Magellan's crew had discovered, there's no way Columbus could have retained his original conclusions.   There could be no new facts which would prove that he'd actually reached Asia and America didn't exist. 

In December of 2001, I had facts about less than a half dozen scientists who could be considered "persons of interest."  One seemed to have a perfect alibi.  Another appeared to have been thoroughly checked out by the FBI.  Others were just names or unidentified people who others suspected for various reasons.   The scientist in New Jersey who became my #1 "person of interest" had no known access to the Bacillus anthracis Ames strain, but he had a known motive, plus he lived and worked within fifty miles of where the letters were mailed, and he had all the necessary knowledge to prepare the powders.  And he seemed to have the right attitude.  And, because of where he lived and worked, he seemed to have plenty of opportunity.  But, for all I really knew for certain, he could have been in California or Japan or Argentina at the actual time of the attacks.  Or he could have been in jail or in a hospital in traction.  I had no facts about exactly where he was at the time of the attacks.  And, I knew that one of the first things the FBI would check out would be where he was at the time of the attacks.  So, I knew the FBI almost certainly had facts I didn't have about my "person of interest, and those facts might easily prove him totally innocent. 

That's the problem when there are thousands of possible suspects and you only know facts about a half dozen or so.  And that's why I never named my "person of interest."

Later, I learned facts about other scientists who some considered to be possible or even likely suspects, such as Dr. Steven Hatfill and Dr. Philip Zack.  But my analysis of the facts told me that both of them were almost certainly totally innocent.  And, from the very beginning the facts clearly indicated that al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein didn't have anything to do with the attacks, either.  So, the scientist in New Jersey remained my #1 "person of interest."

Then, a few months ago, there was a sudden flood of new facts about someone I'd never heard of -- except as a name among the many names in some scientific articles I'd read: Dr. Bruce Ivins. 

The news about the RMR-1029 flask and how it was accessable only to a few hundred scientists was enough to eliminate my "person of interest," because I knew of no way he could be one of those few hundred.  (Yes, there was a possiblity that he was actually a secret, highly-trained super-agent and snuck into USAMRIID to get a sample one night, but I had absolutely no facts to support such a fantasy.)

Then came other new facts.  According to page 12 on one of the search warrants in the Ivins case, 

A review of USAMRIID records, laboratory notebooks, written protocols, and professional publications have shown that Dr. Ivins has worked with Bacillus anthracis at USAMRIID since 1980. He has personally conducted and supervised Ames anthrax spore productions for over two decades. At the time of the anthrax mailings, Dr. Ivins possessed extensive knowledge of various anthrax production protocols. Dr. Ivins was adept at manipulating anthrax production and purification variables to maximize sporulation and improve the quality of anthrax spore preparations. He also understood anthrax aerosolization dosage rates and the importance of purity, consistency, and spore particle size due to his responsibility for providing liquid anthrax spore preparations for animal aerosol challenges.  Dr. Ivins produced large batches of Bacillus anthracis which were required for such challenges - tests in which vaccinated animals inhale pre-defined doses of anthrax spores to assess the efficacy of the anthrax vaccine.

Dr. Ivins's 20 years of working in the laboratories of USAMRlID provided him personal, hands-on laboratory experience in the production of liquid spore preparations of Bacillus anthracis. He has used lyophilizers, biological safety cabinets, incubators, and centrifuges in vaccine research. Such devices are considered essential for the production of the highly purified, powdered anthrax used in the Fall 2001 mailings. Dr. Ivins was also very experienced in conducting laboratory work in a containment area and well versed in decontamination procedures specifically for Bacillus anthracis. Dr. Ivins's employment at USAMRIlD also provided protection against anthrax infection at the time of the mailings due to his extensive and current anthrax vaccination history.

So, the facts say Ivins had all the experience necessary, his shots were up-to-date, and he had access to all the equipment.  I didn't even know if my former "person of interest" ever had any anthrax shots. 

The new facts about Ivins continued to pour in.  Because of his position, my "person of interest" presumably had unsupervised lab access.  But, I didn't know that to be an actual fact.    Bruce Ivins, on the other hand, definitely had unsupervised lab access.  That was an established fact.

According to pages 12 to 14 of one of the search warrants:

a. Unexplained Late Night Laboratory Access

USAMRIID containment Suite B3 is a Biological Safety Level-3 (BSL-3) suite of laboratories used by USAMRIID Bacteriolgy personnel for research on dangerous animal and human pathogens. The flask identified as RMR-1029 was stored in Suite B3 at the time of the letter attacks. Suite access is obtained via a Security Access Control (SAC) badge reader at the door to the cold-side change room, which is secured by a magnetic-lock. A researcher must pass through the change room in order to go in or out of the suite. A central security system monitors and records a time stamp for each SAC badge and keypad request.

A review of Dr. Ivins's laboratory access records for Building 1425 was assessed to determine trends in working hours and evening times (after 6 p.m.) spent in Suite B3. His regular working hours on average consisted of a 7:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. shift, but he would periodically return in the evenings, presumably to check on the status of various experiments.  Beginning in mid-August 2001, however, there was a noticeable spike in Dr. Ivins's evening access to the B3 Suite.

The investigation examined Dr. Ivins's laboratory activity immediately before and after the window of opportunity for the mailing of the media letters to New York which began at 5:00 p.m. Monday, September 17. 2001 and ended at noon on Tuesday, September 18, 2001.  Beginning on Friday, September 14. Dr. Ivins worked the following three consecutive evenings prior to the mailings with time spent in Suite B3:

Day Date Time in Building 1425 Total Time in B3
Friday September 14  5:54 p.m. to 12:22 a.m. 2 hours 15 minutes
Saturday September 15 8:05 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. 2 hours 15 minutes
Sunday September 16 6:38 p.m. to 9:52 p.m. 2 hours 15 minutes
After September 16, Dr. Ivins did not enter Suite B3 in the evening again until September 25.

The investigation further examined Dr. Ivins's laboratory activity before and after the window of opportunity for the mailing of the Senate letters to Washington, D.C. which began at 3:00 p.m. Saturday, October 6, 2001, and ended at noon on Tuesday, October 9, 2001.

Beginning on September 28, Dr. Ivins worked eight consecutive nights which consisted of the following times in building 1425 with time spent in Suite B3:

Day Date Time in Building 1425 Total Time in B3
Friday September 28 7:16 p.m. to 10:59 p.m. 1 hour 42 minutes
Saturday September 29 8:02 p.m. to 11:18 p.m. 1 hour 20 minutes
Sunday September 30 9:53 p.m. to 12:04 a.m. 1 hour 18 minutes
Monday October 1 9:14 p.m. to 10:43 p.m. 20 minutes
Tuesday October 2 7:24 p.m. to 9:39 p.m. 23 minutes
Wednesday October 3 7:25 p.m. to 10:55 p.m. 2 hours 59 minutes
Thursday October 4 6:10 p.m. to 10:12 p.m. 3 hours 33 minutes
Friday October 5 7:40 p.m. to 12:43 a.m. 3 hours 42 minutes
After October 5, Dr. Ivins did not enter Suite B3 in the evening again until October 9, for 15 minutes, and then October 13, for one hour and 26 minutes.

The investigation also analyzed the daily schedules, work areas accessed, and the number of hours worked per week of all other researchers assigned to the Bacteriology Division who had access to Suite B3 during the months of September and October 2001. When these records are compared to Dr. Ivins for the same period, Dr. Ivins's habits are significantly different than those of the other researchers, in that he was frequently in Suite B3, where RMR-1029 was kept, late at night and on weekends when no other researchers were present in Suite B3.  Additionally, while Dr. Ivins was in Suite B3 at night, no other USAMRIID employee was present.

On March 31, 2005, Dr. Ivins was asked by the FBI about his access to Suite B3 and could provide no legitimate reason for the extended hours, other than "home was not good" and he went there "to escape" from his life at home. A review of Dr. Ivins's and co-workers' laboratory notebooks and projects at the times in question was conducted and determined that Dr. Ivins's role in the experiments were minimal, and did not justify the time he spent in B3.  Dr. Ivins has admitted to investigators that the research he was conducting in 2001 did not require, and does not explain, his late night hours in the B-3 laboratory around the time period of the anthrax mailings.

Since producing anthrax spore preparations was one of Dr. Ivins's principal responsibilities at USAMRIID, he had multiple and unfettered opportunities to produce or divert Ames strain spores for illegitimate purposes. His access to Suite B3 and USAMRIID afforded all of the equipment and containment facilities which would have been needed to prepare the anthrax and letters used in the Fall 2001 attacks.

So, he had plenty of unsupervised lab access at the time the anthrax powders would have been created.  He had unsupervised and unlimited access to the RMR-1029 variants at the time the anthrax powders would have been created.  The anthrax powders are known to have been made from spores in the RMR-1029 flask.

But, what about motive?  My "person of interest" had written things which indicated that he had motive to send anthrax letters to the media and to Senators Daschle and Leahy specifically.  Did Ivins also have motive?  The new facts about Ivins indicated there was an abundance of motives.  He was concerned that his work on vaccines might be shut down.  Plus, he had the same motives as my "person of interest" had: He was concerned that America was insufficiently prepared for a bioweapons attack.  And he was upset that Senators Daschle and Leahy were arguing about civil rights at a time when fast action against terrorists seemed required. 

My "person of interest" lived and worked in Central New Jersey, which gave him the opportunity to mail the letters from that general area.  People argued with me that the culprit wouldn't mail the letters near where he lived, but I didn't see ten or twenty or fifty miles from the mail box to be "near" the mail box.  And driving from anywhere beyond fifty miles seemed too risky, and could create a need to explain to others why he was gone so long and where he was.

Now we know that Bruce Ivins was known to drive long distances to mail things.  He did many things under false names.  And he apparently routinely lied to his wife and others about where he was and what he was doing. 

Plus there are facts which show that Bruce Ivins had done things to throw the FBI off his trail.  He'd tried pointing the finger at others.  He was mentally unstable.  He'd made all sorts of threats against people.  And, when it appeared he was going to be indicted, he committed suicide. 

All the known facts say that Dr. Ivins was truly the anthrax mailer.  There are no facts which say otherwise.  And there are no facts which say he conspired with anyone else. 

Those who still argue beliefs instead of facts, however, claim he didn't have enough time to make the powders.  The FBI scientists say he did.  The facts are clear: The people who don't believe he had the time, do not know how to make such powders.  The people know how to make the powders also know he had the time. 

Yet, nearly everyone with whom I've been arguing for the past many years still argue their beliefs.  They nearly all claim that the facts do not prove that Ivins was the anthrax mailer -- because there are ways that doubt can still be raised.  Whether that doubt is "reasonable" or not is a matter of belief - and they believe it is "reasonable." 

When you look at the number of people who believe that Ivins was innocent - or that he did not act alone - the number can appear impressive.  And many have professional credentials which can make the number seem even more impressive. 

But, just a little probing of their beliefs will quickly show that the number is far less impressive than it appears. 

I've talked with many of them over the years, and I continue to talk with many of them.  They may seem unified in their belief that Dr. Ivins was innocent, but they are definitely NOT unified as to WHY they believe Dr. Ivins was innocent. 

Some still believe al Qaeda was behind the attacks.
Some still believe Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks
Some still believe a vast Jewish conspiracy was behind the attacks.
Some still believe the Bush administration was behind the attacks.
Some still believe the CIA was behind the attacks.
Some still believe pharmaceutical companies were behind the attacks.
Some still believe a writer was behind the attacks in order to sell books.
Some still believe a different scientist was behind the attacks.
Some still believe that a military person was behind the attacks.
Some still believe their next door neighbor was behind the attacks.

Some still believe the attack spores were "weaponized" with silica or silicon and that everyone who says otherwise is either lying or incompetent.  And they still believe there must be some vast criminal conspiracy to cover up the real facts, because they simply do not believe anything the government - and particularly the FBI - says.

As I see it, in time, published scientific reports will provide all the details about the silicon found in the spores.  But, in the meanwhile, the conspiracy theorists will continue to make up nonsense about silicon additives in order to justify their beliefs. 

Some still believe that Dr. Ivins did not have the ability to make the attack anthrax.  According to The Baltimore Examiner:

“Knowing the layout of the BSL-3 suite, the implication that Bruce could have whipped out [anthrax mixture] in a couple of weeks without detection is ridiculous,” says Gerald P. Andrews, director of the bacteriology division and Ivins’ supervisor from 2000 to 2003.
That kind of claim fits with the beliefs of nearly everyone who has doubts about Dr. Ivins' guilt, regardless of who they believe did commit the crime or why.  After all, the claim is made by Ivins' supervisor who should know the facts, since he was the supervisor responsible for allowing Ivins to work with lethal pathogens alone and unsupervised at night and on weekends.   And Ivins' co-workers who never noticed any suspicious activities appear to agree.   After all, if Ivins was guilty, they would all be somewhat responsible for failing to notice what he was doing and for failing to stop him before he murdered five people.  And they didn't do that.

When people in the media report that Senator Daschle is "very skeptical" of the government's investigation "because of the government 'bungling' of Steven Hatfill's case," the media people are falsely reporting that there is some similarity between the "investigation" of Dr. Hatfill and the investigation of Dr. Ivins.  In reality, the two cases could not be more different.  The Hatfill "investigation" was purely political and based upon "tips" from screwball conspiracy theorist scientists who claimed the FBI was "covering up" for Dr. Hatfill when the FBI's investigation found nothing to tie him to the mailings.  The Ivins investigation, on the other hand, was the result of years of detailed scientific analysis followed by an equally detailed criminal investigation. 

Whether I like it or not, people will continue to believe what they want to believe.  And as more new facts are released, they'll find new and inventive ways to ignore those facts in order to continue believing as they want to believe.

But, just as the facts eventually showed that Columbus was wrong in thinking he'd reached Asia, the facts about the Amerithrax investigation  now show and will continue to show for all time that the attack spores were NOT weaponized and Dr. Ivins was the person responsible for making and mailing them. 

When you have the right facts, the facts can no longer be overturned by new facts. 

But, never-the-less, I'll continue to hunt for new facts every day.  I want to see how the new facts will fit with what is already known, and I continue to be interested in how the facts can be ignored by those who still believe their beliefs override all facts. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, November 23, 2008, thru Saturday, November 29, 2008

November 28, 2008 - Looking once again through the newly released documents related to the "investigation" of Dr. Hatfill and all the news stories, one paragraph from The Los Angeles Times article seems to have additional meaning:

One of the first federal investigators to question Hatfill about the anthrax mailings, now-retired FBI Agent Bradley Garrett, said Tuesday that Hatfill had remained the bureau's "only viable suspect -- until they figured out" Ivins.
Although it can be solidly argued that Dr. Hatfill was never really a "suspect," and the FBI stated many times that he was "not a suspect," and at least one of the newly released documents says 
It is premature, however, to characterize Mr. Hatfill's status as being a target, subject, or even a suspect.
it does appear that until the FBI figured out that Dr. Bruce Ivins was almost certainly the anthrax mailer, they didn't have any other "viable suspect."

When you have no other viable suspects and there has been an eight month campaign by conspiracy theorists, politicians and the media to point the finger at Dr. Hatfill, plus endless claims that the FBI was covering up for Dr. Steven Hatfill, you have a very volatile situation.  And that situation wasn't helped by the fact that the innocent man being fingered was an aggressive, intelligent, risk-taking scientist and former "mercenary" who was unlikely to just stand by quietly and let things play themselves out.  Such men tend to fight back when they are falsely accused.  And fighting back can just make things worse when the "enemy" is a nebulous bunch of screwball conspiracy theorists and their followers in the media and in Washington.  And when the FBI has no other viable suspects except a man who the facts say is innocent but who respected scientists, journalists and politicians say is the most likely person to be the culprit, all the rules can - and apparently did - fall by the wayside. 

In one of the telephone conversations I had with Dr. Hatfill back in the late summer of 2002, at the height of all the craziness, I suggested that he keep notes on what was happening, since it would all make a very interesting book someday.  I hope he did so. 

Looking at what the media reported this week, I see no mention anywhere of what was happening to Dr. Hatfill in the seven months prior to the first public search of his apartment.  Instead, the headlines claim "Prescription led to erroneous anthrax case" and "Focus on Hatfill Relied on Informants," which give the impression that the Dr. Hatfill "investigation" began days or hours before that first public search on June 25, 2002, instead of seven months earlier when Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg gave a speech on November 21, 2001, before the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention in Geneva, where she began telling everyone who would listen "that a renegade person associated with a U.S. biological weapon defense laboratory was responsible for mailing the letters."  That was the beginning.  And it got more intense for seven months

One international headline from June 16, 2002, should make very clear exactly what the situation was just days before that first public search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment: "FBI ‘guilty of cover-up’ over anthrax suspect."  The article begins this way:

American investigators know the identity of the killer who paralysed the US by  sending anthrax in the post but will not arrest the culprit, according to leading US scientists.
But, if you read what is in the media this week, that never happened or meant nothing.  According to the media today, the public investigation of Dr. Hatfill was all just a silly mistake by the FBI resulting from suspicions about his Cipro prescriptions or what some anonymous informant said about things Dr. Hatfill did in Africa years earlier.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.  But that may be what many historians record.

November 26, 2008 (C) - The Hatfill search warrants include a section titled "Fiber Evidence" that is perking interest.  The section includes this:

12.  The four envelopes containing the anthrax spores were forwarded to the Trace Evidence Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, DC for hair and fiber analysis.  Several textile fibers were recovered REDACTED XXXX REDACTED   The fibers are believed to be suitable for comparison purposes.
The thinking is: If the fibers matched something, they might have resulted in some kind of evidence against Bruce Ivins.  True.  But, if the fibers did NOT match anything, they would NOT - repeat NOT - be proof of anyone's innocence, although some might try to make it appear so -- as was done with the hairs found in the New Jersey mailbox.  And, it appears that the fibers did not match anything connected to Ivins or Hatfill.  That would mean something if the fibers were known to be from Brand-X carpet, and neither Ivins or Hatfill had any contact with Brand-X carpet. But, if the fibers are from some unknown source, then they would only mean something if a match was found.

The Hatfill search warrants all seem to be related to searching for "fiber evidence."

However, I find it of particular interest that the first search warrant on the list to be signed by Judge Deborah Robinson was signed at at 10:58 p.m. on July 31, 2002, and four other warrants were signed at 11:00 p.m., 11:03 p.m., 11:05 p.m. and 11:12 p.m.  Getting a judge to read and sign five search warrants at that time of night would seem to indicate some kind of urgency related to losing their tail on Hatfill - NOT a search for fiber evidence based upon suspicions that accumulated over the past many months. 

The warrant signed at 11:05 p.m.  says "Hatfill stayed overnight" at his girlfriend's apartment "last evening, July 30, 2002."  That makes me think that Dr. Hatfill stayed at his girlfriend's apartment after the long drive back from Louisiana.

This statement by the FBI agent in the search warrants might be considered particularly relevant:

I have not included each and every fact known to me concerning this investigation. I have set forth only the facts that I believe are necessary to establish the necessary
foundation for the search warrant.
Doing a bit of research to see if exact times for Dr. Hatfill's return drive from Louisiana can be established, things seem a bit more clear now.  According to The Weekly Standard, it was on August 1 that the bloodhounds "found" Dr. Hatfill: 
Still, there are the bloodhounds, one of whom is reported by Newsweek to have "excitedly bounded right up to Hatfill" on August 1, inspiring an FBI observer to exclaim, "Damn!"
According to Newsweek, Dr. Hatfill had eaten at that Denny's in Lousiana "the day before," which would be July 31.  But, according to the FBI, Dr. Hatfill had already returned to Maryland, staying in his girlfriend's apartment on the evening of July 30. 

So, it would appear that Dr. Hatfill and his girlfriend had breakfast at the Denny's in Louisiana on the morning of July 30, and then drove straight through to Maryland that day, spending that night at her apartment.  When the FBI realized they had lost their tail on Hatfill, they decided to bring in the bloodhounds.  The bloodhounds began their search at Denny's on the 31st, where Hatfill had eaten "the day before."  They did other sniffing around on that day, probably including William Patrick's driveway.  The FBI seems to have located Hatfill some time on the 31st and got their search warrants late that evening.  The next day, on August 1, one legal document says the handlers let the bloodhounds find Dr. Hatfill in an empty apartment in the same building where his apartment was located. 

According to AIM.org, something else happened on that first day of August, 2002:

On August 1, Justice sent an e-mail to Stephen L. Guillot, the director of the [Louisiana State University National Center for Biomedical Research and Training], ordering him to "cease and desist" from using Hatfill on Justice Department-funded projects.
These facts would seem to indicate that something may have happened during the day of July 31, 2002, that really made the DOJ and the FBI very angry with Dr. Hatfill.  Or, perhaps it happened on the 30th, but it took time for those organizations to react. 

November 26, 2008 (B) - Someone just pointed out something interesting in one of the newly released documents.  In the Motion to Seal the documents related to Dr. Hatfill's girlfriend, this statment is made:

Moreover, the affidavit in support of the search warrants sets forth certain information as to why Steven Hatfill is a person of interest to the Grand Jury's and FBI's investigation of the terrorist anthrax mailings. There are and have been other persons situated similarly to him as persons of investigative interest. It is premature, however, to characterize Mr. Hatfill's status as being a target, subject, or even a suspect. Disclosure of this application, however, would undoubtedly lead to widespread perception to the contrary.
That's interesting enough, but what was pointed out to me was what was written in the actual Order to Seal:
Having found that sealing the search warrant and the supporting affidavit in the abovecaptioned matter will protect an ongoing investigation and protect the safety of an incarcerated confidential witness,
the motion of the Government is HEREBY GRANTED
An incarcerated confidential witness?  Hmm.  I'm no expert on the subject, but as far as I know there are only two kinds of "incarcerated confidential witnesses": (1) those who are already in jail for some reason and are talking in hopes of getting some kind of reduced sentence, and (2) witnesses who are in protective custody for their own safety.

#2 seems most interesting, since it conjures up an image of the FBI being worried about the safety of Dr. Hatfill's former co-worker during the period when the FBI supposedly lost their tail on Dr. Hatfill.

But, there could be any number of other explanations.  Unfortunately, it seems very unlikely that we'll get any explanation any time soon.

November 26, 2008 (A) - Nuts!  Before shutting down operations yesterday evening, I took a quick look through the newly released documents from the Hatfill investigation and found nothing related to the use of bloodhounds, nor any mention of Dr. Hatfill's trip back from Louisiana which seemingly prompted the second round of searches of his apartment.  And, this morning, The Los Angeles Times appears to have found in the documents a reason to support their belief that the FBI considered Dr. Hatfill to be a serious suspect in the Amerithrax investigation.  The article titled "FBI's early anthrax hunches revealed in documents" contains this first paragraph:

The unsealed papers show how the FBI came to think Steven J. Hatfill was responsible for the deadly 2001 anthrax mailings.
The article doesn't attempt to put suspicion back on Dr. Hatfill, but instead describes the FBI's "misguided investigation" and "provocative details behind early suspicions that led the FBI to target the wrong man."

The Washington Post, meanwhile, titles their article on the subject "In Anthrax Probe, Focus on Hatfill Relied on Informants," which is more in line with my observations.   The Post's article opens with these two paragraphs:

Authorities probing the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks fixed on now-cleared scientist Steven J. Hatfill primarily because confidential informants said they had talked with him about his purported involvement in Rhodesian bioweapons initiatives, according to court documents released yesterday.

The documents cover searches of Hatfill's residence, his car, a rental storage facility in Florida and property owned by his then-girlfriend. But they are perhaps most notable for the sparseness of their details and for the lack of a direct connection between the scientist and the notorious crime.

The Frederick News-Post also has an article about the newly released documents and finds a key point in one of them:
The documents have been sealed by the court since 2002. In the motion to seal, the government noted Hatfill was only one of several persons of interest to the grand jury, but "it is premature to characterize Hatfill's status as being a target, subject or even a suspect (in the investigation.)"
The News-Post also points out that there are many redactions in the warrants, and the "redactions include more than a full page of text under a section describing the scope of the searches investigators planned to undertake."

Lastly, The New York Times' article on the subject is titled "New Details on F.B.I.’s False Start in Anthrax Case" and begins this way:

A federal court on Tuesday unsealed documents that shed new light on why F.B.I. anthrax investigators spent years pursuing the wrong man, Steven J. Hatfill, who was exonerated by the government this year and received a $4.6 million settlement.
The "why," according to the Times, relates to Dr. Hatfill's use of Cipro and things he told others about what he did in Rhodesia.  The article also includes these paragraphs:
The Hatfill search warrant material shows how an accumulation of claims from acquaintances can cast an innocent person in a highly suspicious light, said Mark A. Grannis, a lawyer for Dr. Hatfill. As an example of how innocent details can be made to look suspicious, Mr. Grannis said Dr. Hatfill was taking Cipro, a widely prescribed antibiotic, after sinus surgery in 2001.

Search warrants, Mr. Grannis said, often use hearsay and unconfirmed information to convince a judge that a suspect is worthy of further investigation.

“Whether or not it was right for the government to rely on this kind of information to obtain a search warrant in 2002, we know in 2008 that Steven Hatfill had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks,” Mr. Grannis said.

I'd hope for a lot more from these documents.  The fact that absolutely no mention is made of the use of bloodhounds might be seen as confirmation that the FBI did not get a scent off the anthrax letters as some in the media had claimed.  And I noticed no explanation for why search warrants were issued for the cars owned by Dr. Hatfill and his girlfriend immediately after they drove back from Louisiana. 

I didn't expect the search warrants to say that they had to find out what Dr. Hatfill did when the FBI lost their tail on him during that return trip, but I had hoped for some mention of the return trip -- even if it was just an explanation for why the bloodhounds' search seemed to begin at a Denny's restaurant, and why the storage locker in Florida was searched.  So, it looks like the debate on that will just continue endlessly - or until some FBI agent writes his memoirs 20 years from now.

November 25, 2008 - The government has just released the search warrants and other documents related to their "investigation of Dr. Hatfill.  They can be found by clicking HERE.  According to The Associated Press, the government used the documents "to falsely accuse scientist Steven J. Hatfill of masterminding the 2001 anthrax attacks.   The AP article also says,

Hatfill attorney Tom Connolly said there is nothing in the documents showing Hatfill had anything to do with the attacks. 
...

"Search warrant affidavits are designed to raise suspicion — that is their express purpose," Connolly said in a statement. "Our repeated experience has been that people make wild accusations in secret, only to retract them under public questioning. Whether or not it was right for the government to rely on this kind of information to obtain a search warrant in 2002, we know in 2008 that Steven Hatfill had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks."

He added: "It will be unfortunate for all involved if the release of these documents misleads anyone into thinking otherwise."

I have to wait until tomorrow to study them, since, in less than an hour, I'll be shutting down operations for today.  Presumably, tomorrow we'll also see how the media interprets the documents.  AP's comment that the documents "falsely accuse" Dr. Hatfill of being the "mastermind" is an interesting start to the media interpretations. 

November 23, 2008 - This morning, The Baltimore Examiner has released a very bizarre editorial which clearly states the purpose of their ongoing crusade regarding the anthrax attacks of 2001.  The editorial is titled "Self (inflicted) defense can up risk," and it begins with this "information":

Two clear facts shine from the clouded mystery of anthrax attacks on America and our government’s tenuous claim seven years later of closing the case with the suicide of a suspect.

Fact No. 1: Government warnings about anthrax being a weapon of mass destruction were false. Somebody dispersed the most lethal strain our tax dollars can produce — weapons-grade or near enough — via the U.S. Postal Service, exposing tens of millions of people, yet managed to infect 22. Five died. But from anthrax vaccination, at least 21 died and thousands reported a wide range of illnesses.

Fact No. 2: If FBI accusations against their prime suspect in the 2001 attack are true, it means billions of dollars taxpayers invested on the premise of prevention actually increased the risk.

So, the person who sent the anthrax letters took a number of precautions which appear clearly intended to prevent the contents of the letters from killing anyone, but the very dangerous powders in the letters still killed 5 people and injured 17 others.  And thousands of others who were exposed to the deadly powders were given antibiotics, which undoubtedly prevented many many more deaths.   Yet, the low body count is somehow seen by the editors of The Baltimore Examiner as indicating or proving that anthrax is NOT a weapon of mass destruction?

And, according to the editors of The Baltimore Examiner, the real danger is the anthrax vaccine which they say has killed 21 and injured thousands? 

And if there is any doubt about what the Examiner is saying, they make it clear with this statement:

Think it through, citizens. The very vaccination program intended to thwart anthrax apparently sickened and killed more people than an actual mass attack.
And this statement
We learned in 2001 the actual danger from anthrax was lower than vaccine.
And here is the goal of their crusade:
President Bush must immediately halt programs until we can impose coordinated oversight, then assess security and capacity needs.

We must not let self-defense become self-inflicted catastrophe.

So, work on developing anthrax vaccines should be stopped immediately because the vaccines are more dangerous than anthrax itself????!!!! 

Wow!  Now that is true screwball thinking. 

And, like most arguments about the anthrax attacks, the editors of the Examiner think they are using science to support their beliefs.  They have two basic "scientific" facts: (1) only 22 people were harmed by the attacks, (2) thousands of people have suffered bad reactions to anthrax vaccinations.   As far as I know, both facts are true.  But the conclusion that anthrax is not a weapon of mass destruction is not true.  That bizarre conclusion is beyond idiotic. 

Are anthrax vaccinations dangerous to some people?  Apparently.  Should more be done to reduce the risk?  Yes.  Is there an increased danger to the public from all those labs working with anthrax?  Definitely.  But the lesson we should have learned from the anthrax attacks is NOT that anthrax vaccinations are more dangerous than anthrax itself.  The lesson should be: individuals with screwball interpretations of the facts have the potential to be more dangerous than anthrax and anthrax vaccines combined.

In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, many scientists felt it was a near certainty that a second round of attacks would be coming, and it would involve bioweapons.   For many years, experts had been saying that bioweapons are "the poor man's atomic bomb."  They were warning that America was not prepared for such an attack.  And, it appears that a scientist who worked on anthrax vaccines took it upon himself to warn America of the danger by sending phony Muslim threat letters containing real anthrax spores to the media.  When that failed to alarm anyone, he sent letters to two senators. 

There's an old saying: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  The terrorists who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon thought that they were doing the right thing.  So, apparently, did the anthrax mailer. 

And, the editors of The Baltimore Examiner evidently believe they are doing the right thing in telling people that anthrax vaccines are more dangerous than anthrax.  That doesn't put them in the same league as those others, but it does show how beliefs and fears and political agendas can cause some people to ignore the facts at a time when facts are what they really need most. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, November 16, 2008, thru Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 21, 2008 - The Baltimore Examiner seems to be on a crusade to stir up doubt about the Amerithrax investigation.  And they seem to be unconcerned about distorting facts in order to get the public to join their crusade.  This morning's examiner contains another article about the case.  This one is titled "Md. lawmakers consider anthrax investigation commission."  In it, the author adds another politician to list of those who say there should be an investigation of the investigation.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ Washington, D.C., office was shuttered in 2001 after anthrax spores were found, so he’s “very sensitive” to the investigation into the crime, he said.

Now, Cummings said he supports a review of the investigation. U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., proposed legislation in September to create a congressional commission to investigate the attacks and the federal government’s response.

“Whatever we have to do to get to the bottom of this anthrax issue, we need to do it,” Cummings said.

That seems like a very luke warm statement from Cummings, but it was enough for the Examiner to write a whole article about it as if it were momentous breaking news.  The article also says, 
But lawmakers and scientists alike have raised doubts about the FBI’s conclusion.

Cummings said he “didn’t know” if he agreed with FBI’s conclusion.

“I wonder about that. That’s all I can say,” he said.

I wonder about that, too.  I'd like to see more information.  I'd like to know when more information will be made available.  When will the case be closed?  Will some kind of detailed summary of the FBI's case against Ivins be released?  If so, when?  When will the many promised scientific papers about the science of the case be published? 

When scientists with beliefs are far more aggressive and vocal than scientists with facts, I get concerned.  And when media organizations crusade to investigate an investigation that is not yet complete and where many many facts have still not yet been made public, I get the impression that they aren't interested in the facts.  Instead, it appears they want to create doubt.  If you want answers, you ask questions.  If you want doubt, you create doubt.  More facts are needed - not more doubts - if we want to see a satisfactory end to the Amerithrax investigation. 

November 20, 2008 (B) - Today, The Baltimore Examiner has another article about anthrax, this one focusing on the subject of anthrax vaccines, but with some distorted and inflamatory statements about the Amerthrax investigation.  Examples:

The FBI later accused Ivins of salvaging the program by creating “a situation, a scenario, where people all of a sudden realize the need to have this vaccine.” That “situation” was the anthrax letter attacks of 2001, which killed five people and sickened at least 17 others.
In reality, Jeff Taylor, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, said this in the August 6, 2008, news conference:
MR. TAYLOR: The other question you have, Dr. Ivins is a troubled individual, particularly so at that time. He's very concerned, according to the evidence, that this vaccination program he's been working on may come to an end. He's also very concerned that some have been criticizing and blaming that vaccination program in connection with illnesses suffered by soldiers from, I think, the first Gulf War. So that was going on, according to the evidence, in his mind at that particular time.

With respect to motive, I'll point again to -- with respect to the motive, the troubled nature of Dr. Ivins. And a possible motive is his concern about the end of the vaccination program. And the concerns had been raised, and one theory is that by launching these attacks, he creates a situation, a scenario, where people all of a sudden realize the need to have this vaccine. 

Speculation about "a possible motive" is not an accusation, unless you are trying to make an argument that any speculation about a person is an accusation.

The Examiner also says,

The FBI insists Ivins sent the letter, even though several leading scientists say it would have been impossible for Ivins, who died this past July 28 after overdosing on prescription Tylenol, to have committed the crime.
So, we have another conflict between scientists with beliefs and scientists with facts, and the media focusing on the beliefs instead of the facts.

The Examiner also says,

While doubt about Ivins’ guilt lingers in the science community, there is strong evidence the attacks saved the [vaccine] program.
Science isn't based upon having doubts.  It's based upon uncovering facts.  There are no known facts which say Dr. Ivins was not the anthrax mailer.  All theknown facts say hewas the anthrax mailer.  Having doubts about the facts doesn't mean the facts are wrong.  Scientists are supposed to know that, but clearly some don't. 

November 20, 2008 (A) - Sandia Labs just released a video explaining their role in the Amerithrax investigation.  Click HERE to view it.  While it doesn't provide the solid kick in the right place that is needed to get the conspiracy theorists to back off, it does specifically address the subject of silicon in the attack anthrax. 

November 19, 2008 - While we're all patiently waiting for the Dr. Hatfill search warrant information to be released and dissected by the media, a couple Internet forums have provided some interesting comments about the Baltimore Examiner article "Scientific impossibility: Did the FBI get their man in Bruce Ivins?" that are worth reading.  The first comment I spotted two days ago was on FreeRepublic.com, where someone calling himself "Hacklehead" wrote:

The key point of the article seems to be the amount of time it took for spore production. The timeline assumes he began after 9-11. Its possible this was planned well ahead of time and that the 9-11 attack was a “lucky” coincidence that provided a good cover. It’s also not necessary to grow the spores on “hundreds of plates” you actually can use the same plates repeatedly and harvest the spores by scraping them off the surface and re-incubating them. It would be possbile to get grams of spores fairly quickly that way but it would be a dirty prep (clumpy, with lots of cell debris, and mixed with vegetative cells. From what I have read, the spores were highly refined and very pure. That takes considerable time and effort.
"Hacklehead" evidently didn't realize that what was in the media letters was exactly what he described.  The media letters were 90 percent debris, and only 10 percent spores.  So, he's given a possible explanation for how the culprit so quickly produced the powders that were in the five letters sent to the media.   No conspiracies required. 

And yesterday, on Dr. Meryl Nass's web site, a conspiracy theorist anonymously posted a new theory about why the attack spores do not show any coating of silica or silicon, even though the conspiracy theorist evidently believes it MUST be there to overcome the binding effects of van der Waals forces.  In response to Dr. Nass's mention of the recent Baltimore Examiner article, that "anonymous" person gave his scientific observations.  Here's a key part:

In my opinion, the most likely scenario is that a siloxane agent was deliberately added not as an antifoam agent but to aid dispersability. Likely this was something like "Repelcote". Replecote is the trade name for dichlorodimethylsilane. It would penetrate the exosporium in it's still monomer form (single molecule) and then polymerize in situ. That is, the polysiloxane polymer would form on the spore coat, underneath the exosporium. That's why Sandia thought it wasn't weaponized - they were looking for silica nanoparticles OUTSIDE the exosporium. That was the problem with having metallurgists from Sandia work in secret for 7 years on a biological weapon problem. They didn't understand other forms of weaponization. If they had been allowed to discuss their results with any BW weaponeer with know-how they would have quickly concluded the true facts. One cannot conduct science in secret.
This is junk science to the extreme.  First, it makes a statement that "That's why Sandia thought it wasn't weaponized" as if it was solid proof of some kind and they knew exactly what people at Sandia were doing and thinking.  Far from it.  It's pure speculation with no knowledge or concern for the real facts.  But, in the world of conspiracy theories, pure speculation always trumps solid facts. 

This junk science addresses the fact that no silicon was detected on the OUTSIDE of the spores and the writer shows no concern for any other relevant facts.  That "Anonymous" writer also said:

The presence of the polysiloxane coating on the spore coat would make the spores highly hydrophobic. Water droplets would not form on the surface of spores, and therefore spores would not clump through water-bridging mechanisms.
If spores are going to be coated with a polysiloxane material that makes the spores "highly hydrophobic," i.e., waterproof, how would being waterproof affect the spore's ability to germinate?  Since he doesn't mention that, "Anonymous" clearly doesn't care.  But, if coating a spore for some simulation purpose results in a spore that cannot turn into a living bacteria - or is significantly reduced in its capabiliy to turn into a living bacteria - can it be realistically compared to what was used in the anthrax attacks? 

Presumably, when confronted with this problem, the conspiracy theorist will simply claim that making a spore waterproof will not affect its ability to germinate.  A simple denial means the people with whom he is arguing will have to prove him wrong.  This is basic conspiracy theorist thinking.  Dream up explanations and make the other side do all the proving.  If the other side proves their junk science is stupid, just dream up another theory.  And keep dreaming up junk science theories until the other side gives up and walks away.  Then you can claim victory - because the other side gave up. 

The point this particular "anonymous" scientist is making is that "One cannot conduct science in secret."  The problem is, the Amerithrax investigation was about finding the person who killed five innocent Americans.  It was not about finding every possible explanation for why the element Silicon can appear in spores.  The information is not secret, it's irrelevant.  But, to conspiracy theorists, if you cannot answer every question they can somehow relate to a subject, then all your answers are suspect. 

In that same series of responses to the Baltimore Examiner article, there's more junk science from what seems to be another "anonymous" scientist.  This one wrote:

Was genetically identical B. subtilis isolated from the AMI building in Boca Raton? That would at least help substantiate the assumption that the letter to AMI went out along with the other mailings on September 18. Remember, no letter from AMI was ever recovered, no warning about anthrax or 9-11, etc. I am guessing that the b. subtilis contaminant, although recovered from two of the media letters, was not found at the Floridia crime scene. Of course, this suggests that there were three mailings, and the FBI certainly doesn't want to have to explain how Ivins was able to go to Princeton undetected THREE times.
So, junk science guesses must be also answered by the FBI, otherwise some screwball theory about three mailings must be true.  And if there were three mailings, that makes it more difficult for Bruce Ivins to have done the mailings, even though the FACTS show that the AMI letter was mailed at the same time as the other media letters.   Even more bizarre is this sentence:
If there weren't three mailings, how come the index case (letter to Floridia) is an outlier, no warning to take penicillin, no mention of 9/11, caused inhalation anthrax instead of cutaneous (all the other media exposures resulted in cutaneous anthrax)?
While he seems to be talking about the real anthrax letter, this "anonymous" scientist appears to believe that the J-Lo letter contained anthrax, even though all the facts say otherwise.  Beliefs trump facts for conspiracy theorists.

And if all their beliefs aren't satisfactorily debunked, then they will argue that everything they believe must be true - even beliefs which were debunked. 

Is it any wonder that competent scientists do not waste time arguing with scientists who rely on junk science and beliefs for their arguments? 

November 18, 2008 - The Associated Press reported yesterday that the Contempt Order filed against Toni Locy in the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit has been vacated. The lawsuit has been settled, so the issue no longer has any legal basis.  Seems right to me.  But the headline doesn't: "Judges throws out contempt order against reporter."   And an editorial in USA Today on the same subject also seems to overstate the situation. 

November 17, 2008 (B) - The Associated Press just released an article titled "Judge orders Hatfill search warrant made public."  Among other things, the article says:

Hatfill and Chegne did not appear to argue that the material should be kept private.
And
The Justice Department will be allowed to redact information that would identify a confidential informant used in the case, [U.S. District Judge Royce] Lamberth said.
The question now is: How will the media interpret what is in the search warrants?

I'm told that the "confidential informant" may be someone who worked with Dr. Hatfill at SAIC.  Will that help the media to continue to ignore the role played by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg in what happened to Dr. Hatfill?

November 17, 2008 (A) - Yesterday's Baltimore Examiner contains a lengthy article which addresses the same topics I commented upon yesterday.  The article, titled "Scientific impossibility: Did FBI get their man in Bruce Ivins?", concludes with this paragraph:

“The only opinions that I would place any confidence in would have to come from individuals who have made the stuff, in the same quantity of the letters,” said infectious disease specialist W. Russell Byrne. “And then I would ask them to go into B3 in building 1425, work there for a couple of weeks and reproduce what they say Bruce did. That’s the only way I could, in good conscience and in the spirit of objective scientific inquiry, believe them.”
What should the FBI do when countless scientists won't believe the FBI findings unless each and every scientist is personally shown how to make lethal anthrax powders with the equipment Ivins had in his lab?

And what should the FBI do when newspapers and others in the media keep telling the public that scientists insist that it is impossible for Dr. Ivins to be the culprit.

In a section of the article subtitled "Ivins’ innocence could rest on weird science," the only weird science is the science described by the author:

The FBI says that the silicon in the spores accumulated naturally during the growth process — important to its case against Ivins, who co-workers say did not have knowledge of the specialized techniques used to weaponize anthrax spores by coating them in silicon.
Silicon creates an electrostatic charge between particles that helps the lethal powder disperse more readily.

“The silicon is probably the most important scientific evidence that would lead anybody to question whether Bruce was capable of making these spores,” says Gerald P. Andrews, Ivins’ former boss.

Andrews and George Mason University professor and former Soviet bioweapons researcher Sergei Popov believe the silicon was purposely added, due to unnaturally high levels of the mineral in the spores.

The media continues to talk about the attack spores being coated with silicon, when it is known that they were NOT coated with silica or silicon.  They distort the science into total nonsense.  They do not distinguish between deliberately adding silicon to growth medium as an anti-foaming agent and deliberately adding silica to anthrax powders to keep them from clumping.  The anti-foaming use has nothing to do with weaponization, the anti-clumping use has everything to do with weaponization and was not done.

So, we've got countless scientists demanding detailed instructions on how to weaponize anthrax spores, and we've got the media misinterpreting things to make junk science more believable than real science.

And the longer we go without solid information from the FBI, the worse it will get.

November 16, 2008 - A couple conversations via emails last week prompted some deep thinking on my part.

The first conversation related to the fact that this web site was created to analyze the data related to the anthrax attacks when the culprit was not yet known.  Now that the culprit has been presumably correctly identified, what should I be analyzing?

The question came up when someone challenged my "primary finding #9":

9.  The motivation for the attacks was almost certainly to awaken America to the danger of a bioweapons attack by Muslim terrorists - particularly any Muslim terrorists that might be living or staying in Central New Jersey.  Partially wrong.  The rest: CONFIRMED.
Assuming that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer, was his motivation to awaken America to the danger of a bioweapons attack by Muslim terrorists?

I think so.  I had a different person in mind when I wrote that "finding," but the "finding" wasn't based upon the person, it was based upon the evidence: (1) phony letters intended to appear to be from Muslim terrorists were (2) sent first to the media and (3) then to politicians who were fighting the Patriot Act in order to preserve civil rights, and, of course, (4) the letters warned that a bioweapons attack was coming next (after 9/11).  Plus, all the other details which support that finding.

The person disputing my finding argued that Bruce Ivins didn't seem to be the type of person who was acting purely in the public interest - a so-called "bioevangelist." 

But my finding didn't say that.  If the culprit was afraid that he and his family might be killed by a bioweapons attack from Muslim terrorists, he'd still want America to wake up to the danger so that they'd get their representatives in Washington to do something about it.  If he wanted to make money from a patent or wanted to make himself look like a hero by alerting everyone to a serious danger they seemed to be ignoring, he'd still want America to wake up to the danger so that they'd get their representatives in Washington to do something about it.  He sent the letters to awaken America to a very serious situation he saw but had no way to resolve all by himself. 

To get any more specific about Dr. Bruce Ivins' motivation requires a post-mortem psychoanalyis of Dr. Ivins.  I'm not sure I want to go there.  If the evidence says he did it, I see no need to go there. 

The deep thinking on this came as I wondered if I should create a new new front page that would change this site to analyze information about Bruce Ivins instead of various "potential" suspects and screwball conspiracy theories.  I'm still pondering that. 

The second conversation which prompted deep thinking last week resulted in a minor "moment of clarity" where a number of puzzling questions were suddenly  answered.

The discussion was about theories for how the anthrax spores used in the letter attacks of 2001 -- particularly the senate letters -  were dried.  In an email, a scientist flatly stated that the FBI's theory that a lyophilizer had been used to dry the attack spores was ridiculous.  I argued back that the FBI had never said any such thing.  In the transcript of the August 18, 2008, round table discussion, which is the only direct information we have from the FBI about the subject of drying spores, it was made clear that the FBI was not saying that a lyophilizer was used:

DR. MAJIDI:  You know we really -- we really don't have the -- we don't really have any answers for what process was used to grow additional spores or what methodology was used to dry them.  I think that a lot of folks focus on the issue of lyophilizer.  You can ask any of the folks and the panel members, and they will tell you that you can dry biological samples in one of dozens of ways. Lyophilizer is one of them.  You can let the samples heat-dry.  You can let the samples -- the water evaporate.   You can --
The FBI was saying that they had evidence clearly pointing to Dr. Ivins as the anthrax mailer, so it was unnecessary to try to determine exactly which drying method he used.  It was only necessary to know that he had relevant drying methods available to him, and he knew how to use those methods.

It is the people who do not believe that Dr. Ivins made the anthrax powders all by himself who want to know the exact drying method the FBI determined Dr. Ivins must have used, so that they can question and challenge every step.  Their motivation is not to determine the truth but to create doubt about the FBI's findings.

The email discussions on the subject of drying spores continued, and questions were asked about alternative theories for how the spores were dried.  Then, someone suggested that I ask a scientist acquaintance of mine what his theory is.  I was unwilling to ask such a question because it is one thing to discuss drying spores in general terms and in theory, and it is another thing altogether to discuss specifics

Then the moment of clarity: I suddenly realized that I had never asked nor could ever ask my scientist aquaintance what his theory was, because he knew how to make spore powders.  Therefore, if he answered, he wouldn't be giving me a theory, he would be giving me instructions

Boom.  A big piece fell into place.

I recalled how,  some weeks previously, I had discussed the subject of making pure spore concentrations with another scientist acquaintance.  We both knew with certainty that thousands - or maybe even tens of thousands - of scientists knew how to purify spores.  Yet, there were other scientists telling reporters that it was an nefarious art known only to a very few -- perhaps less than a dozen in the entire world.   That's nuts!  But, we wondered, why weren't at least some of the tens of thousands of scientists who routinely purify spores stepping forward to clarify the matter for the public? 

I felt I had always known the answer, but suddenly it was clear as never before: The people who talk about theories for making spore powders are people who do not know how to make spores powders.  The people who know how do not talk theory.  And, if they talk, they will be telling the world that they know how it is done.  And they know what would happen next:  Either they would be considered a potential terrorist, or they would be challenged: Prove that you know how.  Show us how it is done.  Give us the detailed instructions or we won't believe you. 

So, virtually all theoretical discussions about making pure spore powders are left to those who do not know how to do it.  Those who know how to do it, don't discuss it in public forums. 

Clearly, that's why bad information so often dominates public discussions of the subject.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, November 9, 2008, thru Saturday, November 15, 2008

November 13, 2008 - Global Security Newswire has a brief article this morning about The New York Times and Los Angeles Times efforts to access information about the FBI's "investigation" of Dr. Steven Hatfill.  The article repeats a paragraph that was in yesterday's Associated Press article:

"The public has a right to know why he [Dr. Hatfill] was targeted," said Jeanette Melendez Bead, an attorney representing the news organizations.
Because Dr. Hatfill didn't object to the first and second searches of his apartment on June 25 and 26 of 2002, those searches were done without the need to actually serve a search warrant, although one may have been prepared.

However, a search warrant was served for the next search on August 1, 2002.   And, as part of that search, the FBI also searched the home of Dr. Hatfill's girlfriend and a storage facility in Florida where Dr. Hatfill had stored some belongings.  And, as part of that same search, the bloodhounds were brought in.  And, witnesses said that the FBI confiscated a Camaro, which may have belonged to Dr. Hatfill's girlfriend.

This appears to be the search that is the current focus of attention for The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. 

A couple months ago, I discussed that particular search with top reporters from both of those newspapers, and I argued that the reason the FBI used bloodhounds appeared to be because the FBI agents who were tailing Dr. Hatfill on a trip to Louisiana State University had evidently lost their tail on him -- presumably at a Denny's restaurant near Baton Rouge.  That restaurant is the place I contend the FBI started using the bloodhounds to try to figure out where Dr. Hatfill had been during the period he was not under constant surveillance - the period of time it took him and his girlfriend to drive from Louisiana back to his apartment in Maryland.  The search ended when the bloodhounds were allowed to "find" Dr. Hatfill at his apartment, thus earning the treats that were the only interest the bloodhounds themselves actually had in finding Dr. Hatfill.  And that's why the bloodhounds barked so happily when they found him. 

The two reporters I talked with argued that the FBI had reasons to believe that Dr. Hatfill was the anthrax mailer.  My contention was that the FBI had no such reasons, they only had "tips" from conspiracy theorists who were relentlessly pointing the finger at Dr. Hatfill and gathering supporters for their screwball conspiracy theory. 

I'm not sure how viewing the search warrants would resolve that question.  I'm not sure what the two newspapers expect or hope to find.  And I'm not sure I would want the media to violate Dr. Hatfill's privacy again just to find out.

But I'd certainly like to know more details about exactly why the bloodhounds were brought in.  It's another part of my analysis that has never been proven or disproven.

November 12, 2008 - According to The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, "a federal court today will consider two newspapers’ request to release documents related to the 2001 'Amerithrax” investigations.'"

The New York Times on September 4 asked U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth for access to warrants and supporting materials related to searches of property owned or used by Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, Dr. Stephen J. Hatfill, and Hatfill’s former girlfriend. The Los Angeles Times joined in the request on September 9.
....
The newspapers argued that the public should see the records in part because “Questions continue to be raised about how the investigation became misdirected in focusing on Dr. Hatfill (at huge expense to the American taxpayer), why it took seven years to complete the investigation, and whether the government’s conclusion that Dr. Ivins was solely responsible for the anthrax mailings is sound.”
I could be wrong, but it looks to me like The New York Times is still looking for some proof that Dr. Hatfill was involved in the case.  It's my understanding that the lawsuit between The New York Times and Dr. Hatfill is still in the appeals process and is currently waiting a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court.

It seems doubtful that the contents of search warrants will explain anything about how Dr. Hatfill came under such intense scrutiny by the FBI if the warrants are not viewed in the context of what else was happening at that moment in time.  It seems more likely that the information in the search warrants will just confuse the issue - if viewed out of context.  Search warrants tend to be based upon the thinking of the moment, not on actual facts.  And the facts about how Dr. Steven Hatfill became "a person of interest" are to be found in what happened BEFORE the FBI made that first public search of his apartment on June 25, 2002.  The columns written by Nicholas Kristof for The New York Times, where for months Kristof pointed the finger at Dr. Hatfill, are part of the context of the time.  But, what we need most is a transcript of the meeting between Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, Assistant FBI Director Van Harp and the staffs of Senators Daschle and Leahy a week prior to that first search. 

At that meeting, Dr. Rosenberg undoubtedly discussed what she wrote in her June 13, 2002, paper "The Anthrax Case: What the FBI Knows," since it was the reason the meeting was called. 

If the search warrants show that the FBI was looking for the types of "evidence" that Dr. Rosenberg described in the meeting with senate staffers, it is critical that that be made known.  If we just see what the search warrants contained without any mention of Dr. Rosenberg's paper or the meeting, it will seem as if the FBI came up with the information in the warrants as a result of their own investigation.

If a private citizen gives an investigator a tip, and the investigator's investigation determines that the tip is total nonsense, did the investigator make a mistake in checking out the tip?  If you only look at what the investigator did without knowing why, it might seem so. 

The Associated Press has a story on this, too.  It contains this additional information:

Normally, search warrants would be sealed for a person who has not been charged or indicted, lawyers said. But the public has a right to know why investigators wanted to search Hatfill's home and on what basis the courts agreed to allow those searches, the newspapers argued in U.S. District Court.
And
Government lawyers argued Wednesday that Hatfill's right to privacy trumps the people's right to know in this case. "At some point, enough is enough," government lawyer Rachel Carlson Lieber said.
November 9, 2008 - It's very easy to repeat myself if I try to write a comment for this web site just to keep up the practice of writing something new every Sunday morning.  But, writing about the same thing in a different way isn't the same as repeating myself.  It's a good exercise to make sure the facts are clear no matter how they are laid out.  And, since there is nothing new in the media this morning, and since all the people who have been arguing with me via emails for many years seem to have gone totally silent for some reason, I'll go back to take another look at something that was in The Washington Post a couple weeks ago.

The Post's October 27 issue contained an article titled "Trail of Odd Anthrax Cells Led FBI to Army Scientist." In that article was this controversial paragraph:

"When you go to the true experts and ask them how many people can develop [anthrax spores] into something with this purity and this concentration, they shake their heads," said Montooth, the lead Amerithrax investigator. "Some will say there are perhaps six. Others will say maybe a dozen."
The paragraph is "controversial" because when I ask "true experts" how many people can create concentrations of pure spores, they all tell me that creating concentrations of pure spores is something any experienced microbiologist should be able to do.  That puts the number in the tens of thousands, which is definitely more than "perhaps six" or "maybe a dozen" as the article tries to claim. 

It seems a near certainty that the statement by Special Agent Ed Montooth was taken out of context.  Fortunately, we have a way to see the same subject in context.   We can take a look at the transcript of the August 18 Roundtable Discussion conducted by the FBI and DOJ.  At one point, a key question is asked: 

QUESTION:  If -- what I hear you all saying today is it was that way just because that sometimes happens when you dry an organism like anthrax. If that's the case, why did it surprise the experts so much in how buoyant it was?  Wouldn't this have been seen before? 

DR. MAJIDI:  So I'm just going to go out of school here and just tell you about some of the ways that you deal with single-cell organisms and culturing.  If you look at the experts in the country, a lot of them have worked with solutions and agar plate. You'll find very few true experts that they know anything about powders.

That's just a bottom line, that the true experts in this area as we discussed this with them, by no means they’re surprised that this is so dispersible.  In fact, as we discussed these with subject matter experts, the idea of putting these things in a letter and mailing it, because of the porosity of the envelopes; because of the size of the spores, were all questionable actions.  So is the material being so easily dispersible really unusual?  The answer is “no.” 

So, in context, it is extremely rare for scientists to actually work with dry anthrax powders or to claim they know "anything" about them.  But every competent scientist who works with anthrax spores knows that dry spores are extremely dangerous, so they take a lot of precautions to avoid creating dry spores.   They work with pure spores suspended in liquids.  But, if someone knows the steps to avoid drying spores, doesn't that mean that by knowing what to avoid they also know what will cause spores to dry? 

Is simply letting pure spores dry all that is additionally needed to create what was in the letters?  At another point in that discussion, the Background Official says,

There is a misconception going around this room that very simple spore preparations, simply spores washed in water, when dried, are not dangerous and friable.  That is a misconception.  We have seen many biological preparations that when just washed with water and dried are extremely friable. 
So, even the simplest of drying methods will create dangerous dry spores.  Dr. Majidi put it this way in the roundtable discussion:
You can ask any of the folks and the panel members, and they will tell you that you can dry biological samples in one of dozens of ways. Lyopholizer is one of them.  You can let the samples heat-dry.  You can let the samples -- the water evaporate. 
So, any competent microbiolist should know how to create pure spores suspended in liquid, and they also know how to avoid creating dry spores, which means they know how to dry spores.  The only trick is knowing how to do it safely.  And the first thing every scientist working with anthrax should learn is how to work with anthrax safely.

Looking though the transcript of the round table discussion for the first time in a couple week, I found something else which debunks what was written last week in The New York Post.  The Post said:

Ivins' colleagues say it would have taken "a minimum of 40 days of continuous work without detection to create the volume of spores used in the attacks."
The roundtable discussion includes some statements from a pathogenic microbiologist who was a scientific consultant to the FBI on the Amerithrax case, Dr. Jim Burans:
QUESTION:  Can you tell me in your preparations how long it took you to make a spore like this as of the SI enhancer or whatever -- the drying, et cetera?  How long did that take?

DR. BURANS:  Basically, it would take somewhere between three and seven days.

QUESTION:  That's all?  How many people did it take to do that to that; to --

DR. BURANS:  One person can perform the operation. 

We definitely need more solid and official information like what was provided via the roundtable discussion, so that we can see things in context whenever the media tries to generate controversy or make some kind of political point by taking statements out of context, or by quoting people who are more interested in some cause than in the truth. 

I don't know when the FBI is going to close the Amerithrax investigation, or exactly when all the new scientific articles will be published, but I hope it's soon.  There are only so many ways I can examine and describe the same facts.  Some new facts and new information would definitely be helpful - even if it just confirms what has been said for years.  And new pictures of the attack anthrax could be worth a billion words. 

November 7, 2008 - Okay.   That was interesting.  So, we've elected a new President.  That was three days ago.  Old news.  It's time to stop celebrating (or complaining) and get back to arguing about the anthrax attacks of 2001. 

Let's see.   Where were we?  Oh, yeah.  The nonsense printed in The New York Post:

Ivins' colleagues say it would have taken "a minimum of 40 days of continuous work without detection to create the volume of spores used in the attacks."
A couple days before that article was published, I mentioned in a comment that a scientist had written me to say he'd created a pure spore powder in 6 days, doing it for the first time, using only published articles to figure out how to do it.  And, when I mentioned that to a scientist who is an expert in making anthrax powders, the expert told me that at least a day could have been knocked off of that time by using different equipment for an early step - equipment that Ft. Detrick is known to have.  The "volume of spores used in the attacks" was a lot more than what is normally created for lab tests, but it wasn't an industrial quantity.  It was still just a relatively small amount that could have been created in almost any good microbiology lab.

The processes for creating concentrations of pure spores - a trillion per gram - are well known.  It's something that is done almost every day in labs around the world.  There are many many manymany scientific papers which describe the basic techniques.  The process can be described in one sentence: "Purification is usually accomplished by a sequence of filtrations and centrifugations."  Filtering allows you to eliminate anything that is larger or smaller than a spore.  Centrifuging allows you to eliminate anything that is heavier or lighter than a spore. 

An anthrax spore taken from flask RMR-1029 could germinate from a dormant spore into a living, replicating bacterium in about 45 minutes, and each bacterium could then reproduce itself about every 20 minutes.  In about 7 hours, you could have a million living bacteria.  When you are ready to cause the living bacteria to form spores (sporulate), it takes about 7 or 8 hours for a living bacteria to create a spore.

There's nothing secret in this.  It's basic microbiology.  But doing it well is like playing chess or golf well.  Knowing the basic procedures is just the start.  The rest involves having the right experience, aptitude and equipment.  If you have the right experience, you'd even know when you can just leave the processes or equipment run - and for how long - while you do other things, like go home and get some sleep.

When Ivin's colleagues say that it would take 40 days to make what was in the anthrax letters, they have to be assuming that every standard protocol is obeyed, that every step is logged and recorded, that every inspection shows that scientific standards are met, and that no modifications to procedures were done in order to speed up the process.  It's a false argument.  It's not based upon reality.  It's junk science.  It's an argument based upon a need to find a reason to not accept or believe the facts. 

John McCain was arguing on election day that there was still a possiblity for him to win the election, an argument that was clearly based upon a need to find a reason to not accept or believe the facts.  On the other hand, a few months ago, a lot of us may have believed that there was still too much racism in America for an African-American to ever be elected President.  Election day showed us what the true facts were.  The choice between the candidates was so clear that even racism became almost irrelevant. 

Oops.  Focus focus focus.  That matter has been resolved.  It's the anthrax case where we still need to have the facts made absolutely clear. 

November 3, 2008 - Here's an example of straight news about the dangers of natural, unweaponized anthrax: 

A drum-maker who inhaled anthrax spores from imported animal skins has died in hospital.
Here's an example of not-so-straight news comparing the legal case against Bruce Ivins to the "investigation" of Steven Hatfill:
According to several analysts who attended the bureau’s classified briefings on its investigation, the case [against Ivins] is based largely on the kind of circumstantial information that led the FBI to finger Steven J. Hatfill as the likely culprit five years ago, and would have been unlikely to hold up in court.
November 2, 2008 - Ah!  Good!  I was worried that there wouldn't be anything about the anthrax case in the news this morning, and I would have to write something about the fact that there was nothing to write about.  But the New York Post has come through with a lengthy article they headlined "SCIENTISTS SLAM FBI 'THRAX PROBE IN BID TO CLEAR BUDDY 'DR. DOOM'."

According to the article, some of Dr. Ivins' co-workers have "approached" a lawyer with the idea of suing "the feds for fingering the wrong man.  And, after interviewing "dozens of Ivins' colleagues" at Ft. Detrick, the New York Post presents a list of five reasons why those colleagures believe Dr. Ivins could not be the culprit:

1.  The lyophilizer, which some suggest must have been used to dry the spores, was located in a hallway surrounded by four labs and didn't have a protective hood.  Without such a hood, according to the scientists at Ft. Detrick, the lyophilizer "would have spewed poisonous aerosols" all around the area, requiring a lengthy cleanup.

2.  Ivins' colleagues say it would have taken "a minimum of 40 days of continuous work without detection to create the volume of spores used in the attacks."  And Dr. Ivins was involved with 19 other research projects at the time the spores were presumably being prepared. 

3.  Ivins' colleagues don't understand how the 200 other scientists who had access to the RMR-1029 flask were ruled out as suspects.

4.  "The FBI has not released any physical evidence linking Ivins to the attacks or defined a motive."

5. "The FBI investigation was filled with inconsistencies and bordered on harassment."

The scientists at Ft. Detrick also claim that the FBI was "aggressively pursuing other suspects two months before Ivins killed himself."  The article says:
One of Ivins' former colleagues was being aggressively pressured to confess to the crimes just two months before Ivins killed himself on July 29, he told The Post. And he identified at least one other employee who was under the same pressure.
The article ends with these two paragraphs:
FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman said: "The FBI is still handling administrative business and closing the loop on outstanding issues. Therefore, the investigation is still pending. However, the case has been solved; as the FBI and the Department of Justice have stated publicly.

"The FBI is absolutely positive that Dr. Bruce Ivins and only Dr. Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax mailings."

My comments are as follows:

1.  I find the information about the lyophilizer to be interesting.  But I'm not certain that the only way Dr. Ivins could have dried the spores is by freeze-drying them. 

2.  The idea that it would take 40 days to create the spores in the letters is complete and absolute nonsense.

3.  Ruling out other possible suspects is routine police work.  There's no mystery in how it is done.  It's generally done by checking means, motive and opportunity.  And, putting the pressure on people who could easily have done it is also routine.  The fact that others were being pressured doesn't necessarily mean those others were true suspects, it could just mean that they were not easily eliminated as possible suspects.  You need to eliminate them as possible suspects before arresting the actual suspect. 

4.  Physical evidence isn't necessary to prove guilt.  And motives are in a person's mind.  Without a confession, the most likely motive or motives have to be deduced by analyzing the culprit's personality, his habits, his writings, what his acquaintences have to say about him, and the facts of the crime. 

5.  Every investigation can have inconsistencies.  It's the job of the investigators to sort through the inconsistencies to determine the truth.  If there were no "inconsistencies," there would be no need for an investigation.

The fact that the FBI is still working on administrative matters while wrapping up outstanding issues in the case hopefully continues to indicate there will be a time when some kind of comprehensive document will be released in which the entire case against Dr. Ivins will be laid out for the entire world to see.  I can imagine it being purposely delayed until after the election, not because it would affect the election, but because it's important to wait until a time when it can be the focus of everyone's attention.

Right now, it's far far more important for Americans to focus on who they believe would make the  best President for the next four years ... and to VOTE for their choice. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, October 26, 2008, thru Saturday, November 1, 2008

October 31, 2008 - I don't have much to say about the hoax anthrax letters sent to banks from Amarillo or to news outlets from Sacramento that have been in the news lately, other than to point out that there's no reason to believe they had any connection to the real anthrax attacks of 2001.   There have been about 30,000 incidents of suspicious powders sent through the mails since the attacks of 2001, and there were about two per week in the year BEFORE the attacks.  Hoax anthrax letters were so common at the time of the real attacks that all the recipients of actual anthrax letters sent to the media just tossed the letters away or aside.  So, any attempt to connect hoaxes to the real attacks should require a massive amount of proof - then or now.

Also, for several days there have been news reports of another incident of a drum maker being infected by anthrax spores from animal hides.  This time it's in London.  The victim has inhalation anthrax and is in serious condition, proving once again that weaponization is NOT required for spores to cause inhalation anthrax. 

October 30, 2008 (B) - According to The Associated Press, a Florida Supreme Court ruling today will help Maureen Stevens, the widow of an anthrax victim Bob Stevens, in her lawsuit against the federal government and Battelle Memorial Institute.  Justices ruled 4-1 that the defendants had a duty under Florida law to protect the public against the unauthorized release of lethal materials.

October 30, 2008 (A) - I received an email today from a scientist who had just finished making pure dry spores of Bacillus Cereus for a project, and it took him six days -- working alone -- to make the small quantity he needed (far less than a gram).  He says making larger quantities in that time just requires using more or larger equipment.  Also, he had never done it before, so he can't be sure there aren't ways to do it faster.

Back on September 26 & 28, I theorized that Bruce Ivins may have started working on the senate anthrax when news reports stated that Bob Stevens' anthrax infection appeared to be unrelated to terrorism.  That would be October 4, 2001, and that would have given him four or five days to create the powder and get the letters into the mail box for an October 9 postmark.  Maybe he knew faster ways to do it, or maybe he had already started before he learned about Bob Stevens -- assuming, of course, that Bruce Ivins truly was the anthrax mailer as the facts seem to indicate. 

Discussing this with another scientist, an expert in the subject, he tells me that the whole process could have been speeded up by using different equipment to grow the bacteria -- equipment which Bruce Ivins definitely had available to him.

October 29, 2008 (B) - It may just be a coincidence, but Town Topics, "Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946,"contains an article today that says some of the same things I commented upon yesterday, plus it clarifies something I wondered about:  Has the NAS agreed to investigate the science of the Amerithrax case? 

In a phone conversation yesterday, News and Public Information Executive Director Bill Kearney said that Mr. Majidi’s letter was being used by NAS as the basis of a “statement of task,” and that Mr. Holt’s letter would be “taken into consideration” in writing up an “appropriate charge.” Once the charge receives approval from NAS’s governing board, Mr. Kearney said, they would enter into a formal contract with the FBI, and begin nominating a “provisional committee” that would handle the investigation.
And this tidbit was added for all the conspiracy theorists out there:
In response to a question about the identity of committee members, he noted that they “won’t be scientists who have been working on this for the FBI,” but would be “experts from a variety of disciplines.”
So, now all we have to do is wait a few years and we'll have all the scientific answers.

Meanwhile, The Frederick News-Post says that Bruce Ivins' personnel file has been released, and it showed that "officials certified that they found no information that would preclude Ivins from working with select agents."

October 29, 2008 (A) - I don't know exactly what started it, but yesterday was a good day for email discussions about the Amerithrax investigation.   A number of things were brought to light:

1.  In 2001, USAMRIID did not have a spectrometer to test for unusual elements in spores.  They had to send Tom Geisbert to AFIP to use their EDX spectometer when the FBI asked about additives in the anthrax.  The silicon and oxygen were detected at AFIP.

Doesn't that indicate that the silicon found inside the spore coatings MUST have been added unintentionally?  If it was added deliberately for some "weaponization" reason, no one at USAMRIID had the ability to test to see if it had been added correctly or not.

Furthermore, even AFIP didn't have the proper kind of spectrometer to find the LOCATION of elements INSIDE spores.  So, even if the silicon and oxygen were added deliberately by someone at USAMRIID, they couldn't even use AFIP's equipment to test to see if it was properly done.

And, since USAMRIID had no ability at all to test for elements in spores, there would have been no way for Bruce Ivins to know if it was there as a result of being in the nutrients or in some thickener or anti-foaming agent.  They would be BLIND to the whole subject of elements in spores.  So, it appears that the silicon MUST have been added unintentionally.

2.  Bruce Ivins was an expert on making spores, and routinely created pure WET spores.

The media anthrax, which contained 90 percent debris, could NOT have been an experiment by Bruce Ivins.  He already knew how to create pure WET spores.  That means he would know enough to be able to create pure DRY spores with better than just 10 percent spores.

Therefore, if Bruce Ivins was the culprit, the creation of the "crude powder" MUST have been deliberate -- presumably because the crude powder would require less equipment and less expertise, providing less data for forensic experts to use to trace the spores back to a source.

3.  Silicon is COMMON in living organisms.  Some plants are as much as 20 percent silica.  Silicon is one of the most common elements on earth.  It's EVERYWHERE.  And its most common form is silica.

Very small amounts of silica are normally present in all body tissues but there is no evidence that they play any physiological role.

Silicic acid is a normal constituent of the urine, where it is found as early as a few days after birth. The amount excreted in the urine, which varies considerably according to the diet, is in the order of 10 to 30 mg per day (Thomas, 1965).   Source.

And that was just part of it.  We also discussed the physics of weaponization, which provides no benefit for putting silicon inside spore coats.  So, why do it?  Yet, some people are insisting the silicon must have been some form of "weaponization."  In some minds, there can be no "accidents" where harm is done.  It's either deliberate or the result of criminal carelessness.  I guess that's why we have so many lawyers.

October 28, 2008 - Yesterday's Washington Post article "Trail of Odd Anthrax Cells Led FBI to Army Scientist"continues to puzzle me.  Look at this paragraph:

The questions have prompted an independent review of the FBI's forensic case by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. In an Oct. 16 letter to the academy, Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), a member of the House intelligence committee, asked the panel to investigate whether the bureau's scientific discoveries were "inconsistent with the FBI's conclusions."
The paragraph suggests that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) initiated a review because of all the questions.  In reality, on September 15, 2008, Assistant FBI Director Vahid Majidi wrote a letter to the NAS asking for a review because of all the questions, and I've seen no response from the NAS.  The paragraph also says that Rep. Rush Holt wrote a letter to the NAS on Oct. 16.  I located the letter and found it asks that the NAS address some questions beyond what Vahid Majidi requested.  Here are Rep. Holt's additional questions with my comments:
Are any of the FBI’s scientific findings inconsistent with the FBI’s conclusions?

Are there any scientific tests that the FBI has not done that might refute their conclusions?

My comment: If there are tests the FBI has not done, how does one determine what the results might be without actually doing the tests?

Did the FBI follow all accepted evidence-gathering, chain of possession, and scientific analytical methods? Is it possible that any failure to do so could have affected the FBI’s conclusions?

My comment: Many things may be technically "possible" which can also be extremely unlikely.

Is it scientifically possible to exclude multiple actors or accessories?

My comment: No, it is not scientifically possible.  But that does not mean it it happened or even that it is likely to have happened.

How likely is it that a single scientist working alone could complete the postulated actions? What would be the required time and equipment needed?

Regarding the FBI’s question #2, is it scientifically possible to determine the stability of the combination of mutations in the RMR-1029 strain? Is it scientifically possible to determine how long this combination was in the flask in Dr. Ivins’ custody? Is it scientifically possible to distinguish a sample taken from Dr. Ivins’ flask from one taken from one of its daughter flasks in another lab? How many passages or how long is this mutation combination likely to remain?

Is it scientifically possible to rule out the possibility that there are other stocks (including daughters of Dr. Ivins’ flask) that share the RMR-1029’s mutation combination for which the FBI has not accounted?

My comment: No, it is not scientifically possible.  There is just no evidence to support such a scenario, and legal cases are based upon evidence, not possibilities.

Regarding the FBI’s question #5, are the FBI’s explanations for the presence of silicon in the spores recovered from the mailed letters?

If the spores for the attacks were grown in Dr. Ivins’ lab as the FBI has postulated, are there scientifically credible reasons for the FBI’s inability to produce spores with the identical signatures of those used in the attacks if they used the same stocks, media, and conditions that were present in Dr. Ivins’ lab?

Given the revelations of the extreme ease of environmental contamination noted by the FBI’s Dr. Douglas Beecher in his August 2006 article in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, how likely is it that no environmental contamination would be found in the vehicle, house, or personal effects of the accused?

My comment: If environmental contamination was found, why wouldn't it be from Dr. Ivins normal work?  Are we to assume that Dr. Ivins knew enough to keep himself from being contaminated every day, but somehow forgot to take normal precautions when he was preparing the anthrax letters? 

In summary, has the FBI taken every opportunity to invalidate components of their hypothesis rather than pursuing reasoning and collection of evidence intended to confirm their hypothesis?

My comment:  What is "every opportunity?"  Who determines how many opportunities have to be explored before you have "every opportunity?" 

If not, what challenges have been made to the FBI investigation’s reasoning?  Could any of those challenges be undertaken still, or has the passage of time or loss of evidence made that impossible?  It would be most useful if any panel you convene were to answer scientific or technical questions that may refute the FBI’s conclusions. 

My comment: There may be  lots of "challenges."  With a circumstantial case there are almost always "other possibilities" for individual items of evidence.  It's what the total body of evidence shows that is important.  That's why we have juries.  They look at all the evidence, including the evidence where there are "other possibilities."  It may be possible that Dr. Ivins was somewhere else when the letters were being mailed, but if he has no solid alibi, then that "possibility" is just a "possibility" and nothing more.  Possibilities mean nothing if the total body of evidence says beyond a reasonable doubt that he must have driven to New Jersey to mail the anthrax letters. 

I don't think I like the idea of a lawmaker asking what is possible when our legal system is based upon evidence proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

I also noticed that on Sept. 24, Rep. Holt introduced Bill HR-7049 asking for a National Commission on the Anthrax Attacks "to examine and report upon the facts and causes relating to the anthrax letter attacks of September and October 2001."  If and when such a commission begins its examination, maybe the first question should be: Is it possible that Representative Rush Holt sent the anthrax letters?  It would be very interesting to see if he can prove it is not possible, particularly if it is "possible" that he could have gotten someone else to do whatever was needed when he was required to be somewhere to establish an alibi.  After all, he is a scientist.  From 1980 to 1986 he taught physics, and from 1989 until 1998, he was Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the largest research facility of Princeton University, near where the anthrax letters were mailed.  Can that be "just a coincidence?"  :-)

October 27, 2008 - This morning's Washington Post contains a lengthy article titled "Trail of Odd Anthrax Cells Led FBI to Army Scientist."  The article repeatedly talks about how rare it is to have a pure concentration of spores.  The article says,

Exceptionally pure concentrations of anthrax spores were Ivins's trademark and placed him in an exclusive class. 
But later, the article seems to contradict that:
The art of "spore preparation" is a tedious job often relegated to novices and technicians.
The article also seems to contradict what was said in the FBI's roundtable discussion on August 18th, where it was unambiguously stated that Dugway produced 13 of the 35 production runs to create the spores in RMR-1029.  The Post article says,
It was intended for garden-variety animal experiments, but the collection of anthrax spores known as RMR-1029 was anything but ordinary. Ivins, its creator, had devoted a year to perfecting it, mixing 34 different batches of bacteria- laden broth and distilling them into a single liter of pure lethality.

The finished product, a muddy, off-white liquid in a glass flask the size of a small coffee pot, was the greatest single concentration of deadly anthrax bacteria in the country, FBI investigators said. 

The authors of the Post article are either totally unaware of the roundtable discussion or have gotten new information:
Initially, agents thought Ivins divided his spores into two flasks and kept one in a different building, which would have increased the number of people with potential access. That belief was based on a lab notebook entry that turned out to be erroneous, agents said.
In the roundtable disussion just two months ago, the FBI and DOJ stated that the 34 productions runs filled two flasks in 1997, but over the years all but about half of one flask was used up.  Since the information about the two flasks and Dugway's role came directly from the FBI and the DOJ only two months ago, it would appear to be more reliable than the Post's statements from anonymous sources. 

The Post article then says,

Ivins alone created and controlled the distinctive collection of anthrax cells that provided the seeds for the attacks.  And he was the undisputed master at manipulating the bacteria into dense concentrations of deadly spores. While graduate school microbiologists could have performed most of the tasks, Ivins had the experience and the "good set of hands" required to achieve a spore preparation of such quality, a government scientist said.
And
"When you go to the true experts and ask them how many people can develop [anthrax spores] into something with this purity and this concentration, they shake their heads," said Montooth, the lead Amerithrax investigator. "Some will say there are perhaps six. Others will say maybe a dozen."
But the article also says,
Ivins normally worked with liquid anthrax spore solutions, not dry powders, investigators acknowledge. Ivins's colleagues insist that he had no experience with "dry aerosols" of anthrax spores and would not have known how to make them.
While extremely interesting, the Washington Post article seems to be most interesting in where it contradicts information stated by the FBI and DOJ only two months ago.  And it does nothing to clear up the dispute over whether creating pure spore powders is extremely difficult and unusual, or something that can be done by a "novice" or "graduate school microbiologist."  It may have been extremely unusual for anyone to created pure powders of anthrax spores, but what about other kinds of spores?  Why doesn't anyone ask the companies that make anthrax simulants or insecticides?  If they have truly identified the culprit -- and I believe they have -- it probably doesn't make much difference how difficult the job was, but disseminating wrong information now won't help us understand if something similar happens in the future.

October 26, 2008 - As we all wait for the FBI and the DOJ to close the Amerithrax investigation, which will presumably result in some kind of document laying out the entire case against Dr. Bruce Ivins, the science of the case still fascinates me - and, to a lesser degree, the psychology.  And, there's now time available to do some deep thinking about the science and the psychology, and the past and the future.

In my analysis of the anthrax attacks as described in my book and on this web site, I definitely had the science figured out, and I appear to have had the right psychology for the anthrax mailer.  I just didn't have the right person.  But, from the very beginning, I recognized that possibility, since my analysis said that there appeared to be thousands of scientists with the capability to make the anthrax powders (a subject still in dispute) and perhaps hundreds with the right motivation and psychology.  But, I had information about only a few of them.  With thousands of possible suspects, I simply had no way to evaluate someone who I knew absolutely nothing about.

From the few I knew something about, I picked the one "most likely" to have done it (Who else could I pick?), but I never named the scientist, I only discussed the evidence that I had accumulated.  Perhaps most importantly, my analysis also showed that none of the "suspects" identified by other people were more likely to be the actual culprit.  The facts about Dr. Steven Hatfill were clear from the very beginning.  He was picked by others who went through their own lists of scientists they knew in order to identify the "most likely" person to have done it.  But they seemingly didn't recognize that they could be wrong.  Or, they didn't care if they were wrong because they believed the true culprit was the Bush administration, and it didn't really make much difference to them which Bush administration flunky actually did it.  The situation with Dr. Philip Zack was similar - he was just a representative of what some saw as "the real enemy."  And the psychology of the case didn't fit Saddam Hussein or al Qaeda or any true terrorists. 

The psychology of conspiracy theorists fascinated me for years - and still does, to a degree.  I got to know some of them very well.  I've exchanged thousands of emails with them.  But, once the psychology of conspiracy theorists becomes clear, it loses a lot of its fascination.  It becomes routine.  The same with the psychology of True Believers.  Very quickly, their responses become so standardized and predictable that you might as well be talking with a machine.

From time to time, I wondered how I would revise my book to include information about Dr. Bruce Ivins - if some publisher were to express interest in printing a new edition.  But why would any publisher be interested in a book written by some guy on the Internet who always said it was possible he could be wrong about who sent the anthrax letters?  Unambiguous claims - right or wrong - sell more books.  And that makes me wonder: What kinds of books will others write about the anthrax attacks?  And who will write them?  There will undoubtedly be many books which will dismiss the facts and continue to promote complex conspiracy theories implicating the U.S. government.  Hopefully, however, some people actually involved in the investigation will write books about how they viewed the case.  But, since it appears that no top investigator stayed on the case from start to finish, it seems likely that the bulk of factual books about the case will be histories of the Amerithrax investigation from historians or as seen by people who were involved with the case in some way at some time.

Sometimes I think about writing a novel or fictional screenplay about the case, because, as said before, the psychology of the case fascinates me.  Novels and screenplays are usually all about psychology - how the world is viewed by a person in crisis.    If I were to write a novel or screenplay about the case, I'd write one that views the case from the culprit's point of view.  That's were the really fascinating psychology would be.  Imagine someone thoroughly believing that, after 9/11, America needed to be awakened to the dangers of a bioweapons attack.  And he devises his own plan to awaken America - without harming anyone.  But, things go wrong and innocent people die.  As the main charater watches, others become suspects and their lives are ruined.  But, the deed is done, and there's no turning back.  Incredibly, he's somewhat involved with the investigation, so he can actually watch some things as they happen.  And he can often ask questions and get answers.  At first it appears he got away with it, but then ... 

It's a premise with a lot of possibilities.  But, I don't see having the time to write a novel or screenplay until long after the Amerithrax case is closed and all the upcoming scientific articles are published.  And, even then, I'd be inclined to write non-fiction. 

If and when the legal case against Bruce Ivins gets presented to the public, it should be very interesting to see how it is rationalized and/or dismissed by conspiracy theorists and True Believers.  But I'm really waiting for the scientific evidence.  It's a lot more difficult to rationalize and/or dismiss scientific facts in order to continue with some belief.  Yet, a lot of scientists appear to have done exactly that.  And it's the arguments between scientists which fascinates me the most about this case.  It's the area where both psychology and science are in direct conflict in the Amerithrax case.

I'm still looking to read a copy of "Pulmonary Deposition of Aerosolized Bacillus Atrophaeus in a Swine Model Due to Exposure from a Simulated Anthrax Letter Incident" to see if the authors assumed "weaponization" of the attack spores as part of their study.  If so, the next question would be: Were they aware of the dispute over whether or not the attack spores were "weaponized?"  My guess would be that they were totally unaware of the dispute, because scientists, like almost everyone else, evidently live and work in their own community and only get a tiny fraction of their information from the outside world.  And, one of the biggest lessons I learned from analyzing the facts about the anthrax attacks for seven years is that scientists can easily have false beliefs just like the rest of us.  And, sometimes two or more scientists can have very different views of the same facts.

For example, a couple weeks ago, I happened to watch a program called "How Sticky Is Your Gecko?" on a Science Channel program called "Weird Connections."  It was all about how tiny lizards called geckos cling to surfaces.  The show grabbed my attention because it wasn't long ago that the subject of geckos kept popping up all the time in discussions of the Amerithrax investigation.  It may have been the result of a study titled "Evidence for van der Waals adhesion in gecko setae" produced by Keller Autumn et al in 2002, which seemingly proved that geckos cling to surfaces by manipulating van der Waals force.  And, it was van der Waals force which Gary Matsumoto's infamous article in the November 28, 2003, issue of Science magazine claimed would also cause spores to cling to other spores if there wasn't some form of silica between the spores to prevent it from happening.  That's the foundation for  nearly all of the conspiracy theories.

My fascination with van der Waals forces and scientific disagreements increased when I read a 2005 article from the National Institutes of Health which apparently states that it is capillary force, not van der Waals force which allows geckos to stick to walls.

I'm primarily an analyst.  When I see scientists in disagreement over what the facts say about some interesting subject, my ears perk up.  What would the facts tell me?  Which side is right?  Could they both be right?  Or could both sides be wrong?

Will there be enough free time for me to study the subject in detail and find out?  Or will the FBI suddenly close the Amerithrax case and release a flood of new information that will need to be studied, analyzed and commented upon? 

Stay tuned.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, October 19, 2008, thru Saturday, October 25, 2008

October 22, 2008 - Today, someone pointed out to me that in my book - and on this web site - I once indicated that it appeared that the FBI had found in New Jersey the copy machine used to make the anthrax letters.  In my book I argue that if the copy machine was in New Jersey, it would be very unlikely that Steven Hatfill would have driven all the way to New Jersey to use it.  Today, the same argument would apply, of course, to Dr. Bruce Ivins.

The information about the FBI locating the copy machine comes from CBS where this was stated:

And after searching thousands of copiers in New Jersey where the letters were mailed, agents believe they've found the very one the killer used to make his duplicates by isolating the tiny scratches and smears unique to each machine.
and from Laura Rosen at Salon.com. who wrote this: 
Already investigators have identified the Xerox machine used to photocopy the letters sent to Democratic senators, NBC, and the New York Post last fall, a source close to the investigation said. The machine is "publicly accessible" and is in New Jersey, but in what town or what facility was not disclosed.
But, on this web site I state:
Other sources are saying that the information about the Xerox machine is untrue,
that the FBI is denying it. 
And, in my book I say the same thing, but I also argue that the FBI could have been just trying to stop a leak of correct information.  The "other sources" I was citing were sources I contacted by email.  As usual, "sources" are not as reliable as facts.

Did the FBI actually find the Xerox machine?  Who knows?  Today, I seriously doubt that, if they found it, they found it in New Jersey.  More likely, they found a copier that seemed to be the right one.  Back in May of 2002, I asked these questions:

But can it be demonstrated in court that it is the same machine used to copy the anthrax letters?  Or is it just something that appears certain to FBI agents but cannot be scientifically proven? 
That's a problem often encountered when hunting for evidence.  You can sometimes find what you are looking for, even though it isn't real.  It just seems real.

I suppose it is possible that Dr. Ivins could have driven to New Jersey to use a copy machine, then returned back to Maryland to use a biosafety cabinet at Ft. Detrick to put the anthrax into the letters and into the envelopes.  But, it seems more likely that the copy machine that was found back in 2002 just looked like it could be the machine -- if it existed at all, and if the whole thing wasn't just a rumor.

If and when the FBI & DOJ release all the evidence supporting their case against Dr. Ivins, the copy machine will certainly not be mentioned if it couldn't be scientifically proven to be the right machine.  The fact that someone in the FBI may or may not have believed that a copy machine in New Jersey was the right machine is irrelevant.  At one point, an FBI agent in Florida believed and argued that al Qaeda must have been behind the attacks, while other FBI agents evidently believed that Dr. Hatfill was the anthrax mailer.  It's just another example of how beliefs must be separated from facts in order to create a solid legal case to take to court. 

Whether or not I believed that the copier had been found is not critical, since I also knew (and stated) that it could be all be a mistake of some kind.  Believing something without knowing that the belief could be in error is where serious problems occur. 

October 20, 2008 - Back in August, learned a little lesson about scientific journals.   I was exchanging emails with a scientist, and, in response to a question, he referred me to an article he had co-written.  He mentioned the publisher, the name of the journal and the name of the main author.  He couldn't remember the title of the article.  When I started looking for the article, I soon discovered that he hadn't correctly remembered the name of the journal, either.  He said it was in "Bioforensics International."  There was no such magazine in the list of 85 journals with titles that begin with B published by the publisher he named.  I found the article in "Forensic Science International," one of 72 journals with titles that begin with the letter F published by Elsevier, which publishes 2,340 different scientific journals.

The article I commented about yesterday is published by a different publisher who appears to publish many dozens of journals that begin with the letter I, including "Inhalation Toxicology," which contained the article I mentioned. 

I mention this because it should illustrate why an article in a general science magazine like Science or Nature will get a much bigger audience and have a much greater impact than something printed in a magazine designed for a specific branch of science -- even if the article is total nonsense written by an apparent conspiracy theorist. 

October 19, 2008 - Last week was another slow week in which I received very few emails and found no important news related to the anthrax attacks of 2001.  However, yesterday someone sent me a link to an abstract of a new scientific article titled "Pulmonary Deposition of Aerosolized Bacillus Atrophaeus in a Swine Model Due to Exposure from a Simulated Anthrax Letter Incident."  The abstract begins with this:

Dry anthrax spore powder is readily disseminated as an aerosol and it is possible that passive dispersion when opening a letter containing anthrax spores may result in lethal doses to humans. The specific aim of this study was to quantify the respirable aerosol hazard associated with opening an envelope/letter contaminated with a dry spore powder of the biological pathogen anthrax in a typical office environment.
The dry spore powder is further described as a "pathogen simulant" of dry Bacillus atrophaeus spores.  And the conclusion of the study is described this way:
Thus, there would appear to be a significant health risk to those individuals exposed to anthrax spores when opening a contaminated envelope.
Unfortunately, I'll have to wait to see the actual article to find out how the spores were prepared.  That's the area which generates all the arguments.  Were the "simulant" spores "weaponized" in any way?  Was silica or silicon involved in any way?  The abstract doesn't provide any specifics about such critical questions. 

In previous experiments done in Canada, "weaponized" spore powders created by Dugway were sometimes used.  Are we supposed to assume that since there is no mention of the word "weaponized" in the abstract, the spores must have been a simple pure spore powder without any "weaponization" additives? 

It's probably best to avoid making any assumptions.  After all, it wasn't too long ago that another study was done where "weaponized" spores were used because all the scientists involved believed that the anthrax spores used in the 2001 attacks were "weaponized."

I often feel I exist in an area where two "scientific circles" intersect.  On one side are the scientists who have facts about the anthrax attacks of 2001, and on the other side are scientists who have beliefs about the anthrax attacks of 2001. 

This is exactly where I want to be.  The purpose of this web site has always been to gather and sort out the facts about the anthrax attacks of 2001 in order to separate them from beliefs.  From the very beginning, it's been very clear that those on one side of the disputes are working with facts, and those on the other side work with beliefs.

But, what I'm learning -- and what continues to amaze and confound me -- is that many many scientists on both sides of me seem totally unaware that there is another side.

The vast majority of the scientists who work with mistaken beliefs about the attack anthrax of 2001 are totally unaware that there is even a question about whether or not the attack spores were weaponized!  When confronted, they are stunned to learn there is a dispute, and they will invariably refer to the October 2002 article in the Washington Post and/or to the November 2003 article in Science, both of which claimed the attack spores must have been weaponized.  They are stunned to learn that the articles are based upon junk science from a tiny group of conspiracy theorists who are endlessly trying to convert everyone to their belief that the attack spores were weaponized with silica as part of some vast U.S. government plot. 

The scientists who work with facts about the attack anthrax of 2001, on the other hand, seem to be generally aware that the conspiracy theorists exist.  But, they don't see that there is "another side."  With solid facts, there cannot be "another side."  There are only those with the facts, and those who are ignorant of the facts.  Ignorance is not a point of view.  Therefore, the "other side" is not "another side."  It's just a group of people who are ignorant of the facts.  And, in science, it is the responsibility of the ignorant to learn the facts.  If they won't, then that's their problem.

Only, in the matter of the anthrax attacks of 2001, the scientists who have been misled by the conspiracy theorists do not know that they have been misled.  They do not know that their years of research MAY be largely based upon incorrect information.

So, when I see an abstract of an article like the newest one from Canada, I have to wonder: is it about "weaponized" spores?  If so, there's probably still some value to the study.  But, it wouldn't be what the world really needs right now.  What the world needs is information about what really happened, not what some people believe happened.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, October 12, 2008, thru Saturday, October 18, 2008

October 15, 2008 - Hmm.  Did you know that the Federal Shield Bill died months ago?  According to the American Journalism Review

The bill, which would allow the government to subpoena journalists for information about their confidential sources only as a last resort, died in the Senate July 30 when supporters could not round up the necessary 60 votes to cut off discussion and bring it to a vote. The tally was 51-43 in favor of the measure.
I remember all the editorials calling for passage of the bill.  And at some point in time those editorials stopped.  But I don't recall reading that the bill had died.
Society of Professional Journalists President David Aeikens, who lobbied for the bill in Washington in July with about 10 fellow SPJ members, says when the campaign to enact the law resumes before the next Congress, "it's likely that we'll be back to square one." 
I don't really have any opinion about the bill.  And maybe there was news about it, but I failed to see it.  I just find it interesting that the bill was in the news all the time when editors were pushing for it, and then just silence when the pushing stopped.  The media evidently didn't find the demise of the bill to be newsworthy. 

I don't need to put a Post-it note on my computer to remind me to keep an eye out for news about the closing of the Amerithrax investigation.  I'm keeping an eye out for that anyway.  But maybe I need one to remind me to look for news about the end of the Toni Locy matter.  And what about all the talk of Congressional investigations to look into the Amerithrax case?  Presumably, that talk has been temporarily drowned out by the talk about the financial crisis.   But when does no news become forgotten subjects?

October 12, 2008 (B) - Those who still believe that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks might be able to make something of the fact that 37 people in Iraq were recently infected with the skin-infection type of anthrax.  An Iranian web site and Reuters both have articles about it this morning.  They are the first cases in Iraq since the 1980's.  But, all it really proves is that anthrax is a disease of cattle, and that it's not unusual to find cases in areas with dry climates.   However, I expect that a lot of phone calls and emails are being made to demand that the strain be checked to see if it is Ames.  And the favorite phrase in every one of them is most likely, "It can't be just a coincidence!"

October 12, 2008 (A) - When things get as slow as they have been during the past week, I tend to want to summarize, psychoanalyze and philosophize.  Having spent the past seven years sorting through every publicly available detail about the anthrax attacks of 2001, plus having answered many thousands of emails during that same period, I keep wanting to make some general observations. 

One observation that seems very clear, but which no one seems to mention, is that the people who do not accept the FBI's conclusion that Dr. Bruce Ivins was working alone when he sent the anthrax letters, do not agree with each other about what happened.

One Internet poll of 158 votes found that 3% believed that Dr. Ivins was responsible for the attacks, and 97% didn't.   Another poll with just 30 voters showed that 13% believed that Dr. Ivins was responsible for the attacks, and 87% didn't.  But no poll of people on the Internet can be seen as representative of the general population. 

And what do such numbers really mean when the people being polled have little or no agreement among themselves -- other than that they disagree with the FBI's findings? 
What would it mean if only 20% of Americans believe that Dr. Ivins was the culprit, 15% believe al Qaeda sent the letters, 10% believe that Dr. Philip Zack sent the letters, 5% believe that Saddam Hussein sent the letters, and the remaining 50% included hundreds of other suspects without any single suspect getting more than 2% of the vote? 

On the other hand, it wouldn't surprise me if the vast majority of Americans accepted the FBI's findings because they cannot accept any alternative theory that is based upon the premise that anyone who joins the FBI automatically accepts being part of some massive criminal conspiracy or automatically becomes totally incompetent. 

It also wouldn't surpise me if the vast majority of Americans have no opinion at all about the FBI findings.  The impression I get from people I meet who do not follow the case is that they just want to forget that it ever happened, and they hope that nothing like it will ever happen again.  They have too many other things to worry about.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, October 5, 2008, thru Saturday, October 11, 2008

October 8-9, 2008 - On Wednesday, when the magazine Nature mentioned an article on their web site that evidently contained an interview with Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, who has been critical of the FBI's Amerithrax investigation over the years, I was curious as to what the article said.  I thought it was odd that Nature would be talking with a politician about the case instead of getting solid facts from knowledgeable scientists.  I wondered if they were  trying to get their readers to support the conspiracy theorists.

This morning (Thursday), I found a copy of the Grassley interview in my email inbox.  The anthrax investigation takes up only a few paragraphs in the lengthy copyrighted interview.   Sen. Grassley seems puzzled about certain things.  For example:

two or three days after the  announcement of [Ivins] being a suspect, they said that the case is closed. Now it  looks like it's going to be 90 days or more before they close the case.
The implied question is: What changed? 

When asked what specific question about the Amerithrax investigation Sen. Grassley would most like to see answered, his response was:

Why did they wait until the last week before he died to get DNA from  him?  They took a mouth swab just a week before he died. [...] This is a case  that is supposedly solved. Well, if they've solved the case, what do they  have to hide? 
Sen. Grassley seems to have a problem with the word "solved."  Like most people, he probably won't consider the case "solved" until he believes the evidence is sufficient to convict Dr. Ivins.  But why would he think that obtaining Dr. Ivins' DNA is so critical? There was no DNA on or in the letters, so what would Dr. Ivins's DNA be matched against? 

The case is not yet closed, even though the FBI and DOJ consider it "solved."  That's not unusual.  A crime is solved when the culprit is conclusively identified.  An investigation is closed when the culprit has been brought to trial and convicted

In this case, however, there can be no trial.  But, unlike most other cases, it would not be acceptable for the investigators to just wrap up everything and put it in the "closed case" files.  Closing the Amerithrax investigation requires something instead of a regular trial.

The trial in the Amerithrax case may be "a trial of public opinion."  If so, we need to remember that every trial begins with the prosecution laying out its case against the defendant.  And that hasn't yet happened.  All we've gotten is some information about the kinds of evidence that would have been presented if there had been a real trial.

I still think there's a good possibility that the grand jury is still investigating this case. And, since grand jury proceedings are required by law to be secret, it's understandable that it may seem to Senator Grassley that things are being hidden from him.  But that doesn't mean anything sinister is going on.   It could just mean that the grand jury process is not completed.  When it is, the prosecution's case will be made clear.  And then, Dr. Ivins' defenders, the public and the media can see if they can pick the case apart to find some area where there is reasonable doubt.  Meanwhile, the grand jury is presumably making absolutely sure that there are no answerable unanswered questions that the other side can use to show that the investigation was not thorough and complete. 

October 5, 2008 - Hmm.  Suddenly, everything has gone quiet.  I haven't received any emails in days, and there has been absolutely no news about the Anthrax case since the article in Nature came out on September 29th.  I expected some kind of response to that article.  A response may be in the works, but I'm seeing no clear indication of it.

The scientists I've talked with don't feel that posting responses on Nature's web site would be the right way to counter the nonsense printed in the article.  It's okay for me, but not for them.  I know that some phone calls to the author of the article have been made, but I'm hoping that won't be the end of it.  I'm hoping that, at minimum, some kind of formal letter to the editor is being prepared.

That happened with the total nonsense about fumed silica that was printed in The Washington Post.   A letter to the editor was written, but it had little impact.  The false information from the original article influenced scientists for years afterward. 

The total nonsense printed in Science Magazine went without a formal response, and, as a result, many many scientists believed what was printed, and many of them cited the article as a reference in their scientific papers, even though the article didn't involve any new research and was written by a journalist, not a scientist.

The screwball beliefs of the conspiracy theorists have also found listeners in Congress.   Back on Sept. 16, Rep. Jerrold Nadler demanded information from FBI Director Mueller about the dry weight percentage of silicon in the attack anthrax.  Clearly, someone had convinced Nadler that if the percentage was "too high" it would mean that it definitely had something to do with "weaponization."  Exactly what percentage would "too high?"   Apparently, it would be whatever the percentage of silicon in the attack spores was.  And what is the science behind that percentage being "too high?"  There is none. 

Assistant FBI Director Vahid Majidi has written a letter to the National Academy of Sciences asking them to review the scientific information in the case.  But that could take years

First impressions are long lasting impressions.  People remember headlines.  They don't remember retractions or letters to the editor printed at the bottom of page 65.   They remember conspiracy theories, they rarely remember complex scientific explanations. And whether or not there is enough solid evidence to have convicted Dr. Bruce Ivins of the anthrax murders is a relatively insignificant question when compared to the question of whether or not agents of the U.S. government perpetrated some vast criminal conspiracy to kill innocent Americans and then to cover up facts about some secret and illegal bioweapons program that produced the supposed "weaponized" spores the conspiracy theorists believe were in the anthrax letters. 

The science used by the conspiracy theorists is junk science.  It's the same kind of junk science used by the conspiracy theorists who claim that the moon landings were a hoax.  They use mistaken beliefs phrased in scientific terms.  And they attack true experts who dispute their beliefs as being part of the conspiracy.   The silica controversy has been going on for seven years!  The August 18 roundtable discussion of the science of the case helped somewhat.  And the scientific articles that will be printed in scientific journals in coming years will help -- eventually.  But, there are thousands of scientists who have accepted the junk science as valid because it was printed in Science and in Nature and has never been clearly and formally contradicted.  And the conspiracy theorists are still hard at work trying to convert more scientists to their junk science beliefs, while those with solid facts and valid information plod along following established procedures so that their work can be formally printed in obscure scientific journals that few will read.

It would help if, just this once, some of those scientists with solid facts would become as aggressive in getting out the facts as those with junk science beliefs are in promoting their junk science beliefs.  The "lunatic fringe" isn't just on the fringe this time.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, September 28, 2008, thru Saturday, October 4, 2008

October 2, 2008 (B) - Looking through my web site logs for yesterday, I happened to notice a link that came in from a blog web site.  Out of curiosity, I went to that link and found information which correctly showed that I was wrong in the times I posted when I analyzed the times Dr. Ivins could have driven to New Jersey to mail the media letters.  I had used the wrong time for him leaving for the day on the 18th.  Dr. Ivins evidently also had plenty of time to drive to New Jersey during the day on September 18, 2001, to mail the media letters.  He didn't have to drive during the night of September 17-18.  Or, theoretically, he could have driven to New Jersey twice.

It doesn't change anything of significance, except to give Dr. Ivins two windows of opportunity to mail the media letters.  While I appreciate that the error was noticed so I could go back and correct my Sept. 28 comment, I wish someone had emailed me about it.  It was pure luck that caused me to notice that link and to investigate it.  I haven't had the time to analyze my web site logs very often in the past 2 months.  I really need people to point out errors on this web site so that I can keep it as accurate as possible.

October 2, 2008 (A) - The Frederick News-Post has an article this morning titled "FBI outlines scope of anthrax study" which describes (and provides a link to) a letter sent by the FBI to the National Academy of Sciences with 15 suggested questions that should be addressed in an independent study of the scientific aspects of the FBI's Amerithrax investigation.  Several of the questions relate to the evidence found in the flask which Bruce Ivins controlled.  Others relate to other issues:

5) What effects do growth conditions have on distribution of elements (e.g. Si [Silicon]), stable light isotope ratios, and C-14 dating?

9) Which methods could be used to explore the distribution and concentration of elements within a BA [Bacillus Anthracis] spore?  Do they provide adequate spatial resolution?

Question #11 is the key question ("friable" means "easily crumbled into powder):
11) Is there a need for post-treatment of BA to result in powders with a friable character?  Alternatively, can BA samples dried with rudimetary methodology pose an inhalation hazard resulting in pulmonary anthrax?  Were BA spores in 2001 mailings treated post production to make them more friable?  Were BA spores in 2001 mailings weaponized?
Those questions are undoubtedly asked in hopes that the NAS will develop and verify solid scientific facts to to counter the junk science used by conspiracy theorists. 

October 1, 2008 - The McClatchy newspapers, which evidently include The Anchorage Daily News, the Miami Herald and over a dozen others, printed an article yesterday titled "FBI won't release details on anthrax suspect."  The title is, of course, deliberately misleading.  A more accurate title would be, "FBI has not yet released all details on anthrax suspect."   The article contains this:

David M. Hardy, the section chief of the FBI's records management division, notified McClatchy that his office could not immediately release the records because there were "investigative leads still open" and the FBI needed to withhold the documents in order to protect confidential sources, privacy, law enforcement techniques and a suspect's right to a fair trial.
And this:
The investigation, known as Amerithrax, is not officially closed. But when it is, Hardy said, the FBI will release documents on a "rolling basis as soon as practicable." ...

"Although the FBI cannot predict with absolute certainty when the Amerithrax investigation will be formally closed, we can assure you that the FBI has already begun to make initial preparations," he said.

Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said she was not surprised by the decision because open records exemptions give the FBI broad latitude to cite the need to protect law enforcement efforts.

"There's virtually no chance of getting FBI records in this case until they decide to close it," she said. "This is a situation where it's probably going to be years before we figure out what they've got."

If some in the media can spin this information to suggest a sinister withholding of the facts by the government, it is clear that, when the facts about Ivins are released, these same people in the media will also be spinning all the released facts to show that it's possible that Ivins could be innocent, translating that known possibility into declarations that he was innocent. 

Meanwhile, I've heard from others who are using the Freedom of Information Act to attempt to get information about the case from the FBI and DOJ.  Mostly, they are also just receiving letter replies which state that the case is not yet closed and that scientific information will be released via peer-reviewed scientific publications. 

But, some information is getting out.  A sample of Bruce Ivins' handwriting has showed up on the Hartford Courant's web site.  The document evidently came from the copyrights office, so it has nothing to do with the investigation, and there would be no reason not to release it. 

Looking at the document, all I notice of interest is that Bruce Ivins didn't use serifs when drawing the number 1.  But it's too small a sample to prove anything, since it shows that he would sometimes draw a line through his 7's and sometimes he wouldn't. 

September 30, 2008 - I don't ordinarily register onto web sites just so I can post comments disputing nonsense said on the web sites, but I made an exception with the Nature article and their web site.  The Nature article is really stupid.  It uses JUNK SCIENCE to argue against valid science.  That requires a response.

September 29, 2008 - Today, the prestigious scientific journal Nature has an extremely interesting article on-line titled "Silicon highlights remaining questions over anthrax investigation."  The article says,

Under an electron microscope, [USAMRIDII scientist Peter} Jahrling and a colleague observed black dots that they speculated might be particles of silicon dioxide, or silica. Materials analysis by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington DC confirmed that the sample contained both silicon and oxygen, and many assumed that the elements were combined as silica.
That's the first I recall reading about any "black dots".  That appears to be just made up nonsense.  And Nature seems totally ignorant of the fact that the sample tested by USAMRIID was hydrated with chemicals, while the sample analyzed by AFIP was not.  They were totally different samples.  The Nature article then says:
Spores are sticky, and tend to clump together. One method of weaponizing the spores is to coat them with something that interrupts the weak van der Waals interactions between each particle.
That's nonsense straight from Science MagazineMy analysis says it is scientific nonsense which, if true, would mean that the universe as we know it cannot exist.  So, editors at the world's two most prestigious scientific journals both seriously believe that the anthrax attacks of 2001 may have been part of a vast U.S. government conspiracy.  And who is Nature's primary source?  He's the same source used by Science Magazine:
In 2002, as part of the FBI investigation, scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, used electron microscopy to analyse the composition of the spores. The results were finally made public last month. They found silicon and oxygen in the spore coat, but not on the most external layer, the exosporium. The location of the silicon, the FBI says, suggests that it was incorporated naturally into the structures during growth, not added as a final coating to weaponize them.

But other experts disagree with the conclusion. "I don't think the guys at Sandia understand that the exosporium is not some kind of brick wall," says Stuart Jacobsen, a research chemist based in Dallas, Texas, who is an expert on the preparation and properties of fine-grained powders and has followed the case closely. "It's more like a chain-link fence." Decades ago, a study found that the exosporium is porous to various small molecules. 

Near the end of the Nature article we find this question and answer:
Why does this matter to the investigation?

If the spores could not be made by a single scientist in a few evenings, that would suggest the spores came from elsewhere – possibly from a state-organized programme.

So, there can be no doubt that Nature is suggesting that a vast government conspiracy could have been behind the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Interestingly, the article concludes with a total fabrication:
there is no indication from the FBI that more data are forthcoming anytime soon. Until they are provided, there will continue to be suspicions and speculations about the silicon in the spores.
The FBI and the DOJ have clearly stated that everything about the attack anthrax will be released.  The details about the silicon will be released via a peer-reviewed scientific publication as quickly as the process can be completed.   Other scientific information will be released in other scientific journals.  And details about the investigation of Dr. Bruce Ivins will be released as soon as the case can be officially closed.

Meanwhile, however, the conspiracy theorists can and will continue to use junk science to recruit scientists to join in believing that the anthrax attacks of 2001 were the result of a vast criminal conspiracy perpetrated by the U.S. government.

I thought things seemed to be quieting down, but clearly: It ain't over until it's over.

September 28, 2008 - This morning's Washington Post contains an article titled "Two Portraits of a Bioterror Suspect," which includes this paragraph:

Within USAMRIID's high-security laboratories, Ivins was the go-to man for researchers probing anthrax disease.  Ivins specialized in spore preparation, taking wet bacteria samples and culturing them in glass flasks.  Ivins experimented on mice, rats, golden guinea pigs and monkeys, first injecting the animals with test vaccines and then blasting them with anthrax. After a few days, he counted bodies.
That probably meant he could make purified spores blindfolded.  And there's this:
He also was using out-of-town mailboxes to anonymously send gifts and cards to someone in another city. He apparently made an 11-hour round-trip one night to leave a package for that person. When the FBI later questioned him, he explained that he liked taking mindless drives.
And that, among other things,  makes me want to take another look at what Dr. Ivins was doing in the times just before the mailings. 

Below is a summary and (hopefully) more readable version of the two Bruce Ivins access logs located HERE and HERE.  Only key entries are included in this summary.   My comments are in italics and in parentheses.

THE MEDIA MAILING:

(Other sources indicate that Dr. Ivins worked long hours and used area B301 on September 14, 15 and 16.)

Monday, September 17, 2001:
06:58:20 - 1425 REAR DR IN  (Ivins enters the rear door to Bldg. 1425.)
07:23:15 - B301 OUT/M (Ivins exits area B301.  No entry is recorded)
11:14:49 - CORR TO BACTI OUT (leaves the building?)
19:00:12 - 1425 REAR DR IN (reenters the building at 7 p.m.)
19:13:53 - 1425 REAR DR OUT (leaves the building at 7:14 p.m.)

(Evidently, it was not a problem to follow some coworker into B301 after the coworker used their card to open the door.   That is evidently why there is no entry time for when Dr. Ivins entered B301.)

(It was after 7:14 p.m. on this day that Dr. Ivins presumably drove to New Jersey to mail the anthrax letters to NBC, The New York Post, etc.  That round trip drive takes approximately 7 hours (The Washington Post says 6 hours).  He would have returned home around 2:15 a.m.)

(There also appears to be enough time to drive to New Jersey between 11:14 a.m. and 7 p.m., but mailbox pickup times show that that would probably have resulted in a September 17 postmark.  Plus, according the The Washington Post, Dr. Ivins had an appointment "at 4 or 5 p.m.")

TUESDAY, September 18, 2001: (The media letters get postmarked)
07:02:35 - 1425 REAR DR IN (arrives for the day)
08:35:09 - CORR TO BACT OUT (leaves the building?)
20:14:36 - 1425 REAR DR IN (returns to building 1425)
20:25:43 - B301 IN/M (enters B301)
20:26:56 - B301 OUT/M (exits B301)
20:58:19 - 1425 REAR DR OUT (leaves the building)

(There also appears to be enough time for Dr. Ivins to have driven to New Jersey and back during the day on the 18th.   That would still be consistent with the letteres being postmarked on the 18th.)

THE SENATE MAILING:

FRIDAY, October 5, 2001:

(Other records show that Dr. Ivins worked all day that Friday, including time in B301, evidently continuing to work until after midnight.)

(It would be on this day that he would have learned that the first letters sent to the media failed to alarm anyone, and that, since it was just a single case, Bob Stevens' infection was assumed to be NOT related to terrorism.)

(If Dr. Ivins started to prepare the senate anthrax on this day, the first steps presumably would have been to take spores from flask RMR-1029, to get the spores to germinate, and then to add the living bacteria to nutrients for further reproduction.  The bacteria would then - presumably - have been placed in the incubator room accessed by the KEYPAD.) 

SATURDAY, October 6, 2001:
00:43:30 - 1425 REAR DR OUT (leaves at 43 minutes after midnight)

SUNDAY, October 7, 2001:
14:34:19 - 1425 REAR DR IN (arrives for the day at 2:34 p.m.)
14:55:51 - CORR TO BACTI IN (enters the Bacteriology Dept.)
14:56:11 - B301 IN/M (enters area B301)
14:58:57 - B301 KEYPAD (enters incubator room?)
15:19:08 - B301 OUT/M (exits area B301)

(B301 includes an area where one changes into the protective suit required for entry into the incubator room. Changing into the suit evidently took about 2-1/2 minutes.  Removing the suit presumably requires disinfection, etc.  But he would presumably also have moved the living bacteria to the device where sporulation takes place.)

15:20:08 - CORR TO BACTI OUT (leaves Bacteriology 1 minute later)
15:26:30 - 1425 REAR DR OUT (leaves the building via the back door)

MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2001 (COLUMBUS DAY):

13:49:40 - 1425 REAR DR IN (enters the building at 1:49 p.m.)
15:00:38 - B301 IN/M (enters area B301)
15:01:43 - B301 OUT/M (leaves area B301 after one minute)
15:48:58 - CORR TO BACTI OUT (leaves building at 3:48 p.m.?)
21:03:16 - 1425 REAR DR IN (reenters building at 9:03 p.m.)
21:05:42 - CORR TO BACTI IN (enters the Bacteriology Dept.)
21:16:47 - CORR TO BACTI OUT (leaves the Bacteriology Dept.)
22:04:44 - 1425 REAR DR OUT (leaves building at 10:04 p.m.)

(Presumably, between 1:49 p.m. and 3:48 p.m., he took the spores, filtered and cetrifuged away the debris, and then put them in a drying device.  Presumably, that drying device is NOT in area B301.  There is no record of him actually leaving the building, only leaving the Bacteriology Dept.)

(Presumably, between 9:05 p.m. and 9:16 p.m., he took the dry spores from the drying device and put them in the envelopes.)

(Where was he and what was he doing for the 43 minutes between leaving the Bacteriology Dept. and leaving the building? Presumably, he had the anthrax letters in his pocket at that time.  But, maybe not.  Was there some place in the building where he didn not need a key card for entry and where he could have used a biosafety cabinet to put the anthrax in the letters without fear of any CCTV watching him?)

(Presumably, he then drove to New Jersey to mail the letters Senators Daschle and Leahy.  He would have arrived back home at about 5 a.m.) 

TUESDAY, October 9, 2001: (The senate letters are postmarked.)

08:20:11 - CORR BACTI IN (Dr. Ivins either enters via the front door or enters through the back door following someone else who used their card.)
20:30:10 - 1425 REAR DR OUT (Leaves the building at 8:30 p.m.)

One serious problem with this information is that we do not know what equipment is available in B301 and what equipment is available in other areas within the Bacteriology Department.  Are biosafety cabinets (a.k.a. glove boxes) available in places other than B301?  That would be required if the anthrax was placed in the letters between 9:03 and 10:04 p.m. on the 8th.  What about other than the Bacteriology Dept.?  And where did the drying take place?  It could NOT have taken place in B301, according to this information.   We also do not know for certain how long various steps take. 

The natural assumption is that B301 is where all the hazardous work is done.  But, Dr Ivins worked in the Bacteriology Department, so "hazardous work" may have a different meaning for people who routinely work with bacteria.   A self-contained, sealed drying device could have been used anywhere or, possibly, inside a biosafety cabinet.  The end product would have been a clump of powder smaller than an AA battery. 

There are lots of assumptions being made above, but there is also ample opportunity for someone with real knowledge of Building 1425 at Ft. Detrick to state that there was no biosafety cabinet outside of B301 available to Dr. Ivins.  This entire scenario would then fall apart.  The same would be true if there was no drying device available outside of B301.  That wouldn't prove that Dr. Ivins was not the culprit, however.  It would merely prove that the scenario described above is incorrect.  But the new information might provide information for a new and better scenario.  That's why I'm always on the hunt for new and better information instead of working only with beliefs.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, September 21, 2008, thru Saturday, September 27, 2008

September 26, 2008 - The 2 log sheets (HERE and HERE) showing where Bruce Ivins was within Ft. Detrick on September 17-18 and October 6-9 are generating some very interesting discussions.  The discussions are also separating those who have other theories from those who want to seriously analyze the evidence against Dr. Ivins. 

For those with other theories, just looking at the log sheets is a total waste of time, since to them, everything can be dismissed as simply the innocent comings and goings of an innocent man.  And nothing conclusively proves otherwise. 

But, if you look at the log sheets to see if there's anything in them which seems to support the case against Dr. Ivins, you will find that everything seems to support the case against Dr. Ivins. 

The Wall Street Journal showed that Ivins worked unusual hours on the weekend before the first mailing.  The log times we now have for September show he worked until 7:14 p.m. on the 17th, which could be the time the culprit was preparing the media letters.  Dr. Ivins left the building at 7:14 p.m. and returned the next day at 7:02 a.m.  That's plenty time to drive to New Jersey to mail the media letters, and to get back home by 2 a.m. or so.  But, it certainly doesn't prove that is what Dr. Ivins was actually doing.

What the logs show Dr. Ivins was doing in October is far more intriguing.  The first time shown in the logs has him leaving Ft. Detrick at 12:43 in the morning of October 6, 2001.  The Wall Street Journal's report shows he worked long hours on the 5th in the area where dangerous bacteria is handled.  And, perhaps importantly, that was the day that The New York Times printed news about Bob Stevens.  The Times printed this:

A 63-year-old Florida man has contracted pulmonary anthrax and has been hospitalized with the infection, health officials said yesterday.

But, the officials said, there is no evidence that the man's disease was caused by a terrorist attack and there is no public health risk.

''It is an isolated case, and it is not contagious,'' Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, said at a White House briefing yesterday afternoon. ''There is no terrorism.''

If the culprit's plan for the media letters had been to terrorize America, it had totally failed.  And it would have been on the morning of the 5th of October that the culprit could have seen the first proof that his plan had failed.   The only case of anthrax to result from the media letters was being dismissed as NOT being the work of terrorists.

If he started his plan for the second mailing on that day, it would seem logical that he might work late into the night.  Ivins worked until after midnight.

But what would the culprit have been doing on that evening?  Supposedly, he'd have been preparing to grow a new supply of anthrax.  The first step would be to get a sample from the RMR-1029 flask to germinate, and then to transfer the living bacteria into flasks, a fermenter, flasks or plates where they can readily grow and reproduce.  Is that what Ivins did on the evening of Friday the 5th? 

Ivins didn't return to his lab again until 2:34 p.m. on Sunday the 7th.  That could mean that the bacteria had been growing for at least 38 hours.  He apparently used a keypad to enter a "hot room" at 2:59 p.m.  Was that to remove the growing bacteria? 

He was only in the lab for about an hour on that Sunday.  Would that have been enough time to take the growing bacteria from the fermenter or flasks and put them into a device for sporulation?  If that is assumed, then he would next have returned at the end of the sporulation period.

Ivins returned to the lab on Monday, Columbus Day, October 8 at 1:49 p.m.  Since he returned at that hour, it seems clear that Columbus Day was a holiday at Ft. Detrick.  So, again he was able to work alone.  The sporulation run would be complete.

He spent approximately 8 hours working that Columbus Day.  Was it enough time to wash the spores and to filter and centrifuge them to remove debris?  If so, was there also enough time to dry the spores and to put them into the envelopes?  I have no reason to believe there wasn't enough time.

That would mean that he had the two senate envelopes with him when he left at 10:04 p.m. on the evening of the 8th.  He could have travelled to New Jersey and returned by 5 a.m.  His next entry into Ft. Detrick is a few hours later, at 8:20 a.m. on the 9th, when he begins another long work day, staying until 8:30 p.m.  Cleaning up, perhaps?

While there's nothing truly incriminating in any of this, it's certainly something that would require an explanation from Ivins.  According to FBI documents, Ivins couldn't provide any good explanation for what he was doing on those days when the culprit was probably preparing the anthrax for the letters to the two senators. 

According to the Wall Street Journal,

As to the spike in the evenings Dr. Ivins spent in the lab, Dr. Andrews, who was division chief at the time, said he didn't find it unusual. "He could have gone into the suite in the evenings because he wanted peace and quiet,"
Maybe.  But, if my understanding of the required processes for making the senate anthrax is correct, it seems far more likely that he was doing other things on those evenings. 

September 25, 2008 (C) - MSNBC has an article which points to a web site called ERSNews.com, which somehow obtained the entry logs showing Bruce Ivins' accesses to various places at Ft. Detrick on Sept. 17-18 and Oct. 6-9, 2001.   MSNBC says:

The documents do not appear to challenge the FBI's assertion that Ivins had time to leave work, drive to Princeton, N.J., and then mail the deadly anthrax letters in a mailbox there.

The two pages of security-access documents reveal Ivin’s whereabouts at the Fort Detrick Army lab on September 17th and 18th and October 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th, 2001, the website said.

As MSNBC says, the logs show that Ivins had time to drive to New Jersey.  The mystery is: How did "The Enterprise Report" get these logs?  I've never heard of that web site before. 

September 25, 2008 (B) - Among yesterday's news stories about Bruce Ivins is a USA Today article titled "FBI did not analyze anthrax from biodefense lab," which includes more 20/20 hindsight from people who were not part of the Amerithrax investigation: 

Before landing on the FBI's radar, Ivins emerged as the central figure in the separate investigation of anthrax contamination at Fort Detrick, where he confessed to cleaning up spilled anthrax in his office without telling superiors. "I had no desire to cry wolf," Ivins told an Army investigator at the time. The Army's investigation found samples of the type of anthrax used in the letter attacks on Ivins' desk and elsewhere in his office, according to a report May 9, 2002.

"Why didn't (the FBI) analyze it? One presumes this was pretty relevant evidence," says biodefense analyst Michael Stebbins of the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C., who was not part of the investigation. "It raises questions about systematic errors in the FBI investigation."

Majidi, an FBI scientist involved in the investigation, says the bureau viewed the 2002 contamination investigation as an Army matter. As a result, he says, the FBI never submitted samples from Ivins' office for the detailed genetic analysis that later tied a flask in his laboratory to the anthrax used in the attacks.

"I don't know" why the FBI never analyzed the 2002 anthrax in Ivins' office, says Debbie Weierman of the FBI's Washington Field Office. "Suspicion on him was immense, if you look at this in hindsight."

In hindsight, everything is seen with 20/20 vision.  But, if the samples were analyzed today and matched the mailed anthrax, what would it prove that is not already known?  If the samples did not match the mailed anthrax, what would that prove?

All that is being said is: Knowing what we known now, if we were able to do things over, we would do them very differently.  But, we didn't know then what we know now!

Meanwhile, in a report from CNN, there's this about the status of the investigation:

The anthrax probe continues, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.

"We are working to close the investigation soon," Boyd said, adding that "investigative efforts" and "administrative measures" need to be finished.

September 25, 2008 (A) - Late yesterday, The Associated Press broke the news about some newly unsealed documents, including some emails sent by Bruce Ivins.  The email making the most news this morning is one which Ivins evidently sent to himself claiming that he knew who sent the anthrax letters. The New York Times, which got the documents unsealed, says this about why Ivins may have written emails to himself:
The documents do not speculate about his motive, though Dr. Ivins was aware by that time that he was under suspicion and might have believed that his e-mail — he maintained at least eight e-mail addresses — was being monitored.
And the New York Times article also provides this summary:
The hundreds of pages of search-warrant affidavits made public on Wednesday, after a request by The New York Times, offer no major disclosures. Rather, the documents, unsealed by Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the Federal District Court here and posted online by the Justice Department, add to a portrait of Dr. Ivins’s eccentric personality and threatening statements as he faced possible murder charges.

For instance, the documents give a fuller account of a group therapy session on July 9 where Dr. Ivins said that he was a suspect in the anthrax investigation and “that he was angry at the investigators, the government and the system in general.”

“He said he was not going to face the death penalty but instead had a plan to kill co-workers and other individuals who had wronged him,” an affidavit by a federal agent said, citing accounts of those present.

 The Los Angeles Times summarizes the new documents this way:
At face value, the new e-mails reinforce the view that Ivins was consumed with the criminal case closing in on him and, in the final months of his life, behaved in a way that suggested madness.
The Washington Post adds this tidbit:
Ivins apparently wrote the e-mail to himself, although the name of the recipient on the e-mail was redacted by the authorities.
Here's the email as taken from one of the court documents:

I haven't had time to read all the documents for myself, but I think it's safe to assume that they'll just show more of what we already know: Bruce Ivins was a very unstable person and much of what he did would fit a picture of a man with a big ego who was about to be arrested for a crime he had previously thought he had gotten away with.

September 24, 2008 (B) - While poking around the Internet, I found an interesting article about the anthrax case by a former DEA special agent name Gregory D. Lee.  The article is titled "‘New York Times’ Editors Are No Crime-Solvers," and it makes some very valid points in its criticism of a recent New York Times editorial:

The editorial read, “None of the investigators’ major assertions, however, have been tested in cross-examination . . .” Sorry, that test is moot when the suspect kills himself. Dr. Bruce Ivins, a mentally unbalanced scientist at the U.S. Army’s laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland, killed himself once he was informed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that he was the subject of a federal grand jury inquiry.

The Times editorial also stated that “. . . there is no direct evidence of his guilt. No witnesses saw him pouring powdered anthrax into envelopes. No Anthrax spores in his house or cars. No confession to a colleague or in a suicide note. No physical evidence tying him to the site in Princeton, New Jersey from which the letters are believed to have been mailed.” I guess if CNN wasn’t there to film the event, then it didn’t happen.

Why would a criminal allow someone to witness his criminal act? Would you bring dangerous anthrax spores inside your house or car if you had safe access to them at work? How much physical evidence can there be if you wore gloves to drop an envelope into a mail box within a day’s driving distance of your home? I think the paper’s editorial staff has been watching too many episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Watching such TV shows gives you just enough knowledge to be dangerous. “Hey, FBI, where’s his DNA, huh?”

The author also makes this point:
One of the first things you learn as a criminal investigator is to not make a mystery out of something that isn’t. The evidence speaks for itself, and one piece of evidence is rarely enough to convince anyone, especially investigators, that a particular person committed a crime. It’s always the totality of the evidence that will prove guilt. 
Not only is it "the totality of the evidence" which proves guilt, but doubts or different interpretations of some single item of evidence do not prove innocence. 

September 24, 2008 (A) - The New York Times reports that members of Congress are arguing over what kind of investigation there should be of the Amerithrax investigation.

Meanwhile, there are articles today by the Associated Press and the Frederick News-Post about a lab accident back in March of this year which Dr. Ivins improperly handled, resulting in his being banned from further lab use.  The AP article says,

Ivins reported the March accident to his supervisors at USAMRIID 1 hour and 20 minutes after it occurred. In an internal investigator's report, dated March 18, Ivins wrote, "I was cleaning the biosafety cabinet and a few drops of dilute Sterne spores got on my pants."

The investigator wrote that a centrifuge bottle containing the solution had tipped over, spilling about 5 milliliters on Ivins's trousers. Ivins cleaned the surface of the cabinet and floor, and then walked home, washed his pants with bleach in his washing machine and dried them in the dryer before returning to USAMRIID to report the incident.

I'm not sure what this proves that we don't already know.  According to a Los Angeles Times article from August 15, that sort of thing had happened before: 
An Army report revealing that Ivins had not told his Army superiors in December 2001 about a possible anthrax spill around his workstation that he had privately cleaned up. In sworn statements to an Army investigator in May 2002, Ivins conceded that he should have reported the matter immediately.
One thing it seems to prove is that Ivins could do things and no one else around him in the lab would notice -- if there was anyone around him in the lab. 

September 23, 2008 - Although it's been out for several days, someone just brought to my attention a new article in Analytical Chemistry titled "Tracing killer spores - The science behind the anthrax investigation."  Some worthwhile quotes:

Early in the anthrax investigation, some media sources reported that the spores had been weaponized, but others said that the spores did not contain any additives that would make them more infectious. The conflicting media reports created confusion, says James Burans of the National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC). “I think, in essence, there were a host of declarations made by laboratories who were involved in initial aspects of the analysis that were, perhaps, not necessarily founded upon experience.”
...

The potential weaponization of the spores was another ambiguity. Spores that are weaponized have been made more lethal via antibiotic resistance and/or additives such as silicon dioxide that reduce clumping and increase volatility. Although some people originally stated that the spores were weaponized with silicon dioxide (10–13), the FBI has reiterated that this was not the case. Vahid Majidi of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate says that “no intentional additives [were] combined with the Bacillus anthracis spores to make them any more dispersible.” Burans witnessed the Leahy letter being opened. “It just had the consistency of a fine powder—nothing unique or distinguishing,” he says.

In his 2006 Applied and Environmental Microbiology paper, Douglas Beecher of the FBI Laboratory attempted to clear up what had become a “widely circulated misconception” that the samples were weaponized with additives (14). “Individuals familiar with the compositions of the powders in the letters have indicated that they were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents,” he wrote, and he cited a news article in Science (15). Some researchers questioned why he cited a news story rather than scientific results to back up his assertion (16).

Beecher recently explained why he wrote the statement the way that he did. “While I knew the actual characteristics of the powders, I obviously could not cite any publications, because there were none,” says Beecher. “I also felt that I could not simply cite ‘unpublished data’ since the data were not mine, and the use of ‘personal communication’ was out because of nondisclosure agreements.” He says he was hoping to steer readers to comments made in 2002 by then-director of the FBI Laboratory Dwight Adams about the presence of silicon in the spore coat being a natural occurrence. Although the search warrant affidavit stated that the silicon signature seen in the powders from all four letters had never been observed in B. anthracis, silicon had been detected in other types of Bacillus bacteria (17–19).

There are other materials in the article that I'm going to have to study more closely before making additional comments.

September 21, 2008 - I can't help but wonder what the FBI is still investigating in the anthrax case.  They've concluded that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the culprit and that he acted alone.  And Dr. Ivins is dead.  Yet, the case has still not been officially closed.  I wonder: If the case is still open, does that mean the grand jury is still hearing the case? 

I looked into how grand juries work.  Their task is "to review the evidence presented by the prosecutor and determine whether there is probable cause to return an indictment."  The original purpose of a grand jury was to make certain that the people in power were not trying to arrest someone without very good reasons to believe he could be guilty.   I see nothing in that which would prevent a grand jury from indicting a dead man.   But the rules for secrecy would still apply:

Why are grand jury proceedings secret?

      Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that the prosecutor, grand jurors, and the grand jury stenographer are prohibited from disclosing what happened before the grand jury, unless ordered to do so in a judicial proceeding. Secrecy was originally designed to protect the grand jurors from improper pressures. The modern justifications are to prevent the escape of people whose indictment may be contemplated, to ensure that the grand jury is free to deliberate without outside pressure, to prevent subornation of perjury or witness tampering prior to a subsequent trial, to encourage people with information about a crime to speak freely, and to protect the innocent accused from disclosure of the fact that he or she was under investigation. 

Poking around further, I found an ABC report from August 1, 2008, which says,
Ivins had cooperated with investigators and appeared before the grand jury "many times," but had consistently maintained his innocence, the source familiar with the investigation told ABC News.
So, while Dr. Ivins will never appear before a trial jury, he had testified before a grand jury.  And that testimony is on the record.  Appearing before a grand jury isn't the same as appearing at trial, however.  There's no judge.  And no defense attorney is allowed in the grand jury room.  So, when Dr. Ivins went into the grand jury room, he went alone.  But, if he felt he needed to consult with his lawyer before answering a question, he could interrupt his testimony and talk with his lawyer outside of the grand jury room. 

Back on August 2, 2008, the Baltimore Sun said,

Officials are also bound by grand jury secrecy rules and have begun the process of having documents unsealed for public release, the sources said. They said Justice Department lawyers are combing through material to determine whether to dissolve the grand jury and close the case entirely, which would be a possible indication that Ivins is suspected of having acted alone.
And, on August 4, The New York Times reported: 
The evidence amassed by F.B.I. investigators against Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, the Army scientist who killed himself last week after learning that he was likely to be charged in the anthrax letter attacks of 2001, was largely circumstantial, and a grand jury in Washington was planning to hear several more weeks of testimony before issuing an indictment, a person who has been briefed on the investigation said on Sunday.
If a grand jury is still investigating the case against Bruce Ivins, it's very easy to see how his death could cause "several more weeks" to turn into several more months. 

When FBI Director Mueller talks about an independent review of the evidence, he talks about a review of the scientific evidence and how he's seeking for such a review to be done by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).  However, as many in the media and the public have rightly pointed out, the NAS would not be the correct place to review other kinds of evidence against Dr. Ivins - such as how all the other scientists who had access to the RMR-1029 flask were eliminated as suspects.  That's the sort of testimony that a grand jury would probably already have heard.

Since grand jury proceedings are secret, I have no way of knowing whether or not a grand jury is still investigating the Amerithrax case.  But, I've seen no official announcement that the grand jury that was hearing the case has been dismissed.  So, I've got my fingers crossed.  A grand jury is the closest thing to an "independent evaluation" of the evidence that we're ever likely to see; an indictment would be the closest thing to an actual trial of Dr. Bruce Ivins that we are ever likely to see; and a bill of indictment would be the closest thing to a trial transcript that we are even likely to see.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, September 14, thru Saturday, September 20, 2008

September 19, 2008 (B) - Scientific American's web site has an article today titled "Seven Years Later: Electrons Unlocked Post-9/11 Anthrax Mail Mystery" which gives another science reporter's view on recent events in the anthrax case.

September 19, 2008 (A) - CSPAN now has Director Mueller's testimony from Wednesday on line.  Click HERE and look for

Senate Judiciary Cmte. Hearing wit FBI Dir. Robert Mueller

FBI Director Robert Mueller faces questions about the Anthrax investigation, testifing before the Senate Judiciary Cmte. On Tuesday, Dir. Mueller told the House Judiciary Cmte. that the National Academy of Sciences will review the probe of suspect Bruce Ivins.
Wednesday : Washington, DC : 2 hr. 23 min. 

September 18, 2008 (B) - I took a break to view my DVD copy of yesterday's session of the Judiciary Committee on Oversight, and I found that I could fast-forward though the bulk of it, because probably less than 20 minutes of the over two hour session was about the anthrax attacks.  Most of what was in the four or five discussions which totaled to about 20 minutes has been reported in the media, but there was one thing that really stood out for me that no one else has mentioned: 

When Senator Patrick Leahy started talking in detail about the attacks, he mentioned that the letters were used as a "weapon" to attack members of the govenment as well as the American people.  He repeated over and over, "This was a weapon."  He was clearly pointing out that the dispute over whether or not the spores were technically "weaponized" didn't matter because the spores were used as a weapon against him and against America.  And he wanted to know how many labs were capable of producing such a "weapon."

Unfortunately, his anger and his wording made the problem of getting a correct answer very difficult.  Director Mueller appeared to try to explain that every lab which had the Ames strain probably also had the ability to make the powder, but Sen. Leahy would then focus on Dugway and Battelle and some possiblity that the "weapon" came from an illegal military bioweapons facility, which changes the definition of "weapon."

It seems very clear to me that the first thing that has to be cleared up before anything else can be resolved, is the exact nature of the anthrax spores in the senate letters.  It's been stated very clearly by scientists who have examined the attack powders that the powders were NOT weaponized with silica.  The element silicon was present inside the natural spore coat, and that would have NO effect related to "weaponization" in the military sense of the term.  We have seen a few pictures of the attack spores and what "weaponized" spores look like, but more pictures are clearly needed. 

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  In this case, however, a few pictures may be worth tens of millions of words

September 18, 2008 (A) - Today's San Francisco Chronicle mentions some of what was said yesterday about the FBI's "investigation" of Dr. Steven Hatfill:

Grassley pressed Mueller to explain why the FBI continued to scrutinize one of its early suspects in the case, bioweapons expert Steven Hatfill, even after obtaining records showing Ivins had accessed his anthrax-processing lab at unusual times.
...

Mueller defended the FBI's investigation, saying "the steps that were taken in the course of the investigation" were "appropriate ... given the information that we had at that particular time."

And Mueller said the lawsuit and resulting settlement were driven by inappropriate leaks about the researcher made to reporters - rather than the FBI's investigation of Hatfill.

I haven't yet had a chance to view the video of yesterday's hearing to see exactly what else was said.  But, The New York Times adds a tidbit of information:
In the audience was Steven J. Hatfill, another former Army biodefense scientist, whom the F.B.I. pursued as a suspect for several years before the Justice Department cleared him this summer and paid $4.6 million to settle a lawsuit he had filed against the government.

Dr. Hatfill did not speak. But Senator Grassley asked Mr. Mueller: “Should not the F.B.I. apologize to Dr. Hatfill? Please explain how chasing an innocent man for four years was not a mistake.”

Mr. Mueller replied that investigators had done nothing “inappropriate.” The settlement, he said, was not for scrutinizing Dr. Hatfill but for leaking information about him to the news media. “I abhor those leaks,” he said.

I definitely need to take a break to sit down and watch the DVD copy I made last night of the session when it was repeated on CSPAN.

September 17, 2008 (C) - FBI Director Mueller is evidently being thoroughly grilled about the anthrax case by the Judiciary Committee on Oversight today.   I can't find it on TV, but it's evidently on-line somewhere, and it will probably be on CSPAN's web site tomorrow.  Meanwhile, USA Today reports this about what is being said:

Senate leaders on Wednesday expressed serious doubts about the FBI's assertion that Army scientist Bruce Ivins was the lone attacker in the 2001 anthrax assaults that killed five people and injured 17 others.

A day after FBI Director Robert Mueller said he was confident in its case, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., one of the two senators targeted in the attacks, said he believes that there are "others who could be charged with murder."

"I do not believe in any way, shape or manner that he was the only one involved," Leahy told Mueller at a committee hearing.

And the Associated Press expands upon that exchange in an article titled "Leahy: Suspect had help in anthrax attacks."  The AP article adds this:
[Leahy] added: "I believe there are others involved, either as accessories before or accessories after the fact. I believe that there are others out there, I believe there are others who could be charged with murder. I just want you to know how I feel about it, as one of the people who was aimed at in the attack."

Mueller did not directly contradict Leahy, saying "I understand that concern."

Still, Mueller maintained the Justice Department's view that Ivins was the mastermind and sole attacker.

"In the investigation to date, we have looked at every lead and followed every lead to determine whether anybody else was involved, and we will continue to do so," Mueller told Leahy. "And even if the case does become closed, if we receive additional evidence, indicating the participation of any additional person, we certainly would pursue that."

The problem of beliefs versus facts is everywhere and will always be with us.  People in politics are just human beings like the rest of us.  The facts after 9/11 showed that Iraq wasn't a serious danger, but people in high office preferred to go with their beliefs instead of facts.  Clearly, some members of Congress haven't learned from that.  They don't care what the facts say, they're going to believe what they want to believe.   My inbox is filled every day with emails from others who feel exactly the same way.

September 17, 2008 (B) - Yesterday's Los Angeles Times contained an article by David Willman titled "Scientist concedes 'honest mistake' about weaponized anthrax." The article begins this way:

An acclaimed government scientist who assisted the federal investigation of the 2001 anthrax mailings said Tuesday that he erred seven years ago when he told top Bush administration officials that material he examined probably had been altered to make it more deadly.

The scientist, Peter B. Jahrling, had observed anthrax spores with the aid of an electron microscope at the government's biological warfare research facility at Ft. Detrick, Md.

In other words, Peter Jahrling has finally confirmed my analysis of what happened, which I described in my book in the chapter titled "To Err Is Human."

The LA Times article also says,

In 2001, Jahrling briefed a roomful of officials at the White House, including Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, Mueller and Tom Ridge, President Bush's secretary of Homeland Security.

The next day, the Washington Post published a front-page article headlined "Additive Made Spores Deadlier" that reported:

"The presence of the high-grade additive was confirmed for the first time yesterday by a government source familiar with the ongoing studies, which are being conducted by scientists" at Ft. Detrick.

What Peter Jahrling and Tom Geisbert had actually seen was either chemicals his fellow employee Geisbert had used to kill the spores, or chemicals the HazMat team had used to test the spores.  The chemicals oozed out of the spores when they were heated up by the electron beam of the Transmission Electron Microscope.

September 17, 2008 (A) - A video of yesterday's exchange between Rep. Jerrold Nadler and FBI Director Mueller is currently available on the CSPAN web site.  To access it, click HERE

Look for this section and click on the link there:

House Judiciary Cmte. Oversight Hearing on the FBI
FBI Director Robert Mueller outlined new surveillance proposals to help investigators track security threats as he answered questions before the House Judiciary Cmte. The announcement of the new guidelines, made recently, have been met with criticism by civil liberties groups but are expected to be finalized and fully implemented in the coming weeks.
9/16/2008: WASHINGTON, DC: 1 hr. 54 min.
The exchange takes place starting around the 46 minute mark.

New items are constantly added at the top of this list of videos, so gradually the entry will move down the list and then off into the archival lists.

September 16, 2008 (B) - The Judiciary Committee grilling of FBI Director Mueller this morning contained very little about the anthrax attacks and absolutely nothing about the Dr. Hatfill investigation.  The one brief discussion I saw resulted from questions by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of Brooklyn, about the dry weight percentage of silicon in the attack spores. 

Rep. Nadler stated that his sources were telling him that if the percentage of silicon was greater than one half of one percent -- or certainly one percent -- then the silicon could not be "naturally occurring" and must have been deliberately added by a "sophisticated operator."  He stated it would mean that the spores were "manipulated to be a very sophisticated killer."  And he implied that only a government bioweapons lab would have "facilities capable of making anything approaching such an anthrax powder."

Director Mueller stated that the percentage was known, but he didn't have it handy and would get back to the committee with the information.  (Director Mueller is scheduled to be asked more questions starting tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time.)

In discussions I had with a top anthrax expert this morning, the question of silicon in anti-foaming agents used in growth nutrients was raised.  If such an anti-foaming agent was used by the anthrax killer, and the use of that anti-foaming agent resulted in an unusual amount of silicon showing up in the attack spores, it would have nothing to do with "weaponization" and it wouldn't technically be "naturally occurring."  It may be difficult to prove that such an anti-foaming agent was or was not used, so, instead, we can probably expect to see of arguing over the specific meanings of specific words.

September 16, 2008 (A) - This morning, Fox News has a story where they attempt to make the Assaad letter relevant to the Amerithrax investigation.  Their reason appears to be totally based upon coincidences - particularly timing and misspelled words.  (For my detailed, March 3, 2002, analyis of the timing of the Assaad letter, click HERE.)  But, for the first time we are able to see the actual Assaad letter and exactly what it said.  It's aways good to get new facts, even when they are accompanied by some very bizarre interpretations. This one is particularly bizarre:

The similarities between the typed Quantico letter and handwritten anthrax letters are also striking beyond the obvious connection to Ft. Detrick.

Both warn of biological attacks in fall of 2001. Both express hatred for Israel. Both begin with the word "This," which investigators say is a highly unusual stylistic quality.

This could just mean that the writers were both being true to themselves.  After all, as William Shakespeare wrote:
This above all else: to thine own self be true
September 15, 2008 (B) - Today's issue of The Jurist contains an opinion piece by David Harris of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law titled "The Anthrax Case: Congress Must Demand an Independent Inquiry."  Professor Harris calls for "a neutral party to take a close look at the evidence, and report to the Congress and the country about the strength of the case."  Good idea.  But who is neutral on this case?

September 15, 2008 (A) - While it's been around a long time, today I spent an hour or so browsing through the web site dedicated to the TIME LINE for the anthrax attacks of 2001 maintained at www.historycommon.org.  It's been updated with a lot of material about Dr. Bruce Ivins and where he fits into the time line.  Like any written history of any event, the historian will occasionally mention some event which might seem to be irrelevant, while leaving out another which might seem to be relatively important.   It will mention a claim, but not the resolution of the claim.   However, it will still be well worth your time to check out.  I've added the link at the top of my references section. 

September 14, 2008 - Today's New York Post has an editorial titled "GET ’THRAX FACTS" calling for a Congressional investigation of the Amerithrax investigation.  And, of course, the Post cannot see any fault by the media anywhere:

Hovering over all this, of course, is the recent FBI history of misidentifying individuals in high-profile cases.

Indeed, another scientist in the same laboratory - Stephen Hatfill - was previously identified by the FBI and remained under a cloud for nearly five years.

I sincerely hope that media and political pressure will result in the FBI explaining why Dr. Hatfill was so thoroughly "investigated" even though there was not one scintilla of evidence showing him to be responsible for the anthrax attacks of 2001.

As I've written many times before, it is stupid to suggest there is any similarity between what happened to Dr. Hatfill and what happened to Bruce Ivins.   However, since the Dr. Steven Hatfill "investigation" was purely political, I have no idea how it will ever be satisfactorily explained - or if it can be satisfactorily explained.  Politics is about gathering supporters, not about finding the truth.

On the other hand, there are many things about the Amerithrax investigation that can and will be thoroughly explained.  The great thing about science is that it is all about understanding and explaining things.

It seems to me that, along with all the scientific publications that are in the works which will describe the scientific details of the Amerithrax investigation, there could also be many other articles in the works that would come from other sources with scientific knowledge about spores - and anthrax spores specifically.

This "coming wave" of information should thoroughly obliterate the screwball nonsense still being spread by the conspiracy theorists about "weaponized" spores. 

The dumbest argument from the conspiracy theorists is that pure spore concentrations (a trillion per gram) are virtually unheard of - or next to impossible to achieve - with ordinary equipment.  Now that scientists who work with pure spores every day don't have to fear that they'll be accused of mass murder if they speak up, we could get a lot of details from these people who routinely work with spores.  There are many articles which have been published for years which describe working with pure spores.

The ridiculous argument that silicon does not naturally accumulate in spores will undoubtedly be more thoroughly examined, since it's now a scientific issue.  I can envision many papers explaining how, why and where the silicon (and other element) amounts in spores differ from batch to batch.  (I find it very amusing that conspiracy theorists ignore a 1964 scientific report about silicon in spores just because it's "old.")

I don't know if anyone is going to write a scientific paper about spores and how they are affected by van der Waals forces, but I surely hope so.  There's definitely a need for someone to use solid facts to counter all the nonsense spread by the conspiracy theorists.  The conspiracy theory that Gary Matsumoto managed to get printed in Science magazine is largely based upon this questionable argument:

Anthrax spores cling to one another if they get too close; sticky chains of proteins and sugar molecules on their surfaces latch onto each other, drawn by van der Waals forces that operate at a distance of a few tens of angstroms.
The nonsensical beliefs about anthrax spores somehow being able to form natural clumps of spores needs to be explored, too.  What kind of screwball beliefs cause people to think that dormant spores somehow have an ability to assemble together?

We already have pictures of spores "weaponized" at Dugway, but we need some scientific papers to explain WHY those milled spores end up coated with silica.  I explain it on my web site, but I hope my explanation doesn't prevent some scientist from formally publishing a detailed scientific explanation using original research.  (The scientists at the CDC and Dugway couldn't agree on why or how it happens.)

I can also envision publication of scientific papers explaining related questions:

Why doesn't silicon accumulate in a spore's exosporium?
How does the silicon get through the mother germ's outer membrane?
What is the exact form of the silicon found in spores? 
How do van der Waals forces differ in various tiny objects?
Exactly how do van der Waals forces work between different objects?
How does fumed silica help keep spores from absorbing moisture?
Exactly how does moisture cause spores to clump?
Does compression also cause spores to clump?  How?
How much force is required to break up different clumps of different tiny objects?
I'd also hope that we'll get some books written by top authors which explain in detail the silly mistakes made early in the investigation by AFIP and USAMRIID. 

But before that happens, I hope that we'll see AFIP and USAMRIID come forward to respond in some way to the statements made during the roundtable discussion that they couldn't possibly do what they claimed they did.

I'd certainly like to see a video of how a Transmission Electron Microscope can cause a spore to ooze liquid if the spore was previously killed or tested with liquid chemicals.

I'd certainly like to see the Polaroids that Tom Geisbert took of the "goop" that oozed out of the hydrated spores he examined.

I'd like to see illustrations of what AFIP could actually detect with the equipment they used, versus what can be detected if you use equipment better suited to looking for tiny objects of material stuck onto other objects in the one micron range.

The nice thing about science is that many theories can be conclusively proven or disproven.

And there is absolutely NO chance that the conspiracy theorists are going to see their screwball unscientific beliefs about science proven.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, September 7, thru Saturday, September 13, 2008

September 13, 2008 (B) - Today's Frederick News-Post contains an article titled "Congress to take up anthrax investigation" which says that FBI Director Mueller was given a list of questions to answer by Monday noon, and when he appears before the Judiciary Committees on Tuesday and Wednesday, he's going to be asked to

explain why the FBI continued to focus its investigation on Steven Hatfill after the discovery of evidence pointing in other directions
Personally, I would have phrased that request this way:
explain why the FBI focused its investigation on Steven Hatfill for so long when there wasn't a scintilla of evidence that Dr. Hatfill was involved in the attacks
There's also more about Representative Bartlett in the News-Post article:
U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-District 6, declined to be interviewed, but in an e-mailed statement, wrote that he doesn't believe the anthrax used in the attacks could have been produced by scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The only results of the FBI's investigation, he wrote, were the government's multi-million dollar settlement with Hatfill, the former USAMRIID scientist who the FBI at one time identified as "a person of interest" in the case, Ivins' suicide and the undermining of the morale and effectiveness of Fort Detrick personnel.

In his statement, Bartlett wrote that the fineness of the anthrax spore powder used in the letter, that it was coated with silica, and that it was electrically charged, causing the spores to repel each other and fly apart, were all characteristics that couldn't have been replicated at USAMRIID.

With declared beliefs like that, the conspiracy theorists would undoubtedly want Bartlett to be put in charge of any Congressional investigation of the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks.

September 13, 2008 (A) - According to today's New York Times, Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits aren't totally over: 

Dr. Hatfill’s lawyers are seeking to force Toni Locy, a former reporter for USA Today who wrote articles about the anthrax case, to pay Dr. Hatfill’s legal fees.
September 12, 2008 (B) - According to an Associated Press report, Representative Roscoe Barrett of Maryland, is "ridiculing part of the FBI's explanation for the 2001 anthrax attacks."
Bartlett, who holds a doctorate in physiology, says the FBI's theory that the anthrax was crushed to a fine powder by U.S. Postal Service mail-sorting machines is "patently ridiculous."

He says he's convinced the anthrax was deliberately "weaponized," and that Ivins lacked the equipment to make it.

Bartlett says he's looking forward to FBI Director Robert Mueller's testimony before the House and Senate judiciary committees next week.

Me, too.

September 12, 2008 (A) - In the past month or so, I've had some discussions with reporters about the Dr. Hatfill "investigation."  Shortly after he broke the sensational story about Dr. Bruce Ivins being the prime Amerithrax suspect, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist David Willman called me to discuss aspects of the Dr. Hatfill "investigation."  While the discussion was cordial, it became very clear to both of us that there would be no meeting of the minds on how or why Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest."

Last week, I had a discussion with Marilyn Thompson of the Washington Post. She had said in an MSNBC interview that "The FBI from the beginning had been working under the theory that this [the Amerithrax] crime could not have been accomplished by a single individual because of the weird timing and circumstances of how the letters showed up in different states."  I couldn't figure out what she was talking about, so, I emailed her to ask.  Again, while the discussion was cordial, it soon led to a discussion of hoaxes and the Dr. Hatfill "investigation."  It soon became very clear to both of us that there would be no meeting of the minds on how or why Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest."

Yesterday, I watched the video of the forum at The University of Maryland, Baltimore, where Scott Shane of The New York Times discussed the Amerithrax case and a lot of details about the "investigation" of Dr. Hatfill.  It seemed pretty clear that, once again, there almost certainly wouldn't be any meeting of the minds if Scott Shane and I discussed the Dr. Hatfill "investigation."  However, while shaving this morning, I wondered about a one specific part of the Dr. Hatfill "investigation" that Scott Shane had described in detail during that forum.

I've always believed that one way to solve a big problem is to break it down into its parts and work on one part at a time. 

The part of the Dr. Hatfill "investigation" mentioned by Scott Shane that seemed most interesting was his discussion of the bloodhounds the FBI supposedly used as part of their "investigation."  Clearly, the facts made absolutely no sense to him.   But, to me, they've made absolutely perfect sense ever since I stepped outside of the box and looked at things from a different angle around August 7, 2002

Scott Shane and I had a long telephone conversation this morning on this subject.  And, as expected, once again it was clear that there would be no meeting of the minds.

The source of all of these point-of-view differences seems to be that the reporters are working with interviews of investigators and people directly involved with the case, and I'm simply analyzing the facts to see how they fit together.  If someone's statements do not match the known facts, I may try to contact them to find out why, but often that isn't possible or won't accomplish anything, because we're simply viewing the same facts from a different angle.  That's the situation between me and reporters.

To me, the bloodhound incident illustrates the difference between the way a reporter sees the facts and the way an analyst sees the facts. 

I'm working with facts to see how the facts fit together.  I don't believe any source unless their information is confirmed by the facts.   Reporters verify what one source tells them by checking a different source.   Facts are more reliable than sources.

From the very beginning, it's been necessary for me to try to figure out which experts' statements fit the facts and which experts' statements do not fit the facts.  When I contact someone to discuss the Amerithrax investigation, it is usually to get an expert's explanation of some scientific question.  It's usually a situation where I don't understand the details of some scientific matter, and I need their assistance to figure it out.   I've had the help of some of the top experts in the world as I look to find answers to scientific questions about anthrax, spores and all related matters.

When I talk with people in the FBI, it's the same thing.  I just look for an explanation for some scientific problem.  I don't discuss criminal investigative procedures or why the FBI did this instead of that during the investigation.  That's what reporters do.

In an ongoing investigation, I would assume that whatever I hear from an investigator or prosecutor is just what the person I'm talking with is thinking at the moment.  It's the same with sworn affidavits as explained in the August 18 roundtable discussion:

Affidavit is a snapshot in time of what the investigative picture brings to bear.  And this should really be looked at only as that. As we develop the case throughout, we may find information post-affidavit that may either support or nullify what's in an affidavit.
And, I would also expect that a law enforcement source may even on a rare occasion -- particularly a politically sensitive situation -- give me misleading information in an attempt to keep me from somehow interfering with the investigation or reporting on some political aspect of the investigation that is strictly confidential. 

So, I'll continue to state the facts as I see them when any reporter mentions the Dr. Hatfill "investigation" and uses his interviews as the primary basis for his reporting.  To me, facts override anything said in any interview by anyone.   Needless to say, many reporters will not agree with me on that. 

September 11, 2008 (C) - The University of Maryland, Baltmore, just held a forum to discuss the anthrax case which includes a link to an hour-long video which contains a lot of information from Scott Shane about Dr. Hatfill which seems very confusing.  I'm listening to it as I type this.  He calls for an independent investigation to investigate the FBI's investigation.  Claire Fraser-Liggett, PhD, a  professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine also describes her work on the case.   I was stunned to hear her (at about the 22 minute mark) give a totally mistaken explanation of how Bacillus anthracis operates in Nature.   It doesn't affect her work, but it shows that microbiologists don't necessarily know what veterinarians know about anthax.  It shows that experts should really be careful when talking about things that are outside of their particular area of research and study.  Even top experts can have misconceptions. 

September 11, 2008 (B) - Today, in the British newspaper The Register, there's a very interesting article titled "Press proves immune to FBI's anthrax corrective" which has the subtitle: "Facts bounce off the conspiracy theories."  I love that subtitle.

The article begins this way:

The posting to the net of a transcript of the FBI's briefing to the press on the science behind the anthrax case is remarkable for two things: first, for its explanation of the development of microbial forensics and the team of scientists behind it; and second, for the determination of some members of the press to run off on a conspiracy theory hinging upon whether or not the anthrax was ever weaponized.
It's a very interesting article and the authors do their best to show that the FBI laid out solid facts at the roundtable discussion which conspiracy theorists (including many in the media) simply refuse to believe.

As I've reported many times, I get emails from these conspiracy theorists every day -- sometimes dozens of emails per day.  Not only do they refuse to accept the facts,  they insist upon arguing imaginary facts, i.e., "Is it possible that something else could have happened that no scientist has seen or detected that would validate my beliefs?"  They not only refuse to accept the facts, they also refuse to discuss the facts, because they know that their reasoning is not based upon facts.

Eventually, as more and more information about the investigation is released and the public loses interest, the conspiracy theorists and True Believers will hopefully be relegated to the "lunatic fringe" with those who believe in the "hoax moon landings" and the CIA demolishing the World Trade Center with explosives.  But, right now, they are trying every way they can to prevent that from happening. 

September 11, 2008 (A) - An article in today's Frederick News-Post is titled "Science behind the anthrax case" and includes this statement:

A researcher who helped the FBI sequence the genome for the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks that left five dead and 17 injured said more scientific details will be released and submitted for publication within the next two months.
The article includes another description of the evidence in the flask that pointed to Dr. Ivins.  But, accepting that evidence requires accepting that the FBI investigated and cleared over a hundred others who also had access to the flask.  That appears to be something that a lot of people find difficult to accept.  The author of the article says,
Officials did not explain how they eliminated those other people from their investigation.
Of course, "officials" have explained how they eliminated those other people from their investigation.  I commented on this three days ago, on Sept. 8.  The process of elimination was explained in the news conference on August 6, 2008
The science breakthrough in ’05 leads you to flask RMR1029. At that point, as I said, there is a tremendous amount of additional investigation that needs to take place to identify the universe of individuals who had access to that flask, what they did with it, checking lab books, doing interviews, things of that nature. And only through taking those extensive, time-consuming steps, involving a lot of agents, were they able to exclude individuals and include others; in particular, Dr. Ivins.
In other words, the other people were cleared via standard investigative procedures used every day by law enforcement agencies all around the world to check out lists of potential suspects.  What else is the media asking for?  The list of names, so that the media can tear the lives of 100+ people apart to double-check the FBI's findings? 

September 10, 2008 (C) - A source at Sandia labs has responded to this statement in the opinion paper by Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg which, of course, asks that the FBI prove the negative, that it is not possible for silicon to have been deliberately added:

Some organosilicon compounds may be able to interact with the outer surface of Bacillus spores.  Even a monomolecular or partial layer of such a compound at the spore surface could have an effect on the electrical properties of the spores.  Can the FBI rule out the possibility that a surface layer, or partial layer, of an organosilicon compound or some other chemical was added specifically for that purpose?  Uptake of such a chemical into the spore coat might have been an unanticipated by-product.  A monomolecular layer at the spore surface would probably not have been observable by the methods used at Sandia to study the attack spores. 
The response I received from Sandia via email is as follows:
[Dr. Rosenberg's] monolayer discussion is very wrong.  We have tools and techniques that are sensitive to monolayers.  We used them and we found absolutely nothing of interest.  We tried to find something on the surface of the spores but we failed and found nothing.
And this was in another email from Sandia:
[In our] publications from the 1980s you will see that we were using STEM to detect monolayer segregation of Bi in Cu.  This is an important materials science issue as embrittlement of metals by other metals and semi-metals is a very big concern. In the anthrax case, we are looking for a higher atomic number material in a lower atomic number matrix. This is an easier problem.  So I think the response will be" Well it was not a complete monolayer it was a partial monolayer below the detectablility limits of the microscopies Sandia used'" .  This is the homeopathy approach of infinite dilutions.  Eventually we will be arguing over single atoms and how they got somewhere. 
In other words, the arguments will be endless until the conspiracy theorists finally demand that you prove something is impossible and declare victory when you can't.

Meanwhile, someone else sent me an email about this comment from Dr. Rosenberg:

Bruce Ivins' work did not call for the use of B. subtilis or any other anthrax simulant.
In reality, Dr. Ivins did a lot of work with B. subtilis to develop anthrax vaccines.  It's mentioned in two papers he co-authored.  Click HERE and HERE.  Evidently, Dr. Rosenberg was assuming that "simulants" are only used when developing bioweapons in violation of international law.

September 10, 2008 (B) - Dr. Meryl Nass has just updated her site with her opinion about "weaponization."  She titles her opinion "The Black Art of Weaponization."  It begins with this:

With respect to whether and how the spores were weaponized, I have both feet in the weaponization camp, having reviewed numerous anthrax epidemics and seen nothing like the Senate letters' effect elsewhere, except Sverdlovsk. Yeltsin later admitted the 1979 Sverdlovsk epidemic resulted from a leak of weaponized anthrax.
She ends by saying that a examination of America's bioweapons programs are needed.  Such programs would be illegal if they exist.  And, if they do not exist, she would require proof that they do not exist -- which, of course, requires proving the negative, which is impossible.  The arguments of conspiracy theorists always end in that same place: admit guilt or prove the impossible. 

September 10, 2008 (A) - Overnight, I was sent a link to Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's "Comments on the anthrax investigation's scientific forensics."  It was being discussed on Dr. Meryl Nass's web blog.  The blog also contains a link to Dr. Henry Niman's beliefs about "Inhalation versus Cutaneous Cases.   And there is also a link to an anonymous comment titled "Bad Science In The FBI’s Anthrax Briefing." 

I also received comments from scientists who have actually worked with the attack anthrax, and they all say Dr. Rosenberg's comments are innaccurate and her reference list includes "unsubstantiated references and references to books that may or may not be completely factual."  It's another situation where scientists with actual facts are being challenged by scientists with beliefs and "junk science" that they feel overrides all facts from government agencies that cannot be trusted.  And if it cannot be proven that it is impossible for them to be right, to them that means they are right.

September 9, 2008 - This afternoon, I received via email a copy of a document dated today and written by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg for www.bwpp.org.  The document is titled "Comments on the anthrax investigation's scientific forensics."  I haven't found a link, yet, but it's generating a LOT of discussion. 

September 8, 2008 - Today's Daily Princetonian contains yet another article that scoffs at the idea that Dr. Ivins mailed the letters from Princeton because he was obsessed with the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.   I prefer to ignore any argument about a dead man's motives, since there's no possible way to conclusively resolve such arguments.

But the article also says,

The documents released by the Justice Department reveal that at the time of the attacks, Ivins had been the “sole custodian” of a “large flask of highly purified anthrax spores that possess certain genetic mutations identical to the anthrax used in the attacks” since its creation in 1997.

But [Bruce Ivins' Attorney Paul] Kemp said that more than 100 people on the base had access to the material.

“They make this statement that he was the sole custodian like the thing was locked up, which is not true,” Kemp said.“Anyone who wanted it could go in and get it and leave. There were no restrictions, no surveillance, no security guard. It’s sort of an amazing situation for a pathogen lab containing multiple kinds of stuff, all of which is totally toxic and poisonous.”

That's lawyer talk.  In reality, the authorities made no claim that no one but Dr. Ivins could access the material in the flask.  In fact, it was the prosecutors at the Aug. 6, 2008, press conference who repeatedly said that was NOT true.  First, they said,
We have a flask that’s effectively the murder weapon, from which those spores were taken, that was controlled by Dr. Ivins. The anthrax in that flask was created by Dr. Ivins.
Technically, the anthrax in the flask was created for Dr. Ivins, not by Dr. Ivins.  But, what's more important is this:
MR. TAYLOR: You’ve got to remember how complex, complicated this investigation was. At the onset, we had identified the universe of the persons and labs that might have access to this type of anthrax, once we identified what type of anthrax it was. And then over the years, there were efforts to shrink the size of that pool. One of the key steps was the science that the FBI was able to develop that, over time, allowed them to show that that flask, RMR 1029, was the parent flask for the spores used in those envelopes. That further shrunk the pool, if you will, and created additional interest in Dr. Ivins. But even at that point, the investigation still had a long way to go, because there’s still a universe of people who might have access to that flask, or people with whom Dr. Ivins may have shared some portion of that anthrax.

The initial science breakthrough, if you will, came in early 2005, in terms of having validated science that could be used to show the flask was the parent; science that could be used at trial, that could lead to admissible evidence. Then in 2007, as we conducted additional investigative steps, we were able to narrow the focus even further, exclude individuals, and that left us looking at Dr. Ivins.

After another question, Mr. Taylor continues with this:
MR. TAYLOR: Let me refer back to what I said: It was an extensive investigation. In an investigation of this scope and complexity, the task is to follow the evidence where it leads. The science breakthrough in ’05 leads you to flask RMR1029. At that point, as I said, there is a tremendous amount of additional investigation that needs to take place to identify the universe of individuals who had access to that flask, what they did with it, checking lab books, doing interviews, things of that nature. And only through taking those extensive, time-consuming steps, involving a lot of agents, were they able to exclude individuals and include others; in particular, Dr. Ivins.
After another question about Dr. Hatfill, Assistant FBI Director Joseph Persichini says this:
MR. PERSICHINI: I've talked already about the extensive investigation that took place from 2005 to 2007. Again, we're talking about a large number of individuals, over 100, who potentially had access to this substance. We had to go through this laborious process to ferret out or exclude those who were not involved. With respect to the other individual you mentioned, we were able to determine that at no time could that individual be put in the presence of that flask from which these spores came.
So, the reality is that the FBI spent years investigating and evaluating all the people who had access to RMR-1029.  Their investigation led them to conclude that Dr. Ivins was the sole person behind the anthrax attacks.

When a lawyer or someone in the media points out that there were over a hundred others who also had access to the flask, they are ignoring or forgetting the fact that those others were also investigated and cleared.  They're just trying to get people to believe that the FBI couldn't have done a thorough job if they ended up with Dr. Ivins as the only suspect.   They don't believe the results, so there must be something wrong.

There is something wrong, they're ignoring the facts and just going with their beliefs.

September 7, 2008 (C) - Someone sent me a link to an August 2, MSNBC video interview with Marilyn Thompson, where Ms Thompson says this:

The FBI from the beginning had been working under the theory that this crime could not have been accomplished by a single individual because of the weird timing and circumstances of how the letters showed up in different states.
Wha ....?   I wonder how many news articles there were which had the media scoffing at the FBI's suggestion that a "lone wolf" was behind the attacks.

September 7, 2008 (B) - Today's Frederick News-Post contains an article titled "Early anthrax suspect doubts guilt of Ivins."  Who is this "early suspect" whose opinion is so valuable to the News-Post?  It's Dr. Ayaad Assaad, who, as a result of a nasty letter sent to authorities, was once questioned by the FBI for 40 minutes and then let go.  And Dr. Assaad was never questioned again, except by the media trying and failing to make connections where the facts say no actual connections exist. 

September 7, 2008 (A) - Since The New York Times already has an article titled "Lawmakers Seek Anthrax Details" on their web site which will be in Sunday's paper, this is an early edition of my comments, too.   I plan to sleep late "this morning."

The article says that FBI Director Mueller will be grilled by the Senate Judiciary Committee about the anthrax case on September 16th and 17th.   The article also says,

Officials also acknowledged that they did not have a single, definitive piece of evidence indisputably proving that Dr. Ivins mailed the letters — no confession, no trace of his DNA on the letters, no security camera recording the mailings in Princeton, N.J.

But they said the case consisted of a powerfully persuasive accumulation of incriminating details. Dr. Vahid Majidi, head of the F.B.I.’s weapons of mass destruction directorate, said the accumulation of evidence against Dr. Ivins was overwhelming: his oversight of the anthrax supply, his night hours, his mental problems and his habit of driving to far-off locations at night to mail anonymous packages.

“Who had the means, motive and opportunity?” said John Miller, assistant F.B.I. director for public affairs. “Some potential suspects may have had one, some had two, but on the cumulative scale, Dr. Ivins had many more of these elements than any other potential suspect.”

While it seems unlikely that the release of countless additional facts, the publication of a dozen detailed scientific articles and/or Director Mueller's testimony will completely lay to rest alldoubts about Dr. Ivins being the anthrax mailer, I'm hoping the questions and answers on the 16th and 17th might lay to rest the issue of why Dr. Hatfill became "a person of interest" even though there wasn't a scintilla of evidence pointing to him as the culprit.  The media's repeated, ridiculous suggestions that the investigation of Dr. Hatfill can somehow be compared to the investigation of Dr. Ivins is just plain stupid on every level.  And as long as that nonsense continues to be repeated, the general public simply won't be getting the facts they need to understand this case.
Updates & Changes: Sunday, August 31, thru Saturday, September 6, 2008

September 6, 2008 - There's a very interesting NPR interview with Marilyn Thompson of the Washington Post on-line HERE.  The hour-long interview was conducted by the University of Illinois and goes into many aspects of the anthrax attacks of 2001, as seen from Marilyn Thompson's point of view.  I found the questions and answers about Dr. Hatfill to be particularly interesting, since, once again, there was no mention of Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg.  But it was also interesting to hear the questions from listeners and how they view the case.  Clearly, the number of theories is endless. 

Near the end of the interview, Ms Thompson stated that she has a new article in the works where she will comment about the visit that Dr. Ivins paid to my web site on July 24, a couple days before he committed suicide.  In the interview, Ms Thompson seemed to imply that Ivins began the process of committing suicide right after viewing my web site.  It will be interesting to see what her article says -- or implies.

Meanwhile, today's Frederick News-Post has an editorial which seems to be a pledge to continue to dig into the Amerithrax case.  The editorial ends this way:

We are not stopping.

Just because the story has subsided nationally in favor of veep nominees and tropical storms that may or may not turn out to be hurricanes, that doesn't mean our work on Ivins is done.

This story has too many questions, too many threads to pull on, and who knows where they lead.

There are already countless conspiracy theories about Ivins and more come each day. Some are far-fetched, but others are worth checking into.

For The Frederick News-Post, unraveling the Ivins mystery will be a marathon, not a sprint. And you'll know just where we obtained every bit of information. 

Good.  The more facts that are uncovered, the better off we will all be.

September 4, 2008 - I just uploaded an annotated version of the Aug. 18, 2008, roundtable discussion.  From now on, whenever I refer to that discussion, I'll probably refer to my annotated copy.  It has links that make it easier to find various subjects within the transcript.

September 3, 2008 - I'm beginning to see signs of hope.  The article titled "Cracking the anthrax case" in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer didn't try to punch holes in the FBI's case, but, instead, just tried to explain the science.  And my emails indicate that a lot of people seem to be trying to understand the science.  That's a very good sign. 

For example, in one email this morning, I was asked this question:

So if the anthrax in the letters both came from the flask or the same batch, which was said to be mixed spores, so some of each type of spores would have been in both mailings, then explain why Bacillus Subtilus was in the media letters, but not in the Senate letters.
Here's my explanation:
The culprit took a tiny sample of spores from the flask and cultured a batch of anthrax bacteria from the sample, apparently without concern for contamination.  The batch evidently became contaminated with Bacillus subtilis.  He then let the culture sporulate, and he dried it and mailed it to the media.

About three weeks later, he took another tiny sample of spores from the flask, and this time he took a lot of precautions as he created the spores, eliminated the debris, dried the spores, etc.  He then mailed the pure spores to the two senators.

The Bacillus subtilis has nothing to do with what is in the flask.  The first batch the culprit created was contaminated by external bacteria not in the flask, the second batch wasn't. 

I've also seen a related question asked:
Why didn't the culprit just use spores directly from the flask?  Why did he go to the trouble of creating new spores for the letters?
My answer would be:
Because the highly purified spores in the flask were the "gold standard" for anthrax testing; they were created at great effort and expense.  To maintain the standard as long as possible, only tiny samples were extracted when needed.  The anthrax letters would have used up all of the spores in the remaining flask - and then some.
And the above questions and answers prompted a post to FreeRepublic.com suggesting I was high on crack for stating that there was Bacillus subtilis in the media letters.  I was a bit surprised that this wasn't known to everyone, since others in my discussion group have mentioned it a lot.  I hadn't paid much attention to those discussions, so I had to do a quick Google search to find out where the information came from.  Then I pointed that person to page 5 of the affidavit located HERE.  Since I haven't mentioned it before on this web site, here is part of what is on page 5:
Both of the anthrax spore powders recovered from the Post and Brokaw letters contain low levels of a bacterial contaminant identified as a strain of Bacillus subtilis. The Bacillus subtilis contaminant has not been detected in the anthrax spore powders recovered from the envelopes mailed to either Senator Leahy or Senator Daschle. Bacillus subtilis is a nonpathogenic bacterium found ubiquitously in the environment. However, genomic DNA sequencing of the specific isolate of Bacillus subtilis discovered within the Post and Brokaw powders reveals that it is genetically distinct from other known isolates of Bacillus subtilis. Analysis of the Bacillus subtilis from the Post and Brokaw envelopes revealed that these two isolates are identical.

Phenotypic and genotypic analyses demonstrate that the RMR-1029 does not have the Bacillus subtilis contaminant found in the evidentiary spore powders, which suggests that the anthrax used in the letter attacks was grown from the material contained in RMR-1029 and not taken directly from the flask and placed in the envelopes. Since RMR-1029 is the genetic parent to the evidentiary spore powders, and it is not known how the Bacillus subtilis contaminant came to be in the Post and Brokaw spore powders, the contaminant must have been introduced during the production of the Post and Brokaw spores.

Live and learn.

I've been working on an annotated version of the transcript of the August 18, 2008, roundtable discussion, where I will highlight key points and insert notations which I hope will clarify things.  That transcript contains an absolute wealth of information.   The discussion on Aug. 18 was intended to answer many or most of the key questions about the attack anthrax, and it did that.  But, answers do no good if no one is listening.  Many of the questions that were asked related to nonsense printed in the media and to bad information that was leaked to the media or believed by key people early in the investigation. Who cares about those mistakes?  They were mistakes.   They should be irrelevant when looking at solid facts.   It's vastly more important to understand the science than to fully understand how key scientists can make silly mistakes in a time of crisis.  And, if the focus is on the mistakes and not on the science, then little will be learned in a hostile environment where mistakes are immediately interpreted by the media and people with political objectives as being indictors of incompetence.  Or where the mistakes support some believed but absolutely ridiculous conspiracy theory.

There is now a wealth of valid information available about the anthrax powders used in the anthrax attacks of 2001.  I think that competent scientists will be looking hard at that information, and gradually the tide will turn toward acceptance.   But, there will probably always be some fringe group which will prefer the inaccurate information and will always accept it over solid facts.  After all, there still are some people who argue that the moon landings were a gigantic hoax.   And they believe they have "scientific" reasons for their arguments.   They may have reasons, but their science is bad science.  It's based upon misunderstandings, errors, false beliefs, and a dogged determination to try to prove their beliefs are correct -- regardless of what the facts say.

September 1, 2008 - Discussions of the Amerithrax case uncovered more proof that the neo-Nazi belief that Dr. Philip Zack was behind the anthrax attacks is pure nonsense.   The information comes from the FBI affidavit located HERE:  It's about the spore concentration in the flask that was used as the source for the anthrax powders:

From page 10:

RMR -1029 was compiled in 1997 by Dr. Ivins, the sole creator and custodian.
From page 13:
A second set of samples, labeled "Dugway Ames spores - 1997" was provided to the FBIR by Dr. Ivins in April of 2002. Dr. Ivins declared that he used the terms "Dugway Ames spores - 1997" and RMR-1029 interchangeably, as they are the same flask of material.
Dr. Zack and Dr. Rippy left USAMRIID in 1991, so they would never have had access to the spore concentration created in 1997 that was the source for the attack powders.

August 31, 2008 (B) - I've added a new supplemental page titled "The Attack Anthrax Pictures" to this web site.  It shows the pictures taken by Sandia and pictures of spores
weaponized with silica at Dugway for comparison, making it clear that the attack spores were not weaponized using the Dugway process or any similar way.   I also show where the silicon was located in the attack anthrax.   And I show all the information I have that makes it clear the silicon in the attack anthrax was "naturally occurring."

August 31, 2008 (A) - I feel totally buried in new facts and information.   I'm not sure how to present it or comment further on it without endlessly repeating things I've been saying for years and years.  Virtually everything I wrote in Chapter 15 of my book was verified in the transcript of the August 18, 2008, roundtable discussion.  The transcript and the pictures of the attack anthrax verified other sections of my book as well as the web page I wrote about silica coatings back in 2003 and 2004.

On the other hand, things are slowing down.  Competent, dedicated scientists are starting to see what the facts are, not just what the media said the facts were.  And it's becoming abundantly clear that nearly all the conspiracy theories were based upon BAD science.  Scientists just can't keep up with everything that is happening everywhere in science.  And, sometimes, just like non-scientists, they believe things that are, in reality, scientifically preposterous.   And, also like non-scientists, top scientists sometimes make very stupid mistakes.

The anthrax case is making a lot of things very clear to a lot of people who are actually interested in the science and not just in promoting crazy conspiracy theories. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, August 24, thru Saturday, August 30, 2008

August 30, 2008 - Since the conspiracy theorists have always used the AFIP newsletter as the indisputable holy writ for silica being an additive in the attack spores, it should be pointed out that the transcript of the August 18, 2008, roundtable discussion now shows that AFIP was wrong in their assumptions.  From the tanscript:

QUESTION:  Dr. Peter Jahrling and Dr. Tom Geisbert of USAMRIID said that they both saw silica on the exosporium, and Dr. Frank Johnson and Dr. Florabel Mullick of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology both said that they found silica, not -- you know, in their elemental analysis at AFIP.  I went back to them several times and they both -- all these scientists insisted it was silica on the surface of these spores.  So I was wondering what -- Can you please account for the discrepancy between your findings and those of two U.S. Army laboratories? 

BACKGROUND OFFICIAL: I can answer that for you.  They did not have the technology to make those statements.  They would not have been able to give an elemental analysis using the technology --

QUESTION:  You're telling me energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence spectrometry is not capable --

BACKGROUND OFFICIAL:  -- I'm not aware that they --

QUESTION:  -- of doing elemental analysis?

BACKGROUND OFFICIAL:  -- performed that.

DR. HASSELL:  It's not capable of locating where it is.  It could -- if there is bulk silica in there, but x-ray fluorescence is not capable of doing location.

BACKGROUND OFFICIAL:  The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology used scanning electron microscopy to do a gross examination of the spore preps to see if there was exogenous material mixed with the spores.  So it's Dr. Michael who did the x-ray analysis on the spores and showed that --

QUESTION:  Wait, wait, wait.  AFIP published a newsletter saying that they did energy-dispersive x-ray fluorescence spectrometry on the spores.

BACKGROUND OFFICIAL:  Right, they did a bulk analysis of it.  They could not tell where the presence of the elemental signature was coming from.  They couldn't tell whether it was coming from the outside of the spores or the inside of the spores.  The type of analysis they did was a bulk elemental analysis.

In other words, what AFIP did when they used their Energy Dispersive X-ray spectrometer was to see what elements were in the spore sample.  The X-ray beam penetrates the spores and gives a graph showing EVERYTHING in the spores from one end to the other, without any real information as to where it is located in the spore.

It was NOT on the outside of the spores.  It was on the INSIDE of the spore coat, UNDER the exposporium.  And AFIP falsely assumed it was an additive.

AFIP's newsletter is now officially WRONG -- as it always was unofficially and as I stated in Chapter 15 of my book more than three years ago.

But, it would certainly be nice to have the scientists from AFIP come forward to admit that they made a mistake.  Unfortunately, the conspiracy theorists would probably just claim that the AFIP scientists were coerced or that the real AFIP scientists were replaced with clones or robots who merely voiced words recorded by the CIA. 

August 29, 2008 (B) - A transcript of the August 18, 2008, press briefing on the anthrax scientific investigation is now available.  Just click HERE.  Here's an example of the type of information that is in the 65-page transcript:

QUESTION:  Okay.  On the elemental and chemical analysis, what extra stuff was there in the spores?  For example, we've heard about silicon.  Was there material from the growth media? And also, were you able to tell something about the water that was used to develop the growth media?  Did it come through into the spores?

DR. MICHAEL:  First of all, we did find we did find that the spores contained silicon and oxygen.  Our quick SEM analysis, that's Scanning Electron Microscopy, we detected silicon and oxygen within the spores.  Later when we had thin sections for high resolution microanalysis in the scanning transmission electron microscope we then could localize that silicon and oxygen to the spore coat, which is a layer on the spore that's within the spore itself.

QUESTION:  I'm having trouble hearing what you're saying. 

DR. MICHAEL:  The spore coat is a layer, as I understand it, that's within the spore and it's not the outermost layer of the spore.  So the spore had sequestered silicon and oxygen in the same location on the spore coat.  We found no additives; no exogenous material on the outside of the spores.  We did have the opportunity to look at weaponized material to compare it to the letter material and they were very different.  And the weaponized material the additives appear on the outside of the spore.   Again, in the letter materials the silicon and oxygen were co-located on the spore coat, within the spore.  In fact, we found some vegetative cells that were going through the sporulation process and the spore within the mother cell had this same signature.

Nevertheless, my email inbox is filled with messages from people who still refuse to believe that the attack spores were not weaponized.

August 29, 2008 (A) - Today's Frederick News-Post contains a column/opinion piece by Katherine Heerbrandt titled "If not Ivins ..."  It describes how Bruce Ivins' friends, neighbors and coworkers cannot believe that Ivins was the anthrax mailer.  That kind of belief is easy to understand, and we've all seen it many times before.  But, then there's also this paragraph:

[Norm Covert, a conservative former Fort Detrick public affairs officer] echoes what is widely reported by reputable scientists. The anthrax in the mailings, he says, was "highly bred, weapons-grade ... with a silica coating and a slight electrical charge so that each particle repelled the other ... each particle no more than five microns." Ivins had neither the expertise nor the equipment to create such a sophisticated form of anthrax.
Ms Heerbrandt is referring to a piece on TheTenticle.com, which is described as "Your Frederick County News and Commentary Website."  In his article, Mr. Covert harshly ridicules the FBI and its investigation.  And, as the Heerbrandt piece shows, he does so because he believes the media nonsense about sophisticated coatings on the spores.

The road ahead is a long one.  None of the facts and photographs provided so far have changed the minds of people who were previously convinced by false stories in the media that the attack anthrax spores had a sophisticated coating of silica.  There are NO reports anywhere of anyone actually seeing a coating of silica on the spores.  ALL the people who have actually seen the attack spores say there was no coating on the spores.  But, how do you convince people who prefer to believe absolute nonsense?

August 28, 2008 - Today's New York Times includes an opinion piece by columnist Nicholas Kristof titled "Media’s Balancing Act."  It contains Kristof's apology to Dr. Steven Hatfill:

In the spring of 2002, I wrote a series of columns about the anthrax investigation, including some in which I referred to a “Mr. Z” as an example of the flaws in the F.B.I.’s investigation. Some scientists had mentioned him to the F.B.I. early on as a candidate for closer scrutiny, but those trails weren’t initially followed.
.....

So, first, I owe an apology to Dr. Hatfill. In retrospect, I was right to prod the F.B.I. and to urge tighter scrutiny of Fort Detrick, but the job of the news media is supposed to be to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Instead, I managed to afflict the afflicted.

Dr. Hatfill sued me and The New York Times, along with others in the news media and the Justice Department. His suit against me and The Times was dismissed, yet even if I don’t have a legal obligation, I do feel a moral one to express regret for any added distress from my columns. 

The problem with this apology is that it continues to mislead the public.  The apology is fine, but how does Mr. Kristof know that the "trails weren't initially followed" when some scientists pointed the finger at Dr. Hatfill?   The FBI does not report back to tipsters and give them the results of their investigation.  That would violate many laws regarding confidentiality of criminal investigations. 

The FBI reportedly did check out Dr. Hatfill, and they found no reason to suspect him.  But the tipsters weren't satisfied. If it isn't done in public, then there's no way to know if it was done at all -- or if it was done according to the tipsters' standards. 

That continues to be a problem.  I keep getting emails from people who believe they have "suspects" who they feel the FBI hasn't thoroughly and properly checked out, and they seem to be very annoyed that the FBI hasn't given them a blow-by-blow report on what was learned about their "suspects."

The next "Dr. Hatfill" case could already be in the making.  All that's needed is to get some reporters to band together with some "experts."  Add a few politicians into the mix and you have the same kind of lynch mob that the FBI had to deal with in the Hatfill case.  Hopefully, all the facts will come out during the congressional hearings expected to start next week. 

America needs to know exactly why the FBI publicly investigated a man against whom there was not one scintilla of evidence.  Kristof's apology helps to show that it was not entirely the FBI's fault.  But many people still place ALL the blame on the FBI.  Without publicly laying out all the details of why Dr. Hatfill was publicly investigated, there won't be any way to prevent it from happening again.

Mr. Kristof also says this about this Amerithrax investigation:

Dr. Ivins is a case in point: Some of his friends and family are convinced of his innocence and believe the F.B.I. hounded him to death. And the evidence against him, while interesting, is circumstantial. Shouldn’t a presumption of innocence continue when a person is dead and can no longer defend himself?
How long should we presume the innocence of a dead man?  Until he's no longer dead?

Should we presume that Ivins did not do it?  That seems to be what Kristof is saying.  If Bruce Ivins were alive and could be tried for murder, it's possible that a good lawyer might generate enough "reasonable doubt" to get him acquitted.  But, would that mean he did not do it?  No, it would only mean that a jury wasn't convinced there was enough proof to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt that he did do it.

What's the "right" thing to do in this case?  The main suspect is  dead.  Should we all assume that Bruce Ivins is totally innocent and demand that the FBI continue to spend money looking at others like Dr. Hatfill?  Should we accept Nicholas Kristof's judgment that the evidence is merely "interesting" and "circumstantial?"  Or should we accept the opinions of scientists who say the evidence is "compelling" and that the flask that Ivins controlled is a virtual "smoking gun?"  Why not watch and study the evidence as it comes out in scientific journals and decide for yourself?  I realized that a lot of people can't be bothered and will just go with the opinons and beliefs they like.  I plan to continue studying and evaluating the facts. 

August 25, 2008 - In a new article in USA Today titled "FBI explains the science behind the anthrax investigation" we get yet another reporter's view of the roundtable discussion at FBI headquarters on Monday, August 18.  This reporter reports this about the silicon that was found within the coat on the attack spores:

At the FBI discussion, many questions surrounded the presence of silicon, the chief ingredient in sand, in the attack anthrax spores. In the past, some news stories had taken reports of sand or other additives as a sign of complex weaponization of the anthrax spores. Instead, the silicon appears "natural," said Joseph Michael of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who led an electron microscope analysis of the spores. One of at least two batches of the attack spores apparently collected silica on their inner skins as they grew, which happens to bacteria sometimes.
It would certainly be nice to see an actual transcript of what was said.  I've talked with Dr. Joseph Michael at length and exchanged many emails with him.  I seriously doubt that he ever said the spores collected silica on their inner skins. 

The USA Today also reports on the source of the "static charge" that was observed in some of the attack spores:

Majidi said that Post Office sorting machines crushed the dried anthrax in mailing envelopes, making them very powdery. Another panel scientist, James Burans of the National BioForensic Analysis Center, added that the curious dispersion of the anthrax spores into the air partly resulted from them picking up an electric charge, static electricity, in their travels through the postal system, which made the dried spores repel one another as soon as their envelopes were opened. 
That seems right, but it certainly disagrees with what the conspiracy theorists believe.

August 24, 2008 (B) - Another voice has been heard from regarding the scientific evidence in the Amerithrax investigation.  Tomorrow's Chemical & Engineering News has an article titled: "Validation: FBI's Anthrax Analysis."  The article says,

Joseph R. Michael, who works at Sandia National Laboratories and was part of the FBI's scientific briefing, tells C&EN that he analyzed FBI-provided spores from the anthrax-laced letters by SEM, TEM, EDX, and scanning transmission electron microscopy. He says his work uncovered similar characteristics between the anthrax from the laced letters and spores from a library of anthrax spores developed by the FBI.

According to Michael, his most significant finding was that the spores used in the attack had internalized SiOx rather than having been weaponized by coating with silica. This result gave investigators another characteristic signature of the lethal spores.

"The scientific evidence is compelling," says Rita R. Colwell, former director of the National Science Foundation, which funded some of the research behind the investigation. It is impressive how all the different scientific aspects came together, she says.

So, once again it is stated that the Silicon (or silica) was inside the spores and not on the surface as would be done when "weaponizing" anthrax spores.

August 24, 2008 (A) - My mail box is still being filled every day with emails from people who still do not believe that the attack anthrax (particularly the powder sent to the two senators) was not "weaponized" with silica.  The pictures we now have of the anthrax don't seem to have changed many -- if any -- minds.  I haven't seen any news articles where people say that they have changed their minds about "weaponization." 

Some emails I get seem almost irrational in the way they insist that the attack anthrax must have been weaponized and everyone at the FBI and at Sandia must be lying, and anyone who believes anything the FBI (or Sandia) says is just a mindless pawn.  They allow no middle-ground.  You either totally agree with them or you're a total fool.

To me the situation is very simple: People who do not know how make spore powders think it is extremely difficult, far too difficult for just one person to do it, and the people who do know how to make spores powders consider it to be a relatively "easy" task, and no problem for just one person to make what was in the anthrax letters.

A lot more information about the attack anthrax will coming out over time.  There will be spectragraphs showing where the silicon was located in the spores.  They'll show that the silicon was INSIDE the spores, not on the outer surface -- which would be solid proof that the spores were not weaponized.  But, True Believers will still find some way to ignore or twist the facts to make their beliefs seem valid. 

While most people now seem to realize that Dr. Hatfill was not the anthrax mailer (I haven't seen any news articles claiming that he is still a better suspect than Bruce Ivins),  I'm hoping that the upcoming Congressional hearings will make clear exactly how Hatfill became a suspect in the first place when there was never a single "scintilla of evidence" that he was responsible for the anthrax mailings.  If we do not get a public explanation for why Dr. Hatfill was publicly investigated, the wrong explanations will be assumed, and what happened to Dr. Hatfill could happen again. Some of the blame falls on the FBI, but most of the blame falls elsewhere.

And then there's the subject of Bruce Ivins and all the people who now seem to have dedicated their lives to poking holes in the FBI's case against Dr. Ivins.  From what I can tell, these people have two motives: (1) Many people clearly believe the FBI is totally evil and incompetent, and they simply don't trust anything the FBI says - or anyone else in the government for that matter.  (2) Many people still believe that they know who sent the anthrax letters and it was not Ivins.  It was Iraq.  It was al Qaeda.  It was Wiley.  It was Zack.  It was the CIA testing a new sophisticated weapon.  It was some general wanting to start a war so he could get promoted.  It was some author who wanted to sell books.  It was that weird guy who lives down the street.  Etc.

As an analyst who looks at facts and evidence, all I can say is that NONE of these nay sayers have presented any evidence that is more compelling than the evidence against Dr. Ivins.   Finding flaws in some piece of evidence is the same type of arguing that has been going on from the very beginning.  It's a way of rationalizing one's own beliefs.  A legal case can be undermined (and a criminal can be set free) by poking holes in the evidence to raise "reasonable doubt," but that's not the way to determine who  most likely actually committed the crime.  That's done by looking at the evidence that does point to a single individual and weighing that evidence against evidence that might point to some other individual.  I did that with the person who I once considered "most likely" sent the anthrax letters, and the evidence against Ivins is overwhelming by comparison.  That doesn't mean that Ivins did it, that just means I feel Ivins is now the "most likely" person to have done it.   And only solid facts will change that. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, August 17, thru Saturday, August 23, 2008

August 23, 2008 - Yesterday, I mentioned a comment I received via email from an anthrax expert who referenced the Sandia Press Release.  I didn't say enough about the expert's statement, so I've moved it to make it part of today's comment.

The statement isn't in any way critical of the forensic work done by Sandia.  The author simply felt that was wrong for so many people to repeat over and over for seven years that "weaponization" means a "state sponsor" and an ordinary powder doesn't.   In general terms, it might suggest such a thing, but it's not any kind of absolute truth.  And to believe it is would be dangerous for the future.  Here's the comment: 

[The press release] propagates faulty logic about the relevance of the presence of additives. It says regarding whether or not additives were present that “This information was crucial in ruling out state-sponsored terrorism.” It goes on to say that “Weaponization of the spores would be an indicator of state sponsored terrorism.”  Which physical law of the universe says that if a state were to sponsor an anthrax attack that the spores would HAVE to have silica or some other additive in it? Conversely, where is it written that a person who is not sponsored by a state must NOT put additives in his anthrax spores? The use of additives as performance enhancers of powders is a very widespread practice. One doesn’t need military training to understand its value, and if one does understand its value one is not compelled to use it.
Unfortunately, this is one of those occasions where general terms and suggestions may be more appropriate than universal truths, since the statement seems to have given license to all the people who were previously arguing that the anthrax was weaponized to now argue that the lack of weaponization means nothing, and they can still argue that there was a "state sponsor" behind the attacks.  Or al Qaeda could have done it.

August 22, 2008 (B) - If you have the capability to view the video located HERE, it is truly worth your time.  It shows Joseph Michael explaining the work he and Sandia did with the anthrax from the anthrax letters.

Also, there's an article in The Albuquerque Journal that requires that you take a "free trial" before you can view it.  Among other things, the article says, 

Within a month of getting their first anthrax samples, Michael and his colleagues were able to answer the question: The sample did not appear to be "weaponized" anthrax -- anthrax converted in a weapons research lab to enhance its lethality.

The finding contradicted earlier reports that it was weaponized, which had been repeated for years and fed the public's worry.

Those earlier reports were from AFIP.  The article also says:
Under Sandia's high-powered microscopes, Michael and Sandia colleague Paul Kotula quickly determined the initial reports were wrong. The earlier identification of a coating had been a mistake, they concluded.
All things come to those who wait.

August 22, 2008 (A) - My email inbox this morning was filled with emails about a Press Release from Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM.  Everyone is talking about the information related to the fact that the attack spores were not weaponized:

Sandia’s work demonstrated to the FBI that the form of bacillus anthracis contained in those letters was not a weaponized form, a form of the bacteria prepared to disperse more readily. The possibility of a weaponized form was of great concern to investigators, says Joseph Michael, the principal investigator for the project. This information was crucial in ruling out state-sponsored terrorism.
and
When bacillus anthracis spores are weaponized, the spores are coated with silica nanoparticles that look almost like lint under the microscope. The “lint” makes the particles “bouncier” and less likely to clump and fall to the ground. That makes the spores more respirable and able to do more damage, says Michael. Weaponization of the spores would be an indicator of state sponsored terrorism.
Then the Press Release mentions how errors occurred in earlier testing:
“Initially, scanning electron microscopy [SEM] conducted at another laboratory, showed high silicon and oxygen signals that led them to conclude that the spores were a weaponized form, says Kotula. “The possible misinterpretation of the SEM results arose because microanalysis in the SEM is not a surface-sensitive tool,” says Kotula. “Because a spore body can be 1.5 to 2 microns wide by 1 micron long, a SEM cannot localize the elemental signal from whole spore bodies.”
The other laboratory they're talking about,  AFIP, was using an EDX, an energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer (an instrument used to detect the presence of otherwise- unseen chemicals through characteristic wavelengths of X-ray light), which is an optional attachment to a SEM.  This kind of device is probably used rarely at AFIP, but is used all the time at Sandia Laboratories. 

The Press Release contains two images which are evidently intended to show how spores look under a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM).  Here are the images (click on them to enlarge):

The SEM image on the left shows a large clump of spores.  I'm told by the person who took this picture that this is an image of a clump of anthrax spores found in one of the letters mailed in 2001.   And the TEM image on the right, is also an image of spores from one of the attack letters. 

So, these images show two important things:  (1) There is no sign of a silica additive or silicon in either picture.  (2) The anthrax spores in the anthrax letters contained clumps just as one would expect to see in UNweaponized spore powders.

However, the existence of clumps does not prevent the existence of single spores or small, lethal clumps.   And, as Doug Beecher wrote on page 5309 of his 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, by every account, except those of conspiracy theorists, there was no silica additive or coating on the spores used in the anthrax attacks of 2001.  And there were plenty of clumps in the powders in the envelopes, but there were still enough individual spores and small clumps to kill 5 people with inhalation anthrax.

August 21, 2008 (B) - An article in yesterday's CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy) News is titled "FBI says it easily replicated anthrax used in attacks," and it contains this tidbit of information:

Early in the investigation, the FBI indicated that the mailed anthrax was a weaponized product, treated or processed to make it spread more easily through the air and penetrate deep into the lungs. It was reported that the powder contained silicon and that Army experts had been unable to replicate the material. The implication was that one person working alone would not have been able to produce the powder.

But in a statement presented at this week's news conference, Majidi said, "There were no intentional additives combined with the Bacillus anthracis spores to make them any more dispersible." 

I've sent an email to CIDRAP to try to find the source for their belief that "the FBI indicated that the mailed anthrax was a weaponized product."  CIDRAP seems to be claiming that the FBI indicated something that was actually stated by CIDRAP, not by the FBI.  Back on July 30, 2004, CIDRAP wrote:
The anthrax spores used in the 2001 attack were electrostatically charged to make them more easily dispersible, and they were covered with polymerized glass and silica to prevent clumping.
CIDRAP seems to be another organization which fell hook line and sinker for the total nonsense printed in Science Magazine

If we're ever to get to the "truth" about the anthrax attacks of 2001, science journals and science organizations should start examining every word they write -- because too much of it is just long-held beliefsthat were always total nonsense and are now being proven to be total nonsense.

August 21, 2008 (A) - An article in today's New York Times gives some details about how the FBI used science to track the attack anthrax to the flask kept by Bruce Ivins.  And a new article in Nature magazine gives some insights into a very different way that Ivins was identified as a possible suspect.

August 20, 2008 (C) - NBC4.com has news that congressional hearings on the anthrax investigation may not be far off:

Committees in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are planning hearings on the FBI's investigation into the anthrax mailings that killed five people in 2001.

Staff members for the congressional committees will begin pre-interviewing potential witnesses next week.

I also found this comment interesting:
Now Congress wants to know why it took so long to identify a suspect. There was no word of a suspect until last month when Ivins committed suicide as federal prosecutors prepared to indict and seek the death penalty against the Army microbiologist.
Is "Congress" complaining that everyone should have been made aware long ago that Ivins was a suspect?  Or do they think that Ivins just became a suspect last month?

August 20, 2008 (B) - One of the most screwball arguments I've seen in the media about the Ivins case is the suggestion that there is some significance to the fact that they didn't find any spores from the attack anthrax in Ivins' home or car.  For example, The Washington Post wrote:

Defense lawyer Paul F. Kemp yesterday said he wonders "where Ivins could have possibly stored this anthrax without any employees seeing it, or if he took it home, why there was no trace" of the deadly spores, despite repeated FBI searches over the past two years of Ivins's car, his work locker, a safe-deposit box and his house.
And Time Magazine wrote:
Equally troubling, scientists say, is the complete lack of forensic evidence in the FBI dossier. Documents reveal, for instance, that investigators swabbed Ivins' home and cars for anthrax DNA and spores, but they don't say whether the subsequent lab tests linked those samples to the 2001 envelopes. "Until we see the details, who knows?" says Richard Spertzel, a bioweapons expert who worked at USAMRIID with Ivins. "There are too many loose ends."
How can this be so puzzling?  Do people believe that everyone who works with anthrax on a daily basis must be tracking anthrax spores all over the place every day?  Do people believe that scientists who routinely work with spores do not know to do it without killing themselves and everyone around them?

Years ago, I explained how the spores were most likely put into the envelopes and mailed without leaving a cloud of spores across the countryside.  It's done inside a "glove box."  And when the spores are in the sealed envelopes, the envelopes are put into a sealed container -- such as an ordinary Baggie.  Then the interior of the glove box and the exterior of the Baggie are sterilized. Swab tests for viable spores do not detect dead or sterilized spores.  With the spores in a sterilized Baggie, there's no risk of contaminating a car no matter how far you drive.  And you don't even have to touch the envelopes when you get to the mail box.  You just open the Baggie and dump the envelopes into the mail slot.  Then you toss the Baggie into a trash container or throw it down a sewer, probably some distance away.

The idea that someone who works with spores nearly every day doesn't know how to do it without killing himself and contaminating everything is just plain preposterous

August 20, 2008 (A) - This morning's New York Times and Washington Post contain editorials about Monday's roundtable discussion of the scientific evidence in the anthax case.  Both editorials call for an independent examination of the FBI's investigation of Dr. Ivins, which I think is a good idea, but the Post's editorial also includes this:

This examination should review the methods used by the FBI in investigating Dr. Ivins and, before him, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, who was exonerated by the Justice Department this month.
The New York Times editorial includes this:
The F.B.I. spent years pointing a finger at a different suspect.
And yesterday, Nature magazine included this:
The trickle of circumstantial evidence released in an investigation that had previously fingered the wrong man has lawmakers, scientists and others clamouring for more information.
When I read comments like these, I have to wonder: Are these "journalists" being deliberately blind to the facts about the Dr. Hatfill "investigation?"

The Dr. Ivins investigation and the Dr. Hatfill "investigation" are as different from one another as any two FBI investigations can possibly be.

FACT: According to Judge Walton, there was not a "scintilla of evidence" to suggest that Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with the anthrax attacks.  And no one in the media has ever come up with any kind of incriminating evidence against Dr. Hatfill, either.

Why doesn't the media ask the basic question: If there was NO EVIDENCE against Dr. Hatfill, why was he followed and investigated so thoroughly!?

Back on June 30, former FBI agent Brad Garrett complained about the way the managers at the FBI directed the Hatfill "investigation":

The investigative experience of managers in the FBI varies widely. Some bosses may have investigated cases like the anthrax case before, but many may not have.  Managers with less experience may devalue or over-value investigative techniques in their comments about an investigation. This can result in amateurish investigative techniques being suggested to more experienced agents, and can result in confusion at the top of the chain about the facts. The second lesson from the anthrax case is that only managers with considerable investigative experience should be making the big decisions or communicating with higher-ups.
So, there was NO EVIDENCE against Dr. Hatfill, but the managers at the FBI were directing their agents to investigate Dr. Hatfill anyway, using techniques that were even "amateurish," such as the in-your-face surveillance that went on for a long time.

Can the Dr. Hatfill investigation really be compared to the investigation of Bruce Ivins where we are seeing a lot of incriminating evidence and which virtually no one outside of the FBI knew about until after Ivins committed suicide?

It is KNOWN why the FBI investigated Dr. Hatfill.  It is no secret.  But the media mindlessly pretends that all the newspaper columns, stories, lectures and science articles that demanded for eight months that the FBI publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill don't exist. They do exist.  Except for the rumor that Nicholas Kristof might apologize to Dr. Hatfill, the media seems to want the public to forget about everything that happened before Attorney General Ashcroft labeled Dr. Hatfill a "person of interest" in August of 2002.  I can only hope that an independent agency will publicly examine the facts behind the Hatfill "investigation."  But how will those facts be reported if the media doesn't like the facts? 

August 19, 2008 (B) - After going through the 75 emails in my inbox this morning, it's as clear as ever that some scientists will never accept any proof that conflicts with their firm beliefs.  They pick apart every word and every phrase from the FBI scientists and rationalize ways that it could all be part of some vast conspiracy to hide facts about the "weaponized" anthrax spores, and/or how the FBI's statements show that all the FBI scientists and all the consulting scientists must be totally incompetent.  (The scientists doing the arguing, of course, have never actually seen the attack anthrax, and they've apparently never worked with anthrax or dry spore powders of any kind.)

I'm still waiting for a transcript of the roundtable discussion, but I think that what Dr. Vahid Majidi said in his opening statement is definitely worth repeating:

Finally, I am asking you to understand that this is the first step toward broader dissemination of the scientific information surrounding this case. Additional information will be available through peer reviewed publications
August 19, 2008 (A) - As expected, there is plenty of news this morning about the scientific roundtable discussion held at FBI headquarters yesterday afternoon.  The FBI's web site has the Opening Statement by Dr. Vahid Majidi which contains this about the silica coating or additives that so many scientists thoroughly believe must have been on or with the spores in the senate letters: 
There were no intentional additives combined with the bacillus anthracis spores to make them any more dispersible.
This morning's New York Times has an article titled "F.B.I. Details Anthrax Case, but Doubts Remain" which says: 
[The FBI] also countered a principal scientific criticism of the investigation: that the spores had been weaponized with a special coating and therefore could not have been made by Dr. Ivins because he did not have the necessary equipment. This criticism is based on the presence of silica in the anthrax-laced attack letters. However, the F.B.I. scientists said that the silica had been imported naturally by the anthrax spores from their environment and that there was no evidence of weaponization.
The article also shows that at least one scientist, Richard Spertzel, still does not believe that the anthrax spores in the senate letters were not weaponized:
Richard O. Spertzel, a retired microbiologist who led the United Nations’ biological weapons inspections of Iraq, said he remained skeptical of the bureau’s argument despite the new evidence. “It’s a pretty tenuous argument,” Dr. Spertzel said in an interview, adding that he questioned the bureau’s claim that the powder was less than military grade.
The Times article also says,
The F.B.I. scientists said they had been able to reverse-engineer the production and properties of the attack spores, producing bacteria that flew into the air with ease. One person could have prepared the attack anthrax in three to seven days, with equipment available at Fort Detrick, a bureau expert said.

The F.B.I. had been unable to reproduce one feature of the attack spores — their high level of silica — but attributed that to natural variability.

The Associated Press wrote this yesterday about the silicon/silica question:
FBI officials and scientists also played down any significance of the element silicon in the killer anthrax strain, saying it seemed more of a natural occurrence than deliberate weaponizing as once theorized early in the investigation.
An article in this morning's Washington Post is titled "FBI Elaborates on Anthrax Case" and confirms what was in the AP and in the NY Times:
The scientists concluded that spores used in the mailings were not weaponized or coated with a special substance to make them more easily inhaled.
And the Post has this to say about the evidence against Bruce Ivins:
Among the most persuasive pieces of evidence was the genetic analysis that the FBI says conclusively linked the letters to spores in Ivins's lab. Ivins possessed a flask of anthrax bacteria unlike any other -- a blend of spores from dozens of batches made in Army labs at Fort Detrick and at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. Ivins's concoction -- labeled RMR-1029 -- was a mix of normal anthrax cells and four mutated varieties, or genetic oddballs.

The bacteria used in the attacks contained precisely the same mix of normal and mutated cells, the officials said. Of more than 1,000 samples of anthrax bacteria collected by the FBI in the years after the attacks, only eight contained the same four genetic mutants. All eight could be directly traced to the flask in Ivins's lab, the officials said.

While the FBI has acknowledged that more than 100 people could have had either access to Ivins's flask or samples of material from it, investigators say they eliminated all others as suspects.

and
Despite initial suspicions that the powder was weaponized, the process used to make the powder was relatively simple. FBI scientists easily reproduced it with gear that Ivins regularly used.

Anthrax spores that were simply cleaned and dried made an "extremely friable" powder that could disperse easily, Majidi said. "It would have been easy to do this at USAMRIID," he said.

and
Government scientists also acknowledged yesterday that they could not figure out how to reproduce silicon that appeared inside the dry spores, making an exact match elusive.
The article ends with a comment that seems to relate to the visit Bruce Ivins apparently made to my web site on July 24:
The investigation continues even after Ivins's death. Investigators have yet to disclose what material, if any, they recovered from computers at a Frederick public library he visited hours after returning from a psychiatric facility in late July.
Science Now has a good description of the silicon issue:
Other scientific work done by materials researcher Joseph Michael at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, convinced the FBI that silicon had not been added to the anthrax in the letters. Although preliminary analysis done at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology had indicated the presence of silicon, transmission electron microscopy by Michael and his colleagues revealed that the silicon was contained inside the spores -- a natural occurrence documented in previous research--rather than a coating intended to make the anthrax more easily dispersible.
The Los Angeles Times has important additional details:
Among the new details Monday was that, contrary to statements made over the years by other government officials, the mailed anthrax had not been coated with additives to "weaponize" it, or make it more deadly. Silicon was detected within the spores, said several of the eight scientists who met with reporters, but it occurred naturally, not as a result of weaponizing.

The silicon did not make the anthrax more buoyant when exposed to air, said James Burans, associate laboratory director of the National Bioforensic Analysis Center.

"The silicon would not have contributed to the fluid-like qualities of the anthrax powders," he said. But loading the powder into envelopes, and their handling by the Postal Service, would have made it more electrostatically charged and difficult to contain, he said.

Prior to yesterday's roundtable discussion, people from key scientific journals were given a special briefing by the FBI.  An anonymous source who attended that special briefing sent me an email advising me to watch for articles in Science, in Nature, and in Analytical Chemistry magazines.  Although nothing was said about it, I'm hoping that pictures of the attack anthrax will be appearing in those articles.  Plus, I'm awaiting the publication of the transcript of the roundtable discussion, which could be coming soon.

Dr. Vahid Majidi's opening statement for the roundtable also contained this:

Finally, I am asking you to understand that this is the first step toward broader dissemination of the scientific information surrounding this case. Additional information will be available through peer reviewed publications and I ask you to please respect the integrity of this process. In fact, several research projects related to the FBI’s investigation have already resulted in peer reviewed publications and we will provide you with that list. Additional publications will be available for peer review as more information from the investigation is released.
August 18, 2008 - People who have much better contacts within the media than I do are sending this message around to each other:
On Monday August 18th, at 2 PM ET, the FBI will host an informal, on-the-record roundtable discussion with Dr. Vahid Majidi, Assistant Director of the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate; Dr. D. Christian Hassell, FBI Laboratory Director; and several independent scientific experts about the analytical techniques employed in support of the FBI's anthrax investigation.  This will be a highly technical briefing.  That said, we strongly urge your news organization to send a correspondent who has a science background or covers science-related issues.
I gather the message was sent to news organizations.  I'm also told:
No video or audio broadcasts can be made from the briefing.  Only written articles.
So, it will probably be later this evening that we'll start seeing a hundred different versions of what was said from a hundred different journalists. 

But, in a day or two there's a very good chance that we'll see transcripts of the entire session.  CNN seems to produce such transcripts routinely.  Others do, too.  And, since tape recorders are allowed at the presentation for "note taking," every reporter there will probably be recording it all.

It probably won't be until tomorrow that I'll be able to digest and comment on what will be on tonight's news broadcasts and in tomorrow morning's newspaper editions.

August 17, 2008 - Today's New York Times contains an opinion piece by Clark Hoyt where Nicholas Kristof is reported to be planning to write a column looking back on the anthrax case and apologizing to Hatfill for any “extra scrutiny and upheaval the columns brought to him, and wrestling with the journalistic issues involved.”

In his opinion piece, Clark Hoyt also says:

I think Kristof marshaled the evidence and raised so many questions about Hatfill that he contributed to a cloud of suspicion over the wrong man at a time when, in hindsight, the F.B.I. should have been pursuing other leads.
and
Kristof said he had been concerned about the potential impact of what he was writing. He said he tried to humanize Hatfill by writing that Mr. Z’s friends “are heartsick at suspicions directed against a man they regard as a patriot.” After Hatfill was identified, Kristof wrote that there “must be a genuine assumption that he is an innocent man caught in a nightmare.”

I asked Kristof if he regretted focusing so much on Hatfill when the point was to spur the F.B.I. to a more vigorous investigation. He said, “I think I should have tried harder to find a range of other examples to underscore the incompetence of the F.B.I. anthrax investigation.”

Hmm.  Interesting.  It appears that Mr. Kristof feels that it is the media's job to write about the "incompetence of the F.B.I. investigation" even when the media knows little or nothing about what is actually going on in the investigation. 

That explains a lot.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, August 10, thru Saturday, August 16, 2008

August 16, 2008 - Today's New York Times contains an article I'm happy to see.  It's titled "F.B.I. Will Present Scientific Evidence in Anthrax Case to Counter Doubts."  The article says,

In the face of the questions, Federal Bureau of Investigation officials have decided to make their first detailed public presentation next week on the forensic science used to trace the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks to a flask kept in a refrigerator in Dr. Ivins’s laboratory at Fort Detrick, in Maryland.
and
Dwight Adams, a former director of the F.B.I. laboratory who was deeply involved in managing the anthrax genetic research until he left the bureau in 2006, said he was confident that the groundbreaking forensic effort would be validated by the broad scientific community.
The article also indicates that the evidence about the envelopes being sold only in Maryland and Virginia was not as solid as was previously indicated, and the story about Ivins giving the FBI a false sample from his flask was not exactly what happened.  So, the FBI has a long hill to climb to convince skeptics that Ivins was the anthrax mailer.

A lengthy article in yesterday's CIDRAP  News says,

expert observers have said it's not possible to evaluate the FBI claims about the DNA evidence implicating Ivins because the agency has not published the details.
CIDRAP is the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy.  They want to see the evidence, and the FBI seems about to present the evidence -- possibly as early as Monday.  Interestingly, the article contains the first comments I've seen from Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg in a long time:
By e-mail, Rosenberg told CIDRAP News that the FBI in recent years has tried to downplay the idea that the mailed anthrax was a very sophisticated product. This effort included an article published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology in August 2006 in which the FBI called the idea "a widely circulated misconception." Rosenberg said the FBI's effort seems to have worked, "since no one is questioning the assumption that the spores were merely purified and dried."
Dr. Rosenberg definitely seems to be living on a different planet than I am, since I'm seeing countless people questioning whether the anthrax spores in the Daschle and Leahy letters could simply have been "purified and dried."  And, for the past two weeks, my mailbox has been filled with emails from people who seem to be saying that it is not possible for the FBI to convince them of anything.  Situation: normal.

The FBI's "detailed public presentation" next week will something I'll watch and record on every recording device I have.  (It was very annoying how CNN and FOX both cut away from the news conference on August 6 before it was over.  Only MSNBC stayed with it.  And none of the networks bothered with it at all.) 

Meanwhile, today's Frederick News-Post contains an article titled "Senate could grill FBI on anthrax investigation in September," and "could" seems to be the operative word.  The Senate Judiciary Committee meeting scheduled for September 17 is a regularly scheduled meeting.  It wasn't specifically called to discuss the Amerithrax investigation.  Susan Sullam, a spokeswoman for Sen. Benjamin Cardin, who sits on the committee, said "there is a strong possibility that the anthrax case will be one of the issues the committee asks Mueller about."  I should hope so.  I don't think the FBI will explain why they paid so much attention to Dr. Hatfill unless they are grilled about it by powerful politicians who want full and complete answers. 

The article also says this:

The DOJ is moving to close its investigation into the anthrax mailings "soon," but could give no specific timeline beyond that, said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the department.

He said the department had not determined what additional information from the case it might ask the courts to unseal after the case is closed.

So, the case is not closed.  And, as always, that means that some details about evidence cannot be shown to the public until the case is officially closed.

August 15, 2008 - An article in today's Los Angeles Times titled "Anthrax scientist Bruce Ivins slipped under the radar because of FBI obsession" is another example of  the media's refusal to look at how Dr. Hatfill became a suspect.  And the LA Times headline goes one step further by claiming that Ivins wasn't caught earlier because of the FBI's "obsession" with Dr. Hatfill.  Is it really that difficult to understand that the FBI has the ability to pursue more than one suspect at a time?  Is it really that difficult to understand that hindsight is always 20/20?  Is it really that difficult to understand that legal cases depend upon solid, verifiable facts and not just beliefs

While sensational stories about government "failures" may sell a lot more newspapers and TV ads than straight facts ever will, facts can sometimes be found anyway -- if you look for them.  On a web site called "GoozNews.com" there's an interview with Prof. Richard Ebright of Rutgers University.   It was Prof. Ebright who first advised me in no uncertain terms that a trillion spores per gram was routine.  I quoted him back in October 28, 2002, but maybe I should have translated his mathematical notations to make it more easily understood.  When a scientist writes "10^12" instead of writing "a trillion" it sometimes causes people to just skip over it.  Taking that into account, here my translation of some of what Prof. Ebright wrote back then:

It is simply incomprehensible that the claim that a spore count of a trillion spores per gram is unprecedented continues to be repeated.

A Bacillus spore has a dry mass of a trillionth of a gram.

Therefore, ANY pure preparation of Bacillus spores MUST contain a trillion
 spores per gram.  And ANY impure preparation of Bacillus spores weighing one gram MUST contain less than a trillion spores per gram due to the impurities.

No matter how it was made.  No matter where it was made.

In the GoozNews.com interview, there is this exchange with Prof. Ebright which continues along those same lines:
GoozNews: Could Bruce Ivins have done this alone?

Ebright: It was done on the kiloton scale in the U.S. weapons program in the 1960s through 1990s. To do it on the gram scale in a location that was part of a previous offensive weapons program by a person who had access to the information about how they are prepared . . . would not be difficult. This is routine technology used to prepare products daily in the pesticide and pharmaceutical industry with approaches that are far more sophisticated and easier to procure than what was available in the 1960s through 1990s.

GoozNews: Yet some accounts insist that this anthrax preparation was so fine that it must have required access to the more sophisticated technology than what was available in Ivins’ lab.

Ebright: There’s been just one semi-official comment on that. Douglas J. Beecher, who works in the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, published a paper in 2006 where he called that a “misconception.”

    [Here’s the full quote:

Individuals familiar with the compositions of the powders in the letters have indicated that they were comprised simply of spores purified to different extents. However, a widely circulated misconception is that the spores were produced using additives and sophisticated engineering supposedly akin to military weapon production. The persistence credence given to this impression fosters erroneous preconceptions that may misguide research in preparedness efforts and generally detract from the magnitude of hazards presented by simple spore presentations.]

It remains entirely open if this person operated alone or in concert with others. But the idea that he didn’t have the means to do it is absurd.
One lesson this case should be teaching everyone is that, no matter how totally absurd something may be, there will still be many scientists with very impressive credentials who will firmly believe it is true and will endlessly argue that it is true.  It will be interesting to see if any of those scientists will ever admit to being wrong. 

August 14, 2008 (C) - I just noticed that Amazon.com no longer sells my book for $18.95.  They now charge full price ($19.95) and they only have 1 copy left in stock.  BarnesAndNoble.com still has a member price, but they're probably out of stock (they only stocked 2 copies).  If so, if you want a copy, it should be back ordered.  Since I don't have a fax machine, B&N will mail the orders to me via snail mail, and I send the books to them via UPS.  I have nearly 900 copies in my garage, and each was individually wrapped in plastic by the printer. There's no need to buy used copies.  I see that Amazon sells used copies for $39.51.  And someone just wrote me to tell me this:

I've checked with Borders and they can only find used copies for $117.00 each.
I don't know what kind of demand there is for my book right now, but if you just order through Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.comyou should receive a copy in a couple weeks or so.  If they tell you it is out of stock, back order it.  Don't wait for it to be in stock again.   They'll only order 1 or 2 copies and those could be sold before you get a chance to place your order.  Amazon & B&N need to know there is a demand so that they'll order more than just one or two copies.  (I cannot sell to you directly.)

The subtitle "The First Three Years" just means it took me three years to analyze the facts to the point that I felt I could publish them.  Until two weeks ago, there were very few new significant facts released since the publication of my book.  And most of those "new" facts simply confirmed what I wrote.  Click HERE for details.

August 14, 2008 (B) - Time Magazine has chimed in with their opinion in an article titled "Nagging Questions in the Anthrax Case."  And it provides further evidence of the total blindness the media has regarding how Dr. Hatfill became a suspect!

Scientists also say that the FBI's recent bungling of certain high-profile investigations throws doubt on federal investigators' ability to understand scientific evidence. The most obvious and recent example is the agency's unwarranted fingering of Steven Hatfill in 2001 as a "person of interest" in the same attacks for which Ivins is now believed responsible. Hatfill's reputation was irreparably damaged by the accusation, which was never supported by concrete evidence — the government officially absolved Hatfill this month and awarded him $5.8 million in damages.
Time magazine also complains that "the FBI won't reveal its methods" used in the case.  The correct wording, hopefully is, the FBI has not yet revealed its methods.   It's only been two weeks since this whole Ivins matter exploded into the front pages.

August 14, 2008 (A) - Today's Washington Post contains an article headlined "Hair Samples in Anthrax Case Don't Match."  What would be the odds that hairs found in a mailbox used by thousands of people would belong to Ivins?  It seems like the FBI took a chance on even bothering to examine the hairs.  If the hairs had belonged to Ivins, it would have definitely been key evidence, but the odds were so much against it, that it hardly seems worth the "risk" to do the testing, since a vastly more likely negative result would just give people reason to believe that Ivins was not the culprit.

The Post article also contains more leaked information:

Investigators now believe that Ivins waited until evening to make the drive to Princeton on Sept. 17, 2001. He showed up at work that day and stayed briefly, then took several hours of administrative leave from the lab, according to partial work logs. Based on information from receipts and interviews, authorities say Ivins filled up his car's gas tank, attended a meeting outside of the office in the late afternoon, and returned to the lab for a few minutes that evening before moving off the radar screen and presumably driving overnight to Princeton. The letters were postmarked Sept. 18.
The article also says that FBI Director Mueller will be called to testify at an oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 17. 

August 13, 2008 (B) - A new article by the Associated Press titled "A lone anthrax mailer? Skeptics question FBI case" contains some snippets -- 4 short paragraphs --  of an interview I did with the AP's Matt Apuzzo.  The first paragraph is:

"I think it's going to be one of the great conspiracy theories, like whether we landed on the moon or whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone" to assassinate President Kennedy, said Edward Lake, a retired Wisconsin computer specialist whose Web site has for years been one of the most comprehensive repositories for analysis on the anthrax case.
The last paragraph says:
"I've seen the theories that he was a pawn like Lee Harvey Oswald. That's going to be hard to disprove," he said. "How do you disprove that a dead man was not a puppet being manipulated by the CIA? You're talking about proving a negative. You can't prove aliens didn't mail the letters."
It's nice to see my words quoted correctly and in the right context. 

August 13, 2008 (A) - According to USA Today, former Senator Daschle was briefed by the FBI  yesterday, and 

Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle says the evidence against the government scientist accused of carrying out the 2001 anthrax attacks was "complete and persuasive."
That's an observation from someone who has actually heard and seen the evidence, so it's a bit refeshing.  The article concludes with the about motive:
Daschle says investigators came up with three possible reasons that Ivins targeted his office and that of Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who also received one of the anthrax-laden letters.

Those motives include Ivins' concerns about abortion, the USA Patriot Act and waning support for an anthrax vaccine.

It's also nice to see that the FBI didn't attempt to read Bruce Ivins' mind as people in the media and on blogs and forums seem to be doing.  The actual reason why Ivins sent the letters could be any combination of those three reasons and other reasons.  People seldom do criminal acts for just one specific reason. 

August 12, 2008 (B) - An opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal has the title "What If the FBI Is Right About Bruce Ivins?"  It asks some very important questions about the implications of a single scientist being able to produce a bioweapon that a great many scientists still seem to be claiming cannot be done by a single scientist. 

This issue also relates to the almost forgotten lawsuit filed by the widow of the first person to die as a result of the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Today's Palm Beach Post has an editorial titled "Settle with the widow in Boca anthrax killing."  Her lawsuit claimed that the government "failed to protect the public," and, as a result, Bob Steven was killed.  The fact that he was killed by a government employee should help her case.

August 12, 2008 (A) - After some extensive investigating, I learned that Ivins' visit to my site on July 24 was at 7:13 p.m., not at 6:13 p.m. as I originally stated on Aug. 8 (A).  For some reason, although Ivins was in the Eastern Time Zone and the computer where my logs are recorded is in the Eastern Time Zone, the time stamps on the log entries were made using Central time.   The corrected 7:13 p.m. time now corresponds with the reports from the FBI that Ivins was at the library from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

August 11, 2008 (B) - If you're interested, I did a radio interview with KMOX in St. Louis a few days ago.  It's in two parts on the web site located HERE.

August 11, 2008 (A) - Today's Miami Herald contains an editorial titled "FBI sows doubt" which compares Bruce Ivins to Dr. Hatfill and concludes with this sentence:

America needs an FBI that is more sure-footed and less prone to stumbling.
It's one of many many articles and editorials which continue to misunderstand why the FBI publicly investigated Dr. Hatfill.  This editorial even misunderstands the basics of the Hatfill situation.  It says,
Put it all together and Mr. Ivins looks guilty. But Justice and the FBI were just as certain of their evidence when they charged another Fort Detrick scientist, Steven Hatfill, only to drop those charges and pay $5.8 million in settlement.
Dr. Hatfill was never charged with anything related to the anthrax mailings of 2001.  The FBI repeatedly said that Hatfill wasn't even a suspect.  The public and the media may believe that "person of interest" is the same as "suspect," but it is NOT.

And if the FBI cannot prove beyond everyone's doubt that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer, that doesn't make Dr. Ivins innocent.  That just means they cannot prove beyond everyone's doubt that Dr. Bruce Ivins was the anthrax mailer.

I'm very much looking forward to congressional hearings that will almost certainly be held to examine the Amerithrax investigation.   Maybe then the FBI will stand up and explain exactly why they looked so hard at Dr. Hatfill.  The facts already show why.  The depositions show why.  But most people don't seem to care about the facts or about depositions.  They only care about what is said in court, what is said by public officials and what is reported in the media.  A public airing of the facts will help a lot.

August 10, 2008 (B) - While trying to clean up my email inbox, I found an email where someone mentioned an Aug. 8 article in The Herald-Mail, which evidently serves parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania and West Virginia.   The Q&A at the end of the article contains a lot of information about how Ivins was escorted out of Ft. Detrick on July 10 and banned from re-entry, plus a lot of other details supplied by Ft. Detrick.

August 10, 2008 (A) - Rather than just identify the "primary findings" at the top of this page where I was shown to be wrong, I decided it might be a good idea to also identify the findings were I was shown to be right.  So, I went through the list and added "CONFIRMED" after each entry which has now been confirmed by the FBI.

"Confirmed" seems less likely to generate arguments than "Proven," which many people will dispute because, to  them, nothing is "proven" if they can find reason to disbelieve it.  I did, however, put "PROVEN" after the finding related to the J-Lo letter.  As far as I'm concerned, the facts prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the J-Lo letter did not contain anthrax and had nothing to do with the anthrax mailings.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, August 3, thru Saturday, August 9, 2008

August 9, 2008 (D) - It occurs to me that DNA fingerprinting should be able to easily tell if the spores found in the AMI building in Florida came from the same batch as the spores found in the New York Post letter.  That would put to rest all arguments over the so-called J-Lo letter and whether or not the Florida anthrax came from a third batch as some people keep insisting.

I'm not certain, however, if DNA fingerprinting will be able to tell us if Kathy Nguyen was infected by the media mailing or the senate mailing.  The facts clearly say she was infected by the media mailing, but there are a lot of scientists who feel that she could only have been infected by the senate mailing, since none of other people infected in New York City got inhalation anthrax.  I think DNA fingerprinting can do it, but I'll try to talk to an expert to find out for sure.

Those are two more mysteries I'd really like to see solved.  If they can be solved by DNA fingerprinting, it should be very educational to a lot of people.

August 9, 2008 (C) - Digging through news articles from the past few days that I didn't have time to put on this site, I found a Washington Post article titled "Documents List Essential Clues" which contains a lot of interesting details about the evidence against Bruce Ivins that weren't as well explained in the news conference. 

I also found an Associated Press article from today that is titled "Analysis: What if a jury heard the anthrax case."  It lays out the evidence against Ivins and then shows how a lawyer would try to create reasonable doubt -- without any actual evidence that would disprove the government's evidence.  The government has to prove its case, the defense only needs to create doubt.   That's the problem when dealing with conspiracy theorists, too.  One side has proof, the other side works to create doubt about the proof.

August 9, 2008 (B) - One of the emails in my inbox that I hadn't previously studied pointed me to an article on a site called TVNewser where Brian Ross of ABC is put on the spot to explain why he reported that there was bentonite in the attack anthrax.  The article says,

"In the end, you're only as good as your sources," [Ross] said. "My sources were good, we just got information that became outdated before they could update.
...

The particulars of the story go back to October 26, 2001, when Ross reported, "three well-placed but separate sources" said the chemical in the anthrax was bentonite, linking it to Iraq. That same day, the White House denied it was bentonite.  ABC's Terry Moran reported the White House denial that night. Several days later, on November 1, Ross reported:

The White House said that despite initial test results which we reported suggesting the presence of a chemical called bentonite, a trademark of the Iraqi weapons program, a further chemical analysis has ruled that out. The White House says there are chemical additives in that anthrax including one called silica.
The three vital questions raised related to: 1. was ABC News lied to, 2. who were the sources and 3. what will ABC News do to correct it?

Taking the second question first, Ross tells us, "Our sources were current and former government scientists who were all involved in analyzing the substance in the letter."

He also makes clear that Ivins was not one of those scientists. "No he was not. If it was Ivins, I would report that in a second," Ross said.

Ross described why it was first reported as bentonite, and explains why ABC News was not lied to. "Their initial conclusion, based on microscopic examination was a brown substance that initially was reported as bentonite. We went back immediately after the White House told us it was not the case. We were told after further chemical analysis it was determined it was a silica, but not bentonite — something they had never seen before but had a brownish color."

Ross says he was told it was not bentonite not just by the White House, but by the same sources from the original report. But by not telling viewers, some have questioned whether Ross' sources were simply lying to ABC News to begin building a case against Iraq.

"It wasn't meant to read that way," said Ross. "From my point of view it gave national credibility to have on the record attribution and not some anonymous scientists."

Now we see that the scientists were not only wrong about the "brown substance" being bentonite, they were also wrong about it being silica.   My inbox is full of messages about the brown material.  Presumably, the government is also being pounded on this subject. If so, maybe we'll get a quick explanation and actual pictures of the "brown rings" that were seen around the spores. 

But we've already gotten lots of information about the problem of scientists making assumptions about things they've never seen before and telling the media, which then turns the assumptions into presumed facts because they came from scientists. 

August 9, 2008 (A) - This morning, I'm going to try to catch up on collecting articles for this site.  The first two that I've added are from today, The New York Times' article titled "Scientist Officially Exonerated in Anthrax Attacks" and The Washington Post's article titled "Prosecutors Clear Hatfill in Anthrax Case."  The Times says this:

Jeffrey A. Taylor, the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, said in the letter to Dr. Hatfill’s lawyer that “we have concluded, based on laboratory access records, witness accounts and other information, that Dr. Hatfill did not have access to the particular anthrax used in the attacks, and that he was not involved in the anthrax mailings.”
It's going to be very difficult for those who were pointing at Dr. Hatfill to continue to argue that he could still be the killer and that this could still be part of the coverup.  But some True Believers will undoubtedly continue arguing along that line.

Meanwhile, I think it's time for me to say "I told you so."

Even more interesting to me, The Washington Post article also contains this:

Meanwhile, two days after the release of documents in the case, investigators sought to put to rest a nearly seven-year-old controversy over whether the anthrax mailer used special additives to make the concoction even more lethal.

Since the fall of 2001, federal officials have made contradictory statements about whether the powdered anthrax contained a form of the mineral silicon. The presence of silicon dioxide -- also known as silica -- would be highly significant, suggesting that the bioterrorist took additional steps to ensure that the powder would not clump and would penetrate deeply into victims' lungs. Silica was part of the recipe for a particularly deadly anthrax weapon made by Soviet military scientists.

On Nov. 7, 2001, then-Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said at a news conference that the anthrax powder contained silica, a statement that implied that the bioterrorist had access to secret government formulas for making biological weapons.

But in the documents released this Wednesday, the FBI clarified Ridge's statement. The powder contained not silica but silicon, which was present "within the spores," the documents said. There was no silica coating on the spores, as would be expected if someone had deliberately added the material to keep the spores from clumping.

Two government scientists with knowledge of the FBI's investigation said the presence of silicon, while not fully explained, does not appear to be significant. The scientists, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the silicon was probably an inadvertent contaminant and might have been introduced when the bacteria was being grown in the lab.

Most of the 418 emails still awaiting filing in my inbox relate to the silica coating argument.  I've yet to read the latest ones, but I can see the subject on many of them is "More silica BS," so I can imagine that the news isn't being fully accepted.   Some pictures of the attack anthrax might help, but probably not much.  Conspiracy theorists can rationalize almost anything to make it fit with their beliefs.

But, I think this is another area where I can say, "I told you so."

August 8, 2008 (B) - Today has been another day where I've been overwhelmed with emails by people who do not believe all or part of the FBI's conclusions about Bruce Ivins.  But reporters, scientists and conspiracy theorists aren't the only ones who disbelieve.  Senator Grassley has issued a Press Release where he "seeks answers to the FBI's Amerithrax investigation."   He lists 18 questions he wants answered.  The questions below are examples:

   2.  When (month and year) did the FBI determine that Dr. Hatfill never had access to the anthrax used in the killings?

   3. How did the FBI determine that Dr. Hatfill did not have access to the anthrax used in the killings?  Was that because the FBI determined that Dr. Hatfill no longer worked at USAMRIID when the powder was made?

   4. Was Dr. Hatfill or his counsel informed that Dr. Hatfill had been cleared of any involvement in the anthrax killings before the Department of Justice offered a settlement to him?  Was he informed before signing the settlement agreement with him?  If not, please explain why not.

It looks like the FBI has a lot of explaining to do.   Over the weekend I'll try to put more articles on this site which show just how many people are asking questions. 

August 8, 2008 (A) - People on an email forum have been discussing what was found in an Associated Press article yesterday.  The article says this: 

Separately on Thursday, the FBI said in an affidavit that computers recently seized from a Frederick, Md., library may hold clues about Ivins and the mailings.

Ivins used the computers for about 90 minutes on July 24 to read e-mail and review a Web site dedicated to the anthrax investigation, Special Agent Marlo Arredondo wrote in the seven-page document. Ivins went to the library on the day he was released from a two-week psychiatric hospital stay that followed his counselor's petition for a protective order — and just a few days before he took his own life.

A check of my web site logs found a visit at 7:13 p.m EDT from www.fcpl.org, which is the Frederick County Public Libraries.  Assuming that was Ivins, he just looked at the main page, not going anywhere else.  But the main page on that day had my comments for July 24, 2008 which were all about Kelli Arena's interview with FBI Director Mueller which include a link to the video and these quotes from Director Mueller:
I’m confident that it [the anthrax case] will be resolved.

I tell you, we’ve made great progress in the investigation.  It’s in no way dormant.

I never got any emails from Ivins, as far as I know, and I know all the people who sent me emails on July 24.   I've had a great number of visits from Frederick County Public Libraries over the years.   I have no way of knowing how many were from Ivins.  He may not have aways used the same computer, maybe not even the same library. 

The visit from the Fredrick County Public Libraries on July 24 was the result of a Google search for "Ed Lake."  That might seem creepy or ominous, but, in reality, it's the way a lot of people access my site  - if they don't use a bookmarks/favorite list.  It allows them to type in a minimal number of characters to get to my site.

I don't know who to contact at the FBI to tell them this, but, since there doesn't seem to be anything "confidential" about it,  putting it on my web site seems as good a way as any.  The FBI can call me if they need more details.

August 7, 2008 (B) - I'm falling hopelessly behind on posting articles because I'm getting flooded with emails.  I've got over 200 in my inbox.  A lot of the emails are about these two sentences from the FBI document located HERE:

Microscopic examination of the evidentiary spore powders recovered from all four letters identified an elemental signature of Silicon within the spores. The Silicon signature had not been previously described for Bacillus anthracis organisms.
While discussing what this means as related to the imaginary silica coatings some people believe to have been on the spores, I received a document in an email from someone at the FBI (yes, an "anonymous source").  He sent me a scientific report from 1964 titled "Spectrochemical Analysis of Inorganic Elements in Bacteria."   And I also got this explanation (which I've slightly edited):
It appears that the adage that "you are what you eat" is literally true for bacteria – they are constructed of the molecules and elements that make up their growth medium.  It turns out that one of the elements that Bacillus incorporates into spores is silicon. Although this was observed as early as 1964, it still comes as a surprise to a lot of people. One reason is that silicon is not considered an essential element. The reasoning for this is that if it were, it would have showed up in the early metabolism work. Basically, no one looked for silicon in spores because no one was interested. Apparently, they remained uninterested even after it was found in spores.  The author of the article, M.A. Rouf noted that silicon (among other elements) was incorporated into spores at much higher levels than in vegetative cells (the 1964 article). Note that Rouf found silicon in spores, but didn't add silicon to the culture media. Rouf addressed the issue directly and looked for it in his media after the fact. He found it in the water he used, which is not surprising since silicon is the 2nd most abundant element on earth.
So, the silicon detected by AFIP was just another element often found in spores.  But, since AFIP hadn't examined dry spores in such a way before, finding the element silicon was a surprise, and they made false assumptions about what it meant.  (See "To Err Is Human.")  I've been calling it "lab contamination," but it's really just "naturally occurring" silicon as the FBI has been saying for many years.  (Gary Matsumoto ridiculed the idea in his infamous Science article.)

While not yet "official," it's very likely that this will be made known via published scientific reports in the not too distant future. 

It doesn't end the debate over coatings, of course, since the conspiracy theorists won't accept anything that disproves their beliefs if there is some way they can rationalize another explanation -- like this being more misinformation from the FBI. 

August 7, 2008 (A) - I watched the news conference twice last night, and many parts more than twice as sections were rerun on various news broadcasts.  The pattern I seemed to see was that the people who were reading the FBI documents felt that the FBI had a case that would definitely get an indictment, but the people who just watched the news conference weren't convinced in any way that the FBI had a case.

I recorded the CNN and FOX versions of the news conference, and the tail end of the MSNBC version.  I recorded NBC Nightly News and ABC News Tonight.  I recorded the News Hour on PBS.  And I recorded "Countdown with Keith Obermann."  And I watched them all. 

On "Countdown with Keith Obermann,"  Obermann talked with Gerald Posner, an "investigative journalist" who talked about how there was no way that a single person could create the "extremely sophisticated" spores in the anthrax letters, with their tiny size, their electrical charge, and with "polyglass on top of the coatings" to make certain the spores got deep into the lungs.  And he talked about all the scientists who agreed with him.  So, the absolute nonsense printed in Science Magazine continues to be believed by many who continue to voice their beliefs to anyone who will listen.   (Posner also talked about how Bruce Ivins' mental health could have made him susceptible to manipulation by others -- who used him as a pawn in some vast criminal conspiracy.)

As one might expect, a lot of the discussion in my email inbox this morning is about this sentence found in one of the released documents

Microscopic examination of the evidentiary spore powders recovered from all four letters identified an elemental signature of Silicon within the spores. This Silicon signature had not been previously described for Bacillus anthracis organisms.
The discussion was about what "signature" means, what "within" means and why silicon is mentioned, but not silica.  I can tell people that it's all about the same thing that was found in the spores written about back in 1980.  (Check HERE and HERE.)  But they just continue to hunt for some meaning that would fit a conspiracy theory.

For me, the news conference just generated more arguments.  It didn't really resolve any.  The FBI certainly has a better case against Ivins than I've seen against anyone else.  And there are MANY compelling elements in the DOJ's case, specifically Ivins' attempts to mislead the FBI and to point them at other people. 

But I was very disappointed to have the FBI and DOJ say that they couldn't get any scientific conclusions from the handwriting, although some people had opinions.

Where do we go from here? 

It was said in the news conference that some of the scientific details would be coming out in published scientific journals.  But no one has any idea how long that will take. 

My feeling is that the time when there won't be anything for me to comment about may not be far off.  The arguments will solidify if there is no new information to churn things up.   I think the arguments about silica coatings will be resolved.  And there will almost certainly be new scientific reports explaining how the new science misnamed "DNA fingerprinting" pointed to Ivins.    But, what can we expect after that? 

August 6, 2008 (D) - Lots of stuff to analyze and think about.  I think I need a good night's sleep so I can really dig into things tomorrow.  Nighty night.

August 6, 2008 (C) - I've been told that MSNBC is saying the news conference where the case will be discussed by the FBI and/or the DOJ will be at 3 p.m. EDT. 

The documents are already on line HERE.

August 6, 2008 ((B) - According to an article in today's Wall Street Journal, the combination of "strains" (which appear to be variations of the Ames strain) found on the flask used by Bruce Ivins both implicate Ivins and exonerate Dr. Hatfill: 

Records show when those strains were grown, when they shipped and where they went. The two strains intersected at one place: the bacteriology division of the lab at Fort Detrick, where Dr. Ivins worked. Agents discovered that the strains arrived months after the 1999 departure of Steven Hatfill, the scientist who had been the prime focus of the bureau's efforts.
August 6, 2008 (A) - I finally found time to make the strikethroughs in the list of primary findings at the top of this page.  But I still keep getting emails from people who want me to fight the FBI's findings.  They're worried that I'll accept them blindly.  I won't.  But, it's already abundantly clear that they have more and better evidence against Bruce Ivins than I ever had against any scientist who lives and works in Central New Jersey.

The evidence may not yet be "official," but it soon should be.  Today's Los Angeles Times contains an article titled "FBI to reveal evidence in anthrax case."  And The New York Times has "Justice Dept. Set to Share Details in Anthrax Case" which includes this:

“What we have seen over the past few days has been a mix of improper disclosures of partial information mixed with inaccurate information and then drawn into unfounded conclusions,” said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Justice Department. “None of that serves the victims, their families or the public. Likewise, we will not discuss reports or details on the timing of briefings to the public or victims and their families. We will provide such details to the press at the appropriate time, and not before.”
An example of "inaccurate information" could be in an article from The Washington Post which includes this:
Authorities had learned that they were dealing with one of 89 strains of anthrax bacteria. They identified their culprit as the Ames strain, cultivated in Ames, Iowa, from a sample taken from a dead cow in Texas. They had learned this by performing autopsies on the victims, which was, in itself, controversial.
The facts say that the Ames strain never went to Ames, Iowa.

August 5, 2008 (B) - It's looking more and more like official information may start to be released tomorrow.   The Associated Press says,

Authorities investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks will begin meeting with victims' families Wednesday to discuss the case, family members said, an indication that some lingering questions in the investigation may soon be answered.

The government is expected to declare the case solved but will keep it open for now, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. Several legal and investigatory matters need to be wrapped up before the case can officially be closed, they said.

Another Associated Press article asks some questions that need answering. 

August 5, 2008 (A) - The leaks continue.  Today's Washington Post contains an article titled "Anthrax Dryer a Key To Probe"  The article contains interesting information about a freeze drying device and Ivins' use of it: 

Ivins's possession of the drying device, known as a lyopholizer, could help investigators explain how he might have been able to send letters containing deadly anthrax spores to U.S. senators and news organizations.

The device was not commonly used by researchers at the Army's sprawling biodefense complex at Fort Detrick, Md., where Ivins worked as a scientist, employees at the base said. Instead, sources said, Ivins had to go through a formal process to check out the lyopholizer, creating a record on which authorities are now relying.
...

The lyopholizer Ivins used in the fall of 2001 is commonly employed by pharmaceutical companies and laboratories, as well as food processors, to freeze a liquid broth of bacteria and quickly transform it into a dry solid without a thawing stage.

Scientists and biodefense experts familiar with USAMRIID's procedures say that Ivins's department rarely used such freeze-dryers, because the researchers there worked with anthrax bacteria in a liquid form.

"Dry anthrax is much harder to work with," said one scientist familiar with Ivins's lab. A lyopholizer would fit inside the ventilated "biosafety cabinet" at the lab and could have been used without drawing notice, the scientist said. The machine could have processed a few small batches of anthrax liquid in less than a day, he said.

Other biodefense experts noted that the drying step could have been carried out with equipment no more complicated than a kitchen oven.

But the part of the the Washington Post article that seems to be generating the most discussion is this:
Significant mysteries remain, including whether the attacks that involved letters mailed from Florida and Princeton, N.J., could have been carried out by one person.
I'm amazed that anyone still believes that there must be a connection between hoax letters mailed from Florida and the anthrax letters.  And the J-Lo letter is still being mentioned, too.  Check out my Analysis of the J-Lo Letter for details about that. 

An article in yesterday's New York Times was titled "Anthrax Evidence Called Mostly Circumstantial."  That kind of headline tends to set my teeth on edge because many people seem to believe that circumstantial evidence isn't "real" evidence.  It is.  In fact, it's the kind of evidence used in the vast majority of criminal cases that go to trial.

I've mentioned this many times, but maybe a rephrasing will help.

Prima facie evidence (a.k.a. "smoking gun" evidence) is evidence that doesn't require any further evidence.  Example: a video of the "suspect" hacking the victim to death with an axe while screaming "I hate you, I hate you."  There's no real need to look at fingerprints, blood spatter patterns, DNA, an alibi or even the motive. 

Circumstantial evidence is evidence which requires that a jury examine in total before making a decision.  After looking at all the evidence, the jury must decide if it is certain beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. 

As we are seeing, one thing most people definitely do not like doing is waiting until all the evidence has been presented before making decisions.   And we're seeing a good example of that as the news about Ivins comes out, and with it all sorts of opinions about each piece of evidence.  Almost no one is waiting to see it all.

One example of that is an opinion piece by Richard Spertzel in today's Wall Street Journal titled, "Bruce Ivins Wasn't the Anthrax Culprit."  Spertzel writes:

According to a FBI news release from November 2001, the particles were coated by a "product not seen previously to be used in this fashion before." Apparently, the spores were coated with a polyglass which tightly bound hydrophilic silica to each particle. That's what was briefed (according to one of my former weapons inspectors at the United Nations Special Commission) by the FBI to the German Foreign Ministry at the time.

Another FBI leak indicated that each particle was given a weak electric charge, thereby causing the particles to repel each other at the molecular level. This made it easier for the spores to float in the air, and increased their retention in the lungs.

So, the coating issue is not dead.  There are still some believers.  Their information may be totally wrong, and even scientifically absurd, but that doesn't change their beliefs.  The information, particularly in the second paragraph, is almost certainly from the much discussed Gary Matsumoto article in Science Magazine.

There's a Fox News story from yesterday which reminds everyone that Fox first broke the news that USAMRIID was the center of attention in the anthrax investigation.  The "news-breaking" article is from March 28, 2008, and was titled "FBI Focusing on 'About Four' Suspects in 2001 Anthrax Attacks."  No one else in the media picked up on it, and I dismissed it as a rehash of old news.  Here's what I wrote back then:

My first take on this is that it is an unconfirmed report based upon information from a single unidentified source, and not worth much at all.  I'll need a LOT of proof before I accept any of this as having anything to do with the actual investigation.  It looks more like Fox News has decided to report on someone's theory -- a theory based upon rumors, beliefs and unconnected tidbits of information that come down over the years.
The proof seems to be coming in.  I also wrote back then:
Conspiracy theorists have latched onto it as if it were holy writ.
And they are letting me know via emails that they were right and I was "wrong," although all I said was I needed more proof.   Also, there is nothing we've learned so far that confirms their belief that the attack anthrax came from some government bioweapons program.  All the new "leaked information" indicates say just the opposite.

An article in today's New York Times titled "Pressure Grows for F.B.I.’s Anthrax Evidence" contains a lot of good information, including this:

To make sure the case for the distinctive features of the attack anthrax could hold up in court, agents collected thousands of samples of Ames strain anthrax from labs around the world, said scientists familiar with the F.B.I.’s thinking. “This is the step that took so long,” one scientist said.
This is getting more and more interesting by the hour.  The leaks of information to the media could be a sign that a dam holding back a vast reservoir of information is about to let go.  Since Ivins is dead, we may never know for certain what his motive was.  And the FBI may never be able to convince everyone that he was the culprit.  But I will personally be very relieved to see some solid scientific information about the coatings controversythat has been raging through my email box for many years.

But even more than that, the one thing I really want to see is what the FBI has about the handwriting on the letters.  People keep writing me to ask if I noticed what was in the Associated Press about Ivins wife running a day care center.  Yes, I noticed.

August 4, 2008 - Information about evidence continues to pour in.  While none of it has yet been verified by the FBI, and all the sources are still anonymous, there really isn't much reason to doubt that at least some of it is valid information.   The reasons why the information cannot yet be officially released are given in an NPR article:

The FBI is expected to provide a briefing on the evidence as early as midweek. The timing depends on a number of factors. 

The case has to be formally closed before the FBI is no longer bound by grand jury secrecy requirements.

The bureau also has a blanket rule about not discussing pending cases. Normally, a case is closed by presenting evidence to the appropriate U.S. attorney and getting him or her to sign off on the case. Because the anthrax case is so high profile, officials said it is likely that Attorney General Michael Mukasey will have to sign off on closing it.

An article in today's Los Angeles Times contains more information about the evidence against Ivins.  The article is titled "Anthrax blend led FBI to Ivins."  And today's New York Times has an article titled "Anthrax Evidence Is Called Circumstantial."  It contains some information about what evidence may be coming:
That evidence includes tracing the prestamped envelopes used in the attacks to stock sold in three Maryland post offices, including one in Frederick, frequented by Dr. Ivins, who had long rented a post office box there under an assumed name, the source said. The evidence also includes records of the scientist’s extensive after-hours use of his lab at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases around the time the letters were mailed, the source said.
But it also includes information about what evidence will NOT be coming:
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation also have no evidence proving that Dr. Ivins visited New Jersey on the dates in September and October 2001 when investigators believe the letters were sent from a Princeton mailbox, the source said.
And there's this about what will be coming:
John Miller, an F.B.I. assistant director, declined on Sunday to address criticism of the investigation, one of the largest and most costly in bureau history.

“As soon as the legal constraints barring disclosure are removed, we will make public as much information as possible,” Mr. Miller said in a statement. “We will do that at one time, in one place. We will do that after those who were injured and the families of those who died are briefed, which is only appropriate.”

He added, “I don’t believe it will be helpful to respond piecemeal to any judgments made by anyone before they know a fuller set of facts.”

The unsealed evidence would likely include affidavits for search warrants laying out the bureau’s reasons for focusing on Dr. Ivins, including summaries of scientific evidence that investigators consider central to their case.

A longer version of an Associated Press article first seen yesterday titled "Scientist: DNA led agents to anthrax suspect" contains information about a new scientific technique the FBI had to wait for years to be perfected.  More HERE

Meanwhile, a couple firestorms seem to be brewing.  One firestorm is among those who have different theories about who sent the anthrax letters.  Very few of them seem to be accepting the idea that Bruce Ivins is the culprit or that he acted alone.  I even received an email from one person who says he is preparing a lawsuit against the FBI and DOJ for not thoroughly investigating his suspect.   Some who thought Hatfill was guilty see ample reason to believe Hatfill and Ivins were "in it" together.  I don't see anyone who believed that al Qaeda sent the anthrax letters changing their minds.

One person even argued that I should stick to my beliefs and argue that Ivins wasn't the culprit.  I couldn't do that, even if I wanted to, because I'm an analyst.  An analyst must always try to avoid "beliefs" and "opinions" and stick to what the facts say.  Before Friday, I simply didn't have any important facts about Ivins.  Now I do.  And that changes everything about who was "most likely" the anthrax mailer. 

The other firestorm that is brewing relates to the idea that a "homicidal" scientist could work in a top security place like USAMRIID, where he could make two different batches of powder from his own anthrax supply, put the powders into envelopes, and take them out of the "secure" government facility without anyone knowing about it

Probably 60 percent of the arguing I've been doing for the past five or six years has been about whether or not the attack spores were coated with silica.  The evidence still clearly says the spores were NOT coated with silica, but the conspiracy theorists have new ammunition now that USAMRIID is being viewed as the source of the powders. 

What I need to do now is figure out how to change things on this site (at least on the first page) that will probably be shown to be wrong.  I'll probably just do a striketrough on the bad information and provide a link to the correct information. 

Also, I was working on a new web page titled "Analyzing The J-Lo Letter" when the news broke about Ivins.  I was close to being finished with it, and it still seems like it contains valuable information, so, I'm adding it to this site right now even though it's not completed.  The facts are laid out very clearly.  I just haven't included summary information and material about the debates over the letter. 

In the days ahead, the FBI will hopefully make public a lot of previously classified information about evidence in the case.  But the months ahead may be more about analyzing the "evidence" that other people will be using to try to prove that the FBI was wrong in pointing at Ivins.  So, this seems to be a good time to show that the facts clearly prove that the J-Lo letter did not contain anthrax.

August 3, 2008 - Last night on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, I believe they said that the FBI was able to prove that the envelopes used in the anthrax mailings were purchased at a post office near where Bruce Ivins lived.  I didn't record the broadcast, and a quick search didn't find anything about it on the Net this morning.

The previous evening, August 1, I believe Brian Williams said something about the FBI matching the attack anthrax to a flask or container of some kind used by Ivins.  I was in the other room at the time and didn't hear the details.  But yesterday's Washington Post contains an article subtitled "Lethal Powder Was Traced to Office Where He Worked" that contains this:

Scientists working for the government matched the properties of anthrax powder in the letters to those of bacteria in a flask Ivins used in his laboratory, according to the government official and another source.
This is information about evidence.  It appears that insiders are starting to talk about evidence, which hopefully and probably means a lot more will soon be made public.

After sleeping on this information overnight, I now feel that I have to shift from being very skeptical about the Ivins stories in the news to being far less skeptical.  I think there's a definite possibility that the FBI may have had a good case against Ivins. 

I'd still like to see all the evidence, of course.  But I'm definitely beginning to feel that the end of this 7-year examination of facts versus beliefs is getting close.

Looking at the 12 "primary findings" listed at the top of this web site, it's beginning to look like #10 and #11 were totally wrong, and #7, #8 and #9 were partially wrong.

I've always said that I didn't know who sent the anthrax letters.  I could only analyze the information I could find.  And I recognized that it was totally possible that the FBI could have a ton of information proving the guilt of someone I never heard of.  That's beginning to look like a correct analysis.  Back on January 1, 2006, I wrote this:

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.
It's definitely beginning to look like experts involved in the Amerithrax investigation are about to release a lot of new information.  But I could be wrong about that.
Updates & Changes: Sunday, July 27, 2008, thru Saturday, August 2, 2008

August 2, 2008 - There's an old saying: If you can keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs -- maybe you just don't understand the situation.

Yes.  Maybe I don't understand the Dr. Ivins situation. 

There are certainly a lot of people who seem to believe that they understand it.  A mentally ill Ft. Detrick scientist is the anthrax mailer?  Of course.  People have been claiming for years that the anthrax must have been made at Ft. Detrick as part of some illegal U.S. Government bioweapons program.  So, now they've got a dead guy who a lot of people are saying was the anthrax mailer, and he worked with the Ames strain at Ft. Detrick.  What more could anyone want?

What some people want is answers.  What evidence is there against Dr. Ivins?  How did a family man manage to make two trips to the Princeton area without being missed?  Why did he choose Princeton for his mailings?  Did he really make the Xerox copies in New Jersey as reported?  Why?  Does his handwriting match the handwriting on the letters?  How did he manage to make powdered anthrax at Ft. Detrick without anyone noticing?  If they did notice, why aren't they being indicted as co-conspirators?  Or are they? What is the status of the grand jury investigation?

In today's New York Times, some germ warfare experts worry that "there is no evidence that Dr. Ivins ... had the skills to turn [anthrax] into an inhalable powder."

In spite of what some psychologists say, at least one of his fellow workers says he was "a popular guy."  According to his lawyer, he was "a world-renowned and highly decorated scientist who served his country for over 33 years  with the Department of the Army."  According to today's Hartford Courant, another co-worker said, "Bruce wasn't the type of person to me who would do something so cold and calculating.'' 

The Courant also includes this:

Meryl Nass, a Maine doctor who has worked with veterans suffering from the side effects of the anthrax vaccine and knew Ivins for years, said it "doesn't make sense" that Ivins would be the anthrax mailer.
And this: 
"He certainly wasn't near the top of my list of scientists from Fort Detrick who could have done this,'' [anthrax expert Martin Hugh-]Jones said. "If it's truly solved, then it's solved, but it's certainly not a clean case. If all they had was circumstantial evidence against him, how would you ever prove that you didn't do it and clear your name?"
The question isn't really if they had enough circumstantial evidence, the question is: What kind of evidence do they have -- circumstantial or otherwise?

Today's Los Angeles Times includes a new article by David Willman titled, "Anthrax scientist Bruce Ivins stood to benefit from a panic."  The article says,

 "Ivins would have stood to make tens of thousands of dollars, but not millions."
Is a profit of tens of thousands really enough of a motive?  And the guy was ready to go with his diabolical scheme in a week?  And he was motivated enough to make a higher grade of anthrax 3 weeks later when nothing came of his first try at generating panic? 

This really reminds me of the Dr. Kenneth Berry case from almost exactly 4 years ago.  Dr. Berry filed a patent shortly after 9/11, and people saw a possible profit motive there, too.  The media went into a feeding frenzy and tore a man's life apart because it looked like he might be the anthrax mailer -- or associated with the anthrax mailer.  For me back then, Dr. Berry was just a name that came "out of the blue."  The pieces just didn't fit there, either. 

Let's hope more of the "pieces" will be forthcoming soon.

August 1, 2008 (C) - I think everyone should read this response to an article about Bruce Ivins on Salon.com.  Click HERE.  There's something wrong about this media feeding frenzy.  Things just don't add up.

The web site TheSmokingGun.com has a copy of a restraining order served on Ivins' as a result of threats he made against a Maryland therapist who called him "homicidal, sociopathic with clear intentions."  That makes it easy to understand why the FBI might have him under surveillance, but it's still not any kind of evidence in the anthrax case.

The Wikipedia entry for Bruce Ivins has also been updated.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has published a statement that says virtually nothing, but which everyone will interpret as they see fit.  The statement is HERE.   Here's most of what the brief statement says:

The Justice Department, the FBI, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) today announced that there have been significant developments in the investigation into the 2001 anthrax mailings, which killed five individuals and injured 17 others. In particular, we are able to confirm that substantial progress has been made in the investigation by bringing to bear new and sophisticated scientific tools.

We are unable to provide additional information at this time. The Department, the FBI, and the USPIS have significant obligations to the victims of these attacks and their families that must be fulfilled before any additional information on the investigation can be made public. In addition, investigative documents remain under court seal.

We anticipate being able to provide additional details in the near future.

Let's hope that "near future" means days or weeks and not months or years.

August 1, 2008 (B) - In an article titled "Anthrax suspect dies in apparent suicide" David Willman of The Los Angeles Times apparently broke the Bruce Ivins story that filled my inbox with emails this morning.  Willman wrote: 

One of the nation’s top biodefense researchers has died in Maryland from an apparent suicide, just as the Justice Department was to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailing assaults of 2001 that killed five, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who for the past 18 years worked at the government’s elite biodefense research laboratories at Fort Detrick, Md., had been informed of the impending prosecution, people familiar with Ivins, his suspicious death and with the FBI investigation said.

The article also says this about Ivins mental condition:
Soon after the government’s settlement with Hatfill was announced June 27, Ivins began showing signs of serious strain. One of his longtime colleagues told the Times that Ivins, who was being treated for depression, indicated to a therapist that he was considering suicide. Soon thereafter, family members and local police officers escorted Ivins away from USAMRIID, where his access to sensitive areas was curtailed, the colleague said.
...

The scientist faced forced retirement, planned for September, said his longtime colleague, who described Ivins as emotionally fractured by the federal scrutiny.

“He didn’t have any more money to spend on legal fees. He was much more emotionally labile, in terms of sensitivity to things, than most scientists. ... He was very thin skinned.”

Interestingly, the article about Ivins in The Washington Post has a slightly different title: "Md. Anthrax Scientist Dies in Apparent Suicide."  Note that the headline does not call Ivins a "suspect."  The article says,:
A federal grand jury was preparing to indict a Maryland bioweapons expert for his role in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and terrorized the country, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.

Prosecutors were considering whether to seek the death penalty against Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who worked at an elite U.S. Army bioweapons laboratory in Fort Detrick. Ivins died Tuesday in an apparent suicide.

Paul F. Kemp, a criminal defense lawyer in Bethesda who has represented Ivins for the past year, declined to comment today but issued a statement that confirmed the federal investigation. He also asserted Ivins' innocence. 

And this:
Kemp said Ivins had cooperated with investigators for the last six years and was a "world-renowned and highly decorated scientist who served his country for over 33 years with the Department of the Army."

In the last few weeks, Kemp, an experienced death penalty attorney, had been appointed to represent Ivins at public expense because Ivins was in danger of losing his job upon indictment, one source said.

and
For the past several months, the grand jury had been hearing testimony from scientists who worked alongside Ivins at Fort Detrick, performing research on inhaled anthrax spores, according to the Times report. While the Times report said Ivins worked in the elite biodefense lab since 1990, the News-Post obituary said he had been a scientist at Fort Detrick for 36 years.
and
In 2003, Ivins and two of his colleagues at the USAMRIID -- the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick -- received the highest honor given to Defense Department civilian employees for helping solve technical problems in the manufacture of anthrax vaccine.
As one would expect from The Washington Post, there is also a lot of information about Dr. Hatfill in the article.

There are news stories which say that the FBI has been keeping Ivins' home under surveillance for a year. 

An article in The Associated Press has this bizarre comment:

The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to close the investigation, officials said, meaning it's still not certain whether Ivins acted alone or had help. One official close to the case said that decision was expected within days. If the case is closed soon, one official said, that will indicate that Ivins was the lone suspect.
Is that just an interpretation from reporters?  If the case is still open, a reporter might write such a statement even if the truth were that Ivins' role in the attacks was minor. 

The article says this about the grand jury:

Henry S. Heine, a scientist who had worked with Ivins on inhalation anthrax research at Fort Detrick, said he and others on their team have testified before a federal grand jury in Washington that has been investigating the anthrax mailings for more than a year. He declined to comment on Ivins' death.
I certainly hope that we learn more about the evidence in this case.  There is absolutely NOTHING about evidence in any of these news articles. 

Since I work with facts, there's nothing here (so far) that changes anything.  There are no facts which would alter my analysis.  And there seems to be a lot of area for misinterpetations by reporters.   There is a lot of information in the articles about things that Ivins may have done after the anthrax attacks which could have violated laws.  But none would make him a candidate for the death penalty.

I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and wait for some official information. 

It definitely appears that something official is about to happen.  And, even if Ivins is dead, that probably wouldn't stop a grand jury from issuing an indictment.

August 1, 2008 (A) - While watching the news during breakfast this morning, CNN reported that a "suspect" in the anthrax murders of 2001 had committed suicide just before he was to be arrested.  The man's name is "Bruce Ivins."   Links: HERE, HERE, HERE.  David Willman of The Los Angeles Times seems to have broken the story.  The Washington Post has a lot of information about Ivins' legal troubles.  And article by The Associated Press has this troubling information:

The Justice Department has not yet decided whether to close the investigation, officials said, meaning it's still not certain whether Ivins acted alone or had help. One official close to the case said that decision was expected within days. If the case is closed soon, one official said, that will indicate that Ivins was the lone suspect.
If they close the case, we're definitely going to need some information about evidence.  There doesn't appear to be any information about evidence in the news reports.

Bruce Ivins is a name I don't recall ever hearing before (but I'm told his name appears in several articles on this site).  Since the FBI isn't commenting, I think I'd better study this situation before I comment any further.

July 27, 2008 - There were endless discussions and arguments last week, but nothing significant or new came from them.  I had hoped to put together a new supplemental page titled "Lessons from the J-Lo letter," but I wasn't able to find time to work on it.  Although I've been saying for many years that it is clear from the facts that the so-called "J-Lo letter" did not contain any anthrax, I was a bit surprised to learn that a large number of people still believe the "J-Lo letter" did contain anthrax.  Laying out all the facts in one on-line forum made absolutely NO impression.  Doing the same thing with someone else in an email forum had the same effect.  I tried contacting an official source about it, but the weekend arrived before anything worthwhile was said.

In addition to a lot of discussion about Kelli Arena's interview with FBI Director Mueller (and all the "vibes" that were associated with that interview), there was also some discussion last week about an article in the June 2007 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology titled "Stable Isotope Ratios and Forensic Analysis of Microorganisms."  The article seems to say that the forensic science which determines information from stable isotopes is ready for court and may be used in the prosecution of the anthrax mailer, although the article says nothing about what has been learned about the attack anthrax by measuring stable isotopes.  Presumably, at minimum, it confirms the NBC report from October 5, 2006, which said "the water used to make them came from a northeastern U.S., not a foreign, source."

Updates & Changes: Sunday, July 20, 2008, thru Saturday, July 26, 2008

July 25, 2008 - The CNN article which contains the video clip of FBI Director Mueller discussing the anthrax attacks of 2001 can be found HERE

July 24, 2008 - Someone sent me a link to a video clip where CNN's Kelli Arena questions FBI Director Mueller about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Here's my attempt at a transcription of the interesting (and seemingly up-beat) exchange:

Kelli Arena: Are you still confident?

FBI Director Mueller: I am still confident, and people who are not familiar with the investigation -- ah -- could criticize.  I'm confident in the course of the investigation.  I'm confident in the steps that have been taken in the course of the investigation.  And I’m confident that it will be resolved.

Arena: Is there any –

Mueller: I tell you, we’ve made great progress in the investigation.  It’s in no way dormant. It’s active.

Arena: Would you say describe it as there have been breakthroughs?

Mueller: In some sense there have been breakthroughs, yes.

Arena: Is there something that by the time that you’re finished, by the time that your tenure is done, do you predict that you’ll have the anthrax killer?

Mueller:  I’m not going to comment on that.  I’m not going to give you a time frame on that.  We have a number of cases.  Some take longer, some take shorter.  You take a case like the – you mentioned the Unabomber – Kaczynski – it was a case we worked on for a good long time.  We got a break in the case and it folded up pretty quickly.  You don’t know when you get to that particular point.  So, I don’t want to give a particular time frame.

This seems to be very close to what was on ABC a few days ago.  So, it appears that Director Mueller is talking with the media about the case - but not saying very much, other than that the case is "in no way dormant."  The questioning in both situations seems to be related to the fact that the FBI was created 100 years ago today. 

July 21, 2008 - I learned something while skimming through an article in today's Maryland Daily Record titled "No malice found in Hatfill case."  I may have been totally wrong when I assumed that the Appeals Court ruling ended the lawsuit between Dr. Hatfill and The New York Times.  The Daily Record article says:

Steven J. Hatfill’s attorneys have vowed to pursue his libel claim against the New York Times despite a federal appeals court’s refusal to reinstate the bioterrorism expert’s claim that the newspaper defamed him.
and
Hatfill attorney Mark A. Grannis said the 4th Circuit interpreted “public figure” too broadly. Hatfill’s expertise on bioterrorism should not enable the New York Times and Kristof to accuse him of having initiated the deadly anthrax attacks, added Grannis, a partner at Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP’s Washington, D.C. office.

“If Steven Hatfill was a public figure when Kristof wrote about him, then so are we all,” Grannis said in a prepared statement. “We believe the court has misapplied the law of defamation, but if we are wrong about that, then the law of defamation is badly in need of revision. Either way, we intend to press on with the case.

Evidently, that means they plan to appeal to a higher court -- either to the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or to the U.S. Supreme Court -- or both, one after the other. 

July 20, 2008 - I'm not sure what to make of the comment by FBI Director Robert Mueller in the ABC News article from yesterday titled "At the FBI, Cold Cases Are Not a Thing of the Past."  ABC could just have put sentences together that don't really belong together when they wrote this:

But beyond Bin Laden, FBI Director Robert Mueller says there are many mysteries the FBI wants solved — such as the anthrax attacks. Five people were killed, 17 sickened and nearly seven years later no arrest appears imminent.

"I never give time frames, because you never know where you'll have sufficient evidence to go public with a prosecution," Mueller said. 

Does that mean anything?  Probably not.  And things seem to be quieting down again.  Probably the other only thing I haven't yet mentioned about last week is the fact that Bruce Budowle made this comment on that ABC National Radio show from Australia:
I would never use the term DNA fingerprinting because I don't think it's a good moniker for what we do, but the concept there is that if you do enough and the right kind of genetic markers you can essentially identify an individual to the exclusion of all others—unless they have an identical twin. 
I found that interesting because in my July 12 comment I talked about a scientific report titled "Microbial Forensics: DNA Fingerprinting of Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax)."

Bruce Budowle says you can use "DNA fingerprinting" to identify someone to the exclusion of all others "unless they have an identical twin."  The problem is: there are no more totally identical twins than clones, which is essentially what an anthrax bacterium creates -- clones of itself.

Maybe it's just my imagination, but I get the feeling that scientists who work with anthrax DNA feel that they know just about all they need to know to make positive identifications.  But the FBI is saying that's not enough to arrest and successfully prosecute the anthrax mailer.  Does the FBI have everything else they need?  I dunno.  The "vibes" were very strong during the past few weeks, but now everything is quiet. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, July 13, 2008, thru Saturday, July 19, 2008

July 18, 2008 - In an interview with ABC National Radio in Australia dated yesterday, Bruce Budowle of the FBI makes this statement when asked about the anthrax used in the attacks of 2001:

Bruce Budowle: Well there's a couple of things in it, the first person exposed to it there was no letters ever found, that was Robert Stevens in the AMI Building in Florida, he was discovered as having the disease by an astute physician who did a very good differential diagnosis and determined he had anthrax. 
I keep hoping for clarification of details of the anthrax attacks, but instead we get that kind of mistatement which doesn't help at all. 

I'm sure that Mr. Budowle knows that the first person exposed to the attack anthrax in 2001 was not Bob Stevens at AMI.  Stevens was the first person to be diagnosed as having anthrax from that attacks.  We don't know who the first person to be exposed was, but it was probably a mail handler (if it wasn't the mailer).  We know that Stevens was the 8th person to show symptoms of anthrax.  The first person to show symptoms was Joanna Huden at The New York Post.  And since she started showing symptoms of cutaneous anthrax on September 22, 2001, just four days after the media letters were postmarked, there's a very good chance that she was among the first to be exposed.

When asked about the anthrax attacks, Mr. Budowle simply says,

Well it's an ongoing investigation so I can't comment any further on it at this point. 
The audio version of the broadcast is much more informative than the transcript.

July 17, 2007 - Yesterday's Washington Post contains a transcript titled "Obama Remarks On Confronting Terrorist Threats."  It includes this paragraph:

Just as we must guard against the spread of nuclear terrorism, it's time for a comprehensive effort to tackle bioterror. We have still failed to solve the anthrax attacks that killed Americans on our soil in 2001. We know that Al Qaida was attempting to develop biological weapons in Afghanistan. And we know that the successful deployment of a biological weapon -- whether it is sprayed into our cities or spread through our food supply -- could kill tens of thousands of Americans and deal a crushing blow to our economy.
While Senator Obama doesn't exactly say that he thinks "Al Qaida" sent the anthrax letters, one could get that impression from what he did say. 

On the other hand, when talking about terrorism, it's difficult to mention the anthrax attacks without pointing the blame somewhere -- no matter how vaguely.  Al Qaeda seems as good an entity to blame as any, and politically better than most.  It's very likely that the "average American" believes that al Qaeda was behind the attacks.  Any attempt to point the finger -- as the FBI has done -- at some domestic "lone wolf" would accomplish nothing but generate arguments and attacks by those who feel the FBI is totally wrong in that analysis.  And if the vast majority of Americans believe it wasn't a domestic "lone wolf," why provoke them?  Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain knows who did it, and there's no point in generating arguments during the election season, particularly when you don't have solid facts.  Besides, hinting that the FBI is probably wrong could be worth a few extra votes in today's political climate.

July 14, 2008 - According today's New York Sun, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., has ruled that Steven Hatfill was a public figure before Nicholas Kristof and others made him a public figure.  As a "public figure," you cannot sue for libel without proving malice.  And Nicholas Kristof simply believed the wrong people, he wasn't deliberately malicious when he pointed the finger at Dr. Hatfill.  That means that the dismissal of the libel case Dr. Hatfill filed against the Times is upheld.   It appears to bring to an end the last of Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits, and it also brings to a close that fascinating side issue in the anthrax attacks of 2001. 

July 13, 2008 - For years I've avoided mentioning the name Dr. Philip M. Zack on this web site.  He's the "person of interest" identified by numerous neo-Nazi web web sites as being definitely, most likely or possibly responsible for the anthrax attacks of 2001.  I didn't want to do anything to help the neo-Nazis in their efforts to blame The Great Jewish Conspiracy for the anthrax attacks.  And it was always very clear that the main reason they chose to point the finger at Dr. Zack was because his name seems Jewish. 

However, the time now seems right to point out the facts about Dr. Zack, particularly one key fact that came to light recently: Dr. Philip M. Zack is actually a Catholic.

Because I've avoided mentioning Dr. Zack, this may all be new to some readers of this web site.  That means I need more than just this brief comment to explain it all.

As of this morning, I've created a new web page called "Clash Of The True Believers" or "Dr. Philip Zack is a Catholic."  You can read the new page about Dr. Philip Zack by clicking on the entry in the Table of Contents - or go directly to it by clicking HERE.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, July 6, 2008, thru Saturday, July 12, 2008

July 12, 2008 - A new scientific paper titled "Microbial Forensics: DNA Fingerprinting of Bacillus anthracis (Anthrax)" probably provides some new insights into what kind of DNA evidence can be used against the anthrax mailer.  But, I'll need time to study it. 

What I get from a quick read of the article is that the new science of Microbial Forensics is ready for court -- as far as the authors of this article are concerned. 

July 10, 2008 (B) - According to The Hill, yesterday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey was before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Senator Patrick Leahy brought up the subject of the anthrax attacks.  The Hill says very little, however, a blogger sent me a lot more information, which I confirmed by checking http://www.c-span.org/ and looking for "Senate Judiciary Cmte. on DoJ Oversight (July 9, 2008)."  According to the blogger and what is on CSPAN (2 hours and 34 minutes into the 2 hour and 38 minutes session), the exchange went like this: 

Leahy: I almost hate to get into the case of Steven Hatfill. I've refrained from discussing this, I've refused to discuss it with the press. I've told them some aspects of it I was aware of were classified so of course I could not discuss it but also, considering the fact that my life was threatened by an anthrax letter, two people died who touched a letter addressed to me I was supposed to open, I'm somewhat concerned.

What happened?

Mukasey: That case ...

Leahy: We're paying Hatfill millions of dollars, the indication being the guy who committed the crime went free.

Mukasey: Well, um, I don't understand, quote, the guy who committed the crime, unquote, to have gone free. What I do understand is...

Leahy: Nobody's been convicted.

Mukasey: Not yet.

Leahy: And five people are dead.

Mukasey: Yes, um...

Leahy: And hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent.

Mukasey: That case is under active investigation and I need to be very careful about what I say.

Leahy: We won't go any further. As I say, I feel somewhat reluctant because I was one of the targets. But I gotta say, what families of the people who died went through, what families of the people who were crippled went through, even what my family went through. A lot of people are concerned and I won't say more because we are in open session but I think you and I probably should have a private talk about this sometime.

Mukasey: That's fine.

Clearly both parties in that exchange know more than they want to talk about in public.  Interpret that however you want.  I interpret it as meaning just as AG Mukasey says, the case is under active investigation and everyone needs to be careful about what they say.  Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I get VERY positive vibes from that exchange.

July 10, 2008 (A) - Judge Walton has cancelled the Order he issued compelling James Stewart (formerly of CBS) to name his sources, "since the identities of his sources are no longer needed by the plaintiff to prove the plaintiff’s Privacy Act claims."

July 9, 2008 (C) - Every time I read about some new forensic capability, I have to wonder if it could help identify and convict the person behind the anthrax mailings.

Someone just sent me an article titled "Boulder DA: New DNA clears Ramsey family" which describes a new technique called "DNA 'touch' analysis."  The article describes how skin cells were found via this technique in a different area of the child's clothing, and the cells match the DNA found elsewhere via other techniques. 

That makes me wonder if this new "touch analysis" technique can also find evidence in the anthrax mailings.  Unfortunately, there are ways of writing letters, sealing them and mailing them without ever touching them with your bare hands -- if you have a biosafety cabinet and some Glad Bags handy.   And the letters were Xerox copies, which can be easily made without actually touching them with your hands. 

But, if a child addressed the envelopes, as the evidence very clearly indicates, would the child have been asked to wear rubber gloves -- perhaps to avoid getting the envelopes dirty?  Or would the culprit have felt that if the envelopes were wiped of fingerprints after they were addressed, nothing incriminating would be detectable after the letters went through the mail system?

There's certainly nothing about the handwriting on the envelopes (or the letters) to indicate that the writer wore awkward gloves while writing.

Could the DNA of an innocent child be used to help convict the anthrax mailer?

Lots to think about today. 

July 9, 2008 (B) - Today's CNN article "Senate Defeats Bid To Cut Telco Immunity From Wiretapping Bill" may seem totally unrelated to the Amerithrax investigation, but, if viewed from the right angle, it may directly relate. 

In my book, and probably in several places on this web site, I discuss a hypothetical situation: The "anthrax mailer" may have called the "anthrax supplier" from Central New Jersey on the evening of September 17, 2001, the day before the media letters were postmarked.   The "mailer" may have called the "supplier" (who lives in a distant state) to tell him about the letters he just dropped in a mailbox and to warn him that the DNA of the anthrax might somehow be traced back to the "supplier." 

If  this happened (and that's a BIG if ), there should be phone records of the call.

However, although the "supplier" might have RECEIVED the phone call at his home in a distant state, phone companies don't generally keep records of INCOMING calls (unless they are collect calls), only outgoing calls.  So, a dump of the "supplier's" phone records would find nothing.

And it seems extremely unlikely that the "anthrax mailer" would have called the "supplier" from his home or office in Central New Jersey.  So a dump of those phone records would find also nothing. 

However, it also seems very unlikely that the "anthrax mailer" would have travelled any great distance from his home or from the site of the mailbox to make the call. 

So, let's assume (for the sake of discussion) he made the call from a public phone booth near some randomly chosen gas station somewhere in Central New Jersey.

And let's assume that "supplier" hastily created a perfect alibi for himself for the 18th of September, absolutely proving he was nowhere near Central New Jersey.

If so, then if a line on a map were drawn from the "mailer's" home (or lab) to the site of the mailbox, and if the phone records for EVERY phone within 10 miles of that line were provided to the FBI (or to the NSA which has better computers to do searching) they could look for any call that was made in that area to the home of the "supplier" on the day the letters were most likely mailed -- the day before they were postmarked.  To be safe, they could also check two or three days before and the 18th of September. 

If a phone call had been made from that area to the "supplier's" home, it wouldn't be conclusive proof that the "supplier" was involved, but it would be very STRONG circumstantial evidence that the "anthrax mailer" called him.  It would clearly establish a link between a possible "supplier" and someone in Central New Jersey.  Any claim that it was just a wrong number wouldn't likely be believed by a jury.

The only problem is: How legal is it to search EVERYONE's phone records in a large area to find out who called the "supplier?"  The Patriot Act might have made it totally legal for the FBI and NSA to do it, but whichever phone company was used might be sued for giving out the "private" phone information for hundreds of thousands of people.  Some ACLU lawyer might strongly object to having his phone records examined to see if a call to a "possible terrorist" was made from his home without any legal cause to believe he made such a call.   Hence, the "Senate Wiretap Bill."  It looks like the bill will be passed, and it looks like it will make it retroactively legal for the phone company to have done what they did (if they did it).

July 9, 2008 (A) - This morning, a letter to the editors of The Washington Post makes a good point that I failed to make:  The title is: Guilty Until Proven Innocent?  The letter tells how The Post editorial of July 3 "excoriated" the FBI and DOJ for smearing Dr. Hatfill, but then the Post editorial added this: 

"The settlement itself is also not proof of innocence."
And the letter to the editor correctly reminds us all:
Since when, under our system of justice, does innocence have to be proved? [...] The Post, it seems to me, has picked up the smear where the government left off.
The Post wants proof of innocence?  How could I have failed to comment on that!?

July 6, 2008 - Hmm.  The media tirades about the Hatfill settlement seem to have died down a bit.  The only news organizations still making editorial comments are probably the ones who write and think verrrrrrryyyy slowwwwwwwly.

Personally, I see the Hatfill settlement as a very good sign.  As I've stated several times before, the settlement clears the way for some real news about the Amerithrax investigation.  I don't know if that means there's going to be an arrest any time soon, but there was just no way that the Department of Justice was going to authorize an arrest of the real culprit as long as the Hatfill lawsuit remained unresolved. 

Can you imagine having the Hatfill lawsuit go to trial at the same time the real anthrax mailer is going through the processes of an arrest, hearings and a trial?

Hatfill's lawyers would be reading to the jury every day from the Bill of Indictment for the real culprit, while at the same time explaining how the FBI had been harrassing Dr. Hatfill and destroying his career while they were collecting evidence that someone else did it.  And they'd be repeating over and over what Judge Walton said: "There’s not a scintilla of evidence to suggest Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with [the anthrax attacks].” The $5.8 million settlement would be a drop in the bucket compared to what a jury would award if that had happened.

And what about the case against the real culprit?  His (or her, or their) lawyers would be endlessly talking to the media before the trial, and to the jury during  the trial, about the ongoing Hatfill lawsuit and how the government clearly doesn't know who did it, because they haven't admitted that they made a mistake in going after Dr. Hatfill.  The real suspect's lawyers would talk about how the FBI went after Dr. Hatfill without a "scintilla of evidence," and they'd be asking "So, why should anyone trust the evidence against our client?"  They'd ask: "How do we know that the FBI didn't just make up new evidence against our totally innocent client because the old evidence against Dr. Hatfill didn't fool anyone."  It wouldn't take much to make it look like the DOJ was prosecuting (or persecuting) two totally different suspects at the same time because they didn't have a real case against either one!

I've been saying for nearly six years that the Hatfill investigation was all politics and had nothing to do with the Amerithrax investigation.   I've been saying for over six years that the real anthrax mailer most likely lives and works in Central New Jersey.  I've been saying that, as a result of a campaign by conspiracy theorists, the FBI was politically forced to investigate Dr. Hatfill, and that is one reason an arrest of the real culprit wasn't made long long ago.  The Hatfill situation greatly complicated a legal case against the real culprit that might otherwise have been fairly easy to prosecute.  I've been saying for over four years that successful prosecution of the real culprit had become largely dependent upon the formalization and legal acceptance of the new science of microbial forensics. 

Is there any chance that we might learn if my analysis was right in those areas?  No one in the media seems to think so.  But I do. 

Can the FBI and the DOJ just continue to be silent about evidence in the Amerithrax investigation while the media and politicians endlessly attack them?  Maybe.  But it does no one any good.  The people in the FBI and most in the DOJ don't just get up and leave when a new President takes office.  So, there's not much purpose in waiting for that.   (Back in September of 2006, a top FBI scientist attempted to release, via a scientific report, some key information about the exact nature of the attack anthrax, but mostly it just generated controversy.  The Hartford Courant falsely labeled it a "new theory."   No one could dispute what was reported, and The Washington Post even said the information was verified by "other scientists familiar with the forensic investigation," but people endlessly attacked the author and the FBI because the information challenged the beliefs established by countless false media reports. People even complained that the author hadn't followed established scientific procedures in releasing such information, evidently because he related it to commonly known information about anthrax spores and didn't provide any details about the actual spores used in the attack.  They looked for any excuse they could find to discount the report -- though no one could challenge the information provided in the report.  That exercise undoubtedly gave the FBI a good understanding for what they could expect if they released any more information about the anthrax murders.) 

We don't absolutely need an arrest to understand what has been happening.  All we need is some good, solid information.  And there must be some way to release new information without compromising the Amerithrax legal case.  They may not have been able to do it before the Hatfill lawsuit was settled, for fear that the media will attempt to connect the evidence to Dr. Hatfill, but I see no reason the FBI can't do it now.

Unfortunately, there's one thing that's been made very clear to me over the past six years or so: Nothing ever happens as quickly in this case as I hope or expect it will.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 29, 2008, thru Saturday, July 5, 2008

July 5, 2008 - Today, The Palm Beach Post adds to the fuss over the Hatfill settlement with an editorial that complains:

Why were there no other "persons of interest"?
Maybe that question should have been phrased this way: Why wasn't the media given more names so that more innocent people could also have had their lives scrutinized by the media and turned into possible suspects in a mass murder?

But this comment is definitely the funniest comment I've seen in the past seven years:

Caught up in the mess were reporters who covered the investigation and relied on government sources during the emotionally charged aftermath of 9/11. Mr. Hatfill was by far the biggest casualty, but news agencies can claim some measure of federal victimization, too.
The editorial ends with their point of view of how the controversy can be resolved:
The government has tried in court to make Ms. Stevens' lawsuit go away. In fact, her lawsuit offers the only chance for her and the nation to learn who was behind this terrorist attack. [Mrs. Stevens is the widow of the first victim, Bob Stevens.]
Somehow, I think the "only chance" would be the arrest of the real culprit.  The only thing that can come from Mrs. Stevens' lawsuit is another settlement.

July 4, 2008 - An interesting article in Reason Magazine generated some visits to this web site. The article is titled "What Price Justice?"  It's about the Hatfill settlement, of course.  But it makes assumptions about the Amerithrax investigation, such as this:

Authorities still do not know exactly how the deadly compound was formed, where, or by whom.
They haven't arrested anyone, but that doesn't necessarily mean they don't know who did it.    The following sentence is also based upon those same assumptions:
The investigative missteps in the anthrax case were huge and there is no sign that procedures have changed in such a way as to avoid repeat.
But, you can read the article for yourself.  What I found most interesting were the links which brought visitors to this web site.  The first link is in this paragraph:
There are now several distinct possibilities in the anthrax mystery, all with backers on the Internet and elsewhere. One is that the feds have no clue who might have been responsible. This is possible, beyond depressing to consider. Disputes over whether the anthrax spores themselves were "weaponzied" took up an inordinate amount of investigative energy, perhaps allowing the killer to cover all tracks leading back to him or her.
In reality, of course, the FBI knew from nearly the very beginning that the spores were neither "weaponzied" or "weaponized."  The Washington Post article from October 2002 titled "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted" had argued that the FBI was WRONG in that belief.  The author of the Reason article appears to have gotten his misinformation from The Washington Post article from September of 2006 titled "FBI Is Casting A Wider Net in Anthrax Attacks" which reported:
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.
The term "originally believed" applies to The Washington Post, NOT to the FBI. 

The second link to my site from the Reason Magazine article is indirect.  It requires that the reader first go to the article about me in Time Magazine which contains this sentence and link:

To help organize his thoughts--and assist fellow investigators--Lake has assembled what may be the most comprehensive website on the anthrax case outside the FBI, anthraxinvestigation.com
Here's what is in Reason Magazine:
Then there is the case-making theory. This is the notion that the government has a suspect or suspects, but has yet to come up with enough evidence to merit an arrest. A close cousin of this view is the "Central New Jersey" theory; the idea that the anthrax used in the attacks was cooked up in the Garden State among a narrow range of possible circumstances. 
So, my analysis is "The Central New Jersey Theory?"  Okay.  It's been called worse.

July 3, 2008 - The angry articles and editorials detailing the FBI's "incompetence" on the "botched" Amerithrax "fisaco" continue.  There are just too many to list them all.  Besides, they are all very similar.  Today's editorial in The Washington Post is subtitled "A bungled investigation ends with a $5.8 million bill for taxpayers."  This sentence is interesting:

Top brass at the FBI and Justice Department became obsessed with Mr. Hatfill and ordered him incessantly trailed, despite protests from agents on the front lines that there was not enough evidence to justify focusing the investigation on this one man and that resources should be redirected to other targets.
Of course, there is no explanation for why the "top brass" at the FBI and DOJ became "obsessed with Mr. Hatfill" even though, as Judge Walton clearly stated, "There’s not a scintilla of evidence to suggest Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with [the anthrax attacks].”  The American media evidently wants Americans to believe that the entire Hatfill fiasco was simply conjured up from thin air by the "top brass" at the FBI and DOJ because they felt it would help  their image and make it appear that something was being accomplished in the Amerithrax investigation.  (That's also the official claim of Dr. Hatfill's lawyers.)  And how did that plan work?  It worked the same way anyone would expect a plan by the government to harrass an innocent man would work.  It turned into a fiasco.  So, why did they do it?  The Washington Post only says this:
We may never know the truth about the anthrax murders. For that, the Justice Department and the FBI are to blame.
Mmmm .... not really.  I think there's a good chance that we will learn "the truth" about the anthrax murders.  And when we do, there's an excellent chance that a lot more people will realize where the blame for the Hatfill fiasco should really fall.  Once people in the media stop assuming that the FBI is just incompetent, they would have to ask some meaningful questions about why Dr. Hatfill was harrassed. 

July 2, 2008 - While I've complained that the U.S. media seems to ignore Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's role in the Hatfill fiasco, I've failed to mention that The Register in England mentions her from time to time.

July 1, 2008 - After all the hot news yesterday, the only new thing I see this morning is a notice that Judge Walton is willing to vacate the Contempt order against Toni Locy, since Dr. Hatfill no longer needs her testimony.  Evidently, Ms Locy just needs to ask.

June 30, 2008 (C) - Hmm.  ABC News has just released an "analysis" article from Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent who was involved with the investigation of Dr. Hatfill and who is now a consultant for ABC News.  It's titled "EXCLUSIVE: How the FBI Botched the Anthrax Case." 

Reading it over, the first thing I notice is that former agent Garrett twice says that there were seven people who died from the anthrax attacks.  I know of only five.

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to pay $5,825,000 to Hatfill, whom former Attorney General John Ashcroft once described as "a person of interest" in the investigation into the anthrax murders of seven people in 2001.

U.S. Postal employees who handled mail died from anthrax contamination, along with five other people.

That seems like an odd error for an FBI agent to make ... assuming it is an error.

The rest of the article just says that he was on the Dr. Hatfill investigation and, evidently, didn't like what he was required to do.  He writes:

The investigative experience of managers in the FBI varies widely. Some bosses may have investigated cases like the anthrax case before, but many may not have. Managers with less experience may devalue or over-value investigative techniques in their comments about an investigation. This can result in amateurish investigative techniques being suggested to more experienced agents, and can result in confusion at the top of the chain about the facts. The second lesson from the anthrax case is that only managers with considerable investigative experience should be making the big decisions or communicating with higher-ups.
There's no indication in Garrett's "analysis" as to whether he's talking about Van Harp or Richard Lambert or both.   But it seems clear that Garrett didn't approve of the "in your face" investigation of Dr. Hatfill.  That's understandable.  What FBI agent would?  However, what's unknown (or not publicly stated) is why the "manager" at the FBI who ordered the unusual "in your face" tactics did what he did.   That will probably have to wait for the time when that manager's memoirs are written and published many years from now.   My analysis explained it all long ago, but there are few who believe me.  People just cannot believe that a manager at the FBI can be pressured into doing such things by some little old lady from upstate New York (who, incidentally, was once a science advisor to President Clinton and a key expert on bioweapons for the Federation of American Scientists).  Facts mean nothing when beliefs are so certain.

June 30, 2008 (B) - Today's Wall Street Journal has an opinion piece which I assume is the opinion of The Wall Street Journal editors, since it's about as dumb an opinion as I've ever seen published in a newspaper.  Here's the key sentence:

Throughout one of the largest investigations in law-enforcement history, agents were fixated on a "lone wolf" theory that Director Robert Mueller's FBI, for all intents and purposes, now admits was wrong.
That is true dumbness.  The Hatfill settlement says nothing about the "lone wolf" theory, other than that Dr. Hatfill was not the "lone wolf."

The opinion piece is evidently just an excuse for the WSJ to promote it's right wing theory that foreigners did it.   Here's more from the opinion piece:

.. the possibility of a foreign source should never have been downplayed. Saddam Hussein had deployed chemical attacks in the Iran-Iraq war and against the Kurds. In 1995, Iraq admitted to U.N. weapons inspectors that it had added thousands of liters of anthrax and other toxins to its biological arsenal. 
The Wall Street Journal is apparently still looking for those infamous Weapons of Mass Destruction.

June 30, 2008 (A) - I awoke this morning realizing I had failed to point out some very important facts yesterday.  So, I went back and expanded upon the part of my comment where I wrote only the sentence below before going directly into a quote from the LA Times: 

According to Willman, the role FBI Inspector Richard Lambert played in the Hatfill fiasco is very different from what I saw:
June 29, 2008 -  I'd hoped that this morning there would be some new news articles which would tell us what certain people think about the Hatfill v FBI settlement. 

I'd like to know Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's thoughts.  But, as I recall, an article back in late 2001 described her as being "70 something," which could make her around 80 now.  So, maybe she can be given a pass.  She'd just deny any responsibility anyway.

And what about Nicholas Kristof?  Unfortunately, he's probably unable to make any comments because Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against The New York Times is in appeal.

And Don Foster?  Unfortunately, one of the conditions of Dr. Hatfill's settlement with Vanity Fair and Readers' Digest was that he keep his mouth shut about Dr. Hatfill. 

What about Marilyn Thompson?  She seemed to be convinced of Dr. Hatfill's guilt and reported on one of the most ridiculous "clues" which supposedly pointed at Dr. Hatfill:

It [the FBI] also sought help from police in Kuala Lumpur after a hoax package arrived at a Nevada Microsoft office bearing a Malaysian postmark. For several years, Hatfill had been involved with a Malaysian-born woman who had come to the United States from Kuala Lumpur and worked at a financial consulting firm. Now the FBI began to ponder whether this widowed mother of two had had a role, witting or not, in the anthrax mailings. 
(That "hoax" letter wasn't a hoax.  It was just a nasty letter from a Microsoft customer to Microsoft which falsely tested postive for anthrax.  Just a little research by Thompson would have shown that it had nothing at all to do with the anthrax case.)

And what about Lesley Stahl?  Her March 2007 report on "60 Minutes" was the most recent hatchet job on Dr. Hatfill.

On an email forum, there were several postings from a person who always thoroughly believed that Dr. Hatfill was the anthrax mailer.  His postings this morning were vague, but they indicated that, in his opinion, the FBI botched their investigation of Dr. Hatfill. 

Another person on that same email forum who thoroughly believed in Dr. Hatfill's guilt seems to have changed his mind and even seemingly suggested that we all gather up our torches and pitchforks and go after someone else now.   The name he picked seems to have been pulled out of a hat.

The only new news article I see this morning about the Hatfill settlement is in The Los Angeles Times.  It's by David Willman and is titled "Leaks, focus on single suspect undercut anthrax probe." It begins with this:

The federal investigation into the deadly anthrax mailings of late 2001 was undermined by leaks and a premature fixation on a single suspect, according to investigators and scientists involved in the case.
As one would expect, the article refers to Dr. Hatfill as "the top suspect," even though the FBI repeatedly said he wasn't a suspect at all.  And, also, as one would expect, there is no mention of Barbara Hatch Rosenberg in the article. 

But the article does mention the pressure put on the FBI by Nicholas Kristof's columns in The New York Times. 

[...] external pressures were outpacing the investigation.

On Jan. 4, 2002, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof began goading the FBI. "I think I know who sent out the anthrax last fall," he wrote, describing the unnamed suspect as "an American insider, a man working in the military bio-weapons field."

On May 24, Kristof called for lighting "a fire under the FBI" and described the suspected American insider in more detail. Later, the columnist wrote that he was referring to Hatfill.

According to Willman, the role FBI Inspector Richard Lambert played in the Hatfill fiasco is very different from what I saw.  The facts show that the public investigation of Dr. Hatfill was started in late June of 2002 by the man who was then in charge of the Washington Field Office andthe Amerithrax investigation: Assistant Director Van Harp.  Harp was in charge for the first public search of Hatfill's apartment on June 25, 2002, and the second public search on August 1, 2002.  Harp was in charge when Dr. Hatfill made his public denials on August 11.  Harp was in charge when FBI agents went door to door in the Trenton area showing around Dr. Hatfill's picture.  Harp was in charge when Dr. Hatfill made his second public statement on August 25.   Harp was in charge when Dr. Hatfill lost his job at Louisiana State University in September.  Harp was in charge when the FBI did its third search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment on September 11.   Harp was still head of the Washington Field office when Inspector Richard Lambert was put in charge of the Amerithrax investigation on October 5, 2002, and Harp remained in that position until May of 2003.  While the LA Times does mention Van Harp, it specifically points at Lambert as focusing on Hatfill: 
[...] for the next four years Lambert kept FBI and postal investigators focused on Hatfill, according to people familiar with the case.

Some dissatisfied agents sought a review of Lambert by the bureau's Inspection Division, which evaluates FBI operations. "There were complaints about him," one agent told The Times. "Did he take energy away from looking at other people? The answer is yes."

On Aug. 25, 2006, Mueller transferred Lambert off the case, naming him special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Knoxville, Tenn. Results of the Inspection Division's review of the complaints have not been disclosed, and Lambert declined to be interviewed for this article.

The fixation on Hatfill ran broadly through FBI leadership. Eberhart, the biohazards expert, testified that when he retired in late 2002, "Dr. Hatfill was our main focus."

The facts clearly show that Dr. Hatfill was NOT the focus of the investigation until a week after Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's meeting with senate staffers in late June of 2002.  But when the public searches began a week later, Dr. Hatfill was clearly the focus of the investigation as far as the media and the public were concerned.

The facts and the LA Times article say that there was definitely a group of FBI agents investigating Dr. Hatfill.  The facts say they were doing so because of all the pressure that had been applied.  With so many people demanding that Dr. Hatfill be investigated, there really was no choice but to thoroughly investigate him.  And Dr. Hatfill would obviously have been the focus of their investigation, too.

The question is: When FBI agents are assigned to investigate a person who many people are pointing at as being the most likely person to have committed a mass murder, would you tell the agents any more than that?  Would you tell them that they should only make a half-hearted effort because the real investigation was going on elsewhere?  Or would you insist that they do a thorough job of investigating Dr. Hatfill -- perhaps even withholding information about other possible suspects from them to make sure they are not distracted from their primary mission: Dr. Hatfill?

And when interviewed or deposed, would those agents know the "big picture?"  Or would they just know that they were assigned to investigate a man who a lot of people thought was guilty even though the evidence indicated he was probably innocent?

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the media's reporting on Dr. Hatfill.  The first lesson would seem to be: Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers.  (It's no surprise to me that someone on FreeRepublic.com suggests that the LA Times article is the final authority on the Amerithrax investigation.)  As incredible as it may be, the media seem to be determined to refuse to see any connection between all the pressures applied on the FBI prior to the first search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment, and, instead, they insist on telling the public that everything began with John Ashcroft saying Dr. Hatfill was a "person of interest."  That is not only wrong, it is also stupid

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 22, 2008, thru Saturday, June 28, 2008

June 28, 2008 - According to this morning's New York Times

An F.B.I. spokesman, Jason Pack, said the anthrax investigation “is one of the largest and most complex investigations ever conducted by law enforcement” and is currently being pursued by more than 20 agents of the F.B.I. and the Postal Inspection Service.

“Solving this case is a top priority for the F.B.I. and for the family members of the victims who were killed,” Mr. Pack said. 

And proving that politicians can be totally brainless, the article goes on to say:
But Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat whose district was the site of a postal box believed to have been used in the attacks, said he would press Robert S. Mueller III, director of the F.B.I., for more answers about the status of the case.

“As today’s settlement announcement confirms, this case was botched from the very beginning,” Mr. Holt said. “The F.B.I. did a poor job of collecting evidence, and then inappropriately focused on one individual as a suspect for too long, developing an erroneous theory of the case that has led to this very expensive dead end.”

The FBI should not be the focus of Mr. Holt's idiotic blathering.  The facts indicate that the FBI was ready to make an arrest long ago, but they cannot make an arrest without approval of the lawyers in The Department of Justice.  On the other hand, I understand politics enough to know that Mr. Holt has to make things seem as bad as possible in order to force the "other side" to negotiate.  I hope he gets his meeting.

The Times article contains this interesting tid bit about the Toni Locy matter:

Ms. Locy said that a federal mediator had tried to get Gannett, which owns USA Today, to negotiate some type of settlement with Dr. Hatfill’s lawyers, but that it had refused
Meanwhile, yesterday's USA Today contains this relevant statement:
Hatfill's lawyers directed strong criticism at journalists who, the attorneys said, "failed us by putting aside their professional skepticism and shoveling the leaked information all too willingly into publications without questioning the accuracy of the information, the motives of the leakers or the fairness of the government's attacks."
Most of the leaks were from lawyers in the Department of Justice, not from the FBI.

As expected, I see absolutely NO mention in the media of the role Barbara Hatch Rosenberg played in this matter.  When her role is ignored, the view presented by the media becomes a total distortion of the facts.

The written statement Dr. Hatfill's lawyer Mark Grannis released yesterday is available HERE.  It does mention the conspiracy theorists:

The leakers, their accomplices in the press, and a handful of conspiracy theorists deprived Dr. Hatfill of his professional reputation and the employment he could otherwise have expected. As a result of the media circus they created and sustained, Dr. Hatfill must now carry on his scientific work largely independently.  This settlement will help him to do so.
NOTE: The Settlement Agreement .pdf file may have a bug in it.  I can't open it with Netscape, but it opens okay with Firefox and Internet Explorer.  With Netscape I get a message "File does not begin with '%PDF-'."  Sorry about that. 

June 27, 2008 - Ah!  Finally!  According to The Associated Press, Dr. Hatfill has settled his lawsuit against the government for $5.8 million dollars. 

Continuing the tradition of bad information about this case from the media, The Los Angeles Times compares it to the Richard Jewell case.  No mention is made of the role played by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg and The New York Times in creating a situation where the FBI had no real choice but to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill.

This will make the Toni Locy matter "moot."  However, the appeal in Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against the New York Times is still pending.  That point was made clear when the Docket had to be revised to show that this settlement is NOT by "all parties," which would include "interested parties" such as the Times.

The Los Angeles Times, in a blog, has this predictable question:

Today's news that the Justice Department is settling with the former Army scientist named a "person of interest" in the case for $5.8 million raises this question: if Steven J. Hatfill didn't do it, who did?
There's still a very good possibility that we may find out.  In many ways, the Hatfill lawsuit needed to be settled to clear the way for an arrest of the actual culprit.  It would have been a serious problem to have the government try to explain in court why they were harassing Dr. Hatfill while they had an actual suspect under surveillance.  Now, such explanations are no longer necessary. 

It'll be interesting to see how the various news organizations interpret this.

June 23, 2008 - The same person who one week ago provided all the links to videos about the anthrax attacks has evidently just created one of his own.  It's HERE.  It seems a bit blurry visually and logically, but it's clearly a statement of some kind, since a lot of dedicated time must have been spent putting it together. 

Looking at links of the same page, I also found a couple other anthrax-related links HERE and HERE.  You know what they say about opinions ....

June 22, 2008 - If things were quiet the week before last, they were even more quiet last week.  But it's not like everyone suddenly just lost interest and went away.  It's like everyone has gone into a wait state.  Once again, the various forums were silent, and there was no news about any of Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits -- except for one item: Toni Locy was honored by The National Press Club after winning a John Aubuchon Freedom of the Press Award "for her determination to protect sources in the face of extreme personal risk."  But that really wasn't news about the anthrax investigation.

I could speculate on what everyone is waiting for, but I think I'd better just wait, too.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 15, 2008, thru Saturday, June 21, 2008

June 16, 2008 - My comment on this site yesterday about what scientists think about the anthrax attacks of 2001 is trumped by a regular on FreeRepublic who provided links to some videos on the Net which show what other people think.  Click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE

June 15, 2008 - I don't remember a time when things were as quiet as they were last week.  There was absolutely nothing in the news about the Amerithrax investigation.  The various forums were totally silent.  There was no news about any of Dr. Hatfill's lawsuits, even though some things (like the results of the mediation sessions and the rebuttals to the Motions for Summary Judgment) are now a full month overdue.  I didn't even receive any relevant emails.  I sent out a few, though.

The week before last, I'd received a lengthy email discussing aspects of my new page about Van Der Waals Forces & Static Electricity: How They Affect Bacillus Spores.  While the writer of the email and I were in complete agreement that the attack anthrax spores were not coated with silica, we didn't agree on how many people would disagree with us.  He felt there couldn't be many such people, since all the available evidence clearly showed there was no coating.  I pointed out that while all the evidence showed there was no coating, there was also evidence showing that large numbers of scientists -- possibly a large majority -- believe there was a coating on the spores.

The "evidence" I cited was the recent paper by scientists from the CDC and Dugway Proving Grounds who evidently fully accepted the nonsense printed in The Washington Post.  I pointed out that in a new book by Michael Sheehan, the former Deputy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism at the New York Police Department, the author stated: "In my opinion, this attack was conducted by someone with experience in biological weapons programs and access to military grade anthrax spores."  I cited other recent sources as well.  Plus, most of those documents would have gone through some kind of "peer review" process which would indicate that none of the "peers" disagreed with the conclusions.

That certainly doesn't mean that these scientists believe there is some kind of massive conspiracy to cover up the fact that there was a coating on the spores.  It just means they haven't studied or researched the subject.  They just accepted what they read somewhere -- possibly in a scientific journal -- considering it to be "reasonable."  It probably never occurred to them to question it -- even if it impliedthat there was some kind of massive conspiracy at work.  After all, in the early days after the attacks there were countless articles about how sophisticated the spores in the Daschle anthrax were, and how no one had ever heard of trillion spores per gram purity before.  Later, there were articles which said otherwise, but for every news article stating that the spores were not unusual, there were probably a dozen which went on at length about the "weaponized" spores and how they were unlike anything virtually any expert had ever seen before.  To make matters worse, the contradicting articles were vague and came out after most Americans had lost interest.  First impressions are lasting impressions.

Based upon the number of scientists who seem to have stumbled into the "mine field" that is the coating controversy, the typical scientist probably doesn't even realize there is a controversy.  He just accepts that the attack anthrax was "super-sophisticated."  If there is a disagreement, he or she hasn't heard about it.  And, it wouldn't really matter to him.  There's always disagreement in the scientific community.  So, controversy isn't important -- until you publicly state an opinion, and then you learn just how much controversy there is.  That's when you learn it is like stepping on a "mine" in a "mine field."  Suddenly, there's an explosion of interested people around the world wanting to know how, why, when and where you came to your conclusions -- and do you have any new information that no one else has? 

The practice of publishing findings in a scientific journal as a way of validating your work seems to have a serious flaw.  There are no warnings to tell a scientist in some lab that, if he ventures into a specfic area, he'll be put under public and scientific scrutiny like never before.  Unless the scientist regularly reads conspiracy theory blogs on the Internet, it's something he'll simply have to discover for himself.

Interestingly, this is totally unlike what I would have expected prior to the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Back then, I would have assumed that if there was a controversy about something which could be easily scientifically proven or disproven, countless scientists would jump in to resolve the controversy by scientifically demonstrating what is true and what is not true, and thereby gain international fame and recognition for themselves. 

But, now I know otherwise.  Scientists who know how routine it is to purify spores to a trillion per gram quantities are reluctant to publicly say so in fear of possibly becoming "suspects" in the public eye -- and possibly with the FBI and Homeland Security, too.  Scientists who know how easy it is to keep spores from clumping without the use of silica or bentonite are reluctant to publicly say so for the same reasons.  Also, no professional scientist wants to do anything that might make him or her responsible for telling some terrorist how to weaponize anthrax.  And even if such information would really be of no help at all without the right training, equipment and strain, scientists know that the public and the media don't usually make such distinctions.  The scientists who work with spore powders may not know there is a major controversy raging over the nature of the attack anthrax, but they do know that the scientific "tricks" they use nearly every day could help some terrorist.  So, to keep terrorists from learning those "tricks," they unwittingly help perpetuate the controversy "mine field" that could someday "explode" unexpectedly if some scientist wanders into the wrong area.

Presumably, if there are enough of those "explosions," eventually all but the most secluded and lab-bound scientists will learn that fellow scientists are being "blown up" by a scientific controversy that really shouldn't be a controversy. 

Some solid facts from the Amerithrax investigation could make things happen much more quickly.  But, after six and a half years of near total silence, vague but persistent "vibes" aren't enough for me to think that anything is going to happen any time soon. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 8, 2008, thru Saturday, June 14, 2008

June 8, 2008 - Again, it was a very quiet week for news.  Again, there was no indication of what happened in the mediation sessions in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, nor any explanation of why there were no rebuttals to the Motions for Summary Judgment. 

I had some very lengthy arguments in an email forum with someone who repeated what was said on FreeRepublic.com about the photographs taken by Tom Geisbert of "goop" that oozed out of the Daschle spores after Geisbert had soaked them in chemicals.  The "goop" incident is laid out in detail in Chapter 15 of my book and is mentioned on my page about coatings on the anthrax.  The "goop" photos were shown at a meeting at the White House on October 25, 2001.  So, they are nothing new (although they haven't been made public).  But conspiracy theorists seem to have obtained some new information about the photos - information about who has seen them besides the people at the White House meeting.  Specifically, they learned that these photos were seen by one particular expert who never mentioned seeing them.  To them, that evidently indicates a coverup of some kind, even though there would be absolutely no reason for that expert to ever mention the confidential evidence photos to anyone outside of the Amerithrax investigation. 

It was a bizarre discussion.  The person who obtained the information about who saw the photos evidently considers the photos to be "incriminating."  I couldn't find out who that person is.  I couldn't find out why he would consider them to be "incriminating."  I couldn't find out for whom the photos would be "incriminating."  But, that's the way it often is with conspiracy theorists.  They try to avoid discussing anything I can use to investigate or challenge their claims.  To them, having such information "proves" they know more about "evidence" in the Amerithrax case than I do, which they interpret to mean they are right and I am wrong. 

So, all I really have is information that those photos are being discussed somewhere by someone.  The who, why, where and when are unknown.   In other words, it's just another mysterious "vibe."

Then, yesterday, something totally unrelated was discussed.  A question on an email forum led to the document found HERE, which I don't think I've seen before.   It's from the Hatfill v The New York Times lawsuit, and it contains such tidbits of information as this from page 4:

The defamatory columns underlying this case transformed Hatfill from a
virtual unknown into an infamous criminal suspect. In the months following the
2001 anthrax attacks, The Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof came to believe the
government’s investigation was grossly deficient. Kristof’s defamatory columns
succeeded in “lighting a fire” under the FBI to investigate Hatfill and ruined his
life.
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's role is mentioned on page 9:
Rosenberg’s Theory and the Resulting Press Investigation of Hatfill: A
group of academics began questioning the efficacy of the FBI’s investigation of the
anthrax killings shortly after the attacks. Rosenberg was one such “expert,” who
contended that the attacks were perpetrated by a U.S. bioweapons insider, perhaps as part of a secret CIA project.
and
As a result of Rosenberg’s theory, reporters began to seek out Hatfill in an
effort to question him about the anthrax attacks.
This is from page 10:
In fact, in January or February 2002, Vic Walter and Brian Ross of ABC News sought out Hatfill. They led him to believe they wished to employ him as a consultant, Steven Hatfill Deposition (5/5/06), Hatfill v. Ashcroft¸ at 87:22-88:13, but actually contacted Hatfill because “scientists” (Rosenberg) had told them Hatfill was “suspicious” and “responsible” for the attacks. Brian Ross Deposition (3/23/06), Hatfill v. Ashcroft, at 263:16-21. Walter and Ross tried to cultivate a relationship with Hatfill with the “goal” of getting him to agree to an interview in which they could “confront” him with their accusation.
Then there's this from page 39:
Kristof suggested that the “isolated residence” might be a “safe house operated by American intelligence.” This accusation is extremely harmful because it identifies a
specific location where Hatfill might have made the anthrax that was used to kill people. The allegation concerning Cipro – an antibiotic used to treat anthrax exposure – was particularly damning, because it strongly suggested that Hatfill in fact had used the “isolated residence” to make or send the anthrax and needed to ensure that exposure to anthrax did not harm visitors.
And
But this claim is entirely untrue, and Kristof admitted that a significant part of it was fabricated. The “isolated residence” was, in fact, a house owned by [George] Borsari, who testified that “there’s no way in the world Steve Hatfill could have made anthrax at my house.” Borsari Dep. at 97:9-11. Hatfill visited the house only once in 2001, after the attacks had occurred, when he spent a weekend with a number of other guests, and he did not distribute Cipro to anyone there. Tamara McDevitt Deposition (11/20/06) at 63:1-68:10.
And there's this from a footnote on page 44:
One FBI agent has testified that Kristof made statements that were “just ridiculous,” and told his FBI colleagues that “one of the best things that
can happen to you is to have this type of person [i.e., Kristof] criticize you.”
Robert Roth Deposition (11/4/05), Hatfill v. Ashcroft, at 210:16-211:1.
I like this information from page 45:
The Hatfield “alias”: In the July 2 column, Kristof said that he had “found
at least one alias” used by Hatfill. July 2 Column. This is a damaging allegation
(because an honest citizen does not need “at least one alias”), and Kristof made it
worse by conjoining it with a completely false allegation about suspicious travel to
Central Asia. Id. In the same column, Kristof speculated that delay by the FBI
might permit the anthrax perpetrator to flee to Iran or North Korea. Id.

But the “alias” was “Steven Hatfield.” Kristof to Niman email (7/12/02).
Kristof’s failure to ask himself whether that was simply a misspelling represents
willful blindness. Indeed, when Kristof’s research assistant expressed concern that
“Steven Hatfield” was the only “alias” she found, Kristof responded that it was
“enough to raise the issue” that Hatfill could use the alias to “flee the country and
go to Iran and Libya” (more baseless guesswork). Lem to Kristof email (6/27/02).
The fact that Kristof did not identify this supposed alias in this or later columns
suggests that he willfully misled his readers. Kristof would not have advanced his
thesis that Hatfill likely was the anthrax murderer by stating that he had found that
Hatfill allegedly used “Steven Hatfield” as an alias. To the contrary, Kristof would
have opened himself to derision by exposing the foolish basis for his allegation.  By failing to specify the “alias” he found, Kristof intentionally made Hatfill appear
nefarious while concealing the obvious fallacy of the allegation.

Wow.  There's another "wow" item on page 49:
Anyone who “unquestionably had the ability to make first-rate anthrax” and
had up-to-date vaccinations would be among a “handful” of people capable of
carrying out the attacks. But it appears, once again, that Kristof fabricated the
claim. Kristof identified Barbara Rosenberg, Meryl Nass, and Milton Leitenberg
as sources for the claim that Hatfill unquestionably had the ability to make firstrate
anthrax. Kristof Dep. at 122:4-21, 129:13-23. None of the three had worked
with Hatfill. More importantly, each denied telling Kristof that Hatfill had the
ability to make dry anthrax. Rosenberg Dep. at 44:6-45:22; Leitenberg Dep. at
109:17-111:5; Nass Dep. at 72:6-16.
It goes on and on along those same lines.

I don't know if this is a "vibe" or not.  This document appears to have been around for a long time.  But it seems new to me, even though the comment that Nicholas Kristof "fabricated" information was mentioned in the media after Judge Hilton dismissed the case on January 12, 2007.  Is the appeal about to be heard?  I don't know.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, June 1, 2008, thru Saturday, June 7, 2008

June 4, 2008 - Wow. The "vibes" were particularly strong today.  Clearly, evidence in the Amerithrax investigation is being discussed somewhere by someone.  In discussions on FreeRepublic.com it was made clear that pictures of the "goop" that Tom Geisbert saw oozing out of the Daschle spores after he killed them with chemicals are being shown around somewhere.  (See Chapter 15 of my book.)  And AFIP clearly did test the media powder, finding more traces of silicon and oxygen in that powder than in the powder sent to the two senators.   In one message, I explained it this way:

That's the way it should be with lab contamination.

1. The particles of glass (or silica or polymerized glass) are too small to be seen with a TEM. That means the particles could be anywhere from a single molecule on up to hundreds of molecules.

2. The particles are floating around in the nutrients. They either came off the glass walls of the fermenter or they came in the nutrients.

3. A bacterium has no mouth. It absorbs food through its skin (outer membrane).

4. Just like you and I, a bacterium has some ability to know what food it can digest and what it cannot.

5. Glass is not food for a Bacillus anthracis bacterium.

6. The larger particles of glass will not pass through the membrane. But smaller ones can -- if they are small enough.

7. Therefore, there would be a LOT MORE glass particles on the outside of a bacterium than gets inside the bacterium.

8. When a bacterium is about to die and begins to form a spore, just some of the tiny particles that managed to get INSIDE the bacterium will become part of the spore.

9. The "crude powder" in the media letters would have MUCH more glass on the surface of the dead bacteria because of all the glass particles that were too big to be absorbed and got stuck to the outer surfaces.

10. The spore that forms inside the bacterium will have only the smaller particles of glass that got through the mother germ's membrane.

Purification gets rid of all those dead mother germs, dead bactria and all the silica stuck to them. Therefore, it seems perfectly logical that the media powder would show many times as much glass as the purified spores. 

And then I added this:
The media powder would provide MUCH MUCH more information about the source of the glass lab contamination than could be found in the spores. Therefore, the media powder would be the key to the microbial forensic evidence.
This explanation agrees with all the known facts, including what was discovered when silicon was found in another kind of spore back in 1980.

The people I was talking with didn't like that explanation, but they can't come up with an alternative that doesn't involve a massive conspiracy involving thousands of people.

June 3, 2008 - Richard Preston has written a new book titled "Panic in Level 4: Cannibals, Killer Viruses, and Other Journeys to the Edge of Science."  There's an excerpt in yesterday's USA Today.  The excerpt briefly mentions the anthrax attacks of 2001, and Preston also gives this opinion:

No one has been charged with the Amerithrax crimes. The evidence suggests they were done by a serial killer or killers who intended to murder people and may have taken pleasure in causing the deaths while escaping punishment. The case remains open.
It doesn't appear that Preston explains what "evidence" suggests that to him.  All the evidence I've seen suggests that the culprit took numerous precautions to avoid hurting people.  He had enough powder to kill large numbers of people, yet the five deaths all appear to be unintended. None were the intended recipients of the letters.  And I've seen absolutely no evidence of any kind to indicate that the culprit took "pleasure in causing the deaths while escaping punishment."

Meanwhile, the "vibes" continue.  In one conversation, someone mentioned that AFIP also detected silicon and oxygen in the media anthrax.  That's something which would be expected if the silicon and oxygen were the result of lab contamination.  And it would tend to prove that the silicon and oxygen were not related to "weaponization."  But, most importantly, it's a mention of new information about evidence in the Amerithrax investigation.  It didn't come from Preston's new book.  If it isn't a false rumor, I can't help but wonder where the information came from.  New information about evidence is very very rare.

June 1, 2008 - When the only news is "no news," it's probably best to just wait and see if this coming week provides some "news."  But, as an analyst, I'm still very curious about the status conference that did and didn't happen on the 29th.  A meeting was held, but it appears to have been something like a meeting where the guest speaker fails to show up because of some family problem.  So, everyone just sat around asking if anyone else had anything to talk about.  No one did.

And I'm left to wonder when and if the meeting that was planned will be rescheduled. 

There's still no information about what happened in the Hafill v FBI et al mediation sessions.  There's still no explanation for why there were no rebuttals to the Motions for Summary Judgment.  One of the two people with whom I routinely discuss the Amerithrax investigation is still quiet, as if waiting for something.  The other seems to be just talking to himself.  And all the other "vibes" I've been getting -- if they aren't just my imagination -- continue as before.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 25, 2008, thru Saturday, May 31, 2008

May 30, 2008 - There's nothing new on the docket for the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit this morning.  The only "news" about the Status Conference comes from one of the most questionable sources imaginable: ZACKandPOOK on FreeRepublic.com:

Nothing happened today at the status conference. Judge Walton had intended to take up argument on a motion, but no one was prepared for that because it had been calendared as a status conference. He asked the parties if their position had changed on the need for Stewart’s testimony, and we told him our position was unchanged. That’s really it. A non-event.
But, I have no reason to doubt ZACKandPOOK's "report."  The phrase "we told him our position" probably means that someone contacted Dr. Hatfill's lawyer. 

May 29, 2008 - The Status Conference in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit scheduled for this morning at 9:15 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time,  was apparently held on schedule.  However, so far, the docket merely says:

05/29/2008 Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Reggie B. Walton: Status Conference held on 5/29/2008. (Court Reporter Phyllis Merana.) (mpt, ) (Entered: 05/29/2008)

Hopefully, there'll be more later.

May 28, 2008 - I've finally completed the first version of a new supplementary web page titled "Van Der Waals Forces & Static Electricity: How They Affect Bacillus Spores". 
The page is very detailed, so I may find ways to shorten it.  Or I may find that I need to expand upon it -- particularly with additional illustrations.  But, for now, I'm putting it out there for comments. I hope that anyone who sees any errors in this new web page will contact me and explain what those errors are so that I can make corrections.

The new web page shows why the article in Science Magazine titled "Anthrax Powder: State Of The Art?" is totally invalid and nothing but a conspiracy theory disguised as a scientific article.  It answers the questions posed by other scientific articles, such as the article in Aerosol Science and Technology, and it verifies that any article which claims that anthrax spores must be "weaponized" with a coating of silica before they can cause inhalation anthax or disperse as a deadly aerosol is total nonsense.

May 25, 2008 - The past week began with someone on FreeRepublic.com requesting that I quote "copiously" from a new book he'd found which provides a lot of information about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  The passages he provided indicated that the author of the book was saying the same things I've been saying for over six years, so I didn't make any real effort to find the book and look through it.  I'm not really that interested in books or articles which say what I've been saying.  I'm primarily interested in books and articles which either add to my knowledge of the anthrax attacks of 2001 or which contain information which contradicts what I know about the anthrax attacks of 2001.   New and/or contradicting information tests my analysis.  The Aerosol Science article which I first mentioned on April 30 was such an article, and I'm still learning from it.  (As a result of what was in that article about the Dugway process for weaponizing spores, much of the past week was spent studying static electricity and trying to put together a new web page about van der Waals forces, static electricity, and how they affect spores.) 

It wasn't until Saturday morning that I finally managed to find time to look through the book I was told about on Monday.  The book is titled "Bracing for Armageddon?: The Science and Politics of Bioterrorism in America," and it's by William R. Clark, who is Professor and Chair Emeritus of Immunology at the University of California, Los Angeles.   Paging through the book, I found that the author and I do indeed agree about nearly everything, although Professor Clark's focus is not specifically on the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Here's how Amazon.com introduces his book: 

Since September 11th, the threat of a bioterrorist attack--massive, lethal, and unpreventable -- has hung in the air over America.  Bracing for Armageddon? offers a vividly written primer for the general reader, shedding light on the science behind potential bioterrorist attacks and revealing what could happen, what is likely to happen, and what almost certainly will not happen.
Professor Clark's discussion of the anthrax attacks of 2001 begins on page 32.  Here are a couple key passages from page 34:
... because of the proximity in time to the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of September 11, initial focus was on foreign terrorists.  It seemed a reasonable assumption that the two incidents could be related. It now seems more likely that one or more highly skilled American scientists were responsible, directly or indirectly, for at least the production of the anthrax used, and probably for its dissemination.
...

The strain of anthrax used in these attacks is maintained mostly in universities and defense institute research laboratories, and is very difficult (today impossible) to obtain casually.  All experts now agree that the spores found in at least the Senate letters were very pure and highly potent.  It is less certain whether they had been treated with chemical reagents that would maximize airborne dispersal.  The experts are also nearly unanimous that the spores could only have been produced in a very high-tech, fully equipped laboratory by a person or persons expert in every aspect of growing anthrax bacilli and converting them to spores.  The spores may have been stolen from one of these facilities and disseminated through the mails by an unskilled person, but they were very unlikely to have been made by a non-scientist in a garage laboratory, and certainly not in a cave in Afghanistan. 

Professor Clark doesn't dismiss the idea that the anthrax could have come from some secret and illegal U.S. government bioweapons program, but he doesn't promote that idea, either.  He just makes the point that the Senate anthrax powders were made by someone who is an expert in spore powders; it was not made by amateurs; and that fact greatly reduces the number of people who could have done it and who could do it again

Page 167 goes into a lot of detail about just how difficult it is to produce a powder of pure anthrax spores and how much skill is required. 

From my point of view, however, the key passage in the book is on page 170:

In the end, the most unsettling aspect of Amerithrax is that it was likely not carried out by a foreign terrorist.  At present, all evidence suggests it was most likely an American scientist, who was either working or had worked in an American laboratory -- possibly even a government laboratory -- who carried out these attacks.   The failure of the FBI to identify the individual involved suggests this was a highly sophisticated person who knew exactly what it would take to cover his or her tracks.
It was refreshing to find someone who was not misled by nonsense printed in the media.  From my point of view, Professor Clark appears to have examined the attacks as a scientist should: gathering facts, analyzing the facts, and putting his own scientific understanding to work instead of relying on someone else's beliefs or opinions.

Late in the week, some other "facts" began to distract me.  These "facts" were so vague and undefined that they may more appropriately be called "vibes." 

The fact that there's been no released information about the conclusion of the mediation sessions in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit was such a "vibe."  So is the fact that there's been no mention of anyone filing an opposition to the Motions for Summary Judgement in that lawsuit.  There could be lots of different explanations, but which is most likely?

Also, the two people I normally argue with suddenly went quiet.  Another "vibe."  One stopped posting on Tuesday evening, the other on Friday morning.  These people aren't some junior highschool kids who just like to argue things they know nothing about.  One is a lawyer and the other is a scientist with a PhD.  And they both seem to have contacts I don't have.  The lawyer claims to have contacts within the CIA and the Department of Defense.  The scientist has contacts in the media and within the scientific community.  The last time the scientist went quiet was just before the Aerosol Science article came out.  The lawyer never seems to go quiet.   If they've learned something new, they'll most likely hash it out between themselves (as they did with the Aerosol Science article) before they start arguing that they have new information to prove me wrong. 

I'm not worried that they'll come up with anything.  95 percent of the time, what they find proves nothing at all or helps prove that I'm right.  Of course, they might both simply have gone on vacation.  I'll just have to wait and see. 

That's the problem with facts (and "vibes").  They can often be easily misinterpreted -- particularly if you don't have enough of them.  But the good thing about facts is that they usually get fully explained -- eventually.  Hopefully, that will happen soon. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 18, 2008, thru Saturday, May 24, 2008

May 23, 2008 - There's an interesting article this morning in The West Virginia Record about Judge Walton.  He gave the commencement address at West Virginia State University (WVSU, his alma mater) on May 18 and was also given an honorary doctor of laws degree.  That evidently angered folks in the media and at the School of Journalism at West Virginia University (WVU), where Toni Locy teaches.  The article says a "firestorm" was unleashed by the decision to honor Judge Walton.  The "journalists" at The Record also report some "news":

Earlier this year, Walton, who began serving on the bench in October 2001 following his appointment by President Bush, sparked controversy by holding former USA Today reporter Toni Locy in contempt for not revealing her sources about the FBI's investigation into a former Army scientist's alleged involvement in the 2001 anthrax scare. Steven J. Hatfill, who worked at Army's infectious disease laboratory from 1997 to 1999, was initially identified by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft as a "person of interest" in the case which followed the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Since then, Hatfill has been cleared of any involvement in the matter. 

The last I heard, the FBI never considered him to be a suspect, but that doesn't mean he was "cleared."   Clearing someone would require proof that he did not do it and had no involvement.   If there is any such "proof," I don't recall ever reading anything about it.  The last I heard, the conspiracy theorists were still dreaming up ways he could have done it even if he had an alibi, didn't work with anthrax, and didn't have the "bench skills." 

The fact that Judge Walton was out giving speeches also makes me wonder if that's the explanation for why there's been no new update to the docket for the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, even though some important deadlines have passed.

May 20, 2008 - Nothing new has shown up on the Docket for the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit since May 15, when the docket showed that a Status Conference had been scheduled for May 29, at 9:15 a.m. before Judge Walton.  The oppositions to summary judgment motions due on May 16th haven't appeared.  The results of the mediation sessions which were scheduled to conclude on May 12th haven't appeared.  I could try to guess what this might mean, but I think I'll just wait to see what comes out of the Status Conference on the 29th.   It's just nine days from now. 

May 18, 2008 - I find it a bit odd that the Docket for the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit doesn't show any oppositions to the summary judgment motions which were required to be filed on or before May 16, 2008.  Maybe they were filed but the clerk just hasn't had time to post them.  If so, they should be there tomorrow.

While waiting on some news in that area, the weaponized-or-not-weaponized question was still being hotly debated last week when someone on FreeRepublic.com asked me to mention what was written about the anthrax attacks of 2001 in a new book by Michael A. Sheehan titled "Crush The Cell."  Sheehan was the Deputy Commissioner for Counter Terrorism at the New York Police Department from 2003 to 2006.

Beginning on page 203 of his book, Sheehan wrote this:

In my opinion, this attack was conducted by someone with experience in biological weapons programs and access to military grade anthrax spores.  It wasn’t al Qaeda, because bin Laden’s MO is to kill without warning. This theory is shared by most analysts in NYPD (and we had our own hunches about who was involved). The terrorist sent a letter with the spores to warn the recipients, knowing that if caught early, anthrax is often treatable with antibiotics. However, the attacker didn’t anticipate all the consequences of his treacherous warning, and innocent people died. The attack was probably staged as a post-911 attack warning that the country was vulnerable to biological attack.

The weapons-grade anthrax powder was sent by normal mail.[..] Incredibly, law enforcement and public health officials were very slow in recognizing that in fact the country was under biological attack.

So the mad scientist upped the ante by improving the quality of the finely powdered spores and sending it to the U.S. Congress. This finally got people’s attention. For years FBI thought that the quality of the anthrax, particularly in the later attacks, pointed to a link with government biological programs and that the perpetrator was probably embedded in one as a scientist or technician. To my great surprise, in late 2006, five years into the investigation FBI revised this assumption and has since broadened the search beyond the biological weapons community. No explanation has been given as to why the Bureau’s thinking changed.

While it is somewhat satisfying to see that this top counterterrorism expert believes, as I do, that al Qaeda had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks, it's very distressing to see that he fell for the silica coating nonsense printed in The Washington Post and Science Magazine the same way as so many other "experts" did.  It's clear he believed what was in The Post, since the last section highlighted in red above is just a rephrasing of a very misleading story in The Post titled "FBI Is Casting A Wider Net in Anthrax Attacks."

In reality, the FBI was saying all along that the anthrax in the Senate letters was not something that required super-sophisticated processing.  It was the media -- and specifically The Washington Post -- that were saying otherwise.

It's incredible that this argument has gone on so long.  It's been over six years!

And it's always seemed to me that it's an argument that could be easily resolved.  Very early on, I tried to get someone in the media to talk with people who make insecticides to see if they could find out facts about the way Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) is made.  There's no "weaponization" involved.  There are no state secrets involved.  All that is needed is to get some photographs that show what a powder of pure BT spores looks like.  But, it has to be a photograph unlike the only one I could find, seen HERE.   The problem with that image is that it appears to be spores scraped together for a photo, and it appears that the spores were treated with chemicals before being photographed.

I took a piece of that photograph and painted over in red what appears to be chemical residue that might be binding the spores together.  Here it is:

In order to show that "pure spores" do not have to be bunched together the way they are in this photo, it should be a simple matter to show a photo of fewer BT spores that were not dipped in chemicals before insertion into the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).

Of course, the spores cannot be bound together by static electricity, either.  Removing static electricity from dried spores is routine in the insecticide industry.   So, what we need are SEM photographs of single static-free, chemical-free BT spores. 

While hunting in vain for such photographs yesterday, I stumbled upon an article which is directly related to this subject.  The article is titled "Potential for Aerosol Dissemination of Biological Weapons: Lessons from Biological Control of Insects." 

While I haven't yet been able to find the entire article, I did find a letter to the editor about it which begins with this:

Recently, Levin an DeAmorim have reported that aerosols of the proper size for deep lung penetration (1-10 microns) can result unexpectedly from ordinary insect control operations under common circumstances.
And the letter ends with this:
Levin and DeAmorim's report reenforces the point that a substantial biological attack might be carried out with minimal resources.
So, ordinary insect control sprays routinely generate spore particles of the right size for deep lung penetration.  Are these spores "weaponized" too?

One review of the article has this title: "Technical barriers to airborne anthrax attack may be overrated, study suggests."  Unfortunately, the article might just be about  sprays where BT spores are suspended in liquid.  The debated issue is dry spores. 

Which brings us back to the article by Dr. Douglas Beecher of the FBI labs in Quantico, VA.  That article contained this comment about the misinformation in the media which falsely claimed there was a scientific requirement for super-sophisticated silica coatings on the attack anthrax spores: 

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.
If a top expert from the NYPD believed the nonsense in The Post and Science, it's easy to see how so many others were also misled, including those from the CDC and Dugway first mentioned here on April 30.  The scientists who believe that the attack anthrax was super-sophisticated seem to be beyond counting, and the conspiracy theorists who believe the powder was made in some secret and illegal U.S. government bioweapons lab endlessly send me media articles and "scientific" articles which they say "prove it" even though all those articles seem to be just repeating nonsense from The Washington Post and Science Magazine.

This debate has been going on for over six years, yet just a little bit of solid information -- particularly in the form of photographs of insecticide powders -- could end much of the debate.  If anyone has such photographs, I'd certainly like to put them on this site. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 11, 2008, thru Saturday, May 17, 2008

May 15, 2008 (B) - According to a new entry in the Docket in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, a status conference has been set for Thursday, May 29.  Since there's been no word of what came of the mediation sessions, that status conference may tell us. 

May 15, 2008 (A) - If the Amerithrax investigation is truly waiting on the acceptance of microbial forensics in court, it might be worth reading a couple views on forensics that are in the next issue of Forbes.   The first is titled "What's Wrong With CSI?" and is subtitled "Forensic evidence doesn't always tell the truth."  The second is titled "An Expert?  Prove it."  If nothing else, they show how the defense could argue its case. 

May 12, 2008 - The mediation sessions in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit were scheduled to conclude yesterday.  I've seen no word of what the results were.  Presumably, even if the sessions failed to reach any kind of agreement, some sort of report would be made to Judge Walton.  So far, there's nothing about it in the docket.

May 11, 2008 -  Not too long ago, I was watching an episode from Season 6 of the TV series "The X Files." The episode, which first aired on April 11, 1999, was titled "Trevor" and had Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully of the FBI tracking a man named Rawls who could walk through walls and other solid objects.

How does that relate to the anthrax attacks of 2001, you ask?  Well, the guy's abilities weren't unlimited.  He couldn't pass through ALL solid objects.  For instance, he couldn't pass through glass.  Why?  When Mulder notices that the guy couldn't pass through a mirror, this exchange takes place between Mulder and Scully:

Mulder: What makes an object solid, Scully?  I mean, what prevents one solid object from passing through another solid object?  Usually.

Scully:  Electrostatic repulsion.  Individual electrons repelling one another like magnets.

Mulder:  Electrons.  What if Rawls' ability somehow has to do with electricity, what would preclude it or contain it?

Scully:  Resistance against electrical current.  A good insulator, like rubber, like glass.

Mulder:  Exactly. 

"A good insulator, ... like glass."  What about silica?  It's the primary compenent when making glass.  And, according to Wikipedia, natural silica is a good insulator, too:
The natural ("native") oxide coating that grows on silicon is hugely beneficial in microelectronics. It is a superior electric insulator, possessing high chemical stability. In electrical applications, it can protect the silicon, store charge, block current, and even act as a controlled pathway to allow small currents to flow through a device.
Again, what does this have to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001?  As stated a couple days ago, there are many things about the attack anthrax that cannot be known until the FBI releases detailed information. But, the discussion between Mulder and Scully was a dicussion of science, and the science of physics is really at the heart of a lot of debate about the attack anthrax. 

Interestingly, on "The X-Files," the non-scientist (Mulder) was the conspiracy theorist and the person who was assigned to try to keep him at least in the general vicinity of reality was a scientist (Dr. Scully).  In my real world, however, the conspiracy theorist is a Ph.D. and an "expert on silica," and it is a non-scientist (me) who is trying to bring him into the general vicinity of reality -- because of what other scientists say.

In this real world, some scientists claim that the science of physics requires that the spores be coated with silica in order to aerosolize easily.  Other scientists know that the science of physics does NOT require that spores be coated in order to aerosolize easily.  So, it isn't really an argument between a scientist and a non-scientist.  It's an argument between scientists that is being documented and refereed by a non-scientist (me).  (The scientists I've talked with do not have the time nor patience to argue with conspiracy theorists who commonly resort to personal attacks when all else fails.)

For six years, I've been mostly discussing empirical evidence that there was no silica coating on the spores in the letter sent to Senator Daschle.   No one SAW any silica when the spores were examined under either a Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) or a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).  That hasn't resolved the conflict because the conspiracy theorists have been arguing physics.  They claim, in effect, if the physics of tiny particles require that the spores be coated with silica in order to do what they did, then the eye-witness testimony (the empirical evidence) must be wrong, i.e., the eye-witnesses must either be incompetent or part of some vast criminal conspiracy to mislead the American people about some secret and illegal bioweapons program.

Note: Discussing how tiny particles in the 1-micron range interact with one another is  just a physics discussion.  It is not a discussion of how to weaponize anthrax.  But known and published details about the weaponized anthrax made at Dugway Proving Grounds will provide solid information about the physics of tiny particles.

To resolve the physics conflict, all I needed to do was to get a conspiracy theorist to actually discuss the subject.  If you've been following the discussions I've been having on FreeRepublic.com with the conspiracy theorist/scientist who is a "silica expert," you can see all the tricks he uses to avoid discussing the science: (1) Distorting my arguments to make his points.  (2) Using quotes from questionable articles as if they were gospel.  (3) Taking facts out of context.  (4) Ignoring key questions.  (5) Resorting to personal attacks.  (6)  Changing the subject.  Etc.

Meanwhile, the problem I'm having is that there don't seem to be many scientific articles where the exact subject of spore to spore interaction is described.  And often scientists who work with spores don't really know why things work the way they do.  The authors of the Aerosol Science article on sampling, for example, didn't know why single spores ended up coated with silica while multi-spore particles did not.  And, according to an email one of the authors sent me, the authors also couldn't agree on what force bound the tiny silica particles to the simulant spores.

The scientist/conspiracy theorist on FreeRepublic.com believes he knows.  I think I may know. 

Why does the Dugway process result in single spores coated with fumed silica particles while the multi-spore "clumps" are not coated?  There's only one answer that makes scientific sense to me: 

Silica is an insulator.  Spores are living creatures, and, due to their chemical makeup, living creatures tend to be conductors  of electricity.

When spores and silica are put into a ball mill or a grinding mill, the milling process will generate a great deal of surface static electricity.   The friction that results as the objects are rubbed or pounded in the mill causes electrons from one object to be transferred to an adjacent object.  That results in the first object being short on electrons (giving it a negative electric charge) and the object receiving the electrons ends up with a surplus of electrons (giving it a positive charge).  So, all things being equal, the objects should all stick together.  But they aren't equal.

One of the two kinds of objects in the mill is a conductor and the other is a insulator.   Here's a quote from the web page about surface static electricity:

An object that has static electricity charges built up on its surface has an electrical force field coming from the surface. This field will mildly attract neutral objects or those with no charge. The field will strongly attract an object that has an opposite charge on its surface.
So, it seems to me that positive charged spores will be strongly attracted to negative charged spores by static electricity, and they will both be mildly attacted to the neutral (insulator) silica particles.  BUT the insulator silica particles will not be strongly attracted to each other, nor will they pass the static electric charge between the spores. 

So, as the milling process breaks up the original pellets or clumps of spores, the friction causes the neutral silica particles to stick to the positive and negative charged spores.  The insulator silica particles coat the charged spores and insulate them from the charges in adjacent particles.  This prevents the static electricity from allowing the single spores to get restuck to other single spores.   And if it's done well enough, the end result is an end product consisting of single spores that do not stick to each other (or repel each other) even though the spores are all electrostatically charged.  The coating of silica particles prevents it.  Here's the image from the Aerosol Science article:

And why, after the milling is completed, are there a few clumps which are NOT coated with silica?   Why do some particles look like this:

Two explanations come to mind:  First, those clumps are small enough to fall through the filters and out of the milling process beforethey get charged OR coated.  Second, if that's not the complete answer, then whatever milling flaw that failed to break up the spores also failed to induce the static charge.   I like the first answer best.  The second explanation could just be a rewording of the first explanation.

The argument about van der Waals forces being the binding force falls apart because it provides no explanation for why the silica does not stick to the clumps.  Milling doesn't generate any van der Waals forces.  And additional silica is added after milling, where van der Waals forces in each particle would still be in full effect (whatever that effect is), yet that additional silica didn't stick either. If van der Waals forces were the binding forces, the silica should totally coat the spores in the clump just as happens with the individual spores.

So, if my explanation of the physics is correct, the Dugway spores were coated with silica due to static electricity, not due to van der Waals forces.   And where van der Waals forces were the only forces present - in the clumps - the binding effect was insignificant.

That means all the arguments about spores requiring a silica coating to prevent them from binding together due to van der Waals forces are scientific nonsense

Previously, I've stated that argument was scientific nonsense because no one SAW any silica on the spores, therefore all the empirical evidence said the spores didn't need a coating.  Now, this scientific reasoning using physics appears to say the same thing.

If I'm wrong, I hope someone will show me exactly where and how I'm wrong.  And I don't mean by digging out some quote from some decades-old science article which they can interpret as indicating that I'm wrong.

When I get some time, I'll create some graphics and assemble a separate, supplemental web page which will add illustrations to all these words.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, May 4, 2008, thru Saturday, May 10, 2008

May 9, 2008 - The Locy appeal was heard on schedule.  The Associated Press reports:

A federal appeals court appeared reluctant Friday to uphold hefty fines for a reporter who refuses to identify the sources of her stories about the 2001 anthrax attacks.
...

"You've got enough to go to trial. You think you can win," Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg told Hatfill's lawyer. "Why is more evidence critical to the case? That seems to be a contradiction."

There's no information on when the judges will issue their ruling.

May 7-8, 2008 - While continuing the endless arguments on FreeRepublic.com, an interesting scientific puzzle came up.  It relates to the article in Aerosol Science magazine and the two pictures shown in my comment dated May 4 below.  On page 167, the article says this about the pictures:

Figure 7a shows a particle potentially containing a single BG spore; since no uncoated single spores were observed, this suggests that virtually all single spores remained coated with silica. The coating apparently solidified from exposure to water in the air over the years of sample storage and use.  However, multiple spores or clumps were found frequently and these were often largely uncoated as indicated in Figure 7b. The reason for the difference in coating adherence to different sized particles is unclear.
Unlike arguments over things which cannot be answered without new facts from the FBI, this is something which seems to demand an explanation. And the answer lies in the science of physics, where the facts are probably already known but not yet applied. 

If the silica sticks to spores due to van der Waals forces, as some claim, why would the silica particles stick to single spores but not equally well to clumps of spores?  If, instead, the silica sticks due to static electricity, would the difference between single spores and clumps be explained by the irregular surface area of the clumps?   I just don't know enough about surface static electricity.   And what about the fact that the single clump in picture 7b seems to show unusually small spores -- almost half normal size.  Smaller spores might go through the mesh filters first, which means there would be less time for static electricity to build up.  For awhile, I thought another explanation might be that the pounding done by the ball mill causes the silica particles to be pounded into the latice-like outer coating on the spores (the exosporium) and the particles stick like tennis balls stuck in a chain-link fence.  Smaller spores which go through the mesh filters first would have fewer silica particles stuck to them.  But that explanation, while possible, seems less likely than some explanation involving surface static electricity.   So, we have two possible explanations, while the van der Waals forces explanation doesn't seem to work at all. 

The milling process begins with large clumps of trillions of spores stuck together due to the way they were dried.  So, the clumps in the final product are clumps that were never broken up by the ball mill.  Why weren't they broken up?  Probably because they were small enough to go through the final mesh filter before they got broken up.  Does that  answer the question of why there is very little silica stuck to them?  There wasn't time to break them up?  But wouldn't there be a lot of unattached silica particles on the other side of the final mesh filter?  And the article says they added more silica to the BG preparation after filtering in order to enhance the flow characteristics.  If van der Waals forces were at work, they'd work equally well on either side of the filter.  But static electricity wouldn't.  The friction from milling would have stopped.  That would mean the pounding of tiny silica particles into the latice-like surface of the spores would have stopped, too.    Hmm. 

That's the type of thing that keeps me interested in all this for six and a half years. 

May 6, 2008 (B) - I've been informed by one of the authors of the Aerosol Science article that, at the time they began their study, they were not in a position to know any details about the anthrax powders used in the attacks of 2001 and did indeed accept what was printed in the media as being the truth or close to it. 

It's unfortunate that they mentioned their beliefs about the anthrax attacks of 2001 in their article.  They stepped on a "land mine" when they mentioned the anthrax attacks of 2001, and that "land mind" exploded around them.  It could wipe out a lot of the good work their article provides to people interested in sampling methods.

Maybe if enough scientists understand that they are entering a "mine field" any time they mention the anthrax attacks of 2001, they'll be more careful in what they say. And maybe they'll demand that more facts be made public about the anthrax powders that were in the anthrax letters so that the "mine field" can be eliminated. 

May 6, 2008 (A) - While discussions about the the Aerosol Science and Technology article  seem to have temporarily died down on FreeRepublic.com, in my weary brain the information in the article is still connecting pieces of the overall anthrax puzzle in ways that now seem so obvious that I'm amazed that they weren't pointed out and discussed before.

The "horse and buggy" anthrax simulants created by Dugway back during the Cold War used the techniques that were then considered to be "the state of the art."  And, while the techniques might now seem antiquated in a certain light, they still produced a very deadly end-product.   Simulants using those techniques were used in both the sampling study described in the recent Aerosol Science article and in the Canadian "Risk assessment of anthrax threat letters" study completed in September of 2001.

Why did those studies use simulants from that old process?  Because that's what Dugway supplied.  Why did Dugway supply simulants from that old process?  Because they were forbidden by international agreements from developing any new techiques.  And they were required to destroy all stockpiles of actual bioweapons from that era.

Of course!  And that's why the conspiracy theorists went nuts!  They believed they saw evidence that the Bush administration was violating those international agreements!

Here's some background information from www.cdi.org about the agreements:

U.S. efforts to eliminate biological weapons began in earnest under the Nixon administration. On November 25, 1969, President Nixon declared that the United States would not use chemical weapons in a first instance, and he renounced the use of biological weapons in any situation. Future biological weapons research was confined to defensive measures such as immunization, detection and safety. Consequently, the Department of Defense destroyed large stockpiles of biological weapons. Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom followed suit and began to abolish their BW stockpiles as well.

The United States, through the United Nations Conference of the Committee on Disarmament, discussed the possibility of an international agreement with the Soviet Union. On August 5, 1971, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to a revised draft of the convention and a vote in the General Assembly resulted in 110 for the treaty, and 0 against. The United States Senate ratified the convention in 1974 during the Ford administration.

Developing new techniques for making bioweapons would not be considered a defensive measure in any context allowed under the treaty.

To conspiracy theorists, the fact that the end-product from those old techniques was nothing like what was in the anthrax letters mailed in September and October of 2001 was seen as "proof" that the anthrax powder in the letters came from some NEW and totally illegal program.  And their beliefs were enflamed by articles in the media, such as "Terror Anthrax Linked to Type Made by U.S." in the December 3, 2001, issue of The New York Times, the "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted" article from the October 28, 2002, issue of The Washington Post, and, of course, the absolutely absurd, pure conspiracy theory article "Anthrax Powder - State Of The Art?" from the November 28, 2003, issue of Science Magazine. 

Of course.  Of course.  Of course.

In those highly emotional times, it just didn't seem reasonable to many people that the anthrax in the letters could have come from some routine lab technique used to create insecticides.  (In many ways, that is a lot more scary than that it came from some illegal U.S. Government program.)  But when beliefs are used to generate news instead of facts, even though the results can be totally ridiculous, there is no rule that totally ridiculous ideas cannot be believed by normally intelligent people. 

May 5, 2008 - The "merry month of May" also includes the Florida Supreme Court hearing Maureen Stevens' lawsuits against the U.S. Government and the Battelle Memorial Institute.  It happened today.  According to the Fort Mills (SC) Times:

The federal government and a private laboratory have no duty under state law to protect the public from lethal materials, their lawyers argued Monday in a lawsuit over the anthrax death of a supermarket tabloid staffer in 2001.
...
The lawsuit claims the strain of anthrax that killed Stevens was traced to the Army's Research Institute for Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md.

If the case goes to trial, that's an issue the jury will be asked to determine. Genetic analysis by researchers at Northern Arizona University and the Institute of Genomic Research in Maryland indicate the strain probably originated at Fort Detrick.

The suit also claims the government and Battelle are negligent because they failed to keep it secured.

Maureen's husband, Bob Stevens was the first victim to die as a result of the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Many documents related to the case can be found HERE. And, if you are really interested in the legal issues of this case, there's more information HERE.

May 4, 2008 - Well, we've made it to "the merry month of May!"  According to The New York Times, Toni Locy's arguments in her appeal to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will be heard on May 9, this coming Friday.  Mediation in the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit is scheduled to conclude on the following Monday, May 12.  And according to the Docket in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, all parties must file their oppositions to the summary judgment motions on or before Friday, May 16, 2008, and replies in support of such motions on or before Friday, May 30, 2008.

There's no way of knowing how quickly the Appeals Court will issue a ruling in the Locy Contempt of Court matter.  And there's certainly no way of knowing what will come out of the mediation sessions -- if anything.

Meanwhile, the discussions about the Aerosol Science and Technology article seem to have died down.  (For multiple reasons, I can't yet put a copy of the article on this site.)  In some ways, the article seems to have produced more questions than answers:

1.  Why would a branch of the CDC in Cincinnati author a document that says it is "believed" that some of the material used in the 2001 attacks was in a "fluidized" form, meaning: containing fumed silica?

2. How come some scientists from Dugway agreed to provide for this paper a description of how they made such anthrax powders back during the Cold War, and also providing a supply of "weaponized" simulants they made using those techniques 40 years ago?

3. Since when have U.S. government agencies been publishing details about techniques for making bioweapons?

4.  How come this information was published in an article about sampling methods and not in an article where known information (versus believed nonsense) about the powders used in the anthrax attacks of 2001 is also provided? 

The process described in the article doesn't seem to match the actual industrialized weaponization process used back during the Cold War.  This process uses a ball mill instead of a grinding mill.  However, the way silica is used to dampen static electricity and the way they reduce solid pellets of trillions of spores down to individual spores and tiny clumps indicates that the end product would be fairly similar to what came out of the industrialized process. 

The article provides an image of a coated spore produced from this process.  (It was displayed all over the place in the FreeRepublic discussions but then disappeared.  Since it came from a government agency, I assume it's in the public domain, so here it is:

As you can see, it looks something like a clump of sugar.  Nothing of the actual spore is visible.  You can only see the silica particles which totally cover the spore to the point where the article describes it as a "Particle assumed to contain a spore coated with fumed silica." The grains of sugar (i.e., silica) seemed fused together but nothing like the chain-like strands in the close-up image of fumed silica seen HERE or the image of smoke-like particles which immediately follows the close-up image at that link.

The Aerosol Science article seems to explain why.  The chain- or smoke-like particles of fumed silica were put into a ball mill with the spores and then battered into fragments.  The friction from the milling process would generate a great deal of static electricity, and the end result, after being pounded through "increasingly finer mesh screens," is spores coated with crushed bits of fumed silica, which presumably cling to the spores as a result of the static electricity.  And the silica, being an insulator, prevents the static-charged spores inside the particle from clinging to each other.   (And, of course, there's an argument about whether or not van der Waals forces are involved in any of this.)

So, in this process, fumed silica was MIXED with spores and then run through a ball mill and various kinds of filtering.  The end result was spores covered with silica and a great deal of debris of various kinds.  The purpose of the process is NOT to coat spores, but to create particles small enough to be effectively aerosolized in a bioweapon. The silica coating on the spores is an unfortunate but necessary side effect of the milling. 

Not every spore gets completely covered with silica in this process, but most do.  Many particles end up looking something like the one below, a clump consisting of multiple spores with a sprinkling of silica, but still small enough to get through the final filter:

This is totally unlike what was placed in any of the anthrax letters.  The spores in the anthrax letters were NOT MILLED.  The debris in the media letters was dead bacteria and the organic residue of sporulation.  The senate letters contained just "pure spores" with little or no debris -- and absolutely NO visible silica.

Looking through my book and through my supplemental page on coatings, I don't find anything I need to change, although if I were to write the book and that page over again I would probably explain certain things differently.  I've also been endlessly reminded that, in my December 2004 interview with Ken Alibek, this was said: 

Lake:  Is it true to say that spores are not actually COATED with silica, they are MIXED with silica? 

Alibek:  (laughing)  Yeah, because there is no principle for coating.  This is one mistake, hopefully, which just comes from the media. 

Presumably, Mr. Alibek either didn't know or remember how the Americans weaponized spores back during the Cold War, or a process where MIXING results in a COATING was not seen as the correct answer to the question I asked.  Either way, that's what was said, so no correction is needed. 

And, of course, all the beliefs that spores were coated with silica using techniques that would certainly kill every single spore are as crazy now as they've always been. 

In dicussions, I've stated many times that coating a spore with silica will have two undesirable effects:  1.  It will make the spore heavier and less "flyable."  2.  It will reduce the ability of the spore to germinate.

Both factors show that coated spores would reduce the effectiveness of a bioweapon.

Undesirable effect #1 is undoubtedly still true, but the difference is evidently not enough to create a significant problem in allowing the spore to "fly."  They won't fly as well with a silica coating, but they'll still fly.

Undesirable effect #2 is also true, but evidently also not significant enough to create a serious problem with infecting the human targets when billions or trillions of spores are involved.  The Aerosol Science article says at the bottom of page 169:

This means that if the spore particle is completely coated with silica, it may not have sufficient contact with the growth medium to grow and be detected as a CFU [Colony Forming Unit].
The article discusses ways the silica can be washed off during the sampling process, so presumably there could be ways it gets washed off in a battlefield setting and/or inside the human lung.  And, if not, the tiny, partially-coated clumps will do the job.

An analogy seems appropriate here:

I feel like I've been arguing for years with people who believed that they knew about a new, top secret, super-sophisticated way to travel across America: by horse and buggy.  And I've been counter-arguing that it is absolutely ridiculous to believe that anyone would ever travel across America by horse and buggy. And now we've both  been suddenly informed that there was a time, many many years ago, when lots of people actually did travel across America by horse and buggy.

So, we all live and learn.

The key, however, is that all this new information doesn't change any part of my analysis of the anthrax attacks.  It only increases what we know about peripheral subjects.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, April 27, 2008, thru Saturday, May 3, 2008

May 1, 2008 - The article from Aerosol Science and Technology mentioned yesterday is generating a lot of interesting discussion on FreeRepublic.com.

April 30, 2008 - The scientific article people were waiting on, and which I mentioned at the end of my comment for April 27, turns out to be a rather bizarre article in Aerosol Science and Technology titled "Development of an Aerosol System for Uniformly Depositing Bacillus Anthracis Spore Particles on Surfaces."  It was published on March 1, 2008, and the authors are from the CDC and Dugway Proving Grounds. 

It's bizarre because it seems to be based entirely on the bizarre belief that the article titled "FBI's Theory On Anthrax Is Doubted" from the October 28, 2002, issue of The Washington Post was a valid description of the attack anthrax of 2001.  Right now I'm just scratching my head and wondering how they can be so out of touch with reality.  But conspiracy theorists will undoubtely LOVE it and consider me to be out of touch with reality.  Which proves one thing: The world in is great need of a scientifically indisputable report on what the attack anthrax of 2001 really looked like.  A picture by a scientist who actually viewed the anthrax isn't good enough.

The article contains a lot of information about how Dugway evidently produced anthrax bioweapons back during the Cold War.  The process described appears to result in spores coated with silica.  While that process has nothing to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001, I'll have to figure exactly what is being said in the article and whether or not there is something on this web site about "weaponizing anthrax" that I need to change.

April 27, 2008 - The news media continues to totally ignore everything contained in the Motions for Summary Judgment in the Hatfill v FBI lawsuit.  There was absolutely nothing about that flood of information in the news last week. 

Instead, the Toni Locy situation seems to be their point of interest.  Last week, more articles were generated about the "Shield Law" the media wants passed.  The only article of interest that I noticed, however, was from over a week ago.  It was headlined "McCain, Obama back law shielding reporters."  But the text of the article doesn't quite match the headline.  Here's what it said about McCain's endorsement:

McCain told a group of newspaper executives at the annual meeting of the Associated Press that when it comes to anonymous sources, he trusts that "you will not do more harm than good, whether it comes to the security of the nation or the reputation of good people."

The proposed shield law is, "frankly, a license to do harm, perhaps serious harm," he said. "But it also is a license to do good; to disclose injustice and unlawfulness and inequities; and to encourage their swift correction."

And here's what it said about Obama's endorsement:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who spoke later at an AP luncheon, has endorsed the shield law to protect reporters but told editors that courts should decide whether a confidential source deserves protection.
That's a long way from the blanket, total immunity the media wants. 

The article also says, 

Hillary Rodham Clinton ... also supports the law 
An article in Editor & Publisher expands upon that a bit: 
she recently signed on to co-sponsor the Federal Shield Law bill.

“To ensure whistle-blowers that they can blow the whistle

Yes, everyone wants to "ensure whistle-blowers that they can blow the whistle," but that kind of statement avoids the real argument: How far should the law go toward giving the media a "license to do harm?"

I also thought that there might be something somewhere about the confirmed finding that the person the Neo-Nazis consider to be the prime suspect in the anthrax attacks is not Jewish, as they believe.  He's a Catholic.  The bad information apparently originated in one of those idiotic 9/11 conspiracy theory books, where the author just assumed the man was Jewish because the name seemed Jewish.  It then got repeated word for word over and over and over and over.  I changed the Wikipedia entry for his name to point out that he was a member of the St. Nicholas Catholic Church when he lived in Ohio.  But there's no indication that any web site which considers him to be a suspect because they believe he is Jewish will let facts change their minds.  Attacking him because they believe he's Jewish clearly has nothing to do with facts. 

Along that same line, last week on FreeRepublic.com there was message after message after message where I was bizarrely (or insanely) attacked.  I'm not sure what set the guy off, but it appears to be because I showed him to be wrong in his beliefs as to what  a patent filed by Ken Alibek does.  The person who disguises his identity by calling himself "ZacandPook" apparently somehow came to believe that Alibek's the patent encapsulates spores in silica, which "ZacandPook" seems to believe is the explanation for why silicon and oxygen were detected in the attack anthrax.   In reality, the patent involves a cell culture method where bacteria (cells) are grown (cultured) inside tiny "microdroplets" which are prevented from combining into larger droplets by a coating of silica particles.  The patent has absolutely nothing to do with spores.

Here's how the process is described in the patent:

1. A cell culture method comprising the steps of: introducing liquid media inoculated with cells to be cultured into a vessel; converting the inoculated liquid media into individual microdroplets; introducing a sufficient quantity of hydrophobic particles in the form of a dry powder into the vessel to coat the individual microdroplets; and growing the cells within the individual microdroplets.
According to the patent, the tiny microdroplets are between half a millimeter and 2 millimeters in diameter - hundreds and thousands of times larger than a spore - and they are inoculated to contain large numbers of bacteria inside.  Is there any other way to read what the patent describes?:
The size of the microdroplets will vary, with an optimum size for the cultivation of microorganisms, for example, usually being between 0.5 and 2.0 mm in diameter. Sizes within this range have been found to result in high concentrations of microorganisms per microdroplet.
This invention requires less equipment and is less expensive than other methods, and greatly reduces a key problem associated with growing bacteria in bioreactors or fermenting vats, the problem where all the bacteria in a large vat can be contaminated by some other kind of bacteria.  The method described in Ken Alibek's (and Charles L. Bailey's) patent limits such contamination to only the bacteria growing within a tiny microcroplet.  That would be a significant advantage over other culturing methods.

Yet, evidently somehow "ZacandPook" believes this explains why silicon and oxygen were detected in the attack anthrax spores.  And it appears that, because I showed that Alibek's patent has nothing to do with spores, he says:

Ed stood ready to serve his country by so totally confusing the issue on silica. Ed, you are a True American.
So, I'm "confusing the issue on silica" because I show that he is mistaken in his beliefs?

You might think that I should just ignore him.  But he's shown that he'll do anything he can to shut down this web site, so he's hard to ignore.

While he was ranting away, another person who would also like to shut down this web site went suddenly silent.  Not a word all week.  But there were vague indications that he's waiting on something.  I noticed some searches on my web site which I believe were his searches.  They seemed to indicate that he's waiting on a scientific article that might shed some light on some aspect of the attack anthrax.  In the past, such silences were sometimes followed by the publication of a scientific article about the attack anthrax.  But the "signs" I'm reading are so vague that I could be totally wrong. 

Do I believe he's waiting on an article?  No.  I believe it's equally likely that he's waiting on something else, but I have no idea what it could be.  And I believe it's far more likely that the "signs" mean nothing at all.  I believe I don't have enough information to know what he's doing -- if anything.  But I also believe I should continue to watch and pay attention, since the "signs" could mean some facts are coming.  And if there are new facts coming, they will almost certainly support existing facts as laid out and discussed on this web site.

That's the way things happen when you look for facts and don't just rely on beliefs.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, April 20, 2008, thru Saturday, April 26, 2008

April 22, 2008 - I'd forgotten that the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit is in mediation.  I was reminded today when a request was made to alter some deadlines because the parties need to be able to concentrate on mediation proceedings.   The request says:

Mediation is scheduled to conclude on May 12, 2008. The parties believe it will be difficult to devote adequate attention to the mediation if they are simultaneously preparing oppositions to summary judgment motions. Defendants therefore respectfully request that the deadline for the filing of oppositions be extended by one week, until May 16, 2008, and that the deadline for the filing of replies also be extended by one week, until May 30, 2008.
April 20, 2008 - Most of the past week was spent trying to determine if there is anything new in the documents associated with the Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Dr. Hatfill and the government in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit.  While there's been a lot of discussion on FreeRepublic.com, where some of the documents have been posted, at least 80 percent of the documents I've seen are just copies of newspaper and other media articles which have been on this site for years.  (A couple documents were actually obtained by copying what is ON this site.)   (Dr. Hatfill's deposition is apparently available somewhere, but I haven't yet seen it.)  There are also emails and letters between various people.  Some have been seen before.   Some haven't.  Whether there is anything new in them depends upon how closely you've been paying attention for the past six years -- and how thoroughly you study the documents.  I haven't had the time to do much more than skim through them. 

(The files of supporting documents are too big to put on this web site where they would be repeatedly downloaded by Google, Yahoo! and many universities and colleges around the world, generating a lot of bandwidth usage with no benefit for the expense.) 

Mostly the documents contained in the files are just support for what is described in the Memoranda and Statements of Facts filed by Dr. Hatfill and the government. 

However, some documents provide some insights into what was going on in matters related to stopping leaks about the FBI's investigation of Dr. Hatfill.

Looking at just what has been put on FreeRepublic.com, for example, we see that the letter in Message #178 is from U.S. Attorney Ken Kohl and says,

By the way, WFO [Washington Field Office] has opened a leak investigation in an attempt to find out who spoke to NEWSWEEK magazine over the weekend about the bureau’s use of bloodhounds in the investigation.”
Although undated, we know that the Newsweek article in question was published in their August 12, 2002, issue, which went to press about a week earlier, around the 5th. 

Another letter from that time is shown in Message #180 and says, 

Because Hatfill said he was going to make his referall to OPR [Office of Professional Responsibility], and because the substance of Hatfill’s complaints are not really criminal, Hatfill’s referall would probably result in OPR handling it (with OIG [Office of the Inspector General] deferring).
Another letter from that time is shown in Message #182 and says,
Van [Harp] has indicated to Ken[Kohl] that WFO opened the investigation and assigned it to a separate squad, but neither Ken nor any of the agents have been interviewed or have any other indication that an investigation is ongoing.
This appears to confirm that the FBI knew who was doing the leaking, and they simply set up a "sting operation" to trap that individual.  That would explain why neither Ken Kohl or any FBI agents were interviewed.

In another thread on FreeRepublic.com, there is further information.  Message #14 shows a letter of some kind from two months later, October 8, 2002, from David W. Szady, Assistant Director in charge of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division, to Mr. H. Marshall Jarrett, a lawyer in the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) in the United States Department of Justice.  The letter says,

The purpose of this memorandum is to notify your office of the closing of the FBI’s criminal investigation of the captioned media leak matter. It is the understanding of the FBI that your continued investigation of this matter will be pursued by your office.
It appears they were closing the leak investigation that led to finding that Daniel S. Seikaly leaked information about the bloodhounds to Newsweek.  Turning the matter over to the OPR meant that it wouldn't likely become a criminal matter.  It would more likely end with a repremand, a firing or disbarment.  (Seikaly left the DOJ.)

While interesting, it adds little to our knowlege of the Amerithrax investigation.

The same with most of the other documents I've seen.  One news article that wasn't on my web site (but has been added) is from the March 25, 2002, issue of The Los Angeles Times and is titled "FBI Denies That Hijacker Had Skin Anthrax."  It says,

But Saturday, FBI officials said they still believe the 19 hijackers never came into contact with anthrax, noting that authorities scoured their cars, apartments and personal effects for traces of the deadly bacteria and found none.

"This was fully investigated and widely vetted among multiple agencies several months ago," FBI chief spokesman John E. Collingwood said in a statement in response to the report. "Exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been."

While I didn't have that particular article, the information in it isn't new.  I recall it appeared many places, since it's what I and others have been saying for many years.

When digging for information, finding only old and/or irrelevant information takes all the fun out of the digging.   I'll continue to poke around, but I'm also waiting for people to come to me with arguments that they've found something in the heap that I need to study and comment upon.  There are just too many other things for me to do.

The key information in the documents, as far as I'm concerned, is still the confirmation that Barbara Hatch Rosenberg was responsible for what happened to Dr. Hatfill.  It's what I've been saying on this web site for years.

But maybe the most newsworthy item to come from these documents so far is the fact that absolutely no one in the media has found anything in them worthy of comment.  Motions for Summary Judgment in high-profile cases are usually met with headlines supporting one point of view or the other.  But not this time.  There's only total silence from both the Right and the Left.  I find that a bit strange.  I don't understand it at all.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, April 13, 2008, thru Saturday, April 19, 2008

April 16, 2008 - Ah!  Finally!  An arrest for something I've been tracking on this web site.  The title of the Associated Press article says it all: "Man at center of Las Vegas ricin case arrested, charged."  According to The New York Times:

The six-page indictment said Mr. Von Bergendorff told investigators he had been experimenting with ricin production since the 1990s and had made ricin in Utah and Reno, Nev., in recent years. He described learning to make it as “an exotic idea” and told them he has “experimented with a lot of things, even counterfeiting.”
Curiosity almost killed this cat.

April 14, 2008 - Hmm.  There's a lot of discussion on FreeRepublic.com about specific emails and other documents released on Friday.  But I don't seem to be able to find them.  I found a list of the documents, but it was accompanied by a statement that the documents were only available in paper form and you have to go to the clerk's office to see them.   I don't yet know where the copies of the documents can be found.

April 13, 2008 - Ah, nuts!  I had hoped that at least one or two newspapers and news outlets would have summarized what is in documents associated with the "Motion For Partial Summary Judgement" filed by Dr. Hatfill and the "Motion for Summary Judgement" filed by the government on Friday.  But, I don't see a single word about it anywhere -- except on a discussionforum.  That means I have to slog through the documents myself to summarize them.

Although I haven't found it yet, I've been told via an email that I'm mentioned in at least one document filed by Dr. Hatfill.  The mention is as follows:

Dr. Hatfill also recalls [...] calling Ed Lake to correct inaccuracies reflected in a New York Times article about "mobile labs," [...]
That's a first.  I've never been mentioned in any other document in this case, as far as I know.

The "Plaintiff's Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion For Partial Summary Judgment"is a 40 page document which makes claims such as these:

[From page 13:]  Deborah Daniels, the Assistant Attorney General who approved Dr. Hatfill’s blackballing and kibitzed about how to spin it to the press, also received no Privacy Act training and did not have even a general understanding of what it required.

[From page 19:]So many people had actually gotten into Amerithrax case files via the ACS that one agent’s inquiry into who had done so during “some period of time that wasn't very long” resulted in a “blizzard of paper” that he described as “massive.” So many individuals had accessed the investigatory records that Agent Roth estimated it would have taken a second investigation the size of the Amerithrax investigation just to identify them—even with the FBI’s technical capability to determine who had accessed any particular file.

[From page 20:] ... they left the Amerithrax investigative records wide open to any of the “vast majority” of the 24,000 or so FBI personnel who had generalized access to the ACS system, plus other state, federal and local government personnel
working on any FBI task force.

[From page 28:]  Discovery has provided admissions from FBI and DOJ officials, or in some cases direct testimony from reporters, of over 140 disclosures of investigative information about Dr. Hatfill alone.  Eighty of those have now been traced to discrete, identified DOJ and FBI officials.
The "Plaintiff's Statement of Material Undisputed Facts in Support of Motion for Partial Summary Judgment" is 114 pages long, too long for me to put a copy on my site where it will be downloaded endlessly.  Mostly it's a rehash of all the things that have appeared in the media and in previous legal documents which show that the FBI and the DOJ routinely leaked information about the Amerithrax investigation to the media.  I'm not sure what point can be made by showing that people within the FBI do talk to the media "off the record" about ongoing criminal investigations. Just about every law enforcement agency briefs the media about ongoing criminal investigations.  If they didn't, it would appear that nothing is being done.  And, if they didn't, the media (and everyone else) would be guessing about what was being done. 

But talking to the media "off the record" about a particular individual is clearly risky business -- unless the individual is a suspect and a fugitive. 

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg's name comes up frequently in the document, appearing first on page 8:

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg is a professor at the State University of New York at
Purchase. [...]. Professor Rosenberg published on the Internet a “profile” of the anthrax killer in which she speculated that the perpetrator not only “fit[] the FBI profile” but also was a “[m]iddle-aged American” who “[w]orks for a CIA contractor in [the] Washington, DC area,” “[w]orked in USAMRIID laboratory in the past,” and “[k]nows Bill Patrick and has probably learned a thing or two about weaponization from him, informally.”
then on page 9:
In addition to providing a “profile” of the anthrax mailer, Professor Rosenberg asserted that the FBI had focused in on one particular suspect. This assertion received a swift rebuke by the FBI. The FBI issued a media statement designed to refute Professor Rosenberg’s allegations that the FBI had a prime suspect in the anthrax investigation.
then on page 10:
Congress picked up on criticism of the FBI by outsiders, and it pressed the FBI to
show that it was making progress on the anthrax investigation. On June 18, 2002, three weeks after The Anthrax Files appeared in The Times, Professor Rosenberg received an audience with members of the staffs of Senators Leahy and Daschle, the two senators to whom the anthraxladen letters were addressed. [...]  Van Harp, then the Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office and one of the FBI officials responsible for the Amerithrax investigation, and other FBI officials were “summoned” to attend the meeting to listen to Professor Rosenberg’s theory on who committed the anthrax attacks. [...]

At this meeting, Professor Rosenberg, who had been granted no official authority by the FBI, no access to any forensic tests conducted on the anthrax letters or the FBI’s investigative file, and was “misinformed” about aspects of the investigation, explained to Senate staff members her theory of the case. [...]

It was clear that Professor Rosenberg was talking about Dr. Hatfill.

and on page 11:
She also expressed to the staffers her concerns about the FBI’s handling of the investigation. [...]

The FBI is very conscious of its image in the eyes of Congress and the general
public. It is concerned about maintaining a good public image generally. [...]  The Agency Defendants were aware of mounting public criticism concerning the handling of the anthrax investigation. [...]  The Agency Defendants also were aware that members of Congress were criticizing the FBI and of pressures to solve the case. [...]  Indeed, Agency Defendants were aware of the debate within Congress concerning the FBI’s institutional competence to investigate terrorism cases and the
allocation of responsibility for investigating terrorism cases. [...]

On June 25, 2002, one week after Professor Rosenberg’s meeting on Capitol Hill, the FBI searched Dr. Hatfill’s apartment under the full glare of the national press.

But, the document doesn't go into all the things that Dr. Rosenberg did to point the finger at Dr. Hatfill before she finally got the attention of those senate staffers.  It will take me some time to go through all of what is in the document instead. It's purpose is to show that the government violated the Privacy Act, not to show in detail how Dr. Rosenberg contributed to that violation.

Although I haven't yet found the document, I'm told that there's a copy of a letter dated September 5, 2002, which was sent by Dr. Hatfill's attorney at the time, Victor M. Glasberg, to Dr. Rosenberg which contained this subtle warning:

I understand that you have recently observed that the FBI’s focus on Dr. Hatfill was a matter of its own choosing, for which you were in no way responsible. I will not comment on the appropriateness of any such position, but on behalf of Dr. Hatfill I would request, and suggest, that before you even get close to describing him in the future, by name or otherwise, you submit your comments for legal vetting before publishing them to anyone. This will benefit all parties.
The government's response is easier to summarize.  In "The Defendants' Statement of Material Facts Not In Dispute" it basically says Dr. Hatfill has no case because the government didn't leak anything from any confidential government files.  Here are the headings for the government's main arguments:
The Attorney General’s “Person of Interest” Statements Did Not Violate the Act

Debra Weierman Did Not Violate The Privacy Act

CBSNews.com Inaccurately Reported Van Harp’s Comments

Van Harp Did Not Confirm Details of a Newsweek Story to Eleanor Clift

And here is the key argument covering Dr. Hatfill's claim that just about everyone in the world had access to the FBI's ACS (Automated Case Support) database.
38. There is no evidence that any “leaks” to the media came from the ACS database, or were by individuals who should not have had access to the Amerithrax investigation files.  Indeed, the evidence is decidedly to the contrary. In each case where the source of information has been identified, the evidence is clear that the source did not acquire the information from the ACS database.
But of far more interest is a 73 page document titled "The United States Department of Justice and The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Memorandum in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgement."  I haven't finished reading through it, but I notice that starting on page 4 it contains this:
A. Journalistic Interest In Hatfill That Predates Alleged Disclosures

Testimony has revealed that at least certain members of the media began focusing their attention upon Hatfill in early 2002 because of tips they had received from former colleagues of his who found him to be highly suspicious. Articles about Hatfill thus began to appear in the mainstream press and on internet sites as early as January of 2002, and continued until the first search of his apartment on June 25, 2002, which, in turn, led to even more intense press attention.

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a Professor at the State University of New York, for example, complained in January and February 2002 on the Federation of American Scientists’ (“FAS”) website of the FBI’s apparent lack of progress on the investigation, and described generally the person she believed was the “anthrax perpetrator.” “Analysis of Anthrax Attacks,” Possible Portrait of the Anthrax Perpetrator (Section IV.6), Defendant’s Appendix , Ex. 1. Rosenberg did
not identify Hatfill by name, but described him in sufficient detail: a “Middle-aged American” who “[w]orks for a CIA contractor in Washington, DC area” and [w]orked in USAMRIID laboratory in the past” and “[k]nows Bill Patrick and probably learned a thing or two about weaponization from him informally.” Id. In his amended complaint, Hatfill states that “Professor Rosenberg’s ‘Possible Portrait of the Anthrax Perpetrator’ . . . described [him].” [...]

In addition to her postings on the FAS website, Professor Rosenberg also presented a lecture on February 18, 2002 at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, entitled “The Anthrax Attacks and the Control of Bioterrorism.” Ex. 2.  During the course of her lecture, Rosenberg stated that she had “draw[n] a likely portrait of the perpetrator as a former Fort Detrick scientist who is now working for a contractor in the
Washington, D.C, area[.]” Ex. 3. Rosenberg also commented upon Hatfill’s whereabouts on the date of the attacks, stating that “[h]e had reason for travel to Florida, New Jersey and the United Kingdom” – where the attacks had been and from which the letters had been purportedly sent – that “[h]e grew [the anthrax], probably on a solid medium, and weaponised it at a private location where he had accumulated the equipment and the material.” Id. Rosenberg also stated that the
investigation had narrowed to a “common suspect[,]” and that “[t]he FBI has questioned that person more than once[.]” Id. 

Former White House Spokesperson, Ari Fleischer, immediately responded to Rosenberg’s comments, stating that there were several suspects and the FBI had not narrowed that list down to one. Ex. 4. The FBI also issued a press release, stating that it had “interviewed hundreds of persons, in some instances, more than once. It is not accurate, however, that the FBI has identified a prime suspect in this case.” Id. 

Rosenberg’s comments and writings were subsequently pursued by The New York Times (“The Times”). In a series of Op-Ed articles published from May through July 2002, Nicholas Kristof, a journalist with The Times, accused Hatfill of being responsible for the anthrax attacks.  Kristof wrote on May 24, 2002 that the FBI was overlooking the anthrax perpetrator, noting that “experts” (Professor Rosenberg) point “to one middle-aged American who has worked for the United States military bio-defense program and had access to the labs at Fort Detrick, Md. His anthrax vaccinations are up to date, he unquestionably had the ability to make first-rate anthrax, and he was upset at the United States government in the period preceding the anthrax attack.”

In a footnote on page 10 there is this:
Hatfill did not sue either Shane or Rosenberg, even though Hatfill has stated that
Rosenberg “caused” the focus on him. [...] Because Hatfill believed that the portrait Rosenberg painted at the February 2002 Princeton conference and in her website postings was so identifying and incriminating, however, Hatfill advised Rosenberg through his lawyers that “before [she] get[s] close to describing him in the future, by name or otherwise, [that she] submit [her] comments for legal vetting before publishing them to anyone.”
And on page 36 it explains when people within the FBI and DOJ can talk with the media without violating the Privacy Act:
...even if [FBI Spokesperson Debra] Weierman had retrieved information from a protected record (which she did not), an appropriate routine use exception under the Privacy Act (No. 3) allows disclosures “to the news media or members of the general public in furtherance of a legitimate law enforcement or public safety function as determined by the FBI,” including disclosures that are necessary “to keep the public appropriately informed of other law enforcement or FBI matters or other matters of legitimate public interest where disclosure could not reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
Opposition to these Motions are due by 5/9/2008., Replies to these Motions due by 5/23/2008.  So, there'll probably be more paperwork on those days.

That's about all the comments I have for today, since I'm being overwhelmed with material I still need to locate, stuff I still have to read, and bizarre emails arguing that because these documents do not specifically confirm my analysis about the bloodhound incident, that I must be wrong in my analysis of the bloodhound incident.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, April 6, 2008, thru Saturday, April 12, 2008

April 12, 2008 (B) - I've tried to avoid mentioning Neo-Nazi conspiracy theories on this web site because it would just give such theories more exposure.  But those who follow such theories might learn something by clicking HERE

April 12, 2008 (A) - A bunch of legal documents were filed in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit yesterday.  Both sides are asking for a partial summary judgement, claiming the other side cannot prove its case.  I'll study the documents and comment on them tomorrow if there is anything of interest in them. 

April 6, 2008 - The Fox News article "FBI Focusing on 'About Four' Suspects in 2001 Anthrax Attacks" seems to be slowly sinking out of sight.   Nothing has been added to the story to keep it afloat.  No other major news outlet has commented on what was clearly intended by Fox News to be a "blockbuster" story.  It seems to have caused some discussion in the "blogosphere" but even that is dying out.  The last comment on Daily Kos was a week ago.  There, the Fox article was introduced this way:

This is not news.  In my opinion, it's only slightly more specific than any previous knowledge gained from the investigation, which has been plagued with problems and scientific disagreements from the beginning. 
and
Fox may think they have a scoop, but their article (and most likely the email) is essentially a re-hash of old speculation
The last comment on the Little Green Footballs blog was over a week ago.  That site introduced the article on a positive note:
Fox News (and evidently no one else) is reporting a significant breakthrough in the anthrax attacks of 2001
And
The story appears credible, particularly in the focus on Fort Detrick, which is indeed the most likely source of the lethal powder used in those attacks
But the comments weren't very enthusiastic.  Here are a few short examples:
Mr. Redacted did it in the Deleted with the Verboten

I thought it was Miss Top Secret in the [xxx] with the Expunged.

Who is this "name redacted"?
I think I went to school with him. We called him "Red" back then.

But it isn't just the fact that the story uses unnamed sources and a redacted email that makes it seem like an attempt to create news out of accumulated thrash.  It's also the fact that the story seems to run contrary to past, legitimate news stories.

Here's what the Hartford Courant printed on March 4, 2002:

A scientist at the Army's biowarfare research lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland, where the FBI is methodically collecting and testing samples to determine the source of the anthrax used in the attacks, said he didn't expect the perpetrator to be identified soon. The physical evidence gathered so far doesn't point to any one lab, let alone any one person, said the scientist, who is close to the FBI probe and requested anonymity.

That's also the opinion of renowned forensic expert Henry C. Lee. Speaking as a knowledgeable outside observer, Lee said the dragnet tactics employed recently by federal agents point to an investigation that's still far from closing in on its prey. 

The FBI confirmed last week that it recently asked dozens of labs known to handle the strain of anthrax used in the letter attacks to send samples to the Fort Detrick lab. When some scientists expressed dismay that the rudimentary step had not been taken already, officials explained that they held off until they could establish a protocol for the transfers of specimens, ensuring that any evidence collected could eventually be used in court. 

Lee said the move shows that investigators have not narrowed their focus to two U.S. Army labs, as has previously been reported. Both the lab at Fort Detrick and another at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah are known to have had the capability to produce "weaponized" anthrax spores such as those reportedly found in the letters sent to Senate offices. 

Lee also said the FBI's move shows officials are confident that sending the samples to Fort Detrick does not risk dropping them into the hands of a potential suspect. 

"These last two months, [FBI agents] have probably interviewed everyone at Fort Detrick and didn't find a suspect," he said. "They don't want to publicly rule anyone out, but their actions suggest that's what's going on. They don't think it's anybody who currently works at Detrick." 

And on April 9, 2002, USA Today printed a story titled "'Thousands' could be anthrax suspects" which contained this information:
Potential suspects with the scientific expertise to carry out last year's deadly anthrax attacks are believed to number in the "thousands," far more than the dozens previously reported, a senior federal law enforcement official said Monday.
...
The sophisticated nature of the anthrax, especially a finely milled sample mailed to U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., last November, has led investigators to focus on the laboratories capable of turning out such specimens.

There may be hundreds of such labs in the country, the FBI has concluded.
...
Of the thousands who may possess the knowledge to handle the bacteria, authorities declined to say exactly how many have drawn closer scrutiny. Federal officials continue to say it is unlikely that the anthrax attacks were linked to the terrorist strikes on Sept. 11.

And that's just a few from many such articles.   Back then, before the media latched onto Dr. Hatfill as their main news story, there were many reports about checking out microbiology labs in New Jersey and about looking for and finding in New Jersey the copy machine used to print the anthrax letters. 

Unlike Fox's news story, one CBS news report from February 2002 contains very interesting quotes from Van Harp, the head of the Washington Field Office and the Amerithrax investigation, who is named and who was speaking for the record:

[Van] Harp also said the FBI believes that, because the mailed anthrax was of the so-called "Ames strain" of Bacillus anthracis, the suspect probably has or had legitimate access to biological agents in a laboratory. Harp also described the suspect as "stand-offish" and preferring to work alone rather than in groups. 

"It is possible this person used off-hours in a laboratory or may have even established an improvised or concealed facility comprised of sufficient equipment to produce the anthrax," Harp said.

At that time the investigation was clearly focused in New Jersey, since the article says:
And after searching thousands of copiers in New Jersey where the letters were mailed, agents believe they've found the very one the killer used to make his duplicates by isolating the tiny scratches and smears unique to each machine. They've staked out mail drops, reviewed school records and even checked on the deaths of a few suspicious men on the off chance the suspect was killed by his own spores. 
Although there were several independentreports about finding that copier in New Jersey, the FBI later denied that the copier was found.  (I never saw any report that they were checking out copy machines anywhere other than in New Jersey.)

So, unless there is some solid new information to support the Fox News story, I'm going to consider that article unworthyof further comment.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, March 30, 2008, thru Saturday, April 5, 2008

April 3, 2008 - There was some news in the Las Vegas Ricin case this morning, but it's just news about threatening a second party with arrest if he doesn't cooperate.

April 1, 2008 - This is not an April Fool's Day joke.  The New York Post has picked up on the Fox News story about 4 suspects in the anthrax mailings, headlining their brief summary this way: "CLOSING IN ON ANTHRAX FIEND."  (Of course, the Post and Fox News are both owned by News Corp. and located in the same building, so the Post could be considered to be a "Fox Affiliate.)   The "Global Security Newswire" has a mention, so does DailyKos.com and something called "DayLife." Michelle Malkin, who has a large following among conservatives, also mentions it in her blog.  Plus, it has been newly added to Wikipedia's section about the anthax attacks of 2001, where the paragraph begins with this distortion of the facts:

Fox News reported in March 2008 that an email written by a scientist at Fort Detrick revealed details of the powder preparation;[24] these details appear to be consistent with a highly specialized powder. 
Evidently, someone thinks "stuff" translates to "a highly specialized powder."

So, the Fox article no longer floats alone but has been joined by other -- mostly conservative -- followers.  Hopefully, this will help generate some kind of response from the government.  This isn't a story that I want to see simply dissolve away.  I know that conspiracy theorists will make sure it is never forgotten, and they'll be reminding me about it forever if there is no further information to clarify or debunk it.

March 31, 2008 - Reading through the deposition of Victor Walter of ABC, I learned a few things: #1, Victor Walter worked for and/or with Brian Ross.  #2: Whatever information FBI Public Information Officer Ed Cogswell had about the Amerithrax investigation was indirect:

Question by Dr. Hatfill's lawyer Steven A. Fredley: From all appearances, was the information Mr. Cogswell provided voluntarily given?
Answer by Mr. Walter: Yes.
Question: Was the understanding between you and Mr. Cogswell that you would not identify him by name in any of Mr. Ross's reporting?
Answer: That's correct.
Question: Can you describe for me the discussions you had with Mr. Cogswell in reaching that understanding?
Answer: Well, he preferred not be be identified.
Question: And did he tell you why he preferred not to be identified?
Answer: Not in so many terms.  Not --- not in so many words.  That --- that he just preferred not to be identified.
Question:  And what was that based on?
Answer: He -- he was -- he was not an operational person, he was not involved in the investigation itself, he was removed, and I think that any quotes or any statements could come from a higher-up.
The deposition goes on to show that Mr. Cogswell would sometimes call another source (presumably a "higher-up) in the FBI to verify the information he was discussing with Mr. Walter and which Mr. Walter had actually obtained elsewhere. 

I can probably guess who the high-up was.  What this seems to show is that (#1) FBI personnel were talking to the media about the Amerithrax investigation without having any direct knowledge of the investigation, and (#2) many or all of them could have been getting their information from a single source.  In other words, there's no "conspiracy" in this, it's more likely just a simple matter of playing "follow the leader." 

March 30, 2008 (B) - The Fox News story titled "FBI Focusing on 'About Four' Suspects in 2001 Anthrax Attacks" is still the hot topic of discussion and continues to float all by itself in the pool of current news. 

When I first heard the mention of "4 suspects," I couldn't help but wonder if someone hadn't misinterpreted something, since my analysis indicates that there may have been 4 people involved in the anthrax attacks of 2001: The Supplier, The Refiner/Mailer, The Letter Writer and someone I've referred to as "The Speaker."

But, the more times I read the Fox News article and listened to the video, the more it seems that the whole Fox story is a concoction put together to create a controversy.  Why on earth would a single "law enforcement source" suddenly come forward at this point in time to talk about "four suspects" with three of them at Ft. Detrick?  And where did the email come from that describes something that clearly happened years ago?  It seems far more likely that this story has been around for years and, as a result of the controversy over Toni Locy's Contempt of Court ruling, someone at Fox just decided it was the right time to make a story out of it.  The things in the Fox News story about 4 suspects seem to be just a belief or a theory or, perhaps, an interpretation by that single "law enforcement source."  It is totally unsupported information.

The email appears to mention an incident that probably happened sometime in early 2002.  In December of 2001, General Parker told the media that he had been informed by the scientists working for him at USAMRIID that they didn't store powdered anthrax, only wet anthrax.   Then, apparently, some months later when USAMRIID scientists began looking at sample powders provided by the FBI, some scientist remembered that someone had once made a similar powder for some reason, and, therefore, what General Parker had said at his news conference wasn't exactly true.

By itself, it looks like another example of what I wrote about in the chapter 15 of my book, the chapter titled "To Err is Human."  But it's the type of thing conspiracy theorists absolutely love to turn into something malicious.

Also, the email in question could be from a "confidential file," and there could be some kind of legal action to find out who took it from that file.  And, if there is, Fox could be ready and waiting to claim First Amendment rights and the right to protect a "whistle blower," which is what they want this to look like.  The story seems to be trying to make people think that there were powdered anthrax bioweapons being made at Ft. Detrick just prior to the anthrax attacks and the head of Ft. Detrick and the American People weren't told about it. 

The statement "A leading theory is that the anthrax was stolen from Fort Detrick and then sealed inside the letters." is almost certainly referring to the leading theory by conspiracy theorists, NOT any theory held by Amerithrax investigators.   The article just tries to make it seem that way. 

Even though the story continues to float all alone, I'm really hoping there is a lot going on behind the scenes to shed more light on this.  Just getting a good look at the email could help.  Why was it intentionally blurred by Fox News?  Is it because it's supposed to be "confidential" and Fox News is doing "the right thing" to keep details secret?  Or is it because, if it wasn't blurred, everyone could see it is of no real significance? 

March 30, 2008(A) - With all the hullabaloo going on over the Fox News article, I neglected to mention that James Stewart (formerly of CBS) has filed a document with the court in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit which states that his confidential source was named in a deposition by another reporter, Victor Walter of ABC. 

At his deposition, Mr. Walter testified that Ed Cogswell, a public information officer employed by the FBI, communicated specific information to him concerning Dr. Hatfill on multiple occasions in late 2002 through the middle of 2003.
The document goes on to say:
Specifically, Mr. Walter testified that, in a series of conversations with Mr. Cogswell for ABC broadcasts on October 22, 2002, and June 10, 2003, Mr. Cogswell communicated to Mr. Walter the following information about Dr. Hatfill:
· that the FBI was “[‘]building what they described as a growing case of
circumstantial evidence’” against him, id. at 30:22-32:4;
· that he was “‘the main focus of the FBI,’” id. at 32:9-33:13; and
· that he was “‘the one and only suspect in the anthrax murders, even though not a
shred of hard physical evidence against him exists,’” id. at 48:15-49:11.
This looks to me like a good example of what happens when you compartmentalize a case and people outside of the "compartment" either don't know that there is a "compartment" where more is known, or they try to figure out for themselves what is going on inside the "compartment" and offer confidential opinions to the media. 

In case you've forgotten, Ed Cogswell was previously identified in an article in The Los Angeles Times, and he reportedly claimed he didn't even know that reporters were considering him to be a confidential informant, since he works (or worked) as a public information officer at the FBI.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, March 23, 2008, thru Saturday, March 29, 2008

March 29, 2008 - The Fox News story about "Four suspects" is now available on video.  Start HERE to find it.  Interestingly, no other news organization has yet picked up on this "story."  Fox's verison just floats all alone like a turd in a swimming pool. 

But it is certainly generating a lot of discussion.  Conspiracy theorists have latched onto it as if it were holy writ. 

March 28, 2008 - Hmm.  Fox New just put an article titled "FBI Focusing on 'About Four' Suspects in 2001 Anthrax Attacks" on the Net.  It's one of those stories from an unidentified "law enforcement source."    The story begins this way:

The FBI has narrowed its focus to "about four" suspects in the 6 1/2-year investigation of the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001, and at least three of those suspects are linked to the Army’s bioweapons research facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland, FOX News has learned.
Among the pool of suspects are three scientists — a former deputy commander, a leading anthrax scientist and a microbiologist — linked to the research facility, known as USAMRIID.
And then there's this paragraph, which I really find hard to believe:
The FBI has collected writing samples from the three scientists in an effort to match them to the writer of anthrax-laced letters that were mailed to two U.S. senators and at least two news outlets in the fall of 2001, a law enforcement source confirmed.
And this:
A leading theory is that the anthrax was stolen from Fort Detrick and then sealed inside the letters.A law enforcement source said the FBI is essentially engaged in a process of elimination.
That "leading theory" is the theory dreamed up by conspiracy theorists. The whole thing looks like an extension of their theory.  The Fox article concludes with this:
But in an e-mail obtained by FOX News, scientists at Fort Detrick openly discussed how the anthrax powder they were asked to analyze after the attacks was nearly identical to that made by one of their colleagues.

"Then he said he had to look at a lot of samples that the FBI had prepared ... to duplicate the letter material," the e-mail reads. "Then the bombshell. He said that the best duplication of the material was the stuff made by [name redacted]. He said that it was almost exactly the same … his knees got shaky and he sputtered, 'But I told the General we didn't make spore powder!'"

Asked for comment, an Army spokeswoman referred all calls to the FBI. The FBI would not comment about the pool of suspects, but a spokeswoman said the investigation clearly remains a priority.

When was that email sent?  I'm guessing it was in the very early days when people knew next to nothing about anthrax powders.  If so, this who article is much ado about nothing.

My first take on this is that it is an unconfirmed report based upon information from a single unidentified source, and not worth much at all.  I'll need a LOT of proof before I accept any of this as having anything to do with the actual investigation.  It looks more like Fox News has decided to report on someone's theory -- a theory based upon rumors, beliefs and unconnected tidbits of information that come down over the years. 

But, there's always hope that it will cause the FBI to make some kind of official statement that will enlighten us all. 

March 27, 2008 - Today's Chicago Tribune contains an opinion piece from a member of the Tribune's editorial board who takes the other side in the Toni Locy issue.  The opinion piece is titled "The news media vs. the innocent."  Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle contains an opinion piece titled "Federal shield law protects the public interest" which states very clearly what the media is after:

... protection for a reporter's confidential source must be applied categorically. The point is to give future whistle-blowers assurance that a reporter's promise of confidentiality will, in fact, be honored by the judicial system. For that reason, it is irrelevant whether Locy's confidential source is a saint or power-hungry bureaucrat intent on ruining Hatfill, or whether Locy herself is a model journalist or too trusting of her government sources.
This reminds me of the Peanuts comic strip where Lucy was going around asking people to sign a document.  When she had everyone's signature on the document, she declared, "Okay, now if anything bad happens anywhere in the world, it's not my fault."

It also occurs to me that if reporters want to have the same legal rights as lawyers and doctors when it comes to withholding information given in confidence, then maybe reporters should also be required to purchase malpractice insurance so that when reporters provide wrong information, they can be sued for malpractice.  Just a thought.

March 26, 2008 - Today's Wall Street Journal has an opinion from Lucy Dalglish, who is the Executive Director for "Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press."   The opinion piece is titled "Appalling Intrusion Into Journalistic Process" and was written in response to Mark A. Grannis' opinion published on March 15.  In addition to the weird title, which suggests the Judiciary should not apply the law to members of the media, I found this paragraph by Ms Dalglish to be particularly bizarre:

One retired federal judge I spoke with told me Judge Walton's order [to fine Toni Locy] is more akin to a criminal sentence than a civil contempt sanction, which is supposed to coerce not punish.
There will be no punishment if Toni Locy reveals the names of her sources.  Therefore, the Order does NOT "sentence" her unless she fails to obey the judge's Order.  That is pure "coercion" by any measure -- unless you assume that the media is above the law and the law should never be obeyed by anyone in the media.

Ms Dalglish's opinon piece goes on to distort the facts even further: 

Amazingly, the judge also vilified Ms. Locy for covering the FBI's investigation into the anthrax story. In his view, the media should not have reported on one of the largest criminal investigations in the nation's history.
That's not just a distortion of the facts.  It's an outright lie.  There's nothing in Judge Walton's Memorandum Opinion which even remotely suggests such a thing.

Digging further into this, I went back and re-read the Toni Locy article which is the source of all this fuss.  The article from May 28, 2003, is titled "Anthrax investigators tail scientist '24/7'." (It's also HERE.)  This paragraph is of particular interest to Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit:

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.
And that paragarph is of even more interest when combined with this paragraph:
But the four law enforcement sources say that nothing about the anthrax probe is simple.  They say investigators have not been able to prove Hatfill did it, or rule him out. 
In these two paragraphs, we see that the FBI cannot prove that Dr. Hatfill did it, nor can they rule him out.   And they put 24/7 surveillance on him because they were afraid of what could happen if they lost track of him and another anthrax attack happened. 

Readers of this web site should know by now whythe FBI was so focused on Dr. Hatfill above all the others who they could neither prove did it nor rule out. 

But while studying these articles I cannot help but remember a Washington Times article from August 3, 2002, which begins with these two paragraphs:

A top microbiologist in New York says FBI agents interviewing her Thursday asked whether a team of government scientists could be trying to frame Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army researcher whose apartment in Frederick, Md., was searched for a second time by FBI agents on Thursday.

"They kept asking me did I think there might be a group in the biodefense community that was trying to land the blame on Hatfill," said Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a microbiologist at State University of New York. 

If the FBI had lost track of Dr. Hatfill and another anthrax attack had occurred, it would not merely have been an "embarrassment" for the FBI, it might also have made it virtually impossible to convict the real killer.

But, more importantly today, it should be very clear why Dr. Hatfill's lawyers want to talk with those "four law enforcement sources" of Toni Locy's who provided absolutely critical information about the FBI's motivation for the 24/7 surveillance of Dr. Hatfill. 

While the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit is technically about violations of the Privacy Act, it would be a huge bonus if Dr. Hatfill's lawyers could also prove that the violations occurred in an atmosphere where the FBI was more concerned about another anthrax attack being comitted by someone from among the people trying to point the blame at Dr. Hatfill than by Dr. Hatfill himself.  The actual anthrax mailer would not only have seen great advantages in adding to the "circumstantial evidence" against Dr. Hatfill, but so would all of the conspiracy theorists and their followers who believed that by pointing the finger at an innocent man, they could help achieve their political goals.

It should be easy for any intelligent person to see why it is so important to Dr. Hatfill and his lawyers (and perhaps also to us all) to identify and question the "four law enforcement sources" who gave Toni Locy that information. 

March 23, 2008 - Strangely, it seems that only the Daily Press printed the AP article about Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against the New York Times being heard in an appeals court.  The Daily Press seems to serve the area around Newport News, Virginia.  The actual ruling should get greater coverage, regardless of which way it goes.  I'm guessing it will go in Dr. Hatfill's favor.  We should find out before very long.

Meanwhile, other newspapers are jumping on the bandwagon to call for passing of a shield law to protect reporters against lawsuits.  Here's what the Philadelphia Inquirer published today:

Hatfill's legitimate interest in finding out who was trashing him in the Justice Department is not as important as Loci's need to protect her sources. This is one of the places in our democracy where two important priorities collide. Judges have a legitimate interest in finding the truth, while society benefits greatly from an unfettered press. If Watson's unprecedented penalty against Loci is upheld, Hatfill may come closer to collecting well-deserved damages, but at an absurdly high cost. The blow to journalism might be the worst in U.S. history.
This kind of reminds me of the time I was sitting in the spectators' area of a courtroom while awaiting a hearing that was of interest to me.  While I was waiting, the judge was holding traffic court.  I was amazed how one traffic violator after another went before the judge to plead his case, and how each and every one gave the judge varying reasons why he had broken the speed limit.  He had to get around another car that was driving slow.  He had an emergency at home.   He didn't see the signs.  Etc.

The judge would just shake his head -- sometimes stopping the person -- and he would rule against the violator.  What each and every one of those violators didn't seem to realize was that they were confessing to the crime.  The judge didn't care why they had broken the law.  His job was only to determine if they had broken the law or not.  And they were all admitting that they had.  The violators evidently all thought that telling the judge why they broke the law would accomplish something.  It didn't.

Toni Locy broke the law by ignoring an Order from a judge to identify her confidential sources.  The newspapers are all arguing that it's okay for a reporter to break that particular law because they want a new law to be passed that will make it okay. 

Maybe I'm missing something, but, somehow, I cannot see that that reasoning will have much affect on the appeals court judges. 

If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

And if someone in the media doesn't know the case, he probably shouldn't comment on it.  Here's one of the concluding paragraphs in the Philadelphia Inquirer column:

Before compelling a reporter to testify, the information sought (1) must be critically important to the case, and (2) must be unobtainable anywhere else. Neither standard applies in Loci's case, nor did it apply to mine or to most of the cases where reporters have been held in contempt. The slander of Hatfill was made publicly, and at least some of the sources of the statements about him from the Justice Department already have identified themselves or been revealed.
The Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit is not about slander.  It's about government officials violating a public trust by disclosing confidential information from confidential government files.

Dr. Hatfill's lawyer, Mark A. Grannis, described the Toni Locy situation this way in The Wall Street Journal just over a week ago:

As many as 12 different officials in the FBI and the Department of Justice leaked inside information to Ms. Locy about their investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001. They told her, and she reported, that some investigators thought former biodefense researcher Steven Hatfill was behind the attacks. The FBI, they said, could not "risk the embarrassment of losing track of Hatfill, even for a few hours, and then being confronted with more anthrax attacks."
Contrary to what the columnist in the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, that information IS "critically important to the case" and would be "unobtainable anywhere else."  Was there any other news report where the reporter was given that particular reason why the FBI had put 24/7 surveillance on Dr. Hatfill?  It shows the 24/7 surveillance was not about Dr. Hatfill being a "suspect," it was about the FBI's fear of how things would look if there was another anthrax attack and Dr. Hatfill had not been under 24/7 surveillance after the media and a bunch of conspiracy theorists had been pointing the finger at Dr. Hatfill for more than six months

Furthermore, the violating of the Privacy Act by giving out confidential information did not become a non-crime after Dr. Hatfill became a "public figure," as some misleading opinions in the media would have you believe.  If it happened today it would still be a crime and might still add to the evidence Dr. Hatfill is compiling to help win his case against those in the government who violated the Privacy Act. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, March 16, 2008, thru Saturday, March 22, 2008

March 21, 2008 - Dr. Hatfill's appeal of Judge Hilton's dismissal of his lawsuit against The New York Times was finally argued today in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  According to The Associated Press, the argument centers around whether or not Dr. Hatfill had made himself a "public figure" by talking to the media, and whether or not Dr. Hatfill had thrust himself into the debate over the anthrax attacks of 2001.

Hatfill's attorney told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday that Hatfill hadn't injected himself into the debate following the 2001 incidents.

"There's simply no thrusting by Dr. Hatfill," Christopher Wright told the court.

But Times lawyer Lee Levine said Hatfill for years was speaking out about how easy it was "to cook up" anthrax or the plague in his kitchen, qualifying him as a public figure.

Still Wright pointed to flaws in the reporting of columnist Nicholas Kristof, saying he didn't contact Hatfill because he believed Hatfill wasn't talking to the press.

"In the situation when you're making extremely damaging accusations ... he should have called him," Wright said.

Kristof has said he never intended to accuse Hatfill but simply wanted to prod what he saw as a dawdling FBI investigation.

He initially referred to Hatfill in his columns only as "Mr. Z," and identified him by name only after Hatfill held a news conference to denounce rumors that had been swirling around him.

In case you've forgotten, those "rumors that had been swirling around him" when Kristof wrote his first column about "Mr. Z" on January 4, 2002 (more than 6 months before Attorney General John Ashcroft called him a "person of interest") were the result of the campaign by conspiracy theorists to point the finger at Dr. Hatfill.   That column by Nicolas Kristof was titled "Profile of a Killer" and began with this sentence:
I think I know who sent out the anthrax last fall.
Does that seem like Kristof never intended to accuse Dr. Hatfill?

In the column, Kristof explains:

How do I know all this? Well, I don't exactly. But talk to the people in the spooky world of bio-terror awhile, sop up the gossip and theories, and as you put the clues together -- as bio-terror experts and F.B.I. officials are now doing -- a hazy picture seems to come into focus. It's not a certainty but an educated guess, circulating among many who know their business.
An "educated guess, circulating among many who know their business."  That's how Dr. Hatfill became the focus of the media, politicians and conspiracy theorists months after Dr. Hatfill had been investigated by the FBI and found to have no connection to the anthrax attacks.  When that campaign failed to persuade the FBI to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill, the conspiracy theorists accused the FBI of covering up for Dr. Hatfill, which caused the head of the FBI's Washington Field Office, Van Harp, to be summoned to a meeting with Senate staffers.  That got the desired result, and after more than six months of campaigning, the FBI finally bowed to the pressure and began their public investigation with their search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment on June 25, 2002.

So, the issue that was argued today was whether or not Dr. Hatfill was a public figure before The New York Times began helping the conspiracy theorists to point the finger at him by publishing columns where Dr. Hatfill was only identified as "Mr. Z."  Or did The New York Times help turn Dr. Hatfill into a public figure

This could be a BIG decision.  And since The New York Times has cross-appealed the case, regardless of which way the three judge panel rules, I would expect that the matter will then go to the full court and then to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

March 19, 2008 - Back on March 11, Toni Locy was quoted in the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail making this comment about the American Judicial System:

"This is the real world we live in right now," Locy said. "This judge believes that reporters should not write about ongoing criminal investigations until someone is charged, tried and convicted. Unfortunately, that's the system in Great Britain. But it's not in the United States of America."
The "unfortunate" way they do things in Great Britain was major news there (and here) today.  The headline on the Fox News story about it is "Madeleine McCann's Parents Receive $1 Million, Front-Page Apologies in U.K. Newspapers."  The first paragraph is:
The parents of missing British toddler Madeleine McCann have received more than $1 million in damages and profuse apologies from tabloid newspapers for "numerous grotesque" and "defamatory" articles suggesting that they caused their daughter's death.
The "unfortunate" way they do things in Great Britain may not seem so "unfortunate" in the long run.  $1 million could be "small change" in the Hatfill case.  The Vanity Fair/Readers' Digest settlement could easily have been more than what the McCann's received.  Dr. Hatfill's lawsuit against The New York Times is still awaiting appeal.   And then there's the question of: What happens if the case is eventually solved? 

March 18, 2008 - Okay, so I've got this web site, see.  It's all about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  Every day I use Googlecheck to see what's new in the case, and I update my site if I see anything new.  Not a week goes by where I don't discuss it with someone.  And every day I see people from colleges and universities around the world visiting my site to look up aspects of the anthrax case.  This has been going on regularly for six years.   And for the past week or so, the news has been filled with articles related to what reporters reported about a bone-head theory that Dr. Steven Hatfill was behind the anthrax attacks. 

Then, today, I see two articles in Slate Magazine.  The first says,

Think about the anthrax attacks of 2001—a major act of terrorism against prominent people that has not been solved, and yet there are almost no well-known crank theories about that in circulation.
And the second says,
Remember anthrax? It seems no one does anymore—at least it's never mentioned.
Maybe the theory that the anthrax attacks were the work of the Bush Administration as part of a plot to "foment a police state," or the theory that it was the work of the Bush Administration to help justify the war in Iraq, or the theory that it was the work of the Bush Administration to destroy the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention, aren't "crank" enough to be called "crank theories."

Things certainly look different when you're actually paying attention. 

Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, it appears that Roger Bergendorff is saying that he was making ricin for "self defense."  If someone had a theory that that's why he was making it, I would think that could be justifiably called a "crank theory."  To me, it sounds like an explanation someone might give when they really don't have any explanation for doing what they did.  It's definitely an explanation that requires an explanation.

The legality of possessing ricin is now being discussed in different terms.  Here's what is in that Associated Press article today:

Mere possession for purposes other than "bona fide research" or "other peaceful purpose" carries the possibility of fines and up to 10 years in federal prison, [Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the Justice Department] said.
Is self-defense a "peaceful purpose?"  Is making ricin just to see if you can make ricin "bona fide research?"

March 17, 2008 (B) - It looks like the Toni Locy issue is going to drag on for awhile.  According to today's New York Times, her appeal on the Contempt of Court ruling won't be heard by the Appeals Court for the District of Columbia until May 9.

March 17, 2008 (A) - According to The Associate Press, Roger Bergendorff talked with his brother on the phone about the ricin found in his motel room.  Here's part of the AP report: 

He did mention that he would have never done anything to anybody," said Erich Bergendorff. "He himself is under the impression he was contaminated by it — he did mention the ricin and seemed to say something like, 'Gee, it sure worked on me.'"

Erich Bergendorff said his brother told him the ricin was easy to make. But he added that his brother, who was on a ventilator until last week, still had a hard time speaking clearly, so it was not clear whether Roger Bergendorff made it himself or watched someone else manufacture the powder.

"He did talk as thought he just had it there, he was almost kind of casual about it," said Erich Bergendorff, who talked to his brother on the phone from his home in Escondido, Calif., north of San Diego. "It's almost as though in his own mind it wasn't that big of a deal."

It seems similar to a child getting burned after playing with matches.  It's as if no one ever told Roger that playing around with ricin is dangerous -- or, if they did, Roger didn't believe the danger actually applied to him.

March 16, 2008 - I don't know if anything in the media about the Toni Locy issue can be trusted, but, according to an article titled "USA Today case builds momentum for reporter shield law" in today's Austin American-Statesman, 

Some members of the U.S. Senate say the prospect of former USA Today reporter Toni Locy paying $5,000 per day for not revealing her sources is spurring them to expedite legislation that would protect journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources in most cases.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., are urging party leaders to swiftly call a vote on a reporter shield bill.

"We need to protect the relationships between reporters and their sources," Leahy and Specter wrote in a recent letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., citing the Locy case as the reason for a vote.

It seems to me that the Dr. Hatfill case is just about the worst case imaginable to use to try to justify passing a shield law.   In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Mark A. Grannis, Dr. Hatfill's attorney asked:
how can the arguments and behavior of journalists in a case such as this be reconciled with the profession's self-image as the public watchdog, bringing accountability to government? The public officials who leaked investigative information to Ms. Locy broke the law, ruined an innocent man, and violated the public trust.  Shouldn't our watchdog bark or something?
It seems like a reasonable question.  If the media is supposed to be a public watchdog, why is there any doubt about whether someone in the media should be protecting government officials who broke the law?  Mr. Grannis also wrote:
The leakers should be fired, prosecuted, or both -- and reporters who care about government accountability should be racing each other to tell us who these miscreants are. The fact that they shut their mouths tight and run the other way suggests that the image of reporter-as-watchdog does not reflect the current place of journalism in society, whatever may have been true in the past.
This whole situation is ass-backwards.  And the reason it's ass-backwards is because many in the media absolutely refuse to look at the facts about the anthrax case (and the Dr. Hatfill lawsuit) because the facts conflict with some political agenda.   The media has made it a political issue, and when something becomes a political issue, facts are routinely ignored or distorted to achieve the political goal.

I really REALLY don't want to argue this issue.  The purpose of this web site is to report and analyze the facts about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  But I have to comment when it is the media which is deliberately distorting the known facts and deliberately trying to prevent the releasing of new facts from confidential sources  -- even if it is only "facts" about someone falsely accused of being the anthrax mailer. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, March 9, 2008, thru Saturday, March 15, 2008

March 15, 2008 - Today's Wall Street Journal contains an opinion piece on the Toni Locy issue by Mark A. Grannis, Dr. Hatfill's attorney.

March 14, 2008 (B) - According to The Associated Press, Roger Bergendorff has come out of his coma and is now talking with the FBI about the ricin found in his motel room in Las Vegas.  Earlier today, KLAS Eyewitness News in Las Vegas was reporting this:

According to search warrants, police looked through not only the room, but Bergendorff's car. Officers were looking for any trace of ricin or the components to make it to see if the toxin was transported.

Nothing relating to ricin was found in the car, indicating it may have been made in the room at the motel. Metro actually went to the room twice -- the first time on Feb. 26.

They were called by the property manager when she started the eviction process. Police found guns and four anarchist cookbooks with markers to the section for making ricin.

Metro was called back on Feb. 28. They then found ricin in all stages of production. Metro confiscated castor beans, which are used to create ricin. Police found powder in the beginning stage of making ricin and several vials of actual ricin. 

So, there's plenty for Mr. Bergendorff to talk to the FBI about.

March 14, 2008 (A) - As I've stated before, too often the FBI is viewed as if it were a Borg Collective, where everyone knows and believes what everyone else in the organization knows and believes.  In reality, since human beings are involved, there are always differences of opinions.  The same can be said for the media.  Today, in an opinion piece titled "'Whistle-blowing' or just blowing smoke?," Al Neuharth, the founder of USA Today argues with the editors of his own newspaper about the Toni Locy situation.  He writes,

Those fines are unfair. But Locy's use of anonymous sources was unwise and unnecessary.
...
The most disturbing thing to me about Locy's stories is that she now says she can't remember who her anonymous sources were.
And Mr. Neuharth hits home on the false impression others are trying to make about the Toni Locy case.  He writes,
Considering any anonymous sources as reliable "whistle-blowers" is a mistake. Too many of them just blow smoke.
That's an important point to remember: Anonymous sources are not automatically "reliable" nor automatically "right" nor automatically "whistle blowers."  And, in the Dr. Hatfill situation, it appears that some "anonymous sources" were not reliable, not right and not whistleblowers.  They were apparently just Department of Justice employees who liked to talk with reporters because it was good for the ego.   Giving confidential inside information to reporters made them feel important.

March 13, 2008 - The Toni Locy issues continues to roil and boil.  I found an editorial by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review titled "Wretched Judiciary" and a rebuttal titled "Wrong, Trib, Wrong" to be most interesting.

The Editorial says,

The First Amendment guarantee that government cannot abridge "freedom of speech or of the press" is one of America's most sacred protections. Yet it means nothing if journalists are afraid to do their job because federal judges like Reggie B. Walton of Washington, D.C., insist on forcing reporters to name their confidential sources.
...

Mr. Hatfill, though still under investigation, never has been charged. Now he's suing just about everyone in the Justice Department, charging his rights were violated when government officials disclosed his personal information.
...

Hatfill's lawyers want Locy to name her sources. Judge Walton concurs and has found Ms. Locy in contempt of court and is threatening her with draconian daily fines -- to be paid personally and not by USA Today -- until she names names.

So, not only does Judge Walton have no respect for the First Amendment, he also believes it is leverageable by decreeing whence journalists can derive money to defend a right. It is judicial wretchedness incarnate.

The rebuttal says,
For American freedom and liberty to survive, the rights of individuals, especially the right to face one's accusers in court, must trump the rights of the state and the "Fourth Estate" as well.
...
The ability of the press to destroy an individual is second only to that of the government.
...

Give Mr. Hatfill his day in court. Present all the evidence and let a jury decide.

Meanwhile, The Fort Worth Star Telegram has an opinion piece titled "A clash of less than titanic import?" which seems to take the middle road.
Unable to pinpoint who had fed information about Hatfill to the media, his lawyers subpoenaed an array of reporters. Eventually, several got their sources to waive anonymity and provided identities. But Locy and James Stewart of CBS refused to name names.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton has held Locy in contempt, and last week he ordered her to pay fines escalating from $500 a day to $5,000 a day out of her own pocket. He concluded that the identities go to the heart of Hatfill's ability to make his case and that because she's the only one who could provide them, she should bear the brunt of refusing to talk.

It sounds harsh and sweeping -- and has been put on hold, at least until the appeals court decides whether Walton was right.

The problem for Locy (who now teaches journalism at West Virginia University) is that the law is not on her side.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment doesn't protect reporters from having to answer court subpoenas just as other citizens must. Most states have laws that shield reporters' sources under some circumstances, but they vary, and there's no such federal statute, though a bill is pending in Congress.

The future of the First Amendment probably doesn't depend upon this case, but any case about an individual against "the establishment" is always interesting.  This one is probably even more interesting because "the establishment" is the media and the media is the source of almost all information about the conflict. 

March 12, 2008 - According to The Associated Press, late yesterday, a federal appeals court stayed Judge Walton's Order that Toni Locy begin immediately paying her fines.  Instead, she will not have to pay the fines until her appeal of Judge Walton's Contempt of Court ruling is resolved. 

Meanwhile, USA Today has an opinion piece by their editor which contains their view of the facts:

In its most basic terms, Locy is being punished by one arm of the government for listening to another arm of the government.
They also give their view of how Dr. Hatfill's lawyers should handle his case:
To the extent the government unjustly accused this man and damaged his reputation, he has every right to be compensated. But Hatfill's attorneys don't need Locy. They're ready to go to trial and already have a number of people — including the former attorney general — whom they can identify as the sources of information to reporters.
The article also includes links to .pdf images of the two stories written by Toni Locy which are the center of the controversy.

March 11, 2008 - Yesterday, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press issued a "Call To Arms" which says to reporters:

the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press urges you to pay attention to this case. Accordingly, we have prepared this memo as background as you write stories and editorials about this outrageous situation.
And
Journalists across the country need to cover this issue.
And
The Reporters Committee continues to explore ways in which we can financially support Ms. Locy without violating the judge's order.
The Charleston (WV) Daily News has this bizarre comment from Toni Locy:
"This is the real world we live in right now," Locy said. "This judge believes that reporters should not write about ongoing criminal investigations until someone is charged, tried and convicted. Unfortunately, that's the system in Great Britain. But it's not in the United States of America."
Meanwhile, Dr. Hatfill's side of this important issue is contained one short paragraph in The Los Angeles Times:
"We hope it [the judge's order] hastens the day when the media returns to exposing, rather than covering up, wrongdoing on the anthrax investigation," said Patrick P. O'Donnell, whose Washington law firm represents Hatfill in his lawsuit against the Justice Department.
That poses some interesting questions: Was there ever a day when the media was really "exposing wrongdoing on the anthrax investigation?"  And: If the "wrongdoing" was largely being done by the media, will the "wrongdoing" ever be exposed?

March 10, 2008 - According to the Associated Press, Toni Locy pleaded her case before an appeals court today.  The ruling should be handed down fairly quickly.

March 9, 2008 - I was expecting that there would be more in the media today about the Toni Locy fines.   But I see nothing new.  And there doesn't appear to be anything new in the Las Vegas ricin case, either.  That doesn't leave much to write about this morning.

The only other item of information I have that might be worth mentioning is the fact that Barnes & Noble sold the one copy of my book they kept in stock in their New Jersey warehouse (they keep another copy in their warehouse in Nevada), and they purchased another copy from me to restock.   That sale means I have now sold exactly 100 copies of my book.   Coincidentally, last week was the 3rd anniversary of my book going on sale.  (At first, only Amazon.com was selling it.  Barnes & Noble's web site didn't start selling it until June of 2005.)   So, it took exactly three years to sell 100 copies.  And I only have to sell about 400 more copies to start turning a profit.  At the rate things are going, that calculates to be in the year 2020.  (It's a good thing I paid an additional 14 cents to have each copy individually wrapped in plastic to make certain they would be nicely preserved while in storage.)

But I have no serious regrets.  About the only thing I would do differently if I had it all to do over again is, I would have simply titled the book "Analyzing The Anthrax Attacks."  I would have left off the subtitle "The First Three Years."  It probably wouldn't have made much difference in sales, but it would stop people from asking me if I plan to write a new book about the "second three years."  And I wouldn't have to keep explaining that nothing significant has happened in the "second three years."  "The first three years" were required for me to fully analyze the situation to the point where I felt comfortable explaining it to others.  The final pieces of the puzzle fell into place when I interviewed Ken Alibek in December of 2004.  That's when I knew all the pieces fit perfectly, and it was time to publish.

Since then, it's just been a matter of waiting to learn if my analysis was correct or incorrect.  And all the facts which have turned up in the past three years have confirmed that my analysis was and remains correct

Knowing what I know now about self-publishing, I shouldn't have expected that my book would get more published reviews than just the one in New Scientist Magazine.  After all, it was (and is) just a book self-published by "some guy on the Internet" who had no recognized credentials for being an "expert" in the case.

And, knowing what I know now, I shouldn't have expected that a book which is only sold on-line and only advertised on this web site (which is only visited by a few hundred people each day and most of them "regulars") would sell better than it has.

And knowing what I know now, it's clear that the biggest reason the book hasn't sold more copies is that it doesn't attack anyone, it doesn't accuse anyone, and it doesn't contain any "sensational exposé" of government wrongdoing.   It just lays out the facts and explains what the facts appear to mean.  That's really only interesting to the general public after the case is solved and people can look back to see how clear it all was years and years ago, and the author can go on TV and say, "See, I told you so."

Updates & Changes: Sunday, March 2, 2008, thru Saturday, March 8, 2008

March 8, 2008 - Late yesterday, as promised, Judge Walton fined Toni Locy for Contempt of Court.  The Order says:

ORDERED that this ORDER shall become effective as of 12:00 midnight on
March 11, 2008. It is further

ORDERED that Ms. Locy must pay to the Court $500 dollars per day for the first
seven days after the effective date of the contempt order, $1,000 dollars per day for the next seven days, and $5,000 dollars per day thereafter until she appears before this Court on April 3, 2008, if she has not already complied with the Court’s order to compel. It is further

ORDERED that upon submission by Ms. Locy, the Court will issue a protective
order precluding the plaintiff and his counsel from revealing the identity of any source disclosed by Ms. Locy who is determined, through discovery, did not disclose information to her about Dr. Hatfill. It is further

ORDERED that Ms. Locy is precluded from accepting any monetary or other
form of reimbursement for the payment of the monetary sanction imposed by the Court.  It is further

ORDERED that if Ms. Locy does not provide to Dr. Hatfill the identities of her
Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation sources who provided
information to her about the anthrax investigation, she must appear before this Court on April 3, 2008, at 1:30 p.m., for further consideration of what additional measures should be taken to bring about her compliance.

SO ORDERED, this 7th day of March, 2008

So, the fines begin on Tuesday; no one can help her pay them; and if she doesn't provide the names of her sources by April 3, 2008, Judge Walton might take "additional measures" --- which would presumably be jail time. 

And since she claims she doesn't remember which sources told her what things, Judge Walton also ordered that, when (or if) her sources are deposed, Dr. Hatfill cannot publicly identify any source which did not actually reveal information about Dr. Hatfill to Ms Locy. 

Judge Walton also issued a 20-page Memorandum Opinion explaining his actions.

The information appeared in the Docket for the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit late last evening.  The Associated Press has reported on it.

March 7, 2008 - The latest West Virginia Public Broadcasting report on the Toni Locy situation, which I commented about yesterday, continues on my mind.  In the audio report, the interviewer Anna Sale refers to a previous WV-PBS report and then says,

We got some feedback about this [previous] story, and we decided to take a closer look at the journalistic, ethical, and legal issues surrounding this complicated case.
This latest WV-PBS report is primarily (and perhaps only) about the freedom of the press "case" or "issue" which got Toni Locy cited for contempt of court.  And it does an excellent job of covering the various sides of that specific issue.

Unfortunately, from my point of view, it's virtually impossible to discuss the Toni Locy situation without viewing it in the context of how the media aided an abetted a bunch of conspiracy theorists in their efforts to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill for "most likely" being the anthrax mailer who killed 5 Americans and injured 17 others.

This morning I listened to the "extended interview with Toni Locy" which is available on the WV-PBS site.  The impression I get from listening to the extended interview is that Toni Locy is totally unaware of anything that happened in the Dr. Hatfill case prior to the first search of his apartment on June 25, 2002.  She not only says the Dr. Hatfill situation started with Attorney John Ashcroft calling Hatfill a "person of interest" (in August of 2002), and that "It did not start with the media," but she also states in the extended interview that she does not feel that the people who provided her with confidential information did anything wrong.  She says,  "I don't feel that I did anything wrong, and I don't feel that they [her confidential sources] did anything wrong." 

So, in the report, when I say "I don’t think the media should be protecting people who commit illegal acts," Toni Locy and I are clearly not on the same page.  I can only wonder what the answer would have been if Toni Locy had been asked, "Do you believe that it is okay for reporters to protect government employees who commit illegal acts?"

I doubt that she would have simply answered, "Yes."

She would probably consider it a "loaded question" and would start listing all the many types of criminal acts which reporters should not "help protect."

How would she have answered a question like this: "If the FBI is trying to find out who is leaking information from confidential criminal investigation files to the media, and, in a one-on-one briefing, the FBI gives false information to a "suspect," and that person then gives the false information to the media, has anyone committed a crime?"

But, perhaps the really critical question would be this one:  Suppose your next door neighbor doesn't like you and, after someone gets murdered a few miles away, he contacts the police to tell them that you could be the killer because he saw you with someone who resembled the murdered person.  The police investigate and find no reason to believe you had anything to do with the murder.  But your neighbor doesn't believe the police and in frustration tells a reporter that you "are being investigated as the most likely suspect."  That reporter seeks verification for the story and checks with his "confidential informant" within the police department who tells the reporter that you were indeed investigated.  The reporter's newspaper then prints a story where your neighbor is not mentioned, and it is stated that the police consider you the "only named person of interest" in a brutal murder. 

The question: "When you sue the newspaper for defamation, should that reporter protect the police official who gave him that confidential information from confidential files?" 

The Amerithrax investigation is a "complex case."  The Hatfill vs FBI et al lawsuit is a complex case.  The Toni Locy citation for Contempt of Court is NOT really very complex if you look at all the facts.

March 6, 2008 - This morning, West Virginia Public Broadcasting has an interesting new feature about the Toni Locy situation in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit.  It includes audio and a transcript of the audio.  While definitely worth your time to hear, the report does repeat some of the same misinformation included in their previous report:

Locy: The attorney general of the United States is who identified Dr. Hatfill as a person of interest in the Anthrax investigation. That’s where it all started. It did not start with the media. And unfortunately, the instinct is to shoot the messenger.
The broadcast includes some comments from me, but does not include any of the many comments I made about how it all started.  Instead, it suggests the beginning was when the FBI searched Dr. Hatfill's apartment for the first time in June of 2002:
In August of 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft did name Stephen Hatfill as a person of interest, a term which has no legal basis. But more than a month before that, Hatfill’s name was connected with the attacks in the press as news crews captured an FBI search of his home.
Once again, the seven or eight months of relentless activity by the media and others to get Dr. Hatfill publicly investigated are totally ignored.  Are they pretending it didn't happen?  Or do they believe that it didn't "officially" happen that way until some "recognized expert" says it happened that way?

They quote me as saying,

To me, her sources are committing a crime by talking about information that is in confidential files. And I don’t think the media should be protecting people who commit illegal acts. I think there’s a dividing line there. They can investigate about people in government who are committing illegal acts by exposing them through information from whistleblowers, and there are laws which protect whistleblowers, but in this case they’re not protecting somebody who committed an illegal act against the American people. They’re protecting the actual guys who committed illegal acts by providing confidential information about Dr. Hatfill. To me, I don’t think that’s right.
And they quote Executive Director Lucy Dalglish of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:
What this is about right now is upping the damages. I think they are trying to state the case that every single piece of information, every time it was released by someone in the government was a separate injury to Mr. Hatfill, so the more sources and the more pieces of information they can identify, the more money he can collect, I think is what he’s getting at.
Isn't that the same thing as "developing a solid case?"  Is that wrong?

So far, the primary "confidential sources" in the case appear to be Justice Department lawyers who may have been leaking information to curry favor with the media.  It was not agents of the FBI who did the primary leaking of confidential information to the media. 

I don't want to be too critical of the WV-PBS report, since they are coming at the story from a very different angle than mine.  They do include this:

Kelly McBride, who teaches ethics to journalists at the Poynter Institute in Florida, cautions reporters to be very careful about passing on incriminating details about someone before criminal charges are brought. 
And this:
McBride advises journalists in most cases to tell anonymous sources that there are conditions to withholding their identity – such as all the information must be truthful and that they must willing to waive their confidentiality in the event of a subpoena. If sources don’t disagree, McBride recommends finding different sources. 
A good question might be: How many reporters will actually go out and find different sources if their confidential sources don't agree to their terms -- particularly  when the reporter has a deadline to meet?

According to the Public Broadcasting report,

Hatfill’s lawsuit charges that the Justice Department intentionally violated his constitutional rights to further its political aims. 
I stated years ago that the Hatfill investigation was all about politics.  It had absolutely nothing to do with the real anthrax investigation.  Dr. Hatfill was not only falsely labeled by the media as "the prime suspect" in the anthrax investigation, the media also misled the American public about virtually everything related to the case.

It's quite possible that Toni Locy (and some others in the media) were totally unaware of all the things that went on before the first search of Dr. Hatfill's apartment, but they've had six years to gather the facts.  Continuing to spread misinformation doesn't help anyone.  Toni Locy says in the WV-PBS report: 

How can reporters, how can the press in this country ignore an investigation into the first biological attack on US soil? How can we ignore that?
The alternative to spreading misinformation is not to ignore the investigation, the alternative is to get the story right.  Is that too much to ask? 

March 5, 2008 - The Salt Lake Tribune today reported that "CDC test confirms substance is ricin."  So, at least we know the incident wasn't all the result of some "false positive" field test.  But there's still no information about the purity of the powder that was found nor whether Bergendorff's illness was caused by ricin.

March 4, 2008 - Continuing on the theme of America's readiness to be terrorized and the American media's apparent readiness to assure that the terrorization is thorough and complete, I've been checking on the latest ricin incident from time to time to see how things are developing.  Today, I came across a very interesting article from UPI titled "Analysis: Experts: Ricin terror overblown." It begins this way:

Ricin has been a byword for terrorism in the mass media since Colin Powell used it to link Iraq-based terrorists to groups plotting attacks in Europe as part of the U.S. case for invasion in 2003. But the ricin in that incident turned out to be no more real than Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and experts say that the toxin is so difficult to purify it is unlikely to ever be used successfully in a terror attack.
And
Experts say that with no conclusive analysis of either the substance or the patient it is hard to tell what might have been found in Bergendorff's room, and some accuse local officials -- and the news media -- of getting out ahead of the story.
And
Experts say field testing only reveals the presence of ricin, a protein derived from castor beans that in its purest form is highly toxic.

"You can grind castor beans into powder, and that will contain a tiny amount of ricin," said George Smith, specialist in protein chemistry and a senior fellow with the think tank GlobalSecurity.org.

He said the quantities involved, less than 1 percent of the powder, would be far too small to be usable as a poison but large enough to register in field tests.

Smith said this was what happened in the Wood Green ricin case, made famous by Powell's presentation to the United Nations in February 2003, when he linked it with a training camp allegedly run in Iraq by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

But, as evidence at the Wood Green trial later revealed, the initial reports about the presence of ricin in the apartment British police raided Jan. 5 turned out to be wrong.

And
"We need a proper lab analysis of the substance and a proper medical analysis of the patient and we don't have either of them," commented Milton Leitenberg, a bio-weapons specialist at the University of Maryland.

"We don't really know anything at this point," said Leitenberg, adding he was surprised by some of comments he had seen from local officials and some of the media coverage.

"The information out there seems largely inaccurate," he said.

Smith said many media reports were citing CDC figures that as little as 500 micrograms of the pure toxin -- a dose about the size of a pinhead -- can be fatal, without mentioning the difficulty in manufacturing to that level of purity.

Smith said the kind of recipes for ricin typically found in anarchist books or Internet publications could not produce anything that was really useable, even as a poison against individuals.

He said the kind of processing they recommended "actually reduces the amount of ricin present" in the powder.

Meanwhile, we're getting a better picture of the supposed "terrorist."  Here's what The Associated Press is reporting about Roger Von Bergendorff:
"He was just a quiet man who wasn't assertive enough to get a job, to put it kindly," [a neighbor] said.

Bergendorff wasn't social with neighbors and often didn't return a friendly wave, she said. But he went back to Utah several times after he moved to Las Vegas to search for a lost cat.

"We had a few more conversations about how much his cat meant to him, and how he would do anything for this cat," she said.

The Salt Lake Tribune has this to add:
Neighbors there also noticed Bergendorff's devotion to animals: he combed the neighborhood looking for his lost cat and offered a $200 reward, said John Walster, who allowed a down-on-his-luck Bergendorff to live in a trailer near his home for 2 1/2 months after Bergendorff overstayed his welcome at his cousin's home.

"He tried to capture her by putting cat traps out, but he never found her," added Tammy Ewell, another neighbor of Bergendorff's in Riverton.

Bergendorff ''even came back from Las Vegas two to three times just to search the yards and find out about the cat," Ewell said. 

And
Bergendorff was distraught over his ill 13-year-old German shepherd, a pet he spent thousands of dollars medicating for hip problems with daily injections.

Miller said Bergendorff carried vials of medicine for his dog. "He was giving his dog shots two or three times a day. Without the shots the dog couldn't move its hindquarters," Miller said. "He spent thousands of dollars on that dog. That was his partner in life." 

I suppose they could still turn up something that shows he was actually a rabid "terrorist" of some kind, but that doesn't seem to be the way things are heading.

March 2, 2008 - Although it has nothing to do with the anthrax attacks of 2001, my mail box has been filled for days with emails about the finding of a couple vials of ricin in a man's hotel room in Las Vegas.  There's been a tremendous amount of news coverage about it.  Back in February of 2004, some ricin-filled letters were sent to the White House and the Department of Transportation, and I put together a small web page about it.   That page has received a large number of hits over the past few days. 

Nevertheless, I wasn't interested in this latest ricin story until people kept writing me about it to the point where I had to check it out.  And, even now, it merely seems to be an "odd" incident.  The attention the story is getting makes it seem as if anything that can be even remotely interpreted or misinterpreted as "terrorism related" must be viewed as being "terrorism related" until solidly proven otherwise.  The fact that so much attention is being given to this latest ricin incident worries me more than the incident itself.   "Terrorism" is about causing terror.  Displaying a readiness to be terrorized isn't healthy for any of us.

Some details about the incident have been distributed by The Associated Press

Las Vegas police said there was no apparent link to terrorist activity, and no indication of any spread of the deadly substance beyond the several vials of powder found in a plastic bag in the man's room on Thursday. But what the ricin was doing there remained a mystery.
And
"There is no information to lead us to believe that this is the result of any terrorist activity or related to any possible terrorist activity," [Deputy Chief Kathy] Suey said. "We don't have any reason to believe any of it left the property."
And
"We don't know an awful lot about him," Suey said. "We don't even know that it was him that was in possession of the ricin." She said she could not say how much ricin was in the vials.

Cancer research is the only legitimate reason for anyone to have ricin, Evans said.

Ricin is made from processing castor beans, and can be extremely lethal. As little as 500 micrograms, or about the size of the head of a pin, can kill a human, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Castor beans also were found in the man's room, officials said.

And
Suey said there were several pets in the room when officers arrived. A dog was found dead but the animal had gone at least a week without food or water, Suey said, and she did not attribute the death to ricin.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the man was 57 years old, and his name may be Roger Von Bergendorff.  He's been in a hospital in critical condition for more than two weeks, unable to talk and possibly in a coma.  The article also says,
If a person exposed to ricin doesn't die within three to five days, the victim usually recovers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
As stated above, while interesting, the tremendous amount of press coverage this is getting seems totally unwarranted.  Ricin is just a poison.  There's nothing contageous about it.  It's not a "weapon of mass destruction."  The fact that there is no antidote for it doesn't mean it causes instant or even certain death.  If the police had found a hundred times as much rat poison instead of ricin, it probably wouldn't have been a news story outside of Las Vegas. 

If he recovers, Mr. Von Bergendorff will definitely have a lot of explaining to do.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, February 24, 2008, thru Saturday, March 1, 2008

February 28, 2008 - An editorial in today's Reading (PA) Eagle adds to the growing list of newspapers and other media outlets calling for a Shield Law to protect journalists.  This one is particularly noteworthy for the way facts are distorted to make their point.

The editorial begins with this:

The Issue: Another journalist has been found in contempt of court for refusing to reveal her confidential sources.
Is that really the issue?  Wouldn't this be more accurate:
The issue: Should journalists be protected when they aid and abet government employees who break the law?
That's really the issue in the Hatfill vs FBI et al lawsuit.  The lawsuit is about federal employees leaking confidential information in violation of the Privacy Act. 

The editors at The Reading Eagle evidently made no attempt to get their facts straight.  They wrote:

Investigators became interested in Hatfill because of his background in biochemistry.
In reality, that sentence should be:
The media became interested in Hatfill when they fell for a line of bull fed to them by a bunch of conspiracy theorists and their followers. 
Instead, once again someone else in the media just ignores the EIGHT MONTH CAMPAIGN by conspiracy theorists to persuade (or force) the FBI to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill.  Instead, they pretend that it was all the FBI's idea.

It appears the idea is: If you repeat false and/or distorted information often enough, eventually it becomes accepted as being "the truth."

The editor at the Reading Eagle isn't the only one on the Internet who can editorialize.

February 24, 2008 - As I've written before, I'm an analyst, not a journalist, and although I report the results of my analysis on this web site, that doesn't necessarily make me a "reporter."  I do, however, encounter many of the situations a reporter encounters, so I can understand how they may feel about certain things.  I exchange emails frequently with some of America's top journalists, and we all know full well that they have their opinions and viewpoints and I have mine.  Plus, like them, I've had many discussions with top scientists, scholars, lawyers, and even a few FBI (or former FBI) employees.  So, they have their "sources" and I have mine.

Last week I had a couple discussions with "knowledgeable sources" who may have more inside knowledge about the Amerithrax investigation than I have, but who cannot and/or will not discuss anything "on the record," who do not want me to use their names, and who often speak in such vague and round-about terms that it's very difficult to figure out exactly what they are saying, anyway.

And, although I'm not a reporter, like most reporters, I have a "deadline" of sorts.  People have come to expect me to post some "comment" on this web site every Sunday morning.  (If I don't, they sometimes fear that black helicopters may have swooped down and whisked me away to Guantanamo.)  So, I'm in the situation of having to write something when I'm not exactly sure what I was told, what I've learned, what is valid and what is not, or what I should "report."  That's "journalism" in today's world.

And, too, while I have been trying to focus on the Amerithrax investigation and trying to figure out what its current status may be, the hot subject of discussion for everyone else last week was the Toni Locy situation.  It's undoubtedly the most important matter in the world for Toni Locy at the moment, but for me it was a peripheral issue that generated "noise" which occasionally caused me to "break focus." 

A journalist asked me if I have an opinion on her situation.  No, I don't.  Not really.

I've exchanged emails with Toni in the past.  Right now, my image of her is of someone who just "went along for a ride," but who got left behind when a careless accident happened, and, although she wasn't responsible, she was the only one the law could snare.  It's tragic in its way.  But the "accident" was even more tragic for someone else. And she's in the position where she has to "squeal" if she wants to save herself.  That's not an opinion, that's just my point of view.

I do have an opinion on the media's handling of the Dr. Hatfill situation, of course.  Some in the media were led around by the nose by some conspiracy theorists, some made gross errors in their reporting, and now some try to argue that if they cannot protect people in the government who have committed illegal acts, that is a slippery slope which may some day cause them to be unable to expose people in government who commit illegal acts.  And they seem to be trying to turn their sources in the Hatfill case into "whistleblowers" who need to be protected if America is to survive, and, as I see it, that is NOT the situation at all

But, my focus is on the Amerithrax investigation.  Last week I tried to determine if I am wrong in believing that the case could just be awaiting a DOJ lawyer who is willing to stake his career and professional reputation on a case that is largely dependent upon a new science that has not yet been tested in court.  No "knowlegeable, confidential source" told me I was wrong about that specifically.  But I was told I was "wrong" in believing that the DOJ should arrange a "moot court" to test the validity of microbial forensics so that they could be prepared for what might happen in actual court.  I was told, I think, that that kind of moot court is supposed to be initiated spontaeously by third parties.  Evidently, that way, there can be no hint of bias.  Unfortunately, I can't imagine how that would ever happen.  I'll just have to wait and see if it does.

It was also evident to me in talking with these "knowledgable, confidential sources" that there is no solid agreement on whether or not the science of microbial forensics is ready to go into court in the Amerithrax case.  Some aspects of the science (such as anthrax DNA) are clearly ready, others may not be.  And, no one I talked with could be certain of what will be needed and what won't be needed.

So, we have come to a point where, as an analyst, I can do something that no reporter can ever do: I can state that I'm not sure what the f**k is going on. 

And that means, of course, when I say I don't know something, the True Believer and conspiracy theorists out there will use that as "proof" that I must be wrong, because they are absolutely certain they know about everything that is going on. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, February 17, 2008, thru Saturday, February 23, 2008

February 22, 2008 - Yesterday, I wrote that there are still a lot of people out there who believe that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mailer, and I metioned that Michelle Malkin's web site seemed to be discounting Judge Walton's claim that "There’s not a scintilla of evidence to suggest Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with [the anthrax attacks]." She wrote "How quickly we've forgotten ..." which I interpeted as meaning the Judge Walton had forgotten about all the supposed "evidence" listed in the article by David Tell of the Weekly Standard on "The Hunting of Steven J. Hatfill." But she could have meant that the general public has forgotten about the attacks, and while Tell's article does go into great detail about the Dr. Hatfill "evidence,"  it's really an article about how none of the so-called "evidence" really means anything.

One advantage I have over people in the media, is that I can very easily go back and change what I wrote.  I hope this corrects the situation.  I really don't know what Michelle Malkin believes about who sent the anthrax letters.  I just know that the evidence clearly shows that Dr. Hatfill didn't send them.

February 21, 2008 - Today, there's a very interesting audio interview with Toni Locy on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.   Click on "Listen to story" to hear the interview.

It's amazing that both the interviewer and interviewee claim that Attorney General John Ashcroft was behind all of Dr. Hatfill's problems, and they both seem to claim that the media only reacted to what Ashcroft said about Dr. Hatfill being a "person of interest."  Since NOTHING could be farther from the truth, it's hard to understand how the media can get sympathy for their cause by totally distorting facts.   But since the media largely controls what facts the public learns about things like this, maybe just repeating the same nonsense over and over and over will have an effect. 

Meanwhile, today's Wall Street Journal contains an opinion piece by Judith Miller about the Toni Locy situation.  It takes a very similar point of view.

John Ashcroft made his "person of interest" statement on or around June 28, 2002.  On that day, The Trenton Times reported:

Hatfill is a "person of interest" - a group that includes 20 to 30 researchers nationwide whose expertise and access might have given them the knowledge and opportunity to send the deadly anthrax letters, the official said.
To the media, it appears that the six month campaign by conspiracy theorists and the news media to get Dr. Hatfill publicly investigated never happened.

On the other hand, to be fair, there were a lot of media people who were totally unaware of the campaign to get Dr. Hatfill investigated before the first search of his apartment.  But, there is no excuse for them not knowing all the facts by now.

February 20, 2008 - There are a few new articles about the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuitthis morning, but not as many as expected.  The article in USA Today basically just says the same things as were said in yesterday's articles, but The New York Times contains these interesting paragraphs about Dr. Hatfill's situation:

Judge Walton had some cautionary words for journalists on Tuesday, but he saved his harshest judgments for the unidentified officials who linked Dr. Hatfill to the anthrax investigation in the news media.

“There’s not a scintilla of evidence to suggest Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with it,” the judge said, yet the public notoriety has “destroyed his life.”

It's important to remember that Judge Walton was allowed to view some classified papers on the case, so he knows a lot more about the Amerithrax investigation than the average person.

February 19, 2008 (Revised & Updated)- The first word on today's hearing in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit comes from the Associated Press.  This is the headline: "Judge May Hold Reporter in Contempt."   The article says this about Toni Locy's and James Stewart's refusal to name their confidential sources:

Walton indicated he would impose a fine until she divulged her sources, but that he would take a few more days to decide whether to postpone the penalty as she pursues an appeal.
And
"I don't like to have to hold anyone in contempt," the judge added, but when it comes to cases where a person says his reputation was destroyed because of stories published about him, "the media has to be responsible."
And
In Stewart's case, Walton said he would take a few weeks to consider the reporter's claim that divulging his sources was no longer necessary since several law enforcement officials had already acknowledged talking to reporters in the case about information similar to what Stewart reported.
A press release from The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press says they don't like what Judge Walton did, and they want the government to pass the shield law.

So, at last there's some news. 

February 18, 2008 - While researching the article about "sugar coated spores" that I mentioned yesterday, found that most of their works seems to be done on spores suspended in liquid.  But I also learned that those scientists obtained the anthrax spores from a company that routinely makes anthrax spores (of the non-lethal Sterne strain) for use in animal vaccines.  It appears to be yet another company which routinely makes spores in trillion-per-gram quantities, proving once again that conspiracy theorists were spouting pure nonsense when they claimed that such purity "could have been produced only in a weapons program" and it confirms that "the anthrax was probably made using a relatively simple process." 

February 17, 2008 (B) - I've been trying to get copies of the actual microbial forensics lectures given at the National Academies Building in Washington DC on January 24th, but it seems that the presenters didn't use written notes, they just used the slides and their knowledge of the subject.  However, much of what Dr. Paul Keim talked about might be in another lecture on the same subject, which is summarized HERE.  The discussions I had on this subject last week didn't change my general impression that all the anthrax case needs to allow the FBI to make an arrest is a DOJ attorney willing to stake his career and professional life on successfully prosecuting a case that is largely dependent upon evidence obtained via the new science of microbial forensics.

Meanwhile, it's that time again.  Another deadline in the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit is coming up.  On Tuesday, the day after tomorrow, a hearing is scheduled in Judge Walton's courtroom at 9:30 a.m. to determine whether or not Toni Locy and James Stewart will be held in contempt of court for failing to name their confidential sources. 

The media might not be interested in things like legal hurdles and legal precedents, but they'll definitely be interested in what happens to reporters who refuse to name their confidential sources, so there should be news reports about the hearing.

February 17, 2008 (A) - This morning, while looking for something else, I stumbled upon an interesting article about the need to cause pure spores to cling together so that they cannot be easily inhaled.  The technique would be used by first responders, who would theoretically spray a room with a sugar substance which would cling to the spores and cause them to bind together or to surfaces, preventing reaerosolization. Another article on the subject goes in to greater detail.  So does another.

I'm hunting for more details, since this seems to directly contradict the notion that van der Waals forces would cause spores to bind together all by themselves and special coatings are needed to prevent that binding when creating a bioweapon. 

This also points out how the questions posed in my supplemental page on Particles, Spores and van der Waals Forces might not be the right questions.  Or the approach could be wrong.  There could much better ways to prove that van der Waals forces do not bind spores together in any significant way.  And the fact that the Clemson articles have been around since October of 2006 shows how, when using Google, you have to have the right search argument or you could miss very significant information. 

Updates & Changes: Sunday, February 10, 2008, thru Saturday, February 16, 2008

February 12, 2008 - When things are slow, I tend to go back to matters which I didn't fully analyze when I first read them, and I study them more carefully.  An article from BusinessWeek that I mentioned on February 1, is such a situation.  It said, in part, 

In November, 2001, an elderly woman was admitted to the hospital and died several days later.  Ninety-four-year-old Ottilie Lundgren had become the nation's fifth victim of anthrax inhalation. Although the hospital's lab had confirmed the results through multiple tests, the FBI had yet to come to its own conclusions. Griffin CEO Patrick Charmel had called a meeting to inform the 400 day-shift employees of the situation. The FBI was adamant about delaying the announcement until after it had completed its own tests, a full six days after Lundgren had been admitted. Even then-Governor John Rowland got involved, requesting that the hospital cancel its staff meeting. 

With all this pressure bearing down, Charmel and Powanda were beginning to wonder if holding the meeting was the right decision. They called a representative from the American Hospital Assn., who said that if their situation had been taking place in any other hospital, he would have also recommended that the meeting be delayed. But Griffin was different: "If you do not follow the open and honest culture you have created at Griffin, you will destroy in one day what has taken you 10 years to build." Charmel held a staff meeting as scheduled to communicate the facts of the case, the results of the tests, and how anthrax is spread.

It was easy to just guess why the FBI wanted Griffin Hospital to cancel its staff meeting, and to just guess why Griffin Hospital felt that it should ignore the FBI's request.  But, while I may not be able to find out exactly why each organization did what it did, a little analysis might be worthwhile.  After all, it's not every day that the FBI goes to such lengths to stop the release of information, and a private organization decides to ignore the FBI's request. 

The first thing that seems worth mentioning when viewing the event is that it shows very clearly something which conspiracy theorists simply cannot accept: everyone does not automatically fall into line when the govenment wants something done. 

The second thing that seems worth mentioning is that, whatever the two sides were concerned about, it evidently didn't come to pass.  There was no harm done.  But that may have been pure luck.  So, whatever lesson is to be learned from this, that lesson is NOT that the government should be automatically ignored when it makes a request.

When I started my analysis, the first thing I discovered was that I had very few news articles about the Ottilie Lundgren case on this web site.  The FBI/Griffin Hospital conflict took place in November, but the first article I had that even mentioned the Lundgren case was dated December 3, 2001.  So, I had to dig through the Internet to see what I could find about the exact dates and what was happening on those dates. 

According to the November 21, 2001, issue of The Wall Street Journal, Ottilie was admitted into Griffin Hospital on Friday, November 16, 2001.  She'd already been sick for two days.  On Saturday, November 17, the hospital performed tests on her blood and determined that she had anthrax.  The Connecticut State Health Department then did their own tests, and they confirmed it was indeed anthrax.  According to the WSJ, 

[Griffin] Hospital President Patrick Charmel said her doctors had been aggressive in identifying the nature of her illness, which led to an early diagnosis of anthrax.
The disagreement between the FBI and Griffin Hospital probably began on Saturday the 17th or Sunday the 18th.  They would have notified the FBI as soon as they had made their diagnosis of inhalation anthrax.  There's no exact information about when Griffin Hospital held its internal meeting on the subject, but if took place before Wednesday the 21st, it didn't make any headlines. 

The news broke at a press conference on Wednesday morning, November 21.  According to The New York Times,  the "final confirmation" that Ottilie had died from anthrax had come early that morning.  Samples had been sent to the C.D.C. in Atlanta; they did a polymerase chain reaction test (which can theoretically detect a single microbe in a sample) and they confirmed what the Griffin and the Connecticut State lab had found.

Wednesday the 21st would be five days after Ottilie had been admitted.  The FBI didn't have the capability to do any other such tests, so it's very likely they simply wanted to delay the hospital meeting until after the CDC completed its tests.   Why?

Looking at the situation from the FBI's point of view, the news reports had been one big mass of theories, speculation, scary beliefs and facts mixed with wrong information since the news broke about Bob Stevens on October 4.  Plus, people from Griffin had attended a conference on anthrax just the week before, so it might have seemed very likely that the Griffin doctors were just looking for the disease and had misinterpreted something.  The FBI probably just wanted to get solid confirmation before anyone broke the news that another case of anthrax had shown up in a small town in Connecticut.   There had already been too many false reports in the media.

And, they might have wanted time to get a better feel for the situation, just in case there was some connection between Ottilie Lundgren and the anthrax mailer.  If there was a link to the anthrax mailer, they'd want to pounce before the culprit was alerted.

The reason Griffin Hospital gives for telling their staff all the details about anthrax being the cause of Ottilie Lundgren's infection, before the FBI confirmed it, is that they wanted to maintain the honest and open culture that is part of Griffin Hospital.  They make no mention of the C.D.C.  They only mention the FBI asking them to delay releasing the information.  Would they have delayed the meeting if the C.D.C. had asked them?  We don't know.   Were they influenced by the past week's media headlines such as "Experts See F.B.I. Missteps Hampering Anthrax Inquiry" in The New York Times or "Experts offer competing theories for source of anthrax: Was it New Jersey basement or Iraq?" from the Associated press?  Did they disbelieve the criminal profile information just released by the FBI?  We'll probably never know for certain.  We just know they didn't agree to the FBI's request and held their meeting anyway. 

After the C.D.C. confirmed that it was indeed anthrax, the C.D.C. has sent a team of 17 epidemiologists, environmental health specialists and other scientists to Connecticut to investigate Mrs. Lundgren's case.

On the 26th, The Washington Post reported that the investigators were still trying to figure out exactly how Ottilie became infected.  Investigators were even checking out trick-or-treaters who had visited Ottilie's home on Halloween.

Eventually, the "most likely" source of Ottilie Lundgren's infection was determined to be cross-contamination.  She was infected by the Ames strain of anthax which originated in Texas, making it a near certainty that she didn't get anthrax from digging in her own garden.  And by December 3rd, The New York Times was reporting that investigators had learned that a letter sent to a family in Seymour, CT, had gone through the sorting equipment in Hamilton Township in New Jersey less than 15 seconds after the two letters sent to Senators Daschle and Leahy.  That letter to Seymour had been found, and a single anthrax spore was found on it.  Plus, more spores were found on equipment at the mail center in Wallingford, CT, which processed mail for both Seymour and Ottlie's mail route in Oxford. 

Unlike the Kathy Nguyen case, which still remains a mystery, there isn't much mystery left about the Ottilie Lundgren case.  There is no absolute proof of how Ottilie contracted anthrax, but the circumstantial evidence is fairly solid.  And there is no evidence which supports any better theory.

There's probably no point in speculating today about what might have happened if the anthrax mailer was a neighbor of Ottilie's and learned of her infection before the FBI could find him.  That didn't happen.  And there is probably also no point in speculating about Griffin Hospital breaking the news just in time to allow thousands of people to rush to doctors and hospitals to get antibiotics to save their lives from a massive bioweapons attack launched upon rural Connecticut by Iraq.  That didn't happen, either.

But, it might be worthwhile to think a bit about how things like this are supposed to work.  When true facts about a major event are blurred or obscured by rampant speculation in the media, it can become very difficult to trust people who need to be trusted if things are to work properly in order to protect and save lives.

February 10, 2008 - Yesterday, someone sent me a link to the slide presentation given by Dr. Paul Keim at the microbial forensics conference on January 24.  Dr. Keim from Northern Arizona University is America's top anthrax DNA expert.  I certainly hope that transcripts of this presentation (and the others) will someday be made available.  I've seen nothing to indicate that the media sent anyone at all to hear what was said.

Based only upon what I see in these slides, Dr. Keim seems to have gone into great detail to show how science is used to determine what is "most likely." 

The term "most likely" is one that some people seem to totally reject as having any validity at all.  It's a term I use all the time, since everything I do on this site is about figuring out what is "most likely" -- based upon the data I've been able to find, while at the same time knowing full well that I probably don't have all the data that exists.

Usually, the people who reject the term "most likely" don't like what the known data says.  Instead, they prefer to assume that some missing data will somehow point in a totally different direction and will somehow confirm what they believe to be true.

A good analyst makes no assumptions about missing data (unless it can be deduced from existing data) and uses only existing data to determine what is "most likely."

Since Dr. Keim showed some very interesting slides about the DNA of the Ames strain of anthrax, plus he began his presentation with an image of anthrax spores and ended with an image of one of the anthrax letters, it certainly seems clear from these slides that his presentation was very much about the anthrax attacks of 2001, even when he used a plague case from 2002 to show the "most likely" source of those infections.

However, I wasn't at the conference, so I can't say for certain exactly what was said.  And since all I have are the slides from the various presentations, there are definitely a lot of data I do not have.  I suppose it is possible that the "missing data" could show that the conference was actually about illegally fixing the price of watermelons in Argentina.  I suppose it's also possible that the slides and the existing data were just planted to mislead the world about the real subject of the conference.  I certainly cannot prove it is impossible for such beliefs to be true. 

However, the existing data I see in these slides indicate that it is "most likely" that the scientists giving the presentations at the microbial forensic conference on January 24th all feel that there is a great need to get the science of microbial forensics accepted in court so that the anthrax mailer can finally be arrested and tried for his crimes.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, February 3, 2008, thru Saturday, February 9, 2008

February 3, 2008 - The lectures on Microbial Forensics given on January 24, 2008, in Washington DC, have been on my mind for the past few days as I tried to analyze them in the context of everything I've learned about the Amerithrax investigation during the past six years.  I wanted to see how everything fits. 

Everything fits very nicely. 

The FBI started the process of formalizing the new science of microbial forensics on July 29, 2002.  Everything that has been done in this area for the past five and a half years has led up to the point where the formalized new science must move forward to the next step - going into court.

The slide presentation given by Dr. Randall S. Murch on the subject "History, Strategy & Future of Microbial Forensics" covered a lot of territory, but it was mostly about getting the new science of microbial forensic accepted in court as a valid science.   There were two places in the presentation where "risk management" were mentioned.  The second was near the end, in slide #27, which asked,

Can effective forensics capabilities help to influence or better manage risks associated with biological weapons development, acquisition and use?
This was clearly about managing all the risks associated with bioweapons, anticipating the use of such a weapon, and, hopefully, preventing the use of such a weapon.  Failing that, it's about reacting to an attack, responding to the attack, recovering from the attack, and properly identifying the culprit(s). 

Earlier in the presentation, however, there was slide #19, which seemed to address only the problem of getting microbial forensics accepted in court.  The slide said,

A status and course check of microbial forensics should be conducted with all due speed and realism (through a rigorous moot court process) to determine its state of readiness and to objectively identify required improvements which then can be prioritized and addressed before the fact
A "moot court" is described by Wikipedia this way:
Moot court does not involve the examination of witness or the presentation of evidence; rather, it is focused solely on the application of the law to a common set of evidentiary assumptions to which the competitors must be introduced.
In other word, the moot court process would be all about making certain that all the legal issues are resolved and making certain there will be no grounds for appeal on any key legal issue.  This issue in question is the standard for new scientific evidence set down by Daubert v. Merrell  Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

The footnote for slide #19 is: This is about Risk Assessment and Risk Management!

Clearly, this is about assessing and managing the risk of having microbial forensic evidence thrown out of court because there is no legal precedent for using it.  And equally clearly, this is about the Amerithrax investigation.  The new science of microbial forensics was formalized because of needs of that case, and there is no other known case which needs microbial forensic evidence right now.  It's not simply about preparing for some possible future criminal event involving biological agents.

However, I've been asked about the risk of allowing the anthrax mailer to run loose while a legal case is developed to get him arrested and tried in court.  Isn't that part of the "risk management" mentioned in slide #19 ... and maybe also slide #27? 

It doesn't appear to be.  Slide #19 is about determining the "state of readiness" of microbial forensics, and slide #17 just before it was all about Daubert and about whether or not microbial forensics will survive a Daubert test in court.

Plus, the danger of the anthrax mailer sending out more anthrax letters seems to be a question about threat assessment, not risk assessment.  If there is a real danger of that happening, that danger would not be measured by lawyers and prosecutors, it would be determined by the authorities ... by investigators, scientists and analysts

Maybe a couple definitions would be worthwhile here:

Risk is the possibility of an event occurring that will have an impact on the achievement of objectives.  Risk is measured in terms of impact and likelihood.  Risk is about estimating possible loss.

A threat is an expression of intention to inflict evil, injury, or damage. 

The anthrax mailer appeared to include a threat in his letters.  In his first letters, he wrote: "This is next," indicating that a bioweapons attack using anthrax would follow the disasterous attacks of 9/11 which used hijacked commerical aircraft.

What is the risk of the anthrax mailer fulfilling his threat?  Before that question can be answered, others must be answered: (1) Was it a threat?  (2) Was the threat from the same people responsible for 9/11?  Or (3) was it a warning?  (4) Was the warning from someone afraid that a bioweapons attack would follow the horrors of 9/11?

For six years, I've been trying to answer those questions by examining the evidence.  The fact that there was no followup attack is good evidence that it was not a threat.  The fact that the killer has been free for all that time is also good evidence that it was not a threat.  The same answer can be deduced from what is in last week's slide presentations.

The presentations were about getting microbial forensics accepted in court so that criminals who use biological weapons and biological materials -- as the anthrax mailer did in 2001 -- can be successfully prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Is there any evidence of any kind which would even suggest that a foreign terrorist associated with the 9/11 hijackers would be allowed to run free until a legal case could be built against him?  Following 9/11, thousands of Muslims were rounded up and jailed if there was even any hint of the violation of some law.  Some may still be in jail.  It seems extremely unlikely that a suspected foreign terrorist is being allowed to run free just because some complex legal questions need to be answered.  And it seems even more extremely unlikely that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice would have a foreign terrorist suspected of being the anthrax killer in jail without that fact being made known to the entire world.  Why keep it a secret?  To avoid hurting the career and reputation of a suspected foreign terrorist?  So the FBI and DOJ can make themselves look incompentent?  Does that make any sense at all?

And it wouldn't be much different if the suspected anthrax mailer were a naturalized or American-born citizen with connections to foreign terrorists and known sympathies for the causes of foreign terrorists. 

Things only make sense if the anthrax mailer was NOT a foreign terrorist or anyone connected with foreign terrorists.  If he was an American citizen and a respected scientist who sent the letters as a warning, not as a threat, then everything about the legal issues involving microbial forensics makes perfect sense.  It makes even more sense if there is more than one American scientist involved.

The U.S. government was able to toss some suspected terrorist like José Padilla in jail and hold him without a trial for five years because there weren't thousands of influential "experts" with other theories just waiting to argue Padilla's innocence.  There was no great danger that the entire country would disbelieve that a former gang member who  consorted with radical Islamic fundamentalists could become a terrorist. 

But what about a respected and loyal American scientist who has no criminal record, who is liked and admired by his community, who never had any connection with foreign terrorists, and who appears to all the world to be a model American citizen?  And what if he insists that he is innocent and will demand to be allowed to prove it in court? 

The legal case will not depend entirely upon microbial forensics.  But it's clear that whatever other evidence they have, it must be mostly -- if not entirely -- circumstantial.  Microbial forensic evidence would be a bit different.  A motive is circumstantial evidence.  Voiced concerns about the dangers of a bioweapons attack is circumstantial evidence.  Voiced anger over politicians not paying attention to the danger of a bioweapons attack is circumstantial evidence.  But that's the kind of circumstantial evidence which could point to hundreds or even thousands of scientists.  Ames strain anthrax spores in an air filter taken from the suspect's lab or on an item of the suspect's clothing would still just be circumstantial evidence, but that is the kind of circumstantial evidence which makes a jury sit up and listen.  It would not apply to thousands of scientists.  The same with circumstantial evidence that the suspect used the same brand of nutrients to grow spores as were used by the culprit.  The same with circumstantial evidence that the suspect used the same kind of lab equipment that the culprit used.  The same with testimony that the suspect had unsupervised access to a sophisticated laboratory where no one would question what he was doing on weekends and evenings.  The same with other kinds of specific circumstantial evidence which reduce the number of scientists who could have committed the crime until there is just one chance in a hundred billion that it could be someone other than the suspect. 

That's when the judge explains what "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" means. 

Conspiracy theorists will still argue that he is being framed, and True Believers will argue that whatever they've always believed is really the truth.  But, the vast majority of Americans (and people around the world) will probably wait and see what the evidence looks like and what a jury concludes about the evidence.

But, first the jury has to be allowed to see and hear the evidence.  That appears to be the problem the Amerithrax investigation has right now.  No one wants the anthrax murderer to go free on a technicality.  That means, before an arrest is can be authorized by the Department of Justice prosecutors, the risk of a judge throwing out the evidence for lack of precendent, allowing the culprit to go free, has to be as minimal as possible

Interestingly, the assessment of the risk may be viewed very differently by the FBI investigators than by the attorneys who have to prosecute the case. 

For the FBI there's the risk that the murderer of five Americans might go free if the microbial forensic evidence gets thrown out by a judge.  There's the risk that the next case to use microbial forensic might also fail because a no precedent had been set to accept out such evidence.  All such risks involve getting criminals successfully prosecuted.  The case has been investigated and headed by many FBI agents over the years, so no single FBI agent has his career and reputation on the line. 

For the prosecuting attorneys in the Department of Justice, however, it may all be about personal risk.  The prosecuting attorney will most likely be from the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.  Daniel S. Seikaly, who was in charge of that division most of the time the Amerithrax investigation was underway may be prosecuted for leaking information to the media about Dr. Steven Hatfill (false information given to him by the FBI as part of a sting operation to find the leakers).  Seikaly's boss, Roscoe C. Howard Jr who served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 2001 to 2004, has also been named a a leaker in the Hatfill lawsuit.  And Howard's boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft was the person who called Dr. Hatfill a "person of interest" which was a major mistake, because Dr. Hatfill was the only person identified that way, and it gave many Americans the false impression that Dr. Hatfill was the main suspect even though the FBI repeatedly said Dr. Hatfill was not a suspect.

That brings up another question: Is it possible that the microbial forensic evidence will point to Dr. Hatfill as the culprit?  It might be possible, but there is absolutely no reason to believe that is the situation.  The reason Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest" is known, and it has nothing to do with any evidence against him.  It was all about politics.  All the conspiracy theory "evidence" turned out to be just false beliefs and innuendo.  And we now know that the bogus reports that bloodhounds had tracked Dr. Hatfill from his scent on the anthrax letters was total nonsense planted by the FBI to identify the person leaking information about Dr. Hatfill to the media.  With all the pressures from the media and from politicians to prosecute Dr. Hatfill, there may have political and career-building reasons for lawyers in the Department of Justice to want Dr. Hatfill to be the anthrax killer, but the evidence gathered by the FBI clearly points elsewhere.

So, whichever prosecuting attorney takes on the Amerithrax case, he or she will be taking the personal risk of prosecuting someone who the conspiracy theorists, the media and the public never saw as a possible suspect, of possibly failing to convict the anthrax mailer, and possibly even failing to get the case to trial and causing the killer to go free.  In such a situation, the concept of risk management comes into play.  The simplest way to "manage" such a tremendous risk to one's career is to refuse to accept the case in the first place.  No one can force a prosecutor to prosecute someone. 

One way of reducing the risk to the prosecutor's career might be to publicize the risk, to put all of the responsibility on the judge.  A good way to do that is to write scientific and legal papers and to hold public conferences and even conduct multiple moot court trials where the legal problem is described and clarified in great detail. 

Hmm.  As I stated above, everything fits very nicely.  Unfortunately, there's nothing in all this which clearly indicates how long it will be before there can be an arrest.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, January 27, 2008, thru Saturday, February 2, 2008

February 1, 2008 - Odd bits of information continue to surface about the anthrax attacks of 2001.  An article in today's BusinessWeek about the workings of a hospital in Connecticut describes how the FBI tried to pressure the hospital to withhold information about Ottilie Lundgren's anthrax infection until the FBI had completed its own tests.  The hospital refused.  Conspiracy theorists might be able to make something of it, but it seems to be just a case of conflicting needs for different organizations.

January 30, 2008 - Someone sent me a link to a site www.dauberttracker.com which seems to be designed to help defense lawyers fight criminal cases which involve new kinds of scientific evidence -- like microbial forensics.  This seems to add to the list of reasons why the case against the anthrax killer might be a very difficult fight in court.

January 28, 2008 - Someone sent me a February 2003 article from Science Magazine titled "Report Spells Out How to Fight Biocrimes" which gives more information about Dr. Randall S. Murch who gave the key presentation I mentioned yesterday:

forensics expert Randall Murch of the Institute for Defense Analysis in Alexandria, Virginia, a former deputy director of the FBI forensics lab.
And I was also sent a link to an article titled "Daubert: The Most Influential Supreme Court Ruling You’ve Never Heard Of."  The precedent setting case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is what all the legal questions in the anthrax case are about.  I haven't yet read the article in its entirety, but I noticed this comment:
Some leading jurists, however, seem quite dismayed by the notion of judges attempting to determine the validity of scientific evidence using the criteria established in Daubert.
“…the Daubert opinion appears politically naïve about the ‘methods and procedures’ of both science and evidentiary admissibility,” wrote Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Feldman, in a case in which expert testimony had been excluded in a lower court. “Multi-factored, ‘flexible’ tests of the sort announced in Daubert are more likely to produce arbitrary results than they are to produce nuanced treatment of complex questions of admissibility.”
And this comment:
In the aftermath of Daubert, not only are many legitimate scientists and their work
being barred from the courtroom, but plaintiffs are being denied their day in court,
unfairly in our view.
It seems to explain the reason they need a "risk assessment" to determine if they can take the anthrax case to court or not.

January 27, 2008 - I haven't yet heard any feedback about the lectures on Microbial Forensics arranged by The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and given at the National Academies Building in Washington DC on Thursday.

However, the presentation slides for three of the lectures are available on-line. 

The first slide presentation at the conference was given by Dr. Randall S. Murch of Virginia Tech, who talked on the subject "History, Strategy & Future of Microbial Forensics."  Slide #3 asks the question, "Why Bother Integrating Forensics into Biosecurity and Biodefense?" And it provides these answers:

People, Programs, Materials, Methods and Activities are Hard to Find, Detect, Characterize, Understand, Link and Attribute without Use of Science and Technology

Intelligence or Traditional Evidence is Often Non-Existent, Fragmentary, Unclear, Conflicting, Incomplete, Unsubstantiated, Uncorroborated

Requirement and Expectation is Increasing for a Base of Strong Evidence or Proof
(Burden of Proof Still Exists) to Justify Decision

Similar Frameworks of Thinking, Perceptions and Expectations May Link Quality and Quantity of Evidence to Action: Criminal Justice System, Policy Makers, Decision Makers and Public

Slide #8 includes some key definitions:
Forensics: Analysis and interpretation of physical evidence to determine relevance to events, people, places, tools, methods, processes, intentions, plans
Identification and Characterization
Inclusion toward Attribution, or Exclusion
Attribution: Assignment of a sample of questioned origin to a source of known origin to a high degree of scientific certainty (at the same time excluding origination from other sources)
And there is this important footnote:
“Attribution” in the context of a case or other event of interest is usually not determined solely by scientific evidence!
Slide #11 contains some details about getting evidence into court and seems to point out that in a court of law it can be the best lawyer who wins the case, even if that lawyer's scientific expertise (and scientfic experts) are not as good as his opponent's.

Slide #12 contains Federal Rules of Evidence.  The slides that follow are also worth reading, but slide #17 may be a key slide.  Here it is:

This slide seems to say very clearly that bringing the anthrax case to court will be met by a lot of legal challenges by the defense, and there's no way to know if the evidence will be accepted by the judge until he or she actually makes a ruling. 

Slide #19 seems to address that particular situation directly when it says,

A status and course check of microbial forensics should be conducted with all due speed and realism (through a rigorous moot court process) to determine its state of readiness and to objectively identify required improvements which then can be prioritized and address before the fact
And there's this footnote: This is about Risk Assessment and Risk Management!

In other words, the prosecutor and The Justice Department must understand how much risk there is to taking such a case to court, and they need to work to minimize that risk before they actually take such a case into court.

Slide #24 seems to take things one step further by suggesting that perhaps new laws should be enacted that would clearly define how much and what kind of evidence would be required to support the findings of microbial forensic experts who appear in court. 

The presentation ends by stating that we do not have a thoughtful, comprehensive and
“forward leaning” national strategy - plan, and leadership/ownership are required to define and realize the proper state and future of Microbial Forensics (and other WMD forensics)

This doesn't seem to bode well for seeing an arrest in the anthrax case anytime soon.

That feeling isn't changed by the presentation by Bruce Budowle of the FBI labs in Quantico, VA.   Slide #10 of the presentation contains this information:

The FBI Laboratory currently can not conduct forensic examinations of hazardous CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear] agents at Quantico

The knowledge base required to interpret and assign weight to some CBRN analyses is lacking

Slide #53 is a comparison between Human DNA Forensics and Microbial Forensics, and it includes this similarity in the list:
General acceptance, admissibility,…
and this difference:
Confidence/uncertainty of outcome of interpretation
This is where it would have been nice to have actually been there to hear what was being said ... and to ask questions. 

Slide #58 lists Elements of a Forensic Program and contains these two elements:

Scientifically defensible
Legal admissibility
That might have been another point for asking questions about the investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001.  The subject was definitely mentioned in the presentation.  Images of an anthrax letter and an envelope are in slide #60, and in slide #48 it mentions that the anthrax attacks were clearly intentional and not some accidential happening.   There is some hope that the lecture was recorded in some way and might some day be available to people who were not able to attend.

The other slide presentation was given by Dr. Stephen A. Morse from the CDC.  It was titled "Microbial Forensics: Nexus between Science, Public Health and Law Enforcement."  Very little seems directly related to the anthrax attacks of 2001.

Maybe it's just me, but I definitely see this as yet another indication that the Amerithrax investigation into the anthrax attacks of 2001 has reached a point where it's no longer much a matter of determining who did it, it's almost totally a matter of whether or not there's enough evidence to get a conviction and whether or not key micobial forensic evidence will be accepted in court.

This seems like yet another attempt by investigators, scientists and legal experts to tell the world that the culprit in the anthrax case has been identified, but the problem of getting microbial forensics admitted in court is preventing an arrest.

But, it also appears that the world isn't listening.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, January 20, 2008, thru Saturday, January 26, 2008

January 25, 2008 - This week's issue of Newsweek contains a book excerpt from Jacob Weisberg's book "The Bush Tragedy," which I commented upon on January 20.  The excerpt, titled "Fishing for a Way to Change the World" doesn't contain all the errors I noted, but it does contain this one:

Another anthrax letter, never recovered (or at least never disclosed), was apparently sent to the White House.On October 22, anthrax was found on an automated slitter used to open letters at a Secret Service facility in an undisclosed location some miles away. This meant the White House was a target of biological terrorism.
Every non-fiction book ever written probably contains a few mistakes.  But it's also interesting that the book's editors didn't catch the mistakes.  (That's their job.)  And the editors of Newsweek didn't catch the above mistake.  (That's their job.)  Maybe it's part of the common problem of not questioning what some "expert" says, even when the "expert" is talking total baloney.  But, more likely, it's part of the other common problem of forgetting details about things which were once considered very important. 

January 24, 2008 - Although it only contains general information about the investigation of attacks using biological weapons, the Criminal and Epidemiological Investigation Handbook contains a statement on page 40 that is worth remembering:

Law enforcement personnel seek to obtain sufficient evidence and information to first identify and then apprehend the individual or individuals responsible for the attack. A criminal investigation into a biological attack is not complete until there is a successful prosecution and conviction of those responsible for the attack.
So, according to that standard, even if the FBI feels that it has enough evidence to convict someone, the investigation isn't actually over until the culprit is convicted.

January 22, 2008 - Feedback regarding my January 20 "comment" has brought to my attention some interesting documents I've never seen before.  They do not directly relate to the anthrax investigation, but they provide good "background" information.  First, I was given a link to an interesting Memorandum Opinion in a case where an FBI agent was trying to publish a book critical of the FBI’s counter-terrorism efforts.  That legal Opinion, in turn, contained a reference to a Washington Post article by Bruce Berkowitz from February 2, 2003, titled "The Big Difference Between Intelligence And Evidence," which contains these statements:

In my own experience, intelligence is usually full of uncertainty. In the intelligence business, foolproof, airtight evidence -- the kind that changes minds and convinces the public -- is, as one of my first branch chiefs at the CIA used to tell me, as "rare as hens' teeth." That's why expecting intelligence to provide "proof" in the legal sense of the word is so dangerous.

Detective work and intelligence collection may resemble each other, but they are really completely different.

Detectives aim at meeting a specific legal standard -- "probable cause," for example, or "beyond a reasonable doubt" or "preponderance of evidence." It depends on whether you want to start an investigation, put a suspect in jail or win a civil suit. Intelligence, on the other hand, rarely tries to prove anything; its main purpose is to inform officials and military commanders.

The clock runs differently for detectives and intelligence analysts, too. Intelligence analysts -- one hopes -- go to work before a crisis; detectives usually go to work after a crime. Law enforcement agencies take their time and doggedly pursue as many leads as they can. Intelligence analysts usually operate against the clock. There is a critical point in time where officials have to "go with what they've got," ambiguous or not.

But the biggest difference -- important in all the current controversies -- is that intelligence agencies have to deal with opponents who take countermeasures. Indeed, usually the longer one collects information against a target, the better the target becomes at evasion. So do other potential targets, who are free to watch.

This relates to my frequent comment that there is a BIG difference between knowing who sent the anthrax letters and proving it in a court of law.  It also relates to the fact that, as I have repeatedly stated, I'm an analyst, not an investigator or detective.

In another email response to my Sunday "comment," I was reminded that there are lots of ways to interpret facts.  I used facts from published news stories to dispute the facts cited by the author of a book who clearly also got his facts from news stories, but got them wrong.  When one news source says one thing and another news source says something else, whose job is it to decide who got their facts right and who got them wrong?  That's generally the job of an analyst.  It's done by weighing the evidence to decide which is made "more likely to be true" by the preponderance of evidence on one side versus the other.  "Preponderance of evidence" is not the same as absolute certainty.   But it's more than enough to dispute people who clearly got their facts wrong, who clearly distort facts, and/or who show a clear bias when citing their "facts." 

January 20, 2008 - A posting on The Blogger News Network brought to my attention a book by Jacob Weisberg, the editor-in-chief of Slate, the on-line magazine.  While I wasn't interested in another book about the mistakes of the Bush administration, I was interested in what a journalist might have to say about the anthrax attacks.  The book, titled "The Bush Tragedy," does indeed have this comment on page 189:

As horrific as September 11 was, it was a discrete crime, whose perpetrators were quickly identified and pursued. The anthrax letters, by contrast, killed only a few people, but remained unsolved. To this day, officials disagree about whether the sender or senders were Islamic terrorists, or Americans pretending to be islamic terrorists. The only real consensus is the FBI catastrophically botched the investigation.
Is that really the consensus of "officials?"  Which "officials?"  From what I can tell, the "consensus" of Right Wing "officials" is that the FBI has failed to do as the Right Wing believes should be done, which is to blame Iraq or al Qaeda for the attacks.  And the "consensus" of Left Wing "officials" is that the FBI is part of some vast government conspiracy to cover up the "fact" that the Bush Administration was behind the anthrax attacks of 2001.  And, if there are any other "officials" who are in neither of those camps, those "officials" seem to believe that the FBI should provide all the details of the Amerithrax investigation to Congress so totally biased politicians can second-guess and critique the investigation.

So, it might be a consensus of both Right Wing and Left Wing "officials" that the FBI "botched" the Amerithrax investigation by not confirming what the "officials" believe, but was the investigation catastrophically botched?  How does Mr. Weisberg know it was catastrophically botched?  How does he know it was "botched" at all?  If a case is not speedily solved, does that somehow automatically mean it has been "botched?"  That's okay, if that's what he wants to believe.  But what is his basis for claiming that the case was catastrophicallybotched? 

Perhaps we can  learn what the term "catastrophically botched" means to him by looking elsewhere in the book.  I see this on page 191:

Anthrax letters were received at several media organizations in New York.  In Washington, letters were received in two Senate offices, which shut down parts of the Capitol complex for weeks.  All of the anthrax letters were sent from the same mailbox, in Trenton, New Jersey.  But they contained different grades of anthrax -- the subject of much confusion in subsequent weeks.  At least one -- the letter sent to Judith Miller of The New York Times -- bore the same postmark and handwriting, but contained only a harmless powder.
I don't know if I'd call that "catastrophically botched" reporting by Mr. Weisberg, but it is definitely botched reporting.  The Judith Miller letter had totallydifferent handwriting, and it was postmarked in St. Petersburg, Florida, not Trenton, New Jersey.  Also, the fact that they only found anthrax spores in one mailbox in New Jersey does not necessarily mean that the culprit mailed both batches of anthrax letters from the same mailbox. 

Mr. Weisberg then continues with this:

Another anthrax letter, never recovered (or at least never disclosed) was apparently sent to the White House. On October 22, anthrax was found on an automatic slitter used to open letters at a Secret Service facility in an undisclosed location some miles away. This meant the White House was a target of biological terrorism.
That could definitely be an example of "catastrophically botched" reporting by Mr. Weisberg.  He seems to want us to believe that either an anthrax-filled threat letter sent to the White House was simply thrown away by the Secret Service, or that the letter was actually found and is being kept secret for some unknown but probably sinister reason.   He clearly says that because anthrax spores were found on an automatic slitter used to open letters bound for the White House, that means a letter must have been sent to the White House.  The whole concept of "cross-contamination" seems to have been totally missed by Mr. Weisberg.  The U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg, Russia, confirmed in early November of 2001 that a diplomatic mailbag sent from Washington tested positive for anthrax spores.  Contrary to what Mr. Weisberg might believe, that did NOT mean that another missing anthrax letter was also sent to someone at the Yekaterinburg consulate.

If there's anything I can be certain about after over six years of studying everything I've been able to find about the anthrax attacks of 2001, it's that, while there were some exceptions, the reporting by the media about the attacks was catastrophically botched.  It wasn't just carelessness, as seems to be Mr. Weisberg's case.  It was also biased, and, in some cases, seemingly deliberate reporting of bad information.  Even today, many in the media continue to point at the FBI as being totally responsible for Dr. Hatfill's situation while completely ignoring the media's role in forcing the FBI to publicly investigate Dr. Hatfill.  Totally false information has never been corrected. 

Hopefully, time will tell if the FBI's Amerithrax investigation was "botched" or not.  But one thing should already be clear: the mere fact that the Amerithrax investigation hasn't confirmed some book author's beliefs certainly does not mean the investigation was "botched" much less "catastrophically botched."

Updates & Changes: Sunday, January 13, 2008, thru Saturday, January 19, 2008

January 15, 2008 - Last night I watched "Oswald's Ghost" on PBS's "American Experience." 

I watched it because it was described in the papers as being an analysis of the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy.  It was all that and more.

I was looking for some comparison to the conspiracy theories surrounding the anthrax attacks.  There is plenty to compare, but the most interesting thing about the show may have been the facts which clearly showed that Oswald was the right "type" to do what he did.  Plus, he had the means, motive and opportunity.  And in 45 years there has never been anything new uncovered to prove that there was some kind of conspiracy.  Of course, since you cannot prove the negative, there is no way to prove that there was NOT a conspiracy.

What I probably found most interesting was the description of Lee Harvey Oswald as some nobody who killed President Kennedy to make a mark for himself and to show he was someone important.  But after he killed Officer Tippit, he became just a "punk." So, instead of bragging about what he did, he denied everything.  The videos of Oswald talking to the media certainly seemed to show that he was just a wise-ass punk.

(It's been my general thinking that the person who sent the anthrax letters thought he'd become some kind of hero for warning American about an upcoming bioweapons attack that he was certain was imminent.  But, when five people died and no actual attacks came, he turned into just a mass murderer.) 

Mark Lane and Edward Jay Epstein were on "Oswald's Ghost."  Mark Lane was still ranting about his theories.  And Normal Mailer was "the voice of reason" for the show.  (It was probably one of his last interviews.)

The show stated many times that 70 percent of Americans still believe there was a conspiracy.  I don't know where that number comes from or how reliable it is, but I think a similar poll of Americans on the subject of the anthrax attacks would probably find that 70 percent believe that the 9/11 hijackers sent the letters, even though they were all dead for a week at the time of the first mailing, and dead for a month at the time of the second mailing.  Beliefs aren't typically based upon facts. 

I guess my point is: If they show it again, I recommend that everyone should try to watch it.

January 13, 2008 - No trial until December????  Groan!  I had hoped that the status conference held Friday would be the "pretrial conference" where they would set a trial date, and the trial would start just a few weeks or a month or so after that.  Instead, on Friday it was decided that the actual "pretrial conference" won't take place until October 10, 2008, and the trial won't start until December of 2008 or thereabouts.

And, according to the Scheduling Order, the parties are going into mediation from January 14 (tomorrow) until May 14, 2008. 

Back on April 20 of last year, in this same Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit, Judge Walton  ordered as follows: 

ORDERED that the parties are referred to mediation for a period of sixty days commencing on May 21, 2007, and concluding on July 20, 2007. 
It's deja vu all over again!  Instead, this time they'll be in mediation for four months instead of just two!  Is that supposed to make a settlement twice as likely?

I sure wish I'd been in that courtroom on Friday.  Did anyone protest?  Did anyone try to set an earlier date?  Did it seem like December of 2008 was fully agreed upon before the status conference?  Did anyone stand up and say, "Hey!  I've got an idea!  Let's hold the trial after the elections when all the political implications can be blamed on the people who are no longer in office or running for office!"

Strangely, it appears that only The Los Angeles Times was there.  There seems to be no other original reporting about the status conference.  The only other reports I can find are from other newspapers just summarizing what the L.A. Times reported.

And the transcript for the conference probably won't be put on the Internet.  You'll have to go to the courthouse to read it, just as they did with other conference transcripts.

The Scheduling Order also says that the "dispositive motions" shall be filed by April 11, 2008.  Dispositive motions are when the Plaintiff claims that the depositions have shown very clearly that the defendants are guilty, therefore there is no need for a trial, and therefore the judge should simply award the Plaintiff what he is asking for, while the Defendents claim that the depositions clearly show that the Plaintiff has no case, and therefore the case should simply be dismissed.  Most of the time, dispositive motions are just a formality which accomplishes nothing -- except perhaps to generate some news headlines favoring one side or the other.

Well, there's nothing I can do about any of this -- except to watch and learn.

So, the next "event" which might produce fireworks is the hearing that will take place on February 19 to see if Toni Locy and James Stewart will be punished in any way for failing to comply to Judge Walton's Order that they name their confidential sources.   February 19 is only five weeks or so from now.   Groan.

Updates & Changes: Sunday, January 6, 2008, thru Saturday, January 12, 2008

January 12, 2008 - Today's Los Angeles Times contains a different version of yesterday's article.  This time the article is titled "U.S. attorney's office accused of anthrax case leaks" and it contains this political comment:

A settlement of the case could carry political implications: On Aug. 6, 2002, then-Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft first identified Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the anthrax mailings. By settling with Hatfill, the government would all but dispel the possibility that he might ever be charged for the deadly mailings. And -- in an election year when fear of terrorism looms as an important issue -- Hatfill's exoneration would remind voters that no suspect has been caught.
Maybe it's just my imagination, but I think there's something "between the lines" in that comment.  I just can't pinpoint exactly what it is. 

January 11, 2008 - According to today's Los Angeles Times, in an article titled "Lawsuit claims 3 leaked name in anthrax case," it looks like the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit won't be going to trial before December.  The article says,

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered the lawyers for the government and for Hatfill to seek "mediation" over the next two months. The prospects of a mediated settlement notwithstanding, Walton said he expected a trial could begin in December.

Hatfill's lawyers, Grannis and Thomas G. Connolly, did not speculate in court on the likelihood for a settlement. Afterward, Grannis said, "The court has set a schedule for bringing this case to trial this year, and we're very pleased at the prospect that Dr. Hatfill will finally have his day in court."

I expected that a trial would start in a month or two.  But nothing goes the way I expect it to.  I've started to expect that.

The information about the 3 leakers mentioned in the headline isn't anything new to the readers of this web site.  It was all discussed when it appeared in various court documents.  Another paragraph in the L.A. Times article says,

Hatfill's lawyers alleged that the three officials who leaked investigative details to the news media were Roscoe C. Howard Jr., who from 2001 to 2004 served as U.S. attorney for District of Columbia; Daniel S. Seikaly, who served as Howard's criminal division chief; and Edwin Cogswell, who formerly served as a spokesman for the FBI.
The brief article doesn't mention the issue of reporters James Stewart and Toni Locy who are continuing to refuse to name their confidential sources, despite Judge Walton's Order that they do so.  It's possible that some aspect of that issue was mentioned in court but won't appear in the news until the media has more time to think on it.  If so, it will probably be in other news stories by other news outlets coming later.

An update to the Docket late in the day, however, includes a Scheduling Order which shows that a hearing on the Stewart and Locy Contempt of Court matter will be held on February 19, 2008. 

January 9, 2008 - During some discussions about aspects of the anthrax attacks of 2001, someone provided a link to an article describing the "Role of Law Enforcement Response and Microbial Forensics in Investigation of Bioterrorism" that was published in the middle of last year (2007).  It was written by 4 scientists from the FBI labs in Quantico, VA, Paul Keim and another scientist from Northern Arizona University.  This paragraph seems worth noting:

The field of microbial forensics is multidisciplinary, relying heavily (but not exclusively) on the foundations of traditional forensic sciences, epidemiology, microbiology, and molecular biology.  Forensics laboratories have well-established
procedures for all aspects of investigating crime scenes through the scientific analysis of evidence.  Similar methods are being developed for microbial forensics cases. The goal is to develop an infrastructure so that microbial forensic evidence
will be collected, stored, analyzed, and interpreted in a manner that is scientifically robust and thus legally defensible.
That statement would seem to suggest that the science of microbial forensics still hasn't reached the point where it can be used in court.  But, it could also mean that like every other science, some methods are still being perfected.  So, it may be ready for court, but it would require some courage to be the first to use it in court.

On page 440, the article generalizes some techniques and then says,

In the case of the 2001 attacks, a combination of these methods has been and is being utilized in the investigation.
Clearly the authors are saying that the microbial forensic evidence from the 2001 attacks is still being studied and analyzed (or was in mid-2007).  And on page 442 there's this clarification:
Even with the current degree of uncertainty, capabilities exist that enable analysis and interpretation of results that can be meaningful for investigation purposes.
However, on page 446 there's a description of what can be done to attempt to validate evidence that may be needed in court:
Preliminary validation is the acquisition of limited test data to enable an evaluation of a method used to provide investigative support to investigate a biocrime or bioterrorism event. If the results are to be used for other than investigative support, then a panel of peer experts, external to the laboratory, should be convened to assess the utility of the method and to define the limits of interpretation and conclusions drawn.
The concept of "preliminary validation" is described on page 447 where the authors want to make certain that, in the event of another bioattack, there's a valid procedure in place to use microbial forensics to help track the culprits quickly even though a full evaluation of the microbial forensic evidence could take months or years.

In the "Conclusion" section it says this, 

The field of microbial forensics has been implemented to enable better confidence in scientific analyses of forensic evidence and to gain greater confidence in the interpretations of the results obtained. Progress in microbial forensics is currently focused on a number of areas to address (52-54), including:
• Sample collection and preservation strategies, 
• Novel methods and analyses for typing
non-viable and/or trace materials,
• Development of validated methodologies
that define the limits of an analysis,
• Identification of genetic markers and match
criteria that can establish baselines for comparing
reference and evidence samples, and
• Interpretation criteria,
Cited exhibits 52, 53 and 54 are prior articles written by Paul Keim, Bruce Bulowle et al and Douglas Beecher.

I don't know if weighing every word of this article has much value, but it is another scientific document which seems to have top FBI scientists and others saying that the new science of microbial forensics is essential to the arrest and prosecution of the culprit behind the anthrax attacks of 2001.  But, once again, the question of whether or not that science is fully ready to be used in court seems to be a question that only the prosecuting attorney and/or the judge trying the case can answer. 

January 6, 2008 - This week, we could learn whether or not the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit will be going to trial anytime soon.  The status conference scheduled for this coming Friday, January 11, could set a trial date.  But, the defendants and the media could also try to delay things further in an attempt to wear down Dr. Hatfill and his lawyers.

If the reporters appeal to higher courts the Contempt of Court orders from Judge Walton, that could delay things, but, while I'm no lawyer, I think there's also a good possibility that the trial could begin without a resolution to that matter -- if stiff fines are imposed by Judge Walton.

Dr. Hatfill's lawyers have stated, "It is time for this case to go to trial."  Presumably, they'll argue to do exactly that in Friday's status conference. 

However, while it certainly could happen, I still find it difficult to believe that this case will ever go to trial.  I just cannot imagine a parade of FBI and DOJ officials going on the stand to testify that Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest" because some screwball conspiracy theorists demanded that he be publicly investigated.  Nor can I imagine seeing Daniel Seikaly on the stand telling the world that he leaked bogus information about the bloodhounds scent packs to Newsweek reporters because he believed what he was told by the FBI agents who were setting a trap for him to see if he was leaking information to the media.

Of course, the case is not about any of that.  It's about whether or not government officials divulged confidential information from confidential government files.  But Dr. Hatfill's lawyers will be making it into a case about the government "deliberately" destroying the life and career of an innocent man in order to relieve the pressure it was under to show results in the anthrax investigation.  If a government official gives out damaging information about an innocent man, a jury may not care whether or not it is solidly proven that the information came from some specific government file.

And then there's the question of how a court trial of this case would affect any possible resolution to the Amerithrax investigation.  On one hand, it might help that case to show exactly how Dr. Hatfill became a "person of interest."  At minimum, that would help to show that the FBI checked out countless tips and leads and considered many other possibilities even though the evidence obtained via the new science of microbial forensics showed that someone else was the culprit. 

On the other hand, publicly exposing all the details about an intensive FBI investigation of an innocent man could be used by the lawyers for the actual culprit to convince a jury that the FBI is simply doing the same thing again.

I definitely hope the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit will come to a conclusion soon.  It blocks and/or distorts nearly everyone's view of the Amerithrax investigation. 

Updates & Changes: Tuesday, January 1, 2008, thru Sunday, January 5, 2008

January 5, 2008 - After studying Dr. Hatfill's reponse to James Stewart's Motion to Reconsider, the only things I see that appear new are in the footnotes on page 11. 

The first footnote says that, while Dr. Hatfill did not originally ask that Mr. Stewart be jailed for failing to provide the names of his confidential sources, he is now thinking that that might be a valid step if fines don't get the desired results. 

In the second footnote, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers ask that James Stewart be required to pay Dr. Hatfill's legal fees related to this Contempt matter if Judge Walton agrees that Mr. Stewart is in Contempt of Court.

In the "Conclusion" on page 19, the document says:

It is time for this case to go to trial.
If the matter about revealing confidential sources goes to higher courts, that could mean that the trial won't take place until 2010.  So, Dr. Hatfill asks that the Contempt Order be upheld and that James Stewart be fined (and/or jailed) if he does not comply.

In Dr. Hatfill's response to Toni Locy's Motion to Reconsider, he points out that Toni Locy is repeating what she said last summer: she doesn't remember who told her what.  And the same request is made to let Dr. Hatfill's lawyers help her to remember:

Ms Locy can name the nine or ten FBI and DOJ officials who gave her information on the anthrax case, and she can answer followup questions designed to narrow down their identity -- she simply refuses to do these things.
In the footnote on page 10, Dr. Hatfill's lawyers make the same comments made in the Stewart response about possibly asking for jail time in addition to fines and also asking that Toni Locy be required to pay Dr. Hatfill's lawyers' fees for all matters related to the Contempt Order. 

January 4, 2008 - Dr. Hatfill has filed his motions in opposition to the Motions to Reconsider filed by James Stewart and Toni Locy.  They showed up on the docket for the Hatfill v FBI et al lawsuit just before I shut down my computer for the day.  A quick glance just showed that Dr. Hatfill claims that there's nothing new in what the reporters are saying, so he asks that Judge Walton enforce his Contempt of Court Order.  I'll study the documents more carefully tomorrow. 

January 2, 2008 - As more and more news reporting (particularly opinions) gets shifted to the Net, it's sometimes difficult to tell if a web site is a "legitimate" news source or just some lone guy or group with a point of view to sell.  Today, on MediaChannel.org there's an article titled "Former CBS Newser Defies Court, Won’t Reveal Sources" about James Stewart.   It's a fairly good summary of events so far in Dr. Hatfill's efforts to get news reporters (particularly Stewart) to name their confidential sources. 

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